Sunday, October 31, 2010

Lessons from Brazil: Lesson 1: We Are So Spoiled By Comfort

As many of you know, I got back this week from a whirlwind trip to Brazil for the wedding of my beloved nephew and his wonderful wife. I was only there for a short time but it was life-changing. So I decided to start a short blog series called "Lessons from Brazil" to share about this trip, to help me to process it, and to inspire you.

We are so incredibly spoiled as Americans. We are comfortable almost all the time. From the heating and air conditioning systems we have everywhere we go, to the paper products and sanitizers and showers and bath products we have, to the large and roomy and clean living spaces we inhabit, to our great big cars with their air conditioned spaces--we are comfortable! Everything is clean. We don't stink. The air is pleasant--we expect it to be! We rarely smell bad smells or bodily odors or raw sewage, and if we do, we complain. Wherever we sit, we're comfortable--places here are designed that way. When we lie down, well we're comfortable then too, with fine bedding, soft beds sometimes with pillow top mattresses, and (mostly) no bedbugs. In fact, we expect there to be no bugs of any type wherever we are.

If we ever become uncomfortable, we act right away. We turn the air handling system up from 67 degrees to 70 degrees (or whatever temperature we prefer) or adjust the temperature on our car console. Roughing it is taking the bus because we can't control the temperature there or who comes on or where the bus stops; we'll take the bus if we have to, but we feel deprived and feel bad because we don't have a car like most people. It's so uncomfortable and inconvenient and takes so long and we feel very sorry for ourselves.

We turn the faucet on and out comes potable water, like magic. When we go to the bathroom we use as much toilet paper as we need to handle the job and then flush it all right down the toilet. Because we want to be clean and comfortable and everything is available for us to feel that way.

Most of the world does not live this way. They are not comfortable, nor do they expect to be. If they happen to be, it's a wonderful moment that they treasure. Everything is not clean. There are strong smells everywhere. When they are uncomfortable, they cannot immediately move to adjust the environment to their preferences.

I continue to marvel at the abundance around me. Today I am grateful for comfort. Instead of expecting it, I know it for the great blessing and gift that it is.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Lessons From Brazil

As many of you know, I got back this week from a whirlwind trip to Salvador, Brazil for the wedding of my beloved nephew and his wonderful wife. I was only there for a short time but it was life-changing. So I decided to start a short blog series called "Lessons from Brazil" to share about this trip, to help me to process it, and to inspire you.

I am not crazy about long blog posts, and I realized that to try to even summarize all of the lessons and adventures of this Brazil trip in one place would futile. So, I'm breaking it up. I don't know how many short posts I'll have in this series, but I learned so much that there might be several. This won't be a travelogue or facts about my trip, as we pretty much traveled straight there and back, intentionally didn't see any sights, and just enjoyed the wedding and the people there.

I'm also hoping that the posts may inspire you to realize again--in a fresh way--how blessed you are, how abundant your life is, and how rewarding it can be when you live in a place of gratitude. As always, I will covet your comments and observations!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Someone Colored Her Hair

So I got my hair colored (freshened up) for Brazil and I'm crazy about it.

It had been dyed a dark brownish red with some blond highlights, but the red faded fast and it ended up being a plain dark brown with a bit of blond. The half-inch roots were nasty--dark brown and gray--not a nice look for anyone.

My stylist decided to dye all the ends super-red and the gray roots red. It is the most amazing look. It sounds weird and edgy and it is. Color all over and especially at the roots. I've never seen this done before with red and so here are some pictures by LoveHubbie:

Friday, October 22, 2010

For All Writers

"Write every day, line by line, page by page, hour by hour. Do this despite fear. For above all else, beyond imagination and skill, what the world asks of you is courage, courage to risk rejection, ridicule and failure. As you follow the quest for stories told with meaning and beauty, study thoughtfully but write boldly. Then, like the hero of the fable, your dance will dazzle the world." ~Robert McKee

Tuesday, October 19, 2010


As you know, I'm going to take a little break to go to a family wedding in Brazil, but happyluau will keep right on going due to scheduled posts. So I've left a couple more posts here for the short time I'll be gone (less than a week), so please check back. I'll miss you greatly. Love to each and every one of you, O.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Sacred Life Sunday: Quiet

Today is a quiet Sunday, just the kind I like. Sleeping in. Online church. LoveHubbie's BBQ. Reading. Packing. Time in the garden, walking, talking. Phone calls to family. Early to bed. 

I hope that you have a lovely Sunday and get a chance to spend some quiet time. Sending you love, O.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Diving Off the High Dive

I'm getting ready for our trip to Brazil. I will not be taking anything technological nor anything personal of value, because of the risk of theft in the area where we are traveling. So this will mean:
no iPhone or other phone to maintain connections,
no computer,
no iPod,
no Kindle,
no camera,
no wedding ring,
and no other jewelry.
Instead, a fake purse and wallet to offer up to street thieves.

To give you an idea of the kind of person I am, I usually travel with my distance/driving glasses (the ones I wear to watch television and movies in theaters too), reading glasses, and a spare pair of regular glasses in case mine break. Then there are the "pool glasses", which are a very old pair of plastic glasses that I wear when I'm in the ocean or the pool. On this trip it will be just the one pair on my face, which I will hopefully be able to hold on to.

Only one book. I haven't figured out which one yet, as this is such a big decision.

Just one carry-on bag and a Scottevest.
And a Moleskine journal with #2 pencils to write in.

Instead of bringing my chi blow dryer, special shampoo and conditioner, hair spray for color-treated hair, texturizer, hair-repair leave-in conditioner, round brush, and clips for sectional drying, I'll be toting just a small brush and shampoo.

We will be somewhere where we don't speak the language nor understand or appreciate the culture.
Obtaining clean water and healthy food are mysteries that we will figure out once we get there.

I will be washing out my few articles of plus-size clothing in a sink.

We're going for the wedding of our nephew and his fiance, and are delighted to be able to do so.
It will be a very short trip with no sightseeing for me or side trips--just the wedding.
It will take us a day to get to Florida and then another day to get to Brazil. Ditto the return.
An exercise in being present and letting go and embracing uncertainty.

I am completely terrified.
Oddly, this is fine and feels appropriate to me. 
It has been 30 years since I've left this country and a decade since I've lived a luxurious American lifestyle, traveling in comfort and style, and living the same way. 

I feel like I'm diving off the high dive. 

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Online Authenticity, Identity, Vulnerability

Our world is changing so much. With blogging and Facebook and Twitter we are able to share more of ourselves with the world and with various types of people, with people we know in different settings, and even with people we don't know at all.

I was talking to a friend of mine yesterday who I'll call S. She recently tried Facebook and then opted out. She realized that she had so many different kinds of friends and family members and decided she wanted her privacy after all. There were people she friended who she knew well and trusted. Then there were the family members that she might not want to share all of her life with. There were people she hardly knew who would also be her Facebook friends. She chose for right now not to expose her life to this wide and diverse group of people. It didn't feel safe for her right now. I completely understand why she did this.

I've been blogging for so many years, and have, over the years, revealed more and more of myself here. Still, there are many things that I haven't revealed. A general standard I use is that if I would be okay with it published on the front page of our town paper or brought up about me in a lawsuit, then it would be okay for me to blog about. The types of things that have fallen into that standard have increased more and more over the years. Now, I don't mind people knowing about me dealing with depression, or having struggles with my weight, or knowing my feelings about any number of things.

Over the years the number and breadth of participants in my online life has expanded. It includes people who are distant relatives, total strangers, people I've worked for, people who have worked for me, estranged family members, close family members, old friends, people from high school, people I dearly love (that's probably YOU), and even one bizarre old-friend-turned-stalker.

I guess the hardest thing is revealing parts of my soul to people who I call "my enemies". Now I know that some of you don't believe in enemies per se, but I consider them people who would be happy at my misfortune. I do have enemies by this definition. Most of these so-called enemies have very little to do with me in my offline life, but then for some reason choose to read my blog. Unnerving. It can be hard to be vulnerable to them. However, over the years as I've let go of much of the shame for being who I am, for admitting the ways in which I'm less than than perfect, I feel comfortable with my enemies knowing my weaknesses and vulnerable areas. For me it is part of learning how to love my enemies. But it has been and continues to be a process.

Another challenging yet beautiful part of having an online identity is integrating the different personas I have. Being just one person, the same in every situation. Not everyone wants to do this, of course. I do. It's scary, but it helps me grow in a direction that's really good for me right now.

Some people do this really successfully and I admire them. They are authentic and revealing. They put themselves out there and don't hold back. I am learning to do this. This doesn't mean that I don't have a private life--because I definitely do. It's just that people can know me in a way that wasn't really possible before to any but my closest friends--and they may at the same time even be a stranger to me. Or they may be a kind and savvy salesperson wanting to know more about me before making a sale (this has happened to me). Or someone coming to work for me in my home (this has happened too). Or they may be my enemy.

Learning to be authentic, having no persona at all, and being vulnerable in chosen ways is very helpful for me in dealing with accepting myself for who I am; I'm not saying it's right for everyone at every time, but just that it's right for me, now. I like being just one real person--me.

What I'm wondering is how you feel about this in your own online life...any insights or even tidbits you might want to share. Not so much about revealing things about other people, but in revealing things about you. I want to learn from you.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Storyline Conference

So, I'm finally making time to blog here about the Storyline Conference and our getaway weekend to Portland. It was great, and in processing it this week I'm thinking it was even better than great--it was amazing!

This conference was on Living a Better Story--on writing a story with your life--not just the past (as in how you frame the past)--but in how you feel empowered in the present--and in how you want to write your story in the future. At the same time, it brought God into it in a very beautiful and special and central way. The conference was less didactic than experiential, and as part of it, we met people who had written unique and amazing stories with their lives, as well as helped a very blessed participant (whose name was Lori) write a new story for her life.

I appreciated the focus on our individual uniqueness. The people who were there, the people who had actually done amazing things to bless others dramatically were all people who were unconventional, and who--in being themselves and in reveling in the unique and special gifts they have--were able to create stories with their lives that were almost beyond what anyone could have imagined (at least beyond what I could imagine!). People had all different kinds of gifts--for example, gifts of bringing people together (kind of like a "networking" gift), gifts of loving homeless people to the degree of living with them without a home, gifts of writing, gifts of film directing. And their gifting and what they loved to do went right along with what God had for them to do which was really amazing to see.

I really enjoyed the people who attended, because they were also people who enjoyed Donald Miller's work and who were interested in taking a chance on a new conference, as it was the first time this was offered, and most people were unsure about what to expect; it was sort of an adventure-conference.

One thing I noticed was that in order for people to be successful, they really had to focus, to forget what other people thought, to say "yes" to things that furthered their dreams, and "no" to things that didn't. They had to not care what other people thought. This is something I am wanting to do--to create time and to focus--and I am really challenged by it. What do I cut out, what do I say "no" to and "yes" to? Life is very short. I know I'm really sensitive to people judging me, and to not understanding me, especially regarding my introversion, but I am also willing to get beyond this to live a better story.

There was an experiential part (that I am only partially done working on) that assisted us in determining how God had prepared us for where we are today by looking back on our life, seeing our strengths, our gifts, and how they might be used in a special way. And always, our gifts are things that we delight in doing. I haven't finished the process by any means, but I know that I love to encourage people and to support people. I also really enjoy being alone and writing and thinking. So I will be excited to see how this will progress and develop over time.

The conference ended with Donald Miller giving all of the profits from the conference to the participant Lori, who was going to take her life in a new direction by starting a program to educate homeless children. Lori herself lives in a homeless shelter and volunteers there by teaching homeless children who wouldn't be successful in a conventional school. We all volunteered to help Lori in some way (if we were so inclined, which I was) or to do a special project in helping other people live a better story.

Years ago I was a life coach, experienced in some different types of energy work, and I offered to support Lori one-on-one to coach her through some personal issues on her way to making her program successful. I don't know if she'll call me, as there were hundreds of people who offered to help, but I know that I would be delighted if she did, and that it would probably help me as much if not more than it would help her. I would enjoy it very, very much. I loved being a very small part of her story.

Being in Portland was challenging, as we stayed in a pretty rugged old musty hotel and didn't sleep well at night, so we spent most of the time away from the actual conference trying to get caught up on sleep. I did go to Powells' Bookstore (the largest independent bookstore in the world) but I was so tired that I could hardly see the titles on the books or really appreciate being there. It was also really hot the whole time--an unexpected heat wave--and our hotel's so-called a/c didn't work. So we were glad to get home, and recover here. We were by no means sorry we went though, and viewed the discomfort as a minor thing in the interests of being at such a great conference.

I'm not sure how this will affect my life right now, I just know that it will!

~Photos by LoveHubbie Mark, edited by pictures from the conference itself except LoveHubbie sleeping (really), unfortunately...