Thursday, December 23, 2010

Sightseeing in Vancouver--Part I

It has been a whirlwind last few days, starting with Jon's dad dropping us off at LAX before 9:00 Monday morning for a flight at noon up to Vancouver, Canada.  Even though the flight was short and WestJet service was good, we were pretty drained by our day in two airports and 36,000 foot altitude, plus a bonus surprise visit to customs.

We were picked up at the airport by Jon's cousin, who took us to the place we are staying / house- and cat-sitting.  On the 28th floor, the view looks out over False Creek and Granville Island.  Verrrrrrrry nice--see?

On Tuesday, we walked through downtown Vancouver to Stanley Park.  It was a little cold, but not rainy, so I was able to take plenty of pictures.  You can see the full slideshow here.

Wednesday we decided to hit the Farmers Market on Granville Island, which was lots of fun, but dangerous--we had some serious sensory overload!  We started out by taking the False Creek Ferry over, then just walked around and looked at all the shops.  Finally, we went inside the market and did some grocery shopping.  Gorgeous pictures of our day are right over here.  We finished up our afternoon by walking to the Vancouver Central Library and being amazed by the grand architecture and massive collection of books.  An unplanned stop at JapaDog made our evening complete!

By Thursday it was raining for pretty much the whole day.  We went to visit the University of British Columbia (UBC), planning to see the botanical gardens and other features, but instead decided to spend the whole morning indoors at the Museum of Anthropology, which gave us plenty of opportunities to practice our amateur photography skills.  Nice that they have a pass that covers all the different sights and you don't have to use it all in one day!  Enjoy my slideshow of pictures from the museum--I hope I selected a nice representation of the 1000's of artifacts and objects they have from all over the world.

So today is Friday, and we decided to take it easy, giving me a chance to catch up on my vacation blogging!  I hope you enjoyed a vicarious visit to the north with me.  Check back soon for part two!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Black Friday through Cyber Monday Sale

If you're in the mood to start your holiday shopping today, but don't feel like dealing with throngs of people at the malls, this is your lucky day!  Today through Monday you can receive a special discount in my SusanNeedlehands Online Boutique without even leaving the comfort of your own home.

Just enter the coupon code BGBFCM2010 at checkout and you will receive a 15% discount on your entire purchase!  And don't forget to let me know if there is a charity of your choice that you would like the proceeds to go to.  The list is below.

Thank you and Happy Shopping!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Terms of EnJOYment

As the end of my first week in the InsightLA class, Deepening Joy, draws near, I find myself scrambling to put my thoughts together reflecting on the theme of setting a joyful intention.

Photo Credit:

Based on the book, Awakening Joy, by James Baraz and Shoshana Alexander, this first assignment is to reflect on what the word "joy" means to me, the images that come to mind, and how I most naturally express or experience it.

Mom, Joy, and Kay

My first reaction to the word "joy" is actually a sorrowful one.  Joy was the name of my mom's older sister, who died when she was in her late 30's or early 40's.  I feel sad that I never had the chance to know her.  But when I picture the moment when my grandmother first held her baby daughter in her arms, and said the name, "Joy", I can't help but feel a warmth and purity of love that my grandmother always radiated, only this in this moment, it is stronger and more intense, enveloping all I can see, hear, and feel.  It makes me happy to picture my grandmother in this moment.


Another image of the word joy is the feeling I used to have when lying in bed, on my back, with my big, heavy, cream-colored cat perched on my chest, purring away, vibrating my ribcage and filling my heart with warmth and peacefulness.  The weight--instead of being stifling--is soothing, as if saying, "There is absolutely no need to get up for anything.  Stay here, rest, and relax.  Everything you need is right here in this moment."

Photo Credit:

How do I express joy?  I guess in a quiet way, with a gentle smile.  I haven't danced around the room in ages, and that was mostly when I wanted to get something out, not when I was happy.  The same goes for writing, and most of my other creative ventures.  Usually I create when I want to get something off my chest, not because I feel joyful.  The act of creating something usually brings about a change in my emotional state, from chaotic to calm.  A catharsis....  Maybe this is why I haven't done anything creative in so long--nothing to get off my chest.  That can't be true, can it?

Photo Credit:

I am supposed to say, "I want to be happy," and see what happens.  I feel like I already am pretty happy, like joy is already part of my daily experience, but am I really hiding unhappiness away?  Is there something I am burying inside?

Surely, I will find much more in the coming weeks' investigations.

Photo Credit:

I end with stating my intention: I intend to be positive and encouraging, with both myself and others.  I see everything as an opportunity for joy, peace, and happiness.

Monday, August 9, 2010


Photo Credit:

I honestly can't remember the last time I just sat at home and watched a movie all the way through.  Especially a French movie, with subtitles.

My pilates instructor, Margaret, had been on me for ages to watch the movie Serafine since she saw it last year, and I finally signed up for Netflix this morning, so what was the first thing I watched?

Photo Credit:

A quiet, slow-paced movie, that gives you plenty of room to question and infer, Serafine was anything but tranquil.  No, it reminded me too much of other artists' stories, Camille Claudel for one, Van Gogh for another, and the too familiar, sad, tragic, lonely end of these peoples' lives that really bums me out. (Pardon the terrible, cheesy movie trailers; I remember both movies as having actually been much better than these make them seem.)

It brought me back to the age-old question, do the artistic temperament and mental neuroses/psychoses go hand in hand, or are they completely separate issues?

Photo Credit:

Can one be truly inspired (imbued with spirit) without there being some kind of imbalance or instability in the mind?  Send me your two cents on this, if you like. I'd be interested to know what you think.

Photo Credit:

Well, needless to say, this was not a movie for answering any of those questions.  But I do hope you enjoy a look at this woman's unique and colorful art.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Showing Off my LovMely Headband

Just wanted to show off my new LovMely turquoise feather headband.  She does beautiful work!  You can see more of her lovely pieces and shop for them here.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Happy Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta Day!

Photo Credit:

According to an email I got from Thubten Dhargye Ling, July 15th is one of the days traditionally recognized as being the day of the Buddha's first teaching after becoming enlightened.  There is a clear and understandable version of that story about the Middle Way and Four Noble Truths here.

Photo Credit:

Reading this, I realized it was a good time to check in and find the areas of my life that are balanced or unbalanced.  Usually, I do not encounter any trouble erring on the ascetic side.  No, the difficulty (probably with many in America as well) is erring on the hedonistic side.  Giving in to our wants, desires, and cravings, just because we can.

One of the things I've decided I need to come back to center on is input vs. output in my life.  I find myself endlessly looking at things on the computer, but then do not give myself the space to process the information or let this percolate into my own ideas that lead me to produce something that is purely my own.  It has been a while since I knitted or made something, aside from dinner every night.

Photo Credit:

I find the endless hamster wheel of blogs and websites to be tiring and draining, instead of uplifting and inspirational, because my mind spins in convoluted circles even after the physical run on the wheel is over, and I don't get the rest I need.

So, back I go, into my meditation, my restfulness, to let the ideas calm, to make room for the best ones, hopefully, to rise to the surface.

Photo Credit:

So, what about you?  What parts of your life do you feel are off-kilter?  What can you do to bring it back into balance so that you can be a more rested, happier you?  I'd love to hear from you!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Lighten Up!

The morning began with my signing up for 4 yoga classes this week at MYC Yoga in downtown Bend for only $20. After the 30 minute walk there, and some help finding it from a local shop worker, I was greeted warmly at the front desk.  Turns out it was Claudia, the teacher's, first day teaching there and I was her only student!  So I got a wonderful one-on-one session in Vinyasa foundation from a lovely German woman.

Next, I mosied up the street to see what else I could find, and lo and behold, the Tangerine Hair Salon I had read about online was right there.  When I asked in the shop about getting an appointment with Chelsea (the hairdresser most recommended online), they went across the street to the Lemon Drop (smaller shop where the original Tangerine used to be) and got her and it turned out I could get in right then and there! 

Quick reminder of the hair before:

After a brief consult about what I wanted, and 5 hours of going back and forth between the sink and styling chairs (still not as bad as the day I had the black stripped out, that took 8 hours),  I came out like so (no heart attacks, please).

Maybe it was my going through the old family photos of me being strawberry blond when I was 2 that inspired it, plus a wanting to "lighten up" for the summer, and being on vacation, but I felt like it was time for a change.  With Chelsea's very capable hands on the job, and her determined patience to do as many steps as the process required to get it right, she pulled the old color out and put the new color and highlights in--I think beautifully!

My final stop of the day was at 900 Wall (as recommended by Chelsea) for "lunch" at 4:30.  Had some nice Happy Hour food (fried green beans and chicken gorgonzola pizza), then began the hike back up the hill to go home and crash, exhausted after my big day.

What do you think of my new strawberry blond 'do?  And while you're at it, tell me a story about a somewhat drastic hair style change you've done.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Summerfest in Bend

So, after my 30-Day Shred workout this morning (I tried the Level 2 program today--nearly killed me, think I'm going back to Level 1 tomorrow), I decided to walk to Downtown Bend to check out Summerfest.

It was your typical collection of arts & crafts sellers and local businesses.  Being that it was so hot, after walking up and down a few aisles, I decided to stop in the Pine Tavern for lunch.  The salad and fried oysters I had were quite satisfactory.

Photo Credit:

Then, back to perusing booths.  I was tempted to buy some summer/yoga pants at Za Zen, but don't like to buy clothes if I can't try them on first.  There was a bejeweled bracelet that I tried on as well, but then remembered all the bracelets in the drawer at home that I never wear.  Finally, I found the Tumalo Lavender booth, and could resist no longer.  I bought a small lavender dark chocolate bar, a lavender rosemary focaccia bread mix (can't wait to try that out), and a lavender gourmet lemon pepper that is going on our chicken for dinner tomorrow night.  It smells like this:

Photo Credit:

After a couple of samples of Riesling at the winery booths and of course, more chocolate, I was on my way for the hike back up Awbrey.  A good, but tiring, afternoon.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Still My Heroine, After all These Years

 Photo Credit: Squidney on Homeground via Wikimedia Commons

Kate Bush was and always will be my #1 heroine.  She opened up the music business to women like no other female before or since, and yet, many are still not familiar with her music.  Her dramatic and heartfelt singing and dancing style influenced me no end.  I'm quite sure I owe my ability to stand up in front of a room of 35-100 preteens and hold their attention for more than a few minutes at a time today to my countless hours of watching this woman when I was a teenager.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with her story, you can get it right here--in this short, sweet tribute to her life in music, by Music Matters on Vimeo.

Do you remember some of your heroes from when you were young?  Do those heroes still have an impact on your life today?

Thursday, June 17, 2010

The View Outside My Window

 Unleash the Kraken!

Um, not a typical day at Jane Addams...

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Multitasking or One Thing at a Time?

 Photo Credit:

Are you a multitasker?  I know, I know, who isn't nowadays?  I see people in the supermarket trying to pay for groceries, have a cell phone conversation, and control their kids, all at the same time.  I know my students are taking 5-6 hours to do their homework every night because they are also trying to text friends, watch TV, or listen to music.

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But, being familiar only with how my own mind works, and that only sometimes, I can tell that when I am forced to do more than one thing at once, the things don't get done well.  Or as well as I would like them to.  It is much more satisfying to the perfectionist in me to have the luxury of focusing on one task at a time, for a nice, uninterrupted stretch, until I either finish or get tired enough to need a break from it.

I have known this since my meditation studies at UCSB, but this nice, clear video from cognitive scientist Daniel Willingham explains why we can't do two things simultaneously as well as we can do one.

What is your style--doing several things at once, or one thing at a time?  How do you think this is working for you?

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Morning Haiku

Photo credit: Patrick Burghard @

Sitting still and calm
Small, rough tongue licks at my wrist
I am full of love

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Snow Kitteh!

Kit kitt kitteh with the massivist of paws!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

A Haiku

Photo Credit contemplar@Flickr

Walking to the gym
Jacaranda blossoming
I love West L.A.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Feline Friday

"Don’t just read the easy stuff. You may be entertained by it, but you will never grow from it."
Jim Rohn

What have you read lately that has challenged you--your ideas, beliefs or ways of thinking? 

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Adventures in Networking

For my final examination of areas in my life in which I have fallen out of love with my old ways, I look at how things are going in the world of Etsy.

As soon as I picked up this book at Borders, I realized that I was no longer enamored with my normal going-it-solo route.  So I started looking for Etsy teams that I might fit with, and found, well ... several.  As of right now, I think I am a member of eight teams.

Scrambling to try to get "networked", I added people willy nilly, left-and-right to Facebook and Twitter.  I have now signed up to Stumble and Tumble, Flicker, Shutter and Kaboodle.  Someday I hope to actually learn how to use all of these services, and get my contacts organized (thus my fiddling around with TweetDeck today).  Ahhhhh!!! In an effort to make my life simpler, I have totally complicated things--as usual!

What was that I said about falling out of love with Wonderland in one of my previous posts?  The Cheshire Kitty might as well put a blindfold on me and spin me around and around and throw me out into the forest.  I'll be wandering around on these platforms for a looooooooonnnnnng time.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Feline Friday

“I like living. I have sometimes been wildly, despairingly, acutely miserable, racked with sorrow, but through it all I still know quite certainly that just to be alive is a grand thing.
~ Agatha Christie

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Simplicity & the Art of Focusing

Okay, I'll say it--I think I have finally fallen out of love with Wonderland.  This muddled up mess that is my mind, yanking me this way and that, until I have no sense of direction or point or purpose, really gets in the way.
Picture Credit: Elena Kalis

In the way of what?  In the way of simplicity.  In the way of feeling the pleasure of focusing on one thing at a time.  Is it just me and the way my brain works, or is this a societal problem?  I'm pretty sure that I am not the only one affected.  Or infected, may be a better word for it.  

Twitter this, FB that, inbox stuffed with 125 new emails (and they're not even spam!).  I can't fall asleep at night, lying in bed exhausted, but still feeling the weight of the emails I didn't return, papers I didn't grade, lessons I didn't plan.  

Sometimes, I feel like I am falling, literally falling through space, while I am lying in my bed.  Did you know, there's even a condition called Alice in Wonderland Syndrome for people who get disoriented?
Source for all remaining pictures:

I find myself whining that there's never enough time to get everything done, feeling as if I'm being pulled in all four directions at once, but really, what are the things I have to do?

Obviously, if I'm to survive with any semblance of sanity left intact, I have to answer my three percolating questions, "What can I let go of in my life?"  "Where have I changed my interests or priorities?"and "What no longer works for me?"

These answers--let go of as much as possible, choose one priority at a time, and don't overcomplicate things, are what I come back to every time.  >Sigh< I give myself very good advice, but when--oh when--will I ever learn to follow it?

Click here to watch the classic Yooouuutuuube Alice video!  Got to go full screen with it.  Guaranteed to drive you nuts, but in a totally good way!!!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Feline Friday

“If you want to get the best out of a person you must look for the best that is in him.”
~ Bernard Haldane

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Simplicity #1

So I'm starting to read this book called How Philosophy Can Save Your Life: 10 Ideas that Matter Most by Marietta McCarty, and decided I would try to write a post based on it each week.

The first idea is about Simplicity, and of course, I throw it into overdrive.

There are suggestions for readings, songs, poetry, and more, and I take it upon myself to download all the poetry, buy all the songs on iTunes, and bookmark all the texts on Google books.

Right, like that's simplicity.

What it makes me wonder is, why do I need to overcomplicate things?  Why can't I just focus on one thing at a time and let it soak in?

Why do I need these constant distractions and endless chain of puzzles?

The easy answer is that, I don't.

Sometimes I remember this when I am meditating regularly.

Well, to back up a second, McCarty encapsulates the teachings of Epicurus, then asks you to state five things you will remember and use in your life.  So let me just try for that.

1.  Public life (and social networking) makes tranquility impossible.  We need a retreat from daily life, not constant engagement.  It is important to distinguish between real responsibilities and the "extras".  You have to prioritize your engagements, which for me means having real connections that create deep intimacy, not shallow Facebook interactions.  Something I've always believed in--it's better to have a few really good friends, than 1000's of acquaintances.

So why am I leaving my Facebook/Twitter/Ning/Yahoo Groups tabs open all the time?  In the goal of promoting my (and other's) Etsy shops, I am trying to open these kinds of connections with people, but is that really what I want?  Ultimately, I would like people to benefit from their interactions with me--a smile, a break in their day, a cozy, warm, comfortable scarf or two.  But it needs to be meaningful, not just another busy distraction for people.

2.  Simplicity is the key to pleasure.  We don't actually need that much to live, just appreciate what life sends you.  If you remember to take the time to savor the small things, you won't have room for desires and wants.

3.  First, see what you actually need to be happy, then don't seek more than that.  When we master our desires, we gain peace of mind.  I know that from Buddhism.  The question is really, what is essential?  My answer was basic breath, fresh air, sweet water, wholesome food, a calm, clean environment, and someone you love who loves you.  I have those things, most of the time, so why do I try to clutter it all up?  Leave everything else behind.  Don't let desire strangle you.  Such good advice to ponder...

4.  Satisfaction is unalterable by external circumstances.  Another Buddhist tenet.  The only way to find satisfaction is to look within.  More meditation, coming right up!

5.  "An unadorned life is full of pleasure and lasting satisfaction."  In America?  When are we ever unadorned?  A couple of weeks ago, I lost my nose ring by blowing my nose too hard and putting the kleenex in the trash, which was then picked up by my custodian at work and taken away.  When I realized it was gone, I felt naked.  Why?  When did this adornment become part of my identity?

Well, that's enough for tonight.  I'll come back to this another time.  Hope you have a wonderful, simple week, and feel free to chime in with your thoughts about simplicity!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

The ADD's of Creativity

How do you use your creative energy?  Are you a poet, painter, potter, or just perplexed by the thought of making something?

Throughout my life, I have dabbled in many different venues of self-expression, seemingly as an act of survival by creativity.  Swinging from vine to vine, I have grasped on to one lifeline after another in the jungle of arts and crafts.  If I try to tell this story in order, it goes something like this:

Music - I started taking guitar classes when I was in the 3rd grade.  (Never did break that resting pinky habit!)

I also played cello in junior high, something that I sometimes think of resuming, but when?

I haven't done much with it lately, but it's nice to know my guitar playing inspired my nephew to pick it up later on when he was old enough to hold a guitar.  He now has a room full of guitars and music equipment--quite the little rocker!

My niece was also curious about the object as a baby, but has since found other creative interests to hold her attention such as beading, handcrafts, etc.

I went so far as to dabble with a 4-track recorder, electric guitar, and midi keyboard after being inspired by Beck and other 90's indie music artists, but it has since fallen by the wayside...

Next up on my creative journey was probably poetry.  I think it all started with the Hallowe'en poetry contest in 6th grade.  After winning that with the likes of this:

How can you blame me, I figured I must have a talent for writing poetry.  Whew, gives me the shivers and not in a good way!

I even went so far as to take a creative writing class when I was on Study Abroad in Stratford-on-Avon.  I mean, what better place to write poetry than the possible birthplace and town of Shakespeare himself!

That creative outlet comes and goes.  Every once in a while, a poem still sneaks up on me...

Drawing was another way to indulge my fantasy world.  I remember taking a class at the Olive Rec Center (when I wasn't in gymnastics or basket weaving) and learning that I could draw things from real life as well as from my imagination.  I still have my drawing notebook from high school art class, and pick up the pencil now and again.

Painting, just an extension of drawing.  Sometimes I get in the mood, and other times blank canvases sit in the back of my closet just dreaming of their day in the sun.

Fashion design was another art-related interest.  I remember designing a horrific dress in collaboration with several friends during Mr. Mathias' math class one day in 7th grade.  He caught me with it and said, "Susan, if only your math was as good as your drawing... oh wait, it is."  I used to play with my Fashions by Me kit for hours and hours, making outfits from all kinds of gaudy material.

Later on, this gaudiness became a reality (for better or worse) in making costumes for my high school dance production shows.  The thought did cross my mind to go to FIDM after high school, but when I saw the price tag, I high-tailed it over to the local community college instead!

Speaking of dance, this one was a real life saver.  I was always so bad at P.E. in elementary school and junior high (awful hand-eye coordination and depth perception due to my bad eyesight and growing up not knowing whether I was really left- or right-handed), that when it came time to choose an athletics class for high school P.E., I saw Dance on the list and thought, "Well, at least it doesn't involve anyone throwing balls at you" and signed up for that.

I was hooked.  Here was the first time I was able to express myself in public (even though the audience probably had no clue what I was trying to communicate) without being shy and reserved.  I could use my budding seamstress skills, hairdressing, acting, and dancing and never once had to say a word to the audience.  My creativity was fully unleashed for the first time.  In fact, it ended up being my (first) college major, which later on shifted to English/Creative Writing, and then finally to Religious Studies (the B.A. I finally finished).

And lest I forget to mention, teaching is probably my most creative endeavor yet.  That one started way back when I was lining up all of our stuffed animals into a semicircle and teaching them things on an imaginary blackboard.


Later, in junior high and high school, I tutored some of my friends in math, but it wasn't until I was in my mid-20's that I finally realized this was my calling in life.  Now I've been in the classroom for 10 years and still feel that every day presents an opportunity (if not dozens) to use my creative and problem-solving abilities to the fullest.

From crafting interesting and provocative lessons to shifting your teaching angle on the spot when you see kids aren't getting it, and now, learning new ways to use technology in education, this is my ultimate love and challenge.

So there you have it!  The story of my creative life in a very large nutshell.  Hope you enjoyed coming along for the ride.  Now it's YOUR turn--what inspires you to create and what venues does your imagination come to life in?