Yes, Make Your Space Pretty (And No, Don’t Feel Guilty About It)

You can’t change the world unless you find your people. This is a story of shared transformation, and I invite you to come along. Through a contact at Impact Hub Minneapolis-St. Paul, I met wholistic consultant Julie Delene of Move as One this spring. Within minutes, we both knew we had work to do, together.

We’ve teamed up to create this blog series, The Soulful Sidebiz. I’m following my call to help people find my voice, and Julie’s providing me tools for creating systemic change. Our hope is to inspire you on your own journey of transformation, whatever it may be. Here’s to aligning passions with goals!

“I’d love to hang the pictures in my home office,” I responded with a sigh, “but I’ve been avoiding the task for months. I want to be surrounded by art. Instead, the room has frames stashed on the floor and clutter in every corner.” Even as I spoke these words, I perceived the slightest question on Julie’s face. I could tell this wasn’t what she’d thought I’d say, and–quite frankly–it wasn’t what I’d have predicted, either.

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I Visualize a Goal

I was in the middle of a leadership consultation, you see, and I’d just answered a question from a board game. Created by Julie, the game helps players gain clarity. Called 5 Mindful Moves, it prompts players to have conversations around enhancing their work, life, and relationships. In my case, the plan is to build a side business that “does good” in the world and generates income. (Deep down, I fear this isn’t possible. Help me, Julie!)

Today’s game had begun in the same way it always does: I named the objective I wanted to explore. This time I’d told Julie I wanted to think through a decision I was mulling at my full-time job. I’d already completed my first two moves and had just pulled a card from a stack of prompts about visualizing my goals.

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Look, it actually happened! These pictures adorn the wall, providing constant energy and inspiration. For months, they sat on the floor leaning against the wall. Thanks our recent conversation, I got the motivation to take on the task of hanging them. Now I see this was an important step in furthering my side-biz goals.

I Allow My Inner Voice to Speak (And You Should, Too)

All of a sudden, I came up with a response that had nothing, whatsoever, to do with my full-time job. Instead I began talking about hanging pictures in my home office. But even though my response surprised me, I didn’t push it away. For an over-functioner like me, this was a tiny victory. Moments of allowing can teach us so much, if we can resist the urge to bury them.

In this case, I was finally allowing myself to listen to an inner voice I’d been ignoring for months. I’d wanted to hang pictures in my office for nearly half a year. And yet. Over and over again, I’d come up with reasons not to. Raise your hand if any of these sound familiar:

  • Hanging pictures is frivolous. I have more practical things to do, like laundry.
  • Putting holes in the wall will mar the room for future residents. (Never mind the fact that we have no plans to sell the house.)
  • I don’t have the proper nails. What exactly are the proper nails, anyway?
  • Hanging pictures requires making decisions. Which pictures should go where, and what if I change my mind later?
  • I’m tired. The Gilmore Girls are calling my name.
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Thanks to a prompt similar to this, I was spurred into action. The card sparked a conversation in which Julie underscored the importance of personalizing my home office. Three days after my coaching session–that very weekend–I busted out the hammer and nails. My wall now surrounds me with art. Finally!

I Take Action and Hang The Freaking Pictures

What Julie helped me realize is that decorating the office wasn’t just a fanciful whim. Having a well-designed office is critical to productivity, and–for an artist like me–inspiration. Don’t just take my word for it. As Entrepreneur magazine puts it, “Ensure that your office reflects you and that it contains a favorite object or photo that will give you the break you need when you pause in your work . . . Your office should be a connection to yourself, your spirit and your productivity.”

Photo a frame I decorated with the words, "Make, Mend, Change."
I bought these letters at a local thrift shop, then glued them to this simple frame. Rather than adding photos, I warmed the frame with scraps of fabric. What do you want to make, mend, or change in your life?

I Surround Myself With Art

My office is no longer a reminder of things I intend to do. Instead it gives me energy by surrounding me with art.

  • A pencil drawing by my grandfather, who was an architect.
  • A block print by a friend to commemorate his wedding. (The couple distributed handmade gifts to guests during the ceremony, encouraging us not to be shy about accepting them.)
  • A picture frame I transformed myself, using letters I bought during this amazing trip to one of my fave local thrift stores.
  • Items picked up at art festivals, independent bookstores, and fabric remnant bins.
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I adore this piece. My grandfather was an architect who loved sketching buildings. Though I only knew him through the eyes of a child, my adult perception appreciates the careful precision he put into every scene. This one depicts the courtyard of a California home he and my grandmother Dosie lived in for years.

Your Turn. Go Out and Pretty Up Your Space.

If you’ve been hesitating to prettify a space of your own, I hereby give you permission to go for it. After hanging my pictures, I immediately starting using the space. Indeed, as I type this post, I’m looking at my wall, which still makes me smile every time glance up. If you have a project in mind, let me know how it goes. I’d love to hear!

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Soulful Sidebiz Series (Part 1)

If you and I were sitting down for coffee, I’d love to ask what you think of the saying, “Leap and the net will appear.” I, for one, have a hot-and-cold relationship with this philosophy. Deep down, I believe there’s some kind of spiritual truth to it, and I’d be lying if I told you I haven’t experienced examples of it in my life.

On the other hand, I’m a gal who likes to make things happen. And when I say this, here’s what I really mean: I. WILL. MAKE. THINGS. HAPPEN. And I’ll do it perfectly, for crying out out loud, right now. The over-functioner in me has a tough time accepting any correlation between achieving success and loosening my grip on control.

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Now, I’m about to embark on a new quest for balancing planning and letting go. After fifteen years at the same nonprofit, I’m also starting a side business related to helping people find their voice. For two years I’ve been blogging about the challenges and joys of finding my own. (How do you find your voice, I wonder?) For me, the best tools include crafting, writing, self care, and–ultimately, I hope–entrepreneurship.

But here’s the deal: Starting a business is no joke. Exploring how you want to serve the world is a process that stirs all kinds of emotions, ideas, and uncertainties. As a mentor recently told me, “If you want to get some therapy, start a business or start making art.” Indeed, the past few months have brought more upheaval than I care to admit.

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You’ve probably seen this quote before, but I never seem to get tired of it. I made this version using fabric and Mod Podge. Now it hangs in my home office, otherwise known as the craft room.

Then, three weeks ago, I met someone to help guide my path. Enter mindfulness coach and founder of Move as One, Julie Delene. For more than 20 years, Julie’s been empowering individuals and organizations to have mindful conversations and take action. She and I met through a contact at Impact Hub, the Minneapolis co-working space where both of us are members.

Now, she’ll be coaching me on my journey toward entrepreneurship, and I invite you to follow along. I’ll record my experiences through a new series, The Soulful Side Biz, which’ll appear on my blog and hers. I can tell already that Julie’s emphasis on embodied decision-making will do me a world of good. I don’t know about you, but I get stuck in analysis mode, which–yep–leads to plenty of paralysis.

Lucky for me, Julie’s developed a game to spark dialogue during coaching. 5 Mindful Moves gets to the heart of what players what to create in work and life. The point is to reduce stress, renew passion, and improve decision-making. I’m excited to find out where this will lead. And, as always, I’m curious to hear your thoughts about mindfulness. Feel free to comment!

 

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My first time playing, I drew a card asking the opposite question: Describe a piece of clothing you used to like wearing, but no longer do. An image popped to mind of a bright blue dress. Two years ago I felt confident in i. Now, the thing just doesn’t fit. Hmm, indeed. The me of two years ago isn’t who I am today. If I want to bring out my best, I must find a new structure. Stay tuned. . .

 

Vote: It’s Time for a New Name

Hi, everybody! It’s time for my blog to have a new name. (Nobody can remember it!) Also, I started out writing about crafting, but over time I realized my aim is broader.

WHAT I DO: Cultivate voices to renew lives

WAYS I DO IT: Creativity, Self Care, Connection, and Career

I’d love it if you’d  vote for your fave new name. If you have any comments or other ideas, your voice is always welcome!

Thanks so much. You are SO appreciated. Be on the lookout for a new look soon. . .

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5 Lessons For Fierce, Authentic Women Leaders

If you wanted to bring change to your life, what would you do to make it happen? Some pals and I were discussing this over dinner recently. While enjoying our Nepalese curry, one of my girlfriends made a comment that spurred me into action. “If you really want to make things happen,” she said, “you’ve got to get out of the house.” She was referring to career change–I’m building a side business–but her advice can inspire action for any woman leader in our web-focused world.

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For me, spending hours online feels like getting things done. And, yes, this can often be the case. After all, Facebook communities and online courses have been two of my most powerful tools for gathering resources related to my side hustle. But I lean toward introversion and can be fooled into believing the internet is all I need. After dinner that night, while browsing the web, my friend’s words blasted into my mind. So, I decided to change things up. “Here goes,” I thought. I took a breath and searched for ways to get out of the house.

Two weeks later I found myself at an event called #WomenLeadMSP. More than 70 women gathered at a Minneapolis co-working space called Impact Hub to talk about authenticity. To be exact, the meeting’s topic was fierce authenticity. Led by WomenLeadMSP and the Minneapolis Hub of Global Shapers, the goal was to celebrate women’s leadership while participants shared stories, experienced personal growth, and found community.

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This display was accompanied by blank sticky notes for attendees.

Their promo had had me at “emerging leaders,” and I was excited for this chance to experience “speakers and discussions on topics like making hard decisions and knowing your worth.” I’d driven across town on a Saturday morning, navigated the hip neighborhood, and located the historic building’s bright yellow door. I wandered through the room and claimed my spot at a table of strangers.

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The sign in the window by the entrance to Impact Hub MSP shows The Little Engine that Could.

Three hours later, I’d indeed internalized some valuable lessons. Thanks to the speakers, my table mates, and even the space itself, I learned some things that continue to shape my thinking. As a sassy woman yourself, you already know that authenticity doesn’t come easy. To achieve your goals of making change, you’re gonna need to break out all the fierceness you can muster. As you do, I hope these lessons can help you as much as they help me.

Five Lessons for Fierce, Authentic Women Leaders

Lesson 1: Stop Apologizing

All right, ladies, this is a tricky one. Particularly for mid-lifers like me who grew up in a society that often rewarded me for not standing out, apologizing for ourselves is longstanding practice. “Stop apologizing” was a direct message shared by one of our speakers. A biomaterials researcher who’s also a mom, this particular academic spent years worrying about her manner of speech. She considered it too casual, when compared to her fellow professors. Eventually she owned her accessible tone, realizing it was actually a strength that enhanced audience connection.

“Stop playing down your contributions,” she urged us all. She reminded us that showcasing our skill sets is crucial for growth. Habitual apologies can be a form of excuse for avoiding taking the risks that will bring new learning. I believe a first step is recognizing how often we apologize. If you need a refresher, check out Amy Schumer’s apology panel sketch, which skewers this phenomenon.

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A big shout-out goes to my tablemates, who were totally cool with me taking photos of our collective notebooks.

A friend of mine experienced a similar reminder firsthand, at a rock camp she attended for women. Every time an attendee said, “I’m sorry,” camp organizers gestured toward her and proclaimed, “You rock!” As you can imagine, this group of rockers learned fast how often they openly apologized for their words, their mistakes, and often–their very presence in the room. I, for one, am grateful for leaders like this who are helping us all change this habit. Enough!

Lesson 2: This Is An Adventure, So Enjoy It

As an artist, I tend to be influenced by my surroundings. I notice and respond to aesthetics, so I was immediately drawn to Impact Hub Minneapolis-St. Paul’s attractive space. A series of modern images adorn the interior brick wall, arranged in an artful way. At the front of the room hangs a map with the giant suggestion, “THIS IS AN ADVENTURE.” This reminder can be helpful to any of us, but I say women in particular need to hear it.

For me, this is an especially meaningful antidote to the perfectionism that can leave me stymied. Searching for an explanation just now, I discovered a mental health clinic in Nashville that summed it up just right. If anyone would know about 7 Lies Women Believe and the Limitations They Create, it’d be practitioners of recovery and mental wellness. Though I’m not a professional and have no association with this clinic, I do know what it feels like to get stuck in this “I must be perfect” mindset.  Allowing myself to live life as adventure, a curiosity to explore, helps me get unstuck from unrealistic expectations of faultlessness.

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Yep. Life’s better when I embrace this one.

Lesson 3: Niceness Only Gets You So Far

Periodically throughout the event, our Twitter feed was projected onto the wall via an LCD projector. (For you uninitiated out there, a hashtag is a short phrase people can use to organize conversation around a topic on social media.) Any comment written with the label “#WomenLeadMSP,” could be seen by others viewing that category. In this case, the organizers culled these responses and displayed them on a large screen for all to see.

I love that one of the participants had this to say: “Minnesota niceness . . . I can’t stand that.” What a fitting description of fierce authenticity! Residents of my adopted home state are known for being nice on the surface, but difficult to befriend for real. This article from the Star Tribune covers the dichotomy well. I’ve never been a fan of cocktail-level conversations, but at the same time it’s only been in recent years I’ve grown more comfortable owning my own strength. Rather than trying to maintain our nice veneers, I can only hope more women leaders come into their own.

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Here’s just one of the gutsy voices featured on the event’s Twitter feed.

Lesson 4: Surround Yourself with Models of What You Can Do

One reason getting out of the house is so important is that we need to break out from our heads, which can limit us in a hurry. You’ve probably heard the famous quote by American entrepreneur and author Jim Rohn, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” We cannot underestimate the power of surrounding yourself with models of what’s possible.

At this meeting, I heard speeches from a founding principal of an elementary school, the policy director at the Women Organizing Women (WOW) Network, a women’s empowerment and LGBT advocate in Minnesota and India, and a consultant across multiple industries.

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I had to snap this shot of a recommendation on the fierce authenticity wall.

Lesson 5: Your Future Self Needs You

Man, we spend a lot of time rushing from place to place. Looking back now, I realize I spent the better part of my thirties feeling overwhelmed, hurriedly fixing every conceivable problem at work and at home. It took me months of sustained anxiety to finally slow myself down.

Now that I know how it feels to think straight for more than a hot minute, I’ve focused more on what’s coming next. They say living in the future isn’t healthy (and I tend to agree), but numbing every day doesn’t exactly set a person up for an intentional destiny. I have different goals now, and for the past year and a half I’ve devoted my free time to writing, making things, and learning entrepreneurial skills.

What about you? What can you do today that your future self will thank you for?

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When I saw this white board near a discussion table, I couldn’t help but preserve it in a selfie.

 

 

 

Support a Newbie GirlBoss: Take My 1-Min Survey

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Well, hello, you peachy thing! You may have heard I’m seeking volunteers to take a 1-minute survey. In my mission to encourage women to cultivate their voices, I’m developing my first online course. I’d love for you to help shape it.

The course’s working title is, “When You Don’t Know What to Say, Here’s What to Make.” It’ll provide craft projects for supporting friends and family going through a tough time. Whether someone you love is in the hospital, enduring divorce, or dealing with grief, it can be hard know what to say. Heck, maybe one of your special people simply needs some encouragement to see her own power.

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No matter how crafty you consider yourself to be, the course will help you find your voice. Normally a verbal person, I came up with these projects when words failed me. My hands turned out to be my only effective way to communicate. I’d love to help you get over that hump, too. The course will feature how-to’s for projects like this:

Take the survey and pass it on to any fab ladies who may want to pitch in. As always, feel free to chime in with a comment.

Rest in peace, Rhys. This course is dedicated to you.fought_to_become1.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reclaim Your Name (in a Way that Doesn’t Suck)

If you’re a woman and you live in the United States, chances are good you’ve got a story about a name change. You’ve either switched your last name, intentionally decided not to, or will make a choice about this down the road. Even if marriage isn’t your bag, I’ll bet you’ve got an opinion about this issue. In my case, the topic has cropped up throughout my life.

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In elementary school my friends and I scrawled imagined names on notebooks, in high school we joked about horrible names we’d inherit one day, and as young women we debated the pros and cons of changing our names after marriage. Not once did I envision the day I’d walk into a courtroom surrounded by my adult girlfriends, on a mission to reclaim my given name after divorce.

Considering Reclaiming Your Name?

If you, too, are contemplating reclaiming your name, then I salute you! Getting divorced is painful enough. I won’t blame you if filling out a billion government forms hasn’t risen to the top of your priority list just yet. I know. It took me three years after divorce to muster the energy to face this process.

By the way, I have no desire to put down my ex or marriage itself. I have genuine respect for both, and I fully intend to give, ahem, one of them a try again someday. And know that I support you wholeheartedly no matter what you choose to do with your own name. It’s a personal decision that only you can make. (Unless you live in a country that has laws about this, thanks to, say, feminist legislation in the ’70’s and ’80s. To that I say, “Wow.”)

For now, though, I’m talking to the would-be name changers out there. If you’ve gotten divorced and want to change your name back, what’s your motivation?

  • Might it empower you, after enduring a draining time?
  • Have you been using your given name as your middle one, and now you’re tired of explaining which is which?
  • Maybe you have cause to keep a healthy disconnection from your ex?
  • Or perhaps the change might simply help you feel like yourself again?

No matter your reason, consider me your virtual cheerleader. I just went through this process last month, so here are three tips I have for you.

Ask For Help

I feel a tad sheepish for giving this advice, as I only followed it myself because I had to. I’m one of those can-do types who really, really struggles with needing people. But sometimes life forces us to acknowledge we’re not in this alone, and this was a case in point.

In my state of Minnesota, changing your name (unless done at the time of the marriage or divorce) requires jumping through a series of hoops. Along with getting a background check and paying a fee, an applicant must receive approval from a judge at a court-appointed hearing. This involves bringing two adult witnesses to testify about your identity.

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My hearing took about 40 minutes, mostly spent on observing the other cases assigned to the same docket as mine. My friend Jess took this shot moments after my girlfriends and I left the courtroom.

After receiving my court date, I had about month to recruit my witnesses. Trust me when I tell you I tried to dream up ways to do this without “bothering” my loved ones. I dragged my feet for more than a week. My plan of complete independence fell through, though, since the entire point of these witnesses is that they know you well. I finally mustered the courage to send an email to several friends, asking for their help.

I figured I’d play a numbers game and invite a group. The thought was I’d be lucky to scare up two friends who’d be willing and able to drive across town at the appointed time. To my surprise, I received enthusiastic, unwavering support. Within minutes of sending the email I’d gotten not two, not three, but four versions of, “I’m in!” They told me they wouldn’t miss this important event, and asked what they could do to help.

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While snapping a few selfies after the hearing, we noticed two bailiffs sitting in the hallway nearby, amused by our smiles and cameras. Heidi had the guts to invite one of them to take a shot. He mentioned how rare it is to see people actually wanting to commemorate their court experience, so he was happy to oblige.

Turn it Into an Event

Even after my friends said they’d come no matter what, I still had a hard time accepting their help. It took me another week or so to decide what to do with this avalanche of support. Should I just choose two of them? If so, which two? Was I sure there wasn’t some other way to get this done, without putting any of them out?

In the end, I took a deep breath, and decided to go all in. I invited to the whole crew. After all, court hearings are open to the public. I knew we’d be respectful of our fellow courtgoers, who’d be facing who-knows-what. There really wasn’t any reason to hold back, other than my own hesitation about meeting this unfamiliar situation so openly.

My friends’ enthusiasm rubbed off on me, and we decided to celebrate with breakfast afterward. The courthouse, located in the county where I reside, is easily 15 minutes east of where the others live. One of my favorite cafes is only three blocks away, so it seemed like a good excuse to introduce them to it.

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Look at these awesome ladies! Having them with me in court absolutely transformed the experience. The courtroom was more formal than I’d pictured, and their support counteracted my nervousness. And, yes, we all enjoyed our celebratory breakfast treats afterward.

Be Loving to Yourself

My final advice applies to your name-change process, but it’ll also serve you well every freaking day of your life: Be loving to yourself. Changing your name involves a ridiculous number of steps and several months of sustained effort. Gaining legal approval only gets you halfway there. Next, as I’m facing now, you’ll have to record the change in every place your name appears.

Even if your state, like mine, provides resources for streamlining the process, you’re still the one responsible for executing the details. Get ready to fill out various forms, send them to the appropriate places, and pay the related fees. If you’re anything like me, adding these tasks to an already full plate will make you somewhat grumpy. It’s in these moments when you’ll have to break out the reminder to be loving to yourself. I mean it. Be loving to yourself.

When you get distracted and forget, for three days in a row, to get that passport form in the mail, do not berate yourself. After you walk out the door and realize you’ve misplaced the social-security form (yes, the same form you specifically put by your purse so you wouldn’t forget it), let it go for today.

These are the kinds of things that can make you feel like a failure if you let them. Instead, remember this process is a project. It will take time and that’s okay. Pat yourself on the back for any progress you’ve made this far. Take a deep breath. Know that the forms will still be there tomorrow, and think back to your motivations. Then, grab some girlfriends and go celebrate your newfound inner peace!

As always, feel free to share your own stories in the comments. I’d love to hear from you.

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No Swimming in the Snow, You Hear Me?

Hi, lovely readers,

I  just wanted to say a quick hello and share a pic I took on a recent walk near home. I couldn’t resist snapping this reminder not to swim in a frozen lake surrounded by snow. Here’s hoping a little winter humor can brighten your day.

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There’s no full post for you today here, as I just completed my first guest post. Making connections with other ambitious women is a goal of my blog, so that’s how I spent my time this week. Along these lines, Blue Car Painted Green is reaching out and finding kindred creative spirits. Check out these recent features on a Saturday Sharefest from the SITS girls and the community page of The Collective Mill.

Have a great week!

Making Stuff: An Act of Love or Bravery?

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Can you believe it’s the last Wednesday in February, y’all? To a summer gal like me, the end of February is a welcome sign that we’re kicking through winter. This year the date brings another milestone, too. Today’s the last day of my first blog experiment. This month, I did something that took me weeks to build the nerve to try: Host a linky party, which is a way to start a conversation for blogs.

In this case, I invited bloggers to submit stories centered around mending self and making stuff. After all, these actions have changed my life, so I wanted to surround myself with gutsy women who are out there doing them, too. There are countless ways to interpret the theme, so I was curious to find out which stories would emerge.

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This week I’m privileged to feature a story that spans a lifetime of making. It comes to us from poet and teaching artist Ren Powell, a Californian who has settled in Norway. (Can you blame her? Check out that shot of her by the lake.) Her post, “The Making of Objects,” brought up a mixture of emotions for me. In fewer than 700 words she traversed the decades and made me want to shout with frustration and longing and finally, vindication.

Powell’s story begins and ends with making things for people she cares about. On the surface this sounds sweet, and it is. But as Powell well knows, making objects isn’t just about making objects. She calls it an act of love; I call it an act of bravery. No wonder I’m drawn to the topic: Anything that combines these two acts is what matters in this world.

What strikes me about Powell’s story is the ease and regularity with which society dampened her voice. Whether she was 8 or 18 or 28, her call to create was present. However, as is often the case with women who express themselves, there were consequences. Each time someone diminished her work, she responded. More often than not, it seems, her reaction involved holding back.

amateurish.pngPowell is hardly alone in this response. (Cough, cough. Ever heard the phrase, “Takes one to know one?”) When people are are told repeatedly over time that their efforts have little value, they hold back as a means for survival. As someone who’s recently learned to overcome past fears and embrace my creative voice, I was particularly struck by this quote: “I studied art in school. In college. I won little, local awards for poetry. But unless it was sanctioned by the gatekeepers who put monetary value on things, it was amateurish in my mind, and amateurish was a bad word.”

And so, I relished the ending of her story with enthusiasm. No longer crippled by the hesitance of youth, she found a way to embrace her creativity. In the end, love gave her the strength to embrace her medium and own her creations. I, too, have become weary of the gatekeepers and hope we can all learn from Powell’s post.

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Thanks again to all the writers who joined me on my linky quest. Here’s a recap. Enjoy!

Initial Invite: Join Me in February: Mend, Make, Change

Week 1. This New Year, What Will You Create?

Week 2. Why Women Write: Global Edition

Week 3. Women and Husbands: Two Stories of Empowerment

Week 4. Making Stuff: An Act of Love or Bravery?

 

Think Everyday Women Can’t Change the World? See Lisa Shave Her Head.

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So, who thinks everyday women can change the world? Here’s hoping you’ve got your hand raised, but I’m on a mission to bring it a little higher than before. My mindset has improved in recent years as I’ve made efforts to spend my free time surrounded by makers and doers. Now I want to share these stories in the hopes I can do the same for you.

This week, here’s who’s inspiring me: Lisa Stiefel of English with Lisa. I met Stiefel this fall when I joined her mastermind group. If you’re not familiar with these, check out Forbes’ “7 Reasons to Join A Mastermind Group.” I concur with the author: My mastermind has expanded my network, exposed me to new learning, and given me bigger ideas. Each week, Lisa and I check in via video chat, where I get to hear the latest on her life and work in Germany.lisa_before

This past Wednesday Stiefel shaved her head. She did it to help others, but she has a message for you, too: Anyone can make a difference. She believes even small efforts matter and that people can help out in any way that feels right to them. I must say I agree! For her, what felt right was to take part in the Irish Cancer Society’s Shave or Dye campaign. (Stiefel lived in Ireland several years ago.)

By shaving or dying their hair, participants show support for people who are going through, or have gone through, cancer treatment. Lisa chose to shave hers and donate it to Locks of Love, which provides hairpieces to children suffering long-term medical hair loss. Here’s your chance to find out why she did it, in Stiefel’s own words. If you’re feeling so moved, join me in sponsoring Stiefel’s Shave or Dye campaign.

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What Inspired you to participate in Shave or Dye?

The first time I participated was in 2010. A bus went past me in town with a big poster advertising it, and when I saw it, I just knew, ‘This is something I have to do.’ I decided to combine it with making a hair donation to Locks of Love-I had heard about that organization years ago. My sister is a person who is always finding cool and lovely ways to make the world a better place, and I’ve always admired that about her. She had donated her hair to Locks of Love once way back when, and that’s how I heard about them. My participation in that year resulted in 1 hair donation for Locks of Love, and about 500EUR (approx. $550 today) in donations for Irish Cancer Society.
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I participated in Shave or Dye again in 2012, but that time I dyed my hair bright purple. I wanted to try the other option. My participation this time round resulted in about 200EUR (approx. $220 today) in donations for Irish Cancer Society.
Because Locks of Love don’t accept permanently dyed hair as donations, I had to wait til all the color grew out, then wait til my hair got long enough to be able to make a donation. Now in 2016, my hair meets those two criteria, and so I’ve decided to participate again.
I think it’s a good thing that I am able to do, so why not? When I stop and think about it, there are more reasons for why I should participate in the event than why I shouldn’t. It is also an incredibly liberating feeling. 
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What challenges have you faced as a woman who chose to shave her head?

For starters, it certainly makes a person reflect on the notion of beauty and what their relationship to their own vanity is. Getting over my own vanity was the only thing standing between me and doing something that could really benefit people who are suffering from a terrible disease. And is conventional beauty the same as true beauty? If we believe that beauty comes from the inside out and from being a kind-hearted person, then what does it matter if my hairstyle is conventional or not? 
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By participating in this event, I get to put this value system to the test and gather first-hand experience. Most people who know the background are supportive, but it is still a challenge for many people in our society to see a woman with a shaved head. For some, even with the background info and knowing that it is for a good cause, the stigma is too much to be able to accept. I’ve seen these people cringe at me, laugh nervously and completely inappropriately, or even make rude comments. 

The thing is, I don’t think I look bad with a shaved head. In fact, I think it suits me quite well. And the feeling I get when someone I barely know writes me or tells me, ‘My friend or family member has suffered terribly from cancer. Thank you for doing this.’ far outweighs any rude comment that someone might make. 

The whole experience reveals quite a lot about people, and about oneself.

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What do you have to say to others who may want make a difference but may hesitate to do so?

I would say: Anyone can make a difference, and they can do so in any way that feels right for them. Think about what you want to do, and your motivation for doing it. Reflect on the things that are holding you back- what are those things? How can they be overcome, worked around, or worked with? 
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Any Final Thoughts?

I think we shouldn’t take for granted the importance of making small differences, either. Sometimes something as small and simple as a warm-hearted smile can make all the difference in the world. 
So, there you have it. Small and warm-hearted actions do change things. Let’s take Stiefel’s advice and find our own motivations and goals, then work around the obstacles in our way. Onward!
Replay in Action, Part 1
Replay in Action, Part 2