November’s Word/Smith is a blessing

Wednesday, November 18th, 2020

November’s Word/Smith is a blessing…literally. If you haven’t subscribed, press the link here. It’s free, once a month, and your information is never shared.

October

Wednesday, October 14th, 2020

October is our month at Word/Smith for Magic. The bubbly, effervescent, ‘something amazing is about to happen’ kind. I figure the world has seen enough of the hating and fearing each other and spit-spot vanquishing kind of magic that creates dimness and despair.

So here’s to an issue of joyful surprises.

I’ll start us off with an outfit I wore this time of year at a dinner party at our friends the Cobbs house…in the far away and long-ago before face masks.

I believe, based on the wine glass I edited out of the shot, I was masquerading as a very happy angel.

I still am.

Bravery

Thursday, September 3rd, 2020

September’s theme for Word/Smith is ‘Bravery’, which comes in a dazzling array of sizes. A friend sent me a photo this week I haven’t seen in about forty years. While an Alaska native, I’d grown up Outside and one day decided to move to Fairbanks. I had no money, no job, no place to live, and only borrowed transportation to get there. And…it was late August, early September; the sun ominously was sinking lower and staying gone longer, and a cold wind curled through the world.

I stare now at this sunny-faced young woman, so sure of herself, and I see staring back at me one definition of Bravery: confidence that everything will work out just fine, that chances are there to be taken, that the world is here to be explored, delighted in and cherished.

This month’s issue has many stories of people bravely trying new things that scare them, and describing how those actions changed their lives.

If you’re a Word/Smith subscriber, thank you! And if you’d like to subscribe, it’s free, in your inbox once a month and your information is never shared. You can subscribe here.

By the way: I found friendship, a job, a place to live, and a life waiting to make my own. I wish the same for you, that your bravery propels you into an astounding new country filled with abundance, adventure and joy.

Susan

Play! August W/W

Wednesday, August 19th, 2020

Isn’t it about time? Are you ready yet?  Buckle up, this issue of Word/Smith  is all about PLAY: the science., mechanics and sheer fun of it. If you haven’t subscribed yet to Word/Smith, you can press the link here. It’s free, delivered into your box once a month, and your information is never shared.

Freedom

Wednesday, July 8th, 2020

A few words this July about Freedom, our theme for Word/Smith this month.

 

Eugene and Marie Weschenfelder, their dog, Fritzi, and their homesteaded land, Spuhn Island

This one’s a shout-out, a lovenote, to my immigrant grandfather, long gone. He left Hamburg, Germany on March 17, 1907, with a small trunk of clothes, probably lying about how much money he had in his pocket and most assuredly knowing no English.

 

I like to believe he carried the idea of freedom in his heart, and that it fueled his bravery in leaving behind his known world and traveling by steerage, packed into the bottom of the ship the SS Graf Waldersee.

 

He arrived at Ellis Island in early April, 1907, 27 years old and completely alone.

 

It’s easy to make up stories when I know so little about his early life in Coburg.  He was a Lutheran. Which makes sense as Martin Luther hung out there translating the Bible into German in one of Germany’s grandest castles, Veste Coburg, 350 years before Grandpa was born.  He came from a line of sausage makers, and put on his Ellis Island form that he intended to practice his trade in his new land.

 

My father, Ernst

He lived a daring and magnificent life, marrying, having a son, becoming a naturalized citizen, homesteading an island in Alaska, living long enough to see his son marry and have children of his own.

 

He was proud to be an Alaskan, and almost inarticulately proud of being an American.  The first 4th of July in his new country, he purchased an American flag with 46 stars.

 

When he and my grandmother, Marie, and my dad, hacked out of the howling wilderness a log home in Southeast Alaska, Grandpa kept the flag folded in a small tin box.  The winds and rain and snow were so ferocious and the flag so precious that he only took it out and flew it over the cabin twice a year: on the 4th of July, and on the anniversary of the day he became an American, the day he first belonged.

 

I know this because my father inherited the box and the flag, and told me the story, and every so often, reverently and with great care, unfolded the flag from the box and showed it to an awestruck little girl.

 

The flag is mine, now. It hangs framed on a wall in our home.

 

The flag, and our dreams of this land, are all of us, and in us all.  We each, as Americans, have the right and gift to reimagine our own ‘best America’.  And then do the hard work of creating it.

 

In this time of explosive transition, let us not forget to remember where we came from, and at what cost, and that we are all—however we got here—part of a grand and beautiful experiment called America.

The Big Take-Away

Monday, May 4th, 2020

First, I need to say, I send compassion to those out of work, in pain or hungry, the ones afraid they could lose their homes, or even worse, a loved one, to this terrible and awful thing.  Or already have.

Those critical mass emergencies require swift action and total focus, and I understand if you need to stop reading right now and get back to work.

But even without critical loss, there have been critical changes for us all.

So how are you doing?  How are you holding up?  If your family and life are anything like mine, there have been…gaps.  Days where I simply slowed down the pace, took a breath.

And in those long, restorative silences, a funny thing happened. I began to ask myself what I was willing to give up.

It’s interesting, in a pandemic there’s a lot we feel forced to give up.

I marvel at how huge and important the sense of touch is, now that I can’t.

And I feel grateful and blessed that I don’t live alone, that I have a tender-hearted life partner to share this with.  A lot of people don’t, and I honestly can’t imagine how hard it is, surviving a time when we’re told that we’re not allowed the simple comfort of another human’s touch.

That’s a big one.

But here’s another, and this one’s in the opportunity department.  This terrible time—away—gives us all a chance to rethink how we want things to go when we finally are back.

Is there something deeper our soul is calling us to do?  Have we crammed our day so utterly, there’s no time left to dream?  What would happen if we just did?

My adult kiddos—(and I include my son-in-law here), gave me perfect complimentary gifts independent of each other.  My son gave me a five-year diary.  I love that it’s got only five lines. It comforted me in the beginning that it wasn’t so big I couldn’t do it. Now I find that I cram the lines and sometimes steal from other years—my days are so rich. My daughter and son-in-law gave me a planner, extravagant in its encouragement to explore passion and dreams.  I color-coded it and casually one day opened a random page, showing off to a friend who is also a life coach.  “Wow,” Suzanne said, as I snapped it closed, “there’s not one space that’s not colored in.”

It gave me pause.  I, who come from a genetically long line of Type A doers.

She was right.

So I added a color solely for vegging out, appropriately green.

Problem solved.

Except it wasn’t.

During this experiment, this ‘life-away’ piece, I’ve played with switching things up.

Some calendar days have no colors in them. At all.  And when I think back to what I did that day, it’s hard to reconstruct.

But maybe that’s the point. Maybe this deep Time Out nature has sent our way, is giving us all the chance—if not a gap year like kids delaying college—at least a gap season.

So that’s what this one’s about.  May’s Word/Smith is the Big Takeaway.

How we’re navigating these changes.  And how we’re changing our navigation…and by doing so, in curious and dazzling ways, changing our world.

Dropping In…Out…By

Tuesday, March 31st, 2020

Once upon a time, in a place far away when the words ‘social distancing’ had never come into play, my husband and I attended a gathering.  The place and time isn’t important, nor is the nature of the group. I can tell you it was small, and most of the people I didn’t know well. I found myself at the snack table next to a woman. I’ll call her Sylvia.  Silver-haired, beautifully put together.

I reintroduced myself, (we’d met once before briefly), and I said, “I don ‘t know your story. And I love stories.” I motioned to an unoccupied set of ornate chairs. “Why don’t you tell me yours?”

She arranged her food and drink with the precision of someone laying out surgical instruments, leaned in. Her eyes were glowing. And she began.

It was a long tale.

It always feels that way when someone doesn’t take a breath.

It occurred to me about mile twenty-four of this marathon that she was reciting a set piece, a bit of oral history indelibly stamped in her heart and mind.  From across the room, my husband caught my eye.

We’ve been married a long time. He read the distress signal and rescued me.

As we walked across the darkened parking lot he asked me what I thought of her. Apparently, he’d been trapped by her before.

I waited until we were safely inside our aging van, the windows up. “She needs to write herself a new story.”

He nodded and drove us out of there.  Back to the warmth and laughter and joy of our lives. Back to the living.

Occasionally, I’m still haunted by her.  The choices.  Sylvia played for me a favorite reel of her life’s greatest hits and hurts.  Not hits as in ‘Yay! Rah! I win!’  But hits to the heart.

She’d carefully excised out the wins.

The reel was at least thirty years old.

There was no postscript of lessons learned, triumphs won from the hard work of rewiring the neural pathways to accommodate the lifting wings of joy. No happiness here.

So, in this month of “Dropping In…Out…and By”, I’d like to suggest this:  With all this extra time you have at home, curate your life story. Shape it. Make it glow. And tell us all about the wins.  Drop into the tale the ‘up’s’. The moments you survived and thrived. The moments that brought you understanding, compassion, and yes, joy.

I’m not suggesting you drop the lessons learned the hard way. Only that after you detail the pain, share the glory. Sharing that story is one we all need to hear.

And once we can do ‘social undistancing’ again, I’d sit in the chair next to you all day long and listen to that one.

HOW TO LIVE THROUGH SCARY TIMES

Thursday, March 5th, 2020

Our avowed aim every month is to fling some Light. Just that. A small piece, yes, but in a world with so many anxious, worried hearts, a worthy one.

We were almost ready to ‘go to post’ with March’s newsletter, when we shifted into a new theme. This is issue is all about the Coronavirus.

We bring, as always, a mix of different voices weighing in.

And here’s the thing: we live in a fascinating world. Social media was constructed in part as a means of bringing us closer.  I’m thinking of Facebook’s beginnings here, along with other platforms—not the DARPA piece that devised the idea of the Net in the first place.

Closer together. But has it?

In a time where we worry about literally touching other people, it’s good to find ways to know and feel we are still a community.

So this issue is about that: Settling In and Settling Down.

How do we build community when all around us we’re given the very clear and real message that in order to live safely and well, we must isolate ourselves from others?

My hope is that at least one of these voices this month gives you a piece that helps remind you of who you are: A person who has lived through many scares. A survivor. A ‘thriver’. A person with skills. With heart. And with the brains and courage to use them both.  In. For. And with.  Community.

 

To Possibles

Monday, February 3rd, 2020

A month…? Really?

A twelfth of this year has already wheeled past and vanished into snips—the tiniest of memories and moments.

Our lives are small in this immense, mysterious galaxy, and yet infinitely powerful. And big. The bigness comes every time we send love into this hurting world.

Of course it would be about love, right? It’s February. And this month’s newsletter covers that…with a twist:

The February 2020 theme for the newsletter is How Do We Love The People We Hate?

Provocative and yes, a little over the top, yet I’m deadly serious. How do we heal what’s broken? How do we stop this yelling? This noise? This lashing out? How do we dial down the needle and start to listen? How do we reach out to a stranger, or almost harder, to someone we know and with whom we’re estranged?

I believe one of the first steps is simple kindness. But how do we muster what it takes to do even small acts?

I can tell you what the Dalai Lama says: “Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.”

So here’s to a month of possibles. May the light you throw into the world come back and bless you a thousand times over.

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January 2020 blog

Monday, January 6th, 2020

Why not?

As this year ends and a new decade begins, I want to thank those of you I know personally, and those known by me only online.

Your encouragement, ideas and positive light in this world help inspire people you don’t even know.

Our journey as humans is flecked with joy, doubt, heartbreak, laughter, betrayal, mistakes, redemption and love.  I wish for you all—in this quiet, dark-sky time of year (here in the US)—that the light living in you—however you define it—shines bright. So bright that your good intentions, your miraculous deeds, and your pure kindness spangles the dark and transforms it.

We are each of us, right now, creating a world that has never been.

How cool is that?

Let’s give it every good thing we have, all the stuff we’ve been saving in our toolbox of The Extraordinary.

Let’s crack open that tin box of trinkets, glittery junk and miracles that we’ve been hoarding and fling it out into the world. Every last bit of it.

Let’s surprise ourselves with our generosity, our joy, our ability to see farther, try harder, love more.  Why not just for today trust that the Universe actually has our backs. That maybe, despite everything that’s wrong here, Things Will Be Okay.  That maybe… in quiet ways only seen by Spirit, Things Already Are.  We Are.  Fundamentally. Beautifully. Okay.

 

 

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