Pit Bulls & Puja

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“In India, they perform a ritual called puja. In this ritual, they take idols that represent God in many different forms and bathe them, feed them, and give their love to them. The idol itself is not important. What is important is the way they perform the ritual, the way they say, “I love you, God.”

– The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom, Don Miguel Ruiz

 

I don’t miss high school. Does anybody? But there is something about that time in my life that I miss more than I could ever convey here in this space. I miss the daily ritual of caring for my show animals: steers & heifers & even (some seasons) hogs.

Every day, I would walk to the barn. I greeted my animals & immediately set to work. They needed me. Their entire existence hinged on me showing up. Their quality of life, and success in the show ring, hinged on how I showed up: did I show up ready to bring intent and purpose into every action, or did I show up ready to blow through my duties so I could leave because I had other things to do?

Most days, I was so immersed into every duty. Cleaning dirty pens, scooping grain, running water over a panting  steer in the heat of July, scrubbing every inch of him, rinsing the suds & pulling a rice root brush over the damp hair….I did it all with intense focus and care. Guys, I scooped poop with so much thoughtful intent that I actually enjoyed it. Can you imagine? Whatever drama I had that day at school, or angsty emotion, was converted into love and poured into the energy of every task I did with and for that animal.

Lately, I’ve been spending some time helping out at the local animal shelter. I was desperate to get lost in the task of caring for something again. So I showed up. I washed dogs, I walked dogs, I got lost in the repetitive motion of feeding…Scoop feed, open pen, slide in the food bowl, close pen. Repeat 52 more times.

Y’all, it felt good. Damn good.

I don’t really like going to church. By now, you’ve probably picked that up. But I love serving something, or someone, with so much intent that every motion is a form of worship. The barn is my church. The shelter is my church. When I’m watching a teacher teach or a kid at diabetes camp take her insulin & then run off laughing & playing…and when I go back to the computer and sit down to tell that story… That is my church. When I am doing those things, I feel most alive, at my best, and closest to the divine.

I never had a word for it, but now I do. Puja. It’s so easy for me to perform this type of worship with a bottle calf or a pit bull, but it’s a harder task to perform on myself. Demonstrating puja to my own body would mean being purposeful with everything I put in my mouth, or with every moment at the gym, or with every word I say to and about myself. Not as easy, and probably not as fun to begin that work, as it is to love on animals or other people. But I’m going to try. & y’all are welcome to try with me.

What is one thing you could begin to do with full presence of mind & purposeful intent? That you could do as a form of worship? Maybe it’s how you pack your kids lunch in the morning. Or how you compose an email. Or how you shower. Or what you say and think to yourself as you look in the mirror right before you leave the house. I don’t know what it is for you, or what it is for me (yet) but I’m going to find out and commit the next week to performing puja perfectly in and during that chosen task.

xo

J.

Shelf Life: Spring 2014

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Lately, I’ve been absorbing like a fiend: from books to blog posts and podcasts. I am having so many “aha” moments as a result of great reads + listens. I find my reads through my fantastic book club, hand-me-down hardbacks from my dad, discover gems in my blog reader or even from mentors or friends who cut out a story or sidebar from a magazine & pass along to me. Most of my reads are focused on living & executing a creative life, but each provides lessons for women of all career paths.

Below are my absolute favorites. Grab your tablet, or laptop, or phone, hit the park & lay on a quilt & spend some time with these great reads. Spring is about renewal, and I promise these links will be a breath of fresh air.

What’s On My Kindle

A Million Little Ways by Emily Freeman // Man, this one was heavy. Emily talks about how we all create art – whether we are a teacher in a classroom or a photographer at a wedding. Emily believes we are all image bearers of the ultimate Artist – God – and therefore are capable of creating art in whatever we do. Emily also maintains a blog, and you can view my favorite post here.

Pair this read with Brene Brown’s Daring Greatly & Steven Pressfeild’s The War of Art…I’m calling this group of books the Holy Trinity of creative reads. I only wish I read these sooner, and in fact, am about to reread Daring Greatly because, guys, it was that good.

Podcast

TED Talks // Elizabeth Gilbert: Your elusive creative genius // Uh…”creative genius”? More like creative hot mess. Some days dealing with my creativity, or my writing, feels like trying to keep two hands on a fish. I’m wrangling it and wrestling it, for a fleeting moment it’s firmly in my hands before slipping out again. Mostly, we are just flopping around in the same boat together. Elizabeth is the author of “Eat, Pray, Love” and more recently “The Signature of All Things” talks in depth about the (often, dark) relationship creators have with their work. Her thoughts build on Freeman’s well: we are not our work, the artist and the art come separately. Joining the our identity as artists with the success or failure of our art is a common, but dangerous, pattern of thought. Elizabeth Gilbert, like Freeman, provides lots of ways to overcome that thinking and how to free ourselves to make better things, every day.

Blogs

Most of my book club girls are much like me: young, creative professionals. Meet them (online, anyway) and read what they have to say about creativity, design, spirituality and what their favorite reads/watches/online haunts are. You can even get a glimpse into our book club nights with their great reviews.

Emily (killer designer, curly hair, funny lady)

Leslie (lovely preggo, phenomenal photographer, most eloquent blogger)

Amy (sassy to the max, lover of marriage, web design & cocktails)

Meredith (cat mom, ginger, sports & pop culture aficionado)

Seriously, these girls are my favorite. Other blogs I’m loving:

And Kathleen // Girl Crush I love Kathleen because aside from being super authentic + super sweet, she believes that women should build each other up. It’s incredibly refreshing & inspiring.

The Fresh Exchange // 5 Ways to Fail Gracefully Megan Gilger is the type of creative that makes me cringe: Man, she’s done so much crazy awesome work….What have I been doing with my life?! But, she’s gracious enough in this post to share about her experiences with failure and how she’s learned to overcome. We all mess up, but I think sharing the lessons we learn with others is that glorious, life-saving silver lining.

Happy reading,

J.

Valentine’s Day

From those early classroom days of scissor-and-glue construction paper cards to the office bomb of flower arrangements from better-than-yours husbands, Valentines always seems to be a day for parading what you have or mourning what you don’t.

The older I get, the more soul sucking that feels. Whatever side of the fence you are on, it’s best to not be there long…Pride and self-pity are both equally destructive emotions to give in to.

Trust me.

I woke up to Valentine’s Day 2014 to a cheek kiss from Cory. I opened my eyes & ears long enough to see him smile & whisper “Happy Valentine’s Day” before heading out into the still dark morning. Gotta love that man. But instead of grand romantic gestures or lack thereof, it was the ladies of my life that were on my mind this year. Women from all walks of life, from all experiences, from all over the country…Young women and not-so-young anymore women, women I’m related to in blood and by heart…All, for some reason, silly enough to extend me love, grace and the greatest of friendship.

One of my newest friends and mentors is a 63 year old graphic designer. She occasionally calls me “little girl” – an endearment I love. She has a lot of years, experiences, trials and triumphs on me. I am thankful she chooses to share, to mentor, to laugh with me and not at me as I navigate those crazy waters known as the early twenties. She is only one of many wonderful ladies coming in and out and passing through my life. I am so grateful.

So in a nod to her (she taught me design…from my first Photoshop layer to my first newsletter layout) I custom designed Valentines to hand out to all my favorite ladies.  I wanted to keep the soft, vintage, romantic nostalgia of old school Valentines, but fuse that vibe with something that exudes bold femininity, confidence and girl power. And what can do that better than Beyonce lyrics?

Love, always. 

J.

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(Side note for designers or, if you’re more like me, designers-in-progress: Everything I do for both this blog and in my personal work is done in one of two type faces, Bebas Neue or Adele. Both are free! I’m a huge fan of bold and simple fonts…I believe typography is everything.)

 

Kelly Moore Bag: Chapel

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Guys…I am so in love with my new Kelly Moore Bag, the Chapel. I may be an exclusive, lifelong lover and carrier. From now on, life as I know it will be categorized by “before I bought a Kelly Moore Bag” and “after I bought a Kelly Moore Bag.”

Kidding. Sort of.

I am a bag lady by heart. I love all kinds, big and small. Weekenders, classic purses, messengers, totes, backpacks…I am always buying a new bag, switching up what I’m currently carrying or on the hunt for my next favorite. When I bought my Canon Rebel T2i in college, I ordered it over and phone and told the store clerk to just send me the cheapest camera bag in stock. What arrived on my doorstep was the Titanic of camera bags: huge, bulky and black. Superbly ugly. And worse, it was functional only as a camera bag…Throwing in a book or tablet was not an option. Thus, I spent a semester carrying two, giant bags two and from photography class: my camera bag and my backpack. It made for an uncomfortable commute all semester long.

As of a few weeks ago, I was still stuck with that ugly black bag. I wanted something a little more versatile but still able to protect my gear and all my new lenses while traveling. The Kelly Moore Bag quickly rose to the top of my search list. I perused the site, fell in love, watched the videos on the bags and decided the Chapel was definitely for me. While KM has bags specifically designed for men, I liked that the Chapel in mushroom color was androgynous enough that Cory wouldn’t mind carrying it if we were traveling. The Chapel has a removable basket, which is great for when I’m out and about without plans to shoot. The bag, sans basket, operates like an everyday catchall but with enough pocket options to easily store my iPad, notes, notebooks, credit cards and little items like thumb drives and lipgloss. It’s easily the best bag I own, and can see adding to my collection as life changes (supposedly the best diaper bag ever, mammas).

Downside: they’re expensive. But after all my research, they will last you quite some time. I never mind paying a little more for something that is worth the investment. I have spent $100 on a bag and have it show signs of wear & tear just weeks later. So far, the Chapel is the sturdiest, manmade leather bag I have ever carried.

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I’ve carted this baby around with me everywhere…From Austin to work to out with friends. I’ve worn it as a backpack, messenger style and as a shoulder bag…all in one week. It keeps things interesting and it is definitely built for keeping up with me and everything in my life.

Put one on your V-day wish list 🙂

XO

J.