Category Archives: inspiration

Finding “Happy” with John Muir

“Walk away quietly in any direction and taste the freedom of the mountaineer. Camp out among the grasses and gentians of glacial meadows, in craggy garden nooks full of nature’s darlings. Climb the mountains and get their good tidings, Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves. As age comes on, one source of enjoyment after another is closed, but nature’s sources never fail.” ~ John Muir

It was in my late teens that I first found Muir’s book, “Our National Parks.” Admittedly it was a bit of a hard read. It was his passion for the power of natural beauty that stuck with me. Now in my forties, I find myself once again drawn back to Muir’s writings as I search for my own passion and strive to see (and appreciate) the beauty in every day.

The more I learn about Muir, the stronger my conviction that he was a kindred spirit, happily suffering from wanderlust. Imagine what passion it took to travel through Alaska, explore Australia, and visit South America, Africa, Europe, China, and Japan before lay-flat beds in business class!

Muir’s wisdom can be applied to so much more than a hike in the woods, or stopping to smell the flowers. If you take just a fragment of the quote above and apply it to your everyday life, how powerful could that be?

find your happiness in the beauty all around you

“Walk away quietly in any direction and taste the freedom…”

Maybe it’s aging, or watching my kids strive for their happiness. Perhaps it’s simply a whisper from the universe reminding me that there is more, that I’m missing the point. Whatever the catalyst, I find myself taking small steps in each day to find that freedom and in it a bit of happiness to treasure.

What did you do today to find your happy?

Caption This: Giveaway

I take too many pictures. There, I’ve confessed. Now that we have that out of the way I’ll make my case for why I feel that, in fact, there is no such thing. 

Snapping away on a recent hike in Maryland’s Patapsco Valley this gem made the roll. It was in a burst series I was using in hopes of getting the damn dog to look at me. As the song goes; you can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes you just might find you get what you need. 

I needed this laugh. Now I need a caption for the image. That’s where you come in. 

Help me find a great caption for this one and I’ll treat you to what you might need… like a $10 Starbucks gift card. Leave as many comments as you’d like. Each will be an entry. Let’s have some fun and laugh together! 


Stress: There’s An App For That

You looked stressed. In all fairness… don’t we all? Even the most zen among us can’t claim they’re stress free. Where they differ from those of us who find ourselves practically pulling our hair out on the regular is in how they deal with their stress. Me? I go mobile. Believe it or not, there are some great stress management apps out there. 

Recently I embarked on a new professional (and personal) adventure. After over a decade of owning my own consulting business – working mostly from home or far-flung exotic locales like, Dublin and Detroit- I’m back in an office, working for someone else. Part of my new gig entails teaching people what a big role stress plays in our over all health and wellness. 

To be honest, I could be the poster girl for the ill effects of stress. Hair loss? Been there, lost that.  Insomnia? There aren’t sheep enough for all the counting I’ve done. Weight gain? Yeah, we aren’t even going there. This new job has forced be to stare stress right in the baggy, dark-circled eyes and deal with it so I can help others do the same. 

great-stress-managment-appsMy top advice? Find apps that make it easier to coral the cortisol. After all if you’ve got to stress about how to deal with stress you’re sort of doing this whole thing wrong… really wrong. 

Stress: There IS an App for That! 

Headspace – This app is by far my absolute favorite – and not only because I love the cute British man-voice. Headspace is sort of like a gym for your brain. In daily 10-minute guided meditations you’re guided through ways quite and focus the mind. I find that squeezing in a session or two during the work day really helps renew my energy and stave off that afternoon slump in creativity. (If you want to know more, I wrote a full post and review of Headspace over at (cool) progeny)

Mood Panda – When I was young I carried around a beat up old diary with a lock I’m sure my brothers would never have dreamed of picking. I’d pour every unedited thought into those pages as though I were at confession. For a lonely word-nerd that diary was about as close to a BFF as it got.

Mood Panda may not be a trusty, old-school diary but it is a good app for recording your feelings, literally.  Knowing how you’re feeling/felt, when and where you were can be a key step to unlocking the patterns in your stress. From there you can put in some work in avoiding or dealing with those issues in a new way.  Plus… pandas!

Attitudes of Gratitude – A while back my side kick and the brilliant brain responsible for keeping The Nuggs up and running – Cameron of Daddy Bookins fame – had a pretty terrifying health scare. In the midst of going through that he started to do daily posts sharing gratitude for things big and small. It was an exercise in grounding. Be thankful for each day, try not to let stress take that away. 

If you’re not necessarily into public declarations of thankfulness, this could be the app for you. Record at least one daily moment of gratitude. In doing that, you force stress to loosen it’s grip on your day. 

Bright Side Up – I’ve only used this app a few times, but my daughter loves it. Swiping away the clouds and seeing the bright side is something we could all use. 

Just click the clouds to whisk them away and bring out a fresh, original BrightUp written by Amy Spencer that can shift how you feel by suggesting something to do, think or try. Use these BrightUps on their own or as a companion to the book Bright Side Up, full of strategies for looking at your life in an entirely new way.  

I’ll confess that I find myself singing Always Look at the Bright Side of Life from Monty Python’s Life of Brian when I see this app. Don’t judge, laughter is a stress release after all!

Kick the Stress by Playing

Zen Koi – Have you ever spent time in a Japanese garden with a Koi pond? Isn’t there something inherently calming in just being in a place like that? Would that we could all have a Koi pond in our homes, offices or in line at the DMV, eh? While this app may not be the next best thing it certainly is calming.

I’m not much of a gamer but there is something about guiding virtual Koi around this pond, watching them evolve and chilling out to the zen background music that forces you to relax. Stress falls away as you let go and just play. Play is a great way to manage stress. Go ahead, try it.

These are just a few apps I personally like. The beauty of living a mobile lifestyle is you can find the app, vibe and time that suites you. No need to stress about it, just explore!

Disclosure: As a member of a very cool team of influencers for Verizon Wireless I sometimes receive compensation, cool gadgets to test drive, or get attend special events. All opinions entirely my own, based on my experiences, because you deserve nothing less! 


Ansel Adams Whispered in Her Ear

THUNDERHEADS, ANZA-BORREGO DESERT, CA, c 1965You don’t take a photograph, you make it. ~Ansel Adams

It was a Nikon, of that much I’m reasonably sure. She’d head off into the high desert with it. Hip-length raven hair trailing behind her like the tide. Camera hanging heavy on a strap around her neck. A talisman with shutter and lens. Off to the Joshua Trees where Ansel Adams whispered in her ear.

Hues of deepest black fading into soft greys, flowing in the developing fluid and exploding into cascades of brilliant white. She rarely shot in color. That film was more expensive and there were children to feed. Ansel’s whispers were most audible in black and white.

My mother made beds and dinners. And photographs.

Beautiful stories of the desert. Of cactus flowers, jack rabbits, and abandoned metate worn in the stone. Canteen and camera packed she’d abandon us to our father, her cares to the breeze.   Because, Ansel Adams whispered in her ear.

She made photographs. Made the desert come to life. Gave wordless voice to shifting sand and golden sun.

Then the water rose high. It surged like a tidal wave pulling the earth itself through windows and doors. Washing away what she’d made. The flood carried away the Nikon. Silenced his voice in her ear. 

My mother never made photographs like that again. Life flooded in. Her children grew. They needed more, insisted they needed her less. She gave all that was not asked for and more, never again opening the darkroom door.

Yet I still see them, the photographs she made. Not caked in mud or crumbling to dust, but through my own lens.

I may never make photographs, not like he or she did. But, I will settle for taking pictures because I always see something of her when I bring the camera to my eye. A wisp of ebony hair, a faint spark of crystalline blue like her eyes. My mom made me want to make photographs.

Maybe one day Ansel Adams will whisper to her again and she’ll take to the desert, the hills, the sea, camera in hand to make photographs. Maybe she’ll be content with the silence.

When words become unclear, I shall focus with photographs. When images become inadequate, I shall be content with silence.  ~Ansel Adams

Lead Image: Thunderheads, Anza-Borrego Desert, CA, c 1965 by Ansel Adams courtesy of Ansel Adams Museum Graphics. Please stop by and see this official collection started by Ansel and his wife, Virginia which is still run by their family.

the wonder of art

Some may say that the happiest place on earth is found in South Florida. I’d argue that it is wherever you happen to be standing when you see your child fall in love with art. We are a family of museum nerds. From the MoMA to roadside attractions, we’re game. When the Smithsonian American Art Museum recently reopened the Renwick Gallery we were more than willing to stand in the line stretching around the block to see the Wonder exhibit — and WOW!

Large crowds didn’t take away one iota of the amazement on the faces of my kids as they strolled through the Wonder exhibit.  Truth be told, they were even in awe of the Renwick Gallery building itself. 

Wonder Exhibit Built in 1859,  Renwick Gallery was the first purpose-built art museum in America. Over the front door the words, “Dedicated to Art,” are carved in stone. Which gives you some idea of what’s in store when you walk through the doors.

1.8 by Janet Echelman

On March 11, 2011 the earth moved, quite literally. The Tohoku earthquake and resulting tsunami were so powerful that the earth shifted on its axis. This resulted in a day  shortened by 1.8 millionths of a second.

Wonder Exhibit At first blush 1.8 looks like an artfully hung net with some really cool undulating lights. Then you look down at the floor, and – as my nine-year old daughter pointed out – even the carpet looks like art. We grabbed a spot on the floor, laying down with dozens of other gallery-goers, and watched the lights.  It was nice, but pretty much just that.

In a near frenzy the sixteen year old drug me over to a small plaque on the wall that changed everything. The sculpture corresponds to a map of the energy released across the Pacific Ocean during the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami. Talk about being moved by art. It was breath-taking. In a rush all the memories of the sights after the disaster came rolling back. 

Wonder Exhibit at the Renwick GalleryDid Termites Make These?

She was sure this was some natural formation, rather than the man-made work of artist Tara Donovan. These towers are made of everyday objects we tend to miss or toss out… index cards, scotch tape. Here they become a forest for the imagination. 

Touch the Rainbow

Raise your hand if you’ve ever tried to find the end of a rainbow. When in Ireland this past spring these refracted sunlight wonders were so vibrate you could almost convince me they were solid.  Standing in front of Plexus A1 by Gabriel Dawe the illusion is nearly as complete. The difference being that this piece is an architecturally scaled weaving rather than light dancing on particles of water. 

Wonder exhibit rainbow

Folding the Chesapeake
One of our favorite pastimes is tossing together a picnic and heading into D.C. for a few hours. Nothing beats free museums and monuments. There even worth dealing with parking – most days.
Among my personal favorites is the Vietnam War Memorial designed by Maya Lin.  The power of names simply carved into a reflective stone surface is moving beyond any words I have. It drives home the stark reality of loss and the impact on what is left behind. Yet, there is a peace in this place like few other places.
Lin has a way of taking the monumental and transforming it into moving simplicity. She did that again with her piece Folding the Chesapeake. 
Wonder Exhibit Folding the Chesapeake
Glass marbles are laid out on the floor and walks of the exhibit room. At first blush you think, ‘well this is neat… but…’ Then the docent hands you an aerial photograph of the Chesapeake Bay and you stand in awed wonder at the detail. It stretches all the way down to the small river behind our house. 
Like 1.8, Folding The Chesapeake has a way of humbling you. Making you feel the smallness of your humanity when standing next to nature. 
Into the Trees
Middle Fork by John Grade has been dubbed, The Tree Matrix by my kids. I sort of get that. Grade made a plaster cast of a 150 year old hemlock tree from Cascade Mountains to create this sculpture that is assembled of half a million segments of reclaimed cedar, and is nothing short of mind-blowing.   
Wonder Exhibit
If you’ve the chance to come to Washington, D.C. don’t let the long lines outside The Renwick deter you. You’ll leave with a whole new sense of wonder.