Don’t Kill

No SymbolDon’t kill. This is an obvious piece of what makes communities work. It is a not-so-little thing that makes a difference. When the massive shooting happened in Las Vegas, I said I couldn’t figure out how to write about “don’t kill,” and that’s still true. It’s also still true that “don’t kill” is on the original list of 100 things that can change the world.

We can start using “kill” in a universal sense to include actions like eating meat (does that count as killing?). We’ve also learned that plants react to being cut (as well as to sounds) so eating vegetables isn’t completely violence-free. Just sayin’. There are euthanasia, the death penalty, and other major discussion points related to “don’t kill.”

But in this post today, I’m defining “don’t kill”as simply one person killing another. We’ve recently witnessed at least two unexpected, and, so far, unexplained, mass shootings. There was the aforementioned violence in Las Vegas that was the initial impetus for this conversation. Five hundred or so people were injured and 58 killed in what was apparently a shooting spree that happened just because the gunman could. How do we respond to that? Then soon after, there was the Baptist church shooting in Texas.

An immediate response was a call to change gun laws, but that’s not the primary focus of our discussion here. The crucial point I want to discuss here is how do we personally react to anger and respond to violence in others — or in ourselves.

Why does this make a difference? I understand that you probably don’t have a direct connection to extreme violence. But think about violence just for a moment. Who I am and how I behave, who you are, and who we are together are the only places to begin mitigating violence. When we are less violent, even in our thoughts, the world is that much more peaceful. It is the positive chaos theory at work that began Spirit Moxie. And this goes back, I think, to our discussions of righteousness manifest in racial, class, and gender inequalities.

More relevantly, this take on “don’t kill” leads to discussions we haven’t had yet about how we respond to, or even think about, situations that don’t go our way. Anger? Greed?Frustration? And what of the things of which you are afraid? Are your thoughts violent? How do you react out of fear mentally as well as physically? What is safe? What violent response is fueled by alcohol or drugs? What violence begins through simply a need to feel important, to be in charge, or megalomania?

The true call to us all is to learn the whys and wherefores of our own reactions. This is where peace, non-violence, and an easier time all the way around begins. There are well known starting points for pursuing this:

  • Almost any meditation.
  • Yoga.
  • Deliberately concentrating on your breathing. (Try it now. Relax. Take a deep breath. Your stomach should expand on this one. Hold for at least a count of three. How does your body feel when expanded? Release slowly. Repeat as you have time.)
  • The writings of Martha Beck.
  • “The Work of Byron Katie” which is completely based on our relationship with our thoughts.

Share below what you have found and what methods work for you as you reduce violence, physical and mental, in yourself and in others.

On a recent trip I was lying on the floor waiting for a group meditation to begin. I’d snagged a pillow and a blanket. Perfect. Suddenly a soft voice said, “There’s a spider or something in your hair.” I felt a light touch and turned to look. Sure enough. A perfect dime-sized brown spider was on the pillow. Slim, brown fingers gently flicked it into a cupped hand, and I heard steps walking away to release it outside.

A lot of words for not having anything to say about “don’t kill.” But may we always deal with each other, and creation, as gently as the person who removed the spider.

Respect Time

Antique clockTime. “Respect Time” was one of the items on the original “little things that can change the world” note cards. (You can find that original list here!) Since then I’ve discovered a whole new relationship with time, but this was the beginning. And so in the best tradition of describing something, and, as I have a tendency to quote Alice in Wonderland when discussing time:

‘Where shall I begin, please your Majesty?’ [the White Rabbit] asked.
`Begin at the beginning,’ the King said gravely, `and go on till you come to the end: then stop.’

“Respect time” simply made sense. In the world of the industrial revolution, which was the origin of our obsession with clock time, people are deemed more efficient and reliable if they arrive at a scheduled starting time, if they show up for appointments a bit early, and if events begin when they say they will. We talk about not having enough time, about time management as something that makes us more efficient, and about how we rely on public transit and event schedules and agreed upon work day hours,

But the “respect” part of this expectation usually comes from other people’s expectations. Does the Jones family want you at their house a few minutes early or, if you show up at the appointed hour, are you the first guest to arrive and the hosts are just hurrying upstairs to get dressed? I know of churches that always begin services “on time” and others where, if you wander in 15 minutes after the hour, you still have time to settle into your seat. The classic, and cliché-ish,  examples depend on whether your meeting occurs in the corporate US world or in the Caribbean (where time seems, to me, to be a general suggestion).

HourglassSo “respect time” appears to mean different things to different people. “Don’t waste my time” is a classic response with it’s own memes and links in Google. For example someone named Karla Cheyenne  has a board on Pinterest, that is apparently about relationships, called “Don’t Waste My Time.” Plus there are multiple Instagram links. (It seems that somewhere along the line, social media has become a standard for ideas and phrases.)

Which brings us back to why “respect time” is on the “little things that can change the world” list. Through our obsession about clock time, age, and time as a resource, time itself has become a major currency in our modern world. It’s part of experiments, surveys, and expectations. We talk about not feeling valued if people don’t respect our time. We talk about it as a limited resource. People talk time as equal to money and we are admonished to not waste it or allow others to misuse or demand it of you when it doesn’t work to your advantage. When I’ve spoken about changing people’s relationship to time, the immediate response is, “Oh, so you teach time management.” (The answer to that question is, “No!”, but that discussion comes later.)

Palm PilotPeople manage time in different ways. Before I could actually start using my first, triumphantly purchased, Franklin Planner, a colleague got me hooked on scheduling, and so managing time, with a Palm Pilot (remember those?). One friend keeps all his clocks set 20 minutes fast and claims this keeps him from being late. I’ve lived with someone who was always “late,” so you learned to work with that. I’ve lived with someone  who never had to set an alarm clock and always woke up when he wanted to, even when it was off his usual schedule.

So, as we begin our discussion of time, which will be continued, probably as Facebook live posts, through Spirit Moxie’s new Facebook page Tango with Time, it’s important to remember to respect other people’s and your relationship with time. Remember your time is, in fact, yours. And so other people’s time is, in fact, theirs.

As hints of future posts, I’d like to leave you with two references. First, going back to Alice in Wonderland  and the Mad Hatter’s discussion of time:

Mad Hatter's Tea PartyAlice sighed wearily. `I think you might do something better with the time,’ she said, `than waste it….

`If you knew Time as well as I do,’ said the Hatter, `you wouldn’t talk about wasting IT. It’s HIM.’

`I don’t know what you mean,’ said Alice.

`Of course you don’t!’ the Hatter said, tossing his head contemptuously. `I dare say you never even spoke to Time!’

`Perhaps not,’ Alice cautiously replied: `but I know I have to beat time when I learn music.’

`Ah! that accounts for it,’ said the Hatter. `He won’t stand beating. Now, if you only kept on good terms with him, he’d do almost anything you liked with the clock. For instance, suppose it were nine o’clock in the morning, just time to begin lessons: you’d only have to whisper a hint to Time, and round goes the clock in a twinkling! Half-past one, time for dinner!’. . . .

`Is that the way YOU manage?’ Alice asked.The Hatter shook his head mournfully. `Not I!’ he replied. `We quarrelled last March–just before HE went mad, you know–‘ (pointing with his tea spoon at the March Hare,) `–it was at the great concert given by the Queen of Hearts, and I had to sing

“Twinkle, twinkle, little bat!
How I wonder what you’re at!”

You know the song, perhaps?’. . . .

`Well, I’d hardly finished the first verse,’ said the Hatter, `when the Queen jumped up and bawled out, “He’s murdering the time! Off with his head!”‘

`How dreadfully savage!’ exclaimed Alice.

`And ever since that,’ the Hatter went on in a mournful tone, `he won’t do a thing I ask! It’s always six o’clock now.’

Thank you Charles Dodgson aka Louis Carroll!

And finally here’s an unnamed poem I wrote sometime in the 1980s that has, for me, been haunting this conversation:

Melting ClockTime has a silly habit
Not of Marching
We expect the march of minute hands,
But of pausing,
   too bored
     too busy
        to notice incongruity
Languishing into unexpected afternoons
   and eons ’til yesterday.
Carefully timed, it refuses
confines —bursting into
   alarms or daydreams —
punctuated by phone calls,
   silence mocking announcements at
     10 minute intervals

Last weekend threatened Spring,
   but trees knew better
Only tiny flowers expecting frost
   hinted summer

Time knows buds as well as buses
Birth, death,
and pendulums never moving
   as the earth turns
and centuries vanish —
and a matchless universe
   works to its own ends

Copyright 1985 S. B. Sedgwick

So “see you later” when we’ll talk more about time. It will all be on time at the right time. Questions? Thoughts?


Images from the top:

Antique Clock — Spirit Moxie
Hourglass — Jamiesrabbits
Palm Pilot — Old Organizers Collection
Mad Hatter’s Tea Party — John Tenniel
Melting Clock (at the Grand Antique Mall) — Spirit Moxie


Ask for Support

Mountain viewThere are more than 100 “How to Change the World” items on the Spirit Moxie challenge list. There are multiple permutations for all of them. But sometimes a brand new, world changing experience gets added.

Last week I participated in a camp designed to stretch me mentally and physically. It was the final day and we were climbing a mountain which is something I knew I could do. I’ve done serious hiking before although not much recently. I knew that although I’m pretty slow, I could persevere. And I was right. With some encouragement on the harder parts, I made it up. The weather was gorgeous, the views were beautiful, and the companionship perfect.

We were functioning as a team and had to get back down within an allotted time. But I struggle going down. Slight slopes scare me and some of them on this mountain were steep. I clutch railings walking down stairs. And the one time I tried to downhill ski in order to confront my fear, in a very safe beginner lesson, all I managed to do was knock over my six-year-old son. He, of course, was doing just fine in the same beginner class; he just didn’t get out of my way fast enough even though the instructors (who saw it coming) yelled at him to do so.

Going down the mountainIn last week’s hike, I knew it would take me hours to get down off the mountain which was hardly supportive of my team. So, I stood up and said, “Hey, guys. I know this is a mind frick [something the mind claims as true when it isn’t], but I freak out going downhill.” The rest of the team just took it as a challenge. One guy grabbed my backpack. Two other tall, strong men were suddenly on either side of me. And they almost (or so it felt like) flew me down that mountain.

Never have I felt so supported.

So what was different about this versus other times I’ve requested something? One Christmas I asked for Spirit Moxie Facebook likes to reach a certain number, and it happened. I get unasked and asked for help all the time. But this time, on the mountain, the help I received made me invincible. I asked for support to do something I was afraid of doing, but needed to get done. I learned that there is power in asking for support for what seems impossible.

Backpack and shoesNote this may be different from asking for help. While we’re dealing with semantics, asking for help implies need. Support, for our purposes here, implies an addition to what one is already doing, something above and beyond the obvious. The support I received made getting down the mountain easy. If I had to do it by myself, I’m pretty sure I’d be off that mountain by now. As an example of the ”help”/“support” distinction, five months ago, when I was sick, I collapsed in the kitchen. I needed help to get up, but received support to keep going.

Isn’t this what changing the world is all about? When we look at the whole thing right now, our chances of having a peaceful, healthy, beautiful world seems kind of unlikely. Until we do that one little thing and see that the result is slightly bigger than that action. Or, that when two or three or twenty or a hundred people do something, the result can be exponentially larger. Chaos, which in Spirit Moxie can be a positive force, almost always happens only with volume. So, if you will, it took more than forty people to get me down that mountain. But the result was we all did get down and showed a display of mutual support that shocked (in a good way) those running the event.

Plus it changed me. No longer do I see support as my due, a weakness, or as something that just happens. It is now an overwhelming gift that must be asked for. Because when you ask the world changes.

Thoughts? Stories?


Photos from top:
The view — Crystal Donald
Headed down — Ellie Rome-Reed
Hiking Gear — Gary Templeton

Wash Your Hands

When they discovered I was terribly infectious during the final week I was in the hospital in January of 2017, I thought no one could come to see me. But I was wrong. For those who dared, they didn’t need to put on the blue plastic hospital gown conveniently available on my room’s door or wear a mask. Nope. There were only two instructions: to not touch me (and it was those who love hugs who showed up) and to wash their hands when they left. Either use the sink in “my” bathroom or take advantage of the hand sanitizer by the door. Period.

In the meantime, three friends have had the flu without any help from me, multiple people have had colds, and everyone else seems a tad worried about all the illness floating around. But again the mandate seems simple. Wash your hands. Oh, wait. Apparently that doesn’t help against the flu. Then again, washing your hands is on the list of things you can do to prevent the spread of it.

Sigh. But seriously it is fairly universally acknowledged that this simple action keeps us all healthier. If everyone washed their hands regularly, disease would have a much harder time spreading.

Wine bar's hand washing signThere are standard rules. The ones we might be most familiar with are to wash your hands after you use the bathroom and before you eat. If you work in a restaurant, you know that any food handling requires hand washing. From there it goes to multiple compulsive, frequent situations. Currently the one I’m having the most trouble with is sneezing, since I’m “nursing” a runny nose like a little kid.

So, hand sanitizers are OK, but not as effective. For doing hand washing right the rules are simple. Use warm water and soap. Lather. Wash for 20 seconds or two choruses of “happy birthday to you.” (I’m failing that last part too. I sing it really fast. But even if my timing of two choruses is shorter than 20 seconds, it is closer to 20 than what I usually do.) Rinse. Dry. So can we start? At least on the “after the toilet” and  “before the food handling” times? And I’ll start the 20 second rule (sigh), will report in, and invite you to do the same. Really.

Having written the above I’ve been practicing. I’m learning I am more apt to do my two choruses when I’m not home. Oh I wash at home, but the familiar pass through under the faucet happens more often than not even when I’m challenging my self. But I’ll keep with this and will report in on the comments on the web site. Join me.

Maybe this isn’t the sexiest, most personal “changing the world” piece. But washing your hands is clearly crucial. Staying healthy makes your participation easier. And it’s one of the 100+ actions that make a difference listed on the note cards that began Spirit Moxie. Are you in? Are you better than I am at this? Game on.


All photos by Spirit Moxie. From the top:
Hands washing — courtesy of Dave Lynch of Three Kool Kings
Sign at Market Wines at Findlay Market, Cincinnati, OH
Women’s restroom at WOW [World of Wearable Art] Museum, Nelson, New Zealand

Support Artists

Last night I trekked across town to listen to my friend Brianna sing soulful, original songs at a place with the wonderful name of The Listing Loon, a “craft beer & wine bar/bottle Brianna Kelly and friendsshop.” I also unexpectedly heard her play more “upbeat” stuff with another guitar player and a drummer, a side I’d never seen before. In the process, I met people and, yes, talked about Spirit Moxie, supported the local economy by buying a couple of drinks including one for the musician, and for the first time, was betrayed by Uber. As result, I also had a perfect, unexpected, and beautiful midnight bus ride home. Great evening.

I also started thinking about how we support artists and why it matters. I was going to write a Conversation piece about going to art fairs, and I still might, but today the broader scope seems more crucial.

It truly is through art that the world is changed. The impact of writers is fairly obvious. Look at the writers, especially novelists and playwrights, in closed and violent Communist countries who told the truth of what suppression did to people. Think of Madame Defarge, in Charles Dickens’ Tale of Two Cities, who has now become an icon for revenge, who used something as innocent as knitting to secretly keep records. As Samantha Bennett says, “…the only thing that ever changed the world was a new story.”

But today I’d like to put in a plug for the visual and performing arts similarly changing the world. And I’d like to add our support and participation, since I know some of you are artists, for changing it, too.

People need weird stuff in their houses.At it’s best, art makes us see things differently. We see an ordinary object from a different perspective. The “truth” of a song, any still life, a great portrait, that weird piece—whether visual or audio—where you can’t figure out where they are coming from. Look at the fairly recent popularity of flash mob performances. Just having our regular routine “upset” by art seems to speak to us.

A New York City friend recently posted on Facebook about someone taking over her subway car: “That moment when your train entertainment is so good you wish you had money to throw at them. Sorry man, you totally deserved my absent cash money. Hope to hear you again soon with a full wallet.” (For the record, for non-New Yorkers, the people who choose to interrupt the anonymity of subway travel are usually terrible.) The only money I give out on the street is to performers who are worth it, sharing their talents and trying to make a bit.

BANmovie2You might already support multiple artistic endeavors. Your children’s school performances. The garage bands started by friends and family that get real gigs in bars and restaurants. I still remember the ska band Nice Guy Eddie that was the creation and obsession, for awhile, of my younger son’s friends, who are now my friends. And then there was the grand red carpet opening (and only showing) of my son’s almost complete film, which also featured his friends, Bitch Ass Ninjas: the return of Fatty which we attended in faux furBANmovie1 and a tuxedo.

And of course, when you attend an event you are also supporting the bars and restaurants that have these groups play, which also helps the world.

When the “little things that can change the world” piece on Dance came out, I talked about my friend Misa’s work. She’s now on to bigger things, so if you’re anywhere near Los Angeles or Santa Barbara you might want to look up TURF. My drummer friend Lance, who critiqued that same post, now has his own band Free Speech, based in Cincinnati, which unfortunately I’ve only been able to see a couple of times. And I’m just using this as an example. What are yours? What excuses are you using for not going? They’re playing too late? I don’t go to bars? How dare they charge when they’re amateurs? If you’re playing that last card, I don’t suppose you’ve considered buying their new CD either.

Painting Track 2-Train LateAnd how do you support the visual arts. I can find time to attend events, but I only have so much wall space. Well, artist have events too. While you might not buy, there are openings, receptions, and, yes, shows. My regret is that my awesome friend Jeri is regularly winning pastel honors and being featured in shows, but the closest I ever got to attending one was trekking to downtown New York to see one of her miniatures on exhibit. I’m just not in that part of the world at the right time. My friend Kim has reinvented painting Water of Lifeherself into a successful encaustic artist who is featured in various Colorado galleries. But I can “like” the pieces these artists share on Facebook. I can tell them I’d like to be there for the opening. And I can cheer when one of their pieces is the perfect piece for an award or show or, gasp, just because I love it.

The beautiful cover photo that was on the Spirit Moxie Facebook page through August 2016 (you can see it in the notes below) is by my friend Su White Paper DressYork of Suzanne York Photography who is frantically launching a business with her gorgeous photos (she’s also winning awards), while she continues to be one of the best hair stylists in Cincinnati. Sometimes one can just cheer. I’ve met the incredible Roxana Ramos Cueva — and “liked” the paper installations she’s done throughout South America. Etc.

So who are you supporting and how? Every like, every dollar, every purchase, every  puzzled “what were they thinking” or pure moment of simple enjoyment , helps change the world. Trust me on this one. Report in. We can help the world see itself in new and creative ways.

Are you in?


Illustrations from the top:

Brianna Kelly and Friends — Spirit Moxie
Ezra Croft quotation — Spirit Moxie on Canva
20th Century Theatre marquee— Spirit Moxie
Movie Opening — Spirit Moxie
track 2/train late — pastel by Jeri Greenberg, used with permission
Water of LIfe — encaustic monotypes by Kim Roberts, used with permission
Installation in paper by Roxana Ramos Cueva — Gabriela Morales Gonzales

The August 2016 Spirit Moxie cover photo by Suzanne York Photography
view of Cincinnati from Kentucky

Name (a verb)

NametagsWhen I worked in New York a number of years ago, the staff where I worked decided I was important, competent, and interesting. To this day, Delta Airlines knows me as Dr. Sedgwick thanks to a secretary who wrangled my plane reservations. When I worked for a similar organization in another city, the identity I was given was, “Who are you? Prove you’re worthy to work with us.” Needless to say the first position was a lot easier and, actually, more effective for everyone involved.

Naming. How we see each other and verbalize the labels, the ideals, and the perceptions we have about those labels and ideals makes a difference. Perfectly competent adults visit parents and immediately become needy. It’s not just their falling back into codependency or old patterns. Their parents need to be needed. It’s their identity when they are around their children, and so everyone obliges. And we all know how people with serious issues like addictions behave and are wary when we’re around them.

Naming, in my experience, can be positive as well as negative and positive naming makes the world work better and is a lot more useful. It’s important to remember, however, that this isn’t magic, although sometimes it seems as if it is, and that naming doesn’t always work.

But it’s fun when it does. A couple of years ago, I was on my way to an unfamiliar Brooklyn street corner in the pouring rain, trying to figure out where I was supposed to meet my son. At night.

When I ducked under a bodega’s awning, a tall guy who I’m pretty sure (one learns these things) was going to ask me for money was already there. “I’m so wet,” I said. True. By the time we figured things out, he was 1) mad at how inconsiderate my son was and 2) offering to walk me the several blocks to my son’s apartment. Money was never mentioned, and when my son did show up, my new friend glared at him. We had named each other as peers.

Perhaps a more dramatic example involved my friend Valerie who taught third grade. Her classroom included many non-white students who had been “named” by their previous teachers as unteachable, slow, and/or stupid. These teachers promoted these students just to keep the system moving. Valerie saw, that is “named,” them as third graders, who could learn third grade material. As a result of her naming everyone in her classroom was reading at third grade level by the end of the year.

We do this with friends too, sometimes positively, sometimes negatively. We put each other in boxes. For example, we say so and so is always late. I’m usually pretty much on time (ask my friend Su), but my friend Marilyn has named me as always late. Even if I’m early she’s there first. It maintains her perception that she’s accurate and keeps her naming of me intact. I have friends who name me as intelligent and interesting. As adventurous. And as boring and antisocial.

So there are two parts to this:

1) How do we respond to how others name us?

2) How do we name others?

Awareness of how others name you is fascinating once you realize what’s going on. The positive part is usually energizing, although occasionally you may be named as someone you don’t want to be. For instance it may be positive to be perceived as intellectual, but sometimes it just feels like pressure. There are multiple people who name me as an excellent professional communicator (as in press releases and newsletters), even though I’ve never done that sort of work and don’t really want to.

Naming also has multiple sides. To be seen as friendly and fun may cause pressure when you really just want support. On the other hand that naming may help you generate enough energy to be friendly and fun despite your mood.

What do we do with negative naming? It’s often evident in bullying. Perhaps people use negative naming to increase their sense of self importance. Can we make it a game? (Just how early do I have to show up at my next “date” with Marilyn? Nope, that idea didn’t work!)

To not live into the negative part of naming is a challenge and sometimes not worth it. I quit the second job mentioned earlier. Oh, I learned a lot from it and could have probably set the right boundaries, now that I look back with 20/20 hindsight. I named those coworkers as gifted as well as highly respected and appreciated for their work and I’m pretty sure how I named them took before I left.

If you don’t like how you are named, it may be time to change friends—or jobs.

But it’s important to realize that naming isn’t usually instantaneous, or, as I said, magic. To decide that the kid on drugs is fine or that your mother will stop being needy is a bit more complicated than just deciding. Perhaps there is need for a serious intervention (or several), for the addicted kid. Perhaps the parent has to be told a thousand times that it’s not up to you. But naming always creates change.

Ultimately, however, what naming changes is yourself. In many fantasy books, among other sources, to name is to wield power. Certainly some of the power is over and for those named. But beyond this the naming is for ourselves. I can accept the good names and offer more positive names to others. The more I do this, the more the world will gradually change. So I’ll stay important, competent, and interesting. And intelligent and inspiring while I’m at it.

So, what about you?  Together, we’ll be more powerful and joyful and creative and alive.

Who do you need to name?

Who have you named?

How are you named?


Blurred nametags — Spirit Moxie


An Invitation

Happy New Year street signAs I write this 2015 is coming to a close and a challenge is floating around social media to describe the year in one word. I’m inviting you to give 2015 its one word name and then play with me as we go into the newness of 2016. What word would you pick to describe your year of 2015?

For me, I’m claiming “confusing” as my one word for 2015. I’m sure the friend who shared this challenge with me (to come up with a one word description) wanted a loftier word, but for me “confusing” simply fits. In 2015, I spent more money than I probably should have (although I am always suspicious of the word “should”) on conferences and workshops searching for the key that might make Spirit Moxie financially viable while continuing to be challenging and visionary. In the ongoing conversation about what we should look like, I’ve gained 5 to10 pounds that taunt me when I pay attention, although somehow my clothes still fit and most of the time I feel I look OK. (We all might reread the Love Your Body conversation of a few months ago!)

The grand experiment of living without a car in Cincinnati has been pretty much a success, although I’m sure that some friends are hoping I come to my senses soon. With that, a magical relationship with time has expanded to where it just seems to swirl and support me rather than confine me to a linear existence. I’m also trying to commit more to recognizing magic, but I sometimes find myself discounting such occurrences as “only time supporting me again” when, for example, buses show up off schedule or a traffic jam on the way to the airport still results in time enough to chill before my flight (remember I love airports).

iWatch face with butterfllyNot willing to be consistent about things, while working without time, I am also the proud owner of one of the first iWatches, which is the first instance of my being an early adopter of an Apple product. And it’s the first watch I’ve ever consistently worn. I’ve worried about my kids and rejoiced in things they’ve done. There have been lovely dinners, and cooking is still a primary hobby. And the friends. New ones all over the world who cheer me on and laugh at my idiosyncrasies. And long time ones who support me quirks and all. Yes, it’s been a full and confusing year.

But as we come to the beginning of 2016, a new, clean slate of “what’s next” awaits. So how do we enter this new year? I gave up New Year’s resolutions a long time ago and suggest you do the same. Unless you know they’ll give you motivation, they are usually just something to give up by February. As an alternative, I set goals such as “write and share five poems.” Then a few months into the year, I reread my list. And then grade myself at the end of the year. If I remembered. Last year, I just listed some things: travel, Spirit Moxie, entertain. All of which happened, but didn’t, if you will, lead anywhere. Another reason for the description of “confusing” for 2015,

So, for 2016, I’m inviting you to something new. This year I’d like you to join me in dreaming. Yes. Dreaming. No, not fantasizing about winning the lottery or talking to George Clooney or meeting the mate of your dreams. The question is where is your heart calling you? Try it. What dream is behind the wishes and longings for, for instance, great wealth and hot romance? Are you willing to not know exactly how what you want will look like, as long as it gives you what you long for? Perhaps the true dream is to feel love and support in a new way or to re-experience romance. Or to absolutely realize that you feel financially free. Or to find yourself unexpectedly meeting people you couldn’t imagine meeting and the giddiness of those kinds of encounters.

DreamcatcherI dream of ongoing support and unexpected adventures. Yes, it would be nice if it included crossing Hawaii off the list of states I’ve never visited. It would be great to have some regular income and a new romance. And maybe rather than talking about writing a book, I will actually put that many words to paper (or pixels) to make it happen. But the dream behind those things is for freedom and community. So this year I will go where that pulls me and do what supports that dream. Is community for me connecting more closely with my current friends and neighbors or does it involve a new location? Is freedom more plane tickets or a new passion? Is it Spirit Moxie suddenly having thousands of followers or three conversations where someone really gets the possibility of changing the world and themselves? Can I figure out how to help others dance with time? No clue. Except for the clue that right now I am writing this and inviting you to check in with me as I follow my dreams.

This is only part of dreaming, but it is through dreaming that possibility becomes real. And knowing if we follow the clues our dreams will manifest in unexpected ways.

So share yours. Your word for 2015. Your dreams for 2016. And we’ll leave the 2015 word behind to follow where the 2016 dreams lead. And we’ll hold each other accountable.


All photos by Spirit Moxie

From the top:
Street sign in Park Slope, Brooklyn
Face of iWatch


compost, landfill, recycle binsOf all the “little things that can change the world,” recycling seems the obvious no-brainer in first world countries. It demands just enough effort that we can feel virtuous about it, but, at least in urban areas with recycling centers, it really demands only that we pay attention and make a little extra effort. Most of the time. Recycling reduces waste in landfills and leads to the reuse of materialslike many metals (e.g., aluminum), silica (glass), and petroleum (plastics). In a world where we are learning to appreciate the importance of trees in our environment, recycling paper and cardboard has become a way to manage that resource too. And from what I’ve read, reforming or reusing recycled materials always uses less energy than was needed to produce the original product.

I’ve been following the recycling effort at least since in 1970s when I was collecting empty beer cans. The local collection place bought them by weight so you needed a lot to make it worthwhile! When I moved to my current apartment, I assumed that because it was within the city limits we’d have recycling. Nope. So I lugged my stuff down the hill to a friend’s recycling bin or dropped it off at a major recycling center near where I used to work. But a few months ago the building’s management figured out a way for us to recycle, so now I happily catch the elevator to the basement.

Sally at recycling facilityOne of the joys of working with Spirit Moxie is meeting people. One person with whom I connected was Belinda who works with our county’s environmental services and is the person who came up with the idea for our conversation “Let Others In.” Six months ago Belinda offered to set up a tour of the plant run by the primary company (Rumpke) that provides recycling in in our area and.last week everyone’s schedules finally matched. So, on Thursday, I wound my way to the address of the Rumpke MRF (material recovery facility) and donned hard hat and goggles to watch skilled workers, million dollar machines, and endless conveyor belts sort our offerings to the world of recycling. I learned what not to include and why; marveled at the very strange things people thought it was OK to include; and was pleasantly surprised at the passion of those working there for their commitment to, well, making the world work.

MRF workers sortingRecycling varies in different parts of the country so I’ll only list at the end of this conversation the specifics of what I learned. A pretty universal tip, however, seems to be to NEVER put recycling in plastic grocery bags. They are maybe the most harmful unwanted item recycle centers see since they gum up the rotating “blades” that help sort recyclable materials. The bags themselves aren’t recyclable except, perhaps, at your local supermarket.

Different cities recycle different materials and some don’t let you mix what you put in a recycling bin. For example when I was in the state of Washington, glass was separate and collected less frequently. And I remember that in other places, consumers used different containers for bottles, plastics, and paper.

Promoting RecycleBottom line, recycling is a business, which is why in some places you pay extra for the privilege of recycling. Recycling usually requires extra collection crews and a lot more people at the processing end which creates jobs. Markets for recyclable materials fluctuate like gas prices, interest rates, and the stock market. Facilities have to learn to “ride out” lean times. And how the market uses materials also affects what the facility can recycle. If they don’t have a market for it, it goes to the landfill.

But reading about markets and business and rules can get boring. Start paying attention to the possibilities of reusing and reclaiming resources — just as a game! Besides the basic curbside recycling that we are accustomed to, you can see other places recycling happens if you look. In future conversations, we’ll talk about things like composting. We’re encouraged to take clothes and other unneeded items to thrift stores and resale shops — and to shop at them. We put our leftovers in cottage cheese bag of cans on fencecontainers. Dog owners reuse plastic bags by carrying them to clean up after their pets. People collect metal cans (the most valuable recycle item) from trash cans in the street, making a major contribution to our reuse of materials. (In New York City, for example, cans and bottles have a cash deposit value, but getting that deposit refund is a major pain. So people will leave their bottles and cans clean and outside for other people to “find.”)

bottle wreatheAnd then there are people who really can do crafts. (So not part of my skill base.) When my friend Pat taught in the children’s program at Cincinnati’s Contemporary Art Museum, I gladly took all our beer caps, toilet paper rolls, and interesting miscellaneous treasures (e.g., a perfect piece of ribbon) to her house where they became art materials, party favors, and gifts. Local women from South America make interesting “flower” wreaths from soda bottles.

Art by Tim JonesPlus there are the serious artists that include “trash“ materials as part of their work. Cincinnati artist Tim Jones prefers to work only with recyclables. My favorite Jones piece is composed of those plastic grocery bags the MRF can’t use.

So share. What do you do? What do you notice? What have you learned? Recycling can and does become recreating. And helps us pay attention. Now.


Recycle “rules” for Southern Ohio, Southeastern Indiana, Northern Kentucky

Paper and cardboard: Pretty much completely recyclable, and this includes paper bags, junk mail and magazines, but not paperbacks or food stained cardboard or paper products (like paper plates and napkins) [OFFICE NOTE: if you shred paper buy CLEAR (not white) plastic bags and put the paper in there (to keep it contained and not turn into litter). If the MRF workers can’t see what it is, it will probably be sent to the landfill. But if they can, you just helped reduce that “90% of office paper gets thrown away” statistic! Yes, you can do this at home too.]

Metal: Only cans. Really. Including aerosol with the tips removed. Put the cans in the bin loose NOT in a plastic bag. ALL other metal goes in the trash unless you have another source for recycling. (Some other sources for recycling metal can be found here. And your dry cleaner can probably use those hangers….)

Plastic: Only bottles and jugs. You can leave the plastic caps on! Milk bottles, water bottles, detergent jugs, shampoo…. But NOT those lovely, clearly marked #5 containers your yogurt, sour cream, and cottage cheese come in. NOT those “please recycle” containers you get when you bring food home from a restaurant. Yeah, I wasn’t happy either. [Rumor has it that Whole Foods recycles #5 plastic. You might want to check it out and let us know.] And never plastic bags (except for the clear ones containing shredded paper.)

Glass: Only bottles and jars. Other glass has other metals in it that don’t work for recycling. Color doesn’t matter. Take the metal caps off, but you can place these loose in the recycling bin. This includes beer caps!


Photo credits from the top:

Trash bins in the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, Portland, OR — Spirit Moxie
Sally visiting the MRF — Hamilton County Recycling and Solid Waste District (Web)
Sorting at the MRF — Hamilton County Recycling and Solid Waste District
Robert Gillespie promoting recycling — Spirit Moxie
New York City bottle recycling — Spirit Moxie
Bottle Wreath — Nancy Sullivan
“She’s an Autumn“ by Tim Jones — Spirit Moxie

Keep Your Word

WDS sign

I’m home from the World Domination Summit (WDS) and pretty much recovered from traveling to four different venues, through four airports, a couple of train stations, three time zones, and one bus transfer. Oh, and mastering (I think) public transportation in Portland.

This is my second year attending and my third year writing about WDS. For 2013 and 2014, I compared it with the Wild Goose Festival which I attended both years, but I’m not comparing them this year, because this year Wild Goose was so much like WDS it was scheduled for the same weekend.

So this year WDS gets a post all to itself. In 2014, at the end of WDS, I was sure I needed to return, but this year I was pretty sure I didn’t want to and I’m still trying to figure out why I felt that way. WDS is committed to supporting community, adventure, and service. Sounds perfect to me. “To live extraordinary lives in an ordinary world.”

Of course, I don’t find the world all that ordinary, but I think you’re beginning to know that.

Where we put the Spirit Moxie handouts!Part of my personal dream for WDS was for Spirit Moxie. I planned a “Let’s Change the World!” meetup, using what for me was a perfect time last year to meet people before things got started. I even found a bar/restaurant rumored to have a great, but poorly attended, happy hour. A call to Mummy’s in downtown Portland confirmed that they would be happy to have us. [If you’re in Portland, check them out — it’s Egyptian food. Really. I had a falafel, unlike any I’ve had before, and a fava bean dip/appetizer served with laid-back hospitality. And I’m told there’s real belly dancing Saturday nights.] WDS approved the event and it was “sold out.” Almost 40 people said they were coming and there was interest in my Facebook invitation as well.

Only eight people showed up, nine if you include me. As far as I could tell none of them had signed up for the event, but came anyway hoping there would be room. The timing was difficult. The announcement said we started at 3pm and registration for the whole event started at 2pm. The restaurant had a reputation for being hard to find although I said an orange door was a clue. And, in the best tradition of events, those who showed up may indeed have been the right eight people to be there. In any case the conversation was wonderful and rich, and the people there were looking to give and share ideas and inspiration (e.g., how might you recycle those little soaps from hotels on a huge scale?). 

Although I felt sorry for the bar’s owner, and, to be honest, for myself, I shrugged it off until I heard other stories of other meetups where the same thing had happened. As the week went on, the rule seemed to be “even if you didn’t sign up, stop by to see if you can get in.” I went to one meetup that I’d signed up for and stayed for about ten minutes (hey, I was there). I “really” attended another one that I had signed up for, and I, too, stopped by another meetup that I hadn’t signed up for that was full and was told to stay.

Sally's childhood bear waiting for breakfast in bedI found myself wondering throughout all this about the whole concept of giving your word and keeping it. The RSVP. The shake of the hand. The casual, “I’ll call you next week.” Any event/party host will tell you that planning has become difficult because people do not let you know if they will attend — or they don’t let you know that they won’t be there if their plans change. Lawyers have made whole careers around people no longer honoring the handshake and their word. Friendships have been stretched and lovers separated. Sally and bear - setting a world recordAnd I’m certainly not perfect, particularly in the “casual remarks to friends” category.

There was another element at WDS that also bothered me. While we were excited to be changing the world, we seemed oblivious to our interactions with the community. Oh, we set a world record for eating breakfast in bed (because we could) and donated the mattresses and beds to appropriate local agencies. But I’ve seen events so embrace the bear with Worldwide Waffles certificatecommunity that the city was minutely transformed. WDS could have been like that. Excellent volunteers made sure we laughed, gave high fives, and that there was no litter or other ecological scar. But I saw meetup leaders dismiss hassles for waiters, bus riders ignore their intrusion on the locals, the “it’s only a job” look on the theatre staffs’ faces, and the stoic disappointment on the face of Mummy’s owner. Shouldn’t engaging the world with basic politeness and awareness be a part of keeping our word to be transformative?

Lissa RankinSo WDS’s commitmentfor weren’t we all WDS?—to community, adventure, and service seemed mixed. Last year, I came home with a Brave Bot, an appreciation of superhero capes (and tiny houses), riding a hot air balloon crossed off my bucket list, and a visceral understanding that we’re all related. I don’t even need to go look at my notes to remember
this. This year, looking at someone else’s notes, I was reminded that I’m a poet (first poem published in second grade), reclaimed my own experience with grief, saw my mentor Lissa Rankin heal the whole room back into love and possibility, and “met” Kid President, who shares awesomeness and is clearly a kid. I’d say about half the speakers challenged me, but I don’t really remember what they said. Almost none are remembered as I write this. Pictures remind Kid President entering stageme that I ate a Voodoo Donut—another bucket list triumph.  And I talked to people who left greatly renewed and inspired so I do know there is another side to people’s experience of the weekend.

All I left the event with were these two questions: “What is there about keeping your word?” and “Does keeping your word really matter?”

This past Sunday I went to an early church service and reported on the first of the four “venues” mentioned above. “I wish you would come do that at 10:30, too,” I was asked, and I said, “I can do that.” I was juggling bus schedules, but easily found a bus (yeah, Google maps) to my favorite breakfast spot. Perfect. Had a great breakfast, wandered over to the grocery store (did I really need anything?), and thought about going home. No buses for more than 45 minutes. No bus back to church either (had I really promised to do that today or some other Sunday?). But it was only a little over a mile away and the timing would be perfect if I walked. I would arrive about when they needed me to do my spiel, even if it was 90 degrees out. Hmmm. As I approached the church, I saw a bus pull up that would take me directly home. All I’d have to do is run or wave or . . . But I walked, watched the bus turn the corner, and went inside the church grateful for air conditioning. When I made sure they knew I was there, the leader said, “Oh, I knew you would be here. You said you would be.”

So I did my spiel. Looked at the bus schedule. And found another bus leaving in five minutes for home.

What I have is my word to give, to share. It’s free. And your word is yours. How do you honor it? I’m pretty sure the universe will help you keep it.


Photo credits from the top:
Marquee at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, Portland, OR — Armosa Studios
Mummy’s Restaurant and Lounge — Mummy’s Facebook page
Bear waiting for breakfast — Spirit Moxie
Sally and bear posing at Worldwide Waffles — Spirit Moxie
Worldwide Waffles certificate with our attending bear — Spirit Moxie
Lissa Rankin onstage —Armosa Studios
Kid President (Robby Novak) entering the stage — Armosa Studios