Thanks Giving

11/28/13

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As some of you know, the last couple of months — in fact, the last six months — have been filled with many challenges and occasionally some intense sorrow in my life. It is so easy to get caught up in why is this happening? or can I just crawl in a hole? But then I remember that everything that happens, even the most difficult, heart wrenching things, are all part of this amazing life we live, and that embracing and learning from all of it — using it to become a better, stronger person, a better artist, a more loving partner, a more grateful friend, and ultimately, a happier person, is what matters most. I’ve written about this topic before, but it’s worth repeating over and over.

One thing I have understood recently (as if for the first time) is that the people in my life (even so many of you who I have never met) are pretty amazing. You are filled so much generosity and love. And for that I am so thankful.

Happy Thanksgiving, friends.

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Troy Litten :: New Print Shop

11/22/13

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Way back in 2004, I became obsessed with two things: travel and film photography. And so when I stumbled on the book Wanderlust by Troy Litten, it was in love. It was the perfect combination of collecting (already a passion), colorful imagery, and worldly adventure.

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Wanderlust, published by Chronicle Books in 2004, is a book chock full of organized collections of all of the amazing things Troy saw (and photographed) while traveling the world, most organized on a grid (be still my heart). 10 years later, the book still captures me heart every time I look at it. Troy’s images were also made into postcards and address books and all kinds of other wonderful things.

I am happy to report that years later, Troy and I have become friends, good friends, and I continue to love and admire his work. So it is with great pleasure that I get to tell you about the opening of his first online print shop. He’s offering ten different 11×14 prints of ten different photo collages. Each print includes a white border on all sides for easy framing. They are printed with an Epson Stylus Pro 3880 inkjet printer using Epson UltraChrome pigment based inks on Epson hot press 330 g/m2 smooth matte paper (super high quality). Soon he’ll be adding larger sizes (I have a 16×20 print of the car collage above, and it’s stunning; you can also request a larger size by sending him a conversation through Etsy). Scroll down to the bottom to see Troy’s generous discount code for my readers.

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Use the discount code LISACONGDON1 to get 25% off anything in Troy’s shop.

Troy keeps a fantastic blog of his travel photos and ephemera, dating back to the late 1990′s. He still takes amazing photos to this day, and following him on Instagram is a visual feast. Soon I’ll be interviewing Troy for my Interviews with People I Admire series, so stay tuned for that to learn more about his fascinating life & work.

Happy Friday, friends. Have a great weekend.

 

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Anne Weil :: Arm Knitted Cowls

11/19/13

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A few weeks ago, I spent time with my dear friend Anne Weil in Lake Tahoe. Anne owns Flax and Twine, where she’s currently selling gorgeous arm-knit cowls. Yes, she literally knits them with her arms (as opposed to needles). They are huge and chunky and warm. Here’s I am in the one Anne gave me when we saw each other in October. I love it so much.

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Each cowl is made from either this wool blend yarn or this gorgeous 100% Merino Wool Drift yarn from Rowan. You can purchase them here or place a custom order.

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Anne is exceptionally talented and generous and keeps a wonderful blog with craft projects (knitting and beyond!) over here.

Happy, happy Tuesday. I’ll be back tomorrow with a review of this wonderful book.

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Bloggers Love Cats and Dogs :: Calendars!

10/30/13

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I was so honored when generous soul (and animal lover) Kelly Beall of Design Crush wrote to ask if I’d submit photos of my dog, Wilfredo and my two cats, Margaret and Barry for her Bloggers Love Dogs and Bloggers Love Cats 2014 Calendars. Each 13-month calendar is  downloadable and all proceeds will go directly to The Humane Society of the United States. And at $7 each or two for $12, that’s a good dead and a steal!

The dog calendar:

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{That’s Wilfredo in his dinosaur Halloween costume as Mr. October!}

And the cat calendar:

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Margaret and Barry are curled up cozily like yin and yang for the month of November:

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Each page measures 5 1/2″ X 8 1/2″ once printed on standard letter-sized paper. Find out about all the featured pets and get yours here!

Have a great day, friends.

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The Great Debate

10/30/13

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You may recall that I wrote a few months ago about the book by my dear friends Wendy MacNaughton and Caroline Paul called Lost Cat. It’s a wonderful book, and, while the book is about so much more, at the heart of it is the age-old question: is it better to keep your cat indoors or outdoors?

Wendy and Caroline with the help of brilliant filmmakers Tom Westerlin and Steve Muller have made a wonderfully witty film called “The Great Debate: Indoor vs. Outdoor Cats.” Here it is, in all its glory. Please view and share! You will not be disappointed.

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I’ve got one more pet-related post coming up soon, so stay tuned.

Happy Wednesday!

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Iceland & Alvar Aalto in UPPERCASE 19!

10/22/13

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As you may remember, about a year ago I’d just returned from a three week solo adventure to Scandinavia, including Iceland, Denmark, Sweden and Finland. For this month’s UPPERCASE Magazine, I’ve written two articles — one about my love affair with Iceland, and the other about my trip to the Alvar Aalto studio. The Iceland article features pages from my travel sketchbook/scrapbook and some of my artwork. Both articles include original photos I took on the trip.

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I highly recommend a subscription to this gorgeous magazine. You can look at and read the entire issue here online, but it’s really 1000 times better in print. For a list of stockists in your area, check here.

Happy Tuesday!

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On Minding Your Own Business

10/10/13

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When I was a kid, my mom taught me three important things that have served me well in my adult life:

1) do your best not to take on other people’s negative crap; it’s their crap, not yours.
2) it’s okay if your house is a little messy; it probably means you have better things to do than clean.
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3) keep the focus of your energy on what you can control; in other words, mind your own business.

About two months ago, I wrote this piece about comparison. I got so many emails about that essay that I wasn’t able to respond to all of them. Apparently, my experience touched a cord: except the most enlightened among us, we all fall into the dark pit of comparison from time to time. You all had a lot to say about it.

In this day and age of the interwebs and social media platforms, comparison isn’t something that happens occasionally at school or work. It’s something we are potentially confronted with every single day — when we look at Facebook and Twitter, Instagram and blogs. “So-and-so’s life is better or more interesting than mine” or “so-and-so’s work is more beautiful or exciting than mine.”

This is where minding your own business comes in. Earlier this week I had a bout of stomach turning anxiety while reading something on the internet that caused me to compare my own endeavors and accomplishments to those of some of my illustrator peers. I had to remind myself of this lovely and straightforward quote by Beatrix Potter, above: Believe there is a great power silently working all things for good, behave yourself and never mind the rest.

We all compare ourselves to others here are there, but I’ve come to believe it’s how quickly we can snap ourselves out of it when we do that matters more. For me, it’s remembering that it’s being completely myself — in my artwork, in the way I relate to people, in my unique goals and dreams for my life — that keeps me feeling grounded and makes me happy. Remembering that also frees me up to be happy for others when they accomplish something I might otherwise be jealous of. I don’t always succeed, but I am determined to try.

How do you snap yourself out of the trap of comparison? I think it’s worth thinking about. The more we all mind our own business and live (and embrace) our own unique paths, the happier we’ll be, and the more we can be genuinely happy for others. At least I think that’s the way it works.

Until next time, happy Thursday.

 

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On Starting Over (Again)

09/27/13

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I’ve written here before about the exciting but also boring story of my life: I love my work, but I have taken on too many commitments in the last few years. My days are ruled by lists and attempting to check as many things off the lists as possible to meet deadlines. I am often stressed and feel rushed. My days aren’t long enough. I’m tired.

It is the curse of entrepreneurship: many of us don’t know when our days begin or end, how much work is enough (maybe we can just take on one more project), when to say no, or how to apply boundaries to what we do. And in trying to figure that out (and by “that” I mean the perfect balance of work and living), we don’t always get it right.  I find myself (as much as I love my work) not really living. I am breathing, yes, and even experiencing joy. But in the back of my mind are those overwhelming and long lists of things I have to accomplish.

You may remember this post I wrote back in April about starting over in my attempt to have some balance in my life. I’ve been struggling with work/life balance since 2011 when my illustration career began to take off. After years as a fledgling artist, I am so grateful that I have so much opportunity now. But, for me, opportunity came with long hours and, ultimately, burnout. The past three years have taught me that I can’t do it all, not even close. And so for the past nine months, I have been working diligently on creating more balance.  Sometimes that means saying no to projects with really awesome clients that I really want to say yes to. Some days that means something as simple as just going to yoga class at the end of a long day. Some weeks I’ve been quite good at balance. Other weeks I’ve failed miserably.

I always love a new year, and a new year is approaching. It’s an opportunity to make new habits. I am excited about 2014, because I really do want to do things differently this time. I want to work, of course, but maybe not as much. I also want to live. The new year holds so much promise for me. It is a clean slate. I get to start over.

Those of you who know me know I love a personal challenge.  I am scheming up a personal challenge for 2014 that is about living. I’m not sure exactly what it will look like yet, but stay tuned for more.

Happy Friday.

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About My Mother

09/19/13

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People are often struck by the fact that I did not pick up a paintbrush until I was 32 years old. It’s true, I didn’t, and when I did, I had no idea (much less aspiration) that I would ever make a living as an artist. But what’s crazier still is my mom’s story.

Let me begin by saying that’s my mom’s quilt on the cover of the most recent issue of Quilting Arts Magazine, above. For those of you who don’t know much about the world of quilting, Quilting Arts is the magazine for art quilters. Art quilting is a broad term referring to contemporary textile art which may have some of the basic structural characteristics of a traditional quilt, but incorporates contemporary techniques and materials.

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{Soaring, 2012}

My mom began art quilting in the 1990′s, though she had always been a prolific sewer and a maker. Her life has almost always been defined by sewing or textile art in some form. She has a Masters Degree in Clothing and Textiles from Penn State, which she earned in the early 1960′s. When I was a kid, she sewed a lot of my clothes and nearly everything for our house. She also had a large German loom which sat in our family room. The sound of the sewing machine and the swooshing and clanking of my mom’s hand motions interacting with the mechanics of the loom were the background noise of my childhood. Gorgeous woven wall hangings donned the walls of our suburban home. All my life, I have been surrounded by my mom’s hands making things.

What’s different about my mom’s quilting story from the rest of her career is that until she became a quilter she never considered herself an artist. She never sold her work or entered competitions. I suppose it was partly the times; she was busy raising three children, all of us close in age, and often working while we were at school to help support our family. She didn’t have time to become a full fledged textile artist.

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{Fragments of Life, 2008}

Fast forward to the 1990′s. My mom is in her early 50′s. She decides to take up quilting. She says she tried it once in the 70′s and didn’t like it. So she also decides pretty early on that art quilting–as opposed to traditional quilting–is more her aesthetic and speed. “I could continue my addiction to fabric, not worry about points and matching seams, and the end result was a beautiful work of art.” Also, two things are happening. For one, her children are grown and gone, so she has more time to create, and more energy to focus on creating. For another, the Internet is beginning to emerge as a way to meet other people with similar interests, share work, and get inspiration. Both of these factors have contributed to my mother’s prolific success.

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{Indigo Moons, 2008}

While it may seem impressive that my mom didn’t start quilting until she was in her 50′s, what’s even more impressive is what happened afterward. She joined guilds and made friends with other men and women who also made art quilts. When she was in her 60′s she started a blog about her life and work. She built a website to showcase her work. She dyes her own fabrics, screen prints, paints, stamps and discharges dyes. In the early 2000′s, after refining her craft and participating in critiques, she began entering competitions, showing her work in galleries and quilt shows and selling pieces, many commissioned by private collections and organizations. Her work is featured in quilt books and numerous magazines. And, at the age of 74 (she turns 75 next week!) her work landed on the cover of Quilting Arts Magazine. When she found out, she called me to announce “I’m a cover girl!” It made my eyes well up with tears.

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{The full quilt, as it appears in the October/November issue of Quilting Arts Magazine}

So really, 32 years old is pretty young to start your art career. My mom was in her 50′s. And at 75, she’s still going strong. She works in her studio every day. She does meticulously and painstakingly detailed work. She constantly learns new techniques. She takes classes. She goes to conferences. She works part time for the prestigious Surface Design Association. She engages with her community. She is curious and passionate –  and she never questions whether to stop. “I’ll do this till the day I die,” she’s said to me many times.

Tomorrow the manuscript for my book is due. My editor asked me to write a dedication. That was not hard. “To my mother, Gerrie,” I wrote. “for showing me it’s never too late to find your bliss.”

Happy Thursday.

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Makeshift Society :: Brooklyn!

09/17/13

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A year ago this coming weekend, Makeshift Society San Francisco opened its doors. Makeshift Society is a community for creative freelancers and independent workers, started by my former business partner and dear friend, Rena Tom. Part co-working space and part clubhouse, people use Makeshift Society to work, take classes, attend events and collaborate on projects.. Makeshift–ever cozy and inviting–is one of my favorite places in San Francisco to work, socialize, learn, teach, meet up and make new friends.

The most exciting news is that Makeshift is opening its doors in Brooklyn, New York. New York friends: This is EXCITING NEWS FOR YOU!! To fund aspects of the endeavor, they’ve launched an ambitious Kickstarter Campaign. Despite being one of the largest, most jam-packed cities in America, New York City can still be a lonely place, and a logistically difficult one to navigate. Makeshift Brooklyn will provide freelancers a beautiful place to work, teach, learn and meet others. That’s exactly what Rena built in San Francisco, and what she and her team are building in Brooklyn.

By supporting the Kickstarter campaign can get you many amazing treats, including a tote bag designed by me (only 100 available!) or a Google Hang Out Session with me and my friend Grace Bonney of Design*Sponge (only 8 of those available!). Here’s a photo of my tote bag with Makeshift’s motto, “do what you love, make who you are”:

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Other prizes include a pennant by Lab Partners or a poster by Kate Bingaman Burt. CHECK THEM OUT. You don’t have to live in Brooklyn to participate. Anyone can donate money to the campaign and receive rewards. Want to learn more about what’s happening before you donate? Watch this cool video:

The funds they raise now will enable Rena and her team to create a space that’s not just functional and beautiful, but one that is a vibrant center for creative business in Brooklyn. Part of the funds raised in the campaign will help build a creative tool lending library for rental and onsite usage. A reference library of books and material samples, audio and video equipment for production and post-production, and art and design tools and supplies will help outfit the Clubhouse with shared, creative resources.

Support Makeshift Society Brooklyn.

Happy Tuesday!

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On Beginner Mind

09/11/13

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You may recall (I’ve talked about it a few times here) that I am writing a book. That’s right, writing. When it’s finished, the book will have something like 30,000 words and seven chapters. The first time I announced that I was writing a book last April, I talked about how occasionally overwhelming and intimidating the writing process was for me. Six months later, the writing process is still occasionally overwhelming and intimidating. The final manuscript for my book is due in 10 days. I cannot believe I am nearly finished with the bulk of the writing (and tons of editing already), though much more editing will happen over the next couple of months. Even so, I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. The design process for the book has also started, which is so exciting. I am beginning to envision what the book will look like when it’s finished.  We are hiring brilliant illustrator whose work I admire so much. It’s going to be beautiful.

I have learned so much in writing this book, and the main thing I’ve learned is that there is a lot I don’t know, mostly about writing, and even about the topic of the book. It’s been humbling to work with editors for the past six months: they entrust you to write on a topic, and then when you turn it in, they tell you everything that you should change about what you’ve just written. The thing that has saved me from the depths of despair while writing this book (and the seemingly endless cycles of editing) is having a beginner mind. It comes from the Buddhist tradition, and a beginner mind means having an attitude of openness, eagerness, and lack of preconceptions when studying a subject,  just as a beginner in that subject would. From the beginning, I have worked hard to get my ego out of this process (easier said than done at times for sure) and to learn from my editors, who I have grown to respect tremendously (they are both so smart and so experienced). Instead of fighting over edits, suggestions and changes, I’m learning from my editors how to be a better writer and how to make a better book. Sure, there are times I fight to keep certain ideas in the book or have to make my case for this or that, but mostly I am getting out of the way and learning. Sometimes I feel like a sponge. Beginner mind has not only saved my sanity over the past six months, it’s also made me a better writer.

By the way, if you haven’t listened to Ira Glass’ talk on being a beginner, I highly recommend it. It’s so good.

And don’t worry, I’ll announce the topic of the book soon enough! I don’t meant to be a tease. Stay tuned.

Happy Wednesday.

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The Best Day Ever

09/10/13

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As many of you know, I got married to my partner of five years, Clay Lauren Walsh, on June 1, 2013. I’ve written about my engagement and marriage a lot already, so today I am simply going to share some of my favorite photos of the day. These beautiful pictures were taken by the amazing Bonnie Tsang. Clay’s suit was made by Duchess Clothier & my dress by Jigsaw London. I made my braided necklace (my own design) out of neon pink string I purchased at the hardware store. My sister Stephanie did our flowers, including my bouquet and Clay’s boutineer. I designed–and my friends helped me make–all of our decorations. Our wedding took place at the Mill Valley Outdoor Art Club. My cousin Robin officiated (in her rainbow stole, per my request). There were exactly 100 people in attendance, and almost everyone danced (and danced) the night away, including my 75 year old mother. It was the best day of my life.

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May everyone everywhere get to experience the joy of celebrating love in this way. There is nothing like it.

Happy Tuesday.

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Like Knows Like :: Dutch Vogue

09/06/13

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I was really excited when Dutch filmmakers Bas and Marije of Like Knows Like wrote to let me know that their documentary series was featured in Dutch Vogue this month. The feature includes photos of Jessica Hische and me (I’m the one holding the framed set of tiny photographs). We are two of the artists who they’ve profiled in their series of short documentaries. You can see the documentary about me below (which I previously wrote about here when it was released in January) and see links to all of their films here.


Happy, happy weekend!

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On Prioritizing Travel, Part 2

09/05/13

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{I have a thing for passport stamps}

A year ago today, I got up at the crack of dawn, went to SFO, boarded a plane and flew via Boston to Reykjavik, Iceland. For three weeks, I traveled by myself in Iceland, Sweden, Finland, and Denmark. It was a trip I had been dreaming about for many years. I’d long been obsessed with all things Nordic (the landscape, the design, the architecture, the folk pattern), and so going was almost surreal. For the first few days I felt like I was living in some alternate reality, pinching myself to see if I would suddenly wake up. The dream-like quality of my experience is a testament to the almost unreal beauty of the places I visited.

At the end of the adventure, I reflected about how moved I had been by the experience, both of traveling by myself and of traveling, period. I had caught the proverbial travel bug, and there would be no stopping me. Since then, I’ve been to Paris (this past July for my honeymoon), and I am already planning my next adventure–a year from now I’m heading to Portugal by myself for two weeks and then Clay will join me in Spain for another two. I’ve never been to either Portugal or Spain and I’m already giddy about the trip, which is a whole year away. I’d leave tomorrow if it were not for the need to sock away cash to make it happen. Saving money for travel has trumped even spending money on clothes or books (two of my greatest loves). I first wrote about prioritizing travel here.

I’m not sure at this point in my career I’ll be off to Europe or elsewhere abroad more than once a year unless I am lucky, but I do know that ever since I took that trip a year ago I’ve been filled with a new sense of adventure and wonder that follows me wherever I go–even to Oakland, where I just moved early this year or to Cleveland, where I traveled last month. There are beautiful sites, buildings, restaurants and shops everywhere, you just have to find them–and then, if you are like me, you take pictures of them.

Have a happy Thursday. The weekend is near.

 

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The Magic of Impermanence

09/04/13

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{Latest sketchbook entry}

It was Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh who once said, “Thanks to impermanence, everything is possible.”  Many years ago, I had this quote taped above my desk at my job, and I’d sort of forgotten about it until recently. Last week it felt like everything was going wrong. Of course, I’m exaggerating here. Really, only one big thing was going wrong and maybe several small things. Maybe you are like this too, but even when my problems are relatively small, it is so easy to fall into the pit of everything is horrible and also if only things would go this other way instead and spending time planning how can I change my life so that nothing horrible ever happens to me again? 

Lately I have come back to the idea of impermanence as a source of comfort: that nothing, nothing ever stays the same. While there may have been a time in my life with the idea of change made me uncomfortable, it’s become the thing, of late, that helps me to breathe. When I’m stuck in a cycle of feeling upset about something, I remind myself, “This is not forever.” No feeling or situation, no matter how awful, lasts forever. Things shift and change, and most of the time, they work out just fine (remember this?).

When I reflect on impermanence, it also helps me to remember to stay engaged. It’s so easy for me to get caught up the in struggle, which leads to distraction, which sometimes leads to missing out on the good and beautiful stuff in my life. It’s not always easy, but this idea of remembering that every moment is special because it will never happen again helps me to enjoy the here and now more — even when (or especially when) I’m buried in work or angry because someone is being a jerk.

For the record, the stuff that I was fretting about last week? Yep, it all worked out. This week I’m on to new worries. Time to remember that they will pass, too.

Have a great Wednesday, friends.

 

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