Miss Me

Quest2016‘s prompt number six brought on some serious deja vu. Which turns out to be a good thing. It’s interesting to see how things can change over the course of a year.

Miss You

Visionary: Seth Godin

Your Quest2016 Prompt today:

Would they miss you if you were gone?

What would have to change for that question to lead to a better answer?

Last year, Seth Godin asked us a remarkably similar question: Who would miss you when you’re gone? That question had a much stronger feel of finality for me, than the “if” in the new prompt. Last year’s question felt and still feels like it’s talking about after you die (you can read my response here). Perhaps it’s a year’s worth of shifting perspective, but the new question brought to mind not death, but distance.

In a sense, I’ve already been “gone”–from the place I grew up, from my family, from most of my friends–for almost five years now. And as to whether they miss me, I know they do because they’ve told me so. And I believe them because of how much I miss them. Because leaving, as healthy and liberating as it’s been for me, tore a small hole in my heart. And while that small hole was filled, at least for a little while, by a new love, I realize now, that love was just a bandage that hid it from view and that the hole had continued to grow a little each day. And when the bandage was torn off? That small hole grew to a gaping wound. And because distance begets distance it was too hard to reach across the miles, or even across the flagstones.

While being absent from their lives has been hard, it wasn’t the hardest part. Because it wasn’t just them I abandoned, or my new friends in my new town. This past year I also abandoned myself–my work, my joy, my art, my life. And I realize now, that before I can change anything about who might be missing whom, I have to start by getting myself back.

Wish I Was Here

So in the coming year, I will start with myself. With my art. With digging in and reaching out. With rebuilding, reconnecting, reassessing who I am, how I am, what I am, with who I am, and where I am and want to be in this world. In fact I’ve already started. Because the thing about that distance, is that while it may be too hard for me to reach across on my own, it’s not too far for two arms to span when reaching from our separate sides toward each other.

#missyou #missme

Daydream Believer

I’ll be honest, in some ways I feel like a lot of these Quest prompts are simply reframing the same question using slightly different words (and sometimes using the same words). And yet, I find myself having to acknowledge that sometimes the subtlest shift is all that’s needed to break the whole thing open.

Take yesterday’s prompt for example. When I first read it, all I saw was “business as unusual”–the same words that tripped me up two prompts ago. But this time, after letting the sentence steep for a day, I pushed those somehow halting words aside and focused on the part of the question I could find a way into.


Visionary: Scott Barry Kaufman

Your Quest2016 Prompt today:

What recurring daydream for 2016 inspires you to do business as unusual like never before?

Recurring daydreams… yes, that’s entryway. As I try not to trip over “for 2016” which may make this room too shallow to hold them. These dreams will require a space at least as big as Carlsbad Caverns’ Big Room…

Cave Goddess
The Goddess of the cave agrees.


It begins with a longing for twining vines, with broad heart-shaped leaves. Perhaps I have been too long in the desert, because this lush tangle of opulent  fecundity greets me every time I close my eyes against the dust colored walls, the blinding cerulean sky, the hot white sun than still burns even as  its angle to this part of the world diminishes.

In the verdant world behind closed lids, my felt wall holds a fabric wasteland with words stitched over its every pale color of absence. Yet in the foreground the colors start to change. The earth takes on a richer shade. Soon green begins to appear at the margins. Each day new growing things begin to sprout and curl, inching in, slowly at first, then with increasing urgency and abandon–reclaiming that barren place as their own.

On a table across the narrow alcove, tree-plundered pages describe a young prince wandering through a medieval forest thick with underbrush. He catches the sharp scent of wood smoke and moves toward it. Not far in the distance a grail-shaped girl, sensing his approach, backs away from her fire trying her best to disappear into the trees hoping to avoid his wanting gaze. Still, despite her efforts, in a few moments he will materialize from the shadow of the twilight woods and find her.

And somewhere in the distance, perhaps beyond the passing of this coming year, there is a cottage just far enough from the bustling world to remain unseen from the nearby roads. It is the garden that hides it. The garden dripping with dark falls of newly ripe currants, with its carpet of wintergreen and thyme, with its climbing, obscuring vines–honeysuckle and boysenberry, hops and scarlet runner beans. It keeps itself hidden, waiting for a woman with butterscotch hair to find the key that fits its single lock. For her to open the door and sleep within its polished walls. To take its green into her bones, finally finding the magic that heals her. That heals them both.


I have already begun culling my possessions and preparing for a journey. Carefully calculating what I can carry. Scouring the dusty shelves of dim shops for treasure maps and magic beans and a compass aligned with a subtler force than magnetic north. A force that knows, while home may already be inside me, there is a place where that seed will blossom more radiantly, more powerfully than in this parched place  where I currently live (both without and within)–and it may be closer than I imagine. #daydream

  • The quilt/s
  • The story
  • The journey (with journal and camera at the ready)
  • The garden and its reclaiming


Read more from some of my fellow Questers:

And there are so many more inspiring answers that have only been shared in the private Quest Facebook group. It’s not too late to Join the Quest.

Towels and Treasure Maps

Sometimes I can be a little thick in the head. It turns out that this year, Quest focuses on a different theme each week. Week one was Get Clear with Yourself. At the end of the week we were invited to take a look at our answers and see if a pattern might be emerging.

Portal of Possibility
Portal of Possibility

And so I took Jeffrey Davis’ advice and sketched out my favorite piece of geometry–a Venn Diagram–and distilled my answers to a set of words that could fit in each circle to see where they might overlap. And I found three words in common:

  • Experiment
  • Art (which includes all creative endeavors, including writing, of course)
  • People

But it also left out two other very important items that have arisen repeatedly lately:

  • Travel
  • Home (which also includes health because body, building, planet… they are all essentially the same thing)

So even though the great and mighty Venn seems to have failed me here, I’m going to just go ahead and add them to the mix.

This week the theme shifts to Imagine Your Future While Being Wholly Present and with that we move from the arena of wild dreams to detailed envisioning. And our first prompt:

Future Self

Visionary: Tina Seelig

Your Quest2016 Prompt today:

What advice would your future self a year from now give you today?

Apparently my future self is pretty outspoken because in addition to the five pages of writing which I have distilled down to the bullet list below:

  • Sometimes it’s not the thing that seems like the perfect fit, but the thing you’ve been running from, that gives you what you need
  • Do not let this life/world tame you, the color of the wheat fields may be beautiful but there is a sadness in them that you don’t need to carry around anymore–put it down
  • Dare to under-schedule–make space in your day and in your rooms
  • Keep your house clean and your body well rested
  • Get out of your head, out of your house, and into the bigger world
  • Make big messes–ones that need at least three beach towels to clean up
  • Do one small thing every day to move you closer to your dream–you don’t have to wait until you own property to start building your dream home
  • Make something just for yourself, and go big–really BIG; fill the whole wall if you can, try to fit in everything you love, everything you want to learn, but leave out anything that might hold you back–this is not a memorial, it’s a treasure map to your freedom
  • And for God’s sake, stop referring to yourself as a girl–you’re a woman, own it

She also told me that when it comes to wild dreams, mine aren’t nearly wild enough. She may be right. #futureself #3towelyear #treasuremap #iamwoman #wild #synthesis

And on that note, here are some wonderful other responses to the prompt.

No Failure

Today’s new Quest 2016 prompt arrived in my inbox this morning, but like yesterday I snuck a peek at it last night. I am enjoying letting it percolate overnight as I sleep.

No Failure

Visionary: Debbie Millman

Your Quest2016 Prompt today:

How would you do business as unusual in 2016 if you knew – no matter what you chose – you would not fail?

And once again, though I wrote pages on the topic in my journal upon waking–more long lists of everything I would try, the answer changed during the time I got out of bed and when I arrived home after a more than 9 hour work day followed by errands to the grocery store and the bank. Because here’s the thing: For me, the only sure way to fail, regardless of our visionary’s promise, is to keep trying to do so many different things all at once…unless… (and this is an unless that I’ve been thinking about since at least last year’s quest)…

…unless I can find a way to combine them.

As it turns out, there is only one way to figure out how to transform the scattered  joys of my desiring into a cohesive whole, and that one way, is ( drumroll please)… trial and error. And that means there will be failures. Glorious, hilarious, heartbreaking failures. There have to be. Which means you can’t wave your hand and take them away from me.

And while we’re at it, in the year of percolation and experimentation that 2016 is fixing to become, the word business also has no business there–unless you’re talking about monkey business.  I will, however, take your unusual and raise you an ebullient, a sometimes slogging through quicksand, a pair of epiphanies and a very valuable Tracking Wonder for good measure.

And since my year of sequestered retreat from the world didn’t do much for my creativity–teaching me once again that great art abhors a vacuum–I have a four step plan for inviting failure to my house to play:

  1. Experiment wildly with my art in all its myriads of form and media
  2. Expand my horizons with travel (even if it’s just to go to the local coffee shop to write instead of hiding in my casita)
  3. Explore new sources of  inspiration–including the kind provided by spending time with interesting creative people
  4. Expose more of my work, my process, and myself to the world (yes, I went there)

So, I will do business as unusual by turning my office into a mad scientists lab, by forming an expedition to locate and embrace other members of my tribe (can we all just meet somewhere in the middle one of these days, please?), and by getting out of my head and back into the world. Which I’m pretty sure is a recipe that cannot fail. #nofailure

And one last thing, because all those unlesses have been rattling through my head and ricocheting around this singular quote from one of my absolutely most formative books.


This year, caring will look less like lecture and more like play.

What Are We Questing For?

December snuck up on me this year, leaving me spinning. What happened to November, to October, to June? I have lost time. Eight months at least. But here it is Quest-ing time again–a chance to begin again (in a golden land of opportunity and adventure).

But unlike that promise of a better life on some off-world colony, in this journey we won’t be given a handy potion to help us sleep through the trip. We’re going to have to get our hands dirty–to dig, to climb, to build and row our own lifeboats, to sleep where there is no shelter despite the falling snow.

Last year’s Quest was full of optimism and plans, and big, bold ideas for 2015, but the year hasn’t quite worked out that way. Life got in the way. Health got in the way. Money (or more precisely, lack thereof) got in the way. My own head got in the way. Then along came Quest 2016 and it seemed the perfect way to get back on track. Back to the big ideas I’d abandoned this year. And I have to say, being re-immersed in the embrace of this amazing group is invigorating. And I knew the answer to Prompt 1 as soon as I read it (at least the general idea of it).

Tell Yourself

Visionary: Susan Piver

Your Quest2016 Prompt today:

What I most need to tell myself about 2016 is…

What do I most need to tell myself in 2016? That I don’t have to put all this pressure on myself to know what exactly I am trying to build or where exactly I am trying to get to. That it’s okay to gather supplies, hone skills, let ideas percolate before I fly into action. Because I have been paralyzing myself trying to force the unformed to match my will, instead of allowing it to grow organically and reveal its true shape. And I know from experience that my best work has arisen at its own insistence and not at mine, and that somewhere at the center of the Venn diagram that maps the things that matter most to me there is alchemy afoot. Alchemy that has its own agenda. My job will be to give it what it needs. To feed this glorious, becoming beast instead of trying to cage it. ‪#‎TellYourself‬

And then came Prompt 2…

What’s Knocking

Visionary: Jonathan Fields

Your Quest2016 Prompt today:

You wake up to discover a knock at your door. A wealthy uncle you barely knew has passed and left you a fortune. It’s more than enough to live out your days in glorious splendor, but there is a condition. To be eligible to collect, you must commit your full-time working energies to the pursuit of an answer to a single question of your choosing for the next 12 months.

You are welcome to continue that pursuit after the year ends, for years or decades if it warrants, but you must remain fully focused on seeking the answer until the last minute of the 365th day. A minute shorter, the entire inheritance goes to your annoying and equally long lost cousin, Philly.

What is your question?

Because this prompt was posted sometime in the wee hours Eastern Daylight Time and I am a bit of an insomniac, I read it last night before I went to bed, so when I woke up, I was ready to dive in. Especially since I had already written a question on a similar topic (but without the money trope) for another group I belong to. That question asked:

What might happen if I approached art as a practice and let my true work arise instead of trying to force or control it?

Because my best work has always been a direct response to events in the lives of the people I care about, I figured responding to events in the world shouldn’t be any harder.

So I wrote some more, made lists of what matters to me and what types of expression appeal to me, and churned it all around until I came up with several versions of a related question that mentioned things like “finding the art within me,” and “inspiring a more beautiful and connected life and world,” and “unique, meaningful, and impactful art,” and then I had to go to work so I left it with the intention to come home, polish it up, and post it and that would be that so bring on Prompt 3!

Except that’s not what happened. Because it wasn’t right. It was missing the most important ingredient: the people I care about.

That’s the funny thing about dropping out of your life for a year–when you finally decide to crawl out of the hole you’ve been hibernating in, it might not still be there. Or it might, but seeing it with fresh eyes, you may find that it wasn’t really what you thought.

So I can sit here typing, telling you about my grand dreams and how this is the year I will finally get my act together and write that book, or publish that poetry collection, or make those quilts, but it wouldn’t be honest. Because the truth is, at this point, there are very few things I know are true, but one of them is:

If I had only one year left to live I wouldn’t spend it sitting alone in my room writing or sewing or worrying about how to change the world. I would spend every moment I could being with the people I love (ideally somewhere exotic and breathtakingly beautiful)..

So, where does that leave my question?

How can I reshape my life to better connect with the people who are most important to me?


Because without them, at least for me, the “work” doesn’t mean much.



One GardenOnce upon a time I had a dream of lush, sustainable, edible gardens. I dreamed about helping to build resilient communities by teaching others how to grow food no matter the size of your yard, or even if you didn’t have a yard. That dream was called OneGarden, and it was filled with projects, plant information, sustainable gardening tips, and more.

It would be easy to say I have new dreams now, but it would probably be more accurate to say my dreams have evolved. It takes more than a garden to build resilience in our lives and our communities. And the gardens we do cultivate are at the mercy of our increasingly erratic climate. Still, they hold an import place in building a resilient life–along with self-care, art, story, mindful living, and making a difference in the world at large. So rather than simply let all that juicy content disappear into the ether when the OneGardenOnline domain expires at the end of this week, I have opted for integration. Each of us is, after all, the result of our combined experiences, interests, passions, loves. And this gardening bug has been with me since grade school or before, when I used to save my pennies to buy whatever 2″ potted plants caught my fancy, creating a jungle in my half of the shared bedroom.

With the new content, you will notice a few new categories, a handful (maybe two) of new tags, and a flurry of new/old posts from the years before this site was built. Consider it a missing piece of the puzzle that, now found, clarifies just a little more of the bigger picture. And soon more missing puzzle pieces will be added. Quilts of Change has also been brought over, but there are a few others out there waiting to make the journey home. I will do my best to make any disruption to the site as painless as possible.


Special thanks to Christine U’Ren who designed the lovely OneGarden masthead. I will be sad to see it retired.

Claiming My Story

Another inspiring, insightful, and game changing Tracking Wonder-fueled challenge is winding to its end, which means it’s time to pull together all of the twisted threads and see what the tapestry’s weaving reveals.

#DaretoExcel Challenge #15:

Claim your story and howl-out.

What is the greater-than-you Story? Maybe there’s a word or phrase that helps you start to shape and define what that Story is that you are only a part of but starting to shape and lead.

Don’t shy away from that Story’s magnitude and magnificence. When you lead, you cannot hide behind anyone else. Dare to go toward it. As far as I know, this is it, baby – this one brief creative life. Let’s make the most of it. Together.

Bonus howl-out: Look back again on these past 30 days. How are you being called to think, feel, imagine, create, and act in different ways this year as a result of your daring to excel this month?  How are you engaging and relating if not elevating people differently this year as a result of your daring to excel this month? How are you starting to feel free to be your best again?

That greater-than-me Story has revealed itself through my book in progress Three Threads, and in my burning question:

What if the Story is wrong?

Not this Story, of course, not the greater-than-me Story… I’m talking about the lower-case, small story that taught me that it’s the people with the power that make the difference, that my role is to keep them strong so they can do their important work–no matter what weakness that creates in me.

It’s Time to Rewrite the Story

To prune its twisted, misshapen branches back to its strongest most ancient roots–where its true power resides. To clear away the brambles that choke its growth, and block its sun. That suck up all the most valuable resources–nutrients, water, air–starving it of what it most needs and leaving only poisons behind.

And suddenly I’m no longer talking about some relatively small medieval myth and the half-truths it whispered to me. Suddenly myth meets struggling life and suffering world and all three are blown open.

And with those words as a rallying point, here are my answers to the bonus questions:

  1. How are you being called to think, feel, imagine, create, and act in different ways this year as a result of your daring to excel this month?  With the unexpected discovery of my #OneTrueProject, the avalanche of “wouldn’t-it-be-fun” projects have begun to fall away, and the larger picture has begun to sharpen into focus. I feel like I have finally found the still-point around which everything else revolves. Writing, sewing, poetry, my beloved Apocalypse Garden have revealed themselves as the spokes of a larger wheel, not the wheel themselves. They provide the structure that keeps it strong enough to turn.
  2. How are you engaging and relating if not elevating people differently this year as a result of your daring to excel this month? I have learned during the course of this dare, (probably over and over again), that art cannot be born in a vacuum. That all work is the synthesis of a million tiny pieces, often gathered over a lifetime. That one sentence in a stray conversation with a stranger can be the spark that lights everything up. And so, I have been sharing more and more of other people’s work, especially work that sparks for me, because who knows what it might spark in or for others. I am also opening myself more to collaboration and connection. I’ve always resisted asking for help–preferring to be the one that offers rather than receives. But events of this month have changed my mind. I am learning that we, none of us, can do it alone. That together greater things can be born. Things will fully formed wings and talons to fight off the naysayers. So I have been sharing more. And asking more. And inviting more. And I will work to make all three part of my regular practice.
  3. How are you starting to feel free to be your best again? For the first time, I am beginning to feel like my disparate interests, training, experiences are no longer fighting for my attention. I no longer feel pulled in a thousand different directions, torn apart by shearing forces, or lashed like some Gulliver to a miniature beach with a thousand narrow threads that together are too strong to break through. Instead all the different things that have built me are working together, feeding each other.  I feel whole or closer to whole than I remember ever feeling. And with that, with its related new-found focus, I feel like I can finally bring the best of me to the project, undiluted with distractions, and the ever present lure of each shiny new thing that passes by.


DIT beats DIY

One of the most amazing things about the Quest and Dare to Excel challenges have been the people I’ve connected with. People whose words and work inspire and amaze me. People who have expanded my way of thinking and broadened my horizons. But this whole journey has also re-opened my eyes to the likewise impressive people doing great work outside of the current quest.

#DaretoExcel Challenge- 14:

Champion someone else’s work in public. Identify someone whose work you believe in and want to acknowledge specifically and genuinely in public online.

That someone may be a colleague you’ve connected with in our forum. It might be a team member. It might be one of your customers, clients, or participants who has done heroic work in line with what you and your brand Story are all about.

It might even be a perceived competitor – someone who shares members of your audience.

Here are ways you might champion them:

  • In a blog article or LinkedIn article, mention them and link back to their work.
  • Share their work on your Facebook Wall or Twitter feed with a recommendation.

Do It Together. It’s exponentially more fun and effective. And it’s business as unusual

I’ve mentioned many of the names listed below on this blog before. I’ve also shared them on Facebook, both on my timeline and in groups I belong to, and mentioned their work in many conversations. But for those of you who don’t want to dig back through months of posts to find them, here is a handy reference list. My life and work has evolved in a truer direction due in part to their presence in our shared quest to embrace our truest work and walk what could otherwise be a lonely path.

  • Saundra Goldman, whose Creative Mix: Art & Life, Optimally Blended is dedicated to just this idea–elevating the work of creative women with the hope that it will help inspire us to hear and heed our own callings; be sure to check out her Continuous Practice challenge
  • Brenna Layne, whose writing is filled with unique and beautiful images, ideas, and insights, and who also embodies the very essence of this particular dare in her dedicated and vocal championing of others’ work; I would love to live in one of her stories…
  • Marisa Goudy, whose thoughts on entrepreneurship and writing, have inspired me to rethink my own ideas on these topics
  • Tracee Vetting Wolf, whose work doesn’t stop with her art, it dives deep into the realm of creativity itself, and even works to open us up to creative collaboration
  • Vanessa Herald, whose #365 Quote project is chock-full of inspiring words, art, and all-around wonderfulness
  • Lora Jansson, whose brave and wonderful spirit is dedicated to the interconnectedness of all, and to healing our world through shamanic practice; her work with animals is particularly heroic

And of course:

There are, of course, many more, and you will see them, too, as I continue to share the work that inspires me, on this blog, on social media, and in person.

Design to Delight

#DareToExcel Challenge- 13:

We live in an experience economy. Your customers and audiences don’t want products and services. They want experiences. Leaders who live with integrity and artistry build businesses that deliver on delightful experiences – regardless of what product or service they sell.

Define and act upon one way you can design to delight your audience or customers within the next two days.

My book is still in its beginning phase. There is nothing yet to read or see… But, wait, that’s not actually entirely true. In fact, I’ve already shared a piece of story-inspired collage art in my previous post that has already delighted one of my readers. So, inspired by that and by a conversation with fellow quester Brenna Layne, I will create a page on my site featuring this image (and others I create along the way) as well as a reading list, and perhaps other related references, resources, videos, whatever I can find to help keep me and my potential future readers excited about the project. And I already have other extension projects in mind–quilts, poems, maybe even an opening signing at a gallery filled with this related work… so many possibilities!

And while we’re on the topic of delight, I think this year I’ll send holiday cards to the people who have bought my quilts. It doesn’t take grand gestures to create a little delight in the lives of those who support us.

Signature Style

It’s funny, I’ve been thinking a lot about style lately, especially with regards to clothes. What we wear can be one of the most initially impactful ways we have to show people who we are, but for the most part, what I wear these days has little connection to who I feel I am inside. I’ve always wanted “my outside to match my insides”–a phrase I’ve often repeated like some kind of mantra.

But this dare really takes it to the next level. Because, of course, Style isn’t just about what you wear. It’s how you move, how you live, what you love. It’s your voice, your values, your “essence” as Jeffrey Davis puts it. So what’s my signature style of excellence?

#DareToExcel Challenge – 12:

Examine this one small project through the lens of your signature style of excellence. Here are three queries to help you consider one way to make this project – its focus, its execution, its impact – possess your signature imprint.

Make notes about or illustrate and share responses to these queries:

  1. Genius: How can you bring forward your young genius to your audience or customers – the beneficiaries of your project?
  2. Integrity: What core value – something you care deeply about – is coming forward through this project? Does this project reflect how you act and live and what you believe in?
  3. Distinction: What about this project – its scale, its mood, its scope, its depth, its joy – will make this project yours versus someone else in your field?

Genius: I almost couldn’t remember the #YoungGeniusQualities I wrote about. I had to look them up.

  • Vibrant
  • Resilient
  • Free

When I wrote them down I was surprised by my answer because they hadn’t been very present in my life in a long time. But actually, that’s not true. I can think of a very specific and recent time that they were not only present, they were taking the lead. That time began in April 2013, when I fell in love. He was the first person I completely trusted with all of my heart and ours was the first relationship, possibly the first anything, where I allowed myself to be all-in. It was intoxicating, invigorating, liberating. Until a couple of months ago when we split up, and suddenly those three qualities become the hardest to things to imagine could ever apply to me. Except that here’s the thing. It was the loss of that relationship, and the facing of patterns that I have repeated since I was four years old and lost the first great love of my life, my grandfather, that delivered the story to me. And if I’m going to deliver it to others, I am going to need to be all-in, the way I was while in love. But I’m also going to need what I learned, what I re-learn every time, after that first big loss:

  • To turn inward
  • To return to my roots
  • To reclaim and own my power and my responsibility for myself and to the world
  • To rebuild

Integrity: So what is the core value that this story reveals? Resilience. And not just the resilience of strength and youth. The resilience of someone who has experienced deep and even crippling loss and has continued to get back up, to love, and perhaps even trust again. The resilience of someone who has learned over and over again that shutting down is not the answer, because even though it stops the pain in the short term, it always catches up with you, and when it does, it’s much, much stronger and harder to overcome. The resilience of someone whose mantra in the face of loss, death, trauma, grief, is “I have to do something.” Even better if that something can help more than just me.

GrailDistinction: The main through-line of my book will be a story from medieval legend that has shaped my life and the way I see my role in the world. A story that I now believe is wrong. What I bring to this project:

  • My history with this story and the destructive relationship patterns bred by it that I now recognize in my own life
  • My desire to reveal this story’s untold perspective–that of the “absent” woman
  • My personal process of rewriting the story
  • The interwoven paths of memory, history, mythology, and social action that make up my quest to reclaim a potent feminine symbol and use it to help heal myself, ourselves, and our world