31 Lessons I’ve Learned in 31 Years

Full Moon at Laguna de Apoyo, Nicaragua 2014I’m not sure that I’m ready to turn 31 on Saturday, simply because the past year has been the best year of my life and I don’t see how I could possibly top it. But the best is yet to come, right? I feel like I am just starting to hit my stride and figure things out in life. I guess I’m a late bloomer. I’m also just kinda glad that my 20s are over.

This year on my birthday, I will be performing with friends from Mendocino Moonlight Flow Arts at Noyo Food Forest‘s Earth Day Festival at the Learning Garden at the Fort Bragg high school (we’re on at 2:30). NFF is a great local organization and if you get there early, you might be able to snag some goodies at their plant sale. The day before, we’ll be celebrating with a few friends at B. Bryan Preserve, a local wildlife preserve that houses giraffes, antelopes, and most importantly ZEBRAS in big open tracts of land in nearby Point Arena. If you know me at all, you know that I love zebra print and zebras are my power animal. So to say that I’m excited to see the zebras is a bit of an understatement!

The older I get, the faster time goes, and the more I seem to learn from everyday life. I may have forgotten most of high school chemistry and at least half those art history facts I had to memorize in college, but I’ve picked up a few hard-earned life lessons in my 31 years. So in no particular order, here are 31 things I’ve learned that are worth passing on:

  1. Don’t wrap your life too tightly around any one person or thing — no one holds the reigns to your life except you. You create your own reality. Don’t be in the passenger seat of your own life — drive it like it’s hot!
  2. In general, people are good-hearted, and if you treat them based upon this assumption, you’ll find that more often than not, it’s true. Be careful and observant, but don’t be so guarded that you close yourself off to new people and experiences.
  3. Seek balance. Happiness comes naturally when you and your life are in a state of balance. Balance work and play, balance your time among passions and people, balance your own needs with those of your loved ones and the world. Seek the middle path between the extremes.
  4. The only constant is change. It is the ONLY thing in life you can count on happening for sure.
  5. You are not entitled to anything in life, so don’t expect anything to be easy or free and assume nothing. Anything you are given is a gift. Be grateful for everything you have, for many others have much less. Express gratitude often.
  6. We do not forget how to play because we grow old, we grow old because we forget how to play. Free, joyous, expressive play is essential to keeping childlike wonder in your life. You are never too old to play! This is why flow arts are so awesome.
  7. Every person you meet is a window to another world. You expand your own world by opening your heart to others.
  8. There is nothing more sacred than life. Every living being has a presence, value, and a voice. We might not be able to hear it, but if we try hard enough, we can feel it. All life is connected in one symbiotic web.
  9. We are all in this together. Cooperate and communicate. We’ll get a lot further working together than by focusing on what divides us and working against each other.
  10. Humans are not separate from nature. We are nature. The further we remove ourselves from it, the further we get from our true selves and the more sick our society becomes. The more we try to understand the cosmos, live in harmony with nature’s rhythms and work with nature instead of against it, the more sustainable and happy our lives will be.
  11. All of the answers, and all of the questions, are within each of us. The essential truths do not need to be dictated to us from authority figures, dogma, politics, religion, society, or other people. Truth can be found by simply being, silently focusing, and looking within. Your truth is your own, all you have to do is seek it out.
  12. Listen to your heart. Use your head, too, but let your heart guide you on what really matters.
  13. Music and movement are magic, medicine, meditation, and essential to a happy healthy life. Support live music and get out and dance as often as you can. Never be afraid to sing your song, shake your booty or find your flow!
  14. Whatever you daydream about doing while sitting around bored at work or school, whatever you feel driven to be involved in, whatever feeds your soul and gives you an outlet for your passions, talents, and energy — do that. That is your calling. Try to find a way to make it your living.
  15. Help others every chance you get. You will never regret lending a hand to others and there are SO MANY worthy causes that need  help. Be a giver, even if all you have to give is your time.
  16. You are not a plant. You might have roots, but you don’t have to stay where you are planted. Explore. Travel. Engage with the world. Get out, get away, even if it’s just a hike in a local park. The further you go and the more you travel, the more you connect with others, broaden your frame of reference, and expand your world. You’ll also realize just how connected we are to everything and everyone, and how precious this amazing planet we call home really is.
  17. Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants. 
  18. Work to live but don’t live to work. Life is not all about making money. Make time to relax, play, explore, and learn, too. Don’t let work stress poison your life or health. Don’t let money rule your life and don’t let what you own end up owning you.
  19. Never stop learning. There is always more to learn and discover. Never stop growing either. Always be working on yourself and trying to be a better person.
  20. Don’t compare yourself to other people. Each of us is on our own path and it does us no good to compare ours with another’s. The only person worth comparing yourself to is the person you were yesterday. Comparison leads to jealousy, division, and hate. Ain’t nobody got time for that shit!
  21. Push yourself to try new things. Even if they scare you a little.
  22. Keep your word. Follow through with the commitments you make with people and only make commitments you can keep.
  23. Don’t be a hater. You don’t know everyone’s story and judging someone or something only closes you off to the lessons they could teach you. Bringing others down only brings you down with them. Others are simply a mirror and what we see in them if often a reflection of ourselves. Lift others up instead.
  24. Your perspective is important. Change the way you look at the world and you change your world entirely.
  25. What you focus on and give energy to grows. If you’re constantly focusing on what’s wrong, negativity, complaints and problems, more of those things will manifest in your life. If you focus instead on positive things, the silver linings in every situation, the good in life and what you’re grateful for, you’ll get more of that in your life.
  26. Let go. If something or someone is no longer serving your life, let it go. Let go of expectations and approach everything with an open mind. The more tightly you try to hold on to something, the more easily it will slip through your fingers.
  27. Love yourself and tell yourself so often. Take good care of yourself and listen to your body. Don’t be afraid to be alone. Know that you are enough and don’t be so hard on yourself. Watch the words you use to describe yourself, even in your thoughts. Words have power. Use them wisely.
  28. Shit happens. To everyone, at some point. Breathe, let it go, and trust that you’ll get through it when it does. You wouldn’t appreciate the good times as much without the bad. You got this! And if you don’t, lean on your friends when you need them. A good support network is priceless.
  29. There is no such thing as normal and you should never ever try to be it or live up to anyone else’s standards but your own if you want to be truly happy and free. FUCK NORMAL.
  30. Happiness is a choice and a practice. It’s all a matter of where you direct your energy and focus and your attitude.
  31. Love is the most powerful force in the universe. Treasure it, give it, receive it, be it, live it and you can’t help but be happy and fulfilled. Love is all we need. Be love! <3

Sacred Shape: A Work in Progress

Sacred Shape Web Site Screen ShotWeb design is a fast-paced field that I have a hard time keeping up with, but the fact that I have to stay up to date on my skills or risk being rendered obsolete by changing technology certainly keeps me on my toes! I have been reading and learning about WordPress for the past couple of years and was looking for a way to put what I had learned so far into practice. I learn best by doing anyway, and fake projects for tutorials are great and all, but what’s even better is finding a patient friend who needs a web site and has a limited budget but plenty of flexibility to allow me to learn as I built them a site.

Enter my good friend Kelsie of Sacred Shape Hula Hoops.

Kelsie and I fell in love with hooping together during several years of hoop groups on the bluffs overlooking Mendocino village and Big River Beach. She taught me a good chunk of my trick vocabulary and a few years ago she started making hoops. Kelsie is a jeweler, excellent chef, organic gardener, creative crafty type and very good with her hands. So of course once she sets out to make hoops, she makes gorgeous, high quality, handcrafted hoops with love! Over the years she has tried all different kinds of tubings, tapes, connectors, fire hoop wicks, sizes, and variations to find what works and looks best, and I’ve been happy to help try out all the different hoops along the way. We came up with a logo concept for the business that blossomed out of her hoop-making craft, Sacred Shape, and I designed her identity and business cards.

Sacred Shape IdentityKelsie sold hoops at a few small festivals and local events, began wholesaling hoops with the local FedEx stores, taught workshops and did a few performances with me, but soon she wanted to grow her business into something that could bring her more sustainable income. She had a friend offer to build her site but then stall for years without the project ever coming to fruition, so I offered to give it a try. We worked out a deal that allowed me time to learn the platform as I went and included partial payment in hoops. A hooper can never have too many hoops!

I knew I wanted to use WordPress for Sacred Shape’s site because it allows the control of having a site on your own servers, the freedom to completely customize the site while still running it with a WP backend, and once it was set up with a custom theme design, Kelsie could easily use WordPress as a CMS to update her site without having to know code or ask me to make endless updates. WordPress has a solid community of developers behind it and is the most widely used Content Management System, as well as being open source, updated constantly, and easy to use. But I also had to choose a plugin that would securely handle the e-commerce side of the site. After a bit of research, I decided to install WooCommerce, a free, expandible plugin that processes transactions, handles the shopping cart functionality, and does all the nerdy number crunching that’s over my head.

Building the site took about a year of planning, meetings, taking and gathering and preparing product and hooping photos, writing and editing content, learning WordPress and WooCommerce and just enough php to make them work (thank you Lynda.com), finding green web hosting, installing and configuring WordPress, designing a custom child theme to deck out the site with sacred geometry colorful fabulousness just like Kelsie’s hoops, and entering countless product details, descriptions, photos, prices, parameters, shipping costs, etc. etc. as I learned how to configure WooCommerce largely by trial and error. It was quite the long process, especially since we’re both so busy with other work! But the result is the first e-commerce site I’ve designed by myself and  the first WordPress custom child theme I’ve ever created, and it came out so pretty that I think it was worth the wait.

Sacred Shape Web Site Screen Shot 2

We launched the site at the end of September 2013 and threw a big launch party to celebrate. Kelsie and I practiced choreography for weeks and put together a fire show with friends. We had music, food and drinks, raffle prizes, and of course, lots of hooplah! Kelsie pulled together a lot of awesome people and put on an amazing event. Never has a site I’ve created been launched with such gusto!

Of course, launching a web site is just the beginning of the adventure. Creating and updating it with fresh content to keep people interested, fine tuning the site’s design and code, constantly updating the site and looking for ways to improve it, keeping track of stats and improving SEO are all ongoing. I showed Kelsie how to make updates, post blog posts, add images, and edit and add products and we’re both constantly learning more and updating the site. This project has most definitely been a labor of love.

Kelsie and I were friends before we ever worked together, so I’m sure that helped this project go smoothly, but our business relationship is exactly the type of connection with my clients that I crave for every freelance project I take on. I love being involved with a client’s business from the beginning and helping them express what they are all about through my designs. Especially if I’m involved early on in the creation of the business, I feel like a trusted and essential part of the team and I care about the success of the client’s business as if it were my own. It’s very rewarding being a part of the entire creative process and working with a business over the long term, carrying creative concepts through various mediums and campaigns. As a jack of all trades type designer, I love the variety of working on logos, print materials, web sites, graphics, banners, and all kinds of media, especially combined with the stability of steady work from a client over time. Building long-term symbiotic relationships with clients is what I strive for with every project, which is why I select them carefully and focus on a limited number at a time. After this project, it’s obvious that Kelsie and I make a good team whether we’re hooping or just trying to sell her hoops.

Launching Sacred Shape has inspired me to keep learning as much as I can about WordPress and keep experimenting with it. I finally archived my own site that I had designed in 2005 and replaced it with a clean install of WordPress with a plain, default theme. I have big plans to build a custom child theme and try out new things here as I learn more, but of course my own site is always on the back burner since I design for others to pay the bills.

Projects like Sacred Shape that combine my various passions are always a joy to work on. I hope that Kelsie’s web site will help spread the love of hooping and flow arts far and wide. Flow arts have played a very special role in my life and I love helping my friends go for their dreams, so this project was the perfect combination flow, friends, and lots of fun! Now, everyone go order hoops from Sacred Shape! They are amazing and I’ve been hooping with them for years, plus you’ll be helping a very deserving small business blossom and doing yourself lots of good, too!

My Work with Moscow Hempfest

Moscow Hempfest 2014 Poster

Today up in Moscow, Idaho, where I lived for six years and attended college, there’s something slightly revolutionary going on, for Idaho at least, and it’s been going on for 18 years now: the Moscow Hemp Fest. This day of live music, local artisans, food, tie dye, and of course, hemp advocacy and education, happens in the middle of the small city’s main park. It has been over six years since I left Idaho, but I’ve had the pleasure of keeping some roots there by designing the posters and t-shirts for Hemp Fest each year.

I went to Hemp Fest while at University of Idaho, and first got the opportunity to design the poster and t-shirts in 2006. Almost every year since, I have created posters, flyers, and t-shirt graphics for the event, collaborating with Arlene Falcon, the colorful organizer of Hemp Fest and owner of Tye Dye Everthing.

You would think I would get tired of designing with pot leaves year after year, but it’s actually one of the projects I most look forward to each spring. Hemp is a versatile plant with so many various uses and benefits to humankind, so naturally I have endless inspiration for design concepts. And until it’s legal, Moscow Hemp Fest will keep fighting the good fight in a very red state surrounded by medical and now legal cannabis states (which we made painfully obvious with this year’s poster design). We usually try to think of a theme for each year and over the years there have been some pretty great concepts.

My first Hemp Fest poster was in 2006. Hemp Fest was on Earth Day, so my very simple retro design used the recycling symbol, Earth, and of course, lots of leaves!
Hemp Fest 2006 Poster Hemp Fest 2006 T-Shirt
And speaking of retro, one of my favorite designs was created in homage to the Woodstock poster for Hemp Fest 2009, on the 40th year since the festival that started it all.
Hemp Fest 2009 (Woodstock)
And the poster that I am probably most proud of for Hemp Fest so far was in 2012: our theme was “We Can Do It. We Can Change the Law.” and Rosie the Riveter was our mascot for the poster.

Hemp Fest 2011: We Can Do It! I hope that there was sunshine and a great turnout for Hemp Fest 2014 today. I usually try to go back up there for a visit this time of year but haven’t been to Hemp Fest in a couple years now. It has prevailed through rain, shine, wind, and snow, minimal funding and a very stubborn state government, but thanks to the tireless efforts of a small handful of volunteers, the people of Idaho are learning about cannabis hemp and demanding safe legal access to its benefits. Hemp Fest has succeeded in gathering signatures for voter initiatives and even gaining the support of a Republican Idaho State Representative, Tom Trail, who has written several bills on the issue.

I love design projects that promote a good cause, educate and inform people, and bring communities together at events, so working with Hemp Fest has been very rewarding and inspiring. When clients become friends over the years, working together is a joy and the annual project challenges me to come up with creative solutions and a unique concept each year. Long-term client relationships like this one are a blessing, and something I strive to maintain with all of my clients. And I couldn’t ask for a more fun project than getting to design with pot leaves while promoting a revolutionary cause. (Didn’t you know? Hemp can save the world!)