Friday, November 25, 2005

Why I Love Santa Cruz

I have a love/hate relationship with my current hometown but today I was reminded of why I like it here so much. Two days ago the local newspaper printed an article warning residents that because of an offshore storm waves were expected to be dangerously high the day after Thanksgiving and through the weekend. The article suggested that people stay away from the beach. So what did half the people who live on the westside of Santa Cruz do this weekend? We went to the beach and half the people there brought surfboards!

Yes, the waves were gloriously high -- some splashing as high as the top of the lighthouse at Steamer Lane. But I've never seen the Lane as full of surfers as I did today. There were people lined up all along the shore laughing and shouting and applauding for the riders who managed to ride the longest, people were grinning ear to ear, and life felt like a carnival. Such an antidote for those of us who take life too seriously. Sometimes you just have to get out there and enjoy the ride!

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

More on the Upside Down Christmas Tree Thing

I was mad! I was upset and so were a lot of you! (See my previous article entitled "Don't Believe Everything You Read.") But Craig Wilson from USA Today contacted me to respond to my letter to the newspaper. My comments were edited down in a way that left room for misinterpretation but he says that wasn't their intention and they're trying to figure out how to address it.

Unfortunately, I DO know how this happens. Back when I was a journalist my articles would get trimmed down to fit into the space available and more than once the original meaning of what I wrote was altered. And so it is again. All the news that's fit to print? Or just the number of words that fit? I hated that experience then -- even though I understand how it happens and believe it usually isn't done with detrimental intent -- but I still hate it. When you subtract whole paragraphs of meaning in a quote it may not be "intentional misquoting" but it's still inaccurate.

To make a long story short -- I said that the origin of the Christmas Tree was pagan -- not that upside down trees are pagan. I said that the original meaning had to do with eternal life and that the tree symbolically points to Heaven so that inverting the tree could (I agreed with Craig) be seen as sinister if one thought about it too much. But the honest truth, according to my readers is that the practice of hanging a Christmas Tree from the ceiling had practical benefits -- it saved space, it keep it safe from running children and pets and as a chandelier it could be made to look very beautiful and festive. One reader wrote to say she had heard it represented the Holy Trinity when placed upside down. I don't know why that would be but who am I to comment on that anyway?

I think the whole article was meant mostly in jest and I hope this explanation will lay the whole matter to rest. Your comments are much appreciated.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Don't Believe Everything You Read!

I am more than a bit annoyed. I was quoted in an article in USA Today (do I really want to create a link to this? -- here it is) [FYI: That article has since been "corrected"] about fake upside down Christmas Trees as saying " She doesn't want to put a damper on the holidays, but she suspects "there's something sinister, almost bad, about it....It's a pagan thing. If they thought about it, they wouldn't turn it upside down."

It makes it sound like I'm saying that the upside down tree is a pagan practice and I think that makes it sinister. I've been getting calls and emails about this quote all day, some from some very insulted pagan people. That's especially upsetting to me because I actually said that the original practice of celebrating around a tree at Christmas time was a pagan practice and that they held the tree in such high regard (it was a symbol of eternal life and it pointed to Heaven among other things) that they would never have turned it upside down!

The reporter who interviewed me seems to have had a bit of an agenda. He said to me that at the meeting where they discussed this idea he expressed the opinion that he thought it was kind of sinister looking and did I agree? He also used a fair bit of my time because I tried to be helpful and even looked something up in my book to help him create something that would be more "accurate." Oh, pitifully naive me.

I used to be a journalist and majored in Communications Media as an undergrad at Simmons College. I had a wonderful professor, Alden Poole, who made me believe that journalism was a high profession and only people with great integrity would enter it. That's a myth. Now it's all about the "sound bite", the quick hit. Heaven forbid, anyone should do some legitimate research. There's no time for that! And if it's not sensational enough, just forget about it.

Rant and rave....yuck, but that's how it is today.

Friday, September 23, 2005

I've Got Mail

Well, I can see you guys aren't into the concept of blogging just yet. Not too many comments in the comments section but that's ok because I haven't had any time to respond. Still, I have gotten private emails -- thanks for the website advice, you guys! -- and a few questions about my perfume. I thought I'd share these and my responses here:

Question 1: I bought two of your "perfumes" while on vacation in Thermopolis, WY. [Imagine my surprise to receive this just a few weeks after I visited there myself!] What is it about your products that give you the brain shift? I found this with the "Balanced Caregiving". It actually felt like my neurons were changing and I started to react differently than before. I reach for the vial often....

Reply: I love how you describe what happens with Balanced Caregiving. I'm actually in the middle of writing a book I hope will help people understand this phenomena in detail. When your body/mind is under stress it produces (or fails to produce) neurochemicals that we use for healthy emotional and physical balance. This is just a theory -- but I believe that flower essences and essential oils trigger the body to correct this neurochemical imbalance ... which we, of course, would be able to do ourselves if we could get ourselves out the damaging or depleted emotional state to begin with. But it's just a trigger -- it's our own brains that do the work. The amount of flower essence and essential oil I use doesn't have any clearly detectable amount of neurochemical in it. I think it works energetically...that is to say, on the level of electrons and the like.

Question 2: Are any of your Mama Love perfumes appropriate for men?

Reply: Well, I was thinking that women were more likely to use them but there are a few that I think men would especially like. Manifesting Life Purpose has a really nice grounding smell that I think of as more "male" (although it's one of MY personal favorites to wear myself). I also think Restful Sleep is pretty unisex-- it's musky and deep (nothing light and sweet about that one!) Focussed Attention (this used to be called "Creative Focus") smells like cinnamon and vanilla. I personally LOVE that smell on men. And Trusting Inner Guidance, which has a woodsy character from the Sandalwood, is also pretty unisex.

Question 3: Which are your most popular perfumes?

Reply: That depends on the context. Because I do spiritual counseling and healing work people tend to come to me when they are in some kind of distress or life change. The ones that people buy most from me are Troubled Times, Restful Sleep and Manifesting Life Purpose. But when I brought them to my African dance class last week all anyone wanted was Heart-Centered Sexuality! Go figure.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

What a Strange Strange Trip It's Been

Okay, it's been a couple of months since I put my first post up. Guess I'm not much of a blogger but guess what? I've been too busy....making and selling perfume!

It's not at all what I expected. When I put my website up almost three months ago I hoped for more spiritual counseling, medical intuition and energy healing clients. I wanted to sell perfume, too, but that's just been something I've been doing on the side. Well, not any longer!

I sold 10 perfumes the very first few days and a few weeks later the person who bought them asked if I did wholesale. I said "yes" (not knowing what I was getting into) and the next thing I knew I had sold 6 dozen to her! Thank you Alice Wong in San Gabriel, CA! (If you live down there and want to smell my perfumes, try them in person, and buy them from her, let me know and I'll get you in touch with her.) I chose to get my packaging done right to support her order, decided I better get labels for my bottles and discovered that my previous method of doing my packaging -- printing them on my home computer and cutting things by hand -- was absolutely nuts if I was going into the wholesale business. So this experience launched a thousand ships so to speak.

I took all the money I received and invested it into getting my packaging and labels professionally printed. Thank God I did that! I never would have been ready for what happened next!

A friend invited me to go white water rafting in Thermopolis, Wyoming where she was river guiding in the Wind River Canyon. I had never gone river rafting before and I really wanted to do that but when the time came to make travel arrangements I really didn't feel like I had the money. But I went anyway, hoping that somehow I would find a way. I brought perfume just in case I found an opportunity but didn't really know what to expect. Well, I sold enough perfume and did enough sessions with people who found out about me through my perfume -- thank you, Jaffy, for setting up an event for me! -- to pay for the whole trip including $200 of unexpected trip expenses. Yahoo! If you're ever in Thermopolis, WY (home of the world's largest hot springs -- who knew?) say hello to Sarah at Nature's Corner at 503 Broadway right in the center of town. She carries Mama Love Healing Perfume Oils now and is a really great person to boot!

I came home from the trip thinking "I could say yes to this more often. But next time I don't want to just make trip expenses. I want to make double that amount, enough for the trip and the same amount in my pocket."

I came home to an invitation from my friend Katie Viren to participate in the Pagan Pride festival she was helping to organize in Bellingham, WA. I said Yes! Just what I want to try next. And it was great. Even though it was not a very well-attended event (it was their first one) I met great people, did memorable sessions with folks there, sold Solstice Evergreen books (about the pagan origin of the Christmas Tree) and sold lots of Mama Love. I had a great time visiting with Katie -- for those of you who know her, she's doing fine. And I now have my perfumes in several more stores --
Wise Awakening metaphysical gift store at 314 E. Holly and Dragonfly Fine Gifts at 126 W. Holly Street in Bellingham, the gift shop at Shasta Vortex Adventures in Mt. Shasta, CA and at the Dragon's Lair at 101 So. Main Street in Ukiah, CA.

I came home with EXACTLY what I said I wanted -- double the money I made on the first trip (half for trip expenses and half for me.) The power of intention is a pretty mighty thing.

Since I got home I've just hit the ground running. I'm going home to New England for the first two weeks of October for my birthday and a good hit of fall foliage. While I'm there -- in addition to attending a wedding and visiting friends and family -- I plan to be a vender at Western Mass.'s Pagan Pride Festival and to visit stores out there. I've been working like crazy to get my inventory back up and wound up selling to three stores in the local area as well. If you're from Santa Cruz you can now find Mama Love Perfume at Way of Life at 1210 41st Ave in Capitola, at the General Store at Costanoa Coastal Retreat Center in Pescadero and at Body & Soul Day Spa in Half Moon Bay.

It's been a wild ride so far and it's only just begun.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Social Entrepreneurism and Starting a New Life

For my entire adult life I have always wanted to do work that followed the dictates of my heart. I'm sure most people of the baby boom generation have felt the same way but we all know how it is to follow a dream. Sometimes our belief systems and "knowledge" base just get in the way. Certainly the personal and societal challenges we run up against as children teach us a thing or two (for better and worse).

My first dreams seemed completely unattainable: Pitcher for the Boston Red Sox? Oops, wrong gender. Musical comedy star? Well, that would require getting up on stage without getting sick to my stomach. Ballerina, Olympic gymnast, ice skating champ? It's funny how the dreams of a decidedly nonathletic person all center around feats of physicality. I think I'll keep the day job. Oops, I don't have a day job (more on that below).

Anyway, despite getting to the point where I no longer want to fight uphill battles when all indications say I should give up (But I really want to fly. I REALLY want to. Maybe if I just flap harder...), I still have dreams for my life and if that means going up another f***ing hill, (sigh) I hope the universe makes it an easy climb.

I have become a great believer in social entrepreneurism. Who says you shouldn't make a decent living doing work that helps other people and makes the world a better place? That was my intention eight years ago when I changed career directions and got a Masters degree in Transpersonal Psychology. But I didn't believe in myself enough back then to make it in my own business which is what I really wanted. Instead I took a job with the Alzheimer's Association, making less than half what I made previously as a graphic designer, and hoped it would lead me where I wanted to go.

On my first day I met social workers at all the other agencies I would need to interact with in the local area. I remember feeling shocked because so many of the ones who had been there for awhile looked like war survivors with deeply etched worry lines and sorrowful sunken eyes. It seemed like clouds of gloom hung over their heads and I distinctly remember thinking, "What's doing that to them? I hope I never look like that!"

Only five years later, working for another social service agency, I looked in the mirror and realized I looked the same way. Burnt out. Depressed. Too many years (only five!) trying too hard to provide too many people in desperate situations access to too few resources on a social worker's paycheck. Being so close, financially, to the situations they were in made it hard to keep my perspective clear day after day. I knew I needed to make a change -- again -- but what? It took so much to get to this point!

I eventually found myself in my own "change of life" crisis -- literally! I'm at that age and I suddenly had symptoms that looked like a panic disorder -- heart palpitations, sudden rises in blood pressure, racing heart and acute anxiety -- that later proved to be hot flashes. I now keep that under control with herbs but, at the time, it was scary enough to make me take time off and reassess the direction of my life. I decided to focus less on what I couldn't do and more on what I could, both for my clients at work and for myself at home. And I steadily put more time and attention on what made my heart sing -- art, music, flowers, learning new forms of energy healing with my friend Katie, medical intuition training, and figuring out how I could use my spiritual guidance to help others instead of just myself.

That took me through another year and a half but then I hit the wall that brought me to where I am today. I couldn't concentrate on the book I was writing about flower essence therapy without having larger blocks of uninterrupted time. I really wanted to do more on my other outside interests as well but I wasn't making enough money outside of work to think I could dare to quit my job. Or so I thought -- I actually had saved a year's living expenses in the bank. Still I liked having savings. I liked getting to travel for the first time in years. I liked having a steady paycheck and the feeling I got when I was able to really help people through my work. Besides, as I always used to say, it paid the rent.

And then one day it didn't.

I needed to find a new place to live and found, to my dismay, that even when I upped what I was willing to spend to half my paycheck, I couldn't find anywhere liveable within an acceptable distance in my price range. Santa Cruz, where I live, just south of San Francisco and the Silicon Valley, is one of the most expensive places on the planet. At the time this crisis hit I was already paying $750 / month rent plus utilities for one room in a shared house and that was considered a bargain! But when I had to move I couldn't match it.

There were many other factors making me unhappy in Santa Cruz -- no need to share the whole thing here -- but the upshot is that I hit my limit. Enough! I couldn't justify my way of living any longer. I decided to quit, move back "home" to New England where I grew up, and start anew. Well, God laughed -- you can't go home again twenty years later. I wound up back in town, job-less but in a great living situation with my ex-husband (we're friends and we already knew how to do the "housemate" thing), and now I have no choice but to focus on what I really want to do. Writing, designing a website, focusing on my business. An act of power, perhaps. Sometimes, an act of faith. God knows, I have no guarantees. But I know what I want to do when I get up in the morning and, most of the time, have no trouble getting myself to do it.

I have a year before my savings are gone. In that time I want to write and publish my book, get my businesses up and running and start making enough money to keep myself going. And provide something that will help other people. If this blog was your introduction to my site (instead of my home page ) take a look around and tell me what you think. If you want to support what I'm doing here, feel free! Buy something, tell people to visit my site, make a donation, give me some great suggestions about how to succeed...

And consider sharing one of your stories. It has to be compatable with the content and intent of this site -- upliftment and empowerment -- and I won't print anything abusive, outrageously flaming, or harmful. But if there's something I've written here or elsewhere on the site you feel particularly connected to I'd love to hear about it. You can add your input by clicking on the "comments" section below. Or send me a personal email if you'd rather not go public. Join the club and we'll go on the adventure together. (I'm not a daily blogger -- more an occasional, if I feel inspired, type. Check back to see what comments have been added or join my email list to know when I've posted something new.)