05 Jan

All Wet

Just gave my first dog bath tonight.  Who would have ever guessed I’d turn into such a dog lover?

(Buckley just discovered his ability to get under and root around beneath the shed in the backyard, so I’m guessing this is about to become a frequent ritual around here.)

Christmas Buckley

Baths are not my favorite thing.

04 Oct

You guys, I totally made this.

I finally finished this project that I started almost two months ago at Stitch Lab. I got everything arranged on the kitchen wall yesterday morning, and I’ve been dying to show it off here – I just couldn’t figure out what to say about it. I keep putting on my blog voice, you know?

So… here’s why I want to share this piece with you:

1. I think it’s awesome. Yes, I am concerned about going a bit overboard about my little arts and crafts project, but c’mon – it’s awesome, right? :) I am not an artist, and this is the first project I’ve ever done like this. But Kat‘s class description sparked an idea, and I thought it would be a fun way to use my craft love in a new way. There is a poster in my living room which says, “To live a creative life, we must lose our fear of being wrong” (Joseph Chilton Pearce). I referred to it constantly. The other day, when I was almost done with it, I was SO EXCITED about how it turned out (except for the lips, which is a whole other story). I started planning out the kitchen wall, and then the judgement snuck in. Should I really put this in the kitchen? Where everyone will see it? This is kind of stupid, right? So I thought, maybe I will hang it behind the bar, in the other room, where just about nobody ever goes. When my best friend came over for dinner on Saturday, though, I couldn’t resist getting it out. And she loved it! Her excitement gave me some courage, and onto the kitchen wall it went. Lessons: art doesn’t have to be perfect, you’re not the only judge of what looks good, and when in doubt, invite your friends over.

2. I got to make it with my mom (and some other fun girls over at Stitch Lab). Maybe I’ve mentioned this arts-in-community thing? Visits for my mom and I actually tend to include some kind of project – we’ve sewn a shopping bag at Christmas, built a hidden medicine cabinet when I was getting ready to sell my place in Chicago, made dishcloths during a fall visit (she crochets, I knit), put together our own “deluxe” pin cushions from fabric scraps (you can see a picture of mine – at least for now – on the home page for Retreat Austin). My mom is a whiz on the sewing machine, and she continues to amaze me with the power tools she’s able to master. So I learn a lot from her (and sometimes she learns from me), and the work feeds our relationship, and then of course, we usually end up with something tangible that’s pretty cool. This project was a bit of an accident – not sure I would have suggested that we sign up for the course together, but I’d already registered when she booked her trip, so I asked her if she wanted to come along. We had a great time in the studio, met some fun and interesting women in the class, and had something to work on for the two weeks she was visiting. I love this.

3. Courage. Do you mind if I digress for a moment?
Read More

22 Sep

10Q, and real reflection

I love everything about this.

“Thanks to new technologies like texting and Twitter, people have more
opportunities than ever to express themselves, but fewer than ever to
express themselves well,” said 10Q co-founder Ben Greenman, a New Yorker
editor. “What 10Q wants people to do is what people should want to do
for themselves — to reflect on life without worrying about status

As I’m taking the small steps each day to get this business up and running, I feel like a lot of the actions are running counter to the goals that are driving them in the first place. Nowadays, blog posts and Twitter updates are the way to “get noticed” or “build a following” – and they are free – so I’m doing them, using them to plant seeds of ideas or connect with other like-minded folks. But it doesn’t feel like connection, of course, since there’s so much chaos in all of the talking going on, and those like-minded folks never come over for dinner or anything (they’re online). And there’s this pressure, to post-post-post, and do it ever more quickly, saysomethingsaysomethingsaysomething, to the point where it feels like there isn’t time to think.

Anyway. I’ve rambled enough on this topic for today. I think 10Q looks like a great process for slowing down and spending some time with your own inner knowing. Check it out for yourself, won’t you? More information about 10Q here; sign up here.

And thanks to @rachelwcole, who of course alerted me to this great project via Twitter.

14 Sep

What I believe (and why Retreat just has to happen)

I think it’s important for you to understand my motivation in building a space like Retreat. Today, I want to share with you some of the beliefs that are guiding this business:

* I believe that everyone – EV-ERY-ONE – has the capacity for creativity. Creativity is the ability to create – to make stuff. Have you ever made something? I bet you have.
* I believe that people spend too much time interacting with their phones and not enough time interacting with each other.
* I believe that rest is necessary for all of us, and in a quantity that is larger than most of us allow in our day-to-day lives. Rest does not have to mean laying down for a nap (although those are good, too!). Rest is slowing down, stepping away from the activities that drain you, and refueling.
* I know that it can be hard to find real connection – especially with new people – in these fast-paced, Facebook-friend times.  I believe that building true, deep, soulful friendships is still possible.
* I believe that learning something new – together – is a great way to build that friendship.
* I believe that arts like embroidery, knitting, and sewing persist not only because they add beauty to a home but because they add connection to our lives – to ourselves, to our past, and to each other.
* Ditto for writing.
* I believe that making something with your own two hands builds confidence in a way that few other things can.
* I believe that we are all connected through one universal spirit, and that our individual actions – large and small – have an impact on the whole.
* I believe that practicing yoga is one effective way of growing our ability to connect with that spirit, and by extension, with one another.

I have been learning to listen to my heart. This may sound trite, but
it’s a big deal for me nonetheless. As this business has taken shape
over the past weeks and months (and really, almost years now), I have
tried to listen ever more closely to my inner guidance, to worry less
about what I think will work, and more about what matters
(to me, at least). What will work is still important, of course, but
there’s a realization here that I cannot control all of the factors that
must come together to make a business successful. What I can control
are the steps I take each day toward having a positive impact on the

What that “positive impact” looks like is defined by my own
values and beliefs, ideas that I’ve had to get really clear on long
before Retreat opens its doors. With this studio, I want to build a home where like-minded folks can hang out and build friendships in person. I hope that includes you!


08 Sep

Time for the important things

‘… the good news is that creative expression, whether that means writing, dancing, bird-watching, or cooking, can give a person almost everything that he or she has been searching for…’
Lamott, Anne. “Time lost and found.” _Sunset_. April 2010. Web.

I read this article yesterday afternoon on recommendation from my friend and coach, Rachel Cole. I know that you can find someone just about every day who wants to tell you about the value of this moment. And yet, I so often fear that no one is listening.

A big part – a VERY big part – of my inspiration for starting Retreat lies in the (ever elusive) cell phone free space. I will spare you my rant, since most of my readers at this point are surely close friends who can’t bear another dose of Here’s Why Cindy Hates Facebook, but I want to tell you: Anne Lamott’s essay gave me comfort. And so I share it with you, in the hope that one more person will listen.

Here’s the gist: finding contentment is really quite simple. It’s there within you, in your ability to create, in your ability to connect – with others, with nature, with yourself. Simple but not easy. The hard part (or so we believe) is finding the time to do it.  On this point, she says,

This means you have to grasp that your manic forms of connectivity – cell phone, email, text, Twitter – steal most chances of lasting connection or amazement.

Yes! Take five minutes to examine the past week of your life. When did you feel most alive? When did you feel like you were part of something? And did you have a smartphone in your hand at the time?

24 Aug

It’s long, but it helps explain how I got here

I wrote this piece about a month ago with the intention of posting it to my personal blog. Somehow, it never made it to the publisher. (Go figure – read my last couple of posts, and the reasons may become apparent.) I’m glad it waited, though. It fits better here anyway.

19 July 11

They had to kick us out of the pool at Deep Eddy this afternoon after I’d been there for only an hour and a half. Because of thunder. Who’d a thunk it? My parched and weedy grass is looking at me in disbelief (and despair) as I write this. I wasn’t ready to leave, of course, but I figured it was finally the time I needed to sit down and work out a post about this miracle of a summer. I’ve been putting it off for too long.

My day didn’t turn out as planned – even without the unexpected closing at the pool. I actually worked my Google Calendar this week with an office-like mentality not seen since May; Rachel (my coach) tells me I’m in the Land of Both right now, giving up a little of the rest time I’ve been cultivating to make room for some work again. Today I had intended to go to my usual 6:30am yoga class, stop home for a little breakfast, get to the pool by 9:30, spend the afternoon crossing off some to-dos (drop off clothes at Goodwill, deposit cash from a craigslist sale, email recruiter re: contract work, knock out some necessary household shopping), then be back at home in time to shower before meeting some other craigslist buyers at 4:30. I made it to yoga (I’m still hitting the snooze, but this survives as a priority), but when I got home I was so sore and exhausted from the Ashtanga class I’d ventured into yesterday that I couldn’t resist a little nap. Which turned into a big nap. At 11:45 I accepted that I’d missed the morning pool time I so love, and resigned myself to an afternoon indoors.

As soon as I’d gotten lunch, though, the phone rang – my craigslist folks wanting to reschedule for the weekend. So… pool time after all! Goodwill, bank, Target, at the pool before 2:00. And then 90 glorious minutes of sitting in my float, watching people and their tattoos, getting splashed by the kids, lounging under the trees, smelling like sunscreen, reading my Eckhart Tolle (and feeling my I Am).

And thunder! Gray skies! Who could have predicted there would ever come a day when this sight would be such cause for celebration, or even attention? To be excited about the rain, for a Michigan girl whose summers were nothing if not gray and always too cold to go to the waterpark. Huh.

No rain today, of course – just a spitting – but worth getting excited about all the same.

So… the back story here is… I quit my job about a month ago, with no real idea of where to go next. That’s twice in the span of about a year, for those of you keeping score out there. I’ve come to see that there was just too much uncertainty and too little security last summer for me to fully embrace what I had planned (and still needed) to do then. (Leaving my very safe job in Chicago and packing up the car with an unsold condo on the market were enough for me at the time. Add to that those very shady movers and you have one young lady who’s ready to settle down and take the first job that will have her.)

After a year of working in… let’s just call it the wrong job, I’d forgotten what I had come back for. Or maybe it seemed like it wasn’t here after all. But it was here. I just needed to open my eyes and see it.

In the past month, I have driven home in a towel and a wet bathing suit more times than I have in all of the 10 years before that. I have slept weekends away without a hint of guilt. (What was there to feel guilt over? I needed the rest.) I have also:

– had fantastic conversations with my coach, Rachel (she’s wonderful)
– been inspired by the following books: The Alchemist (Coehlo), Finding Your Own North Star (Beck), A New Earth (Tolle), The Purpose of Your Life (Adrienne), Making a Living Without a Job (Winter), I Could Do Anything If I Only Knew What It Was… (Sher)
– learned to make yoga pants out of an old t-shirt, embroidered cocktail napkins for my mom, and refashioned a beloved dress I’ve had since college
– sold some possessions, donated others (also beloved, but past their prime in serving me)
– spent so much time with good friends
– shared margaritas at 2:00 on a Wednesday
– cooled off and relaxed at Barton Springs and Deep Eddy
– Kundalini’d my heart out at YogaYoga
– cleaned the studios in seva there, too
– had a Vedic astrology reading (so worth it, and believe me, I understand your skepticism)
– indulged in a hot stone massage (also so worth it)
– gotten to know myself, and what I need
– started to fill in the vision I have for the next step
There are times – lots of times – when I worry. I am a worrier by nature. I worry that I will not be able to find a job when I’m ready to find it. I worry even more that I will give in to the temptation to find something whose primary quality is security, and take that job out of fear. I worry that this time is too self-indulgent. And I worry that my dreams are just that, and too silly to ever come true. But then there are other times when the picture is very clear to me, when it seems like the dream can’t nothappen, when I know that a life in line with my values is possible (and even necessary), and when I see how much a month in the right space can change everything.
08 May

More evidence that I am kind of an old person…

I’ve been finding more articles about photography lately. Not that I believe there are more articles out there than there were before; with a new camera in my hands, I’m just seeing them more than I used to. And I don’t really think I am a Polaroid person, but there’s something I really like about living vicariously through the instant photographers – Hula’s blog, in particular, gives me a consistent stream of inspiration. There’s coolness there to strive for.

Probably once a week, I’m tempted to buy some contraption related to this new interest: a Diana+ here, a Holga there, today it was a Polaroid SX-70. And in my efforts to distract myself from finding an online retailer rightnow, I found this article. Outdated at this point, what with the Impossible Project in full, successful swing, but I loved this part of it so much, it made me feel so nostalgic, and at the same time, so supported in my worries over why-does-everything-have-to-be-so-fast-and-impersonal, I knew I would want to read it over and over. Here’s the part I’m talking about:

Because that was part of the beauty of the Polaroid. Mystery clung to each impending image as it took shape, the camera conjuring up pictures of what was right before one’s eyes, right before one’s eyes. The miracle of photography, which Polaroids instantly exposed, never lost its primitive magic. And what resulted, as so many sentimentalists today lament, was a memory coming into focus on a small rectangle of film.

Or maybe not. Digital technology now excuses our mistakes all too easily — the blurry shot of Aunt Ruth fumbling with a 3-wood at the driving range; or the one of Cousin Jeff on graduation day where a flying Frisbee blocked the view of his face; or of Seth in his plaid jacket heading to his first social, the image blanched by the headlight of Burt’s car coming up the driveway; or the pictures of you beside the Christmas tree where your hair is a mess.

Digital cameras let us do away with whatever we decide is not quite right, and so delete the mishaps that not too often but once in a blue moon creep onto film and that we appreciate only later as accidental masterpieces. In fact, the new technology may be not more convenient but less than Polaroid instant film cameras were, considering the printers and wires and other electronic gadgets now required, but at this one thing, the act of destruction, a source of unthinking popularity in our era of forgetfulness and extreme makeovers, digital performs all too well. Polaroids, reflecting our imperfectability, reminded us by contrast of our humanity.’ (Kimmelman, Michael. “The Polaroid: Imperfect, Yet Magical.” The New York Times 27 December 2008.)

I’m not buying a Polaroid today. That’s not really what I’m after. I just want to bring back the humanity.

This post started out on a different site, but in an effort to get more of my writing in one place, I moved it to cindyscovel.com in January 2012.

13 Mar


Friday is my favorite, I think. Not that it has a lot of stiff competition these days. But still, it’s got something special. Not because of the concert at Lincoln Hall. No new restaurant to check out, no friends to meet at happy hour. No. Pajamas are on at 6:30. Something delicious is on the stove. Not anything complicated. Tonight it was good pasta with broccoli and olive oil. Some parmesan, lots of pepper. Something that’s already waiting in the cupboard; no shopping, but time enough to cook. The ipod sits inside its little kitchen speaker, the speaker purchased years ago to fill in a lonely space not unlike this one. Time to sit, sip a good glass of gin, enjoy the music. Ray LaMontagne this time, maybe Sam Cooke next week. This space feels comfortable. Friday is no work in the morning. Friday is okay to skip the gym, if you don’t want to go. And it’s not yet lonely; it’s okay to sit here in the kitchen, with the gin and the pasta, in pajamas at 6:30. Unlike Saturday. Saturday is the worst sometimes.

This post started out on a different site, but in an effort to get more of my writing in one place, I moved it to cindyscovel.com in January 2012.