Thursday, September 26, 2013

The Race Card Project

I recently took part in The Race Card Project.

It was a project to be a conversation starter on the topic of Race. People are being asked to think about their experiences, questions, hopes, dreams, laments or observations about race and identity. Then, they take those thoughts and distill them to just one sentence that has only six words.

People can expand upon their sentence with more background if they like, but it's interesting to see just in six words what people have to say.

I submitted one titled "Don't ask me "What are you?"

Alternative title could also be "I hate the Asian Guessing Game."

I really don't mind people being curious about my ethnicity. What I do mind is how people go about finding out my ethnicity. "Are you Chinese? Japanese? Korean?...[list goes on]" Believe me, they'll keep going until I stop them.
And they will get some sense of relief because now they know. I am Vietnamese and no you can't "tell" that I am Vietnamese by looking at me; I can't tell who else is Vietnamese just by looking at them. At any rate, if I don't stop one soon enough with "No, I'm Vietnamese," I have been asked "What are you?" 

What a loaded question! Reasonable answers are:

- a Human
- a Woman
- a Sister
- a Daughter
- a UT Alum with an Advertising Degree
- a Gamer
- a Fully Employed Project Manager
- a Spirited Austinite with a Penchant for Making Cards, Cooking with Friends, and Loving Her Life and the Important People In It

What Am I? Sick and tired of answering that question in particular, that’s what. 

I know that this is rant-y -- I just worry that some people don't want to know me, but know "my people" just using me as a basis. I was born in Brenham, Texas (where they make Blue Bell ice cream), yes I am Vietnamese, but I certainly can't be your only representative sample.

As I mentioned, I actually don't mind when someone is curious about myself or my culture. As someone who is always fascinated with learning about other cultures, I think that is always empowering to introduce yourself to more and more perspectives in life. In turn, I know that I also need to work harder when I encounter people whose approach to learning about culture is different than what I'd prefer.

I try to be very patient, but sometimes when someone catches me on the wrong day... I just can't. I was at Radioshack a few months back and the guy behind the counter kept trying to start awkward conversations and bless his heart I'm sure he is an alright person, but shopping for me at a place like Radioshack is very transactional. I only want the one weird battery that I can't get at the normal store; that's it. I'm pleasant enough though. Anyways, he rings me up at the counter and as I am swiping my credit card he just nonchalantly says "Ohayo~."


Go away
Ohayo is a Japanese greeting. And he didn't even say it to me, he looked everywhere but at me when he said it. I guess he's feeling me out to see if I respond... it means he can determine if I am or know Japanese, without actually engaging me by asking a question. Honestly, if he looked at my credit card at my "Smith of the Vietnamese Last Names" (Nguyen) and greeted me in Vietnamese -- even that would be totally cool. You used your power of deduction and I can appreciate that. But that's not what happened.

I don't employ it often, but I actually have good deadpan delivery for comedic situations such as these. I look him in the eye and I ask, "Do you mean like the state?" Then he goes on to babble about how it was Japanese and he only said it because he saw something that reminded him of it. (Perhaps the one Asian person in the store) The whole exchange felt like a scene in a Wes Anderson film, or at least that's how I like to imagine it. Well at least he didn't try and sell me a new cellphone plan like they usually do the one time a year I go. That was an "opportunity" for me, I suppose... but I am just going to chalk it up to he wasn't being malicious, just a little awkward this time.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Journey of 1,000 Cranes (final)

I actually finished this some time ago, though I didn't post it (so it's just back-dated on the blog) but ta-daaaa!

#1,000 in hand
I am very proud of my project. I started this journey to enrich and cultivate myself as a person, to grow, to learn, to hope and to show myself that no matter what happens -- with patience and determination anything is possible in life and we should always be thankful for every piece of it; good or bad. :) But before I rush off to the next thing, I've learned the importance of being present during the present time. So I'm going to be happy, enjoy my work and celebrate life with my friends and family. 

Even though this chapter has "finished", my story is far from complete. There's no shortage of things I want to learn. I look forward to what I will be able to do next.

Thanks for being part of this journey. :)

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

An Ixnay on the Wishing for More Wishes

Or unofficially -- Journey of 1,000 Cranes (part five)

It only takes a couple minutes to fold each crane, yet the last few I just haven't been able to fold. 

I've been asked if I am delaying it because I am not ready for the project to end and am frozen. I'm not; I'm actually quite excited. But I have found that lately each time I sat down to fold them, I just didn't have the heart to do it. I guess you could call it a funk, but it really only pertained to this. I've been doing lots of fun things that have really inspired me, spending lots of time with awesome friends and having lots of quiet time for myself.

This has been a very happy project for me -- it may have originally been born out of a darker place, but I've been able to grow it and transform it into something very positive for myself.

I've held on to the last origami paper for days now... and on it I wrote "I wish" -- I figured that was a placeholder until I figured out my big plans on what I would finish that sentence with.

I actually over-nerded this a little... I thought about what kind of conversation I would have with a genie if they existed. He would probably get really annoyed with me because I wouldn't use my wishes right away, I think I'd just ask him things all day. How many times has the genie been summoned? Is he a slave to the lamp as punishment for something? Do all genies long to be freed, like in Aladdin? In pie chart format, tell me what most people wish for. How has it turned out for them? Maybe the people who asked for more money got it, but then people plotted to have them offed for the inheritance. How terrible.

Whether or not a wish would even come true, I still think about the repercussions of asking for certain things. It'd be silly to wish for material things, things that are within my ability to obtain if I really wanted them. (3DS w/Animal Crossing in June, woop woop) Even other temporal things like fame, fortune, beauty... wouldn't they all come with a different price to pay? I've also thought about what if you for wished for something but never got it? Would you feel cheated or disappointed? (You shouldn't) Or wished for something and got it, but then you realized it wasn't what you really wanted?

I watched a really sweet movie over the weekend. It's a Japanese film called I Wish, and it's about two young brothers who live separated in different cities and dream of reuniting. When one learns that a new bullet train line will soon open, linking the two towns, he starts to believe that a miracle will take place the moment these new trains first pass each other at top speed. So he and his brother, with their friends, set out on a journey, each hoping to witness a miracle that will improve their difficult lives.

It was a really endearing coming of age story. In it you see the wishes that the kids made -- some wishes evolved into something else as the movie progressed, some wished for things that were within their ability, some that were ungrantable... and everyone kind of coming to terms with what they were asking for.

The culmination of everyone's hopes and dreams being expressed on this grand adventure was really touching.

It's funny though... I thought I knew exactly what I was going to wish for long ago. My wish would have been for a lifetime of happiness. But like anything in life, sometimes you think you know exactly what you're going to do with something and then you'll find that things take a different turn. Because as I looked at my other current projects -- the bedroom floor with pictures of the people I care about ready to be collaged, the craft room that looks like Hobby Lobby threw up in it from all the thank you cards I made for the countless folks who have touched my life (which still won't be ready for a bit), ingredients for the meal I wanted to make with my friends... it dawned on me. Pardon the cheesiness, but I am absolutely surrounded by happiness. Sure, tough/sad times will happen, but that's ok. It's inevitable and necessary. And sometimes really great things are born out of conflict. We need the contrast every now and again to remind us to really cherish the times that are good. So I didn't need to wish for happiness; that's already happening. 

I have ONE left still. Still waiting to find a time to party it up with everyone. Maybe I'll figure it out by then.  :)

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Even in Dreams We Change...

Sometimes I can't tell if I am in touch with reality... I've been having lots of dreams lately that are hitting at the heart of my troubles.

Womp womp wooooomp! Whatever, I like it.

Many have had the same recurring theme, with guest appearances from the same person.  I've been having lots of dreams that I am making peace and getting closure with someone I am at odds with, and when I wake up I feel better.

Who knows what the dream could mean. Many times, dreams are multivalent.

I think dreams can either be
1) premonitions
2) ways for your subconscious to sort things out
3) wish fulfillment or
4) dreams can also just be dreams and mean nothing.

Sometimes people in dreams don't represent the people themselves but an aspect of yourself that they remind you of.

In my dreams, even though I know there is an underlying discord, we are talking very happily. I say what I feel but in a safe environment. I always get the sense that we've crossed a very great divide and come to understand each other. And when I wake up, even though I know that the turning point conversation didn't truly happen, it still makes me feel better.

But I wonder if it's creating a distorted view? Because really, this person in particular hurt me. I think that's just how it goes though... things like closure and forgiveness, they are more for you than the other person most of the time anyways. I think this is just my mind's way of coming to peace with it. Because in life we won't always get that closure, so we have to make it for ourselves so we can move forward on our own.

Just days ago this great post showed up in my feed:

"Don’t wait for someone who hurt you to make it up to you; this kind of thinking only keeps your old wounds from healing.  Waiting for them to change is not the answer.  You have no control over them, and they may never change.

Inner peace is found by changing your thinking, not the people who hurt you.  And you change your thinking for yourself, for your joy, your peace of mind, your own understanding, and your bright future that has nothing to do with this person or what they did to you.

So forgive those who have hurt you in the past, and even more importantly, forgive yourself for allowing them to hurt you.  Then smile like you've never cried, re-open your heart and mind like you've never been hurt, and live the rest of your life like you’re running out of time."

It's funny how sometimes things show up and are just the right amount of relevant to be of use, but still borderline a little creepy.

At any rate... I decided that I'm glad I made peace with this person in my dream. And even though I have very limited contact with this person now, I do still view our time very fondly. People come and go from our lives, have a positive impact on you, but for some reason things change. I'm thankful our paths crossed and that we got the chance to experience something wonderful while it lasted. Sometimes things end but it doesn't make them less amazing. So appreciate what you have now, and smile about the memories. Not everything ends though -- some people will come into your life and will stay for a lifetime. Treasure that. :)

I recently found a song that is on hardcore repeat for me. It's beautiful and captured just the sense of being able to keep something always even when that isn't truly the case. That no matter how much time passes, how much we grow and change, there is something in all of us that wants to keep something pristine and unchanging.

Friday, May 10, 2013

StampingChallenges -- SC19

Here is my latest sketch challenge for Stamping Challenges  (SC19 -- May 10, 2013).  

Each week create a sketch for you to try, and the challenge is for you to interpret it the way you see those elements used -- make substitutions with your creativity!

It's open to everyone, so start stamping with us today.

Here was the sketch to work from:

Here's what I did:

Want to get the materials to make a card similar to this? Visit my store:

For this card I used

Crumb Cake (base)
Whisper White

Lovely Lavender (Retired)
Tea Time (DSP; Retired)


Wonderful Mother

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Journey of 1,000 Cranes (part four)

Ok, so it's been a bit since my last crane post (part three), so here's an update on the progression of the project.

I was in the green part of the color spectrum just a couple of weeks ago

Now I'm in the purples -- this is 850 strung up

Same 850, but different angle
Still not done, but SOOOOO close. There are only 6 strands to hang up. And I still haven't folded all 1,000 since I am saving it for the last thing. Everyone's been really great about it, and I'm so happy with what I have accomplished so far, and for what is to come. I can't wait to finish and celebrate with the people I care about!

Which kind of reminds me... something strange happened recently. I encountered someone who was really, just outright rude. I have to say, it was weird -- it was a jarring feeling because I haven't really faced something like that in a really long time. That's not to say people haven't been obnoxious to me before or that I live in this magical bubble where everyone hangs out with unicorns all day. (Though I wish it everyday...) but someone I've never met before just being a turd was just not the norm for me. I didn't take it too personally, based on the other drivel exiting this person's mouth I determined that's probably how this person is to everyone and they probably think they are sassy/funny. For me, it was like a moment of "I guess some people don't move beyond high school."

It's ok though. Even though it was rude, I was like "Meh. I don't have to deal with this person." And, this is going to sound funny... it actually made me really happy. Here's why -- the fact that it was a little shocking means that I've been surrounded by really awesome people who don't treat me like that. I have really good friends who are considerate, respectful and kind. It's something to be really grateful for.

I like being in this world of grownups. And sure, sometimes we can still have our immature moments, but the disrespectful moments are few and far between. I've ranted about my friends before in a previous post, but I'll say it again; I'm lucky and thankful. :)

 It is very liberating being able to surround ourselves with the people we want to be around.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The Hedgehog's Dilemma

This isn't a concept of my own, but it's one I think about often.

The hedgehog's dilemma, or sometimes the porcupine dilemma, is an analogy about the challenges of human intimacy. It describes a situation in which a group of hedgehogs all seek to become close to one another in order to share heat during cold weather. They must remain apart, however, as they cannot avoid hurting one another with their sharp quills. Though they all share the intention of a close reciprocal relationship, this may not occur for reasons they cannot avoid. The hedgehog's dilemma suggests that despite goodwill, human intimacy cannot occur without substantial mutual harm, and what results is cautious behavior and weak relationships.'s_dilemma

Gotta Have Rings - via Chris Gerringer's series titled I Know That Feel, Bro.
I've had relationships with people who were very guarded. It was hard to draw things out from them, sometimes they worried too much about what others thought of them, or sometimes they had seen so many disappointments in life that they just were waiting for the next one. And whenever they would share something with me, I felt so elated. There was something really special about even a small glimpse of something that always seems just beyond your reach. I, too, at times have been that guarded person. It seems to make sense that we should protect ourselves. But... it's a really difficult way to live (for me at least). I felt afraid to ask for or share certain things, and really, if it's someone you really care about, you shouldn't have to be afraid.

I don't want to be afraid.

I think about it sometimes, that really, it's not possible for one human being to truly achieve perfect understanding of another. Sure, we can invest lots of time and energy in serious efforts to know someone, and we may convince ourselves that we know the other person well, but just think -- the inner workings of our minds... our hearts... turning points we reach -- it's hard at times to get a grip on our own self sometimes, much less another person. But that's also a really beautiful thing -- we can constantly grow, learn, and discover. Everyone really has an endless supply of potential at any given time.

There was a great quote by one of my favorite authors -- "I sometimes think that people's hearts are like deep wells. Nobody knows what's at the bottom. All you can do is imagine by what comes floating to the surface every once in a while."
― Haruki Murakami, Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman

It's a big step to realize that the coping mechanisms we've made for ourselves become outdated. These kinds of things take years in the making, so it's hard to have to "unlearn" them. It's definitely doable though.

What I've come to walk away from this with is that even if someone doesn't want to let me past their walls, it doesn't mean I have to react and feel like I need to put up my own. I found that there will be people in life who, regardless of what you say or what you do, won't accept you for whatever reason. And that's ok. We can't please everyone, and we shouldn't want to please everyone.

Rather than expending so much energy on other people who don't want to be part of my life, I'm more interested in focusing on myself and spending my time with people who genuinely care for me. Any person that wants to be a part of your life will make an obvious effort to do so.

Yes, we may very well hurt each other along in the process (intentionally or unintentionally), but that in itself isn't the worst thing in the world. I think that everyone makes mistakes; it's how we handle those mistakes that is just as important. Trust yourself to be the kind of person whose words match their actions and you'll find it becomes easier to trust that there are other people out there like that, too.

I'm lucky to be surrounded by a lot of really awesome people. No joke -- I have a lot of very smart, funny, talented, passionate, sincere, kind-hearted, courageous and loving people in my life and every day I'm thankful for them. :)

Friday, April 19, 2013

Windshield Moments

In one of my previous posts, I mentioned what my former professor dubbed a "Windshield Moment." I recently had another moment like that regarding my crane project. I've been trying to go out and do more things -- actively looking for events that seem fun and are a little bit different than the things I typically do on a day to day basis. Anyhoo, I went with some friends to the Art City Austin festival. Basically it's a celebration of art and culture, block party style. It was a ton o' fun. And one really fun thing I got to do was the 20ft WIDE Project -- I got to create origami peace cranes with Creative Action. The cranes will then be installed as part of the alleyway activation called 20ft WIDE. The work will begin installation during Art City Austin and be on view through May 5. Pretty neat.

Me with my crane. Also... I need a haircut :/
I'm glad I got to be a part of it. It actually just debuted a couple of days ago, although I haven't had a chance to see it in person yet. (It was rainy yesterday) But here's some pictures via the Art Alliance website.

Photo Credit Michael Knox
Photo Credit Dan Cheetham
Photo Credit Dan Cheetham

Isn't it lovely? I hope that it's still up and the rain didn't completely demolish it. At least they took these pictures. Speaking of pictures... here's my latest update:

Moving from reds to pinks on the spectrum
With my project coming together, I've been asked frequently what I'll do next. The truth of the matter is... I don't know. I've thought about how much I've enjoyed the quiet focus when working on the cranes, and how I'd like to make sure that I still have an outlet to be able to reflect. Already though, I can tell this project has changed me. I'm more patient and don't get as easily discouraged by the tasks at hand. I'm very deliberate in making time for myself to get things done that I want. I'm more encouraging when people say they want to do something -- I think I've always been encouraging, but now I am proactive about backing it up with actionable items. Got a goal? Well, you've got to set some mini-goals to get to the big goal. One of my high school teachers said something that has always stuck with me: "Everyone wants to be successful, but no one wants to prepare in order to be successful." Success takes work. It won't fall into your lap. So don't get discouraged if things don't go right the first time -- keep going! Learn from your mistakes, re-calibrate and go get 'em. You can do it!

Monday, April 15, 2013

Journey of 1,000 Cranes (part three)

Things are still moving with the project. In my previous crane post, I had mentioned that I was 9 away. I am still 9 away, because I wanted to start stringing it up. Then once it's almost ready, I will celebrate the last one with my friends and family. :)

It's been interesting deciding how I wanted to string things up. I went to Home Depot because at first I thought I wanted tubing to shape and suspend wherever. I thought it'd be fun to string glow bracelets or lights through it, but I reconsidered as it really wasn't quite as aesthetically pleasing as I would like. I opted instead for wires and hooks.

I bought glow in the dark string and some amethyst beads to weigh it down at the bottom. Purple is my absolute favorite color! In the ancient world, purple has been commonly associated with royalty and piety. Also, amethyst has always been linked to the thinking process, ensuring clarity of vision -- inspiring creativity, courage and valor. And in other folklore, it was typically worn to make the wearer gentle and amiable. Amethyst powers include: dreams, healing, peace, love, spiritual upliftment, courage,  psychism, protection against thieves, and happiness.

My big adventure though was trying to buy clear plastic straws. I could not find any to buy easily. I went to HEB, Randalls, Party Pig, Walmart, Target and Garden Ridge. So at that point I considered going to a restaurant supply store, but then I got to thinking... well let's see if someone would be willing to just give me some. So I called Amy's Ice Cream near my house, and the girl was very willing to help when I told her of my dilemma. Unfortunately they weren't the right kind of straws, but I was still very appreciative. Then I tried Chipotle near my house, and I was very happy they could help me. The person on the phone was so helpful, even asking if I would mind being put on hold so he could open the straw wrapper and make sure it was right and that he had enough. Now I have straws for spacers. 

I strung up my first strand, and here it is: 

First strand (25 cranes) -- there will be 40 strands total.
I am SO looking forward to seeing all of them together!

Here's 100 (4 strands of 25)
I find it really interesting how sometimes when you're doing something you're passionate about, suddenly lots of things show up in your life with much greater relevancy. I remember when I first started my crane project more than a year and a half ago, I went to a Renegade Craft Fair, just to kind of be inspired and see all what was there. I came across a vendor who made origami crane jewelry, which I adored. I bought a really beautiful pair of earrings in an electric blue color. Then there was a booth from the Houston Contemporary Art Museum that was drumming up interest for their latest exhibition, works from an origami artist. The table was covered with all sorts of origami paper and I made a crane right then and there. I thought it was really special that I found these things at the time I did. It definitely gave me a feeling of connectivity.

I ended up going to that exhibit and just felt very inspired. The artist had so many neat ideas. Maybe for my next project I might make some origami butterflies. We'll see, one thing at a time, I suppose.

I had a professor in college who explained this phenomenon, which she called a "Windshield Moment"... basically she had gotten a new car and was cruising down the highway when some truck was changing lanes and sent a rock from the road flying into her windshield. A brand spanking new car that now had an obnoxious chip in it. She was so disappointed and just was left with a "Now what?" feeling. Well, as she sat in traffic, she looked out the window at a billboard that was for windshield repairs. How many times had she passed by that billboard not knowing what it even said? What else is right under our very noses that we miss constantly? Relevancy sure is something.

It also reminds me of this fantastic article I found on MSN about making your own luck.

Want to improve your luck? It could be as easy as adjusting your attitude. Studies show that people who consider themselves lucky actually tend to be -- it's a self-fulfilling prophecy. That's because positive thinkers are always keeping their eyes peeled for fortuitous situations, and they're more likely to pounce on them when they arise.

In a study conducted by [Richard Wiseman, Ph.D., a psychologist from the University of Hertfordshire and author of The Luck Factor, who has done a decade of research on the topic], researchers placed some money on the sidewalk in the paths of different people -- some who claimed to be lucky, and others who considered themselves unlucky. The "lucky" people noticed the money and picked it up; the "unlucky" people walked past the cash.

I thought that was a really neat story. I have always felt like I've had lots of luck, so it was fun to hear that sometimes we make our own  luck by having our eyes and minds open. And to geek out for a little bit, I always make sure in RPGs to add to the luck attribute. You're more likely to land critical hits, dodge attacks and sometimes find special items. Ok, nerd mode over.

I would never just rely solely on luck getting you places. Being at the right place at the right time or who you know may get you somewhere, but what you know will keep you there. Good luck out there everyone!

Monday, April 8, 2013

Journey of 1,000 Cranes (part two)

This is what 991 cranes looks like :)
If you aren't sure about what all this is about, you can read the first part here.

That's right, I'm 9 away from reaching my goal of 1,000!


I'm not gonna finish it yet! What I'd like to do is assemble my art piece with what I've got so far and then throw a big party with my family and friends so I can fold the last one with them there and attach it. It'll mean so much having the people I care about, and that care about me, there with me.

This project has been wonderful. It's been met with lots of encouragement and positivity, and I'm so happy.

It's funny, though, because I find myself noticing more the little things people say to sabotage themselves. The biggest thing I've heard this project is "I don't think I'd have the patience." You'd be surprised what you're capable of. And really the whole point of patience in this matter is that you keep working towards it, and don't get hung up with the fact that you're not done yet. I've worked on this for more than a year and a half. And now here I am sharing my progress.

I think patience also requires a great deal of faith. And I don't mean that strictly in a religious sense, but an all around collective sense of faith -- it could be faith in God that He has a plan for you, or even just faith in yourself that you can do it, or faith in the universe that things will be alright. This project has grown with me and evolved into something much more than it started out.

Hope is wishing for an outcome.
Faith is believing in an outcome.

Things are doable. You are capable of so much.

So that's the message people, don't sabotage yourselves. Don't victimize yourself. Don't let yourself be a product of your environment, especially if you have a really shitty environment. Don't be a trash receptacle for someone else's baggage and insecurities -- in all areas of life from your friends, family members, lovers, classmates, co-workers... Yes we're humans and we're gonna have bad days sometimes, but don't let it escalate to a bad life. We have the power to make decisions in our lives, so let's make them good ones.

Alright alright, I'll get off my soap box now.

At any rate, I'll keep updating with the project and the eventual party! :)

So, in the legend says my wish will be granted when I fold the last crane. I have an idea of what I want to wish for, but it has been fun hearing other people's suggestions, anything from riches, to Kim Jong Un not bombing Austin, a Nintendo 3DS (it's on my list of things to get, though I won't waste my wish on it). I wonder if this is like Genie rules where you can't wish for more wishes. Or if it's like in Bedazzled where the things you wish for will be granted but in the worst way possible. Whether it would really happen or not, who knows, but it's fun to think about. All I know is, that in the rule of wishes, you're not supposed to tell what you wished for. So if you see me with male harem consisting of Ewan McGregor, James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jonathan Rhys-Meyers, Jim Sturgess and Ryan Gosling flying all over the world to eat sushi, steaks, candy and ice cream all the time, well... you know.

Friday, April 5, 2013

StampingChallenges -- SC14

Here is my latest sketch challenge for Stamping Challenges  (SC14 -- April 5, 2013).  

Each week create a sketch for you to try, and the challenge is for you to interpret it the way you see those elements used -- make substitutions with your creativity!

It's open to everyone, so start stamping with us today.

Here was the sketch to work from:

Here's what I did:

Want to get the materials to make a card like this? Visit my store:

For this card I used

Crumb Cake (base)
Whisper White

Real Red
Chocolate Chip
Ginger Blossoms (DSP; Retired)


Wonderful Mother
Fast and Fabulous (Retired)

Friday, March 29, 2013

StampingChallenges -- SC13

Here is my latest sketch challenge for Stamping Challenges  (SC13 -- March 29, 2013).  

Each week create a sketch for you to try, and the challenge is for you to interpret it the way you see those elements used -- make substitutions with your creativity!

It's open to everyone, so start stamping with us today.

Here was the sketch to work from:

Here's what I did:

Want to get the materials to make a card like this? Visit my store:

For this card I used

Whisper White (White)


Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Purposeful Solitude

Over the weekend my crane count was at 888 -- a very auspicious number!

According to Wikipedia:
The word for "eight" (八 Pinyin: bā) sounds similar to the word which means "prosper" or "wealth" (發 – short for "發財", Pinyin: fā). In regional dialects the words for "eight" and "fortune" are also similar, e.g. Cantonese "baat" and "faat".

There is also a visual resemblance between two digits, "88", and 囍, the "shuāng xĭ" ("double joy"), a popular decorative design composed of two stylized characters 喜 ("xĭ" meaning "joy" or "happiness").

Previously I had posted about mindfulness, and today that idea was further reinforced when I stumbled across a term that I think very poignantly encapsulates what I feel when I fold the cranes: Purposeful Solitude.

There's always going to be something to worry about, or do, or someplace to be. Or maybe you're on the other side of the spectrum where you have too much time to yourself and you spend them mindlessly consuming or consumed with things that are just that... things. Either way, take some time just for you to be somewhere quiet. You'll realize when you just force yourself to make time to do so, even if it's just minutes, it can help to quickly put some things into perspective.

I remember a conversation I had sometime last year, I said something along the lines of "Your best is your best, no one can ask you for any more than that." At the time it was argued that looking back you could always have done something better.

Both statements are true. How can I reconcile that? Well think about it, you hear that saying that hindsight is 20/20. You can always look back and say I could have done this or that. You'll always be able to find something you could have done. And as a result, you run the risk of always staying in the past beating yourself up over the things you wish you had done differently, because then things would be different today.

Looking back... I wonder did he want to change himself or his circumstance at that time in his life? How badly? Maybe a lot. Maybe not at all. Or was this just an indicator of an extra weight on his shoulders, from having very high expectations placed upon him, either by himself or someone else? I certainly know that my parents had such high expectations of me that I never felt like what I did was enough. If I lived that way, I could certainly look back right now and think "I wish I could have explored that a little more with him. I wish I could have come up with all these poignant things to say that I know now, that maybe would have been helpful/interesting to explore."

I think that's a difficult way to live though. What I found is, at the time that the conversation happened I worked with what knowledge I had at the time, shared my opinion, listened to his, and we talked about it a little more. Getting to share that with him was important in us trying to learn more about each other, and at the time it happened, we did our best to try to understand each other. So I can still be happy about that. I say that even if you have high expectations, especially the ones you place on yourself -- you should celebrate victories where you get them. Whether you think they are big or small, a victory is a victory. Your mini goals feed into your big goals.

Not saying the past isn't important, it's how we learn, grow and do better the next time. So your best can be improved upon -- just not at the time it's your best. We shouldn't take away the efforts we made before, because at the time they were our best. It shouldn't be invalidated because we can find ways to do it differently next time. If you do what you can now, yeah you might make mistakes along the way, but that's ok. Learn. Grow.

To borrow from a previous post about setbacks in life -- I think about how much I know now... I feel like everything in my life has led me to the people I have loved and lost -- friends, family, loves. My choices, my heartbreaks, my regrets. Everything. And when we’re together, my past seems worth it. Because if I had done one thing differently, I might have never met them. I look at the people I am surrounded by right now who care about me, who I also care deeply for and I feel lucky. I wouldn't trade this.

Friday, March 8, 2013

StampingChallenges -- SC10

Here is my latest sketch challenge for Stamping Challenges  (SC10 -- March 8, 2013).  

Each week create a sketch for you to try, and the challenge is for you to interpret it the way you see those elements used -- make substitutions with your creativity!

It's open to everyone, so start stamping with us today.

Here was the sketch to work from:

Here's what I did:

There's something extra special about this card actually -- it's one of the designs for my Mother's Day Cards for a Cause. Proceeds from the sale of my two pre-designed Mother's Day cards will go to help raise awareness for Cystic Fibrosis. I hope you'll take some time to learn more about how you can help.

Want to get the materials to make this card? Visit my store:

For this card I used

Crumb cake (base)
Whisper White
Pretty in Pink

Garden Silhouettes
Teeny Tiny Wishes

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Mother's Day Cards for a Cause: Cystic Fibrosis

Last year I had the privilege of meeting the Noble family. Over the last year they have become dear friends. They are a beautiful family, and I learned how courageous a family they were, too. You see their youngest, Liana, was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis.

Cystic fibrosis is a devastating genetic disease that affects tens of thousands of children and young adults in the United States. Research and care supported by the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation are making a huge difference in the lives of those with CF.

This year, I'm walking in the Great Strides walk at 2013 South Austin - Austin Zoo & Animal Sanctuary on 05/04/2013. In order to help my team meet their donation goal, I am offering card classes in the month of March and April.

You can visit my site to see what dates are available for classes. (Mostly Thursdays and Sundays, but contact me and we can work out other times as well)

Call or email me if you would like to schedule a spot for the class, or you can just RSVP through my site and I'll contact you to get your time scheduled.

Make two Mother's Day cards for $8 and I will donate $6 (that's 75%) to help raise awareness for Cystic Fibrosis.

Here is what you'll be making:

I provide all the materials, you get to stamp and you'll go home with two cards w/envelopes.

Still want the cards without having to commit the time to a class? That's no problem either -- you can order the two cards from me and I'll put them together for you. It will cost the same as the class and I'll still donate the same amount to the fund.

For more information about how you can help the Nobles and other families affected by Cystic Fibrosis, please visit my Great Strides page.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Failing in Life Isn't Failure at Life

No one likes failing. Obviously, it does not leave one with a warm, sticky, happy feeling.
Yet, sometimes it is a necessity. Well... I guess I should add a little caveat to that. It is a necessity if you're actually trying to do stuff.

In the case of people who have big ideas, it's not always paired up with follow-through.  And maybe even if there's some follow-through, then there is a huge tendency to hide behind trying to perfect something. That's a big bottleneck right there, lots of ideas just don't see fruition beyond that because, well we're scared when things aren't perfect. Or afraid that it won't do well. Sometimes you can research and plan out something, spending lots of time trying to get it just right, and it still never be quite right.

That's not to say we shouldn't plan things out and work hard to put out a good product/service/whatever it is. But we have to realize that even things that are well-planned out and seem really great on paper can fail sometimes. There's so many variables and any number of reasons things could fail -- anything from timing, audience, product itself, demand, etc.

But that's where a failure can turn into an opportunity.

In 2012, I resolved this much:
Risk failure in order to realize dreams.

There were a lot of wonderful things about 2012. I think in part my attitude about things really brought that about for myself. Once I became a little more willing to put myself out there and try out new things, and stand my ground on them, it felt like a light bulb clicked. I worried about a lot less trivial stuff, the things I did, I did because I wanted to do them and I really found purpose in what I did, in all aspects of life, not just work. That's why even now, regardless of what all has happened in my life recently, I am happy with my part in my life. I think I've been living with kindness, love and integrity, and yeah, maybe it hasn't panned out in some areas of my life the way I may have hoped, but that's an opportunity to try and make my way through the world again.

It's ok to fail at something, so long as you don't keep failing the same way and you take something away from it that will help you tweak things the next time. Failing at something can just be seen as a setback, it doesn't have to be an identifier for who you are.

I remember at the beginning of the year being asked if I could change anything in my past, would I. First of all, that's kind of a loaded question -- we can't, and even if we could, who knows what all you would alter. I thought about it though, and while yes there are things I have done that I regret, people I could've dated, people I could've avoided, tests I could've studied harder for, stocks I should've loaded up on... any number of things I could have done -- I decided no. There's not too much I would change... and that's not because I'm some kind of narcissist. I'm not perfect -- no one is. But I think about how much I know now... I feel like everything in my life has led me to the people I have loved and lost -- friends, family, loves. My choices, my heartbreaks, my regrets. Everything. And when we’re together, my past seems worth it. Because if I had done one thing differently, I might have never met them.

I think failing in certain things was an asset, because it spurs me to do better. And as a result, I don't think I am a failure at life. It is just a temporary set back, and I still want to do some pretty awesome things.

Not every aspect of my life is in perfect order. And that's ok. I still love my life. I'll keep the parts that are working for me, and just fine-tune the parts that didn't and keep going.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Mindfulness vs. Mindlessness

Personally, I think everyone should find something for themselves that is meditative. I don't think it even needs to be some epic spiritual journey where you go sit under a waterfall and think deep thoughts or don't think thoughts at all. (Though, I suppose if you have the resources, to each their own.) I just mean something that you do for/by yourself that can generate a catharsis.

It's interesting, when thinking about how we deal with stress, sometimes when you get to the heart of the matter, you find that we're not dealing with it at all, we're just distracting ourselves.

And sometimes, that's reasonable. Sometimes you have a tough day and you go out for a drink, work out a little harder at the gym, veg out in front of the tv or computer, go out, play games, whatever. It's ok to pair our temporary solutions with our temporary stresses. It's when we get into the matter of long-term stresses vs. short-term stresses. Printer jam -- short-term. Working for a temperamental boss who doesn't appreciate the work you put in which makes you feel like the job you do isn't valued which makes you feel detached/cynical about life/the future -- long-term. The last one doesn't have to be long-term, if you choose to do something about it.

Stress left unchecked is a bad thing and can eventually lead to depression. The thing is, our stress has to go somewhere. If we ignore things that stress us out, they don't go away, we just postpone dealing with them which can oftentimes escalate a situation. Sometimes when something goes wrong in one area of life, we try and control another area in our life as a way to compensate, making drastic changes that can sometimes have irreversible damage. Stress isn't always a bad thing. It can be channeled for something useful.

According to the Mayo Clinic:
Stress symptoms may be affecting your health, even though you might not realize it. You may think illness is to blame for that nagging headache, your frequent insomnia or your decreased productivity at work. But stress may actually be the culprit.

Indeed, stress symptoms can affect your body, your thoughts and feelings, and your behavior. Being able to recognize common stress symptoms can give you a jump on managing them.

Common effects of stress ...
... On your body... On your mood... On your behavior
  • Headache
  • Muscle tension or pain
  • Chest pain
  • Fatigue
  • Change in sex drive
  • Stomach upset
  • Sleep problems
  • Anxiety
  • Restlessness
  • Lack of motivation or focus
  • Irritability or anger
  • Sadness or depression
  • Overeating or undereating
  • Angry outbursts
  • Drug or alcohol abuse
  • Tobacco use
  • Social withdrawal

I started thinking about all of this because of my on-going crane project. (You can click that link to see my previous post about why I am folding origami cranes)

I was thinking about what people want out of a stress reliever and the subject of mindlessness came up. It was only for a brief moment that the word was used, and I was quick to say that I didn't think that folding cranes was an an exercise in mindlessness for me. I find it to be very mindful. I suppose I have folded enough of them at this point that I could continue making lots of them while watching tv or something. But that's not why I fold them. Or rather, that's not how I fold them. For me they are a very deliberate attempt of thinking things through. Sometimes I write inspirational quotes in them, because I am envisioning the kind of strength that I would like to draw on, I'll write about what I've learned, what I want to learn, how I feel... and then when I'm done folding it, if I can, I take that feeling to the next step -- making it actionable.

One of my biggest obstacles was being too closed off from people. I am generally a private person, but I realized that not being as open really hindered me. We all have our own limited experiences in life; that's the beauty of connecting with other people -- you get to see a broader spectrum of the collective human experience by learning from others. I'm fortunate to have people that care about me from all walks of life who I have learned from, and from time to time also feel they can learn something from me. Connecting with people is a true gift.

At any rate, mindlessness has it's place for things, but I think we should also make sure that mindfulness has just as equal weight. I find that addressing what I am going through head-on in this manner has been a very positive catalyst for me.

For anyone who wants ways to address/improve their stress management, I found a nice little site (I have no affiliation with them, just found them) that is a good place to start.

I hope you find what you need as well.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Journey of 1,000 Cranes (part one)

I have origami paper with me just about most of the time. I leave a stack at work, a stack at home and then I have a little plastic container filled with sheets of origami so I can fold anywhere else. I fold them when I need a little pick me up, when I'm waiting for something, when I just want to look at pretty patterned paper... just whenever.

I've frequently been asked what I plan on doing with them when I'm all done and why I started folding cranes in the first place.
The first question is easy -- I'd like to do something like this:

Origami Cranes Using Japanese Newspapers at the Crow Asian Art Museum -- Dallas, TX
Although recently I've been joking about recreating that scene in Indecent Proposal where Demi Moore is in the bed with all the money. I probably wouldn't... but it's funny to think about.

Anyway, before I get into the nitty gritty of why, it helps to understand the significance of the cranes.

The Legend of the Crane

In many Asiatic cultures, the crane is symbolic of good fortune and longevity, due to its fabled lifespan of 1,000 years. An ancient story in Japan promises that anyone who folds a thousand origami cranes, to represent each year of its life, will be granted a wish by a crane. The Japanese refer to the crane as “the bird of happiness;” the Chinese as “heavenly crane” believing they were symbols of wisdom. The powerful wings of the crane were believed to be able to convey souls up to paradise and to carry people to higher levels of spiritual enlightenment.
Over time, the crane has evolved as a favorite subject of the tradition of paper folding -- origami.

Other Notable Historic Instances of the Crane

Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes is a non-fiction children's book written by American author Eleanor Coerr and published in 1977. This true story is of a girl, Sadako Sasaki, who lived in Hiroshima at the time of the atomic bombing by the United States. She developed leukemia from the radiation and spent her time in a nursing home creating origami (folded paper) cranes in hope of making a thousand of them. She was inspired to do so by the Japanese legend that one who created a thousand origami cranes would then be granted a wish. Her wish was simply to live. However, she managed to fold only 644 cranes before she became too weak to fold any more, and died on 25th of October 1955 in the morning. Her friends and family helped finish her dream by folding the rest of the cranes, which were buried with Sadako. They also built a statue of Sadako holding a giant golden origami crane in Hiroshima Peace Park.

Now every year on Obon Day, which is a holiday in Japan to remember the departed spirits of one's ancestors, thousands of people leave paper cranes near the statue. On the statue is a plaque: "This is our cry. This is our prayer. Peace on Earth."


*Side note -- you can get it on Amazon and help out my friends' amazing charity Allison's Hope while doing so. P.S. I personally make zero dollars for suggesting that -- they're just that awesome.
I was so moved by the story. It was a dream so powerful that it connected so many people (and still does to this day) -- it's nice to have reminders that the beauty of humanity exists even amidst so much other ugliness.

For many the practice of folding 1,000 cranes represents a form of healing and hope during challenging times. That is exactly what it is for me.

Almost two years ago, I was going through a really tough time in my life. There were times where I felt like I must have cried all the tears I could have cried, and days where I felt like if I started again I would never stop. I lost a lot of weight in a short amount of time, even though I made efforts to eat... food just didn't taste as good anymore. I had many sleepless nights wondering what place I had in the world. It was scary, I couldn't see what life for myself would look like in a year, a month, even the next day. I just couldn't see it. I went to Dallas to visit my family, accompanied by two of my closest friends. My family (btw, the nice thing about what I consider "family" is that there is room for great friends to be considered "family") is fantastic. I'm super duper lucky. In the morning, we went to the art museum and I was delighted to see so many gorgeous displays. This hallway in particular inspired me.

Me at the Crow Asian Art Museum -- Dallas, TX (2011)
I decided my goal was to find ways to cultivate and enrich myself as a person. This covers all levels of growth, be it physically, emotionally or spiritually. Some days would be contemplative, other days would be about learning new things. The path to self discovery is no simple feat, as you constantly have to ask yourself the hard questions that you don’t want to answer. During dark times in my life, I am fortunate to have my wonderful family and friends by my side. In the darkness, in times where I didn't think I could find hope, people in my life showed me how much they cared by reaching their hands out to pick me up and dust myself off. As I write this, I am in another transitional period in my life. I don’t always know what to do, but somehow I find a way to get to the next day. I am extremely inspired by the people around me that love me -- words will never be enough to express what they mean to me. I, too, hope to be a shining person for them. (And later if you want, you can read my previous post to understand the shining person reference here.)

To me, it's important to truly feel and to truly express. Suppression of emotions only leads to significant problems. We can’t be ashamed of having feelings, whether they are anger, hurt, frustration, sorrow, confusion or whatever else. The important thing is that we have an outlet for those feelings in order to process them. Feeling is not weak. Neither is asking for help when it’s too tough on our own. If things aren't fine, we can’t put on our masks and say that they are. That’s not giving it our all. I'm happy to say that my outlook on life is much better than when that pic was snapped (and also that my hair looks much better now IMHO).  I'm also excited to share with you that I am at 840 origami cranes right now. I was stuck on 200 for a long time, then I was stuck around the 500-600 range for even longer, but now that I am at 840 I no longer have any doubt that I will finish. And I am really ecstatic. I feel like the closer and closer I get to 1,000 that anything is possible -- in all aspects of life. Things are achievable.

I'm at 840 -- shit is getting real.
It has been a huge exercise of patience, determination, and effort. Some of them even have inspirational quotes written on them, goals, dreams -- it really is a true reflection of hope for me.

I'll be sure to post when I finish, and show you what all I do with it. People have already asked me what I plan on doing after I finish. My journey doesn't end at 1,000 -- there's always room to keep growing. Whether it's cranes again, I'm not sure. I've been thinking butterflies would be fun to make, but we'll see. One step at a time -- gotta finish these cranes first. There will be times when things don't go well, but there are things you begin to see because things don't go well. Without darkness, the light can’t always make itself apparent. On your dark days, know that there can be light. Sometimes, you've just got to reach out your hand to the numerous amount of people who care about you and want to help you back up. Other times, you just have to make it for yourself. Either way, know that no matter what, you can do it. Life is doable.

You can view part two here.