why i'm happy i'm not a gardener

why i'm happy i'm not a gardener

The funny thing about the title of this post is that a couple of my closest Nashville friends are not just gardeners, but professional gardeners. (And for a woman-owned, almost entirely female-staffed gardening biz with a badass Rosie-the-Riveter-inspired logo, no less). If I were them, I'd see this headline and be all "whaaaa why is Val throwing shade?" — to which my response is, "girl, I thought you'd want all the shade you can get, it's getting pretty damn hot out there." #horriblepunintended

I digress.

As my hard-working hubby Chris is outside at this very moment pulling weeds and planting herbs, I'm in here in the air-conditioned living room on the couch, typing away in my little computer world. Do I feel guilty? Well, a tiny bit, since I will totes enjoy those herbs — but he knows gardening is NOT my thing, and that when I do it, I get really pissy after about ten minutes, so it's really no fun to be around me anyway. Left to my own devices, I'd plant and kill herbs for a month or two (spare me the lecture on how to care for herbs kthx) until resigning myself to paying for the exorbitantly overpriced grocery store variety.  

A couple of years ago, inspired by my badass aforementioned gardener friends, I said I wanted to learn how to garden. Oh boy! I couldn't wait to get some tips and lessons from them, get my hands on some gardening books, and dig in. But it never happened.

For a long while, I felt guilty about it. "What's wrong with me? Why am I not taking action on this? I keep saying I want to do it, and doing nothing." Chris would convince me, literally maybe once/season, to get out in the yard with him. (For him, it's not even so much as having the help as it is the company — sweet, and misguided, as he eventually learned re: the quality of the company.) 

I don't remember at what point I swallowed my pride and admitted it to myself, but sometime in the last year or so, I finally said it: I really don't like gardening. In fact, I kind of actually HATE gardening. 

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thanks, google -- I can take it from here

im-back In recent months, I've taken a total hiatus from the blogging/social media*/online biz part of my life. Though at times I've felt guilty about not announcing anything about it more publicly ("will they think I'm a total flake?"), I'm pretty sure I was the only one worried about it. I also wondered if my unannounced vanishing act meant that really my heart just wasn't in this anymore. I waited for my Inner Wise Self to chime in on that, and boy did she take her sweet-ass time. (*for Waking Up in Wonder... still wasting plenty of time watching cat videos on my personal Facebook account.)

And then she started whispering just out of ear shot, until all the sudden I was paying close enough attention to hear: I DO miss this. A lot.

As some changes have been percolating recently in my life, I've felt an expansion in the time, space, and mental energy I have for different parts of my life. I'd certainly held down this fort (and others) when things were quite busy at work in the past, but to be honest, late last year I just started hitting a point of burnout where it felt like regardless how much free time I actually might have had, I had no energy to do much of anything with it.

Not so good when the therapist/coach starts to feel like the color is being drained out of life, eh?

Every month or so, I'd check in on the blog and make sure it was still around, that the internet gremlins hadn't gobbled it up in its weak, atrophied state (or perhaps more likely, I'd missed my domain name renewal email). I was surprised to see that people were still visiting, despite my lack of new content, guest posting, or sharing on social media. I guess that built-in SEO plugin really works, eh?

It's pretty cool to think that because of certain keywords people are typing in to the search bar, they're still finding my dusty little corner of the internet. There might be a few cobwebs here, but dammit, I'm proud of a lot of the content on here. (Just got a kick out of re-reading my post on Non-attachment, Materialism, & Naming Your Car. The Mouse is now over 226k and looking forward to a well-deserved 10th birthday cleaning & detailing this June!)

So, thanks Google.

I appreciate the fact that you (and um, I guess Bing & Yahoo?) have kept a few people trickling over here in the past few months. And as I go forward, I have to commit, for my own sanity, to be focused mostly on the content part of this and a smidge on the marketing, because trying to do all aspects on full throttle is still a little overwhelming to me.

I realize this post has been totally self-indulgent and probably not that helpful to you. But perhaps you relate to that passion that you let fall by the wayside, that guitar that's collecting dust in the corner, the sketchbook that's gone untouched for weeks or months or longer.

There doesn't have to be a burning bush moment. There wasn't for me, but gradually it became clear to me that I wanted this back in my life. If there's something similar in your life, let this be your gentle invitation back to it. That's all you need.

Looking forward to connecting — namaste, y'all.

creativity rising: a singer realizes her dream {más moss EP release}

Yesterday evening, I hit 'publish' on a short-and-sweet blog post on another site announcing the release of a debut EP album. 

No, I'm not promoting someone else's music (though, trivia fact, I did intern for a boutique music PR agency during college).

This is a band that *I'm singing in*. This is my music — our music. 

And it's so surreal to finally be at this point.

The post below is a somewhat-self-indulgent history of my relationship with making music, so if you're not into that right now, justclick here for the info on how to download/stream our EP. (I will say, though, that there are certainly some good lessons in my story if you stick around!) 

It's in my blood, y'all

I got my first karaoke machine in the third grade.It came with a cassette that had just one karaoke song on it — The Power of Love. I didn't know or particularly even like The Power of Love, but damn if I didn't I learn that song and belt it out anyway. I had a microphone and a tape recorder!

A few years later, I upgraded to a fancier Koss boombox (thanks, Dad) with a badass karaoke function that more-or-less silenced the lead vocal track on most CDs (and a real mic!). I sang in my room for hundreds, maybe thousands of hours over the next 5+ years, recording tape after tape and even dueting with myself and friends. My mom quickly realized that if she wanted to see me at all, I had to have a karaoke boombox at her house, too (thanks, Mom).

I sang in choir in junior high and early high school, until I decided that I was not a fan of our choir director, and besides, school choir doesn't get you famous like Britney, anyway (SMH at my younger self). I briefly sang in an emo punk band with my sophomore-year boyfriend until that relationship reached its expiration date.

After that, eight years (!!) passed before I did much of anything else with music. I started singing with a friend who was a talented pianist, and we co-wrote a few songs together and played a couple small gigs. It was fun, but then I started grad school, and life got in the way for both of us.

Two years later, I moved to Nashville. Of course, when you're new in Nashville, everyone asks if you moved here to pursue music. I'd laugh and say no, I came temporarily for my grad school internship to work with eating disorders and got a job I couldn't turn down, so I stayed.

I left Austin, the live music capitol of the world, for Nashville, the songwriting capitol of the world. But no, I wasn't here for music. Anytime I had to acknowledge that, a part of me internally cringed, and I'd do my very best to ignore it — because if I'm being honest with myself, I am most alive and joyful when I am singing. 

The stories we create

If I really love it so much, why didn't I pursue singing? Well, one big reason is that I had a story in my head for many years that because I "just" sang, no band would want me.

No one needs "just a singer" when so many singers can also play piano, guitar, etc. So I made a few half-efforts to learn guitar, but my heart wasn't in it. For me, I was only learning guitar so I could sing. So as much as that was probably a fairly good reason, it wasn't enough to make me passionate about or committed to the sometimes-painful learning process and consistent practice required to get good at an instrument.

And of course, there are a million other reasons that could be perfectly great excuses if I let them: "I may be good but I'm not that good", "I don't have the time", "it's impossible to actually make a living doing that", and many more thoughts that have helped me rationalize why I didn't take any action.

Meanwhile, I went about my life with a little hollow part at my core. A part that winced in jealousy anytime I saw someone else doing what I wanted to do. The part of me that lived in the "should've/could've/would've" mindset as though it were actually already too late. 

Turns out, choir is kind of awesome

Another year or so passed. When I initially moved to Tennessee, I started attending the First Unitarian Universalist Church of Nashville, and it gradually became the first church that has ever actually felt like a spiritual home for me. (Sidebar, I would never have imagined myself as a voluntarily church-going person, but the FUUN congregation, and UU in general, opened my eyes to a new meaning of "church." Also it's Nashville, so isn't church like a requirement? I kid!)

FUUN is home to Jason Shelton, our Associate Minister for Music, one of the most well-respected contemporary UU composers internationally, and all-around badass. For over a year, I watched him conduct the choir with a mix of enjoyment (of the beautiful music), admiration (of the talent), and jealousy (because I wasn't up there). Once I became consciously aware of that last one, I thought to myself, "I have no right to be jealous if I don't want to get up there and be a part of it myself." And like that, I joined the choir.

As my first time really singing in years, it was like a part of me that had gone into hibernation was suddenly waking up and being fed.

And then... Más Moss!

Fast forward another year, and my then-fiancé Chris and I started talking about how it might be cool if I tried singing along with him and his friend Ben, who he'd been jamming with on and off since high school. Another friend of ours, Berry (who recently helped us buy our first house!) got a bass for Christmas, and we started having fun learning a handful of covers. I also messed with a vocal line/lyrics for a couple of previously-instrumental tunes Chris and Ben (along with their friend Matt, a very talented bass player who left this world too soon) had written together.

Before we knew it, we were planning on providing the music for our own wedding, because we're weirdos and we do what we want. By the time the wedding rolled around, we had written four original songs together (and learned that many covers) and were practicing regularly. We played a couple house parties before the wedding, and had a blast playing our reception before we turned it over to DJ Spotify.

Not long after, we were sad that Berry had to direct his time elsewhere (though it did sort of result in our home ownership, so can't complain), but equally excited that our friend Seth was interested in joining us on bass.

We kept writing and practicing, and started working on recording our first EP. All of those things took priority over booking live shows, since we wanted to have quality tracks to share with potential venues as newbies on the scene. We DIY'd the recording thanks to Seth's knowledge and equipment, so it took a whiiiiile. (Also we all have those things called "day jobs," so scheduling is no small feat.)

Then, Seth teamed up with Evan Sieling who mixed and mastered the tracks... and voila! We got photos done with Brad and Ashley of All of the Stars Photography, and got our ducks in a row for the digital album release.

So here I am now, releasing a real recorded album, available to the public. (Hey, that's you!)

On not being a slave to your thoughts

No, I'm not selling out Bridgestone Arena (or even a crappy dive bar) or gracing the cover of Rolling Stone like my 14-year-old-self fantasized about. We haven't played live shows yet because of how we wanted to prioritize our time and efforts, and we decided not to print physical copies of the EP yet. At times, my inner critic goes to town with imposter-syndrome comments about how facts like these make me not a "real" musician.

But another part of me is wiser.

It knows that if I just let thoughts like these make my decisions, I'd still be sitting in those pews and concert venues looking smugly annoyed and secretly feeling sad and jealous.

It also knows that music will be one of my greatest gifts to the world, even if only 100 people ever hear these songs.

Howard Thurman explains this perfectly in one of my favorite quotes:

Don't ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and go do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive.

If you've made it all the way to the end of this epic post, good on you! I think there's probably a reason. I wonder if there is a small hollow part in you that needs to be acknowledged.

So I'll leave you with this question:

What is it inside you that is begging to be fed so it can come alive? What is it that you need to do or create for your light to shine brightly into the world? And how can you start to DO that, even in the tiniest baby-step kind of way, right NOW? 

Listen to Más Moss's debut EPhere, and get links to download and stream from your favorite online music serviceshere

introducing "Life Balance 2.0" weekly blog feature {work life balance}

life-balance-2dot0

In today’s culture, we're constantly preached to about the virtues of moderation and balance.

And I’ll be the first to admit that I am totally guilty of this, because I know that I function a lot better when I’m more “balanced” in pretty much every sense of the word.

However.

We also live in an unprecedented era of instantaneous communication and “always on” connectedness. With the lines between “work” and “life” increasingly blurring, the term “work/life balance” seems like a leftover relic of the 90’s, especially for working parents and entrepreneurs. The intersection of work and personal growth is fascinating to me, because I view them as one and the same.

I’ve heard the term “work/life integration” used to describe this new era, and I like this because it describes the reality that life is not often siloed into these separate buckets, especially with certain kinds of work. Yet, of course we need to be able to implement some boundaries, or else what's stopping us from becoming tethered to our devices 24/7 and adapting to a state of Continuous Partial Attention, especially with the flesh-and-blood people who matter most in our lives?

I don’t believe that the idea of “work/life balance” is a myth as some argue, or an antiquated, obsolete idea. I just think we need to be more aware of how we’re each defining it.

Hence, I’m starting a new weekly feature on the blog that will be published every Thursday: Life Balance 2.0.

In this series, I’ll share stories and actionable tips and strategies for how to better define and practice your unique version of balance — whatever that means at this particular point in your life.

When I was visiting family in DC earlier this week, I watched my aunt and uncle get ready for the workday as they tried to get two small kids up and ready to go on time without forgetting any crucial items. It was like a mini circus, but nothing out of the norm for their average Monday.

The old idea of “balance” would be laughable in this situation. Some weeks require travel or crazy-long hours. Sometimes the kids have camp, other days are play dates or family outings. There is no “normal” or “ideal” balance that could work all the time. Real life does not look like Pinterest. 

I picture my aunt or uncle trying to walk down a four-inch-wide balance beam while holding a phone, their work bag, lunch, a kid, the kid’s backpack and lunch, an umbrella, and car keys. If they fall of onto the left side, balls get dropped at work. Off the right side, balls get dropped at home.

“Balance” seems pretty ridiculous and impossible when you think of it that way, right? A set-up for failure. We can’t define balance so narrowly or one-size-fits all. What works for one person or family may not be work works best for another.

Where does "work" end and "passion" begin?

My husband calls me a workaholic because I’m “always doing something" (guilty as charged on that part). It’s definitely true that I need to learn to chill a little more and step away from the screens — but what drives me is my passion for constant growth and voracious hunger for learning, so I can more fully experience the world and share those experiences and information with my people both online and in my offline life and work.

I’m always bouncing around from psychology to spirituality to marketing and entrepreneurship, trying to become a little more informed and more helpful to my tribe every single day. To someone else, my life might seem totally “off-balance.” But to me, most of it doesn’t feel like “work.” It’s part of my purpose for being here. 

And just like all of you, I’m also still learning everyday about what a more holistic “balance” means for me at this moment in my life. I want to keep experimenting with new ideas and systems to ensure that the various little gardens of my life (marriage, career, finances, friendships, etc.) are all getting enough water, and that I have enough in each water “bucket” of mind, body, and spirit to properly tend to those gardens. 

I hope this series will be useful to you, because I’m already excited knowing it’s definitely going to help me on my own quest for defining my own personal Life Balance 2.0.

Also, I would absolutely love to hear your ideas or stories that I can work into this series! Just comment here or on social media, or shoot me an email.

And make sure you get my Mind-Body-Spirit meditation and Meditation Apps Resource Guide, my free gifts to you, which will be a great asset as you embark on your own Life Balance 2.0 mission.

looking for direction? ask what your 10-year-old self would do

10-year-old-self.png

Photo: My cousin Taylor and I being entrepreneurial with our blue lemonade and blue yogurt pies. Miss you always.

This is certainly not an original idea (are there any?), but it's one that has helped guide me many times, especially recently. Are you struggling to figure out what your passion or purpose is? Or, perhaps you have so many that it’s hard to land on any one thing long enough to gain momentum, and you don’t know how to narrow your focus?

Just ask what your 10-year-old self would enjoy doing.

In the past year or so, I was doing this before I even explicitly realized it. I sheepishly dipped my toes into the metaphysical realm, exploring crystals, energy, the Tarot, flower essences, etc. At first, I felt a little embarrassed about my interest in these areas since I tend to consider myself an educated skeptic, and also because the whole Bohemian hippie thing is really “in” right now and I didn’t want to think I’d just jump on the bandwagon of whatever is popular just to be "cool."

But the fact is, 10-year-old Valerie would have loved the shit out of all this stuff.*

And when I was 10 — sure, I had plenty of insecurities and flaws — but I was unapologetically ME. I was witty, creative, and I didn’t believe my potential was limited. I loved fairies and gemstones and anything sparkly. I loved reading and writing stories. I was a novice cellist, good at math, and obsessed with singing. I believed I was creative and had a lot to offer. I believed my body could do really cool things (like gymnastics!).

Sure, I wasn’t free of anxieties of fears. I’d worry that the boy I liked wouldn’t like me back, or that my friends liked each other more than me** — but my inner critic didn’t yet have the power to stop me from doing the things I loved.

Then, slowly, I started growing up, and little-by-little, losing that clarity of what made me come alive.

I only played the cello for a year (don’t even get me started on that; my school had limited electives and I regret not having chosen orchestra over choir), and I never followed my aspirations of acting because I didn’t start theatre by my freshman year and then told myself I was already “too late." My attempts to actually perform as a singer (outside of my bedroom or car) came in fits and starts “because no one wants just a vocalist” and I didn’t play an instrument, or genuinely care enough to learn one because my musical passion thus far has really just been singing.

In the past year, I have been more committed to my own personal growth journey than ever. I’m a voracious reader of self-development books, and spend most of my 2-hour-a-day commute listening to podcasts in that realm. One of the best pieces of wisdom that I’ve taken and applied to my own life is that, if you want clarity on how you should be living, look back and consider what you would have enjoyed doing at age 10, and there’s a good chance you’ll love doing something similar now.

Of course, it’s not advice to be followed 100% literally, as otherwise I’d be sitting around watching Ghost Writer, reading Baby-Sitter’s Club books, belting out Alanis on my karaoke machine, and eating Little Debbies all day long. On second thought, that sounds pretty great. But my husband would probably start to worry about getting the bills paid. So, it’s not about being literal, but rather, looking at the kinds of things you enjoyed back then and seeing how you could have more of them in your life now. Thus far, almost all the things I’ve loved doing more of are all things that my 10-year-old self also loved.

I’m singing in a band. I wear glittery eyeshadow and dye my hair bright colors. I wear Lisa Frank headphones (like right now). I write and tell stories and jokes. I eat ice cream almost every day. (ok that’s definitely not new) I get excited about learning about and trying new things, both practical and “magical” (anything with an air of whimsy!) I hang out with girlfriends and have a great time talking for hours on end. I go on adventures, like today when I hiked with my husband into what felt like a “hidden trail” in our neighborhood to a “secret pond” and got drenched in rain on the way home. I play games with my friends, like Dungeons & Dragons, am reminded of my favorite live-action role-play game from when I was 7 or 8 years old, and promptly find and buy it on eBay (then warn my friends they will be coming over soon to play a child’s game from 1993 with a unicorn on the box.)

I won’t delude you or myself that I do these things all the time. In fact, I’m usually pretty boring. But I have seen that the more that I intentionally challenge myself to integrate 10-year-old-Val activities into my life, the more alive and more “me” I feel. And it can apply far beyond hobbies or activities, all the way to what you want to do with your life professionally. At around 10, I was already filling out guided journals and reading Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul and other books that were the equivalent of self-development for kids. By 12, I had started my own girls-only online club, Shimmer Gurl. Not far jumps to my current job, working with groups of women on their healing journey, and writing online to share my passions and expand my reach.

If you want to feel more alive in your day-to-day, or more clear on your “big picture” direction, try writing a letter from your 10-year-old self to you today, about all the thing you loved doing. Look at old photos of yourself and talk to parents, siblings, or friends who have known you since childhood. You may very well find the clarity or direction you’re looking for, and you’re damn-sure* to have fun in the meantime.

*My 10-year-old self would not have approved of the use of the words "shit" or "damn," but some things change, right?!

**I acknowledge that a lot of 10-year-olds have much bigger problems than this... but at that point in my life, the impact of an amicable divorce was about the most serious thing I had going on.