Words to Live By: Nelson Mandela

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate, our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us.” -Nelson Mandela

This is not a new quote.  It has spread through the internet on countless blogs, and likely used by teachers, therapists, and commencement speakers to the point of exhaustion.  But like many deeply insightful but overused statements of wisdom from world leaders, the significance of Nelson’s words did not strike me until reading them in this particular moment in this particular essay, in this particular place and time in my life, an era of personal rediscovery and personal re-empowerment.  As I ground myself in my own strength and self respect, these words are perfect for contemplation and meditation.  I want them to sink into my skeleton, to infiltrate my metacognition, to infuse my realigned priorities.

Let us hold our darkness but embrace and live from our light.

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Inspiration from friends and strangers.

With the often glorious and occasionally sauna-like ridiculous weather lately I have oft neglected the many wonderful blogs I follow through Google Reader.  However, the tidbits I have gleaned in the few blog-reading moments I have found have been great, and I find myself inspired to create, brainstorm, and dream more than ever before.

The Style Rookie is one of my very favorite blogs for a certain kind of eye candy, fashion, and decadence.  I absolutely wish I had been as fabulous as Tavi is as a freshman in high school, but alas, now I can only aspire to reconcile my adult life with the often mediocre quirkiness of my adolescence.  Tavi’s shrines are some of my favorite inspirations for creating random things- I don’t have a shrine yet, and possibly won’t ever, but collecting and repurposing random trinkets has always been a hobby of mine.

I have long had a Seven Wanders of My World post in my saved post drafts list, and hopefully will get to it soon (maybe a rainy day when exploring my present geography is not nearly as pleasant as dreaming about future expeditions?).  The Adventure Cycling blog is particularly stellar for living vicariously through bicyclists having adventures all over the country and world, and brainstorming such trips for one’s self.

In addition to following the adventures of world-wide bicyclers, I love My Hyggelig for occasional photos of places I know in the Cities and lovely prose poetry about the ordinary joys of these days we live in and so often let pass by unnoticed.  Her latest post led to dreams of my planned vacations for this summer, and to visions of the tres exciting trip Ben and I will hopefully take next autumn: bicycling the Mississippi River Trail.

Summer in Minnesota is always a strange mix of lazy days filled with sunlight, iced tea, and naps, and a frenzy of activity- music festivals, art shows, vacations, bicycling, unending visits with friends, trying to live every day as fully as possible doing and making and experiencing because you know there are only so many of them.

How do you spend your summer?

Quirky ladies, or what inspired my young self.

Maybe it’s my year of reading books written by non-SWM, or maybe it’s just the people I’m connecting with these days, but in the last few months several mentions of some of my favorite girls/women, fictional and not, have cropped up, and with it a realization of how much these strong females have shaped the Lauren you know and love.

To start from the beginning, I was absolutely obsessed with Pippi Longstocking as a child.

I wanted her boots.  I wished my hair did that sweet sticky-outy braids thing.  But most importantly, I wanted to have her sorts of adventures.  Going over Niagra Falls in a barrel.  Walking up a wall using magical glue from a homeless man in an attic.  Parading around town with her horse and monkey while tossing candy and ice cream to local orphans.  Kicking **s and taking names any time the bad guys tried to take over Villa Villa Coola.  Pippi was my idol, the adventurous soul my elementary school self longed to become while playing Boxcar Children under the spruce tree in the backyard.  My inspiration from Pippi’s spunk and sass were matched by the academic prowess of another young literary character: Harriet the Spy.

Harriet didn’t take anything from anyone.  She had the dirt on all the neighbors, and built a world for herself where her parents could not.

Where Pippi was a dirty tomboy of the world, Harriet was cool and collected, an intellectual powerhouse to intrigue my young brain.  I was so enthused by Harriet’s secret notebook of observations that I began one of my own, much to the amusement of my present day self upon discovering that my first ‘observation’ was that SALAMI IS AWESOME!!!  Regardless of the mundane nature of my observations, Harriet the Spy encouraged me to write.  And write I have, to this very day, in a myriad of forms.

Not all of my inspiration from young female literary characters ended as I aged.  The Anne of Green Gables series (at least, up until Anne has children when she becomes little more than a housewife and the story must move to her daughters)  is one of my favorites to date, and I revisit the original book almost yearly.

Anne’s zest for life, creativity, wonder, and penchant for making amusement out of trouble were incessantly refreshing, especially once I realized that Montgomery was writing the series over 100 years ago.  One of my dreams is to do an Anne of Green Gables tour at Prince Edward Island, and hopefully I’ll find a kindred spirit while I’m at it.

Upon reaching high school I began realizing that real women could be amazing and inspirational as well.  Strong women in the real world did cool things!  I could too!  Julia Butterfly Hill was one of my first discoveries, and so holds a special place in my heart.

Julia lived in a redwood for two years as part of a campaign to protect these magnificent, ancient trees.  I gobbled up her autobiography (I couldn’t resist reading even when my heroines were real rather than fictional) and scoured her website, soaking up Julia’s musings on anti-consumerism and activism.  Much of my early vehement earth activism came from the ideas and actions of Julia Butterfly Hill.

Since adolescence I have found many many more amazing women to inspire and invigorate me.  I’ve even become friends with quite a few 🙂  The foundation of me, however, was in these ladies, these wonderful women and girls who lived and thought and wrote and talked outside of the box, allowing me to dream of and eventually start creating the world I truly wanted to live in.