The Desire Map

I recently started upon a new journey briefly mentioned in my post on themes for 2013 (Gratitude, Beauty, and Health) called The Desire Map (affiliate link)*. The program, authored by the luminous Danielle LaPorte, is all about how we want to feel in life. Much like setting up themes for myself each year instead of writing out a list of aspirations, The Desire Map encourages people to map out their core desired feelings instead of concrete goals. By doing this, the program helps people to access a more holistic life plan, both inclusive and flexible, as opposed to a traditional rigid and limiting set of goals.

Danielle focuses on five areas of life: Livelihood and Lifestyle, Body and Wellness, Creativity and Learning, Relationships and Society, and Essence and Spirituality. Each of these five areas deserves concentration and affection. By mapping out desired feelings in each area, people are able to make clear what it is they really want to get out of an experience – the feeling that comes during and after that event: pride, relaxation, comfort, physical well-being, spiritual connectedness, the list goes on.

The purpose of the program is, in Danielle’s words, to guide you in using your preferred feelings as a guidance system for making choices, and for being more present and alive, to help you use your desired feelings as a way to access comfort and clarity during painful times, to show you how to use your desired feelings as creative fuel to make great things happen in your life that will radiate out into the world, to help you accentuate the positive aspects of your life, while still honouring, and not invalidating, the negative parts that you want to change. All of these things sound like wonderful ways to get in touch with myself and where I truly want to be in life. So, I am working with The Desire Map in conjunction with my themes for this year.

I am in the process of crystallizing my vision for my core desired feelings. I am making my way through the workbook and finding a way from gratitude through desire to action.

Join me in the journey by following along here, or do it for yourself with The Desire Map* program (includes book, workbook, audio books, email inspiration, audio contemplations and motivations, worksheets, a web app, how-to videos, and 4 music playlists, as well as access to The Desire Map Facebook Group).

*While this is an affiliate link, I truly do believe in this program and what it will do for my life. I am already appreciative of the workbook and how it makes me more aware of what it is I truly want and how I can achieve my true core desired feelings. I hope sincerely that you will join me, not because I will make money from your purchase, but because I would love to have allies, friends, and co-conspirators along this journey. Please do leave a comment and let me know if you decide to do this program so we can work through it together.


2013: Gratitude, Beauty, and Health

In the past couple of years, I’ve chosen just three words to focus on for twelve months. Last year, my words were Create, Celebrate, Simplify. Though I didn’t follow through with all of the goals I set out for myself, I was relatively happy with how they manifested for me. I got back into writing and wrote more than ever before during NaNoWriMo. I celebrated with friends, I celebrated myself, I even got to travel to Indonesia to celebrate my brother’s wedding to a wonderful Indonesian girl. And I simplified to such a degree that I find myself wanting more, for I have bare walls at home begging for some art.

For 2013, my three words are: Gratitude, Beauty, and Health. Here I have outlined them with words and photos, including ideas on how to better bring these wonderful things into my life and how to move forward with goals that will keep ensure they stay a part of my life.

[I realize that I'm a bit late to the party in posting this, but I've literally been working on this all year. (I started the first draft of this post on January 4.) I actually think taking my time and posting about this later in the year has helped to crystallize my vision for what I want and constantly updating this draft has kept me focused on these three words.]


prayer offering in Bali

  • Goal word: GRATITUDE
  • Path 1 to the goal: Keep up my lists of Love A La Carte (gratitude, wonder, and general awesomeness).
  • Path 2 to the goal: Live in the moment and be thankful for what I have.
  • Path 3 to the goal: Give some of the gratitude away. Instead of random acts of kindness, perform targeted acts of kindness, sharing with friends and family.
  • Path 4 to the goal: Complete Danielle LaPorte’s The Desire Map.
  • Distractions: Getting stuck in a rut. Getting overwhelmed or stressed.
  • Steps to the path: Keep a cup of “great times” moments listed on colorful Post-It Notes, eat seasonal food, update to Happier as often as possible, and take more photographs to document awesome things.
  • The finish line: Making 2013 my most grateful, happiest year yet. Feeling a sense of accomplishment. Radiating gratitude and kindness.
  • What’s next: Inspiring others to radiate gratitude and kindness.



  • Goal word: BEAUTY
  • Path 1 to the goal: Spend less money and more time appreciating the beauty that surrounds me. Find the beauty in the mundane.
  • Path 2 to the goal: Write about beauty in the world and appreciate the beauty in myself.
  • Path 3 to the goal: Take more photographs of the beautiful details in life.
  • Distractions: Distractions. Being busy. Lack of awareness.
  • Steps to the path: Update my iPhone (camera) to a better one and/or carry my digital camera more often. Make my own beauty products. Organize and weed out beauty products I already own. Stop feeling guilty about making myself look good (STYLE).
  • The finish line: Experimenting with multiple design and style aesthetics.
  • What’s next: Finding a design and style aesthetic that pleases me.


blueberries and blackberries

  • Goal word: HEALTH
  • Path 1 to the goal: Getting new glasses. (check)
  • Path 2 to the goal: Finishing dental work. (check)
  • Path 3 to the goal: Going gluten/wheat-free. (So, okay, I tried this and it didn’t really work out for me. It was too hard not to eat wheat and too expensive to keep up with. But, I tried something new. So, at least there’s that.)
  • Path 4 to the goal: Finish one full year on Weight Watchers.
  • Path 5 to the goal: Keep current with all doctors’ appointments throughout the year.
  • Path 6 to the goal: Start running.
  • Distractions: Time restraints, convenience, expense.
  • Steps to the path: Track the food that I’m eating, experiment with wheat-free cooking and baking, make and keep doctors’ appointments.
  • The finish line: Making 2013 my healthiest year yet. Losing weight. Feeling more full of energy.
  • What’s next: Don’t stop. Run a 5k. Run 3-4 times a week consistently. Add yoga.

*All images mine.

Mental Health Day

Do you ever take a day off just to cater to your mental health? I do. And I’ll tell you why: sometimes you just need a day away from work, away from responsibilities to take care of yourself – a time and space completely your own.

I  took the day off yesterday because I needed a day to be inside myself, without working. I needed extra sleep and extra care.

So, I slept in. And when I got up, I cleaned and did chores around the house, put fresh sheets on the bed, bought new pillows, organized my room, hung summer clothes in the closet and put away the in-between clothes, went grocery shopping, and watched television (cooking shows and the Office, ironically). I bought a jewelry tree to organize my accessories. I hung up my magnetic makeup board. It felt good to take care of all these things and to largely disconnect from the internet. I didn’t pay attention to the news. I didn’t read blogs. I checked Twitter and Facebook sparingly.

At the end of the day, I felt relaxed, rejuvenated, and ready to face the world again. There’s just  something about getting your physical space in order that leads to getting your mental space in order, as well. Sometimes taking a day off just to care for yourself can be just the thing you need.

On Inspiration

I keep waiting to be inspired. And then I am inspired by absolutely everything, but I don’t have the words to write. As the glory of spring blooms around me, I am reminded that I need routine in my life. A routine of being inspired. A routine of creating art. A routine of writing.

I am reminded of one of my all-time favorite quotes:

Be regular and orderly in your life, that you may be violent and original in your work. -Clive Barker

It is so often that artists credit their routines with inspiration for great art. It seems so simple, yet is often a challenge to stick to that basic schedule. In essence, not only do we have to plan to be inspired, but clear the time and space for it to happen.

When I find myself uninspired, I know it is time to make energy move. It’s time to clean up, clean out, organize, and simplify. That time is now.

Summer Lovin’


Love A La Carte features all the little things that make my life just a little more delicious.

♥ The above illustration from ♥ This makes my heart jump up and down with happiness: the Business 9 Women Kept Secret for Three Decades. ♥ Affordable Care Cat (the Supreme Court upholding the Affordable Care Act was HUGE good news for this country, a huge win for the underprivileged and for women in particular). ♥ How neat is this documentary on the Cave of Forgotten Dreams?! ♥ This article on mental health really made me think: Why Americans Are Anxious, Stressed, Depressed, and Fat. What do you think? Are we addicted to novelty? Is technology too much for our brains? Do you find yourself overwhelmed? I know I do. Sometimes I just have to step away from the computer and the phone and take a breath of fresh air. ♥ Some fantastic combination of art and science: Berndnaut Smilde Makes Real Clouds Appear Inside Gallery (and photographs them). ♥ Making plans for a vacation and getting out of the city for a week for time with my family, relaxation, and lots of time by the water, both beach and pool. ♥ Taking a well-deserved coffee break. ♥ Getting stains on my fingers from fresh summer fruit, especially berries. ♥ Thunderstorms. ♥ LUSH’s Ocean Salt scrub, which is great for tired feet – I use this for at-home pedicures. ♥ Having a really rotten argument turn into a learning experience. ♥ Second chances. Or third. Or fourth. Or… ♥ Candy-colored Post-It Notes. ♥ The Princess Bride (forever a favorite). ♥ Trips to Barnes & Noble because new books are so exciting! (And walking around among books is good for the soul.) ♥ Discovering new music via friends online. ♥ Dressing up for no reason at all. ♥ Looking at photos from past vacations and trips and loving how utterly happy everyone looks. ♥

My Summer Beach Vacation Spotify Playlist:

This wonderful chat between friends about beauty, gratitude, and self-love:

Southeast Asia: The Trip of a Lifetime, Part 3: Adventures in Central Java

Not only did we get to witness a beautiful wedding, but we also got to experience much of the culture in Central Java through our travels there. We were fortunate to have a wonderful trip all planned out for us and enjoyed every minute of every day (well, except when my parents and I got food poisoning – ick!). We took a bus trip through the countryside and up into the mountains to stay at Dieng Plateau. We arrived in the evening, after dark had settled, but could see the beauty of the gardens at the tea plantation where we were staying. When we woke up the next morning, we could not only see the loveliness that was the waterfall outside our door, but also the other mountains in the distance. It was a breathtaking view.




We got a tour of the facilities and lessons in how to process tea leaves to make both green and black tea. Did you know they both come from the same plant? Black tea is just fermented. That’s the only difference. This tea plantation has 800 tea-pickers who are all women. They grow tea for Lipton… next time I drink a Yellow Label, I’ll remember everything about how it’s processed and prepared. Mmm, tea. (I love tea. I have many favorite types and love experimenting with new blends. What about you?)

While staying in the area, we also visited a beautiful old Hindu temple that was built in the 8th century. The facades were cracked, but you could still make out the carvings. It had long since been robbed of the figures inside the shrines, but the structures themselves were still quite impressive.


On the way to Jogjakarta, we visited Borobudur Temple, the largest Buddhist temple in the world. Though this temple was built in the 9th century, it is still used for worship today. There are three levels to the structure, each representing a different realm in Buddhist cosmology: namely Kamadhatu (the world of desires), Rupadhatu (the world of forms), and finally Arupadhatu (the formless world). Humans live out their existence in the first level, the world of desires. Those who have pushed away and overcome all desires live in the world of forms, where they can see forms, but are not drawn to them. Only Buddhas, or those enlightened, can reach the realm of the formless world. In addition to this symbolism, there are also panels depicting the stories of Buddhist lore, the birth and life of Siddhartha. There are 72 statues of Buddhas, which through subtle differences, represent different directions and carry different meanings. Their different purposes include: calling the Earth to witness, benevolence and alms giving, concentration and meditation, courage and fearlessness, reasoning and virtue, and the turning of the wheel of dharma. The temple of Borobudur was not only impressive, but truly breathtaking.


My favorite temple, however, was not Borobudur, but the Prambanan Temple, a Hindu temple. Prambanan was also built in the 9th century and celebrates the Trimurti, the expression of God as the Creator (Brahma), the Sustainer (Vishnu) and the Destroyer (Shiva). (Can you guess which one I was drawn to most?) In a similar fashion to Borobudur, there are three levels: the Bhurloka, the lowest realm of common mortals (humans, animals also demons), the Bhuvarloka, the middle realm of holy people, rishis, ascetics, and lesser gods, and the Svarloka, the highest and holiest realm of gods. In the lowest realm of mortals, humans are binded by their lust, desire and unholy way of life. In the middle realm of holy people, they have begun to see the light of truth. It is in the highest and holiest realm of gods that heaven is represented. This is where the righteous go between lives on Earth. At Prambanan, there were also many reliefs. They represented the epic stories of the Ramayana.




Southeast Asia: The Trip of a Lifetime, Part 2: Traditional Javanese Wedding

We set for Indonesia and met up with my brother in Jogjakarta (Jogja) for lunch at Ayam Goreng Suharti, one of the best fried chicken places in Jogja. Indonesians love fried food, especially chicken and this place is pretty famous for it. We ended up waiting at the restaurant for a while since Mike’s plane was delayed. While we were there, my brother gave each of us a gift of a book that had something to do with Indonesia – mine was Confessions of an Economic Hit Man. Once we picked up Mike, who is a very old friend of my brother’s, we set off for Kebumen, Yulia’s hometown, in a very nice air-conditioned bus. By the time we were on the road, it was dark and most of us just spent the drive quietly looking out the window. There were even a few snores from the back of the bus. Later into the evening, we stopped at a buffet for our first real taste of Indonesian food, which is often spicy and includes small chilies. There were lots of options with egg, tofu, and tempe, and, of course, tons of rice. Indonesians, we learned, love sweet things and put sugar in almost everything including fruit juice and soy sauce. We were able to experience this first-hand at dinner and throughout our stay in Java. When we arrived late in the evening at our hotel, we were all relieved to find that it included air conditioning. Indonesia is hot and humid (but being near the equator has lots of lush flora to be relished – pictures to come in the next installment).

After a good night’s sleep, we all were excited to finally meet Yulia in person. She was a doll! Sweet, funny, and a perfect complement to my brother. After the ladies got fitted for the kebaya, we all got ready to head over to Yulia’s parents’ house to meet her family and take part in a couple of Javanese wedding rituals.

Introductions (Left to right: Pat, me, Ann, Jamie, Yulia)

The first ritual is that of the Sungkeman, where the couple asks permission each from their own parents by kneeling in front of them. The parents give their blessing to their children for marriage.

Sungkeman: Jamie with father, Ray, and mother, Ann.

After this ritual, Yulia and Jamie each took their turn for Siraman, the bathing ceremony, where the family members of each poured a rose-petal bath over their heads to purify and ready the couple for marriage.

Siraman: Yulia and her mother, Retno.


Siraman: Jamie and his father, Ray.

After the Sungkeman and Siraman, there was the ritual of gift-giving. Seserahan is when the bride and groom give each other gifts. There are certain expectations of the groom for the bride, mostly. He is to give the bride clothing, shoes, cosmetics, food and other things that show he can provide for her. My brother gave Yuli a lovely dress as her first gift and she thought it was very beautiful. Once she held it up for everyone to see, he pointed into the basket again. Yuli grinned and put on a pair of Groucho Marx glasses. “I’ve never been more beautiful!” she exclaimed. Everyone laughed. Then, Jamie pulled out another pair of glasses, with springy eyes, and put them on. The goofy pair of them made all her relatives laugh. And afterwards many of her relatives took turns trying on the glasses and taking pictures.

The happy couple: Jamie and Yulia.

On the day of the wedding, we all dressed in traditional Javanese clothing and made our way to the ceremony. In addition to traditional legal and Muslim pieces of the ceremony itself, there were also more Javanese traditions, including the Upacara Balangan Gantal, or throwing of betel leaves. At a distance of about 10 feet, the bride and groom stand in the middle of their parents and throw betel leaves to each other. The philosophy of the ritual tells that this is a special moment that will never happen again. The betel leaves are rolled tightly and this shows that the bride and groom are bounded and will face happiness and bitterness together. In Javanese culture, betel leaves are believed to have power to cast out bad spirits.

Then there was the Sindur Binayang ceremony. The mother of the bride covered the bride and groom with fabric. Then, the bride’s father led them to the bride and groom’s chairs. The bride’s mother walked behind the bride and groom. This ritual shows that the parents of the bride give their blessing to the bride and groom. In Javanese culture, a husband is expected to be a role model for his wife. This ceremony demonstrates how the father of the bride is a role model and how the groom should also be a role model. And the bride’s mother walks the bride and groom showing that she gives support to both the bride and groom.

Sindur Binayang

One of my favorite rituals was the Bobot timbang/Pangkon, or sitting on the bride’s father’s lap. The bride and groom sit on the lap of the father of the bride. The bride’s mother will ask to the bride’s father “who is heavier?” Then the father will say “they are just the same weight”. This ceremony shows that both of the daughter and son in law are equally accepted in the family. Then, the father will lead the bride and groom to sit in their arranged chairs.

Both are the same weight.

Before the reception line of about 300 people, there was also a repetition of the Sungkeman. There were many photos taken and a lot of music played. There were smiles on everyone’s faces. It was a beautiful and awe-inspiring day. And that was just the beginning…


Our truly international family: Mike, Anti (Yuli’s sister), Hadi (Yuli’s father), Retno (Yuli’s mother), Ann (Jamie’s mother), Jamie, Daffa (Yuli’s nephew, Dewi’s son), Yuli, Pat (Jamie’s step-mother), Ray (Jamie’s father), Joe (Jamie’s step-father), Me. Dewi (Yuli’s sister), Jason (Jamie’s brother). Not pictured: Fais, otherwise known as Erman, Yuli’s brother (he joined us for the wedding in Bali).

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