I hope everyone had a fun Halloween! It’s never too early to book for next year’s party and costume contest!
It was the best season yet at Bob’s Corn and Pumpkin Farm! Thank you to all who came out for a face paint, and thank you to the awesome artists who helped me make it all possible. Growth is good, and God is good! Looking forward to seeing you all next year!
What “Live BRIGHT” Means to Me
By Maile Sundquist
I decided to create an inspirational motto, a short phrase that could be used by me and my fellow Stars as an encouragement to one another and ourselves. Thus Live BRIGHT was born. Yes, the cheese factor isn’t lost on me, but don’t most things in life worth pursuing have cheese? Like pizza! I digress. So I created this phrase that has become a creed for me to live by. It is a call to action, an encouragement to live in a deeper, more meaningful and impactful way. Aside from the implied meaning of bright – intelligent, creative, hopeful, optimistic, boldly shining forth your light into the world – I’ve created an acronym to remind me of the kind of person I strive to be and the virtues and character traits I want to live out for the benefit of myself and those around me.
B: bighearted (compassionate and generous)
R: righteous (good, faithful, trustworthy, and morally sound)
I: ingenuous (free of pretension, trusting, honest, and a reminder to just be me)
G: grateful (content and thankful for life, each new day, and what I have no matter how little)
H: healthy (mental, spiritual, physical health and balance and the disciplines and habits that sustain those things)
T: thoughtful (respectful and intentional with all I say and do and where I invest my time and resources)
So now you know what I mean when I say “Live BRIGHT.” May our lives and the lives around us be transformed as we let our love and light shine by living bright!
By Maile Sundquist
I remember watching an episode of Hoarders where a counselor was talking with a woman who hoarded, who still had her young teenage boy under her roof. They were discussing her behavior and addressing the piles and boxes filled with everything he had ever owned or created. The counselor asked the woman about the significance of several items from one of the boxes and the woman gave an excuse and reason why each item was special and had to be kept. The counselor then said something I’ll never forget. In so many words, “Your son is here, with you, still alive, and you are missing out on making new memories with him by holding onto all of these items from the past and clinging to the memories of yesterday. You and your son’s relationship is being suffocated by your stuff”. It was heart breaking and tragic, as most of those episodes are, but the counselor made such a good point!
You have to grow with things, whether it be a child or your circumstances, and embrace the change. If we fight or deny the only constant in life other than death and taxes, we will always lose, being left resentful, frustrated and stuck in the past.
Change can seriously suck sometimes. Like trying to fit into your wedding dress 5 years, or in my case a year later and not being able to get it past my ankle, or getting crows feet or a divorce. I love feeling in control and having things just so, a perfect orchestrated masterpiece of efficiency and harmony that I can rely on. Alas, this only lasts a short time before “change” rears it’s ugly head. We can only control so much for so long before the winds of change put a snag in our plans. But maybe it’s not always for the worse. I know I could benefit from letting go and letting God more often. Change can bring beauty and healing as well as frustration and stress. Think of the changing of seasons!
Often people are shocked to find out that Fall is my favorite season. “Everything dies in Fall.”, they always say. What I love about Fall, other than the crisp air, blue skies and beautiful colors, is the fact that it makes room for new growth and rebirth come Spring. Without the dying off of the old, bad habits, there’s not room to create new good habits. Without the letting go of regrets of the past, there would not be time or mental and physical energy to create new memories and live each moment to it’s fullest!
Although I live simply in a minimalist lifestyle, I can relate to the hoarding mom a bit now that I have a son of my own. Seriously, watching my son grow up has been insane! A total emotionally charged blast! Now that he is over a year old my husband and I are already finding ourselves reminiscing about when he was a newborn, 3 months, 6 months, 9 months. And what I would have never thought of before being a parent is just how much there is to reminisce about in such a short period of time because they grow and change so incredibly fast their first year of life. Sentimentality kicks into overdrive when you become a parent, and I definitely have felt the hoarding bug crawling up my leg more than once, but every time I do I recall the words of the counselor in Hoarders and remember how much better it is to embrace change in life. Cherish yesterday, but live in today embracing every facet of the now.
Don’t lose the present by holding too tightly to the past.
by Maile Sundquist
One thing that plagues me on a day-to-day basis is the idea of could-haves. I could have been a professional singer if only I had tried out for American Idol, I could have been a skydiver if I wasn’t afraid of heights, I could have made a better impression my first day of work had I not accidentally put my bra on over my tank top.
The other day someone asked my husband why he wasn’t a college professor. He gets that a lot. Things like, how are you not a famous theologian or philosopher? You mean you aren’t a widely-published author? How have you not won a Nobel Peace Prize for being the kindest person alive and the smartest, most influential mind of your generation? You should be the president!
You might think I’m exaggerating, but I’m not. My husband is one of the most sophisticated, intelligent, logical, rational, well-rounded thinkers I know. He is eloquent and exceptional at public speaking and teaching, well-read and a genius with words. He is personable and relatable, an excellent conversationalist and a good listener. The best part is that he is the farthest thing from cocky or pretentious and has a random and goofy sense of humor to boot. He is truly brilliant and immensely talented in so many regards, and I say these things with my rose-colored glasses removed.
When people make these statements about him or ask him or me these questions, I recognize that it is a huge compliment on his abilities and character; however, part of me flinches a bit because of the unintentional implied idea of failure. He has confided in me on several occasions that he does feel like he should have pursued this or that rather than the path he chose at the time, but I think he realizes that he never had grand ambitions and has been pretty content in life as long as he’s been able to have a stable job and the freedom to do the things he loves.
I’m not gonna lie, though: there are times I wish my husband was more ambitious. Still, I envy his ability to be content with little and know his limitations and recognize what he wants out of life.
I have lived my life for years with regrets, shame, and disappointment. All of it heaped on by myself. What’s odd is that I am a highly self-confident person, but I am brutal to myself when it comes to my expectations of myself. In contrast to my husband, I am a huge overachiever, visionary, entrepreneur, and dreamer. I have had innumerable ambitions, many of which have never been achieved, and with each unrealized ambition inevitably comes Maile’s all-you-can-eat buffet o’ guilt. Now, let’s see, you didn’t finish your album for the third year in a row? Well, we already tried “you’re a procrastinating lazy sack,” so this time, why don’t we try “you had your chance and you squandered it. You’re too old to succeed in music now!”
Yup, I have every flavor of insult and blame and guilt in my personal self-assaulting arsenal. Has it done me any good? Not in the least! If anything, this mentality has slowly chipped away at my self-worth and self-respect, leaving little room for self-love and perpetuating negativity and regret. It often leaves me afloat in a sea of condemnation, overwhelmed by and focused on my failures rather than on what I have accomplished and the things in life I am a winner at.
I’m writing this because I know I’m not alone. And what I hope to do is encourage those of you who struggle in this way, as well as myself, to try to focus not on what you could have done, or who you could have been, but what you’re doing, and who you are now.
For instance, my husband may not be a prestigious author, speaker, or teacher, but he is a phenomenal father, a hard worker, and the writing and songs he creates for his loved ones will be forever cherished. When he comments on current events or politics, or shares a philosophical musing or a theological insight, those that read his words are challenged, enlightened, and inspired. In the end, he is living the life he wants to, in the way he chooses to, and he’s enjoying it. What more can one ask for?
I encourage you to focus on the blessings and the positives in yourself and your life and keep pursuing what you love without comparing yourself to others and without condemnation. If it’s meant to be you may become the next Walt Disney, Steve Jobs, or Wendy, who changed the world with her square hamburger patties, but if you don’t, it doesn’t mean you’ve failed, or not lived up to your potential. As long as you are giving your all to be the kind of person you want to be and living the kind of life you want, then what you do, what you’re recognized for, or what others think of you is insignificant.
Live your best life and be your best self! That’s the best anyone could hope to accomplish!
Keeping the Wonder in your Work
By Maile Sundquist
In 2013, I began writing a fantasy/sci-fi novel set in Japan. I am currently working on the final draft of and illustrations for the first book of the trilogy. I have never taken a proper writing class outside of high school, so it’s been quite a learning process, but an entertaining and engaging adventure too. Although I’m a quarter Japanese and I love the aesthetic (which I use in my home), I realized I knew very little about the culture I was writing about outside of a college class on Japanese art history I had taken, so I decided to become a student of all things Japanese. I started with reading books I came across, and then took my studies to a higher level by taking inspirational field trips. I went to the Seattle Asian Art Museum to learn about ink block drawings and to the Bellevue Art Museum to learn about origami history and to get visual ideas for the drawings I’m adding to my book. Next it was off to the Japanese Garden to experience a tea ceremony and the Zen landscape, then onto the Hanami, Moon Viewing, and Japanese Cherry Blossom Festivals to experience Japanese culture, art, philosophy, music, food, and more. Note pad and camera in hand and filled with childlike wonder, I soaked in every sight, story, taste and sound I could, and in doing so, came into a greater appreciation and understanding of the world of my story. Since it is set in the future there is room for interpretation, but my studies gave me motivation and inspiration and they kept my focus on my novel and the art I would create for it, which were the most important things. I had to remind myself that it was important to balance my study time with time actually writing my novel, as I could easily immerse myself for days in research, and that it was merely a means to an end and not my main objective. I encourage you to embrace wonder, and look outside your imagination for inspiration for your creative pursuits by way of nature walks, reading, personal testimonies, or interaction and creative field trips. It enriches your life and feeds your soul while motivating and inspiring you in your artistic projects, and adds a depth to your work that might not have been there otherwise. Be a kid at heart, a student for life, and view the world as your personal classroom and playground. Life and creating is an adventure! Enjoy the ride!
A Drawer Full of Dreams
By Maile Sundquist
My son has entered the stage where he’s catching onto the fact that there is a big, crazy world going on around him. I’ve noticed lately during feedings that he’ll suck for a moment then pop off my breast to flash me an adorably gummy grin then pop back on only to pop back off at the movement of my husband through the room then back on, oh, but not before a detailed examination of his hands. A truck drives by our street – off again, on again. A knock at our neighbor’s door two houses down – off again with another quick smile to me before popping back on, just to pop back off at the sound of a flea fart.
After reading up on this phenomenon, which is apparently pretty common for this age, I found that infants will often lose weight and a mother’s milk production could decrease all because this wide-eyed infant is being so distracted by and excited about the world around him.
It got me thinking about distractions in general, and specifically how they inhibit goal completion. In my case, being multi-talented and having a broad range of interests, I’ve often found myself jumping from unfinished project to unfinished pursuit and back again. I’ve collected tools and clothing, equipment and books for big and small hobbies, arts, crafts, business ideas, and dreams I’ve had since I was 16. One big trend through it all was how little I got accomplished and how much stress, shame, and clutter I caused myself. Not unlike a distracted infant during mealtime, I was sacrificing progress for the excitement of a new idea.
I blame my childlike wonder and short attention span for making me giddy when I see something fun and new or when inspiration strikes. I find myself powerless against its advances and compelled to add it to the “buh buh buh bum” dreaded to-do list! Over time these ambitions made up the backbone of a to-do list that not even the most efficient, talented, and productive person could hope to accomplish in three lifetimes. As my list grew longer, I realized that the idea of the idea had become an idol, so when these ideas didn’t come to fruition they became less inspiration and more condemnation. Reminders that I failed to follow through and now somehow my life will not be as full or has less value and meaning. My beautiful ideas, dreams, and pursuits had become a heavy burden in the back of my mind that nagged at me for attention, in turn causing me mental exhaustion and depression. I was setting myself up for frustration and failure and life is too short to feel that way!
We are only one person, we have two hands, one brain, one heart, one life, and limited time in a day so unfortunately we just can’t do everything we’d like before we die. That is why we need to choose wisely. It takes focus and discipline to reach goals and if we strive for too many, the likelihood that we will reach them is hindered and usually something or everything, including ourselves, will suffer. Mozart didn’t become a great composer and pianist by tole-painting, learning how to cut hair, and writing a graphic novel while doing magic at kids’ birthday parties and teaching yoga on the weekends. He focused on piano and made his time, resources, and mental energy align with this goal.
It has been a long, stressful, painful process trying to reduce and streamline my dreams and ambitions. I remember poring over my list with my husband for moral support, trying to figure out what to pursue first, and how, and what to let go of. In my case, I used to think it would take hypnosis, cognitive behavioral therapy, shock treatments, and a miracle to get me to limit my ambitions. It wasn’t until I began prayerfully being more thoughtful and intentional and pursuing simple living, AKA minimalism, that I started seeing reduced stress and feeling more in control of my thoughts, desires, resources, and life. Paraphrasing Clare Boothe Luce and Leonard Thiessen, “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”
I began with the low-hanging fruit, which for me was clothes. It was a straightforward weeding-out process. Old, ratty, unfixable? Garbage or rags. Fixable? If it wasn’t fixed by the following weekend, garbage or rags. Hadn’t worn it in awhile, didn’t feel great in it, wasn’t my style, or didn’t fit anymore and I wasn’t within 5 pounds of fitting into it again? Give to a friend, sell, donate, or consign. My wardrobe now only consists of items that reflect my personal style, fit me well, make me feel good when I wear them, and go together so I can form outfits with limited fuss. Because I also have fewer clothing items, it makes caring them easier and forming outfits faster. Plus, they take up less space in my room, I know what I have, and I only replace items as I need them, which has prevented me from impulse shopping and feeling powerless in response to sales, saving me money. I found that this positive domino effect played out in every area or thing I minimized or, as I like to call it, curated. I went through every room in the house and every possession I owned asking myself, “Does it serve me, is it useful, does it bring me joy?” If the answer was no I let it go and freed up not only tangible living space but, surprisingly, mental space as well. There’s a peace and clarity that comes from knowing what you own and why you own it and not letting your possessions own you. There was a time when I felt like my life would be over and that I’d have a breakdown if I lost my belongings to a fire or theft, and now I no longer feel that way. It would be heartbreaking to lose truly irreplaceable sentimental or handmade items, but even then, as long as I have my life, my memory, my family, and my faith, life will go on. Most categories except for sentimental items were easy to minimize, but then came reducing my ambitions.
What I came to realize was that I was a hoarder, not of things, but of ideas and ambitions. I asked myself the same questions stated above, but I was also forced to ask myself harder questions like, “What are my core values? What are my goals for the next year or five? What are my deepest, truest passions, and how do these ideas, hobbies, and pursuits fit into the bigger picture of my life? What do I want the majority of my precious and finite time and mental energy and resources to go to?” I rated them all against one another based on the above criteria and only the highest rankers for joy, passion, fulfillment, and calling remained in the running, namely building up Soul Scribes to make a positive impact on individual’s hearts and in the community, finishing my books (writing and art), and making music and music videos with my husband for our band. Gone were my scrapbooking and card-making supplies, my candle- and soap-making tools, various musical instruments that I didn’t feature in the music I made, fabric paints, the rocks I was going to paint animals on, and the life-sized cardboard cutout of Tony Danza. It’s better you don’t ask.
Letting go of all of the things that I had invested in for the many pursuits was hard, but I figured it was a sunk cost and remembered my goals and truest passions, took a deep breath, and let them go, hopefully to someone who will actually need and use them regularly. The hardest part, however, was letting go of those great ideas that I didn’t have time for, the hobby that brought up good memories of the past but that I hadn’t picked up in three years, or the hopefulness behind the dream that was to make a positive impact to society or for a cause. It is a daily struggle as a dreamer, artist, and visionary to not take on more “great ideas,” but since I decluttered, the physical aspects of these ambitions and fought against them reentering my mental space I have felt freer and happier and more inspired to pursue the few ambitions, hobbies, and dreams that remain. Which are really quite a lot still. There’s no rule saying I have to pick three and that’s it until I die. I recognize I have to leave room for my interests to evolve along with me and my life circumstances. I could put one down and pick up another or meet my goals in one and start to pursue another; as long as I’m in control and keeping my pursuits manageable and curated like my possessions, then I will feel awesome and be successful.
Living simple has changed the way I look, not only at my belongings, but at my life, myself, my time, my resources, and my ambitions. Life is short and we only have a finite amount of resources to accomplish our truest calling and desires before we die. You are in control of curating your life, of editing out the negative and making room for the beautiful. Let what you own, how you live, what you spend, what you eat, the people you hang out with, and your ambitions support the lifestyle and beliefs you choose to promote in your life so that you can reach your goals and live your dreams. When you are not weighed down and overwhelmed by physical or mental clutter and distractions, you are free to live your life more fully and pursue the things that are most important.