Category Archives: Gratitude

Finding Inspiration

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I’ve been feeling uninspired lately. Lots of reasons, none all that compelling.  But compelling or not, they have temporarily eclipsed my drive to write.  So today’s blog will draw from the words of two people much wiser than me.  Two people who have influenced my yoga style, my teaching, and my philosophy of life, even though I never studied with either of them directly.  Those of you who follow my yoga teacher/sleuth Kate’s adventures, these are the same people who influence her.

If you’re curious about Viniyoga and its key tenants, the words of Krishnamacharya and his son Desikachar (both who devoted their lives to this work) express its power better than I can ever hope to.

Teacher training students and grads, hopefully some of this sounds familiar.

Enjoy.

On the Purpose of Yoga:

  • “Anybody can breathe. Therefore anybody can practice yoga.” — T.K.V. Desikachar.
  • “The success of yoga must not be measured by how flexible your body becomes, but rather by how much it opens your heart.” — T.K.V. Desikachar.
  • “Yoga, unlike dance or mime, is not an expression of form for others to watch.” — T.K.V. Desikachar.
  • “The success of yoga does not like in the ability to perform postures but in how it positively changes the way we live our life and relationships.” T.K.V. Desikachar.

On Teaching:

  • “Teach what is inside you. Not as it applies to you, to yourself, but as it applies to the other.” — Tirumalai Krishnamacharya
  • “A good teacher sees the commonality of all human beings and helps each individual find his uniqueness.” — T.K.V. Desikachar.

On Life:

  • “Whether things get better or worse depends to a considerable extent on our own actions.” — T.K.V. Desikachar.
  • “The way that we see things today does not have to be the way we saw them yesterday. This is because the situations, our relationships to them, and we ourselves have changed in the interim.” — T.K.V. Desikachar.
  • “However powerful or disturbing something may appear to be, it is our reaction to it that determines its effects.” — T.K.V. Desikachar.
  • “Let your speech be true and sweet.” — Tirumalai Krishnamacharya
  • “Meditation results in marvels.” — T.K.V. Desikachar.

May each of you find inspiration wherever you can.

Tracy Weber

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All four books in the Downward Dog Mystery Series are available at booksellers everywhere!

Lessons from Tasha

Last week I wrote about the loss of one of the greatest loves of my life, my German shepherd, Tasha, who was the inspiration for my Downward Dog Mystery Series.  Specifically, I wrote about how through her bravery, I learned how to love again.  Today I’d like to share some of the lessons she taught me. I actually wrote this to Tasha as we lay in bed together on one of her last nights, but I waited to post it until now.  Wherever she is, I hope she doesn’t mind my sharing.

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Tasha Dog–still happy ten days before she passed. There’s a lesson in that, too.

Lessons You Taught Me.

As we lay here together, we both know our time left together is short.  Being with you now is a privilege, and it reminds me of all of the lessons you’ve taught me over our past twelve years together.

  1. I am able to love–and be loved–without condition. I know, it seems like this should be a given, and it probably is.  But somehow I needed your presence in my life to prove it to me. This will always be your greatest gift.
  2. Love is hard–but so very worth it. I feel sorry for people who experience loss and then give up on love. Nothing is more powerful. Nothing is more worth doing. Over and over and over again.
  3. We all make mistakes. Lord knows, I’ve made plenty, especially in your earlier years. Frankly, my sweet, you made some doozies. It never changed my commitment to you, or yours to me.  Not once. There’s incredible beauty in that.
  4. When you make a friend, you love them for life. You didn’t trust many people, but when you bonded with someone, you did so completely. You never forgot their names, and you recognized them years later. In your last days, those same friends came to see you, some after having not been with you for a very long time.  You see, they loved you for life, too.
  5. It’s never to late to make new lifelong friends. As you aged, you grew sweeter. Your circle of friends broadened. I met some of the best people in my life in the last two years of yours–and all because of you.  In those friendships you live on for me.
  6. You can live with chronic illness and pain and be happy. Both of us have imperfect bodies, but you never complained about yours.  You accepted it and were happy in spite of it. I’m still working on that one.
  7. The mailman is not to be trusted.  OK, Sweetie.  If you say so.  I promise, I’ll keep an eye on him. You can relax now.  Your guard dog days are over. You did your job well.

I have a few requests for you as you move on to your next journey.

  1. Don’t wait for me. I don’t know if there’s a life beyond this one, but if there is, live it. Without regret, without reservation. Enjoy it. Relish it. I will join you when it’s my time. Come get me then, but feel free to forget about me in the meantime.
  2. That said, if you want to visit, I’ll be here. Writing about you. Thinking about you. Loving you. I am here for you. Always.
  3. I will be OK without you. That doesn’t at all reduce my love for you. In fact, it shows how very strong that love is. You don’t have to worry about me anymore. You made me strong enough to survive on my own.

Goodbye Puppy Girl, my sweetheart, my love. Thank you for gifting me with almost twelve years of your presence. I will always love you; always miss you. But I am forever grateful for the gift of you in my life.

Tracy Weber

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All four books in the Downward Dog Mystery Series are available at booksellers everywhere!

Uncertainty, Loss, and Learning to Love Again

I recently asked my Facebook followers what they’d like to read about on my blog. Not surprisingly, they wanted to hear about Ana.  She’s been a huge part of my life since I adopted her in August, and of course people want to hear more about her and her antics.  Her penchant for eating $20 bills. Her Houdini-like escape maneuvers. Her ability to outsmart me (and her trainers) at literally every turn.

A couple of people asked me to write about something that surprised me, though. They wanted me to share how I got over the death of my heart-dog, Tasha, so that I could so fully commit to Ana.

13603638_10154556966443268_8986993429120975080_o1Tasha, you see, was my life for twelve years, and anyone who spoke to me for more than ten seconds knew it. I adored her. I lived for her. I built my life around her. I didn’t think I could survive without her. Literally. I told my husband that when Tasha passed, he’d have to take time off from work to put me on a suicide watch. He believed me. He even warned his boss.

But when Tasha passed, life went on.

I spoke about it with Marc over dinner tonight, and I honestly don’t know how I healed from Tasha’s death. Maybe I didn’t. Or maybe I grieved early. I worried so much about Tasha’s passing—lived it in my head for the last years of her life—that when it actually happened, I was devastated, but not lost, at least not permanently. I fought and fought and fought and fought to keep her with me.  So hard, that when the battle was over …

It was just over.

Maybe I was saved because her death was so beautiful. At home, with those she loved, without intervention, without suffering.  The most important people in her life came to visit during her last week to say their goodbyes. She ate a meal three hours before her death and jumped up to bark at her vet—who made a weekend house call to check on her—a half hour after that. In her final ten minutes, my husband held her head while I rubbed her feet and assured her.  No one could hope for a better goodbye.

Then again, maybe it’s because I knew that I’d have to go on without Tasha someday. In spite of a savings account worth of tests, we never found out what was wrong with Tasha during those final months. But as I examined and re-examined all of those “normal” test results, I couldn’t feel reassured. I knew deep in my heart that something was wrong with my love. Absent a diagnosis, the only thing I could control was what I’d do if she left me.

So I planned for the future. I spoke with about a dozen German shepherd breeders, not feeling any more reassured than I did from Tasha’s medical tests. I had lingering concerns about all of them.

14632999_10154857647418268_4750400350699038905_n1Two days before Tasha passed, I was referred to a breeder who was perfect. Miraculously so. She normally had a long waiting list, but given my circumstances, she agreed to hold a four-week-old puppy for me, even though we knew I might not be able to take her. I sat down with Tasha that same day and told her, “I don’t want you to leave. I want you to stay with me forever. But if you’re tired—if you’re ready to go now—I’ll be OK.”

I think Tasha had held on for me until that moment. In fact, I know she did.

A few people—one quite unkindly—have told me that I didn’t adequately grieve before I got a new puppy.

They’re wrong.

After all, Tasha sacrificed so much for me. How could I not honor her? How could I not fall in love with the puppy she’d waited so long for me to find?

I hope this post doesn’t sound dismal, because I certainly don’t feel that way. I feel content. Next week, I’ll post  some of the lessons Tasha taught me. For now, let me say this: The greatest lesson of all is that love is worthwhile, in spite of the inevitability of loss. And the best way to honor the one that you’ve loved is to do it all over again.

And maybe, just maybe, you don’t have a single heart dog. Maybe you have two.

Tracy Weber

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All four books in the Downward Dog Mystery Series are available at booksellers everywhere!

Killer Book Launches

I had so much fun during my book launch this month! Below are a few photos and highlights from early book reviewers. Thanks to those of you who joined me. If you haven’t read A Fatal Twist yet, I hope you’ll give it a try!

Edmonds Bookshop Art Walk: The Edmonds Bookshop is truly my favorite little gem of a community book store.  Be sure to check it out the next time you’re in the area.  Ask them about the book of poems by dogs.  So cute!

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Seattle Mystery Bookshop—hanging out with the awesome Gigi Pandian!  Look at all of those pretty books!

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Whole Life Yoga Book Birthday Party.  What a bunch of awesome fans and killer prizes!

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Blog Tour Reviews:  I’m so pleased with the initial reviews of my newest book.  Loving it!

…a funny story and the author does a wonderful job with the characters and scenes. ~Bab’s Book Bistro

With Tracy Weber we get an abundance of education while having fun…The action and troubles seem to never cease. ~Laura’s Interests

The author has created characters that are fun and entertaining…I highly recommend this book (and series) to all readers! ~A Date With A Book

Kate is the main character in this cozy mystery. She has a great sense of empathy for others and I loved how she was determined to make sure the right killer was charged. ~Texas Book-aholic

The characters are all well-written and have depth to them. The plot is captivating with so many different possible outcomes. ~Socrates’ Book Reviews…

I have several reasons for loving these stories, there is always a great mystery, the characters are genuine and continue to grow, relationships are fluid, there is humor in all the right places and I always learn something new. ~Escape With Dollycas Into A Good Book

Definitely a great series for those who love yoga, babies, and puppies. I found myself unable to put this book down and don’t think you will either! ~Community Bookstop

Writing each Downward Dog Mystery takes about a year, and involves more hours than you can even imagine. I’m already looking forward to next year’s launch events!

Enjoy, and let me know what you think!

Tracy Weber

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All four books in the Downward Dog Mystery Series are available at booksellers everywhere

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Happy Book Launch!

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I’m so excited! A Fatal Twist, the fourth book in my Downward Dog Mystery series, launched on Sunday, January 8!

As always, it’s going to be a month of celebrations. The Facebook Launch party was yesterday, but there are still lots of ways you can join in the fun.

Blog Tour:

Great Escapes is hosting me again for a fabulous nineteen-stop tour. Book blasts, reviews and a few articles written by yours truly.  I hear there will even be a prize or two!

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Details at http://www.escapewithdollycas.com/great-escapes-virtual-book-tours/upcoming-great-escapes-book-tours/fatal-twist-tracy-weber/

Book signing events:

I’m scaling back a bit this year on the book events, so mark your calendar for one of these three:

Edmonds Bookshop

Thursday, January 19th, 5:00 – 8:00 PM.

Make an evening of it in this delightful Western Washington city. Participating businesses feature local artists, and there are even wine tastings.  This is one of my favorite places to hang out with readers!

http://www.edmondsbookshop.com/events.htm

Seattle Mystery Bookshop

Saturday, January 28th, 12:15 – 1:15 PM.

This time I’m doing a joint signing with author and friend, Gigi Pandian, so you get two authors for the price of one! (aka free!)  This lovely mystery shop is a Seattle gem, so please join me and help support it.

http://www.seattlemystery.com/event/tracy-weber-signing-fatal-twist

Whole Life Yoga Book Birthday Party!

Sunday, January 29th, 12:30 – 2:00 PM.

No, we don’t do yoga at the party, but we do have music, prizes, yummy vegan desserts, and a bottle of bubbly or two. I generally talk or read for about 15 minutes at 1:00, then it’s all party and prizes all the time!

http://www.wholelifeyoga.com/bookLaunch.html

I hope to see you at one or more of the events. Please know that I adore each and every one of my readers.  Without you I would have given up on writing years ago.

Tracy Weber

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All four books in the Downward Dog Mystery Series are available at booksellers everywhere!

A Fatal Twist can be found at Amazon and Booksellers everywhere!

A Book’s Worth of Thank Yous

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My Fourth Downward Dog Mystery, A Fatal Twist will officially launch this Sunday.  I’m never sure how many people will read the book.  A smaller subset will look at the acknowledgement pages.  So today’s blog article features those pages, in hopes that my gratitude for those individuals will spread further.  Here’s to all of the wonderful people who influence and inspire me.  I appreciate you all.

 

Dedication:

To Michelle. Of all of my lifelong friends, you influenced me the most. I miss you.

Acknowledgements:

Publishing can be a brutal industry. Most writers have days in which we wonder why we continue storytelling. For me, the answer is simple: my readers. Thank you for each e-mail, Facebook post, letter, blog comment, tweet, and review. Without you, I’d have given up long ago.

A Fatal Twist has a special cast of supporters I’d like to acknowledge.

As always, thanks to my agent, Margaret Bail, editors Terri Bischoff and Sandy Sullivan at Midnight Ink, and freelance editor Marta Tanrikulu, who all give me invaluable help and feedback.

Special thanks go to three awesome readers: James D. Haviland, who came up with the book’s title, Penny Ehrenkranz, who named the puppies in this book, and Becky Muth, who named Rene’s twins.

My husband, Marc, and my real-life Bella, Tasha, will always be the lights of my life. We lost Tasha this year, but she continues to be my inspiration.  Without her, this series would never have come to fruition. My new baby German shepherd, Ana, is teaching me how to write about puppies, and I’m grateful for the belly laughs she gives me each day, even when she chews up my manuscript. Marc gets extra kudos for designing and maintaining my author website, as well as for listening to all of my grumbles.

Finally, thanks go to my mother, Marcia, who was always my biggest fan and my best friend, Michelle, who inspired Rene in the series. You are both missed.

Tracy Weber

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All four books in the Downward Dog Mystery Series are available at booksellers everywhere!

A Fatal Twist can be found at Amazon and Booksellers everywhere!

The Terrible, Horrible, No-Good, Bad Day

Some days you just shouldn’t get out of bed. I had one of those recently.

I was on day twelve of the monster-cold/sinus infection that had kept me out of work for a week and a half. After almost two weeks of misery, I gave up and made a doctor’s appointment in Bellevue, about a twenty-minute drive from my house in Seattle.  My goal?  Beg for antibiotics.

I almost made it.

A block away from the clinic, I got into a car wreck. I thought the car that collided with me was in a turn lane, but other driver says he wasn’t.  Traffic cameras will ultimately determine who was at fault.  At first, the other car kept driving, and I thought I’d been involved in a hit and run.  I pulled to the side of the road only to realize that I’d left my cell phone at home on my desk.

I flagged down a Fedex driver who called 911, and a few minutes later, the other driver appeared on foot from two blocks away. The damage to his car was worse than mine, but both seemed relatively minor considering the impact of the collision.

We didn’t speak much during the 90 minutes we waited for the police, but I was grateful that no one was injured. After the policeman took my statement, he told me that he hoped I’d have a better rest of my day.

How were either of us to know things would only get worse?

On a freeway onramp a few blocks later, I felt my car wobble. Then I noticed that I had to hold the wheel at a 45 degree angle to keep the car straight. There is no way in HECK the car was safe to drive.

I pulled to the side on the dangerous onramp, because I figured it was better than driving on the freeway. My cell phone was still at home on my desk, so there was no way to call for help. I put on the hazard lights, got out of the car, and tried to wave down someone to call 911.

At least 200 people drove by at 55 MPH. Business vans, burly-looking men in cars, SUVs, even taxis. I tried to look innocent. I yelled the word “please!” I even tried yelling, “Dial 911!”  I was too far away from a safe street to walk.  I considered the merits of dying in my car versus walking on the freeway, only to come to one frightening conclusion: There was no way this day was going to end well.

Finally, a woman stopped. I opened her car door and asked her to call 911, which she did.  The 911 operator said they could do nothing to help. The stranger, shocked, said, “This woman has no phone and it’s not safe for her to stay in her car. What do you want her to do?”

Their answer? “Sorry, we can’t help. Have her call a tow truck.”

The stranger (who is obviously a saint) said “get in” and drove me to the closest gas station, which was 10 minutes away. Thus began our adventure

To make a long story short, 911 and my husband said to call the tow company; the tow company said to call 911. Eventually, my new hero (the saintly stranger) helped me with the tow company, took me to get a rental car, and stayed with me until I’d been reunited with my husband—two hours after she picked me up on the freeway.

Why do I write about this?

I’m grateful.

I wasn’t a threat to anyone while I was stranded on the side of the freeway, but hundreds of people drove past me, ignoring my pleas for help. The person who finally stopped was a woman, driving alone, who had plenty of things she’d rather to do than cart around a sobbing stranger who’d been in a car accident.

Instead, she stuck with me. She helped me. She even prayed for me. She made a horrible, awful, traumatizing day better.  When I asked her why, she said “I hope someone would do it for me.”

We should all be so kind.

There are good people in the world. May each of us be one of them.

Tracy Weber

PS–all three books in my Downward Dog mystery series are now available!  Learn more at http://tracyweberauthor.com.  Thanks for reading!

Whole Life Yoga–Fifteen Years and Counting.

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OMG  I can’t believe I missed Whole Life Yoga’s 15th anniversary!  We opened on October 12, 2001, about a month after my father’s death.  I didn’t think Dad approved of my decision to quit my management job at Microsoft and open a yoga studio until the day of his funeral. During the eulogy, the pastor mentioned how proud my father was that his daughter decided to dedicate her life to helping others. That sentence has kept me going for the past fifteen years.

So many things have happened since then….

  • Literally thousands of people have come through our door to take yoga classes.  Almost 15,000 unique individuals, by my best estimate.  WOW!  Fifteen thousand people that we’ve impacted, hopefully for the better.
  • We’ve hosted fourteen teacher trainings, which represents well  over 250 yoga teachers that have been certified in the Viniyoga lineage.
  • We’ve donated classes to hundreds of nonprofits for auctions and other events.
  • We’ve held fundraising events for nonprofits, neighborhood businesses, and friends struggling with illness.

When I opened the studio, the longest I’d stayed with any career was five years. The fact that I still work at Whole Life Yoga after fifteen years is nothing short of astounding.

Running a small business hasn’t been easy, and to be honest, some days I wonder how many more years I have left in me.  But I can honestly say there’s nothing I’m more proud of in my life.  Thank you to all of you who have been a part of this journey.

Tracy Weber

PS–all three books in my Downward Dog mystery series are now available!  Learn more at http://tracyweberauthor.com.  Thanks for reading!

Where the Healing Begins

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As many of you know, I’ve lived through challenging times over the past ten months. Last October, my mother died of breast cancer that spread to her brain, less than two weeks after I learned of the metastasis.

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Mom and me, with our spouses

My beloved dog Tasha passed away in July, likely also of cancer that spread to her brain, though we’ll never know for sure. Like my mom, Tasha died a couple of weeks after becoming ill.

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Tasha and me, three weeks before she passed.

In ten months, I’d provided hospice care to two of the most important souls of my life.  I felt sad. Depleted.  Exhausted. No longer able to fulfill my roles as boss, teacher, and business owner.  I couldn’t stand any more losses.

A few days later. I learned that my childhood best friend died the same day as Tasha.

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Michelle and me, age 15.

My story isn’t unique. We all suffer losses.  This article isn’t about loss, anyway.  This article is about healing.

The day Tasha died, I only knew two things for certain. She had made my life better, and she would have hated for me to suffer.  I owed it to her to find a new love.  I started researching German shepherd breeders and found one I both respected and trusted.  They often have a two-year waiting list, but oddly, they had a female available.

My puppy would be ready to come home in three weeks, but I didn’t want to wait. I couldn’t explain why, but I felt strongly that I needed to meet her first.  Unfortunately, the visit would involve an 800-mile flight and a four-hour drive each way, all to spend a couple of hours with my soon-to-be best friend—at seven in the morning, no less! The visit would take place six days before we brought her home.

I told the idea to my engineer husband, who said what he always says when I announce that I’m about to act on an expensive, completely illogical impulse.

“If you want.”

I abandoned my business, my significantly-behind-schedule writing, and my overworked spouse and took off for the three-day adventure.

It was one of the best irrational impulses I ever indulged. Everything about the trip seemed to be blessed.  From unanticipated first class flight upgrades, to a stay at a wonderful eco-spa for less than $100 a night.

I had two days of dead time around my two-hour puppy meeting, so I indulged in massages, ate waffles and dark chocolate cake, and worked on my novel from a patio overlooking the resort’s koi pond. On Sunday morning, I fell in love with my new pup, Ana. I spent time with the lovely Penni Elaine, her fiancé, and her best friend, who are doing a fabulous job of raising her. I have no doubt: Ana and I are a match made in heaven.  Tasha arranged it.

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Tracy and Ana meet!

Later that night, I spent forty-five mesmerizing minutes watching the resort’s koi ease smoothly back and forth through the water. I named the five largest: Spot, Dalmation, Stripe, Silver, and Ghost. A sense of deep peace overcame me.

This is it, I thought. This is where the healing begins.

The process of healing is long, filled with ups and downs, and I don’t know how long it will take. But I can mark its beginning. And for that I am eternally grateful.

Tracy Weber

Love Wins Love

If you’ve read my first book and you live in Seattle, you can probably figure out that I’m a big fan of Real Change and their work to help the homeless.  I’ve befriended a few of the vendors, one of whom is working on project to spread love, light, communication, and hope between those with housing and those without.  It’s my great pleasure to interview Susan Russell and Denise Henrickson today to talk about their project, Love Wins Love.

I’m all about hope and connection, which is why I so love the idea that “Love Wins Love.” How did you come up with this idea, and why prayer flags?

(Denise) We met almost exactly 2 years ago when I had gotten a small grant from the Department of Neighborhoods to make batik hearts at an Earth Day/Connect the Dots event at Seattle University. The day I received the grant award, I attended a Stand for Compassion event in Occidental Square and heard Susan speak. I’d included a small stipend in the budget and in that moment, I decided to reach out to Susan, rather than hire someone familiar. I stepped out of my comfort zone and  tracked Susan down through Real Change. We worked really well together. Susan and I became friends. We had supplies left over, so we kept setting up heart-making stations in community settings. We loved the process… “You wear a heart someone else makes and somebody else wears your heart” are the words that Susan uses to describe our process and we noticed that extraordinary conversations would take place around the painting table. Over the past 2 years, we’ve facilitated making over 2000 hearts, witnessed many “aha’s!” and seen new friendships take root and blossom.

(Susan) The idea for making prayer flags came out of that. Originally, we thought of prayer flags because they take a little longer to make, maybe people would stay for slightly longer conversations,… but the day after we first talked about making them, I spoke in support of homeless encampments in Ballard. People talked about how ugly the encampments were. Encircling the encampments with prayer flags would bring beauty to those places and also say to everyone who saw them… “Love Lives Here.”

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We decided to set our goal at 4,505 prayer flags because for the past two years, I’ve been at City Hall the morning after the One Night Count to ring the gong.  Real Change rings a gong for every person found sleeping unsheltered on that one night in January.  This year, the One Night Count was 4,505.  It takes hours and people take turns. It was while I was ringing the gong to honor each person that it came to me: we need to make 4,505 prayer flags. Each one a life. Each one a prayer.

We also realized that 4,505 prayer flags will stretch almost a mile when tied together. Wrapping City Hall or the Capitol in Olympia with a mile long string of prayer flags will be a beautiful, honorable way to bring a message of the need for shelter to the eyes– and the hearts– of policy makers.

(Susan) When I see these prayer flags, Love comes instantly to my heart and mind. “We see you. We honor you. We love you.” Without love, some people give up and they die. I’ve seen it.

Tell me your stories.  Have you ever been unsheltered, and how did your situation change, if it has?

12976832_1584065495254646_7395882607193105252_o[1](Susan) I lived on the streets in Seattle for 6 years. I was a union cement mason, helped build Safeco Field, the Exhibition Center, the West Seattle Bridge… then, one night, on my way home from work, I got rear-ended by an uninsured motorist. It screwed up my hip and my back. I couldn’t do my trade anymore. I lost my job. I couldn’t pay my bills. I spiraled down into depression and, eventually, addiction.  I went through SeaDruNar, got off drugs (hardest thing, ever)… Now, I sell Real Change and live in transitional housing- and make art and build community and advocate for shelter.

(Denise) I lived in my car for three months when I drove alone across the country after graduating from college. I had some scary moments, but I knew it was a choice, an adventure. I’ve never thought of myself as homeless. Even when I was really, really broke, like in my mid-20’s when I broke up with a boyfriend and he fired me (he was also my boss) and that same week there was a second arson in my building and I needed to move, I was down to my last $20… I had friends who took me in. I realize now how lucky I’ve been to have always had a safety net of family and friends. Not everyone does. I don’t think anyone chooses to be homeless.

What do you hope to achieve via this work?

There are so many systems falling apart right now- lack of affordable housing, millions of people who still don’t have health care and, like Susan, are one accident away from homelessness…, fewer family-wage jobs, rising student debt… We are both very concerned about the climate crises and extreme weather events and the connection of that to the rise in the number of people around the world who are being displaced.

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Through this project, we hope to create opportunities for people to experience our shared humanity. To experience new perspectives and create safe, beautiful spaces to step out of our comfort zones. We are all in this together. When it comes down to it, we can choose to respond to this extraordinary time with either fear or love- and model that for our children who will be facing even more challenges as weather patterns continue to shift.

Through this project, we are choosing love. Love makes us more resilient. And it makes our journey more joyful. Over and over again, in the simple act of talking to each other with brushes in hand, we’ve seen people have “aha” moments around the painting table. It’s a really simple set-up– recycled bed sheets and curtains, non-toxic fabric paint and soy wax– but what we’ve been able to witness has been profound. We think this kind of face-to-face cross-class/ cross-cultural dialogue plants new seeds of understanding and empathy that ripple out into the world. Love has the power to reweave our humanity together. It’s an ancient truth we are rediscovering.

We call our project Love Wins Love because we believe that love is regenerative…. Love gives back so much more than it takes. It is the most powerful force in the universe.

(Denise) When I think about how my life has been enriched since I went beyond my comfort zone to hire “that homeless woman in the Seahawks outfit” to work with me, I am incredibly grateful that I had the courage to acknowledge my own bias– my fear, really– and chose love. Susan’s connection to her heart, her belief in the goodness of people, and her profound gratitude for EVERYTHING, especially in light of all that she has been though– is deeply humbling.  Because of our friendship, I have more faith in humanity.  In my dark days, I can hold onto that.  It’s solid.  And it is growing stronger.12961322_1582578955403300_6527941037491559987_o[1]

We set up a blackboard whenever we have our art stations: one side says “What Do You Value? And the other, “What Do You Need to Thrive?” We’ve noticed so far, that no one has written anything that costs money. This has gotten us thinking about the double meaning of “Transitional Housing.” There’s “transitional housing” like where Susan lives in SandPoint. And then there’s the whole “transition movement” of people and communities who are shifting towards living more lightly on the Earth. We are curious and excited by the connections between these ideas and are continuing to explore them.

Where are some of the places you’ve already posted the prayer flags?

IMG_3174We hung our first string of prayer flags at Camp Dearborn. Within a few days they disappeared. A friend told us she saw what sounds like a remnant of it as part of an altar in Pioneer Square. A week later, the residents of the encampment were evicted (2 days before they were told they would be) and the tiny houses that had been built for them by the community were bulldozed… (City of Seattle- We can do better!!!!!!)

The next string we hung under I-5, in the Jungle. We attended a memorial gathering to honor people who had died there, as part of the Homeless Remembrance Project. That’s where we learned that over 67 people died on the streets last year.  People held the string of flags and made prayers before we hung them.  We went back a few days later to check on the community and the flags and learned that someone had come into their camp and set the flags– and their couch– on fire.

under I-5

(Susan) “Apparently, those prayers needed to get up fast!”

We are planning to hang future strings in places that are more stable, like shelters, but we also know that as beautiful as the flags are, it’s the conversations that take place in the process of making them together that are the most valuable— and those experiences never go away.

I’m moved by the plight of those without housing, but I’m never sure how I can best help.  What would you suggest?

(Susan) Say “Hello.” Being invisible, being treated as less than human, was the most difficult part of being unsheltered, by far. It’s what led to my addiction.  And if you are willing to take a bigger step out of your comfort zone, you can ask “What do you need?” And take it from there. But it’s important that you let go of expectations. What that person needs will likely be so simple it will break your heart. Open.

I want to paint a flag! Where can we find you next?

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Last week, we made flags at Julia’s Place, a shelter for women and families in Madrona. We also celebrated Earth Day at the Peace Encampment at 24th and Spring in the CD.

On May 13-15, we will be at Break Free in Anacortes, making prayer flags with people there. We believe there is a connection between rising temperatures, resource extraction and exploitation, rising economic inequity, and the rising number of people who are homeless in Seattle, the nation and the world. We also believe that love and compassion need to be at the heart of how we respond and relate to ourselves, each other, and our Mother Earth. We are all connected.

We have about 4200 more flags to make, so we need your help! We are open to suggestions of places to make them. If you can contribute money towards making them, that would be most welcomed, too.

How can we follow you and this effort?

The best way to stay in touch with us is through our FaceBook page: Love Wins Love (three separate words). If you message us with your email, we can add it to our email distribution list. And we always have sign up sheets at our booth.

How can people support this project?

Come make prayer flags with us!  We always have a donation jar at our booth to help pay for supplies.  At our booth, we also sell strings of prayer flags that we make to reimburse some of our time. The flags we make to sell are ones we make on our own; the community-made ones go to shelters and encampments and are not for sale.

And we are always looking for people to be part of our team to help us facilitate art-making and conversations, social media support, fundraising, … build transitional villages! … If this project inspires you and you’d like to work with us, we’d love to hear your ideas and what you are passionate about.

Ultimately, this project is just a small manifestation of a bigger vision- To create a more connected and compassionate human family. Any action you take that requires you to step out of your comfort zone with love serves this shared vision. Love Wins Love.

Thank you, ladies.  I hope to come to one of your painting events soon.  Thank you so much for joining me here today!

21481_1571284239866105_6639173131585106058_n[1]Susan Russell is Real Change vendor and housing advocate who has been to the depths of hell and back when living on the streets of Seattle.  She believes that if her work helps one person from experiencing what she went through, she will be successful. Love Wins.

Denise Henrikson is an artist and community activist who believes people can change the world.  We do it every day.  You can contact us at info@salmonislife.org