The Enemy of Good

“It’s not good enough.”

I hear myself saying this (silently, in my head) many times each day. I don’t think of myself as a perfectionist. I’m a terrible housewife. Dinner is not on the table at six-o-clock sharp, and and if you want to try and eat off my floor…well, it certainly would build your immune system. I’m not a perfect mother, either- I do my best, forgive myself the rest, and apologize to my kid when I get it wrong, which happens more frequently than I’d like. I’m not a trim size six- and I have no desire to shoot for that particular goal. I have my cake, and eat it, too- and if you don’t want your slice, I’ll pass it over to me, honey. I’m human, and I’m totally okay with that. Except when it comes to my creative endeavors, what some folks would term “art.”

People who have perfectionist tendencies have a hard time creating art. Nothing is ever ready for primetime. It’s not good enough. There’s always one more edit on that novel, one more pass through Lightroom on that photograph, one more tweak to that recipe that will make it exactly right. Then it will be perfect.

Ah, that word. “Perfect.” It sticks in my craw. It’s something that I’ll never be. Honestly, none of us ever will. I accept that cheerfully in most areas of my life. It’s not the importance of the subject that makes the difference- for me, my most important jobs right now in my life are to be an understanding mother, an inspiring teacher, a supportive wife, and a dependable friend. But I accept that those are complicated endeavors. Why not accept that art is, as well?

It feels more personal, for some reason. Here is a thing that I created almost entirely from scratch, all on my own, straight from my brain, my heart, my soul. And if it isn’t good enough, then… neither am I.

You can make yourself crazy dwelling on this. Yes, the pursuit of mastery in art is worthwhile. Yes, you need study your craft. Yes, practice is the one way to improve and expand your art. But in the meantime, you still have to produce it. And you still need to share it. You aren’t an expert yet, and you need to learn and grow continually, and you will always need to practice, practice, practice- but that doesn’t mean your art isn’t worth sharing. That doesn’t mean it can’t move someone.

I had a change of heart recently. I did a vanity Google search of my name as I do periodically (hush, I know y’all do it, too.) I was shocked that among my blogs and race results and social media profiles, there was a blog post about me, not written by me. The writer indicated how much she enjoyed an essay I wrote that appeared in a book and how much it resonated with her. I was so moved. Overjoyed. And most of all, surprised. I liked that essay, but it certainly wasn’t the best thing I’ve ever written. I was happy to see it in print, but I felt I could have done much better. I should have spent more time on it. I could have improved it so much.

But it was real. It was honest. And it was human. And that was enough, more than enough, to do the thing I have always wanted to do- to move someone with something I’ve created. It didn’t have to be perfect. It was good enough already.

So maybe you aren’t a master yet, but your art is real and honest and human. Put it out there. Share it. Move us.


Photo by me. Tulip courtesy of the discount bucket at Kroger.
Inspiration for the low, low price of $1.00!

St. Baldrick’s Campaign Recap!

Three months of baldness! Wow! That was fun!

I’m sure I’ll write more about this at a later date, but I love being bald. It’s such a simple thing for me to do and do good at the same time. And also, I just like being bald for its own sake. It’s fun to challenge people’s ideas of what a lady ought to look like, it’s fun to try a different hairdo (although after three years of fundraising for St. Baldrick’s, it’s not really “new” to me anymore), and heck, I just think it’s pretty. I love bald ladies (and dudes, for what it’s worth!)

Anyway, aside from the superficial details, it’s always awesome to raise money for St. Baldrick’s! It’s a cause I believe in, a mission that I identify with, and a foundation that I feel I can trust. Unfortunately, I feel that I kinda fell down in my fundraising this year. I raised $290 this year. Well, hey- that’s $290 St. Baldrick’s didn’t have before! But my goal was $1000, and I’ve done much better in prior years. I’m trying not to be too hard on myself- charity fundraising is not a contest, right?- but I wanted to do so much better.

After a slight bit of browbeating (I should have done more to shake the pennies from pockets!), some realizations (fundraising without being on Facebook is a lot more difficult, y’all. And yes, I’m the only person on the planet who prefers not to have a Facebook account, apparently) and some thinking, I’ve come up with a solution that works for me: through the end of the year, I’ll donate from my own personal earnings until I reach my goal! Hooray! I’ve committed to raising $1000 for St. Baldrick’s this year, and damn it, I’m going to do it! But what I won’t being doing is asking for donations any longer- that ended with the traditional fundraising period. So no worries- my Twitter and this blog will be back to silliness and rambling starting right now. :)

As a side effect of this year’s fundraising and this great article from Jill Warren Lucas at Philanthropy Journal, I got to meet St. Baldrick’s CEO, Kathleen Ruddy. She is such an open, friendly person and it was really delightful to meet her. She even donated to my campaign! What a sweetheart!

Thanks again to all the friends (and kind strangers!) who donated to my campaign! By the end of this year, I will hit my goal, I’m certain of it. As always, it’s a pleasure and a privilege to fundraise for a group that does so much good. With our help and the money to fund research, I’m also certain that one day we will find a cure for all childhood cancers.

Thanks, y’all!

All We Can Do

I was all set to post a new, funny thing for my St. Baldrick’s campaign on my shiny new computer (my poor, sweet five year old MacBook’s monitor finally gave up the ghost a few weeks back.) I’ve been balancing things on my head, for goodness sake! But it doesn’t seem right, not right now.

The mother of one of my good, long time friends has cancer. I’ve known this for a while now. Every time I talk to my friend, I hope for good news. But unfortunately, unfairly, the news hasn’t gotten better. It’s even worse today. I’m very worried for my friend and her family. I don’t know what to say, except “I’m so sorry,” which feels so inadequate. Any offer of help I make feels like it pales in comparison to what they need, which is for this nightmare to go away.

I don’t feel very funny right now.

But I do feel angry. Why does this seem to happen more and more frequently these days? It feels like every time I turn around, someone I know or love is sick, and so many times, it seems like it’s cancer. It’s mind boggling, and frustrating, and so frightening. I feel like the odds are against us, that it’s only a matter of time before it’s another one of my friends, or my family, or me. What can we do, besides wait and worry?

No matter the amount of fundraising and researching and hoping or praying we do, it doesn’t seem like it’s enough sometimes. But it’s all we can do. If you hope, or pray, or think good thoughts, I ask you to do that tonight for my friend’s mother, a great mom, wife, sister, and friend. Think good thoughts for her and all the other folks hoping for a cure today. It’s all we can do, and one day, hopefully, it will be enough.

Vulnerable

As I come around to the end of my St. Baldrick’s fundraising for this year, I thought I’d make a few videos. This is the first one. Thanks, y’all!

This isn’t the video that I intended to show, or what I intended to say- but it’s what I needed to say. I hate getting emotional in public. I’d much rather try to be silly or funny. But it’s okay to be vulnerable sometimes. And it’s hard for me not to feel emotional about this subject.

Cancer looms so large in our lives and seems so random sometimes. It’s difficult for me not to feel frightened and angry and vulnerable. The “What if it were me? Oh God, what if it were my kid?” hypotheticals are terrifying. That’s one big reason I donate my time and money to St. Baldrick’s- instead of just sitting here feeling upset, I can get out there and try to help in a small way. And when lots of us work together in small ways, it becomes a big thing.

Here’s some ways you can help:

Spread the word about St. Baldrick’s Foundation! Here’s a link to their website:
St. Baldrick’s Foundation

Become a shavee or volunteer yourself! Here’s how:
Get involved!

Donate to my St. Baldrick’s fundraising campaign:
My St. Baldrick’s fundraising page

Finally, I’d like to give a shout out to the two women I mentioned in my video, Sarah from Go Vegan and Mandi from Making Nice in the Midwest as they start on their cancer treatment and recovery plans. I have enjoyed learning about their lives and learning from them through the magic of the internet (and books! Sarah’s cookbooks are great if you are interested in vegan cuisine) and I wish them all the best.

Bald for St. Baldrick’s

Of all the things in life that I’m grateful for, a healthy, happy child is at the top of the list. I think that any adult who loves a child deeply knows the feeling- you would do anything, anytime, anywhere, to protect that little face you love so much.

But sometimes, there is nothing you can do. Sometimes, all you can do is stand by helplessly while your sweet little bird hurts. If you’re lucky, it’s a scraped knee or a broken arm- painful, certainly, but after the initial shock wears off, you know that time, and maybe some stitches or a few weeks in a cast, will heal those wounds.

But sometimes, it’s not that simple. Unfortunately, there are many situations that fall under this terrifying heading, but none are more frightening to me than this- childhood cancer.

I’ve seen so many people I love affected by cancer, directly and indirectly. I’ve seen people I love get cancer. I’ve seen some survive, while others did not. And in each circumstance, all I could do (besides offer love and support) was stand by, helplessly, and watch. It’s hard enough to watch a beloved grandparent die. I cannot begin to imagine how that would feel if it was my child.

This is why I fundraise for St. Baldrick’s Foundation.

I fundraise out of fear, yes, but also because of hope. Hope that I can make a small difference in the fight against cancer. Hope that another child won’t have to suffer through a cancer battle. Hope that another parent won’t have to lose child.

To win the battle against cancer, we need a cure. St. Baldrick’s Foundation provides research grants to doctors and scientists who are looking for that cure for many different types of childhood cancers. St. Baldrick’s raises funds for these grants and honors children with cancer through their shaving events.

This is my third year raising money for St. Baldrick’s. It’s such a small thing for me to do, but the combined impact of so many of us fundraising and supporting these events is massive- St. Baldrick’s raised $33 million last year. Since 2005, they have provided over $103 million in research grants. (They are also transparent with their financials and have a good rating from Charity Navigator.) I feel good about where the money we raise is going. And I’d like to raise even more.

The way fundraising for St. Baldrick’s usually works is that you get your friends to donate money with the promise that you will shave your head in return. You raise money up until the day of the event, then you go shave your head. My friends and family know that I’ll shave my head at this point- that’s not a question.

So this year, I decided to up the ante a little. Instead of growing my hair out until the shaving event, I’m keeping my head shaved UNTIL the event- April 27th, 2013. That’s right, I’ll be a baldy for the rest of the winter (as wintry as it gets in Central NC, anyway.)

I’ve noticed that I get lots of attention and comments after I shave my head, and even additional donations from strangers once I tell them why I’m bald. I’m hoping that my bald head will be both a conversation starter with strangers (thanks to my trusty “Ask Me Why I’m Bald” St. Baldrick’s button!) and a reminder to friends to donate if they can. It’s also a virtual fist bump to all those folks with cancer who don’t get to choose whether or not they’re bald, and a reminder to me every time I look in the mirror of what really important in life, and what we’re fundraising and fighting for.

So when you see my bald head the next few weeks, feel free to ask me about it! I’ll happily tell you how fundraising is going, what St. Baldrick’s is all about, and how you can help, if you would like. I’m looking forward to spreading the word every chance I get (and I promise not to harass you about it if you don’t ask!) Thank you so much for your past and continued support!

If you’re interested in contributing to my fundraising efforts, you can check out my participant page at the link below:

Gabrielle’s St. Baldrick’s fundraising page

If you’d like to help by tweeting a link, that would be fantastic! Here’s a short link to my fundraising page:

http://tinyurl.com/stbgab

Thanks, y’all!

Movin’ On Up

Well, I can safely say that I never thought this would happen, but I’ve received my first Charmed and Delighted letter ever. Unfortunately, it’s from the good people who are representing the good people over in the Old World that produce our favorite delicious hazelnut spread.

It would strain the boundaries of credulity for me to assert that I had no idea that the name of my blog (and domain, formerly) contains the name of a popular and delicious hazelnut spread (of which there are currently no fewer than three jars in my pantry.) And, considering my nearly boundless love for this fine foodstuff, I certainly have no desire to infringe upon its chocolatey, trademarked goodness. Therefore, I’ve decided to cheerfully accede to the gentle request of this fine corporation and have moved on from this particular domain.

My new domicile on the internet is here at dorkygirl.net. Same silly ramblings, different silly name. (And all these silly archives have been moved over here as well.)

Thanks for five great years over at nutellaisevil.net and here’s to even more here at my new home on the internet!

On Blogging

When I started blogging back in…2005? Oh god, so old… Anyway, back then, most of the blogs that I read (and certainly my own) fell into roughly two categories- general information and personal blogs. General info blogs talked about a topic; personal blogs talked about, well, the person him/herself. People would tell stories about their lives, share triumphs or failures, and occasionally ramble on semi-coherently about a variety of topics (*raises hand*), just like your friends in real life. In fact, that seemingly shared connection to other people’s lives is what drew me first to reading blogs and then to writing a blog. It was like having coffee with your friends- from all over the world.

I’ve kept blogging, sometimes regularly, more often irregularly, for the past seven years now and of course, things have changed. People still blog, and some even manage to make a career of it, surprisingly. Most blogs that I read now are less all over the place and more niche-oriented (e.g. interior design, cooking, photography) and incorporate a mixture of personal and sponsored corporate content. I have no beef with that- in fact, I’m glad folks can get paid for writing in any fashion! That part is pretty great. And most blogs I read are downright pretty to look at, too- web design is much more accessible these days, and people aren’t above paying a designer to decorate their space on the web, which is also great- hey, creative skills are valued and compensated? Sweet! But it does make me feel a little…inadequate when it comes to my own blog.

This space on the web (and it’s predecessor) started as a way for me to get out the thoughts in my head and work through them. A diary, of sorts, as many blogs were (and are, to some extent.) It’s me and my wittle bittle feewings over here, just hashing it out. It’s self-indulgent and slightly narcisstic, this divination through reading my own entrails. (You’re welcome for that delightful imagery.) It works for me, but I know it doesn’t work for everyone, and that’s okay. Right?

I’ve worked through bouts of writer’s block before and will again, I’m sure. I don’t find it difficult to write these days, but I do find it very hard to publish. I have at least a dozen posts sitting aimlessly in my draft folder, patiently waiting to be released. But now, when I hover my finger over the “Publish” button, I hear in my head the voices that I read now, the polished prose of the sponsored blogs and compare myself. I come up well lacking. Why should that matter? This is a personal blog, not a brand platform. I have to remind myself over and over again that I’m not writing this on a deadline or for an audience other than myself- it’s not a work product. I do love writing for other people, but that’s not the focus of this blog. SO what is the focus?

There is none.

It’s a meandering walk through an untended vegetable garden, an ambitious hike that gives way to a dip in a cool river, a marathon I didn’t train to run, but still decided to walk it instead, and the view is lovely. It’s where I set aside striving and get an A+ for just living. It’s the product of a life well-lived (sometimes more than others) and well-loved. And that’s still quite enough to write about.

30 Strangers by Justin Hackworth

30 Strangers mother daughter portraits by Justin Hackworth

photo by Justin Hackworth

I love this photo by Justin Hackworth, featuring a teenager and her adoptive and birth moms and grandmas. The mom on the left is looking at her daughter with such bare interest and the mom on the right is studying her with such intensity. That’s some fierce love right there.

This photo is part of his “30 Strangers” project, in which Justin photographs 30 groups of strangers in 30 days- all mothers and daughters. Some are groups of two, others are three or four generations. Not every group is happy and carefree, and those of us with challenging relationships can relate to that. I think Justin manages to tell us a piece of each group’s story gently and respectfully through his photographs, and that’s a real talent.

The “30 Strangers” project is a fundraiser for the Center for Women and Children in Crisis, a local (to him) women’s shelter serving victims of domestic violence. Justin donates his time for the sessions, and the participants make a donation to the Center.

You can check out all his “30 Strangers” series portraits over at his blog.

Thanks, Justin, for sharing a bit of these women’s stories with us and for using your talents to help women and their families in the process.

Thanks, y’all: Small Moments of Delight

It’s difficult to be grateful at 5am when you haven’t been to sleep yet and it’s likely you won’t get to sleep at all. Especially when your husband is lying next to you, snoring peacefully as he has been since his head hit the pillow four hours ago, not too long after he talked you into staying up to watch just one more episode of Monk. It’s hard not to feel a little miffed. Perhaps even stabby.

Until he laughs in his sleep. A pure measure of happiness, from deep in the gentle cradle of sleep. Followed by another freight train snore.

It’s just the thing, the sweetest little moment, a reminder of how generally wonderful he is. He brings me these gifts, these small moments of delight, all the time. He reaches for my hand in his sleep. He makes me tuna salad sandwiches at midnight. He brings me beer in the bathtub.

It’s these things- these thoughtful, dear, small moments in marriage- that keep us present in love, that keep us grateful for our partners, and that keep us from duct taping our beloved’s mouths tightly, totally shut in their sleep.