What goes unspoken


Ace Hotel, Palm Springs - November 2012

You know that words are powerful, right? That's not a surprising comment to make. Good thing you're sitting down after all that American Thanksgiving turkey while reading this. But I learned this past weekend at Camp Mighty just HOW powerful our words are - for the good. For the good of our friends. 

Through this crazy blogging thingy I've met some wonderful, amazing, talented women. They inspire me. They challenge me to up my game, both in writing and in photography. They get me moving to do what I do better. They encourage me not to settle. They are part of my daily reads and I always look forward to see what they have created THIS time on their blogs.

I remember a conversation with a bloggy friend at Camp Mighty. It was during the Space Party when I sat outside on the pool deck with a few others. I remember encouraging this friend to follow her dreams and listed all the various talents that she has, all the ways in which she is so unique, all the ways in which I admire what she does. How her take on what she does is the cream that rises to the top of a number of others doing similar things. I got really specific.

And you know - I'm embarrassed to admit that I don't think I've ever told her those things before. I've thought them. I mean, that's WHY I read her blog every day. But I never said any of it til now.

How crazy is that? I mean, did I imagine that she could read my mind? Did I assume that OF COURSE she knew how highly I regarded her work?

So my happiness challenge to you is this - take the time to talk to your maker friends, your bloggy friends and tell them what you really think about what they do. Get specific. And when your friends do the same for you, take it ALL in. Breathe it in. Believe it. 

Don't let it go unspoken.

Camp Mighty - where no means yes


Conferences = swag. Gifts. Stuff in bags for you, the attendee. And Camp Mighty was no exception. Part way through the first day we were pointed in the direction of a room length table at the back covered in wrapped gifts. Different sizes and shapes but each with a name tag on it. Alphabetized. Over 150 gifts on one table.


The gifts were personal. Picked with each of us in mind. Based on our life lists that we had submitted weeks before. 

It was a thoughtful way to do swag - hey, a new descriptor, "thoughtful swag". Get organized, you conference planners, the bar is now officially higher. "I'm only going to conferences with 'thoughtful swag'". "I'm in charge of 'thoughtful swag'".

Funnily enough, when I think of that weekend, I don't think of the gift. Not that I don't appreciate it. But when I think of that weekend I think of another gift. Or gifts. I think of the speakers who spoke. The ones who spoke to me. Or had a few words here and there that really touched me. Touched me where I am right.now. Said words that I needed to hear.

Here is the first one that had a personal message - a personal gift - for me.

It's Jordan Ferney of Oh Happy Day. I had heard her speak at Alt Design Summit last January when she gave a similar presentation on how she grew her blog readership. (By the way, it's probably the most practical description of blog growth that I have heard). But that wasn't what hit me this time. It was something that her mother told her when she was growing up:

The chief cause of failure and unhappiness is trading what you want MOST for what you want in.the.moment.

If you had been there you would have seen me suddenly sit up straight with that look of "what?" while scribbling furiously. Trading what I want MOST for what I want in.the.moment. 

Want another cliche? Here's one: you could have knocked me over with a feather. Literally, figuratively, every which way. 

I see shiny bits of paper over here and over there and over behind that other thing. I see shiny bits of paper - all good ones, all beautiful, all unique, all stunning - but ones that so easily, TOO easily drag me off course. Off course from what.I.want.most. 

What I've learned, and seem to need to KEEP learning, is that life is a triage of opportunities. I can't do it all. I might WANT to do it all, but I can't do it all. It KILLS me to turn down good opportunities, especially knowing that those doors may close permanently. That chance to collaborate. This offer to write. All good. All paths that fit with my skillset and my interests. But just not what I want MOST. They are just what I want in.the.moment.

So my first learning point from Camp Mighty to share with you is that very triage - learning to be ruthless and focused and driven to go after what I want MOST. To see the shiny bits of paper and bailer twine and string and not get distracted. Being comfortable with saying no. And trusting that saying no will leave enough time and space, both physical and mental, to go after what.I.want.MOST.

To learn that sometimes I need to say no to say yes.

Camp Mighty - Bringing people together


I'm back, as you know already if you are following me on twitter or instagram or facebook. Sometimes it feels like an echo: "I'm back, back, back, back...." as you work your way through the various social media platforms. But it's all charming and witty and interesting, right? Right? (I don't have my instagram button up there yet on the right but I'd LOVE it if you'd follow me, @sandrat212).


Like everyone who attended Camp Mighty, I'm digesting everything that I heard and experienced and learned. You know I'll be writing about it here. And it'll be in more than one post because I can't capture all of it in one shot. Even if I DID have it all figured out today, the day after I returned home.


I'm sure that there's some snark around the 'net about the privilege of going to retreats like Camp Mighty. I mean, we were at the Ace Hotel in Palm Springs! Let me tell you, after the typical fall/winter non-stop rain of the Pacific Northwest, I was THRILLED to get some sun. The vitamin D drops are fine but they aren't a substitute for that glowing orb.

But it isn't just about staying at some cool hip hotel in a warm, sunny spot in the winter. That's great. But you know, I don't need Camp Mighty to do that.

And it wasn't only about an inspiring roster of speakers. 

It was about being with people. Being with people in those in-between moments. In-between speakers. Before dinner while hanging out by the pool. Up early to grab a coffee. Spending a break on a deck chair. Late at night on a canvas chesterfield couch (I want one of those!) in front of an outdoor fireplace under a pergola strung with globe lights.



There's something so very powerful about meeting and talking with people face-to-face. 


Meeting someone you have never met before and hearing their story. Having the TIME to hear their story. Really HEAR it. And take it in. No "likes" or retweets. Just listening.

Hear someone you've just met talk about how coming to a retreat like this was one of THE bravest things they've ever done. And then see them over the weekend blossom and connect and make friends. And admire them for it.


Having the time for someone to hear your own story. When was the last time that someone really sat still and listened to you?


Meeting people face-to-face that you've only connected with online. Feeling even MORE comfortable with them. And connecting even deeper.

Spend time brainstorming with friends that you DO know but that you only get to see face-to-face once in a while because you live in different cities. Experience that energy, that magic, that excitement as you build TOGETHER new ideas and thoughts. As you challenge each other's ideas. And make better ones.


Meeting new people. Making new friends. People that you otherwise never would have met.


Something magical happens in that space in-between. That space between us, between you and I. That space between us when we stand across from each other and talk. Listen. Notice each other's body language. A tone of voice. A toss of the head. A grin or a laugh.

Yes the program was great. But for me, just as much was the magic of those in-between moments and the spaces between us.

Mighty Life List

You know that I am going to Camp Mighty in a few weeks, right? I know, I can't believe it either - that I am lucky enough to go and gah, that it's only in a few weeks! Well as part of that, I am meant to make a life list. (The idea was born over here). 

It's not just a list of things that I want to do - it doesn't just stop there. And that's the magic. You see, the POINT is that we work together to help each other knock some things off of our lists. Together. Share info, contacts. Collaborate. Give advice. Something a little more practical than merely putting it out there in the ether.

Here's my list so far. I've grouped it into categories to make it easier for me to remember. And I KNOW I'll be adding to it as things come to mind. Crossing them off as I go.


1. Gig on jazz piano and the man on drums

2. Accompany singers and musicians in a duo

3. Go to Jazz Port Townsend each July

4. Have a regular group of jazz musicians to jam with

5. Collaborate on a creative project

6. Have a show of my street photography

7. Have my photography published in a magazine or a book

8. Contribute an essay to a book

9. Have an article published in a magazine


10. Write an e-course on creative process to inspire makers

11. Speak at a conference (I'm speaking at ALT 2013!)

12. Create an e-magazine

13. Have my blog become a source for ideas about creative process, photography, and foreign film


14. Grow a group of dedicated, interactive blog readers

15. Host a monthly foreign film night

16. Host a monthly salon

17. Start an international childrens’ film festival in Vancouver

18. Host a childrens’ community art show (thanks Jen!)

19. Have a creative and fun group of girlfriends in whatever city I am living in (thanks Melanie!)


20. Own a cottage in Ontario cottage country (again - I can't get over it!)

21. Own an apartment in NYC (do I even NEED to explain?)


22. Go to NYC at least 2x a year forevah

23. Spend 2 months travelling in Denmark, Sweden, Norway, and Finland

24. Take my girl to southern Africa where I used to live

25. Spend 2 months in Italy

26. Spend 2 months in NYC

28. Visit Heather in London


29. Go to TIFF (Toronto International Film Festival) every year forever

30. See 45 movies at TIFF one year (I usually see around 20-25)

31. Attend a play reading in NYC

32. Attend a play rehearsal in NYC

33. Have a private tour by a historian of Hampton Court Palace

34. Meet Paprika Steen (fave Danish actress) 


35. Break 100 at golf

36. Bake bread

37. Sew an Elizabethan costume

38. Make a documentary with the man

39. Keep up with the man on my snowboard

40. Portrait photography

41. Furniture upholstery

Ambitious, eh? Yup. But might as well put it all out there.

Do you have a life list? Need any help with achieving any of your items?