Winter 2016 Procrastination

Dina McQueen Creating happines, Eleanore Roosevelt, ESL Commitment, Fearlessness


“You must do the things you think you cannot do.” –Eleanor Roosevelt

I am no Eleanor Roosevelt. The above image proves this. However, I believe that since leaving my parents’ house at 18, I have felt compelled to attack what scares me with relentless fervor. In looking back, I can see that this devil-may-care attitude actually opposed Mrs. Roosevelt’s ideology; I believe that rebellion motivated me, not the desire to catapult myself into the wonderment of serving the planet with fearless commitment.

Today, I sit before a first draft of my first detailed ESL lesson plan, with a paragraph of fine feedback from my professor. A cup of French roast still warm within reach, and the comfort of the San Diego sun streaming through the glass doors of the laundry room/sometimes office of the place we’ve called home since July 2015. Glad not to be on the east coast this winter, and even more relieved to be within a 15-minute drive to my elderly mother, now in near constant pain. When all I want to do is put on my walkers and head to the beach, or get in the car and go sit with my somewhat immobile mother while she recovers from a recent fall, when what I really want to do is get back in bed with headphones in place and watch last Sunday’s Downtown Abbey, what I will do instead is seek to welcome the feelings of unrest, uncertainty, fear … so much fear and uncertainty. I tell myself: stop the nonsense, girl!

So for now, I will quit the procrastination of words, and carry on. As I envision future students perhaps in fear themselves gazing at me with questions in their eyes, I do this for them. And hope that the spirit of Mrs. Roosevelt is smiling down upon me, nudging me to do this current thing I think I cannot do.


Dina McQueenWinter 2016 Procrastination

“Home Grown … is the Way it Should Be”

Dina McQueen Choosing health, Farmers markets, Growing food indoors, Home grown food


According to the CDC, more than one-third, or 78.6 million adults, in America are obese. The lack of affordable, local food in the majority of the United States, coupled with the astounding amount of processed, marketed, cheap “food” almost makes these numbers understandable. Almost.

Back in 1985, I gave myself the gift of European travel, spending most of the five months abroad in France. I had just graduated with a degree in Fitness/Nutrition, was obsessed with being thin, and coming out of a closeted battle with anorexia/bulimia. What France offered me was perhaps the most important introduction of my life: streets dotted with produce stands, boulangeries, fromageries, boucheries, all selling fresh, locally sourced, untainted foods. At 22, I came to know what real food looks, smells, and tastes like. I was privileged; most people never get the opportunity to explore healthier lifestyles. I was lucky; I got to know what my body and mind felt like away from processed, boxed up, and shipped-to-the-supermarket food. For the first time in my life, I was able to get to know my body and give it what it needed when it needed it. It tasted good. I felt great. Most importantly, while living in France, the eating disorder vanished.

This winter, my husband began growing greens in our basement. Starting the process from precious seeds, installing grow lights, playing classical music 24/7, the resulting kales, lettuces, basil, to name a few, are, even for me, indescribable. It takes patience, devotion, and a burning desire to live with more vitality, the kind of real energy a human being can only extract from real food.


Living in Reston, Virginia has been a life-enhancing experience on some important levels. However, on the food front, we’ve been less than ecstatic. Spoiled perhaps by the importance local food plays in the Santa Fe community from where we moved July 2012, living in a food growing climate where pesticides are common and affordable organic food is not, we’ve done the best we can, which, when compared to what we were used to, has been expensive and inconsistent.

Recently, though, I was given the contact information for a local food delivery service, Hometown Harvest. Please check out their website and discover what I believe is becoming the wave of the future. If enough of us fed up consumers begin to understand the relationship between fresh, locally sourced, nutrient rich, year-round food and strong immune systems, elimination of mental unrest, and maintaining a positive body/mind relationship, I truly believe we can outsmart Monsanto and those who support its atrocious ways in the name of profit.

I see a future where obesity becomes obsolete, and along with it, the resulting medical disasters. I see a future when health is the norm, and pharmaceutical reps are seeking alternate careers. Growing food, or supporting local farmers who do, is the first step towards creating my vision of utopia. Won’t you join me?


Dina McQueen“Home Grown … is the Way it Should Be”

The Power of : “I’m proud of you!”

Dina McQueen Alchemy, Choosing Happiness, Conscious parenting, Creating happines, Transcendence


It is January 16, 2015, and the kids in our district have had three full school days since December 21, 2014. With sub-freezing temps but no accumulated snow to play in, an artist husband, and me unemployed, that’s a lot of family togetherness. Freezing outside + no school + Mom, Dad, and child at home for 28 days … Om … That’s what it’s finally come down to for me: … Om

I walk into our daughter’s room and obstacle course my way to the humidifier, which needs daily cleaning in order to combat the heavy mineral build up. My sight cannot avoid the ascending pile of inside-out, and still-on-hangers, tossed about clothes on the extra bed. American Girl Doll accessory piles mock me on the floor, as do several books and stuffed animals that somehow found their way down from the paint-chipped, 46-year old built-ins.

Have you, dear readers, yet discovered that I’m a recovering control freak? My daughter’s bedroom is like a recovering alcoholic dating a man with a stocked cellar filled with award-winning bottles of wine collected from his travels across the globe; the sight of her piles gives me the shakes.

A week into winter break, she and I decided that in order to “win” an expensive item she wanted for her new doll, we would create a chart, with 99 (her number) stars that she’d have to earn the right to circle, one at a time, after achieving one of the listed chores: Homework No Fuss; Put Away Clothes; Clean the Kitchen Floor; Floss No Fuss. The first two days she earned five stars! The next week, one more. And two days ago, another. She’s got 92 to go. During a “snow day” the other day, with Stampylongnose blaring through the iPad (At some point, we parents give up on baking chocolate chip cookies, playing Crazy 8s, pulling out another puzzle, and let the iPad lead the way. I realize these are condemnable bad Mommy moments, but if Mommy’s not going to join the 8’s in “crazy,” sometimes–okay, a lot of times during a 28-day stint at home–a device just has to be okay.) as she lounged on her bed laughing like she was being tickled, and I maneuvered through the maze of her stuff to open the window shades, I lost it.

“Hey! What are you doing?! Can’t you see I can’t even move in here? What did we agree about putting your clothes away? You’ve only earned seven stars! Why did we even make the chart if you aren’t going to try to help around here? Why?

“I KNOW, Mommy!”

“If you know, why don’t you do something about it? If I can’t get a vacuum in here, you’ll be breathing dust bunnies and swallowing hair, for God’s sake! Not to mention …”

“I KNOW, Mommy! Ugh!” she moaned.

I threatened to take the devices away until she cleaned up her room. I threatened no TV EVER until I could walk through her room without breaking a limb. Then I huffed and puffed my way out and stomped down the stairs muttering like a mad woman unable to find her way home.

Last night, as she blew her nose nursing a fresh cold next to her dad on the sofa watching something Disney Junior, I was upstairs on my yoga mat. Reclined in a supportive pose, butterfly wing legs bound with a strap around my low back, sandbag weights keeping my knees down, arms spread to the side, heart open, Corelli softly playing through the iPod, I expanded my lungs with breath and focused my attention on the palms of my hands and feet, feeling the blissful vibration of my body letting go its grip on this “seen” reality. An internal smile spread through me like badly needed sunshine. I took a deep breath in, let it go, and silently thanked Spirit, the angels, and God for bringing me to this place of awareness: life is fleeting. A moment in time. A gift. And as all gifts are best received with gratitude, I acknowledged the privilege of life and everything became clear. For that moment, nothing that seemed to matter so much to me off the mat, mattered at all.

*  *  *

This morning, as I walked alongside my skipping daughter on the way to school, the two of us bundled up in winter gear from head to toe, I put my arm around her and she slowed to my pace. I leaned my head down, and snuggled her capped head. “I’m so proud of you,” I said.

“For what!?”

I realized I didn’t know what for, actually, because her room was still a mess, and she didn’t brush her teeth without fussing before leaving for school, but this is what I heard myself say: “I’m proud of you for being the best you that you can be.”

“Oh! Okay, thanks!” she said.

After what I said out loud repeated through my mind I realized that this was true. That I did not have to choose to be angry at my daughter for not having the same need for order as I did, that, in fact, knowing that she may not be infected with the perfectionism virus as I seem to have been born with allows me to relax, even feel tremendous joy for her: she is not like me. She gets to be who she is in this life. And part of being the best mother I can be is allowing her to express her uniqueness in ways that may not be to my liking.

I have been given many gifts in my life, seen and unseen. One of the most treasured of these gifts is parenting a child that not only does not look like me, but also does not display a similar temperament. I can either choose to keep her from flowing into the unique and happy person she is meant to be, or not. As I return to my yoga mat day after day after day, I set the intention to see all those I love with eyes that do not distort. Welcoming eyes that delight in our differences and celebrate our right to be who we are.


Dina McQueenThe Power of : “I’m proud of you!”


Dina McQueen Alchemy, Transcendence

Is it Possible to Transcend Who You Think You Are?

Can transformation happen by simply being still and silent long enough to hear your creative muses knocking at your door?

If I were to answer from 99.9% of my past experiences, I would say No.

However, I also have begun to experience Yes.

I used to think that Paul Simon was right: “After changes upon changes, we are more or less the same …” During the summer of 2014, though, this “same” began to dissolve. Along with the belief that transcendence of self was simply not possible; my entire adult life I had believed that we were born who we were meant to be, and that was simply that.

I used to believe that the memories I harbored of myself as a serious, often sad, marginalized girl were real and set in stone—that I was born that way. I even took some pride in this aspect of myself because my mother, and even my Uncle Guy Wolff used to tell me how much my personality resembled my granddad’s, abstract painter Robert J. Wolff, on whose birthday I was born. I wore the brooding badge as a sign of connection to my dear departed Grandpa Wolff. Past life experiences had only solidified inherent me, the person born on the same day as our family’s intellectually-inclined, sometimes depressive, artist. I believed that there was nothing I could do to change this person because I believed my soul was enmeshed with my personality.

Until recently, I did not, could not, connect with the commonly held spiritual (New Age) ideology that our true essence is light, love, non-judgment, joy—God-like.

But then this: Summer 2014 alchemy happened and I began to shift. My sight of the past and of myself dissolved. The once darkish perception of how I saw myself walking in this world slipped away. Instead of looking at the world or myself through what can be described as a sheer gray veil, my inner eyes were no longer shielded.

Due to the very nature of alchemy, I find myself at a loss to explain what happened. Something to do with the Super Moon full moon, the sky, the air, and my intention to shift.

Intention + Right Circumstances (sometimes) = Transcendence

Dina McQueenTranscendence

The New Yorker, Robert J. Wolff, & Beauty

spilgrim Art, Beauty, Creating happines, New Yorker Covers, New Yorker Magazine covers for sale


Feeling Blue & Seeing Red: two of my granddad’s children’s books on color

From The Man From Highbelow, by Robert J. Wolff:

“In the late spring of 1926 I came to New York City disillusioned and bored with college life, and settled into an exciting but bewildering new life. What struck me hardest was the frightening impersonality of the city man whose individuality was abstracted into the massive collective identity of men as a conceivable, tangible thing. I worried this thought into a poem, which I think I called Manhattan (written in 1928 in New York upon my return from England). …

“Finally, [in the poem] I suggested that our language should be changed, throwing out the word men as the plural of man–and that, when more than one man is spoken of, the word should be mans. Mans does not inflate humanity into a massive abstraction but maintains the presence of the individual within the multiple concept.”

*  *  *

During the 1980’s, I had the luxury of time and savings to enjoy several week long visits inside an old rambling house situated on the banks of Lake Washington. My second cousin, a Seattle businessman, and his wife, an artist, philanthropist, and talented homemaker, opened their home to me just because I asked them to. This was a time in my life after college that I recall as a blur of confusion and closeted suffering. What their home, and Seattle offered me was a bright and cheery room of my own a-la House Beautiful Magazine, slow solitary runs on wide, drizzle-laden streets, and the comfort of lush, inspiring surroundings. Having been born with an astrology chart that may have caused some obsessive compulsive tendencies towards neatness, and being the granddaughter of an artist who spent his life painting and teaching young people how to make their lives more meaningful through Art, visiting my cousins on Lake Washington, their walls dotted with Granddad’s bright and bold abstract paintings, felt like I’d landed in the belly of my soul’s true home.

My grandfather played a great role in the lives of my Seattle cousins as well, and at some point gave my cousin’s wife painting lessons. I am sure that his artistic sensibilities informed her sense of design, in addition to guiding her actual talent as a painter. Again, being inside of their home felt more like home to me than perhaps home ever would–it was a soul thing. The walls breathed granddad’s essence and helped me breathe the possibility of living a life more grounded in creativity and beauty.

If you peruse my Pinterest boards, you might get some insight into the kinds of spaces I drool over, the things I label “cozy,” and the colorful, café-laden places that make my heart go pitter-patter. Seattle gave me my first sip of a lifestyle I aspired to create, right here in the country of my origin.

I admit that I have yet to see this vision come to fruition. But part of what I am able to create as the wife of an artist and mother to a brilliant, spirited Ethiopian-born daughter, is the “heart song” that grew from those early visits to beauty. Though I may not have the resources to emulate my Seattle experiences, what I can do is recreate the feeling of those transformative visits.

Many hours at my cousins’ house were spent lingering in the open kitchen with the eat-in counter and picture window that overlooked Lake Washington. I wrote short stories and long journal entries in this kitchen, and after hours sipping coffee, nibbling homemade muffins, I would saunter over to the WC located just off the kitchen. Stepping inside the toilet room was like crossing into a dreamer’s Neverland. New Yorker covers wallpapered the four small walls, perfectly laid on, not a bubble or wrinkle to be seen. Sometimes after washing my hands, I would close the toilet lid and sit gazing at the creative elegance that surrounded me. Looking back some 25 years on those treasured moments as a visitor to the Pacific Northwest, I believe this is where my passion for collage making was birthed.

New York abstract painter Granddad Wolff might be giggling at the silliness of my current New Yorker Magazine cover obsession, but I also like to think that he would take some pride in seeing how I’ve enjoyed creating beauty wherever I see the slightest possibility. His blood runs through my veins too, and though I may have failed to emulate his way of being in this world, living life as an actual artist, I believe my inclination to see beauty in offbeat places would do him proud.

*  *  *

What you just read illustrated a touch of the story of how I came to offer you, my Clarity audience, an opportunity to create for yourself a moment of whimsy, a presence of simple elegance in the form of framed New Yorker covers. This invitation includes the idea of letting go of your perceived angst-of-the-moment to feel a creative spark that may take you on a short mental holiday. The intention is for you to be inspired to create a home for your soul’s delight.

“A painter’s life? He starts in chaos and struggles through the years toward clarity and serenity only to reach a fully revealed starting point. He ends by beginning. –RJW”

*A portion of each sale goes to supporting our Ethiopian family. Thank you.

spilgrimThe New Yorker, Robert J. Wolff, & Beauty