Tara Swiger gives us her perspective on being a Christian who doesn’t fit the stereotypes of Christians, and how her beliefs affect her business without being overt or preachy.
Tara Swiger began spinning twine*
And now she helps you redefine
Your biz as exploring.
And if that’s too boring,
She also adores Deep Space Nine.
- When people think “Christian” they think of Ned Flanders from The Simpsons
- “For me, it’s about love.” -Tara Swiger
- Being a spiritual entrepreneur doesn’t necessarily mean bringing your spirituality into your business in an obvious way.
- authenticity does not mean turning on the identity firehose
- Are we innately deserving of love or do we need to be forgiven?
- Fire and brimstone in religion and in business
- features vs. benefits
- marketing with confidence
- what Christmas means to Tara and how she brings it into her business
- Tara has also been on our other podcast, Wild Crazy Meaningful Life, talking about coming out as yourself. Here’s the link!
*actually yarn. I plead poetic license.
You can find Tara at TaraSwiger.com.
To subscribe or listen to past episodes of the Spiritual Entrepreneur Podcast, visit SpiritualEntrepreneurPodcast.com.
Pace Smith: A Biography
It’s the autumn of 2009, and I’m sitting in my office, sweating.
I’m waiting to talk to my boss to give my notice.
My hands shake as I think back on my life story so far. It goes a little something like this:
Pace Smith: A Biography
Pace Smith grew up, went to college, and graduated with a degree in Logic & Computation and a double major in Computer Science.
She applied for her dream job as an Artificial Intelligence programmer, and got the job.
For 13 years, she worked with intelligent, quirky, fun people, some of whom became her friends.
She made gobs of money, took pride in her work, and became respected in her field.
And then one day, she threw it all away.
What the fuck, Pace?! What were you thinking?
Don’t look at me, I’m just the biographer! I certainly don’t know what she was thinking. You know what? Let’s just stop this story right here before it gets any worse.
I sit up in my desk chair, I emerge from my fourth-wall-breaking reverie, and I take a deep breath. I ask myself, “What am I really throwing away?”
4 words come to my mind and to my heart: skills, talents, passions, and calling.
Your skills are what you’re good at. They increase with practice.
Your talents are an amplifier for your skills.
“What am I really throwing away?”
Am I throwing away my skills? Yes. I’m choosing a path on which LISP programming will be useless to me.
Am I throwing away my talents? No. My skills were rooted in my talent of excavating truth, of seeing how different pieces fit together. I’ll use that same talent to develop new skills – the skills of teaching and Pathfinding coaching.
Am I throwing away my passions? No. One is already gone, and new ones are arising from its ashes. My passion for artificial intelligence has already faded, and I’m being swept away by new passions of entrepreneurship, writing, teaching, speaking, healing, and coaching.
Am I throwing away my calling? HELL NO. I’m throwing away my skills so that I can follow my heart, so that I can find my path, so that I can accept my calling.
Pace Smith: A Biography (2nd edition)
Pace Smith grew up, went to college, and learned to solve problems.
She applied for her dream problem-solving job, and got the job.
For 13 years, she worked with intelligent, quirky, fun problem-solvers, some of whom became her friends.
She solved thousands of problems, made gobs of money, and became respected in her field.
And then one day, she helped heal someone’s heart.
One day, she realized that there are things in this life that are so much more than problems to be solved.
One day, remaining tight in a bud became more painful than the risk it took to blossom.
One day, she let go of everything from her old life so that she could be free to follow her heart.
…and she lived wildly, crazily, meaningfully ever after.
Author’s Note: This is my story of what happened behind the scenes a week and a half ago. The original date for Choose Wisely registration to open, and for the Wild Crazy Meaningful Teleclass, was going to be six days earlier than ended up happening. This is the story of why.
It’s Tuesday morning, February 25th. Launch Day is only two days away. I’m about to open registration for my new course Choose Wisely, I’m about to teach a Wild Crazy Meaningful Teleclass – everything is going according to plan. I’m putting the finishing touches on the registration process, and…
Nothing is working! My membership plugin is broken! I can accept people’s money, but I can’t give them anything in return. Not the best business model!
What do I do? What do I do? I can try to fix it, but what if my fix doesn’t work? If I need to reschedule registration and reschedule the teleclass, I want to give people some advance notice. I don’t want to cancel at the last minute! What if people canceled appointments to make time for the teleclass, and I reschedule it for no good reason? Everyone will think I’m an unreliable flake, and no one will sign up for my course!
Let’s pause panicked past-Pace for a few, and fast-forward to the future.
In retrospect, I see that I was practicing what I was about to preach – or teach. I’ve got to pass my final exam in Choosing Wisely before I teach it to you.
I’ll go back in time and be a little angel on past-Pace’s shoulder as she works through her decision. I’ll tell her how she’s practicing to teach. She won’t be able to hear me because I’m from the future, but hopefully some of my reassurance will sink into her heart.
(I’ll speak to her in italics, like this.)
Okay, we’re going back in time, picking up from where we left our panicked past-Pace! Here we go!
Breathe, Pace. Breathe.
I take a deep breath and sit in Remembrance for a few minutes. (Pace, you’re practicing what you’re going to teach in Week 1 of Choose Wisely.)
What’s true? Things aren’t working right now.
How long will it take to fix them? If I’m lucky, I could fix it today. If my fix doesn’t work, it could take much longer.
What bad things would happen if you stick to the original schedule? If I’m lucky, nothing. If not, then I’ll need to reschedule at the last minute, which is more likely to inconvenience more people.
What bad things would happen if you reschedule and push everything back by six days? I might confuse or inconvenience some people. And some good things might happen – I could use the extra time to complete some Tier 2 items on my could-do list.
(Pace, you’re combining two techniques you’re going to teach in Week 4 of Choose Wisely. And hey, another one from Peaceful Productivity.)
I realize that I’ve fallen prey to Myth #9 from The 11 Most Dangerous Myths about Finding Your Path.
Myth #9: My path will be epic.
It felt epic to me to race a deadline, to finish just before the buzzer, to pull off a successful launch against overwhelming odds. But is that really how I want to feel? Does this kind of epicness actually make me feel good?
No. It makes me feel stressed out and harried. I’d rather feel peaceful, wholehearted, and on my path.
(Woot! Not only are you feeling wholehearted, Pace, you’re practicing what you’re going to teach in Week 3 of Choose Wisely!)
I’m still feeling a little shaky, though, because I want to make a good impression on people with Choose Wisely and with this teleclass, and I want people to feel safe enough to lean into me.
What do I do?
I check in with my heart.
Stick to the original schedule? Ehhh…. maybe sorta kinda yes?
Push everything back by six days? Yes. Solid yes.
(Pace, you’ve got this. This is the HeartCompass technique you’re going to teach in Week 2 of Choose Wisely. You’re going to feel clear and wholehearted about this choice.)
It feels like my heart is learning toward pushing everything back, but that still feels uncomfortable.
Let me take another minute with my heart.
Ah. I see. I want to feel appreciated for all the work I’m doing, and I’m wanting to do things that will make my readers appreciate me.
What does my heart need? Appreciation. Witnessing.
Instead of trying to get that from people, let me get that straight from the Source.
(Another powerful, nourishing technique from Week 2 of Choose Wisely. You pass the final exam! I’m so proud of you, Pace.)
Now that my heart feels full, I can wholeheartedly decide to postpone. I write the email letting everyone know about the change in plans. I write it, and press Send. I add a note promising to tell the whole behind-the-scenes story later. And here it is!
(Hooray! Well done! And since I’m you from the future, I know that you didn’t second-guess yourself, and that you felt wholehearted about your choice!)
Summary of Pace’s Final Exam
- I wrote about the “My path will be epic” myth in The 11 Most Dangerous Myths about Finding Your Path.
- I’ll teach about finding peace amidst the panic in Week 1 of Choose Wisely.
- I’ll teach about checking in with your heart in Week 2 of Choose Wisely.
- I’ll also teach about receiving guidance by filling up your heart in Week 2 of Choose Wisely.
- I’ll teach the “How do I want to feel?” technique in Week 3 of Choose Wisely.
- I’ll teach the “What bad things would happen if?” technique and the problem-solving “break it down” technique in Week 4 of Choose Wisely.
- …and I’ll teach how to put it all together in Week 5.
Thanks for joining me on my time-traveling trip to the past and back!
I hope you’ll join me for Choose Wisely as well! Registration closes tomorrow, so take a look now to see if it will help you!
Recently, someone made a presumably snarky comment about my eBook The 11 Most Dangerous Myths about Finding Your Path. She said:
“Myth: That there is such a thing as a path!”
The funny thing is, I actually agree with her! This is exactly what I was trying to say in the ebook when I wrote:
Myth #8: Knowing my path is like having a map of the rest of my life.
A path in the physical world is a trail, a road. It connects one place to another, many people can walk on it, and it stays put. You can see whether the surface is rough or smooth. You can look at a map to see how long the path is, and to see all of its twists and turns.
With your life’s path – your calling, your purpose – you don’t get a map.
Truth #8: You don’t get a map, but you do get a compass.
It’s okay to not know what’s around the next bend.
You can’t know, because you’re creating your path with each step. You’re not following a well-trodden path with clear instructions. There’s no one ahead of you blazing your trail, no one you can simply follow behind.
You create your path with each step you take. It only becomes clear when you look behind you.
Your path is nothing more – and nothing less – than a series of steps. That’s why it’s so important to choose each step wisely.
So where’s my compass?
Your compass is in your heart.
It’s possible to know what the next step is. It’s possible to take that step wholeheartedly, with no regrets, without second-guessing yourself.
It takes some effort to clean off the glass to see your compass clearly. It takes some knowledge to learn how to calibrate it. And it takes some practice to learn how to read it.
That’s what you’ll learn and practice in Week 2 of Choose Wisely – how to access your heart’s compass.
I struggled for so long before I was able to access my heart’s compass. I wasted a lot of time and a lot of money, and I was stressed out most of the time. Now I feel peaceful and wholehearted most of the time, and I’m super excited to teach what I’ve learned to you!
Registration for Choose Wisely is open now and closes on Monday, March 10th at 11:59pm.
We talk about the Divine Feminine as illustrated by women’s stories from the Bible.
She’s studied the Catholic Madonna
As well as the Buddhist nirvana.
She now inventories
Divine women’s stories.
Please welcome my special guest Ronna.
- ancient wisdom vs. patriarchal values – don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater
- the patrisharky
- the story of Eve from two different perspectives
- “My desire is the aspect of myself that is closest to God.” -Ronna Detrick
- “If we could understand God, that would not be much of a God.” -Ronna Detrick
- Ronna speaks on God’s behalf
To subscribe or listen to past episodes of the Spiritual Entrepreneur Podcast, visit SpiritualEntrepreneurPodcast.com.
Have you ever felt torn between your head and your heart?
Your heart longs for something, but your brain tells you why it’s unreasonable?
Or you follow the reasonable path, and your heart pipes up, saying “This isn’t good!” but you don’t know what else to do?
Play to your heart’s strengths
Your heart is your connection to Source, your compass to guide you on your path. Listen to your heart and it will never lead you astray.
Play to your head’s strengths
Your brain is designed to be a problem-solving machine. Give your brain a problem, let it crunch, and it will come up with a solution.
Let your heart be your CEO, and your brain be your COO.
The CEO (Chief Executive Officer) is the one in charge of running things, of making the big decisions.
The COO (Chief Operations Officer) is the one in charge of implementing the CEO’s big decisions. The COO is the problem-solver, the strategist.
Let your heart be the boss and your head be the office manager.
Let your heart be the sovereign and your head be the vice-regent.
Let your heart be your guide, and let your brain work out the details.
What goes wrong when your brain is in charge
When your problem-solving machine is in charge, everything starts to look like a problem. Life turns into a to-do list.
And when everything is a problem to be solved, there’s no room for the wild messiness of the heart. Your brain may demote your heart to janitor and stop listening to it entirely.
All the problems are solved efficiently, but where are you going? Where’s the joy? Where’s the fulfillment?
It’s locked in the janitorial closet, that’s where.
What goes wrong when you fire your brain
It’s also possible to go too far – to promote your heart to CEO and fire your brain. When you feel the pain of disconnection, of having your heart locked in the janitor’s closet for so long, it’s tempting to cast your brain as the Bad Guy.
Firing your brain can lead to feeling centered but weak, spiritual but disengaged from the world. Getting rid of your problem-solving ability disempowers you and limits your effectiveness as a force for good.
Living a heart-centered life is a noble goal. But living a heart-only life can be an excuse to hide, to stay small.
Ignoring the potential of your brain is like saying, “Okay, I’ll do my best to be of service, Spirit, but I’ll do it with both hands tied behind my back.” How do you think you can truly best be of service: as a mindless robot who only obeys direct orders and never takes initiative? Or as an empowered, intelligent vice-regent who can make smart decisions and take right action?
Don’t throw the brain-baby out with the bathwater. Your brain isn’t bad. It only gets out of control when you let it lead your life.
Get the balance right
Let your heart lead, and let your brain follow.
Let your heart say, “Here’s where we’re going! Brain, let’s figure out a way to get there!”
Let your heart be your compass, and let your brain be your survival handbook.
I’m shocked by what we discovered in our 30-day car-free experiment… but even that wasn’t enough to affect the outcome. Here’s our final decision.
Our 30-day car-free experiment
When we lived in Texas, we never even considered going car-free. Everything is far (distances are bigger in Texas), the public transit in Austin sucks (at least outside of downtown), and we visited Dallas often, which is a 4-hour drive.
But after living in Portland for 8 months, we became curious about selling our car. Many of our friends had two cars when they moved to Portland and sold one of them. Several of our friends went entirely car-free after moving to Portland. We talked about it with our friends, and all but one were extremely happy with the choice to go car-free. We interviewed Tammy Strobel about her choice to go car-free in Portland, asked her all our questions, and shared all our concerns.
This is a great example of the ripple effect: how being yourself and choosing your own path can ripple out to change the world. A handful of our friends each made a personal, individual choice to sell their car, then they went about living their lives. We talked to a small handful of these people, which sparked our curiosity, which led to discussion, which led to research, which led to this experiment, which led to… well, I won’t spoil the ending for you.
We were drawn to going car-free because:
- We could save money
- Less driving is better for the environment
- More walking is better for me and Kyeli
We also looked into ways of driving places without owning a car, like Car2go and Zipcar.
Cost: $.41/min, $15/hr, $85/day, $.45 per mile after 150 miles per trip.
Fairly convenient and fairly environmentally friendly. Perfect for short trips and one-way trips.
Cost: $6/mo, $10/hr, $88/day, $.54 per mile after 180 miles per trip (I added 20% to the advertised cost because the website says “as low as.”)
Less convenient because you can only find them in special Zipcar parking spots and you have to return them to where you got them. There are only a couple of Zipcar spots in easy walking distance of our house, and one of them always has a blue pickup truck in it that I don’t really want to drive. But it might be good for medium-distance trips like driving out to the coast.
Our “fake Car2go”
The usefulness of these services depends on your lifestyle, and our lifestyle is pretty atypical, so we decided to simulate car-free living for 30 days before actually selling our car. We wanted a better idea of what we were getting into. We pretended that our car was a Car2go. We took all our stuff out, and started parking it 5 blocks away from home so we could experience the inconvenience of having to walk a ways to get to a car.
During our 30-day car-free experiment, we paid attention to how much we drove our “fake Car2go”. We said we’d set a timer to track how many minutes and hours we used, but we forgot to time it a couple of times. We drive 2-3 times per week: once to the grocery store, and 1-2 times to somewhere else. We went to the coast once and visited Salem twice.
We walked a lot! It’s been wonderful. We’ve seen all sorts of beautiful things in Portland. Once we passed a labyrinth that was open to the public!
As part of our experiment, we invested in better cold/rainy weather clothing. We knew that we would doom this experiment before it even began if we planned to be wet and cold while walking.
I used to be terrified of buses. Before this experiment, the last time I rode a bus was fifteen years ago, when I was in college in Pittsburgh, and I took the 54C to get to a doctor’s appointment. I couldn’t tell where my stop was, I got lost… it was super stressful and everyone was gruff. I wasn’t looking forward to experiencing that again.
After getting used to bussing in Portland, I actually like it now. It takes a while to get used to figuring out where to go, but practice plus a smartphone with a GPS makes it much easier. And now that I’m used to it, I find it much less stressful than driving. I don’t need to worry about crashing, or hitting pedestrians who jump out in front of me. I don’t need to make any quick lane changes. (I’m a nervous driver, so “quick” to me means “less than half a mile.” (And if you’re wondering why the nervous driver is the primary driver, it’s because Kyeli’s arthritis makes it painful for her to drive.)) And last but not least, when I’m bussing with Kyeli, we get to have more interesting conversations, because I’m not very good at conversing while I’m driving.
During our 30-day trial, Kyeli took the bus about 3 times per week and I took the bus about 2 times per week. Kyeli’s going to go up to 4 times per week now that her gym membership has begun. It’s $5/each for a day pass, so that works out to 6 day passes per week which is $30/week or $130/mo. Not quite worth Kyeli actually getting a monthly pass, which is 30 day passes for the price of 20.
Total cost of public transit: $130/mo
I don’t hate downtown anymore!
I’ve always hated downtowns. Every city I’ve ever lived in, I’ve avoided downtown like the plague. When I lived in Austin, my friends would all come to visit for SXSWi, and they’d ask me about different venues. I had to tell them I had no idea, because I only went downtown once a year – for SXSWi.
But what I’ve learned is that I don’t hate downtown, I hate driving downtown. Bussing downtown and then walking around is great! There are a lot of cool places and they’re not hard to get to. The buses run frequently and are super convenient. I feel like a whole new quadrant of Portland has been opened to me!
A weekly grocery run takes about 90 minutes.
That would cost about $27/week in a Car2Go.
It would cost only about $20/week in a Zipcar, which works out to $87/mo.
Total cost of grocery shopping: $87/mo
Monthly Trip to the Coast
Once a month, we make a trip out to the Oregon Coast. When Kyeli and I were deciding where to live, she wanted to live on the coast and I wanted to live in Portland. Our agreement was that she can be happy in Portland as long as she gets to visit the coast at least once a month.
It’s about a 2-hour drive to the coast, 100 miles there and 100 miles back, depending on which route we take. So if we took a car2go (which we probably couldn’t even do in winter weather) it would be the $85/day rate plus 50 extra miles, so $107.50.
If we took a Zipcar, the hourly rate might be cheaper than the daily rate. If our total trip took us 7 hours, that would be $70 instead of $88/day. And Zipcar gives you a few more free miles, so the extra 20 miles would cost $11, for a total of $81. Even with the $6/mo fee, that’s still cheaper than car2go.
If we rented a standard rental car, we could get picked up by Enterprise and get a $37/day rental. Plus $13 for gas makes $50. It would be way less convenient, though, because we’d have to go to a rental place and stand in line. Also, that doesn’t account for insurance. Car2go and Zipcar both include insurance in their rates, but rental car companies don’t. I do know that the insurance you buy at the rental place is a scam, though, so we’d need to get our own insurance. We want to have a minimal auto insurance policy even if we just use Car2go and Zipcar, because their insurance doesn’t cover personal injury protection (PIP). It looks like we could get the coverage we need for about $25/mo. If we only rent one car a month, that’s pretty inefficient, but still cheaper than Zipcar.
Total cost of road-tripping to the coast: $75/mo
Driving to Salem to visit our friend Jen, and staying there for several hours, would probably cost close to a road trip to the coast. There wouldn’t be an extra mileage fee, but the daily rate would probably be cheaper than the hourly rate, depending on how long we stayed. So $85 for a Car2go or $70 for a 7-hour Zipcar trip. There’s also a train from Portland to Salem, and it costs $20 round trip. So that would be $20 if just one of us went and $40 for both of us. I think we’ll take the train and ask Jen to pick us up.
I’ll budget for one Salem trip per month for both of us, and one for just Kyeli.
Total cost of visiting Salem: $60/mo
I see you drivin’ ’round town…
That accounts for most of our driving, but part of the benefit of doing a 30-day trial is to notice the exceptions and the special cases. Once we went clothes shopping, and a couple of times we went to visit friends when we didn’t feel like bussing or walking.
Our clothes shopping trip was the only one that would have been expensive, because we went to Tigard which is a bit out of the way, and outside of Car2Go’s allowable parking area. So we would have needed a zipcar for that, which would have been about $30.
The other trips were less than 10 minutes of driving apiece, and some of them were one-way. I’ll estimate about 3 one-way trips a month and 3 round trips a month. 10 minutes each way makes 90 minutes total, which adds up to $40.
Total cost of incidental driving: $70/mo
Our final decision
We’re going to sell our car. We checked in with our hearts, and we fist-bumped.
Oh wait, I guess it would be smart to add up all these numbers before making a final decision, right?
- Total cost of public transit: $130/mo
- Total cost of grocery shopping: $87/mo
- Total cost of road-tripping to the coast: $75/mo
- Total cost of visiting Salem: $60/mo
- Total cost of incidental driving: $70/mo
Total cost of transportation: $422/mo
Dang! Our total cost of car ownership is $397 plus maintenance, and that includes the full car payment. When owning a car, a good chunk of the car payment goes toward equity, so we get some of it back in the future when we sell the car. But car-free, none of it goes into equity.
I really expected to save money. In fact, that was the main reason I was interested in going car-free. I’m shocked at how much it will cost us to get around… but now that I’ve tried it out for 30 days, I want to do it even if we don’t save money. I enjoy all the walking. Kyeli can’t drive much anyway due to her arthritis, so the two choices are really “car-free” vs. “own a car and pay for some public transportation.”
Being car-free will encourage us to drive less.
Most of the costs of car ownership are fixed monthly costs: car payment and insurance. If you drive less, you use less gas, but all the other costs stay the same.
Getting around when you don’t own a car is a totally variable cost. If you stay home, you don’t pay. And…
If you get creative, you save money.
What if we bought a wagon and walked to the grocery store, then pulled the wagon back home? We’d need a tarp to avoid getting our groceries wet, but that’s doable. Or what if we had our non-perishable groceries shipped to us? That kind of undermines the environmental benefit, but I really want to find a way to avoid spending $87/mo on transporting our groceries the whopping one mile from the store to our house.
What if we could find a friend who also enjoys road-tripping to the coast, and go together? If they own a car, we could ride in their car and chip in for gas money. If they don’t, we could share the cost of the rental.
Heck, what if we could find a friend who lives within walking distance and come up with a car-sharing agreement? We could occasionally borrow their car and reimburse them in some way. That could save us butt-tons of money. We could ask our neighbors, too, or look into a peer-to-peer car-sharing service.
But how does it feel?
The car-free lifestyle feels… better. It feels more adventurous. It encourages me to walk more, which is fun, interesting, and good for me. It encourages me to be more connected to my body and to the world around me.
And as for the cost, I’ve replaced one fixed cost with a bunch of variable costs. Even if it doesn’t save any money at first, we can get creative with ways to cut down on the variable costs.
I could have estimated the costs without doing the 30-day trial, but I couldn’t have estimated how it feels. I didn’t realize how stressed I felt when driving, especially downtown, and I didn’t realize what a relief it is to let go of that.
Simulating a big change before committing to it
Talking with friends, then being curious enough to commit to parking the car 5 blocks away from home for 30 days. That’s all it took to open me up to this change.
Is there a big change you’re curious about and/or afraid of? Is there a way you could simulate that change without making any final decisions?
This past Yule (Winter Solstice), I created an epic quest for Kyeli full of limericks, mysteries, and riddles to solve.
This is a complete writeup of the entire quest, including the motivation behind the quest and all my behind-the-scenes plotting to make it happen.
I hate giving gifts.
Kyeli’s primary love language is gift-giving. It’s very stressful for me to give gifts. This has been a challenge in our relationship. After trying several compromises with mixed success, we figured out a win/win – the quest!
I love creating riddles and writing limericks.
So this year, I combined the two! I wrote limericks with blanks in them, and Kyeli had to fill in the missing words to figure out how to get her next clue.
Strung together, it makes a fun quest that leads Kyeli to one or more presents. Kyeli provides me with a wish list to pick the presents from. This time I guessed instead of picking from the wish list, but it takes the pressure off to know that the wish list exists and that Kyeli will be satisfied with any of the presents on it. The wish list is Kyeli’s end of the bargain.
Delight on a $50 budget
This year, I decided to give Kyeli experiences that would delight her. I googled “Fun things to do in Portland” and found several websites with tons of recommendations. I sifted through them, looking for things that would delight Kyeli, with preference for the ones that were cheap or free. I decided on:
- A pop surrealist art exhibit (because Kyeli loves pop surrealism)
- Last Thursday art fair (because Kyeli loves those kind of art fairs)
- A People’s Choir (a bunch of people singing along to melodramatic pop songs at a queer bar)
- A ghost hunting tour around downtown Portland
The first three were free and the ghost hunting tickets were $22 apiece.
And I decided that, for maximum mystery, I wouldn’t even tell Kyeli what her presents were on Yule – she would only be told “Go to this location at this time on this date,” and not know what to expect.
Building anticipation with vague hints
One of the most fun things about quests like these is building anticipation. On the three days leading up to Yule, I gave Kyeli one hint each day:
- You will receive zero physical items.
- You will receive zero non-physical items. (for example, videogames.)
- Once you get it, you still won’t know what it is.
Since I’m giving her experiences instead of items, the first two are true, and since the experiences remain a mystery until the actual date and time, the third hint is true too! These hints totally boggled Kyeli and it was delightful to watch her squirm.
Putting it all together behind the scenes
I totally crammed for this quest. I didn’t start planning or preparing anything until about one week beforehand. Creating this quest took about 15 hours total:
- Researching the events and making the plans took about 5 hours,
- writing the limerick riddles took about 8 hours,
- setting up and coordinating the team took about 2 hours.
Most of it was super fun, so the time flew!
I sent this email to several of Kyeli’s friends to see if they would be willing to participate in the quest.
Greetings, friends of Kyeli! I am preparing a Solstice Surprise for Kyeli and I would love for you to be part of it! DON'T TELL KYELI! It's a surprise! She has no idea what's coming. WHEN: This Saturday, 12/21, between 10am and 1pm Pacific Time (that's noon to 3 Central, 1 to 4 Eastern) WHAT: All you need to do is be available to receive a phone call from Kyeli so you can read Kyeli her next clue. I'll send you the clue, you just have to be around and near your phone so you can respond when she calls you. If you're available in that time range, just let me know and I'll give you a clue! Thank you, and Joyous Yule, and Merry Christmas, and Happy Holidays, and all sorts of festive blessings to you! Love, Pace
I waited to hear back from them because I needed to work their names into the clues.
I sent a second email to a smaller group of Kyeli’s close, local friends:
Hi there, close friends of Kyeli who live in Portland or near... or kinda sorta near! I am preparing a Solstice Surprise for Kyeli and I would love for you to enjoy it with us! Instead of material gifts, I'm giving Kyeli some shared fun experiences. Come join us for one or all of them! DON'T TELL KYELI! Right now she doesn't know anything at all, and on Solstice (this Saturday), all she's going to get is a list of addresses and times. So even if you see her at the appointed place, don't say, "I'm so excited about this group sing-along!" because she won't even know why she's there! Thu 12/26 7:00-10pm Last Thursday (art festival) http://www.lastthursdayonalberta.com/ NE Alberta St Fri 12/27 9pm A People's Choir (group sing-along) https://www.facebook.com/APeoplesChoir Crush 1412 SE Morrison St, Portland, Oregon 97214-2646 Sat 12/28 10pm Beyond Bizarre (ghost tour) http://www.portlandwalkingtours.com/tours/beyond-bizarre-ghost-tour/ Big Red Arrow Concierge Commons in the Merchant Hotel Building 202 NW Davis St. (between 2nd & 3rd Aves) $22 Thank you! I would love to see you at any or all of these events, and I know Kyeli would too! Much love, Pace
Most of the preparation was done via email. I called the art gallery to check their hours. I wrote the clues on index cards beforehand, and hid them. I delivered a clue to the Fat Straw cashier the day before Yule. There were only a few I had to hide at the last minute, so I made notes of those. I woke up early on Yule morning and went for a walk to place the appropriate clue near the big wooden fish.
Without further ado, I give you… the quest! It worked out to a total of 20 limericks.
(The answers are in white; highlight to see them, or play along and see if you can guess! Some of them are impossible-to-guess in-jokes and references to people you don’t know, but others are guessable!)
I wish you a marvelous Yule!
And now you must quest like a fool.
Your next clue’s inside
A thing used to guide;
A deep question-answering tool.
ANSWER: the Morgan-Greer Tarot deck (the one with The Fool)
Your next clue requires you to speak
To someone who makes hats look chic.
If that’s not enough,
I’ll make it less tough:
Her hiccups inspire me to squeak.
ANSWER: our friend Amanda
If rainy, get out your umbrella.
Get ready to flex your patella.
(That means your knees.)
Now pick up your keys;
Your next clue’s inside _________.
ANSWER: Izzabella (the name of our car)
She’s killer at giving a sermon.
Her last name’s misleadingly German.
She cried on a horse
As a matter of course.
Go and call ______ _______.
ANSWER: Julica Hermann
Her work is about liberation…
And also about masturbation.
She discarded hate
To make a game great.
Call her for more information.
I hope that more walking’s your wish.
But luckily, this one’s near…ish.
This time, the theme
Is swimming upstream.
Your clue’s by a big wooden ____.
ANSWER: big wooden fish on Salmon Street
His fridge contains something that’s milky.
His closet has something that’s silky.
Those clues are lame,
But that’s all his name
Would rhyme with. Now call ______ ______.
ANSWER: Charlie Gilkey
Your next clue’s more selfish than most.
Proceed to a place that is close,
And buy Pace a drink
Filled with what you might think
Are eyeballs, or something else gross.
And then, when you buy Pace that goo,
There’s still one more thing you must do.
Proceed without fear
And ask the cashier
To give you your next Solstice Clue.
ANSWER: Fat Straw
She lives in a garden of flowers.
Call her; don’t wait a few hours.
She left her abode
To walk a long road,
And now she has magical powers.
ANSWER: Jen Hofmann
Go home, if I may be so brash.
And go to the place where you stash
The things that smell bad.
And you will be glad
Once you look under the _____.
ANSWER: under the trash can
And now for your very next clue:
To get it, you’ll call someone who
Made metal that’s light
To open what’s right.
I’m speaking of ___ ________.
ANSWER: Liz Lamoreux
You wrote this, but not with a pen.
You started it in 2010,
Wrapped up this July
And kissed it goodbye.
Look inside __________.
ANSWER: Time & Again
On Monday, I won’t be a grouch.
I’ll prove it and give you a smooch.
We’ll stroll, nonchalant,
For an afternoon jaunt
At 23 West 5th and _____.
ANSWER: Couch. Portlanders pronounce this oddly.
There’s more! Make a call if you can.
She recently went to _____.
You watched her be wed,
And lately, she said,
“I’d love to be part of this plan!”
ANSWER: Mika. She recently went to Japan.
At home, eat a dinner-ish feast.
Next, your fun will be increased
On Thursday at 7.
Enjoy ’til 11.
Begin at Alberta, northeast.
Your next contact lives out of state.
To call her is surely your fate.
She teaches, she dreams,
She goes to extremes,
And here’s one more hint: she’s an 8.
ANSWER: Dyana Valentine
On Friday night, sing out in chorus
While crushing a sad stegosaurus.
Arrive sharp at nine
And all will be fine.
The place: 1412, son of Morris.
You certainly know Albert Einstein.
And also Elizabeth Weinstein.
But now you must phone
A “doctor” you’ve known.
He goes by the name “Dr. _________.”
ANSWER: Zeinstein, the alias of our friend Ira when he helped out via phone for my murder mystery surprise birthday party that Kyeli arranged
Saturday endeth your quest.
The last one is also the best.
At 10 on the dot,
Arrive at this spot:
202 Davis, northwest.
It took Kyeli a little over 3 hours to complete the quest. She figured out all the clues; she only had trouble with about 3 of them. She enjoyed walking around Portland and she enjoyed calling a bunch of her friends.
The Adventures of Dino Steve
I wrote the line “while crushing a sad stegosaurus” because there aren’t a lot of rhymes for “morris”, and I needed “morris” for “son of Morris”, which was my poetic way of saying “Morrison”, the street where A People’s Choir took place. “chorus” was a fortuitous rhyme, and “stegosaurus” was a total non sequitur. Later (after it was too late) I thought of “So loud that they cannot ignore us”, but that would have curtailed the following awesomeness.
Serendipitously, Photojojo included a little stegosaurus in their package containing Kyeli’s waterproof camera bag, and she received it between Yule and the mystery event! Kyeli named him Steve and carried him everywhere. Many of her Instagram followers were very concerned about his prophecied fate.
You can see how Dino Steve’s story turned out at #StegosaurusSteveAdventures on Instagram (read from bottom up for maximum dramatic effect)
Karaoke, reassurance, and creepy dolls
Another line from that same limerick, “On Friday, you’ll sing out in chorus,” gave Kyeli performance anxiety. The mystery turned into anxiety because she didn’t know if she would be singing on stage. The mystery gave her fear plenty of fodder to make up stories.
I tried to figure out a way that I could reassure her without giving away the surprise, but I wasn’t sure! I didn’t know whether singing as part of a group of people would trigger her anxiety in the same way as singing on stage.
So I said, “Okay, I’m going to give you 10 imaginary scenarios, most of which will be red herrings. Imagine each one and tell me what your anxiety level would be.”
The first 5 were all about different kinds of singing events. Karaoke in different settings with friends and/or strangers, and participating in a choir singing Christmas carols.
The next 5 were various creepy scenarios, like watching the demolition of an abandoned toy store containing lots of creepy dolls. I wanted to use my extra scenarios to make sure Kyeli would enjoy the ghost hunting tour – to make sure it wasn’t on the wrong side of creepy.
The karaoke and the Christmas choir gave me enough information to effectively reassure Kyeli that she would be fine at Friday’s mystery event, and the creepy dolls gave me enough information to silently be sure that she would enjoy the ghost tour.
The 4 Mystery Experiences
…and then Kyeli had to wait several days to actually find out what the mystery events actually were!
The pop surrealism exhibit was not bad. It was pretty cool but small.
The Last Thursday event was a total bust! Apparently it doesn’t happen during the winter, despite what the Internet told me. But we made the most of it and enjoyed a walk up and down Alberta Street, and we stopped into Vita Cafe for dessert. Red Velvet cake for Kyeli and Biscuits and Gravy for me. Kyeli is sweet and I’m savory. Also, I gave her a raincheck and told her that we’d come back for Last Thursday in the spring, and I’d buy her something from one of the vendors. So that actually turned out pretty well.
A People’s Choir was a blast, but then Kyeli got overstimulated by the loudness and rowdiness. Perfect in theory, not so great in practice.
Luckily, the ghost hunting tour was fantastic. We got to see a really creepy service elevator, the Parking Lot of the Damned, and an underground tunnel. It was amazing and Kyeli loved it!
The best way to receive delight is to give delight
I used to dread present-giving occasions. Now I look forward to them. The best way to receive delight is to give delight; there’s nothing more delightful than delighting someone you love.
Here’s to many more epic quests!
You know that spinny wheel that pops up when a website is loading?
I call it:
The Remembrance Wheel!
Each time I see it, I take it as a reminder to take a deep breath and call the Name of the Divine into my heart.
This tiny practice splashes little droplets of peace, love, and spiritual connection into my day.
Sure beats feeling frustrated and impatient!
p.s. Red lights are Remembrance lights!