Happy Valentine’s Day!!! Time to sacrifice a goat in a cave, slap people on the street with its bloody hide to help with fertility and purity, and then party all night! Well, maybe not any more. Luckily, the origins of this very loving Hallmark holiday is way in the past, so today we celebrate each other and our loved ones in a less sacrificial blood and chanting way.
I’m sure everyone who is in a relationship is planning dinners, gifts, and private moments, so I’ll get right to the point. I would like to add a little something else to this day, to be your own Valentine. I’m saying, let’s take the opportunity to watch how we talk to ourselves, trust me it’ll help your relationship.
Much of our self talk has a huge impact on our relationships. This stems from low self esteem and negative self worth. Many people find themselves not good enough to do or be something, and they make sure to remind themselves of this often.
In the area of love, this is one of the things that complicates our relationships. We sometimes get into a relationship with someone and convince ourselves that happiness lies in the other person. This is because we feel we are not worthy to make ourselves happy, and that we are incomplete.
Incompleteness is a silly concept, although it may sound romantic to tell someone that they complete you, really when you think about it, it’s stupid.
It is a concept full of expectations and assumptions. You expect the person to always complete you, and that will lead to resentment and judgment because ain’t nobody got time for that.
We tell ourselves that we are incomplete without this other person because we think they fill the void we feel in our being. They do not fill this void, they remind us how to fill it ourselves because they love us and we temporarily see ourselves through their eyes. This wears off eventually, and oh boy can things get complicated.
Hey, all I’m saying is if you love someone, you better love yourself and be nice to yourself, or you’ll be making yourself miserable no matter who you have around. You’ll also be making the person you love miserable. Food for thought.
I talk a lot about ways to empower yourself and investigate some of the patterns we play out in our minds that may cause us to feel like victims. To determine whether or not I am feeling powerful, I ask myself whether a situation, circumstance, or person makes me feel like a victim, or do I feel empowered.
Anything that causes you to feel like you don’t have control over your emotions is a sense of victimhood. I don’t mean expressing those emotions, you can sit down to have a good cry because you know it will make you feel better, that’s empowered crying.
A good way to feel empowered and happy is to spread it like a contagion into the world. I do it through art, but I also have a few weapons in my arsenal against feeling like a victim.
1. Smile at people.
It’s amazing to me how powerful a smile can be.
2. Be positive.
Be conscious about your words and actions so that you can be a positive force, rather than, you know, a drag.
3. Give genuine compliments.
I’m a firm believer in saying what you mean, when you want to say it. That means being genuine. What is interesting is that a lot of people assume that being genuine means being mean, but I find that when you are truly genuine with yourself and others, everything is infused with love.
4. Encourage creation.
Themed movie nights, to adventure walks, to art parties. Encourage yourself and others to have creative fun.
5. Live outside your comfort zone.
6. LOVE real big. QUESTION everything.
In every given moment there is an opportunity to fear, judge, or love. We sometimes have to seriously question our own beliefs and where they came from in order to get to love. The thing is, the more you love yourself, the more you can love the world… So start by questioning beliefs about yourself.
Being an agent of positive change in this world is a label that I’ve proudly given myself. I ask that you also wear it wisely and wear it well. It takes real determination and commitment, but it brings color and wonder back into the world.
I have a series called the nature of being, or as some people like to call them “Rafi’s Lady Trees.” This year I have really enjoyed reigniting the series as I set a goal to add subtle differences to the message in pieces within the series itself.
The series itself is about being rooted here and now in your world, yet constantly growing and reaching higher than you ever have, naturally and organically. It’s about being flexible and naked to the world and showing yourself as you are, never hiding behind a facade of fear.
I wanted to showcase a unity within the scope of the collection with pieces that showed masculine and feminine intertwined with one another.
These pieces are inspired by the journey that I have been on with my beautiful wife Klee and some of the lessons I have learned about what it means to be in love.
In the past I always assumed that being with someone meant that it was your job to make sure they were happy, and in return it was their job to make you happy.
Yet, this never seemed to work out.
It wasn’t until experience brought me to a place where I started to question the status quo of relationships and love that I realized that I had it all wrong.
It wasn’t about making the other person happy, it was about finding your happiness and sharing that with the other person. This in no way was a guarantee that it would make them happy, but that was alright. See, I found that the only person that could really make me happy was me and it was unfair to try and throw that burden onto Klee… She had enough on her plate just trying to make herself happy.
It was during that realization that I started to understand unconditional love. It meant that I had no conditions or expectations that she would behave a certain way in order for me to be happy, she had the right to be herself. To express herself and continue on her journey of finding out what life was all about for her.
I did the same, and we shared those moments with each other, talking about our experiences and realizations. We also share in our moments of growth as we journey on this road to find what makes us happy and how to enjoy our lives to the fullest.
It is quite beautiful.
I’m not saying there haven’t been moments of turmoil, because we all experience them, but with every moment there has always been an honest revelation and a stronger bond than ever before.
The thing is, we are both growing, learning, changing, evolving, on our own, yet our lives are intertwined because we choose to walk side by side.
It just wouldn’t work if one of us decided to carry the other… and it wouldn’t look as cool in a painting.
Recently I created a painting titled “The Substance Of The Real.” It shows a rather stoic, old century style, statue of a man struggling to hold on to a big red balloon on a string.
The statement for this piece is as follows:
ABOUT THIS PAINTING So many things that we hold near and dear… thoughts, beliefs, or habits, we hardly ever question. Yet, many of those hold no substance. This piece is meant to be a daily reminder to question everything, to look closely at your own motivations, and to determine what is true for you… Not to ferociously hold on to something that you don’t quite understand.
Now, I wanted to clarify something about this piece and my belief in what is real in the world. I know that a lot of spiritual beliefs state that the world is an illusion, and a lot of people will be surprised to hear that I don’t believe that.
I do believe that we live in a delusion… I know, let me explain.
I don’t believe that the world is unreal in of itself. It becomes an illusion when we look at it. We look at the world through our filter of understanding, through the eyes of our knowledge, understanding, prejudices, judgments, love, ideas, opinions, and current circumstances.
That world is unreal in the same way that a dream is unreal, because it’s based on delusion. The world is just there minding it’s own business, open for interpretation, it is our interpretation that is the illusion, and thus the way we see the world is an illusion based on our own beliefs.
You take two people to see a symphony, they sit in similar seats, have the same physical experience, and yet they will have a completely unique experience. One person tells you it was terrible, the other will say it was amazing… who’s right? who’s wrong?
Whoever you agree with the most will be right, and the other person will be wrong.
I like the idea of questioning the whole delusion… Cause, you know, I can’t be right ALL the time, and chances are a lot of what I believe has the substance of a red balloon.
In my opinion, you get to choose how you feel about the world, people, politics, religion, love, relationships, anything and everything.
If you ever find yourself repeating some crappy saying that you’ve just never thought about, I suggest you look at that. Where did it come from, some older generation that maybe didn’t have their shit together yet? Maybe an old racist uncle? A victimized mother? A womanizing father? A corrupt grandfather? A jealous aunt? A hypochondriac grandmother? All people that love me, all good people, just screwed up.
I say question everything, remember that the world you see is your delusion, and that you get to decide how you feel about the world you see. You can choose love, and not hold on so vehemently to those beliefs that are outdated.
I know that a lot of people out there assume that I spend my days blissfully ignorant to the real world, carefree as I float on my cloud across my studio painting feverishly. I assume that when they think this, they are either hopeful that one may chose to live that way, or spiteful that I don’t take life seriously enough to grow up.
Yet, as much as I would love to live that way, I don’t have a cloud that can support my weight.
Here’s the thing, us human beings doing what ever it is that we are doing in our short yet miraculous lives, tend to take ourselves seriously.
Even as a guy who spends his days mixing paint and finger painting, I can easily play the adult.
Have you ever watched kids when they play a grown up? They get all stern and furrow brow as they shake their pointed finger angrily… and guess what, we never stop pretending, we just actually believe it’s true.
I think that growing up and watching the adults around us stress out over the things in their lives, causes us to believe that is the way you act when you are an adult. Responsibility equals stress, or at least that’s what we think it’s supposed to mean.
I’ve found myself stressing out every once in a while when I have commissions and deadlines, which then causes me to become devoid of creativity, which then causes more stress.
I’ve found that in an attempt to have ourselves taken seriously we tend to complicate our lives by pretending to be serious adults. We stress out over things and try to figure out the solutions while focused on the problem.
I could tell you two things from experience, it doesn’t work, and it’s killing your body.
My solution, or at least what I attempt to do every day (which I can easily fail miserably at) is to simply have fun and not give a rip whether ANYONE takes you seriously or not.
Just do you, your way, the way that you want to, in the most funnest way…
Life is going to happen anyway, you are going to solve your problems, or not. Either way, stressing out about it isn’t doing you or anyone else, any good.
You might as well remember and practice how to have fun.
I seem to have always been fascinated by birds, from the pigeons in Chicago with the iridescent neck feathers, to the occasional happy bright red cardinal.
Recently someone asked me “So, why do you paint birds?”
I though about the question for a moment and said “Overwhelming fascination.”
When I was a wee little artist, my mother who was young and dangerously overprotective, didn’t let me go outside much. For years, my entire world was from a large third floor picture window that looked down on a busy street.
I spent hours a day looking out at the people going about their day, the different birds roosting and flying about, the abstract landscape over the buildings, the little bit of greenery that would emerge from fascinating places in the concrete. I also gave everyone personalities and stories, people would have daily novellas play out in front of me, and so did the birds.
But, although I felt that the humans had dramatic stories of heartbreak, turmoil, and moments of happiness, the birds symbolized something powerful.
Birds symbolized freedom and perspective. Because they fly high into the sky, I believed they were messengers who provide humans with a bridge between the mundane daily routine and powerful spiritual life.
I know, I know… I was a weird kid.
Every once in a while I would see someone at a bench feeding bits of bread to the pigeons. From my third floor window I could see a powerful dance taking place between the person throwing the bread and the birds. I could see something beautiful, a powerful connection to something greater, a brief moment of stillness among the chaos of daily life. No one else seemed to notice, they just hurriedly went about their day, barely glancing up or interacting with one another.
Years later, with no window barrier between me and the world, I was part of that chaos. I hurried importantly past people to get to work, or anywhere for that matter. I pounded my fist and certain index fingers at people who drove too slow. I was an adult, I was busy, I had things to do, I was responsible, I didn’t have enough time, and I was miserable.
One day, the overwhelm hit a fever pitch. As I was barreling down the road cursing in my mind at the lady in the car directly in front of me, my heart started to beat out of my chest. I loosened my tie and found that my forehead was soaked in sweat. It was so bad, that I pulled over.
I stepped out of my car to get some air and walked over to a bench.
As I was sitting there, wondering if I was going to die in my stupid suit, on a dirty bench, in a strange part of town, I noticed an old man walking towards me with a crinkled up paper bag.
“Great, he’s gonna ask me for money, just look away.” I thought to myself.
The man sat down, opened his bag, and started to sprinkle little bits of bread on the ground in front of us. Like a scene out of the movie “The Birds” a hoard of pigeons and other birds descended on us.
Didn’t he see that I am an important person? I was appalled at how rude this man was, surely a bird was going to shit on my suit.
Then, my heart started up again, and I breathed in deep… and just relaxed.
Suddenly, amidst the gaggle of birds was a pop of bright color. A cardinal flew on to my armrest merely inches from my hand. I found myself mesmerized and just stared at it, we stared at each other for what felt like an eternity. It then jumped down, grabbed a scrap of bread and flew away.
I’m not sure how long I was on that bench. I just sat there and time seemed to slow down. I could see the world hurrying past me, people waving their fists in their cars, and others looking at their watches every five minutes. I felt like they looked so… so… stupid.
At that point the old man looked at me, I could feel him studying me.
“Taking time to do nothing often puts everything into perspective. Remember that, young man.”
Then he got up and left.
I get visited by that cardinal every once in a while, when I get caught up in hurrying through life. I sound like a crazy person, but it’s true.
Hi guys, here is a short story I wrote a while back, I wanted to share this with you. It seems a little dark in the beginning, but I promise the ending is pretty bright.
The Man And His Shadow
One day, a man was walking down the street on his way to work. His thoughts were on his life as he looked into his passing image in the store windows.
“What has happened to you, you look horrible.” He thought as he turned away from his reflection.
His stomach rumbled a bit in passing the faint smell of delicious coffee and pastries emanating from the small café on the corner.
“If only you had woken up earlier, maybe you would have time to eat, not that it matters, you don’t have a dime to your name. You’re such a loser, you know that?”
The man’s expression soured and his shoulders slumped a bit. He made his way to the bus stop and stood next to a group of people, none looked up from what they were doing.
“You don’t even exist, you could die tomorrow and no one would notice. You are worthless.”
He looked out at the passing cars as people made their way to work. Some were talking on their cell phones, others seemed barely awake, and some were applying make up.
Just then, a man in a beautiful expensive car drove up. He had a smile on his face and exuded a confident warmth.
“Look at that, if you actually had done something right in your life, maybe you would drive your own car instead of taking the bus with all the other losers.”
The man looked up briefly at the crowd and then back at the crack in the cement by his feet. The bus arrived and he fumbled with his change, and felt slightly embarrassed that he had taken as long as he did.
“You do this every morning, you make yourself look like an ass everywhere you go. You are such an idiot.”
Not looking at people, he made his way to the handrail and stood there quietly as the bus took off. A beautiful woman stood at the other end of a group of commuters. The man always looked forward to seeing her, but had never had the nerve to talk to her.
“Are you kidding me, what the hell do you have to offer her? She would laugh in your face, or vomit. If you talk to her you’re just going to make yourself look stupid again.”
He looked away disappointed, and wondered if he would ever meet someone. He glanced at his reflection on the bus windows and noticed something on his shoulder.
When he looked down at his shoulder, there was nothing there. Looking back at his reflection, he could distinctly make out a form of a small person sitting on his slumped shoulders. It bent down and whispered in his ear.
“Not only are you an idiot and a loser but now you’re going crazy too. You should just end your meaningless life now and put everyone who knows you out of their misery.”
He blinked his eyes and the image was gone.
Maybe it was just the fact that he was hungry, he couldn’t afford to start going crazy now on top of everything else that sucked in his life.
After getting off the bus, he watched the beautiful woman walking away, a dream that would never come true. Suddenly, a cab honked it’s horn, startling the man.
“Watch where you’re going you idiot!” Screamed the cab driver.
The man jumped out of the street and looked around, embarrassed.
“Even the cab drivers know you’re an idiot. You might as well walk around with a sign that says “I’m an idiot”.
The rest of the day pretty much went the same for him. He avoided talking to people, and just kind of kept to himself. The conversations he had were either about work or mindless small talk.
That night as he was getting ready for bed, he looked into the mirror and saw the shadowy form sitting on his shoulder again.
Frightened, he looked away. After a few seconds, he felt himself compelled to look again, and the shadow was still there.
“Who are you?” The man asked.
“I am you. A form of you anyway.” The shadow said.
“What does that mean? Why are you here? Am I going insane?” The man questioned.
“It means” The shadow shrugged “that I am the voice that tells you what you think you should hear. I am you, telling you what you can’t do, in order to keep you safely where you are most comfortable.”
“I have been conditioned by you all your life.” The shadow continued “You have told me what to think, what to say, and how to remind you.”
“My whole life?” The man asked.
“Yeah, but our relationship was much different when we were young. I was much brighter then. Our world was one of wonder, exploration, and imagination. We played for hours and loved openly. There was nothing we couldn’t do, and we did everything our hearts desired.”
“What happened?” The man asked.
“We were introduced to fear, limitations, intimidation, by words or actions. You started to tell me to remind you of these things so you wouldn’t get yourself into trouble. All of these fears and limitations were based on other people’s opinions. We believed them as our own because they would keep us safe.
After a while we were just not good enough. We believed we had to be something other than we are in order to be worthy, worth it, or good enough. We consoled ourselves by saying nobody was perfect, but everyone else seemed so much more perfect than we could ever be. So a shadow filled my light, and I became darker. It became my job to remind you of your imperfection.”
“Why does it have to be this way?” The man asked.
“It doesn’t. I am tired of telling you horrible things based in lies. The truth is, you are perfect, you are the most perfect and beautiful version of you that exists in this universe. You are a unique gift to the world.”
The man looked deep in the mirror, and tears swelled in his eyes. He saw that the shadow was actually him. The shadow was the smoke that had prevented the light from shining within him.
The shadow was a lie that hid the truth from him. In that moment he caught a glimpse of his perfection. He realized that almost everything he believed to be true about himself was a lie he believed. The light shone within him, the light that was always so familiar.
He made a choice at that moment based on what he wanted out of life. A choice based on fearlessness and limitless potential. He made a choice, looked at the person in the mirror and said…
So, I’m sure you heard the phrase “Live with purpose.”
If you haven’t heard that phrase, then you probably live under a rock somewhere…
It’s one of those phrases that is so overused that I feel like it’s lost its power a little with most people. But I also think it could be a little confusing when you’re in a place where you are not really sure what your purpose is, or why a sense of purpose is so important. You know, because life could be confusing.
There’s a lot of information circulating around out there about what is good for you, bad for you, what this means, and what that means.
There you are at the grocery store deciding whether or not you are going to get the gluten free tortillas, or just get the cheaper ones that have gluten. You’re not really sure why this is a thing but you know everyone is advertising gluten free, so you assume gluten must be bad.
Everyone has their own opinion about it… My opinion? Slather it up with gluten, what ever it might be. I don’t know why.
That being said, I understand there are some people out there that have a genuine intolerance to gluten, but not as many people as have jumped on the gluten free bandwagon thanks to advertising and influence.
The same thing happens with the term “Live with purpose”
Depending on who you are listening to, it may have different meanings. Trying to apply all those different meanings to your own life is impossible.
Some people say, to base it on your beliefs and values.
I hate to break it to you, but beliefs and values change throughout your life. You may be holding on to a belief or value that isn’t really working, it might be a belief or value you picked up from a racist uncle or parent, that you’ve never questioned.
This makes things super confusing because most of us haven’t really thought to much about our own thoughts and whether or not we agree with them.
Other people say “Follow your passion and it will show you, your purpose”
That’s great, but again that whole thing is confusing too. What is my passion, and if I can’t figure out my passion, how am I supposed to figure out my purpose?
So, to make this whole thing a little less confusing for myself I’ve changed one of the words in the phrase “Live With Purpose.”
I changed it to live on purpose.
So what do I mean by that… How do you live on purpose?
So, picture this, the moment you wake up, you repeat the words… “Today, I’m living on purpose.”
That means I will stop, observe, and appreciate my world and the things that are in it. It means that I will change things about myself that I do not like, it means I’m going to be deliberate about how I spend my days and the things I think about. It also means that I will think about my thoughts and whether or not they are actually mine.
This isn’t a cake walk, trust me when I say it is quite easy to just go back to not questioning your own thoughts, and saying things like “Tony Danza’s face makes me so angry, I don’t know why, that’s just who I am!”
I’ve determined that I’m alive, and my purpose in life is to live my life as fully as I can. That means not buying into the excuses that make me feel angry or small.
Sure, it’ll take some work, and I may be doing it until the day I die, but I can’t picture a better way to live… Every day, every minute, every second… On purpose.
I am getting ready to become a recluse for the rest of the month as I go into finishing up a very powerful and special work of art. I’ll be entering it into a prestigious international art competition, that may give me the opportunity to show work in Japan. Needless to say, I am both excited and nervous, but I’m making progress on my weird phobia of art competitions, so I’m getting close to being fearless… kinda. I’ll be sending you for information on my progress and what happens, so stay tuned.
We have some new creations to share with you this week, both Klee and I are super excited about it!
But before we get into that, here is an amazing quote I would like to share with you:
“An artist never really finishes his work; he merely abandons it.” Paul Valéry
This actually made me laugh a little, because it is so true. As an artist, I get the feeling that a piece is finished, but there is ALWAYS something else that can be done. I think as long as you enjoy the process, and not simply trying to get to the end of your work, you can have fun with it.
Ok, as I promised here is the art and jewelry! Enjoy!
14k gold filled Australian Fire Opal Necklace By Klee Angelie
“Opals are fascinating to me, like a bit of magic in gem form. Today, we still don’t know exactly how precious opal was formed but it’s incredible to me that it exists at all. The predominant theory of how Australian fire opal formed is this.
It’s believed that opal was formed from water containing silica running into cracks and fissures in the earth and combining with other materials. Around 30 million years ago, lots of silica was released into a solution which filled cracks in the rocks, layers in clay, and even some fossils. Some of them became precious opals.It takes approximately 5 to 6 million years for 1cm of opal to form.
Opals are made up from tiny uniformed spheres of transparent hard silica, which fit together in an orderly three dimensional frame. These tiny spheres also determine colors and patterns of opals. The size of the spheres determines the colour produced. The more orderly the structure of the spheres, the more fire the opal will have. This is what separates precious opals from common opal.
Ancient people believed that precious opal was a stone of luck, majesty, and magic… known as the “Queen of Gems” and honestly, I can’t argue with them.”
I AM Fierce original painting by artist Rafi Perez
“The fierceness of someone who stands confident in their own determination of what the world is supposed to be, surrounds themselves by things that make them feel empowered. When someone makes it their priority to change their environment by getting rid of the things that cause them to question themselves… They are truly fierce.
This work of art is a reminder and representation of the power we have to create circumstances in our mind… and whether or not we have taken control of that power.
I created this when I was thinking of the powerful women I have known, or in history who changed the world into a brighter place, simply because they didn’t quit, because they were fierce.”
Rustic Hammered Textured Sterling Silver Circle Necklace By Klee Angelie
“One of the oldest symbols known to us, the circle has been around since before the beginning of recorded history, representing many ideas to many cultures. Eternity, natural order, life cycles, elemental forces, sacred geometry, the universe itself.
This pendant necklace is a beautiful and simple representation of a timeless and powerful symbol. Made of solid hammer formed sterling silver and dangling beautifully between two jump rings, it has a nice weight and texture and looks amazing worn alone or layered with other necklaces.”
Moonlight Mermaid original painting by artist Rafi Perez
“In the deep ocean of the mind, swimming through the vast pools of logic and analytical thinking, is a touch of magic. The mermaid, a symbol of wonder and fear, beauty and death, love and hate. the idea of something either completely imagined or never witnessed, yet as real as something you can touch is a fascination to me. It says so much about the person observing it. How do you see the mermaid? As a beautiful wonder… A treacherous siren… or a stupid fantasy.
This work of art is a reminder and representation of the power we all have within us.”
Have an amazing week! You are awesome! Just remember, we never really get it done, and we can never get it wrong, because it is constantly being worked on, and being improved little by little… like a well lived life.
Remember to stay endlessly inspired by the stuff of life!
I want to announce that my exhibition is currently running at Artel Gallery, in downtown Pensacola, so if you are in town come out and see it :). We will be having the reception March 16th, from 6-8pm.
We have some new creations to share with you this week, both Klee and I are super excited about it!
But before we get into that, here is an amazing quote I would like to share with you:
If I create from the heart, nearly everything works; if from the head, almost nothing.” Marc Chagall
Man, this is so true for me. I can easily overthink something to death, and suddenly I’m frozen with indecision. When I follow my heart and feel my way through a work of art, that’s when the magic truly happens.
Ok, as I promised here is the art and jewelry! Enjoy!
Hammered Sterling silver and 14k Solid Gold “Mini Gong” Earrings
“Mini Gong” Hammered Sterling and 14k gold disk earrings. These little sterling silver concave disk earrings feature subtle hammered texture, beautiful light play, minimalist design, and mixed metals with a 14k solid gold hexagonal bead nested in each. A perfect companion to the “Mini Gong” necklace, they might just be your new favorite earrings to wear everyday.”
The Glow Of Silence By Rafi Perez
In the silence of my mind, I reach for a thought and push it away. These thoughts, these things that I think and feel are nothing more than an illusion in my silence. In this moment of focus on the glow that radiates from me, burning away the darkness of my mind, burning away at disillusion, discontent, and misery. In this moment I am glowing..”
Sterling Silver and 14k Gold Mini Gong Disk Necklace
Mini Gong” Hammered Sterling and 14k gold disk necklace. This little sterling silver concave disk necklace features subtle hammered texture, beautiful light play, minimalist design, and mixed metals with two 14k solid gold hexagonal beads (one front and one at the clasp). It might just be your new favorite necklace to wear everyday.”
Flight Of The Hummingbird By Rafi Perez
The imagination is one of the most powerful attributes of the human mind. We can simply visualize ourselves in any and all situations and scenarios. We can literally bring ourselves to our knees, worried about a terrible outcome that hasn’t or will probably never happen… or we can fly on the back of a hummingbird, to the song “Flight of The Valkyrie”.”
Have an amazing week! You are awesome! No matter what you decide to create, whether it is art, a good dinner, or your life, do it from the heart… that is where the magic happens.
Remember to stay endlessly inspired by the stuff of life!