Hi, welcome to String Revolution. I'm Léan, I live in Dublin with my husband and two little boys, and I am a dangerous stringy subversive.
My job is to radiate my creative truth, and to help you radiate yours. I create, without exception, every day. I write here when I have something to say.

(learn more about me).

What I Did On My Holidays

The entrance to our apartment complex in Mountain View

Why, why, why did I think it would be easy to write blog posts while we were away in California? I even drafted some (of which I managed to publish just one), but all thoughts of a regular habit – of any kind, not just blogging – went quickly out the window once we got there.

Blame the residents’ pool and jacuzzi. (Look, it’s more fun than blaming a small apartment and turbulent children.)

And on the other side of the coin, why did I decide to wait until I got home to write this post? Eastbound jet lag, my friends, is bad enough when you’re left alone to get over it in your own body. When you’re sharing it with your children, it’s. Hor. Rific.

Actually, there’s another reason why I’ve been so silent here. I’ll get to that.

But anyway!

What I wanted to say – what I’ve been itching to tell you ever since it all happened – is that the world, right, is a magical place, more full of joy and fun and possibility than I ever suspected.

Really, it is.

I went to Portland.

No – listen – I went to Portland!


OK, backtrack

You know Havi Brooks, purveyor of destuckification and biggification wisdom over at The Fluent Self? (If you don’t, I suggest you check out her blog.) I’m a big fan – I’ve been part of her Kitchen Table group since January, and it’s incredible.

Havi lives in Portland, Oregon. A few months ago, she opened a Playground there – sort of a studio, for Shiva Nata and other general fabulousness – and I contributed to her fund-raising drive. I love the work she does, and I find this project incredibly exciting.

[Yes, those are affiliate links. I’m allowed to do those now. Weird.]

When Havi started announcing events at the Playground, I couldn’t help feeling a little stab of sorrow, because it seemed to me that the chances of my ever getting to see the place were vanishingly slim. Besides happening some thousands of miles from my home, Havi’s live events don’t tend to be cheap. Since I have no spare cash and no spare time, it was basically out of the question.

But then!

There I was, in Mountain View, California, minding my own business, when an e-mail arrived announcing a free Shiva Nata workshop for Playground donors, at the Playground itself, in a week.

Sigh, I thought. Ah, me. Alas, not to mention alack-a-day. Ó mo léan géar (breaking into Irish for added dramatic effect).

See, there was absolutely no way – none – that I could even consider going to that workshop. Even though it was free. Even though I was closer to Portland than I’d been in ten years. Even though it would mean being away for only one night. The simple fact was that paying to get there was beyond me.

What. A. Pity.

So I went to bed. I told Niall about my disappointment. We agreed that the funds to get me to Portland just weren’t there.

In the small hours

I tossed. I turned. I sighed. I tried and tried to get to sleep, but I couldn’t.

So I got up instead. I went out to the silent living room, fired up my laptop, and typed a fevered plea on the Kitchen Table forum, wanting to know if there was any way my fellow Tablers could help me raise the money to go to Portland.

I asked them to pay me in advance for things I would make for them when I got home to Ireland.

By noon, I had over $100 in my PayPal account.

You what?

It would be difficult to exaggerate how much this excited and astonished me. (I mean, I could try, but I don’t fancy my chances.) It felt like … being whooshed up in the air by an unexpected geyser. Of possibility. Or something.

Then Havi suggested that I ask on her blog. And so the Secret Portland Fund was born. I wrote an unlinked page here on String Revolution (another middle-of-the-night job). I linked to it from a comment on Havi’s weekly Very Personal Ads post. People tweeted about it.

And suddenly, I started getting lots of those amazingly reassuring e-mails from PayPal – you know, the ones with the subject line, “You’ve got money!”

Two days before the workshop, I had more than enough to pay for flights, childcare, and travel expenses. (I know!)

In all, sixteen people paid me (and many more helped to spread the word or sent encouraging messages along the way). A few gave straight donations, but the rest bought the things I was selling.

I went to Portland

I went to Portland. I actually, completely, seriously went. To Portland.

Bridget put me up in the Hotel Monaco, because she is fantastically generous.

I went to the Shiva Nata workshop, which was deeply brilliant and seriously fun.

I had a hilarious evening out with Bridget and Elana and Lilly and Sue, where we drank cocktails and ate southern food and amazing ice-cream and cackled and whooped like witches.

More than that, I also went to a completely new place in my head. I won’t forget the experience – the physical sensation, really – of having had the solid, thorough support of a community.

It was life-changing. My poor old “I don’t deserve any help EVARRRRR” monster is having a tough time coming to terms with that whole bit.

Also, I sold stuff. For money. I mean, lots of money.

Over $900, in the end.

That’s pretty huge, too.

Some things I learned

I can put things up for sale, and people will buy them. I can earn money doing my thing. The biggest obstacles I had to overcome were psychological and logistical, not financial.

I also note that I didn’t post about this here, on String Revolution, at the time. It felt too raw. It felt too risky. Somehow, I was more comfortable talking about it on Havi’s blog than on mine.

This has to do with my fear of visibility, and its companion, the ever-looming judgement. (The fact is, I live in a constant, scouring gale of judgement. It’s chilly.)

What would you all think of me if you knew that I was trying to raise money for my own ends? What if you knew I was getting all excited about something you didn’t think worth doing? (I know, I know, most of you wouldn’t think that at all – but the risk is there.)


Far better to keep quiet about it, except in places where I already knew people would understand.

This isn’t an isolated incident, either. (They rarely are.) It’s true: I hide. A lot. And it’s a habit I’d like to get out of, because it hinders me.

So that’s the other reason why it’s been difficult for me to post here lately. Having noticed the hiding, I am, in the best traditions of perfectionism, now unwilling to write anything that doesn’t fix that – by laying my soul out naked on the dissecting table for you all to see.

Which, no.

Baby steps, self! Baby steps.

I hereby permit myself to post things that do not in any way expand my personal comfort envelope. We’ll see how it goes.


I have lots of lovely sewing to do! Crowns and capes – and secret crowns and secret capes for people who like a bit of stealth, just like me. I’ve been e-mailing my Portland funders to sort out fabrics and embellishment details. It’s going to be so much fun.

When I’ve worked up a bit of momentum on these pieces, I’ll almost certainly reinstate the option to buy, so if you’d like a [secret] crown or cape of your very own, keep an eye out for that.

7 comments to What I Did On My Holidays

  • I’ve been watching you do this all from the sidelines, silently cheering you on, and I must say it was pretty exciting and inspiring! I’m so glad you got to go to the Playground for the Shiva Nata class, and that I could witness the process that led you there. I’m really happy that this whole thing was such a positive learning experience for you – it was one for me too! Now, I can’t wait to see what’s next. In the meantime, happy sewing!

  • I’m so, so glad you made it to Portland, and learned things, and grew and stuff.

    And I find it inspiring to see you do it. Because me? I might just be hiding, too.

  • Hi, Lean! What a wonderful story. 🙂 I’m so thrilled for you. I had to leave a comment because even tho it’s my first time here, I really enjoyed this post and, well, it reminded me so much of *me.* I wrote a blog post a couple of weeks ago about how I hide, as well. It’s such a familiar role for me to play. But it’s so wonderful to come out of hiding, finally; isn’t it? My blog has helped me to do that, more and more, and I hope yours will continue to help you do the same.

    (Got here via twitter, btw.)

  • That is awesome! And yay! you made it to Portland! 😀 I may be seething with envy, just a little. But in a good way 😉

    And I love that you were able to reveal yourself, secretly and with comfort… and I love even more that you’re moving forward and using this to do what you love!

  • We had such an awesome time, didn’t we? I think mebbe we need to go to Ireland next. 🙂 I’m so happy that you were there.

  • Emma

    Wow! Good on you. I’m so glad it all turned out well. Onwards and upwards!

  • I keep this post in it’s own tab in my blog reader, so I can come back and read it when I want to feel that wonderful things are possible. Inspiring and practical at once! Thank you 🙂

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