Symbol of Change, Evolution, Self-Realization, Death and Rebirth

Flame Skimmer Dragonfly (Libellula saturata), male, common W-USA | by J. N. Stuart

This week I spotted a red-orange dragonfly for the first time! I never knew these beautiful creatures existed, so I immediately looked up the symbolism and was delighted with what I found:

“The dragonfly, in almost every part of the world symbolizes change and change in the perspective of self realization; and the kind of change that has its source in mental and emotional maturity and the understanding of the deeper meaning of life. The traditional association of Dragonflies with water also gives rise to this meaning to this amazing insect. The Dragonfly’s scurrying flight across water represents an act of going beyond what’s on the surface and looking into the deeper implications and aspects of life.

The dragonfly normally lives most of its life as a nymph or an immature. It flies only for a fraction of its life and usually not more than a few months. This adult dragonfly does it all in these few months and leaves nothing to be desired. This style of life symbolizes and exemplifies the virtue of living IN the moment and living life to the fullest. By living in the moment you are aware of who you are, where you are, what you are doing, what you want, what you don’t and make informed choices on a moment-to-moment basis. This ability lets you live your life without regrets like the great dragonfly.

The eyes of the dragonfly are one of the most amazing and awe inspiring sights. Given almost 80% of the insect’s brain power is dedicated to its sight and the fact that it can see in all 360 degrees around it, it symbolizes the uninhibited vision of the mind and the ability to see beyond the limitations of the human self. It also in a manner of speaking symbolizes a man/woman’s rising from materialism to be able to see beyond the mundane into the vastness that is really our Universe, and our own minds.

In many regions and as a norm of this day, the dragonfly is considered to be an agent of change and presumably symbolic of a sense of self realization. Self realization from how the dragonfly uses its power to control its movements and so elegantly. And change and evolution is all about the dragonfly’s ability to fly and the way it can be comfortable on water, land as well as the air.

To the Japanese, it symbolizes summer and autumn and am admired and respected all over, so much so that the Samurai use it as a symbol of power, agility and best of all, Victory. In China, people associate the dragonfly with prosperity, harmony and as a good luck charm.

Native Americans speak of the dragonfly as bringing a time of rejuvenation after a long period of trials and hardship.”

Dragonfly-site.com

Felt very relevant to our current times… I also found this:

“Red dragonflies can be rare to view, and very special when the opportunity comes along. Yet, interestingly, they often appear to people surrounding life episodes of loss and death; perhaps a bit of an oxymoron that these lovely winged creatures are present at such times. But the meaning of red dragonfly includes both good and bad omens: one of eternal love and one of death. This paradox embraces the polarities we find in life, and as such, it is not surprising the red dragonfly makes an appearance at moments of death and loss. Death is the polarity of Life, and upon departing this realm, we most likely return to our home of eternal love. Red dragonfly symbolism and death are intimately entwined as the end of life’s illusions through transformation.

Dragonfly is the metaphor for our own transformations out of the depths of our emotional dramas into a place of freedom. A place we could equate to going when we depart this world. Thus, the red dragonfly may emerge around death with the soothing message that this transformation will carry us to freedom and eternal love.

Further, the Native Americans perceived dragonflies as the “souls of the dead” so a dragonfly visitation around a loved one’s death could well signify the loved one’s soul taking form in the spirit of dragonfly. It offers the assurance their soul is free.”Source: Annie Horkan


Which I found even more fascinating as I was thinking about the recent death of my stepmother. In one of my lessons this week I heard that spirits tend to stick around for 1-4 months after death but then typically move on, and while thinking of that I had a feeling that she’d recently moved on herself. Then I saw 2 more red dragonflies after having that thought! 🙂

The world sure is incredible when you slow down to look and listen to what she’s trying to tell you!

What symbols of change have you been observing first hand?

. . .

What changes would you like to see stick around after the COVID mess releases it’s grip on our daily lives?

Keeping Calm Amid the Chaos

I found this Tim Ferris podcast with Jack Kornfield to be quite helpful and refreshing that it didn’t focus solely on COVID-19.

Jack Kornfield trained as a Buddhist monk in the monasteries of Thailand, India, and Burma, shortly thereafter becoming one of the key teachers to introduce Buddhist mindfulness practice to the West. He has taught meditation internationally since 1974.

Tim Ferriss

In the podcast Jack reminisces about his time spent with Baba Ram Dass, particularly in the last few months of his life. I had picked up Be Here Now after hearing of Ram Dass’ passing. I’ve been on a new spiritual path the past 6 months of my life, and found Ram Dass’ teachings shared in his book very uplifting and admittedly, at times, frustrating as the illustrations are a typographer’s worst nightmare. But above all, in tune with the path I’ve been on lately in terms of awakening consciousness.

For most of my adult life I’ve rejected the notion of being spiritual. In fact, I actively avoided it, despising the Catholic upbringing I had and the hypocrisy of it all. On one hand the religion tries to teach you only god can judge, on the other hand I see endless amounts of catholics taking that role on for themselves. Once my mom passed, I rejected it even more so. Her spiritual connections would send me into such deep sorrow and anger. I’ve mainly spent the last 17 years avoiding that grief.

Fast forward to 2020 where I’m now facing much of this again. My stepmom passed away unexpected late last year, and it’s been the first time that I’ve enjoyed my spiritual encounters with her. Right after her passing she would come to me as a bright orange, warming glow. I felt happy, reassured, and comforted by her presence. I’d wave at where I felt she was, giving her a smile, letting her know I “see” you. Ever since her twin passed away when she was 19 she’d always tried to reconnect with her on a spiritual level. The instant I learned of her passing I felt solace knowing their souls were reunited again.

Now I have a different relationship with spirituality. I was mistaken for most of my life thinking this meant religion. Today I view it more as allowing myself to connect with myself on a deeper level. I’m sure at it’s essence most religions are trying to teach this as well, however I think that message has been diluted with the passing on of teachings over time. I used to completely close down my energy centers at the mere thought of “God”. Now I embrace the fact that we are all “god”, not that we are “gods”, but to mean we are all connected as one.

I can’t help but think that my newly found spiritual awakening was preparing me for my stepmom’s death and the continued loss I experienced for months after. I believe it’s still preparing me for what’s ahead. In the upcoming months and years, I imagine many of us will be experiencing overwhelming loss, grief, and depression. It’s often not until we hit rock bottom that we seek out changes to help improve our wellbeing. But why do we wait until it gets so bad that we feel like we can’t take it anymore?

One of the things that Jack mentioned in the podcast really resonated with me was how depression often spirals people down into negative thoughts to the point that they convince themselves that they want to die. No doubt many of us have been there at some point in our lives, if not perhaps there right now. Our psyche can be evil telling us over and over how bad things are, how awful this life is, how horrible you are. Jack paraphrases teachings he’d learned from Stan Grof, psychiatrist and expert in non-ordinary states of consciousness and one of the founders and chief theoreticians of transpersonal psychology, saying:

“When people feel that they want to commit suicide, they are right that something needs to die, they’re mistaken in thinking that it’s their body that needs to die. But they are facing something that really does have to die, and changing maybe the whole way they’re living their life, it may be the history that they have, that they have to die to—that you could call it ego death, some sense of identity that they have that they don’t want to let go of, but they have to.”

Jack Kornfield, Tim Ferriss podcast #414

Among such dark topics I oddly found myself at peace with this segment of the interview. How true I found it to be, and how confused and sad I was in years past when I’ve let myself get to this point. In the weeks (and more likely months) ahead where we need to practice self-isolation and social distancing I encourage everyone to not allow your psyche to bring you down. Do things today that can help you feel better now, tomorrow, and down the road. Invest in your mental health by practicing being present, allow yourself to quiet your mind, get in-tuned with your body. Turn off the TV and distance yourself from social media, even though it can give you tiny spurts of dopamine now, it will only make you feel worse in the end.

Allow yourself to feel bored.

I know that sounds counter-intuitive to our world today, but it’s in that boredom that your intuition will speak up. It can allow you to tap into your conscious awareness to reveal what we all have within, our intuition guiding us on the right path we are meant to take. Reach out to a friend on the phone. Even though the current times require us to be physically apart, I believe now is the time to allow this to bring us closer together, by being there for each other in whatever means we can.


Deep breath in….

Long exhale out…

Deep breath in…

Long exhale out…

As long as you focus on improving yourself in healthy ways, everything will be ok.

AOC is KILLIN’ it!

I’ve really been loving the raw honest truth and pressing nature that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is bringing to politics today.

Here’s some recent gems:

And this one where AOC interviews Susan Bro, the mother of Charlottesville victim Heather Heyer, who explains the distinction of being anti-racist and non-racist during a House Oversight hearing ‘Confronting White Supremacy.’ POWERFUL message here everyone should hear:

These are just 2 examples, but each and every video I see of her gives me a little bit of hope in this otherwise pathetic political landscape.

YAAASSSS QUEEN!

Finally, some logical sense to one of the most important constitutional amendments we should pass: Elizabeth Warren wants to abolish Electoral College system

“I believe we need a constitutional amendment that protects the right to vote for every American citizen and makes sure that vote gets counted,” she told a CNN town hall in Jackson — noting presidential candidates didn’t tend to campaign in states like Mississippi, which are not Electoral College battlegrounds. “And the way we can make that happen is that we can have national voting and that means get rid of the Electoral College.”

Elizabeth Warren, via Axios.com

Future of Work: Distributed for Success

I love this video from Matt Mullenweg, the CEO of Automattic, the company I work for, on the benefits of a successful distributed work culture. While Automattic started as a fully distributed company, Matt delivers some tips on how you can start to introduce this into a work environment that traditionally requires you to go into an office. As one of the commenters suggested on Matt’s post, the quality of life is so much greater when you don’t have to deal with a commute and have the benefit of working when your mind is in it, rather than the traditional 9-5 that most people subscribe to.

Matt Mullenweg, CEO of Automattic, on why working from home is good for business.

I’ve mentioned countless times in the past how I don’t think I could ever go back to an office work environment again, and I’m excited for the future when employers won’t have this as a blocker for hiring the best talent across the globe. The diversity and inclusion benefits of this approach are vast, and one severely needed in the tech industry.

2019 International Women’s Day Panel Discussion & Live Q&A

This Friday, March 8th, at 10am PST I’ll be hosting an International Women’s Day (virtual) Panel Discussion & Live Q&A with 4 amazing women from the tech industry, to discuss leadership development, self-advocacy, and mentorship. We will be using the Zoom video app to host the panel so as long as you have an internet connection you can join us! It’s free!

Continue reading “2019 International Women’s Day Panel Discussion & Live Q&A”

Research finds heavy Facebook users make impaired decisions like drug addicts | TechCrunch

You don’t say…
— Read on techcrunch.com/2019/01/10/facebook-addiction-research/

And more research findings on the impact social media can have on the brain, from the Guardian: How Instagram takes a toll on influencers’ brains

I also found this article to have quite a bit of useful research on the subject of children and screen time: The Tech Industry’s Psychological War on Kids: How psychology is being used as a weapon against children.

“According to a Kaiser Family Foundation report, younger U.S. children now spend 5 ½ hours each day with entertainment technologies, including video games, social media, and online videos. Even more, the average teen now spends an incredible 8 hours each day playing with screens and phones. Productive uses of technology — where persuasive design is much less a factor — are almost an afterthought, as U.S. kids only spend 16 minutes each day using the computer at home for school.” 

Richard Freed

Persuasive design

If you haven’t heard of persuasive technology, that’s no accident — tech corporations would prefer it to remain in the shadows, as most of us don’t want to be controlled and have a special aversion to kids being manipulated for profit. Persuasive technology (also called persuasive design) works by deliberately creating digital environments that users feel fulfill their basic human drives — to be social or obtain goals — better than real-world alternatives. Kids spend countless hours in social media and video game environments in pursuit of likes, “friends,” game points, and levels — because it’s stimulating, they believe that this makes them happy and successful, and they find it easier than doing the difficult but developmentally important activities of childhood.

Think about it…

“We can now create machines that can change what people think and what people do, and the machines can do that autonomously.”

Dr. B.J. Fogg. Founder of the Stanford Persuasive Technology Lab

What will we do with this power? Or more importantly, what will we do with this information?

#staywoke

Women’s March 2019

Despite the cold, dreary weather, thousands of people showed up this year for the 2019 Women’s March in D.C. Even though we’ve come a long way and it felt good to celebrate some small wins over the past year, there’s no denying we still have a long ways to go. This is why I marched.

Some photos from my Instagram:

At one point I tripped on a grate falling into a woman in front of me. I apologized and was delighted when she said: “No need to say you’re sorry, I’m here to support you!” I was proud to be amongst so many supporters and I’m looking forward to seeing us put that support into action! 💪🏼

TED Talk: The real reason female entrepreneurs get less funding

As with most inequality information shared, this talk is both infuriating and fascinating at the same time. Dana Kanze is a doctoral fellow at Columbia Business School where she applies behavioral insights to understand sources of inequality in entrepreneurship.

As the TED speaker bio explains:

Prior to embarking upon her PhD, Dana Kanze co-founded and ran a venture-funded startup for five years. Her experiences as a female entrepreneur and CEO inspired her to examine gender distinctions among founders. Her research embraces a mixed methods approach, combining field and archival studies that explore correlational relationships with controlled experiments that develop causal stories. 

What’s this all mean? Well, it’s best if you just watch the 15m talk, but essentially, Dana and her team analyzed hours of transcripts from entrepreneurs trying to raise money from venture capitalists to review the language used and the questions that the VC’s asked. The results?

There were two approaches to the language used and the questions asked:

  • More often male entrepreneurs were asked questions around promotion.
  • While female entrepreneurs were asked questions around prevention.

Here were some of the examples she gave:

Screenshot from Dana Kanze’s TED Talk: The real reason female entrepreneurs get less funding has largely to do with the language used.

When VC’s asked male entrepreneurs about customers they used more promotional words such as what the acquisition rate is predicted to be. Whereas female entrepreneurs were more commonly asked what their retention rate is. Men were asked more about market size/opportunity, whereas women were asked more about their current market share.

The discrepancy was painfully obvious. In Kanze’s analysis, male entrepreneurs were asked questions with promotional sentiments 67% of the time, whereas female entrepreneurs were asked questions around preventative sentiments 66% of the time. Quite infuriating no?

One point that was somewhat surprising: Kanze’s analysis showed that it didn’t make much of a difference if it was a male or female VC asking the questions, which means that gender bias was not implicit. More likely it was an unconscious bias that was leaking through.

Sounds pretty depressing if you’re a female entrepreneur huh? Well, not exactly…

Rather than give up Dana’s full talk here I recommend taking a look. Towards the end she suggest strategies which have been proven to increase the fundraising efforts for female entrepreneurs. If you know of any women on there trying to raise money, or any VC’s that are in a position to invest, this is well-worth a share.

The first step towards fighting inequality is education and awareness.


I’m curious, what did you think of the talk? Let me know in a reply below!

The constant Facebook struggle

One year ago I started this blog with the intentions of moving off Facebook completely. I knew something wasn’t right well-ahead of the 2016 election but this was before the full details of the Cambridge Analytica data scandal came out. Let alone the complete rundown in the New York Times article: Delay, Deny, and Deflect: How Facebook’s Leaders Fought Through Crisis, which outlines a series of missteps, none of which gives me anymore reason to want to stay on Facebook. I’d always been uncomfortable with how much of my personal data Facebook owned, but I never realized the implications could be on such a massive scale that could bring us to where we are today. 😕

My Facebook History

I first started my Facebook account May 1st, 2005 while attending the University of Kansas, one of the earlier schools to gain access at the time. My posts started simply enough, mainly recapping college shenanigans, conveniently missing my early college days that I’m thankful aren’t fully documented online. I was a senior at the time. On November 19, 2007 Facebook removed the “is…” so posts no longer had to be framed in the context of “Maria Scarpello is…” which helped encourage us to post anything we wanted in any context we needed. When events and groups were added it made it that much more convenient to coordinate with friends and special interests.

As time evolved my use of Facebook took many forms. I went from mostly life status updates, to travel updates, to nearly exclusively sharing news articles or information I found useful or important. In the past 5 years as the newness of living life on the road wore off and the political news got more and more absurd, my Facebook posts were much less about this is what I’m doing vs. this is what I’m reading. I’m pretty sure this transition likely lost most of the interest friends had following me, as the liberal echo chamber probably seemed relentless.

On top of that, for years I’d always struggled with the fact that Facebook owns so much of my time. Their mechanisms to keep you coming back are apparent, effective, and annoying. I hate knowing how “easily” I could post on a site of my own, but that I’d still need to share back to Facebook if I wanted anyone to see it. I’ve also struggled with the fact that a few groups I’m fairly active in are mainly (or solely) active on Facebook. If I want to know about an upcoming event for my running club, or coordinate with my Burning Man theme camp, Facebook has really been the only way for me to do that.

Why not start a blog then?

Working daily with WordPress, one might ask, why not just blog what you want to say? Well the short answer is… I have, sort of. Since I was hired to work at WooThemes over 6 years ago, I’ve consistently blogged 5 days a week, however this has all been in the form of internal private blog posts regarding work. Between responding to support requests, writing internal p2 posts, and communicating with my team on Slack I always told myself I’d spent enough of my day writing, I didn’t want to spend more time blogging.

In fact, since Woo was acquired by Automattic in July 2015 I’ve posted 1,575 times with a total of 3,447 comments for a combined total of 498,332 words! So while I’ve done a ton of blogging, it’s not been about personal topics that are important to me outside of work, which is largely how I’ve used Facebook since, as a easy way to share information I think is important for my friends to know about.

“Problem” is it’s quick and easy to post to Facebook. I typically don’t have to give it a ton of thought past what’s on the top of my mind, which is often the exact opposite mentality I have when “writing a blog post”. We’re talking the difference of 2 minutes to post a thought vs. an hour or more to write a blog post, which is a very significant time difference. Not to mention the visibility Facebook posts can give me is superior to any other social network or site I could have posted to.

So what gives?

Despite all the excuses I’ve given myself, the mechanisms Facebook has put in place that gets me to stay, and delays I’ve had trying to motivate myself to start this blog, the time is now. For those that know anything about me, when I see something isn’t right, I’m not silent about it. Words aren’t enough for me, action is important. Which brings me to today…

I can no longer support what Facebook has built, nor will I continue to standby as reports of management and data missteps continue to be revealed. I do not trust Facebook and I (mostly) blame them for our current administration situation. Facebook will no longer own my personal information for their own profit. I’m taking my data back into my own hands. As it should be.

From now on any info I feel worthy to share will be posted here. I’d love it if you subscribed to this blog ⬇️to get updates. Even though I doubt many people will ever see this, I don’t care… this is something I personally have to do. It’s not worth it for me to continue the perception that Facebook is the only way for me to stay connected. The only way to prove it to myself is to unplug from them completely. So that’s what I’m doing. I’ve got many words for Facebook, but two ring most true to me today:


Maybe one day someone will build a WordPress importer for the Facebook content I’ve downloaded so I can archive past moments in my life that I’d want to share with the public, on my own site… 🙏🏽


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Why can’t it be easier to share articles on WordPress?

I’ve always wondered why WordPress was never included in the share here icon sets:

Showing share this icons that are typically seen on a site which usually include: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, What's App, Pinterest, Email, etc.

Even this gigantic list of share options from Monarch fails to mention WordPress:

33 different sharing options, not one of them WordPress.
We’ve got 33 share options but WordPress ain’t one…

But it includes Amazon! 🤔I don’t even know how that would work…

Even on articles suggesting we ditch Facebook in favor of posting on our own personal websites there’s no easy way to do so:

In this article which suggests we ditch Facebook in favor of posting on our own personal websites, the only two sharing options are for Facebook and Twitter.
Only share options are Facebook and Twitter, on a post suggesting we replace Facebook with personal websites.

When searching for WordPress plugins that add social sharing icons to your site, one of the top results is a post from bloggingwizard.com which lists their Top 11 WordPress Social Sharing Plugin Recommendations for 2018: not one of them includes sharing to their own personal WordPress site.

There are two easy ways to share… sort of…

The WordPress iOS app does make it quite easy to share via the iOS share options:

Screenshot of iOS sharing options.

However you have to enable the setting via the More menu, so if you don’t know to look for it, it’s kind of hidden:

Screenshot of iOS more sharing options.

And on WordPress.com sites you can go to Configure > Share > Sharing Buttons settings to add a WordPress repost like the one you see at the bottom of this post*. 😁

Screenshot of WordPress.com's sharing button settings.

*Although it only shows up for viewers that are logged in to their WordPress.com account. Whomp, whomp. ☹️

Which brings us back to the fact that there’s no real easy way for someone to share a post like this on their own self-hosted WordPress website, at least not as easy as we’ve made it to share on Facebook, Twitter, and the like.

bummer dude.

My Professional Mission Statement

Towards the end of this year the Automattic Design Organization has helped us to explore and discover what our personal professional mission statement would be as a way in which we can both individually and collectively take ownership of our growth and development. 

We used this Mural as the template for the conversation. It helped us:

  1. Brainstorm past successes, strengths, opportunities, and passions as they relate to you and your professional development.
  2. Rank items in each category from most to least important. We worked with our team leads to vote on the top three most important items. Ideally, picking items that will have the most impact. For example, if we focus on A, it will also have an effect on B and C.
  3. Develop a strategic action plan by answering the following questions:
    1. How do you use your successes to take advantage of opportunities?
    2. How do you overcome weaknesses preventing you from taking advantage of opportunities?
    3. How can your strengths reduce the probability of stagnation?
    4. What can you do about your opportunity areas to align to your areas of passion?

Steps two and three were a collaborative discussion with our team lead that resulted in 3, 6, and 12 month goal timelines.

When @johnmaeda, Head of Design and Inclusion, at Automattic asked me if I could summarize my PPM into a 280 character statement he helped me refine it to a place where I could then put it out to the world saying:

The web is your coloring book. You’re at a company where this is what we’re (supposed to be) good at. Just fill in the blanks. And all will go the way you want.

John Maeda

And thus my PPM was born:

I am a classically-trained designer who is passionate about the customer experience who strives to deepen research practices among designers while taking full advantage of my operational and leadership skills.

Maria Scarpello

P.S. We’re hiring!

The journey begins… again.

Back to blogging again! It’s something I’ve wanted to do for far too long now, mainly knowing my growing distrust and distain for Facebook, but also to get back using the product that got me to where I am in my life today. Quite the journey it’s been I must say!
https://instagram.com/theroamingpint
I’ll be writing more about my thoughts on this in the weeks, months, and hopefully years to come. If you’d like to be notified of my posts in the future, sign up below! Good company makes the journey better.
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