On efficiency and speed

Efficiency spring equinox

Efficient doesn’t always mean fast.

Often, the most efficient strategy, approach, solution – is the one that thinks about tomorrow before today. Later, then now.

It all depends, I suppose, like so many things do, on the extend to which we’ll go in defining the word. If we’re only interested in today, we’ll measure accordingly.

It’s more efficient to buy 12 bottles of kombucha than it is spending an hour bottling two gallons of it, steeping tea with sugar and juggling a few SCOBYs, if you make more than $36 an hour working.

But what is the value of an acquired skill? And how much living-moving-doing are we willing to replace with work, for the sake of “efficiency”?

Put another way, is it really efficient to grow thousands upon thousands of acres of a crop, spraying chemicals from WWII that, over a short time, erode the soil and hurt the bees we rely on, even if it saves us money immediately?

If you’re still reading, you’re either already convinced that our actions directly affect the world we live in, or you’re at least intrigued by the idea.

It’s not a new one, of course. But it can be so easy to forget, or to ignore!

Sometimes, the most efficient path is the one that leads you through sweet-smelling blooms and sounds from a bird you wouldn’t otherwise hear.

Sometimes, the most efficient approach is tedious at first, or more expensive, and then we get to tell our grandchildren about, or even give it to them, because it’s still beautiful and functioning.

And the more we expand our understanding of efficiency, the more this sometimes turns into often.

Spring equinox (fall equinox, for those of us in the southern hemisphere), signals a shift: The sun crosses the celestial equator, from south to north.

This Vernal equinox event also signals a universal experience, as Earth’s two hemispheres are receiving the sun’s rays equally.

For us in the northern hemisphere, we are reminded at this time of all the life around us.

With Nature as our muse, mentor and undeniably efficient Mother, it’s a perfect time to consider our role.

Intention drives action. One by one, and quickly, actions become a life.

So it’s rather important, then, to consider, What does efficiency really mean?


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The process: Custom furniture, start to finish

Custom mahogany desk by Gabe Sheker

In designing our surroundings, we – consciously or not – do a great deal of measuring.

Yes, there’s figuring out what will fit where, but this isn’t the only kind of measuring I’m talking about.

When it comes to designing our surroundings, we measure with many different yardsticks.

We measure cost in relation to our budget. We measure efficiency in relation to our time frame; quality in relation to our standards; aesthetic according to our taste. We measure with the yardsticks of our values, beliefs and goals.

Last week, we finished a big project for one of our long-time clients: a mahogany desk to match the rest of the furniture in her new office. Celia wanted a desk that would not only compliment her existing furniture, but that would look as if they were all part of a single set.

So, Gabe studied Celia’s pieces. He made a few drawings and brought a drawer back to the studio so he could match the finish, establishing the yardstick he’d use in building a new desk: the existing furniture pieces, and a high standard of quality.

Custom furniture start to finish

Now, as he tells it, the process of bringing a custom piece of furniture to life is one of measure, measure, measure again. For someone who’s dedicated his creative life to building purposeful art, this isn’t exactly a surprising rule of thumb.

But while the measuring is crucial, equally vital is the ability to adapt, to go with your gut and intuition – to create.

The process, as told by the slightly sarcastic Gabe Sheker

This short segment will bring to light the inner workings of how custom furnitures are born. We’ll take a voyage where few dare to go, exposing the dusty world of woodworkers and their creations. So sit back and hold on, it’s really boring.

Custom furniture start to finish

  1. Meet with the client to truly understand their needs. Listen. Dance their dance.
  2. Step 2, sometimes called the Second Step, consists of thoughtfully drawing the piece that you and the client have built in your minds. Pull together all the available resources: materials you have access to, machinery you have and what more you might need, timeframe, hardware, the final finishes – See the process as a whole with the mind’s eye, all the way through to the final step: delivery.
  3. Assuming the client’s approved the drawings, we’re off the wood store. Here, we hope the people working the yard are in good moods, as they skillfully drive forklifts moving huge bunks of wood. Time to hand-select your planks. There’s a lot to consider from grain to thickness to colors and price – the budget remains a constant yardstick.
  4. Wood selected – good. Back in your shop, and it’s time to plan again. Spread the wood across the floor and measure once, twice, ok 6 times the charm. Now cut. As sawdust flies about, we’re always modifying our plans, keeping colors and grains consistent and trying to remember our modifications throughout. (A few “oh yeah, I changed that plan!” moments are to be expected.)
    You will find that some problems you’d thought about earlier (in Step 2, perhaps) are really not as bad as previously thought. Sometimes, new problems have risen to replace them. Don’t worry, this is called woodworking, and it turns out, you’re a woodworker. Perfect!
  5. Whew, the piece is built… you’re done! Nope, you’re not. This step is called “The party’s over and all your friends have gone home. Time to clean up”. Or, Preparing for Finish. It’s a long, tough trip though this step, but we definitely can’t cut corners, or your mom will know you had the party.
    Finish magnifies everything, so make sure the piece is sanded completely and the physical distressing is just right. Sand again. Check again, then sand.
  6. The final step, time to buck up! It’s Finishing Time. Make sure each of the 5 layers of the color formula is dead on, and go for it. Again, no cutting corners… Do we want to be just another piece, or a national treasure? Just accept that it’s a long road, knowing that you’re almost there.
  7. Awww, Delivery.
  8. And this one’s a bonus step: Gratitude. While the comes in waves throughout the entire process, seeing a finished piece brings a clear sense of gratitude. I’m so grateful for everything and everyone that gives me the opportunity to do the work I do. From the people who care about curating their home interiors – in this case, Thank you, Celia – to all the designers and craftsmen dedicated to bringing purposeful art to life.
    They say you’re doing the right work if it doesn’t feel like work. And while it’s surely hard work, it feels a whole lot more like art.

    Gabe uses a unique yardstick in everything he creates. It’s a yardstick based on a feeling he’s known – The feeling that comes from taking a step back after working hard, knowing that you did your best work.

Many great artists have this ability, of course.

Great (intentional, committed) artists spend as much time crafting their yardsticks as they do crafting their art!

For this reason, process matters. The creative process sheds light on the values and intentions of a maker. And in designing our surroundings, each of us has the power to decide what matters to us and ensure that our yardstick measure up.


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Noted: The Autobiography of Malcolm X

Noted: Autobiography of Malcolm X

On The Autobiography of Malcolm X as told to Alex Haley

At first, I was embarrassed to hold this book in public. Embarrassed that I’ve lived 24 years without reading it, and that everyone would be thinking I was trying to look like a young, liberal white girl.

My ego was quickly shattered as I became submerged in Malcolm’s life story, which he told all at once at the end of his life, when he knew the end of his life was near.

Somehow, in one smooth sweep, he walks the reader along the winding path of his life as if he were living it all over again. Mr. Malcolm X recounts his experiences as he experienced them, never abandoning nor judging his evolving lens.

He grows from a young child into a young hustler. Imprisoned and then introduced to the teachings of Elijah Muhammad and the Nation of Islam (in America), he becomes a minister and soon an international icon before finally making the pilgrimage to Mecca, an experience that transforms his life all over again.

He remarks a few times on how swiftly and vastly his life changed time and again. His experiences alone are incredible, intriguing and powerful. But all that happened to him, and all that he made happen, are not alone what make his autobiography so profound.

If I had learned his history in school (which I didn’t), I doubt it could ever amount to the message conveyed by Malcolm X himself.

Humility, strength, conviction, compassion and a deep knowing come together as bedrock underneath Malcolm’s account of his life and life’s work, as if he lived series of lives and reflected wisely back upon them. All throughout, his search for truth and justice is pure.

I wondered why, as I read his autobiography, I hadn’t known his story. I should be embarrassed – that my education did not hold up Mr. Malcolm X as a gleaming example for every truth seeker.

I am embarrassed of a country that whitewashes its history, that continues to divide and profit and bicker and oppress rather than exercising humility and compassion and love-grounded truth-seeking.

But of course, it’s not my embarrassment that matters. I now understand that feeling of embarrassment as a nudge that Intuition was offering me. Next time I feel that way about a topic or a piece of art such as this autobiography, I won’t hesitate to dive in. I will take it as a reminder of all the injustice I have not directly experienced (or ever will). A nudge to learn.

Toward the end of his autobiography, Malcolm X said,

I have given to this book so much of whatever time I have because I feel, and I hope, that if I honestly and fully tell my life’s account, read objectively it might prove to be a testimony of some social value.

I think that an objective reader may see how in the society to which I was exposed as a black youth here in America, for me to wind up in a prison was really just about inevitable. It happens to so many thousands of black youth.

I think that an objective reader may see how when I heard “The white man is the devil,” when I played back what had been my own experiences, it was inevitable that I would respond positively; then the next twelve years of my life were devoted and dedicated to propagating that phrase among the black people.

I think, I hope, that the objective reader, in following my life – the life of only one ghetto-created Negro – may gain a better picture and understanding than he has previously had of the black ghettos which are shaping the lives and the thinking of almost all of the 22 million Negros who live in America…

For the freedom of my 22 million black brothers and sisters here in America, I do believe that I have fought the best that I knew how, and the best that I could, with the shortcomings that I have had. I know that my shortcomings are many.

Mr. Malcolm X understood that history would largely paint him out of the picture, or distort his story. That’s why he felt it urgent tell his own narrative.

It happens to be a narrative that shows us what we can aspire to. Open-mindedness, humility, drive, Truth, dignity – to name just a few.

It’s up to us now to seek out histories too untold. It’s up to us to be humble seekers of truth.


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When two things can’t hold the same space


Stress and gratitude can’t hold the same space.

The Hawaiians know that light and stones can’t hold the same space — One must dump out her stones to let her light shine.

When our minds are making decision after decision — Should I eat this, or not? Go here or there? What task should I do first? — they are too full to think of much else.

Our thoughts, intentions and actions need space. They need room to manifest.

It’s a balancing act of course: being mindful and intentional, while moving forward. The act is one of grace compassion, and it can take us to great spaces.


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A society of well-informed milk drinkers

what is milk

I wonder what the world would be like if we identified ourselves – before race or nationality or gender or political party – by the kind of milk we drink.

Imagine, the skim milk and whole milk diehards, scrunching up their noses and eyebrows at each other from opposite sides of the aisle, the 2%ers in the middle looking back and forth at each camp: “Can’t we just compromise?” In the corner sit the raw milk enthusiasts, whispering to each other that the entire room of fanatics and moderates don’t even know what they’re missing. Some of the vegans are outside protesting.

But truly, in this world we live in, how many of us have thought about milk beyond the way it feels in our mouths and stomachs? How often do we think about where it comes from (yes, utters, but like, where it really comes from)?

Know what’s what: Milk

For the sake of simplicity, I’m referring specifically in this post to milk from cows.


In many states, pasteurization is required by law for milk to be sold in grocery stores or even by farmers. Pasteurization is: heating milk and then cooling it to eliminate certain bacteria in raw milk. It’s usually heated to at least 161.6 degrees Fahrenheit for 15 seconds.


This milk is heated to 280 degrees Fahrenheit for at least two seconds. Ultra-pasteurized milk (which requires an “ultra-pasteurized” label) has a shelf-life of up to 9 months.


Homogenization is a mechanical process separate from pasteurization. It doesn’t involved additives. Homogenization is: breaking down fat molecules in milk so that they don’t separate. In non-homogenized milk, all the fat molecules rise to the top (That’s cream).

Why do it? Homogenization makes processing easier for dairies (for reasons ranging from mixing milk from different herds and extending shelf life to simply appealing to consumers who are not used to having to shake their milk cartons). It also makes creating skim, 1% and 2% milks easier.

WHOLE, SKIM, 1% and 2% MILKS

During manufacturing, different processes are employed to remove fat from and sometimes add fat back into milk.

Whole milk is unadulturated, with around 3.5% fat.

2%, 1% and skim (aka fat-free or non-fat) milks each have some dairy fat removed, making them less creamy. It should be noted here that nutritionists and foodies alike are becoming more and more on-board with the idea that not all fats are bad, and the argument rings true for dairy fats as well.


Raw milk is: milk straight from the cow. It’s not pasteurized or homogenized. Cream rises to the top, and the bacteria and enzymes stay put. (Like with fats, there’s a whole world of pro-bacteria activists.)

Disclaimer: I drink raw milk throughout most of the year, so when I talk about bias, I am including my own in the mix.

Different states have different laws regarding raw milk. Here in Colorado, consuming raw milk is legal only if it’s from one’s own cow. I like the rich taste and the feeling I get from drinking raw milk, so I legally own a part of a cow – a “herd share” – that lives on a nearby farm.

Find your state’s raw milk laws here.

Raw milk is widely debated, and it should be considered, when looking at various research studies, who might be funding the research. This very biased infographic by the CDC shows us that the federal government has taken a clear stance against raw milk.


The truth is, you will probably find a logical argument for whatever you want to believe. Whether you’re concerned most about safety, nutritional benefit or supporting your local community, there are pros and cons to both types. Different studies, statistics, anecdotes, paradigms and perspectives will tell you different stories about raw milk vs. pasteurized milk.

Your best bet is to do your research and know your farmer. Before you judge either side, consider the difference (or rather, the similarity) between putting all your trust in the fact that a product made it onto the shelf at the grocery story, and buying raw milk from a stranger on the side of the road.

The same holds true for organic vs. non-organic…


These are both pretty vague categories, as farming practices for both organic and non-organic farms can vary. While organic dairies are subject to more specific laws, the label (or lack thereof) doesn’t tell the whole story.

Here’s the gist, from a great article by Sarah Jampel:

As background, organic milk comes from cows that have been raised according to organic farming practices: The animals are never given antibiotics, artificial growth hormones, non-organic feed, or GMO feed, and they must be let out to organic pasture for at least 120 days of the grazing season…

If I’m unsure of where the milk is coming from — and thus how the animals are cared for, what they’re generally fed with, how large the herd size is — I’d turn to organic because many of these variables are dictated by law…

But when I do have time to do the research to find a dairy or distributor I trust, I certainly wouldn’t rule out conventional milk. It’s less expensive — a real factor for me as a consumer — and, if I know where it’s coming from, there’s a chance it might be just as good for all parties involved.

Self-identified milk enthusiasts

Now what would our milk world look like, with all of us well-informed milk drinkers chit-chatting and sipping left and right?


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A mahogany desk, just before it’s finished

gabe sheker custom desk

This week, the studio’s been full of mahogany.

After the stunning completion of our mahogany worm bin, Gabe moved onto the next project: a desk.

Groups of flutes carved down the front sides sit nicely amongst right angles and joints. The body awaits its top and finishing coats.

fruition studio gabe sheker custom desk
A desk is as personal a place as a bed – or, some might argue, more personal than that. It’s a platform – a literal and figurative platform – for creation.

A good desk, well-designed and properly adjusted, sets up its user for good posture. But a great desk performs one of the most important functions of all time. A great desk transforms the sitter into a navigator, a mover and a shaker. A creator… a great desk inspires, lures you in, makes you feel studious and determined and on top of the world, empowered and ready to do your thang.

fruition studio gabe sheker custom deskYes, I’m as dedicated to the belief that space manifests as Gabe is passionate about how flat he can get a surface to be (which is very flat).

For Gabe, creating the thing upon which someone else will create – and doing it thoroughly, meticulously, as well as he possibly can… – that’s where the magic is.

For me, the magic exists in the moment we decide to embrace our tools, becoming vulnerable to our passions, sinking into our creative spaces and being absorbed by all of these, all at once.

I’m dying to know. Where’s the magic for you?


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When we follow the instinct to care

Instinct to care

For five years, I was vegetarian because I thought it was the right thing to do. If what I learned in documentaries was true – about how animals were being raised and slaughtered – I didn’t want anything to do with it. I also never thought it was that good, anyway, especially steak, which I considered gritty and way overhyped.

My plans to travel abroad seven years later included plans to shift to a full-on meat-eating lifestyle. After all, I’d be living with a Spanish family, and I did not want to be turning away any of the meals they offered. I also understood that to understand the culture meant to eat its food. So I did, and I loved it.

By the time I returned to school, though, I was over all the meat-eating and committed to being vegan, mostly because I remembered feeling lighter and having more energy on a veggie diet. A friend I looked up to (and will always admire) was a vegetarian too. But when I learned that she did eat meat if not eating it meant it’d be thrown away, I had to re-think everything I thought I knew to be true.

After school, I began to travel and slowly developed an interest in farming. I learned that not all animals are raised in cages, and that in actuality, a planet of grain-eating vegans wouldn’t be totally sustainable after all.

As I learned more and more about pasture farms, self-sufficiency and all kinds of holistic lifestyles, my values became clearer. I began to see that the big issues facing us are more complex than labels like “vegetarian” and “vegan” can solve.

But the funny thing is, the more I learned, the deeper I dove into food systems, farming practices and waste – the less my reasons and labels mattered.

You see, what started out as a political agenda (either against cow factories or the fact that I had to eat the steak at dinner), became, through learning, a personal belief system.

For a while, I sought out the most socially and ecologically responsible decisions to design my way of life. Now, I make lifestyle choices like these because they feel good.

It feels good to know how my food is grown because it feels good to connect with other forces of life. It feels good to stick my hands in the dirt. It feels good to eat pasture-raised beef because it tastes so darn good! It feels good to crack open an egg with bright orange yolk with rich flavor because it feels good to watch chickens graze and hunt and peck.

We don’t always know what our true intentions are from the very start.

Sometimes we disguise them as bite-size pieces, or we categorize them to simplify things. Often times, our intuition is working for us, and we just don’t see it right away.

But when we listen – When we follow the instinct to care… We just might discover, over time, through learning, that more awaits us than we even imagined.


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All sunshine and all screens

all sunshines all screens

All sunshine and all screens –

the two cannot hold the same space.

Though one is indifferent to your attention,

the other depends on you, sucks you in and sucks power,

the other gives.



All sunshine and all screens –

the choice is ours!

The choice is bigger than one or the other, though.

One is a tool and the other fuel,

or is one fuel and the other a tool

in power?


All sunshine and all screens

will turn you blind.

Dry up, be fried, rage, burn, cry, be tired, be tried

and tested and loved and forgiven

for power

is indifferent and dependent on you.


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Know what’s what: Butter

Know what's what butter

As someone who used to literally eat packets of butter at restaurants, the fact that butter’s gotten a bad rap is quite personal.

While many non-butter “tastes-just-like-butter!” butter imposter stack the shelves of grocery stores, I’m still optimistic that the margarine fad will continue to fade into oblivion as more of us dive into the enchanting world of butter.

Because real butter is actually delicious and there’s nothing like it. It’s as simple a truth as the simplicity of butter-making itself. Once you go full-on good butter, there’s no going back.

So in this post, I’ll hit on a few real-butter tid-bits, leaving margarine out of the picture for now. The gist: Margarine is a synthetic (manufactured) substitute for butter. It’s made from vegetable oils and processed: heated, hydrogenated, bleached, emulsified, and exposed to chemicals and additives. No judgment here – That’s just what margarine is.

What is butter?

When milk comes out of the cow, it’s still raw milk – that is, it’s not pasteurized (sterilized with heat). The cream in milk rises to the top (leaving “skim milk” at the bottom), like oil and vinegar separate in a jar.

Butter is cream, churned.

Different churning styles range from shaking cream in a jar for 15 minutes to mixing cream in a food processor, and straining. But the concept is the same: Butter is cream, churned, and salt is added or not.


Sweet cream butter is made from fresh cream. The cream can be pasteurized or raw, but not cultured (that’s next). The “sweet” part is a bit deceiving, as sweet cream butter is not exactly sweet. It can be salted or unsalted.


Cultured butter is made from slightly fermented cream, rather than fresh cream. Often a culture is added, unless the butter is made with raw (unpasteurized) cream. Cultured butter will have a slightly sour taste to it – a rich tang that accompanies many fermented foods.


Every region develops its own culinary styles, so even French butter and Irish butter will taste differently. “European-style” butter refers to a general style of butter-making that is traditional throughout Europe. In this style, cultured cream is churned for a longer period of time, achieving a higher butterfat content (at least 82%). European-style butters have a rich flavor because of the higher butterfat content. According to Kitchn writer Hali Bey Ramdene, “More butterfat also means a softer texture, faster melt, and often, a saturated yellow hue.”

And there you have it – Not all butters are created equally. (You already know this if you’ve ever tried using the wrong butter in your Bullet coffee.) Let these small distinctions be merely your invitation into the enchanting world of butter. A rich and luxurious spectrum of flavor awaits you.


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Noted: Are Prisons Obsolete?

Noted: Are prisons obsolete?

On Are Prisons Obsolete? by Angela Y. Davis

Returning to one of my first introductions to the prison system reminded me of a simple truth: In order to change the social landscapes that surround us, we must first be willing to address the landscapes that exist in our minds.

With the calm grace and precise assuredness of a truly great philosopher, Angela Davis presents a question that’s been widely missed by liberal activists, greedy corporations and ignorant civilians alike.

Are prisons obsolete? 

Even I, already convinced by Davis among others of the deep and daunting problems with our country’s prison system, was taken aback by the prompt Davis lays out right away, “one fundamental question: Why do we take prison for granted?”

It is as if prison were an inevitable fact of life, like birth and death… It is difficult to imagine life without them. At the same time, there is a reluctance to face the realities hidden within them, a fear of thinking about what happens inside them.

Is it fear alone that propels us to be ignorant? I was surprised to find it difficult to imagine society without prison. By page 15, I found myself wondering why, in my own mind, I had limited my visions of a more just world to one that worked around the problems of prison, rather than challenging punishment as a whole.

Dialogues about the prison system are surfacing in mainstream media thanks to the persistent work of (anti)prison activists, including the recent documentary 13th. Through such works, we can begin to understand a history that was not taught to us in history class – one that depicts, for example, an evolution of industrialized racism, rather than a swift abolition of slavery. Davis’ work, too, offers us a re-telling of history:

We have learned how to recognize the role of slave labor, as well as the racism it embodied. But black convict labor remains a hidden dimension of our history.

It’s clear from Davis’ book that we have made space for prisons in our society: physically (by allowing so many of them to be built), socially (by generally accepting prison/punishment as a consequence of crime), and economically (by funding federal and private prisons).

By expressing her logical string of arguments against the effectiveness and morality of prison as punishment, Davis is urging us to revisit our assumptions about the role prisons play in society – to make mental space for prisons or their absence.

A reader could skip to the last chapter of Davis’ short book to find the practical implications of her argument for prison abolition – That is, what would a society without prisons even look like?

But while her final argument for abolition is both convincing and approachable, following Davis’ philosophical path is well worth doing. Because much of what we can hope to accomplish in the social landscapes that surround us will first need to be addressed upon the mental landscapes within each of us.

As the very title of her book suggests, it’s imperative that we challenge ourselves to ask tough questions, to imagine the world differently than how it is, to find humility amongst our assumptions and uncover the foundations upon which we build our world every day.


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