Join Me at “Art for a Cause” 6/5 in NYC

I have another “Artist’s Date” coming up and maybe you’d like to join me. I wrote about my last artist’s date and I’m pleased that only a few weeks have passed and I’m ready to do it again. This time, I’m heading to “Art for a Cause” which is an art exhibit benefitting the “DoGoodAsYouGo” movement. Start by checking out this 3-minute video (you’ll need to enter the password which is “Muskoka2013″).

As if the video isn’t inspiring enough, you can find more information about the event and the foundation in this article which also has links to purchase your tickets or make a donation.

Please let me know in the comments or via private message on Facebook, Twitter or email (see sidebar) if you’ll be there.

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Quixotic Nature Quest

My kids are city kids. Living just across the Hudson River from Manhattan the only view we have out of our windows is of the walk-up building across the street. We are among the lucky few in our area to have a backyard, but it’s not much bigger than the average living room. After reading Richard Louv’s book “Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder,” I became determined to find a way for my children to spend more time in nature.

natureOur first forays into nature were disastrous. There was the morning Father’s Day hike at the nature preserve that we had to abandon because my toddler had a potty-training accident. Then there was the afternoon hike in which my children became frightened of the pond adjacent to the parking area because it was covered in algae. (In case you’re wondering, both of these happened in the same day). My friend’s son became terrified of a walk in the woods when they came upon a fawn loping innocently across the path. Sometimes finding our inner nature-child take patience and perseverance. Many outings and nature walks later, we are finally to a point where my children enjoy being in nature and my oldest is now adept at reading trail markings. Part of the key is being prepared with water, snacks, a first aid kit and taking the time for a bathroom break before setting off on the trail. And setting realistic (read: modest) goals.

My friend and I recently took an excursion to “Lorrimer Sanctuary” which is around 45 minutes by car from Hoboken. There is a small nature center, some interactive exhibits, a lovely gift shop and a self-guided trail system. They also hold frequent events. The trails are quite short – not exactly a day’s hike, you can cover them all in well under an hour – so they are perfect for getting outside with small children.

We had so much fun the day we went to Lorrimer, my friend and I have committed to a Quixotic Quest: visiting all NJ Audubon sites before the end of 2013.  Will we achieve our goal? Well, there are only eleven sites and we’ve already been to one of them, and most are within an hour’s drive, so the odds seem to be high that maybe we can do it. But what if we don’t? We will have had loads of fun trying. And if we do achieve our goal, then of course we have to set our sights on the next goal: visiting all the nature centers in New Jersey (some of which are also NJ Audubon sites) by the end of 2014.

I enjoy having goals; especially when those goals are good for me, good for my family or, preferably, both. So, what about you? What sort of quixotic quest have you embarked on recently? Maybe your quests don’t have to do with going somewhere but *doing* something. Whatever the case, please share and tell us why you’re undertaking it – maybe we’ll join you! And if you don’t have one, don’t you think it’s about time you started?

photo credit

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My First Ted Event: TedXTimesSquare

One of my secret passions is Ted talks. Not sure what they are? You’ll want to check out their “about” page. I subscribe to their podcast and you can check out videos from their extensive library of speakers. The talks are generally nice and short so it a) forces speakers to get to the point, and b) it is a perfect length to listen to or watch on a quick break. I listened to a Ted talk by Bono the other day on my way to the doctor and listened to a Ted talk by Dan Pallotta on the way back home that dealt with a similar topic from a completely different perspective.

So, imagine my surprise when my friend invited me and another friend to attend a new TedX event – TedX Times Square on April 10. Once I checked the schedule to make sure that I could make it to the event and back during school hours, I quickly accepted the invitation. It was such a welcome change of pace to scurry off to the PATH train rather than scurry back to my house to clean or pay bills.


The theme was “openness” and featured speakers from a broad range of backgrounds. The speakers tended to all extoll the virtues of openness, as expected, but i was surprised to not see a lot of discussion about the finer points of openness such as when openness is not appropriate or how to minimize the downsides of openness. And some of the speakers talked about openness as a general “good” for society but failed to talk about the specifics of what openness can bring to an individual or organization. But in spite of those critiques, many of the talks were quite interesting. I wanted to highlight a few of my favorites for you:

  • Architect Guy Geier gave a surprisingly interesting talk about the impact of physical surroundings – specifically buildings – on the idea of openness. In designing commercial properties, he is finding that by introducing architectural elements that encourage openness, it can have a dramatic affect on the way the companies conduct their business. His firm, in fact, designed the auditorium TedXTimesSquare was held in at the New York Times Building and he drove the point of his talk home by dramatically raising the screen that formed the backdrop for the stage which exposed a lovely outdoor space. His talk caused me to think a lot about my own home (which is also my work space) and how openness – or, in some cases, lack of openness – affects us.
  • Mark Taylor from Vistage NYC gave a short but engaging talk about the importance of networking or partnering with groups of 3 rather than 2. With a partnership between two parties, there is a tendency to be either competitive or defensive which results in both parties being less open to feedback. However, with a triad, everybody tends to be more open to constructive criticism because everybody is seen to be on even footing. It’s an interesting lesson and one that is fairly easy to put into practice; if you find yourself in a partnership that seems to be stuck, possibly bringing in another partner could unstick the logjam.
  • Collin McLoughlin, a singer and musician, sang a lovely song called “Chasing Dreams” (you can hear it on his site, it’s #9 on the Sound Cloud widget). He was on Adam’s team on “The Voice” last season (I’m a big fan of the show!). His music career has taken a very unusual path including not only “The Voice” but You Tube. He talked about the importance of being open to new ideas and new directions and, along the way, being opportunistic.
  • Peter Shankman, in the last talk of the day, spoke about the importance of not only being open on social media and in networking in general, but also on the importance of being positive. He talked about the idea of the “negative sharer” – those who either share negativity or share things that don’t add value to other people. If you’re 100% positive, then you don’t seem real in social media, but you definitely don’t want to take the opposite approach or nobody will seek you out for networking. Shankman attributes his success as an entrepreneur to organically growing his connections by being open and positive.

For a list of all of my tweets during the event, check out my Storify – “TedXTimesSquare“.  And if you have some time to kill, you can stream the entire event or watch any of the other individual presentations.

As a footnote, I’ll mention that there’s nothing like doing something completely out of the ordinary to inspire creativity. I consider TedXTimesSquare my first “Artist’s Date” (a la Julia Cameron) in quite some time. And, the fact that I attended with two of my dear friends made it even better!


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‘Don’t Throw Your Creative Essence Under The Bus’ and Other Wisdom from Anne Lamott

If you’re a writer or other creative person and you’re not familiar with Anne Lamott, please allow me to introduce you. Gentle Reader, please meet Anne. She can be found on Twitter, on her Facebook page, and on her agency’s website. As I work to come out of my writing hiatus, I have become an Anne Lamott junkie. She recently must have realized it was me reading her Facebook page (along with, of course, over 100,000 other people who have ‘liked’ her page), because she knew precisely what I needed to hear. I was so moved by it, I felt compelled to share it with you. Enjoy!

“I had a great idea for a new book, although come to think of it, maybe it is just a Facebook post. But it would be called Pre First Draft, and address the way we suit up and show up to be writers, artists, and general tribal-two-stomp creative types.

I think it would begin with an admonition: if you used to love writing, painting, dancing, singing, whatever, but you stopped doing it when you had kids or began a strenuous career, then you have to ask yourself if you are okay about not doing it anymore.

If you always dreamed of writing a novel or a memoir, and you used to love to write, and were pretty good at it, will it break your heart if it turns out you never got around to it? If you wake up one day at eighty, will you feel nonchalant that something always took precedence over a daily commitment to discovering your creative spirit?

If not–if this very thought fills you with regret–then what are you waiting for?

Back in the days when I had writing students, they used to spend half their time explaining to me why it was too hard to get around to writing every day, but how once this or that happens–they retired, or their last kid moved out–they could get to work.

I use to say very nicely, “That’s very nice; but it’s a total crock. There will never be a good time to write. It will never be easier. If you won’t find an hour a day now, you won’t find it then.”

It’s the same belief as thinking that once you lose weight, you’ll begin to feel good about yourself. No, you won’t. If you’re not okay with yourself at 185 pounds, you’re not going to be okay at 140. It’s an inside job.

How do you begin? The answer is simple: you decide to. Then you push back your sleeves and start writing–I.e., scribbling words down on paper, or typing at a computer. And it will be completely awful. It will be unreadable shit! You won’t have a clue how it account[s] to anything, ever. And to that, I say, Welcome. That’s what it’s like to be a writer. But you just do it anyway. At my church, we sing a gospel song called, “Hallelujah anyway.” Everything’s a mess, and you’re going down the tubes financially, and gaining weight? Well, Hallelujah anyway.

So you decide to get back to work creatively, and you write up some thoughts or passages or memories or scenes. Then what? Then you write some more. Everywhere you go, you carry a pen, and take notes–ideas will start to come to you. You’ll see and overhear and remember things that you want to include in this mysterious quilt you’re putting together, so you jot them down. Imagine a rag-bag guy who lives inside you, who collects images, descriptions, holy moments, snippets of funny conversation, for you to use in your writing–but he doesn’t have any hands, and needs you to help him amass the rags with which you can make squares for the quilt.

That’s all you have to do today: pay attention–being a writer is about paying attention. Stop hitting the snooze button. Carry a pen with you everywhere, or else God will give me all these insights and images that were supposed to go to you. Hang up a shingle on the inside of you: now open for business. Wow! You won’t have to wake up at 70, aching with regret that you threw your creative essence under the bus. And if you already are seventy, then you won’t have to wake up at eighty, confused and in despair about how you let your gift slip away. Because you will have been writing–or dancing again, or practicing recorder–every single glorious, livelong, weird, amazing day.”

-Anne Lamott - Facebook page entry – May 1, 2013


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