A Month of Blogging: Day 29

I have blogged nearly every day of October and I’ll be glad to NOT blog every. single. freakin’. day.

I learned that I have something to say. That surprised me. I thought I’d run out of ideas, but no.

I wanted to repost some old stories, but I didn’t. The one story I did repost — about an educator whom I love, Geoffrey Canada, received very low traffic. The story with the highest traffic this month (470 readers!) was about Bridget and Amanda’s wedding. Everyone loves a love story.

I thought I might just post pics on Wordless Wednesdays, but I didn’t.

I wrote a couple of posts on my phone.

I thought I’d write about writing. You know, I was hoping to get all professional and writerly with you. I wanted to share tips and tricks and be seen as an expert. But no, I didn’t. I wrote mostly about family matters.

It wasn’t the writing that was hard. I’m a fast writer. It was finding the time to write. I have a crazy busy life — Coco’s ruptured cyst, jury duty, wonderful freelancing, substitute teaching, afterschool artist, doctor’s visits, housecleaning.

Yes, housecleaning! That always gets in the way of my blogging. Must stop cleaning.

Tomorrow, I’m back on jury duty. I hope there’s nothing from the criminal courts to blog about.

I will leave you with today’s pic from my beautiful Riverside Park.

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What do you call yourself?

I need a new business card.

So I went to LinkedIn to see what to put on my card. Also, I wanted to update my publications with that recent newspaper commentary.

I noticed I called myself a Communications Consultant and I thought Multimedia Journalist sounded better. And Blogger sounded better than Writer. Consultant was better than Freelancer.

Also, I was Co-Founder and Co-Owner of Boot Camp for Writers, but, in a way, that sounded like I owned a health club so I changed it to Creative Director.

And then, I saw that I hadn’t really done justice to my teaching. Yes, I’m an Afterschool and Substitute teacher. (Today I had so much fun teaching science and digital music!). Should I name the fabulous schools where I work? And what about my recent work art handling at the art gallery? Do I mention that? How about my videography work at Columbia University? Too part time? Is it all just too confusing?

I confused myself. I don’t know if we find out who we are by looking at what we do.

So I decided to resolve this by staring at Facebook and taking an online quiz, over at 16Personalities. I did the Myers Briggs test years ago, when I was splitting up from my exhusband, in 1991? And I was an ENFP then, and I’m still an ENFP.

They tend to see life as a big, complex puzzle where everything is connected – but unlike Analysts, who tend to see that puzzle as a series of systemic machinations, ENFPs see it through a prism of emotion, compassion and mysticism, and are always looking for a deeper meaning.

ENFPs are fiercely independent, and much more than stability and security, they crave creativity and freedom.

… Few personality types are as creative and charismatic as ENFPs. Known for their idealism and enthusiasm, ENFPs are good at dealing with unexpected challenges and brightening the lives of those around them.

Awww, that was really fun. It did explain me — even my weaknesses — too many jobs and talents! (I was a little worried when I noticed that Robin Williams was an ENFP too.)

I wonder if I can put ENFP on my business card. Nah, that’s just silly.

I may not know who I am by what I do. But I do know how to have fun.

Here’s a fountain near my house. It has nothing to do with this post.
 

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31 Days of Good Enough: On the Move

We were on the move. While talking to my pastor Laura, in the Climate March last week, I had an insight — I have to pay as much attention to and love my own children as much as I notice and love my students.

That seems obvious. But sometimes I come home from teaching brimming over with funny stories about the 6-year olds in my afterschool creative writing and reading class, and I can see (or feel) my children roll their eyes. My affection for other children does not take away my love for my own children. But I have to make sure that they know that. I have to encourage them.

Laura and I talked about this as we walked with hundreds of thousands along the Manhattan streets in the biggest climate change march ever. We were on West 59th, walking along Central Park South, discussing Eleanor Roosevelt and the recent fantastic PBS series on the Roosevelts.

And I had told Laura, “It just seemed that as Eleanor grew older, she was alone. Her life was not full of family and picnics and fun, but international travel and great causes.” Which, of course, I love. I love her internationalist impulse and her love for the world. But maybe she should’ve hung out with her family more.

When I went to college, I moved from suburban Chicago to New York City. And I just stayed. I am far-flung from my family of origin too. I want to be intentional about connecting with my mother and father and sister and brothers too.

daisies medium

So for the next 31 days, I will be writing about:

  • How my husband’s Parkinson’s impacts our family
  • My son’s college search
  • Letting go of my desire to keep up with the Joneses
  • My take-aways from teaching
  • How and where I try (and sometimes do) get published
  • Decluttering my messy apartment
  • Trying to stick to a family meal plan
    and maybe even
  • Pursuit of fitness
  • And maybe some random (good enough) essays I’m working on.

Today’s message:
I am good enough. You are good enough. You don’t have to be or do better. Just accept that where you are is where you are. There is no perfect. There is today. I’m so glad we have today.

I aim to be a loving presence in my little sphere of the world.

I love the concept of Good Enough. I am a perfectionist. I want everything to be just right. But sometimes that hinders me from finishing things, from sending stories out, or feeling that I’m good enough. Lately, I’ve also been blessed with so much wonderful work. And so many great friends. And yes, a great family too! And that is so good!

Alone this Summer

At the beach association #huntington #longisla...
I went away to Southampton this weekend with a girlfriend and the weekend before I was in Huntington with my book club. How lucky am i?

I haven’t blogged in a couple of weeks. And I’ve put Facebook on the back burner.

I’ve been rethinking my confessional writing.  It’s a relief and a release to write honestly about my life – writing helps me with my struggles and shows me that I’ve got resilience. Besides, as I’ve said, the more honest I get, the more readers I get.

But I do wonder if I have gotten what I needed from blogging and personal essay writing. And what is that? Money? Attention?

I have written about:

  • my struggles with marriage to a chronically ill spouse;
  • my desire to not spoil my kids in an age of helicopter parents;
  • my business lift-off and sometimes my business failures;
  • my beautiful New York City places;
  • my advice for writers, bloggers, creatives.

But life’s gotten busy.

For this one week, I’m deliciously alone.

My family’s been blown to the winds. My son is in Botswana. My daughters are at camp in Vermont. My husband and his brother, who also has Parkinson’s (my husband diagnosed 12 years ago and his brother a couple years before that, I believe) are traveling together — on a fishing trip to Canada.

As for work, I’ve had a wonderful client for whom I’m cranking out the work — blogging for them and totally pleased to put in a bit more time now and then.

I’ve had a crazy art handling job. This job would make an excellent sitcom – the curator and fellow art handlers are so funny and fun. Art handling means that I’m the grunt who puts up and takes down art for two art galleries — the treasure room and the lobby of my former office building. So, ya, pretty much lately, the people I used to sit in conference rooms with are the ones who occasionally walk past me as I’m working with the maintenance staff. Of course many stop and chat. And then I’ll feel guilty for not doing the art handling, and instead, schmoozing on the job. (Well what job does not benefit from schmoozing?)

I’ve also really been trying to put in an hour and a half a day (or three pomodoros (25 minute work blocks)) on a sexy, short novel. More about this at a later date. And for this stick-to-it-iveness on the languishing novel, I thank my coworking chum, Patty Golsteijn, over at Minimal Switch

In any case, for this one week, my immediate family is unreachable. And I’ve toyed with the idea of giving up my smart phone entirely. (Or maybe just checking in on it a little bit.)

In July:

  • I want to embrace my solitude;
  • Become more spiritual;
  • Work out;
  • Finish my novel;
  • Ride my bike;
  • Reassess my social media habit.

I want my social media to work for me. And I’m not sure how to recofigure my writing for the web, my websites.

In the meantime, let’s face it, I also just want to have fun. (Thanks, Cyndi Lauper!)

On Confidence

One of my girlfriends and I talk about this a lot. We bemoan that our schools don’t teach our daughters how to be confident. In relationships and in the workplace, confidence seems to be a make-or-break key to success.

How can we inspire confidence? As parents and teachers, we can model confidence. Or, at the very least, model competence. Then, move on towards excellence.

I tell my kids the best way to be confident is to be prepared.

I have had a funny relationship with confidence. At times, I am overly confident — optimistically reporting my capabilities (and then, behind the scenes, scrambling to skill up). Other times, I am insecure. My voice shakes and my body posture gets smaller.

I attribute my confidence problem to one small fact — I don’t like to be wrong. And when I am, I get defensive, mad at myself for not knowing all of the answers from all of the angles.

Last week I led a blogging workshop at the Hudson -Mohawk ASTD. (photo by Mark Grimm)
Last week I led a blogging workshop at the Hudson -Mohawk ASTD. (photo by Mark Grimm)

Recently, when I don’t know something, I’ve tried a new method. In my presentations or workshops, I’ll say, “That’s a great question. I really don’t know.” I might say, “I’ll get back to you on that.” Or better yet, I’ll kick the question back to the group and use my curiosity as an opportunity to find the wisdom from the crowd.

Another inspiration has been from the Ted Talk by Amy Cuddy on body language. Cuddy shows that when you strike a power pose for even two minutes, you are perceived as “assertive, confident and comfortable.” A power pose could be a Wonder Woman stance, a wide-armed and wide-legged stance, or a feet-on the table, hands behind-the-head stretching pose.

Cuddy advises that we not ‘fake it ’til we make it,’ but we ‘fake it ’til we become it.’

That’s what I’m doing with confidence. Only I’m not faking it. I truly am curious and I am prepared. My friend Evelyn suggested that in presentations, we should get ‘large and in charge.’ I like that. And that’s what I will suggest to my girls.

 

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Elizabeth Scalia: A Blogging Demon

More #rain thru my cab window #NYC #urban #apr...
The rain from my cab window on the way to Opus Dei, religion communicators meeting.

Elizabeth Scalia talked about her Catholicism as a “terrible beauty of a life.”

When she began blogging, she said, she wrote way too much about Peyton Manning. Or maybe it was Derek Jeter.

I asked her how often she blogs,

“If I’m on a roll, five times,” she answered.

“A week?”

“No,  a day.”

Dang, I’ve been posting once a week! I’m inspired. I must tell you that I’m on a roll too. This month, I’ve got nine sources of income. So I’m busy, busy, busy and my blogging doesn’t pay. But maybe I should write about Manning or Jeter.

Scalia discussed her book, “Strange Gods: Unmasking the Idols in Everyday Life” The blogger critiqued the “gods” of the internet and social media as shrines to one’s self and an endles “echo chamber.”

Yes, she did. She called the internet the devil.

Despite the internet’s “evil,” Ms. Scalia found comfort in Pope Benedict’s dictate to “give the internet a soul.” Fun, smart, productive.

Scalia is the managing editor of the Catholic channel on Patheos. She blogs at the Anchoress.

Next month’s lunchtime religion communicators group will meet on May 15 and the speaker will be Norris Chumley. All I can say is he better not blog more than me.

Elizabeth Scalia talks to Leigh Rogers and other members and friends at the Religion Communicators Council.
Elizabeth Scalia (left) talks to Leigh Rogers (right) and other members and friends at the Religion Communicators Council.
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How To Talk About Your Business

Everyone loves a winner. So talk up your winning biz. You can take several routes.

The humble way – Shucks, we’re just ordinary plain folk who got lucky.

The hardworking drudge – Well, sure we’re a success, but all we do is work, work, work. And we never see our kids, spouses, or mothers.

The boaster – I’m pretty fricken’ amazing. That’s it. I kickass.

The passionate soul – I love this work. Man, I’d do it for free. It’s all I’ve ever wanted to do. And it’s a labor of love.

I suggest when you talk about your biz, mix it up and use all four routes. Go the humble, hardworking, boastful and passionate way. “We got lucky, we work it, we’re awesome, and by the way, we love what we do.”

Mary Beth Coudal and Cheryl Sandberg exchanged a few laughs at BlogHer in Chicago.
Mary Beth Coudal and Cheryl Sandberg exchanged a few laughs at BlogHer in Chicago.

Note: I say “we” because, sometimes people appreciate the ‘we’ better than the ‘me.’ Or at least, we think so. Who’s we? Me and Cheryl Sandberg of Lean In. I think she said something like this at BlogHer last summer in Chicago — how women are more powerful when we’re collaborative rather than competitive.

Even though I’m pretty much a shop of one, I feel like I bring a team with me on my assignments. Ya know, I get by with a little help from my friends.

This post was inspired from a post by Seth Godin, marketing guru.

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Giving Up For Lent

I’m not giving up red or white. I’m not giving up sweets, trashy TV, gossip or coffee. Been there, done that.

In fact, I might even drink more, watch more Shark Tank, eat more sweets, dish on the neighbors, and hit the latte bar.

Seriously, you know, I’m a righteous soul. I’ve got to do something for Lent.

I’m going to take up some things that make me happy:

  • Decluttering

    my wine
    wine in the Adirondacks. waiting for summer.
  • Blogging
  • Traveling
  • Eating a plant-based diet*
  • Having people over for dinner*

*These last two were inspired by Pastor Andrew’s sermon a couple of weeks ago at Rutgers Church.

On second thought, having dinner parties may be challenging, given that I’m going to be traveling too. (My friend Barbara Wheeler-Bride just wrote an awesome blog post about one of my parties, Thank you, Mary Beth, at Busted Halo. Thank you, Barbara.)

If you want to join the decluttering challenge and do some synchronous cleaning, I can add you to a super-secret Facebook decluttering group. Just message me.

I want to blog more because I have been learning so much through starting my own business. I want what I’m learning to be useful to other people.

And why travel? Just because. I’ve been a little down this week. And travel always makes me happy. In fact, I’m writing this from beautiful Nokomis, Florida. (Thanks, Nicole and Brendan for hosting me!) Next week, the family and I will be on spring break at Circle Z dude ranch in Arizona. Then, just my son and I head to Charlotte, North Carolina to look at colleges for him.

While in Charlotte, I’m offering a really fun and creative workshop, Spiritual Journeying, with Cindy Sloan. We’ll be making collages and writing about moments from our lives. We’re offering the workshop on Sunday afternoon, March 23 at Dilworth United Methodist Church ($29). Please come and tell me what you’re giving up for Lent. Or if, like me, you are just giving up.

Thanks, Hal Sadler, for this awesome ad for us!
Thanks, Hal Sadler, for this awesome ad for us!
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Be Disruptive

Yesterday I was at the awesome NYU Entrepreneurial Festival. A highlight for me was Luke Williams’ class on disruptive thinking. Here’s what I got out of it.

In your biz and in your life, chose the scary route. In this picture, look at the dude on the left, “Who is he? I don’t know — just the happiest guy I could find on the internet,” Williams said. “Why is he so happy? He’s complacent. He’s the face of all the companies we know. Doing what he’s always done, making small incremental changes.”

Luke Williams at the NYU Entrepreneurial Festival.
Luke Williams at the NYU Entrepreneurial Festival.

Like Kodak, everyone saw that Kodak’s biz was going down when digital cameras came along, but the CEO of Kodak basically said, “Why stick your hand in an engine that’s running?” If you’re the mechanic, you don’t reinvent the car while you’re supposed to fix it. Right? Williams is smart.

Now look at Janet Leigh. This is how your client or company should look — scared. And ready for change.

Hitchcock killed off his leading lady in the first 30 minutes of Psycho. No one had ever done that. Be like Hitchcock. Be counter-intuitive.

How do you do that? If sodas are supposed to be inexpensive, sweet, and aspirational; make them expensive, sour, and real.

Look for cliches — “widespread beliefs that govern the way people think and do business.” And then disrupt the cliches. Be like Little Mismatched, the company, that sells socks, not in pairs, but in singles or in threes.

Feed your own rebellious instinct — the one that wants change for the sake of change.

I plan to disrupt this endless winter with spring.

Spring starts in five days for me. I’m going to Sarasota, Florida for a few days, back to NYC for a few days, then to a dude ranch in Patagonia, Arizona with the family for almost a week, then just me and Hayden, my 11th grader, go to look to North Carolina (where I’ll offer a writing and art workshop with the fabulous Cindy Sloan.) And Hayden and I will visit a couple of colleges in Charlotte and Raleigh-Durham for a few days.

I have been so slammed with work. Tomorrow and maybe a couple of more days this week, I’ll be subbing middle school English at a nearby prep school. I’m also continuing posts and articles with my fabulous blogging client. I have lovely tutoring jobs. I have an annual report due for a new client. I have to meet with my mentor to get my paperwork signed for my self employment assistance program.

I don’t want to disrupt my busy work life. But I don’t mind disrupting winter to get to spring. And summer.

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Walking towards 8th Street near NYU.
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Blog Tour: My Writing Process

solaceEllen Wade Beals at Solace in a Book invited me to join this blog tour. The idea is that I answer a few questions about my writing process and then introduce you to some new bloggers who might, next week, answer these same questions. And so it goes.

1) What am I working on?

2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?

  • use of bullets
  • humor
  • emoticons ;0
  • lack of proper punctuation and capitalization

I think I am known for my honesty. I have a tendency to be a little dramatic and a little funny.

I am pretty loose with my style. I believe that we should all push ourselves into dangerous terrain when we write. I’ve several times led a workshop called Dangerous Writing. I find the best essays show some break through, humiliation, self doubt, and ultimately, resilience. Yes, grit.

3)     Why do I write what I do?

I write to figure out what i think.

I write because I need a lot of attention. My husband is an actor who has Parkinson’s and well, he’s a fabulous person, and he needs attention too. And honestly, I know this is not true, but there are times I do not feel my life (or work) is as important as his.

And since I feel sidelined by my marriage or my husband’s illness, writing puts me back on the field as a star player, if only to myself. I love sports metaphors and am slightly athletic. But I love metaphors because they are visual. I am a visual thinker and a team player.

Inevitably, when I’ve felt like stopping this blog, someone tells me — at the checkout line in the grocery store or at a party for a school event — that she reads my blog and is inspired by it.

And people tell me they like my pictures (all taken with my iPhone 4S). And that keeps me going. That real life connection feeds me.

4)     How does your writing process work?

  • I journal every morning, a la Artist’s Way, before the kids get up
  • I write right after the kids leave for school
  • I use the pomodoro technique. I set the timer on my phone for 25 minutes, let nothing interrupt me, do my work, stretch for 5 minutes. Then I do that again. And again.

I learned the pomodoro technique at my fabulous coworking space, New Work City. I get a lot of support there for my business. I like being accountable to my coworkers about my goals.

my writing business

I started this coaching-of-writers biz last year. I’ve offered dozens of workshops and weekend retreats. I’m giving it a good go. But as my spring meeting with my accountant creeps up on me, I am forced to face the reality: the business has brought in very little money to our household.

Last night one of my daughters asked me, “Isn’t it time you go back to work?” The kids think that they liked when I worked, but they forget how much they complained when I traveled for work.

I told her, “I’m doing so much and making some money too — substitute teaching, tutoring, videography, corporate blogging.”
“But that’s not from your writing workshop business?”
“That’s true.”
“And you’re not making as much as you used to make?”
“That’s true,” I agreed. “But look, I went to almost every one of your swim meets. I couldn’t have done that when I worked. And it’s been priceless.”

And so there it is. I write because I need the attention. I’m trying to promote my biz. And I’m trying to entertain, inspire, learn about myself, and show my own and my family’s resilience.

– m ;b

P.S. Let me introduce you to three bloggers, who might keep this blog tour rolling next week. They are writers I know and love IRL (in real life). I love their honesty and their integrity. I love their grit.

Next stops on the blog tour might be:

Xavier Trevino – We are friends from Charles’s class. He says:

I started this blog about a year ago. I wrote one or two posts and got one or two visitors for the first four months, then I sort of lost my job and had more time (and things) to write about. In April of last year I started writing more posts and getting more readers, and I settled on writing two posts a week, Tuesdays and Saturdays. Since then I’ve written 106 posts and gotten almost 5,000 views.

Some posts do very well, some are hardly looked at. Some are shared on facebook, or reposted on other people’s blogs.

I’ve always written, and I guess I have to describe myself as a former drug abuser who works as a doorman and writes.

Wendy Karasin – We are friends from a women’s once-a-month writing group. Wendy worked in educational publishing, taught, and raised four children as a single parent. She says, “Losing my parents in relatively close proximity profoundly changed my life. And that’s the subject of my memoir, Passing Through.”

She says:

I have a distinct and hearty laugh that once heard is not soon forgotten. My mother used to say among a million people in China, she could locate me by my laugh. Curious, happy and responsible; conscientious, educated and playful – all wrapped up in a blogging, baby boomer. Love reading, writing, cats, yoga, kindness and connection.

And then, my brilliant biz partner Kelly Wallace. She has a lot of projects; here’s one:

working on a memoir tentatively titled “The Yellow Blanket” a manuscript about her experience as a child sexual abuse survivor and rejection by her entire paternal family system. The story opens with eight year old Kelly on the witness stand testifying in court against her grandfather. The focal point of the story focuses on the rejection Kelly experienced by her entire paternal family and her father’s legally aiding her grandfather’s defense team.

Excerpts from Kelly’s The Yellow Blanket are available here: http://atticinstitute.com/node/896and here: http://atticinstitute.com/node/1450

I am on Canal and Broadway - in the middle of ...
This is near New Work City, on Canal and Broadway. I’m standing in the middle of the street – looking for the M5 bus – “love me” #nyc
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