Try Enthusiasm

When I am enthusiastic about a subject I’m teaching, my students are too. If I tell the little ones, “You’re going to like this drama game!” They do. It may be a drama game they’ve played before, like the mirror game. (The mirror game is when you stand across from a partner and mirror their movements. And then your partner mirrors yours.)

When my kids get fresh, I tell them, “Hey, your attitude is contagious. Try enthusiasm.”

We live in a snarky culture. For sure, I can be sarcastic. Because I’m witty. But sarcasm seems the opposite of enthusiasm. Sarcasm stands back in judgment. Enthusiasm jumps all-in, without a care for consequence.

Well, there is the consequence that you may be made fun of. As I am by my children. Regularly. (For my bike, zipcar, business, enthusiasm, whatever.) But then, they’re teens. I think sarcasm’s wired in teens.

I tell my kids, Most people are naturally shy. When you meet someone new, if you’re just a little bit out-going, you put people at ease. Enthusiasm is charismatic, fun and entertaining.

Me at the Climate March. (photo credz Pamela Cooper)
Me at the Climate March. (photo credz Pamela Cooper)

Here’s an enthusiastic picture of me. As you can see, I’m enthusiastic about the whole world.

On a side note, I like to think I came up with the hashtag #yellowpants Whenever I see someone wearing yellow pants, I think to myself “hashtag yellow pants.” I’m enthusiastic about my yellow pants. Because they were one of my last purchases at Loehmann’s. But that’s another story.

“Follow your inner moonlight; don’t hide the madness.” — Allen Ginsberg via the daily post  

Do you follow Ginsberg’s advice — in your writing and/or in your everyday life?

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People’s Climate March – Wordless Wednesday

Joined hundreds of thousands on Sunday after church to march.IMG_6877.JPG

These ladies from Code Pink were there — looking awesome and fiesty femininsty gorgeous. Their message? War is not green. Yes. IMG_6876.JPGAnd tons of kids. And patient parents. We had to wait on 72nd Street for about an hour before we could feed in to the march. IMG_6849.JPGHere we are passing by Columbus Circle. It felt like the march opened up here and we could look around. All the humanity. IMG_6854.JPGI like their sign that said, “We have solutions.” It wasn’t just a march where people pointed out the problems. Although there was some of that. Vegans educated us on the reality that cows are a huge contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. IMG_6842.JPGThere was a lot of music. But, as in any march, my favorite is “We shall overcome!” I melt when I hear that at a march. IMG_6857.JPG

There were a lot of young people. We all walked for hours. So fun. IMG_6859.JPG

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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Teaching Trials

I am teaching a blogging workshop on Thursday night at New Work City in Chinatown. You should come, because it’s going to be awesome. And I need some support. I’m looking forward to teaching adults, because I’ve had some struggles with my middle schoolers.

I’m chagrined about my creative writing class in the after school this semester. I’ve had some challenges. And I just want the kids to write, damnit. I want them to sit quietly with pen and paper in hand and go for it. I give them great creative writing prompts, and I give them fun assignments. And we’ve gone on lovely field trips.

But still, they throw carrots at each other and scribble on each other’s worksheets. And in the last class, after a trip to Shake Shack, no less, one girl poured salt in another girl’s hair.

I don’t know if I’m not keeping my kids busy enough. Or if I am being too hard or too soft on them. I love them but I don’t understand them. And I overheard one girl tell another one that I hate her and I told her, “I don’t hate you, I love you, but I don’t like what you do.”

And it’s freakin’ after school, so it’s supposed to be fun. Let’s respect each other. And let’s get creative. Let’s write.

On my pinterest board, I reminded myself: The kids who need the most love will ask for it in the most unloving ways.

I try to remember that. And I do give them a lot of love.

My friend thinks I should start calling parents and washing my hands of the kids who act up. But I don’t want to give up. I have faith in these kids. They just have to write more.

If only they’d write about their lives, I know they’d know themselves better and feel better about themselves. And maybe stop goofing off.

That’s why I blog — to know myself better and to feel better about myself. And to stop goofing off.

While I am feeling unhappy about my after school teaching experience, I’m hoping that my adult students on Thursday night will be a little more manageable.

Blogging workshop at new work city on January 9, 2014

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Kurt Vonnegut’s Advice

I chatted with Vonnegut once in the early 90s when I was performing stand up at the New York Comedy Club. It was like a Thursday night at 6 pm. He poked his head in the club and asked, “What’s going on in here?”

“Comedy. Women’s night. Starts in an hour.” I told him. “Come to it.”

kurt-vonnegut“Sounds great,” he said or something like that. I was totally impressed and told the couple of jaded comedians at the bar, “That was Kurt Vonnegut.” They nodded casually. Stand up comics do not swoon. But he didn’t come back.

Then a couple of years later I was having a party with Dan Wakefield at my house and Wakefield had invited Vonnegut. Vonnegut called to say he was sorry but he couldn’t make the party. I think he had a cold. “That’s okay,” I told him. “Feel better.” So basically, I had a few near misses with the great man.

But I feel I got to spend time with him when I read this new collection of commencement addresses, edited by Wakefield, If This Isn’t Nice, What Is? Advice for the Young.

In the forward, Wakefield points out that Vonnegut took part in his communities. Like, he was in the Volunteer Fire Department and taught a Great Books course with his wife. Vonnegut extolled compassion and neighborliness.

Each talk is unique. There are several themes, one of which is how Jesus slammed down the Code of Hammurabi (an eye for an eye).

“When Jesus Christ was nailed to a cross, he said, ‘Forgive them, Father, they know not what they do.’ What kind of man was that? … Bye-bye, Code of Hammurabi. And for those words alone, he deserves to be called ‘the Prince of Peace.'”

And Vonnegut, a humanist, hands us funny twists on Christianity. “‘Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed…’ Not exactly planks in a Republican platform.”

And here’s Vonnegut’s son’s advice: “‘Father, we are here to help each other get through this thing, whatever it is.’ So I pass that on to you. Write it down, and put it in your computer, so you can forget it.”

riverside park coudal

I know there’s a winter wonderland outside my New York City apartment today. I took this pic of Riverside Park last night with my iphone. I have no idea why I’m writing about Vonnegut now. Except I started this post a while ago and I’m cleaning out my blog’s dashboard. It just seemed like today was a perfect day to read Vonnegut and Wakefield.

Since we’re all trapped inside on this snow day, I recommend that you got out of your own head and be inspired by If this isn’t nice, what is? advice for the young too.

Related:

The worst addiction of them all by Vonnegut for the Nation

The Road Less Traveled

No one knows this about me. But when I was an assistant editor in the biz school at Pace University, I thought for a day or two about going into nursing.

I was in grad school for literature at NYU at the time. I had tuition remission at NYU through my then-husband, but I could also get tuition remission at Pace. I debated about applying to Pace law school, but the campus was in Pleasantville or Westchester somewhere. That seemed like such a trek from my natural habitat of downtown Manhattan!

So I thought about nursing. I’d heard there were a lot of jobs. Besides, I had loved being a candy striper when I was a teenager.

"Acrobat in the Ring", sculpture by ...
I have always loved this sculpture, “Acrobat in the Ring.” by Chaim Gross at the Pace University, New York City Campus (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Here’s the thing — I’m not cut out for it.

When my kids throw up, I gag, shudder and turn away. When they bleed, I feel woozy. And when they hallucinate with a fever, I find their hallucinations extremely funny and can’t stop giggling.

I don’t know how doctors and nurses do it — I guess they learn to control these impulses. Maybe I, too, could stifle my gag or my giggle.

So instead of pursuing law or nursing, (real practical skill-type jobs!) I took grad psych classes in critical thinking at Pace in the Straus Leaning and Thinking Center with Dr. Rachel Lauer.

The program blew my mind. I learned so much about learning. For ex., I first learned the word, meta. I learned about methods of thought, rhetoric, kinds of intelligence, and philosophy. I’m richer for it.

Sometimes I wonder what my life would be like if I had pursued nursing or law,  instead of writing and teaching.

The Road Less Traveled – The Daily Prompt

What  jobs did you fantasize about? Why didn’t you go down that road?

In our Boot Camp For Writers’ workshops, we offer a writing prompt on the road less traveled.

What my IWWG (International Women’s Writing Guild) workshop means to me

I just got great news. I’m going to be teaching at the International Women’s Writing Guild summer conference at Drew University. I’m going to lead a workshop on Dangerous Writing: Your Spiritual Autobiography from August 8 to 12. Yup, we’re taking our writing to the edge.

When I was 28, I wanted desperately to attend the guild summer conference, then held at Skidmore College, but my ex and I were flat broke. We were living in Inwood. He was unemployed. I was a temp. I was literally so sad that I couldn’t afford a week of writing that I lay in an empty bath tub, fully dressed and cried.

The next year I still couldn’t rub two nickels together, but by then, I was separated from my ex and willing to take risks to pursue my passion for writing.

I threw myself at the mercy of Hannelore Hahn, the founder of the guild, asking her for a scholarship and promising her that someday, as a scholarship recipient myself, I would give a scholarship to a deserving young woman writer like myself.

She agreed. For partial tuition, I happily worked the registration table.

That was, a-hem, more than 20 years ago. Off and on over the years, I’ve been able to attend the summer conference. I’m not quite yet able to give a scholarship, but I am able to give a heckuva workshop. Check back with me in 20 years.

Life’s funny, right?

Attending the guild summer workshop as an instructor is worth the wait. I’m just happy this year to be a part of it and not crying alone in the tub. (I hope!)

Check out the announcement about this summer’s conference (and register before May 15 for the lower rate.)

tulips
today’s tulips are amazing!