December Slump

I’ve lost my mojo. Is it under the table? Maybe in the kitchen? Is this normal? Or maybe hormonal? Seasonal Affect Disorder? The empty nest?

Oh, screw it. I have to dig myself out of my slump. Walking to my Via, the $3.25 car service this morning that takes me to work, I tried to give myself a pep talk. ‘Walk tall — remember the old adage, “Have the confidence of a mediocre white man.”‘

I reminded myself that I used to produce and star in — yes, star in — a Manhattan talk show. Sure, it was on cable access. But I was a star. Now, I’m a bit player. Maybe the dresser. Maybe the bartender at intermission. In any case, I’m definitely no longer a star. I feel like a has-been who never really was.

‘Tis the season for the December slump. I made a list of things To Dos and it includes making doctor appointments for family members and them gifts.

Whaaaaa! What about me?

Poor me, poor me. Pour me some egg nog. How to overcome this? I googled tips on SAD from the Mayo clinic and read the suggestion to use a light box. I bought one last Christmas for someone’s gift so will drag it out again.

Beyond increasing your light, the Mayo Clinic suggests you exercise, socialize, and meditate. I found this postcard in my bag. And I share it with you:

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And then, at lunch time, I remembered the secret task of the Artist’s Date from the Artist’s Way path.

I felt compelled to swing over to the Guggenheim down the block for 20 minutes and was BLOWN AWAY by this show featuring Hilma af Klint. OMG!!! A spiritualist and an abstract artist from Sweden produced these mind-bending paintings in the early 20th century  — moved by the spirit, joined by four other women (the Group of Five) and dismissed by the likes of Rudolph Steiner.

When I see Abstract Art, I like to pretend to fall into it. And I really fell into and for Klint. She is cool af. (Actually that’s part of her name, I gather, and not just that she’s cool as  f*^k.) A true prophet, way ahead of her time. New York never fails to lift me up when I’m feeling down.

So, yes, I’m in a slump, but I took in some culture. Now, feel cheered immensely.

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Wave Hill

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Today I was up at Wave Hill.

I was late today meeting my group of girlfriends at the museum cafe, always a highlight. Museum cafes are a bit pricey but delicious and the ambiance is so chill.

Ten years or so, around Thanksgiving, the kids and I joined the family art workshop and made corn husk dolls, taught by young Native Americans. Another time we looked at pictures of Matisse’s cut outs and tried to cut our flowers likewise. Wave Hill always reminds me of art and nature.

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When you arrive before noon on Saturdays, the gardens are free.

I visited the aquatic garden. So many gardens, so little time.

I rushed from the gardens to Riverdale Country School’s reunion/homecoming. Although I never attended Riverdale, I do feel a part of the community there — having taught Lower School Drama, parented my children when they were there, and met cohorts of my husband from his school days.

I’ve met so many alumni and educators at the school, the place has a special place in my heart. And with Wave Hill and Van Cortland Park right nearby, all of Riverdale is a magical place. Not that far from my Upper West Side.

Layering of Happiness

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Milagros (Millie) Suriano-Rivera, artist, inspires me!

Behind our girl/woman is a patchwork of newsprint, bubbles, circles, Xs and Os.

Behind all women there are many back stories, unexplained or overexplained scenarios, patterns, styles, habits. I wish through this flat screen that you could touch the texture of this work of art. To caress the layers and feel the bumps of glue and paint that hold it all together.

I want to create this kind of collage, a layering of meaning and a build-up of patterns.

We are always building our last layer. Sometimes we get stuck in an old pattern. We think we are done, but it is only a foundation for the next layer.

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Also by Milagros Suriano-Rivera, my former colleague.

I have a pattern of apologizing for the messiness of my work, my art, my life. Collage appeals to me because I am patching it together, painting over that last round, gesso-ing (whitewashing), getting stuck, then starting over. I do not need to apologize.

Life is mixed media – messy and doodley. Made with pens, colors, words, fabric, papers.

I have been letting go of scraps, wondering as I give away books or clothes, What was I doing hanging on to this? When I die, I do not want my children saddled with all my stuff. Discard. I will have a harder time when I come to all my journals, some with writing, some with art. I have hundreds of them.

I want to patch together my stuff and make it beautiful. I like making art. Times when I am always happy? Paintbrush or bike handlebars in hand.

I am also happy when I am hugging someone I love. You need seven hugs a day my yoga teacher told me. Making art is a little like hugging – or making the paper hug the paint or fabric or mixed media or glue.

“If it is too simple, complicate it. If it is too complicated, simplify it.” Mariano Rosario, my mixed media teacher at the Art Students League, told me.

This post was written at the Ecumenical Library Writing Group. We were shown a mixed media collage by my former colleague, Milagros (Millie) Suriano-Rivera. Alicia Pitterson led the writing group. She asked us to look at Millie’s painting and write about what resonates. We meet next on August 24 at noon. 

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Here’s Millie on the left selling one of her works at a street fair.

Visit Millie at: Milliemade Creations Facebook page

Getting to Why

Writers working on their stories at the first writing weekend at Skenewood.
Writers working on their stories at the first writing weekend at Skenewood.

When Kelly and I started boot camp for writers almost two years ago (wow!), Felicity Fields, web developer and marketing guru, told us to watch this Start with Why, Ted Talk by Simon Sinek.

Sinek’s point was that you need to frame your business so that the why, or purpose, is clear to your customers. The purpose of Apple is not just to offer great computers, but to challenge the status quo. People dig that.

“People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.”

What is the ‘why’ of boot camp for writers, our writers’ collective?

  • to build a writing community
  • to disrupt your life
  • to tell difficult stories
  • to make the story of your life a hero’s journey.

Since starting this biz, tbh, (to be honest), I’ve hardly made any money. Maybe because I’ve been offering free Meet Ups or the cost of the space sinks me or maybe it’s just that I’ve valued building creativity over building capital. They say it takes three years to be profitable in a new business venture. Most of my income’s come from my freelance writing, teaching and videography work since I left my day job,

I still believe in my biz. When I come home from offering a writing weekend or an evening workshop, I think, wow, that was great, this business is much-needed. I have a why.

So here’s your why — join boot camp for wrtiers: be a part of a community; disrupt your life; tell your story; and give your narrative a purpose. Know that you are the hero of your journey, not the victim of your circumstances.

We can talk more about this over coffee on an Adirondack chair in the morning watching the sun rise over Lake Champlain. Or over a glass of wine as the sun sets off of the patio. Come to the beautiful Adirondacks mountains. May 29 to June 1. There are still a few private rooms left in this 10-bedroom manor house.

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The Adirondack retreat is held in this beautiful 100+ year old house in Westport on Lake Champlain, NY.

Full weekend including private room: $530, all meals, lodging and pick up from the Westport, NY Amtrak train station. Register at: Adirondack Writing Weekend.

Here’s a video from the first fall writing retreat for writers: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HYKWfbgd6nU And here are pictures of the historic manor house where we will write and dine. Visit: http://www.vrbo.com/382611.

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Barnegat Lighthouse

I am a lighthouse. I stand tall, watch for shipwrecks, give light.

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Barnegat Lighthouse. On the night of the full moon, we climbed the 217 steps.

Earlier in the day, we’d walked to the lighthouse and I said, “Let’s walk out on the jetty.” But we didn’t.

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20130822-123207.jpgIn the morning, my mother stretched in the bay. I think she missed her daily Chicago yoga when she was visiting me on the East Coast. At the bay beach, mom was bitten by little bugs and wanted to go to the ocean side and so we did. She left for the airport at lunchtime.

That night of the full moon, we climbed the lighthouse steps. I told the girls, “Go ahead! Scamper up! I am going to take my time.” I got dizzy in the spiral staircase. But I love spirals.

All the metal, echo-y steps were the same. Looking up and looking down were the same. It was hard to orient myself.

I think I would like to live in a round building. When my son lived briefly in a yurt at camp, he said there is nowhere to hide when there are no corners in your cabin, so campers were more engaged in conversations. And he said, that campers were closer to nature, and could hear people talking outside the yurt.

Maybe round structures like yurts and lighthouses are more a part of the elements. Round buildings fit in better with nature, like tree trunks and whirlpools. And spirals.

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The girls stopped in a windowsill and asked me to take their pic. The flash blinded us.

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We waited about an hour to climb the stairs of the Barnegat Lighthouse. It was worth the wait.

While standing in line, I thought about the last time I was at Barnegat Light with my son. We kept singing the jingle, “Stronger than the Storm.” And I thought, maybe I don’t always have to be strong. Maybe it’s okay to be weak or vulnerable. What’s so great about being strong? That’s a very male quality. How about I value a more female quality — being soft and round, like a mother?

Every night the sun sets on Barnegat Light.
Every night the sun sets on Barnegat Light.

Yes, I know the sun sets and the moon rises everywhere. I just don’t notice it. Maybe I am not a lighthouse after all.

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The full moon rose as we waited to climb the lighthouse steps. And then it followed us home and hung around all night.

What To Do With My Free Time: A Mystery Wrapped in an Enigma

I thought when I left my job more than six months ago, I wouldn’t know what to do with myself. Um, not so much. As my friend, Linda B. said, “Looks like you’re having fun!”

Work is overrated. A regular paycheck definitely has its benefits, but there are way more valuable assets than money. One of which is time. I have had time, especially recently to visit with old friends.

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On one of these scorching hot days, we walked the High Line, the public park converted from railroad tracks. After walking this path from 30th street for a mile and a quarter down into NYC’s trendiest neighborhood, MeaPa, (the meat packing district), we stopped for brunch.
The flowers on the High Line are lovely.
The flowers on the High Line are lovely.

Besides time with friends, there’s something I’ve come to treasure lately: time alone — to read and paint.

Book club seems to be on a summer hiatus. I’m a huge Kindle fan, but I’ve rediscovered the joy of books: all kinds of books (don’t judge me): feminist, erotic, non-fiction, self help.

I started these three. And I started the Pulitzer Prize winner, Middlesex by Eugenides too.
These three books are on my bedside. And I started the Pulitzer Prize winner, Middlesex by Eugenides too. (Lest you think I’ve lost my literary bent.)

I love to make collage art and book journals.

I started taking class again at Art Students League. You receive very little instruction, but you get a ton of inspiration. Here’s a little project I worked on.

I collaged two small boxes to send to my darling girls at camp.
I collaged two small boxes to send to my darling girls at camp.

And then of course, I work on my biz, Boot Camp for Writers, teaching memoir writing workshops. I love teaching and writing. It’s really all I want to do. Well, that and walk the High Line, visit friends, make art, go to the theater, perform improv, make short films, and read books. That’s all.

Here’s the latest offering for the writing workshop biz: An afternoon memoir workshop and an evening salon in the Adirondacks – August 29, Thursday, 2-9, $25, dinner on your own.

This post was inspired by the daily post: a mystery

the event of a thread

20121228-214916.jpgThe event of a thread is made up of many crossings of the near at hand and the far away: it is a body crossing space, is a writer’s hand crossing a sheet of paper, is a voice crossing a room in a paper bag… – Ann Hamilton

20121228-214904.jpgThe exhibit at the Armory on Park Avenue and 66th is hard to explain.

There are pigeons, swings, talking paper bags, a writer, a reader, a listener, more…

The kids did not want to go but were glad they went.

20121228-215013.jpgIt must be experienced. Laying on your back watching the billowing silk above. Hypnotizing.

I had one insight which is this: it is not work that makes the world go (the curtain lift), it is 20121228-215054.jpgplay.

Play is the engine.

H. discovered that our swing was not pulling the curtain alone. He spotted this when we were looking down from above. Our swing was inextricably, almost invisibly, connected to someone else’s swing who was also making the curtain dance.

20121228-215217.jpgThrough play.

I found out about this exhibit while scanning my Facebook feed. Thanks, Yris Bilia! You made it look so fun. And it was.

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