Monthly Archives: January 2015

Week 24 – Little Bits of Wabi-sabi

Hope your Monday is already awesome, Celebrationists! I’m caffeinated, calibrated and ready to chat : ) If you’re a fellow New Yorker (or living someplace else that is currently being BLASTED with snow) – be safe, snuggle up, and enjoy the blizzard from your (hopefully) warm homes!

Before I launch into my three statements of gratitude for the day, I want to share with you a fabulous thought that has been rolling around in my mind since last week, and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it. This delightful Japanese philosophy is called Wabi-sabi. Broadly defined, it means embracing what is imperfect. Noticing what is (literally and metaphorically) cracked, worn, uneven, and appreciating the piece of art, person, or circumstance for what it is, as it is.  This practice encourages mindfulness, acceptance, and releasing the impulse to strive for the shiny plastic glaze of “perfection.”  It’s finding the beauty in unconventional, incomplete, impermanent things. Isn’t that wonderful? In a society that preaches that “polished and perfect” is what we should be aiming for (or else we’re lazy,) it’s inspiring to redirect this thinking for a moment.

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(A sweet example of Wabi-sabi. This bracelet, made for me by a wonderful little girl named Catherine. She ran out of green and white, so she added in different colors – she wasn’t derailed for a moment, and didn’t second guess the beauty of her art. And I certainly didn’t – it was perfect : )

When I was an acting intern in Cincinnati a number of years back, I wrote a poem that was essentially about Wabi-sabi, though I didn’t know anything about it, at the time. (This poem is also filled with  wonderful Wabi-sabi of its own in terms of structure, grammar, and innocent lack of polish)  If you’ve known me for awhile, you may know that I write a lot of poetry, and that I typically work in a very particular pattern of fourteen-syllable rhyme.  This is one of the only non-rhyming poems I’ve ever written. Here’s what my young hand penned, inside the Newport Barnes and Noble Cafe, shoulder pressed against the window, looking down at the Ohio River:

A Cincinnati Winter

A gray cast hangs down over the city,

one cloud barely distinguishable from the other and

poured on thick, like cake batter.

From just below the endless gray, proud buildings are shoved

into the center

like upside down candles on a birthday cake.

life      texture,

The river below, full of so much       and             cradles this magnificent snapshot

of the city in transition.

It is as though a giant hand could come down; scoop the whole thing up, and transport it

to a different location for another young girl to write about.

Perhaps she wouldn’t see what I do at all.

Instead, she might see: a smear of winter gloom in the sky, stuck behind colorless squares who demand to be supported by the ripples of murky sewage.

Or yet another might see tufts of burnt winter cotton

bearing the weight of the right           boxes

angled

that dig

their

toes into the

grimy wetness

below.

But not me.

I see the birthday cake part. The semblance of a million little wishes and possibilities

The potential is irresistible, actually.

I want to take a bite.

Of the sky, of the trees, of the water, of the architecture

in all of its gray glory,

just as it is.

Now for some statements of gratitude.

1.) I am thankful for reliable, supportive, inspiring friends

2.) I’m thankful for the many layers of clothing that kept me relatively warm while I was out and about today

3.) I’m thankful that I made it home safely today, before public transportation becomes considerably more complicated

Ok. Back to Wabi-sabi. It has me thinking – in what areas in my life do I have the hardest time tapping into this sort of unique appreciation for people and things? In what areas do I most cling to an unrealistic goal of “perfection,” or for things to be a certain way? How can I tap into the Wabi-sabi mindset, noticing and creating more little bits of good in my own life, and in the lives of others? I don’t know for sure, but here’s what I’ve come up with for today:

I think I have the hardest time with desired outcomes.  When I imagine a situation, day, or event, and unconsciously get attached to a particular outcome in my mind. The way that people “should” do things (myself especially included), the way that something “should” go. Some days, no matter how much I tell myself to operate from a place of unconditional acceptance, I struggle. Struggle with the fact that we are all imperfect, that everything is transient, and we can’t know what a particular experience will or will not bring.

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Life gives us all sorts of super-simple opportunities to practice Wabi-sabi…like when we make a totally imperfect pancake. Metaphor for bigger things? (Maybe…but either way, it was the most delicious, gluten-free, vegan blueberry pancake I’ve ever made, if I do say so myself…)

Being an artist is a particularly unstable existence – half the time I don’t know what city I’ll be living in, how much money I’ll be making, and where that money is even going to come from.  Artists are constantly throwing fishing lines into hundreds of different waters, and hoping something will catch.  And in 2015 I’m trying to learn how to cast those lines, and then move on.  Not cling so tightly to what the “perfect” outcome would be.  So here’s to the cracks. The unknown. The imperfect. The effort – which is the part that makes us most beautiful : )

Have an incredible week.

Week 23 – Little Bits of (Creative) Financial Freedom

Hello dear Celebrationists! Hope you had a great weekend, and are starting this new week with a spark of intention, hunger for new experiences, and attentiveness to the details that make each day unique. And if you find yourself struggling this Monday, (this week, month, year…ten years) – I hope you start to feel yourself growing stronger from the struggle, your skin getting thicker, and your spirit growing more empathetic to people who seemed to challenge your capacity for compassion, before. Maybe over time you’ll start to see that they, (like all of us) are doing the best they can with where they are at this moment.

Speaking of struggle.  Today we’re going to meet a radiant and resourceful GBD who is going to talk to us about MONEY. No wait, please don’t throw your nice computer at the wall, I promise it’ll be fun!  But first, three statements of gratitude…

1.) I am thankful that I was able to go to four auditions today. It feels good to wake up and do what I love, even for short moments. Auditioning is starting to feel fun again, and I’ve been waiting for that for a long time

2.) I’m thankful for Tim Gunn’s book, Gunn’s Golden Rules: Life’s Little Lessons for Making It Work, which I devoured in two days.  He is a shining example of class, compassion, and taking nothing for granted. He shares meaningful advice about gracious behavior, choosing the high road, and creating from a place of integrity

3.) I’m thankful that my external hard drive arrived in the mail! I’ve been meaning to get one for months, and finally broke down and purchased one.  It feels great knowing that everything is backed up safely on an outside source

So, money. Money and dreams. I feel like January is a great month for evaluating our finances and taking a look at how the life we fantasize about creating for ourselves is supported by (or not) our current financial situation.  They say that money doesn’t buy happiness, and I understand the sentiment of that statement, but let’s also be real for a sec – feeling like a slave to our finances can sometimes get in the way of us realizing and putting our dreams into action.  I feel like this is particularly true for artists – actors, writers, painters, photographers, designers, directors, musicians, and others who frequently find themselves spiraling through a cycle of “survival jobs” they hate but feel trapped in, in order to facilitate the creation of their art.

Well today I’d like to introduce you to an amazing lady who innovatively paid down her own debt, quit her “day job,” (or transformed it, really) allowing herself to sculpt a life that is more in-line with her dreams – and is helping others do the same. This money maverick started Careful Cents – a site they helps others create a reality that revolves around what’s important to them, allowing them to better serve the world through their art. I’m a big fan of people who are out to help artists : )

Check her out Carrie and her team at http://www.carefulcents.com – join “The Club,” enjoy generous tips in the blog, and consider hiring her for her masterful skills!

 

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Carrie, thank you so much for joining us! I’m so inspired by your work, and by Careful Cents! For our friends out there who aren’t so familiar yet – how do you like to describe Careful Cents and your mission, in your own words?

Careful Cents is a blog I started out of a passion to help small biz owners create more profitable businesses, while tackling the not-so-fun financial mountains (like taxes and insurance). When I launched my website in 2011 I was still working at my accounting day job but eventually became aware of how much of a workaholic I was, and that money and success had become my main career motivator.

I didn’t think quitting my job was an option (nor did I really want to quit) so I started balancing my side hustle in addition to my full-time job to become a bit more fulfilled. But after an honest conversation with my boss (where she basically gave me an ultimatum) I knew it was time to quit and focus on my blogging full time.

I no longer wanted my career to rule my life and my schedule, so I worked towards regaining control over my money and freedom, even if that meant taking a major pay cut.

I’ve since been able to make a living from work that revolves around my life and schedule, instead of work dictating how I live. That’s what I help other solopreneurs do too — make a living from creative work that inspires, fulfills, and that revolves around their preferred schedule.

In your experience of tackling your own financial goals, and enabling yourself to create without limitations, what is an obstacle that you came across, and how did you problem solve? 

I never realized how much being your own boss relied on your own mindset and being confident with your decisions. I always thought I was a smart person and I’ve done well in my career, but self-employment is a whole new game.

In the beginning I was working endless hours and making very little money. I was dead set on not selling out, and wanted to build a creative online business that had a backbone and a solid reputation. But that took a lot of time and effort (don’t all proper foundations?).

Because of this I had a bout with business depression for the first part of 2014 and struggled to continue moving forward. My artistic side felt crushed by the needs of the business and reality of paying the bills.

I was no longer passionate about my business, nor did I have the motivation to work every day. I wanted to quit and go back to being an employee.

Thankfully, I pressed forward and recovered from that slump — mostly because of the support of my business coach, my husband, and the community of freelancers over at carefulcents.com.

I took a weekend away for a business retreat where I got up-close-and-personal with my feelings and honest with my goals for the future. I unplugged from the internet, and spent time with my sketchbook and journal.

This clarity, and the support of my community, enabled me to push through this dark season. Now, I’m much happier and positive about the future of Careful Cents. I’ve also created several products and services aimed at helping other artists and go-getters who are facing many of the same issues.

What inspired you to begin helping others climb their own financial mountains? 

Money is a tough subject, and running a business compounds that even further. From my 10 years of being an accountant, working with small business taxes, and now being my own boss, I’ve developed methods and systems that work.

Combine that with the freedom to make a living doing something you actually like (instead of slaving away for someone else), and not selling your soul to pursue your art, that’s the driving force for helping other go-getters overcome their financial mountains.

What point is it to have all this experience and advice if I don’t use it to help other budding entrepreneurs? It’s a topic I like and have the knowledge to break down complicated subjects, so I’m happy to help even one person overcome their fear of quitting their job, or starting a biz.

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For an artist who is feeling pretty down in the dumps about their financial situation, and isn’t sure how to “take the first step,” in tackling their money woes, what is one bit of advice that you’d share?

Embrace your strengths and admit your weaknesses. We all have things we’re great at and things we’re not so good at. And that’s OK! Know what you’re best at and find help from other people to fill in the gaps elsewhere.

Don’t think you have to do it all by yourself. Even if you have a small budget, there are (tried and tested) ways to find help so you can focus on what you do best — creating.

What do you find is a common limiting belief/misconception that people have about money? Do you notice any common thought patterns?

Believing common financial advice can be a trap, and you have to create your own money rules! Just because it worked for someone else doesn’t mean it will work for you. Take other financial rules and money advice cautiously and don’t be afraid to add in your own flavor.

Even with the financial advice I share, I always make sure there’s a method that other freelancers can apply to their personal situations to reach maximum results.

Find what works for you by experimenting, and being open to trying new ideas. As you and your business grow, your mindset and needs will evolve. You need a financial game plan that evolves with it.

What inspires you most about the work you are doing?

My absolute favorite thing is receiving emails or Twitter replies from someone who read my debt story or quitting journey, and wants to change their career and future too.

I get multiple emails and messages every day from someone who needs help with debt, handling a tough boss, or starting their own business, and I always get a jolt of excitement knowing that maybe one thing I shared will help them feel supported and not so alone.

I wish I would have read someone else’s personal money problems or tough career situations when I first got started, so I aim to share a transparent look into my own experiences.

What is another person or organization you believe to be doing Little Bits of Good?

I am constantly inspired by Megan from IgniteYourCause.com. We are in a mastermind group together and her passion (and dedication) to being a do-gooder and making an impact is so refreshing.

Just because you work for someone else, or have your own business, (or in her case, both!) doesn’t mean you can’t make a difference. I love her mission and the high standard she lives by.

What is the best thing that happened to you today?

I was able to have a weekly biz mentoring session with a freelancer I coach, who recently quit her job and started a successful writing business since we started working together last summer. I always love checking in with other freelancers to see the progress they’ve made towards their goals, what’s on deck for this week, and their plans for the future.

Seeing other go-getters reach their goals, and make a living doing what they enjoy, is the best experience I could ask for. It brightens up each day!

Carrie-headshot 2014

Thank you so much for your time and generosity, Carrie! Have a great week, Celebrationists, and don’t forget to explore http://www.carefulcents.com

Week 22- Little Bits of Kaleidoscope

Wishing you another happy Monday, Celebrationists!  Excited to bring you our first GBD of the new year – a beautiful and esteemed actress, whimsical soul, and dear friend, Ann Morrison.

But First…

  1. I am thankful for Amy Poeller’s book, Yes Please. I’m 12 pages in and already inspired and into it. Also, anyone who uses the phrase “feisty and freckled fingers” in the preface of their book has totally got me in the palm of their hand
  2. I am thankful for my rain boots.  I’ve had many a wet-footed NY afternoon, and I’m glad I finally invested in these…only took me a few years…
  3. I am thankful for the opportunity to house-sit on the upper west side this past weekend.  It’s my favorite part of town, and being there always brings me peace

Theatre has been an important part of my life before I even knew what it was. Inventing stories, making musical montages, and trying to leave the house in full home-made costume were regular experiences for me until I discovered community theatre in the second grade.  (Actually I discovered it before this, but I remember not being allowed to audition until the second grade, and was acutely aware of how cruel and unjust this was.) Before formal training and any experience to speak of, theatre was an important outlet, vehicle for expression, and means to begin integrating my emotions.  I’m a huge cheerleader for people who facilitate theatrical experiences for everyone who takes an interest. I know how formative it was for my shy, introverted, worry-wart self, and I’ve seen how life-changing it can be for people of many different backgrounds and experiences. Which brings us back to the radiant Annie Morrison.  This exceptional actress who starred in the Original Broadway Casts of Merrily We Roll Along, LoveMusik, and Off-Broadway’s Goblin Market is bringing theatre to a population that may not have many opportunities for this kind of guided imaginative play, and creation.

In 1995, Ann Morrison and Susan E Ott met with the Asolo Repertory Theatre in Sarasota, Florida and partnered up with the Community Haven for adults and children, to begin a program called Kaleidoscope Musical Theatre.  The program celebrates the intelligence, inventiveness, and unique voices of persons with developmental disabilities, in Sarasota FL – giving them a chance to play, explore, and create theatre from every angle.  Read on to learn more about our generous and gracious GBD, Ann Morrison.

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What was your first experience like, creating theatre with your Persons-with? How did you get involved/started in this kind of work?

I first had the idea of starting a musical theatre program with a friend who also wanted to work using musical theatre as something that was healing. We felt that musical theatre was a whole brain experience. We approached the Asolo Repertory Theatre with the idea of a program. The Selby foundation was awarding arts organizations funding if they would work for the human resource organization and create art. They told us we should hook up with Community Haven for adults and children with disabilities. This became a perfect match. We started in 1995 and the program has grown ever since. I have learned to work with all kinds of mental and intellectual disabilities. This has made me a better communicator.

How would you describe the work that you do? Knowing you, you wouldn’t use the word “work” at all, right? 

Yes, it doesn’t feel like work most of the time. I am a firestarter, I get the inspiration going.  I listen, I watch, and then I make my job helping them feel successful creating. Whatever they want to do in the theater – whether it be acting or directing or writing a play, we help them do it – by staying out of their way, just facilitating. I have so much fun playing with them and it can be exhausting. But a full experience of unconditional love.

What has been a surprising discovery that you’ve made about yourself/your persons/the creation of theatre while engaging with this community?

For me it has been patience, that simple is good, and you always come from the power of your heart. Also that life is supposed to be fun! Life is about creating. And there is no wrong in theater.

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Can you give us a favorite story/moment/project that you’ve experienced in your time with Kaleidoscope?

There are so many. My head is filling with one picture after another. The hugs from Jimmy Waddell that are unbelievably complex and simple all at once. I have never felt so loved as in that embrace.

The songs with Tim Brennan in a wheelchair who took five years to discover he could sing. Even if it was like Rex Harrison.

Gigi, realizing she was a warrior, when it came to conquering her fear of climbing up the stairs -so she would scream “I am a warrior” then charge up the stairs like a hero.

And of course my little Linda Lovely, a woman with Down syndrome. Everyday was a new experience of love, determination,  and artistry, uniquely hers. And then I wrote a solo play about her.

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What is one thing that you wish more people understood about the community of Persons-with?

That wish would be – even though they seem so different from you, below what you perceive is a higher ability. They are not burdened with self imposed hardships of what it is to be an adult. They are very capable in ways that you could never understand. It may take longer, it may not seem intelligent, but it will be full of heart.  Isn’t that what we’re really here for?

Do you have a specific project, goal, desire or idea that you would love to create/facilitate in the future, with/for the Kaleidoscope Community?

Yes, I am working to get a theater built on their campus at the community haven for adults and children with disabilities. They have been learning to be actors, but also stage managers, directors, writers, producers, designers.

My goal is for them to have their own theater, run it themselves with us as facilitators. I know they are capable, I believe in them.

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What is another organization that you believe to be doing Little Bits of Good?

I know of a lot . But one that I am working with now is Roskamp Institute– http://www.rfdn.org. They are devoted to understanding causes of, and finding cures for neuropsychiatric and neurodegenerative disorders. They are working with us at Kaleidoscope, doing a clinical study to see how theatre arts impacts this population and keeps them out of nursing homes longer. They have done amazing work hoping to solve the Alzheimer problem. This is very prevalent with my population of persons with developmental disabilities. If the theatre can help and musical theatre especially, then all to it.

What is the best thing that happened to you today?

I finished making a YouTube video for my friend who was one of the original actors in Kaleidoscope theater project, and who is now in a nursing home. The video was of his love for clowns. He draws them for me. Go to youtube and look at it. Like it. It would make him proud.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9GwNnRYgBRY 

Thank you so much, Ann! I’d love to share what else you’re working on right now, in addition to Kaleidoscope – is that ok?

Tell your readers that I have a new theatre company called Gotta Van Productions.  We celebrate solo artists and new small cast plays in unusual places. This February 21st through March 1st we are hosting a solo theatre festival in Sarasota, Florida called SaraSolo 2015.

Check our website for details:  http://gottavan.strikingly.com   

And this January I am singing at 54 Below supper club in Manhattan, with Chip Zien and Pamela Myers as all three of us are Stephen Sondheim originals. Meaning we all were in Sondheim Broadway musicals. http://54below.com/artist/sondheim-originals/

Thanks so much, Annie! Have a great week, Celebrationists, and for more on Kaleidoscope, check out these great links!

http://communityhaven.org

*https://www.facebook.com/pages/KaLeiDoScOpE-MuSicaL-THeaTrE/240068342707758?sk=info&tab=page_info

*Watch a rehearsal! – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AvzXzfySMIw

Week 21 – Little Bits of Acrostic

Happy New Year, Celebrationists!

I hope that your 2015 is already off to an incredible start.  And if it isn’t – if you’re off to a rotten start, try to remember that nothing lasts, and at any moment things can change when you least expect.  If you’re convinced that you’ve already sabotaged your New Year’s goals and are “off track,” know that you haven’t set yourself up for a whole year of failure.

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(A bit of my new, beautiful home-made calendar, courtesy of the lovely Katie Berger)

Ahhh, first 3 statements of gratitude in the new year:

  1. I am thankful for this new coffee shop situation at the Actor’s Equity building. I leave New York for four months, and come back to THIS? Amazing!
  2. I am thankful for a memorable and pretty darn perfect visit with my sister, who is the best. Almost a week of exploring, movie-watching, friend-visiting, culinary exploration, mani/pedis and general sisterly bonding.  Amazing to spend time with her, and to ease myself back into the craziness of this place, with lots of fun experiences
  3. I am thankful to finally be living in the same city as a certain special gentleman.  It’s been a long time coming

For those of you who might be reading now for the first time, in this new year, this blog features what I like to call GBDs (Good Bit Do-ers) – people who are making the world a little brighter, happier, and more hopeful, in creative and interesting ways.  This may manifest in the form of an inspiring person who is overcoming a major challenge that life has thrown their way, someone who started a stellar organization/movement that is adding positivity to the planet, or (and I didn’t feature these in 2014, but would love to in 2015) a random act of kindness seen on the street that had a positive impact.

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(This is Rachel Handler, a GBD from 2014! Rachel is inspiring many through her motivational speaking engagements, acting jobs, and solo show, Inspiration Whore.  After losing her leg, Rachel is working hard to advocate for inclusion in the arts)

During non-interview weeks, I write posts like the one you are currently reading. My own musings, related to the idea of creating, witnessing, allowing, and experiencing Little Bits of Good in our own lives. So if this is your first time, welcome! If it isn’t – thanks for continuing to read.  The purpose of this blog is to offer hope and inspiration for those moments when life can feel less than inspiring. This blog hopes to serve as a reminder that there are compassionate and kind people out there, doing wonderful things.  If your own social circle feels void of such people, it isn’t because they don’t exist – it may just be time for some reaching out and opening yourself up to new people and experiences.

So here we are.  Last night I had a dream that I was in the third grade again. In this dream my class was creating an art project – we were working on those acrostic poems where you write out your name vertically, and then list a word/sentence that stands for each letter, that describes yourself, or describes whatever word you’ve spelled out. I’ll make a short example – take my sister, Sara:

Sensitive

Artistic

Ridiculously talented

Adorable

I don’t remember the acrostic I created in the dream, but I do remember it being a joyful project to work on.  What stuck out to me most, is that the dream took place in the third grade – which I site as my most stimulating and creative year of grade school.  Creative, because I had an incredible teacher named Mrs. Hren. Mrs. Hren was super encouraging of my unusual creative habits, in a way that other teachers weren’t.  When we were required to write sentences using our spelling words, I would make all of mine rhyme in specific, metered ways.  Whenever we had journal assignments, I wrote elaborate poems instead. She was always encouraging students who thought outside the box, and made me feel like my gifts meant something and that my voice was unique and important.

Having this dream at the beginning of 2015 really excites me. The dream feels like a little push – reminding me of the opportunity I have to piece together a brand new, metaphorical acrostic. A chance to look at the words and ideas I’ve (sometimes unconsciously) chosen to define myself by. Deciding which ones have served me, and which ones I want to reinvent. An exploration of creativity, and the encouragement that I have something unique to offer the world. That we all do!

So however you are feeling about your new year so far – the choices you’ve made, the person you’re becoming, and whether or not you feel “on the right track,” here are some things to consider (things to consider = things that I’m trying to work on, myself!) :

Notice the little things. Appreciate the details, small wonders, and beautiful moments of each day

Enjoy the time spent with people you care about. Challenge yourself to be as present as possible, and when you feel yourself drifting – thinking about your phone or all the things you need to get done, gently invite yourself to reinvest in your surroundings

Wish others well. Someone else’s success does not take away from your future success. (Believe me, I know that sometimes this can be an absolute challenge)

Yesterday is done. You are brand new today, and can make any choices you like. Just because we may have developed certain patterns of behavior doesn’t mean we have to stick to them.

Every day is a new opportunity to say “yes!” to what is life-giving “no!” to what no longer serves us

Appreciate your tribe. Don’t take anyone for granted.

Remember that you are the only person alive who is just like you.  Who can do exactly what it is that you do, in exactly the way you do it. The comparison game is a tough one to avoid, but try to remember – you really are unique, important, and this new year is yours for the making. It’s the only 2015 you’ll ever have.  Enjoy it : )

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Happy January! And see you next week for our first GBD of 2015!