The Art of Asking; or rather, the art of being authentic

standard June 1, 2017 Leave a response

For someone who used to intensely hate to read fiction, I seem to reading a whole lot of it recently. I blame my book club and their desire to drag me kicking and screaming from my safe haven filled with vampires, witches, werewolves and other paranormal entities. Jerks. Just kidding, ladies, I love you all dearly.

The whole non-fiction thing has gotten so out of control that this past weekend I picked up a memoir that wasn’t. even. a. book. club. read. I KNOW. Insanity.

In my defense, a few girlfriends and I are currently brainstorming a new business venture and so I stocked up on relevant reading material. Because that I do enjoy doing. I don’t always read the resource materials that I buy, but I dove into The Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer without too much hesitation. Because Amanda Palmer is married to Neil Gaiman and she oozes cool and I wanted to feel a little bit like a bad ass this weekend too. And it’s a well known thing that women have trouble asking for, well, anything, and I thought I could use a few pointers.

Also because the last book my book club read was Megyn Kelly’s book Settle for More and I needed to, ahem, bleach my eyes cleanse my palate. I kid. I kid. It wasn’t that bad. But I’ll get more to why I struggled with it in a moment.

So there I was, on my deck, freezing my buns off because I refuse to admit that it’s not yet warm enough for alfresco weekend breakfasting, so engrossed that I had to text my daughter to bring me a pencil so I could jot down some thoughts and notes. Also, maybe because I was frozen to the chair. Or because I’m lazy. Whatever, stop judging me. 

The long and short of it is that Amanda Palmer is a totally unconventional artist who seems to be a social media marketing savant. She figured out the importance of email lists before email was even a thing, understood the power of connecting with people through Twitter before most people even knew what you could talk in 140 character soundbites, and was the first artist to raise a 7 figure sum on Kickstarter. In a month. After having asked for a mere $100,000.

She’s basically my hero.

Not because she’s a successful marketer, but because she gets it. She gets that social media isn’t about screaming into the void, hoping that someone notices and reacts, but that it’s about building relationships, one post or tweet at a time.

But she’s not even doing it because building relationships is important for her business. She does all of it—the music, the tweeting, the blogging, the concerts and home parties, the Kickstartingbecause the relationships and the people in them are critical to her and her well-being. 

I sat there after finishing the book and I thought “huh. Right, it’s about the art, it’s about sharing the words and connecting with people. It’s not about making money from it all.”

I think I might have forgotten along the way.

I haven’t really worked on the book-in-progress because the first one hasn’t really been financially successful enough to justify the hours it would take to write the next one.

But that’s not the point, right? I should probably remember that.

The other thing that struck me once I was done reading was how very honest and real the book felt. After spending hours reading chapter after chapter, I felt like I had spent the whole weekend chatting one-on-one with Amanda. I felt that way after reading Shonda Rhime’s Year of Yes book too. And I finally realized that Megyn Kelly’s book had irked me so much because she keeps her readers at a very safe distance, never allowing herself to be genuinely vulnerable, which makes it hard to relate with her on pretty much any level.

So, to recap, make art just for the sake of sharing art and don’t be afraid to embrace genuine, authentic vulnerability if you want to be relatable and allow people to feel connected to you.

What I didn’t learn was the art of asking. But I think it’s because the issue isn’t really about asking, or even knowing what to ask for (which is a whole other question). It’s about creating a life where you can ask and know that people will respond.  If you put yourself out there in a genuine way, share of yourself unconditionally, whatever that means in your life, people will return it tenfold.

Or, as Amanda’s mentor says it “If you love people enough, they’ll give you everything,” something that basically applies whether you’re talking about friendship, patronage, or even marketing.

As for actually asking for anything? Well, whenever I hesitate, I’m going to think of Amanda, standing on stage, asking the audience if anyone has a couch for her and her crew to crash on, and I’ll try to remember that if you never ask, the answer is always going to be no.

Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer

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Activity Books to Entertain The Kids This Summer

standard May 25, 2017 1 response

It feels rather like the first day of school was only a few weeks ago, and yet, here we are, getting ready for sixth grade graduation and counting down the days until we can stop packing lunches every morning. (7, in case you were wondering. Yes, I really am counting.) Then we have 9 long weeks of summer staring us in the face.

The easy solution, of course, would be to sign the girls up for camp and let other people entertain them while M and I work, but where’s the fun in that?

Nah, I’m going to let them run wild again. They have bikes. They have friends in the neighborhood. They have a craft-store’s worth of art supplies. And they have parents who actually want them to taste the magical mix of freedom and boredom.

After that, if they still find ways to complain that they’re bored, well, there’s never a shortage of chores to do around the house.

That said, I’m also not crazy, so I’m going to hedge my bets by fully stocking the pantry with things to cook, bake, and eat. Fully stocking the craft closet (lovingly known around here as Michael’s). And getting them a couple books of activity ideas.

Books To Entertain The Kids This Summer

Stick it to ’em

Who doesn’t love stickers? Who hasn’t always wanted to make their own? Well, this book has you covered. First, it’ll give you some pointers about lettering and design, show off some hilarious samples, and then lets you get your creative on. Definitely not your average ‘kid’ sticker book. Guarantee you can think of at least three humans in your life who need this book today.

Sticker example that made me laugh for way longer than I should admit.

Mom & Me: An Art Journal to Share

OK, so maybe there’s such a thing as too much togetherness during the summer and I should save this one for the fall. But the concept here is freaking adorable and I couldn’t resist. You get a page and your kid gets a page and you each respond to the same prompt on these pages. Covers feelings, memories, present moment, and even some imaginative coloring. I love the idea of ‘speaking’ to each other via pictures and I think this book could turn out to be a super sweet keepsake.

Mom & Me art journal to share

It’s just so sweet!

Hand Lettering A to Z

Ok, maybe this book was more for me than for them. What can I say, I harbor a deep seated desire to master fancy and whimsical lettering so I can make coolio posters of my favorite sayings. But while I’ve got the whole word thing down pat, the art piece is sorely lacking. Good thing I have a super artistic kid. I have big plans to bribe her to spend her summer working on her lettering, and fine, maybe I’ll work on mine too.

While I dream of writing beautifully, I can at least appreciate the multi-lingual quotes!

Smithsonian Maker Lab

Contrary to popular belief, my kids don’t just sit around crafting all day long. Every so often they like to make things. Recently all they’ve been making is slime. Pink slime. Green slime. White slime. Glitter slime…ohhh…shiny. So when I was at Costco earlier this week, I picked up this book. #1 selling point at the time? I didn’t see a slime recipe in it. Joke’s on me, it’s the first recipe in the book. SIGH. But at least this one is cornstarch based and not borax based. Also there are a ton of other things that will, hopefully, distract them from their current obsession.  Because I am very, very over slime.

How about let’s not squeeze the slime, eh?

 

Baking With Kids: Make Breads, Muffins, Cookies, Pies, Pizza Dough, and More!

We just took the kids to France to visit family and the oldest came home with a raging baguette obsession. Know what’s in this cookbook? A BAGUETTE RECIPE! No idea if it’s any good, but I am stoked to point her to the oven and let her try her hand at baking one. I figure this is a win/win. Whatever she or her sister try to bake, I’m going to benefit, right? Well, as long as they don’t forget to clean up after themselves. I can already taste summer. Trust me, kids who can bake on their own is one of the best parts of watching them grow up.

The Young Chef: Recipes and Techniques for Kids Who Love to Cook

My youngest loves to be in the kitchen. Loves, loves, loves it. This past spring she’s become the official mac&cheese chef in our house. (Using my InstantPot! Because I’m indoctrinating her young.)  Between this book and the endless cooking shows that we watch, I have visions of her taking over more than just the pasta cooking. Wouldn’t it be nice for me to get up from my desk at the end of the day and find dinner simmering on the stove? Don’t take this dream from me, people. Those 9 weeks of summer are LOOOONG. Don’t worry, I won’t get my hopes up too high. Or at least I’ll try.

 

I’m sure I’ll find more books that I “must” add to the roster to lull myself into thinking we’re set for the coming weeks, but, for now, I think we’re in pretty good shape. That said, if you have any recommendations, by all means, please share!

****

Please note: I received the first three books to review and instantly fell in love with them. The others were purchased by me at my own expense. Every link in this post is an affiliate link which means that, should you click on them and purchase something you’ll be contributing to my personal slush fund for which I will be eternally grateful.

 

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The Friends You Need

standard May 22, 2017 Leave a response

When I first moved to the United States I was 7. For the first 6 months I barely spoke a word of English, was baffled by how school worked, and had no clue at all about to communicate with the kids in my class, let alone actually make friends with any of them.

Not a problem.

The kids in the class did the math, realized that I was rounding out what had previously been an odd number of girls and promptly assigned me to be Heather’s best friend. At least I think her name was Heather. It could have been Prudence. Or Phoebe. I don’t actually have the faintest recollection of her name.

Heather (let’s just go with that, shall we?) and I had nothing in common. Or maybe we just couldn’t communicate and so were never even able to discern if we had some common ground. Whatever the reason, we really didn’t gel. The girls took terrible offense at this and spent the rest of the year making fun of me for every little thing I did.

So I became friends with Simon, the other class outcast, who spent all his recesses trying to dig a hole under the playground fence. Presumably to escape. I liked him. He had zero expectations of me beyond handing him new sticks when the one he was using to dig broke.

I only stayed at that school one year. Could be because the girls made me cry daily  or because my parents didn’t think much of the teacher, it’s unclear. I didn’t care, I was 8 and delighted to get away.

Oddly enough, I took away with me a deep rooted belief that you need to have a best friend to get ahead in life.

Which is especially funny because I’m not a one-friend kind of gal. Never have been. I’m more the kind of person who will have a number of ride-or-die friends to whom I’m wholeheartedly devoted.

  • I have the girl friends that I go out with at least once a week to bitch and laugh about the minutia of mundane life.
  • I have the friends I like to connect with to talk about books and our big picture philosophical take on life.
  • I have the friend who started as a work-buddy and turned into a I’ll-always-have-your-back-no matter-what real life friend who I happen to work with still.
  • I have the friends I used to work for/with whose friendships transcends distance of every kind.
  • I have my blog buddies who, over time went from being virtual pals to real flesh and blood I’d fly to the ends of the world to be with you if you needed me friends

It’s not one best friend. It’s a posse of people I would literally drop everything to help should they ever need it. It’s a support network of angels who would totally do, and have done, the same for me.

Those girls at that school had it all wrong and I’m glad that over the years I’ve finally understood that they were utterly wrong about their small minded approach to friendship. You don’t need one friend to get ahead in life. You need to surround yourself by people who truly see you and love you for who you are, even if they only see and love one aspect of the whole you.  Recognizing that is how I have woven myself the kind of relationships that complete me in every way.

Only you can define the friends you need. Not family, society, or that brat in 2nd grade.

2nd grade class. Photo blurred to protect the innocent from facial recognition software. Except for mine. Because I was totes cute.

 

 

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A WOW Air Review – Get the Lowdown

standard April 20, 2017 1 response

Please note: I am writing this WOW Air Review of my own volition after having experienced WOW Air at my own expense. 

WOW Air Review

A few weeks ago I got a call from my sister at 7 am that had me sitting at my computer 5 minutes later googling flights to Paris. From San Francisco. Leaving that morning.

Crazy, right?

Well, turns out, not so much. In fact, that’s how my love affair with WOW Air began.

I hadn’t even heard about Wow until that day. And yet, moments later I was booking a flight and getting ready to pack my bags.

Cost of the round-trip flight? Just under $500.

That’s right. I booked a transatlantic flight three hours before take-off and paid less than $500.

I have to admit that I didn’t waste much time questioning my luck. I booked, and hustled. In less than three hours I had to make childcare plans, prep school lunches, and pack a bag. It wasn’t until I was sitting at the gate that I paused to wonder if I’d gotten myself into a situation I was going to regret.

It’s one thing to fly a cut-rate airline when you’re going just a state or two away. It’s a whole other ballpark when you’re going to be traveling to the other side of the world and it’s going to take the better part of two days. That said, I didn’t exactly have a choice. Time was of the essence and I really didn’t relish the thought of shelling out $2k to fly a more “traditional” airline.

Turns out, I worried for nothing. Suffice it to say, I was so delighted with my WOW Air experience that I have since taken my whole family back to France with meWOW Air flights all the way!

I heard from a friend yesterday that it was hard to find a legitimate WOW Air review, so I’m sharing my experience with you all in case you’re intrigued by these ridiculously low prices and are worried you’ll be flapping your arms all the way to Europe.

The WOW Air Review: what to expect when flying WOW Air

1 – You get what you pay for

Everything on WOW Air has a price, from whether you can choose your seats to how much luggage you can bring with you. The price you see is the bare bottom price. Seat + personal item (aka purse or backpack). You can pay for each carry-on or suitcase, or you can “upgrade” to the other two fare levels (Plus or Biz to include the price of luggage etc.)  The four of us just flew to Paris and I purchased two “basic” seats and two “pro” seats so that we could bring two suitcases and two carry-on bags. It was perfect. (I did have to purchase my tickets in two different orders because I couldn’t select two different price points. I have a feeling this is a glitch that will be eventually addressed.)

You can purchase food and beverages on board for about the same price as on every other flight. (Pizza or sandwich for about $9.) Food was very adequate. Nothing is free. Not even water. They take all major credit cards. No cash.

2 – No TV screens or music

WOW Air is pretty minimalist, so no screens on the backs of the seats or music playing from your armrest. That said, you can rent iPad minis on board that come pre-loaded with a bunch of movies and games for $16. Considering the fact that on other airlines you sometimes have to pay $8/movie, it’s a deal and a half. Good movies too. With a few that are kid appropriate. Oddly enough, they seem to be partial to Benedict Cumberbatch movies, but who isn’t?

So far all WOW Air planes I have flown have had outlets at each seat, so no worries about running out of juice.

3 – Great staff

So far I have been delighted with the WOW Air staff, both at the airport and on the planes. They’re helpful, gracious, and polite. Way more so than some airlines I won’t mention. Plus, they wear uniforms that hail from the 1950’s and it’s beyond charming.

4 – They don’t mess around with carry-on luggage size

Every bag is carefully assessed when you’re checking in. Small “personal” items are tagged to go under the seat. Bigger items for the overhead compartment can be paid for, but must also meet weight and size restrictions. You will not be able to skate. If your bag doesn’t fit the bag sizer it will not go on with you. End of story. If your back-pack is too big, they will charge you. There’s something kind of nice about this no-nonsense approach to the whole thing. Maybe it’s my European blood, but I like a good rule enforcement.

5 – No boarding groups or such shenanigans

WOW Air boards planes on a first come first serve basis. (Except for families and people with special needs who are invited to board first.) They start boarding almost an hour before the flight takes off and, because they’re so strict about the carry-on situation there’s none of the usual overhead luggage drama that can sometimes make boarding so damn stressful.

6 – No first class – everyone in the same boat…er…plane

WOW Air considers all customers to be equal. So, good news, you can totally use the bathroom at the front of the plane! Need a bigger seat? You guessed it, you can buy one. Want to sit closer to the front of the plane? That’s right, you can buy that too.  Need extra leg room? Need I say it? Seat options can be found here.

7 – Iceland? Yes.

Every WOW Air flight lays-over in Reykjavík, Iceland. The Keflavík International Airport is small and somewhat reminiscent of a freshly built Ikea. There are limited options for food, but you can definitely find a couple sandwich options. There’s also a well stocked Duty Free store where you can purchase some Icelandic knits and stuffed puffins along with your booze and chocolates.

 

So, to recap, WOW Air is a minimalist airline that believes in only making people pay for exactly what they want. The seats aren’t overly plush, the offerings aren’t overly abundant, but for an incredibly reasonable price, you can fly to and from Europe quite comfortably.

Would I fly WOW Air again? I already have and am planning on doing so again soon.

Would I recommend WOW Air to a friend? Already have. And now I’m recommending it to you.

WOW Air Review

Please note: I was in no way compensated for this review. I am writing this of my own volition after having experienced WOW Air at my own expense. 

 

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