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

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!

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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.

 

Let’s get creative with self love

standard November 24, 2015 Leave a response

Self love – no, not that kind, the other kind – is one of those things that falls way down on the ol’ daily to do list when you’re a busy mom. You know, somewhere after grocery shopping because there isn’t a single lunchbox snack left in the pantry and finally washing that grungy old blanket the kids used last month for their backyard picnic and then forgot to bring in from the tree house.

Who has time to say nice things to themselves? To take a moment to give themselves a bit of praise and encouragement? It feels self-indulgent and time consuming and, in any case, the dog needs a walk, so I’ll get around to it later.

What’s funny is we always seem to find time for self-recrimination and self-criticism. No trouble multitasking those with other chores. Lament your increasing wrinkles while putting on makeup. Give yourself a hard time about the cookies you ate in front of the TV last night while pulling on a slightly too snug pair of jeans. Criticize your parenting as you put a hyper-processed snack in a lunchbox…. they come all too easily and with zero effort or forethought.

I even berated myself as I cracked open Cheryl S. Bridges new book Me, Myself, & I – 28 Days of Creative Self-Love, because, really, who was I kidding, as if I had time to self-indulge in something so fluffy and whimsical?

But I did it anyway, because these days the self-recriminations and criticisms are coming faster and meaner than ever, and if I don’t take time to be nice to myself every once in a while, who will?

Cheryl opens with these words

“We’re here…to learn how to be open to the possibility of loving ourselves. We aren’t gonna shoot for totally unconditional self-love and 100% self-acceptance. No need to cut the thread of hope we’re dangling by! We’re just going to consider it’s possible to add a teaspoon of self-love to our hearts every day. “

So I did. I jumped to the chapter on fear (because I’m a rebel and apparently I like to jump into the deep end), and I spend a rather uncomfortable but enlightening moment with a pen in my hand pondering fear, what it meant to me, and how it was holding me back.

I’m sorry to say that angels didn’t sing and revelations didn’t miraculously appear about how to deal with my own particular brand of fear, but I did find a little ray of kindness shining from my journal page.

I’m hard on myself, harder than on anyone else, and really, I need to knock it off. My fear isn’t ridiculous or worthy of contempt. It’s real, it’s tangible, and it’s worthy of acknowledgement.

It’s not much of a revelation, but it’s a something. A teaspoon of self-love. A start.

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As we head into what is universally known as the hardest and most stressful season of the year I invite you to show yourself a little compassion, a little kindness, a little self-love. If you’re the kind of person who needs a helping hand, consider downloading Cheryl’s book or following the #CreativeSelfLove hashtag on Twitter to see how others are finding creative ways to be kind to themselves.

Creative Self Love

Please note: While I was not compensated for this post, I was gifted a copy of Me, Myself, & I for review purposes. All thoughts and opinions contained in this post are mine and mine alone. 

We found the real comic book heroes

standard September 22, 2015 Leave a response

I have a thing for books. I mean, duh, I’ve written one, but it goes way beyond that. Bookstores are my happy place. I’d rather drop a wad of cash on a stack of books than a pile of new clothes any day. I love to surround myself with books and tend to feel a little off in homes where I can’t see a single tome anywhere. Books. They’re part of my lifeblood. And I’m working hard to make them part of my children’s lifeblood too. I buy them books more frequently than I should admit to my husband. (I can hear him right now moaning “What’s wrong with just going to the library??”) I let them pile books around their rooms. I let them leave books in every bathroom, in the car, on the dining room table. I almost always let them read “just one more page” at night. And I let them see just how much I love and value literature. I’m not picky about what they read. Fiction. Non-fiction. Poetry. Little kid books. Picture books. And yes, graphic novels and comic strips. All the graphic novels and comic strips they want. Because books are books, words are words, and whatever helps them foster that love for reading, helps them feel like books are a safe haven to dive into when the world gets to be a bit too much to handle, works for me. They love a good graphic novel. They love a good comic strip. I endorse it all heartily. So much so that this week we went to not one, but two book signings in a row to see people who draw as much as they write and enchant our lives with their art. On Sunday we braved the heat and the crowds to hear from Stephan Pastis, author of the Pearls Before Swine comic strip. We arrived just on time for the event, but not early enough to get a “good” spot in the book signing line. Unfazed, the girls were patient almost two hours without uttering a single complaint about either the heat or the wait and finally beamed as he signed their new book and posed for a quick photo.

Little L, C, and Stephan Pastis.

Little L, C, and Stephan Pastis.

Then, Monday, we said to heck with bedtime and ventured to a local independent book store to hear from Ben Hatke, author of, among other things, the amazing Zita the Spacegirl and Gene Luen Yang, author of a crazy number of graphic novels. The two authors interviewed each other and answered a ton of questions, keeping the audience highly entertained, but the highlight of the evening was when C showed Ben one of her comic strips and he laughed.

Ben Hatke with C and Little L.

Ben Hatke with C and Little L.

And really that’s why we attend these things. For inspiration. Because nothing says “You too can write a book!” or “You too can draw comics!” more than saying “Look! These people do this every day! They’re people like you and me! They started drawing when they were kids like you! And they got to this point because they just kept on going.” We rode the high of Ben’s giggle all the way out of the store where M whispered to me that one girl sitting near him had been doodling and he couldn’t believe how talented she was. I asked him if he’d recognized her, and he mumbled something about a kid running up to her and asking her if she was the author of the Babysitters Club graphic novel series. She was. So, of course, we had to turn right back around, because it’s not every day that you get to meet not just one, but two of your idols in one day. Raina Telgemeier could not have been sweeter about our fangirl onslaught and all the requisite gushing and even posed for a photo with the girls, who, at this point could barely contain themselves. To be fair, in this photo, Little L is trying to match the smile on the cover of Smile, but I don’t think it was much of a stretch.

C, Raina Telgemeier, and Little L.

C, Raina Telgemeier, and Little L.

Sometimes you go to book signings and the authors aren’t exactly what you expected. It’s a treat when they are just as amazing as you thought they’d be. Without a doubt we met some true comic book heroes, not just authors. Today, all books purchased over the weekend have been read and are being reread and little fingers are hard at work drawing more comics. All in all, I deem the two events an unmitigated success and another great stop along the road to growing lovers of books, reading, and writing. Go books!