The Spaces and Systems of…..Creativity?


I didn’t think the creative process came naturally to me, I was wrong.  Just because you’re not bohemian doesn’t mean you’re not creative.  I am creative, I am an artist, I am creative, I am a process improver, I am creative, I am a cook, I am creative, I am a photographer.  There I said it.

Turns out spaces and systems are my trappings.  My creative physical space has recently been transformed through the generosity of a friend and the rearranging of furniture.  It has proven to be one of the single best boosts I’ve given my brain, my morale, my creativity in quite some time.  The funny thing is I didn’t really think any of those things were lacking until I realized…they were.  Jeff Goins said, “But if all you ever do is work in a mess, don’t be surprised if you feel unprepared for the Muse when she shows up. And don’t be surprised if she doesn’t come at all. She’s waiting for you to get your act together…”   To create your space you must ruthlessly delete, use what you have, supplies must be at the ready, rearrange the furniture, let the sun shine in and be very particular about your office mates.

SpaceSupplies at the Ready

Office Mates

The down side to this space is I never want to leave it.  Dangerous…

And my systems, once delegated to a non-creative point of view, proved themselves and came into full play in my kitchen.  Thanksgiving can be a daunting meal to prepare, even for those you love, and they love you.  To create a wonderful meal without the stress and anxiety you must, embrace the “night before”, start with an empty dishwasher, mise en place, clean as you go and be very particular about who you let in your kitchen. I don’t let anyone in my kitchen and bless the day I moved to a kitchen with a pass through.  Just sayin.  The long standing advice is usually not to try anything new on Thanksgiving, nothing that’s not familiar, tried and true.  Oh stop it, summon your inner chef and go for it. As long as it fits into your system of food prep what the hell do you have to lose?  Food prep in itself is a system, I long ago gave up the Norman Rockwell presentation for a turkey cut into eight pieces and roasted in an hour and a half instead of the usual 3-4 hours, table set and stock prep the night before, turkey in-sides prepped, turkey out-sides in.

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The downside to this system…there isn’t one.  You have all the food on the table at the same time and you enjoy your company, truly priceless.

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays; it involves friends, family, food and gratitude.  Mine was perfect as usual, for this I am eternally grateful. Hope yours was the same, if not, just come here next year there’s plenty of room.




Cabaret (2)

Metaphorically, a “blue moon” is a rare event, as in the expression “once in a blue moon”. But there we were living a once in a blue moon day. Naturally, what would turn out to be a whirlwind, keep your eyes wide open, or it will all be a blur weekend, started the day before with a trek out of Buffalo by detour of the huge snow storm that dropped 6 feet, yes feet, of snow in the south towns. They would drive most of the day and part of the night to arrive on my doorstep around ten pm.  You would think that retiring would be in order after such a long day but once the first words came out the rest simply had to follow.  I had the good fortune to see my Summer Sister, Kyle, just the week before but Kate, my dear Kate, and I hadn’t had a face to face good chat in dare I say…a couple of years.  Oh we mustn’t go that long again.  And so it began, with wine, and soup and stories and laughter and tears and sharing and Averna…to be elaborated on at a later date.

My girls, Toto and Lina, and I retired to my newly rearrange, updated, fabulous office for the night while the other girls took the master.  It was a bit of a struggle trying to figure out the sleeping arrangements with two dogs that didn’t understand why there was a gate involved and the pillow-top mattress wasn’t under their butts.  We made it work.

Cabaret (1)

The reason we were all together was to go into the city to see Cabaret. Kyle would be doing a production early next year and there was “research” to be done.  My good fortune was two-fold, I got to see Cabaret but I got to see Cabaret with the two people who had taught me the most about theater.  There’s a part of me that used to think that one shouldn’t have to be taught about theater but oh the glory of knowing the intricacy and the rationale and the history and the roles and the ability to discuss the performance intelligently with such studied lovers of the venue is priceless.  There is an assurance that what you’re feeling, and oh the feeling evoked in this performance, was carefully and lovingly thought out entirely for your benefit.  In a good performance you are transported through the acting-the set-the music-the lighting as if it were only one entity.  The lighting was amazing.  The end of a performance is surely its greatest measure of success, have you been entertained, have you been moved, have you been fulfilled. Yes, yes and yes.  Frankly I was a mess, moved to breathless.  We all needed to process and share and rejoice in the magnificence that was Cabaret led masterfully by Alan Cumming.

Luckily we had a lovely walk back to our car which had been strategically parked just far enough away from the theater to allow for this process and provide a wonderfully easy escape route back to Jersey where we would have dinner together with my dear friend Sandra. Dinner was at a favorite restaurant, Andiamo, where they know my name and care deeply about what they do also.  We three hadn’t been back to Andiamo since Kate graduated from grad school and it was about time to put this restaurant into a more deserved memory status.  Suffice to say we accomplished that this time around with good food, good wine and very good very supportive conversation.  I adore these women and don’t think I can ever do enough for them, that Kyle felt this was exactly what she needed after the week of one thing after another stresses was a little victory we all shared.  I’m pretty sure one of us said amen.

Back to Stowe Lane and we find ourselves all seated comfortably in my fabulous office just barely holding on as exhaustion and the wine begin to set in.  The girls and I figure out a better way to make sleeping in the office work and my little Lina begins to relax a bit.  She isn’t the change warrior her sister, Toto, is so after all the disruption she wasn’t really herself evidenced in the note left by Uncle Pete about her having a bit of the “slows” when he came to walk and feed them.  She’s much better today.

Cabaret (3)

Next morning over coffee we still couldn’t keep the conversation down; we just so enjoy each other and have so much to say. Kate summed it up perfectly; we had a once in a blue moon day.  But with a long ride ahead two of my favorite people would be on their way.  I am in awe of them, I am rejuvenated by them and I am so grateful to have spent this time with them. I have been humming Willkommen all day and strangely it sounds much like a gramophone in my mind.

Leave your troubles outside.

So life is disappointing, forget it!

In here life is beautiful.

A Friend of the Family

DSC_0317What greater thing is there for human souls than to feel that they are joined for life – to be with each other in silent unspeakable memories. – George Eliot

One of the legacy links that I talk about all the time is to be that person.  And believe me I understand that you can be that person by being some form of “that guy” too, it isn’t always a positive thing.  Urban Dictionary defines family friend:  A person whom your parents know, from that job they had back in the day, whom they’ve never quite been able to shake off. This person will continually reappear at social gatherings involving other family friends, who all seem to just orbit around the periphery of your parents’ lives for years and years, like a fly buzzing around your head that simply won’t die.

So you’ve probably guessed I’m not talking about that family friend.  I’m talking about a family friend like Jeanette.  You’ve heard me talk about her for the last five years and I will continue to talk about her my whole life, she was that person.  So very much the mentor without ever even knowing it, I know we gravitated toward her like the magnet she was, I hope she knew the affection we had for her.

I’ve been trying to take that on myself, become a character and you can define that in whatever way you know me best.  I’ve been just trying to make my way in the world with the intention of living my life the way I want my story told.  I may never know what people think of me, I’ve convinced myself that what people say about me is none of my business.

But there is sometimes a magical moment when you get to find out what “family friend” means to a family.  When you have the distinct honor of being introduced as “our family friend” and the mere mention of those two words brings their arm around your shoulder.  The exhilaration is intoxicating.  And over whelming.

When I love you is said with such ease, when the care taken in choosing your seat was so important, when the way you are treated has been firmly established before you enter the room, when you enter the room and the people are genuinely excited to see you and were just a bit worried that you had gotten lost they exhaled.

These are the true indications that you are indeed a cherished family friend.  I don’t take this lightly, I am honored and will work tirelessly to insure that I will always have a wonderful story with these incredibly valuable people. Dare I say that I might be their Jeanette?

I attended this long overdue, bless that man who came along to become a husband, happily ever after function on my own, something I’m used to doing, but never once did I feel alone.  I had a lively conversation with the young man and his wife to my left, a heartwarming conversation with the beautiful new mother to my right, I danced with the best man and he might just tell the story of how he learned the hustle from me.

I was in awe of the bride and how simply stunning she was, how her brother walked her down the aisle, standing in for their beloved father who is no longer with us, and how her sister courageously walked down the aisle alone as the maid of honor. She, too, was incredibly beautiful. The mother of the bride was beaming and reassured that all would be right with her family. I was unable to be at the church and in some ways I’m relieved as just the vision of these three siblings supporting each other with such love brings a lump to my throat.  My friend would have been incredibly delighted of this evening.

The glory of friendship is not the outstretched hand, not the kindly smile, nor the joy of companionship; it is the spiritual inspiration that comes to one when you discover that someone else believes in you and is willing to trust you with a friendship. – Ralph Waldo Emerson


The Woman in the Moon


2013-12-18 Good Morning from Stowe Lane (2)

I am a lunatic. Not in the insane sense of the word but in the suffering from the belief that lunacy fluctuates with the phases of the moon, like this week for instance, sense of the word. It’s that everything gets blown out of proportion, am I doing anything right, every picture of me looks horrible, have I done enough for womankind, why do I always have to do everything on my own kind of lunacy.

It started with a request to pick a song to sum up our experience in Houston recently and all kinds of ideas flood your head. You come across the most amazing things when looking through old playlists; I mean really old playlists, like 1976 kind of old. A lot was happening then, for me, for women, for our country. I was in my twenties; working at a great job, thin, single (I wouldn’t meet himself until 1977) in my fabulous polyester shoulder padded pant suit the world was mine. I was part of the second wave of feminism and there was nothing holding me back. Barbra Streisand and Khris Khristopherson (who was incredibly hot at the time) were starring in the remake of A Star is Born which illustrated the feminism verses all in for love that was still a bit of a struggle for so many women. I was a huge fan of Streisand and her song Woman in the Moon became my mantra.

I was warned as a child of thirteen, not to act too strong

Try to look like you belong but don’t push, girl

Save your time and trouble, don’t misbehave

I was raised in a ‘No you don’t’ world, overrun with rules

Memorize your lines and move as directed

That’s an age old story, everybody knows that’s a worn out song

Ok so maybe I didn’t pay any attention to those things anyway but they were certainly prevalent.

I believe there’s a best of both worlds, mixing old and new

Recognizing change is seldom expected

As I long suspected, they believed that strange was a word for wrong

Well, not in my song ’cause you, you and I are changing that tune

We’re learning the rhythms from that woman in the moon

Here’s the thing, since I’m back from Houston I’m wondering where the hell am I going to find like-minded people.  I’ve become strange, again.   I’ve gotten myself so firmly ensconced in everyone’s life in a certain way that I wonder how I’m going to a)let them down easy when I really don’t feel like doing things the same old way and b) remove the armor I’ve built around me to find someone amazing to do things with. As my friend Sandra calls it, an Emory (I’ll save that for another post).  I’ve come to this A and B because of a picture, one that, let’s just say didn’t show off my best side.  What I initially did with this picture was dictated completely by the full moon, meaning I freaked out at just how big I’d gotten, how much I didn’t recognize myself, how much self-pity I could summon up for the lack of having anyone to “help” me.  In other words why didn’t anyone want to play with me…Oh God it was ugly and completely ridiculous but don’t lie, you’ve had that same conversation with yourself at some point (probably under a full moon too).  They say that it’s not what happens to you, it’s what you do with it.  I took the picture and made it into something completely different, something I could relate to, something creative and I gave it to the people I trust.  True to form they responded in kind, with a cheer and encouragement, not even knowing the circumstances of my momentary lunacy, well except for Sandra who has an uncanny way of just calling at the right moment.


The point is this, in 1976 I had everything in front of me, I was surrounded by like-minded people who were fighting for the very same thing, it was critical mass.  I don’t have that now, but the words of that song still ring true for me.  What a gift to be given a second chance at fulfilling that destiny with a mantra to boot.  So now, yes I’m a lunatic, but I just might also be the Woman in the Moon.

‘Cause they can hold back the tide

But they can never hold the woman

I said, “The woman in the moon”


The North Wind

NJ Botanical Gardens (3)

If perchance your hopes had been disappointed, you learned never to ask for more. So through good times and bad, famine and feast, the villagers held fast to their traditions. Until, one winter day, a sly wind blew in from the North…Chocolat’

The north wind blew in last night; you could hear it in the chimney and through the windows.  The wind was wicked this morning on our walk but we got our hour back and I was grateful for the light.  I’m sure our morning walk is going to require gloves and more layers going forward and today forced me into corduroy leggings (the most God awful, least flattering, still have them on as I write this piece of clothing in the world if you are round).

You can tell by today that winter is coming but I love that it’s coming.  I love burrowing down into my home; it’s quite possible I may light the first fire of the season tonight.  I love the weight of an extra blanket on the bed and that the girls snore a bit louder in winter. It’s really not a hardship for me; most of what I do is solitary (writing, photos, “real job” subject matter expert…it’s a tiny little subject) so when everyone hibernates and longs for spring I’m doing my thing in a house that smells like roasting, eating soups and stews.

My office is the sunniest room in the house and the afternoon sun warms it even on the coldest days.  It’s conducive to getting any kind of work done, be it administrative or creative.  The weather doesn’t matter to me; I do that kind of work that can be done anywhere.  I thought for a long time that I had a traditional job that chained me to a desk but not so.  With the advent of technology I can be anywhere and work by cell phone and laptop away from the chaos of an open floor plan office with not enough white noise and safely shielded from the harsh elements. For this I am grateful.

Any collaboration that is needed can be done by conference call or video blah blah.  I learned a wonderful lesson this week about creative collaboration.  It doesn’t have to be done head to head in the same room or even the same state.  One of my dear friends was moved by the same approach of winter and wrote about it.  She is not anxious for winter’s arrival the way I am.  I had the good fortune to be the one she trusted with her words.  I had even more good fortune to see her on my way home from a recent business trip.  I took some photos of her fall garden and together we created this (with her permission):

Winter is on It's Way

This was a week of gathering with friends in unexpected places but restorative to me none the less.  It was all the right people saying all the right things after I voiced my concern about where I’d find like-minded people who could understand that I didn’t go to Houston to learn to “color”.  There will be some people who hold fast to their traditions and they will be safely relegated to acquaintance.  While others on the tail of the sly north wind will be boosted even further into my heart.  All these people important as with both I have balance, but oh how I love those on the wind… I think we’ve got to measure goodness…by what we embrace…what we create…and who we include…Pere Henri…Chocolat’