Not cool Robert Frost!

Video

You probably saw this video on Facebook or Youtube, but if you haven’t, definitely watch it! And, since one of Kid President’s ideas is to “Be nice” all year, I have to share this one – which is equally as incredible! I love this kid. Awesome dance moves, totally entertaining and great ideas. 🙂  Check it out, get inspired!

We aren’t hillbillies!

Go figure! Now that the Iowa Caucus is over I finally find a video that addresses my frustration with the whole thing! Before I share it with you, a little explanation:

The first caucus each election year is in Iowa, which was where I was born and raised. Moving to the northeast I’ve heard all sorts of warm (and some not so warm) jabs at my background as a Midwestern country gal. Most of the time I can take it. After all, before moving to New York I thought this place was riddled with crime and had very few trees (cement jungle, anyone?). When I said I was moving to Albany, people would remark, “Oh! The Big Apple!” No… more like 3 hours north. Lucky for me it turns out upstate NY is full of trees, country living, and mountains. Real small town up here. Gee wiz. Who’da thunk it?

The same stereotypes exist about Iowa. Rural folk, simple people; unwise to the ways of the world. Quilts. Homemade jam. Evangelical. Conservative politics. All trucks, no cars. Straw used as floss. Boots-wearing country boys. But even though I know these are innocent stereotypes or impressions, I have to admit I get tired of hearing, “Is Iowa really representative of America?  when it comes to caucus talk. I can think of quite a few states that, besides their metropolitan areas, are very much like Iowa. So I hope you will indulge me with this video (below). It made my day. Mainly because it is hard not to be frustrated when people imply your state is in some way “out of touch” with the rest of the world. That your family, your friends, your professors are all somehow not good enough to be first to choose. I mean… I grew up on an Iowa farm, educated at an Iowa state university, and I didn’t magically gain common sense or become liberal-minded when I stepped foot on urban soil!

So if you feel you are guilty of prejudging based on stereotypes (I’m guilty!), I suggest the next time you meet someone different you greet them with curiosity and an open mind. You can even acknowledge you may have existing stereotypes or preconceived notions. It’s only natural. It’s a big world. Hey, I even bet the person would be happy to politely fill you in on what you missed or misunderstood. At least, I know I would!

Now, on with the video. 🙂

PS – the video below has some explicit words. For a clean version, click here.

Resolutions: What are you, lazy?

How many of you have resolutions planned for tomorrow? Now, be honest. You may not technically have written them down, but I’ve bet you set some goals, formulated some loose parameters for growth and development, or declared passionately, “I’m definitely not doing XXX again!”  Am I right?

I think resolutions are crap. Not just because they never seem to work, but because they are always the same: a symbolic effort to be “better” that is never actualized in any meaningful way. It reminds me of my days as a Catholic, giving up chocolate for Lent every year (especially when already on a diet). Looks good on paper, but in the end what difference did it make?

Resolutions seem to focus on issues one isn’t fully invested in changing. Sure, somewhere inside I definitely do think blogging every day would be a great achievement… but I have other things that are at the top of my list (art, eating healthy, keeping meaningful relationships, and working my day job). So why bother making that my “resolution” in the first place? I’d be setting myself up for failure, only to take stock of 2012 in a year and feel disappointment.

Setting New Year’s resolutions are easy. Really they are. Here’s the drill: set up an impossible goal. Give it the college try for a week or a month. Slowly fizzle on the task by February at the latest. Forget you were doing it at all. Six months later remember the goal (bathing suit season anyone?) and decide that you gave up on it because it was too hard to do with your schedule. Resolve to set a better resolution next year.

So now that we have gotten that out of the way….

Why not make 2012 a better 2011? Easiest way to do that: take stock of 2011 and build only on the things that uplifted you. Those are the actions you’ll be thrilled to keep taking in the new year ahead.

Below are a list of questions to answer critically. Be honest. Be specific. But be nice to yourself. We are all works in progress. (Better at writing rather than thinking?  Click here to download a word doc so you can print it out  and post it on the fridge or something).

I’ll make mine public by jotting down some answers (in italics). Maybe it’ll give you ideas – or if you don’t care you can just breeze past my jabbering to the questions in bold!

🙂

What were the biggest personal events of 2011? (Star which of these events were in my control – as compared to those that were due to unforeseen circumstances, i.e. illness.)
Kickstarter fundraiser for Be Nice., six art exhibitions, press interviews, curated my first art exhibition, first major career interview, artist talks and presentations, placed into leadership program at work, made a wonderful new friend, found Yoga, found a terrific community at Collar Works…

What difficult situations presented themselves and how did I handle them?
Major feeling of rejection with not being hired for an amazing job opportunity…. handled it by seeing the positive learning experiences from it, and the excitement from getting so close to being hired. Being pressed for time with a lot of events in a short amount of time…. handled it by asking for help and prioritizing. Also sadly let yoga slip in the process — feeling like I had to choose between my art or my wellness. Not prioritizing my health – but always treating art as THE priority created a conflict there. Didn’t handle so well – yoga stopped. But the desire is still there to rekindle the practice of yoga, so I know I will succeed at some point.

What can I take from these experiences into the future?
Hard work does pay off, but sometimes things aren’t meant to be. Don’t focus on one negative when there are so many positives right in front of me. Physical and mental health must come first before all else. If I can get that close to a great job in this economy, imagine what will happen when the economy recovers and when I have even more experience!

What did I accomplish that I was proud of? Nothing is too small.
Curating a great exhibition with positive feedback/reviews. Using administrative skills at the gallery and seeing new opportunity there. Yoga on a regular basis for three solid months. Successful Kickstarter project (thanks again everyone!!)! Eating salads for dinner twice a week = lost five pounds. Oatmeal for breakfast instead of cereal. Helping make my sister’s wedding special – including embroidering a gift for her. Officiating my friend’s wedding! Making it home to see my family. Sending art opportunities to friends and them successfully getting some of them. Some vacation time alone with my husband to CT – love that ocean over there!

What did I do that I wouldn’t care to do again (because I didn’t enjoy it, because it didn’t go very well…)?
Staying overnight at a hotel in Pennsylvania. Not a fan of that part of I-90 any more! Health insurance appeals – pure nightmare.

What did I do that I would like to do again? How can I build on these experiences?
Go to Iowa. Curate another exhibition (I love doing it – but it is time intensive, so maybe doing it on a smaller scale would be good so I can focus also on my art work). All the art stuff – shows, talks, etc. YOGA! That’s a biggie. I’d like this to become a “lifestyle” for me… but I’m running into road blocks. I’ll need to work on this. Visiting friends in down-state and up-state NY. Get to NYC more often-see more art.

What have I been doing regularly that I would like to continue? This might be smaller things – like flossing every day.
Listening to the news. Reading and advocating on political/social/environmental issues. Flossing daily. Eating healthy and no night-time snacking. Applying skills from leadership training into my life at home and at work.

Personally, how have I evolved over the last year? What were my big “lessons?” Am I still learning them, or do I feel like I am in a place to learn new things this coming year?
I’ve grown to be kinder to myself and like myself a bit more – especially my appearance. I’m a bit more lenient – not so militant about my eating. I feel I am more educated, and learning a great deal about office relationships, about my capabilities (art, professional) and where I’d like to go with them professionally. Still learning. Letting my activities support my interests – being very selective/strategic. Understanding “drama” for what it is: a distraction and petty. Evolution with family dynamics between my mother and myself. Big growth there in how we communicate. Still unlearning old unhealthy behaviors there.

What would I like to do more of in 2012 that I maybe didn’t do enough of in 2011? Why do I want to do these things? How will they benefit me (and others in my life)?
Yoga yoga yoga. Art art art. Because they make me feel good. Because they make my body/emotions/mind all work better. Because it supports my career aspirations. Because I like doing them and they are both a never-ending challenge that rely solely on my independent progression and development.

What am I grateful for?
Where would I begin? The things I shouldn’t take for granted are at the top of the list: being a free woman, health, family, husband, friends, job, insurance, car that works, a home that is awesome, landlord I hold dear, community of people whom I love and support and receive in return, student loan repayment flexibility to fit my income/situation. Music. Charity. Hugs. Warmth. Forgiveness. Laughter. Smiles. Sincerity.

How happy I am with myself as I am right now?
I am very content with myself and the things within my control. Just a few tweaks here and there. Happy with my process – pleased with my direction and attitude.

How did I surprise myself last year?
I care more than I realize sometimes. And as usual, I am always surprised when I do things well and they work out. Standards are so high for myself that I never expect success – just desperately hope for it. And when it happens: YAY!

🙂

Bring it, 2012. I’m gonna kick your ass.

Consumer consumed by consumption

Remember when Netflix raised their rates a month ago, and everyone was really mad? I was one of those frustrated customers. Naturally the 30 percent price increase for my Netflix subscription put a crimp in my habits, but I couldn’t just cancel my plan.

See, I love watching movies and TV, and I need it as part of my art practice. What?! Yup, that’s right. I need TV.  I run it when I work. I don’t watch the programs the whole time, but the stories keep me interested enough as I listen to warrant a look over to the TV every now and then. This keeps my neck moving, and avoids the neck aches that come with the way I work. Couple this with an old-fashioned tube TV that squeals intermittently, and a cable company that cannot send me a steady signal on all my stations at once, and I decided I needed to change how I got my programs to keep me happy. So began my search for all possible options.

I looked into flat screen TVs – expensive. I can live with the squeal for now I guess. I looked into Wi-Fi and Roku. Not a bad idea; I could stream Netflix to my TV, replacing movies with streaming which in turn means I could lower my plan to one-DVD-at-a-time, thus cancelling cable (saving $16/month!)! It seemed perfect. But I do love my fall TV shows. Crap. Well, what about streaming those? Nope, Hulu Plus costs eight bucks a month. Dang it! Still saving money, but not as much if I do that, and buying the Wi-Fi modem thingy and the Roku would mean I would spend money in the end. Then, do I get the HD Roku even though I don’t have an HD TV yet, but could have one maybe in the future? That costs more. And then I’d need a converter so I could plug my DVD player and Roku into my TV all at once, but maybe not if we just got a newer TV….

And of course I check with my friends, and ask around, and do internet research. And that’s when I realized. This is freaking ridiculous. So ridiculous I decided to blog on it. This silly search for something that isn’t a necessity was taking over my free time. The same could be said for my plans to buy a few pairs of shoes this fall, or the decision to join an online Yoga website, or whether or not I subscribe to Dwell (even though I don’t want to, but they offered me a free other magazine subscription with it!). My husband jokes that every marketing campaign built to motivate people to spend more money under the guise of saving in the long run (farce!) found its dream girl in me. Sad, but true.

How did I realize my ridiculous, time-consuming effort to consume wisely was out of hand? Staring me in my purchase-crazed face today was an article from PBS.org (in an email from DailyGood – highly recommended):  Raising Kids to Be Less Stuff-Centered by Annie Leonard. In that moment I realized how stuff-centered I was becoming. Regardless of how well I can justify my purchases, they are still altogether time-consuming. My desire to spend money wisely led me to extensive research which is good, but it doesn’t change the fact that this urgent need I had to solve my media “problem” was over-taking my free time. Taking me from my artwork, my blog, phone calls to family, and so on. Sounds extreme, but all the minutes I spent weighing the pros and cons of my buying could have been spent more meaningfully.

Ms. Leonard’s article reminded me of how I was raised. We didn’t have cable. We didn’t have a ton of stuff, or new clothes, or fancy anything. We shopped at yard sales, used hand-me-downs, played outside, created art projects, and used our imaginations. I was raised to visit family, make a phone call, enjoy nature; not sit at a computer, type “status updates” and “like” what other people are doing virtually.

Despite our upbringing I think my siblings and I do connect having things with being successful, financially stable, and well-off. My brother had bought so many fun things for his house at one point – struggling to keep up with the pool, the games, cleaning, and working a ton of hours – that I finally said to him, “You have all this stuff, but do you have the time to enjoy it? Maybe you’d be better off with less stuff and more time.” But like me, my brother wants it all. I can’t say I blame him. My sister prefers to buy a new house if she can manage it sometime soon. Not an older house needing upkeep, but a new one. Could it be that she doesn’t want a “hand-me-down” feel to the house – worn in, but with some good years left? Maybe. And I get that too. It’s like when I buy new clothes. I have my “nice” clothes I only wear on really special occasions, and then everything else. “New” is like gold to us kids. My behavior? Well, I buy books I don’t have time to read, buy movies I rarely watch, and kitchen appliances I seldom use. And each of us, too, has a distaste for clutter (to an extent). I literally fight against these two opposing inclinations: accrual and purging of things. I spend a significant amount of time organizing and sorting through my belongings. It reminds me of when we played “Barbie” as girls. Sarah and I spent all our time dressing the dolls, doing their hair, and then setting up the doll house Dad had made for us. Once everything was in its place and looked fancy, we didn’t want to play any more.

Annie Leonard calls attention to these counter-productive behaviors that lead to lives less lived, though more full of possessions. And even though her suggestions are aimed at parents for raising kids, I couldn’t help but see them as suggestions for myself. I hope you’ll take a look too. Some food for thought.

The Wayne Foundation

Today, I had the immense privilege of listening to the life story of a very strong woman. Jamie Walton was a victim of child prostitution and currently heads a new non-profit called The Wayne Foundation. She told her story to Kevin Smith (filmmaker and podcaster) on the podcast “SMinterview with @ThatKevinSmith” (Episodes 2 and 3 – free to download on ITunes and worth every minute of your time). What is amazing about Ms. Walton is her ability to forgive, to consider her abusers’ point of view (how many people could or would want to do that?!), and her remarkable transformation into the highly capable, successful woman that she is today. And it is not just her personality that is impressive, it is the mission of her non-profit The Wayne Foundation.

This non-profit is special: not only does it plan to give assistance to young girls who are trying to escape sex trafficking, it plans to give them every tool they need to completely rehabilitate themselves and become productive members of society. Ms. Walton is trying to do for other girls what needed to be done for her, but what didn’t happen. With the loving support of her amazing husband, Jamie Walton tread that path independently. She emerged as an amazing woman who not only survived and overcame her trauma, but was able to transform that experience with a passion I have rarely seen, and she has formed this foundation from scratch to help victimized girls (and hopefully some day the boys too she says). Ms. Walton is not the face you see on TV that reeks of talking points, fake optimism, and a hidden agenda. She doesn’t sidestep the unpretty parts. She takes them head on. She tells her donors that it will take awhile to achieve her goal; that the goals of The Wayne Foundation are large; that if donors are looking for a successful result they may have to wait ten years because that is how long it takes to make this happen. Oh, and she’s not getting paid. Maybe someday with enough support. What’s more, Ms. Walton is eternally optimistic.  When asked how she managed to avoid hating the world for the trauma she experienced, Ms. Walton said (paraphrasing here–), “I embrace the world because even though I recognize there is a lot of evil and nastiness in the world, there are some individuals that are not like that, and if you tell the world to go f#@& themselves, you tell the good people to go f#@& themselves as well. So, that’s not really fair…. I can’t tell those people [that]….  If we all [do that], think about how much worse it’s going to get…. Let’s look at the good part, let’s focus on the positive… it brings people together.”

That type of attitude and perseverance should be celebrated, commended, and mirrored by every member of society. And I think it should be rewarded however we can. I hope you will take a moment and visit The Wayne Foundation website (site still under construction) and listen to the podcasts linked in the first paragraph. You will learn more about their goals, plans, and financial agenda in the second podcast.

Please spread the word. You can also “like” it on Facebook. You can follow Jamie Walton on Twitter: @JamieWalton

And thank you all for reading!

Patriotic Millionaires

Awesome discovery last June:

Patriotic Millionaires for Fiscal Strength

Why do I like them? Well….

When all I hear on the news is “the deficit this,” “the debt ceiling that,” and “more taxes, less taxes, no taxes,” I have to be honest: I’m getting really sick of it. Being toward the bottom of wage earners in the country (but so grateful I’m not the very bottom!), it gets a little annoying hearing legislators fight to let millionaires keep so much of their money. If an average American is supposed to make a living on the minimum wage (yeah right), why can’t those who make so much more than them be the ones to give a little more? Maybe you don’t agree with me. That is totally fine, but it is how I feel. And truly, governing seems complicated and I know I’m probably missing a lot of info from both sides of the aisle. So I am still sitting on the sidelines, learning and forming the most well-rounded opinion I can.

But there is a group of people who have formed an opinion, and I LOVE IT!

These wealthy folks are shouting out to everyone: “Please, pretty please raise our taxes!”

They are standing up as an example for other millionaires to say, “For the fiscal health of our nation and the well-being of our fellow citizens, we ask that you increase taxes on incomes over $1,000,000. We make this request as loyal citizens who now or in the past earned an income of $1,000,000 per year or more…. Our country has been good to us. It provided a foundation through which we could succeed. Now, we want to do our part to keep that foundation strong so that others can succeed as we have.”

This reminds me of when Warren Buffett asked millionaires and billionaires to give their money away. It is inspiring, isn’t it?

I have to say, I support these wealthy people. Not only are they thinking about someone other than themselves, they are wealthy in both funds and in their compassion for the needs of a nation.

Read more about these millionaires on NPR here.

The civil rights issue of the 21st century

I don’t usually weigh in on political stuff that is hugely controversial, but sometimes I don’t see any way around it.

New York legalized gay marriage in June. I was back in Iowa, which also legalized gay marriage a few years ago. As a former resident of one state, and a current resident of the other I must say I am doubly proud. You may not agree with this decision by the states legislatures, but I say, “It’s about time.”

See, here’s the thing: I just don’t think it’s right to tell someone who is a good person that they can’t have the same rights as me. Civil unions (the preferred option for some anti-gay marriage people) remind me of the whole “separate but equal” thing. It makes me very uncomfortable (Jim Crow, anyone?). As a matter of fact, it makes me angry.

People must have forgotten that old phrase, “Put yourself in the other person’s shoes.”

I don’t know about you, but I like the legal right to see my husband in the hospital when he is sick, to make choices about his care when needed, and to have the same federal and state tax privileges as other married people. Lucky for me I guess that I’m heterosexual.

People argue marriage is religious. Well, that is true some of the time. But I didn’t get married in church and the state still calls me “married.” They still issued me a “marriage license.” There was no check box that verified it was a religious ceremony. Religion was not even a question. So obviously the word “marriage” doesn’t just apply to church-goers where the state is concerned. A church can refuse to marry gay people, just as the Catholic church would refuse to marry me to my non-Catholic husband (if I had wanted the religious blessing, that is). It’s their right as a religious body. And those rights were given extra-protection when the New York legislature passed the law. So what’s the fuss?

The way I see it, New York and Iowa were doing the right thing in the eye of the law: equal civil rights for all. And since the word “marriage” is tied so inextricably with our law system maybe we could rely on that nifty American notion “separation of church and state” and let these wonderful gay people have their wedding days sanctioned by state (and someday federal) law. Shoot, it would boost the economy. It would make many, many people much happier – including myself. And simply put, it is the right thing to do.

And now, one of my favorite videos in favor of the fight to legalize gay marriage–

Oh, and P.S. Thank you to the four New York Republican legislators who did the right thing in the face of their party’s objections: Senator Jim Alesi, Senator Roy McDonald, Senator Stephen Saland, and Senator Mark Grisanti. Personal opinion: you are on the right side of history, gentlemen.