creativity

Wonder: A little girl of light on a DC metro bus taught me a valuable lesson

Yesterday as I was taking the bus to drop off Phineas at daycare, a little girl and her mother sat next to us. There was something about this little girl. She was so full of light. When she smiled her whole body smiled.

“Excuse me,” she said. “Your dog is so cute!”

She giggled with her mom, spotted her teacher on the bus, and gave her infant sister a kiss. This little girl was magnetic. There was clearly a lot of love between her and her mom.

On my way home from work, I saw this same little girl. She recognized me and Phineas. She still sparkled but a little less so now. She had 3 of her cousins and her aunt with her. One of the cousins was trying to tell her mother that one of her teachers said she had a real gift for painting. The mother barely paid attention to her.

All of the kids were very interested in Phineas and had lots of questions about him, which I was happy to answer. Their aunt was not thrilled about them talking to me. She yelled at them several times, and made more eye contact with the game on her phone than with any of the kids she was supposed to be watching.

As it turned out, we all got out at the same stop. They live just across the street from me in  a housing project. There was something about that made me so sad, and then it made me angry. Here was this amazing little girl, so clearly bright and in love with life, and she deserves to have that light honored and supported.

While I understand that children are resilient, I also know that what is said to them, or not said to them, makes a world of difference as they grow up and become adults. Listen to children. Honor them. Respect them. Understand that every action and every word we express now has such an outsized impact on them. They need us and we need them if we’re going to build a better world. And a better world is what we all deserve.

creativity

Wonder: Lee Stroy made 3 strokes a gift

Last month, I had the great privilege to meet Lee Stroy, a father of five who is my age and a walking medical miracle. In one week, Lee had three strokes and has now made it his mission to tell his story in an effort to educate others about stroke through his nonprofit Counterstroke. His story is one of the most inspiring I have ever been given the great gift to share with others. Read the piece I wrote about Lee for The Washington Post by clicking here and learn more about Lee on his website for Counterstroke.

creativity

Wonder: Thoughts on finishing my manuscript for my novel, Where the Light Enters

This weekend I finished the initial manuscript of my novel, Emerson Page – Where the Light Enters.

In this read, I thought I’d hate all of it, scrap it, and start over. But I didn’t. I laughed and I cried in equal amounts. I love Emerson now even more than I did almost two years ago when her name first popped into my mind and she asked me to write down her story. It took us a while to get to know each other. It took a while for me to let horrible things happen to her. I spent so long getting to know her and I wanted to protect her from the moment we met. But I had to let her get hurt. I had to let her fail and fall and struggle because that is the journey she was meant to have And in the process I learned so much, about me, about her, and as much about my world as I learned about hers.

Now I start the query letters and the process of finding a pathway for Emerson to tell her story to others. I’m sure she will grow and change in so many ways during this process, and so will I. And so it begins…

creativity

Wonder: Dealing with adult bullies

Bullies in the classroom and on the playground grow up to be bullies at work, in politics, and in their communities. And dealing with these unfortunate people, no matter what the environment, requires the same approach: you must stand up to them, strengthen your voice and resolve, and not back down. It is as painful to do as an adult as it is as a child, and we must do it. Once you stand up to them, their insecurity will cause them to lie about you and do and say anything possible to disparage you. Promise yourself to be such an amazing person that no one would believe them. Stand your ground and be your best you—that’s the only way forward. If you’re dealing with this now, let me tell you a story.

When I started working at a financial services company in 2008, my Director and VP were pretty awful people. 14 months after my start date, I found another job at the same company in a completely different division with great people. The work was interesting and the role was a coveted one. My Director and VP were furious that I had gotten another job without their help and after they had done everything possible to prevent me from moving on to a new role. They were bullies and because I worked hard, spoke my mind, and did well despite their poor leadership, they continued to speak badly about me even after I left my role on their team. I moved on and never looked back.

Within a handful of months, they were both managed out of the company (a nice of way of saying they were fired). Shortly after that, my old VP reached out to me on LinkedIn. He had started a consulting practice and wanted to know if I could introduce him to my new VP in the hopes of getting a contract with my new team. He wanted to work for me after treating me so badly! It was shocking.

I ignored the message and never responded. To a bully, silence is deafening. Dismissing them without a second thought is intolerable. And in my eyes, that is exactly how he deserved to feel after his bullying—intolerable. It was a satisfying moment to hit delete. I fired him from my career and my life. I never heard from him again.

I recently faced a very similar situation and I’ve decided to deal with it exactly the same way. I’ve moved on and focused my attention on my new role with a great boss, talented team, and fascinating work. I’m not looking back nor listening to the noise and toxicity that I left behind. My future is ahead of me, not behind me.

 

creativity

Wonder: Why travel is such an important part of life

“The world is full of wonderful things you haven’t seen yet. Don’t ever give up on the chance of seeing them.” ~J.K. Rowling

As we wind down summer and head into fall, I’ve got travel planning on my mind. Every year I take an international trip, and I’ve started thinking about what I might do next year. (I’m open to any and all suggestions so send them to me!) I find that travel always opens my mind and helps me to imagine new possibilities. I love to see how people live in different places. I love to hear about their triumphs and trials and what their greatest hopes are for their future. Travel always makes me grateful for my home and reminds me that we are all so much more alike than we are different. It’s the gift that keeps on giving.

creativity

Wonder: Use your time to build a better world – a lesson on the D.C. metro

Yesterday as I was riding the metro home, these three reminders were directly in front of me: a woman reading the health and science section of The Washington Post, a man seated next to her was reading the book Getting Better, and then the advertisement from Virginia Hospital Center right next to me read “It’s all about getting better”. The synchronicity wasn’t lost on me. Building a better world is a mission we can all be a part of in some way, from our corner of the planet. Every day is a good day, even on a too-crowded metro train, if we can go home assured that what we did that day made the world a better place. No matter where are or what we’re doing, we can always get better.

creativity

Wonder: Don’t waste time

After Michelangelo died, a note was discovered in his art studio. It was to his apprentice and it read, “Draw, Antonio, draw, and do not waste time.” In his old and feeble state, his last bits of time were used to encourage a young talent whom he would never live to see as fully formed. He understood the ability and potential of his young apprentice, and he understood that time was his most precious resource. It’s a good reminder for all of us.

creativity

Wonder: Grow your own creativity

“I want to know if you can disappoint another to be true to yourself.” ~Oriah Mountain Dreamer

This week I faced a tricky situation. It became clear to me this week that I don’t have time to nurture my own creative projects and collaborations and continue this project I’ve been working on for someone else. I had to choose, and I chose to follow what interests me most rather than what pays.

To be clear, there is nothing wrong with this other project. The people are kind, the work is interesting, and I was appreciated for my talents and skills (perhaps a little too much!) It just didn’t interest me as much as I had hoped it would at the outset, and at this point in my life, which may very well be roughly the midpoint of my life, I am turning my attention toward the projects that give me the greatest joy—my writing, my visual artwork, and my storytelling in many different forms. Yes, the extra contract money was nice to have, but I earned it at the expense of the creative work that really makes my heart sing. And so, I’ll have to adjust other plans in my life to accommodate the shift in income, at least temporarily.

The decision sounds so much easier than it actually is. I knew the person I was working for would be disappointed, and it’s hard for me to live with the idea of disappointing someone else to be true to myself. I’ll also have to adjust some of my personal financials. The quote from Oriah Mountain Dreamer helped, and know in my gut that it’s the right decision. I had to pay attention to what makes me happiest, and that rests in my own creative work.

We have so little time really, no matter how long life is, and it’s the one resource we just can’t get back. Once we spend time it’s gone forever. We have to spend it where it matters most to us.

creativity

Wonder: The We Love You Project

13680939_1715062572089654_4204151035333704265_nWe can all do extraordinary things, especially during times of adversity and difficulty. To put it bluntly, the black community in America is under siege, and they have been for far too long. As a white person, I cannot even begin to comprehend the challenges that the black community faces on a daily basis. What I can do is extend my hand, my help, my support, and my voice.

I learned about the We Love You Project from Vanessa Ford, who will be one of the first two guests, along with her husband JR, on the Breaking Bread Podcast. I have about a million and one questions to ask them and one of the topics I can’t wait to dive into is their activism on so many fronts including race, supporting the local communities where we work and live, LGBTQ, and the challenges and triumphs in education, health, and food equity. We may need to do a multi-part series just to hear all of the interesting conversation.

One project that they recently participated in is the We Love You Project. Started by Bryon Summers, its message is powerful and elegant:

“A simple but powerful reassurance to our black boys and men that even though it feels like they are being murdered and destroyed constantly, we’re still a part of a larger community that loves and supports them.

The images we see in main stream media depict us as less than human – thugs, suspects, and even more, dead and discarded. These are the images that brainwash us into believing there is truth behind them. We’re not worthless. We’re not trash. We’re someone’s son, brother, cousin, uncle, or father. We’re HUMAN!

Through the art of photography we can see just how human and how special we really are. Images can be powerful reinforcements. They can be examples of who we are and aspire to be. WE LOVE YOU, will share portraits of the Black boys and men in our communities showing each other as well as the world that we’re not only human and should be treated as such but we’re LOVED.”

It sent a shiver down my spine to read this mission. It is so needed, especially right now. So far, the project has taken place in New York and D.C. I hope to have Bryon on a future episode of the Breaking Bread Podcast. For now, I’m thrilled to use my blog and other social media channels to support and praise his work!

Check out the We Love You Project at http://www.theweloveyouproject.com/ and on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/theweloveyouproject.

creativity

Pickling, a random forest, elastic stories, and the importance of stretching your mind

When we started talking about pickling, a random forest, and elastic stories at work, it wasn’t a conversation about life off-the-grid; it was about writing code. My brain was stretched, expanded, and twisted over the next 2 hours as I furiously scribbled notes and googled terms I didn’t know so as not to disrupt the flow of the conversation. When it was all over, I felt like I’d taken a ride on the Kingda Ka rollercoaster at Great Adventure. Where were my land legs safely rooted in the world of design thinking, ROI, and NPV analysis?

This kind of experience, as confusing as it may be, is so critical for business and product people because we have to understand the underlying work that brings our ideas and decisions to life. Programmers are wizards of the humblest order. I marvel at what they do, and when I say that out loud, they say anyone could do what they do. That’s simply not true; they are talented beyond words.

This is exactly the world I love—drop me off in a foreign land where I don’t speak the language, and give me a deadline and a limited budget that I have to use to get back home to the world of designing something that delights a customer. And that’s exactly where I am right now. Home is on the horizon, and until I get there, I’m going to enjoy the journey and learn, learn, learn.