animals, dogs, learning, teaching

Inspired: Who Are You in the Morning?

My wise dog teacher
My wise dog teacher

I woke up at 3:30am. Phineas was crying in his sleep so I got up and sat with him for a bit. He calmed down quickly. It’s impossible for us to hide who we really are in those hours between dusk and dawn. There are no secrets then. No facades. No brave faces. We have all our fears, insecurities, and joys right there on the surface. We’re just being; no doing. I hope someday the person I am at 3:30am is the person I am at every hour. I’m getting there but I’ve got some more work to do. Thanks for teaching me that, Phin.

art, profession, teaching

Beautiful: Practice and Invest in Yourself – More Lessons from Voice Over Land

From Pinterest
From Pinterest

These are my two big lessons from voice over land this week:
1.) Practice pays off.
2.) When we’re trying to develop a new skill, private classes help us move ahead faster than collective, generic classes.

A couple of years ago I took a group voice over class and it was fun. I learned some basic skills, general guidelines about commercial voice over work, and details about the voice over market in New York. What I didn’t get, and needed, was refinement. I needed specific feedback on my work. When I was in California this summer, I started to think about pursuing voice overs more seriously. I phoned my voice over teacher from the class and inquired about taking the next step. He suggested private lessons.

I hesitated for a split second because private lessons aren’t cheap. Neither is making a demo. I quickly realized that if I really wanted to make a go of this, or at least give it my all, I needed to think of this money as an investment, not a cost. So I bit the financial bullet and went for it.

So far, so good. In four private lessons, and with a solid number of hours of listening to commercials, transcribing them, recording myself performing them, and listening to the playback, I’m now ready to make a demo. My coach’s advice and attention in private lessons has been invaluable and my own investment of time and effort to listen, practice, and self-critique have helped me grow by leaps and bounds in a very short period of time. If all goes according to plan, a demo leads to an agent and an agent (along with personally pounding the proverbial pavement) leads to paid work.

I’m only at step 2 – I’ll record my demo November 11th with my coach and hopefully get this show on the road. Here we go – preparing for take off. Let’s see where this path takes me next. You’ll get the news as it happens…

education, film, teaching, television

Beautiful: Finally a Reality Show that Celebrates Real Heroes – Teachers

_MG_0785bOn Friday night, I caught the airing of Teach, the new documentary by Davis Guggenheim. It gave me chills, in a very good way. As someone who was saved, literally, by my education, I know that it is a gift that can turn a life around, that can take someone in an entirely new direction beyond their wildest dreams.

Bravo to CBS for putting such an incredible piece of filmmaking on prime time TV. Kate O’Hare of did a wonderful write up of the show:

“The actions of teachers unions – whether protecting bad teachers, protesting against politicians (or marching for them), and promoting education “reforms” that often seem more about social issues than the three Rs — often capture the interest of the media, overshadowing the day-to-day work of teachers trying to do the best job they can.

In 2010, filmmaker Davis Guggenheim directed and co-wrote“Waiting for Superman,” a documentary that took a frank look at the failures of the American educational system as it showed parents trying to get their children in charter schools.

Much of the media attention for the film focused on a segment that showed how teachers unions fiercely protect political alliances and policies and teachers’ job security, often at the expense of needed financial overhauls.

In a two-hour special called “Teach,”airing Friday, Sept. 6, on CBS, Guggenheim puts the focus back on exceptional teachers, following four public-school instructors through the 2012-2013 school year.

The special also kicks off an 18-month campaign by production company Participant Media, in partnership with, to urge students and recent graduates to go into teaching.

“I believe teachers are heroes and have the ability to make an incredible impact in the long-term future of our kids,” says Guggenheim in a statement. “The airing of ‘Teach’ on CBS is another milestone in Participant’s long-term commitment to raise the visibility of the teaching profession and support efforts to recruit the next generation of great educators.”

•The teachers profiled are: Matt Johnson, a fourth-grade teacher at McGlone Elementary School in Denver; Shelby Harris, who teaches seventh- and eighth-grade math at Kuna Middle School in Kuna, Idaho; 10th-grade AP world-history teacher Joel Laguna at Garfield High in Los Angeles; and Lindsay Chinn, a ninth-grade algebra teacher at MLK Early College, Denver.

•All the educators featured strive for excellence, using conventional and unconventional methods.
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economy, education, school, teaching

Beautiful: Keep It Positive – Another Lesson from Darden

bc2863aa70521ea32889f841ae1607c6“We have to be positive, right? What’s the alternative? Anything else is just a waste of time.” ~ Frank Warnock, my Economics professor at Darden

It’s back-to-school time and I’ve been thinking a lot about my teachers lately. I decided to reach out to them to say thank you for the incredible lessons they taught me. I wrote about my marketing professor, Robert Spekman, earlier this week and then sent him a note. Today, I want to tell you about Frank Warnock, one of my Economics professors at Darden. Frank is brilliant, but his brilliance isn’t what set him apart for me. It was his attitude.

Frank taught us the power of attitude in a class during a particularly tough case. The whole class was feeling pretty badly about the options before the main characters in the case and what they were going to have to do to save their company. Frank recognized we were going nowhere fast and to get us to buck up, he uttered the lines at the beginning of this post. They were like a lightning rod for me. These were the words I thought about all the time from 2008 – 2012 when I worked in financial services.

Attitude was, and continues to be, everything. I’ve seen it make or break so many people. My choice to be positive rather than negative, especially when it would have been so much easier to be negative, has kept me going through some very dark times.

I wrote this all out in a note to Frank and not surprisingly, he wrote back quickly. Here’s what he said:

“Hi Christa,
Wonderful to hear from you. And great to hear that you’re doing well and have found something you care about. I often think that one of the most important things Darden students need to learn is what exactly they care about, what exactly their preferences are.

I learned early on that attitude is vital. I absolutely hated a particular job about a month into it, felt that I was misunderstood by the boss, and was very close to being fired (which would have been fine with me). I then started repeating to myself over and over again, every day, “I love my job, I love my job, I love my job”. Within a week or so I forgot all about saying that…being positive helped turn everything around and more or less launched my career. Being positive is at times more difficult – it takes an extra step – but it is always the best way forward.


Now that’s a teacher in the truest sense of the word.

creativity, education, fear, marketing, teaching

Beautiful: The Best Class You Can Take Is Practice

23252c94afced662d93d9659daff6a69 “The only way I know to get anything done is to work like hell.” ~ Robert Spekman, my MBA marketing professor at Darden

A few years back, I contemplated going back to school to get my PhD in education. Robert was one of my favorite professors at my Darden MBA program and I spent a good amount of time with him during my two years there. When I was thinking of going back to get my PhD, he was one of the first people I talked to.

He was in New York for a meeting so I met him at the restaurant of his hotel and we had breakfast together. I told him about my own history and how my education literally saved my life. I explained that I was a bit worried about applying for a PhD in a field in which I’d never formally studied. Robert told me I had the best experience of all: I lived it. He followed up the line above with this – “Take all the classes you want in any subject. Until you actually sit down and do the work, with your a*s on the line for results, it doesn’t matter.” And with that I put my fear aside and applied.

Things didn’t exactly go the way I had hoped. I only applied to one school, Columbia’s Teachers College, and I didn’t get in. (You can read about my rejection letter here.) It turned out to be one of the best things that ever happened to me. And I never forgot that conversation with Robert, nor the lesson he taught me. I use his advice all the time. I’m grateful for his support, but I’m even more grateful that he didn’t coddle me with exclamations of how great I was, or intelligent, or talented, or any other load that he could have told me to just move the conversation along. He showed me that I already have what it takes to have an impact in a field that means a lot to me. I didn’t need another degree; I just needed to roll up my sleeves and get to work.

job, teaching, technology, yoga

Beautiful: Programmer and Front-End Designer Needed for a Therapeutic Mobile App for Compass Yoga

CollabFinder_Block_logoSo here it is – I’m unveiling the details of one of the big projects I’m working on during my creative break in LA this summer. For about a year, I’ve been kicking around the idea of building a therapeutic yoga app. I’m now actively searching for a front-end designer and a programmer for this project. If you have either of these skill sets, please let me know. If you know someone who might be interested, please send them my way.

Details about the project are available on CollabFinder. Click here to view my project page.

California, fear, health, meditation, teaching, yoga

Beautiful: How Meditation Helped Me Through a Bout of PTSD Triggered By the Santa Monica Shooting

Crowds on June 10, 2013, make their way to a campus memorial for the five killed in a shooting rampage on June 7 at Santa Monica College. The gunman was also killed. (Andy Holzman/Los Angeles Daily News)

I thought I was through with it. I don’t panic anymore when I hear fire engine sirens. I’m not afraid to be in my home. My nightmares have disappeared. I don’t end up crying on the street wondering how I got there after forgetting where I’m going. These were all symptoms I had after my apartment building fire almost 4 years ago. At the time, I didn’t know what was wrong with me. I just felt crazy. Then after I started going to therapy shortly after the fire, I realized I had PTSD.

Brian, my wizard of a therapist, and I worked through decades of issues that my PTSD triggered and after almost 3 years of hard work, I found my way to stability and confidence. That was a year ago. Last week the Santa Monica shootings sent me into a spell. I’ll be staying near there all summer on a house swap. How could this be happening to me? I felt dizzy with the what if scenarios. What if I had been there already? What if I was driving and I had been the car that was hijacked? What if I was out walking Phineas and I had been hit by a stray bullet? What if. What if. What if. I started crying. And shaking.

I used my tools. I closed by eyes, placed one hand on the heart, one hand on the belly, and started to breathe. Body into the hands on the inhale. Body into the back of the chair on the exhale. I kept my attention at the third eye. I replaced those racing what ifs with this truth: “You are safe.” I began to wind down, slowly and with a lot of effort. It worked. I was safe, and then I felt safe.

This is what meditation can do for you. It can take you from panic to peace. I can take also take you from helpless to helpful. After I calmed down, I had the most incredible thought. What happened in Santa Monica is awful. There are people there who might be scared, people who might need the gift I have to give. Maybe there’s a way for me to teach what I know. After all, I’ve lived with those what if thoughts for a long time. I learned how to chase them away. I learned how to have power over them rather than the other way around. Maybe the people of Santa Monica need that gift, too. Maybe this summer I will be in just the right place at just the right time for people who need me.

beauty, creativity, grateful, learning, teaching

Beautiful: The Road to Wholeness

“Nothing in life is trivial. Life is whole wherever and whenever we touch it, and one moment or event is not less sacred than another. it. You’ve got to really look after it and nurture it.”Vimala Thakar

It all matters. The simple and the complex. The difficult and the easy. The joyful and the heartbreaking. Each moment comes to our door to teach us something – about ourselves, about others, and about the world and our place in it.

I’ve been wrestling with this idea a bit this week, trying to make sense of why things go haywire, why they fall apart, and what we do with the pieces that remain. As best I can tell, we pick them up one at a time and help others do the same. They don’t fit together neatly as they did before. But what they create is stronger, more unique, and reflects what we learned in the process of putting it all back together.

Difficult circumstances are hard to live. They’re hard to examine. They’re hard to release. But the process of getting through them, reflecting on what they taught us, and figuring out a way to move forward is an act of sacred healing in and of itself. We can be whole again.

strengths, teaching, yoga

Beautiful: A Yoga Practice Saves and Serves

“It’s amazing how strong we are. Just when we think we can’t do anymore, when we can’t try any harder. When life is really tough, somehow within us we find this extra reserve of strength. It’s the beauty of this yoga practice. It both saves and serves.” ~ Douglass Stewart, Yoga Teacher

“Well, there you are!” Douglass said to me in class yesterday. “I’ve been telepathing you. I was worried I hadn’t seen you and hoped you were okay. Actually, I hoped you were in some exotic location teaching your fabulous yoga, but I am so glad to see you.”

Douglass is one of the greatest treasures of my life. He is the first person I ever considered to be my yoga teacher and just being in his presence is a salve for any injury and illness I have. He is my example, my hero, and my inspiration.

It’s been a rough couple of weeks. I came back from a trip and jumped right into a busy work schedule, promptly got the stomach flu, and looked for, found, almost lost, and then secured a new apartment. Now I’m packing. All this lead me to skip Douglass’s class for a few weeks. I was feeling a little low yesterday and wondered if I should just head home, but something told me I needed to be in Douglass’s class. So, I steeled myself up with a Ben & Jerry’s free cone day ice cream cone, grabbed my mat, and headed for the studio.

The moment I saw him and hugged him, I knew this was where I needed to be. Though the class was a bit tough for me – I’ve been practicing restorative yoga almost exclusively the past few weeks – I could feel every cell of my body shouting “thank you!” My mind cleared, my heart opened, and off I went out into the world, renewed.

Douglass is right. This practice does save and serve, every single time. What a gift. What would we do with out it?

art, community, teaching, writing

Beautiful: We Are Angels to Each Other

“I’ve seen and met angels wearing the disguise of ordinary people living ordinary lives.” ~ Tracy Chapman

When I think about what I really want to be, an angel is an accurate description. Whether it’s through my writing, teaching, art, or business work, I hope it’s all useful to someone. I hope that it makes someone’s life a bit easier, happier, and healthier. I hope that it helps me connect to others and helps them connect to me.

What good are angels up there somewhere? We need them down here, on this Earth, right now. I can’t imagine any work that would be more valuable or gratifying than to know that what I’ve done has in some way helped someone navigate this wild world with more grace.