throw-down thursday (3-27)

I often say that my business play-list is almost (if not more) important to me than my business plan. And I’m only sorta kidding.

A business plan changes and morphs, but my business play-list is the music that speaks to my soul and is, in its own way, a manifesto. Written by others and generously shared with (me and) the world, this music reminds and inspires me to live mindfully, bravely, kindly, meaningfully, and yes, out loud. It helps me keep on doing what I do.

And this song? This one has been on my play-list since I first heard it many (many, many) moons ago. Give it a listen. And if you are so moved, write about it … or whatever it brings up (that’s what we do here at throw-down thursday…).

And if you want, you can share some of YOUR play-list/manifesto tunes with me. (i’m always happy to add more to the mix …)

i’d like to thank the academy

I used to love watching awards shows as a kid. In my younger years I had dreams of being an actress and singer and, like the old cliché about aspiring performers, I’d stand in front of the mirror in our blue tiled bathroom holding a brush, practicing my Tony/Emmy/Oscar acceptance speeches.

As I got older and realized what the life of a performer was like, the dream lost its glow. In time, I found that the things that I loved about performing: community, collaboration, being allowed – no, not just allowed – encouraged and celebrated for sharing big emotions, stories and truths … these things didn’t require a stage, a costume and a different character. I learned that I didn’t have to tell someone else’s stories, and I could collaborate and create community and shine on with all my own stuff on the page, in writing workshops, speaking engagements and readings.

Still, sometimes, I wonder what it would be like to have that public platform to thank all the important people who brought me to this time and place in my life. So, inspired by a couple of awesome Academy Award acceptance speeches from last weekend …

I’d like to thank my parents, for giving me love, love and more love; for giving me something to push up against in my teen years (and sometimes beyond), and support, encouragement and understanding always.

To my sister and brother for the same, only different. And to time, for making our sibling challenges fade into love, understanding and respect. For remembering things differently, but the same, and for the way those shared stories have made us into a unique, special club. And for giving me one of the best roles of my life: Uncle Debbie (and to all the little – and not-quite-so-little-anymore – people who call me that.)

To my aunts, uncles and cousins, for many of the same reasons, and to one particular “loovely coozin” for all the shared experiences and stories along the path. (here’s to more.)

To the friends I grew up with; the ones who knew me when I wore blue cats eye glasses; through the teen years, the drama, the growth spurts and the hurts. And to the ones who are still in that inner circle of call-at-any-hour/come-running-in-a-pinch and who will laugh uncontrollably when we each remember different lines from the old songs from 5th grade chorus, among other things.

To all the boyfriends, crushes, and ‘the one(s) that got away,’ as well as my dear, wonderful ex-husband: for teaching me about love, and relationship, and for helping me see that love doesn’t always conquer all, but it IS better to have loved and lost than not at all. And yes, for making some songs still kick my ass and break my heart years later (oh, those damn songs).

And to the hubster: for all the foot rubs, and for helping me see that a tsunami is not a requirement (and as a matter of fact … uh: tsunami = destruction/pain. duh), and for being “in” with my theory that relationships really are the biggest personal growth workshop ever.

To my step-son, for still calling me his step-mother, long after his dad and I split up, and for “whatever Debbie”ing me when I remind him of his little self, but stilling putting up with me and letting me have what I have, and what I had. (and to his mom, for helping all that.)

To the places I’ve lived, for helping me see what matters in my community and in my space. For reminding me (sometimes too many times) that I can create space, breath into, love and rest just about anywhere I go. (and ok, so a little closer to NY would be nice now, but y’know: the hubster/compromise/the aforementioned personal growth workshop of relationship …)

To my beloved Writer Babes. Each and every one of them. From the early days to today. For helping me see what I’m doing on this planet; for appreciating what I do and paying me to do it (yay). For reminding me every time they show up with pens poised that the power of writing in community and being seen, acknowledged and appreciated for their unapologetic selves is one of the best self-help gifts ever. And that my evangelism around this practice is important and worth doing.

To pop culture for countless references, hours of entertainment, songs to sing, and inspiration, insight and delight. (where would i be without the force and yoda? really …)

To my teachers, coaches, friends and inspiration (some of them are all four) including, but certainly not limited to: Pat SchneiderAnne Lamott, Natalie Goldberg, Brenda Ueland and Maya Angelou; Lorrie Schneider, Lori Mazan, Sue Coleman, Ruth Flohr, Sandi Davis, Gail Barrie, Kathy Miller, “the Corals,” my “Goldies” (and tanya and michelle for bringing us all together), to my blog buddies (‘specially those from the early days), the peeps I worked with during my time with The Coaches Training Institute, my Clubhouse buds (and again, thanks, michelle), my poet teachers (rumi, billy collins, mary oliver, david whyte, and on and on and on …) for everything. Everything.

And to the person who gave me my first journal – even though I don’t remember who you are: thank you, thank you, thank you.

And, since the music would SO have been playing me off by now, so … like Maureen Stapleton said when she won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for Reds: “I want to thank … my family, my friends … and everyone I’ve ever met in my entire life.”

Ever tried writing your own ‘I’d like to thank the Academy’ speech? (why not today?)

another go ’round the sun

calendarThe last day of 2012. And how are you spending it? Are you a resolution person? Do you reflect, set intentions, or have a ritual to mark the end of the year? Do you go to a New Years Eve party, or watch whatever television something that has replaced Dick Clark and the ball dropping thingie? (i never got that: standing around in times square – where it’s probably bloody freezing – or sitting on the couch to watch a huge metal ball lit up by loads of light bulbs drop a few feet.) (and really, it doesn’t even drop; it slooowlly inches down a track where it says 2012 at the top, and when it falls, the 2 changes to a 3. oh, the excitement!) (… but i digress.)

The older I get, the more mixed I feel about the significance (or lack of it) around the changing of the year. Does magic happen when the clock strikes twelve on December 31st? Do we get a clean slate? More energy? Forgiveness? Cause really, it’s just another day … with no greater power to grant renewal than any other.

But we forget that, of course. In the process of managing the details of our lives, it’s easy to get distracted (not that i would know anything about that … [see dick clark/ball drop musing above ...]). So maybe because of all these distractions in our lives, we embrace the opportunity to reflect, and use whatever collective energy is swirling around for change and improvement. I know I do.

I had a nice stretch of time off from work with the x-mas and New Year holiday falling as they did, and that gave me a lot of time to think about the coming year; from big-picture visioning and dreaming to nitty-gritty details around my work, to personal self-care type stuff. You’ll hear more from me on all that in the coming months: more opportunities to play, explore and unleash your awesome along with me … but in the meantime …

… to start off this next go ’round the sun, I decided to dip back into a little something I wrote a few years ago at the turning of the year. Same as it ever was, though so much has changed.

On the turning of the year
(2012/13 revisited) 

Days go by, we meet people, we buy groceries. We work, we sleep, we eat, we drink coffee, we wish for more, we strive to do better. We wonder why some things are so damn hard; other times we think about people who are really suffering and struggling, and we feel lucky, soft and grateful.  And we are grateful.

And sometimes we still forget.

We wish we’d said something when we had the chance, other times we wish we hadn’t said it when we did. People get sick, and people get well; some don’t. Fear is sold on the news and there is plenty to go around. There is also magic and beauty to go around. And sometimes we forget.

We do laundry, we hang out with  family and friends, we move and we procrastinate. We can’t get that stupid song out of our head. We triumph, we fail, we let people go. We rise to challenges and we hide our heads in the sand. We get the mail, we pay the bills, we bitch about the price of gas. We dream, we stretch, we take out the garbage, check email, laugh and cry. We hug the people we love.

Deadlines loom, deadlines pass, and new ones grow in their place. We come home at the end of a long day and get into comfy clothes, light candles, listen to music, and have a glass of wine. We wrestle our demons, we wrestle each other. (sometimes that wrestling stuff is fun.)

We choose, we second guess, we choose some more, we plow forward hopefully. We move with purpose, we hesitate, we adjust, we plow forward some more, we fall down and get up. We dance with the unknown even if we don’t ever think about it.

Tomorrow the calendar flips to a new number, but nothing else is really different. It’s another new day; a chance to choose, to dream anew, to take bold steps, to shine on. There’s much to celebrate: it’s the same complicated, challenging, magic and beautiful world … and never the same river twice.

Happy New moment, new day and new year, friends.  Thanks for dropping by, and thanks for participating – whether by reading my schtuff, coming to my in-person workshops, working with me one-on-one, adding your thoughts to the weekly writing party we call Throw-down Thursday, or emailing, commenting here on the blog, following me on Twitter, or being part of the Facebook page/community.

And yes, “more please” too. “More please” of each one of you. “More please” of your awesome, “more please” of your vulnerability, your bravery, your writing, your living full-out. With much love, thanks, and lots more “more please.”

thank you, more please

With the recent ravages of Hurricane/Superstorm Sandy here in the eastern US, followed by Thanksgiving (and now, with the december holiday season upon us), I’ve been noticing waves of gratitude flowing in from all corners of my real and virtual communities.

Oprah used to talk about keeping a “gratitude journal” … saying “it was the single most important thing … I’ve ever done.”  And y’know, I’m a ‘writing evangelist’ … I love the power of writing, and telling stories, so you might think I’d really get into something like that, but I never could. I made attempts, but it never quite landed for me; something always felt “off” … it felt forced.

If I was having a tough day, I’d have to ignore the things that were pulling my focus (push them down under the surface) to look for five things to be grateful for among my swirling crank-fest. But sometimes, one just has to be with the challenges and the crank-fest-ness in order to move beyond it … and while it might be good/helpful to put some attention on being happy for fresh flowers and the wonderful crunch of a honeycrisp apple in the midst of a crank-fest, writing only the stuff that I was grateful for – without acknowledging the challenges? Uh, no. It just didn’t work for me. So …

My variation on the gratitude journal – with or without the journal part  …

When something good happens in your day when you experience something that makes you feel good, happy, comfortable, content, excited, jazzed or otherwise delighted … or if something happens that feels a bit like encouragement from the universe – whether it’s teeny or huge – acknowledge it right then, in that moment – and follow up by saying “thank you/more please” … either out loud or quietly to yourself. (when you can, or if you feel so moved, write it down.)

Try it when your partner gives you an awesome foot rub or you find a penny on the street. Say it when you snag an amazing deal on plane tickets, or when the kids put their laundry away without being reminded. Say it to yourself as you walk out of a meeting where you land a client you’ve been wooing for months. Say it when you finish a painting; when you have a reallly delicious stretch; when they have the good bread at ShopRite; when you reconnect with an old friend.

You could add a dance move from time to time. Raise a glass when appropriate. If you want to add it to an existing practice, write about some of the times you’ve said it, or thought it, or maybe you just want to write about how the whole process is going, and what you’re noticing. You could also shoot a photo (both of the shots in this post are from my ‘thank you/more please’ photo file…).

Thank you/more please for awesome technology; thank you/more please for green lights when I’m running late; thank you/more please for the house to myself; thank you/more please for this fireplace, this moment, that sunset. Thank you/more please for good friends; a good report from the doctor; a great song; a hot cup of coffee.

If it feels good; if it makes you happy – whatever it is – meet it with: “thank you/more please.” Then watch how the simple act of paying attention – acknowledging the unique, the happy and the awesome – and encouraging it with “thank you/more please” – will beget more and more reasons to say “thank you/more please.”

And (please), let me know how it goes. (thank you.)

One more thing …

I’m grateful for you – for visiting my corner of the blogosphere – for reading, commenting, asking questions and participating.

And to each of you who wants to discover more of your awesome through a writing practice, and the ones who encourage me to keep developing my work and sharing it …  thank you, thank you, thank you; more please.

saturday in the park

Went into the city for a whirlwind visit with Daf and his GF yesterday. Couldn’t have been a more beautiful October day: sunny, mid-70s; Central Park was bustling.

While waiting to meet-up by the monument at the Columbus Circle entrance to the park, a man approached me, smiling.

Did you do this? he asked, pointing up at the monument.

Without skipping a beat, I replied Yeah, do you like it?

It’s beautiful, thank you.

Well, y’know, if you’re gonna be The Universe, you might as well produce some sparkly beauty for everyone to enjoy.

You did a wonderful job, he said.

Well, thank you. And thanks for your contribution to this stunning day, I said.

Ah, you like that? he replied.

Very nice, I said.

Couldn’t have done it without your help.

It was probably a group effort.

Yeah, I guess so, he said.

And with that Daf and the GF arrived (daf, knowing me all too well, immediately teased about how apros pro it was that he found me conversing with a stranger …), and moments later the BF walked up … and my new friend and co-creator went on his way.

Thanks for the beautiful day, I said; You too, he smiled and waved as he went off to co-create some more.

And what awesomeness we concocted, this man (and everyone else) and me.

the BF, daf (the ex), and his GF

out of focus, yes, but infectiously happy skaters

a little bach concerto, tree side (i only know it was a bach concerto cause the BF told me. i’d’ve just said: ooh, what a nice classical something-or-other …)

Off to the park again shortly to meet up with one of my longest standing blog bud’s Kerstin - who is driving down from Massachusetts . Looking forward to seeing what kind of beauty we can all pull together today.



iMourn (and keep moving …)

If you’re new to my blog, let me start this post by warning you: when I named my writing groups Living Out Loud, it was because my approach is all about unleashing on the page w/out apology and then bringing more of that to your life and your writing. 

And when I’m writing and living out loud, I have a tendency to swear. So … you have been warned. 

Fucking pancreatic cancer got another one.  Steve Jobs. Damn. 
If you’re not new to me/my writing/my blog then you know that I take pancreatic cancer kinda personally; it killed my mother when she was just 66. From diagnosis to death (and every nasty moment in between) it took 10 months. 
My cousin Michael had a little over a year from his diagnosis to death.  One of Daf‘s old colleagues (a secretary/assistant whose heart was as big as her all-jersey hair) went in about 8 months. A friend’s father was gone in two months. This disease is a killer; a nasty, evil killer that takes no prisoners. And while we know we don’t get out of this life alive, people who get pancreatic cancer are pretty much getting handed their tickets for a fast and painful train ride outta life-town. And even though Jobs’ was of a variation of the disease that had better odds, it was still pancreatic cancer.  Better odds with pancreatic cancer are still lousy odds. 
There’s so much that could be said about Jobs’ impact, but I think it will be said far better by many more than I – those who really understood his genius and the true influence he’s had on technology and our lives.  Instead, moved as I was the first time I saw this, here is the Commencement Address Jobs gave at Stanford in 2005 (if you’ve never seen it, it’s worth a watch. and if you have seen it, it’s worth hearing again …)


In particular … “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”

The man’s talking about living out loud, isn’t he? He’s talking about finding out what moves you, taking a stand for it and then moving toward it. So, Apple, Mac, Pixar, iPod, iPhone … all amazing and wonderful things/companies, and yet, that inspiration to “stay hungry/stay foolish” and “think different” (even though that always drove the inner grammar police in me crazy: it’s think differently, damn it …) is the legacy I’m feeling today. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. 

So … semi-related: While I’ve been planning to “announce” the news that I’d signed on to run the Miami “Mara” (half marathon) as a member of the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network’s Team Hope again in the next week or so, I intended to do it with a bit of flourish and back-story (and maybe i’ll still do that down the road), but tonight, I’m feeling that helpless, sad, damn it, enough-already pain that I’ve felt too many times before.

So now seems like a good time to say – if you’re so moved, any amount is welcome … help me do what I can to kick pancreatic cancer’s ass.

cranky turns to serendipity turns to blazin’ signs

I had to go into NYC for an appointment today. Because it’s (still) raining, I decided my trusty Blundstone boots would be a wiser choice than what I’d normally wear into the city this time of year: flats, or maybe sneaks if I planned to walk a lot.

I hadn’t worn them since last winter, and silly me, I forgot that these trusty old boots (bought when i lived in australia in the early/mid 90′s, so, not just a figure of speech, that phrase, “old” …) were starting to fray inside. After walking 3 streets and 5 avenues from the subway to my destination, I started to feel that “uh oh” feeling of an impending blister. No, make that two. One on each heel. Daaamn.

When I wrapped the appointment in the mid-afternoon, I thought I’d check in with my office – things are really busy there, so I was toying with the idea hightailing it back to the train in order to get in an hour or two at my desk (“hightailing” being a relative term since i was sporting fully formed blisters on my heels at this point) … or if the fort was holding down OK, maybe I’d see if I could connect with a friend for an early dinner. As it turned out, both those options went up in smoke when I discovered that the battery on my cell phone had run out of juice; I was without my cell.

So there I was: one cranky, ragged out gal, limping along in the rain toward the subway when I realized I was right near The High Line … and even though it was schvitzing and the blisters were blistering, I climbed the stairs and took the scenic route north.

What a blast it was. This “empathetic water fountain” is part of an art installation; with a digital “voice” on a loop that is a little encouraging, and a little bit goofing on those new-agey “be good to yourself” sorts of affirmations. (here, listen: i found an audio of it in this piece from the new york times. (if you don’t have time to click/listen … here’s what “she” says: we are so glad you’ve made time in your busy day to visit the high line; you really deserve a break. we support your attempt to improve your quality of life. you are clearly a very busy person and you need to take adequate time for rest and relaxation. relax. a little relaxation will help you bring greater productivity into your life. you work so hard; you deserve to be pampered. go out there and get some sun; you look a little pale.) Awesome.

More High Line coolness …



a flying kitty … and a walk-way in the air …








Finally, or maybe not so finally, since it has a lot to do with the reason I went into the city in the first place: there are some changes coming down the pike for me, and when I came down from the High Line, I found a nice bit of cosmic reinforcement in the form of a sign. The neon variety. (but first, some back-story …)

Last year’s health issues/surgery and all bunk that followed took me from being in the best physical shape of my adult life to just about the worst shape of my adult life. For a variety of reasons, I’d recently begun thinking that it was time to stop letting the inertia (and those bad, ingrained old habits that came back so easily) create my future. So I’ve decided that it’s time (ok, so it’s long overdue time) to get back into my three-pronged approach to regaining my health.

I imagine this three pronged approach like a fitness bar-stool; each element is a leg, and I need each leg to keep me balanced and upright. My three prongs/legs contain two of the essentials that everyone talks about when it comes to losing weight/good health: eat less, exercise more.  But in my experience, those two things won’t last without the third prong – which is (i need to think of a better umbrella word/phrase for this, but for now, let’s use …) focused, intentional self-care. I do that through listening to relaxation/hypnosis audios and writingwritingwriting (duh) to process the whole experience and keep reminding myself why I’m doing it.

The thing that first knocked me off the fitness bar-stool was that during my illness last year, my doc ordered me to cease all exercise. You don’t expect to hear that sort of order from a doc, but I did, and once that “leg came off the stool,” it was only a matter of time before I lost my balance and was on my (ever expanding) ass on the ground.

Can’t really point to one thing that has started the turn-around for me – its a combo of things – but I’m grateful, grateful, grateful to feel like I’m climbing up on that bar-stool again.

When I pulled myself from pretty-fit to kickin’ ass kinda fit it was because I committed to participating in the Miami Half Marathon in January 2009. I did it as part of the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network’s team -the motivation was part fitness, part a way to kick the ass of the disease that got my mom. I LOVED having that goal, so today (a little less than 2 years since i made the public announcement the first time) … I’m declaring it again: me, Miami Half Marathon, 2012. Done. I’m going.

Yup, I’m going to pull this body out of the funk that it fell into after the I-can’t-believe-you’re-able-to-get-out-of-bed-everyday-your-blood-counts-are-so-bad anemia and the fast growing uterine tumor and ovarian cyst that wouldn’t respond to a drug treatment (and the doc thought that indicated i had cancer but it turned out i didn’t [yay for doc's sometimes being wrong] …) and the hysterectomy and the subsequent complications that put me back in the hospital for 4 days and … well … all that blahblahblah fargin medical drama.

So … I’m back. And for you few, you loyal (you lovable and crazy) readers, that means I’ll be using this space to write and kvetch and process my way back to a healthy bod. My intention is to follow a very specific plan for 6 weeks – which is a pretty drastic change from the way I’ve been going – so I expect I’ll be talking about that a bit (ok, maybe a lot) as I get myself back on the road to Miami … and to better fitness again (for the last time).

So …with all that back-story for ya (still with me?) … as I – with my blistered feeties and my de-juiced cell phone – walked through the rain to the train station, I looked up and saw a sign. A neon sign. But one that might be a figurative sign too.

Cause I believe that the universe drops hints and cheers us on if we’re open to listening and paying attention. So, thanks for the encouragement on my decision and the movement I’m making toward it, Universe. Yes, I’ll “eat well” … and all the rest.

(oh, and thanks for that coda about “cloud 9″ too … looking forward to that … ) 

labor day dreamin’ …

I took this photo a while ago, so maybe it’s cheating for the whole photo-a-day thing, but appropriate for Labor Day, so … fugit.

Lately, I’ve been holding on lightly (but steadily) to the dream that the work I currently do “on the side” will one day be THE work I do … the kind that doesn’t feel like work, and the kind I’ll never have to “retire” from.

Yeah, I’ll fly THAT flag.

And to those of you working or out of work, to those who are building their own business or taking care of business at home: here’s to you doing more of what you love … sharing your gifts and talents out there in the world, so you never have to work a day in your life either.