My vision for a big new year

2017 is off and running! In just the first couple of weeks I’m experiencing a lot of positive energy and feeling that this will be a momentous year.

Yes, I, like many others, feel great uncertainty and deep concern about the direction our nation’s new administration is taking now, and where it will go. But, I feel determined to make my voice heard, to take constructive action, and to do my important work. I want to be a force to support and inspire people to stand strong, to think creatively, and to be effective leaders in their lives and work. The collective, bold, creative thinking and action that we bring to our lives and our society are crucial now. If we succumb to fear and anxiety we will fail to think, and fail to act.

Here’s how I am moving forward:

1. I chose an important word to guide my year. As many of my readers know, I am a big believer in choosing a guiding word for each year. Last year, I chose SAVOR. It guided me to slow down and appreciate everything — big and small — in my life, and it served me well. It helped me to create new awareness and habits, and enhanced my daily happiness. The gratitude I cultivated was a great balance to the stresses that came along.

My word for 2017 is VIBRANT — vibrant health, energy, creativity, thinking, service, and action. I am already feeling the power of this amazing word in my daily life!

2. I am already celebrating achievements. I am celebrating good self-care, and that I am feeling stronger and healthier than I have in a long time. I am celebrating that I have cleared my office of accumulated clutter, and have updated my systems so that I can keep my work space organized and functioning smoothly. I am celebrating that I have started to work with a terrific virtual assistant, and I look forward to how that help will free me to do more of the important projects I have planned.

And, I am celebrating the Vision Board workshop I lead on Saturday, and the remarkable group of women who did deep and beautiful work with me. I am still savoring every moment that we spent together, as they connected to clarity and determined how they want to be in their lives, what they want to do in the year ahead, and what they want to have. They made it all visual in amazing ways, creating vision boards that are both beautiful and packed with intention.

3. I am finding inspiration and creating in exciting ways. I visited the Museum of Fine Arts last week to see great work on exhibit before it leaves the museum. Standouts, in addition to William Merritt Chase, were The Clock, Terry Winter’s prints, and the Massed Media show. I will continue to visit museums and galleries regularly. And, in anticipation of the start of a painting course that I’m registered for at Tufts/School of the Museum of Fine Arts, I have been painting in my studio. I am also finding the vision board I made in late 2016 to be an inspiration for the things I most want to manifest in my life now. Seeing it every morning keeps me taking action toward what I want most. All of these are sparking my thinking and awakening my heart every day.

And, connecting everything for me, love will continue to be my driving force, alongside creativity — in this year and every year. As I wrote in my email at the end of 2016, I ask myself every day if I am I serving myself, my family, my clients, my community and the world with a full heart. I am determined to model love and tolerance as I move through 2017.

How is your year starting? Have you chosen a guiding word for yourself? Do you find yourself struggling or feeling stuck? Let me know how you are feeling and doing as you look ahead to this new year. I would love to hear your thoughts.

Big + small

We tend to think we need to tackle big projects with big action to get big results. The funny thing is, that's not the best way to realize those big ambitions.

Why? Most of us get paralyzed at the thought of tackling something big, especially when we think we need to take heroic action to do so. Our self-critic jumps in and it can show up as doubt, fear or procrastination — or a nasty combination of those self-sabotaging reactions.

The key to overcoming these obstacles is counterintuitive. Whether you have a modest, moderate or huge idea to tackle, or project to do, or ambition to realize, start with taking small steps.

And, start taking those steps even if you don't feel you can do them well. It's taking action that matters, and imperfect action is encouraged!

Then, after you take the first step, take another. Be consistent and keep going. It's the consistent small steps that result in tremendous accomplishments.

Try it! I predict you will amaze yourself.

A different kind of top-10 list

With the holidays upon us and the last days of 2016 winding down, top-10 lists will soon start showing up. We have all seen the typical lists of the top-10 films of the year, the top-10 world events, and such. In thinking about top-10’s — which for me, would include things like a significant birthday celebrated, the marriage of my nephew, coaching remarkable and inspiring clients, and a memorable trip to Paris — I decided to be grateful for all of those things, but to take a little different approach to thinking about how I want to compile my top-10 this time around.

I am thinking about the top 10 things I have learned that I want to take into the new year.

1. To start, I’m focusing on what I want to leave behind from 2016. By reflecting on what went well and what things went awry this year, I will be able to leave behind habits and practices that I know do not serve me well. This will open the way for more of what I want to bring into my new year. What will I leave behind? For one, timidity. I have learned that when I take a step that feels big, and even a bit scary, it's always better than shrinking back. I will also no longer chase after every interesting idea I get, or every opportunity that comes my way. I’ve learned that these distract me from my big priorities. Do you get the idea?

2. After reflecting on my year in 2016, I will decide on the key things I want to create in 2017 and I will choose a word for my year. When I have clearly defined my top priorities, for my personal life and my work, selecting a word that will guide me will follow. (I wrote about choosing a word of the year last December, and many people wrote to tell me they carefully chose a word to guide their year, too.) I learned that having my word was meaningful and inspiring, and that it was great to post my word where I saw it daily. I know this year’s word will help me to be focused and on-target, both with my new priorities and with how I want to live.

3. I will celebrate my achievements in this year and commit to celebrating my coming achievements in 2017. We often lose sight of the things we have accomplished and achieved as we rush through our days — especially the small things that can have so much meaning. When we take the time to savor and celebrate ourselves for our successes, and celebrate things what we might overlook (such as trying out something new that is not a sure bet, or having a tough conversation rather than avoiding it), we encourage ourselves, and can appreciate that we are learning new skills and are growing in important ways.

4. I will make my visions visible. For me, this incudes making a vision board every 3 to 6 months. Creating a vision board is an incredible process, and the completed board provides a way for me to look at what I want to bring into my life on a daily basis, so I do not lose sight of what I want to manifest. Making things visible also includes writing down the top 3 things I will commit to each week and posting the list where I will see it often. The act of committing things to paper, and seeing them, is powerful.

5. I will get more help and support. Last year I began to work with a great bookkeeper and wondered why I had waited so long to do that. My coaches are a big part of my support system, and I look forward to continuing my work with them. This year, I will begin to work with a virtual assistant, to free me from daily tasks that take time away from doing the things that matter most to me, and things that only I can do. I will also do more work with a great professional organizer, to start the year with an updated filing system for my business, and to help me clear accumulated clutter in my office and home. And, I will think about other kinds of help and support I can enlist to make this a great year.

6. I will have weekly Accountability Calls with a colleague. This is a practice I started in 2016. In every call we each report on what we accomplished in the past week, where we struggled and what we learned, and we declare our top 3 priorities for the coming week. We close by picking a word to be our theme for the week. This has been a remarkable practice.

7. I will take excellent care of myself. Having experienced a series of health challenges this year that are now, happily, resolved, I am well aware of the importance of careful self-care. I will pay special attention to what I eat and to my exercise routine. I will create a new daily practice that includes quiet meditation each morning, so that I will be centered, calm and clear as I start each day. I will be tuned in to what causes me stress, and work to reduce those influences — and I’ll actively clear any stress that does come up.

8. I will show up, engage in constructive conversations, and take action related to civic causes about which I care deeply. Current political developments are calling me to think creatively and partner effectively to be a force for sustaining and improving civil rights, ensuring social justice, building tolerance, protecting the environment, and more.

9. I will create as never before. I know that when I write from my heart, and when I paint, and when I think creatively, and when I experiment freely, my life is enriched. Difficult emotions are transformed, I am fueled and inspired, I learn and grow, and I engage with others in amazing ways. I will also visit museums and galleries, attend live theater, music and dance performances, and read as many great books as I am able. Creativity that I engage in and that I experience connects me to big, new ideas and accelerates inspiration.

10. I will live with love as a driver. I know that love is powerful and positive, and that is what I want to be. I know that love is an antidote to fear and anxiety. So, I will continue to make “love” my watchword, as I have been especially focused on doing recently. I will check in with myself and ask if I am I serving myself, my family, my clients, my community and the world with a full heart, and if I am modeling love and tolerance for those around me.

I am looking ahead to 2017 with the desire to live bigger than ever. That desire informed my top-10 list entries. What will you include on your forward-looking top-10 list? How will you create the best year ever in 2017?

Let me know if you are making a top-10 list, and what your list (or lists) include. I would love to hear your thoughts on the topic.

All my best wishes for the upcoming holidays and a BIG and happy 2017. Let's all look ahead to a year filled with love, creativity, joy, abundance and peace.

The importance of warding off fear

I, like many others, am finding that the weeks since the election have brought up a lot of challenging emotions. I do not want to assume that we all share the same political point of view, but nearly everyone I have been in touch with is concerned about extreme statements that were made made during the election and many of the directions being taken to date by the incoming administration. I need to address the emotional responses to those developments, and hope that we can all be empathetic to one another in order to be calmer, hear each other and discuss our points of view with respect.

For context, I want to tell you about why I am feeling especially concerned now. I am Jewish. My father grew up in Paris. When the Nazi regime occupied France in WWII, he and his parents and brother made a perilous journey through the country and over the Pyrenees mountains to stay ahead of the Gestapo, who would have sent them to a concentration camp. They were imprisoned in Spain for several months, and after entering Portugal (also without papers), they found safety and finally got visas to come to the US. Many of my relatives were not so lucky. In addition, my mother-in-law, who grew up in Germany, was an 11-year-old child when her mother sent her out of the country on the Kindertransport to save her life. So, my first-hand knowledge of the ways that authoritarian leaders curtail freedoms and are dangerous is keen. And, while nothing of that extreme nature is happening now, I see very frightening similarities in the way our president-elect has spoken over the last year and since the election, has rallied support employing blatant lies, has tolerated and encouraged the hateful and dangerous behavior of extremists, manipulates the media, and is surrounding himself with people who have histories and agendas for curtailing liberties in many ways.

And, many other agendas trumpeted by the incoming administration are very worrisome. These include proposed changes to healthcare policy and education, building relationships with authoritarian leaders of other countries, and reducing protection of our environment, to name just a few. This does not feel like the America I have always know. And, as I hear from so many people, concerns about matters like these lead to feeling fearful.

And fear is a problem. Because when we live in a state of fear, we are actually inhibiting our ability to think. We suffer from high levels of stress. We can become paralyzed.

Now, more than ever, we must not let ourselves become victims of fear.

We must think clearly and remain able to discern. We must be informed and alert. We must think together about the actions we can take to have a positive impact in times of uncertainty or danger.

But how can we stay informed and yet resist the overwhelm of constantly reading and watching the news (and steering clear of so much false news)? How can we foster the kinds of clear conversations that will lead to the emergence of wise end positive ways to respond effectively? How can we take prudent actions without getting carried away? How can we protect against living in a state of anxiety?

A wise friend told me that at her church, they often say: Want what you have. Do what you can. Be who you are. These words struck me as helpful guides for these times.

Want what you have. This seemingly simple statement emphasizes the importance of being grateful for what you have. There is scientific validation for the benefits of gratitude, for thinking each day of at least three things for which you are grateful, and why you are grateful, too. Rather than longing, feeling gratitude for what you have keeps you grounded. It keeps you in the moment, it and ensures that you do not lose sight of the goodness in your life. For despite your concerns, there are so many reasons that it’s a wonderful time to be alive.

Do what you can. None of us has all the answers or can do it all. Accepting this is important, and keeps overwhelm at bay. But, the message also tells us that we are able to do many things. We can help others in need. We can foster important connections and facilitate meaningful conversations. We can contribute to organizations that are doing important work that will be needed now more than ever. We can teach tolerance and model living with love as a driving force. And, we can — and must — each be leaders as we do our important work in the world.

Be who you are. We are all unique and distinctive human beings. This is the time to authentically be who you are, and appreciate yourself. Be true to your values and beliefs. Honor the contributions you can make to your family, your community and the world.

As we strive to be vigilant without getting pulled into fear, we have opportunities — to be courageous and to be creative. We need to muster courage for the important work ahead, and we need to activate creative thinking now more than ever. We can come together for comfort and support, inspiration, and also a sense of power to be able to collectively effect change.

Courage and creativity are among my fundamental principles for living big. When we are courageous and creative together we can ward off fear and live through challenging times with more confidence and hope. And in addition, it’s important to know that love is a powerful antidote to fear. When we focus on the power of love we are stronger. (You may want to check out this article, that I found to be both insightful and inspiring).

I’d be happy to hear about how you are feeling now and what is helping you to ward off fear.

And, as we look ahead to the holidays and the conclusion of 2016, I send you my best wishes and a vision for a new year filled with love, tolerance, abundance and peace.

The beauty and power of a poem

Creativity has so much to offer us as a way to process emtions and express what we feel. Many of us are experiencing a lot of enmotion in the aftermath of the election, and I urge you to do something creative with the energy connected to your emotions.

You may feel like pulling out paints or digging in your garden. You may feel like dancing to loud music or playing a musical instrument. I wrote a poem today.

I encourage you to try creating poetry. It's so basic and simple. All you need is a paper and pen, or a keyboard, and you can get started. A great approach is to write a 3-minute poem. Just set a timer and start expressing what you are feeling. Your poem needn't rhyme — just let your thoughts flow and see what happens.

If you like that, you can play with other forms and lengths of poetry writing. It is an enormously satisfying way to express yourself and to feel relief if you are struggling with challenging emotions.

I would love for us to share poems, so please add yours in the comments below. Let's start a bit of a creative movement to heal ourselves and heal the world.

Here is the poem I wrote today:

What I’m learning from my body

I had surgery in late July. While not “serious”, this was a much bigger deal than anything I’d experienced before (the procedure entailed four hours of general anesthesia). Happily, I spent only one night in the hospital. I am enormously grateful for the excellent care I received and that everything went well. I am now past the half-way mark of the predicted six weeks of recovery, and I am happy that the healing process has been going smoothly.

As I reflect on my day-to-day experiences in these weeks I find that I am in awe of the physical body and how it heals when you give it rest and respect. I had intentionally wrapped up lots of work beforehand so that I could focus on healing, and that has proved to be a great decision — and one that has eliminated stress from my life. That said, I am learning a lot about myself and things about the mind and body that I took for granted before this episode.

Like many of us in the modern world, my work is based largely in my head. I think, I plan, I write, I coach in deep conversations — most of the time while sitting at a desk. When I walk or do yoga (something I am really missing now!) and when I paint in the studio or sculpt, I am engaged physically. And, I used to think that those were the times that required most of my energy. After all, when you are sitting, well, you are sitting!

Here’s what I’ve learned in the last few weeks. The walks I have taken (as prescribed by my doctors) have been a breeze compared to the fatigue I have experienced doing the little work I have put in in my office. Whether I am taking care of small administrative matters that cannot wait, or coaching the few clients I have continued to see during my “medical leave”, it’s the mental work that has taken a toll on my energy. The focus, concentration, attention and careful listening in a conversation are much more tiring than going up and down stairs or walking outside for 30 or 40 minutes.

I realize that I must honor and respect the energy I have — and use it wisely. I must expend my energy with awareness. I have to acknowledge and plan for the impact that doing “head-based” work will have on my well-being. I have to have balance and ample rest.

And, I realize that even when my energy levels are back to normal in the fall, I will have an opportunity to keep this awareness about my energy in my mind. I will be able to honor the hard work of mental focus, and appreciate the gifts that physical activity offer me. I will aim for balance, knowing that the opportunity to use the body more brings great rewards. I want to have physical strength and the pleasures of using my body, even as I love the intellectual parts of my life. And, I predict that creativity will flourish with these conditions in place.

As the summer winds down, and we move out of a “vacation” mindset and gear up for more intense work, school, and social activities, I hope you will think about and honor your energy. When you use your energy with awareness, you can truly create a rich and balanced life, one day at a time. Many of us are so excited about our big ambitions that we overload ourselves and struggle. Realizing that we can actually do more by slowing down, focusing on our priorities, and bringing awareness to the way we expend our energy can be a game-changer.

How do you find ways to balance the mental and physical, to honor and respect your energy and to seeing the rewards of this approach to living?

I received a lovely small coloring book as a gift and discovered that this is a special way to be creative that I had not appreciated before. Watching the pages come alive with color has been a delight.

I received a lovely small coloring book as a gift and discovered that this is a special way to be creative that I had not appreciated before. Watching the pages come alive with color has been a delight.

How we do anything is how we do everything

I’m a keen observer of how people live:
How we focus — or are scattered.
How we take action — or fearfully avoid it, or procrastinate.
How we create — or eschew expressing ourselves, and/or live reactively.
How we care for ourselves — or put ourselves last, or run ourselves ragged.
How we live with optimism and an abundant mindset — or live with fear as a driver.

Ultimately, how we live can lead us to frustration and limitation, or it can lead us to expanding in our lives — to living big.

At my workshops and when coaching clients in the last few weeks, I’ve found myself recalling some wisdom that I’d heard from my coach, and again from my painting professor while I was on my sabbatical last fall. Its truth has been playing out in front of my eyes.

“How we do anything is how we do everything.”

It may sound odd at first, but consider this example. If you were asked to write a poem about yourself in 3 minutes, as I have asked workshop attendees to do to introduce themselves to one another, would you dive in with a feeling of “ok, here goes!”, or would you be excited to write it, or would you get nervous and worry that you could not do it, or would you fear it wouldn't be good enough? I have seen all of those responses at the start of the exercise — and I have also heard all of the poems and been knocked out by their expressive beauty and eloquence.

Here’s another example. In watching a group work on creating collages to express the ideas that emerged for each in several exercises, some women were especially adept at starting to select images and phrases that appealed to them, and they then moved into composing and gluing down the elements. This entailed clarity, focus and trust as they made decisions and followed through with the project. Others were overwhelmed at the options, pulled out piles of things they liked, then sorted and considered many possibilities before they composed and glued the elements into place. This approach entailed more struggle, and sometimes that kind of struggle diminishes outcomes. Happily, the resulting creations of our project were marvelous, no matter how the process unfolded. Yet the way different people approached the project was very revealing.

Just as a painter has to make endless decisions about the next color to mix, which brush to select to apply the paint, and what gesture or mark they will make on a canvas, we all face making countless decisions each day. Do we feel connected to our intuition and trust it? Are we in a state of flow? Or, is it hard to make each choice? Does it feel physically uncomfortable to be unsure? Do we second-guess ourselves and fret? Does the possibility of making a “mistake” paralyze us?

“How we do anything is how we do everyting.”

Can you reflect and recall the times that you have lived with flow, and when you have struggled?

Here are 3 ways to shift your mindset when you find yourself struggling:

  1. Appreciate and compliment yourself (aka build self-love). It's impossible to overstate the importance of self-love. Shower yourself with praise — for your courage, for your efforts, for the results of what you attempt, even if they are not all you wish they were. Remember, great things happen when you take many small steps, so appreciate yourself for taking each step.

  2. Talk back to your self-critic. That negative voice in your head is damaging. It sabotages you whenever possible. So, learn to recognize when it shows up, and what form it takes. Does it fill you with doubt? Urge you to procrastinate? Make you feel like an imposter? Make you afraid of failing? When you notice it, you can tell it to leave you alone for a while. (Sadly, it cannot be banished permanently, but it can be managed!) Instead of letting it interfere, tell it you are too busy to listen for the next hour— and then move ahead without that negativity.

  3. Take action, even “imperfect action”! When you feel stuck, start by bolstering some healthy self-love, then tell your self-critic to step aside for a while. You’ll find that it’s easier to take action, whatever that action may be. You can make a decision, place a phone call, try something new — any kind of action will move you forward. And, consider taking “imperfect action” — give yourself permission to go for it (whatever “it” may be), knowing that even if it's not perfect, you can take your next best step after this one. Newton’s first law of physics is worth remembering: an object in motion stays in motion. Once you start to take action it's easier to keep going.

It's always worthwhile to reflect on how you operate in your life. Observe yourself and see what shifts for you over time.

The magic of making precious time for yourself

Life certainly gets busy! There are many days when it feels challenging just to make a little time for a calm short lunch break (one where you actually taste and digest healthy food!). On days like that, the idea of taking a short walk to enjoy the glories of spring feels impossible.

Pink blossoms started popping on the tree outside my window today!

Pink blossoms started popping on the tree outside my window today!

What I have learned is that those beautiful days, when the pink blossoms are first popping out, are too good to miss. Even when my to-do list is crammed, I know I will be happier — and will do my work with more attention and enjoyment — if I take that break and get outside to breath fresh air, move my limbs, and appreciaote the magic of nature.

How can you feed your heart today with beauty, movement, and a break from the hurry in your life?

Enhance self-love but treating yourself to small ”goodness“ breaks. You‘ll naturally bring more creativity into your life. Your health will benefit. And, everyone around you (family members and co-workers) will love the energy you share.

Try it. I‘d love to hear how it works for you.

Are you taking inspired action?

I’ve been making big plans of late, and thinking about setting intentions, motivation, making progress and completing projects. Spring is an exciting time to launch new projects that really excite me and that will offer huge value.

Following my fall sabbatical, I was busy developing program proposals that had been requested, starting work with new coaching clients, and writing a major proposal for the book I'd worked on during my sabbatical. (More to follow about the book soon!) Once my proposals were submitted, it was time to look ahead to what I wanted to create in my business — and my life.

I’m never at a loss for ideas that excite me, so I had important decisions to make. I started by thinking about my intentions. Being clear about what I most wanted to do — and why — helped me decide where to put my focus and my attention. It made it easy for me to say “Yes” to some things, and to put other ideas and opportunities on a side burner. The last thing I want to do is “splatter” myself across a lot of projects and be unable to do any of them well. So, while it’s a challenge to say “No” to things that excite me, when I stayed clear about my intensions, and thewhy behind them, I was able to choose the projects I most wanted to make a reality.

Then it was time to take action. That’s where the hard work — but also the fun — began. I’ve been excited to dive in and see my ideas become realities, and I am on track to bring them to completion.

What I’m creating now.
I am happy to be offering some great workshops this spring that are designed to inspire and ignite change. I am excited, too, to be doing several one-on-one artist retreats this season. And, I’m thrilled to be offering a new 6-month coaching group in 2016. In this group, 6 brilliant women will explore what Living Big means to them, and decide how they want to take action to stop living small, navigate a big transition, or create a vision for their future and begin taking confident steps toward it. This will be a journey of significant change, filled with shared love and support. (If this opportunity intrigues you, get in touch with me directly. I’m accepting applications now.)

What is your intention for this new season?
Do you want to get healthier? Show up in a bigger way at work? Improve a key relationship? Bring more inspiration and creative energy into your day-to-day life? Stop over-working and get balance back in your life? Find courage to follow a dream? Make a bold idea a reality? Think carefully, then consider why the desire is strong for you. Knowing that will provide a foundation for taking action and staying motivated.

If you want to talk about what you want to pursue (or what you are sorting out) and how you can start taking inspired action, let me know. I hope that this will be a fulfilling and creative season for you, filled with abundant inspired action.

Early spring Sightings! I am inspired by the new growth that heralds a beautiful new season.

Early spring Sightings! I am inspired by the new growth that heralds a beautiful new season.

What my art — and making it — is teaching me

A SCULPTURE I RECENTLY   COMPLETED.

A SCULPTURE I RECENTLY  COMPLETED.

Having embarked on a new professional direction after selling my design firm 5 years ago, I dicovered that I loved Intuitive Painting (so much that I became an instructor in that proecess), but that engaging in other personal creative work was a challenge. In time I started writing poetry (as I have always loved words, and that was a comfortable way for me to express ideas and emotions). And, last year I enrolled in a class at Boston's MFA and began sculpting in clay. To my delight, I loved working with my hands and in three dimensions.

On my fall 2015 sabbatical, I took a new big step and enrolled in an abstract painting course at the Corcoran School of the Arts and Design. To say that it was life-changing is not an overstatement. I had a brilliant teacher and wonderful classmates who generously embraced me as a new student, and who all taught me more than I'd have imagined possible in a one-semester course.

Now, I am enrolled at the SMFA in Bosotn, with another brillient painting teacher and inspiring classmates. And, I have continued to study with my sculpting teacher.

All of this art-making takes a lot of time. I wondered, at first, if perhaps I was devoting too much time to this work, as my coaching practice and the programs I offer are so important to me and require so much time and attention. Now that we are four months into 2016, I am taking stock of the decisions I made, and how the balance is working for me.

MY MOST RECENT SCULPTURE, ASSEMBLED QUICKLY AND INTUITIVELY WITH FOUND OBJECTS.

MY MOST RECENT SCULPTURE, ASSEMBLED QUICKLY AND INTUITIVELY WITH FOUND OBJECTS.

What I have realized is that my creative work is richly rewarding — and it challenges me. In the best moments, I make what I feel tangible in my art. I sometimes find myself in such flow that I completely lose track of time. That is an amazing experience, and one that, happily, I often replicate when engaged in my coaching work.

Other times when I am in the studio, and more often this semester in my painting class, I find myself struggling to connect to my intution, unable to create with ease. I had decided at the start of the semester to deliberately use this painting class to experiment with a wide range of techniques, so that I my painting process can flow. I want to find a way to paint that feels like home for me. So, I am perservering and have started to find more freedom as I paint.

Strikingly, when I am at work outside of either the painting or sculpting studios, I realize that I more naturally look for opportunities to be responsive, intuitive, adaptable and, yes, creative — in recognizing unexpected and intriguing ideas, and in the decisions I make and the actions I take. This fluidity is striking to me, and is leading me in exciting directions. And, the happiness I feel with my work is ever increasing.

I am certain that my descion to devote time to personal creative exploration is paying dividends for me, and I am excited as I contemplate continuing my journey to develop as an artist.

Snowed in, 2016

Last year, on February 2, 2015, we were snowed in big-time. I just came across an email I sent that day, and thought that today’s storm in Boston, while not as crushing, still cancelled schools and played havock with schedules. So I wanted to post it again here, and hope it brightens your day (wherever you are!):

The view from my office window today.

The view from my office window today.

Those of us in Boston, as well as many others across the country, experienced the second big snow storm in the space of a week. By now there is no place to put all the snow! We are trying to dig out, and plows have been laboring to make the roads passable. For people with pets who had to be taken out, or places they had to get to, it was an especially challenging day.

Fortunately, many of us were able to work from home and have a productive day. I certainly appreciated that the power and heat kept things comfortable. I lit some candles and made more than a few cups of tea. And, I set aside a little time to write a poem and listen to an inspiring TED talk by a wonderful Buddhist monk who enlightened me about altruism. Creating always brightens my day, and getting new ideas helps me to bring fresh perspectives to my work. I hope you were able to bring creativity into your day, too.

Wishing you sunny skies, a few days with no precipitation, and inspiration of every kind.

Sabbatical recap and looking ahead

Alas, my sabbatical has ended. We‘ve packed up the DC apartment and driven home to Boston, and while it‘s lovely to be back, it is bittersweet.

Our Thanksgiving trip to Boston was wonderful, highlighted by spending time with our children and our grandson, Samuel. Sam is now 9 months old. He is growing and thriving in wonderful ways, and is a constant source of joy.

We flew on to Chicago after the holiday, where my husband was honored at the RSNA (Radiologic Society of North America), at their enormous annual meeting. I was so proud to see him receive a Gold Medal in recognition of his great achievements as a leader in Radiology. And, I was happy to have time to explore the town on my own, including a visit to the Art Institute of Chicago, and getting a start on some holiday shopping.

My husband, Steven, being honored with a Gold Medal at the RSNA meeting in Chicago, and a wonderful celebration at The Art Institute Of Chicago.

My husband, Steven, being honored with a Gold Medal at the RSNA meeting in Chicago, and a wonderful celebration at The Art Institute Of Chicago.

Some of the spectacular pieces we enjoyed in the contemporary collection at The Art Institute of Chicago (by Jawlensky, Giacometti, Matisse, Klee, Severini, and Klee)

The interior of the Kennedy Center; at Lafayette Park the night after the Paris attacks.

The last weeks of my time in Washington were full and fun, in spite of coping with troubling world events. We were at the Kennedy Center seeing a brilliant perfomance of the Twyla Tharp 50th Anniversay Tour when we heard the news about the terror attacks unfolding in Paris. The next evening we found ourselves walking through Lafayette Park, across from The White House, and were surrounded by people holding candles and hand-made French flags as they sang La Marseillaise. We felt a deep connection to the love, sadness and hopeful energy of the crowd.

On a happier note, I worked nearly daily in the studio and returned with a body of work that I am proud of. I have registered for a spring semester course at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts that seems to be much like my course at the Corcoran School for the Arts and Design. While I will miss my brilliant teacher, Mira Hecht, and my fantastic classmates, I am excited as I look ahead to continuing my work as a painter. I look forward to having the structure, support and energetic environment of a challenging course to help me further develop my skills as a painter, and I am eager to explore many new ideas on canvas.

Three of the small paintings I completed near the end of my sabbatical.

I am also excited to have made significant progress on a book I‘ve been writing, and am glad to be in conversation with a terrific publisher. Stay tuned for news about the book!

Another highlight of the last weeks of the sabbatical included a tour of the White House, that was decked out in fantastic holiday splendor. The live music that was being performed made it even more special to be there.

The White House tour was a visual treat at every turn.

And, my teacher had arranged for our class to have a private tour of a remarkable special exhibition, Masterworks From Switzerland, Gauguin to Picasso, at The Phillips Collection. The art historian taught us a lot I had never known about the distinctive works of Picasso, Van Gogh, Chagall and Pissarro on view, and several wonderful artists whose work was new to me (including Alexej von Jawlensky, Ferdinand Hodler and Cuno Amiet).

My husband and I also made time to take in several excellent films while we were away. Among our favorites were Spotlight, Truth, Bridge of Spies, Suffragette and Trumbo I also recommend a wonderful new documentary, Peggy Guggenheim: Art Addict, that was released just before we headed home.

On our final visit to the Dupont Circle Farmer‘s Market we enjoyed seeing holiday wreaths, garlands and flowers and e were surrounded by lively music and happy shoppers. We said goodbye to our friend Annette, whose amazing bakery items are all gluten free, and all delectable. If you‘re in Washington on a Sunday morning, it‘s worth waiting in line at her O Earth Creamery and Bakehouse table to taste her creations (even if you have no worries about gluten)!

With the unpacking now nearly done, and having enjoyed lovely visits with family, it‘s great to be home. I am glad to have this last week of 2015 to ready myself for the new year. I believe that my experiences on the sabbatical will inspire an amazing 2016. I‘m planning some big new work — to live an even bigger life in the year ahead, and to help more women create and step into the amazing big life they dream of, with clarity, confidence, and joy.

Wonder at the Renwick Gallery

One of the great joys of being in Washington DC for my sabbatical has been the opportunity to visit the fantastic museums of the Smithsonian. These treasures are free for all of us to enjoy, and it is a thrill to be able to visit these museums whenever time allows.

The Renwick Gallery is one of the Smithsonian museums, and is located across from the White House. It is a beautiful building that’s been closed for renovations for the last 3 years. I’d not known of it, but I have walked past the gallery each day on my way to the Corcoran and have been intrigued by the imposing facade. It was exciting to find out that the museum was to reopen on November 13. There was a lot of buzz about it, so I checked out its fascinating history and the opening exhibition, Wonder. While I was eager to see the exhibition, I waited until after the opening weekend to avoid the crowds.

My patience was rewarded! The magnificent sculptural installations that were commissioned for nine grand galleries were thrilling to move around and marvel at with just a few other visitors on a Tuesday afternoon. The name of the exhibition, Wonder, could not be more apt. The works are superb, and they make each of the gallery spaces a star attraction.

While photos cannot convey the impact of seeing these monumental works in person, I hope you will get a sense of the nine works — and perhaps be able to make a trip to Washington see them yourself. I hope you can make it before July 10, 2016, when the exhibition will close.

Tara Donovan’s intriguing landscape, ”Untitled”, is made of index cards!

”Plexus, A1“ by Gabriel Dawe is made of thread and is completely spellbinding.

Patrick Dougherty’s ”Shindig” is PHENOMENAL, and especially delightful because you can move into the forms he created with willow saplings.

Janet Echelman’s Suspended Woven sculpture, ”1.8” is in a gallery 100 feet long. It was inspired by the Tsunami in Japan in 2011. changing lights, and the shadows cast on the gallery walls, make it completely mesmerizing.

”Middle Fork”, by John Grade, was made by first creating a plaster cast of a tree, found IN THE CASCADE MOUNTAINS, that is the same age as the Renwick building. Then, a half-million segments of reclaimed cedar were carved and connected to make the new ”tree” from the cast. Amazing!

”Folding the Chesapeake” was created by Maya Lin, using marbles to shape rivers, fields, canyons and mountains in this gallery. IT is exquisite.

Leo Villareal’s ”Volume” sculpture is suspended above the great staircase and is ever-changing. It is coded so that the lighting sequences never repeat exactly as before.

"Anonymous donor" by Chakaia Booker is made with reworked RUBBER TIRES. She created fantastic textures and forms.

”In the midnight garden”, by Jennifer Angus, transports us into a magical and completely surprising space. Not only are the patterns on the walls made with actual insects (that are abundant in nature), the stunning pink wall color was derived from crushed insects.


Sabbatical update — reflections at the mid-point

I continue to be enormously grateful for my 3-month sabbatical adventure. In the year before it started, the prospect of having 3 months to live in a new city and dive deep into new learning and personal exploration sounded like it would be a rare and remarkable experience. Now that I am at the mid-point, I can say that the sabbatical has surpassed my expectations.

The rhythm and structure of my days is quite different here than in Boston. I am taking a semester-long abstract painting class as well as a short course on making art books. I‘ve also committed to a self-study program and I am working to complete a book I had started writing before the sabbatical. I am working with a few coaching clients on a very limited basis now, and savoring the time with them. I am also visiting as many of Washington's museums and monuments as I can, I‘m walking to explore as widely as my feet can manage, and Steven and I have been taking in movies more often than usual. I‘m doing some cooking with lovely farmers‘ market finds, and we are enjoying socializing with some friends and family — including some wonderful new friends — who live in the DC area. 

One of my paintings

One of my paintings

Every day is different, and I am never at a loss for things to do. But as I plan each day, I am aware that it is very easy for me to slip into old patterns and overload my schedule. I am conscious of making choices to create space for some quiet every day, whether it‘s for reading, meditation, drawing, or walking in a beautiful place. Creating balance is a big priority now, and I hope that when I return to Boston at the end of the year it will be a natural part of my life.

My first book

My first book

Among my most inspiring experiences have been recent museum visits. When I look at art now, I see it in new ways. When I stand before a painting, I look at color through new eyes, thinking about all of the color choices the artist made. I have a new appreciation for the tones they mixed as well as the impact of the juxtaposition of colors. And, I am keenly aware of the painting technique, marveling at strokes of textured paint, or smoother surfaces with clean edges of color against color, or a flat surface in which the brush strokes are barely perceptible. The craft of the painting, as well as its color and composition and overall emotional impact are all playing in my head (and my heart) as I walk through galleries. 

Whether sharing studio time in my painting classes, or seeing the gallery exhibitions of some of my incredibly talented classmates, or gazing at masterworks in some of our country's most fabulous museums, I am thrilled by all of the creative stimulation. That energy spills over into every part of my life.

Here are just a few examples of recent pleasures and experiences.

The color transformations of David Hockney's Snails Space with Vari-Lites, "Painting as Performance", as the lighting slowly changed, wERE astonishingly beautiful. [At The Smithsonian American art Museum]

The color transformations of David Hockney's Snails Space with Vari-Lites, "Painting as Performance", as the lighting slowly changed, wERE astonishingly beautiful. [At The Smithsonian American art Museum]

Pat Steir's elegant Gold Morning with Roses; Wayne Thibaud's Jackpot Machine, with a paint surface that looks like frosting; A detail in another David Hockney painting, Double Entrance, where you can see the fabulous way he uses and applies color to a canvas; Eric Fischl's Ten Breaths: Tumbling Woman II, which powerfully relates to the human dimension of September 11.  [AT THE SMITHSONIAN AMERICAN ART MUSEUM]

Pat Steir's elegant Gold Morning with Roses; Wayne Thibaud's Jackpot Machine, with a paint surface that looks like frosting; A detail in another David Hockney painting, Double Entrance, where you can see the fabulous way he uses and applies color to a canvas; Eric Fischl's Ten Breaths: Tumbling Woman II, which powerfully relates to the human dimension of September 11. [AT THE SMITHSONIAN AMERICAN ART MUSEUM]

The imposing Lincoln memorial; a family doing a rubbing of the name of a relative who died in the Vietnam War, at the moving vietnam war memorial; and looking at the Washington Monument from the lincoln memorial.

The imposing Lincoln memorial; a family doing a rubbing of the name of a relative who died in the Vietnam War, at the moving vietnam war memorial; and looking at the Washington Monument from the lincoln memorial.

Our sunday trips to the farmers' market at Dupont Circle are always a visual delight.

Our sunday trips to the farmers' market at Dupont Circle are always a visual delight.

Some of my talented classmates at work in our painting studio; the studio where my Book arts class is taught.

Some of my talented classmates at work in our painting studio; the studio where my Book arts class is taught.

I cannot omit some other highlights of the sabbatical so far. The first half of this adventure was punctuated by a wonderful week back in Boston, where I had a powerful retreat with my coaching group to conclude and celebrate the completion of 6 months together. And, I had the pleasure to doing two great Evening of Creativity and Cooking workshops with women who were full of creative spirit. 

As I look ahead, I am eager to continue the challenging work in my painting class (I‘m venturing out of my comfort zone and starting to paint on larger canvases), learning from my gifted teacher and my generous classmates. I look forward to visiting the newly renovated Renwick Gallery that will reopen next week, as well as many other museums. I have plans to spend time with new acquaintances who share my passion for creativity. And, I am excited to anticipate our trip back to Boston for Thanksgiving, when we will spend time with our children and our precious grandson, before returning for the last weeks of this special time in Washington. 

I am truly excited to be here and to be living big!

My sabbatical adventure has begun!

I am thrilled to be posting from Washington DC, where the experiences of my first 2 weeks on sabbatical have been terrific. We’re living in Dupont Circle which is within walking distance of an enormous number of wonderful places, and I’m happy to report that my fitbit is hitting new highs for steps walked and active minutes each day!

It’s been great fun exploring a city I have visited only briefly in the past, and then as a tourist. Being here as a resident feels quite different. 

Here are a few observations: 

  • Driving from Boston to Washington down the East coast is not for the faint of heart, particularly trying to get through New York (where we finally toured the South Bronx to make our way into Manhattan, when the road to the George Washington Bridge was in total gridlock). But one can find unexpected delight in a route that the phone’s map suggests, such as finding yourself on traffic-free country roads in Pennsylvania that are surrounded by beautiful farmland.

 

  • There’s a lot to be said for adding small, personal touches to make a furnished apartment feel like home. Postcards of art we’ve collected on recent trips to museums now fill our bookshelves, mixed with books and family photos we brought along.
  • Exploring new places on foot, with my phone in hand, enables me to easily go anywhere without getting lost. (Driving has been somewhat more challenging at times, but we have done as little driving as possible.) The metro is a breeze to navigate when distances are greater than my foot power will manage and I want to be car-free.
  • The Sunday morning farmer’s market at Dupont Circle is a feast for the eyes and full of marvelous produce, cheeses and more. The market is open year-round, so we will be able to enjoy the abundance of fresh foods for our entire stay.
A few of the many amazing works that delighted me on my visit to The Phillips Collection.

A few of the many amazing works that delighted me on my visit to The Phillips Collection.

The National Gallery's East wing is largely closed for renovations, but the classical art  TREA  SURES in the  West wing, and walking though the atrium of the East Wing, made for a wonderful visit.

The National Gallery's East wing is largely closed for renovations, but the classical art TREASURES in the West wing, and walking though the atrium of the East Wing, made for a wonderful visit.

The National Museum of Women in the Arts has a fabulous, eclectic collection.

The National Museum of Women in the Arts has a fabulous, eclectic collection.

  • The painting class I have enrolled in at The Corcoran School of the Arts and Design (part of George Washington University) is challenging and exciting. I am studying with a marvelous teacher and am surrounded by talented, interesting and generous classmates. 
  • Now that I am studying painting, I am seeing differently. I am keenly aware of color, whether simply looking at what surrounds me or, quite profoundly, when looking at paintings in a museum. And, I am closely looking at surfaces and paint strokes, as never before. 
The yellow flags to welcome the Pope were replaced with red flags of china today. There was a face-off of dissidents and chinese supporters lining the street,

The yellow flags to welcome the Pope were replaced with red flags of china today. There was a face-off of dissidents and chinese supporters lining the street,

  • It’s new for me to be in a city where political events play out all around me. My daily walk to classes and my studio takes me close to the White House. From the flags that went up to welcome the Pope, that changed to the Chinese flag this morning (on those same lamp posts), and protests of all kinds that feel a like street theater, there is always something interesting to observe.

There’s not doubt that these 3 months spent away from home, doing so many new and exciting things, will have a big impact for me. I am enormously grateful for this opportunity to learn and grow.

Stay tuned for periodic updates!

Summer team-building workshop

I created a team-building workshop for a terrific group from a major medical center in the Boston area. Sixteen wonderful people — some of whom work at outposts in other locations and had never met those based at the hospital — gathered for the day. The workshop was filled with creative fun, thought-provoking writing, and lots of discussion about the ways that the team can bring creativity into their workplace in new ways — as well as enriching their own lives.

Everyone was spirited and created courageously. The work they produced was outstanding. And, they shared openly and honestly with one another. At the end of the day there were smiles all around, and I could not have had a better time sharing my work and insights with them.

The photos capture the energy of the day. And, you can read what the department leader said about the workshop.

The day was spent creating, gathering to write and talk, and creating again!

As the day progressed the art became larger, and finally teams of four created together.

Here is the final "group Art" that was created by teams of four. Each was based on a whacky prompt.

Here is the final "group Art" that was created by teams of four. Each was based on a whacky prompt.

Five of the final wonderful individual pieces that were done at the end of the day.

Five of the final wonderful individual pieces that were done at the end of the day.

An inspiring workshop for Youth Design Boston

I was delighted to do a workshop for the amazing young interns in the Youth Design program, returning this year after having done the workshop with last year's interns. We spent a terrific afternoon creating with Intuitive Painting individually, doing writing work, doing group work, and sharing enormous energy all around.

A big thank-you to Alisa Aronson, Assistant Professor at MassArt and Youth Design's Education Specialist, for inviting me to work with the interns again this year, and to her enthusiastic assistants. And, I thank the students — who went along for the ride and courageously created throughout the workshop.

Watch out for these talented young people to emerge on the scene in a few years. They will light up the design world!

Even when life is busy, make time for yourself!

Now that June is here and spring is in full flush, life gets busier than ever for most of us. The invitations and events can be overwhelming, from graduations to end-of-school-year gatherings and other social events, weddings and organizational program offerings, to Father’s Day and family birthdays (at least this is a big birthday season for our family). And, many of us are busy making summer plans — or anticipating the summer plans we've already put on the calendar. It can sometimes feel like the season will rush past and fall will be here in the blink of an eye.

The antidote to all of that busy-ness is to slow down, to savor every day, to create time for yourself. Make time to breathe. Take time to be quiet. Plan time to walk in nature, sip tea quietly with a friend, get enough sleep, read a beautiful book. Use more of your time to BE, rather than DO so much.

One of the beautiful ways to slow down and make YOU a priority is to create. And that can mean a host of things you might not even think of when you consider the idea of “creating”. Here are some ideas:

  • Try carrying a small notebook with you, so you can pull it out and jot down ideas as they pop into your head. Try adding a doodle to embellish your thoughts.
  • Snap photos on your phone when you take the time to notice small wonders around you — things you typically rush by without noticing.
  • Buy an exotic new fruit or vegetable when you come across something unfamiliar at the market, and try fun ways to incorporate it into your next meal.
  • Intentionally take a turn to get lost on your way back from a meeting or outing, and see what you discover.
  • Play — in any way you can think of, whether with a child, or a friend, or by yourself.
  • Of course, you can write a quick poem about a feeling you have, you can strum a guitar, make a sketch, sing, or dance to music you love.

Any and all creative acts liberate your right brain, providing inspiration, more “aha” moments, new insights, and more quiet inside. I expect you will discover that it’s wonderful to slow down and start creating in small ways.

I wish you a season filled with an abundance of joy with friends and family, as well as quiet, creative time for yourself. I would love to hear about the highlights of your season.

A fantastic evening of creativity and cooking

I have long had the idea for offering a special workshop about creativity and cooking. The concept sprang from my focus on the importance of self-love, which is a key condition that enables us to create freely. The way we feed and care for our bodies is an important aspect of self-love. So, I thought, why not help people to bring creativity into the way they prepare food?

It took some time for me to find a partner to make my idea a reality. When I met Amy Lipton, who runs The Joyful Kitchen Cooking School, I knew she had the spirit and energy that would make for a great partnership. And, after taking a private class that she created for me and my husband, I knew my instincts were sound. Amy and I soon set the date for the workshop on April 28, and we were gratified that it sold out within a few hours of offering it to my community. In fact, when we added a second date (in May), that workshop also filled right away.

April 28 arrived, and in came a superb group of 8 women. The chemistry and enthusiasm in Amy's magnificent kitchen was palpable. I shared some key concepts about the nature of creativity and how we can be open, playful and experimental as we cook. Everyone did a writing exercise to loosen up, and then we cooked! 

Amy taught us techniques for creating Vietnamese fresh rolls, seafood and vegetables en papillote, and a fruit crostata. All are fun and surprisingly easy to prepare. For each dish, Amy demonstrated the basic preparation, and the the fun began! Each person made a version of each dish of her own, choosing from a huge variety of ingredients, seasonings and flavors that Amy offered us. And, we ate what we cooked as the evening progress. We savored the fabulous tastes, and compared the variations we'd each created.

The spirited evening was great fun, and eating the results of our efforts was a treat — in every sense of the word! It was lovely to see everyone let herself use interesting and unusual combinations of ingredients and flavors, and to hear about how they want to try and make new variations in their own kitchens.

Amy and I are looking forward to doing the next workshop in May, and are already looking for more dates so we can offer it again this summer. I can't wait!

 

How gratitude super-powers life

We can cultivate states of mind that open us to creativity and enhance our happiness and well-being. That open our heart in beautiful ways. That plug us in to the glories of the world around us.

Focusing on love is one such state of mind. Being at peace, and consciously spreading peace is magnificent. Focusing on the moment we're in — without dwelling on the past or fast-forwarding to the future — calms and centers us. Being joyous keeps us from suffering anxiety and worry when there's no real danger in our midst.

These are all important and powerful forces that we can be mindful of, and that we can make a reality in our day-to-day lives if we focus on them. They let our spirit soar. They set the stage for goodness of all kinds.

I created a little pad of Gratitude sheets that I keep on my desk. It's a great prompt for me to make a list every day.

I created a little pad of Gratitude sheets that I keep on my desk. It's a great prompt for me to make a list every day.

And, there's something else we can add, that not only amplifies all of that wonderfulness, it accelerates the benefits of those states of being. Gratitude is the extra ingredient that can make life enormously rich and rewarding.

Gratitude tunes us in to small moments of wonder and loveliness — the things that typically go unnoticed as we go through our days. When we take a few minutes each day to jot down 5 things, 10 things, even 12 things for which we're grateful, we are alert to our lives in a new way. And we can rejoice in all there is to feel grateful for. 

When we practice gratitude we are slowing down — slowing down to notice things we can appreciate, and slowing down to note them. We can write that we're grateful for the restored health of someone we love, for the momentary kindness of a stranger, for having a safe place to live, for the inspiration found in a newspaper article, for an insight we gleaned in a conversation, for the taste of something delicious, for the fun of laughing with a friend, for a discovery made on an outing, for the budding of trees and blooming of flowers, for courageously trying something new, for the sweetness of watching a young child at play.

There are endless things for which we can feel gratitude. When we observe those things, and note them as we start our day, before switching off the light at night, or any time and place in between, we are enriching our hearts and connecting to all the sweetness in life. 

In addition to better emotional wellbeing, we have greater vitality when we are grateful. Gratitude enhances our relationships — we are in a kinder state of mind and more empathetic. Science shows that grateful people feel better physically, having fewer aches and pains and sleeping better, and there's even evidence that they have stronger immune systems. We feel better about ourselves and experience less doubt. And, we are more emotionally resilient when the inevitable challenges come up in our lives. 

All of these benefits make life so much sweeter. We can feel so much more open and ready to make the most of our lives. We can be courageous and live creatively in every moment. We can put fear aside and be bold. Gratitude helps us to truly live big.