Friday, September 19, 2014

Putting my Rosie on

Our freshman corridor portrait
Logging into my computer, I am reminded of them and that time. My password is my nickname (oops, now everyone knows) Rosie, earned back then. College can be a precious time. Mine was and I look ahead to my high schoolers and hope the same for them.

In a few hours I will be on my way to our every-five years' reunion that began when we all turned 40. We stayed very connected beyond graduation, attended each other's weddings and began to drift after long-term men and children arrived.

Ox College, now Oxford Community Arts Center
The seven of us, plus a few more, were randomly thrown together freshman year in a very old dormitory at the far edge of campus removed from the more-modern quads. At first glance, it seemed like a catastrophe – a recipe for loneliness and isolation. Turned out it was anything but. Now, we all feel privileged that we had the opportunity to live in such a beautiful, unique building complete with parquet-floored ballroom, auditorium, marble-stalled bathrooms, antique-studded study rooms and stuffy Victorian parlors where ancient yearbooks were stashed in benches. The place had a patina and oozed a certain austerity from its days as "Oxford Female College." I am certain we contributed to erasing that aura at what we affectionately called "Ox."
The ballroom, site of the Ox College Spring Cotillion

When someone asked where you lived on campus and you replied "Ox College," the usual response was one of pity because of the distance to campus and supposed social life that centered around the quads. However, they were mistaken. We didn't put on the freshman 10 (extra weight), although we had our own dining hall and better food, simply because we had more walking or biking to get anywhere except uptown. We were at the far edge of uptown, between the Oxford Lane Library and Planned Parenthood and closer to the bars than anyone but the frat boys. That proved rather convenient as we returned from winter break and the university was closed for the first time in its history because of a blizzard. We could get uptown for groceries, pizza and beer. Not so for the quadders.

Because we were so out of the way, during little-sis rush (we were all indies and not into the cloned life of sororities), the fraternities always sent us escorts. It proved an interesting social life and a handful of us joined an off-the-beaten-frat-row eclectic fraternity because someone's sister was already a little sis. We got the royal treatment and were wooed.

Exterior of second alley
The friendships that have endured, however, are among this group of women who occupied second alley, a small wing of the dorm. Over the four years, we all re-arranged with whom we lived, but mostly, in some combination of one another. This weekend, six of us get to be together again as we have been at 40, 45, 50 and, now 55. The glue of our group, Maggy, attempted to assemble us last year and, finally, in desperation launched a Facebook group called "55 and Doing Fine Ox College Reunion." That created momentum so that we will be in the woods at a 1900s refurbished hunting lodge with no kids or spouses and a lot of catching up and reminiscing to do.

I had a preview last week when I traveled to Cleveland for an author's conference and stayed with Bethy and her husband. She hasn't changed at all and we picked up right where we left off. I first met Beth in the kitchen at Ox. She was making yogurt in a contraption I had never seen. She was Jewish and seemed so exotic and earthy to me. I was smitten. Still am. She's as grounded, humorous, compassionate and saucy as ever.

I don't recall how long it's been since I've seen Debbie, but I was so surprised at her friendliness freshman year. She's so comfortable in her beautiful skin that I assumed she was a selective sorority type – boy was I wrong. She introduced us to little-sis life and was such a wonderful combination of hard work and silliness, when you'd least expect. Can't wait to catch up.

Jackie was Debbie's room mate and so grounded and wise in college. She would tell the truth when necessary in a way the rest of us could hear and respect, rare for someone that young. Don't get the impression she was a stick in the mud – far from it. She was always good for a party or trip uptown. I would have loved to have lived with her.

Barb, whom we'll terribly miss this weekend, was my room mate junior year when we rented an apartment. I'll never forget an early conversation when she said the thing she craved most after mowing was a cold beer. That seemed so strange to me at the time. She was wise and worldly (from the BIG city of Cleveland), a gifted artist and easy room mate, even with her lab mice.

Funny that Maggy has become the glue that binds us because she didn't turn up until second semester. She wasted no time connecting with her small-town, genuine wholesomeness and hearty friendship. She knows no strangers and perseveres to keep this bunch together. You can always count on Maggy to make you feel better – that's just her way.

I revered Anni, who always seemed to have her act together. We'd often collide late at night in the bathroom, sharing cheese and crackers and conversation, thinking the entire second alley couldn't hear us. She is an excellent confidant, with attentive ears and a big heart. I know that hasn't changed.

There was such acceptance, affirmation and companionship in this group. You can see why I am so excited that I get to be Rosie this weekend. I really like her and how each of these wonderful women is reflected in and contributed to who she is.

• When have a circle of friends deeply shaped me?
• How do I remain connected?
• What were pivotal young-adult relationships?
• How have I grown as a result?
• Even if I didn't see it then, where was Spirit in all of this?

I flew the coop
for for years
and never came home,

according to
my mother

college was a pivotal
and precious time
in my life

anchored by
young women

with whom
I have been
privileged to
grow older


I am

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Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Selling not sullying spirituality

Yesterday, I finally assimilated the mass of information I inhaled at an author marketing conference held in Cleveland last Monday. It was an incredibly dynamic every-minute-packed event that excited me from the moment I serendipitously encountered an announcement for it.

Author Marketing Live authormarketinglive.com kept its promise, even if we were somewhat overwhelmed. From an early-morning get together, through two talks during lunch and an after-conference social-networking time, there was little time to decompress. Which is why I chose to drive home right after. The four hours of silence gave me time to ground myself and begin to mull over what had just transpired. Plenty.

As an introvert, I am not a huge networker, but I am going to learn to be, thanks to Author Marketing Live. Several speakers helped me understand that it is not a nasty, sleazy, pushy business. Merely, as an artist, there is a time to remove the beret and confidently transform your art (mostly in the artist's mind) into a product and get it to customers. Essentially, to let the world know what you've done. My shaman has said this so many ways so many times to me. Now, it is sinking in.

As I read through my notes and compared them to shared slide of the presentations, I typed up what stood out, tallying 15 pages, and hand wrote a four page to-do list. Getting through that, making it doable, setting goals and breaking them into manageable tasks is my next feat.

I've already employed one very practical tip. My husband and I had just been discussing that I needed some sort of microphone to record my blogs. My voice is fine, but the background noise is not. One of the speakers is a voice artist and coach. Wa-la, he recommended exactly what I was looking for in his presentation. In addition to how I stumbled onto the event, this pertinent piece of information confirmed in my heart that Spirit did, indeed, lead me here.

So, in addition to applying this information to my situation, I desire to incorporate it in a manner that fits my style and spirituality. Yes, it is business, but I want to engage with integrity and not change who I am. Of course, I believe all of the speakers had integrity, they just don't happen to dabble in the spirituality arena and I want my business efforts to reflect my whole self.

What some presenters did for me, and I dare say others, was close the gap between art and marketing. I hadn't really understood I had blocks to selling, I just thought it was a degrading business. I'm imagining door-to-door pushy or the recent guy at Kroger's whom I told I did not want to subscribe though he insisted he could go home if he gave two more pitches. I gave in just so he could finish and he persisted to hound me until I finally told him what I thought of his product. That's just ugly.

I considered myself above selling, when I was selling out on my work #salonforthesoul

However, finding the right audiences (customers) for your work is not. Julia Kline  of sleazefreeselling.com illustrated this very clearly when she asked whether you'd treat your art (metaphorically) as a museum piece or garage-sale grade. That hit home. Here, I considered myself above selling, when I was selling out on my work that comes from the heart and also experience and an education. "Why deprive the world?" my shaman asks. Previously that sounded haughty of me to ask. Now it seems like the truth of joining art and marketing.

There is a way to do it and retain integrity. Engagement, they all said, was key. Community building, I call it and that's right up my alley.

Maybe I can be an authorpreneur and spiritual nurturer all at once. The possibilities are astounding.

• How do I embrace the business world?
• Can I balance it with who I am and what I believe?
• What does that look like for me?
• What is my practice of abundance?
• And of gratitude?

I create

private, with
all of my heart

and yet,
I desire to

not sullying
art with
aggressive tactics

it sits,

until a nudge
from Spirit
points me
in an interesting

away from the
deep and quiet
and into
the percolator
of the internet
and marketing

of all things

and now I
realize the
of uniting

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Friday, September 12, 2014

Finding the way without forgetting

How ironic that I attended a writing conference, which stressed regular writing time, in Cleveland on Monday and haven't found space to blog all week. And, last post, I wrote about craving routine and its value. I haven't found it this week. Not with work, life or spirituality. 

I've been running and crashing, running and crashing. Typically, I plan for more balance; time off after projects, traveling and late nights. I never was one who could burn the candle at both ends – my body simply won't let me.

It's all been deep, rich work, but at such a fevered pace and not of my creation.
Bookends: from glitzy hotel to packing my studio

Monday was a killer conference packed full of marketing know-how for authors. Exactly what I had hoped it would be. I drove up Sunday afternoon and spent the evening and overnight with a wonderful friend from freshman year at Miami U. I loved getting to know her in her house and with her likable spouse. Her girls are away at college. I even got to visit her 85-year-old mother whom I hadn't seen in 30 years. She had home-baked cookies and tea prepared.

I dashed out of the house at 6:40 a.m. to make the 7 a.m. conference registration. Scored super-cheap, convenient parking thanks to online trolling and arrived. All of the speakers are published authors who sung the praises of treating your work as an entrepreneur not an artist when it comes time to market. Authorpreneur, they called it. One women, over a quick lunch lecture, asked whether you'd put your work on a pedestal inside of velvet ropes or next to a stack of sneaker at a garage sale. That image really drove home the point for me. I was encouraged and hungry for information. I loved that an Amazon best-selling author said his work was awful at first, even sharing nasty reviews. He was so humble and encouraging of what really can happen all at the same time.

I had another offer to stay in Cleveland and drive home in the morning, but my head was swimming, I relished the quiet four-hour drive home and was eager to be in Cincinnati. The next evening, I was scheduled to present my non-profit elevator speech on stage to potential new board members.

The speech went very well even though the spotlights were overwhelming. Maybe it helped that I couldn't see the audience. Good practice for this introvert, at any rate.

I've been gathering, planning and organizing all week for the annual community art day and registration for Artsy Fartsy Saturdays, held at the complex we serve. A lotta work, yet a lotta fun.

Serving poorest of the poor on the heals of listening to marketing gurus are interesting bookends #salonforthesoul

Serving the poorest of the poor on the heals of listening to marketing gurus are interesting bookends to the weekSprinkle in a mini reunion, being center stage at an edgy theater, the subject of a ministry care committee, making a personal grant request and re-initiating art Sunday in the inner city and I think I may take at least Monday off to rebalance.

• What's my usual balance of work, play, family and spirituality?
• How do I handle it when I become off-kilter?
• How easily do I let my spiritual life fall to the wayside?
• Where or how do I feel God in these moments?
• How do I take time to see where God is in all of this messy life?

knowing it would
be inspiration,
and what I hunger

I took the plunge
although it
the rest of the

that just got
busier and busier

things happening
that I just couldn't
say no to

trying to find
my way through
and not forget
who put me

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