Month: July 2009

Referral Friday: Mule Design (t-shirt division)

Referral Friday is part of an ongoing series inspired by John Jantsch’s Make-a-Referral Week. For more about that, and loads more referrals for everything from cobblers to coaches to gee-tar teachers, start here. Pass it on, baby!


I worship Mike Monteiro.


No, seriously, I worship Mike Monteiro.


From afar. (Well, down the coast.) We’ve never met, unless you count exchanging Twitter direct messages. But after reading enough of his hilariously brilliant Twitter bon mots to intrigue me (like, two), I jumped over to the Google rabbit hole and checked his shit out.

Genius tempered with scruples? Check.

Beloved by many, including other wildly talented non-dickheads? Check.

Breadth and depth of delightful interests? Check and check.

But while those things may give you warm fuzzies, they cannot keep you warm. Or, more to the point, cool, like these t-shirts can.


I really wanted the one just above. Unfortunately, I look like dried-up gack on a Creamsicle stick in anything close to orange. So when Mike Monteiro (FULL DISCLOSURE! FULL DISCLOSURE!) offered me a free t-shirt of my choice for doing something I totally would have done anyway, with no expectation of anything, I chose this:


Now, seriously: I became an actor to tell the truth when all I had to do was spend twenty bucks on a Mule Design t-shirt? Whadda chump(ette).

Don’t you wait. Buy a t-shirt. Or a print, like I just did. Or donate to a cause near and dear to Mike’s heart, Small Can Be Big.

Who knows? Maybe we can change the world in increments of twenty bucks…


Photo credits, top to bottom:

Poetry Thursday: Time off for good behavior


This post is for me, Colleen of the Future. But feel free to read along, if you like.

I’m guessing
you don’t care anymore
that the desk was a mess
and the dishes piled up
and the eight million billion things
I heaped
on top of the laundry
never got done.

I’m guessing
that most of my time
spent worrying
could have been better spent
on almost anything,
and I hope I get points
for at least seeing that
from time to time.

I’m guessing
that the moments of glory
mean less right now
than the moments of Arnie
and that the reaching out
was at least as important
as the looking in.

I’m guessing
you still have arms
that can lift stuff
and legs
that can take you
from here to there
and a liver
in pretty good shape
but if not
I hope you know
how much fun I had
wearing them out.

I’m guessing
you are working still
and hoping
it is because
that’s what we wanted
but if not
I trust
you have the grace
I’ve not yet found
to handle the curve balls
that life seems to throw.

I’m guessing
you have a loved one
or two
to share what joy
is yours to channel
but if not
I trust you will share
with whom you can
however you can.

I’m guessing
the things I did
outweigh the things I didn’t
or the other way around,
but if not
I hope you know
that mostly,
I did the best I could
and when I didn’t
I learned at least to note it.

I’m guessing
you forgive me
and that you love me
and that you wouldn’t have it
any other way
but if not
please know
that I love you
and that it is okay
to rest
in peace.


Image by Sister72 via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

The Joke Pump vs. the Umbrage Mallet


The Youngster and I had a credo regarding humor and delicacy during time spent in our shared household of 2 1/2 years: “The joke is king; all hail the joke.”

We made it a credo (or do I mean “maxim,” before that crap magazine shanghai’d its meaning?) for a couple of reasons:

First, we both like to laugh, and as a way of showing appreciation for the effort that goes into making a proper tee-up for laughter, you really cannot do better than a neatly symmetrical, deliciously recursive joke itself. (Am I right, or am I right?)

Second, we are both, for a variety of reasons both happy and sad, prone to reflexively reaching for the Joke Pumpâ„¢ in our respective toolboxes. And odds are, when you do something often enough, at some point you’re going to make a boo-boo. There will be a tinge of nasty fueling the use of the Joke Pumpâ„¢, or you will just be a little off your game while using the Joke Pumpâ„¢ and will handle it with less than your usual deftatiousness. (And may I jump in here to profess my shock that spell check didn’t jump on that word like a red snake afire.)

You will, if you make enough jokes, hurt someone at some point. And like that stupid mini-fire extinguisher you bought at Target after reading some alarmist article in a ladies’ magazine, or that box of Arm & Hammer you keep reasonably close to the stove just in case the flambé gets out of hand one day, it’s good to have some policies and safety procedures and the like in place beforehand so you don’t crispy critter a delicate bystander or blow up a perfectly good friendship by assiness, intended or no.

Recently, for the first time in a long time (that I know of, anyway) I managed to really, really offend someone. And I was shocked and horrified and embarrassed but, and this is a but the size of a lady with a really, really big butt, the very worst thing is that I was ashamed. Because when I am ashamed, I do not reach for the Joke Pumpâ„¢: I reach for the Umbrage Malletâ„¢, and start swinging, hard.

Again, this is a reflexive action, baked in of necessity from earlier, scarier times, but no one on the receiving end of it knows or much cares, consumed as they are with the ducking and/or the seeing of stars and/or the reaching for bludgeons, maces and other devices of an escalatory nature. You may be right and they may be absolutely wrong, but that is only (or usually only, no, it’s only) from the context you’re lucky or unlucky enough to be stitched into. From their perspective, there can have been no good intention or, 99 times out of 100, they would shoot (or swing, or launch) first and ask questions later.

I’ve talked before about how therapy doesn’t really do much to change anything, but how, in tandem with some excruciating and numbingly repetitive, rehabilitative exercise it can be gangbusters at helping to change reactions to things. It can give you just that little bit of room you might not otherwise perceive in which to absorb fully (i.e., with the non-monkey-brain part of you) and respond differently (e.g., by offering a humble heart rather than flinging a handful of monkey poop). In this case, even as the waves of humiliated, righteous anger washed over me, I had the wherewithal to strap on my goggles and oxygen mask and respond, I hope…I think, with tenderness and lucidity (and mostly tenderness, because that’s the role of lucidity).

The offense took place a few nights ago and the relay of hurt later, via email, from someone whom I don’t know that well and had not the luxury of calling immediately. Still, I’m pretty sure that my reply expressed my remorse, providing both explanation and apology in the appropriate dosages. We’ll see soon enough, but I’m at peace with my actions and payment of any karmic debt.

I bring this up both because it just happened and because this morning, in one of those delightful bits of synchronicity we’re treated to now and again, I found this wonderful take from Mark Silver on hurt and how to handle it in my inbox. He talks about it in the context of business, how to handle an angry client, but the Sufism-suffused wisdom within is a balm to any kind of conflagration. My favorite part is this, which I’d had some dim sense of last night but which Mark put so clearly and beautifully:

For someone to complain, they need to already have a sense of safety and trust with you. When that angry or upset person complains, it means they think you care. It means they think they can tell you and not get hurt in return.

I have learned many tricks to keep myself from reaching for the Umbrage Malletâ„¢, but the best one may turn out not to be a trick at all: understand that the person in front of you is inciting this fear and rage and hurt and shame by wielding a big, open heart full of love…


UPDATE (7/30/09): Via email, I got this bit of awesomeness from my friend, Kate, a regular reader and regular provider of great wisdom:

Something my spiritual teacher taught me:

“Anything that is not an expression of love is a cry for help.”

How about them apples? Talk about a beautifully constructed single line that can pull you from the precipice of Umbrage Mallet use and back onto the solid ground of love and peace. Anyway, Kate’s on dial-up up in the Great White North, so rather than have her jump through 28 baud modem hoops or what have you, I thought I’d post it here for her. Especially since when I asked (pretty please) would she post it in a comment so everyone could see, I sent her to the wrong damned post. Sigh. I’ll get this social media stuff down someday. Meanwhile, you should go read her excellent blog. Thanks!

Image by Richard Stowey via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

Book review: The Principles of Uncertainty


Part of me felt I should hold off on reviewing Maira Kalman‘s juicy and rich The Principles of Uncertainty for the holiday season, when one might justify an expenditure of a more frivolous nature by purchasing it as a gift for another (with, of course, the full intention of reading it oneself.)

The rest of me said, “Eff that noise.” Why should feeding your creativity, much less your soul, be considered non-essential? I mean, sure, make sure you’ve got a roof over your head and three-ish squares hitting the table before you run out and buy books, but books, especially beautiful, inspiring, thought-provoking works of wonder that help you see the world a different way while they help you to understand your own place in it, should be bought and consumed and passed around (and again) as often as possible, and at least as often as necessary.

The Principles of Uncertainty is about this crazy-beautiful world we live in, and how we live in it, and how it can delight us at least as often as it pains us if we just wake up and look down. Or over there, at that laundry tag that fluttered free of its garment and landed on the concrete in just the right way and at just the right time for us to look at it, or a man skating on salt, or a number of ladies with outrageously outré hairdos, or at just about any of the brilliantly illuminated bits of minutae Kalman captures within the pages of her book. Kalman collects all kinds of things we might otherwise miss, some literally (things with numbers on them, and packets, and things that fall out of books) and some that she filters through her marvelous brain and relays to us via her magical gift for composition and color.

Still need justification for buying a children’s book for grownups? How about the rich veins of resources to pull from: books casually mentioned here and there by “ordinary” people Kalman knows, or music one might listen to entirely differently because of the attention she has turned to it (Mendelssohn was not so big on words, which is of course ironic, as Kalman pointed out, because one has to use a certain number of them, and carefully chosen, to explain that one is not a fan of them.)

But ultimately what Maira Kalman does best is what she does with her editor’s brain: juxtaposing snippets of life with tinier snippets of accompanying text, teasing out the profound, the sublime, in the everyday. She gives shape to the amorphous worry and dread and also the profound, unspeakable joy we feel (or don’t, because we stuff it down, or because we don’t have the words) every day. The beauty of a hat (Sondheim has done much with a hat in his way, with an assist by Elaine Stritch) or a face or a day or a trip to Coney Island with a friend who will help you soak up the ordinary to diffuse the bitterness.

If you are a grownup who mildly resented having to put aside childish picture books or if you are a fan of her New Yorker covers or even if you like the crazy-ass “poems” you find on this site, I am guessing you will like this book.

Unless, of course, you love it…


Different strokes for the same old folks

baby nails

Back in my “I Dress Like a Slut but Am Really a Virginal Rube” teens, I had inch-long nails on every finger.

Natural. Home-grown. Because this was 1977, and your options were Lee Press-On Nails or some marginally less vile version they’d apply at the salon. And I was a teenager, and broke (Mom forbade me to work until my senior year of high school), and I wanted long nails, so I did it the old-fashioned way.

Inch long. Every finger. Natural.

How, you may ask, did I manage to do anything? Honestly, I’ve no idea. My life wasn’t a hellish hamster wheel of manual labor by any means, and I was never a big one for making the bed, but I did have the regular household chores to attend to, dishes, laundry, ironing, light dusting, and I did all the usual high school things, including the smoking of a great number of mentholated cigarettes, most of which I remember lighting myself. Me and the brothers, we liked the menthol. I recall an elaborate set-up-and-palm-heel-bump method of inserting change into vending machines (this is back before machines took paper money and credit cards, children); I was probably unduly proud of my ingenuity. I mean, wasting brain juice on vending machine workarounds? It’s a miracle I graduated, much less squeaked by into a good college.*

At some point between the end high school and my first year at college, I cut them all off. I’m not sure exactly why, but I’m sure that in part it had to do with the vastly different workload college demanded.

Another change kinda-sorta came over me, though: save for a few notable exceptions like dances and the like, I began adopting a more comfortable, mannish style for my new, collegiate life. Eschewing girlier stuff felt like the right thing to do in this new environment, both for practical and social reasons. It also felt more like me. The further I got from this strange and mystical land of High School where, if not to fit in, at least to not stand out quite so egregiously, I had to follow the code, and the code said “girly.” There were girly-girls a-plenty in college, but there were also all sorts of other flavors of girl, with no one way much better than another to be.

Since then, I’ve done stints in corporate or just regular Nice Lady drag, but mostly, this style (or lack thereof) has been mine. Comfortable, boyish-to-mannish clothes, notable spectacles, short-short (sometimes bitten that way) nails. I’d occasionally play with hair or makeup (1980s, I’m lookin’ at you), but the nails stayed short. I’d learned by then that I had “bad” nailbeds: short and wide, spatulate, in the parlance of Dorothy Parker’s “Horsey.” Not nails for polish, but hands for doing things. Okay. I could roll with that.

And I did, for some thirty-odd years. Oh, every once in a while I’d push my ragged cuticles way, way back, trying to simulate a regular-length nail bed, and give the red a whirl. But it never looked right. It looked…embarrassing, like I didn’t know the score.

More than anything, I hate looking like I don’t know the score.

So now it’s 2009, and I’m heading to Chicago to do a little work and spend a little time with some old friends. One of these, Chicago Jan, or “Jannicups,” as my family has known her since forever, had come out of a Difficult Time; we decided we’d have us a ladies’ day with luncheon and pedicures, using the gift certificate she gave me to a fancy spa years and years ago when I was coming out of my own Difficult Time. (See? I don’t do spas. Too girly.)

Only when I get there, I learn that instead of making an appointment for two pedicures (I’m down with my long & groovy toes), Jannicups made the appointment for two manicures. And this fancy-schmancy salon, they’re booked solid weeks in advance, even in a nasty downturn like this one. (The rich really are different than you and me, I guess. They have very well-oiled cuticles, for one.)

I was horrified at the thought of the poor manicurist who drew me even looking at my raggedy, gnawed-on nails, much less having her work on them. Nubs! And ugly nubs, at the end of not especially attractive hands!

But I really wanted it to be a special, just-us day, so off we went: me and my witchy hands, Jannicups and her delicate, well-cared for digits, to the salon. I justified the outrageousness of me, manicured, by suggesting that perhaps the expense and raucous color would jar me into not biting for a bit. I cracked so many self-deprecating jokes about ironies heaped upon ironies that even I grew sick of it. So finally, I let go, and let that nice young lady do her thing. I sat back and accepted it, which was, for the moment, my thing. I even picked a girly coral over the logo lime green I’d wanted initially; Jannicups was not going to let that particular irony pass unchecked.

The strange thing was, for the rest of the week, I rather enjoyed my tiny orange fingernails. I’d find myself pointing at things a bit more…pointedly, and gesticulating more wildly, and even sneaking embarrassed, admiring glances at them splayed against the dark brown of my pants, or wrapped around the stem of a glass of Riesling. At some point, I even stopped apologizing for them, gave up the endless explaining (“…and I thought we were getting pedicures”), let go of the fear I had attached to being viewed as a clueless wonder and just let my hands be my hands, to hell with it all.

They’re almost back to normal now. Polish doesn’t last long under the best of conditions, and travel with lots of typing is not the best of conditions. Plus my short and funny fingernails grow quickly no matter what their starting length, and the growout was looking unseemly. I’ll bust out the remover in the morning and get rid of what hasn’t been chipped off or picked away already.

I would like to think I may not nibble at them for a while, though. That maybe my good habits of the past week will carry on a little longer. Bringing just a little attention to one’s less lovely but deeply entrenched habits might just have the effect of dislodging them. Just a bit.

Mostly, I hope that the feeling of being just a little bit embarrassed, a little bit exposed, a little bit off-kilter, and living to tell the tale, mostly, I hope that is what stays with me. I cannot undo my habits until I know them to be habits; sometimes, to know, they must be spelled out for me in bright coral enamel.

Wake up, wake up, wake up. And if I fall asleep again, wake me up.

We must keep each other awake, you and I…


*I definitely didn’t do much writing, I remember that. What I had to, I did, and on the typewriter, and with cussing. You can learn to type with the pads of your fingers, but the nails, they will stick now and again. I believe I did a small bit of tortured writing in journals, although sadly (or maybe not), there are none extant.

Referral Friday: Heart of Money Homestudy Course


Referral Friday is an ongoing series inspired by John Jantsch’s Make-a-Referral Week. For more about that, and loads more referrals for everything from cobblers to coaches to gee-tar teachers, starthere. Pass it on, baby!

I had to ramp up to Mark Silver.

Oh, I was a fan of his newsletter from the get-go; it was one of the few that I wholeheartedly endorsed in an ancient article on how to do (and not do) newsletters. The writing was too, too good to ignore, engaging and witty and crisp, and on a topic (marketing…ugh) that too rarely draws great writers to it.

And, because Mark is a good, smart marketer, I started buying up the chain of products: his book, which contains the foundation of his teachings, was next on the list. I was thrilled beyond belief to get it, despite the less than glamorous wrapping it came in.

But there were these exercises. Seriously woowoo exercises, where God or Spirit or what-have-you had to be invoked. And try as I might, I couldn’t get on that bus.

Still, I read the newsletter and talked to Mark and clicked through his wonderful sales pages, and one day, one of them enticed me into buying a course on copywriting. (Hint: for those new to this site, I spent 10 years getting paid out someone else’s wazoo for my own copywriting.) And it was good, very good. If you’re in the market for some DIY-type help on copywriting and are a sensitive type, you will likely get much from it.

If you’ve been doing the math along with me, you know that I’m now the owner of a couple of products of Mark’s who still can’t do the core, spiritual exercise that forms the foundation of all his work. Yet there’s something about him…and it, his work. His way. His gentle, supportive presence. (And the humor, and the talent. The humor and talent go a long way.)

And frankly, I’m sick of being hung up with stupid money issues. You have them, too? Yeah. They’re probably different than mine, but many of us have them. Issues around debt or scarcity or abundance. They seem like different problems, but they all get ladled out from the same crazy soup.

So I sign on for the most expensive thing of his to date: the Heart of Money teleclass, and the most woowoo of all his offerings. I know, because I asked. No pushing, ever, from Mark: just the calm, gentle, helpful and quiet answers. I thought about what it might be like to have that kind of support in my quest for finding peace with my money issues; I thought, it’ll be the opposite of the brittle, tense, frothy-mouthed, batshit-crazy attitudes I grew up with. That sounded good, so I signed up.

Holy shit.

Even taking a week off with traveling, even not getting all the exercises “right”, even feeling a little bit lost and a lot wobbly for the past six weeks, I have grown by leaps and bounds. My handle on my finances is firm but calm. My clarity around what needs to happen next is profound and comforting. And my excitement about the future is electrifying.

I bring this up because a couple of weeks ago, Mark let us know that they were doing this particular incarnation of the class with the intention of turning it into a product. And a few days ago, he let us know that for a very short window, through July 31st, they were going to offer a ‘pre-release’ price at a substantial discount.

My only hesitation in recommending the product is that you will not have the benefit of getting automatically matched with a new and wonderful partner to work the exercises with you each week. I suppose you’ll need to come up with these on your own (and trust me, it does help to work them with a partner). On the other hand, there’s something magical about Mark Silver and his team over at Heart of Business. Maybe they’ll come up with a genius way of helping people pair up. I suppose you could join his ongoing workshop community and find your right partners there. Or who knows, maybe you could find them through Twitter or Facebook, or maybe someone will set up a Ning group for Heart of Money student-seekers.

All I know is that if this is the right class for you (and these pages provided by Mark and his team will let you know pretty quickly), you must take it. You must. Extraordinary things will happen. I’ve had clients start dropping in my lap, and have gone from struggling with my work to letting it just flow through me, and that’s just six weeks of half-assing it. Imagine what you could do if you really paid attention. (Imagine what I could do…oy!)

I receive zero monies for recommending this. There’s no affiliate program or kickback or nothin’. Just me, tellin’ you, this is awesome. Because it is, for me. And if it could be for you, I want you to know about it.

Whatever help we need to help us change ourselves, so we can go forth and change the world, that’s the stuff we need to share. The Heart of Money class is that for me. I hope it may be for you…



Image by kevin dooley via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

Poetry Thursday: The bu-u-u-u-us

bloggy_lego-bus_bill-ward_2858932924_c96439c3b7_bI sat on a bus
behind a beautiful man
and his beautiful woman
on a balmy night
more beautiful even
than all of us together
(And this was a beautiful man.)

I sat
with my head
and my heart
and my belly
with the various wonders
of the day,
random and planned,
buttered and plain,
lovely and odd.

And I sat
in my seat
(with my book
in my lap
for camouflage)
beside one young man
speaking French
to another

And I sat
across the aisle
from a girl who sang
like a bird

And I sat
a few rows up
from a baby who cried
like a baby

And we all sat like that,
and my book
and these people
and their music
for a good twenty blocks

A very good twenty blocks

And I thought that my heart
and my head
and my belly
were as full
as could be
with love
and joy
and music

Until I got off of the bus
and I thought
about how
I would share it
with you.


Image by Bill Ward’s Brickpile via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.