Thursday, March 5, 2015

Creativity Tips: My American Sniper

I went to the doctor yesterday for my annual physical, which included a blood test. I'm a talker (you never noticed?), so naturally I had a conversation with the guy who was drawing blood:

Jan: I've had a million blood tests. I never look.
Guy: Neither do I.
Jan: Ha!
Guy: Seriously. I've been doing this for years. I don't look. I feel for the vein. And I tell the technicians I'm training, they shouldn't look either. Looking is just a distraction.

Isn't that fascinating? Looking for the vein distracts him from finding the vein.

And that makes me wonder ... what are you and I looking for that's just a distraction? Are there steps we take, every day, that really aren't necessary? What could we do -- possibly better -- if we focused on the end goal, rather than the first step?

As you ponder that, let me address the immediate distraction: What does this post have to do with a sniper? In chatting with the technician, I found out he had spent 30 years in the Green Berets as a sniper. Everybody has a story, my friends. Everybody.

And, by the by, he got the needle in my vein on the first try. No pain. No bruise. No looking.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Creativity Tips: Take a New Look

I have loved the Asian art at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art since I was a child. I can't tell you how many times I've stood and admired this piece:


And I never once "saw" it the way my daughter Kate saw it this weekend:

Photo credit: Kate Harness, 2015

It's a new week, my friends! Let's get a head start on wonderfulness. Take a new look at your to-do list. And cut something out.

Happy Monday!

Friday, February 20, 2015

Post 60: Show Up. Bring Food. And Leave.

Years ago, the day after my father died, I was comforting my mother. The funeral was the next day -- Jews move fast -- and Mom was at my home as we processed dad's death and the plans for the service. Around 11:30 a.m., it occurred to me that I had nothing to feed her. With all that had gone on immediately before and after dad's death, I hadn't had a chance to go grocery shopping.

Just then, the doorbell rang, and Cyndi was there. Cyndi and I were connected through her husband Mike -- a client/friend. As I remember, she brought a quiche or two from a great restaurant and a loaf of bread. Maybe a salad. She hugged me, handed me the food and left.

I don't know that Cyndi remembers the incident at all. I'm guessing she makes those kind of condolence calls periodically. I remember it frequently. And I remember her as an angel, a literal godsend. Just when we needed it, she showed up. She brought sustenance for our bodies and our spirits. And she left.

The memory is on my mind now because my husband Tom had surgery recently and faces a long recuperation. While our lives have been somewhat upended, friends and family are making it much easier. Because, fortunately, we're surrounded by people who do what I all too often forget to do  ...

Show up. Bring food. And leave.

There's a reason why "show up" is first in that triad. It's the most important. Showing up, being present, defines a relationship. Happily, you define how you show up. Maybe, instead of stopping by with food, you bring over a good bottle of wine -- now that could really be helpful. Maybe you call or text. Not just once, but periodically. Maybe you send a handwritten card in the mail. Maybe you send two -- one for the patient and one for the caregiver.

Maybe you include the family in your prayers or send good thoughts their way. Just remember to let them know that.

My bestfriendinthewholeworldsincefourthgrade Lynn shows up every day with a phone call; she's miles away but always present. One of her calls -- while we were still at the hospital -- prompted a discussion with the charge nurse that totally changed our course of action, for the better.

Showing up makes a difference. It connects us. It creates the village we all need to raise ourselves out of the occasional mire that is life.

Show up. Bring food. And leave.

Ah, you know how I feel about this. Food is love. Go ahead, call me Jewish momma names all you want. I know it's not healthy, but there you have it. I express love by baking. And I feel loved when someone brings something to sustain me and my family -- whether it's Hedy's kugel or Costco's cookies. You don't have to bake. One of the big hits this go-round has been the yogurt Patty brought by -- along with the Costco goodies. (Full disclosure: We ate the cookies before we ate the yogurt.)

Show up. Bring food. And leave.

A rabbi once told me that Jews often worry about how their house looks when it's time to sit shiva. "Who would expect their house to be spotless when they've spent months caring for a dying loved one?" he asked.

No one should. And, trust me, no one who matters does. They're worried about whether you're eating and sleeping -- not whether you've vacuumed. Nonetheless, homemakers fret, and the last thing anyone needs during a crisis is a freakout over dust bunnies. So, unless you're there for a shiva service or a planned respite visit, your job is to be in and out so quickly there's no time to notice the piles on the dining room table. And, for god's sake, don't ask to use the bathroom.

Show up. Bring food. And leave. Your kindness will always be remembered.

P.S. Please consider this life advice, not a plea for casseroles -- despite how it sounds. The outpouring of support is part of what prompted this post. You can show up by posting a comment -- I'll happily share your good wishes with Tom.
P.P.S. I'm not going to even try to list all the people who are here for us on a regular basis. You know who you are. We love you.
P.P.P.S. Right after I wrote this post, our neighbor Pam showed up. With food. And left. The name of her heartwarming, tummy-loving dish? Friendship Soup. Life, my dears, is good.

Sidenote for those of you just joining the fun: Post 60 is a digression on the Creative Instigation blog, part of my 60th year celebration. This is post 6 of the 60. Party on!

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Creativity Tips: How to Write a Valentine and ...

Here's an oldie but a goodie on how to write a Valentine, in case you need a little inspiration. And, while you're writing, be sure to send a special note to your person. Romance is lovely, but we all need our person!


Monday, February 9, 2015

Creativity Tips: Disappearing Act


I write so much my letters disappear. You may not. But I'll tell you this: There's one letter we all lose sight of too often:
I 
This week, don't let your I disappear in the busyness of life. Grab a special creative moment just for you. What do you love to do? What gives you energy? What makes you happy?

Do it. This week, take some time just for you. Happy Monday!






Friday, February 6, 2015

Creativity Tips: If At First You Don't Succeed ...

There are two ways to go with that headline. The ever popular "try, try again." Or, the snarky "give it up."

Surprisingly, I'm going to try again. Earlier this week, I asked you, my dear readers, to tell me your favorite poem -- I want to post a poem a day in April, in honor of poetry month.

Two of you responded. Two. Of. You. Come on, you lazy bums. You can do better. I know more than two of you read poetry, or have at some point in your life. Talk to me. I'm trying, trying again. What's your favorite poem? Post away.

Here's to a non-snarky weekend, where you can be as lazy as desired. I hope it's warm where you are, because it's sub-arctic in KC and I'm ready to hibernate.


Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Post 60: Holy Moses

Kim Basinger and Charlton Heston came as a packaged deal. If I wanted to interview the star, I had to interview the starlet.

It was 1982, and I was news director of KUDL and hosted The City Report talk show. As you might imagine, it wasn't often that a reporter in Kansas City had the opportunity to talk with a man who'd been Moses, Marc Antony and Michelangelo. I wasn't a huge Charlton Heston fan, but I liked Planet of the Apes. And who doesn't love Soylent Green?

Besides, I had time to fill, and talking with movie stars was a far more attractive option than another interview with the mayor of Kansas City, Kan. He had the unfortunate tendency to wander around the studio WHILE I was interviewing him, so he could get a closer look at the Playboy bunny posters decorating the walls.

The posters never changed and neither did he. But, I digress.

OK, fine. If we'd had this poster on the studio wall,
I'd have wandered around for a closer look too. 
Back to my buddies Kim and Charlton. You might wonder why they were in Kansas City. Good question, simple answer. They were opening a movie so ridiculously bad that they chose KC for the premiere. You know, as far from the critics on the coasts as possible.

Oy. It was a load of something. 
Heston was the star of Mother Lode and he played two characters. Twin brothers, I believe. One, a crazed Scottish miner.

About 20 minutes into our interview, I was feeling pretty good. Sure, Heston was world famous and Basinger was the most beautiful person I had ever seen, but I was the one in charge and the interview was going well. So, I veered from my planned discussion.

Jan, the Cocky, Foolish Reporter:
"So, in the movie you play a crazy Scottish miner. You must have an accent. Let's hear it."

Charlton, the Oscar-Winning Actor, instantaneously in full character, with full accent, leaned forward -- an inch away from my face -- and said:
"One more ignorant question and you be sorry. Ver' sorry. Ver' dead. Am I clear, girl?"

I jumped out of my chair and screamed. Probably sounded like one of the lesser characters in Planet of the Apes. But holy Moses! Charlton Heston had turned into the murderous miner McGee in two seconds. It was like a completely different person in the seat. And then he sat back, turned into Charlton Heston again and laughed.

Kim Basinger laughed too, and said, "Welcome to my world. I've been dealing with that for months."

I can't tell you how the rest of the interview went, because I was too frazzled. I can tell you that I was far more respectful that evening, when we attended the movie premiere -- even after we saw the movie and being nice was more of a challenge.

Kim Basinger, by the by, went on to be an Oscar winner too. When she received the Academy Award in 1998 as Best Actress in a Supporting Role, I was one of 80 gazillion people watching the telecast. She went onstage, grabbed the Oscar, held it high and said: "I'd like to thank everyone I've ever met!"

And I jumped off the couch and yelled, "That's ME!"

Creative talent is a gift that requires years of hard work to hone. Along the way, as you refine your skills -- acting, writing, nursing, fathering, whatever -- you'll meet a lot of people. Some of them will leave a mark so clear, you'll know their impact on your life. With others, maybe not.

But I'm a big believer in the theory of Sliding Doors. Every interaction, no matter how apparently inconsequential, impacts us. Which interaction, which impact, will change your story? It's impossible to say, impossible to know.

So we might as well go with the Basinger theory. When something wonderful happens, grab it with gusto, and be thankful.

And the next time you watch The Ten Commandments, rest assured that if anyone could part those waters, Charlton Heston could.


P.S. I didn't use a photo of Kim Basinger, because photos don't do her justice. The screen doesn't do her justice. It was years ago, but when I met her, she was truly astonishingly, perfectly beautiful. And smart. And funny. And, after it was all over, I realized how kind it was of Charlton Heston to insist that interviews with him included the unknown actress. Just another example of how every little step can make a difference.

Sidenote for those of you just joining the fun: Post 60 is a digression on the Creative Instigation blog, part of my 60th year celebration. This is Post 5 of the 60. Party on!