The Ghost Ship

June 24, 2013

Whenever I go to visit the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, there is a little part of me that wants to drop everything and commit to being a backwoods hippie. I would live on top of Moon Mountain (a real place) in a cabin, and take up organic gardening and beer brewing. I'd probably also learn to play banjo, and have a couple of children who rarely wear shoes. We'd spend summers on the beach, and winters snowshoeing and making fires. Maybe this alternate reality is my ghost ship.

It's especially tempting when I listen to music like this from The Appleseed Collective. They played at sister Kate's wedding this past weekend, and brought the house down.

I'm hoping that if I sit on my back porch in the city, gluten-free beer in hand and this album on repeat, that I might somehow manage to transport myself back to Lake Superior-- or at least back to the slow pace of beach life.

Today I'm enjoying the memory of having my family all in one place, and of watching my gorgeous little sister's face light up over and over. Today I think of her as she and her husband fly to Berlin for a European backpacking adventure. I'm also thinking of my Mom and her family as they grieve the death of my Grandpa. One weekend, and so many memories old and new.

Tara King's Birthday Performance!

June 19, 2013

Tara King is turning 30 on July 15, and she's having pretty much the most kickass birthday party ever.

Because the birthday party is a performance! Featuring 30 choreographers! And these choreographers have each been given a year and a song to make a dance to-- one of the number one hit singles from July 15th from the past 30 years! (I am a sucker for assignment-based creative projects with interesting parameters--like this one, this one, and this one-- but this top single performance might be my favorite idea.)

It's so smart and fabulous, I can hardly stand it. Also: so many of my dance crushes are performing, I will probably wet my pants and then go rock in a corner. I will do this before I contribute my own dance-- I Gotta Feeling (such a bro anthem!), the hit single from July 15, 2009 (I'm so honored to be a part of this!).

Point being: if you live in the Twin Cities, you really should go see this, because it's going to be AWESOME. You can find out more here, or buy tickets here.

Journeys, Steps, & Other Relevant Clichés

June 18, 2013

Tomorrow we drive to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan for my younger sister's wedding. My younger sister's wedding! It feels strange, because I swear it wasn't that long ago that said sister was born, and I was carting her around on my hip and sewing her doll a fashionable, but velcro-heavy wardrobe (yes-- once upon a time I was very crafty). 

I'm really grateful for these time markers, like Katie's wedding. As easy as it is to get fixated on The Want, and where I'm trying to go, I like the opportunity to remember where I've been: proof that I've slowly been moving towards the person I want to be. Somehow, it's reassuring, especially to a person afraid of stagnation and the ticking of the clock. 

In this life I'm really lucky to be surrounded by a bunch of talented creative people, constantly inspiring me with their drive and vision. Perhaps unavoidably, there is a lot of talk about goals, dreams, and future projects. Almost everyone I know who falls into this Creative Maker and Doer category suffers from a similar problem: 

The list of goals & plans gets written faster than they get achieved. 

We get the idea right away, but the steps to actualizing it take time. This is reality, but sometimes it starts to mess with our heads, and causes us to feel really stuck. And the stuck-ness ripples out, and makes us do all kinds of crazy things, like decide to give up on a project, or think really self-destructive thoughts, or stop taking action altogether. If I had a dollar for every stuck-feeling creative person, my coop groceries would be permanently paid for. 

I wish I could give us all some form of a mild sedative that tricks our brains into focusing only on the tiny (and very doable) steps ahead, rather than seeing the gigantic and seemingly unclimbable mountain (I promised clichés in this post and I'm delivering). Because, the only important thing is that we are somehow moving FORWARD, not that we have arrived at our fabulous destination. The Chinese philosopher Lao-Tzu was right: 

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.  

If we could just all keep our heads down and make those single tiny steps every day, and somehow work hard to not get frustrated or ahead of ourselves, I think there would be some pretty kickass results. Recently I read this Brain Pickings article on creativity and habit, and was especially taken by this quote: 

We tend to overestimate what we can do in a short period, and underestimate what we can do over a long period, provided we work slowly and consistently. Anthony Trollope, the nineteenth-century writer who managed to be a prolific novelist while also revolutionizing the British postal system, observed, "A small daily task, if it be really daily, will beat the labours of a spasmodic Hercules." 
--gretchen rubin-- 

So, maybe it all comes down to identifying the tiny steps we need to take, and then preventing ourselves from analyzing our progress for a while. Do more, think less. Make one small step every single damn day, and insist to yourself that it's moving you somewhereThen wait until your little sister gets married, and be reminded of how far you've come since you were belting showtunes at the piano as a kid, or making that shitty piece of choreography in college comp class. Take a deep breath, and keep going. 

Summer of Sauce: Shrubs

June 17, 2013

Summer 2013: The Summer of Sauce!

I have named it so mostly because I want to be eating more farmers market produce (all enhanced by dressings and sauces), and sipping more cocktails on the porch. Summer of Sauce is inclusive of both. 

While in Seattle we visited Molly Wizenberg and Brandon Pettit's new restaurant, Essex. We saddled up to the bar, waiting to be the first ones to get our name on the list for Delancey. While at the bar we ate pickles and drank cocktails-- vinegar ones called shrubs. A shrub is basically a vinegar (any kind) infused with sugar and fruit. The result is pretty pungent, similar to the kick of booze, but non alcoholic (although some fancy bars do use shrubs as ingredients in cocktails).

When we returned from Seattle, Ben (who loves a scientific, well-measured kitchen project) turned to making his own shrubs, with excellent results. There are several different approaches to making shrubs (some marinating for weeks at a time), but here's what Ben made.

There are three different recipes:

Apple Cinnamon
6-8 peeled granny smith apples.
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Lemon Basil
5-7 lemons
a bunch of fresh basil

Peach Ginger
6 peaches
1/3-1/2 cup freshly grated ginger


  • Choose your flavor, dice the fruit, and combine the chosen ingredients. 
  • Add 1 cup of granulated sugar (I bet you could use honey or maple syrup instead if you prefer). Muddle the sugar and fruit together EXTREMELY well (this can take a while) until it's a liquid mess. 
  • Cover with plastic wrap and let sit in the fridge for 24-48 hours.
  • Strain the liquid (which will now be a fruit-infused simple syrup) using cheesecloth or a filtration bag (we had this one on hand). Take your time to make sure all of the liquid is removed.
  • Combine the strained out liquid with 2 cups of vinegar. Ben used apple cider vinegar, champagne vinegar, or a combination.
  • Serve. We drink the shrubs with 2 ounces of the vinegar mix per six ounces of sparkling water, but experiment to see how strong you like them. Garnish with citrus (lemon or grapefruit are nice). 
Finished Products: Lemon Basil, Ginger Peach, Apple Cinnamon
All three combinations are great, but I particularly like the apple cinnamon. Ben wants to try a pear and vanilla bean one next. The pungency of the vinegar combined with the soda water makes for a pretty perfect summer drink, and rumor has it that vinegar is detoxifying (bam!). So, probably if I combined it with some gin, it would all even out. Right?

Let's Throw More Resource Parties

June 12, 2013

One of my favorite things in the world is introducing people I love and admire to one another, ideally over food. It started when I first moved to the Twin Cities in 2005, knowing few people other than a couple of college buddies. At this point I was still filled with my I-Just-Worked-And-Traveled-In-Europe-For-Seven-Months fearlessness, and decided that a good option for meeting new people would be to hold a potluck at my apartment, and advertise it on Craigslist.

You probably shouldn't do this.

This potluck didn't lead to any significant friendships, but I did go on to host a number of dinner parties through the years that involved lots of introducing people to one another. Sometimes I invited regulars from the restaurant where I worked, and every time the group of guests was really eclectic. Why invite over a group of people who know one another when you can invite a group of strangers and watch them fall in love and leave with a new friend? Right?

This is probably why I spent two years making art about the process of strangers getting to know one another. And why I love inviting strangers over for Small Art, and hosting brunches where I'm never really sure who will show up. Yes: I love being a connector.

Enter: The Resource Party
I read this great article on hosting a resource party, and I want to give it a try. It's perfectly inline with a core belief of mine: ask for what you want!

In a nutshell: you have 10-15 buddies over. You each write 3 items you'd like help accomplishing on an index card, and then gather in a circle (with food and wine, of course). Then you go around and each read off your first item, and then see who in the circle can help you accomplish it. After the first round, you take a break. Then repeat.

I love this idea because I think that stuck-ness is often in our head, and figuring out how to ask for help allows us to get out of our overactive brains and break down what we need into concrete actions. And, often there's someone close by that can easily help us out. Why not use these fantastic resources?

If you could ask someone to help you with three things right now, what would they be? Who would you ask? My goal is to give this a whirl before the end of the year.

[More on the Resource Party over here.]

Let's talk about therapy!

June 11, 2013

Believe it or not, there are things I don't share on this blog. You will not find me writing about home decorating, my eyebrows, family, challenging clients, art I dislike, chia seeds, or that argument I had with my husband. My aim is to keep it helpful in this space-- which sometimes means being vulnerable and bringing forward details of my life.

All of that to lead up to: I really want to write about therapy. No, not the details of my own therapy sessions (I'll save you from that), but the importance of it. I want to make a gigantic trumpeted pronouncement: 

If you are feeling stuck, sad, habitually angry, insecure, or otherwise unhappy, please don't be afraid to ask for help! 
You don't need to figure it all out on your own. 

There are two things that have caused me to really focus my energy on dealing with my emotional baggage and mental health:

#1. Working with creative clients: Many of the artistic/creative people I've interviewed, met at a Small Art, worked with one-on-one, or casually chatted about creativity with have mentioned some degree of stuck-ness or insecurity or fear that's messing with their ability to get their important sh*t done. Often when working with these people I've felt like shaking them and saying HEY YOU! Do you know how awesome and talented you are? Do you know how much the world needs more of what you do? Having this conversation with people has made me want to take a taste of my own medicine. How can you advise a client to be less insecure when you're carrying around your own hesitance and attitude of playing it small? Um, you can't. My hope is that by dealing with my own stuck-ness, I can inspire others to address theirs.

#2. Wanting to make a lot of things happen: In addition to wanting to help creative people see their own genius, grow a business, make small dances, and host monthly resource brunches, I want to make a lot of things happen. When you're constantly doubting yourself, you move slowly. Really slowly. Insecurity and perfectionism are time sucks that should be kicked to the curb. In fact, I was finding it almost impossible to jump into our business work with this kind of insecurity, because running a business necessitates vulnerability-- and lots of it.

It was hard for me to decide to take action and find a therapist. 

Here's a sampling of what went through my head:
BUT I'M SO FUNCTIONAL! I'm not a wreck at all!
Therapy is a first-world privilege! I don't deserve it.
BUT I DON'T HAVE MENTAL HEALTH COVERAGE-- there are so many other things my money should be going towards!
I'll never find a therapist that GETS me!

Despite all of my doubts, I finally started the search for a therapist in January. It took some time to find the right person (the tough love kind, not the pat-you-on-the-back kind), but it was worth it in the end.

All of this to say: therapy has been the best money, time, and energy I've spent as an adult. Am I saying that everyone needs therapy? No. But I am saying that if you find yourself following your tail in a circle, or feeling bogged down by fear, insecurity, anger, or sadness, it's worth unpacking your fabulous baggage and having a look. It's really not that scary, and the benefits are huge: your relationships will be so much stronger, your kids will thank you, and your creative and business endeavors will have more ease. I insist that if you tend to your sh*t, only good things can come of it.

And that's the end of today's preaching.

Asking For Feedback

June 7, 2013

Today I'm writing about feedback over on the McGinley Motion blog, using the protocol from Liz Lerman's Critical Response Process. I've thought a lot about this feedback method while doing client work, setting up business systems, and -- of course-- making dance experiments. Sometimes when I put work in front of an audience, I just need some kind of affirmation. I MADE SOMETHING! GIVE ME A PAT ON THE BACK! I have buddies that are kind and affirming in this way. However, this kind of back patting generally does very little to actually help my work or process.

At my 9 x 22 performance, we were able to have a question and answer session after each piece. It was refreshing to take a step out of the "it was good" or "it was totally a wreck" mentality, and get some constructive feedback as to whether or not my piece read according to my intentions. The aim of the feedback was to help me move the piece forward-- which is what the Liz Lerman method is so great at.

Anyway-- I highly recommend the book. I'd love to hear about how you ask for feedback, and who you ask when you need the really helpful kind.

If it's your weekend, have a happy one!

Manifesto: Lead With The Want

June 3, 2013

It's no secret that I find comfort in lists. Lately I've been scrawling list upon list. Some of them are reminders, but most of them are 'wants': the things + experiences I'm itching to have and do and make.

Some of my wants are very practical: I want to make time for a walk everyday; I want to read those two books that I keep putting off. 

And some border on superficial: I want a pair of red shorts and some badass boots.

Some are more far reaching: I want to visit my god kids in England; I want to go sailing.

Some are wants for the near future: I want to create a series of touring dances for the wintertime; I want to quit waiting tables before the end of the year (it feels good just to write that-- are you listening, universe?); I want to finish the design for my Story Mapping cards; I want to buckle down and learn photoshop. 

Some are goals, some are deeper desires, some are dreamy things that I haven't quite figured out how to actualize. But I know I want them. 

In the last few weeks I've felt almost bad for being so aware of The Want, as if it was a sign that I'm not living in the moment, or that I'm ungrateful, or that I'm generally dissatisfied, or a bit selfish. With my list of wants is a little bit of 'who am I to ask for these things?' A bit of good old fashioned guilt and self-doubt, because where would we be without it, people? (Happier, that's where.)

Back in 2008 I started a Day Zero Project list: a list of 101 things to accomplish in 1000 days, which is a little less than three years (if you're math challenged like me). I went to town with that list of 101 things, writing down everything from organizing my computer and buying an external hard drive, to growing a full head of hair (which steroids from my doctor had made a thin mess of), and deciding on graduate school, to throwing a party for everyone I loved, and even getting a grant. The beauty of 1000 days is that the list gets put to the side-- you just start moving towards what you want. Just before my 30th birthday, the 1000 days were over. I did have more hair, and I'd thrown a big party (also known as a wedding), and decided to let the grad school thing go, and even had successful news in the mix of grant rejection letters. But even more I had a strong sense of certainty. The wants had led me down a rabbit hole of decisions that helped me figure out who I was and what I wanted my life to look like; they'd led me away from the fuzziness of indecision and uncertainty (a total energy suck).

I remind myself of this so that I stop feeling bad about The Want. Despite my want awareness and list scrawling, I still feel strangely satisfied right here, using The Wants as a map to slowly move my way over there. Maybe the goals, desires, and dreamy things are actually our smartest self speaking until we have the courage to fully own who we dare to be--- the reality that we're worthy of manifesting and owning big things.

[For goal-making and future thinking, I highly recommend Andrea Scher's Mondo Beyondo eCourse. I'm so glad I got over any fear of hippie dippy-ness and took the class. Write down a list of super scary things you long to do. I dare you.]

A June Pump-It-Up Speech

June 1, 2013

Hello June! The fifth month of the year is over, so I'm a bit HOLY SH*T THE TIME IS PASSING! I am not a patient person, so discovering that it takes time for my lofty goals to materialize is mostly annoying (release! journey! process!). May was a month where personal life trumped practical life, and a lot of what I tended to was self and family care as opposed to business or creative goals. These months happen. In fact, they're necessary: I'm a big believer that a functional personal life is a crucial foundation to a successful business or artistic career. That said, I'm anxious to feel a little more focused and knock some things off of my list.

Sometimes when I need an inspirational kick-in-the-pants I return to favorite book and internet reads. I put a time limit on it: if I spend all of my time reading other people's inspiring words and business advice, I won't get anything done. That said: here are some of my favorites that push me in the right direction.

Steven Pressfield: The War of Art | Do The Work! | Turning Pro     
Three short books, really just one main message (that can't be addressed enough): get out of your own way and approach your creative work professionally and impersonally. Do the work, every day.

Brené Brown: The Gifts of Imperfection | Daring Greatly
Brené Brown reminds me that I want my life to contain the important stuff: play, rest, creativity, vulnerability, compassion. There is so much good stuff in these books.

Seth Godin: We Are All Weird
I love this little book, and the reminder that there is strength in finding your niche: You are not for everyone, but you ARE for someone!

Internet Words
Kate O'Reilly: Now Is The Time | One of my favorite manifestos. If this doesn't light a fire under your ass, then have your blood pressure checked.
Kathleen Shannon: Freelance Matters | Working for yourself (in whatever capacity you do it) is hard; Kathleen's advice is comforting.
Meg Keene: Working For Yourself: Month One | I love this post that Meg wrote in her first month of being self-employed.
The Jealous Curator: 4 | Reflections on the places jealousy can take you.
Lisa Congdon: Turning 45 // interview on The Great Discontent | Lisa Congdon decided to take a stab at being an artist at 40. She's become incredibly successful, and her story is downright inspiring.

Here's to making things happen!

© This is the Blog That Laura Wrote All rights reserved . Design by Blog Milk Powered by Blogger