November 27, 2014

Read deeply. Stay open. Continue to wonder. Google it yo.

Steal Like An Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative
By Austin Kleon

I remember the feeling of discovering Austin Kleon's newspaper blackout poetry a few years ago: excitement and awe - it was just so wonderfully creative, and how had no one else thought of it before? Why hadn't I? Poetry has comforted me many times, and sifting through Newspaper Blackout was especially comforting, moving, special. Austin's poetry art is the epitome of "creativity is subtraction."

I spotted this book on a trip to San Francisco in September, while visiting a good friend of mine who I've had the most open conversations with regarding the trajectory of my life -- what I want to do & who I want to be. This book resonated in that moment, and still does now, as I try to figure out what makes the most sense for me moving forward, how to shake the feeling I sometimes have of being stuck, how to pursue what makes me happy and the conflict that comes with making decisions that honor my happiness but are also logical and realistic. The decision I've come to most recently (which can change any second TBH), is that I like where I am now but, on the side, I have to start pursuing the interests and hobbies I let go by the wayside. Slowly but surely…

This is a short, fun book with the best of intentions and every page holds advice worthy of an excerpt. One of my favorites via pages 18-19 below. It reminds me of my childhood because I asked so many questions. We had a comprehensive A-Z collection of encyclopedias, and my dad would very often point me in the direction of them and say "Look it up" when I asked him for information. I think his response was due to equal parts exhaustion & him wanting to make me stop nagging, him not always knowing the answers, and him wanting me to learn on my own. It was so frustrating sometimes, but there is no denying the satisfaction of discovering the answers by myself trumped being told. Same sentiment here, but now we have Google:

November 24, 2014

I think if you can dance and be free and not embarrassed you can rule the world.

Yes Please
By Amy Poehler

LAST YES PLEASE POST. First, I must link to another excerpt I didn't post, instagrammed by my friend Mario. Super funny. I won't type it but here it is for me, for you, for future reference.

How I wish young girls' organizations like Rookie Magazine, Kind Campaign, and Smart Girls at the Party, existed when I was younger. That age range between 11 up to about 16, 17, 18 was rough. I might not have felt so crazy or alone. Or felt I had so much more to offer without knowing how. Or felt there must have been people like me out there in the world, reaching, but I didn't know how to find or connect with them. Often I desperately needed that little bit of empowerment, understanding, support from like-minded people and to feel my quirks were OK. I'm glad they exist for young girls today.

"2. We beat them at their own game. 
This theory was the impetus for Smart Girls at the Party, a Web series and website I created along with my friends Meredith Walker and Amy Miles. We wanted to build a brand that attempted to combat the deluge of shit young people see every day online. It actually all started with the idea of one simple show. It could be a Charlie Rose-type interview show for girls that ended in a spontaneous dance party. We wanted to celebrate the curious girl, the non famous, the everyday warrior. At first we only knew a few things: we wanted to make content we would have watched when we were younger, and we wanted to end our episodes with a dance party. Spontaneous dance parties are important in my life. I have one in the makeup trailer almost every afternoon on Parks and Recreation. Dancing is the great equalizer. It gets people out of their heads and into their bodies. I think if you can dance and be free and not embarrassed you can rule the world. Smart Girls is growing and changing, and Meredith and I have big plans to open up camps and create more content and connect with more and more young people. Our hope is to provide something for people who can't stand to look at another awful website highlighting some fame-obssessed garbage person."
(p. 325)

He recently asked if he could marry me and I said yes. I couldn't help it. I would marry him anytime.

Yes Please
By Amy Poehler

Most of Amy's book consists of memories and life lessons interlaced with comedy. A lot of it feels like a lengthened stand-up routine (not a bad thing). But when she starts to talk about her children, the tone changes, becomes more serious. She sounds like a different person. I loved those parts just as much:

"My boy Archie has eyes the color of blueberries. He has a solid sense of design and is only months away from his first cartwheel. When he was just two weeks old, his dad and I took a picture of him in his crib with the New York Times draped over him like a blanket. The headline read OBAMA: RACIAL BARRIER FALLS IN DECISIVE VICTORY. He loves to run and strongly identifies with Luke Skywalker because they "have the same hair." He recently told me, "Mama, do you want to know something funny about me? I am afraid of little things and not afraid of big things." I think he was talking about bugs and elephants, but I understood what he meant in a very deep way. He deals primarily in poop and fart jokes, and insists these things will never fail to make him laugh. He is absolutely right. He is delighted when I laugh at him, but he is no ham. He is sensitive and stubborn, and as of this printing would like to be a police officer and a veterinarian and also Iron Man. He once asked me," Are you sad that you don't have a penis?" I told him that I was happy with the parts that I had. I then reminded him that girls have vaginas and everyone is different and each body is like a snowflake. He nodded in agreement and then looked up at me with a serious face and asked, "But did you once have a penis and break it?" I was tempted to make a joke that would screw him up for life. "Yes, my son. Your mother once had a penis but it broke because you didn't love her enough." The bond between mothers and sons is powerful stuff. I firmly believe that every boy needs his mom to love him and every girl needs her dad to pay attention to her. Archie needed to figure out if I had ever owned and operated a penis. I get it. His penis is important to him. Anyway, he starts college next year. Just kidding, he's six. He recently asked if he could marry me and I said yes. I couldn't help it. I would marry him anytime.

My boy Abel has eyes the color of a pine forest. He is a red monkey who named himself. I went to a psychic before he was born and she told me I was having "another big boy. He wants to be called Abel." We agreed. As he was born, the song "Young Turks" played on the radio and Rod Stewart sang, "Young hearts be free tonight / Time is on your side." Abel has chocolate chip freckles and hair like a copper penny. He loves to dance and sing and recently composed a song called "I'm a Genius." He is a big hugger. He doesn't mind when I stick my head into his neck and smell him. He smells like a love cookie. He recently told me he "really like[s] it when girls wear nice blouses." He has a deep laugh and thinks Darth Vader is funny. He cries big tears and sweats in his sleep. He makes friends on airplanes. He is four. The first thing he does when he wakes up in the morning is look for Archie. He loves his big brother so intensely. His big brother protects him and tortures him. Abel feels like the wisest and oldest member of our family. When he was just starting to talk he used to ask me if I was happy. He has dreams that he is a different little boy with black hair and one eye. My beautiful  Tibetan nanny, Dawa, believes he has been reincarnated many times."
(pp. 300-2)

Now playing:

November 23, 2014

They sit on the same bench I sat on and feel the same good feelings of family and home.

Yes Please
By Amy Poehler

Yes Please
By Amy Poehler

""Relax is a tough one for me. Another tough one is "smile." "Smile" doesn't really work either. Telling me to relax or smile when I'm angry is like bringing a birthday cake into an ape sanctuary. You're just asking to get your nose and genitals bitten off."
(p. 236) YES

"The only thing we can depend on in life is that everything changes. The seasons, our partners, what we want and need. We hold hands with our high school friends and swear to never lose touch, and then we do. We scrape ice off our cars and feel like winter will never end, and it does. We stand in the bathroom and look at our face and say, "Stop getting old, face. I command you!" and it doesn't listen. Change is the only constant. Your ability to navigate and tolerate change and its painful uncomfortableness directly correlates to your happiness and general well-being. See what I just did there? I saved you thousands of dollars on self-help books. If you can surf your life rather than plant your feet, you will be happier. Maybe I should have called this book Surf Your Life. The cover could feature a picture of me on a giant wave wearing a wizard hat. I wonder if it's too late. I'll make a call."
(p. 280)

"I believe you can time-travel three different ways: with people, places and things."

I grew up with an organ & we threw it out when my family moved out of my childhood apartment while I was in college. Lately, I've missed the organ/piano so much & a part of me has always regretted quitting. I've been considering taking lessons again. For that reason and also a few others, I found this passage to be special:

"Places also help you time-travel. My grandfather Steve Milmore was a wonderful man. We called him Gunka and he was a Watertown, Massachusetts, firefighter and served as a machine gunner in World War II. He married my grandmother Helen and went overseas for five years until he came back and put his uniform in the attic and never spoke of his service again. He had three wonderful children, including my wonderful mother. He died of a heart attack on my front porch on July 4, 1982, when he was only sixty-five. I was ten. He was the first important person in my life to die, and when he did, it was the first time I realized that life is not fair or safe or even ours to own. I miss him.
Gunka had a Wurlitzer organ, and he loved to play. His grandchildren would sit on his lap and he would play Bing Crosby or Nat King Cole. Lots of Christmas tunes. He wrote songs for us when we had the chicken pox. He went through his songbook and put numbers over the notes and then made a corresponding chart on cardboard that he laid over the keys so we could play songs ourselves. For a while I thought I was a genius and could totally play the organ. The reality was that I was the luckiest girl in the world because I had a grandfather who was a magic maker.
Sitting on the organ bench was important. Now that I think of it, benches are cool. Sacred by design. Benches are often a place where something special happens and important talks take place. Look at Forrest Gump. Or Hoosiers. Or outside a brunch place. Brunch benches are where it all goes down. After my nana passed away in 2003, my family took Gunka's organ and put it in the basement of the house they shared. And it sat there for ten years, waiting for its chance to travel.
And now it lives in my apartment in New York City. My boys play it all the time. They sit on the same bench I sat on and feel the same good feelings of family and home. One night I was feeling lonely and stressed, and the organ started buzzing. I think Gunka was trying to talk to me. I sat on the bench and felt better. Inside the organ bench is old sheet music with my grandparents' handwriting. I also found a song that I wrote when I was seven. It is a poem that has numbers written above it, so it can be played the special way on my special organ. I wrote it in the past and put it in the sacred bench so I could pull it out at just the right time. Time is just time. Time travel, y'all."
(pp. 282-4)

November 20, 2014

Remember, your career is a bad boyfriend.

Yes Please
By Amy Poehler

"I once was having dinner with an old friend back when I was on SNLBaby Mama was coming out and I was in the middle of one of those weird press pushes where your face is on taxis and you are doing talk shows all the time. My friend, who was as funny and talented as me but chose not to be an actor, was talking about how he was seeing my face everywhere. He went on and on about how he was seeing my face everywhere. He pointed out that people were really starting to know my name and asked me if I "could believe it." "Yes," I said. I had worked for over a decade to get to this moment. I hadn't just dropped my script into someone's lap on a train. "Can you?" I asked him.
But I was lucky. Your career and your passions don't always match up. Plenty of talented people don't have the careers they want. Plenty of untalented people make millions and make movies. There is a difference between determination and talent. Hard work doesn't always matter. You can be the best at making contacts and going after jobs, but then suddenly you want it too much. Suddenly everybody feels how bad you want it and they don't want to give it to you. Even at six years old Archie is learning to stop paying attention to the toy he wants. He knows that if he lets on how bad he wants it his four-year-old brother will snatch that whizz up in a hot second. Pretending to not want something can work. Really not caring if you get it takes a lifetime of practice."
(p. 221-2)

"Creativity is connected to your passion, that light inside you that drives you. That joy that comes when you do something you love. That small voice that tells you, "I like this. Do this again. You are good at it. Keep going." That is the juicy stuff that lubricates our lives and helps us feel less alone in the world. Your creativity is not a bad boyfriend. It is a really warm older Hispanic lady who has a beautiful laugh and loves to hug. If you are even a little bit nice to her she will make you feel great and maybe cook you delicious food.
Career is different. Career is the stringing together of opportunities and jobs. Mix in public opinion and past regrets. Add a dash of future panic and a whole lot of financial uncertainty. Career is something that fools you into thinking you are in control and then takes pleasure in reminding you that you aren't. Career is the thing that will not fill you up and make you truly whole. Depending on your career is like eating cake for breakfast and wondering why you start crying an hour later."
(p. 222)

"You have to care about your work but not about the result. You have to care about how good you are and how good you feel, but not about how good people think you are or how good people think you look. 
I realize this is extremely difficult. I am not saying I am particularly good at it. I'm like you. Or maybe you're better at this than I am. 
You will never climb Career Mountain and get to the top and shout, "I made it!" You will rarely feel done or complete or even successful. Most people I know struggle with that complicated soup of feeling slighted on one hand and like a total fraud on the other. Our ego is a monster that loves to sit at the head of the table and I have learned that my ego is just as rude and loud and hungry as everyone else's. It doesn't matter how much you get; you are left wanting more. Success is filled with MSG.
Ambivalence can help tame the beast. Remember, your career is a bad boyfriend. It likes it when you don't depend on it. It will reward you every time you don't act needy. It will chase you if you act like other things (passion, friendship, family, longevity) are more important to you. If your career is a bad boyfriend, it is healthy to remember you can always leave and go sleep with somebody else."
(p. 225)

Can you walk? Stop complaining.

Yes Please
By Amy Poehler

A good list, from page 103:

November 17, 2014

I am getting to a place right in the middle where I feel good about exactly how much I apologize.

Yes Please
By Amy Poehler

Bookends to an honest, beautiful chapter about apologizing & forgiveness:

"I say "sorry" a lot. When I am running late. When I am navigating the streets of New York. When I interrupt someone. I say, "Sorry, sorry, sorry," in one long stream. The sentence becomes "Sorrysorrysorry" and it's said really fast, as if even the act of apologizing is something to apologize for. But this doesn't mean I'm a pushover. It doesn't mean I'm afraid of conflict or don't know how to stand up for myself. I am getting to a place right in the middle where I feel good about exactly how much I apologize. It takes years as a woman to unlearn what you have been taught to be sorry for. It takes years to find your voice and seize your real estate."
(p. 65)

"Look at this woman. This beauty. What an act of grace. What a gift she gave me. Shame makes people abandon their children and drink themselves to death. It also keeps us from true happiness. An apology is a glorious release. Anastasia gave me a huge gift. That e-mail changed me. It rearranged my molecules. She has lived a life of struggle and decided not to pick up the armor. She teaches me about compassion. She makes her journey about open hearts. She is not ashamed.
(p. 79)

November 09, 2014

People are their most beautiful when they are laughing, crying, dancing, playing, telling the truth, and being chased in a fun way.

Yes Please
By Amy Poehler

"Decide what your currency is early. Let go of what you will never have. People who do this are happier and sexier."
(p. 21)

"Improvisation and sketch comedy helped me find my currency. My plain face was a perfect canvas to be other people. There is nothing I like more than picking out wardrobe for a character. An SNL hairstylist once told me I had a great face for wigs. A Great Face for Wigs! What a compliment. (And also the title of my second book.) Looking silly can be very powerful. People who are committing and taking risks become the king and queen of my prom. People are their most beautiful when they are laughing, crying, dancing, playing, telling the truth, and being chased in a fun way."
(p. 21)

"Yes please" sounds powerful and concise. It's a response and a request.

Yes Please
By Amy Poehler

Every year I discover -- late -- a new comedy to fall in love with. I refer to it as my comfort comedy because I start to binge-watch it obsessively as a means to relieve any tension & to send me into bed & sleep with good feelings. The year after I graduated from college, that comedy was Friends. (Super late!) The year after that, it was Arrested Development. Earlier this year it was Parks and Recreation, which I think is safe to say is my favorite of the three.

When I learned Amy Poehler was publishing a memoir, I became so happy. I knew it'd be good. She is strong & successful & smart and I knew she'd write things I'd want to read, and that she'd write most of them in a funny way.  Corny, but: I am grateful to the show (and the amazing cast!) and to Amy for making me cry/laugh hysterically during moments I needed it most and for videos like this,  and this for making me feel like a better human.

"It's called Yes Please because it is the constant struggle and often the right answer. Can we figure out what we want, ask for it, and stop talking? Yes please. Is being vulnerable a power position? Yes please. Am I allowed to take up space? Yes please. Would you like to be left alone? Yes please.
I love saying "yes" and I love saying "please." Saying "yes" doesn't mean I don't know how to say no, and saying "please" doesn't mean I am waiting for permission. "Yes please" sounds powerful and concise. It's a response and a request. It is not about being a good girl; it is about being a real woman. It's also a title I can tell my kids. I like when they say "Yes please" because most people are rude and nice manners are the secret keys to the universe."
(p. xix)