To impress

It’s not easy to impress me, but people have, with their passion or work ethic, their cleaning techniques and even the way they give and receive love. Most of the time, the light bulb doesn’t come on until long after they’re gone. From best friends to random students, former bosses and colleagues, I’m continuously influenced by a few people who have made an impact on me, especially in short amounts of time.

Recently, a friend was going through her books and set some aside to donate, one of which was Big Magic by one of the most famous memoirists, Elizabeth Gilbert. It’s about “Creative Living Beyond Fear.”

“Do you have the courage? Do you have the courage to bring forth this work? The treasures that are hidden inside you are hoping you will say yes…The hunt to uncover those jewels — that’s creative living.”

“This philosophy of creativity, in which ideas have willpower and are delivered to patient human beings in the correct state of mind, is a diluted riff on the “law of attraction” outlined in Rhonda Byrne’s “The Secret,” another Oprah-anointed self-help book (and movie), in which “positive thinking” is said to attract positive outcomes. You get back the vibes you put out into the world. (New Age-y as this sounds, it also jibes with certain strands of religious belief, in which good fortune is visited upon the deserving.)” – The New York Times

Ball game.

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Stay in Vegas

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One of the local reporters participates in a Learn-to-Ride segment for Fox5 Las Vegas

I tried savoring the moment watching the sunrise over the Supercross track last Friday at the Monster Energy Cup in Las Vegas. My clock had started at 4:30 a.m. so, by 7, I was wide awake and hours into assisting with the early morning public relations.

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It was my first time on assignment at a Supercross event where, just like in racing, everything is scheduled and everyone goes hard. My duties included first-time tasks like educating media on how to gear up properly, corralling riders for the press conference, escorting guests behind-the-scenes around the stadium and pits and manning the press box.

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I had been so busy in the weeks leading up to this event that I haven’t had any extra time or thoughts to post here, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t written. I was honored to pen the post-race press release on Marvin Musquin winning $1 million; once the race ended and everyone deserted the press box, my work began.

Not like anyone had to twist my arm. I wasn’t jet lagged running on a couple of hours of sleep; the truth is, I pretty much jumped out of bed every morning as excited as if I was going racing. In reality, I was. I raced around all day and night, jumping in wherever I was needed and working as hard as I could. Working for Supercross is a dream-come-true, and I came away from the trip knowing life would be different when I returned to the office. Sure, walking into work one week ago may have looked the same, but it felt different because I felt different — better even. I was on fire after everything I’d learned; it’s been over a week and the excitement still hasn’t worn off for the sport that captured my heart over two decades ago. (Read: Forbes, RedBull and Right This Minute.)

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Sheppard’s hut

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The calm before the storm

Life is slowly getting back to normal after Hurricane Irma stormed into town last Sunday, devastating entire regions and taking out power across the state of Florida. I returned to my desk as soon as possible after getting all 20 bags of debris at my mom’s house cleaned up. The damage at her place was limited, thankfully, and my apartment remained intact (without power, which wouldn’t have been that bad except for 90-degree days and 90 percent humidity.) Since Mom had all of the necessary camping supplies – food, generator and an AC unit – I sought refuge (Sheppard’s hut), shacking up with my dog, her dog and cat. Plus, with fuel and food in short supply, along with county-by-county curfews, I couldn’t return home until the West Coast was clear.

It had been 13 years since the last hurricane hit home, when I was 20, and I remember camping at home like it was yesterday. But this time, at 32, was more of a learning experience, from the strangers who opened their home to me and my pooch, to those who offered a hot shower and a place to crash and even a race to hit after only meeting me once in Colorado, or even driving across town to deliver a goodie basket, to my own close friends and family who did not care to call or text to check in. In those three days off of work, I doubled as a weatherman, construction worker with a chainsaw, a pool boy, lawnmower, fence installer, a dog whisperer, pre-storm snack finder, generator starter, gas scout, and I’d do it all over again after Mom said, “I wouldn’t have been able to do this without you.”

On it

With 43 days until the Monster Energy Cup, plans are being finalized for the last Supercross event of 2017. “It’s kind of like winter; it’s coming.”

In addition to setting aside time to hit the gym since returning from Colorado last month, I’ve been trying to hit the spiritual gym as well, busying myself with free podcasts while working away at my desk. This “Master Your Mindset” talk with Jen Sincero, author of You Are a Badass, reminded me that I need to get back to meditating, “the only way I know to build the muscle of thought control,” Jen says, even if it’s just 5 minutes a day. “Until you recognize your limiting thoughts and beliefs about yourself, you can’t do anything about them.”

Leap and the net will appear.

It’s the same with meditation. It’s about who you are being versus what you are doing.

“If you’re serious about staying in shape,” Jen says,” You work out no matter what. You find that time.”

These past couple of months, I’ve been working on reversing my old mindset of waiting to make decisions to change until something else happened. (I’ll start doing X when Y.) Instead of settling for what I could get, I started getting clear on my desires and understanding my own energetic frequency. This forced me to become unavailable for situations that frustrated me and even sometimes caused me physical pain. I got in mental shape by becoming available for what lit me up. And then I pretty much stopped meditating. Until now, hearing Jen say, “I still gotta go to the spiritual gym. You don’t get to get in shape, and then stop going to the gym.”

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Write on

Curiosity may have killed the cat but satisfaction brought it back.

When I walked into my new classroom at Ringling College on Monday afternoon, I was more curious about my students and their interests than I was about telling them about myself, but I warmed up to them first, with a few “horror” stories and my writing background before going around the room to ask them their major, what (if anything) they liked to read and write and why they opted for a creative writing class as art and design students. The majority of the 16 are majoring in areas that did not exist when I was in college, or at least were unaware to me, like print making and computer animation. I admitted to them that I had to Google what print making was, after assuming it involved making prints in the darkroom, which had them all laughing at my naivety. I told them how I hoped to teach them what they wanted to learn about writing, instead of what I wanted to teach them, and that was why it was important for me to get to know them.

“I can’t teach you not to be shy, but I can teach you how to be curious,” I told them.

I’ve always been a curious person. When I was young, I asked my parents “Why?” so much that my mom nicknamed me “The Question Lady.” Little did I know that asking why was a good habit to get into; it gets you the good stuff.

Journalists know that asking why and why not, looking at multiple perspectives, digging beneath the surface, challenging conventional wisdom, discerning patterns, finding context and thinking about “what’s next” improves any story. Just as it improves job performance in most any field. – Poynter

The hardest part about teaching writing, I told them, is that “unskillful or unknowledgeable people often think they are quite skillful or knowledgeable.”

Thankfully, most of my students admitted they disliked (or hated) writing and thought they needed improvement in order to succeed, which, for the most part, is why they took the class (Yes!) I reminded them that creative writing is ultimately self-expression and something that they may never have done before in an academic setting. I encouraged them to write for their interests, not mine, and make meaning about the stuff that means something to them. Then I, humbly, pointed them to my DirtBuzz story. Practice what you preach!

Art start

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Along with a long-awaited total solar eclipse, today marks my first time teaching at a private higher education institute, “a college on the move,” as I learned in last week’s faculty orientation at Ringling College. I got word of “The Ringling Effect,” how the college is expanding – “sidewalks don’t exist for a moment” – and looking to grow enrollment from 1,500 students – 1,050 of which live on campus – to 2,000 in the very near future. “We don’t want to become huge,” President Larry  Thompson said. “We want to remain intimate and small.”

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Along with the number of projects funded by donors – a new $18 million library, $20 million visual arts center and a planned $22 million residence hall – I heard how the college is a “an entire community citizen” as the economic driver of the area was voted the most engaged college community in the state.

In conveying the “oneness” of the college and how everyone is different but of one mind, the use of the Ringling College logo varies by departments with some favoring the creativity and cleverness while others highlight restraint and structure in sort of an “unwritten code.”

Sitting in the back of the room filled with fascinating PhDs, artists and illustrators, it felt like a perfect fit and one of those moments where I knew I was exactly where I was supposed to be. They encouraged fresh eyes in their a la carte approach to teaching and “shattering the myth of the starving artist” by fostering each student’s individual voice. For most students who come in having already declared a major, they go “fairly deep fairly quickly,” as most of the curriculum is sequential with some developing their skillet first while others dive into content and theory.

“It’s working,” one of the professors said of the “outstanding and shocking” level of most first year student’s achievements.

“It all beings with art and the making of art.”

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To-Be List

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I recently accepted an adjunct teaching position at the Ringling College of Art and Design, a private, not-for-profit, fully accredited college in Sarasota founded in 1931 by John Ringling.

In my role, I’ll be teaching a brand new magazine feature writing course for the fall 2017 semester as part of Ringling’s Creative Writing BFA program.

Some might feel that change is terrifying or that taking on more responsibilities can be scary, but I’m excited about returning to the classroom and starting fresh with a new group of students who, at Ringling College, “encounter a range of aesthetics, a global perspective, coursework in historical and contemporary literary forms, craft instruction from practicing writers/teachers, and close interaction with visiting authors, scholars, and publishing professionals.”

I’ve found bliss in my service to others, and I’m also looking forward to enhancing my professional networks by connecting with a new community of colleagues, mentors, advocates, allies and extenders who all have my best interest in mind and are positioned to help me achieve my publishing goals. Somewhere along the way, I hope to grow as a scholar in identifying my research interests on my path to a Ph.D.

I know, after my recent adventure riding my dirt bike in Colorado, that change will not always result in improvement, but all improvement requires change.