One Good Thing

March 20, 2020, was the last day my team worked in the office before the state of N.Y. shut down because of COVID. Since then, we’ve been working from home.

It’s been an interesting transition and a combination of the company scrambling to procure devices such as laptops and technology to enable easy remote access and people being willing to use personal devices to continue to be productive and effective.

We are executing on a huge website replatforming project – working remotely isn’t necessarily the best way to facilitate this. Unlike the norm, my team has more than doubled in size during this unprecedented time – going from three members (including me) to seven. These are some tough circumstances under which to build a team and to launch a new website. But, against all the odds, we have, thanks to the wonderful people on my team.

We have daily remote calls, sometimes we’re all on camera, sometimes no one is, and sometimes it’s a mixture. The essential things are, we meet every day, and people know they have a choice about whether or not to be on video.

When we started our remote daily “stand-ups,” I asked everyone to start the call with “one good thing” that happened the previous day. My original intent was to help us all stay focused, for at least a moment, on gratitude. It’s turned out to have quite an unexpected and unintended positive outcome.

We’ve gotten to know each other better during a time in which the team is onboarding new members from both outside of the company and within the company, but from different groups. From my perspective, it’s been a really unique time and way to do team building.

There’s no substitute for in-person interaction, but we’ve made the best of it. We share lots of things, from recipes, to what we made for dinner the previous night to sidewalk chalk adventures.

Here are some things I’ve learned about my team members (using initials, so I don’t infringe on anyone’s privacy).

A.B. is from Korea and is relatively new to our industry. She is eager to learn and more than willing to embrace feedback. A has recently started to explore the world of visual art and recently was brave enough to share her drawings with the team, something we all appreciated. She very much enjoys movies, books and food from her native land, and during the pandemic has been able to connect with many of her friends from all over the world. Her face lights up when she is delighted and that is often.

R.B. has been living in Buffalo since the pandemic made landfall, which has been good for him. He’s had time away in a positive living environment and away from his toxic roommate in Syracuse. As the mom of kids who’ve experienced some toxic roommate experiences, I totally get it. Even before he temporarily relocated to Buffalo, he had started to discover his talent in the kitchen, and it’s grown from there with an appreciative audience to share dinner with. He’s also exploring the world of clothing design – great things to come, no doubt. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that his dog has been surrounded by cats for the summer, and it has resulted in some very amusing anecdotes.

S. E. is the mom of two beautiful children just starting out in the world, a 4-year-old and an infant, not a newborn – but not yet a year old. Her 4-year-old daughter is now dabbling in sports such as t-ball and is loving it. Both of her kids enjoy neighborhood gatherings and family outings to explore the area. According to her daughter, S’s husband, in addition to being a medical professional, is also a lawn care professional who is bringing life to the lawn in their newly built home. Last but not least, she’s a caring person who makes treats for others in her neighborhood.

S.T. loves the outdoors and spending his time biking and hiking. He also loves to read – Stephen King is one of his favorite authors, and he’s also a fan of podcasts and is always connecting the dots between events. If you want a recommendation for an outdoor escape, he’s definitely a go-to person. He loves dogs, is very handy at remodeling – and has made substantial home improvements with the help of Home Depot during the past few months.

T.C. is a jack of all trades, and more than competent at all of them. He’s a vegan chef, a Moped rebuilder, and more than handy around his house. T is a wonderful dad, who loves his daughter beyond words, it’s touched me more than once to see their morning hug. He also is an excellent reference for where to go in the great outdoors – and also where to go to get great craft beer. He loves helping his friends, even though he hasn’t necessarily come out and said that, it’s obvious – and I have no doubt they appreciate him as much as he appreciates them.

T. R. recently moved into a house with his fiance. They’re planning a wedding for October of 2021. He has a new baby sister, whom he’s gotten to see twice during this strange time – looking forward to more pictures of her as she grows. He’s done a fantastic job of making his new house a home, and one of his latest projects is making sure the new grass seed takes hold. He and his fiance enjoy quiet nights at home together. One of the things they enjoy doing together is cooking, perhaps especially making meatballs together to put in the freezer so they can enjoy meatball sandwiches together.

I imagine my team has learned a few things about me as well, but I’ll leave that to them. I’m just grateful to be working with a group of people who are so willing and able to make the best of things.

Every Picture Tells a Story

Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.” ~ Pablo Picasso

After nearly a year of art journaling and drawing my way through some seriously faith testing times, I’ve landed in an amazing place. I never would have dreamed that my perfect job in a perfect place would be back in Omaha, Nebraska – but here I am!

Although Omaha has been my city of residence on three separate occasions and for the majority of my life, moving back hasn’t been without more than a few adjustments. Some of them I foresaw and have been easier than expected.

It hasn’t been nearly as difficult as I thought it might be, to get up every day and put on “real clothes,” makeup and drive to the office instead of padding downstairs to my desk wearing yoga pants and fuzzy socks. The perfect hair salon practically dropped into my lap and the location of my apartment couldn’t be better suited to my lifestyle and interests.

Others, like living alone, are taking me longer than anticipated to feel comfortable with. Slowly but surely I’m adjusting to living in an apartment and to evenings and weekends without impromptu visits, bear hugs and sharing a plate of appetizers at Fridays with my youngest son.

The one area of my life that I expected to flow from the East Coast to the Midwest without disruption, was the relationship with my inner artist and creativity. It didn’t. I don’t know if it’s because I didn’t identify myself as an artist or a writer during my previous life in Omaha or if it’s because my new apartment doesn’t have the clearly defined studio space I’d hoped for.

Whatever the cause may be, it’s been far more difficult to tap into my inner child and let the art flow than expected and for some reason, I simply stopped making art.

Paint & Sip Franchises to the Rescue

Mid-December marked nearly four months  of my paint supplies being tucked away in a drawer and my unfinished ink journal and favorite pens sealed in a gallon size baggie. Every time I thought about drawing or painting,  nothing would come out. It was as though the stack of ink drawings and the nearly completed art journal had been created by someone else.

Art classes are difficult to find in the dead of winter, and so after hearing positive things about the local paint and sip studios I decided to give one of them a try as a way to jump start my creative journey in Omaha.

Paint and sip franchises such as the Corky Canvas and Canvas and Cabernet are springing up across the country. They offer a “unique way to uncork your creativity,” in other words they serve wine and other libations to patrons that are brave enough to paint, many for the first time since kindergarten, in a group setting.

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My first experience was interesting. The studio felt empty.

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Only a handful of women gathered around the tables closest to the platform at the front of the room. Freezing rain and snow deterred the rest of the attendees from learning the difference between a big, a “shmedium” and a small paint brush – all highly technical terms that every artist needs to know. 🙂

In spite of the bitter temps outside, the room quickly warmed up with artistic enthusiasm. The instructor led us through the painting step by step, and offered individual guidance to the budding artists in the studio. The music selection ranged from songs that took me back to high school day to modern day hits, that thanks to my kids, I not only recognized – but could even sing along if I felt so inclined.

I had’t thought about it before now, but perhaps it’s no coincidence that a large flower was the subject of the first drawing class I took in Yardley

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and, albeit a much simpler floral piece, was the subject of my first group art session in Omaha.

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Much like the first time I dipped my toe into the world of art, my goal on that frigid Saturday morning was to create a “masterpiece” that matched the original artist’s work. Success meant replication rather than interpretation, in spite of the instructor’s encouragement to change up colors and/or do something different if we felt so inclined.

It may seem unlikely to some, but for me, the Corky Canvas and its sister paint and sip venues became a way to bridge the gap between who I was when I left Omaha and the artist I discovered in Pennsylvania.

With each new session, I’ve grown a little more daring and instead of using the painting on the schedule as a template, it’s simply a source of inspiration with guidance provided by the instructor.

First, I went totally crazy and painted a huge moon, filled the branches with petals and made the blossoms on the tree pink instead of white.

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Next, I went out on a limb (pun intended) and painted three birds instead of two. The background was lighter than the model painting, the field below was quite different and for the first time, the branches started feeling like my own.

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The creative block ended on Valentine’s weekend. Picture a red umbrella at the bottom of a grey and white cobblestone path lined with quaint street lamps and a picture perfect silhouette of a couple dancing in the rain at the opposite end.

As much as I love the idea of the picture perfect couple dancing in the rain, it didn’t work for me. It’s not where I am right now.

And so instead, the path in my painting turned out to be tempered with color and emotion. The umbrella is disproportionately large, but for some reason I love it. Rather than a couple dancing in the rain, the silhouette is me. A woman, yet at the same time still a girl, reaching out to pass through the curtain of rain into a place and time that is filled with more blue skies than gray.

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Last weekend brought me back to the more whimsical me.

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Six months after moving into my apartment, I’ve begun to carve out a space for a “studio,” it could be otherwise referred to as my dining room table. Unexpected guests will just have to understand. 🙂

The first piece I created in my new studio is very fitting. It ties together so many experiences from the place that I moved from to the home that I’m in the process of making. It’s a reminder to remain in the present rather than speculate about the future.

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The World is Askew

Today, the earth shifted off of its axis.

It’s been coming for a long time, we’ve seen it happening –

but we still wonder how things ended up this way.

It’s easy to blame it on the outcome of the most recent election day.

Truth is, we’re all accountable. We’ve all played a part.

But it’s not too late.

It’s not too late to reach out your hand to the left and to the right.

We’re all just people who want what’s best.

Hold tight to your neighbor, no matter who they are.

Lace fingers and feel what’s the same and not what’s different.

Hold tight, and fight.

Let’s make the world right.

Feel your heart beat in the same rhythm as the person “on the other side.”

Our hearts beat the same.

We cry the same tears.

Together we are one.