My Week Off in New York: Part 1 (Mon – Wed)

I know it’s against the rules of blogging to include so much information in one post, but there’s just so much to share! Starting with… Remember that internship at which I’ve been busting my butt since December? It’s over. Sad face. So what’s next? I start Tuesday as an associate (I just can’t get over that title. I feel so darn cool) at an amazing new firm. With an equally amazing list of diverse clients. To say I’m jazzed is to completely undermine how stoked (there are those California roots) I am. Bucket List #6, cheecckkkk.

So how to celebrate my last week of freedom? Tackling the crap out of my bucket list. Only, Monday, I was gettin’ real friendly with the toilet, doubled over with a stomach flu. So every other day this week is jam-packed to make up for all the awesome things I’ve missed.

Monday: Toilet bonding.

Tuesday: Running errands (like buying a new bikini!), accepting jobs, and sunbathing in Central Park with aforementioned new bikini. And cleaning AB’s apartment, which is exhilarating to type-As like me!

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Wednesday: Treating myself to crepes and a latte, a walk through Central Park, visit to the Met (#18, visit a museum), then ice cream on the High Line (#5, walk and relax on the high line) and a trip to see the World Trade Center Memorial (which I still hadn’t seen! #2).

The crepe, latte, and morning walk (with Kindle) was obviously great. And the Met? Wowza. So much to see… so I stuck to my standard go-tos—Egyptian (I used to want to be an Egyptologist), and European Impressionist. I also stumbled into a Conde Nast-sponsored fashion exhibition and, at Captain America’s insistence, traipsed through the American Wing. In general, I feel about museums like I do about churches. Just being in them makes me so overwhelmingly conscious of my own insignificance. Sometimes, I find myself drawn to a particular piece and can’t explain why but it gives me goosebumps the same way great dissonant chord or a climactic romantic scene does. It seems cliche to call them goosebumps, but the hairs on the back of my neck stand up, called by the beauty of some things in a way that I can only describe as feeling. Sometimes art, like music or love, makes me feel. Well, duh.

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Anyway, on the way out, I bought a Van Gogh post card. I just love Van Gogh; his insanity makes him so… relatable? And I love Impressionism because the beauty of the art is in the eye of the beholder. The art isn’t a photograph, it’s not real. It’s lines and dots and smudges that the brain interprets as something beautiful. Every time I see Van Gogh or Monet or Manet’s work, it’s a deeply personal experience, all my own.

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Van Gogh’s work… not mine.

Anyway, so I left with sore feet and goosebumps and a postcard, which I wrote up while sitting on the Met steps a la Gossip Girl, listening to an a Capella group.

Then I made my way downtown to walk a 12-block stretch of the High Line, but not without stopping for an ice cream first.

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I finished the day at the World Trade Center Memorial. It was a little to early (just opened a few days ago and still very much the tourist thing to do in the city) and a little too expensive to go to the museum, so I stuck with the memorial, people watching. I also took a stroll through the cemetery of St. Paul’s Chapel. 
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TED Talk Tuesday: Maria Forleo talks lilies and leaches

So maybe this isn’t a TED talk, but I’m still reeling from all the inspirational content that was covered in Alt for Everyone, and had to share. The below video was spurred by the Overcome Overwhelm session with Hilary Rushford and Whitney English. While Hilary was able to wax poetic on her macro vs. micro planning, and how important it is to say no, Whitney designs and sells her own planners on Etsy—they’re beautiful, functional and the second I posted a picture of them to Instagram, my coworker commented about having one of those lusted-after planners and loving it.

The video features ADHD expert Ned Hallowell, who touches on five tips for entrepreneurs and creative types—great advice for anyone who easily feels overwhelmed and wants to work smarter, not just harder. His tips are:

Define clear and specific goals. Set three daily goals, three weekly / biweekly goals, three long-term goals to meet in the next 6-12 months, and three lifetime goals. This forces you to prioritize and ensure that the work you’re doing is in pursuit of “the big picture.” You also know me and goals. They’re my crack.

Avoid “sceen sucking.” This is an incredible term. How often do I log into my computer just to check my email, and then end up putzing. It’s estimated that out of every hour, 20 minutes are spent unproductively because people end up sucked into their screens. Instead, Hallowell suggests allocating a specific time or times each day to devote to email and online interaction.

Change the default response from “yes” to “let me get back to you.” Not only does this ensure that you’re not over-committed, but it this helps ensure that you only take on projects that are true to yourself or true to your brand and help further those longer-term goals.

Never worry alone. To try to avoid constant toxic worrying, (1) never worry alone, (2) get the facts so it’s not as overwhelming and you know what you’re working with, and (3) make a plan. This is something that I can 100% implement in my own life nowadays; I have a tough time differentiating between worry and genuine stress, so getting the facts and making a plan will help me avoid the nagging stomach ache of stress.

“Cultivate lilies and get rid of leeches.” I love this one: Lilies are people or projects that are worth the time and energy you invest in them, and who give back. Leeches aren’t worth the time and energy you invest, and instead are dream breakers and take away time from the lilies. That said, don’t crowd your life with too many lilies, such that you’re overwhelmed by too many commitments to each. Quality over quantity? Sounds like Perfect 10 for the people we surround ourself with, yes?

Enjoy the video!

Things I’m Loving: Color, Sparkle, and Paper Goods

 

Screen Shot 2014-05-11 at 9.21.51 AMRecently, I’ve been lamenting the lack of color in my life. So I’ve been working to brighten my days in small ways. Below are some recent finds I’ve been loving. Clockwise from lop left:

Whitney English hosted my favorite Alt for Everyone session and makes this outstanding planner that incorporates three daily goals, an hourly breakdown, and plenty of room for lists. So obviously I’m craving one more than a slice of red velvet cake. Check them out on etsy, and preorder her August – July version. It comes in gold stripes too! Glitter? Count me in.

A recent copy of WOOF Magazine featured a fellow Northeastern student who founded Heads Up 4 Charity. The company started with bracelets made from pennies (hence, Heads Up), and now sells jewelry and clothing. A portion of the proceeds go to various charities.

Oh, Klean Kanteen. Forgive me for getting all worked up about a water bottle, but it’s amazing. I love their vacuum-insulated bottles. My mom’s kept ice intact when we left it in her 120+ degree car. And It keeps hot things hot, too, as I learned chugging coffee on the way to my 4:00 a.m. broadcast internship. It’s BPA-free, sustainable, and—with all the bright colors—all-around awesome.

I bought myself these stellar Jack Rogers as a graduation gift to myself. I’m still working them in, but they go with everything, and have just the right amount of sparkle.

I’ve been going on several interviews lately, and have thus been burning through stationary like crazy. I love Kate Spade’s stationary cards for sending a little love to the important people in my life. After all, it is on my bucket list (#38!) to send more thank you cards, this year!

I just finished reading Where’d You Go, Bernadette with my mom. It was interesting but I’m not entirely convinced it lived up to the hype. Nonetheless, I was giggling a couple of times—It’s hard not to love a schitzo. Next on the list? The Signature of All Things, Liz Gilbert’s most recent novel. Turns out she’ll be doing a reading in two weeks in the tri-state area. So I might finally meet the woman who first made me want to be a writer. How’s that for boosting creativity!

 

 

Alt for Everyone Recap -and- Giveaway!

MSWgiveawayForgive the hiatus… I’ve been a very busy bee. For the last several days, on top of tons of interviews and work, I’ve been participating in Alt Summit’s all-online Alt for Everyone conference. It’s a little nerdy and a whole lot of fun—the perfect solution to help beat my limp celery blueeeess *cue jazz music.*

As a participant in the conference, I get to attend seven classes, one keynote, and one meet-n-greet type session. I won’t get too into the nitty gritty details, but to summarize, I listened in on:

Branding with the amazing Rachel Shingleton of Pencil Shavings Studio. Rachel was so wonderful and this was such a great class to start with—she built out several prompts to better identify what my blog / brand is and what my brand is not. Not quite as easy as it sounds, but hopefully my new brand can help drive the success of Musings she Wrote!

Break into Video with the bubbly Alison Faulkner of The Alison Show. Alison literally named her show after herself. But she’s the main attraction; she’s super engaging and upbeat and was great about expressing the importance of just getting out there. Down the road, I hope to build more video content into the blog, but I’m still working out the kinks so bear with me.

The ABCs of SEO hosted by the king of “geek chic,” Duane Forrester of Bing. Duane was an incredible resource, chock full of various techniques and widgets and all kinds of nerdy analytics. Not only will his course help me grow my blog, but it’ll also help me build my family’s business and help me professionally.

Working with Brands, sponsored by Collectively, Inc. Working with brands—big and small—is how bloggers make money nowadays. And as a PR professional, I was interested in both sides of the equation. As a blogger, I think collaborations are a great way to share the things I love with my readers, so I’m working on it!

Making Money in a Changing Media Landscape with Meg Keene of A Practical Wedding. This class was really interesting, in that it taught me that more and more, bloggers have to get creative about leveraging their brand for the moneysss. It was also an exercise in humility. I, unsurprisingly, am small potatoes in the blogosphere.

Overcome Overwhelm with Hilary Rushford of Dean Street Society and Whitney English. This class was amazing (and I tweeted up a storm while watching it). Hilary and Whitney were just *so good* together, building off one another’s ideas and promoting general debauchery. This class was by far my favorite—blogging meets goal-setting meets talking nerdy about organization. How could a type-A creative like me say no?

How to Win Your Dream Sponsor with Erin Loechner of Design for Mankind. Erin covered her own pitching techniques and how others can adapt and personalize their approaches. Great insight!

I came away from the conference with a newfound passion for creativity, and so many ideas and tips and I a little bit feel that my head might explode—so bear with me if I start getting my blog on. I can’t help it!

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As part of the conference, Alt sent “goodie bags” full of treats—things like cards, gift tags, reusable gift wrap, more gift tags… there seemed to be a theme. Giving.

And because I thought Alt was amazing, I thought I’d share a little bit of that experience with my wonderful readers by sharing some of the loot, specifically a three pack of lip gloss in scrumptious springy colors. I know it’s not anything extravagant, but it’s still a fun surprise! And I’m now reaching out to some of my favorite brands to be able to do things like this more often.

InsideandOutThe Inside and Out lip colors come in three colors and are 100% certified organic. Further, the company donates 10 percent of all revenues to charities that support women. Amazing, right :)

There are several ways to enter:

—> Tweet about me with a link to mariandaniells.com.
—> Leave an engaging comment on any of my posts.
—> Start following me on Twitter, Bloglovin, or subscribe via the “follow” tab at the bottom right of the screen.

You can enter as many times as you want between now and May 20th. At that point, I’ll work to calculate all the submissions and pick one at random! Best of luck and thanks for sharing in my Alt for Everyone experience.

Ridin’ Solo: 5 Pros and Cons of Solo Travel

solotravelWhen I lived in Paris, one of the most important life lessons I came away with was a love and respect for solo travel. I learned that whom you’re with has just as strong an impact on your experience as where you go and what you see. To illustrate, let me tell two short stories.

oktoberfestFor Halloween weekend, I went to Prague with a classmate (whom I knew from Boston, as well). She’s a wonderfully nice girl, and had figured out a hostel and how to get to and from said hostel—for which I was immensely grateful. But once we were settled, she had no opinion about how we spend our first night, priorities about what to see, etc. And she had a limiting budget. In essence, I ended up being a tour guide. And when I once suggested that we spend an afternoon on our own, she looked at me in a way that said “please, no.” That’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy Prague—I did—but I would have gotten much more out of the experience with a more involved travel buddy. Or alone.

Now onto Dijon… I bought an impromptu ticket to Dijon one weekend in France. Then I missed my train. I had no one to blame but myself, and yet, I just read until the next train, got to Dijon an hour late, and explored nonetheless. Walking through the town’s streets, I heard a band playing in the courtyard of a gorgeous building, so I stopped and listened. I sat in the most beautiful church, I stopped to stroll through a market selling antiques and old French books. I stopped to sit in a park and watch a man talk to his dog in French. And I still went to museums and explored the city. I bought mustard. But I was free to change my plans on a whim. And I love Dijon—I’ll definitely be back.

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Given those stories, one might think that I inherently like solo travel better. And that’s not necessarily true. But I think it’s a safe bet. When I travel solo, I know the trip—for better or for worse—is all mine. But when I travel with someone else, there’s a lot up in the air. Traveling with someone can be immensely rewarding. You just have to pick the right person(s).

And now to delve a little deeper, I thought I’d share what I consider the five main pros and cons of solo travel. Let me know what you think! Continue reading

6 Steps to Beat Creative Block

creativeblock1. Acknowledge it. You can’t fix the block if you don’t acknowledge that it’s there. So sit, dwell, and mourn the loss. If you’re me, that means writing a moody blog post about how my creativity is shriveling up inside me that gives AB’s roommate “the feels.” A lot of people will say that when there’s a block, just walk away and it’ll come. This is the time to try that approach. And when that doesn’t work, keep reading.

2. Consume, consume, consume. Just because you’re having a tough time expressing creativity doesn’t mean you can’t absorb it. Soak up everyone else’s inspiration to tap into at a later date. Read books, scan Pinterest, search Google for “how to beat creative block” (oh, hi), read through blogs, shop for clothes, eat fresh foods—all things that I find creative.

3. Ask for help. Creativity is a two-way street. When I was younger, I used to sit with my mother and hash out ideas. And even now, I love participating in group brainstorm sessions. Other people are a great springboard off which to bounce ideas. For me, this step meant reaching out to Captain America for some blog ideas, and reaching out to my parents to help fund my participation in Alt for Everyone—both will spur additional creativity and get the ball rolling!

4. Plan. If the words still aren’t coming, then there are still steps you can take to prepare yourself for when they do. I took the time to work with Captain America to build a preliminary editorial calendar, and look up unique holidays for the coming year to include in my planner as clever “news” pegs. I also signed up for Alt and am mentally preparing!

5. Cleanse. If this list were just for me, step 5 would simply be “clean.” I find that I can’t do anything creative—write, cook, paint, sing, think—when things are dirty. In my family, it’s called “Blue Rug Syndrome;” we had a blue rug in our living room and when it was dirty, the whole house looked dirty. This is similar—when my surroundings are cluttered, my brain is. So I clean. But this can also mean cleaning out any toxic excess, going for a run to cleanse your mind (or whatever). Anything that wipes the slate clean for a fresh start.

6. Now go. Even if it’s just for a few minutes, sit down and work at your art. With the planning from step five, you should have some springboards to work with. But sit down and try. Think of this as intense interval training. Write or work for 15 minutes and then take a break for 10. But still use the break time proactively. Read, go for a walk, look through old photos, do yoga, stand on your head for all I care—anything to mix it up and stir the imagination. Then put that imagination back to use.

Best of luck! Do you have any bad experiences with creative or writer’s block? How’d you overcome it?

Musings on Chalk and Celery and Creativity: My Quarter-Life Crisis

celeryWhen I was younger, I loved loved loved the 1995 remake of “The Little Princess.” There’s one scene when little Sara draws a circle in chalk on her damp attic floor, then curls up in a ball in that circle, fetal. This is how I feel. She was reeling from the presumed death of her father; I’m just having what I can only describe as a quarter-life crisis.

I just feel… off. Let me attempt to delve into the complexity of what, exactly, I’m feeling: I am a limp and rubbery stalk of celery. I feel completely drained of my battery; I have no backbone, like I’m wilted.

And I think I’ve figured out the root (ha) of this anxiety: I am homeless. The closest I can possibly come to my own personal happy space is that circle drawn in chalk. Sure, I have a sublet with great roommates, but none of the things are mine. A stranger’s art lines the walls; her dirty pink rug sits on the floor; her clothes fill the armoire; I sleep under her linens in her bed. And sure, I have an amazing boyfriend with an amazing apartment complete with amazing roommate, and I spend a lot of time there. But it’s not mine. I may cook and clean and sleep there, but AB never fails to remind me that I don’t, in fact, live there. The couches, my very first adult purchase, no longer belong to me. Nothing, save for some clothes and toiletries, is mine. I express my frustration to him, and he says to go home and have alone time there. But it’s not “alone time” that I need. It’s “me time.” The fact of the matter is I can’t be who or do what I want when my life is boxed up in a basement far away.

I’m actually on the verge of tears right now. This reality is excruciatingly difficult for me. It has detrimental effects on my psyche, and completely goes against my mental health clause. Because when I don’t have “me time,” my creativity dies a slow, painful death. All the things that make me feel like me—the majority of my wardrobe, my furniture, my cowboy boots, my yoga mat—are sitting in a basement. I thought I’d be settled in my own place in March. I now know it won’t be until June or July. You try living out of a suitcase, and in the shadow of another person’s life for six months and tell me how sane you feel.

I want to write a book, I want to tackle my Pinterest-inspired DIY projects, I want to ramp up my blog, I want to take up yoga again, I want to host a party in my own kitchen with my own kitchen utensils. Mine, mine, mine.

I don’t have the means to fix this right now and, as a result, I feel trapped.

I believe it was Maya Angelou who said something to the tune of—when inspiration hits, she has to scramble to write it down, lest she lose it forever.

Recently, my mother and I were taking about my older brother, a photographer and the definition of an artist. Many times in his life he’s said that if he is unable to pursue his art, it will—literally—kill him. And though I used to brush off his remarks as exaggerated and dramatic, I now believe him. When his circumstances prevent him from shooting, a part of him dies. I feel the same way. My circumstances—tolerable in small doses—are now stifling my creativity and my happiness. I feel the artistry bubbling up, but don’t feel I have the means to express it. My reflex is to either implode and curl up in that chalk circle, or explode and somehow find my escape—literally and figuratively. If celery can be saved with an ice bath, then so can I (right?).

Happy Sant Jordi: Books on my Lit List

rose and bookThree years ago, I learned about the glories of La Diada de Sant Jordi—This Catalonian (and spreading!) holiday takes its name from St. George, the patron saint of Catalonia, and it falls on the anniversary of his death (also his Catholic Feast Day). Think of Sant Jordi as a nerdy Spanish Valentine’s Day. Every year on April 23rd, lovers in Catalonia, Spain, exchange gifts—boys give girls roses and girls give boys books.

Roses have been associated with the holiday since Medieval times, but the incorporation of books is more recent. In 1923, a bookseller began to advertise the holiday as a way to commemorate the deaths of two renowned authors: Spain’s Miguel de Cervantes and a little-known author who goes by the name William Shakespeare. Both men died April 23, 1616 (cue creepy sci-fi music).

Catalonians took to the trend and some celebrate by doing 24-hour marathon readings of Cervantes’ Don Quixote (Woof). Others flock to Las Ramblas, Barcelona’s main thoroughfare, to take advantage of the numerous makeshift stands selling flowers and books. Throughout the day, some four million roses and 400,000 books are purchased in celebration of love.

Well I love love. And books. And can’t think of a better reason to compile a spring book wish list—with the weather finally warming up, I’m dreaming of beaches, so forgive me for the chick lit.

BernadetteWhere’d You Go, Bernadette
I’ve been meaning to purchase this book for a while now—after all, it was on my graduation-gift-to-self post!—but still haven’t managed. To Bernadette’s Microsoft-guru husband, she’s a fearlessly opinionated partner; to fellow private-school mothers in Seattle, she’s a disgrace; to design mavens, she’s a revolutionary architect, and to 15-year-old Bee, she is a best friend and, simply, Mom. Then Bernadette disappears. This book is the literary equivalent of multi-media art: email messages, official documents, and secret correspondence come together to create what’s a reportedly “compulsively readable and touching novel” about a mother and daughter’s role in an absurd world.
$9.99 on Kindle.

WanderlustThe World of Wanderlust Story
I recently started following Brooke Saward’s World of Wanderlust blog (for obvious reasons). This book is an insight into her endeavors since the first time she traveled through to the creation of World of Wanderlust, as well as an insight into what the future holds. Most importantly, this book is an insight into her travels to date and provides the backstory of her life. It sounds to me like memoir meets inspirational mommy blogger? But the reviews seem relatively positive, so I’m intrigued. Plus, $2 from every book download (given her global audience, Saward only sells digital copies) is donated directly to the Destiny Rescue project, fighting child prostitution.
$17.99, available for download here.

TransatlanticTransAtlantic
I’m a huge Colum McCann fan, and loved—lovedHow the Great World Spins. His more recent TransAtlantic came independently recommended by my mentor, and I’m very much looking forward to reading it. McCann brings to live different story- and time-lines, eventually weaving them together in a 6-degrees-of-separation spin. In TransAtlantic, he does the same with his female characters from the mid-1800s through to the 1990s. From Ireland to Missouri and Newfoundland, their journeys mirror the progress and shape of history.
$10.99 on Kindle.

A love letter to New York

We tried this once, and it was rocky at best. I was more infatuated with Snickers bars than you. But aint it funny what a little maturity (me) and hygiene (you) can do. Sparks. Oh, what love can do. I never meant to fall in love with you. I feel like I’m 12 all over again, meeting you and declaring “we’ll end up together someday.” I’d only seen your sparkle then. And though I’ve seen you fall apart (hello, 4,5,6 train) and mistreat me (hello, 2011), I only love you more now. I know your worst and love you for it. I love you for what you’ve made me.

This may not be a happily-ever-after story, but I know I’m better for having met you. Every time we spend time together, it’s like I’m meeting you anew all over. I forget the bad, blinded by the good. I never imagined myself with someone older, but you… dating you is like living vicariously through you. You cook French, and I see the Rue de Cler. Your pizza makes me see Naples. You cook Chinese and I see…whatever China looks like.

This is the most beautiful relationship ever. Maybe it will last, maybe not. Maybe I’ll miss you if I leave, maybe not. You’re not the clingy type and neither am I, but I know you’ll always be here if I come back—ready to fall in love all over again, ready to catch me, ready to wrap your rich arms around me.

Oh, it’s love. For now.

TED Talk Tuesday: Rethinking Charity

With my recent work at my PR firm, I’ve focused a lot on corporate social responsibility. It’s got me thinking again about sustainability and how businesses can generate a triple bottom line—soliciting financial, environmental, and social returns (Lions and tigers and bears, oh my!). And yes, huge companies really can do that. In fact, I’m reading a book right now called Everybody’s Business, which argues that huge companies are those best prepared to make an impact because they influence market trends and they have the tools that drive innovation.

A little back story: I was really hesitant to study social entrepreneurship, partly because I didn’t want to take a class with AB (for obvious reasons not at all limited to the small detail that we’re both incredibly competitive) and partly because I thought all that “do-gooder” stuff was idealistic. How, in a post-2008 world, can a company rely on donations from strangers? But my professor showed me that there are ways to get-‘er-done that make financial sense, too. So I drank the Kool Aid and jumped onto the CSR / triple return bandwagon and never looked back…

Until Dan Pallotta made me take an even deeper look. Philanthropies (which run on donations) aren’t a hopeless model, he argues. It’s just that we expect them to fix problems without the resources of huge companies. We expect them to draw talent without proper incentives. We expect them to have a zero balance at the end of the year, and spend a minimal amount on “overhead.” He argues: Why do we let for-profit companies “invest” in long-term R&D and initiatives, build their brand and team and resources…but not non-profits?

Oh, and he does it all with some endearingly self-deprecating humor. Enjoy!