In Loving Memory

Have you ever written your own obituary?  Before I respond to the WordPress prompt to write one, I pose an exercise for you: Think about this as your last day on earth. What would you do? How would you be with yourself and your loved ones? Would this be the best or worst day of your life? I’ve thought about this often, especially after hearing of sudden or shocking deaths, including suicides. I’d like my obituary to contain irony, black humor, and some wisdom I was never able to fully impart. A good obituary should be unpredictable and surprising, too. Here goes:

Here lies Sheila (Kaufman) Lewis, whose life was a work of art and transformation. While family traditions and roots were sacred to her, she could not abide -isms or dogma in her teaching and creative work. (With apologies to the living) Sheila wished she had started and finished things better, published and travelled more, been more attentive to finances, friends, husband, sons, and grandson, and learned to drive. But she was proud to have figured out how not to worry so much. She knew that the worst that could happen, probably already had.





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Busted, Procrastination!

Last night in sub zero weather, I hobbled with fractured foot and the help of a friend to teach my monthly “Job/Life Transition with Joy and Purpose” class. We always discuss what’s been going on for folks, and one honest soul admitted that he didn’t do last month’s assignment (pasting cut out pictures onto a vision board) because he always procrastinates. “I had all the parts, all I had to do was tape.” So many of us are like that, we do 90% of the work, then quit or stop. Somehow we tricked him into doing the deed then and there in class in about five minutes. The ‘stuck’ that accompanies procrastination and our stories around this friendly foe, when unravelled, loosen us from judgment and further procrastination. Here are a few of the revelations we discussed that may help you bust your procrastinatory ways:
1. Don’t judge it, you may be procrastinating for good reason and getting lots of other stuff done while waiting it out.
2. Contemplate what’s scary about finishing the object of your procrastination, as in fear of success or failure, letting go of an enjoyable process, or expected criticism. Recognize that fear as ego-based and let it lie (it does lie, anyway). Don’t try to quell, ignore, or understand it. Just move forward. How do you do that??
3. Baby steps, big steps, any steps at all. Open a new file, make that call, write a poem. Distract yourself away from the Big Procrastination. Come back in a while. Catch yourself from awfulizing, general comments like “I always procrastinate.”
4. In summary, beat procrastination at its own game without judgment, enjoyably, one step at a time and without falling asleep. Procrastination hates an alert mind.

Share your latest procrastination with us, how you beat it, or not. We’ll help you.
Because after all, we’ve all been there.

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How Dev Petty Found a Story with Legs…Frog Legs! (plus a giveaway!)


Dev Petty’s musings on picture book writing and turning a so so idea into a lively book with conflict, plot, and all that good stuff, is seriously, helpfully funny and useful. For grown up writing too! Thanks, Dev. Sheila (still thin on pic book writing ideas)

Originally posted on Writing for Kids (While Raising Them):

devPetty1by Dev Petty

I wrote a whole post for this very blog some time ago about NOT writing and just thinking. I wrote about getting to the heart of your story idea in your head before you ever write a word. I believe in that process…big time. But it’s not how I wrote I DON’T WANT TO BE A FROG. That’s a different story. That’s the story of how a sort of basic story idea turned into one with legs…frog legs! In fact, it was the writing of FROG that taught me to slow down and think, to find the story thread before I started writing.


I knew I wanted to write a story all in dialogue. I wanted it to be funny. And I wanted it to be about a frog. I like frogs, it was that simple. Not much to go on, eh? Believe me, my first efforts…

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The naked guys and Soho bricks capture the Serenity of Symmetry for our over-stimulated ocular senses. Thanks, Margarita, for this week’s challenge photo post!

Originally posted on Serenity in the City:


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Study 37: Art Resolutions-Scenes from the Studio


as seen here, you can create art in a short, concentrative time; feel good about old stuff. Sheila

Originally posted on Travels of Bogie:

Art Resolutions is a self-imposed initiative to create an art study every day for a year. Welcome to Study 37.

Another 2″ of snow added to Sunday’s 6 have tucked Mt. Muchmore in a forelorn detachment from the world. Morning adds to the potion. The plows have not been through in a while and, in the last half hour, only one car has ventured through the steep road below. This morning has all the hallmarks of a school snow day but none of the merits. I will telework if the roads are too hazardous, and so, I had my 5:45-6:30 intermission from real life to meditate and create.

I thought of my beautiful Japanese chocolate pot bought with my college boyfriend long ago at a lawn auction when deals could still be had. The pot is filled with lacquered chopsticks –another remnant from times gone by. Crowded in among coffee mugs…

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Make Art out of Tchotchkes

If you’ve been hearing about de-cluttering, you will see it is linked to the winding down world of acquiring material stuff; since goods are cheaper, rich people don’t need to own a lot, that’s for the (poor) masses. Minimalism (see NY Times, Feb. 17, 2015 back page editorial by Pamela Druckerman) is the new feng-shui of home design. Space is the thing to show off.

For once, I’m ahead of the design curve. I’ve been de-cluttering for years now. Don’t count all the unread books still on my shelves, they are part of an overall design (in my head). This summer’s paint job for the first time in umpteen years threw my apartment de-cluttering act into high gear.

Well, it started before that when my mom moved in 2012 after my dad’s death from her  spacious Long Island home to a crisp, new apartment in a senior living community. Luckily, four adult children and their families were able to divide, toss, or re-assign all that she couldn’t take with her. This is how I came to inherit a large number of tchotchkes. No one else wanted them.

A ‘tchotchke’ is an item of dubious purpose and some artistic but mostly sentimental value. My dad, an artist himself, had coffee maker tchotchkes, miniature wooden furniture and other objects (possibly to use in still life painting) tchotchkes, tiny amber glass bottle tchotchkes, and the usual repurposed gift and indescribable tchotchkes.

I didn’t want to clutter up my freshly painted shelves and sills with my dad’s tchotchkes when I had enough of my own. So I created little diorama-ish tableaux–a green vase, a quartz crystal, Dad’s medieval candle stick holder that never held a lit candle, stuff like that. Art work was hung by color or theme above the tchotchke assemblages. Old crafts handbooks might refer to these as “home arts” pieces. I prefer “found art collage.”

So if you want to start de-cluttering, make it fun. Turn it into a creative art project. But be mindful that emptied spaces do not necessarily bring emptied minds. That requires some effort, intention, or meditation, the subject of other posts. In the meantime, start with one small step, one tchotchke at a time. What can you toss or assemble today?

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Does the “Tech Down” Model Work?

Have you been following the recent New Tech City’s “Bored and Brilliant” challenge aimed at getting people (users) to amp down their time spent on apps, texting, gaming, and all manner of media usage? (In New York, go to WNYC or Channel 1, or google it). In response to their clever on-line forums, a few (low tech) thoughts:

High value communication requires deeper, slower thought than most of us are capable of in this speedy, tech-heavy, platform-weary world. I think about this when I hear people rudely flooding every public place with their very private (and often boring) talk on their newly upgraded devices. However, practically speaking, some of us need to tech UP, not down or less. We need to get up to speed for all the obvious reasons, but I’d be happy, never bored, and maybe even a little more brilliant if I never had to deal with social media platforms and their whiny offspring.

A lot of us don’t like new tech/media, but feel obligated to jump on board. And by the time the over 50 or 60 crowd catches up with the Millenials, the next thing has been invented and downloaded into our collective consciousness. Perhaps you share some the following quandaries, and if so, what do you do to address them?

  1. How do you catch up with the avalanche of new media, tech, apps, and upgrades?
  2. How do you get away with as little tech-ing as possible, given that many (especially older) people are just not that into it/addicted?
  3. Over-usage of new tech apps or i-phones can make us less brilliant at such arcane arts as conversation, writing, and spelling. How about replacing usage with, say, writing a thank you note, calling Grandma from a landline phone, or spelling words as they were intended to be spelled?
  4. Finally, before you tell all, promise to cut your texting time in half, or take a day off from i-photos, step back and ponder what your priorities are today and in the future:
  1. What did you do before the SM/tech avalanche (assuming you were born before cell phones were invented)?
  2. How is tech/media usage making you a more successful, better, or happier person, writer, etc.? Will cutting down improve or impede your life?
  3. What’s the healthy, stress-releasing balance?

Finally, what will you do with tech time saved by cutting back on emails, reading blogs and blogging about them–read a book?? Now, do tell, in any media that you like. Thanks!



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