Grateful: Day 1

After writing the Bitter or Grateful post, I decided that if I could cultivate gratitude in 2011, I would be happier.  And what better way to cultivate this much-desired trait than to make a commitment out loud.  Here it is:

Every day for at least fifteen days (I'm contemplating thirty, but am not ready to commit to that yet), I am going to record something for which I am grateful, my emphasis being not on the incremental, but on what already is.

My reason for focusing on “what is” is two-fold:

1)  As an antidote to bitterness, I want to acknowledge the sunshine that never seems to hide its face, the goodness that already abounds in my life.  It is easy to forget about anything that is always there.  It becomes the air that we breathe.  Yet if it were gone, we would die, either literally and/or figuratively.

2)  I tend to think if I just had “x” then I could achieve “y” dream.  Yet I overlook, even eschew, the embarrassment of resources at hand.  By focusing on what is, rather than what's new, my hope is that I'll recognize that bootstrapping my dreams is a real possibility.

Day 1:  My husband and children
During my recovery from surgery, I have had one of the pleasantest holidays in memory.  That is in large part due to my husband and children.  I enjoy strolling in the neighborhood while talking to my husband, sitting on the bed reading Les Miserables while my daughter races through yet another Percy Jackson book, listening to my son practice singing and continually reminding me that he's almost taller than me, and lounging together while watching Burn Notice et al.

I like being with my husband and children.  I like how I feel around them.  It's so comfortable and safe that sometimes I forget just how valuable they are to me. Which is why I have formalized how I feel about them by giving them a name — my Harborhaven Advisors.

Johnson Family Cape 2010Johnson family, Cape Cod, September 2010; photo copyright Lanola Kathleen Stone

What are you grateful for?

Is there any resolution that you want to make for 15 days that is readily accomplished giving you an early win in 2011?

P.S.  I am also grateful for LaNola Kathleen Stone; she has taken photos of our family every year, except one, for over a decade.  She has chronicled our lives, shown us to ourselves — it has been a gift for which I am deeply appreciative.

LaNola Kathleen Stone | Rebirth of the Creative Self

LaNola Kathleen Stone, an award-winning photographer and art director in New York City, tells stories (both her own and others) with images. She specializes in shooting children's fashion and interiors, though recently she's received accolades for her fine art photography.   Her work Memories Abandoned (discussed below) is included in Surface Tension, an exhibition curated by Dan Halm at the SVA Gallery, NY, beginning Wednesday, October 21, 2009.   Memories Abandoned will also be featured in the Aqua Art Fair during ART BASEL MIAMI in December 2009.  Whereas her last post Measuring Up told the story of another, in this post LaNola shares some of her own story.

***
I've spent the past year making images that I want to make.  After 9+ years working commercially in NYC this was quite the stretch.  I was rewarded for my efforts and the response to my work has kind of surprised me.  I've been validated by awards, scholarships and even an invite to show work during Art Basel Miami at the Aqua Art!

Since I was very young I've had an active imagination.  When I was introduced to the medium of photography at 14 I was free to express these creative meanderings; I have never been able to draw well so photography was a godsend.  Then I had to choose a career and sadly I've pushed the images in my head to the side while I have tried to make money with my photography.

I took these images and ideas that played in my creative mind for granted until they were gone.  I had never known life w/o ideas and images and I was worried that they'd never return.  As soon as I was done feeling sorry for myself my “lost years” of 2006-2007 (years of living with abuse), I went searching and the images again began to appear.  Now I validate them, all of  them. They are my white rabbit beckoning me to follow and adventures await.

LanolastonememoriesImage copyright LaNola Kathleen Stone 2009.

SERIES TITLE:  Memories Abandoned

Memories Abandoned is a series of images of my now abandoned childhood home in Utah.  These images are portraits of my childhood experiences in the selfsame location with genuine artifacts of the experiences  portrayed (ie: wardrobe consists of my actual childhood clothes and  the placed props are actual items from this time of my life – it helps to have parents who save everything, thanks Mom & Dad). Themes explored within the images are the impermanence of time, the deterioration of memory and space, inevitability of change and through it all, resilience and the ability to move and exist beyond our surroundings.  Following are two images from the series:

The Boys’ Room
I used to break into my older brothers’ room and dance to their records. Records such as Upstairs at Eric’s by Yaz, Duran Duran’s  Rio album, and of course the Thriller LP. Each was significantly more cool than the Burl Ives crap and Saturday’s Warrior I had on 8-track tape.

LaNolaStonerecords Image copyright LaNola Kathleen Stone 2009.

Computer Room
We owned an Apple II clone called the Franklin Ace 1000. We spent many hours playing text based adventure games but “the littles” (Allyson, Kimberly and I) were not allowed to actually touch the computer and the boys got to do all the typing. In 1984, Macintosh introduced the 128K complete with MacPaint and MacWrite. This was the first computer “the littles” were allowed to run completely by ourselves. I’ve been a Mac girl ever since.

LanolaStonecomputer Image copyright LaNola Kathleen Stone 2009.

I still pursue commercial work (girl's got to pay rent, … and now a mortgage) but I will never again suppress the call of my creative self.

The constant with everything is time.  Undaunted by circumstance, time is relentless and moves forward.  We needn't live in our heads or in the past, our past is there to be utilized as a springboard in the present.   It's what you and I do today that pulls everything into a marvelous narrative, our possibilities — our future.

***
Do you have anything that came naturally to you as a child which you have subsequently suppressed?   Is it time to dust off those gifts, renovate that talent?

Have you ever thought of your creative ideas as a white rabbit beckoning you to adventure?

How can we foster the creative self in our loved ones — spouse, and/or children?

How does your present + your past = possibilities for your future?

The Beauty of Blindness to the Future

O Blindness to the future kindly given that each may fill the circle marked by Heaven.  Abigail Adams

When my son David was born, I longed to know what he was meant to do in life.  I reasoned that, if I knew, I could guide and direct him, making sure he gets ‘what he was meant to do' done.

I still wish I knew some days…

David J 2007

Photo of David, courtesy LaNola Kathleen Stone

But most days, I'm grateful to be blind to the future.  I can then focus on David's journey, trusting that he will ‘fill his circle marked by Heaven'…

…And simply be happy he was born.
And that I get to be his mother.

This post is dedicated to my son David on his 13th birthday.

LaNola Kathleen Stone | Measuring Up

LaNola Kathleen Stone, an award-winning photographer and art director in New York City, tells stories (both her own and others) with images. She specializes in shooting children's fashion and interiors, though recently she's received accolades for her images of dogs/pets.  

She prefaces her essay with the following:  “Measuring Up is an editorial story I created to fulfill an assignment to shoot amusement park Coney Island.  The concept was to juxtapose the refinement of the mother's outfit with the simplicity of the child.  Issues explored were based on the relationships observed while visiting the park; both mother and child trying to measure up to each others' expectations, both often coming up short.”

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10STONE_D4O2274All rights reserved:  LaNola Kathleen Stone
Concept/Art Direction:  LaNola Kathleen Stone
Photographer:  LaNola Kathleen Stone

 

Thank you Sophie, Nicola & Bobby 
as well as Robert and Nic's Mom.

 

And thanks to Whitney for her consistent interest in, and encouragement of my work.
 

***

Rebecca Menzie raised the theme of measuring up in her post two days ago.   Do we measure up to the standards we perceive society to have set?  To those we set for ourselves?
 
When I posted the open invitation to guest blog, many seem to have wanted to participate, but demurred, expressing concerns about measuring up:  Will I have something to say?  Will it be said well? Will I be received? 
 
Yes, yes, and yes.
  
If you would like to guest post in July or August, will you reach out to me?

Fielding a ‘Dare to Dream’ Team

We don't get our dreams done on our own.

We weren't meant to.

Which is why we need ‘dare to dream' teams.

Like my ‘dare to dream' creative team.

Brandon Jameson — Brandon Jameson designed the logo and banner for ‘dare to dream', everything Know Your Neighbor and my personal stationery. Brandon's design work visually captures what I try to convey in words.

LaNola Kathleen Stone — In the first three issues of Organize Magazine, you saw Kathleen's images, as well as her work as Creative Director. Through her photography Kathleen captures the magnificence of people and places.

Johnson2007
All rights reserved. LaNola Kathleen Stone, 2008.

Mallika Sundaramurthy — Several years ago, Mallika brought a story I'd written to life through her painting; her latest feat is the myth of Psyche.

All images are copyright by Mallika Sundaramurthy and Whitney Johnson, 2008. 

As I analyze the dynamic of my relationship with this creative ‘dream team', there seem to be some broadly applicable observations:

1. Start with short-term projects — If you intend to start a business or non-profit, before expanding the scope of the relationship, work on a short-term project first, such as a benefit for the community or your children's school.

Lamentably, I don't always do this. Either because I'm too relationship-centered and/or overly excited about someone's dream, I sometimes impetuously move into a major project, without vetting my partner(s) and they me, only to find out later we can't work together: we have different timetables, different visions, different views on the give vs. get. That's when things become dicey. Take it from a sadder, poorer, but wiser girl.

2. Trust our collaborators' competence — Once we've worked on a few limited scope projects and have fully worked out rules of engagement, it's important to trust our collaborators. If we're micro-managing, perhaps we just need to stop micro-managing. Or maybe we didn't pick our partners as well as we thought we did.

D2d_logotransFor example, after I broad-stroked for Brandon what I wanted for the ‘dare to dream' logo, he came back with something completely different which I didn't like. But because I'd loved his previous work, I was willing to ‘live' with his vision for a few days, eventually realize that his vision was perfect, just perfect — When we put our heads together, we experience systergy, and can accomplish our dreams.

3. Recognize that our collaborators will not be good at what we're good at – If we choose someone for a project because they can do what we cannot do (design, photograph, paint), the almost certain corollary is that we will be good at things they aren't.

It was not too long ago that I believed that if you couldn't spell you were dumb. Until. Until I discovered that there were some who thought I was dumb because I had (and have) a poor sense of direction (even after living in Manhattan for 10 years, when I came up out of the subway, and would begin to head east, you could be sure that I was heading west — a true contrarian indicator). Am I dumb? No. Are people that don't spell well dumb? No. We are just smart in different ways – and when we can harness ‘smart in different ways', we have the makings of a ‘dare to dream' team.

4. Give people their due in terms of compensation and credit — When our collaborators do good work, let's give them credit. Tell as many people as possible. Just because they don't ask for praise and/or compensation, doesn't mean they don't want or even need it. They may not know how to ask, or even what they are worth. What a gift we can give if we help our friends and co-workers to know their worth.

What ‘dare to dream' project are you working on or thinking of undertaking? Do you have a ‘dare to dream' team?

How are we helping our spouse/friends/colleagues with their dreams? Are we giving them enough information so that they can help us with ours?

To what extent are we as parents part of our children's ‘dare to dream' team? Do we collaborate with them? We can't really do vet them, but we can trust their strengths, and not micro-manage.

What about the people that are part of the ‘rearing our children' ‘dare to dream' team? Their teachers, coaches, nannies, friends' parents? Do we trust and appreciate them?

Are we adequately compensating people for the work that they are doing whether via money, barter (an exchange of goods or services)? And if they ask not to be paid, are we insisting — especially with women?

Related Posts:
A Hero of Support
Getting Gratitude
Asking for What We Want
Valuing What Women Do

Getting Gratitude

I have not been able to get Anna Kerr's comment that “we are desperate and depressed because our society encourages us to be dissatisfied” off my mind.

It was a reminder that we need to not only look up and ahead, but down and back, and that as we dare and dream, and then ‘get', if we aren't grateful for ‘what we get', we'll still be desperate and depressed.

With a nod and big thank you to Anna, here's a list of things (and their respective categories) that I am grateful for:

1) God's grace — God's grace is something we don't deserve, but are given anyway, unfettered and unconditionally. For me, it is the fall foliage in New England. It is glorious to behold.

What providential gift, or gift of grace, are you grateful for?

2) Gift of another's self — This is a gift that comes when people play to their strengths and give us something we very much need or want, but can't give to ourselves. Because it is generously given, it is systergy at its purest, but certainly not the exclusive domain of women, as my friend Aaron demonstrated this past week.

LaNola Kathleen Stone is a superb example of this ‘gift of self'. Kathleen has taken our family's Christmas pictures since Miranda was a baby. Because she is willing to play to her specific strengths and intelligences, every year Kathleen sees magnificence in my children that I certainly couldn't, and dare I say, few photographers could, as seen below.

Davidmiranda

What gift of another's self are you grateful for?

3) What I'm good at — This will likely be the hardest one to come up with as it requires us to do precisely what Anna Fels' research and the Bem Sex Role Inventory indicate that feminine women don't do — pull attention toward ourselves. Even after months of ‘soapboxing' about this, I would have readily deflected had my friends Brooke and Stacey not gently encouraged me to stiffen my spine. And so…. I'm grateful that I am good at coming up with an idea or vision for a project AND that I can then execute against my vision; take Know Your Neighbor, for instance.

What are you grateful to be good at? What are your strengths? Is there a way that your ‘good at' can be given as a gift of your self?

4) Simple pleasures — This is something that makes us happy. Period. Like listening to Earth, Wind and Fire's Can't Hide Love. I loved this song as a 16 year-old. And I still love it. Every time I hear that magnificent horn introduction on my iPod, I am happy. A simple pleasure.

What simple pleasure are you grateful for?

P.S. Just this morning there was a terrific article in the NY Times titled Let us give thanks. In writing., and includes a quote from Gretchen Rubin of The Happiness Project.

Thank Heaven for Little Rachels

My daughter Miranda turns 7 years-old today.

Miranda_7_years_copy

When I look at this photo of her (taken by LaNola Kathleen Stone), I can't help but be grateful.

For when I observe Miranda, and most young girls (remember Connie Talbot), I feel as if I am watching Rachel.

Miranda relishes being a girl.

She is generous.
She is compassionate.
AND
She is capable and confident.

Most little girls know they are Rachel, but then we forget.

As we invite them into our world, we can re-learn this truth.

Thank heaven for little Rachels.


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