Today I came home from my son's fifth grade graduation and discovered that the three baby robins nested on top of our electric box have flown away. I was hit with a conflicting sensation of simultaneous joy and loss.
On the one hand I had been concerned that the electric box was not the best place for baby birds. I often worried that one day I would come home to find a wounded or dead baby bird on my deck. Realizing that all three birds had successfully flown the nest meant that they had survived their perilous place of origin. They were grown, they had flown!
On the other hand, I'm going to miss the excitement of getting to watch them grow. I had come to enjoy coming out every day to see how they were doing. Now I will just have to wonder when I see a robin in my backyard if it might be one of the babies all grown up coming back for a visit.
For this to happen on the same day that my son is done with elementary school forever struck me as particularly poignant. Isn't this the same tension that as parents we must always balance? The sense of pride as we watch our children accomplish their next steps, combined with that bittersweet feeling of loss that they are growing up.
If everything goes well and we do our jobs right, our children fly away and leave us with an empty nest. Every milestone they hit, every grade they advance to, as much as our hearts swell with pride there is another feeling there too. That small sense of mourning that our babies are growing up.
Many years ago when my son was just over a year old I rented a room from a beautiful young mom and her family. This was the beginning of a wonderful friendship with Maggie May Ethridge and her amazing clan.
Despite her husband's battle with bi-polar disorder and the complications of raising a blended family, Maggie has managed to make her marriage work for over a decade, an undeniable feat in today's climate of instant gratification and divorce. Through fearlessly sharing her most intimate thoughts on her blog, Flux Capacitor, she has inspired an audience who have often been ignored.
Knowing how hard Maggie has worked in order to keep writing, I was exceptionally proud to discover that her first book is going to be published tomorrow. I asked if I could interview her about the book and her writing.
Below is the interview with Maggie May Ethridge on the release of her memoir, Scenes From a Marriage, a candid look at her relationship with her husband before and after he became ill with bi-polar disorder.
Scenes From a Marriage comes out tomorrow May 28th, 2014 on Shebooks.net.
Many years ago a friend of mine sent me an email introduction to Danae Ringelmann, who had just started a new crowdfunding site called Indiegogo. Danae encouraged me to submit a project. I quickly threw up a page for an ongoing series I'd started called "The Love Project" and sent out a facebook post.
Nobody contributed. I felt dejected about it, and decided that "The Love Project" was just a love project after all, and getting money would somehow taint it anyway. (No sour grapes there.)
Over the years I've had a few friends use crowdfunding to successfully fund their projects, and I realized that I had gone about trying to get funding for "The Love Project" all wrong. When I needed some extra money for grad school tuition I decided to try crowdfunding again.
This time I applied what I had observed from paying attention to successful campaigns. I was able to meet my fundraising goal, and learned a lot along the way.
Yesterday I saw that my brother-in-law has recently launched a crowdfunding campaign to expand his art gallery so that he can provide printmaking workshops. I want his campaign to be successful, so I thought I would put together this post of what I've learned to help him and anyone else who is new to crowdfunding.
Lesson 1: Make the ask obvious
The title of your campaign should tell everyone what they need to do before they read any further. "Help Taymar Go Back to School" worked much better than "The Love Project". Don't name your campaign after the project, name it for what you want people to do.
Lesson 2: Explain the outcome
How is contributing to your campaign going to make a difference? This is more important to your contributors than the perks, they are donating because they want to support you. When I created "The Love Project" campaign I just put what the project was without explaining how the money would help me with the project. When I created my grad school campaign I created a picture of me flying on a unicorn, and talked about how I felt that attending the program would change my life for the better. It was very clear what the money was for and how it would help me.
Lesson 3: Give meaningful perks
Most people care more about helping you than they do the perks, but the perks do help. The best perks are the ones that are personal and connected to the campaign itself, so the person donating is getting something that makes them feel good on multiple levels.
Lesson 4: Keep Asking
This is the hardest and probably most important lesson. Remember, one facebook post is not enough, people are busy and distracted. They mean to donate, but you have to keep reminding them before they will. Don't stop sending out emails and posting on social media sites. Let people know that even if they can't contribute financially, they can contribute by spreading the word. Get your loved ones to post for you. And just keep asking until you've met your goal. It's not easy, but it is effective.
Lesson 5: Keep it interesting
As you continue to ask for donations, change up your message. Find new ways to mention your campaign. Tweet out how much closer you are to your goal, your gratitude to the latest contributor, and any news you have about the project. This isn't just for them, it'll keep you from getting bored too.
These are the simple lessons that I've learned from my two crowdfunding experiences. If you have any tips I've left out, please share them in a comment here. Lastly, please contribute to my brother-in-law's campaign and help bring more art and artists into the world.
As a parent I am often surprised by how little our education system has changed since I was a kid. Earlier tonight my son's fifth grade class presented their powerpoint presentations on influential people in Colorado. One student described a famous explorer who was sent to apprentice with a master at the age of ten, as was common at the time.
This really caught my attention and I found myself contemplating what life would be like if we gave ten year olds the opportunity to apprentice with a master in the field of their choosing.
I thought about what I was like at ten. Introverted and observant, I was more comfortable with books than people. I had an ongoing monologue in my head that turned all of my observations of the world into stories.
I was passionate about animals and the environment, and I wanted to be an astronaut so I could explore space. But most of all, I wanted to be a writer.
And I still do. My ten year old self knew what I wanted to do with my life, and twenty seven years later I'm still "trying to figure out what I really want to do" because I can't shake the message that I got as a kid that "nobody makes a living as a writer" and "to be successful you have to stay in school".
Through middle school and high school I was forced to spend a little bit of time on a lot of different subjects so that I could take tests that proved that I had sufficiently memorized what has largely turned out to be a lot of useless information.
But what if I wasn't forced to learn all that stuff? What if I were given the opportunity to apprentice with a master instead? If at ten I was encouraged to pursue my true passions and taught how to make a living doing what I enjoy, I think I would have been a lot happier throughout my life.
But instead I suffered through years of misery trying to do things I wasn't good at and didn't enjoy because that was how our education system was set up.
And that terrible system hasn't changed. A quarter of a century later my son is complaining to me that he doesn't understand why he's being forced to learn stuff he doesn't enjoy and can't see using in real life. It's hard because as a parent I'm supposed to support his teachers, but often I find myself agreeing with his assessment.
Why are we still forcing kids to learn useless information? Kids growing up today aren't allowed to focus on their subjects of interest until college, and even then they often are forced to take general classes until their third or fourth year. And we wonder why so many people are lost and unhappy, pursuing careers they don't enjoy because they don't know what they really want to do, when most of them probably did know once, before it was educated out of them.
I'm not suggesting that we completely stop teaching multiple subjects after fifth grade, but I do think we need to reevaluate this broken system. It was designed for an industrial age when we needed lots of workers to do basic tasks that required very little creativity, ingenuity or passion. That time is dead. We need fully evolved human beings with as much creativity and ingenuity as possible. Not only for the general happiness of the population, but in order to evolve quickly enough to survive as a species.
Imagine what your life would be like if your passions had been encouraged and nurtured throughout your schooling. What would that look like? Let's create that world together. It might be too late for our childhood selves, but it's not too late for the kids that will usher in the future. Let's make it happen.
Last week I went with the rest of my cohort from BDW to check out some great agencies in Portland, Oregon. From the behemoth Nike campus to the small five person team at Parliament we got to see a really broad spectrum.
We started out at Nike. For some reason I was expecting something kind of old and industrial. I was absolutely blown away by the campus. It was a fantasy wonderland of beautiful landscaping, art, sports facilities and museum-like memorabilia chronicling the history of Nike.
A manmade lake, Japanese gardens and walking path into the beautiful surrounding forests gave promise that anyone needing a break from work could be quickly surrounded by nature. The giant fitness center complete with basketball courts, a large swimming pool and a spa also spoke of a work culture that equally values fitness. By the end of the tour I think we all harbored secret fantasies of working for Nike in some capacity, just so we could hang out in an environment like this all day. Our next tour had an incredible environment as well, but in a very different way.
If you've ever seen the Portlandia Stay Cool skit on Wieden + Kennedy, then you've probably already got an idea of how creative the interior is.
We arrived for our tour and were immediately struck by the aesthetic on the first floor. It reminded me more of an art gallery than an agency entrance. Every employee had an artistic black and white photograph hanging on the wall that in some way captured their personality. A giant beaver stood guard.
Our tour guide had us take the elevator up 6 floors, where I was immediately glad that I'm not afraid of heights. The "open beam" look has been taken to a whole other dimension here, and glass offices are perched over sharp drops. Wooden bridges connect the floor, and yes, there really is a bird nest at the top.
After admiring the creativity of the building, we were brought into a conference room for a meet and greet with some of the department heads. This is where things got a little less Portlandia, and a little more real world ad agency.
The agency has been around for many decades, with 8 locations around the world and about 700 employees. It was really interesting to hear how teams work together and how innovation is fostered in such a large, global agency.
In contrast, our next agency tour was at Parliament, where the five person team has recently moved into a three story building in Downtown Portland that took four years to renovate.
The bottom floor used to be a bar, the second floor a dancehall and the top floor a bordello. Now Parliament is using the top floor as office space, the second floor as co-working space, and they are still speculating on what the first floor might turn out to be.
The renovation was so recently completed that there were still piles of sawdust in places. It will be interesting to see how both the space and the agency evolve.
Everything about Sincerely, Truman was after my own heart. From the moment we walked in the door, everything and everyone we encountered was warm, welcoming and wonderful.
Every morning coffee is served to the public in the open bar and lounge area that greets you as you walk in. The time is meant for real human interaction, not business meetings, and people are welcomed to stay and hang out for as long as they want.
As we walked through the space the people working would stop, smile and say hello. This was a first on any of the agency tours we'd been on. There was a genuine congeniality that was contagious, and it wasn't just towards us, it was obvious that everyone there enjoyed working with one another.
If this wasn't enough, the history and philosophy of Sincerely, Truman is completely based around my own true love - story. They really get it too, it's not just lip service here. I wanted to stay forever, but the tour was over too soon.
Our next and final tour was at the lovely Second Story, which is appropriately located on the second story of a building in South Portland
Second Story started out building interactive experiences for museums. This has branched out to include many other types of organizations and companies as well. They do really neat stuff, some of which we got to play with after the presentation.
Getting to play with interactive installations brought out the joy in everyone. There was a Coca Cola bubbler screen that you could stand in front of and watch your own image bubble away. There was an astronomy table that you could touch to shoot streams of light from your fingertips. A model car sat in a display case that recognized when you stood in front of it and gave you interactive information at eye level. Colored light panels could be manipulated by pulling up a site on your phone and touching your screen. We could have stayed and played all day, it was truly delightful.
But all too soon it was over, so we said our goodbyes and trooped off to get some rest. We all had 9am workshops at the Webvisions Conference we came to Portland for, but that is another story for another time.
I really enjoyed getting to visit such a wide variety of agencies in Portland. Getting to meet in person and see the physical spaces of these agencies gave me real insight as to what these places are really like. Thank you BDW for setting up these tours, and for all of our wonderful hosts who welcomed us into their space and gave us their time.
Yesterday was our big Reveal event at the Boulder theater. The entire BDW C6 cohort participated. While each of our teams had elected a presenter to pitch our start ups, we were all called onstage for a little bit of improv.
That's right, improv. Many of us who thought we were off the hook on overcoming our stage fright were taken aback when Tuesday Gary Hirsch showed up to prep us on what we would be doing in front of a large audience on Thursday.
I had my own reservations, but when the time came to play "I'm a tree", I was glad that we had all been roped into this crazy scheme. Because even though it was a little mortifying when I stepped out and declared, "I'm a mama", I have a theory about doing things that terrify me.
Overcoming the fear and doing it anyway makes me grow as a person. And the next time it's not so scary. And while some fears are very justified and rational - I won't go hugging bears in the wild anytime soon - other fears are not. Like the fear of being embarrassed onstage. At the end of the day, so what? Should that keep us from getting up there and showing what we got?
Which is why I'm especially proud of everyone who presented yesterday. Kayleen represented our team, Crop Crcles, and I heard so much great feedback after from people who wanted to know when they would be able to get our app.
All of the teams did a great job pitching. And I have a special place in my heart for the final pitch of the day for wAkeio. My friend Breno gave the presentation and told a very personal, touching story about where the idea for the app came from.
I've had many conversations with Breno and know how much he's overcome just to be here in the US at grad school. And I also know how much he dreaded even having to present to our small cohort of 20 at the beginning of the year. For him to come such a long way to where he was yesterday, standing up in a theater full of hundreds of people and telling a very personal, emotional story took an amazing amount of guts. Bravo, Breno, I can't wait to see what you do next!
To the entire C6 cohort, congratulations!
Since becoming a mom to a little boy with Trisomy 21 I have written a lot about Down syndrome and disabilities. I am a storyteller, wife and mom to a teen and a toddler. Life is busy!