Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Maryl writes: Take Your Work Outside

I’m working outside for the summer. No, I haven’t started a landscaping business. I’ve moved my office outdoors. I’ve been working at home for a couple of years now and am happy with my current setup but we all need some new visual stimuli once in awhile. So when you stare off into space, you’ll get a few new celestial ideas instead of the same old down-to-earth ones.

Anyway, I gave my balcony a facelift. I’ve lived in my coop apartment for decades across from one of the most spectacular skylines in the world and never did anything major to spruce up the area and make it more inviting and comfortable. Now I had the time and the impetus. I was also moved by a few home d├ęcor magazines that made it look like the outdoor balcony or patio was another room. That’s what I wanted another room but not for too much money because my working at home hasn’t quite paid off yet.

I love my new slate floor ($2.99 sq. ft.) that covers the cold concrete and simple lattice (cheap) and mounted plant holders that help hide the unattractive brick…all from Home Depot. Next I purchased resin wicker modular seating with comfy cushions from CB2. I added an outdoor baker’s rack for extra storage (who doesn’t need that in an apartment), a few area rugs and weather resistant throw pillows (by Sunbrella) from Home Decorators. There’s a trough for the ivy to grow up the wall and hide more of the ugly cement and a couple of planters for the boxwoods (the smell always reminds me of Mount Vernon) ordered online (in fact it was all ordered online except for the slate) from Restoration Hardware. I made the light myself with parts from ebay and then I finished it off with some metal wall hangings (gotta cover that brick) and a garden stool from good old Marshall’s. And there you have it…..my outdoor office. 

Now I haven’t experienced any break through thinking yet but I do feel I have a fresh perspective – along with the fresh air - on a lot of what I’m currently working on. (Phil Montero from TheAnywhereOffice has some thoughts on how outside work shifts ones perspective also.) No rush; I’ve got three months. And when I move back inside in the autumn, my way of looking at my tasks and goals will change again. I think I’m onto something here. Try it. Take your work outside.

Recap of links: 
1)  My slate floor from Home Depot
2)  Comfy CB2 seating
3)  Weather resistant Sunbrella pillows from Home Decorators
4)  Restoration Hardware trough and planters
5)  Light parts from ebay
6)  Metal wall hangings from Marshall’s
7)  Phil Montero on how outside work shifts ones perspective

Friday, June 24, 2011

2nd Look: Diane Keaton

Who doesn’t love Diane Keaton? At 65, Keaton is the poster child for our generation. (Did you know she made her acting debut in the Broadway musical Hair, the only cast member NOT to take her clothes off?) Over the last 35 years, we have grown up with Keaton in big-screen, emblematic roles: first, as the loveably ditzy Annie Hall (1977), then as the dropout single mom who swapped shoulder-padded suits and a high-powered job for the country life and a country doc in Baby Boom (1987), next as delightfully-revengeful spurned spouse in First Wives Club (1986), and finally as the naked cougar who finds love with her daughter's boyfriend in Something's Gotta Give (2003). Through the decades, we followed her styles and her life stages while she collected accolades and an Oscar as a talented actor. So what’s she up to now?

"As you know, I'm more of entertainment person," she told the New York Times this week, "but I have a real passion for design." These days Keaton is designing dishes for Bed Bath and Beyond. K by Keaton is a sturdy table top collection in “farm-y landscape colors”--wheat, grass, and bark, according to the heartland's sweetheart. Some of the stoneware cups, bowls and plates are stamped with her "trademark whimsy": Yum, Bite, Eat.“I don’t know why we don’t eat more food out of bowls," she told the Times reporter, "I could eat all of my meals out of bowls.” Good idea!

Keaton has always been an iconoclast, quirky but true to herself. Despite her high profile romances with such leading men as Woody Allen, Warren Beatty and Al Pacino, Keaton has never married. She came late to motherhood, quietly adopting a daughter, now 15, and a son, 10, with none of the ballyhoo of other Hollywood parents.

She’s taken unconventional roles and unconventional stances too.When producer-director Nancy Meyer cast her and Jack Nicholson in Something's Gotta Give, there was more concern about their box office draw than the scandalous the story line (middle-aged playwright gets it on with her daughter's much old boyfriend). "Let's face it, people my age and Jack's age are much deeper, much more soulful, because they've seen a lot of life. They have a great deal of passion and hope-why shouldn't they fall in love? Why shouldn't movies show that?" Keaton told Ladies Home Journal at the time. The film was a major success,grossing $125 million in North America. If onscreen Keaton had no fears being naked under the sheets, offscreen she is categorically opposed to going under the knife. She told More magazine in 2004, "I'm stuck in this idea that I need to be authentic ... My face needs to look the way I feel."

Keaton has always lived her passions, be they photography, music, architecture or design. Having lived in a Frank Lloyd Wright house in Hollywood Hills and an iconic Spanish house, she is currently renting. (Told you she was the pulse point of our generation!). “But I am going to buy a piece of land and build once in my life. I don’t know if I can do it but I’m going to try.” Way to go, Diane. That’s the spirit of a 2nd lifer.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Maryl writes: Discipline or Dishes?

I’m having a motivation problem. Starting your own business and working for yourself is a whole different discipline. Company employees have job descriptions, department objectives, specific deliverables and performance reviews. You typically work within a team made up of different skill sets so you never had to venture far from your own. Setting financial milestones with profit and loss statements just isn’t one of mine.
So I’ve been sitting in front of my computer on and off for the past few weeks faced with this task. I’ve tried methods for cracking procrastination, chunking the work, setting timeframes, making lists but the fact is that I’d rather be hand washing my dishes, weeding the neighbor’s garden or residing my house in aluminum than figuring out what it will cost to run my business for the first three years. I can’t stay focused long enough to make any noteworthy strides. Maybe this is what adult ADD feels like. On the other hand ADD sufferers are typically very creative and intuitive, which are two attributes I would use to describe my business.
Second life is all about self motivation and discovery and a new learning curve. So what I’ve learned is that I’m more mentally productive in the morning (as are 70% of all workers) when my mind and body are rested and life hasn’t yet interrupted your plans for the day. So I put my workouts off until the afternoons and dug in, did the reading, made my charts and little by little I’m seeing real progress. But if you do have any suggestions for handling difficult tasks that you’re not that deft at, please share them below and soon. I have to create an investor’s term sheet next and my oven needs some serious cleaning!  

   1) There’s so many books on procrastination but this simple
       title says it all, Focus, by Leo Babauta and I like the Zen 
   2) We can learn personal productivity from 
America’s most 
        productive CEO’s.
   3) Here’s some tips on oven and other household cleaners that
       won’t take you away from your work?

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Caryl writes: Odyssey II

Photo by Allegra Ben-Amotz
I’m still exhausted from throwing my child’s birthday party at our loft last Sunday. Twenty-kids running around the house, balloons galore, yummy eats and fruit drinks. The piece-de-resistance was a delicious mocha-chip, mint-chip ice cream cake from Sundaes and Cones. The cake was decorated with a little chocolate dog kicking up dirt while looking for a baseball in the grass. Surrounded by all her friends and older sister, my little baby girl was turning . . .are you ready. . . ? 24!!!! The last time I served ice cream cake was decades ago and the kids weren’t drinking proseco and passion fruit juice with it. 

Much has been written about this millennial generation and their long slow entry into adulthood. And my daughters and her friends are no different. They are beautifully educated but questionably prepared for the 21st century. They are trying on jobs when they can get one (my daughter has two part-time gigs); otherwise, they are waitressing, bartending, volunteering and going back to school (Annie’s planning to go to grad school this fall). Their lives are filled with heartbreaking break-ups (that too) and cautious dating. Nobody’s really thinking about marriage or kids and, definitely not buying a house. Yes, some are renting their first apartments or sharing with strangers from Craigslist, and several have moved back with their parents (mine never left). For these twenty-somethings, theirs is not the decade of the 20s that we recall.

“There used to be four common life phases: childhood, adolescence, adulthood and old age,” wrote
David Brooks in a memorable New York Times op ed column in October, 2007.“Now there are at least six: childhood, adolescence, odyssey, adulthood, active retirement and old age. “ I agree that there are new stages, at a minimum six, but I take issue with the fifth or at least the label Brooks has given it. Oh yes, we, first-wave baby boomers are active alright but few of us are retiring. Not in this economy, anyway. Not to mention that we are too competitive to entirely leave the game. And have too much to still offer. No one I know is going willing to the sidelines.

I’d prefer to call the fifth life stage Odyssey II. We too are wandering through the new millennium test-driving a variety of new ways to live. The landscape keeps changing, often and radically. The future feels uncertain at best, frightening at worst: a dying planet, a growing national debt and a sputtering economy unwilling to jump start.

Brooks continues: “Yet with a little imagination it’s possible even for baby boomers to understand what it’s like to be in the middle of the odyssey years. It’s possible to see that this period of improvisation is a sensible response to modern conditions.” Just like our emerging adult children, in our second lives—Odyssey 2.0-- we need not only improvisation, but also imagination and innovation. And while we are on an alliterative streak, there’s another “I-word” we need—one the twenty-somethings don’t have and, as a result, their path is steeper and more prone to stumbles. It’s our secret weapon on the road to our next life stage. And that is (drum roll, please): Intelligence. I am talking about the intelligence that comes only from life experience. The intelligence that springs from having lived one life successfully already.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Maryl writes: Maria Shriver Needs a Second Life

Maria Shriver is looking for something new to do and she wants our help.  How will she get through her transition and onto her next life?  She doesn’t appear to want to return to broadcast journalism, maybe philanthropy, although she was seen lunching with Oprah Winfrey the day the news broke on her separation.  Hm, maybe a reality show version of “The Good Wife?”  The series could run for five seasons alone before running out of state and federal elected officials to feature.  And then there’s always France and Italy to fall back on.  No that’s too obvious and not Maria’s style, but she’s open.…at least that’s what she said on her YouTube video. 

The political wife thing was just a sidestep but a lot of women put themselves on hold while focusing on their families first.  Now it’s their turn.  Some can easily redefine their goals and move towards them effortlessly.  We can learn from them and from those of us on a more circuitous route.  There are books (check out a couple below) and there are self help and meetup groups, university continuing education courses, professional organizations.  We can reach out to friends and colleagues on our social networks; consider LinkedIn, FaceBook, YouTube, like Maria did, and eventually this web site.  Life coaches are also options for those that want a more private approach.    

Just working your network or your friend’s network can do the trick and help crystallize one’s passion and what your next move should be.  Defining a second life and taking those first steps is the most challenging and exciting phase.  I don’t think we have to worry about Ms. Shriver.  With her family and professional connections, she’s probably already on her way although it’s interesting and touching that she sought a larger and unknown audience for input.  I suppose that’s what we’re all doing too except I  already feel a familiar community that I can depend on building right here.

Some follow-up ideas:
   1) Check out Karen Baar’s book, “
For My Next Act.”
   2) The National Association of Baby Boomer Women has some
       supportive articles on “
How To Begin In A Transition.”
   3) Also consider Mary Catherine Bateson’s book,
Composing a Further Life.”
   4) Help Maria Shriver with her transition. Send her your
       comments on
   5) Look into
She Creates Change, a company that educates  
       and inspires women to claim their destiny and take action.