“What are you waiting for?”

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Two years ago, I sat in front of my computer enthralled in a TED Talk by Matt Cutts on “trying something new for 30 days.”

During the talk, he discussed how he rode his bike to work for thirty days in a row. He then challenged his audience to find their own 30 day challenge, something that was realistic and achievable.

He posed the question, during the challenge, “What are you waiting for?”

I pondered his question. And also asked myself one more question, “What can I do for thirty days?”

I shrugged my shoulders. Then I spotted a blank piece of paper with a pencil sitting on top of it. And then I drew a picture. In that moment, I committed to a 30-day challenge where I intended (and did!) draw one new picture each day for thirty days.

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 If I said that this TED Talk didn’t have something to do with The Hobby Hoarder Quest I’d set out on only five months after watching Cutts speak for the first time, I’d be lying.

This TED Talk re-opened my eyes to the possibility of changing my life through setting my own realistic and achievable goals. For a while, I had stopped doing that—had stopped trying new things—had stopped feeling motivated—had stopped challenging myself.

 Over the years, I have accumulated a TED Talk collection in my web browser history that I continually go back to when I’m searching for a spark of inspiration.

If you aren’t sure what TED is—it’s a nonprofit devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading. TED believes “passionately in the power of ideas to change attitudes, lives and ultimate the world.” So they’ve “Built a clearinghouse of free knowledge from the world’s most inspired thinkers, and also a community of curious souls to engage with ideas and each other.” (Ted.com)

Today, I thought I’d share ten of my favorite inspiring TED Talks in hopes you’ll feel a spark of inspiration as well.

All of the talks listed below and more can be found at www.ted.com

What are you waiting for? Starting watching! (Oh and please, if you have a favorite TED Talk—share it in the comments—I’m always curious to see what other people are watching J  )

1. Matt Cutts: Try something new for 30 days

 “So here’s my question to you: What are you waiting for? I guarantee you the next 30 days are going to pass whether you like it or not, so why not think about something you have always wanted to try and give it a shot for the next 30 days.”

 2. Aimee Mullins: The Opportunity for Adversity –

“There is adversity and challenge in life, and it’s all very real and relative to every single person, but the question isn’t whether or not you’re going to meet adversity, but how you’re going to meet it.”

 

 3. Brene Brown: The Power of Vulnarability

“We must believe we are enough: “Because when we work from a place, I believe, that says, “I’m enough,” then we stop screaming and start listening, we’re kinder and gentler to the people around us, and we’re kinder and gentler to ourselves.”


4. Elizabeth Gilbert: Your Elusive Creative Genius

“Aren’t you afraid you’re never going to be able to top that? Aren’t you afraid you’re going to keep writing for your whole life and you’re never again going to create a book that anybody in the world cares about at all, ever again?”

5. Ric Elias: The 3 Things I learned While My Plane Crashed”

“Brace for impact. // I challenge you guys that are flying today, imagine the same thing happens on your plane — and please don’t — but imagine, and how would you change? What would you get done that you’re waiting to get done because you think you’ll be here forever?”

6. Richard St. John: Success is a Continuous Journey “When we stop trying—we fail”

“I learned that success isn’t a one-way street. It doesn’t look like this; it really looks more like this. It’s a continuous journey. And if we want to avoid “success-to-failure-syndrome,” we just keep following these eight principles, because that is not only how we achieve success, it’s how we sustain it. So here is to your continued success.”

 7.  Ron Gutman: The Hidden Power of Smiling

“The good news is that we’re actually born smiling. // Smiling is one of the most basic, biologically-uniform expressions of all humans.”

8. Larry Smith: Why You Will Fail to have a Great Career

“You’re afraid to pursue your passion. You’re afraid to look ridiculous. You’re afraid to try. You’re afraid you may fail. Great friend, great spouse, great parent, great career. Is that not a package? Is that not who you are? How can you be one without the other? But you’re afraid.

And that’s why you’re not going to have a great career, unless — unless, that most evocative of all English words — unless. But the unless word is also attached to that other, most terrifying phrase, “If only I had … ” “If only I had … ” If you ever have that thought ricocheting in your brain, it will hurt a lot.

So, those are the many reasons why you are going to fail to have a great career, unless … unless.”

 
9. Caroline Casey: Looking Past Limits

Do you know how much of us all pretend to be somebody we’re not? And you know what, when you really believe in yourself and everything about you, it’s extraordinary what happens // We are extraordinary, different, wonderful people.”

 10. Steve Jobs: How to Live Before You Die

I’m cheating here—cause it’s not technically a TED Talk, but the first time I ever saw it—was when I was carusing the TED website—so I’m counting it:

 “You can’t connect the dots looking forward. You can only connect them looking backwards, so you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something–your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever–because believing that the dots will connect down the road will give you the confidence to follow your heart, even when it leads you off the well-worn path, and that will make all the difference.”

Giving Thanks

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Thanksgiving is just two days away! It’s time to brace yourself for the holiday traffic, prepare the turkey, set the table for 12, and start writing those wish lists. But it is also time to share what you’ve been most grateful for this last year… and perhaps indulge in some pumpkin pie.

Sharing our gratitude doesn’t have to be–and shouldn’t be–an event that is confined to forced conversation over turkey once a year. Showing gratitude is something that we should continuously practice day in and day out. Gratitude is a hobby that travels far beyond the remnants of the turkey coma after your Thanksgiving feast.

So rather than share ten hobbies that might be fun to try this Thanksgiving, I’ve decided to share ten ways to “cultivate the habit of being grateful” (Ralph Waldo Emerson)–not just on Thanksgiving but in all the days that follow.

1. Go outside and breathe the fresh air. Not everyone is lucky enough to have clean lungs or the ability to walk outside on two feet. Show your thanks for both by taking a step outside and really taking the time to breathe—inhale, exhale.

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2. Say thanks for the little things—If your loved one made the bed this morning, text him thank you in the afternoon with a little smiley face. If your friend or roommate did your dishes—especially if it happens regularly: say thanks. It’s the little things that sometimes mean the most.

3. Write thank you notes. Write them to everyone: to good friends, mentors, acquaintances, people you’ve lost touch with.. Be sure to let people know that even if they were in your life only briefly, their impact has mattered.

4. Pay it forward. Drop a couple coins in a parking meter that is about to expire; pay the toll for the car behind you on the highway; cover the coffee for the next person on line next to you in café. By doing this we can start something pretty amazing: A chain of gratitude—or something as amazing as a kindness boomerang:

 

5. Go out of your way for people for the heck of it. Similar to paying it forward: Offer to clean out someone’s closet, mow their lawn, or rake their leaves without an alternative motive.

6. Start a gratitude journal: Write down 5-10 things you are grateful for or 5-10 things that make you happy each day—or each week. Maybe 10 isn’t enough. Try 20. Once you start writing down what your grateful for/what makes you happy—you find out there’s a lot out there that goes beyond the surface. In 2010, my good friend Hannah challenged me to come up with 30 things that I was grateful for/that made me happy. I ended up making an entire day out of it in Rome:

7. Give thanks to the negative aspects of life—not just the positive. Remember, it’s easy to say thank you when all things are going right. But it’s just as important to say thank you when things aren’t going right, or when you’re stumbling, or when life puts up hurdles on the race track. It is in the moments of struggle that we build strength, and in the moments of adversity that we build character. We cannot be grateful for the happy moments without being grateful for the difficult moments as well. Make sure in that gratitude journal you share the negative things you are grateful for too.

“Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously. And because all things have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

8. Write it in Stone. Okay I don’t mean deface property. But perhaps take a piece of sidewalk chalk and put just how grateful you are right there for everyone to see. Last winter, my goal was to spread happiness by chalking the word happiness into all five boroughs on one of the coldest days of the year. Why not take the time to chalk thank you as well? My good friend, travel mate, and editor Kim did just that in Raleigh, NC:

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9. Try something new. I clearly can’t preach this enough (ha). But remember (as with #1), not everyone has the chance each and every day to walk outside and breathe the air, to make use of the legs they’ve been given, the arms, the hands—the heart. Some people are born without legs and ski mountains, some people are given one arm and discover how to climb Everest. And some of us are given two legs, two feet, two arms, and two hands—and we often forget to believe in ourselves with our one and only heart. Show your gratitude for what you’ve been given, by using it. I don’t mean flaunt it—just use it.

10. Give yourself a day. Give yourself a day to just be. Don’t schedule a single thing. It’s your day. You’ve earned it. I mean this. As important as it is to show gratitude for the air you breathe, the people you spend time with, the roof over your head, and the health you’ve been blessed with—it’s equally as important that you show gratitude towards yourself—for the hard work you’ve put toward the happy, healthy, filled life you are living. It’s easy to get caught up in what’s next–To forget to embrace the moment. But embrace the moment—be grateful for the moment. Be grateful for yourself.

You Can’t Sleep on Your Talents

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It’s not every day that you have the opportunity to audition for a TV Talent show, so when I discovered that America’s Got Talent would  be holding auditions on the west side of Manhattan, I knew that I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to head to the audition and at least give myself a shot. So on Saturday night and Sunday morning, I prepared 90 seconds of stand up comedy material,  set my alarm for 6:30am, woke up, signed my electronic release and made my way over to the Mercedes complex where 90 people were already in front of me. I could FEEL positive energy swirling everywhere. People were singing, taking photos with impersonators, doing magic tricks, playing their guitars and chatting amongst one another about the day ahead. I sipped calmly on my coffee and struck up a conversation with a couple of people standing around me. We went back and forth quizzing each other on what one our talents were and how we thought we’d do. Then someone who was auditioning asked me why I love stand up comedy. And I said that’s easy:

“I love stand up comedy because I just really enjoy having the opportunity to bring joy to the lives of others. If I can make other people laugh, then I’ve had a good–no–great day.”

The person smiled at me and we continued chatting a bit before the line was eventually released to check-in.

Due to a confidentiality clause in the paperwork that I signed, THAT’s about all I can share with you about the audition process–that and of course the fact that 

On Sunday, November 17, I auditioned for America’s Got Talent.

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So rather than detail what happened after I got through the registration line, I thought I’d share SIX positive life lessons I took away from auditioning for a TV Talent Show.

1. Show up.
You can’t sleep on your talents, your dreams, your aspirations or your opportunities. The biggest mistake you can make when it comes down to giving yourself a shot, going on stage and performing, trying something new or going to an audition is physically not being there.  AND no matter the way the performance went, audition or first time trying something went–OR no matter the way you think the performance, audition, or activity went, be proud of yourself for giving it a shot, for maybe stepping out of your comfort zone–but especially for just stepping out of bed to get wherever you are going. Because let’s be honest, getting out of bed to be somewhere can often be the hardest part. 

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2. Cockiness vs Confidence vs Positive Thinking
Cockiness is bad.
Confidence is good.
And Positive Thinking is better.
And there is absolutely a difference between having confidence and staying positive. Positivity will attract other positive people to you. If you stay bright and you keep a smile on your face–other positive people will flock to you. Trust me, you don’t want to be waiting for an audition (for anything) with an orb of negative energies surrounding you the entire time.

3. Passionate people are just more interesting.
Having passion is more interesting than having experience. Being a passionate person about life and the joys of your hobby or your talent is much more interesting that simply a resume of experiences. You can have a lot of experience in something, but if if you don’t come off as interested and passionate about your craft–then it just won’t matter. Through auditioning for the show I had the opportunity to meet a mix of both experienced and passionate people. I got bored very quickly with people just rattling off their resume of comedy clubs they’ve performed at, but felt very enthralled in the conversations where people spoke with an excitement–a drive–a passion.

The experienced people might get jobs or interviews–but the passionate ones change the world.

4. Be the best you that you can be.
Whether it’s five people you are up against or 1 million people you are up against whether it be in an audition or for a job opportunity–the ONLY thing that matters in the audition room or in the application process is how you do–not them. You can’t control how someone else will perform under pressure. You can ONLY be the best version of yourself when it’s time to step up to the plate.

5. Know yourself better than anyone else.
At the audition, after someone overheard me say I did comedy, he asked if I could do any impressions. I said I can do one impression pretty perfectly–myself. The more I’ve thought about that statement, the more meaning it has taken on. Be sure that before you try to do the impression of someone else in order to impress others–that you know one person better than anyone else in this world–and so that if anyone asks you who you can act most like–you can be honest and proud to say the best impression you can do–and the person you know better than anyone in this world is…yourself.

6. Let others inspire you.
Share your stories and your talents with others–and also let others share their stories and talents with you.
You never know–Someone might just inspire you.

 

Hobbies While on the Mend

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Recently, I unexpectedly had surgery on my toe, which left me unable to physically run, dance, bike etc. Having to hobby without my foot seemed daunting at first, but then I turned to more calm, relaxing activities—activities that I didn’t need my foot for. Are you nursing an injury? Below, find seven hobbies to try while you’re on the mend!

1. Knitting – If you’ve injured a part of your lower body, cross-stitch a new pair of socks for when you’re back on your feet!

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2. Painting/Drawing/Calligraphy –If your strong hand has been left unharmed, express yourself! All this requires is a canvas, piece of paper, or object that you can physically use paints, crayons, markers, pencils, etc  to create your vision on! And if your strong hand is injured—you could always try painting with your toes! What are you waiting for?

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3. Ceramics/Pottery –Instead of moping and complaining about the cast that’s been molded to your foot or leg, use your hands to mold together your own original piece, pot, or bowl!

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4.  Chess or other Brain Games – While you’re off your feet, stay on your toes by challenging your mind. Take on a friend in a game of chess, keep yourself occupied with a rubrix cube, or hit the Sudoku books! Even better, create your own crossword puzzle and then get your friends to test it out!

5. Ventriloquism and Puppeteering – Ever dreamed of creating the next big Muppet? While your one foot’s elevated in a boot, make use of your unworn socks and make your own puppet—or dummie! Then bring the inanimate object to life, by giving it a voice of it’s own.

5. Musical Instruments — While your arms are out of commission, stomp out a beat with a foot drum!

6. Meditation – While your body takes time to heal, find time to re-connect with your mind and soul.

7. Skip-It! – If your arm is tied up in a sling, hit the pavement with this 90’s gem. “Skip-it; Skip-it; skipping and screaming and a bop-di-bop.”

Pon De FLO DVD

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Pon De FLO DVD

A lot of people ask me if there are any hobbies I have stuck with since starting The Hobby Hoarder. The answer is yes and I am proud to say that one of the hobbies I have kept up with is a Caribbean Reggae dance-based fitness class called Pon De FLO. I’ve noted this before, throughout the blog, but I’ll say it again: I didn’t go to group dance classes for years because I never felt comfortable–I never felt at ease–I never felt like I could do it. That all changed with Pon De FLO.

Many of the dance classes I tried throughout the hobby year were stepping stones in getting comfortable with being in a group dance class. But Pon De FLO quickly became more than a stepping stone–it became a ROCK–Just like the way good friends help us find balance and stability in our lives, Pon De FLO did the same for me–and continues to do the same for me.

I recently wrote about how The Hobby Year helped me to find balance in a world that I constantly felt held down in. This class has played a significant role in finding that balance and in surrounding myself with positive people who continue to help me find that balance. And to be honest, FLO has become more than a once in a while class for me–it’s become a routine, a habit–my go to. I’ve even started scheduling a lot of my hobby nights around the Pon De FLO schedule.

This isn’t your average dance class. The non-verbal cued choreography forces you to build endurance, stamina and strength through 60 or 90 minutes of high energy cardio that includes an abundance of burpees, pushups, sit-ups and squats. Additionally, the class challenges you to escape from everything that’s bothering you, from a day that came with more stress than you expected, and from the negative aspects of life that are just holding you down. FLO asks you to step up, look at yourself in the mirror, connect with yourself, and disappear into dance–to let it all go and for a brief time–just FLO.

 There are only two rules in FLO–just stop thinking–and just keeping dancing.

Beyond the workout, Pon De FLO is a community of positive passionate individuals who WANT to be in class– who love the burn they feel after a burpee song, and crave for the feeling the way their body sizzles after an intense set of pushups. And when the burpees, the pushups, the sit-ups, the squats, and the booty shaking is done, those positive, passionate individuals carry on their friendships with one another outside the studio classrooms.

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Because of the upbeat community of friends I have made through the class, the kick ass work outs, and the positive energy and passion for the dance class fueled by founder Heather Fay, I have found myself absolutely addicted to a group fitness based dance class.

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 Currently, Pon De FLO is based in New York City, but it is the hope and goal of their team to begin expanding the niche dance class nationally and globally.

This past week, the team launched their Kickstarter to fund a professional fitness based DVD so that people all over can do Pon De FLO from the comfort of their own home.

If you have a dollar or ten to spare, I hope you’ll consider donating to the cause–and if not, I hope you’ll spread the word.

AND lastly, if you are in the New York City area, I definitely recommend taking a class.
I’ll even treat you.

 

Pon De FLO might just change your life–I know it has definitely changed mine.

Budgeting Happiness

money Credit: Images of Money


I have a confession. I like to spend money.

I like to treat myself to a coffee each morning from a local café or coffee shop because it kick starts my day. I like to take the East River Ferry every once in a while because the fresh crisp air in the morning sets my spirits higher than they would be if I was crunched into an overly packed subway cart. And I like to try new— sometimes-expensive activities—because trying new things brings a sense of balance to my life.

Okay, you got me. I don’t like to spend money. I love to spend money. But I didn’t always love spending. I’ve definitely spent money a lot, but I used to look at my bank account the day after a purchase—or the morning after a night at the bar—and regret my monetary choices. I used to HATE spending money, because many times spending money wasn’t bringing me happiness or joy.

Spending money is kind of like dieting. The more you tell yourself to eat less, the more time you spend thinking about food. The more you focus on how you should really spend less, the more you want to shell out the dough.

I’m not here to tell you to spend less. How much you spend is up to you. But I do want to talk about how you feel when you spend money – because this is up to you too. Take a moment to think about what you bought in the last week: Maybe it’s a new shirt, maybe it’s a movie ticket, maybe it’s lunch—I don’t know what it is. But take a moment to think about whatever it is that you bought and ask yourself these questions: “How did I feel after I made that purchase? Did that purchase bring me happiness—or regret for spending money?”

We’ve all heard the adage, “money can’t buy happiness.” I only partly agree with this. I don’t think happiness has a price tag, but I do believe that the ways we spend money and what we spend our money on contribute to our overall happiness.

One of the questions I have been asked most often throughout the hobby year has been: “How do you afford all the hobbies?”

Which really leads to a bigger question:

“How can we afford the happy and balanced life that we are seeking?”

For each of us there are certain expenses each month that we just can’t avoid:
In my case it’s rent, utilities, food, and a monthly train ticket. For others it might be a mortgage on the house, car insurance, and dependents.

The aforementioned are necessary expenses.

BUT much like cleaning out our closets from the clothes that we no longer want to wear, we can clean out the unnecessary expenses on our bank statements—the activities or outings or items that aren’t truly extending our happiness—that aren’t satisfying the lifestyle we are hoping to live.

When I moved to NYC in January of 2010, I very quickly realized how easily I could blow $50-$60 in just one night by going to an amateur comedy night on the Upper East Side. With a two-drink minimum as standard, a handful of bills could disappear at dinner alone. And the next morning? I hated myself for spending that money. But why?

As the money in my wallet began to dwindle, I had an epiphany, I realized that the glass of wine or the shot of Bacardi wasn’t satisfying me—that I was wasting money on something I didn’t ACTUALLY enjoy putting into my body. So I stopped drinking. Within weeks, I began to see an incredible difference in my money saved vs. money spent.

Once I gave up alcohol, I began to realize that there were other expenses on my bank account that likely also weren’t satisfying me or bringing me happiness.

Rather than eating out at lunch each day, I began packing my lunch for work; rather than going out to eat for dinner often, I began to cook my own dinners; and rather than buying new workout clothes, I began bringing my old field hockey shirts from high school and college back to New York City with me.

I realized that many times I was going out to eat at lunch because of feelings of laziness in the morning before work. This would actually in turn cost me three-four times the amount of money it would cost me to brown bag it.

This realization was one that made me hate spending money.

So rather than spending money on things that in turn caused me to be upset, I began saving and spending money on activities and things that I felt were helping me to balance and embrace the life that I wanted to live.

I don’t intend to suggest everyone should give up alcoholic beverages, stop buying new clothes, ignore the latest movie releases, or turn the oven on every night—unless you are an amazing cook, in which case, please do turn your oven on every night (and invite me over)!

I also don’t want to suggest that you should stand in front of an item at the store and do a cost/benefit analysis every time you are going to make a purchase.

What I am suggesting is that recognizing patterns in the types of spending that bring you happiness—and the types of things you regret spending money on in the minutes, hours, or days after you make a transaction—can help you to refocus your energy on achieving goals you’re not quite sure how to reach otherwise. The items I listed above just happen to be a few of the sacrifices I’ve been able to make for myself.

I became incredibly passionate about trying new hobbies this past year because of the joy each new hobby brought me , and because of the lessons each new hobby taught me. And because I recognized how much I was benefiting on a personal level and a physical level from each of the new things, I realized just how important it was that I budget, save, and sacrifice to contribute to the happiness I was seeking. If I’m going to spend money, I want to LOVE to spend money—and I want to love what I’m spending on.

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If there’s something you are looking to try, a class you’d really like to take, a trip you are looking to go on, try to start here:

Make a list of what you are spending your money on—then go over that list and eliminate just one thing that isn’t contributing to your health, your happiness, or your balance. Then use this money to help you achieve your goal.

Who knows? You might just fall in love with spending money, too.

Five other ways to save money:

Piggy Bank
 Credit: 401 (k) 2013

1. Invest in a piggy bank—Really. Every time you find coins—save them. Those pennies add up.

2. Look out for deals. If there’s a fitness class you’ve been looking for, a getaway you’re not sure you can afford, or a class you’re looking to take, see if Groupon, Living Social, Zozi, or Yipit has it.

3. Go through your closet and donate the clothes you no longer want to a registered charity. When you make charitable donations, you can receive tax deductions. You may not see the benefit of this immediately, but next tax season you’ll have something to smile about.

4. Piggy Backing on #3: For the holidays, see if you and your family would be willing to go in on a deal to donate the money or you would have spent on gifts or a capped amount of money to a registered charity. This way you’re doing good and receiving a tax deduction in the future.

5. Each week, or even each day, set aside 5-10 dollars. At the end of the month you’ll have your own personal pay check!

10 Activities to Try This Fall

Halloween is just around the corner. The morning air is crisp. The leaves are changing. Football season is in full force. And pumpkin spice lattes are back at Starbucks (and every other coffee shop). This all can only mean one thing: Fall is officially here. Maybe you’re sad that summer has slowly reached an end, that the shorts are back in the drawers, the swimming pools are closed, and eating outdoors is suddenly uncomfortable, but don’t fret! Here’s 10 activities to get you through the fall when a pumpkin spice latte just isn’t enough!

1. Apple Picking
The only thing more appropriate to indulge in during the fall than any pumpkin based food is apples! Head to the closest orchard and pick yourself enough apples to make pies (or cider!) ’til next season!

2. Pumpkin Carving
Set aside a few hours and carve out the perfect pumpkin to light up your doorstep for Halloween and  Day of the Dead!

Carving Photo by Nick Taylor

3. Ghost Tours
Take a shot at meeting Casper the Friendly Ghost and seek out opportunities in your town to go on a local ghost tour!

4. Photography
Capture the fall foliage as it turns from green to orange to red to yellow.

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5. Hiking
Now that the weather is cooling off, hit the trails at the closest mountain range for a combination of exercise and stunning fall views.
OR keep it calm and check out a local nature hike. Hire a guide and learn about the different kinds of plants, trees and wildlife in the area!

6. Leaf Pressing
When you’re done with your hike, collect a few fallen leaves and bring them home to preserve! Here are three ways to press that beautiful, colorful fall foliage!

Leaf Pressing Photo by Karen

7. Knitting
Don’t wait until it’s too cold to make that scarf you’ll need for winter! Grab some yarn and sharpen those needles to make your most fashionable piece yet!

Knitting
Photo by The Chanel

8. Football – Real and Fantasy
When it’s not Sunday or Monday night, hit the field and go deep for a touchdown! Or if you’re looking for a little less contact, keep up with the latest NFL stats and get in on your brother’s  supervisor’s brother’s Fantasy Football League. 😉

9. Costume Making
Halloween is just over a month away. Don’t wait until the week before to buy whatever’s left in the store! Get crafty and see what you can make on your own!

10. Harvest Bowling
I had to leave you on a fun creative note. I just learned about this one myself. Lindsay Hutton shares this fall inspired craft over at Family Education. She writes: “Everybody loves bowling! Put a seasonal twist on this family-favorite pastime by using gourds for pins and a small pumpkin as a ball.” My opinion? BRILLIANT. Who wants to start a Harvest Bowling league?!

Harvest Bowling

 

 

 

What are YOUR favorite fall activities? 

The Great Escape

“The Hobby Hoarder project began as an escape from negative thoughts, from regrets, from fears, from worries, from sadness. But then my project began to teach me something I couldn’t have expected: how to live a balanced life of struggle and success. I’d like to invite you to step a little closer into my hobby year, to know a little more why this project has been so important to me, and to learn the real heartbeat of the project and myself.”

What you need to know before you read this entry is that it’s not just another hobby post. I hope you’ll stick around.

——————-

racecar

As I prepare to ride along in the racecar, I can hear cars motoring around the track.

Vroom.

Vroom.

Vroom.

There are a number of spectators watching their friends and family members take on car racing for the first time.

I stand off to the side. While they cheer the drivers on to their first black and white checkered flag, I get ready to head out to the track, to have that checkered flag waved for me. This new experience will mark the completion of my 100th hobby, a goal I’ve been working towards for the past 81 weeks.

Helmet – Check.

Yellow sunglasses – Check.

Motion sickness medicine – Check. Pre hobby jitters … Check

Ten minutes later, I am in the racecar buckling up and high fiving my driver Mitch. Before I know it, we are whipping around the track at what feels like 200 mph. The engine roars throughout the car. We speed up and hang tight on the bumper of another car on the track before swiftly swerving to the right and lapping him. I give the camera that’s attached to the deck a thumbs up.

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And before I know it, three short laps later, we pull back into where we started.

“That was awesome!” I exclaim to Mitch and then ask him how fast we were going, “175? 180?” He laughs at me, “No ma’am. 75 mph—but it feels much faster on a short track like this.”

My jaw drops. 75 mph!? I’ve reached that speed on the highway—but it doesn’t feel like that! I mean driving 75 on the highway isn’t exhilarating—it doesn’t feel dangerous—and it doesn’t feel thrilling. This ride around the track felt exhilarating–felt dangerous–and was definitely a thrill. Mitch gives me a congratulatory fist-pound and I exit the vehicle, still in awe.

I head over to the spectator area and patiently wait for another race of cars to begin. Ten minutes later, cars begin entering the track.

I listen as the cars accelerate and I raise my yellow sunglasses to the top of my head. I breathe in the fresh air. I decide to stick around the track and watch the other cars as they continue to race around.

I begin to think of the hobby year in laps. During each lap, a racecar driver must deal with significant elements—navigating around the other cars on the track, knowing when to accelerate, when to slow down, when to take the inside corner (or the outside), knowing when to take a break to refuel, when to have maintenance done on the car. During each of my hobby weeks, I had to understand when to slow myself down so I wouldn’t wear myself thin, I had to know when to take a breath and refuel for the next week, and I had to know when I could really press the pedal.

I get distracted from the track and I think about what it took to get me to this place—not only this racetrack—but this place in my life.

I’d like to invite you to step a little closer into my hobby year, to know a little more why this project has been so important to me, to learn the real heartbeat of the project and myself.

Because the truth is—the hobby hoarder project has saved my life.

I found myself wondering the past few weeks if it was me that was keeping the Hobby Hoarder alive – or the Hobby Hoarder that was keeping me alive. And the answer? It’s both. I’ve been keeping the Hobby Hoarder alive to keep me alive.

Only a few months before the hobbying began, I hit a tremendous low in my life…a low that eventually became a turning point.

The truth of the matter is I’ve spent years feeling depressed. Stuck. Bored. Over critical. Sad. Anxious. Nervous. Sometimes, I felt more alone when I was with people than even when I was in the comfort of my own home.

I tried to run from feelings I was having. I thought if I moved away from my college town—it’d get better, so I moved to New York. When that wasn’t working, I bought a plane ticket to Italy and said arrividerci to America. And when that didn’t work I returned to New York City full of hope that I could do better than I did the first time I was here—full of hope that the sadness wouldn’t return.

I was wrong.

Despite living in a great apartment, working in the field I wanted to work in, and enjoying the single-life in the biggest city in the world- I still felt a void. It was a sadness I couldn’t put words to. I had everything I thought I was supposed to and yet, I didn’t have the one thing that I thought all the “supposed to’s” were going to bring me: happiness.

I wish I could say this was a new feeling for me, but it wasn’t. It was a feeling that had simply escalated over time. I was depressed for nearly six years. I refused to talk to anyone about it.

I knew that on the surface, I played things off well and I seemed alright with my friends, but deep down inside, I wasn’t alright. I wasn’t even okay. I was ready to throw in the towel. I was ready to call it quits. I was ready to disappear.

It’s taken me a long time to put this down on paper—to tell my family and friends about it, but the truth is,  I didn’t want to live.

I struggled through smiling. I found it hard to laugh. I didn’t wear yellow sunglasses to try and brighten up even cloudy days. I went through the motions of eating breakfast, boarding the train, going to work, leaving work, eating dinner, sleeping. I was stuck. The way I saw it—there was only one way out.

I could remember trying new activities as a child. I drove my parents insane asking them if I could try them all: kayaking, sailing, basketball, ballet, clarinet, baseball, field hockey. Gosh, I can still remember the first time I held a field hockey stick—the way it turned in my hands, the awkwardness of having to roll it from side to side to dribble down the field. I can remember the rattle of my thin wooden stick as I’d go to drive the ball down the field the first time and the excitement I felt the first time I dodged a teammate during practice.

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I wanted to feel that joy, that excitement again. I wanted to be passionate about trying new things the way I had as a kid. I needed to feel that curiosity–that desire to know everything, to learn anything. It wasn’t so much that I stopped wanting to, but I stopped getting as excited, I stopped looking for the opportunities, I stopped doing what I loved to do.

And I was angry about it. And the anger drove my depression even deeper. I didn’t want to be like this. I WANTED to be excited about waking up each day. I wanted to feel motivated enough to go out and do things. I wanted to enjoying being alive.

I battled my depression as best I could, slipping back and forth between wanting to see tomorrow and not being sure it was worth the struggle, until I met someone who took me under his wing and who sat with me for endless hours in coffee shops and taught me the craft of stand up comedy. He reminded me how good it felt to laugh and how good it felt to make others laugh as well.

For the first time in years, I had tried something new and given myself up to it, completely and fully. I hit a turning point, and started to find clarity at last.

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I took up drawing and acting along with the comedy. As I stimulated my mind, the negative aspects of my life started to seemingly fade away because I had started to focus my energies on much more positives ways of living. I was focusing my attention on the physical world outside, and allowing myself the chance to see past the dark insecurities and thoughts that raced through my mind.

The Hobby Hoarder project began as an escape from the negative thoughts – an escape from regrets – from fears- from worries – from sadness. But then my project began to teach me something I couldn’t have expected–how to live a balanced life.

After a handful of hobbies, I began to see these new experiences as much more than gimmicky adventures. I started to take on a new frame of a mind. As the Hobby Hoarder I began to understand that we don’t have to run from our problems. Instead, we can face them head on. Though the hobbies started as an escape, the project actually gave me safe a way to face the very real issues I would normally feel strangled by each day: body image, confidence, sexuality, self- love.

I was finally able to recognize and admit to myself how I truly felt about my body by spinning around a pole at a pole dancing class and by taking on group fitness classes—something I once ran terrified from. I gained confidence by giving myself permission to take lessons in activities that once seemed impossible. And I began to love myself more each and every day as I conquered—and struggled through–an assortment of activities that ranged from birdhouse making with my mother to piloting a plane around Manhattan at sunset. I learned what it meant to take off, accept the struggles, to re-balance after severe turbulence—and what it meant to let myself land every once in a while and refuel—because we don’t HAVE to be on the go all the time. Life’s a balance between the struggle and the success.

And because I gave myself permission to struggle in controlled environments week after week, because I raised the stakes, because I gave myself opportunities, because I refused to quit, I experienced 81 weeks of life that I never would have, if I had given up when I wanted to—when I had planned to.

And even though for five of the hobby months I was working 60-hour workweeks, I didn’t care. Because I knew at the end of the day—or the week, I’d be rewarding myself with something that felt productive towards living a healthy and balanced life—and because I knew at the end of the day or the week that I was going to have my chance to really live the life I wanted to live after sacrificing hours to pay the bills.

After returning from my cross-country road trip in March, the 52nd hobby on my list, I feared the feelings of restriction and depression might come back after having so much freedom on the open road—after having no obligations for fifty days. And at first they did—not necessarily to the same extreme as two years ago—but I felt bubbles of sadness boiling through me. I lacked energy. I lounged on the couch and questioned how I’d ever get back into the groove of things in New York.

And then, as I’ve written about before, I started finding a respect for what was happening. I started to accept my sadness as part of a cycle—that sometimes our sadness is a result of something that made us incredibly happy. In this case it was a road trip. In someone else’s case it could be getting to see a good friend for the first time in years but also having to say goodbye again.

I thought I’d end the hobby hoarder project after the trip, but instead of ending the project– I continued it. I treated the trip like a landing—and took off again, because I recognized that I found great happiness through new experiences—that the activities I jumped into gave me a chance to learn not only the lessons at hand, but life lessons too. And like a racecar going around a track—I continued on my journey.

BUT that doesn’t mean the hobby year and the hobbies cured me of all feelings of anxiety—or sadness—loneliness—or depression. I’m not immune to these feelings at all. But I now have a better handle, for myself, on how to control them—and take them with stride.

We all experience depression and sadness in different ways—and it’s important that we take time to recognize how and when we are affected—and reach for help when it’s needed.

It’s also important that we discover healthy habits and methods for coping—and that we retain those tools for later.

So the next time you feel like you’ve had enough—when you think there’s no more out there and when you think there’s only one way out, I invite you to take a walk around the block and photograph at least one thing that grabs your attention. I invite you to go to the gym and give yourself 15 minutes to see how your energy and mood has changed. I invite you to turn off the lights and meditate for one, two, or ten minutes. I invite you to write down five things you are grateful for and I invite you to make a list of all the things you can do—all the things you WANT to do. And just try ONE.

And I invite you to share your stories and progress with me. As always, you can find me @ thehobbyhoarder@gmail.com, Twitter, and Facebook. I’d love the chance to know more about you, what fears you have, and how you’re able to move through them.

___

Please remember:

When you think you’ve had enough, when you think you can’t go on,  you can. Know that you are capable, and above all, know that you can live. 

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I’ve got 99 hobbies…

Posted on

AND PAINT YOUR OWN POTTERY IS ONE!

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Elissa is standing on the steps to the 2 train, in Park Slope. I try to hurry her but she is busy sending pictures of the tiny clay dragon she’s just painted to resemble the dragon from Game of Thrones. She reprimands me for rushing her, and giggles, “Isn’t THIS what hobby hoarding is all about? Getting excited about what you are about to do and excited about what you’ve accomplished?”

“Touche,” I laugh back. “You’re right.”

——————-

I met Elissa a little under a year ago when I worked on a new television series for Investigation Discovery. After a few weeks there, Elissa had taken me under her wing. We tagged team stories for our new show, compiled research packets and booked interview guests. Around one month in, Elissa started to check out The Hobby Hoarder project. Then one day she told me she wanted to do a hobby–but a creative one, an artsy one, and so I promised her we could.

Four months later, it was my last day on the show–and we hadn’t yet hobbied! Upset with myself for not scheduling a hobby together before I left on my road trip, I promised her that when I got back–we could do that creative hobby she wanted to do.

A month ago, we met up for a television premiere of an episode of the series we worked on (Deadly Devotion), and I told her that I was coming up on hobby 100, but that we still needed to do our hobby! So we began brainstorming hobbies. Then she had an epiphany–she wanted our hobby to be the 99th hobby — and then joked that I should call the blog post “I’ve got 99 hobbies…”

I laughed. And then promised I would call the post, “I’ve got 99 hobbies.”

The following day, I Googled creative hobbies around the city, and found “Paint Your Own Pottery.” I sent Elissa links and dates we could do it. Finally, we were ready to do the hobby together that we planned so long ago.

 I crossed my fingers that nothing would interfere with our paint your own pottery outing, and except for a small hiccup in having to change the day to one day earlier–nothing interfered at all. Phew.

So just over a week ago, Elissa and I headed to the Painted Pot in Park Slope, Brooklyn for our adventure. Upon arriving at the store, we were immediately floored with all the options of what we could paint.

“Lanterns and kettles, and plates, OH MY,” I exclaimed in my head.

There were also mugs and cups and vases as well as bowls and platters. But that wasn’t it–there were piggy banks–and dragons and elephants–and wizards! The choices of what to paint were endless.

We were in a pottery paradise.

As I searched for the perfect piece of pottery to paint, I imagined directing a spoof of the film “Night at the Museum” called “Night at the Painted Pot,” where all the clay creatures come to life. (A girl can dream).

As Elissa looked through her options, I could see her getting more and more excited. “Should I do this one? Or this one?” And then she saw it–the dragon. “oooh, I could paint this little guy to look like the Game of Thrones Dragon” and before I knew it, she was making her pottery purchase and picking out all the colors she would need.

Then it was my turn. Stuck between a simple plate and a little animal friend–I splurged. I bought the plate and a little tiny elephant, picked out my colors, and quickly got to work. We only had an hour and a half of painting time before the store closed.

As we painted away, I watched Elissa carefully make sure to touch up all the white spots. I could tell that she  was really interested in what she was doing–and like my friends when we went skydiving this past week–it ignited even more excitement in me.

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Before we knew it, an hour and a half had passed–and we were doing the final touch ups on our pottery. Elissa’s dragon was a brilliant green and dark reddish/purple–while my elephant was a mix of baby and sky blue. I’ll be honest–my elephant could stand to see a better paint job–but Elissa’s dragon came out–preeeeetty stellar if I do say so.

The woman came by and told us to just leave our pottery on the table–that she would put it in the kiln over the next week and we could pick  it up after 7 days. Before leaving, I spontaneously started an impromptu photo shoot with our new clay friends.

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As I got a shot of the dragon, Elissa joked, “Yes–that’s the right angle,” first speaking to me–and then to her dragon, “Work the camera.”

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Sad to part with our animals (and my plate), we bid the tiny little lawn gnomes farewell and made our way for the door. Distracted, I began sending Elissa all the shots I had just taken of our statue pottery pieces.

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As the photos began to pop up on her iPhone, our walk slowed to a crawl. “They are so cute…They are the best…” Then she began sending the photos to friends to share what she had done–and how excited she was about what she had done.

And that’s when I tried to rush her–before fairly being reprimanded.

Some people have said that it seems like the project is about being a daredevil. But the truth is–the project is about trying ANYTHING and everything. LIFE is about having an open mind to anything you have the opportunity to try and a willingness to learn. It’s about understanding that even what seems like the most basic of activities/events/hobbies can offer some of the biggest life lessons. This year I’ve learned that, whether you are jumping out of an airplane, piloting an airplane, playing chess in the park with a stranger, building a birdhouse with your mom, or getting crafty with a friend, there will always be a takeaway. And there will ALWAYS be something to get excited about–whether it’s before, during, or after.

Paint your own pottery may not be skydiving–or hang gliding–or something that seems “adrenaline related,” but I can tell you that going to paint your own pottery–and trying it with someone else who also never had tried paint your own pottery before–was extremely eye opening.  

I had forgotten to take in the moment–to really appreciate what had just happened. Because hobbies have become somewhat of a habit (a healthy habit) for me, it’s easy for me to go from “hobby hoarder” mode back to “okay, get home, organize for tomorrow, and sleep” mode. But my outing with Elissa was a good reminder to embrace each and every minute leading up to WHATEVER we are doing, during whatever we are doing, and even the moments after we’ve completed what we are doing. Too often we rush to move on to the next thing–to get things done for whatever we’ve got going on for the next day–and to plan out our next event– but that’s not fair to the present moment–and it’s not fair to ourselves.

Here’s to trying new things–and continuing to get excited about them.  AND here’s to trying new things with good people–and watching them get excited too.

Tomorrow may be hobby 100, but I’m going to breathe in hobby 99 a little longer, because:

“I’ve got 99 hobbies and paint your own pottery is one.” 

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Painted Pot
Park Slope, Brooklyn
$8 Studio Time + Cost of the object

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