Dec 6 2010

Making It

I once hosted an All Soul’s cocktail party. I remember because it was kind of an eccentric occasion, on a weeknight and in honor of a rarely celebrated holiday, at least rarely celebrated with cocktails. I made the invitations by hand. I can still – twenty years later – picture the paper stock I selected, a heavy construction grade in burgundy and rusty orange, and a patterned paper with both these colors and black in a marbled design. Thick felt-tip calligraphy pens, in black, brown and rust, a few lines of clever text, burgundy envelopes and stamps with an autumnal spirit.

I invited all my friends and colleagues from work, thinking of each person individually as I hand-made every invitation. When the exercise was over – two hours and two glue sticks later – I stared at the pile of crafty envelopes and felt supremely satisfied. The work I did then (and do now) keeps me in brain. It was a nourishing pleasure to have been working with my hands.

One year, back when the Paris metro tickets were green, I saved all my used ones and cut them into the shape of a fir tree and pasted them on to home-made Christmas cards. It took me the entire evening, at least twice though Ella Fitzgerald’s Swinging Christmas album and nearly a bottle of wine. I remember feeling it was an evening extremely well spent. I’m tactile, I love to cut and paste.

But during this last year? I made a goal book, the result of an inspiring goal-setting exercise into which I inserted my favorite activities of cutting and pasting and making collages. But that’s about the only cut and paste I managed to get to.

What did I make? Aside from the meals, and the beds?

I made a tribute to my mother that honored her well. I made new bonds with my siblings. I made new friends. I made trips. I made mistakes. I made progress. I made a lot of memories. I made a living. I made love. I made my way. I made it up as I went along.

But next year, I’ll make more things with my hands. It makes me happy.

I’m participating in Reverb10, and this post is in response to a prompt from author Gretchen Rubin: Make. What was the last thing you made? What materials did you use? Is there something you want to make, but you need to clear some timer for it?

Apr 23 2010

Where it Starts

I watched them run ahead toward the grand dining room, confident, at ease. Short-pants set her book down on a table and grabbed a plate, Buddy-roo was already surveying the buffet table and deciding how to choose among the abundance. They forged into the crowd forming around the tables, picking through the platters of seafood, pasta salads, Italian meat and fried vegetables and filled their plates. On the way to their table, they stopped to chat with adults – new friends and old – engaging them in conversations about how the conference was going. My big little girls, so poised and polite. I stood aside and watched them, shaking my head.

We have been taking our girls with us to the CREA conference since its inception in 2003. That first year Short-pants was just under 2-years old. The hotel found for us a babysitter who spoke only Italian, so each day I made little drawings of bottles or a sleeping child next to the hands of a clock, indicating her schedule. I was also pregnant at that first conference; Buddy-roo was the wild idea growing strong-willed in my belly.

Which is to say that the girls are well loved among the community of leaders and participants who return to CREA each year. Many are friends we know from years attending the Creative Problem Solving Institute, (CPSI), the original creativity conference (which also happens to be where De-facto and I first met). The one year that I came to CREA alone, I was chastised for not bringing the girls. “They are our inspiration,” my friends said.

We are not the only people in this clan who have children, but perhaps we have been – up until now – the only ones crazy enough to bring our young creatures to the conference for the whole week. This has never been easy. Both De-facto and I are usually running core programs that require our attention as facilitators for most of the very long days, and there’s always a bit of extra planning and adjusting of the program to do in the evenings that requires our time and attention. A wide menu of concurrent activities calls to us at any given moment, not to mention nights dancing at the CREA pub or hanging out at the bar with friends. There’s a lot to do without the kids around, let alone when they are tugging on your shirt for some mama-time after missing you all day.

We’ve experimented with different child-care formulas: hiring a local babysitter through the hotel, bringing our own babysitter from Paris, using the mother-in-love, taking turns trading the kids off to each other. It’s never ideal and there’s always the feeling of being totally stretched. Yet it has always been worth it: our kids have something special in them as a result of rubbing up against all these open-minded, open-hearted adults, some of them eccentric, many of them equally as childlike, all of them in awe of the sacred uninhibited spirit that lives in children who have not yet had their creativity taught out of them. This community covets that spirit, and in turn, keeps it burning in our children.

This year, with a bit of coordination in advance, a few other CREA friends brought their children, too, and we initiated the first unofficial CREA kids program. Ten youngsters from the ages of 6 to 14 – an entire pack of CREA-rats – made the Grand Villa Balbi Hotel their playground. My friend, la maman créative, brought her mother to help with oversight and to work with the kids to produce a journal every day about their activities. The mother-in-love and other CREA leaders and parents helped us to create a schedule of events and activities for the kids. There was a session on creativity by playing with light, another on meditation. Two about knitting, with fingers and with needles. One leader even organized a Harry Potter tour – arranging in advance with locals in the town to pretend not to see the kids when they passed by in their invisibility cloak.

Short-pants herself facilitated a session on how to make mandalas, which I was unable to attend because I was running program. A bunch of the kids helped la maman créative to lead a session titled Taking time to be Creative as a Family. De-facto was there for that, but unfortunately, I couldn’t attend – a session I was running was scheduled at the same time. The irony of this wasn’t lost on me.

I did find one opportunity to play with the kids: We rolled out a 10-meter long sheet of blank paper on the sidewalk in front of the hotel and set out jars of paints and brushes. The instructions were this simple: paint. “What do we paint?” was what most of the adults asked. The kids didn’t wonder why or what or how. They simply got down on their hands and knees, picked up a brush and some color and started painting. They didn’t need instructions. They just started.

The beautiful thing about seeing the gang of CREA-rats running around the conference is that you see immediately how they belong there. It is in their nature to be creative. There is no hesitation to step into the flow of their imagination. Most children don’t even know that they are being creative; they are simply at play. It is their way. This is, perhaps, why their presence at the CREA (or the CPSI) creativity conference is not only natural, it is just what we need.

(If you’re interested in attending one or both of these creativity conferences, the next CREA is April 13-17, 2011 and CPSI, which has an official youth program, is coming up very soon, June 21-25. You can also read more from other bloggers who’ve been to CPSI: Jonathan Vehar, Cynthia Rolfe, Amy Basic, Gregg Fraley, Pablo Munoz, Whitney Ferré and Missy Carvin.)

Apr 19 2010

The Sound of Chaos

While volcanic ash reached across Europe like a gray blanket, I was nearly oblivious to it, sequestered with colleagues and friends who meet every year to attend an annual European Creativity Conference known as CREA. Last year, I was here without De-facto and the girls, and though the week was filled with planning and preparing and running an intense core program, I still had room to connect with old friends and colleagues who, like me, return to CREA each year. I had time to breathe around the edges.

But this year, I arrived à la masse. Suitcases packed haphazardly, things I’d hoped to plan in advance were left to plan on the fly. I even forgot my rings and my watch – always present on my hands and wrist – at home by the bathroom sink. It took almost the entire 10-hour drive through France and into Italy to recover from our chaotic departure.

Not that this is so very unusual. Just watch me run around like a frenzied woman most days of my life. Pursued by a to-do list that stalks me – my own ugly shadow creeping behind my back with Sharpie in hand, adding small boxes to the bottom of the Post-it notes strewn about my life. Despite any determination to be grounded and centered and somehow effortlessly juggling it all, I am too often hurrying. I am too greedy; I want to experience all the interesting invitations life offers. I forget the limits of my stamina.


My colleague brought a recording he’d made, one that suggested the sound of chaos. We used it in our workshop, for an exercise about sound, silence and memory. The sound was a dissonant mash-up of noise, primordial, and lacking order or pattern. Still within it I could find some sporadic harmonic quality. It was a music that asked nothing of me, but rather, for a those moments that I closed my eyes and let it fill up my chattering mind, the sound of chaos pushed all those busy thoughts out and left me with the temporary calm that I seem always to yearn for. Could chaos be useful?


How scarce is silence. Rare and almost impossible. It is no wonder I am so distracted. I can close and cover my eyes to be in darkness, but it is impossible to be in absence of sound. A tone rings and finishes but the white noise of the background persists; the ventilation, the cars outside driving by with their aggressive engines, muffled but audible. Each building has its own hums and hems and haws. The noise of the world around us is relentless. We are never left in peace.

Except my mother, who lived for the last half of her life with a significant hearing loss. What was her silence like? Was it quieter than mine? And why didn’t I ever ask her this question?


The sound of the furnace in my childhood home, revisited this winter as I slept on the couch beside my mother. The familiar cadence as the motor kicked in and buzzed and vibrated the walls, a noisy old engine heating the tired old house that protects my memories. Another memory marked by sound: that of an iron releasing steam as it is set upright, the rhythm and moan of my mother’s ironing. All these sound-ful memories to do with my mother. Is this natural, because she’s gone? Or is much of memory to do with the maternal?

Which makes me wonder what will be the sound of the memories I leave to my daughters? Will it be the sound of my chaos?

Jan 2 2010

New Year’s Manifesto

Lest I become the cobbler with shoeless children, I am occasionally reminded to practice what I preach professionally and enact a few creative, reflective and even visionary exercises with my own family. This time of year is good for such activity; the idea of a new beginning conjures up a tabula rasa and the urge to rectify any imperfections of the previous year.

I had stellar inspiration: Four women, three of whom I don’t even know. This is the beauty of social media; if you follow a few new and fascinating people outside your circle of known friends, you’ll get a few new and fascinating ideas.

The zen-like social-media maven Gwen Bell wrote a blog post about creating a personal manifesto that I wanted to eat, it was so nourishing. Also via one of her tweets, I discovered the mixed-media artist, writer and designer Lisa Sonora Beam, who adds a special aesthetic to the activity of goal setting. Both of these women inspired me to be deliberate about documenting our goals for the coming year.

More inspiration came from writer Gretchen Rubin, who I really wanted to hate because she’s so, well, happy. Except when you make even a short visit to The Happiness Project, it’s really hard to resist getting in step with her life-is-short-why-waste-any-of-it-not-being-happy philosophy. Even my prickliest friends would agree it makes sense.

Then there’s my colleague facilitator Delphine, the Maman Creative whose blog is all about mindfully engaging her children’s creativity. From her I get ideas of things to do with my kids, not just for them.

So I put Gwen, Lisa, Gretchen and Delphine together and came up with the idea of the All-Family Personal Goal Manifesto Collage Day.

De-facto has plenty of fruitcake in him, so he was up for it. If it involves cutting and pasting, I can count on Short-pants and Buddy-roo to participate. So this is how we spent the entire afternoon on the first day of the year: I’d dug out every magazine in the house and set out glue-stick and tape and scissors so my peeps and I could create our personal manifestos for 2010.

I tried to simplify the process to three steps: 1) Imagine who you want to be in 2010, and make a collage to demonstrate it; 2) Make a list of goals that will help you become who you want to be; 3) Make a collage about those goals.

Later it became: 1) Just make a collage of your goals for 2010. (This was an instruction that Buddy-roo and De-facto could handle.)

The flipping of magazine pages and ripping and cutting began.

Short-pants and written her goals the night before, when I first suggested the activity. (She is not the recipient of the procrastination gene that De-facto and I both share.) She re-copied her first draft and set about bringing it to life with images. You might notice that the #1 goal on her list is “Get more independince.” She’s been walking around saying, “I declare my independence!” ever since she finished this exercise.

Buddy-roo didn’t seem particularly interested in articulating any of her goals; she was more in the mood to shop. Her collage soon became a book with six pages of pictures: women in elegant dresses, a pair of high-heeled shoes, a sterling-silver jeweled bracelet, a Dolce & Gabbana perfume flask and two designer kitchens. The visual cues were undeniable; It could have been a mood board for any luxury brand. I made a few gentle suggestions, like, “Can you add any images to represent things you’d like to do, or things you’d like to learn in the next year?” She answered my prompt by gluing in a picture of Jennifer Aniston. “Tell me about that,” I probed. “I want to grow my hair out,” she said. Then she pointed to another picture I hadn’t seen yet, “And I want a horse.”

De-facto finished his collage first, a complex composition of his aspirations for the year, which he prepared with running commentary about all the other facilitators we know who do strategic goal-setting activities. “This isn’t how Frank Prince would do it,” he said.

“Just pass the glue,” I said, in my newfound happy voice.

I was, of course, the last person finished, still searching for that perfect image to convey the rather abstract concept of “letting go” when our dinner guest arrived and I realized I had to clean up and start cooking. I thoroughly enjoyed this very tactile activity, elbow to elbow with my most loved people, the table covered in magazine scraps and sticky fingers. It was a vrai moment of being aware; I was happy, even in the midst of the simplest activity. (And that’s one of my goals.)

Gwen Bell says, about this process, “When you write your goals, the whole world opens up in front of you.” I know this to be true; when you write something down, it takes form and shape. But what happens when you wrap your goals in a picture of long, blonde Jennifer-Aniston hair?

Oct 17 2009

Dishwasher Dilemma

Sometimes De-facto and I work together, professionally.

I’m wary about this because living, loving, and parenting together are hard enough. Adding the vocational dimension is tricky; it could put us over the 24/7 edge. He always rolls his eyes when I say this, but I think it’s important: We each need our own time and place in the sun. And honestly, we’d drive each other crazy if our careers were absolutely inextricable.

But on those occasions when we do get to team up, we do pretty well. We pass the baton back and forth and mix things up a little with our different styles. My favorite part is when he gives his little spiel about patterned thinking. It starts out something like this:

“Humans are actually hard-wired to locate, create, and sustain patterns. It’s part of our survival. The brain is a pattern-making machine.”

He goes on to support this with a little bit of scientific research, a few diagrams of the human brain and a little exercise that people always flub up because they get too caught in a pattern they think they see but isn’t really there. It’s a good set-up for raising awareness about the assumptions we make on a day-to-day basis, in order to free them up to break patterns and try to be a bit more creative. While he’s making his case for breaking patterns, he reminds us why we have them to begin with:

“The human brain uses patterns, structures or routines – cognitive scientists call these mental models – to make us more effective and efficient.”

This is the part where I usually have to leave the room or look down at the floor so I don’t laugh out loud what I’m thinking in that moment which is, “You mean all human brains except for yours.”

Ours is a relatively egalitarian household. We share chores, more or less in equal measure. We never actually sat down and divided the jobs, they just ended up falling into the hands of the one who seemed to care the most or had the aptitude for a particular task. I deal with the administration and paperwork. He is Vice-President of renting-a-car. Most mornings I get the kids up and dressed and fed. He makes the morning walk with them to school. I load the dishwasher, and he unloads it. I manage the laundry, because I’m particular about which clothes go in the dryer and which don’t. He does the grocery shopping, because he hates to waste money and prefers to buy in bulk from the The Ed, the cheap grocery store that I find too exasperating to even enter. He enjoys negotiating the best deal for produce in at the street market. While I find open markets a romantic place to look and stroll, my experience of shopping at them is agonizing.

Not that our assignments are written in indelible ink. Sometimes I pick up groceries or walk the girls to school. Sometimes he does a piece of household admin or loads the dishwasher with dirty dishes.
The loading of this appliance, I’ve found, can be satisfying. I relish getting in as many dishes as possible, whilst maintaining optimum cleaning capacity. This equilibrium is essential. Too few dishes haphazardly placed on the racks, and you run an inefficient wash, wasting money and energy. Too many dishes and they don’t get really clean, you have to leave them in for a second wash or do them by hand. You have to strike the right balance.

It’s not rocket science. Plates down below, from the side to center, big dinner and then smaller luncheon plates, followed by saucers. Coffee pot and tall glasses on the tall spokes. Pots and pans or big bowls strategically placed around these mainstays. On the top rack, café-au-lait bowls tucked under the fold-down flap on the side, allowing for shallower accessory bowls and short glasses to rest on top of them. Cups, mugs and other glasses filling up the rest of the upper rack. And in all cases, load from back to front.

Listen, I’m no neatnik. Open my closets and things fall out. I have photo albums from 2003 that haven’t been assembled. My life is filled with colorful piles and partially-finished, imaginative messes; I like a certain amount of organized disarray around me. But when it comes to the dishwasher, well, I figure my strategy saves money and helps the environment. (Honestly, I’ve reconfigured one of his loads and cleared half the space, putting off a dishwasher run for 24-hours.) But when De-facto loads the dishwasher, it makes no sense whatsoever. He has a pattern, I suppose, but it’s a rather pathetic one.

Well, you may say, his job isn’t to load the dishes, it’s to unload. But wouldn’t you think that after years of unloading a dishwasher that’s so precisely arranged, he might notice some kind of a pattern? We’ve lived together for nearly ten years. He’s probably unloaded that dishwasher at least 2,000 but probably more like 3,000 times. Wouldn’t your pattern-recognition machine pick up something?

Aug 17 2009

New World Order

We didn’t get in the car until nearly 10 pm. Because it had been such a beautiful day, because it was harder to concentrate on the chores that must be done to close up the country house and leave it in good order, because deep down we really didn’t want to leave – all these reasons why we didn’t manage to get the car packed as early as we’d hoped. That meant a night drive, good because it’d be cooler than a daytime highway trip. Good
fridge_magnets because the kids would sleep through most of the drive. Good because we’d miss the heavy traffic returning to Paris at the mid-August vacation switch. It was all good, once we were en route. A little U2, Counting Crows, and Springsteen for the drive home. Iced coffee in a thermos. A string of red tail lights driving ahead of us into the night. A route that was fluide all the way to Paris. De-facto and I hardly spoke; both of us looking forward through the windshield, thinking separate thoughts, together.

Rousing sleeping children is like waking the dead-drunk, but ours are now too big to be carried. When they were toddlers, we’d hoist them over our shoulders, their lifeless limbs dangling as we climbed the stairs and delicately placed them in beds for uninterrupted sleep. But now driving dreams get disrupted and big girls carry their own backpacks up four flights of stairs.

De-facto was parking the car. I commanded bathroom visits and promised bedside kisses to good girls who put on their pajamas. I made a quick run down to the courtyard to get the bags I’d left. When I returned, I heard the girls in their bedrooms, shrieking.

“But that doesn’t go there,” said Short-pants, between sobs.

“Mama!” Buddy-roo screamed, “Everything’s put away wrong!”

I hadn’t thought to warn them. We’ve rented and loaned our apartment to people with children before, while we’re out of town. Things get a little mixed up, that’s normal. Though I’d never seen anything like this. But then, we’d never had twin boys staying in our home before.

At first glance, the room appeared to be in order. The drawers were shut and the baskets and trays all tucked neatly in their cubbyholes. But a closer inspection revealed the complete disorder that was hidden. The girls’ toys had been put away, but in a totally random fashion. Not that it’s ever in perfect order, but – more or less – each toy has its general place and its associated little pieces are usually found not far away. There was nothing logical about how the toys had been stowed. Pieces of plastic food here, there and over there, too. A dollhouse separated from its furniture, puppets stuffed in the wooden block box, wooden blocks in the plastic food bin. The Pet Shop house, petless. I made the mistake of opening the large wicker toy box, which was filled to the brim with any loose toy that apparently couldn’t find its natural home.

I could only imagine what these rooms must have looked like at the height of play. Every single ball, stuffed animal, doll and toy must have been strewn about, and then, when it was time to leave, stuffed into the closest available container.

The girls looked panicked. They were both wailing. “But this is not how we like it.”

I did my best to reassure them, explaining that this was not a 2:00 am kind of problem; this was the sort of thing that could be more effectively addressed in the morning light after a good night’s sleep. Already they were handling the toys, trying to put them in their rightful positions. I had to square off their shoulders and point them toward their mattresses. They climbed under the covers reluctantly, the both of them still sniffing final tears.
This could be a good thing, I thought, shutting the light behind me after goodnight kisses. They’re starting to appreciate the value of a little organization, how it’s easier to find things if you put them back where they go, how your things stay in better condition when they are put away nicely rather than stuffed in a toy box. All that logic I’ve been trying to cram down their throats must be seeping in.

Or have I saddled them with the anxious ball-and-chain phobia of needing things always in order? Am I burdening their up-until-now unfettered imagination? Stealing the last creative impulses of their childhood? Have I created two more neurotic people for the world, checking and double-checking that their post-it notes are at right angles on their perfectly ordered desks?

Laying in bed I could hear Buddy-roo’s tears winding down into a whimper, soon replaced by the even breathing of her slumber.

My last, smiling thoughts before drifting off to sleep: Welcome to my world, little girls.

May 21 2009

Not my Problem

She stands expectantly at the kitchen island. “I’m thirsty,” she says, regressing by at least three years using her baby voice. I tell Buddy-roo how I’m sorry to hear about it, cuz geez, I’ve been thirsty before and I know how uncomfortable that can be.

“But I’m really thirsty,” she says it again, adding a whine. I tell her it sounds like a serious problem she’s got on her hands.

“Yeah,” she answers, waiting for me to offer her a drink. But I don’t.

When somebody tells you their problem, it can feel like they’ve tossed a bowling ball in your lap. There’s a weight to it, an expectation that by telling you, they’ve somehow handed it off, and you’ll do some thinking on it and put things right. Some people are better than others at deflecting this. (I also know people who have radars so ill-attuned that it doesn’t even occur to them to step in and offer a solution.) Most mothers, I would argue, given our instinctive and learned propensity to be of help, may go too far in the let-me-fix-it-for-you department.

This is what I’m trying to avoid.

A problem, simply stated, is just a complaint. But if you phrase it as an open-ended question, its nature changes immediately. It becomes a quest for solutions, or request for help. I think it’s a more productive way to look at problems, and a more responsible way to invite other people to help you solve them.

Anybody who’s been in one of my workshops or meetings has heard me say this: “How might you put that in the form of a question?” Short-pants and Buddy-roo have heard it ad nauseam, too, and yet – as this thirst incident demonstrates – they still need reminders.

“What’s the question you mean to ask me?” I say to Buddy-roo. A look of recognition on her face, it all comes back to her now. “May I have some apple juice… please?” (At least she adds the magic word without being prompted.)
I’d like to take credit for this little nugget of wisdom, but I can’t. It’s something I picked up while attending CPSI, the Creative Problem Solving Institute, a conference about creativity.

Until I went to CPSI, I thought of creativity as something uncontrollable, some unbridled spark that comes or doesn’t come, related to an innate, natural talent. What I learned at CPSI is that everyone is, in some way, creative – and that we can be creative on command if necessary, by using a creative process to enhance or disrupt habitual thinking. CPSI was my introduction to deliberate creativity.

If this is all sounding a bit like an advertisement for CPSI, well, it is. Today is a CPSI blog party and I’ve joined a few colleagues to help get the word out about the conference, coming up in Boston, on June 21-24. Check out what other CPSI friends and fans are saying:

New & Improved
Gregg Fraley
Filed Under Missylaneous
The Artist Within
Pablo Muños Román

I attended my first CPSI twenty years ago – and for many years it was an event I wouldn’t think of missing. Now, with school-aged kids, it’s harder to manage the trip to the states every June. So unfortunately, I won’t be at CPSI this year. (I did get to go to CREA, a European spin-off of CPSI, in April.) But here’s a really good reason to consider signing up for CPSI in June: if you go, you’ll get to see De-facto!

I’ve learned a lot from going to CPSI, but one of the most powerful take-aways, for me, was this idea of re-phrasing problems as questions. Instead of “I’m thirsty,” it’s “how might I get a drink?” Instead of “I don’t have any work,” it becomes “how might I find new jobs?” or “how to get more work from current clients?” or “how might I enjoy the newly-found free time I have as a result of having less work?” What ends up happening is that you realize there are a number of questions embedded in any given problem, and answering one of them that you hadn’t thought about before might actually solve the damn thing.

Of all the crappy wisdom I try to shove down my daughters’ throats, I hope that this is one thing they’ll remember. Well, and then there’s always this, phrased – of course – as a question: in what ways might you be sure to wear clean underwear just in case you’re in an accident and you end up at the hospital?

Apr 3 2009

O Sole Mio

There are no little shoes everywhere.

No toys strewn about. No little bodies crawling into bed with me. No crying in the hallway. It’s nobody’s fault about the sunrise.

All I hear is the rain outside my window. And drumming and hooting and hollering from a distant meeting room.

In Sestri-Levante, Italy, I am attending the CREA (the European Creativity Association) annual conference. The first time I was here – for the first CREA conference – was in 2003. Short-pants came too, still drinking from a bottle. Buddy-roo was just a small cantaloupe-sized creature. But she was in my belly, so she was here.

On Sunday, before I left, Short-pants asked me why I was going to Italy. When I told her I was going to CREA, she said, “but you’re going without me?” I explained that this year was different: I was going to the conference alone. Her tears were angry ones. “But I want to go. I always go.”

It’s true. This is the first year I have come to this conference – one I helped to originate and for a few years was a member of the core organizing team – without De-facto and without the girls. We’ve always come en famille.

Not that I am totally alone. I have a roommate: his mother.

I met her before I met the De-facto himself. In a rare case of really smart thinking, I chose the mother-in-love first. I met her almost twenty years ago at the parent conference to this one, the Creative Problem Solving Institute (CPSI). So you could say that for us, creativity is a family affair.

The people who attend this conference year after year – I am among about thirty volunteer leaders – have embraced my children as their own family. We have even adopted grandfathers for the girls, two exceptional Italian men who bring to them the wisest kind of experienced playful creativity. While people here do understand why I have not brought the girls this year, they are not happy about it. You can count on a group of creativity practitioners to appreciate the expert mind of a child. Our girls are a bit like gurus here.
It’s been necessary to focus entirely on the design and delivery of the program I am facilitating, which is fairly intense. And then to go out for a beer afterward without having to check in with anyone. I am happy to have quiet catch-ups with my mother-in-love while the early light fills our room. I’m happy to be fully present for the kind of in-depth conversations that erupt so spontaneously here without that back-of-the-brain chatter: what time do I have to relieve the babysitter? What do I still have to do this and that before I get the kids? Does De-facto have them or do I need to get them…?

But this morning, as you’d expect, the mixed emotions of motherhood wash over me. It was just a tiny bit too quiet. I was actually wishing that someone would crawl into my bed wrap a small, soft arm around me and complain about the sun coming up.