Let’s get this party stARTed!


 We all are stARTists. I’m convinced of it. We all are creative beings energized and empowered by making new things and making things anew.

Help me prove it. I need examples.

Answer at least three of the following questions:

What did you start?

What motivated you to start it?

Did you start it when you wanted to, or was there a delay?

Did you finish it?

Did someone else finish it?

How long did it take to finish it?

Was finishing important to you?

What kept you working on it after the adrenaline of the start-up stage?

Do you think others could have started it?

Did you make money from it?

Would you do it again?

How was your startup a work of art?

How was creativity required?

How was discipline required?

What kind of support or sabotage did you get?

List five things you’ve started.

What percentage of things you start do you finish to your satisfaction?

Have you ever started something knowing you would not finish it?

I can’t wait to hear from you. Remember, if it’s worth starting, it’s worth stARTing!


StART your day with Sock Monkeys and Flannel


An ad for a matchmaking company shows two attractive young people, successfully joined by modern technology, pledging their love to one another. As her ultimate promise of lasting devotion, the woman looks into her partner’s eyes and says earnestly “I vow never to wear a flannel nightgown.”

I still wince when I think of it.

Clearly, this ad was written by someone who has never owned good, well-worn sleepwear. I would proffer that it came from a man, but I’m not making that mistake again. I don’t want to slide into a political discussion when truly all I want to talk about is pajamas. (Google the phrase “I vow never to wear a flannel nightgown” if you want to see how some ad guy doing his job got taken way too seriously, not to mention how intense and opinionated people can be about lingerie, couplehood, commitment and female sexuality. I went online just to be sure I got the phrase correct, only to find that, holy granny gown, Batman, a lot of people need their jammie breaks!)

Anyway, for your jammie break, may I suggest sock monkey pj’s in flannel or jersey knit? I am wearing mine as I write this essay, a key point of which is to convince you, guys and gals alike, that well-worn, loose fitting sock monkey jammies are the key to better creativity and world peace. And you need to get some right now.

I’m sure we all agree that the feel-good powers of sock monkeys need no discussion. Sock monkeys are the universal symbol for ‘shut up and love your life.’ Unless you have a neurotic fear of things made from socks, (a very real condition suffered by my late friend Betsy), sock monkeys can only make you smile. If you ask me, they are the very best decoration for pajamas. Happily, sock monkeys are very much in style right now, so you should have no trouble finding them on pajamas in many sizes and styles. In fact, it’s a good time to stock up, unless you believe like I do that one set will last you a lifetime.

Let’s start with the basics, the structure of a good set of pajamas. Because it’s important. First, pajamas should be loose and soft and noise-free. This rules out cheap polyesters and satin. Slipping and sliding and shining may feel elegant for a few minutes, but before you know it, you’re using brain cells to strategize the best position to keep your legs crossed without them sliding away from each other. Shiny fabrics are designed to be slipped out of, which is, of course, the whole point behind the flannel nightgown pledge.

Pajamas and flannel nightgowns, sock-monkey clad or otherwise, should have nothing anywhere to remind you that you have a body with nerve endings. If your pajamas are truly comfortable, an innocent tag on the back of your neck will be a major annoyance. Remove tags at the roots, with a seam ripper. Merely snipping them off might just create a shorter, more stubbly, irritant.

Finally, remember that in pajamas, size matters. If someone can guess your weight within 20 pounds, your pajamas are too small. If the elastic on your waistband actually stretches, instead of sitting unemployed on your hips, it is too tight. Pajamas are only too large if you trip over them or the sleeves fall into your coffee cup. And even then . . .

Once you get the right sized pajamas and get them worn into submission, you will own the keys to a state of bliss . . . a portal to a state of relaxation that God never meant to be reserved just for sleep time. Add sock monkeys, and the relaxed molecules of your pajamas are ready to dance the Macarena, fly kites, and write software code – all at the same time.

Your perfectly customized sock monkey pajamas will be a cross between a suit of armor and a muse. They will drape around you like chain mail, making you feel sovereign and protected. You will know you can go anywhere, do anything: fight dragons, rule kingdoms, even drink coffee past noon. The ideas that have been waiting just below the surface of your stress-encased consciousness will break from their shackles, kick their self-doubt in the teeth and stampede boldly into the land of “let’s do this!”

When you say to people “I stayed in my jammies all day,” they will be a little envious, but mostly they will be scared.

The source of sock monkey pajama powers may be rooted in the mysteries of alchemy or a complex algorithm, or it may rest in the simple reality that sock monkey pajamas are not appropriate to wear in public or during sex, thereby keeping the wearer home and undistracted with his or her creative work. Either way, the powers are real, and there is no patent or treaty or religion keeping you from accessing them. I’m committed to sharing the secrets that will help people tap their creative potential, and this is one I’m excited to unleash on the world.

So why did we start this exploration by talking about the flannel nightgown? There is no dispute among the experts in the field that the flannel nightgown was the immediate predecessor of the sock monkey pajama, the powers and political implications of which are apparent (don’t make me spell it out.) We can’t be sure, but it is believed that the somebody’s grandma who had the world-changing notion to make a monkey out of work socks was likely wearing a flannel nightgown when she got the idea. One thing is for sure: she would never have promised anyone, in love or otherwise, that she would never wear one.


StARTing Season


What a sweet paradox, here in the American temperate zone, that the ending of nature’s growth cycle also signals the beginning for so many human endeavors.

No matter how far we are from a farm field or a school bell, the end of the summer sends our spirits back to class. September seems to reset our minds to the mode of seedling, inviting us one more time to grow a little, out of our sleepy slow pace . . . out of the place we have felt planted.

Last week, I signed up for two classes: a color theory class at the Kansas City Art Institute on Thursday nights and a French class at La Causerie, a Friday-morning language academy held in a local church.

These aren’t the sexiest topics around. I was more excited about the welding class and the flying lessons I took in my thirties. But French and color theory are building blocks that will help me in my stARTist endeavors. The French is essential to keep me sharp for my Travels With Lola tours of Paris, which I try to lead once a year, and color theory is an art fundamental that I haven’t revisited since college. I know a refresher will boost my confidence in my artwork. I’m not expecting to be dazzled by every class, but I’m excited about watering brain cells that have become thirsty. Slurp. Ahhhhh.

Learning is Miracle Grow for stARTists. The act of learning takes nature’s very best ingredients and supersizes the chemical reaction, making things bloom faster and in brighter colors. It feels like cheating.

Join me as I catch the breeze of September stARTist energy. Classes are starting, salon groups are forming and workshops are filling up. As the world around us is showing up in their new shoes and backpacks, let’s join them, pencils sharpened, ready to stART something.

Postcard from the edge


If you believe in fringe, the edge is a beautiful place.

Legend has it that the Edinburgh Fringe Festival began in 1947 when Britain invited all of Europe to gather at Edinburgh Castle for a big theatre festival. The shows that didn’t make it into the castle didn’t go away mad. They took their talents out on the edge and frolicked in the land of no boundries. They stARTed what has become the world’s largest and most emulated performance festival. Today, dozens of cities around the world host their own Fringe Festivals, including my home town, Kansas City, Missouri. The KCFringe stARTed this weekend, and my daughters are opening a show tonight, “Not Just For the Birds.” Next week, we leave with them to go to Edinburgh, where they will perform in the festival that stARTed it all!

I stARTed a series of paintings to make postcards as a fundraiser for the kids’ trip. I later decided to sell the paintings themselves and use them as a kind of poll to see which designs are more popular. Why make this a one-year fundraiser when it might be something that could benefit the Fringe Festival for years to come?

Since this post is primarily to experiment with posting an image, I’ll sign off now and get my two thespians some bouquets for their big night.

The best way to get something stARTed . . .


You’re watching sausage being made – make that Jello casserole. In writing this blog, I’m figuring it out as I go along, doing something new and something that I’ve resisted for years. Even though I love to write, even though I love the whole idea of exchanging ideas and information with people I’ll never see, I was too SOMETHING to start a blog – too busy, too important, too technically challenged, too private, too afraid to have one more thing calling my name every day.

Then there came the day when I let my inner stARTist do the talking. “What are you waiting for?” she asked. “It doesn’t have to be a literary masterpiece. Let’s make a blog that’s like Jello: sweet, wiggly, nonessential in the diet. There’s always room for Jello.”

So, here’s my recipe for stARTting a blog:

1. turn on your computer.

2. go to wordpress.com

3. follow the instructions

4. write a few thoughts on what you want to write about, as if you’re writing to yourself . . . something you would respond to if you did that kind of thing (can you BELIEVE how many people DO that kind of thing?)

5. send the link to a handful of supportive friends who “get” you

Is this the most efficient way to begin the most effective, compelling blog? With two days under my belt, I can already give you evidence for the resounding “no.” But it is begun. There is a blog where there was none before. I feel sweeter and more wiggly already.

The research process, that boring part that keeps people from starting so many things, can happen while I’m splashing in the creative current. Though I have registered the domain names for Startistry.com, I’m doing this on wordpress, an idiot-proof blog site, using their most basic template. Next week, I’ll investigate how to get rid of the “wordpress” on the url, and the next week I’ll marvel at how stupid I was this week.

My grandma used to say that the best thing about Jello casserole is that no one knows if you followed a recipe or not. (I can tell you that was not nearly the best thing about her Jello casserole, especially the pistachio kind with pineapple.) But she never let planning slow her down, and she would agree with stARTist code #1:

The best way to get something stARTed is to stART it.

I knew I was a stARTist when . . .


“I’ve been preparing all my life to make a giant fringe.” Becky Blades

I collect interesting things. Or should I say I “accumulate” things that have the potential to become interesting. My studio is stacked with books, boxes, machine parts, doll appendages and fabric samples that are a mere Saturday afternoon away from becoming important works of art. Only slightly more attractive than the hoarding neurotics you see on reality television, my accumulations are a strange artistic nesting process of which I am not necessarily proud. But occasionally, my neurotic preparation meets stARTtistic opportunity.

Take this year for example. My teenage daughters’ school drama department was invited to perform at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. It’s a big honor and an expensive proposition. As soon as he received the invitation, the theatre department head pulled together some of the historically most helpful parents to brainstorm about ways to organize and raise money for the trip.

I don’t want to brag, but I contributed the most.

Someone on the committee:             “What are we going to do to raise money?”

Me:                                                         “I love fringe. We should make some fringe.”

Someone on the committee:               “But what are we going to do to raise money?”

Me:             “It could be a very fun, artistic fringe. Not just your run-of-the-mill fringe.”

Someone else on the committee:            “Hmm. Nice idea. What are we going to do to raise money? We need big money.”

Me:                                                             “We could make a really BIG fringe.”

Someone else on the committee:             “But how would that raise money?”

Me:             “We could sell parts of it. We could sell sponsorships to big parts of it. It could be the stage set. It could inspire educational forums . . . I mean do our kids really know enough about fringe? Did I mention that we could sell parts of it?”

Someone else on the committee, thinking they would shut me down or at least shut me up:

“That sounds like a lot of work. Who are we going to get to make a big fringe?”

Me:             “I’ve been preparing my whole life to make a big fringe.”

I actually said those words. I said them with delight and arrogance and certainty. I said them after walking into that room telling myself that there was no way – absolutely NO way – I was volunteering for anything this year. I gave my 110 percent last year; it’s someone else’s turn.

Serial stARTists will understand completely.  I had the idea, and therefore the opportunity, to make a giant fringe. It seemed like something that had to be done. I had no choice. I had heard a calling. I took the job. At most, I figured, this could be a life-changing adventure, at the least, it would be a handy bridge for stagnant cocktail conversations: “oh . . . that reminds me of the time I was making a giant fringe . . .”