Thursday, July 31, 2014

Mustard Seed Sessions: Motivated Movers

Dance class, performances, and auditions can be brutal on more than just your feet. Your soul and self-esteem can wind up pretty bruised, too. Based in New York City, Motivated Movers saw a need to create a positive, loving space for dancers and performers to rekindle their love of dance and feel good about what they were creating.

Check out my interview below with the two co-founders, Jesse Palmer and Elise Hearden, and start feeling a bit more, well, motivated :)

Mustard Seed: What's a day in your life like? 
Elise: A typical day begins with coffee.  Usually becomes a hectic day running around the city creating, implementing, and communicating in this lovely arts industry. More coffee. Encounters with lovely new faces and of those I hold dear.  More COFFEE.  Work from home on the multiple balls in the air I'm juggling. Wine.  And time with the man I love. Days with motivation, inspiration, and caffeine.

Jesse: Generally, my day begins with the generous use of my snooze button (though i'm trying to break that habit!). Once I am up, I try to create at least 30 minutes where I stretch, make coffee and read a few blogs before I officially start my day. Then-- I hit the ground running with a venti iced coffee in my hand (Can you tell Elise and I are caffeine addicts?!? alot of love and caffeine runs Motivated Movers!). Auditions, teaching, coachings, emailing, blogging.. you name it, I am doing it. 

M: What prompted you to start your business?
E: As a dancer who has spent time in my life struggling with confidence as I learned to sing, I recognized a common ground with many of my friends who are learning to dance.  A desire to give to them, in a class setting, what I was blessed to find in private vocal coaching arose.  Safe space, motivation, patience, working at the pace one specifically needs, pedagogical understanding, and a sense of community.  As artists, we all deserve this no matter what part of our craft we are growing in.  Recognizing that need + my gifts as a dance educator + my beautiful partner, Jesse Palmer, coming into my life = the birth of Motivated Movers NYC.

J: Yeah, Elise hit the nail on the head. My impetus to approach Elise about teaming up for MM was very similar and equally as serendipitous. I went to a university where dance was not the primary focus or talent of many of the students (though through my time there that changed greatly!).  Because of my extensive dance background, I was given the opportunity to choreograph for both main stage productions, student recitals and student-run theater productions. Instead of simplifying my visions, I decided to take the time to teach my casts as well as choreograph. It was such an amazing and fulfilling experience to witness the growth of my friends and colleagues through these productions-- and it stuck with me. FLASH FORWARD to life in NYC. I would frequently be contacted to coach friends on combinations and be an ear for advice before big dance calls. In talking to my friends and through my own observations, I was saddened by the "lack of self worth" issues we all deal with and the fact that we don't really have an outlet to deal with those things (other than therapy.. which is great!)  It became glaringly apparent that the New York theater community needed a safe space where actors & singers could go to do the work they wanted to, without fear of judgement. Then Elise and I met and.. well the rest is history!

M: Is your business/art your full time job? If not, what else do you do?
E: Motivated Movers is not my full time job, though it certainly feels like.  We are only about a year into operations so it will take some time before there is return on our investment of love.  With that said, it will likely always be one of a few jobs in our lives.  I currently am also pursuing a career in arts management, am applying for masters programs for just that, and am constantly diving into other projects within the arts industry. (Most recently worked as Assistant to Artistic Director at the Hangar Theatre.)  Oh for money to survive you mean?  I nanny.  I spend my days nurturing and educating children and making sure they are growing with an appreciation for the arts.

J: Motivated Movers is not my only job currently...though it is a full time job. Hopefully in the next year, it will be my supplementary job to my acting career.. and I can retire my server hat forever. Currently, I work for Motivated Movers, a LOVELY restaurant in Washington Heights and personal assist for a budding life coach. 


M: What would you tell your 20-year old self? 
E:Stop planning so much.  It's all about to change anyways. 

J: Be true to yourself and stand tall and strong in that truth. I've spent a lot of time doing things because I think I should or that someone would like me more. Those thoughts will never serve you or your dreams. Just be you and do it.

M: What's the worst job you've ever had?
E: Hard actually, because I think all have my jobs have taught me something or brought someone wonderful into my life.  However, always the least favorite would be catering.

J: I agree with Elise-- but I've worked in a few restaurants that for a myriad of reasons could be classified as "the worst". I try to just remain grateful that I am no longer there, take a few nuggets of learning.. and keep it all in perspective. 

M: What's the best piece of advice you've ever gotten?
E:"You can only do the best you can do with what you have at any given moment."  - My mother.  And a constant reminder that my best today could mean something different tomorrow, and there is just no way I can ever compare my best to someone else's.
J: "What is meant for you will not pass you"-- this is a mantra that my dear friend Megan shared with me a few years ago. It has really helped me cope with this crazy lifestyle we lead. I truly believe that there is a higher design for all of us. This mantra really allows you to tap into trust and patience... Good stuff. 

M: What's the hardest part about pursuing a "non-traditional" career? The best part?
E: For me, the hardest part is the lack of structure/routine.  It is always a struggle and balancing act to create something consistent in my day to day life.  As a planner, I crave structure. 

J: Oh goodness. Yes the lack of structure is a big one for me. Also I struggle with trusting that everything will be ok.. or even more than ok.. GREAT! That I'll be able to pay all my bills, that I'll book a show.

The best part? 
E: I have more adventures, chance encounters, and memories in a week than most have in a year. (Another reminder from Mom.)

J: The excitement. The rush of adrenaline and joy that I get when I'm on stage or teaching a great class or watching a student conquer something and succeed. Being of service to others in all the different capacities that I am able to be.. is a truly beautiful thing.  It is also one that I am so very thankful for :)

M: What inspires you?
E: People.  People following their passions.  People making a difference.  People cultivating an inspiring community.  The power of community.  The community I belong to.  The beauty of the arts.  The possibilities yet to come. 

J: I am inspired by the love I see in every ordinary places. I am inspired by the amazing people in my life and people I have just met. I am inspired by people who are living their authentic life with out apology. Joy. Love. Art. Community. Possibility.

Thanks Jesse and Elise! I'm sure by now you're all scrambling to get up on your feet to dance, and if you're in the NYC area you can take class with Motivated Movers and find your joy! 

You can learn more about Motivated Movers by visiting their site, Facebook page, Twitter or Instagram.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Lessons In Patience; Or, How I Learned To Surrender At The Post Office

As soon as I put their leashes on, I started to doubt this idea. There was no way they'd make it the whole way, there was no way I could carry the mail and navigate my criss-crossing, zooming pups at the same time, and it was just dumb.

All of those negative thoughts meant one thing: I absolutely had to do it.

We had a typical start with Henry trying to partake in a sprinting competition that no one else knew was going on, and Layla trying to (literally) smell all the flowers along the journey of life, and me looking like I was about to be drawn and quartered the old fashioned way (is there a new way? not sure why I included old fashioned there..) with my left arm pulling as far as it can go to the left and the right arm pulling as far as it can go to the right, and the quiet whisper of the word 'help' escaping from my lips.

We had finally made it around the corner and I was sighing as we waited for Layla to fully sniff this particular blade of grass, when I turned to Henry and said, "Your sister sure does teach us patience, doesn't she?"

And that's when it hit me. She absolutely does. And I absolutely need it. And it's absolutely beautifully timed.

I like to believe I'm in control of my day, my life, and how things go. And I'm so not. Spoiler alert: neither are you! I can hear the sound of so many people clicking out of this blog post at this very moment, but it's true. I'm sorry, because I know how much you want to believe you are. Probably at least half as much as my control freak self wants to believe it.

But you know what's even more delicious than being that person who is totally in control? The person who is in full surrender. That is some yummy, sexy, powerful shit.

Our walk to the post office took much longer than it would have if I went alone, and I had to take deep breaths of patience several times. We don't learn how to surrender in one quick moment, it's something to keep practicing. I was convinced it must have been at least an hour or two by the time we got to the center of town, but the large clock told me it had only been about twenty minutes. Isn't it fascinating how freaking long everything feels when we just want to get there now now now? Don't we decide just exactly how long something should take and if it's any longer (or just feels it) we're stomping our feet in frustration. When really, in the grand scheme of things, we're just barely into the adventure, with everything carefully and thoughtfully planned out for us ahead of time.

When we made it to the post office, and I popped those letters into the mailbox, I pretty much pumped my arms into the air and cheered, and announced that 'we made it, you guys, we made it!', with the exhaustion and pride that one might attribute to, say, someone who had just journeyed across the ocean on a raft. And you better believe I hope some passersby heard me and questioned my sanity. Cause that's always the true sign that I'm doing something right.

Think of something that you think is going to be unnecessarily hard to do, and do that thing. Prove to yourself you can do it. Think of something that you're desperately waiting on and wanting to happen now and allow yourself to surrender to the fact that it's already decided on when and how and if it will come to fruition. Show yourself you can surrender.

And then throw your arms up into the air and cheer for yourself a little bit. Preferably in public.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Lessons in Running

"Ready?", I asked as we turned into Central Park. "Let's do it.", he agreed, and we started jogging at the same time. Left, right, left, right.

The other night, while communicating via email, I felt like this client needed a change of pace - literally and metaphorically. I wrote him back to meet me at my place, running shoes on and ready to go. For some strange reason, people seem to really trust me so he showed up this morning, dropped off his stuff and we took off.

As we started running, I asked him to jut his neck out forward and did it with him. If you're a runner, or even if you've ever just enjoyed a casual jog, you know that it's pretty hard to run with your head leading. It throws you off balance and it doesn't feel too good.

"Here's the thing," I started talking, continuing to run with my neck out, "when we run with our heads moving before out feet, we get uncomfortable, feel awkward, cause ourselves pain, and feel like we're doing something wrong." I eased my neck back into it's rightful and comfortable position before continuing, asking him to do the same. "When we let our feet lead us, it feels much better, and we get to where we're going easier, with less pain. It's the same in life. We can't let our mind move before our actions, just as we can't let our heads move before our feet."

It's something I actually say to myself on my runs: feet before head, just like actions before mind. I repeat this as I loop around corners, as the sweat settles in, and when I think I can't keep going. Somehow, when I get back home and back to work, these words have tucked themselves into my being and I take action much more freely, without worrying about what anyone will think or what the outcome may be. Feet first, actions first.

Slowing him back to a walking pace, I pointed to where we had wound up, at a beautiful fountain in the middle of the most beautiful park in one of the most beautiful cities in the world. "Sometimes it feels like we can't keep going, or that we're pushing ourselves too hard, or that we'll never get out of an uncomfortable place we happen to be in. That our feelings will last forever." I gestured the scenery we had wound up at, "But life is like this. Uncomfortable feelings and situations lead us to beautiful places."

We took off again and instead of going my regular route, I followed a new path and promptly announced I had no idea where we were or how we'd get home (seriously, why do people trust me?). He laughed because I think he was catching on now. "But here's the thing, I'm safe. I'm okay. Nothing bad is happening to me, right?" He agreed. "Just because I don't know where I'm going doesn't mean I won't get there eventually. I'm not going to get stuck here forever. I'm just going to keep going until I find my way to where I need to be."

Have you ever heard that quote about Love being the gentle process of leading ourselves home? Wait, I'll find it. Okay, got it: "Perhaps Love is the process of my leading you gently back to yourself." Running, for me, is love/hate. Most of the things I love most in the world feels a little love/hate sometimes, actually. But running especially. However, I consistently find that running leads me slowly and steadily back to the truth of who I am. It shows me that I'm not someone who gives up, that I can feel like I'm going to die but in actuality I'm totally fine, and that when I'm in pain I am always getting stronger. It reminds me that when I'm receptive to life, I'm flooded with gorgeous lessons that are aligned with what I need to learn at the moment.

We were nearly done by now and running easily down a hill. When we came to a walk again, I mentioned how easy it can feel during the downhill times, when everything feels like it's going great and you want to push forward and go faster to get to where you're going sooner. "But even in those times of feeling easy and free, we still have to maintain our pace, use our core, and not go crazy. If we speed up really fast, there's a chance we'll trip on our own feet and faceplant. It's the same in taking action. If you get a burst of motivation and do everything at once, you might find yourself tripping up and wishing you'd kept your even pace. It's not about getting there faster, it's about trusting that we're on the path we're meant to be on and we'll get there exactly when we're meant to."

Coaching, for me, is not about acting like I have it all together or I know secret things that no one else can ever know. It's about using examples in my own life, admitting to my own flaws and shortcomings, and reminding my clients, and the people around me, that we are all in this together. In essence, we're jogging alongside one another, urging each other on, experiencing all of the same feelings, and trusting that when we're struggling to keep going, a friend will catch our pace and stay next to us awhile, and we'll do that for someone else a little later down the line.

Lace up your shoes, friends. We've got places to go.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Flowers, Crowns, And Don't You Dare Call Me Princess

This is one of my life rules. If you don't buy yourself flowers, ain't nobody else going to.

In other words, if you don't treat yourself the way you want to be treated, no one else will treat you that way either. When you do treat yourself like the incredible, amazing, kick-ass human that you are, you silently and powerfully give permission to everyone around you to treat you in that way, too.

There is no prince(ss) coming to save you. Sorry. If you want a better, bolder, braver, happier, louder, love-filled existence, the only person that can make that happen is you. 

If you're waiting on a relationship to come into the picture to go and do all the things you've been wanting to do, well, may I introduce you to your front door? Front door meet reader, reader meet front door. Now walk out of it and go do those things. And guess what happens when you do? You meet other fascinating life-livers who will immediately treat you with awesomeness because you're out in the world doing what you want.

It really is that easy.

If you treat yourself like you're nothing special, everyone else will, too.
If you treat yourself like you're a freaking Queen (or King), everyone else will, too.
And guess what? You were born to be a Queen or a King in this world.
Stop wasting your time on being a prince or princess and thinking that's good enough. It's not. 

It's not about those who treat themselves like servants. Those people have a better chance of rising up from where they're at. The trickiest situations are those who are the prince of their family or the princess of their office, etc, who are 'mostly' happy and excited. That's where the trouble is. That's where the fear of letting go of the 'mostly' awesome treatment you've been getting in order to be absurdly out-of-your-mind excited about your life comes in. And that fear is loud. However, facing that fear is a whole lot less scary than living a life that is so-so.

And, please, don't put up with others who keep themselves at that "this is okay" level because they will never see your true greatness. Encourage them to start buying themselves flowers. If they say it's a waste of money, move on.

Happy Wednesday. Get your damn tiara on.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Let's Get Uncomfortable

My heart crept up into my throat as we pulled out of the driveway. The same way it always does when I'm leaving. I kept focusing on a few hours from now when I would be settled back in, laundry put away, bed made up with clean sheets, and most likely out gallivanting around my neighborhood. I kept that thought in my mind until the feeling dissipated.

I've just finished two weeks of spending time with my family, outside of the city. Let me paint you a picture: it's a picturesque small town where you can't go anywhere without seeing someone you know. There are grassy parks where kids are playing soccer, and a town swimming pool that families congregate to on the weekends. The Fourth of July is taken with extreme seriousness, and there are three churches within one square mile. I spend my days in an air-conditioned, quiet, inviting space where there is a stocked fridge and cable television. In multiple rooms. I can walk around without socks on and not fear the dirt that is caking onto my skin. It is clean beyond clean. I get to drive with the windows down and music playing as loud as I want to, and I am usually en route to either my best friend's house, the Target that is but five minutes away, or the beach where I'll be greeted by more people that love me. Also, did I mention there is air-conditioning?

It is good, my friends. It. Is. Good.

Add to all of this awesomeness that I'm with my mom, who is my absolute best girl and favorite person to lounge around doing nothing with, and my two sweet baby doggies who are out of their mind happy with the space they have to play in, and their non-city walks full of beautiful grass to roll their doggie selves around in. And I am blessed beyond belief to be able to work from anywhere I am so location doesn't matter.

So you might be saying to yourself by now, "well Kerry, if it's so great, why don't you just stay there?". And to that I would say believe you me I have thought about it. But here's the kicker: just because something is comfortable, does not mean it is right for you.

One more time: just because something is comfortable, does not mean it is right for you.

This thought usually makes me groan and roll my eyes, but it's true. I know that right now I must be in New York City. That's it. I just know. If you know me in real life, you hear me talking lustfully about Los Angeles all the time. Guess what? If I was supposed to be in LA, I would be. It really is that simple. Right now, I'm supposed to be in New York City. If that changes or if I feel called elsewhere, then so it goes.

Sometimes this gives people a bit of a challenge because I can't exactly formulate why I need to be here except just that I do. And my friends, my beautiful souls, let me tell you something: just knowing where you need to be is enough of a reason to be there. (Unless, of course, you're, like, hurting someone or someone is hurting you, in which case you go on ahead and back the heck out of there right now.)

We can apply this to everything. Where you live, who you live with, how you spend your time, what you are doing with your life, what you want to be doing, and whom you choose to love. If you feel comfortable in your job but long to be doing something entirely different then it is time to make a move. If you feel comfortable in your relationship but feel more content then you feel in love, look into that. If you want to move to a city that you've never even been to, just because you feel like you are supposed to or something pinged in your brain when you heard of it the first time, then sweetheart, start packing. Don't waste your time worrying about what you may lose in your comfortable life. The things that will be waiting for you there will be so much better you can't even imagine them now.

Friends, I want to be clear here: being comfortable is not a sign that something is askew. You can absolutely be comfortable and happy at the same time. Just because you're comfortable in your relationship, doesn't mean it's time to break up. I'm talking about the kind of comfortable where we're keeping ourselves somewhere or in something just because it feels safe. Just because the fear of the unknown outweighs the fear of staying in something kind of so-so. That's where the red flags live. And the good news is when something is meant for us, we always get it. So maybe you do leave the comfortable, safe relationship for awhile. If you're meant to be with that person you'll find your way back around to them. Just how it works.

I'm back in the city now, with grime on my feet and my gloriously not air-conditioned apartment (send fans). Within an hour of being back, I found myself with exciting auditions and plans for the week, that seemingly came out of nowhere. Without a doubt, when we listen to ourselves, we are rewarded for being brave and trusting the calm, steady voice that guides us. 

What are you feeling too comfortable with? What kind of change would you make if you weren't afraid?

Happy Monday, friends. Go get those dreams.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Red, White & Blue Revisited

With the Fourth of July quickly approaching (you know, like, tomorrow), I'm taking a quick look back at last year's celebration and sharing the easiest, fastest holiday treat to make. Bring this bad boy to your barbecue, picnic, or pool party this year and you'll look super fancy while secretly knowing you are not. Don't worry, secret's safe with me.

Last year was a banner year for my 4th. Morning parade with my family, finally being grown up enough to bring something with me to a party, enjoying the afternoon with friends before taking a break to check in with my three favorite people whom I wasn't able to see that day (yes, two of those people have paws), back to the party and then fireworks to finish off the day. Classic July 4th.

Okay ready for the 'recipe'? It has 5 very important steps:
1. Get many cartons of blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, and raspberries (bonus points if you can spell raspberries without spellcheck. Cause I couldn't. Both times.).
2. Rinse them off thoroughly.
3. Find some sort of circular serving dish and begin arranging the fruit, working your way from the outside in.
4. Make whatever fancypants pattern that suits you.
5. Win at 4th of July food. Done! Bam. Easy.

I'll have you know I did not see this on pinterest and copy it, but instead, combined my outstanding procrastination skills with whatever was left at the grocery store with my artistic talents (aka panic) and created this here beauty. Between this fruit platter and the fact that I wore a dress as a skirt, well, I was quite delighted with myself.

I hope whatever you're doing this year (or, maybe, not doing - hey there couch and marathons of tv, how are you?) brings you total joy. And delicious snacks.