Thursday, December 18, 2014

Do You Remember?

The following is a talk I presented in my ward last Sunday.

Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
For unto you is given a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.
And this shall be a sign unto you: 
(Luke 2:10-12, modified)

The Christmas Tree - An evergreen that is cut down and then erected, glorified with decoration which calls to remembrance the resurrection and glory of our Savior.   

Candles and Christmas lights - Reminding us of the light of Christ. “I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.” (John 8:12).

Candy Canes - Shaped like a shepherd's crook, reminding us that Christ is the good Shepherd who has commanded us to feed His sheep. Also, the peppermint flavor, is reminiscent of hyssop which has medicinal purposes. This reminds us of the healing powers of the atonement.

Mistletoe (Not just for kissing) - It’s an aerial parasite that doesn't have roots of its own thus in order to survive it attaches itself to trees for nourishment and sustainability. Likewise, we must attach ourselves to Christ if we want exaltation.

Presents - Remind of the generosity and love of our Heavenly Father who gave us a Savior, the Holy Ghost and this Earth School. And of course, the gift of the Atonement from our beloved brother, Jesus Christ.  

(Source: A Christmas Testimony mingled with my own interpretations).

This is called the most wonderful time of year and it can be for it brings us together to celebrate and hold mass for our Savior.

But as you participate in Christmas festivities, do these symbols remind you of Christ? Or have they become decorative and common placed?

Complacency can be an unfortunate byproduct of repetition. The more frequently we do something, the more common it becomes, and the less we are acutely aware of its significance and value.

Fear not, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
For unto you given the sacrament.
And this shall be a sign unto you: 
(Luke 2:10-12, modified)

The bread: A remembrance of Christ’s body.

The Water: To remind us of His blood that was shed for us.

The Sacrament table: A reminder of the last supper and the burial tomb.

The Sacrament cloth: Reminds us of Christ’s shroud. Just as the shroud enveloped His body, we are reminded that because of His enveloping love we too will be resurrected.

The administering of the sacrament: Reminds us that Christ administered to His Apostles, such as when He washed their feet, and that He administered His disciples, which reminds us that the we have covenanted to bear one another’s burdens.

The way in which we, Latter-Day Saints, administer the sacrament differentiates us from other Christian faiths. It is not given to us one by one by our Bishop. It is a communal ordinance.   

Worthy males use the Priesthood to administer the Sacrament to the congregation. The congregation then passes it to each other. You to me. Me to you. This is not insignificant. This is the only ordinance where everyone in attendance participates in the execution of the ordinance.

I love the way Cheryl Esplin, 2nd Councilor in the General Primary Presidency translates this into a sacred act. When we offer the sacrament to each other,    

“ is as if the Savior Himself were extending His arm of mercy, inviting each one of us to partake of the precious gifts of love made available through His atoning sacrifice—gifts of repentance,forgiveness, comfort, and hope.”  

I think its important that we do not hurry through this exchange for the sake of time or efficiency. I encourage you to allow your neighbor to offer you the sacrament. For you to partake of it, THEN for you to take possession of the tray and offer it to your neighbor, continuing this sacred ritual.

This reminds us to accept the service from others and for us to be of service to one another.

The Eating: Reminds us to internalize Christ’s teachings, making it a part of who we are. It also reminds us to feed his sheep.

These symbols of Christmas and the Sacrament are to remind us of Christ and our relationship with Him. When we partake of the sacrament we are covenanting to remember Christ.

In the blessing of the bread we covenant to be “...WILLING to take upon [us] the name of thy Son, and always remember him and keep his commandments…” (D&C 20:77)
When partaking of the water we covenant that we, “...DO it in remembrance of the blood of thy Son, which was shed for [us]; that [we] may witness unto thee, Oh God, the Eternal Father, that [we] DO always remember him…” (D&C 20:79)

At first we are willing and then we do.

It is important to the Father and Christ that we remember.  

When you participate in the sacrament, sitting in these pews, what is it that you call to remembrance?  

When you are in poor health do you remember that Christ healed the sick, the lame and the blind.

When you are harboring guilt for transgressions or sin do you remember that Christ not only forgave the woman found in adultery but advocated for her?  It is not possible for you to sink to a depth that the atonement can’t find you.  
When you are consumed with doubt, do you remember that Christ and Peter walked together on the water. That the raging sea caused Peter to doubt, but that Christ extended His hand and reminded Him of the power of faith.

When you’re feeling isolated and alone, do you remember that while in the Garden of Gethsemane, Christ asked His friends to stay awake with Him but they didn't. That in the moment He was the most vulnerable He felt incredibly alone. Yet we know from Luke, that the Father had sent a strengthening angel to be with Him. Do you not think that the Father continues to send strengthening angels to His children?   

When you are overcome with joy and think that you may not be worthy of it, or you fear that it might not last, do you remember that you are that you might have joy?

Do you remember that the good tidings of great joy, which is given to all people, in this dispensation, is the restored gospel of Jesus Christ?

I don’t. I don’t always remember. But I want to. As I sit in the pews with you and you offer me the sacrament and I offer it to you, I’m going to remember that we are in this together. That all of these things are possible because of our Savior.

I want to be like Mary. After she gave life to her son, our Savior, and witnessed all of the miracles, it is said that she “...kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.” (Luke 2:19) I believe she did so that she could always remember.

During this Christmas season may we remember. As we participate in the Sacrament ordinance may we remember.

I wish you a Merry Christmas.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Snakes & Alligators

Have you ever had this experience?

You have an idea for a project. It's a really great idea. You are so excited. Your mind races. You imagine what the finish project would look like, how it will change your life for the better, how you will be recognized by your peers for your incredible contribution to your industry. You then see yourself at an awards ceremony where you are honored for your achievement. You realize this means that you will have to dress up all fancy and give a speech. All the sudden this daydream becomes anxiety ridden as you don't know what you would wear or what you would say. Now, you have so much anxiety over something that you've made up that you can't start the project.

When you are at the beginning of a project does looking at the future and all of the potential problems and achievements paralyze you?

If so, you are not alone. It happens to me all the time and to many of the people I work with. If fact, I was recently having a conversations with someone when this very issue came up. Out of my mouth came a statement I grew up hearing my dad say,

via @lizostler You are up to your ass in alligators and you're worried about the snakes across the street. -Cal Ostler (also known as Liz's dad).  

As a kid this colorful statement always made me laugh and want to play Pitfall on the ATARI.


Now, I see the wisdom, in this statement, to focus on the issue at hand. The one that you can actually do something about. 

Today, I'm going to share with you 3 tips to help you stop worrying about the snakes and how to handle the alligators. 

1. The Future is your future self's business. The present is your business. We can only show up and do the work in the present. Getting all worked up about the future is a way of avoiding the the work you can and must do now. Trust that you will have the skills and resources necessary to handle any future problems because you will. Focus on what you can do right now to move your project forward. 

2. Identify the next step. What's the next step that your project needs to move forward? Ask it, it will tell you. If you are writing a play, is it creating an outline or a character breakdown? If you are building a puppet, is it gathering all the materials? Or do you need to do your research? Identify the next step helps you to focus your energies and resources that you may effectively and efficiently move forward. From there, you can create an action plan.  
3. Create an action plan. Once you've identified your next step, break it down into ridiculously small, do-able, tasks. This will help you overcome being overwhelmed. Completing tasks that move your project forward also builds your confidence. For example, if your next step is to research ATARI games your action plan may be the following tasks:
  • Create an ATARI Pinterst Board
  • Google ATARI and look at the findings for 1 hour
  • Call older sister to talk about playing ATARI back in the day
  • Ask Facebook friends if anyone has an ATARI that I can borrow
I hope these tips are helpful to you. I'd like to know what projects you are working on and how you deal with your alligators and snakes. Comment in the space below.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

I Will Not Be Silent

Dear Reader,

Wednesday (9/10), would have been my 17th wedding anniversary had I not found the courage to end the abuse. For 9 years my identity was eroded, my voice was silenced, and my soul was dismantled. During those years everything that made me - me - was broken and discarded, the pieces buried in an internal graveyard (or so I thought).

I played small to survive.
I said nothing.
I became a shell of a person.

To know me now, is not to know me then.

In October of 2004, I had what I call my Tetris moment, when all the fractured pieces of information, advice and experience finally came together, clearing the board. In that moment, for the first time in a very long time, I heard my voice from that internal graveyard, and it said, "End it, now!" I knew I couldn't stay in the relationship another day or I would die. Ending the relationship was terrifying. For my safety and to break the trauma bond, I severed all relationships that were ties to him. It was a harrowing and painful time.

It was a very long journey to break the domestic violence cycle. With the support and love of my closest friends and family members, my faith, my art, and a lot of therapy, I was able to finally hear my voice over his, to trust it, and use it.

The aforementioned graveyard was actually a garden that needed nurturing. Creativity nurtured my soul, was a healing balm and the earliest manifestations of my emerging self.

Art is the primary way that I bring awareness to the fact that 3 out of 10 women are the victims of domestic violence. I wish my story wasn't common, but it is. So, I talk about it. I tweet about it. I create theater about it. I create works of art about it. And now, I blog about it.

But why now? Ray Rice is enough of a reason. However, the motivation comes from something that happened on Wednesday. My ex-husband, whom I haven't seen nor spoken to in almost ten years, made a contribution to my Life's Echoes Creativity Coaching, Indigogo campaign. As a person of integrity and who is an informed consumer (minimizing my financial contribution to labor trafficking as much as possible), I refuse to accept this contribution. I have returned the funds, however, Indiegogo is unable to remove the contribution from my campaign page. Thus it looks as though I've exceeded my goal. When in fact, I'm still $145.00 short with 3 days left to go (September 14, 2014).

My original plan was to send a simple reminder and encourage you to contribute, even if it was $5 or $10 because those contributions really do add up. Instead, I found myself in an awkward situation and felt shame wash over me. I felt myself go small again and wanting to hide. Interesting how when triggered, some coping mechanisms come right back. Thankfully, I'm a hell of a lot healthier now and was able to bounce back emotionally within minutes.

Today, I was reminded that: I was a victim, and then a survivor. Now, I'm an advocate.
This is an opportunity for me to stand in my truth and tell my story.

All those things
That you taught me to fear
I've got them in my garden now
And you're not welcome here
-Poe, excerpt from Control

So, if you can contribute to the Indigogo fund I would greatly appreciate it. My story is a huge part of why I advocate for creativity and nurture it in others. It's a necessity to living a fulfilling and happy life. It can heal individuals, communities and the world. Again, I'm $145.00 away from reaching my goal and have 3 days left. (The new goal on the campaign website is $1,045. This factors in the unacceptable contribution).

If you are a victim of domestic violence or know someone who is, know that you are not alone. There is nothing to be ashamed of and there are lots of resources available to help you. There is a way out and a lot of joy on the other side.

I will not stay silent. I will not stand still.

Much affection,

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Your Life's Echoes

Somewhere in my rearing, I was taught the principle of leaving things better than I found them. I suspect it came from a lesson in borrowing etiquette, to have respect for things that were not mine. Regardless of where it derived, this principle got into my bones and cells. It influences the way I interact with everything: objects, people, places. 

I want to leave the world better than I found it. 

Now, to be clear, this isn't a savior complex. I'm not trying to save anyone or be a martyr. I learned the futility and dysfunction of that in my 20's (which is a story for another post). This desire comes from a grounded, authentic and sincere place deep in my soul. It centers on the knowledge that the individual's journey is sacred and her/his contribution is invaluable. It manifests in most of what I do. I've started calling these contributions, "my life's echoes." They are what I put into the world, in an attempt to make it a better place. Can you relate? Do you know deep in your soul that you have important things to offer the world? That you can make a difference? Does the prospect of this overwhelm you? Take a deep breath. Remember Rome wasn't built in a day and that you eat an elephant one bite at a time. There are small steps you can take that will have a big impact on your life and in the lives of others. Here are 4:  

Show up and Actively Participate in Your Life
There's a significant difference between letting the days of your life go passively by and choosing to actively participate. Actively participating in your life means being open and vulnerable to new things, new relationships. It means making a decision in the face of uncertainty. It means showing up and saying YES, even when resistance is making a very good argument for saying no. 

This is hard, I know. Sometimes its easier to binge watch the first three seasons of Homeland, specially when you finally got Showtime Anytime (don't give away any plot points!) than it is to do these things. But if you don't show up for your life, who will? 

Take Responsibility for Your Echoes
You are responsible for what you produce, how you act, and how you don't. Engage in your life deliberately and mindfully.

via @lizostler Our actions echo in the world, impacting it in foreseen and unforeseen ways. (click to tweet)

Invest in Your Tribe
Your tribe can be one person or a handful of people. Your tribe is the family you chose. They are the people who honor, support and encourage you. Or as the people at Sweatpants & Coffee say,

Sweatpants & Coffee

Be the Steward of Your Creativity
Your creativity has been entrusted to you. You have an obligation and responsibility to excavate, cultivate and share your creativity. 
via @lizostler The expression of your creativity leaves an echo of who you are, how you contribute, and that you are very much alive. (click to tweet)

Some of the recent echoes in my life: 
  • Asking for help when I needed it.
  • Being kind to myself by saying yes to a day at the beach, instead of overworking myself.
  • Working on my art.
  • Writing this post.
  • Apologizing for not being more sensitive to a friend.
What are the echoes of your life? 

Use the hashtag #LifesEchoes when sharing your life's echoes on social media.  

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Imperfectly Perfect

Elizabeth Ostler l

Are you a perfectionist? Is the tyrannical reign of perfectionism keeping you from living to your fullest? Do you experience paralysis? Avoidance? Procrastination? Does perfectionism prevent you from starting or finishing a project?

When we are in a perfectionist mindset we expect more from people and projects than is helpful or realistic. We buy into the fallacy that we will be happier, more fulfilled and more loved if certain, if not all, things are perfect in our lives.

Get your Mad Libs on: If this ______ (noun) is perfect then _________ (pronoun) will _____ (emotion verb) me.

Did you answers surprise you? What was your emotional verb? Did that verb point to a desire for connection?

  via @lizostler   At the root of perfectionism is the desire to connect. (click to tweet)  

But here's the thing...

  via @lizostler   Perfection impedes true connection. (click to tweet)  

Perfection creates masks and barriers that prevent people from truly seeing us. The primary definition of perfection is without flaw. If something is flawless, it is also impenetrable. As a deeply flawed person, I don't know how to relate to something that is flawless. It is our flaws that expose our vulnerabilities and humanity. It's in that space that we can connect to each other.

When I was confronting my own perfectionism, I discovered a more obscure definition of perfection that changed my life: lacking nothing essential to the whole. Read that again: Lacking nothing essential to the whole. If I'm practicing integrity, honoring my commitments, being present for my life and living authentically, am I lacking anything essential to whole? I think not, and neither are you.

I am and you are imperfectly perfect.

Next time you feel the beast of perfectionism rising inside of you, remind yourself that you are imperfectly perfect. Let that desire to be flawless flow out of you and actively connect to another person.

What were your Mad Lib answers?
How does perfectionism manifest in your life?
What do you do to move past perfectionism?  

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Clearing Away Corpsies

Yes, I play Farm Heroes Saga. For those of you not familiar, it's Candy Crush with healthy stuff. On level 71, Farm Heroes Saga introduces grumpy corpsies. These jaded fruits/vegetables spoil any match they become part of (the rotten apple spoils the barrel). They can be challenging and undesirable.  

Likewise, tasks can become grumpy corpsies. They're the tasks that have been on your to-do list forever because you just don't want to deal with them. Corpsies can make to-do lists unbearable.

I don't even want to look at my to-do list when there are corpsies on it. This can make me rather grumpy.



Do you have grumpy corpsies on your to-do list?

Here are 5 tips for clearing away those pesky corpsies:

1. Get Real About Your Corpsies

You must get real about whether or not you are actually going to accomplish this task. There are some tasks that you must do regardless of your lack of desire to do them, like registering your car or submitting your book outline to your editor. Then there are tasks that you would like to do but just don't seem to get around doing them for a variety of reasons. Determine which tasks are a must and which are a desire so you can take the necessary action to remove it from your to-do list.

2. Say Goodbye to Desire Corpsies

If a desire has turned into a corpsie, it's time to let it go. This doesn't mean forever, just for right now. Let yourself off the hook, and put your focus and energies on those tasks that must get done and those that are currently flowing. I recommend creating a space for your desires to hangout until you are ready to work on them (ie, a pinterest board, a drawer, a notebook, etc). This way you honor the desire but don't allow it to create corpsie gridlock on your to-do list.

3. Break Corpsies Down into Manageable Action Steps.

Sometimes tasks turn into corpsies because they feel overwhelming. Large tasks become manageable when we break them down into actions steps.  Write down all of the steps that need to happen in order for you to do accomplish the task. Break it down into ridiculously small and specific steps like turn on computer, free write for thirty minutes, etc. The idea here is to make the action steps completely do-able for you. 

4. Schedule It

Once you have broken down the corpsie into manageable action steps, identify the first three steps and schedule them. Be mindful not to schedule too many corspies on one day and insure that you give yourself extra time to accomplish this task as you may have to battle resistance. Once you have accomplished the three steps, move on to the next three. Do this until the task is complete. 

5. Rule of Threes

I’ve made a pact with myself that I only have to do three things a day that I absolutely don’t want to. Knowing that I only have to do three dreaded things a day, helps me get them done (it also feels so good when I cross them off the list). Use whatever quantity works for you. Even a pact to do one will get grumpy corpsies off that list.

I hope these tips are helpful to you. What are some of your corpsies? How do you clear them off of your to-do list?

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Resistance Will Not Stop, Ever!

I do this thing.

It's not something I'm proud of.

Actually, it's rather embarrassing.

I abandon projects.

Yep, it's true.  The worst part is, I abandon the project when it's almost done, and by almost, I mean like 80% to 90% done! Ridiculous, right!?

Even though I don't do it all the time or even most of the time, it happens frequently enough that it warrants talking about.

First, there's a difference between abandoning and ending a project. Sometimes it's necessary to end a project before it is fully realized. If we do this deliberately and thoughtfully, it honors our creative journey and everything we gave to the project. It also allows us to metaphysically disconnect from the project, leaving us with a sense of closure.

Abandoning, on the other hand, leave things unfinished. Unfinished projects are energy suckers because they remain on our to-do-lists. We may have every intention of finishing them. We might start out thinking that we just need a break, but then an hour will turn into a day, which turns into week and before we know it, the project looks like it belongs to Miss Havisham.

Do you also struggle with this? Is sometimes finishing a project just as hard, if not harder, than starting one?

I had this come up for me recently as I was finalizing the Life's Echoes' website. I felt it come up, that urge to take a break, but this time I didn't.  What was different?

 Understanding the nature & power of resistance helps us overcome it.

(click to tweet)

I have another confession: I LOVE The Terminator. I've seen it a hundred times. The beginning of the final sequence when Reese is dead and Sarah Connor is injured and the terminator rises as a shinny skeleton scares me very time. I can't help but yell out loud, "RUN, Sarah, run!!" Every. Time. It's so intense! If you haven't seen The Terminator in a while, revisit. It totally holds up.

What does The Terminator have to do with resistance?  Well, just as I was finishing up with the Life's Echoes website, when I was in prime abandonment territory, I read Steven Pressfield's The War of Art. This is what Pressfield says about resistance:

"Resistance's goal is not to wound or disable. Resistance aims to kill. Its target is the epicenter of our being: our genius, our soul, the unique and priceless gift we were put on earth to give and that no one else has but us. Resistance means business. When we fight it, we are in a war to the death."

Sound familiar?

(Did anyone else have secret crush on Michael Biehn?)

In this context, I see death in two ways: 1. That we will be dealing with it our entire lives. Resistance is a part of this mortal existence. Anytime you even think about, let alone take action, to live to your fullest, resistance will be right there to insure that you don't. It will always show up. "It will not stop, ever, until you are dead." 2. When you give into resistance, it erodes your epicenter: your genius, your soul and your unique & priceless gifts. The loss of these is an internal death.  

The good news is, with awareness, tenacity & discipline, we can overcome resistance, strengthen our epicenter, and live to our fullest. Hurray!

Pressfield taught me that the impulse to take a break from projects just as I'm approaching the finish line is resistance at work. He says, "The danger is greatest when the finish line is in sight. At this point, Resistance knows we're about to beat it. It hits the panic button. It marshals one last assault and slams us with everything it's got. The professional [that's you and me] must be alert for this counterattack."

Armed with resistance awareness, I was able to see resistance for what it was and not give into it. I didn't take that break. Instead, I showed up for my website and saw it through to the finish line.  

How does resistance manifest in your life? How do you overcome it?

Sunday, April 20, 2014

That Was Another Rabbit

Happy Easter!

One of my favorite literary moments is found in Watership Down.  You know, the book about the rabbits searching for a safe place to call home. The moment occurs after our band of rabbits have escape their birth warren only to have one of their foes, Captain Holly, show up again wanting to join them.  Captain Holly tells our protagonists of the harrowing events that to led to him having a change of heart and understanding. He concludes his story by saying to Bigwig:

"It wasn't I who tried to arrest you, Bigwig--that was another rabbit, long, long ago."

The simplicity of this statement that points to the complexities of an individual's progression resonates with me.  Particularly, that moment when you know you are no longer as before.  That you are anew.  I've had a handful of these moments in my life. Each of them memorialized in my narrative as a great wonder of my progression.

A few years ago I was preparing to make further covenants in my faith.  This required me to participate in a year long soul searching and cleansing repentance process. I had used the atonement of Jesus Christ before to heal wounds inflected by others.  This was the first time I was seeking the sacrifice of Jesus Christ to atone for my own actions.  It was a painful, edifying and miraculous journey, a gift really, that led to my becoming a new woman.

I learned that humility is a master teacher, that forgiveness is always possible and that God's love has no limits and knows no bounds.

"...however many chances you think you have missed, however many mistakes you feel you have made or talents you think you don’t have, or however far from home and family and God you feel you have traveled, I testify that you have not traveled beyond the reach of divine love. It is not possible for you to sink lower than the infinite light of Christ’s Atonement shines." - Jeffrey R. Holland

I have witnessed the validity of Holland's statement in my life and the lives of others.  Christ's atonement is restorative and the means by which I found lasting internal peace.

I'm a covenant maker and a covenant keeper.  I'm actively seeking to develop godly attributes - imperfectly, but no less committed to this work.  Like, Captain Holly, I too can say:

"It wasn't I who was cavalier with my faith and covenants--that was another woman, long, long ago."

This was possible because of the sacrificial atonement of Jesus Christ and the experiential knowledge I gained from accepting that sacrifice and allowing it to work its miracle in my life.

It's all because of Him.


At this Easter/Passover season, I wish all of you joy and growth.  

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

The Lessons I (Re)Learned from Cerberus in Deadland

In February, I was hired by Prospect Theater Company to build puppets for a new musical by Hunter Foster and Ryan Scott Oliver entitled Jasper in Deadland.  I was given the task of creating some shadow puppets and Cerberus, the three headed dog that guards the entrance to the underworld or according to Dante:

…Cerberus, monster cruel and uncouth,
  With his three gullets like a dog is barking
  Over the people that are there submerged.
Red eyes he has, and unctuous beard and black,
  And belly large, and armed with claws his hands;
  He rends the spirits, flays, and quarters them.
(excerpt from "The Divine Comedy")

Yikes! I had my work cut out for me.

This was my first gig with Prospect, the members of the creative team & the director, Brandon Ivie.  The puppet design meetings were rich with ideas, encouraging and intimidating (this is a crazy talented group of people, who really know their craft).

I was given roughly 4 weeks and a limited budget.

Lesson #1: Identify your limitations and own them.  

I was approached after our final design meeting to help build some of the other design elements. This was an overwhelming request as I was already concerned about having enough time to build the puppets.  My plate was overflowing with commitments and projects.

Without fail, my inner pleaser was right there ready to say: Yes.  Thankfully, I no longer readily listen to that voice. I breathed and took a good look at my commitments, timeline and resources.  I didn't see how I could possibly take on more work.

Just then [insert trumpets trumping here] my inner overachiever shows up to save the day.  It said things like: you can suck it up for three weeks, sleep is overrated, be a team player. I don't know about your inner overachiever, but mine rarely looks at reality.

After much battling with pleaser & overachiever, I came to the honest and healthy response: No.

Though it was uncomfortable and I felt bad telling the design and production team that I couldn't take on the additional work, I was proud of myself for being realistic in what I could produce with the given circumstances.  The team was understanding and I was able to put all of my focus back on the puppets.

There was the initial excitement of a new project.  I did research.  I created a Jasper Pinterest board and pinned.  (Sidebar - If you're an artist and not creating Pinterest boards for your projects as a way to collecting and organizing your research and inspiration, start. Seriously.  Game changer!)

When starting a project, the trick is to do just enough research to inspire and inform but not so much that it keeps you from actually creating. I had reached that point and so naturally I avoided the project for a couple of days as the creativity insecurities and fears edged in.

How do I get past this?

First, I talk - a lot.  I tell everyone & anyone who will listen to me what I'm working on.  It helps with accountability.  It's also encouraging to hear myself speak artist-speak.

Second, I begin.  I just start.  So, I started...

Two days later I had a pile of newspaper, cardboard, tape and a plastic bin that represented four ways that didn't work for building a three headed dog!!  So frustrating!!!

So, I did what any self-respecting 37-year-old would do, I called my Mom.  Now, it just so happens that in addition to being supportive, loving & a creative genius, my Mom is the Artist Director for a community theater.  She was also in the process of building a dragon puppet for her production of Shrek.  She reminded me of...

Lesson #2: You have a support network.  Use it!!!

Me: I have a big ol' pile of failures and no puppet.  I know failure is part of the creative process and knowing the four ways of how not to build a puppet is useful, but I have a deadline!  I don't know what I'm doing! I'm freakin' out! 
My Mom said lots of validating and supportive things and then this gem:
Liz's Mom: Okay, so you may have never built a puppet just like this one before but I'm sure you know someone who has.  You have lots of friends and colleagues that would be more than happy to give you advice.  Call them.  

My Mom was right.  I knew just the person to reach out to and she told me exactly what I needed to do.  I had the form/armature built within 24 hours. Thank you, Gina!!!

Cerberus form/armature

I had friends help me paint, transport the puppet to the theater, and build the manipulation armature.  It was great!  I was reminded that even though I'm often a loner and value my alone time when it comes to creative projects, I'm a collaborator.  It is far more enriching and enjoyable when I have a team to dream, problem solve and create with.

Cerberus made with Wonderflex.
 (Cecil running way from three dog heads.)

And yet, even with my support network this project got the best of me and I STRESSED OUT.

Lesson #3 - Put projects in their proper perspective.

The final week leading up to the first performance is always stressful and this time I managed to work myself all up.  My overachiever was back with her friend perfectionism.

I was working long hours at the theater finishing Cerberus and building the shadow puppets.  I was sleep deprived and grumpy.  I was so irritable that I didn't even want to be around me. Finally, I had to main street it with myself:

Me (with loads of self-compassion): Self, you're stressed out because this is a stressful time and you're sleep deprived.  Yes, this project is a big deal. Yes, you want the puppets to match the level of professionalism everyone else is bringing to the production.  Yes, you want to make the production team happy.  However, this is a puppet in a play.  This isn't life or death.  This is a level 2 and your acting like its a level 10.  So, how about taking a breath and getting a proper perspective on this project.

And that's exactly what I did.  Once, I had this clarity I immediately felt better.  The stress level became more than manageable and I felt happiness & excitement fill my belly.  Creating was fun again.

Mounting Cerberus onto the manipulation armature.

Lesson #4 - Relationships are what's most important. 

I'm quite happy with the final product of Cerberus & the shadow puppets.  But they will be dismantled for parts after the final performance.  However, the relationships that I built with the members of the Jasper family are what's lasting and what's most important.

The Jasper family was hard working, kind, gracious & talented. Crazy talented! I thoroughly enjoyed working with them and look forward to future productions.

Rehearsal picture of Cerberus
Manipulated by Andi Alhadeff, Ben Crawford & F. Michael Haynie (left to right)

And if all of that wasn't enough, maybe me & Cerberus were mentioned in the NY Times review of the show.  Shut. The. Front. Door!