Tag Archives: Inspiration

Painting Your Elephant

Scott and the parts of his elephant that he was contractually allowed to show.

Scott and the parts of his elephant that he was contractually allowed to show.

One morning at work when I was feeling particularly beige and suburban, like a…oh, I don’t know, like a beige Suburban, I stomped into Nicole’s office and whined, “My friends have the coolest jobs.  This man, Scott, that I know from GHP?  He’s an artist in LA and he’s spending this morning painting an elephant.  Not painting a picture of an elephant–putting paint all over an actual elephant and getting paid for it!  And me?  I’m sending emails warning people that they better return salad bowls to the cafeteria or there will be hell to pay.”

Nicole, ever the great friend and cheerleader, replied, “Well–wait a minute.  You just had that great weekend at Wesleyan with all the alumnae stuff and giving the speeches and parties.  That’s you painting your elephant.”

She had a point.  “Painting your elephant” has now become one of our shorthand phrases to each other.  The words we use to remind ourselves to take pride in our own kind of creativity.

My friend, Margaret, who blogs at Grit Girl Runs Fast, is the reason I have been thinking about painting the elephant this week.  She wrote about how she’s intimidated by some of her women friends because she thinks they are more accomplished or educated.  Pffffft.  But she doesn’t let that stop her from loving them.  She surrounds herself with people who make her want to grow.

Who make her want to….(wait for it)…paint elephants?

I know what she means.  Our GHP group, our tribe, met 29 years ago this week.  I love these people like I love butter but they intimidate the ever-loving shit out of me–ALL THE TIME. Look at them:

ele nyc

January 2013, NYC

There’s Michelle who saves little babies who can’t breathe.  Jimmy raises the money that changes the world.  Ridge designs fantastic NYC store windows.  Sara, the poet.  Trajal, the choreographer.  Ginny, a psychologist who also finds time for community theater.  Jill is a big time business lady and bon vivant.  Deidre?  She’s an award-winning actress in LA who you’ve seen on shows like Southland, E.R., The Riches…and some Popeye’s Chicken commercials.  Seth is a defense attorney who performs Shakespeare in his spare time.

These are people who intimidate me.  But I find the courage to hang out with them because LOOK AT THE JOY.  And this photo was taken after a funeral.

These people are so alive that they sizzle with energy.  We talk ourselves hoarse.  We laugh until other people turn to see what the fuss is about.

These people are creators.  They make things that didn’t exist before.  They remind me that it is possible to spin gold from straw.  Check out some of this awesomeness:

Here’s what happens when Mike gets bored working in his yard:

ele mike


Here’s Bryn playing M’Lynn in Steel Magnolias (NOT her real hair):

ele bryn

Here’s Shannah, reigning Romulan Miss Galaxy (NOT her real superorbital ridge):

ele shannah


Julie in Austin with her award for best comedy pilot:

ele julie

This is Brantley, who’s currently in Switzerland on the European leg of his ukelele tour:

ele brantley

Look at the smile on John’s face (second from left) that night that Ruth Bader Ginsberg came to see his play “Arguendo” then stayed around for the Q&A panel:

ele rbg


And here’s me, painting my elephant behind a podium:

ele me


Margaret–please keep hanging out with people who make you want to grow.  I’ve been doing it for 29 years and it’s working out just fine.

GHPeeps–Thank you.  I’m proud to know you.  I love you.


Pooh Has a Potty Mouth

For at least 20 years, this has been my favorite quote from Winnie the Pooh:

winnie the pooh sure of you


but after the last few days, I’m kind of leaning towards this one…

winnie the pooh what day is it




Your Voice

This is one of my favorite quotes about speaking up for yourself:  

Maggie Hahn, social activist and founder of the Gray Panthers.

Maggie Kuhn, social activist and founder of the Gray Panthers.

I had heard it as “Speak your truth, even if your voice shakes.”  Then in the course of researching who said it, I found the full context of the message–Stand before the people you fear.  Insist on being seen.  Insist on being heard.  Use your voice even if it shakes.  

When’s the last time your voice shook?  

A Red Marble Sink

My sister said that yesterday’s story about San Francisco reminded her that business trips can be fun.  And since she happens to be on one right now, I thought I would entertain her with another story about a time when I tagged along with her and we had us a fine time in the great big city.

fairmont lobbyThe first time Gay invited me along on a business trip was right after Fartbuster and I divorced.  After 10 boring years, I yearned for some adventure.  The American College of Surgeons held their conference in New Orleans that year…boy, did I luck out!   We stayed at the Fairmont Hotel–which is sadly no more.  They chose not to reopen after Katrina.  I’m lucky to have walked this Moorish style hallway for those few days back in 2001.

My sister is a world-class foodie.  Girl love to EAT.  We travel well together because she books the hotel and makes the dinner reservations and I research the fun little activities to do.  We also both believe in the sanctity of naps.

The first night we were at the Fairmont, I told her we had to go down to the lobby bar and try the namesake drink, the Sazerac.  Never heard of a Sazerac?  Me either, apart from in the guidebook.  It predates the Civil War and is arguably the first American cocktail:  “The defining feature of the Sazerac is the preparation using Peychaud’s Bitters and two chilled old-fashioned glasses, one swirled with a light wash of absinthe for the slight taste and strong scent. The second chilled glass is used to mix the other ingredients, then the contents of that are poured or strained into the first. Various anisettes such as Pastis, Pernod, Ricard, and Herbsaint are common substitutes for absinthe when it is not available; in New Orleans Herbsaint is most commonly used.”  Well, there you go.

I’ll be honest…a Sazerac is more distinctive than it is delicious.  I’m glad I tried it.  So glad, in fact, that after I gagged down the last drop of the concoction, I wiped out the glass with a cocktail napkin and slipped it into my purse.  Then I left a $20 tip to assuage my guilt.  My sister was MORTIFIED.  She hissed, “What are you DOING?  Put that back!  What if we get caught?”  I rolled my eyes and said, “This is New Orleans.  Do you really think this crime wave is going to make the news?”  She giggled but gave me The Look.  The big sister look, like she was going to tell on me.  I clutched my purse tighter.   Ten years of boredom and now I was on the loose in New Orleans.

The night got even sillier after that when we asked the doorman to get us a taxi.  We clambered in the back seat and Gay said, “Take us to the French Quarter, please.”  The driver turned his head and said, “You IN the French Quarter.”  We started giggling harder and I said, “Well, take us to the nasty part.”  He drove two blocks to Bourbon Street and let us out on the curb.  Five bucks to go 2 blocks.  At least it was sprinkling so we could pretend that was why we got a cab.

Like I said, I love traveling with my sister.

red marble sinkThe next night, she got us a table at Broussard’s.  While we were getting ready, the two of us ended up in the bathroom at the same time, brushing our teeth.  Probably to get rid of the taste of Sazerac.   I spat.  She spat.  I looked her in the eye and said, “When we were growing up in that trailer, did you ever in your life think that one day we’d be spitting toothpaste into a red marble sink at the Fairmont Hotel in New Orleans?”  

She spat again and considered for a second.  


And then we laughed and laughed and laughed.  

That’s the thing about my sister.  She works HARD for the privileges that she enjoys in life (and shares so generously).  If you asked her what she wanted to be when she was in second grade, she said, “A doctor.”  By about fourth grade, she had settled on being a surgeon.  She never lost focus.  She watched Daddy operate on cats and dogs, and sometimes scrubbed in to assist.  She sailed through college with a double major in Chemistry and Biology.  Finished Vanderbilt Medical School with zero loan debt.  Worked her internship and residency as an Army surgeon.  She scaled every rung on the ladder to get to spit into that red marble sink.  

When Gay was still in high school, she met with the guidance counselor about applying for colleges.  She told the counselor that she planned to go to medical school.  That dingbat said, “Oh, being a doctor is hard.  Why don’t you be a nurse and marry a doctor?”  

Oh.  Hell. No.  

You better believe that lady got a talking to.  I guess my sister did take a little bit of the counselor’s advice–she did marry a doctor.  Eventually.  

The Pinterest Rabbit Hole

maya angelou when someone shows you

Preach on, preach on.  I believe I used that quote in the story “The Doormat.”  

I’m dipping my toe into the Pinterest pool, mostly to find inspiration from great women.  Because let’s face it, I’m never going to make any of those artistic recipes or handmade paper crafts.  Hell, I can’t even look at the home decor ideas because that eats into my not cleaning the house time.  I enjoy the curatorial aspect of Pinterest–flitting about like a magpie picking up lovely shiny things and pinning them to my board.  

Pinterest is the third largest social media platform these days, behind Facebook and Twitter.  I’m trying to learn how to use it to spread the word about Baddest Mother Ever with pins like this one of Maya Angelou.  So I’ve got a board of Quotes for Bad Mothers, where you’ll find funny and inspiring “You Go, Girl!” kind of stuff.  There’s a board called “Stories From Baddest Mother Ever” with….well, you guessed it…stories from Baddest Mother Ever!  I’ve made a board called “Share Some Baddest Mother Ever” with shareable images and quotes from my stories.  

But by far, my favorite board is “Baddest Mothers In History.”  There you will find a gallery of women who blazed trails, explored depths or simply dared to be bold. Please join me on Pinterest and help me learn the ropes!  

So what do you do on Pinterest?  What kind of content delights you?  Tell me in the comments!  

An Encourager

message noteOne of the biggest lessons I ever learned fit on a Post-It note.  Back in 1994, I worked with a delightful woman named Lana.  Very positive, gentle and bright.  I stopped by her cubicle one day to ask a question and spied a yellow Post-It note pinned above her phone with these three words:

Be An Encourager

That’s all.  Be an encourager.  A powerful message–I knew instantly exactly what it meant and I’ve carried that simple message for 20 years.

“You can do it.”

“It will be OK.”

“I believe in you.”

“Go on, Girl!”

“Try again.”

“You’ve done scarier stuff than this.”

“Just keep swimming.”

Give Lana’s advice a try today!  You can do it!