Assigned seat

FullSizeRender-61On this spring day with gray skies pummeling freezing rain, the allure of my warm cozy sweater and a freshly brewed pot of tea nearly outweighed attending the final performance of Milwaukee Ballet’s Giselle. However, my seat in the theatre, for one of my great loves – the ballet, was also warmly calling.

As I quickly made my way from the parking garage to the theatre, bundled in my puffer coat, I noticed a daughter helping her mobility challenged mother. With significant effort they were also making their way towards the venue.

Moments before the theatre went dark, the mother and daughter were seated in the row ahead. The mother, with the daughter guiding her every step, struggled mightily to get seated – a stunning investment of effort to enjoy an afternoon of ballet.

The dancing and the story telling were at once riveting, beautiful and morally powerful. Milwaukee Ballet’s Artistic Director, Michael Pink had transported the 1841 Giselle ballet setting to a 1941 Nazi-occupied Jewish ghetto setting.

While the citizens of these real life ghetto communities were doing their best to hang on, they honored the arts by composing and playing music despite their horrific conditions – an element Michael incorporates into his Giselle production.

Rather than the dancers pretending to be musicians, Michael ingeniously situates members of the orchestra dressed in costume moving betwixt and between the dancers – brilliant!

How much easier though, for the dancers, the musicians and the choreography, had the musicians remained in their assigned seats in the orchestra pit?

From the time we are young we are programmed to find our assigned seat, stay there and do as we are told.

Yet if we are bold and brave enough to move out of what is seemingly our assigned seat, what artistry, what music, what brilliance might we bring to the world?

What change might we create when we allow our perfectly, perfect selves to shine in ways that may currently be encumbered by the seats we believe we are assigned?

As the curtain opened on Giselle’s second act, I was again struck by this idea of moving out of one’s assigned seat. Only by stepping out of Giselle’s assigned role – haunting the lover who had betrayed her – were love, hope and forgiveness able to triumph.

As the curtain fell on a truly magnificent production and I glanced towards the mother and daughter in the row ahead of me, I was struck by the power of an assigned seat.

It’s essential to put effort, thought and passion into sitting in the assigned seat you choose. A seat that brings you immensely powerful joy, happiness, curiosity, inspiration and creativity. When you enthusiastically sit in the seat of your choosing, love, hope and forgiveness are always possible.

It is equally essential to bravely jump out of an assigned seat so that effort, thought and passion can be placed into the work and artistry that brings great things forward.

Things like love, hope and forgiveness.

My father told me that whatever happens, we must remain human, so that we do not die like cattle. And I think that the will to create was an expression of the will to live, and survive, as human beings. —Helga Weissova-Hoskova, Terezin Jewish ghetto survivor






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The Grotto landscape collage painted by master gardener and artist Diane Harm

On the historic grounds of the Dayton VA sits an exquisite garden called The Grotto dating back to the Civil War.

After many grand and glorious years, The Grotto eventually fell into significant disrepair.

Following decades of neglect, this historic gem became so overgrown it was nearly hidden from sight.

Enter a group of dedicated Master Gardener volunteers. Volunteers who had a vision of what could be. Volunteers who took the initiative to start. Volunteers who showed up week after week, year after year and who are still going strong.

Volunteers who are using their perfectly, perfect gifts to honor the lives and service of past, current and future veterans by returning The Grotto’s sacred grounds to a place of beauty, a place for healing and a place for serenity.

So many gems, like The Grotto, are in our paths everyday. With a little inspiration and a little initiative, there’s much to be unearthed.

As my father, who has been leading The Grotto project says about all aspects of life, “Dig in – there’s nothing to it!”


Pant linings, curtain linings, dress linings – they serve as a bit of protection against wear and tear. A great lining serves as an important, foundational element holding it all together.

Today as I sat shivering at my desk, wrapped in my puffer coat (you know the Michelin Man-esque kind perfect for walking Chandler the Beauty Dog in negative degree temps), feeling like I was in need of a power nap, I noticed that my Get Up and Go had wondered off.

Truthfully I was too cold and too tired to even care that my Get Up and Go girlfriend had wondered off. “Have a good time out there. Bring back some base board heaters, some energy and a little inspiration will you?”

FullSizeRender-50As I started to adjust my puffer coat for about the 100th time, I noticed something on the lining I had not noticed before. The words: live out loud everyday.

There it was on my coat lining. A bit of protection from the wear and tear of the day. A foundational element helping to warm up the day with a little energy boost. Get Up and Go had returned with inspiration.

Live out loud everyday!

Things mothers say

As my sister and I would leave for school each morning, our mother’s send off to us was always “D-Y-B.” A sentiment packed with love, encouragement and “I believe in you.”

All of these years later, my mother is still inspiring her children and now her grandchildren with her inspired D-Y-B wisdom.

Do your best.

When you do your best you honor your gifts and talents. When you do your best, you provide a unique perspective. When you do your best, you inspire others to do their best.

Your best brings something to the world that only perfectly perfect you can bring. Get out in the world and D-Y-B!

Words matter

Identifying the most absolutely perfect word or group of words creatively strung together that evokes positive emotion can make the difference between an ad that produces poor sales versus the ad that creates extraordinary sales.

Or the writers who crafted memorable movie lines using the exact right words. Memorable words that have become part of everyday vernacular:

“Toto, I’ve got a feeling we aren’t in Kansas anymore.”

“Show me the money.”

“You can’t handle the truth.”

Or the brilliant and beautiful writer Gary Hollander whom I believe lovingly and carefully selects each and every word as he writes his husband’s elegy. Words to honor Paul’s life, words to celebrate Paul’s life, words to savor memories. Words that Gary has used to write a poignant and moving story about life, living and the power of love.

What words will you write on the note you tuck into your child’s lunch? What words will you say to the disgruntled customer to ease their frustration? What words will you share with a friend who has lost the long-time love of their life?

Words. Important, powerful, life-changing. Words to inspire ourselves and others to be the change we want for the world.  What words will you choose?

Listen up!

Living in Milwaukee I am fortunate to have a go-to source of inspiration – 88 Nine Radio Milwaukee (which you can stream if you’re not in Milwaukee).  The station grew out of an idea, an intention, a purposeful aim of Peter Buffet’s.

Peter’s intention was to create a non-profit radio station to broadcast Milwaukee’s diversity and creativity via the air-waves. His intention grew in strength and possibility as he invited and encouraged others to join him.


Celebrating Peter’s intention in Radio Milwaukee’s new collaborative and creative space – Nov 2013

Now in their 8th year, Radio Milwaukee has stayed true to Peter’s intention. The station serves almost as a town square where barriers are broken down and creativity thrives through their focus on music (a distinctive blend of rock and urban music, and spinning at least one track by a Milwaukee artist every hour), arts and culture, and neighborhood and community organizations.  The station continually invites others ideas and input so that together with the community, Milwaukee’s creativity and diversity are continually honored, shared and celebrated.

Who will you invite to share in your intention? Your purposeful aim? Who can you invite to help make your ideas thrive and launch?

Art Kids

An objective of Voices of Pearls is to feature voices who are making a difference in the world. The perfectly, perfect brilliant voices that surround us each and every day. Sometimes we just have to take a pause, engage and listen to the voices that are right here, right now.

Tonight I did just that. As an almost weekly volunteer at a local high school’s art department, I am fortunate to be surrounded by the brilliant voices of the young women and men who identify as “art kids.”

Meet Maddie – a 17-year old artist who is brimming with wisdom and inspiration driven by her desire to use art as her voice in the world. I’m excited to share Maddie’s powerful voice with you and some of the topics we discussed this evening.

Maddie with her art

Maddie sitting amongst her art; her newest piece reflecting freedom of expression sits on the floor – très bien Molly!

Maddie’s most recent art piece

At the core of her newest piece (see photo) is the power of stories and how they are expressed. Maddie shared that the magazine wrapped pencils create stories about people – from healthcare workers battling Ebola, to marchers in Ferguson to celebrity. The pencils also represent how quickly important stories are erased from public consciousness and awareness. At the same time Maddie cautioned that we can become chained to our stories. She believes that these chained stories hold us back from reaching our greatest potential. Chained stories become the ones that define and prevent us from continually stretching ourselves to write our very own best life story.

Thoughts about her big dream

Maddie wants to inspire others through art while also teaching about the power of art. She shared that words can be hard. Art, however, provides the medium in which she can authentically express and represent her ideas, opinions and values.

Thoughts about the change she wants to be for the world

To inspire and encourage others to accept where they are in life, embrace it and understand that you don’t have to live in a box that someone else gives you.

Best advice

Don’t be impulsive. Think about your actions because they affect yourself and others.

What she’s listening to

Take Me to Church by Hozier

Maddie’s closing thought

I’m just a girl trying to find my way in the world.


Thank you perfectly, perfect Maddie for sharing your inspired voice. Keep on creating, keep on being you, keep on making a difference!