Contemporary Expression

A Round Peg in a Square Hole still doesn’t fit
March 3, 2010, 10:32 pm
Filed under: Balance, Cool People Care, Living An Artful Life, Unemployment

I learned a lesson this past month. It takes a while to find where you fit in, sometimes.  I say sometimes, because there are those perfect moments when you instantly know that you are where you are supposed to be.

Here is the lesson, the epiphany moment; round pegs, don’t fit into square holes, you can cram one in but there will still be a void all around it.  Fitting in is easy, standing out, is hard.

My unemployment journey has been interesting to say the least.  There have been 74 really cool companies and organizations that have had the opportunity to scoop me up and yet I haven’t, somehow, “fit” what they were looking for.

There are horrible charts that can freak a person out: (open only when sitting down):

I choose not to fit in. I choose to stand out.  I choose to look for ways to be helpful to my community to achieve its potential, whether they employ me to do so, or not. And you know, what, they just might.  That is, if they are looking for someone who creates things and encourages others to do the same.

— Are you working for a non-profit or on the board of a non-profit organization? Contact me at: – Lets talk about how a Cool People Care Partnership can change the world. —


The Ingredients of Love
February 12, 2010, 11:01 pm
Filed under: Balance, grace, Love

I have had the same Valentine now for nearly 22 years. I am completely and totally taken with her and  adore the way she makes the life I am in way, so much way, better.






The Ingredients Of Love

week 22 of unemployment …
February 7, 2010, 11:53 pm
Filed under: Balance, Living An Artful Life, Unemployment

John D'Angelo aka MagicDude (creative commons)

This photographer captured my thoughts exactly.  As I enter the 22nd week I go back to something that has found its way to a few of the now 74 cover letters submitted :

“Am I doing the greatest amount of good?”- This question was raised recently and it rang loudly. Am I, in this new dawn of hope and hard work, where I need to be? Am I using the talent, creative skill and knowledge I have accumulated for what matters most to my family? My objective is to find a new beginning that embraces the truth that the Grand Canyon was not built with a giant tsunami but rather a river, rushing on as rivers do.

Without Art, Writing Would be Pretty Lame
January 29, 2010, 6:00 am
Filed under: Balance, Guest Blog Post, Living An Artful Life

This is a guest post from Matt Cheuvront and is part of the Guest Blog Grand Tour over at Life Without Pants. Want to learn more about Matt Cheuvront & see how far the rabbit hole goes? Subscribe to the Life Without Pants RSS feed & follow him on Twitter to keep in touch!

I am a true believer that inspiration can come in many different forms – in fact, it really hold no limits – anything and everything around you can provide you with a spark. A good song, a photograph, a line from a movie – I do everything I can to surround myself with these things – making an effort to live a more “artful” life that provides me with those “Aha!” moment of inspiration.

Since writers block is, well, a writers worst enemy – I thought I would present a few things that I do to find inspiration – things that get those creative juices flowing when all hope seems lost – the things I do RIGHT before I close the laptop and put away my Moleskine and call it a day – those moments of resurgence and creative clarity that can be found in the simplest of things. Here are three ways to live a more artful life and find inspiration in the world around you.

Get out of the house

Seriously, working from home can be extremely stifling to your creativity. There’s something about the Seinfeld reruns and comfy couch that inspires me to do nothing more than curl up with my dog and take a nap. This is all fine and well, don’t get me wrong, but when I’m trying to actually – you know – get things done, sitting around the house is the death of me…So get out, head to your local coffee shop, put yourself in an environment with limited distractions. There’s something about the atmosphere of a cozy coffee shop or comfy library chair that just works – there’s like a creative aura floating around that you can’t help but tune into. Changing up your environment can do wonders for inspiring new thoughts and ideas.

Browse Flickr

If you frequent my blog – you know that I am big on visualization – I couple simple and clean design with white space and bold images. Honestly, and this probably isn’t such a good thing from an efficiency standpoint, I probably spend more time looking for the “perfect” photo to go with at blog post than writing the post itself. But I find SO much inspiration in photography – even in the simplest things – I’m a very visual person and I understand that most blog readers connect with a “visual aid” to drive their attention through the rest of the post. Anytime I struggle with my writing, I browse around FlickR or other art websites (Wordboner is another great one) and find all the answers I’m looking for (and more).

Make killer playlists

Music is inspirational…but you already knew that. Every month I take a couple hours and I make a “playlist for the month” – The playlist usually reflects the season, my mood, new artists I’ve discovered, etc. And I use this playlist as the soundtrack for my life. Music is, hands down, the biggest source of inspiration for me. And there’s something to be said for that “perfect playlist”. You’ll find yourself struggling to find the right words and then that epic Arcade Fire song will kick in and all the sudden you’re ready to rock and roll. Devote a little time to putting together some monthly playlists of your own – and opt for the IPod over the TV in the background when you sit down to write.

This is only the tip of the iceberg – but hopefully will give you a little inspiration to get out there and find your own source of inspiration (have you been counting the number of times I’ve said “inspiration” in this post? Yeah, me neither). Think outside the box and never be afraid to use other mediums to inspire your own creativity.

Where do you find inspiration? Do you have a “routine” when you sit down to write?

It Takes A Garden grow a community
January 17, 2010, 8:11 pm
Filed under: Balance, Garden, Living An Artful Life, social media

Joan and I have had a several gardens, some small succulents, some large herbs, some tomatoes, plenty of flowers. Our current garden started the week we moved into the house. Our process: rope it off, plan it out, think about the soil, think some more about the soil and get started tilling and planting.

Our perennial garden is full of bulbs from Brecks and everything else … everything else …  is from Bates Nursery. Nashville is fortunate to have several high quality nurseries in the area but  we have found a consistency of reliable variety to be a big factor in our choice of Bates Nursery.

If you have followed Contemporary Expression for a while, you’ll not be surprised that I strongly feel that everyone should have some form of a flower or vegetable garden as part of  living an artful life. The act of gardening brings a balance and a peace to me that nothing else really is able to do.

I have enjoyed reading David Bates’ blog since his return to the family business it’s filed under News on the website, I get it in the newsletter  form.  When we celebrated our 20th anniversary in the spring of 2008 the kind folks at Bate’s had no problem taking us on under their gift registry as a same sex couple. They had to sorta rig it – but it worked.

When I started following Bates on Twitter I was maybe one of the first hundred or so that found them.  As of today’s post they have nearly 19,000 followers.  Because of the social media consultation work that I have been doing for both corporate and non-profit businesses in Nashville, I quickly acknowledged this success and sent David a tweet to see if he’d spend a little time with us on Contemporary Expression.

Here were his responses to my questions:

  • 1.      What one or two things do you attribute to your large follower base for your Twitter account?  Diligence.  I spend probably 2 hours daily working on my Twitter account.  It all comes down to “The Law of Large Numbers” essentially.  Follow new people, Un-follow people who have not followed back; repeat…Over and over.  I also encourage new followers through our e-newsletter and my weekly radio show.
  • 2.     Do you know what percentage of your Twitter Followers do not live within range to purchase your products?  Currently it is around 80% of total followers.  I have worked very hard at attracting as many local folks as possible, but it is nearly impossible to gain purely local followers.  There are still great opportunities for local growth.  If only 3200 of our followers are local, that represents only about 1% of Twitter users in Nashville, TN.  I do plan to have marketing opportunities through our website in the future, so hopefully there is a way to gain some benefit of this large percentage of “outside” followers.  Again, “The Law of Large Numbers” applies.  If I know I get 20% local followers from all follows, I will need about 80,000 total followers .to just reach 5% of current Twitter users in Nashville.  That is a substantial number of potential local customers, somewhere in the range of 15,000.  We should be able to reach that amount within 9 months, at our current rate of growth.
  • 3.     Do you have a social media strategy as a business?  I have only begun making a push in the social media realm.  I am planning to incorporate a video “how to” presence on YouTube (as well as our up-coming revamped website).  Admittedly, our strategy to this point has been largely “seat-of-the-pants”.
  • 4.      What are your plans to grow your FaceBook FanPage? FaceBook is a different animal than is Twitter.  Twitter is in my opinion decidedly more business friendly.  FaceBook fanpages for business have built-in control mechanisms that Twitter does not have.  I already spend so much time in the Twitter arena, I have sought to find the means to merge all of my social endeavors, Twitter, FaceBook and LinkedIn accounts.  FaceBook required me to create a personal fanpage to make this work.  I’m not really crazy about that.  I don’t mind having a FaceBook page personally, but it is essentially an extension of my business fanpage. Our email address that was originally associated with our business fanpage, is now associated to my personal page.  I really want these to be separate. I have solicited help on this issue from knowledgeable persons; haven’t found a viable resolution… yet.  Until I am able to find some way to make a FaceBook business fanpage work better, I’m a bit stuck there.

David’s responses were enlightening to me. Diligence and Awareness are part of the life of a gardener. With this insight, I began to realize just how much a good social media strategy is so very much like planning an tending to a garden.  The best fertilizer is a gardeners footprints.

So how does your garden grow? –

*tips for Facebook –

a: Use the two free INVOLVER tools to add your Twitter and YouTube Channel as Tabs.

b: Visit the News for Page Administrators for Quick and not so Quick Tips.  If you are an administrator of a Page, you will be able to choose a username for each Page at There will be an interface for you to choose usernames for the Facebook Pages you administer.

I may have to sell you a ….
December 29, 2009, 3:55 pm
Filed under: Balance, branding, change, Nancy VanReece, Unemployment

Job Search: 16th week  since the lay off.

The Tally: Applied for 48 jobs so far … 90% in Nashville, 10% out of state.

Interviews: zero

No thank you responses: three

Still waiting to hear back: forty-five

Jobs I applied for that I really would like to have: five

I really don’t want to end up selling widgets (defnition 2.) Here is my thing, I am a really good sales person.  If I believe in it, I will find a way for you to believe in it too.  It may take a few hours, it may take a few months, even years.  However, I am extremely tenacious and if I am passionate about something, I will find a way to help you see it.

For now over twenty-five years, I’ve been extremely fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with projects, products and services that I really actually do believe in. For the past fifteen weeks since my lay-off I have had to  get to know all over again the product I believe in the most; myself.

I have been consulting and networking and painting and networking and drinking a lot of coffee. I have been coping by putting my head down and grunting through like a rugby player.

There will be great change in 2010 because there is nothing but change possible.  I have faced this current challenge with equal tenacity to any project I have had before me.  I am grateful for the helpful support and confidence boosting that many friends have given to my little family and look forward to the New Year with anticipation.  I may have to sell you on it.

What are you doing to sell yourself  in 2010?

Get back to the music

Watercolor by Nancy VanReece - "Creative Direction"

Over the course of the last 28 years, my work has been all about advocating creative opportunities for my community to achieve it’s potential.

25 of those years 1982-2007 I worked in the music business – all of it: Marketing, Promoting, Managing, Advocating, Soliciting, Encouraging, Guiding, Buying and Selling, Licensing and Negotiating.

When I jumped off into the non-profit sector it worked out well.  I was able to take my understanding as a painter and my experience working with musicians and lawyers into a new sector.  Bringing creative and practical business practice to a non-profit organization was a good thing.  As a business person, I could speak “the language” of the potential donor easily.

I learned quite a bit the last three years.  I learned that “development” means “fundraising” and that customers were not always the folks that paid for the product. It was, and remains, a fascinating sector of our commerce.

I also learned a lot about social media strategy and community building and the new, always evolving, 21st century tools of marketing, communication and sales. A lot of these things are excellent resources to lead me into the next adventure.

I may remain in the non-profit sector. I might go back to the music business. I may be painting and  putting together marketing and social media consulting work for a season.

One thing I know; I will always be looking at art and listening to music for divine creative direction.

“I’m saving all my lovin’ for someone who’s lovin’ me…” Gloria Gaynor

“There’s a cry asking why, I pray the answer is up ahead , ’cause I know where I’ve been… there is a promise we must make, worth the risk and the chances we take. There is a a dream in the future..’Cause just to sit still would be a sin.” .. Hairspray Soundtrack