Staying Informed

In today’s world, riddled with political battles, religious extremism and frequent natural disasters, it’s incredibly important to find news sources that present facts and challenge “truths.” In the past year, so much has changed the way I find and digest news. Most obviously, the election of President Trump, and the questionable statements and decisions he has made in his months as our country’s leader. Secondly, moving from the liberal oasis of Ithaca and the Ithaca College campus to rural upstate New York.

This year, I have more time to devote to finding news stories and comparing different sides of the story. Thank goodness, because news is more complicated and time consuming than ever.

My top news source is probably Twitter. I like how immediate both the original message and the feedback are. For current events and updates directly from politicans’ offices, this is a good source. Of course, anyone can say anything on Twitter (or any other social media), so vetting this information is important.

I recently subscribed to TheSkimm, another source for quick news. Everything is very easy to read and understand, which is good in a lot of cases. Sometimes though, I’m left wanting (a lot) more.

My household still subscribes to The Buffalo News’ print edition 7 days a week. Crazy, I know. This is how we keep up on local news. There’s also a varied collection of New York Times and Washington Post articles I wouldn’t otherwise read. Despite Buffalo being the second largest city in the state, it often feels like a small town, and sometimes The Buffalo News treads lightly so as not to step on any WNY toes, at the expense of in depth news coverage.

I also love NPR. Not necessarily for the factual news, but for the human interest they add to the headlines. On air interviews with activists, journalists, immigrants and witnesses are not only informative, but touching.

Where are you finding informative, balanced and factual news coverage? How has this year’s political climate changed the way you view news? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

The Cornell Plantations

Last weekend our family was in Ithaca for Paige’s graduation from Ithaca College. We had a delicious meal at Madeline’s on The Commons and needed to walk off our dessert. Ithaca has a plethora of hiking options, but we were staying near Cornell’s campus so we chose The Plantations.

Cornell Plantations | Ithaca, NY | Succulents and Sunnies

The Mundy Wildflower Garden and Herb Garden were beginning to bloom and looked downright magical in the golden hour light.

Cornell Plantations | Ithaca, NY | Succulents and Sunnies

Cornell Plantations | Ithaca, NY | Succulents and Sunnies

We spent a long time watching the dozens of turtles and goldfish in the Houston Pond from the bridge. There were some massive creatures living in there!

We were far from the only visitors, with students having picnics and local high schoolers taking prom pictures in various picturesque locations throughout the grounds. For anyone looking for an Ithaca hike that doesn’t involve hundreds of stairs or slippery slate, I highly recommend The Plantations!

The Ultimate WNY Summer Bucket List

I love summer in New York and making a bucket list every summer helps me make the most of it! There are a few things on my list every year, as well as some new adventures I’ve been waiting for warmer weather to try. This year, I want to focus on exploring Western New York, instead of trying to plan a plethora of weekend trips. Buffalo is an incredible city in the summer and with more friends moving to Rochester, it makes sense to take advantage of all the (585) has to offer too!

This Summer in Buffalo:

    1. Food Truck Tuesday at Larkin Square
    2. Hertel Ave (Must-dos: Lake Effect’s second scoop shop, Poutine and Cream, Lloyd Taco Factory and window shopping)
    3. Silo City
    4. Buffalo City Hall Observation Deck
    5. Wilkeson Pointe
    6. Tifft Nature Preserve
    7. Erie County Botanical Gardens
    8. WNY Book Arts Center
    9. Rowhouse Bakery and Restaurant
    10. Remedy House’s open air space
    11. Sunday brunch on any and every patio in the city

 

In Rochester I Want To:

  1. Visit Rochester’s breweries
  2. Public Market
  3. Fuego Coffee
  4. Glen Edith Coffee
  5. Upper Falls
  6. Rochester Subway and Broad St Aqueduct
  7. Chimney Bluffs
  8. George Eastman Museum
  9. Highland Park

The Stuff in Between:

  1. Kayak in Oak Orchard Creek
  2. Go fishing
  3. Chestnut Ridge Park
  4. Bike rides (although I’m going to need a bike for this 🤔)
  5. Lockport Caves
  6. Spruce Lake at Holiday Valley
  7. Go on a picnic
  8. Explore Lewiston and East Aurora

I’ll be documenting my bucket list progress on Instagram and would love it if you followed along! What new places are looking forward to exploring this summer? Let me know what you think I should add to my summer plans ☀️

The Answer is Yes: Made in Buffalo with Seth Godin

Buffalo was once a center for industry and innovation, and as this city moves into the future, it is also remembering that past. Don’t believe me? Then clearly you weren’t a member of the sold out crowd gathered at the Albright Knox to hear Seth Godin speak at the first event in the Buffalo Jewish Federation’s Made in Buffalo speaker series.

I was lucky enough to attend as a guest of Telesco Creative Group, who created some truly amazing deliverables for the series. I really owe the team at Telesco, especially Julia, so much. Not only for the opportunity to attend Seth’s Made in Buffalo event, but for taking a chance on a barely-out-of-college graduate who randomly emailed them and making me feel like a part of Buffalo’s growing creative community.

Seth Godin sees the world differently, and he’s really good at encouraging other people to do the same. Nothing Seth said was new in a “groundbreaking research” kind of way, but everything he shared felt exciting and fresh because of how he said it. Who else would start a marketing presentation at the Albright Knox Art Gallery with pictures of bats? No one. Why pictures of bats? Because bats look like bats, until you turn the pictures upside down, and then they look like the coolest partying animals EVER. Who even thinks like that?!

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Seth Godin. The view from here.

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Seth does, and for an hour on Thursday night, he made 350 other people think like that too.

Seth’s focus on community, or “tribes,” is reflective not only of his Jewish heritage but of his Buffalo upbringing as well. All around the world, including Buffalo, people are flattening the bell curve. Instead of mass marketing products to the masses, successful companies are innovating products that appeal to smaller groups of people. The proof is in organizations like Instagram, Warby Parker and Chobani (all brands I LOVE, by the way), all making billions of dollars because they don’t need to appeal to everyone. Just a community of people who will become brand champions. Who needs traditional marketing when you have the power of word-of-mouth testimonies? These products and brands are “remarkable,” or “worth making a remark about.”

You can see this phenomenon in Buffalo too, as specialty shops pop up on Main Street, Hertel Ave. and Elmwood Village. Do I stop into the home goods stores? You bet, and I tell other people about them. The punk-rock jewelry shop? Maybe not, but they don’t need me, because they have their own community of brand champions.

Seth calls this take on business the connection revolution, an economy based on coordination, trust, permission, the exchange of ideas, generosity and art. Instead of products made for average people, which led to a “surplus of stuff and a shortage of attention,” there are brands for weird people, focused on interesting change for the better.

This new economy needs us to be fully present, in a way that is hard in today’s society. It needs us to act as if we won’t be judged. It needs us to live by the Italian phrase “salto mortale.” This translates literally as “deadly jump,” but Seth doesn’t want us to die, just take a risk. He’s asking us to put our emotions into our work, to innovate now. Not when we think we’re ready, because we’re never really ready (and it’s “always too soon,” but when we’re prepared.

We can’t do these things alone; we need our tribes of weird people who are just like us. When similar people connect, when they feel special and recognized, they have a power that a mass of average people can’t begin to imagine.

Seth asked us to clap slowly together, which took us around 7.5 seconds, similar to most audiences. It reminded me of something my college ballet professor would have us do: standing in a circle, eyes closed, she asked us to all jump simultaneously. No cheating with heavy breathing or moving around. Just feel each other and jump. It sounds bizarre (and very Ithaca College theater arts) until it works. And then it feels like magic. That’s the power of connected people with something in common.

Seth sums up his focus on connections with this: “People like us do things like this.” This statement is what gives brands like Harley Davidson their power (and revenue). They make millions promoting not products, but a way of life. They tell “people like us” how to “do things like this.” Harley Davidson became the leader of this group of motorcycle misfits.

Buffalo has “people like us” – both as a whole (we are the City of Good Neighbors, in good times and bad), and in our smaller tribes. We need leaders to tell us what to do, how to come together. Seth called on us to be those leaders, in a time when Buffalo is recreating itself as a better version of its past glory.

As Lenard Bernstein said, and Seth reminded us, “I’m no longer quite sure what the question is, but I do know that the answer is yes.”

Keep Walking, Keep Talking

Every year, 50,000 new cases of HIV are reported and at this rate, AIDS will become the worst epidemic in human history as it claims as many as 100 million lives by 2020. HIV and AIDS affect communities around the globe, including Western New York. Let’s keep walking and keep talking in our fight for a world without HIV and AIDS!

AIDS Walk Buffalo | Keep Walking Keep Talking | Succulents and Sunnies

This year is the 25th Annual AIDS Walk Buffalo. On May 6th, walkers will gather to raise both funds and awareness in a celebration of life and strength at Hoyt Lake. The walk’s goal is to raise funds that help members of our community who live with HIV or AIDS with medical care, case management, counseling, housing assistance and nutritious meals.

Interested in participating? Learn more about walking or donating on AIDS Walk Buffalo’s website: bit.ly/AIDSWalkBFLO!

AIDS Walk Buffalo | Keep Walking Keep Talking | Succulents and Sunnies

Inspiration Straight from Big Magic

I am not a genius. I have a genius.

This is a distinction that took me by storm when I was first introduced to Elizabeth Gilbert‘s Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear. Pieces of this book were required reading in Dance Composition, a class that demanded more creativity than any business course could even imagine. One thing about business classes is that they indulged my perfectionist nature. You can ace a marketing exam or put together a well-researched media strategy that will knock your professor’s socks off. Creating a work of art with your body and the landscape around you can never be “perfect.” And this scares me.

Being able to separate myself from my creative ideas was a relief. And this separation of self and “genius” was only one of the ideas that I found helpful as I created performance art throughout the semester.

Because I aim to be a lifelong creator, maybe not in dance, but in writing and photography and other pursuits I have not yet discovered, I added Big Magic to my Christmas list this year. My grandpa (who I always ask for all the books I want, because he gives the list to his local bookkeeper who will order everything on the list if it’s not already in stock) delivered, and I’ve been working on this book most days at lunch. I first mentioned the book when I named it one the things that was getting me through winter.

The differentiation between being a genius and having a genius is just the beginning. Elizabeth Gilbert is a writer, and a successful one at that as author of the smashing success Eat Pray Love. After this success, she gave two TED talks on what led to her critical and commercial acclaim. This book is a continuation of those TED talks, and it remains just as casual and mind blowing as TED talks tend to be. Big Magic reads like a conversation, delivering thought-provoking and reassuring passages throughout.

Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert Review | Succulents and Sunnies

I have passages starred from beginning to end, and I find myself introducing ideas from it everywhere from Instagram to Bible Study. Just 40 pages in, Gilbert reaffirms that “You can support other people in their creative efforts, acknowledging the truth that there’s plenty of room for everyone. You can measure your worth by your dedication to your path, not by your successes or failures.” The first piece of this statement is something that I’m finding especially true here in Buffalo. The support and collaboration in the blogging and entrepreneur communities here is something I love to see both in my social media feeds and at networking events. The second is more personal, and possibly more important. While a growing readership is always nice, I’m focusing on making my goals for this blog about regular blog posts that are me. And that’s important.

Do you struggle being “original” enough to stand out? If not, please let me know how you do it. For the rest of us, Gilbert reassures us, saying “Attempts at originality can often feel forced and precious, but authenticity has quiet resonance that never fails to stir me.” If being yourself is good enough for her, it’s definitely good enough for me. I also love Big Magic‘s focus on creating for your own reasons. I write this blog for me, and that’s okay, because “Your own reasons to create are reason enough.”

Gilbert offers such practical advice for fighting those periods of time when you just don’t feel creative. She talks about the practicality of working through these times doing something, anything. This is beyond helpful, as my real job becomes more and more writing-focused. Add freelance social media content and creative partnerships, and sometimes I’m just not feeling it by the time I go to write here.

This leads to another great point; creative pursuits aren’t likely to be your full time job. Even Gilbert had a full time job until after Eat Pray Love. It would be great to be an Instagram influencer who lived off freelance content creation and affiliate marketing. But my personal digital footprint is a labor of love, one that takes time and doesn’t pay. “People don’t do this kind of thing because they have all kinds of extra time and energy for it; they do this kind of thing because their creativity matters to them enough that they are willing to make all kinds of extra sacrifices for it.”

Putting in the time, writing regularly and sharing photos that are reflective of my thoughts and actions, is important, because that is all that is under my control. My success, as Gilbert points out rather directly, “[depends] upon three factors – talent, luck, and discipline – and I knew two of those three things would never be under my control.”

All of these gems, which are pushing me to work diligently on my creative pursuits, are sprinkled among personal anecdotes from the creative life Elizabeth Gilbert is living. She touches on the very real issue of depression among artists. She talks about how no work to too special to edit. There are times where writing could never describe real life, and times when writing is exactly what she needs to makes sense of reality.

While we should work and work and work towards exactly what we want, there are times when we are swept into furies of creativity. Those moments when you can’t write fast enough to get it all down, those huge waves of inspiration that come to you out of nowhere. They’re because of, Gilbert says, Big Magic. For those of us striving to live creatively, without fear or darkness, we must accept Big Magic when it comes to us, because we are not geniuses. We have geniuses.