Eco Shop n’ Swap Market @ Eastwood Collegiate

This amazing day includes an Eco-friendly art market in the ECI gym showcasing work from both professional artists and from our own talented student artists. Come and SHOP!

AND don’t forget to check out the awesome clothing SWAP in the cafeteria from 12-3pm. Early donation drop-off 10am.

  • One donated item = one ticket.
  • $5 entry fee for the Swap
  • Buy New items for one ticket or $2 each. Fundraising for the Arts program and ECI impact club, providing recycling program within the school and other sustainable activities.

Live music will be provided throughout the day by our talented Eastwood musicians, and a concession booth will be open selling coffee, tea and muffins.

  • Funds raised from the Eco Shop table rentals will support the Integrated Arts Program at Eastwood.
  • Funds raised from the Eco Swap will be split between the Eastwood Environment Impact Team and the Integrated Arts Program

I’ll be there, with all four books for sale. It’s the perfect place to sell stories about dance, and selling my books also supports arts programming at the high school level. Even if you don’t need to buy any books from me, come out to see what other artists–both professional and student–are doing and support the arts.

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Juggling Too Much? How I’m Starting to Focus

Lori's clean deskThis week, I watched a video on called “Getting Things Done,” by David Allen. This is Allen’s organization system, and he has a book about it and coaches about it, etc. Being an admin assistant, part of me actually thought, “I’m already good at getting things done. Why should I waste time watching another ‘how to get organized’ video?” What I didn’t anticipate was Allen’s approach.

The Real Purpose of Your Brain

Allen’s philosophy is that the brain is for having ideas, not for holding them. The first task he has you do is to make a list of everything that “has your attention.”

I thought this was a brilliant way to look at all the things I have to do in my life. If the request had been to simply write a to-do list, then I would’ve finished that in a few minutes. But a task requiring me to write down everything that has my attention is a different beast.

For example, my messy desk had my attention, my work-in-progress marketing plan had my attention, and spending more time with my husband had my attention.

How I Actually Got a Good Night’s Sleep

In the end, after about 90 minutes (including a few interruptions from the kids), I had a list of 200 items. I can honestly say it had been a very long time since I’d slept that well.

Of course, by the next night, once my mind was aware of a to-do list with over 200 items (more got added the next day), I didn’t sleep as well again. However, once I got those items into a to-do program, the sleep returned.

There was definitely something to this idea of moving everything that has your attention to manageable lists.

The Hard Evidence

What became evident to me, though, after writing that huge list was how much I wanted to just spend time with my family. My desire to freelance came out of my desire to show my kids that you can make a living doing what you love. Ironically, though, I haven’t been spending much time with the people I love.

Is it Really About Time Management?

The next point that really drew me to Allen’s approach is his belief that it’s not about managing time but about managing your focus.

For some reason, then, Cheryl Richardson, a life coach who publishes with Hay House, came to mind. Her philosophy is balance: she lists seven areas of life that you should try to keep somewhat in balance. If one area goes out of whack, e.g., you lose your job, it’s easier to manage that change if you have also focused time on your family, yourself, your spirituality (doesn’t need to be anything religious), and the other areas.

The approach that Allen is suggesting seems to fit that.

The God of North American Culture: Single-Minded Dedication

We often idolize the single-minded tenancity of an Olympic athlete, or the latest start-up CEO who’s slept only a few hours a night for the past year, not the human who can expertly balance the many parts of life at once.

Instead of revering the race car driver who gets all the glory, we should be revering the teacher who has over time become a surrogate parent, social worker, psychotherapist, and educational assistant all rolled into one.

Instead of the baseball star who couldn’t exist if it weren’t for a slew of unnamed people – likely included many volunteer coaches – we should be celebrating first responders who go from rushing to the home of a panicked mom whose kid is wheezing from a sudden onset of croup, to a violent break-in a moment later.

Don’t get me wrong: these athletes are incredible, and not all teachers and first responders are great. But please don’t miss my larger point: our culture reveres this extreme kind of focus more than it does the balancing act, which is what most people have to contend with.

And Back to David Allen

David Allen’s system is very simple, and I’m not going to explain all of it here (that’s what he’s for, after all). I should make it clear that I’ve only been at it for a week, including trying out a new to-do program that thankfully perfectly aligns to his approach.

But his system is also really simple.

Once I saw everything that was going on in my mind, it became clear that I needed to find a better way of managing it, and I think I have. It started with a clean desk and cleaning out my in-baskets. It continued with realizing a few items on that list would only take a few minutes each to complete. And it’s continuing now with helping me see how I can focus on each aspect of my life and still keep the balance, as precarious as it may be sometimes.

Let the balancing act continue!

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What’s the Point of the Arts?

annie-spratt-253799 reducedI do believe the arts are a spiritual endeavour, one that’s not always easily put into words. But when I read about cuts to the arts in schools, or run into someone who asks what the point is of studying literature or fine arts, because, hey, no one can understand that stuff, anyways, it frustrates me for two reasons.

For starters, the arts in almost any capacity feeds humans just as the sun does. It’s obvious to me and I don’t see why people don’t get it.

Second, the moment someone complains, my throat closes up because of the frustration in that first point. It’s a weird thing I have: I get frustrated, and then the words disappear into a jumble in my head I can’t quite dislodge and unpack to calmly explain my point of view to someone.

So, without delving into scientific evidence (there’s lots out there, I just don’t have time to review a chunk of it and spit it back out to you in 800-1,200 words), I’m going to tackle the question from a individual viewpoint, which, I’m learning, is a very Romantic-period way of solving such problems.

The Arts are Expression

The arts (and that includes music, dance, drama, visual arts, and everything in between and across disciplines) by definition are about expression. Not allowing a human self-expression through the arts is no different than plastering their mouth shut with duct tape.

In essence, individuality is at the heart of the arts. Many artists hope to make a living with their work, but many use it as a hobby and outlet, writing away stories no one will ever read, or strumming on a guitar for the sheer pleasure of soothing the nerves. When we always approach the arts with, “How will you make money off of this?” we miss the true value for the individual.

The Arts are Culture

Moving past the individual, we come to our culture. There are most definitely songs and paintings out there I don’t like for one reason or another, and yes, I do sometimes wonder who was paid to produce “such a horrible piece of work.” You will also have your preferences for stories, music, and concert dance.

What I feel, though, has been forgotten is that freedom in art helps underpin our democracy. It’s no coincidence that one of the first groups of people dictators try to control is artists, everyone from painters to writers to all the specialists involved in the TV and movie industries. (The other main group they try to silence tends to be academics.)

Cultural Appropriation

There is a dark underbelly arising in the arts, though, and I’m not entirely sure what to think of it: cultural appropriation. As I understand it, it means using another culture in your own creation. Part of me revolts at the thought that someone has a right to dictate to artists what they can and can’t do. At the same time, being someone of German heritage, my back went up when a puppet on a kids’ show was wearing a Bismarck-era military helmet, faking a German accent, and pretending to be the bad guy. (Couldn’t he at least wear lederhosen and be happy while dancing a polka?)

Whatever your view on the subject, one thing is certain: if artists didn’t use their voices to produce their work, we wouldn’t be having these discussions about culture, power, colonization, and the like. It’s because of the arts that voices are being heard on these very difficult subjects.

The Arts Belong in Schools

Because of the high emphasis on self-expression, learning the arts in school helps children find outlets for their own personality. For those who have difficulty doing so in words, they may find comfort in music, drawing, and dance. For those who feel physically awkward, channeling their energy onto paper may help them share their feelings and release that tension.

But where’s the monetary value? The economic incentive? This one always gets me.

The entertainment industry is perhaps one of the largest industries in the Western world, and people still ask where the monetary value of the arts is.

Every business needs talented people whose gifts for creating are needed for marketing, communications, and even product development. Again, you don’t get that talent by not nurturing the arts.

Every scientist needs to present findings in a way that others will understand. (The most popular scientists, in my view, seem to be the ones who can in one moment speak to other specialists in their field and in the next, to laypeople, and convey the same information in a way each audience understands.)

Art and Peace

Our world is huge, and there’s no way I can humanly know all its history. But my general impression is that artists don’t start wars. They may start disagreements, and these disagreements may turn into huge arguments, but I’m not aware of them starting wars. I believe artists, through their vocation, study the human condition (with some exceptions). They see the value of human life and honour the exchange that occurs between us when we communicate our true selves. I believe artists are often more comfortable than many of us in dealing with human emotions.

Support the Arts

So it makes no sense to me that we cut back on the arts in schools and label them as useless. I know teachers only have so much time and training, and they themselves are also only human. But I don’t think we can afford to keep cutting back on the arts – humans need to express themselves, and what is school if not a place to help kids grow into an adult, one who is ready to participate in this world as a fully realized and actualized human being? And how can this goal be fulfilled without teaching the students the many different ways they can share themselves with the world around them?

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Keep Your Online Presence Simple

A laptop on a white surface with a glass and a single lily leaf in it.
Photo by Sarah Dorweiler, via unsplash.

The downside to being creative is that your creativity can show up when it’s perhaps not as beneficial to your day-to-day running. In my case, it happened with my online presence: two websites, a blog, and five domains (those three plus two more). Thankfully, I stopped getting creative at the social media stage: I only have four accounts there, and one I’ve almost laid dormant.

However you spend your creative life, whether it’s for fun or as a career, managing your online presence shouldn’t be time-consuming: After all, you want to spend time on your writing, dancing, music, art, etc., right? If you’re freelancing, you’d rather be earning money than frequently managing your online presence.

I’m now unifying everything into one website, and I’m trying out a new theory.

People Want to Know Me

Two months ago, I wrote about how artist and freelancing websites need to differ: an artist website needs to focus on portfolio and expertise, whereas a freelancing website needs to emphasize the services you offer (and also include your portfolio and expertise).

I still stand by those differences. But over the past six months or so, I’ve been working through some marketing advice from Kristen Lamb, a freelance and indie editor, and a book by Michael Port, a business consultant for service providers (which freelancers are).

Lamb focuses on indie authors. In her blogging workshop (excellent, by the way), she emphasized how important it is to market myself as a person, because people who share my interests are more likely to read my books. If someone is looking for a horror, then a blog about dance, life, and marketing will signal that I’m not that author.

In Book Yourself Solid, Port describes how to make your marketing fit you and how to find customers who jive with you, which is why I love his book. As a service provider, and one who does all the writing herself, I’m not interested in getting millions of hits to my websites, hundreds of calls a week, etc.; there’s only so much in my workload I can handle. Port’s promise is to help me find the right customers for me, and in his opinion, I can help that process along by being me. (I add one caveat, though: Professionalism is still important. Putting up drunken party photos of yourself is not what he means.)

Simplifying My Online Presence

Returning to my new website, that means shining a brighter (but still professional) light on who I am. That doesn’t mean I’m going to have my bio on my homepage: that won’t be effective in my case. But having my homepage reflect who I am will let me unify both sides of my writing.

But what prompted all of this? It wasn’t just the time I was spending on my websites and blog, it was feedback, and likely not the kind of feedback you’d expect for such a change.

My current copywriting website got compliments from several writers I respect, but I received almost no inquiries through it. Those who hung around the website long enough to read up on my pricing also didn’t jump off at pricing; they jumped off elsewhere. So if my website was so good, and pricing wasn’t scaring people off, why wasn’t I getting much business through it?

Design for Your Audience, Not Your Colleagues

That’s when I realized that everyone who had complimented me on my website was a writer. Save for content strategists and some marketing managers, most people looking for my services won’t be writers themselves.

In addition, I had learned through several sources (including Lamb) that Google likes websites that are frequently updated. I update my copywriting/translating website every month or two, my website dedicated to writing about dance every year or two, and yet I update my blog – which does not advertise my services directly – every week.

To add to my troubles, the two main websites overlapped when it came to my expertise in dance. Why on Earth was I maintaining two sites with similar content?

So, I’m returning to a simpler strategy, one that will let me focus more on my writing while hopefully strengthening my presence with Google and allowing me to present a full picture of myself to potential clients and readers.

Have you found ways to save time in your marketing? Share them below.

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Minimalism and Creativity: Is There a Connection?

Dedication to one’s craft requires sacrifices, and you have to know how much you’re willing to give up to achieve what you define as success (assuming you can achieve it).

I recently interviewed Jeff Hyslop, a Canadian stage and television icon. (You may remember him from your youth as Jeff the Mannequin in the children’s show Today’s Special.) I was surprised to learn that he was still dancing in front of audiences at age 62 (and that was after hip replacement surgery). He’s close to having spent six decades dedicated to dance and musical theatre. I haven’t hit 40 yet, but I’m certain he could out-dance me. Staying creative and physically fit for almost 60 years of your life is incredible dedication.

I inquired about it, of course, and he gave me a reason: he makes time for himself: He stretches regularly, uses a footsie roller to keep his feet and Achilles tendons supple, and walks a lot.

After we hung up, I reinstated my bedtime stretching routine and aimed to regain my splits by my birthday. Although I wouldn’t call the splits “my craft,” I spent about 15 minutes each night stretching before I went to bed, and lo and behold, here you have it, folks:

Lori Straus achieving her birthday goal: regaining - at least in part - her splits.

Writing could benefit from the same amount of dedication. However, I’m not at my writing best at 10:30 at night. I need to write during the day, so I have to make the room, literally.

I’m starting to take to heart the minimalist movement, i.e., doing away with things that don’t help you in life anymore. (Or, to use the less trendy name, living like your grandparents, so long as they weren’t packrats.) Because it all comes down to this: I can spend my time searching for things I can’t find, putting away the things I do find, and cleaning around all of it, or I can practice writing.

So I’ve drawn up a schedule to go through my house over the summer and start getting rid of stuff. Less stuff = more time. If I spend two hours or so a week de-cluttering, I’ll have those two hours by September to write (in addition to the time I already have) plus the time I would’ve needed to maintain all that stuff. No more shoving things out of the way to get at other things. No more crawling over things in our storage areas. No more wondering where other things are because they’re stuffed behind things that need to be moved or crawled over.

Really look at your environment and see what helps you with your creativity and what hinders you, and then fix it. You may have family now, perhaps even some older loved ones who need your help, and you likely have other true priorities. However, people who know what their true calling is (this is different from your ego thinking it knows what its true calling is) make the time. If you’re getting a late start wtih that, that’s okay! One of the easiest ways to make time for yourself is to clean up your environment. Remember: less stuff = more time.

And on that note, I’d better get to that pile of laundry ominously waiting behind me.

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What Creativity Can Do For Kids

Fred RogersI’ll be honest: I found Mr. Rogers boring as a kid. I preferred Mr. Dressup, not knowing that they were indeed very good friends.

A few years ago, I caught an episode of Arthur where Mr. Rogers made a cartoon appearance. My interest in his efforts to provide quality TV for children was renewed. I was also impacted by some of the quotes that swam through Facebook, and I finally understood what type of person he was.

Another quote attributed to him showed up in my Facebook feed. In an attempt to see if the attribution was correct, I looked up his official website and found this clip.

Mr. Rogers was in the same league as Sesame Street and Mr. Dressup: using public television to educate kids. His focus was on their emotional development. This clip is only seven minutes long. Watch it. You’ll learn about how much creativity he put into his shows, what his budget was when he first started out in the 50s, and how he used his knowledge of children’s development to advocate for better television.

45 Years Ago — Mister Rogers Addressed Congress | The Fred Rogers Company.

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Market Value – Participating Artists | Hamilton Arts Council

A very fascinating idea is taking place in Hamilton, Ontario. Artists will be dedicating a day of work to the public, i.e., instead of developing their art in the privacy of their own studios, they’ll be developing it at Hamilton’s Farmers’ Market. Take a look:

Market Value – Participating Artists | Hamilton Arts Council.

It’s not too often that we put the working process of creativity out for public view, and for good reason: many of us, I think I can say, would be too embarrassed to put “imperfect” work in front of the public eye. As a teen and into my early 20s, I hated standing in front of someone while they read something I’d just written, e.g., a card or letter, even though it was meant to be read. If they didn’t laugh or react as I wanted them too where I thought they were reading, I’d get pretty embarrassed.

It’s also difficult to concentrate on what you’re doing when others are watching. I remember a former co-worker of mine talking about how they (protecting identity) had to write something at work while their manager watched. Kind of like writing in a school group project: each of you wants to write your thing, but the others are watching and putting in their commentary before you even get a full sentence out.

I wonder what the response to this project will be. Will it be the awe of children and adults watching a glass blower at work in a tourist area? Will it be boredom, maybe because it looks too normal? Will it be as eye-opening as the artistic community in Hamilton hopes it will be? I’m definitely looking forward to hearing/reading about reactions to this.


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Arts & Culture Magazines for Free

Download free arts & culture magazinesForgive the one-week lag in my posts. I promise, though, the reason was a good one. I had to buy a new mobile phone (the purchase itself took up most of my spare time) and then test out a new service my local library offered so I could write about it: how to stay up-to-date on the arts & culture scene with arts & culture magazines for free.

One way to keep up with arts and culture is through reading: blogs, news outlets, magazines, etc. As fun as that is, the culture sector in just Ontario alone is huge. According to a report compiled by the Ontario Arts Council and published in November 2012, 9.5 million arts & culture tourists visited Ontario overnight in 2010. They spent $4.1 billion while here, created 68,000 jobs, and contributed $1.7 billion in taxes to local governments. This includes not only the performing arts, but also historical institutes and even tourists coming to walk through towns and view the architecture.

Reading up on all of that can get expensive. I recently wanted to subscribe to a few arts & culture magazines, but having them delivered would have cost me about $100/year if I’d whittled my list down to the top two contenders. Then I checked what my local library had, and I was impressed: they had a Zinio service for library members, and I had access to about 100 magazines. Some were more popular titles like O Magazine, but others, like The New Quarterly and Canadian Art, were clearly cultural magazines. I downloaded seven magazines this week, and they’re not even on loan: I get to keep them!

I still prefer magazines and newspapers to online-only sources, because they help me focus my reading. Due to their space limitations, they have to curate what they believe is their top content for their readers. (I also like how the ads don’t flash at me or wiggle up and down to keep my visual attention.)

Zinio is much larger than just the titles my local library offers, and you’ll find every price point. The most expensive I found in the arts & culture magazines was a $150 subscription for two issues of Runway Haute Couture. The Dance Current, for example, is only $12.50 for the year compared to their paper price of $42. My only complaint about Zinio is that they miscalculated the tax on my Dance Current subscription. That was offset, though, by the $10 coupon they sent me for my first subscription.

I have a 5″ screen on my phone, so it’s a bit tiny for reading magazines. But given that I just downloaded seven this week that aren’t going to collect dust in my home, I’m willing to give the small screen a chance. If you have a tablet, you’ll likely have a better reading experience.

Check your local library to see if they offer a similar service. Who knows: you may suddenly find yourself staying up-to-date on arts & culture in your area for $0 a year instead of a few hundred.


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Tree Angels Out of Coffee Filters

Kids tree angels with coffee filters.Lori StrausI owned a coffee maker, but because I never drank the stuff, no one trusted me to make it. Ten years later, Keurig (and others) thankfully saved my guests from eternal dessert-drink dulldom. But what to do with those extra coffee filters lying around? Tree angels!

I took two coffee filters, glued them together, and attached them to a craft stick. I used a container lid as a stencil to cut out two circles for the heads. I didn’t attach the heads until the kids had decorated them, because if they wanted to colour on faces, they’d be colouring over the craft sticks.

I don’t have a demonstration photo of these angels on trees, but so long as you don’t glue the coffee filters closed, the angel should, in theory, sit on top of your Christmas tree.

You can tell which angel belongs to the younger one and which to the older one. My logic-driven, school-attending older son included all the usual features of a face and also felt that angels needed legs, too. My younger son right now loves gluing on googley eyes, so there you have it: an angel with five eyes. (“All the better to see you with, my little gift-openers.”)

I think it’s crucial that a Christmas tree call up a lot of memories in our adult lives. I’ve of course inherited a lot of our old decorations. Some of the more generic ones have found their way into the local dump to make room for newer ones. Some of the more personal ones, though, have stayed, including a few I made as a kid. These tree angels are my first attempt at helping my kids create memories for themselves.