After ALT: The Value of Friends by Leslie Fandrich

Photo by Justin Hackworth

Photo by Justin Hackworth

I am one lucky girl. I have the most incredible friends. The gorgeous picture above of Jen Cooper, Jill Vaughn and myself was taken by Justin Hackworth. It is one of my most treasured take aways from ALT. These girls were my roommates and my goodness, I really do love them. I have lots to say about ALT, there were so many fabulous moments, new people to meet and incredible experiences to share, but what I want to say first is how much I love my ladies.

Just look at these guys:

Smilebooth photos from the Method/ Girls With Glasses  Friday night Mini-party.

Smilebooth photos from the Method/Girls With Glasses Friday night Mini-party.

These ladies are my brain trust. In the isolated world of writing, blogging and making art, you need a group that you can turn to for trusted advice and support. They have my back and they ensure that I am not letting self doubt, lack of confidence or naivety influence the decisions I make surrounding my business. In a traditional workplace, you have co-workers or a board of directors. I have a posse of fierce women who will mug with me in a photo booth at a Clue themed party. (I was Mr. Green in the Billards Room with the revolver.)

Photo by Brooke Dennis

Photo by Brooke Dennis

If you find yourself drawn to a few people, formalize your brain trust with a private Facebook group, weekly emails and video chats or a message board. Find or set up a photo booth and take awesome pictures! Stay in touch with each other and offer (and ask!) for support and encouragement whenever it's needed.

I feel very lucky to have had amazing groups of friends over the years. My college brain trust is in touch less frequently, but still a very important part of my life. See that tattoo on my wrist? That is for them. I am still in touch with the group of New York co-workers that I had ten years ago despite most of us relocating all over the country. I also joined a Mom's Group when I became a mother and currently have local Mom friends who I can turn to for advice and get togethers with the kids. And then there are my sisters, the ultimate in brain trusts, right?

Do you have a crew of people that you trust and enjoy working or spending time with? Cultivating those relationships while we work on what is important to us is just as critical to our success as the work that we are doing.  

Photo by Justin Hackworth

Photo by Justin Hackworth

Today, make a list of your brain trust people and send them a message to let them know you value their presence in your life. This crazy life is all the better for the fantastic people that we share it with.


Some Things Take Time by Leslie Fandrich

My friend Jill called me yesterday to see if she could take me out to lunch. I don't know what I've done to deserve a friend like this in my life, but I hope that you have a friend like this too. She knew I was not feeling great this week, and after we ate, talked about what we were working on and roamed the antique store next door, she gave me this:


It was exactly what I needed to hear.

One of the hardest things about being inspired and having a long list of awesome things you want to do and make, is that it takes sooo long for these things to happen. Proper things grow slowly and deliberately and need time to become what they are supposed to become. There are so many steps, but as Sandra reminded me too, you can only take one step at a time.

Then, I read the back of the card, and I cried. Because she said some really nice things about me that I know, but are so damn nice to hear from someone that isn't married to me or shares my DNA. (The nice things from my family count too, but in a very different way.)

It felt really good, to be seen like that and to be reminded to just take a deep breath and let things happen as they should. Because they will and you know what else? They already are. 

It's so easy to get overwhelmed with all the things on a to do list, all the decisions that need to made, research that needs to be done and work that needs to happen and forget about all the things that have been crossed off already.

So today, I am here to remind you what Jill and Sandra reminded me. Some Things take Time and even if you are moving forward at what feels like a snails pace, you are moving forward. And that is enough. Also - if you know someone who is working hard, tell them, they might really need to hear it.

Head Exploding in a Mighty Way by Leslie Fandrich

I'm back from Palm Springs and my second visit to Camp Mighty. (Here's the first) I decided to go back to keep up the momentum, continue my personal and creative growth and to see people who I know and love online but don't see in person very often. You just can't beat those face to face interactions and hugs. I also wanted to meet more amazing people and boy, did I. There is no shortage of amazing, fun, colorful and awesome people at this event.

Rocking the ACE sign, in the classic Camp Mighty portrait.

Rocking the ACE sign, in the classic Camp Mighty portrait.

This year had some significant changes that I thought made it more fun and informative. The afternoon sessions were more business oriented, focusing on creative projects, and the final dinner was family style, with everyone together in the same room at huge tables. There was the same amount of inspiration, teary moments and crazy space party shenanigans. The people that were presenting and attending were equally as amazing as last year, but this time I knew more of them before I arrived.

There were WAY less nerves and social anxiety for me and I felt so much more confident and relaxed. I also spent more time in the hot tub. It's really my favorite place at the Ace Hotel. It's always so good, warm and happy. On the final night, way past my bedtime, we saw shooting stars. It was a perfect way to end the weekend.

Smile Booth friends! Me with  Melanie ,  Jill , Elizabeth,  Sandra  and  Sheri . Here's  another one I love  .  (Also - Elizabeth? You need a blog! Your name is all naked and unlinked!)

Smile Booth friends! Me with Melanie, Jill, Elizabeth, Sandra and Sheri. Here's another one I love. (Also - Elizabeth? You need a blog! Your name is all naked and unlinked!)

I've got so much to share and I'm pretty sure I can't do it all at once or even all this week, but I promise to share the things that I learned and experienced with you soon. My first thing to tackle will be my pictures. I shot some good ones you guys. I'll be editing those and posting them on Flickr as soon as I can. And the learning, wow, we heard some good stuff. I'm going to figure out a cool way to share that too. 

Until then, have you started your life list yet? It's really time for you to do that. I'm telling you, it will CHANGE YOUR LIFE.

If you were there, leave a comment below and tell me what you thought of the event! (Link to your blog if you've posted about it already.)

More soon. xo

Scenes of Summer by Leslie

We are lucky to have beautiful friends with beautiful children who invite us over for picnics and parties. Summer so far has been pretty much perfect, with lots of those things that summer requires: watermelon, salads, flowers, bathing suits, grilled chicken, hamburgers and hot dogs, ice cream, raspberries, water, late nights, fireworks, carnivals, friends, you get the idea. It's been great and I'd like it to last forever.

How has summer been for you so far? What are your favorite summer requirements?

Camp Mighty Reunion in NYC by Leslie

A bunch of my Camp Mighty compatriots and I got together in Brooklyn over the weekend for a little reunion. We were strangely color coordinated, and Amber and I ended up accidentally wearing the identical dress. Identical! What the what? Of all the dresses in the world, we choose the same one. It was perfect. The rest of the beautiful people had on shades of blue and grey and both Margit's husband and mine were wearing handsome tweed-ish jackets. There were 2 Robs, 2 Chris', 2 Marks and it was just all so weirdly MATCHY. I like that kind of thing. It's so lovely when things line up and seem to follow some mysterious logic. It's as if the universe all makes sense for a moment.

Jen and Chris were wonderful to host the get together and had a whole spread of food and drinks to keep us content. They have a wonderful apartment in Brooklyn with a giant balcony that is almost unheard of in NYC. Erica had flown in from Canada with her boyfriend Rob to work on an item on her life list: to see every NHL team play, which they did the next day when they saw the Bruins and Rangers play at Madison Square Garden. It was also their first trip to NYC! We gifted Amber with a new book and a promise to read it with her and chat about it over the internet, to fulfill her life list item of being in a book club. Which fulfills an item on MY life list, which is to help 5 people with an item on their life list. I love how these thing pile up into a big heap of awesome. Rebecca and Robbie had also flown in, from Milwaukee, to come to the party and visit the city. It was quite a gathering of fantastic people.

Surprising Amber with a book club:

Life List progress report for our little group since last November:

Amber: Commissioned a piece of art, made a Baked Alaska with Jen and joined (was forced into?) a book club.

Anna: Training for a triathlon in March, taking swim lessons so she can learn how to swim laps and planning a super fabulous stress free wedding.

Chris: Gave his mother-in-law a big sack of Xmas presents and booked tickets for a trip to Japan.

Erica: Completed NaBloPoMo in November and saw the Bruins and the Rangers play hockey at Madison Square Garden bringing the total number of NHL teams she has seen live to 8 out of 30.

Jen: Got bangs and started working with a fabulous artist/illustrator to redesign her blog.

Jill: Taught herself to knit, started decorating her bedroom with a professional interior designer, began working with a design studio on a blog redesign and has submitted articles for print publication.

Leslie (that's me!): Had family portraits taken, volunteered 20 hours at her son's elementary school, attended ALT Summit, wrote a Photo 101 article and got feedback, started folding origami creatures and booked tickets for a spa day with her sister Jill.

Margit: Travelled to Asia, rode an elephant in Thailand and bought a comfortable couch.

Rebecca: Built bookshelves with her Dad and photographed the Yucca brevifolia of Joshua Tree National Park.

Robbie: Solved Rubik's cube, ran a 5K and planted a tree.

We've been so busy! It's amazing what you can do if you set intentions and goals, write them down, share them and ask for help. These simple principles of Camp Mighty are so empowering.

Below is an outtake from the group picture, which is way more accurate of how the night was going versus the perfectly posed picture at the top of the post. We had so much fun! Check out a few more pictures from Rebecca

I have a bunch of other posts about Camp Mighty, so be sure to check those out too if you want to get in on the action and play along. Just click on the "Camp Mighty" tag at the bottom of the post. Have you written your life list yet (here's mine) and started achieving your (big and small) dreams? It's never too late.

Still on Vacation by Leslie

We are still on vacation here in Canada. Chris has gone home and it's just me and the two kiddos in Calgary with my sister. We've been having so much fun with friends and family, playing in the sun and enjoying our time with everyone. 

I had high hopes of publishing while I was here, but it just hasn't happened. Sorry about that, but I will have lots to tell when I get home next week.

My thoughts are with my Mom, who is going through a bit of a health crisis right now, and my cousins who have had to move out of their home due to fire and smoke damage from a destructive fire in the house next door to them. It feels like the universe is still dealing out some challenges to those around me and it makes me appreciate even more the beautiful moments of connection that I have had with them while I am here.

Milo and Quinn are blissfully unaware and just continue to enjoy each and every moment of fun that we are having. Thank goodness for the wonderful innocence of children.

We are off to the Stampede Parade tomorrow morning and I hope to catch a glimpse of the Duke and Duchess. Otherwise, the parade should be a wonder for the boys with all the horses, bands and floats. They've never seen something this big before. 

Late Night Out at a Brooklyn Party by Leslie

Last Saturday we dropped the kids off with Chris's sister, setting aside worries we had about their two huge husky dogs, and headed into Brooklyn for a rare night out. I think the last time we went out for a late evening was in Boston to see Amanda Palmer in Cabaret.

It's hard for us to leave our kids. We miss them, we worry about them, and up until just a short while ago it was still hard for our youngest, Quinn, to be away from us at night. While we were in Boston, he had a pretty rough night with my Mom. This time though, he was pretty content with his aunt and uncle and there wasn't any crying during the night. Ya Hoo! I believe we may be able to finally make a habit of this. 

We were in Brooklyn for the 11th Anniversary of our French friends Fred and Zoe. They certainly know how to throw a party! Fred and Zoe are that couple that is sexy, in love and full of energy. It's so fun to celebrate their marriage with them. There was great food and dancing and we stayed late and reveled in our night out on the town. 

We were excited to see old friends and we met a bunch of new friends, some experienced city parents, who were interested in our country living, especially the part about the bears right outside our front door! It was an interesting contrast, this city-country thing. As much as I miss the city and dream about living there, I do love my life out here where things are a bit simpler. It's quieter and I think my life is less stressful. The kids love it and I think being surrounded by nature is important when you are young. So while all those city parents are grateful to be in the city where there are no bears, I'm grateful to be where I am too. Although we agreed a little house swapping might not be a bad idea.

So it was a grand night out on the town, a great success and I hope we can do it again. I am thrilled that the kids are old enough to happily be away from us for a night. Could this mean that we could plan a weekend away? That would be bliss.

God's Highway Video by Leslie

Our friend Petter filmed a video for Swedish singer Tobias Froberg and it features Chris's race track! It's a beautiful video, elegant and sweet, and I think it's pretty cool that we were a part of it. My favorite part is the crash sequence and the night shot of all the cars driving by that dissolves into a day shot on the same part of the track. They were at our house for an afternoon and while Petter, Ryan and Chris filmed in the basement, Petter's girlfriend Serena and I played with Milo upstairs. It was such a fun day! Serena plays the girl in the video. She's a fabulous up-and-coming actress that you can see in The Architect and The Bucket List with Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman.

The Big 3-OH by Leslie

Well, it's been a very busy month, so I'm just finally getting to posting about my fabulous surprise birthday party that Chris threw for me on September 9th. It was amazing, he had me completely fooled and to top the whole thing off, my sister secretly flew all the way from Canada and appeared from behind a giant box shortly after I arrived at the party. It was so surreal and exciting. We had a wonderful time outside, under the stars, at a beautiful restaurant called Battery Gardens on the southern tip of Manhattan across from the Statue of Liberty. The food was delicious, the drinks were flowing and there were people there that I hadn't seen in a long time. The night went by too quickly though! Before I knew it there were about ten of us left drinking a bottle of Patron Tequila. We were asked to leave so they could close up the restaurant. We didn't want to end the party, so we brought the 30 balloons that had decorated the patio with us out to the boardwalk. The girls in skirts had a few Marilyn Monroe moments on an air grate and we celebrated just little longer. It was a night to remember!