Synchronicity, Good PR, or Algorithms

Is it a message from the Universe or just trying to sell us something?

Every once in a while, I have a day when I can’t help but think that I’m getting a message from the universe. But is it synchronicity, good PR, or algorithms?

One day last week, it was a subject that kept showing up in my email. The first message resonated because it gave me some ammunition for something I had already been thinking about. Later, a second message on the same topic came from a completely different source. To me, it was a pretty strong message from the universe that it was time to put my thoughts into action.

It convinced me that it was time to write this blog post.


For Carl Jung, who coined the term, synchronicity happens when a cluster of unrelated phenomena create a meaningful coincidence. Sudden hunches and stochastic operation also fall under the umbrella of synchronicity. Like you are thinking about someone who you haven’t talked to for a while, then they call you. Or you open a random book to a random page and find a message that addresses a quandary you’ve been having.

I was formally introduced to the concept of synchronicity reading The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. For Julia, synchronicity is a way that, “…the universe falls in with worthy plans and most especially with festive and expansive ones.”

Part of synchronicity is just awareness. Part of it is magic, like when I was looking for a hutch for my kitchen and came upon one that someone had put out on the curb.

As Julia puts it, “First, choose what you would do. The how usually falls into place of itself.”

Basically, the universe is constantly sending you messages, providing paths with which to accomplish your goals. Synchronicity happens when you are paying attention and notice these messages.

Which is super fun. But are these always messages from the universe? I mean, I can accept that sometimes the universe is telling me that I should buy the smelly candle, but sometimes, it might be another force.

Good PR

Just to clarify: I’m referring to the entire marketing communications umbrella.

There are a lot of people in the world who are gainfully employed in the endeavor of getting other people to pay attention to something. One of my favorite things, communication strategy, is simply an exercise in plotting out what you want to say (your message), who you want to say it to (your audience), and how you are going to get your message to your intended audience in order to accomplish your objective.

The whole point is increasing awareness of whatever it is (an organization, a product, a policy).

Sometimes good PR is obvious, but sometimes it feels very organic, like the idea just popped into your head. How do you know it wasn’t synchronicity?


Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

I can’t explain the mechanics of it, but we all know that our digital lives are shaped by computer algorithms. I use Google to look up a lot of terminology when I’m writing; now Google knows that the first search result to show me is a definition.

And then there’s social media. Just because I keep seeing ads on Facebook and Instagram for smelly candles does not mean that the universe is telling me to buy smelly candles (although I probably will at some point, I love smelly candles).

So, is it synchronicity, good PR, or algorithms?

In The Art of Impossible, Steven Kotler talks about how our brain is a pattern recognition system, our own internal algorithm.

When we set up our internal algorithm properly, we are primed to notice synchronicity. Steven calls this supplying the pattern recognition system with ammunition.

He recommends doing this by feeding it lots of information. Don’t just troll the internet, read books, listen to podcasts, go for walks, talk to people – give your pattern recognition system lots of data from different sources.

By doing so, we become our own PR manager and synchronicity follows.

Because don’t we all want to be in tune to receiving messages from the Universe?

Art or Craft, What’s the Difference?

Questions About Art, Crafts, and Meaning Making

Do you have some sort of creative expression? Do you write? Or paint? Or sew? Do you make decorative objects? Utilitarian objects?

Do you consider the product of your effort art? Or craft?

A while back, I found a show on PBS called Closer to the Truth that was ostensibly about art and meaning. I was expecting some insights from neuroscience or a conversation about symbology. It turned out that the show was basically just white, male, Eurocentric gatekeeping. I was really disappointed by the lack of breadth in the perspectives presented.

I had been looking to learn something new or feel enlightened, instead I got a bit fired up. Isn’t there a universality in meaningful art? Because it expresses something about the human condition to which a diverse audience can relate. You know, the collective unconscious and all that jazz.

I decided that I wasn’t willing to accept something as art “because someone else said so,” anymore. So I started looking for a better way to answer the question of what is art and what is craft.

One common answer that I kept coming across is that art expresses ideas beyond the scope of the form whereas craft serves human objectives (well-being and fulfillment of expectations). But are these mutually exclusive?

Monet at the DeYoung, 2019

Maybe the Dictionary Can Help

Art and craft are both valued as products of human effort. Definitions of craft indicate that there is an expectation of a certain, demonstrable level of proficiency.

But I think that proficiency is as necessary for the production of art as a certain amount of creativity and freedom of expression is desirable in a craft. A ballerina or a writer would be called an artist although they both work every day their craft.

For some reason, thinking about proficiency reminded me of what Mr. Densley, my 8th grade art teacher, used to say, “Even Picasso learned how to draw it how it looks before he could draw it how it doesn’t look.”

Can we determine what is art versus what is craft based on the materials used or the method by which a work is created?

An Inch of Art for a Week … or was it a craft?

If Not How, Then What?

There are many things that are considered art which are created with common materials. Think about seeing an Eames chair made from molded plastic being displayed in an art museum. Or art made from junk like the work of Noah Purifoy.  

Maybe craft is the creation of a utilitarian object and art is nonfunctional? But what about the art of fashion? Clothing, despite how fanciful or decorative or imaginative it may be, is still a utilitarian object, isn’t it?

Maybe art is the creation of one, unique artifact whereas crafts are things that can be replicated?

But then what about Monet’s many, many iterations of his water lilies?  Or the performing arts? A symphony or a play must be replicated to be experienced as the artist intended. Or objects that are mass produced?  How do we reconcile the work of Andy Warhol?

My creativity doll and her pet cat

The Process Or The Product

I was talking to an executive from a local arts organization, and I mentioned my conundrum to her. Her answer: art is the idea and craft is the execution of the idea. I like this definition very much although it speaks more to the process than the product (that is a whole other rabbit hole we may want to explore another day).

Now I’m wondering:

Is the distinction between art and craft even useful? Necessary?

Maybe what I’m suggesting is that we can all be more critical about finding ways to consider creative work on its own merits and making up our own minds as to what we feel is meaningful regardless of whether someone else chooses to call it a work of art or a craft.

I would LOVE to know what you think.

Creativity Doll

Long story short: I’m working through this creativity program. I’m part of a group and we meet every week, it’s a whole thing. I’ll go into more detail about it later, today I want to tell you about one of the exercises I just got to do.

The assignment was to make a creativity doll. And that was the whole exercise.  Whatever that meant to you, you were supposed to create.

I instantly knew that I wanted to make a rag doll. Like my childhood Raggedy Ann doll. Like Raggedy Ann, my creativity doll would have a candy heart. But she would also have magical sparkly things in her head.  And I wanted to create her completely out of supplies that I already had around the house.

She’d have a green dress, a flamingo print pinafore, a sweet face, and I could use some satin ribbon to make little ballet shoes for her.

I told Mr. Man about my plan.  He asked if she would have a cat.  You know, I had been thinking about that, but I wasn’t sure if I would be able to pull it off.  And then, when I started gathering all of my supplies, I found a little bag full of felt cut-out cats.  Oh yes, she would have a cat!

I corralled all my supplies in one location and was ready to get to work.  Where to start?  Maybe it would be a good idea to look for a pattern.  Ok, Pinterest, whatcha got for me?  Wow, there was a lot there.

Once I recovered from Pinterest overload, I decided to make my own pattern.  She was MY creativity doll after all. So, I drew out the shape that I wanted, then I cut out the pieces, traced them each again, and added a ½ inch seam allowance.  Then I used those pieces to cut her out of off-white linen that had been purchased several years ago for a kaftan that has yet to be made.

After she was pieced together, it was time to get the sparkles for her head.  My original thought had been Christmas tinsel, but I realized that I didn’t want to dig it out of the back of the garage. I found a rhinestone necklace from the flea market (another unrealized project) and smiley face confetti.  And a few sweet pea seeds. Who wouldn’t have wonderful ideas with all of those treasures in their head?

The only purchase for her was a bag of candy hearts (one for her, the rest for Mr. Man). It just felt important that she have a candy heart like Raggedy Ann. I used clear nail polish to give it a clear coat before placing it.

Now that she was dressed, the poor dear needed something nicer for her hair.  I used all the remaining embroidery floss to make her a fringe. It wasn’t enough for a full head of hair, but it was much better than just magic marker.

At the end of the day, this reminded me why I’m so hesitant to get started on projects like this.  Once you have your idea formed and pull all of your materials together, its going to be a long haul. I may try to make her a nicer top for her dress and maybe a petticoat, but for now, she can sit on the windowsill with her cat and grow happy, sparkly thoughts.

Estate Secrets

My writing club had a flash fiction contest so I made my first attempt at writing a 1,000 word short story.  The writing prompt was:

The wacky antiques dealer took pictures near a broken refrigerator about an hour ago to discover the secret.

Here is my story:

Estate Secrets

I never expected this to be my life. 

Sure, getting into the estate sale business seemed like a good idea.  Think about getting paid to go through someone else’s lifetime accumulation of treasures.  Imagine being the one to discover that rare item that would send Leigh and Leslie Keno into a tizzy.  Every day would be an adventure of discovery!

I’ll tell you what, it’s not like that.

What it is like is long, dirty days of sorting through mountains of someone else’s junk, trying to create some semblance of organization in order to encourage today’s hoarders – excuse me, I mean my future clients – to pay me for the privilege of taking as much stuff as possible off of my hands.

Our fiduciary responsibility to the estate means that my team has to go through every item, catalogue it, and research its value.  We can’t just skip the piles of magazines and overflowing linen closets, and we can’t make someone a bro deal to get them to take that 120-piece collection of Waterford crystal.  It is tedious and often smelly work.

I never thought that I would say this, but I should have listened to my father and gone to law school after all.

I’ve been in the estate sale business for long enough that I thought that I had seen it all.  I mean, did I tell you about the crazy cat lady who, in addition to the dozen living cats which were the beneficiaries of her estate, had a collection of nearly 3,000 cat objects?  Sure, plenty were from the Dollar Store, but there were also dozens and dozens of Baccarat and Lalique crystal and Herend porcelain figurines. We’re talking hundreds of thousands of dollars of cat tchotchkes.

Then there was the guy who had every issue of Playboy magazine from 1953 through 2003.  Someone bought the entire set.  And yes, we did wear gloves the entire time we were at that house. 

But this house really took the cake.

This tutor-style bungalow has always been something of a landmark in town.  Let’s just say that no one else had a Stonehenge-style garden folly in their front yard, much less one illuminated with gas-powered, flaming torches (at least until the fire marshal had something to say about it).  And, I have to admit that I was looking forward to getting to see what was inside…until I did.

I was expecting to find the suit of armor, the elaborately carved, throne-like chairs next to the fireplace, and the endless yards of heavy, red, velvet curtains.  I was not surprised by the well-stocked library with floor-to-ceiling shelves of leather-bound, first editions.  Frankly, I was not even surprised when we were cataloguing the library and discovered the volume that revealed a secret passage.

What we found when we explored the passage was surprising to say the least.  Horrifying is probably a better word.  But in spite of how disturbing it was, it was not illegal and was no reason for us not to carry out our responsibilities in terms of liquidating the estate. 

A rare book dealer from Archer City, Texas had agreed to take the entire collection site-unseen so we wouldn’t have to worry about having the library accessible to the parade of antiques dealers and lookie-loos who we were expecting for the sale.  We moved on to the kitchen.


It was the first day of the sale.  I peeked out at the line of early birds and my heart sank.  Roger, that wacky antiques dealer from Glendora was at the front of the line, pontificating about the home’s provenance and extemporizing about the value of the items that he expected to find.

The doors opened and we admitted the first 15 from the line.  The house was immediately buzzing with the excited energy of the treasure hunters.  It was a welcome relief from the ominous feeling that had come over my entire team after we found the chamber.  Now if only we could get Roger out of here before he discovered the secret.

From the moment he walked in the door, it was clear that he was not here to shop.  Watching him snooping around the fireplace and tugging on the sconces in the hall, I knew that it was just a matter of time before he asked me why we had placed that enormous credenza in front of the locked door to the library.  I did enjoy letting him know that Larry McMurtry had already wired the funds for the contents of the library and that there was nothing in there for him to see.

With a sniff, he proceeded to the kitchen.

“Why isn’t the refrigerator priced?” he asked Monica.

“Oh, it’s broken, and we don’t know that it is reparable, so the family chose not to put it up for sale,” she replied in her fantastically, disdainful manner. 

What did he think she was going to say? “Oh, it’s a second passageway to the most horrible thing that I have ever seen,”  Monica was too smart for Roger’s games.

He sniffed again.  “Well, you won’t mind if I take a few photos so that I can look up the model then. I may still be interested.”

The only thing interesting about that refrigerator was its secret.


About an hour later, I came through the kitchen to check on Monica.

“I didn’t see Roger leave; do you know where he went?”

She shrugged and glanced toward the broken refrigerator, “You know those wacky antiques dealers,” she deadpanned, “sometimes they just disappear right out from under your nose.”

The End

An Intro to Chakras – Svadhisthana

“He who meditates upon this stainless Lotus, which is named Svadhisthana, is freed immediately from all his enemies…and is like the sun illuminating the dense darkness of ignorance.”

Description of the Six Centres, Verse 18

Svadhisthana – the sacral chakra

The next chakra is svadhisthana, the sacral chakra. This is the chakra of emotions and creativity.  Within the body, svadhisthana is located in the region of the sacrum, where the spine connects to the pelvis.

When svadhisthana is not activated, we exist in a psychic state where we just want to live in a carefree and hedonistic way.  Wilhelm Hauer (a Tantric scholar and contemporary of Jung) described it as, “the life we live freely and thoughtlessly, just throwing ourselves into the stream of life and letting ourselves be carried, floating on to all that comes to us.”

In modern descriptions, svadhisthana is assigned the color orange, but in the traditional texts, the six petals of the mandala are described as being of a vermillion (bright red) color.  It is associated with the element of water, symbolized by the silver crescent moon within the mandala.

The animal contained within the mandala is a makara (crocodile or sea monster).  This is the only chakra whose mandala contains a scary animal.  To Jung the svadhisthana chakra contains the idea of a symbolic death complete with confronting the danger of being drowned or devoured by the makara.  He relates this not only to the act of baptism but also to the sun myth found in ancient cultures such as the Egyptians and the Greeks.  I found his equating the whole baptismal story to the sun myth very enlightening.  Here is how he explains it,

“…the sun in the afternoon is getting old and weak, and therefore he is drowned; he goes down into the western sea, travels underneath the waters (the night sea journey) and comes up in the morning reborn in the East.  So, one would call the second chakra, the chakra of baptism, or of rebirth, or of destruction – whatever the consensus of the baptism may be.”

– Carl Jung, The Psychology of Kundalini Yoga

Jung’s interpretation is even more interesting if considered with regard to creativity.  Think about the fear that can accompany your desire to express yourself creatively.  For example, I have a lot of fear concerning writing these posts about chakras.  I have fear every time I get ready to start a new creative project. Is this going to be too hard?  Am I going to be able to make something good enough? Do I have what I need (either the experience or the materials) to complete this?  The fear keeps me from starting.  But at some point, I have to take a deep breath and dive in.  Face the monster and come out the other side with the satisfaction of knowing that the idea inside of me has been released into the world. 

Think about it like going for a swim in the ocean.  You can stand near the shore and keep getting pounded by the break or you can take a deep breath and dive in, and when you come out on the back side of the waves, you realize how much easier it was to act than to let your fear keep you stuck where you were.

Next week we will talk about manipura – where you arrive when you are reborn after your symbolic death.

My Midlife Cabaret

Calm down!  This post is not about my midlife cabaret.  I promise that I am going to stick to only singing in the car with the stereo turned up all the way (I don’t want to hear my singing either).

No, this is about a one-woman show that a friend of mine invited me to.  His friend from college had written/produced/was starring in it.  He knows that I am always up for an adventure and that I love interesting theatre. When he brought it up, I enthusiastically said “yes!” immediately.  What was there to consider?  A one-woman show in a performance space above a bar in North Hollywood on a Sunday night?  I am hard-pressed to come up with a reason to ever go to the valley, but Juliet Fischer-Schulein’s My Midlife Cabaret certainly was one.

Getting there was surprisingly reasonable (getting anywhere in LA in under 30 minutes is always a surprise).  We found our seats (right up front and center) and settled in.  I quickly realized that I was probably the only person in the place who didn’t actually know Juliet.  Everyone who did (basically everyone else there) was so nice which was great reflection on her, and I was looking forward to getting to meet her after the show.

The pianist and drummer took their places on the teeny, tiny stage.  The first thought that flashed through my mind was the poetry reading scene from So I Married An Axe Murderer (don’t you just love that movie?).  How great would it be if this show was all beat-style poetry and chain smoking?  It wasn’t of course, this was a cabaret after all.

Well, I certainly didn’t have to wait until after the show to get to know a whole lot about Juliet. She was a Rockette!  She got in trouble for kicking too high.  She had this whole wonderful life in her twenties performing on Broadway in A-list musicals.  And then she met her now-husband, fell in love, and decided to give up her career for happily-ever-after suburban life behind the orange curtain.

She was very open about the not-a-Hallmark-movie parts of her life that led her to create this show.  We’re around the same age and I could totally relate to what she was talking about (except for the part about having kids – I never fell for that trick).  Much in the way that she lost herself to her mommy-life in her thirties, I lost myself to my work-life during those years.

#midlifecrisis, #cliché, #trueanyway

I was just so proud of her.  For being so talented and disciplined, for keeping herself in great shape (she would have gotten in trouble for kicking too high if the Rockettes police had been there), for creating this whole show herself, and for being so open and brave to talk about things that are really hard for people to admit.

Today, if someone asked me how I knew Juliet, I would tell them that had seen her show and that she is my sister.  I’m so excited that she has rediscovered her creative voice and look forward to hearing what else she has to say (or sing).  I would like to thank her for inspiring and encouraging me to continue working on my creative path without even knowing it.

Here’s a short YouTube video about the show.

Neighborhood Art and Walking

There are always so many wonderful activities in our neighborhood. Generally, I neglect to take advantage of any of them. Fortunately, one of my neighbor friends is good at making the most of these opportunities and she invited me along for an open studio tour in our neighborhood the other weekend.

I had no idea how many working artists there are in our neighborhood.  We visited just a few of those closest to us.  Our adventure was also a great chance to get my steps in for the day – bonus!

It was so neat to get to meet these neighbors, be welcomed into their home studios, and learn about their work.

One of the artists we visited is a well-known architect (I recognized his name, but I can’t remember it now of course) who is retired and now makes whimsical found-object art.  Many of his pieces incorporated beer bottle caps.  I told him about the beer bottle caps that I have been collecting for a project that I haven’t started yet. He was genuinely interested and made me promise to come back next year with photos.  So now I have a deadline (which is SO helpful for me).  Don’t worry, I will be blogging about this project once I get around to it.

At another stop the woman told us about how she decided to create “love” themed artwork in order to bring more love into the world. She decided that she would create one piece of “love” themed art every day. I thought that was a very nice idea.  Most of her pieces are fun hand lettering doodles, some more elaborate than others.  It was interesting to see the volume of work she created around just this one idea.  She told us that she found it also served as a mindfulness exercise to remind her to be loving in all her actions daily.  It served as a touchstone for her.

I thought it was very loving when she asked us both what kind of art we make.  Before, I would have muttered some lame excuse that I used to be a dancer, and draw and paint a long time ago, blah, blah, blah.  I have to tell you guys that I had a shiny feeling in my heart when I told her that these days, I was focusing on my writing and that I had started a blog.  It was special for me to be able to have a definite answer about how I’m directing my creative energy.  I still have too many ideas about things that I would like to be creating, but at least now, I have one thing that I have committed to doing regularly.

This woman also had a whole series that she had created on one-inch squares of different kinds of paper.  She said that it was inspired by a time that she didn’t feel like she had time to create art daily.  She decided that she always had at least enough time to create 1” square of art and that some days that would be enough.  When we were leaving, she gave us both a handful of squares and told us that we could also find enough time, energy, and motivation to make 1” of art.  I’m looking forward to designating a week to try it out and will be sure to share the results with you when I do.

I don’t know what the favorite part of this adventure was for me.  The top things that come to mind are:

  • Meeting new neighbors.
  • Looking at different, interesting artwork.
  • Being inspired and encouraged to create my own work.
  • Spending time walking/talking with my neighbor friend.