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Deep Dive into Challenging Content and Processes… It’s Awesome!

Last week, I devoted five days to a retreat at the Omega Institute to explore mortality (in general and mine in particular), create remembrance gifts for family and friends, and craft a legacy project. I returned home, having had the time and space for deep reflection and creation.

(Photos from Long Pond Lake, the labyrinth, and the Sanctuary.)

This week, I continue my journey into project design and development, leveraging my experiences at Omega, my readings, research, and previous programming to create a new offering. The summer is off to a fabulous start!

What about you? What’s on your calendar?
What are you doing that is exciting, fun, different, necessary, and/or …?
What’s your plan for these summer months, and how’s it working?

Next month, I’m off to another retreat as I am stepping into the Portland Institute’s Art-Assisted Grief Therapy program. With my chapter about the integration of visual practitioner work into my chaplaincy internship completed, my article for the AI (Appreciative Inquiry) Practitioner about AI in “the wild”/real life well underway, and my second article on integrating Appreciative Inquiry, leadership, and visualization mapped out—I am excited! The end of July will bring, Urban Visual Storytelling, and the opportunity to sharpen my skills in graffiti with Ramiro Davaro-Comas along with fellow visual practitioners, Sketchnoters, and folks who are game to try something new*. Plus, the IFVP Summit will give me the opportunity to see colleagues from around the world and to share one of the bikablo methods of storytelling. The end of summer/early fall holds a trip to Auckland, NZ, to deliver Discover the Joy of Zentangle + Intro to Design for Trauma-Informed Teaching at the International Teaching Artist Collaborative conference. 

I’d love to celebrate your ongoing learning and development—both personal and professional. What are you up to this summer? Or maybe summer is your time to recharge, and fall will be your time to dive back into PD. What’s your thinking? I’d love to know!

 

 

 

 

* Find out more here!

What’s your kryptonite?

Mine is writing my bio…

Do you ever find it challenging to describe how you came to be where you are at this moment in your career and what you do now concisely and clearly? (I wonder if my years as a consultant and desire to learn and apply my learning work against me.) Of course, every time I write a brief biography, I tailor it to the audience, so the iterations are legion. (Okay, that was a bit of hyperbole.)

At this moment 

I’ve just completed a chapter about my choice as a chaplain to create hand-drawn illustrations to enrich my work in a hospital setting. The visuals developed were used in several ways— to support patients’ understanding of their medical options and for my own processing of and learning from my daily experiences. This almost 2,800-word piece will be part of a book on Graphic Medicine, which is about healthcare professionals and professionals using comics in their work. As you can imagine, I must write a bio of 100 words. I find myself stymied.

As I review my bios from the past few years—created for conference proposals, websites, presentations, and applications— I appreciate their specificity and feel they are insufficient in this instance. I want people to understand the fullness of who I am, and while labels or titles help, they don’t always seem to create a coherent picture because of my range of work.  Either I feel I am only revealing a slice of myself (which might be most appropriate for the task) or believe that I’m offering a cornucopia that might just cause confusion.

Which challenges do you face in writing a brief biography for various projects, work, and opportunities? What advice do you have to offer?

The half-dozen bios at my fingertips don’t quite fit the bill! Honestly, all I want to do is draw a picture of myself surrounded by titles and descriptions of aspects of my work. Or maybe share one of my visual bios that includes my education, varied work history, and ongoing professional development. And yet, that was not what was asked of me. And while I need to draw an avatar, it doesn’t feel multifaceted enough. 

Generally, I follow this plan: These are my titles/positions, here’s my foundation/academic background, this is what I’ve done with it/my experience, and this is the impact of my work. 

Here are two of the four I have drafted for this particular situation based on research into author bios… the first of which is too long yet tells more about me.

DRAFT 1

Jill Greenbaum is a contemplative chaplain and advocate of conscious living and dying. She companions people as they creatively explore their mortality, values, legacy, wishes, and plans for their end-of-life care.

Jill helped open a domestic violence shelter, directed two anti-sexual violence programs, volunteered on a medical service trip in the Himalayas, and recently designed a trauma-informed program for teaching artists. She’s a lifelong New Yorker, world traveler, and artist. 

She holds a doctoral degree in education and was a teacher, principal, and administrator in special education settings in New York City. Her consultancy work focuses on training design and development, graphic facilitation, Appreciative Inquiry coaching, and visual thinking skills. Jill completed her chaplaincy training at the Upaya Zen Center. (124 words)

DRAFT 2

Jill Greenbaum is a contemplative chaplain and advocate of conscious living and dying. She helps people creatively explore their mortality, values, legacy, wishes, and plans for their end-of-life care. Her approach centers on nurturing people’s inner strengths, resilience, and ability to become the artists of their own lives. Jill completed her chaplaincy training at the Upaya Zen Center.

She holds a doctoral degree in education from Teachers College, Columbia University. Her consultancy work focuses on graphic facilitation, training design and development, Appreciative Inquiry coaching, and teaching visual thinking skills. She is a lifelong New Yorker and world traveler. (100 words)

I need to send off my bio by Thursday not only to meet a deadline but also to stop “rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic”/tinkering at the edges of it. I’d love to hear your thoughts about them (even if you write to me after tomorrow). And if you have suggestions (especially around clarity and conciseness), I’m all ears. I am happy to return the favor should you want an extra pair of eyes on your bio. Thank you!

Great reads!

Summer reading… What did you love and learn in your explorations this summer—whether (physical) books, audiobooks, or maybe even podcasts?

While my list isn’t typical when I reflect on the phrase “summer reading” (which means “beach reads” or light fare to me),  I have loved and learned a lot. Here’s my list (beginning in late spring):

  • 10% Happier, Dan Harris
  • How to Say Good-bye, Wendy McNaughton
  • Kalyanamitra: A Model for Buddhist Spiritual Care, Rev. Dr. Monica Sanford 
  • Last Things: A Graphic Memoir About ALS, Marissa Moss 
  • Ronan and the Endless Sea of Stars, Rick Louis and Lara Antal
  • The World Could Be Otherwise, Norman Fischer
  • There is Never Anything but the Present, Alan Watts

I am in the midst of the workbook Living Fully and Dying Prepared by Francesca Lynn Arnoldy and cannot recommend it highly enough for everyone. She does in writing and through exercises what I endeavor to do in all my sessions on visual obituary creation and end-of-life planning—engaging in creative explorations of our lives and our wishes for care in our final days and weeks. This work brings a new appreciation of our present lives.

Are you looking ahead to September? I am planning new reading adventures, knowing that I have some books on my list for my studies and others that have piqued my interest. Next up for me is How to Tell a Story by The Moth, though I will listen to it in the car on my way to Maine in a few weeks. After listening to the book, I plan to call The Moth pitch line with an idea. Unbelievably, after attending the Creative Mornings program in which Catherine Burns was the speaker, I won The Moth: A Game of Storytelling! While it hasn’t arrived in the mail yet I can’t wait to open it and discover how to play. No doubt it will enhance my storytelling skills!

I’d love to hear what’s on your list—from the summer and the fall! I hope you will share!

Finding Joy in Reviewing Our Lives

Earlier this summer, I was a guest speaker for “Death Panels: Exploring Dying and Death Through Comics” at the University of Chicago’s Institute on the Formation of Knowledge. 

 My topic, “Creating a Visual Obituary,” is one of my favorites, though I have to say that I had never before facilitated this offering with graduate students. And, I had never worked with a group that had studied dying, death, caregiving, grieving, and memorialization in such depth. I was keen to discover how they would respond to the subject matter (obituaries), the 50 prompts I had created, and the activity (drawing their obituary based on the questions/prompts that resonated for them), which I had used with older audiences. 

The session was really wonderful—the 25 students were engaged, many of the students sharing their ideas and questions easily. When they split into pairs, the room became bubbled with conversation for the first 15 minutes and quiet as they each settled into drawing. 

As they shared their thoughts and feelings about the entire experience, I heard that they had integrated the themes we discussed into their work: who am I writing this for, what will I share, how do I want to be remembered, what were the highlights of my life, what challenges did I work through and how did they shape me, who have I been close with, how did I live my values, and more.

I loved the experience and plan to offer it more… it’s akin to creating your visual life story or a life review. I’ve also created a visual lineage chart—important people in my life and experiences I have had. It’s another piece that I cherish.

Are you interested in learning more? I’d love to share my ideas about sharing our memories.

If you’re curious about the hand-drawn visuals I create in support of people planning for the end of their lives (often these are folks in their 50’s and 60’s), I hope you will join the TEDxSantaBarbara Salon on August 23rd. Learn more here, and please reach out to me with your questions!

When the path is clear to me, the project gets done

I’ve been musing about several projects… Why is one at completion, another a bit of stop and go, and a third feeling both exciting and daunting?

What’s your style of working?

Do you live the adage, “How you do one thing is how you do everything?”

Is your style of work the same across the variables of

  • size of project
  • timeline
  • complexity
  • need for research
  • collaboration
  • perhaps, final approval? 

While I can make generalizations about how I work, I chafe at the literal meaning of the saying.

As I complete a project today that I started in September, I am making time to reflect… as it’s my intention to teach folks how to do what I have done. I want to be able to support them through the peaks and valleys of the process and so I am taking a magnifying glass to my journey. I think it’s also helpful to me to stand back and look at how I do what I do—there are lessons in it for me. 

When I realized how many photos I had taken of the process (who doesn’t love a photo essay?) I decided to quickly make an annotated visual timeline —such fun taking this walk down memory lane!

How do you review and reflect on your projects—appreciating and celebrating what worked well and learning for the future about what might be done differently?

Honestly, I don’t always take enough time for such reflection… Note to self, build in the time!

For my other projects, I’ve discovered…

My fifty stories/sketches about experiences with patients… I have 50+ more about my reflections

The one-page visual I am creating around how chaplains work in a hospital grew out of a need I saw in (you guessed it) my chaplaincy work… In my effort to address the need, I decided to create a useful resource for patients in hospitals (and their family members). As it turns out, this is just a bit complicated to achieve in a visual storytelling style, on one page—there’s a lot I want to say! So this project is a bit of “stop and go” as I navigate my thoughts about how to share information in a fun, accessible, visually appealing style. As time marches on, (and I do love a deadline), it will be done in just over a week so that I can put it aside, review it again in 10 days or so, make any minor revisions needed, and enjoy sharing it at the Graphic Medicine conference.

Here for Good, my graphic memoir project feels a bit like reaching through the fog at times. since I started the actual work of writing and drawing. I have never told a story this big or this long nor am I very familiar with the genre. I have lots to learn and do and sometimes I am uncertain as to my path:

  • What do I do first?
  • Which tasks can be done simultaneously? 
  • Which books will support my process? 
  • How might a mentoring group work for me? *SAW—Sequential Artists Workshop
  • Shall I seek an accountability buddy?

As you muse about my stories, what have you realized about your way of working and playing with projects?

I’d love to hear how your style or styles of work both enhance your experiences and also get in the way—there’s always something to be learned!