Cary Umhau

Let’s Get A Reality Check!

Posted by in Cary Umhau, Featured, Reality Check

Let’s Get A Reality Check!

Last night some friends and I were talking about how we all share images of ourselves on social media as if our lives were perfect. We curate impressions. We manage what we share.

When I recently posted a Facebook cover photo of myself on a swing, one friend commented, “You have such a fun life.” I wanted to rip the picture down. I felt disingenuous… because obviously I’d posted the picture to telegraph my fun quotient, my free spirit… but I was self-aware even on the swing when I saw my friend snap the photo. I realized I wanted to be seen that way. I had created a photo opp more than I had simply chosen to jump on the swing and go.

And I was caught when I saw the “You have such a fun life” comment. Because although I do have a fun life in many ways, and I definitely do have many/most elements of a very good life, and my problems are all First World problems (“Where should I go on vacation?” “Do I have time to run by Whole Foods?”)… well that’s not the whole picture. I’m often angsty, intense, or interpreting things wrong and spending too long in a people-pleasing zone. I’m often dragging around with menopausal symptoms. I’m often listening to broken records (lies) in my head telling me I’m not enough, I’m not good enough. And I don’t always feel fun.

So of course we manage what we share; I sure do. No one wants to be the poster child for a broken, messy life. No one wants to be the person who Instagrams a breakfast plate that tells the truth: that we had Eggo waffles for breakfast, Eggos with “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter!” drizzled (or glopped) on top — and that we ate that in the car while yelling at our spouse.

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Learning to See “Diamonds in the Rough” Among Us

Posted by in Cary Umhau, Featured, Reality Check

Learning to See “Diamonds in the Rough” Among Us

People thought there was no film in the camera so they usually humored the odd little man who showed up at every wedding in the town of Maryborough, Australia for nearly 50 years.

Wal Richards, an illiterate, mentally and physically disabled man, rode his bicycle to weddings and photographed them for decades, amassing 20,000 photographs that no one had ever seen until after his death in 1967. Here is a bit of his story (and be sure and see/hear the audio slide show).

The Maryborough-Midlands Historical Society has exhibited the photographs to the delight of the townspeople who had not taken Wal too seriously as he’d randomly showed up, uninvited, at weddings. But it turns out that in many cases his were the only photographic records of a particular wedding. They also serve to document a town’s marriages, relationships and social occasions as well as the fashion history of five decades.

Wal is the sort of man who would have been referred to, before it became (thankfully) politically incorrect to do so, as “the village idiot.” Our towns and cities still have such people, of course, whom we ignore, walk around, avoid, and even belittle. And we certainly don’t ascribe artistic gifts or merit to them, much less figure that they just may be providing a vital service.

Professional jobs, titles, status and prestige wow and awe us, when there are plenty of less-impressive-seeming people among us with incredible talent or simply critical jobs that really impact our lives. 

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Why subscribe to our weekly email?

Posted by in Cary Umhau, Featured, Joey Katona, Spaciousness

Why subscribe to our weekly email?

I’m Cary Umhau, Creative Director and Founder, and I welcome you to SPACIOUS! I’m simply the chief among equals of a team of people, including Co-founder and Cultural Catalyst Joey Katona, who are starting a movement that needs you!

We encourage everybody to SUBSCRIBE to our weekly email. HERE IS WHERE YOU SIGN UP! We send out one email on Wednesdays to our growing list of worldwide subscribers. We briefly talk about events in D.C. where we are piloting, but the bulk of the email is about living a more spacious life, something you can do right where you are, especially with our encouragement!

Here’s a bit more about SPACIOUS:

  • We custom-create events (often from others’ great ideas) — anything that is about fun, creativity, or generosity. We always facilitate them to help people know they belong, and we have a passion for helping people see how amazing everybody is. Think of us as a vehicle for experiencing human worth and dignity while having a blast. Recent events have included an Adult Spelling Bee, cooking with Eritrean refugees, a potluck story dinner, and Unique Day (a thrift store visit where we buy gifts for someone we just met).
  • We consult to help people bring more spaciousness (“openness to others” to state it simply) to their workplaces and professional teams, so that they and their goals flourish.
  • We are working towards physical spaces and mobile trucks where all this happens.
  • We write, speak and teach on these themes.
  • We have a helluva lot of fun with a diverse group of people.

Of course you can follow us on Twitter or Facebook, but real community happens in person and, second best, through being one of the weekly email subscribers, for whom we reserve our best sources, ideas and shout-outs.

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The SPACIOUS State Cupcake

Posted by in Cary Umhau, Empathy, Featured, Joey Katona

The SPACIOUS State Cupcake

The once-humble cupcake has had a nice long stay on the cool desserts list. I thought the bubble was going to burst, but it hasn’t. So SPACIOUS has jumped on the bandwagon, and we now have a SPACIOUS “state cupcake,” much like we have a “state dance,” a “state meal,” and a “state playlist.” We need all these things because SPACIOUS is a state; SPACIOUS is a “state of mind.” And all states have symbols (think “state bird of Florida”).

SPACIOUS celebrates our very own cupcake, created by Xiaolu Hou of 6 Bittersweets fame. Man, can she bake. And her website and food styling are gorgeous. And we’re proud to be collaborating with her.

The idea is that she created a juxtaposition of unusual flavors to represent the partnership and friendship between Joey Katona and me, an unorthodox relationship that we hope will encourage other in developing deep connections with those not obviously like them.

Things that don’t seem like they go together can sometimes be powerful combinations. Whom do you think you could collaborate with for fun and good things, perhaps someone not in your usual circles? Perhaps they are pomegranate to your red velvet, even. I’m getting ahead of myself. Read about the actual cupcake here in this excerpt from the order page of 6 Bittersweets:

**SPACIOUS Special**
Tangy, moist red velvet cake filled with tart pomegranate jelly and topped with silky smooth vanilla Swiss meringue buttercream frosting

We love what Xiaolu has conjured up. We’ll be ordering up more of these for future events, just as we continue — at SPACIOUS — to juxtapose unusual ideas, inviting people to events that they may not have experienced with people they may not usually meet.  That’s our hallmark.

And we encourage you to explore your life’s version of unusual relationships and new tastes.

And order a bunch here (if you’re in the DC region)! If not, just enjoy Xiaolu’s beautiful blog.

 


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Things I sometimes wonder about…

Posted by in Cary Umhau, Featured, Identity, Wonders

Things I sometimes wonder about…

 

 

 

 

 

 

Do “folks” really dress up like Eskimos for Christmas?

Does Richard Simmons wear that outfit to church and to the opera?

Can the cowboy and the farmer really be friends?

Has Elton John been waiting all these years to name a kid “Levon?”

When we see those we consider “downtrodden,” do we ever wonder who’s been treading?

Do fathers wake up in the night wondering if their adult children remembered to take the GPS on their trip (as mothers do)?

What’s Harriet the Spy doing now?

Did Elvis ever wear shorts?

What’s the world record for eating Krispy Kreme doughnuts? Oh, I found it: 48 doughnuts in 8 minutes. I think I can beat that.

And finally I wonder what you wonder about.

 

 

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The SPACIOUS State Playlist

Posted by in Cary Umhau, Empathy, Featured, Joey Katona, State of Mind

The SPACIOUS State Playlist

If/since SPACIOUS is a state of mind, it needs state symbols like any good state has — a state reptile, a state protein, or perhaps the more common state flag, state bird, or state dog.

We’ve already chosen a state dance, and I wrote about it here.

We’ve already chosen a state meal, the potluck, and I wrote about that.

Today we’re celebrating a SPACIOUS playlist that my partner Joey and I have co-created. Yes, it represents the weird combination that we are — 23 and 51 years old, respectively. And Joey is a love-to-go-to-shows sort of guy, and I am a love-to-get-to-bed-early-to-read gal.

Perhaps you can figure out who contributed which songs from the songs themselves or from the descriptions:

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Before You & I Die…

Posted by in Cary Umhau, Creativity, Featured, Identity, Joey Katona

Before You & I Die…

What do you want to do before you die?

Art installation walls asking that question are popping up around the world. D.C. is sporting one down near Logan Circle at 14th & Q Streets, NW. You can read about it in The Washington Post.

I’ve loved visiting; I went twice in the first three days. It’s such a joy to see the connections made between people who are simply stopping by to add something or to read the entries. And it’s fascinating to read what people are writing.

I love it that the Post article says that the D.C. one is more multi-lingual than others and that we are a bunch of do-gooders. Not a shock. I love my gloriously intense city.

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Washington Post features SPACIOUS

Posted by in Cary Umhau, Featured, Joey Katona, Spaciousness

Washington Post features SPACIOUS

Emily Wax of the Washington Post has more or less written my blogpost for me today. Because how can I improve on her story about SPACIOUS and other cool organizations that are advocating and facilitating play!?

Here’s the story, which graced the cover of the STYLE section in the print version of the Post.

We’re definitely about recess. Add to that a desire that people are known deeply, that we banish “us and them” thinking, that we realize our creativity and practice generosity, and that’s what SPACIOUS is about.

Thanks to Emily Wax and to photographer Evy Mages (and to our friend Mitko Gerensky for his video of our pie fight at our recent adult recess day).

It’s so much fun to be featured in the Post, and we’re already seeing new connections and new relationships develop as a result. That’s what it’s all about!

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The Clues Were There

Posted by in Cary Umhau, Featured, Identity

The Clues Were There

If I’d met you when you were three, what would I have been able to predict about your future loves and passions? Because the clues were likely there.

I’m a big believer that we are most ourselves in elementary school and the young years, and that, sadly, we then often go off in directions of people pleasing, familial expectations, and “shoulds” and thus move away from what we were made to do.

My own theology includes the idea that we were each prepared with good works to do, and it sure makes sense to me that the things we’d do in the world, the beauty we’d create, the gifts we’d exercise for the flourishing of our culture… well, it makes sense to me that those would develop organically from the raw material of US.

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SPACIOUS beyond the blog

Posted by in Cary Umhau, Featured, Joey Katona, Spaciousness

SPACIOUS beyond the blog

Many of you simply read our blog. And a “thank you” is in order. But there’s so much more to SPACIOUS than the blog that I wanted to take the opportunity to fill you in on who and what we are if you only know our blog.

SPACIOUS came about after years of dreaming and praying. I’ve long wanted to do something radical that does nothing less than create the space for people to reimagine the worth of everybody they run into and to begin experiencing more freedom in life, more love, more connection, more of everything.

In an increasingly complex world, people tend to insulate themselves with people like themselves and take in information from only the sources they agree with.  Yet at the same time, people idealize globalization and yearn for one, connected society.

The Internet is where we spend much of our time.  That creates an illusion of unity, logistically keeping us connected to far-flung people while at the same time isolating us and preventing in-person connecting, even with our friends, much less people we wouldn’t normally meet.

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