Order of the Good Write

That Magic Feeling When the Words Flow. A Blog by Debi Rotmil

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The ABC’s of How a Brand Makes you Feel

Silk scarf at ABC

Wall hanging at ABC Carpet & Home. NYC.

Oh, ABC Home & Carpet on 19th Street in NYC. I love you so.

I love your market bizarre flair, your raffish wares, your vendors who create handmade clothes, wellness products, jewelry and furniture. You live inside me. I want take up residence in your store as if it’s my own. You make me want to be a wealthy urbanite with an amazing open kitchen that flows into a mid-century modern living room that leads to a spa like bathroom fitted out with perfect beauty products made of salt rendered down from the soup of the Dead Sea.

I want to wear gauzy white linen dresses, smell like Myer lemon and scent my two bedroom apartment in Chelsea with incense made to perfection by a scent stylist from Nepal.

I want to pack a picnic with your fine silverware and head to the 79th Street Boat Basin, or escape for the summer weekend to my place in the Hamptons where your blond wood tables and your fresh linen sheets adorn my built out sunlit dining room.

Furthermore, I love your spiritual side. Each item you sell is soaked in the good intention – spiritual ethereal-ism – beautiful modes of making me feel like the customer I am – or at least want to be. Affluent. Modern. Self aware. Charitable. A leader. Creative. Educated. Meditative. Sleek. Soft. Urban.

This is not sarcasm. I truly love ABC Carpet & Home, much like I adore Anthropologie or Apple or JetBlue. These brands not only speak my language, they provide a vision of a lifestyle I strive for.

That’s the beauty of a brand that creates a feeling. For instance, the sleek, white and silver design of Apple products, cutting edge and technologically advanced, makes you want to be a part of the Apple world. Just walking into one of their stores, with their glass stairs, white walls, non-fussy displays and clean organization, encourages you to be part of the Apple experience in addition to being a consumer of the brand. You feel modern, of the times – compatible with software and the world around you.

JetBlue also falls into line with a feeling  with it’s blue model and easy reservation. The look of their newly designed cabins are dreamy – like the sky – where I’ll be soaring above the United States on my way back to New York.

Another example lies in the sweet candle aroma and Provence-like bohemia of Anthropologie. It’s the girly girl’s mecca, adorned with an eclectic flowy style, bringing out the customer’s own personal Stevie Nicks, allowing her to be “back to the velvet underground…in a room with lace and paper flowers.” Anthropologie allows a customer to inhabit the mindspace where she can be the “gypsy that I was” with a twinkly blue eyed Buckingham pining for her in song.

silk scarf through lamp light

Silk hanging at ABC Carpet & Home – through lamp light.

Jet Blue, Apple,  Anthropologie – they all create a feeling that fits into the image of our lifestyle.  But sometimes brands go beyond consumerism to create that feeling – and that’s a sense of purpose – a connection to charitable foundations.

Warby Parker, the eye wear website where you can buy frames for less, donates one pair of glasses to people in need. In addition to multiple charities Virgin has participate in, the one that stands out is their Health and Wellness initiative for corporations and Virgin Money Giving – a crowd sourcing platform allowing the charity minded to raise money for the cause of their choice.

Spirituality and global awareness in connection to the home is what lends itself to companies like ABC or any brand that sells nature based products.

When I was back home in NYC, I went to the second floor furniture department of ABC and noticed the usual mid-century modern displays were missing. Yes, there was furniture, but the showroom was transformed into an exhibit featuring the calligraphy works of the Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh .  There were silk tie-dyed scarves hanging from the ceiling.  Yogi and Buddha items were on clean wooden credenzas. It was a happy collection of texture and color.

The message of this amazing amalgam of Hanh and his life’s work melded with the concept of home. The sanctity of our sanctum. We bring in comfort, color and texture thoughtfully. Wood and clay grounds us. The lighting and aroma completes the picture.

That’s what I saw in ABC’s exhibit. The connect of spirituality and how it’s infused into the nature of home. It made me want to buy everything to recreate an ashram in my living room. The one in the Hamptons. Near the pool.

Branding is deep. Branding can stir feelings of who we are and who we want to become. I’m learning this as I build something of my own.

Now excuse me while I go daydreaming about my future a little more.


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Crushes are Like Head Colds – And Other Brief Illnesses

whenyoulikeaguyI have a crush today.  I didn’t have a crush yesterday, or the day before. It came upon me today like a little sniffle and sore throat this morning, that suddenly spread into a full blown head cold – or crush. I’ve been there before. I know the signs. The only thing to do is to let it rage until it comes to pass.

This guy, this crush.  It means nothing, but it means everything.

Today. I can’t stop thinking of his kind eyes and his soft voice.

Today. I wallow in the thought of his talent and his history.

Tomorrow. More of the same until I try to dampen the affliction by realizing I’m not the only one who feels this way about this person – or crushes in general.

Why do we have crushes?  Is it the introvert’s panacea for not being able to forge ahead in life? Is it because we don’t actually want to connect in a relationship, allowing us to write the story of this person in our mind without having to deal with possible hurt or humiliation?

Or are some people lucky, and their crushes become their lovers, their partners or their spouses?  Perhaps there is something in the mind of the crusher that believes the fairytale will come true. Maybe just this once – it will be the way it happened with so and so – or the fan who became the wife.

Maybe one day I will know him on a friendly basis – after this raging head cold of a crush dies down into a dried up nose and remnants of old Ricola cough drop wrappings. Perhaps then, I’ll meet him when my heart isn’t lobbing out of my chest and throbbing on the floor at his feet, and my post nasal drip isn’t tickling my throat cough reflex.

After all, a crush is like a quick 24 hour bug, making you wallow in the lovely snotty fever dream caused by an antihistamine buzz. The fog brain of day dreaming about great sex in fun places comes in frequent times of the day, like blowing your nose and nettipotting.

You loose minutes as you stare off into space thinking how his soft expression makes your mind wander off into twilight meditation, like taking Dayquil and falling asleep during a commercial while watching ‘Dr. Oz’.

Those imaginings are equivalent to the dry mouth that wakes you up in the middle of the night because your sinuses are clogged.

Daydreaming about a crush is a symptom of wanting to get lost from reality of life. It’s an act of love addiction, where you long for the feeling – but you are in control. You never get hurt. You never have to stick your neck out. You feel that wondrous ache between the pitter and the patter of your beating scarred heart.

And yet, knowing this, I still Google search his name to just see his face.  I turn up the music he’s made, and  melt into the fantasy. It’s better than a hot toddie of tea, whiskey and honey, chased down with a shot of Drambuie.

Is there an over-the-counter medicine for the common crush?

In time, it will run its course.

Update: Good news!  The fever has broke.  The crush has been downgraded to deep admiration.

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Order of the Good Write

dad&meinDisney Me and my dad, at Disney World 1974.

Today marks the fifth anniversary of my father’s death.   In 2010, June 20th landed on Father’s Day.  Yes, he died on Fathers Day. Don’t mean to bum anyone out – but that’s how it ended for him and for me. A father and daughter in this world. I became fatherless on Fathers Day.

I’ve lately been obsessed with the Broadway musical ‘Fun Home’.  Like Alison Bechdel, author/artist of her auto-biographical graphic novel of the same name in which this musical is based, I was a child of the 70’s. I lived in a home where everyone was isolated in their own worlds. Although her story is quite different from my own, universal themes abound and have stuck such a chord, I can’t stop listening to the gorgeous cast recording without tearing up and thinking of my dad on this strange weekend.

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Me and my dad, at Disney World 1974.

Today marks the fifth anniversary of my father’s death.   In 2010, June 20th landed on Father’s Day.  Yes, he died on Fathers Day. Don’t mean to bum anyone out – but that’s how it ended for him and for me. A father and daughter in this world. I became fatherless on Fathers Day.

I’ve lately been obsessed with the Broadway musical ‘Fun Home’.  Like Alison Bechdel, author/artist of her auto-biographical graphic novel of the same name in which this musical is based, I was a child of the 70’s. I lived in a home where everyone was isolated in their own worlds. Although her story is quite different from my own, universal themes abound and have struck such a chord, I can’t stop listening to the gorgeous cast recording without tearing up and thinking of my dad on this strange weekend.

Alison’s father was a closeted homosexual who killed himself shortly after his daughter came out as a lesbian. There is so much more to describe, with fascinating and heart wrenching complications so devastating, it leaves burn marks, hitting ‘the feels’ no matter what your own family narrative is. So, I’ll leave it to you to Google and explore, to sample the music of this wonderful work. I just want to hear the songs in my head, remember the days of my dad when I knew him.

Screenshot 2015-06-20 16.33.06

Michael Cerveris and Sydney Lucas in the Broadway musical “Fun Home”.

My father was a faithful husband, but he adored the ladies, and charmed them all – except my mother – who held him at arm’s length. Like the Bechdel’s, my parents had a complicated relationship albeit caused by different circumstances. Arguments filled the house, filling me with dread. I drowned it out with music.

Unlike Alison – whose father rarely touched her with affection unless she forced him to engage in a game of airplane –  my dad gave me bear hugs and held me when I cried over boys I loved who wouldn’t love me back. He gave me piano lessons, a love of performance and music. He took me to wonderful restaurants and baseball games at Shea Stadium. Drove me from Manhattan every Friday to our family house in Rockland County — every week just so I could at the old homestead – a sanctuary away from the NYC bustle.

Dad lived a full life. He spent a childhood orphaned by war and running from Hitler. He came to the US to live with his German aunt and uncle, learned English, finished high school, aced his SAT’s and supported himself (with the help of scholarships and jobs) through NYU’s business school. He was an US Army veteran, a Brooklyn Dodgers fan turned Mets fan, a guitarist, and an upright bass player. My dad was a brilliant sculptor – re-creating scenes from Don Quixote in clay, and carving lifelike busts of presidents and rabbis. Yes…rabbis. And he did that while he was a corporate man at IBM. In retirement he wrote poems, plays and novels. He died at the age of 83 five years ago on this fateful weekend  from the after effects of a stroke.

As different as our circumstances, Bechdel’s story goes beyond sexual discovery. It’s about a father and daughter who loved each other despite expectations, despite the issues. Dad’s will play airplane and give piggy back rides. They will also scare you and love you at the same time. We hold questions we forget to ask, and they take the answers with them when they go.

I am consoled by the fact my dad and I never left anything unsaid. We said we loved each other everyday. My dad didn’t have secrets like Alison’s father did; however, I often wondered what he was thinking – how he sacrificed an artistic life for a corporate one so I’d never have the difficult childhood he did.

He was a formidable presence in my life, who soared above me yet always allowed me to rise above when it was time.

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You Know You Need Glasses When…

firehydrant…you think a short man in a yellow rain slicker and hard hat is waving at you from afar, and upon closer inspection, it turns out to be …. this.

This didn’t happen to me. I was diagnosed with nearsightedness when I was ten years old, and not so myopic that I thought a fire hydrant was a guy waving at me through the fog. Although if I take out my contacts today, I’d probably ask the lamp post for directions to the bus stop.

This actually happened to one of my college roommates, who swore up and down this friendly hydrant was waving at her until she walked closer and reality hit.

I also had a college room mate who tried to lose weight by jogging around campus in a large Hefty bag so she could optimize her sweat, thus shedding the pounds.  Today, she is still a dear friend.

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A Story Well Told: “Pencils of Promise”

adam braun pencils of promise

Adam Braun with a student in Guatemala. Photo by Nick Onken/Pencils of Promise.

When Adam Braun survived a near death experience aboard the ship chartered by Semester at Sea, his life changed forever.

As a student at Brown University in the mid-2000’s he had already long been focused on a path toward Wall Street success. He worked at hedge funds during his summer breaks as a teenager, constantly envisioning a career in the financial sector, destined to settle into a nice cushy job somewhere in downtown New York City.  In fact, after his semester at sea, he did accept a position at Bain & Company, a substantial financial consulting firm, believing he could change the world as a personal project on the side.

Yet, something tugged at him.  That semester at sea changed him. The desire to see the world around him never abated. He was the grandson of a Holocaust survivor, whose own tragedy, ultimate survival and steadfast Jewish grandmother devotion was a constant inspiration in his life. Despite the materialistic prognostications of a young man where wealth and first class treatment were there for the taking, he was always moved by her story, humbled by the world she built so he would have the opportunity of an affluent life.  Add his experience on that college journey, and the echo inside him grew louder.

While on the journey with SAS, he visited various impoverished countries, and walked through villages where people begged for food. Most of those people were small children, running the streets, hustling people for what jangled in their pockets.  The vast contrast between Adam’s life in leafy Connecticut and Rhode Island, opposed to the unconscionable living conditions of these children not only instilled a deep desire to do something, it stirred thoughts about his grandmother and the horrors she endured. There lay the connection.  He had everything in his life thanks to the sacrifice of family who endured hardship.

He created a practice. For each country he visited, he’d ask one child this question: “If you could have one thing in the world, what would it be?”

Their answers astonished him.  They didn’t ask for a big car, or an iPad, or a fun gadget. They asked for simple things, like their mother being present instead of having to work. Food. Health.  Until one day, a little girl answered him with this simple answer, “A pencil”.  The seed of his true passion was planted. He realized that the one main thing children really hunger for besides food is an education. So many were not receiving one. There were no schools.

So, he decided to build one.  Then another, and then another.

Today, Adam’s “For-purpose” organization Pencils of Promise has built (and continues to build) as of today – 304 schools around the world, providing education for children in need, expanding minds and imaginations for generations to come.

I’ve just finished reading Adam’s fantastic book “The Promise of a Pencil”.  Everything about Adam’s story is filled with spirituality, passion and unbridled determination. Each chapter starts off with an inspirational mantra one can carry with them as they embark on their own purpose.

The book ends with a noteworthy message, especially one that resonates deeply with me – a writer and writing coach focused on helping people tell their story.  Indeed, Adam has a mighty one:

“As humans, we are natural storytellers. We weave narrative into nearly every relationship we build and value. I realized that I needed to live a life that reflected the themes of the stories I wanted to one day tell, and when I veered off that path later on, it was time to make a change. Regardless of age or status, if you’re not satisfied with the path you’re on, it’s time to re-write your future. Your life should be a story you are excited to tell.”

~Adam Braun, from “The Promise of a Pencil”

I’ve become obsessed by Pencils of Promise. Please visit their site at pencilsofpromise.org. See what they do. See what YOU can do. Marvel how they’ve made positive changes in the name of living a “For-Purpose” life, creating positive change to the lives of children around the globe.

Let’s all live purposefully.

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May Gray, June Gloom


Paramount Studios. Filtered in black and white to accentuate the gloom.

“I had some dreams there were clouds in my coffee
Clouds in my coffee…” Carly Simon

So here we are, in the midst of a Southern Californian June Gloom. We’ve past the May Gray right into the bad hair days of early summer.

I’m an east coast person. It’s in the blood. Having lived in Los Angeles for almost 5 years, it will never leave me. When it’s cloudy and gloomy in other places of the country – like New York – it usually means rain. Not here. Gloom means gloom until the sun burns it off later in the morning, when dark skies turn to crystal clear and cloudless blue.  But in June, it takes a little longer for the clouds to disperse. Sometimes, they don’t push off at all.

Yet, as many Californians know, there is a price to pay for the beautiful weather year round. Drought, and earthquakes, of course. But how about the Marine Layer that won’t quit. Spitting rain. Moody clouds on the horizon, obscuring the mountain range that’s part of the landscape. It hovers like a lazy friend who hangs out at your house but doesn’t leave until afternoon when half your day is over.

junegloom LAAnd yes – May Gray is also a thing. We can back it up to last month and remember the premiere to the gloom that would become June. The clouds didn’t linger as long, but they appeared early in the day, reminding us that May flowers in Southern California really bloom in March, and the heady aroma of Night Blooming Jasmine and Lily trees has long faded into an early morning soup of low lying cloud coverage that will turn more intense once we turn the calendar page.

The Gloom sets a pallor on the day. At least it does for me. I wake up sleepy, less enthusiastic to attend to a really nice, productive day ahead of me. The mist weighs me down like a force. Call it Mercury in Retrogade (which ends tomorrow, by the way) – but I’m stuck in a muck. Clouds in my head. Clouds in my coffee.

But we’ll break through. Much like the gloom, the sun usually burns it off later in the day. Even if it doesn’t go, there will come a day later in the week where the sun will shine. Nature’s ying and yang.


Writing, Creating – and the Question of ‘Why?’

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Steven Pressfield, author of “The War of Art” and “Turning Pro”


In the end, the enterprise and the sacrifice are all about the audience.

They’re about readers, the movie goers, the site visitors, the listeners, the concergoers, the gamers, the gallery goers – a group which, by the way, includes you and me.

We’re the audience.

In the hero’s journey, the wanderer returns home after years of exile, struggle and suffering. He brings a gift for the people. That gift arises from what the hero has seen, what he has endured, what he has learned.  But he girt is not that raw material alone. It is the ore refined into gold by the hero/wanderer/artist’s skilled and loving hands.

You are that artist.

I will gladly shell out $24.95 or $9.99 or .99 cents on iTunes to read or see or listen to the 24-karat treasure that you have refined from your pain and your vision and your imagination. I need it. We all do. We’re struggling here in the trenches. That beauty, the wisdom, those thrills and chills, even that mindless escape on a rainy October afternoon – I want it.

Put me down for it.

The hero wanders. The hero suffers. The hero returns.

You are that hero.”

~Steven Pressfield, from his book, ‘Turning Pro’

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Inner Geek: Finding Inspiration

This blog post comes at the perfect time. Some great advice when you are a bit burned out from channeling the muse. Don’t beat yourself up by not creating. Just feed the mind.


I’m going to be honest. I wrote the title for this blog and then promptly fell asleep. It was seven in the morning, and I’d been up all night, plagued with a battery of thought as writers often are, and I was exhausted. I wrote this title, ready to invite you back into my geekside virtual office with a question: do you know what sells?

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