The Difference Between 99% and Totality

The courthouse in Russellville, Ky, August 21, 2017, 2:33 pm. The sun was behind me when I took this photo.
Russellville, Ky, August 21, 2017, 2:35 pm. The same view as above taken 2 minutes later.
Russellville, Ky, August 21, 2017, 2:36 pm. Totality! We could look at the eclipse with our naked eyes for almost 3 minutes.

On August 21, 2017, my family and I drove 4 hours south to Russellville to experience totality. Russellville is a small town on the southern border of KY. It was in the path of greatest total eclipse to hit the United States, spanning from coast to coast throughout the day.

We decided to go because our area of Northern Kentucky was only going to experience 90% of the eclipse. If you’ve never seen totality in person, you’ll think, “90%? That’s close enough!”

You would be wrong.

As we waited and watched with our eclipse glasses, the atmosphere changed the closer we got to totality. The sky was eerie. A stillness came over the air. It felt like the quiet right before a rainstorm. And then the sun disappeared. With our glasses on, we couldn’t see a thing. But when we took them off, the sight took our breath away. It was truly a magical sight.

A couple days later, I overheard a woman talking to her co-worker about the eclipse. She’d driven to a friend’s place outside of Nashville. She was 10 miles outside of totality and decided not to go further. She explained, “99% is close enough.” That made me sad.

I told my son her story. He said, “The difference between 99% and totality is infinite.”

I share this story because I’ve been thinking lately about how I sometimes act like 99% is close enough. It’s not. What have I missed by only giving 99%?

I’ve decided that if I am going to commit to do something, I will give it totality. I’ve been using Leo Babauta’s Iron Will Challenge to jump start the process. Will you commit to this with me? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Shout out to Mary Schilling for sharing this challenge with me!

Testing the Waters

I was invited to a Halloween party last weekend. The theme was Famous Dead People. I chose a Famous Dead Person to help me safely test the waters of one of my dreams.

I dream to have a singalong where I play my ukulele in front of an audience who enthusiastically sings along with me.

I’ve been learning my favorite songs to sing and I’m getting better on the uke. The problem is my singing voice. It’s a little more pleasant than fingernails on a chalkboard. You know it’s bad when small children beg you not to sing*.

On Friday as I played my ukulele, I came up with the perfect solution to kill two birds with one stone. I would be able to play my uke and sing in front of strangers and have a unique costume for the party.

I’ve always been a fan of the absurd and ridiculous. So my Famous Dead Person was a natural choice. Tiny Tim was an absurd performer. His voice was ridiculous. And while I don’t really look like him, I can certainly sing like him!

Of course I was asked to play Tiny Tim’s signature song. I complied with gusto. The fact that I “was” Tiny Tim made me feel less vulnerable. I can “be” someone else and do things that scare me.

I’ll be Tiny Tim again tomorrow for Halloween, and I’ll play and sing his song again. I’m sure it will be even easier the second time. And who knows, maybe this time my audience will even ask for an encore.

*True story. I was teaching a Pre-K class some Christmas carols. One of the students said, “Miss Annie, please stop.”

Have you tried “being” someone else to make a dream come true? Leave a comment and tell me about it!

When Are You Courageous?

mt snow

I love this old photo. I was at a national mountain bike race, and decided to enter the dual slalom competition on a whim. I wasn’t particularly fast, even though I went way faster than was comfortable for me. And on this day, I just barely made it through the first round of cuts to the semi-finals.

As a result, I was paired up with the racer with the fastest time, a young up-and-comer named Missy “The Missile” Giove. As I moseyed on down the mountain, I could hear the announcer over the loudspeaker, “And here comes Annie, she is obviously no competition for Missy.”

As embarrassing as it was to have my name announced and (in my mind) echoing around the mountains, I finished as fast as I could. And I was proud to make that first cut.

I went on from there to continue mountain biking and competing, although I gave up slalom racing shortly after this. I became a local advocate for trails in my area, helping gain access to parks and build trail around the Cincinnati area. (If you want to hear about those early days, check out my interview with the guys at The Gravel Lot.)

What does this have to do with courage? Mountain biking gave me courage. I am normally shy, but put me in my bike gear, I will talk to anyone.

I wasn’t even aware of this until a couple months ago. I was at a show opening at my gallery, Pique, and I really felt out of my element. There were lots of people there, and I was uncomfortable talking to strangers. I realized that I needed to channel “Mountain Bike Annie.” So now I just pretend I’m in my bike gear and I’m ok.

What are your thoughts? Are you more courageous in some settings vs others? Leave a comment, let me know how you summon your courage.

Creative Moxie

do something today thatscares you

I have always been creative. Like many people, I have lots of ideas. Some of them are okay, some are good, some are really good, and a few are great ideas. But ideas only go so far.

I finally realized after many years that having ideas isn’t enough. I was no longer happy just having ideas. I needed to do something with those ideas.

I needed Creative Moxie.

Creative: relating to or involving the imagination or original ideas.

Moxie: force of character, determination or nerve.

Creative Moxie: having the courage to push your boundaries so you can live the life you deserve.

Are you ready to find your Creative Moxie? Join me in my Creative Moxie challenge. Do something that scares you today. It doesn’t matter what, it could be as simple as wearing mismatched socks or it could be terrifying (like skydiving). As long as you are pushing yourself, it counts.

Share your experience in the comments. I’d love to hear what you do and how it changes you.

My Education Philosophy

morris prep

When my son was in public school, we would get notes from the teacher because he could not complete a series of simple math problems in 5 minutes. Yet he scored better than most of his classmates on higher order math. We were called to a teacher conference because he didn’t “assume the listening pose” when a teacher was lecturing. The teacher had to admit that he was listening since he knew the answers when he was called upon.

In my experience*, our school system is set up to mold each child into a generic fact spewing machine that does what it is told. It is not what I want for my children, and I believe it does all of us a disservice. It is a backward looking system.

My educational goal is to help students discover on their own. I am not the “sage on the stage,” nor do I want to be. I’d much rather be working alongside the students. My answer to the question, “Can I….?” is “Let’s find out.”

I teach classes that at first glance look like art classes…but they’re not. I teach creative/critical thinking classes disguised as art classes. When I design and teach a class, I don’t teach art, I teach resilience. I teach grit. I give students the ability to thrive in a future world we can’t even imagine right now.

How? By giving students enough information to get started and then get out of their way. I support them as they explore new possibilities and, if necessary, give them not “the right answer,” but “an answer” and then encourage them to find their own answers.

This article has some interesting ideas on the future of education. I don’t agree with everything, but I will be researching these ideas, even the ones I don’t agree with, on a deeper level as my educational philosophy continues to evolve.


* I realize this is controversial and not everyone feels this way, it is merely my observation based on my experiences with our local school system. This school system regularly scores high in the state and in the country as one of the best.

Studio Class Open House

How do cams work?

Open House special! Register at the Open House for only $95 a month! This special is good one night only.

Thursday September 27, 2018, 6:30-7:30

Memorial Hall, Highland United Methodist Church

314 N Fort Thomas Avenue, Fort Thomas, KY

Free and open to everyone! There will be an interactive project for you to try and samples from the upcoming class. Instructor Annie Brown will be there to answer any questions. Stop by and see what this class is about.

Studio Class Part 1 reinforces the EETS (Exploring, Experimenting, Troubleshooting, Sharing) mindset.

  • Exploring: materials, tools and safety procedures are introduced.
  • Experimenting: students expand their knowledge by working on student-led projects, either independently or in a small group.
  • Troubleshooting: this happens throughout as problems arise.
  • Sharing: students share their knowledge with each other either directly or through documentation.

During these three months, we will explore cams, motors, lights and more.

For: Thursday class, all ages*
Friday class, middle and high schoolers and up

* A parent or guardian is required to take the class (free of charge) with children 10 and under.

Time: Thursdays 6-8 pm or Fridays 1:30-3:30 pm

Dates: Thursday classes: October 4, 2018-January 3, 2019
No class on November 22, December 6

Friday classes: October 5, 2018-January 4, 2019
No class on November 23, December 7

Let’s Make Stuff


BLINK Studio Class Open House September 27

I’m fascinated by how things work. I remember watching a friend make an automaton using a cam and I was intrigued. How do they work? What can you use them for? And more importantly, what can I make using this technology?

The first step to answering any of those questions is to explore: make simple versions of different types of cams. You can see in the above photo that I’ve completed the first step. I’ve learned a lot about what a cam can do just by making samples. I’m ready to move on to the next step…

…which is to experiment. This is the step where magic happens. What can I make using a cam? Can I combine different cams to create something unique? Answering that question is on my to-do list this week.

And while I’m at it, I’ll be troubleshooting as problems occur. Failure is inevitable in the experimenting stage. It is also where a lot of the real learning occurs.

Finally, I’ll share what I learn with others. I document each step of the way through photographs, written instructions and then teach others.

This is the EETS mindset, and what we’ll be working on in the BLINK Studio Class Part 1

  • Explore: materials, tools, safety procedures and techniques.
  • Experiment: students expand their knowledge by working on student-led projects, either independently or in a small group.
  • Troubleshoot: this happens throughout as problems arise.
  • Share: students share their knowledge with each other either directly or through documentation.

Want to learn more about the class? Stop by our Open House on September 27, 6:30-7:30 at Highland United Methodist Church in Fort Thomas, KY. It’s free and open to everyone.

Getting out of my own way

footloose annie

A few months ago, a friend shared with me some advice she had gotten from her mentor.

“You can do what you want. You just need to get out of your own way.”

That comment really struck a chord with me. There were things I wanted to do, but there were barriers in front of them. Barriers that at the time seemed insurmountable. But I kept coming back to that statement. You can do what you want. You just need to get out of your own way.

I didn’t intentionally try to get out of my own way. Honestly, I’m not sure how it worked, but it has. I almost feel like a magic wand has been waved over me. All of a sudden I realized that the barriers I thought were keeping me from my dreams were of my own making, and I have the power to either climb over them or tear them down.

I wish I could tell you step by step how to do this for yourself. The best I can do is tell  you to think about what barriers are standing between you and your dreams. Are they really insurmountable? Is there a way around them?

By the way, my friend is Tess Burns. She is doing some really amazing work with and for women. Sign up for one of her classes, or schedule a consultation meeting with her to see how she can help you realize your dreams.

Leave a comment, let me know if this works for you.