Monthly Archives: July 2016

Find Your Inner Renaissance Person

Inspiration is found everywhere. When I was a kid, I was crazy for every new craft that I saw and dove into endless projects with enthusiasm and determination. I loved going to the fabric store and the dime store, which carried all sorts of craft supplies. For a short time I was obsessed with making layered jello creations in goblets and clear dishes. During the summer one of the schools had what I remember as a 2 week day camp for making all sorts of stuff. We braided belts, made tiled trivets and woven pot holders. You could also do ceramics and a host of other activities that kept us out of the house and having fun.
I had no problem spending my days in the craft world, or outside playing with my friends. There was never the thought that I should be doing something else, spend my time more wisely or curtail my imagination. As an avid reader I loved adventure stories and tales of overcoming hardship which further fueled my imagination. Schools at the time still taught art and encouraged creative endeavors. My 4th grade teacher loved Mexico and we spent time doing projects about the country and also learning to speak some Spanish.

So what happens as we become adults in the world? Yes, we have to face the reality of working and family and day to day living. But why do we seem to often turn our backs on the creative process, talking ourselves out of trying new things and not allowing our imagination to flow? And more importantly how can we get back to a place where we learn for the joy of it and without expectations or a cluttered mind.

Deepak Chopra talks about mental claustrophobia as one way we prevent ourselves from enjoying the creative process. We tell ourselves we can’t do something before we even get started and are often 10 steps ahead of ourselves and far from being in the present moment. Before even attempting something we let our fears about so many things kill the joy and fun we could be having. We need to find that single mindedness and focus we had has children. So much emphasis is placed on multitasking that I fear it takes away from our ability to be in the moment

Remaining curious as an adult is so important. Not everything that sparks an interest needs to have a permanent place in your life, but being open to learning and trying new things will keep you vibrant, engaged in the world, and a good conversationalist at the very least. Perhaps someone suggests a book and you wonder what on earth you would find interesting about that particular topic. That happened for me when someone suggested I read “The Boys in the Boat”. Other than an appreciation for the grace of the sport, I have never had particular interest in rowing.  But this is one of the best books I have ever read. Yes, I learned a little about rowing, but I also learned a lot about teamwork, about what it takes to make a team, to make a boat, about discipline, about the inner fortitude of an earlier generation that seems lacking in the world these days, and about the Berlin olympics under Hitlers regime. I never expected I would gain so much knowledge and insight from a book about rowers and rowing.

Have you said to yourself more than once that you would love to learn a new language? If the answer is yes or perhaps you are planning a trip to a foreign country and would like to have a basic knowledge of the language, try http://www.Duolingo.com. It is a free language learning website plus they also have an app for your iPad and phone. Lots of choices here including Vietnamese, Turkish, Polish and Portuguese, along with Spanish and Italian. Unlike all the memorization we did in high school language classes, these lessons are short and interactive, allowing you to be as serious, or not, as you want. I’ve been learning Polish on Duolingo and I actually prefer it to Rosetta Stone.

Most college and universities have separate programs for adult learning with some offering day trips or longer excursions. There are usually a wide variety of subjects often taught by one of the college professors. Some meet weekly for several weeks, other for just a time or two. Art institutes or nature centers/botanical gardens also often have one day weekend or evening workshops and/or demonstrations.

Want to give writing a try, but not sure where to start? Give http://www.750words.com words a try. Free for the first month, and only $5 a month after that, the goal is just what the title says. Sit and write 750 words every day. Of course you can go longer than that if you want. They have monthly challenges and also tell you the mood of your writing each day along with words that you repeat often. You can have something specific you want to write or it can just be free flow. I have done both and recommend it highly.

Become a renaissance person! The ideal of the renaissance man who knew a little bit about a lot of things isn’t such a bad thing. Yes, we usually need some sort of expertise in an area so we can earn a living, plus it is nice to have some expertise at a hobby or two. But don’t stop there. The sky is the limit with all the possibilities that exist. Be curious, be open, let go of perfection and have some fun. We need fun in our lives, and while you may decide not to pursue a something after satisfying your curiosity about it, you may be able to inspire someone else who may have an interest in that particular thing.

Here are a couple of other ideas that you may find interesting or helpful.

Read the Mad Man Knitting Blog http://www.madmanknitting.wordpress.com. Gregory Patrick literally knitted himself out of homelessness with his adorable teddy bears. You may learn a little about knitting (actually more about the process of knitting), but what you will learn and be inspired by is his insistence in not remaining in a dark space facing personal challenges and the challenges currently going on in the world around us. Every post I read from him humbles me, makes me grateful, and makes me try harder to be a better person in this world.

Are you a history nut or love adventure stories and/or biographies. Books can inspire us on many levels; to write, to travel, to be braver in our own lives. One book I just finished that did all three for me is Beyond the Call by Lee Trimble with Jeremy Dronfield. Many times the heroes of the world live quiet and unassuming lives. One of these men was Robert Trimble, a world war 2 fighter pilot. While he had an outstanding flying career during the war, the story of the lives he saved in Poland once the camps were liberated by the Red Army, and from right under the ever watchful eyes of the Russians is nothing short of amazing. His family knew very little of his efforts, but as an old man he told his son the story of his covert mission, and Beyond the Call is the book that resulted.  Like the Boys in the Boat, I learned about a wonderful man and hero to many, but also so much more about WW2, our relationship with Russia and an appreciation for what former prisoners endured after their release. While I have an interest in world war 2 history and Poland in particular, you don’t need either to enjoy and be amazed by this man’s story.

Afternoon Visitor

Hello everyone and happy Tuesday!

I have so many topics I want to discuss with you in upcoming posts, but first I want to revisit my last post where I suggested that changing your physical space might help to remove blocks in your life and foster creativity and productivity. Did anyone give this a try? If you did, let us know what you discovered by shaking up the energy in your space.

Lest you think I might not practice what I preach, I made a good start on making over one of my rooms this weekend. I decided to start in my bedroom since it was one of those sad rooms I previously talked about, and I haven’t really paid much attention to it since unpacking my clothes and organizing my closets. Most of us don’t use our bedroom for projects or work, but I believe it is important to create a calm and relaxing space in which to sleep and restore so we don’t drag through our days lacking energy from poor sleep.

My room was crying for some color, some artwork and better flow. So the first thing I did was treat myself to a new comforter set and some new pillows so my bed would look fluffy and welcoming. Then I spent Sunday rearranging my furniture. I felt that my bedroom, while large, had no flow and things just weren’t in the right spots. Doing some online research on some feng shui websites and Houzz, I moved everything into better spots, put my new comforter on and created some softer light. All I can say is wow. I kept walking into my bedroom just to enjoy how different and welcoming it looked! I still have art to hang and perhaps a rug or two for the floors. But now it is a room I feel happy in. And slept much better in! For someone who struggles with being a poor sleeper, this was a pleasant surprise. And of course it has made me realize I need to move along with the rest of my house a little at a time until I am happy walking into all areas of my home and feel like they encourage me and help me to be energetic and creative.

I didn’t have to spend very much money and just a Sunday afternoon to make my room look  and feel completely different.
So if you are hesitating about diving in and changing some things around your house, I highly recommend doing just that. Move one lamp or table, change the color of the throw on your sofa. See how even a little change can have a big impact!

So an interesting event happened as I was working on this post that I want to share with you. As I was typing, I happened to look out my window and was treated to a deer walking through my backyard. Now deer is my spirit animal, so I don’t ever take these visits lightly, and while I am sure they wander through my yard at night, I don’t see them as often during the daylight hours.   Amongst other gifts, deer bring an awareness of the inner child, of sensitivity and intuition and the beginning of new adventures. When deer appears I know it is a sign to trust my instincts.
My very next post was going to be about remembering and reconnecting with the enthusiasm for trying new things and being able to live more lightly as we did when we were children. I guess my visitor is here to support me in my endeavors and for that I am very grateful. She is now resting under some trees further back in my yard where I like to think she is watching out for me. Here is a photo of her that I think you will like.

deer for wordpress

So remember everyone, be aware of what goes on around you. What are the small and not so small messages appearing to you. Give them there due, and see what wisdom they bring.

Take a Look Around. Is Your Space Blocking your Creativity?

There are many ways in which we block ourselves from pursuing our dreams and passions. Engaging and sustaining our true selves takes work. Most of my suggestions are for ideas we can do mentally and spiritually to get past fear and other dream inhibiting thought processes. Right now though, I want to talk a little about the physical space where you work and/or live.

Yesterday I made banana bread. I used my Mom’s recipe and it came out great. I will share it with you at the end of this post. It is really very easy and my Mom had one “must do” that I think keeps this bread moist and flavorful. After I put the breads in the oven to bake, I looked around at the mess I had made which was substantial. Now I am usually a very neat cook and baker. By the time something goes in the oven or is simmering on the stove I usually don’t have much clean up. I pondered this as I loaded the dishwasher and tidied up and came to the conclusion that my kitchen isn’t quite finished. It needs some tweaking or fine tuning. Yes, it is done in the sense that it is brand new and has great cupboard space and brand new appliances and everything else. But I have yet to make it my own space in the sense of effortlessly moving through recipes and having everything in its easiest and most accessible spot.

Having been in my house now for about 3 months, I am what you could call unpacked and moved in. The reality is that it does take time to make a house a home and a reflection of the people who live there, and while I am happy with some rooms, I still have a ways to go. Outside I’ve planted pots of flowers and filled my big window box, but have been watching the yard to see what comes up and how the sun shifts during the year. Next year I will start creating a garden for the birds and butterflies (and chipmunks!)

My home feels like a space where parts of it have only  half come together. I have just sort of been sitting with things the way they are , believing that decorating and a more pulled together look will happen in time. The problem with this is that I seem to be having all these creative ideas I want to pursue, but much of my space is not yet fostering and furthering the process for me. I am lately realizing that I am a little backwards in my thinking and this has been holding me and my project ideas hostage. My ideas are not going to bloom unless my surroundings reflect who I am and provide the type of space that I need to foster new directions in my life.

While I know folks who are in new spaces, not everyone is starting from scratch like me. Still, take a look around your house, your studio, your kitchen. Do you have a favorite spot for the activities you pursue, or do you constantly move around trying to get comfortable and settled? What in your physical space doesn’t flow and augment your life? Do you need different colors, more art, more storage, less stuff?  Do you ever walk into a room and it just seems sad or a bit neglected?  Certainly adding some new life to rooms has to be good for us. Even if we just feel happier walking into them we will create more positive energy in our home and the world.

If you need inspiration pick up a magazine or two. Visit some home decor places or shops that you find inspiring. If you like perusing online definitely take a look at http://www.houzz.com .  You can see photos of all sorts of renovated rooms here and can even request photos with certain colors, styles, or size of room. I recently looked at a magazine showing personal work spaces created by women. These were serious and incredible spaces and beautifully photographed. And while your room(s) may not need a complete redo, sometimes simply moving a piece of furniture or adding some new art or new pillows on a chair can do it. Fresh flowers can be powerful in their color and scent. If you have a garden now is the time to take some cuttings and let them bring freshness and color into your home. I love geraniums and sometimes just pick a few leaves to crush as the scent is always soothing to me. Even a good cleaning can change the energy in a room; open a window and clear out the dust bunnies. See if that doesn’t let some inspiration come scampering out from the recesses of your mind.

I have decided to become more proactive in creating  more workable  and happier rooms for myself and fine tweaking a few others. I hope that you too will take a look around your home and/or work space and try even a few small changes that might make things flow easier. In order to make changes in our lives we are working at cleaning out the clutter from our brains and getting rid of negativity and patterns that don’t work. Doing the same with our surroundings is going to help that process! Let me know how it goes!

Now here is that banana bread recipe.

1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup butter
2 eggs beaten
1/2 cup buttermilk (or regular milk with a few drops of vinegar)
1 tsp baking soda
dash of salt
2 cups sifted flour
3 large ripe bananas (mashed lumpy)

Mix in the order given. Pour mixture into 2 small loaf pans that have been greased and floured.
Bake 1 hour at 300 degrees.

The key to this recipe is to mash the bananas with a fork instead of with the electric mixer. I have even used a potato masher. Then just fold them gently into the other ingredients.

Hug a Tree, Hug a Friend, Hug a Stranger, Hug Yourself

This isn’t the post I was planning on writing today. But these are the words that are flowing out of me,  so I am honoring that.

This is a world in trouble; the physical world, the animal world, the plant world and the human world. I’m not here to re-hash recent events, talk politics or special interest groups. There are plenty of places and sites you can find for that.

I’m here, in the spirit of this blog, to encourage us to pay attention to how we impact
and influence the world every day with even our smallest actions. Each day the actions we choose spread either positive and peaceful energy, or negative and dark waves, into the world. It can be almost paralyzing if we think of all the changes we would like to see in the world and ourselves. But break that down into smaller units and amounts of time and see if that creates space and possibility in your mind. Look at yourself, or anyone who is competent and successful in the field they work in. It mostly likely didn’t happen overnight. Sometimes when we see an established and successful business or volunteer organization it is easy to forget the hard work and dedication that went into its creation.

So just how can we all be more productive, positive and help change the world and ourselves
at the same time.

When it comes to something you can do to help the world in a hands on way, learn to choose your battles. What upsets you most about the world. Homelessness, hunger, violence, animal abuse, inadequate education. Pick one. It doesn’t mean you don’t care about them all. But you will be more effective if you start with one. Volunteer a couple of hours a week. Can you teach something to abused women learning to be on their own? Do you have a way with animals that have been abused? Volunteer organizations often need people who can write, photograph, or are effective fundraisers. There are numerous organizations that can help us help the world. This is something you can do in order to feel like you are making a difference and will help you feel like you are part of something bigger than just yourself. You will be rewarded with smiles and wagging tails and I guarantee that will make your day.  Along with helping people or animals, you will also meet some great like-minded people. Volunteer vacations are also becoming quite popular.  I think that would be a fantastic way to spend a week.  You could see a different country or state, meet local folks and be of service also.

So how does the way we go through our days have an impact on the world?  I believe that the anger and violence in the world affects us by creating negativity and a non peaceful state in our minds. Our minds become closed and ideas and possibilities that pop into our heads are greeted with negativity and squashed before they have a chance to grow.  We are wrapped in defeat and feeling ineffective before the first step is taken.

Here are a few ideas to help you get into a more peaceful place. Once there it is easier to start helping ourselves and our world.

I am a big proponent of meditation. There is a big block for most of us because we are so concerned if we are meditating correctly or fear we can’t sit long enough. So my suggestion is try this: Set your timer for 5 minutes, get comfortable, close your eyes and silently repeat a word or phrase that speaks of loving kindness and compassion. There, you have just done a short meditation and put some positive energy out into the world and also your own mind.
There are many different types of meditation if you are interested in creating your own practice. One book I like a lot and is a good place to start is “Mindfulness in Plain English by Bhante Henepola Gunaratana. It is a light and non-esoteric and leads the reader gently through all the parts and tools of meditation. I also like the Insight Meditation Center in California which you can find at http://www.insightmeditationcenter.org. You can stream many, many talks about meditation here. I find that talks by Gil Fronsdale resonate with me, but there are several speakers to choose from. You can find everything from 5 minute practice notes to longer guides to meditation.

Writing often helps me settle my mind. Getting thoughts down on paper gets them out of endless circling in my mind. I keep a couple of notebooks close by, using one just  for rambling and the other for any and all ideas. Writing doesn’t have to be for any special purpose other than your own enjoyment. One book I really enjoy and use all the time for writing is “Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the writer within” by Natalie Goldberg. A long time Zen practitioner, Ms. Goldberg will help you get the block out of your mind that prevent you from putting pen to paper in her unique way.  Writing can help you find clarity in your mind, creating space that allows growth and change which is a benefit to you and the world around you.

I hope these suggestion may inspire you to try them or lead you to something that helps you stay peaceful in the world and believe that  it is a good world that we need to help heal.

In finishing I go back to the title of this post.

Hug a tree….make better friends with the earth. Touch a tree, a plant, a rock. Say thank you for their beauty and soundness.  I have many beautiful huge trees in my yard, but there is one I feel  most connected to. Sometime I  just sit under if for a while, my back leaning against it.  It lends its strength to me and I am thankful.

Hug a friend…our friends and family are so necessary in so many ways. Let them know how much them mean to you.  If they live far away, write them a letter.  We don’t do that often enough any more.  But there is something special in todays electronic world about getting a card or hand written letter in the mail.  Be creative and make a card!

Hug a stranger…or at least smile and say hi and make some small talk. You may give them a reason to keep putting one foot in front of the other.  We have been taught not to trust anyone anymore and that is so distressing to me.  Offer to help someone load up their car or carry something into the post office if they  are struggling.  We all need each other.

Hug yourself…take good care of yourself. You need you and the world needs you. Be kind to yourself.  “Travel light, live light, spread the light, be the light”! Yogi Bhajan

Thank you all for being a part of my life.

Namaste

Hello Again

Hoping there are still some of you out there, a big hello to my faithful readers.

With the sincere belief that absence makes the heart grow fonder, I apologize
for my lengthy break and hope you won’t be too hard on me.

For those of you who don’t know, last winter I moved back to my hometown of
Kalamazoo MI. I am grateful to be here and look forward to sharing my journey
with you as we go along.

But for now I will be short and just say that changes happened rapidly in my life and,
amidst the whirlwind, I did not stay with my writing. While I can now
say that was definitely a mistake, I am once again putting pen to paper
to help us all find ways to accept, create, and embrace change in our lives.

Everywhere I look it seems to me that people are making big changes in their lives, or working
toward change. I know people who have moved to new cities, people who are changing
jobs or looking for a job (yours truly included). Others are fine tweaking what they do, little changes, to make what is already satisfying and fruitful to them even more so.

Change, even when we are embracing and accepting it in our lives can still leave us feeling a bit frazzled and frantic. When we are working and being productive in our lives it seems that all we want is to not work; to have our days free to pursue all the things we love to do and don’t have time for. And now perhaps we have that and don’t enjoy it because we feel guilty that we shouldn’t be doing fun things when we aren’t spending every last second trying to find work.

As long as you are being proactive in looking for new work, why not enjoy the extra time you have instead of being in a constant state of worry. Creating balance between just enough worry to keep you motivated while enjoying yourself and being open to new experiences as you continue along your path is the goal. It’s about making your entire life work so that you get up every morning and do what brings you joy in life and makes your heart sing. If new work isn’t coming easily, maybe that is a sign that you should be thinking about a different direction in life; digging deep inside to create a new path that brings joy along with a paycheck.

Who knows what good things can come out of pursuing something new or expanding your involvement in something you already love. I took a knitting class, mentioned that I was looking for a part time job and the very next week a woman said her son was opening a new restaurant and looking for people. Turns out it wasn’t what I was looking for, but one possibility in one week from a group of three people isn’t bad.

Am I going back for open knitting evenings? You bet!

Stay tuned for more about job searching, becoming fearless, letting go of perfection and a host of other topics to help you navigate your way through this wonderful world we call home.