Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Inhaling Goodbye

Sometimes reaching the end of an adventure lets you realize that it really is more of a beginning than an ending, even though you have to close a door.

If I am honest with myself, my heart really wasn’t in this adventure from about February on.  

I had such grand plans when I started just over a year ago on my 44th birthday... of turning my life and maybe even the world upside down with a quest to add more creativity to my daily life.

I loved the format, the idea and the theme... but as I wrestled with my own personal issues after my father died, Nick’s mother fell ill and some other upheavals which shall remain private, I felt as if I was failing at so many things, especially this blog.

I do know that trying to practice Creativity daily kept me sane.

I discovered that sometimes you do need to plan instead of just boldly leaping into something and ending up with a bit of a belly flop.

I know that I will come back to this idea someday, perhaps after I have played a bit more.

For now, however, it is time to take a very deep breath and say goodbye to this blog.

THANK YOU for all the fun along the way!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Being Creative in Prayer...

If I learned nothing else over the past 15 weeks of family chaos, trials, tribulations and joys, it is that I need to focus when I pray.  I have one of those brains that is more like a habitrail than a hamster wheel.  My worries and prayers run off on all kinds of tangents, twists and turns until it forms some mobius loop of angst in my soul and functioning becomes difficult.

We don’t have rosaries or worry beads in the United Church Tradition, but as I began to look at how many cultures use beads or stones to help focus for meditation and prayer, this little idea began to grow in the back of my mind.

What if I could create some anchors to help me keep on track as I prayed?  What if I could break the basic things I tend to pray about on a regular basis into categories that would repeat in a cycle which I could separate with special beads.

So... I’ve begun to explore the idea, making little shapes out of Fimo.  I will have to rummage through my stash of special beads or have an excuse to visit beading places!

I’m not quite sure where this will lead yet, but exploring the Spiritual side of my Creativity is just another fun part of this adventure.

INHALE:   Faith is something that we may grow up with, we may change how we experience, we may question or we may finally make our own instead of just accepting the beliefs of our parents.  It is something that many of us use as a foundation on which to base our value system, our outlook on the world and even our hopes for the future.  Above all, it is something intensely personal, even if it is celebrated in community.  Thinking about where we fit in relationship to the world, the cosmos and all things eternal puts us in great company.  Many of the most creative people in our history have explored this side of their lives.

EXHALE:  Whatever faith you celebrate, or even if you are still asking yourself questions about what you believe, think about how you could practice that more creatively.  Could you make a quiet, inviting space somewhere in your house?  Could you make a candle to light during your devotional time?  Keep a prayer or gratitude journal?  The possibilities are almost as the Universe in which we live.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Using Creativity To Make A Difference...

Sometimes, life events and disasters happen that make us feel completely overwhelmed. It is much easier, we tell ourselves, to hide from reality than to face something seemingly hopeless face on.

But Creativity whispers to our hearts that anything is possible, as long as we try.

Illustrator Kelly Light has found an incredibly Creative way to deal with the Gulf Oil DIsaster.  Artists from all over the world are donating tiny original paintings, drawings or digital prints to be sold to anyone who makes a $10.00 donation to two organizations helping to tackle this disaster. "Swan Song" (shown above) and "What Greed Can Do" (below) are two of the images that I will be sending in to Kelly for this cause.

INHALE:  Never give up hope.  Something beautiful or creative can come from almost any disaster or tragedy if we keep looking for possibilities.  Just look at the infinite variety of how different artists of all ages and walks of life have felt moved to contribute.  It may almost take your breath away!

EXHALE:  If you can draw, paint or doodle, consider creating a piece of artwork for this worthy cause.  If you prefer to appreciate art rather than create it yourself, browse through this blog and keep an eye out for an image that appeals to you.  Follow the blog, spread the word and make a difference.  The card I bought arrived in the mail a few days ago and now graces the wall of my office.  Remember that you can always use your Creativity to make the world a better and more beautiful place.

Sunday, June 20, 2010


The thing about taking on an ambitious project and doing it in front of the world is that when you fail, you fail spectacularly.  It sometimes makes picking up the pieces more difficult.

Just over 9 months ago, I began what I thought would be a fairly simple adventure... take one year of my life to explore how to add more creativity to each day...a 365 day adventure.

The funny thing about thinking of each day as including an INHALE and EXHALE activity was that somewhere along the line as our lives got more and more stressful, I wasn’t just gasping for air, I literally forgot how to breathe.

Stress makes you do funny things. 

I would wake gasping from a dream of being smothered with my heart racing and then be unable to get back to sleep.

I found myself getting lost in simple, mindless things like watching odd TV shows or playing Farmville on Facebook after a long day of substitute teaching instead of picking up a pencil to sketch or a needle to stitch.

So to those who were waiting for me to offer some guidance along the way in this adventure, I apologize for the huge gap in this blog.

I didn’t even journal through this stretch of darkness, which is really odd for me.  It was as if I wanted to have no proof of this dark time and my black thoughts anywhere.

While I went out and smiled when I was teaching, meeting with clients or doing Zoomba classes, at home I curled up, hid and just tried to keep my lungs working, even as my mother-in-law had to have a whole section of hers removed. Nick and I were each trying to comfort the other when we didn’t feel strong ourselves, hoping to keep things as normal as possible for the kids.  I am sure they saw through some of our cracks.

After a very long stretch, almost 15 weeks, my mother-in-law is home from the hospital, weak but on the mend.  Nick is wrapping up a school year that is ending with chaos and uncertainty as his school gets downsized to move students to a new school as boundaries get redrawn.  The girls are ending up their year on a high note with Erin earning a spot on Team NB for volleyball, the elite provincial team along with an academic award for Grade 9.  Bethany’s awards ceremony is this week and she is hopeful about her marks earning her some recognition as well.

As for me, I have spent enough time in the quiet to realize that INHALING CREATIVITY could never be a single year’s adventure.  It is going to take me quite a few years to put together a daily creativity adventure to follow or share.  I am starting to feel as if this is not just something to try for a year, but rather a way to live and keep breathing on a daily basis for the rest of my life.

Through all this chaos, I still found myself doodling, rummaging for wool, staring at floor tile patterns or looking for shapes in clouds.  I even found heart shapes in watermelons and bits of discarded plastic.

Maybe this isn’t anything I can turn off.  

Maybe choosing Inhalations and Exhalations was the right image after all.

It’s time to take a deep breath and begin again.

Join me tomorrow for the first new breath of this adventure.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Creativity in Theatre...

Tonight, our family went to see the production of CATS at Erin’s high school, Harrison Trimble .  For the past few weeks, Erin and I have helped paint two young men in their leotards and part of the set.  We’ve had glimpses of the many hands that go into such a big production behind the scenes, but tonight, we got to see everything come together for the Friday night show.

I was blown away!

From the amazing set to the fabulous choreography put together by one of the Grade 12 students for the entire show, I felt a warm glow of pride swell to a tidal wave of astonishment as the night unfolded.

Kids that I have seen in a classroom setting as a substitute teacher astounded me with their acting, singing and dancing prowess on the stage.  If I found it incredible to see them shine, how much more pride and wonder did their regular teachers feel, especially those who have known these students since they were the age Erin is now in Grade 9?

One of the most amazing thing about turning Creativity loose among young people is that they haven’t lost their ability to dream big, to shoot for the stars and to take on something that a group of adults might think was impossible.

Thank you, all of you CATS, for reminding me how much fun it is to watch a dream take flight!

INHALE:  What have you wanted to be a part of but held yourself back?  What dream have you tucked away on a shelf as impossible or unattainable?  In a world that places so much emphasis on “all or nothing”, perhaps we need to learn how to take those forgotten dreams down, dust them off a bit and see if there isn’t a way to turn them loose on a world that could use more wonder in it...

EXHALE:  Make plans to put one of those dreams into action by taking baby steps.  If you love to sing, is there a choir or group that you could get involved with?  If you dreamed of being an artist, is there an evening course that you could dabble in rather than jumping right to a gallery show?  This is the time of year when brochures come out for summer camps and programs, so start taking a look at the possibilities and remember that when you shoot for the stars, you might just land on the moon.

Tonight it was a Jellicle moon. Bravo cast and crew at HTHS!!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Creativity in Prayer...

When your child is hurt, even if it is minor, you become VERY creative in your prayers.

“Please spare my child this pain...”

“Please let it be me instead...”

“Please help me make her see that she has more than one dream and more than one option in life...”

I feel selfish wrestling with this when there are parents tonight out there watching their children starve to death slowly... parents who are sitting by a hospital bed wondering if they have to say goodbye tonight or not... parents who do not know where their children are tonight.

This is just a wrenched knee and preventative medicine for an overeager athlete who thought she was a bit more indestructible than she proved to be.

But as she cried last night in Emergency, fearing suddenly that her dreams of a volleyball career or University scholarship (I must point out that she is only in Grade 9 but comes from two type A personality parents) were shattered, I wanted to do or promise anything to just be able to make it better.

When we came home and I got her to bed, creeping in to my own bed later after getting my work done, I was very creative with my prayers every time those dark fingers of fear curled their way around my heart. 

I thought about pointing out all her other gifts to her.  

I thought about the “wherever God closes a door, somewhere He opens a window” line.

I prayed pink clouds of healing surrounding her and her knee in the night.

I remembered the most important lesson that I have been learning along this journey.

Just breathe.  Inhale. Exhale. Repeat.

INHALE: Sometimes we are most creative without holding anything in our hands.  No crafting supplies, no paintbrush, no pen.  Sometimes we are most Creative with the stirrings of our souls and our dreams, our prayers and our wishes, our plans and our possibilities.  As long as we remember that we always have choices and that there are always new options we might not have thought about, the curve balls that life tends to throw at us won’t be so bad.  That is SO much easier to type than to live out!

EXHALE:  Pick one worry in your life right now that feels overwhelming.  When you lie there trying to fall asleep or take a moment for yourself to journal, explore all the possibilities in your head.  What would be the worst thing that could happen?  How could you cope with that?  What might be a solution that you’ve overlooked as being too “out of the box”?  What have you got to lose?  Erin was given the choice to rest her knee now and see if it heals or know that she will miss out playing in the Easterns in 28 days.  Sometimes waiting and healing is all we can do.  Be Creative in your prayers and in how you face your fears!

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Eggstremly Enjoyable...

My fingers now have several layers of paint that will be difficult to explain tomorrow morning at church.

Friday after church, Erin and I went over to her high school to help paint two young men in their unitards for the upcoming CATS musical.

This morning, we sat down as a family to dye our Easter eggs.  For Erin’s friend, Holly, who had slept over the night before, this was a first.  She had never dyed eggs before so we introduced her to just how many colours a family of artists need to prepare for this eggstravaganza.

We showed her how to use a white crayon to do wax resist patterns and she proved that creativity lives within us all as she made her very first Easter egg ever.

Bethany thought this one of hers was worth showing off...

and Erin liked how this egg of hers turned out.

I always take the longest to do my eggs because I keep trying to get as many colours and as much detail as possible on each egg.  For me, it isn’t about how fast I get them done but how much fun I have as I play with the possibilities.  This one was really neat with several layers of wax crayons over the different colours.

My favourite egg cracked when I dropped it from just a few inches above the table as it slipped from my hands... a reminder of how fragile egg painting can be, even when working with hard-boiled eggs. in the end, it is worth all the work!

Tonight,  I helped my best friend spray paint pieces of styrofoam to turn into a fence on the CATS set and added yet another layer of paint to my fingers and no doubt sacrificed a few brain cells to the fumes...but it was enjoyable.

INHALE:  How we celebrate the special occasions in our lives gives us endless opportunities for creativity if we just look for them, give ourselves time to savour it and experience it, ultimately making it part of the celebration itself.

EXHALE:  Whatever way in which you celebrate the turning of the seasons, Easter or Passover, find a moment to make something, cook something, plant something or share something with those you love.  If you have never played with crayons on hard-boiled eggs, buy some kits when they come on sale in the next few days and sit down to play.  You may get messy, but you may also discover that the child within you is not as buried as you thought.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Seven Month Itch...

A funny thing happened since my last blog post... I forgot how to breathe.  As life threw one curve ball after another at me, I felt as if I was sucking small gasps of air through clenched teeth instead of nice, deep inhales and exhales.

I felt as if the only thing I had to say was a scream or a sob... and I felt crushed.

I’d had such grand plans when I dove into this experiment 7 months ago.  I had wonderful visions of filling each day with more joy and creativity than the day before.  I envisioned the wonderful, enviable person I would become as I shared this wonderful adventure with an eager, waiting world out there in cyberspace.  It was like a honeymoon!

This past month has definitely been more like a couple who have been married at least 7 years... the sparkle was starting to wear off as life kept crashing down around me.

I started to resent my Creativity when it whispered that I should take a bit of time out of the chaos to just breathe.  It was like a partner suddenly pointing out an annoying habit of leaving the cap off the toothpaste or socks on the floor.

As I threw myself into the colouring book illustration project with all the changes and approvals, the shift in personnel and the inner demons of self-doubt, my Creativity waited patiently, like a faithful lover waits on the couch on a Friday night for their partner to come home from overtime at the office.

As I scrambled to finish a knitted afghan for a member of my faith family struck down suddenly only to have them die before I could finish it, my Creativity hugged me in comfort and whispered that there would be someone else to appreciate the gift in time.

As I drove my hands, eyes and body to the brink with multiple deadlines, my Creativity chided me to find a better balance the way a spouse would point out that too many cookies is bad for the waistline.

I tried ignoring Creativity’s voice reminding me to just inhale and exhale, to imagine a bit, to dream a bit and to just ride this rough patch through.  I felt I had nothing to say to it, to myself or to the world.

Now with some of the deadlines passed and a crop of new pressures on the horizon, my Creativity and I have entered a new, deeper relationship.  I have learned that I don’t have to justify this adventure to myself or make it live up to some impossible standard, I just have to go through the process.

One breath at a time.




As I look back on what I did during the past  41 days of my life and the silence here in cyberspace, I can see how my Creativity prodded me, encouraged me and pestered me into living this adventure despite myself.  Here’s how I know.

• the lap quilt that would have been for Betty if she'd survived the stroke and heart attack...

• the scarf I finished for Erin just as the last of the snow melted...

• the ornament I designed and stitched for next fall's JCS ornament issue... sorry, you only get a tiny peek!

• the denim blue moss stitch scarf that only worked in the car and not at the volleyball games.  I kept forgetting to K or P!

• the logo designed for a friend's family reunion this summer...

• a glimpse at two of the quick sketches I did on my tablet hooked up to the smart board during a school visit where
Paul Burns (author of Owen & the Dinosaur) and I did an enrichment workshop where they created stories as a group while I illustrated the panels.

• the pink wool I picked up to knit a baby blanket for my cousin's little daughter who was just born a few weeks ago.  It is half done thanks to a 2 day tournament in Halifax as well as the drive there and back...

No Inhale or Exhale tonight... just the whisper "I'm Back!"

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Creativity in Business...

When I first began this adventure just over 6 months ago, I had visions of setting out a clear pattern to each day, imposing my Creativity on the world around me.  Instead of being the teacher, I became the student.  Creativity gently and persistently reminded me that I learned best when I kept myself open to possibilities, looked for opportunities instead of answers and just kept walking this journey to see where it would lead me.

Right after my last post, I received a call from an ad agency here in town who wanted to meet with me to look over my portfolio and quote on a job for a possible colouring book for one of their clients.  I stayed up printing things out, reorganizing my portfolio and booked the day off from supply teaching so that I could meet with them first thing in the morning.

Once I arrived at the agency, I discovered that most of the staff was French, so I just switched languages and did the rest of the interview “en français”.  To my slight disappointment, they’d received permission to use the Nova Scotia version of the colouring book and just needed me to redraw some items that were different between our two provinces on 4 inner pages and the cover.  It would have been easy to match the existing style of the book, but it wouldn’t have been something I would have wanted to show off.

Then the little voice of Creativity whispered in my ear as the person interviewing me went off to make me photocopies.  When she returned, I told her that I would be happy to quote on the 5 pages needed, but that for $200, I would also offer to redraw all of the pages and make it something unique to our province.  

I returned home and quickly spent the next hour redrawing one of the sample pages in my own style, scanned it in and sent it off to the agency so that she could submit it to their client along with the quote.

Today, I found out that I not only got the job, but they will get me to draw the whole book and I meet with them on Monday.

It pays to listen to that little whisper and not ignore it. It may have taken me half a year into this adventure, but I am learning.  Oh Boy... am I learning!  They’ve also asked me to quote on 2 other jobs...

INHALE:  Life has cycles and opportunities.  This past week has been a reminder of how much we need to respect that cycle instead of just expecting to impose our will on the world around us so that every day proceeds according to some inner plan.  The unexpected Snow Day yesterday was another reminder that plans sometimes have to change.  Substitute teaching at a new school today where I ended up jumping in to help a student teacher with her lesson instead of just sitting back and twiddling my thumbs was a reminder that there can be Creativity in unexpected opportunities.  The students were learning about travel vocabulary in French at a very basic level, so I drew a huge suitcase on the white board and asked them what they would take on a trip.  If they didn’t know the word in French, they had to look it up in the dictionary before I would draw it in.

EXHALE:  What possibilities and opportunities might have you overlooked in the past few days because they didn’t fit in to the little plan or template that you were carrying around in your head?  When our lives become too scheduled, then we miss out on unexpected moments and Creative opportunities.  So many business experts proclaim that when you find your passion, it can also become a business or a way to bring income into your life.  While I know that when a hobby become a source of income, it does take on a more businesslike edge to it and lose some of the fun, there is also something very powerful about loving what you do.

Never lose sight of opportunities to be Creative at play and at work.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Be Creative In Your Failure...

It was a rough week.  I filled in for a resource teacher at my daughter’s high school again this week which meant that I was not only filling the new SEP information (Specialized Education Plan) into the computer systems for the new terms that just started, I could also be pulled out for any emergency supply work in the building.

Part of that included shepherding a group of 14 students down to a conference at a downtown hotel where they were fed lunch and then became test subjects for a new pilot program to help Grade 10 students determine their career paths, their dreams, their goals and their FOCUS.

As someone who has tried to live my focus for 33 years now, I found this both inspiring and incredibly depressing.  

Inspiring, because there are so many more choices for young people than there were in my day going through high school and anything that helps them figure out where their gifts, talents and passions lie is a good thing.

Depressing because I have tried to be true to myself throughout my whole career path in all the ways I have juggled Creativity with other work, motherhood and daily tasks... but I watched my income from something I had built up over 16 years crumble to almost nothing thanks to the Internet and people who felt no guilt about scanning in my cross stitch patterns to share illegally with others. 

Sometimes, in the darkest moments of the night, I wonder if I have somehow let my family down by not having a “regular” job that would have built up more job security, benefits and pension over the years and just done my art as a “hobby”.

Then I take a deep breath and remember that working from home gave me time with my children that no money could ever buy back.  I see the proof of those years in the young women they are becoming.

I exhale and remember that I have had the joy of seeing my name in print in magazines and on bookshelves.

I inhale and realize that I have tried more often than I have failed...

and that is what being Creative every day as a way of life is all about.  It is supposed to be as easy as breathing. It is supposed to be something we just do without thinking.  It will probably take me the rest of my life to learn how to do this without my own daily worries, frustrations, criticisms or failures getting in the way.

So be Creative in everything you do... even the moments you think of as failures.  If you look at them from another angle, you’ll probably discover a new perspective.

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” - Thomas Edison

INHALE:  Remember not to judge yourself by the current world standards.  I see kids who think that they have to be “discovered”, become as famous as Miley Cyrus or as wealthy as the Olsen Twins before they become adults.  They dream of being on television, in movies and of taking You Tube by storm.  Adults think that they must live in huge homes, drive flashy vehicles and have all the outward trappings of SUCCESS... in order to prove that they have lived their lives right.  They need all the right things and logos in their lives or  need to become brands in their own right for the world to stand up and take notice.  The recent disaster in Haiti and other world events keep reminding us that we need far less than that to stay alive, far more basic things to truly be happy and that the basic human, creative spirit is a powerful, creative force in its own right.  Take a deep breath and just take each day at a time.

EXHALE:  Today’s exhalation is in honour of the Olympics underway right now in Vancouver and the overwhelming Creativity displayed last night during the Opening Ceremonies.  Find a quiet corner and take some time to think about areas in your life that you are truly satisfied with.  Not all successes can be measured in monetary means or by the world’s standards.  With Fimo, tinfoil, glitter, ribbon, Photoshop or anything else that inspires you, make a medal or a trophy to celebrate at least one achievement that you are proud of and tuck it into your keepsake box, sketchbook or put it out on display.  Be proud of the ways in which you’ve been true to yourself, your beliefs and your Creativity!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Creativity In How We Share Our Faith...

I wish I’d brought my camera to church today!! 

It was a snowy Sunday and our Annual Meeting right after church, so some members of our congregation stayed home today, but we began a new unit in our BLAST rotation (Bible Learning Adventure STations) downstairs for the kids during church.

After they chose whether to put their offering in the “Helping Here At Home” or “Helping Around the World” boxes, we sat in a circle and introduced the passages from Matthew and Mark where Jesus said “Come, follow me, and I will make you fishers of people.” 

We talked about what it would be like to leave everything you know behind and start over.

We talked about what it must have been like for the people of Haiti who had to race from their homes into the streets.  My best friend and her son described what it was like to run from their house while it was burning to the ground and starting over from scratch.

Then, we went into the kitchen and made huge fish shaped pizzas.  We spread sauce on flat bread that had been cut in the shapes of fish, sprinkles the cheese on our fish, used pepperoni to make scales on 3 out of the 4 fish and used sliced black olives for the eyes.

Not only was it a creative way to share the stories of our faith... it was DELICIOUS!

INHALE:  How do you pass on your faith to those around you, especially the next generation.  However you celebrate what you believe and where you draw strength from, fewer people are attending services in many different faiths around the world.  Worship is becoming an increasingly personal and private thing for many people, yet we cannot ignore the importance of gathering together to celebrate that there IS more to life than just the number of our days.

EXHALE: This week, as the world focusses on Valentine’s Day and LOVE, remember to find time for yourself as well.  How can you be Creative in celebrating what you believe?  Can you set up a space for yourself in which to meditate or pray? Can you hunt for books, prayers or music that inspires you?  Can you share your faith journey’s story with someone who has never heard the adventure before? Can you write a prayer of love for a planet that needs it?  Can you celebrate the blessings that you have by sharing your time and talents with others?  Be Creative as you follow in the footsteps of the One who sculpted the Universe.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Getting The Whole Family to Exercise...

As anyone knows, getting everyone to cooperate when it comes to being healthy and moving  more can sometimes be a challenge.  Last night, however, it was fun and easy.

The City of Moncton organized a “Zumba For Haiti ” night in our Coliseum's Agrena complex.  On the cement floor where trade shows are usually held, a huge stage and sound system were set up, waivers signed and each person attending paid $5.00 to dance/exercise to music for an hour and a half.

For those of you who have never done Zumba (which up until last night included my 2 daughters) it is hard to describe this new form of exercise.  Yes, there are routines that you can follow, but if you need to make things lower impact (like I do) or you lose track of where you are (like everyone does their first time) or the spirit moves you otherwise, you can just dance around to the great music.

Now picture over 500 people dancing around to routines in front of a rock concert like stage.

Now picture how much fun we had as a family.

The event raised over $3400 as well as our target heart rates.  It was a BLAST!

Yup, you can be Creative in how you get your kids to move more... it just really helps when someone else makes it for a good cause!  

INHALE:  Until I discovered Zumba and Wii Fit Plus, I will admit I’d fallen into a bit of an exercise rut.  Yes, I was still moving, but I wasn’t enjoying it as much as I am now.  The sense of play that both these forms of exercise offer, as well as the ability to customize my workout to suit the health challenges of degenerative disk disease, have made staying in shape FUN.  When something is fun, you want to do it more and more.  There is the creativity we need to pass on to the next generation.

EXHALE:  Having fun together is the best way to encourage those you love to join you in moving more.  It doesn’t have to be as vigorous a workout as Zumba.  This time last year, after a heavy snowfall, our family went for a walk in the woods near our house for almost an hour through the deep snow, leaping for snow laden branches to drop down on each other and pitching snowballs around tree trunks.  Leaving seeds for birds, exploring new walking trails, doing housework as a family to rocking tunes.  This week, be creative and find a way to get everyone in your family moving, for their health and yours!

Monday, February 1, 2010

Passing Creativity On...

Yes... I did break down and buy some new wool in Geneva!

I took today “off” from teaching since Erin’s exam had been rescheduled to this morning after Friday’s snowstorm.  It was great to be in my own home, download photos and finally get to show off the results of knitting in airports.

Here are the socks I’d been meaning to finish for ages.  Getting stuck for ages in airports is a wonderful incentive, great conversation starter and even had one “lapsed knitter” thinking about checking out some of the new yarns...

I also found the circular needles for this project easy to pack.  Here is a peek at the last of several baby blankets I’ve been working  on for staff members at schools I work in who are expecting babies soon.  It is basically just a larger version of my favourite dishcloth patterns but using baby yarn instead.  It was great to work on when the kids were watching a video or while I was talking to people.

When we see someone being Creative, it can inspire us to try something ourselves.  This is how so many people learned crafts and other creative trades over the years, by watching someone else practice in front of them.

I bought a craft book about sewing for Bethany as a Christmas present that has fascinated her for weeks.  While I was away, she started one of the projects with her grandmother, but yesterday showed me a picture of some felt hearts and asked if I could help her make one.

Ah the memories!  My mom had a huge stash of felt and used to let us play with the scraps to sew into all kinds of shapes.  I took Bethany down to my felt stash and we pulled out a few colours that she liked and cut out the shapes together.  Step by step, I walked her through things as I knit beside her on the couch.  As I showed her how to do the blanket stitch about the outside edge, I had a sudden flashback to my own childhood and all of the times my mother or grandmother had shown me how to do something.

Here’s to those who help to pass Creativity on!

INHALE: The wonderful thing about the Internet is that you can find all kinds of helpful clips out there on YouTube or other websites to help you learn how to do something, but there is still something unique about sitting down with another person, especially someone more skilled in an area that you want to improve in, and learning from them.  Being shown how to do something is a very powerful way of learning that stays with us in a different way from book knowledge.  To “learn by doing” makes a skill or Creative act your own.

EXHALE: There are many skills that are becoming “lost arts” these days.  So many children don’t know how to sew a button on when it falls off clothing, sand or carve a piece of wood into a shape, cook a meal from scratch, knit, nail, crochet, saw, fix or sew.  What used to be learned from family or through earning badges is being replaced by gaming and computer skills.  There needs to be room for both in our lives.  What skills do you have, what Creative passions can you share with someone from a younger generation?  If you don’t have anyone to share with right now, think back to some of the earliest crafts you enjoyed and revisit them.  Get out some felt or popsicle sticks and just see what you can put together as you rediscover that sense of Creative Play from your childhood.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Finding Creativity in the Mundane...

I faced my fears today and drove to France for some afterschool activities with my niece and nephew... surviving roundabouts and mopeds, narrow lanes, delivery trucks and unmanned border crossings. I did not have to resort to chocolate in triumph and the worst moment came as the sun suddenly cleared the clouds to shine on one mountain in particular. I found myself contemplating pulling over suddenly into the farmer’s field to take a picture... luckily, common sense won out.
Yes, today, I finally saw the mountains! The local Swiss probably think the tall person in the burgundy coat is as mad as a hatter. I went up to the top floor of the shopping centre and out into a courtyard between buildings to shoot one picture of Geneva with the mountains behind it. I am sure that tourists with cameras never go there, only smokers, but I might not have had any other proof of Alp sightings! Images are stuck in my camera for now since I am using my brother's computer, but I will alter these posts once I get home to include the images I intended to put here.

Today’s inhalation actually came from the more mundane tasks in my life today as lived in someone else’s house.

INHALE: Chores are pretty un-fun no matter what age you are. Encouraging children to help out can sometimes try your patience on the best of days. Being the visiting Auntie, I can actually coax things out of my niece and nephew because it is something novel, but I truly believe that kids should learn to help out in a family as they grow. When a bit too much of supper landed on the floor under the table tonight, I asked them to show me where the broom hid and once I had the pile of crumbs and meal remains swept into a pile, they took turns "dustbustering". I asked them to clear their plates to the sink from the table by being waiters or waitresses and we got toys put away by asking them to show me where they went. This works because I am visiting... but it at least plants the seed. I am, however, pretty exhausted. This is like looking back in time 6 years at what my own kids were like and trying to remember what tricks worked and what didn’t. The neat thing about young children is that you get instant feedback!

EXHALE: If you are going to find more time to be creative in your everyday life, you have to stop being a martyr and doing it all yourself. This isn’t to say that 4 year olds are capable of complex chores or that 8 year olds can handle doing loads of laundry, but it starts with baby steps. The first thing is to be honest with yourself and know the areas where you can and can’t accept help. I am pretty particular about both washing dishes and washing laundry, but I will always welcome help drying and putting things away. Finding ways to be Creative about how you teach the need for each and every member of a family to help in some way goes a long way towards keeping your own sanity. Think of one or two chores that you could use some help with around the house and some Creative ways in which you could make even the mundane a bit more interesting. Sock fights anyone?

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Creativity in Taste...

I am sitting in a home that is not my own, having finally convinced my niece and nephew to settle down and go to sleep. Today, I wrestled with DVDs and TVs that were not familiar to me, European washing machines to help with laundry and ovens to try to bake cookies with nephew. Everything feels slightly different and yet the same.

What defines the familiar in sensations, sights and tastes that make us say “HOME”? Is it the smell of a favourite recipe baking that takes us back to our childhood, the feel of a certain pillow, blanket or toy, the sight of certain stars to anchor us in space?

Tonight is both a celebration and a shout-out to one person’s creativity as I sip a glass of my favourite wine in the world... one that can only be purchased in Provence near where my brother and sister-in-law have a house and from where they were able to buy bottles to keep here in Geneva.

“à mon père” (accents probably disappeared) means “To My Father” in French. This full-bodied red wine is produced in the Cotes du Ventoux region of France by a son who took over his father’s vineyards and began experimenting with artisanal wines. This one is actually made from a type of grape that was going extinct and was dedicated to his father and the generations that made wine before him. It is an earthy, rich wine that takes me back to sun drenched valleys, sitting by a pool looking down into a French valley and spending time with family. To true craftsmanship and Creativity, I lift my glass. Tears flowed as I sipped this, thinking of my own father, missing my husband who also thinks this is one of the tastiest wines on our planet (and he usually sticks to beer) and celebrating how one person’s creativity in one area can create something to savour.

SCEA Château Blanc, propriétaire récoltant* 84220 Roussillon, France * Tel 04 90 05 64 56


INHALE Today’s post is dedicated to those who pour their Creativity into tastes that we enjoy. In a world where the emphasis is on fast and cheap or convenient, we need to speak up and reclaim the idea that tastes can nourish our souls as well as our bodies. Think of the favourite dishes from your childhood that make you feel loved, the smells and tastes that recreate a holiday you enjoyed or food that is so beautifully crafted that it becomes an experience on more than one level. Creativity can leap out to us in so many ways if we just watch for it or go looking.

EXHALE Think about a food or taste that evokes a Creative response in you. How could you bring a little bit of that into your life this week? When so much of society seems to place an emphasis on QUANTITY rather than Quality, it is important to remember that feeding our eyes and souls is as important as filling our bellies, especially when so many people in our world go hungry every day.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Facing Fears Creatively...

Sometimes in life there are things that scare us. What is easy for one person might be incredibly difficult for another. Ask me to draw a dinosaur roller-skating and I can do it in a flash. Ask me to speak in public to a crowd of 500? Bring it on! Ask me to do a quadratic equation or drive in a foreign country in someone else’s car... well that’s when my palms get a little sweaty.

I guess because my husband, Nick, is such a good driver and honestly loves to drive any type of car in almost any situation, I seldom drive on long trips in our van. That is PRIME knitting, staring at scenery or daydreaming time!

Being in Geneva, Switzerland this week to help out with my niece and nephew while my brother is away and my sister-in-law handles some major conference calls and then leaves on her own trip meant I was going to have to drive them to and from school each day as well as get them to their various weekly activities. In theory, that sounded a lot less scary than Sunday night and yesterday morning when Anne showed me the various routes I’d need to take. I tried not to panic on the outside as much as I was doing on the inside...

So what do you do when that cold grip of fear starts to take hold? Face your fears and think creatively!

INHALE When Fear strikes or there is something you need to do that will be difficult, the best thing to do is tackle it as soon as possible. Facing fear head on and attacking the problem is much better than ignoring it and hoping it will just go away. Bait is also very good. Once the rush hour traffic was over, I took Anne’s car out on the roads and traced the route I’d have to follow to pick them up later in the day. After that, I even went to the main department store in their area which had underground parking just a bit taller than I am. I was almost giddy with satisfaction once I parked the car and stepped into the store... so of course I rewarded myself with a new type of chocolate bar to try. Since losing my extra weight about 8 years ago and keeping it off, I try not to use food as a reward very often... but I am in a country where really EXCELLENT chocolate takes up almost a full grocery aisle! Need I say more?

EXHALE Find something in your life that you find difficult to do but that needs to be done. Spend 15 minutes and map out a road plan, write a list or brainstorm doodle ways to break that scary task down into some smaller steps. Martha Beck calls them Turtle Steps. Someone else once said “Just eat the elephant one bite at a time.” Taking the first step towards change can often be the hardest part. By thinking more creatively, you may find interesting solutions to challenges that have stumped you up until now. Plus, don’t forget to find some good bait!