Where creativity grows

Category: Uncategorized (Page 1 of 3)

Just show up

I’m running my third half-marathon on Sunday, November 7th. I am training my butt off right now and it is really hard— especially with the start of the new school year and all the chaos/mental exhaustion that entails. But I really want to do it— and not just do it, I want to beat my previous PR (personal record). So I show up four times a week and I train my tail off. I run grueling intervals on the track every Thursday night. I drag my exhausted body out of bed early on Saturday morning to do my long runs. On Mondays and Wednesday nights I enjoy what is supposed to be an easy run with some crazy mixed in. I show up day after day— no matter how tired I am, no matter how crappy my day was, no matter how many steps I already got in, no matter how badly I want to curl up on the couch with a bag of chocolate chips. Running this half-marathon is a priority for me and short of an injury nothing will stop me from reaching my goal of a sub 3:00 finish time this fall. Most people say they could never do what I am doing. I tell them that they are absolutely wrong. What they mean is that they don’t want to do it. If they want to, there is really nothing that can stop them from doing it. I am 100% evidence of that fact. I am NOT a born runner. I don’t look like an athlete…and I really like food…and not the fueling kind. But I really want to do this and I am showing up to do it.

The same intention has to be there for your creativity. So many people tell me that they are not creative. Most people mean that they are not artistic, but I don’t even really believe that either. Every single person on this planet is a problem solver of some sort. Whether it is figuring out how to level up in a video game or how to get six kids out the door in the morning and to three different schools or some other conundrum— we are all problem solvers. How we solve those problems manifests itself in a variety of ways. In Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert she talks about how creative energy is floating through the universe looking for a viable host. When it finds someone who is open to its idea “inspiration strikes.” While you are waiting, you put the work in. If you are a writer, you pick up that pen or click on those keys daily. If you paint, you pick up the brushes every day and you put yourself out there. You let the world know that you are open and ready for ideas. You read blogs. You read inspirational books on creativity. You follow incredible talent on social media. You take yourself on artists’ dates. You write your morning pages. You show up for your creativity and you make it a priority. That hard work WILL BE rewarded! And by rewarded I am not talking about selling a canvas for 50,000$ (congratulations, Callen Schaub!) or getting your first book deal (or 100th!). You will have shown up for yourself and you will be able to answer Elizabeth Gilbert’s question: “Do you have the courage to bring forth the wonderful treasures that are hidden within you?” with an emphatic HELL YES! 

I hope that you will show up and make exploring your creativity a priority. It will enrich your life in ways you may never have imagined. 

This week despite incredible exhaustion: I wrote two new Oodle Stories, I continued my book study of Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert, I listened to a myriad of podcasts about creativity, I painted my final fan blade and I did some watercolor blob sketching. 

How did you show up for your creativity this week?

My Artist’s Way Journey

The 25th anniversary revision of The Artists’ way by Julia Cameron has almost five thousand 4.5 star reviews on Amazon and a 3.9 rating on Goodreads with 100,000+ votes. People like this book and many people swear that it has changed their life forever. I definitely do not fall into that camp. I have my issues with the book’s religious preachy tone, but there are two aspects of it that I love: Morning Pages and Artist Dates.

Morning Pages

The Morning Pages do not let you hide from the things in your brain (at least if you are taking the exercise at all seriously). Cameron points out that people often fall out of this practice when things are going well because they don’t feel the need to get anything off their chest. When they are feeling bad, they don’t want to face whatever is haunting them. Over the past five weeks of working my way through the book, I have 100% fallen into this camp. The past two weeks have been full of incredible highs and lows. During the highs, I felt I didn’t have anything I needed to write about. During the lows, well those were better locked away inside my brain. The resulting complete meltdown was evidence enough that I should stick to the daily practice to help me maintain an even keel. I started the Morning Pages thinking they were supposed to help with my creativity—not my mental health. What I did not realize was that by calming my heart and mind that I WAS helping my creative mojo. I have put my journal back on top of my desk and it has resumed its place on my daily agenda. 

Artist Dates

I did a lot of research on date ideas during the first week so that I could make sure I didn’t have an excuse to not go on one. My list has around 30 different ideas on it and ranges from trips to art stores to watching documentaries and people watching in the park. I specifically did not want to have my dates focused on spending money, but rather being inspired. My five dates have been VERY different, but have done exactly what they were intended to do—inspire me to delve deeper into my creative pursuits. 

I got a lot of my ideas from these lists: 101 Artist Date Ideas and 48 Artist Date ideas.

Date #1: Twisted Stitch in South Elgin, IL

I do not quit or sew— despite having a nice sewing machine. I walked in with no notion of buying anything, but just to see what creative chord it might strike. I left inspired to tackle a simple project for my niece’s birthday made of materials I had sitting at home. What was most amazing to me about this project was that I had to adjust it to work with the supplies I had. I could have returned to the store, but I didn’t want to. Could I make it work.? Holy moly, I created a super cute stuffed owl that I can’t wait to send to my niece for her birthday.  

Date #2 The Tea Tree in Batavia, IL 

I LOVE tea and have a ridiculous collection of leaves because I am incapable of passing up on something that will make a lovely pitcher of iced tea on a hot summer afternoon. I arrived after a short walk around downtown Batavia on a gloriously sunny day. The owner was excited to geek out on her offerings— and I was more than prepared to take it all in. There is nothing more inspiring than seeing someone get over the top excited about something— even tea leaves!  Her storefront has a beautiful patio that is shaded by a gigantic tree. I took my canister of tea and found a spot to take in all the textures and shapes on the patio with my sketchbook. 

Date #3 Habitat for Humanity Woodstock, IL

I am pretty diligent about only doing solo dates, but I really thought my husband could benefit from a trip, too. The last time I was at our local Habitat for Humanity Restore, someone mentioned the Woodstock store was better. It was a bit of a drive, but it was worth the trip. The store was better organized and it had more selection. While I try hard to not treat my dates as permission to go on a shopping spree, I found an awesome set of ceramic light shades and a few tiles for a whopping total of $5.40. Our trip home brought us along the Fox River, where we discovered an awesome little pub called Rosie O’Hares. We had an amazing lunch straight out of their smoker. From there we headed to Great Spirit Hardwood in Dundee, where we picked out hardwood for the frame Tom is going to build for our Foodie Map. We literally just need the frame and this culinary adventure can begin! 

Date #4 Elgin Farmers Market Elgin, IL 

Despite oppressive heat and humidity, I needed to get out of the house. This is how I ended up at the Elgin Farmers Market, which has really turned into a lovely little market. I completely violated my shopping spree rule, but I was so inspired by the hustle and energy of these local vendors that I wanted to do whatever I could to support their ventures. I returned home with coffee beans, tea leaves, Belgian truffles, Nutella filled cookies, three jars of BBQ sauce and a huge smile on my face. My adventures led to a beautiful home cooked meal with one of the sauces. This event was capped off by learning that someone had purchased one of the bricks I had painted for the Follow the Imago Brick Road campaign. 

Date #5 Imaginary Animals with Carla Sondheim

After the Sketchbook Revival, I signed up for any site that promised to keep my creative mojo flowing. Carla Sondheim was on that list. I try to keep up with the inspirational emails, but most weeks they get a quick glance and then are deleted. Something made me do a double take and keep reading about an upcoming on-line class called Imaginary Animals. The price was right for a 3.5 hour class and I was free. Within the first fifteen minutes I knew that this investment in my creativity was going to be worth every single penny. By the end of the afternoon, I was overflowing with ideas and inspiration to continue my learning. 

Over the next few weeks, I am going to invest time into figuring out r how I will continue my dates once I return to school. That will be my biggest challenge going forward. I have definitely experienced the creative rewards of this practice. It will be a priority without a doubt!

Until next time, oodle on.

Jen

Boost your creativity challenge

I have a card on my shelf right behind me here in The Oodlearium that says Begin Anywhere (John Cage). And that my friends is exactly what I am doing today. I have wanted to do a weekly or even daily creative challenge to help people revive their creative mojo or perhaps even to tap into one they didn’t know they had. Alas life (and a pandemic) happened and here I am a year later and a year wiser. For the last year I have been scouring Pinterest for ideas on challenges (for myself and for others) and I fell into the “pin it and then do nothing with it” black pit of creative sadness. 

That ends today! I went through all of my pins and I created a table of 36 activities that will serve as a creative challenge buffet for myself and hopefully for you. These ideas are supposed to serve as inspiration– as a springboard for you to do whatever gets your creative juices flowing. Yes, some of the ideas are super silly and perhaps even a bit childish. Isn’t a “bit of silly” just what most of us need these days? Don’t like writing? Then don’t do those…or perhaps do something that is a bit out of your comfort zone to shake things up a bit. Don’t have watercolors? Then try out those ideas with markers. Many of the activities have a hyperlink to a website with further explanation and examples. Others are self-explanatory. The activities that say “Be inspired by…” are invitations for you to forge your own path with minimal guidance. 

I’m going to play along, too. I will post my adventures (and mis-adventures) with hashtag #creativitygrowshere. I hope you’ll join me on this journey!

Download the PDF here.

What’s happening in The Oodlearium

Quote I’m contemplating 

Creativity requires the courage to let go of certainty. Erich Fremm

I am NOT good at letting things go, but when it comes to creating a pour painting or an alcohol ink tile, I have to let go of any notion that I am controlling the outcome. Yes, I select the colors, but after that it’s all magic and nothing is guaranteed— that is where the fun comes in to play!

What have I been working on?

I finished up my 17th year of teaching on June 8th and it has honestly taken me a few weeks to recover from what was the hardest year of my teaching career (which is why I have not done an update in a few weeks). I taught a dear friend how to pour paint (she loved it so much she offered to host my first-ever Mobile Oodlearium next month!). Last week I was in Phoenix visiting family and I did a painting session with my aunt. She went all in when I first told her about my new found obsession. She bought a basic kit, but then started playing around with mixing her own paints with Flotrol and even used a mini torch to get cells in her pours. She was very exploratory. I showed her how I normally pour and then she did one of her own on a 12×12 ceramic tile, which turned out awesome. Finally, I introduced her to 3D pouring on a plastic mask from Michaels, which turned out AWESOME! 

I designed and ordered my Oodlearium business cards, so that I can hand them out when I am out and about rambling on about my happy place.

As always, you can follow my 52 Frames journey here to see my entry for the weekly photography prompts.

In the kitchen

My best friend and her husband were over this past weekend for patio time, so I decided to try out a recipe I found for baked vegan glazed chocolate donuts. To say these were stupid good and easy to make would be the understatement of the decade. I opted to use the applesauce option rather than track down vegan butter, so I was able to make them with ingredients I already had in the pantry. They were so good that I might have eaten a few too many and subsequently made a second batch! And they got the stamp of approval from our vegan donut lovers!

We continued our exploration of grinding our own meat for burgers. I went out to Ream’s Meat Market and was excited when the butcher gave me a custom mix of meat to grind. We had one pound each of brisket, short ribs and angus chuck. The resulting burgers were excellent, but we agreed we didn’t notice a huge difference from the home ground angus chuck we normally make.

Our creative explorations in the kitchen led us to a crazy idea for a collaborative project. We ordered a map that we are going to use to track our culinary explorations from around the world. If we made a food from a certain area at home that will be one colored pin. If we ate the food at a restaurant that will be another color. And if we ate the food in that place, we’ll have yet another color pin. We are going to design and build a custom frame for the map and it will hang as a conversation piece in our dining room when it is done. Stay tuned for updates!

The Creative Mindset

After all the stress and anxiety of this past school year, I decided one of my focuses this summer would be on getting out into nature as often as possible. I have started back up with my yin yoga practice and I am doing it in our backyard early in the morning. It’s awesome to get my zen on with the chirping of birds in the background and the sun rising. I love this video, but also spend a lot of time exploring Yoga with Adriene. 

Something else I have been working on is doing art anywhere. A dear friend gave me an adorable little cloth zippered pouch with some art supplies. I keep it filled with my doodling pens, a mini sketch book and some note cards. I used these tools extensively while I was out of town. If I was killing time while my niece was taking a nap or while waiting to meet someone for lunch, I would quickly whip out my pouch and doodle for a few minutes—finding inspiration wherever I was. This is how I came up with my design for my Oodlearium business cards!

The Artist’s Way

I am decades late to The Artist’s Way party, but I finally decided to hop on the train and check out the book from the library. It was quickly clear that this book could be profoundly important to my creativity, so I splurged and bought the actual book. I reached out to a group of creatives to see how they have used the book and I connected with another photographer on the other side of the globe in Australia. We have decided to go through the book together and keep each other accountable to the process. I have been diligent about completing the morning pages, which act like a morning brain dump on paper. They have helped me to get a handle on my monkey brain for sure— at least I know what’s bugging me! This week I will take myself on my first artist date— location TBD. The goal is to have a weekly dose of creative explorations that fill your creative mojo cup— you can’t tap into an empty well. Exciting for sure! The first chapter talked about the people who have not supported my creative endeavors. I have been SO lucky that my friends and family have always supported and encouraged my exploits. For this I am so grateful!!!

Until next time, keep oodling!

Jen

#creativity

#courage

#pourpainting

#3dpainting

#veganchocolatedonuts

#meatgrinding

#foodiemap

#foodie

#mobileoodlearium

#creativemindset

#yinyoga

#yogainnature

#sketchbook

#sketchanywhere

#theartistsway

#artistdate

#morningpages

Karen Abend’s Sketchbook Revival 2021

When I signed up for Karen Abend’s Sketchbook Revival I was immediately blown away by the amount of content that is offered completely for free. There were two sessions every day for fourteen days. The sessions ranged from 25-60 minutes and they were incredibly inspirational. I knew that I would not be able to participate in all of the sessions, but the ones I did do were amazing and have left their mark on my creative practice. I am so excited to incorporate what I have learned into future projects. I have already purchased my first set of watercolors. I have used what I learned in the one-liner class to create whimsical birthday cards for our nephews and I have so many ideas for the creativity boot camp I hope to host one day!

Check out Karen Abend’s site here. She is the mastermind behind this amazing workshop. 

Here is a list of the artists who were a part of the workshops. Check them out for sure!

Links to all the sessions will be available for free until 4/18/21.

  • Alexandra Gabor
  • Amy Maricle
  • Carla Sonheim
  • Danny Gregory
  • David Drazil
  • Deborah Putnoi
  • Esté Macleod
  • Helen Hallows
  • Helen Wells
  • Jeanne Oliver
  • Jessica Swift
  • John Muir Laws
  • Karen Stamper
  • Kiala Givehand
  • Koosje Koene
  • Mati Mcdonough
  • Neesha Merani
  • Noopur Thakur
  • Robyn McClendon
  • Sarah Matthews
  • Sarah Simon
  • Shari Blaukopf
  • Shelley Klammer
  • Susan Chiang
  • Tamara Laporte
  • Tina Mundelsee
  • Traci Bautista
  • Trupti Karjinni
  • Karen Abend

My favorite sessions were:

  • A Vessel of Voices: Handmade Journals for Capturing Creative Conversations with Kiala Givehand I have been interested in bookbinding for a while and I was so excited to create my own sketchbook. I didn’t use it much for the Revival because it seemed too small, but I did use it to take notes and I will use it to doodle in.
  • You’re A Hoot! with Tamara Laporte. We sketched out an owl and then painted it with watercolors and added fun doodles to it. My first attempt was an abysmal failure. The drawing was fine, but using kindergarten watercolors was challenging. I have since gone out and purchased a nice starter set of Winston and Newton watercolors, so I will be trying that one out again.
  • Quick Character Design with Alexandra Gabor was awesome. We took five seconds to draw a random set of connected lines, colored them in and then turned them into little characters. This was so much fun! She also teaches a class on the app Procreate where she digitizes her doodles and then creates a whole scene. It looks amazing and something that would be the perfect compliment to my Oodle Doodles.
  • Meditative Paint: Holes with Amy Marcle was incredibly therapeutic. We literally drew circles with watercolors for twenty minutes or so. While we were painting she talked us through how to be mindful of what we were doing— how the brush felt against the paper, how we were breathing and so much more. Immediately after doing this session, I was so relaxed and took the most amazing and revitalizing nap. I will definitely incorporate this exercise into my regular practice.
  • Creating Interesting Clothing for Characters with Noopur Thakur was challenging. I definitely struggled with the practice because I was using my Tombow markers instead of the painting colored pencils she recommended. It was an interesting exercise though to think about creating fabrics for the clothes on my characters. Will play around with this more in the future.
  • The final session was One-liner Drawings with Carla Sonheim where we were given a prompt and had to draw whatever she said without lifting our pens from the paper. This was an awesome exercise and so freeing! I drew a cat, elephant, flowers and a toilet. After we did the one-liners we chose one of them to redraw and refine. I was very excited to try out my cat. I created two versions— one that was a watercolor (I love my simple little W&N set) and then one that was a collage (I finally found something to do with a whole mess of old photograph prints I had!) She has some extensive classes on her site that I am definitely interested in. 

I really cannot say enough wonderful things about this workshop. The amount of content is mind boggling. The fact that it is free is just insanely generous. The community that participates in this event is incredible. Everyday there was a ton of activity on the Facebook group where people shared ideas, their work and answered the unending questions by newbs like myself. I cannot wait to sign up again next year!

#sketchbookrevival2021

#karenabend

A self-care buffet

When the pandemic started, I entered survival mode. I did what I could to just allow myself to put one foot in front of the next. Sometimes that meant cooking elaborate dinners for us. Sometimes that meant baking delicious brownies and eating half the pan in one sitting. Sometimes it meant killing a 10-mile training run in ridiculous temperatures. Sometimes it meant breaking down into a blubbering mess. As the months have worn on the latter has been more frequent and it has been exhausting. Tom and I have talked and talked and talked about what I could do to help me find my center and until the last week or so nothing was helping. Being here in The Oodlearium is truly the only time I feel complete joy and peace, but even lately that has been hard.

Why does any of this even matter and why am I talking about this on a blog about creativity? Stress and depression/anxiety are some of the greatest blockers to creativity. I know that I am not the only one who has felt overwhelmed and this past year has amplified all of those feelings. I often describe my life as juggling 100 plates of fire and then every once in a while someone pours gasoline on it and everything comes crashing down around me. That is not the way I want to go through life. 

During our last post-breakdown chat, Tom was emphatic that I needed to practice daily self-care. That buzzword has always bothered me, because I associate it with yuppy soccer moms who want to justify getting their nails done in the middle of a pandemic. But, I understood his sentiment. I needed to take time for ME to make sure I am good every single day. 

We brainstormed a long list (have I mentioned how obsessed I am with lists?) of ways that I could take care of myself. I wanted to create a buffet of options so that I could pick and choose depending on my mood. I wrote each idea on a notecode and clipped them together with a binder clip. They sit next to my journal in the middle of The Oodle Surface where I see them every single day. Each day when I have practiced my self-care, I jot the date and anything noteworthy on the back of the appropriate card. It has been tremendously helpful and has kept me focused on taking care of myself.

Here are some of the activities on my cards:

  1. Yoga
    1. I LOVE Yoga with Adrienne. She has a video for every situation, but she is also incredibly loving and supportive. I just did her Yoga for Healing video (only 10 minutes) and I felt like a new person.
    2. This Yin Yoga Foundations video is excellent. It is 45 minutes, but it definitely calms my mind and my body.
  2. Meditation
    1. I try counting my breaths and staying focused on my breath. 
    2. I have also started using my hour glass to work on staying focused.
  3. Take an online art class.
    1. I recently purchased a five month subscription to CreativeBug for $5.
    2. There are TONS of classes on YouTube. Consider creating a library that you can go to when you want to watch something later.
  4. Write thank you cards.
    1. This book changed my life. 
    2. Have a stack of thank you cards ready (you can get them super cheap from the Dollar Store) and then you can just write it out quickly.
  5. Do a pour painting.
    1. If you are a regular reader of my This Week in The Oodlearium, you know that I am obsessed with pour painting.
    2. If you need a lesson in letting go, pour painting is a great way to do it.
  6. Take a nap.
    1. Most people go through their lives extremely sleep deprived.
    2. Don’t fight it. Your body is telling you that you need rest.
  7. Get out in nature.
    1. Fresh air ALWAYS helps.
    2. My husband set up a patio shelter last summer to block the harsh afternoon sun. It made such a difference and we spent so much more time outside than normal. 
  8. Index card art.
    1. This idea goes hand in hand with mindful doodling. 
    2. Grab a stack of notecards and a pen and fill the card with a pattern. Go back and color it, if you fancy. Base the doodle around an inspirational quote or even a power word such as strength.
  9. Read.
    1. My husband and I are reading Seth Godin’s newest book The Practice.
    2. We have both been profoundly moved and inspired by his message.
  10. Self-massage.
    1. This book has kept both of us out of the ER multiple times. Daily self-massage can help release the tension that builds up during our chaotic and stressful lives.
    2. Consider investing in a Theragun. We are not a gadget gadget family, but the $199 investment we made in our Theragun last summer has been life changing. As a runner, it has helped with recovery after long training runs, but it helps just loosen up sore muscles from life.

Download a printable copy of my cards here. (This link will force you to make a copy of the document and save to your Google Drive. From there, you can open it in Google Slides and print it out with six or nine slides / page onto card stock.)

Until next time, Oodle on and make sure you are taking care of YOU.

Behind the Scenes with Rosie

Many of my Oodle Doodle stories are based on journal prompts from a book I bought for school when I started teaching called The Daily Spark. I loved the idea of turning the stories on their heads and telling them from the characters point of view. I went through the book and jotted down a list of almost one hundred prompts and each time I want to write a story, I pick a prompt and let it go wherever it goes.

When I saw the prompt, “What’s in a name?” I knew immediately that I had to base the story on my Grandma. 10 years ago this week, my Grandma broke a promise she made to me when I was a little kid…and that she reiterated many times when I was an adult— that she was going to live forever. Even after she had a massive heart attack at the age of 86 and only had 10% of her heart functioning, she maintained that she was not going anywhere. She was not deluded, she just lived her life on her terms.

As I sit here in The Oodlearium, I am surrounded by so many wonderful memories of her, but there is a whole in my heart that will never be filled. This story was just one little tribute to her. There is really nothing I could say or do to truly capture the impact she made on my life or how very much she was loved by every single person who met her. She was strong, brave and beautiful.

I really do wish you could have known her.

You can read Rosie’s story here.

This week in the Oodlearium

52 Frames 2020

In December I became a 3X Warrior with 52 Frames, which means I had submitted a photo every week for 156 straight weeks. Each year at the end of the year, I print a book with all my images and captions. I have been using Blurb with the In-Design plugin for longer than I can remember. I have always been incredibly happy with the quality and price, but most of all with the customer service. Check out my 2020 book here.

Valentine’s Day Cards for Senior CenterI randomly heard about an opportunity to make Valentine’s Day cards for residents at a local senior center and I jumped on the opportunity. After sending out so many Nerdy Bird and Fuzzer cards last year, I want to take a break. This project was the perfect alternative. I had some super fun doodles that I made last year for a running club event.They were perfect for making some sweet  cards for the residents. I cannot imagine how hard it must be— unable to see family and friends and many times not as tech savvy…I hope these little cards brighten a few people’s day!

The Mandalorian

Had you asked me a year ago if i was going to recommend a Star Wars show, I would have told you you were crazy. But, here I am emphatically recommending that you watch the Disney show The Mandalorian. Listen- my husband and I don’t pay for movie streaming services. We are not in the group of people with Netflix, Hulu, Prime, Disney and all the other services. We spent $6 for one month of Disney and it was the best $6 I have ever spent! 
If you don’t like sci-fi type stuff, I totally get it. But, I do highly recommend watching the behind the scenes documentary about the making of the show. It will give you an incredible appreciation for what they did to make the show as incredible as it, but it is also fun to watch a group sit around a table and just geek out on something they love with all their hearts. What they do in that documentary is exactly what I am trying to accomplish in my creative chats. More on that soon.

Personal on-site

I recently posted about how my husband and I like to do personal offsites a few times a year. Of course COVID-19 has rendered that impossible. Over the course of the week, I found myself getting a bit overwhelmed by all of the ideas I have for my time here in The Oodlearium. I have my idea journal, but I also have little slips of paper and stacks of books and post-it notes and the projects I’m already working on. In addition, I am trying to spend more time with creatives and figuring out how to do that in the middle of a pandemic has been challenging. So, I decided to take yesterday and spend the entire day here in The Oodlearium. It was not as effective as the offsite, because I definitely did get distracted by stacks of dishes and loads of laundry. If I do this again, I will have to prepare in advance so that I am not stressed out about chores. I was able to get all of my project ideas into one spot— huge help! I’ll be spending more time with creatives starting on Tuesday. My husband was an angel and talked through some major issues I was having with a couple of other situations. Overall, it was a worthwhile experience.

Light, Science, MagicA while back a fellow Framer recommended a book on lighting called Light, Science, Magic. I was dismayed when every copy I saw was almost $200. However, our awesome library tracked it down for me and it’s sitting here waiting for me to crack it open this week. When I just searched for the link right now, I was amazed to see some super cheap used versions of it. Fingers crossed that it lives up to the recommendation.

Oodle Doodles

I’m still working on stories— a little bit almost every single day. This week I was taken aback when I read a story to Tom that I loved and he suggested a few tweaks. I was not mad at him. He was absolutely right— the story didn’t flow. I just hadn’t realized how attached I was to the project. I rewrote it and the revised version about celebrating National Dessert Day is great! I’m thinking I am going to do a separate post each time I update a story on the site, so that people don’t have to go hunting for them and you get a bit of funness delivered straight to your in-box.

CreativeBug

A friend told me about the site CreativeBug that offers some seriously fun looking classes. It’s a subscription service, but the cost is pretty low. You can do it month to month and cancel at any time. I’m gong to sign up today for their free month trial and see if I like it. I really want to branch out into some new directions and this looks like the perfect way to learn something new. Check it out! 

52 Frames

If you haven’t seen my water image from last week, check it out here. So many of the comments are people in complete disbelief that it is ice on our bathroom window. It really did look like someone did a 3-D rendering of a tapestry in ice. I have never seen anything like it and probably will not see it again. I’m trying to figure out a place to hang this. Maybe when we eventually redo that bathroom…
This coming week’s theme was horizon. Remember the two winter storms I mentioned? Yeah, that meant I was not going out looking for what is already mediocre scenery in our area. Tom was the one that suggested I play around with the oodle surface and our wine charms. I’m super excited how the shot turned out and I am hoping it brings a smile to people’s faces this week. The album with my shot will go live on Tuesday.

13.1 mile creative challenge

Last summer in a moment of weakness I agreed to sign up for my first-ever half-marathon with my sole sista Jen. At the time I was recovering from vein surgery that had gone much less than well. I wasn’t even able to run and I was sure that I had gone insane.

The night before Halloween I attended a lecture at my running club about how to run through the winter. Our fearless leader Glen told the group that the way to get through winter running was just to show up and the rest would take care of itself. I didn’t realize that motto would be tested the very next day when we got five inches of snow on Halloween (not normal here in Illinois). I showed up and started my most consistent streak of running since I started. It did not matter how cold it was or how much snow we had gotten as long as I showed up.

I was setting the foundation for starting my half-marathon training come spring of 2020. The first kink went into my plan when my partner in crime— the very sole sista who had convinced me to sign up for the Chicago Rock n’ Roll Half-Marathon went down with a hip injury. I kept up my three days a week with other runners from my club. I never took a day off— I just had to show up. On March 12th the world changed drastically. All of our organized running groups were shut down. After six months of running three times a week with a group of people who are like family to me, I was less than prepared to start running by myself. Enter pivot #1. 

I made a pact with another friend from Dick Pond that we would run together as often as possible. She was a small business owner, who was shut down during the shelter in place so we had a lot of time together. If we kept it to the two of us, we could socially distance ourselves and get some much needed fresh air. A few weeks into that plan, I took a nasty fall on the track and had a high ankle sprain that left me in a boot for about two weeks. Darcy was there waiting for me when I returned and we resumed our training. Even though she had not formally signed up for the race, she was planning to do what we were sure would become a virtual race. Fast forward to the end of May when the next major kink in my plan hit.

Darcy was out with friends and family on her horse when she took a nasty fall and broke a few ribs. I was starting to wonder if I was the reason all my running partners were dropping like flies! It would have been more than easy to quit at this point in time, but I could not be deterred. The running groups from our club were starting back up and that included a group training for the Fox Valley Half-Marathon in September. Perfect…pivot #2.

We both wanted to be done. Since the race

I started training with the Food for Health group. I had a couple of ladies who ran at my pace and we fell into easy step with each other. We met twice a week and I resumed my track workouts on Thursdays. We were doing awesome. The miles were slowly increasing and we all could feel ourselves getting stronger. We were about six weeks out from the race when Julie’s feet started giving her trouble and I started having horrible pelvic pain after my longer runs. The weekend runs were taking everything out of me. I would get home, shower and sleep most of the day. This was not sustainable.

We were both frustrated and wanted to be done with the race. The last thing we wanted was a long term injury or for this experience to make us quit running altogether. Julie made an off-hand comment about just running the dang 13.1 miles the next chance we had and being done. My brain latched on nice and hard to that idea. Remember that while I am trying to train for this race, I am having horrible anxiety about returning to school in the middle of a pandemic. I am having regular panic attacks and everything is starting to become a chore. I threw out a few dates, but they did not work for her. On top of all of this, we were unable to run together for the next few weeks. I was not sure what to do. I had two options- do the 13.1 miles by myself or wait for the actual race in September and run with the group. There was no way I was going to be able to do that distance by myself. With the uncertainty surrounding my return to my classroom, I was not comfortable waiting for race in September. I had to figure something else out. Enter Pivot #4.

The next step on my training plan was a 13.1 run…the exact length of a half-marathon. If I could make it through that run, all the months of training could be done and I could go back to jolly 3-6 mile runs when I felt like it. One big question remained: How was I ever going to do that by myself? By chance I learned that a friend was doing her long run that week and I was free to join her. We set a time to meet up and did not even give a single thought about the forecast (95 with close to 100% humidity). 

The road to that run was long and arduous…winding and bumpy in many places. But I was laser focused on figuring out a way to finish what I started despite all the roadblocks that popped up along the way. What I accomplished, despite all of the hard work and time I put in, was something I never dreamed I would ever try let alone do. It took a lot of creative problem solving, but once I committed, I was not giving up on it. 

Not all creativity ends in a piece of art. It’s a mindset— a thought process that helps you get stuff done. 

Follow-up…three weeks later I accidentally ran a second half-marathon and beat my first time by 20 minutes! 

The Personal Offsite

My husband and I are avid fans of the Tim Ferriss podcast where in each episode, Tim interviews world-class performers from eclectic areas to tease out the tactics, tools, and routines you can use. His wide ranging conversations include favorite books, morning routines, exercise habits, time-management tricks, and much more. In early 2019 Tim interviewed Greg McKeown, author of Essentialism the Disciplined Pursuit of Less. 

While their conversation covered a myriad of topics, my husband and I honed in on the idea of a “quarterly personal offsite.” You are probably familiar with the concept of the annual review—  an opportunity to reflect on your performance over the last year and set goals for the upcoming year.  Despite their ubiquity, few people find the annual review helpful.  What if you dedicated some time on a regular basis away from home and work to check in with where you have been and where you are going in your life? McKeown calls it a quarterly personal offsite based on the idea that “every three months you take three hours to identify the three things you want to accomplish over the next three months.”

We were all in. Our goal was to evaluate where we were at in our lives and look forward without the distractions of our every day lives. I found us a quaint AirBnb in Durango, Iowa. The description promised the perfect place to get away from the world and unwind. Now just to set the ground rules for the weekend. 

  • No technology. Even if we did not come away with any clear direction forward we knew that a digital detox would be beneficial. The cabin was remote enough that there was no cell service or wifi.
  • Although the cabin did have sattelite TV, we did not want to fall into our old routine of wasting hours watching shows.
  • This was not a vacation. We were not going somewhere to sightsee or dine out. Our cabin had a small kitchen and we brought the fixings for simple meals. We would spend our time reading, writing, talking, meditating, doing yoga, hiking, or relaxing. 
  • We brought stacks and stacks of notebooks, post-it notes and pens. 

As soon as we arrived we knew we had selected the perfect location. The cabin was remote enough to feel like we were away from the world, but well appointed so that we were comfortable. We both did a lot of reading, writing and talking about our lives— where we were and where we wanted to go. After hours and hours of writing, I started to transfer my main ideas to post-it notes so that I could more easily sort and organize what I had uncovered. Tom followed a similar system. After two days we felt reenergized and extremely hopeful about the future. It was absolutely one of the best decisions we have ever made. We had clear action items to address when we returned home and a promise to reconvence in three months to check in again. 

About six months later, we decided to schedule another off-site to a different location. In the months since our initial “event” we had made a lot of changes in our lives. We were much more positive and upbeat about how life was going. That made the workshopping aspect of the weekend a bit more challenging, because we felt we were on the right path already. This weekend was less successful. We returned home a day early and resumed our lives.

Fast forward to last summer (2019) when we went on a driving trip around the Great Lakes. It was fourth of July weekend and our home for the next two days was a beautiful cabin in Chassell, Michigan. As soon as we walked into the cabin, we decided to put our vacation on pause for a few days and have another personal offsite. This one was much more similar to the first one— lots of writing, reading, talking and self-discovery. I honestly think the second one was a fluke and perhaps much too forced. 

What we have learned from the personal offsites:

  1. Taking the time to make your life is a priority is incredibly powerful. 
  2. If you get nothing out of the offsite other than a digital detox it is worthwhile. 
  3. Selecting your location with the intention of making the most of the experience is vital. These trips are not about sightseeing, dining out or even adventures.
  4. It helped to sort through all that was overwhelming us and focus on the 3-4 items that were most important to us over the next 2-3 months.  We left with clear action items.
  5. We left incredibly reenergized and most importantly more hopeful about the future.

My goals for the weekend were not creativity minded in general, but the positive effects of the weekend would have still held true. Checking out of the universe for a few days and getting away from the grind absolutely will free your mind and allow it to resume making unique connections between ideas. Stepping away from the constant barrage of negativity will give your heart and your mind some much needed rest and an opportunity to revitalize itself. You have an opportunity to hone your focus for your future giving you a much greater feeling of control.

I cannot recommend this experience highly enough!

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