Where creativity grows

Category: Uncategorized (Page 2 of 3)

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!

What’s happening in the Oodlearium

It’s New Year’s Day and I have been off for just shy of two weeks. I return to my classroom on Monday for the first time since early November. To say that I am anxious would be a gross understatement. However, I decided to dedicate my entire Christmas break to ME. So here is what has been happening in the Oodleariium while I have been off:

Pour Painting with new mini strainers. If you ever needed proof that your phone or device is listening to you then these strainers are that proof. I made some offhand comment about how it would be fun to have different strainers with different hole patterns to play around with. The next time I was on Pinterest the exact set I was looking for showed up in my feed. They were cheap and I ordered them. I have since done two paintings with them and I LOVE THEM! 

International Pour Painting Party. I have a fellow Framer friend from Israel who also enjoys pour painting. We got together last week for the second time to do a painting together. She was curious to see my technique. We talked a lot about supplies and the differences in what is available here vs what she can easily find in Israel. For example, she had never heard of pour-ready paint, which is all that I use. We talked about cameras and of course our worries about the continued danger of the raging pandemic. I cherish these experiences, because they remind me how small the world is. 

Oodle Doodle Book Idea. One day I was sitting here in the Oodlearium going through my sketch books and looking at my different doodles. I started marking the pages with post-it notes and before I knew it, there were close to FORTY different doodles. I smiled at each one and remembered the various circumstances that brought them to be. That is when it struck me that I really wanted to create a book with all of my doodles. Tom (at least I think it was his idea) suggested that I write the backstory for each of the characters and have that text accompany each image. I was sold immediately! What a fun idea. I spent a whole day last week drawing a clean version of each of the doodles and then scanning them. I have a whole process for digitally coloring my drawings that Tom introduced me to when I was first zentangling. If you are interested in that process let me know and I can detail it for you. As of today, I have ALL of the drawings scanned and colored and I am just starting to think about stories. 

Welcome to The Oodlearium sign. A few months ago I was cleaning off a shelf in the basement and I was ready to pitch a stack of rusted and warped cookie sheets that I had from my mother-in-law. I was having a really hard time with the idea of getting rid of them because she was the queen baker of the family— she is the reason that I bake gazillions of Christmas cookies every year. It occured to me that I might be able to use the sheet as a backdrop for a sign. I bought a stack of wooden letters at the craft store and spray painted them a nice teal color (unfortunately did not match my bench perfectly, but it is what we had on hand and is close enough). The letters sat in a jumble on the cookie sheet until this morning when I finally said ENOUGH. I am going to finish this damned project! I grabbed my E6000 adhesive even though it says to use it in a well-ventilated area and I proceeded to finish the sign. I’m not sure exactly where (or if) I will hang it. For now, its sitting next to my bench and I love it!

Crochet Madness. I normally wear a really nice wind resistant ski cap when I am running in the winter. However, lately I have found that it is often too warm. I scoured the world of Pinterest for an earwarmer pattern and found a few that had potential. The day I decided to try them out, I was super stressed out, so I was making mistakes left and right.  I had purchased some beautiful purple merino wool yarn from a local knit shop and was super excited to try it out. However, I did not want to ruin or waste the expensive yarn. I tore apart what I did no less than seven times before deciding to walk away. The next day I decided to try my own pattern, but again I kept making silly mistakes. I have since gotten a decent start on one, but I think there is still an issue with the first few rows. I’m tabling that project for now! Other things to worry about. I’ll pick it up soon enough again.

Azul. Tom and I decided not to get each other Christmas presents this year, but I did pick up a new board game for us called Azul. It has been around for a few years and has gotten awesome reviews on BoardGameGeek.com. We have been having loads of fun playing what is a very simple to learn, but deep game. 

A creative Christmas. As I mentioned we decided not to do presents for each other this year. In a world where we really have enough money to buy what we need, it just puts us in the position to acquire more stuff that we don’t need. So we decided to dedicate our break to our creative pursuits. For me that meant spending a bunch of time in the kitchen. I made spinach/artichoke ravioli with a vodka cream sauce for our Christmas Eve dinner. We had naan bread pizzas with homemade Italian sausage for Christmas Day dinner. One morning I made breakfast pizzas. New Year’s Eve we had an almost entirely sous vide dinner (prime steaks, lobster tails, honey glazed carrots, chocolate mousse all in the sous vide) and then garlic mash and homemade French bread. YUMMO! Tom keeps telling me that I need to write about my fearlessness in the kitchen, because it is a bit of a mystery to me. I’ll save that for another day!

52 Frames- 3X Warrior

My 52 Frames picture for last week completed my 3x Warrior Status, which means that I submitted a picture 156 straight weeks. The theme was to capture 2020 in an image. I woke up on Christmas morning to find the window in the Oodlearium covered in ice and the sun shining on it. 2020 was just like a snowflake— unique and temporary. I was extremely proud of this image!

That means the image for this week is the same as it is every year— a self-portrait. Four years in to this project, I am no longer mortified by this challenge. I still don’t like it, but it doesn’t bring me to tears like it did the first year (no joke). At one point over the break one of us said “That’s how we roll.” The comment was made in reference to the non-traditional way we go through our life. The idea resonated with me and I decided to dedicate my entire year of 52 Frames images to capturing the different ways that I roll. It will be an opportunity to marry self-reflection and creativity. Challenge accepted! The album has not been posted yet, but you can check out my image after it posts next week.

Nerdy Bird and Fuzzer

If you ever needed evidence that creatives come in very different forms, my husband and I are the prime candidates. I am more your traditional artistic creative where he is an engineer. At home, I design our  renovations and he figures out how to make my vision a reality. Over the years we have learned that we are a really good team. 

Every once in a while, we collaborate on something artistic. It is never planned. Usually I am working on something and he might grab my pen/notebook and add something to what I am drawing. Nerdy Bird and Fuzzer were born from such a spontaneous partnership. Nerdy Bird was a Christmas card doodle a few years ago. I drew the eyes, the beak and the hair and Tom drew the body and I the legs and then he added the silly boots. A few months later Fuzzer came about in a similar fashion. Over time, they became a team. If I drew one, the other was always by his side.

Before COVID19 became our new normal, Tom and I would leave each other silly notes/drawings. Nerdy Bird and Fuzzer started going on crazy adventures together. If I was staying after school to see a student play basketball, I would scribble out the guys and add a ball and net. When I was waiting at the start line for a 5K Tom texted me a drawing of Nerdy Bird and Fuzzer crossing the finish line. My doodles were just that— quick scribbles to make my husband smile. Tom’s were always thoughtfully designed and carefully drawn. His were MUCH better!

We had a silly idea last year to use Nerdy Bird and Fuzzer for our Christmas card. We just were not sure that the idea would work if people had not already been introduced to our beak-ed friends. So we decided to spend all of 2020 sharing them so that by the time Christmas came everyone would know who they were. We planned a design for each holiday from Valentine’s Day to New Year’s. When we decided to start we never knew the world would be put on hold by a global pandemic, so we even added a Coronavirus doodle. The process is always the same. We brainstorm the idea together. Tom draws them and then I digitize them, color them using a combo of Photoshop and GIMP and then create the actual cards. Each time I put a set in the mailbox, we eagerly wait for the texts and messages to start. Throughout a year that many people truly want to forget, Nerdy Bird and Fuzzer have been a ray of sunshine. For us, it has been a wondeful opportunity to collaborate on a fun and creative project. 

Are you a hunter or a farmer?

I needed out of the house this morning…fresh air to clear my head before I started what would be a crazy busy day balancing school work, housework and the start of my insane Christmas baking. I threw on sweats and a jacket and grabbed my camera with my macro lens. For good measure I stuffed my nifty fifty in my pocket and headed out the door. I had no idea what I was looking for. I knew there were the remnants of a variety of pumpkins on our patio and I thought I had seen some berries on the tree outside our living room window. Failing that, I knew that I could walk up to the trail a few blocks away and find something there to submit for my 52Frames challenge. That is when it hit me…I am a discoverer…an explorer. I am as far from being a planner as one can get. I am almost done with my third year participating in the 52Frames project. Every year there are a few themes that require a bit more planning, but most weeks I head out into the world with my camera and look for beauty and joy that is all around us. Click. Submit. Rinse. Repeat.

My impression of the Framers I follow is that the majority are planners and that I am alone on an island of photographic irresponsibility! Was I alone or were there others like me? Thank you Facebook for the opportunity to crowdsource my question on the 52Frames Photographer Facebook group:

Just a curiosity…how many of you approach the weekly themes as a planner and how many of you as a discoverer? With rare exceptions, I head out and discover my shot. Week after week I read about people’s elaborate plans for their shots. I’m just curious if people lean more to one than the other or if it just depends on the theme.

As I set about my day, I watched Framer after Framer respond. With well over 100 comments on the post, I wanted to distill the results down here and share what I learned. 

I was definitely surprised by the results. Of course these results could be skewed because the Framers who are planners were too busy planning and executing their shoots to respond. Regardless, the vast majority of responses were in Camp Hunter/Explorer/Discoverer.  I am NOT alone.

I spent a better part of my day reading through all of the comments. I was overwhelmed by the responses that ranged from simple statements of “discover” or “plan” to lengthy explanations of their proclivities. Here are the notes I made as I read through the comments. 

  • Another way of looking at this question is to consider are you a hunter or a farmer/cultivator. This analogy really resonates with me. I definitely oscillate between hunter and explorer. The hunter is eager to find something and there is a sense of urgency. The explorer is open to learning something new while searching. The discoverer is filled with joy when they uncover something photo worthy. Various framers talked about keeping a journal of ideas, reading the brief (even a week early) and making notes. The process they described was definitely one of cultivation of ideas. 
  • Do you end up in a different place from where you started? Whether you are a planner or an explorer? You are not alone! Over and over again Framers mentioned that more often than not they start out with some sort of idea and before they know it, they are submitting an image that is nothing like what they originally planned. 
  • Are you easily distracted? I know that I am. When we are not in the middle of a pandemic and I have my students in my classroom, I often tell my students that I am the “something shiny” person. It was refreshing to read that I am not alone. I often head out for a “hunt” and while I think I am going in search of one thing, something else catches my eye and before I know it, I am capturing something different from my original intention. 
  • Everyone is naturally drawn to one or the other, but we can all benefit from pushing ourselves outside our comfort zones. This year has been really hard for me as a Framer. Everything about the world has made it difficult to tap into my creativity with my photography. I have fallen back on the idea of shoot, submit, rinse and repeat. I have not had the mental energy to give it much more than that. I have lost sight of the intention of learning and pushing myself outside of my comfort zone. I am most grateful to the framer who shared this comment! It was the perfect reminder that I want to grow both as a Framer and photographer in general. In order to do this, I must step out of my comfort zone from time to time. 
  • COVID19 has messed up the best laid plans and forced people to change how they approach each week’s challenge. So many people lamented how the pandemic has thrown a kink in their plans. Whether it was getting sick or being quarantined or under Stay-at-Home orders, people around the world have had to reevaluate how they engage with the weekly themes. 
  • If you keep your eyes and heart open, you will be surprised what you might discover. The hunters commented over and over again how often they were surprised and delighted by what they uncovered during their explorations. 
  • The concept of hunting is just as anxiety inducing to some people as the idea of planning is to others. While many people overlapped in their tendencies, a lot of people were definitely in one camp or the other and the idea of being in the other camp was a source of stress. 
  • In reality, most people are a bit of both. At the end of the day, a lot of people dabble in both categories throughout the year. In more cases than not, it is most dependent on the theme. A lot of Framers mentioned that themes like nature definitely lended itself to hunting; whereas the self-portrait required more planning. 

Quite a few Framers expressed that they felt their role as a “hunter” or “farmer” was dependent on what they wanted to get from 52F. When I started as a Framer in week #1 of 2018, I was looking for something to help me rediscover my photography mojo—something I had lost while writing a book. I know that I have lost sight of the learning aspect and many of the comments that stuck out to me focussed on that component. That being said, people engage with 52F for a wide range of reasons. Seeing these different “intentions” helped me to frame my viewing of the album from a place of empathy. Not everyone is coming at the challenges from the same place (myself included).

Here are some of the most mentioned reasons for being part of this group. 

  • Share the beauty in the world with others.
  • Interact with other photographers from around the world.
  • Document what is happening in life.
  • Photographic adventures.
  • A reason to bring a camera everywhere.
  • Learn something new- creatively, technically or post processing.

The conversation was filled with countless tips and tricks on how to approach the themes each week. Here are a few of the highlights:

  • Read the tips and tuts each week.
  • Look at the Pinterest board curated by a volunteer each week.
  • Utilize social media to follow other artists (not just photogs).
  • Keep a journal of ideas.
  • Keep a list of techniques you want to try/learn.
  • Take a camera with you everywhere you go.
  • Have a photography bucket list.
  • Create your own Pinterest board of ideas. Check out mine here.
  • Check out this book with items for your photography bucket list.
  • Look at the challenges in advance (they are released four weeks at a time)

A Framer took the time to share this extensive passage from Jay Maisel’s book and it resonated with me so much that I wanted to share it here as well. If you are like me and have no idea who Jay Meisel is then you might be interested in taking a look at his amazing street photography HERE.  Another Framer mentioned this series on Kelby One, but I do believe you need to be a member to view these videos.

  • “Objects are there for you only if you really see them.  If you don’t, they don’t exist.  And a lot of people don’t see things.”
  • “Before you are going to be able to see, you have to look.  And before you look, you have to want to look.” 
  • “If you prepare too well, it is not as interesting, and you get into a kind of a tunnel vision.  You don’t see around you and you don’t go to all the possibilities that may happen.”
  • “Your life will be infinitely richer if you are aware of the things around you, if you are aware of the way the light falls, if you are aware of what happens when a person wearing one color walks in front of a person wearing another.  These things are all superficial, but they’re joyous.”

I am four weeks away from becoming a 3X Warrior. Thank you so much to everyone who engaged in this inspirational conversation. You have helped me to refocus (pun intended). 

How does one celebrate a birthday during a pandemic?

Most years, my husband and I take Columbus Day weekend to head out of town for a few days to celebrate my birthday. We find a bed and breakfast or even better and AirBnB somewhere a few hours from here. With a collection of podcasts on a flash drive, we hop in the car and start our adventure. That was not an option this year. The COVID19 numbers in Wisconsin and Indiana are rising daily and it was just not worth the risk. So how does one celebrate their birthday in the middle of a pandemic? I wasn’t thinking socially distanced car parade or anything like that. I had to get creative!

Back in July our close friend, who is also my running coach, was in town due to his own pandemic-induced madness. He was turning 47 on July 5th and decided that he was going to run 47 miles along the lakefront in Chicago. Before you get all stressed out about his decision, it would help you to know that he is a semi-professional ultra-marathoner for whom 47 miles is a pretty short run. Anyhow, I loved that his birthday celebration was centered around fitness, but there was no way I was going to run 45 miles in one day. I had walked close to 30 miles in one day, but running and another even more miles was just not going to be in my cards. So my husband suggested that I come up with my own challenge.

On October 6th I turned 45 and I decided that my challenge would be to run fifteen 5Ks in fifteen days between October 1st and October 15th. I was overwhelmed by all the people who signed up to run with me. Yes, of course, most of the segments were snatched up by friends from The Dick Pond Athletics Running Club where I do most of my running. However, I had friends from work who asked to do a segment. I even had a friend who is a fast walker, but who has never run, sign up. I was humbled by everyone’s generosity with their time!

I had 5 under my belt when I took a spill during run #6. I was embarrassed , but popped back up and finished the run. The next day I was with my friend Tammy when I took an even nastier spill. I could not finish this run and I was worried that I had really hurt myself. Thankfully our athletic trainer at school checked me out and was confident I had not broken anything. Relief is the understatement of the year!

Now that I knew I was not going to be able to complete the challenge in 15 days I had to decide how I was going to pivot and still honor my goal. Would I play it safe and just say that the runs had to be completed during the month of October? I did not want to do that, because running 45 miles in one month is not totally unreasonable for me to do. Would I just give up and try it again next year with 46? Out of the question! I decided I would just pivot and be ok with getting it done in up to 20 days. That would give me a few days to heal from my falls and still push me to get back out there.

Last Friday, I woke up and my monkey brain was out of control. I was questioning why on earth I had ever decided to do this challenge. Really…what was I thinking? I knew that I was tired and I was super stressed out about work. I reminded myself that I had deliberately built in 15 days in a row of 3 things: 1) time with special friends 2) celebrating my birthday and 3) exercise. How on earth could that be viewed as anything other than awesome. As of today, I am 10 runs into my 15. I’m taking today off to catch up on life stuff, but I’ll be back out on the trails tomorrow and for the next five days. 

While the pandemic forced me to come up with a different way of celebrating my birthday, I have to be honest, I’m already kicking around ideas for what I will do next year!

Let it go

I’m about to start my 17th year of teaching, but this year is the first time I have ever started in the middle of a pandemic. I know I speak for gazillions of other teachers who are experiencing heightened anxiety and fear. This year is going to be incredibly difficult. It is going to require out of the box thinking and patience and flexibility. We will be forced to rethink everything we have held as steadfast truths and pedagogical compasses. We are going to have to learn to let things go.

Alarms have been going off in my brain for about six weeks. They started as a slight buzzing that I pushed off as a minor nuisance and have since escalated to a howling that can only be described as painful moaning. I’m not good at letting things go. I take the time to do things right the first time so that I don’t have to change things on the fly. I create a plan and I follow the plan. I never throw out a perfectly good plan and start over from scratch. This year…there is a lot of letting go on the horizon.

Enter into the picture learning to let things go…

A few months ago friends were visiting and I wanted to have a fun art activity for us to do. I picked up my first ever pour painting kit from the local craft store. Instead of spending hours on line finding the perfect kit and then researching all the best ways to do pour painting, I decided I was going to wing it…to let it go wherever it went. 

I quickly read the instructions in the kit and off we went. Mine turned out very much like the images I had seen all over Pinterest. My friend’s turned out very much not like that. I was super excited by my results and incredibly inspired by my friend and how she pivoted when her painting did not turn out as planned. 

I told everyone that I was hooked on this painting gig, because it was so fun to layer the colors and get something so cool as the result. A few weeks later I did it again, but this time I tried the colander technique. Instead of flopping a cup of paint onto your canvas, you pour your paint through a colander and let that create your pattern. I had layered a lot of colors, but when the paint dried, it had not turned out anything like I thought it might. I still loved the results, but it wasn’t what I thought it would be.

A friend reached out and asked if I could create something black and white for her daughter’s birthday. I was up for the challenge, so I layered black, white, gold, silver and then the tiniest splash of red. The result reminded me of Gustav Klimt’s famous painting “The Kiss,” which is anything but black and white. 

The next day I was back at school for meetings and I popped by to see a friend of mine in her office. She mentioned my paintings and I told her how it was so therapeutic to not know what something was going to look like when you started. This friend knows me very well and also how much of a control freak I am. She did not miss a beat when she said I need to do a lot more painting, because the practice of letting go is very good for me! I went straight home that night and created the piece that I eventually sold to my friend as a gift for her daughter. It did not turn out how I thought it might, but I loved the result regardless.

There will be much more painting in my future! 

Stay tuned for how I learned to let go by letting my friend convince me to draw with my left hand. 

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