I Dreamed Too Small

IMG_0345Sometimes, small is good. Like our great little dog, who is a delight to have around. I never expected to have a dog EVER, but here I am with a dog that was rescued from the street. She may be small, but she’s still awesome in my book. But not all things should be small.

In last week’s Share Your World, there was a question a gift I’d like. As I will explain in this post, I decided I needed to revisit that question before going on to this week’s questions. I was surprised to realize that even when I know better, I still have a tendency to think small.

When Cee asked to consider what gift we would like to receive (anything). Upon thinking about it for a couple of days, I thought it would be great to have a place to pursue my quilting art and creativity for a period of time in a retreat or studio experience. Here is the question and my actual response from that post.

If you could be given any gift what would it be?

A year-long stay at a quilting/art colony with a fully stocked studio and access to fabric, as well as a couple other artists to brainstorm and collaborate with. But I could still be ecstatic with a month or two.  🙂

But then a couple days later, I was out walking, and that’s when it occurred to me that if I could choose any gift, I really should be thinking much larger. And I got caught on that post. Don’t get me wrong. I love quilting and art-making in general. I love making music. The idea of having a place where I could really pursue those activities is awesome. It’s the second part of the “gift” that I really missed. I mentioned that I would like a few other artists there with whom I could interact. Duh!

Many people have memories of doing creative things as a child. But we often put those things aside as we “grow up.” No time. Or we got the idea that we weren’t necessarily good at it. Or as we got older, we might have been told that there was no way to make a living with that kind of thing. Whatever the reason, we may have pushed artistic expression underground.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI have been fortunate to rediscover some of my childhood passions as well as discover several new ones. I sometimes don’t give enough time and attention to these artistic pursuits, but I recognize their importance. As a result, I want to make adjustments in my life that open up my participation in creative expression.

My dream is to help people uncover or rediscover their artistic and creative dreams. I want to help people to want to dream big, whether it be starting a graphic design business, painting, designing clothing, woodworking, writing, illustrating, creating a unique restaurant, or something totally off the beaten track. Even if it can’t be done all at once, we can take baby steps toward getting creative expression in our lives, baby steps that put us in motion toward the big pictures.

When I first answered the gift question last week, I got so caught in the everyday aspects of life that I forgot to look at my big picture. By not having that in my line of vision, I asked for a gift that was nice, but was still limited–both in scope and in its influence.

My new answer to the question?

If you could be given any gift what would it be?

A residential retreat center with room for classes, studio space, and equipment to help myself and others find space to create and experience art in all its forms. And an assistant to help with all the administrative details, so that I can do creative coaching, teach classes, and explore artistic possibilities.

How often I limit myself from accomplishing what I could be doing by thinking small. The Farther to Go! exercises and materials has given me the tools to change that. I just have to keep focused on the ideas I’ve gotten along the way. If I do, I will remember that the path to a life rich in creative expression is to think big and keep moving on those baby steps.

269 Days to 60!

 

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600 Days to 60: An Update

Image courtesy of fotographic1980 / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of fotographic1980 / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Several months ago, I began keeping track of how many days it would be until by 60th birthday. I wanted a way to really pay attention to my life–my goals, my intentions, what I wanted in the big picture. I see 60 as a big milestone, and I wanted to use the time leading up to it to accomplish things that could be celebrated at my 60th birthday party. Yes, I’m planning a party.  🙂

 

It was back on September 25, 2013 that I posted my first mention of 600 Days to 60. Here are a few excerpts from that post.

Several months back, I discovered a blog, 400 Days to 40. Even though I found the blog rather late in her 400 days, it got me to thinking that I might like to try something similar for my next milestone. So I calculated (and recalculated) to find the magical day on which I would launch my new blog, 600 days to 60.

In the end, I decided not to launch a new blog. After several months of maintaining a pretty good schedule with Container Chronicles, I started posting less and less. By September, (when it was time to launch), there was no reason to start a new blog, but just incorporate the idea into my current blog. Back to the original post:

I’ve decided that I’m not looking at this 600 days to 60 as a count-down, but rather a count-up! I want to think of these next 600 days as a journey to find the best version of me there is to find. It will be a process of excavation and checking the foundation, and finding new ways to create and decorate. It will be a time of new keywords and of intentions that challenge and revitalize me. A time of decluttering, revisioning, and finding clarity. My intention is that this journey allows me to find what is important and discard the rest as I move forward toward a life full of vibrant possibility.

Well, parts of that have gone ok, but there is a long way to go. I want to refocus my attention on the original hopes I had for such a project. Over the next few days, I am going to review the posts that highlight the tracking I have done. And reconsider and restate the specific activities that I want to participate in during the remaining days until the celebration. 

The moment is now. 600 days to 60!

It may not be as poetic, but the moment again is NOW!

281 days to 60!

 

 

Feeling Trapped HERE: Stream of Consciousness Saturday (Part 1)

Linda’s Friday prompt for Saturday’s Stream of Consciousness post is “hear/here.” I think I’m going to do this in two parts, starting with “here.”

10530768_10202456215468170_2235054169176470936_nI’ve been struggling for several weeks to feel like myself. The one good thing I know is that I have not been dwelling in the past. And I’m only mildly dabbling in the future — though that is part of my “long-range” planning for heading back to the US next summer. My point is that, for now, I try to be in the present. I try to be here.

The unfortunate thing is that at the moment, here is not an especially nice place to be. I can’t seem to get excited about what to do here. I know this is the best chunk of time I’m going to have for the next twelve months. Yet, I can’t seem to enjoy and explore the here and now.

Luckily, there are moments, when I get little glimpses of motivation and wonder here. And I daresay that those moments might be coming a little more often than they did during the last few weeks. This gives me hope because there are things I want to do in my present here, so that I can make a relatively smooth transition to the future.

I’m not looking for sympathy, or even suggestions. I feel like I’m finding my way out of this. It’s just been a frustration to feel like the moments float by me without my participation. I am not usually this passive — therefore, the discomfort is — haha — uncomfortable. I guess the main reason for following this train of thought in this post is that I’ve learned that these little Saturday exercises often move me to the next level if I let this unconscious part come to the surface. So here I am.

Another reason I can recognize that things are improving is that my productivity is slowly returning to a more normal level. Not quite as good as I’d like, but still — it’s significant. The goal setting I’ve been doing over the past few weeks was supplemented this week by a few “concentrated lists” for a particular day and time. That seemed to make a difference. In other words, I like contests, games, challenges. I need to remember and use that to my advantage, even when I think I don’t have the desire to play.

Because that is the other key: making sure that fun and play are part of my here. It’s important to give myself down time and to really give myself over to the playful side, like when I take time out for Zentangle with coffee, of course (as in the picture above) and a couple finished Zentangles in the photo below.

As August gets into full swing, I’m feeling a lot more optimistic about here, and I look forward to having some fun things to show you in the near future.

You might want to check out a whole other angle of this week’s SofCS with my post about HEAR.  🙂

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If you’d like to join in, please do. It’s a great way to meet new people and see new blogs!

Here are the rules from Linda’s page:

1. Your post must be stream of consciousness writing, meaning no editing, (typos can be fixed) and minimal planning on what you’re going to write.

2. Your post can be as long or as short as you want it to be. One sentence – one thousand words. Fact, fiction, poetry – it doesn’t matter. Just let the words carry you along until you’re ready to stop.

3. There will be a prompt every week. I will post the prompt here on my blog on Friday, along with a reminder for you to join in. The prompt will be one random thing, but it will not be a subject. For instance, I will not say “Write about dogs”; the prompt will be more like, “Make your first sentence a question,” or “Begin with the word ‘The’.”

4. Ping back! It’s important, so that I and other people will come and read your post! The way to ping back, is to just copy and paste the URL of my post somewhere on your post. Then your URL will show up in my comments, for everyone to see. For example, in your post you can copy and paste the following: This post is part of SoCS: http://lindaghill.wordpress.com/2014/08/01/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-august-214/  The most recent pingbacks will be found at the top.

5. Read at least one other person’s blog who has linked back their post. Even better, read everyone’s! If you’re the first person to link back, you can check back later, or go to the previous week, by following my category, “Stream of Consciousness Saturday,” which you’ll find right below the “Like” button on my post.

6. Copy and paste the rules (if you’d like to) in your post. The more people who join in, the more new bloggers you’ll meet and the bigger your community will get!

7. Have fun!

SCARY CAT: Cartoon Craziness Challenge

cartoon-craziness-challenge-banner

In the course of teaching writing classes, I sometimes draw things on the board to illustrate principles. For example, I draw an iceberg so that students can see how much more of it is submerged below the water line than what is seen from a ship’s deck, for example. When I try to draw a ship on the water line, it’s not always pretty. But the students get the point that I’m trying to make–at least I hope they do–between the unconscious (System 1)  and  the conscious (System 2) processes of the brain. In the course of drawing this iceberg scenario for them, my explanations are often accompanied by lots of smiles and a few laughs from the students. Especially when I deliver my last line of that particular lecture:

“And this is why I teach writing and not drawing!”

You may wonder why I told you that story. It’s because even though I don’t think I’m very good at drawing, I still put it out there when I have a reason. I am intrigued by this challenge, but if I get one piece of it that is reasonable, I feel like I need to stop and not risk ruining things. So even though I know the challenge this week is for KIDS (and their pets), I got the pet, so we’re going to call it good.

CAT

NOTE:  My stats took a hit last week when I posted my attempt at creating a superhero. Coincidence? 🙂 I think not. So, just for fun, I’m doing a test. If the number of visits goes down when I post this latest masterpiece, I will probably keep my drawings to myself.  Luckily (or not), you probably have guessed I’m bluffing. But why take a chance?

Go check out the other entries to this week’s challenge.

Thanks to Mental Mama and Indecisive Eejit for hosting this challenge.

SUMMER MAGICAL MYSTERY QUILT: UPDATE (Clue 2)

At the beginning of July, I posted about a Summer Mystery Quilt Challenge that I started in June. As I wrote earlier this month,

Step 1 (given on June 1) was all about cutting different widths of strips from these four fabrics. From the fifth fabric, we were to cut thirty-one 6 1/2″ squares. These cuttings were then placed in a series of 4 zipper plastic bags according to the instructions. I’ve seen July’s clue for Step 2, which is to start sewing. And I have until August 1 to get it done. YAY! This is a challenge that I can handle.

mystery quilt fabricThe fabric on the far right is the one from which I cut the thirty-one 6 1/2″ squares. That happened during the CLUE 1 cutting phase (the June clue).  CLUE 2 (the July clue) involved taking 3 1/2″ strips of the fabrics 3rd and 4th from the left (the black an the black print) and sewing them together, cutting them into segments, and reassembling them into another kind of 6 1/2″ block.

I had three 3 1/2″ wide strips of each of those two fabrics. By the time, they were sewn, cut and assembled, I had 18 4-patch blocks.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMy husband is experimenting with a camera that he inherited from a friend. That and he was using artificial light, so the colors aren’t quite lining up with what you see in the previous picture, but you get an idea of how the four-patch blocks look. While you see four of them here, the quilt that I am making for the Summer Mystery Quilt needs 16 of these blocks. Which means I have two blocks left over that I can use for some kind of fun project with other scraps and leftovers from other projects. As long as I had enough fabric to make a couple extra blocks, why not?

These blocks were completed last Sunday (July 20). I can’t wait for CLUE 3, which is coming Friday, August 1. I’m intrigued about what kind of block I’m going to be constructing next. Then, one more month to go for CLUE 4 (September 1), which will give directions about assembling the quilt top. I’ll be keeping you updated as it continues.

Thanks to Abigail Dolinger at Aby Quilts for providing this quilt-along challenge. The pace is not difficult, so if you are interested, you could manage to catch up with us.

WARNING!: I joined the Cartoon Craziness Challenge! Enter at Your Own Risk!

cartoon-craziness-challenge-banner

OK, it’s week 3 of the Cartoon Craziness Challenge. I’ve watched from a far, intrigued but terrified of exposing my nearly non-existent drawing abilities. I tried to put something together for weeks 1 and 2, but my attempts ended up in the recycle bin. But with this weeks theme of superheroes–and a few pushes and prods from a few people (You know who you are!), I am jumping in this week. Against my better judgment.  😉

Wonder_Woman_outline_by_j_mack

drawing by j. mack

I suspect that I’m trying too hard. At the same time, I suspect I need to spend some regular time practicing specific features so that I don’t feel like I have to try to hard. If I could learn to draw a few basic eyes and mouths, maybe I would not shudder when I look at my efforts.

The superhero I drew is based very loosely on Wonder Woman, not because I’m particularly fond of Wonder Woman exactly, but because that was just the pattern I decided to try to model from. Although you will see limited resemblance to the model, here is what I started with.

When I drew my superhero, her mouth is way too large for her face, but it was already my fourth attempt, so I decided to hide it on the scanner. But then, my husband found it and saved the file, and here we are. So, without further ado, I introduce to you LATTE WOMAN!

Latte_Woman

 

She needs only coffee to help her accomplish amazing things! (Notice her logo on her forehead–or don’t!  haha!) Maybe I’ll try extra coffee if when I join in next time. The good news is I didn’t get as frustrated this week, so maybe this will actually get to be fun.   🙂

Thanks to Mental Mama and Indecisive Eejit for hosting this challenge.

 

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This post is part of Cartoon Craziness Challenge: http://theindecisiveeejit.wordpress.com/2014/07/21/cartoon-craziness-challenge-week-3/

CELEBRATION: Involving coffee, Zentangle, and pork dumplings

Away with the deadlines! It’s time for a break!

I know you thought you were going to find out about my quilting agenda today. And I really do have that post started, but something really different and fun happened today, and I just had to take a break from our regularly scheduled program and share some of it with you.

Wednesday afternoons are usually a time when Dante comes over about 3:30 in the afternoon. She helps me with whatever stuff I need help with, normally related to preparing teaching materials, sorting papers, or occasionally something more fun. Then she has dinner with us before she returns back to her dorm.

Before she arrived today, I had made some good progress on the deadline I’m working on. I wanted to get some feedback from her about it. And afterwards, we headed to a local coffee shop. Normally, we take work to do, but today, it was like–WHO NEEDS WORK?  We need a break! I knew I could finish the last little bit of the project in the morning before the office opened, and the other projects would be better served by having a chance to recharge my batteries. It didn’t hurt that I got an email and had a bit of good news. I was ready for something new and different. Luckily, so was Dante. We took some art supplies, and headed out.

10530768_10202456215468170_2235054169176470936_nWhen we got to the shop, the owner was leaving to deliver a few drinks, so we went and got a table first. I was in a festive mood–very unusual for the last few weeks, but I attributed it to the company and the nice email. We decided to order something real special. “How special?” you ask. Well, I ordered a coffee, caramel smoothie, and Dante ordered an Oreo smoothie. Now, THAT’s special!

The picture at the left shows our drinks and our Zentangle supplies and the beginnings of our two Zentangles. I learned about Zentangle last summer when I was in New Mexico, and I’ve done some of it since I’ve been back in Taiwan. This relaxing art form has no mistakes and requires no real art background. Dante had never done it, but I showed her the basics, and she was off and running drawing. You can find out about it here.

I really enjoy Zentangling because it involves small repetitive movements and little thinking. You don’t over plan it. You make small decisions about which design element to use in each section and then you just fill the space with that element over and over. So relaxing, a great way to de-stress (or to celebrate)! Interestingly, this was the first time I ever used colored pens in this process. While I liked the way it turned out, I wasn’t sure about it while I was actually doing it. I also found that the colors led me to do more thinking than I would normally do while I’m making a card.

We had planned to stop at the dumpling shop next door to get dumplings and and some hot and sour soup to take home for dinner, but the shop owners had taken the day off. We walked an extra block and ended up in the market area where we found another source for our dumplings. We brought our food home and enjoyed some traditional Taiwanese dinner.

Afterwards, Dante helped us locate some dog beds online, as Dave hasn’t found what he’s looking for in the local stores. Eureka! He found one that would work, and at a good price to boot. Dante did the ordering in Chinese, and we will be able to pick it up at the 7-11 near us in a few days.

We also did a little fabric sorting, partly because of something that is related to my quilting agenda. So, we’ve come full circle, and maybe tomorrow we’ll get to that quilting agenda. In the meantime, take a look at the Zentangles we did today.

What a great way to spend a few hours. I feel much better. And tomorrow will be a more productive day because of it.

What kinds of breaks recharge your batteries? Feel free to share below or write your own post and link here to tell me about it.  I’m already looking forward to my next break.  🙂

 

 

 

 

Moving Toward Wholeness, Shaman Style

About a week ago, I found this image the Facebook page of one of my friends, Susan Frank. I was struck by the simplicity and the power of these questions, and the easiest way to save it for myself was to share it on my Facebook page.

shaman

The source for this image is Liora’s website, which you can find at http://www.twinflame1111.com

 

This message needed to be saved because over the last several weeks, I had found myself slipping into a cavern of deep frustration. I was able to keep the despair at bay–most of the time, but it was always nearby, threatening to join in. I kept working on projects and deadlines, but there was no joy in the normal day-to-day interactions with students that inspired me or reassured me that the efforts were effective. Occasionally, there would be some extraordinary moments where I actually got away from the desk and the classroom, but they were few. They renewed me momentarily, but they lost the cumulative effect that such encounters have had in the past.

This was my frame of mind then, when I encountered this message. I didn’t have to go beyond these four questions to recognize why I was so out-of-balance. The original four questions got my attention:

  1. When did you stop dancing?
  2. When did you stop singing?
  3. When did you stop being enchanted by stories?
  4. When did you stop finding comfort in the sweet territory of silence?

I stopped all of these things when I felt like I had no time. I had plans to do a blog piece about dancing, but that was months ago now. It also had become necessary to stop going to Curves until the doctor cleared me to return. I could still be occasionally enchanted by stories, but it was harder for stories to reach my soul, and I stopped telling my own stories. As a result, my blog became lifeless. And silence lost all its sweetness as anxiety and its endless chatter took up lodging in my mind.

As much as these questions got my attention, I knew I needed to make them even more personal. I needed to create a list of questions that would guide me back to a sense of wholeness. A reminder that there are some activities that are necessary and not optional. By framing the questions in such a way, I could plot a path back to myself. I created a list of personalized questions:

 

  1. When did you stop making music?
  2. When did you stop quilting?
  3. When did you stop sharing your stories?
  4. When did you stop finding comfort in the small moments of beauty and sweetness?

In the couple of days since I created my own questions, there has been a shift. A summer quilting project will be revealed tomorrow. I’ve started blogging again, with more of a focus on stories, including a story about my future blog. I am set up to return to Curves in August. In the meantime, I’ve started walking to a coffee shop that is quite a bit farther than the local shops. The walking is the beginning of putting movement back into my life, while also giving me a source of new things to notice and appreciate. And a few times a week, the coffee shop provides a change of scenery that boosts my creative output.

At the moment, much of the stress has been eased, at least temporarily. I can now focus my energy on creative healing while accomplishing the tasks on my list in a more balanced way. Life is looking a lot brighter.

QUITTING AND QUILTING: AtoZAprilChallenge

a-zchallengeI’ve been thinking about the letter Q for a while, and since quilting would seem to be the obvious choice for me, I wanted to do something else. I had a few ideas I was toying with. But then Friday came along and changed everything.

When I wrote this post, it was technically Saturday, but I hadn’t gone to bed yet for Friday. I decided to start this post anyway, since I didn’t want to spend much time at the computer today.. In fact, I decided not to spend much time anywhere near the computer or my apartment or my work. I usually work most of the weekend, but not today. I quit!

I am not going to go into the details, but suffice it to say that yesterday was not one of the better days I’ve had. And while there is a lot to do to make things right and dig out from what has happened, there is something surprising that emerged from all of Friday’s nonsense. I’ve not given myself a break lately, and so this new frustration hit me a bit harder than it might have had I been in better balance. And even if it’s just my lame attempt at explaining why I’m taking a break, so be it. It’s worth an experiment at least. So I’m going to add one more “p” to the list from Friday: PLAY!

So when I got up this morning, I gathered a few quilting patterns, cutting materials, and fabric I’ve been wanting to cut for quilting projects that are currently in limbo. I actually packed them up, along with a picnic lunch, and headed to Jessica’s coffee shop. She let me camp out at one of the tables for the day, where I set up my cutting board and went to work. She had a few projects of her own she was working on between customers. We listened to music as we worked. We talked. We drank coffee. We enjoyed a lunch break half way through. We joyfully admired a large butterfly that found its way into the open front doors of the shop. It spent several minutes with us until it found its way outside again.

No pictures in today’s post, and I’m not going to do any real reporting about today’s progress. But some of it will show up in future posts. But after today, I highly recommend quitting. Sometimes it’s the perfect solution. At least, that’s my story.

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Have you ever had a time where you just canned the plans and had a play day? How long ago was it? What did you do?  Is it time for another one?

Castle on a Cloud: A Musical Exploration of Clouds

I haven’t been participating much in the current musical projects lately, but the one about clouds jumped out at me. Partly because it fell on the C day of the AtoZ April Challenge. And even though I didn’t use it specifically for that post, I am happy to do a musical bonus and share a few songs I like that contain cloud references. Clouds have variety–shape, intensity, the weather they signal. The songs here show a similar variety.

It’s sunny here today, but that won’t stop me from enjoying a few clouds, including this first one, with its “clouds in my coffee.”

You’re So Vain (Carly Simon)

My cacophonous experience of last night had me wanting people to get off of my cloud, too. I could really understand the feelings behind this one. 🙂

Get Off of My Cloud (Rolling Stones)

The castle on the cloud holds the possibilities that seem so far away from Cosette’s everyday life. The castle welcomes no trespassers, no intruders. The castle provides hope for a better future, a future where she can be held and nurtured by a loving parent.

Castle on a Cloud (Les Miserables)

Check out information about the band, City of the Sun here. Even though there are no lyrics, you can actually picture the clouds parting. The energy of the song is intoxicating.

“The clouds have parted, I am free.” (City of the Sun)

There is mention of clouds getting in the way, but perhaps clouds are an opportunity to see new possibilities. Get a new perspective. Maybe needing to see them from more than just “up and down.”

Both Sides Now (Joni Mitchell)

Do Nothing Day: Phineas and Ferb

Here’s a song where clouds are just light and fluffy, representing fun, freedom, and a chance to recharge.

Slow down. Look around you.
Put your to-do list away.
The clouds look like sheep and vice versa.
Let’s have a do-nothing day.

I’ll be planning a do-nothing day very soon. Something to do with quilting, no doubt.

Finally, thanks to my daughter, Kate–the Collaborator–for helping me brainstorm cloud songs and finding the YouTube videos. Thanks, Kate!

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For other Cloudy music, you can visit:

Bear: http://bearspawprint.wordpress.com/2014/04/03/clouds/

Eva: http://47whitebuffalo.wordpress.com/2014/04/03/clouds-a-sound-off-of-sorts/