How long is each creative session?

After receiving 123 responses, the one word that is most common in the answers to this question on my survey is, depends. Some common derivatives:

  • depends on time
  • depends on the project
  • depends on other obligations

The next group of popular responses are to give an amount of time, but that varies from minutes to hours.

There are many people who didn’t answer this question, presumably because they didn’t feel they spent a discernible amount of time doing creative things.

My favourite answers can be best be summarized by saying that “creativity is my life“. There is no separation between time spent creatively or time spent on anything else. If I was taking the survey, I’m not sure I would have answered that way. I don’t know if I feel confident enough in saying “creativity is me, all the time”. Although I aspire to that.

Maybe ‘creativity’ will be my word for 2017. That thought brings a smile to my face!

In reference to creativity, I have written a book called, “Fruitless at 40: Rediscovering My Creative Power“. Check out Daily Creatives and consider leaving your email. I would love to send you updates on my creative journey!

Happy Creating!

I am this…

On the Sunday of May long weekend, seven of us girls piled into my SUV and headed over to Black Bond Book Warehouse. I’m not sure what other families do, but we are readers. In no time we all had piles of books. My sister decided that another person could add a book to your pile, giving you a reading challenge. That puts an interesting twist into things!

I had to admit that I was a reading baby. Even a book a month was a challenge. My Aunt was astonished. I think she reads one a week. Which is why she makes good use of the library. I often have to renew a novel from the library, once or twice!

But this day we were on a mission. Grab an armful of books and get back to the sunny patio. Not only could we more carefully look at our own purchases, but we had the added bonus of looking through the balance of the loot.

I am a sucker for books which are part self-help, part productivity, part management, maybe slanted toward business. That is why I came to own the latest addition to my collection titled, “Do More Great Work“, by Michael Bungay Stanier. What I didn’t realize when I bought this book is, it’s a workbook. Which is a huge added bonus for me. There are so few of these kind of books on the market, it was almost like finding treasure. In fact, the activities are called “maps”. Who doesn’t love to pour over a good map?

The first map was easy. I breezed through it so quickly, I thought I might just make it through the whole book in a weekend. (Given my track record, who knows why I thought that!) Anyway, turn the page to map two and that is where I came to a dead halt. I could not, for the life of me, figure out how to complete the assignment. 6 days later, I dug down and pulled out the wisdom I needed.

That was today. Things were going so well, I went on to map three. This was equally tough to complete. These exercises require some serious soul searching. But the results are so worth it. OK, now I am gong to be very vulnerable and share this map. So be kind.

The first word describes what I am when I am doing great work. The kind of work that I love. The place where I loose track of time and when I’m in the zone. The second word is not necessarily bad, or the opposite, but it represents, at best good work, at worst bad work.

  • Visionary not task master
  • Analytical not routine
  • Earnest not complacent
  • Comprehensive not lists of half formed ideas
  • Organized not winging it
  • Knowledge seeking not taking it at face value
  • Engrossed not simply covering the bases
  • At ease not cautious
  • Mindful not quiet
  • Dedication not just 9 to 5

I think this is a pretty powerful list of words. The book advises you to keep a copy near your desk and have a laminated version to travel with. I’ll admit, before I completed this map, I immediately dismissed the notion of laminating. But, now that it is done, and I see it here in print, maybe I’ll pop over to Staples and create that hard copy.

The idea behind this list is to steer to the left. Staying on the left is where great work can occur. Tendency is to veer right. Although good work is still good, it is with great work that I feel most alive and vital.

 

Call Your Girlfriend

I’m not sure how I found them, but I’m sure glad I did. The reference is to a podcast, “Call Your Girlfriend“, for long distance besties everywhere. If you are a girlfriend to someone and/or have girlfriends, I don’t need to explain the appeal of this any further. But maybe you are a little out of touch, as I was. So let me fill you in.

A long, long time ago, I was in school and I had some besties. Then, I left school and embarked on my journey in the workforce. What I realize now is, at the moment I started that first job, I kind of left my girlfriend world behind and fully entered into the world of men. Because, let’s face it, that’s how it was then, (arguably still is). And I felt this overwhelming desire to “fit into” this world of men. So I made the switch willingly.

At the same time, I met my husband. So I had a lot to learn about being in a couple. My girlfriend relationships began to morph into couple relationships. And then the moves. My career started to build into something above minimum wage pay and I was offered promotions/moves to another country, etc. My husband went along with all that chaos. And in the midst of all that, we grew extremely close. My very best friend became my husband. But, he was/is a man.

I developed some close friendships along the way, but it was so very difficult with all the moving. People who don’t live that kind of life, do not understand a nomadic spirit. And couples understand it even less. We were a rare breed. Then came our children.

Somehow, we managed to stay put at that point. For the last 13 years we have not left the neighbourhood, we even live in the same house. Our children have known a joy of home and connection to one place. They have been attending the same school for all of the elementary grades. But somehow I’ve held my breath.

And in this time, the world has changed. I’ve discovered there are people just like me. Those travelling sisters. We have a wandering past, we’ve done things. We’ve been places. And we want more. Just because we are middle aged, doesn’t mean we are finished anything. We are just getting going.

So it comes full circle. I’m at the point now where I want to go home to my girl-power. I want to connect to the strong and wonderful women around me. I seek them out. Some of these friends turn into besties and others build an amazing network. I draw strength and courage from them everyday in every way. I’ve arrived at the next phase of my life. And it is wonderful.

Every Decision Counts

I’ve just started into week 5 of the “6 weeks to a new body” fitness program. Just when the exercises are starting to become easy, the routine kicks up a notch again. And I’ve added another complexity to the situation, I’m on holidays. So making smart choices around eating is a bit of a challenge. 

I have a notion, or a routine around what I usually like to eat and drink on holidays. That means eating = a lot and drinking = beer. But I’m not going to reach my goals by eating a lot and drinking beer. So I’ve had to make adjustments. (At least for these 6 weeks).

I’ve been reading through my book, (also known as my coach, mentor and friend) and I came across the phrase, “every decision counts”. It was meant in reference to all the little things that keep you moving in the direction you want to go. In that one idea, I take comfort. I may not be doing everything perfectly every day, but I can keep moving towards my goals, one decision at a time.

I used to think that once a bad choice had been made, might as well – “throw the canary another seed”. What was the point of continuing to try and make a change when I had just eaten a huge hamburger? Might as well have another beer and eat all those fries as well. And show me the desert menu, please. Forget a workout, I’m too tired. That was how I lived for the better part of my adult life. 

Lucky for me, I am “all-in” on this 6 week experiment and I have given myself the grace to do this, one decision at a time. I will not be perfect. Rather, “every day in every way, things are getting better”. (Lovely saying my mother-in-law used to tell my husband as a child).

Monday Musings

It is amazing to see how many pieces a pyrex container will break into when you pour water in whilst it is in the oven roasting a pork tenderloin. What a mess. However this prompts an oven cleaning. And who does not love a clean oven? My children had no idea that was the proper color of the inside of the oven. They also did not realize how well you were supposed to be see through the window in front.

A friend of mine sent me a few radio call in stories around the theme of first world problems.

  • i’m going on holidays to Mexico and i can’t find my Tiffany sunglasses, so i will have to take my special order Raybans.
  • when i got to the bottom of my $5 coffee, it was too sweet because the starbucks person didn’t stir it for me
  • I’m feeling kind of tired – and i want to sneak out of the office early today to go home and take a nap, but my cleaning lady is there today

Laughed out loud on the last one.

If you should want some further inspiration along the line of gratitude and giving back, check out the “Secret Billionaire: The Chuck Feeney Story”. It is just under 60 minutes running time, but worth every one.

The Stages of Change

“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”
-Reinhold Niebuhr

Dr. James Prochaska of the University of Rhode Island identified 5 stages of change. Until I read about them in Maureen Hagan’s, “6 Weeks to a New Body”, I didn’t realize there are formal labels associated to some of the struggles I have been going through. As it relates to fitness, I have been stuck in stage one and two for an extremely long time. And feeling quite bad about myself.

Stage one: pre-contemplation, (not ready)
This was were I spent about 20 years, give or take. Here, you have little knowledge of the consequences of your behavior. As my fitness level declined, it happened slowly. So every year it got a bit worse. Then I spent many years being pregnant and recovering, (no small feat). Then I was in a kind of denial. Things were OK with my health in general and I hated exercise.

Stage two: contemplation, (getting ready)
I have been here for about 5 years. I was constantly evaluating the costs and benefits of changing. This produced profound ambivalence that caused me to remain in this stage. This phenomenon is often characterized as chronic contemplation or behavioral procrastination. Seems a little funny to look at this stage from where I am now. I was negotiating action or inaction with myself on both sides of the debate.

Stage three: preparation, (ready)
This is where I am now. I’ve selected a fitness program – “6 Weeks to a New Body”, with Maureen Hagan. The book is very detailed in goal setting, journal writing, exercises, eating plans, schedule planning, etc. I’ve picked a start day – February 21, 2015.

Stage four: action
In stage 3, everything will be sorted so that I’m ready to hit the ground running on my start date. Maureen has laid out excellent advise for each day of the entire 6 weeks. Nothing is really left to chance. Her words of encouragement are sprinkled throughout the pages of the book. I’m even excited to start! Which is more than I can say for any other program I have ever tried.

Stage five: maintenance
For about 5 years it is advised to remain on guard and to continuously monitor progress. Up until this time the chances of slipping back into old patterns are high. This will take me to age 50, which is a great milestone. A fantastic age to be set with a healthy way of living.

Stage six: termination
After 5 years, it is considered that a new habit is formed. There is very little chance of slipping back into old ways. This seems very exciting to me. A new stage of life, with a strong and healthy body at my core.

I have learned so much already, which has made this part of the journey very interesting. I’m not leaving things to chance anymore. I picked “brave” as my word this year. It is all falling into place. While I don’t anticipate this life changing program to be easy, I feel the strength to see it through. (At least from where I sit tonight!)

I’m going to post about this program regularly and maybe even include some before and after pics, (maybe just after). Will see how brave I feel about sharing that much detail!

Forgiveness

This morning I practiced a guided meditation called “forgiveness” lead by Tara Brach. 11 minutes is something I can do. Thirty is too long. I’ll get there someday. At the end of the session, Tara read this poem:

Out beyond ideas of wrong doing and right doing,
there is a field. I’ll meet you there.

When the soul lies down in that grass,
the world is too full to talk about.
Ideas, language, even the phrase “each other” doesn’t make any sense.

Out beyond ideas of wrong doing and right doing,
there is a field. I’ll meet you there.

-Rumi

What a great way to start the day. Unlike another morning last week when I attempted a similar session. Our cat, (mine when he is an angel, ours when he is not), decided he needed attention as soon I was nicely settled on the sofa. While I tried my best to be “present” in the moment and focus my awareness on the breath, our cat was climbing all over me. Would make for a pretty funny video, of which my husband wants to very much create!

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Flight no. 2015

My Dad sent an email version of this to me and I had to share it. I’ve taken so many flights over the past 20 years and never once had this message. But, I’ll think about this from now on.

The Boarding of Flight no. 2015 has been announced.

Your luggage should be safely stowed and only contain the best souvenirs from 2014. All unwanted items, including the bad and sad moments should be left in the trash.

The duration of the flight will be 12 months. So, tighten your seatbelt. The stop-overs will be:
*Health
*Love
*Joy
*Harmony
*Well-being
*Peace

The captain offers you the following menu which will be served during the flight:
*A Cocktail of Friendship
*A Supreme of Health
*A Gratin of Prosperity
*A Bowl of Excellent News
*A salad of Success
*A Cake of Happiness
*All accompanied by bursts of laughter

Wishing you an enjoyable trip on board of flight no. 2015.

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Filling my cup

Years ago I was sitting with a dear friend on vacation and she was talking about her work. She mentioned an annual conference with great anticipation. She described it as a time when she “filled her cup”. It was important to learn in such a way that her personal reserves of energy, creativity and enthusiasm could be filled up. Otherwise, what would she have to give to others?

I thought about that for a long time. I wished that my work provided me with that kind of opportunity. Well, wishing was not going to fill my cup, so I found a conference on my own. That was WDS2014 and WOW is all I can say about that. As the conference ended, a discount for the next year was extended and I immediately signed up. I finally found a place where everyone, (and I mean everyone), was nice. They were interesting to talk to and freely expressed their deepest desires, for themselves and a keen interest to serve others. The main stage presentations gave me insights into a whole range of topics, some of which I didn’t know I was interested in. (I could rave on about WDS, but that is not the point here).

Recently my same friend and I were chatting about “filling cups” and she mentioned a further portion of that idea. That was the saucer. Always put a saucer under your cup so that when it overflows, (I was only trying to put something in my cup, I had no idea it might overflow), you have reserves with which to help others!

A quick internet search later, I found the poem below. Enjoy and may your cup overflow!

“My Cup Has Overflowed”

I’ve never made a fortune, and it’s probably too late now.
But I don’t worry about that much, I’m happy anyhow
And as I go along life’s way,
I’m reaping better than I sowed.
I’m drinking from my saucer,
Cause my cup has overflowed. 

Haven’t got a lot of riches,
and sometimes the going’s tough
But I’ve got loving ones all around me,
and that makes me rich enough. 
I thank God for his blessings,
and the mercies He’s bestowed.
I’m drinking from my saucer,
Cause my cup has overflowed.

I remember times when things went wrong,
My faith wore somewhat thin.
But all at once the dark clouds broke,
and the sun peeped through again.
So Lord, help me not to gripe,
about the tough rows I have hoed.
I’m drinking from my saucer,
Cause my cup has overflowed.

If God gives me strength and courage,
When the way grows steep and rough.
I’ll not ask for other blessings,
I’m already blessed enough.

And may I never be too busy,
to help others bear their loads.
Then I’ll keep drinking from my saucer,
Cause my cup has overflowed.

Author: unknown

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Inspired by paint

As Carrie Thachuk said today, “Welcome to your new obsession.” I didn’t think that could be true….at 10am this morning. Now that I have finished the course, walked around my house a bit and reflected on what I learned today, yes welcome to my obsession might be a fair statement.

To be honest, my history with paint is not great. As I mentioned in the round table of introductions this morning, I have painted many things – different pieces of furniture, interior wood decor, fences, houses, etc. All of it, under a punishment – finish the project before you can go out with your friends. Of course, going out with my friends was what got me in trouble in the first place. Mainly breaking curfew, so nothing too serious, (as far as I can remember). So I would get my friends to help me work off the punishments, a little bit like Huck Finn. And the cycle would start again. My parents had an in-house painter at their disposal. It was all just a matter of time.

Fast forward to present day where I found myself sitting in a painting class. (If my teenage self knew, she would be aghast!) The topic today was a beginner’s guide to Annie Sloan chalk paint. In the 5 hour session, we covered everything you need to know in order to feel a good level of confidence to start attacking those old wood pieces in need of a lift. Or in my case, pieces that resemble wood, (laminate) and need to look amazing in my newly renovated bedroom and I don’t have the cash to buy anything other than paint!

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The ladies at The Passionate Home in Langley were wonderful, encouraging and provided a healthy dose of inspiration. They are running a fantastic business over there. (And I’ll be seeing them again tomorrow, because instead of buying a big can of “old white” I grabbed “old plum”). Which is probably a good thing, because I might have started painting straight away. My husband is away until next Friday…I could get a lot covered by then!

 

Finding a mantra

For my last assignment in part one of Brene Brown’s ecourse, it was back to page one of they art journal to write a mantra. Fill that first page with some words that really speak to me. A phrase which I can repeat to myself when I need motivation, inspiration and grounding.

Problem is I can’t seem to pick just one phrase. In one way or another, all of these speak to me. I even have a strange desire to group them together into sub categories. There are a few themes emerging from the chosen phrases. Maybe I’ll do that one day. For now, I’ll let these soak in.

“I think I’ll just be happy today”

“Love is spoken here”

“Well behaved women rarely make history”

“Breathe in the good shit, breathe out the bullshit”

“You’re not designed for everyone to like you”

“When nothing is sure, everything is possible”

“Your thoughts will rise and fall away like a breeze”

“Don’t let the bastards get you down”

“The question isn’t who is going to let me – it’s who is going to stop me?”

“Everything I need to know is inside me”

“The secret of change is to focus all your energy not on fighting the old, but on building the new”

“No one can drive us crazy unless we give them the keys”

“The struggle is part of the story”

“Life does not have to be perfect to be wonderful”

“I love the person I’ve become because I fought to become her”

“Does this serve me?”

“I believe I can be kinder to myself”

“She turned her cant’s in cans and her dreams into plans”

“Sky above me, earth below me, fire within me”

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“Be brave. It’s going to be good”

“The only person you should try to be better than….is the person you were yesterday”

“Take your pleasure seriously”

“How beautiful it is to stay silent when someone expects you to be enraged”

“This too shall pass”

“Starve the ego, feed the soul”

“Do no harm, but take no shit”

“A negative mind will never give you a positive life”

Wholehearted

“I now see that cultivating a Wholehearted life is not like trying to reach a destination. It’s like walking toward a star in the sky. We never really arrive, but we certainly know that we’re heading in the right direction.” ― Brené Brown

Just started week #3 of the e-course designed to follow the 10 guideposts from the book, “The Gifts Of Imperfection”, by Brené Brown. Let me tell you, (I am trying to convey the slight Texas accent in her speech), this is big stuff. “Life changing” are words that have been uttered by participants who have taken this course already. If you scoff at the notion that a book and an e-course can be life changing, well that just shows how much you are missing out! Quite frankly, I was that skeptical at the beginning, so don’t feel bad.

I’ve never given much thought to the word wholehearted. I must have learned the definition in school, because the meaning seems logical enough. But to practice living in a wholehearted way, well that is another matter. There was no class about that. Not a day, or an hour or even a 15 minute segment was devoted to this extremely important word.

Ironically, it seems that as children, we were pre programmed to live wholeheartedly. It is life, school, society, etc., who have beaten back this natural tendency. One of the exercises last week, to reinforce the idea of authenticity, was to get a picture of ourselves that conveys an example of when we were most authentic. Some people had recent photos, some had to go back to being babies! Most photos were somewhere in the primary school era.

Somewhere along the way, most of us have lost our most authentic selves, those little people who knew in their bones how to live in a wholehearted way. Many of us had to focus all our energy on our school work and on the “activities” we seemed to show some aptitude in. The rest just fell away. Over the years, creativity was stamped down, no more drawing, painting, singing, dancing or playing. Writing became technical, a medium with which to answer the never-ending schedule of questions and tests.

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The fantastic news is that the knowledge to live wholeheartedly is still there, buried maybe. The children inside of us know what to do. Like waking Peter Pan after he had grown up, it is possible to easily get in touch with that authentic part of ourselves.

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Epiphany

Holiday or feeling? How about both? Depends on what you believe.

Down here in Mexico and in many other countries around the world, January 6 is a celebration day. It marks the end of the 12 days of Christmas which begins on the 25th. El Día de los Reyes (The Day of the Kings) is the name of the day and the 3 Kings were thought to have brought presents to baby Jesus. Children will typically get presents and the family celebrations will include sweet wine and the 3 Kings Bread, which is also sweet and filled with dried fruits.

The term epiphany means a “vision of God” and this day is a Christian feast celebration to honour the revelation of God the Son as a human being in Jesus Christ.

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Epiphany is also used to describe an experience of sudden and striking realization. Generally the term is used to describe any situation in which an enlightening realization allows a problem or situation to be understood from a new and deeper perspective.

I can’t say that I have this kind of feeling on a regular basis. But, I do think back on accomplishments and get a sense of all the little pieces coming together. Everything fell into place accordingly. The realizations happened slowly.

Until today.

I’ve been mulling over a few ideas for quite some time, (years actually) and have not been able to make sense of them. I knew they had to be connected in some fashion, but the framework and structure has eluded me. Like a waft of morning dew, I could sometimes get a clear sense of it, but as I moved closer, the spark of understanding would be just beyond my reach and then disappear altogether.

It is a fantastically energizing experience to suddenly have a crystal clear series of thoughts, which have eluded you for so long, sitting right there. It was all I could do to quickly grab a pencil and paper and get everything down.

With this roadmap sitting right beside me on the table, all my thoughts have changed. It allows me to think of problems as opportunities, take negative ideas and turn them around to positive, quite amazing really.

To quote the 1980’s one hit wonder by Timbuk3. “The future’s so bright, I gotta wear shades.”

Folk Wisdom of Mexico

Proverbios y dichos Mexicanos

I picked up this little book in the condo we are renting. I love finding these little treasures. Especially when the subject is local. Gives me a glimpse into the culture, the customs and the feelings as if we too were living here.

However, this kind of wisdom would not necessarily come form merely living here. We would need to understand the language, inside and out. Without growing up hearing these stories passed down through generations, the essence, the real meaning may not make sense.

Translated into English, the understanding gap gets a little wider, I think. But it is interesting to interpret in our own way. Learn by viewing old ideas in a new light. (And I feel a little bit caught in a Modern Family episode, with Gloria talking about “her country”.)

*Flies don’t enter a closed mouth.

*There is more time than life.

*Ambition never has its fill.

*Blood boils without a flame.

*One must learn how to lose before learning how to play.

*When in doubt of what is right, consult your pillow overnight.

*Conversation is food for the soul.

*All the time spent angry is time lost being happy.

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