Ode to My Socks (CATALOG 4/15/2022)

My latest list of recent likes and favorite links…

  1. In preparation for their standardized testing next week, my students and I analyzed a couple poetic gems: “Ode to My Socks” by Pablo Neruda and “Rivulet” (page 16) by Aramis Quintero.

  2. I love using Canva for all of my basic graphic design needs—it offers a lot of different templates to make just about anything, and many of them are free to download without payment or watermark. My daughter, who is just eight years old, also uses it to design notes to her friends, flyers, to-do lists, and calendars!

  3. As a two-time Chicken Soup for the Soul contributor, I am proud to be associated with the publisher’s “Hallway Heroes” program, a creative and stirring social and emotional learning (SEL) curriculum. In fact, I will be trained in the program this summer in preparation for leading it next fall!

  4. Speaking of SEL, All Learning Is Social and Emotional by Nancy Frey, Douglas Fischer, and Dominique Smith is a must-have for educators who would like to become more familiar with SEL’s five key factors: 1) Identity and Agency, 2) Emotional Regulation, 3) Cognitive Regulation, 4) Public Spirit, and 5) Social Skills.

  5. As soon as my iPad is up and running again, I am totally putting the learnings of Stacie Bloomfield‘s free mini course on making greeting cards into practice.

  6. The timing stinks for me, but I still dream of somehow making it to this Writing for Your Life Conference in Colorado. I’d love to learn from Philip Yancey!

  7. My Heart Cries Out by Paul David Tripp has become part of my every day. It’s a grand collection of faith-based poems, along with related Scripture leads and journaling prompts.

  8. I first became aware of artist Jane Davies when I saw a print of her work in a major department store. Wow, does her web site feature a lot of great resources, including a very generous list of free tutorials!

  9. Austin Kleon shares how he can easily document favorite quotes from his reading with the help of a couple standard features on his iPhone.

  10. The AoPS (Art of Problem Solving) podcast is in its infancy, but it promises to offer some great content on the joy of learning.

Where There’s a Wall, There’s a Way (CATALOG 10/08/21)

Though StrengthsFinder 2.0 pegs one of my top strengths as Input, there is only one blog I read with any regularity: that of author and artist Austin Kleon. Its appeal? Once a week, Kleon sends his followers a top-ten list of creative and curious links from across the Web, including his own blog posts.

I don’t care to read much via any kind of electronic device (even though I produce my share of online content), so Kleon’s approach speaks to me. Full disclosure: I want to know a lot but, at the same time, to do as little as possible to get the gist. So my blog post this week pays homage to Austin Kleon and features my own “10 things I thought were worth sharing”:

1. The inspiration behind this week’s blog: Newsletters by Austin Kleon.

2. Where there’s a wall, there’s a way… Such was the motto of an artist who, during 130 days of the 2020 COVID lockdown, painted an awesome visual diary.

3. Crochet-alongs marry the challenge of an intricate pattern with the opportunity to bond as “happy hookers.” Beginning next week, designer Breann Mauldin prepares us for Christmas with a tree-skirt crochet-along.

4. A fascinating documentary on the Met Gala and the people who make it possible (and so pretty): “First Monday in May.”

5. …which led to my curiosity in Andre’ Leon Talley and his story: “The Gospel According to Andre’.”

6. What exactly is dyslexia? Groves Academy set me straight.

7. Again from Austin Kleon—and in light of this past week’s Facebook/Instagram/WhatsApp outage—a reminder to “rewind your attention.”

8. Call it the HairClub for educators… With The Writing Revolution, I’m not only a better tutor—I’m a better writer.

9. Book: Freely and Lightly by Emily Lex, who pairs personal lessons on faith with everyday illustrations in watercolor.

10. Thanks to my artist pal T.B. Sojka, I learned about Sara Thurman’s Artists Rising Retreats—and dream about planning my own someday.

If you have a recommendation on something I should read, watch, wear, see, try, make, etc., please provide the link in the comments section below. Who knows, perhaps it will become part of my next “catalog.” Thanks for your input!

On Seeing YESTERDAY

Imagine if the Beatles never existed.

Such is the premise of the movie “Yesterday,” now playing in theaters. The film is clever. It’s cute. It’s funny. And it got me to thinking.

Imagination is at the heart of creativity, and given that reality, there are endless possibilities around what we choose to draw, paint, write about, sing about, etc. Furthermore, there are possibilities revealed to us through regular day-to-day events and activities—a beautiful window box of flowers inspires us to replicate it on canvas, an interesting turn of phrase inspires us to write a poem—and possibilities that we would have never considered had we not sat down and primed our creative pump. The latter inspired the following exercise…

  1. “Imagine if the Beatles never existed.” In this sentence, “the Beatles” is the subject and “never existed” is an action. Let’s devise a list of several other subjects and actions. Here’s mine:
    • IMG_3710

      My two piles of subjects and actions

      Subjects: The Royal Family, a farmer, a Bible study group, the Trump administration, a tribe of aborigines, a high school marching band, an NFL football team, the Disney princesses

    • Actions: Started a forest fire, invented teleportation, biked across the U.S., cured cancer, vacationed in Italy, cloned themselves, owned a bakery, became super heroes
  2. I wrote all sixteen of my subjects and actions on separate pieces of paper. Keeping them separated in the two categories, I mixed up the papers and put them face down in two piles. Drawing one piece of paper from each pile, I arrived at the following possibilities—imagine if:
    • A high school marching band owned a bakery.
    • A tribe of aborigines biked across the U.S.
    • The Trump administration cured cancer.
    • A farmer started a forest fire.
    • The Royal Family cloned themselves.
    • A Bible study group invented teleportation.
    • The Disney princesses vacationed in Italy.
    • An NFL football team became super heroes.

I’m not one to dabble in fiction, but how fun would it be to take some of these ideas and develop them into complete stories or fantastical paintings or an all-out screenplay! “Imagine,” said John Lennon. Now you try it!


IMG_3717

Finished project: “Trinity” (Macrame)

Gallery

I completed my first piece of macrame and found a little corner for it to hang in my kitchen! Overall impression: Macrame is a full-body sport—I found it most comfortable to twist and tie while on my feet.

Read “On Trying MACRAME” post>>

On Reading TELL IT SLANT

TellItSlant

“The care of words is urgent Christian work.”
—Eugene H. Peterson

It was through the writings of Madeleine L’Engle and her best friend, Luci Shaw, that I discovered another one of their contemporaries Eugene H. Peterson. Best known for authoring The Message Bible, Peterson boasts a knack for taking age-old language and thought, and translating them into contemporary terms. His book Tell It Slant follows suit.

Poet Emily Dickinson wrote, “Tell the truth but tell it slant,” which means to employ creativity and subtlety and ambiguity and “unhurried intimacies” to deepen our understanding of the many facets of life. Such is the inspiration behind Peterson’s book as he delves into the parables and prayers of Jesus Christ, and focuses on the various nuances of His teachings and conversations.

At the same time, through Tell It Slant, Peterson aims to “cultivate a sense of continuity between the prayers we offer to God and the conversations we have with the people we speak to and who speak to us. I want to nurture an awareness of the sanctity of words, the holy gift of language, regardless of whether it is directed vertically or horizontally. Just as Jesus did.”

As a writer by both trade and passion, I admire Peterson’s goal. And in reading Tell It Slant, I now count him among my “artistic ancestors,” those whose work will forever impact my own. I enjoyed every one of Tell It Slant‘s chapters, but I knew Peterson would leave a lasting impression on me in reading the introduction to a portion based on Luke 18:9-14:

It takes a storyteller to give us access to all that is going on—the swirling maelstrom of sound and silence, visible and invisible, in even the dowdiest of women, the dullest of men… 

Storytellers activate our imaginations to see and hear beneath the surface of life and involve us in the many dimensions of what is going on behind our backs or just around the corner. It takes a storyteller to reveal the beauty that dazzles like “shining from shook foil” (Gerard Manley Hopkins). 

Every time Jesus tells a story, the world of those who listen enlarges, understanding deepens, imaginations are energized. Without stories we end up with stereotypes—a flat earth with flat cardboard figures that have no texture or depth, no interior. 

Though my artistic explorations of late have focused on the visual, my ventures in writing and storytelling are the most constant way by which I exercise my creative muscle. And in Peterson’s words I find a new calling—even a personal prayer—related to those endeavors. May I continue to grow into a storyteller who values and demonstrates the sacred art of language, the beauty revealed through original insight and twist of phrase, and revulsion of the “flat.” May I dream to create that which “dazzles”!

 

Cultivating Creativity

As a member of the Minnesota Christian Writers Guild (MCWG), I enjoy attending the organization’s monthly meetings for inspiration and accountability in my writing practice. However, more often than not, the subject matter applies to all of my creative endeavors. The most recent meeting was no different.

Michelle Rayburn, a published author and accomplished editor from Wisconsin, presented our group with “50 Ways to Cultivate Creativity.” About a dozen of those ideas applied to how “to handle a momentary lapse of creativity;” the rest dealt with “cultivating a lifestyle of creativity.” Rayburn encouraged us to record the ideas that resonated most with us; I ended up with nine that I hope—no, that I plan—to implement:

Idea 1: Create an atmosphere that inspires me.
Private. Bright. Functional. Orderly. These are a few of the qualities that make a space more inviting, comfortable and creativity-inducing for me. My husband and I talked this past summer about creating a space for art and writing, but were devising plans for our basement. After further contemplation, we agreed that the space needs to be upstairs with more natural light, less clutter, etc. The guest room it is! As a first step in the room’s transformation, we’re in the market for a murphy bed to help free up that space.

Idea 2: Switch between projects.
This seems like a no brainer: If I get frustrated or altogether stuck, work on something else. I’m never short of project ideas, so I hope to fight the hesitation to begin another one when the first is only half done. Guilt, be gone!

Idea 3: Have someone hold me to a deadline.
As a writer by trade, I know the power of a deadline, but it’s time to start applying the concept to other aspirations. For example, I’d love to have an entire book written over the next three years. It seems totally doable, but I know that some personal accountability is in order to help me through the paces. It might be time to return to a critique group, which in years past, compelled me to always have new material ready for each meeting.

Idea 4: Develop a creativity ritual.
I’m a morning person by nature, I know that for sure, but I’d love to get even more in tune with when I’m especially creative during the day and capitalize on that rhythm. The trick? Carving that time out on my calendar and making a standing appointment with myself to write, paint, and create in all sorts of different ways.

Idea 5: Practice spiritual discipline.
I am committed to growing in my faith every day and in all areas of life, but I’m yet to land on a routine that I stick to every day and in all areas of life. Of course, getting too legalistic about it will do me no good, but being very intentional about how I relate with the God I love and follow should be my top priority. I believe that relationship should, does, and will guide all I do, including writing and the making of art.

Idea 6: Get away for artist’s retreats on a regular basis.
I simply don’t “get” the folks who are totally void of creative ideas—my problem is exactly the opposite: sooooo many. Some dedicated time away to work on my growing list seems like a good way to make some progress on it.

Idea 7: Accrue vacation time.
In my day job, I’m a freelance writer. That means no PTO. Sure, I’ve taken days off and travelled here and there, but I’ve never thought about compensating myself through my own vacation time program of sorts. It’s time!

Idea 8: Remember that what I love or what I want to do is not a reward for doing what I don’t like to do.
This is indeed a creativity-robbing mindset for me, to think all the crappy housework and other demands need to get done before I sit down with my writing, an art project, a good book, etc. This idea is going to take some work, nothing short of brain surgery, but it seems like a healthier way to handle projects.

Idea 9: Use my cell phone more for recording ideas—set up Siri to document my ideas on the spot.
It frustrates me to no end when I know I had a great idea and it slips away. I’m not totally tied to my cell phone like some, but I like the idea of using it as a tool for capturing ideas in the car or anywhere on the run. I’m hoping Siri can help me do that very thing.

Are these ideas doable? Too ambitious? Time will tell, but I figure even if I adopt just one or two of these new habits, I’ve made some progress. Stay tuned!