Sunday, January 31, 2010

Here, Kitty, Kitty ...

Machine Gun Cat
Here's proof you can teach an old cat new tricks: It was back in May 2008 when I first saw this machine-gunning cat and tried to post it. I couldn't figure out how. Couldn't get the animation to work. Tonight, I did it!

Of course, now I can't remember why I wanted to. I think the cat just made me laugh. Who needs more reason than that?

Friday, January 29, 2010

Random Personal Update

When my girls were young, they would periodically respond to something by saying, "That sucks." I would then shoot them the Mom look, and they would quickly add, "... like a vacuum." Somehow, that was supposed to make it OK.

Well, my friends, January sucked like a vacuum. I'm delighted to see the weekend and February. Get some rest this weekend. Play. Read a good book. Turn off the TV. Eat your vegetables. Don't talk on the phone while you're driving. Solo-task. Don't task at all. Exercise. Simplify. Wear your seatbelt. Ask questions. Listen to the answers. Appreciate something. Appreciate someone. Hug. Hug tighter. Bear hugs are really, really good.

I'll see you on Monday.

Friday Fun: What Type Are You?

We'll mix things up. Food is Love features on some Fridays; Friday Fun on others. Because consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.*

Today, thanks to this link from Chris, you can answer the four quick questions that lead to self-knowledge. Take a break and find out: What type are you?

*Ralph Waldo Emerson: "A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesman and philosophers and divines. With consistency a great soul has simply nothing to do."

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Creativity Tips: Dream Big

I took this photo last weekend at Olathe East High School, while waiting for my daughter and the other Golden Girls to perform in a drill team competition.

Dream Big! That's what we tell our children. Why don't we say it to our friends? To our husbands, our wives, our lovers? Why aren't adults encouraged to dream big?

Is there some invisible line you cross and suddenly it's too late to dream big? I don't think so.

Listen to me. Dream Big! And stop waiting for all the signs to align before doing what it takes to turn your dreams into reality. Small steps toward big dreams. That's my wish for you today.

P.S. CI team members in Kansas and Missouri have been following this story for a couple of days now, but if you haven't been, watch this video from another one of the high schools in the Olathe district. It's proof that amazing things can happen when you take your best shot.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Creativity Exercise: Take it from Martha Beck

As part of "My Year of Less," I've been getting rid of clutter, including old magazines, which I cut up for collage art. When I got to the November 2009 O magazine, I had to stop cutting to read a great article by Martha Beck, complete with a creativity exercise. So ... take out a clean sheet of paper and:
  1. Write your name.
  2. Do it in mirror writing -- make it look essentially the same, but write it from right to left, rather than left to right. (Oooh. I feel brain cells coming to life just trying to figure out that sentence.)
  3. Write it upside down.
  4. Write it backwards and upside down.
  5. (Her exercise didn't include this, but: For good measure, write it with your non-dominant hand.)
  6. Repeat daily.
Beck reminds us that using the right side of your brain on creative activities "thickens the myelin sheath that surrounds nerve fibers like the rubber coating on electrical wires. The thicker the myelin sheath around a neural pathway, the more easily and effectively we use it."

In other words, doodling your name can do more than amuse you.* It can strengthen your creative thought process. So do do doodle it today.

*Although, if all it did was amuse you, I'd be happy. Because I'm easily amused.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Site Seeing: The Happiness Machine

Leslie just sent this link, and it's too good not to share immediately. Marketing brilliance.

I want a Happiness Machine!

Creativity Tips: Creative Condolence

I heard a story on NPR yesterday morning about creative ways to make positive use of the debris in Haiti. I apologize; I couldn't find a link to the report. But it reinforces my belief that creativity is one way we repair the world.

Let me give you a smaller, more personal example.

When someone dies, it's typical -- and wonderful -- to offer mourners support through prayers, good thoughts, food, cards, flowers, friendship. Having just been through the mourning process, I can't tell you how much all that helps.

I can pass along another idea. For people you know really well, do one more thing. Put on your creative cap and offer them a reprieve from grieving. Let me give you an example ...

My buddy Chris came up with the perfect break for me: time with his amazing sons. Linden is 4; Clarkson will be 1 next month.* We met at Starbucks, Chris bought me a cup of coffee, and I played with Clarkson and read with Linden.

These boys are joy in motion, and time with them was the perfect antidote to grief.

Robert Frost summed up all he knew about life in three words: It goes on. It does. And friends make the journey so much better.

*I'm not sure how old Chris is, because I choose to forget. We have established he's young enough to be my son. Which is a much gentler way of saying I'm old enough to be his mother.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Creativity Tips: Ask Better

Wordle: Happy

You gave me words for happy -- I put them together on Wordle. Together, we have art! If this were a scientific poll, the results would clearly indicate that what makes us happiest is chocolate. (I love this team. I say "apple." You say "chocolate.")

I also love the fact that there's a creativity tip, hiding in the exercise.

Last Monday, when I asked for one word that makes you happy, the response was ... well ... pitiful. Yeah, let's face it. Not many of you responded. So, I asked again. But I also looked for outside inspiration: I posted the same question on Facebook and the responses flooded in.

There's a lesson there that applies to all sorts of situations -- at work and at home. If you're not getting the input you need, don't give up. Ask better. Ask someone else. Ask a slightly different question. I'm betting the end results will make you happy.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Food is Love: Peggy's Dill Dip

This is the perfect dill dip recipe -- easy and yummy and it was given to me with love by my friend and sister-in-law, Peggy Harness. She's the one with her head back, laughing. Peggy died last week, unexpectedly, of complications from surgery.

Food is Love, folks. Whether it's a casserole you bring to a house in mourning, or a recipe you leave behind. Here's to Peggy! She'd be tickled to know you're enjoying the dill dip.

Peggy's Dill Dip
1 cup sour cream
1 cup mayo
1 tablespoon parsley flakes
1 tablespoon onion flakes
1 tablespoon dill weed
1 teaspoon Lawry's Seasoned Salt

Mix it all up. Hollow out 1 Swedish rye -- you know, the big round loaf. Save the bread you're pulling out of the center; that's what you use for dipping. Put the dip into the hollowed-out center and start munching. When you're done with the official dippers, rip up the bread bowl and use it. Mmmmmm. Seriously good stuff.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Creativity Exercise: Let's Win a Contest!

OK, this is too much fun to pass up. Visit the 25th Anniversary Anne Taintor Caption Contest site and enter your caption for this photo. I know the CI team. I know one of you has the sarcasm required to be a winner! (Yes, I am talking to you.)

And, while we're in exercise mode, did you give me a word for HAPPY? I need plenty of words to make a good wordle!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Creativity Tips: Like What You Like

I LOVE this photo. Mary, my youngest, took it at DisneyWorld on New Year's Eve. I think the yellow balloon with the Mickey ears makes it.

On the other hand, Mary and her friends think the balloon is in the way. They prefer photos other kids took of just the castle.

The good news? We're talking creativity. We don't have to like the same things. And what a boring old world it would be if we did ...

P.S. But rap isn't music. And that's a fact.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Creativity Exercise: Happy Word

There are two reasons for today's exercise:
  1. Your responses to the "give me a word for winter" post were wonderful.
  2. The "off the blog" responses to my funk post let me know I wasn't alone in feeling that January was all funked up.
So, today, give me one word that makes you happy. I'll go first:


I'll give you a few days for posting, then put all our words together into a wordle. Here's to a good week!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Food is Love: Aunt Clara's Pumpkin Waffles

Entry 2 in the Food is Love category! Today's recipe is courtesy of a wonderful CI team member, Chuck Dymer from The Idea Loft in Kansas City.

In Chuck's words: "Here is a recipe I received from my Aunt Clara (who lived on a farm with Uncle Paul in West Virginia) when I visited during semester break while in college. The woman pictured on the file is Aunt Clara as she looked when I got the recipe 43 years ago! I make the waffles every autumn and during holiday time. Guests love them."

The recipe sounds delicious, and Chuck's presentation of it is an absolutely gorgeous, creative way to turn a recipe into a keepsake. I'm hoping you can click on the image and it will be big enough to read. If not, post a note and I'll email you a copy. Enjoy!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Creativity Tips: Lose the Funk

OK, I admit it. I'm in a funk. Maybe it's the cold. Maybe it's a client. Maybe it's Kate going back to K-State.

Or, as my gyno once told me when I tried to blame an attitude on hormones, "Maybe you're just a bitch." (Yeah, yeah. He said it with a tad more bedside manner, but we both knew what he meant.)

So, today's tip is simple. Don't be me. Don't wallow and whine. If you're in a funk, snap out of it. Do something to make yourself happy. Do something to make someone else happy. Do anything.

Where to start? Check out yesterday's Brainzooming post on backing out of creative dead ends. And if you have any great creativity tips for me, I'm listening. I have my head in my hands and a disgusted, dejected look on my face, but I'm listening.

P.S. On the bright side, I've added the Anne Taintor blog to the Site Seeing list on CI. I love her stuff.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Creative Inspiration: The Quarrel

I found this poem via Ted Kooser's American Life in Poetry column. I love the idea of "a monument to silence." This is one of those poems that makes me want to grab my pen and journal and start writing.

The Quarrel
by Linda Pastan

If there were a monument
to silence, it would not be
the tree whose leaves
murmur continuously
among themselves;

nor would it be the pond
whose seeming stillness
is shattered
by the quicksilver
surfacing of fish.

If there were a monument
to silence, it would be you
standing so upright, so unforgiving,
your mute back deflecting
every word I say.

Copyright 2007 by Linda Pastan

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Creativity Tips: Magnify Your Strengths

I recently looked into a magnifying make-up mirror. It's not an activity I recommend for women over 50. Frankly, it was terrifying. But I did have an epiphany right before I scheduled the facelift. Some people are like that mirror -- they magnify faults. They see everything we do that's not perfect, but never notice all we do right.

These people are toxic. They may have personal issues they're dealing with; that's not my concern. You are my concern. And I want you to work, live and play with people who magnify your strengths.

They're out there. Find them. More importantly, be them. Do what you can to bring out the best in others. That's the very heart of creative instigation.

Sidenote: I spent a ridiculous amount of time writing this post, and not liking it. Then, I remembered my own creativity rule: I own the sentence. It doesn't own me. I came back, trashed what I had, and wrote this. Sometimes, you just have to be willing to throw things out and start over.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Creativity Tips: Question "Normal"

Yesterday, my daughter Kate and I went for a drive, and we both remarked about how hot it was. The thermometer said it was 24 degrees.

Now, 24 degrees is not a heatwave. But, here in the Midwest, we've gotten used to single-digit temperatures and below-zero windchills. Sunshine and 24 felt absolutely tropical.

It's interesting how quickly we adjust to adverse situations -- and I'm not just talking cold weather. Look around your house, your office, your relationships. What have you accepted as normal that isn't? Look at your creative work. Have you lowered your standards? Are you accepting less than your best?

It's a new year. Question the norm and go for better. Expecting more is the first step toward getting more.

P.S. re: "getting more." (Oh, stop. For once, that wasn't what I was talking about.) I'm having fun with less. I'll keep you posted now and then on how My Year of Less is going. Happy Monday!

Friday, January 8, 2010

Food is Love: Buttermilk Pancakes

The truth: I started the Friday Fun feature back in 2007 as a way to avoid writing a creativity entry one day a week.

The problem: I'm having trouble finding fun stuff and I'm bored with online games.

The solution: Cooking is one of my favorite creative outlets, so I'm going to mix things up. (Ha! Cooking joke!) Today, I'm starting a Friday Food is Love feature. Do not argue with me re: the political correctness of that title. Food is love. I'm a Jewish mother. I know these things.

We'll start with a Cooking Light recipe I owe Leslie, for the best buttermilk pancakes ever. Es! Es tov! (Eat, enjoy, learn Yiddish!)

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Creative Inspiration: Desiderata

I was writing a post and was going to make a joke about Max Ehrmann's Desiderata, which was popular back when I was in college. I had this very edition on my bookshelf* in the '70s. But, I went back and read the poem, and I don't want to make fun of it. It's part of who I was and that makes it part of who I am.

I do promise not to link to any Rod McKuen poems.

*The "bookshelf" was a couple pieces of wood, supported and separated by huge beer cans. Does this sound familiar to anyone else? If so, you'll probably remember Deteriorata, a different take on the poem. You are a fluke of the universe ...

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Creativity Tips: Don't Lose Your Resolve

So, we're six days into the new year. How's that resolution?

Personally, I'm doing fine on the "doing less" concept. On the other hand, healthy eating went out the door last night, as I wolfed down a huge burger and fries.

If, like me, you've already blown a resolution out of the water, don't worry. Grab this three-word life jacket: It doesn't matter. That was was yesterday. This is a new day.

One mistake isn't critical. Letting the mistake stop you is. So don't. You get back to your resolution, and I'll go enjoy a high-protein cereal bar.

P.S. Hmmm. I'm using the words "enjoy" and "cereal bar" in the same sentence. It's possible I've been in PR too long.
P.P.S. But, seriously folks, I do like high-protein cereal bars. Successful change should be built on positives: No matter how good the results, I won't stick with a healthy eating plan if I don't like the food.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Creativity Exercise: Winter Word

Give me one word to describe winter, wherever you are, whatever your winter is doing.

This exercise brought to you by a woman who should be living on a beach, not in a town where the predicted high later this week is 4 degrees, with a predicted low of -13.

Photo credit: D Sharon Pruitt

Monday, January 4, 2010

Creativity Tips: Find Your Creative Bone

During the holidays, I had fun with a few Facebook promotions that required "fans" to write something to win a prize -- free food from Panera, a Pearls Before Swine cartoon, things like that. One woman's entry jumped out at me. She threw herself on the judges' mercy, writing, "I don't have a creative bone in my body."

Okey dokey. We'll start the year on my soap box. Plenty of room, climb on with me. Now, repeat after me:

I am creative.

There, see how simple that was. You just found your creative bone. It's in your head. It's in your heart. It's in your soul. It's in your hands, when you're mixing up a new recipe, repairing a broken fence or applauding someone else.

If you ever feel like you don't have a creative bone in your body, listen to the words you're saying to yourself. Listen to the words that echo from your past. Then, stop them. STOP THEM. It's your mind, my friend, and you control the words that flow through it. And those words control your actions.

When you need new words, listen to this: You are creative. And I know that with every bone in my body.

Welcome to 2010, CI team!

Friday, January 1, 2010

2010: My Year of Less

I've been doodling with a few resolution ideas -- very creative, such as lose weight, exercise, yada yada yada -- and finally landed on the real deal. This will be my year of less. I am going to give something away, give something up, throw something out, every day.

This is based on discussions with my sister, my best friend and my mother. They all think I should take better care of myself. I think a year of less fits that bill.

Today, I gave up the expectation of perfection. Well, maybe not totally, because that would be perfect. But I did lead Friday night services and laugh at the one big mistake I made. You know, rather than focus and obsess on it. I wasn't perfect. But I was fine.

I hope your year is less. I hope you have less stress. Less struggle. Less time away from the people and places you love. Less worry about things you cannot change. Less noise. Less.

P.S. We'll move from less to Leslie. Leslie totally rocks. She completed her 365 project and it is amazing. Just doing it would have been a huge accomplishment -- but she did it beautifully. Take a look. And don't miss the Big Rabbit's sendoff to 2009. Happy New Year!