Friday, December 21, 2012

A Week of Wishes: Unadulterated Fun

To wrap up the week properly, I wish you fun. Unadulterated fun. Kid fun. Real fun.

Now, for real kid fun, you don't need any supplies. You need the outdoors. (But it's 20 degrees here in Kansas and there's blowing snow and dangerous ice.) You need a sheet for a fort. (But no one will play fort with me anymore.) So ... I'm going to suggest supplies. Here's my Top 10 list for your fun toy chest:
  1. Crayola crayons. Yes, the brand matters. Get the good stuff. And the big box. None of this 8 crayon crud.
  2. A coloring pad. The brand matters less. Just big sheets of easily ripped out white paper.
  3. Good scissors. Sharp. One of the advantages of not being a kid. How does anyone learn to cut with those round-tip dealies?
  4. Craft glue. I like Allene's Original Tacky Glue.
  5. Wooden, unpainted stuff. Go to Michael's or someplace and buy a bunch of unpainted wood items. Cutouts, bulletin boards, frames, stools, whatever. Very fun for painting and collage art. And that brings us to:
  6. Paints and paintbrushes. You need a good variety of acrylic paint. And when it comes to the brushes, don't go cheap. You don't need the expensive stuff, but 12 brushes for $1 won't support your creativity for long.
  7. Mod Podge. One of my favorite glues for collage art. And you need the bag of sponges on sticks to go with it. Don't forget the sponges on sticks. Very important.
  8. Glitter glue. You're a guy? That's nice. Live a little. Get the glitter glue. If you're concerned re: your manliness rating, get the blue glitter glue. Sigh.
  9. Play-Doh. Again, the brand matters. Go crazy: Get the good stuff.
  10. Craft paper. And a ruler. And an eraser. And Sharpies. And I clearly can't stop with 10 ...
Given the insanity of holiday shopping, I'm not suggesting you go to the store today to stock up. But, if you don't have all the fun necessities on hand, go shopping before 2013! Be ready to really party when the big ball drops.

Ah, balls. Another great necessity for fun. In so many ways ...

Happy weekend!

P.S. I am trying Google's Affiliate Ads feature. If it's totally annoying, let me know. For the millions of dollars I earn from blogging, I can eliminate it.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

A Week of Wishes: Good Cheers

Do I wish you good cheer this holiday season? Absolutely. But my fourth wish for you goes beyond that: I wish you good cheers. I wish that in 2013 your self talk is filled with self cheer.

What's self cheer? It's the positive voice of self talk -- and it's the voice most of us rarely hear. What we typically hear inside our overworked, overwhelmed brains is: How could I be that stupid? Why did I do that? What was I thinking? I wasn't thinking. I'm an idiot. A complete, freakin' idiot.

Oddly enough, continually telling yourself that you're an idiot rarely inspires great works.

So, in 2013, I want you to be as kind to yourself as we are to children. I want you to say to yourself, "Brenda, you rock!" (Insert your name inside your head. You are not Brenda. Unless you are Brenda. In which case, you do rock and I love you.)

Other self cheers?
"I'm brilliant."
"I'm amazing. No one may have noticed. But what I just did? Amazing."
"I may just be the best (whatever) in the universe."
"Man, that was nice of me."

Or, the ever popular: "Good job!"

It's so simple! You do something great and you say to yourself, "Good job!" Heck, you could do that a million times during the day: You get up on time. "Good job!" You fit in your jeans. "Good job!" You make it to the meeting with all your notes. "Good job!" You don't make the snarky comment you'd like to make to the boss/lover/whoever. "Good job!" You let a driver cut in front of you during the rush-hour commute home. "Good job!"

In 2013, be your own best cheerleader. I know you can do it. Your Jewish momma says so.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

A Week of Wishes: Silence

As we continue our week of wishes, I wish you something all too rare in today's world: silence. The following excerpts come from a favorite poem in one of my favorite books. Unfortunately, there's no author listed, so I can't tell you who wrote this:

May we stand still, for a brief moment,
and listen to the rain --
Stand still, for a brief moment,
and watch the play of sunlight and shadow on the leaves.
For a brief moment -- listen to the world.

We need a quiet space to test the balance of our days.
The weight of our own deeds
against the heaviness of the world's demands ...

Quiet places and stillness --
where we will hear our own best impulses speak.
Quiet places and stillness --
from which we will reach out to each other.

In 2013, find time now and then to stand still. Be still. Just be.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

A Week of Wishes: Resilience

My second wish for you? Be more like Silly Putty:
  1. Willing to change -- the first name was Nutty Putty.
  2. Happy to have the word "silly" associated with your name. Silliness is under-rated. Giggles are good.
  3. Unwilling to be considered a failure. Silly Putty wasn't the great replacement for synthetic rubber that GE and the government wanted. And yet ...
  4. Successful. Millions of those eggs have been sold, bringing in millions of dollars.
  5. Useful. Prop up a chair. Pick up lint. Secure tools in zero gravity on Apollo 8. Silly Putty ain't just silly.
Finally, my Silly Putty friends, I wish you resilience. May 2013 be a year where you bounce back fast, no matter what life hands you!

Monday, December 17, 2012

A Week of Wishes: A Bi Gezundt

Note from Jan: I wrote this post before the shooting in Connecticut. I thought about deleting the post, but decided last week's horror reinforces the meaning. So, hug your loved ones and do what you can to spread goodness in a world that surely needs it. On Mondays and every day.

I don't know why Mondays get such a bad rap. Today is a whole fresh start. New week. New possibilities. You should be refreshed from your weekend.

You did have a delightful weekend, right? Lots of rest. Relaxation. You weren't running around like the headless chicken, were you? Oh well. Regardless, we start anew today. And, as my holiday gift to you, we start a week of wishes.

The first? A bi gezundt*. A charming Yiddish phrase meaning, "So long as you're healthy." The Jewish momma meaning? "You're here! You're healthy! Why fret about nonsense?"

Today, I wish you and your loved ones good health. A bi gezundt, my friends!

Or, as my Jewish grandmother would say, "A bi gezundt. Have another strudel."

*Sound official -- say it right: Ah-bee-geh-zundt

Friday, December 14, 2012

Friday Fun: Happy Hanukkah!

Happy Hanukkah! Or Chanukah! Or Hanukah! Or ... well ... it just doesn't matter. Happy day.

At our house, the big Hanukkah adventure is trying to remember the right order for placing and lighting the candles in the menorah. The adventure for the geeks at Technion went a bit beyond that.

Enjoy the video and thanks to Bud for the link! Speaking of Bud, new site. New blog. More spectacularness!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Creativity Tips: How to Make Better Resolutions

Do you have your goals in mind for 2013? Want to lose 10 pounds of creative baggage? Exercise your right to write? Or do  you just want to lose 20 literal pounds? Which, of course, you will do by EXERCISING EVERY DAY. Twice on Sundays.

Yep. Been there. Resolved that. Fortunately, making better resolutions -- and keeping them -- is easier than you might think.

1. Think small. Don't make 10 resolutions -- just looking at the list is overwhelming. How about one resolution re: your career, one for relationships, one just for you and one for creativity? Hmm. Four sounds like a lot to me. Think three.
2. Focus on the positive. Where do you want to be in December 2013? Focus on that instead of the effort it takes to get there. Do you want to diet and exercise? Maybe. Maybe not. Do you want to be healthy and strong? I'm guessing yes. (For example, my "diet" resolution is: I will make mindful choices about what I eat. Just thinking about that resolution kept me from eating french fries last night.)
3. Make resolutions that matter -- to you. Be honest with yourself. Maybe you don't really want to write a book or compose a symphony. Maybe your creative goal has more to do with learning to play the kazoo. Very cool. Go for it. These are not your mother's resolutions.

Once you've made the resolutions, be kind to yourself. Remember that every day is a fresh start. Don't quit just because you "slip." When you take two steps forward and one back, you're still one step ahead of where you were!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Thanks to My Creative Cheerleaders!

A few days ago, I posted on Facebook that I'm finally moving on my BOOK. I would tell you the working title , but it changes every five minutes. Suffice it to say that the book will be much like the blog -- except organized, more in-depth and more inclusive of other people's stories.

I put my plan out there as a way of putting my feet to the fire. What I didn't expect was the overwhelming, positive, enthusiastic response -- the post generated a ton of encouraging comments. Apparently, there are people in the world who think I can successfully write and publish a book. And they want to read it. How cool is that?

It's real cool. Creative cheerleaders -- and many of mine are here on the CI team -- make a huge difference. You're more than creative instigators. You're creative fuel.

Thanks for keeping the faith -- I'll keep you posted on progress!

P.S. Writing the book is one of my creative resolutions for 2013. Tomorrow, we'll be talking about your creative resolutions. Stay tuned ...

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Creativity Tips: One Man's Trash ...

The Landfill Harmonic video is making its way around Facebook, but I didn't want any of you to miss it and I know some of you aren't Facebook fans. Don't let the 11:45 timeframe scare you from watching every moment. It's beautiful from start to finish -- creativity in motion, changing lives for the better.

Think of the video as a gift -- a reaffirming reminder that the difference between trash and treasure really is perspective.

Thanks to Leslie for being the first to point me toward the video!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Creativity Tip: Write It Down

Did you ever get a brilliant idea and then forget it? Yeah, me too. As life zooms by at a lose-your-breath pace, it's easy to also lose focus.

What to do? Simple. Keep pen and paper close at all times. Or, if you prefer, some voice recorder dealie-bob on your phone or whatever. The trick is to make note of the idea immediately, using whatever system works for you.

Case in point: I was having trouble writing an essay for a client and woke up with the intro in my head. Fortunately, I keep pen and paper near my bed, so I scribbled the idea down before I got up, got going and the intro got lost. Here's what "brilliance" looks like at 6:18 a.m.:
Clear as mud? That's OK -- I understood it. On the other hand, I recently sent myself a text saying: First Sunday in December. First Sunday in December? What? Was I supposed to go somewhere? Meet someone? Is it the title of a play? A line in a poem? Who the hell knows?

So here's the brilliant idea for today:
When you get a great idea, don't wait. Clearly, concisely and quickly capture that thought.

And you can write that down, if you'd like.

P.S. If you're reading this on Monday morning, I should be at the synagogue, participating in a meeting. I'm not there. I'm in a completely different and much less enjoyable meeting. Why? Because I forgot to write the first meeting on my calendar. Write it down. Write everything down.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Thursday, December 6, 2012

It's a Wonderful Life

So, picture this: It's a gorgeous, sunny day in old KC and I'm driving with my darling daughter Kate to buy food for our family Thanksgiving meal. We're going to a store about 10, 15 minutes away because I like it better than the store by us.

We pull into the lot, and I realize I don't have the coupon that will save us 10 percent on groceries.

Got the picture? OK. Now, imagine this: I'm cursing as though the world is coming to an end, fuming over the "wasted" time, and sulking about having to drive all the way back home and then go to the icky store by us. I am slamming mad -- unreasonably, loudly, insanely angry.

Kate, on the other hand, is the model of calm, reminding me that it's a pretty day, it's not that far, it's no big deal. Suggesting that possibly I need to breathe.

Yeah, well. Instead of breathing, I yank the car into reverse and pull out. And, as we leave the parking lot, we pass:
1. A homeless family holding up a sign asking for help.
2. A woman walking back to her car who is clearly fighting cancer -- she's wearing a pink T-shirt and has a pink stocking cap covering her bald head. And, fyi, she's smiling.

"Mom," Kate says, "I think someone is sending you a message."

I got the message, and I'm sharing it. During this crazy, busy time of year, it's good to remember that we're lucky people. Lucky, lucky people. And it is a wonderful life.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Creativity Tips: Slow Down

OK, raise your hand if you remember Simon & Garfunkel singing, "Slow down, you move too fast."

All right. Now that we're all feeling groovy, here's the creativity tip and exercise for the day. When I told Leslie I was going to brag about her Mortal Muses guest post, I forgot to ask her for a photograph to illustrate my post. Why? Because I move too fast. There are far too many times where I don't slow down and think things through.

I'm betting that hits a very Simon & Garfunkelish chord with a few of you.

So, a day late and a dollar short, here's the photo that should have been part of yesterday's post!
Photo by Leslie R. Adams
The creativity exercise? Slow down. Don't move too fast. Focus on one aspect of this photo -- the door, the roof, the wheel, the trees, the barrel, whatever. Now, write five descriptive sentences about that part of the photo. Remember: Details make the difference -- they bring writing to life. Don't just say it's a red door. Describe the red. The handles. Tell me what's behind the door. Go!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Creative Shout Out: Leslie Adams & Mortal Muses

When you get outside your comfort zone and really stretch creatively, you know what happens? People notice.

Want proof? Consider the wonderful and talented Leslie Adams. This week, the Mortal Muses site features our lovely Leslie and her fabulous photography. Whoo hoo!!

It's well-deserved recognition of Leslie's beautiful work and her enthusiasm for creative exploration. Whether she's expanding her talents with Instagram, baking, or blogging, Leslie is always playing, always learning. Always creating. She's amazing and I'm thrilled that she remains an essential part of the CI team.

Mazel tov!