seek adventure

Ella Fiztergerald croons, “Summertime and the livin’ is easy,” and Justin Moore promises, “If there’s a good time in this town, we’re gonna find it.”  As for me?  I think a combination of the two songs sums up summer in Minneapolis.  The City of Lakes fills with festivals, music, and revelry when the weather warms up.  If you’re looking for a good time, you will definitely find it here.
We celebrated our first dry weekend of summer with trips to the Twin Cities Jazz Festival and the Uptown Food Truck Festival. Both fun events, but just like the songs above, I wanted to combine the two things.  Why not have food trucks at the jazz festival?  We could dance as we eat and sing as we sip.  Sounds good, yes?
Do y’all follow Humans of New York?  I love how the artist photographs and learns the stories of the people in his city.  I have a similar desire to learn about the people that pass me on the street: where are they going? what are they reading? are they in love?  I’m not one to ask questions, but I do snap sneaky pictures when I feel inspire (like that photo above… precious, right?)
Maybe it has something to do with an overactive imagination and curious mind.  I do home interviews for Habitat for Humanity (interviewing people that apply for houses), and I get that same thrill when I learn a) why people moved here b) why they want a new home and c) what matters most about their new home (size, location, community, school, etc).  After the interviews, I recommend or deny the family, and then I spend forever and always wondering how they’re doing.
Speaking of home: Jon spent the past week in Wisconsin, and he brought home my favorite yellow roses.  The flowers seem trivial compared to having him back, but I do love me some roses.  And the best kind of roses?  ‘Just Because’ roses.
This post is a bit of a ramble, but I did make the two graphics into printable PDFs for you.  Like the images? Download them here: redwhiteyou and leavehome

How was your weekend?  Any plans for the Fourth?

make it last

I once worried that creativity was like a pint of Ben & Jerry’s – once you used it all up, it was gone.  More and more, however, I’m realizing that creativity begets creativity.
Sometimes I’ll a write short story and realize the supporting character would be the perfect protagonist in an entirely new work.  Other times I’ll edit a photograph and want to make a graphic capturing the emotion in the image.  Have you ever had a similar experience?
An old version of myself saved ideas until the moment was precisely right.  Now, instead of ‘saving the best for the future,’ I’m using ideas as quickly as possible.
Can you think of anything else we consume as quickly as possible?  Writing that sentence made me think how we generally try to ‘make things last.’  I suppose we use things before they expire, but when do we use things quickly simply for the sake of doing so?
I’ve been going for walks every morning because I like letting the sun dry my hair.  A simple pleasure, perhaps, but my wet hair turns to icicles if I go outside in winter (thank you, Minneapolis).
Yesterday’s walk had me wanting summery plates to for summer picnics.  My thoughts got spinning: should I paint something? Draw? Stencil?  And then, the idea came to me: I would mod podge clear plates with printed napkins.  What do you think of the result?


dose of hope

Creativity, chaos, and a messy bowl of cheesecake.  An interesting trio brought together by a steady steam of failures.  Did you read my post about The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day?  If so, be warned that today was nothing like that.  Sure I attempted and failed at two (count um’ up!) new things, but I really didn’t mind when everything went bust.Image
I recently started a ‘doodle a day’ project, and I wanted my first design to incorporate the words ‘some,’ ‘more,’ and ‘summer.’  After an hour of doodling, I stepped back and realized the words were out of order (it said something like ‘sum more som mer’.)  Oops.  I ditched my doodle and made all the graphics in this post.Image
A short while later,  I decided to attempt one of the many popsicle recipes trending on Pinterest.  My selection?  Strawberry cheesecake pops.  Bad choice: the pops froze over like Minneapolis in February, and getting to the creamy goodness was impossible (frozen cream cheese is not delicious).  Still craving sugar, I decided to use all the ingredients to make actual cheesecake.  The end result?  The only non-fail (actually an absolute win) of the day:Image
The recipe was Top Chef worthy, and it also turned me into an abstract artist.  See the colorful swirls of berries?  That’s what I call food art.  
The drawings and the popsicles were unsuccessful, but the word “great” came to mind when my sister asked about my day. Thing is, I enjoy creating things (all things, really), and a failed product doesn’t ruin the joy of the effort.  
Have you heard that saying “time you enjoy wasting isn’t wasted” ?  That’s kind of how I felt about today.  And, in retrospect, the failures inspired projects that succeeded, so perhaps the missteps were part of the process?  

literary magic

Confession: I’m a jealous person.  It’s not something we generally go around admitting, is it?  But if I think about it, dig deep and stay honest, I would bet everyone gets a case of green envy every now and again.

We’re told that comparison is the thief of joy, and jealousy is.. well.. evil.  But I tend to think about it differently, and I might even go so far as to say I like being jealous.   Today, for instance, I was reading Tell The Wolves I’m Home when I came across this passage:

“I felt like I had proof that not all days are the same length, not all time has the same weight. Proof that there are worlds and worlds and worlds on top of worlds, if you want them to be there.”
I closed the book and thought about the beauty and poignancy in that transcendent sentence – about how lyricism and thought combined into some kind of literary magic.  Sure as luck, I found myself wishing I could write like that – I was jealous.
But you know what the jealousy did?  It made me want to put down the book and grab my journal and write write write until I came up with something original and true and inspiring.  I might not ever write anything worth publishing, but I’m inspired to try.  If jealousy motivates me to dream and work and strive, can it really be that bad?
What are your thoughts on the rock  garden I made?  I wanted to take pictures of flowers, but since they aren’t blooming yet, I had to get a little creative.  My idea?  Join the ranks of Love Rocks!  Love Rocks is an organization that encourages people to paint rocks and then leave them around their community for strangers to find.   Bet you aren’t jealous of my rocks… 🙂

create with me

My husband’s CEO was reading the Sunday paper when he found a generous article written about my happiness projects. The CEO sent the article around the office as a kind gesture to my husband.

A couple days later, the Director of Marketing asked me to speak to her team about community involvement. The leap between my silly projects and marketing seemed vast, but I agreed to chat when she promised coffee and donuts.

Y’all, I was nervous. The nerves started pop-pop-popping up when I realized I didn’t own business attire or understand how I could help push a corporate agenda forward. Would I waste their time entirely? Should I cancel? I silenced my worries, grabbed a flowery top, and followed my husband to work.
The meeting felt like a conversation between friends: I talked about my background in art and social work, and then they asked for tips on connecting with the community. The hour flew by and closing remarks soon replaced the daunting questions. Success – I was feeling pretty good about my first stint in corporate America.

And then.

The marketing director asked me to conclude by discussing ways to increase creativity. I’m usually garrulous and quick, but this question brought great pause and then silence and finally a look of confusion. She noticed my discomfort and elaborated further, “Just tell us where you get ideas from.”

Where do I get ideas from? Goodness gracious, her attempt to save me from a potentially awkward situation only heighted my confusion, and I said the first thing that came to mind: “I seek inspiration everywhere.”

The group clapped and I drove home wondering why why why did I answer the question like that? It’s true that I’m always seeking inspiration, but the question to ‘how am I creative’ is so much more complicated than that. Creativity oftentimes seems like a messenger that stops by with an idea or two or three. Other times, however, I’m wondering if that inspiring messenger will ever choose to visit me again.  Does my creative messenger have a phone number? An email? How do I get in touch with him?

And so, I got to the serious business of thinking about creativity and its causes. I hope my thoughts will inspire a dialogue that generates lots of ideas for finding inspiration. Will you help me?
Here’s what I’ve got so far:

  1. Never wait till your ready. If you want to do something, go for it, and figure out the details as you go. Some of my best ideas come from making mistakes, thinking about how to do better, and then setting forth for a 2nd or 3rd or, to be honest, 7th try.
  2. Open your heart and your mind to new experiences, people and ideas. It’s when we are exposed to difference and novelty that we can compare and contrast and grow and consider. Make a new friend, try a new coffee shop, take a trip.
  3. As life changes this means evaluating new situations, accepting new things into your life and letting others go. This way we can develop our best ideas and devote time to the projects that inspire us the most.
  4. Challenge yourself, but try not to get in ‘over your head’ – somewhere between hard and easy we find our sweet spot. With any luck, working in that ‘sweet spot’ will inspire creativity and, best of all, flow.
  5. Journal is out, write it down, and type it quick. I’ve always got a pen&pad in my pocket because I never know when inspiration will strike. Some of my best ideas come while sitting in church or driving in the car or taking a hike.
  6. Give all ideas equal weight. You know the feeling of thinking an idea is great until you a) think about it further b) start to write about it or c) try to explain it to someone else? It’s not that the idea isn’t any good, but perhaps you need to think about it differently. What do you not like about it? Could you change the project/idea/plan so that it works a little better?
  7. Live an inspired life. I tell myself to write the book I want to read and paint the picture I want to see and bake the cake I want to eat. I’m not always accomplishing these lofty goals, but it gives me a high bar and encourages me to keep trying.
  8. Be the solution. Ah, okay, it’s really not as lofty as all that, but when I hear complaints, I start jotting down possible solutions. My ‘ideas’ might not be any good, but it usually inspires some suggestions for creatively solving problems.
  9. Get emotional. I try to let my feelings guide me on creative projects. If I feel passionately about an idea or project or person, I think about the reasons I’m ignited, and then I try to express myself with words or art or other creative outlets.
  10. Take your mind off the task at hand. For me, consciously trying to generate ideas oftentimes leads to voids and blanks and daydreams. It’s when I’m doing something else – running or cleaning or showering – that the ideas seem to fizzle and pop and appear from some mysterious place.
  11. Have a heart to heart. A good conversation is one of my favorite ways to connect with others, and it’s also a pretty solid way to inspire creativity. When I discuss plans and dreams and hopes, my friends usually inquire and prod and relate, and I’m usually inspired by the twists and turns the conversation takes.
  12. Eavesdrop. If your own thoughts and conversations aren’t inspiring enough, you can always keep listen to the person next to you :)That top photo is from my spring photo challenge, and the 12 creativity ideas clip art is from The Ink Nest.

worth the wait

An apple a day keeps the doctor away, and a doodle a day brings creativity your way.  The poem’s my own, and while I’m no sage, I’d be willing to bet a five or ten spot that it holds some truth.  
To inspire creativity in Minneapolis, I covered a bus stop with butcher paper and colored pencils.  Made me think of changing the ‘whistle while you work’ song to something like ‘doodle while you wait.’
The random act of happiness was inspired by the League of Creative Interventionist‘s March mission to make bus stops more playful.  Pretty cool idea for a creative intervention, right?  You can see how they come up with project ideas by watching conversational videos on their blog.
I had barely finished hanging paper when people wandered past and asked what I was up to.  After providing some background info, I found myself doodling with 3 awesome strangers.  One of them happened to be a Minneapolis artist.
Does it surprise you that the three of us are getting together next week?  Proof that we never know what the day holds for us, right?
The strangers asked about other projects I’ve done in the city, and it reminded me of a ‘poetry takeover’ I staged in bus stops last year.  If you didn’t get to read about it, you can see the post here:
Have you ever made friends in an interesting way?  Any ideas for making bus stops more fun?

easy A

When you’re living the best days of you life, you’ll know it.  I remember feeling anxious in high school whenever someone announced that ‘it doesn’t get better than this’ and ‘you’ll always remember these moments.’

During high school, I made happy memories with friends that I still call/text/snap-chat on a daily basis.  But, to be honest, those four years don’t come close to being the best time of my life.  And you know what?  Neither does college or graduate school.
I’ve packed a lot of exploring and loving and learning and suffering into my short life.  I’ve met amazing people, had wonderful adventures, and got myself into quite a few tricky situations.

The best part about all of those experiences, however, is that they combine to create an incredibly meaningful present.  I look back at high school and college and the years before and after, and I’m thankful for the memories and the lessons and the people that got me to where I am today.

Hopefully, I’ll be able to write something similar in another 25 years.  Isn’t it a happy thought that the best days of our lives haven’t happened yet?
Can I be honest and tell you that I didn’t intend to blog about anything written above?  I was a volunteer judge for ‘Odyssey of the Mind’ this weekend, and the competition got me thinking how much I wished creativity conferences existed while I was in high school.   My post was going to be about the need for creativity in schools and how we should push for programs that support imagination, but my wandering mind had other ideas.

sprinkle covered sister

Do you ever get the feeling that you’re exactly where you need to be? If you were offered an instant getaway to Rome or Bali or Paris you simply wouldn’t go because you’re caught up in something that makes you tingle with genuine goodness.  That’s the feeling I got when I watched my baby sister teaching her Kindergarden class to count to 30.  Image
My baby sister, Caity, is a sweetheart with a knack for telling jokes and making people feel loved. She’s worked as a teacher for the past two years, but today was the first time I was able to watch her in action.  And you know what?  She brings all that talent for making people feel special right into the classroom.Image
I surprised Caity’s class with 36 Dunkin Donuts to see what happens what you fill kids with sprinkles and frosting and jelly before 9am.  Start the day off with a sugar high, right?  As you might guess, Caity was (is) the sweetheart and I was (am) the troublemaker.Image
I read her class a story and then I sat back and watched her teach.  As I observed her work, I thought about how proud I am to have such a kind and funny baby sister. Lucky me for making memories with her since 1987.  

creative intervention

You know that ice breaker where everyone goes around the room and says something interesting about themselves?  How they have a twin or speak 3 languages or won a chili-cooking competition?  The wheels in mind get to spinning whenever I wind up playing, and I usually respond with something anti-climactic like “I read a book a week.”  Read a book a week? That’s more anti-social than interesting, and it usually generates a few (many) odd looks.
Thing is, I’m a bit of an open book, and everyone already knows that I’m silly and thankful and oddly obsessed with BBQ.  Most people know that I studied art and love photography and will do anything for a laugh.  Close friends know that I wear the same outfit over and over if I don’t think I’ll run into the same person.
Blog readers are probably aware that I like public art and collaborative projects.  So if I told you that I joined The League of Creative Interventionists, you probably wouldn’t be too surprised, right?  Image
The League is an international network of individuals that perform a ‘creative intervention’ around a theme every month.  This month, the league asked creative interventionists to create a wall that inspired people to respond to the prompt “my first love was…”  I told my friend Katie about the project, and she suggested we hang the wall at Mall of America so that participants could keep warm.  
Katie wrote ‘music,’ I wrote ‘creativity,’ and we left the rest blank for the public.  What would your answer be?  

the art of failure


Embrace failure.  What’s the worst that could happen?  You might fail?  Great odds, considering you will fail without doubt if you never even begin.  The good news is that every failure creates an opportunity to begin again with additional knowledge.  The second time you attempt something you will be in a better position to succeed, likely creating something much more successful than you attempted in the first-go-round. 

Failure lets you know that you can do better.  It’s the personal coach inside your head telling you to push forward and strive for your best.  Do you need to add something to your vision, or take something away?  What mistakes were made the first time, and how can they be remedied?

Failure presents dazzling opportunities for growth and creativity, and, if you play your cards right, success. 

To make failing easier, more of a routine, perhaps, I pledge to 1) Recognize failure as a growth opportunity; 2) Learn from mistakes and shortcomings; 3) Apply new knowledge to all future attempts;  and 4) Remember that I haven’t truly failed until I’ve given up.  

I spent the day creating a baby gift for a dear friend, inspired by the welcome wreath that I made my sister.  My hands and my mind were  clearly up to different things, right?  The thing is, I’ve been spending a lot of time contemplating my current situation, my future goals, and different ways of shortening the gap between the two points.  When I’m busy working with my hands, my mind takes the opportunity to wander freely.  Hope you don’t mind the disjunction between the are of failure and the art of crafting 🙂

As for the wreath, the entire thing was made from colorful papers, glue, and a little tape.  I wanted to put a unique spin on the traditional baby gift, and so I went with a “welcome to the world” shadow box.  You can see the process below:Image
I began by sketching the globe and making notes where the ‘welcome to the world’ would be written.Image
The second step was to create cut-outs of the necessary continents on colorful paper:Image
Tape your circular globe to a plane sheet of paper:
And then stick your continent cutouts to the globe —  I used a thick tacky glue so that they would pop off the sheet just a bit:Image
Simple as draw, cut, & glue: