Category Archives: inspiration

Weekend Update

I’m baaack! Relaxed, refreshed and recharged. Oh, and actually appreciating my family. Or rather, I’m not so freaking exhausted that appreciation is out of my vocabulary. Here’s the scoop…

Friday. Finished work. Headed into town for my retreat, and hit… Traffic. Bad traffic. I guess everyone in H-town had Big Friday Night Plans, because they were ALL on the highway. Determined not to let it ruin my mood, I decided to play CD surprise. Never heard of it? Not surprised, considering I made it up Friday night while stuck in traffic on the highway. How do you play? Easy. Reach over (in the dark, while keeping your eyes on the road), grab a CD out of your CD wallet, and insert. Anticipate what it’s going to be. Listen. Hey, I figured it would pass the time, and since I really DO have interesting CD’s in the car I figured it was a win.

Fail. First CD – Kidz Bop. Veto. Second CD – some guy playing hammer dulcimer EZ listening hits. A holdover from my elementary teaching days. Veto. Third – Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. Music Memory from days gone by. Veto. Fourth – Diana Krall live in Paris. Ok, that one was doable.

Finally navigated the traffic and checked into my sweet digs. I found a great in-town deal at an extended stay place, which meant that I had a full kitchen, sectional couch, desk and separate sleeping nook. Oh, and a walk-in closet. That’s crucial for a two night stay, right? Got situated, surfed the web and started A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. How is it I never had to read this for school? It’s amazing. But if I’d had to read it for school I probably wouldn’t have liked it anyway. Most of the time when I’m told I have to read a certain book I don’t like it. It’s the passive/agressive rebellious side of me. Fine. I’ll read it. But I won’t LIKE it. Anyway, I finally made myself put the book down and sleep.

Saturday morning? It’s a good thing I’ve got priorities. I mean, if I hadn’t checked Facebook before eating breakfast and showering, I’d have missed the message about my folk dance session. “A slight mistake has been made. The original start time of 9:30 posted here was incorrect. Today’s workshop will begin at 8:30.” Good thing it was only 7:30 when I decided to Facebook.

Day of folk dancing. Skipped the fitness room workout due to the time change, but hey – six solid hours of folk dancing HAS to count as exercise, right? I mean, I did actually break a sweat once or twice and it was cold in the room. And I realized how much I miss that part of my musician life. The sense of community and collaborative music making with a group of talented people. And I’ve always loved dancing. If I’d actually been born with the right body type I probably would have kept up with it past sixth grade. But hey – at this point it’s a fun hobby. Did you get that? A hobby! Me!

Lunch on my own at a group of swanky little shops across the street. Leftover time and an Anthropologie gift card. Darn. What was I to do? Yep – found ONE – sweater that I loved. There was ONE left. In my size. And my favorite color. On sale. Score!!

More folk dancing, then a trip to the HUGE Half Price Books I’d spotted near the hotel. Huge. And, for some reason, much cheaper than the HPB near my house. Hmmm. Cheaper in town than the ‘burbs? Shocker. I love wandering in used book stores. The musty smell of old bindings and slightly mildewed dusty paper is like a drug. So addictive. They should bottle that and sell it for Plug Ins. Seriously. I’d be all over that. And I managed to score a biography of Alan Lomax – one of the songcatching family that traveled Appalachia and recorded TONS of American folk songs back in the day. You can access the recordings for free here. It was a message. This is a hobby that needs pursuit. Message received.

Back to the hotel. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. Couldn’t. Put. It. Down. Hours of uninterrupted reading? Check. Intersperse journal writing? Check. Inspiration? Check and check. Right before a massive migraine sidetracked my entire plan.

Skip ahead a few hours – too much Excedrin and caffeine left me wide awake, so I pulled up the Netflix queue and started Sweet Land. An indie flick that the Spouse wouldn’t have lasted ten minutes into, it’s full of lovely shots of Minnesota wheat fields, prairie and 1920’s postwar issues. It’s easy to forget that those of us with German ancestry faced discrimination during and after WWI. Anyhoo, yes, this could be looked at as a chick flick since there was a love story. But the messages of humanity sticking together and hardworking people with their innate connection to the land can’t be ignored either.

More journaling and reading this morning, then back home. Fam was happy. Apparently I was missed. Rested, recharged and appreciated? Priceless.

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Filed under Folk Music, inspiration, Journaling, Moms, Reading, working moms, writing

Inspiration, STAT!

So you’d think, seeing that I’m headed for some serious reading/writing/reflection time this weekend, that I’d be chock-full of topics and ideas to write about. Know what? I have zero. Absolutely zero. Well, not absolutely zero. Trouble is that the topics I’d really like to vent discuss are way too personal for a blog. As in, specific people and situations, We’re talking names, folks! And that’s just not appropriate for this blog. It would be one thing if I wanted to talk about (insert celebrity name here) or the latest episode of Downton Abbey. Which I haven’t seen yet, by the way, but I HAVE heard enough spoilers to get the gist of what happened. Not happy about that.

But I digress. I’m getting really irritated that I’ve got all of this time coming up over the next couple of days but no inspiration. I mean, almost two days? To myself? That’s a gold mine to this working mom. You’d think I could at least write the Next Great Novel or something! That’s a joke, folks – I have trouble writing fiction. Funny, since when I was younger that’s pretty much all that I wrote. My problem is that I get an idea for fiction but get bogged down in the actual writing. As in, I know the basic plot outline and have good ideas for specific events – along with really good descriptions in my head. But it all tries to explode onto the page like a big glop of a verbal explosion. When my youngest minion gets his stream-of-consciousness talking going (and he’s been known to keep going for up to 45 minutes at a stretch) we call it Verbal Diarrhea at our house. Same basic concept with me and fiction.
If I were smart, I’d actually follow the writing process and do an outline first. But I’ve always hated outlines. Why waste time organizing ideas when you could just write them? See my problem? It’s that kind of ‘Ready, Fire, Aim’ approach that’s keeping me from writing fiction.
And, like I said, my nonfiction ideas are way too specific – and, at the moment too positively negative – to even think about posting.
So what should I do folks?? Ima be hoppin’ mad if I spend the weekend staring at a blank page!

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Filed under Blogging, inspiration, Moms, Self time, writing

Shout Out to Phil!

One of the things I miss about teaching is getting the chance to meet authors, hear them speak to kiddoes and pick up some writing tips of my own. I saw earlier on Facebook that one of my faves is speaking today at my former school. Not just speaking to, but actually getting down and dirty with the kids and their writing. I’m jealous.

I’ve just gotta say it – Phil Bildner is the coolest! See, I taught writing for many years. And I know how hard it is to get at those awesome ideas, pull them out of a kid’s head, and get them down on paper. There’s always one little guy or girl that has fab ideas, writes three sentences and says, “I’m done!” But they’ve only touched the tip of the iceberg.

Same thing with reading. Some kids just don’t like to read. Sure, they do it – reluctantly – if they have to, but they don’t like it. That hurts my soul as a reader. I’ve always wanted every kid to get my love of reading. But many just don’t.

Phil taps into that. His energy, enthusiasm, and just over-the-top cool factor instantly connect with kids – and grownups too. I’ve never seen a room full of over 100 eight year olds sit motionless for an hour, hanging on an adult’s every word.

That is, until I met Phil Bildner.

If you’ve not heard of him or read his stuff, PLEASE check him out here. As a lifelong sports nut, former teacher and history buff – his books hook kids (especially boys) into reading before they even know what happened. And it’s awesome to see. My boys both got autographed books from Phil last year – with a cool personal message in addition to just a signature, mind you – and I’m amazed how they treasure those books. Even my little guy – who likes to think that he’s just too cool for school – will always choose his copy of Shoeless Joe and Black Betsy to take on trips because he’s afraid that something will happen to it if he leaves it at home. Seriously. And I’ve found that book tucked carefully under his pillow after he falls asleep at night.

Why? Because, as my son says, Phil Bildner is cool. And to a seven (almost eight) year old, that makes all the difference.

Check him out! I guarantee you (and your kids, if you have them) will be inspired by the energy and love for the craft you find in Phil’s work. You won’t regret it!

And yes, if you’ve seen his videos on his web site – he really is that cool in person!

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Filed under Children's Authors, inspiration, Phil Bildner, Reading, Teaching, writing

Anti-Pin

I must be on a roll – this is my second post today. Hopefully I’ll keep it short, since it’s been a long day and I’m tired. But I have to get this off my chest. It’s been bugging me for a really long time.

I am Anti-Pinterest and Proud.

There. I said it. Me, the one with conformist tendencies. I am rebelling. I refuse to get involved.

When I first heard about it, I was intrigued. Lots of crafty ideas in one handy place. Coolness! And then it hit my workplace worse than the parachute pants fad of 1984. Worse than Silly Bands. I mean it.

Where’s the creativity in pretty much just copying something that someone else has done? There isn’t any. It really hit home at Christmastime, when I saw at least twenty Elves on the Shelf doing exactly the same cutesy little things every day on Facebook. Mommies proudly tagged Pinterest as their source.

Our elf is boring. He moves from the fireplace to the fridge to the hallway and back. He’s a creature of habit. Period.

I felt guilty and substandard in my parenting and decorating skills for about five minutes. And then, with all of November’s greatness (insert much sarcasm here) I got over it. Where’s the great skill in simply copying others? Nope. I’ve always been a nonconformist with my decorating ideas, and I’m proud of that. Matching? Not in my house. In fact, my house is the one place where I have deliberately done the opposite of what the decorators say, just because it’s my house, darn it!

I don’t need some cutesy, handmade calendar to tell me who goes where on what time and day. We have our own color-coded system on a white board that has worked just fine for ten years. I have an eggplant-colored dining room with a red rug. It looks great and it was our own idea. Design and craftiness should come from internal inspiration, not someone else’s pin board.

I’ll step down from my soapbox now. I’m looking at new colors for the walls – from actual paint chips, thank you very much. And I’ll probably -gasp- pick two from completely unrelated swatches and color families. Just because I can.

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Filed under Art, creativity, decorating, inspiration, non conformity, Pinterest

Starbucks, How I Love Thee

What is it about this place that lures me in time after time? It’s not the coffee – I can get that any time I want at home for way less money. But that requires effort. Effort, and my home-brewed coffee doesn’t come in a swanky-looking cardboard cup with a lid and cardboard heat shield. Something about that cup just makes it taste better. Really. But I digress…

Starbucks always reminds me of that movie You’ve Got Mail. Tom Hanks telling his associate about the sale of ‘overpriced legally addictive stimulants’ in his bookstore. Maybe that’s why I always associate Starbucks with books (well, that and the fact that every Barnes and Noble has one…) Something about the ambiance – the smell of brewing coffee and warm bagels, the sounds of cool jazz softly drifting through the air, clicks of keyboarding businesspeople trying to close the latest deal, soft conversation and the hum of fancy-coffee machinery – just sucks me in. Makes me feel inspired. The latest copy of the New York Times doesn’t help either. I’ve always had a secret desire to live in a tiny Manhattan loft and write, so just reading the paper brings me closer to that imaginary life I covet.

I always feel like writing when I come here – even if I just sit on the patio and watch the traffic go by, watch the people and listen to fragments of conversation. It never fails – something pops into my head and I just have to write it down. And one thought leads to another. Fueled by caffeine, I end up composing pages and pages of stream-of-consciousness writing. For my eyes only. That’s OK. Yes, I dream of being a writer and yes, I have spent time in these havens of java composing pieces for others’ eyes. In fact, this morning was one of those times. I had to stop because I felt a bit blocked – the lovely older man sharing my table wanted some conversation with his coffee, and I happen to share his daughter’s name, so I obliged. But had to stop on my ‘work.’ That ‘work’ that feels like fun. Isn’t that what a dream career is supposed to be – something you love so much that work feels like play? I’ve always thought so.

Unfortunately others have to find your work interesting and worthwhile in order to make writing lucrative and, with the exception of these posts, I’m way too insecure about my abilities to share any personal stuff – yet. One day I’ll get there. But if I’ve learned one thing from The Artist’s Way it is to give myself permission to be a beginner and write pieces that are bad. That has been a big step for my Type-A-ness to take. I like to do it right and do it well – the first time. So I’ve taken big steps there. Really.

So I will continue to consume my stimulants – of which caffeine is only one. To me, the music, smells, people and sounds are just as enriching as the java (which happens to be top-notch yummy warmth.)

Everyone needs inspiration – even us moms who are thankful that all the kids got out of the house fed and fully clothed this morning. Think about this today: What inspires you? People? Places? Things? Indulge yourself and find your inner Starbucks!

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Filed under coffee shop, inspiration, Moms, New York, Starbucks, writing

Me, Myself and Midtown

So, in the continuation of my new trek on life’s journey, I discovered a fabulous guidebook via a Facebook friend (in a roundabout sort of way.) This friend happened to post a link to a book they had just read which sounded interesting. In reading the reviews, I noticed that many people preferred an earlier book by the same author. Next stop, Barnes and Noble! Of course they had the earlier book in stock and I quickly snapped up my copy and adjourned to the closest coffee shop to dive right in. Wow! This book seemed to be written just for me! It’s called The Artist’s Way. It challenges us to rediscover our true creative nature through weekly exercises and daily stream-of-consciousness writing it calls ‘morning pages.’ I challenge any random readers of this blog to check it out! One of the facets I particularly love is its focus on spirituality as a source of creativity. This spoke straight to my heart, since I have struggled for years (ok, decades) with the notion that my life as a creative person had to be egocentric and narcissistic out of necessity. It’s the main reason I turned my back on a profession in the arts back in the day. But through this book I have realized that, not only is a spiritual connection necessary to creative inspiration, creativity is by its very nature a way for me to both give praise and glory to God while receiving His grace and blessing.

Anyhoo, one of the non-negotiables to each weekly romp into self-creativity is what the author terms an ‘artist date.’ A date with yourself. Destination unspecified, other than to a place which might inspire you. For this week’s jaunt I chose to head to Midtown – an area of town I’d previously heard of but had only the vaguest of notions of its actual location. All I knew of Midtown was that it was an ‘up-and-coming area frequented by young, hip professionals due to the growing number of hot nightspots.’ Quotation freely abridged from any and all H-town guides you may have seen. I can’t believe I’ve never spent time there in the nearly thirteen years we have lived here, but there it is. That’s reality. I forsee many more jumps to this locale in the future. Moving on…

The Houston Center for Contemporary Craft holds free – repeat, FREE – workshops on the first Saturday of every month. These are staffed with plenty of helpful volunteers who are expertly trained to help even the novice (read, ME) learn a new technique and complete a project on-site. This week’s topic was finger weaving, something I remember learning as a kid but had forgotten. In just the span of an hour I had my project completed – a fuzzy scarf I now need to find just the perfect outfit for! I spent some time in the galleries themselves – again free, but with a box for donations should you be so moved – and was amazed at the ‘crafts’ turned art. The Center also has artist studios on-site which you are welcome to explore, and if you’re lucky enough to find one of the artists at work you can observe and ask questions. Very cool! I left there inspired, invigorated and just brimming with creative desire that far exceeded my current abilities. But hey – everyone needs a goal, right?

Here are some scenes from the quirky-cool garden behind the Arts Center:

Oh, and I was lucky enough to see this amazing mural just across the street which, as it happens, was the front-page story of the Midtown News this week:

And a few more scenes from my trek midtown. This blog is truly not intended to be a travel resource, but I was amazed at all of the inspiration I found in just a one-block footprint. Definitely worth a return visit or three – and did I mention it was FREE??!!

Downtown from Midtown:

Next time, baby!!

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Filed under artist, craft, creativity, free stuff, inspiration, Midtown