Activities, Uncategorized

Action #6: Learn Something New

Once a week, I will post a suggested activity for creating wonder in your life (mostly to get myself to do it, but I hope you’ll join me). I will include three different participation levels, so lack of time or money will be no excuse. Please share your experiences here to inspire others. Go forth and create wonder!

We often chug along in the same deep tracks day to day, hauling our burdens along with us, blind to the view because it’s so familiar. Jump the rails this week by learning something new. Try your hand at a new skill, take a class, read something outside of your normal repertoire…acquire some information that will take you down a new path and improve your life, your mental state, or at the very least, create some wonder.

Ample Time and Money: Pursue the degree you’ve always wanted. This is a big commitment, but as someone who strives to be a lifelong learner, I hope to get at least a couple more.  It has been far too long since I was in school, so this spring, I will begin the graduate program at San Jose State University to get an MLIS. Yes, I am going to become a librarian (it will take a few years since I’ll be going very part-time, but I gotta start somewhere). I think being surrounded by books and helping others to access the knowledge they seek will make a good career for me. Someday, I’d like an MFA as well. Why not? Ghandi said, “Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever,” and that’s what I hope to do while I’m here.

Limited Resources: You don’t have to get a degree, though, to break up your workaday routine. Start with one class in something you’ve always wanted to try. Yoga. Hip Hop Dancing. Calligraphy. Creative Writing. Sausage making. Excel spreadsheets. Seriously, there is a class out there calling your name. I just started a Mandarin Chinese class at City College. I’ve taken a few conversational classes over the 8+ years I’ve known my husband, in an attempt to better communicate with his family. This time I have the added motivation of wanting to raise my son to be bilingual, so I’m also learning how to read and write. I’ve always been drawn to the beauty of Chinese characters, but was completely baffled by how anyone could actually read them. Well, I’m learning how they do it. Practice, practice, and more practice. What have you always wanted to be good at, but put off beginning? It’s never too late to start learning!

Busy and Broke: Learn while you’re doing something else. Try listening to podcasts on your commute. You can learn languages, get DIY craft instructions, or improve your cooking or grammar skills all on your way to work. Sign up at dictionary.com to learn a new word every day. Try to use it in a conversation to make it stick. Or simply look up something you’ve had a question about. Take interest in and investigate your world.

Please come back and share what you discover. I would love to hear what you’re learning about.

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Activities

What Am I Waiting For?

The creative action this week was to make something new from something old. My big goal was to make something crafty with my son. I was going to use old water bottles to make discovery jars, or empty milk cartons to make containers for crayons and markers. Or I was going to make little creatures with him out of things we found, and today while I was walking the dogs, I gathered some pine cones and eucalyptus nuggets (I’m sure that’s the scientific term for those pod things they drop) and moss and all kinds of cool things nature had discarded. And then I remembered my son is 13 months old. He is not “crafty”. Destruction is his thing, not construction. I can’t even build a tower with his blocks without him toddling over and smacking it down. He is happiest when he is hitting things with sticks, smooshing squishy food in his hands, or tearing pop-ups out of books.

I keep wanting to buy him art supplies and then I don’t because he just eats whatever he’s holding. I look at the fingerpaints longingly, and then put them down, sighing and saying, “Someday soon”. It just occurred to me that I have been projecting my wishes onto him. I have been dreaming of making art with him, and he might want to someday and he might not. It is my passion, but it may not ever be his. I need to let him be who he is, and give myself permission to play and make stuff without waiting for him to join in. Maybe it’s less scary to be silly and not produce great results if you’re playing with paint with a child. If I painted for myself, I might be disappointed if it wasn’t “good”. Oh, the burden of consciousness. If I could only be as free from that results-oriented thinking as he is. He’s sleeping now, and there are so many other things to check off my to-do list, but instead I am going to pull out the fun things I gathered and make something. Just for the fun of it. Just for me.

What are you waiting for? Go work on something you’ve been putting off. Something that will feed your soul and create wonder in your life. Go.

Activities

Action #5: Create Something New from Something Old

Once a week, I will post a suggested activity for creating wonder in your life (mostly to get myself to do it, but I hope you’ll join me). I will include three different participation levels, so lack of time or money will be no excuse. Please share your experiences here to inspire others. Go forth and create wonder!

Reinvent something that has worn out. Give new life to something on its last legs. Not only is it “green” to reuse, but it gets some creative juices flowing to come up with a new purpose for an old object instead of just tossing it.

Ample Time and Money: Do a spinoff of last week’s sensory field trip and go somewhere you can buy things to repurpose. There are amazing places where you can sift through someone else’s old stuff to make it new for you. You can find treasures at garage sales and flea markets, but you can also search for places in your area that take in people’s junk and sell it for super cheap. I can think of two off the top of my head in the Bay Area: Urban Ore and SCRAP. These are two enormous spaces filled with fantastic collections of things waiting to be reused, diamonds in the rough waiting to be polished off and reborn into something glorious. Comb through with an open mind, and be inspired. My friend just went to an Urban Ore-esque place in the Sacramento area and came home with three old frames (or were they cabinet doors?) she painted over with chalkboard paint and hung on the wall for her daughter to draw on.

Limited Resources: Maybe you own something already that would take just a little sprucing up to make new. Sometimes it doesn’t take much time or money to revive an old favorite. I have had an Ikea bench seat for about seven years that they don’t even make anymore. It had this red wool upholstery with seven years worth of stains and dog hair and rather than throw it away, I reupholstered it myself. It didn’t take long at all. I ran into Discount Fabrics one day while I had an hour to spare, drooled over all the possibilities, reveled in colors and patterns and textures, and finally picked a red and white houndstooth check. I had scissors and a staple gun and within another hour, I had what looked like a brand new bench. I had fabric left over, so I replaced some old Ikea pillow covers. I don’t own a sewing machine so I made them by hand while watching TV. They aren’t as snug as the old ones, but I was pretty proud of myself considering my serious lack of domestic skills. Look around your own house. What could you make new with something simple like a fresh coat of paint or new fabric?

Busy and Broke: You really don’t have to buy anything at all to create something new. Make art out of found objects or the contents of your own trash or recycling bin. Challenge yourself to only use what you already have and see what you can come up with. This is especially fun to do with kids, but don’t think you can’t make something cool for yourself, too. There are tons of craft sites that show you how to reuse anything from newspapers to water bottles. Check this out if you need some ideas. Or Ready Made. Or Photojojo. There is no end to great DIY sites, but if you’re busy, don’t get lost searching for ideas. Just go make stuff. And come back and share it here.

Places, Uncategorized

Stimulated yet?

Supposedly this summer is one of the coldest on record in San Francisco for the last hundred years. I am not surprised. It is dreary and gray and so foggy I had to use my windshield wipers driving around the city yesterday. Summer is never our best season, but it has been particularly gloomy this year. I don’t do well when the weather is like this, and it’s even harder when other things aren’t going so well.

I was going to self-publish my book, Animal Mashups, on a small, handmade scale, but have found the process so incredibly frustrating, I decided instead to seek a publisher or agent representation. Which most likely means heading down a long path of rejection, which I’m also not so good at.  That said,  I’m trying extra hard to keep focused on doing things that bring hope and light into my days, keeping my senses stimulated until the blessed sunshine returns (I know much of the country can’t fathom this, as it’s hot as balls everywhere else, but the grass is always greener, right?).

This week I stopped by Casa Bonampak in the Mission to get a gift for a friend, and to brighten a blah day. Everything in here is made by hand in Mexico. There are papel picados in every color for any occasion, paper flowers, Day of the Dead ephemera, Virgen de Guadalupe onesies, Spanish greeting cards, Mexican wrestler action figures and on and on. It makes me happy just walking in. If you need to brighten up a party (or your day just because), you can buy fun decor directly from their website.

Have any of you done anything to wake up those senses this week? Do tell!

Activities

Action #4: Stimulate Your Senses

Once a week, I will post a suggested activity for creating wonder in your life (mostly to get myself to do it, but I hope you’ll join me). I will include three different participation levels, so lack of time or money will be no excuse. Please share your experiences here to inspire others. Go forth and create wonder!

At the Alemany Farmer’s Market this weekend, the largest and oldest farmer’s market in San Francisco, I was absolutely overcome by the wonders of fresh produce. We strolled past booth upon booth of gorgeous fruits, veggies and flowers. We smelled mouth-watering basil, tasted the sweetest summer peaches, and heard the satisfying thunk of ripe melons as we tap-tested their taut rinds. We went a little crazy and bought huge bouquets of bright, happy flowers, a bag of oysters, brussel sprouts, artichokes, kale, and enough fruit to make two delicious fruit salads straight out of Eden for the events we attended this weekend. The joy of that experience will live on in our meals this week, in vases on windowsills for the next couple weeks, and in my mind whenever I need to conjure up something that makes me feel grateful for the bounty of this earth. All from stepping out of our normal grocery store routine.

My suggested action for you this week is to go somewhere that stimulates your senses like that and makes you feel alive. Seek out your own sensory safari. Maybe you dig paper stores, or libraries, or chocolate, or fabric, or flowers. Whatever it is that gets your wonder-nodes buzzing, take the time to go touch it and smell it and roll in it if you can.

Ample Time and Money: Whether you’re going to check out fancy textiles or a nursery full of exotic plants, indulge and buy yourself a treat. Pick something that will give you pleasure for awhile, whether you plan to eat it, plant it, or frame it.

Limited Resources: Go with a pen and paper and make a wish list for when your next birthday rolls around. Bring a digital camera and take pictures to print out and put somewhere that will make you happy when you look at them later. Involve your kids and make rubbings of some cool textures. Sit and record the sounds, jot down notes or draw details in a sketchbook so you can recall your experience more fully in the future.

Busy and Broke: Maybe you just have time for a quick stop into a bookstore or a pastry shop on your lunch break. Just be there. For a moment let the rest of your life fade away. Don’t think about the project waiting for you back at work, or the mess waiting for you at home, just be. Focus on your physical body in this very moment, and how good it feels to be able to see and smell and taste and hear and touch whatever it is you enjoy, and be glad you are here.

Uncategorized

Celebrate Change

It’s the end of an era…this week one of my goals was to wean Little Man from breastfeeding. He’s thirteen months old and it was time. We have been very lucky and had a wonderful experience with breastfeeding. I had heard so many horror stories about it not working out for people that I knew it wasn’t a given, but he took to it right away, and I had no idea how much I would enjoy it, too. That probably sounds strange. It would have to me before I had him. I didn’t know it could be “enjoyable”, but it has been such a sweet time for us. It’s amazing to know my body provided sustenance for his, plus now that he’s a busy boy, it was one of our few times of peaceful, quiet connection with one another.

I definitely don’t want to get into when the right time is for weaning, since I believe it is completely different for everybody and totally dependent on your individual circumstances. I just know that I have been hanging onto continuing probably more out of my own emotional need than to provide for his needs. It was also an easy way for me to get him to sleep, but he certainly doesn’t need that either. So, it’s time. We were only down to one morning and one evening feed anyway, so I dropped the am, and last night was the first night I’ve put him down without feeding him, and he did just fine. So, it’s over. I am going to miss it.

But, rather than dwell on how sad I am that this stage is gone, and that he is finally and forever never going to be a baby again (wah!), I will focus on celebrating the changes. He is so less needy now that he can walk and do so much. He has become more independent and fearless in his adventuring. He has become more attached to others, not just his mama, especially his grandparents who have been here all summer so they could watch him while I work. So, he will be spending the night tonight with my in-laws and my husband and I will get a night to celebrate our new freedom. I won’t have to pump. I won’t have to worry that they can’t feed him enough. I know he can fall asleep on his own. I can just enjoy myself and my husband’s company. It’s the beginning of a whole new stage.

Since we are on the subject of eating well this week (thanks for all the great comments, readers!), we are headed to Pizzetta after meeting up at MOMA. Whee! A date!

And, we are going to check out the Alemany Farmers Market this Saturday morning. Yum!

Activities, Uncategorized

Action #3: Eat Well

Once a week, I will post a suggested activity for creating wonder in your life (mostly to get myself to do it, but I hope you’ll join me). I will include three different participation levels, so lack of time or money will be no excuse. Please share your experiences here to inspire others. Go forth and create wonder!

It may not seem related to creativity and wonder, but eating well is essential to taking care of yourself. You will not be able to create wonderful things if you are not well-fed. And eating something amazing can lead to surprise and awe for your tastebuds. So try it out this week. Eat well and share your experience here.

Ample Time and Money: Eat at that restaurant you have always wanted to go to. Summer Pierre writes in her book The Artist in the Office about putting off going to a certain restaurant until the day she would get the big shot book contract of her dreams. Some friends surprised her by taking her there and she realized “I didn’t have to wait to go there – my life was special occasion enough!” I used to not put a whole lot of value on food, and fancy restaurants in particular, but my husband is a big foodie.  Back when he was just my boyfriend, I saved up and surprised him with a trip to Gary Danko, one of the best restaurants in San Francisco. It was amazing! The service was like nothing I had ever experienced before by staff so professional and smooth they made you feel like royalty no matter who you were. The food was so exquisite it was the first time I realized what an art it is to create an awe-inspiring meal. The whole experience was truly a wonder we will never forget, and have since saved up and went several more times. If you have a place you’ve been dreaming of trying, make it happen now! Life is short, and it will be well worth it.

Limited Resources: Plan a dinner party where everybody makes a different part of the meal. Use fresh, local ingredients. Browse the beautiful produce at your Farmer’s Market to see what’s in season and get ideas. Check out the Slow Food website to see why this is important. Or just trust your tastebuds. Everything tastes better when it’s fresh. And even better when shared with friends. We have been doing this in the city with a group of our friends every couple of months or so. We have a rotating list of course assignments – at each meal, different people are in charge of an appetizer, a main dish, a supporting side dish, a dessert, wine, and pre- and post- dinner drinks – so no one is saddled with cooking too much of the meal and you have a different role every time.  We keep it exciting by challenging each other to make something we’ve never attempted before (no tried and true family recipes, this is all about experimentation and creativity). We just did it last night and it was incredible! Oysters three ways (not usually a big fan, but anything drenched in butter and garlic and baked with cheese on top is a hit with me), handmade pasta with the yummiest homemade pesto and marinara sauces I have ever tasted (sounds simple, but when was the last time you ate noodles that were made just minutes before you consumed them? So good!), an excellent spinach side salad with a sweet homemade vinaigrette topped with hard-boiled egg and bacon bits (mine sans the bacon, but still delish), and a dessert of orange churros in homemade vanilla ice cream served ablaze with rum! Not to mention sangria, an assortment of Spanish wines, and champagne. Decadent! Plus, I haven’t laughed so hard in a long time. It is so good for the soul to get together with friends and share a special meal. It doesn’t have to be so extravagant either. Shared grilled cheese and tomato soup is just as nice. Get your friends together this week and mangia!

Busy and Broke: So often we are rushing through our days and our meals become an afterthought. Take a moment next time you are eating to slow down and savor what you are putting in your mouth. Revel in a juicy summer peach. Notice how it feels in your mouth. Imagine how it is going to nourish your body and keep you going. Give thanks for it.

(I was going to end with a video of my son eating  a peach, but found that WordPress no longer allows you to upload videos unless you pay for a video upgrade. This, along with the discovery that I have to pay for an upgrade to be ad-free, means I am just about fed up with WordPress. Any suggestions for free blog sites that allow you to be ad-free and post videos at no cost?)