2013: A Look Back At Some of My Highlights

New Year’s Eve & Day are my favorite holidays.  I get a little sappy and a lot introspective around this time.  While I believe in regular reflection and goal setting throughout the year, I can’t help but find this to be an appropriate time to take stock of where I am, how I am doing, what I’ve done, and what is next.

santa ornament - editedThere was a time when this process was primarily a negative one for me.  I would stop to reflect on what I didn’t accomplish or what goals and dreams were out of my reach.  In recent years, however, I’ve taken to heart just how important it is to give equal billing to what I have done.  Rather then quickly glossing over accomplishments or milestones in order to continue moving upward and onward, I now recognize the value in celebrating the victories (large and small) that are behind me.  And, while some believe that you gain wisdom mostly by rehashing your mistakes and failures, I also see the learning that presents itself in evaluating what has gone well.

To this end, here are some of the highlights, milestones, and victories that took place for me in 2013:

  • 26.2 miles = Done! – The experience of running my first marathon have been shared in depth here and here, so I won’t say Me with medal 3 - editedmuch more other than that it stands as one of the single best days of my life.  I can’t wait for many more!
  • Goodbye, Gluten – Going gluten-free was not something that I ever intended to do.  It was (and still is) extraordinarily difficult for me, but 7 months later, my vastly improved health stands as evidence that it was what I absolutely needed to do.
  • 1500 miles – It took me nearly right up until the end of the year to do so, but as of last weekend, I have run over 1500 miles for the year.  So cool.
  • 71 books – I love to read and always have.  For me, books are a never-ending source of education, escapism, and inspiration all in one.  I track my literary adventures over at Goodreads.  If you’re interested in seeing what I’ve been reading, please head over and say hello (username: srrose).
  • Facing down an old fear . . .  The dentist! – I’ll admit that, prior to 2013, it had been quite some time since I’d dragged myself to the dreaded chair.  It is an experience that long struck fear in my heart.  Having little or poor dental insurance for a long time had supported me in running away from this fear, but I finally did it.  After several trips to get all caught up, my teeth are happy and healthy!
  • Cultivating creative confidence – This year saw me take some big strides in levels of self-confidence related to creativity and pasta with italian peppers - editedcooking.  I can’t say that I produced the largest quantity of creatively driven output this year, but I found myself trusting my instincts more, feeling stronger in my skills, and being open to experimentation.
  • Keeping THIS going – I know that I’ve had periods recently of reduced posting, but I’m thrilled that I’ve been able to keep this site going.  I love it.  I love the process of it and that I get to connect with so many incredible people around the world because of it.

I’m certain that I could go on a bit longer, but I will end my list on that note.  So, thank you to every person out there who has been a part of all of this with me in 2013.  I’m looking forward to seeing what next year will bring.

Happy New Year!

A Move Eat Create Medley: Looking Back At Some Favorite Posts

It occurred to me the other day that I’ve been at this blogging thing for a bit over a year now.  I decided to take a few minutes to look through the content I’ve been putting up and to see which posts have been the most popular.  Like any good blog-mom, all my posts are special to me, and it was interesting to see which ones seem to have most resonated with others.

Here, in no particular order, are the top contenders.  Missed any of them?  Click through the links to get caught up and see what they are all about.

Salad - edited

burrito sliced - edited

Me nearing finish 4 - edited

The Super-Incredible Reinforcing Loop of Creativity and Confidence!

red loops

photo credit: Patrick Hoesly via photopin cc

I don’t know if this happens to you, but I’ve noticed this neat cycle in my life involving creativity.  I have even given it a name.  I am calling it the Super-Incredible Reinforcing Loop of Creativity and Confidence!

What do you think?

Sometimes I’m a total cornball, but it’s kind of great, right?? Eh???

Okay, in all seriousness, let me explain what I’m talking about.  It goes something like this:

I tentatively try something new.  This something new is successful on some level (maybe it’s great, but at the bare minimum, I survive it intact).  Feelings of wonder, amazement, euphoria, surprise, relief, and etcetera ensue from the successful venture.  Emboldened by these feelings, I try something else new, this time maybe a bit less tentatively.  And the loop starts again and again and again.

Sure, I’ve tried new things before, but what’s different right now is the way in which my creative mind is responding to it.  I’m keenly aware that with each endeavor my confidence builds just a bit more, which in turn, triggers more creative sparkage and subsequently builds even more confidence.

It’s quite the little snowball of activity, I must say.

And, my creative side is showing up in interesting ways.  I haven’t blogged about the more obvious manifestations of creative exploits lately (like my knitting) because I haven’t been doing so much of them, if I’m going to be honest.  (I miss this activity and will get back to it in time, but for various life-related reasons, I’ve had to take a knitting hiatus.)

But other creative endeavors are flourishing.

There is my cooking mojo, for instance.  I’ve been feeling much more inventive in the kitchen lately, heady with bravado, tossing strict recipes to the wayside and operating more organically, spontaneously, and fluidly as a result.

In bowl with parsley 4 - edited

There is also my blogging/writing.  Ideas have been popping up in my head left and right.  The challenge for me right now is to organize them for filtering and action.

Then there’s my work.  Moving into a new job where I’m being given space and encouragement to think, try, and just go out and do has been refreshing and welcomed.

There are other things, too.  I’ve started a balcony garden, unleashing my creativity on the tasks of selecting seeds and planters, gathering ideas for growing methods and combinations of herbs and veggies to nurture.  I’m thinking about running and workout training methods with a fresh perspective.  I’m itching to refresh my wardrobe with some new infusions of color and style and having visions of ways to clean up and brighten up my living space.

pot with scoop - edited

It’s strikingly clear to me right now how much just simply surviving something that can be scary or intimidating can build new levels of confidence that filter in to so many parts of my life.  I am by no means totally triumphant in all the things I’m attempting, but just getting through them without complete disaster striking is sometimes all I need to spur the next attempt, the next idea, and the next big (to me) thing.  It’s one loop I don’t mind being stuck in.

Why Wednesdays? – Why Libraries Are Worth Saving

A Note About This Feature:  Why Wednesdays is a Move Eat Create weekly feature determined to turn the mid-week doldrums upside down and celebrate things I love to do and blog about.  I have completed series on the topics of running, creativity, and food.  Now, I’m being a bit random and discussing whatever strikes me at the time!

 

Library Front DoorI come across quite a few blog posts, memoirs, and other stories that reflect back on happy childhoods, filled with innocence, fun, and fond memories.  If I’m going to be honest, my childhood wasn’t really like that.  I wasn’t a happy kid.  I was generally lonely and out of sorts.  I never really felt comfortable with my peers, was often trying to escape gloominess within my home, was all around a bit awkward and entirely lacked confidence in social settings.  Now, lest you think I’m sharing this to drudge up sympathy, that’s not the case.  Rather, I’m setting the scene for you, you see.  Because, though this was the reality of my childhood, it is not the whole picture.  And, it is not the whole picture, because I had the library.

My grandparents lived right behind the library and this was probably the single best thing that could have happened for me as a kid.  From a very young age, I would head over to my grandparent’s home after school, make a quick stop to drop off my schoolbooks, and then march out the back door, hurry through the back yard, hop over the wire fence, and find myself in the parking lot of the local library.  In I went, eager and full of anticipation for the time I would get to spend there.  Forget Disneyland, the library was my happiest place on Earth.

My library had a kid’s area with a sunken floor that was carpeted with game boards.  There was a giant hop scotch laid out, a checkerboard, even chess if you were that adventurous.  My library had tables just perfectly made for leaning over, with my eyes intently flying past words on pages.  My library had a magazine area with shelves of magazines covering news, politics, fashion, and entertainment all wrapped around a fireplace and a sofa.  My library had an atrium that was lined with plants and shrubbery and let the bright Arizona sun shine in on you, without also bringing the heat of being outdoors.  My library had shelves and shelves of books that offered me endless opportunities to feed my busy little head with images and stories and information that I devoured.  And, my library had Cheryl, the librarian, who knew me by name and welcomed me as an honorary young librarian.

It was extraordinary.

Shelves

I spent hours there.  I read everything.  I read fiction and non-fiction.  I read all the books for kids, but when it became apparent that my reading level and comprehension were advancing rapidly, Cheryl recommended books for older kids, young adults, and adults.  I read those, too.  I got lost in pages of worlds, both real and imaginary, and used them as fuel for my creative fire.  I wrote stories of my own – some which lived only in my head and some which manifested on paper.  Not caring yet that I was a terrible artist, I drew pictures to illustrate the stories I read and wrote.  I let my vivid imagination run wild with ideas of what the world would be like when I grew up.  I could live in any of the amazing places I had read about (New York, London, California, Amsterdam).  I went on grand adventures with Charlie Bucket, learned compassion with Shel Silverstein, survived grade school with Ramona Quimby, made sense of high school with the Wakefield twins, fantastized about love with Danielle Steele, and learned to think abstractly with Vonnegut at my side.

Whether Cheryl the librarian responded to my apparent loneliness, to my ever-growing precociousness, or both, I’m not sure, but she let me at the whole place like it was my own.  When the return bin was full of books, she swung open the half door, letting me come behind the counter where I picked up one book after another, running it’s spine along the machine until it bumped up against the edge, in order to activate the security sensors.  I loved the sound of this process.  Sliiiiidddde, Thump.  Sliiiiidddde, Thump.  She let me wheel carts of books out to the floor and put them away on the shelves alongside her, lining up the spines straight and even as we went.  She gave me old copies of magazines when their time was up.  I carted them home where I lingered over the glossy images and studied how to write copy, imagining myself in the future as an editor, rushing to meet deadlines.

Book Return

When summer came around, she invited me over to the annex where I helped her put together props and prizes for the youth summer reading program.  She asked my not-so-sage advice on which games to play and what theme to feature each year.  I prepped for the event and had such pride when other kids came to the program and enjoyed the fruits of our labor.

I always felt safe there.  I always felt at home.  I always felt a sense of belonging that I hadn’t been able to find anywhere else.  And I firmly believe that it is because of my experiences there, my discovery of the power of words on paper, that I developed my own creative streak.  The joy I find in a good book, in transferring my thoughts to written words, in painting images in my mind, was born in my time at this library.  As I’ve grown up, I still feel a sense of wonderment each time I’m in a library.  It’s easy for me to connect to the fact that in a relatively small, enclosed space, there exists millions of lives and stories, centuries worth of history and an abundance of prospects for the future.  I watched television and I played video games like other kids, but it was the library that taught me how to dream, how to imagine, and how to be at peace with myself (surrounded by books).

Wide Shot of Inside 2

Last year, in the city that I live in now, my libraries were threatened.  Apparently, there are plenty of folks out there who don’t see the value in directing tax dollars to such a ‘luxury’.  Fortunately, Portlanders spoke up and voted to support our local library system.  Through news stories and personal accounts, I know that libraries are starting to be seen by some as a relic.  In the age of e-readers, Wi-Fi, and digital downloads, brick and mortar libraries with shelves and shelves of books may seem cumbersome.  But, for this reader and writer, they are comfort, creativity, and contentment personified.  They’re my oldest friends and my strongest inspiration.

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A Sampling of Prior ‘Why Wednesday’ Posts:

Why I Run: Crows and Tortillas

Why I Run:  The Pleasures of a Neighborhood Adventure

Why Creativity Counts: Series Recap

Why Creativity Counts:  It Connects Us

Why I Eat . . . Strictly For Myself

Why I Eat . . . Local

Why Wednesdays? – Why Creativity Counts: Series Recap

A Note about This Feature:  Why Wednesdays is a Move Eat Create weekly feature determined to turn the mid-week doldrums upside down and celebrate things I love to do and blog about.  Currently, the focus is on creating and creativity.

 

In my opinion, creativity so often gets a bad rap.  It’s too often thought of as something that a select group of people have. And while it may be considered fun, it is not necessarily considered ‘important’ by the standards of society at large.  It is not uncommon for creativity to be relegated to the ranks of crafters, kooky ‘artsy’ types and children.   There are two main things I would like to say about this.

photo credit: gfpeck via photopin cc

photo credit: gfpeck via photopin cc

First, this attitude is problematic because crafters, kooky ‘artsy’ types, and children contribute wonderful things to our world which should not be undervalued.

Second, and probably the most consistent theme that I hope has come through in this series, is that creativity is so much bigger than that.  It is not the sole domain of specific, select groups of people.  We all have at least a little bit of it in us and it shows up in a wonderful hodgepodge of ways.

Plus, where the heck would we be without it?  Museums would be empty.  Restaurants would serve unseasoned rice and noodles.  Everyone would wear black.  Movies would tell the same stories over and over again (okay, sometimes it feels like this last one is already happening).

Science would be stunted.  There wouldn’t be an iPad.  Forget about giving your kids an Etch-A-Sketch or occupying their time with crayons.  There would be no building forts out of cushions and boxes.  There would be no Martha Stewart.  No Warhol or Da Vinci (and subsequently, no wonderful Doctor Who episode about Da Vinci).  No jazz.  No Broadway.  No Eiffel Tower or Golden Gate Bridge.  No Sesame Street.  No Choose Your Own Adventure books.  No yarn bombing.  No fancy cupcakes.  No Bob Ross and his happy little trees.

No progress.

No innovation.

No fun.

Am I being melodramatic?  Maybe.  It wouldn’t be the first time.  But, maybe not.

Our world moves forward with little steps (a new yarn shop on the corner!) and big ones (a new space mission being launched!) because of individuals who have creative thoughts and aren’t afraid to let them out.  Every clever new idea, every visionary plan of the future, every inventive contraption adds a little something to our world that we didn’t have before.  Some creative output fails and some prospers, but it all matters.  It all teaches us and inspires us and keeps things churning.

It is all valuable and we all have creative instincts in some regard.

So what are you waiting for?

Where’s your creative energy at today?

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Previous Entries in This Series:

Why Creativity Counts #5:  It Connects Us

Why Creativity Counts #4:  It’s Handy When You’re Cheap and Broke Frugal

Why Creativity Counts #3:  Self-Sufficiency

Why Creativity Counts #2:  It Makes You Smarter

Why Creativity Counts #1:  Because It’s So Much More Than You May Think

Coming Up:  Why I Eat . . .

Why Wednesdays? – Why Creativity Counts #5: It Connects Us

A Note about This Feature: Why Wednesdays is a Move Eat Create weekly feature determined to turn the mid-week doldrums upside down and celebrate things I love to do and blog about. Currently, the focus is on creating and creativity.

I’m an introvert, that’s for sure. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t like feeling connected to others. I generally seek connections that are meaningful and serve a purpose – connections that provide opportunities for fun, joy, laughter, learning, growing, and so on.

photo credit: VinothChandar via photopin cc

I make connections in a variety of ways, but I often find that one method of connection that frequently makes itself apparent is through creativity. Something that I find truly exciting about these particular connections is that they cross over so many dimensions. I connect with people living and deceased (I’ll explain more – I’m not talking about séances, here!), people near and far, people young and old, people that I never would have imagined having anything in common with, and I owe it all to a shared sense of creative spirit.

I have connected through creativity in some of the obvious, physical ways – meeting people through a knitting class, a cooking demonstration, or the like – but through more subtle means, as well. The blogosphere is one fantastic means of this, as I’m sure many of you know. The practice of sharing one’s words and images on a blog is most definitely a creative act, and a rewarding one at that. Though I haven’t laid eyes on the writers of the blogs I follow and the readers of my own, I have made connections through shared stories, recipes, and pictures. Though I haven’t shaken your hand or shared a cup of coffee with you, regular readers of this blog likely know me better than those who share an office space with me for 40 hours a week.

photo credit: Julie70 via photopin cc

I’ve been pleasantly surprised when I read another’s writing, feel touched by it, and then read more about the person to discover they are of a different generation, nationality, political affiliation, gender, and so on. It reminds me that (regardless of differences and perceived barriers) a mutual interest, an inspired spirit, and willingness to share them both can connect even the most opposite of individuals.

Some of the most interesting connections to me are those to the past – to those I never had an opportunity to know or communicate with

Eve by Rodin

directly, but to whom I feel connected through the creative products they have left behind. A great example of this occurred recently. I had the opportunity to visit the Detroit Institute of the Arts. As I wandered through the museum, I was moved by various pieces of art. One piece in particular, ‘Eve’ by Rodin, really struck a cord with me. Standing still and quiet with that piece, I felt connected to the history of it, to the feeling that it conveyed which seemed still as relevant now as it was decades ago. That one piece, born out of a sense of creative energy by a single person has likely impacted thousands of others. How amazing is that?!

Creative acts may be fleeting or lasting, but either way, they are an incredible tool for connection. I’ll never forget the feeling that Rodin’s piece brought me. Or the memory of my grandmother patiently teaching me how to sew a stitch carefully. Or the childhood excitement I shared with others over stories that fostered my imagination. Or the sense of understanding I feel when I listen to certain music. The energy that goes into a creative process doesn’t stop when an end product is complete. It moves on, linking people and making connections that, so often, the creator never even thought possible. If that’s not important, I’m not quite sure what is.

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Previous Entries in This Series:

Why Creativity Counts #4: It’s Handy When You’re Cheap and Broke Frugal

Why Creativity Counts #3: Self-Sufficiency

Why Creativity Counts #2: It Makes You Smarter

Why Creativity Counts #1: Because It’s So Much More Than You May Think

Why Wednesdays? – Why Creativity Counts #4: It’s Handy When You’re Cheap and Broke. Oh wait – Frugal! I meant Frugal!

A Note about This Feature:  Why Wednesdays is a Move Eat Create weekly feature determined to turn the mid-week doldrums upside down and celebrate things I love to do and blog about.  Currently, the focus is on creating and creativity.

Last week I talked about how creativity supports self-sufficiency.  Today I’d like to take that a step further.  I don’t know about all of you readers out there, but I will admit that I am a bit . . . thrifty these days.  I wasn’t always.  I used to spend money like mad.  I didn’t have that money, exactly, but I had little pieces of plastic and it’s remarkable how many retailers you can trick into thinking that plastic = money.

Fast forward a few years and things are a bit . . . different.  Without lamenting about all of my financial drama, let’s just say that I have learned some lessons.  I am now a much more frugal individual.  I buy what I need and sometimes what I want, but I spend thoughtfully and save wherever I can.

photo credit: Gerard Van der Leun via photopin cc

Connecting to my creative mind is such an ally to the new more prudent me.  Let’s face it, life is costly.  Eating well, enjoying various forms of entertainment, gift giving to those you care about, clothing one’s self appropriately, and paying for transportation to get through your days are just some of the ways in which just living can empty our pocketbooks.  Throw in a recessed economy, the need to think about future financial security and inflation and you can get a pretty grim, dull picture if you’re not careful.

Now my picture has, too, been grim and dull at times, but creativity has been able to liven things up a bit.  I’ve talked plenty on this blog about my love for running, knitting, and cooking – all endeavors that provide inexpensive entertainment – but it goes way beyond that.  My creative brain is saving money on holiday gifting this year by churning out some handmade items.  It frequently saves me money on transportation, by strategically planning shipping trips and errands in the most cost-effective way (Yes – successful strategic planning DOES take massive amounts of creative thinking); and it cuts my grocery bills by thinking about cost-effective ingredients in new, interesting ways.  You get the idea.

Thinking imaginatively can open up a whole world of ways to make your life a bit more affordable.  Mr. Move Eat Create and I were finally able to take a bit of a mini-break a few weeks to go visit his family in Michigan – something that seemed very out of reach financially.  However, by creatively planning and playing with travel dates, accommodation options, and entertainment ideas, et cetera, we were able to make it happen.

As I’ve mentioned before, I work in social services.  I can say, without hesitation, that some of the most creative people I have ever met are many of my clients – those living with little or no income.  There is something about survival that necessitates creativity, but many of them have taken it even beyond just surviving.  I have been amazingly impressed by the tactics, talents, and skills that many of my clients have drawn upon to put together gifts for their kids, for their friends, even for me.  (Don’t worry – I’m not accepting gifts from my clients unethically!  But, I’m also not rejecting a beautifully crafted handmade thank you card given to me with earnest appreciation and respect, either).

A wish that I have is that more of us would find and tap into our creative streaks in times beyond necessity.  Do it when you’re struggling and need to be inventive to survive, but do it again later, too.  Do it when you are beyond just surviving and when you’re your ready to manifest your ideas, try something different, plan out a helpful strategy, and save a few bucks!

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Previous Entries in This Series:

Why Creativity Counts #3:  Self-Sufficiency

Why Creativity Counts #2:  It Makes You Smarter

Why Creativity Counts #1:  Because It’s So Much More Than You May Think