Adding to my routine

City of Palm Springs Aquatic Center
I miss our beautiful Palm Springs city pool.

For one week, I’ve gotten in the pool each day to kick. Tuesday I went back to the Y for the first time in months and lap swam.

Why did I stop with the lap swimming? Mostly it was the weather. Summer in the Arizona desert is cloudy with daily thunderstorms and lightening. Not ideal outdoor swimming weather.

If it’s not storming it’s brilliant intense sunshine which I tend to avoid. Before I knew it, I was out of the lap swimming habit.

I’ve been following “The Artist’s Way” by Julia Cameron for years. At least most of her routine of morning pages, prayer and daily walks. The thing I’ve been missing is the “artist’s date.”

My excuse before was COVID shutdowns.

Now I have no excuse. The artist date is to go out — alone — and experience something to feed your muse. Cameron’s suggestions are looking in antique and fabric stores, go anywhere that will fill your senses and spark your creativity.

I’m going to try a once-a-week date with myself. I’ve added two days of lap swimming, and three days of kicking — now an artist’s date. I think that’s quite enough for now!

What is your morning or daily routine? What would you like to add to it?

Why boredom is good for kids

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My son came up with bug headbands for a birthday party made from pipe cleaners, styrofoam balls and lots of glue and glitter. The kids looked adorable. He also got to wear a birthday crown.

Thanks to a post yesterday by LA called Boredom, I remembered I had written about the subject years before. I dusted it off and updated my thoughts on being bored and how boredom boosts creativity.

Do you remember being bored as a kid? I do. But it didn’t last. I could go outside when we lived in town and ask a neighbor to play. Or, I’d jump on my bike and ride around the block. I run to the lot where a brown quarter horse lived. I’d climb on the fence to pet the white strip that ran down his nose. Most of the time I’d read, or play library and create library cards for all my books and arrange them by author on my bookshelves. Boredom just wasn’t a thing. Our mom was strict about TV. She allowed two half-hour shows daily that she circled in the TV Guide — and they were usually on PBS.

When we moved out to the country and we didn’t have close neighbors to play with, I would lay on the grass and watch the clouds.

These days, many kids never experience boredom because they lose themselves in their screens. They don’t know what it’s like to have to use their imaginations and find something creative to do. I don’t think it’s helping them to be entertained externally all the time. I wrote about promoting a creative spirit in kids last week, here and here.

Without creativity and an imagination, our kids won’t be problem solvers or discover new ways of doing things. If your kids are bored, so what? It’s okay. Ignore the whining and let them figure it out.

 In the Sarasota Herald Tribune, parenting experts Jenni Stahlmann and Jody Hagaman wrote Allow your kids to embrace boredom

 Have you noticed that our generation of parents is terrified of letting our kids become bored? Their anxiety is what drives them to pack a boatload of amusement options when they leave the house.

A few years ago, a waiter at a restaurant in North Dakota told us about a trend in his community. One local mom had created a custom quilted bag for holding multiple tablets so that every member of the family could be distracted and amused while they waited for their meal. It was wildly popular, he said.

Not only is our society’s pervasive reliance on amusement killing conversation and opportunities to connect and build relationships, it’s also preempting opportunities for boredom. Boredom is important for building imagination, creativity and innovation in our kids. Of course we can’t force these things into our children but we can set up an environment that will support the journey.

When we allow our kids to grapple with boredom on their own, rather than providing for them structured activities or distractions and amusements, imagination and creativity may come to their rescue!

“It is possible for boredom to deliver us to our best selves,” said author Nancy Blakey. “If we sit still long enough, we may hear the call behind boredom. With practice, we may have the imagination to rise up from the emptiness and answer.”

If we provide our kids with a constant stream of amusement options, which includes a plethora of extracurricular activities, we rob them of the opportunity to explore the open space in their own minds where the imagination hides.

They make a good point about having a structured schedule. With piano, swimming and homework, there wasn’t a lot of time for my kids to get bored during the school year. The summers gave them more hours for imaginative play. Swim meets also gave them time for creativity. They would sit under a pop-up tent for hours with their teammates. We’d be at a meet for five or six hours and they’d race for only a few minutes here and there. I remember observing some very creative verbal word games.

According to the article, the authors suggest having bins and jars filled with all sorts of things in easy reach for your kids like popsicle sticks, fabric, string, paints, googly eyes, papers of different colors and textures, glues, etc. Their suggestion:

Then let your kids get good and bored. Don’t offer many suggestions. Simply say, “Oh, there are lots of things you could do. I’m sure you’ll figure it out.” It may take time but eventually their imaginations will awaken and lead them to new horizons.

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The bug headbands made an appearance at several birthdays.

What are your thoughts about boredom? 

If I could only remember

Olive with her cat grass.

I’ve been struggling with the NaNo Prep 101 assignments. I can’t quite find my idea or nail down the characters for the writing challenge I signed up for in November where I’m going to write 50,000 words of a novel in 31 days. I’m weeks away and just not thrilled with anything I’ve come up with.

Here’s a description of the first assignment:

Some people struggle to come up with a novel idea that excites them! Some people are idea machines, but have a hard time committing to one. Tackle this week’s exercise to focus on finding inspiration… and then hone in on a few ideas that spark your creative passion.

https://nanowrimo.org/nano-prep-101#week1

Last week I completed the first assignment. I had some inspiration with my characters but struggled through the next week’s tasks:

Week 2: Create Complex, Believable Characters
(Strong enough to shoulder a novel and hold your interest)
Week 2 Exercise: Character Development and Questionnaires
Characters are the active drivers of your story, and a huge part of a first draft is getting to know the characters you’re creating. Get a head start with this exercise!

Last night I had a vivid dream where it was all laid out. I had five characters. I was filling out their backstories, their ages, appearances, mannerisms, pet peeves, desires. It was all coming together. I made progress on the plot and was so excited to write. I was sitting at my laptop, editing, making changes, completing the exercises.

Morning came. Olive the cat jumped on the bed and woke me up. I struggled in my morning pages trying to remember my characters. They floated away out of my mind’s reach. I wonder if they were any good? Or was it my mind working through the process?

Have you ever problem solved or figured out a creative solution in your dreams? Do you usually remember your dreams or not?

Tips to Rekindle Your Creative Spirit

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Inspiring view along my morning walks.

I’m reading a few pages a week from Julia Cameron’s books. Who is Julia Cameron you ask? She’s a writer, musician and artist who encourages creativity for the rest of us struggling along our jumbled paths. I read something in the book Walking in This World  that helped me out and wanted to share it.

What’s ironic is that it’s the same thing I write about in my parenting tips for SwimSwam. Why don’t I take the advice I shout out to the rest of the world? Who knows?

It’s all about performance pressure and focusing on results rather than the process. When our kids focus on times, or we add performance pressure on them, they will struggle to improve. Likewise, if we are too focused on the number of “likes” and “clicks” on our writing, we lose sight of our creative spirit. We’re more worried about what people think of our work–rather than losing ourselves in the process and creating art.

This results in writer’s block, frustration, second-guessing our work and losing passion for what we’re doing.

What is Cameron’s solution to this? In her books, she has a number of suggestions that include writing morning pages, walking and making time for an artist’s date with yourself. Also, she suggests trying something artistic outside your chosen field. For me it’s getting out a sketch book and drawing from time to time. When I was a little kid, I wasn’t worried about what people thought about my artwork. I drew for hours on end. I found it scary at first to try and sketch again, but I reminded myself that nobody is looking at it. I won’t be looking at the number of “likes” and “retweets.” It’s a creative outlet just for me.

Another suggestion of Cameron’s to rekindle the spirit of creativity, is to use your talents to help someone else. Make a gift for someone, teach, volunteer, or do something for your community. It does make you feel enthusiastic after helping someone else and getting the focus off yourself and your end product. 

Thank you to my BFF Cindy for giving me The Artist’s Way five years ago and encouraging me on my current path.

Julia Cameron has been an active artist for more than thirty years. She is the author of forty books, fiction and nonfiction, including her bestselling works on the creative process: The Artist’s Way, Walking in This World and Finding Water. Her work has been translated into more than thirty-five languages and has sold more than four million copies worldwide. Also a novelist, playwright, songwriter and poet, she has multiple credits in theater, film and television.

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I find inspiration from my view.

How do you rekindle your creativity if you’re discouraged or reached a block? Do you have any tips to share with us?

What is white space and why do we need it?

 

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White space to be superheroes.

In a parenting article in the Herald-Tribune from Sarasota, FL called “White space is important for kids to develop interests,” Jenni Stahlmann and Jody Hagaman, parenting experts, explain what white space is and why kids need it.

In my opinion, we all need white space in our lives. It’s a time to reflect and think, without the TV on in the background, or checking out your social media on our phones.

From the article:

In art, the white space is sometimes called negative space. This offers an interesting play on words because many parents view the white space — the unscheduled, empty time in their child’s day — as something negative, something to be avoided.

But just as negative space is critical to art and rests are vital to music, white space is critical to a child’s ability to develop thriving interests.

In practical terms, white space is totally unscheduled time. It’s time when kids don’t have homework or activities or chores or screens or visiting friends. It’s time when they are left to grapple with themselves — alone — probably bored, thinking to themselves, discovering things.

White space can be challenging for most people at first, especially if they have been conditioned to fill quiet and empty moments of the day with people, tasks or entertainment. But it is in the white space that human imagination is called upon, an inner-thought life develops and significant interests can develop.

Many parents are afraid of white space. They think it is unproductive, maybe even a waste of time. They think it’s an opportunity for kids to get in trouble. Some are afraid their kids will drive them nuts or make a mess or wreak havoc in some other way. Some parents even fear their children will miss out on other things. Others are afraid their kids will resent them for enforcing times of white space.

Ultimately, these parents do not have faith in the process. But the truth is white space allows kids time to learn how to think about things. When there is no other voice but their own telling them what to think — no friend, adult, video game, TV show, YouTuber or even the author of a book — they have to grapple with things on their own, in their own minds.

In these moments, a deep inner-thought life can develop. The skill of communicating with oneself and learning how to think about things begins to take root. And often, from this inner wrestling match, deep interests may arise.

In my children’s lives, they were extremely busy. I do think a lot of their time in the pool, staring at the black lane on the bottom of the pool, gave them time to think. Also, the full days at the beach allowed them time to be creative and create everything from sand castles to kitchens and lie back and stare at the blue sky and ocean waves.

As for my own thought process working on a mid-grade children’s novel, somedays it may seem like I’m not getting anything done. In reality, I’m thinking. I’m mulling things over. That’s when problems get solved and creativity is allowed to spark.

 

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Time to explore and figure things out.

What are your thoughts about white space and how do you use it in your life?

 

Is it worth it to DIY? Or, how I almost burned the house down…

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A burst of creativity.

A friend told me the other day, “You could do that yourself.”

I was asking her if she knew anyone who could refinish my butcher block countertops. I hadn’t thought about doing it myself for more than a fleeting moment. Could I? I watched a youtube and called her back.

“I think I could do it myself, but I don’t have the power sanders. I’d have to buy them and all the other stuff—and if I did that, I might as well hire someone else to do it.”

“I have sanders and I’ll loan them to you,” she replied.

That settled it. I decided to go for the first of about 20 trips to our local hardware store and start the process assembling things to begin stripping, sanding, staining and lacquering my kitchen counters. We have a small kitchen, so the project didn’t look too overwhelming–when I began.

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All finished!

It was more work than I expected, I admit. Many trips to the hardware store—“where everyone knows my name…” Yes, they were calling me by my first and last name after a few days and it reminded me of this song from Cheers:

“Where everybody knows your name
and they’re always glad you came.
You wanna be where you can see,
the troubles are all the same.
you wanna be where everybody knows your name…”

The problem started when I asked my husband for help. I nagged him into adding a second coat of stain one night after he came home from work. Bad idea. 

The next morning we woke up to a gooey mess. The first coat of stain apparently didn’t dry all the way, and the second coat didn’t soak in–and he didn’t know that you ‘brush it on against the grain and wipe it off with the grain.’

Thank goodness for Google. I found numerous youtubes and sites on how to fix it—or basically start over. I needed to find something called “mineral spirits” to wipe off the mess and then re-sand. My buddies at the hardware store informed me that mineral spirits are illegal in our area and they sold me some paint thinner.

In the garage, I had been practicing each step on an old nightstand of my husband’s grandmother. 

Here’s the biggest mistake I made in the process:

I tossed a pile of rags soaked with paint thinner on the old nightstand.

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The next day, I could smell a faint burning odor like a distant fire. I was done with my counters and I began to put away my supplies. I thought, I need to throw away those old rags. Lo and behold there were no rags! Instead was a pile of charcoal that reminded me of the “snakes” we’d get for 4th of July when I was a kid. Also, there was a long metal object on top, which I finally recognized as a large flathead screwdriver without a trace of its hard plastic handle. I had used it to open the can of stain. After I removed the black charcoal smoldering rags I poured water on the smoldering nightstand, which was by the way, directly under the dry rough wood of the garage.

I almost burnt the house down—by doing a simple DIY project. Who knew that rags soaked in paint thinner could combust? Not me.

My next project, after the kitchen counters, was to salvage the nightstand. After all, it had belonged to Granny. Except for a little lingering smell of charcoal, I think it’s a keeper.

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