August 31, 2012

writing practice: sell your heart

My fascination with all things Fitzgerald (F. Scott, that is) has really ramped up since my recent re-reading of The Great Gatsby, and I am grateful that I am not alone. It could just be the gifts of synchronicity, but good old Fitz has been popping up everywhere in my consciousness! Newspapers and magazine articles, other blog posts, special edition book releases, and even some new field trips have added to my list of Fitz-fascination. When I heard that the release of Baz Lurhman's film rendition of Gatsby is delayed until next summer, I actually felt a little bit relieved: more time to read up on the man behind the story, and therefore more "story" to bring to my viewing of the film! 

After reading my post about Gatsby, my friend Chris has been amazing and has passed along several fascinating Fitzgerald articles, tidbits, etc., which I have absolutely devoured. She shared a post with me from the blog "Letters of Note," which featured a reply letter from F. Scott Fitzgerald to an aspiring young writer friend named Frances Turnbull, who had asked for his feedback on a story she had written. You can read this amazing letter and post here! I won't summarize too much, because I strongly encourage you to read the post directly, but I was so incredibly challenged by Fitzgerald's advice to Turnbull. Specifically, this notion that a young writer must begin by "selling their heart" in his/her work. He calls it "the price of admission." I do not believe in selling oneself over to the control of others, or selling out. I don't believe you should compromise who you are in your art. So this phrase gave me pause, forced me to consider at length what Fitzgerald was saying. 
For me, it is often the hardest thing in my writing to know where to begin. I believe in writing what you know, in telling your truths. But when the voices of doubt and shame and fears of failure are whispering constantly in my ear, they tell me that no one would be interested in my story, in the very heart of who I am. Do you hear this, too? So many stories and accounts have been written about growing up in an abusive home, about struggling to find your place in a controlling and judgmental religious environment, about the pain and agony of the journey to discover, as you come of age, who you have been vs. who you were created to be and who you will become. There are SO many stories already, so many great stories - do we really need one more? And even if there is room for more, I am so quick to believe that my story is not unique enough to be worth telling, or that I will not be good enough at the telling to join the ranks of those who have. These unraveling thoughts make me want to give up before I have even begun. But this is where my heart comes in. If I am writing all the way from my deepest heart, I know I could not be giving any more than I am. I know that I am writing true.
I believe that all of our real and true stories are the stories most worth telling. What I love most about reading, and about writing, is the gift of honesty. Honesty from writers inspires me to be more honest, too. I have read the same types of stories again and again, and the ones that stand out among the rest are the stories that ring with the most honest experience. No matter how many times I read the story of a dysfunctional family, or the loss of a loved one, or a broken heart, I will be moved and inspired if that story is infused with the personal truth of an honest writer. You can hear it in their word choice and language, their details, the qualities of their characters which come alive as if they are sitting next to you as you read. I could not aspire to a higher accomplishment than being able to achieve this kind of honesty in my own published work one day.
I believe in truth and love as the most important touchstones for living a good and happy life. If I can embrace the telling of my most true stories, and love myself enough to value those stories by sharing them with others, I will be doing my very best to pursue all good and happy things to come. And so I believe in this notion of selling my heart, as my most honest way to begin, giving the best I have to give.

How do you feel about your truths? Do they feel like your best beginning, or do you find them insignificant and unworthy of sharing? Whether in writing, or music, or painting (like my very novice watercolors above, hehe), or any other art form; even just in your daily living - are you willing to sell your heart? 

(Read my post about The Great Gatsby here! And you can find Chris' amazing blog, Wildmoo Books, here!)

August 29, 2012

artist date: milk and honey cafe

Last week's artist date led me on a lovely, simple exploration of some city blocks I haven't visited for many years. I commute into Chicago once or twice a week, on average,  to spend time with friends, for shopping errands, or for weekend adventures with Ryan. Lately, I have been in the city more often, for this reason and that, and despite the drive (or train ride, depending on the day), I have loved the chance to spend more days in the midst of all the buzz and swarm of city life. But I've also been feeling a bit of wanderlust. My time in the city has been so focused, busy doing this or that, and it had been weeks since I just spent a day exploring. So I set aside my next artist date to wander the city. 
I boarded my train with no specific destination in mind, but my brain got working on that right away as we raced eastward on the tracks. I had recently driven by a little cafe called "Milk and Honey" on Division, and thought it might be a lovely place to eat my artist date lunch! From the Loop, I took the Blue Line to Damen, so I could enjoy a scenic walk past Wicker Park itself, the neighborhood's namesake. The day could not have been more gorgeous - sunny, breezy, mild - and the neighborhood streets were quiet and serene on the weekday afternoon. After a mile or so, I reached my destination: Milk and Honey Cafe is definitely added to my list of city favorites! 
I enjoyed a delicious Avocado and Smoked Gouda sandwich and side salad for lunch, and then set out to explore the neighborhood. When I was young, growing up in Chicago, this part of Wicker Park was not "hipster" at all, or even very developed- I had a friend who lived around here, and it was a really rough area. As I walked East on Division, I came to Wolcott Avenue, and remembered that this intersection marks the area where my grandmother was raised in the 1920s and 30s, and where my grandparents lived when they were first married in the 40s. It was so surreal to walk these streets now, so many years later, aware of how this neighborhood has changed over time, from my grandmother's youth, to my own childhood, and now to the present, when I was led here for other reasons, oblivious to these coincidences until that very minute. With every step, I felt the significance of so many layers of my personal history laid on this ground. 
Here are some glimpses into my visual journey on this artist date:
 A lovely mosaic mural on the outer wall of Lasalle II Magnet Elementary School.
Michael Grucza's "A House for Sandy" sculpture, part of the Lakefront Sculpture Exhibit.

Gorgeous oversized knitting display in the window at nina: a well-knit shop, where my lovely friend Therese once worked! (Another neat layer to my history here...) Hard to capture the whole display because of the light, so I focused on the reflections instead.
As I headed back to the El station to begin my journey home, I stopped at Cipollina on Damen for a Rosemary-Grapefruit Italian Soda by Jo Snow - so refreshing!! You must try Jo Snow soda flavors if you get the chance! 

I am grateful for the time I was able to spend wandering, both literally and figuratively, through these streets and layers of my history. Have you ever had an experience like this, when so many worlds collided for you all at once??

(Learn more about other "artist dates" here!)

August 27, 2012

monday starts

I have come to love Mondays. I love the way that they offer a fresh new start for each week, no matter what goals I am facing: more writing, more productivity, more discipline, more "being"... my goals are pretty endless. Mondays give me a chance to make this week count in a new way, towards something different. They inspire me to try again, start again, believe again, in myself and my art. 
Today, I began my Monday with morning pages, and with a breakfast of sliced and buttered Orange Blossom sweet bread and blueberries. Lovely cut flowers in a glass tumbler decorated with bees, and the lighting of my new grapefruit candle joined in as I set out to start my morning right. I want to give this Monday every chance possible to be a great day, a day that sets the tone for a week of happiness to follow. 
Too much pressure put on a single day? Perhaps. But I find that giving myself deadlines is the only thing that causes me to actually achieve my goals and complete my work. Likewise, maybe putting pressure on my Monday - giving it the best fighting chance to achieve what I hope it will - is the most hopeful way to push myself harder and see what new heights I can achieve in relation to my goals for this week. It is like starting a morning fresh, the right way, getting out of the "right side" of the bed. Except that if you get it right, a Monday can stretch to reach a whole week instead of a day.
As September approaches around the corner, I am experiencing a heightened awareness of the passing of time, of the year's end approaching. In July, I was aware of the year's halfway point, but felt optimistic and relaxed about the chance to still make progress toward reaching some of the goals I created at the beginning of 2012. Now I am aware that it is really time to make the year count towards as many of those goals as possible. 
I am not disheartened, I am invigorated. I want to seize the day, the week, the rest of this pivotal year in my life (the year of thirty), and make it count

Do you feel the same about Mondays? They have not always been such a joy for me - it is a new touchstone in my beliefs, that the best life a person can live is a life when Mondays can mean a fresh new start and not a dreaded return to a week of misery. Are you living a life of Monday blues or Monday joys? 

August 22, 2012

my library: gift from the sea

I take my library very seriously. Since I do not yet have space for an entire room dedicated to books, they live with us in every room in our home. As much as I look forward to that someday-library, I do love the way that our books surround us as we live. Lined up neatly on shelves (always organized) or in stacks that have spilled over for this reason or that (not so organized): I feel the power of all these books, waiting to be read and re-read, offering so much perspective, experience and wonder. I have shared some of my recent reads as they inspire me in my creative journey. But I thought it would be fun to share some of my all-time favorite titles from my library with you. These have stood out among the rest, for a great variety of reasons and relevance, and if you have not already read them, I would encourage you to check them out next time you are at your local bookstore!
I often refer to Gift from the Sea, by Anne Morrow Lindbergh, as my "life-book." This is the only way I can think to describe its prominence and importance in my life. This book has spoken to me deeply, to my very core, and its wisdom and wonder have endured from my first reading through countless more: always fresh, always inspiring, always challenging. I originally read Gift from the Sea after returning from my first visit to Hawaii. Unexpectedly, I had fallen absolutely in love with the island of Oahu and missed it dearly from the moment we left to return home. Once back, I shared my passion for the island with my friend Berni, who worked with me at the time. Knowing that I was also very passionate about reading, Berni brought her well-worn paperback copy of the book to work the very next time she saw me, encouraging me to read it. I began reading soon after, and within the first half hour, as I furiously copied Lindbergh's lovely prose into my journal, I knew I needed to pick up my own copy. From my years spent working in bookstores, the book had often crossed my path. The beautiful 50th Anniversary Edition had caught my eye, with its unique, delicate embossing and hazy aqua textured dust jacket. But I had never opened the book, never done more than to caress the book's cover as I straightened a table of books or alphabetized a shelf as I went. When I decided I must have my own copy, I knew just which edition I wanted. It had simply not been my right time until now.
As I read, my obsession and wonder grew stronger; my pen underlined word after word. I began to read more slowly, to savor this first experience with the prose even as I knew these would become the first of many such moments. Over the years, I have returned again and again to the pages of this book. I have a tradition of reading through it entirely each time we are able to return to the beaches of Hawaii (and bits of sand have made their way in between its pages). New thoughts stand out with each reading, and more words are underlined. The margins have begun to fill as well, with all sorts of enthusiastic markings to help me find my way back to the wisdom I hope to never let go. 

My loved ones know my passion for this book, and many have shared in this passion by reading it in their own turn and timing. I am superstitious as I share it with those dear to me: I believe that the time for them to read it will come about on a journey all their own. I am excited to see where it might lead them, too. Ryan read the book early in my obsession (I gave him his own copy, so he would not be distracted by my spastic markings, and because I still kept my own copy close at hand), and he has always nurtured my passion. One holiday, he researched and ordered every edition of the book he could find published over the many years since its release. It was one of the most special gifts he has ever given me! 

Gift from the Sea, in case you are not familiar, is a collection of thoughts on what really matters in life - love, age, parenting, peace, to name just a few themes - gathered and recorded during the author's retreat to the sea. Each chapter is named for a particular shell, and each shell moves through a different aspect or phase of life experience. Anne Morrow Lindbergh's prose is poetic and lyrical, honest and personal, and yet still so universally applicable. She does not paint life as simple or easy, yet washes her honest and sometimes painful truths in a golden glow which absolutely captivates me. Another curious superstition I carry about this book is a belief that those who love it might connect deeply with one "shell" in particular. My shell is the "moon shell." Here is one of my many favorite passages from this chapter: 
She must consciously encourage those pursuits which oppose the centrifugal forces of today. Quiet time alone, contemplation, prayer, music, a centering line of thought or reading, of study or work. It can be physical or intellectual or artistic, any creative life proceeding from oneself. It need not be an enormous project or a great work. But it should be something of one's own. Arranging a bowl of flowers in the morning can give a sense of quiet in a crowded day- like writing a poem, or say a prayer. What matters is that one be for a time inwardly attentive. Solitude, says the moon shell. (pp. 48, 50)
Ryan commissioned an artist to make this beautiful necklace for me as a gift on our wedding day. (He really is the best husband ever.) We found some other ways to incorporate my "life-book" into our wedding day as well, using the shells and artwork from the book to mark our reception tables. 
Berni, the same friend who originally shared Gift from the Sea with me, had made me a little pocket-token of my moon shell. Our friend Mandy took up soldering temporarily in order to add a little clasp so that I could attach the token to my wedding bouquet. I loved carrying my symbol with me throughout our amazing day!!
And our incredible mom, Kim, found a way to share Gift from the Sea with each of our wedding guests, including this charming keepsake mini-book as a favor.
My gifts from the sea are never-ending, from the sea itself in every moment spent by the ocean, and in the pages of this book that reveals new truth, comfort and inspiration with every reading. 

Do you have a "life-book"? I would love to hear about it! And I am looking forward to sharing many more titles from my library with you as I go...

August 21, 2012

artist date: farewell my queen

When I first began to incorporate the practice of "artist dates" into my life, one of the first "dates" to really define my practice was going to the movies. Ryan and I love the movie theater experience, and we see a lot of films together. We mostly line up in what we like to see, but there is a point where we head separate directions. I began to go by myself to see those films that did not interest him. The first few times I went alone, I was so self-conscious about it. I felt like I stood out or looked lonely or odd. As I sat in the darkened theater and waited for the films to begin, though, it felt like such a treat. I was going to see the film I wanted to see, and all that mattered was that I was making the effort. If I didn't like it, fine. If I loved it, great! Sometimes the film I saw engaged me completely, and sometimes I would find my mind wandering to unexpected places. But always, I felt a little happier, a little stronger after these artist dates. 
It has been awhile now since I have taken an artist date to the movies. But I had read about the film "Les adieux à la reine (Farewell My Queen)" in recent weeks and then saw that it was playing at the Glen Art Theatre nearby. This French film is a close-up of Marie Antoinette's life during the days surrounding the storming of the Bastille, as viewed by her servants, her reader in particular. I am a sucker for pretty much any period film, and I am also a bit of a francophile: I spent several years studying the French language and though I have not yet been to France myself, it is at the top of my wish-list of "adventures I would like to take." Several years ago, I absolutely loved Sofia Coppola's film "Marie Antoinette," and around that same time I read Antonia Fraser's biography by the same name. I am by no means a scholar of these things, but I find them totally fascinating. The opulence of the era, the grandeur and texture and whimsy of this queen, and the fashions of the time are all enchanting to me.
I am not a film critic, so I will not feign any expertise in my thoughts on the film; I only know what I liked or did not like about it, and that is all I claim to know. I loved the cinematography and art direction of the film - such incredible sets and lighting and a really unique perspective on this time that truly did allow me to imagine other aspects of life at Versailles in this time. I loved the shots where Sidonie was filmed running through the long blue series of doorways in the service of her queen: I think this image will stay with me forever. I appreciated the focus on the "reader" character, Sidonie, and her unique vantage point on the events of these critical days in French history. But the pace of the film did not feel as counterbalanced as I would have wished. I felt like it could have been a bit sharper without losing the lovely fuzziness of life at Versailles that they were constructing. It almost felt like it did not have to be just a bit smarter, because it was so lovely. And I do not completely disagree. But it did feel a little bit emptier than I would have liked for this reason.
More than anything, seeing "Farewell My Queen" made me want to revisit the book and film I loved (and the soundtrack to the film as well, which is one of my very favorites!!). It boosted my daydreams of Versailles even more: of one day setting foot in the Hall of Mirrors and walking through those lovely gardens myself. The film whetted my appetite for learning and planted more seeds of curiosity. An artist date need not resolve, I think. I believe it is as much about planting those seeds as about knowing when or how they will bloom. It is just important to value yourself and your artist enough to keep on planting.

(Learn more about my "artist date" practice here!)

August 20, 2012

writing practice: keep your bottom in the chair

Some of the best writing advice I have encountered over the years could never have been planned or sought out in a book or seminar. They were pinpoint wisdom, directly from the source to me, little miraculous gifts, obviously meant to be. These amazing gifts of wisdom stand out to me significantly as I repeat them back to myself in my own writing practice.

A couple of years ago, I had the chance to spend a little bit of time with news anchor and author Jim Lehrer at a book signing event where he was promoting his novel Super (2010). Our old television set was often tuned to PBS' MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour when I was growing up, and in person, Mr. Lehrer was even warmer, kinder, and more dignified. As I listened to him discuss the book and his career, I was struck by the intentionality of his life path. He described himself as having two careers, two halves of himself split right down the middle: Jim the news anchor, a job he loved, and Jim the writer, another job he loved. He could have easily accepted his success in his news career as "enough," but he chose instead to dedicated separate, protected energy in writing his novels and pursuing his creative ambitions in this way.
As I spoke with Mr. Lehrer, and he politely inquired about my own work, I mentioned that I was an aspiring writer. He was swift to offer his best writing advice, which he said he had recently shared with another young aspiring writer: "Keep your bottom in the chair." He said that nothing else matters, if you do not keep your bottom in that chair, and sit long enough to let the writing come. All the talk about writing in the world cannot achieve anything compared with time seated in the chair. Obviously, he is a man who knows what he is talking about. He writes because he loves to write, and he makes time for it even though he doesn't have to. It is his passion, but it is also his practice. As we parted ways, he pointed one strong finger right at me and reminded me one more time: "Keep your bottom in that chair." I promised I would.

This advice cuts right to the core of all of my resistance in my practice. I can talk endlessly about my writing obstacles and fears and blocks, and yet no matter how legitimate the obstacles might be, the choice is always up to me. Will I keep my bottom in the chair? Will I sit at my desk or at the coffee shop table and keep sitting until something comes? I am a professional procrastinator and easily distracted by my surroundings. I am often literally unseated by my fears of failure. There is a definite place for adventure, for exploration, for creative inspiration and variety in my writing practice. But at the heart of the matter remains the time in my chair. 

I hope Mr. Lehrer's words will stick with you, too, as you begin this new week of writing or other creative practice. For my own part, I am writing this simple message down and posting it in my writing space, to remind me this week to be more diligent in my practice. What does it mean to you to "Keep your bottom in the chair?"

August 17, 2012

an occasion

Yesterday, as I shared, was a very gloomy day, one of those days when you feel down in the dumps and unable to muster up energy for anything. Least of all, the things you should be doing... at least that's how it goes on my gloomy days. I am industrious and driven by nature. I like to stay productive, I like to accomplish goals, I like to keep on moving and get something done, and as many "somethings" as possible, if I'm being honest. "Gloomy" is not something you do - it is something you are. Gloom had moved me to the realm of "being," which remains less familiar territory for me, despite recent attempts at embracing this space.
After struggling in the gloom for a good portion of the day, dissatisfied and discouraged and dismal as could be, I finally hit upon something that sounded less-awful than anything else. A question I am learning to ask is "What do I feel like doing right now?" Another variation is "What sounds good to me right now?" Now, these may seem rather elementary, but I am usually the type to shoot these questions down. I tend to believe that this line of questioning will lead me down paths that are lazy, selfish, or unproductive - the very opposite  of what I like to be! Even asking the questions at all can seem, at first thought, like extremely dangerous territory. I prefer to ask "What should I be doing right now?" But all my "doing" has no place in those moments when "being" is all you can do, like on my gloomy Thursday.

So I decided to let myself ask the question. "What do I feel like doing right now?" Like a bored teenager, I shot down about a hundred suggestions for myself before I finally heard that I was hungry - I had not eaten in several hours. Nothing sounded good, of course, but I kept asking questions, until finally, something clicked. I had some fancy crackers and a jar of apricot chutney I picked up at a market recently. But my internal battle continued: "You are saving those for future company! It is only a Thursday afternoon and you are eating alone! You shouldn't waste them on yourself." It is another common pitfall, one that I have been working to avoid for a little bit longer in my life: the desire to save joy, whether moments or things, for a later, better time. But what if I can make now a better time?? I fought my negative instincts and decided that now was as good a time as any to make an occasion for myself. 

My occasion had no particular purpose, except that I could really use an occasion. As I opened my crackers and apricot chutney, I remembered that I had a wedge of Brie cheese in the fridge, and some blueberries, and some freshly-brewed rhubarb green iced tea. I grabbed the book I was reading, Willa Cather's novel A Lost Lady (a great suggestion from Chris, which I finished reading as a part of my "occasion"), and one of my lovely vintage linen napkins, another usually-only-for-guests indulgence. As I sat and ate my simple but fancy lunch, I felt myself settle and soften a bit. The gloom did not let up outside my window - it continued to hover in the corners of our home and in the corners of myself, as well. But my small occasion was a way of nurturing the light inside, and a gift, from myself, to myself, which I desperately needed. 

I believe in this practice of "making occasions." I adore the concept of the "un-birthday" coined by Lewis Carroll, and I believe in the magic that an "occasion" can add to your life. Do you believe you are worth an "occasion?" How often? Under what circumstances? I am not referring to lazy indulgences, or to binge behaviors, or to a constant stream of selfish choices. Instead, what I am suggesting is an investment in oneself the way one might invest in a guest. How much lovelier are the many small moments in life when a candle is lit, or a cup of tea or coffee sipped, or a vase full of flowers scents the room? And while an occasion might not be able to eliminate the gloom, it might just help you move through it. What occasion can you create today? I hope you will give yourself this gift sometime soon, this practice in the "art of being": an occasion of your very own!

August 16, 2012

gloomy thursday

It is a gloomy day, outside and in. Overcast, moody skies furrow their brows at me with darkening countenances as the rain comes and goes. Even in their brightest moments, the heavens are dully cast in a solid, disheartening grey. The light inside is eerie too, as shadows overtake the furniture and objects, distorting their shapes and positions. Vibrant colors fade into thin, haunting versions of themselves. There is no escaping the light's reach, only the relief of glowing yellow bulbs in this corner or that, which somehow make a summer day feel even more wrong than their gloomy alternative.
And the gloom continues, reaching inside of me, casting all my person grey as well. Some of it comes from external circumstances: the weather, and my headache, and a funeral today which I was unable to attend, for a person whose passing came too soon. She is gone before her kids are old enough to begin to make sense of the thing that makes no real sense to any of us anyway. Another friend faces an important surgery today, and thoughts of him and his family monopolize our consciousness as we wait to hear how the surgery went. A million other little grey facts well up within me: concerns for those I love, answers I do not have, awareness of the million tiny failures that could mount up to something tragic if I let them. These grey monsters take no specific form; instead, they power a numb and blurry ache within me. The ache tells me to quit, to stop trying, to count my losses and move on, to go back to something I could be good at, to stop believing my love matters to anyone anyway. And I do not feel like writing at all.
But there are whispers of hope and joy as well; little bits of gratitude come to me, knocking softly at the door of my mind, asking me to welcome them in and let them stay awhile. I have so much to be grateful for. My life is not a gloomy one. I have so many reasons to be happy and embrace my many gifts. I have love and comfort and freedom and safety, and these are only the beginning. If I lit hundreds or thousands of candles in our small apartment, one for every small joy, would these flickers of hope unite to cast away the gloom? 
The gloom does not suit me; it is not who I was created to be. It will wash over me from time to time, and it will sometimes lodge itself inside me for awhile, and it may even threaten every joy. But I can hold on tightly to what hope I might; I can keep my arms around every little piece worth saving, until the wave passes over. I can choose to hold on and wait it out. I can't control all the risk, but I can choose what I will do with the things that are up to me. Today might have to be a grey and gloomy day. And I might have to be OK with that, in order to stand ready and waiting for a sunnier day to come. I will believe that I will feel like writing again soon. I will try my best to think of all those flickering candles today, and feel comfort in the fact that I can wait out the gloom just like the summer storm outside: this too shall pass. 

August 14, 2012

sentence prompt: a ticking clock

For awhile now, I have been on a lazy search for a vintage clock. I have admired the expensive new vintage-inspired designs I have seen on Pinterest, and added "vintage clock" to the ever-growing mental list of items-I-would-love-to-own. I have not searched far and wide, I have not done research, I have not worked hard to pinpoint the exact specifications of my dream-clock. I just hoped that at some point, it might appear.
A couple of weekends ago, I visited the Kane County Flea Market with my friends Mary Claire and Ryan, and came across a booth selling several vintage alarm clocks. Inexpensive and quite lovely, none of them were ticking, of course. I asked the booth's seller whether or not they were in working condition. He said he was selling them for decorative use and hadn't tested them. (Probably not the best sign.) When I wound the one I liked the most to test it out, still, no ticking. I reasoned that perhaps it was not a clock that ticked loudly? I ran it by my friends, who suggested I could wind them, note the time, and return back to see if they kept proper time. But my laziness persisted.

We continued on in our flea-market adventure, and I was feeling lucky. I found a beautiful, brightly colored wool throw blanket, in great condition, a gorgeous mirrored pedestal with an ornately carved pattern in the base, and small tupperware containers, new, with coral lids. And I am very lucky to have such a wonderful friend as Mary Claire, who was patient when I was not, and searched the box of old newspaper stamps long and hard until she came across the perfect stamp for me: a box of Lipton tea from an old ad! When we passed a rather junky display table full of items that seemed to have been absolutely randomly compiled, I almost did not walk over. But then I spotted the clock of my dreams! I loved this vintage white and gold 'Baby Ben' Westclox alarm clock more than any of the others I had seen. I asked the booth's seller if he knew about its condition - he did not. But I was feeling lucky in my hunting streak and decided it was worth a shot. I bargained him down a few dollars and added my clock to my tote bag. 
I came home and tested the clock right away, and was absolutely delighted to find it is in great working condition! It keeps time better than the clock in my car, and the alarm works perfectly. It is a beautiful addition to my bathroom counter, where I had been missing the help of a clock for some time! The only catch is that it has to be wound, every two days or so, in order to keep on ticking. And the ticking is louder than a modern clock might be, but this is another thing I had wanted in my vintage clock - I don't mind a bit.
The other night, as I was falling asleep, and listening to my clock ticking away in the next room, the beginning of a sentence came to me, and I grabbed my pen and notepad to catch it before it slipped away. I have caught so many ideas this way, and it is something I have really committed to now, writing every thought like this down, even if I have no clue where the sentence will lead. 

Have you ever tried sentence prompts before? I know many books on writing and creativity include a variety of prompt ideas. Since writing prompts have been such an amazing tool for me in my own practice, I thought it might be fun to invite you to join me in finishing my own sentence prompt! Whether you consider yourself to be a writer, or a creator of some other type of art, I would love to hear how you complete, or expand upon, this beginning thought. Where do these nine words lead your brain...? Try not to let yourself over think: a prompt is best in allowing your words to find a way to flow more freely. Shut off your inner censor and just start typing... Four words or four hundred, or even a rearrangement of the original words: it is up to you! If you are willing to share, I would love to hear where the sentence leads you!

Here is the sentence... I hope you will feel brave and use this prompt, and share your response in the comments section below! (You can see my completed sentence in the comments as well!) 

"There is something in the ticking of a clock..."

August 13, 2012

inspired: small world

Disney World is a special place for Ryan and me: our family vacation destination each year and the home of so many incredible memories. We know the parks well and have established so many "favorites" over the years. Ryan's favorite ride is Rock 'n' Roller Coaster, and mine is Tower of Terror, and we make a pact each year to ride both, even though neither of us loves the other's favorite. Dole Whip (pineapple soft serve ice cream) in and of itself is enough reason to make the trip! (I take mine in the form of a pineapple juice with pineapple Dole Whip float, in case you wondered.) Our list goes on and on!
But each year there does turn out to be something new to inspire me in the parks, something I had never noticed or experienced before. This is part of what I look forward to in visiting year after year: the sense that in so much 'familiar' there can still be something new. My biggest inspiration this year came in riding "it's a small world." While I have been on this ride many times before, I always focused on the song, and the other cliches of the ride. It is a simple type of ride, no thrills or drops, and it is wild with color and over the top- all things I might not have valued before. Over the past couple of years, I have fallen in love with the art of Mary Blair, and when I realized she was one of the ride's original designers, I thought I should give it another go. 
I fell in love anew! How could I have missed all of the magic of the "small world" before?? Sure, the song is mighty repetitive, and I am still not the biggest fan of singing dolls. But I absolutely loved the display of colors, the bold contrasts and daring choices, the textures and geometric design patterns. I actually begged Ryan (who I have not quite yet converted) to ride it with me a second time just to experience it, since I had spent the first ride obsessively taking pictures to capture all that I loved.  So here are a few more pictures, a glimpse into what I loved about the ride and its design...

I especially loved all of the gold glitter everywhere! Couldn't resist getting a close-up of the glitter, and on the right half of the picture below is a glimpse into the 'wishing pond' created by visitors in one specific part of the ride line. I love that this texture and visual effect was replicated this way- once by original design and once cooperatively! I was so busy trying to get a good picture as the line moved along that I forgot to wish on a penny of my own. Just another reason to go back soon!
On the ride itself, it was hard to take clear pictures since we were always moving - I apologize for the fuzziness of these, but I couldn't skip sharing some of the amazing color and graphics inside the ride as well!

I am curious to learn more about the work of Mary Blair now, and so I am adding these two books to my wish list: The Art and Flair of Mary Blair and A Mary Blair Treasury of Golden Books. And I am already looking forward to the next time I can take a ride around that small world again!