Saturday, February 27, 2010

Adventures in Networking

For my final examination of areas in my life in which I have fallen out of love with my old ways, I look at how things are going in the world of Etsy.

As soon as I picked up this book at Borders, I realized that I was no longer enamored with my normal going-it-solo route.  So I started looking for Etsy teams that I might fit with, and found, well ... several.  As of right now, I think I am a member of eight teams.

Scrambling to try to get "networked", I added people willy nilly, left-and-right to Facebook and Twitter.  I have now signed up to Stumble and Tumble, Flicker, Shutter and Kaboodle.  Someday I hope to actually learn how to use all of these services, and get my contacts organized (thus my fiddling around with TweetDeck today).  Ahhhhh!!! In an effort to make my life simpler, I have totally complicated things--as usual!

What was that I said about falling out of love with Wonderland in one of my previous posts?  The Cheshire Kitty might as well put a blindfold on me and spin me around and around and throw me out into the forest.  I'll be wandering around on these platforms for a looooooooonnnnnng time.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Feline Friday

“I like living. I have sometimes been wildly, despairingly, acutely miserable, racked with sorrow, but through it all I still know quite certainly that just to be alive is a grand thing.
~ Agatha Christie

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Simplicity & the Art of Focusing

Okay, I'll say it--I think I have finally fallen out of love with Wonderland.  This muddled up mess that is my mind, yanking me this way and that, until I have no sense of direction or point or purpose, really gets in the way.
Picture Credit: Elena Kalis

In the way of what?  In the way of simplicity.  In the way of feeling the pleasure of focusing on one thing at a time.  Is it just me and the way my brain works, or is this a societal problem?  I'm pretty sure that I am not the only one affected.  Or infected, may be a better word for it.  

Twitter this, FB that, inbox stuffed with 125 new emails (and they're not even spam!).  I can't fall asleep at night, lying in bed exhausted, but still feeling the weight of the emails I didn't return, papers I didn't grade, lessons I didn't plan.  

Sometimes, I feel like I am falling, literally falling through space, while I am lying in my bed.  Did you know, there's even a condition called Alice in Wonderland Syndrome for people who get disoriented?
Source for all remaining pictures:

I find myself whining that there's never enough time to get everything done, feeling as if I'm being pulled in all four directions at once, but really, what are the things I have to do?

Obviously, if I'm to survive with any semblance of sanity left intact, I have to answer my three percolating questions, "What can I let go of in my life?"  "Where have I changed my interests or priorities?"and "What no longer works for me?"

These answers--let go of as much as possible, choose one priority at a time, and don't overcomplicate things, are what I come back to every time.  >Sigh< I give myself very good advice, but when--oh when--will I ever learn to follow it?

Click here to watch the classic Yooouuutuuube Alice video!  Got to go full screen with it.  Guaranteed to drive you nuts, but in a totally good way!!!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Feline Friday

“If you want to get the best out of a person you must look for the best that is in him.”
~ Bernard Haldane

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Simplicity #1

So I'm starting to read this book called How Philosophy Can Save Your Life: 10 Ideas that Matter Most by Marietta McCarty, and decided I would try to write a post based on it each week.

The first idea is about Simplicity, and of course, I throw it into overdrive.

There are suggestions for readings, songs, poetry, and more, and I take it upon myself to download all the poetry, buy all the songs on iTunes, and bookmark all the texts on Google books.

Right, like that's simplicity.

What it makes me wonder is, why do I need to overcomplicate things?  Why can't I just focus on one thing at a time and let it soak in?

Why do I need these constant distractions and endless chain of puzzles?

The easy answer is that, I don't.

Sometimes I remember this when I am meditating regularly.

Well, to back up a second, McCarty encapsulates the teachings of Epicurus, then asks you to state five things you will remember and use in your life.  So let me just try for that.

1.  Public life (and social networking) makes tranquility impossible.  We need a retreat from daily life, not constant engagement.  It is important to distinguish between real responsibilities and the "extras".  You have to prioritize your engagements, which for me means having real connections that create deep intimacy, not shallow Facebook interactions.  Something I've always believed in--it's better to have a few really good friends, than 1000's of acquaintances.

So why am I leaving my Facebook/Twitter/Ning/Yahoo Groups tabs open all the time?  In the goal of promoting my (and other's) Etsy shops, I am trying to open these kinds of connections with people, but is that really what I want?  Ultimately, I would like people to benefit from their interactions with me--a smile, a break in their day, a cozy, warm, comfortable scarf or two.  But it needs to be meaningful, not just another busy distraction for people.

2.  Simplicity is the key to pleasure.  We don't actually need that much to live, just appreciate what life sends you.  If you remember to take the time to savor the small things, you won't have room for desires and wants.

3.  First, see what you actually need to be happy, then don't seek more than that.  When we master our desires, we gain peace of mind.  I know that from Buddhism.  The question is really, what is essential?  My answer was basic breath, fresh air, sweet water, wholesome food, a calm, clean environment, and someone you love who loves you.  I have those things, most of the time, so why do I try to clutter it all up?  Leave everything else behind.  Don't let desire strangle you.  Such good advice to ponder...

4.  Satisfaction is unalterable by external circumstances.  Another Buddhist tenet.  The only way to find satisfaction is to look within.  More meditation, coming right up!

5.  "An unadorned life is full of pleasure and lasting satisfaction."  In America?  When are we ever unadorned?  A couple of weeks ago, I lost my nose ring by blowing my nose too hard and putting the kleenex in the trash, which was then picked up by my custodian at work and taken away.  When I realized it was gone, I felt naked.  Why?  When did this adornment become part of my identity?

Well, that's enough for tonight.  I'll come back to this another time.  Hope you have a wonderful, simple week, and feel free to chime in with your thoughts about simplicity!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

The ADD's of Creativity

How do you use your creative energy?  Are you a poet, painter, potter, or just perplexed by the thought of making something?

Throughout my life, I have dabbled in many different venues of self-expression, seemingly as an act of survival by creativity.  Swinging from vine to vine, I have grasped on to one lifeline after another in the jungle of arts and crafts.  If I try to tell this story in order, it goes something like this:

Music - I started taking guitar classes when I was in the 3rd grade.  (Never did break that resting pinky habit!)

I also played cello in junior high, something that I sometimes think of resuming, but when?

I haven't done much with it lately, but it's nice to know my guitar playing inspired my nephew to pick it up later on when he was old enough to hold a guitar.  He now has a room full of guitars and music equipment--quite the little rocker!

My niece was also curious about the object as a baby, but has since found other creative interests to hold her attention such as beading, handcrafts, etc.

I went so far as to dabble with a 4-track recorder, electric guitar, and midi keyboard after being inspired by Beck and other 90's indie music artists, but it has since fallen by the wayside...

Next up on my creative journey was probably poetry.  I think it all started with the Hallowe'en poetry contest in 6th grade.  After winning that with the likes of this:

How can you blame me, I figured I must have a talent for writing poetry.  Whew, gives me the shivers and not in a good way!

I even went so far as to take a creative writing class when I was on Study Abroad in Stratford-on-Avon.  I mean, what better place to write poetry than the possible birthplace and town of Shakespeare himself!

That creative outlet comes and goes.  Every once in a while, a poem still sneaks up on me...

Drawing was another way to indulge my fantasy world.  I remember taking a class at the Olive Rec Center (when I wasn't in gymnastics or basket weaving) and learning that I could draw things from real life as well as from my imagination.  I still have my drawing notebook from high school art class, and pick up the pencil now and again.

Painting, just an extension of drawing.  Sometimes I get in the mood, and other times blank canvases sit in the back of my closet just dreaming of their day in the sun.

Fashion design was another art-related interest.  I remember designing a horrific dress in collaboration with several friends during Mr. Mathias' math class one day in 7th grade.  He caught me with it and said, "Susan, if only your math was as good as your drawing... oh wait, it is."  I used to play with my Fashions by Me kit for hours and hours, making outfits from all kinds of gaudy material.

Later on, this gaudiness became a reality (for better or worse) in making costumes for my high school dance production shows.  The thought did cross my mind to go to FIDM after high school, but when I saw the price tag, I high-tailed it over to the local community college instead!

Speaking of dance, this one was a real life saver.  I was always so bad at P.E. in elementary school and junior high (awful hand-eye coordination and depth perception due to my bad eyesight and growing up not knowing whether I was really left- or right-handed), that when it came time to choose an athletics class for high school P.E., I saw Dance on the list and thought, "Well, at least it doesn't involve anyone throwing balls at you" and signed up for that.

I was hooked.  Here was the first time I was able to express myself in public (even though the audience probably had no clue what I was trying to communicate) without being shy and reserved.  I could use my budding seamstress skills, hairdressing, acting, and dancing and never once had to say a word to the audience.  My creativity was fully unleashed for the first time.  In fact, it ended up being my (first) college major, which later on shifted to English/Creative Writing, and then finally to Religious Studies (the B.A. I finally finished).

And lest I forget to mention, teaching is probably my most creative endeavor yet.  That one started way back when I was lining up all of our stuffed animals into a semicircle and teaching them things on an imaginary blackboard.


Later, in junior high and high school, I tutored some of my friends in math, but it wasn't until I was in my mid-20's that I finally realized this was my calling in life.  Now I've been in the classroom for 10 years and still feel that every day presents an opportunity (if not dozens) to use my creative and problem-solving abilities to the fullest.

From crafting interesting and provocative lessons to shifting your teaching angle on the spot when you see kids aren't getting it, and now, learning new ways to use technology in education, this is my ultimate love and challenge.

So there you have it!  The story of my creative life in a very large nutshell.  Hope you enjoyed coming along for the ride.  Now it's YOUR turn--what inspires you to create and what venues does your imagination come to life in?

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Falling in Love

The Safe Place by The Little Fox on Etsy

This post is supposed to be about how I fell in love with crafting and creating; however, I think I've pretty much exhausted that topic in previous posts here and here.

Instead, I feel the need to revisit those persnickety goals I came up with not so long ago (has it only been two weeks?), and check in on the progress (if any) I'm making towards them.
Goal #1 - To prioritize my time in order to balance work, shop, recreation, and my many interests:

Hah, now I realize what a pipe dream it was to think I could cut 12 hours from my work schedule.  Since I set that as my primary goal, my mind has been consumed with ideas of things I could do for work, things I want to learn about teaching and technology, and wanting to work on our class and student blogs.  It's almost as if the thought alone made me feel guilty, like I need to work overtime to make up for even thinking of abandoning my students.  Or really, I just love teaching kids and want that to be the priority over crafting and trying to sell my wares.  Could it be???

In fact, I didn't do any shop updates this week (since putting together my Valentine's Day Scarf Sale for the month of February last weekend), and you know what?  I don't feel bad about it at all.   To be brutally honest, I'm kind of glad I didn't have any sales, or I would have had to wrap the items, package them up, get to the post office (not a thrilling place my past few experiences) and get them in the mail, all on top of parent conferences at work.  I know, I know, this is sooooo not good P.R. for my shop, but I have to say it.

I did up my meditation time and that seems to be helping me not feel like it's imperative that all things must get done--NOW! Somehow, I wonder if this is what helped me decide to reprioritize my time back to teaching.

Didn't get any exercise in, because I was feeling sick again.

Goal #2: Taking the time to organize and put things away
Goal #3: Finish up projects that are already out instead of starting new ones

I did clean up the living room.  Now I'm down to one little pile of papers on the couch, but the dining room table and rocking chair are no longer being used to  hold up stacks of stuff!  I also put away most of my "in progress" projects and am down to just my regular knitting bag by the couch.

Overall, I think it was a very good week.

I guess what I'm saying through this little diatribe is that I fall in love over and over again with different parts of my life, in cycles.  Sometimes I am in creative/making things with my hands mode, and sometimes I am in research/educator mode.  And sometimes, just sometimes, I clean up the house a little bit!

(Of course, there are people I love too, but that will be another post to come....)

Jim Warren on Planet Perplex
Can you find the 7 hearts in this picture?

So, what about you?  What are YOU most in love with in your life right now?