Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Best Use

Bhutanese prayer bells

It's been abundant here at Creatavita all year, and these final weeks are no exception. This Thursday, I'll finally be performing Navigating The Middle, a cabaret/one-woman show/TED Talk with music/obviously I don't know what category this piece fits yet as part of the Neumann University Cultural Arts Forum. I'm also in rehearsals for Lend Me A Tenor with Resident Theatre Company (West Chester, PA). Full disclosure: I'm an understudy, and I've got more to say about that in the future, but this show is a riot. If you're in the Philadelphia area, I highly recommend it. Great cast and crew!

All of this activity means a full calendar. All of this activity means not everything gets done. All of this activity means I frequently ask myself this question:

What is the best use of the next 10 minutes of my life?

This question has encouraged me to reflect on what really matters, not on what my monkey brain tells me matters. Do I really need to answer that email right now? Do I really need to wash those dishes right now? What about exercising? What about meditation? What about breathing? What about passionate practicing?

Anybody else?

Bhutanese Festival

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Ripped From The Archives: Surviving The Holidays

Creatavita's annual holiday survival guide.  
First published way back in 2013.  
Be well my friends!

So, this won't be a news flash to any of you, but while you weren't looking, the holiday season officially arrived. Oh boy. That annual mix of joy, dread and exhaustion. The expectations are high for all of us – peace on earth, good will to men and the presents better be perfect. Every last one of them. Well, guess what darlings. I am here to throw out this radical idea - you do not have to do everything this holiday season. You do not have to buy every gift, attend every party, and keep every tradition ever known to every generation of your family or your neighborhood. Yes, I am here to say - choose the traditions that matter the most to you.

Here's my personal example. Christmas cards. Who doesn't love Christmas cards? Me too. But at some point the act of writing the annual letter or choosing the best card for each of the 179 people on our list, adding one sincere sentence to every letter or card, addressing the envelopes, and even putting on the stamps tipped from being a pleasure-filled activity to drudgery. Friends, when the act of wishing someone Merry Christmas feels like drudgery, you know you've got a problem.

So I stopped. I didn't send any Christmas cards one year. The world didn't come crashing down and there were still presents for me under the tree. So I didn't send any the next year either. That might have been the year when I sat in my office one hot August afternoon and wrote a lovely letter in place of Christmas cards. Another brilliant idea born. And although I've been known to skip a year here and there, that's what I do now - I choose another time of the year and send out a greeting. Some years a letter, some years one of those snappy photo cards I create online. Some years a Valentine, some years a Spring greeting. You know what? People seem to love receiving a truly joy-filled greeting at another time of the year. I love sending the greeting at another time of the year, when I'm not stressed to the max with holiday musts, and when I know there's a good chance my letter is the only personally-addressed envelope showing up in mailboxes around the world. And in all of the years that I've bucked tradition, I've had three people say to me “hey, where's my Christmas card?” Or “Haven't heard from you in a while. Are you still alive?” Three.

I have an assignment for you.  The good news is there is no test.  I want you to contemplate the holiday traditions that have true meaning for you. Keep those. Then I want you to consider the ones that feel like drudgery. See if you can get rid of one or two of those. Then I want you to seek out some serenity. Because.

Note:  The photos in this post come from a holiday trip I took in 2008 to Bulgaria.  The final one is of Bulgarian Mummers.  Yes, there are Mummers in Bulgaria.

Friday, November 23, 2018

Grateful Every Day

Hello my dear Creataviters,

Let's make the gratitude last all year.

Photo Friday Number 27

Be thankful for what you have; you'll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don't have, you will never, ever have enough. 

Photos, clockwise starting at the top left: Locally-grown produce in the Dane County Farmer's Market, Madison, Wisconsin; Handmade pots drying in the sun in Pottery Square, Bhaktapur, Nepal; Locally-grown tea in the Centenary Farmer's Market of Thimphu, Bhutan; Powdered colors and stamps at Pashupatinath Temple in Kathmandu, Nepal.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

My Favorite Things: My Public Library

Image result for ripon wisconsin carnegie library

I LOVE libraries. Here's the first library I remember loving. The Ripon Public Library in Ripon, Wisconsin. Yes, it was a Carnegie Library.

(If the photo isn't appearing, go here.)

I would get lost in that library for hours. Once, when I was 7 or 8, I heard the librarian answer the phone, and then heard her say, "No, she's not here anymore". I knew it was my mom, I knew I was missing dinner (or doing the dishes) and I stayed anyway. It was one of the best hideaways in Ripon at the time, and there were many.

The lower left window? That's where the young adult fiction lived, along with my favorite book at the time, The Black Opal by Dorothy Maywood Brown. That book took me so far away from that small town. I loved that book.

The designation as the first public library in the English-speaking world is claimed by Chetham's Library in Manchester, England. It was, and still is, predominantly a reference library, which means you won't find Lisa Scottoline's most recent books there.

The first library in the US - The Library Company was founded in Philadelphia in 1731, by Benjamin Franklin, of course. The first FREE library in the United States was founded over a century later, in 1833 in Peterborough, New Hampshire.

I'm getting all library-geeky on you. If you're as geeky as I am, here's a nice online exhibition about the history of libraries in the US, courtesy of the Digital Public Library of America.

Here are some of the ways I use my current public library (Ludington Library, which you can see in the photo below):
Image result for ludington library images
- ordering scripts and musical scores through the Interlibrary Loan service.
- borrowing books, recordings and videos through TWO digital apps.
- borrowing cake pans. Yes. My library has cake pans.
- meeting my Spanish tutor at the Porch, a zippy, informal meeting space at Ludington.
- wandering into the back of the library and losing myself in writing or reading.

I'm not a person who complains about paying taxes, and my love of public libraries is a part of that. Because most public libraries in the US are funded, at least in part, by local taxes, they are a fine example of all of us contributing to create a resource that is of immense value to the entire community. A public library welcomes everyone - rich, poor, young, old, doesn't matter. We all benefit. Just think about how much money you can personally save if you use your public library.

If you don't have a library card, the most creative task you can do today is to get one. Worlds you never imagined will open up to you through your public library. Perhaps that card will become one of your favorite things, just like it is for me.

Another invaluable taxpayer-funded space,
the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge

Friday, November 9, 2018

Photo Friday Number 26

Today is only one day in all the days that will ever be. But what will happen in all the other days that ever come can depend on what you do today.

from For Whom The Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway

Photo: Vietnam Veteran visiting the Cu Chi Tunnels, Cu Chi, Vietnam

Tuesday, November 6, 2018


I didn't expect to be gone this long. From Creatavita, that is.

Back at the beginning of September, I gave myself permission to take an entire month off. Beloved and I were going on a big adventure (which you will hear about) and I didn't want any responsibilities in the way. I wanted to be, as we say, fully present to the adventure. My plan was to return on October 1, rested, rejuvenated and full of creativity.

Yeah, well.

That didn't happen, did it? I've been gone for almost two months. You should have experienced the carnival in my head when I realized I had really lost my blogging habit.

Voice #1 - Screaming Dominatrix Voice: "What is wrong with you? You HAVE TO GET BACK IN THE HABIT. People are waiting to hear from you!"

Voice #2 - Snotty Adolescent Voice: "Well, if they're waiting for me, why haven't they reached out to me and told me they miss me? After all, it's 2018. They have any number of ways to find me. I don't think they really care."

Voice #3 - Calm, Peaced-Out Traveler Voice: "Hey, it's okay. Taking a break is a good idea. You'll get to it when you're ready."

Voice #4 - Organized, Wannabe CEO: "You are not sticking to the Editorial Calendar. You have messed up the entire year. What are we going to do?"

Voice #5 - Indignant Social Butterfly: "You can't just say you were too busy. That's sooo lame."

Anybody else have that many voices in their heads?

Only one thing was nurtured during this time - my addiction to perfectionism. When I let that first deadline pass, I the door to perfectionism opened. Next thing I knew, nothing was good enough. Then the carnival of voices walked right through that door...and yuck. I was back in the throes of not being perfect, which leads to not feeling good enough, which leads to inaction. It's an ugly path.

So, I'm done with that. At least this time. I think. We'll see.

I have been spending lots of brain cells reflecting on my relationship with social media. I really, really, REALLY want to spend less time on Facebook and Instagram. The time I spend out there is no longer time well spent. Also, it makes me crazy that Facebook has so much dominion over our lives. So, get ready for that. And thanks for waiting!

To keep you intrigued, here's one photo from the country that measures Gross National Happiness, Bhutan:

Buddhist Monk on a Himalayan mountain trail

Friday, September 28, 2018

Photo Friday Number 24

You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face....You must do the thing you think you cannot do."

Eleanor Roosevelt

Photo: Fearless Leader the night before she climbed to Tiger's Nest, Paro, Bhutan.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Ripped From The Archives: Stumbling Into A Memory

This post first appeared in October of 2014. 

Here's the final post from the Creatavita Birthday Party Contest.  Jackie Lacinski asked for a travel story, and I believe I have a winner.  Travel with me back to June of 2006 and to the wonderful land of Turkey.

The sun rose on Day #2 of our Turkish Adventure and so did we, with a hot air balloon ride over the Cappadocia region. This was my first ride in a balloon. The world looks so different from that vantage point, especially the world of Cappadocia.

How can I describe Cappadocia? I'll start with some history. Humans have been living here since 1800 BCE. Which means they've been fighting and conquering and hiding out here as well. The hiding out started around 400 AD, initially by Christians escaping persecution. Those early folk were clever. Because of the unusual geography of Cappadocia, extensive underground cities were developed, as well as some way up in the tops of the striking geological formations.

Yes, those squares are windows, and yes, that was someone's house.  Might still be someone's house.  Talk about getting away from it all.

One really gets a sense of how small and inconsequential we are when riding in a hot air balloon. The immense beauty of nature stands out, at least to me.

Back on the ground, the clouds rolled in. Our planned visit to the Ihlara Valley was cut short by heavy showers. No, let's make that a rainstorm. We ate lunch in a charmingly rustic restaurant next to a river swollen with the fresh rain.  Disappointed, we began to make our way back to our very cool cave hotel in Urgup.

And that's when the adventure really began. On a back road in the middle of Turkey. I noticed a number of women walking along the side of the road, all wearing shalvar made out of the same fabric. Then we passed a one-story cement-block building, constructed into the side of a hill, with at least one hundred people milling around, and even on top of the building.

In unision, we all shouted.“What's that?” to our excellent guide, Yunus Ozdemir.

“I don't know”, came the reply, “but I'm going to find out”.

And that's how we ended up stumbling into a memory. We had happened onto a traditional Turkish bride's party.  Think bridal shower on steroids.  

Like wedding celebrations everywhere, we could figure out that family and friends had gathered for a big celebration.  Some wore traditional clothing.  

Some wore Western clothing (which was most of what we saw people wearing in Turkey). There was ice cream for the kids and huge doses of happiness, laughter, joy and dancing.

Being concerned that I might commit a cultural offense, I turned to Yunus to ask if I could take a photo. “No, he sternly replied, “because you're going to dance!” and then with a big laugh, pushed me into the middle of the crowd.

As you can see, a couple of the guys were extremely inviting. Yunnus assumed these gentlemen had spent some time living in Europe, possibly Germany, hence their ease around foreigners.

The children were delightful, proudly posing for photos while eating as much ice cream as they could stuff into their faces.

I have always loved this photo. What a face. What a smile.

My lifelong fascination with textiles was indulged as I started to notice the beaded edges on the womens' headscarves.  I'll only make you look at one.  But each scarf had a different edging.  Rather creatavita, don't you think?

Midway through our crash, I remembered being told by a Canadian we had met in Ankara that it is a tradition to pin money on the bride in Turkey. The couple uses this money to start their lives together. I enlisted Yunus to help me find a pin.

I can vividly recall that moment. The wonderment in that young bride's eyes, her stunned looked at me as I pinned what was about $20 US dollars to her. My joy at being able to cross all the ridiculous political and cultural barriers to give another woman a gift, a gift from five Americans who love to travel the world, meeting real people and having real experiences.

Our crash lasted no more than an hour.  We drove away, totally thrilled by the spontaneity, by the experience, the ability to show a different side of Americans.

The next day, Yunus and Ayhan (our excellent driver) paused for this photo with Nick. It has always been one of my favorite photos. When I look at it, I see the face of the world. Three men, all young, all different in temperament and life experiences, all a part of the vast, wonderful sea of humanity.

I've surprised myself in writing this post.  I'm not one to pour over the photos and memorabilia I keep from my travels.  Yet, when I pulled out these photos and looked at our very sparse travel journal, I could feel that day come pouring back into my blood and soul.  It felt great.

Thanks Jackie.

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Wasting Time

Lately, I've been practicing wasting time, inspired by that article written by Alan Lightman.

I'm doing okay with this practice. Better than I expected. Of course it is the end of August, a time of the year I enjoy. A time of year when my body and soul seem to encourage me to live more deeply. Not necessarily slower, but deeply. High summer to me.

It is unlikely I would have taken on this practice if the idea hadn't come from Alan Lightman. After all, he's a physicist (at MIT, no less) and an accomplished writer (I love his Einstein's Dreams). If Alan Lightman wastes time, perhaps I should try it as well.

I waste time in my backyard. That is particularly joyful in the night, when I can listen to the chirping insects and watch the stars.

Saw this while I was wasting time last week.

I waste time on my walks, allowing myself to slow down and look at a tree, a flower or to say hello to another human.

I waste time laying in bed in the morning, contemplating all the abundance I have in my life.

Wasted time with friends on a boat last weekend and found this.

I waste time reading and talking to Beloved. Sometimes we sit on our porch and watch the rain.

Will I be able to keep this practice in my life? I'm not sure. I'll let you know.

Anybody else wasting time?

Friday, August 31, 2018

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Guiding Star Check In: Words Matter

I recently made a change to my Guiding Star Slogan.

I started the year with this Slogan: Embrace magnificent abundance and navigate gracefully.

Six words. For me, they were powerful.

By April, this happened: Open to divine abundance.

Four words. Even more powerful.

Another morph occurred by August: Tune into divine abundance.

Still four words. Fresh and powerful.

Peering into the Temple of Heaven

Who cares? Me. I care. You should too.

Why? Because the words we say to ourselves matter. We hear those words and we live those words.

My original Slogan was a holdover from last year, when it worked magnificently. I was reminded to not only accept, but to also embrace all of the wonders life was giving me on a daily basis.

As 2018 has progressed, that Slogan wasn't working the same level of magnificence. So I thought about it. I discussed it with my Buddy. I pondered it while on my morning walks.

I needed to stay open. I could feel myself starting to shut down. I also needed to remind myself that abundance comes from someone or something bigger than me. In that regard, I view it as being divine. I do not have to apologize for this abundance, even though the little Midwestern girl inside of me still struggles with accepting all of the wonders I have been given in this life.

As I continued walking, I realized I was open to the abundance that surrounded me. I also realized I often let the abundance go right by. I didn't pay attention. I needed to pay attention, or, as I determined was best for me, to tune in.

So I changed my Slogan. It's powerful, it's divine, it's mine.

What's yours?

Gazing on the Temple of Heaven

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Yoyogi Park, Chapter 2

The Empress fished here long ago.

Her loyal dog, Kuri, right by her side.
Dark blue kimono, hair piled high.

Wearing tiny sandals, carrying a simple pole.
Here she could fish, all alone.

Here was all she needed.
Here was all she had.

The Empress fished here long ago.
Chapter 2

What photo can I take that will show the essence, the beauty, the serenity of this place?

None. There's no one photo that can capture all this place offers me.. To be here, fully present as the meditators say, meandering the paths, listening to the city locked in its prison, thriving in my kingdom of green, that is what I must do. So simple, so difficult.

I give in. I put down the phone. My healing process is well on its way. I am content to do nothing but look and see. The sky, the trees, the branches, the leaves, the bird, the precious little bird.

Nothing is particularly remarkable about this creature. No flash of brilliant color, no enticing song. Merely a precious little bird, perched on a branch close enough to be seen. She dares me to notice her. She dares me to smile at her.

And then she speaks. The little bird speaks.

I am astonished.

And then I realize the bird and I are not alone.

Another woman has also heard the bird speak.

We smile at each other and then at the bird.

Silent together, we watch the bird.

The moment passes. We begin to speak. Both here for work, both from very different lands. She is from Myanmar; I am from the US. Both have come here today in search of green and serenity. Both amazed at the miracle of the little bird.

The bird chatters a bit again. We are entranced.

There's not much else to say. We choose instead to experience the charm of the little bird. Together. 

This moment feels exquisite. Here, in this green oasis in the center of a city, far away from both of our homes, together, all we can do is take in the moment. With a fellow traveler.

And then the bird flies away, her work done here.

If I hadn’t put down the phone, if the bird hadn't spoken, if we hadn't said hello, this moment of humanity would never have happened.

This is life.

In case you missed it: Yoyogi Park, Chapter 1