Archive for the ‘Explorations’ Category

Creative Second Guessing

As a kid, my mom supplied me with Tinker Toys. I hated them. Flat out didn’t like it. You were just given a bunch of pieces and there was no plan to them, no already outlined end goal. I have always liked to color in the lines. ALWAYS. I liked to have things as the color they really are (pineapples should not be purple and blue. . . they are brownish yellow with green on top — as I was big on proving when I was 3).

This doesn’t mean I lack creativity. But I lack that free flowing thought process that a lot of others do have. I am not good at taking something and instantly modifying it to fit my needs or wants — cooking is not a creative process for me.

A lot of this stems from not being comfortable with the task at hand or second guessing myself. As my driving instructor would tell me, for eleventy-billionth time, “Stop second-guessing yourself, you know how to get into 2nd gear!” I’d do it every single time. I’d freak out and stall the car. Can I drive stick now? You’d better believe it. Have I done anything creative with it? Yeah, I’ve popped it into second when I started off driving instead of 1st gear and even hopped gears, but I got comfortable with the car I was driving and THEN felt I could get a bit more creative in how I was doing things. Downshifting, accelerating into curves, and learning about the sounds and feel of the car. But these things weren’t immediate questions. . .

So Tinker Toys pissed me off. I wasn’t told what to do with them, I was just urged to “make something.”  But… WHAT. . . there are NO guidelines, no ideas, and no one said, “Create a box with a wheel inside of it.” I would make things that just fit together and felt right, but I had NO idea what I was doing. I was so far outside of any comfort zone that when I was asked what I’d made, I might have a story for it, but it left me so uncomfortable that I couldn’t wait to take it down.  I was never secure in my creative process. And because of this unknowing and people doing the , “OOOOOO, that’s amazing!!” thing, I was just pissed off by it. This isn’t ‘amazing,’ it’s just a weird shape and it has no actual purpose . .  it’s just thrown together and I don’t even know WHY . . . there’s just nothing else to DO with these sticks and wheels with holes.

Legos were a bit more logical and I’d make houses with rooms and layers of things. I’d play with the little people and they’d pick flowers and have walls that were all one color. I liked the regularity and that the basic pieces worked with my thoughts. And then you had the collections where you had an end goal and a set of directions on how to build it. They were (and still are) the best. You follow the instructions and lo and behold, you’ve built the thing on the cover of the box. It isn’t … creative, but it is creating something. You are given an end goal and the means to get there. Is it more fun to create the way yourself? Perhaps. But I’m always wary, because of second guessing.

My best friends and I created a comic book when we were about 11. It was AMAZING. We came up with characters, we drew the characters, we made these powerful female characters come to life. I used a sketch my super artistic friend did to come up with my character drawings as I did not have the drawing skills my friends. My mom was our biggest champion and we all hunkered around our dining room table coming up with these characters and some story lines. It didn’t really take off, but one of these friends is bringing them back to life again. It’s magical to be part of a creative force, but I could never have done it on my own and with these friends dragging me along for the ride. In creating characters my mind would literally go blank. I had no idea where to go with it. . . no way to let the ideas out and so we teased them out of me.  . . I’m sure it was stressful for everyone else to watch me struggle.

And now I’ve started one of those DIY Planners. They have another term that has become popular, but honestly, this system isn’t a few years old. People have been creating planner/journal combos for decades and even hundreds of years. It’s not a novel concept. I’ve always ended up turning some portion of my journal into a task list or mini-calendar, but never really went much further than that. But now I’ve decided instead of spending the $18 on a 2018 Planner, I’d actually make my own with a blank book. Did I Google and read countless blogs and websites? Yup. Did I try to create a few things on my own? Sure. I’m about 2-3 weeks in (2 weeks of the actual big planner creating side of things) and I still find myself Googling everything I can to see what others have done. My biggest take home is that people keep saying, “It’s such a creative process, you can be your own unique self” and then EVERY DAMN PERSON has the same font/script scrawl. Are you all using the same “I’m unique” stencils? Seriously, what IS THIS?! So then I started to see some that didn’t have the same font and I was drawn to the weirdness, the creative, the “OMG that person can draw some SERIOUS foxes!!!” It’s daunting to see just HOW creative people have gotten but it’s also reinforced some of the ideas I’ve previously had. It’s like, “Oh… okay.. so when I started that one idea of boxes, it actually could have ended up like this if I’d just shifted the lines down a bit more.”  It helped me to see that I was on the right path, and where I got frustrated, I just needed to reassess.

I will say, the creativity of doing this myself with some inspiration (I drew out some really tiny sketches of potential weeks or months to get an idea down to see if I liked it) has been interesting. Do I think it looks nice? No. Will it get better? Oh yes. I have busted out the colored pencils, and run to the store to buy a cheap ruler (49 cents!!), a compass (yay circles!), and colored ballpoint pens. I have crayons waiting in the wings (I apparently unearthed my creative box while unpacking things, huzzah for that!).

There is something comforting about the rigidity of boxes and lines and that I actually have to put in some effort to create them – counting out the lines on the page or measurements on the ruler, doing some quick math and then putting ink to the page to make it show up. And then adding some color with my pencils. No crazy scripts, no doodles, just a bit of color and some attempts at being creative.

I look forward to pushing my comfort zone and maybe one day I will be the inspiration for an idea, rather than needing that inspiration to get out of first gear.


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** From September 2014 **

Today I, and 6 others, helped a friend load her moving truck. She is moving away to Texas and we are all really going to miss her.  It’s going to be really weird on Monday to not have her come downstairs to say hello or to talk about gardens and SI and games and Mahjong.  She’s become a huge part of my weekly routine and now that routine is gone.

Oh the flip side, seeing how organized and diligent she’s been about her move makes me want to get just as crazed and organized as she’s been. There’s so much to learn from the friends and people around you.  I forget this lesson from time to time and just wallow in my own head, but I’m trying to clean up that muck and push forward.

One organizational tip from her is to use colored duct tape on boxes, tubs, etc to mark what room it belongs in or a general hint to what it contains.  I’m currently using fluorescent orange to mark our book boxes. So far those are all the boxes I have, but we have other things already packed up that are the wrong season.  I need to make an assessment of those boxes and apply the necessary duct tape color.

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That moment when…

you realize you are in love with someone

But that someone isn’t anyone you’ve met.

It’s who you will become.

It can be hard to stand on the edge of that precipice and see that image glittering in the air of possibility, and you can’t quite see what’s behind it, or how it came to be there. You just know that the only way to truly meet that person is to leap. . . and hope the path shows up. Trust in that leap.


This message brought to you by seeing an opportunity open and being given a chance at something that was the whole reason for moving.

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A few weeks ago I attended a concert of an artist I have tortured my mom with on a 5 1/2 hour car ride to Pittsburgh. I played ONE song over, and over, and over, and over. Occasionally I’d flip to the B side of the tape and play the first song on that side. Basically she tolerated her 8 year old’s obsession with a song she was pretty darn sick of. This repeated song made me sick of the album about 2 years later and I put the tape away. Refused to play it. Then, when I was about 16 I took it out of retirement and realized I still knew every darn word. . . of MOST of the album.

Cue to about 10 years ago when I introduced my husband (then boyfriend) to this album and he was pretty taken with how unique it was.

Cue to a few weeks ago, and I was done with the back and forth of, “should I, well, maybe not, but I could, but really??? well… okay… yes… no.. wait… REALLY!??!”  It was a moment of me saying, “You know what, screw it. People hate this artist and thing the songs are annoying, but I love them. I am going to burst into tears during my favorite song which HAD BETTER BE PERFORMED. . . *ahem*

Lo and behold, I went to the show, by myself, and sat in the back row on the arena floor. I made friends with the couple in the same row (there were 4 seats, and the one next to me was empty). They had been fans for over 20 years. I told them my story and they thought it was WONDERFUL I had decided to attend the show. I had paper towels from the ladies room, because I was going to cry. No doubt about it.

The announcer came on and said that there would be a solo artist this evening. No opener, no extra people, just… the ONE person, and the band. My husband was jealous because a favorite guitar player was in the band that night. I told him there was an empty seat next to me, he could come on down. . . but no.

So the lights went down, the music started, the backup singers did their thing, and then the door opened at the back of the stage and out came… Neil Diamond. It was possibly the best show I’ve seen in a VERY long time. His pants had sequins on the sides, like the band stripe for kids in band, only these were sequins and sparkled with every step and sway. He opened the show with Cherry, Cherry. The crowd went nuts. He did a few ballads, I lost it during He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother. Sorry people, it’s a powerful song and whatever vocal training and warm ups Neil had done, they worked. He sang it beautifully. I learned that Red, Red, Wine is a Neil Diamond song. He sang I’m A Believer, like The Monkees’ version (if you hear his original version it’s more with steel drums and sounds a bit strange to the Monkees-trained ear).

So, this song that I played over, and over and over again — Cracklin Rosie. It’s the first song on Taproot Manuscript. I had never listened to another album, even though my parents have two others. I only knew every single song on Taproot Manuscript. During the show, he did a few others from that album (He Ain’t Heavy is one). Cracklin’ Rosie was during the encore, AFTER the 12 minute version of Sweet Caroline. It felt like it went on forever, and it probably did. . . but I was anxious to hope that he’d actually perform the song I spent many of my childhood years (which culminated in that 5 1/2 hour Cracklin’ Rosie marathon) listening to and not totally getting what most of the lyrics meant. He did it. I burst out sobbing. I was so happy. He bloody did it and I finally heard a song I’ve loved since I was, as my dad would put it, a tiny tiddle-toddle.

Thank you Neil Diamond for making insanely catchy tunes.

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Two weeks ago I was sitting in a hotel room in Salt Lake City debating on a job offer and the counter offer my current company had given me. The job offer was a job back in Montana and the counter offer involved a transfer to Salt Lake City. Health concerns, job security and happiness and quality of life for me, the husband and the pup were all whirling through my head. And then I had a sudden lurch of panic — I found a lump in my left breast. Holy hell was I mad. I had a fibroadenoma when I was 19 in that same breast and now THIS. The damn thing felt like a square of gum, like the ones in those foil packets that became popular 10 or so years ago. Anyways, I had a monster panic at 11 pm and started google searching and calling my mom. I had my panic rant and then we got down to business — we currently live in Phoenix, which has a MONSTER Mayo Clinic campus. The Mayo Clinic is possibly one of the best places I could go for a diagnosis. Turns out that the Phoenix campus has one of three breast center’s in the country. The others are in Minneapolis and Florida. I filled out the online appointment request form and finally fell asleep. Three days later  when I was visiting with people my phone rang and I spent the next 24 hours trying to get through to the appointment people with the Mayo Clinic. It is apparently a 15-30 min wait to get to their schedulers. THANKFULLY I did get through to someone and made an appointment for that Friday. I wasn’t going to waste ANY time twiddling my thumbs.

One thing a friend told me that week was the goal of taking action. Everything is worse before you take action. The act of movement releases some of the tension and anxiety. You will never move forward and onward without taking action. I would not have slept that night at the hotel if I had not taken action. I would not have felt okay about myself and my health without taking action to call the appointment office back.

So, 8 days ago I went to the Mayo Clinic with my in-laws chauffeuring me and my husband with them too. Support system? Yeah, I have one. And it’s a pretty dang great one too. This isn’t to say my parents wouldn’t have been there, but the in-laws had already planned a vacation to come see us that weekend. Talk about timing. That Friday was a total wash for focusing on anything but this medical potential panic. I met with a great nurse practitioner who pretty much immediately said, “you’re going in for a mammogram and ultrasound.” Well, duh, I could have diagnosed that much, but glad to know we were on the same page. I went out to the schedulers and asked when the next available appointment was for a mammogram — in 1 hour. It was about 15 minutes to the other campus where I’d go for that and away we went. We got there 40 minutes before the appointment but I checked in anyways and was seen 10 minutes later.

I have never had a mammogram. It has been a horrendous fear that as I get older I will need to face the breast squishing agony that women have to go through. I am not well endowed and cleavage is something that is fairly minimal on me. To think that I have to put the little I have on a tray to be squished by a plastic plate is NOT a comforting thought. Well, now I’ve experienced it and I’ve got to say, there are several positions that are uncomfortable and the rest are a full out painful experience. Give me an ultrasound any day of the week, because YIKES.  Both technicians (for the mammogram and ultrasound) were amazing women and I am very grateful for their ease of conversation and attitude towards the procedure.

The end result of all of this is that I have a benign cyst. I’m NOT enthused about this, but I am no longer in full blown panic mode. I was able to have a great weekend at the Grand Canyon and relax. I am still worried that it will need to be drained, but that is a fairly minor procedure compared to what this could have been.

I think the left side of my body is just going to cause trouble . . . door slammed on ring finger when I was 5, left foot broken at 18, fibroadenoma at 19 and now a benign cyst. . . oh, and that endometrioma that had to be drained that I blogged about too.So, dear left side, I don’t know why you need cause so much trouble, but I’d appreciate it if you’d stop getting so dangerously creative. Thanks!




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There has been a lot of upheaval in the world and in my life. Right now we are facing the hunt for a new place to live and THAT is just a thrill a minute. It also means the ever enjoyable job of searching for a job or getting a transfer to a new office. While I am not the biggest fan of the job hunt, it always opens my eyes to what I feel I CAN do and what I WANT to do. I’ve recently debated on being an Environmental Planner or maybe get in to Environmental Engineering.  When I was an undergraduate I debated on going to the Engineering school, but I would have been in college for about 6-7 years and that wasn’t very appealing at the time. There are some unique circumstances there that I won’t go into now.

Sometimes I sit back and wonder if the Engineering Genetics didn’t have the right idea. But I really like Conservation Biology. I believe quite strongly in it and have continually tried to pursue a job that at least touches on that field.

Environmental Planning = I can learn a lot of it on the job and don’t necessarily need more school.

Environmental Engineering = the only way is more school from what I can see.

I have actually started watching the MIT Online course for Differential Calculus. Can you guess what it starts with?  DERIVATIVES!! Okay, so I might miss math a bit. I haven’t had to actually remember any of my maths or statistics for quite some time because the jobs I have taken didn’t need those skills.


Time to go watch some Calculus classes and see if I still want to keep going down the road of a career change.

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The urge to create is sometimes like a mosquito bite — you don’t know when it happened but all of a sudden it is a raw itch that you can’t ignore. Although creativity is far more pleasant than a mosquito bite, it is also something that if you don’t listen to when it’s nagging will leave you feeling like you missed out on some amazing brain fireworks. It’s that, “You know, I was going to do… this thing… now… what was it?”

Recently I wrote a letter to my uncle. Nothing remarkable there right? Except this was a real letter with pen and ink and the pen in question was a fountain pen — it’s part of our deal for writing letters to each other. If you are going to have a pen pal, it is sometimes vital to find the right writing instrument for the job. I have several fountain pens — two are the “under $20” variety and I have used them on any kind of paper. They don’t dance across the paper in smooth swirls and dips like a recently acquired pen. I also really like that the newer pen only has a bladder, not a “it can take cartridges or bottled ink.” It changes the feel of the pen and how I interact with it. This one has a metal ‘button’ you press to fill the bladder. Another pen, a gift from my dad a few years ago, has you twist the end of the pen to fill the bladder. None of these pens are ‘works of art’ or something you’d want to insure — goodness knows what I would do with a $1500 pen!!

I guess this comes down to you have to acquire the tool that allows you to reach your potential. It’s like using a pair of “whatever was on sale” running shoes and then finally going out for a pair or real running shoes that make your feet happy the second they’re tied on. There was a guy who worked at a running store who flat out refused to sell you a pair of shoes unless you were almost instantly comfortable in your shoes. This was to guarantee a reduced chance of injury due to a poor fit in the shoe and also to help you understand that your feet do not care about the color scheme or your shoes. I tried on just about every shoe in the store and finally had to go with a trail running shoe that we had the preconceived notion would be a poor choice for what I wanted to do. My feet didn’t care, they knew what they wanted and that was how it was going to be.

When your tool challenges you to push further and achiever more, you are building those skills to achieve a goal that might have seemed unattainable and is now visible on the horizon.


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