Wednesday, June 29, 2016

When Bad Things Are Happening All Around You

I have to admit that I'm annoyed by glass half-full types. Those who put on their rose-colored glasses so tightly that not a drop of reality has a chance to slip in. Everything is lovely and beautiful, nothing bad ever seems to happen allowed to penetrate their world.

But then, I'm also annoyed by the doom and gloom types. These folks relish the times of day when they can spread their negativity, poisoning all those they come in contact with. Whether it's sharing (in detail) the horrors and tragedies that are being reported in the news or the negative things they've gathered up in their own lives, being around these people is draining at best, depressing at worst.

As a self-identifying worrywart, it's easy for me to slip into either of these mindsets. Though I veer more toward the second (it's incredibly easy to get swept away in all of the "bad-ness" of the world, isn't it?) I do have times when I squish those rose-colored glasses on as tightly as I can.

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The world is a scary place sometimes. What we are doing to the Earth is frightening.

Instead of focusing on this, though, what if we look for the good being done? The positive changes taking place and the people working so hard, day in and day out, to make the world a better place don't get as much news attention. They should. Actually, they should get more.

There is nothing so debilitating as loss of hope.  

While I don't write often here about the environment, it plays a huge role in my beliefs. It's the reason that I'm so passionate about upcycling--that and the fact that I have a mother who drilled into me that waste is next to godlessness.   :)

If you're in need (as I am) of a few reminders of the great work being done to help the planet and its occupants, here is a helpful list:

  1. a Global Climate Movement
  2. Faithful Stewardship of All Creation
  3. Peace Corps--Make the Most of Your World
  4. Kiva--Loans that Change Lives
  5. National Audubon Society--Conservation organization
  6. Nature Conservancy--Conserving the Lands and Waters on Which All Life Depends
  7. Positive News--Encouraging stories from around the world
These are just a few ... which would you add?

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Creativity Isn't for Wimps

If you're a creative, chances are you've spent time daydreaming about doing your art full time.

Maybe you imagine what it would be like to be a novelist: words flowing out of you and onto the screen for hours at a time as you sit, tucked in your perfectly designed office. Or perhaps you've dreamed of being a painter full time, stacking completed canvases against a wall in your studio, waiting for the next gallery to call you and offer yet another a solo show.

Quilters, mixed media and fiber artists, illustrators, screen printers, potters ... we all dream of "someday" when our work will make it out of our studio and into the world, changing it for the better, don't we?
Altered jean skirt--circa 2007 in a college art course

Here's something that came as a revelation to me recently: making art is scary.

I've always been a creative who works in starts and stops. For a long time I blamed this on my propensity for switching gears. I get bored easily so I need to make room to change my mind, try new things, experiment frequently. While this makes sense when you're first trying a new creative field--say metalworking (which I didn't enjoy), pottery (enjoyed but too much room/expense required), or mixed media (loved and still love) at some point you have to really delve in to get into something.

Recently I was listening to a podcast, "Live Creative Now," by Melissa Dinwiddie. In it, she talked about creatives like me, who like to switch gears a lot, try new things. So much of what she said in that episode resonated with me. But one thing that I realized as I went back to my creative space the next day is this: fear is a great liar.

I mentioned before that I'm applying to be part of STRUT! and fashion show held as part of Art Hop in Burlington, Vermont. When I accepted the creative challenge I was so excited to get started! I practically ran to my studio to start cranking out beautiful, unique upcycled clothes.

Something funny happened, though. I kept getting stuck. I couldn't get the sleeves of one garment to fit another and didn't know how to fix it. I started making a skirt from a pair of jeans and it ended up looking lumpy and strange around the rear end. The skirt I painted on and appliqued had a funny, twisted up hem, making it appear crooked when I tried it on. After several days of problematic sewing and designing a little voice started to remind me how much I enjoy 2-D mixed media, using paper and found objects.

"This isn't your medium. You don't know what you're doing, really. Why not go back to what you love?"


"Who do you think you are? You're no designer. Leave that to the professionals and go back to what you know."

The "who do you think you are," question was a sure sign that I was scared. That annoying little phrase always pops up when I'm trying something new and am freaking out because it's imperfect. So part of me was dying to toss in the towel and forget about upcycling clothes and making textile art. The other part of me dug in my heels and said, "no way. I'm not giving up on this again."

I've tried upcycling clothes and accessories in the past with mixed results. The "failures" always bothered me so much that I eventually packed up the clothes I'd collected and either set them aside or gave them back to the thrift store.

This time was different though because I recognized that voice of fear. It wasn't that I was bored, or disinterested (though another voice tried to convince me I was!). It was that I was afraid to be creative in a medium I'm not as comfortable with (fabric) and tempted to run back to one that I know much better (paper).

Creativity isn't for wimps. While "they" (whoever "they" are in your life--family members, co-workers, the corporate world at large) may think that being an artist is all airy-fairy and an easy cop out to "real work," it's not. It's challenging to learn new things, to let yourself make mistakes, to make flops. It's hard to put work that you love and have poured yourself into out in public for others to find fault with, critique and maybe even make fun of.

If you can let yourself experience the joy of creating--even the hard parts where the process doesn't feel joyful in the least--you'll be blessed with so much freedom, though. Freedom from fear, from normality, from trying to fit your square self into that round hole. Being what you're meant to be is so much more rewarding than any attempt to make yourself into someone you are not.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

How Spending Time in Nature Changes You for the Better

You might wonder why, if this is a blog dedicated to upcycling and living with less, I don't talk a lot about all that's going wrong in the environmental world. 

The truth is that the statistics make me feel anxious, the articles about how we're ruining the earth leave me feeling apathetic (what can I do in the face of all that?) and our lives of consumerism make me break out in hives. Don't get me wrong: I try not to shop big box stores, but I certainly don't always buy organic/local/eco-friendly either. 

Studies show that we're staying indoors more than ever before. An eye-opening article by NPR Americans Spending Less Time in Nature, is educating, albeit depressing. 

Maybe if we all got out in nature more often, we'd take better care of the planet.

I remember spending hours outside when I was a kid. My mother had four children, so sometimes she would kick us out of the house to get the cleaning done. I created imaginary houses within the thick tree trunks, boats out of fallen logs, and magical kingdoms on the little stream that would freeze over in winter. 

I learned a lot about the woods just by being in them. 

I learned that old, wet wood peels apart exactly like turkey in flakes and chunks, the smell and taste of clover, the way the leaves turned "inside out" before it rains.

As a parent, I feel particularly concerned that my son isn't getting enough time outside. Sometimes it feels like an uphill battle, but I believe that all kids (and many adults, if they'll let themselves) are naturally curious about nature. Why does that plant make seeds there? What's inside this shell? How old is that tree? Why is the butterfly that color? 

It's not easy to get access to outdoor places, especially if you live in an urban environment. Still, nearly every place on earth has a park, a small patch of grass or some other natural setting to explore. 

If you're fortunate enough to live in a rural setting or have easy access to one, try one of these fun outdoor activities and see how you and your family feels after spending time in nature.  

1) Go geocaching. This is a sort of nature treasure hunt--geocachers "plant" caches in different locations. Seekers must find the cache using only a GPS.
2) Go for a hike. It doesn't have to be long and arduous. Listings of quickie hikes and easy trails should be listed on your state's forest parks and recreation website.
3) Have a picnic. So what if it's cold? Bundle up and build a campfire in your backyard. Spread some blankets around the fire and enjoy a yummy meal together.
4) Garden.
5) Explore your local state or local wildlife refuges. These have some great walking/snowshoeing trails and normally lake or river access for canoeing.
6) Buy a used telescope and explore the stars and galaxies together.
7) Walk the dog.
8) Go on a family walk and clean litter off the roadside as you do it (don't forget gloves!).
9) Go Letterboxing. Similar to geocaching, only you stamp a small log book instead of finding a cache. Requires no GPS.

These are just a few ideas, I'm sure you can come up with a lot more of your own. The important thing is just to try to get out there--even if it's once a week. My bet is that the fresh air, movement, and connection to nature will have you wanting more in no time.

What do you think? What's your favorite way to spend time outdoors?