Creativity Burst: Cloudscapes

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Look Up! What do you see?

I had the chance a few weeks ago to look up at the sky for a little chunk of time. The sky looked a lot like the picture in this post. Bright blue sky with puffy, large cotton balls floating by me. I love to sit and look at these types of clouds. A few moments in, I will let my mind go hazy — sort of on, but not completely — and then see what I can see.

What do I see? Ah! All sorts of shapes that look like images of animals, cartoon characters, or any other thing that sort of floats up into my mind. I am amazed at how many faces I find — and mostly happy, although I sometimes run into a frown or two. I think what we see in clouds often reflects how we are feeling.

Taking in cloudscapes and playing an imagery game with yourself is one way to access how you are feeling. It also allows one’s mind to turn off the logical, always on, processing mind and move toward the artistic, creative, imaginative side of the mind.

What if you don’t see anything at all? Perhaps your mind is still too turned on? Letting your mind go soft and hazy seems to be an essential element to finding what may at first appear hidden. Oh my, once you start seeing images, get ready! Every cloud that wanders by is going to show you something new.

Looking up at the clouds often fuels my creative side. I can let my mind wander and become inspired by what nature is serving up to me and I can do it for as little or as long a time as I am interested. It costs nothing and can really put you in touch with a part of yourself that is often silenced as we act and think out of our fast-paced, logical mind.

My suggestion? Look up, let your mind go hazy, and see what creative shapes, images, and more you find today.

Eco Anxiety: Finding Hope in Hopelessness

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Our Precious Earth

I was reading an interesting article last week on Eco Anxiety and how it is being felt by Generation Z. I have been curious to read an article like this one given the dire circumstances our environment is in these days. As school-aged children take in the news, I have been curious as to how they are dealing with the news and what it all may mean for their future on Earth.

The term eco-anxiety was new to me, but it also seems to capture the concern well. It’s a term coined and defined as “chronic fear of environmental doom.” With wildfires burning out of control, hurricanes destroying major cities on a regular basis, mass migration of people across the globe for political reasons, news headlines of starving wildlife, and the UN putting out reports that humans have 12 years to solve the crisis or we are all doomed, I can see why younger generations are feeling anxiety. What is their future going to look like if there is no planet to sustain them?

The article discusses in some depth how parents, teachers, and other adults can offer hope to the youth even when all of the news and statistics point to hopelessness. How does one manage her eco-anxiety?

It seems one of the best ways to help youth allay their alarmist fears is to talk about the environment in an open and honest manner. And to keep talking. Looking at the issue from a historical lens on how we got here and preparing them to critically think about ways to approach the environmental crisis differently than past generations. There is hope because they are young and have an opportunity to bring new ideas to the situation.

Still, managing eco-anxiety is something that all of us need to engage in. Even if we are middle to old age people, the planet is where we all live and her well-being parallels our own. So, instead of swinging from catastrophe to denying that there is a problem, finding a “middle space” where one can weigh up the issue and think through solutions on personal, communal, and societal levels seems to be a place of healthy management for one’s eco-anxiety.

I found it interesting to read in this article how young people feel resistant to having to take it on at all — that older generations should be the ones protecting them and the planet. They have homework to do, dates to make, sports to play, and colleges to apply for. Why should they have to be the ones to be bothered? Good question.

Being a member of Generation X, I can say, when I was young, I also wanted to enjoy my youth and time as a teen. When I say that no one worried about the environment back then, I really mean it. Recycling came in to the suburban neighborhoods sometime in the 80s and most people didn’t even engage in it too much. It was slow to dawn on any of us that we needed to stop using plastic, recycle, conserve resources, and more. Am I proud of this? No. Is this the same tug and pull Generation Z is feeling – yes. They too want the luxury of burying their heads in the sand and living life without these environmental cares.

And now time is running out. If some generation does not care, it is going to be too late. Still, balancing one’s own life with the greater concerns seems to be the way to manage eco-anxiety. Otherwise, Generation Z will become like all of the generations before — except the planet may not be able to sustain it.

The end of the article, a parent hugs her child and apologizes to her — apologizes for not having done something more to solve the crisis. I am not sure anyone needs to apologize, rather we need to dialogue honestly and work together to preserve our planet and maintain its health. Eco-anxiety will paralyze us into denial and overwhelm. Planet Earth will be more harmed by this more than anything else.

We are the hope.

Dear Therapist: My Heart is on the Line

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Dear Therapist:

I told my special someone that I love her. Dang! She didn’t return the sentiment. I’m all in and she’s not. What do I do now?

Signed, Heart On the Line

How courageous to have acted on how you felt and let your partner know. Sometimes this is the only way to open up dialogue about where the two of you are in relation to one another.

I hear how “out there” you feel given your partner has not returned her love to you. It may be a good idea to take an honest assessment of the situation – were you surprised or not? Do you feel you are on the same page with one another or did you feel that you are more invested in the two of you than your partner?

These types of questions can help you discern how you are feeling both on the surface and underneath as well. If you are in love with someone, it is natural to express it with freedom and truth. That turning toward love is worthy. Now that you know it is not returned to you in the same way, you can decide how you want to proceed with your partner and/or on your own.

This is a crossroads moment in many ways. Are you willing to wait and see if your feelings will be returned? Is it not enough to be the only one feeling the love at this point? How does your partner feel about your love? Is it prompting her to draw closer or further away from you? Notice how you are feeling as you interact and observe what is happening between the two of you.

Yes, your heart is on the line and now, because of your courageous expression of love, your partner’s truth is also on the line. What you notice and observe about yourself, your partner, and the two of you together will be key to the next steps you take.

How to Show Love Now and Always

Presence is Key!

What’s the key to love?

Haven’t poets and authors and actors waxed and waned over the years as to how to show the person you love that you indeed love her?

There is always a laundry list of “ways to show love” and “things you can do to show love.” Ah, these lists are full of small and large gestures, words to use, and presents to give the other. So many good ideas, but I am also amazed at how often it is all about the doing and very little around being.

Being together and being present to the other seems to me to be the number one way to show your partner how much you love her. That’s right — no big money, no big outside gesture, no prescribed words – just you being with your partner. Completely.

This is so difficult to do that most of us are running to those lists for the big outer thing we can do to show it — anything to avoid actually being completely attuned to another.

And, yet, isn’t that what many of us yearn for on a day-to-day basis. Someone greeting us when we come home at night and listening deeply and intently to our words and responding in kind in ways that make us feel heard, understood, and cherished.

Or when we wake up in the morning. Someone asking us how we slept, did we dream, how are you feeling as the day begins?

Or midday, your partner calls you in the middle of it all and says, “How’s it going? and then waits to hear all about it. Then, lends a reassuring statement like, “Can’t wait to hear more tonight.”

Can you imagine having your partner’s presence throughout your day such as this? Talk about showing love and the other receiving and feeling it. Even better if both partners can strive for this type of presence with one another.

The number one way to show your love is being present to the other with all of your being.

Try it – it’s so significant and transformative.

Book Review: Lark Cooking Wild in the Northwest

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Well, it is the month of love and people always say that love can often be shown through the food we serve one another. That is why I have chosen to focus on a cookbook for this week’s book review — and not just any ol’ cookbook, but one that speaks to me in more ways than one.

Lark — first off, I love the word. It ranks right up there for me with the word serendipity. When I looked up the word, its exact meaning is, according to Merriam-Webster,”a source of or a quest for amusement and adventure.” Well, now I see why I’m drawn to the word. Amusement, Adventure — and then pair that with food and I am off to the races with my imagination.

So, the restaurant, Lark, in Seattle holds a perfect name for me. Many years ago, I was so intrigued, I dined at this restaurant and was completely enchanted by its small space and plates that seemed to take my tastebuds on an adventure that evening.

Eventually, Lark moved into a new space and it is it still a grand restaurant in Seattle that I highly recommend to you. However, if you cannot make it out to this restaurant, this cookbook, Lark Cooking Wild in the Northwest is a wonderful book that captures not only their recipes, but how to make the most of our provisions in the Pacific NW.

There are three seasons of eating in the Pacific NW, according to Lark, and they include: Mist, from November to March, Evergreen, from April to July, and Bounty, from August to October. As you can guess, the names go with the themes of the season each year. The restaurant cooks within the seasons and the recipes encourage cooks to do the same.

The book itself takes me on an adventure through many favorite recipes that I have tried at this restaurant over the years — like the sun choke chips! Simple, crispy — yum!

There are so many cookbooks out there on the bookshelves, perhaps on your kitchen shelves, and this addition will make itself worthy by the recipes that will inspire you to cook with the seasons of the Pacific Northwest. Even the cover has me dreaming of the mysteries of this area.

A gorgeous book for a wild, adventurous, amusing palette — and there is always the restaurant as a back up too!

Creativity Burst: A Homemade Valentine

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It’s a week for showing people whom you love that you indeed love them. There are many ways to show someone you love her. The stores are chock full of cards, chocolates, lace, and more pink and red goods than you could ever imagine. It’s fun to stroll around and take in what has become an overly commercialized holiday.

For me, it’s inspiring to become creative and go old school. Do you remember being in elementary school and making a bright box to receive all of the Valentines from your friends at school? I believe the school rule was everyone in a class had to give a Valentine to everyone else. It was a holiday that was designed to include everyone.

You may be making a similar box for your children’s celebration, as well as picking out and/or creating Valentine cards for your kids’ friends. However, I suggest you pause right there and think about your own partner and friends and become curious with the idea of how they would feel to receive a Valentine from you?

My guess is — thrilled! When was the last time you received something handmade — let alone a Valentine? Yes, you can buy a box of cards, write a kind note, and send them off. Even using a readymade card can lead to feeling creative. Putting heartfelt words to paper, addressing the envelopes, stamping the cards, and mailing them off is certainly old school. It’s a delightful tradition.

Even more creative? Cutting out a paper heart and sending it in the mail or hand-delivering it to your partner and/or nearby friends. A hand-delivered Valentine that you cut out yourself? My word, the creativity is bursting forth.

We always think that simple correspondence projects like this would land flat, but the opposite is true. Most people never even expect a card like this in the mail — talk about putting a spring in someone’s step. I wonder how that person’s day may change and how she will move forward in her day?

Second, for you, working with paper and scissors can reignite pleasurable, old time memories that can allow one to embody one’s creativity and share the gift with one’s partner, family, and friends. It’s simple really. Add it on to the time you are spending helping your kids do their own Valentines or just take a little time, pull out some paper and scissors and a bright colored pen, and create!

Now is the time to show love!

Puppy Love

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Puppy Love

We can learn so much from our pets, particularly if you have dogs. I have nothing against cats – I even have one of my own – but there is something about how a dog, one’s loyal companion, interacts with you that can heal a broken heart, extend love, provide companionship when we are lonely, witness all of ourselves, protect fiercely, and love honestly.

Dogs are authentically themselves. You really don’t have to think too much about what they are thinking, will they or will they not be there for you, harsh judgment, a snippy reply and many other human foibles we all make each every day.

The beauty of being with our dogs can teach us how to be better for ourselves and for one another. I often think if I just took a page from my dog’s book, I would find my days easy to walk through and I would constantly be bringing good to others and our world.

This week, as we celebrate love, don’t forget your pets. Embrace them and be curious as to how much your pooch can teach you as you relate to the others in your life.

Dear Therapist: Love Is In the Air

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Love is in the Air!

Dear Therapist:

It’s one week until Valentine’s Day – to say that “love is in the air” is an understatement! Everyone is making plans, has plans, completely gaga over someone — ugh! I got no one! I’m not writing because I feel sorry for myself, although I do sometimes. More to the point, how do I get through this week when I feel completely left out.

Signed, One Lovely Heart

Yeah, I get it. Not only do I understand, I have been there myself. Haven’t we all had a year or two or three where everyone it seemed was completely in love and over the moon struck with the love bug — except you? It happens. Ugh is right!

However, these days, like all holidays, love is measured beyond only romantic love. Yes, Cupid was traditionally associated with romance between partners, but anymore love is celebrated among friends, family, and community. It is a time to bask in the glow of love — of all.

And does our world ever need this more thane ever? How to ease a heart that doesn’t have a special someone this week? Expand your thought of who a special someone is in your life?

Who is your best friend, who did something for you awhile ago that you completely appreciated, who is faithful and loyal to you, who makes you laugh, who can you call up and see the same shows you both adore — all of these people, and more, are special someones.

Celebrate them and your relationship with that person. Perhaps send a text, a note, an emoji, share a song, share a candy — whatever you have to celebrate these relationships in your life. I know it is not exactly the hot romantic dinner date that Valentine’s is supposed to promise with someone you over the moon for, but expanding out beyond this notion can really help engage you in the spirit of this loving holiday.

Celebrate LOVE with all whom you share it with this week.

Vandalism at the Cathedral

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St. Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral is my church home in Seattle, WA. With a strong mission surrounding social justice in our immediate community and beyond, St. Mark’s serves all, members of its congregation and everyone else. And I do meant everyone else. It is a welcoming place for every single person in our community – whether a believer or not.

How rare to find such a place today, particularly one that is associated with a religious denomination. But we have it right here in Seattle.

That is why my heart has been saddened by the senseless vandalism of its beautiful cathedral recently. Yes, this is what was written on the Cathedral outdoor walls. I can’t make sense of who would do such a thing – but there are many random, awful events happening in America and all the world over today. I guess it has always been happening, but with our cameras on hand and everyone sharing across social media, it’s not easy to hide these horrific acts of violence.

Luckily, it was just the church building – so much worse has happened in churches across America recently.

What do you make of it all? Does it stress you out to see such violence brought against a loving organization that serves the community? How do you make sense of these seemingly small acts of terror taking place each day?

For me, I find it necessary to keep my eyes, ears, and heart open. However, I often want to close it out and not look. How much easier would life be if I didn’t have to engage in seeing what is happening. It is easy for me to understand people checking out. It is hard to stay in.

Second, I look to the leaders for uplifting thoughts and meaning-making of these incidents so I can call myself to see what I may not be able to from the surface. Dean Thomason has done exactly this with his statement regarding the vandalism.

Finally, I take heart that I am not alone in my outrage and that there are many people who feel as I do. I am not in the minority, and together there is strength to overcome.

Still, there it is. The ugly writing on the Cathedral wall. We will wash it away having acknowledged it was there, but what next?

To that question, I have no answer.

Book Review: The Book of Mistakes

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Does this look like a Mistake?

Do you feel like you are a work in progress? I know I do! And I think that is why I am drawn to this clever children’s book, The Book of Mistakes by Corinna Luyken. As you can imagine, there are not many words on any of the pages, just often the word “mistake.”

As the artist draws a splotch here and there, an eye too big, and a foot too large, with too much space between foot and sidewalk and more, the creative process unfolds in the drawing pointing out the mistakes. Yes, many mistakes.

And then something marvelous happens with all of those mistakes. Beauty, form, creativity, whimsy, a story full of hopes and imagination. What began as something wrong became right.

How many adults – let alone children – have little patience for any mistakes that we make? If it is not perfect from the start, why bother? I have come to realize that perfection is really rather boring and all that work to be boring is pretty arduous. But, ah! Mistakes. Mistakes take us to unknown places, create journeys we never intended to take, help us see something we never would have seen without the mistake.

Mistakes personify and embody life – the creative one and beyond. We often think we can read large non-fiction books about mistakes and figure out how to make peace with our mistakes and not make them in future.

Alternatively, you can turn to a book like this that names the mistakes during the creative process and courageously follows where they lead. Ah! A fresh take on making mistakes!