Creativity Burst: Update a Classic Children’s Book

Update a Classic Children's Book

I always loved the Frog and Toad book series and so was sort of delighted to see this updated little chapter for the times we are in today. Give it a read — it will only take you a few minutes and it’s clever!

However, this whole idea sparked a creative idea out of my own imagination. What would be such a fun way to have a creative burst of energy is to reimagine any of our favorite stories from childhood into a modern version of what is going on in the here and now.

Perhaps you think this is only for kids to do — and, yes, I agree rewriting one of their favorite books with characters they love to think about the pandemic or the election year would be a great way to help them process the news of the day.

However, I also think it would be a fun way for adults to reimagine what is going on in their own lives right now. Did you love fairy tales? Well, tell me then, how does your favorite one handle COVID? How does another handle societal unrest? Sometimes by imagining what our characters would do, we can become creative with what we do to handle the times we are living in.

You don’t even need to write it all down, you can simply tell the story to yourself or to friends and family. I was delighted by learning how Frog and Toad handled their out of quarantine adventures. It helps me think of my own experience imaginatively.

And we could all use a little creative imagination right now to help us bear it all.

Early Signs of Autumn

Early Signs of Autumn

Happy End of August! I can hardly believe it is the last day of the month.

Yet, when I look around and tune into the current days, I can definitely tell there are early signs of Autumn all around me — and you too if you are in the northern hemisphere.

First off, as I have taken walks in the woods around the Pacific Northwest, I see the smallest tinges of color among the green leaves. And even the green leaves have lost their brilliance. Oh there is still plenty of green, but it has taken on a dull, tired hue. The leaves still seem to want to cling to summer, but are on the brink of adding some color to their character. I see it here and there. It surprises me as I’m not quite ready — and yet, I love Autumn.

Then I notice that the days are shortening — it’s dark when I wake up in the morning and the sun is down and dark by 8 pm. Ah. Shorter days where we pull our blinds early and hunker indoors a little earlier day by day. It’s still lovely weather during the day, but as the sun goes down it gets cooler and I find myself pulling on long sleeved T’s to match the cooler evenings.

I ended up tossing out my petunia plant this past week as well. She was still flowering, but she was beginning to droop and look tired. Wait, what? I love my flowers, but when I see these tell tale signs, I know it’s time to buy a mum and call it a day on my summer flowers. I love watering my flowers morning and night and so this ritual comes to an end as I look toward Autumn.

What signs are you seeing that Autumn is on her way? We still have three weeks or so until Autumn officially arrives, but well before that date, signs of the new season are all around. During this pandemic year, the idea of hunkering down indoors once again may hold less appeal than other years. Yet, no matter, nature changes the seasonal calendar.

Showing up, taking it in, and being present to these early signs of Autumn are an important ways to prepare for the impending change of season.

Creativity Burst: Painting

Painting

Not sure if it is the pandemic or something else or both, but I look around and see a lot of people painting.

They are painting houses, walls, furniture, rooms, paintings, and more. People have found a color and a brush and are putting both to task freshening up their décor with a fresh coat of paint. It seems like one of the easiest and least expensive things you can do to change the mood of a room a home or a piece of furniture.

Paint it.

Also, the process calls for a creative heart. You get to choose your color. Let’s say your room was dark – now you paint it white. Hello! The whole mood of the room has changed – and vice versa too. 

Painting also often has you taking down your pictures and covering your furniture and that also often gets a creative refresh when you have to choose what goes back up on the walls. Also, you may add other decorative elements to match your new painted walls – pillows, accent rugs, and more.

And don’t think you have to get fancy. White walls are also amazing. Did you know there are warm and cool tones of white that can really change the look of your room. White is anything but boring and will also need some attention to choose how you would like your white to look.

And, if you dare, how about a deep, bold color like red or purple? How about pairing the two together? Sometimes taking a bold step with colors we choose to paint with can be a prelude to other bold steps in our lives.

If it is painting a picture, how expressive. I hear that Paint By Numbers has become fashionable once again. The idea of painting almost feels meditative. One can safely be in one’s space alone or with one’s family and undertake a creative task that is full of color and transformation. Once you are in your new rooms of color, who knows what may alight upon you.

Stay Open and Paint!

Money and Spreadsheets

Money and Spreadsheets

Times are tough – as they always are when it’s the topic of money.  As such, financial experts and advisors tell people to create a budget and stick to it. Indeed, I hear a lot of people are tracking their money these days.  One of the best ways people do this is by creating a spreadsheet. If you set it up right, the spreadsheet will show you all the money you have going in, going out, seeking to save, and more. 

All there, in one neat place, your whole financial life can be seen and tracked. Sounds like a great idea on one hand, and, like most everything, it can also have a downside too.

Whenever I hear someone saying they are setting this up, it always sounds like a New Year’s Resolution – something to help break a bad pattern or to gain more control or to start a new leaf with money. It always seems to begin from the premise of improving one’s money circumstances. Something has gotten the person to feel that a spreadsheet will provide the solution needed to money ails.

On the surface, a spreadsheet tracking money can absolutely be something that is good and helpful in a person’s life. However, it is rarely the answer to stopping negative ways of interacting with money that reflects how we feel about ourselves. Instead, a spreadsheet can often act like a highlighter as to all that we do wrong, which can then lead into feeling bad about ourselves.

I would suggest asking yourself what is motivating you to track your money in such a concrete way? Is it to actually track your money or is it to highlight a part of yourself that you feel bad about already and this spreadsheet will serve as a tangible reminder of this “bad” part of you?

By asking yourself this question you can get a sense if tracking your money via spreadsheet is a healthy thing for you to undertake or is it just another tool to keep you tied to bad thoughts about yourself and others.

Be honest – as this may be the costliest decision of them all.

Dear Therapist: Quarantine Envy

Quarantine Envy

Dear Therapist:

Hate to admit it, but after reading an article this week on something called “Quarantine Envy,” I think I’ve got a case of it. Everyone around me seems like they are having an easier time with staying in with whomever they are staying in with. They are either off at their summer home or don’t have any kids to have to worry about with school or just seem happier than me. How do I put it aside and be happy with just how I am quarantining?

Sincerely, Quarantine Green Eye

You must be referring to this article in the New York Times this week discussing Quarantine Envy. It was a new term for me too. I mean I would never think that people would find quarantine to be a time to envy another person. However, we are such a competitive and comparative society, I suppose it makes sense that people are looking around and seeing who has quarantine easier or more enjoyable or less complicated or something else.

Envy is wanting what someone else has, but the truth of the matter is “the grass is always greener on the other side.” We really don’t know what it is like to be in someone else’s quarantine situation. Perhaps your friends are hunkered down in their beach home with one another. From the outside, the home, the setting, and all looks like something to be envied. Yet, the truth of the matter is it may be just a bunch of miserable people inside the fabulous beach home rather than their regular old home.

Same when you look at people without children. Perhaps their lives are less complicated not having to deal with school openings, but it can also be far lonelier than those with families of kids. I think this is why many single people and childless couples have been adopting pets like crazy during this time. People are lonely. Perhaps there is freedom and quiet without kids, but there are other truths that then must be faced.

Everyone is trying to paint on a sunny, happy face for themselves and their loved ones. If someone is trying hard to sell you on their quarantine being amazing and spectacular, take it with a grain of salt. We just don’t know. My guess is the person has her share of ups and downs like all of us.

Now, step out of your own mind for a second and peer into your life. Yes, the one you are living right now. See! There is so much to envy!

Creativity Burst: Cake For Breakfast

Cake for Breakfast

Here’s a fun trick — something I often do the day after my Birthday or when my sweet tooth is really calling out to me: I eat cake for breakfast.

What’s so tricky about that? Not much, except you have to trick your mind into thinking its acceptable to eat cake at 7 am on any given morning and feel good about it. Another favorite tip is to eat breakfast for dinner — say eggs and bacon at 6 pm? Of course, there is always brunch where we get away with eating the sweet and savory all at once during a midday meal.

For me, if I remember to eat cake for breakfast, it really starts my day off fun. Just to look at the cake on a plate early in the morning is decadent. Then to give in and indulge with a nice cup of tea. Could there be anything better?

Change up your schedule and eat different types of food at different times of day. Even something as simple as this can get your creative juices flowing and inspire more creative ideas for your day.

Now, you could even get up and bake a cake to get your day off to the right start — creativity and sweetness. It almost feels like that is exactly what I am doing when I make up a batch of blueberry muffins or cinnamon rolls. Those are so cake-like and sweet, it feels like I am making cake for breakfast.

Try it. Mix up your meals and indulge in something different for you and your family. I will grab my fork and be right over. Let’s see what creative ideas spew forth as we enjoy some cake in the early am hours.

Organizing Books

Organized Books

It’s time for a summer project. Such as organizing books!

Or that is what I said to myself at the beginning of the summer. Here it is heading into mid-August and the season is flying by and I have barely begun.

My summer project was to organize all of my graduate school books, as well as to review all of my other books that I have been collecting over the years and give them some semblance of order alongside the school books. Books always seem to offer a juicy project to take on.

When I moved into my office last year, I literally dumped all of my academic books on to the shelves to deal with another day. They were quite an investment and so I wanted to make sure that at some point they were organized enough that I could find them and use them for future reference.

So, I have decided to break up my project into a few parts. First, organize the school books so that I can easily access them. Also, consolidate them into one area of bookshelves rather than taking up all of the space.

Second, go through my boxes of books looking for ones I can easily discard and keeping the others. Looks like they are also finding a home in my new office too. I want to know what I have and so it is essential to sort through the mess of it all.

Outside of my academic books, most books I read and give away or delete from my Kindle. Still, there are many books that I have been given and/or that I have bought that mean the world to me. These are the ones that are worth holding on to and spending significant time organizing over the course of a season.

Also, I know I will find some new books that I want to share with you. Even better!

Do you have a summer project like mine? Are you organizing something, getting rid of stuff, or accumulating more for a certain purpose? May your summer project be full of something good for you.

Often projects like these not only help organize our stuff, but also ourselves.

Low Grade Depression

Photo Credit: NPR

Recently, Michelle Obama launched her own podcast, which is already successful with many people tuning in each week. The most recent episode has her discussing her “low grade depression.”

Actually, the statistics suggest that 1 in 3 Americans are suffering from a similar low mood, given all the stress we are under in our personal lives and the collective society. If you are having a consistent low mood these days, know that you are not alone.

For Obama, she noticed that she is slower in what she is doing, going to bed late, waking up in the middle of the night, not always working out — and trying to go easy on herself and accept how she is feeling in the moment without feeling guilt or shame about not getting to everything as she used to.

She notes she combats her low grade depression with exercise, routine, rituals such as eating dinner together, and finding ways to connect with her family on a regular basis. These are all sound steps to finding a rhythm that honors the current mood, but also allows one to be in the low mood without pressure to have to get out.

Americans are taught on some fundamental level that mental illness, like depression, is not real. Rather, we control our capacity to not feel depressed. If we are feeling this, there is something wrong with us. We are not positive enough, we are suffering from a condition that is not real, and more. So many of us have to pretend that we are not depressed in order to meet society’s expectations otherwise we are judged and dismissed.

I am grateful to Obama for naming her low grade depression to help name something that many, many people experience, especially during a pandemic where our lives have been significantly curtailed. I appreciate her normalizing that a low mood is something common and to be present to it rather than push it away. Naming it, being present to it, and taking action to help one’s self ease the depression are all keys to feeling better.

So, if you too are experiencing a low mood, make space for it. Create rituals and routines that will care for yourself. No need to push it away, but recognizing it and being honest that your are in a low grade depression is essential. Yes, engage with people. Yes, take a news diet. Yes, engage in activities that promote your mental health well-being. The list goes on and on, but do not deny or run from it.

If your low mood continues to persist or it worsens, seek out therapy to treat your depression. Sometimes working with a counselor can help alleviate your symptoms as well.

Be well!

Doomscrolling

Doomscrolling. What a clever word for something many people are doing today.

Most of us were attached to our phones before the pandemic and political craziness of 2020 had taken hold. Yet, now something different is happening when we reach for our phones. It’s like the Temple of Doom.

We turn it on, head to our favorite social media sites, and go down the doom tunnel. A horrific article about the politics of the day to the ever-widening death toll from the pandemic to the economic havoc and mayhem — and that’s just the start. Another critical part of the doom scroll is reading all of the comments. I often think the comments grab us into doom more than the news itself.

All of a sudden, we are reading, scrolling, getting amped up, becoming anxious and depressed all at once — and it just keeps going. Compulsively we continue the doomscroll barely able to take a breath away from all we are reading. Someone told me he finally stops when there is no new doom to read. Seven hours in he takes leave of his phone!

This article in the Washington Post lays out what doomscrolling is and how to reign it in so you aren’t relying on the doom all day long. Some ideas in the article include changing your screen color to gray, spending limited amounts of time on-line in these ways, finding places on the Internet that offer the exact opposite of doom – like cute pictures of animals.

A few more ideas – actually purchase a real newspaper and read it. So old fashioned I know. Here though you can enjoy all of the news of the day without reading the comments of doom. Further, it provides space for your own good thinking about the article. Also, you are deciding what you will read in depth, skim, and skip altogether. Online reading is much more difficult to discern which is which for you on any given article as you may not be so interested, but you do want to hear what others think about it. Taking a more solo path can keep the doom at bay.

Also, choose your time of day for a good doomscroll. One where you are awake, active, and alert and not seeking rest and relaxation. Align yourself with the most energy you have to take it in and then leave plenty of time afterwards to let it all go. At night, keep your phone outside of your bedroom. Do not mindlessly reach for it, but keep in mind and value your sleep and rest over the doomscroll. Don’t worry all of the doom will be there waiting for you tomorrow.

We are wired to latch on to the bad and then worry to the nth degree about it all. We also our communal beings — we are drawn to know what someone else is thinking and then perhaps try that stance on and see if we feel the same way or not. However, this muddies the waters of knowing our own minds and trusting how we are thinking for ourselves. Reading without adopting how others are thinking about something is creating space for your own independent thinking. More important than ever these days.

Finally, doomscrolling is a time suck. It sucks you right down into the temple of doom and doesn’t let you go to actually live your life. There is less time for you. Sometimes I read the comments on news and its just on and on fighting and fighting and I think to myself do people really have so much time to fill arguing with strangers? Everyone is always saying how busy they are — is this what people are busy with? Or is doomscrolling a way to escape life that feels miserable? Sometimes I feel like attracts like. We feel our personal lives are doomed and so we seek out external doomscrolling to match this internal feeling.

Take a break and take stock. Life is lived in reality. Put the phone down, pick up a real paper, after a little bit of time, put the paper down, and go out and embrace your life. May it be full of Joy Living — hopefully steps — even miles — away form the doom.