How was your week?

#YourTurnChallenge Day 5

How was your week?

I am so proud to be on day 5 of the blog challenge! (And the prompt question about getting unstuck was perfect. Sometimes, the best way for me to start writing is to report exactly where I am and what I’ve been doing!)

It’s 11:48 on Friday, we just watched a movie – a nearly traditional Friday night ritual, especially during Oscar season. As creativity seekers, we embrace movies for all sorts of reasons: technical accomplishments, actors who become other people, writing that makes us nod in agreement. We love movies. And theatre and music and literature and art – well, specifically visual arts in that reference: Painting and sculpture and textiles and pottery. Color and shape and design. Seeing things in new ways through art helps me to dream of new creative ideas. It all helps me to combine ideas from disparate sources.

I heard part of an interview on the BBC with three scientists who are studying imagination. They’re looking at blood flow in the brain using MRI as people are told to think about certain images. Too bad they can’t check it while people are reading great literature. Isn’t the ability to cause images in another person’s mind an amazing power?

The #YourTurnChallenge is an effort to expand my writing career. As I move in to the world of  blogging personal essays, and eventually publishing fiction, I promise I will always use my powers for good!

 What makes your blood flow?

Who’s your best friend?

January 22, 2015
(@Melwriter)

Who’s your best friend? And more importantly, when was the last time you spoke to that person? I just got off the phone with a friend I have known since second grade (More than 40 years). I love her dearly. She lives about 20 minutes away, in a nearby suburb. We may go weeks without communicating, and it never matters – we can always pick up where we left off. I have several wonderful women friends – the kind of people who bring you food and send get well cards when you’re ill. I try to go to lunch occasionally, or meet after work for dinner. I read a quote once (not sure who said it): If you’re too busy for your friends, you’re too busy.

The same is true of family – parents, siblings, and children. When work prevents you from spending time with the important people in your life, you are not achieving “work-life balance”- that elusive concept. Even if you love your work, you will be a more efficient, creative employee if you take breaks to rejuvenate your spirit. And the people you love – and the ones who love you back – are an important part of your spirit.

We have had several older family members who have passed away in the last few years. They slowly declined, and then took a turn at the end so that we all had the opportunity to go say goodbye. I say, spend time now with the people who will be there at the end. When you plan the activities you enjoy doing, invite friends and family to come along sometimes. Be a tourist in your own town. Think about where you would take-out of-town guests if you wanted to show off – and then go enjoy those places and events with the people who matter most to you.

What’s your favorite tourist spot? A local museum? Arts festival? Sporting event? Make it a priority to get there this year with your best friend.

How do you (get inspired to) take care of your body?

January 21, 2015

(by Melissa Weber! @Melwriter) #YourTurnChallenge Day 3

I start each day with such good intentions: Do yoga! Eat yogurt! Drink eight glasses of water! Go to the gym after work! Some days, I do most of it. This week will be better! (I think that every week.)

The past two weeks we’ve been trying to eat vegetarian. My husband took it a step further and tried vegan and minimal gluten – only cheated a little with eggs. “I’m not dogmatic,” he said. “And I need something for breakfast.” No toast though. And I just can’t eat eggs without toast. I don’t know how he does it.

We spent a bit of time in the organic foods section of Kroger. I like their selection. We are trying recipes I’ve been meaning to try for years – several from “Moosewood,” a vegetarian restaurant in Ithaca, New York. I have two of their cookbooks and last week I made Caribbean sweet potato soup, which was delicious, and Quinoa vegetable soup, also good. Fun stuff. Tasty too. And I’ve been pleased with how good I have felt since focusing on eating better. Our kids even gave us cookbooks for Christmas, so the word is out. We got Thug Kitchen: Eat Like You Give a F*ck and Cook This, Not That. Haven’t cooked from those yet, although I plan to. Try every cookbook I own during January and February! That’s not exactly a New Year’s resolution or part of my bucket list – just something I’ve been meaning to do for years. I think it came once from a brain dump.

Have you ever done a brain dump? Take a notebook and make a list of everything you want to do: this year, within five years, maybe 10 years. And not just big bucket list things – everything. I keep multiple lists going so I can add to them. Last year, I created a list of “everything I like to do” from read, dance and nap when I’m tired, to bike, drink beer, and play cards – it has about 50 items. I also have a list of “things I care about most.” This includes issues from global warming and women’s rights to wildlife protection and supporting the arts. I’ve got a list for projects around the house (reorganize the pantry, put old photos in scrapbooks – this includes our wedding pictures. We’ve been married for 17 years. That one hasn’t made it to the top of the list yet. But going to Ohio State football games does.) When faced with multiple choices for my time, the priority is always on “things I like to do.”

How do you get inspired to take better care of yourself? How does feeling better inspire creativity?

Personal planning retreat: day two topics

January 20, 2015
by Melissa L. Weber (@Melwriter, melwriter.com)

When was the last time you read a daily newspaper? I just finished today’s Columbus Dispatch. It was an “expense topic” last year at our retreat. My husband and I both love getting a daily paper. We got them when we were kids – and we were the sort of kids who read them. (I remember the presidential nominees in 1972.) We think the Dispatch is doing an amazing job of capturing interesting and relevant information that is well-written. I often disagree with the syndicated editorial columnists, but I feel well-informed when I read them. I also read the comics every day. I love them. They are an interesting window on the world, usually dealing with life’s issues in diverse families. More about kids, marriage and milestones than politics – except for Doonesbury. Which reminds me – where did it go? It’s seems to be on Sunday only; and now I vaguely recall Gary Trudeau might be semi-retired. Are he and Jane Pauley still married? I should Google that. (Sounds good to be semi-retired Would give us more time for pursuing our creative goals and those bucket list items.)

Anyway – keeping the paper is a great example of a discussion that involved looking at our lists and realizing we had lots of expensive trips we want to take in the next 10 years. How could we cut back our budget and save more for travel (without having to contribute less to retirement savings)? The newspaper was on the list. We already got rid of our land line home phone and now just use cell phones. And instead of cutting it to save money, we both agreed we needed to keep the paper. The expense is worth it because it serves two strategic purposes: serving my profession (which includes media relations as part of my job duties) and inspiring creativity.

The paper is part of an overall goal of staying engaged, connected, aware and inspired. Do you know how many great works of literature (and film) are inspired by true events? “To Kill a Mockingbird” comes to mind for starters. A wonderful play that was performed by Available Light Theatre in Columbus, OH called “Then. After. Water.” by Jennifer Fawcett. Theatre, books and movies. More inspiration! That’s another decision that came out of last year’s retreat: To form a family book club for which we had a list of books that were being turned in to movies in 2014. We read, “Labor Day” (one of our favorites) “The Fault in Our Stars,” (also excellent) “Divergent,” “This is Where I Leave You” and “A Long Way Down.” Did not make it through “A Winter’s Tale,” and loved the movie anyway. This year we’re being inspired by a recent article on “Reasons to Read the Classics.” (http://www.punchnels.com/features/10-reasons-you-should-be-reading-the-classics/)

We don’t have our list together yet, and I will plan to share it on my blog when we do.

What inspires your creativity?

The personal retreat or “how to live your bucket list starting now”

How much time do you spend deciding how you want to spend your time?

For the second consecutive year, my husband and I had a weekend retreat, spending time together to plan how we want to spend our time and money in 2015.

Last year, we spent five days in a cabin in the woods. We had large Post-it pads, and hung blank pages on the wall. There were titles like: “Top 10 places you want to travel,” “most important things to do this year,” “big purchases,” “creative hobbies to do together/separately,” “charity donations,” “things you absolutely want to do before you die,” “Urgent projects you want to get done around the house,” (Granted, some of them are more fun-oriented than others). Many of the items on these lists were taken from our individual bucket lists.

So in 2014, we had new priorities for the year. We spent more time with family – especially grandchildren – including hosting a family scotch tasting. (not for the grandchildren!) We took a trip with my parents to Utah and fell in love with Park City. (The mountains! The beer!) I began planning to create a blog. (This is it!) I got as far as registering the name: Melwriter.com (on WordPress). We had our share of upheavals as well: from the untimely death of my uncle, who was just days away from retirement, to the more-expected death of my father-in-law at the age of 93, I am reminded me over and over that there is never enough time.

One of my bucket list items is to lead a more creative life: Read more, learn more, participate more in my own creativity – from playing my clarinet, to learning mindfulness and yoga, to writing the young adult fiction that I’ve always dreamed of publishing. I will use this blog to document my efforts to lead a more creative life. And secretly, I hope to inspire others who are trying to do the same thing.

So as of today, January 19, 2015, I am living my bucket list.

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