The Shortest of Stories

Tonight’s post celebrates pure fun, bordering on silliness. It became the perfect activity for the end of a busy and joy filled day. The Inspiration Starter that I drew appeared at first to be daunting. I selected:

I have a couple of short stories in my creative brain, just waiting for me to free them. However, today was not the day for that. Those stories require time and thought, crafting and editing. Instead, an idea came to mind to try something that I have wanted to do, just for fun.

Most smart phones have a feature that suggests words for you as you type. My phone has three boxes above the keyboard with word choices. Here is a screenshot that shows the suggested next word as I type:

This feature can be helpful in that it can save time and provide the proper spelling of a word. Granted, the predictive word feature has caused me embarrassment in the past, when my phone automatically supplied the word it thought I wanted. (Ask my son about the text I sent him asking if he wanted to go to a party together…except my phone substituted the word “orgy”, and I hit SEND without catching it!)

What if…I wondered…what if I used the predictive feature to write a short story? A quote from Stephen King popped into my head…

I love that quote! Allowing my phone to shape a short story seemed to carry an element of surprise, much as a kiss in the dark by a stranger would! I was willing to try, and see what happened.

I began the first attempt with the opening word “During…”, and let my phone take it from there. I simply added punctuation when the sentences seemed complete.

I smiled at the result. And it is evident my phone has a memory and has picked up the repetitive use of the word Christmas. It amused me that there were a couple of sentences that referenced grandsons!

Encouraged by that snippet of a story, I tried again, except this time, I let my phone choose the first word. This story made me, literally, laugh out loud. In fact, I chuckle every time I read it. It’s a humorous story.

I noticed that I must use positively charged words a lot…words like wonderful, journey, grateful, blessings and family. My favorite sentence is The first two weeks in my journey I was a little too excited, followed closely by The only problem is that I am not sure if I have a problem. I have been accused of being too happy sometimes!

The part that makes me laugh the most though is the section, The new things for the kids are the grandkids. And…Thank goodness for the kids. The new one is so awesome!

In that shortest of stories, the phrase I am grateful shows up four times. I say and write those words often and my phone knows it. Gratitude is a core belief for me. And the phrase used twice, Yes, it sounds good, comes across like an amen or a so be it. I like that. It is a phrase I type often when responding to people. Seeing the words that popped up in these micro stories gives insight into my own story.

This was a fun little experiment in short story writing. There is nothing publishable here. But I laughed. And I let creativity guide me. And I got a glimpse into my own heart and mind. All good things, tucked into a seemingly random method of creating a story.

In keeping with my experiment, I’ll let predictive text finish up my blog post, typed below in italics.

Thank goodness for new things.

Take a New Class

It was rather late in my day, when I suddenly realized two things: 1) I wasn’t sure what I was going to be writing about this evening because 2) I did not draw an Inspiration Starter out of the jar this morning. My work day started the moment I woke up. And these double realizations came about at 6:00 this evening.

Reaching into the Inspiration Starters jar at night requires courage…and trust. The day is spent. There isn’t time to drive to a new town for an adventure or work on a large creative project. I reached into the jar anyway.

This is the slip of paper I drew out:

I smiled. This was very doable. And as it turned out, traveling down this trail as I searched for a class to take led me to an unexpected destination.

I checked out several options for furthering my education, in local shops and online. I found classes on nutrition, painting, photography, cooking, and a variety of artsy crafts. All looked interesting or fun…and yet none “rang my bell”, as Aubrey would say. They didn’t resonate with me.

And then, with my laptop plunked on my lap, I stumbled across a word that directed my path. It got my attention because it is my word for 2018…Story. I’m very excited about next year’s adventure as it is evolving and unfolding.

My new writing journal, with next year’s word and symbol on it.

As the year winds down, and the new year approaches, I experience this overlap of the old word and symbol and the frequent appearance of the new. It is the way life flows for me. When the word story caught my eye, it became a light on the path that drew me onward.

As a result, I found a wonderful website called Story Circle Network…by, for and about women. Visit the website HERE.

Founded in 1997, by Dr. Susan Wittig Albert, Story Circle Network is dedicated to helping women share the stories of their lives through memoir, poetry, fiction, nonfiction, and drama, and to raising public awareness of the importance of women’s personal stories. They carry out their mission through a wealth of resources and activities, including online classes.

I am so excited to have found this place. I feel divinely guided and invited. And just as I was inspired this year by Alan Rickman’s quote, about making life a little more tender and art a little more robust, I will be empowered through Story Circle Network next year as I write stories.

Checking their online classes, I was immediately captivated by this one: The Love of Everyday Things: Telling the Stories of Our Lives by Teresa Cutler-Broyles. This class resonated with me. It begins January 22 and concludes March 5, with weekly writing assignments. Each week I will choose an object in my home and tell its story, its connection to my past or future, to my hopes and dreams and losses, to people or places or memories.

This class is perfect for me, on so many levels.

I’m excited about the class. Even more, I am excited about joining Story Circle Network. I already appreciate what it will offer to me as a member in the upcoming year, and I am eager to discover what I can offer to the network in return.

I love that I was led to this class, this place, because I drew a random slip of paper out of a jar, late in the day. I love that Trust whispered Do it… and belief enabled me to go for it. The beauty and wonder of it all makes my heart beat faster with immense gratitude. Isn’t life a grand adventure?

4 Bean Vegan Chili

On cold winter evenings, a bowl of steaming hot chili makes a satisfying and warming meal. I have used a chili recipe for many years, adapted from one my dad created. Since going plant based, I have tried several chili recipes I found online or in cookbooks. They tasted fine. And yet I still felt compelled to keep trying, keep looking.

Ultimately, I ended up creating a recipe of my own.

This simple to make chili comes together in minutes, and uses easily found ingredients. I used organic, and non GMO, canned goods from the grocery store, with fresh veggies such as onion, green bell pepper and garlic.

Putting together this recipe gave me the opportunity of also try out a recipe maker. The app I selected works well enough, but doesn’t have a format that makes it suitable for using in my blog posts. I will keep searching.

I chose to use pinto, black, great northern and red kidney beans, however, any variety of beans could be used. I want to add lima beans next time. More, or less, seasoning could be used. And red bell pepper could be substituted for the green.

I liked the ease of preparation and the spicy aroma that filled my kitchen as the pot of chili simmered on the stove. I diced an avocado and anticipated a homey, warming bowl of chili.

I was not disappointed. This was a very tasty chili, and exactly what I have been looking for. That old adage that says “if you want something done right, do it yourself”, rings true in this case. I created what I was looking for.

There isn’t any meat in this recipe, but there is wholesomeness, goodness and lots of love. I think my dad would approve.

Try a New Fruit

I was grateful to select an easy and fun Inspiration Starter today. I am always open to trying something new. I drew out the slip of paper with the words, Try a new fruit.

During the summer months, my local farmer’s market carries a huge assortment of amazing fruits and veggies. This time of year, I shop at the neighborhood grocery store. I hoped there would be a fruit in the produce section that I had not eaten before.

At the supermarket, I found one…one…fruit I had not tried before. There were cartons of small yellow fruits called guavas. Perfect! I bought a box containing 10 of the tropical fruits.

I had to look this fruit up, to learn more about it.

Guavas are indeed a tropical fruit, found in Mexico and Central and South America, and also in countries such as Pakistan, China and India. There are many varieties. The skin, which is edible, can be green, yellow or maroon when the fruit is ripe. The flesh inside can vary from off white in color to dark pink.

The fruit I bought for the first time was soft, with a fruity aroma. When I sliced one in two, the flesh inside was off white. The tiny seeds are very difficult to remove. Everything I read suggested the seeds, like the rind, were edible.

I chose to use my guavas to make a refreshing drink called agua de guayaba, or guava water.

The recipe was easy:

• 6 or 7 guavas

• 1/4 – 1/2 cup raw, unrefined coconut sugar

• 6 cups water, approximately

Wash guavas and slice each one in half. Drop into blender, rind, seeds and all. Add 4 cups of water and 1/4 cup of coconut sugar. Blend for one minute, or until fruit is thoroughly liquified. Pour into a pitcher. Add up to 2 more cups of water. Taste and add up to 1/4 cup more of coconut sugar.

I added more water. The taste was just right for me, sweetness wise, so I didn’t add additional sugar. The drink was very light and refreshing. I did not, however, like the seeds. Blending didn’t break down the tiny seeds and my body instinctively reacted to them, which is my way of knowing whether to consume something or not. It was a “not” for me.

It was a simple task to pour the guava water through a fine mesh strainer and remove the seeds. After that, I enjoyed drinking this special treat.

Guava has many health benefits, including being extremely high in vitamin C and vitamins B3 and B6. This small fruit reduces the risk of prostate and breast cancers, promotes a healthy digestive system, supports the thyroid, aids in weight loss, increases brain function, improves eyesight, prevents colds, slows the aging process, reduces cholesterol levels and blood pressure, and regulates blood sugar.

That is one power-packed little fruit!

Now that I am familiar with guavas, I will include them occasionally in my diet. This is their season, late fall and early winter. I have never noticed cartons of guavas in the produce section before. With an increased awareness of them, and their benefits, I will not be able to help but spot them now!

And that’s what I love about these creative games that I play. They expand my knowledge and my awareness, teach me trust and introduce me to new things. I always win, in so many ways, when I play!

Travel Scavenger Hunt

I’m not quite sure what I had in mind when I wrote out this Inspiration Starter back in July…Go on a travel scavenger hunt. However, when I drew this slip of paper from the jar today, an idea immediately came to mind. A scavenger hunt, by definition, is a game in which the participant seeks to gather all of the specific items on a list.

I had a list in mind, and it was connected to travel.

The first Inspiration Starter I randomly drew on December 1 had to do with going on a Getaway Weekend. I was puzzled at first about why I drew that slip on a day when a weekend away wasn’t possible. However the day was full of surprises, and by the end of the afternoon I had been gifted with a generous check, for the very specific and stated purpose of having a solo weekend out of town.

I am full of anticipation for a few days of personal retreat time in January. I used today’s inspiration as a nudge to seek out the perfect place to get away to.

Here was my scavenger list for that special weekend:

• Location within 100 miles of Joplin, with particular interest in NW Arkansas or SW Missouri.

• Water view

• Kitchenette so I can do my own meal prep

• Private deck

• Cute place

• Seclusion

• Right price

I would know I had found the perfect place for my retreat if I could check all of the items off of my list.

After a bit of searching on my laptop, I “happened” to stumble across something new to me…Vacation Rentals By Owner, or VRBO. These homes, cottages, condos, apartments and cabins are managed by their owners, much like Airbnb, and the prices are incredibly good.

I sorted through possibilities, checking them against my scavenger list. Some had a couple of my “must haves”. Quite a few had six out of seven. I knew those were not the places for me. I found three that had all seven items. It then became a matter of which location appealed to me the most.

The little condo I have selected, located in NW Arkansas, not only had all seven of the items on my list, its decor drew me. There is a Namaste pillow on the bed, a framed art piece with the word HOPE on it, a glass door that opens onto a private deck. It is cozy, intimate and perfect for my purposes.

I love how the Divine has brought this whole idea of a getaway weekend together, encouraging me to go, giving me a playful nudge to find the right place, and providing the funds as a beautiful gift to me.

That last part carried significance today, as I played my scavenger hunt game. Because, the object of the adventure is to find the items on the list, without purchasing them. I laughed when I realized how wonderfully connected it all is.

It is going to be an amazing weekend away, I can already tell.

The Willingness to Put it Into Words

I drew an Inspiration Starter early this morning, as I was about to leave town for a family birthday party in the neighboring state of Oklahoma. I have learned to lean into trust when I play these creative games. Many of the slips of paper in my jar would not work on a day when I am away from home and traveling. However, I trust that the perfect activity will be selected as I draw out a folded piece of paper. Yesterday’s amazing chain of events reinforced that belief.

This morning I pulled this Inspiration Starter from the jar:

What a beautiful way to spend my evening, after I returned home…expressing thankfulness to people who are making a difference in my life and in the world.

Margaret Cousins wrote: “Appreciation can make a day, even change a life. Your willingness to put it into words is all that is necessary.”

As I assembled an assortment of thank you cards and pens, I asked for guidance on who to express appreciation to. There are so many in my circle of family, friendships, colleagues and acquaintances that have had an impact on me. The ten who came to mind, one by one, are the dear souls that I took the time to thank tonight.

This is what I love about writing out notes of gratitude…I am physically and energetically sending appreciation and encouragement to others, while at the same time raising my own vibrational frequency to a very high level. Expressing thanks to others creates in me a greater appreciation for life and the Divine, and a greater awareness of all the goodness in my life.

Tonight I wrote out seven thank you cards, that will be mailed or delivered. And I sent three written thank you’s by way of private messages on social media. I followed my heart, and allowed expression to flow without expectation of anything in return.

Truly, I have already been blessed, having each of these people in my life. And sincerely, this is a practice I wish to continue, sending thank you notes, whether on a daily, weekly or monthly basis. My willingness to make it so is all that is necessary.

Starting Inspirational Fires

This is the blog post that almost wasn’t. And it is one of those twisty, turny journeys that needs a bit of backstory to make sense. Bear with me.

In July of this year, I felt drawn to create what I dubbed Inspiration Starters. Read about those HERE. I wrote creative ideas, with the intention of challenging myself, on 32 slips of paper and dropped them into a container. I randomly selected one of those Inspiration Starters a few days later. And then, totally forgot about them, as in, they passed from time and memory. Until this past week. Decorating for Christmas I opened the ceramic jar and thought, oh yeah!

I had 31 slips of paper left. December, with its 31 days, was about to begin. I decided what a great way to finish this Year of Inspiration, this time of living with a focus on creativity and treating others with kindness. I could draw a slip of paper each day, beginning December 1.

I was excited to draw the first folded slip today. When I played a similar game last year I was amazed by the synchronicities, the Divine guidance, the remarkable alignment of perfect conditions that appeared around each of those slips of paper. Drawing them randomly takes me out of the equation and opens my heart, spirit and creativity to a power greater than me.

What would I select? Honestly, I had created the Inspiration Starters five months ago. I had forgotten all that I came up with, which was good. I could be surprised.

I drew:

My first thought was, Well…even though this is Friday, and this Inspiration appears perfect, it won’t work this weekend. I have an out of town family birthday party tomorrow and an open house Sunday. There would be no get away this weekend.

My second thought was, This one is a miss. The timing was off. And, there was more to it than that.

I have been thinking much about a weekend get away lately, just me and a journal and a pen. As this year winds down, I feel drawn to go off by myself and think and dream and plan, a releasing of 2017 and an anticipation of 2018. I want time to commune with the Divine and meditate and go within. With that desire in mind, I asked the Divine to arrange the get away weekend, guiding me to the right place, at the right time, by way of signs, symbols and synchronicities.

To make it an even more fun and challenging quest, I asked EL-LE (my personal name for God, pronounced like the letter L), for a very specific sign. I would know it was all EL-LE’s doing in two ways: The weekend away, alone, would cost me nothing, or very little, allowing me to be open to all kinds of opportunities beyond simply staying in a hotel somewhere. And, I would know which place was the right one because it would have a particular symbol attached to it, that is significant to me.

Drawing that slip of paper today threw me. Nothing appeared to be in place for the weekend get away. It did indeed seem to be a miss, timing wise. I decided to keep a weekend away in mind during this month, and just see what unfolded. I left the slip of paper on my writing table in my studio.

I’ve had other things going on today. I’ve been busy and didn’t dwell on that Inspiration Starter. I wasn’t sure what I was going to write about this evening but I trusted the right thing would come along at the right time.

It did. And it connected back to the weekend get away paper that I drew.

As I was finishing my last task for the day, I was offered an amazing, and surprising, gift. This person, who wishes to remain unnamed, did not know that I have been asking EL-LE for a weekend away, or that I had drawn that slip of paper earlier in the day. I was gifted with a check, for a generous amount, and instructed to get away for a weekend, to have some time alone. I was told that the thought suddenly came to my gracious benefactor late today, seemingly out of the blue, accompanied by the urge to give me this gift.

I am undone. I am so grateful. A miss? No. The slip of paper I drew earlier was a wink from the Divine, a hint that it is almost time for that weekend get away I have been longing for. And as I hoped, as I trusted, all is being arranged.

I am looking at the end of the month for my special weekend. Or perhaps the first week in January. I have no doubts that I will know which weekend is perfect, and where to stay. I am being guided. I am involved in an ongoing conversation, an intimate dance, with the Divine.

The December creative game is underway. This must be why I completed my Christmas decorating early this season. I needed to be free. Something bigger is unfolding. I am going to finish out this incredible year by starting 31 fires that will ignite my passion, creativity and imagination. I am setting my heart aflame.

Inspiration Starters

Lately I’ve recalled with fondness the month I spent last year randomly drawing creative actions out of a glass pitcher. I selected a folded slip of paper each day during the month of June, in 2016. Those activities were fun, and they not only revved up my creativity, they also deepened my trust in the Divine’s guidance in my life. 

This evening, after working most of the day, I was deciding what to write about when those folded slips of paper came to mind again. Yes. It was time to stop thinking about how much fun that exercise in creativity was, and take action again. 

Inspiration Starters
Of course, I changed the game up a bit. I cut 32 slips of paper and wrote out an inspirational activity on each one. Guided by this year’s theme of Inspiration, which includes Alan Rickman’s words about making life a bit more tender and art a bit more robust, and my greater health awareness, I chose to challenge myself. 

Inspiration Starters
Not every activity pushes me, but I attempted to come up with suggestions that take my creativity or compassion or health consciousness beyond where I am, currently. I included writing exercises…and challenges to submit my work for publication. Travel inspirations came to me along with designing, sketching and expressing tenderness in new ways. I won’t draw an activity every day. I’ll reach into my little ceramic jar, made by my younger daughter Adriel when she was a child, and “randomly” draw out a slip of paper when I feel drawn to. 

Last year this type of creative play formed the foundation for this year’s theme. I learned so much about myself, about how life works for me, and about the constant guidance I receive from the Divine. 

I am open to receive whatever comes from this experience this year…open and unattached to outcomes. The phrase I made up for these slips of paper seems apt. Fire starters are little pieces of wood that are soaked with a flammable solution that then ignites logs to create a bigger, hotter fire. May these inspiration starters ignite within me a creativity that burns brightly and feeds my artistic soul. 

Inspiration Starters