Year of Inspiration

This is it! The end of the year review. How incredible, to be completing my fourth year of daily blog posts, and a phenomenal year that focused on two things: making life a little more tender and art a little more robust.

I began this year with the light bulb as my symbol, and inspiration as my word. Instead of a song, I had a quote, from the late Alan Rickman. “If only life could be a little more tender and art a little more robust.” I took Alan’s words to heart. Not a day passed that I didn’t think about that quote. It became my inspiration and my daily activities were guided by those two invitations.

With my creativity on overdrive, I thought I would have many more art more robust posts, than life more tender. However, that was not the case. When I checked today, I had used the Art a Little More Robust byline 169 times…and Life a Little More Tender, 170. When my blog shifted to a travel blog, I created a third category that I posted in 26 times. I could not have pre-planned that if I had tried. This year has shown me, once again, what happens when I keep my heart open, let go of outcomes, and stay in the Flow, as guided by the Divine.

Here are highlights from this most beautiful of years:

I did, indeed, express my creativity in myriad ways. I enjoyed gardening projects, writing, repurposing old items into new ones, creating vignettes, cooking…and I sketched more than I have in years. I love creative play, and my daily question, to the Divine, was How shall we play today?

I was always given an answer, although it was often an answer or an activity that I would not have dreamed up myself. Those unexpected invitations to play in bigger ways grew my faith and trust, increased my artistic abilities, and enlarged my life.

Making life a little more tender took many forms as well. It was easy for me to celebrate my family members, and engage my grandchildren in fun and crazy activities. The awareness of creating tenderness in the lives of people beyond my close circle of family and friends greatly enlarged my territory and my ability to impact others in a positive way.

I took part in organized events such as Red Nose Day, Giving Tuesday, Random Acts of Kindness Week, Together Rising, and letter writing campaigns that offered encouragement to others. There were opportunities for me to walk alongside people, to go above and beyond with clients, to listen when someone needed a sympathetic ear, or to share from my heart, when the hurting needed to hear that they mattered, and that they were appreciated, and loved.

A crucial part of making life more tender this year was caring for myself as I continued my healing journey. There were creative elements as well, as I tried new recipes and came up with ways to playfully challenge myself, as with the 30 Day Walking Challenge.

Embracing a plant based lifestyle is one of the best things I have ever done for myself. I have healed from years of chronic pain and a host of other disorders, increased my energy, vitality and overall wellbeing, and found another platform from which to share and encourage others.

When my left knee twisted on me, shortening my 30 Day Walking Challenge to 27 days, and throwing me back into pain, I had the opportunity to practice the greatest of self care and self love. I had to call upon all that I knew, health wise, and be patient. I had to forgive my knee, release my fears that I would not heal, and trust. I did heal. And my trust in the Divine and myself deepened greatly.

My greatest adventures in 2017 involved travel. My bohemian spirit exulted in the freedom to explore other counties and experience new places, people and cultures.

My grandson Dayan, daughter Elissa and I traveled to Italy at the end of May. This trip was my grandson’s graduation present. Italy was his chosen destination. His mom and I are so grateful that we got to experience this country with him.

Italy was beautiful, full of old world charm, and medieval villages, and incredible art. The Italians were just as beautiful and charming. I fell in love with Italy and her people. This was an adventure I will never forget. And it created within me a hunger for more travel experiences.

So I took a second big trip in late August, traveling this time to Ireland, Scotland and England with my mom, sisters and niece.

These travel experiences deserved a category all their own, causing me to merge my subtitles together to create a new one…Life a Little More Robust. What fun adventures I had with my family, exploring Dublin, Ireland, the whole country of Scotland, and London, England.

We have roots in these countries. Our ancestors lived and worked and died in these villages and castles and farms. There was such a sense of going home, and reconnection, even while we met new people and rode the double decker tour buses and tried new foods.

I am smitten with traveling. I can’t wait to see where I will journey to next.

This has been such an amazing year that I am reluctant tonight, as the minutes tick away, to let it go. My life has shifted these past four years, increasingly so as I began to write about my experiences. This year will go down in my memory as one of the best of my life.

And yet…let it go I must. I cannot walk into my future, and all the goodness and richness that it holds, while gazing back at the past. I am tremendously thankful for those who have walked beside me this year…my ever adventurous family members, my friends, new acquaintances, and the inspirational Mr. Rickman. I am grateful for the Divine, and the playful guidance I received through synchronicities, signs, wonders and gentle whispers.

My heart overflows with love and gratitude.

In a few hours I will bid 2017 goodbye. I may shed a tear as I sing Auld Lang Syne. It won’t be sorrow that brings the tears, but deep appreciation for all that I learned this year and great joy for my life and my journey.

And then, as a new year dawns, I will open wide my arms and my heart, and welcome 2018 with eager anticipation and excitement.

A new adventure begins…

Thank You, Alan

Incredibly, I am three days away from the end of my Year of Inspiration, and from completing my fourth year of daily blog posts. I’ll be writing a year end review on Sunday. And, I couldn’t let these last days slip away without acknowledging the person whose quote inspired this year of making art a little more robust, and life a little more tender.

I came across the quote that would become the foundation for 2017, shortly after actor Alan Rickman passed away on January 14, 2016.

“If only life could be a little more tender, and art a little more robust.” Alan Rickman

I felt such a sense of loss when Alan died. I had never met this genuine and talented man, and yet a light winked out in the world with his passing, and I was very aware of it. His words resonated with me, and eventually became the basis for this year’s theme. My word for 2017 has been Inspiration. My symbol was the lightbulb. Instead of a song to inspire me, I had Alan’s beautiful words.

I have thought of Alan, and his words, every day. The blog posts divided easily between two natural categories. As I typed those phrases…Life a Little More Tender…Art a Little More Robust…Alan would pop into my awareness and I would send him gratitude for his inspiration and his life.

I have long been a fan of the actor, watching his movies that began with Die Hard, back in 1988. But what about the man? Who was Alan? As this year progressed, I took to heart another quote of his that helped me to see beyond his legendary acting career.

To know him better, I simply needed to watch his work. During these last twelve months, I have filled in the gaps in my knowledge about Alan Rickman by watching all of his movies. There were quite a few that I had missed, including independent and artistic films such Close My Eyes and Snow Cake, and dramatic shorts such Song of Lunch and Dust.

From Sense & Sensibility

From A Little Chaos, a historical film that Alan starred in and directed.

Beyond his many films, I watched clips from his theater performances. I am sad that I never got to see Alan on stage. His acting career began with live performances, and it was this format that he loved dearly, playing to a responsive audience. I’ve been able to see much of the play, Private Lives, thanks to YouTube, and only a bit of of the 2011 Broadway production, Seminar, for which he was nominated for a Drama League Award.

Alan and Helen Mirren in the play, Antony & Cleopatra.

From the Broadway play, Seminar.

Perhaps I have learned the most about Alan by watching the interviews he gave, on talk shows in the UK and US, at red carpet movie premieres and during stage door appearances. Alan spoke eloquently and honestly about his career and his life. And, I discovered, he does not suffer fools gladly! I cringed more than once over crudely worded questions from interviewers hoping for an inside scoop or a tasty bit of gossip. Deservedly so, those people would get a short, clipped response and a long, steely look from the man who initially built his career upon playing the villain. Alan would arch an eyebrow and purse those lips, effectively silencing stupidity!

Outside of his extraordinary body of work, Alan was a man of passion and compassion, an encourager and supporter of many, a brother and a husband. He was in a long relationship with his partner, Rima Horton. They married in 2012, after 50 years together. Private, and willing to let her husband command the limelight, Rima nevertheless held Alan’s heart. His final days, here on earth, were spent taking care of Rima’s future life without him, and saying goodbye to as many of his friends as he could.

Alan and Rima.

One of Alan’s dearest friends, Emma Thompson

This year, I have come to know better a man I never had the pleasure of actually meeting. Perhaps because of his guidance, with his words and actions, I feel a strong connection to him. As I traveled this year, I realized that the places I explored were some of Alan’s favorite destinations in the world. He loved Tuscany and Venice, in Italy. He often walked the streets of Dublin, Ireland, and he was a frequent visitor to Edinburgh, Scotland…my favorite city in all the world.

I felt Alan’s presence, his artistic spirit, most strongly in London, England. This magnificent city was Alan’s hometown. He lived in the theater district. I could feel the pull of his larger than life personality every time the London Tube sped by his neighborhood. If we had spent another day there, I would have enjoyed exiting the Tube and walking quietly in the art district.

Alan in the garden of his London home.

This has been an amazing year for me. I have expressed my creativity in many ways. And I have endeavored to make life a little more tender in myriad ways as well. I owe much to Alan Sidney Patrick Rickman. I feel a hint of sadness that this Year of Inspiration is drawing to a close. However, I will continue to carry Alan’s words in my heart, seeking tenderness in life, making robust art. I do it to honor him. I do it to expand my soul and enlarge my life.

“Alan deplored injustice, inequality and hypocrisy. He loved the industry he worked in, and the potential of art for everyone. His celebrity status was irrelevant, except as a tool to help give light to all the things he believed in. That light still shines.” Ian Rickson

I came across that last quote, unexpectedly, a couple of nights ago. I had intended to write this thanks to Alan that day, and yet I was held off, told to wait. It was not the right time. I needed to read those words, by a good friend of his. I needed to know that Alan’s light is not extinguished from this world, after all. It is still shining brightly, illuminating dark places and warming hearts. That light has touched my life.

Thank you, Alan.

Living the Creative Life

I woke up this morning, thinking about creativity and how it is expressed. People ask me how they can be more creative. And others tell me they aren’t creative at all. I believe creativity is more a way of looking at life and living it with authenticity and openness, and less about talent. My thoughts returned to this topic over and over today, convincing me that this was what I would be writing about tonight. 

Living the Creative Life
It is easy perhaps to read a novel or study a painting or listen to a musician pour out his heart through his music and think Wow, this is a work of art. This is a creative soul. And that would be a true thought. Creativity can be expressed through such recognizable endeavors as painting and sculpting, writing and poetry, drawing and photography, writing concertos and playing the violin. 

Living the Creative Life
Living the Creative Life
And…creativity can be expressed in a child’s colorful crayon drawing and lumpy clay vase, through graffiti spray painted on train boxcars and a joke made up on the spot, in the baking of a friend’s birthday cake and any time the words are uttered Once upon a time…

Living the Creative Life

Living the Creative Life

And…creativity is present in a magic trick and fostering animals, in making people laugh and dancing your own steps before an audience of one, in exploring new roads by turning left at the intersection instead of right, in seeing new possibilities in an ordinary object, in creating an amazing party and by dressing up as a clown to sell baked goods at a yard sale. 

Living the Creative Life
Living the Creative Life
Creativity is the soul expressing itself, whether by writing a best seller or sewing little girls’ dresses or building a toad house. It is a way of life. The way to be more creative is to be open to receiving inspiration and accepting those invitations that come as little intuitive taps on the shoulder or a thought that begins…I wonder what would happen if I did this…

Living the Creative Life

Living the Creative Life
Joseph Chilton Pearce said To live a creative life we must lose our fear of being wrong. I agree and add we must just lose our fear period…fear of making a mistake, fear of being made fun of, fear of failing, fear of being ignored. Creativity comes sometimes when we least expect it. It can be unconventional, bold, and exciting in its expression. And it can be quiet, solitary, and scary when it births an idea into your soul. 

Living the Creative Life

There is no right or wrong way to express creativity or make art. It is everyone’s birthright and all have the ability to allow imagination and creativity to flow through their lives, for that is what it is…energy flowing and finding outward expression. The more we stay open to that flow and say “yes” to those nudges and invitations, the more creative we become. We begin to see the world differently and experience life with a sense of wonder and delight. 

In the movie Dead Poets Society, John Keating shares these words with his students, From Walt Whitman, Oh me! Oh Life! Of the questions of these recurring, of the endless trains of the faithless, of cities filled with the foolish, what good amid these Oh me, Oh life? Answer, That you are here, that life exists and identity, that the powerful play goes on and you might contribute a verse. What will your verse be? 

What will your verse be? What will your recipe, sketch, dance, building, joke, song, poem, design, game, garden, speech, outfit, invention, compassion, cheer, story be? 

If it comes from your creative heart, no matter what it is, it will be perfect…and it will be needed. Share your unique brand of creativity with the world. 

Living the Creative Life

A Picture is Worth 1000 Words

Today was National Tell a Story Day. I came across this holiday last year on a website that lists all the interesting and quirky celebrations associated with each calendar day. Last year I told a strange story about getting lost in a church basement, in the dark. (You can read that story HERE)

This year I intended to tell a hilarious and rather embarrassing story on myself, about an incident that happened to me earlier in the week. However, thankfully, I don’t have a single photo to accompany that story. I’ll save that tale for a future post…or bury it in my subconscious.

A Picture is Worth 1000 Words
Thinking about my lack of photos brought to mind the old adage…“A picture is worth 1000 words”…and an idea was born. I asked Facebook friends who wanted to play to start with their last photo in their phones, count back 25 pics, and post that snapshot with an explanation. I let their photos tell stories, for Tell a Story Day. And rather than one story, I get to share twelve, in candid photos.

A Picture is Worth 1000 Words“My most favorite chef in the world”  😉 Debbie

A Picture is Worth 1000 Words“My grandson Jaxon not sure if it was okay to start eating his birthday cupcakes” 😂 Kim

A Picture is Worth 1000 Words“Here ya go Cindy #25” Jerri

A Picture is Worth 1000 Words“Found this while looking for my wedding boots” Dallas

A Picture is Worth 1000 Words“This was taken on Easter morning, I was trying to be clever, my dog’s name is Lily, get it?” Andy

A Picture is Worth 1000 Words“My friend Kaylee and I at Third Thursday downtown .” Robert

A Picture is Worth 1000 Words “Paper purses that I make!” Sheila

A Picture is Worth 1000 Words “The cup I would love to have and I saved the picture. My grandkids call me ‘The Bird Lady’. Best part is they are appreciating birds and can identify quite a few or else they look them up to see what they are!!” Rebecca

A Picture is Worth 1000 Words “Ok, so not surprised it’s a Younique graphic of our ahhhmazing foundation. Because I sell it and work from my phone!” 😍 Pam

A Picture is Worth 1000 Words “We were laughing about Lincoln (1) wearing his sister’s tiara and carrying a fairy wand when just a few minutes later, Papa starts with this! lol” Marijo

A Picture is Worth 1000 Words “Working in the garden!” Cindy

A Picture is Worth 1000 Words Sweet potato stuffed with stir fried red cabbage, onion, and garlic. My first meal Monday after a week of juicing! Bliss!!” Me

I appreciate everyone who played along. These pictures represent 12,000 words! And more than that, they represent 12 unique lives, all telling unique stories, which seems to be a very appropriate way to celebrate National Tell a Story Day!

Sneaky Cards

I love when my family and friends let me know about a wonderful product or event that they feel is a great fit for me and my journey. When my grandson Dayan sent me a text, telling me about a card game he saw at Target that he thought I would love, I checked it out. Dayan has accompanied me on many of my adventures over the years. He knows my yearly themes and my missions, and most of all, Dayan knows my heart. 

Sneaky Cards Play it Forward

The object of this game is to get rid of all of the cards. Each card contains a mission. 

BLUE – ENGAGE Test your audacity and chutzpah 

RED – CONNECT Find things, and not just objects

YELLOW – SURPRISE Use your sneakiness and espionage skills

GREEN – CARE Do good and give to others

PURPLE – GROW Challenge yourself in new & interesting ways

PINK – CREATE Make art with a purpose

Once the mission on the card is completed, the card  is passed on to someone else…that’s the play it forward part. 

Dayan was right. I was so intrigued, and purchased the game. 

Sneaky Cards Play it ForwardExamples of missions

This afternoon, my grandson and I opened the game and looked over the cards. I shuffled the deck and Dayan selected two cards randomly, one for him and one for me. 

These are our first missions:

Sneaky Cards Play it Forward
Dayan’s mission, from an ENGAGE card, is to play the world’s largest game of tag. He will tap someone on the shoulder, say You’re it, and hand him or her the card. No tag backs! He attended a Young Democrats meeting this evening. What a fun way to pass on his card. 

My mission, from a CREATE card, is to create a card for an obscure holiday. The sneaky card is enclosed within the homemade greeting, to be passed on to the recipient. I chose Groundhog Day, which is tomorrow. Although it is not all that obscure, Groundhog Day is not normally a holiday in which cards are given, making it perfect for my mission. I crafted a card, using cutouts from an old Book of Knowledge set. 

Sneaky Cards Play it Forward
This is a fun, and creative game! Sneaky Cards, with categories for connecting, engaging, surprising, creating, caring for others and growing, couldn’t be any more perfect for this Year of Inspiration, and making life a little more tender and art a little more robust. 

I spend every Wednesday afternoon with Dayan. We agreed that every week, we will draw cards individually or as a team, and carry out the missions. I registered my deck so we can track where the cards go, as other people play and pass them on. 

When the cards are all gone, whether it takes weeks or months or years, the game will be over. Want to play? You bet we do! We are playing it forward.  

Sneaky Cards Play it Forward

Happy Birthday Dear Me

Today is my birthday! And what a joy filled day it has been. I’ve received hundreds of birthday wishes and blessings, from all over the world. Some of the messages made me laugh. Some let me know that the sender understands who I am and they get my journey. And some made me cry…happy tears. What a beautiful world we live in. I am undone by the outpouring of love and joy and encouragement. 

Happy Birthday Dear Me...Celebrating Who I Am
Last year I wrote a birthday post for every member of my large, extended family. In April I began to include information about each person’s name and personal characteristics. I missed doing that for those with birthdays in January, February and March, including myself. 

I looked up my name, my formal name:

“Cynthia, you are cheerful and friendly, and could live a very emotional life. A high energy person, you like to have several lines of effort going at once. You are a good speaker and promoter and can express yourself joyfully and constructively.  You have the ability to think up big ideas and bring them to completion. You might be psychic. You are inventive, intuitive and extremely methodical. Since your will is so strong, you can be hard to convince. You also dislike advice and at times, you can be impatient, and impulsive. However, you love beauty and philosophy and spirituality . You have a strong need for freedom – physical, mental and spiritual.

You have the power and the unique ability to choose your own destiny and achieve anything you want in life. You can expand in any direction according to your will and your set of values. You have a passion for life and for fairness, which means you belong in a position of authority. You are inherently courageous and possess the endurance to accomplish “The Impossible Dream”. With that power comes responsibility, something you are willing to accept. You hold keys to the material world, but with this gift comes a high spiritual responsibility to be fair and true to others. You are philosophical and mature, determined and intense,  with a desire to endure and go far.” 

Happy Birthday Dear Me, Celebrating Who I Am

I read through the words above slowly and thoughtfully, feeling into them for truth. It’s a bit different posting them, when they are for me rather than a family member. I can see my loved ones’ strengths and passions clearly. 

I see truth there, sense it really, more than see it. I am encouraged by what I read, receiving affirmation that it is okay for me to be a dreamer, a big idea generator, psychic, intuitive and inventive. Creativity pulses through my blood. As do stubbornness, impatience (especially when I am forced to wait because of the inaction of another), and impulsiveness. And I do desire freedom of all kinds, freedom to be, to journey, to grow, to walk in an uninhibited way with the Divine. 

Happy Birthday Dear Me, Celebrating Who I AmMy J Peterman sweater arrived in time for my birthday! I love it. 

I love reading that I have the power and ability to choose my own destiny and achieve anything that I want in life. What a powerful blessing. It’s the equivalent to being handed a map and a magical key and being told “No door is closed to you, no land off limits.” The adventurer in me quickens with such   spacious thoughts. What an amazing invitation to explore, both my inner and my outer worlds. 

I am intrigued by the very first sentence, in the description, that ends with the words….could live a very emotional life. Could is the key word. I have not lived an emotional life at all, because I chose at a young age not to, suppressing emotions such as anger and sorrow. I wonder how I would be now, if I had chosen otherwise, if I had lived as the emotion filled being I was intended to be? 

There is no going back, no undoing that long ago choice. I have done much inner work in the last ten years, to free all of my emotions, to stare down fear and embrace who I am, all of me, gifts, quirks, strengths and weaknesses. It is an ongoing journey. Perhaps I will yet know what it is to experience a full range of emotions freely. 

The last year has been amazing for me. I have learned vital lessons and experienced growth. I walk with greater trust, in myself, in the Divine, in my ability to have an ongoing conversation with the Divine. I walk without a cane!  And I am well underway on a remarkable healing journey that is restoring my health and vitality. My family thrives and all are well, all is well. Tonight I dined with eight of my loved ones, a casual, fun celebratory meal. 

I am indeed so inspired this year, to see what I can do, what I can achieve, who I can walk alongside with, who I can help. Within me does burn the desire to endure and go far, beyond my boundaries, beyond my borders, journeying with the flow, surrendered to Life and where it takes me. 

Impossible dream?  I don’t think so! Happy birthday, dear Me. Onward and upward. I love you! 

Happy Birthday Dear Me, Celebrating Who I Am

Ruby…and Gold

I experienced an interesting evening, as I embraced making life a little more tender, followed by receiving inspiration from creative souls who most definitely live out making art a little more robust. I wavered back and forth between which event to write about. As it turned out, it was both. 

I met a friend for dinner. V and I have known each other for 35 years. Recently, life has been very challenging for her. She is a cancer survivor. And in 2011, she was seriously injured during the Joplin EF5 tornado. She also became a widow that day. Her husband did not survive the storm. 

As her friend, I have walked with V through dark days and despair, and through healing and a new beginning. As her realtor, I helped her sell her home in Joplin so she could make a fresh start in a new town, away from the reminders of all that she lost May 22, 2011. 

We met for dinner at Ruby Tuesdays. V graciously made the drive back to Joplin, so we could chat and catch up, and she selected a restaurant that offers a large, fresh salad bar so that I could dine on veggies. 

Our conversation quickly centered around my friend’s health. She is not doing well. I have watched V deteriorate in the years since her life drastically changed. Post traumatic stress syndrome, living with what she heard, saw and experienced, has thrown her body into distress, and dis-ease. 

Tonight I recognized that contrary to what doctors have told her, that her symptoms are all in her head, or that she is suffering from a mystery illness, she is ill. Mystery illnesses. Autoimmune disorders. These are what I have been learning about in my own healing journey. There is a cause, and trauma ignites a firestorm of inflammation and symptoms within the body. I will be walking with V by offering what I have learned through changing my diet and building up my immune system while fighting the viruses that have wreaked havoc in my body. I can offer her hope while she continues to seek help from the medical community. 

This will be an ongoing journey. Much will depend on her willingness to take back responsibility for her health. Tonight, It was enough to listen with compassion and share from experience. 

At home again, I watched the Golden Globes. Movies, and a few television shows, speak strongly to me. I watch these films and shows to uncover deeper truths and lessons for my life. The award shows that occur in January, the Golden Globes, and February, The Academy Awards, are meaningful to me. 

I don’t view actors and actresses as superstars who can do no wrong. I see these men and women as artists who have a passion for telling stories in a larger-than-life kind of way. I appreciate that they have the courage to follow their hearts, and do what they love. I get to receive the overflow that pours out of their hearts, souls and lives…performances that impact me, shift my perspective, enlarge my own soul. 

Tonight the Golden Globes recognized a broad range of movies and tv series…dramas, comedies and musicals. It’s a preview of the movies that will be nominated for Oscars, a peek at the films that have made the greatest impact. You can see the list of winners HERE

More important to me than who won is the opportunity to hear the presenters and winners express their hearts and gratitude. I don’t agree with every word that is spoken. But I do respect their right to share what stirs their hearts. 

I begin making a list of movies to watch, after the award shows air. Already on the list after tonight is La La Land, Moonlight and Manchester by the Sea. After the Oscars are handed out, I will watch each of the Best Picture nominated films. This evening, I was inspired watching these talented individuals, inspired to follow my own heart and heed the call of my own creative passions. 

And I am inspired to walk with my friend, through the bewildering landscape of post traumatic stress syndrome and illness. 

Ruby Tuesdays…Ruby…considered the stone/color of love, energy, passion, power, and a zest for life. Golden Globes….Gold…considered the mineral/color of illumination, love, compassion, courage, passion, magic, and wisdom, as well as sparkle, glitz, and glamour.

The two events from my evening seem totally unrelated…and yet I know that life doesn’t work that way. There are connections everywhere. There are connections here. I am open to discovering what they are.