Horses, Nieces, and Imaginations

Growing up I had a lot of horses. There was Acorn, Tammy Bell, Chestnut, Lightning… And I don’t remember the other names. Eventually though, all of the horses faded into the recesses of my imagination except for Chestnut and Lightning. I took them everywhere with me and rode them extensively. 
In fact, the horses were so well trained (and fast) that they ran alongside the road while I traveled somewhere and that way we didn’t have to worry about horse trailers. Plus, if I got tired of riding in the car, I’d simply get on Lightning and we’d have fun jumping over guard rails and obstacles while keeping up. 
The horses were a lot of fun and from time to time I would tell other people about them while I was trotting around outside. As I got older people probably thought I was a bit strange when I described Lightning’s brilliant white coat and beautiful brown star, but that didn’t bother me. My imagination made life so much more amazing and I wasn’t going to let other people’s opinions change that… When I was younger I sometimes offered to let people ride the horses, but as time went on and no one took me up on the offer, I eventually stopped. 

When I was eighteen I went to South America and stayed with my sister, brother-in-law, and four nieces and nephews for two months. Where we lived it was beautiful, bare, and very difficult to breath. My main task during my visit was to be the teacher to my two nieces.

When school wasn’t in session we enjoyed a lot of hanging out time. There weren’t many toys around other than a few dolls and so we used our imaginations and anything we could find lying around. One day while we were walking down the dusty streets, keeping a lookout for cowboys recklessly riding horses (because where we lived was the equivalent to the “wild west” of our olden days, complete with gold mines) I got an idea.

These imaginative nieces of mine were clambering for a story, so I decided to tell them about Chestnut and Lightning. After all, one of them often rode a made-up horses of her own, and if I told them about my horses, then I’d be able to join her and we’d go trotting down the road.

To my delight, they were both thrilled to find out that their auntie rode horses. Then there was a plot twist. My oldest niece, who was seven, wanted to ride Chestnut because she didn’t have a horse like her sister did. I happily complied and together we slowly trotted down the street. (Slowly because I was still adjusting to living at 12,500 feet and anything more than a walk made me feel like I was going to black out.)

It wasn’t long until my niece was asking if she could keep Chestnut for good. I know it probably sounds silly to be attached to a figment of my imagination, but it really was a hard decision to give Chestnut away. By that time I’d had the horse for over a decade and had spent many happy hours with her. In reality though, I still had Lightning (who had always been my favorite), and it was my niece asking for the horse, so in the end I joyously gave her Chestnut. There were some stipulations: She wasn’t allowed to sell, give away, or get rid of the horse, and she wasn’t allowed to have it die. (Hey! There are some benefits to imaginative gifts.) 
My sister’s family moved back to the states at the end of my two months with them in Peru, and although they lived several states away from us, we saw them much more than during the pervious eight years. 
To begin with, nearly every time we went to see them my nieces would excitedly ask for me to ride the horses with them. I’m not sure there’s anything that could have made my auntie heart happier. The niece I’d given Chestnut to even wrote me sometimes, giving me updates about how the horse was doing and what was going on in her life. And that’s when I knew that giving Chestnut away had been an amazingly good decision. 
Last week I was visiting my sister and her family again, and Chestnut’s owner informed me that it had been a while since we’d ridden our horses together and we really should. I heartily agreed, all the while marveling over how it’s been six and a half years and my little niece has grown up quite a bit and she still rides Chestnut just like I did when I was her age. 
The last full day of my visit we mounted our horses and began trotting down a dirt lane. Their little siblings wanted to join us and I soon was riding double with my three-year-old niece clinging to my back. During that moment I couldn’t help but smile, thrilled to pieces at the fact that my imagination and joy had transcended generations. 
Who knows? Maybe someday my own kids will ride Lightning and (borrowed) Chestnut. Because after all, imagined horses are the best because they never have to die. 
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The destination for our Around The World in Fifty-Two Weeks post for this week is… Honduras

(Today I got caught up with answering all the comments on Noveltea, so, if you left a comment, it should have an answer now.) 

A is for Apple (and Artichoke and Avocado) #atozchallenge

 For the 2016 A to Z Challenge we’re going to explore twenty-six quirky ways to foster and expand creativity and imagination. 

I spent a day eating only foods/dishes that started with the letter A.

Breakfast was easy, an Apple with Almond butter. For lunch I had to get a mite bit more creative, but finally came up with Antipasto, which was better than I had imagined. For supper I had a delicious Avocado, Artichoke, and Almond salad which was simply delicious.

Snacks consisted:

Apples and Almonds dipped in Apple butter
Almond milk 
Ants on a log 
my rendition of antipasto
Eating only foods that started with the letter A was more challenging than I’d anticipated, but lots of fun. I forwent some of the easy dishes like Angel hair pasta, Alfredo sauce, Alphabet soup, and enjoyed coming up with more unusual foods. It was a yummy day. 
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Thanks for stopping by Noveltea! If you had to eat food that started with only one letter, what letter would you choose? 

Refueling the Creative, Imagination, Idea-Generatoring Part of My Brain

The thoughts dancing around in my brain leave me smiling. Creativity. Imagination. Ideas. I’ve surrounded myself with a quirky lifestyle that promotes soaring thoughts and a seemingly never-ending onslaught of new possibilities. I had gotten to the point where I thought it was natural and I didn’t have to work at it any more, so I stopped the constant embracing of muse. 
Instead of spending each of my days actively paying attention to the world around me and seeking out inspiration, I scurried through the hours, packing my day full and accomplishing and doing and checking off my list. 
It felt good. I was thrilled at how much I could get done and gave myself mental high-fives. I slipped into the new lifestyle and throughly enjoyed it. Until the day came when I realized my creativity had taken a nosedive and my imagination was falling asleep on me and ideas were becoming fewer and less exciting. 

That’s when I knew I needed to make a change. I didn’t panic. I didn’t bemoan the last couple of months (after all, I had learned a lot from them). I didn’t make any sudden visible changes. But I steadfastly began consciously working on my creativity, imagination, and idea generator.

While walking I listened to the slap, slap, slap of my feet hitting the gravel road. I concentrated on my half-swinging, half-jerking gait when I ran with a thumping bag over my shoulder. I took time to feel textures in the world around me. I gulped down books, reading at least an hour each day. I surrounded myself with words, paying attention to the cadence of people’s speech, listening to audio books and watching them play out in my brain, cheering on authors when they used creative word pictures. I pondered the meaning of different words, wondering which ones I could add to my repertoire. I randomly said words out loud, concentrating on how fun words like kaleidoscope sounded and felt in my mouth. 

I asked questions, to myself and to others. I listened to the way other people interacted with each other, noting the exchange, what made them tick. I feasted my eyes on beauty, letting my sight, and my brain, dwell until it came up with a satisfactory description instead of rushing on.

I began searching for ways to be creative other than with writing. I bought craft supplies, letting myself take time in choosing gorgeous colors and running my hand over the merchandise, feeling smooth, rough, and bumps beneath my fingers. I splurged and bought a box with 96 crayons, something I’ve wanted to have every since I was a little girl and my brother would let me sit in his room and use his overwhelmingly beautiful set of crayons to color in his Lassie coloring book.

The ideas began pouring in, tickling me with their uniqueness and making me dance for joy with the randomness, yet consistency, with which they came. Opening lines to unwritten books popped into my brain. Plot holes filled themselves. My mind was in constant motion, cataloging the world around me and storing them in my idea factory.

Today my imagination, creativity, and muse are back in full working order. Little, seemingly insignificant happenings explode into huge possibilities. I’ve reverted back to authorish me. Something as small as wearing sparkly socks with dress flats once again make me want to skip down the roads. Looking off in the distance I see an oddly shaped branch and suddenly a whole book goes poof and arrives in my brain. Sure, life might take a bit longer to live as I dance with unheard music and make a face at myself every time I pass a mirror, but do you know what? It’s worth it.

God is creative and I feel honored that He created us to be creative as well. Enough said.

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How are some ways you’re creative? What is your muse? 

A to Z Challenge Theme Announced

For the last three years I’ve taken part in the A to Z Challenge and I’m excited to have some really cool ideas for the 2016 round. For those of you who don’t know, the A to Z Challenge is where a huge group of bloggers (over eleven hundred are already signed up) take the month of April and each person picks a theme and then blogs about it every single day during the month, other than Sundays. The kicker is that each day corresponds with a letter in the alphabet. For example, the first day you write about something from your theme that starts with the letter A, the next day the letter B, and… Well, you get it.

Last year I let y’all choose the theme I wrote about and I was thinking of doing the same thing this year. Then a couple of weeks ago ideas started dripping into my thoughts and before I knew it, I had an all out attack plan forming and I knew exactly what I wanted to write about.

I am so very excited about Noveltea’s theme for this year, which is Creativity and Inspiration. I’m generally an extremely creative and inspired person, but that part of my brain has been lagging recently as I’ve discussed on here. Y’all should be happy to know that I’ve been having a fantastic time reviving those important elements of my life and you’ll, hopefully, get a fun picture tour during the month of April.

This last week I’ve spent a fair amount of time in preparation, including rearranging my office to accommodate some of the ideas I have. This challenge is going to be a lot of work, but oh, so much fun and so good for me.

I’ve already found myself morphing back into my creative tendencies and feeling a bit more vigor about life. Yay!

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Have you ever taken part in an A to Z Challenge? What theme would you chose? 

The Creative Creator

Somewhere in the middle of last week I realized I missed taking walks. For a long time I would take a walk each morning and activate my brain and kick my attitude into high gear by praising God and thinking over my day as I went. I don’t know if I stopped the habit when the weather turned quite hot or when I was gone one too many times, but for the last few months my walking habits have consisted of running back and forth to my non-writing job in the middle of the day. Not quite the same feeling. 
This morning I awoke to a chilly world outside and a brilliant covering of frost. I curled up in a blanket and snuggled down on the couch to have my devotions. The comfort of the fuzzy blanket got to me and by the time I was done I wanted to take a nap. Instead I bundled up and went out on a walk. 
My walk took far longer than normal because I stopped every twenty or thirty yards to take pictures. The sun was coming up in stunning brightness and the frost was so defined I kept having to crouch down to see it at eye level. 
The frost reminded me, once again, that I serve an awesomely creative God. He not only created the world with magnificent diversity back six thousand(ish) years ago, but He continues to fill our lives with diversity and beauty even now in the year twenty-fifteen. 

It’s easy to look at some people and know which parent they received a certain trait from. I apparently (from what everyone says) look like my mom, sound like my mom and have her same expressions. I received my sneeze, my weird sense of humor and my habit of sleeping on the floor from my dad.

I like to think that in the same way that God has designed us to be like our earthly parents, He’s also given us certain of His own traits. (We are created in His image after all.) When I use my imagination to bring God glory I think it makes Him happy. When I am inspired by His creation and it spurs me on to create something of my own, I think He is pleased.

God is creative.
In Isaiah 64:8 people are compared to clay and God to a potter. 
In Psalm 139:13 it says we were “knit” or “woven” together in our mother’s womb. 
In Ephesians 2:10 we are called God’s workmanship.  
I have enjoyed names ever since I was a little girl. I find them creative, fascinating, beautiful and filled with promise. In Psalm 147:4 we’re told that God knows the number of stars and calls them each by name. The first time that verse really hit me I was filled with wonder and amazement, see, God was interested in names way before I ever was. 
I enjoy being creative. I enjoy trying to look at the world with new eyes, to experience a normal experience seemingly for the first time. A child-like wonder still floats around me, reminding me that the world, the people, the challenges I face are all multi-layered and hold mysteries I can’t even begin to comprehend. 
There is so much creativity that is waiting to be discovered, to be tapped into, to be fashioned and held and changed. I serve a creative Creator and I have been given the gift and desire to create as well. It’s a honor I’m so very thankful to comply with. 

* * *
What about you? What is one thing that inspires you to be creative?

Creativity – My Life

Yesterday my sister (who’s totally amazing!) sent me this text:

How in the world do you remain so 
creative in a world that kills creativity? 
I admire that about you.

Her text encouraged me and made my morning. (She’s great at doing things like that.) Then, even though it was a rhetorical question, I thought about it quite a lot. How do I remain creative? I think a lot (most/all) of people are born creative. Just think about it: A child crawling across the floor, exploring new places, putting things in their mouths, pulling themselves up to new heights. Toddlers playing in the mud, building towers and then knocking them over to see what happens, eating strange new foods, feeling new textures, seeing new colors. 
But then somewhere along the line, our creativity is pushed away. We’re told “no” and we’re told “don’t make a mess” we’re told “we’re too busy”. We’re told any number of things that lead us to believe that creativity isn’t worth-while. That it takes less energy to sit in front of the TV or computer screen and watch something or play a video game than it takes to go out and creative a world of our own. We’re spoon-fed an action packed, fast-paced diet until our own imaginations fail to live up to their full potential. We’re brainwashed that work is to be endured, the weekend to be lived for. But is that really the case? 

My youngest brother recently told Mom he wanted to find me so we could work together. Why? Because we have a game we play together as we work. He’s Prince Eldron, I’m Mother. You wouldn’t believe all the crazy stuff that happens around our castle. Taking the trash out? The perfect way to smuggle a message past the bad guys. Feeding the rabbit? What better excuse to tap on the secret panel three times as you walk past so the good guys know that the south tower is being attacked. Setting the table? By placing one of the knight’s napkin just the right way, the good guys will know a spy is in our midst.

To me, life is bursting full of opportunities. Opportunities to make a difference, think an old thought in a new way, open a new world for someone else. I want to live life to the fullest. I want to reach my full potential. I want to be the person who God created me to be. I’ll never be satisfied with being average and ordinary, because God created me to be extraordinary. (He created you to be extraordinary, too!)

Life should be lived every day we’re alive, not just when we’re having ‘fun’, not just when we have a break from our every-day routine. Life is life! It’s a gift from God. Life can be hard, yes. Life can hurt, yes. But life can also be overflowing with blessings. Life can be beautiful. And I think we sometimes lose track of that when we get to the point where we only see the drab and dreary instead of digging deeper and coming up with the astonishing and delightful.

How do I stay creative? I get off the path and search for ways to be creative. I make being creative part of my life. I have fun with it. I create a creative environment to live in. And, I make it a point to be myself. A big reason people ‘lose’ their creative side is because they worry too much about what other people think about them. They try and please others and in the process they fall into the same mold that everyone else is running around in. It’s like an endless circle.
Just some fun ways I break out of the mold and create a creative environment for myself: 
* I do random, spontaneous things (jumping into the pond, handing out my books to strangers, going for a run on gravel with no shoes)
* I read a lot
* I challenge myself (such as picking unusual ingredients from the kitchen and see how yummy of a meal I can come up with) 
* I stop and notice details (and I think about how there are millions of details I can’t even see)
* I sleep on the floor (who wants to sleep on a bed like almost everyone else on the continent?)
* I swing on a swingset (It’s like flying)
* I act like a kid (imagine you’re smelling something, or seeing it, or experiencing it… all for the first time)
* I create story-worlds for myself when I’m working (like with my younger brother)
What about you? How do you view life? Are you creative? 


“You can’t wait for inspiration, you have to go after it with a club.” – Jack London

“Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, the just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while” – Steve Jobs

“You see things; and you say, ‘Why?’ But I dream things that never were; and I say, ‘Why not’?” – George Bernard Shaw

“Creativity is contagious, pass it on.” – Albert Einstein

“An essential aspect of creativity is not being afraid to fail.” -Edwin Land

“It’s always too early to quit.” -Norman Vincent Peale

“The earth has music for those who listen.” ~William Shakespeare

“Art is not a thing, it is a way.” ~Elbert Hubbard

“The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched, but must be felt with the heart.” ~Helen Keller

{Pictures taken by my adopted mom}

“Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.” ~Oscar Wilde 

“Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” ~Emerson 

“Great things are not accomplished by those who yield to trends and fads and popular opinion.” ~Jack Kerouac

“How we spend our days is how we spend our lives. What we do with this hour and with that one, is what we are doing.” ~Annie Dillard

“Creativity is intelligence having fun.” ~Albert Einstein

“I invent nothing, I rediscover.” ~Auguste Rodin

“To draw, you must close your eyes and sing” ~Pablo Picasso

John Maxwell (who has written over 70 books, several of them New York Times Bestsellers!) shared this quote at a writing conference that I attended last year and I found it very inspiring.  

Everyone is born creative; everyone is given a box of crayons in kindergarten. Then when you hit puberty they take the crayons away and replace them with dry, uninspiring books on algebra, history, etc. Being suddenly hit years later with the “creative bug” is just a wee voice telling you, “I’d like my crayons back, please.” 

Then today when I was trying to find that ^ quote, I came across this post (which I didn’t finish reading, but I liked this)

When we were younger, our imaginations were limitless and unfettered by practicality and qualifications. Once when I visited by my wife at the local elementary school where she teaches, I asked her class, “How many of you can draw?” The entire class raised their hands. Then I asked, “How many of you can sing?” Jubilantly the entire class raised their hands and they all began to sing different songs. It was a chaotic and wonderful sound.

When I am teaching, I ask my college-age students the same questions. In each class, sadly  only a couple of brave people raise their hands. You see, the students have added a self-imposing qualifier to the question. While I asked, “How many of you can sing?” they heard, “How many of you can sing well?” Picasso said it: “All Children are artists. The problem is to remain one when you grow up.”

I don’t know about you, but I think I’ll go and have fun coloring with my little brother today…