Memorial Day Memories

If you live in the USA, it’s Memorial Day!  It’s a day for us to all remember and thank the troops who have fought for us in the past, and those who are still fighting.  If you’re thinking red, white and blue, you can check out this blog post or this one that I wrote last year-and don’t worry, I’ll be thinking red, white and blue for the 4th of July in a few weeks.  Today however, we’re talking about memories. The really good thing about memories is that you don’t need a physical something to remind you about the memories, they’re in your head.  But, having that physical remembrance is nice too.  Here are a couple of ideas to help you and your family treasure the memories of the soldiers in your family (as well as all your other family memories).

~most obvious is to create a scrapbook. Picture albums have really come a long way from what they used to be.  Now we can include pictures, writing, and other kinds of memories all in the pages of a beautiful scrapbook.  It’s a way to not only preserve the memories but the experience as well.

~make a memory jar. These are clear or lightly colored glass jars that have wider mouths so you can put objects in them.  Martha Stewart has a couple of examples here.

~create a memory wall.  This cool wire/string display lets you share all the photos you want, in a neat, orderly fashion as well as be able to change and update them as you feel led.

~write a book.  This is a little more of a time commitment, but usually worth the time.  Actually writing down the stories either in journal or story fashion for your future generations as well as maybe even the rest of the world lets you share more than a photo does.

What about you?  How do you preserve the memories in your life for future generations?

Inspiration in Poetry

October 15th is National Poetry Day.   In honor of National Poetry Day, I share with you 3 beautiful poems, and although they are not mine, I hope they inspire you and stir your creativity.

Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein
There is a place where the sidewalk ends
And before the street begins,
And there the grass grows soft and white,
And there the sun burns crimson bright,
And there the moon-bird rests from his flight
To cool in the peppermint wind.

Let us leave this place where the smoke blows black
And the dark street winds and bends.
Past the pits where the asphalt flowers grow
We shall walk with a walk that is measured and slow,
And watch where the chalk-white arrows go
To the place where the sidewalk ends.

Yes we’ll walk with a walk that is measured and slow,
And we’ll go where the chalk-white arrows go,
For the children, they mark, and the children, they know
The place where the sidewalk ends.

A Dream Within A Dream by Edgar Allan Poe
Take this kiss upon the brow!
And, in parting from you now,
Thus much let me avow–
You are not wrong, who deem
That my days have been a dream;
Yet if hope has flown away
In a night, or in a day,
In a vision, or in none,
Is it therefore the less gone?
All that we see or seem
Is but a dream within a dream.

I stand amid the roar
Of a surf-tormented shore,
And I hold within my hand
Grains of the golden sand–
How few! yet how they creep
Through my fingers to the deep,
While I weep–while I weep!
O God! can I not grasp
Them with a tighter clasp?
O God! can I not save
One from the pitiless wave?
Is all that we see or seem
But a dream within a dream?

The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I-
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

If’ you’ve written any poetry I invite you to share it below.  If you’ve never tried poetry, October 15th is a perfect opportunity to try it.

FF: Studio Hive

Happy Friday!  Today we’re talking with Brenda Leifso.   Brenda is not only a writer and poet, she’s also started a studio for creative writing (which you can learn about down below).  Brenda’s got some great tips and fun stories for us today.

Why are you passionate about words and being creative?

When I was in grade 3, I remember being taken out of my classroom into the class for students with “special” learning needs, where I was told that I needed to be able to write more scientifically.  What that meant and why writing scientifically matters as a third grader baffles me now that I have children of my own.  I had to sit for afternoons at a time trying to write in “facts” only.  Ah, there’s the rub.  What are “facts?”  The details only visible to the eye?  Even then, it seemed to me facts were as much of the feel or colour of someone’s emotion, facts were everything that weren’t obvious, facts were what lived between the words.

Needless to say, I didn’t get very far writing scientifically.  As a working and published writer, words remain, for me, the primary way to convey deeper layers of truth whatever the subject.  Those truths are the foundations holding up humanity itself.

What got me started in being creative as a business?

As a natural creator, I’ve always found it hard to fit into a traditional job.  I spent a lot of time in university (4 degrees later) learning, learning, learning, and finally ending my grad school career with an MFA in Creative Writing.  Along the way, I’ve managed a magazine and taught at a variety of levels while freelance editing and writing.  Marching to the beat of my own drummer just seems to be something I do!  Then, one day, while walking the dog, I had the sudden bolt of realization that, while many online classes exist for copy and marketing writing, no quality structure exists for creative writers outside exclusive university and studio programs.  Hence, the Studio Hive was born!

What are some of your favorite posts?

I’ve written many, but two of my favorites are Good Decisions Might Not Always Make Sense, and Time to Peek Out of the Writing Closet.

When I’m not helping other businesses and creatives thrive, what other ways do I use words?

I’m a working poet currently writing my third manuscript, Arsenic Hour, on the intricacies of motherhood.  The first is published as Daughters of Men with Brick Books, and the second, Wormwood, is about to be shopped around to publishers.

What exciting plans do you have for your work?

I am so excited with the possibility of offering future iterations of the Studio program – including novel, travel, and food writing (and possibly Writing for Dudes!).  What I aspire to most in my own writing is just one weekend away from the family where I can concentrate solely on getting this book done!

Do you have any tips/inspiration to share?

If you feel like you don’t have much time to sit down and write, consider all the time you spend thinking about your writing as working time, too.  When you are gardening, walking the dog, or giving the kids a bath and are thinking about that line or character, know that this is quality work time.  Writing needs gestation as we move through the everyday.  Creative gestation occurs best when accompanied by exercise and fresh air.  (Oh, and try to set a daily writing schedule for yourself – even if it’s just 10 minutes.)

You can get in touch with Brenda for the Studio Hive creative writing programs at her website, Twitter and Facebook.  Brenda also works with mothers in their entrepreneur journey, you can learn more on Twitter, Facebook and her website.

Thanks Brenda!  It was great to hear about your journey and I look forward to hearing rave reviews from your creative writing program.  What a great idea!

Thank You!

Today is Memorial Day in America, have you expressed your thanks yet?  Here are some simple ways you can.

-put change in the bucket of a vet outside the supermarket after you shop for your picnic

-send them a homemade thank you card, made by you or your kids

-send them an e-card

-support programs like Vietnam Veterans, Wounded Warrior Project, and others who support soldiers and their families

-buy or make a poppy

-fly a flag

-make flag decorations

-have kids draw pictures

-say a prayer

-give soldiers and veterans a discount or extra bonus when they shop/do business with you

-say thank you!

What will you do to thank a soldier today?  Share about your favorite soldier, or how you will thank a soldier today below.

Remembering the Soldiers

Veteran’s Day may be in November, but Memorial Day is another perfect opportunity to celebrate and honor the veterans in our lives.  Today I’m sharing 28 ways you can celebrate and honor veterans and soldiers around the world, and especially in the USA!

Stained glass-for the adventurous stained glass creators, how about a stained glass window that depicts soldiers?

Collage-make a collage of pictures and memories of your soldier

Coloring-use red, white and blue

Sewing-sew an American flag, poppy or star into your design.

Flower arranging-a beautiful red, white and blue arrangement would be perfect!

Painting-there’s something special about seeing a painting of a flag fluttering in the breeze.

Writing-write a poem, news article or petition that supports, highlights or encourages soldiers.

Drawing-draw a picture of your favorite soldier.

Needlepoint-get festive with this heart and strips

Scrapbooking-here are some simple ideas to get you started scrapbooking your heroes memories.

Cooking-cook a meal for your favorite soldier or veteran family or group.  Or, attend one of the dinners they host.

Cards-get together with a bunch of friends and create cheerful thank you cards to send to soldiers around the world.

Decorating-use red, white and blue in your decorating and design

Candles-light a candle in honor of the troops.

Quilting-quilt a flag, or incorporate a heart into your design.

Origami-try this cute and dimensional star.

Sculptures-try sculpting an eagle, America’s bird.

Jewelry-try this butterfly of freedom.

Video-make a home movie to send to the soldier you love.

Clothes design-get creative with these star-studded shirts.

Craftsthese shining stars are festive and fun!

Photography-capture the moments of a parade like my friend Jess Klein did in his photos “God Bless America” and “We Salute You America”.

Wood working-make a birdhouse and give it a patriotic paint job.

Knitting-knit a warm cap soldiers can wear while traveling.

Music-play patriotic music.

Sand-make a sand sculpture that honors the flag, a soldier or another aspect of America.

Finally, donate your time or money to Wounded Warrior Project or another Veteran/Soldier group, and offer your services at a discounted price for soldiers and veterans.

If you don’t live in America, you can adjust the colors to celebrate the soldiers in your country.  Regardless of where you live, your soldiers and veterans should be celebrate.  What will you do to celebrate and honor the men and women who have fought for your country?

FF: Words by Joy

Happy Friday!  Today our guest is Joy Bennett.  She’s a writer who is passionate about supporting others.  She’s got a great story for us, let’s check it out.

Why are you passionate about writing?

I’ve been writing since the 2nd grade when I wrote and illustrated my first book. So I guess you could say that writing is part of who I am. It’s also how I work out what happens in my life. There’s something therapeutic about taking the chaos and putting it into words written left to right, top to bottom, ideas spelled out one at a time in a way that makes a little sense. If I can’t write (and there have been seasons when I had neither the energy nor the time for it), I grow restless.

What got you started with writing and being creative as a hobby/business?

I was an undeclared major my freshman year of college, wanting to write but convinced that the only kind of writing was creative and that authors pretty much starve. I tried a bunch of other things but didn’t find the right fit. Then I received an email about a professional writing program and immediately made an appointment to speak with the professor. When I learned that I could actually make a good living writing for businesses, I was sold. I graduated with a technical and professional communication degree, and started life in the working world as a technical writer for a computer company. This degree is very flexible, giving me the skills to pick up freelance and part-time work as an editor, designer, journalist, ghost-writer for technical journals, and instructor. I’m freelancing now, partly because I have young children and cannot manage a regular 9-to-5 job and partly because I don’t WANT to work in a 9-to-5 job.

Do you have some favorite things you’ve written?

I really enjoy writing that matters — that celebrates people and teamwork and making the most of the cards you’re dealt. In the last nine months I’ve written several things for our local children’s hospital — web copy, bios for an award they give for promoting an approach to health care delivery called “patient- and family-centered care”, and a newsletter article highlighting the volunteer work of nurses. I also have a personal blog, where over the past three years or so I’ve delved into the murky waters of faith and doubt, depression, and grieving (our oldest daughter died at age 8 in the fall of 2008). People are hurting and desperate for a shoulder to cry on and an arm to lean on, but it’s tough to find a safe person with whom you can share your deepest fears and doubts, pain, and sorrow. Writing about my experience, and corresponding with those who have contacted me to share their stories, has been incredibly healing for me — to see God use the most difficult experiences of my life through the medium of writing to help others is humbling and awe-inspiring. I also write for the blog Deeper Story. I would say my favorite posts are the following: Hiding – on the challenges of true intimacy in marriage,
I Want In– on faith and doubt and judgy people, Depression Is a Bad Boyfriend, and Unbreakable– on breaking my promises.

What exciting future plans do you have for your work?

I have countless dreams and ideas, but very little in the way of plans. I think this is partly because of my current season of life — my first priority is to my three young children and my husband, and they need most of my time and energy right now. In the next couple of years, however, all of the kids will be in school and my daytime routine will be wide open. I’ll be able to take more paid writing work at that time (my schedule fills up very quickly now because I have limited hours), but I will also finally have time to develop my personal writing. I will find a writing group, maybe take some classes or participate in workshops, and finally start writing my daughter’s story.

Do you have any tips/thoughts you would like to share?

I will just reiterate what countless writers have said before — write! Your writing will only get better with practice. You also need to be open to critique — find some people who know good writing and ask them to help you improve yours. Take a writing class, or work through a book on good writing — my very first college writing class worked through the book “Style: Ten Lessons on Clarity and Grace” and it transformed my writing. Last, challenge yourself. Identify your weaknesses and work on them. I’ve been working on story-telling and illustrating ideas with my own analogies instead of using the worn-out cliches that everyone knows. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, but it’s been very good practice for me.

You can connect with Joy on Twitter, Facebook, at her personal blog, and on her writing website.

Thank you Joy!  I am so touched by your story and can’t wait to see your words in businesses and touching lives around the world.

If you have encouragement for Joy, you can share it below.

Earth Friendly for America

In April we celebrate Earth Day.  It’s also Keep America Beautiful Month.  To celebrate, here are 22 ideas to get your creativity started.

~make a stained glass American flag

~make a collage of your bit of America.  Your town, your life, your America

~color eggs in Earth colors or red, white and blues

~create a community garden

~paint a picture of your favorite spot in America

~sign petitions that support nature organizations (learn more at Charity Navigator)

~buy recycled paper notebooks to do your drawings

~scrapbook your travels to great American destinations like Yellowstone, Acadia, and Joshua Tree

~start a compost pile in your house or neighborhood

~create your greeting cards with recycled papers and other materials

~decorate your home with some barn stars

~buy or make all natural soap.  Your body and the drains will thank you!

~buy or make beeswax, palm wax or soy candles instead of the regular ones

~make a quilt of fabrics from all around America

~sculpt what freedom means to you

~create red, white and blue jewelry, or use traditional US stones like turquoise

~buy organic or eco-friendly clothes

~design a couple of bags that you can use for groceries!  They’re fun to decorate and you use them over and over again!

~create a photography collection of all things America.  This could include historical buildings, parades, public figures, or just natural America

~when doing wood working, choose your wood wisely.  Don’t use wood that comes from rare trees

~knit a blanket or baby’s cap with organic/natural fibers for a baby in need

~compose your own special song about natural beauty in the US

What have you done to celebrate Earth Day or make America more beautiful?  Share your thoughts and ideas below.