Fifth Anniversary of Cats Out of the Box

It is hard to believe that five years ago today, I wrote and shared my first blog post.  I would have quit long ago if it hadn’t been for the following people.  A special thank you goes out to……

  • As my friends and family know, I ponder things.  I had been pondering writing a blog for years.  My friend Joe said just write a blog already.  Stop thinking and start doing.  And I did.  Thank you, Joe.
  •  My friend, Eric Hanson, is an amazing poet and I have used his poems in my blogs off and on over the years.  Thank you for letting me share your beautiful creative work with others.  Eric has also let me bounce ideas for blog posts off of him.  Some are definitely a lot better than others.  Thank you for listening, making suggestions and not letting me embarrass myself in the written word.
  • To my family there are not enough words to express my gratitude for your assistance, patience, feedback and support.  I know that having me in your lives can be a challenge.  You help me to be the best artist and creative person I can be.  I am truly grateful for you.
  • To my friends, so often the conversations we have are the creative sparks for a blog post.  You go hiking with me in all kinds of weather.  Thank you for your emotional and creative support.  You help me be a better writer, artist, creativity coach and teacher.  I am grateful for all of you.
  • This year I started teaching art classes at Flathead Valley Community College for the Continuing Education Program.  I would like to thank Debbie and all of the helpful staff who work in that program.  I couldn’t do it without all of you.  Your support and assistance makes me look good!
  • I would also like to send a special thank you to the students who participated in the Art Sampler, Beginning Acrylic Painting, Fine Art of Book Making and Mixed Media Collage Classes.  You have inspired me with your stories, questions, and amazing creative work.  You are all amazing creative people and I am excited to see where your creativity will take you.
  • To my readers and blog friends who follow my blog as part of the WordPress community, I am grateful for your support.  I am continually inspired by all of you and the creative work that you are doing.  No matter where you are located on this planet or what your blog is about….. your creativity, bravery in sharing feelings and ideas, and support make me proud to be a part of the WordPress blogging community.
  • Thank you to those that like my posts.  I appreciate you taking the time to support my creative work.  You motivate me to keep writing.
  • Thank you to those that post comments and provide feedback.  I enjoy hearing your thoughts about my work.  I am so proud when something I have written inspires others.  Your words mean the world to me.
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Angus, the original Cat Out of the Box

I have been asked recently by a friend and previous student, what advice did I have for someone who wants to start writing a blog.  I came up with the following five tips:

  1. Have an idea of what you would like your blog to be about.  Mine is about creative living.  But there are blogs about all kinds of things.  There are blogs that focus on photography, poetry, movie reviews, travel, cooking tips and recipes.  The sky is truly the limit.
  2. Give yourself goals.  I try to write two Haiku poems a week and two or three other posts each month.  I don’t always succeed at getting as much written as I would like, but the goals help me to keep focused.
  3. Don’t be hard on yourself if you don’t reach your goal or can’t write for awhile.  Hey, life happens.  In April, after my Grams (Grandmother) died, I could’t write for the rest of that month.  It is okay to take a break from your blog if you need to.
  4. Follow other peoples blogs.  Make comments (but do not be a troll).  Like posts that you enjoy.  The support and friendship you will build within the blogging community will surprise, delight and inspire you.
  5. The most important thing….. have fun!

Thank you so much for another amazing year of blogging!  I am so happy to share this journey of creativity and exploration with you!

Poetry Challenge

April is National Poetry Month in the United States.  If you are a regular follower of my blog, you are aware that I write haiku poetry.  I also highlight poet’s and poetry in a special blog post each April.  This year, I wanted to do things a little differently.  I am inviting my readers to participate in a poetry challenge.

HERE ARE THE RULES:

  1. The poem must be an original creation of the person submitting it.
  2. The poem must use the word “Vicariously” as either the title or as part of the poem.
  3. The poem cannot be longer than 500 words.
  4. The poem must be sent to me via my contact page or by my personal email address, before April 1st.
  5. Please list your name or how you would like to be recognized and the name of your blog, if you have one.  I will try to add a link to all WordPress blogs for other authors on this site.
  6. Poems received will be posted on my blog in a special post celebrating poetry month.  I am anticipating publishing this blog post on April 2, 2020.

I am purposefully not giving very much time to write a poem.  To often, creatively, when we see something like this if we say to ourselves, “oh that’s cool, I’ll do it later.”  We think too long or we forget and we miss the opportunity.  But if you want to write a poem, quick write it, submit it to me via my contact page or email and it is done.  You have shared your creativity.

Disclaimer.  As author of the blog “Cats Out of the Box,” I have the right to determine if a poem is ineligible to be posted on my blog.  If that happens, I will contact the author directly.

Last and probably the most important question… why the word “vicariously?”  The definition of the word from Miriam Websters Dictionary online states that it is the “experienced or realized through imaginative or sympathetic participation in the experience of another.”  At a time in history where so many people are having to work from home, practice social distancing and participate in shelter in place, it felt appropriate that the subject of a poetry challenge be experiencing and realizing life through another person, a memory, a fictional place, dream, etc.

I am excited to see what other poets and creatives come up with!  I am looking forward to hearing from you.

Good Luck!

 

Ability – Creativity Series

“Everyone is a genius.  But if you judge a fish on its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing it is stupid.” -Albert Einstein

The other day I was going through some art papers, notes about classes, ideas on sticky notes and quotes.  I came across a folded up little piece of paper that had this quote from Albert Einstein.  It really spoke to me and I found it to be the perfect inspiration for my second post in the “Creativity Series.”

Some of the lessons that we need to learn about being creative are not learned through doing an activity or by reading a book.  They are learned by changing our perspective.  In this case the perspective we are changing is allowing others to hurt us or judge us with their opinions and harsh words.

Just like the fish in Albert Einstein’s quote, we are not going to be good at everything we attempt to do.   A great pastry chef may not be able to grill the perfect steak.  And then again maybe they can grill a perfect steak but are unable to speak in front of a crowd of people.  What is being said in this quote is not to allow yourself to be judged by the things that you have trouble doing.  The chef is still an amazing chef even if they can’t do public presentations.  If the chef is content with their life, does it matter what others think?

Enough time and practice can help anyone to gain a basic understanding and minimal skill set in any area.  For example, I took an accounting class in college.  For me, it was a tough class.  I did fine, I got a C.  I am perfectly capable to do basic book keeping for my art as a business.  But I will not be remembered for my interest accruing skills on a spread sheet and I am more than okay with that.

Take a moment and think of how you have been compared by others or yourself in doing something that you are not proficient at.  How did it feel?  Did it hinder your ability to try to do the task in the future?  Did it alter how you felt about yourself?

I have shared this story in the past, but it fits so well with the Albert Einstein quote that I have to share it again.  I had a student who was in her seventies when she took my creativity class.  She shared a story about one of her creative blocks.  She had always been very tall for her age.  In her school choir classes she would stand in the back row and sing with her whole heart. When she was 12 or 13 a teacher told her that she shouldn’t sing.  That she should just mouth the words instead.  My student was devastated.  She never sang out loud again.  The words of one person had the power to quite literally silence a voice.

My student shared that she still wished to sing.  We talked about the fact that the teacher who said that had become her internal critic when it came to making a joyful noise.  We talked about ways to silence this critic.  We talked about ways that she could sing and feel comfortable.  Her church choir was recruiting “new songbirds.”  She auditioned and was accepted.  She was finally singing again.  After sixty years of thinking that she couldn’t sing, she had auditioned and was accepted in a choir.

I leave you with these final thoughts.  You are a genius!  You are a creative, imaginative, amazing human being.  Believe these words.  Believe in yourself.

Permanent Record

There are moments in ones life that cause an individual to change.  Some of those moments have a catalyst in the way of an experience, event, etc.  It’s kinda like when someone asks you where were you when you heard about the twin towers in New York City?  Really big events not only change one person but have the power to change everything.  There was before September 11 and there is after September 11.  This particular event also affected Edward Snowden the author of Permanent Record,

I remember when I watched the documentary “Citizenfour,” directed by Laura Poitras, having a serious shock and awe moment when I realized how much, how serious and how scary the amount of surveillance that my government was perpetrating on its own citizens, as well as every human being on this planet.  This isn’t a clever science fiction plot.  It is real life and it is terrifying.

documentary Citizenfour

 

So of course, when I heard that Edward Snowden had written a book, I had to read it.  I was not disappointed.  The following is the description from the jacket cover:

As I proceeded down the Tunnel, it struck me: this, in front of me, was my future.  I’m not saying that I made any decisions at that instant.  The most important decisions in life are never made that way.  They’re made subconsciously and only express themselves once fully formed – once you’re finally strong enough to admit to yourself that this is the course your beliefs have decreed.  That was my twenty-ninth birthday present to myself: the awareness that I had entered a tunnel that would narrow my life down toward a single, still indistinct act.”  – (Page 214) from Permanent Record

“In 2013, twenty-nine-year-old Edward Snowden shocked the world when he broke with the American Intelligence establishment and revealed that the United States government was secretly pursuing the means to collect every single phone call, text message and email.  The result would be an unprecedented system of mass surveillance with the ability to pry into the private lives of every person on earth.  Six years later, Snowden reveals for the first time how he helped to build this system and why he was moved to expose it.

Spanning the bucolic Beltway suburbs of his childhood and the clandestine CIA and NSA postings of his adulthood, Permanent Record is the extraordinary account of a bright young man who grew up online – a man who became a spy, a whistle blower, and in exile, the Internet’s conscience.  Written with wit, grace, passion, and unflinching candor, Permanet Record is a crucial memoir of our digital age and destined to be a classic.”  – Book cover of Permanent Record by Edward Snowden

Written in a way that even the less than technical savoy can understand, I felt that I was given a view into the government’s development of its spying programs.  I also felt like Edward shared his struggle and motivation.  The words flow logically and Edward leads you through the story.  I appreciated his candor, humility and humor.

At one point in the chapter on encryption Edward makes the following comment.

“Breaking a 128-bit key would take 2 [to the 64th] times longer than a day, or fifty million billion years.  By that time, I might even be pardoned.”  – page 217 Permanent Record

I my humble opinion, Edward Snowden should be pardoned.  He is a hero.  He pointed out something that should be a concern to every human being on this planet.

I highly recommend the book Permanent Record.  It puts the record straight.  If you have read it, please post a comment.  Or if you would like to discuss the book with me, please contact me through my contact page.

Giving Up the Ghost

Have you ever heard someone say that they have given up the ghost?  To “give up the ghost” is an idiom that has been traced back to the 1600’s.  Just in case you are curious, an idiom is a word or phrase that has a figurative meaning that is not easily deduced from its literal meaning.

To “give up the ghost” means to expire or die.  In the case of a mechanical object it means to stop working.  It also means to give up on or stop trying to do something because you know that it will not succeed.

I confess that I really hadn’t thought a lot about this saying until I heard it used in a song entitled “Giving Up the Ghost” by the band a-ha from their album “Cast in Steel”.  I have attached a link to the song as follows: Giving Up the Ghost by a-ha

The song got me thinking about how we hold onto things that do not bring us joy or happiness.  That we keep trying to do something even though we know it will not succeed, may never succeed and often causes us pain.

I am not talking about when one is learning a new skill, trade or activity.  You can’t expect to paint a perfect painting if you have never used acrylic paint and a paint brush before.  There is beginner’s luck but I will save that discussion for another post.

What I am talking about is staying in the same job, relationship, situation, etc. because we are to stubborn to let it go.  Or we are afraid to move on because we don’t want to be seen as failing or a failure.  There is also a fear that what is out there is worse than the situation we are in.

For example, I worked in a job that I did not enjoy for seven years.  I was afraid that the next job would be worse than the one I was in.  I have a friend who almost immediately after getting married realized that she had made a horrible mistake.  But instead of ending the marriage she continued trying to make it work for nine years before giving up the ghost.  She felt that to end the marriage was a failure on her part.  Another friend shared how he went into a career field because he thought it would please his father.  It was only after his father’s death that he realized how miserable he was.  Trying to please someone else he didn’t realize how unhappy he was.

Making major and even minor life changes are one of those things that is much easier said than done.  If this was easy to do, I think people would give up the ghost on a lot of things and a lot earlier.

What are some of the areas of your life that you are holding onto even though it does not bless you or bring you happiness?  What could you do to give up the ghost?  Please share your experiences of giving up the ghost in the comment section of this blog.

Featured image for this blog post is from:

Ghost.arrow

It’s Not a Choice….

In the movie “Patriot Games,” based on the book of the same name by Tom Clancy, there is a scene where the Ryan family is busy getting ready for the day.  They are making and eating breakfast in the kitchen.  The little girl, Sally played by Thora Birch, wants pancakes.  Her dad, Jack Ryan, played by Harrison Ford, gives her a choice of “toast or toast.”  I thought it was funny in the parameters of the movie…… but when put into real life….. It’s not a choice if there is only one option.

Have you ever had a situation where an employer or individual acts like they are giving you a choice but there is really only one option?  From the perspective of the person providing the non-option, they feel like they are being very generous.  From the perspective of the person who has no option, the situation feels like a trap.

At one time I worked for a large company that had a pretty good healthcare package.  One that you wouldn’t want to loose.  At the beginning of flu season they sent out a memo to all staff members that whomever did not get a flu shot would loose there healthcare plan if they took time off for having the flu.  (I don’t think what they did would be considered legal today.)  I had expressed concerns to my direct supervisor.  I have had allergic reactions to medicines and vaccines.  And several of my direct family members had had a reaction to this particular flu vaccine.  I was told to that I had to get it.  So I did.  I had a reaction to flu vaccine.  Not only did I have an allergic reaction (hospital visit which had to be paid for by the insurance)  but I then got sick with the flu.  The flu virus and allergic reaction had weakened my immune system to the point that I then got pneumonia.  I ended up missing three weeks of work.  Medicine, hospital visits, doctor visits, paid sick leave, and loss of an employee for almost a month all had to be absorbed between the insurance and the company.

Now I know that I am probably the exception to the rule in this case.  But the lost time, money, and energy because I was not given a choice was very disheartening.

So where was I going with all of this….. It is nice to have choices.  When working in a situation where one is part of a team, if the team members have choices, they feel like they are participating.  When negotiating or just being part of a relationship, options, choices and not feeling trapped build better relationships.

So what would you prefer? Whole wheat toast or white toast?