Everyday Creativity and A Review of The Artful Parent

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“Creative isn’t the way I think, it’s the way I live.” – Paul Sandip (Quoted from Chapter 6 of The Artful Parent)

A few weeks ago, I walked into a teacher training. One of the other teachers had put a pile of small canvas coffee bags with intriguing logos in the middle of our sign-in table. She told us to take as many bags as we’d like because she drank gallons of the coffee and hated to throw the things away. The logos fascinated me and I said something to another teacher about making a collage or a small hanging quilt out of them. He looked at me like I was batty.

“Ok. You’re creative,” he said.  I read in his words that he didn’t think he was creative. That creative was something you were or were not. And this was from a teacher I had just heard talking about the amazing ways he found to connect with students using new technologies.

I often think that people are afraid to own their creativity. I wonder sometimes if they faced too much criticism and have never recovered. Watching my son navigate junior high, I can see how the cold water of peers could douse the creative spark. It may be safer for people to duck their heads and proclaim that they aren’t creative.

While I’ve spent my share of time ducking my own head, I am hoping my own children won’t need to. Recently, I found The Artful Parent: Simple Ways to Fill Your Family’s Life with Art and Creativity by Jean Van’t Hul. This book offered me ways to help my kids begin creating and, even better, tuck creativity into the fabric of their lives.

The Artful Parent walks parents through the process of setting up a space, preparing children to create and then gives over 60 projects to work on with children. The projects range from simple enough for an 18 month old to engaging for school aged children. Van’t Hul begins her book with a discussion of why art is important to her as a person and a parent.  She has a strong background in the arts and a guiding belief that art makes the world a better place. The book goes on to give clear instructions on setting up an art space, and then getting children started in creating.

Interwoven between art projects, several other contributors with strong artistic backgrounds write pieces of inspiration and practical information. Many of them have written books of their own and have years of professional practice in the arts as well as impressive degrees.

Van’t Hul knows her topic and the projects were easy for me to understand. The photographs alone are worth the $15.37  I paid for the book. Light and beautiful children fill the pages to illustrate the projects the author describes. My 2 year old son loved the pictures,too. The first night I was flipping through the book, he latched onto the picture of the cars in paint from ‘Artful Activity 29: Action Painting with Cars.’ He insisted that we put the book in his dresser drawer near his bed for the night so we would be sure to do that project in the morning.

The writing is clear and full of examples that help me understand how to do the projects with my children. I am eager to begin making art materials like puffy paint out of kitchen ingredients.

In my family, I also have the unique joy and challenge of two boys aged 2 and 13. My 13 year old wasn’t immediately attracted to the bright colors and young children pictured in this book. However, as we started setting things up for his younger brother with an easel and other materials, the mood inspired him to pull out his own pens. He began sharing with me the doodles from his notebooks. In a brief message to me about her eBook, Jean Van’t Hul, suggested we try Zentangle. My oldest took to this and began creating more often while looking for places to share more of his art.

http://www.zentangle.com/

In truth, I forgot those canvas bags at the meeting. I’ll need to ask the coffee-loving teacher to bring me more. But I find such joy in thinking of ways to create that I don’t always need to do the project. My life magically improves with just a thought of what I might do with some old coffee bags.

Meanwhile, I’m planning to buy copies of the book for my other friends with young children. Spreading her book around feels like helping the world to be a more beautiful place full of people who recognize their own creative abilities.

“Rocking the Drop”

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Many thanks to the divas at readergirlz for the chance to give back today. I dropped POISON by Bridget Zinn at my local junior high. I asked the school librarian to do as she thinks best with the book — give it away to a kid who would enjoy it or add it to the school collection. It made my rainy day a little brighter.

If you’d like to drop a book of your own, click on the link above for the book plate. Print it and drop it somewhere a teen might find it.

Here’s a picture of POISON in my car on the way to the drop:

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May whoever reads it next enjoy Rosie the pig as much as I did.

The Awful Lovely Difference Between Dreams and Reality

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When I was about 12 I longed for a silk jacket like the ones on the movie Grease. In my dreams, it was pink with white stitching on the back and made me look like a Pink Lady.

I remember waiting a long time for my parents to buy it for me, but it probably wasn’t that long. It was probably only a few months until my birthday.

When I got it, I loved it just like I’d imagined. And then I rode my bicycle with the jacket wrapped around my waist, letting it trail down next to the spokes. The jacket I longed for caught in the circling wheels and was never quite the same after that. My vision of the lovely silk now had black grease marks.

Most everything I’ve ever wanted didn’t turn out as I expected. In some ways my dreams turn out worse in reality and, in other ways, better than I ever could have imagined.

For some time now I’ve been dreaming of getting paid for a piece of writing.

My vision of getting the ‘we will pay you’ mail looked like a quiet moment by myself with a neatly arranged kitchen and no family anywhere around. Don’t ask me why. I guess I just wanted the peace to enjoy the moment. In my vision, I would clutch the papers to my chest and the papers would say something like: “Your writing is fabulous. We love you.”

And then I would close my eyes and send a prayer of thanks.

Reality looked something like this:

I picked up the mail before unstrapping my 2 year old from his car seat and helping him into the house while lugging my purse, a bag full of my lunch leftovers, and Quinton’s sleeping blanket.

My husband was already home. In the pile of mail, I saw the manila envelope from the magazine Alive Now, and wondered if it was another rejection. I had sent a short poem titled ‘The Source’ to the publisher several months ago.

Before I could open it, I got in the house and everything was in a state of pandemonium. My 13 year old needed me to sign a form for his school. My 2 year old entered whine mode and was doing laps around my legs for some reason while my husband was chattering on about our plans for the evening. I told my family they needed to give me a second.

“I’m having a moment,” I said.

Which worked for the 13 year old and husband, so then I only had to think around the 2 year old’s noisy lap running. I opened the manila envelope and skimmed the letter to find the congratulations and the dollar amount.

And then it all got better than my lonely clutching the papers to my chest scene. My family gave me hugs and high fives and shared my joy.

Later I struggled with filling out the contract and tax papers that I had never visualized.

But, in spite of scary tax forms and household pandemonium, I like to visualize my dreams. I often get what I have been dreaming of, and I do believe that visualizing helps this happen. Something powerful and magic pulls me toward what I focus on.

This magic does not mean that what I get looks exactly what I’ve envisioned. Most of the time it doesn’t. Most of the time it’s messy and irritating in ways I never imagined and also deeply satisfying in ways that never occurred to me. So while I am careful what I wish for, I keep right on wishing. And not too carefully, either. I’ve learned that unexpected surprises make for good times. Every so often the unexpected looks like a pink jacket in spokes, but most of the time it looks like high fives and hugs.