The Shack author, Paul Young, spoke from the heart and told the secret to his success–yet, his secret might surprise you!
“At its most basic we are only discussing a learned skill, but do we not agree that sometimes the most basic skills can create things far beyond our expectations? We are talking about tools and carpentry, about words and style…but…we are also talking about magic.” Stephen King, On Writing
In 2018 I will be focusing on this notion of creativity. Writing, yes, but also creativity broadly speaking, because I believe that all of you out there reading this can identify in some way with this idea of making something out of nothing. You can appreciate the beauty of a song, a poem a painting or a well-turned verse, and perhaps you’ve tried your hand at creating one or more yourself. Yet, you also know that while we are allowed to admire beauty we are, too often, discouraged from creating it unless it’s in our spare time, on the weekends or after we’ve done the “serious work” first.
In other words, creative work is often not taken seriously. It is mere trifle. Entertainment. Distraction. Relegated to the margins of the mainstream day-to-day work that everyone else is doing.
Well, I would like to move it from the margin, to the middle, if I may. Because, for some of us, creativity is a calling. Dare I say? Serious work, in fact. So, I want to talk more about creative work. Believe it or not, that’s not an oxymoron. In fact, the value of creativity has proven to be more important in recent years on the heels of the sterilized, standarized sameness of industrialization and technology. According to Daniel Pink author of A Whole New Mind, “our country has entered a “conceptual age” where “right-brained skills such as design and storytelling” are “more crucial than traditionally left-brained skills such as accounting and computer programming”. (CNN) It seems there might be a place at the table for us after all. For those of us who live in our right brain anyway, Pink says the world may become a more welcoming place! But, will it?
Will moms and dads support little girls and boys who say they want to be artists, writers, and dancers instead of engineers, scientists and doctors? Will the world only accept creative types if they use their creativity in the service of technology and engineering? We certainly need both scientists and artists, but I fear that we still value one more than the other. In this economy with jobs in demand and healthcare in decline, it’s the bottom line that matters more than the poetic line. When there are budget cuts in education, the arts are always the first to go, but is that okay? STEM is all the rage, but I don’t hear nearly enough about STEAM.
So, I guess it’s up to me, here in my little corner of the internet to defend creativity, to keep it alive and to declare its value. I’m committed to convincing you, if you’re not convinced already, that creative work is important. That creative work, is work. So, here I am with my top hat & bunny in hopes that you’ll be impressed.
“Look everybody! It’s not just writing…it’s magic!” I know I have my work cut out for me, but happy Monday, anyway!
That’s what I think of as we celebrate Martin Luther King today.
His life of sacrifice. His dedication to civil rights and his life long commitment to the struggle for equality–not just for African Americans–but for all Americans. It’s what made him so well loved and hated (by some) in his time.
Yet, this idea of sacrifice is often thought of in such lofty terms that we don’t consider King’s humble beginnings. We don’t think of the small churches where he organized, the small following he began with and the many naysayers he had who criticized his methods. In hindsight, King is a hero, in retrospect we hail him “King” with little thought for the cost of his kind of sacrifice.
But, hindsight is a funny thing. They say it’s 20/20, yet looking back tends to bend the prism of our perspective on how change happens. Thinking back on the marches and protests, petitions and progress of King and other leaders, we assume it all just happened as smoothly as turning the pages of our history books.
Thus, when we set out to make change we expect the same smooth strides from what is to what should be. We demand it, in fact, and become angry when it does not happen as quickly as we expect. We lament the “good ‘ol days” and bemoan the loss of “good ‘ol” leaders, like King, who can rally the people towards the goals we’ve set. Obviously, hindsight is not 20/20. Nostalgia blinds us to the reality that change is never easy, rarely smooth and always requires sacrifice.
Sacrifice isn’t sexy.
Those who sacrifice have to give up something–they have to determine that one thing is worth losing in order to gain the other. The problem comes when what is sacrificed is of greater value than what is gained. King was willing to put his life on the line for the sake of an entire nation of people. His life was certainly valuable, but his legacy has meant a better life for millions. You don’t see many like him these days. In this generation, it seems people are more concerned with their legacy first. Everyone wants to be a leader, but no one wants to be a servant. Sacrifce? We would rather be served! “Butler, bring in the silver tray!”
We look to leaders in our communities to inspire us, but what made them leaders? Did they possess some special powers? Was Martin Luther King superhuman? No. He was a simple man who had a simple beginning and made a simple–not easy–choice that you and I can also make: to do what matters, to value what is important, to put the needs of others first.
While we like to look at the end result, we should not forget how it all began and where each of us can begin–right where we are. It’s not about the legacy, it’s about the daily living. Each one of us can make a difference, but we need to do two things: (1) shift our focus away from how we think things used to be and (2) stop looking for an “ideal” leader to bring about a change that we ourselves are capable of creating.
The question is, what are we willing to sacrifice in order to obtain the future we wish for? How you respond to this may be in terms of where we are socially, politically or personally. The basic principle is the same.
So, I haven’t shared a recipe or workout in a while, but it’s January, so while you’re still gungho about working out, let me share a quick routine–ready?
First, turn on your TV or radio–might as well have some background noise, then grab some hand weights (or a small child, canned goods–anything with some weight to it that you can hold for 5 minutes)
Now, set your timer to 5 minutes and march up and down your stairs! Don’t have stairs? March around your house, apartment, bedroom, dormroom…whatever! Just get those knees up!
If you’re holding something that has a reasonable amount of weight and you’re moving, I guarantee you’ll feel something! If not, move your arms up and down as you march or pick up something heavier.
Catch your breath after 5 minutes, then repeat as many cycles as you have time for. If marching is too tame for you, then pick up the pace! Lift your knees higher and go as fast as you can. (See my post on Tabatas.)
Then, when the workout is done, it’s time for your reward:
So, I made the most AMAZING grilled cheese sandwich ever in my new air fryer–have you seen these things? They are fantastic! You can “fry” without frying and have dinner on the table in minutes.
I also happened to have some of my holiday wassail left over from Christmas and decided to settle down with my delux GrilledCheese and a cup of this deliciousness and I must tell you it was quite a treat!
Okay, so the theme for today is–enjoy the simple things. What’s so great about grilled cheese you may ask? Nothing, until you add a dash of herbs and a slice of tomato. Then your basic grilled cheese goes to the next level. Trust me! (Even if you don’t have the air fryer yet, you can still use low fat margarine instead of butter and prepare on the stove as you normally would.)
And for those who’ve never heard of wassail, well, there’s an entire tradition behind this holiday beverage that goes back to the Middle Ages, showing up in English literature, in fact, which was a happy discovery for me! According to Robert Doares, the word comes from “the Old Norse ves heil and the Old English was hál…meaning ‘be in good health’ or ‘be fortunate.’ The phrase was first a simple greeting, but eventually the reply “drink hail” was joined with it to create one word and one meaning: to be in good health. Basically, to have good fortune was to enjoy a meal and drink with friends and loved ones!
Ironically, traditional wassail was also consumed with crusty bread or toast which explains why we raise a glass and “toast” one another today as we offer health and good fortune to those we love.
So, I think it’s quite appropriate for me to offer you this lovely combination, don’t you? This perfect GrilledCheese with crusty bread and my own version of wassail as I extend to you good health and good fortune!
My wassail recipe is also quite simple–I told you, it’s the theme for today. Here are the ingredients I use (amounts are approximate):
- 2 liter apple juice
- 1 can frozen orange juice
- 2 liter cranberry juice
- 1/4 cup whole cloves
- 10 cinnoman sticks
- 2-3 slices of fresh peeled ginger
- 1/4-1/2 cup whole cranberries
- add orange slices 1/2 hour before serving to preserve color
- add 1/2 cup sugar if more sweetness is preferred
Just pour everything into a crock pot or a large pot on the stove–put the burner on low and let it simmer for at least an hour. Your house will be filled with a wonderfully sweet aroma and there’s nothing better than the delicate balance of sweet and spice which you control by the amounts that you choose to add. When served, the ingredients can be strained, but they look pretty in the glass, don’t they? This will keep well in the frig for 4-6 weeks.
Voila! Instant comfort food on a chilly January afternoon. Can you picture it? Cozy blanket. Grilled cheese. Warm, spiced cider…ahhh…wassail!
Cover photo credit: pixabay.com