Creative Thinking


Pumpkins, Candy and Scary Costumes

by Christine

When I was a kid, Halloween was the ideal holiday. It was all about creativity and candy. My mom always made costumes for my brother and me. Her greatest design was the one-eyed one horned flying purple people eater based on the novelty song of the same name. Mom was so proud of her creation and our costume was the hit of the neighborhood. Each year we would decorate paper bags with scary pictures and talk about how much candy we gather going door-to-door. One Halloween when my brother was little, he dragged his bag until the bottom wore out and he lost all his candy. To my credit, I willingly allowed my candy to be split between my brother and me. I knew how sad he was to lose his candy. I guess it was one of my first lessons in empathy. Now that I am an adult I also know my parents raided our candy after we went to bed to make sure it was "safe".

Today, Halloween is a $6 billion business. Gone are the days of a single pumpkin on the front stoop. Now we have inflatable witches, black cats and mock grave yards. Orange lights, ghosts and spiders decorate front porches. Neighbors vie not only for the best docorations but the best candy. It is a party on a national scale. 

I am not one of those who lament a time gone by; I resist the urge to talk/complain to my children or grandchildren about walking to school up hill both ways during a blizzard while living in Florida. I love life today for many, many reasons but for me Halloween continues to be a holiday that demands homemade creativity. Unfortunately, giving out homemade treats or inviting in little ones so you can get a good look at their costumes is a tradition of a different era. 

So to maintain the creative spirit for Halloween this year, I made Zombie pumpkins. Zombies are kind of a theme at our house this year. This past summer my three grandsons came to spend a week with us at the lake and we made a movie. Zombie Lake is our first production so when I saw Martha Stewart's Zombie Pumpkins I knew I was in! I marvel at how creative some people can be when carving a Halloween pumpkin. It is pretty spectular some of the designs that show up in the various designer magazines. Historically I have been more of a traditonalist but this year I have ventured out. Creating Zombie pumpkins for the kids and polka dotted pumpkins for the adults has taken me out of my comfort zone. 

I have had fun planning and excuting the little touches that bring smiles to those I love. I work to make my home a place of good cheer and positive energy. Are you a person who finds joy in decorating? If so, what is your vision for Halloween?


What Does It Take To Stop You?

by Christine

I have a quote that hangs on my office wall by racecar driver Alan Kulwicki that I read daily to keep me going… The real test of your character is what it takes to stop you. I reflect upon that quote whenever I get frustrated. I am the first to admit I can have a low frustration thrush hold. I am not a big fan of standing in line, poor or slow customer service or automated phone systems. But as I aged, I developed what others would call maturity but what I recognize as my ability to multi-task to keep my frustration quotient in line when standing on line.

But there is one area that still rattles my cage and causes me to become irritated or question my commitment to my cause. It is technology. I believe I am a reasonably intelligent person who has had a good deal of success in many areas but when I tackle the manual functions on my digital camera or try to schedule the publication of my articles for this blog I can promise you what can go wrong will go wrong.

It started years ago before the proliferation of the personal computing device. It began with phone systems and copiers. My first real job was as a “switcher”, the person who punched the buttons to put local TV programming on the air. I was good at it; I had fun doing my job. I would have multiple projectors, video sources and audio sources all going at one time but ask me to make multiple copies of the show log and I knew there was going to be trouble. The copier would jam, it would run out of toner, it would run out of paper…it had a million and one things it could do to stop me from getting the job done. Unfortunately, the bigger problem is that technology doesn’t stay fixed. It is like cleaning up after a 3 year old. You know you are just going to have to do it all over again the next day.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t believe that machines were or are out to get me. Or at least I don’t think they are. I just know my personality and this is an area of challenge for me. I struggled with math in school, a subject that made me feel dumb. Those same feelings come to the forefront when trying to master a new skill set on certain types of technology. To this day, the flash button on the phone is just another way to hang up on the person you are talking to before you tried to connect the third party.

As I work to live my life intentionally, sometimes that means pushing through the frustration, the childhood feelings of inadequacies and just plain staying the course. When the frustration builds, I take a walk, vacuum a rug or call Marty who commiserates with me and then reminds me of my goals. I, of course, no longer throw things against the wall… that became too costly.  I remind myself, who I want to be and what I want my life to look like and that helps me keep my frustration quotient low.

What gets you frustrated and how do you handle it? 


Intentional Living-Time to Think, Design and Live

by Christine

I would love to tell you that I have always lived an intentional life but that is not true. As a matter of fact, I would say for many years it was just the opposite. My first real job was with a local TV station in Jacksonville, Florida. How did I end up running camera and building sets? My best friend was a passionate communication’s major in college who wanted more than anything to be a television producer after she graduated from college. Me? I just said. “I’ll have what she is having”. So I too, got a job in TV. I enjoyed the work, I was even good at it but it was not my ideal job, it was my best friend’s ideal job. Once I mastered the basics of the craft, I wanted to move on to something else. I did not love the work in and of itself so I started looking for the next challenge.

Over time I started to question why I was so restless and began to think about the choices I was making in my life. But ultimately, it was the terminal illness and subsequent death of my ex-husband that made me take a hard look at my core beliefs and understand they were not always reflected in how I was living. Gradually, I was able to articulate what it meant to live intentionally. To me it is about taking the time to make sure that what I am doing in life aligns with what I believe.

Now I consciously think about the how I am living my life. That philosophy encompasses everything from how I decorate my home to how I treat my neighbors. Candidly, it has not always been easy. I live the cliché two steps forward, one step back but daily, I make the effort to think about and live the life I envision. How about you? What does living intentionally mean to you? How do you live a virtuous life? I would be interested to learn about your struggles and successes in living intentionally.


Bringing the ‘Happy’ in Happy New Year!

by Sheila Delson

I recently taught a workshop on the topic of getting organized for the New Year at my local public library.  It is an exercise I do every year, mostly because I’m asked, but also because it is an opportunity for me to focus on my own ‘stuff’’ and confront the challenges that prevented me from doing things I wanted to do the previous year. 

The small room was filled to capacity and I could feel the sense of anticipation as I scanned the faces staring back at me. I found myself wondering if any New Year Resolution workshops were ever really effective, and why so many of us do this exercise year after year!  We are like anxious children waiting for Santa Clause to deliver our every wish…and of course we truly believe that this time will be different. I knew I wanted this workshop to be different too!  I wanted the outcome to be sustainable and uplifting so that when folks left that day they not only felt good about their thoughts and decisions, but also motivated to see them through!  

Of course I was prepared!  I had all my handouts and work sheets and my white board pens; I knew exactly how I would present this workshop and what I would speak about.    But how could I make this one different so the outcome could be more effective?  As I stood there waiting for one last person to take his seat, it suddenly hit me - an ‘Ah-Ha’ moment! 

The usual focus for New Year Resolution talks is from the perspective of “What new or different things do you want to happen in your life in the next 12 months?”  While that is still an appropriate question, without an emotional (feel-good) attachment to those objectives however, the focus of that question often presents itself from a place of demand, drained energy and interest, unrealistic expectations, frustration, sabotage and resulting disappointment.  Instead, I decided to change my approach.  After a brief introduction and icebreaker, I asked the group to pull out their handouts and turn to the page that says “Goals and Objectives.” I asked them to cross off those words and replace them with “Little and Big Things That Made Me Happy in 2011.”  Instantly the energy in the room shifted.  People began to smile with sounds of “Oooh” as their pencils wiggled upon the worksheet.  I told them that tonight’s class would focus on extracting all the things that made them HAPPY or ‘feel really good’ last year, and how they could bring those or similar things into tonight’s class so they could create a plan to replicate a similar outcome in 2012…making 2012 a much happier year to look forward to!

The remainder of the work sheets facilitated a similar process to the usual list making of activities, needed tools and timelines.  The actual ‘New Year Resolution’ process was the same, but the motivating factor for achieving success was different.  The participants were energized with their memories and outcomes, making the room all a-buzz with chatter.  Their goals were no longer drudgery thoughts filled with doubt and cynicism.  Instead their ideas and thoughts were about real personal experiences, experiences that were rewarding and made them feel, well…HAPPY, which meant that focusing on creating similar experiences were actually attainable.  It is possible the reason so many New Year resolutions peter out by March is because we’ve ignored the importance of attaching a positive emotional feeling to our goals based on something we’ve already experienced.  At the close of the workshop I was asked if we could all meet again so they could all share their results with one another.  We agreed to meet every quarter as an accountability check-in.  I was moved by their genuine sense of confidence and enthusiastic willingness to commit to one another!  Motivation to achieve a specific goal is better realized and sustained when emotionally driven.

As a professional organizer I learned something very valuable that day.  I learned that different roads can lead to the same destination, and sometimes with greater results if one is willing to blaze a different path. Being and getting organized is about flexibility, and a willingness to look beyond the standard, or the obvious.  Instead of only focusing on what isn’t working with a client, I ask them to tell me what IS working for them, and we use those positives as a springboard toward their vision and hopes. It is that same concept that was applied to that day’s workshop, and with powerful results.  

Of course my workshop scenario may not be fitting for all ‘New Year’s Resolutions,’ and of course there is ample room for other thoughts and ideas on the subject. This is just one approach I found to be effective.  By bringing positive events from the past and acknowledging them in the present, we can create a plan to help ensure similar results into the future. 

May your happy events from last year continue throughout the year that follows.  Make yours a very “Happy New Year,” 1012!


How to Make 2012 and EVERY Year the Best Year Yet

by Karen Graves

Is it just me or have you noticed there is some serious enthusiasm about the New Year going on out there? I don’t know if I just didn’t notice last year and people have always been this excited or if there really is a heightened welcoming of 2012.

On one hand, it is infectious and pretty magical and on the other hand it’s also pretty telling---perhaps people really did have a sucky 2011 to the point they were ready to leave it behind.

In any event, here we are almost a month in so no turning back now.

Now I don’t know what you’re intentions are for the outcome of 2012, but if I may offer one piece of advice, do yourself the favor and claim this year as the year of taking ACTION. If you want to get past what has ever held you back to get to wherever you are trying to go, then you have to take action.

Intentions of “I am planning on doing" or “I will try to” just don’t cut it. Just do it.

If this is the year you will run a marathon, start with enrolling in a 5k in the spring. My closest girlfriends did this last year to forward them in their goal of doing a triathlon and they ended up doing more than one and becoming avid cyclists!  Not only did they achieve their goal, but also they have since excelled in their fitness overall. (My she-roes!) 

If this is the year that you are going to do more public speaking, join Toastmasters or invite friends over to your house to run a home workshop. If this is the year you want to grow your business, put a networking event on your calendar. 

If this is the year to improve your relationship with a loved one, plan a dinner date or make a phone call.

See where I’m going with this? It's the little steps that count. 

So in order to make this the year you accomplish big things, let me share my 5 Step Formula for knocking 2012 (and the rest of the years) out of the park:

Step #1: Set a goal---a big fat juicy one. Just make sure it is achievable and realistic. Set yourself up for success.

Step #2:  Determine what the very first thing you need to do to achieve the goal. For instance, if it is to run a 5K, do you need sneakers? Do you need to go the gym tomorrow?  

Step #3: Think of what the step is before the first step. Trust me, there is always a step before the first step. If you said, get sneakers, do you know what sneakers to buy? The real first step is finding the type of sneakers you want.

Step #4: Do the first step --- make it a stretch to get some skin in the game. Buy the $150 pair of sneakers because you will not like having a $150 reminder of what you are not doing if you don't take action.

Step #5:  Repeat Steps 2 - 4.

That's it. It really is that simple. Think small, incremental, achievable steps to your end goal and then act on them. They should be easy enough to do and not as painful as you may think.

You can move mountains this way.

One caveat: Resist the urge to overhaul your entire life. Think of all the areas that need changing and pick the one area that will make the most impact. If you focus on accomplishing shifts in that one area, you will notice that welcomed changes take place in all areas. You just need to change behavior on a very minor scale to see dramatic results.

I promise.

Because in the end, it’s nice to have plans, but until you take a first step in the direction you want to go, plans remain plans. 


Manners Matter

by Melissa Gooding

Thank you so much …

I beg your pardon …

You’re very welcome … 

It all began with the French. Back in the 1600’s, the French nobles spent much of their day hanging out in the Royal Court. None of them worked, so, when they weren’t gossiping, they dedicated themselves to developing elaborate social customs. From these customs they created a list of proper social behavior and called it etiquette (a word derived from an old French word meaning ticket.) This code of behavior soon spread to other European courts and eventually was adopted by the upper classes throughout the Western world. Knights bowed, ladies curtsied, and the civilized world was very, well, civil. 

Where are we today?

Many people believe manners are a distant memory, and even basic civility is fast becoming the exception rather than the rule.  Is it because more Mother’s are spending their days working outside of the home? Are children spending less time ducking in and out of their friend’s houses, less time making their way and testing their social skills? We baby boomers knew that our friend’s Mothers would call-us out if we did not exhibit “guest” behavior when visiting.  And upon returning to our own homes our Mother’s would ask, did you say thank-you? Did you put your napkin on your lap? Over and over and over again we were reminded of our manners. Good manners became a habit. And we didn’t suffer from self esteem issues when our parent’s told us were eating like animals. When we got busted for exhibiting bad manners we knew it was our fault and took the heat and improved our behavior. 

Use to be that children learned manners from watching the examples set by their parents, especially those set at the dinner table. Now, with the average family having sit-down dinners together at an all time low, a recently published study cites seriously poor behavior can be a result of those missed meals.

In fact, the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University shows that teens who sit down to a family dinner five or more times a week are 42% less likely to drink alcohol, 59% less likely to smoke cigarettes, 66% less likely to try marijuana. Yikes. It is also believed by experts that regular family dinners facilitate better communication between parents and children that help parents guide their children’s behavior and encourages kids to confide in their parents about serious matters. Whose turn is it to set the table?

Polite Post’s mission is to provide, through its daily Polite Post newsletter, entertaining, friendly and timely manners-related content that will remind, teach, and encourage common courtesy and good manners. And specifically, to provide participants with the tools and skills to exhibit those good manners in one of the most important ways—the writing of thank-you notes and appropriate social and business correspondence. 

Between email, texting, tweeting and the like, technology rules the day, destroying any real opportunity for thoughtful and cordial communication. In these fast moving times, with days and nights filled with family, business and social obligations, who has the time to be polite … to even utter a thank you, yet alone write one?     

At Polite Post we believe the answer is … EVERYBODY. 

By unifying cutting edge computer engineering with genuine, heartfelt communications, Polite Post’s digital correspondence technology provides a fast and effective way for everybody to say thank-you in a manner that’s as distinctive and memorable as the words you write. From birthdays to Bar Mitzvahs, weddings to wakes, writing a personal thank-you or other correspondence is an important, even essential, part of the occasion. From home or office, instantly from your computer, for free.

Polite Post believes that the knowledge and understanding of good manners can make for a kinder and safer community. One where people feel and act comfortable and confident in almost any situation and importantly, exhibit mutual respect for one another. And simply put by Lillian Gish, “You can get through life with bad manners, but it's easier with good manners.”



Nature Vs. Nurture

by Christine

It all started several years ago on a road trip to the Wild Coast, South Africa.  Shayleen Dwyer wanted to spend time with her mother and, following the advice of a friend; Shayleen and her mother chose to spend 10 days at the Bulungula Lodge.

Bulungula is an eco-friendly backpackers lodge situated on the western coast of South Africa.  The Lodge works in tandem with the people of Nqileni village to create a harmonious experience for the eco-traveler that includes highlighting village life in a spectacular natural setting. Nqileni is in one of the most impoverished areas in South Africa where ¼ of the people are HIV positive; there are few roads and no running water or electricity.  Part of Bulungula’s mission is to enable the people of Nqileni to start community-owned businesses that create jobs and income for the local families.  Matador travel writes, “the community is so involved within the lodge, a feeling of belonging, sharing and respect has been established with the travellers who visit”.

Shayleen, who has a history of small business development, noticed that the Lodge lacked a gift shop.  She recognized that the international travellers who visited Bulungula would like to take home a memento from their time visiting the Wild Coast. She also understood this would be an opportunity for the people of Nqileni to develop an outlet for local crafts. Shayleen offered to produce a business plan and raise capital to start a “shop”.

“I have always been a craft person”, explained Shayleen.

“Just before visiting Bulungula, I closed my store in New York City.  I was freelancing in the fashion industry and keeping my options open for the next opportunity”, she continued.

“I knew that a store would work in Bulungula.  So at the end of my vacation, I returned to New York where I started to work on a plan.  I raised money for the project from my family and friends.”

A year later, Shayleen returned to Bulungula to start work.  “I figured that teaching the locals a skill would be more beneficial than donating money or goods.  So I put out a call to teach felting and sewing.  A day later a dozen women and one man showed up and we started creating clothing and bags using the local hand-powered sewing machines and the locally produced traditional shwe shwe fabric.  The tourists started buying and ordering that same day", Shayleen recalled.  Success!

Next they tackled felting - felt is the oldest form of fabric.  Felting is the process by which raw wool (such as sheep’s wool or alpaca wool) fibers are manually interlocked and shrunk to form a durable piece of nonwoven material.

All that's needed for the process is water and soap - perfect for an off-the-grid area.  Several of the young women took to the process quite naturally and within a couple of days were sculpting various scarfs, hats and purses for the gift shop.

In just 3 weeks, Shayleen and the local crafts people created a viable craft business.  3 years down the line the project has grown and now supports 10 families.

Working with the Bulungula Lodge helped Shayleen meet another of her personal goals.  “My parents and my youngest brother live in South Africa and I wanted to be able to spend more time with them.  Working with Bulungula gives me something rewarding to do while I am there”, said Shayleen.  "They've also all spent time with me down at the lodge, an unexpected gift - it's a wonderful place".  

“My whole life has moved in an organic and instinctual way.  I am more of a wing-it kind of person.  I prefer waiting for opportunities, feelings or needs within me to arise, rather than chasing down an idea.  It takes a bit of patience - sometimes things take time to come together.  But at least it feels right when it does manifest." 

But was her willingness to take a risk on something new just the way she is or is it learned behavior?  Without pausing, Shayleen says, “Considering my siblings all seem to be the same way, I'd say learned behavior.  My father enjoyed a fulfilling and interesting career as a diplomat with only a high school education.  My mother is super creative, adventurous and brave.  From them I learned that 'following your bliss' is a good way to ensure you'll enjoy your work.  And making time for travel and adventure keeps the feeling of freedom alive".

Shayleen continues to travel periodically to the Wild Coast to work with the crafters at the Lodge and returns regularly to the States to sell the crafts created at Bulungula.  She has been inspired to develop her own line of felted crafts and is working with the shop at Bulungula to expand their line on the Internet.  She is expecting to soon be able to phase out her freelancing and work full time on both these projects.  

So how did Shayleen end up helping a community in South Africa, developing a new craft line and spending more time with her family?  She did it by being open to new experiences and new opportunities while letting go of those situations that no longer worked for her.  She was able to craft her own life by clearly defining her values and living them.  As we navigate a changing world economic environment and a limited US job market, it would serve us well to remember that opportunities are right before us, we just need to be willing to take a chance.



DECISION POINT: Say it out loud

by Karen Graves

“When something leaves your vocal cords it is 2-3 times more likely to become true.” ~ Thomas Leonard I’ve known for a very long time that I wanted to be a Motivational Speaker. I love public speaking. To me it is like breathing. It is something that has always felt very natural for me. Being in front of a group presenting, or doing what I really enjoy most, teaching, feels like a personal slice of heaven. There is no better way to touch people than by sharing information that can make a big difference in their lives. Most people are shocked by the fact that I love to speak publicly. Most comments range from, “I could never do that” to “I give you a lot of credit for doing what you do.” Considering most people would rather be eulogized than deliver a eulogy, it’s easy to see why that is. I can remember when I first declared I wanted to speak for a living. It was over 20 years ago as I was just getting ready to graduate from college. Someone asked me what I wanted to do when I returned home. Very clearly and very honestly I responded, “I want to be either a standup comedian or a bartender.” Considering my parents had spent a fortune on my education, I quickly laughed it off by saying I would probably never be either because a) my parents would kill me for pursuing anything that didn’t require a college degree and b) I wasn’t funny enough for standup. And although the reasons came much later as to why I chose those two professions---a standup comedian talks about real life with humor in a way that makes it easy to swallow and a bartender listens intently and sympathetically to all that share their woes and need an ear. The way I teach and present being demonstrative of both of those roles---I see it was my first attempt at verbalizing my deepest desire. There were other times I said it, a little more directly. I actually said the words, “If I could be anything, I would be a Motivational Speaker.” However, without skipping a beat, I would quickly swallow them up with, “but I have nothing to say and who would listen to me anyway?” I can’t recall how many times that happened. And then I stopped taking it back. One day a few months ago as I was writing my biweekly ezine I just felt the strong urge to share with my readers that I was going to be an “International Motivational Speaker”. I guess a part of me felt that if I was going to do it, I needed to say it out loud, or in this case, write it out loud without the opportunity to take it back. (I believe the larger part is that I received a Divine Nudge in the direction of what I desired the most because truthfully, I am not always that forward thinking.) I remember that I followed the statement with the word, “Gulp.” I was nervous about what people might think and strangely excited all at the same time. After I sent the email I sat staring a long time at the confirmation message that told me it was gone. Gulp indeed. I don’t know what I expected, but nothing really happened. A couple of people commented, but there wasn’t an earth shattering moment that proved that my desire was going to go anywhere other than that ezine. So I went back to business as usual, coaching women entrepreneurs into successful businesses. About two months later I was at a large business seminar of about a hundred people. The forum was such that the group leader wanted to know what everyone felt that they had received from the training. Before my head could catch up with my feet, I found myself standing in front of the room, again making the declaration, “I want to be an International Motivational Speaker.” The rest of what I said was a blur because I can’t even tell you if my response had anything to do with the question. All I know is that in that moment I had to blurt the words out and again, not take them back. This time I received a bunch of acknowledgements from fellow attendees that let me know the timing was just right and my truth was getting louder. I was still a tiny bit nervous, yet even more excited than before. So it was not really a surprise to me when 3 weeks ago I received an email, and I can’t even tell you who from, that was an invitation to participate in a speaking contest called, “Ready for the Stage.” The email stated that it was for aspiring speakers to be done in American Idol fashion with the finalists being voted on by the audience in the room and those watching via an online live broadcast. To be considered as a participant, each person was required to submit a 5-minute video audition. Further details stated that this contest was part of a larger 4-day business seminar called SEVEN where four millionaires would teach attendees how to build a seven-figure business model. If selected as one of 10 semifinalists, I would attend the SEVEN for free, at a savings of $1400. From the semifinalists, 4 finalists would then be selected who would do a 10-minute presentation on stage. And just like American Idol, there would be live critique and voting. The winner would take home gifts and prizes galore. Again, compelled to “just do it”, I recorded my video audition on Thanksgiving morning and hit the send button. Immediately I felt at peace and also knew I had just solidified my semifinalist position. Don’t ask me how I knew, I just knew. And this time my nerves were calm. So on Thursday, December 9th when I stood on a stage in front 4 judges, approximately 150 people in the room and Lord knows how many at home watching a livestream broadcast presenting my 10-minute message, I wasn’t nervous. I was just excited. Chosen as the first of the 4 finalists to present, it was finally the moment to speak the truth I had been waiting for all along. I am a Motivational Speaker. If you have had a burning desire within you that you have been moving away from instead of towards, here’s what you do: Tell as many people as you can. If you choose not to, it will be just a dream deferred. If you are willing to say it out loud and often, it will quickly become a dream realized. And furthermore, as soon as you declare it out loud, I promise you, you will receive the Divine Nudges you need to make sure it comes true. And if you need an audience, send me an email with what it is to, I love to support people in reaching their dreams. Want to know the results of the “Ready for the Stage" contest? Please come on over and read the Vision Launch blog @

05 examines a simple way to start being creative

by Christine

Excerpt: A simple way to start being creative is just to be open. Ontology is 'the metaphysical study of the nature of being and existence'. This whole field of study considers what it is to be. We don't just exist: we exist in external contexts in the world. We also exist in internal contexts, where our state of mind frames and changes everything else we perceive. Read the full article


Psychology Today Discusses: The Art of Creativity

by Christine

Excerpt: Has this ever happened to you? You're out for a jog, completely relaxed, your mind a pleasant blank. Then all of a sudden the solution to a problem you've been mulling over for weeks pops into your head. You can't help but wonder why you didn't think of it before. In such moments you've made contact with the creative spirit, that elusive muse of good—and sometimes great—ideas. Yet it is more than an occasional insight. When the creative spirit stirs, it animates a style of being: a lifetime filled with the desire to innovate, to explore new ways of doing things, to bring dreams of reality. Read the full article