Friday, March 27, 2020

Joy Project: Abundance

For the second joy aesthetic in her book Joyful: The Surprising Power of Ordinary Things to Create Extraordinary Happiness, designer Ingrid Fetell Lee has chosen abundance. Admittedly, abundance is quite often a wonderful thing, but the concept seems a bit fraught in this time of Covid-19. For some, abundance is a closet full of toilet paper, all the shows they can stream, and a raging bull stock market. For others, abundance is an overflow of kindness, selflessness, and generosity. I imagine most of us fall somewhere in the middle, with an extra helping of worry thrown in.

So it was really interesting to read a designer's take on it. Lee writes, "The kind of abundance that really matters is not material accumulation but sensorial richness." She cites some interesting research about how animals and humans raised in "enriched environments" perform better on cognitive tests. Babies naturally seek out sensory experiences in order to support neural development. Adults of all ages are emotionally more satisfied and tend to adapt better physically with the right level of stimulation around them. (This is a key point, because overabundance--of food, alcohol, or technology, for example--tends to have the opposite effect.)

And how does a person go about enriching her or his environment with abundance? By focusing on "a diverse array of sensations", lest we develop what Lee calls "sense hunger."

As I write this, I'm noticing the diverse sensations around me: Music playing, candles burning, a fountain trickling, and a lava lamp blobbing away. I'm sitting on an inflatable exercise ball in lieu of a chair, which adds bouncing into the mix. (This is what happen when two people must work from home with only one office chair. But I'm okay with it!) A dish of seashells, smooth stones, and bits of wood sits near my desk, offering a variety of textures for my eyes, and, if I choose, my fingers.

Considering all that, I'm giving this little corner of my life an A+ for abundance! But it's still going to take practice to think of abundance in these sensory terms, instead of the material acquisition we are conditioned to value from birth.

If you have an example of abundance from your environment, please share in a comment. And speaking of abundance, next month will be full of posts from me, thanks to the A to Z Challenge!

I hope you're safe and well! See you April 1st. No fooling!

Monday, March 16, 2020

A-to-Z 2020 Theme Reveal: Joy

Theme Reveal #AtoZChallenge 2020 badge

Hello! As I write this, I'm realizing that I set myself up for two reveals in a row: first the yellow wall, now my A-to-Z Theme. Perhaps next week, you will learn that I am the Masked Singer? Stay tuned!

My A-to-Z theme this year is Joy. Here's a quick recap of how that came about: each member of my critique group chooses a word for the new year to hopefully inspire and guide us in our writing. 2019 felt like the equivalent of a wet blanket for me, so I wanted to choose a word to bring good energy into my life in 2020. After some deliberation, I settled on Joy.

To help me along on my journey, my sister gave me the book Joyful: The Surprising Power of Ordinary Things to Create Extraordinary Happiness, by Ingrid Fetell Lee. I am working through one chapter a month and trying to implement a change or two for the better. (If you're curious, this is the reason for the yellow wall.) I call it Joy Project 2020.

Please come back and visit often during April as I work my way through an alphabet's worth of joyful things, people, and places. If you leave a comment, I will do my best to return the favor.

Happy Blogging!!

Image result for joy meme

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

The Reveal

This post was supposed to happen last week, but sometimes even small projects take me longer than they should. Anyway, here I am with the reveal: I painted one wall of my office space and swapped the large desk with hutch for the smaller desk that was in my bedroom. Oh, and I got a new lamp.



Color choice is really hard for me, probably because I know I'm bad at it. After lots of thought, I decided on yellow, because my writing space is in the basement and doesn't get a lot of sunlight. I wanted something that would pop--you know, that whole energy/joy thing. In the end, I chose a color called Geographic Yellow. I assume it's a reference to National Geographic, which brought thoughts of travel and adventure to mind. When I got it on the wall, however, it reminded me more of macaroni and cheese. (The perfect color for a Kraft room, ha ha.) 

I didn't love it at first, but it's been almost two weeks now, and I think the color is growing on me. It certainly does liven up the wall! And the big desk looks much better in its new home, so I guess this project is an overall improvement. Whether the change jump-starts my creativity is yet to be determined. Fingers crossed!

If you missed my first installment of Local Joys, pop on over to my other blog and check it out!

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Joy Project: Energy

In the first chapter of Joyful, author Ingrid Fetell Lee focuses on energy, and it couldn't come at a better time for me. For at least two months, I've been feeling as flat as an open bottle of New Year's champagne that gets pushed to the back of the fridge and poured out a week later. But what exactly does it mean to feel energetic? A good night's sleep, a caffeine fix, or a brisk walk all boost my energy, but what affects whether an environment changes my energy in a positive or negative way?

Lee breaks it down into two components: color and light.

If you look at your surroundings right now, I hope you see a burst of color. But if you're American, chances are you might not. We are, Lee writes, chromophobic, or afraid of color. Many of us run-of-the-mill Americans do not grow up in a culture of color. We learn to see bright colors as "childish and frivolous," whereas neutrals come across as "mature" and impart a message of "self-restraint."

This may be true, but I think a lot of us aren't afraid of color as much as we're afraid of using it wrong. I blame HGTV and the like for giving us so many messages of the importance of being on trend. Why would I want to commit to this year's blue when next year, it's going to be saffron yellow or whatever? We need to give ourselves permission to choose what we love, and kindly tell the color gurus at Pantone to kiss off.

The other component to energy is light. A great deal of research backs up the health benefits of sunlight or broad-spectrum artificial light, so I won't go into details here. Suffice it to say that light helps us feel happier, healthier, and smarter. Moreover, light is "color's power supply." When photons of light hit an object, the ones that are reflected back to our retinas are perceived as color. We see short wavelengths as the color blue, long ones as the color red, and so on. According to Lee, this "alchemy" between light and color lies at the heart of the energy aesthetic. 

Makes sense, right? Now that I have a better understanding about the importance of color and light, my homework is to implement them in a way that puts the bubbles back in my champagne, so to speak. Because I'm not a big project person, I have just a few small tweaks in mind for my writing space. I hope you'll come back next week to see what that looks like!



Friday, February 21, 2020

Throwback Friday

Hi, all! I missed Throwback Thursday by a day, but I'd like to invite you to stop by and check out the resurrection of my long-presumed-dead "other" blog, Choice City Native. I'm going to incorporate it into my ongoing joy project this year. Feel free to stick around and read some of the older posts while you're there.

And here's a random picture I took of the cliff dwellings Mesa Verde, Colorado...


Wednesday, February 12, 2020

And the Oscar Goes To...

Image result for oscarMe.

I'd like to thank the Academy...

Okay, obviously I did not win an Oscar, but I feel like I should get some kind of award for spending 15 hours of my life watching 6 1/4 of the 9 films nominated for Best Picture.

I enjoy movies, but I don't see as many as I would like. Every year when Oscar season rolls around, I can only check off one or two of the Best Picture nominees. So, this year, I set myself a goal to see them all. It seemed reasonable at the time, before I realized what I was up against.

Through a combination of Netflix, pay-per-view, and actual movie theaters, I watched:
Marriage Story
The Irishman
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
Jojo Rabbit
1917, and
1/4 of Joker (maybe on a different day, I would have stuck it out, but, frankly, I was in no mood).

I have not yet seen Little Women or Ford v Ferrari, so the following opinions do not apply to those movies.

Here's my take on the ones I did see:

  • They are quite male. But you knew that;
  • They are replete with egos. Husband egos, military egos, actor egos, rich guy egos, mafia egos. And, dare I say, the real life egos of the two directors who thought they needed 3 hours 29 minutes and 2 hours and 41 minutes, respectively, to tell their stories.  
  • They have plenty of violence. War violence, emotional violence, gangster violence, animal-on-human violence, interpersonal violence. Lots of people get shot, and I wouldn't be surprised if this year set a record for Best Picture stabbings. Very stabby.
But having said all this, every movie also had some combination of: amazing performances, poignant moments, surprising plot twists, stunning cinematography, evocative scoring, humor (even if dark), and unexpected humanity. I don't regret seeing any of them, and I'm looking forward to finishing the list with Little Women and Ford v Ferrari. And I might give Joker another try.

Congratulations to all the 2020 winners, and here's hoping that next year's crop of Oscar contenders is a little less...exhausting.

In case you missed it, here is Saturday Night Live's Melissa Villasenor's musical take on this year's best picture nominees:


Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Joy Project 2020

Image result for joyWell, hello again! I'll spare you the boring details, but January really got away from me! And here we are, almost a week into February.

The critique group I belong to has a nice tradition that I've noticed has grown more popular over the past few years. Instead of making writer's resolutions, we each choose a word to inspire and guide us through the new year. In the past, most of my words have been practical and/or action-oriented. Structure, for example, and engage.

But this year, I needed a different type of word. 2019 wasn't a stellar writing year for me. It took forever to get anything accomplished, and when I did...(insert cricket sound here). Almost every connection I made, whether online or in person, went nowhere, and by September, I felt like I was just throwing my time and energy into a bottomless well.

(It's funny how it's great to have a bottomless well when you're drawing from it, but terrible when you're doing the opposite. But I digress.)

I knew I needed a word for 2020 that might help me reconnect with my writer self. Love didn't seem quite right, because even when I hate writing, I still love it, if that makes sense. Fun didn't quite fit, either, because I don't expect that writing will always be fun. In the end, I settled on the word Joy, which combines elements of love and fun and also a spark of energy that I have been sorely missing as of late.

At Christmas, I mentioned this to my sister, who is creative and wise and wonderful in so many ways, and she gifted me with the book Joyful: The Surprising Power of Ordinary Things to Create Extraordinary Happiness. The author, Ingrid Fettell Lee, has a background in design and a deep interest in the aesthetics that promote feelings of joy. "At the heart of the book," she writes, "lies the idea that joy isn't just something we find. It's also something we can make, for ourselves and for those around us."

Lee devotes a chapter to each of her ten "aesthetics of joy." For the next ten months, starting in February, I am going to work on bringing each aesthetic into my life and will report back here with my results. In between, I'll post other random stuff when the mood strikes me.

I hope your 2020 is off to a wonderful start, and I'll leave you with this quote from Emily Dickinson:

"Find ecstasy in life: the mere sense of living is joy enough."