creative thinking

August 26, 2013

In the book I read to each art class last week, before we began our International Dot Day project, one page contains the following interaction: when a young student looks at her blank piece of paper, complaining that she can’t draw, “Vashti’s teacher leaned over the blank paper. ‘Ah! A polar bear in a snowstorm,’ she said.”
Today we began a new project, emphasizing space, line, and medium. I showed each class an example of a spiderweb-like pattern of lines, instructing them to fill in the blocks between each set of lines with colour and pattern in different media. After the grade 5 class had begun the coloring portion of their artwork, I noticed one whose paper looked rather monochromatic. I walked over to him and reminded him that he was supposed to experiment with patterns as well as colours.
He nodded innocently and pointed out to me the small pair of black dots on each portion. Then he began a list, pointing to each block as he did so, “A bat in a cave. A camel in a sandstorm. A whale in the sea. A grasshopper in the grass. A polar bear in a snowstorm . . .”
I grinned and moved on, resisting the urge to smack him upside that endearingly smart-alecky little head :-)

about a dot

August 20, 2013

In my art classes this week [“Didn’t you mean to say ‘library,'” you ask? No, I mean art. “But I thought you were the librarian.” Yes, I am. “Oh, so you have switched jobs?” No, not exactly . . . just honing my juggling skills these days ;-)]
Anyhow, as I was saying . . . No, never mind what I was saying. Instead, I’d like to point out that the funny thing about it is that the roles of art teacher and librarian can coincide rather perfectly. Especially when cool things like International Dot Day are happening in the world. I learned about this event last year, and was able to submit a project with my library classes there in Afgh@nistan. This year is a bit more rushed in the preparation time for it, but I came up with an idea that will work, I think. Each student creates his/her own dot. The dots of each student then combine to create a class dot. And, eventually, once all classes are finished, I will find some way to hang them all together and make a school-wide dot. Well, we’ll see how it goes . . . if nothing else, it makes for a happily consuming project for us all :-)


August 14, 2013

Tonight I got lost. I spent a harrowing hour biking along smoggy, truck-filled thoroughfares blindly, madly, back and forth, with that sick feeling of being alone in a place where I cannot read the road signs or communicate with the people. It was my own fault, really. In my efforts to compensate for my work-related stresses, I tried to cope by proving myself: by proving that I can figure things out and tackle the challenges that this life throws at me. I wanted to be self-sufficient. I wanted to be competent. And I was overly confident from the evening I had before, when a spontaneous post-work venture had proven to be such a blessing.
Tonight was my weekly ladies’ study. When I learned my travel companion was running late, we decided I would head out by myself. As she was newly motorized, I could get a head start on her and then she’d meet me closer to where we were heading. I knew the way, partly, and figured by the time I got to where I was less confident, she’d have found me.
The only problem was that I took a wrong turn. So she got to our meeting place and I never did. It was not a pleasant hour of my life. I actually wondered if I might meet an untimely end there amidst the smog and city madness. But it all turned out ok. My friend was patient, talking to me at various points along the way until we managed to find each other.
“You still up for study?” she asked upon our happy [if sheepish on my part] reunion. I nodded. If you are, I added, explaining that at this point I was just going to be following her lead. We rolled in, an hour and a half late, to be greeted by cheers.
An hour later, I cried as I admitted my insecurities, and my pride, to be affirmed by love and acceptance in that roomful of women. God loves us to much to leave us where we are. When we come to a breaking point, He lifts us up with gentle potter’s hands. The pieces that are put back together might not be perfect . . . but they are His.
*This bike ride included no photo-op stops ;-)


August 13, 2013

Seen [scene? ;-)] from the seat of my bike, during an unexpectedly peaceful ride home this evening, spent musing on the bittersweet joy of international fellowship in a restricted land A dinner shared, followed by a Study that could not be . . . someday I want to ride that ferris wheel . . .

a thing of beauty

August 11, 2013


They say He will not give us more than we can handle. I used to say the same. But years go by, and life happens, and I start to suspect otherwise. I start to suspect that, in fact, there are plenty of more-than-I-can-handles in life as I know it. This is more than I can handle. But, like I’ve said, I’ve been here before. So the question for me now is not if I can handle it.
The funny thing about writing that phrase is that those precise words were used by a coworker the other day as he came to me with a request. “Can you handle it?” I didn’t answer him—just laughed and repeated his words, personalizing them: “Can I handle it?” I did not even intentionally avoid the question. But realizing that I did makes me suspect that my response was more true than I knew at the time . . . because the answer, in a broader scale, is “no.” In that particular case, his request was, thankfully, quite manageable ☺
That leads me to the crux of the issue at the moment. Can I handle it? No. So what do I do now, knowing I cannot? I think, perhaps, I am being called to patience. Can I sit in the uncertainty of it all? Can I let go of my desire [i.e. perceived need] for control? Can I listen for God’s voice, and watch for His providence, His divine solution?
God, grant me the serenity . . .
This morning as we sat next to each other in the Sunday service, my friend looked over at me, then down at her wrist. She took off the bracelet she was wearing and whispered, “Can I give this to you?” I must have looked confused because she then clarified, “It will look beautiful on you . . .”
I smiled and accepted, wrapping it around on my own wrist the way she had done on hers. The funny thing is that we celebrated her birthday yesterday, and she stipulated no gifts for her party. We were at least allowed to go around and each list something we love about her, which her husband wrote down for her to keep. But her she is giving away items of beauty that she has handcrafted. Because that’s the kind of person she is. And this is the kind of thing she does. My prayer is that I will be able to be that sort of person, blessing the days of others even when I feel unequipped for my own life task.

the first step

August 7, 2013

I’ve been here before. In a swirling sea of a job that feels beyond me: beyond my scope of abilities. I don’t like this feeling! For the past two days, the worst part of it is that I haven’t known how to tackle the hugeness of it, so I have not felt I’ve been able to be productive. I’ve been running about somewhat madly, for sure, but not completing anything worthwhile . . . or, more precisely, not doing the important things. This sort of busyness is the sort that does random things that I can think of to do, in an attempt to soothe myself with some remnant of productivity when I know that I am avoiding the real issues. But, like I said, I’ve been here before. And somehow, I have always managed to get past this stage, and to move on to a better place of [productive] being.
“So,” I find myself wondering, “why am I so upset about my level of stress?”
Well this morning I had a realization. I haven’t trusted my own experience, and have put undue pressure on myself to know—instantly—everything I will need to get done this year. But the realization I had is that this is not the way it works . . . not the way I work, at least. I work in steps. One step at a time. And I never know it all immediately. Rather, if I slow down—pause and take a deep breath instead of just trying to move faster and work harder—then I can think more clearly. And when I do so, I have light bulbs go off in my brain, normally related to the one thing I need to start with. The first step. Because the first step leads to the second step. The second leads to the third. And so on.
Today I know my first step. That’s all I know. My library will need a whole lot of steps in order to get anywhere near where it needs to be, but for now, the first step will have to do.
After one of today’s meetings, I snagged a couple of cute-footed coworkers to take some photo-worthy steps with me . . . because it always helps to have company along the walking way ☺