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Tell Your Story

7 Sep

HOW I BECAME A FIRESTARTER (Part I)

Only my classmate Sara Smith knew the origin of the “I start fires” language from my last post.  Sara had been one of my sounding board partners for my Foundations in Teaching and Training Creativity course in Spring 2016.   A year later, when we started our Master’s Projects we each had different sounding board partners but still scheduled a call or two to bounce ideas off each other.

During our first call of the semester I was swirling words in an ideational circle and can’t remember exactly what I was trying to figure out (story of my life).  What I do remember is that Sara got excited and said “You can say that you start fires!”  She proceeded to explain that when the professor who taught our introductory course gets asked what he does for a living he says he dissolves walls!  Sara explained that I can say “I start fires!”  We were obviously talking about my passion for sparking hopes and dreams.

While I still haven’t used this line in a face to face conversation, I have used it in a scholarship application, in my Letter of Intent for the Master’s program and most recently in my blog post yesterday.

Why do I share this story?

Because our stories matter.  We love stories.  Especially inspiring and uplifting stories of synchronicity and interconnectedness.  Everyday we are writing the story of who we are becoming.  You are the hero in your own story.  And you interact with and interconnect with the heros of countless other stories.   Take a minute to let that sink in, friends.  Don’t diminish the significance of this reality.

Your story hasn’t ended yet and neither has mine.  Our stories matter to us and they can inspire others.

Now, you may not be as blown away by the serendipity of the only comment I got in response to yesterday’s post on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn (aside from a much appreciated FB share from my friend Desiree) but let me tell you why I was!!!

 This comment is from the professor of my introductory course in creativity.  This is the guy who dissolves walls for a living!  I’m guessing his language (which I artistically stole) spoke to him.  You know stealing (like an artist) is the greatest form of flattery 😉

As I wrapped up this day, it was a pleasure to see Dr. Firestien’s post above which linked to his story.  As I begin writing the last chapters of my graduate student story and start dreaming about the narrative that will become the rest of my life, reading Roger’s story inspired me.  As the author of my own life, at a cross-roads, I will spend the next few weeks diverging on “What might be all the things I want to do with the rest of my life?” and then converging on a vision statement of “What I see myself doing is…”

I will spend a lot of time alone and quiet during this time, for which I apologize in advance to my husband, kids and friends.  Alone and quiet is where I can hear that still small voice and the voice of God.

Your story matters.  Tell your story.  Get intentional about writing your future, the story of who you are becoming.

 

 

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I Start Fires

6 Sep

“And what do you do for a living?” she asked.

I chortled with joy, “I start fires!”

For as long as I can remember I have engaged people in conversations about their hopes and dreams.  I am insatiably curious, so questions come naturally to me.  I’m also optimistic beyond measure; I refuse to accept that people, especially young people just starting out, need to settle for anything less than that which would make them come fully alive.

What I have found is that most people have so suppressed, buried or diminished their hopes and dreams, it is difficult to give themselves permission to dust them off.  Instead of being exciting to talk about their dreams, they seem more concerned about getting their hopes up.  It’s as if the loss of the dream was too painful to bear, and talking about it, too vulnerable.

As uncomfortable as this makes me, I understand it.  I recognize that their mindset keeps them trapped forever in the shadow of what could have been.

While I don’t believe it is too late for these adults, I recognize the incredible impact I can have in working with young people who have not yet given up on their dreams! Even when their hope is already waning, there are embers left that I can ignite! 

Last summer as a culminating experience for my Graduate Certificate in Creativity and Change Leadership I had to articulate my philosophy, vision and strategic plan. My vision is

Stimulating change in education by challenging the status quo and making a ruckus; disrupting pervasive mindlessness and setting people free from self-imposed constraints.

In the future I plan to create a self-directed education alternative to provide an environment that will be more nurturing of the curiosity and creativity of children as they grow and learn.  This environment will spark dreams, ignite vision and provide the freedom for courageous young people to be the hero in their own story; a story that unfolds bit by bit as they choose what comes next.

Self-Directed Education is a growing movement and I want to support its advancement by mentoring and coaching start-ups in other geographical areas.  I spent over 12 years self-employed, so I understand the emotional roller-coaster of a start-up and I know how to meet people where they are and show them the way out.

Thanks to my professors and courses at the International Center for Studies in Creativity (ICSC) at Buffalo State College, I already have an arsenal of creativity tools to help shift people’s perspective and create breakthrough thinking.  ICSC alumni, students and faculty are a tight knit group of change leaders and I am honored to have access to these collaborators.

Last semester for my Master’s Project I completed an exploratory project on mentoring; I believe mentoring is the accelerant that will make the fires I start even more resplendent.

MY DREAM

I have a dream that one day I will be surrounded by generations of people who have come alive and are burning with enthusiasm because they are living, working and loving their dream lives.   They will not be bound by self-imposed constraints nor will they settle for playing the games others impose on them (Torrance, 1983).  Their courage and curiosity will allow them to see the whole world as their oyster and they will live all their days experiencing the child-like wonder of learning through discovery.  And I will be content in the knowledge that my spark played a small part in this glorious inferno.

 

“Catch on fire with enthusiasm and people will come for miles to watch you burn.”– Danny Babineaux

Torrance, E. P. (1983). The importance of falling in love with “something.” The Creative Child and Adult Quarterly, Volume VIII, No. 2, 72-78.

A Brand New Ending

17 Jul

Destruction3Today, I am choosing to surrender.  I am choosing to let go of the rules and regulations I have created.  I know that excellence doesn’t sound like a “bad” thing…unless you are captive to it, unable to rest until you’ve absolutely given your very best to whatever it is you are pursuing.

 Make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given, and then sink yourself into that. Don’t be impressed with yourself. Don’t compare yourself with others. Each of you must take responsibility for doing the creative best you can with your own life. – Galatians 6:4-5 MSG

It is my job to do the creative best with my own life.  I am responsible for making a careful exploration of who I am and the work I have been given and then SINK myself into that!

That means some things – such as the Philosophy, Vision and Strategic Plan paper for my Master’s degree due on Tuesday – still need to be put in their place.  Taking responsibility for doing my creative best doesn’t mean locking myself up for hours away from my family and friends to write my philosophy while ignoring my limiting beliefs about time scarcity therefore not living my philosophy.  Instead I need to slay this dragon or else time scarcity will continue to keep me captive, robbing me of more than I care to imagine.

I must choose to do the creative work of destruction.  I need to confront my rules and regulations and preconceived notions of what excellence is and isn’t.  Instead, I choose to walk in the FREEDOM that has been purchased for me and SURRENDER.

I’ve written about surrender before but I have a deeper understanding today because God has been clearly challenging me to recover the ME that was lost when I started my people-pleasing, mental ascent and striving for excellence.  The gifts and talents God gave me have been choked out by no one else but me.  I made choices, day after day, year after year to surrender bits of ME and instead built a version of me that is way less chaotic, creative and unpredictable and more acceptable to the expectations of others.  I didn’t consciously decide to do this (and neither did you, said the still small voice).

And as God reveals to me more about the freedom in surrender, he also has been reaffirming me as a pioneer.  And as an act of obedience to His request for me to live my faith out loud, I needed to take the time to write this now while I’m knee deep in the mess that this tearing down is creating in me.  To declare, clearly to myself and everyone else, that today is a new day!  Today I proclaim the day of my freedom.

And as I continue to surrender, I am so excited to rediscover the freedom of being ME.  And I hope and pray that today you will choose freedom – to surrender and tear down who you think you are to rediscover who you really are…who you were always meant to be!

I was awakened early this morning by my awesome husband who wanted to share with me this video that our dear friend (and my life coach) Deb Miller shared and tagged us in on Facebook.

What is the dream that has got you?  Start today to write a brand new ending.

 

I want to change the world

7 Apr

I started this blog less than 2 years ago and I’m not sure where I would be without it.  I don’t think I would have started substitute teaching in August 2014 and found the inspiring democratic learning environment that is Quinebaug Middle College and all the amazing educators and leaders there.  I definitely wouldn’t have learned directly from so many students about how traditional high school wasn’t a good fit for them and what they love about the QMC community.

Without the 30+ days of exploration in 2013 and the ideas I incubated afterwards I’m also not sure that I would have found, been open to, applied for and been accepted to the Graduate Certificate Program at International Center for Studies in Creativity (ICSC) at Buffalo State College.  It is the first and oldest creativity degree granting program in the world and their distance program attracts scholars from many different nations.  I begin this summer.

Below is my “Letter of Intent”, the written statement of my professional or educational goals and how a graduate certificate in creativity supports these goals.  It was part of the application process.

As I get ready to begin this next chapter I wanted to share this here since it is a major milestone in the journey I started on 8/28/13 with the birth of this blog.  This part of the journey will take at least 2 years and I am committed to continuing to work alongside educators and directly with students as that is a rich hands-on learning environment for me and I want to be able to immediately apply what I’m learning at ICSC.

Without further ado, below is the text of my Letter of Intent:

*******************************************************************

George Bernard Shaw

 

I want to change the world. 

There is a gnawing feeling inside me that has been growing for years.  It grumbles when I read that 7,000 students drop out of high school every day, most inevitably walking away from their full potential.  It is absolutely disgusted that the term “school to prison pipeline” even exists.  It is convinced that everyday more and more highly creative kids are misunderstood, mislabeled “special education” and medicated into submission.  However, it flutters and leaps when I hear about inspiring people and organizations that are going against the grain, trying new things to engage students and keep them learning.  It squeals with glee “that’s our tribe!!!”

This feeling isn’t going away; it has grown so large already and it incessantly demands to be fed.  It voraciously consumes books and articles like it is trying to put the pieces of some grand puzzle together…always searching for a solution, all the while grumbling, fluttering and leaping.

It has convinced me that I must honor it and allow it to lead my life or else it won’t let me sleep or have any real joy.  And it promises that if we don’t partner up and start working together I will regret it one day.  It asserts that when I look back on my life and think about what we could have accomplished together, I will be tormented.

Disruption, Revolution, Reform, Movement

These words get us both really excited.  Right now, we have many ideas on how we can change the world.  We could develop a youth entrepreneurship program or co-branded summer camps for invention with Quirky®, upcycling with Etsy® and hacking with Sugru®.  We’re going more for a youth empowerment movement than just a constructive way to pass the time. We might organize and mobilize a tribe and support it and its message with conferences, publishing of collective blogs and anthology books.  Or perhaps we would build a Creativity Consultancy focused on K-12 curriculum and overall school culture.  Who knows, maybe we will absolutely transform K-12 education!

This feeling is even trying to get me to move to Detroit, where creative people are banding together to resurrect the city from ruin.  It wants to buy houses (which they are practically giving away) and create a chain of Hacker Houses/Coworking Spaces that would be marketed worldwide as a gap year program for creative young adults and a slow burn refuge for older creatives looking to complete their next project.  My husband thinks this is crazy but I kind of like the idea.

While I am reluctant to fully surrender to it, we have developed a mutually respectful relationship.  I value what the feeling has revealed to me and how it will not let me become complacent. I appreciate how it is relentless in its pursuit of knowledge and solutions and how it keeps ideas swirling and growing in my mind.  I finally decided the feeling deserved its own moniker and so nowadays I affectionately call it HOPE.

I am a Prisoner of Hope

Hope informs my every decision.  It infiltrates my every encounter. I cannot escape it.  Not only has it arrested me, it works through me to apprehend others. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I am convinced that the International Center for Studies in Creativity is a community where Hope & I can grow closer and accomplish great things.  I believe we will connect with a team of like-minded change agents and embark on a journey of discovery.  Inevitably, we will continue to put the pieces of the puzzle together and find our place in the Big Picture.

I am not certain where we will wind up upon completion of the degree but I am OK with that.  This is an act of faith, one where I can only see clearly the very next step.  I know that once I take that step, I will gain a whole new perspective opening so many other realms of possibility; so I don’t want to limit myself by having a rigidly defined end goal in mind.

Ultimately, I see my future as an Education Entrepreneur, either collaborating with existing organizations or developing something from scratch.   I will go wherever I think I can make the biggest difference.  I believe in sharing my knowledge and vision with as many people as possible.  I envision myself speaking at conferences and writing blog posts and articles to inform parents and educators about how they can protect the creativity of their children and students as they grow.  I would love to teach at the college level and/or develop a gap year program for learners interested in alternative growth opportunities.

Through my publishing experience I developed a deep understanding of influence and persuasion which I anticipate utilizing to advocate for change.  If it takes a village to raise a child, it will take a whole lot more to educate all of this country’s children effectively for the future.  I am a master networker and I know how to enlist others to become part of my vision.  The key is not asking too much, assured that they will get hooked by the feelings of purpose, connection and happiness that ensue from being part of something worthwhile that is bigger than themselves.

I plan to complete the Graduate Certificate and apply for the Master of Science.  I have already researched the PhD in Educational Psychology at University of Georgia and visited the UGA campus in Athens last year while I was in the area.  I’m not positive whether I genuinely want to pursue a PhD but I believe my graduate school experience will clarify this for me as well.  One thing I know for sure, I am a life-long learner and so whether I am part of a formal degree program or not, I will continue to delve deeper beyond my Master’s.

And I will change the world.

So many ways to be smart

16 Jul

I was inspired by this letter posted to Facebook by a mom named Alison Owen.  The letter was sent to Barrowford Primary Students with their standardized test scores.  Read it and weep…

I dream of a day where ALL school teachers and administrators believe these words in every fiber of their being and communicate through this lens to their students at ALL times.

I dream of a day where we find a way to value people regardless of where they stack up.

I’m determined to be part of this movement.  I hope to move at least one heart to join me.   Are you interested in changing the focus of education in our country?

 

Barrowford

Freedom of Awareness

19 Apr

My all time favorite commencement speech is by David Foster Wallace given at Kenyon College to the 2005 graduating class.  It came to mind earlier this week while talking to my sister about the realities all around that so many of us remain completely unaware of.

The short film above is only an excerpt, but it is the first way I encountered the speech and so it is the way I share it with you.  You can find the full speech text online or the full audio on YouTube.  It has also been published in book form:  This Is Water: Some Thoughts, Delivered on a Significant Occasion, about Living a Compassionate Life

I could excerpt a whole lot of awesome quotes but I will just include a few sentences from the ending of the original speech.   These sentences highlight the point I was making to my sister which is that the self-awareness journey I’ve been on has made me aware of not just more about me, but more about people and life in general.  This awareness is liberating but can also be painful.  However, I wouldn’t trade it for “ignorance is bliss”.   Wishing you all well on your own self-awareness journey and I hope you enjoy the film and speech as much as I do.

The really important kind of freedom involves attention, and awareness, and discipline, and effort, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them, over and over, in myriad petty little unsexy ways, every day.

That is real freedom. The alternative is unconsciousness, the default-setting, the “rat race” — the constant gnawing sense of having had and lost some infinite thing.

None of this is about morality, or religion, or dogma, or big fancy questions of life after death. The capital-T Truth is about life before death. It is about making it to 30, or maybe 50, without wanting to shoot yourself in the head. It is about simple awareness — awareness of what is so real and essential, so hidden in plain sight all around us, that we have to keep reminding ourselves, over and over: “This is water, this is water.”

It is unimaginably hard to do this, to stay conscious and alive, day in and day out.

Day 66 – Are you Pioneer? #30dreamdays

1 Nov
The flip-side of the Origami Owl tag says "Let your heart not be troubled" - a timely gift from my friend Tina Chamness.

The flip-side of the Origami Owl tag says “Let your heart not be troubled” – a timely gift from my friend Tina Chamness.

God is so so good.  I’ve been spinning for months.  In my spirit I feel a call toward a BIG BIG vision and I feel so small.  Too small to even see the whole picture and too small to do the job.

However, I am a person who knows beyond a shadow of a doubt that I am most ALIVE when I am doing NEW things all the time.

I’ve had to defend this to people many times who think this is just a restlessness…a searching.

And I love to be challenged…really, I do.  I know that sounds crazy to a lot of people.  I prefer to have people question and challenge me on things like this and then I can test my heart and find out if what they are saying is possibly true.  Sometimes they are.  But not when it comes to this one!

I was born for change.  Its in my DNA.  Without it, my spirit has been slowly dying.

This world is not lacking in change.  It is lacking in people who thrive during radical change.  There are legions of people who are not only uncomfortable with change but they live in fear of it.   I will not elaborate on fear at this time because I could literally write for days about that one point but I will pass along the word that God gave me last week:

God did not give us a spirit that makes us afraid but a spirit of power and love and self-control. ~ 2 Timothy 1:7

I had an amazing opportunity to go to the 1st Annual Call to Destiny Summit presented by Princess Bola Adelani last Friday & Saturday.  Barbara Stomprud, of Vessel of Honor Ministry from Oklahoma, walked us through her Training for Reigning program.  WOW!!!  I am so grateful for Barbara’s ministry and for the revelation that I received through that experience.

I wish I could say I left with total clarity on my purpose and destiny but I didn’t.

Not because the program wasn’t AWESOME.   What has become clear to me, through some soul searching with my friend Katynia Speight, is that I need to get on my face and in the Word seeking further revelation.  I know that God has been with me throughout my life; I can clearly see the evidence.  It is awesome to feel KNOWN in the way He knows me.

Selfishly, I have not spent much time getting to know Him.  

I’ve been on a 4 year self-awareness journey that involved very little God-awareness.   I never doubted His presence and thanked Him regularly for what He has done in my life but I never bothered to really get to know Him.   And that became very clear at Barbara’s Training for Reigning.

So I am very excited about what lies ahead and I will write throughout my journey because God has told me to live my faith out loud, especially the deficiencies and struggles.

So as I continue to wrestle with my destiny, I will wait on God for instructions.  I will grab hold of the signs he sends me because I know He is always trying to show us the way.

For example, last Sunday (the day after the training ended) my friend Tina Chamness pulled me aside after church and explained that earlier in the week she was listening to a song by The Band Perry and I kept coming to mind.  Tina and I are not extremely close (yet) so for me to come to mind WAS FROM GOD.  She felt she needed to make me a CD with that song (and others) and give me the song along with the Origami Owl tag that was developed from the lyrics (see above).

I am extremely grateful for her obedience to do what God placed on her heart.  Even though I left the training without clarity on my destiny, I had already shared with Katynia on Friday night that I know I need to deal with the things that would keep me immovable.  I said I believe I am supposed to be able to GO on a moment’s notice.  I was talking about making changes in my businesses, my housing, my possessions etc so that I could be nimble and GO when God says so.  I explained that I’m not sure where or when but I believe I have to start getting ready.

The song Tina was listening to is called “Pioneer” by The Band Perry.  Her gift of sharing this song with me and also giving me a necklace that I could wear daily to remind me is one of the greatest gifts anyone has ever given me.  I thank Tina and I thank God for using her to confirm me as a Pioneer.

I believe when you have been given a gift, you should give what you can so I will include Tina’s Facebook Page and her website if you are interested in learning more about Origami Owl’s beautiful living lockets.

As I continue to get to know God, I realize that my comfort with change, my desire for new and my willingness to GO are the makings of a Pioneer.  I have tremendous faith and an incomplete puzzle-like vision so I will need to lean on God for understanding as he leads me to new frontiers.

This was another song on the CD.   The lyrics are amazing, especially as I come to grips with my calling to be a Pioneer.

Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my Savior

The video includes all the lyrics but I have seen different lyrics where the line reads “My SOUL will rest in your embrace”…either way is awesome…just wanted to share the alternative lyrics. ENJOY!!!

If you’ve read to the bottom, please share your response and comments.  I appreciate your support.

Are you a fellow Pioneer?  Where is God calling you?

If not, do you know WHO YOU ARE?

  • pioneer (loveslongears.wordpress.com)
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