A million dreams!

 iArtDaily Challenge Day 15


Today is the midpoint of the #iartdaily challenge. The prompt is via a YouTube video: “A Million Dreams” from “The Greatest Showman.” In an earlier blog post I talked about my aversion to anything circus-y, but this song spoke to me. The lyrics:

A Million Dreams
I close my eyes and I can see
The world that’s waiting up for me
That I call my own
Through the dark, through the door
Through where no one’s been before
But it feels like home
They can say, they can say it all sounds crazy
They can say, they can say I’ve lost my mind
I don’t care, I don’t care, so call me crazy
We can live in a world that we design
‘Cause every night I lie in bed
The brightest colors fill my head
A million dreams are keeping me awake
I think of what the world could be
A vision of the one I see
A million dreams is all it’s gonna take
A million dreams for the world we’re gonna make
There’s a house we can build
Every room inside is filled
With things from far away
The special things I compile
Each one there to make you smile
On a rainy day
They can


Here’s what I’ve been dreaming about. Prison reform, creating facilities where true rehabilitation and reconciliation can take place, where abuse does not, where staff model integrity and respect, where prisoners have opportunities to participate in programs that will build skills for a successful re-entry into the community, where there is justice from start to finish.

We are far from this today in this country, while many other countries have a system much closer to what I envision.

It’s not hard. Clearly the money is there. It’s a change in mindset to one which values everyone, including those who have broken a law, which believes no one is beyond redemption.

“A million dreams is all it’s gonna take.”

Failing forward

iArtDaily Challenge Day 14

“I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life and that is why I succeed.” ~ Michael Jordan

Tonight I walked by this vision board, which it turns out I created four years ago (I checked with friends). I was thinking I ought to take it down.

It hangs on my office door in the hallway leading to and from the main entry door I use. I’m afraid it’s become part of the furniture rather than a guidepost. I don’t pay attention to it.

Or do I? I looked more closely. I see areas where I’ve missed the mark and gone backward, but more areas where I am stepping forward into my work. “Be the voice,” “Fierce with age,” and “Spiritual traveler.”

This ability to shift to noticing what’s right rather than what’s wrong is something I’m building day by day through this #iartdaily challenge. I still have a long way to go, but it’s happening!

And so the vision board stays.

The Life You Want to Live

iArtDaily Challenge Day 13

The prompt for today’s creating was:

“Move in with the mindset of the life you want to live.” ~ LeAura Alderson, iCreateDaily.com

The mindset I want to always embrace is curiosity.

I took a photo of my 2 1/2 year old grandson showing me a fistful of mushrooms, and put it through PicsArt. He found these on a nature walk we took in December. We always bring home treasures that I might have otherwise overlooked, and his delight becomes mine.

As I’ve been working with intentional curiosity over the past year, I’ve not only had eyes opened to discoveries I wouldn’t have noticed, but it’s helped me to leave judgment out of it. Just wonder.

Isn’t that something we need more of?


Your future is a gift

iArtDaily Challenge Day 12

“Make good use of the present and your future will be your gift.” ~ LeAura Alderson, iCreateDaily.com

I took this photo several years ago at one of my favorite retreat places in Michigan, Morningstar Adventures in Leroy.

It reminds me that in these tiny pine cones is everything the tree needs to carry on into its future. A nurturing environment is all that is needed.



It’s where you are

The #iArtDaily Challenge for Day 11 is: It’s where you are.

“Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.” ~ Teddy Roosevelt

This is perfect for me today because I feel depleted. I really have no creative energy stirring today.

So … I used a photo I took before the holiday of a garter snake in my backyard, and applied PicsArt to it. I rather like the cartoon effect I came up with, and the colors.


And after:

At least I can give myself a check mark for the challenge, and a pat on the back for keeping going. Sometimes that’s enough.

The work of our heart

“We are compelled to do the work of our heart, no matter how hard to start.”
~ LeAura Alderson, author, podcaster, entrepreneur, co-founder-iCreateDaily

This is the prompt for Day 10 of #iartdaily. It’s also Thursday, writing group day.

For more than 10 years, every Thursday (with exceptions made for Thanksgiving and Christmas Day and New Year’s Day if those holidays happen to fall on a Thursday) I’ve sat among writers from our rural county (and now beyond), creating. The first few years we met at a village library. Then we moved to a coffee shop two towns over. (I’m writing this from that coffee shop.)

When I worked for a local newspaper, I wrote a regular feature called “Person of the Week,” which shined a spotlight on community members who didn’t get the recognition they deserved for doing noteworthy or unusual things. In a town like ours, the same names can appear on the front page day after day, as if no one else exists. Stories level the playing field.

Our rural county has four state prisons, and storymakers and storytellers are there, too. For the past four years, on Thursday afternoons and Saturday mornings, I’ve endured shakedowns by (female) corrections officers in “the bubble,” removed shoes and socks to show them the bottoms of my feet, and opened my mouth wide, all to prove I wasn’t sneaking in contraband – meaning anything not on the volunteers’ approved list. Then I’ve snapped a PAL (a Personal Alarm Locator, with a large red button to push for help if needed) to my belt loop, and walked with a staff member to the recreation and school building.

What makes it worth going through this invasion of personal space is that I get to spend a couple of hours with amazing storytellers: men serving anywhere from 12-month to life sentences after being convicted of any number of felony crimes. (I’m not allowed to ask about their crimes and they aren’t allowed to discuss them with me.) Together we write and read our pieces of fiction, poetry, memoir and essay, and then offer thoughtful, supportive and positive feedback to one another.

I use the same facilitation method with the prison groups (and with the men’s and women’s groups in the county jail when I’m facilitating there) as I use with the coffee shop group, and usually the same writing prompts as well. The prison writers are equally intelligent, equally capable and equally creative; and perhaps more eager.

Family and friends have asked, “Aren’t you afraid to go into the prison?” The truth is I feel more comfortable there, among the outcast writers, than I do anywhere else.

In one of the “Pirates of the Caribbean” movies, “The Curse of the Black Pearl,” Orlando Bloom’s character, Will Turner, says to Johnny Depp’s Captain Jack Sparrow, “You cheated!” Jack points to himself and answers, “Pirate.”

Where I volunteer isn’t some romanticized version of prison. It’s real; these men are real. There is no pretense there. They are honest about who they are, where they’ve come from and what they’ve done to land where they are.

“You have a good heart. You want to believe the best about people, but not everyone in here is a nice person,” one of the prison writers cautioned me. I know not to let down my guard when I’m inside. I don’t forget where I am. And at the same time I know these men are more than their mistakes and worthy of rehabilitation and another chance.

In “the world,” as the prison writers call it, there are equally not-nice people roaming among us, but they can blend in, pretend they are who they aren’t. They can live next door, and they can be elected to high public office. I’d just as soon be where people lay their cards on the table, admit who they are and who they can be with some work.

I do love telling people’s stories, and I love listening to them tell their stories. But I’m trying to discern if my work at its heart is writing – or facilitating writing groups.

Maybe it’s both. Wherever writers gather, there my heart is also.


Creating: An ‘excellent adventure’

#iArtDaily Challenge Day 9: Free to Create!

“Here’s to freedom, cheers to art. Here’s to having an excellent adventure and may the stopping never start.” ~ Jason Mraz, American singer-songwriter

I used to look at a blank page in relative terror. What if I have nothing to bring? What if the page remains blank forever?

What if I fail? What if I fill the page with garbage, crap that no one wants to see or read?

All the what-ifs …

I’m finding that, thanks to this #iartdaily challenge, I’m increasingly curious and more comfortable with all the “possibilities” that blank pages, open spaces and beginnings (including beginning again) bring.

And I’m learning to trust myself.

Is that a bonus from this process, or a side effect of embracing the freedom to create?