The Operation


20140122-092238.jpg

Last year this time I started my year off with the word vulnerability.

It can mean openness or exposure.

Every time we step out into the fields of our creativity we experience a form of exposure.

Whenever we open up, we render ourselves vulnerable.

That can be scary.

So many stay locked away and don’t give of their creative ideas, or plans.

To manoeuvre your way forward – often takes bravery and courage.

A letting go of perception and a trampling of fear.

This year I have started my year with another word.

Gratitude.

I came across a blog by an exceptional woman, Ann Voskamp.

It is called a holy experience.

This woman has issued a dare.

Find 1000 things to be grateful for.

I have taken the challenge.

To find these things one needs to open up.

Become exposed to the incredible world that God has unleashed around us.

To see in the micro and the macro.

Gratitude can be found, staring at a mountain.

In the feel of your wife as she lies behind your back at night.

It can be found in a bird that walks through your kitchen door to peck at a lone crumb.

That first cup of coffee in the morning.

The way your sons smooth brown arms hug you.

Your daughters grin and thank yous.

It’s found in Christ.

It’s found in grace given and experienced.

When your team plays really hard.

When the check out lady smiles at you.

When the man carries your shopping.

It’s in the tasting of sour that you can be grateful for the sweet.

It’s in experiencing lack that you can be grateful for the provision to come.

Gratitude is a creative operation of faith.

Look around.

Be curious.

Seek it out.

Look in unusual places.

Relook the mundane.

Find it.

Do not let it escape.

Choose.

There’s lots.

Live GrateFULL.

a holy experience

Advertisements

‘Greatitude’


20131127-081927.jpg

I love my Unstuck App.
This is what they shared with me today.
The creative genius of being grateful.

There’s not a single downside to gratitude — except that it’s easy to ignore.

When put into practice, gratitude creates a virtuous circle.
It fosters contentment, joy, respect, and connection to our world and the people in it.

Gratitude makes us feel good inside.
And when we share it, other people feel good inside.
And you know what happens then: The feel-good-insiders send their goodwill to more people, who in turn start feeling good inside. Good feelings boomerang everywhere.

Now if that sounds too absurdly optimistic, consider this: Free-flowing gratitude can help you get unstuck. “Feeling good lubricates mental efficiency, making people better at understanding information and using decision rules in complex judgments,” writes psychologist Daniel Goleman in his book Primal Leadership.
Translation: It makes you smarter…

The rub is, we can’t just hit-and-run with gratitude — you know, give a little to get a little.
Any feel-good spike we may achieve will quickly erode.
But if we consider and express gratitude regularly, then we can maintain our good feelings.
It’s a matter of creating the habit.

Here are a couple of ways to get you started – gratitude is great, lets make a habit put of it!

1. For a job well done, be the one who publicly gives credit to all the contributors.

2. Make a list of things you take for granted, like running water and supermarkets, and then imagine your life without them.

3. Find out what someone’s favorite hot beverage is and buy one for him — and let him know why.

4. Smile at someone.

5. Say something kind to the coworker who gets on your nerves.

6. Show handmade appreciation for long-term friendships: a custom playlist, homemade cookies, personalized T shirt, framed photo of you together.

7. When someone gossips, pay a compliment to the person under scrutiny.

8. Buy a membership to a museum you wouldn’t want to live without.

9. Let someone cut in the grocery or coffee line if they seem like they really need it.

10. Care for the outside space you spend time in (hiking, picnicking, lying on the beach) by leaving it better than you found it.

11. Tell someone she looks nice today.

12. Mail a handwritten letter to someone who’s made your life better in some way, big or small.

13. Show patience with a person who is having a bad day.

14. Create a holiday and name it after the person who means the world to you.

15. Put a nice note attached to your tip in the coffee shop tip jar.

16. Leave a sweet Post-it note on the bathroom mirror for a special someone to find.

17. Donate what you can — time, money, or goods — to causes that you believe make the world better. Some to consider: Goodwill. Your local food bank. National Military Family Association. World Wildlife Fund. The Children’s Aid Society. Books for Africa. Project C.U.R.E. Habitat for Humanity. Environmental Defense Fund. You can find many more at charitynavigator.org.

18. Turn to someone you know and say, “I’m glad you’re here.”

19. Listen without distraction to a friend who needs listening to.

20. Send your pal a funny card or ecard.

21. Share your knowledge.

22. Write a note and put it in a lunchbox.

23. Participate in websites that are dedicated to gratitude, such as The Gratitude Jar, Gratefulness.org, Happy Rambles gratitude journal, and Thankful For.

24. When you someone offers you a compliment, say how much you appreciate it instead of deflecting it.

25. Invite a neighbor over for a meal or a glass of wine.

26. Reach out to someone just because.
Not because it’s a special occasion, or you need something, or you’re organizing plans — but just to check in and say hi.

27. Leave a personal voicemail instead of texting.
There’s a powerful intimacy about the human voice.

28. When offering criticism, preface your comments with something positive about that person or his or her work.

29. Publicly compliment a friend on Facebook, Twitter, at a party.

30. Tell your folks how lucky you are to be their kid.

31. Keep a birthday calendar so you can wish people well at least once a year.

32. Energy is infectious! Be enthusiastic about plans, projects, and events.

33. Once in awhile, take on a task that usually isn’t yours.
For example, make the morning coffee and serve it on a nice tray, even if that’s your partner’s “job.”

34. Offer to babysit or dog walk for a friend who seems stressed out.

35. Reach out to important people in your life when something big happens. It’s always nice to be among the first to know.

36. Pick up the bar tab for a friend who is going through financial difficulties.

37. Think of a favor someone once did for you and try to pay it forward (offered a networking opportunity that helped you get a job; assisted with a move; coached you through a difficult break up).

38. Write a note to someone’s manager to report great service.

39. Wear, use, or otherwise acknowledge a gift in the presence of the gift-giver.

40. If there’s a blog or a website you love, send an email to the authors to say how much it means in your life.

Go out there, practise gratefulness daily and watch your world change.

The New


20130807-075115.jpg

Your creativity is your natural resource.
Let’s think ideas.
Ideas are unending.
You will have new ones throughout your life.
As the one fades – a new one miraculously takes its place.
That is creativity in action.
These mental impressions,
suggestions,
thoughts,
possible courses of action.
Your mind rolls them out –
naturally…
It’s the canvas of the brain.
Creative action that sits above your shoulders!
Now some of us tune into new ideas pretty easily.
Others not.
What is your take on the new?
How do you feel when someone sprouts,
“I have a good one!”
Your life is surrounded by the brainwaves of others:
The telephone
Electricity
The flush toilet
A warm bean bag
Parmesan cheese
Chocolate
Your motor car
A feather pillow
Everything around you had its first spark.
The primary flash.
That moment when someone knew…
And then took action.
Mmmmmmm…
Let me pluck this duck and stuff the feathers into grain bag and then I’ll put my head on it….
Oooooooo…
At one stage perhaps we were a first idea in the mind of God.
A good thing.
Dynamic and generous,
He acted.
So don’t hold back.
You can act on your good idea.
Even if it is just a word that you speak.
It might just make the world a different place.

This is me, I am Tania Ahlfeldt – encouraging you to play with your natural resource.

What’s on my Creative Mind II


20130422-133355.jpg

There’s a coffee cupped in my hands right now.
I am pensively sitting in a line of sunshine.

So here we are.
It’s 2013.
Who would have thought?
A changing world.
Dynamic.
Fast paced.
Constant activity and motion.
It seems small in its hugeness.
This globe that spins
This human, physical life that spins and eventually slows down to a stop.

Yes.
It’s my melancholic mood time.
Bear with me.
The time I take to wonder.
Why?
How?
When?
What if?
It’s the time I ponder on my kids thrown into a rat race.
Work harder!
Play faster!
Get the goal!
It’s a time I wonder if I am the creator not of beautiful things but of the very rats in the race of life.
Now before we all start crying…
Let me say that in it all,
in all of this striving.
Beauty exists.

It’s up to me to glimpse it.
To catch it as it slides through my day.
To share it.
“Mom! Look at the amazing red sky!”
“Yes, put your clothes on you are going to be late.”
(That was a moment unshared.)

Our creativity rests in the ability to see life.
The ability to sit on the step and take in the red sky.
The ability to settle in the sun and make the phone call that spreads hope.
The ability to support the teacher who is going through the divorce and love her.
The ability to know that we are vulnerable.
ALL of us.
Fragile, creative, vulnerable people.
People who have strength and ability, talent and diversity.

To know that we are not enemies.
To allow ourselves to see the story riding deep in each one of us.
The story that makes us cringe.
Yet there is always the counteract story.
The one that causes us to delight.

Our creativity is as our humanness.
In need of the hand of God.

So put down the swords and striving.
Forgive a woman her moments of weakness.
A man his moments of torment.
Slow down.
Take a deep breath.
Use your moment to do one thing differently today.

This is me, I am Tania Ahlfeldt – taking time to feel a little wistful, yet in it there is expectation and desire.

This piece was recorded live on Kingfisher FM. kingfisherfm
It was written in the warmth and comfort of my office away from home – Brioche Café, Main Rd Walmer, Port Elizabeth, South Africa. (Thanks Ilsa, your space brings warmth to my soul.)

Photo: D Sharon Pruitt

What’s on my Creative Mind?


20130415-120053.jpg

I live in a city where many of the creatives (and by that I mean people who choose to make creativity their career) leave.
Of course, our little place in the sun is choc-a-block full of creative minds but…
We have few places where creativity spills out,
grabs you,
drags you in.
When I walk on Donkin Hill I feel it.
Art that accosts me and makes me look.
It’s bold.
It thrills.
It makes me think.
It brings me back.
Artistic ingenuity that grounds the area.

Creative environments strike cords within us.

Let me take you on a trip
Imagine walking into a beige building.
You are walking on brown tiles.
The cupboards are melamine beige
The chairs are brown.
The tables are medium brown.
There’s strip lighting.
Brown files line the walls.
The space is functional.
Does it strike a cord?

Will the building drag you back to spend more time there?
Does the space feel loved?
That someone cared for it enough to make it beautiful.

Now you walk into the second building.
Your feet clatter on polished wooden floors.
Slatted white blinds let in the sunlight.
Bulbous, modern glass light fittings diffuse the light.
Large easy chairs with plump cushions beckon.
The tiles around the ancient fireplace make you look again.
The mosaic encourages you to stare.
The walls are painted in shades of duck egg blue.
Thick rugs are scattered about.
Chances are that someone cared.
Someone poured them self into the space.
It was touched by a creativity hospitable heart.

You see, we get used to the bland.
We expect it somehow.
We wave goodbye to the next person leaving to build a more creative life in another city, wipe the tear from our eye and move on.

I encourage you to spend more time in environments where creative minds have played.
Spend a morning on Richmond Hill.
Walk into spaces and compliment the people who created them.
Support the creatives in our city.
Don’t be threatened.
Become fertiliser to the creativity that grows here.
It’s in a circle of support that creativity flourishes.
It’s in a word that says to someone, “I love what you are doing here.”

We settle for the insipid, the double beige, the drab, the mass produced.
We are too used to feeling safe, tucked up in brown lives.

This is me, I am Tania Ahlfeldt and I would like to apologise to brown – it’s getting a tough deal from me here.
I acknowledge its beauty when I bite into the lusciousness of a chocolate bar.
When I lean against the sturdy brown trunk of a tree.
It’s also the colour of toast, all crunchy and warm…
But c’mon, you know what I mean…

The above piece was recorded live on Kingfisher FM’s Creative Moment.
When I wrote it I was deliriously happy, surrounded by creativity and the lush smells of breads, fresh coffee, pastries…
This is the joyful hospitality of my office away from home – Brioche Café situated on Main Rd Walmer in our beautiful city on the tip of Africa.
Port Elizabeth.

20130415-111641.jpg

The Space You’re In


20130320-103722.jpg

It’s a fact.
Every space we walk into envelopes us.
Remember the Sub A classroom and the smell of chalk?
A hospital ward.
The drab office with files a little dusty.
Your grannies home.
Early morning in the garden.
The spaces we enter into give us a feeling.
Good, sad, uplifting, depressing, creative…

As humans we create the spaces around us.
Our homes.
Our offices.
Our classrooms.
Some have the financial clout to get others in to create their spaces.
Some not.
The spaces we create have a voice.
They tell someones story.

I remember visiting a Xhosa village and watching as a woman dipped her hand into a mixture of cow dung and water.
This she reverently smeared onto her floor.
It sounds distasteful.
In reality it was beautiful.
With her fingers she made patterns on the floor.
When it dried it was fresh and welcoming.
In actual fact the floor was an artistic welcome mat for all who entered.

Right now I am sitting in a ray of sunshine
Fresh, warm ciabatta toast with butter and marmalade has been placed before me.
A foam topped coffee is in my hand.
Swing music plays
The fresh morning enters through the open door.
This space is a mix of modern and nostalgic.
A chandelier hangs through barn-like wooden beams.
I come here to work.
I sit in this place and feel that my creativity is heightened because of the context of where I am.

Look at the space around you now.
What is it saying to you?
Open a window.
Put on some music.
Brew that coffee.
Clean up the dusty files.
Rearrange furniture
Small changes can have a big effect.

A woman used dung to make her home more welcoming!
Dung…
That is the ultimate in ingenuity.
The quality of being clever, original and inventive.
We are all of those things as humans.
Don’t shy away from the originality that is you.
We all have the ability to think creatively and independently .
So take a moment.
Notice the space around you
Set out to find a place that inspires you.
Set out to make your space a better place to be

This is me, I am Tania Ahlfeldt and my creative space of the moment is here at Ilsa Coles Brioche on Main Road Walmer, Port Elizabeth, South Africa – my office away from home.
Go on, dig in and find your space.

And go and like my Facebook page called Love Your Art Teacher Today, lets encourage the working creatives in our midst…

The Glorious Walk


20130206-100446.jpg

Last night my boys and I were settled, drinking tea and
reading a couple of pages from the book ‘Boy’, Roald Dahl’s story of his childhood.
Roald Dahl brought so much sparkle and intrigue into my childhood.
Of course “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” stands out, as does
“Danny Champion of the World” and the unique strangeness of his book,
“James and the Giant Peach”.
I have in turn, managed to pass the love of his writing on to my sons.
One of the stories that intrigued me from the book ‘Boy’ is a story about his father Harold.
This Norwegian and his brother Oscar ran away from their tiny village close to Oslo
to make their fortunes.
Bravely, the two decided to go to different countries as they wanted to make their fortunes separately and not rely on each other (if it had been me I’d have hung onto my brother).
One went to France, the other to Wales.

Through shear hard work and determination both men made masses of money
and developed a love for the beautiful, even though they lived far apart.
Roahl Dahl’s father had an interesting quirk,
he would take his wife on what he called the “Glorious Walks”.
The “Glorious Walks” would happen primarily during her
last three months of pregnancy (they had 4 children).
Harold Dahl’s endeavour was to find areas of particularly beauty for his wife to enjoy and admire.
His thoughts were that somehow the child in her womb would experience
the wonder through her, thereby growing up with an eye for beauty.
What a sweet, romantic and creative gesture.
This busy, shipbroker magnet also made time to carve.
He carved frames, objects and their homes magnificent mantelpiece which still stands today.
He didn’t wait for beauty to come to him, he went out to seek it,
to create it – plus he ensured that his family were included in the adventure.

My son has been drawing in his spare time.
They are the weird and wonderful drawings of a 12 year old.
He has been getting into a genre of focussing on drawing some pretty weird creatures.
His drawings are good.
The subject matter, a little dark.
Now understand me, there is nothing wrong with drawing weird creatures,
however I realised that he was not tuning into that which pleases the senses and the mind.

So I gave him the beauty challenge.
It’s easy to draw a scary face, we all can do it,
the challenge is to produce a rendering that makes a heart leap with joy.
Yesterday he came home and proudly showed me a design he’d done in his free time at school.
Now I know pleasing design when I see it and this boy had tuned in.
He’d dug a little deeper.
And as for my heart?
Yes, it felt great pleasure.
Will he still draw weird creatures?
Of course!
More importantly was that I saw HIS pleasure.
I saw his opening up.

So my challenge to you today is to dig deep and tune into beauty.
It is easy to see what’s wrong with the world around you.
Maybe you need to take a “Glorious Walk”.
Maybe you need to chat to your children about the sheer joy one finds in beauty.
Turn your head.
Go out and get Roald Dahl’s book ‘Boy’ from the library.
Read it to your family.
Read it for yourself.
And…
Know that you are creative, it is there waiting for you.

This is me, Tania Ahlfeldt and I am encouraging you to walk gloriously .

(Below is a picture of the Gypsy Caravan he bought for his children to have fun in,
he also wrote his book “Danny Champion of the World” in it.)

www.roalddahl.com/

20130206-101946.jpg