The Year I became a Hooker: My Crochet Journey

How it started.

Last year, as part of my Year of Restore, I decided to try something new. I taught myself how to crochet. This was not the first time I tried to crochet. About 10 years ago when the kiddos were small, I bought some yarn, a hook and gave it a go. You can see my first masterpiece in the pic. No, I have no idea what the hell it was supposed to be. I do know that it was kind of a disaster. Looking back I can tell you what I did wrong…. everything. That yarn is definitely NOT a beginner yarn. I would bet money that I was using the wrong hook size and I had no pattern. This was an aimless attempt at learning a new skill. As you can guess, after this monstrosity, I hung my head in shame, set down my hook, and gave up learning how to crochet.

I was not going to be a fiber artist. For years to come, I would still find myself wandering through the yarn aisle wishing I could do something with all of that beautiful yarn. This went on for years. Me looking at yarn and wanting to create something beautiful and then remembering the pink and blue eyelash yarn abomination. I would then leave the yarn aisle and head to the bead aisle feeling defeated. I would even see cool projects like temperature blankets and think, “That would be so cool to do if only I knew how to crochet.” Knowing, that I would probably never learn. Such quitter talk, I know.

The Pom-Pom Project

Holiday Pom-Pom Décor

In the winter of 2020, in the middle of a pandemic, something changed. I finally gave in to my yarn yearnings, bought some plain old yarn, and started to make pom-poms. I don’t know why. It was something to do I guess. I made them for all the windows. For the manel. For picture frames. I made a black and red one for our tree at work. I even sent some to friends and colleagues. There were pom-poms everywhere!! It was delightful! It also reignited my desire to give crochet another try.

I had befriended yarn again so it was time to pick up a hook and make something. But as the disaster danced in the back of my brain, reminding me of my failure, I knew that this time I had take a different approach.

Try Again

Learning from my past mistake of jumping in blindly with no direction or plan, or clue, I decided that if I wanted to learn this for real, I needed to start with the basics. So I found a pattern labeled easy and gave it a try. It was not too bad. The pattern was easy to follow. I successfully made a hat but I still made many mistakes. I used yarn that was a little hard to work with and did not use the right sized hook. But, despite that, I did create a hat. A too big, lopsided hat. Still basking in the afterglow of a semi-success, I turned to YouTube and found a video tutorial for a “simple” octopus. The tutorial was good. After a bit of struggle and some rewatching over and over, I made an an octopus! Like the hat, it was a little wonky and filled with mistakes but, it was were what it was supposed to be. It was at that moment I decided, I could crochet! I was now a hooker! OK, not really but I had made it further than I ever had before. I had some confidence and more yarn!

Taking the Big Step

After my two successful projects I wanted more. Since it was the holiday break in the middle of a pandemic, we could not really go anywhere, I started playing around with a few more simple projects. I made three more octopi and a few gauge swatches. The day after Christmas I decided that if I really wanted to do this, I needed to go big. My mind drifted back to those temperature blankets I had admired so many years ago. I decided that having a year long project to focus on would be a great way for me to practice my skills and get better. I was right. (If you want to learn more about the blanket project, you can read about it here.) Long story short – I kept with it over the course of 2021 and completed the blanket! The coolest thing was to see how my skill changed during the year. The beginning of the blanket was a hot mess. The edges were terrible and there were so many dropped stitches. But, I got better and better the more I did it every day. Seeing my skills improve gave me the confidence to try other things and keep learning!

How its Going

Over that past year, I have gone from the creator of wonky things to the creator of slightly less wonky yet beautiful in their own way things. Since that first hat twelve months ago I have made five blankets, one pillow, three pairs of fingerless gloves, a cardigan, (yes, a cardigan!! Who would have thought?) two wraps, six scarves, three hats, a dog snood, twenty mug cozies, a dice bag, a fox, a sting ray, a water molecule, some stars, some skulls, some Christmas trees and a hyperbolic pseudosphere. Whew. It has been a busy year. I do not even want to know how many hours of video tutorials I have watched or patterns I have tried to decipher. It has all been worth it. This time was different. I approached it like like an educator. I identified my objective, found the resources that would support my goal and I made things. Over and over again.

How its Going

It Ain’t Nothin’ Unless You Learn Something

I have learned so much and am really proud of how far I have come. It has been fun to challenge myself with different projects and techniques. With any new hobby or skills there are things you learn as you put in the time to move from beginner to…er… less of a beginner. Some of these lessons are specific to crocheting such as the difference between a signal crochet and a double or why it is important to write down which hook you used if you are going to pause a project. (Don’t ask me how I know. Just know that I know.) But, some of the lessons we learn along the way can be applied more broadly. So what did I learn as I hooked my way through 2021. Well, I’m glad you asked. Here are some of the things I have learned on this journey.

First and foremost, don’t let past failures, challenges, or mistakes stop you from trying again. I say that all the time. I’m surprised I let a failed attempt define me as a crafter. If you really want to do it, try again. Only this time find the resources and tools that will help you be successful. I could not have done this without all of the great YouTubers out there doing demo videos. Thank you, fellow crochet people!

Nest, don’t be afraid to start. Some time projects seem so big and overwhelming that you don’t even know how to start. Crochet a yearly temperature blanket. Wow – that is a lot of work. But not when you break it down into single days for about 15 minutes a day. That makes it much easier to attack! Make a cardigan. What? I never thought I would be able to make a cardigan. As I was working on rectangular blankets I could not even imagine making something wearable. But, I found a great pattern that broke it down into easy to follow steps and one week later, I had a wearable. (The pattern was the Kami Cardi by TL Yarn Crafts.Check out her stuff. It is amazing!) Breaking it down into pieces helped my get over the overwhelming idea of the finished project. Take it one step at a time.

Image from NASA.gov Hubble Space Telescope – https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/hubble/multimedia/index.html

Going back to failures – just because you made it, doesn’t mean you need to like it or keep it. Frogging is a crocheter’s best friend. Made a mistake? Frog it. Made something weird and ugly? Frog it. In the world of crochet, “frogging” means to rip out stitches. (Yes, I use crochet slang now.) Remember my first wonky hat? Well, it was kind of unwearable so, I frogged it. It is now art of a beautiful blanket in my office. It was hard to frog that first piece. All I could think about was how all the time I put into making it was wasted. But really, isn’t it wasted if the hat just sat there unloved? Frogging is not admitting failure but correcting a wrong or giving something new life. Speaking of past failures – that pink and blues eyelash monster might be just what I need to create a crochet version of the above Hubble Telescope image. I look forward to frogging that thing and using it to make something new and (hopefully) beautiful. Bit, if it doesn’t turn out, no worries, just frog it. This is becoming my second favorite F word.

It was a Crochet Christmas this year!

And finally, it is ok to pause a project and start something new. Blame my weird brain but I get bored with big projects. As soon as something becomes repetitive my brain finds something shinny to focus on instead. I found that taking a break from a big project to complete a small quick project gives me the break I need to continue. It’s ok to have multiple projects going at a time. Give yourself permission to project hop. (Just remember to write down your hook size before you move on. Again, trust me on that one.)

The End?

Well, that post is way longer than I expected. But, I guess I was trying to reflect on 365+ days of my crochet journey. There was a lot to cover. Big thank you to all my IRL and social media friends who have suffered through the MANY pictures of the various projects and all of my talk about yarn. I appreciate all of the support this past year as I tried something new. This is not the end of my journey but the start. I have so many projects I want to try (and so much yarn)!!

Resources

If you are thinking about taking your own crochet journey, I support you. Do it! It’s a fun hobby. Oh – and my fitness app counts my hand movements as exercise. So, bonus!! As one newbie to another, here are some of my favorite resources for learning.

  • TL Yarn Crafts – patters and tips. Her videos are what really helped my with technique. She also has great Tunisian Crochet tutorials.
  • Ravelry – Join this free community for so many patterns and to connect with others who are just as passionate for the craft.
  • Bag-O-Day Crochet – Watch her videos for tutorials and yarn reviews.
  • Alt Knots – Do you need you dark soul but still want to crochet? Try Alt Knots. She puts the spooky in spooktacular crochet videos.
  • Jonah’s Hands – This kid is amazing! He has great tutorials and is a joy to watch.

Have fun hooking!

Word of the Year 2022

Happy New Year!

It’s that time again when we dust off all of our failed resolutions from years past, shake off the disappointment, and give them another go. For the past five years I have gone against the grain and instead of coming up with a list of things that I will not accomplish, I have instead, chosen a word that will be my focus for the upcoming year. (Apparently, this is a whole thing now online. It has a hash-tag and everything – #OneWord2022. I like to think that I was a trendsetter with this one.)

For the most part, this idea of one word to rule them all for the coming year has been a fun exercise. It has given me a way to focus my energy and drive my priorities. At the very least, it’s a way to plan for the year in January and a framework for reflecting on the year in December. I think I have been fairly creative in my word choices over the past five years. I have tried not to be too generic with words like Love, Believe, or Hope. Don’t get me wrong, they are all good words. But none of them have the teeth I needed to be inspired for a whole year. So, what have been my words for the past five years. Well, since you asked…here is the list (if I blogged about it, I was even so kind as to give you the link.)

Past Words of the Year

  • 2016 – Nourish
  • 2017 – Transform
  • 2018 – Boundaries
  • 2019 – Reach
  • 2020 – Less – I thought this was a great word at the time. Hindsight, am I right?
  • 2021 – Restore

It has been fun to pick the words. I was super proud of 2020. It was going to be the year of “Less but Better”. All I can say is the Universe is full of irony. I was smarter in 2021 and chose Restore so I could focus on bringing back some of the good things. Yesterday I took some time to reflect on the positives from 2021. There were quite a few and I do feel I restored some important things. So, what to choose for 2022?

The Right Word for 2022

Finding the right word is hard. I really thought about it and was about to give up all together. This was going to be the year with no word. Just a year. Then I listened to a podcast from one of my favorite thinkers, Greg McKeown. In fact, his book Essentialism is what inspired the Year of Less. I was listening to one of his recent podcasts, episode 83 to be exact, while working on a project and thinking about why choosing a word was so hard. The episode dove into the first chapter of his new book and asked “What if this could be easy?” Seriously, I stopped what I was doing and repeated that out loud. “What if this could be easy?” The past two years have been really hard. What if it could be easy? That is when my word for 2022 hit me right in the face. Easy. This year will be the year of Easy! It all made perfect sense. Look at the definition below.

eas·y/ˈēzē/adjective

  1. achieved without great effort; presenting few difficulties.
  2. (of a period of time or way of life) free from worries or problems.

Don’t both of those sound amazing? I want to achieve without great effort AND have a period of time that is free from worries or problems. I wish that for all of us!

So, how do I plan to approach the Year of Easy? After kicking the word around in my head a bit and completely overthinking it, here are my three Easy Goals.

Be Easy – Don’t Over Complicate

I know that living Easy is not going to be…well, easy. It feels like today’s society believes that things of value or quality are hard. (That might explain some of my underlying issues with Impostor Syndrome if you think about it.) And, if you take the easy way out you are lazy or what you do is low quality. I don’t think that’s true. For example, over the past year I’ve been learning how to crochet. I have seen that even the easy stiches can create beautiful things. So, the year of easy is not about quick fixes and low quality. It is about simple solutions and less complicated actions. I am going to look for the easiest way to get the best result and stop over complicating (and over thinking) everything.

Go Easy – Don’t be a Jerk

Also, as I said before, the past two years have been hard. For all of us. And we, my friends, have been kind of hard on each other. I mean really, some of us have been complete jerks to each other. It is time for us to stop and go easy on each other instead. Show some compassion, some grace, some empathy. We all deserve it. I mean, come on, even Adele gets it.

If you go easy on me, I’ll go easy on you. Haven’t we all been through enough?

Take it Easy – Slow Down, Partner

It’s ok to slow down.

The Year of Easy will also be about slowing down and enjoying life. I will continue to nurture those restored habits of creative pursuits, finding joy and being connected. We can’t do that if we’re rushing through life. So, take it easy. Slow it down. Enjoy the ride a bit more.

There you have it, everyone. My 2022 word of the year and more explanation than you ever asked for. My wish for you is that you all have an easy, yet amazing year. You have all earned it.

21 Positives from 2021

I don’t know about you but 2021 was another rough year in what I hope is not a string of rough years. We, as the collective human race, have had to deals with some…stuff. Yes, we had some big challenges, but we had some big wins too. It can be difficult to see the wins when we are constantly bombarded by the negative messaging that reminds us about how hard and terrible things are right now. Yes, things are hard. Yes, there are some terrible things out there. However, there is good too. I want to take time during my traditional year end reflection to do a good old list post of some of the positive things that happened over the past 365 days.

But First…

Ok, before you you start down the “toxic positivity” path – yes, I know that we cannot ignore the things that are terrible. In order to fix them, we need to see them, discuss them and take action. Also – yes, I know that it is ok to not be ok. I’m not saying it isn’t, I’m just saying that you can’t ALWAYS focus on the negative and difficult things. That makes you no fun. And, if you know me or follow me at all, you know that I LITERALLY see the world through rose colored glasses (actually hot pink glasses but I’m not here to be picky). So, I tend to skew to the positive and its my blog so I can write about whatever I want.

The Year of Restore

Before I get to my list of 21 positive things from 2021, a little background. 2021 was the Year of Restore. That was my word of the year. Restore. You can read about the goals I set for myself in this post here. The Tl;Dr version is – I wanted 2021 to be the year I restored some good things in my life, creativity, balance, health, etc. Well, as expected, I was successful on some and not others. So, this list of positives includes a few of my successful restores.

21 Positives from 2021

Now it is time for the list. Drum roll please… wait, one more disclaimer. There were so many good things that happened this year that my list is not all inclusive. Obvs. I am not going to talk about Covid vaccines or some of the other big things related to the crappy things because enough people are already talking about that. Go read their stuff. This is my list of things that have given me a positive vibes for 2021. Ok, now, I need a drum roll please…

Personal Positives – My own personal wins

  1. I made a bunch of things! I wanted to restore create pursuits this year and I did. I learned how to crochet and made a bunch of cool things. More on that in a future post.
  2. My family celebrated some great milestones. From our 27th wedding anniversary, to milestone birthdays and new births. There were some awesome celebrations.
  3. The kids (they are young adults in college) had academic wins this year. Way to go kiddos! Mom and Dad are proud of all your hard work.
  4. I hugged people I have not seen in years and in some cases decades. I can’t tell you how amazing it was to hug people again. Even some I had not seen in almost 30 years. It was amazing to talk to people in person instead of on Facebook or Twitter.
  5. The husband and I took an actual vacation. Just the two of us. It was to Iowa, but it was still wonderful to escape and explore together.
  6. I went to festivals, heard live music and saw art again. The extrovert in me was so happy to be surrounded by creative people and their creations again.
  7. I played. My gnome warlock and I got a workout this year. It was great to play and go on adventures. In other words, I took time out for fun. Yay me!

Professional Positives – Big wins on the professional side

  1. This year my team and I did STEAM programming for over 1000 kids! From virtual summer camps to in-person STEAM workshops, our programs were back and we were loving it!
  2. Our Artificial Intelligence Summer Camp team won and Impact Argonne Award for Extraordinary Effort. So proud of the amazing team and our campers. Read more here.
  3. Our team received funding to start a STEAM afterschool club for local middle school students. We kick it off in January and I am so excited about what these kids will do!!
  4. Became part of a state-wide effort centered on Career and Technical Education. This will also have a huge positive impact on our Illinois students as well as business and industry. Here is a bit more about that project. Again – so excited!
  5. STEM Fest!!!!!! For the 12th year in a row, NIU STEAM held STEM Fest. After a virtual event in 2020, STEM Fest was back, in-person, and in the heart of campus. I am so proud of the team for making it a huge success!! Want to know what goes into planning an event like that – read this. Learn more about STEM Fest 2021 in this article.
  6. My team and I had a chance to regroup and refocus on our Why. I am looking forward to what we will do in the new year.
  7. I feel I have grown as a leader. Through successes and challenges, I am a different leader than I was 12 months ago. I have learned a lot and will continue to learn through the adventures to come.

Planetary Positives – Good things from planet Earth and beyond

  1. The Mars Rover, Perseverance, and it’s little buddy Ingenuity landed on Mars February 18, 2021 and have been up to some amazing things!
  2. Wired Magazine reported that cheese in not actually bad for you! Yes, the article sites a 2018 study but they published it in 2021 so I count it as a 2021 win.
  3. Medical Science continues to explore and test treatments for ALS. (That one is for you Larry! Miss you.)
  4. Scientists wirelessly connected a brain to a computer. Yay… I think.
  5. The James Webb Telescope successfully launched on December 25, 2021.
  6. Vertical farming, farm to food pantry initiatives, and urban farming continue to grow to address hunger and food scarcity.
  7. Despite what the news might say, many people came together and found innovative ways to connect with each other, help, support and learn from each other. Many of us learned something from strangers on TikTok or YouTube. We reconnected with family, friends and colleagues though hybrid events, in-person gatherings or virtual game nights. We collectively chose to focus on what was import in our lives and found good in things. Way to go humans!

Goodbye 2021

My big goal for 2021.

So, there are the 21 things that have given me positive vibes for the past year. I asked this question on Facebook and Twitter and have received some great stories of personal positives from 2021. Based on that, I would say the Year of Restore positively had some successes. I did not meet all of my goals but I met some of them. The ones I didn’t meet, my friends family and the human race met them for me. So, goodbye 2021. I think we were able to meet the biggest goal I had for 2021. It sucked less than the year before.

As we approach 2022. I wish you all health, joy, humor, creativity, connections, and balance. As well as the strength and support you need to overcome any of the challenges you may face.

Happy New Year, from HotPinkTech!

Word of the Year: 2021

Last year I was really excited about my word of the year. Less. Less seemed like such a good choice at the time when there was so much noise it was hard to focus. 2020 was going to be the year of less but better. A year to focus on the essentials and eliminate all of the unneeded stress and clutter in my life. Things started off pretty well. Then a global pandemic hit. The world turned upside down. The dumpster started on fire and well, forgive my crudeness, everything kind of went to shit. The Year of Less took on a whole new meaning and became something very different than what I originally had in mind.

2020 is over and we’ve made it through. I could spend this post reflecting on all the lessons learned during the shit show that was 2020. (Yes, despite it all, there were many lessons learned and perspectives gained that I will carry forward for the better.) But, this is the first post of the new year. Time to focus on the future. I’ll save my ruminations and reflections on the past for a future post. Let’s move forward, shall we?

Time to Restore

The Year of Less was full of challenges to say the least and there were many things I let go of just to cope and make it through. Some of those things I was glad to let go of and happy to leave behind. However there are things I lost that I’m ready to bring back. So, 2021 is the year I Restore. This does not mean I want to spend my year going backwards, starting over, or reverting to some past iteration of my former self. It means I want to restore some of the habits and mindsets that I seemed to have lost through the passing of time. The idea of restoring something is hopeful. It means the skills and knowledge need to accomplish this goal are in me because I’ve done it, or something similar, before. Ha! I can do it again. For me, restore does not mean restart or return. It means to renew, refresh, and rejuvenate. After a long hard year, I think we might all need a bit of rejuvenation. Don’t you?

The Goals

So, what do I have in store for the year of restore? Well, here is what I’m thinking. Some things on this list are specific while others are a bit more abstract and cerebral but together it makes sense to me.

  • Restore healthy habits. Move more. Eat well. Be mindful. I have done this before with success. I felt great, mind and body. But then bad habits became easier than good habits and easier felt good at the time. Time to put those habits back in place. I’ll feel better when I take better care of myself. Right?
  • Restore creative pursuits. When you are just trying to make it through the day, you don’t have much time for creative things. Last year was not the most creative year for me. This year I’m restoring creativity, whimsy, and wonder as priorities. More writing. More making. More exploring. More curiosity. To get me started I teamed up with some friends to make a temperature blanket! Nothing says creativity like learning how to crochet while creating a usable visualization of daily weather data! Yes, I’m super stoked for this project! Hopefully it will be my first of many new projects and experiments this year.
  • Restore connections. Last year was isolating. Both physically and mentally. So much changed in the way we interacted with each other. Some changes were needed and some were healthy. But some changes were damaging. This year will focus on restoring lost connections and reconnecting with people in meaningful ways. I don’t know about you, but I really miss people. I’m so thankful for my small bubble of folks but man what I wouldn’t give to feel safe standing in a crowded venue surrounded by the energizing buzz of strangers again.
  • Restore balance. My balance went a little wonky in 2020. Working from home and dealing with that ever changing “new normal” threw me out of whack. I’d over compensate one way just to then over compensate the other way trying to stay a float in a churning sea of anxiety, fear, doubt, and pressure. It was exhausting. It’s time to restore a bit of balance and calm. Don’t ask me how. I haven’t figured that part out yet. But I’ll work on it.
  • Restore joy. It was hard to be joyful last year. So much was happening to so many that even small moments of joy had cloudy film. I stopped doing things that brought me joy and just kind of existed for a while. If 2020 taught us anything, it is that life is fleeting. Why waste that precious time focused on the negative or worse, nothing at all? I know it sounds naïve but I rather spend my time spreading and sharing joy. Time to spread some happy!

The First Steps

Reading back through the bullets I admit I feel a bit overwhelmed. Those are some big goals there, 2021. Do we need to talk about managing expectations? I remember this time last year as I wrote my post and looked optimistically to the shinning promise that was 2020, the Year of Less, and then how quickly things shifted. So, this year I’m approaching the new year tentatively optimistic. Less of a shinning promise and more a sparkle of restored hope. The goals might be big but small steps can still move me forward. And that is ok. And forward I shall move.

So, as we clean off the layer ash from last year’s dumpster fire and sort through the debris from the shit storm that was 2020, I wish you all peace. I hope you all have a year that helps you restore what you need. Whether it is health or hope, faith or friendships, creativity or community or all of the above or something entirely different. Today is a new day at the start of a new year. It might not be a magic flip of the switch that will make everything better or “normal”, it is an opportunity to take a step forward in a new direction. A time to Restore, Renew, Refresh, and Rejuvenate. So, that’s what I’ll do. Happy New Year, everyone!

My Favorite Home Workout YouTube Channels

A small change of pace on the Hot Pink Tech blog. I’m normally writing about technology tools or learning strategies. But today, I want to share something different. This year I kicked off the Year of Less. This year I am reducing the nonessentials in my life and focusing on what’s important. Less but Better. Part of my goals for this year is to get healthy by eating less junk food and moving more. So I went on the hunt for ways I could workout at home without spending a lot of time and money. I found several YouTube channels that offer challenging and fun workouts for free. These videos have kept me on track and working out at least 5 days a week in the comfort of my own home…and down about 15 pounds. Yay me!

Fast forward three months. The world has turned upsidedown. We are all inside, practicing social distancing and doing what we can to keep ourselves, our families, and our communities safe. So, in an effort to help all of my readers out there who find themselves home and unable to go to a gym or workout in their normal places, I figured I’d share my favorite fitness Youtube channels for keeping active. I look for workouts that are fun, fast-paced, and challenging but have modification options. Most of the ones I choose last for about 30 minutes. Perfect for a morning workout. I have gravitated to a few favorite channels that I mix and match during the week. Here are my favorite four. So, put on your active gear, grab some water and a towel, and get moving!

Body Project


Body Project has a great mix of low impact cardio, strength training, and interval training videos. They are my go-to channel for high-intensity cardio. The 30 minute workouts go really fast and I am dripping by the end. There is enough variety that I don’t get bored doing the same workout over and over. If you are just getting started, they have a nice selection of beginner and low impact workouts too. This morning I did an advance fat burning HIT cardio 30-minute workout – 60 seconds on with a 30-second rest. It kicked my butt. I’m still feeling it.

Popsugar Fitness


Popsugar Fitness is another channel that has a LOT of different workouts available. I have not explored all of them. I stick mostly to the 30 minute full-body strength training workouts like the killer shown above or some of the workouts on the Dance Fit Sugar Playlist. One of my favorites is the Hip-Hop Tabata. Popsugar also has some great Zumba and Zumba strong videos as well. Another great channel that will keep you sweating.

The Fitness Marshall


I am totally in love with Caleb Marshall and his channel The Fitness Marshall. Sometimes I just want to break out the funk and dance like no one is watching. (Lucky for me my family is not up at 5:00 am so I can shake it like I mean it!) The Fitness Marshall delivers with chart-topping hits, moves you could take straight to the club, and an attitude that does not quit. He and his crew always bring a smile to my face. You won’t even realize you are working out. Just have fun with it!

Yoga with Adriene


After several days of high-intensity workouts (or stress-filled days of life), I need to breathe and find my center. Yoga with Adriene is the perfect channel to help me find my calm. She has a yoga practice for every occasion. Whether you are looking for a calming practice, one for weight loss, one for back pain, or a sequence to help you start your day, she has a video that will meet your needs. I love that she has playlists organized by length of practice. Sometimes I just need a quick 10-minute sequence while other times I’m looking for a deep 45-minute stretch. She even has a 30-day yoga journey series. I love some of her videos for things like Yoga for when you are stuck, Yoga for writers, and Yoga for Brain Power. For days like today, Yoga for Stress Melt sounds delightful!

So, there you have it. My four favorite channels for home workouts. They are free, fun, and energizing. They have helped me stick with my goal to move more and sit less.

What are your favorite workout channels or tips for staying active while at home? Share in the comments.

Stay safe and healthy everyone!

Word of the Year 2020

Word of the Year: The Year of Less

Happy New Year!

For the last few years, instead of creating a list of resolutions that I am sure to break in record time, I have selected one word as my anchor and focus for the coming year. Last year, my word was Reach.

The Year of Reach

Reach seemed like a good idea at the time. I was going to spend 2019 reaching for my goals. Reaching outside of my comfort zone. Reaching for the stars or something like that. For the most part, I did. I reached for all kinds of things. I reached. And reached. And reached. As I was reaching, I learned that when you reach, you also stretch. And when you reach too far or for too much, you get over stretched. That was my year of reach. I was over-stretched, spread too thin and that left me out of shape, both mentally and physically. (I really did not intend to reach for 20 extra pounds but what can you do.) So, this year I wanted to find a word that would build on the good things I reached for and incorporate all I learned in 2019. But I also needed one that would remind me of reaching for the important things and what happens if you reach for too much. So, I tried a few words on for size. I tried, happy, joy, and even strong, but none of them really fit what I was looking for. None of them seem right. Then, as I stood in my house surrounded by stuff and thinking of all the things I had to do, it hit me. I don’t need more of anything. I need LESS.

The Year of Less

Welcome to 2020. My year of less. My goal this year is to focus on less so I can do more.

The Goals

Here are my goals for the Year of Less.

  • Purge the crap – Remove things from my life that cause clutter and are not essential. That includes everything from materials things to mental things to edible things. I have too much stuff to deal with. It is time for the extra and unnecessary things to go.
  • Focus on the important – Getting ride of the extra stuff will help me focus on the important things. When I have less to focus on I will have more energy to dedicate to the important things.
  • Stop ruminating – Worrying and stressing about…well, everything, has not been productive. I need to stop that. Less worry. Less stress.

I could keep listing all of the ways I want to embrace less but these three sum it up pretty well.

Getting Started

To get me ready for the year of less, I spent time on New Year’s Eve day unsubscribing from a ton of email lists. Oh my, that felt good. I even emptied out a junk drawer and threw out the broken toys that have lived there for the past 10 years. I’m not gonna lie. It felt good. This less thing might really work.

I also started reading the book Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown. I listen to him talk about Essentialism and the art of saying “no” on a Tim Ferriss podcast early last year. As a chronic people pleaser, his message really struck a chord with me. Through all the craziness of last year, my brain kept retreating back to his message. He stressed the importance of saying no to the nonessentials so you can focus on what is essential to you. Yes! With the help of Mr. McKeown and some of my favorite accountability partners (you know who you are) I hope to do exactly that!Less but better.

So, here we go. The Year of Less! I’ll blog my progress over the year so stay tuned!

What is your word for this year?

Taking the Bite Out of Failure

Epic Fail

I have failed. I have totally failed at my goal to start 2019 off right by blogging twice a week. Here we are three months in and I’m writing my first blog post of the year. Fail.

So, I thought it fitting that I recover from my failure with a blog post about failure. Part of the reason for my radio silence is because some new projects have been brewing. The first quarter of the year has been filled with new initiatives, new ideas, and new experiences. (Don’t worry, I’ll fill you in on some of them in future blog posts.) My favorite new project is a podcast about failure. Failure Bites.

Failure Bites

The Failure Bites Podcast, our latest NIU STEAM podcast, features successful people telling their stories of a difficult experience that helped them grown and learn. This podcast was the brainchild of my colleague, Kim Likier. Our team had been talking about the role of failure in learning from some time. We incorporate Failure-Based Learning into much of what we do. Kim suggested that we create a podcast that highlights personal stories of failure and success. A few collaborative meetings later and voila! Failure Bites was born.

We all have a failure story to tell. I told mine a year or so ago in a blog post for Coaching for Geeks. (You can read my failure story here.)  I found the process very therapeutic. It was actually interesting to look at that experience through a lens of growth instead of failure. Our goal with this project is to celebrate the role that failure plays in success. We want to change the mindset that failing at something means you are a failure. It is the exact opposite. Failure and reflection are how we learn and grow. You can’t grow if you don’t take risks. When you take risks, you could fail. In this podcast, we are exploring the connection between failure and growth through personal stories.

We are four episodes in and so far I am loving this project. It has been truly inspiring to hear people from all over and from so many different backgrounds and fields talk about personal triumphs and the failures or challenges that got them there.

Listen to the most recent episode featuring filmmaker Tom Gustafson from Speak Productions.  Tom tells his story of the challenges he faced making his first feature film. It was great to talk to Tom. He is my younger brother and I am truly inspired by all he and his partner have accomplished. I know that it has not been an easy road.

Fail Forward

This whole project was a risk. We could have (and still could) fail. But that’s OK. Even if we get one person to think about failure differently, we have succeeded.

We have some great upcoming episodes in the queue. We’ll hear from a hugely successful author and an award-winning teacher. There are other new episodes in the works featuring some very exciting guests. We will also weave in some psychology experts to help us understand the effects of failure on our brain.

You can find Failure Bites on all of your favorite podcast platforms including iTunes, Stitcher, and SoundCloud.

Please subscribe and leave a comment. We would love to hear if one of the stories resonated with you or inspired you to keep going or take a risk. We would also love to hear your story.

So, take the bite out of failure. Take a risk and make a mistake. You might learn something new.

 

STEM Read Podcast Episode 5

My reflections on STEM Read Podcast Episode 5. The one with all the swearing. Warning: Strong language.

The Rise of WHAT?!?

The fifth episode of the STEM Read Podcast posted on December 22nd. It has taken me a long time to write about it, not because I have nothing to say but because of WHAT I said.

In this episode, The Rise of F%@kwe discuss (you guessed it) swearing. We have a very colorful conversation with linguist Melissa Wright about why we swear,  the role it plays in culture, and how words became taboo. This is followed by an interview with M.C. Atwood (a.k.a Megan Atwood), author of the YA novel The Devils You KnowIn that interview we talk about how language, especially that of the foul variety, is used as a part of character development as well as how it helps us, the reader, form a connection with our fictional friends.

I found each of our discussions fascinating and informational. (I know, I am a bit biased. I always find myself fascinating.) I learned a lot from both of our guests. It has even prompted me to do more reading on the subject. However, I have to admit, I was (and still am) a bit nervous sharing this one.

Me and My Big Mouth

Anyone who knows me IRL, knows that I am not a stranger to the occasional F-bomb or perfectly place curse. In fact, my use of prolific profanity is directly proportional to my level of comfort with you. In other words…I swears if I like you.

If that is the case, why is this episode giving me pause and causing me anxiety? I think it goes back to the idea of context. We have different norms for different situations. It also might have to do with the different ways language is connected to our different identities. The STEM Read Podcast is connected to my professional identity. Non professional me swears like a drunken pirate. Professional me does not usually use such “unprofessional” vernacular. Professional me usually keeps it, well, professional. For me, this podcast pushed me outside of my professional comfort zone. Even though I know what we discussed was intellectually intriguing, professional me is saying, “But you said F%@k. A lot.”

It was a show about swearing. What the f%@k was I supposed to say?

Listen Anyway

Language is fun. How we use it. How it changes from culture to culture. How it shifts from decade to decade. It’s fun to talk about language. In fact, as I was writing this post, a colleague stepped into my office and we had a 15 minute conversation about swearing. Imagine the conversations you can have with your students around language when you use books like Feed by M.T. Anderson or The Martian by Andy Weir. In Feed, the language serves a key purpose in the story. When you dig deeper into the language choice, you see that in many ways, the book is all about language and the impact technology has on how we communicate. The language used in the book is an excellent starting point for a conversation about the language we use and why we use it.

So, if you are easily offended by the occasional obscenity or two, or ten, you might want to skip this episode. Or at the very least, don’t listen to it around your children. (My 18 and 19 year-old kids..er…young adults, were in the car when I played it for my husband. Yes, it was a bit uncomfortable.) But, don’t let the extra expletives prevent you from queuing it up, giving it a listen, and having a discussion.

As I said in the show. “Don’t let the use of strong language stop you from selecting a book with a strong message.” The same holds true for a podcast.

Follow the link to listen to Episode 5: The Rise of F%@k. And check out the show notes for more info on our guests, resources, and other fun stuff.

Also – do us a solid and leave us a review. Pretty f%@king please. 🙂

Five Tips for Unleashing Your Creative Self in 2018

Friday Five: Five tips for a creative 2018

Imagine
A few of my creative supplies. Part of my Steampunk Rainbow Dash costume.

Every new year I think to myself, this year I will be more creative. For me that means, I want to spend more of my time creating things, trying out new things, and spending more time outside of my comfort zone. Some years are more successful than others. I had a knitting year and now I have more looms sitting in my attic than I dare admit. I’ve had jewelry years. Everything from beads to precious metal clay. (This year might be the year I fire the mini kiln back up.) My attic is filled with boxes of various art supplies from photo transfer paper, to rubber stamps, to paints and brushes, to fabric, to clay to photos of every size and shape. Each box contains remanents of my many creative endeavors. To be honest, it’s kind of my happy place. Every year I try to add more creativity to my life. It really doesn’t matter if I stuck with the medium or not. What matters is that I created something.

Some years I manage a small project or two. At least that is something. Then there are the years when I feel the creativity flow. These years are awesome. These are the years that I made creativity a priority.

Looking back at my efforts to be creative, there have been strategies that have helped me grow creatively. Here are my five strategies for having a creative year.

Tips for a creative 2018

Let’s take a closer look at each one.

1. Join a weekly or daily challenge 

I love challenges. There is something about the goal of doing something every day or every week that I find very motivating. It is also incredibly rewarding at the end of the challenge to look back at what you have accomplished.

Joining a creative challenge is one way to add accountability to your creativity goal. Most challenges give you a prompt or theme for each day, week, or month of the challenge. This can be super helpful if you are trying to overcome a creative block. The prompt will give you focus and a starting point.

One of my all-time favorite challenges is the Photo A Day Challenge by blogger FatMumSlim. January 2018 kicks off her 6th year of providing daily prompts. Millions, yes millions, of people around the world use her prompts as inspiration for daily photographs.

My first year of doing the Photo A Day was 2012. Each day, I would look and the prompt start thinking about how I would interpret it. The prompt was always in the back of my mind and I was tossing around different compositions. Some days the prompts were easy and I knew exactly what to shoot, while other days took a lot of thought. It was fun to always have this creative problem churning in the back of my head.

To my own surprise, I made it the whole year. Not only was I proud to say that I actually did something creative every day for a whole year, I had a fantastic record of 2012. I took pictures of things I never would have photographed. Simple everyday moments and things captured in new and interesting ways.

I did it again in 2014 and 2016 and planning on starting again for 2018. (I have found that taking a break year after doing an entire year of pictures was helpful to prevent burnout.) It has been interesting to look back at these three sets of 365 images to learn about who I am as a photographer and how my techniques have changed over time. I apparently really like clouds.

Photo collage
A small sample of the photos from my first year of Photo A Day, 2012.

I learned so much about myself through this challenge, that I’ve incorporated it into my visual literacy and media literacy courses. It seems to be a class favorite.

Not ready for an entire year? Try it for a month and see what happens.

Not ready for a daily photo challenge? Check out this 52 week photo challenge by Dogwood Photography. I gave it a try last year. It was a great way for me to work on improving my photography skills. However, I was not able to make it past the first three months. I  found a weekly challenge harder than a daily challenge. Might give it another shot this year.

Is photography not your thing? Here are a few other creative challenges you could try.

Pick your favorite creative outlet (or one you want to learn) and I’ll bet you my favorite seed beads that there is a challenge for it.

2. Find your creative peeps

If you want to be more creative, surround yourself with creative people. They don’t have to be into the same thing you are into, they just have to see creativity as a part of their lives. These communities of people who are also engaged in creative pursuits become your accountability friends. You share with each other, learn from each other, and encourage each other on those days when creativity is eluding you. When you surround yourself with people who have also made creativity a priority, they get you and why you are doing what you are doing because they are doing it too.Find your tribe

One of the reasons I like the challenges listed above is because of the communities that come with them. The Dogwood Photography, Photo A Day,  and Coaching for Geeks communities are all super supportive. Got a photography question? Post it in the facebook group and someone will answer. Want help with being accountable, Coaching for Geeks has your back.

Whether your community is IRL, virtual, or both, it helps to have people around you who can help you be your most creative self. People who are not afraid to nudge you when you need a nudge, critique you to help you grow, and celebrate your achievements even if it is as simple as taking one photograph for the day.

3. Share your creativity

Creativity is best when shared. It is perfectly fine to create something just for yourself. Go for it. However, something magical happens when you share your creativity with others. For example, the best part of the Photo A Day Challenge for me is posting my image on social media. At first, I only shared it with my Facebook friends. In 2016 I started sharing it with the larger Photo A Day community using the hashtags and groups. It was amazing to see how people from all over the world interpreted the prompts differently. Conversations were started around images. We learned from each other and about each other through our creative works.

When you share your creativity, you share a bit of yourself. Sometimes, it is a piece of yourself that people don’t usually see. It can be scary to put yourself out there. What if people don’t like it? What if it’s dumb? Those are scary questions. But, what if they like it? What if they want to talk about it? What if they want to help you get better? YOu’ll never know if you don’t share it.

I’m not saying that everything you do should be shared far and wide with everyone. Start with one trusted person. Maybe share it with your community.

4. Schedule time for creativity 

I wish I could say that it is easy to be creative. But, it is not. Our lives can be so busy that we feel there is no time for making something or writing something. Well, then make time.

Yes, we are all busy, but we can spare a few minutes to flex our creative muscles. Look at the 15 minute art challenge. Who can’t find 15 minutes a day to do something creative?

Put an appointment on your calendar that is your time to create. You schedule time for things that aren’t fun like dentist appointments and project meetings. Why not schedule time for something fun that helps you grow. Just do it. Schedule it now. Go ahead. I’ll wait… Oh, make sure it is a recurring appointment. If you do it regularly, it becomes a habit.

Still struggling to find the time? Turn to your community. They can help you find the time, make it a priority, and remind you to follow through. Your community is there to help you. Let them.

5. Leave judgment at the door 

If there is one thing we as humans excel at it is judging. The person we tend to judge the hardest is our self.

Judge free zone

Every time I start a creative project there is a good chance that it will not turn out as expected. The sunset does not look as good in camera as it does in person. The necklace is ugly. The hat fits funny. The blog post makes no sense. It happens. Mistakes happen. Bad art happens. That doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy making it.

I know people who will not start any project unless they know that the end product will be perfect. Where’s the fun in that?

Creativity is about the process of creating. Thinking about things differently. Trying out ideas. Making mistakes. Trying something else.

Sometimes the mistakes can be the best part. I mean have you seen the spectacular Pinterest Fails?

Stop being so hard on yourself and just create. You can’t be creative if you don’t start.

So, make 2018 your most creative year yet.

Follow along with my creative photo a day challenge on Instagram or Twitter (@kbrynteson). What is your creative goal for 2018?

make something amazing

2018 Word of the Year

Forget New Year Resolutions. Select a word of the year. 2018 is the Year of Boundaries.

Word, not Resolutions

In 2016 I decided to give up on New Year Resolutions. They usually didn’t last past the end of the month anyway and that was just depressing. Instead, I decided that I would choose a word that would be my word of the year. I’d spend the year focusing on integrating the word into my life and (hopefully) seeing positive changes at the end of the year.

2016: Nourish

My first word was Nourish. I focused 2016 on nourishing my mind, body, and relationships. It was about investing in me. Feeding my mind, body, and soul with what I needed to grow. I wrote my word on the whiteboard in my office. I tried to keep it front and center during the year. At the end of 2016, I spent some time reflecting on how Nourish guided my actions. There were some positive changes and it felt better than looking back at a list of resolutions that went unkept.

2017: Transform

For 2017, my word was Transform. This seemed an appropriate word not just for me but for my entire family. Both of my kids were hitting big milestones in 2017. One graduated from high school, started college, a great internship, and a pilot license. The other turned 18 and started planning for college. For them, Transform had a subword – Adulting. It was time to teach these kiddos how to be adults. For my husband and I, we started thinking about how we’ll transform as we transition to parents of young adults. I also focused on transforming my professional goals and purpose.

As we approach the final days of 2107, I have to say that I’m fairly satisfied with the year of Transform. The kids have exhibited some adult-like behaviors (Yay!). My husband and I have started making small changes to help us manage our new parenting roles and look toward our future as a couple with adult children (Yikes!). Personally, I have made some big professional changes that have reignited my passion for education and helped me refocus on some new ways to share that passion (Yippee!). Overall, The Year of Transform was successful. Onward to 2018!

2018: The Year of Boundaries

In a few short days, we will welcome 2018. New year. New word. 2018 will be The Year of Boundaries. 

I’ve been tossing this word around in my head for a couple weeks. Trying it on and testing it out. Comparing it to other words like courage or strength. The more I think about it, the more I really like this word and I am excited to make it work for 2018.

I know it sounds a bit weird as a goal word but let me break down my thinking. Let’s look at the definition of Boundary. A boundary is a line. A line that defines an area or sets a limit. According to the book Boundaries by Cloud & Townsend (One I read many, many years ago as a new mom and highly recommend.), personal boundaries help us define who we are. Some boundaries are good while others may be bad or hold us back.

 

A boundary is a personal property line that marks those things for which we are responsible. In other words, boundaries define who we are and who we are not.

Boundaries, Cloud & Townsend

My daughter and I have been talking a lot about boundaries lately and why it is important to have personal boundaries in our lives. However, it can be a difficult concept to understand let alone apply. I was well into my adult years before I learned about the idea of personal boundaries. I hope to teach both of my kids about the concept now as they are becoming adults. As I teach them, it will be a great time for me to reflect on my own boundaries.

Why Boundaries?

Without boundaries in your life, especially your relationships, it is easy for someone or something to consume you. You might lose yourself to an overbearing friend or an overdemanding job. Making everything but you a priority. Not being able to say “No.” when you need to is a great example. This can be exhausting. Especially if you are a “people pleaser” like my daughter and me. Learning how to set boundaries is not just a nice to do but a must do for a healthy, balanced life. Yet, you might have other boundaries that are preventing you from forming close relationships or preventing you from taking risks that stretch you out of your comfort zone and into something amazing. You might have a little voice that reminds you that you might look foolish or fail if you try. Thus, keeping you contained within your comfortable personal sphere of activity and not trying anything new. Not a healthy boundary that helps grow but one that limits who you might become.

Again, some boundaries are good while others are bad. The trick is figuring out which is which and making changes.

So, 2018 is the year of Boundaries. My year for identifying and understanding my current boundaries and making adjustments as needed. Setting (or strengthening) healthy boundaries and removing unhealthy ones or those that have been holding me back. We’ll see how that goes. At the very least, I’ll be more reflective about my priorities and goals. At the best, I’ll have boundaries that help me establish new priorities and goals that will allow me to nourish my body, mind, and spirit and transform into something amazing! Sounds like a win, win either way.

Happy New Year!

What’s your word for 2018?