Summertime: Ramping It Up

I strive (and often fail) to live my life in the same ebb and flow of the energy of the seasons. Spring and summer feel like natural times of year to be busy, enjoy being outdoors, connect with friends, try out new opportunities, etc. I try to skid to a halt in the autumn, and by winter, I want to sink into a pseudo-hibernation so I can recharge. Would that I could sleep through the winter… especially in Chicago… but really, what that means for me is attempting to stay home more, be still and quiet more often, and try and cultivate a feeling of regenerative peace. Never works. But I still make a worthy effort each year. I wrote a little bit more about the hows and whys of this practice last year over at Nature Nurtured.

But this is summer! Well, almost … it’s just around the corner. Suddenly, I look at my calendar and I am overwhelmed by the places I have agreed to be and the people I have chosen to connect with. This is all a good thing — it makes my little extroverted heart sing with delight.

Recently, I got to volunteer as a member of Game Control for the D.A.S.H, an annual nation-wide puzzle hunt. (Actually, I should say international – since this year they expanded across the pond to London.) My job was not incredibly difficult: pass out puzzles and, occasionally, bagels. But I still had a great time. It was enlightening for me to peek behind the curtain of a puzzle event and get a chance to connect with folks that not only really love puzzles, but really love creating this kind of experience. Since ‘creating experiences for people’ is my new mission in life, I soaked in as much as I could and laid some groundwork for continuing conversations about how to provide these sorts of opportunities on a regular basis. Oh, and the fact that I got to hang out with incredibly cool people didn’t hurt. Nor did the end-of-the-hunt margarita. All in all, a great day.

My online class on entrepreneurship with Coursera.org has started up. I’m now in week 2, and while there hasn’t been a whole lot of hands-on instruction yet, I am learning quite a bit about the entrepreneurial mindset. I am identifying areas where I have a lot of strengths and some traits that I might need to bolster in order to be successful. For a free course, it’s not bad at all. There are thousands of participants all over the world. I haven’t taken much advantage of networking over the online forums yet, but the opportunity is certainly there for me if I choose to use it.

In other news, I mentioned before that my dear friend and former roommate, Kevin Newhall, has his first CD coming out in a couple of weeks. (You can check out samples of his stuff on Reverbnation.) He is a piano player and songwriter with such a unique and beautiful sound. He asked me to perform with him at the release party, and we test-drove the duet we’re doing at an open mic a couple nights ago. I have never done an open mic before, so I was more than a little nervous. (Tried not to show it.) But we had a blast, the crowd really loved the song… and I think the actual show in a couple of weeks is going to be great. It’s a great, truly uplifting kind of song… really hard not to get engaged with it. It’s called “Today’s the Day,” and it’s all about taking life by the horns and getting stuff done — which sums up the energetic feel of my summer quite nicely.

Delight Report: 4/22/13

Last week was one of those weeks that seemed to keep piling on the hurt, trauma and struggle. I don’t think I need to mention the national and global tragedies that captured our attention over the last several days. But it seemed like there were just as many local hardships that happened to people I love. Personal loss, struggles with money, fears amplified and worries realized… it just felt like no one could catch a break.

I will not rehash the heartache. There were some really bright moments over the last couple weeks despite the difficulties, and I want to highlight them here. If anything, just to remind myself of that age-old saying, “This, too, shall pass.” Emotions and events are just as beholden to cycles as anything else.

So… here is the Delight Report for the week:

  • Hello, my name is River, and I am a geek. I recently started playing a role-playing game for the first time since, oh — my early 20s? It has been at least *cough, mumble* years. I joined a group of folks playing 7th Sea, which is basically a swashbuckling, pirate-themed RPG set in an alternate 17th century Europe. We had a session on Saturday, and while some of our in-game decisions took a wee bit longer to make than they probably should have, I still had a blast. My good friend, Jo, came down for the day and got to join in as well as an NPC (non-player character for those of you who need translation). She made a great old Usurran (fake Russian) woman who wielded wooden spoons with great vigor and recited recipes for borscht in an ominous tone while standing on a cliff while the rest of us attempted to take out a 100,000-strong Montaigne (fake French) army …. Yeah, in reading that over, I guess you had to be there. But suffice it to say I had so much fun, and laughed harder than I have in weeks. That would be the point.
  • The real reason that Jo came to visit was for Kev-i-o-key, aka our friend Kevin’s annual birthday karaoke bash. We go to a fabulously kitschy Korean place called Sing Sing Karaoke. Each group gets their own room with a big screen TV. The rooms each have a personality all their own… with names like “Orchid,” “Lily,” and “Rose,” not to mention the gaudy wallpaper and mirrored walls… you can take your best guess what happened there before the karaoke business moved in. I just find it part of the charm. You pick your song out of the book, punch your number into the remote, and the song comes up on the television screen. Our room came complete with a tambourine and disco lights that threatened to cause seizures. I loved every minute. My go-to songs appear to all be by Bon Jovi. Don’t judge.
  • On Sunday morning, Jo and I headed over to our good friends’ place for breakfast. Katje & Bill are always so incredibly welcoming, and in spite of a difficult week, this visit was no exception. Great breakfast, wonderful conversation — and then a group solving of the New York Times Sunday crossword puzzle. I love doing puzzles with people, but this group of folks is particularly special. It certainly set the tone for the rest of a lovely, sunny day.

These are the highlights that stand out for now, although as I am thinking back through the last few days, there were more great things that happened that I had previously forgotten about. Good. It’s working.

I am considering adding the Delight Report as a regular feature of this blog – particularly if you want to join in. I invite you to add to the Delight Report in the comments, if you’re so called. What brought you joy over the past few days? What inspired you? What did you learn? Where did you find a little sliver of light in the darkness? Share it. I think we could all use a boost.

Puzzles + Cupcakes = Happy Me

Aside

Saturday’s Delight du Jour:

My roommate and best friend of 20+ years celebrated her birthday on Saturday. Several of my dearest friends have birthdays within about 2 weeks of each other, so we do a joint birthday party we call “Cancerama.” But I’m the type of person who thinks that birthdays should be celebrated as often as possible, so on her birthday (actual) we went to the Art Institute of Chicago for a scavenger hunt developed and put on by a company called Watson Adventures.

Fun fact: Although I assumed that “Watson Adventures” was named after the character from Sherlock Holmes – it’s not. That’s the founder’s last name. Some of us are born to our professions, I suppose.

The hunt’s conceit was that we had to solve the murder of one of the museum curators. We were given clues that took us from gallery to gallery finding images, donor names, anagrammed titles, and dates to piece together the culprit and the motive. Even though it was billed as their most challenging hunt, our team made short work of it. We even were one of the teams in the 5-way tie for first place. (We lost the tie-breaker trivia question, but whatever.) It was so much fun to wander through the museum (“Was that a Monet?” … “Holy crap, that’s American Gothic!“) to piece together the story and solve the mystery. The environment alone was worth the price of admission.

Granted, our team takes our puzzling seriously. The four of us competed in the D.A.S.H. puzzle hunt last April – which was close to 8 hours of puzzling madness, and my idea of a good time. Our team motto: “We’re Not Last!”

Where else could I combine some of my favorite activities … scavenger hunt, collaborative puzzle solving, great friends, amazing works of art, museum, and earlier in the day — OMG-good-chocolate-ganache-cupcakes… into one afternoon? Darn near perfect. I’m a little disappointed that we didn’t get the bonus point for the best team name. There’s a temporary Roy Lichtenstein retrospective at the museum, so we called ourselves “Roy Lichten’s Team.”

Well, I thought it was clever, anyhow. No accounting for taste.

It amazes me how something as simple as an afternoon spent working towards a common goal can shift my mood. My little extroverted and collaborative heart was bursting with joy by the end of the day – and it wasn’t just the cupcakes. (Did I mention they were incredible, though?) It just goes to show that this is part of what feeds my soul – and I need to seek out more opportunities to make it happen.