Finding Your Creative Side - The Gathering Retreat

I am NOT creative. That’s the lie I used to tell myself.

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My peers who could draw, paint, and mold perfect mugs were the creative ones. No one ever taught me that creativity was confined to art class, but somewhere along the way that was the how I started to define creative.

We are taught that the more we practice, the better we get. So, I drew my little heart out on scrap pieces of paper and on my school desks and in my notebooks. No one has ever seen those attempts. I tossed them all. They were awful. And I’m not degrading myself here - just stating the facts. Drawing is not one of my strengths (just ask my insanely talented 9 year old). I resigned myself to not being creative and focused on things I was better at - music, writing, being a good friend and making cookies.

The past few years, however, my definition of creative has broadened. I’ve (literally) seen the light. After I had my first child, I became obsessed with learning all I could about photography. I studied, I read the camera manual, I had a friend teach me some basics and then I practiced my heart out on anyone and everything that would let me. And guess what? I actually started to produce pretty decent images and I really enjoyed it. And any time I could spare, I picked up my camera and practiced some more. It gave me an outlet when I was bored or sad or needed to be around people. It gave me something positive to focus my energy on.

finding your creative side

Photography kept me highly entertained during an extremely challenging decade of life. It was a creative outlet.

Lately, I’ve felt the need to shake things up and look for more ways to be creative. I have noticed that when I strive to use my strengths to make something happen, I feel better about myself and I feel like I’m using the gifts God gave me to bring joy to others. Win-win.

I have never really considered myself much of an event/party planner. But, I do love being with people who have common interests. Parties with no purpose? Nah, not my thing. A gathering where people are creating, talking or celebrating something specific? I’m all in.

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My middle child loves to get together with her friends, but she has a hard time socializing in groups. She’s pretty good one on one, but tends to freeze up when there are more people involved. So, it’s been a goal of mine to figure out how to help her feel more comfortable in social settings. This summer, I decided to use one of her favorite things to get her in a situation she’d normally find uncomfortable. I mentioned before she’s my creative child - thus, Cupcake’s Craft Club was born (that little teal unicorn is named Cupcake). We invited a few of her favorite friends to our house and I planned a t-shirt making party with a 4th of July theme. It was a huge success and I watched my socially anxious child giggle the day away with good friends while they ate tons of candy and made super cute star t-shirts. There I go, being creative again.

Creativity, to me, means discovering new ways to use the gifts you have been blessed with. I might not be great with traditional art, but I am great at seeing the light in other people and trying to help them see the beauty within. I’m not crafty, but I am good at seeing my child’s needs and figuring out ways to help them make their weak things become strong.

I encourage you to spend some time thinking how you can use your strengths to be creative. Find a way to use them to bless the lives of someone else. You will be surprised with what you discover.

Fresh Face Friday - How To Make the Best of Any Situation

If you’ve been around here for awhile, you may have seen today’s spotlight teen on my photography page. As I was thinking about who would be a good person to talk about making the best of things, Elaine kept coming to mind. When you read her responses and thoughts, I think you’ll understand why she is exactly the right person to touch on this topic.

Meet Elaine.

Top 3 Tips for Learning to Love your body

(1) Tell everyone a little about yourself.

My name is Elaine Brletich; I am 17 years old and will turn 18 this month. I love reading, writing, photography and fashion design. I love kids and plan on majoring in early childhood education through BYU-I. After graduating from high school at the end of this school year, I will have completed the past 4 1/2 years of school through homeschooling.

(2) Let’s talk about change. You’ve moved around a lot. What has helped you adjust to all the change in your life?

I have moved a total of nine times so far in my life and I have used different things to adjust throughout each time. One of the ways that I still use has to do with finding friends. I’ve always had a hard time finding friends but for the past couple moves, once I had at least one solid friend, I push myself to reach out to other peers in hopes of befriending them.

Other ways that have helped me adjust have been looking forward as the move progresses in the hopes that I will learn something from it or help others to learn something. It’s never easy leaving a place that has come to mean so much to me, but knowing that the gospel and the church is the same no matter where I am, definitely helps me adjust too. This last move one of my first activities with the youth group included a temple trip and that feeling of peace and comfort that washes over me whenever I enter the temple didn’t change. It didn’t matter that it was a temple I’d never been to before, it still has the same spirit as every other one I’ve been to.

(3) What are your top 3 tips for your peers on how to make the best of any situation?

It’s not always the easiest thing to do, but try and find something about the situation that you know you can be glad about, kind of like ‘the glad game’ that Pollyanna plays in the book by Eleanor H Porter. Also, don’t forget about the Atonement! It’s not just there for us to use when we want to repent, it’s there for us to draw strength from whenever we need to. Because Christ went through what He did for us, He knows all our pains and sorrows - ALL of them. He knows exactly how you feel and can help so much because of that. Lastly, don’t forget to have fun no matter what; LAUGH! Doesn’t matter if it’s with parents, siblings or friends, so long as you remember that just because you’re trying to make the best of something doesn’t mean you can’t have fun in the moment and enjoy it.

(4) Do you have any secret tricks or rituals to help pull yourself out of a funk?

I find that I write best when I feel emotional; it not only helps me to more clearly recognize my feelings but calms me down and helps me realize what I need to do with those feelings whether it’s expand on them, overcome them, or work through them. If I don’t feel like writing I’ll hide somewhere and pray and sort out my feelings alongside the companionship of the spirit.

(5) How have you benefited from moving so many times?

I’ve benefited from moving so much in a couple of ways. The friends I make in one area are always extremely special, not to mention the experiences I was able to have with them. Moving gives me a chance to continue to make friends and have experiences I may not have been able to otherwise. I also have new chances to serve, not only within my church ward and community but each move provides ways for me to serve my family as well.

(6) What lessons have you learned from homeschooling?

I’ve learned a lot through homeschooling and not just academics. I am able to do my gospel study alongside my regular schoolwork which is something I enjoy. Being homeschooled has given me an opportunity to work during normal school hours and even though I think I have more time than many teens my age who work, I am still learning how to balance working and school. I also have the chance to volunteer at a local preschool. With plans to become a teacher, I have definitely learned a lot about what I need to be prepared for.

Being able to spend more time with my family has definitely been a blessing, especially as I am able to grow closer to them. It’s something that I’ve only started to actually take advantage of as the time for me to leave for college looms closer. But the importance of family that this experience has taught me will definitely be something I intend to use in the future.

(7) What/Who do you turn to for advice? What is your favorite piece of advice you’ve been given? What is your favorite piece of advice to give?

I turn to my parents and my sister most often for advice, but also close friends. I have two pieces of advice that I’ve been given and I repeat them to myself a ton, especially as we move - “Bloom where you are planted” and “There’s no comfort in a growth zone, and no growth in a comfort zone.” My favorite piece of advice to give is “Let your smile change the world, but don’t let the world change your smile.”

(8) As you look toward the future, what are you most excited about?

The things that I’m most excited about are probably also the ones I’m most terrified of. Marriage is one, and I’ve mentioned before that I love kids. While the idea of being a teacher is exciting, I’m more excited at the idea of starting a family and becoming a mother.

(9) Do you have a personal motto or mission statement?

I have two, a sort of silly one and a more serious one: “Foods before dudes” and “there’s never enough darkness for you to allow your light to dim.”

(10) I know you like to read, what 3 books would you recommend as a feel good/pick me up?

Laugh It Up! by Candace Payne

Anne of Green Gables series by L.M. Montgomery

Pollyanna by Eleanor H. Porter

(11) What is one thing people would be surprised to know about you?

I am not brave. And what I mean by that is it takes a lot to push me to do something I’m scared to do. I don’t like leaving my comfort zone, and when I do I start off kind of regretfully. However, once I have put myself out there and once it’s over, I’m usually glad I did. I end up learning from the experience and wonder why I was so scared to do it in the first place. It has spurred me to choose a New Year’s resolution that involves putting myself out there more often and to continue to learn from those experiences.

(12) What do you hope people say about you when you’re not around?

I hope people say that I’m uplifting to be around and help them forget their worries or whatever it is they’re stressing about, even if it was only for a short time. Or that they’d come to me if they needed help from a friend. One of my favorite scriptures is 3 Nephi 18:24 “Therefore, hold up your light that it may shine unto the world…” and it’s what I based one of my mottos on, because I want to be a light and I hope that people see me as such.

(13) I share my story because…

…I know it’s not always easy keeping an optimistic outlook on situations we’re not looking forward to, but I know how much easier it can make them. I also know how these experiences can bless us and help us to learn and how we can become better and stronger through them. I’ve noticed myself rely more on the Lord and His guidance instead of my own strength as experiences come and go. Because of this, I know that I wouldn’t want to have missed out on those experiences.

Don’t you just love her positive attitude? I really admire people (especially teens) who are able to find the good things in any situation - especially the hard ones. Thanks Elaine, for sharing your thoughts.

When one door closes - Knowing when it's time to move on

Twelve years ago, I decided that I wanted to be a group fitness instructor. I had just become a stay at home mom to my first baby, but was still itching to do something to get myself out of the house and make my own money. I studied, I practiced and then took the exam. Know what happened? I didn’t pass! We ended up moving a short few months later and I set that dream aside for years. A few more moves and another child later, I started to feel the itch again to give instructing another go. Fitness had re-entered my life as a way for me to deal with some pretty harsh trials that had taken a toll on me in all aspects. It became my therapy and my outlet to deal with the pain and anxiety. And after seeing the impact it had on my life, I wanted to help do that for other people. And so, after we had moved for the 6th time in 9 years, I decided to try again. And this time, I passed! And then immediately found out I was pregnant the next day. So once again, my dreams to teach were put on hold. Fast forward two more years, I had another baby and we had just moved AGAIN, and I just walked into a gym and asked if they needed an instructor - my certification was still active and I figured why not just go for it. They took a chance on a new girl and thus fulfilled that goal I had set as a new mom.

At my peak, I was teaching 8 classes a week and loving every minute of it. But, about a year ago, I started to fill the urge to start cutting back. So, I cut back the number of classes to 5. And then I cut back to only teaching at one facility. And then I cut back to two classes a week. As I have stuck to those two classes the past two months, it still didn’t feel like I’d cut back enough. As much as I enjoy what I’ve been doing and the people I have met along the way, my heart is being pulled in another direction and my body is telling me it can’t keep up.

PiYo Class

So, today, I taught my final class. My son is half way done with middle school and I have hated that he comes home to an empty house several nights a week. My youngest seems to be sick more often than not. My own body is suffering from adrenal fatigue and will require me to completely slow down in order to heal. There are so many reasons why I know it’s time to move on. And while I know I am making the right decision, I will admit it has been an extremely emotional week and I’ve been in tears more than a handful of times as I think about closing out this door.

People keep asking me what comes next. For the first time in my life, I have no clue. This is the first time I don’t have a new path to pursue, no new big goal or dream I’m trying to fulfill or work toward. I have been searching for the inspiration, but honestly, I feel like what I’m supposed to do is lean in to the unknown and see what happens.

Closing this door is scary and humbling. I have learned some profound lessons - like sometimes reaching a goal can take several attempts and might not happen in the timeline we expected. Rather it will happen at the precise time I need it the most. I’ve also learned that I can multitask with the best of them. I have shown my kids that I can be their mom and still have time to do something I love. And as I close this door, I am showing them that I’m choosing them.

I regret nothing about this chapter of my life. I needed it, I met some amazing people, I felt like I served others, and I will always look back on this phase of life with nothing but joy. My friends, go after what you love if it makes your heart happy. But also know when it’s time to let go - even if it means stepping into the unknown.

Group fitness instructors
when one door closes

Fresh Face Friday - Madeline

With my son’s Birthday being last Friday and having family in town, I decided to push back this interview a week. I have watched this awesome person grow from infant to the amazing adult she is today. She is such a joy to know and it has been really fun to watch how she navigates the different stages of life. She was also the first teenager I trusted to babysit my kids. I asked Madeline kind of a hodge podge of questions on different topics and I loved reading what she had to say. I know we can all learn something from her.

Meet Madeline.

Fresh Face Friday Interview Madeline

(1) Tell everyone about you.

I am a 23 year old redhead married to the love of my life, Pete. We met at Utah State University in January 2014, dated on and off, and have been blissfully married for almost a year and a half. After graduating from USU in 2017, Pete and I moved to Boston, Massachusetts. He is an officer in the Air Force and I work as a Fitness Professional and Nutrition Coach at Life Time Athletic. My family and I are from Michigan - I grew up in Lake Orion for most of my life. My grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins were all very close while I was growing up. We are still close today thanks to a plethora of group chats.

(2) I know for a fact you have strong relationships within your family. How has that impacted your life path?

Because I was so close with my family while I was growing up, I had many great examples to look up to. The idea of the human I aspired (and still aspire) to be was set by the family I was surrounded with as a girl. Family and friends mold who you are and who you can be, and my family did me a great service by leading me down a path of happiness with their examples.

(3) What is the biggest lesson you have learned from life’s challenges?

The biggest lesson I’ve learned from life challenges so far is that the Lord has a supportive hand in all that we go through. The good, the bad, the dirty. No matter what, He’s watching over us. Everything happens for a reason, and we are meant to have joy.

(4) When you don’t get what you want, how do you move forward?

I have a really hard time when things don’t work the way I plan. And it’s not in a spoiled brat kind of way, I just love to plan and know what’s happening. I’m very organized. Moving forward is difficult for me. I remind myself that it’s okay to have time to adjust and for me that means some crying, lots of exercising, cooking, and cuddles with Pete. After giving myself some time, I regroup and come up with the positives of the situation, and make a new plan. It’s essential for me to not force myself into faking it when things are difficult. Taking time to feel emotions and work through them in the best way for YOU is important for everyone, I think.

(5) How does your career help you build confidence?

My career as a personal trainer helps me build confidence in myself, sure, but more importantly I get to build the confidence of others. The opportunities that I’m able to present my clients may be challenging at first, but seeing their confidence build over time is extremely rewarding.

(6) What advice would you give to your younger self?

If I could give any advice to my younger self, I’d say to not be afraid of the things that other people think. I spent so much time worrying about being judged by others that I didn’t let me be myself until I was a Junior in high school. That was when I realized, through several different experiences, that it truly doesn’t matter what people think…and life is way more fun this way.

(7) Biggest lesson you’ve learned from your friends?

The biggest lesson I’ve learned from my friends is that true friendship is invaluable. Those friends, the ones who really love you for who you are and don’t judge you for your shortcomings, they’re priceless. And, we need our friends. As much as I love my husband and my family, my girl friends are a very close second. I love you guys!

(8) Why does taking care of your body matter so much?

Our bodies are very important gifts. Taking care of your body means something different to everyone - but to me, taking care of my body is so important because I want to be respectful to the gift I’ve been given. Have you ever eaten something that made you feel terrible? Or gone a long while without being active? I hate feeling like that, and I listen to my body when it says it doesn’t like something. My body likes exercise. My body loves a balanced diet. My body needs good sleeping routines and habits. Have you ever noticed what your body is trying to tell you? Listen to it! You don’t have to feel gross inside, and food and exercise has a lot to do with how we think and feel. Take care of it so it will take care of you.

(9) What encourages you to keep growing and learning new things?

I’m fascinated by learning. There is a vast array of information out there, and I wish I could learn everything! I am inspired by the fact that we can take our knowledge with us. Of all the things we don’t get to take with us after this life is over, our knowledge remains. That’s encouraging. My efforts to gain knowledge won’t go to waste like the efforts to gain almost anything else in this life that is temporal.

(10) What has surprised you about life after high school?

I am surprised that life after school doesn’t stop. It sounds silly, but there’s no scheduled breaks in the work-world. Of course, I knew that before, but being in the groove of school since I can remember, it’s weird to not have those breaks. No summer vacation. No winter break to go home and visit family. No extended time off, really. And working at a gym makes that especially true because it almost never closes. Don’t get me wrong, I love my job and not taking exams anymore, but the breaks…I miss those.

(11) Who in your family do you turn to when you need advice?

I turn to my mom and my husband when I need advice. Both of them are extremely invested in my happiness and can help me see the big picture when I can’t. They give wonderful advice and help me all the time.

(12) What character trait has helped you the most?

The trait that has helped me the most is my thoughtfulness. I’ve been blessed to be able to sympathize with people around me and I’ve never regretted being kind or going the extra mile for someone. i love helping people.

(13) What are your Top 3 tips for kids getting ready to leave home?

#1 - Get a calendar and stay organized! Respect the time you have as well as the time of others. That can apply to your job, friends, school, family, etc. When you move away from home you realize that you need to make time for the people/things that matter most because nobody else is going to force you to make time for anything. That being said, don’t be afraid to take time to live in the moment. Some of my favorite memories are when I allowed time to kind of stand still and soak in the time I get with family and friends.

#2 - Jump right in - get out of your bubble, people!! With nothing but a car-full of stuff and my faith, I moved 2,500 miles from home with the closest relative living three hours away from me. I knew nothing and no one and it was the absolute best decision I ever made. I have EVERYTHING I have now because I got out of my comfort zone and away from everything I was familiar with. Scary? Sure. Exciting? Yeah. Worth it? Just ask Pete how many times I will cry in random moments because I’m overflowing with happiness…100% worth it.

#3 - Think about the kind of person you want to become and make choices to get you there. Will living with those people help you be your best? What will living in that city/town do for you? What kinds of situations will you be place in in that environment? Usually, you won’t know what the future will hold, but when you are independent you can control where you live. And when you choose where you live, you choose the kind of people you’re surrounded with, and when you choose the kind of people you’re surrounded with, you choose the kind of person you’re going to turn into. Even if you don’t realize it, you’re a product of your environment in some way - and you CAN do this!

(14) Fun Facts:

Favorite Cookie - Salted Caramel

Favorite Place - Crete

Next bucket list trip - Spain/Italy

Favorite Date Night - walking around Cambridge/Boston area

Favorite Book - Slade House

Favorite Movie - Sherlock Holmes

Morning or Night person - Morning person allllll the way

Favorite thing about where you live - I love that we live in a suburban area, but we can drive just 20 minutes and be in the heart of a beautiful city with an amazing history.

Do you love her as much as I do? I love her advice to be conscious about the kind of person you want to be and then make choices accordingly. So wise.

This will be the last interview for the year. Fresh Face will be back after the holidays with more awesome people you should know.