What a week!!  Rec Lab 2016 was as much fun as last year – maybe more.  Where to even begin covering all the creativity, laughs, hugs, projects… well, at the beginning, I guess.

Thursday afternoon Dan & I arrived just in time for me to participate in the Instructors’ Craft Walk. Since many of us are presenting our workshop info for the Rec Lab participants on the Friday morning Craft Walk, this is a chance for us to walk through all the projects together and explain our workshops to each other.  It was neat to see the variety of activities from Making Tamales & Canning Basics, to Polymer Clay & Stained Glass, to Leatherworking & Woodworking, to Coffee & Conversation and Book Group, to Tai Chi Chih & Yoga, to Magic & Jugging, to Creative Writing & Instrument Making, to Blue Jean Weaving & Rec Doodle, to Dancing, Singing, and Nature Walks.  There are always too many options and not enough time to do it all, though some try.  I learned this year to commit to a few tasks and incorporate a few smaller things and I found myself quite happy with the output for 2016.  Dan was only there for the weekend but he made a belt and a stained glass piece while also taking lots of time for walking the grounds and getting some great photos.  Here are a few of my favorites.

When I asked him what he liked best about Rec Lab, he said, “the people”, and he took lots of time to chat with a wide range of the participants.  I would have to agree that, as much as I love the techniques and projects, the people are what make Rec Lab truly wonderful and memorable.

While I didn’t make as many projects as last year, I made a few great things: a belt, some Rec Doodles, many polymer clay pieces, tamales, and a few new friends.

I tried Tai Chi Chih again this year and quickly remembered why I didn’t pursue it last year… it’s really tough on my knees.  I perhaps needed to not push so hard but I decided it was too early in the AM to make it past one time, when I found myself up to midnight-2AM every night.  I would have gotten up for yoga but it wasn’t available in the AM this year instead being a workshop session.  Hopefully that will change next year and I can make more sessions.

My main focus this year was Polymer Clay and I jumped in the first workshop session with gusto.  Instructor Laura Burlis is one of my favorite people at Rec Lab; she is amazingly talented.  This year I believe I finally got into the P/C groove as I made some great canes (rolls of clay that you cut into slices) and finished several fun projects with which I was quite happy.

2016 Rec Lab Jami Clay

By the second workshop of Rec Lab, I was again “Pulling a First Year” as I bounced between the Rec Doodle and Blue Jean Weaving workshops, trying to learn both techniques in one session.  It worked! Thank goodness they were next door to each other!  I was able to complete a few Doodles and convince myself that I actually WAS capable of the practice – though I do need LOTS more practice.  And while I didn’t make a rug, I was able to comprehend the teachings that Dianne Rowse shared.  As a 2nd Year, she’s jumped right into the Rec Lab philosophy of sharing a technique and the rugs everyone made were terrific!

Each year at Rec Lab we have Fireside at the end of the night.  The first one was Rhoda sharing about the history of Rec Lab and it was accompanied by a wonderful video of Mary Lou Woodward playing her harp.

2016 Rec Lab 1st Fireside

We lost Mary Lou this past year but her spirit lives on at Rec Lab and I was able to share with her daughter Marti what a wonderful impact she had on me during the 2015 Rec Lab.  Marti provided lots of beautiful music again this year as the musical Labbers are known to do.  It was nice to craft in the workshop while hearing lovely songs from up the stairs in Cross Fire.

The second Fireside was me!  I was accompanied by Nick & Dianne Rowse and Jerry Brown who played the Josephine Waltz to open and closed with Ashokan Farewell,both beautifully 2016 Rec Lab Rowse Trioplayed.  My talk was on Atul Gawande’s book Being Mortal and its important message of improving the way we deal with agingand the end of life.  I followed up with a visualization I do with the Dying the Talk! class I facilitate for Community Ed where we imagine the last event we experienced around death.  It’s a quiet process of looking again at the experience we had and thinking about the good and not so good of it.  Many people thanked me as they found it to be a profound experience while a few expressed that they were unable to stay.  Death is difficult so I understand not being ready to walk through such a practice, depending on where you are with life & death.  But it was touching to know that one of the first people to come up to me had just lost a family member just weeks before and she processed through it so beautifully.  Some told me it brought them peace or a new perspective and I was glad that we had done it early in the week to give people time to process and share the meditation in a safe place surrounded by friends.  I was honored to listen as people shared their stories with me throughout the week.  And I was grateful that several asked me to include the meditation in the Notebook.

2016 Rec Lab Notebook

The 2016 Notebook (Paula DeReamer)

What’s the Notebook?  Every year, Rec Lab is documented with all the instructors providing handouts/info for reference once Lab is over.  It is also full of photos and documentation of some of the special events.  One downside is that, because it is provided during the Closing Show, nothing from that show is included.  And it’s the highlight of the week… but we’ll get to it in a moment.

The other Firesides were also terrific.  Lutz Jackel shared about his musical instruments, art and home in Germany noting how Rec Lab has transformed his life.  Jane & Hsien Hsin Chang shared about dealing with Dementia.  June Anderson talked about her books on ghosts and the Creative Writing participants shared some excellent work.  Lots of focus on the theme of Transformation.

A major focus of the week is our Discussion which was led this year by Dasha Kelly, an author and speaker from Milwaukee, WI.  Her husband, Kima Hamilton, was an integral part of the presentations and I was overwhelmed by the work they both did in bringing us interactive creativity by reading her work (Almost Crimson) and giving Rec Labbers a chance to react to it, teaching us about how we use words, walking us through looking at personal needs for change, helping us to evaluate racism, and knowledge to allow logic to evaluate our writing only after creativity has played its role.  Her wonderful lessons, full of tools and ideas, gave us all much to contemplate during the week.  I had a pivotal moment that gave me pause to consider a lifetime of experience and how I will move forward following this new comprehension.  Truly a beautiful transformative experience for me.

2016 Rec Lab Dasha

Mardi Gras night was our celebration evening and it was full of hilarious games.  Krista Hegland and Karen Jacobson really made the event rock.  Our team struggled with a couple of the events but we had a fantastic time playing!  Almost as much fun as the games was the diversity of creative costumes.

I had good attendance for my Saturday Book Group and even more people came for the Tuesday meeting.  We learned about a flurry of wonderful books.  [For those interested in books, you will find a listing of the books we discussed in next week’s blog.]  And I had a few show up for the workshop on How You Want to be Remembered.  While this was not truly a review of Obits/Epitaphs/Funeral Plans/Legacy Letters as planned, I believe if we did this as a 2-part workshop, it could be.  As it was, it became very much a typical Dying to Talk! session.  I enjoyed learning from everyone sharing their experiences and I hope others found it to be worth their time.

Another aspect of Rec Lab is the Auction.  Lots of participants bring items to auction.  Sometimes these are purchased items, sometimes things we’re ready to let go to another, some bring arts & crafts they’ve created and the most coveted things are often the homemade candies. We ended up spending a bit more than expected but we went home with lots of great items, including some of the homemade caramels!

There is Folk Dancing every evening at Rec Lab and, while I’m not a big participator in this, I did attend the Chair Dancing evening.  And, since we had a new instructor for dance this year, we chose this night of dancing as the one to use for the Closing Program.  More on that in a moment…

I spent most of my free time in Polymer Clay, but I found a free workshop period to spend with Danny making Tamales as BJ Hall shared her cooking skills with the group.  As an 2016 Rec Lab Tamaleexperienced restaurant owner, she not only gave us detailed instructions but she also spiced the session with her sarcastic wit. Making tamales is a lot of work but a simple process.  We made about 10 dozen in a little over an hour (the meat was already cooked).  I think it’s something we can do at home but it would be a major project… and certainly not as much fun without a gang of people.

Partway through the week, and after Dan had left, I had a minor medical issue with this 2016 Rec Lab Bandagegrowth I’ve been dealing with on my right shoulder.  I had showered being careful to not
get the bandage wet which was a mistake as it stuck to the wound causing it to break open when I tried to re-bandage it.  I tracked down one of the medically trained Rec Labbers and she was able to patch me up.  Unfortunately, the medical supplies were limited but an eye patch and some colorful duct tape gave my treatment the Rec Lab touch it needed.  I joked that my Psyche Nurse gave me a Psychedelic Bandage.  [Update – I’m having the alien removed today, before I head for Indiana.]

Closing Night is always a celebration of the week with a spoofing of some of the new instructors.  This year’s show was MC’d by Tina Rohde and Colleen Shaskin with lots of interweaving of Laura Burlis and it was fantastically hilarious!  The story was of a Mardi Gras float being built and it was made on a frame of Metal Clay painted with Rosemaling (both new classes this year). The entertainment for the float included the outdoor game of Wüdd (spoofing Krista’s Outdoor Games), presented by Sherry Bruckner as “quick, fun & easy” and played by the Florells (Paul and Judy playing as John and Sarah).  Sarah shared with me afterward that she’d been looking for her Capri pants and couldn’t find them.  When Judy jumped up to play Wüdd, Sarah was thinking, “Hey, that’s my headband.  Wait, that’s my shirt.  Those are my Capris!!”  Judy was totally decked out as Sarah and she and Paul impersonated the kids with flair ~ it was a total laugh riot.  Danny said he was out walking the day they played the game and it took forever.  They asked him to play but he declined, seeing the endlessness of the game.  The spoof wound through the show with the Florells coming up three times to show the game as taking from afternoon, through dinner and into total darkness. Krista was laughing out loud with the roast of her event.

2016 Rec Lab Wudd

Jenifer Burlis-Freilich and I demonstrated the Chair Dancing (taught by Caron Grantz Keljik) where we spoofed her single-armed instruction by presenting our instructor, Laura Burlis, with both hands tied up at opposite shoulders.  We did an outrageous stretch of the practice by having me lie on the floor under Jenny’s chair for a portion of the dance… a great place for “seniors to take a nap as needed during class”. 🙂 And we left the stage dancing with our Chair Dancing partners… our actual chairs.  So much fun!

The only group to get not one but TWO standing ovations was a duo with 180 years of experience.  Yes, 180.  One is 89 and the other 91 and combined, they made quite the pair, and definitely the best of the pre-parade entertainment!  Ladies and gentlemen… Rod Gist & Galen Cain.

180 years of Experience 2016 Rec Lab

Closing night always ends with an announcement of the new Boss (President of the Board) who will lead the development for the next Rec Lab and this year it will be June Fettig.  Newly elected Board members this year are Kathy Tapper (1-year term for Tea Time) and, for the 3-year terms: Sarah Florell, Colleen Shaskin, Laura Burlis and ME!  Should be a great team and I’m excited about what we’ll be doing.

Only 51 weeks to go until next year!  As a member of the Board, I’m sure those weeks will go faster than I will believe.

See y’all next year!