Friday, December 31, 2010

Life, Death & New Beginnings...

It has been an amazing year...
filled with little adventures,
Water Spray Park
lots of fun,

Open Your Heart
and tons of love.  
Newborn Baby Montage
I had the honor of holding my grandmother's hand as she took her last breath, and just a few months later I gave birth to my second son, Ashton Quinn, as he took his first breath.

Looking Back on 2010
I've laughed, cried, grown, expanded, connected, celebrated, created, fallen down, gotten back up, and learned to trust.
Christmas Montage 2010
And while it's the end of a really is just the beginning...


As I look ahead from this moment I open my heart for the possibilities of what this New Year will bring.  The phrase that resonates most for me right now is simply "to receive."  

I'll be taking a little time off from my blog to bring in the New Year, celebrate birthdays (Chris', Kestan's and mine!), and to prepare for the fourth session of my Inside Out e-course.  (Registration is still open and class starts January 17th.)

But mostly because I need space to breathe, to be and to receive.

I wish you beautiful beginnings and a New Year filled with many blessings.  xo

Your Personal Reflection:  What were some of your highlights and celebrations this past year?  What have you learned about life and about yourself?  What things aren't serving a purpose in your life anymore and what are you ready to let go of?  Can you hear the messages in your heart?  What word, phrase, intention or feeling comes up for you?

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Mindless Creating Leads to Mindful Connections

Drawing For Fun
I gifted myself the book Drawing Lab For Mixed-Media Artists by Carla Sonheim, and I'm so thrilled about it.  I love all kinds of art - felting, knitting, collage, art journaling, mosaicing, sewing, painting, photography...  And one medium that I am drawn to, yet scared to death of is...DRAWING!  In the past I've read Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain and I took a life-drawing class, but I just didn't feel inspired and my practice never really stuck.

This book is super exciting because the exercises are very simple and specifically for artists who love journaling and collage.  The first assignment is to draw 30 cats, quickly and from memory, while lying down.  I love this - using simple materials like a marker and paper, no pressure and no expectations, all while snuggled in a cozy bed!

This page is my first quick attempt...

Quick Cat Sketches

Kestan saw me drawing and wanted to jump in the fun.  So we set up, side-by-side, in the art room and a special thing happened.

Drawing with Kes

We talked.

Well, he talked mostly.

And I listened.

He opened up about things that have been on his mind.  I was amazed to hear his observations, his stories and his feelings about life.

Kes Art
He drew.

He made marks on the page without thinking twice, without editing, and without being critical or negative.

He simply let his intuition guide his way.  And this mindless activity, of making marks on paper, opened up a channel in him that allowed him to express his innermost feelings.

Together we doodled.  We explored.  We shared.  We made new discoveries.

And it reminded me just how important it is to incorporate more mindless creating and spontaneous play in my day.  It's usually in this space, between all the chaos and the busyness of life, where the true magic really happens.  Just as in meditation, where there is a space between each inhale breath and each exhale breath, and a space between our thoughts, art can provide that same experience.  It gives us the opportunity to enjoy the beauty that comes from s p a c e.  

Mindless creating and letting our intuition be the guide helps us connect to our heart centers.  And that's what this very simple exercise - drawing for fun - did for my son and me.  We let go of our vulnerabilities, embraced play and connected to ourselves and to each other on a deeper level.

And this is why I create...

Your Personal Reflection:  Give it a try!  Step away from the computer and turn off your cell phone.  Grab a marker and piece of white card stock paper.  Get cozy and lay on your bed or the couch and draw 30 cats from memory.  Have fun and let yourself to play like a child would - without thinking about it.  Just see what comes out.  And if you have children, let them join you!  Have fun in the space of the present moment and simply enjoy drawing for fun. 

Monday, December 27, 2010

Giving Birth & Apple Kisses (reverb#10)

Hope you are enjoying your holidays!  Sending you lots of love for a joy-filled, peace-filled New Year.  Let this be a time for deep reflection of the past year, celebration and excitement for the New Year, and inspiration to fully enjoy this moment.  

I'm taking time this week to contemplate my 2010, and I've stumbled across some fun prompts that I'd like to share with you.  

Reverb#10 is an online initiative that encourages you to reflect on this year and manifest what's next.  Here are the two prompts that struck me today:

December 25th Prompt - Photo - A Present to Yourself:
Sift through all the photos of you from the past year.  Choose one that best captures you; either who you are, or who you strive to be. Find the shot of you that is worth a thousand words.  Share the image, who shot it, where, and what it best reveals about you.  (Author: Tracy Clark)

Urban Pregnant Shot
This past year was the year of giving birth and living more fully, boldly and freely from the inside out.  I launched my first e-course Inside Outa creative adventure that inspires deep change on the inside so participants can live more vibrant, authentic lives on the outside.  

AND I created a new human being, one that started growing inside me in January and came outside and into the world in October.

Free Spirited Pregnancy Photos
Living from the inside out has made me come alive in ways I had never imagined before!  This photo montage ( I didn't pick just one, but decided to share a small collection), best captures the life, love, vitality, celebration, exuberance, truth, growth and pure joy that I experienced and embraced in my life over the past year.

(My husband took these photos in an urban area of downtown Kansas City.)

Apple Kisses
December 27 Prompt - Ordinary Joy:
Our most profound joy is often experienced during ordinary moments.  What was one of your most joyful ordinary moments this year?  (Author: Brené Brown)

Kes and Mom
These photos were taken at a rest area in the flatlands of Kansas on our way back from a family trip to Colorado.  Kestan and I have a game where we give each other funny kisses.  We do the common Eskimo or butterfly kiss, but we especially like making up our own.  This one is our "apple kiss" because Kestan reached to give me the biggest, wettest kiss while eating apples.  We laughed and tickled and hugged and rolled around and it was a very special, tender, ordinary moment that I'll always remember.  (Another one my husband, Chris, captured.)

Your Personal Reflection:  What about you?  What photo best represents YOU or what ordinary moment from this past year really stands out?

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Let Your Inner Light Shine This Holiday

Dots and Blend lights

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.  Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.  It is our light, not our darkness, that frightens us most.  We ask ourselves, 'Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and famous?'  Actually, who are you not to be?  You are a child of God.  Your playing small does not serve the world.  There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that people won't feel insecure around you.  We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us.  It's not just in some of us; it's in ALL of us.  And when we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.  As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others."  -Maryanne Williamson

As you see the holiday lights around you, remember that there is a bright light shining within you.  Let your light shine more brightly than before by being your most authentic self.  Feel your inner strength.  Recognize your inner beauty.  Connect to your inner peace.  

The only thing that truly matters is THIS moment.  Breathe, smile and touch others with your warmth and kindness.  Wishing you a holiday filled with bright lights, present moment awareness, special connections, love, laughter, good food and good times....

I appreciate you and thank you for sharing your light with me.

Your Personal Reflection:  How will you let your light shine more brightly, from the inside out, this holiday?

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Finding Stillness - A Winter Solstice Ritual

candle flame
Find stillness and let your inner light guide the way.

For those of us living in the Northern Hemisphere, today marks the winter solstice - the beginning of winter and the longest day of the year.  It comes at a time when many of us feel completely stressed and overwhelmed with the holidays approaching, as there can be a tendency to overcompensate, overspend and overindulge.

Today, let's give ourselves permission to stop running and to be quiet long enough to hear our inner calling - that voice that is saying enough!  Slow down!  Rest!

Where are we going?  Why are we moving so fast?  What will we do when we get there?

Do you give yourself moments of stillness throughout the day - a time when you can check in, find your center, and get to a grounded place where you feel calm and at peace?  Today, the winter solstice, is a gift - a special day where you can honor your deep need for stillness.  Give yourself 5 minutes to perform this very short ritual and see how it makes you feel.

journaling with tea

A New Year Reflection - Winter Solstice Journaling
What you need:
a pen
a warm drink
a quiet space
5 minutes (or more)

Light a candle.  Sit in a quiet space and get comfortable.  Close your eyes.  Take a nice deep inhale, and a slow exhale.  On your inhale, feel every cell of your body expand.  On your exhale, smile as you release any tension.  Do this several times.  Sit in silence.  Soften.  When you feel moved to, open your eyes.  

Grab your pen and journal and begin to write.  Some of you will need no prompts; simply write whatever comes to mind. Let your heart guide you.  Try not to edit yourself.  Don't worry about spelling or punctuation or even writing in a straight line.  Just let the words come out.  No judgments; just kindness. 

If you feel like you're having trouble, ask yourself the following questions:

How do I feel in this moment?
What were my biggest celebrations or highlights of the past year?
What have I learned?
What is bringing me down?
What behaviors do I need to change or let go of?
What am I ready to release?
What do I want to bring into my life?
What am I grateful for?
What are some of my intentions for the New Year?

The light of your candle symbolizes your inner light - feel its warmth, see its beauty and know that it will lead you in the right direction.  This is a new moment - a fresh, clean slate.  Savor this gift of stillness and see if you can carry a sense of calm and peace with you throughout the rest of your holiday season.  You are right where you need to be in this moment and you are enough.

Your Personal Reflection:  Give yourself the gift of 5 minutes of stillness today, and every day, and notice how it makes you feel. 

Your innermost sense of self, of who you are, is inseparable from stillness.  This is the I Am that is deeper than name and form. -Eckhart Tolle

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Reduce Clutter; Create Space Wrap-Up

Reduce Clutter; Create Space purple
What started as a personal challenge to de-clutter last December, turned into a yearlong quest to reduce clutter and create space for the things that matter most.  It has been quite the year of sifting and shifting, moving and clearing.  And I'm so grateful for those of you who joined me on this amazing journey.  It provided such a boost knowing that you were all clearing, too, and it definitely kept me going when I wanted to give up.

I've decided that I won't be leading any Reduce Clutter; Create Space challenges for 2011, but clearing physical, emotional and mental junk will continue to be a big priority for me. 

I have such appreciation to each of who joined me in reducing clutter over the past 12 months.  As we welcome the New Year, let's continue our efforts to clear out the stuff and get to the essence - that place where we feel light and free.

To wrap-up our Reduce Clutter; Create Space quest, it is with great excitement to introduce you to Sarah.  She has been extremely consistent in her dedication to reduce clutter in her life and she joined me on this challenge from the very beginning.  Her interview is authentic, compassionate, and extremely reflective, and I know you will find great inspiration as she shares her challenges and celebrations around clutter.


Why did you choose to join the Reduce Clutter; Create Space challenge for 2010?
I joined so I could get kickin' on the emotional/personal life clutter I have ignored for a while.  I can be quite the emotional hoarder; the piles of stress, obligation, and feelings of inadequacy stack up and I ignore them.  I keep charging forward without acknowledging the mess.  The Reduce Clutter; Create Space agenda was so attuned to my 2010 resolution to address what irritates me, what stresses me out, what I could stand to lose, and my goal to work toward a better me.  Plus I had begun to successfully tackle physical clutter the previous year, so I was already motivated.

What does "clutter" mean to you?
Clutter is any thing, thought or feeling that weighs me down or holds me back.

What kinds of reducing have you started this year?
Over the past months, I've been working on the things that drive the emotional build-up, namely: guilt, perfectionist tendencies, motivation issues, anxiety, and fear of missed opportunity.  And because I thrive on immediate gratifications, I have also continued to work on the physical end of things.  It took me a while, but I started to realize my emotional clutter and my physical collecting tendencies were related.


Have you noticed any new space being created as you let things physically, mentally and emotionally go?
For a long time I've felt like I didn't have the prerogative to make guilt-free choices, but as I work toward a positive self, it is getting easier for me to live life without the compulsion to dwell.  I am creating room to relax.

When I am working to reduce physical clutter. the results are very measurable and sometimes measurable accomplishments are just the push I need.  My home is a space more reflective of my family; we are showcasing the things that matter and not just stuff we've picked up along the way.

What has been the easiest part for you?
Planning.  I am a list-a-holic and a preparation fanatic.  I enjoy every moment of dreaming.

How about the toughest?
The toughest was dealing with anxiety and finally working with a counselor who specializes in graduate school related stress. I previously thought asking for help meant I had failed.

I also struggle to keep perspective.  Situations are easily dramatized in my mind, and I can become obsessed with distracting projects.

And my perfectionist tendencies are rather exhausting, too.  Learning that it is not necessary to re-invent, re-perfect, re-evaluate choices I have made has taken time.  This habit extends all the way down from school work to closet organization.  In my quest to maximize my life, I sometimes forget to live it.


Did you encounter any surprises along the way?
My most surprising encounter was when I realized I was overcompensating with my new found love for organizing/re-inventing.  I tend to waiver between a case of "makeover syndrome" and "avoidance-driven chaos;" often dealing with anxiety by binge cleaning/overhauling/making over.  When I'd freak out about an exam or looming work assignments, suddenly I'd have fifteen urgent home decorating or photo projects to attend to.  I would ignore the piles of books and unwritten articles, and I'd feel guilty again.  My guilt snowballed until I felt like a slacker, an idiot, a poser even.  In crisis, I'd run to something organization project, a quest for the perfect brown leggings, or a bedroom redesign.  My "needs" and wants got blurred and my priorities turned upside down.  What complicated it more was that I was using de-cluttering (a positive end) as an avoidance technique/stress deferrer (a negative means).  Until recently, I wasn't aware that I was delaying unsavory and uncertain situations with controlled and predictable activities.  This is still an issue I am working on today.

I also never imagined that my fear of missed opportunities (at all levels) was causing me to relentlessly seek "deals" and agree to every résumé building exercise that came my way.  This became apparent to me when I scurried off to purchase a black "must have" blazer to complete my fall wardrobe.  Guess what item still has the tag attached four months later?  Opportunity searching has also allowed me to over-commit myself for fear of "missing out."  I am working to reassess my spending habits and the fear that drives me to compulsively capitalize on all prospects that I'm offered.  I do not have to treat myself to everything I want or can afford, and saying "no" to jobs when my schedule is tight is not the end of the world.


Do you have any tips, thoughts or suggestions to offer others who might be interested in reducing clutter to create more space in their lives?
1) Once you have acknowledged what is negatively impacting your life, keep yourself accountable; blog or journal about it, have a spouse or loved one check in, contemplate your habits and take note of what triggers your behaviors, and try to consciously retrain yourself.

2) Refuse Victimhood.  In my case, I was feeling indecisive and conflicted about every choice I made, I was exhausted from setting the bar too high, and I felt defeated because I wasn't getting the recognition I thought I deserved for my hard work.  One evening I was having a good cry about it and I asked my husband how he deals with these situations and he said, "don't let yourself be the victim."  That advice, above all, has been the easiest for me to follow.  I have tried to pump myself up with mantras and face the rational me on many occasions, but somehow I never seem to really take myself seriously.  But refusing to be the victim has been very empowering!  Now when I have a Debbie Downer moment, when I don't get credit for the work I've done, or others are hurtful or rude, I think about what I've gained from the experiences instead of focusing on how lousy I feel (even if I might genuinely be in a "victim" position).  I am working to refuse being hurt by people or situations when it's not necessary.  As a result, pity parties have drastically decreased in my life.  I think this process has helped me from projecting "intentions" onto others, speculating, and from holding grudges.

3) Don't expect overnight results; this only sets you up for disappointment.  I've done this to myself on many occasions and it's painful.  Some days I can tell guilt to kiss off and other days I am not as strong.  It doesn't mean that I have incurred a major setback (and thus more guilt); it just means I'm human.

4)  Waiting takes the edge off of wanting.  Admire more; purchase less.


Will this journey continue for you into this next year?

Now that we are in the holiday season, how do you stay grounded and keep from bringing more "stuff" into your life?
I am really working on moderation, especially during the holidays.  I'll be avoiding certain websites and style blogs until my "needs" dissipate.

My biggest holiday test will be in the relationship department though.  Families can get into routines/roles, especially during the holidays.  Past Christmases have been spent sulking over family encounters and worrying about what so and so did or said.  This year I will work to break the cycle of assumption.  I certainly don't want to spend the car ride home boiling over "injustices" and hurt feelings.  Quirks aside, family is about love.

Isn't that just beautiful?  Thank you, thank you, Sarah...

Your Personal Reflection:  Take some time to reflect on this past year and ask yourself, "What physical, mental and emotional junk am I ready to get rid of?  Am I ready to reduce more clutter to create more space for what truly matters in my life?  What small steps can I take today?"

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Last Day for Special Offer

Create Flame
Life isn't about finding yourself.  Life is about creating yourself.  -George Bernard Shaw

Today is the last day I'll be offering my Facebook fan special.  Take a moment to join my fan page and receive $20 off the registration fee for Inside Out: A Creative Adventure of Self-Discovery e-course.  (To register, see the link on the FB page.  Special ends at midnight tonight - US central time.)  Let's continue creating the life we love!

Your Personal Reflection:  Are you shining enough light on your creativity?

Monday, December 13, 2010

Reducing Clutter During the Holidays

Christmas Presents
To continue my efforts to Reduce Clutter; Make Space, I have to be more conscious of the decisions I make this holiday season.  For me, reducing physical and mental clutter is about being mindful.  I didn't get rid of so much "stuff" this year just to acquire more. So I really want to be aware of the things I buy, the things I give, and the things I receive for Christmas.

Many of my family members want to keep the gift giving simple this year, too.  In fact, instead of giving each other big gifts, we adopted a family together.  (Thanks for the idea Matt and Lins!)  Although we won't get to see the kids open their presents, it sure felt good to give without expecting anything in return.

Here are some ideas and small changes you can make to simplify your gift giving while keeping the true meaning of the holiday season in perspective.

1) Bag gifts All Together  How about instead of buying gifts for friends and family, you find a local family in need of the necessities.  That way you ensure your gifts won't go to waste and you'll be helping those who truly need it.

2) Give Experiences, Not Stuff  How about giving a zoo membership to that special family in your life, or offer to baby-sit for those new parents, or consider planning a potluck game night with your best friends.  These types of experiences are so much fun and usually way more memorable than the stuff. (What about an e-course? Gift certificates are available and my discounted price ends this Wednesday!)

3) Limit the Dollar Amount   I mentioned that my immediate family decided to adopt a family rather than give big presents.  But we still like surprises and opening gifts.  So we decided to buy each other one stocking stuffer under $10.  Limiting the dollar amount will help you to not go overboard and it actually forces you to be more creative in choosing the right gift.

Felted Coffee Cozy
4) Recycle, Reuse and Re-gift!  What can you make using recycled materials?  Did you see my felted sweater projects?  Check out Crafting a Green World for more ideas.  And I know some of you may think re-gifting is taboo, but think of it this way:  Look around the house for something that is very special to you, yet it has served its purpose and you are now ready to let it go.  I'm not talking about giving a white elephant gift or something you don't like, but actually consider giving something you love that you are ready to pass on.

Hand-Made Wrapping Paper
Another idea:  How about making your own wrapping paper out of brown paper bags and your tags out of scraps you find around the house?

5) Avoid Plastic  It takes hundreds of years for plastic to decompose.  Isn't that horrifying when you think about that stuff filling up our landfills?  Look for natural and organic items when possible.  Check out Hip Mountain Mama's shop for ideas.

6) Buy Local & Support Independent Artists  If you do plan on spending money, consider doing so in your own area and from independent artists and businesses.  This is a great way to support your local community.  If you don't know many artists in your area, check out Etsy.  There are many amazing independent artists on that site who offer beautiful and unique products!  Here are a few of my favorite shops:  Artsyville, Lady Bird Land, Ampersand Shop, Gypsy Forest, and Mishmish Market.

Lavender Bath Salt
7) Make Gifts With Meaning  I'm a sucker for handmade gifts.  I love receiving things made from friends and family and I really enjoy making gifts, too.  Check out Craft Magazine for fun inspiration.  Here's an idea I got from my friend, Jennifer: (I made enough to fill 10 jars last fun!)

Lavender Bath Salts
* glass jar 
* 2 cups Epsom salt
* 2 T baking soda
* approximately 20 drops of lavender essential oil
* contents of two chamomile tea bag
(makes one jar)

Mix all of the ingredients together and fill the jar to the top.  Another option: add olive oil to the top of the jar for added moisturizer.  Remember to make an extra one for yourself and treat yourself to a relaxing soak in the tub!  

Olive Oil Salt Scrub
I'm by no means an expert in this area, but reducing clutter over the last year has been a wonderful learning and life-changing experience for me.  I am fully enjoying the season and don't have the stress that can be so prevalent this time of year.

Simplifying this year's gift giving will help you reduce clutter and create space for the quality time we all so desperately need.  Let's give presence, rather than all the presents, and make our celebrations more mindful, meaningful and memorable!

Your Personal Reflection:  Are you getting caught up in the frenzy of the holiday season?  What simple changes can you make this year to be more present with your loved ones?  Take a deep breath, slow down and find stillness...doing so will be the greatest gift you can give yourself.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Great Gift Ideas: Playing with Felt

Orange Felted Sweater Flower
My mother-in-law was visiting this past weekend and she gave me an early birthday present.  This beautiful felted flower pin now has a permanent home on my winter coat. Isn't it lovely? (Check out her other fabulous creations here.)

Orange Felted Flower Close Up
She created this flower out of an old cashmere sweater - recycling at its best!

Ruined Felted Sweater
And it just so happens I ruined one of my favorite wool sweaters last week in our new washer - which offered a perfect opportunity to continue my One Small Change efforts and make art using materials I already have.

Dry Clean Only Sweater
Here's what you need to make your own 
Recycled Sweater Felted Flower Pin:

*wool or cashmere sweaters (try thrift stores)
*fabric scissors
*needle and thread
*pin to sew on back

First, wash your wool sweaters on hot cycle in your washing machine.  Choose a higher agitation cycle if possible and add a small amount of detergent.  If you are only washing a few sweaters you might want to add some towels or an old pair of jeans to help balance the load.  The heat mixed with the agitation will shrink the fibers causing them to felt together.  

Cut the sleeves off and use them for this project.  Reserve the remainder of the sweater for other projects.  (Here are a few other ideas.)

Make a pattern using fabric or paper.  You'll draw three or four separate peanut shapes, each one a little smaller than the next.  In this flower, the largest "peanut" is roughly 3 1/2 by 6 1/2 inches.  No need to have exact measurements, just determine how big you want your flower and go from there.

Felted Pieces from Sweater
Cut three or four peanut shapes for the petals.  I used three.

Stacking Felted Flower Pieces
Stack one on top of the other, starting with the largest one first.

Sewing Felted Flower
Gather from behind and stitch all of the petals together.  Feel free to fold and curve the petals until you get the look you like.  Stitch together using a needle and thread.

Center Flower
Cut out a smaller peanut size, and then cut it in half length-wise.  

Close Up Flower Center
Starting at one end, roll the piece to create the center of the flower.  Stitch it together, then stitch it to the flower.

White Felted Flower Close Up
Cut out three leaf shapes from another color and stitch them to the back of the flower.

Flower Pin Close Up
Add the pin and attach to your favorite coat, sweater, purse, scarf or hat!

These flowers will make great simple holiday gifts this year and offer you a fabulous way to recycle, while bringing new life to something old and presumably "ruined!"

For more fun with felt, check out my newest piece in the winter edition of Rhythm of the Home and learn how to make felted snow people.

Felted Snowman

Your Personal Reflection:  In what ways can you simplify your gift giving this year?

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Inside Out Registration is Now Open!

Join me for the fourth session of Inside Out: A Creative Adventure of Self-Discovery!  This is an e-course that you get to take in the comfort of your own home, at your own pace, while connecting to an amazing on-line community of like-minded explorers.  It is an experience that invites you to go deeper, to let go of perfect, to be messy, to embrace your authenticity, to explore your creative side, and to shine as the incredible being that you are.  Visit HERE to learn more.

Are you ready to make 2011 the best year yet?

I'm still offering a "Cyber Monday" special to anyone who joins my Facebook page.  This special - exclusive to fans - gives you a discount (limited time only) for the Inside Out registration fee.  Simply join my Facebook page to see the special offer.  If you don't participate in Facebook - no problem!  Email me directly and I'll give you the scoop on another deal.

Your Personal Reflection: What are you waiting for?