Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Give Yourself a Gift

Do you want to dream big, face your fears and change your life?  
Do you want to nurture your creative being and let your artist within be fully expressed to the world? (Remember - we are ALL artists - even if you don't feel like one, yet!)

Do you want to learn how to use new art supplies and to play, play, play with paint?

Do you want to create without perfection, without a "right" way, and with lots of messes?

Do you want to expand the possibilities in your life and follow what lives inside your heart?

Do you want more balance, peace, serenity, relaxation and harmony every day?

Do you want to rid your life of physical, emotional and mental clutter, so that you can know the deeper part of you - the part that is present, connected and authentic?

Do you want to get to know yourself better and discover what brings you great meaning and joy?

Do you want to explore through writing and creative play, while connecting to a like-minded community of bold explorers - others who know exactly where you are coming from, (and have a chance to meet new life-long friends?)
Do you want to live freely - being the REAL you?

Sign-up for Inside Out: A Creative Adventure of Self-Discovery and remember what it really means to create and fully live the life you love.  

Starts Monday!  (Enrollment is open until Sunday, April 4th, Midnight US Central Time.)

Your Personal Reflection:
What are you waiting for?  Feel like you have no time or money?  Email me about your concerns and let's have a chat.

On a side note:  I am taking a week off from blogging to spend quality time with my family on a vacation to the north woods.  I will return next week!  Please share the link to my e-course with anyone you think would benefit from this creative, mindful journey.

Those of you participating in Reduce Clutter; Create Space, 2010 Challenge:  We are wrapping up the March theme of conquering our clothes, and the loose theme for April is the kitchen.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Cultivating Seeds

I want to give a BIG thanks and send out virtual hugs to all of you for your support and words of encouragement during my grandmother's passing.  It was an honor to share a glimpse of her last moments with you, and I so enjoyed hearing your touching, personal stories of your own connections to those you love.  

In honor of life, I am choosing to start a garden this spring!  We've had small gardens in the past, but this is the first time I've ever started the seeds on my own.  I have to admit that although excited, I was nervous to get started.  Not quite knowing what to do, I called my good friend and awesome gardener, Dana, for some tips.    

I like to think of my life as a garden, so as I got my hands in the dirt I couldn't help but reflect on the things that are growing abundantly in my life, and the things that need more care.  Just like our garden, we must nurture ourselves, take time for our dreams, and feed our souls, so that our life can grow to its fullest, vibrant potential.
If you are wanting to put yourself more in the forefront of your life, and really create a life that you love, then check out my upcoming self-discovery adventure: Inside Out.  (Only 7 more days to sign-up!)

Now, let's get started planting new seeds.

What you need:
Good dirt (I used organic seed starting Jiffy mix.)
Seeds (Read the packets to find what works best in your area.)
Jiffy Pots and Trays
Fill the Jiffy pots with dirt.
Use a pencil to make small holes in the center of each pot.
Feel the seeds in your hand.  I love admiring how different all the seeds are.  Isn't it amazing that something this small has everything inside it to burst into bloom?  (Just like us!)
Pour 4-6 seeds in each hole.  (This isn't an exact science.)
Cover the seeds with dirt.
Pour water in the bottom of the tray so the pots can soak it up from the bottom.  If you notice any standing water, sop it up so the bottoms of the pots don't rot.

Place the lid over the seedlings and send them some lovin'.  The trays should go to a warm area, but hold off on putting them in direct sunlight until you see the seedlings popping through the soil.  Once you start to see signs of growth, pop open the lid, and eventually remove it all together.  (These directions come with the Jiffy pots.)  Keep the soil moist and keep an eye on your seeds daily so they don't get bone dry.

Have fun caring for your new garden!  The abundance that comes from daily care will be quite apparent in a few months from now.

Your Personal Reflection:  What little steps can you take daily to nurture the seeds in your life so that you can create the best possible garden for your dreams?

Monday, March 22, 2010

Fly Grandma Sugar

This is my Grandma Sugar.  When we were kids she always called us "sugar, sugar."  My sister couldn't say Grandma Hammon, so instead started calling her Grandma Sugar, and it stuck.

My Grandma Sugar, Doris Hammon, passed away on Friday at the age of 91.  I had the honor to be present for her last breath.  We heard word, last Wednesday evening that she had taken a turn for the worse.  So Thursday morning my sister, Lindsay, Kestan and I loaded up the car and headed to Minneapolis.

We had no plan in place, yet we simply knew that we wanted to be there for her.  On the way up we reminisced about our childhood memories.
Like how every time we'd go to visit grandma in Des Moines she'd be waiting for us at the door.  The moment we pulled into the driveway she'd run out and we'd have to take big breaths in because we knew she was about to squeeze us so tight into her bosom that we'd have to come up for air!  Or the fact that grandma spent most of her life in the kitchen.  She cooked the most amazing meals, like chili sauce, corn casserole and pumpkin pie.  And we laughed about how funny grandma is.  She's the queen of one-liners and anyone who knew her would simply laugh because she always had them in stitches.

Or the time we surprised her with her first limo ride on her 85th birthday.  The limo picked her up and we all piled out of the car. She was so excited; in fact, I remember she was glowing all day.  The first thing she said once we all got back in the limo was, "Where's the champagne?"

We arrived at her nursing home around 5:30 in the evening and spent some time with my cousin Molly and her daughter Mariah.  They left to make dinner and we stayed in grandma's room for a few hours just sitting by her side.  Her eyes were closed, her breath was heavy, and she had a washcloth on her head to help bring her fever down.  Luckily, my mom's friend is a hospice worker and she shared some wonderful words of comfort with us.  She reminded us that the hearing is the last to go.  So we knew what we had to do.  We had to tell grandma all the things we wanted her to hear before she left.

We played her favorite music like, Danny Boy and Ava Maria.  We held her hands. We rubbed her shoulders and head.  We kissed her cheek.  And then, we talked.  We told her how much we loved her and how much we'll miss her when she is gone.  We thanked her for all of her love and the amazing things she's done for us over the years.  And we told her to let go.  We told her she was safe.  We told her to trust.  We told her grandpa was waiting for her.  We told her it was time to fly.

Although she couldn't open her eyes or speak, we knew she heard us.  She'd squeeze our hands from time to time, her eyelids moved back and forth, and her arms would move slightly.  
My mom wasn't going to make it in time, so we called her to let her speak directly to grandma.  Hearing my mom talk to her mom, while we held grandma's hands, was so touching and special.  When my mom said, "We will all miss you so much," grandma let out a huge sigh.  Of course, both my sister and I lost it.  Kestan grabbed the Kleenex box and went to each side of the bed, first to me, then to Lindsay, handing out tissues and dabbing our noses.  At one point he said, "Blow mommy.  Get your boogers out."  Just the comic relief we needed in that moment.

We returned to her side Friday morning.  As we left for lunch, my cousin Brian and his boys came for a visit.  The priest and an old neighbor friend stopped by.  Molly, Mariah, Lindsay, Kestan and I returned in the later part of the afternoon and were so happy to hear that she wasn't alone once that entire day.  We also enjoyed being there for visitors, especially the nursing home staff. They were so loving and so kind, and we could tell grandma played a special part in their lives.  

A hospice worker came to pray with us.  She told grandma that she has planted many wonderful seeds in the world, and reminded her that these seeds will continue to grow without her.  She told grandma to trust that the spirit is with her, and she and her family will be taken care of. 
At 6 p.m. grandma took her last breath, and her 3 grandchildren and 2 great grandchildren, were there  surrounding her with love.  It is an experience I will treasure and will never forget.  I feel completely blessed that I was present during her last moment on earth.  I saw grandma make the transition from being unsure to being ready to leave.  She looked so peaceful and it was just beautiful.  I felt so proud of her, that she found the courage to let go.  She has made the journey home, and I know she is happy.  She is at peace.
Photo borrowed from Flickr Creative Commons.

Later that night, I walked outside alone and looked to the clouds.  I saw the most amazing flock of geese flying overhead.  They were flying free, just like grandma.  

Your Personal Reflection:  Witnessing my grandma's spirit leave her body has reminded me that each of us will have a last day on earth.  Thank you, grandma, for letting us be part of your life's journey, and for reminding us to live each day as if it were our last.  

How can you live more presently, more boldly, more fully and more freely, starting today?  Go through your day with the awareness that life is a precious gift, and see what goodness comes your way.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Creating with a Beginner's Mind

Spontaneous play is so freeing, and yet, once we get older, we adopt an attitude that play is for children.  When we stop playing we start getting too serious.  As adults we can easily get consumed by our daily responsibilities and obligations.  We wake at the crack of dawn to an alarm clock, down the coffee just to make it through the morning of getting kids ready, getting ourselves ready, working 9-5, making dinner, throwing a few loads of laundry in, nighttime craziness, crash watching the news or reality TV, and we do it all over again and again and again.  No wonder we are exhausted, confused, overwhelmed, and find ourselves with no time or energy!

When we slow down to play, to try new things and to have more fun, we are reminded of a simpler way of being.  We learn what it means to live with a beginner's mind.
In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities.  In the expert's mind there are few. -Shunryu Suzuki

A Beginner's Mind
You've all seen the pure joy, happiness and wonderment in a child.  You know...that innocent enthusiasm about life.  Being a mom, I get the pleasure to witness my child explore life daily without much hesitation.  He is filled with excitement and wonderment about everything.  I really try to teach him that there isn't a "right" or a "wrong" way to explore, discover and create.  The sky doesn't have to be blue and the grass doesn't have to be green.  There isn't a right way to color, or talk or to be.  His way is the right way for him.  Just as your way, and your path, is the right way for you.

When we create, like a child, we do so without much thought.  We don't judge our work.  We don't limit ourselves.  We don't label ourselves.  We don't tell ourselves we aren't good enough or could never do something like that.
Most new things that we try, at first, don't come without some hesitation or resistance. Think of time when you learned something new.  Like driving a car, or riding a bike, or roller skating...  When we were all learning to do these things, it seemed impossible at first.  Now, we do them without thinking twice.  Eventually, we get the hang of it.  So often, if we forget what it means to be a beginner, and loose site of a beginner's mind, we can keep from trying new things.  It gets comfortable doing the same things.  It's a lot harder to try the things that make us feel scared, uncomfortable and vulnerable.

Let's apply this concept to creativity.  Many of us have trepidations around drawing, writing, painting, sharing, journaling, going deeper, being honest or authentic, being creative or calling ourselves that scary word -"artist."  Practicing as a beginner takes the pressure off.  Think like a child.  What qualities do they have as a beginner?  Here are just a few that I thought of:  a willingness to learn, enjoys the discovery, is curious and asks questions, acts without editing, goes for it, tries again, follows their hearts, sees the beauty in the details and the little things, not jaded by judgments, lives in the moment, is flexible, sees things in a new way, not afraid to admit when they don't know something, authentic... (Can you think of more?)
The idea of a beginner's mind is that you set all of your preconceived judgments, opinions or knowledge of something aside, and do the task anyway, despite what your mind tries to tell you.  When you begin to self-explore, sometimes your mind may say things like, "This is silly," or "I already know that," or "Everyone else is better than me," or "I'm not good enough," or "I really just don't care," or "What's the point?"  These judgments that the mind makes up start to limit our experiences.  It keeps us from living our most vibrant life!  Practicing as a beginner allows us the freedom to fail, the freedom to make mistakes, the freedom to laugh at ourselves, the freedom to ask questions, the freedom to be curious, the freedom to share with others, the freedom to self-study, the freedom to go deeper and the freedom to be ourselves.  Not knowing something is a really great place to be.

Creative play is a perfect compliment to practicing a beginner's mind, as it invites us to look at life with fresh eyes, open hearts and quiet minds.  Playing takes practice.  Let's start today.

Simple Ideas for Playing in your Journal
Supplies: A journal with blank white pages, watercolors, brushes, sponge, piece of cardboard or old credit card, crayons, straw and water

The following ideas are very simple ways to add a little color and background to your journal pages.  Don't worry too much about what kinds of supplies to use.  Remember - think like a beginner.  Use whatever you have around the house.  Even basic Crayola crayons and paints, like the ones you used in grade school, are great for experimenting with.  Take a big breath and have some fun!
Place a paper towel underneath your blank page. Wet your brush, then paint a light coat of water on your page.  Add some color.
Experiment with using a damp sponge to pick up some of the color on the paper.  It will leave a subtle pattern.
Or, use a scrap piece of cardboard or old credit card and draw lines into your page - another fun, subtle way to create a simple background.

Use your crayons to draw fun shapes, patterns and doodles on the page.

Paint watercolors directly over the crayon.

Try playing with more than one color.  Lift the paper and let the colors blend together.

Get your brush good and wet, dip in a color and let it drip randomly on the page.
Place a straw near the drips and blow to get a cool, random design.

Giving ourselves permission to add creative play to our lives takes time and practice.  You will find it gives you more energy and helps relieve stress.  Creative play just makes you feel good.  Be kind to yourself and play more.  You'll be surprised at what you discover!

I have added so many more art journaling techniques and creative play tips to my second session of Inside Out e-course.  If you are ready to try something new and celebrate the artist in you (we all have one!), sign up for this creative adventure!

Your Personal Reflection:  Look at your life today like a beginner - with fresh, new eyes - and see what you discover along the way.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Junk Mail Art and Spring Break Play

Growing up my mom and I had a tradition.  Each year, she'd take me out of school for one day, and we'd play hooky.  We'd go shopping and go to the movies.  We dedicated the entire day to PLAY and it is still one of my greatest memories.  I don't remember what I missed at school those days, but I do remember how much fun we had together.  

So this past weekend, we played hooky once again and enjoyed a spontaneous adventure.  We started by getting our toes done and ate lunch at our favorite restaurant. Then, we stumbled into the most amazing paper store and that's where the creative inspiration hit.  They had displayed fabulous recycled flowers and butterflies created from their store catalogs.  Since I'm much more aware these days about using recycled materials, and the fact that I have a love affair with flowers, I decided this was a perfect project for me to try.    
I gathered our most recent junk mail from the recycle bin, some sturdy wire, old buttons, scissors, a hole punch and a hot glue gun.  (It helps to put on your favorite music.  My choice today was the newest P!nk album.  Love her.)
I cut five petals for each flower, put the ends of the petals together with a small amount of glue, and punched one hole through all the petals.  Then I inserted the wire through the hole and bent it slightly to hide it underneath the button.  I hot glued the button on the wire and paper petals and that's it.  SO easy and so much fun. In fact, I can't stand junk mail, but now...I'm kind of curious to see what comes today.

On a side note, my mom got her toes freshly painted because she headed off to the beach for spring break. It got me thinking. Why can't I have spring break even though I'm staying home?  Why can't I still play hooky?  I may not be able to skip out on my job, considering my toddler relies on me to feed and care for him, but I can create a new version of spontaneous play.  

So, this week, we are having a mock spring break.  We will try new things, experience daily adventures, get our toes out in the, and have some much needed springtime fun. We may not have a beach in Kansas, but we're bound to find some interesting things just by getting out to play.  

Your Personal Reflection:  Are you going anywhere for spring break?  If not, what kind of fun and spontaneous play can you do to create your version at home?  

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Why I Journal

I have written, sketched, collaged and doodled in journals for several years.  I remember when I was around 12 my uncle gave me a journal and told me he'd pay me $1 for each entry I wrote, up to $15.  I think I wrote 15 entries in just a few short days.  Nothing like having the motivation of getting paid to write!  That experience introduced me to the world of exploring my deeper self through words.  I wrote off and on for years.

About 10 years ago I read The Artist's Way, by Julia Cameron and that's when I fell in love with what she calls "morning pages."  It's basically writing, as much as you can, first thing in the morning.  Writing without thinking about it. That was a new concept for me when I first started.  It was hard to not think.  But the more I practiced the easier it came.  My writings were filled with questions, reflections, confusions, frustrations, and celebrations.  The more I wrote, the more clarity I discovered.
After finishing The Artist's Way, I didn't write morning pages everyday, but I did visit my journal regularly.  My journals have become my old friends.  I can look back at them and see where I've come from.  I can see my struggles.  I can see my patterns.  I can see my fears.  I can see how I longed to be me, to live a life that was true to my nature, one where I felt alive, vibrant and free.

Through writing, I have created visual reminders in my journal.  I can return to them when I'm lost and confused.  I can trust them, and they help me awaken to that place that I know is always there.  I now can say I'm the happiest I've ever been, and I believe my journaling practice has helped me get here.
My journal used to be much more black and white.  I would paint and sketch from time to time, but mostly I loved the freedom of a simple black pen on white paper.  It's only more recently that I discovered my great passion and joy for art journaling.  I now merge my love of free-form (no thinking) writing, with my love for intuitive (no thinking) painting, to express a deeper side of myself.

I journal because it makes me feel safe.  I journal because it helps me build strength.  I journal because I discover new dreams.  I journal because it helps me find peace of mind. I journal because it gets me out of my head and connected to my heart.  I journal because I long to go deeper.  I journal to learn more about me and this life I'm living.  I journal to stay grounded.  I journal to explore my creativity.  I journal because it helps me remember that all of the answers I ever need in life are within me, and that I am right where I need to be in this moment.

Your Personal Reflection:  Do you journal?  If so, why do you journal?  If you've never tried journaling, what other forms of free-form, intuitive expression have you allowed yourself to explore?  
If you've always wanted to explore a deeper side of yourself, check out my upcoming e-course.

Go visit A Journey to a Simple Happy Life on Friday for your chance to win a spot in Inside Out!