Finding Myself in My Art…Journal

I’ve always been a journal keeper, a writer. I have notebooks, both filled and partially filled, that go back for years. I’ve had periods when I journaled almost religiously, and others that were more sporadic.

Until recently, my journals were all about words. Narratives about my days, my hopes, my heartbreaks, my triumphs and failures.

In January, I participated in a 30 day art journaling challenge created by artist and author Lisa Sonora Beam. This work challenged me to combine my words with images. It was both uncomfortable and amazing.

I have never really considered myself an artist…and I’m not so sure that I would call myself that now, either. Journaling using art as another method for communicating my ideas has stretched my self-imposed limits. It has helped me to slow down, experiment, accept mistakes and failures as growth opportunities, and uncover some previously untapped insight and joy.

This hobby has a meditative quality about it. When it’s me, my journal, and my art supplies, the rest of the world just seems to float away. I’ve even started a Facebook community focused on working our way through 365 prompts called Inspiration 365. I’m connecting with artists both experienced and not, and through this hobby I am finding more opportunities to focus on the magic of my days.

It is a magically restorative indulgence, this new hobby, and one that is helping me to seek out and savor the magic of my extraordinarily ordinary days.

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Winter Sunshine

After such a long and brutally cold winter, the sight and warmth of sunshine was a much welcome visitor.
I love how a sunny winter day has the ability to change sour moods into hopeful ones. We start to see an end to the dark and desolate winter days. The promise of spring and summer becomes real, and somehow, the misery of a long winter starts to melt away with the snow and ice.

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Winter sunshine and warmth are absolutely magical. They revive, restore, and remind us that our world and our bodies are waking up from the long winter’s slumber, and that there is a beautifully magical world waiting for us just outside our doors.

Everyday Magic

For some reason, this recent journaling topic continues to resonate with me. So much so, in fact, that it has brought me back here – to this place that has a history of leaving me feeling inept and overwhelmed – to try yet again to live in and love this little blog.

I have spent time shifting my focus to the extraordinary that surrounds me every single day. I have done this both out of desire and out of absolute need. Had I not changed my focus, I am quite sure that I would have drowned in the rough waters of this life. I have been changed by my challenges, and surprisingly, in ways that are nothing short of magical.

It is my sincere hope that as I continue this journey, both in this amazing life and on this blog, I am able to share with you, my readers and friends, the extraordinary magic that surrounds us every day. With a little patience, and a lot of faith, we are all capable of seeing the everyday magic that surrounds us.

Refuge

The title of this post might lead you to believe that I’m talking about a room, or a home, or a place I go to for my own timeouts.  Not the case.  I have some physical rooms, or spaces, that I do go to when I need down time.  In those spaces I might read, zone out, do yoga, or walk (the trails near my home are beautiful).  I believe, wholly and completely, that these spaces and places are an integral element of personal wellness.  We all need a place of escape.  We all need a spot to land.  We all need a personal fuel station – a place that allows us to relax, recharge, and eventually, fortify ourselves so that when we walk outside of that space we are ready to step back into the world knowing that we can handle whatever lands at our feet.  These places are personal, meaningful, and often, places that are not entirely our own.

Today, I’m focused on a space that is 100% mine.  My writers notebook.  Some may call it a journal, or a diary, but the name of it doesn’t matter as much as what it does for me.

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It is MY space.  And yeah, kind of old school in a world saturated by technology, but writing is something I’ve done my entire life.  I have always been inclined to put my thoughts on paper.  I find comfort in words, they help me process, evaluate, and organize my world.  They help me make sense of what is most difficult and celebrate all that is beautiful in my world.  There are plenty of both.

I have boxes of old notebooks, each one a milepost marking my journey.  Some of my writing is your run of the mill, stream of consciousness, personal journaling.  Other entries are my attempts at poetry – the form that I play with most.  I have some entries that are memoir – narratives that are intended to give others a view of my world and of my learning…except I’ve never shared them…because sharing your PERSONAL writing is SCARY!

Last October, my notebook approach changed.  I attended our state’s annual conference for English teachers.  It was the first time that I had been in a few years, and I was excited to go and find new ideas and materials for my classroom.  If you have been living under a rock, the words Common Core curriculum mean nothing to you, but for most, these words instill fear and incite anger.  Last year was our first “real” year of living with the standards, and it was one of confusion and disillusion.  I was looking for answers.  I was looking for a way to process my feelings about this major shift in paradigm while still retaining my sense of creative self in the classroom.

I firmly believe that each of us is exactly where we are supposed to be in every moment.  Every moment has the ability to teach and inspire. I trust that life works out the way it is supposed to.  This conference gave me exactly what I didn’t know I needed.

I hadn’t been writing regularly.  I had been focused on keeping up, constantly chasing what I “should” be doing, rather than digging in and examining my days, the changes, my feelings…my world.

And then…Penny Kittle spoke (cue the music of angels…seriously).  Penny is an English teacher from New Hampshire who cracked my world, my work, and my heart  wide open, turned me upside down, shook me to my core, and set me back down changed, rearranged, and focused.  Her work with students is inspiring and thought provoking.  Every student who walks in her door is a reader and a writer.  She is a reader and a writer.  She reminded me that I am a writer (I needed no reminder that I am a reader.  I wasn’t THAT lost!), and though this blog may be the only place I ever publish, taking the time to process my world in my notebooks is what keeps me centered, focused, and engaged with the worlds around and within me.

So now, I write.  I even draw (which believe me, I am NO artist).  I return to my notebook nearly every day, both by myself, and with my creative writing students.  My notebook is my refuge.

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I love my notebook.  I carry it with me everywhere, and I write my life.  I have this idea that if more people did this…even those who do not see themselves as writers, the world would be a more reflective and positive place.

The doodles you see are my attempt to teach myself how to draw so that I have another way to make sense of my world.  The teacher in me (and the reader) finds so much guidance in books.  So, I figured that if I wanted to learn how to draw, I should find a book to help.  The doodles and drawings you see in the photos above are inspired by my new favorite tool…

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Paired with the words of Penny Kittle last October (and my devouring the words in her published material and her Twitter feed), this book has continually encouraged me to play in my notebook.  For that, I am grateful.  My notebook, complete with its words and its pictures, help me make meaning of my world.

One final note/request…I am always interested in hearing about the journaling/writing/doodling experiences of others.  I love opening my notebook for my students, and I love seeing the notebooks of others.  They provide endless inspiration for my own work.  If you have experiences to share, please do!!!

 

 

Simple & Delicious

Lately my husband and I have been in a “What’s for dinner?” rut.  I’m an adventurous eater, he is a meat and potatoes guy.  I love to try new dishes, he likes his staples.  We usually rely on a pretty normal rotation of dishes, but lately, even our go-to dishes have been lackluster…well, except for my homemade pizza.  That IS perfect.  I’ll save that for another day.

Tonight was one of our food rut nights.  Neither one of us was quite sure what we wanted for dinner.  We decided to do a “fend for yourself” night.  Those nights either end with an inspired, often nutritious meal for me OR I swing the other way and eat junk.  I’m trying to break myself of the junk.  I never feel good after I eat the junky, processed, “easy”  food, and I always wish I had taken the time to treat myself to something real.  

I found a graphic on Pinterest recently that had a quote that really speaks to what I’ve been trying to do…

“She woke up one day and decided to stop neglecting her body and start treating it like a temple instead.”

Not only am I trying to feed my body real food, I’m trying to eat for the right reasons, and move much more.  So far, like everyone, I have great days, and not so great days, but I wake up every single morning with the goal to do better.  And you know what?  Little by little, I’m watching my habits change, and I really do feel better.

Tonight I made a dish that I saw on an episode of Extra Virgin on the Cooking Channel.  Granted, it was a pasta dish, but even with pasta, I make the best possible choice I can.  I’ve actually started to prefer the flavor of whole grain pasta, and I eat it in moderation.  

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The original dish is called Pasta Alla Gricia.  It’s a dish with penne pasta, guanciale (cured pig cheeks), garlic, sage, olive oil, pecorino cheese, and black pepper.  I didn’t have the pig cheeks (thankfully?), so I used pancetta instead…pig is pig, right?

So we’ll call mine Pasta Alla Pancetta. I made half of the original recipe, and I have plenty of leftovers.

*adapted from Extra Virgin on the Cooking Channel

Ingredients:

1 T. olive oil

4 oz. pancetta

3 cloves garlic, peeled

2-3 T. fresh sage, chopped

1/3 c. pecorino cheese

1/2 pound pasta

*black pepper, extra virgin olive oil, and more pecorino for garnish

Directions:

In a large nonstick pan, heat the olive oil, and then add the pancetta and garlic. Cook for about 10 minutes, making sure that the meat does not get too crunchy and the garlic does not burn. Note: If you see that the garlic is browning too fast, remove it from the pan, finish the pancetta and then add it again to the sauce. 

When the pancetta and the garlic are nice and golden brown, add the sage. 

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, add the pasta to the water, and cook it about 2 minutes less than indicated on the box. Strain the pasta and add it to the saucepan over medium-high heat, toss it around for a few seconds, then add the grated Pecorino, toss for one minute. 

Garnish with some grated Pecorino, a drop of extra-virgin olive oil, and some ground black pepper…and ENJOY!!!!  

This dish was so simple and more delicious than any pasta I’ve had in ages.  It is light (yep, that’s right…light), flavorful, and the kind of dish that makes you slow down and savor every single bite.

Treat yourself to this dish sometime soon.  I promise you will NOT regret a single bite!

 

 

 

 

 

A Quiet Return

I feel like I do this a lot.  I get going with the blog, posts seem to flow pretty freely, and then BAM, something happens to slow me down, or stop me in my tracks.  I’m learning that this is the nature of life, but that doesn’t make it any less frustrating.

My struggles remain the same…I’m working to balance home, career, health & fitness, and fun, all the while making sure I get “me” time so that I am able to recharge when I need to.  I am starting to see that when I don’t take enough of that precious “me” time, the roadblocks and/or shutdowns, and sometimes even meltdowns, occur.

I’m getting a little better, day by day, of managing my reactions to the external craziness over which I have absolutely no control.  It’s a process, and sometimes, an unpleasant one.  I’ve been spending time confronting my own demons, and trying to focus most of my attention and energy on what makes me feel good, solid, and grounded, rather than what makes me stumble or shakes my confidence.

I have changed a few things since my last post:

1. We moved…into a tiny, heavenly apartment close to where I work.  It almost feels like a little cabin in the woods, and that suits us just fine.

2. I took a new position in my “real” job…some might call it a promotion, others call it torture…I’m calling it an experiment, and so far it is going well – a few of those bumps I mentioned earlier, but all manageable.

3. I’m slowly but surely moving myself toward a daily yoga practice, even if my sessions are short.  I have not met an exercise that truly feeds me,  mind, body, and spirit, like yoga does.  It is, in the words of my yoga teacher, my “soul mate” exercise.  I’ve dabbled in yoga here and there over the years, but never really took to it like I have this year.  Knee and foot injuries make Zumba something I can do once a week or so, but yoga…I can jump on the mat every darn day, and some days it might leave me sore, but it wakes me up in every possible way.  For this, I am grateful.

4. I have TIME to do the things I love most…cook, bake, spend time outdoors with friends and family.  I’m not on the road for 2 1/2 or more hours each day, so now I can take the time to write posts, have hobbies (creating a Project Life scrapbook), and gosh…BREATHE without feeling like I’m ignoring someone or something important.

My plan, for now, is to set a goal for each week that is focused on something important in my world.  For this week, my goal is to create, find, and eat healthy meals (especially veggie sides) that nourish my body and feed my need for delicious and satisfying food.

Tonight’s tasty side will be a romaine salad with sliced apples, dried cranberries, brie cheese, and a raspberry pecan dressing….I’m hoping it tastes as delicious as it sounds!

UPDATE….the salad was AMAZING!

Photographic evidence…

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The top photo contains the keys to the perfection of this salad…a tiny wheel of brie purchased at Trader Joe’s…perfection.  The co-star in this salad are the pecans…candied pecans.  I cannot wait to make and devour this salad again tomorrow night!  We had this with oven roasted split bone-in chicken breasts and my husband’s out of this world mashed potatoes.  A simple, yet extraordinary meal!

Listening to my Body

One of the goals of this journey is to listen to my body when it is sending me messages. Not my brain…that often tells me to skip a workout and is a very talented at manufacturing excuses…my body. I have a history of pushing to the point of exhaustion. I get frantic, frazzled, and, inevitably, I get hurt in some way that takes me out of the game for longer than if I had just listened to my body in the first place.

So…today I am listening. I am tired and sore. I’ll do the Day 7 workout tomorrow. And, I know I’ll be better able to work hard because I took this day to rest.

Although I chose to postpone yogalosophy for a day, I still leashed up the pups, grabbed the hubby, and took a stroll in this beautifully cool June evening air. It felt refreshing to be outside in the sun and breathing deep in the spring air. The world is a beautiful place and tonight’s walk helped to remind me of that often overlooked and sometimes difficult to see (amid life’s challenges) fact.

I’ll be back tomorrow. The goal tonight is some time with a good book, a hot cup of peppermint tea, and a little bit of journaling to keep the creativity flowing!