Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Wishcasting Wednesday: What Do You Wish To Focus On?

It's Wednesday! Wednesday means two things for me: one, I am halfway through the week and two, I get to post on Wishcasting Wednesday, hosted by Jamie Ridler @ Jamie Ridler Studios, which always makes me giddy. This week, Jamie Ridler asks: What Do You Wish To Focus On? 

Many times throughout the day, I silently tell myself, "Okay Jen. Time to focus." Lucky for me, I am one of those people who go both ways-I have lots of entrepreneurial energy with tons of great ideas and I am also able to sit down and work on a task for hours at a time. Now, don't get me wrong, my preference is to have a mix of both.  

Currently, I wish to focus on...
*Taking care of my physical body: eating better, getting more physical exercise, and sleeping regular hours
*Getting my morning routine back: walking the dog, yoga, and meditation
*"Turning off" on the weekends-no facebook, e-mail, or aimless surfing of the inter-web-net
*My financial health: creating a budget that works for me and a system that makes me empowered

These four areas are somewhat big yet totally attainable when I put them into existence and "just do it." I think we tend to talk and talk about having balance in our lives and I am coming to the realization that we will focus on what is important in the moment while letting some other areas fall to the back burner. In this constant paradox of short-term and long-term thinking, planning, and acting, we must remember to embrace the present and know that when things are ready for us to attack, we shall.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

small pleasures

It is Easter Sunday and I just returned from a drizzly, somewhat chilly doggie jaunt down at the beach with The Man's mum. On my way home, I stopped at Larsen's Bakery on 80th, a quaint little local bakery complete with warm bread, cookies, and cinnamon rolls. I picked up some yummy treats for The Man and I to chomp on before we attack some house projects. I got a coffee as well and sipped the warm goodness as I walked back to my car in my goretex jacket and thought to myself, "This is what life is all about."

Friday, on my day off, I picked up a book at the Ballard Library called "Small Pleasures: Finding Grace in a Chaotic World." Even, I have not started reading it yet, I have been thinking about really enjoying and savoring small pleasures. It has been proven that stuff like cars, vacations, diamonds, and lottery winnings give us temporary but fleeting satisfaction & pleasure. It is the small stuff that sustains our happiness over time. So, with all of that, I want to give you a glimpse into the small pleasures that I have been enjoying these past couple weeks. These range from food to Seattle sights to treasures I have come across as well as simple moments that I try to infuse into my day.

quality chocolate: Theo's, Dilettante, Seattle Chocolate's
strolling the Ballard Farmer's Market
dog walks (morning, noon, and night)
cutting fresh tulips for a hostess gift
reading for pleasure
sipping hot drinks anytime of day
finding lots of treasures at the Library including world music cd's
cuddling under the comforter while talking to a friend on the phone
happy hours that include neopolitan pizza and red wine
Discovery Park, Golden Gardens, and Green Lake
clean dishes
moments of love
the "high" feeling after working out and busting a sweat
journaling, sketching, writing
examining flowers that are blooming in your backyard
dyeing easter eggs & hunting for them
beautiful brunches
browsing goodwill and finding the best pair of comfy sweats ever
telling people you love them

Bliss-assignment this week: take 10 minutes and your journal or scrap piece of paper and write down all the small pleasures you enjoy. post this somewhere will you see it (i.e. fridge, planner, mirror) and start realizing the small stuff and how it brings a smile to your face and lights up your heart. 

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Phinney Love

Finally, it feels like spring in Seattle. I woke up this morning in this state of grace, balance, and pure love. I stared at The Man while he slept so peacefully under the duvet. His head resting so perfectly on the pillow with this left hand supporting underneath. I looked at him and silently smiled and thought to myself how much I love this man. How much this man has done for me. How much this man has taken care of me and put my soul back together after heartbreak. I thought about how he balances my irrational, easily distracted, moody self. I thought about how his number one priority when he is with me is making me happy, whether that entails taking me out for Thai, Pho, or burgers & shakes. He is my protector, my mentor, my coach. He makes me tea, makes me laugh, makes me read my books, makes me do my yoga & meditate, makes me take care of myself and for that I am ever grateful. He lets me fall asleep on the couch, he strokes my forehead as I vent about this, that, and the other. He has cute names for me: Monkey, Shrimp, Smurf and I love them all. I love how I fit in his arms in that special little nook where I can listen to his heartbeat and let the day melt away.

A year ago, this picture was taken of us. It is by far one of my top 10 favorite photos of us together. I am so happy and still am. Spring marks for us growth, abundance, blooming and more. What this has to do with is everything. Taking the moment to really appreciate what's so in life. I am so incredibly thankful for all I have. I am clear on what it means to be in partnership.

Four months ago, I moved into The Man's house on Phinney Avenue. I am finally feeling like I can call this "our home." Our tulips are blooming. Yummy meals are cooked in the kitchen. We listen to good music on the stellar sound system. We each need our "cave time" post work. We still have laundry to fold, dishes to do, and a dog to walk. Days go by and I admit, we go through the motions. It's easy to become comfortable, convenient, and just plain fine with everything. I am finding that it is so necessary to take the time to sit and love what the universe has provided. I am alive in the world because of the love that fills our home.


Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Wishcasting Wednesday: What Do You Wish To Tend?'s spring break here in Seattle which means kids are out of school and my spring break camp is in full swing. These weeks off school mean daily field trips, snack making, bathroom breaks, bus driving, arts & crafts, gym games, and losing my voice from constant redirecting. Spring break camp marks the last week long camp in the school year before summer camp begins in June. These school breaks are a lot of work, a lot of caregiving, and a whole lot of fun with tiny humans.

What this also means is that a lot of personal things take a back seat simply because of time and energy. These camp weeks require me to be working directly with kids pretty much every day. I come home tired, sometimes a little cranky, and mostly craving some serious couch time. :)

 Meditation, yoga, dog walks, writing, working out, and time with The Man take a back seat, simply because I use my free time to rest up and get ready for another fun filled day.

Just like any vacation or break, it must/will come to an end. For me, that means back to tending to my self-care practices: daily yoga & meditation, kickboxing classes, morning walks with the dog, journaling at night, and my writing & creativity. 

It's funny how you come to a point in life when you start taking really good care of your self and then notice immediately when you are not incorporating the things that nourish you into your life for a variety of reasons. It's a unique awareness that is so priceless. It becomes and exercise in mindfulness. It's quite nice actually.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

something inside of me

This post has been brewing in the back of my brain for a long time. A long time = 3 months now. Tonight feels like the perfect night to dive in and just write it. This post is about being creative and what "being creative" means to me and how for the past 3 months or so, I have been on a journey to define my own creative statement and also how to incorporate creativity into my daily life. And so I write.

My Grade School Art History

Grades 1-3: I remember my early art classes in elementary school. We would leave our classroom and walk out to the playground, trek over to a large, 3 story building, the Head Start building, climb two flights of stairs and have art class and music class in two rooms that were very cold, smelled of burnt popcorn, and felt creaky, old and scary. We would paint, create paper mache masks, use charcoal and pastels on newsprint, and get to rip newspaper and magazines up. In music, we played the recorder, danced, and sang-all of this without judging ourselves.

Grades 4-6: Art & music started becoming "competitive." You started to be labeled as "creative." or "athletic." I remember the music classes and the art classes were not very fun for those of us who "struggled." The kids who enjoyed physical education more than the arts sat at tables together and tried to create a representation of the teachers piece, but were very rarely encouraged to continue to express or praised for their work. It was then I started labeling myself as an "athlete," not an "artist."

Grades 7-8: Art was fun again. I had two great art teachers but we only had art for a quarter, We studied Picasso, Miro, the cubists, the impressionists, Monet, Van Gogh, and more. We threw clay, we worked with tons of different mediums and we were encouraged again. But still, I continued to tell myself I sucked at art, that I was an athlete, and I wasn't creative.

Grades 9-12: I had the option to take 2 art classes in 4 years. I took computer generated art and Pottery and Clay 1, basically to meet my graduation requirement. Again, I was pigeonholed by the academic track I was on as well as I had to choose-be in the arts crowd or be in the sports crowd. There really was no way have both.

Why Labeling Is Damaging
As an educator and as someone who works with youth on a daily basis, I know how damaging it is to label and pigeonhole kids into thinking they are not creative. I only know this because of my direct experience. I wouldn't say that I am completely damaged/traumatized/emotionally scarred from my creativity journey through school, but I will say that as I got older, there were fewer and fewer opportunities for me, simply because I shut down the concept that I am a creative being who needs to express herself through writing, dancing, painting, and drawing. 

When we label ourselves, we immediately put up walls, create a box, and have very little flexibility. This labeling carries over to other areas of our life-I am not good enough for that relationship, for that job, for that *fill in the blank.* When we label and pigeonhole, we kill possibilities, opportunities, growth, and experience. All of that stuff that makes life rich, enlivening, empowering, and juicy. 

On Writing
I remember always loving to write, ever since I learned how. I loved to practice my penmanship, write letters on Lisa Frank Stationary, kept journals and diaries, and short stories galore. I remember using my journal to process my dad being gone for months at a time, to process being an athlete and struggling to fit into the high school scene, to process falling in love, breaking up, and broken hearts. I still journal to this day, simply to download and notice patterns in my emotional self. It has always been and always will be the place where I become the most vulnerable.

I took a creative writing class at the public library with a woman named Judith Head. She is an author and wrote the book "Culebra Cut." My mom would take me down to the library on Saturday mornings, I believe I was in 4th grade, and I would write, share, and learn about character development, plot, description, etc. I fell in love with putting words on the paper.

The Bubbling Tea Kettle

For the past three months, my insides have felt as though there was a kettle on the stove at low temperature. Each day, the temperature would increase just a few degrees more. This has been my need to be creative-to play with stuff, to draw, color, paint, experience, write, and get messy. It was like one day, I woke up and I had all these ideas in my head-I wanted to collage, I wanted to buy clay, I wanted to sharpen my colored pencils. It was in that moment that I started to just let go and participate. I started writing more-on the blog and in my journal, I cooked more new meals, I listened to music, I began to meditate, I read more blogs and listened to podcasts on creative living. For the first time in my life, I started to describe myself as creative.

I look at things differently now-when I walk, I move slower, when I eat, I am more mindful. When I do yoga, I do what feels good. When I check e-mail, I smile or listen to music. I browse stores, I bought paints and pastels. I color in a sketch book with colored pencils while The Man watches the news. I don't have nearly as much tension as I used to have in my body. It feels good to be on this side. Yes, I still have my day job, but its not all I have. For the first time ever, I am multidimensional in my approach to life.

I am not the next Picasso. But, I have implemented some daily practices that have facilitated the boiling kettle. Below are my Top 20 practices that can make a difference in your approach to life. Remember, its about embracing the whole of who we are as humans and one of those parts is an inner Picasso waiting to emerge.

My 20 Favorite Creative Practices
1. Make a collage/vision board
2. Drink tea and enjoy a cookie (Uncle Seth;s Pink Cookies are my favorite)
3. Walk in silence outside in the early morning
4. Take photos in nature (Use a simple point & shoot)
5. Buy art supplies (Sketch book, colored pencils, pastels, paints, brushes)
6. Do yoga
7. Meditate-the 15 minutes of silence everyday will shift your life
8. Make a kale salad
9. Bake cookies
10. Browse the library with no time limit
11. Forget about the housework
12. Take a Nap
13. Go buy a blank book and start journaling
14. Check out some awesome creative living blogs for inspiration (See buttons on my blog for Jamie Ridler, Kimberly Wilson, and wishstudio)
15. Eat at a beautiful restaurant
16. Call your mom/dad/best friend and curl up in bed while you talk to them so you are completely present
17. Go to the gym-sweating is the best prescription for lack of motivation
18. Identify your comfy clothes-a good pair of wool socks, stretchy pants, and a hoody/sweater to wear at night after work when you are ready for downtime
19. Hangout with kids
20. Do something that scares you (singing, climbing, asking someone out, or trying Indian Food)

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Wishcasting Wednesday: What Do You Wish To Read?

For those of you who know me personally, I am a book whore. Ever since I learned to read, I become Ms. Book Zombie in bookstores, libraries, small boutique book shops,, and basically any store that has a book section. I vividly remember a road trip with my family down to Pennsylvania shortly after getting a grasp on reading. I would read every sign-exit sign, street sign, restaurant, and on and on and on. Fast forward 20 years and I still read before I go to bed every night, even if I have been out late dancing, or if it was a tough week at work. Reading for me is my mini-vacation. 

Here's what I am currently reading and wish to finish:
The Joy Diet-Martha Beck
The Atlas of Love-Laurie Frankel (Seattle Author)
The Not So Big Life-Sarah Susanka (Part of Kimberly Wilson's online book club)
Living Your Yoga-Judith Lasater

Here's what's on the docket:
Teachings On Love-Thich Nhat Hanh
Writing Begins With the Breath-Laraine Herring
Listening Below the Noise: A Meditation on the Practice of Silence-Anne LeClaire
Living Artfully-Sarah Magsamen
Slow Is Beautiful-Cecile Andrews (Seattle Author)
Real Happiness-Sharon Salzberg

The thing about reading is that it is what grounds me. At the end of the day, when I turn off my blackberry, I put on sweatpants and make my sleepytime tea, there is nothing more self-loving that curling up with a book and enjoying your own company. 

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

making space

It has been tough for me to make time to write. I have been getting up every morning with my first intention being, "Today I am going to write a blog post." And then, this is what actually happens:

Alarm goes off, I hit snooze twice, then get out of bed. Depending on when I am supposed to be at work, I try to fit in a walk with the dog, some yoga and meditation, breakfast, shower, dress, pack my lunch, and grab my bags, and commute north. Work. Hit the gym. Come home. Shower. Dinner. Chill with The Man. Jump on Facebook (a.k.a. TimesuckBook), make my tea, read in bed, then lights out. All in all, a pretty full day, mixed with time for myself, exercise, silent space, and work. As I write this, I look at what's missing: SPACE.

Think Monopoly. Free space. Space to be spontaneous, creative, follow my heart's desire.

Last week, I attended a Time Management training for Supervisors. Before attending the training, I was getting frazzled-so much to do, so little time. To do lists were all over the place. I was getting stuff done, yet at the end of the day, I was like, "What the hell did I do today other than teach?" The Time Management training was beneficial for me to take a break, evaluate, go back to the drawing board, and revamp. I am implementing some new strategies from this training and at the end of the day, I am coming home less exhausted, feeling more productive, and able to leave work @ work.

Below are some eye opening revelations I had during & after the training:

-Don't check e-mail first thing in the morning. Pick your one big strategic task/must do/# 1 priority thing and do that in that first hour. It's like being an extreme skier: take your first big jumps early on. FIGHT THE URGE TO OPEN THE OUTLOOK/GMAIL/HOTMAIL.

-Put all your to-dos in one place. I started using an excel spreadsheet to input my task and priority level and then I print it, put it on my clipboard, and attack with a Sharpie. This way, I can look back at the end of the day, celebrate what I got done, and have a concrete plan for the next day. This is way easier thaN STICKY NOTE LAND.

-We are human beings that have lives and have jobs. We don't have a "work self" and "home self." Work/Life balance is sometimes easy to laugh at. "What's that?" most people say. In my training, my trainer told us the following: "Well, here's the deal. Take 100 people who only have a week left to live and ask them at the end of the week what they wish they would have done more of. 100% of them will not say, "I wish I could have worked more." BALANCE IS ABSOLUTELY ESSENTIAL TO SUCCESSFUL PEOPLE.

-We all have the same amount of time everyday. 24 Hours. Think about it: 8 hours of sleep (ideally), 8 hours of work, and 8 hours to enjoy being on the planet in whatever way you choose makes for a pretty happy life. Of course, we have obligations, emergencies, big projects. But instead of being a victim to the clock, take back control. Schedule things that are important to you: writing, gym, meditation, happy hours, baseball games, gardening. YOU ARE A PRIORITY AND DESERVE BLISS.

This past weekend, I cleared out my home office space/meditation nook/writing desk. It felt so good to let go of the old. When we purge, there is a certain energy that is being created-we make room for new. When we make the space, good things come.

I am starting a new little fun challenge on some of my blog posts called "Bliss-assignments." They are little questions that you can simply ask yourself and contemplate, journal on, or ask a friend. They are part of a bigger project I am working on which I am hoping to reveal by my 27th birthday on May 23rd. Stay tuned for more details!

Bliss-assignment this week: Where in your life can you make space? (physically, spiritually, mentally, scheduling, silence)

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Wishcasting Wednesday: What Do You Wish To Transform?

Remember the Transformers movies? I remember seeing it a few years ago and typically I am not one to gravitate towards action/sci-fi/comic book films, but as I watched the movie, I was in awe at the process of how the transformers came into being within seconds. They never had to think about it. Huh. Life lesson here?

As we all know, transformation is a powerful thing that we go through as humans at different points in our life. Transformation is more powerful than changing, fixing, or quitting. When we transform, we are working from the core of our being. This is what makes these movements in our life so powerful and sometimes we don't even know they are happening until we sit back and reflect.

What Do I Wish To Transform?
I wish to transform my relationship to time so I can slow down and savor the small yet magical moments in my days, such as when my wonderful partner kisses my forehead when I come home from work, when I see a teenager helping an elderly woman with her groceries, or when a child comes up to me in my after-school program and gives me a hug.

I wish to transform my relationship to my finances and money so that I live in a space of abundance and plenty instead of scarcity and lack. 

I wish to transform my physical office space so I can have a clear mind and space to engage my creativity. 

I wish to transform my self-talk so that I am gentle, compassionate, kind and empowering and aware of what nourishes me from the inside out.

I wish to transform my stereotypes about me being creative. Even though I am just starting out, I am a creative being with lots to share. Working on getting rid of the negative self-talk will allow me to blossom.

Join Wishcasting Wednesdays here @ Jamie Ridler Studios!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

surrender is a beautiful thing & koshas

The past week or so I have been in the space of "extreme self-care." Really being conscious of the activities I participate in. Really listening with my body about what feels good on a physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual level. I have taken a break from writing simply because I wanted to be in tune with my natural rhythms of what is right. I am about 9 days into my meditation challenge and am gaining tons of insights, experiencing big shifts in my mental state, my ability to go with the flow, and to have a softer heart in all areas of my life. I always knew that meditation was key in bringing my spiritual practice to the next level but yet I never seemed to make the time and/or the space to engage in the practice.

The theme I am living right now is surrender. Surrender is one of those words I have struggled with over the years. For a long time, I always thought surrender meant weak. For me, it meant giving up, quitting, throwing your hands up in the air and walking away huffing and puffing. After years of pushing myself in all areas of my life, I have come to a "sweet point" in which I get to choose how I live my life. The external activities, relationships, work, obligations, etc. don't run my life anymore-I get to be in the drivers seat. I get to listen to my body and trust my intuition.Sometimes I get caught in cycles of speed, stress, and exhaustion and then I pull back and say, "Whoa...wait a minute. This isn't where I want to be right now." Surrender is trusting the holistic composition of my true being.

In conjunction with my meditation practice, I am practicing more yoga. My yoga practice is super important to me for many reasons. One, it is time with myself when I have the most insights on why I show up the world the way I do. Two, it helps me disconnect from my external world and connect with my internal world. Three, I experience things that push me on the mat and these are similar to what is pushing me in life, whether it be relationships, a project, my writing, or self-care.

In yoga, there is a concept about "koshas" or sheaths of being. Like peeling an onion, we have multiple layers that build on one another and create us. You start at the physical level, (yoga poses) then move towards the energy level (breath), then the mental level, (meditation), wisdom (concentration in meditation and disengaging from the external stimulations), then bliss.

Check out for a more detailed explanation on the koshas of yoga.

This helps me determine where I am at in my spiritual development. Some days I simply am on the yoga mat for physical reasons. Some days I am working through writers block. Some days I am experiencing anxiety and know that I need to be in touch with my breath. Some days it just feels good to be in a forward bend. For the past couple weeks, I have been playing with the koshas and simply surrendering to what is and where I am at WITHOUT JUDGMENT. This has been tough but very cool in the sense that I am simply a witness to my experiences. My feelings are not my beliefs nor are they the truth.

I am not an enlightened being simply because I have meditated for 9 days in a row but what I do know is that when I created the structure, the space, the time to sit on my butt once a day for at least 15 minutes in stillness, something happened. Something opened up deep within. I am surrendering to that.