Thursday, August 30, 2012

The Subconscious Forest


One of yesterday's new designs

Yesterday I suddenly felt compelled to experiment with a few new notecard designs incorporating vintage foreign postage stamps I recently purchased.  To accompany the stamps, I was drawn to an assortment of printed cardstock in a glowing palette of green, orange red and gold with a Far East, Zen aesthetic.  As I was reviewing a handful of photos taken during our family hike enjoyed last weekend at The Forest of Nisene Marks State Park, the realization dawned on me that the sights and colors of our hike had subconsciously influenced my latest designs.  What a powerful force the subconscious can be in shaping our perspective, our mood, our ideas and our actions, and when focused positively, what amazing benefits we can reap!
Buddha under the bridge



My favorite Five-Finger Fern (Adiantum pedatum)
 
Water Fern? (Still trying to learn different species of ferns!)


Acorn wearing its fuzzy "hat"




More new designs created yesterday

How is your subconscious speaking to you?

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Symbolism Of The Dragonfly

Until this year, another aspiration lingering in my “someday” file was to utilize art journaling as a springboard for inspiration, ideas and intentions.  Fortunately (and conveniently!), a dear friend, talented artist and life coach, Alana Puryear, has been leading a quarterly “Journal Journey” workshop at one of my favorite creative locales, Bella’s Studio in downtown Monterey.  This “Journal Journey” has been a valuable source of guidance and motivation not only for getting started with my art journal, but for remaining committed to working on it, referencing it and actually using it as a creative tool.  In this process, my art journal has become yet another helpful healing tool.
Pushing my self-critic aside after she told me this entry is too amateurish to share with others, I decided to go ahead and share anyway as it is more about the insights than the aesthetics.  I created these two pages based on Alana’s directive to layer multiple copies of a selected image over an orderly background of outlined and painted squares, then contemplate the serendipity and symbolism related to our pages.  My image was the dragonfly, my favorite insect, and as I researched its symbolism after the workshop, meaningful insights surfaced.  It seems timely to share this post after my last post prompted by the honeybees!




Dragonfly, I have long been drawn to your beauty,  your agility, your powerful grace. 
Dragonfly, now more than ever before, I deeply connect with all that you symbolize – change, self realization, regeneration, harmony, happiness.




Dragonfly, just as your magical iridescence displays its array of colors at different angles and in different light, I am rediscovering my true colors from different perspectives.
Dragonfly, may I learn from your uninhibited vision to see more clearly. 
Dragonfly, as your wings flit and hover, so do my spirit and soul as I seek insight, reflection, inner peace.
    



Are you an art journaler?  What do you enjoy most about art journaling?

Sunday, August 26, 2012

The Honeybees' Approach


One of last summer's hives

Our neighbor’s honeybees often gravitate to our trees, and they fascinate us with their hypnotic drone while swarming as they search for their queen and the sculptural quality of the hive they create once they find her.


A "souvenir" from our neighbor's honeybees' most recent visit

As I was considering content for this blog post, my original idea was to share this photo of the honeybees’ most recent “souvenir” and write about nature’s simple, yet splendid treasures, but then a thought surfaced about the honeybees’ behavior and actions – how, once they’ve located their queen, they zoom right in and begin their task without hesitation. I began to contemplate how we can translate the honeybee’s immediate and focused intention to our own approach toward achieving goals.

I tend to slow myself down within the initial phases of planning, researching and strategizing rather than quickly taking action toward a goal.  While it’s certainly important to plan, educate ourselves and strategize, I think there’s a lesson to be learned from the honeybees’ deft tactics of finding the queen and tackling their task with immediacy and focus.  Rather than overthinking and overanalyzing what I want to do, I just need to zoom in and start doing!
I recently practiced the honeybees' approach when I took faster action on a new goal of expanding my writing aspirations.  I promptly responded to a message I received with a potential opportunity to become a guest blogger on a favorite site and made a commitment to submit two articles for consideration this week.  Meanwhile, I also printed the submission requirements for blog post contributions on another favorite site. 
What current goals are you zooming in on this week?       


Friday, August 24, 2012

Carry With You

“Carry with you maps and string, flashlights,

Friends who make you sing

And stars to help you find your place,

Music, hope and amazing grace.”

-          Mary Chapin Carpenter


After I was informed of my corporate job moving locations and my resulting layoff, it was very challenging to work another month and a half until my last day, caught between two worlds, wanting to wrap up existing responsibilities in a professional manner, yet needing to consider my personal future.  I encountered a range of emotions as I faced a lengthy chapter in my career coming to a close and the uncertainty ahead – depression, fear and anxiety, yet there was also a glimmer of hope, daring me to ask myself “what if?”  What if, instead of choosing the “safer” path of another job in the same field, I chose to venture into unchartered territory?  What if I followed more of my heart and less of my head?  What if I took a leap of faith to finally pursue my dream?  What if “maybe someday” became today?  What if?

During this time, my “maps and string” consisted of late night online research on creative careers and small business and creative, motivational and informative books stacked on my nightstand to read at bedtime in an effort to stay focused on positive and forward thinking.  Concentrating on potential and possibility helped me to remain calm and determined during and in the wake of my layoff.  
  
One of the brightest “flashlights” for me during this time was author and career coach Gail McMeekin’s “The 12 Secrets Of Highly Creative Women A Portable Mentor.”  Gail’s inspiring book was like a beacon of hope for me and one of the influential tools that helped pave the way for my leap of faith, launching Plumeria Papercraft and embarking on an exciting creative journey.  I was grateful for an opportunity earlier this year to participate in Gail’s “The 12 Secrets of Highly Creative Women Journal” group, gathering weekly via Gail’s Facebook page to discuss each chapter/secret and share experiences and insights with a supportive group of creative women.  Completing the journal and participating in this group actually empowered me to launch this blog!  My deep gratitude to Gail for the insight and wisdom she shares in her books and for the guidance she so kindly provided during our journaling group.   

I’m amazed at the many blessings that resulted from joining the journaling group – an opportunity to connect directly with Gail whom I admire and respect, launching my Paper and Ponder blog, and also, meeting kindred creative spirit, author/journalist and fellow blogger, Tina of Tickled Pink Woman, her lovely blog focusing on self care, mindfulness and creativity. 

How tremendously grateful I am for "friends who make you sing" - new connections in the creative community like Gail, Tina, and Etsy friends, longtime friends near and far, "coworker" friends.  No, they don't make me sing literally because I'd surely scare them all away (ha ha!), but they make my heart and soul sing with their friendship, kindness and encouragement, they inspire me and they motivate me to keep believing in "what if's."

I hope you are gathering your own "maps and string, flashlights, friends who make you sing" and heading toward your "what if's!"       



Thursday, August 23, 2012

More Gratitude, More Balance

Some moments of frustration and moodiness have plagued me this week, so I’ve been trying to balance those moments by shifting my thoughts from what’s bothering me to what fills me with gratitude.  My mind has settled on thinking about thankfulness for people in my life, and I’m finding some balance in this way.  Although there is much beyond our control, if we draw upon our inner power, we can control our perspective, outlook, mindset, our actions and reactions, and in doing so, gain strength and achieve balance.  Gratitude is definitely a powerful tool.
Earlier this week, I voiced heartfelt thanks to my parents, and today I’m feeling compelled to express gratitude for my family here at home and for other family members and friends who have been sources of inspiration and encouragement.  I’ve encountered my share of challenging personalities as we all do, but I’m choosing to avoid this type of toxicity and instead focus on positive, uplifting, supportive, caring and loving relationships that boost my energy and spirit, hoping I can provide positive boosts in return.
To my husband…my love and gratitude for believing in the “new me” as I explore a more creative and mindful life, for encouraging and supporting my recent endeavors, for your confidence that our finances will work out okay as I strive to build my small business.  Thank you for your patience now that you are coexisting daily with paper scraps!
To our daughter…my love and thanks for believing that her mommy can create anything (I remind you that this isn’t true, but I appreciate your confidence in me), for your enthusiasm about my designs, for your “good eye” when I solicit your advice about colors or patterns, for inspiring me with your own imagination and creativity.  I adore the delightful art you create and share with me!
I am grateful for my artistic auntie who inspired me as a child and continues to inspire me now and my fond childhood memories of art projects at my uncle and auntie’s home during holiday family gatherings.
I’m thankful for many wonderful family members and friends who are inspirations and true blessings and for their positive support and feedback as I journey along this new creative, contemplative path. 
I am also grateful for the many handcrafted treasures and thoughtful gifts from family and friends that grace our home.  Just as I love being surrounded by souvenirs from the sea, I also love being surrounded by tangible reminders of these special people.  Cozy sweaters, blankets and quilts, pretty linens, beautiful decorative and functional pottery (including our everyday dishes made by a talented college friend…a peek of one of his bowls was in my Soup Of The Day photo), photographs, prints and paintings, handmade jewelry and notecards (a personal favorite, of course!)  Here are just a few examples of these cherished treasures..


My hubbie made this candleholder for me many years ago
with raffia & found pieces of stone & driftwood.

I love the textured quality of this platter made by my auntie.
(For those of you who know me well, no, I haven't started eating bananas...that one's for Melia!)

A lovely lupine stem captured by a dear friend & her camera.

A pretty sea-themed quilt made for Melia by another dear friend.

A "slice" from one of my bulletin boards here in my office includes
a print from an artist friend (top center),
a collaged flower from another artist friend (between the mermaids) 
and a favorite painting by our daughter when she was a toddler (below Georgia O'Keeffe's poppies)
with leaves, grasses & fruit from our garden used as "paintbrushes."

May you seek your own positive balance with gratitude for those dear to you.



           

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Thank You, Mom And Dad

Today’s blog post is simply a big THANK YOU to my parents for their early influences and contributions to my creative potential and for their current support of my creative aspirations.
In hindsight, I was quite fortunate to grow up in a household where creative and DIY projects were always in the works, and I think I just grew up assuming everyone knew how to make things from scratch because that was my experience at home.  I'm very grateful my mom taught me how to sew, embroider, quilt and gift wrap at a young age (although I admittedly remain a fledgling seamstress years later!)  Meanwhile, although I cannot claim to have achieved my dad’s skill level with home improvement projects or his green thumb in the garden, at least a little bit of his “know how” rubbed off on me, enabling me to tackle modest projects at home and dabble in the garden.  I eventually found my own creative “voice” as a collagist and papercrafter, but my parents certainly helped pave those first steps of my creative journey.
Now that I realize how common it is for people to live with little creativity in their daily life, I am even more grateful than ever for the creative, resourceful skills I learned and inherited from my parents.  My hope is that I’m helping our daughter pave a similar pathway toward opportunities to discover, explore and enjoy many creative endeavors and rewards in her own life. 


Our daughter's mermaid Halloween costume a couple years ago
was a collaborative project with my mom
who designed & made the fish tail skirt, while I designed & made the bikini top.
Just last week, Melia was wearing this costume for dress-up at home!  

Our daughter's art caddy sits atop her desk, both made by my dad,
a spot for creative inspiration to unfold!

Posted with love and heartfelt thanks to my mom and dad!

Friday, August 17, 2012

Respite

During one of the spring healing art retreats at CHOMP, our directive was to conjure up a peaceful scene in our mind and jot a couple descriptive sentences about that scene on paper.  Each scene evolved as we passed our papers to the person sitting next to us, and they added another sentence or two, then we passed them again for one or two more sentences by the third person.  Each of the papers rotated a final time for the fourth person to illustrate the completed scene.
The scene I was handed ended up being the perfect assignment for me with my love of the sea!  The descriptions…a beach in Puerto Vallarta, fine, white sand, an endless blue sky, waves, poppies blooming on the dunes, the bright, golden sun and footprints on the beach.
I gathered tissue, wrapping, origami and printed papers, little plastic triangles and white glitter, and the resulting mixed media collage became “Respite.” 

"Respite"   Spring 2012
Mixed media collage

The definition for respite, “a short period of rest or relief from something difficult or unpleasant,” prompted me to contemplate its important role in mindfulness, wellness, stress relief and healing and to consider the many variations of a respite we can seek and allow for our ourselves in the forms of gentle thoughts, visualizations or meditations, time spent in a calming place or in a relaxing activity.  As we enjoy a respite, we can find peace, solace and clarity. 

Respites I find most beneficial – deep breaths, yoga (which I need to return to practicing), beach walks, forest hikes, sitting and soaking up a beautiful view, naps (alas, too infrequent), coffee or lunch with a dear friend, enjoying a healthy, flavorful meal, creating, journaling, reading in bed, gardening, birdwatching, relaxing on our front bench, visiting an art museum or the Monterey Bay Aquarium (during the quiet off-season!) and of course, the healing art retreats I’ve been attending.
What are your favorite respites?

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

In Between Everything

Sharing another piece created during the second healing arts retreat I attended at CHOMP.  Similar to "Outer Balms, Inner Healing," this collage followed the day's directive of creating art representing our inner healer.

The words "in between everything" caught my eye as I was leafing through magazines, compiling clippings for this collage.  These words spurred thoughts on the challenges of striving for self care and healing "in between everything," the busyness of day to day life, home and business responsibilities, parenting and a hectic family schedule.  These words also prompted contemplation on maintaining a positive outlook "in between everything" that has been challenging about my health situation. 

The perimeter of this collage contains the words I found to represent challenges:

in the void
I have been poked, prodded, squeezed
stressful
self-doubt
it's up to me
non-Hodgkin lymphoma
dark
multitasking
fuzzy brain
fear
emotional
worry

The center of this collage contains the words I chose to represent healing:

calm
safe
hope
mindful
love
keep a kind heart
breathe
art
look within
growth
peace
inspiration
soul

"In between everything, let there be light..."



"In Between Everything"   Spring 2012
Collaged words with acrylic paint & glitter glue


 

Monday, August 13, 2012

Outer Balms, Inner Healing

Sharing a soothing piece created during the second healing art retreat I attended at CHOMP.  After a visualization exercise, focusing on a real or fictitious place evoking peace and healing in our mind (mine was Kauai's Hanalei Bay), the directive that day was to create art based on our inner healer. 
Mine was, of course, a mixed media collage!

A core of love (and erythrocytes, those red blood cells so vital to my health!) surrounded by... 

The ocean 
Air, a reminder to myself to revitalize with deep breaths
Nature
Creativity
More love (a "frame" of more hearts unseen in this photo)
This is “Outer Balms, Inner Healing”…

Outer Balms, Inner Healing   Spring 2012
Mixed media collage



What "outer balms" are soothing and healing to you?

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Renewal



"Renewal"   Winter 2012
Mixed media collage


Earlier today, I felt much gratitude and felt deeply honored to be part of a healing art exhibit at the Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula's (aka CHOMP's) Cancer Survivor Celebration, an educational and celebratory event with a cooking demonstration, lunch, informative booths, a "hands for hope" mural of survivor hand prints, a healing arts group project (creating joyful flowers with pastels and bird seed!) and a wonderful opportunity to connect with our local community.  It seems fitting at the end of today to begin to share more about my healing arts exploration.  

As I was emerging from my health detour and starting to feel better physically, I was perplexed as to why I was suddenly feeling so emotionally raw.  “I should be celebrating my improvement, and indeed I am, but why do I feel like crying at the same time?”  I joked that perhaps my severe anemia had dulled my emotions!  In reality, although they weren’t dulled, those emotions had been suppressed during my battle as I intently focused what little energy I had on traveling a positive path.  That suppressed fear, an unsettledness and the dawning realization of having averted the unthinkable were rising to the surface and creating unexpected post-traumatic stress.  
Around this time, one of the RN’s at CHOMP where I receive treatment, aware of my creative interests, had suggested I might benefit from the healing art program offered there.  Through the thick of my illness, I had relied on a supportive circle of family and friends, but hadn’t sought out any support groups.  I was receptive to and intrigued by this suggestion and am now a regular participant in the program.  After attending my first retreat, I was able to move forward with greater clarity about my feelings and needs, and every class I’ve attended since has had a similarly significant impact on my healing journey.  Every experience has contributed to exploring another facet of my inner self, sorting out a confusing jumble of emotions, uncovering another layer of understanding and achieving personal revelations as I learn how to navigate life as a survivor. 

The monthly day long retreat welcomes anyone who feels the need for healing of any sort, regardless of their situation and gently balances creative directives with the freedom to explore a variety of art mediums.  The atmosphere is comfortable, quiet, respectful, empathetic, caring and supportive, and the artwork, stories and thoughts shared are truly heartfelt and inspiring.  
I’m tremendously grateful for Mary, the RN/MFT who leads CHOMP's healing art retreats (meeting her has been a true blessing!) and for the privilege of spending the day with a wonderful group of kindred spirits, creating, sharing and healing together.
I created a single piece that first amazing day, one which I titled “Renewal.” Serendipitously, I found amidst the available materials an expressive paragraph about Big Sur, ethereal images of seals in Monterey Bay’s waters, a tiny map of Kauai and images of plumeria blossoms, all deeply meaningful to me.  I suppose it's no surprise that this piece is sea inspired!  This mixed media collage ended up becoming the (purely unintentional!) companion to an earlier piece shared in my "Someday File" post.




By sharing this personal work, my intent is to let others know about the powerfully therapeutic qualities of healing arts.  If a particular piece happens to resonate with you, my humble hope is that perhaps it will provide you with your own moment of reflection and insight.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

To See The Sea

“It is perhaps a more fortunate destiny

to have a taste for collecting shells

than to be born a millionaire."

-          Robert Louis Stevenson

As you may have noticed (from one of my posts about beach walks and another including photos of a mixed media mask on which I wrote these same words), to see the sea is bliss to me.
Communing with the ocean…
viewing its beautiful expanse, strolling along its soothing shores, beachcombing, spotting a whale spouting, an otter floating amidst the kelp or a seal surfing the waves, looking overhead as pelicans glide gracefully across the sky, breathing in the moist, salty air, feeling the cool sea mist on my face and warm grainy sand beneath my feet, listening to the hypnotic sound of breaking waves
…this is, undoubtedly, my favorite source of peace and contemplation as well as an endless source of inspiration. 
It’s so easy, immersed in a busy schedule, to become too preoccupied to allow ourselves ample time for enjoyment of a favorite place, activity or memory that centers us and keeps us grounded.  I used to be quite adept at ignoring the need to center and ground myself!  Weeks passed without any visits to the beach, and beachcombing treasures languished unseen in boxes stored within a closet. 
As I continue to shed neglectful, old habits and focus on improving self care, mindfulness (and more frequent beach visits!), my cherished treasures from the sea are escaping the closet and becoming visual reminders of bliss displayed throughout our home.  I’m discovering how simple it can be to turn a home into a more pleasing haven by paying attention to attractions with positive memories and emotions and displaying tangible associations with these attractions in places where they can be enjoyed.    
Earlier this year, I custom ordered this vintage letterpress drawer repurposed into a display unit by Bluebird Heaven (on Etsy) which hangs in our hallway, its cubbies filled with locally collected “flotsam and jetsam.”

 
My ever growing sea glass collection, gathered locally over the years, is now stored in jars, catching sunlight on windowsills or in other vessels displayed around our home.  (A mosaic project is waiting in the wings!) 

An old olive dish cradles an assortment of shells and stones I collected one relaxing summer morning while I was enjoying the good fortune of an invitation to visit a friend in the Hamptons, a very fond memory.

A rustic copper bowl, a favorite gift from a best friend, holds shells from a wonderfully memorable trip to Costa Rica many years ago.

Beachcombing fanatic that I am, more shells, driftwood twigs, polished stones, smooth pottery fragments and frosty sea glass are still relegated to a hodgepodge of bowls, baskets and boxes, awaiting creative inspiration and display ideas.  My next project is to fill a new clear lidded wooden shell collection box, a sweet birthday gift from a very dear friend.  Despite my lingering beach "backstock," I’m getting better at honoring the ocean’s significance and influence in my life and drawing upon its positive power.      
What special place, activity or memory speaks to you?  Ocean, forest or woodland, mountain, garden, a city perhaps?  Strolling along a beach, wandering through a forest, exploring a city How are you incorporating your attractions and their positive associations into your daily surroundings?

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Soup Of The Day

This morning I was reflecting on how, when fostered and fueled, creative energy can permeate many areas of our lives.  As I’ve been generating more creative energy with papercrafting projects, personal art exploration, writing, mother-daughter crafts and other crafty endeavors, I’ve been noticing how creativity is spilling over into the kitchen!  I’ve enjoyed cooking through the years, but in the past, I admittedly followed existing recipes more frequently than I experimented with my own concoctions.  Nowadays, I’m often serving dishes of my own design inspired by ingredients on hand, fresh produce from our garden or seasonal produce from our local farmers market.    
I recently shared inspiration from our garden, and I thought it would be fun to bring one of those garden stories full circle by sharing how yellow crookneck squash harvested from our garden (along with zucchini and basil, all quite plentiful right now) continued to inspire me, this time in the form of cooking rather than pondering life lessons!  I am a soup fiend, by the way, so many of my own recipes are soups!  I find instant comfort in a warm bowl of homemade soup.  No, Paper and Ponder isn’t suddenly morphing into a culinary blog, but here’s how my creativity manifested a couple evenings ago…    

Lisa’s “Soup of the Day”
½ yellow onion, chopped
2 large garlic cloves, minced
6-7 medium summer squash (I mixed zucchini and yellow crookneck), chopped
2-3 tbsp fresh basil leaves, chopped
1-2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Vegetable broth (preferably homemade), water or 1 part water to 1 part chicken broth, enough to cover sautéed vegetables
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste (I chose lavender pepper)
Toppings - parmesan cheese, grated; ribbons of fresh basil or fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped, additional freshly ground pepper

Saute onion in olive oil until softened.  Add garlic and summer squash & continue to sauté for approx. 5 mins.  Add basil & continue to sauté for 1-2 mins.  Add liquid of choice (veggie broth, water or water/chicken broth.)  Bring to a boil, reduce heat & simmer until vegetables are tender.  Puree approx. ½ soup, so texture is both smooth & chunky.  (My favorite kitchen tool is an immersion blender!)  Add salt & pepper to taste.

Serve with toppings, a side green salad and crusty baguette.  (I just learned that radish greens, sprouts or leaves with stems removed, are edible, so we tested and enjoyed some in our salad!)