Thursday, March 28, 2013

Sights And Sites

One of Big Sur's many beautiful vistas
Earlier this week, I fulfilled one of my favorite commitments, visiting the 3rd grade classes for whom I am the “Picture of the Month” art docent.  I was thrilled that this month’s featured artist was Pablo Picasso, one of my favorite artists!  In preparation for this month’s lessons, I consulted some of our books here at home which brought back exciting memories of two major Picasso exhibits I was fortunate to have seen, "Picasso and Portraiture" at the Museum of Modern Art in New York numerous years ago and "Masterpieces from the Musee National Picasso, Paris" at the de Young Museum in San Francisco just a couple years ago.
With my recent attention on lists inspired by the senses, it seemed fitting (after thinking about these visual “feasts” in which I've indulged when visiting art museums) to create this next list focused on sight, including not only the visual arts, but also, performing arts, natural wonders, landscapes and vistas.

I’m continuing to share these lists for each of the senses in the hope that as you read mine, you might feel inclined to create some pleasurable lists of your own.  Creating these lists of positive associations is a simple, fun, rewarding exercise that can send us on an enjoyable trip down memory lane, elevate our mood and provide a diversion from stressful or unpleasant thoughts. 
Some of my most favorite visual experiences…

As you already know, becoming absorbed in art museums
Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Park
Being captivated by stage performances – music, dance, theater (I’m particularly fond of musicals!)

Strolling through a redwood or sequoia forest and communing with these amazing “giants”

Wildflower hikes
At the beach or coastline, gazing out across the sea (especially in Big Sur)

Becoming mesmerized by sea life at our local Monterey Bay Aquarium (the octopi, jellyfish and mola mola are my favorites)

And some of my fondest memories of past travels…

A brief parting of the foggy curtain revealed
one of Kauai's impressive views 

Indulging in a helicopter’s view of nature’s magical forces on the island of Kauai (and many incredible views from the ground, too)
Witnessing nature’s powerful forces on the Big Island of Hawaii at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park where lava flows into the ocean

Being enthralled and entertained by wildlife - capuchin and squirrel monkeys, sloths and coatis - while hiking through the tropical forest at Manuel Antonio National Park in Costa Rica
Driving through the idyllic Charlevoix countryside in Quebec during our honeymoon nearly 21 years ago (I dream of returning there someday, but in my dream, the mosquitoes have vanished!  Notice Charlevoix is on my “sight” list, but not on my “touch” list…ha ha!)

What favorite sights (and sites!) would you like to share?






Friday, March 22, 2013

Scents To Please The Senses

So, now I’m picking up where I left off a couple posts ago, sharing some of my recent listings of favorites inspired by the senses, mentally compiled when employing a “calm the mind with pleasant thoughts, so I can drift off” approach to falling asleep. 

Are you sensitive to smells?  I am…to a fault.  On the one hand, there are specific scents I cannot tolerate.  I’m repulsed by the smell and taste of bananas to the point that family and friends who know me well are considerate not to serve them when I’m around, and I am very grateful!  Unfortunately, there have been those situations where I've been stuck in an uncontrollable environment, miserable and barely able to breathe.  Imagine my dismay when someone nearby has peeled a banana in the enclosed space of a bus or airplane!  At least, on a bus I could excuse myself and move to another seat if available (yes, I did just that back in my twenties when I was commuting from Marin County into San Francisco each morning.)  On a plane?  I’m usually out of luck!  Thanks to our daughter, I began to find the smell of beer repulsive during my pregnancy, and eight years later, I still haven’t regained my original liking for this beverage (to the chagrin of my husband who must constantly move his pint glass to the farthest point away from me on the dining table!) 

On the other hand, an attractive scent can lift my spirit, improve my mood or offer relaxation in an instant.  I’m most drawn to natural, fresh scents.  On my recent favorite scents list…

Orange – fresh peeled wedges, its essence in soaps and moisturizers

Lavender – fresh buds, dried sachets, its essence also in soaps and moisturizers when its scent is very fresh and bright (strangely, sometimes lavender in products can take on a note that sends it on to my “cannot tolerate” list…can’t pinpoint why?)

Chai tea – its spicy scent wafting upward from a hot beverage or mixed into (notice a common thread?) soaps and moisturizers

Freshly ground coffee (especially when it’s from our local Acme Coffee!) on a weekend morning

A Christmas fir tree

The hint of butterscotch in the bark of a Jeffrey pine

A similar hint of butterscotch-y sweetness emanating from the top of our daughter’s head when she was a newborn!

The spicy and sweet fragrances of ginger and guava while hiking in Hawaii

Sea air (which, during my former career, I used to notice very distinctly each time I returned home from a business trip, stepped outside of the “puddle jumper” on to our small local airport’s tarmac and took a deep breath of moist, salty air)

As you breathe in scents, which ones please your senses?

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Spring Is Blossoming

Melia's red bud tree and its first buds of this spring season
After acknowledging my last post as the 100th here on Paper And Ponder, I had planned to return to my prior train of thought on appreciating each of the senses, picking up where I had left off after writing about touch and taste.  Before returning to the remaining senses, however, I’m meandering along a little seasonal “spur” of this blog “trail.” 

Yesterday, our daughter made the perfect spring equinox observation as we were headed out the door on our way to school.  She commented on the beauty of the sweet pink buds that had appeared, seemingly overnight, on the red bud tree outside our living room window (she has referred to this tree as “her tree” since she was a toddler!) as well as the beauty of dew drops also decorating the branches.  I admire how our daughter often notices the simple beauty around us.  She is frequently bringing us a blossom or bouquet of blossoms she plucks from our garden.  She sees beauty in any blossom, whether it’s intentionally planted to landscape our garden or it’s merely a stalwart “volunteer” or hardy weed (like the abundant clover currently overtaking parts of the yard!)  This week's floral arrangement on our dining table was composed of bright poppies and cheerful feverfew blossoms!

I found myself thinking about yesterday’s observations this afternoon, and it crossed my mind, as it has periodically ever since she was born, how much our daughter has taught me and reminded me about appreciating the little things, the subtle things, about slowing down and enjoying a pretty blossom or the unexpected beauty in a lowly weed, about becoming immersed in wonderfully simple moments.  With this in mind, I took a brief break in the middle of this afternoon, enjoying some fresh air and sunshine, walking around our yard, intentionally focusing less on its unkempt post-winter state and more on colorful spots of spring beauty.  I realized I should take this type of break more often as it helps me cultivate a more mindful, positive perspective, quiets the sometimes loud “chatter” in my brain and even inspires creative ideas – colors, shapes, textures.

May you enjoy spring beauty as it begins to make its welcome appearance amidst your surroundings!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

My 100th Post

The photos most frequently accompanying my first 100 blog posts
have been views enjoyed or treasures found
while walking along our local shorelines.
This one was taken during a brisk December walk.
With this, my 100th post here on Paper And Ponder (woo hoo!), I reflect back on where I’ve been, consider where I am now, contemplate what’s ahead and celebrate this avenue of expression and connection.    

I took "a leap of faith" and began blogging last summer, motivated by my participation in coach and author Gail McMeekin’s “The 12 Secrets of Highly Creative Women” Facebook journaling group to achieve my dream of launching a blog and fulfilling a longtime desire to write.  I set out with a very specific goal of a minimum three posts per week and maintained that self-imposed goal until the arrival of the busy holiday season when I first felt like I had “dropped the ball,” then realized the difference between my idealistic goal and a more realistic, reasonable one.  As I much as I enjoy dwelling here in the blogging world, I must remember that dwelling in my immediate world is most important – being the best mommy I can be, connecting with family and friends, creating, walking on the beach or hiking through the forest, focusing on personal healing, self-care and growth, volunteering and contributing to our local community, slowly, but surely building my small business, upholding day to day responsibilities.  Sometimes there are moments available to write and blog, while other times there are not, and rather than pressure or criticize myself when encountering a week in which my blogging voice becomes quiet, I’m learning to recognize what’s been accomplished elsewhere in my life.  The past week was a whirlwind of celebrating our daughter’s birthday, working on taxes, hosting some of our daughter’s friends (to help other moms with less flexible schedules during a string of minimum school days), volunteering in our daughter’s classroom, attending a “Live Longer, Live Stronger” cancer survivorship class (so very grateful for this informative, helpful resource of a free 7-week course offered by our local hospital), completing a custom order…and yes, I managed to squeeze in a precious beach walk!  I am reminding myself that being unable to fit this 100th post into last week wasn’t failing; it was merely postponing until an opportune time.  As you may recall from past posts, I'm a "recovering perfectionist and overachiever" learning how to allow myself a little more slack.

After nearly nine months of blogging, it recently dawned on me that Paper And Ponder has become my online journal of sorts, and in the process of writing about my healing art exploration, this blog/journal itself has become another personal (albeit public!) tool for healing.  I am often sorting through a jumble of thoughts, ideas, experiences, observations and insights as I'm writing and in doing so, I sometimes uncover a new layer of personal perspective.  My hope is that just as this uncovered perspective is helpful to me, perhaps it will be helpful to some of you, too.  I doubt I'm unearthing anything that hasn't already been discovered and contemplated by many others, but as I share my stories in my own voice, may these stories speak to you.  

Someone recently commented to me that my style of writing, focusing more on positive and less on negative outcomes and choosing not to weight my posts down with too much daily minutiae, might paint a less than accurate portrait of myself and might convey that I'm more "on top of it" than I truly am in my life.  I was very concerned about this comment as my intention is to always write honestly and with authenticity.  I am just as (if not more!) flawed and imperfect as anyone else.  I have many shortcomings.  I have good days, not so good days and bad days.  Although I'm intently focused on self-growth and striving to become a better person, I'm still quite capable of becoming moody, feeling stress and experiencing my fair share of challenges and disappointments.  I have blogged about many of those challenges and disappointments, but have done so from the approach of how I am attempting to rise above them, believing this approach is in keeping with my wish to provide support and encouragement to others.  This mindset parallels how I approach my "inner little girl" art which I've referred to as angst art balanced with hope and whimsy.  Regardless of which topics and perspectives I share, I hope you can sense that these words always come from my heart.       
Revisiting my original mission for Paper And Ponder...      

“To inspire and uplift. To motivate others to live mindfully and enjoy life’s simple blessings. To spread creative energy and widen the circle of heartfelt connections.”
...100 posts into this journey, I hope you've felt inspired, uplifted and motivated somewhere along the way.  I thank you wholeheartedly for taking time out from your own busy lives to read, to comment, to connect, to accompany me on this journey, and I'm looking forward to continuing to travel together!      
Has there been a particular post or topic here on Paper And Ponder that has resonated strongly with you?  If so, I would be curious as to which ones, so I can steer some of my future pondering and posts (whether it's three times a week or only once!) in directions that interest you.


Saturday, March 9, 2013

Tactile Thoughts

(I removed the photo of my card originally included when I wrote this post.  Although the card is from my personal deck and isn't copied or for sale, I do not wish to infringe upon the copyrights of others' images which were respectfully collaged on my card.  My original writing remains as I believe the information and insight I've shared in this post may still be of interest to you.  I hope to share future cards created with my own photos soon.) 

In my last post, I shared a recent list of favorites related to the sense of taste compiled during one of my mental list-making moments, a quiet, reflective routine I sometimes implement at bedtime to rid my mind of thoughts not conducive to peacefully falling asleep.    
During yesterday’s healing art retreat at CHOMP, we spent the afternoon working on SoulCollage® cards, and I created three new cards (you can type SoulCollage® into the "Search This Blog" field to view all of my previous cards.)  One of yesterday’s cards is “Warmth,” evoking thoughts of literal and figurative warmth - bundling up in something cozy and warm, warming up with a hot beverage, an inviting, warm welcome, the heartwarming energy of friendship and love.  The furry image I selected for the background of this card reminded me of another recent mental list of favorites, this one emerging from tactile thoughts:
Our cat Franki’s soft fur

A cozy scarf snuggled around my neck when there’s a chill in the air
A “hug” from a sea urchin (when its spines gently grab a finger…as experienced during one of our daughter’s class field trips to the Monterey Bay Aquarium!)

Sand under bare feet, sunbaked or cooled by the surf

Squishy resistance when squeezing the bubbles on bubble wrap before they pop
My husband’s hand holding mine with the perfect balance of gentleness and firmness, a simple, yet powerful touch communicating the significance of long-lasting love

A momentous memory of the very first time I felt the hair atop our daughter’s head at birth…that moment, that touch, her arrival into the world ingrained vividly in my memory
There is much to experience with our sense of touch…




Thursday, March 7, 2013

Savor The Flavor

"Savoring the flavor" of homemade chicken soup

As I emerge from the heaviness of last month, I’ve been recollecting favorite experiences and fond memories to lighten my thoughts at bedtime.  This quiet exercise of positive associations relaxes my mind, and I am then more easily able to drift off to “dream land.”  These recent mental lists (similar to gratitude lists) have been focused on the different senses of taste, touch, scent, sound and sight.  Since the intent of this practice is to ease oneself into sleep, I don’t typically write these random lists down as I am compiling them in my head with lights off and eyes closed.  Feeling inspired to share the calming, peacefully uplifting benefits of this bedtime routine, I realized the opportunity to document some of my recent lists presents itself right here on Paper And Ponder!   
A couple of months ago after concocting a batch of chicken soup, I commented to my husband that nothing compares to cooking with homemade chicken broth.  Mmm…a favorite flavor to savor!  My husband and I often encourage our daughter to slow down and “savor the flavor” when she’s enthusiastically devouring a favorite food too quickly!  Savoring delicious flavors leaves such a pleasurable imprint on our taste buds and in our mind. 

Although some of my favorite memories center around dining out and splurging (infrequently!) on culinary delights (most recently, last October’s belated 20th wedding anniversary dinner at Dixie on the edge of San Francisco’s Presidio comes to mind), many of my fondest “savor the flavor” moments revolve around simpler, humbler experiences.
What are some of your tastiest recollections? 

Here are some of mine from a recently compiled list:

Sweet mandarin oranges in winter and plump, juicy cherries in summer

A guava smoothie, guava shave ice, simply guava, anything guava while in a state of bliss on the island of Kauai (dreaming about and intent on returning there…my ultimate healing place)

Warm, crispy kale chips, harvested from our garden, tossed in olive oil and kosher salt and baked in a 400° oven (turning over once) until crispy (about 10 minutes)

A perfectly cooked dish of Gai Lan, a Chinese green often referred to as Chinese “broccoli,” drizzled with oyster sauce

Freshly whipped cream dolloped on pumpkin pie or hot cocoa (and licked off of the mixer’s beaters!)

Crispy, tasty carnitas from a no-frills taco stand situated in an unlikely setting, a gas station convenience store in the little coastal town of Pescadero, California

And of course, a hot bowl of fresh chicken soup in all its glorious forms, made at home, made into “jook,” a Chinese porridge consisting of chicken and rice or enjoyed as comfort food in another unlikely setting of 90° weather (delicious memories of sopa de pollo in Mexico and Costa Rica!)  As I confessed in last summer’s Soup Of The Day post, I am a soup fiend…at home, abroad, in the chill of winter or heat of summer, anytime, anywhere!    

In case you feel inspired to create your own homemade chicken soup, but perhaps would like a starting point for reference, here's this soup fiend's very "loose" recipe…

Place whole chicken or pieces (I prefer organic, free range) in large pot, salt lightly, cover with water, bring to a boil, then simmer on medium heat for about an hour

Transfer chicken to bowl or plate, cool slightly, remove meat to be reserved for soup, then return bones with residual meat to pot and continue simmering for another hour

Strain the broth into a large bowl, discard the bones with residual meat (or when I’m feeling lazy, I just keep the broth in the pot, remove the bones and start adding soup ingredients directly to the pot to simmer without the initial saute)

Saute chopped garlic and onion in extra virgin olive oil

Add your choice of veggies and continue to saute (my last batch included celery, carrots and cremini mushrooms)

Add your choice of potatoes (my last batch included red & Yukon gold)

Add fresh broth, bring to a boil, then reduce to simmer until potatoes & veggies are tender

Add chopped Italian parsley

Add salt and pepper to taste

Serve and “savor the flavor!”

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Making Time

I’m gradually learning how to make time for personal priorities during what often seems like the most inconvenient times.  I’ve taken a few steps forward and a step or two backward, then a few more steps forward, and across the past couple years, have made some progress in managing to do’s, responsibilities and commitments rather than allowing them to manage me as was the case too frequently in the past.

Not quite finished yet,
but making more time
later this month!
The finished tote
I gave my mom
for her birthday
Last week (and most of February, actually) involved many challenging situations.  On Thursday, I could have easily postponed my original plan in order to free up time for tackling more pressing to do’s, but I remained steadfast.  I had scheduled a couple hours of personal project time at Bella’s Studio to resume creating mini tote bags with fabrics purchased several years ago (that had been stored and neglected in the far reaches of my arts and crafts closet.)  I’m not adept or confident with a sewing machine, but in my quest to challenge myself creatively, I refreshed novice sewing skills from my youth with a class at Bella’s a couple years ago (during which I accomplished sewing a full-size tote bag for my mom’s birthday!)  Last fall, I purchased a studio punch card, so I could work on simple projects and try to improve my skills with continued practice.  I had taken the above-mentioned step or two backward by starting my latest project in September and failing to return to it for five months!  Indulging in those two hours refueled my creative spirit on the last day of what had been a creatively “dry” month due to all the circumstances that had occurred in February.

Making time has been an ongoing mission often shared here on my blog…making time for better self-care, for self-growth, to travel further along my healing art journey, for taking beach walks, for quality time with friends and family, to learn new subjects and skills, to broaden my creative horizons, to make a more meaningful contribution to our world.  Each step moves me forward on this mission, including Thursday’s baby step of working on my little totes!

By continuing to share my pursuit of this mission, I hope I can encourage you to make time of your own for what’s most important to you.