Musings from the Moonroom

Thoughts on Art, Inspiration, Creativity and Spirit


Leave a comment

A Year of Mindfulness: Procrastination

Now this is an interesting mindfulness practice following last week’s practice about being on time. Perhaps one is related to the other in some way?

This week’s mindfulness practice asks us to become aware of procrastination.

Procrastination is putting off something that needs to be done. With this practice we are asked to look at procrastination in two ways: the method we use to delay doing something and what we do about it. Other aspects to consider are what leads us to procrastinate and the strategies we use to modify or overcome the procrastination.

Sometimes we procrastinate because our inner critic appears just as we attempt to complete an activity. That negative voice speaks up, criticizes us, and we put off the activity.

Sometimes we make up excuses, such as telling ourselves if X or Y wasn’t getting in the way, we’d have time to do the particular activity. Yet if we look at how we are using our time, we’d be surprised (or not) that we’re really wasting time.

Sometimes we procrastinate by spending time gathering materials for a project or waiting for the “perfect” moment to begin.

Do you see yourself in any of these examples?

For myself, I sometimes procrastinate out of fear. Fear of taking that first step. Fear of failing. Sometimes I procrastinate because the task at hand is something I really don’t want to do. In my head it feels easier to put it off. Unfortunately, it sits on my to-do list for several days taunting me until I deal with it.

What is the antidote to our procrastination? Simply doing it. That is, taking responsibility for the task and getting it done. Put it at the top of the to-do list and deal with it first thing in the morning.

As with many of the topics of past mindfulness practices and those things we avoid, procrastination causes us to suffer. Think about how you feel when you put off a task for days at a time. The dread you may feel about doing a task only gets worse the longer you put it off.

This week, become aware of the tasks you put off. Become aware of what causes you to procrastinate. Then consider how you can break that cycle.

Reflection: Procrastination is the bad habit of putting of until the day after tomorrow what should have been done the day before yesterday. -Napoleon Hill


2 Comments

A Year of Mindfulness: Be On Time

Good Monday dear readers. Here in the states we are preparing for the Thanksgiving Holiday this week. A time for gathering with family or friends, giving thanks for all that is abundant in our lives, sharing good food, and enjoying some football games.

It is rather ironic that this week’s mindfulness practice focuses on time-being on time. Thanksgiving Day can be a day of rushing around, driving to our destinations and scarfing down too much food. Heck, just the run up to the big feast day can be fraught with anxiety as we gather ingredients for recipes, wine or beer for the celebration, and coordinating all the activities.

But what if we practiced being on time this week? What if we were mindful of not only our time but others time as well?

Here are some things to consider with this practice:

  • What does “being on time” mean to you?
  • What arises in your mind when you are late?
  • What arises in your mind when other people are late?

We all know people who are always on time for events or arrive before an event starts. And we all know people who are “perpetually late” for everything. Some people prefer being on time and grow irritated with those who arrive late. Some people arrive late because they don’t like to wait for an event to begin or they feel awkward if they are the first person to arrive for a meeting or party.

Though this week’s practice relates to time, it is also about mind-states and habitual patterns. What Dr. Bays’ refers to as the “constructed self.” If we think highly of ourselves, we may begin to think that our time is worth more than other people’s time. So we’re the last to arrive because “we have so many important things to do” and don’t want to waste our time sitting around and chatting.

Or maybe we’re terribly shy. We arrive late so we don’t have to look people in the eye, find a place to sit, and initiate conversation.

And then there is the favorite response “there is never enough time” or “I need more time.” Well, how much time would be enough? How much time would be too much?

When it comes to time, we divide our life into chunks-chunks called time. Time of the future, time of the past.

What about-you know what I’m going to say-the present moment?

When we are not thinking and are simply aware, the present moment is all that there is. Time becomes irrelevant. When we live in more awareness than in thinking, time seems to adjust so that there is exactly enough time for each thing to be accomplished.

This week, practice being on time. Practice being in the present moment-for the present moment is all that there is.

Reflection: In the present moment, there is always plenty of time. -Unknown

And, of course-I’m late, I’m late, for a very important date. No time to say hello, goodbye. I’m late, I’m late, for a very important date. -The White Rabbit


Leave a comment

Challenges of a Solo-prenuer-Photoshop

As a solo-prenuer artist, that is, an artist who wears all the hats in this business, I spend part of my week creating and producing art. The other part of my week is spent on the business side. This includes

  • maintaining my website
  • writing blog posts
  • writing & submitting teaching proposals
  • writing three e-newsletters
  • marketing my art
  • photographing my art
  • wrangling with Photoshop
  • doing the accounting

and several other things that I’m sure I’m forgetting. Some have said that an artist should spend at least 50% of her time on the business aspect. I can probably count on one hand the number of artists I know who spend at least half of their time on the business aspect. It isn’t easy because we really want to devote most of our time to the creating and making art.

Speaking of hats: Here is a fun one that I tried on at the local consignment shop.

Blue Church Lady Hat

The Hard Numbers

I’ve gone through several iterations of tracking my time. Coming from the health field where we had to track our hours, I started out tracking my hours each day; start time, stop time; start time, stop time. It was flipping tedious. Okay, I’m being kind. It was anal and it made me feel like I was never being productive enough. How could I be productive when I was fixated on documenting my start & stop times?

Then I tried splitting days in half. Half the day on art, half the day on business. I had learned that morning was my best time for artwork. So I’d start the day making art and then switch to business stuff after lunch. That didn’t work out very well for me. I’m more easily distracted in the afternoon. That meant while I sat at the computer, it was waaaay to easy for me to get distracted with other stuff online.

Finally, I decided to split up my week. Most Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays are dedicated to studio time. Tuesdays and Thursdays are for art business tasks. It works most of the time. If you work at home, whether as a small business owner or a telecommuter, you know that life and other obligations have a way of tossing our “best laid plans” out the door. So flexibility is key. And so is not beating the crap out of yourself if your schedule gets trampled.

Today’s Challenge

Do you use Photoshop?

The main reason I wrote this post was to share my current challenge as I work on the business side of, um, the business. I am a bit befuddled by Photoshop. I have Photoshop Elements 6 for my Mac. Earlier this year, I took a wonderful online web design class hosted by Susan Lumoto of DAM. In the class, we learned how to create a website using WordPress templates. Pretty cool stuff, aside from the challenges of working with plug-ins.

I haven’t touched my test site in several weeks. I’m ready to get back to it. My first challenge is to create several images featuring my artwork. Specifically, I want to create a JPG that would include 3 images. The 3 images would have a white border. Then those 3 images would be placed onto a black background of a specific size.

Here is one practice JPEG I created and tried out as the new header for this blog. This gives you an idea of what I’m talking about.

After making the image above, I realized that 3 images is a better number as it allows some room around each image. I don’t like the squishy feeling of the header image.

I’m getting better at making the white border, thanks to my friend Natalie, as you can see here:

Image Before White Border

First White Border Attempt-Splotchy

Improved White Border

Image with White Border on Black Background

So here is my problem. I edit & crop my photos in Aperture first, then open them in PS Elements to add the border and create the background. If I edit the JPEG using the image and/or canvas resizing options, I get something smaller than I desire and lose the white border. If I crop the original image in PS before adding the border, I get something much larger than I want (and crash Photoshop.)

I think I may have to use the re-size options on the original image first, then add the white border, and then move the image to black background.

What do you think? I’d appreciate your suggestions. I feel like I’m making this harder than it needs to be. Of course, that is part of the playing & experimenting. But I seem to be missing something in this process.

Please use the dimensions of the header as an example. The header image is 760 x 190. What size should my images be in order to fit into a header that measures 760 x 190? How would you create a header image with three JPGs inside a black background?

Thanks for your input. And thanks for stopping by.


3 Comments

Sketching: Making It A Practice

Well, it didn’t take too long before I faced potential boredom with my sketching. In the days after returning from France, I looked around my house and thought “what is so interesting here that I’d want to sketch it?”

There-in lies the rub. It isn’t so much a matter of what looks interesting to sketch, it is a matter of making it a practice no matter what the subject matter. If the only reason I sketch is because the subject is interesting, I would’ve quit long ago. (And, in fact, I did quit sketching, several times in the past.)

This is when I had the bright idea to use themes or topics as my basis for sketching. Deciding on a theme or topic is a challenge in itself, however, it seems to be working for now.

The “What Do I Want To Sketch?” Phase

Glass Vases

Pear

Remote

Meals

Sunday breakfast

Salad

Breakfast bowl

Place setting

Cloth Napkin

Flowers

Sunflower

Globe Thistle

Did you know that Globe Thistle are made up of multiple tiny five petal flowers, like tiny stars? One of my favorite flowers and I never looked so closely at them until I tried to draw one.

Bee Balm

Another favorite flower whose petals sparked an idea in my head for an art doll.

Until my next post,

A bientot.


4 Comments

The Magic of Soreze, France

Over the next few weeks, I plan to share with you some of my favorite pictures taken during our trip to France. Today, we start with images of Soreze.

Soreze

Soreze is a magical village located in the Midi-Pyrenees region of France, in the Tarn department. The village forms part of a triangle that extends from Albi to Toulouse to Carcassone. Soreze can trace its origins and development all the way back to 754 when Pepin of Aquitaine founded the Benedictine Abby Notre-Dame of Sagne in the fortified town of Verdinius.

Today, Soreze remains a source of history and culture. It has a long history of being home to artists and craftsmen.

The Images

On this trip I was focused on capturing images that would inspire my new series of artwork, Snapshots and Memories from Languedoc-Rousillion. Soreze is an excellent source of inspiration for this new series. Lots of colors, textures, doors, shutters, and statuary.

Festival Greeters

Soreze Side Street

Flower Pots

French Tabbys

Textures

Doors, Windows & Door Knockers

Statuary

I hope you have enjoyed this little tour of Soreze and its magical surroundings.

Until my next post,

A bientot


2 Comments

The Itinerant Artist

Life is up to her old tricks these days, throwing some curve balls into our rather steady day to day activities. I’ve posted several pictures of all the snow we’ve had recently (here and here.)  Last week after back to back storms, the snow and ice took its toll on our house and the ice dams went into overdrive.

As we scurried to stop leaks in two rooms, it was decided that I had to drop the temperature in the studio to 55 degrees in order to keep the top of the house as cool as possible. (Guess that means my studio on its own just wasn’t “cool” enough.) It also meant setting up fans in my studio and a dehumidifier to remove moisture from the ice dams that had seeped into the carpet.

After a couple of days of clearing snow and ice and putting ice melt socks on the roof (which fell off anyways), I decided that I was going to have to relocate my studio for the near future. The process of returning the studio to its normal state is going to take some time and I, sadly, cannot work there in its current condition.

My first reaction to this was similar to this picture I made in Photoshop:

Caught

A friend told me it looked like a cover for a “screamo” band. Well, if I can’t make my art in my studio, perhaps I have an alternate career as a screamo band face model.

Moving out of my studio has not been easy. The studio is my sanctuary. It has an energy all its own and in there I can lose myself. Now I was faced with deciding what to bring to my new location. Not an easy task when you’re used to having all your art supplies right at your fingertips.

After a bit of avoidance, I relocated to our dining room. Eric helped me set up a small table and my work chair. I decided not to bring down all my polymer clay. Instead, I’ll bring down what I need as I work on each project. That alone will be an interesting challenge. I also brought down my sketchbooks, paintbrush carousel, my sculpting tools, some pastels, and a few other tools. My laptop and a few business items round out my new temporary space.

And here it is:

New Workspace

The "Office"

Pippin my Supervisor

The cats are enjoying my new set up. They like to jump on the dining room table and peer at me over the edge of my laptop. Woody has also enjoyed playing on the rug under the work table. I admit there are advantages to this new location. It is closer to the bathroom and the kitchen!

As I write this, the leaks have stopped and the carpet in the studio is almost dry. Of course another project remains and that is repair and repainting. I’m not sure when I will move back into my studio.

Health Update

The stress of the ice dams, leaks, and moving my studio has been compounded by my continuing health issues. Plan A, which included a trial on a pill to reset my hormones, has not worked as hoped. Today I had a pelvic MRI, with and without contrast. A pelvic MRI will give an even better look at the fibroids and their location, how many I may really have, and the blood source. Based on the results of the MRI, I am looking at two options, one more favorable than the other. Both of which would bring resolution to the problem.

The MRI itself wasn’t too bad. My first MRI was in 2009 for my back. That was in an older machine and I had to go in head first. For this test, I went to a different location and went into the tube feet first. They placed a foam like grid over my belly/pelvic area. Because I was also having this test done with contrast, an IV was placed in my left arm. When the first procedure was complete, they rolled me out of the MRI tube, hooked up the contrast, I raised my arms over my head, and back in I went. That was the shorter of the two procedures.

I should get the results on Monday and things could move rather quickly after that. I’m making peace with this situation, with my options, and what may lie ahead. It is not easy to give up control over your body and harder still to lay the burden at the hands or feet of something larger than us. I know I am on the road to a solution. Soon a plan will be in place.


2 Comments

A Weekend Romp In The Snow: Snowshoeing

With nearly 3 feet of snow on the ground in the last 10 days, it was finally time to dig out the snowshoes and to take a hike through the woods. And that is just what we did this weekend. The weather was crisp, the skies clear, and the sun was shining. What a great way to spend the morning.

Eric Breaks a Snowy Trail

Snow Drifts Hugged the Trees

A Little Challenge on the Trail

Thistle in Winter

A Morning Well Spent

The trail was quiet the entire time we were outside. We didn’t come across another person; no dogs or deers either. Just a few birds chirping in the trees and water babbling through open spots in the brook.

Snowshoeing on a winter morning….priceless.


9 Comments

When Life Tells You To Slow Down

Note: This post has been through several iterations since I started writing it last month. I alluded to my health issues in an earlier post reflecting on my 2010 word of the year. This post goes a little more in depth on how those weeks of uncertainty called me to slow down and think about the direction I want to take in life. Be forewarned that this post may contain too much information.

__________________________________________________________________________________

It all started in November and got crazier the weekend of Thanksgiving.

Let me preface that by saying I’m a 47 year old female. I know changes lurk around the corner. You know, that time our mother’s referred to as “the change” or “the change of life.” Growing up, that phrase was sometimes followed by stories of women growing facial hair, going “nuts” and essentially turning into something that resembled Fiona Ogre in the “Shrek” movies.

I certainly hope time and attitudes have changed.

As I said, I’m 47 and moving toward menopause. I believe I’ve been experiencing subtle symptoms of perimenopause for the past few years. Some sources report that a woman can begin experiencing these changes up to 10 years before the actual onset of menopause. No wonder many women hate their 40′s. Personally, I’ve loved being in my 40′s. It has felt like the right age for me. Unfortunately, on the health front, it is in our 40′s when our bodies pay us back for the abuse we may have given it in our 20′s and 30′s, whether you’re a woman or a man.

I have herniated discs, bouts with GERD, creaking knees, and tinnitus. All manageable issues that do their best, at times, to make me feel, ahem “middle aged.”

And then there is the perimenopause.

Eight years ago, I was diagnosed with a fibroid. Fibroids are very common in women in our western culture. There is no definitive cause for fibroids. It could be estrogen overload, it could be hereditary. One statistic I read stated that up to 75% of women have fibroids. For many women, the fibroid(s) never act up or pose any problem.

And then there are the rest of us. We must be the special chosen-ones.

Everything has been manageable these last few years. My doctor and I have taken a conservative “watch and wait” approach. Then in November things got a little out of control.

There was the biopsy to rule out uterine cancer, the ultrasound to see what was going on inside, and the two sets of blood work. (Make that four blood tests throughout the month of December.)

One blood test indicated I was hypothyroid, a common diagnosis for women in perimenopause. The next blood test said my thyroid was normal but that I was anemic. By the end of the week I’d learned that the biopsy was negative (Yea!) and the ultrasound showed more fibroids.

Now the picture was getting clearer. My hormones had apparently kicked my butt, dragged me down, and shook me up.

Lucky me.

So, why would I share with you something that is rather personal? Because I believe when our bodies put us through the wringer, it is a signal that we need to slow down and regroup. You may not agree with me and I respect that. But for me, I know my body and it was definitely screaming at me.

I also share this because women often suffer in silence during this phase of life. Sure we joke with our girlfriends and cry on our sister’s shoulders. But inside many women are afraid, unsure of what is happening to their bodies. Society, and perhaps core beliefs learned when we were kids, has told us that women are to be svelte, in control, forever youthful with porcelain skin and nary a gray hair in sight. Just look at some of the “Women’s Health” magazines. We take care of others until we drop.

Menopause means we’re getting old. Things start sagging and bagging. The kids leave home. We find ourselves facing a change of roles in our life. Who are we? What do we want to do with our new self?

During these last few weeks, I found myself slowing down, not only because I felt like crap, but also because my body was telling me to do so. I returned to daily meditation and daily reading of personally uplifting passages. My dreams became more vivid and I started to analyze their personal meaning. I had my first Reiki treatment. I released myself from all structure in my schedule.

Instead of blocking out time to get this or that task done, I wrote a one page to-do list. Whatever got done, got done. If I was tired, I took a nap. If I wanted to read, I read. If I wanted to watch TV, I watched it. I wrote in my journal almost every day, sometimes three times a day. I started exercising again, even if for only 15 minutes.

And I spent a fair amount of time thinking about my business. What is important and what isn’t. What I can let go of in order to create that which is most meaningful for me.

All of this has left me feeling empowered. My health is improving, a solution has been found, and a new plan put in place for moving me forward. I feel a burden lifting and a new door opening.

This time has not been easy. I’ve had more anxiety and stress than normal. Sometimes it feels like two steps forward and 10 steps back. I keep reminding myself that I am well, that I will be well, and that all will be well.

Writing this is cathartic. I admit to having prided myself on my health; that I wasn’t experiencing this or that problem. The risk in that attitude is the shock and fear that comes when life deals you a bum card. Granted my situation is not as bad as what some other women go through. However, when you think all is “normal” and then trip on the rug, it does make you stop and re-evaluate. Writing this is also part of my process of acceptance. Acceptance of this situation. Acceptance of the challenge. Acceptance of a new road ahead.

I jokingly refer to these last few weeks as my “power surge.” You know, there seems to be a double meaning in that phrase now that I think about it. As a result of this situation, I have started to release myself from certain commitments. In turn, new opportunities are already presenting themselves to me. I am moving forward into the power that this change in life is bringing me. I slowed down and I listened.

_________________________________________________________________________________

During this time, I found the following resources to be of great value:

A GYN’s Second Opinion

Brigham & Women’s Hospital: Obstetrics & Gynecology

BWH: Center for Uterine Fibroids

Advanced Gynecological Solutions

As always, talk to your doctor. Write down your questions and write down what the doctor tells you. Don’t be afraid to get a second or third opinion. This is your body. You need to be at peace with any decision you make.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 333 other followers