I’ve Moved!

Come visit me at mckellasawyer.com. Can’t wait to see you there!

Out with the Old, in with the New

I won’t mince words here. This is it folks. It’s time to end our journey with Handprint Soul and move onto mckellasawyer.com

I’ve loved blogging here with you these past few years. Handprint Soul has been a place for me to bare my soul and record my journey to finding my new passion, and now it’s time to take the next step.

I considered moving all my old posts to the new site, but after some thought I’ve decided that it’s better to start fresh with a new blog on a new site, though I may republish some goodies from Handprint Soul from time to time.

My blogging style probably won’t change that much. I’ll still blog about my art, my experiences, and how those two are connected, but this was never meant to be an art site.

Thank you so much for taking this journey with me. I’ll see you at mckellasawyer.com!

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Intentions and a Ritual for the New Year

The older I get, the faster the years seem to go by. And I’m only in my mid twenties. How fast will time go by when I’m 80?!

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Once again, I find myself doing what I do each New Years Eve. Every December 31st, I write my future self a letter to read on the next New Years Eve. I’ve done this for a few years, and I love to see how much I’ve grown in the past year. It also clears my focus for the year to come. I start by reading the letter from the previous year, then I write the new one. I write about the year I’ve just lived and how things went, mistakes I made and what I learned from them, and then I write about my hopes for the coming year.

Sometimes when I read the last letter, I realize that none of those hopes every came to fruition, or that I might have changed directions since then. That’s ok. This isn’t the time to feel guilty. Instead, it helps me learn to accept and be gentle with myself, to let things flow in and out of my life as they’re meant to. Also, it helps me recognize the wisdom of my past self. We spend so much time looking to the future and desiring to improve, but sometimes we forget important things too.

I also set my intentions for the new year in this letter. I prefer to set intentions rather than resolutions because intentions are more fluid. They’re less measurable than resolutions and goals, but there’s less guilt involved if I don’t accomplish them. Intentions remind me that situations change and I change. I may not want the same things over time, and intentions leave some wiggle room.

And the word itself, intention rather than resolution feels much kinder and less like a boot camp sergeant.

Here are my intentions for this year

  • I intend to have more fun!
  • I intend to guilt trip myself less for things I don’t accomplish.
  • I intend to eat more colors and try new fruits and veggies.
  • I intend to put self-care and relationships at the top of my priority list.
  • I intend to be completely honest with myself and others about how I feel.

As you can see, those aren’t measurable, but they’re things to keep in mind and align myself with. These things don’t look like they fit in with building an art and writing career, but they actually fit into my vision perfectly. How can a thriving career come from someone who isn’t thriving?

Some people also set words for the new year, and I think that would be my word. THRIVE. That embodies my intentions perfectly.

How about you? Do you set intentions, resolutions, words, or anything else for the new year? Tell me!

Lifting Winter Spirits

I’ve struggled with varying degrees of winter blues since I was little. In elementary school, I remember feeling sad and crying in the winter for now reason, and after I moved out of my parents’ house to be a grown-up, winter meant crazy depression, anxiety, and emotional eating. Lots and lots of emotional eating.

I’ve learned that there’s a space in between completely dropping into that dark place and wasting my energy fighting through it. Winter is my time to slow way down and rearrange my priorities.

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Last winter I fought it and denied it. I also whined about it. The winter before that, I let it completely steamroll me. So far this year, I’ve settled into that in-between space pretty nicely and I’ve learned a few things that seem to be working well so far.

My new favorite winter survival tips, in no particular order:

  • Eat lots of colors and citrus fruits. Something about an orange or some spicy red onion in my salad really perks up my mood. Also, eating salad is good. I tend to crave heavy, carby, fatty foods that don’t make me feel good if I eat them too much, but eating wintery salads keeps me in touch with my body’s signals for hunger, fullness, and what I need to eat. Or get back in touch with those signals.
  • Happy music-keeps my energy and mood up. Christmas music is great, but I also have a happy playlist on my iPod that keeps me going. I also love calming, uplifting music like Krishna Das. It also gets me in the mood to do yoga, which is always a good thing. On the flip side, watch out for depressing music.  Sometimes we tend to “mood match” with music, but that doesn’t help a gloomy mood.
  • Keep busy, but relax too. I’ve noticed there are two sides to winter blues: gloomy moods and low energy. Staying busy helps the gloomy part, but getting enough rest is the best way to handle the fatigue. If I’m gloomy and tired, then a hot bath and early bedtime might be the best thing I can do. If I just need a mood boost but have a little steam left, I put on fun music and scrub the floor. Nothing gets me off the couch like Gangnam Style. That song is my secret happy mood weapon. Yes, it is on my happy playlist.
  •  I practice positive affirmations and gratitude every day, usually on my walk to work.
  •  Take vitamin D, drink my raw milk. Gotta get those nutrients.
  • Don’t guilt trip myself for not eating or exercising perfectly, or for being “lazy” (i.e. needing to rest).
  • Enjoy the contrast and perks of winter: Layering, hearty soups, herbal tea, cozy blankets and good books, hot baths,  snow days. I’ll miss them when it’s 95 degrees outside and all I can stand to eat is watermelon.
  •  Pamper myself by taking a hot bath as soon as I get home from work. That warms me up and calms me down, without fail. Until I get the gas bill.
  • Take a walk in the middle of the day when the sun is highest, if I can. If not, I don’t feel bad. Do what you can.

Thought this is the darkest time of the year, I’m happy to report that I’m actually doing ok. Sure, my energy is lagging and I have some gloomy days, but overall I’m enjoying myself. Above all, I found that the most important thing is to make peace with the fact that I’m not as productive this time of year. I don’t create as much, my homemaking duties tend to get neglected, but that’s ok.

It’s about enjoying life, not fighting.

 

Trusting the Moments

A few weeks ago, I finished up an 8 week ballet course I took through the local college’s community education program. I’ve always wanted to dance and I hoped that this class could help me set some new groove in my brain and muscle memory that might help me to move in expressive ways. I had a great time, I learned some new things, and I loved closing my eyes at the barre and pretending I was a prima ballerina preparing for rehearsal, but I realized something startling: as much as I love watching dance, painting dancers, choreographing in my head, I didn’t love dance. At least not the nitty gritty details of it. It felt more like a workout class than a starting point for a new creative medium. Even more startling, I was ok with the fact that I wasn’t that into it. It wasn’t even because it was hard and I was giving up. I just realized that it wasn’t what I wanted. At least not right now.

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I have a habit of writing myself long to-do lists, making grand plans (because it’s good to dream big), and wanting to try and learn everything.  Lately, I limit my to-do list to just a few things and if I don’t get those done, it’s not a biggie. It’s ok that I don’t feel like taking voice lessons right now or brushing the dust off my piano books, or auditioning for theater. I’m only bringing a couple library books home at a time instead of a huge cloth grocery bag full of books on dozens of subjects.

Sometimes, especially this time of year, I might feel sad or anxious without knowing why. These feelings used to scare me because they felt out of my control. Each winter, I’d tense up and panic because I just knew I’d be doomed to months of sadness until spring when nature would allow me to be happy again. I do feel sad or unmotivated sometimes, especially in these dark evenings, but I know that mood will change and that I can actually do something about it. Keep busy. Just sit with it and appreciate it the contrast. Look at the gray, snowless landscape and appreciate its beauty the same way I appreciate spring flowers and bright summer days.  I can accept that energy and perky moods don’t come as easily at this time of year, but I can still be joyful and productive.

My diet isn’t perfect. My body isn’t perfect, or even at my perfect weight right now. That’s ok. My relationships aren’t perfect. My art and writing projects don’t always turn out perfect. I just keep working on them until I like them and that’s that.

This may sound like a lot of giving up, or narrowing my mind because I’m not interesting in everything in the world at the moment, but it’s actually freeing to not want or expect myself to do everything. I bring home less library books, but I read more. I make shorter to-do lists, but I get more done.  My life is less chaotic, overwhelming, and I have so much less guilt.

It’s not giving up, it’s making peace with what is and what I am right now. It’s trusting the cycles and seasons of my life and that if something is meant for me, there will be a time for it. There are no lost opportunities. It’s realizing priorities and what really matters. Living in the moment instead of only living for some ambiguous “when” in the future.  Most of all, it’s accepting that I have everything I need to be happy here and now, even if I don’t have money to travel the world right now or if I’m not taking music lessons and blogging every day and working full time and square foot gardening and sprouting grains in my kitchen and working out. Right now my priorities are paying the bills, taking care of myself, spending time with my husband and family, having fun with my art and writing, and taking things day by day, hour by hour, moment by moment.

Wide Awake

I usually experience an opening or awakening in the springtime when my soul seems to wake up after a long troubled sleep. I see things clearly again. That didn’t happen this year. It started to. I felt a few moments of wide open clarity early on when I first saw the daffodils come up or on the first warm day, but I feel like I never really woke up. I’ve never had an awakening at this time of year, in the late fall or winter. This is usually when I feel my spirit darkening like tinted glass, when I close off and hunker down inside for a long period of deliberate unconsciousness where I try my best to ignore what’s going on around me.

Instead, I feel bright. Sure, I get tired and a little gloomy in the dark, early evenings sometimes, but most of the time I feel amazing. Something about these cold, clear days; the changing color palette; and watching the trees strip down to their essence is incredibly cleansing, as if the old ideas are becoming brittle and breaking away, leaving me sharp, clear, and wide open for the cold winds to whistle though. It’s like splash of cold water to the face to wake up in the morning.

I may feel differently in a few weeks, but right now I’m going to enjoy this. Maybe winter and I can be friends. Anything is possible.

Relearning Happiness

One of the things I’ve spent a lot of time pondering over the last few months is happiness, and how I acquired it and them seemed to lose it again. The summer of 2011 was one of the most joyful times of my life, and not because everything in my life was perfect or was working out the way I wanted it to. I’d learned how to be happy, and once that knowledge was securely in place, it was easy to maintain until some big changes knocked them loose again.

After that, I told myself I was happy. I’d learned how to be happy, hadn’t I? I only struggled with anxiety and gloominess again because it was winter, right? As soon as spring came, I’d feel that joy again. All I had to do was wait. It wasn’t my fault.

Spring came. Summer passed. I never really felt spring or summer though. I felt like it just got hot. That anxiety and gloomy mood stayed with me. As much as I lied to myself, I wasn’t happy. That joy from the previous summer didn’t return with the sun.

That’s part of the reason why I decided to put everything on hold for awhile so I could figure everything out.

After a particularly overwhelming week, I decided that I wouldn’t lie to myself anymore. I wasn’t happy, but I knew happiness was possible because I’d achieved it before. I knew it didn’t depend on what job I had, how much money we were making, or anything outside of myself because I’d been happy in far less “ideal” situations.

So how did I do it? I spend the day reading my journals from that time, rereading blog posts from the spring and summer of 2011, and reading the book that introduced me to the ideas that turned everything around. If I could learn happiness once, I could do it again.

I realized that I just had to relearn everything.

The ideas and practices that brought me happiness before, I’d taken them for granted. I thought I knew them all, so I stopped practicing what I knew. I just expected that mindset to maintain itself, and I unconsciously let it slip away.  I felt humbled, because I realized that no matter how much I think I know, I will always have to practice and relearn these things. Gratitude, positive thought patterns, trust, affirmations, love…those things are practices rather than a permanent mindset that never goes away once it’s in place.

So now I do the things I used to do. I write things I’m thankful for in my journal every single day. I use affirmations and mantras to maintain positive thought patterns. I make an effort to appreciate others. I make a conscious effort to trust that things will work themselves out instead of fear that they won’t. I feel like a beginner again, but I actually feel happy and peaceful now even though there’s a foot of snow on the ground and the sun goes down earlier every night. I have less energy for sure and I get a little gloomy in the evenings, but overall, I can honestly say that I’m happy right now.

If I’ve learned anything from this, it’s that happiness is both a choice and a practice, not a result of circumstances or luck. As humbling as that knowledge is, it’s comforting to know that I can always choose happiness.

I wish you all the joy and happiness you deserve. Have a wonderful Tuesday!

 

It’s been awhile…

This is by far the longest hiatus I’ve taken from my beloved blog. It’s been over two months since I last posted. Two months! And what a two months.

I honestly wasn’t sure if I would come back or if it was time to move on. Another website is still in the works. I’ve been doing a lot of thinking, journaling, and reading. I helped my family move away from the house I grew up in where my parents lived for almost 20 years and into a new home and a new start. I’ve been working a lot and keeping our little home running while my husband spends his life at school (no joke. Sometimes he comes home at three or four in the morning or even stays the night in the computer lab). I’ve been spending time with my friends and family, and I’ve even been taking ballet lessons!

Most of what I’ve been doing is contemplating. What do I want from my life? What do I want from my career? How can I get there? Who am I, and how can I create a life and career based on Who I Am?

I’ve asked myself these questions before, and I’m sure I will again. Everyone has to answer these questions for herself at some point, many times over.

That picture is becoming clearer in my head and I’m realizing that I need to spend less time planning and worrying, forcing, fighting, worrying about what other people want from me, and comparing myself to others and more time listening, trusting, and keeping my mind wide open and ready to receive any answers that come my way. My path has always been revealed to me when I’m ready for it and it’s easier to follow it when I trust that guidance instead of questioning it.

Several times over the past few days, the fact that my Etsy shop is empty at the moment and my blog is a ghost town has hit me hard. I’m still having plenty of insight for my own life and I’m well aware that others may need those insights, but they haven’t been making it out of my journal because I haven’t been blogging. I’ve been making art here an there, experimenting, but I don’t have a way to share it with people. I post a few pictures on Facebook, but that only gets so far. As I walked to work this morning, I thought about my poor lonely blog again. Yes, I plan to move this operation over to the new site when it’s ready, but does that mean I should stay silent in the meantime? I don’t plan to stay on Etsy for long, but does that mean I should completely close up shop?

Who knows. I’ve been running into lots of career-related snags which has gotten me into quite a mess of discouragement and I hit another one of those today. In the past, I’ve let it bother me and fester until I get so caught in my fear that I can’t move forward. Today I realized that if I want a different result, I need to have a different attitude. Instead of getting stuck, I acknowledged that this hangup is just one door closing so another can open. It’s a signpost, not a barrier. So instead of stressing out, I drew myself a hot bath and decided to listen for awhile and see if anything came to me.

Though I didn’t come up with a solution for that particular bump, I did get a very distinct message: Blog.

So here I am. I’ve dearly missed this outlet and all of my readers, so I will keep this blog going until it’s ready to move. My journals don’t feel quite complete unless I type up those entries and polish them to show to you. The insights and experiences I record for my future use and to work out my own thoughts don’t just belong to me. Those ideas are for you as well.

It’s good to be back! Let’s pick up where we left off. I’ll post when the urge comes to me and we’ll ease back into this. I’ve missed you all!

Etsy Sale!

Guess what? From now until 9pm Thursday evening, all small paintings in the Handprint Soul shop are 40% off! After the sale ends, these will no longer be available online.

I really feel like I need to clear away some of the old to make room for new things, so this is my way of sharing my art with you and clearing my channels at the same time.

All orders will be shipped next week.

View these pieces and more here.

Etsy Sale!

I had the mother of all aha moments this week. I have a new project. It’s a big one too, and I’ll tell you about it later.

When I’m about to start something new, whether it’s a new painting ,a new job, a new habit, or a new routine, I feel like I have to clear my energy. I suddenly get the urge to clean out all my closets, scrub my apartment spotless, get rid of stuff, and let go of old ideas.

So, to clear my energy for this new project, my new website, and my new adventures, I’m holding a sale in my Etsy shop.

For three days next week, beginning Tuesday at 7AM Mountain time and ending at 9PM Thursday evening, all small paintings are on sale for 40% off.

If you’ve had your eye on any of my small paintings, now is the time to scoop it up, because they will no longer be available for purchase online after this sale. You see, this is actually a closing sale. I’m closing the Etsy shop, letting go some work, and hanging onto my larger paintings for now, because I have big plans for those. The large paintings will be available again in the future, but not for awhile. If you’ve been hankering for one and just haven’t gotten around to making it yours, let me know so we can work something out!

I’m so excited for this new adventure! I promise, I’ll reveal all soon, but for now I am clearing energy.

Remember, Tuesday morning to Thursday night next week, all small paintings are 40% off in the Handprint Soul shop. 

Thank you for being such wonderful friends and readers. Blogging and creating art wouldn’t be nearly as meaningful without you.

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