Category Archives: Holidays

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!

Holi-The Festival of Colors

Every year around this time, everyone with roots in Utah will notice that his or her Facebook page is full of photos of people covered in colored dust and having a great time.

Though crowds, noise, and dancing aren’t usually my thing, this year I decided to go to the Festival of Colors, a Hindu festival celebrated

in the spring. Here we are at the Krishna Temple in Spanish Fork, Utah:

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My good friends Destinee and Kyle, all colorful.

I went with some friends who are seasoned festival attendees. That was the first time I’d actually been to that temple, and it was beautiful, especially speckled with bright colors. The temple was surrounded with peacocks and lamas and these little yak-like things called zebos. As soon as I stepped in the gates, somebody pelted me with bright yellow cornstarch. I bought three bags of neon-bright powder in hot pink, green, and a very vibrant purple. People showered us with their colors at us and we returned the favor. I got very colorful very quickly.

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I loved going on top of the temple and watching the crowd from above. Several Kirtan bands performed and the whole crowd rippled and pulsed while bright clouds rose up. I love Kirtan, but I’d never heard it live. Granted, this was spruced up a little-much more danceable than traditional Kirtan.

I’ve never been comfortable dancing in public, or at all, but I did my signature “can’t dance” dance and had a great time. People walked by and hugged me or sprinkled color over my hair. Everyone was friends with everyone.

The highlight of the festival is the “throwing”, when the entire crowd throws their colors into the air at once, which creates this beautiful, massive rainbow cloud that blocked out the sun for about thirty seconds and smells amazing. I got all kinds of ideas for colorful paintings.

I didn’t see myself until the end, but I looked pretty funny. Somehow my friends managed to stay colorful-as in, you could actually see the different colors- while I was so colorful that I’d turned completely brown! I was smiling the whole time, so the color settled into the creases and contours of my face, so I came out looking like an old lady who’d rolled in the mud.

I’m sure I’ll be cleaning purple cornstarch out of my ears for weeks, but I haven’t had so much fun in a long time. I’m going every year. If you live anywhere near Utah and can make it to the festival, I highly urge you to go. I can’t think of a more beautiful way to welcome spring.

Taking pictures was kind of hard, but I managed to glean a few decent ones from the dozens of lousy ones I got. My camera cord is permanently pink now.

For a much better idea of the festival, go to the Krishna Temple site and watch the video here.

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Yes, lots got in my mouth. That was the only part I didn't like.

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The thing I loved most about the festival was the joy. I could feel it in the air; it was a very happy place. I didn’t see any grumpy people. All kinds of people were there, from babies to the elderly. A little girl asked me for a hug so she could get color all over me. I didn’t even mind getting smashed into people during the throwing, because everyone felt like my friend. I don’t recall ever feeling like that toward strangers, but I think that’s what will keep my going back every year.

That and the colors. Oh, the colors.

Valentine’s Day: What I Love about my Best Friend

As far as I know, my husband Sam doesn’t usually read my blog, but maybe he will today. I debated about what to write for a special Valentine’s Day post, and I remembered that day years ago when I came home to find a typed list taped to the apartment door of things Sam loves about me.

Since I don’t get along with our printer very well, I’m going to make him a list here, and feel free to comment about what you love about your significant other as well!

  • I love that he makes jokes and ends up cracking himself up. It’s hilarious when he makes himself laugh.
  • If I have a craving at work, all I have to do is text him and I’ll have a treat on my desk within 30 minutes. This is a nifty “magic trick” that really impresses the other girls at work.
  • He lets me have a cat even though he hates having a litter box in the bathroom and a layer of cat hair on everything we own.
  • He loves to watch Jim Henson shows with me.
  • He gets my weirdo sense of humor.
  • He’s always up for an adventure, even when I’m not.
  • He makes sure that I loosen up and have fun when I’m so wrapped up in my responsibilities that I forget to breathe.
  • He’ll make grocery runs or start dinner so I can come straight home after work and have dinner ready.
  • I get a massage whenever I want one.
  • He ALWAYS opens my door.
  • If we share a dessert or appetizer, he always gives me the last bite.
  • He balances my panicky tendencies with his “go with the flow” attitude.
  • He never fails to make me laugh.
  • He’s the most generous person I know.
  • When I want to throw my computer out the window, he’s always there to fix it.
  • He always drives so I don’t have to. I don’t really like to drive.
  • We met when I was 15, and he saw through the awkwardness and shyness. We’ve been best friends ever since ūüôā

I hope that wasn’t nauseating for anyone.

Tell your significant other what you love about them today. If you’re single, tell the mirror. ūüôā

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Looking Forward with Hope

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Today is Groundhog Day. Today, millions of people in the Northern Hemisphere start thinking about spring if they haven’t been already.

I certainly don’t trust a rodent to predict the weather, but I’m certainly thinking about spring. It’s February. We’re well on the downhill. That means that next month is March. I’ll see daffodils next month. Even though the seasons seems to have been pushed back a month off schedule over the last few years, the days are getting longer and even though March will most likely be wintry, the flower beds will show signs of life. That special smell might even be in the air. You know the smell, that special excitement that you can’t really put your finger on. I’ve been able to trick myself into feeling that for a moment a few times this winter, when I’m high in my office at work and I can’t see the ground, only the blue sky.

I remember feeling that feeling, smelling that small for the first time after a particularly nasty winter when I was 19. I’d just moved out of my parents’ house and I was living alone. If I’d been thinking straight, I never would have done that in February. I was lonely, depressed, and stressed out about school and my upcoming wedding. There was so much snow that I couldn’t really walk around my new neighborhood because the plows had piled the snow up over the sidewalks.

Then one day in March, the sun came out. By that time, the mounds of snow on the sidewalk had melted quite a bit and I could actually walk in sneakers instead of snowboots. Mothers threw their antsy kids outside to play. Kids playing outside always sounds like summer to me. I walked outside for hours that day. I even walked to the grocery store and bought green peppers to make chicken fajitas for dinner. It was a day of hopeful joy to interrupt a winter of sliding all over icy roads and taking five classes a day in a building with no windows.

It won’t be long before that special electricity starts to spark in the air again. Six weeks, according to the rat. That isn’t long. We’ll still have snow, or at least rain for awhile. It’ll still be cold, but at least the light will come back, and the flowers will come up.

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We’re on the home stretch.

Word of 2012: Stability

Ok, I’m a little late to the party on this one, but better late that never, right? (I hate cliches, but sometimes they’re overused for a reason: they work.)

All week long I’ve read amazing posts from bloggers who have chosen a word or a theme for 2012. I’ve heard of this before and though I set intentions each year and have used mantras before, I’ve never actually chosen a word for an entire year.

So, after a few contemplative walks and some journaling, I’ve chosen my word:

Stability

This isn’t an exciting word, and I definitely considered some snazzier ones, but that’s not what I need. For the past several years of my life, many thing have felt unstable. Relationships, income, self-esteem, my body, jobs, career plans, and mental health to name a few.

That’s a rough way to live.

This word fits perfectly with my intentions for 2012, and now that I think about it, stability is what I’m seeking through those intentions: a stable income, stable moods and health, relationships, supportive habits, creative flow, and a stable career. By that I mean that this year, I want to create a stable, solid foundation for my art and writing career.

Stability. Just saying it in my mind makes me feel grounded and focused, which is exactly what I need to create this in my life.

It reminds me of this quick little collage I made several years ago when I was struggling with anxiety and panic attacks. All I wanted in the world was to feel grounded, strong, and secure.

"Take Root" 13X16 Collage

I’m actually working on a small painting version of this that I’m not planning to sell, but I promise I’ll show you when I’m done. It’s funny to look back on past artwork and see “seeds” of what I’m doing now!

Best of luck in 2012.

Intentions for 2012

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It’s that time of year again.

I thought I’d share my intentions for 2012. I like setting intentions rather than resolutions because intentions are more like mindset, purposes with which to align myself while resolutions are more like a to-do list with the accompanying guilt trip when you don’t. Who needs that?

I looked over my 2011 intentions, and my 23rd birthday intentions, and while some of my 2012 intentions are similar, they are more clear to me.

So here we go, my intentions for 2012:

  • I intend to let my creative spirit be my leader-Tara Wagner calls it “Organic Wisdom.” Laura Hollick calls it “Spirit Leadership,” and the latter rings more true for me. Either way, I intend to let my creativity lead me through life, and to give priority to my creative work. I don’t mean that I’ll blow off other important things, I just mean that I want to live with a spirit of joy and imagination outside of my studio as well as inside.
  • I intend to lay the foundation for my art and writing career-I’ve already started this by blogging and making my art available online, but I want to put my art into the community as well. I want to find a way to get paid for writing and to develop a more steady income from art sales. Of course, I want to do this in a mindset of joy and creativity rather than fear or force.
  • I intend to honor my body with the food and movement it needs-My 2011 intentions include something like this as well, and even though this is a general statement, I do have a specific action in mind for it. This includes all food and movement that honors my body, but I intend to start by adding vegetables, especially green leafies, and reducing my sugar intake. If you’ve been reading Handprint Soul for awhile, you probably know that I’m in the throws of winter blues right now, that I tend to be susceptible to depression and anxiety, and that I’ve had issues with extremely low blood sugar. Sugar makes all of these conditions worse, so even though I am certainly addicted to it on some level, I intend to break that addiction with an abundance of supporting foods, a few supplements, and healthy sweeteners such as stevia and xylitol. I’m not trying to completely eliminate sugar, just form a more sane relationship with it.
  • I intend to dive into my gospel study-I don’t really talk about my religion on this blog, but I am a member of The Church of Jesus ¬†Christ of Latter Day Saints, aka the “Mormon” church. My religion and spirituality (yes, I believe those are different things) ¬†shape my beliefs, who I am, and what I do. It’s always been a part of me. This year I want to deepen my knowledge of our doctrines and my relationship with God.
  • I intend to use money consciously and deliberately-I have a complicated relationship with money, and money management tends to stress me out. This year, I want to reprogram my mindset surrounding money as I learn to keep better track of income and spending, reduce unnecessary spending and instead spend money on things that hold real value for us. I also hope to save money for a sunny trip next winter. I don’t think it’ll happen for this winter, but maybe the act of saving for one later will make this winter a little easier. ūüôā

There you have it.

Did you set intentions, resolutions, goals, focus words, etc. for 2012? Tell me about it!

 

A New Year’s Tradition for Growth

 

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I can’t believe how fast a year can go by. The days are long, but the years are short.

Today, before I take my Christmas tree down, make a pile of dip, and scoot off to a New Year’s Eve party, I’m going to take some quiet time for a special tradition that I started on a whim last year, and hope to continue for years to come.

Since I was a teenager, I’ve enjoyed writing letters to my past and future selves. As kooky as it sounds, it really helps me with perspective, closure, goals, and self-love. You can read my letter to my 13-year-old self here and a self-love letter here. When I was 14, I wrote four letters for my future self to open and certain times: One for the end of ninth grade, one for college or high school graduation (can’t remember which), one for my wedding day, and one for the birth of my first child. That one still lives in a folder in my filing cabinet where my New Year’s letter will live for the next year.

I just read the letter I wrote to myself last year, and it’s amazing to see how far I’ve come. One year ago today, I was under a mountain of stress and beginning to feel the signs of burning out. My poor adrenal glands were pooped, my creative output was nil, and I was completely out of control around food. In fact, I just noticed that on that day, I wore the same jeans that I wear right now. They’re comfy now, but back then they fit like a sausage casing, and a few weeks later I couldn’t button them at all.

I was in a very different place, and I knew from reading that letter that I was reaching out to my future self out of desperation. I clung to the hope that the future held joy rather than the stagnation and depression I experienced. Here’s the last paragraph:

I read The 7 Habits o Highly Effective People and I imagined I met you. I don’t know if it was exactly you, but I hope you’re wiser than me. I hope you’re happier, stronger, and…I don’t want to say “better”, but I can’t think of a more accurate word. I write this because I want to somehow bridge the gap between us. I’m sure there’s quite a trek ahead of me and that you’ll be waiting for me at the other side. I’m still scared.¬†

See you there. 

When I leave you today, I’ll write a new letter. Though I have a clear vision of what I hope my life will be like in one year, I know that plans can change ¬†in an instant and nothing goes according to plan anyway. I accept whatever changes I make , welcome the opportunities and challenges of the new year, and open my mind to the lessons 2012 holds. I’ll tell my future self where I am now so that then, no matter what happens, I can see how far I’ve come. I hope to grow as much in the coming year as I have this year.

You might think this is a fabulous idea, or you might think I’m a loon. Either way, why not give the letter thing a try? If nothing else, it’s fun. It’s almost like time travel.

I am grateful for the growth and joy I’ve experienced this year and ¬†I welcome the challenges and opportunities 2012 has to offer.

Be safe tonight, and have a happy new year!

A Different Kind of Magic

Somehow it’s Christmas Eve already.

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This has been kind of a weird Christmas season for me and my family. It’d be easy to feel sad or let down because the season hasn’t been quite as “magical” as I’d hoped in a lot of ways. I never got around to making a lot of the crafts and treats I’d planned on or watched all my Christmas movies or listen to all my favorite Christmas songs. No snow yet, so it doesn’t look like Christmas. I’m also living in a new city that holds no Christmas memories for me.

But I’m not sad. It’s Christmas, and I’m with my family. It’s ok that it’s not perfect. I’m still grateful for it and I welcome this holiday season and all and all it has to offer. Fun, weird, goofy, hodge-podge, whatever.

Peace, joy, love, and fun are unconditional. 

But Christmas has a way of being magical somehow, even if we never got around to putting up Christmas lights or if there aren’t many presents under the tree.

One of my most magical Christmas memories was when I was 9 or 10. Every winter, a giant ice patch used to appear in our field. I don’t know whether Dad flooded it or if the well did it on it’s own, but that Christmas eve at sunset, I took my little brother out to slide on the ice.

The neighbors across the streets had just turned on their traditional configuration of lights, and as the sun went down, I witnessed that moment when the sky finally darkens and the lights become brighter than the last colors of the sunset. I can’t explain what happened that moment, but the air just crackled with magic.

The snow, the lights, my pink-cheeked toddler brother, and the faint echoes of Christmas music from my house filled my soul with some of the purest joy I’d ever felt. Not ¬†the kind of joy that makes you want to dance around your room laughing and giggling, but the joy that nearly brings you to your knees in sheer gratitude of being alive.

That’s the kind of joy I try to express in my art, and that’s the feeling I strive to allow into my heart each day.¬†

I wish you a holiday full  of peace and that special joy.

Winter Solstice and Winter Self-Care

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Although it’s been freezing and frosty for weeks, today is the first official day of winter, or the day the Winter Solstice occurs. Those of us in the Northern Hemisphere are the furthest we’ll ever ¬†be from the sun, that life-giving source of heat and light. ¬†Today, the gradual shortening of the days ends and many cultures around the world celebrate rebirth. Today is the shortest and darkest day of the year, and time seems to stand still as nature lies dormant. The trees have shed their leaves, the sap has frozen, the birds have migrated. All is silent.

I was going to create a painting to celebrate this special day, but my spirit and body seems to have aligned with nature because I too have slowed down. I’m ok with this, because I think it’s what my body needs.

My big goal with winter and winter blues this year is to make peace, while giving my body and spirit the best support I can. Dark days are hard for me. I’ve been fatigued and melancholy lately. Not depressed, just less enthusiastic.

I’ve also been reading all I can about the effects of winter on the body and spirit. ¬†Though it seemed a little “woo woo” at first, I’ve really come to understand the concept of yin and yang, the two complementary energies that govern the universe. Yin is slow, cool, wet, feminine energy while yang is fast, hot, dry, masculine energy. Winter is yin, while summer is yang. These two energies exist within us and we feel better when they’re balanced. Makes sense.

Today is the slowest, most yin day of the year.  During the winter, we have very little yang energy to spare and quite a bit of yin energy. This can look like we have no energy, but yin energy is just slower and more  contemplative.

In the winter, we can balance these energies by building and conserving what yang we have, and releasing excess yin. Do yin exercise, like restorative yoga and walking while avoiding strenuous yang activity like running and aerobics. Eat yang foods (warming spices like ginger, garlic, cayenne, cinnamon and tumeric) and avoid cold yin foods like cucumbers, lettuce, and mango (i.e. “summery” foods).

This concept was galvanized for me yesterday when I felt kinda bla and attempted my favorite exercise DVD, hoping to gain some energy. I made it about ten minutes in before feeling like I was going to keel over. However, I was all warmed up for a walk, so I bundled up and took a stroll around the block instead. It felt great, then I for a yummy, yang-building lunch I had eggs scrambled with onions, tumeric and garlic salt.

So instead of burning yang energy that you don’t have today, try slowing down. Trade your kickboxing class for some gentle yoga, have a spicy stir-fry for dinner, and enjoy a quiet evening rather than running around Christmas shopping, preparing for parties, or doing chores.

Take the hint from nature. This is a time to slow down, focus inward, and renew.

A Little Day to Celebrate

So, today is my half-birthday.

On my actual birthday this year, I posted a list of things I’ve learned in those years, even though I’d learned most of them in the past year. 22-23 was a year of tremendous emotional struggle and growth for me. The the six months since my birthday were much less painful, I feel I learned as much as I did in that bumpy year. In six months, I’ve gone from a mass of unorganized creativity and hope running around like a dog ¬†let out of the kennel at the end of the day, to being focused and clear. Six months ago, I was just happy to be free. Now, I have direction and I’m taking steps to lay the foundation of my creative career.

I feel that’s something to celebrate.

The most recent picture of me, and I'm very happy.

Do you celebrate, or even acknowledge your half birthdays?