Category Archives: Seasons

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.

snow 5

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.

 

Advertisements

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.

DSC01023

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.

A Busy Summer Morning

One of my favorite things to do in the summer is to go to the Ogden Farmer’s Market with my family when I go to visit. It’s one of the busiest farmer’s markets I’ve ever been to, but Ogden is an artsy place surrounded by lots of farming communities, so there’s lots of food, animals, crafts, and art. Local restaurants like to set up booths full of amazing pastries and tamales too. The whole place smells amazing.

The market opened last week, so the whole place was jumpin’. I ate so many pastries. I had a good time taking photos. Half the time, I’ll go somewhere cool and forget to take pictures at all because I’m too busy looking, but I didn’t forget this time!

Piglets are so cute! I also got to see/pet lambs, calves, and the giant fluffy cow below. Yeah, that’s when I forgot to take pictures. Petting baby animals tends to make me forget things like that…

My little sister laughed at me because I walked straight up to the herb stands and immediately smelled the basil. Just bent right over and sniffed. Have you ever heard of cinnamon basil? Me neither, but it was there! I don’t even know what you’d do with that, but if you know, tell me!

Historic 25th Street in Ogden is full of these horses painted by local artists. I hadn’t seen this one before for some reason, but it’s probably my favorite.

I even ran into my jr. high art teacher, Ms. Green! I was so excited to tell her I was an artist now, and she didn’t act surprised at all. I took every art class she taught and spend extra time before and after school in her room working on art.

After a few hours in the sun eating pastries, sniffing basil, petting farm animals, and shopping for handmade jewelry, we cut through one of my favorite stores in Ogden: The Queen Bee. They sell games, books, art, and…fine chocolate! When I discovered this store, I thought “Oh my goodness, did someone look inside my brain and make a store just for me?!” Mom and I tried the ginger lemongrass truffle, which was amazing, and another truffle that I don’t remember the name of, but Rios was in the name.  It’s a “single origin” chocolate, which means that all the cocoa beans used to make the chocolate came from the exact same place instead of from a giant mix of beans from all over the world. This let’s the unique flavor of that location really pop out. I don’t remember where this one came from, but it was the most incredible piece of chocolate I’ve ever tried, including the amazing Aztec Gold truffle I tried last time, which was my previous favorite. It tasted almost…licorice-y, by Mom says that’s not it. I loved it.

I also found these fun little guys:

I almost bought it, but I have PLENTY of art supplies, believe me. It’s a nice little reminder though. It’s something to think about every once in awhile.

Finally, this is what an exhausted, wired, way over-stimulated shitzu looks like with a free bow from one of the vendors:

Maya usually loves the farmer’s markets, but this one was a little busy. All the farm animals, other dogs, heat, and explosions going off in the street for some reason really overwhelmed her, and she slept for the rest of the day. This is also my gorgeous 13-year-old sister, Erianne. I only have one sister, and I got to spend a lot of time with her that day.

Also, I’m going to be off having tons of fun in Lake Powell next week, so no blog posts or Facebook updates. I have lots of cool things planned for when I get back!

So I have to ask, what would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail?

Cure for a Bad Mood: A Change of Perspective

Something amazing happened on Memorial Day.

I woke up in the worst mood ever. I felt depressed and confused about pretty much everything and I almost cried through my morning walk. I got home and sat on the couch staring at the wall for a half hour or so because I couldn’t seem to bring myself to do anything else. I didn’t feel like writing, making art, reading a book, eating breakfast, or even taking a shower. The sunshine and birdsong outside didn’t even cheer me like it usually does.

It was a scary feeling because I was questioning pretty much everything. I had a good cry on the couch and then somehow fell asleep even though I’d just gotten up from a full night’s sleep less than two hours earlier.

When I woke up 45 minutes later, I felt amazing.

I didn’t notice at first, the but bad feeling was completely gone. All the confusion was gone even though nothing had gotten much clearer; it just didn’t seem as scary any more. I knew things would work out.

I made myself some breakfast, got dressed, wrote for awhile, spent some time with Sam, then walked down to the park to lay on the grass and read a book until it was time to leave for our hike.

We hiked up a canyon trail with our friends Kyle and Destinee, I don’t remember what it was called, but it was beautiful. I love hiking so much. It’s exhilarating without hammering my knees like running does, and nothing makes me feel alive like being out in nature. I climbed up to a little cliff to sit and look down the canyon at Utah Lake. Destinee didn’t climb up with us and the boys climbed a little higher, so I got to sit by myself for a few minutes before climbing up with them.

As I sat with my toes dangling over the drop-off, I wondered how I had felt to awful just a few hours ago when I felt so happy then on the cliff. Nothing else in my life had changed but me. I’ll never underestimate the power of a nap again. It’s just a shift in perspective.

I had a great memorial day. We had a great time on the hike and then we went to a cemetery to put flowers on the graves that didn’t have any.

The moral of the story: Indulgent nap+fun hike with friends+putting flowers on graves=cure for a crappy mood.

Source

Two Spring Paintings

One of my favorite parts of spring is the gorgeous blossoms! I’ve been taking tons of walks and photographing all kinds of trees in my town. Yellow, pink, purple, white, I love the colors with the new green grass and blue sky. Spring is so colorful!  It’s a nice change from the very brown winter we just had.

I made two blossom-inspired paintings, and I really love how they turned out. I had fun playing with the layer of gesso I laid on the canvas before I painted anything. I figured out how to get the gesso to crack as it dried, and I think it’s really pretty. I have another painting coming soon that’s super crackly, and it looks pretty awesome if I do say so myself. I will definitely play with this technique some more.

Here they are:

11x14 Gesso and Acrylic on Canvas

Purchase here.

11x14 Gesso and Acrylic on Canvas

Purchase here.

Both pieces are available in the shop for $85.

Have a great Monday!

New Small Painting-Time and Light

One of my favorite things about spring is the lengthening days. It’s interesting how I may feel like going to bed at 7 pm in the winter, but in the spring when it’s still light at 7, I feel like playing. Our sense of time changes right along with the light.

11X14 Acrylic on Canvas

This is now available in the small paintings section of the shop. It’s is acrylic on 11×14 stretched canvas, and the sides are painted to match the frame, so it’s ready to hang! It also features real clock hands! I love this piece so much, I’m planning to play with this idea some more and even create a large painting with this theme.

Available for purchase here, just $85.

Have a fabulous Monday!

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:

20120325-224202.jpg

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.

20120325-224247.jpg

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.

20120325-224254.jpg

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

20120325-224336.jpg

20120325-224350.jpg

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.

There is Always a Way

Nature never fails to inspire and encourage me. While out on a run/walk/stop and pet cats the other day, I noticed tiny little flowers growing through the cracks on the sidewalk.

The wisdom and perfection of nature astounds me. Even when faced with a seemingly huge obstacle (like a slab of concrete) these flowers still found a way to grow and blossom into what they were always meant to become.

I think we can take a lesson from that.

20120323-135742.jpg

20120323-135834.jpg

Spiritual Spring Cleaning

Source

I made it through another one.

Winter and I have never been on very good terms, but it feels like the last several years have been much worse. Even though I see this as a valuable challenge in my life that will ultimately help me grow stronger, I still hate winter. I hate feeling like crap in the winter. When I think of winter, I also think of lots of swear words, but I won’t write them here.

Each spring feels like a lungful of fresh air after I feel like I’ve been half-smothered for the past few months. I can’t tell you how amazing I feel when I first smell that special springy smell for the first time each year. It feels like hope, a fresh start. I feel like laughing and crying and rolling around in the grass like a maniac though the grass is still brown and there’s usually still some snow on the ground at this point.

I’m not naive enough to think that it will be all sunshine from here on out. I live in Utah, which is known for schizo weather. We might get snow, rainstorms, a tornado, who knows. It’s spring though, and that’s good enough for me.

I tend to go numb in the winter, so when spring rolls around I find it helpful to take a fresh look at my life and take stock, sort of like surveying the damage after a flood.

  • I’ve slipped back into some habits that don’t serve me like stressing out over trifles, some emotional eating, and not eating enough veggies.
  • I’ve put on about 10 pounds this winter due to aforementioned emotional eating. I’m not upset or anything, but I don’t think my body likes it much. I know that it will fall right off when I get my head back in a good place. It always does. At least my pants aren’t too big anymore.
  • My creativity lagged a little for awhile, mostly around the time I went back to work full time, but I feel like things are flowing again.
  • I’ve had time to think long and hard about my goals and priorities and I feel like I’m on the right path. I’m learning to balance goals with living in the moment, which is a rough lesson for me. I’m better at living in the past or future rather than the present, but here is all we have. It’s a beautiful skill.
  • I’m experiencing some food sensitivities and blood sugar issues again, which is a reminder to let food fade into the background rather than relying on it as a prime source of excitement or strength in my life.
  • I get to start all over on what little tan I managed to get last year. A tan for me, by the way, means that I don’t blend into the white walls in my apartment. Time to get my pasty bod back out in the sun!

Though my tone is quite snarky and slightly dry today, I actually feel extremely hopeful right now. I’m noticing that people around me seem to be perking up too. People seem to smile more, they have more energy. Spring is good for us.

Spring cleaning is always something I’ve enjoyed because I love to clear out the old stuff and feel fresh. I haven’t really made plans for spring cleaning yet, but I’ll be sure to do that soon.

What I have been thinking about is a Spiritual Spring Cleaning, in which I clear out some old ideas, habits, and mindsets that don’t suit me anymore. I’ve been noticing a lot of those things cropping up lately, and now I feel ready to shed them so I can grown. I’ve already started spontaneously, before I even knew what to call it. I’ve been instinctively writing a ton in my journal, reading through passages in my books that never meant anything to me before, listening to things that inspire me, etc. It’s like I heard a little voice in my ear that said “McKella, it’s time for you to grow.”

Now I’m doing what I need to do to find those stale mindsets that keep me stuck, question them, and then let them go.

I think I should make this my new yearly ritual.

How about you? Do you do spring cleaning? Do you have any old junk to clear out for your Spiritual Spring Cleaning?