Art Journal

My college roommate, Alisha, is an amazing gal. I swear I don’t know when she sleeps, she does so much. Seriously. There’s a reason her blog is called Wearing Many Hats. A while back she did a lovely post on art journaling. Instantly I was in love. I am mesmerized by altered books, and I actually have seen art journals before, but never really thought about it as something so simple. Reading about her experiences with art journaling, something clicked. It doesn’t have to be super fancy art. It’s MY art journal. It’s about MY expression. Don’t over think it, just be creative.

There are always images I am drawn to for no explainable reason. This is the perfect use. Rip that bad boy out the magazine and slap it in there. Save that scrap of paper from the street fair and glue it on down. Inspired by the color on the back of a restaurant take out menu? Bam! That bad boy just became art. Damn, I am creative.

I want to share my little work in progress in hopes that it will inspire you too. If I can make art, anyone can.

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Supplies: magazine pictures, scrap book paper, sharpies to do the actual journal writing, glue, misc do dads (technical term)

I started with a spiral bound blank sketch book. Don’t google “art journal” unless you are prepared for an onslaught of beautiful, intense pieces of true art. That ain’t what you’re going to see here. I don’t need all that to be pleased with my little journal.

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Cover

I decided my art journal would be about positive and uplifting things. That’s it. Nothing special other than that. The pieces on the front reflect that. I found a really, really cool set of stickers at Michael’s that had affirmation type sayings on them. That’s one on the bottom right. What’s hard to read, but may be my favorite thing about the front is what’s in the green block. It reads, “Knowledge of what is possible is the beginning of happiness.” Deep.

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There is no right or wrong way to art journal.

The writing takes a variety of forms.

Sometimes it is prompted by an occurrence I want to explore.

Sometimes I read something motivating.

Sometimes I fill up the pages.

IMG_0499  And sometimes not so much.

I do like to use quotations to spring board writing. Sometimes that’s all I write on the entire page.

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It really is just about whatever floats my boat at the time. IMG_0500

And that’s just fine with me.

It has been very nice to explore this little corner of creativity. I find it soothing in my own little way to rip up the pictures, or to carefully cut around each intricate detail of something precise I want to preserve, and finding just the right arrangement. Of course it is always therapeutic to write, no matter the form.

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I love the intensity of these 2 pages covered with nothing but words.

My art journal is a work in progress and a tool for life progress. I encourage everyone to give it a go.

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Inside front cover

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Week One Down and Food Without Emotion

I’m about to wrap up my first week on my new wheat free/dairy free life. I’ve decided to do a total elimination of anything that registered red (above .2) on the IgG scale for the first month. I’ll start challenging in foods between .2 and .25 at that point. My doctor said values over .25 were significant so those foods are going to be a no go for a longer while.

It’s been more challenging mentally than anything I think. Now that I can’t have cheese pizza, all I want is cheese pizza. Know what I mean? In reality, there is no reason the lack of wheat or dairy should hold me back at all. I just have to stop pouting about it. Now, avoiding the dozen other foods on the list for the next month…errrrr, that agitates me already. I was in the parking lot of Juice Shop this afternoon, cash in hand, stepped out of my car, and then stopped. There was no point. I can’t eat banana for the next month. I never did get dairy in my smoothies here anyway, but without banana, it would be really thin and I don’t like that. I planned Tamle Casserole for dinner one night, even asking around about making cornbread without buttermilk…but wait, salsa is a primary ingredient. I can’t eat tomato for the next month. I wanted to pick up a KIND bar to snack on during a long meeting I have tomorrow where they serve snacks. I stood and read ingredients for-ev-er looking for one without almonds or cashews. Almonds rated over .25 and cashews are out for the next month. I settled on a blueberry one and will ignore that cashews are very low on the list of ingredients. (I’ve already decided that banana, tomato, and lettuce will be the first 3 foods I challenge back into my diet.)

My gut has felt much better. I had one incidence of burping and indigestion on Friday. I’ve kept a food diary, and will continue to do so. My suspicion is that it was my snack that morning that did it: a homemade trail mix (pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, raisins, and 2 dates). I will have to challenge each of these separately I guess. Pumpkin, sunflower, date, and grapes are all under the .2 mark on the IgG scale, so I’m not sure. Who knows. The bout of illness I had on Friday was less than what I have experienced in the past and didn’t last as long, so that is a definite victory. I have also slept immensely better in the last week than I have in a very long time, something I wasn’t expecting from this diet change but I have nothing else to which I can attribute it. I only pray that this keeps up. Insomnia was a significant problem for me. However, what has not improved, and I dare say has gotten worse, is constipation. Dr. Google says that this can be a side effect of a GF diet. Sigh. I may have to call my doctor on this one. I already had this problem, I really can’t stand to let it get worse.

On a completely separate note, I want to express the delight I have over living alone. It is quiet. Things are just the way *I* want them. Only the food I CAN eat is in the house. Did I mention that it’s quiet? With that said, there are times when I feel like I would enjoy having someone to cook for, or at least someone to converse with while I cooked. That seems to be the time I notice the emptiness of my living alone. I dirty up an entire kitchen, make a meal, set the table, and it’s just me. I say this not for sympathy, pity, and certainly not for anyone to feel the need to invite themselves over for dinner. Food and emotions were so tied together for me, as they are for so many people. Somewhere along the line I lost the desire or ability to eat when I am stressed/sad/angry/hurt/whatever. Now during those times, the thought of food literally turns my stomach. I have trouble relating anymore to people who say they find sooooooo much pleasure in food. I don’t understand. It simply does not register with me as something that is suppose to draw a level of excitement or happiness. It’s something you do so you don’t die.  So when food and eating and cooking become a life chore and activity, where does that leave emotion?

Cold Oatmeal Isn’t As Bad As It Sounds

Day One of Wheat Free/Dairy Free life and month long detox.

Anyone who knows me knows that I am not a morning person. I just need some space in the morning to get myself together before I am functional and ready to face the world. I have a tendency to sleep late. I like breakfast; I need breakfast (and soon after rising). However, I don’t like to cook breakfast, especially not when I have to hurry to be somewhere…like work.

For years I relied on cereal or sandwiches or fast food. In my real food switch I have come to love and adore plain yogurt. Especially with my homemade granola. Especially for breakfast. It is quick, easy, and ooh.soo.gooood. Alas, yogurt and I have had to part ways. I’ve tried soy yogurt and coconut yogurt and may have those on occasion. I think the big lesson I need to learn is not to have the same.freakin.thing.every.morning. Variety is good, right?

Enter Overnight Oats.

So good I ate half of it before this picture was taken. Note the digestive enzymes in the background.

So good I ate half of it before this picture was taken. Note the digestive enzymes in the background.

Frankly, the thought of cold oatmeal grossed me out. I mean, ew? I barely like the stuff hot, but cold? G-R-O-S-S. I scanned blog after blog last night looking at overnight oats. I was heartened to see that almost every one I read said they felt the same way I did. Everyone was initially skeptical but was won over with the first bowl. I figured what the heck. If it was super gross, I’d toss it out and have grits.

In my little bowl (don’t be fooled, you don’t have to have a mason jar, I used a small bowl):

1/3 cup oats
1/3 rice milk (plus an extra splash)
6 or 8 frozen raspberries and blueberries
In the morning I drizzled on just a touch of honey, because honey makes everything better.

 

 

I have to say, I really liked it. Cold oats were good. Tomorrow I might try 1/2 cup of oats and a 1/2 cup of rice milk. I was hungry mid morning. I could see this being a good thing. I could add lots of things to this. Peanut butter would be good, especially Trader Joe’s PB that’s already on the runny side. Mmmm.

I was really worried about what I would do about breakfasts. This will go in the rotation for sure. Now that summer is quickly approaching I will go back to having smoothies too. What can I thicken smoothies with other than yogurt? I can’t have banana for another month either. Banana will be in the top 3 to be challenged back into my diet (along with tomatoes and maybe lettuce).

Life Without Qualifications

“8 months sober”
-today’s facebook status

I started to qualify that with something else. I started to say something like “8 months sober. I know that’s not much, but it’s a start” or “8 months sober. I know a lot of people will see this as condescending, but I really don’t care if you drink.” Then I realized something. I don’t have to qualify my life (or my facebook status updates) for anyone. If someone wants to judge me for today’s post, than that is their problem not mine. Sure, there are other people with worse problems. Sure, there are people who will think I am being holier-than-thou about alcohol. I don’t really care. Life is what it is, straight forward. There is nothing to read into that sentence, no inference to be made, no hidden agenda, no passive aggressive message, no code words. It means what it says. It has been 8 months since I had alcohol. Anyone who tries to read more into that than is there is the one with a problem, not me. This must be what it is like to stop denigrating myself. It’s my life and I don’t have to qualify it as anything else. What an interesting concept.

Coloring on the Blank Pages of Life

When I was little I liked coloring books. Know why? Because the “art” was already laid out for you. All I had to do was pick up my crayon and color inside the lines and I had an instant masterpiece. There wasn’t any creativity or real talent involved, just fill in the blanks. Even better was color by number because those told you what colors went in what areas so it was guaranteed to come out looking just perfect. No surprise that I am still a “rule follower” personality type, huh?

I’ve come to realize that for the first time in my whole damn life I’m coloring on a blank page. And it scares the shit out of me.
Life is suppose to follow the plan:
*graduate high school…check
*go to college…check
*graduate said college…check
*get married…check
*get a Master’s Degree…check
*get a good job..check
*buy a house and get a dog…check
*have a baby and live happily ever after…oops.
The plan derailed. No mention of my big fat divorce in that plan.

My coloring book life had a misprint, but I feel like I picked the pages up and stuck them back together as best as I could at that point. I started a new book and a new outlook. This book looked a little more like connect the dots then color by number, but I was learning to be ok with that. I’ve never been one to accept change easily (and that my friends is the understatement of the year) but I had a rough idea of where I was going and I just had to work a little harder to make the picture appear.

Now that there are no more dots to connect and no more pictures to color I’m left with blank pages in my coloring book. For the first time in all of my 30 years I have no clue where I am going or what I am doing. I have a degree and a job. I have the most supportive parents on the planet. But otherwise it’s page after page after page of blank paper. I have no guidelines on where to go. A lot of people would find this really exciting, a “choose your own adventure” situation, to continue this terrible metaphor. Me? I’m scared out of my mind. I feel lost without a plan. I will let go of the anger and bitterness and resentment of not being able to connect all of those dots when I thought I was remaking my coloring book. It gets a little easier as the days pass. But the emotion looming is just the simple fear of the unknown on all those blank pages. I’m not one to travel without a map, and life is a pretty big adventure to tackle without an itinerary.

Physical Stress

I don’t deal well with stress. I never have. I was a high strung kid who became an even more high strung teenager. As an adult, I have learned to relax somewhat, but I will freely admit that I have unobtainably high standards for myself. That leads to some internal issues to say the least. I’m also highly competitive. I play to win at everything, and everything is a competition to me. I’m letting go of some of that. I really am. I am not nearly the perfectionist that I used to be, and my control issues are improving. Maybe one day I will learn to share even…maybe.

The last year has been stressful for me. My brain has really done a lot of work to deal with the emotions of all of the change I’ve been going through. I’ve come a long way. But my body, that’s another story. My body has not handled the stress well at all. I’ve had stress related health issue after stress related health issue this year. A resolved back issue has flared up more than once, migraines have come back with vengeance, insomnia, I’ve even had adult acne get worse. And than there is the GI issues: heartburn, indigestion, inability to eat without pain sometimes. I feel like I’m 100 years old. No, make that I feel like a 100 year old hypochondriac. I really don’t go to the doctor much. It’s not as if I am there for every little twinge or burp. And I do not use the internet to self-diagnose.  Everyone of the issues I’ve had is as real as the dirt on the ground and documented, except the GI (ruled that out this week. I love being poked for nothing). That’s likely psychosomatic. I accept that, but for right now it doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt and it doesn’t suck.

I try not to whine or complain. I say “I’m fine” a hell of a lot more than I mean it. But what am I suppose to do? Sure, there are plenty of days that I’m nauseous off and on or that my hands tingle from the side effects of the medications, and I seem to forget more things everyday (I’m convinced that’s a drug side effect; I can’t be that old yet!) That’s just life to me right now. I deal with it and move on. Get it together and go on. I’m not one to sit at home and feel sorry for myself either, and that’s not what this post is about either. However, it is my blog, and at the moment this is what needs to be said. I really don’t need sympathy from a lot of people. When you go through major life changes, you can tell very quickly who truly cares and who doesn’t.

Maybe what I want you to take away from this is a little perspective. Everyone is going through something. Some folks something is bigger than other folks. Some wear their pain and trials on their sleeves for everyone to see, while others tuck it inside. No matter how well you know someone, you can never know all of their something they’re going through. There are people in my life who probably think they’ve got me figured out real well and they know me pretty good. Maybe I’ve shared some of my life. But, the reality is, these people are probably very dangerous to me even though they think they are trying to help at times. So, I’m asking that you also take away a little request. Please don’t be that know-it-all friend to someone who is going though something. Maybe you know someone who had something similar or maybe it was even you. It doesn’t mean you know that person’s core. Be there for them, hold their hand, offer the occasional (read rare and well timed) advice. But don’t think you’ve been in their shoes. Compassion doesn’t include judgement. 

My physical ailments will eventually catch up to the healing that my spiritual and emotional side is doing. I’m sure of it. I’m doing my best to take care of my body. Now that I have all that off my chest, I’m off to the gym to sweat out any more negative feelings. Exercise is the best way to release whatever is bothering you. I’ll be back to optimistic shortly.

What a Long Strange Trip It’s Been

Disclaimer: I’m not sure what exactly my reasoning is behind this post. Part of me is really ashamed of what you are about to see. Part of me feels like it is way too much bragging. Part of me feels like it is really cathartic. I’m not sure. But it is all part of my journey and something I’ve been sort of mulling on for a while. So, somewhat against my better judgement, here goes nothing.

I keep seeing this motivational image on Pinterest. I’m mildly ashamed to admit that it’s from Koutney Kardashin’s website (but hey, at least I had to use Google Image to determine that).

Source: Kourtney Kardashian (don’t judge)

I feel like I’ve gone in the reverse order. Yes, I’ve lost weight. Yes, I’ve gotten stronger and gained muscles. But, as I’ve said before, I’ve always seen myself as a big girl.  You have to understand that for most of my life, I was a big girl. 

Age 18 maybe (note the irony of the subject matter of my reading material)

 

Then there’s this. This picture is actually in my kitchen right now. It use to hang in my pantry, but for now it’s just sitting on the inside of a cabinet. I have no idea what I weigh in this picture, but it’s probably over 200 pounds. It’s likely the only picture of me close to that heavy. Do you want to know what I notice about myself? My eyes. My face is so bloated that my eyes even look fat.

Age 20

By the time I was preparing to get married in 2004, I was actually starting to look seriously at my weight. I’ve yo-yoed several times between somewhere close to 200 and closer to 140. It didn’t take long for me to go from a decent sized bride (sorry, no wedding pictures, I hope you can understand) to this 2 years later:

Age 23

 

You can see by later pictures that I did get better, but was still always a “bigger” person.

Age 25

Age 26

Fast forward to the current. People keep telling me how different I look. My clothes don’t fit. But when I look in the mirror, I see the girl standing next to Cinderella: above average but not huge and can look ok in appropriately fitting clothes. Like millions of American woman, I have a highly distorted image of my body.

Then I went to the beach this weekend. I snapped a couple of quick pics with my phone thinking maybe I would stick them on facebook. When I looked at them, I almost didn’t recognize myself. The picture on the right is from 2010 (I think) and the picture on the left is from this past week.

2010 (Age 27)/ 2012 (age 29) Yes, its a different (but similar) swim suit

 

Now, it’s not the most flattering picture of me, but the difference is obvious even to me at this point. I have to accept my size. Now I get it. I’m seeing what everyone else saw weeks ago. For the 2nd time in as many weeks someone has commented on my abs. I have abs? Holy crap! I have abs!  

Very old size 14s on underneath brand new size 4s

Size 14 to a size 4. I’ve held on to those shorts “just in case” for several years. I think I might can finally let them go.