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Art & Crafts, Mindfulness, Travel

My First Foray into Art Abandonment

I’m starting an eleven-day trip today. In anticipation of this I made little art cards from an old pack of playing cards (an idea from Nichole Rae’s book Art Journal, Art Journey), with the intention of letting them go along the way. “Art abandonment” was developed by Michael deMeng. The idea is that you make some art, attach a note to it explaining that it is up for grabs, and leave it in a public place for someone else to find. I wanted to try it because I liked the idea of scattering a little art during my travels and maybe, just maybe, adding a tiny bright spot to another person’s day.

Here’s a little sampling:

If you happen to find one of these guys or have any questions about them, please feel free to comment below.

Thanks for reading! 🙂

Art Journaling, Nature & Spirituality, Sickness & Health

Welcome, Fear

2017-06-07 Welcome, Fear dianaklein.comFear means that things are getting juicy.  It means that you are challenging the boundaries of what you thought was possible.  Fear can be a friend, a harbinger of good things to come.  Last night the fear rolled through my body and I welcomed it to tea.  I know I don’t need to be afraid of it anymore.

Nature & Spirituality

The Call of the Tree Frog

2017-06-02 The Call of the Tree FrogWe’ve had a lot of rain over the past few days, and the tree frogs are keen to mate. I love their calls in the night.  I don’t know why.  The sound reminds me of those battery-operated toy puppies that used to hop and chirp outside the Kay Bee toy store at the mall.  It should be annoying, but somehow, the optimism of life calling out to life heartens me—especially when I think of their small, glossy bodies, as perfect and fragile as if molded and glazed in porcelain.  I think of that vulnerability, that imperative to raise their voices in the dark, to be heard, no matter the risk, and I realize that what I am hearing, what is resonating in my heart, is the sound of hope.

Nature & Spirituality, Sickness & Health, Writing & Reading

The Last Week of March

2017-03-31 Embrace the magic that lives within you dianaklein.com

I am thinking that I will change my posting style on this blog a bit—to write smaller pieces, largely thoughts and vignettes from my daily life, share peaks into my art journal like the one above, and, perhaps, to post more frequently. This week, I’d like to share with you a collection of these.

On Monday, my mother and I were at Hobby Lobby and saw a sign that read:2017-03-31 Wild and Free dianaklein.com

I said, “That’s what I want to be right now.”                                                                                         She replied, “I was just thinking the same thing.”

On Tuesday, I was going through a journal I wrote when I was in Ireland and Scotland for two weeks back in 2010. I love the funny little things it reminded me of, like the Irish tour guide saying to us in regard to seatbelt wearing “It’s compulsory, but it’s your choice.”  Also, that the Australians on the tour started to call me DD, short for Deadly Diana (which, if you know how mild mannered I usually am, is pretty funny).

It got me thinking about the different nicknames I have acquired over the years.  In my childhood, Dizzy Diana (all too true, I experienced a lot of vertigo) and Doctor Diana (you had to be there), compliments of my sisters.  Sneaky Pete from a teacher in the fourth grade (I think because she thought I was cute?  Still curious about that one).  Princess D from my friends in college (they had fun imploring me to “let down my hair”).  Other than my given name, I am now most often called Nana (a mash-up of Aunt Diana)—this by my nieces and nephew and to the utter confusion of people who think of Nana as another term for Grandma.

I recently started the free daily yoga challenge on doyogawithme.com and am really enjoying the beginners’ practices even though I’ve been doing yoga on and off for some 15 years. They are slow and gentle classes that don’t cause me any muscle ache from exertion the next day, so they are perfect for me right now as I am on a self-nurturing-take-things-slow kick right now.  During one of the classes, the teacher encouraged us to feel a sense of ahimsa (a Sanskrit-derived word meaning non-violence) toward ourselves, to demur from self-criticism and negative self-talk.

I was amazed to discover that, after years of attempting to practice self-compassion, in that moment, I still felt an aversion to such a thing.  I felt, on some level, I didn’t really deserve my kindness.  I was astounded, though I probably shouldn’t have been.  But, I will keep trying.  It seems to be the only way forward.  I have recommitted myself to quelling the battles beneath this skin, amid the walls of this skull.  No doubt, I will fall off the wagon yet again and find reason to take up arms against myself, but I will keep trying, keep doing, because it is the only way to heal myself and the only way to help save the world.

So that was some of my week. What are you thinking about?  Do you want to be wild and free, too?  What nicknames have you had?  How is your struggle with self-violence going?  I’d also love to hear what you think about my new format.  Have a lovely day and thanks for reading! 🙂

 

Writing & Reading

A St. Patrick’s Day Feast of Tasty Irish Writing

2017-03-17 Christ Church Cathedral St. Patrick's Window (Dublin) | A St. Patrick's Day Feast of Tasty Irish Writing | dianaklein.com

The Gluten Free Irish Soda Bread Muffins are in the oven, so while I wait to please my gustatory senses, I thought I’d use the time to share a few yummy bits of writing—passages that feed my reader’s soul—I have found whilst reading Irish authors.  And boy, is there a plethora of delectable stuff from which to choose.

Especially from Oscar Wilde, who was nothing if not quotable. I opted for this one because it’s probably one the first from him I ever heard, and I like to think about making my diary much as this character’s is!

I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read in the train.  – Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest

This one is from A Week in Winter by Maeve Binchy—a prolific author, famous for weaving together the stories of disparate characters.  I like this one because, it’s just so true to life—and just for the sake of clarity let me tell you that Gloria is a cat and Chicky is a human.

Within seconds, Gloria appeared, looking hopeful, wound herself around Chicky’s legs, then sat down for some urgent leg-washing. – Maeve Binchy, A Week in Winter

I’ll admit that I haven’t yet had the guts to tackle James Joyce’s Ulysses, but I have enjoyed some of his short stories, including those in the collection called Dubliners.  My favorite is “The Dead” which ends with this gorgeous and haunting passage:

It had begun to snow again. He watched sleepily the flakes, silver and dark, falling obliquely against the lamplight . . . It lay thickly drifted on the crooked crosses and headstones, on the spears of the little gate, on the barren thorns. His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead.

– James Joyce, “The Dead”

Okay, so these last two—both from Eoin Colfer—best known for the Artemis Fowl series—are a bit on the course side, but I think they’re still worth reading, even if you’re not into that sort of thing. The first is from Half Moon Investigations, a delightful middle grade version of a noir detective story.  The second is from Screwed, which is, I suppose also a noir detective story, just of the adult variety.  Anyway, I absolutely love the grossly accurate description in the first one and the funny imagery in the second.  Oh, and they’re that much better if you imagine them in an Irish accent:

Unfortunately, when I say Doobie was snot-nosed, it’s not just a turn of phrase. Doobie never went anywhere without a couple of green yo-yo’s hanging from his nostrils, which he then snorted back up so hard that they wrapped around his brain.

– Eoin Colfer, Half Moon Investigations

This room has no windows and only one door, which is blocked by two buttery cops, so I’m gonna have to go through the wall.

Go through the wall?

Even thinking it sounds ridiculous. Nevertheless it’s either that or the aforementioned ball slicing. I crab roll onto the bed with just enough momentum to come to my feet.

“Hey,” burbles Fortz through the blood. “Stop! Police!”

In the words of the sweatband-wearing fuzzy legend J. McEnroe: “You cannot be serious!”

I bet McEnroe said “fucking” all the time off camera. You can just imagine it coming out of his face. – Eoin Colfer, Screwed

There are so many more wonderful Irish writers to quote (which ones do you like?), but my soda bread muffins are out of the oven and simply begging to be eaten with a steaming cup of Irish Breakfast Tea, so I’ll simply say, Happy St. Patrick’s Day and may there be many yummy books (Irish and not) in your near future!

 

Art & Crafts, Writing

My Creativity Playlist

Are You Ready Little Art Card | My Creativity Playlist | dianaklein.comI was recently going through some old mixed CDs—you know the things we made back in the dark ages before Spotify? Anyway, several of the CDs were titled with particular emotional tones like sad or contemplative, so that I could listen to them when I was in the corresponding mood.  One of the CDs I came across, however had no such label.  I gave it a listen, and remembered that it was my creativity playlist!  It’s a bunch of songs that for one reason or another made me feel encouraged to be artistic—to write, to sing, to make things.  And I realized, giving it another listen, they still do.

There’s a lot of music from the soundtrack of The Lord of Rings: The Return of the King on it which is not surprising because much of my first manuscript was written with Howard Shore’s orchestral brilliance pumping into my ears.

There’s also two songs from Stephen Sondheim’s Sundays in the Park with George—one (Move On) taken from the original cast recording of Bernadette Peters and Mandy Patinkin and the other (Putting It Together) a cover and partial rewrite by Barbra Streisand.  These tunes support me in my creative pursuits because “art isn’t easy” and even though “there’s nothing that’s not been said”, it hasn’t yet been said by me.

It’s interesting to me that there are two songs about vulnerability: BareNaked by Jennifer Love Hewitt and I’m Sensitive by Jewel, but it shouldn’t be surprising, after all, how else can you be when making and showing your stuff, if not open and vulnerable?  I particularly like Jewel’s determination to embrace her delicate senses by saying “Please be careful with me.  I’m sensitive and I’d like to stay that way.”

There’s one actual folk song (Fair and Tender Ladies sung by Rosanne Cash) and another (When Love is New by Dolly Parton and Emmy Rossum) very close to that style which, for me, always seems to get inside an emotion, but often with a sort of matter-of-fact kind of practicality that I like.  I guess some might find lyrics like “Love is pretty when love is new, like a blushing rose in a dazzling dew” and “Come all ye fair and tender ladies, take a warning how you court young men” somewhat cynical, but I find the words and the voices that sing them wonderfully evocative.

The remainder of songs are basically singer-songwriter-y. There’s Dido’s reminder that I need to grab living with both hands in Life for Rent.  And Eva Cassidy’s poignant cover of Sting’s Fields of Gold.  The drums and vocalization at the beginning of Rubén Blades’ Patria are enough to get my creative juices flowing.  And Joan Osborne’s One of Us makes me want to try look at things with God’s eyes and, to be honest, I really just love belting that chorus. That I Would Be Good by Alanis Morissette prompts me to remember my intrinsic value as a person, not for how I look or what I can do (even and especially artistically!)  And the lyric, “That I would be good, if I got and stayed sick” never fails to give me chills.

And of course, no playlist can be complete without a rousing call to action song—in this case, Defying Gravity from the musical Wicked because “Everyone deserves a chance to fly.”

Recently, I added one more song to this list: Emily Maguire’s Start Over Again—because, in most situations in life and almost always in creative ones, I find myself needing this advice “Go Slow.  Be kind.  Be wise.  Start over again.”

What about you? What music makes you feel creative?  Do you have a playlist?

Sickness & Health, Writing & Reading

Saying Yes with Shonda Rhimes

Year of Yes  Saying Yes with Shonda Rhimes | dianaklein.com

I am ridiculously late getting on the Shonda Rhimes bandwagon—about 11 years late.  I blame the TV promos for shows like Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal.  What I saw when I watched those promos is how much I was going to have to swoon over Dr. McDreamy and how often I was going to gasp at the actions of a gorgeous woman in gorgeous clothes having an affair with the president.  Those promos told me nothing of the girl power, the total badassery (it’s a word, just ask Shonda’s spell check) I would get to experience by watching those shows.  They did not tell me that I would get to see stories about people who are, like me, “dark and twisty” and loveable.  Those promos didn’t say a word about a short African-American super hero named Dr. Bailey.  They did not mention that the shows would explore the many double standards women and girls face in the workplace and at home.  Or that those shows would talk about the fact that some women don’t want children—not because they have shriveled up prune hearts, but because they want to give everything to their careers—and that’s okay. 

 

In spite of all this misinformation, one day last year, Netflix recommended Scandal to my mom, and I happened to wander in during the third episode.  The rest is . . . well, A LOT of binge watching and a lot of feeling proud and gratified that a woman is standing up in television and telling stories, in particular women’s stories, in a way they never have been told before. 

 

Suffice it to say, I enjoy her work and I had already taken to “dancing things out” (in my underwear, when necessary) when I picked up her 2015 book Year of Yes.  I got about 50 pages in before I realized that I could not keep this fabulous writing, this humor, this wisdom to myself.  I needed to read this book aloud.  I needed to hear Shonda’s personal, conversational style floating on the air, dancing like dust motes in the sunshine.  As in so many cases, my mother became my audience for this.  We laughed and cheered our way through the book.  We nodded and said, “Amen”.  We had a great time. 

 

            Much as the title states, Shonda (I use her first name in this piece not out of any kind of disrespect, but out of the sense of camaraderie I feel.  Read the book, and I think you’ll agree that Shonda would be okay with it.) finds herself committing to saying yes to everything that scares her for a year.  She’s not happy about it.  She’s not the least bit excited about it.  But she recognizes that she’s not enjoying her life and things aren’t going to get better if she does not take action.  She tells funny, touching stories about her life, her career, her family.  She talks about saying yes, and she encourages the reader—me—to say yes, too. 

 

She reminds me that the best way to handle confrontations is not to back down and crawl into a hole, but ALSO not to become aggressive.  It’s to calmly, neutrally ask what a person means by what they are saying.

 

She tells me to stop brushing off compliments as though I did nothing to merit them and instead, simply smile and say, ”Thank you”.

 

She informs me that no one is doing it all perfectly.  No one can do it all, not her, not me, not anyone.  That is not how life works.  That is an impossibility.  There is always a tradeoff.

 

She reveals to me that she has realized she had been saying yes to a detrimental nutritional lifestyle for years and that she now she is saying yes to a healthy body.

 

Suffice it to say (again), I recommend this book.  I particularly recommend enjoying it with someone else—either reading it aloud or reading it concurrently with someone with whom you can say, “Amen”.  And with whom you can laugh (I’ll never hear anyone talk about meeting their client without an inner giggle ever again). 

 

Since I started reading Year of Yes, I’ve been trying to see where in my life I need to say yes more.  In a way, it’s much more basic than that though.  It’s not really about saying yes to one particular thing or other.  It’s about saying yes to me—to all of me.  To stop thinking that I am better or worse than I am.  To be honest about what I want, what I can do, and what I am living for—to say yes to all of that.  And to follow through on being who I already am.

 

 

 

Mindfulness, Nature & Spirituality, Sickness & Health

Taking a Nice and Easy Day

2017-02-10-taking-a-nice-and-easy-day-dianaklein-com

Yesterday was a busy day.

So was the day before.

And the day before that.

Life has been piling up. Mostly it’s been good things.  It’s been me taking steps in the direction of my goals.  It’s been me investing in my family and my community.  It’s also taking care of my ailing cat (who is completely recovered now, by the way!).  And unexpectedly having to take my car to the garage.  It’s been a lot.  And, somehow, there always seems to be more.  One more thing I must do today, this week, this lifetime—just so that everything will turn out the way I want it to.  Do you hear God laughing at me right now?  Yeah, me too.

I still have several things on my to-do list for this week, but I know I’m not going to get to all of them, so I am making accommodations. For one thing, this was not the blog post I had planned for this week.  I was going to make a video and write about making art every day.  I was excited about it, but it’s too much.  A part of me says, Hey, just push through. It’s just one more thing.  Pour another cup of coffee.  You can do it!  And that part of me is right.  I probably could do it, but at the cost of becoming more energy indebted and less, well, me.  Does that make sense?  Have you  noticed that when you overextend yourself for too long that you turn into an ugly, ungrateful, wretched, slobbering monster?

Or is that just me?

Anyway, the biggest problem with my monster is that she invariably makes things worse. Every little molehill becomes Mt. Everest.  Every tiny slight becomes a gaping wound.  Every mistake becomes life-threatening.  This attitude perpetuates a cycle of unhappiness and, ultimately, under-productiveness.

A few months ago I read a blog post on Kris Carr’s website titled The Myth of Finding Your Purpose. She says it’s her most popular post of all time and I can understand why.  In it, she begs the question, “What if finding your purpose is about . . . nurturing yourself?”  At first, I felt a little perplexed by this.  How can that be a purpose? Isn’t that just something that happens when you pursue and achieve your true calling(s)?  But when I thought about it, I realized that my callings—literally, the things that call to me—are simply things I do in service to my purpose.  And my purpose is to be the best—the healthiest and happiest and kindest—version possible of this particular conglomeration of cells and spirit that my parents happened to name Diana.  My purpose is to spend as little time in the monster skin as possible.

So today, I am taking a nice and easy day. Not a vacation day.  Not a sick day.  I thought about both of these options.  I thought about not blogging, but I realized this is one of the things I do that feeds my spirit, and I didn’t want to rob myself of that.  A nice and easy day means being honest with myself about what I can and cannot accomplish.  It means not expecting too much.  It means reminding myself that even though all those things on my list seem imperative, probably none of them are actually life and death  It means going slowly, taking the most important thing first, and letting it take however long it takes.  It means remembering to breathe, to release my shoulders from their defensive stance next to my ears, and to enjoy the sunshine flowing through the window.

 

Mindfulness, Nature & Spirituality, Sickness & Health, Writing & Reading

How and Why I Give Myself a Little Credit

bear-witness-to-your-own-goodness-learni-to-give-myself-credit-dianaklein-com

Where am I losing energy? I ask myself this question a lot.  I want to know what is draining me, what is pulling me down.  I want to minimize those influences.  Sometimes these things are, partially or completely, beyond my control—doctor’s appointments, conflicts with loved ones, stores with disturbing fumes.  In these cases, I can take deep breaths.  I can take it slowly.  I can limit my exposure to necessary, but distressing situations.  But, in the end, I really just have to shrug my shoulders and go through them (Squelch! Squerch!  See last week’s post about this.)

I’ve been realizing recently though, that there is at least one way in which I am losing energy that is completely within my control. It’s the way that I talk to myself.  I know, this is not news.  Some 2500 years ago, the Buddha was warning folks that “what we think, we become”.  But I’m speaking very specifically here about my attitude toward how I am approaching any given task.  I have noticed that very often I am telling myself that I am not doing a good enough job.  The song goes a little something like this: It’s taking me too long to shop. I am paying too much for this box of granola bars.  Why can’t I write faster?  Why can’t I always make the perfect egg?  I’m not learning fast enough.  I should be making better progress.  I can’t believe I spent so much time playing games on my iPad today.  I should have been nicer to that stranger.  I should be getting more done.  I should have gone to bed earlier . . .

You get the idea. If I let it, my dissatisfaction with myself becomes a constant drone behind all my other thoughts.  It’s not fun.  And it’s been kicking my ass.  It’s been me, kicking my own ass, draining my energy, allowing my power to squirt out every which way.  Not cool.

So what’s the antidote? Well, of course, there is the wonderful practice of mindfulness in which I catch myself having these destructive thoughts and counteract them by expressing self-compassion—maybe with a hand on my heart and an internal assurance of, “It’s okay, Sweetie.”  If there are any casual observers of my behavior out there in my town, they can vouch for the fact that I have my hand on my heart, a lot.  It works. But, what if I forget?  What if my mindfulness is not working very well, and I get to the end of the day, and find that not only have I been disapproving of myself all day, but I didn’t even notice I was doing it?  Well, that’s when I get out my gold stars.  You think I’m joking.  I’m not.  gold-stars-learning-to-give-myself-credit-dianaklein-comI now have several exciting sheets of congratulatory stickers (like the ones used by kindergarten teachers) and, as I record the events of the day in my journal, I think of at least one thing I accomplished, write it down, and I plop one of those stickers down next to it.  Sometimes it’s for doing something I was scared to do—like expressing myself honestly even though I feared retribution.  But the bar is not always that high.  Sometimes I give myself a gold star for vacuuming.  Sometimes it’s for self-care, like say, napping.  You’re laughing right now.  I get it, but the truth is that if you’re like me, you do a whole bunch of things during any given day for which you give yourself no credit, whatsoever.  Why?  Because “You’re supposed to have done that.  You don’t get a gold star for brushing your teeth, or feeding your family, or hugging your kids when you’re an adult.  That’s ridiculous.” finished-productivity-stuff-learning-to-give-myself-credit-dianaklein-com I agree, one hundred percent—but ONLY, if you are asking for that gold star from someone else.  I can’t expect other people to get excited about my taking good care of myself.  I can’t expect them to reward me.  But when I acknowledge to myself the things that I am doing—even the stuff that I “should” be doing as a matter of course—I shift my self-attitude from a person who’s failing all the time, to someone who could maybe do some things better, but who is also doing a heck of a lot of things absolutely right.  And that chick, definitely has more energy than Perpetually Failing Woman.  Plus, she’s a lot more fun to be around.

P.S. If you like the opening image, you may want to follow me on Instagram or Facebook. I post new art images daily.