Saturday, December 31, 2011

Resolving Not to Make New Year Resolutions.

I am not generally a believer in making New Year's resolutions. Yes, I believe in resolving to make ourselves, our relationships, and our lives better... I just believe that resolving these things should begin immediately. Being a natural born procrastinator, it is tempting to delay making change but why create artificial beginning and ending dates to being our best selves? However, in keeping with tradition, here are the things that I've resolved for 2012:
1) Be sure to celebrate special events! My resolution is to look for the special events that aren't marked on the calendar. I'll give "just because" gifts... just because I am thinking of that person or have seen something I know they would like... why wait for a birthday? I am now in the habit of keeping champagne chilled throughout the year... if we keep our eyes open, there are so many things to celebrate!
2) Eat a healthy diet! My mother likes to say "moderation in all things except chocolate". I've long been a believer in this theory although I discovered that it is wiser to have a moderate dose of chocolate occasionally to avoid an immoderate dose and the requisite remorse it brings. Allowing yourself to have treats once in a while is good for the soul. When you think of things are forbidden fruits, you increase their ability to entice.
3) Exercise regularly! I suspect that I am not about to renew my gym membership, but dancing to the radio (or even the tv) is still dancing. Go speed shopping at the market (try not to run over too many other shoppers though). When you aren't completely exhausted at the end of the day, take the stairs or park farther away from your destination.
4) Become more organized! I have all too often purchased the same item multiple times... too often because I can't find what I need when I need it. I've begun organizing my supplies in clear plastic boxes of an appropriate size. I have also begun labeling the non-clear boxes that house some of my larger supplies. And all those duplicates? I'm donating them to people and organizations who can make good use of them.
5) Improve my finances! Just by practicing point number 4, I can save lots of money by not purchasing multiples of the same items. In July, I made my life easier and cheaper... I took a back to school inventory while packing for the summer and shopped accordingly.
6) Make time to play! One thing I've learned in my half century or so on this planet is that you have got to take care of yourself. Having terrific health habits is negated if you don't make time to relax and do something you love. My creative time is my play time. Sometimes just taking ten minutes to stamp butterflies that will be used in cardmaking later, is just what the doctor ordered. Sometimes, just splashing some iridescent paint on a piece of white cardstock or gluing glitter on chipboard is remarkably therapeutic.
7) Be yourself! I recently looked in the mirror and didn't recognize the face that was looking back at me. It wasn't the age of that face, it was the disheveled hair and the unkempt appearance. I've never been high-maintenance, but this face was highly ignored. I realized it was symptomatic of losing sight of myself. I had gotten so bogged down by the stress of trying to make everybody happy that I was making NOBODY happy. It's time to reclaim me for my own sake and allow others to take me as I am.
8) Stop being my own biggest critic! There are enough judgmental people in the world who are delighted to point out my shortcomings... why am I helping them? It's time to toot my own horn and celebrate the strengths and weaknesses that are uniquely me.
9) Cherish friends and family more often! I am truly blessed to be surrounded by so many wonderful people who like and love me. It's time to focus my attention on them and turn down the volume on the nay-sayers. It's time to thank them frequently and let them know how much I love and appreciate them.
And so, Happy 2012! May your fondest dreams be realized by happiness, health, prosperity, and joy!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Coming Clean: part 1

I just checked my email and was THRILLED to see an email from Julie Fei-Fan Balzer. Aside from being a wonderfully talented artist, she is one of the hosts of PBS's Scrapbook Soup and for me a great source of inspiration. You see, for many years I've hidden a part of my true self being the unassuming mask of a kindergarten teacher... but deep within, there was an artist waiting to be awakened. Since I haven't blogged about this secret alter ego I suppose I should explain a few things:
Growing up, I knew I wanted to be an artist. My mother told me that even as a little kid, I would save everything to use later in my art. If someone had a box of candy, I wanted the shiny or ruffly wrappers for some then unknown purpose. I think I may have liked broken jewelry better than the 'good' stuff, because I could use it for something else. My first Barbie was merely a mannequin for outfits I could sew, knit, or weave for her.
When I went to high school I took every art class that I could get and arranged to hang out in the art room during my study halls. Because I was generally a good student, most of my non-art teachers allowed me to multi-task craft projects while in their classrooms. My poor, dear mother dreamed that I would become a doctor, but I had other ideas. I took studio art and art history classes while at the University of Connecticut and later transferred to Parson's School of Design. I finally graduated from Western Connecticut State University before they were accredited to give me a BFA, but I was sure that I would be a designer of some sort. I did some freelance graphic design for a few friends and I began knocking on doors.
Well, I wasn't very good at facing rejection and ended up waiting tables. My mother suggested that since I had a degree and since there was a national teacher shortage and since I didn't really like waiting tables, that maybe I could see about getting an emergency credential. Before I knew it, I was teaching third grade in Los Angeles. I had gone from being a wanna-be artist, to the art director of my bustling classroom. While teaching the kids to read and write and do mathematics, I was also teaching (and practicing art). Being a teacher could be an enormously creative job that largely satisfied my inner artist.