Thursday, September 21, 2017

Teaming Up With Rita Barakat

I am so excited to share some information about what I've been working on lately.  My creative world has completely pushed me out of my comfort zone as I applied to be on a design team...... and made it. I have been working with the amazing Rita Barakat.  I had to take a few minutes to share a little bit about her and show off some of my crafting projects.  Whether it's art journals, snail mail, crafty gifts or just playing with stencils and paint this line has been a blast.

This tag was made with her Magical Fairy Garden stamp set- and you can find out the details of the projects by clicking here.

The next projects I made used one of Rita's Art-Foamie desgins.  This was my first time using an art foamie type of stamp- and I love it. Using it with acrylic paint is so satisfying and such a great way to get a variety of looks with one little stamp.

You can see the steps for these projects and spark your own creativity by clicking here to read more about these projects on the Rita Barakat blog.

Finally, I sort of loving  this art journal layout, full of joy and whimsy and a sentiment of kindness.

You can read the details on this layout in this post.  I am just loving the playful and airy feel of water colors in my art journals as backgrounds.  If you haven't played around with that idea yet, what are you waiting for??? Give it a go. You'll be hooked.

And don't forget the satisfaction and beauty of this.................. another finished journal <3 p="">

Your life is worth recording and your art is worth exploring.


Monday, December 12, 2016

Journal it Out

"Isn't it mysterious to begin a new journal .......I can run my fingers through the fresh clean pages, but I cannot guess what the writing on them will be."
      ~Maud Hart Lovelace

If you follow my blog regularly (whatever that means in this day and age as blogging steps aside for Snaps and Instagram love) you know I am an avid journaler. I believe in recording life. I believe in the power of our stories and the power of our process as we take the time to record them.

I have been a journal keeper since I was a young girl.  But today I am going to introduce you to some other ideas for recording your life and spreading your creative wings.

An easy place to start is with the "Wreck This Journal" series by Keri Smith.
Each layout gives you a can follow it... or not. It is all up to interpretation.
Trust me when I say this is an addicting but easy way to start expressing your self a little more creatively. One search for Wreck This Journal on Pinterest will leave you in awe.... but don't let that stop you from starting your own. It is a place to explore and a place to get started. I highly recommend any of these books for someone making the switch from diary keeper to art journal filler. You can get this basic one on Amazon. 

An everyday art journal is also a fun, low pressure place, to explore your feelings creatively.

Right now the trend for creating collage bits takes the pressure off the need to sketch perfectly or paint something fabulous. An expressive face or gorgeous dress might be the perfect starting point for you to add a thought and play with some doodles or paint.

Layered papers, washi tape, or even smudges of a paint you like might be all the effort you have to add to an interesting photograph that helps you express something.  This is the beauty of art journaling...make a page, or part of a page, or two pages, and if you like it, great.... if you don't, move on. You don't have to show anyone and you can even go back later and change it, but in the end you have done something that honors the playful artistic part of your brain that longs to peek out and see the world.

(Side note! Because I was looking for more expressive bits to use in my own art journal, I started making pieces for myself to print, and finally put them on ETSY. Please visit my CocoGirlsArt shop for printables and more.)

Finally, my traditional journals have been a huge source of comfort and meditation for me, but I love the pretty edge and wavy page of an art I wanted to incorporate that into my everyday diary style journals as well. This is an example of how that might turn out:
Before filling the pages I will take a few minutes to add a bit of ephemera, washi tape, stamping or doodles to give my layout a little variety. Then I fill the pages with my writing as usual, but the end result is a much more colorful and beautiful book bursting with everything from pretty tags to a movie ticket.  I have loved the shift in the feel of my journals that decorating the pages has given to them.  Even though I keep a scrapbook for photos, sometimes a photo will find it's way to my pages. I enjoy the introspective nature of journaling, and it tends to be more about how I feel than it is what I did (as compared to a scrapbook recounting events).

The journaling world is a beautiful supportive place to connect with other writers and others who honor their life experiences through recording them. Search on Pinterest and Instagram for accounts that inspire you, and go from there.

Life a beautiful life.
Record it well.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

The Brilliant Strangeness of "Into The Woods"

This summer has found me spending countless hours involved in our local community's musical theater production.  The chosen show for the year was "Into The Woods", and I will admit, I knew very little about it.  As I began studying the show for auditions, and included this research once I was cast as Cinderella's Stepmother, it became very obvious from people's reactions that this show is mostly misunderstood.  Occasionally someone would say.."Oh, I really love that show", and we could have a good discussion about it. For the most part, people think the show is strange and dark, and do little beyond that to ponder what they may have just experienced.

There are many themes that weave seamlessly throughout the entire show and with all of the characters.  Parenting dilemmas,  the issue of finding contentment, the desire to live a life besides your own, and the need to properly interact and rely on each other are major life conflicts for those in the story.  It also goes where most fairy tales don't go, asking you to think about what happens when you get what you wish for.

As both Jack and Little Red are sent off into the woods (just replace 'woods' with 'world' as you listen to the story and you will start to feel the depth of the message) they are doing things their parents, by all right, should be doing. Jack is trying to salvage what he can of a living so he and his mother may survive. Little Red is visiting her grandmother who is sick.  It could be argued that both these tasks would be better suited if done by the parent.  It is also apparent by their actions and reactions to what happens to them that they were neither prepared or were they mature enough for what came to them in the woods.  While there is a lot of talk about The Big Bad Wolf and what he represents (pedophile is the most common assumption) this character can portray any kind of darkness or threat to a young adult who ventures out unprepared.  In life there are many predators that may appear "exciting and new", but in the end can truly be the demise of the person who engages it in. From addictions of all kinds, to abusive relationships, to predator type of relationships, we would be wise to teach our children about the realities of the world, instead of just sending them out and telling them to 'stay on the path". Jack also is unprepared for the temptations he faces, and his greed sets in motion a series of events which ends up causing tragic repercussions.

Another thematic element found is one of over bearing parenting. In major contrast to the Red and Jack's parents, the witch and the Stepmother both go to obsessive lengths to control their children.  From locking Rapunzel in a tower to cutting off parts of the Stepsister's feet, these mothers are determined to control the outcome of their children's lives. By the way..... this technique also fails miserably.  (Children can only grow, from something you love to something you lose....)  In the end even the cold Stepmother realizes she is of no help to the kingdom in fighting for peace and ends up hiding from the woods. The witch's desperate need to control Rapunzel and salvage her own image also comes at an extremely high price, leaving her with no powers and no family in the end.

Another family issue is trying to undo the damage done by those we follow. Our own parents, and even our ancestors, have done things that indeed define us- and our need to break free from that can also come at a price.

In Cinderella and the childless Baker and his wife we see the underlying desire to wish for more than what we have.  We wish for things from a far and are convinced that these things will finally bring us happiness.  Often times, the things we wish for have consequences and come layered with both good and bad realities. (Careful the things you wish, wishes come true..... not free.... ) The woods (world) is enticing for a lot of reasons. We cross paths and help others get their wishes. We are sometimes put in situations that contribute to or own arrogance, we sometimes do things thinking it only effects our self, when in the end it can cause ripple effects that disturb many.

Sadly the movie version pulled some of the musical numbers from the score.  While it is a beautiful portrayal of the story, in doing so a major point is missed. The Baker and his father sing one of the most touching songs of the show, in what becomes somewhat of a turning point. At some point "fighting" must be overcome and we must surrender to our lives. (Can't we just pursue our lives, with our children and our wives?) We must unite with those we travel with and use our unique gifts to bring success into our lives.  We must recognize the value of the people in our lives (again, several characters do not realize what they have until they lose it) and work together, find contentment, and find joy in what we currently have.

Finally, in the closing ballad, what I believe to be the most critical message is delivered with beauty and courage.  The remaining characters, who have all experienced betrayal and loss in many forms, encourage each other with the incredible message that No one is alone. They are preparing to face their battle and handle their obstacle head on.  They are realizing things are not always as cut and dry as we may think, and they are realizing that in spite of tragedy they have beautiful lives to live.

The show is also peppered with amazing moments of humor, exaggerated characterization, and plenty of occasions to just have a good time ("Agony" sung by the frustrated princes is the perfect example of this). But in the midst of the laughter, the strangeness, and the quirky musical dialogue, if you are looking you will see that this is show that packs a punch with multiple messages.  It is far more than just a 'twisted fairy tale".  It is an amazing look at the human nature of us all and the messes we can get ourselves in...but ultimately it is a tribute to  the fact that sooner or later we find ways to triumph.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

How Your Assumptions About Medication Hurt Us All

I am not sure how it has happened, but somewhere along the line of today's views of medication, the world of mental illness has taken a hit.  I have wondered if I missed the boat on this, if sometime back meds were different and had a reason to feared, or worse, hated.  For some reason I always believed myself that medication was 'bad'.  I don't know how that was ingrained into my psyche or if it was taught, or just assumed, but it seems like medication for a mental need is treated much differently than the rest of the body.

Have you ever rolled your eyes at someone who needed medication for their cancer?  Have you ever wondered if someone was 'faking it' for attention if they needed medication for their heart? Or did you tell someone with diabetes to 'think positive' and skip the insulin? Of course not! But these are reactions that happen all the time in the field of mental health, and these reactions are hurting all of us.

Let me clear a few things up, because I have battled depression for close to 30 years, and some years were harder than others, some episodes simply didn't clear until I relied on my doctor and medication.  In fact, I am sure it has saved my life a number of times.

Anti-depressants are not 'uppers'.
I am not a doctor so I am not going to go into the explanations  (you can Google it when you are done here), but there is something physically different in the brain of someone with mental illness. It can be serotonin uptake or a problem with neurotransmitters or maybe something else, but it is REAL and it usually doesn't just go away.  In fact, one person I talked to who works for a pharmaceutical testing company told me anti-depressants won't help you if you are not struggling with some of these issues in the brain. So if you are sad after a death taking an anti-depressant most likely will not help you. However, if you do take an anti-depressant and you notice things looking better for you, chances are your brain physically had something going on. It's not like speed and it doesn't make you weird. Let's get that notion cleared up.

Anti-depressants do not make you void of emotions.
Someone close to me once said they were afraid if they went on medication they wouldn't have spiritual experiences any more.  I have heard people say they were afraid they wouldn't be able to feel anything if they went on a med.  Some people start meds and are shocked to learn they still have bad days and feel a little depressed occasionally. All of these ideas are misconceptions society has picked up along the way.

 Your soul is still in tact, your heart still beats, you still get excited and disappointed. Sure, it may not be a disappointment to the extreme (like a depressed person might be used to) but bad days can still happen.  In my life I still feel like ME- just a better, less-reactionary me.  I can observe my worthless feeling and let it go, reminding myself of the good around me.  I can have a thought of death enter my mind and SEE IT, and have the mental power to deal with it in a healthy way.  I cry if I'm sad.  I laugh when I am happy.  I feel things every day.

Staying on medication is not a sign of weakness. 
This one I wish I could shout from the rooftops: "If you need medication, stay on it!"  Too many people take their medication and 'feel okay', and tell themselves "I can go off this now".  I have felt the shame in admitting I take a medication, and I have had times when I didn't speak up when someone else was bad mouthing prescriptions around me. (Keep in mind, I am in the field of alternative healing, so I hear this all time.) I feel like I am aware of this general feeling that medication for depression, anxiety, ADHD and the likes has become a dirty secret, and because of that parents want to pull their kids off the first chance  they get, and adults want to stop taking their prescription at first sign of normalcy so they can quietly slip back into the world of the healthy, non-medicated society. This assumption is probably the most dangerous of them all.

 First of all, there is a reason you started medication and a reason it worked. There is a physical need here, and because of our shortsightedness we forget that.  If you are in this situation please reflect on what urged you to actively treat your illness, and honor that.

Secondly, pulling yourself off meds is risky and dangerous.  More risky and dangerous than people are willing to talk about (and they should be talking about it more).  It should be treated as seriously as the heart, diabetic, or blood pressure medication. Please, please, please, don't just go off  'cold turkey' and wreak that havoc on your brain. It can cause chemical changes, relapses in extreme thoughts, and even withdrawal symptoms that affect the brain.  Again, I am not going into the science of it, but it is real. I am in awe of how embarrassed people are in regards to medication for mental illness. The need to hurry and be done with it is palpable. I don't understand how society has created a scenario where every illness is acceptable except for the one that deals with our most precious and vital  working part. If we lose our brains we lose everything. I get it, because I feel it. It is a real stigma and chances are at one time or another in your life you have said or reacted in a way that added to this stigma.  That is the tragedy of it.

While it's true that medication can be a temporary thing and does not have to be a life sentence, any change in dosage or phasing out of it should be done under the care of your doctor and with lots of help and support from those around you. It is not a luxury, it is a necessity.

I have tried to be braver in my conversations about my mental illness. I have started telling people how I treat it, talking about it more, and sharing my experiences with a little more courage.  I'll admit, I have contributed to this stigma most my life through my fear to speak up and speak out.  As long as those who deal with mental illness are ashamed of it, and those who don't deal with mental illness give them reasons to be ashamed, our society will continue to see the rise in suicide and other erratic behaviors.  I just happen to believe we are all to caring and all to connected to let that happen.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Young Women Lesson- Your Happily Ever After

This lesson is a great one, one that I feel our Young Women (and grown women, for that matter) really can't get enough of.  I started with the talk "Your Happily Ever After" by Elder Uchtdorf. I decided to print one up for each of the girls, if time permitted we would read various paragraphs from it, letting the girls then discuss each section.  Please go HERE on for the talk in it's entire form. If you want to print it you can also do that right from the page there.  I decided to cut and copy the talk, adding clip art to the title.

Discussion topics from the talk: (list their answers on the board, letting the girls see each others responses and giving them time to expound on one another's input)
What are some of the trials you are currently having to face? 

What things require patience to endure at this time in your life? 

What are things you can use to stay true to your divine destiny and remember who you are?

What gospel truths have helped you in your journey?

Our group was particularly interested in this lesson- and I was able to get a copy of the book that was made of this wonderful talk, so I had highlighted a few passages that I wanted to read.  

I found the girls to really enjoy the story of Elder Uchtdorf winning over his wife's affection during their early courtship, and the book has some photos that helped make the story more personal and real.  You can order the book from Deseret Book.   

 By the time I read the passages chosen to fit my class needs and we answered the questions above, we were out of time.  I added of course my journey of finding and working for my "Happily Ever After" (emphasizing of course, this is a life long journey. As long as we are alive we will be tested and swing back and forth between joys and sorrows). 

 I wanted to make 'wedding mints' (the melted chocolates in the temple molds) but wasn't able to get the supplies in time. Instead, I went with "Temple" and heart sugar cookies, which were a hit. The girls walked away with the following:

You can get this cookie cutter HERE from  Also, click HERE for my foolproof and favorite sugar cookie recipe. Trust me...... yum.  

We could have spent more time on this, making it an option for a New Beginnings or Girls Camp class if you are looking for ideas for that as well. I hope these resources help you put together a presentation you are happy with as we reach out to these girls, one lesson at a time. 

temple silhouette if desired  for talk header, matching cookie shape

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Why You Didn't Know Your Friend Was Depressed

Most of us have had it happen....the conversation that reveals someone we know, possibly love even, battles depression and we didn't know it.  We think to ourselves...."but they seem so happy!" or ...."they are so fun to be around!"  and the news doesn't compute with what we know of that person.  I have chosen these statements because they are statements that have been said to me, when I was finally brave enough to tell someone that I have struggled with clinical depression for most of my life. I have even been surprised by the number of people I know who fight a similar battle, and I never would have guessed.  Here are a few reasons why the revelation of clinical depression takes us by surprise, as I have experienced in my life.

1-) Episodes of depression come and go.
I have gone as long as 2 years without serious bouts of depression hitting me.  I was naive enough (hopeful, maybe?) to believe I had been cured.  But it returned when I least expected it.  Most of my life has been a roller coaster of 'emotional times' and 'stable times', and when I was younger I just told myself I was a 'sensitive' person.  It wasn't until a doctor pushed for more information and I researched on my own that I realized I had all the major signs and symptoms of depression and had battled with them most of my life. So yes, it does come and go, and if you catch me on an "up" there would be no reason to suspect I could have ever had a brush with mental illness.  As I have matured I have also realized there are definite triggers, and the response to them is very real and very dramatic, but outside of that there is little reason to discuss my illness.

2-) Depression mimics (although it is in an unhealthy amount) normal emotions. 
Let me speak plainly.....if you do not suffer from clinical depression, you will have a hard time relating the reality being experienced by someone who does.  A crying fit to you may be the sign of a bad day, to someone with depression it may be the explosion that is expressing complete worthlessness and despair.  Retreating to your room in frustration to you may be a way to cool down, to someone with depression it may the start of withdrawal that begins an emotional downward spiral. Declining a social invitation for you may mean you need some quiet the person with depression, it is a way to avoid contact and remain in the darkness being experienced.  You are seeing the tip of the iceberg in the depressed person, and you have no idea there is mass hiding below the waters because for you there never has been the bitterness of cold, frigid ice. Trust them when they try to tell you they feel depressed.

3-) They are living functioning and contributing lives.
Again with the iceberg analogy...... you see the tip of the life they present.  Sure, you may see the warning signs you have read so diligently about, like weight changes or withdrawal, but for the most part the times in my life when I have been most depressed I have also still functioned well.  I have showered, curled my hair, ran my kids from place to place, even lunched and laughed with my friends.  I can't say why I don't usually completely shut down, I just never did.  I don't know if I function out of habit or out of hope, but I do.  I rarely wallowed in my filth and let my life fall apart.  As a matter of fact, when my real battles with depression and death idealizing began I was in school, an honor student, singing the theme song for prom and cheering at the school basketball game.  But the clouds still rolled in and I didn't want anyone to know. So I lived and suffered mostly in private.

4-) The person you know with depression doesn't want you to know they have it.
Depression is extremely easy to downplay.  A quick little "that was a rough time for me..." or "I am struggling with that" is usually all I have to tell someone who is checking up on me after an emotional battle.  People are understanding when it comes to struggles.  What they don't understand, however, is real depression.  Telling someone you are struggling with serious doubts about the worth of your own life, or if you have the strength to face one more day, is a huge risk.  Not all are created equal when it comes to this news.  I have lost a friend or two who I knew just couldn't face the storms with me. And I don't blame them, it's not fun, and it's not easy.  It's even harder if you weren't aware of the problem (see opening paragraph), thus, we learn to hide it.  It's safer that way (not in reality, but we see safety in hiding) so we pick and choose very carefully who we tell, if we tell anyone at all.  In my experience, even upon the telling of our illness we will downplay it.  We desperately want to avoid the stigma, we want to be normal and we desperately want to be helped.  We just don't dare say those things out loud.

Because of the perceived risk in revealing this news, too many people suffer in silence.  Too many pull themselves together to face the world, but alone at home they crumble in shame, guilt, and agonizing pain.  The pain is the worst part of it, and while feeling it you are sure this is the only way you have felt and the only way you will ever feel again.  That is why ending the charade is so important.  As I have become more open about my illness, with my husband, my doctors, my church friends and even my siblings, it is easier to win the battles.  The storms still roll in, but I have many willing hands ready to hold an umbrella for me until it passes.  That is why if you find out someone you know and love has depression your reaction will make a difference, and it is why if you are struggling with mental illness you must take down your mask.

 When we work together, we can win these fights.

Please note, I am not a doctor and this is not medical advice.
I just want to share experiences that may help you relate and support someone you know.
  Please reach out (even anonymously) if you are struggling with thoughts of self-harm, or keep this number for someone you know.

Suicide Prevention line 1-800-273-8255
or text the word "go" to 741-741

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Mom's Art Journal

I have mentioned in the past how journaling and art journaling have sometimes saved the sanity of this mama.
Two summers ago I attended my first class in a studio setting, with 11 other women looking for ways to creatively express themselves.  We started art journals that day, and I recently finished my own little project.

Here are my best tips about art journaling for those who may be stuck, haven't finished one yet, or are thinking of starting an art journal.

Juicy Soul art journal 

Don't worry too much about the book you use.  
I bought a spiral bound art book that has very thick pages, but truth be told I found the pages were a little too hefty at times. You can choose to embellish the covers (like top journal here) or leave them blank and smudged with the drippings of your works (like the middle gray cover that is barely peeking out).  Honestly, it will be easiest just find something you like the look and feel of.

Don't worry too much about page prep. 
 You can find a variety of opinions on page prep. Some people gesso pages, some people glue in other paint grade papers, some people leave everything as it is.  The most important thing I learned was that the page needs to be thick enough for supporting your layers of art.  If you are using a thinner page (like some moleskin journals or even just old books) a little Elmers glue or other paper bonding agent  of your choice is a great way to double pages up.  Just glue them together so each page is actually two pages glued together. Do this a few days before you start working in the journal, giving it time to dry.

Get something on that page. 
 Don't stare at the blank page for too long.  Slap down some color, stick on some washi or masking tape, or glue down some strips or torn paper....just cover up the blankness and go from there.  I have started some pages with the end in mind, and worked to make it happen, but usually I just start layering stuff I like, and building on that.  This is where it gets more creative and frankly, a little more therapeutic, as you just let yourself go without too many expectations.

mixed media background

Layered paper, drips of paint, acrylic sprays and stencils can just be used over and over until you get something you find interesting. The goal is to cover that blank page and freely start playing.  Sometimes the backgrounds are my absolute favorite part of the whole piece.  Sometimes I don't like how they end up, but that is beauty of working in an art journal- you are seeing what you like, what makes you happy, and what techniques you don't care for.  It is almost like a lesson manual for your creative time, because you are learning what your are comfortable with- and because you aren't swapping with any one else you really can be a little more free and expressive.

Put something you love on every page. 
This is where I usually get the most satisfaction from my journals.  I tend to be visual, enjoying interesting stamps or images, and so making them work on my page is what I find the most fun.

Lovely Life mixed media art journal page

Because I have a slight obsession with pretty phrases and inspiring quotes, I like to find ways to use them on my journal pages as well. 
Religious quote art journal page

Fill it with lots of small elements you are drawn too, and in the end you will have a nice variety of images that show the moods you had, as well the new things you tried creatively.  

Expressing myself on a bad day

Mixed Media art journal layout - Life as a Gift
Remember to take baby steps.
My first filled art journal took a year to finish.  I did other things on the side and sometimes didn't even open it for months.  Most days, I would sit down and throw one or two elements on, then walk away for a day or two.  Occasionally I would hunker down and do an entire layout while the boys all watched  a football game or on a  night when the house was empty, but even at that a good half hour at your table will make a lot of progress.  Find little bites of time and use them.  Put down the phone, don't check Facebook again- and sit down with the things you bought with the best of intentions to create with. (speaking from experience). It will add up to something beautiful.

Stencils, paint, printed images and stickers for this mixed media layout

If you don't like something- just push past it.
This is a hard one. We see gorgeous pictures on blogs (believe me, these are carefully picked!) and Pinterest and scoff at our own works.  Don't dwell on pages you hate.  Sometimes you may be inspired to go back and add stuff later, sometimes you will just flip past it quickly and be glad you learned that lesson. Either option is okay, and pushes you as someone who is trying to make pretty stuff. Keep going.

Luckily we live in a world of You Tube and Pinterest and there are more tutorials than you can dream of.  This is great for getting exposure to new things and seeing how other creative people use their supplies and make their pages.  I enjoy an occasional splurge on an Art Journaling magazine or book, and love the results I get when I learn from those sources as well. This is a pretty sight after only a 14 months of playing around in the art journal world;
Art journals and penpal smashbook

It probably sounds silly, but these artsy journals, smashbooks of creativity, are like  little peeks into myself, and they make me very happy. If you haven't started an art journal now is a great time to just make one little background. Use what you have- acrylic paint, magazines, favorite photos- WHATEVER- just start throwing something together.  If you started one already but have neglected it find a few minutes to dig it out and revisit it.  Put a little but of YOU down on paper.  I am sharing my entire journal flip through below.  

Leave a link in the comments to your images and pieces you have made.
And keep going. 

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Real Life Depression

I have had a little voice nagging me lately to share some of my personal thoughts about depression.  I have light-heartedly referred to it in the past, and most of those close to me have heard me discuss it, but I have never really publicly opened up about the struggle I have had off and on throughout most of my adult life with depression.

Just over a month ago someone close to one of my children committed suicide.  We cried. We talked about it. We went to the funeral...... and the years I have spent drifting above the spell of depression started to come to a screeching halt as that experience rocked my world.  It seemed ridiculous that it would trigger such a response, but it did.  Now that the clouds have somewhat lifted from that fall (although I cried about that funeral and that dear teenager who is now gone this very morning) the nagging is back.
You need to share this. 
So here is some sharing.

I am a survivor of depression.  This is what it looked like for me:
crying spells that lasted for days - thinking about death and imagining floating above my own funeral - thinking of all the ways I was a bad person - thinking about my shortcomings, my fights with people, my weight, my looks, my failures as a mother - attempting on several occasions suicide (although never successful and in retrospect I see these more as expressions but not true attempts) - telling myself and people around me things would be better if I was gone - losing energy to get dressed or get up - and more....
 in the midst of all of this I acted fairly normal around others.

In the midst of all of this I also stayed spiritual and consider myself to be pretty devout in my religion.

This is the strange thing..... it wasn't a lack of faith that triggered these episodes, which occurred on and off for over 20 years.  I have faith. I love my Savior and Heavenly Father.  But depression is different than that- it is like the riptide current of a beautiful ocean- just waiting for you to wade in too deeply and so it can pull you under.  It is sneaky and it is constant and you can not just shake it off.  I validate and understand this about the disease.  HOWEVER there are things you can do to fight the riptides depression.

For me, a year and a half on medication did wonders.  It took two tries to find one that worked well, but the right one was what I needed for a particular battle I was having a hard time overcoming. After some time on it, I lived off it again, and then after a relapse I got back on. It can be a lifesaver, so pay attention if you think you need that help. Whether or not you are on medication the following things also helped me cope and endure my hard falls with depression.

1-) Realize hard times and sad thoughts are NORMAL and they are part of life.   Here's the reality- life is fair in that it is unfair to everyone.  The self talking that says your struggles are harder than other people's struggles is just a lie.  Life is supposed to be hard- it is a wonderful, brilliant learning ground for our souls, and would be ineffective if everything came easy. Stop telling yourself that your life is harder than anyone else's!   A better thought -
" this is a struggle for me right now.  I acknowledge it is hard, and that is okay."
Acceptance is a huge part of the journey. Resistance adds to the pain you are experiencing.  You hurt. You are disappointed.  You have had awful things happen. Welcome to life. Beauty is just around the corner....I promise.

2-) Escape into an uplifting and healthy activity.    There is a need to do things that make your heart sing and your soul happy.  Find those things, or if you used to have hobbies revisit them.  Spirituality is a big one for me, attending my church services and temple worship, plus home study of scriptures and gospel topics.  Art is another one- playing in paint and expressing myself on paper.  I also am an avid reader, a part-time (slow) runner, and letter writer.  All of these are good activities and many of them connect me with other people. Be wise and disciplined here.... video gaming alone (or on your phone), marathon Netflix watching and sad movie watching is not going to be uplifting or healthy.  Cutting, drug use, or alcohol use may feel like an escape, but these things are addicting and incredibly dangerous.  You want to heal, not get worse. The point is to do something that helps you celebrate life and makes you happy. I am sure we could talk about endorphins here, but really.....if it works the science behind it is just a side note.  Find something good to do and do it!

3-) Trust in God's timing.   I was a happy child.  Depression struck me smack dab alongside puberty.  Around 40 some issues in our family hit, and while dealing with those my depression literally subsided.  I am not going to go into details here, but suffice it to say some very spiritual experiences and sacred moments seemed to wash me, as they can you, and the obsession with death was completely taken out of my thinking patterns, almost 30 years after they were planted there.  Recently it has snuck back into my life, and I have had to be honest that this is an illness that most likely will come and go throughout my walk on earth.  I don't understand this and I can't give you a formula for success, but I can tell you this- one day all of us will be healed from our afflictions.  Peace will be more abundant if you are open, patient, and trusting in the will and timing of our God.  His timing is one of the hardest things for us to surrender to, but His timing is perfect.

In my journals I often reflect on 'highlights' of the past week or month.  While individual trials seem hard and certain days feel long, I am amazed by the sweetness of life.  When I take time to write down the magical, simple, and happy  moments I have had I am just overcome with the gratitude of a full life, a real life, and the chance I have to experience it.  I do this often now, and it instantly fills my heart with joy and makes me feel a little closer to heaven.

I hope something I have written speaks to someone out there.  I have no idea who you are, where you are, or how you are even coming to this blog- but it is for a reason.

God is aware of you.
Everything is going to be okay.
Keep fighting and never, ever, ever give up.

go here for inspiring thoughts and insight
Sitting on the Bench - thoughts on suicide prevention
Hear LDS leader Jeffrey Holland speak with power and truth about depression HERE
Suicide prevention - go here to chat, read, or call someone for help

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Vision Boards - Young Women activity

It is difficult as a leader to find activity ideas that fit the criteria we run on. Inexpensive, fun, meaningful, but good for uniting us as a group.  This activity works for all of those reasons, and was surprisingly a big hit with the girls too.

Lots of magazines, junk mail flyers and catalogs for cutting up
Glue Sticks
Scissors for each girl
Markers and any embellishments you like (stickers, journal cards, washi tape)
Poster or Paper to mount the collage on

Growing up me and my sisters would make what we called a "Goal Poster". A collage of goals and dreams and things we found pretty and personalized to our hopes.  I remember a poster of mine and happily realize I have completed those things that were only a dream to me as a youth.  This concept, of setting goals and working towards our dreams, is especially important to the our youth.  They will not end up with the dreams they have unless they fill their minds with those ends, thus spurring action.

We met at the church, but this would be great at girls camp or even an overnight retreat. As leaders we shared thoughts on the importance of setting goals.  This is a great talk you can refer to on why we simply MUST take control of our thoughts and put positive images there. (you'll remember the quote "Don't do dumb things with your smart phone" from this address).  It was given by Randall Ridd, and just a few thoughts from it will serve your purpose.

I printed up the following and handed it out to each girl and asked them to include it on their collage.
(Just right click and save, then use in your choice of document printer)

We also read from Preach My Gospel, where you will find great tips on goal setting on page 146.  With a short personal message on truly working for what we want we also handed out the following handout. 
"Don't give up what you want in life for something you think you want now"

Next, begin the search your magazine stash for images that reflect what you want in your life.  This can include words, phrases, pictures, and we even used scrapbook journaling cards for the girls to list and write on.  If you have more time you can fill a poster board (I would suggest cutting it in half) but we used 12 x 12 scrapbook paper.
Here is what mine looked like. (YES-do this with your girls!)

A couple of pointers; look for smaller images, and have a wide variety of magazines to flip through.  Include church magazines, fitness, home and garden, etc- even if it isn't something the girls are obsessed with right now, if it pertains to their future they will appreciate those pictures.  I was so impressed and humbled by the things the girls were picking to included on their vision boards.  Also, refrain from coaching them at all unless they ask for your opinion. An article on David Archuletta was found and it created a frenzy of cutting and gluing....well, I loved that.  There are certainly worse picks for girls to dream about falling in love with, right? (Funny enough, when we got in the car to leave his song came on the radio right at that moment. Proof to me that the universe has an incredible sense of humor!)

We just used glue sticks, but had scissors for every girl and lots of markers for their use.  This project can take longer than you might guess, because as the girls find things they love they will share their dreams with each other. This is probably my favorite part of the project.

Encourage them to hang them where they can see them every day and ask them to ponder what they are doing to work towards the desires of their heart. 

From one of my girls, the night of our activity

One of my cute girls shared her photo in front of her mini-poster on her wall. It included books, a guitar, the Manti Temple, and other small pictures (and a big cut out of David A) that interested her.  She was excited about it,and anxious to hang it up in her bedroom.  I believe it is very validating (and challenging) to really think about what we want out of life.

Hopefully this is an activity that you can use and benefit from. Keep living your dreams and enjoy the desires of your heart.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

After the Extensions

It has been a year and half since I added extensions to my hair.  I had a weft sewn in (a weave) for about 5 months, and then I switched to the Babe Tape-In extensions and had the same hair in for  a little over a year.
It was true love with my long locks.
I have never had hair this long, and certainly never had hair thick enough to look this long- or cute in messy bun, or pony-tail.  Let's face it, long hair is just PRETTY!

But this summer I was getting antsy over my hair.  The tape wasn't working well so I needed to invest in more hair, but wasn't sure I wanted to do it.  My ever patient and super flexible hair-dresser said "just take them out, and if you miss them put them back later."  Oh. Yeah. Easy peesy.  Why do we get so dramatic over our hair?

So with a slip of adhesive release and a few tangles to untangle I was extension free.  I had them in for 18 months, so my hair hadn't been cut in that long.  You can remember my short bob from this post.  I was struggling to grow it out.

We added ombres because I love them (especially for summer) and this was me on the drive home from my salon visit.

I was absolutely shocked at how long my hair looked, even with the extensions gone.
Here is another shot I took after coming home and re-doing my hair (gotta make sure I can re-create the style on my own!)

In spite of the weird lighting in this picture I really do love the way my hair looks now.  We barely trimmed up a few straggly ends, so it is still a little bit asymmetrical and a long, long A-line.  I like it. Here is a shot of the back. 

Again, just refer to my former pictures and you will see- this is a LOT of growth for 18 months.  If you are seriously in a rut growing out your hair get some good extensions and just give your hair a year or so to do it's thing.  I think the thickness helps protects it and let's that length add up nicely.  The best part is now I may just stick with my own hair and forget the extensions.  

It is so fast to wash and style my hair now, and it is easier to manage when styling.  I lost the thick, glamorous look, but I really am happy with this length and style for now.  You also can't beat the money saved (extensions add up, you know) that I feel like I can spend on other goodies in my life. So for now my love affair with my extensions has come to end, but I think back on them with fondness and will always love them for the time we had. <3 div="" nbsp="">

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Notes From a Massage Therapist

If you like massages you've been there. Slipping into what should be the most relaxing hour of your day and suddenly worrying.... Are my legs hairy? Do I stink?  Do I look fat today?

Well....let me share a few little secrets with you from the mind of a massage therapist.
I have been massaging for over 12 years now (and discussing massage that long with fellow therapists) and I can give you a pretty good idea of how our brains work.
Usually- and ideally, they don't work at all.  Let me explain.

Every therapist has a rhythm, or a flow to their work.  Their brain shuts off, they tune into your energy, and they instinctively find what you need and work it out, within their realm of practice.  I swear, I have never, I repeat never started working on a leg or calf and thought to myself ,"wow, she needs to shave." NEVER.  I am thinking "here is a tight spot, this feels fine, I need to watch the clock so I can work extra on the neck...." etc. I have oil, I work on men. A few little whiskers aren't even noticeable. (I have clients that wax and grow their hair out- same story. No big deal.) So relax.

Also- you DO NOT look fat.  The lighting is low, you are laying comfortably (no gravity working against your legs or back) your body is stretched perfectly.  Forget about it.  There is no cellulite to see or dimples to notice. Get over yourself and RELAX.

A normal day will not leave you stinky enough to even notice any body odors going on.  If your therapist uses essential oils (I do on every client) the air really is freshened and scented and you are fine.  Only ONCE in my many years of working did somebody smell bad....he had done a long run (over 10 miles) and his massage was the last stop. His 'moisture wicking' clothing smelled, and he smelled.  I simply doused him with oils and all was fine......but thank goodness that has only happened once.  A lot of people shower before they come.  It's a nice gesture, but unless you just ran a half marathon probably unnecessary.  If you have been working all day a swipe of deodorant is probably all you need before your appointment.

Now that we got that out of the way here are a few more tips.

A lot of people end up talking during their massage.  Afterwards they might say. "Oh, I guess I should have been quiet!"  Well.....not always.  Sometimes the very things you end up yapping about while I am elbowing the back of your shoulder blade is the very thing causing your shoulder blade to hurt.  So take heed to the things you share....they may be the things your subconscious is carrying and ready to work through, thus letting the stress go from your body.  Some people are completely quiet, and that is fine too.  Everyone relaxes differently.

One thing I find hard to deal with is critical talking- or critiquing- as I am working on someone.  Occasionally a client might ask, "can you tell I am tight right there?" or "wait! did you feel that knot?"...etc.... it almost feels like they are waiting for me to miss something, they are not enjoying the massage, or think I am not doing my job.  Now, let me say this very totally brings down the energy level and quality of the massage.  I once had a woman explain very detailed what she wanted me to as I was working on her back.  It was things her other therapist had done, or things her chiropractor had done, etc...but it was so detailed and so demanding I seriously (hopefully professionally) told her maybe I wasn't the right therapist for her.  I have a style- as does any massage therapist- and that is how I work. Just like you wouldn't tell your dentist to drill your tooth differently, or you stylist to blow dry your hair differently the same goes here.  I LOVE it when people let me know at the beginning what they are hoping  for or need a little more of. (Extra on my shoulders today- or just skip my feet and do my arms more- etc) But overall the demands during the session (can you do my hand again? It feels like you didn't get it good enough...) bring down my energy, confidence, and interrupt the zone.  Unless you are DYING over something that needs attention try to be very positive in your comments.

There's also more- most therapists, in spite of what you request, do their own thing anyway.  I had one therapist who was training me at a spa tell me, "Even if they say they want it deeper, I pretty much do the same thing anyway, because that's how I massage." This spa charged extra for their 'deep tissue' massages, but it was the same massage as the regular one. I was sort of shocked. Bottom line- ask at the beginning for what you want, and hope for the best.  If you are just finding a new therapist after leaving one you loved, give it a couple of sessions.  Sometimes I can't go deeper on a new client- they aren't relaxed enough for me to 'get in' to the muscles.  When they return and we aren't in the introductory phase, a lot of times they relax quickly and deeply and I can really work better. If you have given your therapist a couple of sessions with kind requests at the beginning of your appointment, and you still don't like what you are getting done, move on to a new therapist.  Not everybody will love the same session.

On the flip side, positive words add trust and energy to the session.  Often clients will say "Oh wow, that was so sore, I can tell it's feeling better already..."  or something like ""I can't believe you found that spot! I didn't even know I was tight there..."  etc.... Guess what- I am their best friend from there on out, because my energy believes I am helping them. Often times I may even go over on the clock with those clients.... just because I think they might need an extra few minutes.   Just a little something to keep in mind.

On top of the instructing of your own therapist, remember they don't need help moving your body, either.  When you are getting a massage you will get many more benefits if you are RELAXED.  Don't try to lift your head when they move your neck, don't try to rotate your arms if they are stretching and working, and don't flex your fingers when they are working on your hands. It's hard for some people, but trust me, you will feel better afterwards if you just let your body be dead weight and let them adjust it as needed. Some of us may tell you, "try to relax here..." and some will just readjust, or shake a little, the body part until you stop resisting (this is my preferred method, because pointing out to someone they are tense usually makes them more tense). If you find your therapist telling you to relax or shaking out your limbs or neck a lot, you may check yourself to see if you are trying to 'help' by tensing your muscles. Don't do it.

And a pointer in leaving the session.  Drink water. Try to stretch later in the day.  The body truly does take time to rebalance and it can be in a state of homeostasis for 24-48 hrs, so some knots may not fully release for a day or two.  If you get sore be patient- drink drink drink and soak in a tub with a 1/2 cup mineral bath salts or Epsom salts. It helps.

Finally- if you like your therapist and you like getting on their schedule,  tip them.  Now I charge enough to make it worth my time, but most of my clients still tip me. Many tip a little, like a few extra bucks.  Some tip me quite nicely - up to $10 or $15 dollars.  I definitely notice this and always keep it mind when people are looking for a spot to come in-   there are some clients I will work in when I swore my schedule was full the day before. Those are the clients I give an extra 5 or 10 minutes to.  The ones I really strive to go above and beyond.  They seem to go above and beyond to be a valued and generous customer.  It is all about energy and value, and I feel it when I am with those clients. (Does that sound superficial? I don't mean it to.  I apologize if it does, but I am trying to give full disclosure here!)

 If your therapist booked you a month out when you needed a massage yesterday, consider these things and see how you might rate as a client (but remember, most good therapists may be hard to get into. Consider prescheduling your next appointment before leaving your last one).  I say these things only with honesty and because I have people ask me this all the time.  What I am thinking?

Now you know.
And if you are a 'good' client I am probably thinking..... I wish all my clients were like that.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Feeding my Creative Self

Over the last six months my creative self has had a jump start.  I owe it all to Instagram which instantly connected me to other artists and creative souls who are sneaking time out of their busy lives to create.  They are making ATCs, art journals, hand made postcards and other objects of beauty- and best of all, they are all eager to trade.  Bring on the mail. It has been great.
Snail Mail surprise received from an online artist friend 

I just stumbled upon a lovely artist who hosts an online 'summer camp' in which she gives weekly challenges and all her followers (camp participants) create and share their work. You can read more about the online Summer of Color camp here on the Twinkle Twinkle blog.

Right now I am planning on doing mostly collages for this summer challenge, just because I want the practice, but we will see if that is how it happens.

I am also putting together a thick chunky art journal inspired by a few fellow IGers- and will show you all about that when it is finished up. I am still working and waiting on pages and then I will be putting it all together stitching and sewing it to hopefully make something pretty.

Art Journal Pages for Instagram page exchange

For now, this post is jumping off point for the summer. I am hoping to paint, cut, paste, scrap and record whenever I get a few minutes to myself.  It is hard to sneak away and take the time to do it- and that is exactly why I love the fact that trades and challenges drive you to complete whatever little lovely thing you can.   
Mixed media Artist Trading Cards (ATCs)  made to swap by mail

Here's to taking time to create- even if it's a fun filter and a thought on a photo that caught your eye

Happy Summer. Chase the sun.  
Find the light.  Create and share.