Those that know me best, know how much I love cemeteries. The graves hold the remains of people that lived, struggled, met some challenges and failed at others. It is the story of us. The tombstones themselves not only bare names, but hold history, culture, politics, tragedy, and love on their carved faces.
Tomorrow my new blog begins. I will share a tombstone with you, and more important than that, I will tell you the story of the person buried there. Tomorrow I begin to show you how the dead still live, still teach and still force us to confront complicated issues.
Nothing is black and white. Maybe that’s why most tombstones are gray.
Steeped in history and symbology, cemeteries make for an amazing place to visit. As I researched my first novel, I walked upwards of thirty cemeteries across the west coast of the United States. I learned about burial customs, religious rites, epidemics and cultural difference, all from walking through headstones.
Each grave holds a person, and that person had a story. I plan to use this blog be a voice for the dead. I will snap a picture of a grave, research the person buried beneath and share their story with you here. I hope you enjoy the journey we’re about to go on together, and it inspires you to visit your local cemetery.
Does receiving a compliment make you squirm or cringe? Yeah, me too. And I’m sure the rest of the world agrees with us.
But, what if we said a simple, “thanks” and then stowed those kind observations away to examine later when we were alone?
Can you remember a recent compliment someone gave you? Maybe it was that you were funny, that you showed initiative, that you hit a homer with that work project, that you looked sharp, whatever comes to mind. Now, take those words and imagine they are a marble. Weird, right?
Now find a quiet place where you are safe and alone. Pull out one of those word marbles and examine it. Hold it in your mind and try to find the grain of truth in it. And now, here’s the really tough part, sit with that truth until it doesn’t feel ill-fitting. Then, tomorrow or next week or next month when your confidence feels low, take out that marble and remind yourself of your strengths.
Sounds strange, right? Let’s practice together.
The compliment: “You gave an amazing presentation.”
The reaction: Squirm, cringe, blush, and a mumbled, “Oh, it went on too long…thanks, though.”
The marble: I gave an amazing presentation (which I know is the truth because that person has no incentive to lie to me AND I spent ten plus hours making that presentation…well…great!)
The quiet analysis: I worked hard and it showed. My hard work was acknowledged by someone I respect.
See? Not so painful. In fact, next time you start the prep for another challenge, that marble may give you the confidence to start strong.
The best antidote to the distance you feel from your tween or teen is truth. Lie and that distance will grow exponentially.
My youngest daughter is thirteen. Last night she told me some stuff. I guess I should put “stuff” in capital letters. When she was through talking, she said something I will never forget. And I thought I better pass it along to as many people as possible.
Her exact words were, “Mom, you’ve always been authentic with me and that’s why I can tell you anything.”
Yes. I’ve told both of my daughters the truth. Sometimes they’ve asked about it. And sometimes it’s just felt right to share. They know about my uglies and mistakes and personal bloopers. And no. I’m not going to share my stuff with you. 🙂
I was raised to be real. Thanks to my father, Gary, one of my biggest role models, I am rarely filtered. And when I became a parent, I watched other parents with admiration and scrutiny. Park visits, malls, school events, and friendships – like NSA – I was always watching. And what I noticed is that many parents weren’t real with their kids. Their children asked them questions and parents didn’t answer honestly. I was struck with how destructive that could be to their relationships. That’s when I set my intention to be real. If my kids asked, I’d be open and upfront.
My unfiltered self has been well-catalogued on my thirteen-year-old’s social media threads. And her friends think I’m goofy and crazy. And yet, her friends hug me when I see them at school. They sit in the backseat of my car as I’m driving them places and speed-gossip loud enough for me to hear.
Recently, kids at my daughter’s school have struggled with depression and they’ve talked about it in earshot. And I’ve found myself sharing some of my stuff with them, too.
Those are important conversations. These are important people. And they deserve to see the people they love and respect in bright, glaring lights – not as perfect adults that were perfect, law-abiding, parent-obeying, abstaining teens.
And I’ll leave it at that.
As always, I love you and hope you have a kick ass week. – Jennifer
Today, I’m delighted to introduce you to a meditative art, Zentangle, and an amazing woman that teaches it, Kellie Fellinge, founder of SoundTangle.
Kellie, tell us about Zentangle and how you became interested:
I received a book about Zentangle for Christmas– and by the first week of January, I was signed up to take the certification class to teach it! I had no idea what I was getting myself into – I just knew that I had found the thing I had been looking for to spark my creativity and I had a strong desire to share it with others.
People are drawn to Zentangle by the beautiful images they see, but Zentangle is really more than that.
Teaches us to be present and focused
Works out our attention muscles (the ones social media and real life tend to atrophy)
Allows us to practice quieting the mind
Permits everyone to be creative
Ignites our work or creative pursuits
By using pencil, pen and paper (simple tools) – many students tell me it is easier for them to quiet their minds and get that much needed break than if they try to do something like meditate.
Sitting still does not come easy for a lot of people and I like that Zentangle can bridge a gap.
Another bonus? Zentangle is a process that has no expectation – your lines can be crooked or shaky, and you still reap the benefits of practicing – and the result will be beautiful. Entangle uses patterns in easily repeatable steps – and the basic strokes you already know are put together in amazing ways. If you look at this example, there are basically 200+ straight lines, in three different patterns. If you can draw that straight line, you already have a great start to being able to use Zentangle as part of your creative practice.
What are the benefits for kids?
Once I taught a really energetic group of elementary students, coming in from recess full of wiggles on a sunny day – and within a few minutes they were all immersed in their practice, not a peep. It was pretty amazing. And on the other end of the spectrum a lot of my students are adults who probably feel more like their brains are wiggly from too much energy, too much going on, or being over worked, stressed and scheduled – the calm and quiet that I could physically see in that room full of students is how many people describe what happens inside their minds when they sit down to practice Zentangle.
What I like about Zentangle is that everything is broken down into simple, easy to follow repeatable steps that are really easy to relax into.
Your classes are amazing, Kellie. I’ve been blessed to participate in a few. But my readers span the globe. How else can they learn from you?
Luckily – there are Zentangle teachers all over the world who feel the same way I do about helping spark people’s creativity. You can find a list here: https://www.zentangle.com/teachers.php . I know from my personal experience that while learning the mechanics from online sources and books was fun, I really didn’t understand how to apply all the benefits until I took a class and learned how to incorporate the focus and relaxation into my work.
I tend to hold more group classes centered around a workplace or school, but I also really love sharing reflections on my blog which tries to focus on the quiet side, unseen benefits of the practice – exploring all these elements that aren’t quite as easy to post as the completed art work – to help inspire people to really focus on the process, on finding that quiet in their day. This has also led me down the unexpected path of hosting a podcast on similar topics with my fellow Zentangle teacher Juliette Fiessinger from ArtsAmuse.
Tell me about your podcast series!
On our podcast TanglePod, we dive into things that inspire us. Juliette and I have found over the past few years that sharing insights on ideas like trust, focus and appreciating ourselves provided us with the incentive to keep working on our creative practice. These kinds of things don’t usually come up in daily conversations – and we were looking for a way to continue to teach and share with a broader audience than we can with our current class schedules. The steps and philosophies of Zentangle can be applied in many different aspects of life and we explore this as well as a lot of other topics related to creativity. Our podcast is more like having coffee with a friend than it is taking a class – and our goal is to inspire people to think about creative areas of their lives, and encourage them to reap the benefits that creativity offers.
Our podcast is more like having coffee with a friend than it is taking a class
What’s next for SoundTangle?
I never would have guessed that I would be here now:
Learning to be comfortable speaking in front of a class
Learning how to create and produce a podcast
Learning from my students each time I teach.
We are still in the throes of launching the podcast and learning the best way to help make that financially sustain us. Looking to the future – there is more to learn, more to share and I can’t wait to see where it leads. Find them on Facebook here!
A final note from Jennifer:
Readers! I rely on Zentangle when my writing brain is rusty or the ideas simply won’t flow. I spend fifteen-minutes with Zentangle and afterwards, I have focus and inspiration. Give Zentangle a try and let me know how it helps with your daily pursuits.
The weekend’s here. Time to think about food. And I woke up thinking about the best food I had this year. Ramen Row in Tokyo Station dazzled my whole family. Proof two teens and two middle-agers can still agree on something.
Ramen Row is tucked away inside Tokyo Station. Twenty or so tiny restaurants serve a variety of (yep, you guessed it) ramen!We looked at menus and peeked over the shoulders of diners before we settled on a ramen house in a far corner. We slipped our coins into a machine and pushed a button with the picture of the meal we wanted, and wallah! The machine spit out a ticket. We waited for a minute or two in the queue and a helpful person took our ticket, shepherded us to a table and poured us warm tea.
A few minutes later our ramen came. I chose ramen with chicken katsu, which was fantastic.
We were so charmed by the concept, our family dreamed of setting up a ticket machine ramen house in Seattle. But, until we make that happen, we’ll have to take another trip to Japan to enjoy our favorite food of 2016.
I was feeling blah this morning. Monday. Seattle was cloudy and cool. My kid had school even though most of her friends were out spring breaking.
And then I began to blog. I searched through old photos to find inspiration and found photos of our trip to Japan last summer. Wow. What a difference that made to my spirit. It was the best trip our family ever had. The country. The people. The food. The culture. And oh, God! The trains.
So if you’re feeling blah, take a few minutes to scroll through the photos on your smartphone. Find a favorite and make it your new home screen. I swear, it will turn around your mood! Love you.
It’s not only a Justin Bieber song title, it’s good advice. No matter how fierce the pressures of job and family and service, steal a few minutes a day for yourself. A better you is better for everyone around you.
Ten Minute Re-Boots
Quick pencil sketch on a napkin
Text a compliment to someone
Pray or meditate
Watch a silly cat video
Enjoy a cup of tea
Stand outside and breathe deeply
As always, sending you my love. I hope you have a lovely week.
Running. It works wonders for me. Why? Running two miles a day is free and gives me so much:
A good night’s sleep
Alleviates my depression and anxiety
Burns calories (so I don’t have to fuss over treats)
Boosts my mood
Helps me concentrate at work
Lowers my blood pressure
It’s magic. But, only a few years ago I couldn’t take a step without burning pain in my feet and knees. I didn’t know then, but I had a bone infection due to a poorly done root canal. Yikes. Under stress to finish my first book and unable to exercise in any way, I gained weight. Lots and lots. Too much for my little frame. I suffered:
High blood pressure
Anxiety and depression
Lack of concentration
A new dentist discovered my infection and after two rounds of antibiotics, my bones healed. Technically, I was able to run again, but I couldn’t even manage to walk at a steady pace for more than a few minutes. Each day, grateful to have pain-free feet, I pushed a tiny bit more. I walked a little longer, a tad faster, until I was finally able to jog. And then, after a few months, I ran.
And I’ve never looked back.
I don’t think my genetics (Black Sea Germans) were meant to be marathoners, but I enjoy 2.5 miles, sometimes three. At nearly fifty, I stretch before and after my runs to prevent shin splints. And I write my miles on a calendar, a calendar that tracks my monthly goal. My goal for the month varies. Sometimes I aim to move everyday – walk or run or lift weights. Other months, I set a mileage goal.
Experts agree that exercise has fantastic benefits.
Teens that run 30 minutes a week for three weeks in a row saw a reduction in anxiety and depression and better sleep patterns.
This comes from a study found in Runner’s World. For us older people, the effect is similar. We simply need to exercise more days of the week.
Another study showed that running cut the risk of having cancer in half!
And running increases hearing! Yep. Both facts come from this article in the Telegraph.
So, if you’re willing to feel the burn in your lungs for the first couple attempts, I want to encourage you to get out there and move! 🙂 And then share your experience with us here!