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#WednesdayWellness – Zentangle!

#WednesdayWellness – Zentangle!

Happy #WednesdayWellness!

A first effort by Jennifer Hotes titled, “My skin is the color of love”

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.

An original Zentangle by Kellie Fellinge

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? 

Jennifer’s wild kid on a long ago day at Costco

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: .  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.

Feelin’ Mudgy

Feelin’ Mudgy

mudge /muj/ (n) a persistent feeling of weariness, sloppiness or general discontent. (v) to deposit drool, usually from the jowls, onto someone or something. The dog drank from his water bowl, then mudged my pants.

mudgy /mujee/ (adj) (mudgier, mudgiest), weary or foul-tempered, sulky, sludgy disposition

Yeah, that's me getting mudgy behind the b-day girl - must be after nine
Yeah, that’s me getting mudgy behind the b-day girl – must be after nine

I’m not a night person. In fact, I savor bedtime to an unnatural degree. After six at night, I’m checking the clock and assessing who is home, weighing whether or not it’d be acceptable to change into pajamas. If I lived alone, I’d be in pjs right after Judge Judy, but before pouring my first glass of wine.

These days though, in order to stay connected with my mostly nocturnal sixteen-year-old, I’m choosing to stay awake well past midnight on a regular basis. My daughter and I watch tv while she works on homework and I edit text well into the night. We stream good tv, bad tv and movies. Sometimes we don’t speak for chunks of time, sitting side by side in quiet with work in our laps, the television droning in the background. Other times, we set aside our work and watch, heads together, laughing in all the same places. And each and every night, I count my blessings that she lets me share space with her, tolerates my company and allows us to connect.

Uh oh, the sun's going down
Uh oh, the sun’s going down

But, the thing is, I’m an early riser. I rise at 5:30am to enjoy a few productive and contemplative hours before the whole house wakes, demanding my care and keeping. So that’s partly why I’m yawning by seven.

But, time with my daughter is more important than sleep. And as happy as I am inside to share some time with her, on the outside I’m droopy, often frowning and quiet; or what Ellie calls being mudgy. “Mom. You seem mudgy. Are you sure you shouldn’t go to bed?” she’ll ask. This, from the gal that brought the words finkie and yarden to our family:

finkie: (n), the smallest finger, often called the pinkie

yarden: (n), a lush and unpretentious garden that provides a perfect playground for kids

Mudgy, mudge, mudged. It’s become a phrase the entire family has embraced. And, if someone’s accused of being mudgy, or is asked why they are feeling mudgy, there’s no tension or defensiveness. The use of this silly term defuses all that like magic.

Cooper feeling mudgy
That’s Cooper feeling mudgy

Even the puppy, Cooper, has gotten in on the action. After taking a long drink from his water bowl, he’ll rush over to greet someone leaving a slime trail across the floor and our clothing. He mudges stuff. His nickname (well, one of many) is Mr. Mudgy.

A silly term, yes. But, it perfectly describes something for which the Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary has no apt term. So, in the days to come when you’re hit with a situation that leaves you gritting your teeth or shaking your head, remember this silly term. And just maybe, when you see it as mudge, you’ll find your smile a little quicker than normal.



Why I Don’t Care If I Sell Another Book

Why I Don’t Care If I Sell Another Book

PollyannaThis week I had the opportunity to talk with the kids at Eastside Preparatory School. It’s one of the most academically rigorous schools in Washington state, but you wouldn’t know it to look at the student body because they defy the geek stereotype. As 200-plus kids trickled into the room, I was struck by how beautiful and shiny they all were. Stylish and smart? Unfair.

Feeling a twinge of self-doubt, I checked myself for stray scone crumbs and dabbed a smidgeon of gloss on my dry lips. Ah, better. And then for some reason, I thought back to when I was a teen. At any given moment, I could name off a laundry list of shortcomings, a pimple, fat butt, cheap jeans. I also remembered how hard I worked to seem perfect.

So, as I looked out at the faces in the crowd, I wondered if they felt the same as I once did? If I could read their minds, would I hear thoughts dripping with self-loathing and doubt? My heart broke.

I sucked in a gulp of air and a feeling washed over me. Like the rays of the sun, it warmed my hair and face, and with it came a clear conviction.  Writing the novel, Four Rubbings, wasn’t the most important thing. Teasing a storyline and selling copies of the book, that didn’t matter anymore. In fact, I realized that writing the book was just the vehicle that brought me to this place, in front of these kids to deliver a message of hope and encouragement. As I clicked ‘play’ on my Powerpoint slideshow, I knew that the words to come might be the only encouragement they’d receive all week, or month, or year. And I lost my breath.

My mother, a longtime public school principal, spoke of this often. In September every year, she committed all student names to memory. She ate lunch in the cafeteria with the kids. She checked in with teachers to find out the details of her students’ lives. Who was struggling? Who was making progress? Who was having problems at home? She sleuthed out the details and then reached out to her kids to offer help or congratulations. She told me it was important to touch each child with kind, personal words as often as possible because she was keenly aware that her compliments might be the only nice things some of these kids might ever hear. Ever.

I clicked the first slide and spoke to the kids of EPS about knocking down stereotypes, dreaming big, blocking out the negative and accepting help. I hoped my words might resonate with one student. If I came off as an idiot to the other 199, then so be it. If my positive message empowered one person to reach for their dream, then it was worth it. One kid. One kind word. One life changed.

Fellow Booktrope author, Tess Thompson blogged about a similar subject in her post titled, “I’m with Stupid.” Read it. She said it more artfully in her post than I did at the assembly, but the message was essentially the same. If you follow your heart, success will follow. Be bold and follow your passion. It’s an upbeat message, to be sure, but one worth repeating.

Why does it feel like I’m always apologizing for being positive? My whole life I’ve been accused of being a Pollyanna – a reference I didn’t understand until adulthood. Pollyanna was a fictional character that saw the positive side of every situation, regardless of how dire her circumstances. She lost family members. She faced death. And still, she smiled. Well, I suppose I’m sort of like that.

Fine. It’s true, I am Pollyanna. Toss your eggs at the computer screen, flip me off in your head, I can handle it. After spending time with the students at EPS yesterday, I know with such clarity what the world needs right now is more positive. So, I’m not going to apologize for being who I am anymore. I’m an optimist in a cynical world. I choose to see the best in people, hope for the future, see the invisible members of our society, smile, overuse exclamation points, wave at cops and construction workers, and add smiley faces to the end of my emails. Deal. With. It. 🙂

But, get one thing straight. Being positive doesn’t come naturally. It takes work.

431312-women-no-moneyIn college, when I was broke, held two jobs to pay for tuition and books, had way too much homework, and subsisted on cheap ramen, I posted a list on my dorm wall called, “Good Things Comin’ My Way.” I updated the list often to remind me that there was always something worth celebrating just around the corner. So what if I needed a microscope to see the good? My list included wearing clean white socks, sleeping in on Saturday, visiting home, talking to my brother, attending a football game, crunching fall leaves, having a day without rain, etc. You get the idea.  Small joys kept me moving forward.

Today, more than ever, it takes real effort to stay positive. I was a student of the media, so I know the studies about how disproportionate the violent/crime-related news segments are compared to the actual instances of crime. They overblow the bad, undercover the good. Yeah.

And in our current political climate when every politician (it seems being inept crosses party lines) works to pit you against me, us against them, him against her; I find that the news is no longer safe ground for me either. Of course, I have to track the news to stay informed. But, I can only take it in small doses. Then, I must unplug.  That’s why you won’t find me posting political stuff on my Facebook wall. I refuse to feed the derisive climate of the day. I love you. I could never hate you.

After my talk with the kids at Eastside Prep, I stopped caring about selling books. This is about me being a positive voice for others. Yes, I wrote a novel. I fought all the negative forces out there and within myself and got it done. You can transform your goal into an accomplishment, too.  But, the book is no longer the thing.

So as I climbed off the stage, I knew my goals had shifted. The lights on the stage dimmed and I found myself surrounded by students. They hugged me, asked questions, shared stories and shook my hand, and I listened. Selling books doesn’t matter anymore. But, being a positive voice for others does. So, that my friends, is what I’m going to pursue now. 🙂