Monthly Archives: January 2012

Sliding Doors

Am I the only one who absolutely loves this movie? It’s one of my go-to favorites – at the top of my chick-flick list. One of the DVD’s I pull out on the rare occasions that I find myself alone in the house – sans kids and spouse – and can only fully enjoy in uninterrupted solitude. Why? Apart from the obvious gorgeousness of Gwyneth Paltrow (that haircut!) and the Scottish guy whose name I can never remember, the movie’s premise always makes me think. The idea that every small occurrence or choice that you make can drastically alter your life. Deep stuff. Deep – as in bottomless tar pit full of millenia-old dinosaur fossils deep.

Why am I watching this today? Thinking along these lines now? Because, quite simply, I found myself at a big set of sliding doors today. Gargantuan. Figurative, of course, not literal. One of the biggest in a line of sliding doors in my recent life. I’ll be honest – I made a stupid choice. An unbelievably stupid choice. The type of choice that ‘smart, educated people like me’ shouldn’t and generally don’t make. Ever. But I did. And now I’m at a crossroads. So which way do I go now? Absolutely no idea. None. But the world is bright with opportunity, right? Sure. Of course, now I’m questioning and thinking and overanalyzing everything. Do all working moms feel this way? Moms in general? Minus stupidity, of course. I sure hope so.

The light spot here is that I know God has a plan for me. This is just a bend in that path. My type-A-ness seems to think I should know what lies beyond the bend. But that’s not for me right now. Next on my list: prayer, prayer and more prayer for guidance and direction. So that’s me at the moment. In a nutshell.

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Filed under Life Changes, Moms

A Jaunt With Jung

So, on the hunt for something interesting to do out and about this week for my Artist’s Date (mandated by my new guide, The Artist’s Way, I happened upon a Facebook post from the Museum District. At a loss, I clicked and started to read – and was immediately sucked in. I had heard of Carl Jung. Wasn’t he one of those early psychological types we had to study as part of child development or educational psychology? Scanning the foggy depths of my brain, I had only the vaguest recollection of Freud/Piaget/Jung as quickly memorized facts for a distant midterm exam. So I was surprised to learn that Houston actually has a Jung Center. More than that – this place actually offers workshops and sessions, the latter being the topic of the earlier-mentioned Facebook post. The Jung Center offers Feldenkrais sessions on Tuesdays. That’s right, Feldenkrais. I admit, I had to Google that one. ‘A somatic method to movement instruction.’ Wh-at?! Sounded interesting, so off I went.

Since the highways were parking-lot free, I arrived down in the Museum District with plenty of time to spare this trip. Imagine my surprise when the Jung Center was open for business – and I discovered a Jungian art gallery just inside:

Ironically enough, this first piece is titled ‘Alone.’ Which exactly described my feelings at the moment. Surrounded by a bustling city in the midst of an art gallery, I felt alone and a bit out of place. Almost turned tail and went back home. But, Feldenkrais I had come for and Feldenkrais I was going to get!

At the back of the Center there is a small movement studio. Mary Beth, the instructor, soon arrived and gave me an overview, set me up with a mat and gently reminded me that sensory stimulation is to be minimized in the movement room. Hint taken. IPhone put away and silenced. After two other participants arrived, we began.

What followed was an hour of sensory introspection. Lying on a soft mat covered with a warm blanket, the lights dim and the only sound that of her voice, Mary Beth led us on a journey of minimal movement but maximum results. Instructed to focus on breathing and tiny movements of the joints in my left hand and fingers, I became aware of the jerkiness of even the most simple bend of my fingers. The movements gradually progressed up the forearm, elbow and into the shoulder. Slow, simple progressions accompanied by intensive thoughts and awareness of how each movmeent felt versus how it looked. At the end of the hour I can honestly say I felt more relaxed than I have in months – and the usual pain and stiffness in my neck and shoulders was completely gone on the left side. I felt lopsided. Unbalanced. Desperately wanted to stay another hour and repeat the movements on the other side – which I couldn’t do but was able to complete later at home, thanks to the handy informational card we got as we left. It detailed the sequence of movements and the purpose of each. Nice – now I have a tool to use next time I am feeling pain.

I do have to say this was a nice change from yoga, Pilates and some of the other types of movement I’ve dabbled in over the years. By focusing on the unconscious as well as feeling the movemetn I was able to identify areas of stress, tension and pain – then work to resolve them. And the mandated time lying in a dark room was just an added bonus…

As I left I took one more lap around the small galleries:

Oh, and I forgot to mention that the Jung Center also has a library and bookstore if you are so inclined. I do have to say that the H-town lunch hour traffic was more manageable than ever before thanks to my heightened relaxation! Check it out – you just might find yourself Feldenkraised!

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Filed under Art, Carl Jung, creativity, Houston, Pain Management, Stress Relief, The Artist's Way

You’re so busted!

I must admit, being a mom does have its perks. Apart from the obvious, I mean. Especially having two boys. How else can an adult justify Saturday morning cartoons? Well, when the little guys invite me to sit down with my coffee, snuggle with them and hang out – it’s hard to refuse. Over the years I have endured countless hours of the Wiggles, Mickey Mouse Clubhouse and (while gritting my teeth) Handy Manny ad infinitum. But now that they’re older, my guys’ interests have evolved into everything Star Wars and superheroes. I can freely indulge my secret hankering for science fiction and Spider Man, among others.

One of the boys’ first ‘big kid’ discoveries was Ben 10. As cool of a show as it is (in all its incarnations) for sheer superhero value, it was really awesome to find out that a friend of mine from UNT, Kristopher Carter, composes the music! Way cool! I remember doing some studio work for his early demo reels during undergrad days. Anyway – check it out if you haven’t seen it – even my loving spouse can appreciate Keven Levin’s tricked-out ride…

A recent discovery (by the boys of course) is Phineas and Ferb. At first I thought it was annoying. Just annoying. But there’s something for adults in every episode. References that true children of the 80’s will get. Sure, your kids will love the characters and their older sister who makes it her mission to bust them with the parents every chance she gets. But – trust me on this one – only you grownups will get the James Bond nods, Grease-esque music videos that permeate every episode, knocks on the Girl Scouts and song references. Where else would you catch song lyrics like ‘there’s a party in my pants’ without ever quoting a word? Way cool stuff. So yes, whenever my guys invite me for cartoon couch time I dive right in. Every time.

So whether you’re diving downtown or stuck in the suburbs like me, I challenge you to indulge your inner child. Check out the ‘toons. I don’t care how many things you have to do on a Saturday AM. You have a thousand things to do. I get it. But take some time, check them out, let out the kid in you and enjoy. There’s no shame! And you just might find yourself enjoying a good laugh – not to mention upping your coolness factor with the kiddoes. Trust me – it’s awesome!

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Filed under Cartoon Network, Disney HD, Inner Child, Kristopher Carter, Parenting

Words Words Words

“Words, words, words, I’m so sick of words!
I get words all day through – first from him, now from you!”

My Fair Lady

This week, I totally agree with Eliza! Words are overwhelming me, pouring into my ears, around inside my head and out of my mouth (and fingers, in this case.) This journey on The Artist’s Way (see previous posts) has me dealing with words on an almost constant basis! Between the mandatory Morning Pages’ three-page daily requirement of written thoughts, my own personal daily journal, responding to emails and homework for my spiritual growth – I’ve just about reached my limit. It’s a lot. A lot of writing. My hand hasn’t hurt this much since my 18-hour semester undergrad note taking days and I’ve even started to get my oh-so-lovely writer’s bump back on my left middle finger. Ouch. I’m starting to wonder if ink fumes can be hazardous to your health, or if side stream ink is only a figment of my imagination…

Don’t get me wrong. I love words. I’ve always loved words. Being somewhat introverted, my words usually came to me from books. Loads and loads of books. I admit it – I’m a reader. An obsessive one. Right now I have three books on deck that I’m attempting to make time for – but it’s becoming more and more of a chore after all of the personal writing that I’m required to do for my Artist. Right now I’m sitting in a library as a matter of fact. Surrounded by words, writing words. Well, typing, but the outcome is the same. Anyhoo, libraries have always been a safe place for me. I love libraries almost as much as I love words. In college, I’d often go camp out at the library when I had absolutely no studying to do at all. I can still remember my favorite secret places in both the Evans Library at A&M and the Willis Library at UNT. Those places were my refuge, my secret hideaway from the world. I would peruse random shelves for interesting titles, smuggle them to my secret place and spend hours just skimming, reading, thinking – you name it. And OF COURSE I really did have studying that I ‘could’ have done – but the lure of words was overwhelming. Forbidden Fruit. Best of all was taking a stack of books up to the 4th floor listening library at UNT and enjoying non-required music while reading. Awesomeness.

But I digress. Yes, I’m weird. I’ve never known another human being who would spend hours reading the encyclopedia (that shows my age right there.) These days I’m more likely to get sucked into Wikipedia for remote ramblings that veer far from my intended searches for information.

So in thinking about all of this and having to compose so much of my own stuff lately, I have a renewed appreciation for the power of words. We are overwhelmed with words today. They’re everywhere and easily accessible – even if we don’t want them around. Text, email, web – heck, you don’t even need the library to get them. Words are tossed around so carelessly between and among people. In many ways, we’ve lost our awareness of the power of words. Why? Because technology has made it easier. How many of you are guilty of multi-texting? Come on, be honest… It’s easier than email – faster too. And a phone call? Forget it – instead of spending an hour on the phone in an actual conversation I can simply text a quick question and get my answer.

But all of this under emphasizes the power of the word. Words, so quickly tossed off and forgotten, have the power to help and heal – but also to cut and bruise. Emails and texts lose the tone of voice and face that are so essential to human relationships. I admit it, I’m guilty. Reading between the lines could actually be a career pursuit, I am so guilty. So here’s my message today: TALK to someone – face to face – or over the phone if you can’t physically see them. Read ALL of their words – facial, physical and verbal. We all have relationships that could possibly have gone in other directions if we had only used our words differently – or taken the time to really read them.

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Filed under Moms, Relationships, Texas A/M, UNT, Words

Murder and a Museum

I ventured out of suburbia twice this week – once to the Museum District and again to West U. Ironically, these places fall within a few blocks of one another yet are drastically different. The Museum District is full of (duh) museums of all kinds. Literally. From the fine arts (my destination this time) to natural science, contemporary art, Jungian psychology and other Big Topics to the lesser-known (who knew H-town possessed a small gem of a Weather Museum?)

First off, my trip to the Museum District began with a bang. Well, not really a bang. More like an implosion. See, I was on a schedule. Apparently leaving the suburbs at 4:45 for a 6:00 meeting at the MFAH is not thoughtful planning. Perilously poor planning, in fact. See, after navigating two of three freeways successfully, the third turned into a parking lot. Not just slow-moving. An actual parking lot. Third time’s the charm, right? Must have been opposite day. Forget the fact that the Soccermobile was almost out of gas. My Type-A-ness was more concerned about being late. Late. The mere mention of the word and I hear my high school band director’s voice in my head: ‘To be on time is to be late.’ So there I was, in a panic, and completely unable to move. Nothing to do but wait – not my strong suit. But wait I did, arrived at my destination, parked the car and signed in at 5:58. Really.

So exciting – Volunteer Orientation. My career-driven life has been so jam-packed with work, preparation for work, school, kids and off-the-clock responsibilities (for work) that I’ve never actually pursued volunteer work outside of those avenues. So exciting! The MFAH has over 1,000 volunteers who work in so many capacities in and behind the scenes. An entire new world opened up in front of me! I’m embarrassed to admit that the mere suggestion of working in an art library or archives had me secretly salivating. Really. And film screenings! The idea of actually promoting the arts while getting to see really cool art films (with a guest) for FREE had me chomping at the bit. Oh, and I met some really artistically-inclined people in the process. Actually got to see the ‘secret passages’ used to transport art in and out of the building. I took a trip back to 5th grade into the pages of The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler with that one. Can’t wait to go back – and here’s a bonus: I learned that Thursdays at the MFAH are FREE!!!! ALL DAY!

Side note: I apologize for my choppy writing style today. I really do have lots to say, and this entry was perfectly formed in my brain yesterday. But as I’ve said before – my head can be a scary place and there are considerable cobwebs in there. I’m just not feeling the flow today, folks. Bear with me…

OK, second trip – the Murder! Since we moved to H-town nearly thirteen years ago I have been fascinated by the idea of this place. Murder By the Book. An entire bookstore devoted to mysteries! Again, the mere idea has me drooling. For some reason I always found excuses not to venture ‘all the way’ down to West U from my suburban cocoon. But not this week. New year, new journey – and out of my cocoon! So off I went during the (thankfully) traffic-free time of the day.

Even though West U is only a few short blocks from the Museums, this burg has a totally different vibe. Historic houses converted into apartments, stately brick homes-become-student housing, lots of trees, quirky locally-run shops. Oh, and Rice University. Academia. With a capital A. I could easily spend the day just walking around – hey! next time! – soaking in the architecture and exploring the shops in the Village. Maybe I’d come out of there smarter. Hmmm…

So, back to Murder By the Book. I’ve always been a mystery lover. From my first experiences with Nancy Drew in second grade to my longtime love affair with Agatha Christie, I love a good case. I’m in the midst of Steig Larsson at the moment – rereading bits of Dragon Tattoo while devouring Played With Fire on the side. So it’s not like I’m a newbie. I practically ran into this little shop in anticipation of discovering lots of old favorites. And was stopped dead in my tracks. The only comparison I can make is the feeling a Boone’s-guzzling college kid would get upon walking into a wine warehouse. Holy. Cow. Overwhelmed. An entire store of mysteries. Subdivided, mind you, by country. British, French, German and American mysteries each had their own section. Shelves upon shelves. Not to mention the used book wall and pulp fiction cases. After thirty minutes of browsing, perusing and reading bits here and there I did manage to find a book. Will let you know how it is after I actually read it. Oh, and did I mention that this place also sells signed copies of certain books, has a deliciously tempting case of rare first editions and hosts regular book clubs, signings and lectures? No? Well, consider yourself enlightened. The book-lover in me can’t wait to go back and spend an afternoon.

So there you have it folks – my week’s adventures into murder and museums. On deck this week – I have no idea – and I’m trying really hard to encourage my Type-A self to embrace the spontaneity!

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Filed under Art, Houston, Museums, Mystery, Volunteer opportunities

The Big M: Materialism

WARNING: This post will delve quite deeply into my head. It can be a frightening place, so if you have a weak stomach you may want to avoid it. Otherwise, be warned if you continue reading!

Proverbs 10:4 says ‘He becometh poor that worketh with a slack hand; but the hand of the diligent maketh rich.’ Today’s society seems to have taken this verbatim as a motto for living: in dealings with others, business, politics and ourselves. If you work hard, you will have a better life. Hard workers move up the corporate ladder and slackers don’t. Poor people shouldn’t expect handouts from those of us that work hard to provide for our families – they just need to get up and get a job. These are all ‘truisms’ that I’ve heard in one form or fashion from media, family and acquaintances in all walks of life. Until recently I agreed – wholeheartedly. In fact I was raised that way. Isn’t that the Good Old American Work Ethic? Our immigrant ancestors came here for a better life, many times founded upon material opportunities otherwise not available in their homelands.

I took this Work Ethic so much to heart that it’s been a great source of negativity in my life. It became my crutch, my fallback, my excuse to berate myself and label myself a failure in any and all situations. Didn’t get the job? I should have worked harder. I’m a loser. Didn’t get recognition? If only I had… (fill in the blank with any possible alternative decision or action.) ‘Only’ having a certain amount in the budget? I must be too lazy to do what is really necessary to get more/better STUFF. I was so wrapped up in STUFF – the having or not having it, how to get and keep it – that little else mattered. Many of us fall prey to these same thoughts in this day and age, I would imagine. How can we not, when society as a whole is focused on what we have as a symbol and statement of how good we are?

But in reading Proverbs 10 this morning it suddenly struck me – the Bible simply states that the diligent will become rich. No descriptors there. No qualifications on what kind of riches. Just riches. Then it occurred to me – God was specific here in His non specificity. Material riches are simply one category. What about emotional, physical and spiritual riches? Society sweeps those under the rug. For years I’ve used the excuse of not being materially ‘rich’ to brand myself lazy, a slacker, a loser, you name it. But I can fully appreciate the concept of riches on an entirely new level now.

Why? Because, quite honestly, a couple of months ago I found myself at the bottom of the heap. Rock bottom. (Insert your own definition of that here.) It was at that point in my life, when I truly believed that I had nothing left – no future, no hope – that I started this journey. I was the queen of regret – if I had chosen this path, I would be happy now. If I had done that differently, I would not be in this situation. How did I get here? And through tons of introspection, prayer, writing and self-examination a light bulb slowly started to glimmer deep in my brain. Trust me, there’s miles of faulty wiring in there! Takes quite a while for some of the circuits to fire, if you know what I mean… Slowly the weight of all that extra STUFF started to fall off and I realized that riches have absolutely nothing to do with materialism.

I’m in a place now where the material riches are uncertain, yet I’m happier and more fulfilled than I have ever been in my life. I can truly appreciate the emotional riches that I have through my relationships, my family and my children. My spiritual life has taken on an entirely new direction. It still feels weird to wake up each day not feeling the weight of comparing myself to others: what they have or what they do… But it’s a good kind of weird, and all I have to do is remember the place that materialism took me into to realize how healthy life is and how joyful each day seems now.

Another example: I have a dear friend who has it all. She does. Talent, intellect, spirituality, family and a prestigious career in her chosen field. Oh, and she’s gorgeous. Literally – this chick has it all. Yet she stepped out of her comfort zone to undertake a project that had been on her heart for a while. It was an uncomfortable process at times. Yet the finished product is full of such freedom and joy that she is a transformed woman. I can see an entirely new side of her – full of such emotional and spiritual joy – that has nothing to do with any material stuff. She truly amazes and inspires me.

We should all be so lucky – to live lives full of riches that have nothing to do with stuff. Maybe I’m just the odd one who never realized this before, or thought that the other riches would come after the material wealth. Probably. But I challenge anyone who reads this to examine society’s message compared to life’s true riches. Which will make you more fulfilled?

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Filed under Joy, Materialism, Riches

Me, Myself and Midtown

So, in the continuation of my new trek on life’s journey, I discovered a fabulous guidebook via a Facebook friend (in a roundabout sort of way.) This friend happened to post a link to a book they had just read which sounded interesting. In reading the reviews, I noticed that many people preferred an earlier book by the same author. Next stop, Barnes and Noble! Of course they had the earlier book in stock and I quickly snapped up my copy and adjourned to the closest coffee shop to dive right in. Wow! This book seemed to be written just for me! It’s called The Artist’s Way. It challenges us to rediscover our true creative nature through weekly exercises and daily stream-of-consciousness writing it calls ‘morning pages.’ I challenge any random readers of this blog to check it out! One of the facets I particularly love is its focus on spirituality as a source of creativity. This spoke straight to my heart, since I have struggled for years (ok, decades) with the notion that my life as a creative person had to be egocentric and narcissistic out of necessity. It’s the main reason I turned my back on a profession in the arts back in the day. But through this book I have realized that, not only is a spiritual connection necessary to creative inspiration, creativity is by its very nature a way for me to both give praise and glory to God while receiving His grace and blessing.

Anyhoo, one of the non-negotiables to each weekly romp into self-creativity is what the author terms an ‘artist date.’ A date with yourself. Destination unspecified, other than to a place which might inspire you. For this week’s jaunt I chose to head to Midtown – an area of town I’d previously heard of but had only the vaguest of notions of its actual location. All I knew of Midtown was that it was an ‘up-and-coming area frequented by young, hip professionals due to the growing number of hot nightspots.’ Quotation freely abridged from any and all H-town guides you may have seen. I can’t believe I’ve never spent time there in the nearly thirteen years we have lived here, but there it is. That’s reality. I forsee many more jumps to this locale in the future. Moving on…

The Houston Center for Contemporary Craft holds free – repeat, FREE – workshops on the first Saturday of every month. These are staffed with plenty of helpful volunteers who are expertly trained to help even the novice (read, ME) learn a new technique and complete a project on-site. This week’s topic was finger weaving, something I remember learning as a kid but had forgotten. In just the span of an hour I had my project completed – a fuzzy scarf I now need to find just the perfect outfit for! I spent some time in the galleries themselves – again free, but with a box for donations should you be so moved – and was amazed at the ‘crafts’ turned art. The Center also has artist studios on-site which you are welcome to explore, and if you’re lucky enough to find one of the artists at work you can observe and ask questions. Very cool! I left there inspired, invigorated and just brimming with creative desire that far exceeded my current abilities. But hey – everyone needs a goal, right?

Here are some scenes from the quirky-cool garden behind the Arts Center:

Oh, and I was lucky enough to see this amazing mural just across the street which, as it happens, was the front-page story of the Midtown News this week:

And a few more scenes from my trek midtown. This blog is truly not intended to be a travel resource, but I was amazed at all of the inspiration I found in just a one-block footprint. Definitely worth a return visit or three – and did I mention it was FREE??!!

Downtown from Midtown:

Next time, baby!!

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Filed under artist, craft, creativity, free stuff, inspiration, Midtown