Surrender 61: Coloring My Year

After Christmas, I purchased a Secret Garden Coloring Calender, by Johanna Basford, for half price. Each month has a new picture to color, and I not only get to enjoy coloring it, I get to look at the completed design every day in my studio. 

  
I take the calendar off of the wall toward the end of each month, with the intention of having it back in place, picture colored, by the first day of the new month. 

 

It’s been fun to experiment with new color combinations, different types of pencils and  various techniques. 

Coloring has become my evening activity, my gradual wind down to the day. As I color, my mind opens, and my breathing and heart rates slow down, much as they do in meditation. In fact, studies have shown that coloring is the best alternative to meditation. 

“I recommend it as a relaxation technique,” says Antoni Martinez, a psychologist. “We can use it to enter a more creative, freer state. I recommend it in a quiet environment, even with chill music. Let the color and lines flow.”

Coloring has been shown to reduce stress, anxiety and fear, lower blood pressure, and may prove to delay the onset of dementia. 

  
Coloring does free and inspire creativity. And it engages the whole brain, requiring the two hemispheres to communicate, improving fine motor skills and vision. The act of coloring involves logic – staying within the lines and coloring in forms – and creativity – choosing colors and mixing them on the page. 

I’ve found that coloring inspires me to be creative in other areas of my life, such as writing, drawing, and photography. I notice color more, appreciating the play of light and shadow across a field or how many browns are present in a stone wall.  I often snap a picture of something with interesting color patterns, for later inspiration as I study a fresh page, colored pencils in hand. 

  
I had a conversation with a friend last week, who recently began coloring. She is a survivor of the May 2011 Joplin tornado. Her husband was one of the 161 victims who perished that day. She carries physical and emotional scars from that horrifying experience. Coloring has had a host of benefits for her, bringing her quiet joy, improving her health and calming her mind. Her doctor even commented on her lowered blood pressure and her increased balance, and encouraged her to keep the coloring up.

My friend frowned slightly then, and confessed that a family member told her she was wasting time, coloring in the evenings, when she could be doing something more productive. I asked her, more productive than bringing her peace and happiness, improved clarity and memory, and enhanced health, both physically and emotionally? 

We looked at each other a moment…and laughed. No, coloring is most definitely not a waste of time. It’s art. It’s therapy. It’s meditation. It’s medication. It’s pretty darn cool. And it’s her thing…and mine…and enjoyed by countless others. A waste of time? Creativity never is. 

  

Surrender 38: Super Sunday

Today was Super Bowl Sunday, and a milestone event at that, with this being the 50th. Here in the US, this day is very much a holiday, with parties, special food and drink, and keen interest in the outcome of a football game. 

At my house, there wasn’t a party, or a big spread of snacks, and no alcohol was consumed. It was a low key, relaxing day that flowed eventually to the kick off of the football game of the year between the Denver Broncos and the Carolina Panthers.  

 

Angel, pictured above, perfectly captured the mood of the day! Rest was perfect. My sinuses were very congested today, and I’m grateful I could sip hot tea and enjoy a peaceful afternoon. 

 

I had intended to cook up a pot of chili, so that there would be something to eat during the game. And then Greg found a goulash recipe on Facebook that he shared with me. That sounded better! It’s been years since I’ve prepared this tasty dish. Here’s the simple recipe:

Easy American Goulash

2 lbs ground beef, browned

1 medium onion, chopped

1 medium green pepper, chopped

32 oz tomato juice

I 16 oz can diced tomatoes 

2 cups elbow macaroni, uncooked

After browning ground beef, combine all ingredients in a large cooking pot. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. 

The goulash was great, served with thickly sliced and buttered toasted bread. Greg said my goulash is better, but he enjoyed this version as well. 

 

While waiting for the big game, I spent the afternoon engaging in one of my favorite activities, coloring. I not only enjoy expressing my creativity via coloring, it is also very similar to meditation, slowing my mind and heart rate and quieting my body. 

I completed the parrots picture, which was a weekly challenge for one of my coloring groups. I appreciate the challenges. They push me to learn new techniques and color pictures that I wouldn’t, otherwise. Because of them, I’m becoming a better colorist. 

 

As the game began, I returned to coloring a work in progress, for a monthly challenge in another group. I’m not a huge football fan, although I enjoy watching the Super Bowl, primarily for the commercials. An advantage to not really caring which team wins is that I can watch in a relaxed state, appreciating things about both teams. 
  
My favorite Super Bowl commercial was the one with dachshunds sporting hot dog costumes, running toward people dressed in ketchup and mustard outfits. It was adorable! And the Doritos ads were winners again this year, making me laugh the most. 

   
The Denver Broncos won the Super Bowl, 24 – 10. It was a good game, with the teams evenly matched. I colored during the game, glancing up occasionally, listening as I laid color onto my page…and paused to look up during the commercials! That’s backwards, I know, but the routine worked beautifully for me. Super Bowl Sunday was a Super Day! 

  

Surrender 16: The Challenge

I’ve shared before how much I enjoy coloring. The current coloring craze that has swept around the globe has been so much fun to participate in. I have a growing collection of coloring books for adults and colored pencils, which is my preferred medium. 

I’m a member of several coloring groups on Facebook. These are supportive and inspirational as we post our completed pics and share ideas, techniques and trouble areas. Two of these groups have weekly or monthly challenges, in which instructions are given on what must be colored or how a picture is to be colored. 

  The four color challenge. Only four colors could be used to complete the picture. 

These challenges have been fun. I’ve completed the froggy challenge, the four color and six color challenges. And I just submitted my picture where I could only use shades of blue. I like pushing myself creatively and seeing what I’m capable of. That is, until one of the groups issued a challenge  for January that prohibited the use of colored pencils. Any other media could be used, but not pencils. 

 The shades of blue challenge.  

I immediately decided not to do that challenge. I don’t like coloring with gel pens or markers. I like coloring with pencils. The first week in January went by and that challenge kept nudging me. I’d push it away. Besides, I told myself, I don’t have markers or colored pens and I didn’t want to purchase them just for this one challenge. 

And then I remembered. I did own a set of Bic fine line colored markers, if I could find them. I searched through my house for another week, without success. Surely, I wasn’t supposed to do the challenge if I couldn’t find my markers. Right? There was that drag on my boat, as I flowed down the river. I recognized that feeling. Resistance. 

 

Once I realize I’m resisting something, which alerts me that I’m moving out of the flow of life, I have a choice to make. Continue resisting…drag, drag, draaaaggg.  Or release the resistance. The choice was not difficult. I would do the challenge.  I used my intuition, and asked, “Where are the Bic markers?” I returned again and again to the place I felt drawn to and searched through the interior of the cabinet multiple times. Finally, standing there once again, I looked in the closet to my left, and there they were. 

I am using markers to complete a challenge. I have until the end of January to finish the picture, a Johanna Basford Christmas print that I didn’t get around to during the holidays. And you know what? It’s fun. I’m enjoying using the markers and coloring with them is just as relaxing. 

I’m grateful for the challenge. It was a simple matter, but apparently a big one to me because it became a point of resistance. I’m learning. It continues to be good for my soul and my growth to move beyond my comfort zone AND my personal preferences, which tend to limit me. My awareness is revealing to me where I am not as open as I want to be. Open to everything…even using markers to color with. Attached to nothing…not even my favorite colored pencils. I believe I’ll be coloring with these markers again. 

 

 

Journey 360: Pajama Day

My intended journey today was to a galaxy far, far away. For the second time in three days I had planned to see Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Thursday my day became full and I made the decision to forgo the movie, so as not to create stress later as I scrambled to get everything done before Christmas. Today, the decision was made for me. All afternoon showings of the movie, on all screens, sold out. 

 

One thing I’ve learned as I’ve journeyed these past two years is to go with the flow. If a first didn’t work out last year, another always showed up to take its place. This year if the journey takes me down another path, I follow it, and I’m always grateful that I did. I’ll see the new Star Wars movie another time. With thunderstorm after thunderstorm moving through the area, accompanied by heavy rainfall, I declared today pajama day. 
 

That meant I had no where I had to be, other than within my cozy home. The Christmas tree and decorations are still up for me to enjoy. I have plenty of left overs, hot tea, snacks. From my favorite chair, swaddled in warm flannel and fleecy socks, I can watch the lightning through the window and hear the steady patter of rain and the rumbling boom of thunder. 

I enjoyed reading in my new leather bound Tolkien dictionary, a Christmas gift from my grandson Dayan. I love the feel of the book in my hands and the detailed sketches on the pages. I looked up various characters, such as Aragorn, Arwen and Thorin Oakenshield and read about them. Then I opened the book at random and learned about the Noldor, the mightiest elves in Middle-earth from ancient times. The name Noldor means “knowledge”, and these elves, above all others, desired to possess it. 

  
One of the Noldor

  A very lovely map of Middle-earth that includes the Undying Lands. 

And I colored today, in The Time Chamber coloring book by Daria Song. My free time has been very limited the past two weeks and I have not been able to color. What a treat this afternoon, to open this beautiful book and try out another Christmas gift, from Greg…a new box of Staedtler colored pencils. 

 

I’ve done fine with my inexpensive Crayola colored pencils. And, I’ve also wanted to try some of the other, more expensive brands of pencils available. I am loving these and the smooth way they lay color onto the page. 

 
I had started this two page spread with my Crayola pencils and completed the girl in the basket with my new Staedtlers. I like the way the picture is turning out. I’ll finish this project and start in Johanna Basford’s newest book, Lost Ocean. 

 

Taking a break from coloring, I re-read the first three chapters in The Surrender Experiment. My word for 2016 is “surrender” and Michael Singer’s book inspires me to let go of attempting to control life and trust the life that is unfolding for me. I’m excited to enter into 2016 and I’ll have more to share about the Year of Surrender in January. 

Today’s experience was the perfect reminder that the Divine gives me exactly what I need. I would have enjoyed the Star Wars movie, and I still will. But sitting in a crowded theater this afternoon wasn’t what was best for me. How do I know? That’s not what happened. What was perfect for me, after weeks of being busy, was a quiet, peaceful afternoon of down time, doing activities that I love, listening to the storms outside. I’m content and happy, and oh so comfy, as I enjoy Pajama Day. 

  
  

Journey 348: Coloring & Eggnog

The perfect end to today, snug inside against the chilly night air, was to sample the season’s first eggnog, while enjoying one of my favorite activities for relaxing. Coloring. Dressed in comfy pjs, the Christmas tree lit up with white twinkling lights, I felt warmed and joyful, a great precursor to sleep. 

 

I tried the adult version of eggnog last year, for the first time. My mom used to fix the nonalcoholic kind when I was a child, but I had not had any type of eggnog for years. For this drink, I buy nonalcoholic eggnog and add a splash of spiced rum, and a sprinkle each of nutmeg and cinnamon. Delicious, and perfect for a wintry evening. 

I researched the drink and found that it originated in Europe in the 14th century. It was first called posset and was a hot drink made from curdled milk and ale or wine. Eggs were introduced to the drink some time later. After America was colonized, the drink morphed into one that contained the original recipe plus grogg, which is a mixture of beer and water or rum and water. Served in a small wooden mug called a noggin, the drink was called “egg and grogg in a noggin”. Thankfully, this was shortened to eggnog. 

 

As I sipped my eggnog, I colored on a Christmas print created by artist Johanna Basford. Johanna’s coloring book, Secret Garden, launched the coloring craze about a year and a half ago. She has since released two more books, Enchanted Forest and Lost Ocean. I have all three books and love her detailed pictures. 

I’m in a coloring book group on Facebook that Johanna is also a member of, and part of her Facebook group. During #GivingTuesday I learned of Mary’s Meals through her page and contributed to this worthy organization with the mission of feeding hungry children around the world. Later, Johanna offered four beautifully done Christmas prints to color, to those who made a donation. That was very kind of her! 

After a time of coloring, and a cup of eggnog, it’s going to be an early turn in for me tonight. But it won’t be my last evening for enjoying either. I found a recipe online for making eggnog from scratch, supposedly George Washington’s concoction. December 24 is National Eggnog Day. I think I’ll give it a try! 

  
  

Journey 346: A Symbol for 2016

As this year is winding down, I’ve confirmed that my new word for 2016 is “surrender”. I’ll share more about the significance of that word later. I’ve been considering what symbol to use to accompany the word and represent 2016. Two images have come to mind…a river and a flower unfurling from its bud.  As a result, I’ve been asking for confirmation on which symbol to choose. 

 

As I was straightening up my stash of coloring books, I picked up the first one I had purchased. Although I’ve colored several pages in it, I haven’t opened the book in a while. I flipped to a page randomly and looked at it. And smiled. There was a drawing of a river, flowing alongside a road, through grasses and trees. 

   

If the river is my symbol for next year, what fun it would be to color this page and use it in social media and on my blog. Or frame the finished picture and hang it in my studio. Looking at the drawing, I felt I was being nudged toward the river as my symbol. I see so many apt comparisons between the flowing river and the flow of life. So many truths and analogies leap to mind. 

In this mindfulness coloring book, each picture has an accompanying quote on the facing page. Curious, I checked to see what words the artist chose for this drawing. Here is the quote:

  
And there was my word, surrender. Of all the quotes that could have accompanied the picture of the river, the artist chose one about surrender. I love the quote and the connection between the river and my chosen word. It’s perfect. And, just as perfectly, the symbol for 2016 was brought to me. The river. 

I’m so excited to have these two key elements for next year in place. What an extraordinary adventure it promises to be. But first, I will finish out 2015 with great joy. I’ll journey to the end of December, before surrendering to 2016. As I complete my year of journeys, I’ll slowly color in the river picture. It can be my work in progress. What a beautiful meditation, as I color, thinking about all that Life, and the river, mean to me. 

  

Journey 320: An Evening of Friendship, Sushi & Coloring

One of life’s greatest blessings is having traveling companions on the journey. There are those in my life who walk alongside, sharing their own experiences, and offering a helping hand or a timely word of encouragement. I’m so grateful. This evening I had the pleasure of spending time with one of these dear souls. 

I met Cate last year, during my Year of Firsts. We instantly connected and have become great friends. I appreciate her willingness to try new experiences and how brightly she shines as her authentic self. 

 

Cate graciously invited me to her house this evening, for a time of chatting, dining and coloring. I picked up sushi for both of us from Han the Sushi Man in Joplin. Cate enjoyed spicy tuna sushi and I opted to try something new, something I’d never had before. The “To Die For” sushi roll was amazing, with shrimp and avocado.  
 

After dinner, we cleared the table. Cate served cups of hot tea and freshly baked, healthy cookies while I brought out coloring books and colored pencils. One of the things I love about coloring is that two or more people can color together companionably and chat at the same time. Cate selected a page out of the Creative Haven Owls book while I started on my first page from The Time Chamber by Daria Song. 
 

What an enjoyable evening. Cate is one of those amazing people who can converse about a wide range of topics. And she’s so easy to talk to. We caught up on our journeys, discovering that we are on such similar paths, even down to a word that is repetitively popping up for both of us. We discussed books, synchronicities, what we are learning from our experiences and…coloring. I found that I color more slowly as I talk, but since there’s no deadline, that’s not an issue! 
  
I love Cate’s choice of colors and that gorgeous night sky. The heart stands out on the page because she was drawn to color that rune in first. Cate’s heart for others is just as evident. She is one of the most loving people that I know, caring for people at a deep level. I appreciate her listening ear and sage words. And then there’s that joyful, infectious laugh!   

  
We were so engrossed in our coloring and chatting, that it took several rumbles of thunder before I realized storms were approaching and it was late. Time to go home. What a great start to our coloring pages. And what a warm and comforting evening with a treasured friend, a kindred soul. I love the Ram Dass quote that says, “We’re all just walking each other home.” Thank you, Cate, for walking with me tonight. 

  

Journey 311: Being a Colorist

I had a productive and interesting day, helping Greg at his dad’s house. We sorted through more stuff, emptying out drawers and carting out bags of discarded items. I think of Greg’s parents a lot while I’m there, holding mementos of their lives in my hands. As we finished up in Arkansas, I couldn’t wait to get back home…to a couple of coloring pages and my mason jar full of colored pencils. 

 I have shared how much I enjoy coloring. It is relaxing and an excellent outlet for expressing creativity. And coloring for adults is the hottest trend in the US right now, according to Books A Million. Perhaps even, in the world. I know Joplin has embraced the activity. Some coloring books are selling out before I can find them. And stores are having a difficult time keeping colored pencils in stock. 

This past week, I did an exercise in The Artist’s Way in which I created five imaginary lives. All for fun. One of the lives I wrote about was being a colorist and a coloring book designer. I wrote out a list of 24 actions that I could do to play in those imaginary lives. Number 24 is to color cover pages for other artists. I’ll be able to check that action off the list, as that’s what I’ve been working on the last two evenings.   

  

This is a contest that a coloring book artist, who is a member of one of my Facebook coloring groups, is holding. She posted six blank coloring pages from her soon to be released book. I am allowed to color and submit two of those completed pages. Winners will have their work used as the front and back covers for the book. I appreciate such an opportunity and whether one of my pages wins or not, it was fun and it allowed me to experience living as a colorist. How cool is that? 

I brought home an oak leaf from the yard of Greg’s dad. I felt inspired by the fall colors, the browns, reds, oranges and greens, all captured on one perfect leaf. I kept it by me tonight as I colored, using the colors in my own art and thinking of Dad Moore. What a joyful evening, doing something I love. And how exciting to reside in one of my other lives, for a few hours. I’ll let you know how the contest goes! 

  

Journey 297: First Coloring Book Club Meeting

I’ve shared recently about my renewed interest in coloring. The market is flooded with coloring books for adults as this craze sweeps around the world. I’m delighted! I love coloring and the new coloring books provide beautifully ┬ádetailed drawings that allow my creative side free reign. This event in Joplin was perfect today for all us coloring enthusiasts…the inaugural meeting of the Coloring Book Club.


Sponsored jointly by Spiva Center for the Arts, Post Art Library, Connect2Culture and Cottage Small Coffee Roasters, the first coloring meet up was held at the Post Art Library, within the Joplin Public Library. Refreshments were provided along with coloring pages and markers, crayons and pencils. Approximately 60 people attended today.

I was excited to be one of the attendees! My daughters Elissa and Adriel joined me, along with Elissa’s friends Aimee, Susan, and Lacey. They are my friends now too! Lacey’s little daughter Vivian attended with her mom. We had such fun, at our end of the table, chatting as we colored.


Elissa, Aimee and I all brought our own sets of colored pencils and I packed a pencil sharpener too, which proved to be a good thing. We sharpened our pencils into a plastic baggie to keep the library tidy. We looked through coloring pages that were provided and all of us selected owl pictures, each of us ending up with a different page.

Elissa said today’s experience reminded her of when she was a child and her brother and sister would join her at the dining room table, drawing or coloring. I often joined in as well. It was a calming activity that forged bonds between us and allowed creativity to develop. Those are precious memories. I have a huge box upstairs, full of my children’s drawings and art work. It’s time to bring that box out and look through it again.

Coloring together is still a companionable and creative way to spend time together. An hour and a half was not enough time to complete a picture, at least not the way we all color, but it was a great start. And it was fun! Laughter and conversations flowed around the packed out room and that was magical, being in the presence of so much creativity and joy.

The next meeting of the Coloring Book Club is in December, and every other month thereafter. Spiva Center for the Arts will be the next host. If you are in the Joplin area, like Coloring Book Club on Facebook for updates about the dates and times. And join us…for fun, coloring, companionship and coffee. I’ll be there!

Journey 270: Super Sunday

Sunday is my favorite day for caring for myself, body, mind and soul. It’s been a wonderfully restful day, spent mostly at home except for an excursion to greet my daughter Elissa at a welcome home celebration. She attended a women’s retreat over the weekend and the tradition is to have family present when the ladies return, to cheer and hug and give tokens of love. I rejoiced over Elissa’s bright and beautiful face as she climbed off the bus. She was tired…who sleeps on retreats…but happy. Perhaps she will do a guest blog post for me someday, and share her soulful experiences, because it is her story to tell. 

 

I arrived back home, just as the sun was sinking. And I knew precisely how I wanted to conclude this gorgeous day. Tonight another Supermoon will grace the sky. And not only is this a full moon that appears larger than normal, it is a full lunar eclipse as well. I wanted to be outside to watch for it. It was the perfect evening for another activity that I’ve been wanting to do as well, out in the garden…color. 

 I started a cozy little fire, that soon blazed into a cheerful roaring fire, and brought out an unsweet tea from Sonic, my colored pencils,  and a new coloring book that I have enjoyed this weekend. The book is The Time Garden, by Daria Song. The pictures are detailed, which I love, and each page tells the story of a little girl who journeys, via her father’s antique cuckoo clock from Germany, to magical places. It’s a whimsical collection of pages to color. I completed the first page today, after beginning last night. I started on a fresh page, in my own enchanted garden. 
 

I am totally captivated by coloring in these books for adults. The colored pencils give me a lot of freedom to mix colors as I add layers and create subtle shading for interest and depth. I love how being creative awakens an artistic side deep within my soul. My senses are more acute. As I was driving this afternoon I noticed colors and textures and the play of light on the old buildings in downtown Webb City. I observed more keenly, noting how shadows form there beneath the eaves of a tall brick storefront, so I could duplicate the effect later with my pencils. 

  
I stood to peer over the fence as the sun slipped below the horizon. It was beautiful. And I studied the sky, awash with colors, thinking about how to best capture such a stunning sight. I like how an act as simple as coloring has a profound effect on me, shifts me, opens me to more possibilities, more beauty in the world. 

 

 
In the darkness, relieved only by the glow through the neighbor’s windows and the flickering firelight, I sit at peace, with myself and with my world, and watch the eastern sky. The moon has appeared and the earth’s shadow is crossing her shining face. My cat Shy Boy has claimed my lap and enjoys the night with me, staring into the fire. What a magical evening.