I'm drawing for 100 days.

Hi friends!

Happy April!

For me, the theme of this month seems to be commitment. Mostly, this has come up because I've been frustrated recently that I haven't been taking my art as seriously as I'd like. In an attempt to remedy this, I decided to participate in #the100dayproject, meaning I've committed to working on an illustration every day for 100 days. It's only been 6 days so far, and already I am thinking two thoughts: 1. I am already way too busy, why did I add this?! and 2. I love drawing and I've always known I love drawing--why wouldn't I make time for this every day?!

Of course, I've really only committed to myself. If I stop this project in the middle, will this have any sort of negative impact on anyone else? Nope. Commitments to ourselves can be a lot harder to keep, but I think they're just as important. This project is important to me because not only am I building a portfolio and illustration skills, I am building trust in myself. Trust that I can and will make time for the things I care about, which is one of the best ways I can practice self love and self respect. (p.s. this week's podcast episode is all about this subject, so stay tuned for that! And last week we talked about creative inspiration, another related topic!) 

So that's what's up for me this month. If you want to follow along with the next 94 days of illustrations, you can find me on Instagram. I hope the rest of your April is full of whatever it is that makes your heart sing--whether that's drawing, writing, cooking for your family, or wandering in the woods searching for toadstools... 

creatively & commitedly,
Maria

Radishes, Penguins, and Pigs, Oh My!

Hey friends! It's February! Happy belated Groundhog Day! Happy early Valentine's/Galentine's/Anna Howard Shaw Day!

Speaking of that holiday that's coming up in a couple of weeks, my Valentine's Day card collection, which has been in the making for quite a while now, is on Etsy! It started out last year around this time, with this design that I finally had made into a card:

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A word for the new year

Happy 2018! I hope your last few weeks of 2017 were cozy and relaxing, and that 2018 is shaping up to be a good year so far. 

I like new years. They always feel rather fresh and exciting, and I always get an extra dose of motivation to tackle some of the projects I've been putting off.  And as a creative person with a lot of interests, I always have quite a few projects in mind. At the same time though, there's a lot of pressure to improve and accomplish and uplevel and grow . . . which are all good things to do, but I'm not sure the pressure is so healthy or useful. 

Instead of setting a bunch of goals for myself this year, I decided to set one overarching intention of how I want to feel: strength.
 

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What Happened to Starfruit Salad?

Hi friends! It’s been a while.

Now, if you are reading this on my blog Starfruit Salad, you may be thinking, “What did happen to Starfruit Salad? Something, I assume?” And if you’re reading this on my new website, maybe you are wondering, “What happened to the old one?”

The answer is: I’ve been working on a re-brand, if you will, of my online art presence/blog, and I decided to use the name Maria Katharine instead of Starfruit Salad. This has been kind of a long time coming—I’ve been talking to friends for months about how I couldn’t decide whether to use Starfruit Salad, or Maria K. Ramsey, or something else, for the creative work I’m sharing online. I sort of liked them both, but neither really felt right, and it was really throwing me off.

Finally, a few weeks ago, I had the idea for a third option. I wrote out all three of my ideas, checked in with how I was feeling as I looked at them, and my answer was pretty obvious.

This was such a relief. I actually felt excited about the name of my website, and planning the design was way more fun than when I was still thinking about the other two options. Plus, I’ve always kind of wished we used our middle names more…if we don’t use them, what’s the point of having them in the first place?

The biggest difference I feel is a sense of confidence that comes from the clarity and coherence of using a name I feel good about. While I don’t know exactly what I’ll be creating and sharing here in the long run (I have maybe eight billion or so creative interests, so who knows, maybe this will turn into a space for me to share my music or my super smooth dance moves), but whatever I create, I have a space to share it that feels good, which makes me more excited to share. And sharing is why I started a blog in the first place!

So here we are. This is not a huge development in terms of some new content or focus, but we’re in a bit of a new place now. So welcome! Have a look around, let me know what you think!

Also, I do still really like the name Starfruit Salad, so if you’re sad about the name change, rest assured that I am not letting go of it completely. For now, at least, it’s still my Etsy name, and I think it would make a good name for a series of artwork or a product line, maybe even an illustrated book… (eek! now it’s out there!)

Thanks for being here. I’m so grateful to be able to share what I’m thinking and working on with you, and I really appreciate your support on my creative adventures.

With gratitude (and a new website),
Maria

Making the Most of Snow Days

Snow days are awesome. I’ve had several in the past week and have been so thoroughly pleased not to have to go to work and teach and be responsible for so many young people. I love these young people dearly…and also it can sometimes be very exhausting to work with them, especially when I’m working with several of them at a time, in a classroom setting.

These past few snow days, however, left me with a sense of not having fully taken advantage of the day. They were pretty relaxing, pretty productive, but somehow they didn’t really feel like snow days. So this morning (yet another snow day!), I thought about what was missing in my current snow days, vs. the snow days of my youth.

The answer: playing in the snow! I hadn’t done that in years. Why don’t more grownups play in the snow? Perhaps because getting all decked out in snow gear is kind of awkward and bulky, and all of your clothes get soggy anyway…and also probably because most of us are not really used to playing anymore. Especially the kind of playing that doesn’t have any particular aim in mind.

You guys…this was the best snow day decision I’ve made yet. Here are some things I took away from the experience:

  1. I really really love being out in nature. I’m a lot better at actually going outside when it’s warm out, though. I don’t spend as much time outside in the winter…and I could tell that I really needed to get out there, because I was so giddy the whole time I was outside.
  2. The world is so beautiful. It’s easy to forget this when we get sucked into the busyness of our daily lives and responsibilities and work and politics. But lying in the snow and looking at the sparkles swirling off the trees and through the sunlight was nothing short of magical. And it may be easier to notice magic outside after a snowfall, but who’s to say we can’t find it all around us, all the time? Also, for some reason, watching the snow fly around in the air kind of gave me the feeling of being tickled…so that I was goofily giggling to myself, as I was lying alone in a snow bank.
  3. Falling down is very fun when you have something squishy to land in. I went out with no plans, no goals, no activities in mind…and it turned out my very favorite thing to do while I was out there was to throw myself into the snow and feel the way it cushioned my fall and instantly molded itself to a perfectly shaped chair to fit my body. This was also very amusing, and also caused some goofy giggling.
  4. Trees make good picture frames. Tree trunks, rather. It gives you a different and fascinating perspective to look at the world as it shows up between tree trunks. Or from the ground, as I mentioned earlier.
  5. Very deep snow is not so good for snow angels. I had forgotten this, but if the snow is too deep, it’s very challenging to move your legs and arms far enough to make a decent angel shape.
  6. The best kind of exercise, in my opinion, is the kind that doesn’t feel like exercise. Why drag yourself to a gym, or out for a run, when you can get a workout by joyfully throwing yourself into snow banks and frolicking through snow that comes up to your knees? Of course, if you actually like going to the gym or going for runs, then go ahead and do those things. But I prefer frolicking.

So that was my morning. It was really fun, made me glad to be alive, made the day feel like a snow day, and helped me feel less resistant to the idea that spring will probably not be here for quite a while still…even though when I got inside I was soaked and had several snowballs hiding out in the legs of my snow pants. It was totally worth it.

Playfully,
Maria

My Favorite Resources for People with Uteruses

…or is it uteri? Like octopi? Do octopi have uteri? What about platypi? (I just checked: uteri is in fact the plural of uterus, octopi lay eggs, and platypi is not a real word.)

Discussions of plurals aside, I don’t think we talk about our uteri enough. After all, about half of us have them. And for a lot of us, they impact our lives in a very noticeable way…unlike appendixes, for example. (To clarify: this is really a post about periods, not just uteri. So if you’re past that stage in your life this may not be super helpful.)

Even though we’re very aware of our uteri (at least when they hurt), we mostly try to ignore them. We pretend we don’t menstruate, or wish we didn’t. We take painkillers to manage symptoms so we can function “normally.” How much do we really know about what’s going on with our hormones? And if we don’t really know what’s going on, how do we make informed choices about our bodies and our health? Ignorance is not going to get us anywhere.

My story, in a nutshell: Once upon a time, I got my period. After showing up somewhat irregularly for a couple of years, it suddenly disappeared. I kept waiting for it to show up again…but it didn’t. Which, for a while, seemed pretty cool. After all, a period was just an annoying thing that happens to your body that you can’t control, a nuisance that you just have to deal with, a reason to wish you didn’t have a female body. That’s pretty much what I’d learned and experienced, anyway. When that’s what we think of the functions of our uteri, who can blame us for trying to ignore them?

But you guys, there is SO much more than just bleeding and cramps and PMS. Maybe it’s because I didn’t have a period for so long, and absence makes the heart grow fonder and all, but this thing that our bodies do is SO COOL. The other reason I’m so fascinated by my cycle is that I’ve learned about it. I know what part of my cycle I’m in and what to expect, physically and emotionally, which has been incredibly valuable. This has helped me to learn to work with my body, rather than trying to fight against it. Also, learning more about periods (mostly through podcasts) is what eventually helped me get mine back, which is a pretty big deal, so YAY for learning!

If you want to feel love and appreciation and awe towards your uterus and your hormones, my suggestion is to learn more about them. Here are some of my favorite places to do that:

This podcast episode
I learned SO much from this interview about how my hormones work. Definitely worth a listen. If you don’t want to listen to the unrelated chatting at the beginning, skip to the start of the interview at 5:15.

This book
This is what really got me interested in the cycle as a whole. Alisa Vitti talks about what’s going on hormone-wise during each phase of the cycle, and how that affects the way you feel and think, and what your body needs during each phase. Here’s an abbreviated podcast version of some of the information in the book, also worth a listen.

Nicole Jardim
A women’s health coach who has lots of online period-related resources.

Kindara
A free app where you can track your cycle (with or without a thermometer) so you know where in your cycle you are—which is actually pretty fun because you start to notice patterns and have a better idea of what to expect. Also, this is a useful record you can show your doctor in the case that you need to do some hormonal detective work. They also have lots of women’s health articles on their website and in the app’s “knowledge base” that are worth checking out.

Whether you check out these resources or find some other ones that resonate with you (there are so many more out there!), I hope that you’re inspired to learn a little more about your hormones. Because knowledge is power. Let’s not ignore our uteri any longer.

Hormonally (hehe, couldn’t help myself),
Maria

p.s. if you haven’t signed up for my email newsletter yet, you can do so here to get updates about my soon-to-be-officially-launched Etsy shop, among other things!

Everything is an Experiment

Action is crucial. You can dream about your future all you want, about the awesome person you’re going to become…you know, the one who does all the things you wish you would do…but how are you going to become that person if you don’t start…well, doing the things? What, really, are you waiting for?

Maybe you are waiting for Someday. Someday, yes, you will have more money, more time, more experience, more friends…and then you will write that book or volunteer for that organization or call up that person you’ve been meaning to get in touch with.

Question: When is this Someday you speak of? Is it actually any closer to you now than it was a month ago? A year ago? Two years ago?

If it is closer, that’s probably because you did something that helped you make some progress. If it’s not, then, well, it’s probably time to take action.

The catch? Taking action can be hard. Especially for recovering perfectionists, like myself. Witness the inner workings of my mind, when I am considering taking action: Maybe I will start an Etsy shop and sell greeting cards. But wait…what if nobody buys greeting cards? What if I don’t actually like selling greeting cards? EEK. Better research extensively and spend hours examining the pros and cons of every possible thing that I could sell. But maybe I don’t even like selling things. I’ll have to buy a lot of stamps, that might be annoying…also I don’t know how to do this! It seems hard!

Thoughts like this can go on and on until the thing I was considering doing eventually gets thrown into the Someday pile. If you started at the beginning of this post and are reading it in order, you already know this is not a very effective way to get things done. Once it’s in the Someday pile, it’s easy to dismiss, and sometimes it ends up sitting in there for years. Also, if you are reading this post in order, nicely done, that is probably a good choice in terms of reading comprehension.

So taking action. What to do, when you feel like you don’t know what to do? Recently, I’ve found a way of pretty effectively steering my brain away from all of its anxious thoughts about whether or not I’m taking the “right” action:

I remind myself that everything is an experiment.

Sure, things might not go the way I planned or expected, and maybe I will decide that selling greeting cards on Etsy is not the way to go. But hey, if it’s just an experiment, I can change my mind and do something else next month! Also, you do experiments so you can learn from them. I might learn that I like selling greeting cards, or I might learn that I really hate selling greeting cards—either way, I’ll have more information on the subject than I do right now—and how else would I have gotten that information?

Basically, this is about being willing to take risks. But to me, a person who is very risk-averse, “taking risks” sounds dangerous and irresponsible, and, well, risky. For whatever reason, framing it as an experiment makes it sound much more constructive. And that works for me.

I think the deal is this: actions and/or risks can be scary because they have lasting effects. Your decision today will absolutely shape the opportunities and decisions you have available to you in the future.

BUT. Having lasting effects is not the same as holding you hostage. You can always re-evaluate your current situation and change course if you decide it’s not working for you. Sure, those other options you were considering before may no longer be options…but that doesn’t mean there aren’t new opportunities in the present moment. And we can’t ever predict what those will be; maybe they’ll be better than the old ones anyway!

Let me know your thoughts on risks and experiments and actions—I’m curious whether the “everything is an experiment” mentality is helpful to anyone else, or if you have other ways of thinking that work for you!

Experimentally,
Maria

p.s. I am in fact starting that Etsy shop, hopefully quite soon! If you want to be the first to know when it launches, and hear exclusive details and updates on my journey, sign up for my mailing list here! Maybe I’ll even send you a coupon code 😉 You can also check out some of my art on Instagram.

p.p.s. If you liked this post, listen to this podcast episode. I’ve been using “everything is an experiment” as a sort of mantra for quite some time, but listening to this inspired me to include more of the taking action side of things in this post as well.