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.

November Salad Toppings

Hello friends,
Happy November! Time to share some things I’ve been enjoying lately:

Japanese sweet potatoes
Particularly when they’re roasted in coconut oil.

Oprah and Deepak’s 21 Day Meditation Challenge
I love these! I get pretty excited every time they happen (about twice a year, I think). The first one I did was probably about four years now, and I’ve done every one of them since. Each day Oprah and Deepak start you off with some words of wisdom and inspiration, and then Deepak sends you off with a mantra and some nice new age-y music that is rather calming and also helps to remind you when you start thinking about breakfast and emails and elephants or whatever that your intention is to be meditating. Also, it’s free! This one started last week but you can always join late. Meditate with me??

Dar Williams
She’s so cool. I went to see her in concert a few weeks ago and it was really great–great music and great stage presence. She’s funny. Also, as I told my mom afterwards, it kind of seemed like a concert for old people–not too loud, not too long, and not too late at night. TOTALLY my cup of tea. If you want to know who and what I’m talking about, I really like this song and also this one.

Liberal Arts
A movie recommended by Katie Dalebout that I quite enjoyed. Katie also interviewed writer/director/star Josh Radnor on her podcast recently and it was a really fascinating conversation! Also during the interview, he recommended the album that led me to rediscover the following…

Fratres by Arvo Pärt
WHOA. That is all I have to say about this one right now.

I hope you’re having a beautiful day full of fall colors and cozy socks and pumpkin spice (if you’re into that…if not that’s cool too). What’s on your salad at the moment?

Joyfully,
Maria

p.s. I’m not an affiliate for any of these things, I just like them!

Adventures in Sleeping, Part II

Last time I told you about some of the strategies I’ve used to get better at sleeping, and I promised I’d share some of the strange inner workings of my sleepy mind. Are you excited??

After I got kind of tired of reading when I was trying to get to sleep, I moved on to writing. I’m a big fan of journaling, of getting my thoughts out of my head and onto paper. Afterwards I often feel a sense of relief, like I’ve acknowledged and let go of these thoughts and can relax, so it has at times helped me in the sleeping department. Sometimes, the words that come out when I journal at strange hours of the night turn into poems. I wrote the following at approximately 4 in the morning sometime last year:

What choice have I, when sleep evades,
when thoughts won’t rest and daylight fades,
but sit in bed and ponder life
within the stillness of the night?

These thoughts that nightly come to me
keep me caught in reality
instead of sailing in silver shoes
to that place on a star where the fairies snooze.

Like: “I am hungry! Feed me now!
Are there eggs in the fridge? Should I buy a cow?
Or should I be an actor? A farmer’s not right!”
These are the things that come up in the night.

Dear Brain,
Please relieve me. Send those thoughts somewhere else!
Pack them up in a suitcase! Stack them up on a shelf!
These are thoughts that right now, I simply DON’T NEED.
So PLEASE get them out of my way, please, please, PLEASE.

So now I am begging. ‘Twas not my intent
but these last few hours tonight I have spent
trying to ask you more civilized-like—
after all, you’re my pal…so, turn out the lights?!

…FOCUS, Brain, and tell me please:
What are you trying to do with these
uninvited moonlit musings?
I find the concept rather confusing.

Do you think we’ll become closer friends?
Are you trying to take control of my hands?
Is it just too dull to sit up there and wait
in silence until I awake?

I apologize for being a bore
and a bit of a health nut too…
but it’s not only me who needs the sleep
…that’s right, Brain, I mean YOU!

I’m actually pretty impressed that my 4 in the morning brain made this much sense.  I really really like sleeping…but I guess my inability to do so resulted in some rather interesting creations, at least. Lest you think I am an exceptional middle-of-the-night genius, this is definitely my best moonlit, sleep-deprived poem. I have some others that are really rather terrible that I think I will not release into the internet.

If you loved this poem and are hoping for more glimpses of groggily-written masterpieces, you may be disappointed to hear that there haven’t recently been any gems like this one. I have been sticking to daytime writing and creating for the most part. But, I hope you will be pleased for my sake because that means I have actually been much better at sleeping recently! Without having to get up and write weird poems.

But I’ll let you know more about that in Part III.

Poetically,
Maria

Adventures in Sleeping, Part I

I have never been very good at sleeping. I think nights were pretty rough for my parents for quite a while after I was born. (sorry, Mom and Dad…) I cannot sleep in cars. I cannot sleep in buses. I cannot sleep in airplanes. Sleeping on couches or floors is ok, sometimes, but usually not many hours of sleep happens. What about beds, you ask? I can sleep in a bed if it is very very dark and very very quiet (no fans, thank you very much) and just the right temperature and I am just the right amount of tired. In that situation, then sleeping in a bed is just fine. Probably. As long as you mean my bed, of course…

I’ve experimented with a whole bunch of things to improve my sleeping skills. As in, so many things it would make a really long blog post. So we’re going to cover this adventure in a few installments. Here’s part 1:

  1. Counting backwards from 100. At first, this worked pretty reliably. After a while though, it started to get too easy—the reason it worked in the first place was that it engaged my brain juuust enough to distract me from whatever other thoughts might be keeping me awake and was also boring enough to not keep me from sleeping. So I tried…
  2. Counting backwards from 100 in color. Numbers always have colors attached for me, but the colors aren’t really obvious unless I think about them. Adding the colors made things more interesting and kept me more focused. It worked for a while too. (In case you’re wondering, 100 is yellow and 99 is green. If the idea of numbers having colors sounds bizarre to you, look up “synesthesia.” It’s quite fascinating.) However, this also got too easy after I had been doing it for long enough. On to…
  3. Counting by 3s. This worked quite well, when I could discipline myself to actually do it…you guys, this is seriously the most boring way to fall asleep. I know boring can be good when you’re trying not to stay awake, but man…boring can also be so frustrating. Which kind of negates the effects of the boring.
  4. Reading. The downside to this strategy is that although I have read two and most of a third Jane Austen novel, I could tell you almost nothing of any of the stories or characters. The other tricky thing about this is that I can’t read anything too suspenseful or inspiring, because then I’m too excited to fall asleep. Kind of limits my options…I’ve decided that the best books for this kind of reading are childhood favorites. I like to get cozy in my bed with a picture book or one of my Moomintrolls and read myself a bedtime story. It’s like being the little kid who’s being read to and the adult who’s reading at the same time!
  5. Stretching while listening to nature sounds. This is exactly what it sounds like. And it’s quite relaxing. It’s also kind of fun because you can think about what kind of nature you’re in the mood for at the moment. Do you want to imagine yourself relaxing on the beach, or snuggled up in a forest? And then if you decide forest, do you want Woodland Rainstorm? Or Wind in the Trees? Or Leaves in the Wind? Or Quiet Forest? Or another of the myriad options that all sound equally peaceful and forest-y?

Enough for today! Next time we’re going to take a look into my peculiar brain, and what it’s actually thinking while I’m trying to get to sleep. (spoiler: sometimes thoughts come out in poem form…get excited!) In the meantime, do you have any favorite picture books you’d recommend? I would love to hear your suggestions and I will totally check them out of the library and read them to myself 🙂

Sleepily,
Maria

Read Part II here if you would like to experience a poem I wrote at 4 in the morning