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?!

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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

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