Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Mindfulness vs. Mindlessness

Personally, I think everyone should find something for themselves that is meditative. I don't think it even needs to be some epic spiritual journey where you go sit under a waterfall and think deep thoughts or don't think thoughts at all. (Though, I suppose if you have the resources, to each their own.) I just mean something that you do for/by yourself that can generate a catharsis.

It's interesting, when thinking about how we deal with stress, sometimes when you get to the heart of the matter, you find that we're not dealing with it at all, we're just distracting ourselves.

And sometimes, that's reasonable. Sometimes you have a tough day and you go out for a drink, work out a little harder at the gym, veg out in front of the tv or computer, go out, play games, whatever. It's ok to pair our temporary solutions with our temporary stresses. It's when we get into the matter of long-term stresses vs. short-term stresses. Printer jam -- short-term. Working for a temperamental boss who doesn't appreciate the work you put in which makes you feel like the job you do isn't valued which makes you feel detached/cynical about life/the future -- long-term. The last one doesn't have to be long-term, if you choose to do something about it.

Stress left unchecked is a bad thing and can eventually lead to depression. The thing is, our stress has to go somewhere. If we ignore things that stress us out, they don't go away, we just postpone dealing with them which can oftentimes escalate a situation. Sometimes when something goes wrong in one area of life, we try and control another area in our life as a way to compensate, making drastic changes that can sometimes have irreversible damage. Stress isn't always a bad thing. It can be channeled for something useful.

According to the Mayo Clinic:
Stress symptoms may be affecting your health, even though you might not realize it. You may think illness is to blame for that nagging headache, your frequent insomnia or your decreased productivity at work. But stress may actually be the culprit.

Indeed, stress symptoms can affect your body, your thoughts and feelings, and your behavior. Being able to recognize common stress symptoms can give you a jump on managing them.

Common effects of stress ...
... On your body... On your mood... On your behavior
  • Headache
  • Muscle tension or pain
  • Chest pain
  • Fatigue
  • Change in sex drive
  • Stomach upset
  • Sleep problems
  • Anxiety
  • Restlessness
  • Lack of motivation or focus
  • Irritability or anger
  • Sadness or depression
  • Overeating or undereating
  • Angry outbursts
  • Drug or alcohol abuse
  • Tobacco use
  • Social withdrawal

I started thinking about all of this because of my on-going crane project. (You can click that link to see my previous post about why I am folding origami cranes)

I was thinking about what people want out of a stress reliever and the subject of mindlessness came up. It was only for a brief moment that the word was used, and I was quick to say that I didn't think that folding cranes was an an exercise in mindlessness for me. I find it to be very mindful. I suppose I have folded enough of them at this point that I could continue making lots of them while watching tv or something. But that's not why I fold them. Or rather, that's not how I fold them. For me they are a very deliberate attempt of thinking things through. Sometimes I write inspirational quotes in them, because I am envisioning the kind of strength that I would like to draw on, I'll write about what I've learned, what I want to learn, how I feel... and then when I'm done folding it, if I can, I take that feeling to the next step -- making it actionable.

One of my biggest obstacles was being too closed off from people. I am generally a private person, but I realized that not being as open really hindered me. We all have our own limited experiences in life; that's the beauty of connecting with other people -- you get to see a broader spectrum of the collective human experience by learning from others. I'm fortunate to have people that care about me from all walks of life who I have learned from, and from time to time also feel they can learn something from me. Connecting with people is a true gift.

At any rate, mindlessness has it's place for things, but I think we should also make sure that mindfulness has just as equal weight. I find that addressing what I am going through head-on in this manner has been a very positive catalyst for me.

For anyone who wants ways to address/improve their stress management, I found a nice little site (I have no affiliation with them, just found them) that is a good place to start.

I hope you find what you need as well.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Journey of 1,000 Cranes (part one)

I have origami paper with me just about most of the time. I leave a stack at work, a stack at home and then I have a little plastic container filled with sheets of origami so I can fold anywhere else. I fold them when I need a little pick me up, when I'm waiting for something, when I just want to look at pretty patterned paper... just whenever.

I've frequently been asked what I plan on doing with them when I'm all done and why I started folding cranes in the first place.
The first question is easy -- I'd like to do something like this:

Origami Cranes Using Japanese Newspapers at the Crow Asian Art Museum -- Dallas, TX
Although recently I've been joking about recreating that scene in Indecent Proposal where Demi Moore is in the bed with all the money. I probably wouldn't... but it's funny to think about.

Anyway, before I get into the nitty gritty of why, it helps to understand the significance of the cranes.

The Legend of the Crane

In many Asiatic cultures, the crane is symbolic of good fortune and longevity, due to its fabled lifespan of 1,000 years. An ancient story in Japan promises that anyone who folds a thousand origami cranes, to represent each year of its life, will be granted a wish by a crane. The Japanese refer to the crane as “the bird of happiness;” the Chinese as “heavenly crane” believing they were symbols of wisdom. The powerful wings of the crane were believed to be able to convey souls up to paradise and to carry people to higher levels of spiritual enlightenment.
Over time, the crane has evolved as a favorite subject of the tradition of paper folding -- origami.

Other Notable Historic Instances of the Crane

Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes is a non-fiction children's book written by American author Eleanor Coerr and published in 1977. This true story is of a girl, Sadako Sasaki, who lived in Hiroshima at the time of the atomic bombing by the United States. She developed leukemia from the radiation and spent her time in a nursing home creating origami (folded paper) cranes in hope of making a thousand of them. She was inspired to do so by the Japanese legend that one who created a thousand origami cranes would then be granted a wish. Her wish was simply to live. However, she managed to fold only 644 cranes before she became too weak to fold any more, and died on 25th of October 1955 in the morning. Her friends and family helped finish her dream by folding the rest of the cranes, which were buried with Sadako. They also built a statue of Sadako holding a giant golden origami crane in Hiroshima Peace Park.

Now every year on Obon Day, which is a holiday in Japan to remember the departed spirits of one's ancestors, thousands of people leave paper cranes near the statue. On the statue is a plaque: "This is our cry. This is our prayer. Peace on Earth."


*Side note -- you can get it on Amazon and help out my friends' amazing charity Allison's Hope while doing so. P.S. I personally make zero dollars for suggesting that -- they're just that awesome.
I was so moved by the story. It was a dream so powerful that it connected so many people (and still does to this day) -- it's nice to have reminders that the beauty of humanity exists even amidst so much other ugliness.

For many the practice of folding 1,000 cranes represents a form of healing and hope during challenging times. That is exactly what it is for me.

Almost two years ago, I was going through a really tough time in my life. There were times where I felt like I must have cried all the tears I could have cried, and days where I felt like if I started again I would never stop. I lost a lot of weight in a short amount of time, even though I made efforts to eat... food just didn't taste as good anymore. I had many sleepless nights wondering what place I had in the world. It was scary, I couldn't see what life for myself would look like in a year, a month, even the next day. I just couldn't see it. I went to Dallas to visit my family, accompanied by two of my closest friends. My family (btw, the nice thing about what I consider "family" is that there is room for great friends to be considered "family") is fantastic. I'm super duper lucky. In the morning, we went to the art museum and I was delighted to see so many gorgeous displays. This hallway in particular inspired me.

Me at the Crow Asian Art Museum -- Dallas, TX (2011)
I decided my goal was to find ways to cultivate and enrich myself as a person. This covers all levels of growth, be it physically, emotionally or spiritually. Some days would be contemplative, other days would be about learning new things. The path to self discovery is no simple feat, as you constantly have to ask yourself the hard questions that you don’t want to answer. During dark times in my life, I am fortunate to have my wonderful family and friends by my side. In the darkness, in times where I didn't think I could find hope, people in my life showed me how much they cared by reaching their hands out to pick me up and dust myself off. As I write this, I am in another transitional period in my life. I don’t always know what to do, but somehow I find a way to get to the next day. I am extremely inspired by the people around me that love me -- words will never be enough to express what they mean to me. I, too, hope to be a shining person for them. (And later if you want, you can read my previous post to understand the shining person reference here.)

To me, it's important to truly feel and to truly express. Suppression of emotions only leads to significant problems. We can’t be ashamed of having feelings, whether they are anger, hurt, frustration, sorrow, confusion or whatever else. The important thing is that we have an outlet for those feelings in order to process them. Feeling is not weak. Neither is asking for help when it’s too tough on our own. If things aren't fine, we can’t put on our masks and say that they are. That’s not giving it our all. I'm happy to say that my outlook on life is much better than when that pic was snapped (and also that my hair looks much better now IMHO).  I'm also excited to share with you that I am at 840 origami cranes right now. I was stuck on 200 for a long time, then I was stuck around the 500-600 range for even longer, but now that I am at 840 I no longer have any doubt that I will finish. And I am really ecstatic. I feel like the closer and closer I get to 1,000 that anything is possible -- in all aspects of life. Things are achievable.

I'm at 840 -- shit is getting real.
It has been a huge exercise of patience, determination, and effort. Some of them even have inspirational quotes written on them, goals, dreams -- it really is a true reflection of hope for me.

I'll be sure to post when I finish, and show you what all I do with it. People have already asked me what I plan on doing after I finish. My journey doesn't end at 1,000 -- there's always room to keep growing. Whether it's cranes again, I'm not sure. I've been thinking butterflies would be fun to make, but we'll see. One step at a time -- gotta finish these cranes first. There will be times when things don't go well, but there are things you begin to see because things don't go well. Without darkness, the light can’t always make itself apparent. On your dark days, know that there can be light. Sometimes, you've just got to reach out your hand to the numerous amount of people who care about you and want to help you back up. Other times, you just have to make it for yourself. Either way, know that no matter what, you can do it. Life is doable.

You can view part two here.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Soundtrack of My Life (Q1 2013)

Ok so not quite a crafty post, but it's on my mind.

Music is indisputably (and unrelentingly) autobiographical.

Consider the first song that you danced to... or that made you think/realize that you were in love... the song that your heart broke to over and over again as it played and how you never thought you'd recover...

Valentine's 2012 in particular, I remember the absurdly high occurrence of Somebody That I Used to Know -- Gotye references as status messages. (Someone should look that up, how many tweets and fb statuses had that.) It makes sense, after all loving someone and getting hurt are universal themes.

someecards.com - I'm only four and I've already heard that Gotye song so many times that I have a deathwish.

Sometimes it's a song you've heard before and liked, maybe even loved but then something happens and suddenly, it's like you've never heard the words before that moment. Catchy, pretty songs that then click that light bulb above your head "On".

Kagayaku Hito -- Angela Aki is like that for me. It was a fluke that I found it (or that it found me). I was listening to an internet radio station for Japanese music. I was taking beginner's Japanese and I wanted to immerse myself a little more. I just remember thinking that the song sounded so pretty, though I didn't understand it -- the simplicity of just a girl and her guitar really stood out. So I made note of the artist and song, and just kind of had it run in the background. At some point, curiosity struck and I thought to look for the translated lyrics.

That was a couple of years ago... it was during a really rough time in my life.

For me, there was always an inner turmoil. I had many things to be grateful for, but somehow I could never shake the feeling that I didn't deserve it. It prompted me to act out in seemingly irrational ways. I've made a lot of mistakes in my life. I think about how many times I've been hurt... and how many people I've hurt along the way. Whether it was intentionally or unintentionally doesn't really matter... you pay the consequences all the same.


The sun has abandoned me and my presence grows dim
No one notices but my heart is crying

I want to be a shining person
So I close my eyes and imagine it
I’ll laugh a lot, fall in love
And surely be happy, so happy

Words have abandoned me, leaving me with thoughts I can’t express
No one can hear me but my heart is screaming out


I believe the shining person is definitely within me
I’ll laugh a lot, dream, and surely be happy
Someday I’ll be one too


I understand it's a little narcissistic to assume that a song was made just for you... I understand it on paper. But at that moment, it was mine.

I've had to deconstruct a lot of the things about myself that were very much a part of my foundation -- how I process emotions, trust issues, stress management, how I communicate, the whole gamut. It's one of the hardest things I've ever had to do and is something I continually work on. One of the most important things I've learned is that sometimes we create coping mechanisms for ourselves early on and then don't realize when they're out of date.

Everyone is a work in progress; no one is a masterpiece.

These are some of the songs that are telling a story for me right now...
Don't You Worry Child -- Swedish House Mafia
Sweet Nothing -- Florence and the Machine
Firework -- Katy Perry

I know, I know. A musicphile would scoff at this pedestrian playlist. I still like and listen to plenty of other songs, I'm just saying these are especially relevant right now -- mostly due to their accessibility. My cd player in my car is a little spotty, and my commute is long, so I've gotta scour the FM airwaves for jams. The Swedish House Mafia one in particular is just so timely. I find that when I start getting bummed or anxious, it happens to play. Seriously, like right when I feel that way. I blare it through my little 2004 Honda Civic speakers and just believe it when they say "Don't you worry, don't you worry, child. See Heaven's got a plan for you. Don't you worry, don't you worry now." It's convincing. Or maybe I'm convince-able. Either way, I like it.

I've got plenty to say about what I think about destiny, fate, coincidence, divinity -- but I'll save that for another post.

At any rate, I have decided that the takeaway from all this is: I'm going to come out the other side. Things are going to be ok.

I am a (grateful) recipient of hope.

Friday, February 15, 2013

StampingChallenges -- SC7 (Just My Type Card)

Here is my latest sketch challenge for Stamping Challenges  (SC7 -- February 15, 2013).  

Each week StampingChallenges.com create a sketch for you to try, and the challenge is for you to interpret it the way you see those elements used -- make substitutions with your creativity!

It's open to everyone, so start stamping with us today.

Here was the sketch to work from:

Here's what I did:

Want to get the materials to make this card? Visit my store:

For this card I used


Crumb cake (base)
Whisper White

Designer Series Paper:
Sycamore Street

You're My Type

Friday, February 1, 2013

StampingChallenges -- SC5 (You're Swell Card)

Today I'm excited to share my latest sketch challenge for Stamping Challenges  (SC5 -- February 1, 2013).  

As I mentioned previously -- It's made up of a lively group of avid stampers, so I'm very proud to get to stamp alongside them. (Even if not physically next to them, in spirit!)

Each week they create a sketch for you to try, and the challenge is for you to interpret it the way you see those elements used -- make substitutions with your creativity!

It's open to everyone, so start stamping with us today.

I needed a bit of a pick me up, life has been a little sadder lately... Luckily I have family and friends who love me and are there for me through tough times. 
I'll just take it one day at a time, time will pass and the hurt will heal. :)

Here was the sketch to work from:

Here is the card I designed:

Get the materials to make this card here:

For this card I used
- Crumb Cake (base)
-  Whisper White
Designers Series Paper:
- Sycamore Street
Stamp Sets:

- Ciao Baby