Growing Better

I’m so grateful that in growing older, my body doesn’t put up with my poor choices.  My body lets me know when eating too many sweets or processed food because I don’t feel well.  It’s usually a pretty quick response these days if I eat too much bad stuff, and I’m grateful that my body allows me to still enjoy some processed food.  After a week of clean eating, I’m happy to enjoy some pizza with good people and not feel bad.

The key that I’ve found for myself, is that I need to continue eating real food – generally not processed – but to be flexible.  I’ve recently been able to buy fresh food at farmer’s markets, and that is how I’m choosing to reward myself.

I’m growing better as I age, and I’m growing capacity at making better decisions.

 

Honor Yourself

It’s good to recognize yourself – to take a moment and acknowledge or celebrate something that you did.  I have a tendency to keep moving forward without too much pause, but my friend gave me a tool to help me notice.  A friend of mine gave me a Fitbit recently and I’ve worn it a few days without checking any results until today – just to see what is a typical day.

I’m taking a moment to honor myself because I knew that I walked a lot because I literally wear out my sneakers significantly faster now than I used to in any other place that I’ve lived, but I actually walk a lot.  According to this Fitbit, in a typical weekday, I walk about six to six and a half miles.  This is just my commute to work, lunch break walk, and the daily steps around the office.  I’ve impressed myself.  Literally every step counts and really does add up to something.

Something that is so typical for you may actually be worth recognizing and taking in the good feelings.

What’s your (extra)ordinary talent?

Spotlight on Alice Gardner Bates

For my seventh spotlight piece, trying to highlight others that inspire, I would like to share the artist, Alice Gardner Bates.

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I met Alice about a year ago at a barbecue she hosted, even though she’s a vegetarian.  She openly shares so much: food, cocktails, her personal story, her art, her heart, and her mind.  And she rescues cats, which four currently reside at home with her.  I am inspired that a picture can paint many words (and I really do love words), but art that reminds us to look inward and outward and ask questions is invaluable.   Art that acknowledges the raw, the honest is beautiful.

May she inspire you to engage with art and artists more often.

L: When and how did you start painting?

A: I started trying to draw Sailor Moon fan art when I was twelve. When I was fourteen I bought my first anatomy book and was really hooked. A couple of years later I found a book on Botticelli and became interested in painting. When I was seventeen I began taking private lessons in oil painting.

L: Where can we find your art?

A: My main site is alicegardnerbates.com but I post earlier, nonprofessional pictures on my facebook page and instagram. I am a regular vendor at the HBG Flea in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. I will also be at the Hyattsville Arts and Ales Festival this September. I regularly show work at Metropolis Collective in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania and have a small selection of prints available there.

L: What are you working on right now?

A: Another painting. I’m trying a new method that might work out faster than the mische technique. It’s a modified mische technique. Sorry, but I really hate people seeing my work before it’s done, though.   I don’t usually pick a title for a piece until it is done and tend to just use a ridiculous working title with my husband until then. Finished pieces have been called ‘Peeler’, ‘Meat Curtains’ and ‘Bent Over’. I’m calling my current one ‘Squatting’. All of their proper titles are quotes from the Ghost in the Shell franchise. (excluding the newest movie, Oshii or bust!)

L: What’s something most people don’t know about you (that you’d like to share publicly)?

A: Living life as a disabled woman and talking about it is exhausting and depressing.
Bringing up facts and statistics that ruin a joke isn’t nearly as bad as having them in your head all the time.  Having people deny reality, specifically your reality, once you state it is pretty bad too.

I have a big quote from welcome to Night Vale that about sums it up:

Steve Carlsberg: There are dotted lines and arrows and circles. The sky is a chart that explains the entire world. For reference, I printed up this diagram on poster board. Notice the arrows here, which curve around circles. And the dotted lines.
It’s pretty clear if you just look at it.
Please look at it.
You’re not looking at it!…
What I do know is I’m not the only one who can see them. For a long time, I thought that I was…For a long time, I thought all of these people didn’t believe me. They politely or impolitely urged me away from that line of conversation. They said “sure sure” and “no way” and “you’ve got something on
your shirt”, and then they poked my nose when I looked down….
But it’s not that people don’t believe me. They do believe me. You believe me. You just can’t accept it, acknowledge it and understand it. We have customers in our bank all the time who don’t want to know their account balance. We can just print it on their receipt, but they always decline because they don’t want to know there’s only 168 dollars and rent is due in a week. They know, but they don’t want to have to acknowledge it.

L: What inspires you?

A: My work is based on reinterpreting images that sexually objectify women, so I look at images that sexually objectify women. Luckily they’re everywhere.

Much like Hans Bellmer, when I was 18 I encountered three things that would be a catalyst for my artistic work. First, I found two dolls in an antique store and through researching them I discovered Hans Bellmer. Second, I read Geek Love by Katherine Dunn. Third, I was introduced to japanese-style, image boards, which led to me finding out about ero-guro, short for erotic grotesque, a small art movement from1920’s Japan that is seeing a resurgence. Contemporary artists, like the recently lauded Makoto Aida, create work with strong social commentary rooted in ero-guro imagery. In Aida’s case, I do believe he appreciates Bellmer but will not say so because of his long history of subtle, anti-western criticism. Please do not mistake him for a jingoist, his work focuses often on Japanese misogyny and imperialism, he simply grew up with the cultural fallout of the Marshall Plan. This has become a paper about Makoto Aida and I’m much more comfortable with that.

L: What has been your most recent act of kindness that either you gave or received?

A: I comforted a friend when she was crying.

L: Besides painting, what are you passionate about?

A: Animal advocacy and comics! Game of Thrones has nothing on The Wicked and the Divine!

Want to continue to see what Alice is up to?  You can check out her website and follow her on social media:

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/alicegardnerbates/

Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/authenticalice/

Blog – alicegardnerbates.blogspot.com
Twitter – twitter.com/grittysurreal

Tumblr – http://alicegardnerbates.tumblr.com/
Deviant Art – authenticalice.deviantart.com

And if you’re interested in supporting her work, you can contact her at alicegardner@live.com .

Celebration of Small Things

It’s before 9:30am, and I’m already proud of what I accomplished.  If I were to sit around and watch tv for the rest of the day, I would still feel great.  (I’m not because it’s not even 9:30am on a Saturday and I do have plans, but it’s wonderful to acknowledge your accomplishments and take a moment to just sit with that).

I finally got back to the mat.  I finally practiced yoga again.  I’ve had a mostly off-again now on-again yoga practice for over a year.  And I know it’s something I want to get back into and keep putting it off.  There are so many other things I have to do – for work, for the home, for friends, for other people, and instead of yoga, I’ve been doing other things for myself.  I’ve been ducking this particular goal.  It’s taken me this long, but I’m here.  And most recently, it’s taken great conversations with yoga instructors, poor sleep that’s been waking me up too early, and feeling the too-much sugar of cake.

It’s never too late to reach your goal.  It’s okay to give yourself some slack if it’s taking you longer to get there.  Small accomplishments are worth celebrating – even if that means just sharing your excitement with others.

Gratitude Check: The Little Things

On days or weeks that present a challenge to finding a positive moment to really feel, I try to make a big effort to notice the little things.  For me, without fail, it’s little things that create happy moments.  It’s like stepping into a puddle of joy – it’s temporary but stays with you a little longer than you think.

Today’s bigger smile moment came not from getting a free iced tea (although I am grateful for that), but from a stranger spelling my name correct.  As anyone with an unusual name or atypical spelling knows, it’s a rare instance when someone gets your spelling correct.  And that’s fine because there are many ways to spell names, but I was still surprised at how nice it felt to be spelled correctly for a change.

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I can honestly say that this – a stranger guessing my correct spelling – has never happened before.  I even have prescriptions written with the wrong spelling when doctors have my file in front of them.  And I would never have expected for someone at a coffee/tea shop that I infrequently visit to have gotten it right during a busy lunch hour without even asking.

To this, I am delighted.

And I also am so aware of how I didn’t even pay attention to this individual’s name, even as they wore it on a badge.

 

Chill

Finding time to rest can be so hard to do when home demands immediately pop up after work demands settle.  Today, I had time to relax and chill.  The beauty of this wasn’t just in the ability to take the time, but that I have found people in the fast-paced city I live in who want the same and know how to create it.  Chill time can be crafted in smoked meats, homemade sides, sipping on a cold beverage, sharing stories, and enjoying the breezes that come your way.  Mostly, it’s in gathering outside around food and friendship with no end-goal or another thing scheduled to-do.

Chill time with others is very different than just alone time.  And I forgot how much I missed just hanging out with others who are okay with a slower pace.  This, of course, means that I still have to figure out how to embrace a slower pace for myself. And to invite others to be around me and try to craft a space to just be, while not planning too much or worrying about things, and just being okay in being in the moment.

How do you chill on hot summer days?

Receive

I am a giver.  But this giving gets me in trouble when I give 120% at work all the time and have little leftover once I’m home, giving to friends and family in time and support, and giving more time to the things that just must be done (i.e. the four loads of laundry I now must do on my day off because I’ve waited this long).

I’m working on giving more time to myself to recharge, and one of the loveliest things that has been concurrently happening recently is that I’ve been receiving more.  In the past several weeks, a friend of mine has sent me three care packages.  They were well timed, small reminders that someone notices and cares.  To come home and find an unexpected uplift among many junk mailings, is a small joy.

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Small moments of joy can make such a big difference.

How will you give to the givers in your life?  What would you like to receive?

 

Go

It’s been a green lights kind of day.

On my walk to work this morning, I literally hit all green lights (or really, the walk signal).  The rain had already stopped by the time I left, and I didn’t hear a single car horn my entire commute, which is extraordinarily rare.

At work, I actually had moments to breathe (and not in a it’s going to be a deep breaths kind of day).  To think and to review some big picture needs.  To prepare for some asks.

So today’s the day.  Prepare, leap, ask, dream – the universe has given the go ahead.  I’m working on mine.  Where’s your green light taking you?

Words Matter

A few weeks ago, I found the words of a small child (or children) written in chalk along my walk to work.

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As you can imagine, I couldn’t help but smile and take an extra moment to look down as I hustled past in my usual always-running-late mode.  I actually stopped on my way home to take this photo, which means these words stayed with me throughout a horrendously busy day.

What power.

These words have made their mark even though they were written in chalk.  Today, I noticed that while mostly faded, the hope of a good day was still visible.

These children may never know the impact they have made on all the strangers, neighbors, and family that pass by.  I hope they realize it brings us adults a good reminder to take a moment, that intentional acts of kindness can be this simple, that there are always people around who care, and to listen to youth.  I hope that these kiddos keep their kindness as they grow up and keep sending positive messages and heart.  It really does make a difference.

New Start

The wonderful thing about life is that you can always change things that aren’t working for you anymore.  You can always get a new start – and sometimes it’s as easy as setting the intention.

My newest start is with apartment gardening.  I’m so inspired that I’m growing herbs from seeds… with very little effort.  Since I don’t have a yard, patio, porch, or apartment greenspace that would appreciate me repotting plants and starting from seeds (or at least that I can tell from observation alone), my gardening adventures started with what I had: old soil.  As good as I grow things, I have become a flower killer.  So I finally pulled out some old, dead no-longer-flowering plants and threw some seeds in the pot.  I added a touch of coffee grounds and water.

Then a week happened.

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You don’t always need something fancy or brand new to create change.  You’re enough.  If you want a new start, it could be as easily as replacing something that is no longer serving you with a good idea, a sunny shelf, and a little hope.  Just add water.