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So, I’ve been in a creative funk for a while now, and I’m just starting to come out of it. One of the first things I notice when I start feeling creative again is that I’m hungry for color and starved for texture. I found myself taking pictures of colors and textures, and these are the most interesting in my opinion:

One of my local Starbuck's...great place to think and write!

A page from my journal, after writing at Starbuck's

All I have to say is, “Aaaaaahhhhh…” 🙂 Thanks Matt for making it possible! 🙂

The Pink Bag

My beautiful pink tote - I carry this with me pretty much wherever I go

Time to work and write has been a scarce commodity in the last year…I went from teaching and being busy with grading, lecturing and meeting with students to a small private practice that I run about 5-9 hours a week. (I’d love to be open more often, but there’s this slight problem of getting clients in the door!) I’ve been keeping myself busy with working with my clients and applying for full-time work, along with caring for my munchkins – and to be completely honest, taking morning naps. 

 I’d like to say that I’m ending hunger, curing cancer, or creating world peace…but really all I’m doing is living an ordinary, middle-class, financially stressful life.  I don’t have a job that takes me to “Interesting Places,” and I don’t meet “Very Important People.” I don’t travel to ashrams or out-of-the-mainstream cultures looking for enlightenment. I don’t run fascinating self-help seminars attended by hundreds of people, and I don’t have my name on posters or webinars. Although I wish I could do all of these – and write a book full of WISDOM, I’m not the woman who does these or writes these.

I raise my children, live in a suburban townhouse messy with life, and do my work to the best of my ability – I’m about as ordinary as they come. However, I take pleasure in small things, like a new book, or a “can’t-deny-my-color-or-hide-me” pink bag that I found on clearance at Staples, of all places.

My pink bag kind of stands out. It’s a light shade, but intense saturation of pink that’s hard not to notice. Now, I know the “rule” about wearing pastels – ideally you wear them in the spring, maybe in summer. But fall or winter? Never – no way. That’s the time time for dark, muted colors…burgundy, navy, hunter green, rich browns and dark yellows. And yet…Here I am in a season of falling leaves and colder, darker days carrying an “in-your-face-pink” tote. It doesn’t even have the decency to be a a small pink bag. No, it’s a large tote in which I carry my journal, my books and my current research, currently putting together a seminar on size acceptance and positive body image.  (A side note: I DO have a small pink bag, which I use when I just need to throw my wallet and keys in, for short errands. I love my pink bags!)

So, why do I this? Believe it or not, it’s not for attention or simply to get noticed. I do get odd looks on occasion, but I let them slide right off like an egg off a teflon pan. Rather, it’s simply that I love the color pink, in all its many glorious possibilities. I love the salmon, the peachy pink, bright fluorescent pink, fuschia – all the shades I can name, and even some I can’t. (Does anyone know a name for that beautiful shell-pink shade that appears when the sun just crests over the horizon on a breathtakingly wondrous sunrise?)

Simply put, pink makes me feel happy, and that’s a feeling that’s been in short supply lately, with dealing with unemployment and other stresses. (For the record? Depression sucks BIG TIME.) So, when I saw the pink bag on clearance, I bought it. Anyone who knows me knows that my bags go with me wherever I go…so my pink bag is kind of a signature for me. I don’t always carry it, but more often than not I do have it or the smaller pink bag with me, even when it clearly doesn’t match the season or my outfit.

I actually have a lot of pink around me – it’s my favorite color. I have shirts, paper, pens (I just found a fantastic pink Minnie Mouse pen that lights up in different colors!), skirts, and even a pair of pink ballet flats. They make me feel happy. And despite what the “rules” say, THAT makes the difference.

My Little Pink Bag

My little pink bag, used when I don't need my big pink tote

From my journal, written today at the park where my kids and I like to play:

It’s a beautiful day, after nearly a week of clouds and rain, which I really loved. It’s nice to have the variety, and I love it when the weather and the seasons are in flux. Today is sunny and about 70 degrees, and I have the kidlets at the park where they are having fun being outdoors after spending most of the week cooped up inside. It’s wonderful to see them run and jump and play.

Fall has definitely arrived – the days are shorter and cooler, and the leaves are changing. It’s my favorite season for all these reasons, but also because the poignancy and beauty of life shines even as the days darken, the leaves die, and the world around me begins to go into that long, cold sleep of winter.

The promise of spring blooms even in the dying embers of fall, bearing hope for renewed life each time around, in an eternal cycle. The leaves may age and die, but the tree remains. And even when the tree dies, the promise of the seeds that have fallen and their new lives remain and flourish. So it is with us. As I sit here under the trees with their still-green leaves, I notice that only a few have begun to show their colors. I also notice how each one, although they look similar, is different from every other leaf. And it occurs to me, that each year the leaves are different as well – the leaves that will arrive in spring are completely, wholly different and yet the same as the leaves that are here, now, in the beginning of autumn.

Perhaps one form of eternal life is that the divine spark of who we are – the lives we lived and the love we made – lives on in and through our children. Maybe not even just our genetic offspring, but also in the lives of the children of our hearts – the lives of all we touch through the simple acts of living and loving.

The leaves may die each year, but the tree remains. Each one of us is as a leaf on the tree of humanity, and the tree is changed and made new by every leaf that has ever appeared. Without the leaves, the tree is barren and dies – the leaves along with the roots provide nourishment that keeps the tree alive. Each one of us – through our hopes, dreams, lives and loves – keeps the tree of humanity alive and growing. It doesn’t matter that the leaves eventually fall and new ones replace them – the tree remains, and has grown and matured by the simple fact that the leaves were there.

Pastry bag sketch #1 - LBL

Pastry bag sketch #1 - LBL


Every weekend, one of my two little munchkins and I go to Starbuck’s here in Loveland. The kiddos take turns, and each of them gets some time alone with Mama every other week – we start off with a little breakfast and drink (chocolate milk for them, coffee for me), and then decide where we’re going to go or what we’re going to do when we’re done.

Becca generally likes to get the fruit cup or the protein plate (is watching your eating genetically engraved in a girl’s psyche? Holy cow – we eat well, but I never TAUGHT her that she couldn’t have an occasional doughnut!) She also usually chooses to go do some shopping of one sort or another. A week and a half ago, she wanted to go to Barnes and Noble, and we lucked into a painting demo for kids that the local art league was doing. Needless to say, this was heaven for both of us!

Last weekened, Aidan went with me, and didn’t really want to go anywhere. He wanted to draw, though, and since I had no paper, I thought we could draw on the little brown paper bags that Starbuck’s puts their pastries in. As I was drawing – ZOT! A really, really cool idea struck me.

Wouldn’t it be fun and cool if we got a bunch of people together who ALL did a small piece of work on the pastry bags? It would be a cool little exhibit for the local Starbuck’s – and great, free advertising as well, a great way for people to get to know each other and for local artists to show off their talent, and just plain have some fun! I’m envisioning something as simple as having markers or small paints availabe up to as complex as having mixed-media materials available as well.

I also used to do book arts – wouldn’t it be REALLY cool to bind all these mini-artworks into a book? We could scan the bags and/or color copy them and bind them so each artist could get a copy, if we did this in a small group. We could also get to know and inspire each other…

There are many really cool, interesting possible iterations of this idea, and I’d like to try it. I’m not sure how to begin – I guess maybe talking to the managers of our local Starbuck’s would be a good place to start…all it would cost them is a stack of the paper bags. Maybe we could even buy one for 50 cents to a dollar, with a percentage of the purchase going to help a local charity – like a homeless shelter or battered women’s shelter?

I’d be interested to know if you all have any other ideas – let me know!

Pastry bag art #2 - flower drawing

Pastry bag art #2 - flower drawing

This is cross-posted from my professional blog, The Other Side of The Couch”

A lot of these exercises come from my various books on Journaling – if I know the source, I’ll let you know:

From: “How You Do Anything is How You Do Everything” (Cheri Huber)
What book, song, or movie best describes your life?
What would it take for you to be truly happy?
What makes you feel insecure, and what makes you feel secure?
What is the most important thing in your life, and why?

Laura’s Ideas:
-“If you could write a story with yourself as the hero, what would the story be about?” Write that story.
-What mythological stories seem to speak to you? Write a myth incorporating the pieces that speak for you, and make yourself the hero/main character. What happens?
-“If there was one thing in the world that symbolized “you” – who you are, what you want to be, where you’ve come from, etc – what would that symbol be? Draw it.
-Create a mandala using your personal symbol
-Create pictures of the positive and negative sides of yourself. If these were masks, what would they look like? Make the mask, if you feel like it.
-Write a poem about something in nature, or about something in the world that you love
-Write a poem about your pain – loneliness, sadness, trauma – use the poem to transform the pain and yourself.
-Create a collage of things you enjoy doing
-Write yourself (or someone else) a note using only cut out letters from magazines and/or papers.
-Doodle with words, for example, outline your hand with your journal entry
-use stickers, ephemera – all that great stuff scrapbookers use. Try to use it in a different way
-Get a template or draw a blank jigsaw puzzle – make a puzzle of you – what are the pieces that make up who you are?
-Use the puzzle template to create poetry – photocopy several of them and print words in each piece. Put the puzzle together different ways for a found poem.

From “One to One” (Christina Baldwin)
-What don’t you give yourself permission to write about? Why? What would it take for you to be able to write about it? Write about it!
-What kind of privacy do you need to write? Is your journal a public work of art? (Some are, some aren’t). How can you/do you keep your private stuff private?
-Write some of the stories of your family and childhood in the third person – as stories. Do you feel any different about them after writing them this way?
-What are you supposed to be like?
-What would your family or friends think if they knew you _______?
-If your life were a fairy tale, what would happen?
-Describe a recent dream and its meaning for you

From “Life’s Companion: Journal Writing as a Spiritual Quest” (Christina Baldwin)
-Write out a prayer to whatever Creator/Supreme Being you believe in
-What were the questions you had about faith when you were a child? What are your questions now? Write them out
-If you didn’t already know who you are, who would you ask? What would you ask them, and what would they say? Write out the conversation
-What is sacred to you?
-How do you let go of control and let in faith/grace/your Higher Power?
-List everything love provides in your life

From “Keeping a Journal You Love” (Sheila Bender)
-Write a letter to someone you love and tell them why you love them. (Laura’s note: Write that letter to yourself and say why you’re worthwhile and deserving of love)
-Tell a story about something that happened during your day- describe the buildings, the environment, the people as well as the event. Use detail, adjectives – bring it to life

From “The Creative Journal” (Lucia Cappachione – this is one of my favorites)
-Draw how you feel
-What do your inner and outer selves look like at this time? How are they different?
-Draw a timeline of your life history
-Draw how you see yourself.
-What do you believe about yourself, about the world, about the people around me?
-What are your beliefs about life in general?
-If some of these are negative, what would it take to change them to a positive view?
-Create a mandala for yourself
-How do you nurture, care for, and/or soother yourself? What keeps you from being able to do that? What would help change it, so that you could take better care of yourself?
-Draw one of your dreams – what symbols seem to come out at you? Draw those and journal about what they mean to you.

These are great ideas – if you have others to share or other resources to share, I’d love to see what you’ve got as well. There are also some great websites out there with journaling prompts – you can google “journaling prompts” to get some of them.

Ok – I worked my tail end off yesterday – syllabus for the class I’ll be teaching this fall (Developmental Psychology), Designing my business cards and brochures, meeting with people about office space…it was a busy, busy day. So, I’m taking a break today.

When I work with clients, I’m always encouraging people to be gentle with themselves. That doesn’t mean not being accountable for your actions, by the way – it does mean if you have to take yourself to task you can do it in a way that’s kind and gentle.

One of my friends recently about how the Golden Rule also means treating yourself the way you’d want to be treated. If you’ll notice, the Golden Rule doesn’t say, “Treat others as you treat yourself,” but rather “as you’d want to be treated.” So, why do we have so much trouble treating OURSELVES the way we’d want to be treated?

How often do we find ourselves chronically putting our needs last? Or ignoring our bodies’ needs for rest and relaxation? How often do we take care of everyone else, leaving no time to do so for ourselves? For women, especially, it’s a chronic issue.

When I work with people who chronically ignore or negate their own needs I used what I call “Healthy Selfishness.” I use this temr for a couple of reasons. One is that “selfishness” has been a label thrown at us likely since we were children, and it has such a negative connotation that reclaiming the word in a different way helps people see that it’s NOT a bad thing to take care of themselves. That’s the “Healthy” piece. It’s healthy to care for ourselves, and to let ourselves enjoy life and things we enjoy.

So, today I’m going to play. I’m getting out my kid’s easel, and we’re going to paint on the porch with bright tempera paint and great, big, chunky kids’ brushes. We’re going to splash in the wading pool, and we may go to the library as well. The point is, I’m going to let me kids teach me to play again.

Somewhere along the way to being a “responsible adult,” I lost that. I was always the “responsible child” so losing play happened pretty early for me. Today, I find myself yearning to let go, to play, to let loose – and I don’t know how. So…I’m going to the best teachers I know – my children.

I do have things I “should” do – I should work more on the development psychology class, I should work more on the paperwork for my private practice…but I also should relax, take care of myself and treat myself the way I’d want to be treated. I should also not judge myself as harshly and punitively as I do. I should treat myself gently, respectfully, and lovingly. And that means paying attention to my need to relax, play, and cut loose a little.

So, this is my attempt to work on those things. I’ll post pictures here next time of our painting adventures – all of us. 🙂

Pine Cone Spiral - copyright 2009 by Laura Burlingame-Lee

Pine Cone Spiral - copyright 2009 by Laura Burlingame-Lee

Hearing my kidlets laugh and playing with them
Helping others
The ocean, the shore, and Connecticut
Beachcombing
Listening to the sound of ocean waves
Traveling to new places
Adventures
Bright, sunny days and cool rainy days
Autumn
Spring
Sun sparkling on untouched snow
The smell of fallen leaves and ripe fruits
The smell of bread baking
Soft blankets and warm quilts
Hot cups of tea
A really good, engrossing book
A clean home
Good humor and jokes
Teaching
Learning – always, always learning!
Working for peace, unity and justice
Playing with art and office supplies
Knitting
Making Art
Photography
Writing and Journaling
Watching football all snuggled up
Swimming
Snuggling!
My spirituality
Learning about new religions and faith traditions
Quiet time
Good music
Appreciating art
Singing
Found and spontaneous art – chalk, PostSecret, guerilla art
Being creative in any way

What makes YOU happy?

Roses from Grandma's Garden - copyright 2009 by Laura Burlingame-Lee

Roses from Grandma's Garden - copyright 2009 by Laura Burlingame-Lee

1) Kids, cars, and hours do not mix well
2) Shake well and serve does NOT work in cars!
3) Your brand new mini-van becomes a “family car” in about 5 minutes
4) French fries find their way into crevices that you never knew existed
5) New crevices are invented the longer you’re on the road.
6) When the kids say, “Are we there yet?” and you haven’t even left the driveway, you know it’s going to be a long day.
7) There really is such a thing as purple dirt
8 ) It’s great to promise kids that we’ll go in the hotel swimming pool – until the weather changes
9) Do NOT allow noise-making toys to come in the car with you. You will lose your sanity within 2 1/2 minutes.
10) Sugar is NOT your friend.
11) Never take toddlers on long trips until they’re completely potty-trained.
12) Even when you leave space for more crap, the crap you get STILL ends up taking more space than you have.
13) When the water coming out of the hotel faucet is brown…worry. Worry a lot.
14) Little kids tag team to annoy, and the sum of the volume of their voices is greater than each one could possibly be alone.
15) Tinkerbell is NOT cute after the DVD has been played over 20 times. In one trip.
16) Your significant other will invariably pack more than s/he will ever use and will insist that it’s all necessary. (Sorry, Matt…)
17) Schedules are made to be broken.
18) Construction delays always occur when your kids are at their crabbiest.
19) The food you ate that morning will inevitably visit again by noon.
20) You will always be one diaper short. Always.
21) Family is…family. ‘Nuff said.
22) Kids always have to go to the bathroom immediately AFTER you pass the rest stop.
23) There is always another souvenir.
24) When going uphill, you’re always behind the truck.
25) You’ll never have enough time or money while on vacation – and they both go too fast.
26) Someone, somewhere WILL throw-up. Usually either in the middle of nowhere in the car or in the hotel room where you can’t escape it. Sigh…

Any more you all want to add? Let’s see what we can come up with?

Aidan and Becca, June 2009, Loveland CO

Aidan and Becca, June 2009, Loveland CO

After about a week and a half of weird, volatile weather, we finally have a typical sunny Colorado day. The temperature is 77 – just about perfect for being outside, and the around here to be able to just relax and enjoy the day; usually someone has to be somewhere and we’re rushing here and running there. Today is a wonderful exception to that rule.

We started our day by going to the park and playground. Loveland has some great parks and one of our favorites is Dwayne Webster Veteran’s Park, on Lake Loveland. The munchkins were able to run around and climb, swing, and slide to their hearts’ content, and I grabbed a table in one of the shelters and worked on some art ideas and wrote. There was a group of older adults from an assisted living facility having a picnic in the same shelter, too – I again realized how much I enjoy talking to people and hearing their stories. Some of the people obviously had Alzheimer’s or another sort of dementia, but it was so nice to talk about our kids, show pictures and listen. Two gentlemen were veterans of World War II, and we shared stories – my father was also a veteran of that war. The ladies were thrilled with Aidan and Rebecca, and my little princess-diva was captivated by all the attention. Aidan, as usual, simply took it in stride and looked for red balls.

After playing, we rediscovered the joy of Dairy Queen…is there anything more indicative of summer than seeing children eating ice-cream cones? I love seeing their little faces covered with ice-cream as they dive in and not just eat, but savor the cone with all their senses. Aidan especially loves to do this – he’ll talk about the taste and color of the ice-cream, how the cone has squares on it, and how the paper around the cone sticks to it and is blue. We enjoy these on the patio tables by the street, and he comments on the cars and trucks going by, and wonders where the nearest red balls are. Becca, meanwhile, just sticks her face in the cone and laps it up doggy-style.

Now home, we are outside and I’m on the porch writing while they splash in the kiddy-pool on the front courtyard. We live in a townhouse, with no yard, and I really miss having the expanse of green on which to play and run. Anyway, we have the kiddy pool set up on the flagstones, and they splash around having a good ol’ time. The latest bit of fun is filling cups with rocks and pouring water over them – making fountains. That’s Aidan’s idea, and it’s so nice to see him be a normal kid. (Except when he has to line up the rocks on the porch and freaks out when anyone touches them … sigh.) Even so, he’s engaging and playing and enjoying, and that’s wonderful to see. Little bit by little bit, we are unlocking Aidan, and he’s coming out more and more into the wider world we share.

The Tooth Fairy visited our house recently too – my little boy is growing up, and it’s bittersweet. The sweet part – as you might guess – is that he’s FINALLY potty-training. Big boy pants have been popular around here lately! He wants a guitar when he’s a big boy – and we’ve agreed. He thinks that he’ll get to be on “Jonas” when he gets it, and that Becca can be Hannah Montana. Who says autistic kids are completely in their own world? Higher functioning kiddos like Aidan very definitely notice and interpret the wider world. Getting them to stay there and interact with it is the challenge, and day by day, we’re still unlocking Aidan.

Summer…well, life is good, popsicles are sweet and cold, and the water from the hose is refreshing. Slides are slick, swings rush, and green grass grows, as do our kids – every day.

Reflections of Reflections…

Other Facets of the Mirror