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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! 🙂

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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

Wilderness Waterfall - copyright 2009, Laura Burlingame-Lee

Wilderness Waterfall - copyright 2009, Laura Burlingame-Lee

Those of you who have read some of my earlier posts know that trust is not something that comes easy to me; it’s much easier to distrust than it is trust. And yet, I see myself as being a person of faith, which seems contradictory. Many times I find myself asking, “how will I know what’s true? What’s right? What’s real?” In the end, I think the bottom line is I won’t – I have to trust, and trust is the essence of faith. And for me that trust takes the form of “active trust.”

For me, faith is trusting that there is something out there, and that that something is benevolent. Faith is believing in hope, and that bad things, pain, and sorrow can and will eventually get better. Faith is believing that the essence of humanity, if we are made in something’s image, is basically good and that somehow, we can eventually live up to that potential. Faith is believing in the power of each other – that we each count, that we can make a difference, and that we can help each other. Faith is believing in love, of all kinds. It’s believing that the core essence of who we are, although contained in our physical bodies, is beyond and surpasses our physical limits and that somehow we go on. Trust is at the heart of these beliefs, and at the heart of faith.

Faith is believing that the still, small voice we hear is there, adn that if we trust it and listen to it, it will guide us and help us know and live the best lives we can. Trust is at the heart of this. And, in spite of my struggles and past, I do trust this, and realize it might be the only thing I do trust.

And what does my faith tell me? That it’s ok – even good and smart and safer – to use my head and trust my logic in relation to religious and church matters. That it’s ok to be burned out on church politics and cliques, and that these things are NOT spiritual or faith-building; in fact they’re the direct opposite. That I am not my church or my religion and that my spirituality does not have to depend on them – I can be spiritual and disconnected from my church at the same time. That I’m on the right track for me, and that my doubts and questions in these areas are legitimate and real. And that it’s ok to trust myself on these things. And that my Friend is at the heart and core of all these things, adn that having faith and trusting in all of this is actually my Friend. And to be perfectly circular in my illogic, trusting my Friend is trusting what that still, small voice says. I use my head and trust with my heart.
For me, that’s faith.

Trust is the heart of my faith, and faith is believing that even if I question and doubt and have moments of disbelief, I’m still ok. It’s learning to love myself and others as reflections of whatever that something out there is, and it’s working to be the best person I can be. It’s letting go and trusting myself and learning on the way.

It’s been a rainy summer here in Colorado – so much so that our drought has officially been declared over. When I first moved here 10 years ago, we had an afternoon thunder and rain storm nearly every afternoon; that changed the second year we were here and we had sunny day on sunny day on sunny day.

Sounds like paradise, doesn’t it? I found though, that we need the cool, gray rainy days. The grasses got brown and dry, leaves and potted plants became brittle in one afternoon. The temperatures, without any moisture to balance them, skyrocketed – we typically had 2 to 3 weeks of 100-degree plus days, with most of July and August being in low 90’s. The hot air sizzled in my lungs, drying them out as well. Day after day after day of sunshine can be every bit as wearing as days on end of rain – even nature needs balance.

So, we’ve been getting rain here, and I hear people in my area gripe about how rotten it is. I’m thrilled, however – my plants are green, the trees are lush, and the grass grows verdant. I grew up in Ohio, though, so I was used to lots of green forest and grass, and the West felt barren and parched to me. So, I’m very grateful for the rain we’ve gotten.

The rainy days and the relief I’ve been feeling got me thinking about how we need the equivalent of rainy days in our lives. They may not be pleasant – they may be muddy, messy, cold and wet – but they’re needed. Just like I didn’t appreciate the rain until there was nothing but sunny days, I think we don’t appreciate the joy and goodness in life without adversity of some kind. I also think that the days upon days of sunshine and cloudless skies is an apt reminder that too much of a good thing can end up causing as much harm as too little.

As human beings, we need balance. We need love – and we need conflict to grow. We need care and attention, but we need our solitude and independence too. We need light and sunshine, and we need rain and shadow as well. Without any of these we, like the plants that surround us, become withered then brittle and dry. We need our spirituality, and we also need to rebel against it sometimes to find out who we are and what we believe in.

So, I can’t take the kiddos to the park today, or take them swimming…but I can take them out to the porch and teach them that listening to the raindrops fall is very relaxing and peaceful. (And to them, running around and trying to catch the raindrops on their tongues is relaxing, too!) I can teach them that yes, the plants and people need sunshine – and we all need rain, too.

“Sun and Shadow” (copyright 2009, Laura Burlingame-Lee)

You of sun and shadow
Bringer of light, life, and love
or the warmth you bring
the light in which we bask
I am so grateful.

You bring life
for the green, growing things
for our vulnerable bodies
for the day and for the night
and I am grateful.

Yet this light, this life-giving
heat and brightness burns
and fades my spirit,
thinned like a worn shirt
nearly transparent with use.

I need the shadows too –
the cool breezes and
gray cloudy skies…
the heavy drops of rain
that wash away the dust,
cool the heat of day,
and ease the thirst of my heart.

Be also the bringer of the dark –
of clouds, and fog and rain
of moist, cool nights
of shadow, and shade.

Be the bearer of both –
true balance –
that we may be complete.

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.

This is one of my favorite blogs here (“Shapely Prose”, and here are two posts on being different in our world:

“The Fantasy of Being Thin”:
http://kateharding.net/2007/11/27/the-fantasy-of-being-thin/

“The Fantasy of Being White”:
http://kateharding.net/2009/07/08/guest-post-the-fantasy-of-being-white/

Feeling Overwhelmed - Picture copyright 2009 Laura Burlingame-Lee

Feeling Overwhelmed - Picture copyright 2009 Laura Burlingame-Lee

I recently got one of those super-uper-duper, ultra deluxe daily planners so I can organize things for my private practice. While it’s really cool for a lot of things, one of the things I like the best is this little insert card based on the book “7 Habits of Highly Effective People.” It asks you to pick something in each of four realms and come up with things that get in the way of you doing it.

This is easy enough and I decided that I would also list what I could do to counter those things. (I’m probably using it wrong, but who cares? I’m using it and it’s helping me, right? 🙂 ) Anyway, I’ve found that a pattern has been developing. For a lot of things, fear is the reason I’m not doing whatever it is that I’m supposed to be doing. For example, in the social/emotional realm, I’ve noticed that I really don’t like making “cold calls” (calls to people I’ve never spoken to, trying to promote my business.) Now, to start a business, you really HAVE to make a number of cold calls, right?

So in thinking about what’s getting in way, fear is a big part of it. Specifically, I’m afraid of being rejected, ridiculed or hung up on. Honestly, being ridiculed is probably not going to happen – so that particular fear is a little unrealistic. However, the other two are real risks. So, in my planner, my “Do it:” activity is “Do One Thing.”

Doing one thing makes things a little easier – it makes whatever is getting in the way less threatening. If I have to only make one call, I can do other things that might make rejection easier to deal with. If I can do only one thing, it might be a “baby step” toward making the call – like looking up the phone number or contact person via the web. It might be realizing that I can send an email, and then make the call a follow-up. There are a multitude of “one thing”s I can do.

The same is true for the physical, mental/business, and spiritual realms. Often I get busy with minutiae that distract me and end up enabling the fear or lack of motivaton to do the other tasks. Again – one thing. If it’s physical, I can make sure to take a short walk – it doesn’t have to be my usual 4-5 mile trek. If it’s mental/business – another area where fear rules, because I don’t know much about business – I can read one chapter in a book devoted to running a small business. If it’s spiritual, it can be as simple as noticing the Divine in the world around me. I can see it in my children’s smiles and laughs, the blue sky and green around me (thank you for the rain!), the wonderful friendships I have and am making.

Again, doing ONE thing can help counter the problem. Lack of motivation, fear, lack of intertia – these all get in the way of us living our lives. How many times have you found yourself wishing that you could do something, but feel overwhelmed by the enormity of the task? Of how difficult it is? Or how complicated? Doing one thing – one thing each day – helps you first, break down the task into do-able chunks and second makes it less overwhelming or difficult.

My one thing lately has been MOVE! I’ve written about moving before, and moving to me means moving in all the realms – doing one thing is a form of moving. I’m not completely set up yet, but I’ve also noticed that once I do ONE thing, it’s a lot easier to do more. I usually end up doing more than one thing on my task list, but I only hold myself accountable for doing one. Anything else is a bonus, and it helps.

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?

Reflections of Reflections…

Other Facets of the Mirror

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