Learning · Life with Baby · Projects

The more the water, the higher the boat (free printable!)

Sometimes you just have a string of days (or heck, weeks!) that just leave you in a funk. Maybe it’s not that things are all that bad…they’re just not great. Maybe you just don’t have energy, or time, or the weather has been crummy. Or things are just leaving you feeling low in general. Recently I had a brief bout of hyperthyroidism that left me feeling fatigued and with achy muscles. I was so tired every day and felt guilty for not being more energetic with my daughter and for not doing enough around the house. Somehow after only a couple of months, the hyperthyroidism resolved itself (yeah, what?), and though I was confused about the whole thing, I decided not to linger too much on the why and just be extra grateful!
printable for blog

I really love this quote from Alan Spence’s The Pure Land. It’s been nearly ten years since I read this romantic adventure based on a true story about the modernization of Japan, but I jotted down this quote when I read it and still really like it today. Enjoy a printable of the quote by clicking here for a PDF or by clicking directly on the image to download, and remember this quote, too:¬†“If something is rubbing so hard against you, you can be sure it’s working on you.” -Elizabeth Gilbert in Eat, Pray, Love

Have a good day, lovelies!

xx Caitlyn

Seen

I like you, I know there’s bad things too, but I like you.

I love ashow with Ze Frank. I was trying to find one of his old videos that talked about how sometimes the things that make us feel the most alone are surprisingly the things that most connect us to each other. I felt like his point was really powerful, and so true. For some reason I couldn’t pull up his website today (it’s under construction, I guess?), but I did stumble across another video that really resonated with me, which you can watch below.

It’s a beautiful, sunny day in Michigan, and I’m thinking about how connected we all are, and how connected we have the potential to be. I’m thinking about courage and about being worthy. I’m thinking that YOU are worthy. And I’m going to get out of the house and go for a walk.

Have a good day. xx

Bookspiration · Projects

Bookspiration: The Neverending Story

“So you think it’s a hat I’ve got on my head? Not at all, dear boy. It all grows out of me. Just as your hair grows out of you. That should show you how glad I am you’ve finally come. That’s why I’m flowering and bearing fruit. If I were sad, I’d whither. But come now, don’t forget to eat.” –Dame Eyola

A couple of months ago we had a bad snowstorm in Michigan in which the wind was so strong the snow was blowing sideways. Looking outside, I was reminded of a scene from the movie The Neverending Story, and proceeded to do a little research on the movie. Come to find out, like many movies, The Neverending Story was first a book, and–as often happens–the movie strayed from the book in several ways. I decided to give the book a read, and enjoyed a light-hearted, imaginative tale.

When it came to thinking of a project to go along with the book, I thought I should try an oil pastel. It’s been ages since I’ve used oil pastels as a medium, and I thought they would be a good way to illustrate the colorful, dreamy world created in “The Neverending Story.” Initially, I wanted to do an oil pastel of the lion Grograman, also known as The Many Colored Death. Grograman changes colors depending on the color of the sand upon which he stands, and he is an important part of the main character, Bastian’s, journey in Fantastica. After seeing several cool renditions of Grograman online, however, I decided to change characters and instead illustrate the Dame Eyola.

20140418-195322.jpgThis was my first time trying oil pastel with a person as the subject, and I am pretty out of practice! But it was fun trying to bring the mother-like woman who looked like she was “wearing a broad hat covered in fruits and flowers” to life. In the book, Dame Eyola tells Bastian some kind words we could all use now and again. For example, she sings to him:

“Regardless whether good or bad,/you’ve suffered much and traveled far.

Take comfort for the trials you’ve had./We’ll take you just the way you are” (357).

Later, Dame Eyola talks to Bastian about choices he’s made on his journey, saying, “You went the way of wishes, and that is never straight. You went the long way around, but that was your way. And do you know why? Because you are one of those who can’t go back until they’ve found the fountain from which springs the Water of Life…” (365). I liked this conversation because I think it can be applied to anyone. No one is perfect, and we all make mistakes. But we’ll get through it on the crazy path we make for ourselves, and there are people (perhaps not sprouting fruit from their heads and bodies like Dame Eyola!) who will help us on our way.

xx

Food & Cooking · Seen · Seen/Heard/Tried · Tried

Week in Pictures

This week was one filled with lovely nature, marketplace excursions, culinary delights (such as that jambalaya we tried for Fat Tuesday!), and a pattern search in and around our house. (Anything to keep us busy and keep our spirits up ūüėČ )

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Rosy Mound #1

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Rosy Mound #2

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Rosy Mound #3

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Goodies from our Asian Market trip (some of which were used for our Hina Matsuri dinner)

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Bubble Tea at a restaurant next door to the Asian marketplace

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We tried pho for the first time!

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Pretty flowers sent to us

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My favorite beer

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Nutella French Toast #1

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Nutella French Toast #2

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Patterns #1 (Don’t the knots in the tree look like eyes?)

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Patterns #2

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Patterns #3

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Patterns #4

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Patterns #5

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Patterns #6

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Patterns #7

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Patterns #8 (Okay, so maybe I just wanted to take a picture of our kitties because I love them…)

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Goodies from a trip to The Cheese Lady in Muskegon (We tried the Vanilla Balsamic drizzled over fresh strawberries!)

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I made homemade Crab Rangoons and Gyoza…

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And Chad made amazing homemade ramen!

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Dinner party dishes #1

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Dinner Party Dishes #2

I wonder what the weekend has in store for us! What have you been up to this week?

Learning

The long year is over

 

 

When I think of the last year, I want to listen to The Long Day is Over by Norah Jones, but change the lyrics to “The Long Year is Over.” It’s such a pretty song, and I feel like the melody captures the way it feels after nearly giving up before finding some hope to go on. To be honest, 2013 was probably the hardest year of my life, for a lot of different reasons. I can look back throughout the entire year and remember so many struggles, and yet–I made it through. I know that a New Year is sort of just a symbol, but I am going to embrace it as a force for change and be positive about a much better year ahead. I’m excited to get back into blogging more regularly, and to being creative again. I’m excited for a fresh start and any new changes ahead. And I’ve had a lot of conversations with incredibly supportive people that have encouraged me and helped me believe: everything will be alright.

To celebrate the New Year, I made acorn squash, marinated steak, broccoli and Italian toast for dinner on New Year’s Eve!

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I want to swim in that butter and brown sugar.

Then, Chad and I watched movies until it was time for the ball to drop. Just before, we shared a little cake, and then we got champagne ready for toasting.

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It was a nice, much-needed relaxing night at home (as well as a fresh start!). Tonight I’ll be working on the Unravelling the Year Ahead Workbook, and then I’ll be going to bed early because I’ve got to work in the morning. How did you ring in the new year?

Learning

Empathy

I mentioned I had a good conversation with a friend the other day, and I still can’t get it out of my head. I keep replaying it over and over, because I am amazed my his grace, and by his love. I was able to open up to him, and he didn’t judge me. He loved me. Empathized. And his love for me brought the strangest mix of emotions. I felt weak, but strengthened by him, guilty and desperate, but loved and understood. I felt scared, but relieved. Sad, yet joyful. I felt the need to look for God in my life again, despite skepticism and doubt.

I don’t know if it’s fate, or luck, or karma. Maybe it’s something divine. But I have met three people recently who are amazing and who have really made an impact on my heart. I’ve met so many religious Christians who never practiced what they preached, who were tremendous hypocrites, and who always let me down. And yet these three don’t ever “preach.” They listen and love. And when they love, they love unconditionally, without judgement. They don’t claim to be good, they just are. They don’t put themselves on pedestals, they just hang out and are real with people. They give me hope, and make me want to search for a faith I left behind. To get answers to questions that bother me, instead of being completely dismissive.

Who knows what will happen. I don’t know where I see myself three days from now, so I can hardly guess where this all will lead. What I do know is that true empathy is hard to come by, and I am incredibly grateful to have found several people who seem to get it. As I was thinking about empathy this morning, I happened to come across a tweet with a really great video (more fate/luck/karma?). Hope it resonates with you like it did with me.

Learning · Projects

Blocked

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For the first time since we’ve been home, I did some art journaling today. Took me over three hours to do one page, because my heart just wasn’t in it. I spent some time looking at old pages from the past year and a half, and so much has changed. Granted, a lot of it was expected: I knew we were going to move home from Japan, I knew we were planning on buying a house, I knew we’d each have new jobs, I knew there’d be a lot of adjusting. But a lot has changed that I didn’t expect.

I’ve been in a funk that I just can’t get out of, and I want the parts of me back that read, write, create, and care. How many days have gone by with me thinking I need to finally get around to writing so and so back, or that I need to work on a project or post on my blog, where I did completely the opposite? How much time have I wasted sleeping or dreaming as I look out at the gloomy weather? I feel blocked, and like it’s time to break the wall.

It’s time to break the wall.

Heard · Learning · Monday Matters

Don’t Be Positive, Idiot!

I was on my way to work a couple weeks ago listening to the Jillian Michael’s podcast, and though I usually find it interesting at the very least, on that day the episode really hit me the wrong way. The episode I was listening to is called “Bad Stuff Happens,” and in it Jillian goes on for about 10 minutes positing that people who are positive are basically unrealistic idiots. She rants about how bad stuff is going to happen, and about how people who deny that are just going to end up more disappointed than if they accepted that not everything always works out in the first place. She also talked about how what matters is how we deal with the bad stuff–the lessons we learn from things that don’t happen the way we’d like.

Now, for the most part, I agree. However, what really bothered me is that Jillian was equating positivity with a lack of realism. She said she “hates positive people,” but to me, people who do the very things she suggests (like finding the good in the bad and learning from hardships) are positive people. I always try to have a positive outlook on things, and that certainly doesn’t mean that I’m denying things might not work out the way I want. For example, we put in an offer on a beautiful house that we both love. And it seemed like everything would probably be fine–almost to the point of it being too good to be true. However, neither of us were like, “We are going to get the house.” We said, “There is a good chance that since our offer was accepted, we will get the house. A lot depends on the inspection, but we’re hoping for the best.” After the inspection, we’ve found there are some things that need to be dealt with, and so now our positive outlook has morphed into “Well, we’ll see how much the sellers are willing to work with us on the things that need to be fixed. There is a good chance they won’t want to, but maybe they will! If they don’t, the house wasn’t meant to be ours and we’ll find something else.” We are being realistic, but we are also being optimistic.

I also feel that every challenge is a lesson, no matter how hard it is to get through at first, and no matter how hard it is for me to initially understand exactly what the lesson may be. I tend to push myself toward gratitude in these cases, which admittedly can be difficult at times. For example, I had a really tough time when leading a training session at a former job in which some trainees just didn’t seem to like me. Their bad attitudes disrupted the entire training session, and ruined all of my excitement about the training. I was in shock, and couldn’t understand what had gone wrong. At first, I had to really focus on everything that went right, despite the things that went wrong. I was grateful to have my husband and friends, who supported me and reassured me. And with that change in focus, over time I was able to remain positive and find the lesson: I grew so much, learned a lot about myself and about others, and came to realize that it doesn’t matter if people don’t always like me. In this case, positivity and gratitude went hand in hand. Oh, and I never ever denied how much learning that lesson sucked.

I feel like I could give countless examples of how you can be a positive person without ignoring or denying reality and that bad things happen. Being positive is about choosing to focus on the bright side and about learning from hardships instead of dwelling on them or letting them consume you. I think Jillian Michaels actually encourages positive behavior all the time, and that in her podcast she mislabeled positivity as being synonymous with naivet√© and denial. Ultimately, I understand my concern comes down to semantics, but Jillian’s blunt declaration really rubbed me the wrong way. Rather than telling people, “Don’t be positive” or that positive people are idiots, I’d like to say, “Find the positive in every negative, and work your way through it.” That’s what we’re doing with the house, that’s what I did with that training session, and that’s what I continue to do through the tough parts of my day, every day.

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What do you think about positivity and optimism? Do you agree that it’s possible to have a bright, hopeful attitude while being realistic and understanding things don’t always work out?

Learning · Projects

Don’t Worry, Be Happy

 

 

 

I remember loving the song, “Don’t Worry, Be Happy,” when I was growing up, and I still love it to this day.¬†Lately I have been finding myself getting down and worrying about a lot of things I can’t change. I want to fix everything to make my family happy all the time, I want to have more friends that I really feel I can connect with that live on the same continent–or better yet, the same city in the same state!–, and I want to be comfortable and capable in my new job. I don’t want to worry, I want to be happy!

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A few years ago, before I got the opportunity to work exclusively as a teacher of small children, I made the page above in my art journal. Amazingly, I’ve done a lot of the things listed: I’ve gone to Italy and Spain, I’ve sort of joined a book club (though it only consists of my sister-in-law and myself), I started Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain (though I didn’t finish–ahem), and I’ve gone paragliding (though I know that’s not the same as parasailing!). I’ve been researching soup kitchens and Habitat for Humanity, and we’ve been looking at houses with a Realtor, so we’ll be getting our chance to make our first house a home. ¬†And, probably most significant at the moment, I am now working in a cafe.

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Around the same time that I made that page, I made this one above with a “mantra.” I came up with the mantra through an exercise in an art journaling class I was taking, and when it came out be the following, I was really excited:

“I want to electrify the lives of children by broadening their horizons and teaching them to navigate life with energy, curiosity, creativity and optimism!”

After making that page, I was lucky enough to live out my mantra as an Executive Head Teacher and Curriculum Coordinator for the Early Learning Center of an international school in Japan. I found my passion, and I hope one day I can start making a difference in early education in the states. In the meantime,¬†I’m trying my best to stay positive, and not let anything or anyone get me down.¬†I mentioned briefly before¬†how working at Starbucks has been kind of stressful, but I think I’m already getting used to things. And I feel pretty lucky to be¬†getting the opportunity to learn all about (and taste!) coffee, to always take my breaks and arrive/leave when my shift starts/begins (which I¬†never¬†did when working as a teacher), and to be gaining so many new, valuable experiences.

Since we’ve been home I’ve often been feeling a bit out of place, and it’s been hard to talk about my life when pretty much every sentence starts with, “In Japan…” or “When I was in Japan…” That was my life for about 5 years, but I feel like a lot of people can’t relate and so they sort of shut down whenever I talk about it. I’ve had moments where I just want to scream or where I just want to cry because I miss my friends in Japan. But, I also have the joy of being with my family every day, and of living in the gorgeous state of Michigan. I’m forcing myself to think something positive to counteract every negative thought that crosses my mind, and if I’m frustrated with a particular situation that’s out of my control, I try my best to let off steam about it once and then limit my acknowledgement to a simple, “I’m frustrated with X situation right now,” before trying my best to let go.

I think I’m learning an important lesson in being vulnerable and in growing through change. We knew we had gotten really comfortable with life in Japan, and that things would be getting uncomfortable for a while as we figured out our life together here. But overall, we’ve sure got it good. We don’t need to worry, we just need to focus on letting go, appreciating how lucky we are, and on being happy.

 

Learning

It’s been a good day…

Today I went out to lunch with my mom and grandma (we went to Olga’s–yum!), got groceries and hung out doing laundry at my mom’s (and ate some of the amazing chocolate chip cookies she made!), leafed through a Taste of Home magazine my mom is lending me with way too many delicious looking recipes to try, and bought a new bike!

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I am really excited to have a bike to get around town with, and already rode about ten miles on it today alone! I was especially happy about the color. Chad suggested I get a brighter, bolder color, but the maroon color of this bike was the same as the first bike I ever had when I was in Japan. I feel so lucky to live in an area in which I can bike to the grocery store, the library, and the beach–the latter two of which I biked to today with Chad!

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When we stopped by the library, I dropped off two books and got them marked off on my Book Bingo card. I primarily started the bingo because if I finish it I have a chance at winning a gift certificate to Grimaldi’s Chocolates in Grand Haven, and we all know how obsessed I am with chocolate! Additionally, the Book Bingo sort of goes in line with another of my Summer Bucket List points: join a book club. I know it’s a little different, but it’s a step in the right direction!

So far for the bingo I’ve read¬†Laura Lamont’s Life in Pictures, Seriously, I’m Kidding,¬†Yoga Bitch,¬†and¬†Other People We Married.¬†I really enjoyed¬†Yoga Bitch. Do you have a suggestion for a good mystery? I usually don’t like mysteries very much, so I am totally up for suggestions. As for now, I’m starting one of the “groundbreaking” reads about archaeological adventures, and putting a close to a very nice day.

What are some good things that happened to you today?

 

P.S. I have been enjoying playing around with the BeautifulMess app, which I used to decorate my pretty bicycle picture above! Have you tried it out yet?