The New Joy of Coloring

212918coloredpencilsMAnyone who can recall their early years will remember time spent with crayons and coloring books; choosing colors and staying within the lines. Colored pencils, paint, charcoals and other art supplies supplanted the earliest efforts of filling in the white spaces boldly without a checklist of proper choices. Most importantly, you didn’t have to be an “artist” to be successful. If you had a special flair, and were a daring youngster, you could actually flout the rules and make other color choices.

Yes, I loved my Crayolas but even more so, the very popular Venus Paradise Coloring Sets. Although these were marketed primarily for children, the sets utilized colored pencils and it was easy to learn various colored pencil techniques. The outline artwork was numbered and the colored pencils needed for the illustration were included in the set. Subject matter covered a wide range of images—American Indian scenes, animals, landscapes, outer space, and scuba diving. These were vibrantly colored, rich media pencils that were a neater version of paint by numbers sets. We would spend hours creating “artwork” that gave us a template and reflecting on it now, a soothing and meditative way to produce something to admire; a project to hang on the refrigerator.

Fast forward to a recent trip to a large bookstore chain and I was surprised to see an entire area devoted to coloring books for adults. Based on non-fiction book sales measured in August, #3 was the Mindfulness Coloring Book: Anti-Stress Art Therapy for Busy People. Apparently it is this summer’s hottest trend and per devotees of a return to a happier time, coloring offers complete absorption as it engages both sides of the brain, the creative and the tactile. According to Alice Domar, PhD, “The creativity comes with envisioning the color selection and how it will play throughout the piece, while the tactile involves applying your decisions to the artist’s design. Both keep your right brain from taking over.”

The beauty of these sets for children was in their simplicity and portability. Not everyone was creative enough to draw complex freehand pictures. Instead, we purchased a kit with a template, tools and directions that if completed accordingly, you could have an attractive piece of artwork in time.

Of course I purchased a copy of the updated version of a coloring book for myself and am now on the hunt for the perfect pencils. It’s the 2015 version of a stress free activity…once I have the right pencils.


Milestone Birthdays

screen“I can scarcely wait till tomorrow when a new life begins for me as it does each day.” ~ Stanley Kunitz, 100 year old poet

I wish I could say with confidence that even at the half-century mark, I’d felt as thrilled as Stanley in reaching his impressive milestone. Then again, how should I have reacted? Reflective, curious, excited, or grabbing the phone for a referral to the most skilled plastic surgeon within my network? Is there ever a singularly proper way to celebrate significant birthdays?

What turned it around for me? Well, age 49 was safe. It produced a little flutter but I knew that I still had time, really. At forty-nine you are sitting at the edge of the swimming pool, dipping a toe in and checking it all out. Taking in the scenery and not stressed. From the corner of your eye, you may spy the diving board, but it is far off in the distance, removed from the present and not yet even in your neighborhood.

Now, 50 is different. At fifty your choice is to slip into the water without a splash or approach that diving board with mixed emotion; to plunge in or not even create a ripple. You place your hands on the ladder’s rungs as you climb higher but with less conviction. There are choices now that you have arrived. There are no guarantees, no safety net and the internal dialogue is oddly quiet. You may walk to the edge, curl your toes around the board, hold your breath, close your eyes and jump. Or, you can walk to the edge, open your eyes wide, spread your arms and leap into the uncertainty ahead full throttle, when low and behold you are flying!

Did attitude trump trepidation in making this decision? In my case it did and it was freeing beyond belief to choose to begin this fifth decade with gusto. Embracing the unknown most assuredly shifted the energy and thrust me forward far more decisively and on a broader path of learning and activity.

Having had the experience, I urge you to be BIG, take up SPACE, swing out, grab the bar and celebrate your milestones with a plan to add whatever you choose to your life blueprint and have fun in doing so.

©2015 Maureen Weisner

Journaling…To Write or Not to Write

imagesCA38GE3VWhat happens when we assign a name to an activity that was once not formalized as more than just writing? There is a seriousness, a decisiveness attached to it that is different now. You can find journals for travel, calling out to you with the illusive guarantee of a record to be kept alongside photos, ticket stubs and other mementos of trips taken. Baby books are timelines of another journey, so precious it is impossible not to note milestones on their pages. Fill in the blanks and your diary will come alive, your thoughts preserved for future reflection…or not.

It is easy to be overwhelmed by the myriad of options. After all, an abundance of stores and sites are dedicated to selling beautifully bound journals, pens and more. I should know better by now. I have shelves and drawers filled with them, gifts from friends or purchased by me, begun half-heartedly or abandoned to a newer addition. Each volume beckons with a promise of being the one that will be the keeper of my words, the container of my thoughts, the chosen one…or not.

At its best, journaling has a meditative quality. It is a peaceful activity, a grounding experience, an internal process that stops time for the moment. It is a good habit and once engaged, provides a platform for expression that is very personal. Likewise, there is no end to the self judgments that abound when not doing it in the proscribed form.

What are some other ways to get going when you are not inspired?
• Set a timer for 5 minutes and just write, sans punctuation, only stream of consciousness
• Select a single thought, object or memory and write-dig deep and just write
• Go backwards. Start with the end of your day and complete with the beginning.

If the “written” word is not the best way for you to express yourself:
• Speak or sing your thoughts into a recording device
• Draw, collage or use color in ways to convey your inner feelings
• Use music/instruments as a medium

Access your creativity in ways that support you best and perhaps intersperse one method with another. After all, it is about YOU finding YOUR voice and the best way for YOU to express yourself is changeable!

©2015 Maureen Weisner

The “Fitness Cliff”

Two Women Exercising With WeightsWhen I first read the term, fitness cliff I assumed that the reference was to another cutting edge training program. After all, it is spring and time to think about getting in shape, preparing to shed layers of clothing and improved conditioning for outdoor activities. Naïve on my part. Gold’s Gym graphed member check-ins from January 2010-January 2013. On February 18th, 48 days after most of us vow to eat less and exercise more, attendance nose-dives and continues on a downward spiral with a few positive spikes near bathing suit season. Surprised?

So, what happened and why does it continue to be an ongoing pattern? Similar to the New Year’s resolutions that many of us have been wont to make with certainty, over 50% never get beyond January 31st in changing some behavior. Fewer than 20% of us follow through on a resolution to its conclusion and actually make the proposed change.

Reassess your goal:
A closer look might help. According to fitness trainers, if you fixate on changing a specific body part and you don’t immediately see results like flat abs or thin thighs, your commitment is likely to wane. Instead, look at the bigger picture.

What’s important about being healthy?
• Greater endurance/more energy
• Improved mood
• Increased strength
• Sleep better
• Participate in more activities
• Develop greater discipline
• Gain confidence
• Clothing fit better
• Diet changes
• Exposure to more people/exercise buddy

Focus on why exercise is a positive activity that has both long and short term benefits. It’s energizing and de-stressing and can also add a social component. When the “pay-off” is not necessarily immediate, your goals need to be approached in small steps with built-in rewards, like a massage or another spa treatment.

©Mweisner 2014