Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Depression Versus Exercise: We Have a Winner!

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="500" caption="Soaking up the sunset. Delicious."]78/365[/caption]

There are many things that I love about living in Montana -- the many trails available within a 10 minute drive of every part of the city, the focus on being outdoors in all weather (really, I swear that's a bonus), and of course the gorgeous mountains which still blow this former Jersey girl's mind.  But one thing I don't love so much is the aversion the Montana seasons seem to have to change.

Take this year, for example.  Spring has been s l o w in coming.  While I saw that distant Facebook friends were enjoying seemingly endless blue skies and sunshine, we were enduring a long and dreary April.  But then all that seemed to change in the past few weeks, and the glorious Montana spring finally arrived . . .

. . .  or did it?

[caption id="" align="alignright" width="233" caption="My sunburn. Ow."]84/365[/caption]

Last week I busted out my shorts and tanks tops and flip flops, mowed the lawn for the first time this year, and potted a bunch of seeds and plants in an attempt to cultivate my green thumb.  I sat outside and read, enjoying the long-missed warmth of the sun so much that I didn't realize I was getting my first sunburn of the season (it was worth it! but I'll use sunscreen next time . . .).  I let all the windows of our house stay open day and night to let the delicious air in.  It was glorious.

This week I shut the windows.  I donned a sweater and warm pants once again (although I have resisted wearing socks again -- I'm holding out hope).  Even the dogs want to stay inside, because it's cold and raining, and it looks like it will be all week.  While I know that we need the rain, I want sun!  I want spring and then summer.  I want warmth!  One day we'll finally have regular balmy weather.  Right?  Right??

Once again it's been interesting to observe how my mood changes with the weather's fluctuations.  During the warm, sunny weather I was very up, all action and positivity, while this week I just want to snuggle under the covers with a book and some tea until the rain goes away.  But as snuggling and reading and sipping tea won't really help me feel better long term, I've been mustering up the energy for a daily workout.

Remember my post on depression-busting exercise?  My hope was that regularly moderate exercise would help regulate my moods.  Well, having coaxed, coddled, and otherwise frog-marched myself into regular workouts, I can say that it works.  Exercise really does bust through depression.  I find this amazing, and so reassuring.  When medication doesn't work, or if I don't want to throw miscellaneous chemicals that might help into my body, it's so encouraging that something as simple and accessible and (most importantly, for me) natural can be just as effective in regulating depression.

If you're interested in learning more about the effects of exercise on depression, I once again want to recommend -- Conquering Depression and Anxiety Through Exercise by Keith Johnsgard.

It is an excellent resource, and also a very engaging read.  Johnsgard presents oodles of facts from medical journals and similar academic publications without making the reading dry or tedious.

So while I wait for the return of the sun -- please please please let it be soon! -- I will keep on exercising (reasonably) so that I can keep on living (fully).  And right now that means continuing to work on artistic things, as well as a super duper secret writing project that I am SO EXCITED to tell you more about soon.  Let me just leave you with this tantalizing tidbit -- I finished a first not-so-rough draft in less than two weeks, am working on turning it into a second, cleaner draft, and hope to be sending it off for publication before too long.  Wowza!  I've never had a writing project go so beautifully.  It's truly been a gift.

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="500" caption="Making art is also a gift!"]Forever Friends[/caption]

What has got you up or down or creative or cuddling under the covers?  What's the weather like near you?  I'll try not to be jealous if it's all sun all the time . . . ;)


Sunday, May 22, 2011

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Running With the Wolves

Release the wild woman . . .I am currently working my way through a book on archetypes and women's issues and identity called Women Who Run With the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes.  It's a book I probably never would have picked up on my own, but having been recommended it by Goddess Leonie, I'm quite taken with it.  It's a bit academic and dense to wade through at times, but well worth any brain fumbling you might have to do (I'm certainly doing my fair share of it!).

I'm only two chapters into this book, and so am fumbling to describe it accurately.  Instead I'll let one of the blurbs do the talking:
Folklore, fairy tales and dream symbols are called on to help restore women's neglected intuitive and instinctive abilities in this earthy first book by a Jungian analyst. According to Estes, wolves and women share a psychic bond in their fierceness, grace and devotion to mate and community. This comparison defines the archetype of the Wild Woman, a female in touch with her primitive side and able to rely on gut feelings to make choices. The tales here, from various cultures, are not necessarily about wolves; instead, they illuminate fresh perspectives on relationships, self-image, even addiction.

So far, Women Who Run With the Wolves has been very thought-provoking, especially coming at it from a background of eating disordered behavior and addiction, dysfunctional family life, and a long repression of my femininity.  Empowering, too.  Interestingly, while I thought the concepts of this book might conflict with my faith, I'm finding that I can draw a lot of parallels between the archetypes and stories Estes writes about and Jesus and the Bible.  Interesting indeed!

The image at the top of this post is a mixed media creation I made in response to what I've read so far.  It was fun to respond in a visual way, as I usually just respond with words.

What's on tap for your weekend (besides the apocalypse, of course -- oh wait, that didn't pain out)? ;)

Thursday, May 19, 2011

It's the End of the World As We Know It (Maybe)

Image source.

So.  Apparently there are a bunch of people out there convinced that the rapture/apocalypse/beginning of the end of the world is soon.  Really soon.  As in, this Saturday, May 21.  I know this is not exactly a current events or religion blog, but as a Christian I feel that I must weigh in.

My question is why May 21?  Based on what evidence?  Where is this all coming from?? Honestly, I have no idea.  Front runner Harold Camping says that he is totally and absolutely convinced that a massive worldwide earthquake will devastate the entire planet this Saturday.  When asked if he has any doubt that this will all go down as he described, Camping replied, "I have no doubt at all, because I trust implicitly. I don’t trust me or any man, but I trust the Bible implicitly."

Okay.  The Bible?  Seriously?  That's where Camping is getting his evidence?  Because Jesus is pretty darn explicit in stating that no one is going to know when the apocalypse will come. In fact, even Jesus himself does not know.

When we see Jesus and his disciples chatting about the details of the end times, Jesus rounds things off by stating, "But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father" (Matthew 24:36 -- check out the entire chapter here).

So, let me get this straight -- in the Bible, which Christians believe is the word of God, Jesus himself says that no one except God knows when the end times is going down.  Right?

Apparently, Jesus forgot to add a caveat -- "No on knows . . . but only the Father . . . and Harold Camping."  :(

This gets me really riled up.  I mean, yes, the apocalypse could be on Saturday, May 21.  But based on the evidence that I have -- and that every Christian, including Harold Camping, has -- the date and time of the apocalypse is not able to be predicted.  So for people like Camping to flutter about spreading this message of absolute truth based on no presented evidence -- a message that flies in the face of the Bible, the main evidence piece for all Christianity -- really, really, really bugs me.

Not all Christians are insane and delusional.  I promise.

But then . . . I could be wrong about May 21.  I guess we'll see soon enough.

Alright, time to dismount my soapbox.  Thanks for indulging me.  :)

What's your take?  What do you believe about the end of the world, if anything?

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

My Black Thumb: Will I Strike Again?


Every spring it's the same story -- I buy seeds and soil, I plant seeds in soil, I water, I water . . . I kill.  It's very seldom that any plants survive more than a few months under my care.

But this time around I'm determined!  I thoroughly read the information on all the seeds I purchased to make sure their suitable for our location and arrangements.  Then I meticulously followed the planting directions.  I now of twelve pots of newly planted flowers, wildflowers, and blueberry bushes, not to mention the oregano and rosemary plants that have resisted my murderous ways.

Now to wait!  Hopefully they are all hardy growers.  In the meantime, I have this new art project to keep my busy (as well as a few others!):

Work in progress

It will be exciting to see what becomes of both the seeds and this sketch. Creating is awesome, but I become impatient to see the end results, forgetting that the growth process is where the true riches lie.

What are you creating?  What are you waiting on?  How do you practice patience?

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Snapshot Sunday: Spring At Last!

70/365Spring has finally arrived here in western Montana (with a bit of summer, too)! At last! I can walk barefoot in the grass, feel the sun shine directly on my shoulders, go hiking with the dogs without bundling up first, and hoop in the lingering warmth of evening. At last!

It's remarkable what the shift in seasons can do for my attitude and emotions. It's pretty clear to me that I get hit hard with winter depression, so I'm thinking of ways to mitigate it's effects for next year. My number one plan at the moment? But a sun lamp, and take one of the super-duper cheap flights and visit Phoenix in February. I think a week of skirt-and-tank-top weather will be just the thing to get me through to the glorious Montana spring (and it really is glorious, worth every inch of lingering snow!).

Star GirlIn other news, I've been creating and creating and creating some more.  I love making art!  This is Star Girl, created with graphite and colored pencils, acrylic and watercolor paints, ink spray, pastels, yarn, stamps, tulle, and other random things I can't quite remember, all on a plank of wood.  I'm so proud!

Edmund and the Turkish Delight
This guy I'm not quite as proud of, mostly because I'm not sure how the whole thing "works." My idea was to create a stylized combo of Suzi Blu's portrait and petite doll classes (a big portrait head on a smaller doll-esque body) of each of the four Pevensie kids from The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. This is the first, depicting Edmund as he decides if he will accept the White Witch's tantalizing treat. Unfortunately, poor Ed just sort of looks odd. I both like that oddness and wish he was less odd and more "pretty." How would you fix this?

And, more importantly, what are you up to on this spring-alicious Snapshot Sunday?


Friday, May 13, 2011

Weekend Reading: MORE Books I Think You Should Read

Yesterday I posted a few books that I'm loving that I think you should check out, too.  I just realized that a) those books are all non-fiction self-help books, and b) there are loads of great fiction books I think you should read.  So . . . here are some of my recent favorites.  I picked these because they are either newer or do not get as much publicity as I think they deserve.

The Knife of Never Letting Go (and the rest of the trilogy) by Patrick Ness

The Bird Sisters by Rebecca Rasmussen (Rebecca makes a lovely Twitter friend, too!)

The Darkangel by Meredith Ann Pierce

Okay, now I am done with the very, very shameless plugging of some very, very awesome books.  Enjoy, friends, and happy weekend!

What are your favorite fiction books?

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Books I'm Reading That You Should, Too

I am overwhelmed (in a very good way!) with the amount of awesome books I'm devouring at the moment!  I'm taking a break from fiction and gobbling up books on self-care, mental health, and the like.  They are individually and collectively blowing my mind!

Succulent Wild Woman by SARK


Conquering Depression and Anxiety Through Exercise by Keith Johnsgard


Art at the Speed of Life by Pam Carriker


Transformation Soup by SARK (again! because she really is that awesome!)

What?  Are you still here?  Get thee to a library!  Go!  (Nerd points if you can tell what famous literature quote I just bastardized.)

In other Messy Vibrant Lovely Life news (oh, and that's the name of this blog now, in case you hadn't heard! :D), I created a page showcasing my favorite blogs and other internet-y interests.  Check it out here!

What are you reading that's blowing your mind (in a good way)?

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Tutorial: How to Start Blogging Painlessly

Image source.

Recently I was contacted by a woman who asked for advice on how to start a blog.  She knew that I've been blogging for quite some time (since November 2007 -- wow!) and wanted some help on starting her own blog on adoption and foster parenting.  I sent her an email in response to her specific questions on platforms and privacy, and included what I think are the  most important things for new bloggers to keep in mind.  Then I got to thinking that said email would make a great blog post of my own!  Not being one to waste already-written words, I present you with my pain-free tutorial on how to get your spiffy new blog up and running.  Enjoy!

First things first -- I just want to say that I am in no means any sort of "blogging expert;" everything I know I picked up by actually blogging.  So that's what I think you should do to learn about blogging -- just blog!  Figure out what excites you, then write about it.  Voila!  Instant blogification!  Now you just need a place to put your fabulous posts.

Blogging Platforms: Or, Where To Blog

There are a myriad of free platforms you can use to host your blog.  I started out using Blogger.  I think it's one of the best for new bloggers because it's so easy to use.  You just sign up for an account (which you can connect to via your Google account if you choose), select a template and start blogging!  They also have FAQs and tutorials at your disposal.

That said, I  just switched over to WordPress after three years of using Blogger.  My main reason is that I didn't like how I could not reply directly to comments with Blogger.  Also WordPress is way more powerful and customizable.  However, the caveat here is that WordPress is also much more complex.  When I first started exploring my WordPress account, getting ready to switch my blog over to there, I ended up VERY VERY FRUSTRATED (obviously I have since figured things out).  ;)

So . . . I suppose I would recommend Blogger for anyone new and/or anyone who isn't tech savvy, and WordPress for anyone who is okay with adjusting to its steep learning curve.  Either way, you're going to have a great blog if you have great content.  To explore out other good blogging platform options, check out this post from Lifehacker.

Protecting Your Privacy and Identity

As a blogger, you are placing yourself and your opinions in the public eye.  What you reveal is up to you.  If you want to remain completely anonymous, I recommend creating a separate email solely for blog use and for related social networking, and give any family/friends who you will discuss different names.  For example, I call  my husband the Best Husband Ever on my blog.

That said, my blog is not very private -- it is pretty clear who the real person of this site is, but that was my choice.  I didn't originally blog that way and my early years of content are much more private.  All that to say that you can keep your blog completely anonymous.

Still, be careful with what you reveal.  I once had an employer find a blog of mine that was not in any way attached to my real name.  You'd be surprised what a Google search can turn up!  So think twice when posting content you don't want employers, coworkers, and the like to discover.

Make Your Blog Easy to Understand and Navigate

Create an "about" page.  That is ALWAYS the first thing I click on when arriving at a new blog.  If a blog doesn't have an "about" page, or at least a little "about" blurb immediately viewable on the main page, it's likely that I'll leave and never come back.  A lot of blog visitors act similarly, so at least set up a short explanation of what you're blogging about and why.  It can even be super short -- one sentence!  For example, my last "about" blurb was: "Pursuing a balanced life in body, mind, and spirit."  Short and sweet!

You also want to make it easy for people to subscribe to your blog.  Blogger has several widgets that you can add to your sidebar(s) to help with this.  I used both the widget that allows users to subscribe directly to the RSS feed (which you may have to set up on Feedburner first -- I did, but it's been a while, so perhaps they've changed) and the Google Friend Connect widget.

How to Get People to Visit Your Blog

Read other people's blogs and comment on them.  Obviously you have an interest in your blog's topic -- after all, why else would you be writing about it?  So go out and read other blogs on the same topic and drop their writers little love notes.  Not only will this expand your personal knowledge, but it will introduce you to other bloggers and perhaps even inspire your own posts.  A number of bloggers whom I read have become not only my own readers but my dear friends, a surprising blessing for which I am immensely grateful.

Consider using Twitter (and any other forms of social media that you wish, like Facebook).  I set up a Twitter account so I could connect to even more people and advertise my blog.  As with visiting other blogs, tweeting has yielded surprising and cherished friendships, as well as important contacts.

Dive In

After all that the advice, the most important thing is to just start blogging.  Just do it!  Once you get your blog set up with the platform of your choice (complete with an about page/blurb, of course), then the best thing you can do is start blogging.  It doesn't have to be perfect, it just needs to come from your heart.  And don't forget to have fun!
Happy blogging!

For the seasoned bloggers, what are your top blogging tips?

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Snapshot Sunday: Still Creating


I am still doing the mixed media art thing, and loving it more and more and more and . . . well, you get the picture.

What are you up to on this Snapshot Sunday?  Let's see those photos and/or links! 

Friday, May 6, 2011

Friday Finds #5

I have been blessed with a lot of truly excellent blog reading this week.  It's been so good, in fact, that I feel the need to plug every fabulous post.  Here are enough to keep you busy until the weekend -- topics run the gamut from writing to missions to hooping to ducks (yes, ducks).  Enjoy!

Books & Writing



Living (to the fullest, of course!)

What are you reading on the internet this week?

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Back In the Flow

Last March I quit my job as an elementary school family outreach coordinator.  I did so because of a Crohn's diagnosis, probably with some reactionary depression mixed in.  I now consider that decision to leave that beloved job the worst decision of my life.  Dealing with the emotional fallout from that decision -- the guilt, the sense of having betrayed my students and coworkers, the feeling that I had stepped out of God's plan for my life -- has been far more difficult and devastating than the effects of any disease I have encountered in my life so far.

But a few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to interview for a related and possibly even more awesome job -- working with teen girls in a group home.  I interviewed, then held my breath, crossed my fingers, and prayed while they ran the necessary background checks.  Today I got the news -- I am hired!  As for my reaction to that news -- well, I just let the photo at the top of this post do the talking.

It is not lost on me that, had I not quit my elementary school job, I would be seeking new employment right now anyway.  Not only is summer vacation fast approaching, but there was talk that the program I was hired through was ending at the end of this school year.  I'm not sure if that ever actually happened, but the fact remains that regardless of any of my decisions, I would still be looking for a job right now.

The fact that I was offered this job at this time makes me feel a sense of destiny.  Not so much an epic, Lord of the Rings-esque, save-the=word-or-die-trying destiny, but destiny in the sense of being in the flow of God's plan.  In the past fourteen months, I have felt [justly] abandoned by God, floundering in the deep oceans of life instead of traveling the current of His grace and His plans.

I don't feel that way now.

Of course I have to follow that up with a caveat -- just because I "feel" a certain thing to be true does mean it is true.  I've found that to be especially true in terms of faith.  And I also don't expect this job (or any other) to "save" me.  But I still feel the way I feel, and I'm going to enjoy it while it lasts.  I've missed floating on the tides of God.  It's been too long. 

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Healthy Homemade Tortilla Chips in 15 Minutes or Less

Back in the day, I found the Peanut Butter Boy's post on creating homemade tortilla chips and knew I had to try it.  I did, and it was a dismal failure.  Apparently, wheat tortillas do not turn into the crispy corn tortilla chips we all know and love.  Shocking, right?

Homemade tortilla chips

But I still wanted to make my own tortilla chips.  So yesterday when I realized that I had a bag of yellow corn tortillas lurking in the pantry past their lifespan, I knew what I had to do.

Homemade tortilla chips

While the oven warmed to 350* F (the Peanut Butter Boy turned his oven to 400* F in the original recipe, which I fudged my way through from memory), I stacked my tortillas and sliced them into chip-tastic triangles.

Homemade tortilla chips

Then I covered a baking sheet with foil and sprayed it with non-stick canola oil cooking spray. I spread the soon-to-be-chips down, sprinkled them with sea salt, and sprayed them with cooking spray.

Homemade tortilla chips

I put the tray in the oven and danced in anticipation for about ten minutes while the tortilla chips baked. Make sure you keep checking on their status, because it's easy to burn the would-be chips. When I over-baked mine for less than a minute the batch was ruined. Be careful!

When the first batch of successful homemade tortilla chips emerged, I knew the wait was worth it.  Warm, healthy, and perfectly crisped chips in fifteen minutes or less?  There's nothing that can be wrong about that.

Have you ever made your own chips?  Do you have any tips, tricks, or special seasoning blends?