How to Keep Caring When it’s Hard

We’re not the first, and won’t be the last, to live through difficult times. That being said let’s not diminish the magnitude of the issues and circumstances we’re dealing with around the world.  With so much going on, in governments, politics, economics, social issues, and with the natural environment it’s easy to become overwhelmed.  Like… immediately.  We all want to be good people and do what we can to make the world a better place but it’s almost impossible to know where to start.  When something happens we’re all about marches, protests, making signs, and other crafts.  After weeks, months, or longer, compassion fatigue sets in and we can’t maintain that same level of adrenaline-fueled outrage.  What can we do? How do we live a life of peace, joy, and compassion for ourselves and others?

Earlier this month I read an article that made me feel that adrenaline-outrage rush.  It presents the findings of a research study conducted at Ohio State University’s College of Business. The study found that when given the option people don’t want to know how their clothing is made.  But that’s not all, the people who choose not to know were also much more likely to negatively judge those who did want to know about the labor practices behind the products they purchase.  Furthermore, the willfully ignorant participants were then less likely to care about ethical labor practices themselves.  It shows the worst kind of vicious cycle at work in our everyday purchasing habits.


Ethical shopping is just one (of oh so many) issues. But it’s one I care about and can stand in as an example for other issues as well.  I know it’s hard to make awesome decisions.  Let’s not let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

How to care: Ethical Clothing Shopping

1.  Accept that you will not single-handedly fix every issue in the world.  That’s alright.  You CAN improve your own behavior, and that will make you feel empowered, which in turn will motivate you to keep going.

 

2. Start small.  When I first decided to shop more ethically I started with small, doable actions such as not buying certain brands.  Start with a quick online search for the brands you buy most.  If any of them stand out as being egregiously unethical cut only those brands out of your shopping habits.

 

3. Find alternatives.  Use the Detox the Catwalk site and Wear No Evil by Greta Eagan to find better brands to buy instead.  Use the SpendRight site to buy better according to the causes you value most.

 

4. Buy quality and consume less.  One of the best things we can all do for the world is consume less things, in every category.  Don’t get me wrong, I have TONS of things in my house.  But I do everything I can to make sure they are things I love, that add value to my life, and I try to dispose of them in the best way when they no longer serve their purpose.  When possible purchase things that are really meaningful and that you’ll want to enjoy for many years.  Always get the best quality you can afford.  Rather than buying six $5 tees, get one or two better quality ones that will last longer.  You’ll save money in the long run, and fewer garments means less water pollution and less material in landfills.

 

5. Have some trustworthy sources for the causes you care about.  I don’t advocate spending days and days googling every piece of information on a topic.  That’s a recipe for burnout.  I really liked the documentary The True Cost for information and stories about the clothing industry.  It shows the real life consequences of our everyday actions, in a non-judgemental way.

 

6. Learn new skills.  I wasn’t born shopping ethically, and for many years I bought only what I liked best and was cheapest.  When I started knitting and sewing I realized how much time, effort, and skill goes into the creation of a simple garment or accessory.  For example a hand-knit scarf takes about 20 hours to make, a sweater about twice as long.  So when you see that type of item in a store for a low price you can calculate how little the person who made it was paid per hour of their labor.  When you choose to make instead of buying you know exactly what the labor conditions are, you get to customize the design, materials, and colors, and you get something you could never buy at a fast fashion store: the feeling of personal accomplishment for making something you can wear and also for making the world a little bit better place.


These steps could be applied to any issue that you choose.  What are your values? Use them to guide you. Start small, choose just one issue to start with.  It could be labor practices, minerals, food production, product life cycle (what happens to products when they are thrown out as trash), human and civil rights.  There’s so much we can each do to make the world a better place.  Don’t judge others.  You’ll have your core issues and someone else will have different ones. That’s a GOOD thing.  That way ALL issues will be resolved, together, and with some down time for everyone.  Use the time to get together with your friends, be there for them about the causes they support and speak up for yours.

Janeuary – Jane Davenport art supplies & my daily doodles

If you don’t know Jane Davenport (and I don’t, personally) she’s a mixed media artist, and seems like a delightful, joyful person.  I got her book “Drawing and Painting Beautiful Faces: A Mixed-Media Portrait Workshop” years ago and it’s lovely.  This January she launched a range of art supplies so of course I had to go get some.  My Michael’s store had a good number of the items. The only problem was it took extra long to check out because the items wouldn’t scan at the checkout. I suspect the info wasn’t in the database yet, that’s how new it was.  I didn’t mind waiting. You can also get the full range of items at Jane’s online store. The items ship from Australia so keep that in mind in terms of shipping costs and timing.

I am proud of how much restraint I exercised (for now), instead of getting everything I got three things:

the bright pencil pouch

the DIY face stamps

and the 4 Jane girls stamps

I’m loving all three. The pencil case holds a surprising amount considering how compact it looks.  The faces are great to build on. And the DIY face stamps are by far my favorite. I have a thing about modular, choose-your-own-adventure, paper doll-type things.  I can’t get enough of going through all the options and continually asking “ok, what if I do THIS one now?”.  It’s pure inner child joy for me.

Here’s what I made this month using the Jane Davenport supplies


UPDATE

Then I wanted the Mermaid Markers. My local Michael’s was out of stock, and they told me they wouldn’t be restocking anything as it was a seasonal, one-time line.  So I ordered them from the website.  I am not disappointed, they are delicious.

3 Quick Daily Routines to Rest and Restore

Happy 2017! Looks like resolutions didn’t make the cut this year, now it’s all about words.  Like bite-size intentions and affirmations for the year instead of weighty RESOLUTIONS to do (huge life change) by (date – usually the end of the year).  I can get behind that.  Except lately I have no attention span whatsoever for some things so I’ve decided to pick theme words for each month. That way each new month will bring a new focus.  And after the whirlwind, chock-full of family, jetsetting December I had I want my January to be all about Rest and Restore.

Here’s three routines you can use to rest and restore any time of day.  Follow the links to some of my favorite restful products, apps, and activities.


Morning Routine

  • put on warm socks. I sleep barefoot so on chilly mornings I don’t want to get out from under the covers. Before you go to bed put a pair of cozy socks on or near a warm area (like on top or in front of a heater).  In the morning you’ll look forward to getting up to put on warm clothes. Bonus points if they’re in arm’s reach so you don’t have to get out of bed to put your socks on before getting up.
  • color.  Take a few minutes to color in a coloring book, app, or your own drawings.  Coloring is meditative and not demanding like trying to create an image from scratch.  Leave your book and favorite coloring materials on an uncluttered desk or a table the night before, it’ll make you happy to be able to just sit down and get right into it when you wake up.
  • pare down your to-do list.  Nothing feels more soothing than reviewing your to-do list and scrapping any items that are not absolutely must-do’s.  If there’s anything you can do another day or better yet get rid of entirely go ahead and clear if from your list, and your headspace.

Afternoon Routine

  • meditate. I’ve been using the Stop, Breathe, Think app for a few years and it’s been a game changer. You can meditate wherever you are, your desk, car, home, or even outside.
  • eat a serving or two of fruit. It’s a much better pick-me-up than coffee, and by 3:00 or 4:00 pm coffee doesn’t work for me anyway.  I usually go for sliced apples, mixed berries, or fruit salad.

 


Evening Routine

  • drink a cup of calming herbal tea. I like hibiscus because it’s tangy and calming.  Hibiscus tea is known to lower blood pressure and have other health benefits but feel free to choose any herbal tea you like.  Linden, chamomile, peppermint, and lemon ginger are some of my go-to’s.
  • release back, shoulder and neck tension with a few minutes in legs-up-the-wall pose.  This pose will loosen up tension from the day and set you up for a good night’s sleep.
  • dim the lights and read before bed. I (sadly) just finished How to be Chic in the Winter by Fiona Ferris.  I really enjoyed reading it under the covers while listening to the recent rain storms outside.

“how did all these things even get in here” or #gratitude

november 2015

November is here (can you even believe it??) and it’s an excuse to share some thoughts about abundance and gratitude.  For a while now I’ve been endeavoring to have less stuff because I’ve been overwhelmed by clutter for years.  It seems cliche to say but you really don’t notice the stuff piling up and up over such a long period of time.  Not that long ago I was a college student renting my first apartment.  At that time we didn’t have any furniture and nowhere near any money with which to buy any.  Yet we didn’t feel deprived or lacking.  Fast forward (a while) and so much of the time I feel so much want and lack. I have more resources now so I can buy many of the useless things I want.  And I feel so much less happy and less free.

I know that chucking everything and living an ascetic life is not for me, that’s not going to be a viable solution.  So what to do? I’m going to spend this month (for starters) buying as few new things as is possible.  That will prevent at least some accumulation.  But more importantly I am going to use and appreciate what I already have.  I’m writing about this now, this month, because lately I found myself directing my focus about clutter on the pantry (and the other pantry, and that one high cabinet filled with nothing but baking stuff and that’s really painful now that I’m trying to do the low-carb thing).  So my plan is this: try to use up more than half of the things stashed in the pantry rather than buy more new food.  (I’m not going to count long-term use things like the Torani syrup collection the hubby uses to make italian sodas, we do NOT need to use up the italian soda stash in one month.)

More importantly, in doing this exercise I feel I will appreciate the ridiculous abundance in my life (in this case evidenced by shelf upon shelf of food items).  The best thing I can do with stuff that I’ve already bought is to use it, enjoy it, and appreciate it.  What disastrous recipes will ensue? Let’s see!

What are you grateful for? What is abundant in your life?

Time and Energy Management

time and energy planning evaluation free printable

I’ve spent a LOT of time thinking, reading, and planning about, well…time.   There is no shortage of source material if you want to waste time trying to figure out how you should be spending your time: articles, books, coaching, systems, organizers, on and on.  And after becoming familiar with and trying many of them I realized something is.not.working.

Because not all time is equal.  Time management is not about minutes, days, and months.  It’s about harnessing your attention, focus, and energy levels.  We’ve all had first hand experience with this.  One group of sixty seconds is not the same as another: a minute with a new love is not the same as a minute waiting in line at the DMV.

As a start in understanding your relationship with time, particularly different times of the day, I’ve created a worksheet.

~

It’s not another planner page to make your to-do list look pretty, it’s a quick little survey to check in with yourself about how you feel time throughout the day.  When do you feel creative? When do you feel most tired?  Once you know these things you can schedule activities and tasks to take advantage of your energy levels.  Schedule creative work during your ‘creative’ hours, schedule meetings for your ‘focused’ time, avoid scheduling DMV appointments for your ‘tired’ times.

Click here to download the free printable!

BONUS
check out this inspiring video and article on time and energy over at entrepreneur.com:

“How to Manage Time With 10 Tips That Work”

 

About time…planning

So I guess I’ve been away for a bit.  Obviously…I don’t have to guess that, I know it’s true.  Among about a million other things I’ve been working on figuring out what I want my future to look like.   No big deal, just working on what I want to do with my days, my time, my personal projects….my entire life.

To that end I’m making some planning/time management/life decision worksheets for anyone to use when they’re working through these same questions.  Stay tuned for those, which will be downloadable freebies, coming soon! Promise!

In the meantime I leave you with this lovely quote graphic about time that I whipped up for you.

learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow

*photo by me

2015: The Year of Drawing

face doodled sketch

2015…the year I (finally) learn to draw. “Don’t you already know how to draw?” someone asked me. Well…no. Not really, and certainly not to my satisfaction. Trust me, I had qualms about admitting that on this blog. After all, what kind of crafter/artist/maker can’t draw? I suspect it’s more than you’d imagine. So I’m breaking the ice here and hopefully allowing all my lovely readers to feel it’s ok to not yet know how to do something.

So my most deliberate new year’s resolution was ‘learn to draw’. Actually it was more specific: “purposefully draw every day”. What is purposefully? Basically with some sort of objective or goal in mind. For example, I will spend January working through “You Can Draw in 30 Days.” I actually started about a year and a half ago but never completed it. I have a few other books lined up for the following months. After I run out of books we’ll see what happens.

My primary goal for the year is to get to a place where I can consistently render drawings I am pleased with. This is not to say I will be happy with everything that ever results from my touching pencil to paper. That’s just ridiculously unrealistic. Neither is it my goal to draw only in a certain style or medium. No, I just want to be able to say “yea, I can draw fairly ok” come December 2015.

What I did not resolve to do in 2015 was post daily doodles. On New Year’s day I came down with a terrible cold (it’s still lingering over two weeks later). I had no energy for all my other planned tasks (making a whole new wardrobe for myself, cleaning out every piece of clutter in my apartment) so I doodled. Just a bit here and there, in addition to working the exercises in “You Can Draw in 30 Days.” I liked some of these doodles so I posted them on Instagram and Facebook. What happened next blew me away. Friends and family ‘liked’ my posts. But not only did they like them, they seemed to be inspired to make and post their own drawings and doodles. I had not anticipated, nor could I have hoped for, such a warm and joyful response. So after less than two weeks I made a new resolution: to post a “doodle of the day” every day.

I am so excited because this will provide more drawing practice in a no-pressure way. It also seems to be inspiring others to make and share their own art (amazing!). Over the last couple of years I’ve realized that the best and most enjoyable new year’s resolutions are those that emerge organically, without being forced, or being based on negative thinking (for example “I’m so unhappy with my body, I need to lose many many pounds this year”).

On that note, enjoy some “doodle of the day” highlights from the first half of January 2015:

2015: the year of drawing

What are your 2015 resolutions? Are they realistic? Are they motivated by joy?

Don’t Ruin Your Acrylic Paintings!

By complete chance this great video on acrylic painting came to my attention the other day:

Stop ruining your acrylic paintings with water!

Artist Michele Theberge does a fantastic job of explaining exactly what happens when you mix your acrylic paints with too much water.

Basically you compromise the ability of the acrylic molecules to form a strong film on the canvas.  So what you ask? Well if you start with a wash on your canvas and the acrylic film is not solid your painting will flake right off the canvas (sooner or later).

Too much science for you? Don’t worry! Michele makes everything super clear and straightforward in the video.  If you ever work with acrylics this is a must watch.

Have you learned any surprising or valuable painting techniques lately? Share them in the comments!

 

Leavin’ on a jet plane

argentina

Suprise! I’m gonna have to take a brief leave to visit my family in Argentina.  It’s very bitter sweet.  On the one hand I get to see my family soon, on the other it’s because someone has passed away.  I am so so so grateful that I am able to make this trip on short notice to be with my family during a really hard time.  A silver lining at least.

What’s the deal for popElephant.com?

So why am I posting about it? Just to let you lovely readers know that I’ll be far far away from my computer.  I promise to do my utmost to update the popElephant blog every so often, just don’t expect very long posts.

I’ll be back soon enough with fresh inspiration, ideas, and hopefully some good pics from my travels.  Until then I wish you all a great July and August.

Be good, do good, and make meaning!