Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Relax, Make Stuff and Be Grateful

Are you like me? Do you have at least nine plates in the air, spinning precariously, threatening to spin out of control at any moment unless you keep them rotating.....with about another five people in your life who are trying to hand you a few more plates? How does one stop the madness? In my case, I really can't. I can't change my circumstances, at least not immediately. But I am doing things to help me cope. First of all I have to come to terms with the fact that I actually like having some plates in the air. I think I would be bored if I didn't have some sort of drama happening. I function best under pressure. But lately I have found that I really have to start doing more to manage the stress I have acquired. It's like baggage I keep carrying around. My friend Nicole sent me an article on stress management. It suggested that taking care of your body may be one of the most important ways to combat stress. Try to get enough sleep, eat a healthy and balanced diet, and get plenty of physical exercise. If you can actually increase exercise, it can be beneficial to your ability to sleep and to your mood. In addition to caring for your body, it is also important to tend to your emotional health. Working hard may be necessary, but take time for relaxation and engaging in activities you enjoy.

So here's what I am doing to decompress: Last week I went and got the first massage I have had in 10 years! I walked in to Massage Envy with a stride similar to that of the Edgar, dead guy in Men In Black, and an hour later I walked out feeling like I had been served a couple of glasses of fine wine. The masseuse let me know that on a scale from 1 to 10 I was an 8 on the stress scale. So I am scheduled for a follow-up massage tomorrow. I think this new path to wellness is for me! I don't want to keep going and going and going until I drop and all my plates crash down. I want to manage my health better, before a doctor has to manage it for me. Is this picture too funny?!
Another thing I am doing is taking my boys out for walks in the evening. It's fun! We feel like spy's in our own neighborhood. We sing songs as we walk, and we talk about what happened in school. We make up stories about what our neighbors may be doing in their homes as we pass by undetected. The air is crisp and sky is full of stars. It is very invigorating and relaxing all at the same time. I have also started to set aside regular creative time for myself on Sunday afternoons. A few weeks ago I went to lunch with my friend, Kathy - the Crafty Chica, and she encouraged me to set a schedule for designing and creating art. It really is the only way to achieve my creative goals. So I am doing that, too. Thank you, Kathy!
Speaking of thanks, Thanksgiving is in two days. It is a time of reflection on all we are grateful for - God, family, friends, living in America, a good job, pets, a home, etc. Focusing on all I am blessed with helps me put my anxieties in perspective. You and I cannot control the world, but we can control how we choose to face the world. Today I am choosing to relax, make stuff and be grateful.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Silver Lining

Every week I create a trend report for my company that gives them a one-page 'snapshot' of some of the latest trends. They aren't always fashion related. Sometimes they focus on pop culture stories or political happenings. These reports are meant to answer the burning question (pun obviously intended!), "What's Hot Now?" Last week I though I was being clever by saying 'A Tight Belt' was what's hot. Although it appeared to present the gloominess of the economy, it also reported on the 'silver lining' of our situation. Some people actually made a grunt sound when they read the title. "You're so depressing!" one person commented. I told him to keep looking and to find the silver lining. I mean, really, isn't there always a silver lining in every difficult circumstance? We can read the news or watch TV analysts and know that retailers, the housing market, the auto industry, dining chains, the travel industry and many others are taking a major hit in this economy. Some may not recover. Aah, but there is a silver lining. Who is actually keeping their heads above water, maybe even swimming along quite fine? What is on the upswing? Let's look at silver linings. An independent research study said that this year 45% of Americans are eating out less in order to save money. That means they must be cooking more. Guess what? Borders and Amazon both report double digit increases in cookbook sales, particularly comfort foods. While other magazines are failing, Bon Appetit magazine reports that its had a 39% increase in sales this year. Gas prices are plunging across the country. The national average has dropped almost in half since July, to $2.18 a gallon. That means you can afford to take a drive. And while it may not be to your favorite fast food chain, it will probably be to a movie theater. Movies - comedies and epics especially - tend to do really well at the box office during economic downturns. Seems people need to escape from their daily trouble in times of economic woes. And who doesn't want to look upbeat and cute while your belt is nice and tight? Lipstick and cosmetic sales tend to rise as the economy drops. Almost every retailer is seeing red - lipstick red - in recent months. The "lipstick" indicator seems to be pretty accurate when predicting how the economy is doing. As the stock market started to free fall, cosmetic sales have rocketed by 40% according to industry reports. Troubled retailers, in an attempt to woo strapped shoppers back to their stores, are expected to slash prices on everything from jeans to plasma televisions to laptop computers to automobiles, analysts say. 'Black Friday' deals are expected to be the best they've been in years. Crafting holiday gifts is rumored to be big this year. So here's the plan: The day after Thanksgiving get up early and cook yourself a nice homemade breakfast - maybe using a recipe from that new cookbook you ordered from Amazon. When you're done, brush your pearly whites and put on some red lipstick. Loosen your belt a bit and slide in behind the wheel of your car that you can now afford to drive and head to the movies for a little 'escape' time. Better yet, head to your favorite craft retail store and show them the love by picking up some beads or fabric or paint to make a favorite craft project(s) to decorate your nest or to give as gifts. Don't let the dismal economy put a damper on your holiday season. Look beyond the dark clouds to find the silver lining..................

Thursday, November 6, 2008

The Satisfaction of Crafting

So the Presidential election is over. People are optimistic. History has been made. Great! Now what? It is still a scary time..........our problems aren't solved overnight just because we have a new president-elect. My friends are still nervous. Things are still tight and our bills still need to be paid. I peeked at my 401k statement and almost fell over. When I start feeling overwhelmed by the reality of life I have to stop myself and focus on what I am thankful for. I do a mental inventory of all I am blessed with: My family, my home, my job, my creative abilities, good friends.............so much to list! I must say that being creative - getting 'crafty' - can be an enormous outlet for my nervous energy. I have to carve out time to escape to my art studio behind my house where I make jewelry. This doesn't happen very often because I am a busy working mom. But making beautiful things has a way of bringing me great calmness and great satisfaction. I have always made gifts for special occasions and holidays so the economy doesn't necessarily dictate my choice to make gifts over purchasing them. This made me wonder how others were going to approach Christmas. Will people get more into making their own gifts this year? Choosing to craft and create can be economical as well as nourishment for the soul. But do people craft to save money, or is it about being less consumptive and finding satisfaction in creating a one-of-a-kind gift? I think it just feels good to make things, and to make a difference when doing so. The satisfaction of getting back to simple pleasures - while maybe even saving money - may be what's driving the resurgence of do-it-yourself hobbies.

Monday, November 3, 2008

A vest, a tee-shirt, some paint . . .

It's intriguing to watch the way celebrity fashion choices influence mainstream people, and even more interesting to see how a trend trickles down and is interpreted by the craft community. Back in August I talked about the menswear trend in women's fashion, specifically vests, as a look that was gaining momentum. Now I am seeing vests screen printed onto tee-shirts (Levi tee) and vests being altered with paint and embellishments. Thrift stores are a great place to find gently used vests that don't cost a fortune and you can feel good about personalizing them - painting, altering, embellishing - because you haven't made a big financial investment in them. The other fabulous thing about the vest trend is that it appeals to both men and women. Can't find the right vest for you? Skip buying the vest and create the look on your favorite tee-shirt. Take a look at this easy project for creating a vest for him or her using fabric paint.

Want to get in on the latest trend? The vest is a sure bet for looking good this fall.


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