art · life curation

A Day at NGA

A couple of weeks ago, I had a free afternoon and I was feeling artsy (to be honest, I can’t think of a time when I’m NOT feeling artsy). So I took a stroll to National Gallery of Art (NGA) to check out the exhibits. It’s been nearly two years since my last visit, so I was overdue.

Tomorrow’s post will be “heavier”, as far as subject matter goes, so today, I’m taking it light and easy. Here are a few photos from my last visit to NGA. This post features a few of the sculptures that I saw at the museum. Enjoy!

Nymph and Satyr by Edward McCartan (1920)

This satyr is nothing but trouble! Look at how he’s looking at the nymph.

Play coy, little nymph! Maybe that naughty satyr will leave you alone.

Justice by Barthelemy Prieur (1610)

It’s hard to believe this lovely lady is over 400 years old! It was completed the year before Prieur’s death.

I had to do some research on this one: I’d never heard of “zephyr” before.

A Garden Allegory: The Dew and Zephyr Cultivating Flowers by Benoit Massou, Anselme Flamen and Nicolas Rebille (1683/1732)

This beautiful woman depict dew, the gentle moisture found on vegetation in the morning hours.

The charming little cherub next to Dew is Zephyr, the soft gentle breeze that can be felt on a pleasant spring day

life curation

Living Your Best Life: Cultivating Calm, Part 2

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Happy Wednesday, beloveds! In part one of my Cultivating Calm posts, I mentioned how to become more aware of when you are feeling stressed, anxious, or frustrated. Once you identify the patterns and triggers, you can begin to control or manage them. Here are a few tips for controlling and managing triggers that threaten your feeling of calm.

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-Avoid people who stimulate an anxious or agitated feeling. You know who I’m talking about: there are some people who have a nervous energy that’s contagious: they walk into a room and everyone starts feeling “on edge”. I noticed that a lot of inexperienced or insecure supervisors and managers tend to generate this energy. You also notice it from people that treat everything like a crisis or a tragedy, consistently overexaggerating the seriously of thing occurring in their lives.

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-Avoid consuming overstimulating food, beverages or media. I adore chocolate, but I can’t have it late at night because of the caffeine. I feel jittery and agitated when I can’t get to sleep, so I avoid chocolate late at night as well as caffeinated beverages. Likewise, examine your diet and see what stimulants you consume regularly. Then, aim to wean yourself off of those stimulating foods and beverages: overstimulation frequently causes agitation and anxious feelings. It goes without saying that media can also make you feel anxious: sometimes the news makes us feel stressed and frustrated. So employing some selective ignorance can go a long ways in helping you preserve your calm.

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-Clean up your physical surroundings. Disorderly environments can disturb your sense of peace and tranquility. So clean up and enjoy your new, calmer environment.

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-Practice deep breathing and relaxing stretches to help you unwind. Intentionally increasing your oxygen intake can really help with “resetting” your energy and improving your mood (there are studies confirming this, so do your research!). Relaxing stretches help to reduce the tension in tightly contracted muscles.

life curation

A Mother’s Love

Maternal Caress by Mary Cassatt (1896), on display at the Philadelphia Museum of Art

Mothers are so special. There’s not a lot to say, other than this: make sure to appreciate your mother (or the mother figures) in your life. Cherish the women that pour into you, and uphold a higher vision of you than you could ever imagine for yourself.

The Marquise de Pezay and the Marquise Rouge with her sons Alexis and Adrien by Elizabeth Louise Vigee Le Brun (1787), on display at the National Gallery of Art

Here are a few touching portraits of mothers that I have seen over the past week, as well as thoughts on motherhood from a few famous women. I’m going to link my post to Phylicia Rashad’s thoughts on motherhood here. In this post, I’ll share more thoughts from Maya Angelou (you can read my previous post about her here).

life curation

Living Your Best Life: Cultivating Calm, Part 1

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On this blog, I always strive to be authentic and positive. One of my keys to remaining positive is to continue doing the emotional work that will allow me to live my best life. Without doing this work, I would be stuck in the often-frustrating daily experience, and different situations could negatively impact my mood and perspective.

A crucial part of my self-care is the conscious cultivation of calm (if you can’t tell, I love alliteration). Calm is more than a feeling for me: it’s the state where I am most secure and clearheaded. I function best in calm, and for that reason, it behooves me to continue to cultivate it on a daily basis.

You, too, can cultivate calm regularly. All it takes is some inner and outer work. The first part of cultivating calm involves becoming aware of triggers and spotting the patterns. Once those triggers and patterns are identified, you can successfully develop tools to manage the stress and promote your peace. Here are some of the steps I’ve used for the first part of cultivating my calm (you can read about the second part of cultivating calm in a future post).

-Take note of when you feel anxious or agitated. You may have a physical reaction to aggravation (tense shoulders, jaw clenching, headaches, etc.,) or perhaps the aggravation shows up in your behavior (silence/lack of communication, aggressive interactions with others, violent outbursts, etc.). You don’t need to try to change the behavior immediately, just note it and stop yourself if you feel that you’re about to do something dangerous to yourself or others.

-Keep a journal to log your anxious or agitated moments for about one or two weeks. This will help you vent safely and can take a lot of the “fire” out of an aggravating incident. Jot down as many details as you can: time of day, what you were doing prior to feeling aggravated, the event that triggered the aggravation, how you responded, and what you feel as you write about it. Lots of details are key for the next step, so really take the time to write it all down. It helps to write in the red hot moment, as this usually means you’ll capture the detail in all it’s emotionally-triggering glory.

-Look for patterns: does your irritation come after interacting with certain people? Does it come from the tasks expected from you on the job? Were you hungry? Were you sleepy? Look for any commonalities between those frustrating moments. Once you start seeing a consistent trigger appear, then you know you’ve found a pattern and you can set out to manage that trigger more effectively.

If you need more help with this, there are countless online guides for helping you identify triggers and patterns. Also, I’m a big fan of using professional help to assist with managing things that feel overwhelming or beyond your control.

Look out for the next “Cultivating Calm” post coming soon!

life curation

Making Joy a Daily Practice

I’m still buzzing a bit from the Joy Challenge that I talked about incessantly last month. Mindfully choosing joy daily is going to be a never-ending exercise for me, and that’s okay: it’s worth the effort. Fortunately, I have a little tool to help me to keep the joy going during the months ahead!

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Amina Makhdoom Lynch, the creator of the Joy Challenge, generously gifted participants a copy of Rebecca Kochenderfer’s book, Joy Journal. The book is designed to engage you in joyful practices for 12 full weeks (3 solid months!) as you move from accidental/occasional joy practitioner to consistent joy creator.

This book is designed to get you into the habit of engaging a daily intention, reflecting on positive experiences and expressing gratitude. Each week opens with a few thoughts on the week’s theme, stories, encouragement, and examples to assist you in completing the week’s prompts.

I’m so thankful that Amina sent me a paperback copy: these are the kind of tools that I don’t enjoy when digitized. The act of writing (with pen and paper) and reflecting on my thoughts as I write has always been magical for me. So this lines up perfectly with my preferences.

If you need something to help you with staying in joy, this could be a great resource for you. Make sure you check it out!

art · life curation

5 Lessons from Amy Sherald, An American Success Story

A few months back, the official portrait of former First Lady Michelle Obama was unveiled and put on display at the National Portrait Gallery. The painter, Amy Sherald, quickly became a household name, as her unique portraiture captivated art appreciators and stirred discussion on what makes an “acceptable” political portrait.

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Michelle Obama as portrayed by Amy Sherald (I took this photo a few weeks ago)

But today, I’m not talking about whether Sherald’s painting was aesthetically pleasing or suitable for a First Lady (though, after seeing it in person, I agree that it is both beautiful and a fitting tribute to Mrs. Obama). I want to talk about Sherald and what makes her the ultimate American success story. Here are five lessons we can learn from Amy Sherald:

  • Be committed to your craft.

Sherald studied art in her undergraduate and graduate years. Before committing to art school, she practiced her craft daily and participated in arts camps during the summer. Much like Sherald, if you want success, you have to be committed to your craft

  • Seize as many opportunities as you possibly can.

Sherald apprenticed for art historians, curated for museums abroad, and she also lived and studied in Norway, China and Panama. She didn’t let distance keep her from seizing opportunities that brought her closer to her dream. Likewise, the opportunities we need are rarely in our own backyard: we have to seize them wherever they are, even if that takes us around the world and away from everything familiar.

  • Don’t allow discouragement to distract you.

Despite Sherald’s immense talent, her family wasn’t particularly supportive of her decision to be a full-time artist. In fact, it wasn’t until she won the Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition that her mother view art as a viable career for Amy. Our loved ones mean well, but we may have to “tune out” their well-meaning advice that doesn’t bring us closer to what we want.

  • Be courageous enough to choose discomfort in service to your vision.

Sherald herself mentioned that she chose “discomfort” in order to create art that inspires. Discomfort means that we sacrifice certainty for the possibility of realizing our highest selves. Try a little discomfort to help you make strides toward your goal.

  • It’s never too late to be what you envision yourself to be.

Sherald was 42 when she won the Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition. Dreams aren’t just for the young and wide-eyed: consistency and focus will bring you the success you desire, even if it’s a little later than you expected. By consistently following the previously mentioned steps, you’ll be prepared for your “big break” whenever it comes along.

Have you had a chance to check out Amy Sherald’s work? Let me know in the comments below!

life curation

Live Your Best Life: Hobbies to Help You Heal

Happy Friday, friends! We made it through the week, and what a week it was. The East Coast is getting some truly spring-like weather, and I’m excited for the warmer days to come!

As you all have already seen, I’ve been sharing some of the things I used to help recover after devastating life events (for me, specifically, my divorce, but also the loss of several close family members and friends). In this post, I’m going to share some of the hobbies that helped me move through my pain and heal my heart.

For starters, I want to add a disclaimer: you can and should seek professional help if you want or need a qualified individual to help you with your problems. Nothing that I’m recommending should be considered a replacement for clinical treatments and professional counseling.

That being said, here are some of the hobbies I used during my recovery and how these hobbies helped me:

  • Enjoying art: I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – art saved me from my darkest moments. Spending time in museums, creating my own art, and learning more about artists and their works helped me tremendously during my lowest points. There’s something very magical about being able to mentally “escape”, transcending time and space, as you view a piece of art. Also, creating art did wonders for helping me to work out some of my frustrations and to take the “sting” out of my losses.

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  • Traveling: One of my best friends advised taking a trip prior to any big decision, as the change in scenery and routine does wonders for giving you fresh perspective. During those painful years, I took several trips that helped me to clear my mind and reconnect to the joys that I experienced in years prior. Physically visiting different locations impacted me on levels that I couldn’t experience if I had stayed at home. Travel was wonderful for helping me to navigate my pain.

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  • Writing: To be honest, I couldn’t always verbalize my emotions. There were a lot of days where the feeling would be in my chest, even in my throat, but I couldn’t speak the pain that I felt. When my voice failed me, my pen was ever ready to capture the emotions that I felt but couldn’t vocalize. At one point, I wanted to reread my journal entries, but I have since decided against that.  Those journals have served their highest purpose already: they were my voice’s proxy. I am thankful for the ability to give myself some relief when I felt nothing but despair.

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  • Exercising: I’m not obsessive about fitness, but it was a mighty powerful tool that I used during my healing process. Aside from the physical effects (the release of endorphins that lifted my mood), the repetition of certain physical movements provided me with a rhythmic experience that required that I focus on the present moment and temporarily suspend my emotions. Exercise literally took my mind off of my problems, giving me some much needed relief.

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  • Fine dining/wine tasting: I’ve already shown my love and appreciation of good food and wine on this blog numerous times. However, I’ve never mentioned how much I employed these sensory pleasures during my healing phase. I learned about different cuisines and prepared 4 and 5 course meals at home. The discipline, effort and precision involved with designing and preparing elaborate meals was a satisfying creative effort. And trying new wines, while learning to hone in on the elements that I enjoy most, enhanced my dining experience. You have to be careful with this one: restraint and knowing your personal limits are key.

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Those are the hobbies that I used to help cope and heal from my pain. I hope that these may be helpful for lifting your spirits during the low times. Take care, and enjoy your weekend!