Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Student, Teacher, Student, Teacher

The long pause on the blog was for a reason. I started my Happiness Project to find ways to ramp up my own life satisfaction. I turned 40 earlier this year.  My kids need me in different ways than when they were younger. So I've been on a quest to reinvent myself. In many ways, I'm a different person than I was twenty years ago. In some ways, I'm who I have always been. A constant has been my passion for learning and sharing what I know. I was the kid who looked forward to the first day of school. I liked it so much I became a teacher.

I left the classroom to be a stay at home mom and was certain that I wouldn't go back into the teaching field.  Fast forward 15 years, I'm once again a student who is taking classes to be re-certified to teach. I explored several hobbies that could have turned into careers, but I always seemed more interested in helping at my children's schools. I'm one third of the way through the required work needed to reapply for certification. I'm on track to apply for jobs for next fall. My quest to reinvent myself cleared the cobwebs and dusted off the path I've been on for decades.

I AM a life-long learner. I will always be a student and a teacher.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Brave Girls Club

During the summer, I fell in love with the process of creating art with Jenni Horne and Sarah Ahearn Bellemare. I learned to hold the lessons lightly by experimenting with techniques without demanding perfection. I have six paintings hanging on walls, a few that I'll paint over, a few that I will gift, and pages of sketchbooks/journaling.

For the first time in 12 years, I'm not the coordinator or president of a volunteer group. I somehow learned to say no. Now that the kids are back in school, I'm gifted with a little extra time to do something for myself (I'm still volunteering and substitute teaching, but my creative side can focus on art rather than fundraising.)  I loved the online class I took this summer and want to take another soon. Several start in September. I have a shortlist of classes that meet my beginner's mind.  I am most excited about Brave Girl Art School because of the variety of mediums explored. The course reminds of me of the arts and crafts sessions at summer camp.  Only better because the participants are all there for the art.

Likely, my next online course will be in the winter (after holidays and birthday). But a girl can dream. Here is the video for the Brave Girl Art School in case you are looking for a great course and community.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Southern Circle Retreats

Southern Circle Retreats is scheduled for January 2013. Wow does it look great. I've attended several of Jenni's Paint Something workshops and met Tiffin (I follow both of their blogs). The weekend will exceed expectations. I'm not signed up yet, but I'm checking my calendar and looking for extra days to substitute teach (funding the trip).  So crossing fingers that I'll be going.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Mushroom (Heidi Moos: week 4--New)

Here is my latest painting from Pages and Paint. I have a lot to learn . . . boy, is this fun!!!

8x8 gessobord with acrylic paint, chalk pastel, collage, gel pen, pencil, gel medium paper transfer with a gel medium wash over the surface.

The painting in my head hasn't happened (yet:-). I consider this a study. The colors and composition don't feel like mine (partly because the mushroom is a transfer and the colors feel heavily inspired by Sarah's pallet rather than my own).

1. Boarder was painted in acrylic.
2. Red, green and yellow lines were painted first. Red circles were added (one is covered in final).
3. Mushroom is an ink jet paper transfer. How-to: print image on ink jet printer, cover board in gel medium, cover ink-side image with gel medium, put gel medium to gel medium (careful not to get gel medium on back side of paper), squish out air bubbles, let dry completely, spray back of paper with water and rub off paper. Expect some ink to come off because inkjet ink is not permanent like laser jet.
4. Gel pen used to outline mushroom details that were either removed during transfer or too light.
5. Chalk pastels on mushroom only.
6. Collage added with gel medium.
7. Blue and green above and next to mushroom are watered down acrylic paint.
8. White paint washed over boarder that felt too saturated.
9. Pencil used to outline color squares and collage.

All methods used in this painting are new to me. My mind's eye did not envision this final. There are a number of happy surprises that I can incorporate into future paintings.

My first reaction to the final was to toss it aside. A few hours later, I'm pleasantly surprised. I'm looking forward to what I create a few months from now.

Friday, August 3, 2012


Traincase by 4heidi
Traincase, a photo by 4heidi on Flickr.
June and July 2012, I took my first painting classes with two different instructors. Jenni Horne (Paint Something workshops in person) and Sarah Ahearn Bellemare (Pages & Paint online).

"Traincase" grew out of the lessons I learned during the month. This piece follows Jenni Horne's technique and composition style most closely. I've completed three paintings in her classes and this one on my own. I feel like my paintings are poor imitations of her work (I'd rather buy her paintings). Now that I have a better feel for paints and collage, I'll be experimenting to find my own style and will continue to buy Jenni's art.

What a wonderful journey into the world of paints and mixed media.


p.s. the photo above represents the colors beautifully, but not so much the proportions of the board (14"x11"). my battery ran out before i could correct the angle of the shot.

p.p.s. the suitcase is meant to go with the vw van. :-)

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Going places

Going places by 4heidi
Going places, a photo by 4heidi on Flickr.
I painted this at the July Paint Something workshop with Jenni Adkins Horne. I'm keeping this one!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

What's for dinner?

Cooking is more than necessity for me . . . it's a passion. I specialize in everyday meals with real ingredients, using as many fresh fruits and veggies as possible. My meals lean more toward homemade than store bought, but some pre-made items are time-savers that help round out the table. If I can understand all the ingredients on the label and there isn't much added salt and sugar, then a pre-made item can make my list.

My teenage son had friends coming over, so I needed a large spread. Pork roast tips, potatoes, fruit, and a few left over garden veggies from dinner the night before were available.

From The Yummy Life 

During my search on the web, I found plenty of recipes, but most weren't going to appeal to my family. I've read volumes of cookbooks, prepared countless meals, and tried multiple cuisines--I can taste a recipe when I read it. When I read Carnitas by Monica, I knew that this was soon to be a family favorite. I managed to get the meal on the table 3 hours after starting. Ideally, I would have let the meat spend more time in the oven as directed, but the kids were hungry.

I set up a Taco Bar so that everyone could fill their own tortillas:

  • Shredded Pork
  • Tortillas
  • Tomato Salsa
  • Mango Salsa (Costco)
  • Shredded Lettuce
  • Shredded cheese (would have liked to leave this off, but the kids wanted it)
  • Sour cream
  • Black beans
  • Fresh corn cut off the cob (1 ear leftover made a nice little garnish)
Sides included:
  • Fresh Cherries
  • Mashed Potatoes
  • Turnip Greens (leftovers from another night, which went to lunch with the hubby,who is the only one who really loves them in our house :-)
The pork turned out beautifully even though I cut the baking time. Next time I'll be more true to the recipe. Also, I'll cook more meat at once and freeze some for future meals. 

Try it and enjoy!

Monday, July 9, 2012

Pages and Paint Starts Today

Today, I'm starting an online workshop with Sarah Ahearn Bellemare.  Squam is known for its artist retreats. I long to go to one of these soulful weekends where creatives come together to make beautiful things in a tranquil setting. Attending a live Squam is not possible at this very moment, but my desire to connect to creatives and to take a mixed media class is desperate for release.

Lucky me, I'm signed up for Pages & Paint. My month long creative journey is here. Everyday, Sarah will guide us. She'll share her techniques, will offer inspiring prompts and will fostering a community. It's the online version of squam.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

I Painted Something

A month ago I went to Jenni Horne Studios for the "Paint Something" Workshop. Her technique was perfect for a beginner like me and long time artists loved applying her techniques to a their own work. The weekend was filled with "puffy hearts" (I hear Jenni's voice when see the phrase).

My childhood phone was almost identical!
My first painting was inspired by a Carolina Tar Heal Blue phone with turquoise face. I owned a rotary just like the one I stumbled across in Newnan, Georgia at a vintage shop for toys and odds and ends. How I regret giving up the weight of the receiver, long conversations on the floor with my feet resting up the wall. Nothing to do but be in the moment while on the phone linked to a wall. I abandoned the rotary when cordless digital phones made the old school phone seem like junk. I miss the intimacy of time and space that the phone of my youth had.

Work in Progress

Choosing colors is one of the most important steps for this project. I used my bedspread as the inspiration. The phone in the painting was going to be turquoise, but the background vetoed the choice and called dibs on the blues and greens. The red, in the final, really pops. Funny how art has a mind of its own, if we are brave enough to listen.

I had the advantage of taking two classes back to back, so that when my mind was stuck on one painting, I was able to tweak the other.

My final projects are pictured below. The frames (not fully shown) complete the pieces. The technique and frames feel uniquely Jenni, but I love how they make my work shine. The phone is on my wall and the bug is at my Father-in-law's. He loves it.  I'm proud of my two beginning pieces. I'm looking forward to the next class in July (see the badge on the side to sign up).

"Call Home"
"Hit the road with the top down"

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Paint Something Workshop

Papers, markers, pencils, pens, journals, beads, photography, ephemera, yarn, fabric, and other artsy supplies make me giddy with excitement. I love to collect the tools needed to create my own homemade projects. Over the years, I've made a few things that were beyond refrigerator art.  However, I've been somewhat disappointed in my finished mixed media projects. The element missing is color.

Photography taught me about light. Warm and Cold colors make sense to me. To create the mixed media pieces I want to display in my home (no gallery aspirations for this girl), I must learn how use paint. I've played with various gel mediums and Mod Podge with some success. Paints have been out of my league, but not for long . . .

June 8-9, I'll be near Atlanta for my first painting class with Jenni Horne during her Paint Something Workshops. WOOOHOOOO! 

A true "puffy heart" way to spend a weekend for three happiness project reasons. 
  1. I knew Jenny long before she changed the spelling of her name to Jenni. I'm pretty sure that the spelling was actually changed to J-e-n-n-i(puffy heart dotting the "i") during middle school, a time when paint pens, Limited Express, and Madonna were all the rage. If I had any wild and crazy stories about Jenni, I'd sooooo tell them . . . but we were really good kids who were known more for giggles and school leadership than drama and pacts to keep secrets about wild escapades. Keeping in touch with friends and family is a top happiness project resolution.
  2. Moving and visiting family was a way of of life for me growing up.  Over the years, I've become a homebody. Not a bad way to spend my time, but I crave more hitting the pavement adventures. Heading to Georgia without the family in tow will be fun.
  3. Create more! Going to a museum is awesome. Reading book is engaging. But creating my own works is life-giving. The only time I feel a real sense of envy is when I see artists and writers following their passion when I'm not doing the same. I'm happiest when I'm creating . . . crafting, cooking, and/or writing.
I'll post pictures of my paintings. I'm taking two classes, so hopefully I'll create two paintings. I'm less interested in the final product and most interested in learning about how paint works. No doubt I'll have fun seeing a long-time friend and meeting some new creative people as well.

Friday, May 18, 2012

To Do List

One of the most important Happiness Project resolutions I made for myself is to write a daily To Do list. The key to being successful is to follow the items listed. I have struggled with making this happen. Last night, I came up with a strategy to turning "I'll try to write a list" into actually doing.
  • Use fun paper and pens
  • Accept my handwriting
  • Take credit for completed items
I have plenty of scrapbooking paper that I haven't used and likely won't for scrapbooking. One of my life secrets is that all items in my house must be beautiful and/or useful. If I don't love it or use the thing, then it needs to go (donation or trash). Another life secret is to use the beautiful things I buy. For example, I'll indulge by purchasing beautiful stationary. But then I don't use it!  I tuck it into a dedicated drawer and admire it from time to time. I buy the pretty stuff with the intention of sharing a note written to people I care about. I'm embarrassed to admit, but I hate my handwriting. I don't want to mess up the pretty paper with my chicken scratch lettering, unpredictable spelling, and dropped words. My dyslexic brain is mistake prone. If I write a handwritten note to you, then take it as sign that I respect you a great deal. With practice, I'll keep learning to let go and let my handwriting escape into the world. 

So here's my list for today:
Silly to mention this, but I'm proud . . .
I didn't rewrite the list neatly for the sake of posting.

I'm always happier when I write a to do list and mark things off. I'm even okay with not finishing everything on the list, when I can see what I have done. Most of my days are fairly productive, but I don't take credit for all that I do. I seem to focus on all that is still left to do. 

You'll notice that most items on my list for today focus on taking care of me . . . a chance to restore. School is almost done for my kiddos.  I have a few days to enjoy time to myself. My children and husband agree that I deserve it. I'm taking them up on the offer.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Type Rider

Count me in. I'm going to leave my home for 40 days to pursue a passion.  My family won't notice that I'm gone and neither will my sweet dog and devoted, demented cat.

Maya Stein, aka Type Rider, began her journey on May 5, 2012. For a few minutes each day, I'll immerse myself in her account of riding her bike with typewriter in tow. Reading someone else's story can be almost as transforming as actually doing it. I would love to meet her along the way and tap out a few lines on the beautiful turquoise aqua-blue Remington. Her journey won't come far enough south for me to actually meet her . . . I would drive or walk for miles to thank her for sharing her passion. Instead, I'll enjoy the adventure vicariously through her blog.

Check out the NYT article to see how I heard about this groovy journey. 

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Hope you had some luck with your resolutions over the past two weeks. Personally, I'm glad this is a journey and not a one and done kind of project.  I still have refining to do. :-)

Below is the guide for this week, which is taken directly from Gretchen Rubin's "Starter Kit". My brain needs time to process concepts like this, so I'll be thinking about my "Personal Commandments" tonight and tomorrow morning. I'm sure the refining will evolve over time.

Enjoy the process!!


Topic 2: Personal Commandments
First half of the meeting:
Resolutions report – how is everyone doing?
The entire group, or the group divided into twos and threes, discusses their success in keeping their resolutions since the last meeting. Remember, be specific! Vague generalities like “I saw a lot of movies, and it was great” or “I didn’t do a good job with the walking, I just didn’t find the time” won’t cut it! Ask each other:

  • How often did you manage to stick to your resolution?
  • If you stuck to your resolution, did it make you happier? Do you want to tweak it?
  • If you didn’t stick to it, what got in the way? Do you need to find a different resolution to help you make the change you’re seeking?

Second half of the meeting:
Your “Personal Commandments” are the overarching principles that you want to guide your actions and thoughts.
Activity: write your list of personal commandments. Aim to have more than five but no more than twelve.
For example, my Twelve Commandments are:
My Twelve Commandments:
1. Be Gretchen.
7. Spend out.
2. Let it go.
8. Identify the problem.
3. Act the way I want to feel.
9. Lighten up.
4. Do it now.
10. Do what ought to be done.
5. Be polite and be fair.
11. No calculation.
6. Enjoy the process.
12. There is only love.

What are your Personal Commandments? You can record them online at the Happiness Project Toolbox, http://www.happinessprojecttoolbox.com.  Visit Gretchen Rubin's site to download your own starter kit.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

How are the resolutions coming along?

At our first meeting we used the guide posted to determine our personal resolutions. Because I have been thinking of the project for months, I had a head start on refining ideas. . . or so I thought.  My list is very long but clearly can be tweaked by having a resolution with sub strategies that can baby step me toward the goals. For the first two weeks my resolutions were as follows:
  • Make my bed every day.
  • Do dishes immediately after dinner.
  • 10 minute tidy of the house by everyone just before bed.
  • Plan Meals for the week (goal to eat out less, to eat healthfully, and to spend more time with family in the kitchen).
  • Make a To Do list everyday and mark off items.
  • Buy new clothes.
I'm succeeding and failing. I'm meeting some of the goals, but the bigger motivation has not been clearly defined in my mind. Does it really matter if my bed is made? Not really. What matters is why I set the goal of having my bed made. I need to develop several guiding principles where common tasks get placed under a common principal. Occasionally some of the goals are "one and done" tasks like buying new clothes.

My plan for tweaking my resolutions:
  • Define my guiding principles
  • Make a chart of resolutions, so that I can track daily progress. Every moment is an opportunity to chose to keep things as they are or to make changes. In order to see the successes, I need to track them.
  • Journal about my progress. I need a way to evaluate my thoughts and actions. Maybe some resolutions are not really meaningful to me, but are things I think I should be doing. I can drop those. Maybe some resolutions need to be broken down into small steps. Or maybe, I've mastered a resolution and it's just second nature and no longer needs to be tracked. Also, a resolution may scream to be made once I define what I want to achieve.
  • Report back to the group and listen to their insights about the first 2 weeks.
The one resolution that I have yet to do in the past week is to make a TO DO list. Why is this one so hard for me? I still have time to buy new clothes for me . . . the ones I bought for Gigi do not count ;-). The first four are coming along, but will be easier to follow with that handy dandy TO DO list!

How is your first week going?

Friday, April 20, 2012

Topic 1: Your first set of resolutions

Meeting Guide

Each person identifies three or four resolutions to tackle. The core of a “happiness project” is to...

  • identify elements of your life that you want to change
  • find concrete, measurable resolutions that, if kept, will help you bring about that change
  • hold yourself accountable for keeping your resolutions
  • decide whether you want to adjust, toss, or re-commit to a resolution
One tip: resolutions work best when they’re very specific, so you know whether you’ve kept your resolution or not. Accountability is key!

Less effective:
More effective:
Find more joy in life.
Rent a movie once a week. Make Saturday plans with a friend.
Appreciate the present.
Keep a one-sentence journal.
Be a more loving parent.
Go to sleep by 10:30 p.m. to avoid morning grouchiness.
Lose weight.
No more doughnuts for breakfast. Eat a big salad for lunch.

Resolutions tend to fall in certain major categories. Here are some common resolutions, with a few examples:

  • Attitude: Give positive reviews. Don’t talk about my irritations.
  • Clutter: Put dishes in the dishwasher immediately. Make my bed each morning.
  • Creativity & writing: Write a novel in a month. Keep “morning pages.” Take a photograph each day.
  • Diet, exercise & health: Take a 20-minute walk each day. Eat protein at breakfast. 
  • Family & children: Make my children dissolve in laughter at least once a day. Read a chapter out loud every night.
  • Friends: No gossip. Show up.
  • Fun: Try a new restaurant each time I eat out. Go to a game instead of watching it on TV.
  • Gratitude: In the shower, count my blessings. Sincerely thank two people each day.
  • Helping others: Volunteer at the thrift shop. Sign up for the breast-cancer walk-a-thon.
  • Memories & traditions: Organize all the photos in tidy boxes. Take a 5-minute video of my kids each Sunday night.
  • Mindfulness: Don’t listen to my iPod on the way to work.
  • Money: Pay down twice the minimum on my credit card debt each month. Buy needful things.
  • Relationships & marriage: Don’t expect thanks. Think of small treats. 
  • Religion & spirituality: Read the Bible every day. Meditate each morning.
  • Work: Go to a professional conference. Sign up for training on the new computer program. 

**"Topic 1: Your first set of resolutions" is slightly adapted from Gretchen Rubin's "Starter Kit".  Please refer to the Happiness Project website if you would like get a copy.

Why create a Happiness Project?

I love the idea of running off on some grand adventure for six months, which would turn into two years, and then a life long journey exploring the world and living in various towns, experiencing life in other cultures. It would be cool to spend months learning Tai Chi in China or backpacking through Europe with no agenda and no obligations, or to study under a master where I could learn the mysteries of life. Like Rubin, I'm "vicariously exhilarated" by the thought of dropping everything to experience a radical life changing experience. 

Gretchen Rubin says:
I'd started my happiness project to test my hypothesis that I could become happier by making small changes in my ordinary day. I didn't want to reject the natural order of my life--by moving to Walden Pond or Antarctica, say, or taking a sabbatical from my husband. I wasn't going to give up toilet paper or shopping or experiment with hallucinogens. I'd already switched careers. Surely, I'd hoped, I could change my life without changing my life, by finding more happiness in my own kitchen. (from The Hapiness Project)
Happiness is not waiting for me across the pond on another continent. I enjoy my home. I love my friends and family. I like my ordinary days. I don't want to leave all this behind to chase after increased happiness when I know it is right here, right now. I want to cultivate a life where I'm living in the moment rather than planning the next thing I have to do. Worrying and wanting "to get it right" take up energy that could be devoted to laughter and fun.  Creating a happiness project is a way for me to turn my attention toward enjoying the moment and making more opportunities for happiness.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin

The Happiness Project grew from a desire to focus "on the things that really matter." Gretchen Rubin explores the wisdom of philosophers, practices strategies from experts, and creates her own experiment. Each chapter highlights a month's worth of small steps leading toward a bigger resolution . . . increasing happiness.

I created the Years of Happiness blog for a group of amazing women who will start their own happiness projects. We will meet once a month (or more often if we like) to share our personal journeys. Together we can unravel some of life's mysteries and hopefully have a grand time doing so.

I’ll facilitate the first gathering. Big thanks to Rubin for providing a starter kit, which we’ll use to get going. The group will decide if we will follow her guide, create our own version, or a combination of the two. Our individual projects will be as unique as each of us. The purpose of coming together is to share ideas, provide encouragement, and to have fun.

To start: pick up a copy of The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin, browse the book’s website, and sign up for any of her daily or monthly emails that appeal to you. I suggest reading the first 4 chapters before we meet. That will give you a great springboard for creating your personalized project.

Feel free to post comments, questions, or suggestions about our quest for years of happiness.

See you soon!


p.s. Here is another resource http://happinessprojecttoolbox.com/. I haven't signed up, but thought I'd share the link for any of you that might be interested.