Thursday, March 05, 2015

Advice To My Younger Self

This hashtag, #DearMe, asks the question What advice would you give to your younger self? Here's some of what I would say (although I could probably go on and on)

Dear Leiah,
You are a lot cooler than you probably think you are. I know sometimes you don’t fit in or you feel like kind of an outcast or you feel like your friends are fake or you don’t really have very many good friends. Just don’t forget about yourself, you can be your own friend and you should be. Work on cultivating your relationship with yourself; learn to love yourself. Find things that you like to do and do them, even if they seem nerdy or not cool. Spend time on things that you like to do, and spend time on getting better at the things you like and are passionate about. You like drawing, art, and crafts, you like the computer: spend time on that and totally nerd out on it! Find other people who like to do it and have them as friends.

nerd-out

You’re probably worried about not measuring up to some of the girls in your class or even some of your friends, but keep in mind that this is just a phase. Things that seem like a really big deal right now, in the grand scheme of things are not a big deal. I know you have a friend who seems like everyone likes her and she’s really pretty, and you probably think she’s a lot prettier than you, that she has a better body, that she has better hair and skin, that she’s tanner than you, she’s taller than you. She might be these things right now, but she won’t be that way forever. Remind yourself that her looks are not necessarily the ideal. Everyone is beautiful in their own way. Accept everyone’s bodies and everyone’s looks for the way they are. Seriously judge them only by their personality and what type of person they are.

cooler

I encourage you to keep being a weirdo, keep finding and hanging out with people who get you and who think that you’re funny. If you find somebody who you like hanging out with, you think they’re a good person, they laugh at your jokes, they think that you’re creative, and they’re willing to support you - hang on to those people. Anybody who doesn’t get you, who doesn’t seem like they’re on your team, then just move on and forget them.

weirdo

Don’t overlook important things in life, things that other adults can agree are important. Things like learning. Just grab the reigns on your own learning and learn what interests you and learn it as hard as you can. School is something that probably seems like a waste of time, but it is something you have to go through, so if you’re having a hard time or you think you need help, if you don’t get a subject, then you need to take the initiative to find help for yourself. Nobody else is going to do that for you. It’s not anybody’s fault; it’s not your fault, it’s not your teacher’s fault. It’s just that your learning style is different from maybe the other people in your class, and that’s totally OK. Anybody who is a good teacher will help you, even if that means staying after school or coming in for some private sessions or something. Just don’t forget that that resource is there, and take advantage of it while you can. They’re there to help you and they want you to succeed.

learning

Remember that adults can be a really good resource for you and they can answer a lot of questions that you have, because they’ve been through it. But you need to remember that adults don’t know everything, even if they act like they do, even if they say that they do, they don’t know everything and they don’t always know what they’re talking about. So ask questions, always ask questions, ask more questions. Be curious, be skeptical of what they tell you. Try to get more than one opinion and ask different people for their advice on things.

ask-questions

So don’t forget about the important things in life like learning. Also, don’t forget to take care of yourself. Health and wellness really are important. I know you hear that all the time, you hear all this talk about eating healthy and exercising. Well, you hear that from a lot of people and from a lot of different sources, so you can trust that it’s true. And I’ll tell you that it’s true. Watching what you eat, trying to eat healthy, learning about healthy foods, learning about eating right… The time you spend on that will only be good for you. Trying to learn and be better is always something you should strive for.

compassion

Don’t forget to be kind. Don’t forget to be kind. Always be kinder than necessary. Don’t lose your compassion. You know how to talk to people and how to talk to people so that they listen. You’re compassionate, you’re a good friend. You make people feel better about themselves and you help them, and that’s something that’s so important. You might think it just comes naturally and it’s not a thing, but it’s a really special gift that not everyone has. So don’t get jaded. Don’t let anybody convince you that being kind (while also standing up for yourself, of course) is always worth it.

best-friend

That’s what I would tell you, younger Leiah. Be yourself, be a weirdo, take care of yourself and be your own best friend. You’re the only one you can rely on.

gifs were created here

Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Chain of X's Workout Technique

Don't break the chain!

Printing out a workout calendar and crossing off the days with big fat X's is literally the only thing that motivates me to exercise on a regular basis.

This productivity concept isn't new. Apparently it's Jerry Seinfeld's Productivity Secret and artist Crystal Moody uses this technique to create something every day of the year. Neither of these sources directly influenced my use of the "chain" but it's uplifting to know that it works for others, too, even across disciplines!

running-calendar-dont-break-chain

The first time I created my own workout calendar, it was for The Color Run. My family were flying out to visit us in DC and my mom and sister were going to run with us in the 5k (3.1 miles) Color Run. I was NOT in shape, and I knew I had to stick to my training schedule if I ever wanted to be able to finish the race and not let down my family. Here's the calendar I made and stuck to:
color-run-calendar
Since then, I've created a few more workout calendars. Sometimes they've been to reach a goal, and other times they're just to keep me working out every day and sticking to that daily schedule. I like to do my workouts at home, and I'm a big fan of cardio and yoga videos.

Part of what I enjoy about using a workout calendar like this is that I get to plan all my workouts in advance. Sometimes I'll take inspiration from a pre-made calendar (like for the Turbo Fire program), but mostly I just make up my own depending on what my goals are. I create these in Adobe InDesign, and I use little gray circles and text to plop down my workouts. Then I can move them around, and it's all very visual. For February/March, I kept my workouts somewhat vague (cardio and squats instead of TurboJam video #12). I like the flexibility of being able to choose my exact workout every day. I can choose something a little harder or a little easier depending on how I'm feeling that day, instead of being locked in to one specific video.

beginning-the-chain

The reason these calendars work so well for me is the chain of X's. Each day when I complete that day's activity, I get to cross off the square with a marker. (I keep my calendar on my fridge and the marker on the top of the fridge.) At first it doesn't look like much, but after a week or so the chain is getting long! And I don't want to break it!

exercise-calendar-progress

Missing a day isn't the end of the world, but my goal is always to have so many X's that from a distance it looks like every day. That means NO GAPS. If I miss a day, whatever, just get back to it right away. Then that gap won't look so big from a distance. If I do part of my workout for the day, or something different than I planned, I'll either write a small X in the corner (partial) or re-write what I actually did. I've also swapped days before. I always include a REST day during the week (just a blank slot), and I get to X those out, too. Even that is motivating :)

workout-calendar-x

If you think creating your own workout calendar and crossing off the day with big colorful X's is something that would work for you, then I encourage you to try it! Here's a 6-week calendar template you can print out. You'll have to fill out the days of the week and the day numbers yourself (depending on the month). I also removed the spots that I usually have on there for inspiration pics*. If you want some workout inspiration pics, you'll have to paste those on separately.
training-calendar-template
click to download a larger size


*I pulled my fitspiration photos from my two Pinterest boards: Strong & Sculpted and Move. I picked whatever was extra-super-inspiring me at the moment!

Side note: One of my favorite workout resources lately is the FitnessBlender channel on YouTube. Their videos are simple, requiring minimal equipment, and they're meant to be blended up - mix&match to create your own unique workout, so it's something new every day.

Do what you need to do to stay active over the long term!

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

January Illustrations

This month I've been enjoying drawing for Illustration Friday. It helps me immensely to have a prompt each week that I can focus on, and that I know is no-pressure. If the drawing turns into something cool, then great! If not, it's not a big deal. I'll just do another one next week. I've been trying to approach drawing for fun as just that: drawing for fun. Just doing whatever comes naturally, not trying too hard to do something new and difficult.

The prompt for this one was Passion. It's me with multiple arms, holding onto a bunch of things that represent my passions. It reminds me a lot of my blog header!
Passion : Illustration Friday 1/23/2015

Invention. A couple weeks ago, I took my old, falling-apart mukluks and some leftover fleece fabric from pillows I made once, and sewed up some new slipper booties. I tried to use a pattern (sort of), but ended up pretty much freestyling them. They're different from each other and pretty freakin' wonky, but they're warm! And I made them!
invention

Rochelle & Erik (and Muffin!) This one I just had the urge to draw after seeing a photo of my sister-in-law and her boyfriend and dog on facebook. I wanted to draw something so I drew them! I colored it in digitally, and added the background digitally, too. I realized that I really like drawing clothing on people - all those fun little details!
Erik & Rochelle

Nefarious. When brainstorming what to draw for nefarious (wicked, criminal), I kept thinking of cliché gangsters or horrible other things like the meat industry. Then these two ladies popped into my head. From the 1992 movie "Death Becomes Her", Helen and Madeline after trying to destroy each other. They're two of the most conniving characters in any movie I like, but they're still funny! (I have a few more process photos of this illustration in my flickr album.)
nefarious-2015-1-15

Toy. A quicker, smaller illustration of a troll toy with made-up hair colors and doodles around the edges. I knew I wanted to draw a toy from my childhood for this prompt, so I scrolled through my Flashback pinterest board until I found something to draw!
Toy : Illustration Friday 1/16/2015

Dr. Rob, PhD. The other day, my husband Rob was home working on a research problem for work. He came over to my desk to tell me about a breakthrough he had. His quote was, "I've gone back to the literature" and he said it in such a scholarly way, I giggled and told him I was picturing him in a 3-piece suit looking pretentious. He said Draw it! So I did :)
back-to-the-literature

Handwriting. Apparently, Sakura is doing a giveaway on Instagram to win a big fancy pen set. (I learned about it from Lisa Congdon's blog post.) This is my entry. Super quick, used both of my Sakura pens (I need a new Micron one, that pen is so tiny it got squished!) The quote is a reminder to myself for all the drawing, art, and illustration I do. Done is better than perfect, always!
Life is the art of drawing without an eraser

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

New Year's Vision Board for 2015

I've had minimal success when deciding on new year's resolutions. It works better for me to identify larger, overall concepts and trajectories that I'd like to focus on in upcoming seasons. Instead of the pressure of specific goals, I can try to gently lean toward doing better every day.

Inspired by Light by Coco's vision board, I created my own vision board poster for 2015. First, I made a list of main goal topics. Nothing too specific. I know they say it's better to create concrete, measurable goals if you want any chance of actually reaching them. But for this poster, I wanted it to just be inspirational. An overall picture of my ideal life. Then I found pictures that visualize each goal topic and that inspire me.

11x17-vision-board-2015

A bit about each picture [sources are linked]:

  1. Either you run the day, or the day runs you - a reminder to take control of my daily life and to-dos, otherwise I'm at the mercy of everyone around me.
  2. Minimalist clothes on hooks - continue to minimize my wardrobe and home. Simple outfits with well-loved items are better than an overflowing closet!
  3. Girl on bike - bicycle around the city more.
  4. Emma Watson beauty - take care of my skin.
  5. Tattoo girl smelling flowers - a reminder to tap into my hippie side once in awhile. Free spirited and earthy and full of love for everyone around me.
  6. Ballerina stretching - work on my flexibility.
  7. Healthy green salad bowl - eat healthfully and abundantly with colorful fruits & veggies!
  8. Buff girl dancing - work out to become strong and fit.
  9. Berries - remember how delicious plain ol' nature is and indulge!
  10. Dirty hand - get my hands messy doing creative projects.
  11. Sadie Nardini yogi - practice yoga.
  12. Motivation quote - when I'm feeling unmotivated, remember that motivation never lasts and I just have to remind myself of my goals daily.
  13. MK&A laptop - stay in touch with family and friends through technology.
  14. Colorful office - keep work and graphic design fun and colorful to remind myself that I have a pretty cool job!
  15. Nice butt - work out to get toned (I never knew this until recently, but Pinterest has convinced me that anyone can have an amazing rear-end if you do your squats!)
  16. Exploring couple - travel and explore places with Rob.
  17. Wine glasses - make every night a special occasion. The best time to celebrate is whenever you can.
  18. White minimalist bedroom - continue to minimize and simplify our home.
  19. Vegan runner - quit being a couch potato so I can be a kick-ass role model for the vegan lifestyle.
  20. Your life is your message - reminder to also practice the creativity, positivity, and healthy lifestyle I love to promote.

vision-board-1

I found the pictures online (combing through my Pinterest boards first), then used InDesign to create the layout. I printed the 11x17" poster through OvernightPrints.com <--that's a referral link btw, tacking it on to my holiday card order. It was like $3 after coupons. When it arrived, I realized that it didn't fit on my closet wall very well. The place I wanted to hang it was too narrow. So I cut the left column of rectangles off, and rearranged them on the top. It fits next to my mirror now, and still looks good!

vision-board-2

I hung it up in my closet for me to see every day when I get dressed and get ready for bed, and every time I pass through the closet to the bathroom. My hope is it will remind me of what I want my life to look like - all aspects of it. Then every time I make a decision, I can lean toward my vision. Eventually, this poster will be more of a reflection of my current life and less of a far-off dream!
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