Tuesday, October 30, 2012


One of the CZTs who took the training seminar back in Providence, Rhode Island, with me daily posts on Facebook three things for which he is grateful. I love reading his posts because of the variety he (and all of his friends who add to the list through their comments) come up with. For the majority of those who share, it's not only big things that inspire the gratitude. Frequently, it is the small things that bring joy and happiness and contentment. A cup of coffee, a chat with a friend, a good book, a rainbow, or a walk outdoors with the dog. It is good to remember that and make a practice of expressing gratitude even for the everyday little ways that our lives are blessed.

However, there are times when it IS a big thing for which we need to express our gratitude. In light of the horrendous damage caused by Hurricane Sandy and the superstorm it became, I am grateful that the loss of life thus far seems to be fairly limited. I am grateful that so many first responders and emergency personnel are willing to give so much of themselves. I am grateful that there was substantial advance warning about the ferocity of the storm, so that as many people as did got out of harm's way, even if their homes were subjected to the destuctive forces they were. I am grateful that, as a country, we are resilient and will work together to help those now in need.

God bless those who have been displaced, injured, or left without a means to earn a living in the aftermath of the storm. May they soon know some peace and may they be comforted.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Refuel with mindful tangling

Mindfulness has been on my brain lately. On Wednesday evening, I attended an informative presentation on "The Art of Mindful Eating" by Carrie Huseman, MS, RD (www.thecookspalette.com/). Carrie focused on how important it is to be aware of what we are eating, regardless of what that food may be.

Today I attended a brunch for our women's group at church, where the speaker, Robin Morris, MA, LMHC (www.robinboorman.com), shared with us how to refuel in our personal lives. She laid out for us five "Positive Habits," which she suggested we practice and develop for and in ourselves. Habit number three includes a personal option combination of meditation, prayer, and mindfulness. There it was again. Mindfulness. A key aspect of this habit is to unplug, really unplug, from the 24/7, highly-technological existence many of us live today. To let go of the tendency to multi-task. To focus. To breathe.

As she was speaking, I immediately thought of Zentangle®. Tangling a la this method is a totally unplugged practice that has been shown to increase mindfulness. Laying the repetitive strokes of the structured patterns on the paper tile allows us to create wonderful visual images, of course. A sometimes undervalued benefit is the opportunity this practice provides for us to tune in to our still small voice and tune out, at least temporarily, the distractions of daily life.

I invite you to find a way to incorporate more time for mindfulness exercises in your life, whether or not you also choose to include prayer and meditation. And keep in mind Carrie's advice to focus on more mindful eating, as well. It's another healthy, mindful habit!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

So much to do, so little time!

Tonight I spent time adding features to my blog. If you browse around, you'll see some new pages, information, and whatnot. You MAY also notice a few technical glitches in the formatting. Please ignore those for now, and just go for the content. I'd love to have fixed these tonight, but my eyes are crossing, and undertaking editing the HTML at this point would NOT be a wise decision. Thanks for understanding!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Zentangle® buddies - we shopped till we dropped!

On Saturday, I had the delightful opportunity to go shopping with Jenny, a CZT from Australia. She and I are alums of the 10th Certified Zentangle Teacher training seminar. Since the seminar ended a few weeks ago, Jenny and her spouse have been traveling across the U.S. Late last week they arrived for a final stop in the Seattle area before heading home. Fortunately, that's close to my home turf, and we made arrangements to meet in the middle to go shopping. But not just any shopping...

I have to say, most emphatically, I am NOT normally a shopper. However, this was a perfect opportunity to help Jenny hit the arts and crafts stores in our area. These bastions of all-things-creative offer more varieties of more products at better prices than what she has access to at home. And amazingly, she arrived here with some space remaining in her suitcase. Just right for some special bargains. So, off we went, and went, and went, to store after store.

The advantage of shopping with a fellow Zentangle afficionado is that you both can't help but look at the merchandise on the bulging shelves with an eye to tangling possibilities. And there were many. We had quite the synergystic buddy system going on, one playing off the other and each one seeing and sharing ideas from funny to fantastic. Each time we reached the check-out line, I could have sworn that some of our numerous goodies must have just leapt into our shopping cart (or trolley, to Jenny) of their own accord when we weren't looking.

Eventually, darkness fell, the stores began to close, and, actually, our feet gave out. Our excellent adventure had come to an end.

By close of the day, Jenny and I both had a load of potential tangling targets bagged and ready to go.  Our imaginations had run wild, for a while at least, and I think we are now set for a long winter (or summer, in Jenny's case) of tangling. The best part is that every time I work on one of these projects, I'll be thinking of Jenny and the fastastic time we spent together. What a blessing!

Safe travels back to the Land Down Under, Jenny...

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Tangling with the gourds

Happy Fall!!! I was shopping in the produce section recently and strolled past the display with all sorts and colors of gourds piled high. My Zentangle® brain kicked in a little late, so I had to do an about-face with the cart before homing in on my targets.

Got to love that Identipen as a tangling tool. Here's what emerged a day or so after my jaunt to the store. So much fun, I plan to do more this weekend!

I found that the surface being a little rough and uneven naturally created some wavy lines where I planned for straight. But in the end, and in true Zentangle fashion, there is no right or wrong, and you just go with it if you get something you didn't expect. I actually liked the personality that emerged due to the more challenging surface.

So head for your local grocery, farmers' market, or produce stand and grab some ornamental pumpkins or gourds. Then tangle away!

This would be a fun activity at a harvest or Halloween party. Let me know if you try it!

Sunday, October 7, 2012

"...One stroke at a time."™

This morning I was reading a devotional that was published in Daily Guideposts 2012,  written by Daniel Schantz, a college professor in Missouri. Daniel was commenting on the expression, "It's simple," and how, whatever it is, it sometimes isn't simple. He expressed the thought that rather than saying to a student, "This is easy; you can do this," he should rephrase and say, "This can be challenging at first, but you can learn it." What is easy for one person may not be so effortless for another.

This concept really stuck with me as I continued to mull it over all day. How much more affirming and encouraging this word choice is. I want to remember this tenant whenever I have the opportunity and privilege of teaching something new, whatever the subject matter may be, and whatever age the student.

Which brings me around to the blog topic at hand. I truly do believe that using the Zentangle® method to learn tangling does make the initial effort pretty easy (though the results more rewarding with frequent practice...but I digress).

While I do believe "anything is possible, one stroke at a time,"™ for some people it is particularly helpful and reassuring to start out with a trained teacher to assist. A teacher can share her/his experience and tangling hints, as well as the teaching method developed by Zentangle founders, Rick and Maria. I certainly benefited from this sharing when I first attended a class with a CZT.

If you are interested in learning more about the artful practice of Zentangle, please contact me for class information. I'll be posting class details on this blog eventually, but in the meantime, I'd love to hear from you with any questions.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Tangles + peaceful focus = Zentangle®

I do like that equation! Need to unwind for a few minutes? Here's what happened when I slowed down. So glad I did. (And remember there is no right side up or upside down in Zentangle land!)

Did Rembrandt tangle a la Zentangle®?

So, here's a question. Did Rembrandt tangle back in the day? He could have. The paper mill that made paper for his artwork is the same mill that makes the paper for the Zentangle tiles we use today. Yep. Been in continuous operation all this time. He even signed the guest book.

750 years of experience goes into making this wonderful, rich tangling surface that comes to us all the way from Italy. Come è bello! Divertirsi!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

A beautiful book to inform and inspire

Recently Rick Roberts and Maria Thomas self-published a book that was a long time coming. After all the helpful and interesting books that have been written and published about the art form of Zentangle®, it was time to hear from (and see) what the original Tanglers themselves wanted to share with all of us.

The Book of Zentangle is a work of art in itself. Filled with delightful and complex tangles and images in both black and white and full color, this is a book to pick up again and again, to hold and enjoy. The book gives some background into what Zentangle is, how it came to be, a bit about how to get started in the practice of this art form, as well as stories, comments, and anecdotes from those who have benefited in many ways from learning to tangle.

The Book of Zentangle is presently available from CZTs (like me) or on www.zentangle.com. I invite you to take a look between the covers, into this wonderful world of visual treats. Have to say, this is one book that I'm glad isn't made for an e-reader!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Life at arm's length

I'm a little right-brained and a little left-brained. Not sure where that leaves me categorically, but I know that while I love images and color and shapes and that artsy, creative stuff, I also have a knack for details. That comes in handy at times, especially in my day job, which requires being organized and keeping several balls (with lots of little details within the details) in the air.

The downside of being detail-oriented is that sometimes I forget to look at the big picture. I had an "aha!" moment just recently when I was sitting at my dining room table working on a Zentangle® tile. I was suddenly transported back to the classroom (well, ballroom with tables, really) in Hotel Providence in Rhode Island. "Remember to stop and hold up your tile every once in a while. Look at it from arm's length," Maria and Molly and Rick each reminded all of us CZTs-in-training.

I have to work at remembering to do that. It doesn't automatically occur to me. I've got to stop focusing on only the elemental strokes and individual patterns, as enticing as that can be, and look at the tile as a whole. As I was sitting there tangling, it occurred to me that it's also good and healthy to look at life from arm's length every so often, to get some perspective.

Sometimes the day-to-day fragmented busyness of my life doesn't make sense to me. It appears to be a mishmashed mess, and I certainly can't see where I'm headed. But if I get hung up on the rollercoaster of the daily details of life, I sometimes miss the beautiful tapestry that is being woven out of what looks more like just a jumble of miscellaneous threads and yarn.

So, reminder to self... Remember to pause, look up, and view life at arm's length every so often. The richness of seeing the whole will be the reward for the effort.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Elementary, my dear Watson...

Though I've tried off and on over the years, I've yet to get the hang of "drawing what you see, not what you THINK you see" when trying to create representational art. According to the art instructor, that's the key. You have to get out of your head and just draw what you actually see. You know what I'm talking about, right? That realistic-looking, well-proportioned, correct-perspective, looks-so-real-it-could-jump-off-the-page lovely drawing style? It's very cool, and I do aspire to get it right some day (I think I can, I think I can...). However, the last time I took a drawing class, my results were SO not at all what I hoped for that I hung up my drawing tools.

Even with those unsatisfying results, I've always still had a hankering to put pen (or pencil) to paper and do something creative with it. That is one of the reasons the Zentangle® method is so exciting to me. It appeals to me that Zentangle tangling is not meant to be representational at all. Neither the individual tangles nor the completed shapes on the tile are meant to look like anything "real". There's freedom in that lack of expectation which I find refreshing, and which in turn allows me to relax about the results. Quelle différence! I, too, can be an artiste!

I'm jazzed that Zentangle tangles are built on simplicity. There are only 5, count 'em, 5, elemental strokes that are combined to make the amazing and beautiful tangles. Hey, only FIVE! I can do them. You can do them. Even little kids and "mature adults" can do them! Zentangle is an equal opportunity drawing experience, and I love that about it.  

Here's a list of the five basic elements. Wish you could draw? How's your confidence level? Bet you can do it, too! How would this conversation play out in your head?
  • Are you able to draw a (mostly) straight line? Check!
  • How about a dot? Check!
  • Surely you can draw an "S" shape? Check (learned that one back in elementary school)!
  • How about a simple curved line? Check!
  • The last element of the five is an orb. How about it? Ooooooooooh. Scary! I can't draw a round circle. No wait! It's only an orb, not a perfect circle. That would be too stressful. Oh. Well, then, check, check. I'm good to go.
See. Knew you could do it! That's all I need, or you need, to create an exciting piece of art. Five elemental strokes. How simple is that? Let's tangle!