Cool Tools: The Steal Like an Artist Journal

The Steal Like an Artist Journal by Austin CleonJoyous Paradox readers know that two of my favorite tools for caregiver wellbeing are creative self-expression and comic relief. Writer Austin Kleon’s new Steal Like an Artist Journal: A Notebook for Creative Kleptomaniacs offers us ample room for both. This graphical playground-in-a-book is packed with prompts for comic as well as serious journal entries. Take it with you and write, sketch, doodle, improvise away!

Today, I’m sharing a pair of entries from my journal with you. My choice of theme: cats vs. dogs. Which tip jars would get your money if you saw them on your favorite coffee shop’s counter? Check out Instagram for more #stealjournal photos.

Barista Tip Jar Page

Steal Like an Artist Journal Tip Jar Page

Barista Tip Jar page from Austin Kleon’s Steal Like an Artist Journal. Today’s theme: cats vs. dogs.

Tip Jar Sketch Page

Tip Jar Heart #1 by Mary Ann Barton

Mary Ann’s Tip Jar Sketch Page offers an expanded version of her Barista Tip Jar page from Austin Kleon’s Steal Like an Artist Journal. What gets your heartfelt vote? Cats, dogs, gerbils, or budgies?

 

 

Dementia Talk #3: Walks

Map of Charity Walks and Races 2015

Editor’s note: “As long as you’re breathing, it’s never too late to do some good,” said poet Maya Angelou, an eloquent supporter of research to end Alzheimer’s and related dementias. If you’re in the U.S. this fall, why not step out in one of the Alzheimer’s Association’s famous Walks to End Alzheimer’s, or a related event aimed at relief for ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease)? Click on the map below to register for a walk or race near you. As Angelou pointed out, African-Americans are twice as likely to develop dementia. In honor of all my friends living with this condition, come step on out. — MAB

Charity Walks for Dementia and ALS Relief, 2015

Charity Walks for Dementia and ALS Relief, 2015. Click on this map to go to an interactive map of walks and races to raise money for research on Alzheimer’s disease, other dementias, ALS, and blindness. Source: Griswold Home Care.

Dementia Talk #2: Props

How can we bring lightness and pleasure to our interactions with people with dementia? I like to use props, which can be any durable object suitable for show-and-tell.

Introducing a new object to a person living with dementia can spark their attention and stimulate curiosity. If the item means something special to you, that can help, too, since it will bring greater emotional depth to your encounter.

Here are three examples of items I like to bring with me when I visit someone with Alzheimer’s disease or another condition affecting memory or thinking.

The Octaband®

An Octaband® is a colorful fabric exercise tool to play with, indoors and out. The inexpensive, stretchy device comes in small (8-arm) and large (16-arm) sizes. When you play one-on-one with a partner, you position yourselves on opposite sides of the center circle and hold a colorful arm of the Octaband in each hand. The extra arms wave in the breeze — somewhat like flying a kite.

Octaband.com

The Octaband® is a colorful, stretchy, fabric exercise device developed by dance/movement therapist Donna Newman-Bluestein, DMT-BC, LMHC. It can be used in pairs or in a group. Photo from Octaband® LLC.

Octaband.com

Anyone can enjoy using an Octaband®. The silky fabric loops around the wrist, feels good in the hand, and encourages rhythmic stretching. Try it with music or sing as you play. Photo from Octaband® LLC.

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Hometown Photographs

When I get to know someone with dementia, I like to bring photos of the town where they grew up. Is it easier to recognize buildings than faces? I don’t know, but I’ve had some lovely chats with clients who remember going to the movies at the theater on Main Street or hearing summer concerts at the gazebo in the park. I download photos from the Internet to my smartphone or a tablet for easy sharing, but you could also have a copy shop print and laminate them.

Goodman Library, Napa, CA

The Goodman Library was my favorite building as a child in Napa, CA. It’s now the county historical society and on the National Register of Historic Places. Photo from NoeHill Travels in California.

Goodman Library in 1938, Napa, CA.

The Goodman Library in 1938. Napa County Historical Society photo from the Napa Valley Register.

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Lap Labyrinth

The labyrinth is an ancient design experiencing renewed popularity today as a platform for stress reduction. A lap labyrinth is a wonderful, portable alternative to the patio-sized or larger labyrinth for walking meditation. I coach my clients to hold the breathe as they move their fingers slowly along the grooves of the device, tracing the curves back and forth until the center is reached and then coming back out to the edge again. I support people in going at a faster pace if that seems more natural. It’s also fine to skip from one groove to another. Any path can bring this unusual object to life for a curious explorer.

A Pine Lap Labyrinth from Stress Resources.

Holistic nurse Pamela Katz Ressler, RN, MS, HN-BC, offers handcrafted pine labyrinths at Stress Resources. The lap labyrinth, also called a finger labyrinth, is a portable device used for stress reduction or meditation. Simply trace the grooves with your finger as you breathe gently. Notice the subtle sensations of touch, texture, pressure, movement, light, color, shadow, and even sound. Photo from Stress Resources, Concord, MA.

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What’s Your Experience with Props?

Do you use props as you interact with the person with dementia in your life? What works best: something familiar, or something new? How has this changed over time? Feel free to share your experience in the comments below. Or write me at mabartonst [at] gmail [dot] com. — MAB, August 9, 2015

PS: I offer examples of specific products based on my success in using them in my professional work with home-care clients. I am not not receiving any compensation for mentioning them.

Related: The first post in this series is Dementia Talk, already the top post in Joyous Paradox for 2015.

 

 

The Anatomy of Breathing

Movement Modalities: Dance, Housework, Breathing

Ballerina by Robert le Madec, French, 1899, via Wikimedia Commons.If dance is the poetry of motion, then writing about dance can be a way of entering our embodied experience more fully, the way a poet enters each word of the poem. With this in mind, we might take one step at a time, paying attention to one moment of mindful awareness after the other. The pace can be slow or rapid, reverent or careless; perhaps lighthearted; certainly watchful.

What do I mean by watchful? Simply that if you are dancing, you will open your mindful eyes and observe the contents of your conscious awareness from one breath to another as you turn your right toe out and step to the side. You will also feel the way the sacrum guides your hip to rotate the leg, while your thigh opens out, just slightly, as the spine turns. The breastbone lifts the ribs and your weight shifts into the step, with the music already flowing along with your body, carrying you into another place, another step, another rotation.

And within the ribs beats the heart, nestled in the cardiac notch of the left lung, and the heart throbs between and behind your two lungs, the lungs swell with the in-breath and yield with the out-breath.

And now, can we imagine how each in-breath draws some physical elements of the world into our bodies, while each out-breath pours some physical remnants of our bodies back out into the world?

What does it mean, I ask myself, that my body is the medium for an exchange of gases between myself and the threadbare hemlock tree in my back yard? What does it mean that my body, as I drive to work in my car with the windows down on a spring morning, serves to filter the air and give it back to nourish the trees that line the road?

“Dear trees,” I would pray out loud every morning. “Dear trees, help me to keep breathing all day, no matter how fearful I am.”

“Dear trees,” I would pray out loud every morning as I drove to my new job in publishing in suburban Boston, “dear trees, you are so beautiful. You there, you raise your branches over my head, your early buds swell at the tips in droplets of pea-green, of silky burgundy, you there, your trunks so solid, your roots deep and black-barked down in the dark, roomy soils near the river, dear trees, you are so beautiful. Help me to keep breathing all day today, no matter how fearful I am when I answer the phone.”

So simple, you might say, dear trees, it should be so simple for me to answer the phone in my cubicle, to say ‘Prentice Hall Social Studies, this is Mary Ann.’ So simple, but because I am so new, and because I don’t have the training to do my job, and because there doesn’t seem to be any system to bring me up to speed in order to complete my assignments, I am aware, as I observe my supervisor’s pursed lips and scrabble through the papers piled on my smooth, putty-colored work surface, that each day’s work is not enough work. Each answer I give to my colleagues’ questions is not a sufficient answer. Each breath I take is not enough breath.

Imagine the experiential anatomy of breathing when you work in a job you love.

Now, imagine that it is many years afterwards and I am in a job I love, for which I am profoundly qualified. Imagine the experiential anatomy of breathing when you work in a job you love, a job in which it matters that you are a kind person. Imagine the way the breath is the very embodiment of taking in kindness and giving out kindness, over and over again. Not a Mother-Teresa kindness; not something superhuman, but just an ordinary, clumsy, this-is-the-best-I-can-do kindness.

I have to breathe a lot in this job I love, as I care for elderly people in their houses, old houses full of memories and things. I breathe a lot and I’m sweaty. I have to squat and pick up dropped laundry from under the bed. I have to wash my hands in the sink in the laundry room and dry them on a terry cloth towel. But each breath is enough.

Imagine how my body dances as I fold the laundry and put it away, as I step to the right, bend, pull out the drawer, press the stack of soft turtlenecks into the drawer, shove the drawer closed, and turn and step to the left again. My limbs and spine loosen, my ribs expand and the lungs open and the heart beats faster, the breastbone shifts and flows with the spine, the tailbone rises and turns me first one way, then another.

Imagine that my ribs shelter the lungs and my breath feeds the blood and the ligaments draw the ribs together in a curtain of protection.

Breathing Ornament 04Now, imagine that you drive home from a job you love, the windows down in your car, the trees receiving your breath by the side of the road. Imagine that you learn about the experiential anatomy of breathing on the job. Imagine that you see, for the first time, the prodigies of flesh within us all.

And so, perhaps, dear ones who read and write and read again, you will experience the gifts of kindness, of life, of movement, of yielding, of letting go, of falling into bed, and breathing through the night, and drawing breath again, as you rise for a fresh love, a fresh day.

— Mary Ann Barton

Glossary for this post:Experiential Anatomy,” writes dance/movement teacher Susan Bauer, “is a creative / humanistic approach using movement, touch, drawing, partner work, and creative writing to embody and personalize your learning.  One’s experiences become the basis for understanding one’s physical body and movement potential.” I liked the clip below of famed teacher Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen demonstrating Initiating Movement from the Coccyx.

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Painting credit: Ballerina by Robert le Madec, French, 1899, via Wikimedia Commons.

Link to this post: http://wp.me/p20HD7-5BK.

Another post in Movement Modalities:  Nia Dance Poem

 

Isadora Duncan #29 by Abraham Walkowitz

Movement Modalities: Nia Dance Poem

Nia Dance Poem

With thanks to Karen, Maria, and Robyn

These first rare steps on the enchanted floor:
soft as sand dunes beneath your bare feet.

Words, dear words, bubbles of music:
humming sitar, buoyant drum.

Touch now, touch,
feel the ball of your foot shift the load toward the toes
as the heel lifts, a slight puff of wind — poof!

Step, sway, cross over and swivel and plant the foot,
waggle the tail, rock the hips’ intimate cradle,
oh, exactly as oceans rock,
cry in the throat as seagulls cry,
piping plovers, sand, fresh winds,

and still all around you will lift, swirl, and turn,
rise, pause, and bow down,

a whole roomful of women cresting and levitating
over the soft ocean of the enchanted floor.

— Mary Ann Barton

Isadora Duncan #29 by Abraham Walkowitz

Glossary for this poem

Movement Modalities, a new series beginning today in the Joyous Paradox blog about my search for creative ways to add more movement to my life. I’m thinking of all movement forms as potentially healing, hence the use of the word modalities, which we often see in caregiving as the way a health condition is diagnosed or treated.

Nia Technique, a movement practice whose teachers are licensed by Nia Technique, Inc. According to Nia’s website, “Nia cardio-dance workouts combine 52 simple moves with dance arts, martial arts, and healing arts to get you fit in 60 minutes — body, mind, emotion, and spirit. Nia is practiced barefoot, non-impact, and adaptable to individual needs and abilities.”

The humming sitar in the poem is a metaphor for the way the pulsing, soft-rock dance music played in my Nia class sounded to me while I was dancing. For the literal sitar of Indian classical music, see Wikipedia.

The enchanted floor refers to the soft, interlocking floor tiles used in the yoga studio where I took the Nia classes that inspired this poem. I have arthritis in my knees and neck, so I’ve been wary of fast-paced, aerobic activities that might be too high in impact for my 65-year-old body. Stepping onto the soft studio floor was a pleasant surprise. So far, so good.

Photo from Staff Favorites Best of Nia

Image credits: (Top and Middle) Isadora Duncan #29, watercolor and ink over graphite on paper by Abraham Walkowitz, American, ca. 1915, via Wikimedia Commons. (Left) Staff Favorites Best of Nia © Jeff Stewart Photography. Photograph provided by Nia Technique (www.nianow.com).

Note: I am not receiving any compensation for mentioning Nia or any other practice in this series. — MAB

 

How Science Can Help You Stick to Your Goals

Editor’s note: Happify is a light-hearted but science-based online resource for games and activities to boost happiness. You might enjoy playing some of these educational games yourself, or trying them out with your dad, your grandmother, or someone else you love. Happify’s new infographic, shown below, bills itself as “17 science-backed secrets to achieving your goals.” Let me know what you think. — MAB

Here's How Science Can Help You Stick to Your Goals

Hyperbole and the Long Winter Walk

Once upon a time, in a small log house at the end of a long lane, there lived a dog named Hyperbole.

Whenever his friend Edward would come driving down the long lane to visit him, Hyperbole would bounce and bark and run around in circles. His ears would flap and his brown eyes would shine. His big black nose would shine, too, in that pixelated way dogs’ noses shine when they are moist with enthusiasm.

Now, on one particularly frosty winter day, a day close to Christmas and Hanukkah and Kwanzaa, when snow had fallen on the little log house and melted in the ruts of the bumpy lane and frozen again, so the ice cracked and crunched under your boots when you walked up the lane to check for mail in the mailbox, on this particular winter day Edward came driving up the lane and crunched to a stop beside the log house.

“Oh boy, oh boy, bark, bark, bark!” said Hyperbole as he ran in circles and sniffed and snuffled and bounced around his friend Edward.

“Let’s go for a walk in the woods, Hype,” Edward said. “But first, I have a Secret Package to carry inside and put away for later.”

“Oh boy, oh boy, bark, bark, bark!” said Hyperbole. “Can we have the Secret Package now? Can we have it now?”

“Have you checked the mailbox yet today, Hyper?” asked Edward, who really wanted the Secret Package to be a surprise.

“Not yet, not yet, but I’ll go see,” said Hyperbole. He bounced and ran around in circles a few times, and then shambled down the long lane, sniffing and whuffling at the interesting repositories of smells along the way, such as old cattail stalks that other animals had peed on, and a muskrat’s tracks in old snow that had thawed before the muskrat walked across it and then frozen afterwards.

As soon as Hyperbole was out of sight, Edward carried the Secret Package into the kitchen, where he unpacked it hastily while keeping an ear cocked for Hyperbole returning. He put some of the items from the Secret Package in the refrigerator, and then, glancing over his shoulder to make sure nobody was looking, he put the rest of the items in the cupboard, high up on the top shelf.

“Whuff! I’m back, I’m back,” announced Hyperbole, just as Edward shut the cupboard door. Hyperbole’s voice was somewhat muffled by the mail he was holding in his jaws, but when he had dropped the mail on the table and Edward had wiped off the drool with the sleeve of his jacket, the dog’s voice rang clear as a bell again.

“Anything for me, for me?” asked Hyperbole.

They pawed through the mail looking for Christmas cards from Edward’s nieces, Jasmine and Dakota and Cheyanne, but there weren’t any Christmas cards yet, just L.L. Bean catalogs and fundraising letters and bills.

Finally, Hyperbole and Edward took a really long, long, walk
run
bark
bounce
circle
sniff
pee-on-a-tree
scrape-the-snow
walk
run
bark
bounce
through the woods.

Hyperbole and Edward walked all the way up one side of the mountain, past the pine trees and the hemlocks. They passed the old foundation stones where lilacs bloom in the spring. They passed the place where last time they saw bear tracks (extra-long sniffing here).

Then the two friends came back down the mountain, with a few detours after squirrels (Hyperbole), and a few pauses for drinks of cold, cold, well water from a BPA-free water bottle (Edward), and fur that was cold on the top and warm next to the skin (Hyperbole), and frosty cheeks and a red nose (Edward), and puffs of breath visible in the cold air (both of them), and stretched trapezius muscles in the shoulder (both), and joy in the heart (both, for sure).

Now, by the time the two friends got back home, Hyperbole had forgotten all about the surprise. Secret Package? What Secret Package? He trotted over to his water dish and gulped and guzzled the water until his thirst was slaked. Then he curled up in his dog bed next to the wood stove and tucked his nose under the plume of his tail and slept.

Perhaps Hyperbole dreamed, for every once in a while his muzzle quivered or his front paws twitched.

As he slept, I wonder if Hyperbole heard, dimly, the squawk of the squeaky hinge on the cupboard door, or the whump of the refrigerator door closing, or the hiss of water running in the sink.

Or perhaps he smelled, in his sleep, the deep and glorious smell of onions frying in an old and experienced cast iron skillet, and the brown smell of floured chunks of beef tossed into hot oil, where they sizzled, minute by minute by minute, the brownness crisping and crusting and deepening until, at just the right moment, Edward scraped under the browning beef chunks with a spatula and flipped them to brown on the other side.

But I will tell you that by the time Edward’s Surprise Beef Stew was finished cooking, Hyperbole did hear the clink of knives and forks on the table.

Hyperbole woke up with a start.

“Whuff?” he said. “Whuff?”

“Let’s eat!” said Edward.

“Oh boy, oh boy, beef stew! Bark, bark, bark!” said Hyperbole, for beef stew was his very favorite dinner in the whole wide world. And he bounced into his chair at the table and fell upon his portion like a ravenous wolf at the end of a very long winter day.

And when the two friends had polished off two huge bowls of stew each, they stacked their dishes in a sinkful of hot and soapy water. Hyperbole went out briefly in the cold to sniff around the woodpile and pee one last time, while Edward scrubbed the skillet and blotted it with a towel and wiped it with oil and set it on the stove to dry.

Then Edward shoved two more logs into the wood stove. He clinked the stove door shut and adjusted the draft so the fire burned brightly. The stove ticked softly in the peaceful, after-dinner silence. The two friends curled up together on the sofa and slept and slept and slept. And what they dreamed about, sleeping in that warm log house at the end of a long lane under the bright and icy stars, I will leave you to imagine for yourself.

The End

Hyperbole_Ornament_01_f7f7f7Background

With thanks to my son Edward for walks in all seasons; to Dorothy, for the hospitality of her log house in East Lempster, NH; and to the writers, illustrators, and publishers of all my favorite children’s books, especially The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame, for their stories. — MAB