Sunday, October 16, 2016

Moving Through Doubt

Painting by St. Catherine of Bologna
Lately I've been into saints, iconography, and all forms of liturgy. And today I realized that I hadn't yet looked up the patron saint of artists! So I did. Her name is St. Catherine of Bologna, and she was a nun as well as a violist, dancer, writer, and painter, but her passion was painting. She also happened to struggle with doubt.
From the distance of so many centuries she is still very modern and speaks to our lives. She, like us, suffered temptations, she suffered the temptations of disbelief, of sensuality, of a difficult spiritual struggle. She felt forsaken by God, she found herself in the darkness of faith. Yet in all these situations she was always holding the Lord’s hand, she did not leave him, she did not abandon him. And walking hand in hand with the Lord, she walked on the right path and found the way of light. - Pope Benedict
It is no wonder to me that the arts and doubt once again are found hand-in-hand. Anyone inclined to share their work with an audience knows that gnawing fear that accompanies each performance or piece. It is relentless.

Normally at this point on this journey I would have turned back, resigned myself once again to just be content as a hobbyist. In the past, when I was successful for any length of time, it was because I had a specific project, or a brand, to hide behind. This time, it's just me and the things I want to make because I like to make them. And I have a daily inward battle with my doubt and my hope that this is enough.

I know now the difference between a fear that warns and a fear that merely cripples. Both are meant to protect you, but one results in timely escape and one leads to a deeper misery. Brené Brown, Liz Gilbert, and Danielle Krysa all have excellent things to say about this crippling fear, and they have been my guiding lights as I learn to lean into doubt instead of letting myself get pushed back into my seat.

I used to think this feeling of uncomfortable vulnerability meant that I was going in the wrong direction. I would take it as a sign to quit. I hate asking people for money, or asking folks to buy things. I'm not good enough. Who would pay anything for this? I don't have any value as an artist. These are the things that run through my head on a daily basis. And before, that would have been enough to make me turn red and sit right back down instead of standing tall in my place. But not this time.

I often say to myself that part of the "Going on a Bear Hunt" song that kids sing. The one that goes, "you can't go over it, you can't go under it, you can't go around it, you gotta go through it." I've been told enough times by everyone I admire that this thing will never leave me... but that it gets easier to move through.

And so, as I wake up every morning feeling defeated that I didn't become an overnight success yet again, I remember "you gotta go through it." Keep showing up. Go slow. Every day I do something, I put pen to physical paper, and I know that the sooner I start, the sooner I'll be through the doubt on this day. And tomorrow, I'll have to do the same. But I won't give up, because I know that I'm not the only one, and I know in my heart of hearts that what I'm doing every day is building something, and I hope will all my heart that thing is good.

This self-doubt is really doubt in the goodness, in the abundance, that is God. So I will wake up, I will take His hand, and I will keep going.

Friday, September 30, 2016

Patreon 2: the Re-Launch

The Buffalo Show - my original purpose for Patreon

Ok, I know that NPR is doing it's pledge drive and that ya'll are probably sick of folks asking you for money, but here goes. Remember that time, way back in 2014, when I had this Buffalo Project and I needed extra cash to frame stuff? I used Patreon, because it seemed like a great way for me to share my work and earn a little money doing it. Well, guess what... I'm doing it again! This time, though, I'm having TWO shows... and beyond!

I love Patreon because it allows me to get some payment for the work I'm doing, and it allows you to be part of that work in a very tangible way! You can donate as much or as little as you want (the reward tiers are just a little extra incentive - like the green beach towel you get for pledging more than $15 a month to your public radio station, but hopefully prettier), and if you donate more than two bucks a month (which is less than the cost of a small black coffee here in Santa Cruz, y'know), you'll get access to even more behind-the-scenes goodness. Last time, I posted updates multiple times a month with photos, thoughts, plans, ideas, processes, sketches, works in progress and more, and I intend to continue that practice.

But, this Patreon campaign will be a little different. Yes, I do have two shows coming up in Summer of 2017 that I need money to frame, but I want to go beyond that. Like I said to my current patrons, I feel like I've been tiptoeing into the art world for YEARS, but now it's finally time for me to stride in and take my place. I don't feel ready, but I know that I need to start acting like I am, because I will never feel ready and waiting around until I do is literally wilting my soul. For me, right now, I need to make my art my first priority. I'd like to make a living at it too, and Patreon is there to help you help me meet that goal! And artists should get paid, after all! We just have to be a little creative about how we do it.

Don't worry though! I won't quit putting up photos on instagram, sharing works-in-progress and sketches, or posting my thoughts... All of that will remain free for your consumption! Patreon is simply a way for you to let me know that what you think I'm doing is valuable.

Side note: don't feel like you need to donate forever and always... You can always choose to spend your money elsewhere or change your donation amount for any reason. It's your money! I just hope you'll throw a little of it my way. :)

So please, go check out my Patreon page. Consider donating a dollar, two dollars, or more per month. Become a supporter of the arts by supporting me, your artist friend! I'll be eternally grateful.

♥ Ciara

P.S. PLEASE feel free to ask me any questions at all about Patreon, how it works & why I'm using it, in the comments below or via email: catsandscales [at] gmail [dot] com.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Whole 30 Update: It's almost over!!

Wow, time flies when you're not eating your favorite foods, I guess. So much for the weekly post with amazing reports on my Whole30 progress! Oh well. More important things in life are going on. Like this.

I have been having terrible, guilty dreams about eating ice cream bars and baking cookies and sneaking around eating candy behind Jamie's back. I don't even want ice cream bars or cookies. I just want some damn bread and cheese.

Things I've noticed since being on the Whole30 for more than three weeks:
  • I do seem to have more energy (but maybe this is because I'm getting sufficient amounts of sleep and exercise).
  • My farts are no longer atomic (this is wonderful, and it was expected. Curse you, cheese).
  • Even when I'm hungry I don't feel faint (hooray for sufficient amounts of protein).
  • I'm pretty sure I've lost a couple of pounds and I'm back to my "normal" weight.
  • My skin and allergies have not improved in the slightest
  • I feel like the worst kind of person when I have to explain to people that I'm on a diet. It makes social situations awkward and I don't like it.
  • I'm sick and tired of having to plan out every single meal
  • I'm sick and tired of having to do more than cook eggs and toast bread for breakfast. Everything else takes way too much time.
On Wednesday I start my reintroduction... You try a different food group once every couple of days to see how it affects you. On Wednesday I'm planning on "huevos rancheros" (minus the tortilla), peanut butter, and tofu at dinner. On Saturday I'm going to have tortilla chips (YES) and rice. On Tuesday I'm eating CHEESE and YOGURT and maybe a wee bit of ICE CREAM... and finally, on Friday I will GET SOME FRIGGIN TOAST WITH MY EGGS. That's all I really want. Toast with my eggs. And the occasional sandwich with lots and lots of cheese. Oh, and wine. I have really really missed wine.

After that? Well, I have lofty goals of continuing to plan all of my meals, baking one loaf of bread to eat per week, saving sweets for special occasions, you know, being in total and complete control of my life. What I think I will actually continue is the increase in protein and veggies. I do like to have meat & vegetables for dinner, and I like to have them for lunchtime leftovers. I think I'll just like them even more with things like rice and cheese and tortilla chips.

All-in-all, it's been a fun experiment! Not a miracle-cure, I didn't learn anything I didn't already know, but I don't regret it at all. By now I'm tired of talking about it and thinking about it and dealing with it. There are plenty of other people who don't ever seem to get tired of talking about fancy diets. I sure do.

Till next time,
♥ Ciara

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Whole 30 Update: Week 1, Day 6

This week I've eaten: 10 drumsticks, 3 chicken breasts, 1 pound of ground beef, 2 pork chops, prosciutto, a can of olives, a bunch of chard, kale, and romaine, 7 carrots, broth, cherry tomatoes, 16 or so eggs, 3 yams, asparagus, green beans, potatoes, brussel sprouts, a couple of peaches, and LOTS of spices, broth, tomato sauce, and ghee.

And I feel great.

The biggest challenge is just planning ahead. We went to brunch at a friends and offered to bring a compliant sausage egg casserole, which is all we ate aside from fruit and coffee. I find that I tend to be hungry all morning and fine for the rest of the day (normally my hungriest times are right before lunch and between the hours of 3-6). I find that I have relied on bread to fill me up in the past. I find that I really like chard for breakfast, but I do miss toast with my eggs. I was afraid that all of the meat would give me stomachaches, but my farts have been minimal (for once!) and my gut has not given me any trouble (except for morning ravenousness. I could literally eat all morning and not be full, it feels like).

I really like the lack of gastrointestinal troubles. I really like all the vegetables. I really like having lots of energy (but that also has to do with going to bed earlier and going to the gym). I really missed out on mimosas at brunch. I crave crackers when it's after my bed time and I wanted popcorn at the movies but really, it's been manageable.

So far, so good!

I'm nervous about going back to non-Whole30 life. Will we keep buying copious amounts of meat? (Actually we are still working on all the Costco multi-packs of meat I bought last weekend). Will I go back to eating bread all day? What will I do during the holidays? My biggest fear is that I'll just go back to eating whatever after a couple of months, and go back to feeling sluggish and uncomfortable.

This week has flown by, with school and work both picking up the pace. I think the next three weeks will also zoom past me and before I know it I'll be reintroducing all the foods I miss.

I'll keep you posted on my progress! ;)

♥ Ciara Kay

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Podcast Roundup // Spirituality & Theology

Oh the wonderful world of Podcasts! You always get me through my days! Here are some of my spiritual gurus in the podcast world.

The Liturgists // (not necessarily family-friendly) Science Mike and Michael Gungor tackle the big issues in our culture and in our faith through the lenses of art and science. This podcast helped me SO much through a really difficult time in my own faith, and they have helped thousands on the fringe of evangelical Christianity feel less alone. This is an artfully produced, thoughtful podcast that I recommend to anyone and everyone, even if you aren't a Christian.

Persuasion // Erin Straza and Hannah Anderson co-host this podcast which covers a wide range of topics on pop culture, current events, and trends from a Christian perspective. They also have the occasional guest which is always fun. I appreciate how fair they are to all perspectives and parties involved in their topic every episode, and they always choose very interesting things to talk about.

The Practice Podcast // Essentially a sermon podcast by Willow Creek Chapel in Illinois, the Pratice Podcast focuses on the "unforced rhythms of grace." They rotate their speakers and discuss different spiritual practices for you to try and the Biblical bases for those practices, with a focus on liturgy. I highly recommend the episode on Sabbath with Rabbi Evan Moffic (episode 21 on iTunes) for starters.

Sacred Ordinary Days // Jenn Giles Kemper and Lacy Clark Ellman co-host this gem of a podcast. Jenn and Lacy have conversations about the Liturgical Year and share old and new ways to celebrate the seasons. If you have any interest in a more liturgical or traditional spirituality, this is a wonderful place to start for the modern Christian. I also can't recommend enough digging in to some of the free resources and videos on the main website - I use a lot of the tools in the Essentials Workbook in my Bullet Journal. Here is a great walkthrough of the whole planner system, and you can get the Essentials Workbook by signing up for the newsletter (link at the bottom of the page).

What are your favorite spirituality podcasts?
♥ Ciara Kay

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Whole 30: Why I'm Going for It

I'm gearing up to do my very first Whole30 this September, starting on the 5th for the official #SeptemberWhole30 because I like my external accountability and hard things are always better done together. It's taken me MONTHS to gather the courage to try this, and I've done a lot of thinking about why I should do a Whole30. I've decided it's right for me and I'll be keeping ya'll updated on Wednesdays in September about how my first Whole30 is going!


What is Whole30?

Whole30 is basically an intense one-month food cleanse on a stricter version of the Paleo diet. For 30 days you must restrict your eating to only "clean" foods: meats, vegetables, fruits, and fats. NO processed foods, grains (including corn and rice), dairy, legumes (including soy), alcohol, or any added sugar. The point of this restriction is to cut out problem foods, that is, foods which commonly cause inflammation, allergies, and poor digestion, and then reintroduce them one by one at the end of the month to see which foods may be bothering you or making you feel cruddy. The benefits: people say they lose weight, sleep better, and have loads more energy at the end of the Whole30, as well as a much better perspective on and relationship with food.


Why I'm Doing Whole30

1. I'm convinced I have dairy, grain, and sugar intolerance/addictions
Terrible bloating, gas, stomachaches, heartburn, you name it, I got it. Maybe I have Crones, or maybe I just eat too much bread on a daily basis. I've always wanted to eliminate these things from my diet to see how I feel, but I've always been scared to... what if it IS grains? No more toast every day, or sandwiches? The thought of it makes me feel faint. I don't think I could live a bread-free life... but after Whole30, at least I'll get some perspective on how these foods really are making me feel, and my hope is that my favorite foods will become special, occasional treats and not all-day binges.

2. I'm convicted about our food practices in this country
Industrialized agriculture has made fast, cheap food the new norm; that is, food with a bunch of additives or food that is not considered "real" or "whole" food (chips, crackers, cookies, soda, etc) is easier to access and easier to afford, especially under food stamp programs in this country. This affects us globally; industrialized agriculture has forced multitudes to urbanize, has lost thousands of farmers their jobs, and has made the quality of our foods much poorer. Whole30 promotes shopping locally for food that has been ethically raised or grown, a practice I continue to strive towards, and something I can hold to for at least a month. It's expensive, but I think we have lost touch with how much growing actual food really costs.*

3. I could use some hard, fast rules about my food for a few days
I've discovered abundant joy in the routine of liturgy and in creating firm boundaries for myself and my relationships, so why shouldn't I set some time aside to bring my relationship with food under some control? I'm not much of a dessert junkie, but I will definitely eat an entire wedge of brie and a baguette all by myself for dinner on nights I don't feel like cooking. And 2+ bowls of milk and cereal were a typical "snack" for me growing up. I am a bread-aholic, and I'm ready to quit cold-turkey (for now). Regarding my personality type as an all-or-nothing kind of person, this system with a clear set of rules and boundaries would be MUCH easier for me than to try to make gradual healthier choices. Whole 30 is not for everyone, but it is very appealing to me and if I want to try to take better care of myself in the long run I see no problem going the whole 9 yards for 30 days.

Wanna know more about Whole30?
Follow my Pinterest board to get started down the rabbit hole of Whole30 science, recipes, and inspiration!

Have you tried your own Whole30? How did it go for you? Do you want to try it? Why or why not? There is a WholeLOT of controversy surrounding this diet fad (see what I did there?)... I would love to hear your opinions!

See below for my diatribe on Whole30 + privilege

I'm actually really excited to give this a shot... here goes nothing!
♥ Ciara Kay

*I do want to be sensitive here. Whole30 is a pretty American/Western phenomenon, partly because our industrialized system of agriculture has wrecked havoc on the nutritional value of our staple foods (I highly recommend the Netflix series, Cooked, particularly the episode on bread, "Air"), thus prompting a move towards a humanely/ethically raised meat + vegetable diet. But, meat (especially humanely raised meat) is expensive, and so is organic, and food stamp dollars do not go far per calorie when it comes to shopping Paleo. Whole30 also excludes the world's staple foods: beans, rice, and bread.

So you could say Whole30 is only an option for the privileged. That's fine, I'm inclined to agree. While this is something we need to be aware of, this is not a good reason not to try to make better choices for yourself. I have for a long time skipped over better choices for myself because I would tell myself that some poor kid in Uganda (or even in my own neighborhood) didn't have the same opportunities and therefore who was I to take those opportunities! This is a terrible way to live (not to mention a leap in logic) and results in self-inflicted martyrdom, and nobody likes a self-inflicted martyr, especially a privileged one. Martyrs who are still living are useless anyway; unless you were burned at the stake, give up the act.

Here's a great article with some thoughts by D.L. Mayfield on this topic if you're interested in another opinion on guilt, solidarity with the poor, body image issues, and the complexity of the food system in this country.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Podcast Roundup // Creativity & Lifestyle

Podcasts are a wealth of entertainment AND good information! I love these podcasts for the inspiration and sense of camaraderie they provide... we're all trying to figure out what it means to be creative humans in the 2000s, and I'm so super grateful to these folks for sharing their stories and giving us some great tools as we get on our way!

Art for Your Ear // (not necessarily kid-friendly) Danielle Krysa is SO fun to listen to, and she's a wonderful, casual, and enthusiastic host. One of my biggest dreams is to be interviewed by her some day! Danielle, if you're reading this, put me on your "to-interview" list! Danielle interviews some of her favorite artists, and asks them all kinds of wonderful questions about their backgrounds, their processes, and whether or not they like chips or sweets (the answer should always be chips). This podcast is PACKED with inspiration! I love to listen while I'm working on my own art.

Happier // What I love about Gretchen is that she is aware that she is a bit hokey and over-the-top as a happiness guru, but she does it anyway. She is a very Type-A personality, balanced out by her co-host and sister, Elizabeth, who is far more laid back. They are the perfect pair as they go through tips and tricks about how to be happier! Which I know sounds like they're selling snake oil, but you guys, everyone could be a little happier. And if you believe it'll work, it magically does.

Magic Lessons // (not kid-friendly) Another creativity/happiness guru of sorts, Elizabeth Gilbert, has just begun Season Two of her new podcast and it is GREAT. I love that they've changed the format to be one episode per lesson instead of three... it's a longer listen and feels much more satisfying and complete. Liz is a wonderful cheerleader and tells it like it is. She's a wee bit "woo" for some, but if you can get into it, this is a great listen.

What podcasts inspire you to go make stuff?

♥ Ciara Kay