Category Archives: Anything Goes

Ever have one of those weeks when you feel like you’re living someone else’s life?

I am not a fan of real life drama. I don’t regularly associate with people who’s lives are comparable to that of a living soap opera. I think it’s terribly inappropriate to air dirty laundry on Facebook. My little life is generally quiet; I’m the co-captain of a very smooth, stable, well-built ship. Rough waters and wind are not welcome here.

Having said that, you’d think that I was bragging about how calm my life is, but right now the opposite is happening. It’s been a rough few weeks around here with lots of changes taking place – both within my household and with nearby family members. I am not digging it.

Life is unpredictable though, and the only thing to do is try to maintain some sense of stability and just hang on until the storm passes.

My mother hasn’t been feeling well all week. She’s nearing 81 years of age now and while aches and pains are a part of growing older, the symptoms she was describing to me the other night sounded like she was having a heart attack. At 9 PM my husband and I drove over to take her to the emergency room where we stayed until after 1 AM waiting to see what the diagnosis was. Nothing was found in blood work or the EKG; the diagnosis: GERD, which can mimic symptoms of a heart attack. Interestingly enough, the doctor on call asked my mother’s age and then said that if a woman lives to the age of 70 without being diagnosed with heart disease, the odds of her ever getting it are incredibly slim. Huh. I never knew this.

Spring has STILL not arrived in Indiana. Usually by this time of year we are seeing regular temperatures of nearly 50 degrees but that is not happening. I’m retaliating by painting Spring-inspired art over and over; it’s as if I’m willing spring into existence. I do hope we get a break soon. They say things feel at their worst just before it’s over. Hopefully this means that my life is on the cusp of better days ahead.

Here is my latest painting, finished yesterday. Title: In the Wild Blue

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have a good weekend, everyone. I hope that Spring has Sprung wherever you are :)

Hear her roar – she’s forty-four

Age is a funny thing.  Kids can’t wait to tell you how old they are, and they’ll even cheat a bit by rounding up to the next number. Teenagers can’t wait to be older.  I think one of the greatest compliments I ever received as a 16 year old was being told, ‘really?  You look at least 19!’

But somewhere in the mid twenties, things start to change.  Suddenly we aren’t so keen on telling people how old we are anymore.

 When I was a small child I had a doll named Johnny.  He and I were inseparable.  I carried him with me everywhere and when he wasn’t with me I cried.  I loved him to the moon and back.  Last year while helping my mother unpack her belongings in a new apartment she’d recently moved into I opened up a box marked winter clothes.  There inside was Johnny.  ”I found him up in the attic and thought you’d like to have him,” she said.  “You were given lots of pretty dolls when you were a little girl but they just sat on the shelf while you played with Johnny.”  I picked him up and looked at his worn, plastic face.  His stuffing, once tightly fitted in crisp yellow flannel pajamas was now lumpy and sparse.  His body was now worn and tired; two fingers appeared to have been slightly chewed – signs of a child trying to break herself from the habit of sucking her thumb.    

I thought about what my mother said about the other dolls in my room, all waiting to be played with while instead, I clung to Johnny.  Most of them had long flowing hair, perfectly smooth skin and frilly pressed dresses.  My baldheaded doll-baby may not have been the prettiest thing to carry around but I can assure you that he was the envy of all the other toys in my room – we went places, he and I: vacations, car rides, grocery store outings, restaurants, you name it.  He’d been dragged though the snow, sat in the dirt, left out in the rain and if I remember correctly, vomited on a couple of times but truthfully, as I held him that day at my Mom’s apartment he still looked pretty good for being over four decades old.

Today is my birthday and I have no reservations whatsoever about telling you how old I am (forty-four).   As I reflect on what this new age represents, I guess I’m kind of feeling like my childhood doll: some places are looking a bit worn (wrinkles around the eyes), the stuffing is now a bit sparse in some key locations (slightly droopy breasts) and a few chewed up areas (some pretty impressive scars).  Recently I was scouting for a quote to pair with one of my paintings and came across one that I really connected with; I put it in a little notebook that I keep handy so I will always remember it:

I don’t want another girl’s body.  I want my body – happy, healthy and strong.  

How true this statement is for me.  Sure, there’s still that tiny part of me that wishes I had beautiful, long hair or lean and perfectly toned arms but at the end of the day I’m just grateful for the things my body does for me.  It’s likely that all this wisdom has something to do with the aging process and feeling more comfortable in my own skin; it’s positively true that I’ve learned to appreciate my body through the practice of yoga. I’m just feeling pretty darned lucky to be here I guess; that’s a feeling I never intend on taking for granted.

 

 

 

 

Just another Friday…

…except that it’s Valentine’s Day :)

My husband and I used to go out and celebrate Valentine’s Day with the best of them.  Flowers, wine, a romantic card.  Some people say that when a couple has been together for a long time, they start to slack a bit on the ole’ romance.  Maybe that could be said about us too, since we don’t really do anything for Valentine’s Day anymore.  Instead, we try to show that we appreciate one another all of the time instead of making a grand gesture once a year.  Frankly, every day would be Valentine’s Day if Craig would put his dirty dishes actually into the dishwasher instead of setting them on the counter directly above the dishwasher (come on man, it literally takes three seconds more to just put them inside – and yes, I timed it!) and although I can’t speak for my husband, I’m sure the same could be said if only I would remember to shut the kitchen cupboard doors  - a bad habit I’ve been trying to break for about, oh – I don’t know…13 years now?  

The truth is, I don’t need a special day to know that this man loves me.  He shows me in some form all of the time with subtle things like putting gas in my car or offering to go to the grocery store because he knows how much I dislike it.  Call me strange, but one of the most romantic things my husband does for me is when he tries to cheer me up.  If I’m feeling discouraged or depressed, he’ll spontaneously begin performing his best impersonation of Paul Rudd dancing (no music necessary) – always when I least expect it.    It never fails to make me laugh no matter how blue I am.  I don’t think he’d mind me telling you this; just don’t ever ask him to do it for you, cause ladies, – that’s reserved for me and me alone ;)

To me, Valentine’s Day is about telling everyone in my life how much they mean to me.  My intention today is to honor the people I know and tell them that they are appreciated, that they are loved.  If you’re reading this, that includes you.

Happy Valentine’s Day.

 

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Yoga Challenge: Day 7

My art show is on Sunday. This is a big one for me and I've been trying to pace myself. I have this vision of how a perfect art booth would look like and if it didn't take so long to haul everything and put things up, my vision of a cozy little living space filled with wall to wall art might actually happen; for a two day show, maybe. But this one isn't so I need to be realistic and not so hard on the fact that there simply isn't enough time to do it all. In other words, I need to just let go.

Speaking of letting go, today's challenge pose was wheel, which is basically an inverted downdog. I can't help but laugh at some of these challenge poses as I think to myself, “how can anyone DO that??” Then I panic, wondering how I can contribute a photo and not feel uncomfortable about it. This of course is my ego talking; I type this here but I simply cannot afford to bring that kind of attitude onto the mat or else I will hurt myself.

I admit it, though: doing a pose correctly feels wonderful. For someone who has always been terrible at sports and undeniably uncoordinated, being able to embrace something physical is, for me, a staggering feat so I sometimes struggle whenever I am unable to attain a pose without the need to ask for a modification. Again, there's that ego rearing it's ugly head.

It all comes down to the photos, I've decided. I don't worry about attaining a certain pose when I'm practicing for me alone. I just practice. But when I know that dozens or hundreds of others will be seeing my photo? Well now, that can be quite intimidating to say the least. I have decided though, that photos are necessary for me right now. Not only can I visually see what I'm doing incorrectly, but I believe that while I may feel uncomfortable now, in time I will value these photos as they'll be evidence of my progress. I just need to let go of the ego and realize that anything worth doing takes time – and patience. Besides, these challenges are meant to be for fun; photos only capture a hint of what the practice is all about.

So, my modification for Wheel is Bridge pose, except I added a bit of extra height by balancing on my toes. Gotta show some flair sometimes! lol

 

 

 

Balance your heart: Day Six

Today’s challenge yoga pose was Big Toe Pose.  It’s important to lead with your heart when getting into position for this pose, keeping your head and torso straight and in unison as you bend at the waist.  This is my go-to pose whenever I know I’m going to be sitting in my studio working on a painting.  It really releases the back and stretches out the legs, and sometimes I clasp my hands behind me (keeping shoulders down) to stretch out my shoulder and neck muscles.   The great thing about this pose is that it can be done anywhere and you don’t need a mat :)

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As you can see I’m not alone in this photo.  Brulee simply refused to step out of the way, so here he is doing a modification of corpse pose for you.

Only two more poses to go before this Instagram challenge is over. See you tomorrow.

Balance Your Heart: Day Five!

I am not going to lie – I will be sad when this challenge is over (only three more days).  Even though I dislike having to take photos of me doing my poses I’ve come to find that, surprisingly, they are extremely helpful!  Can’t beat physical evidence when you need to see where you’ve come from and where you’re going, right?

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Today’s pose is One-legged King Pigeon Pose which is probably my most favorite of all the yoga poses.  It opens the heart, throat and neck and when you settle into this pose I imagine it feeling like all kinds of positive energy is being allowed into the body.  Of course, I wouldn’t know because I cannot get my  back foot off the floor. I have tried to come into the pose (in the full version the hands reach behind and grab hold of the foot) but for the life of me, cannot do it.  I’m calling on all you yogis out there for a link or SOME kind of directional article on what to do from this stage.  I have searched and come up empty handed. I’d greatly appreciate it!  xo

Wild Thing

Today’s pose was a true challenge:  Wild Thing, or Camatkarasana pose.  I remember trying to do this pose in class once and it was a disaster.  Not only does it require balance but also strength and the ability to do a backbend.  I had the arm strength to hold up my body and was getting more flexible in my back but for some reason I couldn’t hold the pose without falling over.  It was as though my body refused to bend that way.  When I saw that our next pose was Wild Thing I suddenly became self conscious about sharing a photo of a pose that I felt uncomfortable doing, especially when I know what it’s supposed to look like.  Take a look at this:

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But then of course I realized that one of the beautiful things about yoga is the subtle changes that take place over time –  if every pose was shown in ‘perfect form’, what would we have to aspire to?

So, for this Monday, here is my version of this difficult pose:

 

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Hey, I was able to hold it long enough for a photo so that’s something, right?  Although Brulee doesn’t look all that impressed now, does he?  ;)

A February Challenge to Open My Heart

I am busily preparing for a very important art fair that is a week from tomorrow. I've started forcing myself to think of other things as I mat and frame because I dislike it so, so much – mainly because it always takes me 5 or 6 tries before I am succesful in not getting either a single strand of dog hair or dust of some sort between the mat and frame. It's maddening to take everything apart over and over again. Grr!

I'm still carving out bits of time for myself however, which includes my first-ever yoga challenge which I signed up for via Instagram. I am not one who likes being in front of a camera and I rarely take selfies, especially when it comes to my yoga practice; I just find that I become too focused on the way a pose is going to look to others instead of keeping my mind focused on the practice itself which then defeats the purpose of yoga altogether. This challenge though I like, because it concentrates more on heart opening poses which can be beneficial since they counteract our natural wintertime postures of hunching over and drawing ourselves inward to keep warm. These poses are also psychologically beneficial as they tend to lift ones spirits which for me is an added bonus since February is usually the coldest and dreariest months of the year around here.

 

This challenge is scheduled to run for a little over a week and because I'll already be posting my yoga pose-of-the-day over on Instagram I thought I'd post my poses here as well. For those interested and/or curious about the challenge, just head on over to Instagram and use the hashtag #balanceyourheart. You can find me on Instagram at @ellenbrennemanstudio

February 1st, 2014 – Day One of Balance Your Heart – Camel Pose:

 

See you tomorrow!

 

The Polar Vortex

If you haven’t heard the term ‘Polar Vortex’ yet you must be living in Hawaii or some other tropical location.  I’ve never experienced weather quite like this before.  I’m normally not one to give in to weather conditions but I’ve been waving my white flag since returning home from a treacherous trip to Indianapolis this past weekend.  I needed to retrieve several original paintings for an art fair I’m participating in next Sunday.  My husband and both dogs went with me and I’m glad they did because the extra weight in the car likely prevented me from ending up in a ditch.  I lost count of how many trucks we passed that had jack-knifed off the road:

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Monday morning I awoke to an actual temperature of -13 degrees.  The windchill was nearly forty below.  By mid morning a driving ban had been put in place and if you were found on the road you’d quickly be ticketed.  The ban wasn’t lifted until Noon on Tuesday but the temps stayed well below zero.

Luckily I had plenty to keep me busy.  In between matting and framing I decided to make homemade bread and finished my first inspiration/yoga painting of the year:

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It was also a good time to start watching a new-to-me series called Falling Skies.  Nothing like dystopian sci-fi to take ones mind off the weather ;) I also had plenty of time to take photos.  Since cars weren’t allowed on the roads it was very peaceful outside and soon I found myself welcoming the sight of all the birds that gravitated to my feeders.  Cardinals have most definitely been a prominent presence in my yard all winter.  Here is a male sitting on the windowsill of my studio while a female looks on:

 

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How has the weather affected you these last couple of weeks?  What do you do with yourself when you’re stuck at home?

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Hate-Loss Challenges Past

Since this blog’s inception I have always maintained that one of the keys to losing weight and keeping it off is figuring out why we abuse food in the first place.  You can choose to agree or disagree, but I believe that every person who has ever struggled with their weight ultimately has a reason why their relationship with food is an unhealthy one, whether they realize it or not.  Because I like to eat is not an answer.

 

 

I have received a few emails over the past month or so asking whether or not I will be hosting the Hate-Loss Challenge for a fourth year in January.  My responses stated that I’d been seriously considering it but that I just wasn’t sure whether I could give it the attention that it deserves.

 

For those of you who are new to this blog, the Hate Loss Challenge was a month long event in which participants carried out a series of weekly exercises that promoted emotional health and happiness. I created this challenge back when other weight loss blogs were promoting month long weight-loss challenges that coincided with New Years Resolutions. I would read as bloggers belittled themselves when they stepped on the scale and didn’t see the results they wanted.  Many were eating way too little while simultaneously overtraining, and ultimately burned out on the act of dieting which would sometimes lead to a binge; then the cycle would begin all over again.

 

It was my hope that by offering a ‘Hate-Loss’ Challenge and start the New Year with a month of positive affirmations, support and self-reflection a habit would be born, leaving us all feeling beautiful in the present moment, regardless of what the scale said.  Being mentally healthy, I believe, is the first real step in losing and ultimately maintaining a healthy weight.

In the four years that I’ve been writing here, I can honestly say that my Hate-Loss Challenges are what I am most proud of.  I’ve recently gone back and read through several of the exercises we worked on, the difficulties many of us faced and the breakthroughs we shared.    Here is an excerpt from one such exercise that I proposed back in 2012:

This week’s exercise: Think back to a time or place in your life when you formed negative thoughts about yourself. Why do you think you are undeserving of praise?

Was there a specific event that caused you to change the way you perceive yourself?

 

Is it because you’ve always been reminded of your imperfections or weaknesses?

 

Is it because you’re not receiving enough positive feedback from people whose opinions really matter to you?

 

Do you have unrealistic expectations of yourself?

 

Were you taught these habits from living in an unhealthy environment?

 

We had a week to think about, write about and discuss our thoughts on this subject.  I learned a lot about myself as I faced some ugly demons from my past that kept me from moving forward in parts of my life.  You can read my discussion post where I answer the above questions here.

That post was one of the most difficult pieces of writing I’ve ever done.  Forcing oneself to come face to face with an uncomfortable part of the past is one thing, but to write about it for all to see is another.  But I wasn’t the only one.  Every participant worked just as hard, confronting experiences that they’d been neglecting yet clinging to for far too long.

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After some serious thought, I’ve decided that I will not be hosting 2014′s Hate-Loss Challenge, and for that I am deeply regretful, but at the same time I realize that if I did agree to host, it wouldn’t be fair to any of those who want to join because it is not something that can be done by giving 50 or 60%.  It means too much to me to give anything less than my full attention – something that I simply cannot do this coming year.  I sincerely apologize to those of you who were looking to join, and to end an amazing three year run.

I will tell you this: just because I cannot commit to hosting January’s challenge doesn’t mean that the month of January will be filled with meaningless drivel!  No, I intend on paying tribute to the last three years with some of the best quotes, exercises and excerpts I can find.  And remember – with or without a January challenge, I’m always here for support.

xo,

~Ellen