Embrace Your Emotions Like a Kitten

Another Friday, another kitten analogy, here we go!

(this one might make more sense with a puppy, so I’ll let you choose which baby animal you want to imagine for this analogy. I’m still going to use kittens though because I’m on a roll)

What happens if you ignore a kitten (or puppy)?

Does it entertain itself and leave you be? Does it sleep peacefully?

Haha, nope! If you ignore a kitten (or puppy), it will climb your curtains, tear up your tissue box, and find other mischievous ways to make its presence known. It will meow (or bark) “PAY ATTENTION TO MEEEEEEEEEEEEE!”

What happens if you pat the kitten on the head, and halfheartedly dangle a toy in front of it?

The kitten will be appeased, for now. It may nap for a bit, before it decides to eat some string and turn your sock into a toy.

What happens if you fully engage with the kitten? You focus only on playing with the kitten, uninterrupted, for 15 minutes. You run the kitten up and down your apartment, wearing it out, and then shower it with kisses and snuggles.

The kitten will be satisfied, and will leave you in peace for the rest of the day.

The kitten is an analogy for your emotions. No matter how much you push them down, they’ll still seep out and destroy things in the process. You can’t just make the kitten disappear, because the kitten is part of your family. You can’t choose to love the kitten only when it’s convenient for you, just as you can’t expect to only feel happiness all of the time.

So then, how do we deal with our rascally kitten/emotions that are desperately crying out to be heard?

You fully engage with them, just like you would fully engage with a kitten to make it take a nap and stop knocking things off your desk.

As it is when playing with a kitten, sometimes it can be painful. You may get some claws in your leg while the kitten climbs you like a tree, and you may get some playful bites on your hand. The pain is the hard part. To fully engage with your emotions requires some degree of pain, which is why we are so reluctant to pay attention to them.

The kitten won’t be satisfied until you do engage with it. And just as you would unconditionally love and accept a real kitten, you should unconditionally accept your emotions too. Occasional poops on the floor and scratched up furniture is part of the trade off to get purry cuddles from a lovable kitten, just as sadness and anger are part of the package that comes with happiness

Sadness and anger can be a gift.They are a warning bell that lets us know when something is wrong and when changes need to be made. Even if it hurts to listen to the warning bell, we shouldn’t neglect it because it brings us pain. These important emotions are trying to protect us from more pain in the future.

I hope picturing your emotions as a lovable kitten will help you embrace them, and give you the courage to listen to warning bells and face your problems head on.

Treat Yourself Like a Cat: Part Two

I’m continuing on the path of cats & mental health. You feel me?

As I’ve scraped the bottom of the barrel over and over for things to do during quarantine, I rediscovered a show recommended to me when I first started fostering cats.

Despite its intimidating name, Jackson Galaxy’s show “My Cat From Hell” is anything but.

Jackson Galaxy shows you how to work with your cat to change its ‘hellish’ behavior. Desperate cat owners (or guardians as they are referred to in the show) seek help for things ranging from scratched up furniture, ‘unprovoked’ attacks, and overzealous territory marking (AKA peeing everywhere).

In the opening credits of the show, he states “there’s never been a cat I can’t help.”

That is wonderful news, and not just because it means the cat won’t have to go to the shelter; it means no cat is broken. The environment needs to change, not the cat.

I believe the same applies to us humans. No one is broken. Only their situation or environment. It’s much easier to change your situation than it is to change your personality.

The cat guardians in the show are often surprised by Jackson’s approach, thinking he was going to say, “you’re right! Your cat is completely crazy!” and maybe do some intensive cat training. Instead, he encourages them to see things from the cat’s point of view. How is the cat feeling? Is it scared because cars go by every night? Is it bored because no one has time to play with it?

Oftentimes after he asks these questions, the reason for the cat’s bad behavior becomes clear: the cat is bored, scared, and/or lonely. The cat is acting out because it’s crying for help.

The cat isn’t broken, the environment is. And while results aren’t instantaneous, the solution is usually relatively simple. Add more shelves so the cat can look out the window. Buy more toys to keep the cat engaged. The key is to be patient and to realize there’s no quick fix for anything.

Whenever I feel anxious, it helps me to think of my brain as a scared cat in a hectic environment. What would Jackson do? For starters, he wouldn’t yell at the cat and say “stop being anxious! You’re stupid for being stressed out!”

He would approach the cat with an open-mind, coo at the cat, pet it, and play with it.

He wouldn’t try to change the cat’s personality; he would assess why the cat is feeling the way its feeling, and work to improve the cat’s environment.

He approaches every cat with calm, acceptance, and love, and you should do the same for yourself. If your current situation is bad, remember you’re not broken; maybe its just your situation.

Treat Yourself Like a Kitten

I’m going to do something funky today and combine my passion for cats and mental well-being.

Do you ever beat yourself up for saying something stupid? Do you get frustrated when you don’t make progress on your goals like you should?

As I’ve said before, be gentle with yourself. Treat yourself like you would treat a best friend. 

In case that analogy isn’t working for you, I’ll share a different analogy that I recently read: treat yourself like a foster kitten who hasn’t had proper socialization yet. Who can get mad at a cute little kitten??

If you get frustrated with your little kitten, just remember that it doesn’t know any better and it hasn’t been properly socialized yet. 

With lots of gentle care, that feral kitten will soon become a purry cuddle puddle. Yelling at the kitten or being mean to the kitten won’t help it progress. You can forgive your kitten for following its instincts, right? Your metaphorical kitten is doing its best with the tools it has!

You may worry that your kitten won’t improve at all unless you put pressure on the kitten. You may say to the kitten, “be better!” 

You may even give the kitten an ultimatum, “kitten, if you don’t go to the gym 3 times a week I’ll be mad at you and not give you any treats!” but the kitten won’t understand. It will only be confused and shrink away. 

I can’t guarantee that removing all your expectations of the kitten will improve the kitten’s motivation. But I can say that the kitten will be much happier if you take a gentler approach, and the kitten may even end up surprising you with its progress once all the pressure is removed.

So if you get upset with yourself for not being more motivated, remember the little kitten in your head. Being upset with the kitten for not doing more isn’t going to make the kitten more productive, but petting it and whispering encouraging words might.

Redefining Confidence

Have you heard of power posing?

I will admit, I was skeptical at first. Had I known the book I checked out from the library was by the person behind power posing, I might not have given it a chance. 

My first reaction was “I have to read a whole book about putting my hands on my hips?!” 

Spoiler: it wasn’t all about putting your hands on your hips.

I originally checked it out because this is the summer of ‘me’, and Presence is all about being your best and boldest self. Here are my top three takeaways:

  1. Be sincere

Being sincere is a two parter! 

Part one: Be honest in your thoughts and your actions. 

You build a reputation with yourself. When you know you lie, exaggerate, have ulterior motives, withhold information, etc, it will subtly leak through your actions. And people can tell when you aren’t being sincere, even if they can’t quite put their finger on why something seems off. It’s a leftover survival instinct! If you are always sincere, your conviction and confidence will automatically shine through.

Part two: Be sincere when listening to people and withhold your judgements. 

You may have noticed how difficult it is to change someone’s mind on a topic such as say, politics. When discussing politics, are you listening just to change the other person’s mind, or are you listening to truly understand their point of view? Even if you think someone’s viewpoint is wrong, they will sense that you aren’t being truly ‘present’, and it will affect your ability to have a discussion with them.

Be honest, withhold judgement, and listen to both yourself and others.

  1. Think About When You are at Your Best

Think of a time when you felt ‘truly you’ and you were your best. What were the circumstances?

For me, I feel like my best self when taking care of my foster cats and kittens. I do what’s best for the cats and act decisively when I think they are sick. I pour so much love into my fosters, and have saved kittens that the humane society didn’t think would make it.

Since I believe strongly in what I’m doing, I am naturally confident about it. I don’t care if people think cats are aloof, feminine, mean, etc or if they think I’m a crazy cat lady. 

If you think about your best self before an interview or presentation, it will put you in the right mindset. You don’t have to practice public speaking or completely change who you are to be confident, you only have to feel passionate.

  1. Worry Less About What Other Think

We worry about what people think because they want them to like us, right? 

Ironically, worrying too much about it is like having your brain firing on too many cylinders at once, which makes you less effective and probably less likeable. How can you possibly be your best self when you’re analyzing different scenarios and everything that is being said and could be said in real time? My brain is frying just thinking about it! 

This knowledge has really helped me re-frame my interactions with others and helped me relax. I can only do the best I can do, and we all say something cringey at times.

Now that I know my best self will come through if I stop worrying about being my best self all the time, it has freed up so much mental energy! And for the times when I still get nervous, I know I have my Wonder Woman power pose to fall back on. Your mind follows your body’s actions, so you can trick yourself into thinking you are powerful, and it will help you relax. So starfish up!

The Summer of ‘Me’

I have a confession: I’m back on to self-helpy type books.

With not much else to do, I’ve decided that quarantine is the summer of ‘me’, and I’m going to get all my self help out of the way so I can finally be a self-actualized and functioning human being.

If you’ve been following along, you may have picked up on the fact that I have some confidence issues. Fear not, dear reader! I am *mostly* past it.

Sometimes you have to breeze through a few books and Youtube videos to find a nugget of gold (or a bread crumb) to completely change your perspective and put you back on the right path. I gleaned such a nugget from watching a Youtube channel called Charisma on Command.

Typically, things like ‘how to influence people and win over friends yada yada etc’ make me feel yucky inside. I’m not trying to manipulate people into liking me, I just want to not be a ball of anxiety! But luckily, Charisma on Command draped me with a warm blanket of love and self acceptance, and this is what I learned:

People don’t judge you on your flaws, they judge you on how you feel about your flaws.

GASP!

Clearly, I’ve been going things very wrong (and I say that with all of my self-acceptance and love).

So many years of trying to achieve perfection to have a protective ‘shield’. I could have circumvented a lot of pain, money, and time if I just accepted myself and my flaws.

I feel so relieved.

No one can use my flaws against me if I’m okay with my flaws. In fact, now I know I can lean into my flaws, and everyone will just have a giggle about them! (Just look at Jack Black. He LEANS so hard into his ‘flaws’ and he is hilarious!)

My friends often comment on how early I go to sleep. I LOVE to sleep. And I never gave a flippity flip about what anyone thought about my grandma bedtime, because I know I need a solid 9 hours to maintain my pleasant demeanor. It’s kind of a running joke now (at least I think it is, if not sorry not sorry and I’m going to keep going to bed at 10PM anyway :))))

Cats just ‘get’ me. #napbuddies

If I felt sensitive about my need for slumber, it might be a different story. But I’ve accepted that I need some gosh darn sleep and my friends have too. Yay!

If I can apply the same conviction I have for sleeping to other aspects of my life, I’ll be good to go! Stay tuned for more confidence nuggets throughout the ‘summer of me’.

Facing Yourself, Accepting Yourself

Do you ever hear what your voice really sounds like (from a video recording, or the phone echoing back, etc) and cringe?

Our internal picture of ourselves is not always accurate- and anything that contradicts how we view ourselves can be… a little painful. No one is ever like, yay, give me some constructive criticism please!

Stick with me here, because I have some weird analogies coming up.

In this video game I’ve been playing lately called Persona, the protagonist saves people from their shadow selves, which are dangerous monsters that reveal your true feelings. You can’t hide from your shadow self!

For example, one person you save is a girl whose family owns an inn. She is quiet, smart, admired, and will eventually take over her parent’s business. Seems like her life is set, right?

Since I’m writing about it, you can probably guess that no, Yukiko does not feel that way.

She feels stuck. She doesn’t want to take over the inn because it was decided for her, and she feels she has no control over the future. She desperately wants a ‘knight in shining armor’ to rescue her from her city. She resents anyone who has a boyfriend, because she feels she deserves one more.

Popular. Capable. Angry. Jealous. All of these things are true.

In this game, the character must face their shadows in order to defeat them. The more the characters deny and ignore their shadow self, the angrier and more dangerous their shadow self becomes. They need to accept the ugly part of themselves in order to calm it down and defeat it. Once defeated, the shadow grants the character special powers, making them even stronger.

Your real strength comes from being able to face your shadows, because then they don’t have power over you. The more you acknowledge your weaknesses, the stronger you become. You have to admit there’s a problem before you can address it and improve.

With that being said, just because you have ‘shadows’ does not make the good parts of yourself any less valid. 

My shadow: I am obsessed with perfection, and I get laser focused on issues until they consume me. I have a hard time letting go until I believe it has been fixed.

My strength: I am great at improving things, and I am often aware of issues before they even come up, meaning I am able to fix them before they become bigger problems.

The flaw I just described and my strength are one in the same. Your weakness is often your greatest strength with the volume turned up too loud.

Since I am aware of this about myself, it allows me to step in do a little course-correcting before things get out of hand. When my more negative thoughts crop up (as they often do) I can look at it from a distance and say, hello shadows! Thanks for those thoughts but also no thanks. It also allows me to know myself better and be more grounded in who I am. If someone were to offer me some constructive criticism, it would not come as a surprise, therefore I would not be as defensive. I can respond more calmly, and from a place of self acceptance and confidence.

In the video game, after defeating her shadow self, Yukiko learns she can forge her own path. In the end, she decides to keep working at her parent’s inn. It’s the same outcome, but this time it was the path she chose and accepted instead of the path prescribed to her.

If you face yourself, you can accept yourself.

I am Heartbroken.

People seem to have forgotten about this color:

5 Shades Of Gray Color Scheme » Gray » SchemeColor.com

And about this diagram:

What is a Venn Diagram | Lucidchart

They try to paint everything as black and white. If you don’t agree with us completely, then you must be against us!

I wrote what I thought was a heartfelt post on Facebook (great idea, I know) to let others know what was going on in the Twin Cities, seek support, and point out there are shades of gray and not just one force at work in the destruction.

I was sick to my stomach when I realized my post was misinterpreted, and others jumped to conclusions without trying to understand the intent of my post.

TLDR: I didn’t want protestors to be blamed for all the violence. Yes, some protestors may be destroying things. Some of the destruction might be from people who just want to get in on the excitement. Some might be anarchists who want to burn the establishment. Some might be white supremacists trying to incite more violence and destruction.

Maybe I just should have said that?

I was trying to convey that there are MANY people with MANY motivations, and it’s not a black and white picture of “Protestors are destroying everything!” or “No, the white supremacists are destroying everything. It couldn’t possibly be our own residents!”

I was worried people who weren’t in the Twin Cities would immediately turn blinders on and not try to further understand the movement because of the destruction.

Again, maybe I should have just said that.

Instead I talked about how shocking it was to see the gas station across the street from me be set on fire. I said that it was jarring to learn places I used to go were now destroyed. Yes, I was upset about the destruction, but that doesn’t mean I don’t support the movement or that I didn’t understand why it was happening. I can be upset about the death of George Floyd and the destruction of places that hold so many of my memories.

When the Target by me was first destroyed, I knew that it was part of the cause and while it may inconvenience my life, I also knew that this is how disenfranchised folks feel everyday. The police precinct was symbolic. The old Rondo neighborhood was symbolic. While I don’t condone the destruction, I was not upset by this.

I am upset about the opportunists destroying things like a tuition-free school, non-profits, and libraries. It is obvious to everyone in the Twin Cities that these actions are not a part of the movement. These are the actions of opportunists who just want to fuck shit up for the sake of fucking shit up.

Yes these things can be rebuilt, and I know the pain I feel about the neighborhoods that were destroyed doesn’t compare to the pain of others. But I can still be in pain. It doesn’t mean that I value buildings over human life. It doesn’t mean that I value my memories of those places over a human life. I can be sad about both things, and I can be different degrees of sad about them, okay?

Everything that is happening in the cities right now hurts so much because I care about this place and I have a strong connection to it. It is where I got married. It is where I got my first adult job. It is where I laughed with my friends. It is where I shared meals with my family. It is my home.

Please, realize the situation is a lot more nuanced than it appears. Realize there are shades of gray.

I am heartbroken.

Craft Away the Sad Part 4: DIY Soy Candles

Congrats dear readers! You’re about to finish up with the Craft Away the Sad program. I have one final *fancy* craft for you!

You can have the best smelling apartment in quarantine with DIY Soy Candles 🙂

Do you smell coffee??

I taught myself how to make candles after receiving a homemade candle as a gift from a friend. My curiosity was piqued, and one candle making kit later, I have all the soy candles I could ever want.

To get started, it might be easiest to buy a candle making kit as a baseline. But in case you want to pick out your own items, here’s what you need:

  • Pouring pot (a metal pot with a lip for pouring)
  • A Stock Pot that you will only use for candle making
  • Something to stir such as a knife or spoon that you will only use for candle making
  • Infrared Thermometer ($15 from Amazon)
  • Soy Candle wax ($25 from Amazon or CandleScience)
  • Fragrance Oil (Around $2-5 from CandleScience)
  • Tins or Jars ($20 from Amazon or Uline)
  • Pretabbed Candle Wicks (Around $2 CandleScience)
  • Clothespins
  • Newspaper/paper towels for spills
  • Hot Glue Gun
  • Scale that will mesaure in ounces
  • A few glass bowls for measuring
  • A cooling rack
  • Optional: dye

Candle making itself is easy, but the tricky part is proportions and temperature. Depending on the diameter of the jar, the shape of the jar, the volume of the jar, etc, you need a different wick. To save you the hassle and keep things simple, I’ll tell you exactly what I buy.

  • 20 glass jars with a 3″ diameter, 8oz
  • 100 Eco 4 6″ Pretabbed Wicks
  • 10 Lbs of 464 Golden Soy Wax
  • 1 oz of fragrance oil per lb of wax

You’ll have some extra wicks, but that’s okay. They’re cheap and then you can make more candles in the future! Since each jar holds about 7.5 oz of wax, you can make around 20 candles with a little wax left over.

When I want to make candles, this is what I do:

Using the scale, measure out around 29 oz of wax into the pouring pot. If I were making these to sell, I would be super consistent. Since they are just for me 28.92 ounces is close enough!

Fill up the stock pot a little over half way with water. Set the pouring pot into the stock pot so it floats. Put the stock pot onto the burner and turn on to medium high.

Using the hot glue gun, glue one pretabbed wick (per jar) to the bottom of 4 jars.

Clamp the wick from the side using the clothespin (so the wick will stay centered while you pour wax).

I’m using 3 8oz jars and 2 4oz jars #math

Put newspaper under the cooling rack and set the jars on top of the cooling rack.

Periodically check on the wax while it is melting. If it bubbles, it’s too hot and you need to turn the stove down to medium or medium low. Resist the urge to stir- this will cause air bubbles and your wax will ‘cave’ when it’s poured into the jar. Basically, it creates an undesirable sink hole in your candle 🙂

The brown swirl is dye that I forgot to add earlier 🙂

Check the temperature with the infrared thermometer. Once it reaches 180 degrees Fahrenheit, take the pouring pot out. Add 2 ounces of your candle-safe fragrance oil and dye if you’re using any. Using your stirring device of choice, gently stir in a figure-eight motion and try not to create air bubbles. I usually stir for about 30 seconds.

A little extra fragrance oil is A-okay! Just check the side of the fragrance oil bottle for safe proportions 🙂

Now, let the wax sit until the temperature cools to around 120-125 degrees Fahrenheit. Now you may pour it into your jars!

Some more tips:

  • Try not to wiggle your table or do jumping jacks while these are cooling or it will create a weird texture
  • Once you start pouring your wax, do not stop until the jar reaches the lip. Resist the urge to ‘even the candles out’ or add more wax. Pouring more than once will create sinkholes. You get one chance per jar to pour the correct amount! But you also don’t want to pour too quickly or too slowly 😉

Voila! Around 4 hours later, your candles will be hard-ish. I wait about a day before trimming the wicks to about 1/4″ using a scissors. Wait 3 days before burning, and for best results use within a year or keep it covered with a lid. So fancy!

What are your favorite fragrance oil scents? Mine are coffee and orange!

Craft Away the Sad Part 3: Bath Bomb Edition

Hello everyone! Quarantine has gone on far longer than probably any of us expected. Or is it just me?

Even though I am struggling to fight malaise, I keep blogging and crafting to stay entertained. It’s tough to keep going even though it feels pointless (how will anyone use all these bath bombs??! Where did all my blog readers go since quarantine??) but it’s the only way I know how to stay sane. I have a few more crafts up my sleeve, so I’ll be here as long as you’re still here!

Let’s up our bath game and make some DIY bath bombs. Alleviate boredom and relax in one fell swoop!

After much experimenting via various recipes off the internet, this is a recipe I concocted that worked best for me. I prefer enough coconut oil to hold my bath bombs together, but not so much that my tub becomes a pain to clean. Here it is!

  • 2c Baking Soda
  • 1.5 c Citric Acid
  • 1 oz Coconut Oil
  • 1oz of a skin safe Fragrance Oil of your choice
  • 1c Epsom Salt
  • Spritz of Witch Hazel
  • Bath bomb molds or a silicone muffin pan

With the exception of the fragrance oil, you can get all these ingredients at the grocery store. The fragrance oil is totally optional if you don’t want to shell out shipping $ for something you’ll only use once. I understand how it is, I got your back 😉

Step one: Combine baking soda, citric acid, and epsom salt in a bowl. Mix with your hand or a spoon.

Step two: Melt coconut oil in a glass bowl. If you’re using fragrance oil, allow the coconut oil to cool before combining.

Step three: Add the oil mixture to the dry mixture. Mix thoroughly with hands, use glove if needed. Spritz with witch hazel until the mixture has the consistency of wet sand. It should just barely stick together and not be too wet.

Step four: Depending on your mold, there are a few different ways you can do this. If you have a true bath bomb mold, just scoop the mixture using your mold and pat it down firmly (much like you would if it were brown sugar). If you have a silicone mold, grab a handful of the mixture and squish it together in your hand, then place into your mold and squish down firmly. Just a heads up: the silicone mold method is a little messier, but most people have muffin pans and may not have bath bombs lying around 🙂 as always, I have a designated muffin pan I use for bath bomb making.

This is what it looks like when it’s TOO DRY. Learn from my mistakes while I enjoy my bath bomb powder 🙂

Allow this mixture to dry over night, and pop out the next day!

Bath bombs can be a little finicky, so don’t be discouraged if your bath doesn’t turn out. You can still use it! The humidity of the air will make a huge difference. If your bath bombs seems crumbly, add more coconut oil. You can tell if your house/apartment is humid if your bath bombs look bubbly/and jagged. Again, they are still usable, they just won’t be as pretty 🙂

Good luck and have a great bath!

Throwback Illustration Time

I thought it would be fun to show you my drawing progression over the last 9 months since I took my illustration class to quarantine!

This cat drawing is from when I first purchased an ink pen and Copic markers. I didn’t really know what to do with the markers, how to blend them, and I was using the wrong kind of paper. I also didn’t have many colors too work with, so I don’t blame myself too much for the choppy shading.

This one is a top to bottom comparison of how much my cat drawings have improved! (with bonus wizard hats thrown in). The ink lines on the ‘gamer’ cat aren’t very confident yet, and I was still figuring out how to blend and create marks. At least for this cat drawing, I was using marker paper and experimenting with blending more.

This bird drawing is from the beginning of quarantine when I started drawing more.

And these cuties are from a couple weeks into quarantine. Shading is smoother and the lines are more confident 🙂

I hope this shows how big of a difference 9 months can make in improving a skill. You can do it!