Camp Tuition Fundraiser!Β 

I am so psyched. My Creative Resilience art camp for teenage girls is this summer at Sandhills Community College in Pinehurst NC. I’m raising money to cover supplies so I can send some girls for free! I already have enough to send 2 girls; I would like to send at least 2 more.  πŸ˜Š A friend of mine suggested a coffee mug fundraiser, so here we go! The mugs have my original camp flyer artwork on them. I hope you’ll love them & help me send a girl to camp! 

Click the link to check out the mugs and read about the camp, and share with your friends and family ☺️ Thank you!

http://www.budderstown.com/store/p523/UCSMug1

The PMDD hurdle

I suffer from PMDD. 

Literally been diagnosed and treated with antidepressants, but I didn’t like the side effects, so I deal with it naturally. Every month I face the kind of emotional and hormonal hell that literally makes me hate myself. 

Every Single Month. 

This is a far swing from the upbeat-badass-positive-thinking-mermaid-painting woman I usually am. I usually find myself having declining moods & energy & deep spiraling negative thoughts of all the sad things in my life that I can normally move past, until I reach the point where I’m driving back home after delivering my kids safely to school, sobbing till my eyes are puffy and scream-begging god for some kind of help. (Like I did a few minutes ago.) 

It SOUNDS crazy because it IS crazy. I’m not in my right mind. I’m sane enough not to hurt myself or anyone else, but in the words of Marcellus Wallace from Pulp Fiction, I’m pretty fricken far from OK. 

I am aware that it will pass, I know all the tricks and skills I should be using, but god help me; my mind and my body are simply not my friends at that moment. 

So I do the horrifically ugly cry till I’m exhausted and completely drained of the worst of it. I’ll be angry that I have to be like this, and tired of it. I will make my coffee with lots of cream and sugar the way I friggin like it. (Even though I know it doesn’t help this scenario.) I will tear down the miserable shell of me in the shower, put on some makeup, listen to something girly and angsty and loud, (Most likely Violet by Hole- I really like that one.) and think of what kind of woman I want to be- need to be- in order to fucking dominate the bullshit in my mind. 

I will bring out my art stuff and paint some fucking mermaids. Because I friggin like mermaids. I will write a bunch of stuff in a journal, and it will be strong and positive, because THATs the kind of woman I really am. I will finish my coffee and maybe have another cup, or not, I might not need it, but I will be stronger than I was in the past few days. 

You know why? 

Because God heard me and he knows I have important things to do, and he wants me to know he’s for me and my husband and my daughters and my friends. And the role I play in their lives is important too. Even though I have these moments of misery, I know I’m strong enough to tear down and rebuild fresh. Every month.

After writing this, I put on SiriusXM & Joel Osteen was on. He said something like ‘in the deepest part of our problems it feels like we’re buried under the weight of negativity. Can’t move, can’t see any light. But like a seed in the dirt, if we have the slightest bit of faith we can use that darkness to grow stronger and reach higher. The dirt that felt like it was trying to keep us down will turn into the fertilizer that makes us grow. When we spend that time in the dark, we will come out better and able to plant more seeds for good things. Become beautiful flowers and stuff.

That was pretty much exactly what I needed to hear. 

Creative Resilience Retreat!

I’m excited to be taking a step in a new direction, so today I’m sharing information about my Creative Resilience mini-retreat, coming up June 23-25. 
What is the Creative Resilience Workshop?
Creative Resilience is mental and emotional resilience training that uses creative projects, journaling, and group discussion as a way to help participants fully engage in the training, remember to actually use it in daily life, and have a good time doing all of the above. 
Why creativity? What does that have to do with resilience?
It has been proven that there are five excellent, immediate, natural (and legal) ways to reduce stress in your mind & body:
1. Exercise 

2. Proper Nutrition 

3. Adequate Rest

4. Faith or belief in a Higher Power

&

5. Taking part in a Creative Practice. 

Creativity is a lot of fun and just challenging enough to stretch your perspective and really engage your brain. Doing creative work based on the resilience skills you’ll be learning means you’ll be spending more time contemplating the skills and examining ways to incorporate them into your life; really giving yourself a chance to let it all sink in. You will ultimately be creating a physical reminder to use those skills, in a style that has been personalized especially for you, by you. 
Who is the instructor and what are her credentials?
That would be me. I’m Nicole Sinay Torres, a certified Kaizen Muse Creativity Coach, US Army Master Resilience Trainer, Army wife and former FRG leader, mom of two teenage girls with Cystic Fibrosis, and a self-employed mural artist. I developed this workshop because I’ve experienced great results by using these skills and tools in my own life to navigate all the normal life challenges, as well as those special circumstances that seem determined to knock me flat on my assets and keep me down. I developed the Creative Resilience method of coaching over a span of five years, two certifications, and plenty of trial by fire. 
I also created and teach the Mini Masters Art Camp for the town of Aberdeen, (3 years running!) as well as the kids’ version of the Creative Resilience Workshop: “Creative Adventurer’s Club” for rising 6th -9th graders and “Unsinkable Creative Society” for girls ages 12-17, both offered through Sandhills Community College this summer!
When is the Creative Resilience Mini Retreat?
June 23rd-25th, 10:30 am – 4:30 pm
Where is it being held?
We are meeting at the beautiful Creative Studios, 129 Main St, Vass NC. (910) 245-4129
How much does it cost?
Each day is $100 and includes all materials. If you sign up for all 3 days in advance, it’s $275. The reduced military rate is $185 for all 3 days. 
How do you sign up?
You can register and pay in advance by following this link and choosing one of the payment options. If you choose to pay with cash, you can email me at serendipitycoaching@mail.com to save your place. Supplies are limited; please let me know in advance which days you will attend so I can have all the materials you’ll need! 
https://squareup.com/store/SerendipityCreativeCoaching/item/
Select “Creative Resilience Mini Retreat” and choose the payment option that works for you. 
FAQ:
Q: I can’t attend every day, is this ok? 
A: Yes, you can choose which days you’d like to attend based on your schedule, but you get the best experience and value from attending all 3 days. 

Q: Will this course be offered any other times?
A: The course will repeat as long as there are people interested in attending, but costs may increase over time. Take advantage of the low rates while they last. If this schedule doesn’t work for you, I am available for individual coaching as well and can also work with your church, business, or team to give you a creative experience that’s as rewarding as it is fun! Creative Resilience Workshop attendees receive ongoing discounts on other classes, workshops, and coaching sessions from Serendipity Creative Coaching Services. Please contact me at serendipitycoaching@mail.com with questions.

Has it happened to you? Please share!


This is not a coaching blog post, so please forgive me if that’s what you were hoping for today. I have one of those in the works, and it’s a fun one 😊 But for now, I am curious and hoping to reach women who can help quench my thirst for knowledge. 
I’d like to hear from women who have personally experienced the gender pay gap. Women who have literally been paid less than men in their exact same professional position. 
I personally can’t talk; haven’t experienced it. But something about this ad (why does it feel patronizing to me?!?) and a rant about “no such thing as gender pay discrepancy” has me really curious. I lean strongly towards feminism and liberal ideas but I don’t like to exclude the possible validity of other perspectives. So I’m seriously asking: has it happened to you or to someone you know? I don’t doubt it’s a reality, but I’d like to know when, where, and how. 
Please, whatever you do, don’t chime in with statistics from another source, as I am totally capable of googling all by myself. I want real life narrative if you have it. 
And by all means, share this so we can find true stories. Thanks!

Making Plans (haha)

So I’m outlining notes in preparation for my first attempt at writing a magazine article. One of a few cool but kinda scary things I have planned for this year. Not sure exactly what will go into the article or where the article will end up, but I know it will deal with creativity and resilience…two of the biggest elements that make up my life now more than ever before.  2016 was tough. I made it through stronger than ever, with more accomplishments than I anticipated. (I’m not normally a big accomplisher.) At the beginning of the year, a life shift put me in “just get through this” mentality, but I did a whole lot more than “just get through.” I became a certified Kaizen Muse Creativity Coach, developed & ran a second season of art camp for our town’s recreation department, I painted A LOT, I made many new friends, I kept my kids alive for another year, (not always easy when they seem determined to trigger homocidal impulses) I helped people, I saved a kitten, got rabies vaccines & sick as hell, said goodbye to a woman who gave me a sense of who I could be, instructed part of a woman’s retreat,  comforted friends & family members through hard times, traveled with my husband as we re-invented our marriage,  and I took on & accomplished a goal I’ve had for YEARS. I made it a priority to re-establish my self worth.  As a result, I’m really proud of my emergence from 2016.

I think I pegged it with the tiny scribble in the middle of this jumble: I triumph over the odds against me. There are many. 

I certainly didn’t choose the easy road paved with good choices or thorough planning, and I’ve pretty much ensured that the odds will almost always be stacked against me, but I do tend to rise above. I wouldn’t recommend my choices to my daughters; its probably a whole lot better to plan & follow a well-worn path of wisdom and informed decision making. (I wouldn’t know for sure; I’ve never tried it. *With the exception of hard drugs. I went with “informed decision making” for that life option. Gotta say that was a good choice. Don’t do drugs, girls.) But it’s good to know that even if things don’t turn out the way you planned, you have the option to fall apart or to get up & move forward. Even if you do fall apart for a while first. That’s normal. 

Two quotes I love: “we make plans and God laughs” (Yiddish proverb) and “Life is what happens to you when you’re busy making other plans” (John Lennon)

I found the John Lennon quote especially helpful when I first stopped working after my daughter Veronica was diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis. I planned on going back to work. I had my self worth all tied into my ability to make money, and we were kinda on the broke side. But once I learned to accept that life was simply about to change again, and I could choose to fight against it or roll with it, I figured I would see where it took me. * In all honesty, I was way too exhausted physically and emotionally to fight. It wasn’t some noble, peace-filled acceptance. It felt a whole lot more like defeat at the time. But it worked out beautifully anyway. (I became a mural artist, had another kid, trusted my husband to take care of us and he was amazing, etc. Thats a whole other story.)

And if God is laughing at my plans, as the Yiddish say he is, I’ve come to realize its not because he wants to see me suffer and fail. On the contrary; God’s been giggling at me the whole time because he knew I had more in me than what my little plans were going to let me settle for. I do question his sanity quite regularly. I don’t pretend to have it figured out or to even know exactly what I believe for sure. But I can tell you one thing: I trust God. 

Having said all that; my whole “blah blah, plans, whatever” belief system, where I basically threw out any planning whatsoever? Well, that doesn’t work 100% either. Its fine, but kinda boring, and you end up doing a whole bunch of stuff that works for other people -just without any of the passion or drive that gives life the “zing” factor, and you tend to disappear a little. But only the good side of you. The boring, bland, disappointing bits of you are really visible. So that mostly sucks. I learned that the hard way.

How do you proceed when your plans are laughed at, life is tossing you along without a map, and you’re settling for the well-meaning plans of other people? You start by getting curious. I’ve found when you get introspective and really curious about what makes you happy or excited to contribute to life,  the planning is enjoyable and the motivation, at the risk of sounding all new-agey and woo-woo,  is kind of divinely orchestrated. It feels natural, like its supposed to happen. And that’s how I know I need to put plans to action. 

But here’s the catch: I try not to get tied up in a certain outcome. I try to let go of expectations. I attempt to do what I feel its time to do and let whatever happens happen, and trust its gonna be good. It’s a very Kaizen Muse way of going forward. It’s not easy at first, but it gets easier with practice. (With enough practice, it starts to feel like play, and that’s REALLY awesome.)

Of course I have an idea of what I hope will happen. I have a picture in my mind of a desired outcome. But it almost never matches what happens in reality. Reality is usually better or proves to be a stepping stone towards the next thing, whatever that is. It’s always a learning experience if nothing else.

So here we are, 2017. I’m plotting out my notes. I’m excited and curious. I’m throwing ideas out there again. I have semi-plans. God’s laughing. 

I’m psyched for the punch line πŸ˜‰

If life gives you the perfect situation, don’t do the dishes.Β 

Yesterday morning was not my best morning ever. I woke up with a headache, we had family car issues that made the day a little complicated, and the resident teenagers hadn’t unloaded the dishwasher the day before so the sink was overflowing with dirty dishes waiting their turn for washing. I know many women would not be able to go to bed knowing what a huge mess would meet them in the morning, but I am dedicated to teaching my girls to take their chores seriously and to be responsible. And I was just really really tired. So I woke up to that horrible sight first thing in the morning, which really didn’t help my headache. Then I realized the creamer I bought for my coffee was just plain and not the French vanilla I thought it was—that was a horrible surprise—and I discovered the dog pooped in the house. I had a meeting scheduled for 12:30, and I overslept (I’m usually up at 5 on an early day and 8 on a late day, but it was closer to 10 by the time I dragged myself out of bed this day.) so I didn’t have my normal work out/quiet journal time either. And I was just remarkably low. Sad, hopeless, defeated, weary. Yesterday morning sucked. 

The first thing I did that helped improve my morning (besides cleaning up the dog poop) was to tell the girls that since they neglected their job the day before, not only would they have to do it now, but they would also be responsible for doing all the dishes in the sink too. That let me walk away feeling like I got off easy  because I didn’t have to do the dishes, AND that it was ok for me to indulge in that avoidance since I was teaching my girls a “Valuable Lesson.” (Oh, how I LOVE Valuable Lessons!)

Then my meeting was cancelled. After a brief moment of disappointment, I realized I had just been gifted with a free hour. I had been admiring the artwork of some Facebook friends lately, and two of them had posted some awesome paintings that morning. I haven’t done any painting with actual shading or detail in a while; nothing that was a very big challenge, and I have a daughter who is really quite talented. Miss Artiste has been doing these amazing drawings lately, and my other daughter Miss Musician, has been making these “Mommy better watch out, she’s got competition” type comments. So I decided to see what I can still do. 

I started with a canvas panel and regular old #2 pencil. I said to myself, “Self, no pressure, let’s just see what happens.” I did a sketch from a selfie…that’s right, a selfie….and called in Miss Artiste to show her what’s up. She started with “constructive criticism” so I banished her. 

Then I started adding paint. I’ve done many paintings in my life, but I usually work in an odd way that combines flat layers of paint and shading done with colored pencil. This was one of the first times I’ve stuck with paint all the way. I’m not gonna lie, it was a little scary to see my nice sketch being gradually covered with blotchy paint. But once I started, I figured I can cover it up with fresh paint if I hate it, and I kept going- painting at a fairly quick pace. I had good music on, a free hour that was rapidly slipping away, and the knowledge that I could salvage the canvas for something else if I screwed up too badly, and somehow my energy level was rising to meet the occasion. 

It’s not often that the right combination of elements allows me to be in a perfect zone for creating, but time, interest, inspiration, and energy all met for a few hours yesterday in my art room. I ended up with a really funky self portrait. It’s not perfect, there’s something weird about it, but I love it! I think I love it because it was so unexpected and unplanned… and because it is a little weird. I think an honest self portrait should be a little weird.  

When I showed Miss Artiste, I said, “You know, I don’t usually get time to really experiment like this. I usually just stick with my normal style. But because I had some free time and I saw paintings that I liked online, I got to play around a bit, and I really surprised myself!”To which she replied “yeah, because we did all those dishes.” I chuckled, and said “You’re right actually; I probably would not have gotten into painting if I knew I still had dishes waiting for me to do.”

Turning to leave the art room, she casually replied, “You’re welcome. And you might want to try spacing your eyes with one eye measured in the middle next time.” 

Row Row Row …your way out of the comfort zone!Β 

This morning I got up with my husband at 5 something a.m. to help him get out the door on time, get nourishment, that kinda thing. I was exhausted and planned on going back to sleep when he left. But once I was in bed again, I couldn’t sleep and figured it would be a good time to go to the gym. We have one in our neighborhood, so I walked there and decided to use the rowing machine. 

Here’s the thing about me and exercise: I need to not realize I’m working out in order for it to happen. This requires optimum mental conditions and the perfect level of distractions or I get bored and discouraged, throw a mental temper tantrum that includes the statements “this is stupid,” “it’s too hard,” “I suck at this,” and the old reliable,”I look good enough. Screw this, I’m going home.” (Which is in direct conflict with how my knees feel on the way up my stairs, how my pants fit, and my unceasing desire to wear crop tops again. Someday.) So I have an arsenal of tricks that I employ at the gym, depending on the exercise.

 If I’m on the treadmill, I have an energizing playlist going in my ears, and my iPad BLOCKING the miles/calories/time so I don’t have to see the reality of where I am and how much or little I’ve accomplished. Instead, I’m on Pinterest, looking at all the cute clothes I want to wear. There are many crop tops. 

If I’m on the elliptical machine, I’m usually reading a book, which blocks the same progress info as the treadmill. I have my headphones hooked up to a noise app on my iPad, set to “maximum blocking noise” in order to be able to completely not notice the TVs or anyone else in the gym, unless they come up and physically touch me. Which makes me jump. 

If I’m on weight machines, I’m usually listening to an audio book, and I’m not counting reps at all. I keep doing the same motion until whatever body part I’m working on feels like it hates me, at which point I move on to another machine. 

Now, when it comes to the rowing machine (my exercise of choice first thing this morning) I am in heaven because it has game settings. There’s a racing game, a fish game, and a darts game. I pair the games with my ever-present headphones, and I’m good to go.
The racing game is boring. Two boats are there, kinda moving, I can’t even tell which one is mine. I’m moving, I appear to be winning, but there’s no real challenge.

The fishing game was my initial “have fun while working out” choice for rowing. Your character is a medium-sized fish who has to eat the smaller fish while avoiding the bigger fish. Each row controls the motion of the fish. It can get a little crazy. I liked it for a while until I realized I was focusing way too much on trying to eat the little fish and kept getting eaten by the big fish and it stopped being fun. (Also, my movements were all over the place, so I doubt the exercise was as effective as it could have been.) Once I started losing that damn game, I started focusing on how long I’d been on the machine, and it started to suck. 

Then I discovered the dart game. It was a simple concept where every time I did the rowing motion, I would let a virtual dart fly; depending on the fluidity of my physical movements, I would be closer or farther away from center target. The challenge is just enough to hold my interest and keep me distracted while I get in a great workout. 

I know, you’re wondering “What the hell does your exercise avoidance have to do with creativity?” I’m getting there. Gimme a sec. 

There’s a certain comfort zone we all have for various areas in our lives. Keep us in our comfort zone, and we feel safe, but not much new and exciting happens. Take us far out of our comfort zone without knowing how to handle it, and we flounder and feel lost, and may even feel like failures. 

Creativity is no exception. Creative success happens somewhere in between the comfort zone and the unknown. If we stay in our comfort zone, we might be happy with what we’re making for a while, but eventually we’ll get bored, our ideas will dry up, and we run the risk of becoming unmotivated. (like the rowing race game) 

If we take on a challenge far removed from our comfort zone, put pressure on the outcome to be GREAT, and compare ourselves to others, (like all the chaos with the fish game) we run the risk not just of failure, but of damaging our idea of worth as artists, and saying “Screw this, I’m going home.” 

If we take small challenges with lower expectations for the outcome, we are letting our brains be intrigued by something new, building our confidence as artists, and opening our comfort zone a little more each time, so the bigger challenges become smaller as we gradually approach them. (kinda like the dart game.) 

And we want it to be fun so we keep showing up for the challenge!  (Headphones πŸ˜‰)

*Note:  This is not to say you should never take the big leaps out of your comfort zone! You need a healthy self awareness regarding how much pressure you’re comfortable with, and how you handle possible failure. Remember, Thomas Edison failed 10,000 times before perfecting the first lightbulb, and FAIL can stand for First Attempt In Learning! If you’re about to go big, it may be a comfort to have a friend join you in the challenge, to increase the fun and lighten the situation up a bit, or lower expectations for the outcome and give yourself full credit for the chutzpah you demonstrated by going for it! (And treat yourself to a cupcake! Hmmm…maybe that’s why I don’t make fitness progress; I’m always rewarding my creative chutzpah. Ehh, I’ll row it off.) 

So the question is, how are you progressing out of your comfort zone, and how do you make it fun enough to keep showing up? 

Here are some ideas that have helped me and many other people.

  • Take a class
  • Join some artist groups on Facebook where you can show your work
  • Be open to inspiration from random sources like nature, Pinterest, or the grocery store
  • Make a playlist of music that gets you in the mood to make or write stuff
  • Dedicate a small challenge in honor of a friend, loved one, or a belief that’s important to you
  • Check out the artists behind some work you admire, and read about their personal struggles and failures
  • Take part in the Art Abandonment project by making small pieces of art and leaving them in a public place for people to find, with a small note attached
  • Have a special thinking cap or tiara to wear when it’s time to make stuff.
  • Remember failures are still steps in the right direction
  • Make a list of all the possible results of failure, make the list insanely over the top (“Could accidentally hot glue craft to mouth and starve to death”) and then take a small step out of the comfort zone knowing the likelihood of that happening is smaller than the regret you’d have by avoiding the possible fun of going for it.
  • Start your creative endeavors with some expectation-free doodle time to loosen up.
  • Model the rhythm of your writing after a well known poem to get ideas flowing
  • Set a reminder on your phone or computer for creative time. Sync it with a funny or inspiring picture and great music if possible
  • Go to the gym or take a walk in nature!  Seriously, great ideas love to be born from exercise πŸ™‚ 

These are just a few ideas. I would love to hear how you get yourself moving in a new direction! Please share your creative growth tricks in the comments. Have an awesome day!