November 2014 newsletter

Gratitude and Attitude

Thanksgiving is the time when we are all reminded to be thankful for friends, family and all the good things in our lives. Google defines gratitude as "the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness." I like that definition - to me it takes being thankful or grateful from something we focus on just during the holidays to something that is a part of our everyday life. I haven't really put together the kindness aspect of this definition with gratitude before - but wow! it makes a lot of sense to put them together! I love it!

My journey with gratitude began in the mid 90's. I remember reading a lot of self empowering books around that time, some new age kind of stuff, health stuff, all kinds of things - I guess I was on a quest to "find myself." I was drawn to material that talked about positive thinking. Then in the early 2000's the phrase "attitude of gratitude" became very popular and I jumped on that bandwagon! I could do this! I could have an attitude of gratitude! I could be positive! I could spin bad into good! Attitude of gratitude 24/7 - got to have it! Well, in the past year of trying to live an authentic life, I realize a few things about the Attitude of Gratitude. First - it's something you have to work at. I am an optimist, and I do like to expect the best, but life can get so busy and crazy and it's easy to "slip" out of the habit of consciously being grateful. I like adding the kindness part here - you can still be in the spirit of gratitude if you are still open to practicing and appreciating kindness. Second, we all have crappy days. There are just days when you get up on the wrong side of the bed, or whatever - and it is difficult to maintain that attitude of gratitude and sometimes even a positive attitude. And, if you don't watch out, you can slip down the slippery slope and lose all momentum and a crappy day turns into a crappy week, or longer!

So, what do you do? It is a personal journey and you have to figure out what works for you. Overall, I'm pretty even keel and very positive, but I do have one of those days every now and then. At this point in my life, I usually catch myself before I go too far down the slope. Different things work on different days. I do try to take a few moments everyday to tell God I am very grateful for my life. It always gives me a warm fuzzy to take a moment to remember. It usually starts out with - Dear God/Lord (I don't know why I start with Dear) - I am so grateful for my sweet husband, my wonderful family, my awesome friends, and my great life. Most days that's all I need to get that happy feeling :) On my "off" days I may have to go on with the list - I am also grateful for my house, my neighborhood, being able to have a studio and work for myself, having reliable transportation, having food on the table, being able to put gas in the car, etc. and if it's a really, really funky day I may have to keep going to the point of being so grateful I don't have to live and work in water (some sad Nat Geo program I saw - horrible conditions!).

My other almost instant mood changer is music! Put the right song on and dance and you can't help but get happy!! There are a couple of songs that I take just a certain lyric out and focus on that! Cowboy Mouth has a song called "Jenny Says" and while it's not a happy song, the chorus is: Let it go, let it go, let it go Let it go, let it go, let it go When the world starts closing in on me I let it go! It has a good beat too. My new favorite is Taylor Swift's "Shake It Off" It's great to dance to and I love these lyrics:

'Cause the players gonna play, play, play, play, play

And the haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate

Baby, I'm just gonna shake, shake, shake, shake, shake I shake it off, I shake it off

Heartbreakers gonna break, break, break, break, break

And the fakers gonna fake, fake, fake, fake, fake

Baby, I'm just gonna shake, shake, shake, shake, shake I shake it off, I shake it off

I crank it up and I start to shake, shake, shake, shake, I shake it off, I shake it off :) Find your own way to shake it off :)

May 2014 newsletter



So, why did I decide to talk about perfectionism in an art newsletter?? I am working every day to try to be as authentic and real as I can be and I find myself a little happier every day. I don’t have it all figured out, I still fall into “perfectionist” mode sometimes, but I’m learning to practice self compassion and let go of a lot. I see students every day stress over putting a line where they didn’t plan to, or berate themselves for not meeting their expectations in art class. I recognize where they are coming from, and want to impart what little I’ve learned about the traps of perfectionism. That’s why I say check your judgment at the door – judgment of yourself J

We all suffer from perfectionism to some degree. I used to wear it as a banner – yes I was a perfectionist and shouldn’t everyone be so lucky to be one. The corporate environment I came from, certainly expected it. Martyr yourself long hours to make sure everything was perfect, and our expectations of others were held to the same standard. I mean people who only worked 8 hours a day and left to go home and have family time – how could they expect to succeed! ? Well I have to admit – those “slackers” actually had it right and I had it so wrong!

The definition of perfectionism according to Merriam-Webster:

Disposition to regard anything short of perfection as unacceptable

I’ve been studying a little book called The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown, and I think I like her definition better –

“Perfectionism is a self-destructive and addictive belief system that fuels this primary thought: “If I look perfect, live perfectly, and do everything perfectly, I can avoid or minimize the painful feelings of shame, judgment, and blame.”

Ok, so if you are a perfectionist and you just read that statement – you may not feel very well right now – I didn’t. I think I suffered an identity crisis the first time I read it. When I left the corporate world in January 2012, it took me over a year to feel like I didn’t have to be working myself to sheer exhaustion every single day – that it is ok if I want to take a day and do something fun just for me! One of my favorite things about Zentangle is that everything does not have to be “perfect” – awesome! I continue to work through the perfectionism trap every day and here’s a few tips I’ve learned –

  • Not being a perfectionist doesn’t mean you don’t do your very best everyday – you should do the best you can and be the best you can – the difference is you learn to practice self compassion when the results are not what you expected. That’s one of the biggest messages I received from Brene’s book. Self compassion is so difficult for perfectionists, but so important for the soul!
  • Perfection doesn’t really exist, so why wear yourself out trying to be perfect! There is way more beauty in imperfection anyway – embrace those things that make you who you are.
  • Relax, take a deep breath, and be 100% you – not who you think others expect you to be! You will be happier.


March 2014 newsletter


~~Inspiration… Zentangle® students are always an inspiration to me. Just to meet different people at different stages in their life, with different interests, from diverse backgrounds, then to see everyone come together in a class and create these little, wonderful, individual works of art – amazing! This year has been great – I’ve been fortunate enough to teach a lot of classes and have reconnected with old friends and met many new ones! The creativity people exhibit with lines, dots and flourishes motivates and inspires me to keep trying new things! Sometimes to feed our inspiration, we need to step outside of the everyday rhythms we surround ourselves with. I spent last week in Chicago, one of my favorite cities! Of course, I usually visit during summer when it’s over 60 degrees, not when it is 16 degrees!! My southern was definitely showing when my friend Laura suggested we walk to the Art Institute of Chicago. I pulled out the map and counted at least 10 blocks and asked if she was crazy. She said that’s not that far, I said in normal conditions it’s not, but in 16 degree weather it is!! Well, not only did I make it to the AIC, but I managed to walk over 24 miles in the bitter cold last week! Just so much to see and do, plus a couple of surprises. Surprise number one – Lake Michigan is 90% frozen! What?! Surprise number two – discovering the Ando Gallery at AIC. I posted an article about it on facebook at ("like" us to keep up with what everyone is doing in classes!). AIC is huge and has so many iconic paintings – American Gothic by Grant Wood, Water Lilies by Monet, Self Portrait by Van Gogh, Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte by Seurat, Two Sisters by Renior, just to name a few. I have so many ideas running around in my mind of things I want to do – a couple of big projects that will include paintings and pottery will probably take me all summer to figure out! The design and architecture of the city is also creatively stimulating – there’s so much art deco and art nouveau design to see just walking down the streets! So if you feel like you need a little inspiration, do something totally outside of your routine. If you spend most of your time in Hoover, spend an afternoon exploring downtown Birmingham. Instead of doing your time on the treadmill, wander around the Birmingham Museum of Art – it’s free. Into reading murder mysteries – go to the library and look at books about architecture or motorcycles or gardening – just something different. Get inspired :).

Getting in My Own Way

Blog Post October 15, 2015

written by

Hello all!  What a beautiful fall day in Alabama!  It’s the mid point of October, my favorite month!  I love to see the changes from summer to fall – the leaves turning warm shades and hues, there’s a crispness in the air that is energizing!  Humidity has taken a little vacay (yay!).  Plus a lot of my favorite people have October birthdays!

I’m reflecting on the year so far and it’s been pretty awesome when I think about it!  But, I had to think about it.  I’ve been busy thinking of the stuff I haven’t done that I wanted to get done, and the year is running out, and trying to figure out how I’m going to do everything I want to do before the holidays really kick in.  Panic mode!  I’m actually getting in my own way – yep all me getting in MY WAY!  Guilty!  Time to stop and redirect!

Great things that have happened this year  – A LOT when I think about it!

New classes, new students, new friends, and new partnerships – corporate groups, meditation center, girl scouts, bridal showers, birthday parties, Sunday school groups, Andrea Lucas’ Studio in Irondale, and most recently Vestavia Hills Library.  I taught a couple of week long adult art camps this summer that were a blast!  One was art journaling
So much fun!!

I made friends and learned bunches of new stuff at Tangle U in Santa Fe, and I made a dress without sewing in Judith Dios’ Felting Clothing Workshop in Maria Paracca’s Studio, and this weekend 24 of my follow CZTs from the Southeast are coming to town for a get together!

Personally, I have spent more quality time with friends and family this year, than I have in many years!  A week in New Orleans with Laura (working but still a blast), a week in Santa Fe with my mom – then I stayed at my parents for over a week when we returned, time in Kentucky celebrating my brother’s wedding, a week in Mexico visiting Marion with Chatham and Walt, visits from the Knights and the Orrs, a Point Clear getaway with my sweet hubby, time in Louisville with Anne, Lou, and the Knights, and in Illinois meeting Sylvia’s and Bryan’s sweet baby girl Gemma, a few more days with the folks – it really has been an incredible year!

[Yay – I’m in a really happy place right now and amazed by how incredible my life really is!

So getting in our own way – we all do it!  For me sometimes it’s spending a lot of time and energy trying to figure out how to get more hours in the day, or I will spend a lot of time trying to figure out how I think I need to do something.  An example – I thought it would be really cool to do more carved pottery.  So I began thinking about patterns to use in the pottery and had some good ideas, then I decided what I really needed to do was to find a 3D printer and scan the drawings in and get them different sizes and made in a way I could stamp the same image on different size plates and platters.  So I spent about a year trying to work out the 3D printer thing, and it finally hit me recently, I could have hand carved a lot of plates in the time I spent getting in my own way about the 3D printing.  So folks, it’s hand carved pottery for me :)

All that to say, when you’re having a “moment” check yourself to see if you are getting in your own way. It sometimes happens – look at that year I spent time and energy trying to work out something, and could have been doing it.  So try not to get too caught up, and practice releasing.  For me, when I catch myself getting in my way, I say “Ok, God, this is yours – you tell me where I need to go next” – and I usually have to remind myself that I gave it to Him and to let it go.  Just find what ever helps you release and let go.  It does help to think about the good things you have going on too :)

Take care – Darla

Being Intentional 

Blog Post January 6, 2016

To read my latest post about setting intentions and being intentional - go to 

TangledStones on Wordpress - Being Intentional

January 2015 newsletter

Finding Balance
I don’t really do New Year’s resolutions, it’s more like I find a word or phrase to focus on throughout the year.  The word for 2015 is BALANCE.   A lot of things in my life could use more balance, I have finally accepted I’m not going to find more hours in the day! It starts very broad – balance home time and studio time and friend time and health time and garden time, etc– that’s pretty broad.  We all have lots of stuff that makes up our categories, then I always seem to have an endless list of things I want to do too – at home and in the studio!  So I’m trying to slow down, of course my bout with the stomach flu last week helped slow me waaayyyy dooowwwnn!   I’m trying to back up and take the 10,000 ft view of things and adjust.  Last fall there were some weeks I taught 8 classes!  Ding ding – that was too much!  So I’m trying to schedule no more than three classes a week (we’ll see how long that lasts!).  I am going to stick to the class minimums, depending on the class I need at least 4 or 5 for a class.  Again, I’m just trying to make better use of my time – I love teaching, but I also love the pottery business I have, and I’m doing some nuno felting now (it’s the endless list of things to do that gets me in trouble).  I did a mandala with the word Balance in it to help me start focusing on it.  I’m going to frame it and display it prominently as I’m sure I’ll need frequent reminders J  OK, so I really have no idea how I’m going to work out this whole balance thing this year, I’ve got a good start – I wrote down the word and I think about it all the time – that’s a start right?  Should make for a very interesting set of newsletters this year!!

March 2015 newsletter

Just When I Needed It
I’m staying busy tangling, working in clay, felting silk, and dying silk.  Busy, but not as crazy hectic as I scheduled myself last fall.  I seem to forget sometimes, I make my own schedule – haha! 

Life is interesting.  I needed to get refocused and recentered after the first of the year, and I have found myself going in circles – literally.  I am working on two projects outside of teaching that I am very excited about, and they both involve mandalas, or in this case Zendalas – Zentangle + Mandala.  Mandala means “sacred circle,” and you could spend a lifetime studying mandalas and the symbols associated with them (endless).  Circles with symbols or patterns in them go back to the caveman time.  We think of the sun and the moon as circles, we talk about the circle of life, and atoms, the core of all matter are circular.  Mandalas are found across many cultures, ages and religions. 

For me, it just comes down to it is so relaxing and centering to work inside a circle.  My word for this year is Balance and I tangled it across a mandala.  So it is interesting that I have been tangling a lot of Zendalas for these projects, and it was just when I needed it the most.

August  2014 newsletter

Finding Your Passion

~~Finding Your Passion

OK, so I do not even pretend that I have the great mysteries of life figured out, but I am discovering some things along the way, and I'm sharing them in hopes of saving someone else a few steps on the path.

Find your passion! You hear that phrase a lot! I remember when I was still at the bank thinking - what is my passion? How do I know, how do I find it?? I spent a lot of time stressing over finding my passion. Because apparently you needed to find your great passion to be happy. It seemed that I was supposed to know this one great thing that was my passion -well, I didn't know it. I had friends who seemed to know it - my friend John knew from the time he was 10 years old that he wanted to play the guitar and make a career of it. So he played and studied and got advanced degrees in guitar - and he plays everyday and teaches guitar at a college. Guitar was his passion - that was obvious. So where was my lightning bolt revealing my great passion??!! Did I miss the sign?? I never did have that aha! moment.

Looking back I can see that I've always had a very creative streak in me, and when I made my big career change, it was to have the freedom to be creative. So maybe creativity in a broad scope is a passion for me - but it was not what I imagined finding my "passion" would be. I enjoyed finding creative solutions in my job at the bank, but that couldn't be my passion because you were supposed to have this big moment of understanding your one passion, right?

So for those of you in search of your passion, here's what I've figured out so far. Don't stress over it. It doesn't have to be a big moment. It may be many small moments. Think about things you enjoy, things that give you real satisfaction. I truly love creative problem solving, and I truly love teaching Zentangle and I truly love making pottery. Three different things that help me be happy - not one big Passion! We grow and change, so what you enjoyed at 21 may be different at 31 and different still at 41. We don't all have to find one big thing. Maybe the thing that makes you happiest is reading a bedtime story to your children at night, or volunteering at an animal shelter, or the work you do in the office - it is ok to love what you do - you don't have to find something else outside of work to be your passion! We spend a lot of time waiting for the BIG thing to come along, we may be missing some really great stuff we are in the middle of right now. In The Gifts of Imperfection, Brene Brown gives us the message - "I am imperfect, and I am enough." That's true - I don't have everything together, I never seem to finish everything on my to do list, I haven't had the BIG aha! moment, but I have a great life, a loving husband, sweet animals, wonderful students and the greatest friends. I am enough (not perfect) and life is good :)

Tangled Stones Studio