I love all months, but not equally. My love for September will always surpass my feelings for August. I’m so excited for the weather to get cooler, the color schemes to change, and for me to bring my accessory game full force. Not to discount August, though! It was a beautiful time to be alive. Have you taken a minute to think about what wonderful things happened in your life last month? Please share! Here’s my top ten:

Top Ten Things About August 2014 | Uncustomary Art

September is:

All American Breakfast Month
Eat Chicken Month
Go Wild During California Rice Month
Happy Cat Month
Square Dancing Month
Library Card Sign-Up Month
Coupon Month
Save A Tiger Month
Service Dog Month
Self Improvement Month
Update Your Resume Month
Women’s Friendship Month

Things to look forward to:

1 – Labor Day
4 – Newspaper Carrier Day
6 – Writing Date Day
7 – Grandparents Day
7 – Pet Rock Day
9 – Wonderful Weirdos Day
12 – Banana Day
12 – Baltimore’s Playground
13 – Drive Your Studebaker Day
13 – Road Dahl Day
14 – Kreme Filled Donut Day
15 – Dot Day
16 – Guacamole Day
18 – Cheeseburger Day
19 – Talk Like A Pirate Day
20 – Lost Boys Food Fight
21 – Day Of Peace
22 – Ice Cream Cone Day
22 – First Day Of Autumn
24 – Punctuation Day
26 – Love Note Day
27 – Museum Day
28 – Drink Beer Day
30 – Ask A Stupid Question Day

Activity ideas:

+ Become fluent in pirate speak
+ Visit your local library
+ Eat breakfast for dinner
+ Adopt a tiger
+ Visit your favorite museum
+ Make a list of things to do during Autumn
+ Write someone a love note
+ Try a new beer
+ Paint a rock
+ Make your own guacamole

What are you looking forward to this month?

I’m celebrating reaching 700 likes on Facebook! Who wants a free subscription to Inspiration For Your Inbox?

I will select a winner on Sunday, September 7 at 6pm EST.

To enter:
- comment below with your favorite TV show from the 90′s [please only leave one comment]
- make sure your e-mail address is accessible within the comment form so I can contact you
- be a follower of Uncustomary Art on Facebook and/or Bloglovin

(If you win, I will e-mail you to ask for your e-mail address so I can send you the subscription.)

Thank you to everyone who makes these giveaways in honor of growth possible!

Last month, I posted a list of tips for keeping a gratitude/happy journal. Afterwards, a few lovely ladies let me know that they were inspired to start their own, and I couldn’t be more happy about it! I checked in with them to find out how it’s going, and I’m really excited to share their responses with you.

If you were hesitant about starting your own happy journal, I hope that these testimonials will encourage you to throw caution to the wind and immerse yourself in the wonderful joy this ritual can bring you.

Happy Journal

What are your rituals with your happy journal?

“For this first happiness journal, I chose a small hardback Moleskine because I wanted something substantial yet small; often I’ve neglected journals because I felt overwhelmed with “filling in all those big pages!” But my ritual with my pocket-sized happiness journal is to set aside about an hour before bed to both wind down and work on my journal. On days when the words just aren’t flowing, I either make lists or use paper scraps that I’ve saved (I have two boxes full of magazine clippings, cardstock, decorative papers, wrapping paper, receipts, business cards, tags…you get it) to decorate new pages that will eventually be filled with my precious feels.” – Jaclyn

“I generally like to write at my comfy spot in front of the coffee table and I try to do my journalling in the morning, but sometimes things get hectic and I’m not able to do it until later. I bought this awesome white leather covered blank page notebook with a handy elastic to keep it closed at the dollar store and it works amazing for my journalling. I like to add pictures pertaining to my mood at the time, but sometimes I don’t have a great mood so I add inspiring quotes to make me feel better, nice things about myself, or things to remember to stay true to.” – Erika

Happy JournalTrine

“My rituals are basically to write from the heart, when I feel happy. I don’t make it an every day kind of thing, because I don’t feel happy every day. When I do it like this, my happy journal is genuine, and can back me up on the not-so-happy days!

When I write, I include the date, and some picture(s) that are special to me, in order to illustrate the thought or quote I have written on that page. I collect bits and pieces of paper that represent something special to me and paste it in too; like a ticket stub from a good night at the movies, receipt from a good meal in good company.. that sort of thing. I also use washi/paper tape. Always :) Makes it pretty and colorful. Other than that, I always write in it when I am at home, because that’s where I’ve all the bits and pieces I need.” – Trine

“In the morning before work I like to have some tea and check my email and whatnot, and recently write in my happy journal! It’s such a great way to start the day. I reflect on the previous day and just pull out the things that made me smile or were good, or that I’m happy and thankful for. I write about them briefly, sometimes sketch them. It’s a tiny notebook so my happy reflections are short and it doesn’t take up much time or feel like a big commitment.” – Olivia

How has writing in a happy journal affected your day to day life?

“So far I really like writing in a happy journal! It adds some routine in my life, of which I am currently lacking. I think it’s helped me to add some happy in my life too, even when I am feeling not so happy.” – Erika

“The happy journal is helping me through a struggle I’m having with depression, keeping me from the usual pessimistic thinking that snowballs so quickly. It reminds me to look for those good things all day, even if I’m not necessarily feeling it sometimes. That small act makes a big difference right now. I even find myself getting more and more excited to seek out things that I can write about.” – Olivia

Happy Journal

“Honestly, I didn’t really think it would affect me at all, but it has, and I’m surprised and glad about it. It has made me realize what happiness is to me, and also made me appreciate myself more, which is something I need and deserve. I want to underline the fact that I’m a realist, and that I’m not gushing for no reason here. The happiness journal just entered my life at the right time, I suppose. And I’m a better person for it.” – Trine

“Sometimes I’m ready to jump right in–because I have so much to say! Sometimes, however, I’m overwhelmed, and I feel like, because I have SO much to say, where do I start? But I find that if I just MAKE myself and just get started, I’m always HAPPY (journal) I did.” – Jaclyn

Happy Journal

Did they convince you? Do you keep your own journal already? Don’t forget that you can keep a journal in whatever way is the most comfortable to you. Decorate it, leave it plain, write in it daily or only when inspiration strikes. Everything is up to you, but I promise that this decision will change your life.

Like many people, I was surprised at how affected I was by Robin Williams’ death. It felt like someone punched me when I found out, and I don’t really react that way to information about celebrities, good or bad. I’m still very sad that he’s no longer with us, but I’m grateful for the discussion that sparked as a result. It seems that it’s finally getting through to some people that depression can affect anyone. It doesn’t matter if you’re rich, famous, hilarious, or hot. It’s an illness. The same as Cancer, Chrone’s, and Cystic Fibrosis.

No one wishes for these things, but they exist. Sometimes it’s something we read about, and sometimes it’s something we experience first hand. Depression affects over 300 million people, and despite its prevalence, most people still just think it’s when people are “really sad”. It’s more than that, though.

Something else a lot of people don’t realize is that it’s a consistent battle throughout your lifetime. I’ve been pretty open about my mental health in the past (and I still am; feel free to e-mail me or comment here). I’ve been taking anti-depressants for a decade, although my dosage is much less than it used to be, and they help. They’re not a quick fix by any means, and I want to make it clear that my overall joy is something that I actively work at. Does it get easier to be and stay happy as time goes on? Of course, everything gets easier with practice.

But some days I still wake up sad and hopeless without any reason.

Knowing there’s no reason or basis for my emotions and thoughts doesn’t change how I feel. Knowing yesterday was amazing doesn’t make a difference. In my head, it’s bleak and despondent. All I want to do is stay in bed. And you know what? I do.

I had a day like this recently. I texted Richard and asked if he’d come keep me company. He did his best to cheer me up (which I’m sure was weird for him because this is the first time in four months he’s seen me like this), and it was great to have him here, but the cure didn’t come till later. He was hungry and we left to get food. I offered to drive (something I love to do), and as we were exiting my neighborhood, I pulled my car over, threw it in park, and walked to my trunk without explanation. I was getting a piece of chalk (yes I keep chalk, among other necessary supplies, back there). I ran through the wet grass in my flip flops to the wall I had once drawn a staircase on. And on it I wrote:

“Anything ordinary can be beautiful.”

Anything Ordinary Is Beautiful | Uncustomary Art

It occurred to me that this brick wall on the side of an elementary school building was just that: a wall. It wasn’t always special, but I had made it that way. I gave that wall meaning, and I was going to do it again. And I can do it with anything in the world. Brick walls, plain rice, and annoying conversations. They all have the potential to be more, I (we) just have to give it permission.

This little field trip for tacos had made me feel better. And you know why? Because I left the house. Getting out of the house almost always makes me feel better. When I said that out loud, Richard said, “So why didn’t you leave the house?!” A super simple question, but one I didn’t have the answer to. The longer I stay inside on the couch, the easier it is for me to remain there. And the truth is, sometimes I cling to the sadness. It’s familiar and infrequent, so it’s easy for me to listen to the voice that tells me it would be stupid to help myself.

Leaving the house isn’t a cure for depression. There isn’t one cure, actually. But the reason that it was so easy for that little thing to break me from my funk is because of the years of effort I’ve put in to develop coping skills that make it easy to bounce back. Four years ago, I would have just let Richard go get himself food and I would have stayed curled up in bed.

One of my top five favorite Humans Of New York portraits is of this 93-year-old woman, named Mary (coincidence?):

“If you force yourself to go outside, something wonderful always happens!” – Mary

Guess what? She’s right. Go outside and see squirrels playing tag, the occasional speck of glitter in the gutter, and an adult playing in a way that makes you want to join in. Leave the comfort of your home to witness a flash mob, a sidewalk sale full of treasures, and trees bending towards the sunlight. Everything is real, beautiful, and full of magic. Sure, you can stay inside and experience things virtually, but remember that there’s not an app for everything.

[If you're in Baltimore, next month I will be hosting a recreation of the Lost Boys Food Fight in honor of Robin Williams, and I'd love for you to join me.]

If you are suicidal, please call 1-800-273-8255. You can also locate a crisis center close to you.

A couple months ago, Erika let me know about this pool art performance she found online. We rounded up some of our friends and executed her idea of making a comment on climate change. How did we do that? To the Captain Planet theme song, of course!

SynchroSwim DC 2014 | The Elementals
photo credit: Sarah Guan

The performance was at the Capital Skyline Hotel in Washington DC, and it’s an annual event called SynchroSwim. You have to apply ahead of time, and only four teams are accepted. Besides our team, The Elementals, there were also DC Synchromasters, The Docents, and Fluid Movement. Everyone’s acts were extremely different! The Synchromasters did a classic and feminine synchronized swimming routine, highlighting their gorgeous hot pink heels. The Docents channeled 1987 while wearing black and white to create a really clever floating sculpture. And last but not least, Fluid Movement did a combination of synchronized swimming and regular performance art with a patriotic theme.

SynchroSwim DC 2014 | The Elementals via Uncustomary Art

Our act involved five elements: Earth (me), Fire (April Gomez), Wind (Alison Keener), Water (Daphne Clem), and Heart (Ally Hunter-Harris). The elements battled Pollution (Erika Milenkovic) and were cheered on by Captain Planet (Sean Gomez).

SynchroSwim DC 2014 | The Elementals via Uncustomary Art

Our act was much more conceptual than technical. After the elements were introduced, we battled Pollution, only to be defeated. Heart (representing humanity) doesn’t fight Pollution, but is killed anyway. The elements, with the exception of Heart, are brought back to life and kill Pollution. We rejoice, clean up the pool, and that’s that.

SynchroSwim DC 2014 | The Elementals via Uncustomary Art

Everyone handled their own costumes, and they were pretty great. April made us all rings (and Sean’s outfit) out of balloons, Erika’s cape was made entirely of recyclable materials, Alison’s wig certainly looked wind-swept, Daphne wore a monofin mermaid style (after my heart), Ally’s raft she waded on strategically read “YOLO”, and I definitely pinned a ton of leaves in my hair. Daphne also made us fabric patches to represent Captain Planet’s team.

SynchroSwim DC 2014 | The Elementals
photo credit: Sarah Guan

The event happens every year, and the admission is free. There were three judges who rated each act on a one to ten scale in the categories of technical skill and overall visual spectacle. They were super harsh, and after seeing some really wonderful acts get graded so poorly, we figured we’d be lucky to get more than a one! We did okay, though! Sixes, eights, a two… Fluid Movement won both categories (their act really was incredible — it had it all!), but we weren’t sad. We all had a really great time.

SynchroSwim DC 2014 | The Elementals via Uncustomary Art

The video footage I have only gives you the big picture of our performance since it’s so far away. But it’s here nonetheless.

Be sure to check out Erika’ write-up and pictures taken by Brightest Young Things and Washington Project For The Arts. And for a summary of each act’s concept that was published to advertise the event, go here. Oh, and if you want to laugh in keeping with the Captain Planet theme, check out this video with Don Cheadle.

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