25 Random Things About Me

Just Be Yourself - Joanna Ciolek

25 Random Things About Me

  1. I am an old soul
  2. I love my children to no end, and am fascinated by everything they do
  3. My home is my sanctuary
  4. I love my garden & being surrounded by nature
  5. Drawing is how I meditate
  6. Dancing is how I connect with my body and soul
  7. I’m addicted to sushi & coffee ice cream
  8. I love reading and writing
  9. I’m constantly fascinated by new things & have a huge passion for learning
  10. I love traveling and wish I could do more of it
  11. I switch between wine and beer, depending on the season
  12. Reading in the bathtub is how I recharge
  13. I’m determined to live a simple life in harmony with nature & others
  14. I am learning to love myself just the way I am
  15. My husband is my best friend
  16. I wish I followed my intuition to go to art school
  17. I am determined to become a successful artist, with or without an art degree
  18. I don’t like exercising but I love being active
  19. I don’t believe in diets
  20. I absolutely love mountains & hiking is one of my favorite things to do
  21. I want to live in Europe one day, in some quiet little town with nice weather and friendly people
  22. Being laid off 5 years ago was the best thing that happened to me professionally
  23. I love freelancing and I don’t think I’ll ever go back to working for others
  24. I’ll choose an indie film over a big box movie every time
  25. I hope for a peaceful future, when people are more kind & compassionate

Letting Go, Letting In

Letting Go, Letting In- Joanna Ciolek

Inspired by Kerstin, and fueled by lots of transformative changes I made recently, I’ve come up with a list of things I’m letting go and things I’m letting into my life right now.

I’m letting go of…

  • Caring what others think of me. Spending time wandering what others think of me is a waste of my energy. I can’t and don’t even want to please everyone. I can only be me (however quirky, different, imperfect, or unconventional) and those who will accept me for who I am are those who I want in my life. Others have their own lives to live, whatever form that might take. As long as no one is getting hurt, we should be free to live our lives our way. And that leads me to letting go of…
  • Criticism & judging, be it directed at my self or others. No one judges us as harshly (and closely) as we judge ourselves – and by doing that we kill our spirit, self-esteem, and defeat ourselves before we have a chance to give it our best. I’m learning to quiet that voice inside me that thinks I can only grow through criticism & pushing myself beyond what feels right. That voice has been in control for far too long. It’s time to take over and show it there’s a more loving and peaceful way to motivate ourselves and others to do and be better.
  • Worrying about the future. As a parent, this seems impossible but I figured worrying brings nothing good & is just another energy suck I don’t need. I’m learning to trust that my path is there for me to uncover and that there’s an order in the disorder. I truly believe that we’re only given what we can handle and the human potential for handling adversity is vast.
  • Trying to control everything and everyone as if I’m personally responsible for it all. There’s only so much we can control and be truly responsible for – mainly our thoughts and actions. We can influence but not be responsible for our kids, our partners, our parents, and so on. We can only change ourselves, be it through taking control over our thoughts, adjusting our attitude or taking a specific action. Embracing the new and learning to accept change is the only way we can find peace in this crazy world. There’s too much uncertainly and nothing is ever permanent. Resisting or avoiding change will only lead to pain. Being open & flexible is the only way we can stay sane.
  • Doing everything for everyone. We’ve been overcommitting ourselves to please others but it’s time to learn to say “no”, without the guilt.

I’m letting in…

  • Making art every day. There’s something magical about just sitting down and creating things with our own hands out of our own imagination that is both restorative and empowering. We’ve squandered creativity for far too long, being all grown up and responsible. I’m taking my time to remember how to play too, and it’s both therapeutic and inspiring.
  • Taking care of myself for a change. Women, especially, are taught to take care of others first, and that often comes at our own expense. We put our needs, and subsequently lives, on hold. It hit me like a brick that I’ve been putting myself last for most of my life. These days, I’m doing better at remembering that we don’t live through our children, our families, our careers. These day, I’m stopping to think, “What will make me feel happy right now?”, and doing just that, to an extent it’s possible. It doesn’t have to be grant either. Smallest things like taking a long restorative bath send a signal – to ourselves and those around us – that our needs matter too. Along the same lines, I try to eat healthier, sleep more, and stay physically active. I also love listening to guided meditations or inspirational talks.
  • Writing, which is something I love but never really paid attention to do. I’ve been blogging for few years now but it’s not the same as expressive writing with pen & paper. So, I started journaling this year. Now I have few journals: one for my artistic inspiration/notes/ideas, one for processing my feelings & thoughts, one for my gratitude list that I do at bedtime. Writing transforms – it’s good for your body and mind. I’ve noticed, I’m more calm, balanced & grounded when I write. Journaling helps me release stress, process and “throw away” negativity, and clear my mind. It’s both cleansing & restorative

Happiness is a choice we make every day by letting love-based things in and fear-based things go (tweet this). Unfortunately, we tend to look for happiness in the external world full of “shoulds” and “not enoughs”. Yet, our attention needs to focus within. I’m learning to listen in, let go of what doesn’t serve me and focus my energy on creating a simpler, more balanced life that’s right for me.

Do you have a “Letting Go, Letting In” list?

My Very First Art Studio Is Born


Inspired by Austin Kleon (read his Steal Like An Artist last night), I setup an analog desk in the loft today. And it feels awesome!

Having my own art studio has always been a dream of mine but up until now I didn’t even have any space dedicated to art & creativity. My office, where I currently do all my freelance work, is surrounded by everything digital: computers, printer, phones, etc. And being plugged into the internet 24-7 doesn’t necessarily induce creative thinking either. That’s why I was immediately drawn in the book to the idea of having a separate workspace for art and just messing around, and I was determined to finally make that happen for me.

So this morning, I decided to setup a desk with some basics like pens and a notebook. First, I dragged a sturdy table we use for birthday parties to the loft and set it up with the essentials. Before I realized though, I began hauling all the art supplies that I gathered over the years upstairs too. Soon I was bringing my pads and journals, pens, markers and paints, all my scrapbooking stuff… (I must have burned 500 calories climbing stairs today), even some inspiration books I got from the library recently.

And that’s how my first ever art studio was born. Just like that. Without a plan or intention really.

My Very First Art Studio Is Born

The Art Studio Is Born The Art Studio Is Born

The Art Studio Is Born The Art Studio Is Born

I have everything I need here. Big desk, all my art supplies, music (hello vinyl and CD collection.. long time), books, a couch!!! I even spread an extra rug under the feet of the desk my guy brought the other day from a friend. We didn’t have a good place for it and were about to donate it away. Then boom, two days later I found a perfect job for it–keeping my footsies warm. Serendipity.

Go After Your Dreams – It’s The Only Way

I still can’t believe this just happened. How did I not see this possibility before? Why didn’t I listen to the voice inside that asked for this for as long as I remember?

Why do we put our dreams on hold? Why do we put ourselves last on our to-do list?

We’re so preoccupied with the everyday, with our jobs, kids, responsibilities. We put our passions and dreams on hold because there’s just so much to do in real life.

But I’m slowly reclaiming who I am, step by step I’m putting myself first too. I’m going after what I’m passionate about, in little increments, whenever I can. Because even if I can work in my studio for half an hour each day, that will make a whole lot of a difference over a lifetime. Wouldn’t you agree?

I am an artist inside. I need to make, discover, express myself creatively. I think we all do. This studio is yet another step towards building the life I want to have. It’s not perfect, but it’s perfect for me right now.

What are you doing to make your dream a reality?

PS. Did I mention I did a celebratory dance? It was rather wild but felt so freaking good. We all need to celebrate ourselves and our victories regularly.

Daily Drawing Practice: June Round Up


It’s been six months since I started my daily drawing practice and I’m so happy for making that decision. No, I haven’t been “discovered”, yet I found wander, inspiration and zen through daily drawing & doodling. I reconnected with what has been missing in my life – beauty, art, and creativity.

I’ve neglected my practice a bit in the last few months. Life has a thing for getting in a way like that. Silly things like making art tend to get shoved to the back burner often. But, I’m staying committed to making time for creativity. My art journal and pens are always nearby.

The biggest surprise in this whole experiment is that art can be very therapeutic. The flow is like meditation, it calms your mind, shuts up the brain chatter, and just let’s you be – you and your lines, and nothing else. What a beautiful escape from the increasingly busy modern world.

Daily Drawing Practice: June Round Up

Below are my favorites from June.

Do you keep a drawing book, sketchbook or an art journal?

Please share a link to your art – I’m curious about your adventures in art and creativity.

How a Simple Gratitude Practice Ignited My Personal Transformation



It all started rather spontaneously, with a gratitude challenge. I decided to give it a try because I was sick and tired of feeling crappy, helpless & depressed. Life was a struggle and I didn’t have the energy to fight anymore. So when New Year’s rolled  around, I set out to write a monthly gratitude blog post. It took me over 6 months to actually do it.

I was resisting, clearly, but in early fall that year I wrote my first gratitude post. That turned out to be the beginning of a change I was so desperately craving.

If you read that first post, I seem to be just another exhausted mother, a rather pessimistic woman tired of her hamster-wheel existence. It is also evident that I judged myself harshly back then, being very critical of my whinny, complaining tendencies and just feeling negative all the time. Back then I thought that if I could only focus on the bright side, I’d snap out of it already.

Oh man, was I naive.

You can’t just snap out of depression; you can’t just erase trauma.

Yet writing these gratitude posts became a habit, slowly morphing into a nightly gratitude journaling. Reflecting on all the good things in the world right before bedtime made me feel good & relaxed. Sleeping better was only the beginning.

How a Simple Gratitude Practice Ignited My Personal TransformationGratitude slowly invaded my daily life. It taught me to slow down, appreciate those simple yet often magic moments we’re too busy or preoccupied to notice. I started to really appreciate how things tasted, smelled, felt. I started to feel more alive, open to the beauty around me. It opened me up to the power of positive thinking and law of attraction (we attract that which we seek, and as I was seeking beauty I now saw it in the smallest things).

Gratitude also exposed me to my faults, specifically my tendency to multitask, perfect and perform. Now that I saw my own contribution to chaos & disconnection in my life, I could change it – by changing specific behavior, approach or attitude.

Empowered, I started making small, meaningful changes that made a huge impact. Instead of multitasking, I started focusing on doing one thing at the time, being fully present to that single experience, whether it was eating breakfast or really listening to my child without any distractions. Instead of perfecting, I started to let go, to stop at good enough, choosing “done” over “perfect”. Instead of performing, I started just being.

It’s not easy & I fall back to my old patterns all the time. But it’s a start and I’m hopeful.

Awareness is a beautiful thing, a necessary precursor to change.

Gratitude taught me to open up to the good in life and made me realize I have more power over my life than I previously imagined. I could stop being a victim of my circumstances and reach out to the joy in living. As it taught me to slow down, listen to my body and have more patience with myself and others, gratitude brought a greater sense of calm, focus, and balance I was lacking before.

It also led me on a path to acceptance & healing. But that’s a story for another time…