Monthly Archives: March 2009



Simply Chicago Art


Artist reception
Please join us in welcoming Shelley Brucar and Leny Basa for an artist reception

Saturday April 4th 1:00-5:00

1318 Oakton, Evanston 

Mary Berg

April “Fiber Art” exhibit


Shelley Brucar

“Fiber Art”

Leaves Floating (left)
Hand-dyeing gives each piece of fabric an alluring quality and brilliant color and makes each piece of cloth unique.  I use painting, photo transfer, threads, and other surface design elements that the piece demands, going wherever the design takes me.  My current work often starts with a photograph I have taken near home or when traveling.  The photograph is used for inspiration, and whole or partial photos may be printed on fabric and included in a piece.

Shelley Brucar exhibit will run
Saturday April 4th-Sunday April 26th

April “Jewelry” exhibit

Leny Basa

“Custom Jewelry”

Leny makes custom jewelry using various materials

including precious stones & felt. She will come back to Simply Chicago Art on Saturday April 11th 1:00-3:00 to demonstrate how she makes her “Felt Jewelry”.
Leny Basa exhibit will run
Saturday April 4th-
Sunday April 26th


Simply Chicago Art

1318 Oakton
Evanston 60202
Gallery hours:
Saturday 11:00-7:00
Sunday 1:00-6:00


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Going back to the first leg of the stool and still working on Relaxation, today’s topic is VISUALIZATION, also known as IMAGERY.

In addition to promoting relaxation, visualization can be used to visualize success.  We’ll be talking about that sometime later.  As a tool to help you relax, many people think of visualization as “going to your happy place.”  You use your thoughts to put yourself somewhere, real or imagined, that just feels good.

Once again, you can purchase a recording or use the script provided below to do it yourself.  Remember to GO SLOWLY.  When you finish your visualization, please share your experience.


“Setting Sun” by Shelley Brucar.  Needle-felted and maching stitched.

Sit or lie down and get totally comfortable.  Close your eyes.  Focus your attention on your breathing.  Inhale deeply and slowly.  Take even longer to exhale than to inhale.  As you inhale, bring in good feelings.  As you exhale, release negativity.  Breathe deeply and feel completely relaxed. 

Walk slowly to a quiet place in your mind.  You can make this place exactly what you want it to be.  Your place can be inside or outside.  It might be in your own house or another place where you feel peaceful. 

You might be on a beach where you hear the waves, feel the warmth of the sun and the gentle breeze brushing your body.  You could be in a forest where you hear the rustle of the leaves and feel the coolness in the air.

Maybe you’re out in a gentle rain and feel the mist across your face.  Maybe you’re in water, a bathtub, a pool or the ocean, feeling the movement of the water wash over your body.  Or maybe this special place is a room in your home where you can relax in your favorite chair and watch the soft light coming through the window while you listen to your favorite music.

Your special place might be somewhere you have never been but have only imagined.  Wherever it is, make your special place peaceful and safe.

Picture yourself unloading your anxieties and your worries.  Leave them somewhere outside your special place.  They can be there waiting for you when you choose to return to them.  If other thoughts intrude while you visit your special place, gently bring your focus back. 

Now bring your awareness to your body.  Do you feel secure and protected?  What are your wearing?  Is your clothing loose enough to allow full, deep breathing?  Do you have shoes on or are you barefoot?  Notice how your toes feel.  Are you comfortable and relaxed?  

Engage all your senses as you become aware of the details in your special place.  What do you see all around you?  Notice the view in the distance.  What do you see there?  What do you smell?  What sounds do you hear?  Notice what is before you.  If you want to, reach out and touch it.  Notice how it feels.  The sounds, textures and smells here enhance your sense of peace and serenity. 

What is the temperature in your special place?  Is it warm or is it cool?  Is it day or night-time?  Is the lighting bright, or is it soft and subdued?  Make the temperature and the lighting exactly the way you want them.  

Feel the peacefulness of your special place, and be at peace with yourself.  Feel the warmth and tranquility throughout your body.   If there is anything you want to change in this place, you can do that.

Take as long as you want to luxuriate in the quiet and tranquility of this special place.  Feel your whole body loosening, from your head, neck shoulders and arms, down to your stomach, legs and toes.

Remember that you can visit your special place any time you want to experience these peaceful feelings.

When you feel ready, and with your eyes still closed, slowly bring your awareness back to the present.   When you feel ready, open your eyes, keeping the peacefulness and relaxation that you have given yourself.  

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One of the current emails in cyber-space today gives cute definitions of several common words.  One is:

One of the greatest labour saving devices of today.”

That sentiment is one way to relieve stress.  Especially, all you over-achievers out there (yes, you know who you are), remember that everything does not have to be done TODAY.

But also consider the flip-side of that concept.  If you’ve got a list of things that must be done, there are probably one or two items (maybe 5 or 6?) that you really don’t like/don’t want to do.

You could put those things off until tomorrow –  OR you could complete them FIRST.  Instead of deferring the inevitable, confront the bothersome projects right now.  Get the unpleasant, stressful stuff done and check it off your list.  That feels good!

Now take it back one step further.  In his book, “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People,” Stephen Covey talks about priorities.  Instead of arranging your time based on what you have on your calendar, he suggests prioritizing first.  Then you only list the necessary items on your calendar.  Get rid of what you can delegate and what really doesn’t have to be done at all.  This gives you more time for the important stuff (the big rocks).

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A Room with a View – by Shelley Brucar.  Hand-dyed and screen-printed fabric, textile paint, machine stitching, 40″ x 50″.

Remember I wrote that I have a list of 100 stress reducers?  Here are the first ten.  Take one at a time.  They are easy to do and can be integrated into your daily or weekly routines.

1.  GET UP 15 MINUTES EARLIER THAN USUAL.  This will give you the gift of some extra time, less rushing, less stress at the very start of your day.  This can mean more time in the shower, a more leisurely cup of coffee or breakfast, or a more relaxed ride to work.  Try it for a week and bask in the peace this simple change offers.

2.  TAKE A WALK.  The combination of exercise and nature can’t be topped.  Both have been shown, in study after study, to reduce stress.   Even a short walk in cold, hot or rainy weather will give you a boost.

3.  NOTICE YOUR SURROUNDINGS.  At home, at work or while you’re out walking, take the opportunity to observe the things around you.  Really look at the leaves on the trees and the artwork on the walls.

4.  WATCH A FUNNY MOVIE OR TV SHOW.  Let go of the day and bring some comedy into your world.  It doesn’t always have to be serious.

5.  CALL SOMEONE YOU LIKE TO TALK TO.  It only takes a few minutes – and feels so refreshing – to connect with someone you like.

6.  CUT DOWN ON CAFFEINE.  Whether it’s coffee, tea or cola, caffeine can increase feelings of anxiety.  Cut down a little bit – make it 1/2 decaf – and feel the difference in your body and your mind.

7.  SIT AND ENJOY A CUP OF TEA.  Make it decaf, and savor each sip.  Be aware of the subtle aroma and taste.  Take the time to enjoy it rather than just drinking it.

8.  SAY NO TO SOME REQUESTS.  Especially if you tend to say “yes,” it is you people will call when they want something done.  Empower yourself by saying “no” sometimes.  You are not obligated to do everything that is asked of you.  If you don’t have the time, or if you simply don’t feel like it, turn down some requests.  And don’t feel that you have to give an explanation.  Just say no!

9.  READ A MOTIVATIONAL BOOK.  One of my favorites is “SAY YES TO CHANGE” by George and Sedena Cappannelli.  New ideas and inspiration!

10.  GET ENOUGH SLEEP.  You will be amazed at how much better you will feel, physically and emotionally, how much more focused, more tolerant and less irritable you will be if you get enough sleep.  How much is enough varies from one person to the next.  But most of us need 7 – 8 hours per night.


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I don’t know where this came from and have seen different versions of it.  I do love it and hope you will too!

When things in your life seem almost too much to handle, when 24 hours in a day are not enough, remember the mayonnaise jar…and the coffee.

A professor stood before his philosophy class and had a few items in front of him.  When the class began, wordlessly he picked up a very large and empty mayonnaise jar and proceeded to fill it with golf balls.  He then asked the students if the jar was full.

They agreed that it was.  So the professor then picked up a box of pebbles and pured them into the jar.  He shook the jar lightly.  The pebbles rolled into the open areas between the golf balls.  He then asked the students again if the jar was full.  They agreed that it was.

The professor next picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar.  Of course, the sand filled up everything else.  He asked once more if the jar was full.  The students responded with a unanimous “yes.”

The professor then produced a cup of coffee from under the table and poured the entire contents into the jar, effectively filling the empty space between the sand.

“Now,” said the professor, “I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life. 

The golf balls are the really important things – your family, your children, your health, your friends, your favorite passions – things that if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full.

The pebbles are the other things that matter like your job, your house, your car.

The sand is everything else – the small stuff.

“If you put the sand into the jar first,” he continued, “there is no room for the pebbles or the golf balls.”

The same goes for life.  If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff, you will never have room for the things that are important to you.  Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness.  Play with your children.  Take time to get medical checkups.  Take your partner out to dinner.  Play another 18.  Do something nice for someone.

There will always be time to clean the house and fix the disposal.

Take care of the golf balls first, the things that really matter.

Set your priorities.  The rest is just sand.

One of the students raised her hand and inquired what the coffee represented.  The professor smiled.  “I’m glad you asked.  It just goes to show you that no matter how full your life may seem, there’s always room for a cup of coffee with a friend.”

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Remember the 3-legged stool.  The next tool for Relaxation is PROGRESSIVE MUSCLE RELAXATION, and that’s the topic for today.  Here is another tool you have with you all the time – no expense, no special shoes!   


Muscle relaxation is simply going through the different muscle groups in your body, from head to toe, tensing then relaxing each group of muscles.  You can buy a recording that will talk you through it, or you can use the script below to talk yourself through it.  If you find it difficult to relax at first, you may want to tense and relax each arm and each leg separately.  Or you may want to go through each group of muscles two or three times.  Don’t worry about it; with practice, you will get better and the effects will be enhanced.  Just GO SLOWLY.  After you practice, let us all know if this tool works for you.




 “Winter Dream” triptych – Center panel is a scene from a dream showing cold monotones of Winter.  Side panels depict movement into Spring with the beginnings of color and warmth.


Get into a comfortable position, sitting or lying down.  Take several slow, deep breaths.  As you breathe, review your day.  Start when you woke up and mentally go through all the activities that followed – the pleasant and the problematic.  Inhale deeply and slowly.  Take even longer to exhale than to inhale.  As you inhale, bring in good feelings.  As you exhale slowly, release negativity and let go of your day.  In with the good and out with the bad.



Now go through the different muscle groups in your body.  As you continue to breathe slowly and deeply, tense and relax each group of muscles.  Be aware of the tension and the release. 




Start with your forehead.  As you breathe in, lift your eyebrows to bring tension to your forehead.  Then as you breathe out, relax your forehead.  Next go to the central part of your face.  As you breathe in, squint your eyes and wrinkle your nose to bring tension to these muscles.  Now exhale and relax these muscles.  Next, think about your jaws and cheek muscles.  As you inhale, tense these muscles by pressing your teeth together and pulling back the corners of your mouth.  Exhale and relax your jaws and cheeks, and feel the warmth flowing into your face.



Now focus on your neck.  Breathe in deeply and slowly, and bring tension to your neck muscles by pulling your chin down toward your chest.  Exhale and bring your head up, feeling your neck muscles relax.  Bring your attention to your chest, shoulders and upper back.  As you inhale, pull your shoulder blades back to bring tension to these muscles.  Breathe out slowly, release the tension, and feel the warmth and relaxation washing over your body. 


Think about your upper arms, your biceps.  Inhale and bring tension to these muscles by pushing your elbow against your chair or into your body.  Feel the tension in your biceps without involving your lower arms.  Then relax these muscles, letting go of all tension.  Next, focus on your hands and lower arms.  Tighten your fists as you inhale to feel the tension in these muscles.  Then exhale and relax the muscles.  Feel the warmth flowing into your hands and arms.



Next, bring your attention to your stomach.  As you continue to breathe, imaging a string pulling your stomach to your spine.  Then exhale and relax your stomach muscles.  Enjoy the warmth as your muscles loosen and unwind.  Now focus on your buttocks.  As you inhale, squeeze together and bring tension to your buttocks.  Exhale and relax these muscles.



Now think about your thighs.  As you inhale, bring tension to your thigh muscles by slightly lifting your feet.  Feel the thigh muscles relax as you breathe out.  Go to your calves.  Continue to breathe slowly and deeply.  Inhale and pull your toes upward to tense your calf muscles.  Then exhale slowly and relax these muscles.  Now focus on your feet.  Curl your toes to bring tension to your feet.  Exhale, uncurl your toes and feel your feet relax.


Experience the warmth and the complete relaxation flowing into all of your muscles.




Now scan your entire body for any remaining tension.  Go through all the muscle groups.  Start with your face and neck.  If you feel any tension, breathe into that spot deeply.  Breathe out and release all tension.  Move to your hands and arms.  Breathe in deeply to any tight spot.  Breathe out and release tension.  Move to your chest, shoulders and upper back.  If you feel tension, breathe into that spot.  Breathe out and release.  Move to your stomach and legs.  If you feel any tension, breathe into that spot deeply.  Breathe out and release the tension.  Focus on the sensation of complete relaxation.  Feel the warmth throughout your body.


Don’t you feel GREAT now?







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by SHELLEY BRUCAR 3-legged-stool

I love the 3-legged stool analogy.  If one leg is a little short, the stool will be tipped to one side.  If a leg is broken or missing, the stool will fall over.  And so goes unmanaged stress.  I believe there are three major components to a viable program for coping with stress, and those are represented by the legs of the stool.  The crossbars of the stool represent the elements that hold the legs together, the effective use of the tools.


The first component (and the first leg of the stool) is Relaxation.  We live in a frenzied world.  We are continuously assaulted with noise and bustle, and we often – or almost always – feel rushed.  Ask a few people if they feel that there are not enough hours in the day; most will agree.  We are not taught how to relax.  So we must LEARN how to let go, take the time, and just sit back.  Relaxation is not the same as sleep.  Relaxation is more active and involves certain routines to unwind the body and the mind.



Cave Point II by Shelley Brucar

Hand-dyed and commercial fabric; machine stitching


The first tool for Relaxation is BREATHING, and that’s the topic for today.  This is a tool you have with you all the time – no expense, no special shoes!  Yes, we breathe all the time, but not productively.  A baby breathes deeply – into the abdomen.  As adults, our breathing becomes shallow and ineffective; we are not fully inhaling new, fresh air, and we are not fully exhaling used air.  So here’s what you want to do:


Sit or lie down and get totally comfortable.  You don’t want your

body to be rigidly upright, and you don’t want to be slouched

over.  Your body should be aligned so the breath can flow.


Close your eyes.  Focus your attention on your breathing, and let

go of everything else for the moment. 

         Inhale deeply and slowly.  Imagine your breath going all the way

         down to your toes. 


Take even longer to exhale than to inhale.  Let the breath out as completely as you can.  Sometimes, it helps to count during the

inhale, and then try to count a little higher during the exhale.


As you inhale, bring in good feelings.                      

         As you exhale, release negativity. 

Breathe deeply like this for 4-5 minutes, and feel your body



So now, I encourage you to take 5 minutes, 2-3 times per day, to practice

breathing as described above.  If you practice, it will become more natural,

and this simple relaxation tool will be there for you when you most need it. 


Deep breathing not only relaxes your body; it also relaxes your mind and

reduces the unwanted clutter up there.  When you’re relaxed, you will feel

more focused on whatever you’re doing.  So taking a little time each day to

practice breathing will pay off hugely in increased productivity and serenity.


OK, you don’t have to take my word.  Go to a store (Dominicks or Walmart)

where there is a blood pressure cuff to use.  Sit down and take your blood

pressure.  Then sit there for a few more minutes, breathing slowly and

deeply.  Now take a second reading. Your blood pressure will be lower! 

Feel free to leave a comment here to tell us how well this works for you.


The next relaxation technique I will talk about, which builds on breathing, is Progressive Muscle Relaxation.  This is a great tool if you have trouble sleeping – either getting to sleep or staying asleep.  So practice your deep breathing and watch for the next post.  Or you can subscribe to this blog

and receive each new post as it is published.


I have made a list of 100 stress reducers that I will share with you in a later post.  How many can you think of right now?  Please share – comments welcome!

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