Coloring people’s preception on life

Published 6:44 am Sunday, August 21, 2016

When I listened to my voicemail, I could hear the smile in Bonnie Rietz’s voice.

Later that day, Herald contributing writer Sarah Lysne was set to meet Bonnie, Mary Anne Wolesky and Gretchen Ramlo — three leaders behind the Austin ArtWorks Festival — at the Herald to discuss this year’s festival for a preview story, but Bonnie had asked for Herald photographer Eric Johnson and I to meet with them quick beforehand for a surprise.

Since Eric doesn’t usually work Mondays, I was going to have to go-it-alone, and I’ll admit to being a tad worried about the surprise in store for me, largely because I got the distinct sense it would put me in the center of attention.

Jason Schoonover happily coloring away.  Photo submitted by Bonnie Rietz

Jason Schoonover happily coloring away.
Photo submitted by Bonnie Rietz

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Bonnie, Mary and Gretchen arrived and passed me two things I hadn’t expected to come out of this meeting: a box of crayons and a blank coloring book page of flowers.

Yes, they wanted me to color.

So I took up a red violet Crayola and started shading in the petals of the flower.

Their pitch had a purpose, of course. ArtWorks is adding an event called Put Some Color in Your Life to the week of artist-themed events leading to the Aug. 27-28 festival. Supplies will be provided for the free event.

The event is being pegged as a “relaxing evening of coloring for adults” from 6 to 9 p.m. on Aug. 22 at the ArtWorks center, 300 N. Main St. And if you need to relax even more, beer and wine — and other beverages — will be for sale.

Yes, my initial color choice of the pink-tinged red violet color drew a laugh from the ArtWorks ladies, but I admitted to be no stranger to coloring since I have three young nieces. I even got to color through part of a Minnesota Twins loss a few months ago with them.

For about five to 10 minutes, Bonnie, Mary Ann, Gretchen, Sarah and I chatted as we each colored in out respective sheets, and one of them even recommended I sign my picture and put it on my nieces’ fridge to see how they react — which yes, I will be doing.

It proved to be a relaxing couple of minutes before I excused myself from the room and let Sarah interview the three ArtWorks leaders for the ArtWorks preview.

But a strange thing happened a few days later. I got to work early after a morning where I just woke up on the wrong side of the bed. I sat, gazing blankly at my computer a few moments and thought about how I just wasn’t ready for the day yet.

Then I glanced over at the box of crayons sitting on my desk beside the half-colored sheet of flowers and thought, “Why not?” I grabbed a few crayons and wasted five minutes coloring a few flowers before I put the crayons away and got to work.

It wasn’t much, but it proved to be a simple, mindless break from the day to regroup. It reminded me how simple breaks can really prove beneficial for mental health during stressful times.

It also reminded me of a similar break a few of us in the office stumbled on about six months ago. To recycle old notebook pages, we started piling old notebooks on an empty desk and taking short breaks to tear out and recycle the pages when we needed to step away from our computers.

I’m sure everyone else in the office loved listening to the soothing sound of ripping paper, but it proved to be such an addicting and brief break that I was disappointed when we ran out of notebooks to use.

So if you need a mental break, grab a coloring book, some pages to tear and recycle or head on down to the Put Some Color in Your Life event on Monday.