Welcome to my Stories page!

Here you will find stories and my reflections on life, its joys and challenges, relationships, travel, the world out there, the world within, my trauma recovery and healing, creativity, etc, etc, etc. I welcome your comments!

Helped By a Cheeky Little Monkey

Time to share a cheeky peek at my most recent trauma recovery therapy session.

Having completed almost seven years of weekly Somatic Experiencing™ (SE®) sessions with my incredible SE certified therapist, I now go for monthly what I call "maintenance" sessions. And I'm so glad, because stuff continues to come up.

They say we're never really finished, and it's true. I've been deeply disappointed and curious at the lack of sales in my creative business, finally arriving at an awareness that I was mentally/energetically putting up a "closed" sign even as I was marketing and redesigning website content to clear the path for my ideal clients and being two weeks shy of releasing my first Amazon book From Fear to Love How Creativity Saved My Life and Will Change Yours for the Better.

Finally, with the help of my therapist, I spoke the words that have evaded me for years.

I am afraid of being successful/happy because it will all be taken away from me.

It all comes down to abandonment, my very earliest wounding.

Being certified in play therapy as well, my therapist took me through a profoundly moving exercise. At her direction, I chose toys that represented this fear (the orange - oh how I don't like the color orange!- plush octopus, grasping my fear in its tentacles) and happiness (my competent protector lion with its courage and mighty roar, King Kong that had me smiling, and the tiny felt-covered monkey with brightly piercing and beguiling eyes).


 

Happy Trio :)


My therapist had me focus, agenda-free, on the octopus for about 30 seconds, paying attention to what showed up in my body. I then followed her moving finger with my eyes to the pictured characters, focusing, again agenda-free, for about 30 seconds, and again paying attention to what showed up in my body. Back and forth three times. Sort of a playful EMDR. Sort of...

Octopus: I curled away from it, arms protecting myself. Grief and sadness poured out in my tears. I hissed at it, stomped on it with my foot.

Happy trio: I smiled and giggled, leaning in towards them and placing the little monkey on King Kong's head. I cried soft little tears of longing.

After the transitions, I sat quietly, waiting to see how my body reacted. React it did, with random twitches, stretches, contractions... and without tears.

Wrapping up, my therapist told me that this would likely continue over the next few days. When I asked what "this" was, she replied that it was my disorganized nervous system seeking to organize. Made enough sense to me, given the vast realm of releasing and creating new neural pathways I've experienced under her care these last years.

Still, how amazing and quasi-mysterious it all remains to me, a registered nurse turned healthcare informatics consultant turned artist and writer, with a keen clinical perspective and fascination with the anatomical and physiological dynamics of SE.

And how wonderful that my deep sense of abandonment was softened a bit by the whimsical gaze of a cheeky little monkey.

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The Blessing of Sitting Up: Five Simple Strategies for Living with Chronic Pain

I am no stranger to chronic pain, primarily related to my spine and especially my head.

Low back pain started in my twenties, when I replaced running with walking as my morning exercise. Low impact aerobics were better than no impact aerobics as far as I was concerned.

In my early thirties, recurrent neck and upper back muscle spasms, as well as arm weakness/ numbness/ tingling led to a neurosurgery workup. The myelogram that confirmed a herniated disc also resulted in severe complications (Dural tear and chemical meningitis), leaving me with a 24/7 headache that last three years.

Yes, three years. Yes 24/7. Unrelieved by medication. Relieved only by sleeping.

I would eventually undergo surgery, a cervical fusion, and three months later the headache was gone. Oh, sweet blessing of joy!

A couple years later, my "myelogram headache" returned, the result of another neck disc herniation. Treated with epidural steroid injections - three courses of three injections over the period of three years - I finally stepped away from my beloved Operating Room nursing. When people asked me if I missed the OR, I replied that I missed the work, but I did not miss the pain. I also liked to say that you can take the nurse out of the OR, but you can't take the OR out of the nurse.

Life went on. Pain came and went. I lived with my degenerative disc disease, what I jokingly referred to as SFD (shit for discs) syndrome, and managed, with daily stretching and strengthening exercises, to maintain an active and healthy lifestyle. Which in the last twelve years has included international travel to over thirty countries and three adventure treks. Yes!

In early May, I slipped on damp pavement, became briefly airborne, then fell flat on my back. I received a free extra-large ice cream cone for my troubles. It was delicious.

And, indeed, my troubles began again. Brought to me by, among other spine problems, bulging discs and nerve root compression at multiple levels in my neck and lower back. And, worst of all, the return of my myelogram headache. My 24/7 companion. Still unrelieved by medication. Not a surgical candidate, I am currently undergoing physical therapy.

Some days, my bed and my exquisite down pillows offer the only relief from the pounding jarring pain in my head. It is a blessing to be able to sit up, even more so to move around and undertake simple household and outdoor activities. 

I consider myself an expert on chronic pain.

Ever seeking the path to optimum health, and knowing that optimum is a relative term, I offer these five simple strategies to promote your best wellness possible.

Ill, Still, Chill, Fill and Will.

ILL: Accept, with love and compassion, that you are ill.

Stop resisting the pain; rather, play with the idea of leaning into it, accepting it. Accepting and loving yourself just the way you are. 

Be aware of the sneaky side effect of chronic pain: difficulty concentrating. Don't beat yourself up about this. It's the way things are.

Place your hand(s) as close to the source of pain as possible and offer gratitude for all the times in your life that this part of your body sustained you and kept you going. Then offer compassion for the dis-ease you're experiencing, and hope for better days.

Pace yourself. You likely have good days and bad days. Honor each of them. Be especially grateful for the good ones.

 

STILL: Be still and allow yourself time to rest.

Remember, you are not being lazy. Chronic pain consumes huge amounts of energy. And it also produces stress, a key culprit in many illnesses.

Take a realistic look at your commitments, and adjust them accordingly to free up more time.

Learn to say NO.

And learn to go slow, or at least as slowly as your life circumstances allow.

If necessary, arrange for someone to watch the kids for thirty minutes so you can rest in quiet. An over-the-ears noise reduction headset, soft calming music, and eye pillow offer added respite, even if only for a few minutes.

 

CHILL: If possible, chill the area of pain with a cold pack or gel.

If warmth feels better, use that.

You can use a frozen bag of peas or select from numerous products available online for both hot and cold therapy. Gel pads are my favorite.

Important! Be sure to limit use of hot or cold packs to twenty minutes at a time, waiting two hours before reapplying.

 

FILL: As much as possible, fill your time and space with that which nourishes you.

If you need help, ask for it. You are important and you deserve support.

Look around your space. What about it could you change, within reason, that would make you feel better?

Turn off the news. It's an energy drainer. I like to say if it's important enough I'll hear about it on Facebook.  Speaking of Facebook… if you are a regular, pay attention to what you're paying attention to. Move on from posts that drain your emotional energy. Give yourself permission to step away, unfollow, leave.

Turn on funny and inspiring YouTube videos. Here are some of my all-time favorites:

·       Laughing Babies: https://youtu.be/L49VXZwfup8

·       The Nutcracker by Kodi the Cat: https://youtu.be/obtfsA0oIKk

·       Dog Wants a Kitty: https://youtu.be/kI4yoXyb1_M

·       Paul Potts Sings Nessun Dorma: https://youtu.be/1k08yxu57NA

·       Susan Boyle, Britain's Got Talent: https://youtu.be/RxPZh4AnWyk

·       Amira Willighagen - O Mio Babbino Caro: https://youtu.be/qDqTBlKU4CE

·       Piano stairs - TheFunTheory.com: https://youtu.be/2lXh2n0aPyw

 

WILL: Use your will power in the direction of health.

You may have to live with chronic pain the rest of your life. Yet remember, joy lives here too.

Make healthy choices about what you put in your body, trusting that your body will respond with better health. By the same token, if you're having a really bad day and that sweet treat will soften your distress, enjoy it. My motto: moderation in all things, including moderation.

Move as much as you safely can. Take a slow walk. If that's too much, move around the house. If that's too much, move around on the sofa or in your bed. Contract and relax your muscles. Still too much? Then imagine walking, imagine moving, imagine contracting and relaxing your muscles

Ask your doctor for an order for Physical Therapy. Those PTs have all kinds of tricks up their sleeves to promote support and healing.

Be willing to release that which no longer serves you. Are you holding on to items or beliefs you no longer need? Clearing the space in your head and your home allows the creation of a new, healing flow.

Your pain may or may not change; your heart and spirit definitely will… for the better. 

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Proud to Be an HSP

"The quieter you become, the more you are able to hear." - Rumi

Do you consider yourself an extravert* or introvert? How about an HSP (highly sensitive person)?

After a lifetime of extraversion, I began drawing inward as I underwent extensive trauma recovery therapy. Having previously found energy in the company of others, I now sought solitude for safety and protection, renewal and replenishment. 

Had I become an introvert? I lightheartedly referred to myself as an inextrovert, unsure of and curious about just what I really was. It’s not that I needed a label. I just wanted to understand myself better.

Exploring this further found me participating in a brief study held by Jacquelyn Strickland, LPC, HSP, titled Myers Briggs – HSP Overlay. By filling out the assessment and participating in two in-depth interviews via conference call, I had my answer… as a guideline, not a rule book. Most importantly, the exercise helped me make sense of my character traits, which allowed me to more fully understand and embrace my growing authentic wholeness.

Turns out I am an ESFJ (Extraversion, Sensing, Feeling, Judgment), with HSP overlay. Translated in a nutshell, I belong to a rare breed: the highly sensitive extrovert. With my own unique blend of strengths and weaknesses.

Strengths:

  • Strong Practical Skills – check!
  • Strong Sense of Duty – check!
  • Very Loyal – check!
  • Sensitive and Warm – check!
  • Good at Connecting with Others – check!

 

Weaknesses:

  • Worried about Their Social Status – I may have in the past. Not an issue for me now.
  • Inflexible – I used to be. Nothing like over six years of trauma recovery to loosen me up!
  • Reluctant to Innovate or Improvise – I used to hate change, then I came to embrace it.
  • Vulnerable to Criticism – I used to be, and it can still niggle. In his book The Four Agreements, author Don Miguel Ruiz instructs the reader to not take anything personally, that whatever anyone says is a reflection of their own reality. He goes on to note that this one agreement can be life changing. It was. And is.
  • Often Too Needy – Yep, I saw myself there, though I’d rather remove the word “Too” as I never saw myself as a nagger or stalker(!). Now, I know to ask for support when I need it.
  • Too Selfless – Definitely. This was all connected with my trauma. Praise God, with the help of therapy and the book Boundaries by Henry Cloud, I SO got over that.

 

HSP Overlay

Until this experience, I was what’s called a socialized HSP, meaning that I had adapted throughout  my childhood, adolescence and adulthood to survive and often excel in the dynamics in which I was surrounded. The thing is, I often felt different, like I somehow didn't quite fit. A round peg in a square hole. The little girl that is me didn't have an authentic voice. She had a survival voice.

Allowing myself to transform into an authentic HSP, I learned the value and importance of giving myself the space and time to refresh and renew in solitude so that I could enjoy being in the company of others. My strong startle reflex and sensitivity to my environment, especially to loud or competing sounds and harsh light made sense.

Understanding myself has helped me prepare for and frame my experiences in such a way as to fully support myself. With great love and compassion. 

For example, on choosing a restaurant, I consider the acoustics, steering away from loud places, opting for quieter venues. Finding myself in a loud crowded space, I chose to refrain from trying to talk/shout above the noise. On internet conference calls, when background noises distract me silly, I kindly ask others to mute themselves. I pace myself in my commitments, saying "no" much more readily than in the past. I pay attention to how I feel, both emotionally and physically, and I give myself extra time between tasks, errands, appointments, etc. I go slow. Slowly. Slow.

go slow, acrylic on paper, 2012

go slow, acrylic on paper, 2012

When I find myself in overwhelm, I take action to reduce it instead of ignoring and pushing through it. That might mean clearing my schedule of commitments, and opting for what truly nourishes me. 

Most significantly, I work with a business coach who, being a successful HSP Entrepreneur, caters specifically to the HSP. Spending time with her and other HSPs via a “Mastermind” group brings a sense of belonging, of peace. The peace of self-love, of total acceptance of and support for the whole of me. I'm home in my heart. Which helps me grow in my business.

I'm so thankful for the strength and fortitude with which I’ve been blessed through my healing journey. For the courage, patience and perseverance to trust, even when things go awry. Owning my sensitivity is a beautiful way of owning my own power as well, which in turn allows me to shift my thinking from fear-based to love-based. 

And that, in turn, opens my heart and my life, creating space for more blessings, more abundance. It brings me into alignment with my soul's highest self. Something we're all meant to know and experience.

Who or what are you? Are you on a path to your truest highest self?

 

*I always thought this word was spelled extrovert. As I was writing my book From Fear to Love How Creativity Saved My Life and Will Change Yours for the Better, I googled to determine the correct version. This result takes the cake: "Folklore has it that when Carl Jung was once asked which was the correct spelling—ExtrAvert or ExtrOvert—Jung's secretary wrote back something like, 'Dr. Jung says it's ExtrAverted, because ExtrOverted is just bad Latin.'"

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Real Me

As I work on my new book, From Fear to Love How Creativity Saved My Life and Will Change Yours for the Better, I'm intrigued by a memory from the summer of 2012, when I was living and working in Doha, Qatar in the Middle East. This is a memory I revisit everyday, one that fills me with hope and love and compassion. You'll see why and how in a moment. 

My painting "Real Me" started as a large (about 36"x48") venting bit of journaling and drawing, through which I expressed all of the feelings and thoughts I was experiencing at the time. Frustration at work, in my trauma recovery therapy, at the heat and relentless desert sun poured out onto the paper. 

Real Me Words, 2012. Want to read the words? You can zoom in by clicking on the image and using your device's feature to expand the image. Full disclosure - I use the f word... once.

After the catharsis of my writing, I gave some space and time to absorb and reflect. Then I set about painting over each section, the words taking on a new form, a visual expression. The colors, the manifestation of my real truth empowered me, delighted me. I could feel myself growing more connected to my truth, my essence. It was a most powerful experience.

To this day, “Real Me” remains perhaps my most authentic piece. Whenever I look at it, I know the story behind each aspect. It hangs in my bedroom, where I see it every morning on awakening and at night as I prepare to go to sleep. I have NEVER tired of it, and I continue to receive its truth,  nourishment, and healing. It, in turn, continues to save my life.

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To Everything There Is A Season

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven.                          - Ecclesiastes 3:1

 

Most people of a certain middle-ish age are familiar with the song Turn, Turn, Turn (The Byrds, 1965) and how, taken from Ecclesiastes 3:1-8, it contrasts various aspects of life. In a nutshell, the chorus lyrics go something like this : a time to be born/die, to plant/reap, to kill/heal, to laugh/weep, to build up/break down, etc.

As winter turns into spring here in the Midwest USA, my attention turns from redesigning websites to writing a book. And just like that, my Turn Turn Turn earworm - you know, when a song keeps playing over and over in your head - manifests itself.

How timely, how relevant to entrepreneurship and owning a small business, because as I look back over the last few years - as artist, writer, and owner of Abundance Art LLC - I see seasons, all the seasons.

The Spring of ideas, a new website to be designed and created, paintings to be painted, mandalas to be drawn, photographs to be organized. The sighting of success shoots popping up in the form of a first exhibit and sales.

The Summer of watering and watching the website grow with the opening of an online store, of joining an artist's cooperative gallery, hanging my visual art. And waiting, watching for signs of growth. The Summer of drought and worry when sales dry up and aspirations fade.

The Autumn of discouragement and letting go, understanding that somehow rejection is really just redirection. Being willing to receive feedback, and make changes accordingly. Redesigning the design.

The Winter of darkness, loss of hope when, in spite of all the work of the preceding months and years, the bank account remains barren. Trusting that, invisible underground, life grows. Listening in the wintry silence for the wisdom within, and saying hello to truth. Redesigning the redesign in a way that FITS.  Under the snow, something is being made whole.

And here we are, surrounded by signs of Spring again: bright yellow daffodils and forsythia, trees budding pink and white against the blue sky.

The seasons are always overlapping in this entrepreneurial world. My book's framework, outline, introduction, and first two chapters written, I learn that it's not the right book.  Devastated, I lay low, the smallest effort seemingly monumental.

And outside it is snowing. Winter isn't done with me yet!

Slowing down, allowing the snow covered daffodils to rest under their burden, I too rest, allowing something new to form in the place vacated by my book's first works.

Spring is just around the corner here in the Midwest USA.

And it's ALREADY here inside me in an abundance of thoughts and possibilities about my new ideal reader, marketing and publication strategies. For I am now blending the bits I like best -  painting fine art, selling beautiful photographic prints, and helping others - into a book that tells the story of how creativity saved my life. And growing a variety of income streams around that.

I am right where I'm meant to be.

And, I'm looking forward to Summer. And Autumn. And Winter. And life.

Are you?

You can find my original paintings and prints (paintings and photographs), mandala exhibit "go slow: woman on a journey" as well as artisanal notecards for sale at Abundance Art.

You can find my stunning collection of Russian Chandelier photographic metal prints for sale at ShopAbstractPhotography.

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Keeping the U and I in Communication

What is your preferred method of communication these days? With family and friends? At work?

Chances are that you use at least several of the more than sixty social media apps available in 2017, in addition to your phone and email accounts. 

Based on an informal survey consisting of my friends and family, text messaging reigns as king of them all. The others? Well, as they say, a picture is worth a thousand… er… in this case, sixty plus words.

I actually started to make a list, easily naming fifteen social media apps off the top of my head, eight of which I regularly use. Then I decided I’d rather use this space to get out of our heads and into our hearts and souls and spirits for a bit.

Because communication, so much more than social media, involves not just tapping away mindlessly on a keypad. Obviously, it uses our brains. Also, our hearts. Souls. Spirits.

And our hearts souls spirits are so much more mysterious even than our brains, which are exponentially mystifying, surprising scientists and researchers more and more each year with capabilities, including the power to grow and reconnect and heal at levels never thought possible before.

Let’s focus for a bit on the authentic communication which occurs between two souls inhabiting human bodies that contain brains and hearts, aka people. ;)

In my work as an artist, I feature an offering called “Something For Your Soul” - a custom commissioned fine art painting, co-created by me with the client. The process includes questionnaires and conversations that foster open communication between the two of us and allow me to “feel” what they want to feel when the finished painting is on their wall. This sacred connection makes it possible for me to manifest a piece that reflects their highest awareness, bringing a daily reminder into their space of their deepest truest self. And, because of our in-depth verbal communication and connection, a part of me, my soul, resides in each painting, reminding my clients that we are all connected. Then, when others see the painting, something typically speaks to them, and the connections expand.

I don’t think there’s an app out there that can replicate THAT kind of communication.

When communicating with family, friends and colleagues, I like to say I live on the Honest Planet, because, well, I do. Through words, facial expressions, body language and actions (all forms of communication), what you see is what you get. And for the most part when it comes from me, it’s offered with love and compassion. And boundaries. Love, compassion and healthy boundaries which I’ve learned through periods of immense personal growth.

It turns out we’re all not the same. We don’t all think alike. Regardless of age, we perceive the world through the eyes of our own experience. And given that no two people have the exact same experiences, the communication between us all can get jumbled up and misunderstood. Tempers can flare. Or not. Feelings can be pushed down/ignored. Or not.

Except when you live on the Honest Planet. Which is where you speak with sincerity and listen with love and compassion. Where clear communication is practiced and modeled for others, raising the bar of awareness and integrity. Raising the quality of connection between people.

There is a wonderful book called The Whole-Brain Child by Daniel Siegel MD and Tina Payne Bryson PhD, which describes the development of the brain from infancy through high school graduation. Offering case studies along with the science behind them, Daniel and Tina teach about the development of upper and lower parts and left and right sides of the brain. And how that affects a child’s ability to process and respond at different ages and in various situations. This book is so cool it includes a quick reference guide to hang on the fridge, and a summary of various types of brain integration, when and how those manifest, and how to respond.

Another equally helpful book is How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk by Adele Faber Elaine Mazlish. Like The Whole-Brain Child, this book includes “How Not To” and “How To” cartoons to illustrate an assortment of encounters between parent and child. In these cases, the amateurish drawings make the learning a bit more fun.

Let me tell you, these books are not just for parents. They are for children of all ages, because the more we can learn how to effectively flex our communication as needed, the more successful our communication will be. You may be talking to an adult who is stuck developmentally in adolescence, and this book gives you the tools and flexibility to manage that.

I confess, the Honest Planet doesn’t really exist. I got the idea from an old Saturday Night Live skit.

But I like it. You and I can really communicate here.

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Trauma Surprise and Resources

On the way to church yesterday, I shared with Dad my awareness of how difficult it is these days to get motivated to work on projects and chores in my house, life and work.

I reflected silently that I've been carrying an image of myself from years past in which I become almost like a tornado, tearing through my chores and errands, energized by the prospect of having my to-do list completed.

Continuing my inward thoughts, I'd been waiting for that tornado-that-is-me to manifest itself again. THEN I would get caught up on my backed-up piles of laundry, paperwork, dishes, outdoor chores, errands and lists of to do items for my business.

Returning to the conversation with my father, I also shared with him that I have slowly come to the realization that it will not likely be that way again. It's ok to content myself with baby steps, knowing that though it all may take longer, it will indeed all get done. That it will be ok.

As I spoke these words, a lump formed in my throat and my tears welled in my eyes. I had just named something both known and yet new aloud, aware of the letting go of something old and deeply entrenched. More time and space would be needed to process this in private, later.

Surprisingly sooner rather than later.

In church, the first Sunday of Lent brings with it the praying of the Confiteor, a confession.

Oh, how I struggle with the harsh words of this prayer:

I confess to almighty God and to you, my brothers and sisters, that I have greatly sinned, in my thoughts and in my words, in what I have done and in what I have failed to do, through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault; therefore, I ask blessed Mary ever-Virgin, all the Angels and Saints, and you, my brothers and sisters, to pray for me to the Lord our God.  

Without meaning to sound holier than thou, here's how I look at life: I believe God loves me unconditionally, and I live my life doing my best loving him back.

Also, seven plus years of extensive and comprehensive trauma recovery and healing taught me what REAL compassion and love look like. First and foremost, for the little girl that is me. Then for all God's children and all his creation.

Me perfect? Absolutely not. Me a sinner? Yes, when I push God away or purposely ignore his call for help in my encounters with others. Even then, our extraordinarily compassionate God sees our hearts and understands when we're trying our best, even when our best is none too good.

And so, when it's time for the Confiteor, the heartfelt prayer I offer up is a version of my highest truth:

I confess to almighty God and to you, my brothers and sisters, that I have sinned, in my thoughts and in my words, in what I have done and in what I have failed to do. I ask you, my brothers and sisters, to pray for me to the Lord our God.

This morning, as the congregation reached the words,

through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault,

a passionate voice deep within me - the little girl that is me - suddenly and silently shouted no! no! no! no! And I just started crying, the kind of crying that wanted OUT. I excused myself to my father, saying I needed to go sit in the car.

Once inside my car, my crying turned quickly to sobbing, coughing, keening, waling and shaking all over. These typical physical reactions in Somatic Experiencing revealed to me that something(s) had triggered a trauma activation, that the best thing I could do was give my body's wisdom space and time to process and release trapped energy safely. I opened the windows slightly to allow fresh air in and released energy out.

The no-words releasing included no-words praying, me tightly clutching a small hand carved and buffed wooden cross designed with curves to be hand held. Because of its small perfect knot defect, I named it Wholely Holey Holy Lord. I held on to it for dear life for comfort and strength, so thankful for my long-ago decision to keep it in my car.

And I reached out for help. I messaged my therapist. I drew a mandala (part of my trauma healing process) on my iPhone and sent it to her so she would have a better idea of what was going on inside of me, and she texted back feedback that strengthened me. We would talk in an hour. In the meantime, I pictured her sitting next to me, supporting me.

The imagination is an amazing healing resource.

I started to journal, another resource in my trauma healing toolkit. This article completes what began in the car. 

My father and my brother the father (a priest, my pastor, a real blessing) both showed up for me after mass with compassion. As I drove Dad home, we talked a bit about my experience, and when I dropped him off he asked not just for a hug, but for a big hug, telling me he loved me. It meant the world to me, that love and support coming from him. So much healing there...

Late in the evening, my brother and I spoke briefly, sharing a special connection.

Somatic Experiencing, depending on the intensity of the work can be very energy consuming. I knew I would require extra rest, allowing for the limp noodle feeling this morning. Resting and working in bed, the cool wind blowing through the open windows, nourished my healing body, soul, and the little girl that is me today.

I thank God for my healing over the years. Yes, there are still surprises, unexpected triggers and activations that come from seemingly out of nowhere. They don’t frighten me like they used to.

I have a magnificent toolkit of resources. 

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The Power of Telling My Truth

As artist, writer, and owner of my own creative entrepreneurial small business, I've learned more than I could have imagined these last few years. Blessed with supporters and consultants who helped me create a strong foundational structure, including my website, I love having a place to share my creativity.

This, my third and final career, was born out of an immense healing journey that has spanned the last almost ten years. Coming from a background of operating room/theatre nursing and clinical informatics, I would find and come to know and love my deepest truest self through trauma recovery and healing.

I would also discover my inner prolific artist. And my vision and mission: to live abundantly by nourishing the world with what nourished me. My passion would include sharing my story of trauma healing through art.

Painting, photography, drawing, illustrating, journaling, poetry, memoir and blogging all found their places on my website. The online store opened a year later. Then, contrary to my previous professional experiences and the expectation that once I built it they would come, nothing happened.

Well, barely nothing. I did make a few small sales, and began to grow my subscriber list. I received positive feedback from friends and family and online coaching communities. Then… comments that there was too much, it was confusing, they weren't sure where to go or what it was I was trying to say, share, accomplish.

Redesign was in order.  I was optimistic and intentional about this being the right path to take.

Upscale photographic metal prints of my Chandeliers from Russia collection would be featured on a separate website, designed with a contemporary, glossy theme.

I would remove all trauma related content from my original website, because it seemed a distraction from the art I wanted to sell.

The new design and redesign proceeded. I confess I felt like I was cutting a part of my own self/soul off as I pruned my original website of its trauma content. Still, I persisted, creating clean and clear cut design and messaging.

No sales. Even with 30%, 50% discount promotions.

I had worked so hard, followed the guidance of paid and unpaid consultants, grown a following on Instagram and Facebook, boosted and promoted, been liked and followed.

But no conversion to sales.

The one thing that kept me going (in addition to my firm conviction that this is my calling and it is meant to be) was that interaction with the world through my Instagram and Facebook posts, as well as my online coaching group. And the encouraging responses I received: Keep going. You got this. So inspiring. Thank you.

Also, I had begun work on my book From Fear to Love: One Woman's Courageous Journey Through Trauma Recovery, an energizing undertaking. And eventually I figured out what was really going on, learning a very important truth:

My story, my journey, my creativity all comprise a complete whole that cannot and should not be pulled apart. They are both meant to be explored. Together or separately. Sharing my trauma healing story, my truth, my ME, makes me feel complete.

With great love, I redesigned the redesign of my original website. I also redesigned the new website a bit to better fit who I am and how I want my beautiful chandelier photos to be experienced online. And I felt better, whole again.

And now we get to the heart of this little essay:

Less than one week after adding those images and poems, journal excerpts and trauma healing stories back to my website, I received an email from a reader, and here are some excerpts:

I just want to say thank you. I stumbled across you today and it couldn't have been more timely for me… your words on working through your own trauma gave me an unexpected sense of peace… Just a few minutes going through your posts has helped me breathe again through my anxieties and re-center myself on all of my abundant blessings. I can and will move forward- I will be better than okay!

I don't know if you have many people who stop to take a moment to acknowledge the good you're putting out in the world…. So thank you. Thank you for sharing your journey, and for your honesty and bravery in doing so. Thank you for putting good out into the world. And thank you for somehow being in the right place at the right moment for me. 

Talk about timing! I felt a profound sense of gratitude learning that the sharing of my story helped someone else. It strengthened my deep commitment to and belief in my calling to nourish the world. That it will all fall in place.

THAT is the power of telling my truth.

May you be blessed with knowing and loving your deepest self. And the courage to tell your truth.

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A Day in Bizarro Land AKA There's Always a Reason to Dance

Have you ever heard of Bizarro Land? Anyone with children certainly has been there, perhaps by another name.

A week ago, I spent much of my day there.

In the morning, deciding to treat myself to donuts, I threw my long raincoat on over my cute little jammies and headed out. I hadn't even brushed my teeth.

On the way, I accidentally - really! It was a confusing intersection! - ran a red light, noticing the CCTV monitor. Note to self: do not be surprised to receive an automated ticket. Followed by: this is going to be an expensive donut run. Followed by: don't worry about it, what's done is done.

I picked up my donuts and headed home. On my way, sighting a police patrol car, I instinctively put on my brakes, having no idea what the speed limit was or how fast I was going. 

Sure enough, he pulled me over, politely introduced himself and explained that I was going 40 mph in a 30 mph zone. He also noticed I had an expired license tag (aka car registration, as evidenced by last year's sticker on my plate).

I was confused. Expired tags? How did this happen? How did I miss that?

Thankfully he let me off with a warning about the speeding. Then he asked for my insurance card. It too was expired.

More confused, I was blown away. Until I figured the current card was still on my desk at home.

He kindly agreed with my suggestion that I log onto my account and show proof of coverage and he went back to his squad car.

If you hadn't guessed by now, I had entered Bizarro Land.

There were website issues, but luckily, I was able to contact my auto insurance agent who promptly emailed me my current insurance card. Whew. So, no ticket for speeding, no ticket for driving without insurance. 

The officer arrived window-side and I showed him proof of insurance. I then took a deep breath, looking at him with pleading eyes, asking if I promised to go straightaway to the nearby DMV to renew my tag, was it possible to not get a ticket for that bit?

He appeared a bit sad as he apologized, saying he had already written the citation for the expired tags. $110. However, if I proceeded to the DMV as promised, I could pay a reduced citation penalty at city hall. 

Then he said "there's something else. You have a screw stuck in your front tire." I got out of the car in my coat covered jammies to have a look, realizing my day's plans were to be reprioritized, again. Sigh. 

He was so apologetic, sharing that he really hated having to ticket me, as well as be the bearer of bad tire news.

I thanked him for his kindness, seeing that he sincerely cared about me and my plight. We parted ways, him waving, me offering my hands in Namaste.

Shaken and nervous and calm at the same time, I proceeded, in jammies and raincoat, to the DMV to renew my registration. Handing over my credit card, I reflected that I would earn frequent flyer miles (= more travel!). The agent helping me was pleasant and thoughtful, which made me feel a bit better.

I placed that coveted little 2017 sticker on my license plate as soon as I got back to the car.

A few blocks away, the friendly court clerk charged me only $55 and I earned some more frequent flyer miles. I don't think she had a clue I was wearing little jammies under that tasteful raincoat.

Back in my car, legal matters sorted, I called my car dealer to arrange an afternoon appointment to sort out the tire. 

Having managed all that, I lovingly allowed myself some time to cry and feel overwhelmed and utterly sorry for myself. Once home, I crawled back to bed, ate my donuts while watching TV, then took a nap. I was in no mood or mode to work.

I dressed before leaving for the dealer - real clothes this time - where I was again treated with kindness and respect. They took out the screw, determined there was no tire damage, washed the car and sent me on my way without charging me a penny.

In my car is a little plaque that reads "There is always a reason to dance."

As is my habit, I reflected back on the day's events, asking myself "what's good about this?" I recalled the kindnesses shown me, the blessing of a wonderful car and ready service, being the owner of my own business and the scheduling flexibility that affords, not having to worry about money, the indulgence of being able to run out for a bit in pajamas without anyone knowing - something I never in my life though I would do! Not to mention learning out about a screw in my tire and avoiding – worse – a flat tire.

There is always a reason to dance. Indeed.

As importantly, I felt gratitude for friends who support me. One in particular has an open-door offer. "Call any time you're in the neighborhood and come by. We'll have a glass of wine and visit." Sure enough, I was in the neighborhood, and sure enough when I called she said "come on over!"

We made a quick trip to the grocery store together, and, preparing to pay for my few groceries, I discovered my wallet was missing. Of course. It was sitting on my dresser at home, where I'd left it when double checking my insurance card. Not normal for me to be so absent minded. Well, this was not a normal day.

My friend paid for my purchases (blessing!), and we proceeded to her house where we ended the day in friendship, love and support, sharing stories and sipping wine.

I drove home that night with deep gratitude in my heart for my blessings.

There is always a reason to dance.

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Ready for Joy

How do you start your day? Do you have a regular self care routine or do you rush about to get out the door?

I find myself most mornings these days spending a few minutes in the modules of the self paced online program Reinventing The Body, Resurrecting the Soul by Deepak Chopra. It mirrors his book by the same name.

Course participants read the module content, reflect on questions, and are encouraged to share their reactions and/or experiences in comments. Yesterday,  as I worked on content related to our physical and energetic bodies and emotions, I shared the following:

Emotional energy: as a recovering trauma survivor, I spent over six years working weekly with a therapist certified in Somatic Experiencing. From a state of freeze, totally cut off from my emotions and my body (physical and energetic), I transitioned over the years of healing to a completely different state of being. One in which I slowly and safely began to experience and learn to name my multitude of emotions, allowing space for all of them. My physical body was able to release the energy trapped by decades old trauma, finding its way out of freeze, discovering fight and flight. I met and fell in love with the little girl that is me, co-habitator of my soul.

As I continue in my journey, I live a deep abiding sense of love and compassion for that little girl that is me, and also for all of God's children and all his creation. On occasion, I encounter triggers and "the trick of trauma" which leads to times of anxiety and depression. When I recognize what'shappening, I draw on the resources I learned over the years.

Sometimes that means clearing my calendar for several days as I lovingly care for myself, remembering to reach out for support, and checking in frequently with the little girl that is me. It might include a call or visit to my therapist to help me untangle what has surfaced.

Throughout these years, and every single day, I choose life. My stubborn (and life saving) determination to see this through to the other side, along with the trust I place in God to carry me when I cannot walk, help me to choose life and love. Every single day. Sometimes every hour.

I've worked so hard, with great courage. I have gone places within that few have dared, facing deep darkness, experiencing my fear and replacing it with love.

The image of the phoenix, who rises anew from its own ashes expresses this beautifully. I am reminded of this every time I pull out my business card case. 

I always believed I am on a healing path.

And now I'm ready for joy.

 

Straightaway, another participant commented: Thank you. You note is felt and appreciated. I feel calmer and hopeful. I think my shoulders even dropped back to offer space for a full inhale & a bit of relief for my heart.

Oh! My sharing HELPED someone! I replied to him, telling him that now I felt better as well.

And then later another comment: Thank you so much for sharing Annette, you have brought comfort within my journey. To bringing Love, Joy and Peace to that beautiful little girl. I'm also learning and healing the depths of trauma and finding my way out of freeze. Great courage, Great Love. :) I also am ready to surrender into joy. Take care.

Oh! I helped someone else! More than that, I'm reminded that I'm not alone, contrary to what the trick of trauma would have me believe. There are people out there that really understand me. This. I am comforted and reassured. I am not alone. 

I think joy may be within my reach.

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A Poem for Peculiar People Day

You know what today is?

National Peculiar People Day.

Do you qualify to celebrate? I do, just enough. So I wrote this poem:

 

Peculiar People Day

Pretending to drink scotch with a wax-man in Scotland.

Pretending to drink scotch with a wax-man in Scotland.

Today is Peculiar People Day

I'm thrilled to have one come my way!

So often I feel a bit out of place,

And now I know theres more than enough space...

 

For peculiar ones, yes, we goofy galore!

We notice things others completely ignore.

Like bright little flowers growing out from a rock.

The shape of a cloud, the geese in a flock.

 

Near my flat in London. Life finds a way.

Near my flat in London. Life finds a way.

We might seem straight laced

And that’s all you see, 

If only you knew

What’s inside of me!

 

We do quirky things,

Skydiving over Stonehenge, England. Yes, I jumped out of a perfectly good airplane. So. Much. Fun.

Skydiving over Stonehenge, England. Yes, I jumped out of a perfectly good airplane. So. Much. Fun.

Right out of the air,

We may have tattoos

About everywhere.

 

Peculiar, eccentric, a little bit strange,

You’ll find us across the whole wide range.

Embrace us, love us, just as we are,

For our spirit and spunk are as bright as a star.

Singing with "Elvis" in London.

Singing with "Elvis" in London.

 

Be curious, open your heart, go wild!

And discover your inner peculiar child.

Diversity rounds out the lives we share,

Don’t be afraid, get on out there.

 

Happy Peculiar People Day!

If you'd like to read more of my poems, you can find them in this post.

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There's a Whole Lot of New in this New Year

New Year's greetings and blessings all around!

What's new in your world in 2017?  At home? At work?  With children? With pets? 

According to my informal survey of one (me), a slight shifting occurs, along with a new sense of possibility.

And lots of change.

Starting with my website redesign:

  • Home - streamlined, including links to ShopAbstractPhotography and Etsy store
  • Blog page - easier navigation through current and past posts.
  • Shop - simpler display and clearer path to originals for sale vs print collections. Plus, by the end of the month, I'll be offering two different collections of fine art notecards, suitable for framing.

Did someone say GIVE AWAY?

Yes.

Twice.

Times twelve.

Each month, I'm giving away something from Abundance Art and ShopAbstractPhotography.

Starting with two drawings on Friday, January 27th, which gives you lots of time to join each list and share with family and friends. Feel the love, spread the love. 


 Abundance Art:

Imagine yourself lying on a beach in Costa Rica. No, I'm not giving away a free trip. Sorry. However, imagine having your own museum quality print of Costa Rica Beach... a $70 value - free! And you have plenty of time to join and spread the word.

 

 


Shop Abstract Photography

Now imagine yourself walking through the great hallways of the Winter Palace in St Petersburg, Russia. Look up. Gorgeous chandelier! Who would like to have a special limited edition of this stunning metal print - normally selling for $297 - for free in your home? Join and spread the word, and it might just be you.


There's one more way for you to win. For every person you refer to either subscriber list, you receive a $5 voucher towards a purchase from AbundanceArt.com. The way this works is that you contact me via the website with the names of the new subscribers and the list they joined. I confirm, and I send you the voucher code(s).

Sweet.

Don't you just love free stuff?

Here's to 2017 and abundant new possibilities!

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From Fear to Love

Do you have any New Year's resolutions? What do you think of the idea that it doesn't have to be something you start on day one and stick to every day? What if it could be a sure and steady and sustained resolution that results in you (and perhaps your part of the world?) being in a better place at the end of the year than at the beginning.

That's my kind of resolution. Besides, being the go slow girl (and proud of it), it's what works for me.

And that takes patience.

The kind of patience I have with myself as I radically redesign my website. I recently blogged about this pruning, which you can read about here.

And now I get to share the other part. Which just happens to tie into one of my New Year's resolutions.  

First, as a quick reminder, this year I finished six and a half years of trauma recovery therapy with Candy, my at-the-time therapist, who has been certified in Somatic Experiencing for well over twenty years. The basic premise with this modality is that the body holds energy trapped during trauma (emotional overwhelm). The body (Somatic) and the central nervous system are able to very slowly (repeat very slowly) release that trapped energy (Experiencing) during therapy. That's it in a nano-nutshell. This short video that Candy and I created in summer of 2016 does a great job of introducing Trauma and Somatic Experiencing. FYI, gswoj stands for go slow woman on a journey.

The stuff I took off the website - poetry, memoir, mandalas, journal excerpts and illustrations - was created during my trauma recovery, and it's still very much around as an expression of my healing. Much of it will find its way into a book that Candy, now my life coach and collaborator, are co-authoring.

A book! One of my New Year's Resolutions!

Candy and I actually started on the book back in late 2014, when we agreed the overall structure, milestones, and story telling approach. We both felt a passion (I had a fire in my belly!) to get the word out about Somatic Experiencing as a very effective treatment modality for trauma recovery.

Do you ever feel like you're ready for something and you find out that life has different plans? This reminds me of the old joke: Want to make God laugh? Tell him your plans.

Sidetracked for almost two years with mysterious, repeated and prolonged medical and surgical circumstances, I kept trusting that what was going on with my body was part of a much larger healing path. Somatic, after all, basically means related to the body, and removal of 7 organs over that period of time was certainly a sort of releasing.

Thankfully, the fire in my belly was not removed.

Candy and I were able to resume our efforts recently. Today the framework, Introduction, and Chapter One are in the hands of my editor for review. Our working title is From Fear to Love: One Woman's Courageous Journey Through Trauma Recovery.

I am now patting myself on the back for meeting an important end of 2016 goal. Well done us!

When you undertake a project about which you are really pumped, how do you describe that to someone else?

Let me try: I'm thrilled and energized about how we're manifesting this book and who it will serve.

First, the framework includes three major sections I intuitively understood and named way back in 2008:

  • Discovery - learning what needs healing
  • Uncovery - getting to the bottom of my wounding
  • Recovery- integrating healing and new truths into my life

Within each section, each chapter has its own framework:

  • I tell my portion of the story in first person, present tense.
  • Candy tells her portion related to my story in first person past tense.
  • We include photos of my journal entries and illustrations and paintings as relevant.
  • We wrap up with a summary and resources (as well as at the end of the book).

Next, the answer to a very important question. Because we can talk and write all we want and if it isn't relevant and doesn't serve, what’s the point?

I believe with all my heart that this book will inspire, heal, empower and help these people and more:

  • Therapists who want to learn more about trauma and Somatic Experiencing in particular
  • Therapists who are already certified in Somatic Experiencing
  • MDs, PhDs and researchers who focus on neurobiophysiology and psychosomatic neurology
  • Behavioral science students, social workers, psych nurses, doctors, practitioners and other clinicians
  • Motivational and metaphysical speakers and writers
  • People who know they are trauma survivors and want some point of reference and/or direction
  • People who struggle with life and don't understand why
  • People who live with PTSD, anxiety and/or depression, who are or are not in therapy
  • People who are in CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) and/or EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) who aren't getting better.
  • The families and loved ones of the people above

Anyone wondering why we are doing this?

The answer is simple. My heart and the fire in my belly keeps telling me to get the word out about Somatic Experiencing.

And it's ok if we work on it all year long.

Go slow and prosper!

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Out With the Old, In With the New... Mostly

Have you noticed some changes in my website over the last few weeks?

For example, there's a new logo/kid on the home page/block named ShopAbstractPhotography.com. There you will find the popular Chandeliers from Russia collection. This collection employs a very special metal printing process for a stunning result. The website also displays my Abundance_Art Instagram feed.

As for AbundanceArt.com…  well, ...  I've been pruning.

Streamlined is the menu bar. Hidden are the memoir bits, poems and journal entry excerpts. Gone are the mandala, photo, and Maitri galleries as well as A Piece of Hope and Healing.

It hasn't been easy. Sometimes it feels as if a part of me has been cut off.

Do you ever feel that way when you make a significant change?

And yet, that's what pruning is about. Removing parts that have not yielded fruit so that all the love, light and energy can be focused on the fruitful fruit and yield a greater harvest. With an uncluttered, clear and unambiguous path to it. Plus some space for visitors to see themselves in the space, to image what they see in their own space.

Speaking of which, Something For Your Soul does just that. It allows you to collaborate with me on a custom abstract fine art painting for your home or office space. Something that reflects and energizes YOU.

And now a question. When you let go of something, does that mean you get rid of it?

Sometimes it's the best thing to do. This is not one of those times.

  • Many of my currently hidden paintings and photos will reappear in the store, as collections of originals for sale, prints and notecards.
  • My poetry, mandalas and journal excerpts are already finding their way into a book I'm co-authoring with Candy, my former trauma recovery therapist, now life coach and collaborator. I'll tell you more about that in my next blog.

What would I like you to do during this transition?

Sign up for both email subscriber lists now, because starting at the end of January, I will give away something from each website, drawing from each email list separately. If you're on both lists, and you're lucky, you could win 2 prizes!

In the meantime, I'm sending you all blessings for a happy, healthy, and prosperous new year!

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All I Want for Christmas is...

Arial image Aleppo 2015 Hosam Katan - Reuters

Arial image Aleppo 2015 Hosam Katan - Reuters

… help for the men, women and children in and around Aleppo and other parts of Syria.

This year, I've noticed that how I feel about Christmas is different. The "holiday spirit" seems disconnected for me, because of what is going on in Syria, especially Aleppo.  I can't and do not want to separate myself from that story because of this thing called solidarity. And my desire is that my gifts, both given and received, be in the form of donation to Syrian humanitarian aid.

Which, even though, and because, Aleppo is scheduled to be fully evacuated this week -  Alhamdulillah (thanks be to God), is needed more than ever, as humanitarian organizations now have access to people in need.

Why do I care this much? How did it all begin?

Not just in the last few weeks. I'd say my solidary started well before 2011 in response to prayers for this gift of connection. Be careful what you pray for… Because having a spirit of solidarity can hurt. A lot. And it comes with obligation. To help wherever and however, and continue to teach others and spread the word and when all that is exhausted to simply honor them, stand with them in their suffering.

Having in early 2011 visited the Holy Land, standing near the border between Israel and Syria, I hold in my mind the memory and image of looking across to the beautiful rolling hills and trying to fathom war in such a peaceful setting.

I also see in my mind's eye the wall around Bethlehem, and the distant hills where the shepherds would have been guarding their sheep. Mary and Joseph at least found a cave. Tens of thousands of Syrians have nowhere to go.

It was in 2011 that the Arab Spring began; a series of anti-government protests, uprisings and armed rebellions that spread across the Middle East. Remember Egypt ousting Mubarak? The people decided they did not want to be ruled oppressively and they acted. And won. It wasn't really that simple, I'm just distilling it down here.

I moved to the Middle East - Doha, Qatar - in early 2012 for a one year Clinical Informatics contract. Qatar, home of the independent Al Jazeera news company, supported the Arab Spring, believing people deserved to start life over in peace . There seemed real possibilities that despotic leaders would be removed, and I held hope for the people in those countries.

While in Doha, I befriended a woman from Egypt, exiled so to speak to work in Doha for her own safetyShe missed her home and family desperately, and would eventually return to them. I hope she's ok.

During my time in Qatar I always felt safe. It was a wealthy, happy country, a moderate Islamic state. There were actually many more expats than nationals, which gave my experience there a surreal sense. Being there I learned more about the culture, Islam, and especially how much I determined for myself that the desert was a nice place to visit but I didn't want to live there.

So I made my way back to Midwest USA in the spring of 2013, and kept my ears open for what was going on there.

Curiously, although I purposely refrain from watching, reading and listening to the news for personal reasons, Aleppo caught my attention about a year ago and has called to me ever since.

OMG - Oh My Growth!~ I have just published a YouTube video called Appeal for Aleppo. I did this to generate more traction and public awareness about my passion to raise money by auctioning four of my original paintings - a quadriptych named Aleppo - for humanitarian aid in and around Aleppo. You can watch it here.  

What do you want for Christmas this year? I think the familiar traditions and trimmings are lovely, and I would not want to detract from that for a bit. I look forward to the white elephant (aka silly) give exchange that is a fun family tradition

Perhaps as we gather as family, we could talk a bit about the very humble beginnings of Jesus' life. And acknowledge that today there are so many displaced Syrian people who would be grateful for a cave to call home.

Then, maybe we could take up a collection in thanksgiving for our blessings, and send it to a Syrian charity.

Out of solidarity. 

Love wins.

All right... I gotta tell you, having spent the time over the last couple of hour fine tuning this blog and creating/uploading the video to YouTube, my passion has been ignited, and my spirits have lifted. Knowing the the world is listening is doing my hear and spirit a ton of good.

Love wins.

PS - did you know that Christmas is celebrated in Syria? Check it out here. Talk about solidarity...

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My Love Affair With Russian Chandeliers

It was just curiosity at first, a glimpse in my peripheral vision. I could easily have turned away, resisted. But I allowed myself a full view of what had caught my eye. There was no going back, I was hooked.

Have you ever felt like that?

That's how my love affair with chandeliers began. Now I look for them, as I do mandalas, wherever I go. And my all time favorite, most beautiful, most meaningful, chandelier has a history that unknowingly wove itself into my life decades ago.

What? When? Why? How?

My entire first chandelier collection, which you can see here, is especially meaningful for me, as I have wanted to travel to Russia since I was a teenager. Getting there was the very first item on my life wish list. Forty years ago to be exact, I read the non-fiction book, "Nicholas and Alexandra" - which I am now reading again - and through it I learned about the Tsar Nicholas II, his wife the Empress Alexandra (and their family), what they were like as people and as rulers.

Even knowing the outcome, learning about these real people of history fascinated me from page one. The Romanov Dynasty and Imperial Russia would come to an end during World War I, replaced by communism.

Sadly, in 1918, the royal family and a few members of their household were brutally murdered, their bodies dismembered, burned and buried deep in a mine shaft with acid thrown on top. That was the end of the story as far as I knew.

Years passed and I was thrilled when Perestroika ("restructuring") and Glasnost ("openness") resulted in the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Some day I would go to Russia!

My life dream came true in September 2015, when I spent two weeks in this huge and mysterious country. In only a sliver of travel, I encountered restored palaces, cathedrals, country churches and I savored past and present culture through connections with locals.

And I took LOTS of photos of chandeliers, the first collection of which you can find  here as a limited edition of special metal prints. You will fall in love with them, alone or as a selection.

My most memorable chandelier experience took place at the Peter and Paul Fortress. Simply stepping onto the cobblestone and seeing the cathedral with its 404 foot tall spire literally took my breath away. (I can count on one hand the times that's happened to me.)

pp fortress Cobblestone.png

Within the Cathedral, above ground tombs of the Romanov Tsars filled the side spaces. I stood among Peter the Great, Catherine the Great, most recently Nicholas I, Alexander II, Alexander III, etc. Hard to grasp, I just soaked it up.

But it was when I looked forward and above that I was truly inspired and filled with awe. For here was and is my favorite chandelier of all time, partly because of what came next.

The most powerful moments of my time in the Cathedral were spent in front of the Catherine the Great Chapel. It was here that I learned that the remains of Nicholas and Alexandra, with their children and household staff, were discovered in 1998 and following DNA testing, had been interred in the chapel. Nicholas, Alexandra, Maria, Tatiana, Olga Anastasia, Alexis. All there.

I'd had no idea their remains had been located and treated with the dignity and honor they deserved. I found myself overwhelmed with emotion. Crying quietly with grief and relief, with the comforting awareness that somehow, this complex and loving family had found their way home.

The depth of this experience remains with me today.


I reflect now how reading can open the world for anyone.  I reflect too on the blessing of being able to travel to places of such rich history, to walk the path of the past, and somehow feel connected to those who came before.I Invite YOU to travel vicariously through my Russian Chandelier Collection. All you need to do to transport yourself back in time is click the logo below.

Is there somewhere calling you?

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Bonus Blogpost: My New (Ad)Venture is Live!

Hello all,

Well, my brain and my body are so much in the habit of writing a blogpost, that here I am again!

There's been a rumor going around that I've been gestating.

Yes, it's true.

I've been growing something for a couple of months now, and I'm proud to announce it's a brand new...  website!

And notice my favorite little swirl on the left of the new logo? A nice bit of golden continuity with its blue cousin from my Abundance Art Logo.

Back to ShopAbstractPhotography, here's what's great about the first photographic collection featured on the new website. three of which are shown here to further entice you.

  • I know you'll love these twelve gorgeous chandeliers I captured on my dream trip to Russia as much as I do.
  • The images go through a special printing process involving aluminium - that's aluminum to you Americans, the only ones in the world who pronounce it that way.. but I digress -  and polymers that bring out the absolute luster and splendor of each piece.
  • The collection is a limited edition, which means each individual piece (signed and numbered by yours truly) may very well increase in value over time. Get yours now!
  • These beauties are perfect for a variety of residential and commercial venues.
  • For your convenience, you can purchase them directly from my Abundance Art Facebook page.
  • All shipping, domestic and international is included in the price. Woo hoo! Come on world!

In case you're wondering, abundanceart.com is absolutely alive and well, and continues to grow, as Candy and I progress with co-authroing our trauma recovery book. The chandelier collection that was there will be replaced with different photos in the next few weeks, along with some other changes to make it easier to navigate the website.

Plus, I added a link at the bottom of the Abundance Art home page that takes you directly to  ShopAbstractPhotography.

Easy peasy lemon squeezy.

One more thing. I have created a YouTube channel called Abundance Art,  and am in the process of  loading videos old and new onto it, including some of my trek/travel adventures to Nepal, Trauma and Somatic Experiencing education, and business and marketing stuff. Also, I'm still figuring out some of the features, so bear with me. Do let me know if there's anything particular you're like me to post. I can do funny. I like funny.

Because of all that's going on, I'm asking for your help and support. The good news is that it takes very little effort. I would be SOOOOOO grateful in you would share this in your social media and email circles, to really help me get the word out. Plus, get your friends and family to sign up for my email list. I'll be giving away a painting for free to celebrate the beginning of 2017, and you have to be on my mailing list to win.

Mailing list + chance to win free cool art = no brainer. :) Pass it on

I think that's quite enough for one day, don't you? 

Enjoy your weekend!

Peace and love to all.

I'm falling asleep!

Namaste,

Annette

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Those Brown Stains on My Sheets Are Chocolate and Other Observations from This 30-Day Blog Writing Challenge

Do you ever experience a phrase, song, or idea that keeps going around in your head?

I know the song replaying is called an earworm. Wikipedia adds that, sometimes known as a brainworm, sticky music, or stuck song syndrome, it is a catchy piece of music that continually repeats through a person's mind after it is no longer playing.

Not sure about the phrase or idea replaying. I'd call it a broken record, but in this day of CDs, many people wouldn't get the reference. Then again, I've heard that vinyl is making a comeback.

Anyway, a few weeks ago, I was eating chocolate in bed and a few bits ended up on the sheets, unnoticed by me until laundry day. Into my mind pops the words "Those brown stains on my sheets are chocolate." I laugh out loud, which my brain must love, because it keeps repeating those words. Again and again. Finally, I give in, thus the title. Maybe I will be left in peace now.

And while I'm on the subject, a number of other observations have popped up and demanded out.

So.

Here they are, in full glory, some quirky and not so quirky observations of these last 30 blog-writing days.

  • Those brown stains on my sheets really were chocolate. Really.
  • When I woke up this morning and saw snow, I thought to myself, "Finally. Summer is REALLY over!"
  • I can't figure out why the font size arbitrarily changes in spite of its setting. And I'm ok with that.
  • It is not necessary to have sheets on my bed to sleep well if I'm tired enough. The mattress and duvet are quite nice on their own.
  • I easily entertain myself: for example I made a meme of Clint Eastwood as Dirty Harry saying "Go ahead punk. Make my meme." Every time I think of it I giggle. I'm giggling now.

 


  • Mailchimp, my email subscriber software, has a cheeky user interface that I always fall for when I send out an email.
Mailchimp High Fives.png

I DO revel in my moment of glory, and I ALWAYS return the chimp's high five. Helloooo... it's computer software!

I don't care! It never fails, and I always smile. 


  • I upgraded my iPad to the iPad Pro JUST so I could have the Apple Pen. Merry Christmas to me!
  • Microsoft OneNote rocks. The anal retentive creative's dream app for online organizing.
  • Writing the blog is the easy part. Adding photos and publishing and posting and sharing etc are the bits that take time. I actually have a checklist (reference previous observation) to ensure I've completed all the steps.
  • I love mandalas and swirls so much, they're showing up outside my house.

  • HuffPost Contributor Platform pooped out before I did. Note to self: figure out what's up with that.
  • This challenge has actually been a great experience... and it wore me out! Lots of staying up past my bedtime. I was so exhausted one night I found myself typing my email address and ending it with .coma. I'm serious, this is true.

How do you entertain yourself? Better still, what is the quirkiest phrase/idea that keeps going around in your head? I really want you to share in the comments below, because I know I'm not the only one with experiences like this.

Here's to successfully accomplishing my goal of 30 blogs in 30 days. Woo hoo!

I'd open some champagne to celebrate... except that I just want to crawl into bed. 

With my mattress and duvet.

Night night!

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A Bit About Writing

When you approach a new project, whether at home or work, how do you go about doing it?

  • Jump right in, learn as you go?
  • Read the manual first?
  • Somewhere in between?

I've tended to be the jump right in sort. In fact, I used to joke that when you tell me to jump, I'm in the air before I ask "how high?" I've learned, after numerous wasted efforts, that sometimes it's wiser to slow down, see how things unfold. Going slow also allows for an internal processing to take place.

Still, one thing I know is that, regardless of the nature of the project, I always start with one thing: doing what I know.

In my previous career, as Clinical Strategist for a global healthcare informatics software company, I authored many different types of technical documents as I moved from assignment to assignment.

As long as I had some sort of example, I could take that and off I'd go.

As in to the break room. Really!

Walk around the department, maybe take a walk outside.

Because what I already knew needed to swirl around with what I was learning, and come together in my mind. Once that was done, I would sit down and type away.

I used to think I was avoiding that particular project until I realized what was happening. That a natural thought process evolved which resulted in quality documents.

I've found the same to be true in writing daily blogs for the last four weeks.

I've basically been writing what I know. And its literary cousin (I just made that up), writing what I notice.

Four weeks ago, when I accepted this 30-day challenge, I tended to write earlier in the day. That has shifted to after dinnertime, which allows me to notice the events and thoughts that come and go throughout the day.

By the time I sit down in the evening to write, it's pretty much already done. In my head. I type the words out, play with them, edit, edit, edit.

Marion Roach, a famous memoirist, observes that the first draft is always the vomit draft. While the thought of vomiting does not appeal, I do love how that gives me permission to not worry about how good it is straight off…

Though I do believe that much of what bubbles up is spot on. Cheeky me!

Seriously, the truth lies in telling your truths.

Do what you know.

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