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!

Seven Strategies for Living with Chronic Pain

I am no stranger to chronic pain, primarily related to my spine and head. Low back pain started seemingly out of the blue 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 lasted three years.

I am not kidding.

Yes, three years. Yes 24/7. On a scale of 1-10, it ranged between 4 and 7 on a regular day, 8-10 on a bad day. Burning. Pounding. Like the back of my head was exploding and at the same time someone was trying to pull the facial bones off the front of my head.

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. After treatment with epidural steroid injections - three courses of three injections over the period of three years - I finally stepped away from twenty years of 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.

Life went on. Pain came and went. I lived with degenerative disc disease, what I jokingly referred to as SFD (shit for discs), and managed, with daily stretching and strengthening exercises, to maintain an active and healthy lifestyle. Which included three adventure treks: one each in the Sahara and Jordanian Deserts and the Himalayan Hill Mountains in the Annapurna Conservation Area in Nepal.

In early May 2017, to celebrate the completion of my elderly father’s twice a day post cataract eye drops administration (or as I called it, being the Pop Drop Girl), I decided to treat myself to an ice cream cone nearby. Stepping up on to the ordering area, I slipped on damp pavement. Becoming briefly and completely airborne, I landed flat on my back. In semi shock, I gratefully received a free extra-large ice cream cone for my troubles.

It was delicious.

No surprise, the back and headache troubles resurfaced with a vengeance.

Holistic crack-less chiropractic support, X-Rays, MRIs, a neurosurgeon consult, ten weeks of physical therapy, referral to a local center for pain medicine and multiple procedures later, gratitude for partial relief of head pain and a solid plan to alleviate lower back pain reigned.

Along the way were sprinkled day and weeks that my bed and my exquisite down pillows offered the only relief from the pounding jarring pain in my head and/or the bone deep anguish in my lower back.

What a blessing to sit up, even more so to move around and undertake simple household and outdoor activities. Family and friends came again and again to help with the regular chores beyond my capacity.

Ever seeking the path to optimum health, and knowing that optimum is a relative term, I focused on and now offer these seven strategies to promote the best wellness possible in the presence of chronic pain.

Ill, Still, Chill, Fill, Will, Pill and Drill.

 

ILL: Accept with love and compassion that you are ill with dis-ease,

·      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 and try not to overdo it.

 

STILL: Be still and allow yourself time to rest.

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

·      Take a realistic look at your commitments, and adjust them accordingly to free up time for self-care.

·      Learn to pre-emptively say NO.

·      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.

·      If warmth feels better, it’s ok to use that.

·      You can grab a frozen bag of peas, make your own cold pack, or select from numerous products available online for both hot and cold therapy. Elastogel pads are my favorite, especially because they can be frozen for cold and heated in the microwave for hot. I use one specially made for head/neck and another long one for spine.

·      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. Stop reading, watching or listening to it. It's an energy drainer. My attitude is that if it's important enough, I'll see something 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.

·      Play Reiki healing recordings. Healing energy is healing energy no matter where it comes from, and this is my  favorite.

·      Consider EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques) tapping as a powerfully self-loving adjunctive treatment modality. Brad Yates is the master of online tapping videos and you can find one on tapping for pain here 

·      Turn on funny and inspiring YouTube videos. My current favorite is the two young choir boys signing a meow song with deadpan faces. I laugh out loud every time.

·      You can find my all-time favorite uplifting YouTube videos here. Just scroll down to the bottom.

 

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

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

·      It’s also possible that your chronic pain is rooted in emotional pain and scars that can be healed. For example, when I was meeting with a therapist in 2008, I mentioned I had lived with back pain most of my adult life. Her immediate question, “How were you unsupported in your life?” was quickly followed by my response of “It would be easier to answer that by naming the few times I felt supported.”

·      Be willing to consider professional help. Body/energy, traditional therapy, and/or Somatic Experiencing may change your life for the better. It did mine. You can learn more about resources I’ve found helpful in the last link above.

·      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. Believe it or not, even that has benefits.

·      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. 

 

PILL: There very well may be a place for pain pills in managing your pain.

·      If you are using over the counter and/or prescription medication, take each pill with mindfulness and intention.

·      Before taking each pill, pause to consider if you’re doing this out of habit and if you really need it.

·      If you don’t really need it, set it aside for now.

·      If you really need it, take it. Especially if you’re dealing with severe pain, which is hard to get control of if you wait too long.

·      If you know you’re going to be physically active doing things that typically increase your pain, be sure to take your pain medication about an hour beforehand.

·      If you’re using aspirin or any of the NSAID (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen) medications, make sure you take it with food. The last thing you want is an ulcer on top of your present pain. If you keep these meds by your bed, keep something healthy to eat, like protein bars or nuts there as well.

·      Make sure you do not exceed the maximum daily allowance of any medication, especially those including acetaminophen and/or paracetamol. Years ago, these alternatives to aspirin were thought to be free of side effects. More recent studies have shown that they can damage the liver if overused.

 

DRILL: Do the drill of using the resources you have at your disposal.

·      If you have physical therapy exercises you’re supposed to do daily, do them daily. If it’s too painful, follow up with your doctor and/or trainer, and ask for an alternative.

·      Create an environment in your home that supports you. To expand on the point above in the “Will” section ask for help to remove clutter if you cannot do it yourself. Looking at a mess does nothing positive for your pain and can add stress.

·      Develop a regular morning and evening routine and stick to it as much as possible. Your nervous system likes routine, and may reward you with an easing of your pain symptoms.

·      Try to get enough sleep every night.

·      Schedule your daytime physical activities to when you feel best.

·      Imagine there's a loving peace-mongering drill sergeant whispering sweetly at you to keep going, you can do this.

One final very important consideration is to keep your sense of humor alive. Laughter truly is the best medicine. It is in a spirit of humor that I share with you this pain process workflow, the idea of creating being a through back to my healthcare informatics workflow documentation days. To best enjoy and learn from it, go through it bit by bit. Follow one train of thought to its conclusion without concern for the other bits. 

 

 

 

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Desert Wisdom

As we approach Thanksgiving here in the USA, we reflect on those for whom and that for which we are thankful. Every year, my mind immediately goes to the basics: faith, family, friends.  Words of gratitude shared, hearts warmed.

This year, Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs comes to mind… for the basics - physiologic and safety needs - stand in danger of imbalance in ways I've NEVER experienced in my life. Truth be told (and at a time like this, I am best served by facing the truth), looming scarcity is scaring me... thankfully into an action plan. 

Maslow.png

That said, coming to terms with my financial reality shocks me. How did this happen?  How did I let this happen? Why did I let this happen???

Recognizing these as not enough/fear based questions, I remember to bring compassion alongside curiosity. I am still good. I am still important. I still matter. Though I cannot fathom the bigger picture, I choose to trust. I choose to find my way out of this barren desert with its lessons hard learned. I believe I am right where I'm meant to be, that all will work out. I can actually feel a sense of deep gratitude for my dire financial straits. 

Marie Forleo coined the phrase "everything is figureoutable" and I lean gratefully on that promise today. Next to that, my morning scripture reading comes from the Old Testament, from the chosen people, those who spent long years in the desert. Wisdom 2:23-3:9* speaks to me, calling out to be paraphrased, and I allow myself to be drawn into its somehow nourishing, desertesque mystery... 

Doha concrete wall mandala.png

Desert Wisdom

God intends Abundance Art to thrive;

In the image of his own nature he manifested it through me.

 

Despite best intentions and efforts, the creative livelihood fizzles, desperate.

I feel the doubt and despair of bitter disappointment.

I am overwhelmed by it.

 

Then I remember… Abundance Art remains in the hand of God, 

and no torment shall touch it. I claim this truth.

My dream, my vision, my mission may seem, in the view of skeptics, dead;

this seeming failure thought finished business

and my passion in going forth in it utter foolishness.

 

But wait, I too am at peace.

For if up to now, if spendingselffundingretirementmoneygoneoverwhelmingdebt, indeed, be seen as ridiculous loss,

yet my hope remains full of promise;

 

Pruned muchly, I shall be greatly blessed,

because God tried me

and has found Abundance Art worthy of himself.

 

As gold in the furnace, he proved me,

and as sacrificial offerings he took every clouded dream to himself.

So that at the right time, Abundance Art shall shine brightly,

and shall dart about as sparks in the darkness.

 

Creativity, nourishment, love and healing shall reach nations and touch the hearts of peoples around the world,

and the Lord shall be my King forever.

I shall understand truth,

and Abundance Art shall abide with him in love.

 

Because grace, mercy and prosperity are with his holy ones,

and his abundant care is with me, always.

 *Paraphrased from Wisdom 2:23-3:9. Actual text follows (Lectionary for Mass for Use in the Dioceses of the United States, second typical edition, Copyright © 2001, 1998, 1997, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine):

God formed man to be imperishable;
the image of his own nature he made them.
But by the envy of the Devil, death entered the world,
and they who are in his possession experience it.

But the souls of the just are in the hand of God, 
and no torment shall touch them.
They seemed, in the view of the foolish, to be dead;
and their passing away was thought an affliction
and their going forth from us, utter destruction.
But they are in peace.
For if before men, indeed, they be punished,
yet is their hope full of immortality;
Chastised a little, they shall be greatly blessed,
because God tried them
and found them worthy of himself.
As gold in the furnace, he proved them,
and as sacrificial offerings he took them to himself.
In the time of their visitation they shall shine,
and shall dart about as sparks through stubble;
They shall judge nations and rule over peoples,
and the Lord shall be their King forever.
Those who trust in him shall understand truth,
and the faithful shall abide with him in love:
Because grace and mercy are with his holy ones,
and his care is with his elect.

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Forgiveness and the Five Thousand Dollar Ice Cream Cone

"No thanks" he told me. "I'm ready to go home." This surprised me, as Dad rarely passed the opportunity for ice cream, especially if it was my treat. And this occasion had cause for celebration. We had just completed his post cataract surgery follow up appointment as well as six weeks of twice-daily-eye-drops (or as I preferred to call them, Pop drops).

Delivering Dad home, I pursued the treat beckoning to me from a local popular frozen custard place.

I stepped up onto the pavement, noticing at the back of my mind that the day's rain had dampened the concrete area outside the ordering window. The large wipe-your-feet-mat had absorbed the rain, and I thought to myself "wow - this is soaked!"

My step on and off the soaked mat onto the damp concrete would change my life.

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It's called a slip and fall, and indeed I did slip and fall… flat on my back, grateful for the recently accumulated extra padding on my backside. Thankfully my head did not hit the ground, though the effort to keep it from doing so would wreak havoc with my neck and shoulder muscles, tendons and ligaments. Plus that thing called the spine: it bore the brunt of the fall. I lay briefly, sensing how I felt, realizing with gratitude that I was ok enough to wave off the kind people coming to help.

I gingerly walked up to the counter, acutely aware of the absence of Caution signs. I sweetly asked the young lady behind the counter "Do you give free ice cream cones to people who slip on your pavement?" Her compassionate and spot-on answer was "of course! Are you ok?" I assured her I was, commenting that perhaps this wasn't a good day for me to be wearing my flip flops with the traction long worn off.  I received a really nice cone for my troubles, snapped a friendly photo of it for social media, and headed - very carefully - back to my car.

Little did I realize how impactful (pun definitely intended) this slip and fall would be…

4 the 5k ice cream cone.png

As in massive diffuse injury along my entire spine, neck to tailbone: five bulging discs with nerve root compression left and right at multiple levels in my neck, mid and lower back, with concomitant muscle spasms. Throw in some bone spurs and spinal canal stenosis that had developed over time and the icing on cake - an unrelenting (aka 24/7) and often severe headache, barely responsive to meds and consuming of critical thinking and concentration.

Two weeks later, on a bright sunny day, I returned for another cone. Bright yellow caution signs welcomed, hello! How curious! Aware of the back story (again, pun very much intended), I found it a bit ironic.

I had a specific purpose for this visit: a sort of re-enactment - minus the slip and fall. In keeping with the Somatic Experiencing™ (SE®) trauma healing modality I'd be treated with for the last seven years, this meant lying on the pavement for several minutes, recalling the actual fall, and allowing my body and nervous system the space and time to calm. Something I hadn't thought of on injury day. So there I lay, observing how the concrete felt under my body, listening to the sounds of traffic, smelling the summer day, watching the billowy clouds make their way across the sky. Tasting the yummy ice cream cone I had purchased. My nieces accompanying me sat nearby chatting, familiar with my SE healing routine.

 Taking slow deep breaths in, letting them out mindfully.

Taking slow deep breaths in, letting them out mindfully.

I felt my body shift, legs adjusting themselves just a bit, a sensation of tingling ascending from my tailbone through my spine up to the back of my head. Big yawns emerged, a classic sign of trapped energy being released, my nervous system settling, righting itself. An all around amazing experience. While it did not relieve my symptoms, the experience cleared additional accumulated trauma, allowing me to move forward on an even playing field, so to speak.

Fast forward four months. Claim filed with company's insurance, paperwork submitted, investigation completed, claim denied. Discussion with attorney helped me understand that slip and fall cases are very prolonged and expensive with burden of proof on the injured to demonstrate that the defendant was negligent. They wouldn't even take on such a case. I kicked myself mentally for not snapping a photo of the surroundings that fatefully awful fall-full day.

Having undertaken every feasible avenue of care (doctor appointments, x-rays, prescription anti-inflammatory and muscle relaxants, cold packs, bedrest, holistic chiropractic care, bio-energetics work, MRIs, neurosurgery consult, Physical Therapy, Aquatics Therapy, bedrest, cold packs,  bedrest, cold packs, ad infinitum, I continued to suffer from debilitating pain. Laundry, dishes, paperwork piled up and the little energy I had I devoted to editing my book, keeping social media posts going, creating marketing video slideshows and painting beautiful commission art pieces until my legs, numbed, carried me back to bed.

By now I had paid about $5000.00 out-of-pocket for medical expenses. I thanked God for my personal insurance, for which I pay $700 every month. Because of it, I was spared additional tens of thousands of dollars.  

At the same time, I felt so angry! I felt so frustrated! I felt so sad!

Now calling on the resources I learned through years of trauma recovery, I allowed myself to really FEEL these emotions. To make space and time for my wounded spirit to heal... which would mean forgiveness:

  1. For the company's insurance plan not including a "no fault" clause (like most plans do) that would have paid out $5k. 
  2. For state law that placed the burden of proof that the company was negligent on me.
  3. For the employee who lied about caution signs being out. She's a lovely young woman and I believe she was just protecting her job.
  4. For the insurance company taking the employee's lie over my truth.
  5. For MYSELF, for wearing slippery flip flops on a rainy day and for not thinking to walk extra carefully on the damp pavement. 

And guess what happened? Making room and space for the anger and disappointment actually created more space for acceptance, kindness, forgiveness. The burden of resentment lifted and in its place surfaced compassion and curiosity, both rooted in love, not fear.

Five months to the date from my injury, I underwent a cervical (neck) epidural steroid injection. The procedure? You can google it if you're interested. Having had nine of these in past years, I knew what to expect: an icky quickie. The staff were kind and compassionate, especially when I explained up front that as a trauma survivor I had special needs, and how they could help by allowing me extra time to process what was happening. And not be concerned when I started yawning - really big extended yawns with cat-hiss like sounds. It was all good. 

Such self love! Such validation that I matter!

I imagined the healing medication bathing my inflamed nerve roots, helping them settle down. Now, almost 48 hours later, I'm experiencing some relief for the first time in months. Thanks to the steroid component, I'm also more energetic, which comes in handy as I prepare for a week out of town. 

I may require a second injection in four weeks, depending on the full result from this one. Then it's on to a lower back injection. Wow - it's a relief to know my plan of care and the hope it holds.

Yes, a spark of hope… perhaps it's possible after all to undertake training starting the first of the year in preparation for an Icelandic trek scheduled next July. I'd love that… either way, I've done my best. Patting myself on the back now.

What a wonderful shifting occurs moving from fear to love, making room for me. I deserve that, because I matter. 

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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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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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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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