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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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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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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A Bit About Painting

Tonight I am really missing painting.

Between writing and distributing a daily blog, helping my Dad with some health issues, preparing my new website for launch and just daily living stuff, I've not taken time to pick out a new canvas, paints and brush.

In fact, I'm missing it so much that after I finish this, I just might create a little something.

How do you manage to squeeze in the activities in your life that really fill and nourish you?

How about taking a moment now and just enjoy some of the images from my paintings gallery, with or without titles. Just soak up the color, the whimsy, the energy.

About a half hour ago, I was inspired to create a little video tour of my studio/office/prayer and meditation room. It just bubbled up in my thoughts, and the next thing I knew it was done. So now I want to share my creative space with you.

I wish you could sit here and have a cup of tea with me as we look around. And smell the exquisite incense.

Ahh, that was nice...

To think I might have missed this calling. Back in 2010, having spent 35 years in nursing and healthcare informatics consulting, I made the decision to quit my job and answer the little girl that is me who pleaded "Please listen to me! I really need this!"

So, I began exploring my creative side in 2011, on January 12th, my birthday.

Having no formal art education, I worked with Pamela Hawkins, a local artist and at the time art medicine woman. She taught me the style called process painting.

This meant beginning my paintings simply by discerning what colors appealed, how I wanted to move (i.e. in long broad strokes versus swirls or circles or both), and what brushes I felt like using, along with what size I wanted to create. One of the coolest things I learned was that I could always add more paper if the painting called for it.

I was hooked. I set up my own little studio space in my home, starting with tempera on paper. In sessions over the next few years, she provided a safe and nurturing place, along with all supplies, and I painted and painted and painted.

It was she who taught me that I am the painter, the paint, and the painting. 

I've since progressed to acrylic on canvas, all sizes, though am drawn more and more to larger sizes. I love how it feels to move my body back and forth as I'm creating. Then stepping back to see what has shown up on the canvas. I'm often surprised, and there's a wonderful sense when the painting says "I'm finished now."

When a friend saw one of my paintings, he asked, "That came from your head?" to which I replied, "No, it came from my heart."

The truth is, a bit of my heart, soul and love remains in each of my paintings.

Wouldn't it be cool to create something together, you and I? I'm offering Something for Your Soul for those on a healing path and/or celebrating an accomplishment.. 

Well, I gotta go now because I want to paint.

Do reach out to me if you're feeling the vibe to co-create now. Or to make a gift for someone.

Let's manifest something beautiful together!

PS - After I wrote the blog and before I posted the email to my subscriber list, I did a bit of painting: I was so wanting to just fill the canvas with Cobalt Blue. 

So I did. First, gather the supplies:

Then paint. And since cobalt blue has been on my mind, onto the canvas it goes, along with some teal and bronze and a bit of sky blue...

 The Beginning of Cobalt Blue by Annette Hadley

The Beginning of Cobalt Blue by Annette Hadley

I like how it unfolded tonight... evocative of I'm not sure what. I'll check in on it in the morning.

Sweet dreams and peace to all!

 

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Aleppo: Deconstructed or Connected?

Have you had a chance yet to read Blogpost #25 Aleppo? If not, please do so. It remains very much on my mind since I wrote it. 

The regime is telling the people there to leave or die. Yet those who leave risk being detained and/or tortured and/or killed. Plus, I have read that the rebels are pressuring people who want to leave to stay. With no hospitals, invasive medical procedures are being conducted in basements without anesthetic. Talk about being between an exponential rock and hard place.

Ouch. I mean really, OUCH. My soul hurts.

As you know, I have chosen to auction my quadriptych (four panels in one) "Aleppo" painting to support the victims and rescuers in and around Aleppo,  Syria. Yet something niggled ever since that post a couple of days ago. Really niggled. Some thing wasn't quite right.

I figured it out today.

I am meant to give more freely. To model giving more freely out of love and solidarity for my Syrian brothers and sisters.

I had my 25% wrong. I was going to donate 25% of the proceedings, and it's supposed to be the other way around.

I'm going to keep 25% of the proceedings. I will donate 75% to The British Red Cross who is on the ground today outside Aleppo providing emergency aid.

Don't get me wrong. It is my intention to prosper in my business, and I believe with all my heart that success finds me. I'm learning that it is through providing a service to others, by serving, that I can really help others. 

This time, this feels right.

So, here again is Aleppo, my original quadriptych paintings, acrylic on canvas, four 14"x14" panels making up one image 28"x28" image. It it designed to be hung in one of two ways:

Deconstructed - this represents the brokenness and division of the city and its people.

 

Connected: This represents my dream that Aleppo will heal and rebuild in peace.

We can together serve up love and compassion and solidarity and relief. We can raise money for a humanitarian cause, to help in one of modern history's most horrific humanitarian crises. To help our fellow humans, our brothers and sisters in and around Aleppo.

My ask of you?

Come forth and enter your bid below! The winning bidder will also receive an assortment of Abundance Art notecards in addition to the paintings.

And if you can't bid, consider making even a small contribution to a Syrian/Aleppo relief agency of your choice. Just google it. 

And if you can't donate, remember the people in your thoughts, your prayers. Imagine peace.

Let's show the world what love and solidarity look like.

 

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Aleppo

Does the number twenty five hold any significance for you?

It keeps popping up for me, as I reflect on what is mine to share in this my twenty fifth blogpost.  I feel very passionate about what's been bubbling up for some time now. I can't not share this.

When I turned twenty five, I thought to myself, "Wow. A quarter of a century old!" Wow. I was so young!

Now nearing fifty nine and oh-so-much wiser and compassionate, I want to use this number to share the idea of solidarity and what it can look like in today's world.

What does solidarity mean to you?

Rather than give you a dictionary definition, here's what it means to me. That I am somehow connected to and impacted by my fellow members of the human race. Wherever they are, however they are living, whether they are suffering or not. I may or may not be able to change anything.

However I NOTICE them, I CARE about them. I HELP them if, when and how I can.

This last year, one topic has stolen and broken my heart, that being the civil war in Syria, especially in Aleppo. Today, the rebel forces are all but wiped out, their last "stronghold" being the Eastern portion of that city.

As you know, twenty five times ten thousand is two hundred fifty thousand. 250,000. A quarter of a million.

Did you know that that is the number of people trapped in Eastern Aleppo on this the 100th day of besiegement by the Syrian regime? It used to be more, but so many have died. And now, as tens of thousands attempt to flee, many are being targeted by regime forces with gunfire and bombs.

What about solidarity? How has that shown up?

Numerous organizations, including the Syrian Civil Defense, International Red Cross, and Catholic Relief Services have devoted resources to help victims and refugees. You can learn more here

Or, just google Aleppo relief.

For a long time now, the civilian rescue group called The White Helmets has been raising money, putting it to life saving use, with rescue and emergency medical training, ambulances and extraction equipment, etc. These are the men who run in to rescue after the bombs hit.

But now the bombing and gunfire is so incessant that the White Helmets often cannot get to the victims in time. They have to make decisions on how best to use their limited gasoline. They cannot keep up.

Their greatest joy is saving the life of another person.

Their greatest sorrow is hearing someone alive under the rubble, and finding them dead.

My emotions were shaken after listening to a journalist recently returned from Aleppo who discredited The White Helmets as puppets of terrorist forces. About this time, the White Helmets were featured in a Netflix documentary and were being considered for the Nobel Peace Prize. I didn't know what to make of it all.

Solidarity kicked in. All I could think about were my Syrian brothers and sisters. Their humanity. Their innate dignity. And their horrific life and losses.

Today, I am facing the possibility, what may become the reality... that the regime will accomplish its goal of destroying killing wiping out those who remain. Whether through bombing, gunfire, lack of medical care, and/or starvation.

I feel the desperation of the noose tightening around the collective necks of these innocent people of God.

Solidarity? Today and every day, I am praying for relief. For an end to the suffering of my brothers and sisters. I am honoring their instinct to survive under impossible circumstances. And I am more and more understanding what some are saying, that the ones whose lives are taken by the bombs are the lucky ones.

Solidarity? Today and every day I am praying love, peace, consolation in solidarity with my brothers and sisters. I am intending a power greater than hate, greater than violence, and that's what I'm sending out into the world. For even though I cannot change what is happening in Aleppo, I can change how I treat those in my life and in my daily encounters. With love and compassion. Encouragement. Fairness.

Back in June, when I became aware of just how bad things were getting, I was moved to paint my first quadriptych. One image across four panels. Each panel 14"x14". This came from my heart, and only later would the words form to describe it.

Twenty five percent is one fourth of something. What showed up on these four in one panels was deep cobalt blue, with some black and white. Diversity. The circular movements of my arm and brush revealed wholeness, connectedness.

And suddenly I knew its name:

Aleppo

For you can no more take apart these pieces and have a whole than our world can lose the people of Aleppo and not be broken by it.

Solidarity? Hell yes.

Let's turn the word into action.

I now know what I'm called to do, and how you can help me serve.

I am auctioning off Aleppo, starting at $1000.00 for all four pieces together. I am going to donate 25% of the proceeds to the British Red Cross, Syria Campaign. (I just donated 25 GBP to them.) Auction ends December 25th. How fitting...

How can you help?

Bid to raise the price. Someone else bid.

Bid again. Let's make something big happen.

Think hard about the blessings you have in your life.

Think hard about how you spend your money.

Notice the roof over your head.

Notice how safe you are.

Donate to a Syrian relief organization of your choice.

 

 Assalam alaykum. Peace be upon you.

 

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Weather or Not

As I was thinking about today's blog topic, my mind kept wandering to poems I've written over the years. Specifically about weather. Especially about the kind of weather I like - cloudy, rainy, cool.  It turns out there's a word for people like me: pluviophile - a lover of rain; someone who finds joy and peace of mind during rainy days.

The kind of weather I don't like - sunny, cloudless, hot. In fact, when we go without at least some clouds in the sky for a couple of days, I get restless. If we go without clouds and/or at least wind for more than a few days, I get cranky. If we go without rain for several weeks, I get sad. I'm serious. I feel depressed.

You've heard of seasonal affective disorder? People not getting enough sunlight in winter? I don't get that. I mean, I really don't get that. So when a beautiful sunny day shows up, and people are saying "what a beautiful day it is!" I do my best to smile and say "it sure is." As much as I prefer clouds and rain, I don't want to rain on their parade. I'm really glad for those people on those days. And besides, I do want to honor the great beauty in creation on those days. But give me rain and clouds any day. Every day. And if not rain, then at least clouds. Especially in summer:

I always knew I was different. No wonder I loved living in London so much. And in the Middle East so little.

 My Kind of Summer Day by Annette Hadley, acrylic on canvas, 2014

My Kind of Summer Day by Annette Hadley, acrylic on canvas, 2014

And so, today I share my weather related poems, hoping they nourish you like a fresh rain shower after a drought.  Or a sunny day after a storm. Whatever floats your boat.

Seasons

Winter's blowing snow

Spring's fragrant grow

Summer's morning glow

Autumn's letting go

 

Pluviophile

Oh the comfort and calm of this cloudy morn, the soothing softness of new day born.

The rain, when it comes, joins the song of the birds, my well being, peacefulness, needing no words.

Would that it were like this day after day, clouds scudding 'cross skies, going on their way.

The sound - rain falling - my very soul feeds; I hunger, I thirst for the nourishing beads.

Of water, that which I love so dear, to feel, and hear it continue near.

As it falls from the sky. It nourishes earth. It brings new life, for me new birth.

 

Raining

Oh this rainy morning bed

Claims my body, toes to head.

Comfort seen and comfort felt,

Lying here, no speck of guilt.

 

Thunder Summerstorm

The thunder rumbles…

 Thunder Summerstorm by Annette Hadley, digital design, 2016

Thunder Summerstorm by Annette Hadley, digital design, 2016

There is something that must be heard.

The rain pours from the sky.

Nature herself is crying. 

The storm intensifies: 

Listen to me! 

Listen to me! 

Crack! open the past... 

Crack! open the wounds... 

Flash! to see and be surprised by what follows...

It is dark.

It is scary.

It is consuming.

It is cathartic.

It will have its way and...

I observe it.

I do not change it.

It changes me.

For the better.

And for that I am deeply grateful.

 

Summer Said Bye-Bye

Summer said bye-bye last night, whisked away by storm.

It's cooler in the night time now, days not hot, just warm.

My soul, relieved, can breathe again,through nature's changing flow.

Soon it will be autumn time, the season to let go.

 

Autumn Leaving

I watch the leaves falling in the

Bright-crisp autumn air.

I want to catch each one in my hands

And whisper "thank you for teaching me about letting go."

And I understand that

The trees must let go too;

And sometimes

That leaves them crying.

 

 

I haven't written a poem about winter… yet. But I will tell you one thing. I ALWAYS make a snow angel.

 Snow Angel by Annette Hadley, body on snow, Tromso, Norway, 2008

Snow Angel by Annette Hadley, body on snow, Tromso, Norway, 2008

At least once a year. And winter is on its way.

Like the poems in this post? Check out my poetry page for more, and then pop into the store

 

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I Go Slowly and I Prosper

How timely, this topic popping into my head this morning.

Most of my adult life I worked hard and I worked long hours, as in 60ish hours a week for long stretches of time. It had to do with my mistaken belief that if I could just do enough, provide enough, produce enough, be GOOD enough, that I would matter, be of value. That I would feel seen and heard.

Rubbish.

Let me rephrase that. "Rubbish," she said, with great love and compassion for herself.

My own body finally said "Enough!" in 2009, as it manifested a severe anxiety disorder on my return to Kansas City after working and living in London for four years. You might want to disagree, saying the disorder was in my mind, not my body. Ahhh, but science has shown it's all connected.

My anxiety disorder was actually my body's manifestation of held trauma accumulated over my lifetime. To make a long story short, through six and a half years of Somatic Experiencing trauma recovery therapy, my body was able to, very slowly, release that trapped trauma energy and begin to heal.

It is said that your biography becomes your biology. Intriguing thought. I have found this to be true.

About the title: Go Slow and Prosper. How did this new way of thinking come about in my life? First and foremost, it showed up in therapy. Somatic Experiencing actually re-patterns the parasympathetic nervous system, creating new neural pathways over time. The key is that this must be done very slowly, through baby steps, because the nervous system doesn't particularly like change.

During my therapy sessions, Candy (my therapist), repeatedly reminded me to go slow:

  • Slow down
  • Let's take this slower
  • We have all the time we need
  • Baby steps
  • Ok, let's stop here and see what happens
  • Just see what happens
  • This will take some time
  • It's really important to go slow
  • Don't try to rush it
  • When you go slow, big shifts can happen
  • You've worked really hard today, make sure to go slow
  • Your body needs lots of rest

She was right. Totally right. It was hard for me to go slow; I wanted the quick fix. Unfortunately, there wasn't one for me, given the nature (length, depth, breadth over time) of my trauma. Over the years I would begin to cognitively understand and physically assimilate the truth, that for me, going slow helped protect me from overwhelm and re-traumatization.

Living in Doha in 2012, this awareness out pictured in my painting "go slow". It remains a constant loving reminder to this day.

It also allowed me to finally understand these truths: That I matter. I'm important. I'm good. I can be seen. There is more than enough for me. These may seem insignificant to some; for me, they were and are life altering.

Ok, so I choose to go slow, to limit the commitments and activities in my life, to allow more time to rest and renew. To be more mindful, in the moment. To settle and calm myself. With great love.

My decision to leave the well paid world of healthcare informatics consulting and begin a creative business factored in this awareness of going slow. As well as the awareness that I did not have to work long hours to be successful. I knew and I know this in my body. In my very being.

I set and continue to honor the intention that I am successful, living abundantly through nourishing the world with what nourishes me. I envision deposits into my Abundance Art checking account. I see my savings grow. I imagine how good it will feel to have more than enough to live comfortably, continue to travel the world, and be a good steward of my blessings. The very name of my business proclaims that abundance. I believe it. I receive it.

By the way, the phrase starving artist does not belong in my vocabulary. I'm following a path, laid divinely before me, unlimited in possibility, not limited by fear or feelings of not enough. Not anymore.

I go slowly and I prosper. Feels good. Feels great.

I've worked all morning. Go slow…

Time for the weekend to start.

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A Bit of Heaven in 2011

With all the reminiscing about Costa Rica this week, it came to me that I want to share the year 2011 with you. A unique year, mostly a personal sabbatical to more fully immerse myself in my trauma recovery and explore my creative side. And travel. Oh boy, and travel. Other things happened in my life that year, such that each month developed its own character. Having begun the year painting, by year's end I had decided to paint a mandala filled with mandalas, one for each month.

It's helpful to know that, back in 2009, when my world was crashing around me, I came up with an acknowledgement and intention:

  • Not so fine in 2009.
  • Alive again in 2010.
  • A bit of heaven in 2011.

The years 2009 and 2010 are stories for another time... suffice to say there was a LOT of darkness, fear, and anxiety in my life, and by late summer of 2010 I realized I really needed to step away from work to dedicate time to healing. I was blessed to have enough savings to do so. And I had begun working weekly that year with a therapist who specialized in anxiety disorders, which, in my case, turned out to be the result of very early life and pervasive developmental trauma. Which was triggered by my return to the US in July 2009 after living and working in London for four years. Welcome home...not!

The hopeful bit here is that my therapist was certified in and practiced Somatic Experiencing methodology, which actually retrains the nervous system away from old patterns into new healthy patterns. With twenty years of experience behind her, she was exactly what I needed.

And so the year 2011 began:

 January

January

January brought a silent retreat, my first experience with process painting (I'll write about this some day), a trip with friend Linda to visit friend Jeanette who lived north of Chicago, where I had my first walk ever across a frozen lake. We spent a day in Chicago, the city of my birth, having lunch with my aunt and uncle, popping over to Navy Pier and Millennium Park, with Lake Michigan ever in view. We also spent a bit of time on the Magnificent Mile, and took the El back to near my uncle's home, where our car was parked. My friends indulged me by stopping in at the corner tavern for a beer. This was the area of my roots, where my parents grew up, met, fell in love, married, started a family.

As always, I felt the energy of the city.

 February

February

February was spent in Costa Rica, which you can read about here.

 March

March

In March, I visited my stepdaughter Annie in Phoenix. We took a side trip up to the Grand Canyon, which I'd never seen  in person. I loved learning about the geological history of the place. Imagine the impact of a trickle of water that became a river that created this grand canyon, With its now (for me) identifiable layer upon layer of sediment turned stone.

I took some time on my own, hiking down to a spot where I sat and soaked up the beauty of this immense space. I'd brought my journal and water color pencils and lingered, capturing my experience as best as I could.

I recall the silence, pure silence. The sun on my face, the stunning beauty of my surroundings.

God is good, nature is incredible.

 April

April

April. Oh, April! I could write a book about you! From the US to London to Jordan to Israel back to Jordan back to London (on the day of Will and Kate's wedding!) then back to the US, this was the trip of trips. I actually created a spreadsheet to help me pack, because:

  • I was visiting in London before and after my other travels, and it was forecasted to be cold. 
  • I was trekking in Jordan for a week - to Petra - and I had a standard trekking "kit" that had to fit in a certain camping bag and backpack/rucksack. I would leave my large suitcase in London.
  • I was touring in Israel for 9 days immediately after the trek, and the clothes for that time also had to fit in my camping bag. Thankfully the weather in Israel at that time of year is typically mild, and I would also be able to wear some of my trekking clothes. After I thoroughly laundered them.

There's so much to share about this trip that I won't even try right now. Except to say that on the very last morning in Jordan, I developed traveler's sickness. Not too bad at first, and I was able to go with my bestie Anjana that evening into London and to Buckingham Palace. There were hundreds of people around, still celebrating the wedding festivities, and the mood was so happy and light. I keep London newspapers from that day as keepsakes.

Unfortunately, by the day of my return to the US, I felt so sick that I could barely move. My heart goes out to ANYONE who has ever had to travel ill. At the stopover in Chicago I was able to buy Pepto Bismal and Dramamine, which eased my discomfort just enough for the last leg home. Some days later I began to feel better. 

Just in time to succumb to severe reverse culture shock.

 May

May

I spent most of the month of May reeling from the reverse culture shock, thankful to return to weekly trauma recovery therapy. Devoid of energy, I filled the pool in my backyard, blew up my raft, and floated the time away, easing slowly back into the reality of being back in the US.

Originally, when I started my sabbatical, I thought I would give myself six months, Somewhere in April I released that expectation. I was glad I did, because the end of May brought an unexpected and significant change. My father, married now for almost eighteen years to his second wife (my mother having died in 1991), had to separate from her due to health issues they each suffered, leaving them unable to care for each other. Just like that my in-town siblings and I became responsible for him and his many needs.

Short story - a major adjustment all around, with temporary accomodations for Dad at my sister's house.  

 June

June

Early in the year, I had talked with my younger sister Maureen about what she wanted to do for her 50th birthday. Turned out that we both had the same thing in mind: an Alaskan cruise with all six sisters. And since she lived near Seattle, WA, it was fairly uncomplicated to arrange. And so, in early June, Kathleen, MarySue, myself, Maureen, Terez and Laura all gathered at Maureen's and we celebrated her birthday in style.

On a side note, Maureen had recently recovered from her last of many reconstructive surgeries after removal of an acoustic neuroma in 2006. She lived with chronic tinnitus, dis-equilibrium, left sided deafness, left eyelid and facial paralysis (partially corrected with the reconstructive surgeries). We hoped this would be a celebration also of her healing. But while the "outside" was sorted, her emotional and mental well being suffered, neglected. We would learn more about this on the cruise.

Leaving Terez and Laura in Seattle, the rest of us boarded the ship and enjoyed each other's company and the amenities and outstanding natural beauty of the cruise. Kathleen and I experienced sea sickness, and her skin color was actually almost green before she gave in and used medicine. Curiously, Maureen did not suffer from it... we joked that her dis-equilibrium countered the rolling of the ship.

We chose various excursions, during which  Maureen and I watched a sperm whale dive out of and back into the water, an maneuver called breaching. Later, on another excursion, Kathleen and I would be delighted watching killer whales breach again and again.

The month ended with me back home, deeply concerned for my beloved sister Maureen, wondering what I could do to help her. As well as continuing in my own healing journey and helping find Dad a permanent place to live.

 July

July

July - wow, how do I explain this?

Easy part first. Thunderstorms - my very favorite weather.

Hard part second. I had been referred for adjunctive therapy with a very qualified local hypnotherapist (note the inclusion of the word therapist, so not just a hypnotist). In my first session I had the most unique experience of my life. Enough said. For now. In two subsequent sessions, we made what we agreed was great progress, even doing what is called breath work.

What I didn't understand at the time is that it was actually way too much way too soon.

 August

August

I spent the month of August mostly in shock, severe depression and anxiety, longing to be back in London where I had been so happy. And also in therapy, often twice a week. My Somatic Experiencing therapist had been on holiday while I was seeing the hypnotherapist, and when she learned that we'd done breath work, she explained that my nervous system was not ready for it.

The end result was actually a re-traumatization. Well, shit...

 September

September

September would bring a much needed respite. My friend Sheila (from our Costa Rican adventure), invited me to visit her in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. We timed the trip for peak foliage. However, due to the weather conditions there, the color green still predominated. On the bright side, she had a house on Lake Winnipesaukee, and we spent several lovely days and nights there. It was warm enough to lie out in the sun and swim in the crystal clear COLD water - so refreshing for my body and soul. One evening we sat out, watching the sunset, lingering as the sky turned more beautiful by the moment, reflecting perfectly in the still water. 

We also traveled into Vermont and up into Maine so I could have my first Maine lobster (actually two firsts - Maine, and lobster). Check that off my list of things to do. 

 October

October

October found me on retreat again at Shantivanum (Sanskrit for Forest of Peace). Beautiful wooded farmland, rolling hills, regular prayer and meditation times and homemade vegetarian fare deeply nourished both my body and my soul. I painted, journaled, slept, hiked, slept, slept, slept. 

And decided I was ready to go back to work.

 November

November

I have always been blessed in my work life, essentially being recruited at every turning point into something different that would add to the foundation laid by previous job experiences. And so in November, I began contracting with a consulting firm, traveling most weeks to the client site. Figuring by this time that I would not be moving back to London in the foreseeable future, I adopted a sweet ten year old black cat named Shadow. Shy and affectionate at the same time, she was good company to have around when I was home, and she managed ok by herself when I wasn't.

That's the great thing about cats.

 December

December

December, still traveling, getting worn out, developing bronchitis. I was so determined to have a Christmas tree, that when I bought one, I also bought a new Christmas tree stand, and asked the guys to place the tree in the stand for me. I hauled it like that into my house, and filled the stand with water. That might have been the year that the only decorations on the tree were the lights. It was still beautiful, and it smelled so good. The year ended with me on a two week holiday, thankful that as a contractor I was not limited by the company's vacation policy.

It also ended with me learning that I would likely be moving to the Middle East in a few months for a one year contract.

Surprise!

And so, having pre-proclaimed "A Bit of Heaven in 2011" and definitely having experienced lots of bits of heaven, I also encountered a good number of hellish experiences. But isn't life like that sometimes? We may be doing fine and suddenly without warning be knocked sideways with unexpected news, illness, etc. By the same token, we may experience unexpected grace, blessings, growth.

When all was said and done, 2011 certainly went down as one of the most remarkable years of my life.

I learned much, I suffered much, I learned more, I healed some more.

And I got ready for 2012.

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Prayer of Anger, Act of Love

As some of you know, I lived and worked in the Middle East for a year, continuing my weekly trauma recovery sessions with my therapist via Skype. I had an experience during that year that opened up my healing in a whole new way.

I had settled down to pray/meditate, my prayer rug and zafu beneath me, incense burning, candle lit, the Franciscan Crucifix before me along with my bible and prayer book and journal. However, I was so angry at the time I could not muster a single prayer like thought.

I sat waiting, frustrated. And angry. And then wisdom opened up and said: Paint your Anger.

So I did. I poured out the intensity and immensity of my anger in big bold lines. Red! A color I rarely used called out again and again and I listened. Black! Darkness manifested, showed up, and I let it out. By the time I ran out of time, my Prayer of Anger was in good form. Certainly not finished. That would come later.

My heart felt lighter. I experienced self love for listening to my inner wisdom, perhaps the voice of the very universe, God.

As I came back to the painting over the next days, I continued to use those sweeping strokes. Such a releasing experience! And then purple showed up. And yellow. and even white. I played with the idea of the power at the core of my essence, and that showed up in the center, well actually the off center. The core. And more texture showed up, highlighting the intensity of the outward movement. 

I felt so proud, so filled with love and life when I finally realized I was done.

 Prayer of Anger, acrylic on paper, painted in Doha, Qatar in 2012 

Prayer of Anger, acrylic on paper, painted in Doha, Qatar in 2012 

What I didn't know then was how much this painting would lift me up in the years ahead as I continued my trauma recovery therapy. On my return to the midwest USA, I had it dry mounted on pressed foam board to hang properly on my wall. A year or so later I had it framed as a birthday present to myself. 

Oh! It came alive in an even more powerful way! Hanging in my dining room, it's a constant reminder of so many healing thoughts:

  • I can be big
  • I have power
  • I have a voice
  • I have real talent
  • I can be seen and heard
  • There is more than enough room for me
  • The world is hungry for what I have to offer

And most recently:

  • I can use my big healing talented power to help others heal.
  • I WANT to use my big healing talented power to help others heal.
  • And so I created an offering called A Piece of Hope and Healing.
  • I custom paint unique pieces of hope and healing for those who are on a healing journey.
  • Here's the amazing part. I, as the paint, the painter, and the painting, give a part of my healed self with each painting I create. Which means wherever my art goes, so goes my forever nourishment. 

You can learn more about it here.

You know what revelation came to me just this morning?

It is only by acknowledging and expressing our anger that we can find our truest most integrated authentic loving self. 

Here's to self love.

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Pura Vida!

In 2011,  I spent the month of February in the beautiful country of Costa Rica. My first three weeks dedicated to volunteering and cultural immersion in and near Cartago, I spent the final week with my roomie and new friend Sheila exploring the rest of the country.

I learned several things right off the bat:

  • The country's cultural motto is "Pura Vida!"-  literally "pure life!" and the people are very proud to proclaim this.
  • While a Spanish speaking country, the way they respond to being thanked is not the traditional Mexican phrase "de nada" - meaning "it's nothing." Rather, they say "con mucho gusto" - meaning "with great pleasure." They really take pride in this as well, as it lifts up the dialogue between people to a higher, more respectful, purer communication.
  • The country does not have an army. They choose peace, even being right next to other countries with drug war lords and rebel activity.
  • Last and certainly not least… drum roll… the water in the entire country is safe to drink! Woo hoo! How wonderful to not have to worry about this.

Oh yes, and one other thing I found quite curious. Costa Rica does not use traditional address naming conventions. Instead, they describe where a building is in relationship to other buildings or landmarks. For example, A Chamber of Tourism has the address Costado Este de la Municipalidad de Cartago, altos de Tienda Arenas. Translated, it becomes Costado East of the Municipality of Cartago, highs of Tienda Arenas. You just have to know the name of where you're going and the SatNav will take it from there. A picture being worth a thousand words, here's the address of where I was located:

I volunteered through Cross Cultural Solutions. CCS's model is to establish a local office in the country, and have that group interface with the organizations in need of assistance. Plus, they place an emphasis not just on volunteering, but cultural immersion as well, so volunteers come away with a valuable understanding of the country, its history, its language, social norms and culture. Very well organized, providing room and board in a "Home Base" safe location, and I highly recommend them. In fact, I would go on to volunteer with them for six weeks in India (their very first location) two years later.

Anyway, during my first three weeks, (weekdays), we spent the mornings at our volunteer assignments, the afternoon with free time and/or a cultural immersion activity (Spanish lessons, salsa dancing lessons, outings to natural landmarks and into San Jose, etc), evenings relaxing and/or preparing activities for our assignment the next day. 

Weekends were filled with trips to the west coast, excursions in the rain forest, relaxation at a nearby resort. Adventures included zip-lining, parasailing, and rappelling. Take a peek at where we rappelled:

Yep. We kept busy. We had fun. We worked hard. And we grew in relationship. With each other, with the local staff, and with those at our assignments.

I was assigned to help at a child day care center. From little bitty babies to 5 year olds, age appropriate programs along with eating times and play times gave structure to the morning. I helped out wherever I was needed, which might mean clamoring with the older kids through elaborate playground sets (oh my aching back!), or helping one of the teachers with class, or feeding and holding babies and younger kids. Often I would prepare a game or craft activity to fill free time. 

The first week I was a fish out of water. Unaccustomed to being around little ones, my energy quickly waned. Knowing very little Spanish, I felt inadequate. I realized how wise it was that we only volunteered half a day. No way I would have made a whole day.

The second week, I had picked up some Spanish and communicated a bit better with both the kids (¡siéntate! - sit down!) and the staff (¿Cómo puedo ayudar? - how can I help?). I learned the kids names, and they recognized me, waving with a smile, running up to hug me. I became proficient at feeding several little ones at the same time, interacting with them and making it fun. Left to their own devices they would linger, and there was a time table to be kept!

The third week, I felt at home, connected with both the kids and the staff. I took photos and videos and put them on a cd, and the kids got to watch themselves playing. They loved it. I cried the day I left, sad for me as I would miss them, sad also that the kids had to say good-bye to volunteers over and over again.

As is the tradition with CCS in Cartago, volunteers are invited to paint a message on the Home Base wall, along with a stamp of our hand. Rather than place the palm of my hand on the wall, I decided to place both hands together in the Namaste position and stamp that on the wall. Out from that grew whimsical leaves and vines and colorful flowers that reflected my experience of my time there.

In the last week, Sheila and I headed to the east coast, which, though officially Caribbean, tends to be more stormy and rainy. This did not dampen our spirits, and we enjoyed body surfing in six foot waves. Heading back west, we spent a few days near Arenal Fortuna, the active volcano, and experienced a local naturally hot (as in heated by the volcano) water park. Even the water in the pool at our hotel was hot… little did I know that I was experiencing a foretaste of middle east waters.

  Arenal Volcano, as seen from our hotel room

Arenal Volcano, as seen from our hotel room

Wrapping up our last night in San Jose, we headed north to the USA the following morning, me in first class, Sheila back in economy. (I had originally booked for three weeks, then extended to the fourth. And lo and behold a first class ticket was not much more than what I'd have to pay simply to change my travel date. Cool!). 

An amazing month behind me, our flight not yet taking off, I reflected on my blessings. Once in the air, I sent one of my five (they were quite small) mimosas back to Sheila, and took a photo of my breakfast to show her later. I ate every last bite. The movie The King's Speech was played for us. I felt like the luckiest woman on earth.

I hold the  the team at CCS and teachers (I still follow some of them on Facebook) of Shaday school in my heart and thoughts. And the kids, realizing the most of them have grown to school age, new ones taking their place. Peace and Pure Vida to you all. 

After my return home, my experience in Costa Rica would find expression in my painting "Costa Rica Beach" which hangs beautifully framed where I can see it in my kitchen, drawing me and others into its energy and beauty. It's a composite of several east coast experiences: one a three hour walk along the beach, two, the waves crashing against the rocks another day, and three the amazing sky on yet another day. This painting is my constant reminder of my time in that beautiful country., and brings me joy every time I look at it.

 Costa Rica Beach

Costa Rica Beach

Your can find prints and notecards of this beautiful painting for sale on my website store.

And consider international volunteering as a way to get out and explore other cultures. Good for your soul, good for the world.

Pura Vida!

 

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