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!

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. 

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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... 

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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…

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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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To Everything There Is A Season

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I am right where I'm meant to be.

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

Are you?

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

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

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Keeping the U and I in Communication

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Trauma Surprise and Resources

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

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

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

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

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

Surprisingly sooner rather than later.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This morning, as the congregation reached the words,

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

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

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

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

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

The imagination is an amazing healing resource.

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

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

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

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

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

I have a magnificent toolkit of resources. 

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The Power of Telling My Truth

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But no conversion to sales.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THAT is the power of telling my truth.

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

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Ready for Joy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I always believed I am on a healing path.

And now I'm ready for joy.

 

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

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

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

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

I think joy may be within my reach.

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A Poem for Peculiar People Day

You know what today is?

National Peculiar People Day.

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

 

Peculiar People Day

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

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

Today is Peculiar People Day

I'm thrilled to have one come my way!

So often I feel a bit out of place,

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

 

For peculiar ones, yes, we goofy galore!

We notice things others completely ignore.

Like bright little flowers growing out from a rock.

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

 

 Near my flat in London. Life finds a way.

Near my flat in London. Life finds a way.

We might seem straight laced

And that’s all you see, 

If only you knew

What’s inside of me!

 

We do quirky things,

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

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

Right out of the air,

We may have tattoos

About everywhere.

 

Peculiar, eccentric, a little bit strange,

You’ll find us across the whole wide range.

Embrace us, love us, just as we are,

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

 Singing with "Elvis" in London.

Singing with "Elvis" in London.

 

Be curious, open your heart, go wild!

And discover your inner peculiar child.

Diversity rounds out the lives we share,

Don’t be afraid, get on out there.

 

Happy Peculiar People Day!

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

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

New Year's greetings and blessings all around!

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

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

And lots of change.

Starting with my website redesign:

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

Did someone say GIVE AWAY?

Yes.

Twice.

Times twelve.

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

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


 Abundance Art:

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

 

 


Shop Abstract Photography

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


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

Sweet.

Don't you just love free stuff?

Here's to 2017 and abundant new possibilities!

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From Fear to Love

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

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

And that takes patience.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thankfully, the fire in my belly was not removed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Within each section, each chapter has its own framework:

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

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

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

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

Anyone wondering why we are doing this?

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

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

Go slow and prosper!

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All I Want for Christmas is...

  Arial image Aleppo 2015 Hosam Katan - Reuters

Arial image Aleppo 2015 Hosam Katan - Reuters

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Out of solidarity. 

Love wins.

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

Love wins.

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

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My Love Affair With Chandeliers

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

Have you ever felt like that?

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

What? When? Why? How?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

pp fortress Cobblestone.png

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

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

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

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

The depth of this experience remains with me today.


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

Is there somewhere calling you? I also offer chandelier collections from Europe, The Castle (USA) and Chicago, with New York and Kansas City on the way.

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

Hello all,

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

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

Yes, it's true.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Easy peasy lemon squeezy.

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

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

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

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

Enjoy your weekend!

Peace and love to all.

I'm falling asleep!

Namaste,

Annette

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A Bit About Writing

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

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

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

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

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

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

As in to the break room. Really!

Walk around the department, maybe take a walk outside.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Seriously, the truth lies in telling your truths.

Do what you know.

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Growing Up With My Dad… These Last Three Years

For those of you blessed with fathers, do you have memories of growing up?

Some great, some good… some not so good perhaps?

What kind of Father's Day cards appealed to you?

What was the best of times?


My best of times is now. My Dad is 90 years old. And we have just - in the last three years - really grown up together. I'm so thankful he has lived this long, and I treasure every moment we spend together as blessing.

Like today when he called, confused about one of his medications. Living just a few minutes away, I went over and helped him out.

It wasn’t always like that.

As I child, I knew he loved me, but I didn't actually feel love coming from him. He was often fun and playful. And strict. I was a bit afraid of him.

After my mom died in 1991, Dad and I grew closer. We grieved together and supported each other.

Then he remarried. And the short story here is that he made his new family the priority in his life.

I write this next bit with great compassionate love for myself and my Dad.

I felt abandoned. Cast aside. I WAS abandoned, cast aside, with the exception of a monthly breakfast and occasional family gatherings. It was a very difficult, awkward and prolonged time, and still I was determined to somehow find my way through it with love and respect.

The year 2010 would be one of great change for our family. Dad and his wife had to separate for health reasons, neither one being able to care for the other's needs. From being largely on the outside for the past eighteen years, my in-town siblings - Kathleen, Mark, Laura - and I were suddenly responsible for his care. How does one person single handedly care for an elderly loved one? We, working collaboratively, couldn't fathom. And the short story here is that we managed, including getting him comfortably settled in a senior independent living facility apartment.

Fast forward to 2013. I'm wrapping up my time in Doha, talking with Dad by phone and crying. Interestingly, he always really showed up for me when I lived abroad, connecting and caring. His support of me during my year in the Middle East helped me decide to return to KC rather than London.

A number of things have happened since my return from there over three years ago:

  • I resumed taking Dad to church every Sunday, after which we go out to eat.
  • I continued my trauma recovery therapy and healing, now processing decades-long suppressed anger and abandonment issues.
  • I continued to find and use my voice, my power.
  • I learned and began to practice healthy boundaries. Scary!
  • Dad had a series of surgeries: fractured left hip hardware, to total hip replacement, to revision total hip, each followed by hospital and weeks-long rehab facility recovery.

They say it takes a village to raise a child. It sure took a village to "raise" my father through these recent years. Thank you thank you thank you to Kathleen, Mark and Laura for all your love and sharing of the responsibilities. I think we make a GREAT team.

They also say you can't teach an old dog new tricks. I beg to differ.

I doggedly (pun definitely intended) spoke my truth, little by little, over time, to my father, standing up for myself when I felt hurt by his words. It was important for me to be authentic with him, not putting on the life-long happy face. Coming from a generation with a completely different experience, he at first didn't understand my attempts to explain trauma and recovery therapy and my anxiety and depression. Yet he would eventually respond to me in a way that told me he was listening. And processing what I was saying.

And guess what? As I changed, he changed. Our conversations changed. He stopped saying hurtful things to me. He said please and thank you and I love you. And come here, give me a hug.

And over time I began to feel loved. I always KNEW I was loved. But now the little girl that is me FELT and BELIEVED her daddy's love. How affirming!

Know what else changed? I started remembering happy times from childhood, and I lovingly saw how the years had reversed our roles.

  • He taught me how to tie my shoes.
  • I help him put his shoes on.
  • He taught me to ride my bike.
  • I help him with his walker and getting in/out of the car.
  • Sometimes he surprised us with donuts on Saturday morning.
  • Sometimes I surprise him with donuts on Saturday morning.
  • He took us to church on Sunday.
  • I take him to church on Sunday. And he tells me he loves to hear me sing. (!)
  • On the occasion when Dad would take our large young family out for breakfast, he would buy us each a mint patty when he paid the bill.
  • Weather permitting (yet another reason to love the cold), I keep a bag of York mint patties in my car, each of us enjoying one after our Sunday meal out.
  • Sometimes, when he traveled for work, he would bring home a tiny little something for us.
  • When I travel to different places, I bring home a magnet for his fridge.
  • He was cool enough to play our favorite rock station on the car radio for us.
  • I'm cool enough to play the baseball or football game station on my car radio for him.
  • When I had surgery in 1992 for recurrent herniated neck disc, I woke up in my hospital room to see Dad sitting next to me and holding my hand.
  • After his repeated surgeries, I sat next to him and held his hand… when he let me.

My father is a strong willed, determined, methodical, deeply faithful and loving man, with a passion for life. Through the time I spend with him, he is teaching me about growing old gracefully, not giving up. Savoring every bit life has to offer, looking at the bright side.

I am so my father's daughter. And so proud to be so.

Dad and his sibs.png

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Maitri: Unconditional Loving Kindness

Do you ever feel so tired that you just can't muster the energy to do what you intended to do?

More importantly, do you reach out for help and support when you need it?

I'm exhausted right now and I have a blog to write. And, I'm asking for support and it's showing up from the most unlikely source. My cat Maitri has offered to write my blog for me, and I have accepted. One thing you should know - she calls me by my nickname, Nettie.

Over to you, Maitri.


Thanks Nettie. By the way, this blog is dedicated to Zoe, who loved Annie and Craig with all her heart. You are missed!


Ok. Think 2012. Middle East. Doha, Qatar. The hot desert. Where I was a little baby kitty, all on my own. Someone was kind enough to rescue me and get me to the vet for care and fostering. Thankfully, I was socialized early enough in my life that I could be offered for adoption.

Nettie likes to tell the story of how I literally fell into her hands that day. She had brought in her other cat, Lucy (a beautiful and shy but sweet tuxedo kitty), adopted a week previously, for her follow up checkup.

As Nettie passed the cage I was in, the latch opened all on its own (ok, it may have had something to do with me pushing on it from the inside - I'm quite clever). I started to tumble out, and she instinctively reached to catch me in her hands. I was so tiny at the time it was a perfect fit.

All she had to do was look at me, my one blue and one hazel eye staring back at her brown eyes. She took in my adorable face and completely white fur, and these words came out of her mouth with a loving smile:" Oh, you are definitely coming home with me."

And I did. That day! 

Lucy, decidedly unhappy with my arrival, stayed behind a curtain for the first twenty four hours. Eventually she found that we could share the same space and even showed me the ropes a bit.

I had found my forever home.

One thing Nettie noticed straightaway was that I didn't respond to sounds like normal kittens. So she did a little testing, like calling my name and clapping her hands. No reaction. At my follow up appointment with the vet, her suspicions were confirmed.

I was deaf. Nettie said, "Oh, she'll never hear me call her name." And the vet said, "That's ok. She'll be able to read lips." Silly vet.

But Nettie was a bit sad, because she purposely had chosen the name Maitri, which is a Sanskrit word meaning unconditional loving kindness. And now I would never hear it.

She decided to write a poem in her journal about her feelings and experience:


I adopted a kitty - named Maitri

A sweet little white ball of fur

Unconditional loving kindness

Is what I had in mind for her

 

Her eyes, one blue and one hazel

Search my eyes and connect, so I think

With deep concentration she watches

Then pokes mine before I can blink

 

I'm sad as I think of her deafness

She'll never know to come when I call

Yet now as I cry in my grief-ness

She appears, loving kindness and all

 

Her playfulness-goofiness delight me

It's so good to laugh out loud

Her softness and tinyness quiet me

She's Maitri, loving kindness avowed


Isn't that cool? That I don't have to hear my name to be my name?

There's so much more I want to share with you, but Nettie really wants to get to bed. So I'll wrap it up with two calls to action for all humans who are reading this:

Come follow me on Instagram @maitri_memweowr, and learn more about me and my escapades at http://www.abundanceart.com/all-about-maitri

Unconditional loving kindness to all!

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Two Truths and a Lie

Have you ever heard of the game called Two Truths and a Lie?

Two truths and a lie for blog copy.png

It's often used as an icebreaker at team building or social activities where people do not know each other. Here's how it works:

You prepare three statements about yourself in your mind. Two of them are true and one is a lie. Then, taking turns, each person speaks their statements. It's up to the group to determine which statement is a lie. Keep in mind that these people and their life stories may or may not be known to the others playing the game.

Those who are savvy know to make the lie believable and the truth unbelievable.

Like the time years ago my brother said he practiced Bickram yoga. We knew he did yoga, so we said ok, that's the truth. Alas, it was the lie. He practiced Vinyasa yoga. Smartass.

See how it works? Think you want to play? What would your two truths and a lie be?

I've always enjoyed playing, yet in my early days, I struggled a bit with what I would say, wishing I had something remarkably unusual to share as a truth that people would think was a lie.

Truth can be stranger than fiction. As I look back over my life, especially the last ten years, I am blown away by the blessings and diversity of experiences I've had. And I look forward to many more. Life is good and it keeps getting better. 

So, you tell me… which of these are truths and which is the lie? 

  • I am an OR nurse with about 20 years experience
  • I have five sisters and two living brothers
  • I am an award winning belly dancer
  • I had dinner with Archbishop Desmond Tutu
  • I performed the Hallelujah Chorus from The Messiah at St Martin-in-the-Fields church in London
  • My favorite food is fresh squeezed orange juice
  • I was married for almost 23 years
  • I lived and worked in the Middle East for a year
  • I am an international volunteer
  • I lived and worked in London for four years
  • I am fluent in French
  • I can play the piano
  • I have trekked through the Sahara Desert, the lower Himalayan Mountains below Annapurna, and across the Jordanian Desert to Petra
  • I worked in Healthcare Informatics for about 15 years
  • I attended sunrise service Easter Sunday at the Garden Tomb in Jerusalem
  • My favorite color is blue
  • I own my own business
  • I am an expert haggler
  • I went sky diving over Stonehenge
  • I am an artist and writer
  • I have traveled to more than thirty countries
  • I have three cats
  • I have moved six times in the last ten years

Now, seriously, I want to play.

With you.

In the comments.

This will be fun!

Your job is to guess which one of my entries is the lie. ( I know, I have lots more that three entries. But I've been waiting my whole life for this!!!)

Then type your two or more truths and a lie and let us guess which is the lie. Keep it clean

But don't do it like this: My two truths are 1) blah blah blah and 2) blah blah blah, and my lie is 3) blah blah blah. Keep it clean

Do it like this: 1) blah blah blah, 2) blah blah blah, 3) blah blah blah. Keep it clean.

Then let us guess. Did I mention keep it clean?

Let the game begin!

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On Journaling

What are you grateful for today?  Or could be a who? Or both? Hopefully lots of each.

When I journal tonight, the first thing on my gratitude list will be my newly unwrapped journal. Made by paperblanks, in the UK, which is where I first found and bought this particular style. I value it for its beautiful cover, its hand bound back, its luscious lined paper. No matter what page I am on, the journal lies flat. It welcomes me. Just as its fourteen predecessors have.

Do you journal? Have you ever? What has the experience been like for you?

Do you keep your old journals, perhaps in a hidden place with instructions for a loved one to destroy them on your death? Do you burn them, offering them as a sacred gift to the universe, a saying good-bye to the past? Do you throw them away?

I'm inclined to keep mine. In fact, I share excerpts on my website. Pam, my Abundance Art graphic designer aptly put it when she said "It's like you're inviting people into your life." Which I am. I feel called to do it.

Deeply, passionately called. Maybe my pain and healing can inspire and encourage someone else.

I first journaled over 25 years ago. March 10, 1991, less than two weeks after my mother died in her sleep at the age of 64. My first entry reads "Heart attack. 50% of all diabetic heart attacks are silent. Mom always was a quiet sort." I would journal sporadically, analyzing the correctness of my grief and anger as if there was a right or wrong way. Writing down excerpts from books I was reading, as if that would sort me out. I stopped after a year.

It would be eight years before I took up the practice again, this time a gratitude journal as I strove desperately to document happiness when deep inside I was broken. An unhealthy marriage had taken its toll on me.

I was so frozen for so long.

Ahhhh … a brief pluviophile respite! There on Feb 2, 2000, I wrote "The rain! The rain! The rain! Awesome thunder through the evening." Even back then, those drops of water and rumbly thunder were balm for my soul.

Now my journals are filled with emotions across the spectrum - no hiding from rage! - and lots of illustrations using water color pencils. Dialogues with myself as inner parent and inner child (a technique learned from Self Parenting by John K Pollard and Linda Nusbaum). And oh! How I love my inner child! I'm so glad I met her and fell in love with her along the way!

I had learned  to allow the wisdom of my body, including my brain, explore whatever shows up.

Guess what? Life shows up.

 IP = inner parent, IC = Inner child, TY with a circle around it means thank you for telling me that.

IP = inner parent, IC = Inner child, TY with a circle around it means thank you for telling me that.

I see now that in my early journaling, there was an unrealized fear that someone would read and judge. Oh, little girl! I'm so thankful we got over that! I'm proud of my outpouring of these last eight years, in the darkest of times, when hope peeked in, when I saw the light at the end of the tunnel only to have it snuffed out… for now, not forever. I'm living safely in the light now, saying hello to the darkness when it appears. I'm raw, honest, real.

There's a different energy, as I use the resources I've learned through years of trauma healing. The energy that's poured into the paper has started to flow through my body and into my life. My healing path continues.

What kind of path are you on? If you haven't journaled, does it feel like something you'd like to do? The only advice I want to offer is that you choose a journal that welcomes you in. Think comfort. For it just might become your refuge.

Come now into my journal, explore the words and images of my journey, including poems. Be inspired and encouraged in your own path. You can start here, where you'll find the Journal section with its own  introduction. If you prefer to dive right in, start with Wondrous Healing and navigate to other entries with the navigation bar at the bottom of each page. (see below, which is also a hyperlink - cool!)

Blessings to you in your life journey!

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Inspired, Wired and Tired

I'm getting really excited now. With Thanksgiving barely behind, it's time to embark on a whole new adventure. In my faith tradition (Roman Catholicism), today marks the start of the Advent season (advent… adventure… hmmm), where we are encouraged to slow down in our hearts, wait, reflect, anticipate, and prepare.

A challenge, considering this to be a season traditionally very busy with shopping, get-togethers, decorating, etc etc etc.

Are you slowing down and/or preparing for anything unique in your life? The birth of a new baby? Recovery from surgery? What are you reflecting on these days? Anything special you're anticipating in addition to the holiday season?

Can you carve some space into your busy schedule to just be?

Here's how life is falling into place for me right now.

Inspired:

I've been collaborating with a graphic designer on an additional website in which I am showcasing my photography. Specifically mandalas, and starting off, specifically the most exquisite mandala for me, the chandelier. I'm feeling especially inspired right now because these aren't your ordinary reproductions. We're using a technology that essentially infuses the image on a metal background, creating a stunning result that brings out the metallic colors, light and splendor of each chandelier. The metal image is then mounted on a sturdy wood frame, ready to hang. And the smaller size (12x12) is ideal for mixing and matching:

 

We're looking at launching the website in the near future and you'll be the first to know.

Wired:

In the meantime, I feel very honored to have been accepted to have my own little corner in an online store, which launches tomorrow, Cyber Monday. I'll post the URL once it's officially open.

I'm offering the same chandelier products in this store as on my new website. And here's the really cool bit. The metal print chandeliers are being sold across both sites as a special limited edition collection. I'm offering two sizes, 12x12 (a total of 200 prints) and 24x24 (a total of 125 prints). Each one numbered and signed by me. When they're all sold, that's it.

Of course, I'll be adding other special limited edition collections, so there's always something to purchase. Just not that glorious Bolshoi Theatre as a metal print. (You'll still be able to order it on Abundance Art as an enhanced matte giclee print.)

Tired:

When I'm so inspired, I get wired, and therefore so excited and focused that sometimes I forget to eat or exercise or go to sleep at a decent hour.  I confess that I don't always listen to my body's wisdom.

Now is a good time for me to heed my advent intention to slow down in my heart and take a bit of time to wait, reflect, anticipate.

And how about you? Can now be a good time to slow down and enjoy my chandelier collection with a cup of tea or glass of wine? And anticipate coming back in the next few days to purchase limited edition metal prints. I'll keep you posted!

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