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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Love letter to my beloved: If I Could...

Beloved,

If I could, I would be at your side and hold you and just love you. I would not expect you to be good company. I would not expect you to make me anything to eat or drink. I would not expect you to provide a place to sleep or bathe.

I would not expect anything of you.

I would just want to be next to you. My love for you would diffuse through my skin, across the air, and into your being. It would find your heart, your soul, your wounds, and it would bathe them in light and peace, gentle as can be, for you are oh so fragile right now.

I would share with you that although I do not live or know your pain, I do know the pain of being an unnoticed child, an unhappy, childless wife, a sufferer of chronic pain and great fear and grieving, and a crier of tears that have no end.

I would help you know that the body doesn't really care why, it just wants to heal. Desperately.

If it could, my pain and sorrow would whisper very quietly to your pain and sorrow that it cares.

If I could, I would take your pain away, your sorrow, for even a moment, that you might know well being, feel whole again. I would make the medicine you take so effective you would feel so much better TODAY.

If I could, I would send an honor guard into your life, and they would honor your anger, and they would bring shovels to dig up the rage and bags to put it in and take it away. And then they would honor you again for being a survivor.

If I could, I would send a spirit of curiosity into your world, a curiosity that suspends judgment, that just looks at what is without labeling it good or bad. And that curiosity would also reveal compassion for the little girl that is you, a most precious and beloved child of God.

And if she could, the little girl that is me would come and take the little girl that is you by the hand, and they would go to their favorite secret hiding place. And they would whisper stories to each other about when they were growing up and what they were taught to believe about life and themselves.

Like how they were supposed to be happy, and not get emotional or be bad, and keep their sad and angry feelings to themselves. And that what they needed and wanted was not really that important and instead they should always help others.

And then the little girl that is me would also tell stories of how she has learned that it is normal to feel both happiness and sadness and especially anger. And that she now knows that she really matters, and that she is good. And important. And how learning that made her cry oh so many tears of relief.

If I could, I would give you a delicious cup of comforting tea, filled with love and courage and hope and patience. This tea would send gentle thoughts and ideas into your dreams... thoughts and ideas that would paint a beautiful image of freedom from fear, from anxiety, from pain and sorrow.

If it could, my own healed spirit would fly into your very heart, soul, and spirit. It would lovingly and gently reveal the depth of healing that is possible, that your soul might know promise.

If I could, I would surround you with all the love and support and resources you need to find your way. You are lost right now, I understand. And in a space so dark it is like a black hole. I would lift the power of darkness just enough for the tiniest glimmer of hope to open. A hope that would ignite just a tiny spark of what ifs…

  • What if I'm not alone?
  • What if I could feel better?
  • What if I were not a lost cause?
  • What if this was for now, not forever?
  • What if there is some one who really understands?
  • What if there is some thing out there that might bring life into my life?

Know this: you are beloved... before, now, and always. Not because of what you've done or what you may or may not do in the future.

You are beloved because you are you.

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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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My Scary Power, My Beautiful Power

Several years ago, in my trauma recovery therapy, I was asked to repeat the words "I own my own power," I couldn't do it. I could not say the words. I did cry however, knowing there was much beneath the surface. This led to my "homework" assignment for the week: to reflect on why was I afraid to own my own power.

The truth came to me with great clarity.

Because of things that had happened in my life as a child, I believed that I was responsible for others. Specifically, I have memories of my beloved and overwhelmed mother coming into the basement where several of my preschool aged siblings and I were playing and making a mess (LIKE NORMAL KIDS DO). My mom, frustrated and without her own resources, would yell at us to clean up the mess. Then she would shout "You kids are going to put me in the hospital some day!" Confused, I didn't understand. She didn't look sick. What did she mean?

Years later, she experienced what was at the time called a nervous breakdown and was admitted to a psychiatric unit for about a month. I was seventeen by then, and it hit me with great certainty that what she had predicted had in fact happened. I had put her in the hospital with my rebellious and disrespectful behavior.

I felt SO RESPONSIBLE for what had happened. From that, I believed that my power was a dangerous thing, a scary power. If it could cast my mother into the hospital, I'd better wield it very carefully. This is why I stayed in an unhealthy marriage for over 20 years. I felt responsible for my husband's happiness, and overexerted myself in pursuit of that. I compensated, enabled, etc, all the while losing my physical and spiritual health bit by bit. My faith life, family, friends, and work kept me afloat until I understood I was not meant to live like this.

The marriage ended in 2003. But I continued to carry the subconscious burden of responsibility for a long time. Once this was out on the table, my therapist and I worked to develop a sense of true power based on love, not subconscious lies.

Things began to change.

For example, when I was living and working in Doha, Qatar in 2012, it was not uncommon to take a taxi to work. On one occasion, I sensed the tension and negative energy of my driver as he sped up and cut off another taxi driver. Shortly after, we were stopped side by side at an intersection. My driver and the other driver shouted at each other, and my anxiety skyrocketed. I calmed myself with the affirmation "I declare peace and harmony dwell in and around me." I asked my driver to please stop.

Then I caught the eye of the other driver. He looked Nepalese, and instinctively I held his glance as I pressed my hands together in Namaste, bowing to him. Looking sheepish, he returned the greeting and kept his eyes on me. I then pressed my hand to my heart for a moment, and resumed Namaste, watching him and sending thoughts of "please stop, please be peaceful." Again he responded with a bowing of his head, his hands in Namaste, and finally a kind smile. And he stopped engaging with my angry driver.

I felt my energy shift, my anxiety drop, and a sense of love fill the space around me. And I knew, I noticed, that I had just used my own power. It was and is beautiful and passionate and alive and makes a difference in the world. 

How are you using your power? Remember that you own it. Don't give it away.

Nobody can take your power away from you without your permission.

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America the Beautiful

When I went to sleep last night, Donald Trump was ahead in the polls. When I awoke at 4:30am today, I learned he was our president elect. The people, the electorate have spoken. Republican. The Presidency. The House. The Senate .

As my reaction shifted very quickly from disbelief to dismay to the understanding that it is what it is, my next awareness was "I never thought I'd be praying for Donald Trump." Then came the realization that he also needed my positive thoughts, my light, my loving energy. And not just mine. This man needs all of the positive thoughts, light and loving energy this country has to give, not just to survive, but to thrive as president. For the greater good of our country and the world.

I'm thinking now of our very first Republican president, Abraham Lincoln. I believe him to be the best and most important president in the history of the USA.

This man literally gave his life for preservation of our country. He understood that the union would not survive with slavery, and he tirelessly fought endless battles to abolish it. From the Emancipation Proclamation issued on January 1, 1863, to the Thirteenth Amendment abolishing slavery, formally adopted as law on December 18, 1865. He intuitively understood that this was his life's calling, and he had premonitions of his assassination as a result of his actions.

Sure enough, Lincoln didn't live to see the final adoption of Amendment XIII, or the implementation of his plan for reconstruction of the country after the Civil War. Due to that bullet shot into the back of his head by John Wilkes Booth on April 14, 1865. John could not abide by Lincoln's agenda.

So he killed him. He didn't understand love. He just knew fear-based ignorance and hatred.

Mother Teresa, when asked why she never attended anti war protests, responded something to the effect of "If you tell me of a pro peace demonstration, I'll attend that."

She understood the power of love, the power of intention. She knew that, always, love wins.

So, Donald, I'm going to pray for you. And not just my generic God bless our leaders with wisdom and discernment prayer. More than that, I'm going to send loving intentions, healing energy and healing light to you, the House, and the Senate every day of your term. I'm going to image our leaders being wise and discerning.

OK, Donald, let's make America great again.

    Let's decrease poverty. Love wins.

  Let's decrease gun violence. Love wins.

  Let's decrease the tolerance for racism. Love wins.

  Let's support ways for all people to choose life. Love wins.

  Let's improve education programs for all our children. Love wins.

  Let's support respectful international dialogue and peace. Love wins.

  Let’s be good stewards of our humanity, helping refugees fleeing from danger. Love wins

  Let's embrace our diversity of cultures and faith traditions here and around the world. Love wins.

And to the entire government "of the people, by the people, for the people" - what if personal agendas are set aside and common focus placed on what is truly best for our country?

And to the people - what if we collectively choose love over fear every single day, moment, second? Just think - how great America will be when we individually and consistently adopt an attitude of true gratitude for what we have, and a regular practice of sharing our lives and blessings with others near and far, regardless of race, nationality, religion and/or ethnicity. WWLD? What would love do?

It would be beautiful.

Key the music.

US Flag.jpeg

O beautiful for spacious skies,

For amber waves of grain,

For purple mountain majesties

Above the fruited plain!

America! America! God shed His grace on thee,

And crown thy good with brotherhood

From sea to shining sea!

 

O beautiful for pilgrim feet,

Whose stern impassion’d stress

A thoroughfare for freedom beat

Across the wilderness!

America! America! God mend thine ev’ry flaw,

Confirm thy soul in self-control,

Thy liberty in law!

 

O beautiful for heroes proved In liberating strife,

Who more than self their country loved,

And mercy more than life!

America! America! May God thy gold refine

Till all success be nobleness,

And ev’ry gain divine!

 

O Beautiful for patriot dream

That sees beyond the years

Thine alabaster cities gleam,

Undimmed by human tears!

America! America! God shed His grace on thee,

And crown thy good with brotherhood

From sea to shining sea!*

 

I know you may not be ready to let go of your dismay, horror, embarrassment for our country... yet. I honor where you are and encourage you to be present to that, to make time and space for it. Then, when you're ready, consider thinking of one thing you can do to make life better around you. Then commit to making it real. It can be small, a baby step. In fact, that's the best way to transform, as it can happen without overwhelm. And it will have ripple effects, little baby step ripples that grow into waves of compassion and action.

Mohandas K (Mahatma) Gandhi said it best: Be the change you wish to see in the world.

 

*America the Beautiful

by Katharine Lee Bates – 1913

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Let It Go, Let It Go, Let It Go

Just as it takes a village to raise a child (and in my family, a village to help my 90 year old still relatively independent father), so too it takes a village to run a business. I am the owner of Abundance Art, and I do not have any employees. I do however have an amazing village. From my business development consultant to my life coach, graphic designer, marketing agent, accounting peeps, attorney, non paid helper bees and connected family and friends, that's still only part of it.

I am blessed with participation in a Holistic Mastermind group for female entrepreneurs, facilitated by Monique Alvarez of Monique Alvarez Enterprises during weekly online conference calls. In addition to those invaluable folks mentioned above, my co-sojourners in entrepreneurial adventures round out my tribe, my team. Monique teaches, pushes, guides, admonishes, comforts, pushes, pushes, pushes us to grow. Outside the box. Outside our comfort zones. She grooms us to be leaders, changers. And since I believe that what I do can change the world, I'm in for the ride.

Sometimes I'm so pumped I feel like I can do anything and everything. Other times I just want to curl up in a ball in my bed. Like today. Even as I took notes regarding the upcoming week's assignment/steps to increase my business' online/social media presence (I thought I had that covered!), here's what showed up on the screen in front of me:

  • This feels overwhelming to me!!! Hello, overwhelm. Let's go slow with this. Baby steps.

  • Feels like too much. Can I get "comfortable" with being uncomfortable? People will either love me or leave me. Vulnerable!

Then Monique said something. She reminded us that it is safe to change, it's safe to lose old friends and connections as we grow, and it's safe to be open to making new ones. It's part of the natural order to achieve the extraordinary. And I would say that my intention of nourishing the world with what nourishes me is an extraordinary vision and mission indeed.

This of course doesn't mean saying goodbye to everybody I know and love. It means letting go of those who choose to unfriend or stop following me on social media because I post so much. Spoiler alert - I'm going to start posting MORE (yikes!). In today's social media mania world, it turns out that it takes up to seven times and six different social media places for people to "see" the message. No wonder I feel overwhelmed - the world's gone crazy! Seriously, I think it's wonky that this is the way it is. And yet… it is what it is.

Thankfully, I'm established on Instagram, which is said to be the best place to be for the time being. One account for my business in general - Abundance Art, and one just for Maitri, my all white quirky deaf cat who is writing her memweowr (really!). You can also learn more about her here on the website. I would LOVE for you to follow each Instagram account and share with friends. But I digress... or do I?

Anyway, the focus of today's meeting was to learn more about how to leverage Instagram and how best to use hashtags and networking to grow a following to 10k. Plus how to increase visibility in Facebook for networking purposes. Oh, the whole idea of course is to generate income from the business. Like. Now. And this just hit me like a ton of bricks because I've taken the recommended steps and have the social media accounts and post regularly and offer online store promotions especially for joining my mailing list. I love the international connections and dialogue all four of the Instagram and Facebook accounts generate. And it will feel REALLY amazing when people make purchases and money flows in and I earn a very good living. In the meantime, I learn, I strategize, I implement. With help and support. I am here to learn, I am here to teach. I am here to receive, I am here to give. I keep working at this truth because I believe passionately that the world is hungry for what I have to give. Another truth is that today I just feel really discouraged.

Monique ended the virtual meeting with the encouraging words "Let's have a blow out week!" and everyone waved and said goodbye. As soon as I clicked "Leave Meeting" I started crying. I actually cried out loud "I don't want to have a blow out week!" I put down my laptop and cried and cried and cried. Then I sat quietly for a while, with that hicuppy half cry in my throat. I looked outside. I sat.

After a while, I found myself picking up my laptop. I messaged Monique with my overwhelmedness as well as my determination, and started on my assignment. Just a few small tasks today. Baby steps are very therapeutic. Then just let it go for now…  which reminded me of a song I wrote years ago when I felt completely overwhelmed and out of control on a huge computer software conversion project I was leading.

Out of all that came the desire to write this blog. And share the lyrics to Let It Go, Let It Go, Let It Go, sung to the tune of Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow. So here goes...

Oh the project plan is frightful and the deadlines are not delightful.

I've lost all control…

Let it go, let it go, let it go!

 

It doesn't show signs of stopping; my arteries will start popping.

But before they blow…

Let it go, let it go, let it go!

 

When we finally do convert, I will see that I am still alive.

Though I may be a little bit burnt, I certainly will survive.

 

Sooo, let's get back to work now, won't be a grumpy jerk now.

I'll go with the flow…

And let it go, let it go, let it go!

I'm letting it go for now, for today. I'm going to do something really nourishing for my soul, haven't decided what yet. Oh, and by the way, Monique messaged me back as I was typing this blog. She wrote "You are a champion and a leader and a beacon of light" with a double heart emoji.

Thank you Monique. I needed that. :)

What a great tribe. 

 

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go slow: woman on a journey

Since July 2010, I have been drawing mandalas as a way to express my inner emotions. This has been in the context of ongoing trauma recovery therapy and healing and is explained in more detail here. Today, I share my experiences and photos of the various exhibits, because this is part of fulfilling my mission and vision to nourish the world with what nourishes me. 

An important concept to understand about the exhibit is that the title - "go slow: woman on a journey" is also meant to guide the visitor's approach to the exhibit. Go slow. (Ok, slowly is grammatically correct, but slow it is, because that's what came from my heart). This exhibit is a journey through time and a journey into my story. And if you go slow enough, it can be a journey into your story. For that reason, it is important to design a journey like path rather than a straight line of mandalas. The very act of taking steps around the corner to see what's next evokes reflection and journey-making.

My first exhibit was part of the KC Crossroads First Friday in June 2015 - one year to the date I registered my new business with the state of Kansas - and contained 12 mandalas mounted on tall angled white boards. I promoted the event with Facebook posts and rack cards distributed to local businesses. The exhibit was on the fourth floor of a historic building, and people coming in were saying that they were told, on the way up, by people on the way down, to keep going, that it was worth it. Later, I was told repeatedly by friends and visitors they were really affected by the images and the associated commentary. One man in particular told me that "Release" (below) touched his heart in a way it had not been touched in a long time. He ended up over time ordering two print reproductions, proclaiming on receipt of them that they looked just like he remembered and they still had the power to touch his heart. How gratifying! How very very gratifying. I even played with the notion that I am worth climbing four flights of stairs. Wow.

Release

My second exhibit was June 14th through July 9th 2016 at Images Art Gallery, where I am a member, as part of my being a featured artist for the month. This meant that my artwork displayed prominently at the front of the gallery. My paintings, prints and notecards filled the wall and window space, and "go slow: woman on a journey" occupied free standing space adjacent to that. Discovery and Uncovery were mounted on black angled grid panels, and Recovery on additional wall space. I was able to double the number of mandalas included in the exhibit from the previous year, which was a real blessing. I promoted the exhibit primarily through my Abundance Art Instagram and Facebook accounts and purchasing posts on HerLife Magazine. As well, this year I provided two new components: a printed introduction to the exhibit, as well as a means for visitors to order prints at the gallery. People took advantage of both. I also made myself present on several occasions to talk with visitors. One woman told me she totally "got it" and went on to say that she too was a trauma survivor. I think it felt good for both of us to be understood and be reminded that we are not alone.

From July 12th through July 22th, my third exhibit, really a continuation of the second, showed at Images Art Gallery. I very much appreciated the board's approval for this unprecedented extension, our hope being that it would bring additional visibility to the gallery, The exhibit was redesigned and mounted entirely on angled black grid panels. The journey through Discovery, Uncovery and Recovery involves walking back and forth around the panels, in a style similar to 2015.

As part of promoting this exhibit I purchased an eblast ad from HerLife Magazine, and as a member of InterUrbanArtHouse I submitted a feature for inclusion in their July newsletter. 

Unfortunately, long story short, the exhibit had to be taken down urgently due to ceiling leak issues. Like life, our journeys don't go how we plan them. Thankfully no damaged occurred, and the mandalas and panels are safely packaged and stored for their next outing. In the meantime, you can still visit the exhibit here on my website.

So that's the story of the exhibit that grew from pain and hope come together, sparked by an inspired title long before it became a reality, and mixed with lots of love and support and healing. May each of you find inspiration and encouragement for your own life journeys.

How curious and delightful that my mandala exhibit began on a tiled floor mandala.

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Introducing Maitri

Hello world!

Today I introduce you to Maitri. She's my exotically beautiful white cat with a lingering hint of blue in one eye, the other golden. I call her my Zen kitty; in fact, in Sanskrit, her name means unconditional loving kindness, and that really fits her. Calm, curious, friendly, patient, mellow (mostly), very much living in the moment. Intentional and determined, with a plush coat of fur made for petting… when she's in the mood. People not particularly fond of cats like her. People fond of cats love her. She has just now started purring at the age of three… what a pleasant discovery!

That said, she's deaf, and often her primitive ancestry takes over her inner quiet with a full range of roaring meows and antics that entertain and sometimes startle, especially in the night. She makes me laugh out loud. Every day.

I adopted her one week after I adopted Lucy, my young black and white beauty. This was in Doha, Qatar, 2012. I had Lucy at the vet for her one week post adoption check up, and I stood near a cage housing kittens for adoption. All of a sudden the door latch came undone, and this adorable white kitten started falling out. Quickly catching her, I looked into her one blue eye and one hazel eye, fell instantly in love,  and said "Oh, you're coming home with me, and your name is Maitri."

Maitri baby kitty.png

Within a few days, I suspected she was deaf, something the vet would confirm at the next visit. As I reflected my disappointment out loud that she would never hear me call her name, the vet's tongue in cheek comment "Oh she'll be able to read lips" cheered me a bit. Still, my sense of loss lingered, so I decided to journal it, and this is what emerged:

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 tiny-ness quiet me;

She's Maitri, loving kindness avowed.

Now, back in Kansas City, we share our home with Kiki, a sleek black indoor/outdoor kitty, who came to live with us in spring of 2014. Because Maitri is deaf, it's not safe for her to be out and about on her own. But she clearly communicates her desire to do so by standing at the door and offering anything from persistent plaintive mews to proclaiming her loud ME-OUTs. Our compromise?  Harness and leash. A longer leash for the backyard, a shorter one for our walks. Yes. For our walks. It's really quite fascinating to watch her explore her world, remembering that she cannot hear the birds, or the kids playing, or (yikes!) the cars. She and Kiki have made names for themselves in the neighborhood, and I'm known as the lady who walks her cats: Maitri on a leash, Kiki walking beside… or behind… or in front… or not at all. And Lucy? Inside, please and thank you.

Maitri  has the best stories to tell, and she is in the process of writing her memweowr. Seriously. OK, it's really me. Using her character as first person. But this is the only time I'll say it.

In her Maitri's Memweowr Instagram account, she tells tales of her life and that of her human and catpanions. She teaches mindfulness and stillness, provides insightful observations, writes poems, and is featured, along with Lucy and Kiki in short videos. Her following is growing, which is cool, because she wants to spread her unconditional loving kindness - and her quirkiness - all over the world.

Every Instagram post is also shared to her Facebook Fan Club page, and she's got YouTube on her mind for the future. She just needs to figure out the best way to get there and stay there. She might decide to ask another human for help. 

Maitri Facebook.png

Oh, and another thing: mosaics. Maitri Mosaics. This kitty has a tendency to knock things over for fun. In my undecorated Doha flat I gave her, among other toys, a bowl and plastic balls to play with and we brought those back to KC. So, I didn't think twice when unpacking decorative items from my year-away storage.

Her curiosity and resourcefulness stunned me.

I learned the hard way, too late to save the Moroccan vase and the Norwegian glass plate featuring a beautiful abstract of green and red Aurora Borealis against a sky of cobalt blue (my 50th birthday present being a trip to see the northern  lights in person - and I did!). Plus some other pieces here and there. Finally I discovered Quakehold, museum putty designed to protect fine furnishings against the rumblings of earthquakes. Or in my case, cat-quakes. If you come to my home, you will see globs of the stuff securing photo frames, candle holders, knick knacks, and anything else Maitri-worthy. Including the mosaic plate I made out of the pieces of my Norwegian plate. There are more Maitri Mosaics to come, as I've kept the bits and pieces along the way. Plus I dropped a dish one day... 

Maitri Mosaic.jpg

So. That's Maitri, unconditional loving kindness. And quirkiness and fun. But don't take my word for it. She likes you already and invites you to like her back, and follow her life journey and reflections on Instagram or Facebook. No obligation, of course, because her love and kindness are unconditional.

Is she cool or what?

Me-out

Maitri/Annette

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Yet Another Visit to the ED AKA Life for Me Right Now

Spoiler alert: this blog contains a bit of swearing. I was so frustrated I wanted to title it "f***ing healthcare regulations regarding controlled substances."

I changed my mind after I calmed down. 

OK. What you need to know to start is that, at least in the state of Kansas USA, a narcotics prescription cannot be phoned, faxed, or otherwise transmitted electronically from doctor to pharmacy. It has to be generated on paper, hand delivered to the patient who in turn hand delivers it to the pharmacy.  All that clinical informatics technology meant to make patient care easier and safer sits unused on its server.

That said, here's my story as it unfolded back in early summer 2015:

On late Friday, I realize too late that I do not have enough Percocet (for my ongoing moderately severe abdominal/pelvic pain) to see me through the weekend and most of Monday, which is how long it will take to get a new hand written prescription.

I remember a similar situation after my gallbladder surgery in January and being told by my surgeons's office assistant that I should go to urgent care. So I decide to do that in the morning.

Next day, while I wait at urgent care, a man collapses in the parking lot, requiring CPR and paramedics and full resuscitation efforts, then he's off to the hospital in an ambulance. I share my observations about that in I Choose Life. I Choose Love.

Back in the waiting room after the drama, I certainly don't begrudge the delay. I understand - that's life. At least for me… I'm worried about that poor guy making it.

So patiently I wait, and finally my name is called and the nurse explains to me that the urgent care doctor does not prescribe narcotics. Well shit. What a waste of time, and I was really meant to be painting right now. Then again, perhaps I was meant to be right where I was when I was. 

I start crying as I walk to my car, realizing that between my pain and disappointment and the intensity of what just happened, I need some time to process. So I sit in my car and cry for a while, shake a bit, and I feel better.

I call my doctor's answering service, requesting the on-call physician to contact me, which he does pretty quickly. However because of the regulations requiring a paper prescription, he cannot help me. He tells me if I had come to the doctors office that morning they could have helped me. Well shit, I didn't realize they had Saturday morning clinic, and I drove right past it on my way to urgent care where I waited for two hours when I could have just walked in to my own doctor's office and be home painting by now. Live and learn. Sigh.

So what are my options I ask. He says you can try urgent care. Laugh out loud. Ironically. He says you can call your G.I. specialist, maybe they can help you. I tell him they do not prescribe pain medications, they leave that to primary care.

He says my only other option is to go to the emergency room. Well shit. Just yesterday I was hoping I might get through May without having to go to there. 

First things first. I go to Steak and Shake and comfort myself with a chocolate shake. My frustration is softening and maybe all things are as they should be and it will all work out ok.

And it does. From the ED I receive immediate pain relief along with a prescription for enough Percocet until my GYN surgeon appointment a few days later.

At said appointment, the surgeon and I agree that a hysterectomy is a reasonable plan, especially given all that I've been through in the preceding months and all that has been ruled out through extensive testing. Because the procedure will be done using the laparoscopic robotic approach, and because that particular OR is in high demand, my surgery won't be till June 18th. In the meantime, I have weekly appointments for pain monitoring, during which he gives me that little piece of paper (aka prescription) that allows the pharmacist to give me just enough Percocet to see me through till next week's appointment.

LOL - No I am not a drug seeking junky, though I am reminded of pregnant women nearing term who have weekly appointments. Certainly I'm giving birth to something through all this…

By now, I'm in the final days of preparing for my first painting exhibit. One morning I awaken with a painful mass on the left side of my neck. Rather than spending a few precious hours with last minute painting, I am at the doctor's office, and then the hospital for urgent outpatient CT scan. Clearly I am not meant to paint those 3x3s and 5x5s and 5x7s. At least not yet.

The next day, as pain and nausea meds - and antibiotics for a parotid gland infection - contrive to make me loopy as can be, I am whisked off to an urgent ENT referral by my friend Jeanette who has come to town to help me with the exhibit. The ENT tells us that in his thirty years of practice, he has never seen anything like my CT results: a multitude of small tracts of air dispersed throughout the gland. It would seem that, at least right now, I am an airhead. Never been called that before. The antibiotics ought to do the trick. Whew.

The following morning I awaken to a rainy thunderstormy day - aaahhhh…. my very VERY favorite weather, and my soul is delighted. A chorus pops into my mind to the tune of "Oh What a Beautiful Mornin'", and I greet Jeanette singing:

My parotid gland has an infection,

And my nausea seems here to stay.

The pain in my pelvis just keeps getting worse,

But outside it's a stormy kind of day…

 

Oh what a beautiful morning,

Oh what a beautiful day,

I've got a wonderful feeling

Everything's going my way.*

 

She knows me well enough to know I'm not insane. God bless Jeanette :)

The exhibit is a hit and I spend the next week in bed, recovering and resting up for my surgery adventure just around the corner. My neck mass resolves and all is right enough in my world.

That's my life right now. So…how do I wrap this up? By noticing what I am loving as I type (and noticing that I can't figure out how to make the font size of the following bullet list the same as the rest of this blog, and that's ok):

  • I love that I'm able to acknowledge my frustrations and not be bound by them.

  • I love my family and friends and colleagues and how they are showing up for me.

  • I love my three cats and how they each have their own personalities, and how they make me laugh each and every day. Oh, and how they show their affection and, yes, love.

  • I love the gift of creativity, the abundance of ideas for growing my business, and the means to move them forward.

  • I love that I can go slow, set my own pace.

  • I love that I can work in bed, that I can be good to my body as it sorts through this immense journey of release and healing.

  • I love that I'm able to see my current dis-ease with compassion and curiosity, trusting that somehow it too has its place.

  • I love that I have access to whatever health care I need.

  • I love that my all my needs and desires are met and exceeded.

  • I love that I look forward to my future, that I am curious and excited to see what unfolds.

 

All things are as they should be.

Namaste,

Annette

 

*Adapted from "Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin'"

Music by Richard Rodgers, lyric by Oscar Hammerstein II

Copyright © 1943 by Williamson Musi

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