Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Making A Difference Makes All The Difference

Thank you to Mary for the lovely bouquet of flowers with my favorite color!
This month I have felt as though I’ve been trying to find my way through clouds of fatigue, melancholy and discontent in search of a brighter vista.  Although I am very uncomfortable being stalled under a “gray sky” for too long, it’s inevitably a reality at times, and this month has been one of those times.  In the past few days, however, some events have had such a profoundly powerful impact that I feel as though I’m emerging from this month’s fog and have arrived at a point where, even though my body hasn’t quite caught up yet, my soul feels energized and truly alive!

Last weekend we participated in a memorial service for our loved one who passed away on February 10th.  Our unavoidable sadness was balanced by the beauty of loving remembrance and the comforting fellowship of family and friends.  We have had opportunities to strengthen existing connections and to form new bonds with relatives we hadn’t known well or at all in the past.  I am grateful for recently meeting a cousin who has become a new (yet already feels like an old!) treasured friend.  She exudes a bright, caring spirit that uplifts my own spirit.

On Monday, I stepped into my role as “Picture of the Month” art docent (this month’s focus was Post-Impressionism and Cezanne) for the third grade level.  As I entered the first classroom, I was warmly welcomed by excited students, and as I wrapped up our session, they begged me to stay longer!  I was very happy the children were so engaged in the art presented.  In the second classroom (admittedly, my toughest audience), I received a sweet hug from one of the students upon my arrival, and some of the quieter students finally spoke up and voiced their observations about the painting.  In the third classroom, every student, if I'm not mistaken, eagerly raised their hand to share their observations.  As always, my spirit was buoyed by the children’s enthusiasm for the rest of the day.

Last night I felt honored to be invited as a guest speaker in one of the nursing classes at California State University, Monterey Bay (CSUMB.)  Mary, who I’ve mentioned on several occasions as the phenomenal RN/MFT running Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula’s healing art retreats, co-teaches the CSUMB class and kindly asked if I would share my personal healing art experiences and examples of my work, providing the nursing students with a real life perspective on art therapy.  I spoke about experiences that paved the way to my journey, how I embarked on my healing art journey and what discoveries I’ve made along this journey and then shared some of my work.  Wow, what an amazing experience!  I wish to express my heartfelt thanks to all of the students for the comfortable and empathetic atmosphere they created in last night’s class and for their openness in hearing my story.  I realize mine is only one of numerous stories, but my hope is that by sharing my exploration and experiences I have helped encourage the students’ receptiveness to their own exploration as they are introduced to different aspects of the healing art process during this semester.  I think it is so admirable and vital that CSUMB is offering this type of curriculum to make a positive, compassionate impact on the future of nursing and health care.  I was thrilled to be able to contribute to this positive “ripple,” the possibility of benefitting not only future patients, but benefitting these future nurses as well.  I also express my heartfelt thanks to Tom, the director of CSUMB’s nursing program and to Mary, who has been an invaluable mentor in my healing journey.

When I returned home last night, I commented to my husband that I felt such a tremendous sense of fulfillment.  He reminded me of the many occasions in the past when I expressed my unhappiness because I wasn’t following a path which enabled me to contribute meaningfully to this world of ours.  Now I’m on this still fairly new path, progressing with baby steps and slow strides, not knowing exactly where it will lead me, but finally, small differences as they may be, making a difference is making all the difference in creating newfound happiness and meaning in my life…and as a result, my soul is beginning to feel so passionately alive!
How does making a difference in others’ lives make a difference in your own life?  I would love to be inspired by your stories!   



Friday, February 22, 2013


(I removed the photo of my card originally included when I wrote this post.  Although the card is from my personal deck and isn't copied or for sale, I do not wish to infringe upon the copyrights of others' images which were respectfully collaged on my card.  My original writing remains as I believe the information and insight I've shared in this post may still be of interest to you.  I hope to share future cards created with my own photos soon.) 

Yesterday I shared the first of my two latest SoulCollage® cards, “Transformation,” and today I’m sharing the second one titled “Introspection.”  The butterfly and its symbolism obviously carried over into this second card.

I am the one who…

is exploring the depths of introspection,

and gathering the discoveries and revelations

that flutter to the surface.

Where will your introspection lead you...what will you find?

To view photos of my other SoulCollage® cards and accompanying posts, type “SoulCollage®” in “Search This Blog.”

Thursday, February 21, 2013


(I removed the photo of my card originally included when I wrote this post.  Although the card is from my personal deck and isn't copied or for sale, I do not wish to infringe upon the copyrights of others' images which were respectfully collaged on my card.  My original writing remains as I believe the information and insight I've shared in this post may still be of interest to you.  I hope to share future cards created with my own photos soon.) 
I passed the time during my maintenance chemo treatment earlier this month by working on a couple new SoulCollage® cards.  As I’ve shared in previous posts, passing the time creatively during my infusions is calming and soothing to both body (has proven to lower my blood pressure!) and soul.

I titled this first card “Transformation” with its combined images of a serene woman wearing a fuchsia (my favorite color) and aqua robe, the lush green taro fields of Hanalei on the island of Kauai (Hanalei Bay is a favorite visualization for my healing place) and the brilliant blue morpho butterflies (with the fitting symbolism of their metamorphosis.)  When the collage seemed still unfinished, I added magenta calla lilies, without realizing until researching their symbolism that this shapely, beautiful flower often represents rebirth.

A powerful part of the SoulCollage® process is to practice the exercise of stepping into the energy, mood and intention of each card and giving each card a voice by stating “I am the one who…” and allowing the words to flow.  When creating cards at a couple of last year’s healing art retreats, we practiced this exercise by speaking and sharing the words within our group.  When alone, you can write in a journal (or in my case, I’m writing and sharing here on my blog.)

I am the one who is…

   exploring new pathways,

   discovering possibilities,

   healing body and soul,

   growing stronger,

   blooming creatively

and slowly, gradually
transforming my life.


Each of us holds the power to transform…what metamorphosis is occurring in your life?

(Type “SoulCollage®” in “Search This Blog” to view photos of my other SoulCollage cards and accompanying posts.)





Tuesday, February 19, 2013

When Inspiration Glimmers

A few weeks ago, when I wrote about “The Glimmer Of A Silver Lining,” I shared a photo of ripples in the sand that caught my eye during an impromptu beach walk with our daughter.  On Super Bowl Sunday, while my husband and a couple friends watched the game, our daughter and I sat nearby at the dining table, remaining social while working on our respective creative projects…she, making festive paper headbands for the guys to wear, and me, making time, despite the boisterous atmosphere of game day, to calmly focus my attention on an idea for a mixed media collage piece inspired by those sandy ripples at the beach.  I’m not much of (make that not really at all!) a sports fan, so in hindsight, choosing to act upon my creative impulse rather than halfheartedly watch the game ended up as another “silver lining” of sorts, unexpected time to tap into the flow of creativity.  Inspiration can glimmer at the unlikeliest of times!

"Ripples Of Inspiration"
Photograph, handmade papers, mulberry paper, beach sand, beads

Monday, February 18, 2013

Living Life In Colors

"I Am Living Life In All Its Colors," acrylic, glitter glue, seed beads

During the first half of Friday’s healing art retreat, I was feeling somewhat stuck in my creative process.  When asked to voice a one word intention for the day, mine was “refuel.”  Since my “tank” was on the empty side that morning, it took a while to start warming up and feeling refueled.

We were given words, “Because…,” “I am…,” and “If…,” and prompted to write whatever prose or poetry immediately came to mind.  The directive was to then create an art piece based on some of our prose or poetry.  Feeling stuck like I did, this project unfolded slowly for me.  Without much purpose at first, I began painting rows of different colors.  As I selected some colors and mixed others into new shades, I attached emotions and feelings to each color.  As I topped the rows of color with a row of hearts, I thought about the power of love, and as I spread gold glitter glue across the entire canvas, I was thinking about glimmers of light, of brightness and how one’s spirit can sparkle.

Honestly, I wasn’t pleased with the initial result which felt lacking and unfinished.  Once home, this piece nagged at me until I settled upon what I could do to “save” it and silence my inner critic who was itching to discard it.  As Mary, the RN and MFT who leads our group, always reminds us, the pieces we create are like a visual journal, and she encourages us to hold on to them for further contemplation.  As I got into the groove of adding the seed beads, the words to accompany this piece finally came to me…

I am living life in all its colors

From dark to bright

Shadow into light  

Colors of pain, fatigue, peace, calm, optimism, growth, passion, inspiration, creativity, hope, groundedness, and of course, love.  
Although this is not one of my favorite works (by any stretch!), I'm still sharing anyway, remaining true to my "more about insight, less about aesthetic"post a while back. 

Love and the light of our spirit illuminates life in all its shades and colors...

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Softening The Sharpness

Pottery shards softened by the sea found during yesterday's beach walk

An accident in the kitchen yesterday reminded me how much I dislike sharp edges and points, literally and figuratively.  I was preparing a large batch of homemade soup to share with a close friend who is currently in the midst of her own challenging health battle, wanting to provide her with some tangible comfort.  As I retrieved a set of Pyrex measuring cups from the cupboard, I lost my grasp in such a way that the two smaller cups nested in the largest one fell out, shattering on the stovetop and scattering everywhere (everywhere was not an exaggeration, either!)  Instead of delivering comfort food to our dear friend, I ended up spending a lengthy amount of time cleaning up glass shards and feeling very upset with myself.  After the kitchen was back in order, my husband suggested a family walk along the beach which did help soften the edges of my mood.

How can we soften the sharp edges of life?  The sharpness of fear, of grief, of negative energy, sharp words voiced during an argument, our own sharp tongue of self-criticism?

I’ve been contemplating a few answers to this question after yesterday’s literal encounter with sharp edges and the figurative sharp points of the past couple weeks.

Deep breaths.  They soften the anxiety I always feel when my needle phobia strikes during blood tests and IV infusions. 

Thoughts of what brings you tangible comfort, like Linus and his soft blanket!  At the top of my list, creating something handmade or home cooked (yes, I will follow through on a new batch of soup and attempt to do so more safely!), family outings in nature, connecting with friends, writing, curling up with a book, warm, wholehearted hugs.

Visualizations of favorite places, real or imagined…instantly calming, soothing, softening.  Visit your favorite local places when you need soft solace from life’s sharp edges. 

Soft, quiet moments…remember to allow time for them amidst the busyness of everyday life.

Softhearted kindness…for others and for yourself.

Love…it can be soft and gentle just as much as it is powerful and strong, smoothing the sharpest edges in life.

Wishing you softness in the week ahead…  



Saturday, February 16, 2013

Pain Relievers

"A Spirit Refueled Can Sway More Easily With Life"
Acrylic print and acrylic print recycled/collaged into sea life

Encountering both physical and emotional pain in the past couple weeks, my mind has rested on the welcome topic of "pain relief."  What soothes our soul can often soothe us physically in the process.  I found this to be true several times across the last two weeks.


*          Assembling two new SoulCollage® cards during my recent maintenance chemo treatment calmed both mind and body (will share these cards in upcoming posts)


*          Conducting a love themed papercraft workshop last weekend and focusing on providing inspiration to others ended up providing me with a respite from physical and emotional aches


*          Tackling weeds in our vegetable garden, the combination of being physically active and productive while also soaking up sunshine and fresh air, was therapeutic for both our daughter and myself   


*          Enjoying a moment of quiet stillness indoors while captivated by the (not so quiet, not so still!) activity outdoors as feathered visitors flocked to our blossoming almond tree - a variety of finches and sparrows, dark-eyed juncos, a chestnut-backed chickadee, California towhees, mourning doves - was a gentle way to begin the day  


*          Designing a heartfelt notecard for a loved one with the focused intention of lifting her spirit lifted my own spirit


*          Attending an elementary school assembly about “caring” led by the 2nd grade classes (including our daughter’s) was heartwarming  


*          Participating in yesterday’s healing art retreat refueled my spirit, my voiced intention for the day, and took the edge off of an intense headache...the group was kindly receptive to me returning in the afternoon with our daughter after an early pick-up at the bus stop due to a minimum school day (any age can benefit from the healing effects of process art)

Sharing some of my pieces from yesterday and with her permission,
one of our daughter's pieces, too

Jellyfish close-up
"A Spirit Refueled Can Bloom"
Acrylic print and acrylic print recycled/collaged into flower

"A Spirit Refueled Can Grow"
Acrylic print recycled/collaged into leafy vine 
"Paths And Experiences" by Melia
Acrylic print with pastel
A few doses of “pain relievers” self-prescribed for this weekend…

more “dirty hands, content heart” time in the garden,
creative time with our daughter and a sewing project on her wish list
and time for walks along the beach, a favorite balm for mind, body and spirit.

What natural "pain relief" is most effective for you when in need of support for your mind and body?








Tuesday, February 12, 2013

What Isn't Lost

Finding comfort in the simple grace of nature


With this blog, I made a commitment to myself, family and friends that I would do my best to balance between what I share and what remains private, while maintaining authenticity and openness in expressing my own thoughts and experiences.  I hope I am fulfilling this commitment, conveying enough, yet protecting enough for those in my personal life.  I hope I can continue to fulfill yet another commitment I made with this blog to offer encouraging, uplifting, helpful words even when writing in times of sadness, fear, disappointment or stress.

Today I write with a heavy heart, deeply saddened by the death of a loved one over the weekend.  Unable to sleep early Sunday morning, thoughts and memories tumbled haphazardly out of my mind.  For a few moments, my focus landed on one particular train of thought…what isn’t lost when we lose someone dear to us.  Although we lose their physical presence, what remains with us is…

Our blossoming almond tree

their spiritual presence,

fond memories and experiences we shared with them,

what they have taught us,

our enduring love for them

and their love for us. 

We can find solace and strength in what remains and endures, especially love.  


Thursday, February 7, 2013

An Unlikely Ally

"She Journeys With An Unlikely Ally," Summer 2012
Watercolor, acrylic, pen & ink, shimmery cardstock, magazine image

It’s been a while since I last posted my “inner little girl” art and also, a while since she’s shown up in anything I’ve created.  After receiving my fifth in a series of six maintenance chemotherapy treatments a couple days ago, it's been on my mind to share this last entry in a portfolio I compiled and titled "An Inner Little Girl's Journey," which was included in a healing art exhibit at Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula’s cancer survivor event last summer.  Although my inner little girl has been absent from my artwork lately, her story continues behind the scenes, and I am feeling compelled to resume illustrating her story through new collaged pieces soon.  She’s been one of my most helpful outlets for expression, bringing thoughts and feelings to the surface where I can view them with more clarity, gain a higher level of understanding and move forward with my healing process. 
Only recently have I begun to realize that my inner little girl could continue to be very helpful as I journey beyond my current stretch of maintenance treatment later this year.  On the one hand, I'm definitely looking forward to being liberated from the chemo, but on the other hand, it's been my "ally," a vigilant sentry guarding me from any errant cells.  I've been able to await test results with confidence that there won't be anything amiss.  Once my ally and I part ways, I'll face the post-treatment stretch of a cancer survivor's journey when you realize that as much as you'd like to travel ahead without looking back, you must proceed with an ongoing awareness and diligence about your health while learning how to temper any lurking fears about revisiting rough terrain.  Continuing to utilize healing art and my inner little girl as introspective and therapeutic tools will be beneficial in managing stress, fear or unwieldy emotional baggage.   
I created "She Journeys With An Unlikely Ally" during one of CHOMP's healing art retreats last summer.  The directive was to select from an assortment of magazine images spread out on a table and blend our image with art mediums of our choosing.  My initial considerations were bird or sea life images.  My final choice, however, was the image of this mouse which may seem odd, but its symbolism holds much significance for me.  A small, but crucial component of the chemotherapy that's been successful in my treatment originates from a mammalian source and provides the intelligence to target the cancerous cells.  (No, not actually a mouse, but it was the closest symbolic image.)  This fact is probably strange for was to me in the beginning, but I am now very grateful for my ally!
Although I'll be leaving one ally behind later this year, I can find comfort and confidence in the many allies that will remain by my side as I forge ahead - love, family, friends and kindred spirits, physicians, nature, creativity, healing inner little girl.
We can all benefit from identifying "healing allies" who help us through challenge, change and growth regardless of our situation, whether it be illness, grief, stress, anxiety, depression, perhaps a dysfunctional relationship or career disappointment.  Who or what are your allies when the going gets tough?  Remember they are there for you when you need them.
(Type "inner little girl" in "Search This Blog" to view her journey.)   

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Degas And The Delighted Docent

The Dancer, Edgar Degas,
part of the Annenberg Collection exhibit
I enjoyed over 20 years ago at the Metropolitan Museum of Art!

Last Monday I visited three third grade classes as I do each month in my art docent role at our daughter’s elementary school, presenting the “Picture of the Month” with a brief lesson on a particular art period and artist(s) and opportunities for the children to share their observations and reactions.  The focus for this most recent “POM” visit was French Impressionism and Edgar Degas.  His main subjects of the ballet and the race track were obviously intriguing to the students. 
Whenever I ask for comments each month, the first few students will raise their hands, and as they speak enthusiastically about the artwork, their enthusiasm spreads, and more and more hands are raised.  In two of the classrooms last Monday, all but just a couple of the students excitedly voiced what they noticed and appreciated about the artwork.  Some were so eager to participate, they bounced up and down in their seats as they waited for their turn! 

Every month I am delighted and energized by the children’s spirited reactions.  I always feel a rush of exhilaration after these POM sessions.  I wish I could collect their enthusiasm in a magical atomizer and spritz that enthusiasm everywhere!  The open, inquisitive, eager nature of young children is wonderfully refreshing and uplifting.  Taking time to recapture these positive qualities as adults can enhance many moments and experiences in our life. 

This past week, I enjoyed that giddy excitement of a child when…

I took an impromptu beach walk (to fill the time while waiting for our daughter who was attending her ballet and tap class) and spotted whales close to shore.
I took another beach walk, this one planned with a dear friend, and we happily discovered a beachcomber’s bounty.

My husband spotted feathered friends visiting our almond tree, and we noticed new visitors we’d never seen before (and identified them as cedar waxwings.)

What excites you like a child?  Have you recently enjoyed some childlike excitement you'd like to share?