Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Dust Yourself Off

One way to dust off stress...artistic collaboration with a young child!
“Pick yourself up

Dust yourself off

And start all over again”

-Jerome Kern & Dorothy Fields

You know when you’re trying your best to react to and overcome unfortunate circumstances, but each time you’ve arrived at a place where everything is getting better, it’s too short of a stay? A relentless cycle of challenges, big and/or small, can begin to drain one’s energy and whittle away at one’s resilience. How can we maintain our resolve through such cycles? How do we prevent reactionary tension from setting in? How can we pick ourselves up and resume heading toward that “getting better” place? The answers sometimes seem beyond one’s grasp when faced with a steady flow of stressful situations.

I am currently stuck in one of these cycles. I can sense tension building up more easily and must work harder to respond calmly and optimistically to each situation as it arises. A leaking pipe, a disappointing workshop, a parking mishap, a health concern (not me, but a loved one), then just yesterday, someone dented my car door and although very minor in the grand scheme of things, I accidentally deleted half of this post which had been ready to publish. Meanwhile, I keep trying to look at the bright side (a worst case scenario averted, for instance), to find the silver lining, to pick myself up despite feeling emotionally weary.

A beneficial outcome of my cancer experience has been learning how to manage my stress more effectively. At the same time, however, my tolerance level for stress is lower than it used to be which sometimes leaves me feeling more emotionally vulnerable. I strive to go with the flow, but it’s much harder, of course, to go with a flow that’s headed in an undesirable direction (like through a hole in a pipe under the house…thank goodness, a small one!) Over the weekend, I needed to pause and regain my bearings, so I could “pick myself up, dust myself off.” I realized that by regaining my bearings, I would feel more capable of reacting and responding to the current issues at hand, moving forward and hopefully, eventually reaching that “getting better” place.

Here’s how I dusted off some of the stress…

Being present in the moment - sharing in the excitement and pride of our daughter's
first 3K run with her school (a kids run sponsored by the Big Sur International
Enjoying creative time – handcrafting my notecards plus experimenting with a new
Collaborating – drawing with colorful markers on a large paper bird with  
our daughter, outside in the sunshine (our collaboration is now taped up on
the kitchen wall!)

Relaxing – enjoying a family movie night, watching the animated film "Brave" 
together and starting a new 750-piece puzzle (a work in progress spread out on
our living room floor at the moment!)

Bringing order to chaos - tidying one of many messy, disorganized spots in our
house (our daughter's desk!) 

Remembering to notice every day grace - hummingbirds visiting our fountain and
the very top of our red bud tree, our radish seedlings growing robustly and the
first teeny tiny carrot seedling breaking through the soil, the warmth of the sun  

Recounting gratitude - for the enthusiasm of the 3rd graders during my last Picture of
the Month lessons of the school year last week, for new opportunities sprouting up so
soon after my disapppointing workshop, for our daughter drawing "I Love Mom, 
I Love Dad" hearts on her steamy bathroom mirror     

Looking forward - to this week's possibilities, to a week that WILL get better... 
What helps you regain your bearings during a challenging stretch? 




Thursday, April 25, 2013

The Stepping Stone

Last weekend I faced disappointment when my “Papery Posies” handmade notecard workshop flopped.  It was another disappointment in a recent string of disappointments.  Those interested were not available to attend, but because there was the possibility of a walk-in or two, I proceeded with setting up, waiting and hoping.  In hindsight, scheduling a creative workshop (which sadly, many may view as a frivolous expense) so soon after tax day and too far in advance of Mother’s Day may have been poor timing. 

Admittedly, I shed a few tears while listening to my self-critic’s dialogue.  I was/am grateful for family and friends who voiced their encouragement of and belief in my work and helped me mute my inner critic.  Their support reminded me that despite recent setbacks, I am certain I’m on the right path for myself and am determined to stay the course through its ups and downs and twists and turns. 

Yesterday I was thinking about creek side hiking trails, and the slippery stones we must sometimes navigate to cross the creek and continue along the trail.  We may slip, even fall sometimes, but we can regain our balance or get back up, move forward and finish our crossing.  More of nature’s beautiful wonders always await us on the other side.
A recent family hike in Carmel Valley took us along and across Garzas Creek

The pursuit of dreams and goals is much like those creek crossings.  A disappointment can turn into a stepping stone to hopefulness and optimism.  We must remain confident about keeping our momentum going and taking those next steps.  The disappointment of my unsuccessful workshop became the stepping stone to new possibilities and opportunities, amazingly, just within the past few days.  These new developments arose partly in a surprisingly serendipitous manner and partly as a result of me deciding to get back up, take action and “cross that creek.”  I’m moving forward and anticipating the discoveries and potential accomplishments ahead.

May you traverse the stepping stones in your life with the confidence that you, too, can reach solidly positive ground!         






Monday, April 22, 2013

Fairyland Is Real

Fairyland is real!  I have visited there on several occasions and know it to be true. 
As I’ve shared before, I have leaned toward being more of a realist than a dreamer, but set out on a path a couple years ago to finally pursue dreams, to find more of those magical moments sprinkled throughout life, to start believing that anything is possible…including Fairyland.
We recently explored a network of trails (new to us) at one of our local regional parks, Garland Ranch, and that’s where we entered Fairyland for an afternoon.  The fairies had obviously been quite busy as evidenced in the photographs I took during our springtime adventure there…
Checkerspot on Blue Dicks

Giant Trillium

Woodland Stars

Fiesta Flowers


Soft, fuzzy leaves

Garzas Creek

Mossy rock
Nature's artwork with stone and lichen as mediums

Fairy Lantern

Pearly Everlasting

Wandering through Fairyland...

I believe a real life Fairyland opens its gateways to us for brief spells when we immerse ourselves in the magnificence of the wilderness, and we do so with our full attention to its sights, sounds and textures, with a sense of wonder and with respect and gratitude for all that nature can offer us - beauty, peace, enjoyment, inspiration, solace.
Are you a believer in Fairyland, too?  Have you adventured there lately?

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Something Good

Every day may not be good, but there is something good in every day.”

- Unknown

With last week’s tragedies on my mind and those impacted in my thoughts and heart, I was seeking, but not finding the “right” words to express my sympathy and support, my wishes for hope and healing.  Today, as I was scrolling through photos taken last weekend while our family enjoyed a local hike, I came across one I took of a quote on a memorial plaque (on a bench in a peaceful redwood grove) which gave us pause for thought as we paused to rest our bodies, and I knew I had found the “right” words.

I wondered about the person to whom this bench pays honor
and learned that he was an animal and nature lover,
that he was adventurous and courageous, that he battled cancer.
Although I was merely a passerby, I would like to pay respect to him 
and send peaceful wishes to his loved ones by sharing this photo I took of Kevin's bench.

What defines the good in every day for me…






Beauty in nature, in art, in a person’s words, actions and spirit

Simple moments of grace

Holding on to hope, strength, positivity

Wishing something good in every day to all…  

Monday, April 15, 2013

A Stout, Inspired Heart

Earlier this month I wrote about CSU Monterey Bay’s nursing students thoughtfully inviting me to return and participate with them in one of their healing art classes.  I shared the mini collage cards I created and brought to the students, but had not yet shared the actual healing art piece I created during the class.  What surprised me was that although it was an “express” version of healing art, a 2-hour class squeezing in set-up, a visualization exercise, the actual art process and clean-up (compared with the 6-hour monthly retreat I regularly attend at CHOMP), there was still much insight to gain from the experience and the resulting art.  The practice of healing art continues to prove its powerful, beneficial impact regardless of the amount of time devoted to creating a piece.      

After a guided visualization of us meeting our “future self,” we were free to experiment and create a piece with any medium(s.)  I experimented with the mixture of liquid watercolor and shaving cream for the first time, painting a simple background for my collage.  I quickly leafed through magazines, searching for colors from which to cut petals and form flowers and leaves.  One of the students kindly gave me a colorful page she found which I used for two of the flowers. 
An image of a hummingbird caught my eye which I felt compelled to add to my collage at home (after running out of time to finish during class, being somewhat slow in my process and accustomed to more time!)  As I was cutting out the hummingbird from its page, I noticed part of the original article describing its “stout heart.”  By extracting select words, I discovered an interesting message that related to my personal experience – "Stout heart, flexible muscle...able to power down...until conditions approve."  I could relate both physically and emotionally.  Concern about my heart was what first prompted me to make an appointment with my doctor, the first step into my health detour one and a half years ago.  You see, my heart was taxed, working to pump the meager amount of red blood cells that were circulating through my body at that time.  (The lymphoma had caused fibrosis in my bone marrow which was inhibiting new cells from entering my bloodstream.)  Because, fortunately, I was fairly healthy aside from what was happening in my bone marrow, my body, including my strong ("stout!") heart, compensated amazingly well and kept me safe from additional problems.  My heart's strength is also fueled by love and positivity and hope, my navigation system to advance through the twists and turns of this journey and arrive at a stretch where conditions have indeed improved (and will improve even further after I finally complete the maintenance phase of my chemotherapy next month!) 
(On the back of my collage to remind me of the symbolism I discovered about the hummingbird.)

I had also brought home another page for its color, intending to add a few more leaves to the bottom of my collage, and while doing so, I noticed the words of an advertisement, and again, by extracting select words and assembling them on my collage, I discovered a second message - "Brilliant journey.  Inspired heart.  Share your stories."  Yes, despite my detour, its twists and turns, the uncertainty (we all feel, regardless of our situation!) of the path ahead, overcoming the roadblock of fear once my ally is no longer traveling with me, I believe life is a brilliant journey.  By each of us sharing stories of our parallel journeys, we can encourage and inspire one another, find companionship and comfort, form a community of "stout, inspired hearts."

Healing artwork and its messages and lessons result from a blend of creative energy, subconscious thought/inner wisdom and seemingly, a bit of serendipity.  It is in the expressing, contemplating and learning that healing takes place.  I find this process can extend for days or even weeks after I’ve finished a piece.  I’ll prop up the piece in a visible spot, study it and consider its meaning.  I’ve encountered a great deal of symbolism in my healing art journey - this hummingbird, the dragonfly, butterfly and penguin as examples.  I’ll often research their significance and discover how they relate to a situation, an emotion or a train of thought.  Each piece becomes a page in my “guidebook” on this healing journey, and as I am discovering, not only is it a journey of healing, but also of enlightenment and growth.

If you’ve been following my meanderings and musings here on Paper And Ponder, then you're probably familiar with my numerous posts on healing art and its pivotal role in accompanying me on my journey.  How about your own journey?  Have you encountered the therapeutic, healing qualities of art?  Have you utilized symbolism as an insightful tool?  I would love to hear about your experiences.    




Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Lighten The Load

"Lighten The Load," mixed media collage, March 2013
Acrylic paint, glitter glue, magazine image, feathers
Perhaps you noticed the feather placed on the SoulCollage® card, “Aspiring To Fly,” I shared a couple posts ago?  During last month’s CHOMP healing art retreat, I incorporated feathers into two pieces I created that day, the aforementioned SoulCollage® card and the mixed media collage I am sharing here which resulted from a directive to select a magazine image from an assortment scattered across the table and work the selected image into a piece created with any medium(s) of our choosing.  Although it may look like an odd collage, I chose this image of caribou (?) because they seemed to be bearing the weight of their antlers which reminded me of bearing the weight of heavy emotions or thoughts.  (While later researching the symbolism of the caribou, I found that the caribou signifies endurance, strength and perseverance, that the caribou holds the power of adaptability in adversity.  The caribou is also considered a guide on a spiritual journey.)  I married the feathers with the caribou antlers to represent that easing of heaviness and feeling of freedom.  Sometimes when weighted down, we just wish to do what I titled this piece, ”Lighten The Load.”

Tools I’ve been employing to lighten my own load:
Focusing on love and gratitude

Connecting with and confiding in others

Enjoying nature’s wonders

Being mindful of daily moments of grace and beauty
Finding humor and laughter, sweetness and whimsy in everyday situations

Adopting our daughter’s youthful, unencumbered perspective
Indulging in a distraction – family activity (game/puzzle), reading

Becoming immersed in a stretch of creative “flow”
What techniques assist you with lightening your load?

Monday, April 8, 2013

Becoming Untangled

(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.) 

Sharing the third SoulCollage® card I created last month – “Tangled.”  This image of a woman with her head in a haze seemed to me the perfect match for the background of tangled thread/yarn.  

Whether it's "chemo brain," a bit of underlying, lingering post-traumatic stress, burnout from too many years of too much multi-tasking or a combination of all of the above, I have, at times, become more easily tangled, overstimulated and overwhelmed.  I'm working on practicing methods of untangling myself - pausing, taking deep breaths, resting, mentally stepping back and looking at the bigger picture, trying to simplify, slow down, be mindful and work on better self-care, both physically and emotionally. 

One of my favorite bloggers, Sonya Kanelstrand, very recently wrote about the many benefits of simple living, and indeed, making a commitment and taking steps to simplify one's life gets the untangling in motion.
Here's what my "Tangled" card has expressed to me...

When tangled in thoughts and emotions and life's minutiae,

take a deep breath,

breathe in calm,

breathe out confusion,

focus on untangling the mind

and finding clarity.

How do you untangle yourself?  Wishing you calmness and clarity... 

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Aspiring To Fly

(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.) 

Sharing another SoulCollage® card I created last month – “Aspiring To Fly.”  This image from an advertisement of a young girl being lifted and imagining she can fly had been repeatedly catching my eye as I leafed through magazines, so when it caught my eye yet again last month at CHOMP's healing art retreat, I figured I was destined to include it in one of my cards.  Dragonflies, butterflies, birds…many winged creatures have been capturing my attention and finding their way into my art.  There has been much symbolism to contemplate. 

Aspiring to fly


A liberated soul

An encouraged spirit

A keener eye.



Saturday, April 6, 2013

A Little Card, A Lot Of Positivity

As briefly mentioned in yesterday's post, last night I was invited to return to our local university, California State University Monterey Bay, to join the nursing class during one of their healing art sessions.  My heart was touched by these students when they so graciously listened to my presentation back in February about my own healing art journey.  I was  honored to be a part of last night's class and to create art in their company.

I felt compelled to bring each of the students a little handmade gift as a thank you for their kindness, compassion and attentiveness.  With 30 students in the class, I wasn't sure what would be feasible for me to create in a limited amount of time as my schedule didn't permit me to sit down and start bringing my idea to fruition until yesterday morning.  I decided to create mini collage cards and chose the dimensions of a typical ATC (artist's trading card), 2 1/2 by 3 1/2 inches.  After collaging each card, I assigned a single word that was conjured up by each card - a wish, a mantra, an aspiration.  As I created these simple little cards, I focused on infusing them with gratitude, loving energy and positive intentions for each of the students, and in the process, this project infused me with even more energy and positivity!  I welcomed the students to select a card that "spoke" to them.  A few students shared which one they chose, and I enjoyed seeing which card ended up connecting with which person.

The opportunities to share my healing art experiences and to experience the healing art process with this class have left a deeply meaningful, lasting impression on me, and I feel fortunate to have met these future nurses and spent this time with them.  I am grateful, beyond words, to the students (wishing them all the best along their career paths and personal journeys) and to Mary, the co-instructor for this class, my healing art mentor and treasured friend, for the gift of inviting me to be a small part of this very special program.

By sharing these little cards, may you pick up on some positivity, too! 



Friday, April 5, 2013

Audibly Alluring

I may appear to be slacking here in blog land, but when other creative projects, responsibilities, activities and events in the real world fill the entire “front row,” I’m still learning how to accept that writing these posts must sometimes take a back seat in order to maintain some semblance of balance and ensure a reasonable amount of sleep (no more late night writing, then feeling sluggish the next day.)  Celebrating Easter, enjoying a family hike, attending the fifth in a seven-class “Live Longer, Live Stronger” course for cancer survivors (which has been very informative and helpful), working on new squirrel notecard sets for American Crafts & Jewels in Carmel (I’ve enjoyed a burst of creative energy in conceiving new personalities for my squirrel design), volunteering in our daughter’s classroom, catching up with one of my dearest friends as we walked along the beach, feeling inspired to create 31 mini collage cards as little gifts for the nursing students at CSU Monterey Bay (where I returned last night, accepting an invitation to join one of their healing art classes…more on last night in my next post), prioritizing more time this week, in general, for papercrafting…these are just some of this past week’s “front row” fillers.  Hopefully, in the weeks ahead, writing here on Paper And Ponder can move forward, too, but in reality, I’m sure it will keep moving back and forth.

So, f-i-n-a-l-l-y, I’m reaching the fifth and final post in my series about the senses and compiling pleasing mental lists of favorites as an exercise for drifting off to sleep in a positive frame of mind.  Sharing a few favorite sounds and aural memories and hoping you'll feel inspired to come up with your own list…

*          The ocean (no surprise!)

*          The whoosh of the wind blowing through groves of ironwood trees and the clickety clack of bamboo swaying in the wind (while hiking in Hawaii on past vacations)
*          Background music ceased during a power outage in the midst of a massage and was replaced by the soothing rhythm of raindrops falling on dense jungle foliage (during a favorite vacation in Costa Rica many years ago)

*          Nature’s other forms of music – singing birds, chirping crickets, croaking frogs (in moderation, though…one summer several years ago, our neighbor’s pond was teeming with frogs, and their relentless “symphony” emanated through our house, even with the windows closed, nearly driving us mad!)

*          Music – I could write whole posts about music…I love an eclectic mix of genres and artists and enjoy live and recorded music.  (I’m married to a music teacher, too!) 
A sampling of often played CD's (sorry for the glare!)

*          Musicals – I am a huge sucker for musicals and love them both on stage and in film.

*          A cat’s resonant purr (Franki’s purr was barely audible when he was younger, but has become louder as he’s grown older; meanwhile, our old cat Lucy, who passed away 7 ½ years ago, could project her purr clear across the room!)
*          Our daughter's carefree laughter and when she sings with happy abandon

*          Hearing the words “I love you!”   
What do you find audibly alluring?