Friday, May 31, 2013

Symbolism In Black And White

Color in the garden...and black and white!

 On my Plumeria Papercraft Facebook page this week, I explained via three posts that “My Page Has Been Quiet Because…” #1 - I’ve been working on notecards for the gift shop at Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula (this new account holds a great deal of personal significance as this is the hospital where our daughter was born, where I received my chemo treatments and where I continue to participate in monthly healing art retreats), #2 – I’ve also been working on notecards for American Crafts & Jewels in Carmel (grateful for my one year partnership with this lovely store) and #3 – I have enjoyed spending a lengthy amount of time each evening observing a backyard visitor (more about this current fascination in just a moment!)  These explanations obviously apply here on Paper And Ponder where it’s also been a quiet week.  Added to the mix has been the “crazy busy” gear that inevitably kicks in at the end of each school year with various commitments and activities.  Alas, time to write has been elusive this week!
I’m squeezing in this end of the week post to share more about the aforementioned backyard visitor (while humoring my husband who predicted this blog post!)  We first noticed him/her last weekend, a small youngster with a fluffy black and white tail making an appearance at dusk and foraging for insects and grubs, oblivious to us as observers.  Yes, a young skunk has taken a liking to our garden!  After a little research by my husband, we learned that skunks have poor vision and hearing, so they are typically unaware of and not intimidated by our presence.  They are generally peaceful and only spray as a last resort when provoked.  We’ve shed our apprehension and have become quite fascinated with our cute little visitor!  (We actually spotted his/her mother a couple weeks ago, and she briefly appeared again one evening this week as if she was checking on her little one.)

As I have shared in past posts, I’ve become very curious about symbolism and its relevancy in one’s life.  Symbolism, especially in examining nature, can often be an interesting, insightful tool, a springboard for self-reflection.  I consulted my copy of “Animal Speak” by Ted Andrews, a guide to animal, bird, reptile and insect symbolism.  According to Mr. Andrews, the skunk is a powerful totem that can teach us about respect and self-assurance.  A skunk confidently moves at its own pace, slowly and calmly.  It is fearless yet peaceful.  The symbolism of the skunk can provide us with opportunities to consider our self-image and improve our self-esteem.  The skunk can teach us to recognize our own qualities and abilities and to realize that we can control how people notice us and remember us by not arrogantly, but quietly asserting those qualities and abilities.  I've decided our black and white “guest” is not only providing entertainment, but also offering meaningful food for thought.  The skunk’s characteristics are certainly relevant to my own efforts to better acknowledge creative qualities and boost self-esteem.

Has an animal ever inspired you to consider its symbolism and how it applies to your life?





Friday, May 24, 2013

Faith In A Seed

When I joined Alana Puryear's "Journal Journey" last year, I had missed the first session, so she kindly shared that sessions's guided activity with me which incorporated the metaphors of planting seeds and establishing roots and their relation to our explorations, passions and identifying what nourishes us to grow.  I completed two pages on my own at home focused on these metaphors. 

Serendipitously, at that same time, I had checked out a book on Thoreau, "Faith in a Seed," from our public library which provided me with some fitting inspiration.  In addition to excerpts from this book, I added a few more quotes (from my collection of saved favorites) to these pages:
"Don't judge each day by the harvest you reap,
but by the seeds that you plant."
- Robert Louis Stevenson
"Dreams are the seedlings of reality."
- James Allen
"Continuity gives us roots;
change gives us branches,
letting us stretch and grow and reach new heights."
- Pauline R. Kezer
Keep planting, keep growing, as the landscape of your life evolves, expect wonders...

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Start Here

Sharing another art journaling page from last year's "Journal Journey" and thinking about how we can always start something new - in this moment, today, any day.  New beginnings at any time.  New exploration, new adventures, new discoveries, new opportunities, new perspectives, new interests, new skills, new passions, new connections, finding something new in something old.  Remember you can always begin anew.  Just start here…

Friday, May 17, 2013

Revisiting A Journal Journey

Last year I participated in quarterly art journaling workshops taught by artist and executive director of Pacific Grove Art Center, Alana Puryear whose work I admire and with whom I’ve enjoyed becoming friends.  It has been quite some time since I shared pages created during the “Journal Journey” guided by Alana.  As I’ve been further developing and clarifying my creative business goals alongside focusing on continuing to heal physically and emotionally from my cancer experience, I have been remembering how art journaling can be such a helpful, insightful creative tool for navigating both personal and professional paths.  I’ve missed this form of journaling, not having made time to create any new pages since last fall’s final workshop.  I’ve been feeling a growing urge to start a new art journal and plan to do so this summer.  In the meantime, I’ve been revisiting last year’s journal and discovering how relevant it still is with where I am at right now on both pathways.  This revisiting is providing creative fuel to move forward!  I’ve decided that by sharing more of this journal here on Paper And Ponder, I can motivate myself to bring a new summer journal into actual fruition (plus I’m holding myself accountable by stating my goal here!)  Perhaps I can also motivate some of you to spend time with your art journals, too, or try your hand at one if you haven’t already done so?

I backtracked and created my cover at home on my own (in my comfort zone of collage) after last spring’s workshop with Alana.  The cover blends a breadth of materials from magazine and catalog clippings to letters stamped into words on wrapping paper to a melange of ephemera – a postcard from Dahlia Lounge, a favorite restaurant I frequented when I used to travel to Seattle on business, a hang tag from my daughter’s clothing, a postage stamp, stickers, an old notecard, a sticky monkey flower image from a brochure sent by our water company and my own poppy design and leaves collaged from handmade paper and textured card stock.  (Is this telling of the ephemera “hoarder” I am?  Ha ha!)


Are you an art journaler?  How have you successfully made time for journaling through art? 





Sunday, May 12, 2013

Celebrating Motherhood

Today as we celebrate motherhood, I reflect on what I love most right now about my own experience as a mom…

Living with the imaginative and creative youthful energy that fills our home (despite barely keeping up with that exuberant pace sometimes!)   
"Cherry Lemonade" recently served up by our daughter!
Snuggles on the sofa

Relaxing with a game or puzzle (like the one that’s been decorating our living room floor for the past week!)
Belle's or Snow White's dress, not sure which yet?!

Our daughter’s post-shower doodles etched on the steamy bathroom mirror with her accompanying “I Love You” messages

Listening to her carefree singing while playing, drawing, drifting off to sleep

Beach walks, forest hikes and family adventures

Mother-daughter art projects

The gift of a plucked dandelion or other blossom, sometimes a sweet little "bouquet"  

Random hugs (like the one I received after dinner yesterday evening…yummy!)

Being touched by our daughter’s 8-year old insight (after a minimum school day on Friday, she returned to the healing art retreat with me as she has a couple times before. I gently reminded her that sometimes people cry when sharing their art and emotions, she responded “I know, it’s because they remember what they’ve been through.)
Two of Melia's creations from Friday's healing art retreat,
a vibrant flower & a (yet to be painted) owl, 
published with her permission!
I also reflect on something I’ve been missing lately…reading to our daughter.  As she has blossomed into an avid reader and now often immerses herself in chapter books, the occasions when I read to her have become less frequent in recent months, and I miss the rhythm and relaxation of those moments together.  Tonight, at the close of this Mother’s Day, my wish will be to read a bedtime story to our daughter and pause to fully feel the love and gratitude for being her mom.  That will be the best Mother’s Day “gift” of all!
With wishes for a happy, relaxed, enjoyable, love-filled Mother’s Day to all of you wonderful moms, and with special wishes and much love to my own mom and mom-in-law.    

What are your reflections on this Mother's Day? 


Tuesday, May 7, 2013


"There is a story, always ahead of you.  

Barely existing.  

Only gradually do you attach yourself to it

and feed it.

You discover the carapace

that will contain and test your character.

You find in this way the path of your life."

- from Michael Ondaatje's novel "The Cat's Table"


Today I reached a milestone, my final chemotherapy treatment in a maintenance phase of periodic treatments spanning the past fifteen months.  I have viewed this last treatment with mixed emotions, anticipating my liberation from the drug’s side effects, while feeling trepidation about the future uncertainty of how my cells will behave once the chemo, my “sentry,” is no longer circulating through my body three months from now.  I will certainly focus on visualizing my cells contently, obediently and properly going about their tasks in as healthy of an environment as I can nurture!  As I anticipate my freedom from physical side effects, that anticipation is somewhat tempered by the realization that freeing myself from emotional side effects will be a much lengthier process.

In the days leading up to yesterday’s treatment, I’d been reflecting on my cancer experience, on what it has meant to me, how it has impacted my life, where it will lead me.  With respect to how each cancer survivor views their own very personal experience, I confess I am not in the camp where the experience is defined as a “gift” or “blessing.”  Instead, I’ve decided I can best describe my cancer experience as a catalyst, and if there are gifts or blessings to be acknowledged, they are the many discoveries, opportunities, improvements and subtle shifts as well as major changes emerging from this catalyst.

On contemplating how to view my life as a survivor looking forward, what seems to fit best is the concept of emergence, “the process of coming into being.”  As I emerge from my “tunnel” of treatment, I will be coming into being with…  

My inner little girl is finally reaching "Emergence" (mixed media collage),
ink, card stock, glitter paper, yarn, thread, bead, gems

An assurance, after maneuvering through this rough patch, that I am strong enough to navigate through any rocky territory I may encounter on life’s journey.

A newfound ability to quiet my head, so I can listen to and be guided by my heart’s wisdom.

A greater belief in miracles, in dreams becoming realities, in finding an entry point into the realm of possibility.

An awakened, energized creative spirit. 

A keener inner compass for seeking and finding inspiration and insight.

A more adventurous approach to trying something new, experimenting and exploring.

A lasting, deeply heartfelt gratitude for the love and support of family, friends and acquaintances, the competence and compassion of doctors, nurses and other medical personnel (who have kindly treated me not only as a patient, but as a person), each helping hand, listening ear, supportive shoulder, caring heart, thoughtful gesture…all are ingredients in the fuel that has kept me moving forward.

A growing urge to initiate more ripples, to contribute to building connectivity and community, to making some differences, small as they may be, in this world we all share.

An ongoing commitment to healing, to sharing my healing journey and to trying to help others along the way.

An intensified passion for striving to live life more mindfully, simply, yet fully.

I realize I am merely one humble storyteller amidst many, just one of countless cancer survivors (and many other types of survivors) sharing their journey along a pathway of healing, change and growth.  Despite having only one small voice, I feel compelled to express, to share.  Perhaps it’s blending that new belief in possibility with this urge to make a difference…perhaps it will be possible to make a true difference?  This possibility is what motivates me to continue writing and speaking openly about my journey, what offers me emotional healing, what provides me with a meaningful sense of purpose, what defines part of the “emerging me.”

Today, I write with appreciation from the depths of my heart to all who have been sources of support and encouragement along the way and gratitude beyond words for reaching today's milestone…in celebration of my emergence, in honor of and empathy for those who have endured and/or are enduring their own challenging battle and in remembrance of those who have moved on beyond their battle here in this physical world.
Today, I celebrate life!      









Sunday, May 5, 2013

The Hapless, But Helpful Mole

The greatest weapon against stress is

our ability to choose one thought over another."

- William James

As I’ve shared in recent posts, I’ve been on a bumpy road of ups and downs lately.  I’ve encountered potholes of hassles, mishaps and disappointments, but I’ve also slowed down to enjoy vistas of opportunities, connection and simple pleasures.  Why then, I asked myself last week, had I been allowing the potholes to rattle my inner core so incessantly?  I was allowing stress to overtake me to the point where my sleep and appetite were suffering along with my state of mind.  As much progress as I’ve made on how I react to and cope with stress, it was becoming apparent that I still have more ground to cover. 

Yes, I can pause and regain my bearings, but how does one create a more lasting effect?  Although I’ve become more adept at immersing myself in stress reducing activities – a creative project, a beach walk or nature hike, enjoying some family fun, reflective writing, becoming absorbed in a book, it’s the in-between time where I still need to work on calming the anxiety and tension that reasserts itself.

Last Thursday, I finally came closer to reaching a sense of calm, but it came about rather oddly.  I joked with my husband about whether or not I’d share my odd approach to achieving some much needed peace!  I decided to do so because despite being odd, it was a surprisingly effective approach (plus I decided long ago that anything can become fodder for my ponderings!)

On my way to pick up our daughter at the bus stop after school, I was stopped in traffic on the highway and happened to glance over at the opposite lanes.  I spotted a mole blindly trying to zigzag its way across the highway only to end up flattened by an oncoming vehicle!  At the risk of sounding a tad crazy, my mind instantly thought of current stressors, and I visualized that mole’s unfortunate demise as a symbol, albeit a bit odd and graphic, of all those stressors being flattened…knocked down, squashed, smoothed out (to borrow synonyms from the dictionary.)  In some bizarre way, that mole (who ever sees a mole trying to cross a 4-lane highway?!) gave me the strength to free myself from the stifling grip of stress.  I actually took further action on one of my current challenges as soon as I returned home and felt better afterward.  Sometimes stress can be in our face, under our skin, so imbedded that perhaps separating ourselves from that stress by transforming it into a helpful, manageable physical symbol (like a mole!) can help us gain control and achieve calm.

How do you transform stress into a more manageable form you can overcome?

(I think this is my first post ever without a photo.  I'm assuming your imagination on reading about the hapless mole sufficed!) 


Wednesday, May 1, 2013

The Someday File Reopened

I recently played around with upgrading my "someday" file from a plain folder!

Last summer when I launched this blog, one of my earliest posts shared a wish in my “someday” file that I was finally able to make come true.  This week, that “someday” file has been reopened and another wish is coming true!

Before and since setting out into this unchartered territory toward my creative business aspirations, I’ve eyed various options to work with and receive guidance from a professional coach.  In most cases, the costs have been beyond my means, so I was assuming this would be a “someday” wish that would remain filed and not likely brought to fruition.  As I’ve been learning, however, always keep the file open!  Remaining open, patient and hopeful to possibility may eventually reward us with possibility becoming reality.  It may take some time, it might manifest itself in a different form than expected, or it could turn out to be a new possibility different than the one on which we originally set our sights (but a wonderful opportunity all the same!)

I am grateful for an exciting opportunity within my means, participating in one of author and motivational coach, Gail McMeekin’s Jewel groups, a 3-month coaching program with monthly group and one-on-one calls.  Recently, I wrote about stepping stones, and by being a part of this group, I feel as though I’ve “crossed the creek” and arrived at a most inspiring, motivating place!  Two and a half years ago, when I was reading one of Gail’s books for guidance, I couldn’t have imagined I would end up with the good fortune of becoming an actual participant in one of her groups. 

I have felt somewhat stalled trying to gain more attention for Plumeria Papercraft and have come to realize that a challenging component of small business for me is self-promotion.  In my past profession, I was adept at promoting and selling for large companies, but I’ve discovered that promotion and sales can be somewhat daunting when it is very personal and you’re presenting yourself and your own work.  The tricky balance of getting yourself noticed while doing so in an authentic, graceful fashion…the fear and disappointment of being rejected for an endeavor in which you’ve invested your heart and soul.  I’m a very small fish in a very large pond, trying to make bigger, wider reaching ripples!

Our first group conference call took place yesterday evening, but even while working beforehand on preparation for the call, I was already feeling propelled forward with a renewed sense of optimism and enthusiasm.  Working on a computer generated mind map, then creating a fun visual version (including saved prints I had made with painted flowers from our backyard, a past activity with our daughter) provided some surprisingly immediate insight and clarity before last night's call. 

My fun version of a mind map
I’m so excited and energized, humbled and honored to be in the company of such bright, talented women.  (I was pleasantly surprised that one of my favorite bloggers and friend, Tina of Tickled Pink Woman, is a fellow participant!)  I am eager to learn, gain insight and clarity, to support kindred spirits and to make some powerful, positive ripples outward! 
I'm keeping my "someday" file open and ready for possibility!  I hope you are, too!