Believe in Possibilities

Sometimes it can be tough to believe in positive outcomes, especially if you’re going through a stretch of “bad luck.” Like many people, there have been times in my life that have really tested my faith and my ability to be optimistic.

I’ve always considered myself to be a “cup half full” kind of person, however I’ve come to the realization that there is more to having a positive outlook on life giving lip service to the belief that “everything will be alright,” but letting the chatter in your head control your actions.

One of the many blessings in my life are my parents, they have lived through many difficult situations and have always maintained a positive outlook on life. My dad is a big believer in the power of a PMA, aka – positive mental attitude, and he lives it every day of his life. That’s not to say that there aren’t days that his optimism wavers, he’s human after all.

PMA could also stand for, perseverance means achievement; my dad faces every obstacle head on and somehow finds now to make the word No mean Next Opportunity.

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The drawing is from an art journal that I created as an outlet for my thoughts and emotions and to help me remain focused on the positive as I’ve been working my way through a recent set of challenges.

Near the beginning of this most recent “Adventure,” my friend Marilyn, gave me a beautiful postcard with this very meaningful quote from Art Mitchell – “I’m not telling you it’s going to be easy. I’m telling you it’s going to be worth it.”

The message really reinforces the way my dad approaches life and never gives up.

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Father’s day seems like perfect time to share a personal story of perseverance and growth, with many thanks to my dad for his unwavering support and for being an amazing role model for all of us. I am deeply grateful for all he has done for me and I know he is a big part of the reason that I am the woman I am today.

A look into the past….

On a warm September day in 2008, I watched the movers load our belongings onto the truck with mixed emotions and a few tears on my face. My thoughts ping-ponged back and forth between sadness and joyful hope. It was difficult to be leaving friends, family, a beautiful home and everything that was familiar and safe.But it was exciting to think about the possibilities that our future in Pennsylvania held.

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When I accepted the job in Pennsylvania, it seemed like nothing could go wrong and the future held nothing but rainbows and unicorns. Maybe I wasn’t quite that optimistic (or unrealistic), but I was really confident that it was the best thing that could have happened for my family and myself both personally and professionally.

We put our house on the market and my seven month commute between Omaha, Nebraska and Philadelphia began. It was a rather grueling trek back and forth, but it offered the opportunity for my daughter to finish out her senior year of high school without moving.

My youngest son was 12, and although I knew it would be difficult for him to move and adjust to a new school, new and very different living arrangements – I was confident that he would be able to adapt and in the long run it would help him grow and develop in positive ways.

Our move to Pennsylvania has been full of new beginnings and life changing events, but not at all in the way I would have imagined them to unfold.

I had landed my “dream job” with a financially sound company, or so I thought. The job was great, but the financial health of the company was not; two months after my start date, they declared Chapter 11. I was scared, but because I was the primary income earner, we had no choice but to move and hope for the best.

The real estate market in Omaha was depressed, just like everywhere else in the country. In spite of St Joseph statues and wonderful real estate agents, we were unable to sell before we moved, which meant that our new home was going to be in an apartment.

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It certainly wasn’t the end of the world, but it was such a major change for all of us and it was not what I had hoped for. My unrealistic and unhealthy belief at the time was that we moved “because of me” so it was my responsibility to make everything perfect and as familiar as possible rather than asking for help and support.

After moving the challenges and obstacles seemed to gain momentum and magnitude.

In those days the voices in my head were working overtime.

I spent every minute of every day worrying. I hashed and rehashed the decision to move.  I beat myself up about the fact that the house back in Nebraska hadn’t sold and we were losing money every month. I speculated about the viability of the company I worked for and whether or not it would emerge from Chapter 11 and if I would be spared from any future layoffs.

I blamed myself for my husband’s unhappiness and deepening depression. I spent hours agonizing about my youngest son Christian and the fact that the ‘normal’ trials of being in eighth grade were amplified by a new school in a new state, being the only child left at home, and having to make new friends – something that is easier said than done when you’re the new kid from Nebraska and you started school almost three weeks late. I wondered if we’d be able to afford to fly my oldest kids, Jeff and Katie, out for occasional visits and I held myself accountable for it all, most of all, for the fact that I couldn’t figure out how to fix any of it.

There was no escaping the voices and daily I slipped further and further into a self-imposed state of emotional isolation. At work I found myself going through the motions and while I interacted with my direct reports, a handful of co-workers, and of course my boss. For the most part, I kept to myself and limited my contact with people to office hours only. I quit calling or even sending email updates to friends, and I talked to my parents and kids only when I thought I could fake a positive attitude.

I had no choice but to drag myself into work every day and do my best to appear upbeat and confident.  As the primary and now sole income earner I couldn’t afford to lose my job and it was the only escape I had from the dreary apartment and my relentless anxiety.  The voices took a back seat for a while every day while I managed my way through the work day. They were always there but just not as loud. By this point in time I’d had years of practice in compartmentalizing my personal life and my work life.  Lessons learned early in my career taught me to keep people at arm’s length and keep my personal life to myself.

Back then I didn’t realize or understand one of the underlying messages my dad lives,believes and had tried to communicate to me – worry doesn’t change tomorrow, it just takes the joy out of today.

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There were so many things I didn’t understand during that time in my life; concepts and practices that would have helped me maneuver more easily through a divorce, the financial strain and embarrassment that accompanied nearly foreclosing on my house and the challenges and blessings of being a single mom in a city half-way across the country from my family and closest friends.

I’ve not only made it through the majority of the initial challenges that came after my move; life is much richer because of them. It sounds strange to say, but I’m actually grateful for them because I’ve learned:

Self Love is the first step…

Self love is not the same as self indulgence or self acceptance. It means that we treat our bodies and our minds well, enjoy the person we are in the present, forgive and release the people and things from our past that hold us back and embrace our future with confidence.

I could write an entire book about the lessons I’ve learned over the past few years; lessons about being present and not dwelling on the past, tools for facing difficulties with positivity instead of catastrophizing and letting the negative chatter in my head control my actions.

The biggest lesson I’ve learned, and the most important one is that we only destroy our selves and sabotage our happiness when we hang on to regrets from the past, refuse to forgive ourselves for being human and compare ourselves to others as a way to measure success.

I suspect my dad finds the whole ‘self love’ thing to be a bit ‘woo woo,’ but I think that’s because he has an innate understanding of the importance of it.

Being Present is the next step…

I have never met two people who are as good at making the most of every experience as my parents. We moved a lot while I was growing up, and each time we moved they approached it as though it was the last place they would ever live and quickly made friends and became a part of the community.

My parents don’t “vacation,” they take trips. Earlier this year, I had the wonderful opportunity to go to Hawaii with them. The entire trip was amazing, but I think if I had to pick, I’d say Wednesday was my favorite day. The last thing I expected that morning was for my dad to announce that he wanted to go zip-lining. His exact words (or close to) were, “I’m going to be 80 this year, who knows when I’ll have another opportunity to go zip-lining, so let’s do it.”

Talk about being present in the moment and making the most of things! I know for a fact that there were plenty of things on his mind that were “worry worthy,” but instead of focusing on things outside of his control, he chose to embrace the moment and experience something new.

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He may sometimes get lost in his own thoughts, but he definitely knows how to live life to it’s fullest and doesn’t let challenges or obstacles weigh him down.

beth & dad

Believe in Possibilities….

Believing in possibilities is so much easier and rewarding than speculating about all of the possible negative outcomes that may (or most likely not) happen as a result of a current situation.

As Mark Twain once said, “I’ve had a lot of worries in my life, most of which never happened.”

Many, many thanks to my dad for all he has taught me about the power of positive thinking and the importance of believing in possibilities.

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Letting Go of “Why” and “How”

Serendipity is one of my favorite words – it means a “fortunate happenstance” or “pleasant surprise”. Lately though, I’ve been thinking more and more about the role faith and the power of conscious intention play in the delivery of “serendipitous outcomes.”

Speaking for myself, it’s easy to say we have faith when things are going well, it’s a different story when things aren’t going our way. During times of smooth sailing, we tend to sit back and just enjoy the ride. We don’t question why things are going well and we don’t try and “fix” things.

But, when the waters get rough, all of the sudden our egos step in and trounce all over faith. Some of us begin to worry relentlessly; we ask, “why is this happening to me?” and begin to plot and plan desperately about the “how” we’re going to make it better rather than asking for help. We forget about all of the times in our past that we were certain there was no hope and seemingly out of nowhere came a serendipitous solution.

One of my favorite personal stories related to this topic is how I came to live in my current house and the series of events that have unfolded as a result.

My youngest son and I were living in an apartment and for a variety of reasons it was really important for us to find a new place to live; we both wanted to find a house to rent. Sounds easy, right? As it turned out, the process took several months and was fraught with many disappointments and a lot of tears.

At the time, the bigger question for me was, “why hasn’t my house in Omaha sold?” It had been over a year since we moved to Pennsylvania and the house we owned was still occupied by renters and I was in no position to buy real estate on the East Coast. I also had a whole lot of “how” questions,  the most pressing were:

  • How am I going to furnish a house? (we sold and/or donated most our furniture before we moved)
  • How will I afford a higher rent?
  • How can I avoid moving for the next 3 years until my son graduates from high school?

I’d have to admit that I was both bitter and angry about the situation at the time. Now I’m sincerely grateful for it.

After more than a few false starts, I received an unexpected text message from my realtor that quite literally changed my life; it said “I believe I have found the perfect house, can you meet with the owner tomorrow morning?”

My landlord is an artist (I’ll get to that in a minute), she not only rented me a nearly fully furnished house – there was just the right amount of space left for my own personal pieces of furniture and everything melded together in perfect harmony. The night after we first met, we negotiated a monthly rent I could afford and I signed a 3 year lease.

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The more interesting part of the story is how meeting her and moving into this house has been a catalyst for my artistic endeavors and profound changes in the way I think. By this time, I’d discovered that I have an ability to write but I had yet to tap into the potential of my visual artistry and I was struggling desperately with the notion of self-acceptance.

The summer I turned 50, my landlord, Jeanne Marie, introduced me to the work of Julia Cameron through the book Walking in this World: The Practical Art of Creativity. As a result, I began to understand that it’s OK to be vulnerable and ask for help – people will still love and accept you.

I began to take chances in new ways like registering for a drawing class and sharing my progress with other people. One drawing class led to another and my style continues to develop and emerge.

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I could go on and on about all of the wonderful experiences I’d have missed if my house in Omaha had sold and I hadn’t moved into the house I’m renting now.

It’s amazing to me that my 3 big “how” questions were answered, and it certainly wasn’t a result of all of my “what iffing” and trying to control the outcome. It also strikes me that somewhere in the deep recesses of my subconscious I must have been hoping and praying for the opportunity to discover my creativity and to find a way to accept and love myself.

Over the past few years, I’ve become much more aware of the peace that comes with letting go of the “why” and the “how.” I’m learning that when we focus on the outcomes we desire rather than the methods by which we think we can achieve them, life is easier and more rewarding.

A few things I’ve come to believe.

  • Asking for help from God, the Universe or from other people is not a sign of weakness – it’s a sign of strength and it’s one of the ways that we connect with each other and and it’s one of the only ways that we can hope to receive and/or achieve abundance and fulfill our life’s purpose.
  • We have free will and so do others, perhaps there are times where things in life don’t work out quite the way we think or hope they will and it’s a result of someone else exercising their free will – it happens, we need to accept it and move on. The “why” doesn’t really matter.
  • We think and “pray for” what we “know” is best for us, but we rarely know what we actually need and trying to control the “how” let alone the outcome only serves to limit us.
  • We think a whole lot smaller than we should. Lots of reasons for this, fear of criticism and failure – fear of rejection and ridicule. Truth is our life’s purpose is a lot bigger than we can possibly imagine it to be, if we are open to letting it happen.

The “how” really isn’t up to us and the “why” doesn’t matter.

I Thought it was just a Drawing Class, but it Turned out to be a Lot More

Bursting Into Fall

We all have days in our life that are significant turning points. Often-times we tend to think only about major life events such as getting married, the birth of a child or the loss of a loved one as the milestones along the way that shape us the most.

These events certainly are important and life changing, but I sometimes think some of the less apparent interactions and activities may play as big of a role as the obvious ones. I can think of more than a few such days in my life and how something as small and innocuous as signing up for a drawing class as an adult has changed my life in ways I never would have imagined.

On March 1, 2012 I hesitantly opened the door to a whole new world, I thought it was just the door to an art studio. Three and a half years ago I was afraid to pick up a pencil and draw a circle on a piece of paper. Today I can say with pride and joy that I’ve sold a few pieces of work and thoroughly enjoy exercising my creativity nearly every day.

Bursting Into Fall

More importantly, I can say that crossing the threshold into the art studio on that cold day in March set into motion a series of experiences that have helped me become a better person. I thought I was just going to learn how to draw, but it turned out to be much much more.

It’s ok to be perfectly imperfect

In fact it’s totally awesome to be perfectly imperfect. Whether it’s human nature or societal expectations, we almost all have a tendency to compare ourselves to others and deem ourselves a “failure” if we feel that we don’t measure up. I’ve learned that it’s both an exhausting and limiting way to live.

My teacher of this lesson has been art, specifically drawing in ink. When you draw in ink, if the pen slips and goes in an unintended direction there are two choices. You can crumple up the drawing and give up, or you can find a way to make it work. More often than not, there’s a way turn the mishap into a part of the drawing; I’ve come to think of this as“knowing how to resolve the lines.” And it’s an approach that can be applied in all areas of my life.

I still find it strange, but I no longer dread making mistakes because I know they often-times turn out even better than the original idea after I take a step back and think about how to make the “oops” work in my favor. Believe it or not, this fun little ink rendition of a cat perched in a tree looking at a full moon is full of “happy accidents.” 🙂

cat in a tree

It doesn’t work every time, and that’s ok too, it’s all about recognizing the difference between an opportunity that might be different from what we planned and also knowing when to cut our losses short and move on. It’s also having faith that even though there are obstacles and set backs, we’re still moving in the right direction and we never know how things are going to turn out in the end.

It’s never too late to bloom

It is never to late to learn something new and potentially discover things about yourself that you didn’t know. I really do believe this.

Sure there are certain things that it may be too late to attempt, it’s unlikely that I’ll become an astronaut – but then again I’ve never had the desire to be one, so that’s perfectly ok.

Lately it’s occurred to me that we tend to think about successful people in a somewhat one dimensional way. We look at where they are today and mistakenly think that they’ve always enjoyed success and abundance. My bet is that in most cases, the people we maybe envy because they “have it so easy,” are people who kept moving forward, kept learning and adapting to overcome and succeed in spite of the set backs and heart breaks along the way.

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We are all teachers and students

During the course of my life, I’ve been blessed with good teachers and I don’t mean just in the classroom. If you think about it, nearly every moment of every day and certainly almost every interaction has the potential to be a teaching moment.

The lessons don’t all have to be big and earth shattering, the small lessons are just as important. The key is to be open to learning from others as well as sharing what you have experienced. You never know how you might inspire or touch someone in a positive way and all of us should be striving to constantly learn and grow.

Even Michelangelo has been quoted as saying, “I am still learning.”

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Perseverance, Faith and Self-Confidence

Lastly, for today, March 1, 2012 opened the door to being aware of and understanding the importance of perseverance, faith and self-confidence.

It took me roughly three weeks to finish my first drawing for the class, it took everyone else roughly three hours. It was no small feat for me to keep going and not compare myself to others in the class, but at the end of the three weeks, I was amazed and pleased with the outcome. It was a lesson in perseverance in addition to drawing and shading.

For me, art is a bit like meditating and it forces me to be present in the moment rather than worrying about the future or “what ifing” about the past. The act of spending more time in the here and now and less time trying to control the outcome has deepened my faith and belief that what I need will be taken care of.

The more I let go of trying to control the outcomes, the more at peace I become.

Self-confidence – wow, it’s actually amazing when I think about how far I’ve come and how much I’ve grown since that fateful day in March. Now instead of feeling nervous and anxious about taking a beginning level drawing class, I seek out opportunities that are challenging and will stretch my skills, knowing that the classroom will be full of artists much more advanced than me.

The confidence that I’ve gained through improving my skills and learning new things has overflowed into the rest of my life as well and I’ve never felt better about the person I am, inside and out.

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Yep, I thought it was just a drawing class, but it changed my life.

Cardboard Boxes, Bottle Caps, and Cats

Sometimes it feels like life is a series of retracted “I’ll never…” statements, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Almost two years ago ago I held Annie and Romeo on my lap for the last time and said a tearful, difficult, but humane farewell to each of them.

the puppers

Their parting wasn’t unexpected although as anyone who has ever had pets can attest to, it still wasn’t easy.

For a variety of reasons I swore up and down that I would never have another pet.

Then one day Christian showed me a few pictures of his girlfriend’s cats while telling me stories about their adorable antics and how low maintenance they are compared to dogs. Knowing my feelings about getting another pet, he was careful not to interject too many obvious references to his desire to have a cat become part of our home.

Coincidentally, I’d also been reading about the benefits of owning a pet as it relates to emotional health and feelings of well-being. There’s something about caring for a living being that helps to reduce feelings of loneliness and depression.

Having a pet forces one to get up in the morning rather than bury themselves under the covers and worry about everything under the sun. It’s also almost impossible not to smile and maybe even laugh out loud when you see a cat hanging out in a cardboard box

mia in a cardboard box

or a tiny basket.

Mia in a basket

There’s practically nothing better than laughter to lighten a mood, and I have to admit that cats are funny. 🙂

The more I read, the more appealing the idea of having a cat became. Although I don’t think there’s really such a thing as a hypoallergenic cat, I wanted to find a breed that is as allergy friendly as possible. Surprisingly there are 10 breeds that are considered to be good options for pet owners who have friends and family members with allergies.

After two clicks I fell in love with a picture of a Russian Blue, not only do they produce less of the stuff that people are allergic to, they are one of the prettiest breeds I’ve ever seen.

One thing led to another and a single Google search led me to Cats Bridge to Rescue, a local non-profit animal shelter for cats and kittens. Lo and behold the third cat on the adoption page was a perfect match. A 1 year old female Russian Blue named Mia.

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I sent Christian a text:

“What would you think about a cat named Mia?”

Four days later we became the proud and happy owners of a new cat. She quickly made herself at home and began exploring the whole house within just a few hours after arriving home.

She’s been home for 4 months and true to her description on the shelter’s website Mia is very friendly and quite social. She’s not cuddly, but does seem to prefer to be in the same room as Christian or I are hanging out in. During the day we spend a lot of time in the den,

Mia looking out the window
and now that it’s nice outside, we like to hang out on the porch.

Mia sitting on the porch window sill

In the evening she’s my art buddy.

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Her favorite toys are plastic bottle caps – one cap can keep both of us occupied for a long time. It’s hysterical to watch her pounce, capture, and bat the bottle cap around with her paws -> watch here.

I never thought I’d have another pet, let alone a cat, but I’m really enjoying having Mia in my life. Proof positive that the old saying “never say never” is one worth heeding.

Mia

Welcoming the New Year with an Open Heart

I had this really great and “philosophical” post about new years resolutions written and ready to post and I made one wrong move and all 700 words or more are now somewhere in cyberspace never to be read.

Maybe it was a sign that I was being too preachy rather than writing from my heart.

Long story short, I decided to take a different approach to setting resolutions or goals for the new year. Instead of setting goals like “losing weight” or “regaining physical fitness” (both of which I need to do),instead I let my subconscious flow through art.

I created two lists, the first one contains very specific things that I want in a relationship. As I drew, I focused on my desires and let them guide me. It looks like a dream-catcher or a tambourine – maybe I was channeling my inner Stevie Nicks. 🙂

dreamcatcher

The second list was bigger – it was my version of a New Year’s resolution.

new years resolutions

In a nutshell, my resolutions boil down to this:

  • Believe in yourself
  • Rejoice in your gifts
  • Explore the unknown
  • Accept compliments
  • Refrain from judging without understanding
  • Love and take care of yourself so that you may serve and give to others

Above all else know that we are all worthy of love and happiness.

new years resolutions_dreamcatcher_i am worthy

Happy 2015!

Two Steps Forward & One Step Back = A Giant Leap Forward

We’ve all experienced times in our life when it feels like everything is going in the wrong direction and you can’t turn around without facing another obstacle that seems impossible to overcome. Then, when you least expect it all of the pieces fall into place and both the present and the future are bright and beautiful.

Things got off to a rough start in 2014. I can’t say it was much fun to experience the major winter storms, a terrifying blow out on the interstate, three separate power outages, multiple nights without power, more than a few unexpected (and expensive car repairs), and last but not least a pair of broken eye glasses.

It  would be an understatement to say I was less than positive after the long winter, I was downright depressed. I’m affected by seasonal depression and this year the state of sadness lingered well into the spring. Thankfully I learned about the teachings of Louise Hay just when I needed it most.

If you’re not familiar with Louise Hay, she’s a metaphysical lecturer and teacher who believes we all have the power to heal what’s broken in our lives and attract positive outcomes by changing our mental patterns. Positive affirmations are an integral part of her teachings and work.

Her book inspired me to find a positive way to cope with my feelings of depression and hopelessness. It started as a personal challenge to create one small piece of artwork and focus on a positive thought for each day. It somehow morphed into an online journal and 125 consecutive days of writing.

My early entries into the art journal were direct quotes from Louise Hay, author of “You can Heal Your Life.” In fact the original plan was to use one of her direct quotes as the message for the day. After about five or six entries into the project I changed direction and began using her affirmations as inspiration and wrote a positive saying of my own. Each piece of art also has an accompanying journal entry that ties into the saying.

I am Perfectly Imperfect

In addition to changing my approach to the actual words of inspiration, the process for creating the individual pieces of art started one way and ended up being completely different. It didn’t take long for me to realize that it wasn’t very practical to paint the card and create the artwork one at a time, so I changed my approach and started to paint anywhere from 10 to two dozen at a time.

water color backgrounds

For the most part I used every piece I created without trying to make each one “perfect.” I used my mistakes as opportunities to create “happy accidents.”

I accept a helping hand

I was able to correct a fair number of misspellings by turning the letter into a flower or butterfly, however there ended up being more than a few that couldn’t be used. In some cases the background was too dark and in other cases I just didn’t like my choice of words.

Initially I ripped up the pieces that didn’t work and tossed them into the trash because I didn’t want to be reminded of the mistake and the lack of forward progress. Then one night it occurred to me that there might be some value in them and I began to store the tiny pieces of colored paper in a plastic sandwich bag.

Trees were a recurring theme throughout the project so it seemed appropriate to find a way to create one final tree out of the scraps. My original idea was to draw the tree trunk in ink and create the leaves out of the paper fragments.

Tree of Dreams Sketch
As tends to happen in art (and in life) the plan changed with new information and experiences. As I experimented it became obvious that the entire tree was meant to be created in the form of a collage.

Tree of Dreams and

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The next step included glue – not for the feint of heart. The process took several nights of gluing, patience, and guts. I was happy with the outcome but it didn’t feel quite finished.Tree of dreams without background
At the risk of ruining several hours worth of work, I decided to add a background.

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After the first installment I was certain I’d made a critical error and my choice would result in ruining the beautiful tree. The orange was “too orange” and nothing felt like it was blending together in a way that made sense. After all of the forward progress I was back to wondering whether or not the collage would turn out well.

I seem to be wired to keep going even when it feels like there’s no hope in sight and so I kept gluing. The final outcome couldn’t be further from my original vision and I also couldn’t be happier with how it turned out.

Tree of dreams final

I’ve learned a lot about myself and life through art. It’s not about where you start or even where you finish. It’s how we handle the collection of steps along the way that sometimes feel all wrong but end up leading us to exactly the right outcome.

From “Doodles” to “Drawings” and more…

Mixed Media Tree

More and more often I find myself doodling in my journals in addition to writing. My mind starts to wander and all of the sudden my pen lands on the page opposite of my words and a form that must have been hiding in my sub-conscious starts to emerge.

sunflower emerging on journal page

Sometimes the entries turn out to be very detailed and take a couple of sessions to finish.

Sunflower Journal Entry

Other times they happen in one sitting.

Tulip Journal Entry

Don’t ask me how long they take, because when I start to write or draw I lose track of time. I doodle until I can’t draw any more and if it’s not finished, I return to it the next time I feel like it.

I never would have guessed that drawing would become such an important part of my life, let a lone a way to unwind. It seems like just yesterday that I mustered up the courage to attend a drawing class and spent months completing my first sunflower.

sunflower_first drawing in over 20 years

It’s a little deceiving to post these images together because the drawings are completely different in scale. The sunflower from my class is easily 9 times larger than the individual journal entries. It’s also in pencil, not ink and was inspired by a picture in a lesson book not solely from my imagination.

I also never would have guessed an online “doodle and lettering” class would help me gain confidence in my abilities and get in touch with my second-grade art girl.

i am me - Doodle Art Dress

The thing that’s interesting to me is that I clearly have a “style.” I know that probably sounds strange to say, but it’s not something I ever would have imagined myself saying out loud.

Sometimes I wonder if I should challenge myself more and move beyond sunflowers, trees and butterflies. They seem to dominate my art, but maybe that’s ok.

There are Always Options

I’m enjoying the casual and non-stressful exploration of my creativity and some really interesting pieces of art are emerging. My recent affirmation art journaling project has resulted in two additional pieces of work that are completely different from anything I’ve done before (other than the fact that trees are the main subject 😉 ).

This “affirmation Forrest” grew organically as a result of the project. It began as a sheet of paper that I used to try the lettering of a phrase on for size and as a place to clean off the extra ink from a gel pen and doodle tree trunks.

Forest drawn in Ink

My latest project is a “rainbow tree,” for lack of a better description.

Mixed Media Tree

The tree is made up of tiny pieces of paper. They are actually “rejects” from backgrounds I created while working on the affirmation journal.

Initially if something didn’t work, I tossed it – then one night as I was tearing one into little pieces it occurred to me that there might be a creation hiding in them, so I started saving them, and voila! It’s still a work in progress and I can’t wait to see how it turns out.

Occasionally I wonder if I’d be “further along” with my art if I’d continued taking more formal classes on the other hand I can’t help but think that some of my more recent efforts never would have happened if I had. It seems my definition of being an artist is evolving and I’m learning what it means to me.

Some day I may return to the classroom setting, but for now I’m going to explore my creative side in my own way and in my own time.

I Speak for Myself

I Speak for Myself

It’s hard to believe that this art and journaling project is winding down and will be concluding within the next few weeks. Unless something gets in the way, I will end up writing the final entry on my birthday.

It started as a personal challenge to create one small piece of artwork and focus on a positive thought for each day; it has somehow morphed into a journey of personal growth.

My early entries into the art journal were direct quotes from Louise Hay, author of “You can Heal Your Life.” In fact the original plan was to use one of her direct quotes as the message for the day. After about five or six entries into the project I changed direction and began using her affirmations as inspiration and wrote positive thoughts of my own.

water color backgroundsIn addition to changing my approach to the actual words of inspiration, the process for creating the individual pieces of art started one way and ended up being completely different. It didn’t take long for me to realize that it wasn’t very practical to paint the card and create the artwork one at a time, so I modified the process and started to paint anywhere from 10 to two dozen at a time.

I take things quite literally, and when I first started creating the actual entries ahead of the next day felt like I was cheating the process and the goal to “focus on one positive thought” for the day.

What happened in reality is that it freed me up to focus on my writing. Writing a journal entry for the saying on each piece of artwork was also not part of the original plan.

The only thing that was actually part of the plan was to share the thought for the day along with the inspiration and maybe say a few words about it.

Over the course of the past 113 days and 108 entries, my writing has grown and changed from high level observations and interpretations. It’s become much more personal and “real.” I’ve found great joy in expressing myself freely and honestly. My creative confidence has increased and I believe it is reflected by the difference between my first entry

I release the pattern in me that created this. I am at peace with the world. Louise Hay

and my most recent ones.

There are Always Options

I Speak for Myself

The project and the process has kept my head in a positive place during some difficult times and has been a great reminder that we can use negative energies such as fear, anger, and doubt to create something wonderful and worth sharing.

I Choose to Excel

I choose to Excel

One of the first personal essays I remember writing was about the definition of success. As many idealistic teenagers do, I challenged traditional ways success is measured and questioned whether or not money and material things equal happiness. I’m sure it wasn’t, but at the time I thought the writing was brilliant and wise beyond my years.

I’ve waged a quiet and strange rebellion against the notion of personal achievement for a very long time.

Our society expects us to make life choices at a very young age. We also live in a world that encourages young people to put their hobbies and interests on hold so they can buckle down and focus on “what’s important in life.” Don’t get me wrong, earning a living and providing for yourself and your family is important. I just sometimes wonder if we do so at the expense of excelling at who we truly are as human beings.

In some ways I regret that I didn’t discover my inner writer and artist until later in life, in other ways it’s probably a blessing. I’m fortunate enough to have had the option to pursue and do well in a business career. It’s been a wild and very strange ride. Looking back, I can’t help but think that I worked too many hours and had my eye on the wrong goal.

Actually, I’m not even sure if I had a goal in mind other than to advance to the next rung on the corporate ladder. Truth to be told, I climbed each rung with hesitation. I’ve come to realize that my qualms about taking that next step were twofold.

I secretly knew that I could do the job, but was afraid that becoming “bigger” would change the way people viewed me. In my mind, there was a risk of being seen as either conceited or foolish, two traits no one wants in a friend. There was also a fear that that I would be forever trapped living a lie instead of following my dream.

I have to admit that there was a fundamental problem; I didn’t know what my dream was. You can’t expect to be able to follow your dreams if you don’t know what they are and can’t articulate them.

It’s also difficult at best to excel at something you’re not passionate about.

There are more than a few things in my business world that honestly excite, amaze, and motivate me; but the time I spend on my creative writing and art brings me far more joy and satisfaction.

The harsh reality is that the left side of my brain (the logical business minded side) is in a much better position to pay the rent and buy groceries than the artistic side of my brain is. And we all know that it can be difficult at best to achieve financial security, let alone prosperity through a career in art.

So the question is this – How do I follow my passion, become financially secure, and also have money and time left over to have fun and find a way to contribute to the community?

Through Julia Cameron’s teachings I have come to understand and appreciate that the world isn’t an “either/or” one. There are artists of all kinds who earn a living by working a day job and pursue their craft on the side. Some are eventually able to devote themselves to their passion full time, but most do not.

A couple of years ago I had the opportunity to work with a personal coach, I thought the sessions would help me define my business goals and map out a plan for success. When I wrote my “dream” statement, not a single word about my business came out of my head.

My Dream

I have a dream, and my dream is to become a published author with books in multiple genres. The most important one to me is entitled “A Leap of Faith, an Artist’s Journey into the Light.”

It is a story of discovery; it is my story of self-discovery and coming into my own. It will be inspiring to people who think it is too late for them and for people who have similar feelings about themselves as I do, but don’t have the words with which to express their thoughts.

I am driven to write because I want to be of service to others, I want to help young people make good choices and I want to help people at any stage of life realize that they can change, they can recover and soar. I particularly want to help women understand that they can be care-givers without giving up their identity, the importance of being in positive relationships, and we are all stronger than we know.

I want to teach and inspire, I want to help, I want to change the world and make it a better place. My dream is to do so through my writing, I will make people laugh, make them cry, help them feel, and make them think. I have experienced and survived things that should be shared in a way that will be helpful to others. I have the talent, I have the drive, and I now have the conviction to pursue my dreams and write my first book and many more.

A few months after defining my dream in words, I chose to put “A Leap of Faith” aside so I could focus on building a business. It was the practical and right thing to do.

Recent conversations with a new connection in my business world have made me realize that I’d lost sight of my dream have also been selling myself short career-wise. Over the past couple of weeks, my vision is beginning to take shape again and surprisingly it’s also growing bigger.

It’s time to do redraw the boundaries within which I’m living and release my fears about becoming bigger. The time has come to really define the dream and turn wishes into actions.

I choose to Excel