New Beginnings and Beautiful Outcomes

Every artist was first an amateur.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Hot Shops Art Center is home  to more than 80 local professional artists and multiple gallery spaces. Although I haven’t yet attended one, I’ve heard the bi-annual Open Houses are amazing and grow in popularity each year. A visit to the Hot Shops is definitely now on my artist’s date list!

As an amateur artist, never in a million years did I think that I’d have the opportunity to create art in such an inspiring place, but the weekend of October 13th a dream I didn’t even know I had, came true.

The night before, with no small amount of nervousness about the workshop and jumping into unknown territory, I loaded up my car with a laundry basket full of supplies, along with a half dozen big scary canvases.IMG_5044

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The name of the workshop was “Big Juicy Abstracts,” taught by Beverly Todd, a local professional artist, and beautiful human being.

The list of materials, which included canvases, specifically called out the requested size of canvas. 38″ x 38,” as a starting point – in case you’re wondering, that’s equivalent to the height of a taller than average three year old.

The majority of my artwork has been completed on canvases and pieces of drawing paper between the sizes of 5″ x 7″ and 10″ x 20″, with two exceptions.

The first and most significant was the three little birds painting I created a few years ago at a friend’s request.33_three little birds final on white background

Over the past two years, I’ve dabbled in acrylic through multiple visits to local paint and sip venues

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and through spending countless hours on YouTube channeling the techniques of other artists to create something uniquely mine.

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I’ve learned a lot, have had tremendous fun experimenting, but something has been missing – the opportunity for a more structured, hand’s on learning environment.

I didn’t realize how hungry I was for such an opportunity until I saw the promotional post for the workshop in my Facebook feed. Although I normally dislike the promo zone on Facebook, in this instance I was grateful for it.

The weather was gray and gloomy, but my spirits were high as I unloaded my car and traversed to the open studio space. I was the last to arrive, which surprisingly meant that I ended up with the best spot in the room, the one with the most natural light.

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I set up my station as quickly as possible and settled in to learn and explore.

Abstract art is an interesting concept, so often we judge “good art” based upon how accurately it represents our physical world. In other words, how well the artist recreated a landscape or the impression of a person or an object through paint, ink or pencil.

Abstract art, is often criticized and misunderstood. I have to confess that prior to learning a bit more about the art of being abstract, I too have thought, “Why is this piece of art great? A five year old could have done this.”

What I know now, is that part of makes abstract art great – is exactly that. It’s created from the heart and soul, from a place of feeling. A place that’s sometimes happy and sometimes sad – a place that’s completely human. That’s how children create, from the heart and without overthinking it.

Over the course of the two day workshop, I also learned that while abstract pieces may appear to be randomly assembled to the untrained eye – there are very purposeful intentions behind the patterns that have emerged on the canvas.

We took time to “loosen up” and try some creative techniques on for size, things like making marks on a canvas with charcoal before painting.

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Seemingly insignificant actions, with unexpected outcomes.

By putting myself into a playful state of mind, and by following the intuitive input of the teacher – I quit procrastinating and painted.

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I’m not going to lie – it was a struggle to get to this point. The concept of painting on a such a large canvas was intimidating, and watching the seasoned artists around me fill their canvases with paint made me pause and wonder whether or not I was in the right place.

In many preceding drawing and painting classes, I’d never completed the work during the allotted class time. Frozen by my comparing mind, I’ve almost always allowed perfectionism to trump playfulness.

What I came to understand later in the day, as we shared our art – and what we learned, is that I’m far from alone. Even the most experienced artists in the group felt like they’d stepped way outside of their comfort zone and were unsure, but happy with where they had landed.

As it turns out, we’re not really alone. We just need to be brave enough to try.

In an unprecedented weekend, I completed not just one – but three pieces of art. I do believe it’s the first time, outside of a paint and sip experience, that I’ve actually completed a piece within the time-frame allotted.

This piece was particularly daunting, the size of the canvas was beyond my imagination, or so I thought.

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It was a fabulous high energy weekend! I somehow think it’s a glimpse into the future.

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Life is a Beautiful Mosaic in the Making

“She never seemed shattered; to me she was a breathtaking mosaic of the battles she’s won.” – Matt Baker

For the past few months, my thoughts and feelings have found their way into the pages of my journal and onto more canvases than I can count -but for some reason, I haven’t been sharing them here.

This morning I woke up with a “funny” feeling that today is right day to start reconnect with my first creative love, the art of bringing experiences to life through words. Ironically, when I logged in I discovered that today is my WordPress.com anniversary! Six years ago I wrote and published my very first blog post, Wow! That was ‘Eye Popping 3D!’  

Reading the post for the first time since writing it, was a great reminder of how much capacity we have for growth at any age and stage of life. It also made me think about how much life’s experiences, good and bad make us who we are. It’s how we get through the difficult encounters that defines who we are and in many cases, the toughest experiences in life pave the road for the most joyous and beautiful times.

Disappointment is a Part of Life

I’ve become a bit of a ‘Paint and Sip’ venue groupie since moving back to Omaha. It’s been a great way to have some social interaction and be creative at the same time. Overall it’s been a positive experience, but as with anything in life, you’re bound to eventually hit some unexpected twists and turns in the road.

A couple of weekends ago, I met up with a friend for an evening of catching up over dinner followed by a couple of hours of painting at one of the local venues. Unfortunately the evening was a little disappointing. I’m not sure which was more distracting, the “while your paint is drying” games that were better suited to a bachelorette party than an evening of painting or the obnoxious drunk attendee.

She couldn’t seem to stop herself from painting her own thing at the expense of the rest of us who wanted to hear what the instructor was saying. It was pretty hard to focus on painting when she kept interrupting the flow of the class by shouting out things like, “It looks like we have a bunch of conformists here…”

It was great to spend time with my friend, but the painting ended up in the dumpster and I was left feeling like I hadn’t gotten my creative fx for the weekend.

On Sunday afternoon I decided to try again. All of my usual haunts were either hosting private events or the classes were full so I tried somewhere completely new. I’m not going to go into details, but it was a complete bust. There was a strange case of mistaken identity, intentions and integrity (mine) which left me feeling bewildered and disappointed.

The painting didn’t end up in the dumpster, but I’m going to sand off the paint and glitter and use the canvas to remove the negative energy and create something of my own.

A Mosaic in the Making

Neither a long walk or a margarita helped me shake off the icky feelings from the afternoon and I couldn’t figure out how I was going to recover and fulfill my desire for a creative outlet. On my way home I randomly decided to go the Family Dollar store and see what kind of tissue paper they had on hand so I could continue experimenting with collaging.

It was a shopping bonanza!

I could have purchased Starburst scented candles (for a dollar), but that just seemed like a really bad idea. 🙂

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Instead I walked out of the store with $30 worth of treasures – enough tissue paper to make several collages, a set of sheets to use for a drop cloth and a box to store art supplies in.

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After my trip to the Family Dollar Store, I cranked  up the tunes and blocked out the rest of the world with candlelight, a paintbrush, Modge Podge and balloon patterned tissue paper.

As the balloons came to life on the canvas, the unsettled feelings from the afternoon and previous evening floated away.

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It’s funny… Without the two “icky” experiences, I never would have thought to create a collage using balloon patterned tissue paper from the Family Dollar store.

Nor would of that ‘one thing leads to another’ phenomena have happened and I never would have thought of creating something using tissue paper, sand and shiny shell-like embellishments. My mosaic, a work in progress – just like life.

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Every Picture Tells a Story

Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.” ~ Pablo Picasso

After nearly a year of art journaling and drawing my way through some seriously faith testing times, I’ve landed in an amazing place. I never would have dreamed that my perfect job in a perfect place would be back in Omaha, Nebraska – but here I am!

Although Omaha has been my city of residence on three separate occasions and for the majority of my life, moving back hasn’t been without more than a few adjustments. Some of them I foresaw and have been easier than expected.

It hasn’t been nearly as difficult as I thought it might be, to get up every day and put on “real clothes,” makeup and drive to the office instead of padding downstairs to my desk wearing yoga pants and fuzzy socks. The perfect hair salon practically dropped into my lap and the location of my apartment couldn’t be better suited to my lifestyle and interests.

Others, like living alone, are taking me longer than anticipated to feel comfortable with. Slowly but surely I’m adjusting to living in an apartment and to evenings and weekends without impromptu visits, bear hugs and sharing a plate of appetizers at Fridays with my youngest son.

The one area of my life that I expected to flow from the East Coast to the Midwest without disruption, was the relationship with my inner artist and creativity. It didn’t. I don’t know if it’s because I didn’t identify myself as an artist or a writer during my previous life in Omaha or if it’s because my new apartment doesn’t have the clearly defined studio space I’d hoped for.

Whatever the cause may be, it’s been far more difficult to tap into my inner child and let the art flow than expected and for some reason, I simply stopped making art.

Paint & Sip Franchises to the Rescue

Mid-December marked nearly four months  of my paint supplies being tucked away in a drawer and my unfinished ink journal and favorite pens sealed in a gallon size baggie. Every time I thought about drawing or painting,  nothing would come out. It was as though the stack of ink drawings and the nearly completed art journal had been created by someone else.

Art classes are difficult to find in the dead of winter, and so after hearing positive things about the local paint and sip studios I decided to give one of them a try as a way to jump start my creative journey in Omaha.

Paint and sip franchises such as the Corky Canvas and Canvas and Cabernet are springing up across the country. They offer a “unique way to uncork your creativity,” in other words they serve wine and other libations to patrons that are brave enough to paint, many for the first time since kindergarten, in a group setting.

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My first experience was interesting. The studio felt empty.

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Only a handful of women gathered around the tables closest to the platform at the front of the room. Freezing rain and snow deterred the rest of the attendees from learning the difference between a big, a “shmedium” and a small paint brush – all highly technical terms that every artist needs to know. 🙂

In spite of the bitter temps outside, the room quickly warmed up with artistic enthusiasm. The instructor led us through the painting step by step, and offered individual guidance to the budding artists in the studio. The music selection ranged from songs that took me back to high school day to modern day hits, that thanks to my kids, I not only recognized – but could even sing along if I felt so inclined.

I had’t thought about it before now, but perhaps it’s no coincidence that a large flower was the subject of the first drawing class I took in Yardley

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and, albeit a much simpler floral piece, was the subject of my first group art session in Omaha.

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Much like the first time I dipped my toe into the world of art, my goal on that frigid Saturday morning was to create a “masterpiece” that matched the original artist’s work. Success meant replication rather than interpretation, in spite of the instructor’s encouragement to change up colors and/or do something different if we felt so inclined.

It may seem unlikely to some, but for me, the Corky Canvas and its sister paint and sip venues became a way to bridge the gap between who I was when I left Omaha and the artist I discovered in Pennsylvania.

With each new session, I’ve grown a little more daring and instead of using the painting on the schedule as a template, it’s simply a source of inspiration with guidance provided by the instructor.

First, I went totally crazy and painted a huge moon, filled the branches with petals and made the blossoms on the tree pink instead of white.

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Next, I went out on a limb (pun intended) and painted three birds instead of two. The background was lighter than the model painting, the field below was quite different and for the first time, the branches started feeling like my own.

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The creative block ended on Valentine’s weekend. Picture a red umbrella at the bottom of a grey and white cobblestone path lined with quaint street lamps and a picture perfect silhouette of a couple dancing in the rain at the opposite end.

As much as I love the idea of the picture perfect couple dancing in the rain, it didn’t work for me. It’s not where I am right now.

And so instead, the path in my painting turned out to be tempered with color and emotion. The umbrella is disproportionately large, but for some reason I love it. Rather than a couple dancing in the rain, the silhouette is me. A woman, yet at the same time still a girl, reaching out to pass through the curtain of rain into a place and time that is filled with more blue skies than gray.

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Last weekend brought me back to the more whimsical me.

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Six months after moving into my apartment, I’ve begun to carve out a space for a “studio,” it could be otherwise referred to as my dining room table. Unexpected guests will just have to understand. 🙂

The first piece I created in my new studio is very fitting. It ties together so many experiences from the place that I moved from to the home that I’m in the process of making. It’s a reminder to remain in the present rather than speculate about the future.

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An Air Mattress, a Blessing’s Basket and a Bottle of Wine

A week ago yesterday I maneuvered my way through the Newark airport with a cat in a carrier, two full size suitcases and boarded a one-way, non-stop flight to Omaha Nebraska.

Moving is never a small task, especially when you’re relocating half-way across the country and the place you call home is a two bedroom apartment, not a three bedroom house. The idea of moving into an apartment instead of a house wasn’t easy for me to accept at first.

The End of an Era

As I’d been interviewing for jobs and visualizing my next living space, my heart had been set on moving into a three or four bedroom space with plenty of room for my kids to have a place to sleep when they visit and an area for me to set up an art studio instead of using my dining-room table.dining-room-art-studio

At first economics began to shift my outlook. Why pay an extra $300 to $400 a month in rent in order to have a spare room that will be used a few times a year? Why pay a few hundred dollars a year for lawn care and snow removal or worse yet, continue to take care of a yard and the shoveling myself?

Moving into a two bedroom apartment made sense, but I had no explanation for the weepy water-works that turned on every time I Googled apartments and tried to picture myself living in one. The aha moment came when I realized it wasn’t so much about the number of rooms, it turned out to be a bit of an identity crisis.

For the past 28 years, being a mom, home maker and provider for my family has been central to how I thought of my identity. Once I figured out that I was mourning the end of this phase of my life, my heart opened to the possibilities and unlimited potential waiting for me.

Getting Rid of the “Stuff”

The first major task associated with simplifying and moving to a smaller living space is sorting through all of your stuff and more importantly, how to get rid of it. Mia was less than impressed with the piles of material possessions blocking her favorite window sill.

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Just when I thought I had things all figured out, there was a major curve ball thrown my way. I’d arranged to have 1800Junk come to pick up and take away the things I can’t or don’t want to move with me to Omaha. Some things were hard to say goodbye to, other things – not so much.

Long story short, I sorta freaked out when I got the quote – let’s just say that when I looked up pricing, and it was based on volume, I was thinking full size moving truck – not a haul away small capacity truck.

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I’d calculated about $400 – $600 – the quote came in at $1,600 (minus my patio furniture – which I had failed to mention).

I started scrambling, and quickly.

Outside of six years of gathering “stuff,” plus the boxes of things like check registers from the 1990’s and potting soil that somehow made the trip from Omaha to PA – the major portion of the expense was centered around removing the trampoline and the giant television stand in the basement.

Between putting my stuff on the street and listing it on Craigslist.com for free – I was able to shave $600 off my bill (more likely $900, with the patio set).

All excess furniture items were gone within 72 hours. My favorite pick up of the week was the woman who claimed the very popular night stand and tried to load it into her Ford Focus. Suffice it to say that she came back the next day with a larger vehicle.

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The Last Two Days in PA

A gal from the moving company arrived promptly at 8 am the morning of October 7 to begin packing up the remaining belongings. In spite of the fact that her coworker called out sick at the last minute, she had a very upbeat attitude and didn’t utter a word of complaint as she moved from room to room.

It took her half the amount of time it would have taken me to wrap up all the breakables and pack them safely into boxes. All I can say is that if you’re going to move a long distance, leave the packing to the professionals!

That night, instead of spending the evening surrounded by boxes, I was embraced by laughter and love. This lovely circle of people helped me grow and expanded my world in more ways than I can describe in a few words.

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I had no idea just how much my life would be enriched by my move to Pennsylvania. It has not been without it’s bumps, hurdles and challenges – but, I not only worked my way through all of them, I am a better person because of the experiences I had and the people I came to know and love.

The moving truck arrived the next morning and by 3 o’clock, it was loaded and my belongings were on the way to Omaha.

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My last night in PA couldn’t have been more special. It was a son’s and mom’s night at an amazing restaurant in Philly. My youngest son treated me to dinner and set the perfect stage for a long hug and no tears before heading to the train station.

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The Start of a New Era

There’s so much that has led up to the day I boarded the plane in Newark and landed in Omaha. Over the past several months, I’ve interviewed with numerous companies and visualized myself living everywhere from Omaha to Boca Raton. There was a big part of me that thought it would be a great adventure to move someplace brand new and find my way around.

Moving someplace completely new might have been a fun adventure, but I’d have to say that it was beyond wonderful to be greeted with hugs at the airport and to be the recipient of an incredibly thoughtful care package as well as more than one set of helping hands to help me get settled into my new apartment.

After two nights in pet friendly hotels,

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Mia and I, with the help of friends, began the process of settling into our new home.

I felt like I had just graduated from college as I set up my air mattress

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and a make shift night stand (boxes can serve many purposes).

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The gift of a blessing’s basket

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and a bottle of wine and some fruit made me feel loved and special.

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I couldn’t have asked for a better way to start my new chapter in life.

There’s so much more to share, but for now I need to keep unpacking and getting settled.

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Sigh, after all I gave away, I still have too much “stuff.” 🙂

 

I Accept Guidance

Of all of the lessons I’ve learned over the past few years, this one has been the most difficult. Not so much from a standpoint of turning to others for guidance, but more about accepting help from others and paying attention to the voice inside of me that knows which direction is right for me.

It can be hard to trust that we’re going in the right direction when things don’t seem like they’re not going “according to plan.” Maybe the problem is that we’re following the wrong voice.

Becoming comfortable with the phrase, “I need help,” has been a challenge for me, being honest it still is. I equated the need to ask for help with an admittance of failure; failure to be able to “rise to the occasion” or that I’d had a lapse in judgment and made a mistake. I readily owned up to and learned from mistakes in my work life, but rarely in my personal life.

As a woman who wanted both a professional career and to be a mom, I fell into a huge superwoman syndrome and spent the better part of my adult life trying to “prove” I could do it all. I thought everyone around me had certain expectations and perceptions about who I was and what they thought success looked like for me. As the primary and often-times sole income earner I felt tremendous pressure to perform. My home life was unhappy, so I used work as an excuse to cover up my sadness.

It was a mixed up time in my life and I now realize that during those years I spent my time believing I was living up to expectations that I thought other people had of me, but really I was hiding from life and ignoring reality. I made a lot of poor choices during that time, some of which still affect my life today.

Back then, the mere thought of confessing even half of what was going on and taking responsibility for the poor choices and decisions I made nearly crippled me with anxiety.  My fears spanned the gambit and included everything from being yelled at and perceived as stupid to being rejected by everyone who knew me.

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The reality is – the person I was the most dishonest with was me.  I thought I could and should make things right on my own.  I lied to myself and pretended that there was a way out of the mess I was in and that no one would ever have to know the ugly truth.

Little did I know that my pain and struggling was obvious and everyone around me was praying that I would wake up and ask for help. We’ve all been there, watching someone we love struggle and at a loss for how to let them know that they do not have to bear their burdens alone and that asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of strength and of trust.

What I know now is that three things were missing from my life during that time. One is that I was afraid to ask for help and I was unwilling to be honest about what was going on in my life. Two is that I wasn’t listening to my inner voice. Three is that I spent every day doubting the future and without faith that I was truly supported by the universe and everything I need is always provided.

We are Always Supported

Asking for help does sometimes mean admitting you’ve made a mistake and need some help to right the ship. But it also means you have enough confidence in yourself to ask, accept, be grateful for, and do the same in return.

Listening to the voice inside you, the one who really knows what’s right for you might be even more difficult than learning how to ask for help. It gets crowded out by the voice of societal expectations and our perceptions of what we think others expect from us.

Listening to, and following that voice, sometimes requires that we say no to opportunities that don’t “feel” right, even if it will bring in some extra cash or look good on a resume.

Accepting guidance is something that comes from inside us, believing we are on the right path, rolling with and adapting to change, having faith and asking for help when we need it.

 

I Accept My Talents

I wrote the following as a part of my “All is Well in My World” art and journaling project on July 7, almost exactly two years ago from today.

The project was inspired by the teachings of Louise Hay, author of “You Can Heal Your Life.” She has an amazing story and her beliefs are very thought provoking.

She firmly believes that we can heal what ails us through the power of loving oneself and that aches and pains in each part of the body are associated with things like past experiences, negativity, fear, and a lack of self love. Based on personal and very real experiences, I believe there is a great deal of truth in what she teaches. I do believe that our “issues can get stuck in our tissues” and a lack of self love can hold us back by keeping us in a state of shame, fear and believing that we don’t deserve all of the abundance life has to offer.

I’ve recently come to realized that I have a recurring and ongoing fear of the future and money; it stems from a series of life events that began in my early 20’s and contributed to significant feelings of unworthiness and insecurity. I’ve processed, released, forgiven and moved on from many of these memories and as I do, my life becomes richer,I am more at peace and I have faith that the future holds wonderful outcomes for me.

The funny thing about letting go of doubt, anger, resentment, shame, fear and/or sadness that we associate with particular events in our lives, is that those same feelings can resurface when we least expect it. Sometimes they are intertwined with other past events that deepen the grove in our record that keeps us from moving forward, toward our greater good.

More than a few of those feelings emerged this morning, which prompted me to re-read and re-share the entry associated with this affirmation: “I stand tall and free. I love and approve of of me. My life gets better every day.” and “I move into my greater good. My good is everywhere, and I am secure and safe.” ~ Louise Hay

I Accept My Talents

07/7/2014

I embrace my talentsBooming thunder, flickering lights, and a brief power outage caught me off guard tonight. Just as I was settling in to write I could no longer see the keyboard.

Thankfully the power outage lasted only a short time, however the storm is raging on. In an odd way, the sudden squall provided the perfect inspiration for tonight’s thoughts.

Unlike many writers and artists, I wasn’t born with a passion to create, at least not that I was aware of.

When I was young, school systems and teachers considered reading, writing, and arithmetic to be important and subjects like art and creative writing were merely electives best suited to becoming a hobby. The focus of the education system, coupled with the fact that I moved 9 times before I turned 15, and the reality that there were no obvious clues that there was an artist hiding inside led my parents to guide me toward a practical path.

Truth to be told, I was better at math than I was at art and there were very few opportunities to explore writing that extended beyond my interpretations of novels by famous authors like Willa Cather, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Edgar Allen Poe, and Henry David Thoreau. I excelled at math, but literature courses were what I enjoyed most.

One of my favorite memories was a weekend field trip to Red Cloud, Nebraska – the home of Willa Cather. I don’t remember any specifics outside visiting her tiny home and afterwards sitting around a campfire talking with my classmates and our AP American Lit teacher. Who knows what we talked about or how much sense we made, I’m sure we thought we were profound.

To be honest, I don’t remember whether or not I actually loved “My Antonia” or pretended to because I wanted to impress my instructor. I do know there was a part of me that dreamed of being the woman, from the middle of nowhere, who wrote a book that both entertained and inspired people to think.

My journey to understanding and accepting my talents began about five years ago, during one of the most difficult times of my life.

In a late night and tear-filled conversation, my best friend challenged me to find a creative outlet as an alternative to escalating patterns of self-destruction.  The next day a flyer for ed2go.com arrived in the mail. The brochure promoted online learning opportunities and the featured area of study was creative writing, an event that I can attribute to nothing other than serendipity.  I registered for a class to learn about how to write romance novels. (who knows  it may still come in handy someday.)

I posted my assignments to the classroom forum using the pseudonym “Lady.” I used the penname for over a year in various 6 week courses before I gained enough confidence to sign my own name to what I wrote. Today I write with confidence both personally and professionally.

In 2012 I dusted off my desire to draw, bought a sketch book, and took the bold step of registering for the Intermediate/Advanced level drawing class through a local organization, The Artists of Yardley.

I was petrified the first day of class.  My one and only “real” class took place twenty-two years prior to that, and I was positive that my place was in the beginner’s class, which had sold out. After conquering my first fear, which was to enter the classroom; I perched in front of the easel stiff and nearly paralyzed, staring at the sunflower we were supposed to reproduce.

Petals, stems, and leaves seemed to fly from the fingers of the other students and they all finished their unique and amazing sunflowers by the end of the three hour class. My pencil drawing took me nearly three months to complete. During each lesson that followed, my instructor encouraged me and helped me see my artwork through her eyes and not through the eyes of a perfectionist (me). Over the past 2 ½ years my comfort has grown and my style has begun to emerge.

It may sound strange, but sometimes when I read something I wrote it makes me cry, other times it makes me laugh. When I look at things I’ve written or drawn as though the creator is unknown, I think things like – “wow, that inspires me.”

Today, I no longer introduce myself as a “want-to-be-writer” or an “aspiring artist.” I own who I am.

Today, I accept, embrace, and am thankful for the talents and gifts I have been blessed with and can share.

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.

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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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Happiness is a Choice I Make

In 2011 I was gifted an opportunity to learn from Julia Cameron, author of “Walking in this World”  which led to a series of personal essays in which I did my best to share what I learned along the way about life and the art of “being.”

  • Savor life – live with humor, joy, and passion.  Use feelings as fuel for creativity and creation.
  • Make something of yourself – do something, be something, make something.  Be who you are and continue to strive to become who you were meant to be.  Don’t be afraid to try, don’t be afraid to fail, and don’t be afraid to succeed.
  • Accept yourself– be yourself, trust yourself, be childlike, own and understand your relationships, be aware and follow your instincts, be accountable, and last but not least, be kind to yourself.
  • Have faith – ask for and accept help, be teachable, life is spiritual, art is spiritual and it is healing. Follow your dreams and treat them as real.
  • We commune through art – when we create from the heart and not from the ego we experience a clarity of purpose and feelings of joy.

In 2014 I discovered the teachings of Louise Hay through the movie adaptation of her book “You Can Heal Your Life.” Intrigued by her belief that much of the pain we experience in our bodies is a result of negative experiences and self-perceptions, I bought the book and embarked on another creative journey. One that involved 125 days of consecutive writing and visual art. As a result, I created my tiny but powerful journal entitled All is Well in My World.

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Looking back, I wish I had posted each entry on my blog instead of on Google Plus, but thankfully the entire series of mini essays, observations and illustrations is safe and saved in a word document. Who knows, I might actually do something with them some day. 🙂

I have no idea if Julia Cameron and Louise Hay have ever met each other, but I do know that in my world, the two of them have and they both taught me to understand and believe that life is a gift.

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Maybe more, or at least as importantly, their teachings helped me begin to understand that we have far more influence over what happens in our life than most of us believe we do.

Which brings me to my latest “project.” I recently purchased and am reading “Angels of Abundance” By Doreen Virtue and Grant Virtue – I don’t really know how to describe it other than to say it’s a spiritual guide, that if read with an open mind and heart teaches how each of us has the ability to manifest and co-create an abundant life through believing in a Higher Power and also in ourselves.

As often-times happens, one thing led to another and as I pursued the works cited in their book I kept coming back to one in particular – Miracles Now: 108 Life-Changing Tools for Less Stress, More Flow and Finding Your True Purpose” by Gabrielle Bernstein.

It arrived yesterday.

Coincidentally (or not), I recently replenished my supply of  Peerless Watercolor sheets and started a new art journal with no direction in mind other than I wanted it to be something positive. It’s all leading me toward another series of self expression through art and writing.

I created my first related journal entry today, the first tool in the Miracles Now book was the inspiration.

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Happiness is truly a choice. I can’t honestly say that I have always believed that, but I do now.

Choosing happiness isn’t about never feeling frustration, anger, sadness or fear – those are real emotions and they need to be experienced and felt. Choosing happiness means not letting those feelings rule our lives.

Happiness is now a choice I consciously make.

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.