Making Friends with Fear

The New Year is starting off right with a lesson from my granddaughter. She came to visit with her parents for Christmas and was afraid of the black and white rocking horse who whinnied and wagged his tail with a squeeze of his ear. His strange noises sent her running to the safety of her mother’s arms. It took several days and many tries on her terms to get over her fear. On the last few days of her visit she was able to ride him and not run away at his horsey sounds. I am learning from her brave steps in regards to my writing and facing my fears. I keep taking baby steps when deep down I know it is time to ride.



Recently, I encountered an image on my co-worker’s computer screen that literally reached out and grabbed my soul.  It was an image of the one pictured here that was on display at the art gallery managed by the office where I work.  I asked her about the piece and was told that it was part of the exhibit coming down the next day.  Without consciously knowing why I was so drawn to this piece, I told her I really liked it and would go see it at lunch.  I did just that and looked at many paintings/drawings on display by a local artists guild.  I viewed the exhibit twice looking for this piece of art but couldn’t find it.  At the gallery desk, I picked up the exhibit postcard and there it was but it wasn’t on display.

I returned to the office feeling disappointed, thinking that it had been sold.  Upon further inquiry it hadn’t been sold but for some reason the artist decided not to display it in the exhibit. The artist was contacted and she agreed to bring “Reflections on the Afternoon” to the de-installation the next day.  I bought it without hesitation as I was even more moved by it in person and she offered a price just under the limit I told my husband I’d spend.  I wondered at my strangely driven behavior since I am not usually so obsessive about anything.  It didn’t hit me until after I returned to the office in the pouring rain and unwrapped the colored pencil drawing from the brown paper wrapping.  Suddenly I was struck, like a two by four between the eyes, with the Ah-Ha moment.  The reason occurred to me  and tears welled up in my eyes.  It reminded me of my mother who died three months ago.  Somehow this artist, Trish Emery, captured a moment in time in her living room that is simply beautiful.   On some level, the level of my soul, the image transcended reality and touched the part of me that has been grieving and aching, missing the mom I love so much.  Words can’t describe it but a picture can and that is the beauty of art.

The meaning I have derived from this visual encounter in the days since I hung it in my studio is multi-layered and I’m not sure I can sufficiently put it into words.  Anybody who knows me well, knows that I love blue and have collected many versions of pretty blue things, including vases.  I love to see light reflections in transparent blue objects and I am drawn to this color for unknown reasons.  Somehow the blue vase in the drawing, being a vessel, represents me (speaking metaphorically now).  The vase only shows the stems of the flowers resting in the water, not the actual blossoms.  To me water is the Source, symbolizing the Spirit, and inside the vessel of our bodies we can’t survive without it.

The pink hydrangea flower lying on the wooden cedar chest, not in the vase of water but outside of it, struck me as a vivid memory of mom’s funeral.  There were pink flowers all around her and she was wearing a pink flowered dress I remember well from her wearing it to my daughter’s wedding on Mother’s Day four years ago.  Mom loved pink flowers of any kind and this pink hydrangea reminded me of sitting on the hillside at her grave the day after she was buried, saying goodbye one last time before traveling south to go home.  Amidst the deer-eaten flower wreaths I picked a few pink flowers, a carnation and a rose, to take home as a memory of mom and our sad parting.  Somehow, the pink hydrangea in full bloom reflecting the ethereal Light is in an eternal state as I fully believe she is and she’s at peace.  Though she has left the vessel of her body she will forever be in full bloom in my heart and in the hearts of those who love her.

One early morning after writing about this in my journal I returned to my bed spent with emotions and fell asleep right away.  I dreamed about my mom and grandma who were walking towards me, smiling and talking to me.  I couldn’t make out their words and I strained to hear them.  I asked them “What are you up to?” but I must have said that aloud in my sleep because my husband woke me up and asked me if I was awake.  “I am now!” I said.  Hopefully, they will visit me again in a dream one day and I will hear the words they wanted to say.  I do know that since her death I have been unable to write and this beautiful work of art was a catalyst to help me express deep sorrow I’ve had to keep at bay in the midst of a busy summer and way too much going on that I have to keep myself together for day to day.  Sometimes grief just can’t be scheduled at my convenience and the unexpected triggers and memories serve the purpose of helping me heal.

Ode to Spring

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The next collage/mixed media piece that has been keeping me busy this spring.  There are levels of meaning here and many symbols but Ode to Spring sums it up the best.  I’m working on another piece now, very different from this, and it is about hope.  I thought working in a different medium might help my writing but these take so long to complete I haven’t had much time to write.  Such is life.

Ode to Mnemosyne

Ode to Mnemosyne

…new adventures in my art in mixed media collage. My grandmother would be proud that her basic sewing lessons weren’t a complete waste of time. These are a few of my favorite things: sea glass, golden threads and beads, flowers all in a sea of blue.


Do not lose hope!

SavedPicture(69)  …like a white feather amidst the rocks of life, do not lose hope for the plans God has in store!  I don’t know who will read these words, but somebody needs them.  From Joy and Strength by Mary Tileston for tomorrow, February 17:

“I the Lord have called thee in righteousness, and will hold thine hand, and will keep thee.” Isaiah xlii. 6.

“Don’t be content with spending all your time on your faults, but try to get a step nearer to God.  It is not He who is far away from us, be we from Him.  If you ask me the best means to persevere, I would say, if you have succeeded in getting hold of Almighty God’s hand, don’t let it go.  Keep hold of Him by constantly renewing ejaculatory prayers to Him, acts of desire, and the seeking to please Him in little things.” Mother Francis Raphael

“Strive to be as a little child who, while its mother holds its hand, goes on fearlessly, and is not disturbed because it stumbles and trips in its weakness.  So long as God holds you up by the will and determination to serve Him with which He inspires you, go on boldly and do not be frightened at your little checks and falls, so long as you can throw yourself into His arms in trusting love.  Go there with an open, joyful heart as often as possible; if not always joyful, at least go with a brave and faithful heart.”  St. Francis De Sales

Of course, it is quite possible that I need to read these words and not lose hope too!

An Old-Fashioned Christmas Greeting

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Once again the annual dilemma is upon me of whether to send Christmas cards or not…I mean what is the point with Facebook around to sum up the year with a review in pictures?  It would save me a lot of time and money…although I already bought my Christmas stamps and decided not to have cards made this year.  Bah Humbug! But  somehow I just can’t let go of that tradition just yet and so the boxes of cards are beside me with the newsletter yet to be written and pictures added on one side.

During my struggle with this dilemma I came across these photos of greeting cards my Dad made over fifty years ago.   He had to draw the scenes and glue in pictures by hand after photographing us in poses that were then superimposed on the holiday scenes.  In the picture of Santa’s workshop, I am the live baby doll on the table of toys!  In one of the pictures I wasn’t born yet and my younger brother wasn’t born yet in any of them. There eventually were six children and that was plenty!  Making cards this way  took a lot of time and creativity.  And  there was no Photoshop back then to speed things up!  I love seeing Dad’s artistic flair that I must have inherited from him, along with his love of music.  It makes me want to have an old-fashioned Christmas any way that I can think of and sending the greeting cards is one way to do that.

What else can I do to celebrate an old-fashioned, simpler Christmas in this techno-crazy, fast-paced world?  The decorating is done, the shopping is not, the baking may never be.  Instead of making a list of what I want for Christmas I need to make a list of simple ways to celebrate an old-fashioned Christmas that doesn’t involve putting real candles on the tree or hand-making every gift…one is a fire hazard and the other I REALLY don’t have time for!  I am going to think about this over a cup of coffee as I work on the cards and listen to some Christmas jazz with the greats: Louie Armstrong, Duke Wellington, Frank Sinatra and more…

Funny Faces and New Places

SavedPicture(70) This is a moment in time when a funny face was caught on camera just before Corey was ready to turn and run down that mountain trail to a new place, one he’d never seen before.  My son was known for his wacky humor, quirky faces and had a special gift for making us all laugh.  I love his attitude here too…a little sassy for the camera and unafraid of what lies ahead.  Now that adventuresome spirit sometimes got him into trouble or predicaments and he needed a close eye watching over him because he didn’t always know if his next move would involve danger or harm.  But somehow with God’s grace and protection (definitely his guardian angel got paid overtime!) and for the moments when his parents couldn’t be everywhere every second, he has grown into the most admirable and loving man, devoted to his beautiful wife Sarah, forging ahead on a trail to their future.

Today Corey celebrates his 26th birthday and I wish him so much happiness it makes my heart ache.  Life has so many twists and turns, unexpected joyful surprises or moments of pain can await us just around the next bend.  I hope for this adventurous spirit to continue to lead him with lots of funny faces and journeys to new and exciting places.  And may he always know the guiding Hand of our Creator, ready to pick him up lest he trip or fall running up or down the mountain trail of life.  Happy Birthday, son!

I am Lion, Hear Me Roar!

WP_20131031_015 WP_20131031_018 V__EF25 It is strange to think that the idea for a lion costume my son came up with for a harvest festival recently, may have had its inspiration deep in his past.  I am embarrassed still by the lion costume I came up with for my son’s Halloween party and parade at daycare when he was four years old.  The lion mask was pretty good except he could hardly see to walk in it.  It was the mane I made from a mop head that was the questionable part of the costume.  I don’t remember if Jason and I dyed it or painted it this golden color.  And as long as he didn’t move it stayed on alright.  That was okay until the costume parade started up outside and as one can easily see, the poor kid had to hold the “mane” on his head while trying not to trip with the mask obstructing his view.  I was mortified at how lame my efforts were and wonder if he was traumatized by this costume debacle.  Is it a coincidence that the inspiration for Jason’s grown up lion costume came from the fable, The Lion and the Mouse?  Perhaps on some level the poor kid had a deep, unconscious need to roar like a lion now as a grown man because of that lame homemade costume his mother came up with.  And now, of course, as the story goes, the tiny little mouse saves the lion by removing the thorn from his paw.  His tiny little mouse is his baby girl Isa born a few months ago and her presence in our lives is removing many thorns.  One of the blessings of becoming a parent is that sometimes we just may get a chance to rectify the mistakes of the past.  Trust me, if I could have a do-over on this costume I would but somehow Jason did it for me and in my opinion He is Lion, hear him roar!



“Mandala” is the ancient Sanskrit word for circle and the art of making mandalas has many benefits for centering and contemplating wholeness.  This is a technique I learned in graduate school for the art therapy program I was in that I have used personally and professionally for many years.  Mandalas are becoming more common than when I studied in the mid-80’s and I am glad to see that many people are discovering the benefits of making them for improving focus, reducing stress and anxiety, alleviating depression and experiencing a calm, relaxed state of mind.  In past years of counseling with children and teens, making mandalas was a frequent tool that my clients preferred to traditional talk therapy and one that I found works well with groups too.  It really is a simple activity to start with a circle and a pen at the very center to create a design that fills up the white space.  This one has watercolors added to it but they can be made with any sort of art materials.  There are pre-printed templates for coloring that are a great way to start but I prefer to make my own starting with the empty circular shape. 

There are many books and workshops with professionals available to learn more about this ancient activity that originated in Hinduism and Buddhism where the mandala was viewed as a symbol of the Universe.  Many approaches to making mandalas and common uses of the practice view the mandala as a reflection of the Self.  One book I love is Mandalas by Judith Cornell; and another is, Creating Mandalas: For Insight, Healing, and SelfExpression by Susanne E. Fincher.  There are many more, just google mandalas and try it sometime!


To Honor St. Francis of Assisi

WP_20130915_056  St. Francis of Assisi is celebrated on this day, October 4, and in honor of his Feast Day as the Patron Saint of  animals and the environment, I share his own famous prayer and cherished words.  I envision walking a labyrinth and hearing his words, which I especially needed to hear this morning when I stepped in the river of pee my dear yellow lab/pit bull mix Roofus left in the kitchen.  I was bleary eyed and not feeling awake, on my way to make coffee when the unpleasant incident occurred causing me to curse not bless my dog on this of all days.  It didn’t help that it was the fifth time this week that he suddenly couldn’t hold it until the morning and Pedro or I found ourselves mopping instead of waking up slowly with a warm mug of brew.  So, while I need forgiveness for my angry, unkind thoughts, I know God and St. Francis have mercy on my soul and I can only strive and desire to be more like him.  Here’s to you, St. Francis, and I raise my cup to you!

“O most high, almighty, good Lord God, to Thee belong praise, glory, honor, and all blessing.

Praised be my Lord God with all His creatures, and specially our brother the sun, who brings us the day; fair is he and shines with a very great splendor; O Lord, he signifies to us Thee.  Praised be my Lord for our sister the moon, and for the stars, the which He has set clear and lovely in heaven.

Praised be my Lord for our sister water, who is very serviceable unto us, and humble and precious and clean.  Praised be my Lord for our sister water, who is very serviceable unto us, and humble and precious and clean.  Praised by Thou, my Lord, for our brother fire; he is bright and pleasant and very mighty and strong.  Praised be my Lord for our mother the earth, who doth sustain us and keep us, and bringeth forth divers fruits and flowers of many colors, and grass.

Praised be my Lord for all those who pardon one another for His love’s sake, and who endure weakness and tribulation.  Praised be Thou, my Lord, or our sister, the death of the body, from which no man escapeth.

Praise ye and bless ye the Lord, and give thanks unto Him and serve Him with great humility.”  St. Francis of Assisi

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