Monday, September 30, 2013

A Blank Canvas

Recently, I committed to donate a painting to Paris in a Cup, a darling tea shop and restaurant in Orange, California, for it's cancer fund raiser.  First of all, I'm still not confident in the fact that anyone would want to purchase a painting from me.  And, second, I had no idea what to paint.  These were dilemmas for this "late bloomer" artist. Cheryl Turner, the owner of Paris in a Cup, is a cancer survivor that has become a friend, and I wanted to support her.  I was excited to buy my 11 x 14 canvas, but had no idea what to put on it.

As I stared at my blank canvas, I thought it was such an excellent metaphor for life.  Every day, every month, every new year we are given a blank canvas of time.  We can stare at it for awhile or we can start throwing all the paint on it we can. Danny Kaye,  a now deceased singer/entertainer, said, "Life is a great big canvas, and you should throw all the paint you can on it."

So, that's what I did.  I began playing with my paint, paper, and pens on the canvas, and threw everything on it that seemed to fit.  Yes, my canvas is full.  Maybe too full for some, and not full enough for others, but it's my canvas, my choices, and that has to be alright.  And my concern that no one will want to buy my canvas? Well, I know someone that would buy it.  Me!!!  

On my mixed media piece of art is a quote by Vincent Van Gogh that says, "What is done in love is done well."  I'd like to paint my days(canvases) with love, so that I can live well.  What is on the canvas of your day today? Is it colored with love?  I want to encourage us all to not live in fear of what others will think of our choices, but to be brave enough to play with the colors of our lives, and to love the best that we can.  

Monday, September 2, 2013

Try, Try, and Try Again

Diane Nyad accomplished her dream today.  After four unsuccessful attempts to swim from Cuba to Florida, she tried one last time, and made it.  Here are her words:

"I am willing to put myself through anything, temporary pain or   discomfort means nothing to me as long as I can see that the experience will take me to a new level. I am interested in the unknown, and the only path to the unknown is through breaking barriers, an often painful process." 

I can relate to chasing a dream, and not succeeding the first time. After going to graduate school, working 3,000 hours as an intern, I failed the oral exam for Marriage & Family Therapy licensure for the state of California.  Feeling a bit cocky after passing the written exam, I did not go into the oral prepared enough.  After receiving my rejection letter and sobbing, I decided it was time for a makeover mentally, emotionally, and even physically.  I found new coaches and practiced vignette after vignette for months.  I bought a suit and decided to wear my hair pulled back in order to look more professional.  Alas, I went back to the site of my first failure and proceeded to try again.  Even though I sounded like a sheep when I said my name, "Naaaaannnnnnccy Peeeeeveeeeey" into a tape recorder, I could hear (in my mind) my coaches saying, "Get it together, Nancy."  At least six weeks later, the letter arrived again with good news that I had passed.  No, I didn't have to take the oral five times, but it still took everything inside to try again.  It was such a blessing to succeed, because the state decided to not administer the oral exam again.  

Knowing for years that I had to face that oral exam filled me with fear. I was able to keep that fear in the back of my mind as long as I kept moving toward the goal.  Once it was time to meet that fear head on, I was filled with anxiety.  Voices in my head said, "What if you don't pass?  You will feel like such a failure," and those negative voices chatted on. In my second attempt, I had to work hard to quiet those voices, and instead used the mantra, "Get it together, Nancy.  You can do this."  I would imagine Diana Nyad had to battle lots of voices of condemnation after those four other attempts to swim from Cuba to Florida. Her test was not only mental endurance, but one of tremendous physical endurance with certain factors outside of her control. Still, she decided one more time to try again.  At 64 years old, Diana has succeeded.  

Whatever you are going through, whether a dream, a goal, or something unexpectedly traumatic, remember Diana Nyad's three messages.

1.  We should never, ever give up.
2.  You are never too old to chase your dream.
3.  It looks like a solitary sport, but it's a team. 

Life isn't meant to be lived in solitude.  Sometimes we need to be carried along the way, and that's more than okay.  

Monday, August 19, 2013

Widen Your Circle

Kelly Rae Roberts posted a lovely quote this morning by Albert Einstein:
Our task must be to free widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature and it's beauty.
It seems the older I get, the more I appreciate nature, and all of it's glory.  Animals can be therapeutic.  They can fill needs that we didn't even know we had.  I recently read an endearing book called, A Street Cat Named Bob, by James Bowen.  James was in the process of recovering from drug use when he met Bob.  After adopting each other, James found something to care for, something to get healthy for, and so he wanted to make sure he stayed clean.  Having Bob was to him like having a child. Theirs is what I'd call a divine relationship. 

Last week while on my way to one of my favorite craft's stores, I pulled into a parking lot and noticed a scruffy looking man with the most breathtakingly beautiful parrot on his shoulders.  Since I happened to have my camera, I asked if I could take pictures of his bird.  He seemed over joyed, and began to talk about and share his pet, Giovani (female), with me.  I commented on how he and his bird seemed so close, and he said, "You don't know the half of it." I introduced myself, and he told me his name is Ken.  Ken said I could share the pictures of them on Facebook, and seemed delighted that I'd want to.  He told me the police were after him for having his bird in the park without a leash, and that's why he was in the parking lot. Although that struck me a bit strange, my heart was touched by compassion for these two, and it confirmed for me once again the healing power of God's creatures.  

One doesn't have to own an animal to love animals.  There are all kinds of volunteer opportunities to spend time with them, and to care for them. Besides the numerous benefits, one of the greatest is how they can teach us to be unselfish as James Bowen learned. A great example is Bernie Berlin.  Her posts are worth taking the time to read. 

Let's all continue to widen our circles of compassion.  And as we do that, our ability to see the beauty around us will increase.   

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Gentle Reprimands

This cowgirl has been scattered more than usual lately.  There are so many things I want to accomplish, yet the energy level with the heat has been low.  It's frustrating.  So, those things have become a crowd in my head all vying for first place.

This past Friday as I was leaving my art group meeting, I picked up my cell phone, left a message for a friend, and hung up.  Driving straight but needing to make a left turn, I noticed a median between the lanes going forward and the one for the left turn. I quickly pulled over to the left lane. Suddenly, I heard tweeting sounds and saw a flashing light in my rear view mirror.  The policeman on his motorcycle noticed I had used my cell, because he was in the median and said I almost hit him. I deserved that ticket for cell phone use, because it represented how distracted my mind was at the time. 

The next day I drove an hour north to meet a friend for lunch. We had an enjoyable lunch, then decided to walk through the mall.  We sat down on a circular planter to visit a little while longer before heading back to our cars to leave.  I could see that the traffic was already bumper to bumper on the freeway,so I figured the drive home would be slow.  It was stop and go all the way home.  A normal one hour drive took two.  As I wearily headed to my front door, I put my hand in my purse and didn't feel my wallet.  Before panicking, I looked in my car.  A black wallet blends in with the floor of my car and my purse.  No luck.  My first thought was to call the restaurant, but glanced over to my home phone and saw that I had a call from the mall security.  Security called to say that a woman that worked at a jewelry store had picked up my wallet and brought it to lost and found.  Not a card or penny was missing.  Sunday morning I drove up early to beat the traffic and picked up my wallet. All I could be was grateful for an honest woman, and to God, especially for taking care of me.  Now I have a typed list of every card in my wallet and numbers to call if they are lost or stolen.  

The message from last weekend was, stay focused in the moment, not thinking about the future or the past. Writing down all those thoughts traveling through my head, getting earphones that fit or a bluetooth, and buying a bright red wallet will help too. 

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Keep Going

What About Bob? is one of my favorite movies.  Bob (Bill Murray)  and Dr. Leo Marvin (Richard Dreyfuss)play an extremely needy, obsessive-compulsive patient and psychiatrist. One day after leaving Dr. Marvin's office, Dr. Marvin gets on the elevator with Bob, and Bob begs for some wisdom from Dr. Marvin.  Dr. Marvin had just written a book called Baby Steps, so he shared those two words with Bob, "Baby steps, Bob." So Bob gets off the elevator repeating those two words over and over.  

This is basically how my life has gone, in baby steps.  When I tend to procrastinate, I tell myself, "Keep going." When I have not succeeded at something, I say, "Keep going."  Yes, it doesn't matter how far, just keep moving forward in tiny increments if that's the best I can do.  

I think those two words, "Keep going," apply to anything we are going through.  For instance, I believe grief as a part of life is inevitable. When it seems I can't go on due to a particular heartache and/or disappointment, I just keep going.  Sometimes it takes the greatest effort to even get up in the morning, but isn't that moving?  Often I've needed help, and faith, friends, medication, and my increasing passion for mixed-media art are tremendous resources that keep me going.  I strongly encourage anyone that reads this to find your inner and outer resources. Look for them. Search for them.  You will discover them.  In the meantime, let's just keep moving forward even if it is at a snail's pace.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013


Since I am in a blogging e-class and group, I need to blog a little about blogging.  It is such an interesting process.  The main question is,"What do I have to say?"  "Is there anything to share that will be the least bit interesting to anyone including myself?"  As a photographer, I believe there is so much more to see in life, in the day to day, yet I still struggle to really "see."

Yesterday while having breakfast outside in downtown Encinitas with a friend, three separate women came up to me, and were concerned about my purse getting wet from water seeping out of a large planter nearby. Three!  All were looking out for me in the sense that purses cost money, and they didn't want me to have to lose my purse due to the water.  This isn't a big life changing incident, yet I thought about it the rest of the day ~ three people cared enough about my purse to let me know they did.  By the time the third one came over, all I could do was think how kind these three were.  By the way, my purse didn't get wet.  It just looked like it was in the line of water seepage.  

Kindness is such a precious commodity.  I made a little sign out of scrabble letters that sits by my kitchen sink that says, "Be kind." Years ago a friend shared that being kind was what she and her husband held sacred in their marriage.  No matter what happened in their lives as a couple, they wanted to remember to treat each other with kindness.

I don't want to become so preoccupied with my life that I miss "seeing" the kindness of strangers like yesterday.  Each one is a reminder of something I've come to value above most everything, kindness.  How can I show kindness to those around me?  How can I speak in a way that affirms without breaking down someone?  Today, tomorrow, and always I want to be in a kindness state of mind.  

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Evolution of a Cowgirl

As a Critical Incident Counselor, I go into companies that have been robbed, experienced an unexpected death, or a downsizing. I love what I do, because I get to meet people at vulnerable times when there isn't pretense, just raw emotion.  The people I meet teach me so much, and my life is richer because of this real life education.  

Out of my heart to encourage others, I believe the cowgirl was born inside of me.  It feels as though that seed has been geminating for years, and now it's time for her to come forth out of the dark soil into the day light.  For a very long time, I have chosen to move toward my fears in order to learn, grow, and become stronger.  It is by far not easy, yet I still persevere.  That's what cowgirls do! 

Today, looking back at some of my first cowgirls, I am humbled.  They look pretty pitiful for the most part.  I didn't even put whites in their eyes, and instead left them skin tone.  Some faces looked like little ET's (Extraterrestrials).  For anyone on the receiving end of an inspiration card from Jessica Brogan's swap, I apologize for the way these cowgirls looked. 

Just as I am changing, so is my cowgirl.  There is more clarity in her face, the whites are in her eyes, and she appears gentle, yet strong. She has gotten braver in her evolution.  We can all have an inner "cowgirl" or "cowboy" if we surrender to the changes life brings.  This is what is happening to my cowgirls on paper, and to me.  Yeeehaaaaa!!!