radical happiness

“The purpose of our lives is to be happy.”

-Dali Lama

I can still remember the day my very gifted therapist suggested I make it a daily practice to ask myself, “What would make me happy today?” I thought she was crazy. Or least delusional. You see, where I come from, only selfish “sinners” concern themselves with their own happiness. And since I had worked very hard not to be one of them, I filed her suggestion under For Emergencies Only, and quickly forgot about her scary and seemingly impossible task.

Seven years, a chronic illness, many losses and a lot of digging deep later, I’m finally beginning to see what my therapist was offering me. She wanted me to see the possibility of a type of happiness that builds and supports ongoing confidence, resiliency, and possibilities. A type of happiness that feeds itself and isn’t dependent on outside influences. A type of happiness that can’t be bought, only experienced and shared.

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I always believed that the pursuit of happiness was shallow and frivolous. “Be happy” always sounded rather flippant and condescending, and just not serious enough. It also seemed impossible and out of reach.

Luckily, my wellbeing coach is a brave man, and one day pointed out to me how fixed and closed I can be about what I believe. In the middle of explaining to him it was because I was usually right, I realized in horror that he was right. In that flash of insight moment, everything changed. A big beautiful door flew open and I realized I don’t really want to be “right”, I want to be happy.

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Since then, the Universe has fed me new ideas, thoughts and experiences of what I’m calling radical happiness. I’m beginning to see the true value of being happy, and that it really is a gift to be the bearer of happiness, ease and light-heartedness.

Happiness, for me, is an inside job, and is born out of a very tender and sweet place. My happiness loves color, movement, sunrises, heartfelt chats, and gentle connection. What I once thought was unattainable, has become very present, very real, and very powerful.

Needless to say I am grateful beyond words.

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BE BRAVE.

BE HAPPY.

BE YOU.

lOve, vickiO

lOss, grief and beauty

“It may be that when we no longer know which way to go we have come to our real journey. The mind that is not baffled is not employed. The impeded stream is the one that sings.”

  – Wendell Berry

I have tried writing this post every couple of days for the past 2 months, and haven’t gotten any farther than the first few sentences each time. Today will be different. It just has to be. The question is – “How does one go about writing about the process of grief when there is no roadmap, no “This Way” sign, and no solid ground to be found?”

The truth is I want to be writing about something else. Something that is inspiring, and uplifting, and pretty. I want to be sharing what I’m doing to feel better (meditating, spending time in Nature, reminding myself that I’m a part of the universe). But, my soul keeps tugging on my sleeve and whispering, “tend to your heart, dear one”.

For a good part of my life I protected my heart behind a wall of perfectionism and the belief that “it doesn’t matter”. I told myself over and over again that it doesn’t matter if I get hurt, if I get left, or if there isn’t any help. It was an effective coping mechanism back then, but over the past 25 years I’ve been committed to being a more vulnerable, authentic and wholehearted person.

And that means staying connected to myself, and choosing to listen for those things that really do matter to me. It also means taking responsibility for what I need, and not leaving it up to others to figure it out for me. As my coach Andy says, “Your wellbeing is in your hands.”

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thank yOu tO my sister Julie for sending this tO me❤️

For me, grief triggers shame and thoughts of weakness and failure. Unfortunately, from the place of shame I begin asking some really unhelpful questions: “What is wrong with me that losing one of my dearest soul sisters and my Mom in a span of 6 months has dropped me to my knees? What is wrong with me that I can’t think or focus for any length of time? What is wrong with me that I’m struggling to stay in contact with the dear friends and sisters who are still in my life? Why am I not strong enough to “handle” this and just move on?”

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I’d rather not feel vulnerable. Ever. But life really isn’t like that. I’m learning through this process that it’s worth the effort to summon my courage and risk being vulnerable. That by being vulnerable with those who love me, the loss and pain really does begin to shift. By being vulnerable with those who “get me”, I’m finding that their love, understanding and wisdom really does reach my heart, and some of the raw edges are begining to soften. Where I thought there was only loss and shame, there begins to grow true connection.

“Courage originally meant

‘To speak one’s mind by telling all one’s heart.'”

-Brene Brown

Shame and anger tell me I don’t have what it takes to move through this. But my amazing heart tells me I’m strong enough to feel this deep loss and come through to the other side. It keeps telling me that this work is very important and that it is essential to honor my process, my path, my wisdom. My heart says, “Listen more, and judge and react less.” And my heart and dear friends promise that if I stay with my vulnerable self, the pain will shift and transform, and bring renewed light and joy in due time.

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As I stay committed to my wellbeing, I will continue my play dates with the sunrise, build cairns of peace and remembrance, strengthen my body, meditate, keep seeing beauty, and ask for courage, joy and ease for myself and all others.

Thank you for listening, caring, believing. May you trust the wisdom of your own heart, and begin to soften some of those jagged edges in your own life. You are worth it.

BE BRAVE.

BE GENTLE.

BE TRUE.

lOve, vickiO

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learning, lOving, grOwing – Or – “just say nO, just say yes”

“Evolutionarily, we’re always concerned with what’s not right. That’s what makes gratefulness delightfully subversive.”
– Dale Biron

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I may have said a few times before that I am a reluctant student. Don’t get me wrong. I lOve learning. I just don’t like (sometimes hate) having to admit that I don’t know something – well, everything! You know, having to admit you don’t have it all figured out. Yea, kinda funny, right?!

Actually, it’s pretty painful. Painful enough that I’ve decided to accept some help, take a stand on my own behalf, and do it a different way. (My Wellbeing Coach is working hard to teach me that it really is possible to change my mind. Literally!)

What this really means is I’m saying no to shame and embarrassment for not knowing. It means saying no to fear and worry that I might look stupid. It means saying no to beliefs that keep me tight and closed. And, it means saying no to anger and perfectionism as a way to protect myself and my tender heart. Yikes!

Just as importantly, these are the things I’m saying yes to:

  • Choice
  • Gratitude
  • Trust, and the
  • Universal Creative Force.

Big stuff for this “know it all and proud of it” girl!

This kind of change requires daily practice. If I stop paying attention, I find myself down the rabbit hole staring into the face of that grinning Cheshire Cat. Not the sweet fuzzy kitten face, but the grin that says “I gotcha again”. Nope, not this time. This time, this “Alice”, is going to create her own Wonderland!

My healing team has expanded and now includes Dr. Bradley Williams, Dr. Stephen Fry, and the above mentioned Wellbeing Extraordinaire, Andrew Miller, PhD. The truth is, I feel better than I have since I got sick. And, as shocking as this is to say – I now see that I got sick to get well – “well” on a whole new level – “well” not only in body, but in mind and sOul, too.

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On many days I feel lighter, happier, and freer than ever before. I am still a work in progress, and always will be. I just now know that life is kinder if I’m open, and not clinging so tightly to the thoughts and beliefs that undermine my happiness and wellbeing. Maybe this old dog can learn a few new things.

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Here are a few new messages I am giving myself this Summer:

Keep looking for what is right and lovely in your world.

Let jOy in the front door of your sOul hOuse, and relax into the support of the Universe.

Be grateful for those who lOve you, and lOve them back even more.

Release your grip on how you think things should be, and relax into the freedom and beauty of how they really are.

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BE BRAVE.

BE GENTLE.

BE TRUE.

lOve, vickiO

blOOming crazy

“Do everything with so much lOve in your heart that you would never want to do it any other way.”

 – Yogi Amrit Desai

I continue to be overly obsessed with buds and blooms this Spring. They are all so beautiful and miraculous, and continue to give me hOpe that I have the same ability inside me. The same ability to withstand all sorts of storms, and heat, and howling winds, and still have the innate ability to blOom like crazy when it is time. The key phrase being – “when it is time”. Still working on that one : )

Not every cactus blooms every year. Last year, almost every saguaro I saw had hundreds of blooms. Their multiple arms were a brilliant show of white flowers that fed the bees, birds and bats. This year, there are far fewer buds and blooms on the magnificent Sonoran desert saguaros. The question is – Do I lOve them any less? Not a chance!

last year’s beauty

This got me thinking about how much pressure our culture, and in turn ourselves, place on us to always be in the “blooming brilliantly” season.  Crazy unrealistic, no?!

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Doesn’t it make sense that we, just like the saguaros, need restorative and growth periods, too? Do you think the miraculous cacti feel shameful when they aren’t blooming like mad? I don’t think so! I imagine they are patiently and lovingly giving themselves time to regenerate so they can keep living long and happy lives. And, isn’t that what we all want, too?

I will continue to be impressed and obsessed by the gorgeous blooms Mother Nature is celebrating with this year, but I’m also honoring and appreciating the “quieter” cacti who are just going about their business of internal growth and preparedness for more blooms to come. Just like me, I guess.

As we move into Summer, my husband and I will be hitting the open road, and heading back to Minnesota for a family wedding. We will also be gathering with friends to celebrate the life our dear friend, Sharon Lunde. I continue to stumble through the darkness of grief, being grateful for everything she taught me, gave me, and saw in me. Mostly, I’m grateful for all the time we had together. I’m a way better person because of it.

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All of us who knew and loved Sharon continue to miss her terribly, trying to adjust to life on this planet without her. I get loss and grief like never before, and am humbled by those on the planet who experience loss after loss, and choose to keep loving in spite of it. Just like Sharon did. May there be healing, recovery, and in time, more beautiful blooms for all of us.

No matter what, dear friends, keep choosing lOve. For yourself. For the people who are important to you. For those that are suffering. For those fighting for peace, equality, justice and freedom.

Keep choosing lOve.

Always and forever.

Keep choosing lOve.

Keep breaking Open.

Keep healing.

Keep grOwing.

Keep blOssOming. It is all sO wOrth it.

lOve, vickiO

 And, when it is yOur time…

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snails, meditatiOn, and despicable me

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“Grief and gratitude are kindred souls, each pointing to the beauty of what is transient, and given to us by grace.”

– Patricia Campbell Carlson

Spring has sprung here in the Southwest desert, and once again, Mother Nature has outdone herself. Several species of cacti are budding and blooming like crazy, beautiful wildflowers are shining in the sun, and the giant saguaros are preparing to show off their brilliant white crown to usher in summer in mid-May. Even our potted cactus on our deck is getting into the action by sprouting a few new “leaves”. Mother Nature sure knows how to throw a party!!

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There is this saying that goes, “Adopt the pace of nature – her secret is patience.” Well, I must have inadvertently enrolled in the “Master Class of Cultivating Patience”, because my healing pace is that of a snail right now. Don’t get me wrong. I quite like snails. I just never thought I would be one.

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As I continue to measure and manage the small amount of daily energy I have, with Mother Nature’s insistence, I can’t help but continue to believe that my health will return when it is truly ready.

“In due time, Sweetie, in due time.” – lOve, mOther nature

In my first two posts of this year ( let’s begin. again. and hellO 2015, hellO Possibilities), I mentioned my commitment to exploring meditation as a way to help myself gain some calm and steadiness in my daily life.

I’ve always liked the idea of meditation, but could never get myself to do it more than once or twice in a row. Seriously. The pressure of having a “spiritual experience” was just too much for me. And if I couldn’t levitate after the first couple of sessions, what was the point?!

That’s why I lOve the book, Real Meditation in Minutes a Day, by Joseph Arpaia and Lobsang Rapgay, with a Foreward by the Dalai Lama. There is nothing mysterious or vague, nothing mystical or other worldly. Not that there’s anything wrong with those things, but for me, the practical, step-by-step approach makes it so much more accessible. I’m only on Chapter 3, and I’m already feeling subtle but powerful benefits.

My acupuncturist, Mary Papa, says it best. “Oh, meditation is really just about being self aware.” This, from a brilliant woman who meditates at least 20 minutes every day, and has a centered peace about her that I just lOve. I’m beginning to get the connection for the first time in my life!

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After my husband and I finished watching the final round of The Masters a few Sundays ago, I started absent-mindedly flipping through the channels. As the myriad of choices flew by, my eyes and heart settled on watching the last half of a movie I had never seen.

One of the subtle benefits of my new meditation practice is noticing when my intuition quietly whispers, “Oh, that might be good”. I’m slowly learning that when life hands me a jewel (many things don’t look like jewels, but in fact are) I best take it, and say “thank you very much.”

And, so, on that Sunday afternoon, I said “yes” to the movie, Despicable Me!

The gifts I received from this movie are nothing short of a miracle. First, it made me laugh, and cry, and feel my tender child-self heart that yearned for, but rarely got, a simple sweet kiss on the top of her head every night.

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Second, it made me aware of how easily and often I turn on myself, and call myself names, like despicable, selfish, and grandiose.

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Gru

And lastly, it inspired me to put into practice some serious self-care. See, in the movie, after Gru finally gives in and kisses the girls goodnight, he is met outside the bedroom door by all of his minions. Surprisingly, they all want kisses, too. When Gru shakes his head no, all of his hard-working, ever present minions are shocked and heartbroken. One actually breaks down crying, and so do I.

In that moment, I realized that those sweet, funny-looking minions were like all the cells in my body. They work tirelessly day after day, month after month, year after year, and never ask for anything in return. But they sure would appreciate a gentle kiss on the top of their heads, too.

So, as Gru softed and gave in to his minions, I felt myself soften and vow to kiss every one of my hardworking cell-minions goodnight as well. And, every time I catch myself being mean to myself, or can’t fall asleep, or just have a little bit of time, I visualize giving them all kisses. And, really. What’s so hard about that?

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Celebrate Spring, my dear friends, and keep choosing patience and kindness. I’m finding it is what I really need to do the hard work of living and grieving.

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A sense of humor is also important! Here are a few of things that have made me laugh recently. No surprise – there are a few swear words involved. Enjoy!

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Now, don’t you feel just a little bit better : )  Need one more?

I’m smiling, and I hope you are, too!

I’m also smiling because I was invited to put some of my art in the Boutique at the TruFit Studios here in Fountain Hills! My vickiO Art Events Page will give you all the details! Because of all our travel plans this summer, I won’t be opening my online store until early Fall. Please contact me at vickiOart@cox.net if you see a piece of art posted here that your heart is calling out for ❤️ and I will be more than happy to make sure you get it!

Thank you for being one of the loving, understanding and brave souls on the planet. It truly would be unbearable without you!

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be tender. be brave. be true.

lOve, vickiO

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let’s begin. again. and again…

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“Give every day the chance to become the most beautiful day of your life.”

Mark Twain

For most of January and early February I was terribly scared, concerned, and frantically spinning with fatigue and fear. During those days, I was asking a lot of questions in my head (a dangerous neighborhood to go by oneself, as my dear friend Karla says). Questions like, “How come I’m this sick again?” and “What is wrong with me?”, and sadly, “How can I expect John to stick around if I can’t do anything?” Oh, how quickly I turn on myself.

In retrospect, I realized the biggest error in my ways was in asking all the “wrong” questions. “Wrong” being those things that are out of my control. Focusing on those things will cause you to go crazy, you know.

In response to my turmoil, amidst many tears and much worrying, I have chosen to let go and begin again. And again. Here is what I am choosing to focus on instead:

  • My husbands’ love for me, and his ability to keep me smiling and laughing, and his belief that I am getting better and better. I SO believe in us, and so does he!
  • An affirmation from Louise Hay (I’m not always big on affirmations, but this one feels good to me right now) – “I am enthusiastic about life and filled with energy.”
  • Making really positive morning decisions – meditation, art journaling, drinking water.
  • How much stronger I am than I used to be, and what is most helpful physically to me right now.
  • How cool it is to be learning so much from the incredible artists/teachers in Life Book 2015. You can still sign up HERE!
  • AND, stay really clear about what I value, what brings me joy, and what is most important in my life.

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shOw and tell (one of my favorite things as a kid : )

Last June, in my post titled  lOve, trust and demOlitiOn, I shared pictures of our condo remodel in progress. During one of my daily visits to Starbucks a few weeks ago, I ran into our contractor Tony, and he reminded me that I never posted the “after” pictures of our project. Now that everything has been completed, including my brand new vickiO art studiO, it’s time for the big reveal!

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Our new Open kitchen! Love, love, love!

If you need a great contractor, and live in the Phoenix area, contact Tony Timonte at Accurate Interiors, HERE!

the updated bar/buffet area

the updated bar/buffet area

The pictures really don’t do the space justice, but trust me – the colors are bright and comforting and bring us much jOy. We plan to be here for a long time❤️

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We lOve our new, contemporary, sunlit, loft-feeling place!

And now to my studio! For the artists out there, most of what you see was purchased at IKEA for a very reasonable price. A huge thank you to my talented friend, Lisa Shore, who designed the room and took me to the IKEA store in Tempe Arizona to select, pick (literally pick the products off of the warehouse shelves, load them onto a large cart, and wheel them up to the checkout lane) and purchase each piece. We laughed, lugged, and lunched our way around the place, and the result is priceless!

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I even held my first one-on-one art class here with a woman from Chicago who saw my work at the November art fair! Loving being vickiO!

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And with just a few changes, here it is as a guest room!

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It really helps to use carts and shelves with wheels on them for art supplies. While our guests are here, I just move the necessary pieces into our bedroom, and continue to create and paint there.

February 24, 2015

My life changed drastically and shockingly today. My dearest friend, Sharon Lunde, passed away suddenly. She was my mentor, my teacher, my mother, and my Soul Sister for 32 years. We were the true definition of The Mutual Admiration Society.

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Silly me, I thought I could prepare myself for this day. At least a little, anyway. Not even remotely possible. Mind-numbing, heart-breaking loss. Unknown territory. Beginning again.

Here are a few things I said in her eulogy:

“Surprisingly, Sharon didn’t think she was an artist, and yet, if you were lucky enough to be one of her students, colleagues or friends, she could take the scattered bits and pieces of your broken heart, and fiercely and lovingly weave it back together again, and make you whole.

And she was willing to do that over and over and over again.

The truth is, I loved everything about her – and luckily, she loved everything about me. There was no way to walk away from our time together and not feel important, or seen, or heard. I don’t know what life will be like without her. Only time will tell. All I know for sure is that her love challenged me, transformed me, and saved me, and I will be forever grateful.”

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Created in the LifeBook 2015 online class, taught by Tamara LaPorte. (Sharon lOved this piece.)

Sharon would have loved the Celebration of Her Life that took place last Monday. It was touching and real, funny and sad, moving and inspiring, and standing room only. It was all about her – just as it should be, and just as she would have wanted it to be.

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Seek comfort for your beautiful heart. Hug those you love. Appreciate the goodness in your world.

lOve, vickiO

 

hellO 2015, hellO pOssibilities

Whatever you do, don’t stop moving forward. In art, in love, and in life. Don’t lose the hunger. Long for the next chance to feed that hunger, not to silence it.

– David duChemin, photographer

The end of one year, and the beginning of another, is one of my favorite things. Not for the parties or the drinking. Not for the late night or the crowds.  But for the time to review and honor the lessons and gifts of the past year, and for the dreaming and honoring of the possibilities that are waiting for me in the new one. And the kissing. I love the kissing.

I tend to measure the success of a year by the fears I faced, the challenges I said yes to, how gentle I’ve been with myself and others, and by my capacity for love and gratitude. My goal is to not only celebrate my growth (which helps keep me going), but to see where I might want to place my focus in the coming year.

To help me continue on the path of becoming my healthiest self (mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually – which, like my therapist says, is a full-time job), 2015 will include:

  • Life Book 2015 – An Honoring and Celebration of You! This is an online mixed-media art course, organized by Tamara Laporte at Willowing Arts in the UK. Among many other wonderful possibilities listed in her LifeBook Manifesto, these are the parts that caught my eye: “We look to become our own super heroes and our own best friends. We feel our feelings. We lean into discomfort and see where it takes us. We honour our inner world, we sit down with sadness, we sit in the fire and rise again, like the phoenix.” If you are looking for a way to play, explore and grow this year, check this out by clicking on the link above. You will not be disappointed!
  • Meditation – This is something I have dabbled in, struggled with, loved, and hated for many years. I’ve started reading, at the suggestion of my therapist, the book Real Meditation In Minutes A Day by Joseph Arpaia. It talks about the idea that our minds, just like our bodies, need training to be fit and healthy, calm and relaxed, calm and steady. My mind SO needs this training! I’ll let you know how I’m doing with it. Uh, where was I? Oh, right…
  • Continue Reading The Untethered Soul by Michael A. Singer. This book is on the  New York Times best seller list and complements my goals of greater trust, knowing and creativity in the new year.
  • Continue Practicing Radical Self Care – acupunture, therapy, resting, choosing, saying, and letting my artist-self play til her hearts content.
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This is me dOing whatever it takes to make my inner artist happy‼️She is sO happy‼️

Thank you 2014, for blessing me with improving health, the best husband in the world, the loveliest of friends, creative inspiration, the most magical road trip, generous and supportive vickiO Art customers, and moments of jOy that will last as long as I live.

To those of you suffering with Valley Fever, please know you are not forgotten. Each day, when I feel grateful for my improving health, I send healing and heart energy to everyone of you. There is so much physical and emotional pain that comes with this illness, and the road is often very lonely. More light needs to be shed on the acute and long-term effects of Valley Fever. Our voices need to be heard. I’m thinking of some creative ways to bring more light, attention, understanding and education to our cause, so we are all not so alone. More to come on this in 2015.

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Another on-going goal of mine is -how should I say- to become “co-dependent no more”. Or at least “co-dependent a hell of a lot less”. Much of the time, it feels like I’m fighting a ghost, an aberration, or an unseen marauder, that sabotages my self-esteem and confidence at every turn. It causes me to question even the smallest decisions, and, I’m realizing, is taking up way too much of my precious energy.

I have come a long way in my recovery, and will continue to do what ever it takes to defeat this most sinister foe. It is my work to do, and I’m sure not going to stop now! Best book on this work – Facing Codependence by Pia Mellody.

Life isn’t about being harmonious with other people, it’s about being harmonious with ourselves. -Panache Desai

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Be calm.

Be relaxed.

Be at peace.

lOve, vickiO

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Artwork by Miss Aubrey : )

the energy Of things

Three and a half weeks ago I completed my first 3-day juried art fair. It was truly a dream come true, and one in which I experienced the kiss of grace, love and friendship over and over again.

I thought I’d be able to describe and share my experiences from the weekend by now, but the truth is, I’m still in major “integration phase” over here. I’ve worked my whole life to arrive at this magical and deep place, and I don’t want to rush through the process of discovering all the gifts that lay within. It feels like very sacred ground to me, and I want to take the time to honor it all.

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With that being said, I don’t want to miss this opportunity to say thank you to all you beautiful people out there. It feels important to acknowledge the love and support I have received from my friends, family, and customers this past year. Without you all, I wouldn’t be where I am today, and that would be a very sad state of affairs, indeed.

You have touched my life in ways you may never know, and I will cherish each and every special moment for the rest of my life. Just know – kindness really does change the world.

I have more peace, more confidence, and more comfort in my body and soul than at any other time in my life. Every experience, lesson, and hour of therapy over the past 50+ years has brought me here, and I am grateful for it all.

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Yes, I’m even grateful for Valley Fever. Not for the disease per se, but for what I have learned, gained, let go of, and embraced. I know jOy like never before. And even though I’m not always happy being careful and thoughtful with my energy, this slower paced life suits me quite well.

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So, I will leave you with thoughts of lOve, and grace, and blessings of all kinds. Celebrate your friends and families, sunshine, rain and snow, and the miracles of this year-end season. Most of all, celebrate yourselves. Embrace your beauty, your uniqueness, and the power of your amazing heart.

BE GENTLE.

BE BRAVE.

BE TRUE.

AND…

lOve, vickiO

P.S. You can find me on Thursdays at the Fountain Hills Farmer’s Market and Art On The Avenue.

Come support our local growers and artists‼️

We are on the Avenue of the Fountains from

11am to 5pm every Thursday from now until May.

Thank you‼️

heART 101

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I’m sitting in my comfy bed watching the TV show The Voice right now, and continue to be amazed, week after week, by the tremendously talented artists on this show. It is inspiring and heart-warming to watch the contestants consciously choose to become more and more of who they really are. As impressed as I am with the contestants, this season I am even more in awe of the judges. They are all extremely accomplished musicians and performers, and the reason is not only their talent, but their commitment to being true to themselves. They are teaching the artists, and those of us watching, that the real value and beauty of life is in living from and expressing our unique “voices” in the world.

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Wouldn’t it be great if this was part of the curriculum in every school in the country? We could call it heART 💟 101. And as coach Pherrell says, “we need more different in the world”. Don’t you just love that❤️‼️

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As much as I enjoy watching these miracles unfold on the screen in front of me, I’m very aware that a lot of the real life of the process has been edited to “fit the time slot”. In real life, there is no such editing available – not that I haven’t looked high and low for it! But the truth is, there are no shortcuts. There is no perfect. And taking the steps to become more of who we are is messy, frightening and courageous work indeed.

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As I continue to prepare for the 3-day Fountain Hills Art Festival in mid-November, I’m having to consciously choose to be true to myself over and over again. Fear and doubt are such loud mouths, and though they believe they are keeping me safe, I’m having to challenge their every word! Most (if not all) of what they say is nOt true, but they are so damn persistent and loud that I start to believe them.

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To bring some light to the darkness, I began writing down what my internal critics were saying to me. It is impossible to battle the demons if I don’t know who they are. Here is my Top Ten List of Mean Things To Say To Yourself To Stop Your  Creativity In It’s Tracks:

1⃣ Everyone will know you are a beginner, and laugh. 2⃣ Everyone will know you really don’t belong here. 3⃣ You paid what for your booth?! You’ll never sell enough to make it worthwhile. 4⃣ Your art isn’t unique enough. 5⃣ Your art isn’t professional enough, or sophisticated enough. 6⃣ How can you think you will have enough energy to pull this off?? 7⃣ You will never be enough. 8⃣ La-dee-dah. So you’re an artist. So what. 9⃣ Don’t think you’re special – because you aren’t. 🔟 Nobody really cares what you think.

Ow. Ow. Ow. Hearing this is really painful, but I know that choosing not to hear it is deadly.

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imageTo help myself combat these untruths, I am pretending that I got a chance to pick The Voice judge, Pharrell Williams, as MY coach. I’m choosing him because he is consistently kind-hearted, honest, and humble.  He is crazy talented and never seems to do or say anything without first consulting his heart. He could definitely be the professor of heART 💟 101!

Thank you, Pharrell, for honoring your gifts, and encouraging me to do the same. I will continue to open my heart, and consciously create my art, and my life.

 “The process to create is simple when

your heart is completely open.”

Pharrell Williams

You no longer need to feel guilt. You can just sing for you.”

– just uttered by Pharrell (speaking directly to me!)

When I’m not being held hostage by my internal critics, I am actually really happy and excited about showing my artwork – and showing more of me. How sad would it be to die never having been courageous enough to let myself shine? If not now, when? I really do believe we are all meant to shine in our own unique way. Not based on what others think, but based on our own hearts, our own loves, and our own standards.

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Here’s to living and loving life on our own terms.

It’s your life. Live it the way you want to.

Be gentle. Be brave. Be true.

lOve, vickiO

my crazy gOOd life

imageMy husband and I have just returned to our newly remodeled condo after an amazing 25-day celebratory road trip.

My health has improved enough that we were able to travel 4,000 miles through 7 states and British Columbia, play 8 rounds of golf, check 2 Major League ballparks off our list, ride 2 ferries and 4 gondolas, hug giant Pacific Northwest trees, take my first hike in 33 months, experience magnificent mountains, visit some family and friends, eat delicious food, walk in the Pacific Ocean, and fall in lOve all over again.

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I’ve been struggling with writing this post because I keep running out of words to describe what it really felt like, and what it really means to me to have shared this time together. Then I realized that being able to describe it is not the most important part – being present, being kind, feeling my feelings, being inspired, and letting lOve in is the most important part for me.

So, in lieu of waiting for the ability to describe amazing travel experiences like my gifted writer friend, Lisa Malecha (check her out at Nomadic Narrator), I’ve decided to stick with the words I uttered at least 100 times on the trip – this is crazy gOOd!

crazy gOOd lOve in Tofino, BC

crazy gOOd lOve in Tofino, BC. is he cute, or what❤️‼️

For several months now I have been painting hearts. Big hearts, little hearts, hearts with wings, and hearts in all colors of the rainbow. All the while my internal critic has been chattering away telling me I should be painting landscapes, realistic images, and be more of a fine art artist. And, she says, “real artists don’t put words on their paintings!” She is always so bossy and confident that, on many days, I have believed her.

The problem is, I don’t want to paint those things – it’s not fun or inspiring for me, and it sure doesn’t light me up. And if I learned anything on this trip, it’s to do more of what lights me up (these words will probably end up on a painting, too!)

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Whistler, BC

I lOve being outside – in the woods, in the mountains, on the golf course, at the ocean, climbing rocks, and visiting the saguaros. I need to hug trees, dangle my feet in mountain lakes, hike rocky streams, and feel the sun on my face. My heart and soul need these things to be ok, to be healthy, and to feel alive. It has been terribly scary over the last few years without them. As I stood sobbing on the beach in Tofino, BC, I realized that nature puts me in touch with a part of myself and the world that I am unwilling to live without.

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heaven On earth❤️‼️

My photographs don’t do Mother Nature justice, but they sure help put me back in touch with the jOy I felt enjoying her magical beauty. And it’s that jOy that I will take with me into my studio, and my friendships, and my ongoing healing life.

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mOrning cOffee at the river’s edge

mOre crazy gOOd life – For the first time ever, I will have a booth at the Fountain Hills Festival of Arts and Crafts in November‼️ It kind of takes my breath away to write that! Over the years I have been to many, many art fairs as a customer, and have always walked away feeling inspired and “lit up” by all the talent and heart offered there. My hope is now to be part of the jOyful and inspiring energy that everyone comes to art fairs for.  Here’s to dreams coming true!

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One mOre crazy gOOd thing… In 1995, my sister, Julie (Kuebelbeck) Interrante, and I wrote a book titled “Caregiver Therapy” for Abbey Press. The book has since been published in 8 languages, and just last month was published in Italian! How cool is that?! crazy gOOd, I tell yOu, crazy gOOd❤️‼️

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So, this very grateful girl will continue to lean into life, take my naps when I need to, and treasure every precious moment there is. Let’s all give our critic the day off, and do more of what lights us up. (Words for my next heart painting for sure : )

Be gentle. Be brave. Be true.

lOve, vickiO

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All art and photos copyright ©vickiO art.