Tagged: art

lOve, trust and demOlition

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For most of April and May, as my energy permitted, I was slowly packing up our home, one drawer, one closet, one cabinet at a time. During the last week of May, my husband moved every box, bag and piece of furniture into either our garage or to a generous neighbors garage. We then moved ourselves and our essentials into our close friends house, just a block away, to stay for the next 2 months.

Major 8-week remodel here we come!!

We have lived in our beautiful condo full time for 2 1/2 years – the same amount of time that I have been dealing with Valley Fever. It has been a place of cOmfOrt, lOve and recOvery, and I’ve been grateful every day that we live in such a beautiful place.

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Even though we would like a little bit more space (especially for my ever growing art studio needs : ) we love our location, so we decided to stay and do a few upgrades. Seriously, could we really leave our birds eye view of our beautiful fountain? I don’t think so❤️‼️

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This major type of remodel (taking down walls, building showers, building a new kitchen, replacing all flooring, and painting almost every surface) is new to me. The closest I have come to this size of a job is watching the Property Brothers on the HGTV channel, and it’s easy to say – I am nO expert! Luckily my husband and our contractor, Tony, are!

The planning and decision making has been fun, challenging and eye-opening. It helped to have Tom Olson, a renowned architect who studied and worked directly with Frank Lloyd Wright, and a highly gifted designer and textile artist, Merle Sykora, walking us through the process. (They are the team that designed and built the house we lived in for 24 years in Minnesota!)

Needless to say, packing and moving was just downright stressful. John had to “pull me off the ledge” a few times, and as my therapist said, “You get 10 extra crazy points during a remodel.” Talk about having to practice letting go of the outcome!

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BOth jOhn and I, and the rest Of the team, have needed all three!

I thought the stress level would just continue to increase as the work began. My mind was working overtime scaring me with thoughts like – “What horrible things are we going to find? What if the existing structure isn’t sound? What if we find bugs and rats and rot, Oh my!?” (Yes, I have earned every one of those extra crazy points!)

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pOst mOve, pre-demOlitiOn

Surprisingly, instead of feeling more anxious and stressed out, I am actually enjoying the demolition process. I’m loving seeing our space “stripped down to the studs.” There is something refreshing and comforting to see what is underneath – to see what the foundation is made of – to see the possibilities. I even got to briefly swing a hammer and knock a towel bar off the wall! Thank you, Tony!

After one week of demOlitiOn, the place looks like this:

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There is something very familiar and inspiring about this process. It reminds me why I have been dedicated to uncovering, recovering, and healing old beliefs and wounds for most of my adult life. Why would I want to try and build a healthier, stronger “sOul hOuse” on top of a structure that is rotting, infested or outdated?  The answer is, I wouldn’t! As hard as it is to see the truth sometimes, it is the only way to a healthier, happier and more creative life.

So, it is refreshing to see the places where our home is strong, and where it is weak. Once it is seen it can fixed, enhanced and made new! This has brought me a level of comfort I wasn’t even aware that I was needing, and encourages me to continue doing my work of healing and recovery. It may not be pretty, but it is worth it!

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Is this a man who looks like he knows what he’s doing? Absolutely! If you are in need of a great contractor, Tony Timonte can be found HERE!

Tony and our gutted kitchen.

Tony and our gutted kitchen.

I am excited to see the outcome of our remodeling project, but no longer want to hurry through the demOlitiOn process. I’m continuing to learn the value of each small step and the importance of trusting myself to make good decisions with the help from a hand-picked team of experts – for home remodeling and my health!

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More updates next month! Until then,

Be gentle. Be brave. Be true.

lOve, vickiO

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chOices, recOvery, and art

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One of my biggest fears in life is to be thought of as selfish. Where I come from, it is one of the most serious of “sins”. And sins are those terrible black marks on your soul that stop you from getting into heaven. Pretty heavy stuff for a child to deal with and make sense of. (Not that this is even possible, mind you.)

Over the years, as I’ve slowly recovered from a childhood filled with fear, unrealistic expectations, alcoholism and neglect, the issue of self-care has repeatedly been the focus. But how do I truly take care of myself without being a sinner? How do I take responsibility for myself first, without adding more of those ugly marks on my soul?

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The truth is, my wounded child self and my soul have been dying for my attention for many years. The more recovery I have, the more I’m finding that codependency and addiction are driven by the deep pain of despair that we feel when we stop listening to the needs, wants and desires of our beautiful and authentic hearts. So how do I reconcile the message of “total self-sacrifice is of highest importance” with my knowing that “self-care and self-responsibility” is the healthier, more balanced way to live? Is it time to give up the promise of heaven?

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Addiction and codependency run rampant in my family tree. It’s like Dutch elm disease, but worse. These two demons are a very toxic and powerful tag team. They truly suck the life out of everyone and everything. One demon speaks of self-importance, manipulation and an indulgent ego, while the other speaks of total self-sacrifice and “bleeding out” for others. I bounced back and forth between those two places many times in my life, until I realized there was no peace (for myself or the people I love) in either place.

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Over the past 2 1/2 years, as I had more time to go inward and listen, I began to hear some profound (and sometimes scary) truths:

  • I am solely responsible for my happiness. (Not my husband, not my sisters, not my parents, not my friends, and no, not even Jesus.) Good riddance codependency! (I will be practicing this for the rest of my life.)
  • It is my job to choose myself. It’s nice to be chosen by others, but the real healing happens when I choose myself. (Who knew?)
  • Help is available, but it is up to me to ask for it. (Still working on this ; )
  • There is no such thing as perfection. (Excuse me!?) Now, after many, many lessons, given the choice between perfection and love, I chose lOve, hands down, every time! (Perfection is a very painful standard to hold yourself, and love ones, to. And there is truly nO peace in it. Trust me, I tried. My dear husband has been my greatest and most patient teacher on this one. Thank you, Honey!)
  • The Reader’s Digest was right – laughter is the best medicine:
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this made me laugh Out lOud!

And…

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I knOw, right?

So, to answer my own question – yes, it is time for me to give up the promise of heaven. I know this choice is not for everyone, and I’m really ok with that. Coming to this conclusion, I am feeling relief and a deep sense of happiness and peace. The unbearable pressure has been lifted. I will continue to do my best by showing up, loving deeply and letting go. Because another of my truths is:

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I am grateful beyond words for my art – the process, the lessons, my teachers and the outcome. My creative artist self is so darn happy, and I am so grateful that I have had this time to explore my own heart and my own truths. I highly recommend it! Thanks so much for all your lOve and encouragement. Want to be an artist?

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lOve this!

SO, as Batman says…

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 Be gentle. Be brave. Be true.

lOve, vickiO

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check Out mOre new vickiO art HERE!

hOly stress test, Batman, what’s the answer nOw?

About a year ago, I wrote my forth blog post, titled hOly rOadrunner, Batman, it is valley fever! At that time, it was a huge relief to finally be able to name why I had been so sick for over a year, and to begin healing. Now, another year later, Batman doesn’t think it’s valley fever anymore, and I am once again searching for an answer.

Every doctor I have seen has told me that a negative Valley Fever blood test doesn’t rule it out. Why now does Dr. Galgianni (aka Batman) say that he doesn’t think I have VF because my blood tests have all been negative???

Has the Joker finally taken over Gotham City?

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In an effort to get a definitive diagnoses, my husband and I decided it was best to make an appointment at the Mayo Clinic here in Arizona. Even though it is out of our insurance network, we thought if anyone could help us, the doctors there could. So in early March, with high hopes and two years worth of test results in hand, we headed to the Mayo Clinic.

My appointment was with Dr. Doug Peterson, and as we were called in, we were told he liked to initially see the patient alone. The nurse said she would bring John in later. All too quickly I override my alarm bells, and agree to going in alone. Have I mentioned I’m a slow learner?

I am a huge believer in having an advocate with you at all times when dealing with doctors, but this is the Mayo Clinic, and they know best, right?! WRONG! Fifteen minutes into the appointment I ask to have my husband join us. The doctor talked me out of it by saying he just wants to get to know me. He worried that John might talk too much and take over the appointment. Even though none of that is true, I again override my needs and agree with the doctor. (Okay, I’m a slow learner AND a delayed reactor.)

I’m not saying Dr. Peterson wasn’t smart, he was just also arrogant, controlling and selfish.

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The goal of going to the Mayo was to rule out any serious conditions that we might have missed over the last two years. So last week, I  had a nuclear stress test and an echocardiogram to make sure my symptoms were not being caused by coronary artery disease. My father died of a massive heart attack at the age of 64, (ack! I’m less than 10 years from that age!) and I sure don’t want to take my heart health for granted.

all hOOked up and ready fOr the treadmill!

all hOOked up and ready fOr the treadmill!

20140324-222836.jpg After secretly hoping they would find something that would explain the symptoms I have had over the last 25 months, I am very happy to report that all heart tests, breathing tests and blood work are normal!

All catastrophic conditions have been ruled out, and that truly is a very good thing! In this moment, I am extremely grateful for my body and love that I am still in pretty good shape! image

With the knowledge that I am dealing with a chronic condition, and not something that is going to cause me to drop dead in my tracks, I next went to my acupuncturist, Mary Papa. She is an amazingly gifted practitioner and healer, and has helped me tremendously over the last 18 months. I knew she could help clear the radioactive medicine from my body, and continue to support me in moving forward with love, gratitude and wisdom.

yes, that is my ear. pretty cOOl, huh?!

yes, that is my ear. pretty cOOl, huh?!

So in an instant of clarity, with needles still in my ear, I realized that although I still really like Batman, I don’t need him to save me! I am, after all, Catwoman! Catwoman, if you remember, is very resourceful, agile, empathic and extremely skilled at evading capture. So now that I have remembered who I am, I will NOT allow this illness, Batman, or any doctor for that matter, to stop me from believing in myself or being who I really am! There! I said it.

sexy, strOng wOman with attitude❤️

sexy, strOng wOman with attitude❤️

As I move forward, I have recommitted to knowing and listening to myself like never before. The truth is, I know a lot about myself, what I need, and who to trust. I just need to get better at hearing and listening to my wise inner voice when she says, “That’s not going to work for me.” When I am able to say those words in the moment I need to, I will be dancing in the street! Keep an eye out for me!

After experiencing a very specific set of symptoms over the last 26 months, extensively researching Valley Fever and other chronic fatigue conditions, and ruling out all acute conditions, I am convinced I have been dealing with VF all along. Just like viral illnesses that become chronic fatigue conditions, I believe VF can become a chronic fatigue type illness, too. Just because Western medicine doesn’t know what to do with those of us with these conditions, doesn’t mean it isn’t real. I will continue to educate, research and advocate for Valley Fever patients and their families, as it is just the right thing to do.

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I will leave you with a few images of our beautiful desert blooms and fountain, and a couple new vickiO creations inspired by the interesting and amazing path I find myself on.

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Be gentle. Be brave. Be true.

lOve, vickiO

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life’s dance lessOns

Fortunately, I love to dance – with my husband, with my friends, and even by myself. It makes me feel happy and alive, and healthy and free. Maybe the Universe is just trying to teach me a new dance step!

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I am needing every optimistic bone in my body to learn the Valley Fever Cha-Cha. My question is, “Is it still the cha-cha when it’s two steps forward and three steps back?”

Over the past 6 weeks I have had a booth at Art on the Avenue in Fountain Hills, played a few rounds of golf (hello 85 and 38 : ) and attended three gatherings.  All of this happened with a lot of help, encouragement and understanding from my husband and friends – thank you, thank you!  And, oh how fun it has been! Yeah for two steps forward!

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At the same time, half of the days have been filled with severe fatigue, headaches and sickness. Those three steps back are getting harder and harder to manage.

But what was it that they said about Ginger Rogers?

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Yeah for Brave Girls in high heels and cowboy boots!

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So, on this day, I have chosen to put my brave girl boots on and begin again.

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What I know works for me:

  • A nice walk in the morning – even if it’s for 5 minutes,
  • followed by stretching and a few yoga poses,
  • followed by a short relaxing meditation,
  • and finally writing my Morning Pages (The Artist’s Way).
  • Breakfast comes in the form of a smoothie made with almond milk, dates, berries, baby spinach leaves, maca powder, cacao nib, chia seeds, and raw protein powder (all organic : ) I do love our Vitamix Blender!
  • T H E N, let go of any expectations for the rest of the day. Enjoy what I can, rest when I need to, and choose to be kind to myself no matter what. (I’m still working on this last part.)

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Healing and learning looks so different from one person to another. But, for all of us, it takes a tremendous amount of courage to continue to trust where life leads us. Many times over the past 2 years I believed this “dance lesson” was over, only to hear the music begin again as the teacher called me back into the studio. So this time, after many tears, anger and grief, I am returning to the “studio” with more willingness and love in my heart. I keep hearing:

Be. Kinder. Be. Gentler. Be. You.

So, I am choosing to leave my reluctance at the door, smile when I hear the music begin again, and willingly take to the dance floor to learn more steps of the VF Cha-Cha.

 Thank you for listening, and holding my highest good

in your heart. I am doing the same for you.

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On the VickiO art frOnt – If I make it back out to the Fountain Hills “Art on the Avenue” on Thursday, I will post it on Facebook. (LIKE my Facebook page here! ) I have a few new art pieces and wonderful new items to share. They would make great holiday gifts! Tote bags, calendars and iPhone 5 cases, Oh My!

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And for those amazing party hosts – handcrafted wine bottle tags! Enjoy all the wonderful and loving people you have in your life. For me, they are the true gifts of the holidays!

Until then,

be gentle

be brave

be true

lOve, vickiO

dOesn’t travel well

As I slowly improved over the summer months, my husband and I set our sights on a 2 1/2 week driving trip to Minnesota in September. We even had a few “practice” trips to make sure I could handle the car ride, and still be able to function when we arrived at our destination. Our generous friends offered up their cabins in Northern Arizona to us, so with three short trips under our belts, we were ready. Or so we thought…

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On September 1st, we packed up the car, which included John’s golf clubs, 4 of my clubs and a pair of golf shoes (ever the optimist), a cooler, some magazines, canvases, art supplies and many cute outfits for all the fun things we were going to do when we got there. Oh, I also had a Tempurpedic pillow and a full-size body pillow because my naps are still a must. It was like having a third person in the car, but it sure helped me get comfy enough to sleep. John would just shake his head every time I lugged the body pillow from the back seat to the front, but he knew a rested wife, was a happy wife.

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From Fountain Hills to Albuquerque, and on to Colorado Springs and Lincoln, NE, we drove. Well, John drove, and I rested. We chatted, took in the beautiful landscape, listened to great music and late in the afternoon would look for the next Hampton Inn to rest our heads. One of the highlights was coming across the incredible Russell’s Travel Center  in the middle of Northern New Mexico. Our gas tank was on empty and they had everything one might need on a trip across America. Seriously!

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We arrived in Woodbury, MN on September 4th, and moved into our dear friend Sharon’s beautiful and comfortable lower level. I was feeling tired, but after one of John’s delicious homemade dinners and a great nights sleep, I was ready to enjoy our friends and family on some beautiful Fall days in Minnesota.

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The next morning, Sharon and I headed out for our long awaited walk. It was longer and hotter than either of us had planned, but we are tough, right?! After a quick hello from my dear friend Karla, and a nice lunch, I headed down for a nap. Upon rising, my energy had fallen and my body, for WHATEVER reason, decided it needed 11 more days of rest! Day after day, I would awaken optimistic, and day after day, found myself with almost no energy.

ARGH! No gatherings, no lunches, no nice dinners out. No trips to the golf course, no Project Runway with Karla and the kids, no dinners with friends and family, and no more long walks. And all my cute outfits that had travelled 1,700 miles were left sadly hanging in the closet.

I became so shocked and numb that the whole time feels quite surreal. How embarrassing to be able to drive all the way from Arizona to Minnesota and not have enough energy to drive 30 minutes to Minneapolis or Hastings. How and why did this happen?

It has taken me this long to publish this post because I was really hoping to find the answers to the how and why. Not that I didn’t try, but those are the ever unanswerable questions when it comes to recovering from Valley Fever. And those are the questions that truly drive me crazy.

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So, once again, I am forced to practice letting go. (Can you say slow learner?)

And, once again, I am forced to listen to my body ever so carefully.

And, once again, I am forced to slow down and look inward.

And, once again, I am encouraged to look for what is right in my life. And there is SO much right!

And, once again, I am strongly encouraged to listen to that still, small, wise voice within.

And it all helps me to, once again, gently settle into and accept how life is. (Let gO Or be dragged, Sweetie!)

So on day 11, John packed up the car and we headed back to Arizona. No stop in the Colorado mountains,  the Utah canyon lands, or Kansas City. Just the quickest way home – Wichita to Albuquerque to Fountain Hills.

Conclusions:

> Moving back to the Midwest will not cure my Valley Fever (sorry Mom).

> Planning ahead is for the birds (just so you know, the Canadian geese have safely arrived in Arizona for the winter).

> And, as much as I hate to admit it, I don’t travel well.

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Upon arriving home, we cancelled our trip to Oregon for John’s nieces wedding (so sad), enjoyed being greeted by the first ever bloom on our San Pedro cactus, and settled back into our beautiful Arizona home. I’m once again slowly rebuilding my physical body, resetting my expectations and learning new ways to care for myself. I even committed to a 10-day Sugar Detox with Lacy Young which began October 1st. The experience so far has been enlightening, empowering and freeing.

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I will continue to embrace life the best way I know how, and trust myself to make the healthiest and most fulfilling choices for myself. I am worth it, and so are yOu!

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enjOy this wOnderful change Of seasOn, treat yOurself kindly, and celebrate all the lOve in yOur life!

thank yOu sO much fOr listening : )

much lOve,

vickiO

sOul wOrk

“Do not let your fire go out, spark by irreplaceable spark in the hopeless swamps of the not-quite, the not-yet, and the not-at-all. Do not let the hero in your soul perish in lonely frustration for the life you deserved and have never been able to reach. The world you desire can be won. It exists.. it is real.. it is possible.. it’s yours.”

Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged

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On August 6, 2013, I began a 6-week online e-course titled Soul Restoration, offered by Brave Girls Club . The two beautiful and amazing sisters, Melody Ross and Kathy Wilkins, who founded the club, are on a mission to encourage, connect and remind all of us to live big, brave beautiful lives. It is way worth it to check them out!

As I continue to s-l-O-w-l-y recover from Valley Fever, I am gaining a new perspective on what the last year-a-half has taught me. As of today, among other things, I have learned:

  • hOw to let go (well, at least to let go sooner than I normally would)
can't get much clearer than that!

can’t get much clearer than that!

  • the true meaning of the wOrds “self-care”

  • slOwing dOwn and getting quiet really dOes prOvide the space necessary to hear the wisdOm Of yOur sOul

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  •  tO knOw in my bOnes that I am enOugh

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  • that the universe has really been talking to me thru my art

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  • and, tO trust myself and knOw that I am nOt alOne.

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The Other thing that this dOwn time has taught me, is that my life is preciOus. And that it is sOlely my respOnsibility tO be living the life of my dreams. nO One else knOws what is in the depths of my sOul, and if I’m nOt dedicated tO the expressiOn Of my life, then it’s all On me.  I am sOlely respOnsible for the care of my life and sOul. A bit daunting, yes, but quite exciting, tOO!

I’ve alsO learned that I get tO have help, but I am the Only One that can champiOn “the herO in my sOul” and take that mOst impOrtant step tOwards my heart, and not away frOm it.

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So frOm here On Out (yes, I mean the BIG Out!), I am fully committed tO the full expressiOn Of my life. This may be my Only shOt, and time is shOrt. sO whether I’m “making gOOd art”, hanging with my husband, cOnnecting with family, having cOffee with friends, napping : ), sitting in meditatiOn, or enjOying a beautiful gOlf cOurse, I will bring my whOle heart and sOul with me. dOn’t yOu think it’s abOut time?

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I am grateful to the wisdom of Valley Fever, the love of my family and friends, my health care team, and all the Brave Girls out there walking this “road-less-traveled”. That is what makes this all possible and worthwhile.

turn tOwards yOur heart, find yOur truth, knOw you are wOrth it!

lOve, vickiO

P.S. One mOre thank yOu tO my friends at Starbucks!

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Thank you Nolen, Caitlin, and the rest of the wonderful staff at Starbucks in Fountain Hills Arizona! And Snoopy!

brave, amazing yOu

A few weeks ago, my sister Julie put one of her clients (I’ll call her Robin) in touch with me. Robin had seen a piece of my art work hanging in Julie’s studio, and wanted to commission me to do a similar piece for her.

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Brave Heart 1 dOne fOr the Opening of julie’s studiO in 2012

After having a wonderful conversation with Robin to hear her preference of color and feel, I set off to my studio (currently our dining room table) to uncover some magic.

Blank, stark white canvases don’t scare me. I love the feeling of possibility, and it seems easy to trust my intuition.

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fun, fun, fun!

The middle is where I tend to get scared. It is there where doubt, judgement and big old mean critics creep in. Actually, they usually come storming in, weapons drawn and firing. Sometimes I’m able to head them off at the pass, but when I don’t, my playful, bright and creative artist self shuts down the second she hears those demons at the door.

Somewhere in this “middle waste zone” I quiet myself long enough to hear the gentle whispers of wisdom…

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There are so many wise people in the world, and thankfully they have posted their wisdom on Pinterest!

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This little bit of self-lOve usually brings me back to center. I remember that my primary goal is to have fun and allow myself to explore possibilities.  What’s funny is that once I embrace myself and know that I won’t abandon myself, most of the time the “middle danger zone” clears and I am able to arrive at a most wonderful result.

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So the day Robin’s brave heart was complete, I lovingly boxed it up and sent it to her.

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I love this part, too!

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And upon receiving her Brave Heart, Robin wrote, “I love my Brave Heart art work. It is perfect! Thank you!” I am always amazed at the results when I am able to let go of the outcome. I sure don’t come by it naturally, but I’m learning it is a much gentler and peaceful way to go.

brave heart 2

Brave Heart 2

So thank you, Julie, for putting your client in touch with me! I love celebrating our Brave Hearts! And please click here tO see what amazing and very cOOl things my sister, Julie Interrante, is dOing in SacramentO!

During this time of exploring what it means to be brave hearted, we in Arizona experienced a terrible tragedy. The Yarnell wildfire claimed 19 hotshot firefighters’ lives. The loss of so many brave young men reverberated through every city and left no heart untouched by sorrow.

I have cried and questioned and wondered why. I’ve felt angry at such a cruel turn of events. It is such a helpless place to be, and I can’t imagine the depth of distress in the hearts of the families and friends of these amazing men. So, we donate money, and buy raffle tickets, and hope they can feel our love from a distance.

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The flags in Arizona are still flying at half mast, as they are in our hearts.

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So today I honor all our Brave Hearts. It takes a Brave Heart to walk with fire, to feel loss, to get up in the morning, to take care of the kids, to protect ourselves, to protect others, to deal with illness, to face our fears, and to love.

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lOve, vickiO

fOllOw yOur art, yOur heart, and yOur therapist’s advice

If your doctor ever offers you Physical Therapy, say YES, YES, YES! And if you are recovering from Valley Fever, ask your doctor for a prescription for PT!  I’m not saying it will absolutely help, but there is a whole lot more being offered than just a few suggested exercises. Over the past 6 weeks, my wonderful physical therapist, Barbara, has supported not only my physical being, but my emotional and mental being as well. I had no idea how skilled, creative, funny, caring and wise she would be. I hope she never doubts the difference she is making in the world!

thank yOu, Barbara!

thank yOu, Barbara!

She has even inspired some new artwork…

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nO wiser wOrds have ever been spOken

Ever so slowly, I am improving. It has taken 6 weeks (and 15 months!), but I am now able to drive myself to my PT appointments, take a short trip Up North (Arizona), and even attend a Diamondback baseball game with my husband. He had the hotdog and beer, and I ate all three chicken tacos!

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DBacks wOn with a walk-Off hOmer in the bOttOm of the ninth!

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beautiful pOnderOsa pines in shOw lOw, az

My 2-hour afternoon naps are still very important, as is staying hydrated and eating good food. Just this morning I walked into the kitchen and found four drinking glasses lined up on the counter. I knew they had not been there when I had gone to bed, so I asked my husband if he knew what was going on. He said, “I have a new plan for you!” I smiled, and asked what it was. He said that was the number of glasses of water I needed to drink each day. Bless his heart! Funny thing – my acupuncturist told me today that I needed to drink 76 ounces of water each day. Okay, Universe, I hear you!

Another milestone for me is being able to walk all the way around Fountain Lake – 1.25 miles! Unfortunately, because of the heat, I have to do it at 5am! It is amazing how many friendly people are out at that hour. Here are a few things that made me smile this morning:

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Taking my walk not only helps my physical heart, but my emotional heart as well. So does painting, and smiling at my husband, and saying the truth, and only saying yes when I really mean it. My heart will lead me to my best pOssible life. I just have to remember to listen : )

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and yOur heart!

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Following my (he)art, on many days, is a lot easier said than done. I continue to learn (many days kicking and screaming) that the only person I can save is myself. It is a very hard lesson for this “very good co-dependent”. But everyday I commit to myself to be as healthy physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually as possible.  And just like my art, it is prettier on some days than others.

I will leave you with a few more images that inspired me today – one from Arizona, and one from Minnesota, via my friend Frank Bell.

guardian Of the desert

guardian Of the desert

mama lOOn and her chicks

mama lOOn and her chicks

And one more important reminder from Barbara:

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“Live as if you were to die tomorrow.

Learn as if you were to live forever”

Mahatma Gandhi

chOOse healing thOughts, embrace your feelings, tell the truth

lOve, vickiO

AAA tO the rescue!

I’ve been a huge fan of the AAA road service plan for many years. It has brought immediate comfort to me in those times when I’ve had a flat tire, or when my car wouldn’t start – either because it was 20 below zero in Minnesota,  or because my car had sat in the garage through 110 degree summer days in Arizona. Luckily, AAA service technicians know enough not to judge us for the predicament they find us in. They arrive on the scene ready to take care of the problem and get us on our way. Since I can’t call AAA road service for the predicament I’m in, I thought I would create my very own version:

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Being sick is a very helpless place to be. I am at the mercy of doctors, and medications and “experts” who believe they know what is best for me. I have felt invisible, unheard and less then because I am ill. A very uncomfortable and painful place to be, to say the least. As I write this, I am realizing that my AAA Rescue Plan helps me feel empowered, and useful, and valid. And that is sure what I wish for myself and everyone I know!

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Maybe I’ve said this before, but, the most freeing and supportive words I’ve ever said to myself about creating art were: “Just Play”. These words freed me from the clutches of perfectionism, fear and unrealistic expectations. And honestly, there is point during every piece of art I’ve created where I get tight and scared and judgemental. Luckily, JUST PLAY usually pops into my mind and reconnects me to my playful and intuitive artist who knows just what to do. She really gets it that fear and forcing an outcome are a sure fire way to shut my creative process down. And the most amazing thing is that healing happens when art happens. I guess another way to say that is healing happens when I just play. Mmmmm…. maybe I could just play during other stressful times. I encourage you to find your muse, and let her/him just play. You might be surprised at the outcome!

Just Play! The outcome will take care of itself.

Just Play! The outcome will take care of itself.

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After exhausting many western and complementary care options to no avail, I had several friends ask me whether I had tried acupuncture. Many years ago I had tried it a couple of times, and have witnessed several cases where acupuncture helped in the healing process. So I sat down with my iPad Isabel and my google search brought me to Mary Papa, L.Ac., right here in Fountain Hills. Mary has extensive education and degrees, and she is dedicated to “helping people heal naturally”. The moment I saw her picture on her website Mary Papa Acupuncture, I knew she was the one to see. So I listened to my friends and my intuition, and made an appointment. Mary is kind, gentle, and extremely knowledgable. She listens to me, asks questions, and trusts both her instincts and mine. My experience has been very helpful and healing on many levels, and I truly believe she is teaching me how to live a healthier and more authentic life. I feel more hopeful that I will get well, and as Mary said, “have more energy than I can even imagine”! So, acupuncture and Mary and Chinese Medicine has become an important part of my rescue plan!

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The definition of acceptance is “the action of consenting to receive or undertake something offered”. It sounds easy enough, right? Well, it has never been very easy for me. Especially when what is “being offered” feels like something I don’t want.  And, when the “something” is loss or illness, it becomes even harder. The truth is, life is filled with mostly things that are out of our control. Over the years I have realized that railing against “what is” wastes energy and keeps me stuck. This doesn’t mean that I don’t do my fair share of crying and feeling and processing. Because in reality I find that the processing is what gets me to the place of acceptance. And from a place of acceptance I find I have the power to makes choices and grow and learn. So it may be messy at times, but it definitely works for me.

"acceptance", ink & acrylic on 8x10 canvas board.

“acceptance”, ink & acrylic on 8×10 canvas board.

And remember to:

"just play", ink and acrylic on 5x7 canvas board

“just play”, ink and acrylic on 5×7 canvas board

“Every artist was first an amateur.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson

Have a wonderful day playing and accepting and leaning into life!

vickiO!

starbucks, gratitude and life Of snOOpy

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Starbucks has great coffee, comfortable chairs and free wi-fi.  They have great sandwiches, wonderfully fresh lemon bread and a frequent customer card where you can earn free drinks.  Woo-hoo!  You can sit in their cafes for some solitude, or with a few friends fixing the problems of the world.  All of which is very comfortable, inspiring and mighty tasty.  But the coolest thing about my Starbucks in Fountain Hills Arizona are the baristas and servers and managers.

Long before I got sick, I was a daily visitor to Starbucks for my venti vanilla, non-fat, no-foam latte.  Yes, daily. For some reason I’ve never mastered the art of brewing coffee at home. My husband would confirm the fact that I missed out on the cooking gene when it got handed out, so maybe that is why the whole home-coffee systems never worked for me.

I loved being a daily Starbucks customer. It became my version of the sitcom, Cheers – you know, when everyone yells “Norm!” upon his arrival. Everyday I would leave Starbucks with my lovely and delicious cup of coffee, feeling better than when I walked in. That makes that cup of coffee, and the people serving it, very special and quite priceless.

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When I first got sick, my daily trips to Starbucks stopped. What didn’t stop were those delicious handmade vanilla lattes. My dear friends or husband would make the coffee run for me, and deliver it with a smile and hug. When the partners (that’s what Starbucks call their employees) heard about my illness, they began sending me messages written with a black Sharpie on the outside of my coffee cups.  Every message brought with it a sense of healing, thoughtfulness and care, and every cup really did make me feel better. I was truly grateful beyond words.  I couldn’t imagine throwing these special messages away, so long before I was well enough to begin painting, I began saving every love-filled cup that was brought to me.

lOve in a cup.

lOve in a cup.

I didn’t know it at the time, but the Starbucks company mission is “to inspire and nurture the human spirit one person, one cup, one neighborhood at a time.”  Well, I was (and still am) nurtured and inspired by the wonderful Starbucks partners every day. And when I thought they couldn’t get any better, Snoopy shows up one day. I lOve snOOpy! And it turns out that Nolan, the barista, is a master artist when it comes to Snoopy!

life Of snOOpy

life Of snOOpy

Because of  their kindness and creativity, I was inspired to dig deep and show my appreciation and gratitude to the wonderful Starbucks partners in a very special way. I wanted them all to know that what they do every day makes a real difference. So I stepped way out of my comfort zone and set out to paint them a one-of-kind thank you note. When it was finished I contacted the district manager and asked that she present it to the store manager and staff. They deserved to be recognized for their outstanding customer service and for carrying out the company mission with such grace.

"lOve starbucks, Oh!

“Love Starbucks 1”, acrylic on 16×16 canvas, In Starbucks in fOuntain hills, az

Many more fun and creative messages have come my way over the last year, and snOOpy has been busy celebrating holidays, going to Mars and fighting the dark forces. Another piece of Starbucks artwork is taking shape in my studio, so stay tuned.  I will be forever grateful for the inspiration provided by the very special people of Store 5586 in Fountain Hills Arizona. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

nOlan - master barista, musician & snOOpy artist

nOlan – master barista, musician & snOOpy artist

So treat yourself to a Starbucks today. Who knows, it may just change your life.