Tagged: heart

hellO bOttOm

The lotus flower blooms most beautifully from the deepest and thickest mud.”

-Chinese Proberb

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Twelve years ago, over a romantic dinner with my husband, feeling more confident and happier than I had in years, I found myself saying, “I think I’ll have a glass of wine”. I had been sober for 18 years.

I had, over the years, made a mess of my life more than once, almost destroyed our marriage several times, and made some really (really) bad decisions. But I still didn’t consider myself an alcoholic. I was just someone who was better off not drinking.

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In a span of six months, I found out that this is one of the most dangerous things an alcoholic can think. I also learned that, yes, in fact, I am an alcoholic, and I can no longer, under any circumstances, play with fire. As gut-wrenching and “sobering” as it was to permanently close the drug and alcohol “escape hatch”, I chose to say goodbye to unconsciousness, self-deceit, and death, and said hellO to hitting bOttOm, again.

Bottoms bring us face-to-face with the things we are hiding from, the impact we are having on those we love, and who we are in this moment. Sometimes it’s a pretty painful and ugly picture. But the best thing to do at this point, no matter how scary, is to just keep looking.

In the looking, and all the hard work that comes with it, bottoms also have the potential to change the trajectory of our lives. They help us hear the wisdom of our hearts, support us to make choices that are life-sustaining, and put us in touch with the yearnings of our soul. In truth, hitting bottom is where real magic can happen.

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During the last 4+ years of navigating this chronic illness, I have found myself on my knees many times. It is only recently that I’ve been able to relish the richness of these ‘hitting bottom’ places. I have fought like hell to keep my head above water, but I’m realizing that sometimes being in the murk and mire is the best place to be. Really.

The bottom is not comfortable, pleasant or fun, but there is real wisdom to be found there. We don’t choose to hit bottom. In it’s wisdom, it chooses us. And I’m finding myself more and more grateful for each one. How else would I have begun to find my artist self, my natural pace, my deep desires, or the things that really light me up?

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The truth is I feel happier, more alive, more authentic, and stronger than ever before. It’s the kind of strength I’ve wanted my whole life. Strength that comes from the inside out. I never would have guessed it would take being at my weakest, to find true strength.

My dear friend Sharon taught me that life happens in moments. I’m really just beginning to learn what she really meant.

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Keep listening, dear friends, to the wisdom of your beautiful hearts. And if you happen to find yourself hitting bottom, in whatever form it may come, know it is a place of rich possibility and great love. Dive in if you dare, and find what is waiting for you there.

Be brave.

Be kind.

Be true.

l❤️Ve, vickiO 

P.S. I’ve recently completed 2 orders of my Bottle Bling art. Yes, ironically, I make art for wine bottles. Making them always brings me much jOy, and puts me in touch with what is good and right and true. (Insert eye roll here.)

I’ve realized that is what I have wanted from alcohol all this time. To feel good and right and true (and calm, smart, comfortable, strong.) And this morning, along came these words:

It’s not what’s in the bottle,

it’s what’s in your heart.

Yup, that works for me.

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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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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. 

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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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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