Here in the desert Southwest, December brings cooler weather, usually some rain, and spectacular sunsets. My husband and I head out onto the deck each evening to catch Mother Nature doing her thing. Obviously, not every sunset looks like the one above, but knowing it is possible keeps us coming back for more.
In a couple of days, here in the northern hemisphere, we will experience the Winter Solstice. There is something very grounding about the day. To me it is a celebration of not only the returning light, but an honoring of the dark. The kind of dark that comforts and nourishes, and is the vessel for life’s creative processes.
Seeing the Solstice in this way helps me be kinder to myself and others. We are all so quick to judge when we find ourselves and others “in the dark”. What we miss by doing this is the rich and fertile ground of possibility. So much of this life is mystery, and when I can accept that, and even revel in it, I find more compassion and kindness. Not only for myself, but others, too. And I really think the world needs more of that right now.
Each November, I compile my latest artwork into a calendar for the coming year. It is a way to honor what I have created, and send wishes of jOy and well-being out into the world. The resulting calendar can help you set a monthly intention, and schedule events that make you happy!
If you’d like to purchase a limited edition vickiO 2016 Calendar, Click Here❣ Free shipping, too!
As Christmas approaches, even though this past year challenged me in ways I could have never dreamed, I’m feeling drunk with gratitude. It feels kind of strange to say this after some very big losses this past year, but I feel more supported in my life than ever before. I’m not sure how this is possible, but for the first time in my life I really don’t feel all alone. What if it’s true that I actually do belong here, and that the universe is conspiring with me? You mean I don’t need to do it all on my own? Wow! Really?!?
I encourage all of you to entertain the idea of being open, versus being closed- in your thoughts, judgements, ideas, and conclusions- when it comes to yourself, and others. There is true magic in it, and I would have missed it all if I’d clung any longer to my “closed”, always right, way of being. And I’ve always thought I was SO right. Kind of scary.
Honor the dark, celebrate the light, hug each other, see the good, and may all your wishes come true.
And thank yOu for being yOu!
“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.”
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?”
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.'”
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.
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.
“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!
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?!
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.
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 blOssOming. It is all sO wOrth it.
And, when it is yOur time…
“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!!
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.
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!
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.
Second, it made me aware of how easily and often I turn on myself, and call myself names, like despicable, selfish, and grandiose.
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?
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.
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!
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!
be tender. be brave. be true.
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.
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!
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!)
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.
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.
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!
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❤️‼️
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.
All art and photos copyright ©vickiO art.
This sounds quite harsh, but I always believed hOpe to be a weak person’s pie-in-the-sky false dream. Something that I wasn’t interested in because of my pride, and my belief that I didn’t need any help, from anyone or anything.
I am a survivor of an alcoholic / co-dependent family, religious abuse, depression, cervical cancer and alcohol addiction. Who would have thought it would be valley fever to bring me to my knees? Talk about feeling hOpe-less.
For most of my 55-years on the planet, I have relied on my sharp mind, strong will and my ability to persevere. I’ve never shied away from hard work or looking within to find answers and relief.
Luckily, I’ve worked with several really good therapists over the years, who helped me walk through many traumatic experiences and limiting beliefs. Without those gifted people, I would not have made it this far, and I definitely wouldn’t be finding my way through the challenges of valley fever.
nOte: Valley Fever cases continue to increase, and thankfully National Public Radio (NPR) recently aired a story about it. Check it out here. Also, the Denver Post published an article about thousands of people being effected by Valley Fever. (Thank you, Jill, for the heads up on both of these items!)
When I realized I couldn’t outwit or outplay valley fever, I set out to learn some things about hOpe. Yes, the “Queen of Nothing Is Too Much For Me”, admitted that I need something more. Working hard and persevering isn’t cutting it, so hOpe it is.
My Google search brought me two very important things – a very cool definition of hOpe, and one amazing poem.
Definition by Dr. Barbara L. Fredrickson:
“[h]ope literally opens us up…[and] removes the blinders of fear and despair and allows us to see the big picture [, thus allowing us to] become creative and have [b]elief in [a] better future”. Pretty beautiful, don’t you think!?
Now, on to the amazing Emily Dickinson poem:
“Hope” is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune without the words
And never stops at all.
And sweetest in the gale is heard
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird
That kept so many warm.
I’ve heard it in the chillest land
And on the strangest sea
Yet, never, in extremity,
It asked a crumb of me.
Needless to say, I have slowly fallen in love with hOpe. I’ve also fallen in love with little birdies, and wispy clouds and the belief that I am slowly getting better. And Mother Nature keeps showing me how to hOpe-mOre. I’ve watched this cactus grow over the last month. Isn’t it amazing? I really can’t look at it without smiling.
So I will keep painting, and eating well and doing my physical therapy, and trust that hOpe will light my way. And I will gladly be hanging onto hOpe’s hand.
The Hopeful Spirit bracelet is one of Kelly Rae Roberts creations. Thank you Kelly Rae!
Over the years, I’m afraid I have left hOpe standing out in the rain all by herself many times. No more! Here is a reminder for those of us who think we need to do it all on our own:
I have fought for a long time to find a way to shine and fly in my life, and as hard as this part of the journey has been, with hOpe’s help, I have found my wings.
With all the tragedies in the world today, those of us who can, need to get up each morning with some wind beneath our wings. hOpe is that gentle breeze that brings fresh air, and lightness, and the possibility of healing and recovery. May everyone who needs to hOpe-mOre, feel the light kiss of hOpe today.
lOts Of lOve, vickiO