Sunday, June 11, 2017

Complicated Grief and Silver Linings, 6.9.17

Grief. It is a crazy part of life. I'm fortunate that I haven't experienced grief on quite the level of many other people out there. But the types of grief I have the most experience with are complicated and have their own unique set of challenges. I've been reading about grief, lately, and this list, explaining the different types of grief, has been very helpful. Disenfranchised grief was the first one to present itself in my life, with the loss of Ruben J. (You can read about that grief here and here). When death occurs after several years of divorce, I think most people just assume that you aren't, or shouldn't be, negatively affected at all. But that's not the case. It took me a lot longer to work through that grief , I think, because I felt like I couldn't (or shouldn't) openly show people how much the loss affected me.

That was over five years ago. More recently, ambiguous grief (grieving the loss of someone who is still alive) and secondary loss have reared their ugly heads. Even though this recent grief is not the result of old age, physical illness or accident, the end result is the same. Loss. Huge loss. But what seems even harder to take is that it was/is a completely senseless and avoidable tragedy, involving many people, spanning many years and caused by a combination of some very ugly vices, with each party involved claiming a unique 'variety-pack' of them as their own. This disgustingly messy scenario  has led to the loss of a very significant person in my life and, as collateral damage, several others. It is overwhelming, to say the very least, and the hardest thing I have ever been through.

What makes any kind of "complicated" grief so hard is that closure is elusive, if not impossible. I have been anticipating the "end" (either good or bad) for quite some time now. So, after a long period of tears, frustration, worry, guilt, anger, anxiety, sleepless nights, apologies, rejected apologies, counseling, distance, space, awkward conversations, anticipation, etc., I had a decision to make. Should I let go or continue to be dragged? And I decided that, for the sake of my healthy relationships, my mental health and my self-respect, I had to let go. I felt guilty to be relieved. But, I was. I am. One day, after some time and distance, maybe the scenario will improve. But my life will not be put on hold, holding out for that hope. If it never happens, I have to be okay with that, too.

Because of my position in this situation, I've thought that letting go is not an option. But now I know that being dragged is no longer an option.

Looking back on the past several years, I realize that I've pretty much gone through the five stages of grief several times and have, again, ended up at acceptance. And now...I'm trying to go a step further and recognize the positives that can come from grief or loss of any kind. Once you get to a certain point, you can clearly see all of the very good things, good experiences and good people you still have. Things may be different, but that doesn't mean they are bad.  Hopefully, if you are going through a similar situation, knowing that may, at the very least, brighten your day a little and offer some hope for brighter days to come.

I have learned, through crisis and grief...

* You gain new perspective. There is nothing like a crisis to make you see certain, basic things in a whole new light. Lately, in my case, I've gained a newfound appreciation for the simple concepts of trust and truth and how they are a sacred and essential part of any relationship. Without them, what is the point of  anything, really? Lack of either one will only lead to something negative.
I've also realized the power of words. The power of kind words. The power of unkind words. And that, sometimes, using no words is best. This one was/is hard for me. If you know me, you know that patience is not one of my virtues ;)

*You  realize who provides your strongest support system. Through a crisis, you realize who can  really, truly put their own agenda aside to just be there- to listen and to understand. As a result, some people become your foundation, your rocks, and others fall away. Through this crisis, I've developed a newfound appreciation for people I once took for granted and a newfound appreciation for, and bond with, the people in my very solid, albeit small, circle-of-trust.

*You are forced to dig deep to develop a way to cope that works for you. I've read that people who have a strong spiritual practice are able to deal with crisis more effectively. So, through counseling, listening, reading and contemplating, I've developed a very grounding, new-to-me, spiritual practice. One that is very unique to me, makes sense to me and one that I have needed and have been looking for my entire life. That practice is now something I look forward to every day.

You learn to focus on the future. You always need something to look forward to. If for no other reason, as my husband says, it keeps you from looking back on the past. Ironically, I'm now pulling from my past to plan for my future, as I've had a renewed interest in psychology. In an effort to understand what has happened over the past several years, I've spent many nights looking back on my old college papers written on psychological theories and disorders and many nights spent "diagnosing" with the DSM 5. This has led to serious consideration of  a second (retirement) career in a therapy-based field. Using yoga, meditation and art as therapy has saved my sanity and if I can use this experience to help even one other person get to the other side of a crisis in one piece, that would be amazing.

*You develop grit. Just like with physical exercise (stressing your muscles to make them stronger), going through emotional stress can make you mentally stronger. Through this crisis, I have found strength that I never knew I had.  Was I aware of this developing strength? Heck, no. Because some days were so bad that I was just focused on getting through to the next day. But all of the above-mentioned items have taught me how to cope with the sad, the angry and the frustrating moments. Considering that I have been, as M. put it, "grieving and being pushed to my limits at the same time", for a considerable period of time, I realize that I am now doing very well. Do I still have bad days and moments of weakness? You bet. But the difference is, they don't last long because I am aware enough to recognize that it was just a bad day or a weak moment. It doesn't mean I'm a bad person. It doesn't mean I'm a weak person. It just means that I am human.

*You realize you only have control over yourself. You can only control how you react, what you say and what you do and that there is no way to control how other people react, what other people say, what other people do or what other people believe. You just have to do your best, speak your truth and speak the truth and keep moving forward.

So, my message here- there is always a silver lining. You just need to look for that little speck of light. Eventually, as you get through another day, that light reveals itself even more and suddenly, you realize that the good days are far outweighing the bad days. Remember, as Glennon Doyle Melton says here , "Crisis is a gift". So, "Carry on, Warrior."

Have a great day and remember- something wonderful is about to happen, right?!


P.S. If you are dealing with loss in your life, please check out Option B. It has recently become a wonderful resource for me.


Friday, May 5, 2017

On Prayers and Words, 5.5.17

Writing a blog post not long after coming out of general anesthesia is probably not a good idea, so forgive me if this makes no sense at all! But, I suddenly felt like writing. Go figure. I considered a "Lately" post, but I'm still at a loss for really considerate, thoughtful, helpful or  meaningful words. As I've said here before, I have so much to say that I can't really narrow anything down. So, I'm continuing to work through the "stuff" in my head by making things with my hands and letting the art do the telling. Yay! for art therapy, right?!

Teach me...( guide me, lead me, inspire me, show me, tell me). Original, multi-media collage painting. Acrylic paint and paper on canvas board. 16" x 20"

First up, a prayer painting. I have no idea where this came from, because if you know me, you know that the word "prayer" is not one that I am inclined to use. But, prayer has been on my mind, as I feel like that is what I've been doing a lot of lately. But not in the typical, religious or religion-specific sense of the word- just asking for guidance, reassurance, etc. from a kind of energy I feel around me sometimes. So, I pray (my way) pretty much every morning and every evening. It's something I've added to my daily routine, beginning with my Field Guide Deck  (which you can order and read more about here). Each day, the chosen card gives me something to focus on and think about at the beginning of day and it gives me something to reflect on at the end of the day. I love using them and can't recommend them highly enough. I'm looking into purchasing another deck soon, so if you have a suggestion, leave a comment for me! (I'll blog about how I use these cards in a later post.)

So, as part of this new routine, one morning, I actually saw a new painting in my mind. I knew exactly what I wanted it to look like, including the composition, colors, shapes, forms, etc. It just came to me, out of the blue,  as I wasn't even considering a new painting at the time. Very new experience for me, for sure, because I usually struggle with new ideas, especially very clear ideas, for paintings. But, as a result, this one felt like it just fell out of me and onto this canvas. Pretty cool feeling.

Altered tins- step 2- collaged paper and paint.

And, my "Secrets" series of reclaimed/upcycled, altered tins has begun taking shape, thanks to a very unexpected week off due to "flood" days at our school. This project has been on my mind for a long time and I'm glad to finally be starting it. I have a lot of ideas for the embroidered "Secrets" inside the tins, but I'm starting with words from my husband that I have felt compelled to write down over the years. I am so lucky to share my life with someone who has such a kind, gentle and calm way about him and who is so knowledgeable and confident with words and doesn't hesitate, in the least, to use them. (One huge lesson I have learned lately is how important and powerful words are, in either a hurtful or helpful way.) His words have given me more confidence, reassurance and support than I ever thought I would have in my life.  I know this sounds sappy and I've probably said it here before, but he is, truly, one of the greatest gifts of my life.

So, the first few pieces in this series, is, in a way, a reflection, of sorts, about how lucky I am to hear sentiments like this on a regular basis, but also as a way to give other people a chance to give these words to someone without having to actually say them out loud. Because, let's face it, some of us just aren't very good at that, right?

Altered tins- step 3- words and more paint. Then a gel medium finish coat.

Embroidered, reclaimed fabric for the inside.

Tin #3 is a work-in-progress today- so no photos yet. Also, I'm in the process of researching ways to secure the fiber pieces inside the tins. Once I find a something suitable, I'll be listing them in my Etsy shop- hopefully very soon! 

I have to end this with a huge "Congratulations!" to my 21-year-old baby boy- who has officially gone from Little Man to Working Man. He accepted a job offer, in his chosen field, just five days after he graduated from college. I am one very proud momma, that's for sure! Way to go, Colb!

Hoping there aren't too many post-anesthesia typos and/or incoherent thoughts here. Thanks for reading, either way. And have a great weekend! Juli

Friday, March 10, 2017

Word Roundup, 3.10.17

Hello! It has been a while, hasn't it?! I've had so much to say. And, then, I've had nothing to say. I read this  as I was pondering saying a lot, a little, or nothing at all. So, I think, for a while, I'll let my art tell the story, as I've realized that words have been steadily creeping in.
Therapeutic words.
Sometimes a single word.
Sometimes a short poem.
Sometimes a phrase or movie quote. 
Sometimes I paint the words.
Sometimes I cut and paste the words.
Sometimes I stamp or sew the words.

Elizabeth Gilbert quotes, "...standing in your own truth and walking in you own path".

"The ordinary arts we practice every day, at home, are of more importance to the soul than their simplicity might suggest."- Thomas Moore

"Be grateful for the sanctuary within you..."-Elena Brower

"Life is very heavy to me and it is so light to you."- Unbearable Lightness of Being

Be Still. Be Steady. Be True.

"Let's never come here again, because it would never be as much fun."- Lost in Translation

"I like to think about the life of wine.How it's a living thing. I like to think about what was going on the year the grapes were growing; how the sun was shining; if it rained. I like to think about all the people who tended and picked the grapes. And if it's an old wine, how many of them must be dead by now. I like how wine continues to evolve, like if I opened a bottle of wine today it would taste different than if I'd opened it on any other day, because a bottle of wine is actually alive. And it's constantly evolving and gaining complexity. That is, until it peaks, like your '61. And then it begins its steady, inevitable decline. And it tastes so fucking good."- Sideways 


Believe in You.

Home. Peace of mind. Fresh start. Wild wonder. This is real. Believe.

These words tell a story. And there are more chapters to come.  Have a great weekend!  Juli

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Loving-Kindness and Painting Meditations, 1.28.17

I've written about meditation before here in this space, but I've delved into it a little more deeply over the past few months, so I thought I'd share a couple of those ideas in this post.

This first one has made a huge difference for me lately. Several months ago, I began seeing a Life Balance counselor who taught me, what she called, a Loving-Kindness Meditation. It's simple to do, doesn't take much time and really does make you feel more loving and more kind. If you are having negative feelings toward any one, or about anything in particular (and I know most of can relate to that, especially this past week!), I highly suggest trying it.   Here's how it works:

First, find a nice, quiet spot with space just to sit cross-legged (or as Peanut says "criss-cross applesauce") on the floor. This is really all you need, but sometimes I like to be more ceremonial about it and light a candle and turn on some kind of meditative music. I prefer to do this in the morning, so I can feel like I started my day off on a positive note, but the time of day doesn't really matter.

Okay, first, imagine what loving kindness looks like to you- visually. Picture it in whatever way feels right to you. For me, it felt right to imagine a huge cocoon of love and light. Now, reflect on yourself being wrapped up in all of the love and light that you can imagine., inside of that cocoon. Stay with that thought for a bit.

Next, think of someone (or a group of people) who is extremely deserving of your loving kindness and picture yourself wrapping that same love and light around them.

Next,  imagine that same thing for every person in the world. I know it's kind of hard to imagine the entire world at once, but to make this easier, I pictured the Coke commercial from the 70's. ;)  (Link is below, if you are too young to remember it or you don't watch Mad Men!). But you can imagine it in any way that seems fitting to you.

After you reflect on the world being wrapped in love and light, finally, imagine sending and wrapping that same loving kindness cocoon around the person (or group of people) you believe is least deserving of it.  Simply imagining that you are wrapping someone you have issues with, in light and love, tends to soften those hard feelings and makes it easier to let go of some of the negativity surrounding them or the difficult situation.

I have done this almost every, single morning for the past several months. While it hasn't changed my current, difficult situation, it has certainly made me feel more loving and more kind to all of the people I share my life with on a daily basis. It has made me more aware of how my words and actions affect other people and how their words and actions affect me. And I am no longer willing to accept negativity being brought into my life and I won't be the cause of negativity in someone else's life. Needless to say, positive thinking is pretty powerful, right?!

The second meditation is not your typical idea of "meditation", but lately, I've been inspired by these addictive, meditative instagram videos and this post on the Cozy Things blog.  It seemed like a different, more creative approach to those adult coloring books that are so trendy right now.  So I broke out my painting box and have been keeping it next to the couch, along with some small canvas boards and scraps of watercolor paper,  so it will be easy to finish a quick painting in the amount of time it takes to watch a movie, wait for the meatloaf to bake, listen to a podcast, etc.  Sometimes I'll use a photo reference, sometimes it's just an abstract, watercolor and Sharpie piece- completely unplanned, unstructured and stress free with no expectations of the outcome.

My painting box (a gift from my step-daughter several years ago) has become one of my favorite things.

Abstract watercolor and Sharpie

Watercolor pencils and Sharpie

Bird. Acrylic paint on 5 x 7 canvas board. Two days after I posted this painting on Facebook, I read this, again on Cozy Things.  Funny! We both must have had birds on our minds that weekend.

I hope this helps someone out there deal with the stress, anger and anxiety that seems to be so prevalent lately. And, I hope you are at least trying to have a great, stress-free, weekend!  Juli

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Sharing- Part 3, 1.19.17

More sharing...

To open, here is an excerpt from my first "Sharing Post":

I realized...  how grateful I am to have access to the thoughts, stories and advice of so many wise women via the internet, networking, friends, co-workers, etc.. I feel fortunate to have been enlightened enough to absorb and reflect on what these women were sharing and to digest every little morsel of information that I could get my brain around, using it to add positivity to my life at a time when negativity was dominating (if you know me or have been following this blog for a while, you know about the conflict that has been my life lately).  Sooo... for the next few posts, I'll be sharing some of the thoughtful information that I received from these wise, wise women through their instagram feeds, blog posts, podcasts, websites, etc.  Their stories and inspirational words have helped me put one foot in front of the other and get out of bed each day for the past six months.

So, for Sharing #3, I'm going to talk yoga.

I've had several people ask me about how and why I started doing yoga in the first place, so I thought a blog post about it would be fitting. I know I may lose a few of you here. Sorry! I hope you stick with me, though, because it could really change your life if you give it a chance. I'm convinced that it has helped save my sanity through many stressful situations over these past few years. 

I think I've always been drawn to yoga (think back to PBS's Lillias, Yoga and You and the Ali McGraw videotapes!) and tried it several times when I was younger. For some reason it never really stuck, though. But, in 2009, I bought the '15 Minute Results Yoga with Rodney Yee and Mariel Hemingway' DVD and that was the game changer for me. I think the fact that each segment was so short that it didn't overwhelm me was what made it work for me. I knew I could commit to just a few times a week for 15 minutes. Well, needless to say, it snowballed from there.

Now, I do some amount of yoga every day- ranging from as little as 15 minutes to as much as 65 minutes. I don't commit to a certain amount (it's a head game I play with myself!) and tell myself if I get on that mat and don't feel like doing it, I don't have to. Honestly, though, I very rarely get up and walk away. Yoga, for me, isn't about the "workout", though. The physical part of it is really just a bonus.  It's more about the way it calms my mind. When you are doing yoga, you are forced to focus on what you are doing right then and there- breathing, stretching, balancing and moving gracefully (well, trying to, at least!), so you have no room in your brain for worrying. Sounds great, doesn't it?!

So, if you are interested, here are my go-to yogi websites:

Rodney Yee

Colleen Saidman Yee

Seane Corn

Over the past 8 years, I've accumulated quite the yoga DVD library and always come back to these three instructors. The great thing about having so many choices is that I decide before I even start what I feel like I need on that particular day and then make my choice. If I need a compassionate voice, I'll go with Rodney Yee. If I need clear direction and a soothing voice, I'll go with Colleen Saidman Yee. And if I need an empowering voice, my go-to is Seane Corn.

If you have kids at home, a group yoga class may be better for you. I remember how hard it was to get even a few minutes to myself to go to the bathroom, much less, hole myself up in a room for an hour to do yoga! Or, maybe you are just a more social person and would prefer to be with a group of people. Whatever it takes to get there, I would give it a try.  And if you do, I hope you love it as much as I do!

I've never taken a group yoga class. I guess I should try that sometime. But, really, who would want to leave this to drive to a yoga studio??! I feel VERY fortunate to have this space all to myself (empty nester, here!), as this is where I start almost every single day.  Not the greatest photo ( as we have had NO sunshine lately) but I LOVE this space.
I must give a shout out to MK Designs for several of the photos shown in this room. Love her work. It also happens to be her birthday today, so Happy Birthday, MT!

Stay tuned for Sharing #4- Meditation :)

Sunday, January 15, 2017


making: painting, printmaking, sewing, crocheting, decorating/curating. Up next- knitting (one of my unfinished/unrealized goals from 2014!)

My latest, "With What I Have"- using the leather strap from an old purse on the new one that I made.

Skinny scarf- making with the yarn purchased at PurlSoHo in New York over the summer. When I took this photo, I realized that I must be channeling the color choices of my grandma, who made this blanket (top, left corner of this photo) for me sometime in the 80's, using the same blue, gray and cream color scheme.

New sewing/stitching project in the works.

And doing a little "staging" with our new bar set and our old wine-themed wall art and wine crates. To me, the careful arrangement of things in your home is one of the best creative activities.

eating: homemade chicken noodle soup and bisquits, plain greek yogurt with a little stevia and unsweetened coconut (so good!), pistachios, Sasha's chopped veggie salad, lots of oven baked buffalo wings

drinking: martinis (lemon drop, dirty and classic- although not all in one sitting!) and this wine I bought for M. for his birthday- Hugo, Australian Shiraz - The vines were planted the year he was born and this vintage was from the year we were married. (Not how I usually pick out wine, but I couldn't resist.) The wine was very good, by the way :)

watching: The Accountant (on Vudu), The Minimalists (Netflix) , Jackie (at the Hi-Pointe Theatre) and How He Fell in Love (Netflix)

reading: getting ready to delve into these:

listening to: music from the movie How He Fell in Love by Gambles, A Beautiful Morning by the Rascals (thanks for the suggestion, Colb!) 

thinking about: my word for 2017: Truth  and how this Facebook/Instagram post only confirmed my choice, at just the right time. "THE TRUTH WILL ALWAYS REVEAL ITSELF". Yes, it will.

laughing at: but, also absolutely loving, old photos of M., like this one. A huge thank you to my step-kids and their mom, for sharing this with me :)

This has become one of my favorite photos. Love it!

loving: the fact that my favorite birthday gifts this year were the sentiments shared and not the actual gifts. You have no idea how much these words mean to me, especially this year.

spreading joy: So, my way of spreading joy for the next few posts will be to continue "Sharing" (from my last post) some of the many Bloggers, Instagrammers and Facebookers that have brought me so much insight, calm and reassurance over the last few months. This time, I'm sharing "The Brave Girls' Club". I highly recommend signing up for their daily "A Little Bird Told Me" messages via Facebook and/or Instagram. Just the right words at the right times, it seems. Here are a few that really resonated with me recently, in addition to the one mentioned above:

Let it go. Let if fall. Let it be.

Fly above it.

Also, I want to share this post by Colbey of All Good Things in Life. We had a change in traditions this Christmas, so we decided to go out and spread some joy, which, I'm hoping, will become a new tradition.

Have a great week!  Juli

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Sharing, 1.7.17

My daughter gave me the most thoughtful gift, this year, for Christmas- she printed out every single one of my 266 blog posts written between May of 2012 and November 2016. I couldn't believe she took the time and put forth the effort to do this for me (and she couldn't either, from what I understand, because she didn't realize how many blog posts I had actually written!) As I looked through the "book" (she bound them all in a navy blue, leather binder) that she created, I realized how important this blog is to me (it is a much needed outlet) and that I really need to pay more attention to it and give it more of my time.  

So, the wheels began turning. I spent days compiling a 'year-in-review' and 'hopes-for-the-new-year' post. For weeks prior to that, I had been keeping notes in my phone, notes in draft form here on blogger, notes in random notebooks around the house and notes in my school planner. There was so much information that I didn't know where to begin. But, as I sorted through the notes, I realized a common theme and that is how grateful I am to have access to the thoughts, stories and advice of so many wise women via the internet, networking, friends, co-workers, etc.. I feel fortunate to have been enlightened enough to absorb and reflect on what these women were sharing and to digest every little morsel of information that I could get my brain around, using it to add positivity to my life at a time when negativity was dominating (if you know me or have been following this blog for a while, you know about the conflict that has been my life lately).  Sooo... for the next few posts, I'll be sharing some of the thoughtful information that I received from these wise, wise women through their instagram feeds, blog posts, podcasts, websites, etc.  Their stories and inspirational words have helped me put one foot in front of the other and get out of bed each day for the past six months.

First up, I'll share this blog post by Kelly Rae Roberts and this website. I took the stories that these women shared as a sign that if I reached out, I might find some answers to this difficult situation. So, I contacted Melanie (the medium) for a reading.  Now, you have to know that I am not the sort of person to do this on a whim, because I have always pretty much been a skeptic when it comes to this sort of thing.  (Gary, aka Ruben J, was a firm believer in 'psychics' and I often laughed at him for it.) But the signs were very strong that reaching out like this would lead to some answers and, hopefully, some sort of contentment. So I paid $100.00 for an e-mail reading. I really didn't expect much, but I thought, if nothing else, it would be fun.

I e-mailed the medium in the afternoon on a Thursday and had a several page response by 4:00 the next afternoon. Before I started reading, I just assumed that she probably did a quick google search to get enough information to sound somewhat accurate. Well, let me tell you, as I started reading, I realized that too much of it was too accurate to be a "quick google search".  As I finished reading, I, literally, could not even move from my chair. One of the questions I had asked the medium was if Ruben J had any particular advice to give me about this ongoing, difficult situation, as I knew that if he were still here, he would have been able to help. The medium's response contained information that absolutely no one else could have ever known- information from private conversations that I had with Ruben J 15 years ago that I have never shared with anyone, information about the way he dressed and detailed descriptions about some of his possessions and personality traits, etc. It. Was. Crazy!

Was it real or just coincidence? Of course, I will never know for sure. But it was real enough for me to believe the advice I was given through the medium. It made everything more clear and gave me the confidence to just be patient with the situation, trust myself and wait it out, which is something I'm not good at, but have been forced to become better at. And that is a very good thing!

I know this all sounds a little "out there"! It took some serious pondering on my part to share it. But, it was such a positive experience and it happened as the result of someone else sharing their story, so I thought it was only fitting to share mine.

Art print by Kelly Rae Roberts. I have this, framed, in my living room, as a reminder ;)

Have a great weekend and stay tuned for my next "sharing" post!  Juli

**Please visit the websites and blogs mentioned here, as these women are unending sources of positivity, creativity and possibility.