Making your way through the holidays with creativity

They're back...arriving each year without failure at the same time. They leap upon us like a tiger leaping on its pray. And you know that before you even digest your Thanksgiving meal you're thrust into the holiday madness. With this madness comes spending, giving, receiving, colds, expectations, sugar, stress, invites, aloneness, pressure and the list goes on. It's difficult to not get caught up in the change of energy the holidays bring. Every year, I try to take a step back and just observe, but at some point, usually the day before Christmas, the guild sets in and I dash to the closest shopping center to pick a few gifts up. Each year, I write in my journal that this year is going to be different. I will give from my heart; I will give of my time; I will give only if I wish to. I'm even feeling this way as I write in my blog. The question always becomes to give or not to give? But this piece is not about whether to give or not to give, it is about taking care of yourself artfully during the holidays. It is about if you feel the holiday blues beginning to sneak in, how can you care for yourself during the dark periods that can emerge like a winter chill. As I like to say, when in doubt, create! For me that means, draw, knit, write, bake, work in my garden, make my holiday cards, journal, rearrange my home, expose myself to creativity around the city and finally, to read. I read and I discover ideas. For each of us our creativity is a personal process. It is something that sparks your soul. Something that is a reflection of you. It does not have to be about perfection unless maybe you are painting your home, and even then a little mistake here and then will not be noticed.
So what is it for you that is the voice of your soul? What is that makes you feel alive? Without worrying about being good at it, what is it you would like to try? Make a creativity wish list and don't worry if you've been naught or nice, just go for it. Ask the critics to leave the room and toss the "shoulds" out the window and allow yourself to play. A walk around Micheal's craft store is sure to spark some ideas. Buy a canvas and some paints and explore. Create a mandala. Walk around your neighborhood and take some photos. Take some magazines and cut out images and make a vision collage of what you wish for in 2010. Make an altered book. Check out a knitting store. If you are interested in support or more ideas, please write me at Most of all, have fun and allow mistakes, if there are such a thing


I'm often asked, how do mandalas aid in healing? I reply that when we focus and allow our attention to be present, in this case on the circle or center, our minds become centered and relaxed. They are at rest from the constant chatter that our thoughts create. It is why, I begin the mandala workshops with a meditation to help bring the mind into a peaceful & rested state. For those who struggle with calming their minds, creating mandalas can be a tool to help center them and provide a space for calm to enter. Using already designed mandalas are one way to begin to learn how to relax the mind. This way, you do not have to think or worry about what you are going to draw when creating a mandala from scratch. There are many mandala coloring books that provide different mandala designs, which can be photocopied and colored. I recently took a training where I colored in a mandala design using Crayons. The use of Crayons I was told allows us to tap into the child in us helping to eliminate the "shoulds" and perfectionist adult within us.
Here are a few mandala color books to get you started:
Enjoy in peace.

Everyone's Mandala Coloring Book, Monique Mandali

Mystical Mandala Coloring Book by Alberta Hutchinson by Alberta Hutchinson

Coloring Mandalas 1 by Susanne F. Fincher

Creating Mandalas in Sickness & Health

Recently, I was under the weather with bronchitis and a flare-up of a foot issue. Not only did I turn to my antibiotics, vitamens, nasal sprays, tissues, and chicken soup, but I brought out my colored pencils and square paper. It was relaxing and calming to draw mandalas while not feeling much like doing anything else. I wanted to space to let my body speak. I let the pencils lead me and found for that moment in time, my illness was not in center stage. Creating my mandala provided a distraction from my sniffling, coughing and fatigue. I like to call it creative alternative health. Next time you're down and out with a cold, flu or other alment, bring out some paper and pencils and add drawing mandalas to your arsenal of remedies.

Mandala Painting Workshop

Saturday, September 5, 2009, I ventured down to Laguna Beach to take my first mandala acrylic painting workshop.
Paul Heussenststamm's studio is about a mile up the road from the coast, in a small brown building along route 133. Arriving an hour early, I drove down to the beach and looked out at the Pacific centering myself before the workshop began. At 10am, I walked into Paul's studio and was greeted with a hug and hello from Paul. There were already 3 other women there. I was told to pick a spot and pick a color to paint my canvas. I chose a pinkish violet color and began giving birth to my first acrylic mandala. This was a different process from mandalas I've created in the past, because we used a design already made. With the help of one of Paul's friends, we marked the center of the canvas and then placed transfer paper and the mandala design I chose onto the canvas. The next step of tracing the design onto the canvas seems to take the most time, especially if you choose a detailed and intricate design. As you trace, it is important to lift the paper to make sure the design is being transferred onto the canvas.

I started painting from the outside of the design and made my way to the center. The nice thing about acrylics is that you can paint over colors if you don't like them, or feel another color would work better, which I did more than once. The original pink seemed to become more pink as I went along and towards the end of completing my mandala I had had enough of pink staring back at me. Though Paul remarked that pink is the color of my soul speaking to me, I found I was not responding to pink and went ahead and painted over it with violet. An outcome I was very pleased with.

Paul's studio is adorned with his sacred art creations from a painting of the Chakra system to Buddha, the lotus and many more spiritual designs. I recommend the workshop to anyone who would like to learn more about mandalas and who enjoys painting. Paul does make his artistic suggestions known and will put a paintbrush to your work if he feels it will be helpful to your piece. That didn't bother me, because I was there to learn, but my art therapy training strongly frowns against touching others' work unless you ask first.

The cost of the workshop is $150 - $125 if you pay in advance and $10 for lunch. Check out www. for more information.

Internal Critics Move Aside

Many of us are haunted by our internal critic: the "shoulder," the judge, or whatever name you would like to give him or her. For those who try art therapy for the first time, who have experienced ongoing battles with these negative voices, a new process begins to take shape. Process versus product. It is difficult at first to move beyond the idea of an aesthetic and beautifully pleasing piece of art to staying in the moment with the process of creating. This is one of the key elements to using art therapy and how art therapy and an art lesson differ. Staying in the process becomes freeing and enjoyable when staying in the here and now is the goal. Clients many times tell me how much they enjoy not worrying about what their art will look like and just let what will happen happen. Here, we begin to see how our internal critic really works as its voice tries to be heard and as we develop a new voice that asks the critic to please step aside.
Learning to talk to your internal critic can be a daily practice that takes place in a journal or whenever you encounter the negative-thinking voice. Awareness that it is taking place is the first step. Acknowledging that it exists must happen before you can confront it. I tell clients to draw or write in a journal to practice working with the judgemental voice inside of them. When issues of perfection, or feelings of making a mistake arise, I ask clients to acknowledge the feeling, and try to stay with the process allowing their art to be what it wants to be. So, as you work in a journal, be aware of what is happening as you draw or write. Be aware of your reactions, and instead of doing what you've done in the past, try something new. Try gently asking the critic to please step outside, because, you know what you are doing and do not need his or her help. Continue to work with this process until you feel you can work freely and comfortably allowing the process to take place without judgement.

Giving Children a Voice Through Art-Making

Children thrive on the world of curiosity and imagination, because if they are in the right setting their imagination is limitless. Give them a few markers, clay, sticks, pipe cleaners and there is no telling where it might take them. One thing I do know, is that it takes them to a world where words are not necessary; it takes them to a world where creativity, feelings and thoughts live. Young children's brains are still developing cognitive abilities and accessing thoughts and feelings with language is many times difficult, especially feelings that are painful. Here is where art comes in.

As an art therapist, I have worked with many children helping them express themselves through play and art. The art becomes the vehicle for them to put feelings down on paper, with clay or through play. Through the process of art and play, I might ask a child to tell me about their art, is there a story to their art piece, who a figure is in their artwork as I remain curious. I would not ask, what is it? why did you draw that? I might role-play with them using their art as a guide.
Children most times do not even need a directive. If the materials are in front of them, they will begin to explore them and begin creating something, especially if I have a few different art supplies out.
Art is a place for them to put nightmares down and let the art hold and contain the images of the nightmare. The picture on the top right is just one example of a child's drawing of a nightmare. He was only 6 at the time of the drawing. There appears to be a sense of control when the child can create images of their feelings and put them into art form. Here, children have the option of adding to it, changing it or leaving it just the way it is.


Staring at a blank page can be intimidating to say the least. Where to begin? What color to choose? What if I make a mistake? What will others think? What if it's not good enough? These concerns are all the voice of our internal critic playing havoc on our psyche. These messages might be the result of some childhood experience with art or any other experience, where we were told something to the effect of, that's not how you draw a (fill in the blank.) The internal critic is the creature who resides inside of us telling us that we are not good enough or perfect enough.

I remember a creative writing course I took years ago, where we were asked to write about why we were taking the course. I begin my piece by saying that I was taking the course because....As students began to read what they had written, I became numb and wanted to leave the room asap. When the instructor asked what I had written a chill encased my body and I said something to the effect of, "it is not very good and..." The instructor responded, we are all at different places with our writing and you must respect where you are in this creative journey. Hey, I like that I thought. Respect where I am in the process. That makes sense. Whether you are writing, painting, engaging in another creative or self-expressive process, respect where you are in the process. Beginnings can be challenging, but what are the consequences of not beginning? Where would we be if we did not crawl, sit up or walk? The same is true for the creative process. When I began writing poetry, I was told to begin with,"this is a poem about..." I could always go back later and change the first line. The same is true for art, though we can't always change the images, we can add to them, we can add color or shapes to them and we can allow ourselves to be present with the process instead of thinking about the product.

Tip 1: begin with collage - it is less intimidating than drawing. Though you can begin drawing experimenting with color, shape and images.
Tip 2: Focus on process
Tip 3: Remember to have fun
Tip 4: Tap into your beginnner's mind
Tip 5: Leave perfection at the door
Tip 6: Invite imperfection in
Tip 7: Let your heart speak

Next time you come across a blank page, ask it what it wants from you, where it would like you to begin and allow your heart to speak.

AnXieTy: Can Creating Art Really Help Me?

You have a test coming up and though you've studied, just the thought of it has your heart racing, your palms sweating and your mind going nonstop. You try breathing and that seems to work for only a few minutes; then you try a relaxing bath, but once you leave the tub, dry off and change clothes your thoughts resurface and you're faced with your racing thoughts again. You're convinced you can "fix" your anxiety yourself without medication. Your therapist tries cognitive therapy with you where you've tracked and challenged your irrational thoughts, but your cognitive brain just won't listen or take the bate. As an art therapist, I might suggest ways to manage your anxiety including the above ideas along with another too: the circle. I've written about creating mandalas a lot on my blog, because I believe in the healing power of them. More specifically, the calming effect they can have on our over-anxious minds.

I would introduce how creating mandalas, (Sacred Circle) can help promote calm during bouts of anxiety and worry. Drawing a circle can be done in almost any setting. I don't recommend it while you are driving. But, if you keep a pad with you, you can create a circle while waiting for a doctor's appointment, studying, before a test, waiting for a blind date to arrive or pretty much any situation that brings anxiety and/or worry on. I have made a few suggestions about approaching your circle below.

Promoting Calm Amidst Anxiety & Worry
  • Keep a journal or pad with you at all times.

  • Keep a few colored pencils, markers or regular pencils with you

  • You might have the blank pages already traced with with a circle

  • The circle can be any size you wish

  • Begin in the center of the circle and draw outward

  • Leave perfection and judgements outside

  • Staying within the circle, allow your pencil to led the way

  • It might be helpful to choose calming colors

  • Focus on the circle

  • Breathe

  • Continue drawing until you feel you have reached a place of calm

  • Finish when you feel your mandala is complete

  • Bring this calm with you and return to the circle when you feel anxiety surfacing again

  • Move on to what tasks need your attention
What I am suggesting is the creation of the mandala circle to help you relax and focus your thoughts. The circle provides a safe and secure area to work. Doodling works too, but I recommend the circle because it provides a contained area in which to work.

Creating Mandalas for Healing...

A Weekly Expressive Art Group For Women Who Live With
A Chronic Health Condition

The word Mandala, comes from the Sanskrit language meaning “sacred circle.” The use of mandalas throughout time have been used by various cultures for meditation, self-reflection, healing and as a symbol for the self.
In this weekly group, we will create mandalas from various art mediums including oil and chalk pastels, markers, colored pencils and collage. The workshop is meant to provide a relaxing and reflective experience that supports and promotes healing.

No art experience necessary.

Group begins, Thursday, July 7th, 2009


$20 Per session


Facilitated by Victoria Van Zandt, MA
Registered Art & Marriage & Family Therapist
Intern #52087

No art experience required.

Please call for more information and/or to participate in the group.
Call 310-922-3957

Supervised by Gwen Lotery, MFT #37140

Mandalas For Reflection, Meditation & Healing

I made my first mandala when I was in graduate school and have been drawn to them ever since. Mandala is a Sanskrit word meaning sacred circle. C.G. Jung discovered the healing power of mandalas when he embarked on his own healing process and soon learned the power that they possess. There is much I could say or write about mandalas including their history, the various cultures that have used them for thousands of years and the belief that they are representative of the self. I'd like instead, to share about their calming effect and how drawing them can bring about healing as we sit in a quiet place and focus on creating our mandala. Here, where there is no judgment, right or wrong or internal critic at play, the body and mind are at rest. And, I believe, when the body and mind are in a calm state, healing begins. The immune system is at rest and so are we.
Circles are all around us. Take a moment the next time you are out or when you are in your home and notice the circles that surround you. They are everywhere. Circles can center us in times of transition and bring us back to a place of balance and clarity. Mandalas are also the voice of the unconscious, where we can meditate, reflect and/or be present with their beauty.

Making your mandala

Mandalas can be created with many different types of materials such as oil and chalk pastels, paint, paper, sand, stones, shells and the list goes on. You can use colored paper, white paper, a notebook and/or canvas. It is important that before you begin to create your mandala you find a quiet place. Closing your eyes to begin and allowing your unconscious to guide the way as far as color, images, symbols and starting point on the circle. You can trace a circle from a round object or make a circle freehand using a color that you have chosen or that has chosen you as you make your circle. Don't rush, just let the process move you. Once you have created your circle, you can begin filling in your mandala. Letting images, shapes and colors come to you as you ask the critic inside of you to step aside. You can create your mandala with color or fill in the color afterwards. Once you have completed your mandala or when you feel it is at a place of completion, meditate on a title. Is there a theme in your mandala? Does it evoke a message or say something about you? Turn your mandala around and view it from different positions. When you have discovered the position that feels right, you might want to make a little mark at the top point - this will be the position you want to view your mandala from. Date your mandala to keep track of when you've completed it and number them if you make more than one a day. It is fun to be able to track the sequence of your work.

There will be more information about how to work with color, symbols, images and shapes in my future blogs. For now, enjoy the process of creating your mandalas. For more information, refer to Susanne F. Fincher's book Creating Mandalas for Insight, Healing, and Self-Expression.

In Healing,


Doodling Our Stress Away

The Oxford Pocket Dictionary defines doodling as scribble or draw, esp. absentmindedly. I especially like the use of the word, absentmindedly, because if we are doing something absentmindedly or without the mind, there is a tendency to be more at ease. So, it would make sense that if the mind or for that matter, the thinking brain, is at rest and not obsessing, one could experience calm. I have not done research on the relationship between doodling and relaxation, but I tend to believe that while we doodle, our brains are resting, compared to when we are sitting around waiting nervously for a physical exam or academic test to begin.
There are a few ways to approach doodling. For instance, you can put pen, pencil or marker to paper and let them lead the way as if they have command of the page and see what happens. You can continue that process and after you have completed your doodle, look for an images that surface and color them in. That is what I did with the piece attached to this blog above. You can use color or black and white. I happen to enjoy doing this type of doodling. You can doodle with an image already in mind, but then I'm not sure it is really doodling, but none-the-less, your mind is elsewhere then on pressing issues. Doodling can be done on paper napkins, the little cardboard coffee holders, newspaper, Styrofoam cups and/or anywhere that is free for the taking. I love the fact that you really can get lost in the process of doodling and free one's mind for a few moments. I have made doodles that I've turned into larger pieces by taking the original doodle and having it enlarged at a printing store. It is endless what you can do with doodling. Next time you are feeling anxious instead of reaching for the Valium, try reaching for a pad and pencil. It might just do the trick!
Peace in Art-Making

Art Speaks Louder Than Words

An art therapy piece where color is used to depict feelings.

At a loss for words? Have no words to describe how you're feeling? No words can express how you feel? I've heard all these statements at one point or another in my professional and personal life. I'm tempted to reach into my bag and pull out a doodle pad and markers and reply, well, would an image or drawing help or a scribble? How about a collage or clay piece? As I like to say, when in doubt, doodle. Some thoughts can not always be expressed with words or staying in one's linear brain. It might be beneficial at this time to tap into the nonlinear brain or emotional Brain. I believe many of life's problems can not be solved with our left or analytical brains. Yes, balancing our check books requires the left brain and building a computer or putting together a bicycle calls for the thinking brain, but when it comes to life's more challenging events such as the loss of a loved one, losing a job or friendship, calling on our thinking Brain will usually get us nowhere. Because when we try to think our way out of events like this, we avoid the feelings that reside inside of us. Whether you call it a spiritual approach or creative approach, using our feeling brains allows us to move into the direction of healing much easier than with words alone. It might not be an image that comes to mind when experiencing a loss, but it might be a color, shape or size that expresses how we are feeling. I always recommend that before trying any art therapy exercise, that you be working with a trained art therapist and/or be in a safe place in case strong feelings do come up. I will recommend a person allows the page to hold their grief where their heart can rest for a moment. Lets say, you've lost your job that you've had for many years. You find it difficult to put words to what you are feeling and you might be feeling many feelings. Begin by choosing a color that represents how the experience is making you feel. If you have conflicting feelings, choose all the colors that come to mind. Let the pastels guide you across the page. You might even want to close your eyes as you move the pastel around the paper. There might be times you want to press harder on the pastel or softer. You might want to move all over the page or stay in one spot. Let your feelings be the guide. I suggest pastels because you can blend them with your finger. When you feel you are finished, sit with the art for a moment and reflect on the process. You might want to write in your journal about the process. In closing, I also suggest keeping a art and writing journal during times of change, transition and loss as they can be a powerful healing tool. I recommend reading The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron, Rituals of Healing, Using Imagery for Health and Wellness by Jeanne Achterberg, Barbara Dossey, & Leslie Kolkmeir, and Opening Up..The Healing Power of Expressing Emotions by James W. Pennebaker. Be well in body, mind and spirit.

Why Art Therapy?

If you are not familiar with the expressive arts, you might ask, Why art therapy? Why not just go to a therapist and talk my problems out? Or, How is making art really going to help me solve my problems, ease my pain and/or find solutions to my problems? First, I'm really glad you're asking these questions. I've heard a few people say they don't like attaching the word therapy to art. That art is art and therapy is therapy. And, there is art for arts sake. I would like to mention the possible added benefits of taking part in art-making. For instance, is art-making relaxing? Does art-making allow you to tap into your memory? Does art-making allow you to make sense out of your life? OK, so now we are beginning to tread in the waters of art therapy, where the process of art-making can provide greater insight into our lives, our relationships, our pain, our thoughts and feelings. Where, it's not about how good you draw, or how perfect your interpretation of a feeling is, it's about getting the feeling out on paper; it's about the process not the product. Though, it is beneficial to process the product and the art-making experience. So, why art therapy? In the case of using art with children, I find that children gravitate towards tasks and experiences that are imaginative, fun and creative much easier than talking about what is on their mind. Their art becomes a hands on experience to express what is on inside their heads and in their hearts. They might not have the words, but art can provide an outlet for feelings and thoughts that they might not have access to. Here on the blank page, they can get their anger, sadness, and frustrations out. With adults, art therapy works pretty much the same way. Not only is it a place to get feelings out, it can provide a relaxing experience where calm can bring on insight, reflection and access to deep feelings. Images can mirror back to the individual something they had previously not thought about. A collage picture might trigger a memory or thought that can be processed. There are many studies that show that by using imagery, direct access to the emotional brain takes place much quicker and easier than language alone. If the voice of perfection is alive and well inside a person, we can explore it as it speaks and develop a new healthy voice to respond to it with.
Feel free to contact me for more information on art therapy and how and where it is used and its benefits.

In Sickness & In Health - allow Art to Lead The Way

My hand drawing from first grade...who knew?

I came across the above art peace I did when I was in first grade while going through boxes of things in my Father's house after he died. The picture was a drawing I did of tracings of my little hands on brown paper that were filled in with images using Crayons. I found this picture after I had completed graduate school in June '06. I love this picture, because one of the first art directives we were given as art therapy graduate students was to trace our hands and fill them in with images. Our hand became our admission to keep what we discussed confidential in group. Little did that first-grader know that she would go on to become an art therapist many years and many pictures later. There were many things I didn't know about myself in first grade including that I would end up with a chronic illness and use my personal and professional experience to work with others whose lives have been affected by a chronic health condition.
I have lived 35 of my 52 years with a chronic condition and bring both my life wisdom and academic knowledge to my work. I like to say that I help individuals and families navigate the changing seas of chronic illness. That together we can celebrate the successes and acknowledge the challenges of having a chronic health condition. I help them build a healthy relationship with their bodies amidst fluctuating health. For instance, when my body is being challenged by a new ailment - how can I keep my identity in tact? As a believer in the healing power of expressive arts, I invite individuals to draw, write and create during the journey of living with an illness. One art directive you might try when your identity is in limbo, might be to create a collage of yourself feeling good and one when you feel physically challenged. How do they differ? What remains the same? What remains the same, I believe, is who we are with or without our illness. Our bodies might change, but we (I) do not. So, who is that I I am speaking of? I invite you to do an I collage or drawing. Include the aspects of yourself that never change, the aspects that do change and, the aspects that you are uncertain of whether they change or not. It doesn't matter how small or large this part of you is that doesn't change, it does exist. Create a large art piece that represents this never-changing aspect of you amidst chronic illness. Name the peice. Maybe she is one of the goddesses, or someone or something you have created. You might also want to write a poem about her. Allow her to teach you about your health condition. Allow all parts of you to be your sickness and in health.


The ArT of Collage

I'm a big supporter of the art-making process of collage. The Oxford Pocket Dictionary defines "collage" as work of art in which various materials are arranged and glued to a backing. I would like to add, that found objects such as shells, , fabrics, photographs, tree bark, string, yarn and different textured papers can be included in a collage. You can mix mediums and use them to draw or paint onto the collage, for instance including paint, colored pencils and markers. I use collage with clients because it takes the pressure of having to draw or paint away from the art-making process. What else I enjoy about working with collage is that whatever issue a person is working on or trying to understand in their life, collage offers a nonintimidating method to explore thoughts and feelings. Magazine cut-outs provide a variety of images that can be used to represent thoughts and feelings. For instance, lets say an individual wanted a deeper understanding of his or her relationship with their sister. I might suggest that they choose images that reflect what he or she likes about their sister and images that represent what they do not like. I usually recommend that they choose between 8 and 10 images so that they are not using the entire session to go through the many picture cut-outs. Once the pictures are glued down, I will ask clients to talk about the process and share any thoughts or feelings they have about the images they chose. Together we explore the art.

Try it for yourself:
Exercise: Introduce yourself with images. Instead of introducing yourself with words, you will do it with images.

Begin collecting magazine picture cut-outs such as people, animals, places, buildings, plants, sayings, words, things, etc. Keep them in a box.

You'll need: glue, scissors, large plain paper or cardboard.

This can be a work in process. Start by choosing images that you feel define who you are, where you are in your life and other aspects of yourself you would like to share.
Glue images to the paper/board in away you wish. Overlapping if you choose.
Continue until you feel your collage is complete. Reflect on the process and if you wish, you may write a short story or poem about the collage/process.

Title your collage.

Being Fired...Can Be A Blessing in Disguise

A good friend of mine was let go today from a job she held for almost 13 years at MTV in NYC. Her last day is Friday. The stories are all around us, friends, family members, colleagues being giving the pink slip. I was let go, actually, I was fired, back in the 80's from an advertising job in NY myself. I've found whenever I've lost a job, it was a blessing in disguise. It got me thinking about how do we take care of our emotional selves when we've been shown the door. I've come up with a few tips that I feel can help ease the blow.
FIVE TIPS To Get Through the Blow of Being Let Go
1. It's a matter how much you hate your job. You will miss people, your identity will take a blow, you will feel the same emotions as with any loss: anger, fear, sadness, doubt. Remember, it's about the economy, not you. You are still a valuable, intelligent, creative, and wise individual.
2. Make sure you feel the feelings. Seek therapy, support, don't isolate from friends and family.
3. Keep a journal. You might not want to write about this experience, but it will help you get the feelings out instead of keeping them inside of you. Put your feelings down on paper. I tell clients, let the paper hold your feelings...not your body.
4. Find something to laugh about every day. Listen to music that makes you feel good. Watch a funny movie.
5. Don't limit the job search to what you've always done. Maybe there is a new career awaiting you. Give time to reflection and what it is you'd like to be doing with your life. Be creative in your job search. Think of all the skills you use on a daily basis and see if they are skills that can be applied to a new position. Let everyone you know, know that you are looking for a job. Set time aside for the job hunt, for fun, for quiet time and be hopeful. Keep your eyes open for job fairs. Stay positive and hopeful.
These are just a few ideas I have I hope that they are helpful to you. I will continue to write as I have new ideas for you.
Be Strong

Using Collage to Tell the Story of Your Life

Collage is an exciting art medium that uses different materials to create an art piece. In this workshop, you will use magazine cut-out images, fabric, textured paper and other objects to create a collage that reflects the story or stories of your life. Supplies will be provided. $10 donation suggestion. No art experience necessary. We will begin with a short meditation to begin the art-making process.

"Enough is Enough" a time for change

To the left, my art-piece Kali-Ma. This goddess represents my inner demons that I work hard to understand and abolish such as negative self talk and doubt. She is also with me in my fight to be heard from my healthcare team and insurance companies.

I've been reading Jean Shinoda Bolen's book, "Goddesses in Older Women...archetypes in women over fifty," and can not put it down. I've found wonderful ideas for art directives as I turn the pages of this fascinating book. In the chapter titled Goddesses of Transformative Wrath: Her Name is Outrage, Bolen speaks of the goddesses who come forth when it is time for us to take ction in order to make changes in our lives, or as she writes, when enough is enough. The two goddesses Bolen includes in this chapter include Sekhmet, the ancient Egyptian Lionheaded goddess and Kali-Ma, Hindu destroyer goddess. These goddesses come into our lives when it is time for change, when we have stayed in a relationship too long, or a job, or to speak out about a cause close to your heart. I am writing about this subject in Creative Journey instead of Wisewomen because of how we can use an idea such as enough is enough to go deeper into this idea with creative self-expression. I would like to suggest that with the theme of enough is enough, you create a collage, write a poem, drawing, painting or short story addressing this subject in your life today. Begin by writing the words enough is enough on a piece of paper, focus on the words, close your eyes and repeat the words. Be aware of what images come to mind as you say these words. When an image comes to you, begin to put the image down on paper. It might come in the way of words or images. Continue to work with this piece as you allow the paper to hold what it is you have had enough of in your life. When finished, reflect on the piece and let it speak to you. You may wish to add to it at a later time. If you are in therapy, bring it with you to share with your therapist. Many times when we engage in art-making feelings can surface so seek support from a professional if you need to. And remember, to be with the process.


Mother's Day

As a childfree woman and having lost my mother 10 years ago, I often ponder the meaning mother's day actually has for me. I do remember my mother everyday of my life. She left this earth way to soon, and I don't need a hallmark holiday to remember and give thanks to her. Her pictures hang in my apartment, her ashes in my bedroom and her voice rings inside of me when I need her support. I never had children of my own, at least 2-legged children. I do have a dog, who for those of you who are pet-lovers understand what I mean. I did my thesis on childfree women and discovered that maternal drive can be directed toward many wonderful and fulfilling endeavors. For me, I put much of my maternal energy into the love and care of my dog, Angel, to my creative work, to my friendships and to my love of learning. These are the areas of my life I am passionate about, and keep me grounded, balanced and feeling alive. If you are a childfree woman, where do does your maternal energy manifest in your life? Whether you always dreamed of being a mother, as I did, never felt the urge or found the right partner, or time ran out, it is important to look at where this energy that might still reside inside of you is directed. Is it a wound that just wont go away, or have you let it go with love and found other ways to be a mother in your life? I'd love to know.

Mend the heart--calm the mind workshop

Workshop w/ Victoria Van Zandt!!!

"Mending the Heart--Calming the Mind: An Introduction to Expressive Art"

Wednesday April 29th, 2009

Expressive art is an amazing tool to help anxious and fearful minds relax as the art becomes the container for the feelings, not the person's body and/or mind, and it is a guide to develop greater insight into one's life. The process of doodling is an example of how drawing helps the anxious mind relax. The power of expressive art stems from the ability of imagery to be the bridge to talking about feelings and accessing emotions easier and quicker than traditional talk therapy. In this introductory workshop, you will be invited to take part in a hands-on art experiential. Art materials provided.

Power of the Dinner Table Ritual

It's come to my attention that very few families actually practice the art of gathering around the dinner table anymore. Ok, so most of my childhood dinners ended in arguing, fist-banging and my mother retreating to her bedroom, I still feel it is necessary to the mental health of families ever you define family. My family consists of me and my dog, but then again, there are no children present. I read recently that it is important to a child's wel-being to have at least 15 minutes of a parents undivided attention a day. That doesn't mean as the parent is arguing with them or attacking them for misbehavior, it means, asking questions about their day, checking in on home they are doing emotionally, academically, physically and with their peers. When the child responds, "everything is OK," the conversation doesn't end there. "What do you mean by OK?" should be the next question. Details, details, details. "What did you find interesting at school today?" Try not to ask yes, no questions, because you'll only get yes, no answers. Suggest your child help out with the dinner preparation even if it is a take out meal.
Be creative with your communication style with your child/children. Sit down and do a nonverbal drawing together about how you and your child's day was. All you need is a big piece of paper or small and markers. Each picks a color marker and take turns drawing images that represent your day.
When your down, talk about the images. You can learn a lot from pictures.

Hip to Social Media

Ok, so I'm still trying to figure out how to get google to spot my blog and professional info. I hear google sends out spider like legs to tap into the most popular, original, cool stuff. Isn't art therapy cool? Isn't trying to get awareness to anti-bullying beyond cool? And, isn't empowering midlife women just way too cool? So, what's the problem. Maybe I have to get my cheerleader outfit out, though I was never a cheerleader, start tooting my own horn. I'm on linkedin; I'm on Twitter, though I resisted for quite some time, and, I have a blogspot. It's a whole new world out there with social media, but I think I'm catching on. Things I know that are hip:
Adam Lambert must win Idol
Susan Boyle must win England Has Talent or whatever it's called. And, she must not pluck her eyebrows!
Bo is reeking havoc in the White House - I told you they should have gotten a rescue!
Green saves money
Finally, government...stay out of my womb, out of my bedroom and wedding plans.


Bullying has been going on for a very long time. Peer pressure can be endless and children can feel like they have nowhere to turn ,but to end their lives as two boys did recently. Schools pretty much tell bullies to stop it., teachers have so much on their plate as it is, it's hard to keep track of the bullying that takes place outside of their classrooms. So who's responsibility is it? Parents who speak up and address the issue with school administrators have to be advocates for the children nonstop to get the school's attention and then they risk being labeled trouble-makers. So, what should be happening? As a mental health professional, I believe anti-bullying education has to start at a very young age. Bullies need early counseling at the first signs of aggressive behavior and support groups need to be set-up in schools for all children to attend whether they are bullied, do the bullying, or are not bullied. Children should not be afraid or threatened if they speak up as victims or observers of bullying. So, I'm bringing the issue to my local Marriage and Family Therapy organization, CAMFT, California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists to address and begin going to schools and speak with parents. Parents need to check in with their children on a daily basis about their day at school and not be satisfied when their child responds that their day was "OK." Bullying needs to be talked about at home, at the dinner table and whenever possible. Book smart is one thing...emotional smart is just as necessary.
Be Aware
Marriage and Family Therapy Intern #52087
Supervisor Gwen Lotery, MFT #37140
art & guidance 4 the body, mind & soul

Where my Art is

Everywhere I look I see elements of artistic expression at play in my home. It's important that I be surrounded by creativity whether it is my balcony garden, the art I hang in my apartment, photographs, window treatments, masks or other visual adornments. As I started to bloom in my 40's, so did my apartment. It was flat and without color while I was working as an administrative assistant. As I tapped into my creative self and more important, as I allowed it to be released, my home came alive. I painted my wood dining room chairs, I added colorful borders around mirrors and I hung fuchsia drapes that created a South West flare. I see it as a part of me and who I am being expressed throughout my home. Some might see it as clutter, I see it as self-expression. I keep my clutter in check and when I feel I'm m0vying more towards stuff versus art; I go into clearing out mode.

So, how do you express yourself artfully? Creatively? Is it important to you? Do you hang photos or keep them tucked away in an album? If you are seeking ways to express yourself in your home, begin with your favorite photos in a frame you create or buy. If you have a chair that is crying out for color, begin there. Maybe it's time you reached for a pastel or a camera and allow your creative journey to begin.

Worry...what is it good for...absulutely nothing!

I was listening to Sharon Stone last night on CNN when she said something to the effect that "worry" was part of a mother's job. I've been thinking about the idea of worrying lately, because it comes up in sessions many times with clients. So, when I heard Sharon mention worry, it gave me another chance to explore the idea of worry on my blog. Here are some of thoughts on worry and you can give me yours if you wish. So, what is worry good for? Does it actually help the situation come to a happy ending? Does worry keep us, our loved ones safe? Does worry get the term paper finished on time and receiving a good grade? I would have to say no. I believe it is a lot easier to say "I'm worried," then, "I'm scared something bad might happen." Lets say a loved one is late getting home; we say we are worried. But, we are actually scared something terrible has happened. I guess what I'm trying to say is how does the worry help us in that situaion? I find it energy-draining. It doesn't bring the person home sooner. It doesn't improve our writing or test taking ability. Why not put the worry energy some place constructive? We could even pull out our journal when we are in a place of worry and write or draw or paint about what we are experiencing. Let the worry have a place to be heard instead of in our cells, our brain our immune system and our body. I recommend keeping a "worry journal." Or anxiety journal, or depressed journal. Maybe you already have a journal. Include pages in your journal to put these feelings when they come up instead of in your body. Get to know your worry. Ask it how it is helping you at this moment. Next time you feel worry take over your psyche, ask yourself if this is the only choice you have right now and see where this takes you. May you be peaceful in body, mind & spirit.

What's this thing called creativity?

So, you don't think you're creative, do you? Did you ever think that how you put yourself together, or for that matter, don't put yourself together in the morning is a creative act? How about how you live your life? Doesn't that take an ounce of creativity? How you approach your relationships? How you prepare or don't prepare your food? I believe we all have some aspect of creativity that resides inside of us. You may not be a painter, or photographer, or gardener, but you might have a flare for putting together a great party, or making a mean chili! Take a moment each day to discover an aspect of yourself that sings out creativity. Be aware of this part of you that maybe goes unrecognized as you go about your day. Begin to nurture it and respect it. If you don't want to see it as creativity, find another way to acknowledge it. Maybe you prefer imagination. Find it and continue to develop it. Don't let it go by unnoticed. Feed it and it will expand and you will begin to see yourself with new eyes.