The Soulful Artist

Life. Art. Transcendence.

I never really imagined that at my age I would be where I am today.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my life. It’s a life that is BETTER than anything I could’ve ever dreamed of, better than anything I could’ve ever asked for. I live a life that is on one hand very ordinary and unassuming, yet also amazing and extraordinary on the other.

For the majority of my life, I’ve followed “the rules.” You know the rules … Go to school, get into college, graduate, get a job, buy the house, have the children, yada, yada, yada. I’ve deviated from the path here and there, but for the most part I’ve stayed on track. I’ve played it safe. I’ve worked the job. Married the man. Raised the children. I cannot complain. Like I’ve said, I’ve led a life better than anything I could’ve ever dreamed of or asked form.

College graduate – 2 Associate’s Degrees, 2 Bachelor’s Degrees. Registered Nurse x 30 years. Married x 2, although it truly feels like I’ve only been married once. Amazing children x 4.

For a long time I placed labels and defined myself, who I am, by what I do, or what I have accomplished. Student, wife, nurse, mother. The truth is, I am so much more than these labels. Yes, it’s true that I am a happily married, mother of 4. Yes, I am a Registered Nurse. But the truth is, I am a multi-layered being. I have so many different interests. I am something different, and play a different role, to every person that I meet and interact with. I can look in the mirror and see one thing, while when you look at me you see something entirely different. External labels do not accurately define who I am as a person.

I am someone who loves and cares deeply for my family and I enjoy spending time with them.

I am someone who enjoys learning, so you can find me with my nose buried in a book, or taking a class to add to my education arsenal.

I am someone who loves and appreciates what my body can do and I enjoy movement and challenging my body to see what it is capable of.

I am someone who recently discovered and unleashed her inner artist, and can be found painting and creating to my heart’s content.

I could go on and on, but the gist is is that I cannot accurately define myself as there is so much more to me than the mere labels of what I do, or have done. We are so much more than the mere labels that we place on ourselves or allow others to place on us.

We are all multi-layered, multi-passionate individuals, so much more than what one sees on the outside. No one can know EVERY thing about you. We all have parts of us that we don’t want others to see or know about. One of my biggest fears is that people will find out who I really are and that they will stop loving me.

There are NO rules. Those “rules” are preconceived notions of what success once looked like as defined by individuals who believed that this was the road to happiness and riches. As a someone who once followed the rules, I can tell you that it’s a hard road to stay on track. I followed the rules to please my parents, and in turn, I lost myself, afraid of looking bad, or bringing shame my parents. When I finally woke up from the nightmare, I had to admit to myself that I wasn’t happy and figure out who I truly was. That meant stepping away from the road that I had traveled on for so long and forge a new path.

What did it take? It took me remembering who I really was and accepting myself as I am. That’s right the good, the bad, and the ugly. It is a difficult thing to truly accept who you are. But here’s the thing … All of our experiences, accomplishments, and every failure or setback that we have encountered have made us who we are today and have brought us to exactly where we are today. We need to own it. Own yourself. Be proud of yourself. If you are not particularly happy with who you are of what you have become, you have the ability and the power to change this at any time by deciding that this is not who you are and doing better, getting that degree you’ve always said you were going to get, moving, committing to yourself, etc. You get the picture. You’re not stuck. You’re no longer the little kid that was neglected. You’re far from the teenager who didn’t do well in high school. Commit to yourself to make the changes you desire to make to become the person that truly know you are capable of becoming.

We cannot live our lives for others, not for our parents, not for our children. We can only live our lives for ourselves. YOU are the only one that you have to answer to. YOU define who you are. YOU are the only one who can answer if you are happy or not. You can’t blame anyone else, nor can you expect someone else to make you happy. The responsibility of your happiness does not fall in the hands of someone other than your own.

Every day that you awaken, every moment that you take a breath, you have the ability to change your mind and go in a different direction. You are full of endless possibilities. Take hold of the pen, or the paint brush of your life. Refuse to hand it over to someone else, and be gentle with yourself as you write/draw/paint your story. You can create ANYTHING you desire. If you don’t like what you have written or drawn or painted – start over. Be kind to yourself and extend yourself the grace that you would easily extend to others. You are worthy. Give gratitude for ALL of your experiences. And, most importantly, ENJOY the process of creating yourself.

As Oscar Wilde once said, “Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken.”

It’s been an interesting first quarter of this new decade. 2020 at one time or another seemed like a very FAR away time. A year that the infamous cartoon “The Jetsons” were just something to ponder about, wondering if there really would be robots and flying cars and whatever else it’s creator’s minds could conjure up. Except 2020 is here and now and there is still no flying cars, but there are self-driving cars, and there are robots programmed to do the work of humans. It’s pretty incredible times for the world we live in.

Most notably is that at this very moment in time – even as I sit here typing out this L O N G blog post on my phone – is that we – meaning The Entire World – is in the middle of a pandemic. Yep. The SARS2 Corona Virus, or COVID-19. Unbelievable.

My opinion, my measly two cents … I feel like it’s WW3. Biological warfare. I feel like it was an intentional unleashing of an unseen beast that has taken over and has illicit mass panic and hysteria in all parts of the world. Several thousands of people have been affected and have died from this human engineered virus. For what though? For world domination? For the control of the globe’s finances? What for? And, more importantly, WHY?

There is so much speculation about who released this beast. So much speculation about the lies told in an effort to cover up the truth. I don’t believe that we will ever truly know, so questioning “Why?” is pointless. Right now we’re in a mass lockdown. Self-Quarantine. “Shelter-In-Place” is what we have been asked/forced to do in an effort to protect those who may easily be susceptible to getting the virus, and to keep the virus from spreading. We are in a fight to protect each other. We are being asked to keep a “social distance” of 6 feet apart, and to wear a mask to cover our nose and mouths. Businesses have been forced to close. Travel is at this point, pretty non-existent – minimal flights, travel to overseas is discouraged, and buses are a no-go. Only those who are considered “essential” (hospital/healthcare workers, EMS, police, Grocery workers for example) are allowed to be out to go to work and serve the public. Others are able to leave their homes only for short periods of time and only to do things such as grocery shop, or go to the doctor if medically necessary. Group gatherings are highly discouraged. Restaurants are closed for dine-in services, only open for take out, and some have started delivery services. Gyms are closed. Most offices are closed. ALL schools are definitely closed, with classes being held in online forums. There will be no graduation ceremonies for the graduating class of 2020. Gone is the freedom to just leave your house and go to the mall, or to go workout with your friends at the gym. Beaches closed. There are even some cities fining individuals who are noted “hanging around” outside when they should be at home. People stockpiling toilet paper is the most amusing. Toilet paper, bleach, anti-bacterial wipes with rumored hopes to resell and profit from theses items at an outrageous mark-up. (That idea was shut down fast, by the way.)

I can’t even tell you how much havoc this engineered virus has wrecked. I couldn’t give you exact numbers, nor could I direct you to a reliable resource. In New York City alone, they have been the hardest hit state with thousands affected. Hospital ICUs in NYC have been inundated, shortages of nurses, doctors, hospital staff, equipment, medications, ventilators all in very short supply. The demand far outnumbering the state’s supply. We watched it happen in China, where the virus was initially unleashed. Then Italy. France. India. And so forth and so on … so much devastation.

When this started to all go down, my family and I were in the midst of traveling to St. Louis, Missouri to visit our youngest boy, Noah, who is currently attending Missouri Baptist College on a baseball scholarship. We had high hopes of watching him play at least 2 games over spring break, but as fate would have it, school was closed and the entire baseball season was cancelled right before we got there. Regardless, we made the best of our visit, getting Noah settled, finding him a reliable car, and just visiting with him. On day 3 of our trip, the hotel where we were staying was ordered to close by the governor of Missouri. Yikes! Thankfully, Noah’s roommates had pretty much vacated their apartment and we were able to stay there for the remainder of our trip.

Empty flight home.

Immediately upon returning, we heeded the shelter-in-place order, only leaving the house to stock our pantry and refrigerator that we had purposely emptied prior to us leaving for Missouri. I was fortunate to still have a week off of work, and debated on whether or not to give up that vacation. The decision was made for me when there were complaints and reports of hospital workers not being having adequate PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) provided to them and were actually being discouraged from using PPE. No way was I subjecting myself. Seriously, you want me to provide good patient care, but you don’t want to keep me or my coworkers safe?!? Yah, no. Nope. No way.

A week later on what was to be my first night back to work, I had a slight anxiety attack. I didn’t know what to expect. Would there be enough equipment? Would there be enough PPE? How many patients are afraid and coming in because of their symptoms? I didn’t want to be there. My body tense, my mind racing. Had I not been a nurse and known better, I would’ve thought I was having a heart attack. Luckily I knew it was just anxiety and I knew what to do. I sent a text to my son, Nathan, as he has always been my voice of reason. Matter of fact and straight to the point, he quickly asked me pertinent questions to my situation and reminded me that this is what I was born to do. He reminded me that I was a leader and that I knew what to do. He reminded me that I have done harder things than this. My anxiety subsided shortly after our conversation.

It was well rumored that my place of employment had locked down all PPE equipment. And that was exactly the case when I arrived to work. Where there was once a plethora of procedure masks, N95 masks, bleach wipes, antibacterial wipes, gowns, etc., there was now none to be seen laying around. All of it locked up and highly guarded, even tallied from shift to shift. Thankfully, my husband was able to secure me some heavy duty face shields, and N95 masks. I put together a bag of supplies for myself which included the face shields, masks, eye protection, heavy duty garbage bags for gowns should it come down to that. I was NOT going to get caught unprepared.

Work was now a different environment. The people I worked with were the same, yet the way we worked was different. The way we were interacting with our patients now appeared fear based. Patients are now greeted before they even reach the front door and asked if they were experiencing any shortness or breath (SOB), cough, fever. If any of their answered were yes, they were immediately labeled as a Person Under Investigation (PUI) and sequestered into a tent where the staff awaits them in full protective gear: gown, glove, N95 mask or PAPR, eye shield/goggles, gloves. Everything for PUIs happens outside in this sequestered area: triage, labs, COVid swab, EKG, X-ray, medications. It is then determined if they need a room. It’s really been quite the circus. But my coworkers and I follow the rules. We follow them because first and foremost we are thankful to have jobs and most of us like and enjoy what we do. We also genuinely care about others. We don’t want to get sick, we don’t want to take any thing home to our families to get them sick, nor do we want to intentionally harm others. We want people to be well. At least I know that I do. No one asked for this. No one.

Wearing PPE at work has been, not hard, just more of an adjustment. I can be found with an N95 and a procedure mask on for my entire shift. During flu season most of us wore procedure masks the entire time so it was just wearing the N95 for a prolonged period that took some getting used to. Where I once let my long hair flow freely at work on occasion, it’s now securely gathered in a tight ponytail and placed inside a surgical cap. We all have taken to wearing surgical caps. We seriously don’t want to get this virus. The gowns and face shield we usually don only when entering the rooms of PUIs or known Positive (+) CoVid19. I just pray every time I enter their rooms and I make sure that I have all my supplies otherwise it’s an ordeal to get my coworkers to help me out.

For me, I think that the most frustrating thing is having an assignment that has several PUIs or “Known Positives.” Having a one patient in isolation is difficult, but having 3 patients in isolation is even worse. Just having to don (put on) and doff (remove) PPE is an ordeal. And it must be done every time you enter and exit a room. It’s not that you put it on and wear it the entire shift. It’s only frustrating because sometimes there are coworkers who see and hear the call lights going off but don’t want to answer it because they would have to gown up, etc. I get it. I do. And there are times when’re are all busy, or when we all have isolation patients. I get frustrated when I come out of one room, only to be told, “Your patient in Room X wants something.” Aaaargh! I’ve only lost it once at work. I’m not one that publicly displays my emotions, so when I start losing it it’s for me to control my tears. My coworkers are great people. I work with an amazing group of people and I am grateful for all of them, but this has gotten to the best of us. We are all tired, stressed, worried.

It’s now towards the end of April so we’ve been at this for a good month and a half at least. It’s been trying. Many are afraid. I wouldn’t say that I’m afraid, stressed, yes, but not afraid. I’m more frustrated that we have no real end in sight, no real answers, that the media has been good about blowing it up, that there’s conspiracy theories, etc. We all want answers. We’re tired of blatant lies, half assed truths, and our leadership flailing. The economy is suffering. People are dying. So many stories are coming out of the woodwork that this isn’t going to end until a vaccine is formulated and we’re all vaccinated! I’m just over here shaking my head and wondering what happened.

Healthcare workers are being touted as being on the frontlines of this pandemic. They are being dubbed “heroes.” I don’t feel like a hero. I am only doing what I know how to do. I am a nurse, a good one, but I’m far from hero status. I feel guilty taking donations from the public for free food and for priority status when there are so many out there who have been out of work for the last couple months. Give the donations to them. It just feels … what’s the word? Uncomfortable taking all of these donations when there are so many out there struggling. I am thankful, for my job, my steady income, and my ability to serve. My job is to help others and that’s what I’m doing. Don’t get me wrong, I am TRULY grateful for the donations. Truly. I am just doing my job and am happy to serve you.

I would like to extend my gratitude for the many people who have been taking care of me during this time. My husband, Chris, first and foremost has been holding down the fort and building and amazing homestead. When I am at home, there is very little that I need to do as most of my needs are well taken care of. When I get home in the mornings, I have my robe and slippers waiting for me, a box to put my laundry in, and a warm shower ready to go. Everything, and most importantly, our daughter is well cared for.

There have been many people reaching out to me to make sure I am well protected. I have friends who have supplied me with N95 masks. Businesses such as have sent me PPE equipment. And there are countless individuals out there who have been taking the time to sew cloth masks and scrub caps for my co-workers and I. From the bottom of my heart, I am eternally grateful and very thankful.

My heart breaks for the many people affected by this pandemic. My problems are minute compared to what they are experiencing.

My heart is most broken for my youngest child, my daughter, Grace, who is cognitively delayed and who is a graduating senior this year. This has truly disrupted and upended her entire schedule and life. No school, no after school CrossFit, stuck at home with her parents. Of ALL of my children, she has been the most excited about graduating from high school and was looking forward to walking up to get her diploma. It is unfortunate that she will be missing out on this milestone, but it’s been difficult because she doesn’t fully understand the magnitude of what’s happening. She has been out of school since mid-March and it has been confirmed that school will not reopen for the remainder of the year. She loves school! To say that she misses it is an understatement. She is such a social being. She never got to say good bye to her friends or to have closure on this important chapter of her life! I’m hoping that there will be a ceremony or something to provide this for the graduating class of 2020. It seems so unfair. Unreal. Disappointing.

I pray that everyone is taking care of themselves during this period of uncertainty. This “forced” shelter-in-place is a time to reflect and really take the time to slow down and to really breathe. I see a lot of people out there worried and complaining, not heeding the instructions to stay at home. I hope that behind all that they’re enjoying their time with their family, and taking the time to rest and regenerate. Just slow down. There’s really not much we can do about it so complaining doesn’t help. Find the things that you were once “too busy” to do. Read the books you’ve been wanting to read. Paint, draw, create. Write the book that’s in your heart to write. Play with your kids. Or … do “nothing.” There’s not shame in that. Sleep in. Watch movies you haven’t had the time to watch. There are no rules except to stay home. It’s important that you know your limits though and to reach out when it becomes to much.

We’re going to get through this. We will. Only time will tell what our new “normal” will be. Until then, help each other when you can. No judgements, only kindness please.

Mirror, Mirror On The Wall …

I had a random thought while playing with paint earlier … “I can no longer hide from myself.” It’s as if the more I try to hide, or stay in incognito mode, the more visible I am, the more visible I become.

I get a lot of answers during my writing, painting, and meditating. A LOT. It’s pretty incredible what happens when you free your mind and let the answers come. They seriously want to flow out of me faster than I can keep up!

I made a few intentions at the beginning of 2019 that I shine my light, radiate love, happiness, beauty, warmth. What happened for me during 2019 was incredible. I feel as if I grew so much. I stretched myself by putting myself out there, introducing myself and my art, and being asked to step up. My grief transformed me and what I create with my art. It made me realize just how short life really is and it got me to truly think about my own life. Did I really want to get to the end of my life and ask myself WHY I didn’t do things that I really wanted to do because I got in my own way? Because I was afraid? I decided to be brave, to align with the me that’s brave and has already accomplished the things I dare to do.

I’m now saying “Yes!” when asked to do something that resonates with My Soul. Saying “yes” and letting the “how” figure itself out. Trusting fully that the Universe will catch me and put out a net or allowing my wings to spread when I jump. Being brave. Being ME! Stepping into who I truly am and making no apologies! I asked the Universe to give me these experiences and it’s my responsibility to step up and to step into my purpose.

I am no longer hiding. I’m ready.

Since I began posting my art on Instagram and sometimes on FaceBook, I get a lot of sponsored advertisements on my pages. Most times I mark them as spam or as inappropriate because I despise advertisements. But every once in awhile I’ll get one that’s worth taking a look at and this one was from an artist named Whitney Freya.

Whitney was advertising for a course called the 21 Day Painting Meditation Challenge. She advertised it as using watercolors and playing with the colors along with some meditative music, something that would only take about 5-10 minutes daily for 21 days and in the end I will have achieved a connection to my own inner energy and inspiration and wisdom. During the invitation she said that at the end of the 21 days I would be free and happy while painting, and that I would create neurons or new neural pathways in my mind that would help me to be more present in my every day life. What could it hurt, right? I needed a challenge and a distraction so, of course I signed up for it!

It took me awhile to get started. I purchased the course in August and planned to start then after purchasing my supplies, but shortly after is when the chaos of losing my friends hit. I wanted to be sure that the course was accessible forever so when I contacted the instructor she assured me that it was so it got put on hold until recently. Here I was, still fresh with my grief of losing my very best friends, and I had nothing to lose and everything to gain. I had waited long enough so I jumped in. What follows are my paintings and my musings for the challenge.

Day 1 was to paint with the color red, the color of the first chakra. Red speaks to our primal needs and the passion we were born with – our life’s joy. So here are my Day 1 and Day 1.5. There are two paintings and I can’t really tell you why. I enjoyed Day 1, but I didn’t pay attention to the instructions so I thought I’d do a “do over,” hence Day 1.5. I felt that experience was fun and I believe that with practice I would get better. I thought of my friend, Fernisa, and how she loved painting with watercolors and how she would encourage me and tell me to get out of my head.

Day 2 is about Orange, the color of the second chakra. The second chakra is the sacral chakra, our creative center, the womb, where our “gut instincts” come from. My painting is reminiscent of a henna tattoo that my friend Tara had done for me. One that my friend, Noriko, had described as looking like a mirror. I feel as if it’s almost showing me the Queen that I am and to remember who I am.

Day 3.

Day 3, 3rd chakra and the color yellow. The color of personal will, and confidence that you know who you are and what you do. By this day of the painting meditation challenge I’m finding myself getting lost in the process and enjoying it. I’m slowly figuring out watercolor paint. I like how today’s paint was BRIGHT. Yellow. Yellow was my Dad’s favorite color. I think of him when I see yellow roses. such a happy color. Did it remind me of my personal power? I didn’t know while I was painting it, but as I mused it reminded me of my inner finer and to stoke it, purify it, burn it away … I wondered if I was doing that. Then remembered that by doing the challenge that I was doing just that … rekindling my own fire as I remember who I am.

Day 4.

Day 4, green, the color of the 4th chakra, the heart chakra. Feeding energy within us and empowering our relationships, moving us from a place of love and compassion and to inspire us to share our gifts to the world from our heart. For me, I felt an opening of my heart. Peaceful. Calming. I felt my own heart radiating and expanding. I know that I have so much love to give and receive, but for so long I’ve been contracted, unloved, unfeeling. I felt so unsafe for so long as a child. I know that it was a long time ago, but I feel it as if it were yesterday and I know that my guardedness stems from that. I know that I built a high wall around myself, around my heart. I know that I’m loved and safe as an adult, but it still hurt to open up, to be vulnerable. Showing my art is a start.

Day 5.

Day 5, turquoise blue, 5th chakra, the throat chakra. I always thought that my throat chakra was blocked. You see, I keep things that I “should” say pushed down. I don’t always say what I need to say. Sometimes it’s just not worth it to talk, for me. You see, I don’t feel that what I have to say is important or has worth. When I was a child, I was constantly told to shut up, that I was stupid. So I learned to keep my thoughts to myself. I’ve always said that if I ever lose a sense, I hope it’s my ability to speak because I don’t talk much anyway. A lot of what I want to say gets lost in translation. I’m more of a writer, happiest to let my feelings and thoughts be expressed through the end of a pen and allowing the ink to flow it all on paper. So my painting is bubbling … like that of a carbonated drink, the kind that tickles your nose and bubbles in your throat when you drink it. I’m getting better at speaking. I asked the Universe to show me at the beginning of the year how I could do this, and it certainly provided me the opportunity by allowing me to speak at Michael and Fern’s Celebration of Life. What an honor! So does that mean my throat chakra is blocked still? Nah, I think I’m good.

Day 6.

Day 6, indigo, 6th chakra, the 3rd eye chakra. I love this color. From my meditation I got that “I Am Clear. I Can See.” I also got that “When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at will change,” Wayne Dyer. I have spent so much time looking for me, when all I have to do is look within because what I seek is seeking me. When all is said and done, I realize now that I never had to look very far to see what I need to see or to find what I was looking for. I was just blind to the visions that were being shown to me. I saw them, but I didn’t see them if that makes any sense. I am thankful that my vision has cleared up and that I am allowed to see what I am meant to see. I am thankful that I understand now.

Day 7.

Day 7, magenta, crown chakra the 7th chakra. I am happy to have made it through the first week of the challenge. One week of painting with watercolors. I’m still learning about the process and about myself. So, crown chakra, magenta for today. It’s interesting that my painting reminds me oof a mermaid’s tail, of my friends lost at sea. I think of how my grief has transformed my paintings. It’s so bittersweet to think of them and how my heart aches as I paint. I know that there is healing in my creativity. I only wish that it did not hurt as much as it does. I am understanding the saying that there is strength in being vulnerable. I remember how where I once pulled strength from Michael and Fern, that they still continue to love me from afar and still continue to give me strength. It’s also interesting that someone commented that my painting reminded them of an Aztec headpiece. I resonate with that as I believe that I have a connection to the Aztec people. I need to look into that connection.

Day 8.

We’ve moved into a new week and into sacred symbolism. It’s day 8 now, and today’s symbol is “Om” or peace, for the 7th chakra. I am finding the peace that I seek as I paint. I am enjoying the process of meditative painting, of finding myself as the paint flows, finding my peace as the brush moves. It was also the first time for me to use the masking fluid and I found that it was not as easy nor did I like it. I’ll practice with it but for now I’ll try to find my peace. Say it with me … “Ohmmmmmmm …”

Day 9.

Day 9, and today’s symbol is the West African Adinkra symbol for “Strength of Heart.” It’s said to help when needing to make a tough decision, to literally follow your heart. My painting reminded me of a butterfly. Transformation. Recreation. It takes courage to paint and to put your work out there, just as it takes courage to follow your heart. I’m becoming bolder and feel more courageous. I feel less afraid these days as I learn that I have nothing to fear.

Day 10, the lotus. I wasn’t feeling it today. The first time I started painting the lotus, I didn’t like what I came up with (the painting on the right). I wasn’t in the meditation 100% and you can tell that I’m in my head thinking too much. When I redid my painting, I started painting spirals to reset myself. I like it but I think I’ll try to re-do the lotus meditation at another time. I know that my gut says that this is how the painting wanted to reveal itself to me, but in my logical mind I’m so hyper critical of my work and I just want to try again.

Day 11.

Day 11 is the West African Adinkra symbol for Mother Earth. Today’s painting was super interesting for me in more than just one way. First, let me tell you that I was totally in FLOW. No thinking, just painting. I thought maybe I’d just kind of mimic the way Whitney painted in the meditation video and that is how I initially began. Next thing I knew I had trees and a fiery sunset sky and I didn’t know how they had gotten there. Second, the vision that I have for my life, the dreams that I constantly dream of includes trees and the outdoors with my feet up on the porch railing and hot coffee in hand watching sunsets and sunrises. No joke. For years I’ve envisioned this so I know its coming to fruition soon especially if its subconsciously making its way into my creations. Thirdly, look at my trees! I was thinking that my trees look like arrows. I had asked Whitney Freya in a post comment for a personal “symbol” and low and behold she answered me! And … guess what symbol she envisioned/received for me?! Yep, the ARROW! How is that for synchronicity?!?

Whitney said that the arrow is the call to declare what I want out our so that ALL of my helpers can go out and make it happen! The arrow calls you to really focus on that most important thing and to take careful aim … and then let go.

Day 12.

Day 12, Triskelion or triple spirals from the Celtic tradition. The triple spiral is a symbol you can use to strengthen your intuition. Do you know how much I want to strengthen my intuition? To know? I am finding that when I go into something with an intention that it comes forth. When I write, I ask what my soul wants me to know and it flows. So now when I paint, I am asking my soul what it wants me to know … and I am learning to trust that what comes out, what flows is my answer!

Day 13.

Day 13, Sun Yantra, the symbol for self-love. I really love the orange-red colors, but for a long time I did not like or enjoy the color red or orange until someone asked me why I was rejecting success as orange is the color of success, and another person stated that I would look good in this color. This painting was fun, but let me tell you that I had to turn it to get a different perspective, to find a perspective that fit ME. Sometimes in life that happens. You don’t fit in the molds made for someone else, you have to find your place, your fit. I do like who I’ve become and I am more excited for who it is I Am Becoming!

Day 14.

Day 14 and now into week 2 of the challenge. We’re now working with the elements and today is Air! I love that Whitney teaches us that the element of air is associated with thought, mental power, communication, travel, intellect, abstract thinking, teaching, divination, freedom, happiness, laughter, beginning, and the direction of the East. For me, it’s sunrise, new days, blank canvases. For me, my painting reminds me of dendrites … you know, those things at the end of nerve cells that receive impulses from other cells. I feel like this right now, a dendrite taking in all the impulses and energy and transmuting it out into the Universe.

Day 15.

Day 15 of 21, last week of the Painting Meditation Challenge. Reading the instructions, I was supposed to start with a “sacred spark” in the middle and let it “burn” as I painted. Hmmmm … I think my “sacred spark” is awesome. It’s something I never would’ve painted. It started as a star and as it burns itself out it’s flames, sun-like, takes over.

The Sun, in astronomy, is also a star, just a really huge one. Reminds me of me … I am the star and as I cast my own light, I see that I shine as bright as the sun because I am also a sun star. I don’t know my own light and I am now being illuminated!

WHOA! What a revelation. I shine as brightly as the Sun because even though I see myself as “only” a mere star, I am also the Sun! It doesn’t matter if this makes sense to anyone else except me because I just had a freakin’ 💡lightbulb moment!

Day 17 (Yes, I know that Day 16 is missing.)

Day 17 of 21. Today’s prompt was Earth Energy: grounding, manifesting, rich, nurturing, fertile, layered, roots, Mother Earth.

My painting didn’t look like Whitney’s. It’s not supposed to look like anything else except MY own painting. I’m always surprised at what evolves. My painting had my beloved evergreen trees. I finally looked up the symbolism of my evergreen trees today and what I found was so reassuring and so revelatory. Strength, stoicism, invincibility. They are a symbol of survival, a symbol for eternal life. They are a symbol of strength during times of hardship, and they are a symbol of goodness in a chaotic world. It’s no wonder why I’m drawn to them, why I’ve been drawn to them since I was a small child. It all makes sense now. Wow!

When I was a small child, I was frequently punished and I would retreat into my room. I had (have) a pretty crazy imagination that’s vivid and that has protected me from the harsh realities of my life. Always – ALWAYS – in my imaginations I ran amongst the trees, I hid within them, they protected me and shielded me … I understand now. So much “Whoa!” I am so grateful.

Day 18.

Day 18 of 21. Today’s element is Metal. I’m not sure what I feel about metal energy. Metal energy, according to the Vitality Test, is associated with: Efficiency, clarity, simplicity, controlling waste, detachment, distance, objectivity, isolation, alone, cut off, independent, recognition, systems, perfection, precise, accurate, measuring, monitoring, evaluating, automation, repeatable, completing, searching, saving, value, finding, missing, quality, clean, minimalistic, valuable, precious and rare. The big questions is, “What’s missing?” or “What’s incomplete?” And I don’t feel that there’s anything missing, nor do I feel incomplete.

The mountains are of metal energy and I do feel as I’m being called to them. I kind of see them with my trees. Maybe that’s it … the calling. In any case, I did enjoy this meditation. I loved the reflection. I just have to see what evolves.

Day 19 take 2.
Day 19 take 1.

Day 19 of 21. Today’s element is Wood. I’m so much an Earth element and you know me and my trees. I tried to do just the rings (2nd pic), but it really didn’t resonate with me. It didn’t settle right. So I did another painting (1st pic) with just one color rings, but even that didn’t sit quite right. But as I looked at to more I saw branches. But my branches look like little trees. Ah well. I love it anyway! It can’t just be about the trunk because even though the trunk is the base, it gives life, produces oxygen, holds the water, bears fruit, branches out, holds the leaves and then lets them go …

Day 20.

Day 20 of 21. This was a good one and interesting in so many ways, but I’ll hit the highlights and keep it short and sweet.

I was late to do this meditation. It should have been done yesterday, but as I work night shift, I woke up too late to do the painting. While I was on break, I perused the meditation so see what I missed and saw that that element was Ether! What?! Seriously, not 10 minutes before I perused the video, I met a woman named … Ether!!! NO JOKE! I was commenting on her name and how cool I thought it was and then … BAM! Wow! Lots of synchronicities have been happening for me in the last few months. I’ve been keeping myself open to the possibilities of the Universe and I’ve been grateful for every thing! It’s been so nice!

The meditation today was Ether. Thinking about ourselves outside of our physical body. As I was painting, I thought I’d end up with a nebula, but what I ended up with amazed me … it looks so simple when you look at it, but … BUT … for me, it’s a MIRROR! A mirror! Why? Because I am ether. I was told that I am MORE than what I see in my physical mirror. I am to look deeper and to remember that I am more than this physical body, this shell. What is happening to me?!! I’m am beyond grateful for all these realizations! They have been amazing! One more day!

Day 21! Last Day!

Day P.M. 21 of 21. For the last 21 days I have left myself open to the magic of what MY SOUL desired to express. There are days when I did more thinking instead of just allowing. I have definitely felt an expansion and a shift and it’s been incredible.

“Allowing” is something that I have struggled with – always wanting to do it myself, never asking for help even when I was drowning, expecting a certain outcome and trying to force it, then being disappointed when it didn’t come to fruition or happen the way I wanted it to. I’ve lived a life too long struggling with this mentality. I can say that I’ve been blessed with some incredible Spiritual mentors who have been a light for me, and who have guided and directed me to my own Soul. I’ve learned to release the white knuckled grip I’ve had on the illusion I’ve had control. The truth is I’ve never been or had control. I’ve led this incredible life following the trail breadcrumbs as it’s led me from one thing to the next, one adventure to the next, one teacher to the next … every encounter building me, teaching me, expanding me, getting me to where I am today.

Whoops! Day 16! My most *favorite* of all!

Day 16 of 21! I realized as I was going through my meditations that I totally missed Day 16! 🤦🏻‍♀️ I believe I know why, too.

Day 16 was the element of Water. Anyone who knows me knows that I love the ocean. LOVE. I was born on Oahu, I grew up on the beach wearing a bikini, and to the dismay of my mother I’m 33% Polynesian. Surprisingly, I’m also hydrophobic. I’m afraid of deep water. I panic when my feet can’t touch the bottom while my head is above water. And recently 5 of my friends, 2 of which were my VERY BEST friends perished while sleeping in a dive boat. My friends, especially Michael, LOVED the ocean and they were on their annual diving trip celebrating him. My heart aches every time I think of them, especially MQ.

I know I saw the prompt. I remember reading about it so I’m not sure how I missed it. I believe that My Soul wasn’t ready. The tragedy of their accident is too soon – it only happened 2.5 months ago. I miss them. I miss Fern. She loved watercolors and we were supposed to do a painting class together. I miss MQ and his deep voice and “grumpy” disposition. My heart aches for the girls whose lives were taken way too soon. I love the ocean, but My Soul knew that it probably wasn’t the right day to paint it. So I paint this for my friends. It’s still hard, and there’s a piece of my heart that’s raw …

I have so much gratitude for ALL of my experiences – the good, the not so good, the lessons that took me awhile to understand, the lessons that have expanded and shifted me, for the lessons and experiences that are yet to come, and for My Soul’s willingness to express itself thru little ole me! Thank you Whitney Freya for being my guide in this part of my journey. It’s been an amazing experience!

If you’re interested in experiencing this painting meditation series, check it out here.

“Every child is an artist until (s)he is told (s)he is not an artist. “ John Lennon

I remember the child in this photo. I was 6 and in 1st grade. I was asked by my teacher, Mrs. Corpus, to recite a poem entitled “The Beautiful Lady,” and to paint a picture to go along with it. I didn’t want to do it, but my teacher convinced me that I could do it and that I would do well. I loved my teacher and would do anything to please her so I did. She was right. I was so excited that I did it that and I did it well.

I was so happy until … until my own mother asked me why my painting was so ugly. “Why did you paint such an ugly lady?” That’s all it took to burst my bubble and ruin my good spirits. I thought she was fine. I was 6 and I didn’t know any better. I wish I was able to keep that painting, but I found her in the garbage the next day.

It was like that my entire life. A constant battle of not being good enough, not feeling as if I could ever please the ONE person that should’ve kept me safe and loved. I didn’t understand then that sometimes adults hurt, too, and that they could not provide what they never received themselves to another.

Eventually, I learned to become this person for myself, but it took YEARS for me to become the person that 6 Year Old Row. needed. YEARS of self-depreciation, feeling undervalued, unimportant, dumb, ugly … so much damage done. YEARS of learning that I AM worthy of love, of being loved, cared for, and cherished.

I didn’t pick up a paint brush ever again until I was 48 years old because whenever I did, I felt like that 6 year old Row., lost and ugly. What I found when I did is that I’ve had this hidden talent and passion that went dormant and unfound for more than 40 years. So much wasted time! I’m a believer of divine timing though. I know that my rediscovered talent and passion for painting was not meant to be found again until it was the right time. But WOW!

This isn’t a post to make anyone feel sorry for me. I forgave my mom a long time ago. It was hard but necessary. What I went through when I was 6 showed me that I was/am resilient and able to do hard things. I also know that had I remained an artist way back in first grade, that I would not be the person that I am today. I realize now that I was not ready then. I realize now that had I been able to hone my talents then that I would not have appreciated it as much as I do today. Everything revealed in its own divine timing, only when I was ready.

Never kill your children’s dreams. Encourage them. Be their biggest cheerleader, not their worst critic. Be the voice telling them what they need to hear, not the voice that makes them doubt and cry for years. The damage to their inner children is just not worth it and sometimes, if they are not aware or awakened, the damage may be irreparable.

Learning to become that parent you needed when you were small and did not understand is difficult. It feels strange. What’s sometimes difficult is being a loving parent to your own children when you have your own children. Hurt adults, sometimes hurt their own children … all I knew was that when I had children, I would encourage and love as best as I could. I wasn’t a perfect parents. I had my own issues, my own demons. I can only hope that my children understand as I did that I was just a hurt child doing the best that I could.

I wish I could remember the poem. I remember that it was so easy for me to memorize. I searched for it on the internet without success. I remember it was an honor to be asked to recite it. I remember that Mrs. Corpus was my favorite teacher, has been my FAVORITE teacher of ALL time. I remember that first grade was made better because of her. I am sure that my Mrs. Corpus is now long gone. I wish that I could have thanked her appropriately. She made a huge difference in my life and for that I will be forever grateful.

Thank you Mrs. Isabel Corpus of Woodstock Elementary School in Alameda, California. YOU are most definitely The Beautiful Lady.

Michael Storm Quitasol
09-04-1956 to 09-02-2019
(Photo Credit: Sison/Quitasol Family)

Almost 2 months ago on Labor Day (09/02/19), a dive boat vessel was anchored for the night close to the coast of the Channel Islands of Santa Barbara. It was in the early morning while its 33 passengers and 6 crew members slept that this dive boat caught fire which completely destroyed the boat, killing 34 individuals who were trapped and unable to escape. Of the 34 individuals who perished, 33 were passengers and 1 was a crew member. Five of those passengers were my friends: Michael Quitasol and Fernisa Sison, who were two of my VERY BEST friends, and Michael’s three daughters, EvanMichel, Nicole, and Angela. This dive boat was The Conception.

Later that morning, around 0830, I began to receive text messages and telephone calls from my friend who did not want me to find out from social media that our friends were missing and that it was 99% certain that they were all on the boat. At first I did not comprehend what she was telling me as I do not watch television or the news. When what she was telling me finally set in, the devastation of the news hit me quite hard. My friends … my LONG time friends were forever gone. It was very difficult and heartbreaking for me to accept that I would never again see them or talk to them.

It seemed unbelievable, completely unreal. I had just seen Michael on the Wednesday prior to them leaving on their annual diving trip to Santa Barbara to celebrate Michael’s birthday over Labor Day weekend. Looking back, our last conversation seemed eerily ominous of something to come.

That Wednesday before, I was covering a break for a co-worker and as I was settling a patient in, we talked about life and how short it was. We talked about bucket lists and what was on mine, what I had ticked off of it, and then I asked him what was on his. He spoke of traveling and of diving. Upon hearing this, I immediately think of Michael and begin telling my patient about him, how he was the main reason I became an ER Nurse, how he travels and dives all over the world … And upon saying that, in walks Michael Quitasol himself! Talk about synchronicity! I tell him what my patient and I are talking about, Mike critiques my IV start and tells my patient that he taught me how to start a good IV, and they talk traveling and diving as I head to the nurse’s station to chart. When their conversation is over, Michael comes over to talk to me for a few minutes and I walk with him a little ways as he leaves the department. Our conversation went like this:

Me: “I won’t see you on your birthday next week. I hope that you have a good one, and that you enjoy your trip. I love you and I’ll see you later.”

Michael: (rolling his eyes and smirking) “Yah, see you later.”

And that was it. It was ominous in that I never – NEVER – have told MQ that I loved him. I also know that “Yah, see you later” translates to how MQ conveys his love for me. In our over 20 year friendship, MQ and I had never told each other that we loved each other, but we knew, we had an unspoken understanding. So for me to tell him that I loved him, for that to “slip” out of my mouth … I didn’t know how ominous, how important it would be, or how glad I would be to have verbalized it.

And Fern … I saw Fern about two weeks before this whole ordeal. I had asked her to attend a chakra painting and sound bath workshop with me. We had a great time, talking, painting, and then relaxing to the sound bath. Her sister, Felisa, had just passed the December before, so it was important for me to get Fern to go out. Fern hadn’t gotten over the death of her sister yet. She had a lot of guilt, regret, and unresolved feelings. I was thankful for the time spent with her that day. Fern knew that I loved her dearly and I never left her without telling her so.

I question at times, “Why?” I know that asking that question is pointless as it won’t bring them back, nor will it change anything. I don’t know what else to say about that. I’m human and humans want answers sometimes.

Please know that this is NOT the first time that Michael and Fern and their family had been on this boat. They had sailed on and dived off this boat every year on labor day weekend to celebrate Michael’s birthday for several years now. Michael and his daughters, Fern and her children were all scuba certified.

From the moment the news hit, I received a barrage of telephone calls and texts messages. It seemed somewhat crazy for me to have people ask me if I was okay. At first I didn’t understand, but people knew that I was close to Michael. They knew I was close to Fern also, but I was closest to Michael. He was truly one of the best friends that I have ever had. He did so much for me. He raised me as a nurse, always guiding me and supporting me. He was so much like my dad, but he corrected me that it was more like a brother/sister relationship that we had. I truly loved him. I loved both to them.

Sison & Quitasol Celebration of Life.

In the weeks following, as I grieved the loss of my friends, I felt lost and asked what could I do knowing that there was really nothing that I could do for anyone. Out of the blue I was asked by the Director Of Nurses, Dr. Anitra Williams, where I worked occasionally and where I first met Michael if I would write a memorial speech for him. How could I say no? Of course I would do that for him. Seriously, of course I would as it was truly an honor.

The following is the speech that I wrote for the Celebration of Life for Michael, Fern, EvanMichel, Nicole, and Angela. I wrote it immediately after being asked to deliver it, and only made minor tweaks to it.

Remembering Michael

Good Morning …

My name is Rowena Wallen, but most of you know me as Row.

When Anitra first asked me to do this, I hesitated for a moment.  Only a short moment though before I told her that of course I would do it.

I hesitated NOT because I didn’t want to do it, but because it’s NOT supposed to be this way, right?  I hesitated because I didn’t want to get up here and talk about my friends in past tense. I never want to talk about my friends, people that I admire and love, in the past tense. But this isn’t about me. I’ll do it because I love them, and because I would do anything for them.

I don’t even know where to begin.  

I guess I’ll start by telling you how I became an ER Nurse.

More than 20 years ago, when I was still trying to find my way, still trying to find my place as a nurse, I had been mandated to float down to the Emergency Department from the ICU.  I didn’t want to go. I heard ALL the stories about the ER – how crazy the nurses were and how busy and unorganized the department was –  and I knew that it wasn’t the place for me, but I really wasn’t given a choice, so off I went.  Let me tell you, I was TOTALLY out of my comfort zone and scared out of my mind – kind of like how I am feeling right now – but the difference between then and now is that I was fortunate enough to have floated down to the ER on a night when my friend Fern was working, and on a night when someone named Michael Quitasol was in charge. 

That was the very first night that I had ever met Michael.  I didn’t know anything about him, nor did I know what to make of him. He scared me. He appeared to me as this very intimidating force as he gave me my assignment, showed me the lay of the land, and told me what was expected of me as I worked down there in HIS department.

Now, you know that the ER is a scary place when you’re a patient, but it’s an even scarier place when you’re a nurse totally out of your element! Somehow, I survived and got through that shift, but I seriously had NO intentions of floating down there ever again!

The Universe had other plans for me, though. Have you ever heard that saying, “What you resist, will persist?” What ended up happening for me was that I was floated down there to the ER more times than I can remember because of various reasons (mostly because my co-workers in the ICU didn’t want to go, and I volunteered to go in their place).  Eventually, it got to where I didn’t mind working there because I got to work with my friend, Fern, I got to know the regular crew that worked there, and I got to know Michael better every time. 

On more than one occasion, Michael would ask me if I ever thought of becoming an ER Nurse and transferring to permanently work full-time in the ER. I’d laugh nervously and say, “Uh … yeah … NO!”  I knew that he was serious though when he actually sat down and had a serious conversation with me telling me that I had the qualities to be a good ER Nurse and that I really should consider it. I wasn’t convinced that what he was telling me was true. I thought maybe he was feeding me a line because he wanted to fill a hole in his staffing. You know how that is. But you all know how this story goes … He was sincere, and wore me down eventually and the rest is history still unfolding.

That was over 20 years ago, but I still remember it as if it were yesterday.

I don’t know what Michael saw in me. I certainly didn’t see myself as “ER Nurse material.” I felt like I was this small, timid nurse in a whole different world, but he somehow was able to get me to SEE and, more importantly, to BELIEVE that I had what it took, that I could do it, and that I would be really good at it. He believed in me and in my possibility when I couldn’t see it yet. He promised me that he would teach me, guide me, lead me, and he NEVER let me down. He was my mentor, my teacher, and, in time, he became one of the very best friends that I could ever ask for and that I have ever been blessed with.

Michael was a catalyst for me, playing a HUGE part in shaping me into the nurse that I am today.  I could always count on him to have my back. I knew that I could call on him at any time, day or night. It got to where we could be in the same room together and I knew what he was thinking before he even said anything.  I have learned so much from him over the years … I wasn’t finished learning from him. He possessed so much knowledge with so many life lessons enmeshed within his teachings … It was incredible. HE was incredible.

As I look out into this audience, I know I am not the only one who can say this. There are so many of you – Doctors, Nurses, EMTs, Medics, Techs, and even Patients – whose lives and careers have been made better because of Michael. He guided so many of us, saved so many lives, and he always worked to instill excellence in the healthcare and nursing fields, and in the process he became a great friend to many of us. 

I could go on and on and on. I have so many memories. So many stories. So many lessons learned. So many inside jokes shared between Michael and I. 

Michael had some incredible strengths and expertise when it came to healthcare and nursing.  He possessed so many skills and talents that were so valuable that he shared with us SO generously and SO often, and because he did this we ALL won.

I know that I haven’t said much about Fern or The Girls – Evan, Nicole, and Angela. I was asked to write about Michael, but I could not in good conscience conclude without acknowledging them.  I am so thankful to have known Evan, Nicole, and Angela. The Q girls were Michael’s life. He worked so very hard for them and they, too, turned out to be some incredible people! Christina, my heart goes out to you. 

And Fern … Oh my gosh, I can’t tell you how much I loved her and how much she meant to me.  Fern was the very first friend that I made when I started working at St. Joseph’s Hospital.  She was my friend, my soul sister, along with her twin, Felisa. She had a huge heart full of love for her family, especially for her children, Dominic and Nisa, and Vanessa, and her grandchildren, Aria and Keanu, and also for Michael and all of his girls. They were her life.  She had such a passion and zest for life, and for her career as a Nurse. She was kind to me and my family, and I know she loved me. She taught me so much, not just about Nursing, but about everything. She possessed beauty, grace, intelligence, love and so much more. I’m really going to miss her.

It has been a priviledge and honor to have been part of their lives. I am incredibly grateful for their presence in my life, for everything that they have done for me, and for how they have impacted my life for the better. I cannot tell you how much I will miss them.

Let us all remember that their lives – Michael’s, Fern’s, Evan’s, Nicole’s, and Angela’s – have made a difference to so many of us. Let’s remember that they were here, that they meant something, and that they mattered.

It is my intent to keep their legacies alive, to keep their memories alive.  Tell each other your stories of Michael, Fern, Evan, Nicole, and Angela.  If they taught you something, teach it to others.  This way we can be sure that they will ALWAYS be remembered and continue to live on.

Thank you.

So to my friends … Rest easy. I love you dearly. I’ll miss you always. I’ll remember you always. I’ll be grateful for you always.

I want to thank you for taking the time to peruse and see what I’m all about.

I am Rowena Wallen, a seemingly ordinary woman attempting to document a life well lived. If I am to describe myself, I would tell you that I am a woman on a mission, mini but mighty, small in size, but large in spirit. Describing myself with labels, I’d tell you that I am a wife, mother of four extraordinary humans, a nurse, an athlete, a writer, an artist, and end-of-life planner, and too many other things to label.

Life – living it, and also caring for and saving the lives of others. Art – creating and making something that comes from only you. Transcendence – going above and beyond, including death.

Why “The Soulful Artist?” Why not? To me it represents something beautiful. The creating of something that only you envisioned, that only you could make manifest. We all have something to offer the world. Something within us waiting to be birthed through our hands, or our voices, ourselves. Something that no one else can bring forth except for us. For me, creating is truly soulful – full of emotions, full of love. I feel that I have so much to offer the world as I create. I only wish that I had discovered my inner artist years – YEARS – before as I have only been painting seriously since late 2016, early 2017. It’s amazing to see what comes from Spirit and emerges from my own hands, what evolves when I place paint on a blank canvas. I say soulful because I feel it from the depths of my soul.

So, life, art, and transcendence … this is the documentation of my living, creating, and going beyond.

All the art and photographs on my blog are mine unless specified.