Thursday, July 12, 2018

Allow. Honor. Healing

These last few days I've had a strong pull to write my feelings out, but the raging battle of avoidance and resistance were winning the war.  I have a few different coping methods I use to allow for a space of healing to occur and aide in the restoration of balance.  Deep in my heart, I know there are certain coping methods that are more effective, and yet, I turn to the "easier" methods to avoid the feelings that may come up because I need to keep moving.  It's in the moment of stillness, that I feel this stirring that says, "take care of this" and the flood gates are open and the emotions come to the surface.  As time passes, I am developing an understanding of the agreements I have made with myself that have created my limiting beliefs that give rise to the battle of avoidance and resistance instead of diving in to aide in my release.  With time, I have noticed my battle with avoidance and resistance has lessened and I have become more patient with myself and my healing process.

A small glimpse of a work in progress.
©2018 Toni Becker, Artfully Healing
Whimsical Jewels

For me, writing, painting and healing arts are powerful healers.  As much as I dance with resistance, I am thankful that I place one foot in front of the other and say hello to these healers and engage with them despite the fear I feel at times.  While engage with these powerful tools of healing, it takes a level of courage and bravery to do so, because the emotions that are evoked during the process can be quite overwhelming.  But so worth it!  The level of emotion that comes to the surface while engaging with these great healers astounds me, and allows me to honor my process and listen.  Beyond witnessing my own story of healing, I have been able to witness the healing power these great methods offer to others I have had the honor of coaching.  Silencing the noise in my head and tricking my ego to be quiet in order to create an honoring space to heal, transform, and surrender is what allows me to place one foot in front of the other to cope with my external world.  Honoring myself and the stage I am in, allows for a deeper understanding of myself, and provides a safe space for me to cope and heal.

My brave steps this week.  I'm working on a
few different paintings right now.  Current
work in progress.
© 2018 Toni Becker, Artfully Healing
Whimsical Jewels
A few of my limiting beliefs that give rise to my resistance are....  "I'm not good enough."  "I'm not smart enough."  "My writing will sound stupid."  "No one will read this or care, so what's the point?"  "What happens if my painting sucks?"  "What happens if I don't paint something good?"  All of these thoughts and beliefs give rise to fear and open a space that could potentially hold me back from not moving forward.  It's the moment of truth.  I can choose to listen and not move forward, or I can allow the wave of healing to occur.  The truth is, my writing is my own.  It's my unique voice, and over the years I've worked hard to develop her, listen to her, and surrender to what she wants to say.  Is it going to win a prize?   NO and that's okay.  Is it going to be grammatically correct?  Probably not and that's okay.  Does my writing really say I'm not smart?  Well, I guess it could to some people... and that's okay.  The truth is, I know I am smart and my writing is a healing space for myself that allows me to reflect and cope with life.  And truly, who cares if no one reads it... Of course, I hope someone does.  Not because I need them to, but because I hold the intention of healing for others as much as I do for myself.  I hope that my words resonate with the reader, and in that space of connection allows for love to heal; inspiring you to do your own form of healing beyond the space of fear.  The truth about my art and paintings is this... they too, are my unique voice and my art.  Art is subjective and beauty is in the eye of the beholder.  I create art because I need to, and because I want to, even when resistance is high and I've had to wrestle myself to get in the studio and stand in front of my canvas.  Yes, there are times painting can be a painful process for me, but the magic that happens because I show up in front of the canvas, I have trouble placing into words.  The in between stages of each canvas, undoubtedly always brings about more fear because it's usually a jumbled mess, and my ego likes to step in and say "I told you so."  Really, what did you tell me?  That I wasn't good enough? It's in that space that spirit whispers..."yes you are, keep going, you got this."  It's in that moment that my heart says, "I believe in you and I love you."  And let me tell you, because I chose to listen to my heart and spirit, there have been several canvases I have stood in front of, in utter disbelief that they were mine.  And in that beautiful, magical moment, I've felt an indescribable joy.  My limiting beliefs are fairly universal and shared by many people.  It's what we decide to do with those constricting beliefs that matters.  Today I chose to shut them off, told my fear to kiss my ass, and sat down to write.  Yesterday I did the same and lovingly picked up my brushes to paint.  It felt so damn good to open to the space of healing and allow myself to be in the present moment, silencing the noise of fear.

Today, I invite you to move forward.  Engage in that healing space, open up to the possibilities waiting for you.  Tell fear to kiss your ass.  Be brave and move forward.  Allow  your spirit and heart to emerge, and do what your being called to do.  Do you feel the urge to write?  To paint?  To breathe?  To call and connect with someone?  To walk outside?  To take the first steps to be more healthy?  Whatever it is...  take the first step.  The second step gets easier and the reward of moving forward, and connecting with your inner voice is greater than what I can describe to you.  I have felt it myself many times and witnessed it with those I have had the honor of coaching.  I believe in you and I'm holding a loving space of healing for you.
"The Light Within"
©2017 Toni Becker, Artfully Healing
Whimsical Jewels

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Late night writings

"Changing" Acrylic painting,
© 2018 Toni Becker, Whimsical Jewels
Inspiration.  Do you ever notice when yours comes?  Do you pay attention to this quiet voice that gives us big ideas or do you ignore it because the timing is inconvenient?  For me the answers are yes, yes, and yes.  I have found that the voice of inspiration comes when I least expect it... in the shower, walking in the woods, in the middle of the night, when I'm driving down the road, observing other artist's work, looking at the wonders of nature, observing bright, bold colors, listening to music, and sometimes in the middle of a conversation.  Lately my ideas and inspiration have come during the night.  I'll awake from a sound sleep and have all of these ideas in my head.  I then feel this sense of urgency to hurry and write them down.  I have been known to ignore them, because it's the middle of the night and well... I'm sleeping and I'm tired.  I've learned though, that most of the time when you ignore that little voice, the inspiration goes away and doesn't return until the next big idea.  Try as I might, I can never conjure up the inspiration or feelings that were invoked at the time inspiration spoke to me.

Lately my inspiration has been coupled with my emotional content and what I'm processing internally.  Time weighs heavy on my heart and on my mind.  When your staring Father Time in the face wondering when the clock will stop ticking, it definitely raises all kinds of uncertainty and a level of emotions I can't place into words.  That's my current story right now.  It's not an easy story to tell, because right now there is a vulnerability that comes with an authentic raw emotion that cuts to my core, leaving my heart aching and a sickness in my belly.  I have wrestled with myself internally and went back and forth about sharing my feelings.  I feel very vulnerable and emotionally raw.  That's my truth and my story.  The wrestling is over.  I've decided to share it because it's healing for me.  A couple weeks ago, in the middle of the night, inspiration called and I had no choice but to listen.  This time it was about my dear momma.

I've been called to write about her a few times over the years.  She's a very influential part of who I am as a woman and as a mother.  In December, I was awakened from a very powerful dream, with the same sense of urgency to record my thoughts and feelings.  I still carry my dream message with me, because I lovingly talked with my mother the day after the dream.  December was a really stressful month.  At the beginning of the month, my dear mother was hospitalized for several days, on 12/13 we experienced the anniversary of 9 years without my brother Jon, and on 12/15 my husband said goodbye to his brother.  It was a really tough month in our family.  My dream came the night before my brother's anniversary and it was so powerful.  In my dream, my soul openly spoke to my mother with a pure love I've never experienced before.  I have grieved the loss of my brother, HARD, for the first few years after he died and thankfully now when the anniversary of his death arrives, it's an honored space more than a sad, grief space.  I take the time to honor his life and what he meant to me while he was here.  For my mother, it's a lot different.  I don't pretend to know what she goes through as a mother losing her son, and when I think about it, the feelings almost break me.  In the dream, I shared that pain with her, and in that moment I could feel the tremendous pain of her heavy loss and it was unimaginable.  During that moment of love, we sat and openly talked with one another sharing our love for one another.  When I awoke from the dream I was crying.  I felt the need to write it down, and realized I had a few things I needed to say to my dear mom.  Instead of popping out of bed to quickly write it down, I trusted myself to remember what I needed to say to her.  For some reason, I didn't fear losing it, quite possibly because it was so powerful and the emotions I felt were quite deep.

Over the years, I have spoken with individuals who have lost a sibling and I've read books on grief and this particular loss.  In my own research and in the pages I read, a lot of siblings shared they felt neglected by their parents after their sibling died.  When holidays would come, they expressed the same type of experiences...  Instead of celebrating life and a joyous time of togetherness during the holiday/birthday/etc, the parents focused on the death of their child and that they weren't there to celebrate with them.  For a lot of children who have lost a sibling, there can be a sense of survivor's guilt with irrational thoughts and feelings that come as a result of this tremendous loss.  Thankfully, I have NEVER had to experience those feelings.  I absolutely went through survivor's guilt, but it was part of my grieving process, not because my mother, or father for that matter, caused the feelings.  In my dream, I felt my mother's broken heart and her feelings of loss.  Her heart was whole and full of love prior to Jon's death, and after this tremendous loss she felt incomplete, broken, and her heart was missing the other half.

In my dream, the purity and power of her love was clearly communicated to me.  Her soul spoke so lovingly to mine, sharing that Jon and I were the true loves of her life, and with him gone, her heart felt incomplete.  As I share this, I can feel her pain and her love simultaneously.  It immediately brings me to tears and makes my heart ache.  My soul so beautifully expressed my understanding, and how loved I felt by her despite her burden of grief.  In my dream I thanked her for her love and for always making me feel wanted, despite missing the other part of her heart.  This dream was such a gift to my heart, healing in its own way.  The next day, (my brother's anniversary) I called and thanked her for her gift of unconditional love, for allowing me to be the love of her life, and for always loving me just as I am, nothing more or less.  We cried together and expressed our love for one another.  That moment, in dream and in our phone conversation, will be something I will hold in my heart forever.

A couple weeks ago, after being asleep for a little while, I was suddenly wide awake.  During the day, I had some pretty terrible news about my mother's health and I was processing everything before drifting off to sleep.  When I awoke, I was really groggy and quite tired.  Emotionally I was spent.  I really wanted to roll over and go back to sleep, pushing my ideas and thoughts to the side, forgetting that I had been woken by the voice of inspiration.  I can't lie, I contemplated it for a few minutes, and then told her to go away that I was tired, and I really didn't want to deal with the emotional content of her inspiration.  Somewhere deep inside me there was this voice... "If you don't go write it down and write it out, you will regret it."  Then like a flood, these ideas, thoughts, feelings, and MEMORIES had come to me in that moment and quite frankly, I didn't want to forget them.  Begrudgingly I got up.  I went to my studio, and started writing in my journal.  For 2 hours, I wrote.  I remembered things, I hadn't remembered and saw things from a different set of lenses.  A new pair of glasses.  My heart hurt and my body shook from my sobs, but there I sat writing until I couldn't write anymore.  When I finished writing and my tears stopped flowing, I felt so much better.  I saw things differently.  I also had this sense of "Knowing" that wasn't there before.

I have a Rumi journal that has his beautiful quotes on each page.  In the silent hours of the night, I scribbled on the pages of my journal about love, beauty, and childhood.  I wrote about motherhood and the blessings of love that I have received.  Perfectly aligned with my late night writings were these 4 Rumi quotes: "Love is a cloud that scatters pearls."  "God created your wings not to be dormant.  As long as you are alive you must try more and more to use your wings to show you're alive."  "Thankfulness brings you to the place where the Beloved lives."  "You think because you understand "one" you must also understand "two," because one and one make two.  But you must also understand "and."   Each quote, magically aligned for a deeper knowing and sense of gratitude that I had listened to the voice inside me, calling to scribble on my pages.

"Blue", Mixed Media Nature Mandala
© 2017 Toni Becker, Whimsical Jewels
My momma...  What best describes this woman I call Mother?  Is it grace or beauty?  Is it pure love and loyalty?  Is it strength and fire?  Is it tenderness?  Is it thoughtful and kind?  Is it protective and fierce?  I'd say all of these are perfect descriptions of the woman I have the honor to call mom.  A few months ago, if you had asked me what my greatest loss in life had been, I would have told you, hands down, my brother.  Now staring at the possibility of losing my mother, without really knowing when, and on a much more rapid time table, I can easily say... her.  She will be my greatest loss.  I haven't even felt her loss yet and I can say without a doubt this will be my greatest loss.  She is my beginning.  The roots in my tree.  And what do you do when your tree has been uprooted?

42 years ago, I was a little "seedling" in the tree of life called my mother, or as I like to call her... mommy or momma.  She has lovingly guided me throughout my life and really placed a solid foundation for me as a woman.  Any words I use, will be inadequate for describing my gratitude and love for this dear woman.  She is pure love and embodies it in her core.  My descriptive words of love barely scratch the surface of who she is and my love for her.  From the time, she knew she was pregnant with me, she loved me.  She did what she could to protect me, and cared for me with a love so deep I can feel it in my core.  Throughout childhood into adulthood, she has been a fierce lioness protecting me, her cub.  She has been a strong and fierce, a force to be reckoned with.  God help you, if you did anything to hurt Jon or I.  These days, it is I that protects her.  And quite honestly, my actions pale in comparison to hers.  Her love has always been flawless and gentle, unconditional and forgiving.  She was a good teacher of love, friendship, and how to be a good mother.  Her teachings showed me taught me to stand on my own feet as a woman.  She made sure to give me the tools I would need to be successful in this life.  I could go on and on... but you get my point.

So now here I am, looking at my time with this incredible woman.  Life is short, and her time is being
shortened by cancer.  It makes me feel all the feels.  Some would ask for healing and would beg Father time for more time, but that's not where I am in my journey.  I accept that this is where I am and where she is.  I surrender to this process, knowing I can't control it.  The only thing I can do is love her fiercely and support her decisions as she rides the last wave.  I have appreciated every second I have had with her.  She has loved me with a depth I am inadequate in describing and even father time can't take that from me because love is eternally infinite.

"Acceptance" Acrylic painting
© 2016 Toni Becker, Whimsical Jewels

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Unexpected Turns and the act of surrendering

How do you start each year?  Do you set a list of goals you want to accomplish?  Do you say a few New Year's resolutions and then develop a plan to take action?  After listing goals and resolutions, do you go full speed ahead then find that by the end of January you are exhausted and slowly start to relinquish your goals and resolutions?  This was definitely my story for many years.  I never really gave up completely on my goals and resolutions, but through reflection I could see patterns of behavior and my story as it played out.  I would work really hard at what I set out to accomplish, but then after a few weeks I realize I would start to lose ground on completion and the energy I used to tackle these new goals, would fade.  Then I would start to feel bad.  Really bad.  My inner critic would start yelling words like... "You failed.  Why can't you complete this?  What's wrong with you?"  That voice can be so brutally daunting, unforgiving, and relentless.

Then something magical happened.  A few years ago, my good friend, Brian Burrell, had a Facebook post stating his approach to the new year was letting a word choose him.  He credited his business coach, Christine Kane, for guiding him with this approach and shared a link regarding this remarkable, intuitive approach to the new year.  I followed the link, read her post, and thought, "what do I have to lose?"  So, I gave it a try...  My life and world was forever changed.  This new approach did exactly what her blog post said it would (Click on her name and it will take you to the blog post) it took the "should" out of my goals, called me out, and allowed me to create change within myself while honoring the space I was in at the time.  For the last few years, the words that have chosen me are Trust, Acceptance, and Surrender.  Powerful words that have a way of shaping us and molding us into something else.  At the end of 2017, I felt that Surrender wanted to stay with me and it had more to teach me.  As a result, I chose to listen and follow the path Surrender has for me.

Life has many unexpected turns that have the ability to crack me open and allow break through to happen, if I allow it, through the act of surrendering.  Over the years, I have noticed several opportunities for this level of awakening and transformation.  There have been times when I allowed change and transformation to occur, but usually never at a full surrender.  My ego still wanted me to be in control and as a result I would resist or try to manipulate the situation so I could feel "in control".  Do you know that saying, "what we resist, will persist?"  So, surrender and I are doing this elaborate dance with one another.  She leads and I'm trying my best to surrender control and follow.  In 2017, I saw some changes within myself as a result of my new friend, Surrender, and thankfully I have been able to recognize when she shows up to teach me something new.  

By surrendering, I manifested a beautiful home with a dreamy art studio.  I have allowed love to reenter my life.  I've felt a love I've never experienced before with a partner that is fully committed, and as he puts it, "all in."  I've had some success with commissioned art pieces that have allowed for connections with people, connections that have contributed to my soul's evolution.  By surrendering fear, I have become part of an amazing group of women who are empowering, uplifting, and committed to their success in this life, as well as, the success of other women.  Surrender has allowed me to step into the light and be big, instead of cowering in the corner in an attempt to be small and hidden.  These steps led to conducting my first healing art workshops.  Surrendering has allowed me to say YES more often and listen to the voice inside me that guides the direction of my heart.  All of these lessons have given me a sense of empowerment, love and connections with my community while allowing me to serve myself and others on a deeper level.

As life would have it, there have been some unexpected turns and uncomfortable gifts.  Gifts that continue to shape and mold me, awaken me to a deeper sense of self, and free me from the bondage my ego likes to enslave me with.  My unexpected turns came in a few different forms and have allowed me to awaken to limiting beliefs I have encased my soul's growth with, limiting my abilities to manifest more in my life.  I realized recently, that although I call my challenges uncomfortable gifts and I see them positively as areas of opportunity for growth, I also had a limiting belief surrounding it.  This limiting belief states I need challenges in order to grow, which I realize is not true.  I can continually grow without having earth shattering change and challenges.

Over the last few months, we have dealt with the death of a loved one, my mom's deteriorating health with hospitalization, my mom having cancer again, and having to locate a different house to live in.  Grieving the loss of my yummy art studio.  All of these unexpected turns have hit my family at the same time and are equally difficult in their own way.  Surrender has really opened my eyes, called me out on my story, and allowed me the opportunity to grow.  I'm not sure where she's leading me, but I know I'm going to be okay.  I know that the Divine order of things is watching over me, supporting me in my journey, and will provide whatever I need at the moment of need.  I know I am loved and that this love is unconditional and infinite.  So, I take her hand and follow wherever she leads, surrendering to her process and will.  And it is here through surrendering, that I will blossom into my soul's evolution and what my heart desires.

Image 1: ©2015 Toni Becker, Whimsical Jewels "Letting Go"
Image 2: ©2016 Toni Becker, Whimsical Jewels "Transformation 3"
Image 3: ©2017 Toni Becker, Whimsical Jewels "Bloom"

Thursday, August 10, 2017


If you’ve spent a decent amount of time with me, and we’ve had in depth conversations, then you know that numerology is pretty important to me.  Within those conversations, I have most likely told you that I try my best to pay attention to the signs of the universe, and I feel quite strongly numbers are one of those signs. 
I’m reflective most days, but the last few days, I have been quite reflective.  My life has had some twists and turns, ups and downs, days that were filled with light and days upon days of darkness.  Sometimes so dark, I wondered if I would ever see the light.  Some of these days were a result of situational depression, and some of those days were a result of overthinking various things going on in my life and the world around me, the demon of self-doubt, and the fear of failure and success.  Isn’t it interesting that I fear both failure and success?  That’s a whole other conversation for another day. 
Five.  Such a small number.  A small number with a colossal meaning and symbolism.  A few days ago, the gadgets in my brain really started turning.  This week marks a few important anniversaries.  Anniversaries that demand a moment and a pause in time and reflection.  So, why the number 5?  What does 5 mean?  And how does it relate to my period of reflection and the anniversaries I’m reflecting on?
Five years ago, I was having the worst summer possible.  My husband professed how unhappy he was in our life together.  I literally waited on the sideline to find out if everything I had helped to build was going to crumble and be left in ruins.   I waited and prayed.  I created art to soothe my bleeding heart.  I cried myself to sleep, begging the Universe to help me through this impossible pain, again.   The thought of my marriage dissolving after putting so much work and effort into it, seemed unbearable. The timing incredibly painful.  Then it happened.  It was over.  I was left standing like I had been hit by a bus and utterly devastated.  I couldn’t believe that my life, the life I had helped create and build, was shattered. 
In my research today, I realized how important the number five is to this particular period of my life.  So, what does five mean?  The meanings that resonated with me are the following: “Personal freedom, individualism, non-attachment, CHANGE, LIFE LESSONS THROUGH EXPERIENCE, release and surrender, health and healing, expansion, opportunity, story-telling, making positive life choices and decisions, conflict, able to learn and teach from direct experience.” It goes on to say that “the number 5 relates to making positive life choices and decisions and learning life lessons through experience.” (Joanne Walmsley-Sacred Scribes, link is listed below)  This pretty much sums up the last five years of my life.
On August 9th, five years ago, my husband said he wanted a separation.  Today, August 10th, marks 5 years that he signed his lease on his apartment and started out on his journey alone.  At the time, I was devastated.  How could my life have led me here?  How in the world did this happen?  He was asking for personal freedom and I was clinging to attachment.  He wanted change and I wanted to repair this vessel that was so broken.  What I came to realize over the last five years, was I created the separation too.  My soul needed it, but I wasn’t brave enough to ask for it outside of my being.  He was.  I was rooted in my own core beliefs of what marriage was, I was too blind to see it at the time.  I was blinded by my pain, fear, attachment, control, fear of change and expansion.  So blinded, that I couldn’t see that this event in my life would lead me to learn, gain experience, make positive life choices and decisions, and eventually here, telling my story.
For quite some time the pain was unbearable.  The same thoughts churned over and over in my mind, which at times made me feel crazy.  I felt so lost and insecure.  Unsafe.  Uprooted and shattered.  I couldn’t imagine that the 18 years that I had invested in, and something I had worked so hard at, came to a screeching halt.  I was mad at myself for continuing to love him.  I was sad and alone.  There were times when the pity party in my head went on for so long, I thought I would break.  It was so tiresome, even Pity wanted to leave the party, but due to my attachment to her, I clung to her for dear life.  I couldn’t lose her too.  Victim-hood can suck the life out of anyone, and leave you naked and afraid.  I needed to feel empowered and strong, two feelings that were so far out of my reach, and so far from my view. 
I ran.  I biked.  I wrote.  I cried. I cried. And I cried some more.  I sat alone.  I took classes to heal myself.  I did yoga.  I listened to music.  After a while, I drank.  Not every day, but after a couple of years of the pain, I definitely drank to numb the intensity of my feelings and to forget… I needed to forget, for a few moments, that my life had been turned upside down.  In my moments that I was heart centered and witnessed soulful insight, there was this incredible clarity, and in those moments I realized the healing path I was on, and why my soul called for the separation just as much as he did.  I couldn’t blame him anymore, because I had asked for this too.  My soul needed to grow and expand, and this painful experience needed to happen, in order for the growth to occur within myself.  Then I started painting.  All of the intense emotions and thoughts that swirled in my brain, came pouring out of me onto the canvas.  Standing in front of the canvas, moving my brush, scared the shit out of me, but it was where I felt free.  Free of the noise.  Free of the emotional turmoil I wrestled with each day, because so much had changed in my life.  Through my pain and acts of self-love, I found painting.  Or maybe she found me?    It was through the act of painting, I started to see the girl in front of the mirror and I didn’t mind looking at her.  It was through painting, that I found healing and grace, incredible strength and bravery.  And EMPOWERMENT.
In the last five years, I have been on a journey of transformation.  A path that stripped me naked and shattered my world.  It was through healing my grief that I realized that I needed the challenging lessons to gain experience.  I needed the pain and hurt to understand the power of healing.
These last two days, while reflecting on the anniversary of the dissolve of my marriage and the start of my husband’s new journey without me, I feel incredibly blessed.  I learned a tremendous amount about myself, my community, healing, and what it means to let go and surrender.  Some of these lessons, I continue to learn and deepen my understanding of, but then again, aren’t we all?  These last five years, I have had an abundant growth within myself and in my external world.  I have fell down and got back up.  I’ve carried on, surrendered to the process, released, and healed.  The last five years have been truly represented by the numerology of five and its meaning.    
Tomorrow marks another anniversary.  August 11th marks 23 years that we had our first kiss on the front steps of the Unadilla library.  It was here that our journey began.  Tomorrow also marks 17 years that we exchanged our own vows in front of our beloved family and friends.  I’ve reflected a lot this last week of anniversaries, on where my life was, where it is now, and where my life is headed.  This week marks five years that my life took a different turn and my lessons began, but it also marks a time when an immense love presented itself.  The last five years have been difficult, challenging, and a tremendous blessing. I’ve had many uncomfortable gifts and I know I’ll be presented with many more in my life.  Uncomfortable gifts allow us the space to expand and the room to grow.  I’ve grown and so has Shayne.  We are completely different people than we were five years ago when we ended our marriage, and started down a path by ourselves.  Now five years later, here we are.  Reunited and stronger than ever.  More in love than we ever were before.  We share a true partnership that didn’t exist before the separation.  We needed the separation in order to be in this loving space, and it is here, that I triumphantly celebrate the uncomfortable lessons I learned over the last five years.  It is here, I celebrate the love we have for one another and the life we are creating once again.  So tomorrow’s anniversary takes on a very different meaning for me.  A life enriched with love, partnership, and a life shared with my best friend.  I am truly blessed.   

Title:  "Transformation"
Medium:  Acrylic Paint

In numerology, the number five carries several meanings, and I’ve chosen the meanings that resonated with me, and this particular time period of my life and reflection.  If you want to read more about the number five, please check out this link for the information:

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

The evolution of an artist and a forever work in progress.

The gradual development of something, especially from a simple to a more complex form. 

Since my art journey began, many moons ago, my art has changed, transformed, and evolved, and so have I.  As I look back on past creations, I am reminded how far I have come as an artist and the evolution and development it has taken over the years.  Not only have I witnessed my art evolve but through art, I have evolved as a human and grown in ways that were unimaginable at the time.  It has taken a lot of hard work, showing up for myself when I wanted to hide, PATIENCE, acceptance, and practice.

This past year has been the fastest artistic growth I have seen thus far.  Words will be an inadequate description of the year I had painting under the gentle guidance of Flora Bowley but I will do my best to convey the beautiful experience I had.  This experience caused my seed to crack open and bloom into a magnificent creative flower.  If you read my last post, I had no choice but to bloom, then you know what happened and how I stumbled into the world of Flora Bowley.  From this post, you also know, that this experience was life changing and my creative lens was adjusted to see a whole different world, one that enhanced the unique and beautiful world I was already seeing.

I turned 40 in February 2015 and it has been by far, the best birthday yet.  I was surrounded by amazing friends who I love and came together to celebrate my life, wishing me well in the year ahead. Although my soul sister couldn't attend she gave me the gift of Flora.  An amazing, life altering gift that took me down a creative path I had not yet been on, lighting a fire no one will ever be able to extinguish.  The best gift EVER!

Although I'd love to go into a crazy amount of detail about Flora's wonderful intuitive painting E-course, I don't feel that it's right for me to do so.  What I will do is explain what each week meant to me and how at times it was painfully joyous.  The course was exactly what my soul needed and the timing perfect!  There were so many times throughout the course that I felt the course was carved out just for me.  It was as if Flora knew exactly what I was thinking and feeling, a sure sign that she is a messenger and vessel of spirit.  Each time these beautiful moments happened I smiled and thanked the spirit world for bringing me exactly what I needed and thanked Flora for saying just the right things at the exact time so I could heal and crack open.  So, here is what this gift meant to me.....

Let's be honest...  if someone tells you that soul work is easy, they are not doing something right or not being truthful with themselves.  I have found that anytime I work on my life, things I want to get better at, or areas I want to focus on to be a better person... it is WORK.  Soul work is work too.  Progress.  Improvement.  Work.  Onward and upward, right?  Some days the work is harder than other days and I have to gently remind myself that showing up each day to do the work is step one and worth verbally praising myself for doing so.  We are our own worst critics and it's astonishing how abusive we are to ourselves.  I have listened to the brutal voice in my head for far too long and as I make attempts to silence her and listen to the other voice that says, "I am worth it, I can do this, I am loved, and I am supported" I am finding that the world is in fact brighter and opportunities abound.

Flora's E-course began the last week of January 2015, however, I didn't really "start" until after the course had already been underway for a few weeks.  I really started to dive in the first week of April and it took me a little while to clear my head space to start, as well as being able to emotionally and physically give it my all, because of the heavy life circumstances I was experiencing I needed a little clarity before diving in.  Seriously, the course was concluding and I was beginning, so I was VERY grateful that Flora left the e-course up for us to access for 6 months after the conclusion of the course, so people like me were able to finish the course, as well as, do it in our own time, at our own pace.  Flowers don't bloom and grow at the same pace and neither do we.  Being able to complete this course on my terms became one of the biggest blessings, and the fact that I had permission to do it as I pleased, allowed the magic to really happen.

Each week comes with a theme and during the week there are a series of creative exercises to do based on the theme.  I found each exercise Flora presented, gave me a deeper understanding of the theme, and allowed me to open further which gave me a more enriched life experience and creative journey.  The exercises are completely voluntary and you can do as much or as little as you like.  Even though the soul work and showing up for myself to do the exercises was extremely hard at times, I was always excited about what was next and the information being presented.  I was a sponge that absorbed it all and when I thought I was full, I realized I wasn't.  :)  I found the course to be PERFECT for the established artist and the beginner with no experience.

I have always been fairly intuitive and felt connected with the spirit world around me.  I'm a seeker and because of this I am always searching for answers and connecting to the mystery around me.  As I dove into week one, Intuition, I found myself connecting even more with the spirit world and nature.  I loved being able to make a connection between my art and my intuition.  Intuitive painting was a scary concept for me.  To stand in front of a canvas with no concept, theme, or idea about what to paint raised all the flags of fear imaginable.  But I embraced it and I did so with courage and eager anticipation.  I found that as the lessons progressed I was completing them in perfect alignment with what I needed in my personal and creative life.  The stars continued to align in a magical dance the entire course and the magic didn't stop once the course was over.

Week 1: Layer 1 &2; Week 2 : Layer 3, 4, & 5; Week 3: Layer 6 & 7; Week 4: Layer 8

The hardest week I had during the course was week two...  Letting GO.  This week's lesson I needed the MOST...  on all of the following levels- spiritual, emotional, physical, mental and creative.  I believe that each of these levels are intertwined with each other and when one is out of balance it causes an imbalance in the other.  Our systems are quite remarkable and will cooperatively work harder to bring the other system in balance before reaching an imbalance itself.  I love that about our bodies.  Week two was where I did the most work and spent the most time in my soul and my art.  I stayed in this weeks lesson for 2 months and didn't move on to the following week until I felt ready.  It did cause me to have to rush a little towards the end but I felt that I needed that too.  What I needed most always presented itself exactly when I needed it.  Learning to let go of my ego and the fear I held on to regarding my art was a tremendous transformation.  Each day that I did the soul work regarding the theme of letting go, I could see myself morphing into something beautiful and the transformation I felt was uncomfortable and incredible...simultaneously.  The most powerful transformation I had during this week's lesson was embracing the words, "I AM AN ARTIST" and letting go of the thoughts that I had bouncing in my head shouting that I was not and the detrimental thoughts that my art wasn't good enough, I wasn't good enough.  I haven't completely purged myself of these limiting thoughts but I am working on it.  I can see that because I'm not holding on to this limiting view, my expression through art has radically changed.  It has opened a flood gate of creativity that was waiting to be released.

Week three...  Your inspiring life, felt light and airy.  I enjoyed taking a look at the world around me and concentrating on the micro and macro details then doing a fast sketch based on what I saw.  It was in this week that I realized how powerful fast sketches can be.  When I think of myself as an artist, I will be the first to tell you, I don't draw well.  I have loved drawing since I was a small child and remember soothing my soul's pain with drawing and music.  Over the last few years I have quieted the voice in my head that told me I couldn't draw and did it anyway.  During this week, Flora made sure to say aloud that we had PERMISSION to draw without the attachment that they had to be good.  This was so liberating for me and the fact that someone outside of my being gave me permission to have a crappy drawing allowed me to feel free.  It sounds so silly now but I realize how shackled I had become to the idea that what I drew had to be good or recognizable to someone other than me.  The days that followed I drew more and I needed that.  I also really enjoyed finding what I loved to draw and seeing through a different lens.  My peace absolutely comes from enjoying and seeing the natural world around me.  When I took my sketchbook out with me and stared at macro and micro images, it was as if the world exploded around me.  In this week I also gave myself permission to paint the images I LOVE and feel connected to, even if they were the same images I had been jotting down for eons.  Another very powerful lesson in week 3 was entering "THE AWKWARD TEENAGER PHASE" with my art.  My painting was exactly that, I felt it and at this stage I really hated my painting.  When this phrase came out of Flora's mouth, it was as if the stars aligned and I could move past it knowing this awkward teenager phase would pass.  It allowed me to not become stuck and allowed the fear of "will this ever be good?" or "can I really paint something beautiful?" to leave.  Since this remarkable class, I have entered the awkward teenager phase with every single one of my paintings and every time the fear arises I chuckle, and gently remind myself that this too shall pass and the result will be something beautiful, to be patient, and allow my voice to emerge.  I surrendered to the process and really learned to trust myself, my abilities, and that my creative voice would emerge without me having to force it.

Week 4: Layer 9; Week 5: Layer 10 - 12;
Layer 12 - 16 was applying everything I learned in the course and getting  everything right

Week four...  Being BRAVE!  In this week my soul emerged with courage and bravery and left my ego behind.  This was absolutely necessary especially when being in the awkward teenager phase.  As my ego tried to take hold and convince me that I wasn't an artist, I wasn't good enough, or riddled my being with fear, my soul gently reminded me that I was safe, my creative voice was beautiful, and to be brave and step into the light.  When I took the step and embraced the courage to do so, fear was left behind and my ego was quiet.  My soul stood firmly and my creative voice was heard loud and clear.  Love emerged and with love, my painting emerged too.  Beyond my painting, I began to have the courage to share my artwork more.  This brave act was so liberating.  The response to my artwork from those that I shared it with was remarkable.  I finally felt like I had arrived.

All of these layers were adding the finishing touches to my painting.
These layers were really a continuation of week 5 and allowing my authentic voice to emerge,
giving my painting a voice and my brush an opportunity to speak.

Week five...  Finding your authentic voice.  Truth is by the time I got to week four and five I had to go a little faster because the online availability of this dynamic course was drawing to a close.  It wasn't because there wasn't enough time to access it, it was because at the beginning I allowed fear to conquer me, life's circumstances were way too heavy for me to take on anything else, and the demons screaming in my head that I wasn't going to paint anything beautiful were deafening.  So, yes I had plenty of time to get to week five, but the reasons I just stated AND the fact I had spent nearly two months in week two letting go of many of the negative ideas and beliefs I held as well as the limitations my mind framed around me, caused me to rush a little towards the end of the course.  The truth is, I believe I needed that too.  Because I had to "rush" and didn't have time to "think" or listen to the demons, I was in a beautiful state of spiritual and creative awareness.  It was here that I embraced the idea to be brave and "BE" in the moment and I was able to paint from a place of complete freedom.  It was there that my authentic voice emerged.  I realized that for years now I had been developing my style and trying on different things creatively to see what was my fit, my voice.  I had been testing the water for all of it and it took courage to do that.  We are our own worst critic and sometimes we cause the magic to stop as a result.  I realized I had done that too.  But by the end of week five, magic was in the air and on my canvas.  My soul was filled with joy and my energy was vibrating at a frequency I can't describe in words.

This gift was the second best gift I have ever received in my life, the first being motherhood.  The experience was incredibly HARD because soul work is hard, and at the same time when I stepped into the flow and just accepted the magic, it was also incredibly EASY.  That in itself is a lesson.  This e-course is so much more than a painting class...  it's a lesson in spiritual awareness, awakening, self-esteem, empowerment, accepting that we are divine and beautiful, LISTENING to our inner voice and the voice of the world around us, and acceptance.  If you are thinking...  I'm not an artist nor do I know anything about art... that's okay, you don't have to be an artist or know anything about art to take this online course.  If you are thinking, I'm an established artist and don't need another painting class or instruction on how to paint...  I am here to tell you that this is not just a painting course, it's more than that.  If you want to give yourself a true gift, buy this class for yourself.  It will be the greatest gift you give yourself and I PROMISE it will be worth every penny you spend on it.  Or maybe give it to someone else...  I'm glad Karin gave it to me...  Best gift EVER!

As I said in the beginning, when I look at my art over the years, I realize how each moment has led to this one.  I can see how much I have evolved and transformed.  Each stage of my life different just like my art.  Flora's e-course allowed me to crack my artistic seed open and sink my roots into a new belief.  The belief that I AM AN ARTIST and what I create is MY VOICE and it is beautiful.  It doesn't have to be beautiful to anyone else because my creative voice is enough and says what my creative work is.  Even now as I look at my finished painting on the wall, my inner critic has come out a few times stating the various areas my painting could improve and I've had to stop the voice.  I believe this voice can be helpful or it can be hurtful.  The voice can push us to be more than what we are or stop us from becoming.  I became something beautiful.  I bloomed beyond my dreams.  I have evolved and I will continue to do so because I am a forever work in progress.

Just like the pure joy emitting from the face of "S" skeleton,
my heart felt the same.
My art hanging in my home next to my
daughter's art... pure joy.  

Thursday, January 21, 2016

I had no choice but to bloom

  Okay, I had a choice.  Each of us have a choice, but there was something inside of me that said...  It's time to bloom.  You have to.  You CAN.  This is the only choice.  Do you know what I'm talking about?  You know that moment when we have a choice to show up or shrink,  run or stay, be big or stay small, shine or hide?  It was scary and I wanted to run but my feet planted into the ground with a stance that said, "You got this!"  My ego was violently shaking its ugly head no but my soul was screaming yes...  "you are loved, you are supported, and it's time to shine."  So...  I had no choice but to bloom because it was my time to shine, to step into the light, and bloom.

Let me back up.  2014 went out with a bang.  The unraveling began in September 2014 and it seemed to only get worse as the months went on.  My employment was in jeopardy.  I'm a single mom who is self-employed, so as you can imagine, this caused an initial panic inside me that I can't describe.  I had to remind myself several times that I am supported and loved by the universe.  Again my ego went into overdrive raising the red flags of self-doubt, fear, and anxiety but all the while my soul calmly waited for me to get centered and to trust that there was a plan in place bigger than me.  There are a few things that I am VERY passionate about, my work as a life skills coach is one of them.  I know that I won't do this work forever, but right now I am where I am supposed to be and I love the work.  And I'm really good at it.  So as I waited to hear whether I could still be a self-employed mom, who is available to her children, another bomb dropped....

My step-father died.  Hello October.  Thanks for your warm welcome.  Glenn had been a part of my life since I was a small child.  My parents divorced when I was five and my mom married him when I was seven, so yes he was a large part of my life.  It wasn't always love, sunshine, and rainbows though.  Maybe I'll leave that for another post, but what I will say is this...  it took me a LONG time to love him and he patiently waited.  He loved me dearly and I'm grateful that he waited for my love because the feeling was mutual.  Death is so hard...  it's a reminder to love madly, live in the moment, and hug the ones you love everyday because tomorrow may never come.  While still grieving this huge loss another bomb dropped...

"Toni, I have cancer."  What?  Really?  Are you sure mom?  I hadn't even made it through October when this enormous bomb dropped.  Is this really happening?  November and December were a little bit of a blur...  mom had surgery, was in and out of the hospital a few times before the year ended, thanksgiving, Christmas, grief and loss.  It was a hurricane and I was being swept up in its fierce winds.

I wanted the year to end and I welcomed the new year with open arms hoping for something better.  For the time being I was still able to do the work I loved and feel passionate about, so that was a plus.  Then I received an email from my BFF, Karin, on January 18th.  A little over a year ago now.....  wow time flies!  The subject line read:  "It's your lucky day, my dear!! xo"  When I clicked on the email I had NO idea what was in store for me or how drastically my life would change in the upcoming year.  Karin had entered my name into a drawing to win a free on-line intuitive painting course with Flora Bowley.  I had no idea who she was as an artist and I had no idea the journey I was about to embark on.

Initially, even though I was really excited that I had won something, my body and mind became riddled with fear and self-doubt.  I can count on one hand the times I had won something.  So my thoughts were, "seriously, I had won?  Karin are you sure?  Go back and check..."  Then came the thoughts, "Are you sure you can do this?  What happens if I'm not any good?"  But yes, I really had won and it was right before my 40th birthday.  My soul sister and loving friend, provided me with gentle encouragement and love to give me the boost I needed, all the while stating that I deserved it.  She reminded me that I am supported and loved by the universe and that this would be good for my soul and my art.  To assist my journey and celebrate my 40 years on this planet, Karin made sure I was set with the supplies I would need for the course, and sent me on my way to embark on this transformative journey.  So now it was up to me...  choose to bloom or choose to stay a seed.  Choose to shine or choose to hide my light.

This five week course started at the end of January and even though it ran for five weeks, I had access to it on line for six months from the time the course concluded.  Sweet!  This was perfect for me especially since my life was in upheaval at the time of winning this beautiful gem.  And to be honest, it took me a little while to wrap my head around the fact that I had won this, whether or not I was capable of doing it, and whether or not I deserved it.  Yes, I said it...  did I really deserve something so wonderful?  It took me a little while to answer these questions and when I did...  the magic happened.  I went on the site, read, re-read, and then started doing small things to get myself prepared to start and to push away my so called friends, fear and self-doubt.  All the while I was still dealing with a very sick and grieving mother, who was in and out of the hospital numerous times until the middle of March 2015.  In April, mom started to heal physically, emotionally, and spiritually which also assisted me with my own healing.  In mid May, I received an email stating everything would remain as it had been with my self-employment, so I was no longer sitting in limbo regarding my job status waiting for another bomb to drop.  I could breathe a little easier and worry a little less.  So it was time to start to show up for myself.  No excuses.

If you are like me and have never heard of Flora Bowley or her art, please for the love of God go check her out....  only after you finish reading this blog post of course!  Her art is amazing, her gentle and loving spirit so inviting, and her approach to art refreshing.  It was EXACTLY what I needed to transform and bloom.  Ironically, the 5 week course is called Bloom True.  Great, how appropriate.

I have struggled with the words, "I am an artist" for as long as I have been creating.  I was never really able to own the words and it definitely affected my creative life.  It wasn't until the conclusion of the online painting course, that I realized how much it affected my creative life.  Thankfully, despite the lack of owning these words, I still showed up and created.  My soul in many ways overpowered my ego, something I am grateful for.

Other than the gift of being a mother to my beautiful children, the painting class with Flora was by far the best gift I have ever been given.  There was a shift that occurred in my being while taking this online painting course that I find difficult to put into words.  The light and guidance that Flora emitted was hard to hide from and made me want to rise and shine.  My small seed opened accepting the light she radiated and the inner growth I experienced was magical and deep.  I allowed myself to grow, transform, and shine instead of staying small.  At times it was so hard to stand in front of my canvas and allow the magic to happen but I'm so glad that I did.  I'm glad that despite my fear I showed up for myself each day and allowed the light to enter, causing this great shift inside of my being.  When I let go of all the negative words that held my soul captive and really believed in myself as an artist, it was there that my voice emerged.  This voice was so beautiful and the art that has come as a result leaves me standing in awe.  Sometimes I stand in disbelief of what I have just created, asking myself, "Is this really mine?".  Yes, Toni, it is and it is beautiful.

I have had a few difficult years and last year was certainly one of them, but this painting class transformed my life and I will never be the same.  And neither will my art.  It provided a safe haven for me to grow and heal.  It helped my creative vision and assisted with finding the courage to show up each day for myself creatively.  I see the world through a different lens now, everything is a little different and the world a little brighter as a result.  Although the painting class was 5 weeks online, it took me the entire time I had access to it online, to get through the lessons.  The painting that I did during the course took  almost a year to finish.

The painting below I completed after the painting course ended and I was still working on my painting from the class itself.  I started this painting for an art show I was participating in and the night I finished it was magical.  I stood in front of the painting with tears in my eyes, a fire in my belly, love in my heart, and a disbelief that this was mine.  I created it.  ME.  And it was beautiful.  I had let go of the fear and self-doubt that had muffled my voice and instead chose to rise allowing my seed to be cracked open and my voice to emerge triumphantly.  My voice sang a creative music I longed to hear and I owned every bit of the sentence, "I AM AN ARTIST."

I chose to bloom and I'm so glad that I did.


***Stay tuned for my post about the class and the picture of my completed canvas....

All of the photos used in this blog post were taken by me in the Spring/Summer 2008

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Kindness comes in all forms

Kindness seems simple enough, yet we rush through the day without giving its simple act a second thought.  Seriously, how hard is it to engage in these simple acts?  You know...  Tell someone to have a good day just to add a little cheer, hold the door for the person behind you on the way out of the store, carry someone's bag for them, give a little money to the homeless individual holding the sign (without judgement), letting a car get in front of you despite being in a hurry or a few minutes late, sending a text to say you care, so on and so forth.  Are we moving through life so quickly that we forget to be human?  Are we disconnecting ourselves further and further from one another that the simple act of kindness is outside of our reach?

There have been times that the simple act of kindness touched my soul so deeply and shed a little light in what seemed like utter darkness and for this I am grateful.  The majority of the time the individuals showing grace and kindness didn't know I was in my darkest hour, needing a "pick me up" or that I felt so terrible inside.  I have sought and received kindness in unlikely places.  I have been pleasantly surprised and felt loved when I needed it the most in my life.  

The quote above speaks volumes to a person's character, who they are, and how they make you feel, without receiving anything in return.  And today I pay tribute to the fine staff of Trader Joe's in Winston-Salem.  These people are incredible and they have lifted me up, sent a little love my way when I needed it the most, gave me hugs on days I needed it and days I didn't, and gave genuine acts of kindness all the while expecting nothing in return.  Shopping here I have experienced humanity at its best.  

Trader Joe's opened in Winston-Salem at the end of October 2012, which was a few months after my ex-husband and I separated.  As soon as it opened, I began shopping there because I believe in their mission to give healthy food choices at affordable prices and give the consumer information to make informed decisions about their food.  Beyond that they also deliver impeccable customer service.  Win-Win.  Now three years later I still shop there and I'm in there a few times per week.  I never in a million years thought I would  become as fond as I have of many of the workers.  

When I started shopping there, I wanted nutritionally sound food for the kids and I, but what I received was more than that.  When the ex and I split, as you can imagine I felt broken and alone.  There were days I didn't want to leave my house and facing the world seemed unbearable.  When feeding your family is imperative to health, I had no choice but to go to the grocery store.  I was always greeted with kindness, a smile, and a genuine friendliness.  I know what you are thinking...  Trader Joe's employees are over the top friendly, can seem insincere in their endeavors to be friendly, and they have a bubbliness that's borderline obnoxious and annoying.  I've read the reviews.  I can honestly say that Trader Joe's in Winston Salem isn't like that...  or at least I haven't encountered that.  Soon after I started shopping there, a few of the workers knew me by name and always greeted me.  Then they started giving me hugs.  None of them knew I was going through a really dark period in my life and during that time their hug meant the world to me.  There were times I would force myself to leave my house and go to Trader Joe's, because I needed the darkness to lift.  I needed to feel better.  The staff at Trader Joe's became my therapy and prescription to happiness.  So yes...  I received more than good food for my body, I received food for my soul.

Now, more than three years later, I'm not ashamed to say, I still go there to get a hug when I need one.  I have come to know several of the employees there and I have often asked myself how it was possible to have so many kind people in one spot?  My kids love many of the workers too and find themselves looking for them before they even enter the front door.  We have been showered with kindness time and time again by several of the employees, who we hold dear.  They have become our Trader Joe's family and we are forever grateful for each blessing they give us, each time they stop and chat with us asking about our day and life, each time they give us a hug or a bouquet of flowers, or just say hi.  There are several people at the store that we hold dear to our hearts and are quite fond of.

Kindness comes in all forms.  I'm grateful for the Winston Salem Trader Joe's employees and the unexpected kindness that they have given the kids and I, without expecting anything in return.  This is kindness in the purest form and a language that crosses all barriers.