Healing Expressions: Restorative Art

Yesterday, I was blessed with the privilege of attending a Therapeutic Collage Workshop, offered by Therapeutic Arts Facilitator, Lani Kent, of Healing Expressions, located in Vancouver, WA. Going into the workshop, I wasn’t sure how doing collage can be therapeutic, but, when Lani shared her story and her process, I saw how it can be another way to express and explore experiences, thoughts, and emotions. It can give the unspoken and unspeakable a voice and be a powerful part of one’s healing process.

Lani’s art both speaks from and to the soul. You can view her gallery here. You can also find her on Facebook.

img_7297When we arrived to the workshop, we were greeted by Lani and chose our seats. Each setting had a folder and a small gift packet with a Blessing Card attached to it. Each table had small displays of Lani’s collage art.

She had a very long table almost overflowing with magazines and had lined the perimeter of the room with more of her collage work.

After she had shared her story and experience with Restorative Art and how it had helped her on her personal journey of healing and recovery, she invited us to wander the room and select any of her pieces that drew our attention, in either and inviting way, or even one that repelled.


At that point she gave us instruction and time to reflect. Then, she explained how to go about the process of collecting the elements we would use in making our own collages.

I confess that I just started tearing into magazines and collected way more than I could use. I collected so many possibilities, that I probably only had time to cut out elements from 1/3 of the material I had collected. I suspect that I have enough leftover magazine pages to make several more than the two I did make.

We were encouraged to write the date and what we were experiencing during this time period, whether it was about what we were doing with the collages in that moment or in the greater context of our lives. Lani counseled that we may not know or fully understand the meaning of our collages, at first. That we may come back to them multiple times throughout our journey and learn more about ourselves, from ourselves, in this way.

As I said, I did two. I’m only going to show one, here. The other one requires some processing and unpacking with my therapist. Both of them do, actually. However, I think the symbolism of the one I’m posting here is probably a very universal theme. Though, when I researched the symbolism I learned some deeper meaning and insight into what this could be saying.

Please let me know how this speaks to you, if it does


NanoPoblano – November 2018 Daily Blog Challenge

🤔 You’ve probably noticed, or maybe not, how dormant my blog has been for a long while. Periodically, I try to jumpstart my writing by doing a daily blog post challenge. This is another such effort.

The past few times I started a challenge, I haven’t been able to do the full month before…life. My hope and my plan is to incorporate my life into this month’s effort.

By that I mean I’m going to bring y’all up to speed with the things that have been going on in my life this year, especially the past couple of months:

• Parenting
• Autism
• Bipolar 2 disorder
• WW (formerly Weight Watchers)
• Binge Eating Disorder & Compulsive Eating

are among the things I’ll write about. There may even be a haiku or two and other poetry tossed into the mix.

Welcome and thanks for joining me on this journey.

Click above to find other NanoPoblano bloggers.

Writing Prompt: Photo Challenge & Word of the week.

Packing It In

We’ve lived like this
for far too long.
We no longer kiss.
With you, I’m always wrong.

You have too much anger,
I’m too sad.
We’ve lost our anchor.
Together, we’re bad.

This negativity can’t last.
I want you as friend, not foe.
I think our time is past.
It’s time to let go.

What’s next will be hard.
It will be rough.
We’ve both been scarred,
but, we’re tough.

I know you see what I see.
There’s nothing left to say.
This is what needs to be.
We must go our own way.

Word of the week: packing


You’re not crazy. You’re pain is not a pathology. Your pain makes sense…You’re a human being with unmet needs.
Now This Op-Ed video about depression


“She’s just crazy. I’m done.”

“That’s just crazy talk.”

“How crazy is that?”

“What are you, crazy?”


How often do we throw that word around? We use it as a throwaway label for people and situations we don’t have the time, energy, or inclination to try and understand. It’s mostly a word which people who consider themselves as “normal” use to explain away and dismiss the abnormal.

Guess what? It’s ableism.

What is Ableism? According to The Urban Dictionary, “Ableism is the discrimination or prejudice against people who have disabilities. Ableism can take the form of ideas and assumptions, stereotypes, attitudes and practices, physical barriers in the environment, or larger scale oppression. It is oftentimes unintentional and most people are completely unaware of the impact of their words or actions.”

This definition isn’t only about physical disabilities, it also counts for those experiencing mental health issues due to atypical brain structure and neurochemistry.

Bipolar Disorder
Borderline Personality Disorder
Anxiety disorders
Compulsive Behavior disorders
Autism Spectrum Disorder (high functioning)

These are but a few examples of things which people with non-neurotypical brains and brain chemistry experience.


It is a word which holds a strong stigma. The thought of being “crazy” often causes people not to seek help for symptoms and behaviors which make them feel mentally and emotionally out of control. They don’t want to be labeled as “crazy.” WE don’t want to be labeled and dismissed as being “crazy.” We don’t want to be treated as defective or dismissed because having atypical brains makes us “less than.”

I say “WE” because I have a Bipolar brain which has been affected by ongoing and varied trauma experiences. Four and a half years ago, I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder, Type 2, and PTSD. Around the same time, my youngest child was educationally identified as having “High Functioning Autism Spectrum Disorder.” Recently she received the official diagnosis of Autism AND ADHD.

These things cause us to think, react, and act differently than those who have neurotypical brains. We aren’t “crazy,” we aren’t disabled. We are neurodiverse and differently abled.

The thing about the word, “crazy” is that it’s such an inherent part of our American vernacular that even those of us who have been affected and marginalized by the term frequently use it ourselves.

I’m not going to “go off the deep end” (another phrase often used instead of “crazy”) and call out everyone, every time I hear the word used. However, I will start with myself and maybe those closest to me. I haven’t figured out what to say instead, but, I’m working on it. I’ll keep you posted.

Maybe you’ll think about it the next time you hear or use the word.

In case you’re wondering, the August Scrawls Day 3 word is “atypical.”

Writing Prompts: August Scrawls, Days 1 & 2

I was stymied after prepping Thursday’s post on Wednesday. I had run out of the current prompts available on the social writing app I’ve been writing on – intermittently – for well over a year now. I needed more prompts, until either new prompts showed up on lettrs or my own ideas started flowing.

Did you know there’s a whole community of writers using Instagram? #writersofinstagram and #amwriting are a great way to locate fellow word warriors…but, you probably already knew that.

Nowadays, there’s a hashtag for EVERYTHING under the sun, on God’s green earth…(had to do it once “nowadays” showed up). So, I searched #augustwritingprompts. Lots of options popped up. Several set up scenarios and situations to write about. Not for me. I’m more of a minimalist when it comes to prompts. Give me something to interpret and write my own scene about, in my own voice.

I found such a prompt! It’s called August Scrawls and is hosted by @hopelessperriott on Instagram. A word a day! I can work with that. I hope.

Here are my first two days’ efforts:


He hungrily watched her lips wrap around the oblong orb. His mouth went dry with thirst as a tiny drop of clear juice slowly meandered down. His pupils dilated as she captured it with her tongue. He longed to wrap his hands around the soft, golden skin. Mouth watering at the thought of tasting the firm flesh, he asked…

“Do you have another apricot?”

Gotcha! At least that was the idea. The word for Day 1 was “apricot.” How’d I do?

Here’s Day 2:

A Spectrum Moment

“Children, it’s time to work on your spelling words. Jennifer, will you please hand out this week’s practice sheets?”

Mrs. Vee, the teacher, surveyed her overly full classroom. Her eyes rested on the student in the far back corner, Shandi. Shandi was seated on a stool at the science workstation. Her head was bent as she intently stared down at the paper in front of her. She reached for a black marker and began drawing.

Mrs. Vee watched as Jennifer cautiously approached Shandi. Jennifer attempted to hand Shandi the paper. She kept looking at her artwork, seemingly oblivious to Jennifer’s presence. Then, Jennifer bravely placed the paper between Shandi’s face and the paper she was drawing on.

She reacted as badly as expected. The crumpled paper plummeted to the floor.

“Shandi! That’s enough. It’s time to work on spelling. You’ve had your art time. Now it’s work time.”

Defying her teacher’s authority, Shandi climbed down from her stool and stormed out of the classroom, disappearing down the hall to the CBC, Contained Behavior Classroom, where her IEP, Individual Education Plan, said she could go in times of distress.

Mrs. Vee sighed, then called the office, alerting them that Shandi had left the room, once again. “We really need more support from the District’s Autism Specialist,” she thought to herself.

Resigned to the status quo, she turned and addressed the classroom, “Who has completed writing five of the words?”

The word was “authority.”

This scenario is taken from the pages of my life as the parent of a child who interfaces with the world through the Autism Spectrum and experiences ADHD. There were a lot of these kinds of incidents over the past two school years. It’s felt good to interact with and try to support and encourage teachers who care. Most General Education teachers don’t receive much training or education in supporting kids with various special needs. I’m grateful my daughter is where she is.

Anyway, days 1 & 2 down. Hopefully, I’ll catch up with 3 & 4 tomorrow.

Propaganda Dispersal System vs Critical Thinking

This is intended as reminder for those of us who forget to use it, for whatever reason – I do include myself in this – and a primer for those who haven’t had the opportunity to learn it, for whatever reason.

“Critical thinking skills truly matter”

Our social media culture of “like, copy, share” has turned many of us, again, myself included, into cogs of the Propaganda Dispersal System (PDS).

Much of what passes in front of our eyes, through our FB news feeds and notifications lists, (as well as other places we like to hang out on the internet), regarding governmental, justice, social, and environmental issues, is both product and fuel of the PDS.

The facts are often true…except for a detail or two. There are frequent omissions or additions. Language is used in a way to slant and hook our emotions. This is why the term “click bait” exists.

If you know anything about fishing, the following may be helpful:

Fisherman = person/organization that wants our attention in the form of votes, money, and/or time.

Fish = us. Every single one of us is a target with thousands of goods, services, products, political parties, activist organizations, public and private institutions  ALL wanting our votes, money, and/or time.

Hook & bait = carefully crafted words, images, and videos designed to bypass the rational and analytical parts of our brains and hook into our emotions.

This is where fishing analogy ends and the virus one begins:

How many times have you heard the phrase, “it’s gone viral”?

Once our emotions are hooked, we then become carriers of the propaganda virus. Even the most educated and rational person can and does “catch the virus.” We all have some things we’re immune to. Things we can bypass without a thought or regret. However, all of us also have those things we’re almost always susceptible to. Again, this also applies to the well and over-educated, because we’re humans.

After that happens, we’re the carriers, propaganda is the virus, and social media is the transmission system. We get hooked by whatever powerful emotion the information in words and images and how it has been presented trigger in us. Then, we copy and share it so the people on our friend lists will see it and react. And the next cycle begins.

It has taken longer for you to read this than it frequently takes for the entire cycle to happen.

A headline. A meme. A 30-60 second video. 👍❤️😮😥😡 & share. Scroll and repeat.

If we will stop and take the time ask the questions in this chart, we can break ourselves free from the Propaganda Dispersal System.

The importance of communicating when it’s the last thing you want to do.

Being codependent with the world is not fun. So, I’m trying to change it. Guess what? Changing ingrained responses and dealing with the reactions of the boundary breakers who’ve been trained to believe that I don’t have boundaries, is about as much fun as staying codependent.

Which is to say, frustrating, painful, and draining.

For those who’ve been reading along recently, you know I’m overwhelmed with multiple challenges happening all at once. The interplay between those things and the mental/physical health issues, means I’m not coping well in a lot of ways. Truthfully, I know I’m coping better than I have in the past, but not as well as I (and others) judge I should be.

At any rate, the last thing I feel capable of doing is constructively and compassionately dealing with someone incapable of being constructive and compassionate. This is especially true if there is more being demanded of me than I feel I have to give.

The whole turn the other cheek, give the cloak off your back, go the extra mile thing is really a bit beyond me, at the moment. As a matter of fact, I’m even having difficulty with “how you treated the least of these, so you treated me” thing. Whether it’s oppressors, those experiencing more difficulties than I am, or those on the same level, I’m running on empty and haven’t got anything left to give anybody, that’s worth having. I haven’t got the mental, physical, or emotional space to be able to open up the spiritual channels and let the Love flow through. It’s like the garden hose that gets kinked so bad the water slows until it stops flowing altogether.

I know what I need to do. I am just not quite able to do it, yet. I’m working on it, but I can’t do anymore than I can do in this moment. So, when I’m confronted with one more person in my life who wants more from me than I have to offer, I have to say, “No.” Repeatedly. With explanation. With rebuttal. With unwavering resolution.

My next door neighbor is a psychic and emotional vampire. She can’t help it, she really can’t. My understanding is that there is some untreated mental health stuff going on in addition to some pretty severe, chronic and debilitating physical health issues – all of which feed on and interact with each other.

She’s in between the ages of my two adult children. She’s a young mom, who started younger than I did. I recognize a lot of how my younger self was in her attitudes and circumstances. Although, her situation is more extreme and challenging than mine ever was.

I’m probably one of the few people who doesn’t just write her off as a pushy, loud, crazy, obnoxious, unstable, lunatic. She can be very rude, scary, and out of control. However, I’ve also seen her be compassionate, caring, and generous. I’ve experienced her when she’s genuinely and sincerely trying to understand why her life is the way it is and I’ve seen the complete disconnection between her understanding of the role she plays in her own misery and her ability to choose different action.

In some ways it’s like Keith and his knee-jerk anger response to things not meeting his expectations or Luna not getting her way. Which, of course, is part of my difficulty.

Since Keith has been home, almost two weeks now, I’ve been struggling with the codependent aspects of my relationship with him and his emotions. There’s a ton of anxiety and anger. I’ve spent a lot of energy trying to maintain equilibrium, which is starting to look like self-imposed isolation. The physiological toll is energy drain, resulting in fatigue and exhaustion. Insomnia, pain, and irritability have increased as well. I don’t want to be around others when I feel like this, especially if I know I have to keep my failing shields up.

It would be like taking the battle worn and damaged Enterprise through The Neutral Zone toward the Romulans, and expect it to withstand and survive the ensuing assault. Yeah, I’m a bit of a sci-fi geek.

At any rate, because I have been “under siege” in coping with all the people I live with and their emotions and attitudes, while battling my inner demons, my capacity for constructive interpretation and response to others, especially my next door neighbor is greatly impaired. So, when she tried to pressure me into going to the store with her, I declined. I explained I wasn’t feeling well. She pressed on and I explained in more detail what I was experiencing and refused again. She continued to push by explaining that she deals with those symptoms on a daily basis – implying I should take what she was offering and do what she does, and go anyway. A final time I turned her down.

That seemed to be the end of it, until a few hours later she contacted me again with the following text:

You actually complain an awful lot. When your a mom you cant really say what u cnt do if it means …! It looks like an excuse after awhile. That’s what I mean when I say Fibromyalgia is an excuse. I wont allow some diagnosis to come into my world for an excuse why I cannot parent feed clean or raise my kids. That’s 100% BS in my opinion. Mothers keep on! I had a conversation with your daughter about it a while ago and she agreed that it seemed like an annoying repetitive excuse. Almost repulsive. You know?

I immediately felt under attack. I tried not to react, but eventually sent this message back:

Since you seem to feel it appropriate to assume and imply that I’m an irresponsible, excuse making repulsive parent, or at least imply it, I would appreciate it if you would just stop texting me.

You are not fully informed of the ins and outs of my life, what I do or do not do to take care of my responsibilities, or the factors that I cope with. I am tired of being subjected to your uninformed and unsolicited opinions of my character when I fail to meet your expectations or requests.

I have done what I am able to respond to you and listen at times. I am not able to provide what you seek and I’m really tired of dealing with this judgmental and pushy attitude toward me and my family.

Whether you intend to be so or not, your attitudes, words and actions, are often rude, hurtful, and not based on anything in actual reality other than your expectations and views.

We went back and forth for a while with her trying to explain it wasn’t meant as an attack on me, but was her talking out her feelings, experiences, and opinions about a diagnosis of Fibromyalgia her doctor has been talking over with her. She also asked what it was about what she’d said that made me feel attacked. I tried to explain the best I could.

The long and short of it is, despite my own issues and problems, because of things I’ve experienced in my life, I don’t have it in me to just completely cut difficult people out of my life and reject them, without attempting to communicate my reasons.

If we don’t let people know how their words and actions affect us and when we’re having issues with them, then neither they or we have the opportunity to know or understand where the areas of growth are. Even at my least willing and when I feel least capable of patience, compassion, and understanding, I still feel compelled to do this.

Part of me wishes I were different, but a deeper part of me understands this is a good thing, overall, even if it makes it more difficult and challenging for me personally.