Your creativity unleashed in pink

pink-ribbonAre you noticing all the pink ribbons this month?

My heart goes out to everyone who experiences a health crisis, but I have a kinship with this month’s cause. 

Almost 15 years ago, I gathered my mail from the mailbox and among my birthday cards, bills, magazines, and assorted advertisements, was a white business envelope from the clinic. Curious, I opened it even before my birthday cards and was stunned to see a form letter telling me “an abnormality had been found and I needed to call the office as soon as possible.”

I stood in the kitchen staring at the red check mark next to that life-altering statement. Just three sentences, but with those words I became a statistic. I became the one of one in eight women who is diagnosed in their lifetime. I am lucky.

Yes, I am lucky in more ways than one. I was diagnosed with D.C.I.S., ductal carcinoma in situ or intraductal carcinoma), the most common type of non-invasive breast cancer. I didn’t need to have radiation or chemotherapy. However, three years later I became one of the 10 of 100 women who experience a reoccurrence of D.C.I.S. Again, I think I’m very, very lucky.

Yes, I’m healthy, but that’s not the only reason why I’m lucky. I view my breast cancer as a gift. It’s a blessing which has helped me step out into the world with my writing. It has allowed me to declare I am passionate about encouraging every woman I meet not to wait until you have a health crisis to take care of yourself. Don’t wait to make yourself a priority in your own life. Follow your dreams. Jump into your life and live!

Healing from breast cancer is an on-going process. The physical scars fade away, but the nagging fear that it could reoccur is always in the back of your mind. Fortunately, I know that my attitude plays an integral part in my course of treatment. When I gave myself permission to prescribe creative expression as a healing tool, everything shifted for me.

 “A woman is like a tea bag, you don’t know how strong she is until you put them in hot water.”  Eleanor Roosevelt

Well, I know that you can paddle awfully hard to keep your head above water while championing everyone else’s life only to end up feeling unfulfilled, ignored and silenced. Life is too short not to put yourself at the top of your To Do list.

The only hot water I want to be in is a bubble bath!

I’m loving my life and making my dreams come true. I’m helping reluctant writers demystify the writing process.

What state are you in?

Do you wear a pink ribbon…for yourself…for a loved one? Hop over to my Facebook page and tell me about it.

Thank you for sharing!

Photo credit:  http://canva.com, http://dreamstime.com

 

[Coaxing Creativity Tip] Go get ’em squeezed…

October is not only a month for pumpkins, ghosts, goblins and pretty fall colors, it is also breast cancer awareness month. A subject many of us are very familiar with. One in eight women will be diagnosed with this disease in her lifetime. And all of us are touched by it because I’m willing to bet that someone you know…maybe even someone you love…perhaps you yourself…has been diagnosed. 

Embracing creativity as a healing tool helped me on my wellness journey and I’m sure it can do the same for you. 

I’m being playful talking about showing your love by getting them squeezed, but I’m not kidding around. An important part of self-care is preventive measures. I know it is uncomfortable to get a mammogram. Believe me, I know. I’ve been squeezed and pulled more times than I care to remember.

The benefits, however, far outweigh the barrage of excuses women may come up with to avoid this appointment: 

  • I don’t have time (how can you not have the time to do something that has the potential to change your life)
  • I’m not old enough
  • I’m too old
  • I don’t have any symptoms (that’s great!)
  • It sounds painful, my insurance won’t cover it because it’s preventative
  • My insurance only allows it with a doctor’s order
  • I’m afraid if I go they’ll find something so I’d rather not know

Whether you are a small business owner feeling the pressure and stress of fulfilling high-quality product orders, delivering outstanding services, or a CEO Mom performing her transportation and requisition duties in between dentist appointments and soccer practice, taking the time to take care of yourself must be at the top of your To Do list.

Please, schedule that mammogram! Your life depends on it!

photo credit:  Dreamstime.com

Do you share a story or deliver your message?

story hereRecently, I had a discussion with several colleagues where I was asked to explain the difference between “story” and “message.” I know that the terms have often been used interchangeably with little or no distinction between them. Both refer to content being delivered in an interesting manner to persuade, uplift, educate and entertain. 

I believe that your message is the essence of your story. They are intimately connected and difficult to separate. Just the way the make-up of your DNA determines the color of your eyes, the color of your hair, whether you are right-handed or left-handed, or have an allergy. I believe the message you are here to deliver is as individual as you are, and every one of your messages is impacted by your unique story…the story of your childhood and youth…the story of your awakening to our life’s purpose…the story yet to be written and the story you write each new day. 

Every story starts with Once upon a time. The story sets the stage for your reader…it conveys setting, circumstances and invites your reader to be there with you. Not everyone is going to run a marathon or climb mountain peaks, but we get it when we see the images and read the words, “Just do it.” The message is to go for it in life wherever you are. Your story keeps changing because that is what life is all about.

My story includes the facts that I was never encouraged to be passionate about doing anything outside the box or beyond the boundaries of safe and known outcomes. Along my path as a wife and a mother, I grasped opportunities to pursue the dreams I couldn’t let go of…the dreams I wouldn’t let die.

  • While waiting for our name to move to the top on the adoption list, I achieved my dream of a college degree.
  • While coping with the challenges of finding my way during job changes and creating nurturing living spaces because the job changes included moving across the country…twice, I honed my skills as a leader and compassionate listener.
  •  While reinventing myself after two breast cancer episodes, I claimed the mantle of writer.

These are some of the parts of my story. My message and my mission is to motivate the writer in you to unleash your story because your story matters and you are the only one who can tell it from your perspective.

To answer the question I began this blog with…you are BOTH sharing a story and delivering your message.

Do you think there’s a difference between your story and your message? Hop over to my Facebook page and please share. 

 

Photo credit:  Dreamstime.com 

Don’t wait to make yourself a priority…

bubble bathDon’t wait until you have a health crisis (such as breast cancer) to make yourself a priority in your own life!

I did and since one in eight of us are diagnosed with breast cancer in our lifetime, I’m sure there are many more women out there who have done it and we want the rest of you to stop!

I know, I know. It sounds selfish and counter productive.

Just think about this…

If you have ever flown on an airplane, you have heard the routine instructions about “in the event of emergency, an oxygen mask will drop down from the ceiling.” Then the instructions direct you to put your oxygen mask on first before assisting anyone else. It’s the same in day-to-day life. How can you assist others if you are not getting enough rest, making sure to eat properly, exercise, and schedule down time to regroup?

  • When you are picking up the office snacks and always asked to keep the meeting notes because you do such a good job and are so organized, are you surprised your pantry is empty and don’t have time to write a birthday card or even read a magazine?
  • When you are busy shuttling little ones to soccer and ballet, does it occur to you that the last time you had “fun” was chaperoning the 1st grade trip to the bowling alley?
  • When you are picking up another bottle of gentle bubble bath for your children, do you realize that the only time you are near a bathtub is when they are in it?

It feels good to be depended upon, and there are times it is appropriate. But the stress of championing everyone at the expense of yourself, is not being selfless…it is just plain unnecessary. Making yourself a priority in your own life does not mean you are going to abandon what you are doing now (like jetting off to a tropical island, or touring the castles of Europe, although that does sound grand)…I’m suggesting you just adjust the emphasis and intensity. Showing respect and, yes, self-love, models for everyone in your life how you want to be treated because you are demonstrating it for them. I mean taking a bath for the pleasure of it, reading a magazine with a cup of tea in the afternoon sun, putting your feet up for 15 minutes when you come home from work before you start dinner.

After my first breast cancer diagnosis, I couldn’t wait for my life to get back to “normal” along with the rest of my family. The cancer scared me and them. We just wanted to pretend the whole surgery and cancer cells were a dream. It worked for almost three years. Then IT came back two inches below the previous spot. Another surgery and more cancer cells.

This time things were different. I was different. I started creating my version of “normal” and that meant I treated me differently. I tapped into the healing powers of  creativity leaning heavily on my journal writing. Also exploring many other new hands-on activities and discovering the wonderful prescription available at the ends of my fingertips.  I learned to set boundaries, to say “no” and be my own best advocate for my well-being.

That’s what I wanted to share…put self-nurturing in your top 10 on the To Do list every day. Don’t wait until a health crisis forces you to take care of you. You are worth it!

The life you champion should be your own!

photo credit:  Dreamstime.com

Unleash your creativity with pink

Are you noticing all the pink ribbons this month?I wear mine all year. A lot of us do. My heart goes out to everyone who experiences a health crisis, but I have a kinship with this month’s cause. 

Almost 14 years ago, I gathered my mail from the mailbox and among my birthday cards, bills, magazines, and assorted advertisements, was a white business envelope from the clinic. Curious, I opened it even before my birthday cards and was stunned to see a form letter telling me “an abnormality had been found and I needed to call the office as soon as possible.”

I stood in the kitchen staring at the red check mark next to that life-altering statement. Just three sentences, but with those words I became a statistic. I became the one of one in eight women who is diagnosed in their lifetime. I am lucky.

Yes, I am lucky in more ways than one. I was diagnosed with D.C.I.S., ductal carcinoma in situ or intraductal carcinoma), the most common type of non-invasive breast cancer. I didn’t need to have radiation or chemotherapy. However, three years later I became one of the 10 of 100 women who experience a reoccurrence of D.C.I.S. Again, I think I’m very, very lucky.

Yes, I’m healthy, but that’s not the only reason why I’m lucky. I view my breast cancer as a gift. It’s a blessing which has helped me step out into the world with my writing. It has allowed me to declare I am passionate about encouraging every woman I meet not to wait until you have a health crisis to take care of yourself. Don’t wait to make yourself a priority in your own life. Follow your dreams. Jump into your life and live!

Healing from breast cancer is an on-going process. The physical scars fade away, but the nagging fear that it could reoccur is always in the back of your mind. Fortunately, I know that my attitude plays an integral part in my course of treatment. When I gave myself permission to prescribe creative expression as a healing tool, everything shifted for me.

 “A woman is like a tea bag, you don’t know how strong she is until you put them in hot water.”  Eleanor Roosevelt

Well, I know that you can paddle awfully hard to keep your head above water while championing everyone else’s life only to end up feeling unfulfilled, ignored and silenced. Life is too short not to put yourself at the top of your To Do list.

The only hot water I want to be in is a bubble bath!

I’m loving my life and making my dreams come true. I’m helping reluctant writers demystify the writing process. My book, The Secret Artist, won’t be a secret much longer. I enjoy the healing benefits of tapping into my creativity on a daily basis. Simple shifts can have a big impact on your life.   

What state are you in?

Do you wear a pink ribbon…for yourself…for a loved one? Hop over to my Facebook page and tell me about it.

Thank you for sharing!

Photo credit:  Dreamstime.com

 

[speaker] Women of Wonder Unleash Your Success Story…

wow

 

Join us as

Women of Wonder

presents

Unleash Your  Story One Page at a Time

on May 26, 6:30 p.m., Pleasant Hill, CA

No one else on earth could tell your story from your perspective…no one else has lived your life…You have!

  • create your own success story
  • discover a simple solution to accomplishing anything and everything in your life (Yes, I mean everything from the small stuff to life-long endeavors!)
  • without learning a new skill, traveling to study with a master, or buying costly equipment

Let’s talk about going from making dinner to making a difference and separate fact from fiction! Once upon a time isn’t just the stuff of fairy tales!

Your voice matters…your story matters!

Yes! Your story…your truth…not fiction…you CAN write your own happily ever after.

Your story changes. Think about the things you do today that you didn’t do, couldn’t do, or hadn’t wanted to do last year, last week, or even yesterday. You had to learn how to drive a car, read a book, construct a sentence, fry an egg (well, maybe for some of us that’s a big deal because we consider making toast an accomplishment), the point here is that you are different emotionally, intellectually and physically than you were before.

Your story does not revolve around waiting for someone to rescue you. You are figuring it out for yourself. Come join us! Register here for Women of Wonder.

 

 

An unlikely gift…

imagesOver ten years ago, I received a form letter among my birthday cards which began a journey…one that had me careening down an improbable path and brought me a magnificent gift of transformation.

I’m lucky and grateful to have received this “gift.” And I do mean Gift…more on that later.

I was fortunate enough to be diagnosed with breast cancer in it’s very early stage. The cancer was so small my surgeon described it as, “looking for a grain of sand in the Sahara.” I had outpatient surgery and except for the scar, physically I was back to “normal” within a week.

Emotionally, I was in that fog of what just happened here? Was that really me on a gurney being wheeled through the underground parking garage, dodging Toyotas and Hondas, like a scene out of the Keystone Cops? It all felt surreal.

Obviously, I was eager to push down the fear and what-if’s as quickly as possible. So, that’s what I did.  Life resumed it’s original programming…getting my daughter ready to go off to college, supporting all the senior year activities and keeping the home fires burning for my husband.

Somewhere deep inside me, a flame had gone out.

That spark that makes you feel invincible and death is a long, long way in your future. 

Have you ever felt like that? 

One day you are going along mapping out an absolutely delightful future, and the next minute…BAM…smack into a brick wall. 

The first breast cancer diagnosis was as if the GPS came on warning me I was about to run into an obstacle and should really pay attention to the dashboard signals. 

I didn’t pay attention. I just drew a really big sigh of relief at my ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) diagnosis.

DCIS is the most common type of non-invasive breast cancer, called non-invasive because it hasn’t spread beyond the milk ducts. It meant I had outpatient surgery and regular follow-up, but was able to avoid radiation, chemo, losing my hair, harsh medication, hospitalization, on-going nausea, or any of the other trauma breast cancer survivors have endured. 

Three years later, my second diagnosis got my attention. It was back in the same breast. Covering myself in that illusion of “normal” was completely shattered.

I had another outpatient procedure with the same brilliant surgical team and am receiving excellent follow-up care.  

Now, about why I view breast cancer as my gift. 

I see it as a gift because it brought me clarity about what is important in life.

  • It gave me permission to go after my dreams without apologies.
  • I am a writer became a declarative sentence and not a question.
  • I do not feel selfish when I’m engaged in self-care.
  • I am working hard at building a speaking, mentoring and workshop business.
  • I am working equally hard at balancing having a personal and professional life.

Above all, I am aware every day that this moment is all we have. Right now! You can choose to be here and embrace what is in front of you. Regrets about yesterday will not change the past. Projecting your anxiety about plans for the future will not hurry the hands of time.

Savor today! 

So, tell me…have you received any “gifts” that transformed your life? Please hop over to my Facebook page and share.

Why journal?

Mary's first journal

Pre-teen Mary’s first journal

 Want to participate in an activity practiced by literary greats, and be a contemporary of presidents, kings and queens?

Start writing in a journal! 

Journal when you need a private, intimate conversation with a confidant you trust and love. It can be where your day starts and ends…bookending your thoughtful plans for the day and witnessing all the details of how the day unfolded.

Yes, there are times when life gets crazy busy and writing in a journal is the farthest thing from your mind. But let’s consider the scientific research, which supports the health benefits of making time to write.

University of Texas at Austin psychologist and researcher James Pennebaker contends that regular journaling strengthens immune cells, and writing about stressful events helps you come to terms with them allowing you to reduce the impact these stressors have on your physical health. Other research states that journaling decreases the symptoms of asthma and rheumatoid arthritis.

Scientific evidence also supports that journaling helps you accesses your left brain…the analytical and rational part. When your left brain is occupied, your right brain is then free to create, tap into your intuition and feel. Writing dissolves mental blocks and puts your brainpower to work collaboratively to better understand yourself, others, and the world around you.

  • Know yourself better. By writing routinely you will get to know what makes you feel happy and confident…what is toxic for you and what nurtures your well-being.
  • Reduce stress. Writing about what makes you sad, angry and scared helps to release the intensity of these feelings and stay grounded in the present moment.
  • Solve problems more effectively using all your brainpower…left-brained, analytical perspective and right-brained creativity and intuition.

Keeping a journal allows you to see where you’ve been and how far you’ve come over time. It’s a great way to start writing a book, or capture ideas for your business. Using my journal entries, I was able to write my book about my breast cancer journey. Writing is a creative hands-on prescription available at the ends of your fingertips delivering healing results.

Through your writing you’ll discover that your journal is an all-accepting, nonjudgmental friend.

Grab a pad, a pen and go for it!

 

Writing to heal yourself…

little girl collage on Mary's journal

Little girl collage on Mary’s journal

There are many ways to interpret the theme of Writing to Heal Yourself this month and I look forward to exploring them with you.  In this post, we will focus how the physical act of writing has an enormous impact on our capacity to heal.

As Christina Baldwin, my mentor and first writing teacher, tells us, “journal writing is a voyage to the interior.” I’ll never forget walking into her classroom on the University of Minnesota-Duluth campus and almost bolting out of the room. I’d taken one step over the threshold and saw Christina was standing two feet away. She was handing out dark blue three-ring binder notebooks while explaining that we’d be writing our book from the journal entries we’d write during the course.

I didn’t run and my fate was sealed…my journals rich with content…awaited being polished and turned into published stories.

It could happen to you!

Writing is such a huge subject that we’ll narrow it down to talking about journaling right now in this post…specifically the act of writing in a journal as an on-going private conversation. 

Consider scheduling time for yourself…perhaps at least 15-minutes every day to nurture you by writing in your journal. Maybe even bookending your day so that you record your thoughts in the morning and then reflect on the day in the evening. 

Taking time to tap into my Creativity helped me get back to a sense of normalcy and balance after my breast cancer experiences. It doesn’t sound like anything dramatic, but the act of writing in my journal represented a very significant accomplishment. It meant that the threads of life before breast cancer and post breast cancer had not been completely unraveled.

It was “safe” to vent everything in my journal…from what I had to breakfast to the range of emotions and feelings I was experiencing…which might have been deemed inappropriate by some…but not my journal. We have an understanding, my journal and I, that nothing is off-limits when I need to have a conversation on paper. 

Are you ready to explore writing’s healing properties and experiment with the journaling process? Pick up a pen and start journaling. Journal writing is a creative, empowering path to self-discovery and change.

Hop over to my Facebook page and let me know what you think of the experience.

 

 

 

[Coaxing Creativity Tuesday Tip] Celebrate National Mentoring Month

Mary & SarahJanuary is a time of new beginnings, but it is also a time for reflecting on our past. We wouldn’t be where we are today…nor accomplished what we have without the help and support of our mentors. In honor of National Mentoring Month, I’d like to dedicate this blog post to one of my mentors…someone who has contributed so much to helping me not only cope, but grow through some pretty significant events in my life

Thank you, Sarah Ban Breathnach!

I first met Sarah through her words and I was smitten. From the moment I encountered Simple Abundance, a daybook of comfort and joy  (the pink book), I felt a kinship with the author as I had never felt before. It was as if she was speaking only to me.  

Oprah Winfrey named it her “favorite book of 1996” and called it “life changing” and I totally agree!

I discovered Sarah and Simple Abundance while retreat in Marin and  grieving from my second major move. It was a milestone for me because it was the first time since moving to California that I’d driven over the Golden Gate bridge by myself. More life-altering experiences were on the horizon for me than just navigating the streets of San Francisco…being diagnosed with breast cancer in 2001 and then again in 2004.

Concentrating on the simple shifts we can make in our daily lives helped me tremendously in my journey back to wholeness. By tapping into my creativity as my healing path and eventually became the cornerstone of my own book, The Secret Artist, give yourself permission to let your creativity shine

This outward journey leads us on an internal quest to discover – or re-discover – the most important woman in your world – your Authentic Self…YOU!

I have been fortunate enough to work with Sarah starting with  the on-line magazine, and then certification as a Simple Abundance and Peace and Plenty Facilitated Workshop Leader. I am absolutely thrilled that she has written the foreword for my upcoming book which is also a Simple Abundance Press publication.  

I admire her as someone who is not only a gifted and talented writer, but also a generous and compassionate human being. 

 

[Mary’s Musings] Thank you note to my breast cancer and the creativity it unleashed

Yes, I am grateful to my breast cancer. I realize that sounds strange and I would not wish that diagnosis on anyone. At the same time, my diagnosis has brought me clarity about what is really important in life. Sharing my gifts…making a difference…knowing that I matter…encouraging others to tap into their creativity…to write their story…to not wait until they have a health crisis to take care of themselves…and to uncover buried dreams.

Tapping into my creativity is at the core of my healing. I discovered the power at the ends of my fingertips. Incredible and tremendous power…more than a prescription…because it is our own brand of creativity unique to each of us.

I am no longer willing to defer my dreams.

Writing my book has always been at the top of my someday list. I’m very near to making that dream a reality. I have also established myself as a writer freelancing for newspapers and a monthly magazine. Now, I’m even helping others with their writing as a coach.

Eleven years ago I met with a surgeon who described my surgery as searching for specific grains of sand in the Sahara. I have been fortunate in that the severity of my type of breast cancer did not involve the level of treatments and invasive procedures others have had to endure. I do share the same fearful apprehension that the cancer will return with everyone what has ever received this diagnosis. Your life changes and is never the same again.

What have you always wanted to do?

What makes you feel creative?

What is on your bucket list?

 

[article] Here’s what I want to share about my breast cancer…

Don’t wait until you have a health crisis (such as breast cancer) to make yourself a priority in your own life!

I did and since one in eight of us are diagnosed with breast cancer in our lifetime, I’m sure there are many more women out there who have done it and we want the rest of you to stop!

I know, I know. It sounds selfish and counter productive.

Just think about this…

If you have ever flown on an airplane, you have heard the routine instructions about “in the event of emergency, an oxygen mask will drop down from the ceiling.” Then the instructions direct you to put your oxygen mask on first before assisting anyone else. It’s the same in day-to-day life. How can you assist others if you are not getting enough rest, making sure to eat properly, exercise, and schedule down time to regroup?

When you are picking up the office snacks and always asked to keep the meeting notes because you do such a good job and are so organized, are you surprised your pantry is empty and don’t have time to write a birthday card or even read a magazine?

When you are busy shuttling little ones to soccer and ballet, does it occur to you that the last time you had “fun” was chaperoning the 1st grade trip to the bowling alley?

When you are picking up another bottle of gentle bubble bath for your children, do you realize that the only time you are near a bathtub is when they are in it?

It feels good to be depended upon, and there are times it is appropriate. But the stress of championing everyone at the expense of yourself, is not being selfless…it is just plain unnecessary. Making yourself a priority in your own life does not mean you are going to abandon what you are doing now (like jetting off to a tropical island, or touring the castles of Europe, although that does sound grand)…I’m suggesting you just adjust the emphasis and intensity. Showing respect and, yes, self-love, models for everyone in your life how you want to be treated because you are demonstrating it for them. I mean taking a bath for the pleasure of it, reading a magazine with a cup of tea in the afternoon sun, putting your feet up for 15 minutes when you come home from work before you start dinner.

After my first breast cancer diagnosis, I couldn’t wait for my life to get back to “normal” along with the rest of my family. The cancer scared me and them. We just wanted to pretend the whole surgery and cancer cells were a dream. It worked for about 2 and a half years. Then IT came back two inches below the previous spot. Another surgery and more cancer cells. This time things were different. I was different. I started creating my version of “normal” and that meant I treated me differently. I tapped into the healing powers of  creativity leaning heavily on my journal writing. Also exploring many other new hands-on activities and discovering the wonderful prescription available at the ends of my fingertips.  I learned to set boundaries, to say “no” and be my own best advocate for my well-being.

That’s what I wanted to share…put self-nurturing in your top 10 on the To Do list every day. Don’t wait until a health crisis forces you to take care of you. You are worth it!

The life you champion should be your own!

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