Who are your gurus?

WWJD? (stick with me, I promise…)

Do you remember those bracelets and t’s showing off this slogan in the 90’s? I always thought it was relevant – despite how my views on religion changed since then, Jesus is an example of radical moral behavior, and a perspective to consider when facing any situation.

As an empath, INFP, highly sensitive person, I find it helpful to have some guides to consider when I’m facing something difficult, or just plain confusion. Sometimes, I need a reminder of my own pillars of value, to look to when my own position feels swayed by all the sensory input coming from everywhere else. I’ve also found it difficult to connect with distant mystical figures, say, in the past, growing up in the Catholic church. I much prefer to have “gurus” that are here on Earth, living in this time, to serve as my guides.


You’ve already heard me talk about Gretchen Rubin (a writer who studies happiness and human nature), and if you’re close to me in real life, you would also know that I’m a bit taken with Davey Havok ( musician, writer, actor, possible enigma?). I also have a ton of respect for Dr. Ginevra Liptan (doctor with fibromyalgia and founder of the Frida Center for Fibromyalgia). Let’s take a look at what I connect with in each of these individuals, and why I find them to be helpful reference points.

Gretchen Rubin

Image is from Gretchen Rubin’s website :

I really admire the way she can succinctly address an aspect of human nature. Her investigative nature and growth mindset are exemplary. The conversations she leads are full of curiosity and wonder, and often lead to greater self-knowledge. Gretchen’s focus is on making her life, and helping others make their lives, happier – and she is truly great at this.

Gretchen devised a system of looking at people and their tendencies that can be super helpful in navigating relationships of all kinds. She understands that the best way for one person to do something isn’t always the best way for another, and supports people finding their own best ways. Between writing books, reading books, podcasting, and live videos, she’s somehow also accessible, engaging with her readers, watchers, and listeners all the time. I feel like she’s a real person I can connect to.

Some things we share: interest in happiness, human nature, and growth. Connecting with the senses, enjoying smell, color, quotes, curating

One of the reasons I find Gretchen’s work to be helpful is because when I’m struggling, I want to figure out something that works better. I don’t want to stay in the struggle, and Gretchen is a role model of figuring out your own system, what works for you, and believes in the importance of that.

Another huge thing is Gretchen’s focus on enjoyment in life. She’s been a point of reference as I navigate deconstruction of harmful and painful ideologies.

You can find everything Gretchen Rubin, by clicking here to visit her website.

Ginevra Liptan

Image from Dr. Liptan’s website:

I came across Dr. Liptan and the Frida Center for Fibromyalgia years ago, around when I was seeking diagnosis. After being dismissed for years by doctor after doctor who would not believe what I was going through, it was validating to find a doctor who struggled with the exact same facets of the medical community. My husband and I have considered multiple times, moving to be near her and the Frida Center – Just to have someone who understands how to treat me.

Dr. Liptan has a wholistic approach to treatment, and views the doctor/patient relationship as a partnership for health. I wish she could hold a giant mandatory conference with all of the medical community about Fibromyalgia, what it is and how to treat it. However, she has written a manual for patients and their doctors, which I suppose is a much more reasonable approach 😉

Things we share: Patronage to Saint Frida, jewelry making, valuing of community, having fibromyalgia, being intelligent women on a quest for knowledge and healing, entrepreneurial spirit

Looking to Dr. Liptan has helped me deal with having fibromyalgia, and finding the right treatments to help. I believe in what she’s doing – I’ve donated some Frida themed jewelry I made for an art auction for the Frida Center, and am an affiliate for Frida Botanicals.

Davey Havok

This image was taken by Josh Massie at Red Rocks Amphitheatre. Go see more of his awesome work at Scattered Pictures !

OK. THIS MAN IS GORGEOUS. Let’s move past that.

AFI is one of my all time favorite bands, and I’ve loved every side project Davey’s been involved in, or song he lends his voice to from other bands. Punk, rock, electronic, hardcore, new wave…it all resonates with me. Not to mention he’s an amazing performer – who has also somehow found time to do film and stage acting, and write some novels. PROLIFIC.

Some things we share: Fall children with Nov. birthdays. Stardust. Fire signs. Not eating meat. Catholic upbringing. Being straight edge. Painful, romantic, mysterious insides. Interest in fashion and expression.

One of the reasons I’ve always been able to turn to his work for comfort is that it doesn’t shy away from the deepest and painful emotions, that particular darkness. In fact, his work honors it, and values what we learn there. Being someone who is always in pain, who is sensitive both physically and emotionally, I’ve found myself able to draw on Davey’s conviction and combination of strength/vulnerability.

You can check out a Spotify playlist with a bunch of Davey’s music here:

Now that you’ve heard about mine, I’d love to hear about your “gurus” and how they guide or inspire you. Are they real and present, from a past time, or fictional? Let me know!

Embrace being multi-passionate

I might be a little obsessed when it comes to getting happier with Gretchen Rubin, but with good reason! This is one of my favorite podcasts, and I think I’ve recommended it to everyone I know at this point, because it’s so helpful, insightful, and accessible. There’s also this INFP love of personality investigation, and Gretchen is a great guide along that path.

This week, her idea to try at home is to invest in your identities. The podcast discusses how our identities are important to us, our sense of self, worth, place etc. The “try this at home” encourages us to reflect upon our identities and if we’re investing in them according to their importance to us.

This coincides with some self work I’ve been doing this year, my motto being “EMBRACE BEING MULTI-PASSIONATE”. Funny that I couldn’t come up with a word for 2019, so I picked this motto – quite appropriate.

What’s this about being multi-passionate? Well, I wanted to look at the things I love, and increase their volume in my life. I’ve spent a lot of time looking at how I spend my energy (when my body literally doesn’t do a good job of making it) and learning to make better choices for my needs and wellness. I wanted to make sure this resource was spent in the places I wanted to grow, not wasted. We all have some sort of limit on our resources. I think of this as a sort of budget for the good in life. (Umm, budgeting isn’t really fun, but this feels more like dreaming up plans and finding space for them).

I can’t say that I have just one thing I’m passionate about. Yeah, I’ve always loved art, but that’s incredibly broad! I feel like I needed to accept that I’ve got multiple things I’m passionate about in order to properly feed them all. Sometimes the things on my passion list have overlap – like when I get to take my nieces and nephews to the art museum (we’ve got #auntielife & #artlife happening together). And other times, they’re more singular experiences. Combining multiple things I’m passionate about definitely increases the happiness factor. Like going for a walk in nature, with my dog, and taking photos. (#pantheism, #furmom, #artmaking).

I’m also making connections with my trauma work in therapy. Staying grounded often takes layered approaches – mindfully engaging multiple senses at once. Embracing multi-passionate-ness enables me to see how everything can work together better, and dissociate less. I can be a sick person who also is a leader, an artist, an activist, a friend, a family member, a writer, and a magic player. Taking steps to invest in identities that resonate with my true self has obvious benefit, even though the work isn’t always as obvious or easy.

Awareness is the start of it, and Gretchen provides us with a wonderful prompt with her “try this at home”, to become more aware of our identities and examine what we want to put more time, money, and energy into.

Gretchen mentioned in the podcast that it is good to have multiple identities so that if one changes or shifts into something else, you aren’t lost. I think this is the strength of being multi-passionate, the more I layer these identities and passions, the stronger my sense of self and my happiness with being who I am in the world.

Art at the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh

The past couple of years, for my mom’s birthday, we’ve gone to the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh. We spend the day hanging out and enjoying some family time with the little ones. It’s a really wonderful, engaging space, with lots of color and art to cheer up a gray mid-February weekend!

My nephew and brother in law watching Attack Theatre, under of a colorful ribbon art piece.

There are so many opportunities to interact with the art at the museum. This piece is Text Rain, by Camille Utterback and Romy Achituv, 2001.

My niece coming down a slide tube that’s part of the TapeScape.

This area was also particularly fun for me, watching the kids interacting with versions of classic works, like this one of Van Gogh’s “Cafe at Night”, where you can switch lights on and off.

CAT AND TRIO/ EVERY VOICE WE HEAR by Patricia Bellan-Gillen

The whimsical and delightful works by Patricia Bellan-Gillen on this floor of the museum are some of my favorites. You can see more images of the installation on her website: http://patriciabellangillen.com/

This is just a snippet of my faves this time around. If you’ve got kids in your life, the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh is something you’d definitely enjoy.

Tribune-Review: Out & About: Patrons choose new paintings for The Westmoreland

Tribune-Review: Out & About: Patrons choose new paintings for The Westmoreland.

I absolutely love our art museum. I’m not sure everyone locally realizes how lucky we are to have such a gem, to access so much art and history so easily. Recently, in response to the shooting at the synagogue in Pittsburgh, art museums opened their doors for free. Refuge, history, comfort, knowledge. The museums know how much we need art. Which is why the Westmoreland American Art Museum got rid of its suggested donation fee for good. That’s right, go visit the museum FOR FREE. Whenever.

What I find at the museum is not only a home as an artist, I find hope. I find strength, and connection. The paintings of local scenery and history give me context, something to hold onto when the world shakes me.

This opportunity is an invaluable gift.

I thank the people who make this possible, including those who said, yes to both paintings.

In the article, when given a choice between two very different paintings for acquisition, some said both, and put their money behind it.

I am also excited about the fact that one of these was a Mary Abbot, and that Barbara Jones (not my mom) gets the importance of the contributions of women artists, how they shaped the history, BUT WERE NOT GIVEN CREDIT.

Preach. Rectify.

Art will save us all.

Fibromyalgia, Trauma, and Healing…

Just capturing current thoughts in this post, I could source and link the research, but I’m just not  up for it now… however, if you have questions on it, leave a comment, and I’ll try to come back to it soon ❤

Here we go:

There are links between developing fibromyalgia and experiencing trauma.

Trauma is anything your brain can’t process.

Fibromyalgia is essentially having a brain stuck in fight or flight mode.

The bio-psycho-social model of addressing pain is relevant, and I don’t know why it’s taken doctors all my adult life to understand that everything is connected, when they wouldn’t believe me it was from the start.

I’m really glad to have found a few doctors who seem to GET IT. Including the newest few practitioners.

I’m interested in pursuing this EMDR treatment to address trauma.

These are all pieces of a structure that’s working to build healing.

I’m interested in further exploring all of this and it’s connections to art, particularly the method of art I’ve been practicing, and how I might use it to help heal trauma for others in the future.

IF I EVER FEEL BETTER. thoughts. hope.

off to walk the dog, get some sunshine, and then come home and paint it all out.

memory and trauma


Studies are now showing that memories pass through DNA. What does this mean for trauma? There’s also a component of Fibromyalgia that it is familial, and mostly women end up with it. And then there are thoughts occurring, I don’t know of research yet, about how our culture is causing complex PTSD, through drone war tactics, media inundation, and constant hate speech.

I have always felt incredibly sensitive, I know that tensions and hate fueled agendas take a toll on me, but now it is suggested that I might suffer from complex PTSD, and need treatment to heal the trauma, to release it from my body, to change the way my brain perceives these situations, presently, and in the future. Now, part of having fibromyalgia is having a brain that is in constant fight or flight. My body always thinks there is a traumatic situation happening – and in this society, I can’t really convince it otherwise.

There are instances of clear trauma for people – fighting in a war, witnessing violent death, physical abuse, sexual assault, physical injury, weather disaster… but some are more murky and happen over time, like living in extreme poverty, or a family of narcissists, or holding a constant fear of one of the more obvious traumatic events. Layered together, one trauma might not even stand out from the next.

I also think that we experience instances of trauma to our collective psyche. And we don’t even know how this manifests. Complex PTSD is a newer term in the field of psychology. Exploring how someone like me might be affected by the whole of society’s traumatic events, or how women may carry the traumas of all women before them, through DNA and collective consciousness/unconscious, is probably something we’re not going to hear about for a long time. This doesn’t mean it isn’t there somehow, that these experiences aren’t felt now. Maybe just that they don’t have a name, and we don’t know what to do with the information.

Bodily knowledge is it’s own kind of truth.



It’s the same source…

Everything I make is an echo of something infinitely larger and infinitely smaller than myself. It’s within my programming, something I understand and carry with me to everything I do. It’s beyond words. It’s a feeling that’s both the most true and the most mysterious, like some shiny rock I keep turning in my hands, studying, peering into, holding up to the light, examining in the shadows. Everything I make, photographs, graphic design projects, sketches, paintings, sculpture, etc., each of these is just an iteration of something of greater importance. It doesn’t exactly matter what I make primarily, at any given time, what matters is what I bring to it, and being open to that great unnameable thing.

Trees & Seasons

Getting ready for the Red Tent tonight. Here’s the tree sketch I did for an exercise about giving thanks for what we grew and harvested, what we are drawing into our roots for the coming winter, and what we need to nourish and fulfill us.

Now I just have to come up with what I’m taking for our shared meal. If you want to learn more about the Red Tent, you can visit our Facebook Page here: The Red Tent at the Wise Women Natural Health Collective