My Profile on the Anxiety Chronicles (by the Washington Post)

Anxiety Chronicles is a series from The Lily (published by the Washington Post) that examines the journeys different women have with anxiety.

I am honored to have been selected for the Anxiety Chronicles on The Lily (by the Washington Post).  

From 1849-1853 The Lily was a controversial publication created by and for women.  As one of the original Lily editors put it, "It is quite time that [women’s] rights should be discussed, and that woman herself should enter the contest.” They did so by covering everything from ending slavery, to women having the right to vote, own property, and wear pants.

In 2017, The Washington Post brought the Lily back as an online publication with the two-fold mission to, "Empower with news and information and promote inclusivity by exposing diverse voices."

I am ecstatic that I have been selected to be one of those voices. 

Check out my profile on the Lily's Anxiety Chronicles, along with 79 other women who share their experiences of living with anxiety.  New stories are also added every week. CLICK HERE to check it out.  

It was interesting to me that they asked specifically about my physical symptoms.  I am humbled that I continue to learn new facts about anxiety, such that physical symptoms are extremely common, and in fact manifest in just about every person who lives with it.  

Does that sound familiar to you?  In the comments below tell me the ways that you feel anxiety within your body. 

Today, I'm fighting a headache, but hey, at least my knee, hip, and shoulder joints feel ok.  I hope that you are having a peaceful day out there.  

 

 

I am an artist and writer, living in Talent, Oregon with my husband and daughter. I use creativity to break through anxiety paralysis, I play in the ocean to stay strong and inspired, and I often visit my hometown of New Orleans, where the rhythm of my heartbeat is renewed. Follow me on Facebook and Instagram where I post stuff sometimes.  To hear from me more regularly, join me on this Crazy, Beautiful Artventure.

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Shockabuku: How Sometimes I Need a Swift Spiritual Kick to the Head

Anxiety can cause a terror that is hard to shake.  We need a Shockabuku!

 

Do you ever get so bogged down in anxiety and negative thoughts that everyday tasks scare the poop out of you?  Then, do you feel guilt from feeling scared or stressed? Then, when you finally decide to surrender and slow down, you feel even more guilt for having to surrender and slow down? Welcome to my past six weeks.

Ever since the holidays, I have not been able to gain any traction in my work.  Like one of those dreams when I’m trying to running but I can’t seem to build up any speed at all.  At least I can say that it’s not for no reason.  The past five months have been intense, and until about two weeks ago, I had not been feeling so great. 

Then I received a Shockabuku.  My Hubbie and I were supposed to go off for a few days of surfing when both kiddos got sick.  Seemed about right to me.  There have been more monkey wrenches than I can count thrown into the mix over the past five months or so.  Life has been, well, challenging. 

With both kids sick, I knew I wasn’t going surfing, but then, my amazing and kind Hubbie offered to stay with the sickos, and told me to head to the beach.  Truth be told, I may have run out the house faster than I intended to, without looking back, but damn, I couldn’t wait for the break.  

 

I had been feeling so frayed, like an electrical wire that sparks from the wind blowing.

 

I had been feeling so frayed, like an electrical wire that sparks from the wind blowing. I was jumpy, sensitive, sad, and as I said to my Hubbie, it seemed to me like I was being tested.  I mean, the shit just kept coming.  I felt pretty defeated. 

When I showed up to the beach, my favorite place in the world, the place where I find joy, solace, confidence, and peace, I was fucking terrified.  I took one look at the waves and nearly peed my pants. I literally began to tremble.  This is my happy place!  What the hell is happening?!

I thought about fleeing into the redwoods for a hike.  Seemed a safer bet.  But then, I unstrapped my board, waxed her up, and began the arduous process of getting a 5mm wet suit on.  When I walked in the water, I really did pee my pants. 

 

I realized that my anxiety had gotten to the point where everything in life was scary.

 

When the waves began to lap at my legs, I felt a wave of anger come over me.  Why was I so scared?  It wasn’t a big day out there.  The weather was friendly.  The wind had not kicked up yet.  I saw some friends in the lineup.  What the actual fuck?

I realized that my anxiety had gotten to the point where everything in life was scary. Not just scary, terrifying.  Where everything I did and every choice I made seemed to be like the most important decisions known to mankind.  Do or die.  Make or break.  There was no in between.

I paddled out.  I was extremely tenuous for the first hour or so.  Then I began to catch waves. Oh yeah…I know how to do this…and I actually LOVE doing this…this is awesome! 

I ended up staying for four days.  I surfed in the cold water. I went for beach walks and redwood hikes. I went to bed early and got up with the sun. My best girlfriend came and met me for 24 hours and we surfed, and talked, and enjoyed each other’s company. 

Life wasn’t terrible.  Sure, I may be going through some challenges right now, but it’s not all dread, doom, and gloom, and it CAN improve, actually.  How?  By taking care of myself. 

I received a Shockabuku.

So, if you’re a movie lover, you may recall in Grosse Pointe Blank, when Minnie Driver tells John Cusak that he may be in need of a Shockabuku.  She then defines that as, “A swift, spiritual kick to the head that alters your reality forever.”  I have always loved this term.  It is not real. It was a line written for the movie.  However, I was totally pleased when I found it in the Urban Dictionary, which is where the above definition was taken from.  (The background is my happy spot.)

Getting into the ocean that day, terror running through my veins, walking deeper and deeper into 48-degree water, having to duck waves, wipe out a few times, and also find some liberating rides in it all…  I feel like the ocean was delivering me its own Shockabuku. 

Mother Ocean done did slap me around for a few hours and showed me, once again, that the world is much bigger than me and my problems, and that I am a strong, capable being that can find those amazing rides within the chaos.  My perspective shifted.  I felt lighter. I felt the cloak of darkness lift from my shoulders.  For the first time in weeks, I felt like a badass (or at least a semi-badass) again. 

 

Anxiety seems to come with a side of blindness.

 

It’s been a week and a half since I was out there.  I can’t say that some of the terror hasn’t returned (I’m prone to anxiety…that’s what it does), but I am not ok sitting in it anymore.  My Skockabuku was telling me that I can’t.  That when I focus too much on taking care of everyone around me, I get lost in the mix.  That when I plow through work like normal, in the midst of deep, and lasting changes occurring within my family, I will suffer.

Why do I forget?  I’m not sure.  Anxiety seems to come with a side of blindness.  It’s hard to focus on anything besides the terror.  It’s like a broken fight or flight instinct. I’m extremely grateful for the clarity that this Shockabuku has delivered.  I hope it lasts. 

Can you recall your last Shockabuku?  In the comments below, please share with me your most recent swift, spiritual kick to head, that altered your reality forever...or at least for a good while. 

 

 

I am an artist and writer, living in Talent, Oregon with my husband and daughter. I use creativity to break through anxiety paralysis, I play in the ocean to stay strong and inspired, and I often visit my hometown of New Orleans, where the rhythm of my heartbeat is renewed. Follow me on Facebook and Instagram where I post stuff sometimes.  To hear from me more regularly, join me on this Crazy, Beautiful Artventure.

Slow and Simple Poetry from an Anxious Artist

Sometimes an anxious brain needs to keep life slow and simple.

 

Do you feel you need to push yourself hard all the time, especially at a times when your anxiety and depression have come for an unwelcome visit?

Usually when I feel down, I also feel like I’m failing because simple tasks become challenging.  The first thought when my eyes open in the morning is, “I can’t wait to go to bed tonight”. Work becomes a slog.  Faking happy becomes impossible so isolation seems a reasonable course of action.

Today I long to keep things simple.  Simple mind and simple actions.  Slow and simple, I say.  The idea of getting into a long blog post about how I’m feeling seems a sad prospect.  So, here I am, attempting a simple poem.  I don’t write poems that often, but today, poetry seems to fit.  So here you go. 

 

A Dream of Peace

To whom do these rules apply?
The ones that I deem so important. 

The ones that keep me up at night
telling me the ways that I “should” live.

Who created the rules
and do they know that they are unreasonable, unattainable?

Why do some of us believe in the rules
while others turn away in adamant or oblivious protest.

Why do I turn towards my pillow as a way out?
As if sleep will somehow make it disappear? 

Like a child closing their eyes when they’re scared,
in hopes that the boogie man will disappear in the black behind falling eye lids. 

Why does the hamster not rest?
Running, running, running but never going anywhere.

Rusty wheels just keep churning on, demanding that I take action.
But what?

Rusty joints ache in protest
acting ages older than they are. 

In an effort to find peace, I seek to dream,
but then end up running. Unable to gain. any. speed.

Waking with ridges on the inside of my cheeks.
Sleep brings the wish for peace, as my teeth grind away to dust.

  

Let me know what you think, and if you’re feeling poetry-y, in the comments below, fill in the blanks with the first word that pops into your mind.  

“In my head, I feel ________________. In my body, I feel ___________________. In my heart, I feel_________________.” 

 

 

The photo at top is the first in the series of "Breathe" paintings that I am currently working on.  All the papering is done and now to apply finishing coats.  These paintings are my effort to create a deep calming breathe on canvas.  

 

I am an artist and writer, living in Talent, Oregon with my husband and daughter. I use creativity to break through anxiety paralysis, I play in the ocean to stay strong and inspired, and I often visit my hometown of New Orleans, where the rhythm of my heartbeat is renewed. Follow me on Facebook and Instagram where I post stuff sometimes.  To hear from me more regularly, join me on this Crazy, Beautiful Artventure.

 

 

 

 

How to Move Slowly & Mindfully Through Sadness

My goal this week is to cruise, slowly and mindfully, through a state of anxious and depressive dis-ease. 

 

I don’t feel that great.  Life has been challenging.  It’s one of those weeks where tears flow easily and at inconvenient times.  I am sitting in it.  I am not frantically looking for escape.  I want clarity.  If the brain tornado must spin, maybe I can make it spin slower, just slow enough so I can actually see what’s happening.

I feel bad sometimes that I end up talking to you, more often than not, about how crappy I feel.  I feel like I’m bitching and moaning and complaining with no end.  I try very hard to stay positive.  I attempt nearly every day to do the things that I know will make me feel better.

 

Anxiety and depression are my default.

 

I don’t choose to be like this…or do I?  That is the mind fuck that goes through me every time I get depressed.  Is depression comfortable for me in some way?  Like a warm blanket wrapped around my shoulders that closes me off from the rest of the world?  I don’t want to think that could be true but I actually don’t know any other way of being, so perhaps it is.  Anxiety and depression are my default.

If this is my nature, what can I actually do about it?  If this is how my brain works, is there a solution?  Or just ever-changing coping mechanisms as I choose to focus on one anxiety and depression buzz word or another. “Strategies” is what I refer to them as. 

“Strategy” is defined as “a plan of action or policy designed to achieve a major or overall aim”.  I adapt different strategies in my life to achieve a peaceful mind.  I meditate, exercise, eat well, surf, write, make art, recite gratitude lists and “I will” statements, and talk to my anxiety like it’s a person, all in an effort to find calm. 

It doesn’t always work.  Sometimes there are things happening outside myself that are completely out of my control that make it very hard.  I feel it would be easier if it were just entirely up to me, but there is a whole world out there constantly throwing situations my way that are unpleasant.  I am not an island.

 

What I have to remember is that same world is also throwing a vast amount of beauty my way as well.

 

What I have to remember is that same world is also throwing a vast amount of beauty my way as well.  That for all the bullshit that brings me to my knees, there is kindness, love, and chocolate.  I didn’t remember that until writing this, right now (which is why writing is so powerful for me).

I was hoping to have like 30 paintings finished to offer to you in March.  Yeah right.  The issue is that I’m attempting to make paintings that feel like a deep inhale and exhale.  Relaxing.  Calming.  That feeling will not make it through to the painting if I am panicking to meet an unrealistic deadline. 

The first painting of the series is coming along painstakingly slow.  While I’m doing it, I’ll feel myself speed up, wanting it to be further along than it is.  I have to take a deep breath and remember that slow is the key to these paintings.  I’m now hoping to have them finished by May.

 

One thing that does make me feel better is knowing that I’m not alone.

 

One thing that does make me feel better is knowing that I’m not alone.  That you are here with me.  Whenever you tell me that my writing or painting resonates with you because you know the struggle, it makes me feel better.

I’m glad that we are open to receiving the imperfect message that mental health issues deliver.  If nothing else, maybe it brings us together.  If you know the struggle, you know that it comes with a hefty side of loneliness so that’s pretty dang powerful.  I’m grateful for you.

I’m going to put away the computer today and get straight into the studio.  I’m going to put positive music on, and my studio tiara, and try to rock out the rest of this first painting…in a slow and mindful way, of course.  I’m excited to share it with you and I hope that the paintings bring across a feeling of calm.  It may be forced calm, which seems like an oxymoron but sometimes that’s the best I can do. 

Do you know this feeling?  I’m so sorry if you do.  Perhaps a bombardment of joy will help.  In the comments, tell me something good.  Something that makes you feel better when the struggle is real. 

Hopefully next week I’ll feel better and be able to lift you up.  Right now, I need some lifting so thanks for anything you can give.  Much love. 

 

 

Up top is a detail of the first “Breathe” painting.  Creating this painting is like an active meditation.  I hope when it’s done, that is the feeling delivered to you. 

 

I am an artist and writer, living in Talent, Oregon with my husband and daughter. I use creativity to break through anxiety paralysis, I play in the ocean to stay strong and inspired, and I often visit my hometown of New Orleans, where the rhythm of my heartbeat is renewed. Follow me on Facebook and Instagram where I post stuff sometimes.  To hear from me more regularly, join me on this Crazy, Beautiful Artventure.

How Slowing Down Helps Me Accomplish More

For me, one of the easiest paths to anxiety is to try to do more more more, faster faster faster.  Slow it down, Girl.

Have you ever noticed that the more anxious you get, the faster everything seems to be moving?  This past week, I had to surrender.  To my to do list, to my own expectations, to the pressure that I put on myself, to the feeling that everything needs to be done RIGHT NOW. 

I had been working on a painting that wasn’t coming along well.  I was attempting to create the first in the series of “breathe paintings” that I told you about last week.  What was coming out was the prickliest looking “breath” I have ever seen.  It was pointy, sharp, not at all the feeling of inhale and exhale that I had hoped to create. 

I realized that my state of mind at the time was abrupt, self-critical, and racing like it was running around on fire.  How could I possibly create paintings that felt like releasing a deep breath if I myself felt frantic?

I wanted to rip it up and start over, but I had spent hours on this painting already. Shouldn’t I stick it out and see where it went?  I have a goal of when I want this series done by…I’d be losing time if I were to abandon what I had already begun.

I stared and stared at this painting.  I tried hard to talk myself into what it was becoming.  Then, I decided to wipe it clean.  I had already applied a good bit of paper onto the canvas so I wet a bunch of paper towels and laid them on top of the paper so they would gently become loose, and I removed everything I had done.

 

Back to a blank slate.

 

I immediately felt myself exhale.  “On the right path already,” I thought.  Then I began to apply paper again.  I felt myself slow, my actions almost in slow motion.  Pick up the paper, dip it in the adhesive, fold it carefully, and apply it to the canvas.  Over and over I did this. 

Occasionally, I felt myself start moving faster, that deadline creeping into my brain.  I took a breath, picked up a piece of paper and slowly continued, watching my pace as I went on.  A funny thing happened…my shoulders relaxed & my breath became deeper and more intentional. 

A few hours passed in this way and when I stepped back, ahhhhh there it was.  The deep breath that I was looking for was beginning to appear on the canvas.  No more prickly, pointy paper.  It was now smooth, calm, and flowing. 

I worked in that way for the next two days.  This morning, I woke with energy for the first time in weeks.  My first thought when my eyes opened wasn’t, “Oh God I can’t wait to go to sleep tonight.”  Instead, I woke excited to continue on with my painting... 

…which, as it turns out, I won’t be getting to today due to three appointments spread out over the day, and an early Yoga and dinner date with my Mom.  But it’s ok.  A shift has happened. 

 

A funny thing happened…my shoulders relaxed & my breath became deeper and more intentional.

 

I worked for a nutritionist and herbalist for nearly a decade.  During presentations, he would talk about the different types of energy and why sea turtles live so long.  Now, I’m sure I’m going to get this wrong, as I am not a healthcare professional or a scientist, but basically, we are either spending energy or building energy.  Sleep is our time for building.  Waking hours are when we spend.

Where do sea turtles fit in?  Well, he said that the reason sea turtles live so long is because they move so darn slow. They aren’t in a hurry ever, like at all. They spend waaaaaaay less energy when they are awake than we do and don’t have to work so hard during sleep to build energy back up and thus live to be two million years old or whatever.

I found myself thinking about this as I slowly worked on my painting and also today while running around from appointment to appointment. I reminded myself a couple of times to take it slow.  

 

When I am running anxious, I have a Mean Boss in my head telling me that I need to do more and I need to do it faster

 

I find, when I am running anxious, I have a Mean Boss in my head telling me that I need to do more and I need to do it faster.  I should already have accomplished more than I have.  I should be much further along than I am.  

That will make my insides feel like they are vibrating and I begin to move faster in an effort to get more done.  This is what I refer to as “chicken with my head cut off” syndrome (see also "tornado brain", "hamster wheel mind" and "running around as if on fire mode").  It feels frantic and panicky and most of the time, leads to exhaustion, miscommunications and me taking everything personally. 

But here’s the deal…it will never be enough.  I will never please Mean Boss.  I will never accomplish what Mean Boss thinks I should have done.  I will always not be doing enough.  I will always not be doing it fast enough, or good enough.  Mean boss is a real fucker. 

The thing is that if I listen to Mean Boss, and start moving faster, I and my work suffer.  I am not able to create my “breathe” painting and instead create a pointy, sharp painting because that is how I am feeling on the inside.

The answer?  Slow down.  Be mindful of every action.  Don’t think about the deadline.  Instead, think about how this little blue piece of paper looks next to the lighter shade of paper that I placed it next to.  Think about the curved line that I am creating with straight edges. Inhale.  Exhale.  I am breathing. 

Today, I find I’m reminding myself to simply slow the pace down.  I’m realizing that when I spin out into “go mode”, it actually feeds the anxiety. Instead of feeling accomplished, I feel even more like a failure.  It’s because I am trying to satisfy Mean Boss, who will never ever be satisfied.  

 

The answer?  Slow down.  Be mindful of every action. 

 

I have clarity on this today.  Tomorrow, I may not.  It is the ebb and flow of peace and anxiety.  I feel, as I’m settling into middle age, that the anxiety is getting worse.  Is it because there is more to do?  Maybe.  But deep down, I feel it is fear of running out of time to get all the things done. If I figure out how to fire Mean Boss, who will never be satisfied, will I then I solve the issue of never ending deadlines, and ever growing criticisms?  

My desire right now is to be that sea turtle.  To feel ok about my productivity, even if I am not running on full throttle 100% of the time.  To tell myself that I do enough.  I am enough.  I will accomplish enough...and to quote Stuart Smalley, "Gosh darn it, people like me".  Simple, yes?  Someone needs to get Mean Boss the memo.

Have you ever noticed the power in slowing down?  In the comments, tell me about one time that you helped yourself by simply taking things slower. 

 

The photo at top is a detail from the beginning of my first Breathe painting.  I have a ways to go, but already I'm finding it soothing.

 

I am an artist and writer, living in Talent, Oregon with my husband and daughter. I use creativity to break through anxiety paralysis, I play in the ocean to stay strong and inspired, and I often visit my hometown of New Orleans, where the rhythm of my heartbeat is renewed. Follow me on Facebook and Instagram where I post stuff sometimes.  To hear from me more regularly, join me on this Crazy, Beautiful Artventure.

Being Kind to Yourself This New Year: Three Ways to Ease into 2020

After transitioning from blissed at the beach to stressed to the max in 3.5 seconds, I've turned my new year's intentions into anti-anxiety strategies.

 

Happy New Year Everyone!  I’m sitting at my desk after 2.5 days of catching up on correspondence and getting organized for 2020.  I’m going to get into the art studio this afternoon for the first time in about a month and I’m sooooo excited to get my hands dirty! 

I have been thinking for a long time now about a series of paintings that focus on horses and ocean waves.  In Greek mythology, Poseidon gifted the earth horses.  They were born of the sea and when you see waves break, those are horses rearing up from the surf.

In my mind, I’ve been thinking, “2020 is the year for this project.  I must find somewhere to volunteer with horses since I don’t know much about them.  I must start researching their anatomy and I want to know more about how they are therapeutic for people suffering from PTSD and emotional disorders.  I have to do this.  I have to that….” and now the hamster in my brain has begun its first 2020 run on the wheel.

As soon as I started thinking seriously about this project, I became completely overwhelmed.  To me, that means that it may not be time yet.  Maybe in a month or two.  Or maybe I just need not to be thinking about big projects while I’m still in the getting organized process of my January.  Which leads me to question, how I can already feel crazy when it is only the 9th day of the damn year?

We got back from our vacay this past Friday.  The weekend was fine.  I organized the house, took down Christmas, and got the studio cleaned up from the holiday madness.  I cooked food and watched football.  It was nice.

Then, Sunday night, I awoke in the middle of the night, the hamster in full sprint.  My brain was going crazy.  I found myself worrying about revenue plans, art projects, my family’s needs, if the boy scouts were ever going to come and pick up my Christmas tree from the curb...  I didn’t sleep much after that.  I practiced my breathing exercises and finally got another hour or so in. 

Monday, I was a bit of a mess.  I felt completely stressed out.  I had an appointment with my therapist and asked how it could be possible that while at the beach the week before, I was fine.  I get back home, and within three days, I’m in nervous breakdown land.  I mean, WTF for realz?

Just like that, I had slipped right back into worry and overwhelm.  Happy new year. 

 

My intention for 2020 is to stay positive, keep moving, and don’t be attached to outcomes.

 

My intention for 2020 is to stay positive, keep moving, and don’t be attached to outcomes.  Since Monday, I have found myself repeating this over and over and practicing my breathing.  I began to think about the horses, and frankly, they stress me out.

FYI – I’m terrified of horses. I have always been scared of them and they know it.  Every horse I’ve ever ridden, with the exception of one, has taken off with me on it.  They know I’m scared and thus, that they are in charge.  But I digress… Back to the breath.

Within 48 hours I have made a decision.  Yes, I will work towards the horse/wave project this year, but I don’t have to start RIGHT NOW.  I mean, jeez girl, calm down already. 

In my head, I had to have the project done like next week and of course all the marketing and sales work that go along with introducing a new series should have already been mapped out, and I don’t have my revenue plan for 2020 done yet, nor do I have my social media content thought out, and I already had to abandon a collaboration that I was supposed to have my part completed for and I had to back out, and I feel terrible for that, and I hope that person isn’t mad at me and…now I have entered the tornado…

Just breathe.  I am inhaling. I am exhaling.  Repeat. 

Today, I feel a bit more stable.  Maybe because my to do list isn’t two full pages long anymore.  Maybe it’s because I have decided to do a few “breathe” paintings instead of diving head first into the horses.  Maybe it’s simply because I actually slept last night from 11:00pm straight until 5:30am without waking up.

I will admit that on Monday, I went from “anxious” to “entering the panic zone” because I simply felt like a failure.  I thought, “Really? Even merely thinking of getting back to work and life is enough to send me off the cliff?”  It doesn’t seem fair, and sometimes I feel shame because I feel like I should be able to hold it together better. 

My therapist had to remind me that I am quite a capable person.  I had to remind myself that it’s ok to take re-entry slow.  So that’s where I’m at today.  My new year’s intentions have become strategies to easing in to 2020: 

 

Be positive – This will pass and I will get back into my routine. 

Keep going – Today a few more things have been checked off the to do list and I’ll make art this afternoon. 

Don’t be attached to outcomes – I wanted to work on horse/wave paintings, but it simply isn’t the time so I’m going to work on something else that doesn’t stress me out.

 

There.  That’s not so bad, is it? 

Did you get back to work from the holidays and is having or had trouble settling back in?  I’d love to know I’m not alone in this.  In the comments below, let me know your post-holiday experience.  I mean, does anyone out there actually feel rested after the holidays?

Just in case you need to hear it, it’s ok to take it slow.  Put one foot in front of the other until you find the pace that works for you.  I’m going to go take a walk before studio time.  Time to get outside again and let Mother Nature calm me.  Peace.

 

The photo above is my first 2020 action in the art studio.  I'm beginning a "breathe" painting, starting with painting paper in an abstract ocean scape sort of way.  From here I'll cut the paper and create a pattern on a darkly painted canvas.  I feel more relaxed already.

 

I am an artist and writer, living in Talent, Oregon with my husband and daughter. I use creativity to break through anxiety paralysis, I play in the ocean to stay strong and inspired, and I often visit my hometown of New Orleans, where the rhythm of my heartbeat is renewed. Follow me on Facebook and Instagram where I post stuff sometimes.  To hear from me more regularly, join me on this Crazy, Beautiful Artventure.