Managing Anxiety

It’s been quite a while since I’ve posted anything to this site. Weekends come and I promise myself that “I will post this weekend”, and then, before I know it, the weekend is over and I haven’t posted. I claim to myself that I have nothing to write about and that is partly true. I think the real reason I haven’t posted is that I’ve been preoccupied with other thoughts which have taken priority in my life.


All my life I’ve been what I would call a “fear based” person. That has been both a gift and a burden. Whenever I undertake any kind of project be it a vacation trip, an art project, teaching a class, even writing a blog, I prepare for it. This often involves research to make sure I know what I should do, list-making to insure that I have what I need and that I don’t forget any vital steps, and rehearsals to make sure I really do know what I’m doing. That way I avoid mistakes and disaster.

I have been so good at being prepared, that I mostly experience fine outcomes. But the burden that comes with being so well prepared is that the “angst” and fear of coming up short has taken its toll on me. It has become my primary way of dealing with life. And it produces lots of anxiety and adrenaline!

When my husband recently had cancerous growth removed from his nose, I felt on the edge of disaster, like my world was coming to an end. Three or four times a day, I would feel a knot forming in my stomach. My heart rate was irregular. I couldn’t concentrate. What I was experiencing was extreme anxiety and I knew I needed to do something to alter this crazy-making response.

blogSt FrancisNormally I would turn first to my doctor. I had done that this past fall when I was having acute anxiety about turning 75 and a planned trip. He referred me to a wonderful hypnotherapist to learn self hypnosis. It was extremely helpful, and I broke the anxiety pattern for a while. I thought I had it licked and was most surprised that I had spiraled back into unmanageable panic – even with the self hypnosis.

This time I turned to my sister, a retired nurse paramedic and asked her how she worked with people who had PTSD after being in accidents. She got me started on this new journey, with a very effective 5 minute exercise that shifted the panic response with breath and visualization.

I immediately started using this approach each time the panic set in, and began to feel better. I realized I needed to learn more about anxiety. I’d like to share with you some of the very interesting books that I’ve been reading.

blogSagofernThe first book I purchased was “Fear” by Thick Nhat Hanh. It presents a Buddhist way of looking at and dealing with fear. It is easy to understand, and just reading it has brought me greater peace. Ed and I are reading it together out loud and I’ve found this experience has stimulated some great conversations where we both have come to know each other more deeply. I’ve found the practices and affirmations offered in the book to be very effective in lowering my anxiety levels.

I was talking about all of this with a friend who has spent the last year in treatment for breast cancer. She is a huge proponent of positive thinking and told me about the book “The Brain that Changes Itself” by Norman Doidge, M.D. It arrived from Amazon several days ago and I’ve devoured it. Through fascinating narratives about real people with challenging physical issues, Dr. Doidge explains how neuroscience is offering break-though treatments for all kinds of neurological disease. The chapter on fear described my situation to a “T”. The explanations presented the most current approaches to treating extreme anxiety and shed light on my problem. This has given me hope that I will be successful in managing my anxiety.

MothAnother friend told me of her experience with “HeartMath”, another view of dealing with emotional issues based on innovative research and the development of tools and techniques that work on anxiety, depression,hypertension, anger, stress etc.
She loaned me several publications which offer me yet another way of looking at my situation. The book “Transforming Anxiety” was particularly helpful, providing a sequential approach to developing new life-long practices.

What has been most fascinating has been the congruence in all three views with emphasis on the ways that breath and visualization can bring about long-term physical changes and a shift to normalcy.

I did make it outside a few times and took the photos included in this post at the Tucson Botanical Garden. It is a visual delight since spring has arrived and the next few months will offer visitors a botanical cacophony of color.

CupidSinkIn conclusion, I’m back and I think I’m ready to begin posting again on a regular basis. My goal – to post once a week. The desert is blooming again and, hopefully, so am I.

Valentines and Quilts

Now that we’ve got the blog working properly, I’ve not been very motivated to post.  And it’s mainly because I haven’t had any “wow’s” to write about.  I like to share with you the wonderful things I’ve discovered be it a new art process, a delicious recipe, or a great sight to behold.

Nothing like that has happened recently!  So I haven’t been inspired to write for you.  Who knows what I’ll discover tomorrow, and if it hits me big, you’ll be sure to hear about it.  Today I have written up a couple of little “finds” that have come my way.

Small paper and fabric quilt flag

Small paper and fabric quilt flag

Back in January Jane Davies came to Tucson and gave a “Paper Quilt” workshop for PaperWorks.  We printed on all kinds of papers with a Gelli Plate and then combined fabric and the printed papers to create sweet little collage quilts. I enjoyed the process and the results were satisfying.  They take a lot less time to make than regular quilts.  If you haven’t heard of Gelli Plates, do check them out on-line.  They are a great monoprinting tool.

Gelli printed papers and scraps of fabric stitched and glued on to fabric.  Paper glued and wrapped on to the quilt to finish raw edges

Gelli printed papers and scraps of fabric stitched and glued on to fabric. Paper glued and wrapped on to the quilt to finish raw edges

Thursday, a small group of art friends met at Carolyn DuPont’s home and played around with alcohol inks.  I decided to use the inks to color valentines made with aluminum tape hearts.  I cut the heart shapes from mat board scraps, covered them with the aluminum tape and then drew designs on them with an embossing tool.  I dropped alcohol inks (Adirondack and Copic) to color the metal and then finished off with clear Krylon spray.  There are lots of instructions on-line for using alcohol inks.

Embossed metal hearts colored with alcohol inks.

Embossed metal hearts colored with alcohol inks.

Popsicle Pen

Quick and easy to make….

When I discover that I haven’t brought my calligraphy tools to a workshop and I want to make marks or write on a project, I make a pen. It only takes a few minutes and my workshop tool box usually has scissors, masking tape and popsicle sticks(aka paint stirrers).


an empty soda can

a popsicle stick (or pencil)


masking tape

Be careful as aluminum is very sharp and makes a nasty cut.

l. Use scissors to cut off both round ends of the can.

2. Make a cut lengthwise through the metal tube.


3. Fold one end of the can over about 1” and cut it off.


4. Cut the folded strip in half. You’ll have two folded strips about 1” wide and 1.5” tall.


5. Cut out the lower right corner opposite the fold leaving the folded can area about as wide as the popsicle stick.


6. Insert the popsicle stick and tape it in place. Be sure the tape also adheres to the wood so the aluminum pen won’t fall off.


7. Trim the nib into a pen shape.


Thats all folks! Your popsicle pen is ready for service.. Use it with almost any art fluid. Thicker fluids such as acrylic paint or tempera paint may require thinning with water. Experiment with pen angles to see what kinds of strokes you enjoy making most.



Tohono Chul

Tohono Chul Park

a Tucson “Gem”

One of my very favorite places to go in Tucson is Tohono Chul Park. It’s a lovely nature preserve in the northwest sector of the city. There are gentle paths to follow, with a wide variety of Sonoran Desert plants well marked and interesting outdoor art along the way. I always enjoy going there to sketch or to meet a friend for lunch at their bistro and I usually take a little time to browse in one of their two gift shops.

My favorite place in the park is their art gallery where they have a number of shows each year. Most have a theme related to nature and the southwest. They have just mounted a new exhibit “Paper: From All Sides”. The grand opening is January 24 at 5:30 and the show promises to give us some unique insights into the ways artists use paper.

I am very honored to have one of my recent pieces, “Daniella’s Fleet” included in the exhibit. If you are going to be in Tucson this time of year, do stop by and check out the show. It will be open through April 21.

daniellafleet1blog “Daniella’s Fleet” is an unconventional nature journal made from encaustic covered origami sampans made from assorted scrap papers. The sampans contain objects found outdoors on Whidbey Island.

Several years ago I studied with Daniella Wolff on Whidbey Island. She had started making origami sampans and showed me how to fold them. When I got home I made many little boats and painted them in bright colors with gouache. The rainbow fleet made me smile. I had no intention of using them as an art piece. I thought they would make fun little gifts for friends.

While I was on Whidbey Island, I assembled a little bag of “findings” that I had gathered on daily walks along the beaches and wooded paths on the island. I thought about doing a nature journal using the found objects as inspiration. And then I realized that the lovely little objects belonged in the boats and the fleet of paper boats would make a unique journal! Since Daniella is an encaustic artist, and I had studied encaustic art with her, it seemed appropriate to use encaustic to encase and preserve the work.

But I still had a problem. I was at a loss about how to frame this funky little fleet. I tried making a river, a lake and an ocean but on each background the boats seemed out of place. So I set everything aside and hoped that some day I’d find a solution.

Recently I realized that the fleet didn’t need a background or a frame. It had it’s unique identity as a dimensional object. It could be displayed as sculpture or an artists’ book – not a framed painting. And so I mounted “Daniella’s Fleet” on transparent plexi. Now the fleet can sit on a table top or hang on the wall!