I am fortunate to have two visual artists in my life who lose themselves in their art and help others see where the expected ends and the imagination begins. One is my daughter, an art and technology major, and the other, is a former coworker and cherished friend. Both inspire me, every week if not every day, by their devotion to creation and their expressive ways.
“Creating art is a translation of experiences and a way of communicating, in ways that spoken language isn’t able to. It’s a way of exploring feeling through color and a way of bringing in other realms and realities into our own.” – Sammi Lee
A Poem for visual creators~
She dances through my dreams
barely touching the invisible ground
before moving on to the next scene.
She weaves color with stardust as she floats –
transforming the gray images into technicolor
and the silent movie with heavenly notes.
The brush, her scepter, she wields with purpose and poise,
as her mind transcends, turning the chatter
and chaos in and around her into calming white noise.
The blank canvas charmed by her regal hand;
it waits ready as she captures captivating subjects
and recreates their otherworldly lands.
To the present and corporeal,
these scenes she brings forth,
giving others a chance to see
what can exist beyond static thoughts –
beyond our limits of perceived reality.
In a form with countless variations,
lives a universe scattered with
fragmented and far-reaching lines,
faint and oppressive shadows,
bold and dim hues,
sharp angles and soft curves,
and an abundant palette of colors,
that can be brushed together
into endless combinations –
that we simply define as art.
These free-spirited artists who ornament
my world and my walls,
have their individual reasons for doing so.
One is painting toward an extraordinary vocation,
guided by inspiration and higher education,
and One is painting a colorful path back to herself,
after dedicating her life to selfless service.
Different styles, pieces, and mediums they explore,
but, both create to release their expressive souls.
Thank you for stopping by and reading my poem written with two free-spirited artists in mind. My poem is dedicated to all creators who quiet the noise and let their brilliance soar. I hope your week has been full of color and imagination. ❤️ Have an inspired weekend! Michele
The personal story that follows took courage to share and it is my privilege to write it in a manner that is respectful and honoring of the strong woman I interviewed.
My husband and I have been blessed with several neighbors, across two states, who we have formed friendships with and who have added richness to our lives. Those friendships have taken many forms through the years. Together as neighbors, we have watched children play and grow, we have laughed and celebrated, and we have supported and been supported. Not to be understated, we have been greeted with friendly faces and welcoming waves more times than we can recall.
We have also experienced the sting of not-so-nice-neighbors, so we were thrilled to meet our new neighbors after making a move back to the valley just over seven years ago, after living in Tucson for five years. In a mirror floor plan, directly across the street, lived a young family who were immediately kind and inviting. The husband, Glynn, and wife, Krissy, introduced themselves with smiles and dispositions that could brighten the cloudiest of days – smiles and attitudes that have been unwavering since our first encounter. Their young children exhibit the same cheerful outlook and loving nature that they so generously convey. Watching Glynn and Krissy’s kids play with other children in the neighborhood was reminiscent of our daughter’s carefree cul-de-sac childhood in Henderson, Nevada. Over five years of friendly hellos and farewells would have been enough to enrich our lives, but their actions went beyond those appreciated gestures. They invited us to several gatherings, including their yearly memorable Halloween celebration, complete with a bouncy house in the front yard. They are equally gracious hosts as they are kind neighbors and we always felt welcomed and energized by their positive presence. We delighted in watching them prepare and return from their many family adventures, and are forever grateful for Glynn’s willingness, without prompting, to mow our lawn when my husband was recovering from foot surgery. They model neighborly goodness and that is what made seeing their for sale sign so difficult when returning home one afternoon, over one year ago. I understand. Sometimes families need more space. We couldn’t be too upset with them, after all, we have planted six for sale signs since we were, ourselves, a young family forging friendships and then moving on to the next location.
our neighbors did not move too far, or at least close enough for a stop in
and say hi visit. It was on one of those visits a few months ago that
Krissy said something that didn’t shock my world, but I did file it away for
When I told her, “You look great! Have you lost weight?”
“Yes, I lost thirty pounds. I stopped drinking,” she said casually.
“Oh, that’s great,” I said, as we were departing.
We drove off, happy to have reconnected with our “old” neighbors. I didn’t think much more about Krissy’s alcohol abstinence until I sat pondering: who do I know who has made a life change recently that I can learn more about, with the goal of inspiring and motivating others. I immediately thought of Krissy and her lifestyle and physical transformation. I reached out to her and she agreed to be interviewed. The conversation that followed is a reminder of you never know what other people are going through, including people with heartwarming smiles and contagious laughs.
Krissy realized that alcohol directed too many of her days and her family trips, and that those patterns were consuming her and damaging her most cherished relationship – the relationship with her loving husband, her best friend. Those habits consisted of drinking on good days and bad days, drinking to the point of blacking out, fighting about things that she never would have cared about sober, drinking excessively and embarrassing loved ones, and over-planning the drinking schedule for family vacations. Anyone who drinks or has drank to excess, even one time, can probably admit to at least one of these consequences; I certainly can. It takes someone with tremendous courage to admit when negative consequences have become habitual, and then be strong enough to seek support, before those habits erode relationships and sense of self. Krissy is someone with tremendous courage and her bravery and grace are helping others through her involvement with support groups and through the life she is living.
is the Key to Happiness
Krissy is “genuinely happy” without alcohol in her life and she feels “like a million bucks.” She attributes the foundation of that happiness to practicing gratitude. This “key to happiness,” as she describes, is helping her stay sober, especially during difficult situations that test her sobriety.
Mindful Gratitude has allowed her to:
Be fully present and aware
Know tomorrow is not ruined
Let go of the need to control situations and others
Be in control of words and actions
Not feel shame or embarrassment
Learn to have fun on her own
Practice honesty and forgiveness
Let go of resentments
Be accepting of others and herself
Embrace a willingness to change
Let go and let God
Feel God’s grace
While drinking Krissy said she didn’t think about leading with gratitude throughout her day. To hear her talk passionately about being grateful in all situations, it is hard to imagine that awareness hasn’t always been a core strength of hers. Practicing gratitude is a gift that she has extended to her family and her home reflects that awareness.
the Mind, Prepare for the Day
Like I am rediscovering every day, morning meditations provide quiet space for prayer and prepare Krissy for the remainder of her day. Praying before her day begins and leading with gratitude throughout the remainder of her day has transformed Krissy’s attitude and has given her inner peace and strength. Krissy has radiated positive light whenever we have seen her over the last seven years; now, she has been able to shine that light inward, as well as outward. Krissy has modified both when she prays and how she prays. Her transformed prayer life is now led with an accepting heart, versus an asking heart.
Motivational quotes Krissy has learned and does her best to live by each day:
“I can do this today.” “Accept things for what they are.”
“Progress not perfection.” “We heal what we reveal.
“I can help other people today.”
“I am not better than, or less than, I am equal.”
Krissy describes her turning point as a time when, “I was able to get off the elevator before I went to the bottom floor.” Krissy does not make that statement from a place of superiority. She acknowledges God’s grace in giving her the strength to make life changes before consequences became more serious and permanent. With the encouragement of an incredible husband, a loving family, supportive groups, and a strong faith, Krissy has been able to leave that descent and walk a new path – a hero’s path. She isn’t just walking a new path; she is shining a light on the path for others.
The goal of this piece is not to tell people to stop drinking, and it certainly is not Krissy’s goal. That is a personal decision. The goal of this piece is to share a story about a strong woman who had the courage to be accountable for her choices and then take the uncomfortable steps, one day at a time, toward a stronger and healthier life, for herself and her family. Her willingness and determination to do so serves as a model for others who might be following in her footsteps, or as Krissy would prefer, alongside her.
I have had the privilege of following inspiring athlete, Emily Gerlick, for a few years now on social media after meeting her at work over four years ago. I have looked at dozens of beautiful photographs of Emily running in picturesque scenes in several states, including Arizona, Colorado, and Utah and have often wondered how she makes it to so many remote locations, while also maintaining a busy teaching and coaching schedule. I am in awe and I am inspired by her, and I know I am not alone. Emily’s photographs reveal more than colorful landscapes in hidden valleys, they reveal dedication, desire, determination, and talent. Her photographs of running through the woods, or standing over crystal-clear lakes, or gazing at mountain vistas also do more than momentarily entertain, they beckon the viewer to get out, get moving, and get exploring.
From the moment I met Emily, I was immediately drawn to her
independent nature and her compassionate teaching style, but as it often goes, it
is difficult to truly get to know another teacher in the confines of the workday,
when their classroom is across campus. I sought out an interview with Emily
because she recently made a professional move, leaving our mutual school in
Glendale, Arizona and accepting a position over 140 miles north, in Flagstaff,
Arizona. Changing jobs and relocating can be a terrifying proposition; her
story may help or motivate others who might be considering doing the same. Emily
has also continued to push herself with her fitness goals and her results are incredible
and motivating. I have learned several details about Emily during our interview
that further add to my admiration and I am thrilled to share her story. I also
learned to not wait so long to get to know someone who I admire from afar.
Emily is from a Wonder Lake, Illinois, a small-town northwest of Chicago. She went to high school in Woodstock, Illinois. Arizona is her home now, but she misses the downtown square, the mom and pop restaurants, and lighting of the Christmas tree, which she described as being beautifully lit.
Not surprising Emily enjoyed playing outside as a kid. As
someone who is working on adding more play to her life, I love that Emily continues
to allow her inner child to play, run, and explore. As a child she loved to do those
activities barefoot – in the summertime of course. She has fond memories of
being three years old and watching bonfires in her family garden, during changing
seasons. She would sit and watch as long as she could, until the cold became
too much, and then she would race her dad, fifty yards, back to their house.
She learned discipline as a young gymnast and ballerina. As an eight-year-old,
she fell in love with softball and would continue playing through middle
school, high school, and eventually at the University of Iowa. Softball is also
one of the sports Emily has coached, passing on her love of the game to
Emily feels the influence of growing up with four seasons
(something native desert dwellers cannot relate to). Illinois winters gave her
grit and those long cold winters also gave her an appreciation for spring and
summer. She is both an athlete and a fan – supporting the Bulls, Bears, and
Cubs. She remembers watching Michael Jordan play with the Bulls and considers
him to be an inspiration for her and her athletics.
Emily is inspired by her parents.
She said, “They both worked so hard to give my sister and I
the best life they could. They worked hard and showed up at all of our events
that we both participated in.”
Her students with special needs also inspire her, “… to be a
better human. They have so much courage and work so hard and still have time to
smile and laugh.” She thinks of, “them often when … out on the trail.”
University of Iowa to Arizona
Emily fell in love with Arizona while competing against
Arizona State University every spring. She completed a strength and
conditioning internship with ASU the summer before her senior year, then moved
to Arizona after graduating from college. Arizona surprises her most by the
abundant places to explore and the beauty in the state. She mentioned one of my
favorite spots, the Mogollon Rim.
She stated that she has “… not even covered half of the cool
spots to hike, explore, and camp” in Arizona. Based on her posts, I would say
she is covering more of the state than most. Although the Illinois cold gray winters
gave her grit, she doesn’t miss having to shovel snow, however, the endless
summer days in Phoenix, that never cool down, even after the sun disappears
from the horizon, require their own form of grit.
Phoenix, Arizona to Flagstaff, Arizona
Emily’s most recent move – the one that prompted this
interview request – was her move from Phoenix, where she had lived for thirteen
years, to Flagstaff. For those who are not familiar with Arizona’s geography,
the two locations are distinctly different, and an example of the diversity in the
state. Her desire for new adventures, new career and personal challenges, and
the abundance of trails, motivated her to head north. Landing a job in an area
she has always loved and leaving the security of the known for the unknown,
demonstrate Emily’s ability to trust and believe. Two additional qualities I
admire in this adventurous athlete.
She has faced the challenges of starting over, but her risk
to leave the familiar is paying off. She is meeting new people, settling into
her new job, learning new running trails, and she is loving the small town feel
of Flagstaff. A feel that reminds her of home, in a place that is starting to
feel like home.
Emily’s first trail running experience was a seven-mile
trail at the White Tank Mountain Regional Park, in Buckeye, Arizona, in 2008.
She was hooked! Her trail running began with hiking and running with friends. She
loves the reward of seeing beautiful views after a climb. Her Instagram
followers also love those views! Running in nature, and surrounding herself
with natural beauty, gives Emily an immediate release from everything else
going on in her life. Trail running has also given her ways to cope with the
intense struggles of anxiety and depression.
She loves her supportive, and ever expanding, trail running
community and she loves sharing her trail running and outdoor adventures with
friends and family. Through her sharing, she has, “met some pretty amazing
humans.” I would add that through her sharing people have seen beautiful hidden
corners of several states. It is Emily’s hope, and my belief, that her running
and sharing will inspire others to get out and find their own adventures.
If I haven’t yet mentioned, Emily is also humble, but I am
happy to share that she qualified for the 2020 Boston Marathon. She believes it
will be her last road marathon. As her interviewer and someone who has seen her
push forward and grow, I am not convinced it will be her last.
Top Five Reasons to Hit the Trails
Repetitive movement is soothing and meditative
Fresh air to the lungs
Connecting with earth
Seeing amazing feats of nature
Sitting in a cold creek listening to the sound of rushing water
spirit, beautiful photographs, and willingness to take risks, both
professionally and on the trails, inspire me to get up, get moving, and go
beyond my comfort, which “is where life begins.”
For your own weekly dose of visual inspiration, follow Emily
Life begins at the end of your comfort zone. ~ Neale Donald Walsch