She Weaves Color with Stardust

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.

Diette, my friend and One expressive soul.

To view more art by Sammi Lee, visit https://www.instagram.com/hazeluminous.art/ or http://www.sammilee.com

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

Image 1: Sammi Lee painting Mechammonite (acrylic on canvas) Image 2: Sammi Lee, Seshat (acrylic on canvas) Image 3: Sammi Lee, Paro Drip (digital) Image 4, 5, 6: Diette, (acrylic pour) Image 7: Diette @ DBG Image 8: Sammi Lee, Orchid Queen

Copyright © 2020 Michele Lee Sefton. All Rights Reserved.

Outward Change Reveals Inward Transformation

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.

Krissy claims (everyday) that, “Today is my favorite day!” Such a grateful way to greet the day.

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.

Fortunately, 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 later consideration.

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.

I knew that my neighbor is a fellow Arizona native, but I wanted to learn more about the Krissy I didn’t know. I learned that she has two older brothers and that her parents are married and will celebrate their 47th wedding anniversary next year. She is close with her family and they see each other often. I have many more things to learn about my neighbor, my friend, but our conversation quickly turned to her personal history and the focus of our fifty-minute discussion. Her disclosures were surprising, based on my false assumptions about someone with a radiant attitude, but they are far too familiar to many families, including my own. Krissy shared her experience of attending Al-Anon© 1 to understand and support a family member’s drinking and addiction challenges. She had been going regularly to these helpful meetings for almost two years when a conversation with her Al-Anon© sponsor revealed that, she too, might have an issue with alcohol, and that like her family member, her relationship with alcohol might also be damaging the relationships she most valued. The conversation caused Krissy to take an honest look at her own choices surrounding drinking. In doing so, she realized that she needed to make some changes, or risk permanently altering the course of her marriage, and ultimately, her life.

Krissy made the decision to stop drinking on April 22, 2018 and has been sober since. Saying no to alcohol on that day, turned into a week, then a month, then six months, then a year. She continues to say no to the substance that made her life “blurry.” Focusing on one day, sometimes, one hour at a time in the beginning of her sober journey, has brought her to a place of absolute gratitude, joy, and strengthened relationships. Krissy continued to attend her Al-Anon© meetings but had not attended an AA® 2 meeting until she reached one year of sobriety. At the one-year mark Krissy attended that meeting just to pick up a chip to mark her year milestone. It was then, after attending Al-Anon© for over two years, that she was ready to admit to herself, and others, that she wasn’t just taking a break from alcohol, she was an alcoholic and the struggles of her family member, were also her struggles.

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.

Gratitude 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.

Practicing 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
  • Remember everything
  • 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 “Family Gratitude Jar” contains notes of gratitude experienced throughout the week. The small gratitude notes are then read at the end of each week. An inspiring family routine that is strengthening grateful hearts, and a family bond.

Prepare 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.     

Resources:

  1. Al-Anon© is a mutual support program for people whose lives have been affected by someone else’s drinking. Description found on the Al-Anon website. For more information, please visit https://al-anon.org/
  2. Alcoholics Anonymous ® (AA) is a an international fellowship of men and women who have had a drinking problem. Description found on the AA website. For more information, please visit https://www.aa.org/

Enjoy your weekend and if you are receiving this post through email, please visit my blog for additional pages and previous posts.

Copyright © 2019 Michele Lee Sefton. All Rights Reserved.

Adventurous Arizona Athlete and Teacher Inspires Others

Emily Gerlick finds adventure, tranquility, and breathtaking moments while increasing her physical endurance and belief in herself.

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.

Running in nature is “soothing and meditative.”

Who is Emily?

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 aspiring players.  

Emily enjoyed playing outside as a kid.

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.  

Who Inspires Emily?

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.”

Making the Moves

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.    

Blazing a Trail

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.

Emily’s 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

Emily’s adventurous 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 @ em_run_teach_love

Life begins at the end of your comfort zone. ~ Neale Donald Walsch

Copyright © 2019 Michele Lee Sefton. All Rights Reserved.