What Do You See?

October 2, 2012

Remember the Magic Eye? You had to stare at a picture long enough to go cross-eyed. Only then would the image behind the image emerge. What at first looked like one thing ended up looking like something else. It played with our belief that what you see is all there is. Sometimes it takes looking at something in a new way to see what is behind the mask.

On Saturday I met an artist who plays with images too. Unlike the Magic Eye, you needn’t blur your vision to see what she is trying to present. An artist living in Berlin, Gudrun Leitner stitches together fabric to emulate a photograph. Her accuracy is amazing ~ and the effect on the observer is surprising. Her work moves you to the core. It literally shakes you awake to a new awareness about your handmade reality: that often what you think you see is not what you are seeing at all.

With her permission I am posting my favorite image of all. Maybe it’s because I like green eyes. This one made my knees weak. For more, visit Gudrun’s Web site. She’ll rock your world. You’ll see!


optical illusion, gut gg ok

Gut GG Ok, hand-stitched by Gudrun Leitner




The Power of Imagination

November 7, 2010

Dr. Charlotte Reznick, author of The Power of Your Child’s Imagination, was on my mind this weekend as we took the kids to the mountains for a few days of frolicking. The four-star hotel offered great food, free WiFi, a wellness area with a pool with an Alpine view and enough cable TV to make the kids’ eyes bug out. We managed to go for two hikes, swim in the pool four times, and visit the gym twice. To distract the kids on our long walks, we practiced math problems in our heads. All in all, it was a glorious time.

The imagination part came in with all the storytelling I did to keep the kids’ entertained (and in complete unawareness that they were, gasp, hiking!). Remembering Dr. Reznick’s nine tools to broaden our kids’ imagination, we practiced some deep breathing on foot. Dr. Reznick calls it “balloon breath.” She says:

“Get comfortable on a flat surface and place your hands around your navel. Focus your attention two to three inches below it, and breathe slowly and deeply into your lower belly so that it presses into your hands like an inflating balloon. Stay there for a minute or two, feeling its gentle rise and fall. Notice how you feel. Try it sitting and standing.” (page 20-21) It is a great power of slow exercise for young and old.

It wasn’t hard to do the next piece because, in truth, our special place was right before our eyes. In the second section of her book, “Discovering Your Special Place,” Dr. Reznick says to foster the sense of self that dwells within. She suggests to visualize a peaceful place…perhaps our kids will think of the mountains the next time they’re bored, looking out the window during class!

Although we didn’t find any real animals (it is, after all, almost winter in the mountains, despite the unusually warm temps). Dr. Reznick recommends “Meeting a Wise Animal Friend” to act as protector. Perhaps the protective quality of animals is the reason why animal movies such as ICE AGE, LAND BEFORE TIME and GARFIELD are so popular.

In the third section, “Encountering a Personal Wizard” Dr. Reznick says sometimes we need to look to magical beings that might be able to assist us in times of need. During a particularly acrimonious homework session, I once called my son’s Math Wizard on my cell phone. Suddenly, he was able to solve the math problem on his own because of the mere confidence his imaginary wizard friend gave him.

If you wonder why imaginary friends are useful, consider the next section, “Receiving Gifts from Inner Guides.” Much like the phone call to Math Wizard, imaginary wizard and animal friends can provide gifts of strength and confidence when you need it most. The sixth section, “Checking in with Heart and Belly,” helps your child get in tune with their own feelings.

Dr. Reznick writes: “Neuroscience has shown that certain ‘brain’ chemicals— neuropeptides, which communicate with other parts of our bodies— don’t live only in the brain; they also reside in our intestinal tract. This suggests a second “Belly Brain” for emotions. Other research suggests that the heart has its own intelligence and communication system.” (page 40)


Other Suggested Reading





In section seven “Talking to all your body parts,” I was reminded of a recent blog post in which I offered up a simple exercise to help us re-enage with our bodies in a powerful way by greeting each section of ourselves with love, compassion and acceptance. Starting with your toes, moving up your ankles, shins, etc., thank each body part for the part it plays in getting you through the day. Give it a try!

We all know color can have an effect on our well-being. In “The Healing Properties of Color”, Dr. Reznick addresses how we can creatively use color to express our emotions. And finally, in “The Healing Power of Energy,” we learn the positive effects of ‘sending’ and receiving good vibes from others.

Fostering your imagination is a wonderful way to engage in the power of slow. Let it be your guide, wizard, animal or otherwise!

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Mary Westheimer, who works for Arizona-based sculptor Kevin Caron, shares a neat story about how time expands and contracts whenever she places herself in the flow of life. Fearless and calm, she’s made it across Phoenix in the time it takes to order a Starbucks double latte skim at lunch time.

Listen in on Mary’s story here to find out how you can make time, too. [Listening instructions: Deactivate your pop-up blocker; click on the link, then click on it again. Click on ‘open’ to listen to the .wav file. It’s rudimentary, but it works!].

As a young mom, I could relate to the minute snatching this lovely mom of a two-and-one-half year old boy does. An expressive arts coach and artist, Gabrielle Javier-Cerulli paints at night. Despite the poor lighting conditions, she cherishs the ‘me-time’ so many moms do not give themselves.

Gabrielle Javier-Cerulli shares her wisdom here. [Listening instructions: Click on the link, then click on it again for it to open your media player. Be sure your pop-up blocker has been deactivated.]

Balance Needs Beauty

December 11, 2008

Sian Lindemann is no ordinary artist. She uses art to create not only a powerful, lasting message, but also to create beauty to serve the world. On September 11, 2001, she took action as she saw the world crumbling around her. Balance without beauty is like a mirror without a reflection. In her artist’s mind, they are essential counterparts.

“If one invests wisely in beauty, it will remain with them all the days of their lives” ~ Frank Lloyd Wright

CLH: You started your National Living Arts Foundation as a post 9/11 response. Can you tell us how surrounding yourself with beauty can serve as a reminder to remain balanced in life?

Sian: I did indeed create The National Living Arts Foundation in response to the event of 9/11.

As I sat in response to the event unfolding on the television, I decided that living in the next moment, where individuals would be afraid to travel, to do, to participate and to try new things, might be limited.

Creating the Foundation was an opportunity to “make visible” and to assist many more artists to succeed with their works…..thus establishing more public art exhibitions, installaitons and the like….to inspire elevated thought.

It is essential for me to surround myself with beauty, as acquiring art and the appreciation of art, for me is not a luxury, but a necessity to maintain an inspired view on the world…..when things like the present economy and global unrest seem an overwhelming task to accept or to overcome.

In small ways, with artists, one at at time, or now as we develop group educational programs, I feel that contributing to the ongoing inspiration to the artists to continue is an essential part of my work.

CLH: Some people feel they aren’t creative. In what ways can people invite art into their lives?

Sian: It is true that some people do not feel as if they are creative. It has been my experience that many of my benefactors and supporters do not feel that they are particularly creative. They have expressed that following me, following my activities, and / or acquiring the works that I present to them, is an act in which they can participate to encourage and support this broad development, and they do so as a vicarious “taste” into creativity.

CLH: How does creativity help people in therapeutic ways?

Sian: Creativity and the expression of one’s creativity is a healing proposition. I know that if I cannot get clear on a particular topic in my day….I sing, or I write, or I journal or I paint, as a way to “connect” with my internal intuition and unique “voice.” Yes, sometimes even I drop the thread to that internal peace.

Developing creativity is an essential activity, I believe, and it need not be for_sian_3

limited to that which is art, per se.

It can be developing a creative twist on one’s immersion in family life or business……All of this is a healing and soothing process that brings about greater peace.

CLH: How do the arts serve to counterbalance negativity in the world?

Courtney Milne, Photographer 

Sian: Great question. We can lift humanity throught the arts. I, in fact, had a complete spiritual epiphany with a collection of works from one artist, now many many years ago.

**You can enjoy 365 days of beauty this year with a desktop art calendar and journal. Go to www.poolofpossibilities.com. PROMO CODE: F101.

50% of the proceeds go towards Sian’s foundation to benefit artists.

Life Balance Found in Taos

December 10, 2008


Brandon Schmid just wanted to be alone. A hard-working lawyer from Seattle, WA, he escaped to the rugged landscape in Taos, New Mexico, in the middle of winter. A rugged outdoorsman, he decided winter camping might be just the thing. Sad thing was, he forgot the matches…Read on to find out what he discovered about himself, his life, and his filmmaking abilities…

Humanity isn’t about efficiency and accountability, but a balance of that with empathy and community.

CLH: Can you tell us what happened to turn your life around?

Brandon: I went snow camping outside of Taos, New Mexico, without any matches or a lighter (I forgot), and while freezing to death (not literally – but it was sub-zero in the negative teens and I was considering hiking back out) I had a vision for a movie — not just any vision, but a complete vision complete with characters, story, beginning, middle and end, what happens, why it happens, themes and everything in vivid detail — all in a matter of moments.  For the past five years, I had been working as a business associate in a couple prestigious law firms in Seattle — Heller and Ehrman,* and Perkins and Coie — working my tail off, long hours, etc. billing and recording every six minutes of every working day for various clients.  I had been to Taos several times in a row over a series of months back in 1999.  But this time, I stayed for a whole week, as I had recently decided to switch firms and take two weeks in between to unwind.  On the way down to Taos, I was reading Tuesdays with Morrie on the plane and couldn’t stop crying — the walls and boundaries I had built up in order to function and succeed in such a highly competitive and demanding profession over the past 5 tuesdaysyears came crumbling down. I realized how mechanistic and attuned to efficiency and accountability I had become — very inhumane in the sense that humanity isn’t about efficiency and accountability, but a balance of that with empathy and community, right?  

CLH: What advice do you have for workaholics whose lives are off kilter? 
Brandon:  I’d say take an inventory of what you have and cut out the excess to get down to what you really enjoy and need — and then adjust your work accordingly.

CLH: Have you developed a more positive relationship with time, and if yes, in what way? 

Brandon: Once you throw it all away once – in this case to make a feature film – you get a better perspective on how you have been spending your time in the past — which helps you decide how you want to spend that time in the future.  but, unfortunately, the best teacher for developing a more positive relationship with time is time itself.

CLH:  You are currently on the film festival circuit, showing your movie, Toas. When can viewers enjoy your film in theaters?

Brandon: As soon as a distributor is willing to pick it up and pay my publicist to market it! 🙂 The film was a self-financed production. I guess those long hours slugging away at the clock paid off (just kidding!).

CLH: I appreciate your taking a moment to answer these questions.

Brandon: Thank you! 

*Heller and Ehrman dissolved in October 2008.

 The daughter of a foreign correspondent, Nanine Hartzenbusch spent a good deal of her childhood in Bonn and Frankfurt. Our biographies intersect on many levels, including our passion for balancing kids with career. Once a high-powered staff photographer for the likes of Reuters, AP, and New York Newsday,  Nanine downshifted to Charlotte, NC, to raise her nine-year-old son and reclaim some sanity in her once fast-paced life.

When you say “no” or are selective, you keep room in your lives for the things that count.

 She generously shares her thoughts about the power of slow living below.

CLH: You have had a tremendous career as a photojournalist. What caused you to downshift?

Nanine: I had worked as a newspaper and wire service staff photographer for 20+ years in Washington, DC (Reuters), New York City (NY Newsday), Philadelphia (Associated Press), and Baltimore (Baltimore Sun). 18 months ago, my husband and I moved to Charlotte, NC. We moved for several reasons: he for a good job and I for the chance to work smarter. I now have my own business using my skills as a photojournalist. We each used to have one-hour plus commutes – we lived halfway between Baltimore and DC; now we live in the city of Charlotte.  My husband commutes 20 minutes, and I work out of our home. Occasionaly, I travel to my freelance work and for family photography photo sessions. We both have more time to spend with our son and be more involved with our community such as youth sports, volunteer work, church activities, and the PTA.

CLH: How do you view work-life balance today?

Nanine: Our work-life balance is so much more in synch today than it was several years ago. We still are doing what we love career-wise, but I have time to cook great meals, volunteer on PTA, participate in our church, and be able to drive our son to choir practice, sports activities and play dates without being frazzled or stressed out. My husband doesn’t spend three hours a day commuting, so he’s able to spend more time with our son than before and do hikes & bike rides and be at our son’s games during the week (something that never would have been possible before).


*Photo used with permission from Nanine Hartzenbusch.

CLH: What advice would you offer others struggling to make their lives work?
Set limits or parameters to your work day. My goal is to do all my work during my son’s school day and schedule appointments only then. I save the afternoon for homework help, playdates, afternoon activities, and errands we can do together. My husband is a good time manager and is home by 7 pm. He still has time to work out in the morning.  I do family shoots on the weekends, because that’s when families are available, but then my husband can spend time with our son (without me).

Your spouse/partner needs to be an equal contributor  with the house chores, parenting decisions, etc. This works for us because my husband helps with some of the homework and projects, bakes on the weekends, does the laundry, picks up milk and other groceries on the way home. We all clean the house together once a week.
Time management as a family – I keep a calendar on a laptop in the kitchen. We discuss the week ahead, and talk about the things we need to do and the things we’d like to do as a family at the dinner table. (we eat breakfast and dinner together most days). We discuss opportunities for work and fun, and make it possible for each of us to have enriching experiences.

Balance – important to do things as a family, but also as a couple. we found a great sitter, and go out a couple of times a month. Also important to get together with girlfriends and for my husband to do things with “guy” friends. so we try to do a little of each.

Learning to say “no” – probably the most important piece of advice. when you say “no” or are selective, is that you keep room in your lives for the things that count.

CLH: Spoken like a true work-life balance pro! Thank you for this chat!

Nanine: Thank you!

For the life of me, I cannot figure out how to add this to the sidebar. It might get annoying after a while anyway, so here it is as a one-shot post. For your listening pleasure, I present you a few songs that sing of slow or are slow. Click on the pop-out player button in the middle.  If you don’t like rock or blues, forgettaboutit!