Tuesday, October 27, 2009

An Interview with Anne Marie Bennett, author of "Bright Side of the Road"

I have never met Anne Marie Bennett, but I feel like I know her.  She and I are both SoulCollage® Facilitators and Trainers, and use the arts for healing and self-understanding.  We will meet for the first time next weekend at the 3rd Annual SoulCollage Facilitator Conference, being held near Tubac, AZ at Pocket Sanctuary.

Anne Marie has written an honest and brave account of her diagnosis and treatment for breast cancer, based on her journal entries.

I interviewed Anne Marie about her journey through breast cancer and her book, and here is what she had to say:

I found your book very moving and personal.  How were you able to write such intimate things, knowing complete strangers would read it?

Thank you, Kat!  The book was shaped directly from my actual journal entries, and at the time I was just journaling… I wasn’t thinking about strangers reading any of it.  When I actually decided a year ago to edit the first drafts of the book, and to follow through with publication, I began to be aware of the possibility of strangers reading my words, my story.  And yes, I thought twice!  But then I thought back to the most powerful teachers I’ve ever had and realized that it was always their own stories of personal experience that made a difference to me.  After that I didn’t hesitate.

What would you say helped you the most through your surgeries and treatments?

Gratitude. Noticing and concentrating on the little things that other people (my medical team as well as family and friends) did for me really kept me from focusing on my own fear and physical symptoms.  Saying little gratitude prayers at night before I went to sleep kept me connected to Spirit in a powerful yet gentle way.

As an art therapist, I am well aware of the healing power of the arts.  How were you able to continue using your creativity throughout your breast cancer journey? For instance, how did you motivate yourself to keep writing in your journal, and keep making cards?

The journaling came naturally. There was never a question of motivating myself to keep writing. That has been my steady passion and main means of self-expression since I was 12.  I’d only been creating collaged note cards for a few years when I was diagnosed, so that was a different story.  I think the thing that motivated me the most to keep making those cards was the idea that I would give them as gifts to my doctors and medical team when my treatments were over. I felt a deep need to give back during this journey, and that is what motivated me to continue making those note cards on those days when I wasn’t overwhelmed with fatigue.

You went on a retreat at Kripalu for “Women Living with Breast Cancer” and talk about the “Fear of it Coming Back.”  What are some of the ways you are able to take care of yourself when that fear rears its ugly head?

Staying present with myself is the ONLY thing that helps me take care of myself when the fear starts to roll in.  I mean, absolutely the ONLY thing.  When I am able to gently bring myself back to the here and now (and sometimes I have to do it over and over and over again in the course of an hour), the fear recedes, because my fear is all about the future, and all I have is this present moment I’m inhabiting right now.

How has your SoulCollage® practice helped with your journey?  Have you made cards specifically addressing the breast cancer?

I wish that I had known about SoulCollage® when I was going through my cancer treatments.  It would have really helped me to embrace my fears and give voice to the different parts of myself that I shut off during that time.  But we get what we need, when we need it, I guess!  After I started practicing SoulCollage® three years after my treatments ended, I made several cards about my breast cancer journey. You can see them and read what they “said” to me here: http://www.kaleidosoul.com/breastcancer.html

Anne Marie Bennett is a writer, self-taught collage artist, website goddess, cancer survivor and SoulCollage® Facilitator.  She received a BS degree in Education from Southern Connecticut State University and has taught people of all ages throughout the East Coast.  She has also worked as a bookseller, sheet presser, library assistant, computer consultant, and in theatre management. Anne Marie lives in eastern Massachusetts with her middle-aged husband (also a cancer survivor), two elderly cats and one very playful dog who keeps all of them young-at-heart. She is happiest when she is reading, writing, breathing salt air, dancing, and hugging her beautiful grandchildren.

For more information about Anne Marie’s book, Bright Side of the Road, please visit this page: www.annemariebennett.com 
To purchase the book, please visit this page: www.annemariebennett.com/how-to-purchase 
Bright Side of the Road is also available on Amazon.com

Monday, October 26, 2009

Mosaics 101
at 2KatStudios!

This was my first mosaic workshop in the space since adding the divider screens and hand dyed fabric panels. Judie and Jenny got right to work, creating their mosaic mirrors.  The studio  is comfortable and light, and we had room to really spread out on a Sunday!

Judie's mirror is filled with vibrant color and design.  Check out the little half pot with mirror pieces coming out of it! And the wonderful green leaf platters that were so difficult for students to smash, since they looked just fine!  (Thank you Karin and Melissa,  for giving me your "seconds"!!).  And the black grout really makes everything pop.

Jenny's mirror is more subtle but still filled with an interesting mix of color and texture.  As a quilter, she recognized the way her style went straight to creating a  quilt-like design, although the finished product is very different.  Her use of a few larger pieces makes this mirror easy on the eyes....her first choices of tesserae (pieces of tile etc) were all about the same size, and I think she made the right decision to change it up a little and add the bigger pieces.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Emerald City

The Emerald City

This part of the mosaic was made using smalti, a wonderful opaque glass cut into small squares.  This green smalti really shimmers in the sunlight!

Yellow Brick Road and Poppies


The yellow brick road meanders along through a field of poppies....heading to the Emerald City.

The Yellow Brick Road

The Yellow Brick Road.

This is the second of a series of three mosaic "stories" that I am working on at a beautiful garden in Lakeside; Gita Morena's "Soul Sanctuary". Gita Morena is a psychotherapist, teacher, author and spiritual guide, and is the great granddaughter of L. Frank Baum, author of "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz", so it seemed like a natural theme for the mosaic. Here's the beginning of the yellow brick road. It leads through the red poppies and ends up at the Emerald City. It's been fun to use a variety of ceramic tile, smalti, gems, glass and mirror. My friend Virginia Sumner has been helping me with this project, and we are just starting on the third series, which has interpretations of the main characters in the story. I will post more pictures in the next installment!