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Four years ago when my art teacher suggested that I publish a calendar, I immediately dismissed the idea. “I have no interest in doing that,” I said. “No one would want to buy such a thing!” Then a couple of days later, for no reason I could explain (even to myself) I decided to see if I could find 12 paintings good enough to include in a calendar that I could give away (since I was still pretty sure no one would want to buy it).

Within two weeks, I had changed my mind, picked the paintings, ordered the calendars, mentioned it on Facebook, and sold every single calendar. Wow. How did THAT happen?

Year two I hesitated. Could I really pull it off again? Yup. It happened again. And I was every bit as astonished as I was the first year.

Year three was tough. I chose 12 paintings and then one by one deleted them from the queue, convinced that they were all garbage and I couldn’t possibly expect to do this three years in row. Those who love me gently pushed. Once again, they sold out before Christmas.

This year has been easier. I didn’t spend long hours worrying whether this or that painting was “good enough.” I simply chose my favorites and placed my order. It all seemed routine and unemotional until the first email came from PayPal, “You’ve Got Money!” The six-year-old artist in me squealed with delight. She loves to paint. I love her paintings. And when someone else loves them, too, it makes me giddy. Every time. Not because someone approves of my work, but because a kindred spirit likes my “child’s” artwork.

Thank you to all who take the time to look at my paintings, buy calendars, and tell me what they see when they look at my artwork. It’s so much fun to share the process with enthusiastic supporters. And the money I get from selling the calendars? Well, I use that to buy paint, paper, and brushes . . . enough to keep the six-year-old artist in me busy and happy.

(For more information about the 2018 calendar, click here.)

 

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Front Cover of Book

The cover of my first published book. To learn more, click here.

 

I’m happy that my book is finished, published, and ready to sell. In fact, I sold several copies last week from a casual mention on Facebook. Truthfully, though, I’m more excited about using my book than I am about selling my book.

Let me explain. Creating a Life You Love is predominantly a workbook; it’s intended to be a tool for increasing self-confidence and joy. Yes, I wrote a few chapters of supportive material, but like any good tool, the real power comes from using it, not from reading about how it works.

As I face the daunting task of developing and executing a successful marketing plan, I’m beginning to long for some increased self-confidence as well as a bit more joy. To that end, I picked up the book and began with prompt #1, “My Favorite Flowers.” It was easy to zip through numbers one, two, and three (daffodils, crocuses, and lilacs … I do love spring flowers!) But then the listing slowed as I thought hard about limiting my list to five. I wanted just the special ones, the flowers I can always count on to warm my heart and leave me smiling.

I doodled a bit on the page and then observed as some of my favorite flower memories floated into my awareness. There was the peony corsage made for me by my high school boyfriend. I was worried when I heard what he had planned and relieved to find the home-made corsage was actually quite pretty. But before the dance was over, all the petals had dropped down the front of my dress. I was left with a ribbon, greenery, and an empty stem. Too funny!

I remembered fondly the vase of lilacs I placed on the altar for the Blessed Virgin when I attended Catholic grade school. Each student took his or her turn bringing flowers each day in May to honor all of our mothers but Jesus’s mother Mary in particular. So many colorful aromatic flowers!

I closed my eyes and allowed the joy of flowers to wash over me. Wild flowers; spring flowers; flowers cut from our yard; purchased flowers; wedding bouquets; flowers in Moscow, Vienna, and London; the flower fields of Carlsbad; Mother’s Day flowers; Anniversary roses; dandelions; crab apple blossoms; day lilies. The deeper I waded into a lifetime of flower memories, the more joyful I became and the luckier I felt.

When my session with the workbook was over, I went grocery shopping and picked up a bouquet of roses for my office. I painted flowers in art class, and noticed periwinkle blooming in the woods.

If working with one page on one day can fill my heart so completely, can you see why I’m looking forward to completing the next 79 exercises? I didn’t just write the book on Creating a Life You Love, I’m living it!

 

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New Beginnings Painting

“New Beginnings” – Acrylic painting to be auctioned at the Charleston Art Walk April 17 to raise funds for the WV Children’s Advocacy Network

Last year at this time I was insistently resisting the label “artist” (See: I’m not THAT!). This year when I received the “Call to Artists” email, asking for donations of art to be auctioned at a fundraiser for a West Virginia non-profit, I excitedly began thinking about making a contribution. Yesterday I awoke at 4 a.m. having just finished the painting in my dreams.

I picked my way through the dark woods to the cottage and happily assembled my supplies, all the while trying to recall the details of the dream painting. I sketched it out quickly on the back of a things-to-do list, made a few notes, and then started painting. This morning I declared it finished because it brought a smile to my face.

Last year’s agony of creation is gone; today I was so absorbed in the joy of painting, I completely forgot to drink my coffee! Now, that’s seriously absorbed!

In this moment, I’m feeling happy and proud of myself. This past year, I’ve willingly worked through a lot of painful memories and purposefully healed those wounds. I’ve butted up against some major barriers, including “I don’t know what I’m doing!” and “I’m not good enough.” Patience, kindness and self-compassion have gradually reduced the size of the barriers. Although, still big enough to be recognizable, they have gradually become small enough to step over. Finally I find myself in a valley of contentment with feelings of satisfaction, freedom, delight, and whimsy. There is a sacred flow that happens now when I paint. It has become a time of communion with my higher self–a peaceful meditation. Lost in time and space, I become childlike, curious and delighted with the colors and shapes. It isn’t about getting certain results, it’s just about the fun of dabbling.

I long to more regularly feel that sense of freedom that comes from releasing attachment to outcome. I wonder what it would be like to approach every task in my life with playful curiosity and delight. When I think about where I was artistically just five years ago (couldn’t even draw a stick man) to where I am today, it makes me believe anything is possible. Yes, it does require a conscious desire to create something new as well as focused effort, but if it results in more connection, freedom, and joy, then count me in!

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Painting of Flowers

“Imaginary Flowers,” acrylic on tile by Barbie Dallmann

I’m reading a book, Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend, that is stimulating a lot of thought. In the book, imaginary friends are only capable of doing whatever their children imagine they can do. For example, the subject of the book is capable of walking through closed doors, but he cannot walk through walls. He doesn’t sleep because his child imagines him keeping an eye on things all night long. Each imaginary friend is limited by his child’s imagination, and it can be very frustrating for the friends at times.

I think in a sense we are all our own imaginary friends, limited in our abilities because of some default operating system dictating what we can and can’t do. If I “can’t imagine myself ever doing that!” then chances are, I never will. But through the magic of visioning, I can begin to open my awareness to new possibilities.

I have noticed, too, that often other people can more easily see our potential than we can. After all, they don’t have our fears blocking the view. What does it take to trust the vision of others? To step out on a limb, spread our wings, and fly because several other people imagine we can?

A couple of weeks ago, some friends told me that I should teach an art class. Quickly I responded, “Oh, I could NEVER do that! I can’t imagine ever being good enough to teach!” But even as I said those words, I realized that it wasn’t the first time I’d said them. At least twice before I had been urged by someone to create a class to help those who are afraid to paint. When prompting nudges me from three unrelated sources, I have a tendency to take a closer look. For me, that means meditating on the possibility. I create a vision, and walk around in it for a while, sort of like trying on a new pair of shoes. How does it feel? Is it a good fit? Could it work?

And the next thing I know, an opportunity presents itself. This one popped up the very next day. And guess what? This coming Saturday I’m leading a workshop in compassionate creativity for art-timid adults.

So, while it’s true we are limited by our own imaginations, it is also true that we can tap into the Collective Consciousness and download a new paradigm. Why not pay more attention to the possibilities that enter our awareness? Why not try on some new ways of being? Why not sign up for an art class?

Flier for art workshop

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Painting

Acrylic on Tile by Barbie Dallmann (July 2013)

“The only limits are your imagination and your willingness to explore your own inner psyche.” –Sue St. John

You might think I pulled that quote from a coach training manual. Actually, it would be the perfect thing to say to clients as they envision the possibilities of purposeful change. I’ve probably said a variation on it dozens of times. But that’s not where I found the quote. I read it just this morning in a book entitled, Journeys to Abstraction … 100 contemporary paintings and their secrets revealed.

It just goes to prove once again that my art-life is a reflection of my life-life. I find new insights every time I pick up a paint brush, or, like Tuesday, when I skipped the brush completely and just used my fingers (see the results above.) Sometimes in life, you just have to get your hands dirty to get the results you’re looking for!

But last night, on a different painting, I wasn’t getting the results I wanted. Half of it was pretty good, but the other half was frustrating me. I began smearing paint all over the place, but I just made a big mess. It sort of reminds me of those times when part of my life was working and part wasn’t. In desperation, I just wanted to do something different to make things better, but that’s not usually what happened. Most times I just ended up with a big mess!

Never Give Up

This used to be my   Life Motto.

What I’ve learned to appreciate about myself, though, is that I don’t give up easily. I used to have this bird/frog picture on a t-shirt. I claimed it as my life motto. My pattern is to take a stab at solving things and then follow up with some research. That’s why I was reading about abstract art this morning.

I have a smile on my face now as I remember how bad things were for me the day I bought Debbie Ford’s Book, The Best Year of Your Life. As the clerk accepted my payment, I quipped, “Seems like a pretty lofty goal. I think I would be satisfied with a year that didn’t suck. But maybe that’s not such a great book title.”

As it turned out, that following year WAS the best year of my life (up until then). It was the year I finally stopped being so afraid. It was the year I woke up and started making purposeful changes in my life. It was the year I became a coach.

So, with some helpful tips from this latest art book, I think I’ll apply life-life lessons learned to my art-life and start experimenting with a few PURPOSEFUL changes.

(P.S. My new life motto is this, “Trust the Process” … After all, there’s a reasonably good chance that God really does know what she’s doing!)

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Here I am during my teenage years … I really thought I had life all figured out. The pieces seemed to fit together so very nicely back then:

Soul 4

This is me in my late 20’s, married to a great guy, starting a business, things were really coming together. There had been some bumps in the road, but I was pretty sure I finally had it all figured out.

soul 11

Here I am in my roles as wife, mother, business owner, and spiritual seeker. Life was feeling settled, like everything has fallen into place.

soul 7

During our son’s teen years, I felt so scattered! I was so confused, looking for answers in the four corners of the world. Maybe from the outside things looked ordered. Inside, I was definitely searching!

soul 10

When mid-life hit, it all fell apart! I was disconnected, uncertain, and lost. Not only had I lost the answers, I was losing my grip on the questions.

soul 5

Here I am as I began to look inward for the answers, and even though it seemed like there was a lot missing, I started to feel my inner world coming together for the first time.

soul 9

This is me during the Coach Training Program. Pieces I had never really gotten to know were beginning to line up. I was asking some good questions and starting to see new possibilities.

Soul 3

This is me starting my day in prayer and meditation at the cottage, feeling whole and connected to the universe.

Soul 13

And here I am on a typical day: connected, scattered, clueless, and yet certain. Certain that I can rearrange the pieces without losing myself. Certain that there is still so much to learn. And certain, finally, that I will NEVER have it all figured out. And that’s okay.

soul 6

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Watercolor painting by Barbie Dallmann

“Creation” a watercolor by Barbie Dallmann

November is Gratitude Month at Unity, and for the last several weeks, I have focused on things I appreciate about myself and my life. I surprised myself by how inspired I felt after making a list of things I was grateful for learning.

A couple of years ago, I found the courage to start art lessons. After half a century of believing I had no artistic talent whatsoever, I have learned to paint (see above).

I also learned to cook. Mom wasn’t very good at it. Dad was better, but he didn’t have the patience to teach me. So, over the years, I taught myself, watching friends, reading books, listening to TV shows. Heck, I even paid attention during seventh grade Home Ec. class! I like the fact that on most days I’d rather eat at home than go out. My home-cooked meals are better in every way (except for the cleaning-up part).

When I was in seventh grade, I learned to type on a manual typewriter with blank keys. I went to school an hour early most days to practice. After an entire year, my speed was barely 50 words per minute. I kept at it, though, thinking the skill would come in handy if I never made it to college. Come in handy, it did! Eventually averaging 120 wpm, I typed my own papers and made money typing for others. In 1984 I started my own secretarial service, which I’ve been successfully operating ever since. I’m so glad that my seventh grade self was willing to get up early to practice. What a great kid she was!

There’s another important skill I learned early in life, one I’ve taken for granted for a long, long time. As I was making this list, I remembered how much I struggled to learn to read, especially to read aloud. There were times I wanted to give up because I was bad at it, and I was embarrassed by my repeated failures. Thank you, six-year-old Barbie for sticking with it! My life is so incredibly rich because of all the billions of words I have read over the decades.

Of course, there are lots more things I’m grateful for learning, including how to take pictures, write blogs, and negotiate the Internet.

What about you? Are there things you’d like to thank yourself for right now? Where would you be without your own determination and tenacity? And where might you be tomorrow because today you took the time to be uplifted by your own, heartfelt acknowledgment and appreciation?

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