Tuesday, 26 September 2017

Losing the coffeepot

Japanese garden at University of Southern Queensland, Toowoomba

It starts with a text from my son: 'please mum, can we take the coffee pot on holiday next week...' I reply 'yes, sure' So I get the old espresso coffee pot down from its' high shelf, and tuck it under my arm, fully intending to bring it with me when we meet up a short time later for brunch.

Only thing is, that was 2 days ago, and I still can't find the coffee pot.  I 'must have' put it down somewhere.  So clearly, there is the suggestion of rhyming slang in the title of this post.

In the meantime, I turned sixty. Surely, a coincidence?

 Bank Lane - with an actual bank

We were in Toowoomba last week for the Carnival of Flowers, which was awesome as ever, but it turns out there are also many great examples of street art in Toowoomba, from the First Coat Project, now running for several years. There is even an app., for finding the murals, although finding murals is a lot easier than finding coffee pots.

Apart from that, I'm now basking in the joy of having received Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi, and Neighbourhood, by Hetty McKinnon, for said birthday. And also the Angry Chef, by Anthony Warner, who writes about pseudoscience and fads around food. And how it makes him feel.

I am still following (Annabel) Crabb and (Leigh) Sales' hilarious Chat10 Looks3 podcasts, which have now expanded into a Facebook page/cult of the same name. Its actually a delightful, if full on, private but huge FB group, from which I have gained recipes, book recommendations and various other life hacks. Many participants have observed how different it is from other social media groups, as everyone is so NICE.

In July I went to Adelaide to learn the art of Slow Journalling with Ro Bruhn at the annual Quilt Encounter.  This is actually a 3 day fabric journal-making workshop, which I loved so much I have signed up for two more workshops with Ro when she comes to Queensland this November. 

I also learned how to make cheese of various kinds from the Gourmet Cheesemaker, Graham Redhead, in July. I note there is a Slow Food logo on his website. These creative pursuits take TIME, which is pertinent, I think, to turning sixty. My psychologist friend, who is 4 days older than me, and who invited me to the cheesemaking workshop, is apparently planning to give up psychology soon. 

I have no such plans, but doing a bit less sounds good. 

Teapots are also a thing in Toowoomba

Its good to be back. 

More later.

Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Two sides of the same cloud: Happy New Year 2017

Two sides of the same cloud - rainbow and grey

Last year was an almost total write off for blogging, But I did make a cloud cushion or two...

Its now been 8 years since I launched this blog, and life has often got in the way of maintaining my blogging habit, as it does with many good intentions and other resolutions. However, I will start this new year on a positive note, and try to return to more regular posts - I'm sure I've said this many times before, but I do enjoy the process, once I sit down and start...it seems to be a pattern, this tailing off thing, and not just with me...

I also wonder if blogging is now just too reflective a process, in the current 'instant' social media era? Twitter is so much faster...not to mention Snapchat, (which is also ephemeral, I hear, but I know very little about it - I heard it is intentionally difficult to use for 'older than millennials' - so I'm clearly of the wrong generation!).

In the meantime, for much of last year, I had three jobs (this has become a bad habit), with significant changes to adjust to in all three, some good and some not so good. I am now back down to only two jobs, and I am planning on keeping it that way for the foreseeable future. (If you know me well you will be saying 'good luck with that' right now!).

holiday reading mostly

Something I am prouder of is reading a lot during the spring and summer holidays, which somehow makes up for the lack of writing:  if I'm reading,  at least I am feeding my imaginative brain with lots of nourishing words and ideas. I am using my local library a lot, and have had many books on hold at various times.

This is a Select List:

  • Just Kids by Patti Smith - a compelling and fascinating memoir of artists in New York in 1960's and 70's
  • This House of Grief by Helen Garner - about the murder trial of Robert Farquharson, written  in Garner's unique and wonderful voice
  • Dying: a memoir by Cory Taylor - a Brisbane author, who really was dying when she wrote this
  • Wasted by Elspeth Muir - tragic true story of Elspeth's brother, who died after drinking to excess and then jumping off the Storey Bridge in Brisbane, but this is also an examination of the Australian drinking culture more generally
  • The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot, see below
  • The Atomic Weight of Love by Elizabeth Church - fiction set in 1940's and beyond, about a marriage between two academics, and the development of the atomic bomb, in New Mexico
  • Everywhere I look by Helen Garner - more Garner musings in this collection
  • A Woman Looking at Men Looking at Women by Siri Hustvedt - still to read this, but its a collection of writing by Siri (no, not that Siri...)
  • The Birdman's wife by Melissa Ashley - fiction based on the real life character of Elizabeth Gould, bird illustrator, and her marriage to John Gould, bird collector and ornithologist extraordinaire in the early 1800's, set in both UK and Australia.

Most of these books are non-fiction, which is also surprising to me, but my reading last year was heavily influenced, if not totally hijacked, by the Chat 10 Looks 3 recommendations from (Annabelle) Crabbe and (Leigh) Sales...which given they are both ABC journalists, have an understandable bias towards non-fiction...

Most astonishing story (all the more so for being true) is the Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, about the continuing survival of a group of cervical cancer cells, taken from an impoverished, black American woman in the 1950's, which have been and are still being used world wide in cancer research, and many other medical research programs. Meanwhile, her surviving family didn't know much about her story or her legacy...until the writer of this book came along and started investigating. The story within a story, about how Skloot slowly gained the trust of some members of the Lacks family, is also quite amazing and shows how important this process is in telling the stories of others, especially those who have good reason to be mistrustful.

The Church and the Ashley novels in this list are reviewed here, It is interesting and weird that both the main female characters are ornithologists.

In addition to the above list, I also read a Little Life, by Hanya Yanagihara, which was a tragic and compelling story about childhood trauma and the consequences, (I know, who needs to invent this stuff, right?), whilst on the lovely North Stradbroke Island in September...and the beautiful Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf, about ageing, love, families, and expectations, which I finished in transit from Canberra this weekend.

bamboo pots from air b'n'b Point Lookout, North Stradbroke Island, September 2016

In Canberra, I saw the History of the World in One Hundred Objects exhibition at NMA from the British Museum, and the Versailles, Treasures from Palace, from well, the Palace of Versailles, at NGA. The 100 objects has finished, but the Versailles exhibition continues until April. So good to see them both and to appreciate the richness and diversity of human invention, in this amazing world.

Well, looks like I just got this out in January, more later. 

Sunday, 22 May 2016

'Will you stay in our lover's story?'

'Fight for your right to be arty' plate and red chair

Photos in this post come from the magnificent new Kooky Clinic, a 'therapeutic imaginarium', launched a week ago, a result of the creativity, hard work and vision of child psychiatrist and part time craftivist, Dr Shannon Morton. I am so privileged and grateful to be able to work in this fantastic space, which includes an actual Art Therapy Room. Yay!

Shannon talks here about her long term dream of creating a different and 'kooky' space for young people with mental health issues and neurological challenges, where they can gain much needed acceptance, empathy and support. How fitting that in the interview they play David Bowie's 'Kooks', (from Hunky Dory, 1971) which apparently Bowie wrote for his son. I particularly love that line: 'cause we believe in you..' Something everyone needs to hear. 

Local street artist Blue Xinja, who created the gate to the clinic from Brisbane river driftwood.


more Kooky views

As I wrote in my previous blog post, I often compose blogs whilst cycling. I think the process should be called 'clogging', (or even cogging?) as a clot of related thoughts starts to form and then just sits there, waiting for me to do the next bit...obviously, most of them never get posted. This time I am more optimistic.  I think the theme for this post, including the awesome new clinic, should be pleasures shared. So here are some more.

This year I have been excited to discover Chat10Look3, a (fairly) regular podcast from ABC TV journalists Annabel (Kitchen Cabinet) Crabb and Leigh (7.30) Sales. So called because, since no one can see them (its an audio recording), they don't have to worry about how their hair looks. So these two smart women just get together at random times and chat and rave on about their reading, and baking, and laugh a lot. Its a wonderful celebration of friendship. They recently had a spin off series, When I Get a Minute on ABC I View. And considering how much these two are doing, its well named. Crabb just completed a book about Malcolm Turnbull, and shot another series of Kitchen Cabinet. When does she have the time to actually bake?

And in brief: 

  • My foodie pleasure at the moment is Jamie Oliver protege Anna Jones, who wrote two lovely cook books and now has a Guardian gig, so we can all have access to her recipes.
  • Recently, I have been trying out the Headspace app. as a meditation tool, with some good outcomes. And in a similar vein, there is this helpful blog about managing anxiety from Clem Ford.
  • Finally, I am just going to mention British poet and novelist, Kate Tempest. Heard her for the first time this week on Q&A. A brave voice in the wilderness. 
More later. 

Sunday, 24 January 2016

Planet Earth is blue: Once you Find your Space, hold on to it!

This post has been a particularly long time coming, and has in fact been written many times already - in my mind, anyway... The image above is very fitting, as for me, blogging has always been about Finding my Space, (which is why I named my blogspot 'Virtual Art Space for Therapists: VAST). The photo is from a panel of graffitti I cycle past most Sundays, alongside the Brisbane river, which is an area of frantic building development at the moment. 

An anti-development statement

Whilst cycling on a Sunday morning, I often mentally compose blog posts, or at least brainstorm topics I want to blog about, as I pedal furiously over the Go-Between Bridge, up the steep (to me) hill into the City Botanic Gardens via QUT at Gardens Point, or along the Boardwalk at South Bank, by which time the excellent coffee from Brendan's on the (Goodwill) Bridge is kicking in.

Petunias - City Botanic Gardens

Before I go on, I have to ceremoniously observe that I have been blogging since January 2009! Although to be fair, I didn't really get going properly until late 2010/early 2011. Which makes it either 7 or 5 years ago, depending how you look at it: 180 posts and almost 20,000 'views' later....its something I have absolutely enjoyed and I wish could have kept up as regularly as the Sunday cycle...sadly the pressures of full time study and then full time work over the past 4 years have made that too difficult to maintain. 

Having my reflective space has been really helpful, however, and I think it has resulted in some big decisions and life-changing moments. Four years ago, I went back to university to study Social Work, so I could become a Mental Health Social Worker. And at the end of last year, I threw my eggs into one (ok maybe two) baskets, and resigned from my main, permanent job, which had been very stressful at times, and often frustrating. It was a tough decision, as it creates financial instability, and I had to leave some wonderful colleagues. But the stress involved was just not worth it. Instead I decided to just focus on private practice and art therapy education for now. And better self care. 

We lost this elderly canine family member, Jess, on Christmas Day, 2015. Earlier that day, we took her for a long walk on beautiful Peregian Beach. A happy memory from a very sad day. (I also recall that the last time we were at Peregian Beach for a holiday, our house was burgled. Next time I go there, I am going to be a bit nervous.) And going for walks are just not the same anymore.

 Creative supervision. 

This was the last time we (our peer supervision group) met in 2015, and my collage is about busyness, moving on, and the intimacy of the therapeutic space. The images are all sourced from frankie, which I subscribed to for a year or two, so I have a nice collection of back copies to use for collage (it took me a while to feel ok tearing them to bits, but now there is no looking back, literally). 

Lastly, a sock bat (unfinished). Its actually black in real life. 
So, more like a real bat.

Finally, I will briefly mention two books I've read in the last few weeks. (Its not all about sock creatures). The first is An astronaut's guide to life on earth by Chris Hadfield. Hadfield is the guy who sang a Space Oddity from the International Space Station. suddenly more poignant since the shocking (to the public, anyway) and sad recent death of creative genius David Bowie, a hero of my adolescence. Turns out Hadfield can write, too! Its about how he learned how to live on earth, based his experience as a fighter pilot and astronaut. With gratitude, mindfulness and humility, as it turns out. And being calm. 

In space you learn, through extensive hands on training, to be calm in any imaginable situation: calmness, and the capacity to problem solve, are essential for survival. You need to be constantly thinking 'what is the next thing that can kill me?' as Hadfield explains. And then fixing it. 

I am also enjoying Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert, which is about creativity, and how to live a creative life. In this case, its also mainly about overcoming fear. Being creative is actually a lot less dangerous than space, thankfully. 

Seems like how to live is a common concern.

 Be calm, be humble, call your mum. 
More Graffitti, West End

more later.

Sunday, 29 November 2015

Creative Arts in Counselling and Mental Health - some exciting news, and a big decision

This excellent, and mainly Australian, book recently got published by Sage, which is very exciting. As I mentioned in a previous blog post, I co-wrote a chapter in this book with my colleagues psychologist Robert King (who also co-edited the whole book) and social worker and psychotherapist Tom O'Brien. These amazing humans assisted a group of art therapists (including myself) establish an art therapy program at University of Queensland in 2004, in the School of Medicine.

We recently graduated another talented pod of art therapists, who will go on to do fantastic work. So its particularly cool to have this collaborative work in the public domain.

The chapter in question is a systematic review of art therapy outcomes research; its exciting for me, as  I believe it provides the most substantial evidence so far that art therapy is effective.  Which is very important to those of us in the art therapy world, and indeed to anyone who wishes to include creative activities in their therapy practice.

We can now say that art therapy is as effective as other forms of psychotherapy. Of course, it has the added advantage of introducing creativity into the therapeutic space, thereby producing an enriched environment. But we already knew that.

Instagram bee tattoo design by Henrietta Harris

We now have our own bees, who make superb honey. Coincidentally, I have been feeling as busy as one, but without such great outcomes...until I recently made a big decision to leave one of my three jobs, and try to stop spreading myself too thinly (extended honey metaphor, apologies). 

So I am now in the stages of winding down that job, (three weeks to go!) which has taken up way too much time and emotional energy in the past two years, and I'm feeling excited about how next year will look. 

Of course, there is an element of risk in doing this (leaving my job), but I am feeling fairly confident I have made a good decision. Change is always scary, but as my hairdresser told me yesterday, we need change to feel alive (or something like that). But then, she would say that...

Also looking forward to blogging more often again. Its been a long time since I had spare energy for such things.

more later.

Friday, 26 June 2015

Cathy Malchiodi, guilty pleasures and time

Collages from Cathy Malchiodi's Brainwise workshop

I created these 'stress-less' collages in a workshop I attended recently, by the very inspiring Dr Cathy Malchiodi, who has contributed so much to the global art therapy/expressive therapy community.

Cathy's particular skill, I believe, is to communicate clearly and effectively about art therapy - she has published numerous books on a wide range of art therapy topics. This link, above, is to the first TED talk by an art therapist...and yes it was given by Cathy Malchiodi.

When I studied art therapy, there were very few  books published on the expressive therapies. How that has changed. Often, serendipitously, one of Cathy's books appeared, just as I was thinking, 'what we need is an art therapy book about...' So I am grateful to Cathy for making art therapy more widely known, and for making my job as an art therapy educator much easier than that of my past lecturers at Goldsmiths in London in the 1980's.

Tangle doodle hand, from Cathy Malchiodi's Brainwise workshop 

Cathy's workshop was titled Brainwise Creative Interventions with Traumatised Children Young People and Families, and was hosted by the Australian Childhood Foundation. What was impressive about the day, was not so much the content, which was familiar to me, (although seeing it through the lens of working with the military was different), but seeing what a huge number of people attended, and were therefore interested in this creative and neurologically sound approach to working with trauma. And many of them were friends, colleagues and graduates of our UQ program.

I have been continuing to work three jobs this semester, which, much as I love teaching, is now, thankfully over. A few weeks respite before it all starts again...

The very exciting part about work, namely that third job, is that earlier this year I started working at Kooky Kid Clinic, which means I am now back in private practice, after a long break. I'm loving it!

Being so busy has a down side, of course. I've just noticed I appear to have needed a week off work before sitting down to write both this and my last blog post, back in April. Its a shame, that I can't manage to post more often, but its not surprising. 

And I have to thank Michael Leunig for this wisdom on recharging:

The other thing I appreciated about the Brainwise workshop was having time to make art. Ah, time, what a strange phenomenon that is...half an hour in a workshop dedicated to making art is a luxury, but time off in general can sometimes be anxiety and guilt provoking. Or is it just me? So much unstructured time, so many possibilities, but also so much potential for guilt, if I don't make totally good use of that precious time. Sigh.

I wrote recently about guilty pleasures, and Disney was included in there. So yesterday I watched Frozen, mainly as 'research', because so many of my young clients refer to it. And I am looking forward to seeing Pixar's Inside Out, about the emotions of an 11 year old girls, also for work-related reasons. Honestly.

Apparently, speaking of guilt, mothers no longer need feel guilty about working outside the home - although I noticed the benefits were based on their daughters' career success, status and income, not 'happiness' or something equally hard to measure, but probably much more important. 

Anyway, there are many other things we can pin our guilt to. (According to Cathy Malchiodi, we can now be virtual hoarders, thanks to Pinterest.)

Like colouring-in for example, as I may have mentioned in my last blog post. The media furore around this continues. I have now done three interviews about the stress-relieving aspects of colouring in. And I have been practising, and (guiltily) spent serious money on a set of Copic markers. Can't wait for them to arrive. 

More later.

Sunday, 12 April 2015

Colouring-in, why its now a thing...softies, and anxiety


For me as a child, colouring-in was a guilty pleasure, rather like reading books by Enid Blyton (not a broad enough vocab.), watching commercial TV (too tacky) or Walt Disney (do I need to explain? If so, check out the movie Saving Mr Banks, for Emma Thompson's brilliant portrayal of PL Travers, struggling with the Disneyfication of Mary Poppins...).

Sadly, the drawings in children's colouring-in books are less than inspiring - as an older child, I preferred Altair designs, which were also more acceptable to my artist parents, as they were abstract, less prescriptive, and encouraged creative interpretation. But sitting down with some coloured pencils or felt pens and having some time out colouring was just - really - cool.

However, I could never have imagined or predicted the current level of interest in colouring-in books - for adults. Yes, colouring-in is now definitely a (grown-up) thing. A Secret Garden by Johanna Basford is a best-seller, and there are numerous other beautiful colouring-in books currently being produced.

Including this one, Breathing to a New Beat, which I have contributed a drawing to. This is the third project by Curly Pops I have been involved in...and I have to say, after rashly agreeing to produce an image, and then wondering for a couple of weeks why I create more stress in my life, by signing up for these projects...ultimately, though, its so worthwhile, thanks to Camille's fantastic creativity, encouragement and organising skills...and for a good cause. I feel very privileged to be included.

And of course, as an art therapist, this is all very interesting.

And now for some recent softies:

Baby rabbit in Hungry Caterpillar pyjamas - the free pattern is from Shiny Happy World.

So is the pattern for this bear, which I made into a bean bag. I am going to try using him with clients, to help them with mindful breathing.

And then there is my anxiety monster, which I shared a drawing of in my last blog post.  This is the 3-D version, fully stuffed and sewn.  I recently read My Age of Anxiety by Scott Stossel, which absolutely puts everyday anxiety into perspective. Such a brave thing to write this book...it struck me how much its about embarassing bodies, really. And how they let us down...

Having just had a relaxing week off work, I am doing pretty well with my self-care. Since writing that previous post, I have made more of an effort to keep up my meditation practice. My sleeping pattern is improving, bit by bit...

My next challenge is to start saying 'no' to some requests for work (or even art projects...). In the last three months, I have had four jobs, and in one week, I did all four (there was a bit of an overlap). This seems a little ridiculous.

 Kit Bag for Anzac Day

I'll share one more picture of a recent TAFE art project, working with new migrants with very little English,  for Harmony Day.

more later