Thursday, December 31, 2015

Body Positivity could Change the World

Last week, my daughter saw this US Weekly magazine cover in the grocery store. Her first reaction was to say, "That's inappropriate."  I thought it was because it was a woman wearing a bikini - but I didn't want to assume. So I asked more detail, and the answer surprised me.

Note that the published magazine had an unflattering picture of pregnant Kim on the cover next to the bikini shot.  It had her weight listed: 185 pounds.  This is important given how my daughter interpreted the image.

She said, "It makes me feel like gaining weight is bad and I should be thinking about losing weight." My daughter is 7 years old. I asked if she was talking about gaining weight with pregnancy or just gaining weight in general, and she responded: "Both."

I must say that I was proud of my kiddo for being able to communicate this complex question at such a young age.  Moreover, I think this is a dilemma for many women.  As I have raised my daughter, the societal messages have become even more apparent.  When I was a younger woman, before I had a daughter, I might have tossed those messages aside and negated their power.  But as a parent, I have come to realize how early social norms about the female form begin to captivate our children - both boys and girls. There is a constant barrage of information suggesting that girls, teens and adult women must do something to change our bodies, as if we aren't acceptable exactly as we are.

Of course, this begs the question - what would happen if we were to allow our bodies to become what they are intended to be, instead of forcing them into any number of different ideas of what we think they should be? What would happen if we simply LOVED ourselves and DARED to call ourselves beautiful exactly as we are?

This is a BOLD question.  It causes many to feel afraid, both men and women.  Men experience fear that women will "let themselves go." Women experience fear of what would happen if they indulged in the question.  In both models, however, we exist in a restrictive mindset based upon the notion that self LOVE and unconditional acceptance could be bad.  Women wonder...Our partners might not like our bodies.  Our health might deteriorate.  We might not like the way we look when we let ourselves go. We might never get our body back to the way it was.  


But what if we allowed ourselves to walk into the questions and the worry and the FEAR? What if we dared to love ourselves and our bodies exactly as we are today...every wrinkle, bulge, bone or dimple? What if we said "so what" to the criticisms and the body shaming? What if we allowed the people in our lives to walk out if they don't like our bodies as they are? What if we fed ourselves based upon loving the bodies that God gave us? What if we exercised with the same kindness and adoration toward ourselves that we feel toward our newborn babies when we first hold them close?What if we made love with the fully embodied sensuality that comes with knowing who we are as women?  What if we dared to transcend all of the cultural body shaming and simply allow our bodies to become exactly what they are?

What if we treated ourselves as the divine art that we are? I have a feeling we might just change the world.

A night with the Union Gospel Mission Rescue Van

Contributed by Dianne Bell.

I would like to share a little bit about some of the people that I met who touched my heart last night while out with the UGM Search and Rescue Van. First, there was Milton, a small man with a sweet smile and kind eyes that lit up when I asked him his name. I met him on our first stop. I served him spaghetti and found him some socks in the back of the van. We chatted for a few minutes and I ended up giving him my gloves because I felt that he needed them more than I did. He was so grateful. He said "God bless you and thank you most of all for your time." I touched his shoulder and said "God bless you too."

Then there was Joseph. What a bright light this man is! It's hard for me to even describe. Here we were, there to bring comfort, and somehow I walked away from him feeling myself moved by his Joy, Peace and Grace in the midst of his very difficult circumstances. He kept telling us "I'm all right. I'm just fine." He recited a rousing version of the 23rd Psalm (Yea though I walk through the valley of death, I shall fear no evil, for Thou art with me...) to the group of us and in that moment he was a minister. I told him that he is a Bright Light and he smiled at me with a beautiful smile and said "I know. I hear that all the time." 

And then there was Victoria, I tiny, timid woman who nonetheless had a ready smile. She needed a coat, a blanket, food, water, and whatever we could give to help her keep warm and dry on the streets. Once she had assured me that we had given her everything she needed for the moment, we chatted briefly and then just as she was turning to go, she turned back and said "Will you pray with me?" For the span of a few heartbeats, I wondered if I was worthy to pray for this woman whose need was so great. Then I took a deep breath, put my arm around her, and asked God to give me the words.  I prayed out loud with her for her safety, her comfort, for her to know that she is loved, protected, and supported in that moment and in every moment. It was something that I will never forget. I hugged her and she hugged me. She thanked me again and then she walked off into the night.  And so I will be keeping Milton, Joseph, Victoria, and everyone else I met last night, in my prayers. And I will continue to ask God what is mine to do to serve this community.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Behind the Scenes of "Burnt Rain" - Video

Go behind the scenes to see the story within the art. 
Title: Burnt Rain
New Mixed Media by Heather Thompson, Blue Phoenix Art.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

The Emerging Butterfly

This is one of the best descriptions I've read. It reflects my experience. As you think on the impact of each cumulative concussion in a person's life, consider this:

"I think we all need to remember that TBI is not only a journey; it is a metamorphosis. It’s not a broken leg or arm; it’s a new way of life. The hardened shell of injury that closes around our loved ones, cutting us off from the people we knew, is with time shed away, and a new creature is revealed to us. This can be painful, because we miss the caterpillars they were. And they often miss themselves too. And yet, everyone knows that when they see a beautiful butterfly, the caterpillar is still there flying too."

Tuesday, December 15, 2015


This was sent to me by a follower on my Facebook art page and its an excellent depiction of synaesthesia.  I only developed synaesthesia after the TBI in 2011...changed my life completely.  For me, it's an incredible gift.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Maya Angelou: Facing Evil

I came across this video last spring.  Learning about her retreat into silence helped me understand my own struggle with words post tbi and underscored the importance of allowing the healing process to happen in its own time.  It also underscored the power of art to help communicate feelings that words cannot touch.  Her courage gives us all courage.

"Evil was a topic about which Angelou, the victim of childhood rape and virulent racism, had a lot to say. Rape caused her to retreat into silence for five years, she said, and was “a dire kind of evil, because rape on the body of a young person more often than not introduces cynicism, and there is nothing quite so tragic as a young cynic, because it means the person has gone from knowing nothing to believing nothing. In my case I was saved in that muteness, you see, in the sórdida, I was saved. And I was able to draw from human thought, human disappointments and triumphs, enough to triumph myself.”

Friday, December 11, 2015

Art Profiled in Australian News Outlet

Last Summer, I was profiled in an Australian news outlet about the accident that changed my life.  Acquired Savantism comes with a great deal of interest from people that find it hard to believe that one day I could be a left brain CEO and the next an Artist. But it happened to me, and it has happened to several other individuals worldwide.  Dr. Darold Treffert is the expert in this field, and he has been instrumental in raising awareness about this neurological phenomenon.  As with anything, once the transformation was embraced, it ultimately became a gift. Note - there are some inaccuracies below.....but that's what happens when someone else tells the story!


Before accident: Business strategist.
After accident: Painter.
Four years ago, I’d stopped on the way home at one of those warehouse supermarkets with my daughter. I was unloading shopping into the boot of my 4WD, when suddenly the hatch fell and caught the back of my skull.
It all happened very quickly. It didn’t knock me out, but I crumbled to my knees. My teeth snapped together so hard I thought I’d broken some for sure. My daughter began to cry in the trolley, so I pulled myself up and managed to buckle her up in the car.
I only lived five minutes away, so I decided I was OK and drove home. I walked through the door, passed my daughter to my husband, then collapsed in bed and slept for hours. When I woke up, I could tell my brain wasn’t functioning properly. I only went to the hospital when my sister told me over the phone that I sounded drunk.
At hospital, I passed certain motor-function tests, but failed basic cognitive ones. I couldn’t draw a clock – I’d draw one, think I did it right, but then my neurologist would look at me and say, “You have no idea what’s wrong with it, do you?”
Over the next few months, my condition only worsened. I became extremely sensitive to light and sounds, and I couldn’t even leave the house eventually. I couldn’t walk – I know I knew how to, but the whole world seemed tilted. Eventually I couldn’t even leave my room, where I stayed for four months.
I only began painting at the advice of a neighbour, who said it might help. I used my daughter’s paint kit, and tried to paint something. I remember it was fairly basic – but the colours seemed to jump right out at me. I felt like I had this deep understanding of them. It’s hard to put into words.
While it doesn’t seem that significant, painting completely changed the direction of my life. I never had an interest in art at all – I’ve always been a left-brained person. I didn’t even want to paint in high school. Before the accident, I was working as a nationally recognised entrepreneur and business strategist in the US. I was delivering keynote presentations all around the country. Whereas now, I have to paint all the time – it’s like my hands have a mind of their own.
I do consider my accident a blessing, painting helped my mind heal. But it’s still essential for my brain to function properly, because without a creative outlet I struggle to focus on things and my mind becomes exhausted.
For example, I’m studying a master degree in psychology  [correction - Theology] at the moment, and in class I have to use colour to take notes. On one side of my page I’ll write the notes, and on the other I’ll capture the information in my own way in splashes of colour. It’s hard to believe, but they always seem to represent what I learn in each class.


Read Full Article

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Toughness and Concussions

This article speaks the truth. And it's not just football players. A concussion was the ONLY thing that could have brought me to my knees.  And after 6 months, when certain family members thought i was faking it and my own husband told me i was no longer the woman he fell in love with, i realized i was in the fight of my life.  Now I'm almost 5 years out.  I'm largely recovered. Life is different. I'm an artist in ministry. I love my artistic brain.  I love theology.  I'm so grateful i no longer force myself to lead my old life.  And I'm aware that this concussion epidemic is in an infancy of understanding...two concussions in the Seahawks game last week...and we cheer on the game.  Treating survivors as if they are brain damaged, not injured.  No diagnostic criteria for CTE.  And NO mention of domestic violence survivors in a dialogue focused on men.
"But this standard cannot be the same for twisted ankles and bruised brains. There is no known “split for your head” or “magic noggin” pill that cures concussions, and we have come to know from the tragic stories of retired NFL players that the brain is not just another muscle to be tested."

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Take of the Mask.......

When my friend Rex first took the black and white picture below, it was a difficult image for me to accept. Since that time, it has been used by a few different folks for different reasons...and in spite of my initial discomfort, I have always agreed to share it, because it resonated with others for some reason. The photo was taken on a day that I had just completed acupuncture and I was feeling very vulnerable. Furthermore, there is something about being inside the Homeless in Seattle office that is just plain REAL. REX captured my insides that day...and it has taken me almost two years to grow into the image that I see looking back at me. See, after the TBI, I didn't recognize myself for a variety of reasons, not the least of which was that I was used to looking at a person that was essentially wearing a mask. When the mask came off, and I allowed myself to unravel, it was challenging to grow accustomed to what I saw staring back at me every day. The integration process was obvious, and I had work to do after years of trying to be what others' wanted me to be. But slowly, as I did the work, the image in the mirror began to look like me again. So here is what I know to be true for me at least - we are multi-dimensional beings that are so much more complex than the flat images that reflect us. When we take off the masks that hold the illusion of protection, it can be frightening to show the vulnerability underneath. But there is strength in the authenticity that comes from being REAL. Each day, I am going to look different....not because of the mask that I put on, but because of the person that is radiating out from beneath the surface. It's not about the makeup (both pictures have the same amount), and one way is not better than the other - it's about having the courage to walk through life being REAL. I will take REAL over a mask any day.