Chocolate and Writing

While living in mystery, I will say eating chocolate and doing a lot of writing greatly helps. European chocolate is not only one of the primary food groups for me, but it is also another one of the pleasures of my life. This is one of the places where my writing group meets up-Le Chocolat du Bouchard in Naperville, Illinois. What could be better than chocolate and writing? I am the only person around me that I know who goes out of her way to eat European chocolate. It is truly a phenomenal experience. For those who do not know, chocolate contains chemicals that help with mood elevation and relaxation. And writing, even if it is on the computer, also helps to shift your mood and perspective. This is all to the good:


Living in Mystery

When I was growing up and watching MTV (Ha! I am showing my age and I love it!) I would watch the video of Destinations Unknown by Missing Persons. For those who are unaware, Dale Bozio, the lead singer, was the 1980s precursor to Pink and Lady Gaga. I wanted to dye my hair pink like Dale Bozio. I loved Missing Persons and bought every LP. I was excited about the possibility of becoming an artist when I grew up. And artistry is the one thing that is the saving grace of people who have backgrounds of trauma. But much of artistry is grounded in a professional life that is somewhat decent to bear. I mean, we have to afford our supplies and classes! So, right now, I am looking for another job that will allow the flexibility I need for my creative pursuits. Because of this, I had no idea it would be a continual starting over again. This song from my childhood upbringing sums my predicament up: Destinations Unknown. In the book, Ten Things I Wish I Knew Before I Went Out in the Real World, Maria Shriver said the first thing she wishes she knew was that you have to be willing to start all over again. I wish I knew that, too. Maria Shriver also said something else in an interview with AARP: “I am trying to reimagine my life. You have to be willing to let go of the life you planned in order to make the life you’re meant to live,” which essentially means that most of your life is lived in mystery and learning how to be comfortable that type of uncertainty:

Writer Police Academy

For me, the Writer Police Academy picked up where domestic violence counseling left off. I didn’t expect that to happen. I was there because I had a romantic suspense novel idea to write based on some of the interesting experiences I have had taking care of police officers and their families during my 15 years of working as a nurse. I still haven’t given up on this novel idea, but right now, nonfiction seems to be the only thing flowing through me.

However, I learned more than I expected from the Writer Police Academy when I attended in Greensboro, North Carolina last year. Even other people said so. It is sponsored in part by Sisters in Crime, a professional writing organization. If anyone was ever interested in how mystery novels are written, the amounts of research that have to be done, this is a good place to be. And if anyone has ever gone through a trauma and needed to learn more about the inner workings of law enforcement, this is also a good place to be.

There are self defense courses, forensic psychologists to tell you about the exact inner workings of a criminal mind and former police officers who tell you all about their last bizarre adventures. There are mock scenes to depict what they see on the job everyday, such as car accidents and explosions they created during drug raids on drug houses. I was able to drive an ambulance in a mock simulation. Not an easy thing, let me tell you. I sat in a crop duster plane that was used for drug searches. I met with the underwater search and rescue team. I was a part of a mock night time crime scene where I had to find the evidence in the middle of the night. The fact that these women were absolute quilt divas particularly endeared me to them. I took a picture next to a raffle quilt, which happened to be a mock chalk outline of a crime scene. And meeting other writers and authors is always a good thing. I highly recommend the Writer Police Academy.


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Sometimes You Have to Have A Moment to Fall Apart

Self care is important with a background of trauma. But having a quick moment to fall apart is especially important at times, too. And when I say a moment, I mean a quick one. It can’t become a habit and you have to remember how to put yourself back together again.

In addition to job stress, I was triggered by a song that I used to hear in my childhood that unfortunately my cousin who molested me liked. And then it came: flashback, body memories. Caca that I thought I had successfully put away with therapy and counseling. I thought wrong. I was at a family get together that I had been begged to attend, promptly left five minutes after my arrival. It wasn’t the deejay’s fault because the song is actually a good song. Old school R&B. But I had to get away. It was my day off from work. I did not want to spend it remembering trauma.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is no joke. I had been meditating regularly, spending my Whole Paycheck in Whole Foods (because I grew up on textiles and organic food thanks to my grandparents and great grandparents), but after this event, I spent my afternoon and evening crying, sleeping, eating barbeque and chocolate cake and drinking ginger ale soda. I must say, it was delicious.

Then, some friends I haven’t talked to in a long time called out of nowhere and I talked to them about my job, my plans to move out of state so I am not triggered by people, places and situations from my childhood trauma in Chicago, and how this writing project hasn’t come together they way I would like. It was as if they could sense my distress, prompting them to call. “But Paula, we are spiritual people. We can handle anything,” I was told by a well meaning friend. It was nice to be reminded.

Earlier in the week, I saw an article in O Magazine about what to do when life is unfair written by Martha Beck. She suggested telling people the truth about what is going on. So, I took the time to tell my family my PTSD triggers because they didn’t know because I never told them. My family was utterly horrified and apologetic, but it wasn’t like there was much they could do.

Tomorrow, I am trying to recommit myself to healthy things I can control, like praying and meditating, planning to getting to next year’s One Hope gala that takes place at Navy Pier for child abuse, hand sewing and getting back on my exercise schedule. I had a list of things that made me happy specifically created for times like this, but I have to remember to read it and actually do one item.

So I focused one item I knew I could master: Nature. I went outside not wearing shoes and looked up at the stars in the summer sky. There are creations in the world that are beautiful. Life simply was always not a series of unfortunate events. I finally felt better. Sometimes falling apart is good, just as long as you remember how to put yourself back together again.

Whimsical Buddha Enlightened

A Whimsical Evening Buddha Enlightened PaintingThis was a part of a creativity project. We had to do something whimsical, however that was to be interpreted by us. I had no idea I would have the evening off, but I did. I had been trying to make this painting for a year. Although it was a Saturday night and I haven’t dated in 10 years, it didn’t matter. I went out on a date with myself. I dressed in my gypsy dress, lit a heart shaped red candle, took a long bath using Love Spell soap, drank Zhena’s Gypsy Rose Love Tea, played love songs, made my painting and came home by 10 pm. It was a whimsical evening.



Be Unique and Want What You Want (Even If You Have to Work Like Hell and Wait to Get It)

This is another issue that comes up for everyone, but most especially people who have backgrounds of trauma: Embracing how unique you are, how unique the desires of your heart are independent of everyone else and being placed with people, places and situations that honor the best of who you are.

At times is easier said than done. In the past couple weeks, I have been challenged with this issue both professionally and artistically. Some of it has been to do what others around me have done: marry, have kids, be in the same job for 40 years. I have great respect and admiration for people with that tenacity. However, I never found myself with the people, places and experiences that have supported those types of lifelong commitments, and it is not because I haven’t wanted to be.

I am no longer doing my beloved wound care nursing, either. Although I loved it, I was filling in for another employee. I thought it would be a permanent assignment, but it wasn’t. Contrary to popular belief, love of the job and hard work are not always enough in certain cases. Instead, I went back to staff nursing. I thought that by becoming a wound care nurse, it would be a way for me to do what I have seen the people in my family did: Stay within a job for 40 to 50 years and perhaps even find myself married with a family. Perhaps my expectations were unrealistic, but that is not what happened. I know I am not the only one. And, as Toni Morrison has said about when we find ourselves in situations like this, I have had to reconfigure.

Further, I was given a writing opportunity to do the type of hard core “literary journalism” of my graduate training. However, I don’t do that type of writing. I am a mixed media inspirational/mind/body/spirit type of writer and visual artist.

As a direct result, I passed the opportunity to two other writers who had impressive legal credentials, impeccable writing skills and were better suited to the task. In short, it hasn’t been easy, but I have had to walk away.

Within situations like these, it becomes easy for you (and those around you who maybe well meaning, but just don’t get it) to slip into, “What is wrong with me/him/her/it?” mode, when really there is nothing wrong at all. Although it is difficult, trust must be placed into the fact that something better is coming in the future. But along the way, extraordinary self care has to be practiced right now, even if people, places and situations have not responded in kind.

When I was growing up on the South Side of Chicago, my parents had a sign in their bedroom that was written in the King James version of the Bible, but I am pretty sure that this quote was nowhere in the Bible. It said, “Good things cometh to those who waiteth as long as those who waiteth work like helleth while they waiteth.”

Being unique is a gift. Whether it is a delay or an obstacle to a long cherished goal, respect yourself, even if no one else is bothering to do it, by practicing self care. Concern yourself with people, places and situations that honor the very best of who you are. It is okay to want what you want, professionally, artistically, personally or otherwise, even if you work like hell and wait to get it.

Photo Safari Happiness

There is a lot written about travel, but some people do not realize that travel can take place doing a photo safari just an hour or 30 minutes from their home. And if they are taking pictures, so much the better. With the advancement of camera phones, this is easier. Photo safaris can take us to places without the complication of missing work or breaking the bank account. Even University of Chicago Press has written about the psychological Sparkle Day 5 Sparkle 0.5 Sparkle 5benefit of photo safaris. These pictures were taken outside of the Schaumberg Convention Center during Stitches Midwest 2015. Fiber arts and a photo safari is a double does of psychological well being. Try it sometime:

The Healing of Simple Pleasures

This week hasn’t been easy, but I have learned a lot. Sometimes going back to what is a simple pleasure can bring about calm. I watched the sunrise. I sat in a comfortable chair with oversized pillows. I looked at the sky. I listened to this recording. It did a lot for me. Hopefully, it will help you, too:…/overcoming-panic-attacks…/

Overcoming Panic Attacks and Anxiety: Guided…|By Purpose Fairy


Like I said, I am not getting married, but I usually know other people who are getting married. This past week is an example of what I have been saying. I went to a bridal shower that was being given in one of those paint places that are popping up everywhere called Paintertaining 1Paintertaining 3 in Homewood, Illinois. I was too thrilled!

The bride to be looked beautiful in her white dress, veiled dress and she was an incredibly lovely hostess. It was beautiful to witness the generosity and bounty of everyone. The gifts ranged from tame (gift certificates to Bed, Bath and Beyond) to outrageous (edible massage oils), but the atmosphere of love and happiness ran high.

After a day at work, this was truly a delightful event. We ate spaghetti and blue colored lemonade with lemons slices within it. The cake was chocolate, one of my favorites. It made me smile. These women cared deeply about having a great time! We listened to the best of my high school music soundtrack of my life: Under a Cherry Moon by Prince and painted whatever we wanted. We were given a theme of a shoe. I took the idea a step further given that my first self marriage anniversary was rapidly approaching. I loved the MAC cosmetics Cinderella collection that was available earlier this year, so I decided upon a “My Glass Slipper” type of theme. I felt especially complimented when the bride complimented my painting and the theme I chose for it!

I had been to Brushes and Bottles, Bottles and Bottega, and Pinot’s Palatte, but it was really nice to know that paint shop had opened up nearby.


Working full time and trying to keep up creatively can be a challenge, but I am taking an online workshop known as Sparkles hosted by creative coach Jamie Ridler:


Sparkles Day 1

I took a selfie next to “Aunt Roberta.” My late Aunt Roberta lived to the age of 99 and was a gardener. This purple petunia came from the garden in her home in Chicago. When I water the plant before work, I am always sure to say hello to her.

Sparkles formed as a way to help the abandoned kittens Jamie Ridler has adopted and a way to help busy people keep up with their own creative process. As a direct result, we are all helping one another. The kittens just received their shots. We received much needed creative inspiration.