Monday, March 27, 2017

Podcast: Grief and Storytelling

Do you think of storytelling as plot, character, denouement? Storytelling in reference to the grief experience can be so much more than form! Today's podcast explores how we can break open the idea of storytelling to understand our experiences for ourselves, but also to have our experiences move beyond the cultural obsession with, "Oh, I'm so sorry to hear that! What happened?" where we all get stuck in just the death story, the death moment. Thanks for listening!

Love and Reiki,
from my radical grandma self to your radical self <3

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Podcast: Grief and Invisibility (pondering #DayWithoutAWoman strike)

For International Women's Day and as I pondered the #DayWithoutAWoman strike, I ended up deciding to launch what I hope to develop into a GriefAndCreativity Dot Com podcast. Today's topic is "Grief and Invisibility" as it came up for me around thinking and dreamstate leading into this strike day. Thank you for listening.

Click here to stream.

Love and Reiki,
from my radical grandma self to your radical self <3

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Books and the art that can come from them...

What do you do with books you don't want anymore? It's great if the library will take them or the used bookshop. But what if they don't want them? I have the answer:


:) That's exactly what I did with these books. Here are the front and back covers after alterations:

And here's a glimpse of what I did on the inside of each:

But the even cooler thing about doing these kinds of physical, altered books is that you can do high res scan of various aspects of the pieces and then make even more artworks. Here are a few of the pieces I've done in that process, and these are now available in my gallery as stickers, totes, journals and more:

This one is an over saturated, highly detailed scan of one of the paperdolls on the back cover, worked up in PSE as its own solo piece. You'll find it over in the gallery here.

This digital composite was from a shrine series and it incorporates the door featured on one of the front covers of the altered books. It actually incorporates high res scans and photos of 8 different pieces I created along the way. The shrine outline and composite was all done in PSE and this finished piece is in the gallery over here.

So can you see how you can start with old or unwanted books to create art? Then scan or photograph and make even more art? What ideas are sparked for you seeing this? Are you already picturing books that you'd been considering clutter which now might morph into art? What other items do you have around the house that you might turn into art?

Go play! Have fun!

[Originally published in Radical Creativity, June 2009]

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Keep on WAKING up!

Look. None of this is new. But if the chaos that is the US is just hitting you now, all I can say is: Great and keep on WAKING the fuck up, Loves.

It is not anti-racist to say, "I don't see color." We need to dismantle and totally tell racism to fuck off. It will never be okay to invoke hate toward Muslims after the hate committed upon our LGBTQ brothers and sisters in Orlando, after the Unconstitutional "ban" that is being waved in all our faces. Fuck off to homophobia. Fuck off to the hijacking of any religion so that hate is allowed, encouraged. Fuck off to anyone who thinks their one religion has all the "right" answers and everyone else is, not only "wrong," but justifiably harmed. Fuck off.

If you don't know how to handle cognitive dissonance, that is on you! Get a therapist. Sign up for emotional intelligence training. Sign up for anti-racist training. Seek out education from sources like SURJ, ACLU, SPLC. Something. DEAL WITH YOUR SHIT.

And most of all, here in this USofA Chaos State, if you think not voting is taking a stand, I implore you to reconsider, to at least vote local races where it can make the most difference. We need to get local scenes changed in 2018 and 2020 so that when the next census takes place, we have some hope of reversing the gerrymandering that has gone on with voting districts. Please get used to bugging the fuck out of your government on all the issues that matter to you. It is not rocket science to figure out how to have justice and equity. We don't even have to figure it out the "how" of it. There isn't any experimenting that has to be done. Because guess fucking what? Other countries in this fucking world have ALREADY done it. We know how to do it. We just don't fucking want to. And if you are here, if you are one that doesn't want to, check your shit. If you are one that wants to, but doesn't know how, start by bugging the fuck out of your government reps, senators, and local officials:
and go to your State's website to find your local folks - it will look something like this:

Last thing I'll say today (though you will hear me repeating it OFTEN): If  you still think social justice issues do not intersect with grief, wake up, please. How in the hell can anyone look at what is going down and not see the GRIEF, not just on individual level, but communal and cultural. Mosques burning. Five year olds handcuffed because they are a "threat" and mothers separated from their children from whom food is withheld for 20 hours. A 12 year old shot while playing in a play ground a mere 2.5 seconds after police arrive on the scene. This is a fuck load of grief, folks. Wake up. Time to start dealing with our shit.

Reiki to any and all eyeballs who come across this.
This radicalized grandma will speak to my last breath in the hope we keep each other AWAKE.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Hard truths, diapers, and dreams

[Originally published June 2016 - as the social justice fight continues, this is as relevant today.]

The call to social justice work comes out of significant experiences I had as a child and all the ways, as an adult, I've seen people in the midst of grief experiences having to simultaneously navigate oppression. People will tell me grief is grief, done, and to stop bring social justice issues into it. But I tell you that in my most horrific grief after the death of my son, I know now, clearly, how privileged I was. I am white; we were middle-ish class; we had healthcare at the time; we had a life that allowed for us to make and foster connections for support; we had ways to become self employed and not be beholden to any boss or capitalist exploitation. AND I've learned over time how very privileged that was.

It is impossible to look black mothers in the face after the deaths of their children at the hands of police and just say it is grief like all others or that grief has no color blah blah blah. Their grief is political. Their grief is part of a social justice movement. Why? Because they don't get to just grieve and have experiences like we had in our privilege. They must simultaneously navigate the criminalization of their children all over the media so that the police can justify why children are dying. It IS political.

Yes, I am remembering that all the people killed in Orlando are children of someone. Yes. Of course. But that doesn't mean we get a bypass on the political and social justice issues that come up, too. It's a nice sentiment to say we shouldn't politicize the deaths of someone's children, but I'm guessing -- just a guess -- you go listen to the videos and read this post and this post and this post of people speaking for themselves -- but I'm guessing that most LGBTQ+ people and families will tell you it IS political.

And there are so many experiences of grief and social justice intersections, that I know we can get overwhelmed with trying to process it. This isn't a woulda/coulda/shoulda, but rather just a raising of awareness that we are each doing what/as we can *and* there is always a bigger picture. Also an awareness that focusing on one issue is not meant to take away from another or to privilege one over the other, but rather to be aware there is always a bigger picture. As @Joannathangiah shared in one of her beautiful heART-works which you can see by clicking here:

"Just because someone is drawing attention to one oppressed group doesn't mean they are ignoring others."

This is tender space. I get it. Not trying to make one bereaved parent or caregiver "wrong" while others are "right" on this. AND I'm saying that even in my worst grief experience with the death of my own son, I came to a point where that was no longer a bypass for checking my privilege and getting real about the fact that *everything* happens within a context. Of course we are individuals having these experiences, but always always always within a kinship system:

We cannot be objective. We are all mobile discourses coming to the table of these experiences:

I'm not trying to politicize everything. It is already political. I'm not trying to be depressing or discouraging. But I am trying to get us all on the same page so we can take account of what is really happening. We need to do that so we can be present in a way that is meaningful; so that actual needs can be addressed. We cannot positivity-police ourselves through grief nor be of service to others if we are positivity-policing their expressions and experiences. In fact:

Just consider it. You don't have to like what I'm saying. You may not be in a place in your own grief experience to have the bandwidth to be present with these ideas. That's okay. I'm sharing for those who are interested. For those who know there is more to this grief stuff than "keep calm and...". For those who are at a space where exploring the intersectionality of grief experiences and social justice makes sense.


Something I saw today out of the #StateOfWomen was a share from Desiree Adaway about how a significant cause of depression for low income women is lack of access to clean diapers for their children.

Re-read that. 

Let that sink in.

A source of their depression is lack of access to clean diapers.

Dear G-d. I know modern Western capitalist culture is screwed, but this...breaks me. How do we just go on when this reality comes to light? For me, I need to take action. Find out how this is addressed in our community. I'm asking our food bank if this is issue that needs to be addressed here. If so, how best to address? We don't have a lot. But we do make $10 or $20 donation here and there as we can. I will be glad to spend that on diapers for the food bank if that will help. 

How much could shift if we all did things like this wherever and whenever we can?

ADDENDUM: After posting this, I came to learn in the discussion thread on Desiree's page that there is a national project looking at and addressing this issue. I had no idea. Thank you, creative and wonderful people. Now others of us can get involved!


Random dreamscape:

She came into the public library and told me she sold the house we were living in with it being on the market for only an hour. The pit of my stomach sank as I realized I could pack our stuff, but I could not pack our garden. That, we would simply lose. 

As I walked down the street back toward the home that was just sold out from under us, I sobbed for the peas we would be forced to abandon, knowing they would wither and die. New people would not be moved in quickly enough to salvage them. 

As I walked, I realized the sidewalk was just continuing to stretch out before me, making my walk endless. There was no way to get back. I tried to get my backpack off so I could find my phone and call Hawk. But as I was doing so, a man rushed me in attack. As I felt my body hitting the ground, I realized I would not get to hear Hawk's voice. 

In waking life, I began screaming in my sleep. Hawk says I was all gooseflesh when he heard me yelling and woke me. 

Can I just tell you that I love having those kinds of dreams and discovering myself back here in the waking world with Hawk gently shaking me saying, "Kara, Kara, Kara, wake up."

Okay, well, enough babble. Reiki to all eyeballs who come across this.
One of those radicalized grandmas

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Five Little Letters: g-r-i-e-f

These five little letters supposedly cover a big human experience: g-r-i-e-f.

As mortal humans, it is inevitable that we will encounter grief. Whether death or non-death related, grief is part of the human experience. Supposedly these five little letters cover the experience. They are to convey what we each experience. They supposedly encompass the full range of the life that unfolds in the face of loss. These little letters are to signify a whole story. Individually. Culturally. Really?

While we are all individuals having grief experiences, we are also always within "kinship systems" (Ulanov, Madness & Creativity). So while our grief experiences unfold for us individually, we are simultaneously navigating grief's path amid community, in social relationship, in social contracts we have with each other, and in, ultimately, a culture of grief.

How can we use creativity to break out beyond these five little letters? How do we enter our stories creatively to help shape and re-shape the culture of grief so that we, as a human family, can hold the diversity of experiences that humans have?

In this presentation, from March 2015 Crossroads Conference, I had the opportunity to share my ideas with approximately 500 people in this large session, and then to more intimately explore afterward in a salon workshop that hosted 50 people. The 7 minute video here is from the large session, and in it, I'm sharing my own story of our son's birth / death and offering creative prompts for beginning to get and stay creative with your own story, whatever your circumstances.

For more about Kara see

For more about Creative Grief Education see

For more about WGF and the Crossroads Conference see

Friday, January 13, 2017

Tools vs. Prescriptions

Law of Attraction. Abundance. The Work. Logotheraphy. The Secret. The Tao. The Way. Meditation. Matrix. Creating Your Own Reality. Poetry Therapy. Art Therapy. Gestalt. The Hero's Journey.

There are a million tools in the world. And depending on the situation at hand, you may choose to take out one or the other of these tools to use them for a period of time. They can be extremely helpful. Life changing even. And so it is natural to want to share these tools with others.

Here's the hitch though:

Once you begin to share them as prescriptions rather than tools,
you move from compassionate enthusiasm to dogmatic, colonizing mind set.

When dogmatic law comes into play, we find divisiveness, the beginning of disrespect, violence, patriarchy, imperialism, misogyny. Organized religions or movements often fail their constituents in the most urgent moments of need precisely because dogmatic law is offered as "cure" rather than compassionate tools being offered as "care."

Let me share a few examples to really clearly show you what I mean about all this.

*Situation One

There are two women who are not feeling well. Both are part of communities where people are exploring self development, Law of Attraction, etc.

One woman mentions her ills, and a friend replies with an offer to help her explore Louise Hay's "Heal Your Body" work to see if anything there seems to fit for the current situation. They work together looking at materials, seeing what might feel right to the woman in need, and they both come away feeling better having lived their practice of becoming more response-able.

The second woman mentions her ills, and a friend replies saying, "Oh, look at you creating drama as a way to make time to rest. You are attracting illness so you can have an excuse to take care of you!" The woman in need feels scolded, embarrassed, and is shamed into putting on the mask of "abundance" to seem "better." All sense of compassionate care has been lost to the imposition of a dictated cure. In other words, the dogma of the Law of Attraction has been used as a weapon, a judgment against the woman in need. And, in truth, no one feels better in this situation.

*Situation Two

There are two sets of bereaved parents trying to find their way through grief after the deaths of their children. Both families are part of communities where people are exploring spiritual development, alternative therapies, creativity. Both families struggle with the cascade of loss: death of child, impact on parenting other children, financial realities of death associated costs, not being able to just go back to work as "normal" and the realization of having been thrust into being wholly changed as people.

The first family seeks support from their community network as they begin to question their sanity, how to function in the world at large, the senselessness of it all. A friend introduces them to Byron Katie's "The Work" and helps them through the questions and self-exploration. The first question is simply, "Is it true?" The bereaved mother puts forth that she is a horrible mother and cannot function any more. The friend asks, "Is this true?" The mother says, "Yes!" The friend asks again, "Is this really true?" The mother thinks a bit longer this time. The friend prompts her to talk about what's in her mind. The mother reveals a myriad of ways she is a good mother, active member of her community, and discovers -- on her own terms -- that she is not horrible after all. She is just hurting and in need of support. She redefines her current situation for herself, and down the line she will create meaning out of the senseless, be open-hearted to others, and "The Work" becomes one tool she uses often to explore the shadows of grief.

The second family seeks support from their community network, too. When the mother speaks up about not being able to function any longer, she is told, "Everything happens for a reason. You cannot know God's purpose. And you have other children who need you now." In fact, she is told that someone recently saw Byron Katie using "The Work" with another bereaved parent, and Byron told the mother and everyone watching that you have to move on and let go of these things in order to be "normal" again. In this situation, the very same tool (and some others) were used as weapons against the mother. She is embarrassed and shamed into putting on the mask of a proper believer so she can appear "normal" again. Her needs have not been met. Meaning has been imposed upon her and her family. Absolutely no one is better off in the least!

Can you see what I mean about the difference between tools vs. prescriptions; the differences between care vs. cure? Whether we are officially caregivers or just family, friends, well-meaning community members, we have a response-ability to think through the ways we uses these tools. Many fortune cookie wisdoms are actually derived from ancient systems. If you are intrigued by some current tool, seek out its history. Learn all you can before you start handing out cookie cutter sound bites and imposing meaning on others. If you have previously only dealt in platitudes, seek out the full history and truth behind that trite bit. Don't just take a line out of the Gospel and toss it around anymore. Look up the context. Read what historians feel it meant in ancient times. Look at modern interpretations. Consider what the full weight of the words might be. Consider that line through the eyes of Jewish history, Islamic history, Christian history, Buddhist history, and modern New Age lenses. Does the meaning change?

It is never entirely possible to be objective. We are subject to our own perspectives. Subject to our own experiences. That's okay, but don't let that subjective view limit you and your interactions with others. Instead, use it as another tool. Share your story of how you use various tools and what they mean to you. But then actively listen as other people tell you of their experiences. Don't impose your uses and conclusions on them. Watch, without judgement, as they pick up tools and come to their own realizations. Support them in that experience. Know that your experiences might be different. That's okay. There is plenty of room for all of us. One does not have to win out or conquer the other. BOTH experiences can exist at the very same moment, equally valid.

In this way, all those tools I listed above can be useful. Utilitarian items available to any and all of us instead of imperial weapons of colonization we use to control one another. It is possible to live in peace. This is just one of many possible things to play with as you create that peace in your reality. Be willing to just stop, breathe, and ask yourself, "Am I offering a tool or a prescription?" Just witness how your world changes when you are willing to be that response-able.


Want to learn more? See info on the Certification in Creative Grief Support program by clicking here.

[Originally published in Radical Creativity, December 5, 2008
also published at The Creative Grief Studio blog in 2011]