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Monthly Archives: February 2013

learning to work again

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learning to work again

It occurred to me today, “Wow, I’m busy again.” Why yes, I am.

Last week, I wrote about the confusion that had overcome me when I started getting busy.

A reminder of what a slippery slope addiction and recovery can be. I found myself disappointed in myself. “I want to prove that I can be successful in breaking through my addiction.” Then I have to laugh at how ridiculous that it. I have to draw boundaries. I have to turn off my email. I have to know that I have a choice in what I do and how I choose to be. I have to remember that I am recoveringI have to focus on breathing. I have to remember the value of balance.

That was last week! That was my last post. I have been busy!

I’ve missed writing. I’ve been needing to write. I’ve been wanting to share about the intense artist breakthrough I had on Saturday. But now is not the time. Maybe tomorrow. Today, I found I had that feeling of determination pushing me along. As I left my part time job at the local coffee shop, I felt that feeling pushing me, in my car, down the road, to pick up child #1, then back the other way to pick up child #2. That feeling has to go for now, I am at home. That feeling cannot take over me.

Its not a surprise that feeling creeped up on me now. As I reflected on how busy I was, it dawned on me, “I have three jobs!” Time to update the resume!


2013- Present         

Upstage Gallery Manager

Dakota Prairie Regional Center for the Arts—New Rockford, ND

Assist with the integration of visual arts into current DPRCA programing.  Organize and oversee the opening of a visual arts gallery, including the development of appropriate space, marketing for the gallery, recruitment and cooperation with consigning artists, and management of sales.


Independent Artist and Writer

Pages of Paradigm—New Rockford, North Dakota

Produce and sell various drawings, paintings, jewelry and creative non-fiction. Manage a blog site at

2012- Present         

Grant Writer

Rachel Brazil Professional Services— New Rockford, North Dakota

Provide professional services such as writing, consulting, planning, and project management to a variety of organizations. Expertise in projects related to rural community development, sustainable agriculture, and environmental education.


The hard part of stepping away from the determination that strikes with these projects, is that they are fueled by excitement. They are part of the life I created. This dynamic, wonderful life! They are parts of other people’s lives as well. I share the excitement. I gain from others. It is contagious! Its so much fun!

So whats the problem!? The problem is that feeling can be addicting. I have a problem with it. I hit bottom with it. I took a long time working my way back up. I’ve been working hard to overcome this addiction. Now its time to put these lessons I’ve learned into practice. Its time to balance.  It’s time to keep the feeling of excitement from dementing itself in compulsion. Several months ago I finally recognized the terrifying power compulsive behaviors have on me. 

However, when it comes to setting goals, to-do lists feel like time-bombs ticking in my brain. Several of my former students witnessed the after-effects of these explosions as a sat on my office floor, surrounded by piles of papers, trying to find some orientation in the surrounding crowd of priorities. Since I no longer have an office floor for my thoughts to explode out on, I have come to find that to-do lists simply instigate my compulsive tendencies. My jaws tighten and tunnel-vision sets in. I begin to ignore my body’s need to eat, drink, rest, or contemplate. The compulsive actions seem to happen without awareness—only going forward with a bold confidence that thrives on escalating stresses created through excitement and achievement. It is not joy or happiness. It is not complete or compassionate. Any pleasure of success does not belong to me, but to the compulsion.  Sadly, such behaviors can be easily mistaken for motivation, determination, or excitement—which is why its existence is so strong. It has been nurtured greatly and for too long.

The weekend is near and luckily, my work week is over, so to speak. My writing and art will continue. Or at least I should hope. But looking back on the past few days, I am surprised to add up all my hours.


4 hours- preparing a grant document for a contract

2 hours- preparing artwork and jewelry

Monday –        

6 hours- painting items for the Upstage Gallery

2 hours- preparing a grant document for a contract


3 hours- working at the coffee shop, preparing for the official press-release for the Upstage Gallery

(now featured on the New Rockford City Website, will be in the paper on Monday)

2 hours- preparing a grant document for a contract


6 hours- completing and submitting grant document


6 hours- working at the coffee shop, attending a production meeting, developing space and contacting artists

If I can do math, that’s 31 hours, on top of my home management duties, on top of training a puppy, on top of grieving the loss of our pet duck, on top of recovery. I’ve done pretty well, I feel pretty good. But, it would be all too easy to jump into tomorrow and the next day, following this pace. Which might not be all bad, depending on what it is I choose to do. Whether or not the chosen activities restore the energies I have expended during the week, or if they continue to use the energy I have stored up. If its the latter, I’ll become compulsive for sure.

It feels like an experiment of mindfulness. A process that might be well initiated with some reading, maybe catching up on The Artist’s Way, revisiting The Mindful Path through Shyness, or spending sometime with one of my favorite blogs Zen Habits.

Wish me luck through this experiment and trust I have the tools I need for success… or perhaps I have more lessons to learn.

rachel, in her natural habitat


The Divergent and Convergent Paths of Creativity and Recovery

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The Divergent and Convergent Paths of Creativity and Recovery

This post diverges from the series I’ve been writing On Art and Writing. I find it disappointing. I was just about to get to the really good parts of non-verbal expression and delight in creation. But in many ways, it is like a switch has flipped. I haven’t quite crossed that bridge. I haven’t quite experienced that delight. I’m still recovering.

My mind is following an old path. I find myself checking my email as a way to give myself direction and define what it is I am “supposed” to be doing, rather than a means of connection. I wake in the middle of the night running lists of what I need to do, rather than simply contemplating the way the streetlight casts shadows. I’m stuck on doing. That is the problem. I’m not embracing my being.

I can’t quite identify how or when it happened. I know Monday was a wonderful day. Tuesday, I felt intense, creative, alive. Tuesday night I got smacked upside the head with a random onset from my chronic bronchitis. Three  years in a row now, I suffer from it this time of year. Three years in a row, I suffer with it as I submit a specific set of documents.

It feels like a reminder. A reminder of what a slippery slope addiction and recovery can be. I found myself disappointed in myself. “I want to prove that I can be successful in breaking through my addiction.” Then I have to laugh at how ridiculous that it. I have to draw boundaries. I have to turn off my email. I have to know that I have a choice in what I do and how I choose to be. I have to remember that I am recovering. I have to focus on breathing. I have to remember the value of balance.

I can remember why I write. And what a value writing has for me. I can remember how far I’ve come.

I can remember what it means to be human. I can remember what it means to listen.  winter woods

Above all, I can know that some days are just better than others. I can know that I am not alone. I can know that this too shall pass. And in time, I will celebrate the next milestone in my recovery. Whatever it might be.

On Art and Writing (part 2)

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Some days life feels as if it is a little crooked

Like it is falling to one side

Then on others, it is floating and fleeting

Taking me to possibilities

Outstanding and otherwise

In a rotation like none other




This is my today

What a day it would be for a visit to an art museum. I visited the St. Louis Art Museum often. Many a visits, I became an embodiment of peaceful movements of senses- sight, sound, smell, touch, taste- as undeserving as they might be, I was always astounded by the unique and familiar.

The experience then gracefully punctuated by a meditative rest under the reach of a flowering dogwood tree.

Here I am, years later. Those experiences seem far away, but still so fresh. Like the change of seasons. Like the change of perspective.

I go back and visit previous versions of myself. The vehicles that take me to them are my words. The writings open me up to see the pleasures of pasts forgotten.

They sit patiently and say, “We’re still here.”

And now, I can say, “Welcome. I’m glad to have you back again.”

All these sensations of being come at a time when I am seeing, touching, and feeling art again. It’s becoming part of me again. But unlike the process of writing, my arts are not honed. They feel rusty, unfamiliar. I sit down to begin to draw, paint, collage, or design and words overcome me. I see my final projects and have a sense they are far from what they could be. There is too much control at work. Not enough play.

Methods. Rules. Processes. Structure. Those are the places that words inhabit. That is the world of expression in which I have become comfortable.

Shape. Color. Beauty. Possibility. Those aspects of art reside in a different world.

A world that feels forgotten, and perhaps even haunted.

Entering this world requires letting go, silencing the words and allowing non-verbal expressions find their own way through the path to existence. Like writing, it takes practice. It takes failing and overcoming. It takes recognizing the voice and becoming comfortable with the power it holds.

On Art and Writing (part 1)

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On Art and Writing (part 1)

I am finding that I am now comfortable in referring to myself as a writer. “Yes. I am an independent artist and writer.” Imagine that!

In declaring myself so, opportunities have come along to fortify this identity. In the past months, I’ve worked on several projects that involved writing some kind of narrative. It helps me see writing as more of a profession and less of a hobby. It is a skill, so to speak– a marketable skill. It could even be talent. When I don’t know what else to do, I write. When I was putting the pieces together to start a blog, I was overwhelmed with the power of words. So, I wrote about writing.

The excitement and challenge in writing occurs together with the process of transporting ideas from a non-verbal world of connection and possibility to a verbal world of structured capacity.  Along the way, prospective words travel along the subconscious, sometimes rerouted by doubt, frustration, and distraction. Bitten nails and forgotten laundry are a little price to pay for the erratic sequencing of words that land on the paper with some representation of the meanings intended. The most exhilaration arises in the process of writing as magnificent ideas come forth, bellowing in delight at their chance of existence, so loudly that their true meaning is barely audible.

I haven’t always been the writer I am now. I loved to put words and ideas down on paper, but for quite sometime the process evaded me. In my early years of academia, the pieces of work that I put the most passion into were often the ones that came back with red marks scattered about. Defeat.

One particularly painful experience came my first semester at a university. I had been taking courses at a community college for three years prior, and had felt as if I could be… possibly… good at writing.

Midterms came. I submitted a paper on the political organization of chiefdom society. I focused on my experiences working in the archaeological labs near Cahokia Mounds. I proof-read and edited like mad. I worked hard. I was elated. I felt like I had threaded together experience, reference, and course content into a three to five page term paper. It felt good.

The following Monday, I was stunned by a D-. One sentence was underlined toward the end of the paper. A note followed, “This is the only relevant sentence in the entire paper.” It hurt. I cried. I got angry. I said mean things about the instructor. But eventually, I recovered from those pains and even the subsequent comments that suggested that I lacked the logic to write as an archaeologist.

In time, that was just fine with me. I found an academic niche that suited me within cultural and environmental studies. I gained the capacity to write a 88 page thesis that prompted my advisor to say, “Within these pages, you have found your voice.

I have, yes indeed. I have.

I now write a blog, in journals, and to friends. I write grants, project plans, budgets, grocery lists, letters, emails, resumes, and much more to come. Writing has become a habit. It has become part of my life. A part of me. It is my voice. My voice, that I share.Peek of Visual Framework