verbal abuse changes us at nautilus teachings

pick a safety hue
pick a safety hue

1970’s-“Harriet Cooper eats her pooper…”and so begins my average day. The verbal abuse starts around the time the physical abuse stops. Although the name calling has been going on for a while now, the verbal abuse now starts. I am 9. The cruelty and harshness of the words did not just float me right back into my rich oceanic world, but begins in me the need to release in writing the conflicting, confusing and sometimes unthinkable thoughts that have begun meandering around my head. I know my thoughts are wrong; therefore, putting pen to paper is difficult. It is also a great release for the agony brewing inside of me.
I take a can of light pink paint and drip a dime size dollop of red paint in the center of the can. At first it does nothing accept sit like a thorn. Waiting a few seconds,. the hues begin to mix and join to form new tints of pink. Moving the paint stick in a spiral working my way towards the outside edges of the can, the paint takes on a new color and it changes.
Is fascinating to me.
all the imaginable adventures
each color
will take me.
If I continue to move
the paint stick
in circular motions
the original color
will transform permanently,
just like what their verbal abuse
does to me
I’m stupid
I’m ugly
I’m adopted
I smell
Over and over
It rings in my
I cover my ears
In hopes
The silence
Will remind me
That I am safe
And full
Of God’s love.

The verbal abuse becomes my reds and oranges in my paintings. Verbal abuse makes me feel worthless and small, just like a tiny dot. If I am going to feel like a dot I am going to start painting them. I will paint in thousands of tiny dots in turtle greens and browns, or in dolphin blues and purples. Each dot encircled with the black ring of safety.
I believe I am a worthless human being and a waste of space. I do not blend in with them. Instead I repel them like oil to water. The verbal abuse I suffer forms in my mind that this is how a boy should treat you. You should be subservient to them, wait on them hand and foot and never disappoint them, that abuse is the natural way a man and woman communicate. I am going to have to become a chameleon. It will be necessary for me to expand my palette to include shades of grey, tan and blush.
Let me fall
Let me fall
Let me fall
Into the darkness
So that I can crawl
Out of the abyss
Of the life that I know
I am tired of carrying
The burdens they know
Denial is strong
Betrayal runs deep
I can bet you today
They never loose sleep
Over who they have hurt
Over what they have done
Sympathy for them?
I have none!
I heard it
I felt it
You knew you were wrong
But you made me believe
I never belonged
You put it on me
You made me feel sick
I hid in corners
You both are such dicks
You hurt me
You hurt me
I hate you so
I want you to leave
I need you to go
Say goodbye to mom
And forget your dad
Your two are the demons
They wish they never had
I am falling
Into darkness
I need to feel whole
If you wanted to damage me
Well, you reached your goal
So fuck you
Fuck him
Your both are a mess
To say you are my brothers
Is a sin to confess
Yes I hate you
I don’t pity you
I want to scream
I want to run fast
From my life’s scary dream…
”Sky blue
royal blue
and azure seas
the calmness
and singing
of the immense ocean
the calling
I hear
in the midnight
black sky
all lull me
to peaceful
vigilant sleep…”
These are the words which encompass my 4’ x 4’ canvas. I am in need of assurance that I will be alright. The color blue represents peace, warmth and love to me. Any where or place I am, I can call on this color to pull me from suffocation and fear. I need this to hang as a reminder that I am supposed to be here, that I am good, and kind. I need this to breathe life into my tired and weary body. The long lines of paint stretching one side to the other in hues of blue sit relaxed, open, waiting for me to rest. I am awash in Shades of Blue from my nose, to my t-shirt and jeans, all the way to the tips of my toes. I step back and know for sure that I am wearing the calm, the hug of God.

saved by blue and God
saved by blue and God
Read More verbal abuse changes us at nautilus teachings

painting saves me at nautilus teachings



2009-Studio-I sweep my paint into a curl accenting the bottom of the fishes fin. I dip the flat end of my brush into yellow and green and dab them on their tiny bodies to make their gills-they must have these to breathe. My color is beginning to surface and the white fizzy palette is being caressed by the soft quill of my mother’s love.
The basement taught me to fear dark
to fear the unknown and shadows
I need definition in my life
I need boundaries and rules to follow
I need to know
that when I put paint to canvas
the orange will not run into the yellow
that the black outlines will keep them safe
once they are placed upon the canvas
It taught me to shut up
To never have an idea or opinion
It taught me never to fight
if I did I would lose
I learned to be submissive
I learned to stay within the black outline
rules of my brothers
I learned that boys had power girls
could never possess
For the first time
I realized
the only one who could save me
would be myself
I had to learn to fight back
I crawl out the darkness
into the light
I hold my head up high
and climbed the basement step
until I am free
and wise old Mr. Hawksbill
is smiling along side of me.
I am surrounded by tiny blue fishes. I am swimming in the warm caribbean waters of my youth. With God’s light always there to guide me I feel safe. I let the tiny blueness of “Schools Out” surround me with peace tranquility and the knowledge that as I walk this healing path I am never ever alone.



Way back
In the darkness
She sits all alone
That the demons
Will flee far from home
Oh she sits
In her silence
Beneath all the clothes
Tears of sadness
Oh please mom, come home.
But they wait
In the corners
And hide under beds
Dressed like brothers
With nubby white heads
It’s hot
In the closet
She must make a break
Than the devils
But their fingers rake
All over
Her body
They’re pulling her down
While they taunt her
She pees on the ground
Above her
Is hanging
A spit drop so long
So grotesque
As he sucks it in
And swallows it down
Their laughter is ringing
Inside of her head
Poor girl
She is hiding
Beneath her big bed
At once
She starts praying
Reciting her lines
Give me some courage
Please, please, make me a fish
So I can swim far, far away…

Read More painting saves me at nautilus teachings

loving broken at nautilus teachings

she was love
she was love

July 20, 1983

my mom has a heart attack
and is the third person in the U.S.
to have angioplasty.

August 20, 1983
my mom is dancing
at my first wedding.

January 1984
my mom is diagnosed
with a rare Leukemia
given 6 months to live
she lives over 3 years

July 20, 1987
my mom passes away
from Leukemia

IMG_6162 IMG_6161

Dec. 1, 1990
my beautiful annie is born
at the exact time of day of
my mothers death


my emily is the same age i was
when my mother was diagnosed
my annie is the same age i was
when she died

this is my deepest pain…

July 19, 1987

the memory is clearer today
than it was then
my mom was in Swedish American Hospital
in Rockford, IL
it was hot and my 3 brothers, my father and i
were vigilantly standing watch
as mom lay dying…
the night before this my father said,
“you all go home to your families,
i want to be alone with your mother…
this was day 6 of her being unconscious…
nurses would come and clear out her lungs
her tongue was swelling
she still had movement
and kept trying to climb out of the bed
she would moan, “no, no, no…”
her body was shutting down
and i honestly
was in denial…

mom, dad and baby nick
mom, dad and baby nick

morning had broken,
my son nick was fed and with the babysitter
i strolled into moms room early
my dad was sitting in a chair next to her bed
he looked exhausted yet at the same
time at peace and full of light
“Morning dad, how’s mom?”
“Hi Sher….
i have to tell you what happened to me last night…
I was talking to your mom
and praying to God
when He lifted me up off my chair
and filled me with peace
assuring me that she was
going home…”
he then started to cry
and i held my father
for the first time…
soon my three brothers arrived
and my father said,
“God told me, we need to release her
so let’s gather around your mom
and all tell her it’s ok to die…
screeeeeeeching like a pulled needle across record,
tell her it’s ok to die?
is he kidding?
we all looked at one another
and then my father said a prayer
as we held hands encircling our mother
with love and faith
as we dropped our hands
our mother, who had not opened her eyes for a week
looked at all of us
and reached up her arms
as one by one we hugged her
and told her we loved her
and that
it was ok to go home to God
she was crying silently
the whole time.
last to hug mom was my father-
he said to her,
“Dory, i love you so much
it’s time to go home to God,”
as they wept together
we all cried
and my mother closed her eyes
dropped her hands
and went into a deep sleep.
the 4 of of us left our father
at his request
and a few hours later
my mother met God
and my life

mom and me
mom and me

i tell you this story because
there is no going back to
forgive your parents or
love your parents.
my father and i had
never been close…
we have had 28 years
of pain and separation
yes, i have included him in my life
but it was my mother who made him soft
my mother who showed us all
unconditional love and forgiveness…
without her in his life
he became what he was a product of
cold, judgmental, harsh
broken and incapable of showing
real love because he forgot what it was
on July 20, 1987.
i have forgiven my father.
he is 86,
but we have no relationship
because he just cannot understand
why we all do not do what he wants
and become what he wants
he sees us a failures
not living up to his expectations…
but i still love him
because he’s my dad
so, mom
if you are listening
and i know you are,
i miss and love you always
thank you for teaching me
faith, kindness, gratitude, love, forgiveness
and strength,
for teaching me the lesson
that “even broken people deserve love, sheri.”

i love you mom
i love you mom
Read More loving broken at nautilus teachings

the basement at nautilus teachings

call me 720-2215
call me 720-2215

1960’s-The dusty charcoal, basement is torture spot number two. My brothers do not ever push me down those hard, slate grey steps. Thank goodness. They decide the damp room at the bottom of the cracked, cement steps is scary enough.
The eleven hard, cold steps to the basement are grey cement and smell moldy and are dusty, dirty, dark and damp, like the mud on the jungle floor after the stampede has passed through on a wild hunt. The switch for the light is at the bottom of the steps. The door at the bottom of the steps does not lock. It creaks and is made of old wood and has a latch handle that is black.
The door is painted light grey and much of the paint is chipped away from age. These missing paint pieces reminded me of dead, crinkled rust colored leaves. No matter how much fresh paint put on it, the wood still resisted the brush stroke, just as the fall leaf resists further nourishment from the sparkling rain drops because it is time to die.
When you enter the basement it is filled with the screens and/or storm windows depending upon the season. The basement is as big as the house. The whole basement has one tiny light bulb that is turned on by a white, woven string hanging from the water colored grey ceiling. It illuminates only the burnt orange washer and dryer. In front of the washer and dryer is a bright yellow rug. Each time I am forced down here it is the only safe and clean spot to sit. They are a piece of my mother which shines so brightly and lets me know I can touch it and feel her healing hands.
On a rare occasions my mom will call me to help her carry the laundry. At these times I am never afraid. I run down the steps two at a time and jump boldly into haunted corners only to race to my mother and place my cheek upon the top of the warm dryer. I grab the softly scented, hot fabric and breathe in happiness. I feel the colors nourishing me and sense new blossoming bouquets sprouting from my tippy toes to my finger tips.
Call me, my mommy
To come and to play
Amongst all your colors
For I want to stay
Beside you forever
I don’t want to grow
I want to keep secret
I don’t want to tow
Around all my sadness
And one day die in pain
Oh mommy
Keep calling me
Please let me hear
Your voice oh so soft
I have nothing to fear?
2009-Studio-The colors of seedling and scallion green; make up the stirring salt water grasses which completely cover the back ground of School’s Out, my 3’x 4 ‘ painting. I chose these because of the warmth I feel when I gaze upon them.
They are
my mother’s arms
waving to me
“Sheri, you are safe here,
come here my love.”
My strokes in this painting are long and smooth. I dip my brush into the silky cool lemon and marigold yellows and allow my lines to flow in wavy curls and wispy fragments which represent the golden sunshine reaching down to breath God’s love into me. There are hundreds of tiny periwinkle blue minnows swimming up towards the light. They are each portions of me mixing with my mother and blending to form the sunrise pink lips and dandelion yellow and shamrock green fins. I stare at the collection of colors and am warmed by the memory of my mother wrapping me in giggles and warmth of the freshly cleaned clothes which rolled out of her dryer and into the squishy basket as we opened the door. Satisfied, I inhale and reach for my dirty brushes. As I twirl the myriad of colors into the clear water it turns into the image of a greasy train wheel. I slam the brushes to the side and hear the screech of metal against metal and smell the smoke of locking brakes. I am in the basement.

only faith saved me
only faith saved me

1960’s-My brothers tell ghost stories in the deep, dark back of the basement; Like the depths of the ocean where all the sharks live with no light, no food and no air. They charge neighborhood kids a few cents to get in and scare them out of their filthy, wholly blue jeans. One day they persuade me to join them.
Despite their behavior, I desperately wanted them to like me. On some occasions they were kind to me.
I wanted
to be able to
color outside
my lines
to be able
to break down
the harsh black edges
and show them all
my colors
my chocolate filled
Easy Bake oven self
willing to be their friend
if only
they could love me
I wanted to tell them
about my multi-hued
sea grass filled ocean
where all my
rainbow fish friends
swam around
and played games.
It is never like that though. I fall into their endless darkness as easily as a mouse gets caught in the cheese chunked trap.
There are a few neighborhood kids and myself. The story is scary enough but I know it is all lies. The demon finishes the story and everyone starts to leave, myself included.
When I stand up the older one grabs my wrist, starts twisting it with his two hands until it’s red and throbbing. He holds me back saying he wants to show me something. I fall for it. I sit back down and soon it is just the demons and I. I already am fighting back tears from my wrist pounding. They start telling me I am going to be part of their group now if I can keep the secret that they are getting money from the neighbor kids for the stories. I say o.k. We all spit on our hands, shake and the deal is done.
Little did
I know
I was just
Their pawn
In the game
Of games
Who could
Call me
The worst name
Make me
And better yet
Pee my pants
I was their
Sick muse
And I
Did not know
How to
2009-Studio-I quickly picked up my large, round tip bristle brush, dipped it in the bright yellow paint and brushed it vigorously down from the upper left hand corner. I needed air. I needed light. I needed God to hold me again and sing me songs to take away my fear. I brushed the remaining paint across the upper left thigh of my ripped, faded jeans. Streaks and blotches now marked me, the same way new paint lies across bulging veins in the old cracked window pane.
It is a fresh bandage that when ripped off quickly reveals the cavernous, dim scars of yesterday. I am simmering with anxiety, as I drop to my knees and began the mantra of years gone by, “please, please God, make me a fish so I can swim far, far away.”
I open my eyes and the wise old Mr. Hawksbill is smiling at me from across the room where he lives upon the undersized canvas. His huge colorful shell and inviting caramel brown face encompass the small world below and raise me up to the glow of light radiating from the upper left corner of the canvas. My breathing slows as I return to the musty basement underneath the angled closet, beneath the red, wooden steps.


Read More the basement at nautilus teachings

A walk through Bishops Park at nautilus teachings.



I escape to Bishops Park. It is absolutely amazing in summer. There is an upper and a lower lagoon with a forest green, metal bridge separating the two army green bodies of water. I sit and dangle my feet from the bridge catching my reflection each time as I dream of being a fish and swimming so far away.
At the end of the lower lagoon is a waterfall to the underground tunnel. The water starts out in a sleek pouring from flat surface to downward spiral. The colors transform from muddy to translucent white with shadows of turquoise on the outer edges of the cascading currents. They look like a gentle wave crashing along the Atlantic shore of sandy beaches where I will one day live my dream.
The milky fern colored lagoons are surrounded by two apple green hills which are great for sledding on the soft, powder snow in the winter, hitting the sidewalk then skidding onto the frozen body of water. We ice skate here. It is fun to glide across the frosted ice to the center island unreachable in summer.
In the summertime, the hills can be quite steep and if I am not careful, I can slip and fall. There is a huge red barn and wooden pavilion where I climb the steps and run, circling the wraparound porch and peek in the giant reflective windows. Beyond the pavilion and lagoons to the left and across the small street is this little baby bump of a hill.
2008-Studio-My imagination is in overdrive and a smile is plastered upon my face as I begin painting today. Innocence, BFF’s, and water surrounds my memories about to unfold.
1960’s- Built into the hill is three cages that the city paid to house a lion, a bear and a snake. I have to stand behind the big, tar black iron fence to see the animals.
The lion is always asleep. His fur is muted tones of corn husks with some chestnut browns and a little hint of sunshine streaks of gold. It reminds me of the fuzzy sea grasses I draw that tickle the bottom of my fins as I swim by in my dreams. The lion is big and scary-especially his big fudge stained teeth, but at the same time something about the way he gracefully walks in big circles around his cage growling just makes me want to hug him.
The black bear is stinky. His fur shimmers in the sunlight and he looks like someone has smudged reddish brown chalk on his fur in places. He is dark and uninviting like the basement in our home. His nails are super long and yellow with a mix of dirt, just like the basement floor.
The snake is the strangest of them all. His cage has jagged grey barked branches and green tall weeds in the bottom and boxes he uses as a home. You have to wait all day sometime to see his gold toned, smooth body lumber out of wherever he is hiding and stick his long, quick, dark pink tongue at me. I wish I could slither around like him,
Next to these cages to the left is a small creek. It makes a soft, gurgling noise that is peaceful. The water is always cool and when I walk in it I have to keep my shoes on or I may slip on the slime or come out with slugs on me. It is fun to picnic beside and walk down with my friends. There are always little tiny yellow buttercup flowers along the shore bank and brown spotted green frogs. This place reminds me of my mother.
I want to be Fancy Fins
And swim away
With my mother holding my hand
The entire way
I want to dive deep
And meet some new friends
Swimming amongst the kiwi grasses
My mother can tend
For up on the outside
Big flower gardens she sows
Flowers blooming every where
From her hands they grow…
To the right of the cages and across the tiny street is a great big fenced area. The random green grass patches are surrounded by tall golden weeds and cat tails-my imaginary brushes! There are groups of trees, an old bleached out wooden home and deer, elk, moose, horse and assorted wild life. I can walk right up to that fence and stick my tongue through it, hang on it and climb it. The animals never come near the chain link fence. I can imagine myself jumping on the back of the beautiful sand colored deer and riding faster than the nightmares can attach to my dreams.
Bishops park is
My refuge
It’s where I can stay
Smiling wide
There is so much to roam
My dreams catch the wind here
My tiny boat sails
My legs run towards freedom
Here I never fail
I talk to the butterflies
I chase after the geese
I dream I’m a swan
Until I feel the release
I lie on the grass
And I talk to God
Let’s continue our walk
Through Bishops park…
Beyond is the local pool. The pool has two diving boards, a high board and a low board. It’s knee shaking to climb the high board steps and jump down into the turquoise cool water of summer. I plunge in fearless, free and ready to become a mermaid. Under the water are bright colors skirting past me in assorted quick movements. The explosions of color under the water is inviting. I want to wrap my tiny self in each one and feel the coolness each hue brings.
I arrive at the pool by 7am for my water ballet classes. The morning dip is the most fun of the day, as it is like jumping into a bed of soft cotton sheets fresh off the line, dried by the sweet kiss of the summer sun.
Water ballet is my escape. I can hold my breath for long periods of time and swim like a tarpon. I love floating on my back and sticking my feet in the air and pointing my toes to the eggshell blue sky filled with silver puffy clouds.
Here I was clean
Here I felt safe.
It is where I can see the shimmery light blending with all the colors of the world and releasing Mr. Hawksbill and the mermaids. It’s where royal blue triggerfish, and lavender minnows with passion pink fins encircle my whole being, sing songs to me and make me laugh.
I am always free at Bishops Park Pool. My mom lets me run around the whole area free like a bird to spread my golden wings and fly. It is a wonderful place to grow up. It is a place of healing, a place of silence. When I need acceptance or friends, all I need do is jump on the end of one of my tubes of paint and out spurts another protector or companion. The possibilities are endless, just as my imagination is.
2008-Studio-Wanting to stay in the moment-the memory, I close my eyes and begin breathing in the scents of my childhood.
Huddled in the corner with my palette I open my eyes and am encompassed with healing splashes of turquoise. The paint rests upon my fingers, jeans and the small canvas before me. I gaze up towards what I believe to be the heavens and say to God, “I wish, I wish, I wish I was a fish so I could swim far, far away.”
1960‘s-Immediately I can feel the cool comfort of the sparkling clear aquamarine waters of our local pool. I am treading water, keeping my head afloat and concentrating on breathing in the sparkling champagne sun. The whistle blows and I swim towards waters edge. The other little girls swim along side of me. I turn to them and smile. They are my, “fish friends.” Each one of them dressed in a different hue, each one brings happiness to my life.
The whistle blows a second time as I take in a deep breath of air and begin my under the sea journey. My tiny feet act like flippers as they kick and propel me from shallow to deep end. I feel alive. I am a mermaid. My multi colored fish friends are by my side as we all dance in synchronized melodic movements.
I touch the caribbean blue wall with my outstretched hand, flip my feet over my long brown hair and shove off again with my tiny toes. I notice another swimmer beside me, gaining speed. I kick harder until a hand catches my left ankle and pulls me back and down into the deep cobalt blue of the pool. We are spinning in a circular motion so I resist the urge to flee and let my body inhale the warm waters of youth.
My eyes open and I gaze up toward the welcoming rays of Gods light. “I am coming home God,” I think to myself.
I am not afraid to die
I am not afraid to go home
I am tired of being hated
Picked on
And hurt
The water is my friend
And now someone here
Doesn’t like me at all
I’m just being me
In this world
But I am small
Swimming is my air
Being a mermaid
Is my dream
I’ll let my body go
And see where it ends…

i became Fancy Finns
i became Fancy Finns

Spinning, twirling as fast as a merry go round I am dizzy. My small body in it’s navy blue with white polka dot suit is lying upon the scratchy pavement. A mouth is upon mine and I can hear my water ballet coach willing me to breathe. I jump back in to my skin and vomit up water, coughing and gasping for the sweet summer air of giggles, bubblegum and summertime.
A towel is wrapped around me and I am lifted to a lounge chair. I am told to lie still. I can tell my fish friends have been crying by their sniffles and tear streaked cheeks. I am not afraid but at peace. Warm in the towel, I close my eyes and sleep. I have just begun my dream when I smell my mother. I open my eyes to the tanned, soft skin of mom. She is smiling at me through puddles of tears.
“Sheri, what happened? Are you feeling o.k.?”
I nod my head and say, “Mommy, somebody pulled my ankle, so I let go and swam to God.”
“Well, you are safe with me now dear heart, let’s go home.”
My mother carries me to the car and we drive the few blocks home. Blocks I usually skip down and jump over cracks on.
“step on a crack
And you break
Your mother’s back…”
I smile and look ay my mother. I feel hot from the sun and all I want to do is sleep. My mother takes my hand as I tip my head back upon the cherry red leather seat of my mothers “silver bullet” convertible. The wind and sun mix and the feeling of the combination remind me of the soft summer lilac scented breezes which lull me into dreams of color and light.
When I wake my chest feels heavy. Like someone is sitting on it. I roll to my side and place my feet upon the cool floor. My head spins and I feel like I am going to get sick. I lay back down and pull the covers up tight. I am cold and shivering. My mom comes in with the Dr. He looks at me, sticks a thermometer in my mouth and listens to my heartbeat with his silver stethoscope. The Dr. stands up, speaks to my mother and they leave. I pull my life size raggedy Ann and Andy close on either sides for warmth and drift to sleep.
I feel the tugging and pull of a hand as I dream of the day. I don’t know who tried to hurt me, I am just thankful I am still with my mom. I feel a cool compress upon my head and gaze into the liquid brown eyes of my mother.
My mother’s eyes were deep pools of chocolate milk. I could always see myself reflected in them each time I looked at her. Through her eyes I could see the beauty of the world. My mother’s eyes mirrored her colorful wardrobe and at times my fathers ties. There were always days when they were fogged from sadness. When this happened she would cut fresh lavender and cotton white lilacs, inhale their fragrance and I swear it would shoot out her toes and fingers and the world was alive with vibrating hues yet to be discovered.
On this cerulean blue day of my life my mother looked kiwi green. Together I was the water and she was the waving soft tendrils of the hidden seagrasses of my water world. We were a team, my mother and I-she was my great protector and I was her heart. I looked to her for love, guidance and acceptance.
Soft as the ocean
Warm as the sun
My mother
Stood out
Amongst them all
Volunteer For school
Teacher in church
She brought music
Art and laughter
To every life
She touched
She was blind sided
By the predator lurking
In her blood
Yet to the end
She loved.
Riding the waves
On the Fin
Of a dolphin
Her spirit now glides
Across the azure waters
With God
As her guide.

2008-Studio-I let go of the fight that day in the cobalt waters of the public pool during my water ballet testing. I was not afraid of swallowing the peaceful waters which held my wise old Mr. Hawksbill and all my fish friends. To tiny 7 year old me, God was just answering my prayer.
My strokes are pointing straight north, towards the sun. From the bottom I am whisking in pacific blue, cerulean and caribbean which blend in to kiwi, spring and lime green. They are all topped off with citron and lemonade yellow. There is an illusion of depth to light, of suffocation to air. The small 18” x 24” Mermaids of Summer painting is vibrant with soft movement. The cornflower blue and cotton candy pink blooms form musical notes of soft serenades for the three mermaids to water dance to. Their hair is long and floats in wavy stirrings reminiscent of Mr. Hawksbill’s flipper motion. The painting today is a happy release. No tears, only smiles and safety. As I step back I can see my tiny body floating from bottom to top in a freeing compilation of sweet, tender strokes. A door slams behind me and I am sent hurling down the damp dark basement steps, to the depths I have never come across in the ocean blues. The color here is stormy and raven. I grab a brush full off white paint and splatter it upon the canvas. “Stop,” I cry. “Leave me alone, don’t leave me here…”



Read More A walk through Bishops Park at nautilus teachings.

My mother’s hands at nautilus teachings


As a little girl
I held the soft gold
of “God’s hands” in my heart
It was the first color
to be placed upon my palette
and would one day
be a guiding light
towards healing
and growth
Each time
I place brush to canvas.
My mother’s tools were her hands. Whether knitting a striped, long scarf for the winter ahead, sweater for my father or a dress for a neighbor girl who could not afford one for the Christmas dance, my mother’s hands were her gift. Every day my mother would rub the gold praying hands we had sitting in our family room.
Prayer was an implement of survival in our home. My father and mother were as devoted to the church as they were to each other. I loved the sanctuary and the basement where the empty classrooms lay waiting for all our cherub faces to take in the words, glory and love of the Lord.
I look up to Jesus
I smile and I say
“Thank you for being here,
Do you think I can stay?”
I love all the corners
Inside of Your church
And the basements not scary
I know I can search
Every nook and cranny
Of your oh so big HOUSE
And scamper and scurry
around like a mouse
Picking up crumbs
Of scripture shared
Of living in faith
I’ve no need to be scared
Your painting is in front of me
it hangs on the wall
Below you I kneel
And feel very small
But YOU glow inside me
I’m happy to say
That thanks to my parents faith
I now know the right way…
1960’s-Bishops Park is my refuge and a second place to grow my palette of colors and images which I know will one day come to life.
The park is sweet, grass green, mixed with soft powder blues and scented with the aroma of fresh picked linen white daisies. The tiny yellow mop headed wild flowers that pop up in spring tempt me to taste them. Suckling down the nectar like a bee, I taste honey sweet and pure.
Bishops Park is across the street from my pale grey house. The view fills my eyes with a spray of colors. In the morning sunbeams are like soft splashes of fresh squeezed lemons in ice cold lemonade. The white sun light reflects off of the soft, silky, salamander green leaves of the tall, weathered, gray barked oak trees and reminds me of the great white light I floated up too.
In the fall, the reflection off of the burnt umbers, tangerine oranges and mustard yellows form the illusion of tiny rainbows dancing in the soft, northerly winds of winter yet to come.
I am small
I am 6
How can you say
It was my idea?
How would I know?
How can you blame me?
I am so small
Why are you doing this
“I’m going to tell…”
I scream loud and long
I cry and I plead
Mom and dad are not home
He is picking up speed


I escape to Bishops Park. It is absolutely amazing in summer. There is an upper and a lower lagoon with a forest green, metal bridge separating the two army green bodies of water. I sit and dangle my feet from the bridge catching my reflection each time as I dream of being a fish and swimming so far away.
At the end of the lower lagoon is a waterfall to the underground tunnel. The water starts out in a sleek pouring from flat surface to downward spiral. The colors transform from muddy to translucent white with shadows of turquoise on the outer edges of the cascading currents. They look like a gentle wave crashing along the Atlantic shore of sandy beaches where I will one day live my dream.
The milky fern colored lagoons are surrounded by two apple green hills which are great for sledding on the soft, powder snow in the winter, hitting the sidewalk then skidding onto the frozen body of water. We ice skate here. It is fun to glide across the frosted ice to the center island unreachable in summer.
In the summertime, the hills can be quite steep and if I am not careful, I can slip and fall. There is a huge red barn and wooden pavilion where I climb the steps and run, circling the wraparound porch and peek in the giant reflective windows. Beyond the pavilion and lagoons to the left and across the small street is this little baby bump of a hill.
2008-Studio-My imagination is in overdrive and a smile is plastered upon my face as I begin painting today. Innocence, BFF’s, and water surrounds my memories about to unfold.

Read More My mother’s hands at nautilus teachings

choosing life in death at nautilus teachings


1960’s-My tongue feels like it is choking me. It feels as if I have crammed creamy peanut butter on soft white bread in my mouth and it is stuck-immovable. I cannot breathe and I am crying. I want someone to breathe life into me, to give me a cold glass of milk.
My dad is not here; he is off in one of the boring business suites working. I think about my dad and I can hear my mom. The firemen from just down the hill are looking down at me. I see their blurry yellow brown coats with red hats reflecting the sun coming through the window.
I am in
the lavender room
on a long,
skinny stretcher
The fireman is fuzzy
I see his brown eyes
He is framed
in the black shadow
of the day
Colors are becoming muted
and I can hear nothing
accept my mother crying
I can see blinding light
in fluorescent hues
and am floating
above my body
I am looking down
at everyone
I do not have wings
I just have a feeling
of being above them
I can see
my tiny body
lying there
My mother is crying
and I can see
her big dark chocolate eyes
dripping puddles
of midnight black streaks
down her cheeks
Her lipstick is smudged
and one fireman
is keeping her out of the room
by standing in the doorway
She has on her turquoise and black top
and her turquoise skirt
Her hair is short and brown
She has on black closed toes shoes
I can read her lips,
“Sheri, Sheri…”
there are two other firemen
over my body
I can see one listening
to my heart
with a stethoscope
I can see another
doing something to my mouth
but I cannot make it out
I still cannot breathe
I am being pulled toward warmth
toward the bright sunlight
I feel calm
I feel safe
I can see another body floating, too
This body is old
and emanates the color
of molding sea grass
I am not afraid
It is a woman
The body has on a long
white flannel nightgown
The hair is gray, long
and looks like dried grass
Her eyes are closed
I know is it is stronger than me
and unafraid
Is this me years from now?
Is God telling me
not to fear
for I will live a long, healthy life?
The peaceful welcoming colors
are muted pinks
yellows and blue
it is a place I want to stay
It is the love of my mother
the warmth of the sun
and safety of the ocean
Above my young and old body I
sense another power
I don’t know what it is
because I cannot see it
but I can feel it
I can feel its strength
I feel a set of large hands
floating over both of our bodies
My mind flickers
like the lens of a camera
back to our family room bookcase
Upon the top shelf
is a set of gold painted praying hands
They are Jesus’ hands
and are a thank you gift
to my mother from the church
These are the hands
I rub each day with mine
I place my tiny pale pink fingers
atop the great hands and pray
These hands are similar in size
but the color is a honey brown
and appears to crisscross
like they are transferring life
from one to another
All I know is I am safe and warm
Bright sea blues
grass greens
lemon yellows
and myriads of translucent
sharp glass edges
come hurling back at me
I can hear mumbling and laughter
I leave the security and warmth
of up above
and I feel my “self”
being squeezed
and dissected
into tiny pieces of color
each one encapsulated
in the familiar black edging of my life
I begin to hear my mother’s sweet voice again
My brown eyes are open
My mother is beside me
She is a messy
beautiful watercolor
and my dull, dreary father
Now here, is crying
and full of prisms and white, blinding light
I can now see his yellow shirt
and his polka dot tie
I can see the thread
of blue and green
running through his muddy jacket
All these happy faces
all of these tears
and the best part is
I am still in the lavender room
with polka dot wallpaper
I am sobbing
They put a mask on my face
and I fall asleep
and dream
of skipping through the long
tickly grass
I pretend I am Thumbelina
and I am walking
amongst the bells
of the Lily of the Valley flowers
The bells are chiming beautiful music
The music soothes me
I am safe and warm
I am home
and my mother and father are here
They love me
This I know
This I feel
through my sleepy daze
of contentment.

i still miss you mom
i still miss you mom
Read More choosing life in death at nautilus teachings

survivor in my heart at nautilus teachings


mothers suitcase
mothers suitcase

1960‘s-In the closet, small cracks in the steps allow little tiny rays of light to creep through.There is a light bulb in the highest part of the closet. I turn on the glowing guide with a long, ashen string. It never lights up much of the small, cornered closet, under the red wooden steps. The closet is full of warmth in the winter. I always turn the light on and pretend it is the sun shining through a fault in the cave walls allowing in fresh air and new wondrous colors.
In the back of this closet are wooden shelves for my mom’s monochromatic high heeled shoes. I love going in the back amongst her clothes to try them on. I can spend hours in there. It is safe. IT IS MY WORLD.
Her shoes remind me of caps on markers. When she has them on, all her colors have to spring from her brown hair and long fingers. When she takes them off, her colors emit from her toes and give out rays of sunshine to keep her warm in her little bed with the thin blanket, in the front of the house, across the street from Bishops Park.
The colors
I see in my head
are extensions
of my mother
I paint with them
on my canvases
that I am all
grown up
It’s like placing
scattered puzzle pieces
of her
like sharing
her goodness
and warmth
with the world.
2007-Studio-I feel my mothers hands saving me, holding me, combing my hair, holding my hand. I place a face one can barely see more than the eyes peering from behind glasses she wore as she aged. I want the hands to be the focus. For people to know what a gift touch is. I remember my mothers hands holding me when the news of her own mother’s death came from stomach cancer. I think about her hands holding my father some 5 years later when his brother succumbed to colon cancer. My mother’s hands were powerful and my colors must send this message.
I did take my black and white teddy bear who still sits in my room to this day, on a chair beside my bed protecting me. I pretend I am the ruler of my own world. I sing to my “babies”; I cry sometimes. Mostly this is a good place because it is mine. My brothers are forbidden in my mom’s and dad’s closet.
In the closet
I wanted to stay
I did not need friends
to play
I wanted to look up
Straight into God’s light
And listen to HIS stories
So I could feel right
I always felt dirty
I always felt scared
And when I was alone
I was never prepared
To be tortured by brothers
Who should love me back
On the sofa bed
They began their attack…
When I was 7, I got to move upstairs to one of the bedrooms because my oldest brother left for college. The wooden, cornered closet under the cracked, red stairs really becomes my safe haven because now the demons sleep next door to me. In order for me to get to the cornered closet I have to run fast down the red wooden steps.
Way up high I get to sleep
In a super big room
Where you can’t hear a peep
My door has no lock
I sleep next to the wall
Knowing if my brothers enter
That I can fall
Between blankets and babies
Straight to the floor
Hiding under my bed
Til they walk out the door
Only they outsmart me
And begin to pull
My hands and feet
Until I feel sore
And cry into the night
Til my mother
Runs through the door…
The cornered closet is my ocean. I am the mermaid. It is where I drop to my knees and pray to God, “Please, please let me turn into a fish so I can swim far, far away…” I tell God everything about my brothers who torture me. How I have to paint black lines around all my colors so they can not wash them away or smear their muted brown and black ugliness into them.
One day when I was 5
he did just that
For a split second I was allowed
to fly up into the bright whites
silvers and pale yellows
and meet God
He wraps me
in his protective love
and sends me back
I am in the lavender room
at the time the cracked incident occurred
When my soul splits in half
like a fault in the earth
and I am torn in two
right outside the small angled closet
I am singing “Jesus loves me…”
at the time
and just as my tiny, pink hand
reaches for the crystal clear knob
before I can make it to my safe haven
of extraordinary color
and calming smells,
the lavender door swings open
and my brothers
are standing there
in their striped shirts
and plaid shorts
with worn out sneakers
my world goes black and all my colors
shoot up to heaven
while the frail paleness
of what is me
lie on the ground
like broken colored glass.
2007-Studio-I step back and gaze at the beauty before me. Flower in hand I feel my mothers softness, strength and can smell her fragrant blossoms once blooming in her garden. Almost finished, I place my hand upon “her hands” which hold the small bouquet of eggshell blue wild flowers. I am placed in memory upon memory of holding her hand as a child, during her sickness and for the last time in death. I grab her eyeshadow blue of my youth and begin in script a word I could only dream would represent her in the stem. While I paint this I think of my friends, cousin and every other woman who has touched my life and is a true – “Survivor.”

Read More survivor in my heart at nautilus teachings

my mother my life at nautilus teachings

my story in words
my story in words

1960‘s-On the side of the grey, wooden, two story house there are beautiful lilac bushes with lavender and white flowers that dance in the wind. The blooms in the spring time cast off an intoxicating fragrance which float in through the windows of the house and circle the round baby blue living room and run back across the bed where I lay sleeping with my Raggedy Ann and Andy who are always tucked very close to me.
There is a long white dresser with a big mirror. It has little glass flowers on the corners of the mirror. My mom uses this mirror every day to look into while she gets dressed or puts on her makeup.
The drawers are filled with every color imaginable. The heavy drawers are like my black lines which hold the colors safely until released upon my mother’s soft, warm body.
I love watching her dress and am always on my bed behind her smiling while she does her getting ready for the day tasks. Her daily dressings are like standing above the waterfall at Bishops Park across the street. Her movement is fast and color splashes everywhere as she quickly steps into the closest piece of clothing in the drawer. There is no thinking about outfits, just grab and go like splattering paint across a gorgeous white sparkling canvas.
White canvases
are like white walls
one of the greatest
for an Artist
The starkness
of the cold white
“paint me.”
My mothers body
is like pieces of my life
Her hair soft and scented
Like the lilacs
Her voice sweet and melodic
Like the lilly of the valley bells
She wears lavender and valentine pink,
turquoise and kiwi
is a masterpiece
Before her time.
Her Saturday dressings are much more meticulous and slow. They resemble a lazy river lined with yellow daffodils and golden sunflowers, fragrant and bobbing in the cool, minty breeze. She rubs on silky lotion and lavender lilac scented perfume.
On her short, firm legs she wears translucent black stockings with a silken garter belt and beautiful panties. She wears her best glistening jewelry (from Avon no doubt!) and paints her eyes with soft, long strokes of eggshell blue.
This blue
with her painted
jet black lashes
reminds me
of the baby
Robin’s eggs
we find cracked
on the driveway
from the wooly russet
colored squirrels.
My mom is quiet on Saturdays after her pink bubble bath while she leisurely prepares for her date with my dad. She appears lost in a dream and so very happy. She is the kind of happy I feel after climbing out of the chilly summer waters of the liquid turquoise blue pool and sizzling my shivering body on the smoking, hot cement to chase away the goose bumps.
Their Saturday dates skip like a scratched record across my mind. My dad is her knight in shining armor and she is the damsel in distress he is rescuing from the demons who are growing up the red wooden stairs.

mom and me 1976
mom and me 1976

Over and over
It plays in my head
Skipping all around
Their living room bed
Sleeping silently
Awaiting their return
I am alone
I do not hear
The creeping feet
Or the giggles exchanged
I hear only
my heart beat
Over and over
It plays in my head
Skipping all around
The living room bed
I am alone
My parents are not home…
My parents’ bed is the sofa. The sofa is in the front room of our house and overlooks Bishops Park. Their dresser and closet are in my room. This is my salvation and allows my palette to unfold in mysterious and brilliant colors and characters which become my healing world. Their love for me is the brown, bristled brush I hold in my tiny hands. Their clothes are my palette and my mother’s smile my canvas.
2007-Studio-My mother was a survivor. She was so many dreams, colors and talents rolled into one. Differing from other women in unique ways besides her physical being, my mother was first and foremost a woman and shared a bond with so many throughout her life. People looked up to her, they asked her for advice, they would knock on our door and say, “Vivi, got time for a cup of coffee?” My mother never turned people away. She gave all and everything she had to all who needed.

Read More my mother my life at nautilus teachings

grace emerges from within at nautilus teachings



trust your faith
trust your faith

2007-Studio-The closet under the red painted steps becomes my under the sea world. Fancy Fins , the 3’x 4’ painting hangs above my gold and tan covered futon in the sky blue corner of my studio. It represents the joyous feeling of freedom and protection I feel when in my wooden, triangle haven closet. It’s where the lime green and sunflower yellow sea grasses wave a friendly hello. Where tiny, linen white fish with baby pink lips and cobalt blue fins swim to greet me and wrap me in a clear, protective shell of approval. The wise old Hawksbill has transformed himself into a royal purple and rosy pink reef fish with large scalloped angel wings of transparent, liquid, magnificent purple.
In my world
under the red
wooden steps
there is no need
for the hard shell
of protection
Under the steps
Mr. Hawksbill can play
and just be
a soft green
hatchling again.
1960’s-I love my mother’s imperial purple and emerald closet.
I suppose it is also my father’s as it is the only closet in the whole down stairs. His musty browns and rainy day grays are merely silky reflecting ponds for the vibrant colors of my mother.
The angled, cedar smelling closet is under the red wooden steps. The inside of the door is dark brown and on it hang my father’s ties. His ties remind me of Picasso paintings all jumbled up and angled. The myriad of colorful ties gives way to an endless sketch book of whimsical and lively reef fish. The color filled closet is in the lavender room with the lavender and pink polka dot wallpaper. This room holds my white wooden twin bed with a white ruffled comforter. Upon the bed sit my three foot tall raggedy Ann and Andy.
“Come in my closet and play,” I whisper to my life sized dolls. “It’s safe in here, I promise.”
Raggedy Ann and Andy stare back at me with the midnight eyes. I hear them murmur to each other then I hear, “Sheri, be careful, look out.”
The door flies open and my toe headed brothers are standing there with a big grins upon their faces. I look to my dolls and their bodies have fallen in towards each other.
“The magic is gone, “ I think to myself. I look at my brothers and one picks his nose and flicks it across the room toward me. They look at each other and laugh.
Your smiles
Are full of hatred
Your actions
full of pain
When no one sees you hurt me
How can I complain?
I take it and I cry
Within my cornered wall
Knowing evil haunts you
And soon will be
Your time to fall.
Into shadowed corners
Or waters midnight blue
Reaching up for me to save you
I’ll know not what to do
For the hatred that I feel for you
Burns within my heart
I want to live away from you
I want a brand new start.
But I cannot leave my mother
Your anger kills her more each day
I wonder when she’s praying
Does she ask God to
Take you away?
I know she’d never wish that
But deep down I think it’s true
My mother she may love you
But liking you is hard to do.

Read More grace emerges from within at nautilus teachings