SuPerGirL Orlanda’s Vision for Good Samaritan Actions Takes Flight…

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Spring 2016 Newsletter Final

“You know, it’s funny looking back. I‘ve been blessed with many awesome peer supporters. They “held the Hope” for me when I wasn’t able to do that for myself. I’ve also found my nephews to be great distractions and supporters! No matter how bad my day may be I know they’ll cheer me up. Kids are great for getting you out of your head and helping you to live in the moment.”

~ SuPerGirL, ORLANDA opens up about opportunities and challenges

People say a person’s attitude towards animals can be a strong indicator of their nature. They also say animals can bring out the best or worst in people. They bring out the best in Orlanda, but it works both ways; SuPerGirL also brings out the best in them! “Animals make me feel happier,” the optimistic, prospective Arizona Animal Welfare League, ASPCA volunteer and future Psychology student exclaims! It’s all very clear. Possessing an iron-will yet outwardly affectionate and comfortable in her own skin, she has a bigger cause. In the center of her world, there is no one worse than the other, be it animal, person or thing. Orlanda’s moral strength, loyalty and an intuitive vision make her a natural leader of any pack.

Too often we underestimate the power of a kind touch, inspiring word, a smile, a listening ear or even the smallest compliment, all of which have the potential to turn a life around. Not SuPerGirL. Young. Full of determination. Her face, sweet as honey. Smart. She could land on the moon, easy. Once the humanitarian’s set in motion, SuPerGirL Orlanda’s vision for truth takes flight!

What’s your favorite part about your childhood?

…playing with my brothers and friends. Silly string fights. Basketball. Mountain biking. Water gun fights. Playing sports; we did it all! I HAD FUN.

What was your dream growing up?

My dream growing up was to become a lawyer so I could take care of my parents as they grew older.

How old were you when life’s real challenges (difficulties) tested you? May I ask what they were?

My Dad died when I was barely 18 and since the time I was a teenager I’ve been dealing with depression. I’ve also had some traumatic things happen to me as a child.

How did you address them back then?

I didn’t really start addressing my depression until I was 24. I tried therapy but wasn’t able to get a therapist that I worked well with until 2014.

Because you overcame those obstacles, what is your message to others today? Enjoy life! Appreciate the little things. Reach out for help when you need it. There are people who have similar experiences out there. You just have to find them. Peer support is crucial.

Since then, how have you emotionally and intellectually grown over the years? Emotionally, I’ve learned how to sit with my emotions and just feel them without judging myself. Intellectually, I’m a lot smarter than I used to be. I think that comes with age and experience.

How do you best cope with life’s  challenges now?

The hardest thing for me is to ask for help when I need it. I’ve slowly learned that there are a lot of fantastic people out there that genuinely want to help; you just have to accept their help. Also, I use my support system to talk to peers who usually give me some great advice.

What role did spirituality play over the years?

Spirituality has helped to calm me and to remind me of the positives in my life. I find my spirituality out among nature, in self-help books and from my amazing support system …even at RI International.

What’s your favorite part about having experienced RI International? I’ve made some great friends here and the staff is awesome. They have helped me get through some rough times!

What SUPERPOWERS do YOU possess or would like to possess and why?

I’d like to be able to fly. I think that would be pretty cool.

You are a living Legend. What Superhero do you want to be known as and why? SuperGirl! She kicks butt while dealing with regular girl challenges.

Dear SUPERGirL, what’s the best way to combat evil villains and save the world today? Use the Truth to expose those crafty villains and kick some butt while you’re at it!

What’s your favorite song of all time? “Fight Song” by Rachel Platten.

What are you grateful for today? I’m grateful for my recovery, my friends and family and all my peers whom I appreciate more than I can say.

The World is YOURS. What is your ultimate dream? I want to open up a place like RI for people like me. It’s been very helpful and the staff is wonderful. Ultimately, I’d like to help people as a psychologist. 



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At the height of her excitement, before she takes the stage, three feelings come to her. “Blessed, Grateful, Humbled,” and then there is Beautiful.

“ …But I also experienced incredible self- beauty from my diagnosis. It’s incredible when you get to a place when you deal with tragedy in your life… you recognize you’re resilient. There’s a sense of power that comes from that. I wanted to intentionally reach out to the world how it felt… As the girl who was bipolar, not everyday is beautiful. It hasn’t been peaches and cream, butterflies and rainbows, ever since, but I would never have the opportunities with the lessons I have in my life today had I not gone through those experiences. My life is enriched because of that! …I feel really blessed to stand here and wear my mental illness as a badge of pride and strength and no longer feel it’s going to limit my capabilities in life.”

~ Erin Callinan, author of Beautifully Bipolar

On a cool Monday evening, the 11th of April, 2016, Arizona State University Downtown along with M.I.K.I.D, the Mentally Ill Kids in Distress organization, and the Mental Health Awareness Coalition hosted a panel discussion and book signing of author and mental health advocate, Erin Callinan.

“ …So now I have to live with this title forever, like it’s some kind of… dog tag hanging around my neck. Is everything going to be ‘because she’s bipolar?”’

~ An excerpt from Callinan’s book, talking about her most horrifying and humiliating experiences of her life

Callinan sees right through the audience. Through her personal story, she lets the majority in the crowd be heard. The Irish, fiery green eyed Belle with wavy, golden blond hair is the crowd’s favorite. Naturally, a storyteller at heart and a genuinely authentic and colorful writer, she is a walking, talking self-help guidebook for supporting you, especially if you still carry a “dog tag” around your neck.

“My favorite part about writing Beautifully Bipolar is the freedom it brought, and the validation from others that speaking out can free others from societal changes that stigma places on us,” Callinan says.

Callinan is nostalgic: “I grew up surrounded by love and pine trees. Flagstaff allowed me

the freedom to play outside, skin my knees and sell popsicles at the end of my driveway. My family was very active and spent a great deal of time at Lake Powell, Locket Meadow and the Snowbowl. My favorite part of growing up was having parents that were a constant reminder that having fun was a major part of life.”

Callinan says, “I’ve wanted to be an elementary teacher as long as I can remember. My parents use to catch me as a little girl, standing on my bed in my pajamas, holding a book in the air and reading to ‘the class.’ I played school with friends and allowed no one the role of teacher but me… pretty demanding! I have always loved working with children and have been inspired by their imagination and creativity. It’s too bad that so many of us lose those qualities as we grow up and immerse ourselves in the world of what we view as important. Fortunately, I’ve been able to hang on to my creativity, which has led me through some incredible experiences. In 2007, I graduated from the University of Arizona with my Bachelors in Elementary Education. Funny enough, I no longer wanted to be a teacher. I found this out during my senior year of student teaching, which felt limiting. The rules and guidelines of the classroom, standards and restrictions limited my ability to be creative. I believe it also limits the growth and potential of students.”

Callinan is also more then her diagnosis: “I AM NOT MY DISORDER. I REFUSE to let it define me, WHO I am or WHAT I am capable of doing.”

“I feel like I’ve met one of my soul sisters tonight!” exclaims Lisa Keogh, founder of LiTtLe MeDiTatOrS and She shares, “I’m bipolar also. My story’s similar. It was really scary cause it makes me think of my first episode. The best way to be resilient to change is to be empathetic and to validate others: make it ok to talk about how you’re feeling. People need to learn to talk about the problem to socially change it.”

Callinan speaks on resiliency and her own growth over the years: “I have grown tremendously by placing myself (both intentionally and unintentionally) in situations that are challenging, scary, unfamiliar and isolating. You never truly know your own emotional strength until it is tested. Even when you think you’ve got a grasp on resiliency and ability to ‘handle it,’ you are tested once again. This process of testing and re-testing has been a beautiful reminder that challenges are always waiting ahead; however I’m able to look at my past and see that my track record has gotten me through each and every one of them.”


“By the show of hands how many people in this room either suffer from some type of mental illness …a family member, your neighbor… your friend? …That ’s amazing!! Here’s the thing. About 15-20 yrs ago, nobody would raise their hand. What that means is progress is being made today,” Mike, Callinan’s Dad cheers out loud.

On educating and empowering family in return, prolific artist Sandy Toman, speaks out: “My family member doesn’t quite understand that mental illness is not the same now. We have treatment. People come forward. He’s not sure. He says…‘shake a leg, get up, exercise: you’ll be fine. Don’t use it as a crutch.’ He doesn’t understand. That’s why I’m here.’ Instead of me talking about it and him taking me to get my meds, I want him to hear and see from a different perspective.”

Another wise audience member, Carrie Carson observes, “I have a son who is bipolar. Parents PLEASE listen to your children and hear what they say in sincerity: not to slough it off, ‘Oh this is just a phase that Johnny’s going through.’ They need help and guidance.”

Callinan’s Mother, Pril, steps onto the stage. She turns personal: “After we took our child to 4 different doctors and they say that she’s fine, we left. I have to tell you the next time we saw her… which always makes me cry, was behind a portal at a psychiatric unit… She was sitting in a chair with other kids: frizzy hair, a floppy shirt, a pair of shorts, hospital socks, with DEAD EYES: no recollection of who we were. So that is our initiation into the behavioral world. At that point in time our biggest quest was what do we do and how do we fix her.”

Callinan responds, “My family. They are honestly the most beautiful people I know. Their love is relentless, carries no boundaries and is given openly without question. Helping, protecting, and loving their ‘me’ is a gift that comes natural to them, knowing no other way to be in this world. I remember doing a speaking event with my mom and dad and an audience member came up to them afterward. They looked at my parents with loss in their eyes and asked them, ‘How could you support Erin through all of her struggle?’ They responded with ‘How could we not? It wasn’t a choice. Giving up was never an option.”’

Speaker, author, publishing consultant, and Callinan’s friend, Patricia Brooks shares, “I was intrigued. I knew Erin first as a human being. I didn’t think anything differently about her.”

Brooks continues, “I currently know about a situation where the parents are in so much denial. Their son keeps threatening to commit suicide and another family member is trying to help him. Its just classic. Erin’s really fortunate that she had her parents behind her! I think that’s rare. That’s impressive. Although, it doesn’t mean that she didn’t struggle and have really dark times.”

Janice, a successful Behavioral Health Mentor, admits, “ The clients’ parents say, ‘You don’t talk about this. That’s in the past and let’s leave it right there.’ We tried educating families but majority of them keep it hidden. For example, with our Hispanic and Latin culture, it’s very, very hard for them to agree to seek help. It’s pushed aside waiting to see if it gets better. I myself know. I went through that for a long time.”

I ask Janice what she did to turn her bipolar challenges around: “I researched it wanting to know more about it. I sought out help on my own. I also applied the skills I was taught for daily living. It’s so worth it.”

I further ask Janice if she’d shared her diagnosis with anyone: “When that was all going on, my parents said we weren’t suppose to tell anyone. Nowadays, I’m a little more open about it but it’s a long process. To stop the stigma, we ought to get educated, seek out help and get to know people that deal with this challenge.”

Despite family and friend’s support, Callinan still had her challenges also: “It was challenging when people around me providing support went back to their normal routine. I had to remember how to be alone and not be afraid. I had to invest what little energy I had to reach out when I needed, because I was no longer surrounded by people that had held me up. This was a difficult, but incredibly important time of growth.”


When I ask Callinan on how she best copes with life’s challenges now, she responds, “Support, sleep, and self-care. My needs are no different than anyone experiencing a difficult or challenging time in life. I just have to remain in tune with my body, and be intentional about how I handle situations, knowing that I may be more vulnerable in my responses than others.”

Laurie, another audience member nods her head, “Yes, I can really relate to the parts about the highs and lows. It sounds a lot like me!”

“I could pick Erin’s brain forever. We are more creative, more intelligent. The highs and lows is where creativity is born,” Keogh remarks.

Majority of the public tells me mental illness is a demeaning, embarrassing and an ill-suited title, perhaps, for what reason, other than its disability status. It doesn’t nearly suffice for the Genius the mentally challenged tend to exhibit, more and more empirical medical studies by Nicholas Pediaditakis, MD, of Psychiatric Times and others are revealing. Kay Redfield Jamison, a clinical psychologist and Professor of Psychiatry at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, bravely writes about her own bipolar challenges in her memoir, An Unquiet Mind. Also, in an autobiography, Manicdotes: There’s Madness in His Method, Chris Joseph writes about his struggle between the creative energy that gave birth to his multimillion-dollar advertising agency, Hook Advertising, and the overspending climax that came with his bipolar challenges.

Once made aware and educated, it’s comforting to remember, bipolar challenges are manageable with proper medication, counseling, family and friend’s support and often including a faith in God, as largely illustrated by Callinan.

Although, there was a time when Callinan lost all faith, even in God: “I completely lost all faith and belief in God. While being raised in a Christian household, I knew that the God I had grown to believe in would never put me through such horrific circumstances. I felt as though He never heard prayers, or turned His back on me when He did. I no longer believed that God existed. This lasted for several years, and I spent a significant amount of time reading about God, death and the afterlife. Specifically after my friend took her own life. After some time my faith was restored and I recognized that my pain would in fact be used to help others. I just didn’t realize it would be on God’s watch, and not my own.”

Finally I ask if there is another book in the works for Callinan and her Beautifully Bipolar Life: “I am in the process of writing my second book, however I don’t intend to publish it for the next few years. This book captures my life in the ‘now’ and includes experiences and stories from my family and friends as they describe the journey my illness took them on. As for now, I’m loving the ride I’m on while sharing my first book and don’t plan to hop off anytime soon!”

Owning her “Beautifully Bipolar” challenges, Callinan is not only an unshakeable force and vocal supporter but a MOVEMENT in which those who are “Beautifully Bipolar” like her, sooner or later, have no choice but to join! This is good news! Throughout the world the “Blessed, Grateful, Humbled and Proud,” are fastly cropping up, unlike sluggish zombies, EVERYWHERE on the planet! At last, described as Beautiful, they have Themselves to celebrate. Their tendency to being extraordinarily creative and intelligent, even described as Genius, puts them on a high pedestal. And a laborious mission. However, being societally validated and esteemed takes time and progress. Just like any social movement.

Another “empirically” creative Genius, at 32 years of age, Callinan is an Inspiration and a Voice for those that go unheard! On paper and in real life, she is a charismatic magnet for social change in our way of thinking about mental illness and its future progress.

Published by RIInternational, 2016

RI International, a of Recovery Innovations, Inc., 2701 North 16th St. #316, Phoenix AZ 85006 Phone: (602) 650-1212 | Fax: (602) 650-1616

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ACCEPTANCE is a Victory: Dermatomyositis and Charcot Tooth Syndrome

SuPerWoman Thea Farmer EmPOWERS

ACCEPTANCE is a Victory: Dermatomyositis and Charcot Tooth Syndrome“…when we talk about physical disability we focus on overcoming of obstacles which is awesome and great but there’s victory in acceptance as well.”

When Thea Farmer was diagnosed with Dermatomyocitis and Charcot Tooth Syndrome, she turned her life around by being “gentle” with her body yet living her life to the fullest. As a mother, Recovery Innovation of Arizona teacher, and role model, she is a symbol for empowerment. I recently caught up with her for a lively chat about her life challenges.

What is dermatomyocitis ? “Dermatomyocitis is an autoimmune disease that affects girls

between the age of eight and eleven and they have no idea what causes it. Its an autoimmune disease that attacks your muscle tissue so you’re perfectly healthy one day and then a week later you can’t raise your arms above your head.”

What is Charcot Marie Tooth syndrome? “Charcot Marie Tooth syndrome is basically a form of muscular dystrophy. Imagine your nerves as an electrical cord that sends electricity. What’s wrong with my nerves is that they don’t have that plastic coating on an electrical cord that enables the electricity to go through them so signals get messed up. They get misinterpreted, they get sent to wrong places and that eventually affects your muscles and then your skeletal system cause you’re compensating.”

Is there a cure? If not what is best way to treat them ? “For Dermatomyocytis there isn’t a cure. The best treatment that they still have is high doses of prednisone. For people that have familiarity with prednisone, it’s almost one of those things…what’s worse the treatment or the disease? In my case prednisone saved my life but it’s a rough drug to take especially starting from age eight going into puberty. And Charcot Marie Tooth, there’s no sort of cure. The best that you can do is stick with the active program; try to keep active as long as you can is the advice from doctors. Use it or lose it! CMT never goes away. Its a progressive illness, so kinda flow with it .”

What or whom empowered you when you first discovered you had it? “ It was empowering in the first place to get a diagnosis. The Dermatomyocytis and Charcot Tooth was diagnosed for me on the same day. Basically what happened is I was in a show. My first community production play of ‘Annie.’ I played Molly. if you’ve ever seen the movie she’s the whiny one. I began rehearsals and I could do everything just fine… dance moves, blocking just fine and by the time we were two weeks away from opening the show I couldn’t do any of the choreography any more. I went to my pediatrician. He told my parents,‘Her blood test came back and she either has leukemia or this really rare disease called Dermatomyocytis. So, get geared up for fighting leukemia .’ I went to see a specialist.. a neurologist at Phoenix Children’s .He asked, ‘How long has she been diagnosed with Charcot Tooth Syndrome?‘it was a relief to have the diagnosis Charcot Marie Tooth because I have always been clumsy .It’s hard not to internalize that when you’re a kid. Kids aren’t stupid. They can see when they’re different.

Did you or your family ever feel disempowered? To some extent, my parents were disempowered because number one they were in the whirlwind of stuff because my brother … (I was diagnosed in November 1988) later that summer was in a car accident. He had a head injury that gave him postraumatic seizures. My parents were trying to do what was best for their kids. It was a difficult time. Also, not going to school. I wish I had more options. A lot of the options in the school system were either you’re dying and we’re going to send teachers if you want them or you’re going to live and you need to come back to class. There wasn’t a lot of in between and that’s what I needed.”

Tell us about your darkest hour with Charcot Tooth Syndrome and what did you learn from that ? “It was when I was in my second year in college. I just started to get my feet under me in terms of who i was, what I wanted to do, and the Charcot syndrome started to progress which is not unusual at that age. There are plateaus and there can be progression when things can get worse. I hadn’t realized how healthy I had truly been until things started getting worse pretty quick.That was the darkest hour because it was so out of my control. I felt it was bad timing. I got mad at God. I found my niche at school.’ How dare you start to change the rules?’ I became pissed off at my body when I was eight years old and I snowballed from there. That was the war; who’s gong to win body or mind? I learned to give myself grace. That lesson was really slow to come by.”

Define your grace? “I learned to not view it as a moral failing if i was tired. I hit a wall where it was just physically impossible to fight through it. When my body needed rest, it needed rest. Chronic pain was next. There was no solution and that’s when the self medicating started too. This played into my other struggles …because there was no answers and I didn’t have the tools to fight to get answers. I didn’t consider myself at that time very good at many things so I discovered I could drink really well.I also discovered it would help me sleep. It numbed the pain or it would make me perceive it numbed the pain..and so that became a haven. Say I’m tired, in pain; I know later that I could drink so it became a tool. It worked until it didn’t work.

Having experienced all that,would you do it all over again? Why or why not ? “There’s a saying in a program that I remember, …’that we will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it.’ Certain things I regret, actually doing hurts my heart, soul, that I potentially put someone through hurts but I wouldn’t be where I am today if I didn’t have those experiences… to live through what I needed to live through.”

You are a symbol of empowerment. What would you say to others who suffer from a physical challenge? “There are a couple things i would say. Make peace with your body is the first one. Love it even when it betrays you. By betray I mean it doesn’t possibly allow you to do everything your brain wants you to do. I think a lot of the times when we talk about physical disability we focus on overcoming of obstacles which is awesome and great but there’s victory in acceptance as well. I don’t want to necessarily inspire people by running a 5 k. Number one it would be bad for my body. It would cause damage to my body.I wish sometimes we would focus on overcoming challenges by accepting balance but not giving up.. not being a doormat. Acceptance was really hard for me. I felt like I lost the battle if I had accepted I had limitations. Now I accept I have limitations but I’m not going to stop pushing my own limitations.I guess I’m more gentle with myself.”

What did you want to be when you were a little girl ? “First I wanted to be a ballerina.Then i wanted to be a veterinarian. At age 10 I gave up on that but then, as I got a little older, a little wiser, I realized all I wanted to do is help people!… because I had observed enough of life that that is one of the only things that’s worth doing. Helping people matters.”

The world is yours. What is your dream? “My dream is to do what I’m doing. I always wanted to have my foot in theatre and my goal was to help people assist people in some way… make my life count. I’m doing that right now and it’s amazing. It’s more than I could have ever hoped for. It took me a few months before I started realizing that I have achieved it.”

Share with us what you’re doing right now. “Right now I work at a place called Recovery Innovations and I work in the Recovery Education Center. It’s a place for anyone who wants recovery from anything to come and find options… explore options, sign up for help… just live their life to their fullest of wherever they want to go, however they want to get there. Right now I’m teaching classes; one of which was developed by me ..a teaching certificate to enable people to do the same thing …to go on and use their life experiences to assist other people… to teach other people …it’s pretty darn amazing… pretty darn amazing.”

What are you grateful for today ? “I am grateful for being alive. There have been points in my life where I was not grateful for that …other options seemed a lot better. I’m grateful that my steps have led me where I am; having a supportive family and having a four-year old son who is flippen amazing and being able to pass on lessons that I’ve learned to him and just being alive! Also having the options to live my life to the fullest extent that I can and it seems so cliche but about a year ago I had made peace and resigned myself to a few things …I gave myself one more push and challenged myself to put on my big girl pants and go to another neurologist and say, ‘Do you have any other options? Look I know you probably don’t but is there any other options for how I’m feeling and what I’m doing ?’ Low and behold, there were options that hadn’t been there before! It showed me that I still have that drive to push it but be gentle with myself.”

Published by RIInternational, 2014

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Caring for A “SMI” Cause;2014 AZPRA Conference Voices Speak Out for Change!


“People, continue to have hope because life will get better.”

~ the sincere and sympathetic, Governor Jan Brewer speaks on the topic of recovery

“Jan Brewer has been our friend at her own expense many times because we don’t have a lot of friends in the legislature or other high places except maybe God and we’re grateful for that. Jan restored a whole bunch of money through the legislative process that got cut out of our budget a couple years earlier. Do u think that took courage in the face of the Arizona legislature ? Do you think Jan made a lot of friends during that time? ..probably not. Then more recently, Jan signed us up for Obama care. We were one of the early states to sign on. And once again, Jan had to step out there and go against the flow to make this happen for us. I asked her, Jan, where do you get the courage to do these hard things and she said, ‘ I haven’t always lived a charmed life. I think the tough times I’ve weathered have given me perspective. I realized that in the end of the day I have myself to answer to. I don’t know if I would call that courage. I think it has to do in believing in myself and believing in other people. That’s what we see in recovery isn’t it? ..believing in other people.’ Jan Brewer we love you. Thanks for being our Governor and leading us through tough times.

~ Lori Ashcroft, Executive Director Recovery Opportunity Center and AZPRA Chair Board member

“What happened today is truly a cause for celebration,” I said to myself on that awe- inspiring September 26th day the 2014 AZPRA, Arizona Chapter of the Psychiatric Rehabilitation Association Conference announced “Harnessing Spiritual Resources to Successfully Bring About Change” themed conference took place. It included adults and children with mental trauma, addictions and mental and behavioral challenges.

According to Mary Jo Whitfield, Vice President of Behavioral Health Services, Jewish Family and Children’s Services, “We have identified that we have a higher incidence of children who live with toxic stress [or adverse child experiences] in Arizona more than other places in the country. This is a problem. We also know that the creation of a stable nurturing relationship with caring adults can prevent or adverse the damaging effects of toxic stress.”

Arizona is leading the nation. Perhaps some of these and other mental health grim statistics reflect why we are becoming more aware and proactive in the recovery progress.

The rest of the conference’s audience were empathetic onlookers, perhaps with no such history, but with notepads they came.

According to Aaron Foster, Secretary Chair of the Executive Board of The Arizona Chapter of the Psychiatric Rehabilitation Association, recalls,“The Psychiatric Rehabilitation Association is a systems leader. It’s an organization that some people liken to NAMI when it was in it’s grass roots. It is the Arizona Chapter of the International organization known as the Psychiatric Rehabilitation Association whose mission is to train a recovery workforce. Before that it was the United States Psychiatric Rehabilitation Association. Before that it was the International Association of Psychiatric Social Rehabilitation Services. It asks where do we go advocate for change? How do we teach the systems? How do we go and say, listen people, who deliver behavioral health services, we need to make sure that they are getting competent people serving them with quality services. How do we train this workforce …so that not just anybody walks up and says oh I’m a recovery organization. We want to make certain the workforce is trained and we want to open up the opportunities also, on some scale, to make sure the importance of trained peers in the system is maintained.”

Highly-esteemed speakers and trauma survivors took the podium. The honorable, Governor Brewer opened the conference. Catana Brown, Associate Professor of Occupational Therapy at Midwestern University, is impacted. “.. mostly the power of stories is what moved me. All of the speakers had a message about the idea that we need to facilitate today.”

I had to see, firsthand, what exactly the movement was all about. Equipped with a shiny, metallic microphone and comfortable high heel shoes, I decide to rise to the occasion. Just minutes before the speakers began their speech, I got a word in from the audience.


Sharon Cunningham “ I’m originally from Pittsburgh and I’m part of the Psyche Rehab Association. I’m a certified Psyche Practitioner. Moving to Arizona I wanted to be a part of it as well. I love the message the Psychiatric Rehabilitation Association promotes; that recovery is possible.”

Sharla Watkins “ I am from the Department of Economic Security Vocational Rehabilitation. I work with people who have disabilities trying to get back into the workforce. I came today to get some insight on mental health and disabilities because I do deal with the seriously mentally ill population.”

David Delawder “ I’m on the board of the Arizona Psychiatric Rehabilitation Association. I’m also the National Chapter representative. This is our conference and it’s going to be a fabulous time lined up with great speakers! In the mental health system, spirituality has been a topic that has always been avoided. It’s great that it’s being listed on the agenda. Spirituality could help people in their recovery if they choose.”


Sharon Cunningham “ …that we’re moving forward. Recovery has come such a long way from the model years ago. Continuing to move forward making progress is what I’d like to hear.”

Sharla Watkins “ One of the things outlined in the program is autism. We have a lot of clients that are highly functioning with autism and then we have some not so much. I think getting more insight into their daily lives and how they are able to deal with others …also moving forward with recovery would definitely be a good and beneficial thing.”

David Delawder “ I would like to hear about spirituality helping people in their recovery including any treatment plans.”

Right then and there, the scene floods with a bold message of recovery. Listening attentively to the speakers’ “power of stories,” I was filled with the utmost admiration, gratitude, and more curiosity. I wanted their words of wisdom recorded! Above all, I wanted to include all the highly-esteemed speakers but I knew it was humanely impossible. Grateful for the time I did receive, I asked,


Beth C. Stoneking ~ President of the Arizona Chapter of Psychiatric Rehabilitation Association “Hope; it doesn’t matter what age, what your circumstances are, there’s plenty of hope for people and their possibility for recovery because people with mental issues or challenges are very resilient.”

Jan Brewer ~ Arizona Governor and AZPRA Board Member “..continue to have hope because life will get better.”

Gene Johnson ~President of Recovery Innovations, Inc. and AZPRA Board Member “My definition of recovery, remembering who you are, is a way to get beyond what you described as mentally challenged or being disabled; people are people first.”

Mary Jo Whitfield ~ Vice President of Behavioral Health Services, Jewish Family and Children’s Services and AZPRA Board Member “Anything’s possible.”

Mary Blake ~ Public Health Advisor for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and AZPRA Board Member “ No matter what has happened in your life, no matter what diagnosis you’ve been given, there is always the possibility for growth and healing; don’t ever forget that.”

Lori Ashcraft ~ Executive Director Recovery Opportunity Center and AZPRA Board Chairperson “Don’t give up.

Aaron Foster ~ Secretary Chair of the Executive Board of The Arizona Chapter of the Psychiatric Rehabilitation Association and Recovery Innovations of Arizona Recovery Education Administrator “I would say exactly what we’ve been championing for decades; recovery is 100% possible.” I further asked,


Beth Stoneking “ Acknowledge who you are, talk about your talents, your strengths, and acknowledge the supports that have helped. Please speak to everyone that you can from the government down to the janitor about how they can support you.”

Governor Jan Brewer “ Continue what they have been doing. It takes a whole lot of people to make an impact and to make changes. Everybody has to work collaboratively together. Continue to pursue to hold your ground; that’s what it’s all about.”

Gene Johnson “…sharing stories, giving gifts, joining us in recovery.

Mary Jo Whitfield “ I think that by believing anything is possible. I think that sometimes people get sick but that’s part of recovery. If you get sick it’s not the end of the world. It’s just part of the illness and it’s not different if you’re diabetic or you have problems with your blood sugar. I think that if people would accept that this is the’s a health issue, we’d learn to take care of ourselves and get better. We’d learn to recognize what we can and can’t do. Nobody’s perfect. We’re not always going to make the right choices but if you have that information you can accept that about yourself and you can learn to forgive yourself. That’s one of the big things I see especially with the young people. They’ll blame themselves for something that really wasn’t their fault.

“ Mary Blake “ People that have experienced mental health issues, addictions,or trauma, are to find places to say what you want and to come together in a united voice to let those of us in your states and those of us in the federal government better understand where services could be approved and where supports could be enhanced so that you can all have a meaningful life.” I’d like to encourage people to check out our website; if people would like to contact Samhsa by phone it’s 1-877 -726-4727

Lori Ashcraft “ I think we all just be showing up and we all need to be contributing, and being ourself; seeing the bigger picture.

Aaron Foster “ I don’t see it as how can they, I see it how they have been. I am very proud to say that just today we had four citizen contributors sign up here at the Recovery Education Center because they wanted to learn what we were doing. By volunteering and then moving on to the field with these skills that they’ve learned here is exactly how they have they been helping us. They’ve been guiding us and teaching us how to do our jobs and at the same time willing to come in to learn, share, and really live what peer means! They assist us by teaching us everyday that people are uniquely individual and reminding us of that. They also do it by sharing themselves graciously..unselfishly with others.”


Beth Stoneking fondly remembering her past,“ When I was in 6th grade, I wanted to become a psychologist, I wanted to make the mental healthcare system more humane…a place to accept people and mental health challenges. I know about mental health issues personally from the inside out. Now to the present, Stoneking adds,“ I am grateful that there is such a diverse group here! I’m grateful that we’re beginning to look at the whole person. We’re beginning to listen because our greatest teachers are the people we are privileged to support.”

Governor Jan Brewer “I don’t wear it on my sleeve but I am a strong believer in the power of prayer. I often rely on faith in my life as a Governor or as a mom to help me to provide strength and direction, purpose, and faith. It continues to be a very important part of how I cope with behavioral, health, and other important issues …to the power of spirituality.”

Brewer concludes with gratitude, “I am really grateful for seeing how Arizona has changed. Recovery has become such a huge part of Arizona’s history in mental health and what a difference its made in so many ways …in so many peoples lives!”

Gene Johnson “…all of the wonderful connections and colleagues and friends; having the opportunity to share some time with them and this wonderful conference.”

Mary Jo Whitfield “…that I got to participate in today’s conference. To the gifted folks who have the vision to really believe that anything is possible.”

Mary Blake Reminiscing, “ I know when my story was able to emerge, I was able to tread into spaces ..into darkened hidden spaces, and find somebody who could just sit there with me. Not to fix it but to be with me in those uncomfortable spaces; to help me know that I’m ok, I survived and now I can thrive.” Blake continues, “I’m grateful to be a part of such great work in Arizona related to trauma care and in particular raising the voices, knowledge, and skills at the visibility of people that have experienced trauma and behavioral health challenges.”

Lori Ashcraft is passionate for a cause. She remembers her own experience with mental challenges and exclaims, “I’m grateful that this conference is going well!”

Aaron Foster “ I’m grateful to my higher power who brought me to this place in life. ..I myself am a person with lived experience. I live with a diagnosis of serious mental illness. I am grateful that the universe has said you’re strong enough and we’re going to allow you to survive some things that other people don’t survive so you can be here today. I’m grateful that the universe gave me the chance to fall down, stumble, and learn so I could be here today so I can help others who may fall down, or stumble in the learning process.”

On that sunny and awe-inspiring conference day, I am inspired for such heartening words of “SMI” Wisdom and SURVIVAL all the speakers and audience had to share.

Powerful, enlightening, positive. Promising. Leading the nation, Arizona’s mental health model has a new face to contend with! Foster remarks, “One of the biggest leaders in the nation for the peer movement and recovery is Arizona. Arizona has always been on the forefront of promoting peers within the workforce.” Indisputably, Arizona is filled with countless stories of spirituality, courage, hope, resiliency, and medical progress.

The Arizona Chapter of the Psychiatric Rehabilitation Association Conference 2014 recovery message triumphed. Some may say mental health has been forever misunderstood, however, caring for Arizona’s “serious mental illness” cause has never been more important than today.

Dori Hutchinson, President of the Psychiatric Rehabilitation Association Board of Directors, Director of CPR, and Associate Professor at Sargent College of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences at Boston University, invites us, ”Challenge yourself to grow as professionals, as paraprofessionals, and community members because we have an opportunity to witness the magic of growth, resiliency, and wellness … I hope you’ll come along w me. Become a part of your Chapter of Psychiatric Rehabilitation Association, become part of the global [recovery]movement!!”


Published by RIInternational, 2014

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Musiciphilia: ‘Electrifying, Creative…Peaceful’

“It was a lot of fun. Now, who would have thought we would be playing our artwork?” said Dr. Paul Dale, PVCC Interim President.“ So creative…you could see the smiles on people’s faces.”

On Sept. 19, PVCC’s Center for Performing Arts featured David Bradley’s “Musiciphilia” Finale, an art exhibition accompanied by a jam percussion ensemble under the influence of Brett Reed, director of PVCC percussion program.

The magical sound and ceramic art finale kicked off an unprecedented, colorful event of art and music, which welcomed everyone to join in and play with Bradley’s first ever 22 sculpted musical “Prototypes.” Bradley is PVCC visual arts director.
Susan Sanborn, a ceramic artist visiting the exhibition, said, “ I loved it. It was very innovative art, exciting,… a sound electrifying.”

The exhibition ran through Sept. 20.

The title of the exhibit, “Musiciphilia,” was inspired by a book “Awakenings,” by author and neurologist Oliver Sacks, a true story. Bradley’s “Musiciphilia” deals with music and the brain, using his sculptures as instruments.

He concludes,” the word is having an affinity for music… The show refers to the fact that all 22 pieces make sound and so depending upon the participants’ music skills and aptitude, it will be more musical or more noisy, depending on their abilities.”

First, Bradley’s musicians performed “using sticks to tap ceramic and metal or fingers to pluck and tap strings” of the debuted “Watermelon Trap” or the whimsical nature of “Fish Scales.”

Dustin, another youthful observer exclaimed, “I enjoyed it. It’s really cool people can do art and music at the same time.” In the process of making the “The Figure Bells,” Bradley researched musical instruments from around the world in order to find the different ways they are typically used to make musical instruments.

Strings, percussion, wind, and so bells worked primarily with ceramic material. Inspired by Arizona architect and ceramic artist, Paolo Soleri’s bronze bells, the components are made out of clay on the potter’s wheel.

“It’s a way of forming clay that I’m most comfortable with,” says Bradley. “The head is a juglike pot with no bottom and the body is another pot form, and so on that idea I modified and added to make each part.”

The shapes determine the vibration (tone) of the 22 pieces ( bell vs. flat shape). This labor of love and ingenuity took an accumulation of months to conceive, plan, and ”fire” out of soft clay.

All of a sudden, the room filled with rattling maracas, distinct drums, intermittent bells, persistent horns, concurring whistles, stringy guitars, operatic chimes, and familiar, xylophone favorites.. all together.

Bozena Podraza, a holistic energy work therapist smiled and remarked about how she experienced “a peaceful yet energizing effect the different musical tones had on her mental and physical state.”

Bradley said, “I want the person to come out with their own experience, from the shapes..colors..from the sounds to interpret their own meaning from it. We respond to it in very primal ways, instinctual….”

According to neurologist, Sacks, “Music occupies more areas of our brain than language does. Music can move us to the heights or depths of emotion.” On a stronger note his studies conclude, “Music can animate people with Parkinson’s disease who cannot otherwise move, give words to stroke patients, and calm and organize people whose memories are ravaged by Alzheimers. It can lift us out of depression when nothing else can.”

Bradley’s artistic gifts came with no surprise; a loving, nurturing family that influenced him about the importance of visual arts in our daily lives equipped him  for success.

“When I was a little kid, they put me on the path to being an artist,” he says. “They were very interested and gained the most enjoyment out of making things. My mother was always sewing or doing handcraft work, experimenting in the kitchen, or working in the garden.

“My father was a big gardener, also tinkered in his workshop down in the garage repairing TV’s and radios. They sat the example for me of how to be happy. Then when I read the bios of Michael Angelo and Leonardo da Vinci, I said, okay—I want to be an artist because they just get to make stuff!”

The love affair with ceramics came next.

For more information on David Bradley and his online store log onto

Published by PVCC, 2009

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Lights, Stilettos, Action ~ archived



Lights, stilettos, action: Fashion Week ignites Scottsdale Nov. 5-7

Scottsdale Fashion Week’s fashion extravaganza will run for three days in the Scottsdale Fashion Square District beginning Nov. 5.

Show stopping fuchsia toenails. Glittering hair up do’s. Loud party music playing. Shimmering evening makeup. Best friends’ wild party dresses. Sexy stilettos. Inspiring personalities that rule. Lights, stilettos, action: a fashion story unfolds with Scottsdale Fashion Week 2009. It’s here.

Arizona’s Scottsdale Fashion Week 2009, the scene of the “country’s premier fashion shows” is back again. It opens its starry outdoors on the chic evenings of Nov. 5, 6 and 7 at Scottsdale Fashion Square District at Camelback and Scottsdale roads.

Free admission is on Thursday, Nov. 5 while tickets start at $25 for Friday, Nov. 6, and Saturday, Nov. 7. Show times start at 5 or 6 p.m. depending on one’s catwalk preference for that night’s schedule.

Photo courtesy of iuk iuk
Designer, iuk iuk, wins Scottsdale Fashion Week’s 2009 Designer of the year award.

Eat, drink, and watch over two dozen runway shows, including Arizona’s very own Rickie Gonzales with VMARIE’s one of a kind extravagant “Us Against The World” premiere on Saturday, Nov. 7 at 8:30 p.m. while Chinese Designer Zhao Bandi debuts his character creative “Panda Fashion Show,” on Friday, Nov.6 at 7 p.m.

Iuk iuk by Alina Samasiuk has been named the 2009 designer of the year. The adventurous line will come to life Nov. 6 at 6:15 p.m. Her playful designs spotlight this year’s trends among many other nationally and internationally renowned designer giants showcasing at Scottsdale Fashion Week. They are bebe, Escada, Kevin Hall, Garage, Amelia Walsh, Dillard’s Eva Franco, Kate Spade, St. John, Ch Carolina Herrera and Banana Republic. In addition, Arizona welcomes on the red carpet the opening of Barneys New York signature pieces Nov.7 at 10 p.m.
Photo courtesy of Scottsdale Fashion Week
Chinese Artist and Designer Zhao Bandi’s premieres his lively “Panda” characters.

The music, people and catwalk fashion will be broadcast by PVCC Puma Press. Remember to tune in online after the event.

For a schedule of Catwalk Fun, directions and to purchase tickets, please log onto
Contemporary Culture

Published by PVCC, 2009

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silver linings pic

Director: David O. Russell

Produced by: Donna Gigliotti, Bruce Cohen, Jonathan Gordon

Screenplay: David O. Russell

Based on: “The Silver Linings Playbook” by Matthew Quick

Starring: Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro, Jacki Weaver, Anupam Kher, Chris Tucker

Release Year: November 16, 2012

Run Time: 122 minutes

MPAA Rating: R


Family. Friends. Led Zeppelin. Lasagna on game day. Philadelphia Eagles score! Embrace a piece of American pie, won’t you? Run back in shape with medication and therapy, Pat. With good behavior and positive self talk, eight months of a mental hospital is a breeze. Waltz into Pat’s life and dance like you mean it! Avoid “My Cheri Amour…” like the plaque. A symptomatic, but extraordinarily beautiful, Tiffany is waiting. Excelsior!

Eight time 2012 Academy Award nominated film, including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Adapted Screenplay, “Silver Linings Playbook” scores with mad drama, comedy-relief, and true love. While the script builds on hope, transformation, and empowerment, it also takes on something brave. A mental illness.

Screenplay adapted and directed by David O. Russell, whose all-star cast leading Bradley Cooper, and Academy Award winning Best Actress, Jennifer Lawrence, with Robert De Niro, Jacki Weaver, Chris Tucker, Anupam Kher, and Julia Stiles welcomes us into a troubled yet loving Pennsylvania home. A severely manic Pat educates us on the unnerving symptoms of Bipolar challenges. Clearly, without this element of moody and occasional bipolar eruptions, the film’s meaningful insight into the still, misunderstood yet ingenious condition would be lost. And so would be the healthy laughter that goes along with it.

Admittedly, multi-talented, Director Russell’s own son’s mental health challenges inspired the writing and directing of the almost true to life, film.

An American classic in the making, “Silver Linings Playbook” teaches all of us to outsmart life’s failures or tragedies by choosing to stay positive, besides taking, if necessary, proper medication and counseling, and ultimately, reaching out to our family and friends whether it be for emotional, material or spiritual support in order to, according to the Urban Dictionary’s definition of silver lining, [realize] there is a brighter side to the problem [we are] facing.”

Available on Redbox, Netflix, and Itunes today.


Published by RIInternational

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Director: Geoffrey Sax

Genre: Biography

Drama Screenplay: Cheryl Edwards, Marko King, Mary King, Jonathan Watters, Joe Shrapnel, and Anna Waterhouse

Producer: Halle Berry, Vince Cirrincione, Simon DeKaric, Hassain Zaidi, Access Motion Pictures (US 2014)

Starring: Halle Berry, Stellan Skarsgard, Phylicia Rashad, Chandra Wilson

Distributed by: CodeBlack Films, Lions Gate Entertainment

Release Year: May 17, 2010 (Cannes) December 10, 2010, April 4, 2014 (United States)

Run Time:1 hour 41 minutes

MPAA Rating: R

“History of substance abuse, amnesiac episodes, outbursts of rage, schizophrenia or manic depression, possibly?” …The shrinks all speculate.

“I know what it is,” replies Dr. Oz, “…She has a dissociative identity disorder.”

It’s Los Angeles, 1973. A true story unfolds. Marvin Gaye’s, “Lets Get It On,“ plays as the ravenous men all lust after the strip club’s steamy, Go-Go dancers. Immaculate, brown skin. Lush long, black hair. Dancing erotically inside her giant birdcage, Frankie gets into the groove. Her nearly naked body is embellished with glitter, fringed sequins, silver boots, dollar bills and thrills.

“Wall street,” walks in with a hundred bill. Not missing a beat, a streetwise Leo that she is, eyeballs the well-built, suit man, “…Heres what I do Baby. I close my eyes and let the music take me. Like I’m on the outside just watching. Like I ain’t there, works for me,” Frankie mentors her homegirl, another go-go dancer.

One hundred-fifty six. An IQ of genius, I introduce you to Frankie Murdoch. A dramatic performance, she is played by Academy Award Winner and the film’s Golden Globe Nominee, Halle Berry. From a wild stripper to, “Frankie’s not here,” suddenly a Southern accent overtakes her. Then, “I could hear her in my head… are they gone?” Frankie returns.

The most remarkable event of it’s kind is when Murdoch shares her body with two other persons. Running scared and crazily in the middle of the streets gets her noticed and so do her blackouts. Ding dongs and, “Thirty days in the hospital beats being in jail,” she blurts out!

Under the supervision of psychiatrist, Dr. Oswald, played by the talented, Stellan Skarsgard, and hypnosis, do you think Murdoch’s multiple personalities surrender and get another chance towards recovery?

Watch the movie and find out! Inspirational dialogue. Exceptionally written, creatively directed. Mental health awareness is spreading it’s wings! Significant people, events, the subconscious mind and it’s disorders, ranks this movie as one of my top, influential, mental health subject movies of the year, if not the decade.

Winner of the African-American Film Critics Association Image Awards and the American National Association for the advancement of Colored People, The Hollywood Reporter also described the film as, “a well-wrought psychological drama that delves into the dark side of one woman’s psyche.” Berry was, “spellbinding,” as Frankie, with a, “rock-solid,” performance.

“Theres no stigma attached to mental illness. At least, not here,” consoles the honest doctor. The power of kindness and medicine’s leading figure who offers it (you’re going to like the good Doctor Oz), a physician who has a care, gives Frankie, Alice, and Genius a second chance.

Unless you’re dead, life is nothing but second chances! “…I think all of us have to face something we’ve done; mistakes we’ve made. Things we allowed to happen. The things that would’ve happened anyway. But I don’t think it’s the blame that’s important. I think it’s the facing of it… if we don’t there’s no chance ever for us to become whole… The ultimate goal is acceptance. You’re not alone,” says Dr.Oz.. “Well no shit… Frankie laughs. They both laugh out loud.

The inspiring film can be watched on Redbox, Netflix, and I-tunes today.FRANKIE & ALICE

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Celebrate a female crucifix. roses are pitch black. ammo and a machine gun laid to rest. The exhibit has my attention. Camouflaged skull. Whimsical, flossless one. Experimental, key lime toilet. Skull has a mohawk. Vendetta red t-shirt. Unruly skulls. Large teeth they brim. Next, skull grows majestic moss. Silver ocotillo gives birth to red carnations, incarnate. Holy lattice. Growing, climbing, vines.The most feisty painted flowers ever. Adorned skull portraits. Adorned deceased. Loved ones. Cherished, are the Crosses. Gold laced skeleton kneels: Quiet please! Ruby red phone booth; skull calls for more prayers.

Second Life : The Calaca Spirit is Full of Life at the Arizona Historical Society Museum

Big bug eyes; skull spaceships. Midnight blue strokes run down canvas. His back turned; Skull profile gives me creeps. Powerful. Next, skull horns; ribs unearthed is what remains. Electrolyte bottle amidst the dead, autumn leaves. Lost pesos. Intriguing photography for sale.You’ve got mail; long taupe hair, the skull communicates. Happy skulls make a T-shirt. Their teeth grinning,skulls wear picturesque hat. Fabric has found pen. Mystery surrounds her. Orange sunrise. Hello her aura waves. Exposed roots; tree trunk ascends to heaven.The pilot is a skilled skull. Is that a bug fizzing? More Festive flowers. Nearby angel floats. Indestructible heart is still ticking. Pen has found paper. She’s Immortal.

Hilly nestled next to Papago Park’s cacti, the Arizona Historical Society Museum stands proudly a gem in the desert. It records history makers that represent a long line of artists, researchers, innovators, geologists and historians dating back in time. Once drawn into the courtyard surrounded by ambient lights above and just below, a lush trail into a secret place called “Green Line Overlook,” I relax. Coming out from the weeping willows, the streaming creek quiets the mind.

Strolling towards the glass doors of the museum, there is something grand about the monumental size and brick facade. There is something otherworldly about their current show; Second Life, a Calaca cultural exhibition.

17 artists, 17 life lessons, and the “Day of the Dead” comes alive into the world of the living. On the 24th of October, 2013 the opening reception welcomed the public with open arms and skulls galore! The Artists pay tribute to the “Day of the Dead “ known as the Mexican holiday celebrated in Mexico, Spain, Brazil, Asia, and Africa. The holiday calls for family and friends to dedicate prayer and gifts for their loved ones who have died. It is celebrated on October 31st, November 1st and November 2nd in connection with the Christian, “All Hallow’s Eve, All Saint’s Day, and All Soul’s Day.”

According to Calaca founder and artist, Marco Albarran…”not only did each artist create a one, two or three dimensional piece of artwork but they also used recycled materials to express the “Second Life” theme.

Transforming. Impressive. Thought-provoking. The art is symbolic. Some of the art is …almost edible. Being served is an ornate dish of roses. They are black, skull-colored apples, lemon, grapes, and an orange with such ink precision. Bon appetit !

Don’t forget the Jim Beam, hot and menudo sauce, with a touch of Los Panchos; all gifts shelved via tidy styrofoam.

Have a sweet tooth for skull candy ? The candied cross serves it.

Finally, Artist Frida does smoke a cigarette. Two soul-mates unite after death. Together with Diego Rivera, their shrine becomes one. Watermelon, personal jewels and more festive flowers decorate the window of the dead brought back to life.

The exhibition transforms me. The phenomenal gift of life. The gift of paying respect to our beloved ones who passed on. The gift of the Calaca Artists to symbolically and brilliantly through their creative inventions, suggest life after death. The use of their intense colors are breathtaking. Their inspiring creations are out of this world, as they miss nothing short of recycable!

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