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How Creativity Therapy Saved My Life

By Amy Oestreicher

My name is Amy Oestreicher, and according to doctors, I am a “surgical disaster.”  However, at 28, I feel truly blessed.  I may not have a stomach, but I sure am hungry for life.  It started in 2005 – a week before my senior prom.  It was our second night of Passover, and my stomach started hurting.  My dad said it might be gas, but he took me to the ER for an x-ray, just in case.  On the way there, my cheeks actually puffed up, soon after, I collapsed, and I woke up from my coma months later.  Apparently, there was a blood clot on the mesenteric artery that caused a thrombosis, and when they cut into me, my stomach actually burst to the top of the OR.  Both of my lungs collapsed, I went into sepsis shock, and I needed 122 units of blood to keep me alive.   At 18, I was read my last rites.

When I finally awoke from my coma months later, the doctors finally told me what was going on.  I had no stomach anymore, I couldn’t eat or drink, and it was not known when or if I would ever be able to again.  What do you say to that?  I was shocked – I had been too sleepy to be hungry, but now that I knew what the real circumstances were, I was devastated.  I was confused, like I had woken up in someone else’s life – where was I?  Who was I?  I remember I was once so desperate for answers that I googled “How do I find myself?”

Part of me wanted to curl up in a ball and disappear, part of me wanted to throw something.  I was frustrated – I had just gotten my college acceptance letters – was I the victim of some cruel joke?

One day, I picked up a paintbrush.  And my world changed.  I had found a way to express things that were too complicated, painful and overwhelming to put into words.  Suddenly, when the uncertainty around me seemed frighteningly unmanageable, the strokes of my paintbrush could soothe me as I created a peaceful world that my soul longed to rest in as a place of peaceful solace.  My passion could ignite instead of my anger and despair.  And slowly, the good feelings overwhelmed the bad because I could control the positive world portrayed on my canvases with what my subconscious chose to create.  And I still believe that attitude is everything.

You don’t need to be an “artist” to make art – all you need to do is start somewhere.  Art doesn’t have to be “good”, it just has to be “real.”  What draws me back again and again to my paintbrush is that when I hold it in my hands, no one can judge me – all that matters is what I’m feeling inside.  Through painting, I’ve discovered feelings I’ve suppressed that I had never even anticipated.  Every day I come to my painting, I may be feeling something diferent.  I could paint the most joyful expression in the world, or just a giant tear drop – but every time, I always walk away feeling better.  I’ve realized what I was feeling – and I’d rather feel everything than nothing at all.

Creativity became my lifeline.  What I wanted to keep my mind and heart numb to not deal with difficult circumstances, art could help me unlock those feelings and truly express myself.

Who knew that art would make my medical trauma become the most amazing adventure and lesson of my life?  Art helped me process what I was feeling.  But most importantly, art served to be the greatest reward, acting as a medium where I could still engage with my community, reach out to others, and make a difference in this world while utilizing my passion.  Arts were my way of connecting with the world, sharing my story, and spreading my message of hope, strength, and finding beauty in whatever life brings you.  My art may be self-taught, but it is personal, uniquely me, and a mosaic of what I have been through.

As a child, the arts were my passion and identity.  When my traumas occurred, they became my lifeline.  Now that I am out of my medical crisis and into a life of health and vitality once again, the arts are how I can reconnect with the world, make a difference, and raise awareness – awareness ofthe power of ones internal resources, awareness that there are many ways to heal externally and internally, and awareness of the human potential and spirit.  An awareness of gratitude – that every day and moment should be celebrated – that life is a canvas, an open score, a bare stage, waiting for us to join the dance!

I found art accidentally on my way to healing physically, emotionally and spiritually and have learned that it is one of the most rewarding, forgiving, beautiful ways to find my way through the darkness and into the light.  I may have found it accidentally, but because of art, I have found myself again.  Although left with a few scars, I am long past my bleak days in the hospital.  With, my wonderfully supportive family, my passion and a paintbrush, I was able to keep my soul alive for that uncertain time in my life.  Life may always be predictable, but art can always find the beauty in the detours.


Amy Oestreicher is a 28 year old actress, musician, teacher, composer, dancer, writer, artist, yogi, foodie, and general lover of life.  Surviving and thriving through a coma, 27 surgeries and other trauma has inspired Amy to share her story with the world through her passionate desire to create and help others.  Piecing her life together after her initial dreams of performing musical theatre took on a beautiful detour into broader horizons.  Amy has written, directed and starred in a one woman musical about her life, Gutless & Grateful, has flourished as a mixed media and acrylic artist, with her art in multiple galleries and mounting dozens of solo art shows, and continues to share her story through her art, music, theatre and writings.

More information on her unique story, as well as her creative ventures can be found at, and visit her blog for her newest art, music and inspirational musings.  You can also visit her Etsy shop at


Five misconceptions about poetry


Misconception Number 1 – Poetry must be written in eloquent language

Poetry can be gritty and raw, it does not have to be eloquent. Some examples would be poetic writings by rap artists like Tupac Shakur in his book “The Rose that Grew from Concrete.” After all, RAP is an acronym for Rhythm And Poetry. On a lighter side of things, Dr. Seuss, a genius in his own right, certainly did not use “the Queen’s English” if you will.

Misconception Number 2 – Poetry has to rhyme

Some types of poetry rhyme, some do not. There are a number of styles that rarely rhyme including modern free verse.

Misconception Number 3 – Poetry is always short

While the majority of poems do tend to be short, there is no rule requiring them to be so. In fact, some of the longest books, yes i said books, are considered to be works of “epic poetry.” One good example is “The Odyssey” by Homer. This work is more than 500 pages!

Misconception Number 4 – Poetry is for wussies

People sometimes associate poetry with over-sensitivity and wussieness if you will. However, quiet a few poets have been anything but wussies. Many wrote about social injustices and thus dared to challenge authority figures. I would say that takes some guts. On another note, Poe was an inspiration to the masters of the horror genre. There’s nothing wussie about that.

Misconception Number 5 – There is no money in writing poetry

While poetry is a very specific literary genre which does make it challenging, it is possible to make the art into a reasonable side job or even a modest career. A lot of poets sell their work to greeting card companies and get a fair rate for their work. Others  are able to format them in such a way that they work well as song lyrics and can thus be sold in the music industry. Those are just a few options.

Five things your English teacher (may) have gotten wrong

mean teacher

You can’t use “and” to start a sentence

Actually, you can use and for this purpose. Just for good measure, here are a few examples from literature:

“And even Mary could assure her family that she had no disinclination for it.” – Jane Austin from “Pride and Prejudice”

“And to seek to make the blacksmith a scholar is almost as silly as the more modern scheme of making the scholar a blacksmith.” – W.E.B. Du Bois from “The Souls of Black Folk”

“And let every other power know that this hemisphere intends to remain the master of its own house.” – John F. Kennedy from his Inaugural Address on January 20, 1961

You always use commas after each item in a series

Commas are necessary after each of the items in a series, except the last one. For example, someone might suggest that this is correct: red, white, and blue. However, that’s not the case. Using the comma after “and” is actually redundant. It’s like saying “and” twice. So, the correct method would be to write it as follows: red, white and blue.

Over and under

They do it in commercials and advertisements all the time. I suppose it is for brevity sake but that doesn’t make in any less incorrect. I’m talking about when people use the words “over” or “under” to indicate anything other than height. For example, cars are not on sale of under $20,000. Nor are there over 7 billion people in the world. The correct phrasing for each of these would be: Cars are on sale for less than $20,000 and there are more than 7 billion people in the world.

It’s not a real word if it’s not in the dictionary

First off, this implies that there is only one official dictionary when in fact there are many. On another note, there are many words that have simply been removed from dictionaries based on infrequent or rare use in modern language and conversation. I bet you wouldn’t find a lot of terms used in the Renaissance era in today’s dictionaries but that does not make them any less relevant.

Improper grammar is never acceptable

Generally speaking, improper grammar is a bad thing. However, there are a few exceptions. One of the first that comes to mind is with the use of direct quotations. Whether the quote is from a real person or a character in a book, language and grammar allowances can be made for such things as accents, education level, etc.  A quick example is the phrase frequently spoken by the character Aibileen Clark in the film “The Help” in which she says, “You is kind. You is smart. You is important.”

Intrusion – A Poem

By Amy Oestreicher

Whether I am the trespasser, alien
The outcast, the tortoise turned on its side
I can see the stream from here
And I long to dance with the source.

Can I fish for you, blue glimpse?
A glimpse of the word as it was intended to be?
The realism thrills me

In a world of
geometricshapes,painted signs,brightredautomobiles,

my hollow shell overflows with relief.
For I have now caught the world in coy disarray, in bashful asymmetry.
(I’m sorry I disturbed you – I had thought you were done changing)

But fair lilies in the stream, let me flatter you:

You are such unperturbed beauty; a beautiful mess
Some divine energy had a penchant for modern art.

This trail I stumble down begs to recount to me, pleads, “Can I tell you a story?”
Of What? What – some kind of archetypal tale to us with its paw prints, bird calls, freaks and daddy long legs crawling under rocks like blue crabs
Moist air
Shadowed filth
rocking trees comforting one another in this dark forest community.
Blue forest glimpse – you are my catch and my soul is your bait.
Here is my glimpse of the world as it was intended to be
Realism thrills me as the wind now thrills your branches.

In a world of perfect geometric shapes, of painted signs, of bright red automobiles…
I’ve wandered, lonely and seeking a friend, and I ask, can I belong?
I venture down and down further, and down.
I am a lone pebble, but unstranded, moving with the stream of wind that caresses the branches above me.

In each crumble, I breathe in the equalizing power of nature, of burgeoning love that transcends the limitations of being 5’3 when the trees are so tall.

The air sings and swells with a knowing comfort, a tune I have heard my whole life, as constant as the seasons

and now, I look up at the dense ceiling of trees and whisper, “Thanks.”
before even realizing that I had said it.

And now the dance begins! The dance that I can join too!
And the violins play, and there are brass, and winds, and chords, and reeds, and strings, and shrubs, pebbles, rocks, debris and slugs – sound and color and light!
Trees start to rock back and forth
dance with my awe,
They reply, “Yes.” Yes!

I am the lone pebble tymbling and tumbling, being shaped and molded by the ground beneath me, as it has beneath centiures and centures of lava and strata
And then I stop for I am stopped

A large oak tree firmly itself from the others.

I whispered to it, “Tree, sway for me…sway for me please…” it didn’t budge.

I’m lowered from my floating enchantment.

My soul-bait is anchored once again, as a fervent wind dodges
Corner to corner
Boomerang from trunk to trunk
Wind so dynamic it flickers like fire.

Wind so hasty it drenches flimsier trees with its own leaking madness.

All limbs of the forest shake madly now
All limbs of my body petrified with wonderment.

We are all shaking madly! dizzy and startled by the whippings of the delirious wind

Nature restores its internal pulse
The wind’s wrath quickly wearies
Smaller gusts
Internal pulsing
Even nature must sleep
Internal pulsing
prompts a limb of the stubborn oak tree to coyly bob up and down.
And the world was finally in sync.

I thank this forest sanctuary one more time before I leave.
I am a most welcome trespasser, and my shell is filled with burgeoning blue light

Goodnight, forest.

And all I could think about was how wonderful it would be to hold someone’s hand, staring at the trees together, in simultaneous awe, no words in our breath but all winds in our souls.

from your trunk


“From Your Trunk”  – Artwork also by Amy Oestreicher

Amy Oestreicher is a 28 year old actress, musician, teacher, composer, dancer, writer, artist, yogi, foodie, and general lover of life.  Surviving and thriving through a coma, 27 surgeries and other trauma has inspired Amy to share her story with the world through her passionate desire to create and help others.  Piecing her life together after her initial dreams of performing musical theatre took on a beautiful detour into broader horizons.  Amy has written, directed and starred in a one woman musical about her life, Gutless & Grateful, has flourished as a mixed media and acrylic artist, with her art in multiple galleries and mounting dozens of solo art shows, and continues to share her story through her art, music, theatre and writings.  More information on her unique story, as well as her creative ventures can be found at, and visit her blog for her newest art, music and inspirational musings.

My latest e-book “Pesky Shadows, Pretty Shadows”

During March, I completed my latest effort in e-literature and am excited to share it with you.

Just like my other e-book from 2011, “Making Beautiful Photography,” this one is something of a how-to guide when it comes to the art of photography.

The new work is called “Pesky Shadows, Pretty Shadows” and is available now. Among other things, it focuses on the use of light and how it pertains to the issue of shadows, both good and bad, within a given image. There are also tips and tricks on how to make the most of soft shadows while doing your best to avoid the harsh and unflattering ones.

If you are interested, check it out!


The “rules” of poetry

When people first hear the word poetry…

beside the notion of eloquent language and the concept of emotional sensitivity coming to mind, they might often think about this form of literature as being filled with rules and structural regulations.

While classically poetry has had it’s share of rigidity and intense structure, this is not always necessarily the case.  For example, slam poetry would probably drive someone from the Renaissance era insane.

Personally, I believe that good poetry is not so much about structure and form as it is about emotion and the ability to convey a concept not easily stated in any other way. Hence the reason that I, and many others, do not always follow the so-called rules.

First and foremost, poetry is an art and as such should not be constrained. We all need to have our own rules to some extent.

My personal rules and guidelines

1. I either use rhyme or not. It seems clumsy and awkward to switch between the two in the same poem.

2. When I use rhyme, I tend to rhyme in a pattern of matching up either the first and third/second and fourth lines or a stanza of lines one and two then three and four.

3. I generally write 3-5 line stanzas

4. Modern free verse has always been a great stylistic friend

5. I rarely punctuate except for emphasis with a question mark or exclamation point or to separate items in a series with a comma

I figure hey, what the heck? After all, E.E. Cummings was known for his unorthodox and grammatically flexible style while the great William Shakespeare literally made up hundreds if not thousands of words.


Courtesy of Wikipedia

Comedy for writers

While comedy is in and of itself a form of art, as a writer, I have a special place in my heart for those who create comedic content about writing and writers. Check out these funnies for something to tickle your lighter side.

As seen on Pinterest:

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