About Heather Shalhoub

I am a certified creatively fit coach, an artist, a certified feng shui consultant, a reiki practitioner, and a librarian. Information on the services I provide and the programs I am involved in are available here on my website.

CPSI 2016 – My first timer report

This was my first time at the CPSI conference – that is the Creative Problem Solving Institute – http://www.cpsiconference.com/ – pronounced “sip-see”.
I had known people who attended this in the past and they encouraged me to go since I’ve been going to the NEXT idea creativity retreat in New England and enjoy it (I’m presenting there this year, woohoo). CPSI sounded like THE creativity conference and has been going on for over 60 years, which is almost unbelievable.
I stayed in a dorm room right there on campus as it takes place at SUNY Buffalo. It was nice to be close to all the sessions, speakers, and meals. The most confusing thing is that they have different tracks you can register for and use their own lingo so if you aren’t familiar with it, you can get a bit overwhelmed.  They do have people who can help you decide and have info on the website about it. I signed up for “Extending” which is the way to go and do a variety of shorter 90 min or 2-1/2 hour sessions in all topics. You can go do more intensive tracks, focus on one thing most of the time. I wanted variety and to take in as much as I could and I was pretty happy with it.
Most of what goes on at CPSI is oriented around creativity (which is NOT just about art) but also around the creative problem solving model that uses divergent and convergent thinking to solve problems in creative ways. I learned some about it and hope to learn more. My inner “learn all the things” geek is like, OMG you can get a degree or certification in this!

Day 1 – The first day they had a session to welcome first timers, a break and dinner and then the keynote was delivered by the CEO of Faber-Castell and it was really interesting. The theme for this year was SHIFT. Lots of creativity and shifts of mindsets, perspectives, etc to be had. Very introverted me was open and social. I participated in the ice breakers at the opening session which make you get up and meet strangers among other things outside of comfort zones. I also sat with new people at dinner and chatted a little, though they chatted more than me.  After that, I went to Wegman’s because one must go to Wegman’s when in Western NY. Then I relaxed in my room for the evening.

Day 2 – The next day, I started with what they call a Spark session. I guess it is to “spark” your creativity and get you open and ready for the rest of the conference. I was so not in the mood for this or much of anything. I think I was just tired and cranky and in “away from the comforts of home” mode. It is an almost daylong session you pre-register for. I chose Illuminating the Intangible with Light Painting Photography with Laura DelPrato. She taught us light photography techniques and had us do some teamwork projects like charades using light painting and coming up with light paintings of our super powers from the ice breaker.

light painting photo demonstrating our super powers with use of lights

At the end, we made a big photo of the whole group and then she left some open time for people who wanted to ask questions or play. I waited until everyone had their turn and asked if I could do something holding an orb like one of her examples which turned out amazing. Working with like-minded people in this group really helped me get to know some new people and make some friends.

Light Painting Spark Session Group Photo by Laura DelPrato

Light Painting Spark Session Photo of Heather Shalhoub by Laura DelPrato

There was more available during the evening but this introvert was tired and needed to absorb everything from the day so I skipped those even though some sounded really good. They also have early morning get-togethers that I skipped because I am not a morning person even though they sounded great. Sometimes you just have to honor your personality traits and personal needs more than all the things you want to see and do.  There is always something to do between 7am and 12am each day at CPSI.
Day 3 – Today was full of shorter sessions since I did the extending track. I had a lot to choose from. The first session I attended was about silos and how to resolve issues among them to increase innovation. They had us all take their profile quiz on their website, Basadur Profile,  to find out our thinking and problem solving style and we broke up into groups with those who think like us to do some exercises to make it really evident to us all what strengths we all bring to the table with solving problems. It was pretty eye-opening as I am far more technical than I would have guessed but the description of my type really made sense. I am an Optimizer.

The second session was about communication styles and yet again, I was fascinated to learn how technical I am. We got grouped with others who scored similarly to us, there I was, all artsy and standing alone with an older gentleman who is an engineer. I have such a funny balance of technical and creative arts, left and right brain tendencies.  I learned a lot about getting different communication styles to work together, how to make sense of people who don’t make sense to you…because their style is so different from yours, etc.

After that, I attended a session on creative ways to deal with difficult people. That was interesting, if only because it was a room full of women, 1 male facilitator and 2 males in the whole crowd. Learned quite a bit there too. A lot about how to approach a difficult person with a different mindset and attitude, with intention for it to go well, among other techniques taught to us.
Day 4 – Another day of many session opportunities.  I went to a session on how to Relish Introversion at CPSI which was a delightful relief. We relaxed and journaled with some quiet music, learned tips for how to deal with big conferences that are very social and extroverted, met other people with similar needs and tendencies, I learned a lot about how it is okay to give myself permission to skip sessions if I need a break or skip a meal and go eat by myself someplace. I had done this but this really made me realize how important this is for me. .

After this session, the cafeteria food was not appealing so I went on a little field trip to enjoy some Pho at a nearby Pho Cafe. Delicious and some much-needed alone time away.

A bowl of Vietnamese Pho Soup from Pho Cafe in Buffalo NY

When I got back, it was time for an excursion. I joined a bus full of fellow conference attendees to go to Niagara Falls. I had been before with family as a stop on our way to and from visiting relatives in Canada but I wanted to go on my own and enjoy it instead of as a quick stop during a long car ride with my parents and sister.  I ran into a new friend on this trip, Monica. We both paid less to go on the un-guided tour and we ventured around together. She was my cheerleader to help me make the hike up the observation deck stone stair path in spite of my back being really unhappy.  She got me to the top by the falls to take pictures just in time. They closed that section soon after. When we got back to the dorm, we had not eaten so I happily offered to drive my new friend to Wegman’s because Wegman’s. I slept so well that night.

Heather Shalhoub standing next to Niagara Falls after hiking
Day 5 – More awesome variety packed sessions. My first session was amazing. A lovely Italian gentleman named Matteo was facilitating. He had sat next to me at the opening keynote session. This session was called Discover Your Fountain of Creativity and it was life changing for me. I had a massive shift that hit me hard later that night and I processed some feelings I had been bottling up for over 5 years. I can’t even put into words the amount of stuff he squeezed into this amazing session. We did physical movement, group work, non-verbal communication, dream imagination journaling, image journaling, collage, gibberish communication, had socks on our hands, etc. I had a massive breakthrough later that day and I know this session is what opened it up for me. Thank you Matteo!
My next session was with Roger Firestein who teaches creativity at Buffalo State.   Some of what he taught I already had experience with, like picture your ideal day, but then he threw in stuff I had never done like drawing my story board and some other cool journaling prompts. I actually bought one of his books after the workshop. Needless to say, by this session, I was thinking I should move to Buffalo and get an advanced degree in Creative Studies.  Now that I am back in reality, I still like the idea of studying creativity but think that maybe an online format might be easier than moving across the state.

After this session, I attended one on Problem Solving and Visionary Thinking in the arts as taught through the view of how the fashion design world works. It was pretty cool because we problem solved and used visionary skills to create a color scheme vision board and she had us play with fabric patterns to fold them and create new patterns out of existing ones.
I saw my suitemate for the first time in 4 days. She announced, “You’re alive!” when I got to our dorm suite. She was a cool lady from the Netherlands. We were both so busy that we had not crossed paths in 4 days. We had our own rooms but shared a bathroom in the dorm.  This is how you know you are at a really busy and active conference.

Day 6 – The last day. I looked around for people I wanted to get to see before I left and gave my card to a couple new friends.  I attended one last session about helping kids have creativity for life. My new friend from the light painting spark session (in the super power photo above with me) was facilitating her first workshop and she really wanted me to come so I went. It was a lot of fun and it was cool to see how she teaches creativity to elementary school kids in Brazil.
After this, I headed back home with an important stop at Strong Hearts Cafe in Syracuse for brunch. I enjoy a waffle and a milkshake (both vegan since I am dairy and egg free).

Vegan Waffle and maple syrup from Strong Hearts Cafe in Syracuse

Final Thoughts: 
Do I recommend this conference? Yes! It is the best conference I have ever attended. I usually only get to go to librarian conferences. It is a lot to take in. I think that unless you know you want to get intensive with one of the other tracks, Extending is the way to go, pick and choose from a variety of sessions, skip what you want, learn tons.

Paint Your Joy Blooming Lotus Workshop – Feb 28

Sacred Lotus Symbol by Heather Shalhoub

Do you feel stuck or blocked?
Do you feel overwhelmed by life’s challenges?
Have you gotten lost in the muck of life and want to find joy?
Do you just want to bring more creativity into your life?
Do you think you aren’t creative at all?

If you said yes to any of these questions, this workshop is for you!

A personal growth workshop with Certified Creatively Fit Coach, Heather Shalhoub. We will do writing and creativity exercises to learn more about why we feel stuck and how to bring my joy into our lives. Next, Heather will walk the group, step-by-step, through painting a Lotus. We will paint backgrounds freely, no pressure. We will all paint a Lotus but everyone can bring their own color choice and style to the painting.

The Lotus is a powerful sacred symbol showing you that even out of the darkest muck, a Lotus can bloom. Through life’s challenges, we are being prepared to bloom.

Create the JOY you want in your life by first creating it on canvas! Bring your canvas home to remind you of your joy.

No art experience necessary. All art supplies will be provided.

Sunday, Feb 28, 2016 from 11:30am-3pm

@ Core Fit 2430 State Highway 30, Mayfield, New York

Bring a lunch or snacks, $40 per person (cash or credit card)

To register: RSVP on the Facebook event page, email Heather using the contact form here on the website OR Contact Core Fit 518-661-7881

My Power Symbol for 2016 – the Violet-Backed Starling

I taught 2 workshops recently on Painting Your Power Symbol for 2016.  My first workshop was so full that I didn’t have much time to work on my own symbol, though I wanted to paint a fish for working on my financial goals and releasing my money blocks.  I never finished that painting but there is plenty of time.

In the second workshop, I had a bit more time to work on my own since the group was smaller.  I was working on my health issues and how I want to break through them this year. I came up with a cute chubby little bird and I looked around online and saw a painting so I based the idea for my painting on that one and painted away.  I painted this cute chubby bird, full of vibrant purples and didn’t think much of it, I just knew I was drawn to these colors and this shape of bird.

image of Heather Shalhoub's painting in progress violet backed starling

Heather Shalhoub’s painting in progress of a violet backed starling

Well, today I was talking with a friend about spirit animals and I mentioned that I keep seeing blackbirds or starlings, especially in large swarms swooping in patterns across the sky, so startling, that I can only describe it as beautiful yet a little scary and overwhelming like I feel like I could be in a Hitchcock movie. I also seem to have starlings live above the tower room in my apartment.  I decided to google birds with purple backs, since that is what I painted and believe it or not…one exists and not only does it exist…it is a type of starling! It is called a Violet-backed starling, also known as an amethyst starling or plum colored starling. Pretty freakin’ cool!

The symbolism of starlings has a lot to do with:

  • speaking your voice while being sensitive to others and being too sensitive to the words of others (too sensitive to what others say, who me?)
  • communication in groups
  • balancing your feminine and masculine power (like this has not been coming up in most conversations I have had lately)  
  • using all the resources available to you to achieve your goals and be fierce
  • holding on too tightly to ideas, perceptions or people (clingy when feeling insecure? who me?)
  • gaining a sense of protection and hope.

That is some powerful stuff. I look forward to finishing my power symbol painting now that I know more about the bird that I was drawn to.

Photo of a violet-backed starling by Anna Eksteen as posted on treknature.com

Photo by Anna Eksteen as posted on treknature.com, click the photo to view the original source

My Starling Sources: 

“Animal Totem: Starling.” Animal Totem: Starling. Web. 22 Jan. 2016.

“Animal Totems: Dictionary of Birdswritten by StarStuffs © http://www.starstuffs.com/animal_totems.” Animal Spirit Totems Dictionary of Birds. Web. 22 Jan. 2016.

“Wild Facts Sabi Sabi Private Game Reserve | Violet-backed Starling.” Sabi Sabi Luxury Safari Lodges. Web. 22 Jan. 2016.

“Violet-backed Starling.” TrekNature. Web. 22 Jan. 2016.

New Year, New You: Paint Your Power Symbol Workshop

After a successful first workshop at Core Fit in Mayfield, NY, I am offering this workshop again on Saturday, January 16, 2016.


Do you feel stuck or blocked?
Do you have goals you want to reach in the new year?
Do you feel like you are overwhelmed and aren’t sure where to start?
Do you just want to bring more creativity into your life?
Do you think you aren’t creative at all?
If you said yes to any of these questions, this workshop is for you!

A personal growth workshop with Certified Creatively Fit Coach, Heather Shalhoub. We will do writing and creativity exercises to find what changes you want to make in the new year and what you would like to bring more of into your life. Heather will then walk the group, step-by-step, through painting your power symbol. We will paint backgrounds freely, no pressure. Then based on the activities we do, Heather will help you select a personal power symbol for 2016 and you will paint it with her help and instruction. This power symbol will be a way to bring your intentions home to help you manifest and create the change you want in your life. Images don’t have the baggage attached to them that words do so this is more powerful than setting an intention using just words. Create the change you want in your life by first creating it on canvas!

No art experience necessary. All art supplies will be provided.

Saturday, January 16, 2016 from 2-6pm
@ Core Fit
2430 State Highway 30
Mayfield, New York

Feel free to bring snacks
$40 per person
To register: RSVP  on facebook by joining the event (click going) OR email heatherartiste@gmail.com

Space is limited so make sure to register and if you can’t make it, let me know so I can open the space for someone else.

NEXT Idea Creativity Retreat 2015 – #Nextidea15

This year was my second year at the NEXT idea Creativity Retreat.  This is New England’s Creativity Retreat where you can learn, connect, try new things, go deep inside, and have lots of fun.  Last year I was at a different place in my life, just starting my Creatively Fit Coaching Certification program.  I was quieter and more of an observer at times, learning what the retreat was like and getting to slowly know people, which is my style anyway as I am quite the introvert.  I made some good friends.  It is amazing to go someplace and just know you fit here.  These are “my people.”

So this year, I was more comfortable and more confident and I was so in need of this retreat.  I was going to see friends and meet new people, try new things, do some introspective and innovative work, and release a lot that was weighing me down. As soon as I arrived, I went in to register and saw my friend and fellow creatively fit coach Lynette, who had just arrived before me. What great timing! She kindly helped me find my room and carry my bags and I got settled in.

Since  there was time before the first official opening event, I decided to venture on the grounds and found the labyrinth. I wasn’t feeling very relaxed or grounded so this was a good opportunity for me to get centered.  I set my things down, it was getting dark but I could see the main buildings from where I was and I just took deep breaths and I walked.  I started to worry, oh my god what if a wild animal finds me and no one knows I am here?!?!  Then I told myself outloud, you are safe and protected, over and over again.  I have been needing a lot of root chakra work and this was an example of that.  I needed to get grounded and feel safe. As I continued through the labyrinth, something amazing happened and I completely relaxed. I felt so calm and peaceful by the time I was done that I did a short reiki meditation before heading back to civilization.

Image of the labyrinth I walked

Our opening event was Zentangles.  I had books on it but this really walked me through the process and I finally got it. It is really relaxing and centering, I guess I needed more of that because it felt great.  After that we had dinner and social time.  I actually socialized until very late, so unlike me, but it felt good.image of my zentangle drawing

Saturday started early with times for sessions and you could choose one of 3 options for each one. My first session was taught by Judith de Zanger and it was Soar With Your Strengths.  It was a session about focusing on using your strengths instead of on improving your weaknesses and combining those strengths with your values and passions.  I had taken the quiz for strengths beforehand and was not entirely thrilled with my results, though both  my boyfriend and Judy herself told me my strengths were great ones to have.  I of course longed more to be like the things I scored lower in.  She made sure I was aware that we all have all of these qualities, we are just stronger in certain ones.  This made me feel better, as well as the exercises that followed.  We had to choose a random item from the table. One of the exercises involved a free writing activity about the item we chose and we shared what we wrote afterwards.  I was told that I should post mine somewhere, so here it is.

A photo of a piece of driftwood that I selected

I am a piece of driftwood. I have lived a full life that shows on my surface. I am rich and full of texture. My striations are unique and only I have them. I am covered in patterns and designs from nature, not man-made. I have broken pieces but that makes me beautiful. I am shaped like a flying bird or an airplane. there are sparkling bits of sand on me, reminding me of where I have been. I am many shades of a color, not just one. I am rough and smooth at the same time.  Even though I am rough, I am still delicate. Be gentle with me. Treat me with kindness. I represent nature. I have cracks on my surface. I have many layers. I am full of bumps and curves. My wavy lines show you the place I come from.              ~Heather Shalhoub

I got very emotional while writing this, and while reading it out loud to share.  It hit me while I was writing but when we shared, we were asked if what we wrote was about ourselves. There was so much in this workshop, I am in disbelief that it was only 90 minutes long. It was just that good.