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How Can I Help?

How Can I Help?

This week we handed the Zentangle Blog over to Jody Genovese, CZT, to find out what was possible when she asked herself, "How can I Help?"

Thank you Jody for sharing your story with us and the Zentangle community!

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Jody writes...

Everyone who finds and practices Zentangle will tell you how much it has changed his or her life.  I know what it has done for mine.  The question is can you use it to help change someone else’s?

We’ve all heard so many stories of how other people have been able to use Zentangle to make amazing breakthroughs with children, elderly, veterans and even whole communities.  Listening to or reading these accounts I was just amazed at this and though I believed every single story I heard, I wanted to experience it for myself.  As I was getting my CZT certification in 2016 I remember thinking I want to be a part of that experience.  If I could just help one person…
Fast forward to June of 2017.  I had done some teaching and really enjoyed it, but I wanted more.  I had tried making inroads at the hospital my husband works at but didn’t get too far.  All of this would change during one of his work dinners.  Usually I spend the night smiling and nodding and adding nothing to the conversation.  This time would be different.  Peter K. works on the foundation at the hospital and had arranged this particular get together.  At one point he asked me what I do with my time, so I started to tell him about Zentangle.  Normally this is met with an, “Oh, I’ve never heard of that, sounds interesting”, and the conversation ends there.  But, he lit up, so I lit up.  He wanted to know what it was, what it looked like and what I was doing with it.  As we were leaving we walked out together and he asked me if I thought I might like to volunteer to teach it in some capacity at the hospital.  I said yes and told him I hadn’t had any luck getting in touch with the right people so far.  Turns out it was him.
The hospital had recently done a big renovation to their mental health clinic and he thought one particular program might be a good fit. 

Within two weeks he arranged a tour of the facility with the Clinical Manager, Mary.  She was also excited.  She officially asked me to join and the process began.  I would report to Laura, the supervisor of an out-patient program called PROS (Personalized Recovery Oriented Services).  This program is for people who are nearing the end of their treatment program and are ready to get back into the community in whatever capacity that might mean for them.  I would teach Zentangle once a week as part of the curriculum the clients could choose from.
Because this is a healthcare facility there were many things that had to happen before I could start.  From August to December I took two exams required by the hospital for HIPAA and security, got a physical, updated my vaccinations, met all of the counselors, met the potential students, shadowed the counselors to become familiar with the program, and promoted my class.  I was finally ready and would begin January 16, 2018.  To say I was a little nervous was putting it mildly.  These people expected nothing of me, but I felt like they deserved more than I had to offer.

Throughout my intake process the subject of supplies came up a few times because I stressed the importance of teaching with authentic Zentangle materials.  As is typical in these situations budgets are pretty tight.  I had mentioned to Laura that I met Peter O. from Sakura at ZenAgain in November 2016 and he had kindly donated materials for me to use in my cousin’s elementary school art class.  She asked me if I could reach out to him.  All I could think is what a big mouth I had.  I did nothing for a week.  I thought about telling her that I reached out to him and he said no, but I don’t lie, so I put on my big girl pants and emailed him.  I reminded him who I was and asked him if I could trouble him for two boxes of Pigma pens because I didn’t think the Microns would be a good fit.  He emailed me back right away and said normally they don’t do this because they get many requests, but because he remembered who I was and what I was trying to accomplish he could help me out.  I sent him the address of the clinic and my contact info and he immediately called me.  We had an amazing conversation about mental health, how to approach this and how to get started.  He told me he would send me more than pens.  True to his word he sent me a box that I could barely lift myself.  To say I am grateful for him is an understatement.  His only request was that I share my experience so that other CZTs who may be thinking of doing something like this will realize it can be done.  After talking with Rick and Maria at Kripalu this past May, this is my opportunity to honor his request.

For the first two sessions (sessions run 12 weeks) my class has been Tuesday afternoons from 1:30-3:00pm.  The classes are usually 45 minutes, so 90 minutes is foreign to these folks.  I started with 10 people in my first class and after 45 minutes had several people just get up and leave.  Once we straightened out the scheduling issue I was able to maintain anywhere from 6-10 people.  The directors were amazed as after lunch this part of the facility empties out quickly. Some of the classes in the PROS program, such as mine, are voluntary, so though a class may be recommended by a counselor, it is up to the client to show up.  The people I had were amazing.

After the first 12-week session we had a mini art show.  The main campus wanted to include some pictures of this in the newsletter and when I sent them a photo of the work they couldn’t believe it had been done by the participants.

There are a few people I consider my ‘regulars’ and they have all given me permission to write about them and share pictures of their work.  Like tangles have colorful names, I decided to name each person using a tangle that describes them as I can’t use their proper names.
Hurry (because he draws very fast): He is quiet and kind.  He looks at you out of the corner of his eyes.  Most of the time he gives a one-word answer or just nods when you talk to him.  He sits in the cafeteria and waits for class every week.  The receptionist told me he sometimes asks to make sure I am coming.  Initially he would wait for me to go into the art room and then stand at the threshold of the door and wait for me to invite him into the room.  Every week I would tell him he didn’t have to wait, and he was welcome to come in.  After about two months he started bounding into the room.  When I compliment his work, you can tell he wants to smile, but just gives you a little at the corners of his mouth.  In April he began talking.  He had never initiated a conversation with me and he came into the room and started to talk.  It felt like a real breakthrough.  That same day we had two new ladies in the class and he told them they couldn’t make any mistakes and if they stuck with it their lines would get better like his have.  I was so humbled I had all I could do to not cry in front of them.  I literally felt my heart smile.  In a recent class we worked on Dingbatz.  I asked the class if they knew what a dingbat was.  Purk and Facade pointed to each other.  Hurry hesitated a moment and then yelled out..Edith Bunker!

Purk: (because she is always ‘perky’):  She is my ‘Zenterior Designer’. Each week she arranges the class tiles in the mosaic.  She fell in love with Zentangle and has integrated it into a regular practice outside the program.  She is kind and eager to learn and helps me clean up every week.  She made a portfolio of all of her tiles and I could see the absolute joy in her face when I made a fuss over it and paraded it around to show anyone and everyone at the clinic.  It was a work of art.  Purk graduated the program on July 6th and she will be missed.
Facade (because what you see isn’t what you get): Walking into the first class he proclaimed that he could teach this Zentango because he had tons of art experience.  He is someone who wants to be respected and looked up to and someone you would never expect to show up for every single class.  Tattoos, chains, a do-rag, rings that cover every knuckle and a big heart.  He always has a wise comment, but I’ve learned not to react or reply.  I might be a better poker player after this...  He carries every tile with him and creates a mosaic of his work after every class, which he makes me take a picture of every week.  Now that Purk has left, he arranges the mosaics, helps me clean up, and helps me with new students who need a little extra help if I am working with another person.  He still calls it Zentango…


Amaze (because she was always amazed when she did something right): She had done Zentangle like work in the past.  Her first class she used an eraser.  I said nothing.  The next class she started to again.  I asked her not to as we didn’t use them.  She put it away and as she was working she said the pencil line was in her way.  I encouraged her to ignore it and told her it would disappear.  She didn’t like it, but I asked her to trust me and if she really couldn’t get past it this time I would let her use the eraser the next time.  She finished the tile and realized the line had disappeared.  She was amazed.  On another tile we were doing bales and she said she had made a mistake and done it wrong and wished she could erase it.  I looked at her tile and told her she had done a perfect florz.  “Really?”, she said.  “That’s amazing.”
Punzel (because she always had her hair in a braid): She loves Zentangle.  Her lines have improved, and she lights up when I tell her this.  She tells me she appreciates that I say there are no mistakes because she has taken other classes where she is told she does it wrong.  No mistakes I tell her..ever.
This feels like what I am meant to do with Zentangle.  Saying I love this art form doesn’t really quantify what it really means to me.  It feeds my soul.  I think a lot of you know what I mean.  Sharing it is the only way to keep growing that feeling.  Step 1 is gratitude.  I will forever be grateful to Rick and Maria, Molly and Martha and the entire Zentangle crew for creating it and for continuing to make it fresh and fun and joyful.  I am also truly grateful for Peter from Sakura who not only donated supplies but offered advice and support and to Peter from the hospital who facilitated this for me.
I sincerely hope the people in my class have gained something from this.  I can selfishly say I have gained more.  I have learned truly you cannot judge a book by its cover.  Patience and kindness go such a long way.  A smile and a compliment may mean the difference between an okay day and a good day.  Every line of ink that has helped me get to this point has been worth it. 
If anyone is thinking about using their CZT certification to do something like this, it’s definitely worth the hurdles you may need to jump just to get in the door.

Jody Genovese, CZT 24 & 28 (New York)



  • Jody, the wonderful things you have done with these class members has been my intention to teach from the very beginning… the day I created my first tile in an in/outpatient Mental Health program here in Michigan. The program was specifically designed for those of us who were considering suicide or has already made attempts. I was one of those considering it. We had one 60-minute session each day to learn a new method to calm ourselves (we all had varying degrees of anxiety and depression). One day, we learned how to draw a few specific patterns on a little square of piece of paper. It was wonderful. That night, I bought a few supplies and started drawing what few patterns I learned in that one class, adding patterns as I found them online. I’ve been hooked ever since. Creating that drawing opened my soul somehow, and I’ve only looked forward ever since. I want to help others who are the me I used to be. Now I’m a brand new CZT and can’t wait to iron out the details to get classes started. I’m anticipating a Hippa exam in my future, too. Thank you for the work you do for those with mental health issues. I can’t tell you how many lives have literally been saved by creating Zentangle artwork, but mine was one. You’re accomplishing more than you know. Truly, thank you. – Theresa S. CZT 32

    Theresa on

  • This is my favorite Blog of 2018…So beautifully written and such an amazing journey !! Our world is so lucky to have such inspirational individuals in it….It brought tears to my eyes when I first read it….and almost did again today !

    Sharon Jerkovic on

  • This is such an inspirational story. Thank you.

    MKay B B Watson CZT 17 on

  • Oh Jody, this is a wonderful article! I’m so inspired to keep trying to reach out to the “right” people! I’m very driven to reach out and teach in a mental health setting and it is a tough sell. How fulfilling for everyone involved but especially yourself! Thank your students for us! And thank you for sharing! 💜

    Cyndee Pelley on

  • I loved every word of this. I am a mental health therapist and reading your stories filled my heart…when you commit to someone to who may have never had anyone really see them, there is transformation that frequently brings me to tears. You have SEEN your students and it’s beautiful to read about. Thank you so much for sharing your story!!!

    Kristi Berg on

  • Jody these stories about your students lifted my heart sooooo much, Hurry brought tears to my eyes💜💜💜💜. Thank you so much for sharing!!!!!

    Susan Moen on

  • I have always wanted to participate in the CZT certification but the cost is keeping me away. Your story has truly inspired me and I am going to start saving my money. Thanks so much for your beautiful words.

    Carol LeBlanc on

  • Knowing about your voluntary teaching at the hospital I was so impressed to see the awesome artistic results of the people you are teaching for the first time. It is unbelievable what you and they have achieved. Thank you so much for this heartwarming report. You are such a wonderful person. So cool that you share your talent and knowledge. Great to call you my friend.
    Jutta Gladnigg, Germany

    Jutta Gladnigg on

  • Jody, this is beautiful and wonderfully written! I’m so glad that I can call you “Friend.” We haven’t talked lately (I’ve been in a rut) but this was like a long visit with you in person (someday, I hope!). I used to be a therapist/counselor in a hospital setting and I, too, am familiar with some of the difficulties. You are such a very special person! Great job on the blog and even better on all you do that is Zentangle-related!

    Kat van Rooyen on

  • Jody, thank you so much for sharing your experience. What a wonderful way to spread the beauty & benefits of Zentangle.


    Lesley Goldberg on

  • Oh, Jody… even though you had shared some of this with me in the past, reading it and having it fleshed out more was so incredible. I found myself filled with tears and emotions through much of it. How tender-hearted most people are and we only need to be open, patient and accepting, getting rid of our own expectations, to meet people where they are. What a loving experience you’re providing for people. I feel honored to know you and call you my friend. xo

    Roseanne on

  • Jody, this is fabulous and what an inspiration. I look forward to seeing you at a future Zentangle event and hearing more about this.

    MartyG on

  • Ooops sorry Jody – I accidentally put Judy. Please accept my apologies for mis-naming you. xx

    June Bailey CZT 31 on

  • What a beautiful, inspiring and uplifting story – and so beautifully told. Thank you for sharing, Judy, this is a wonderful thing to have done, and I found myself nodding in recognition of “that Zentangle feeling”. xx

    June Bailey CZT 31 on

  • Hey Jody, I knew you would get a blog out there one day😃😃😃
    Well done.

    Terri delaune on

  • Thank you for sharing your experience with us. Yet again this beautiful tangled baton is handed from one person to another to another… and it’s truly impossible to imagine where it might end up, way down the line.

    Jem on

  • Oh Jody! This is precisely why I wanted to get my own CZT. I wanted to share the impact it had on me with others. Folks that needed help with Mental Health issues (similar to your own patients), PTSD or folks in rehab that could use some quieting of the mind were my intended targets. Having just gotten my CZT @ #31, I’m just now going around my small community of 4.5k to see how I can get my foot in the door and get started. The local library was extremely enthusiastic as my first stop, but next on my list is the local rehab facility and then on to the VA and the hospital. Thank you SO much for sharing this! Is there a chance I might be able to reach out on occasion to pick your brain? Love and hugs to you! Rita

    LovelyRita on

  • Thank’s Jody for sharing your story! I feel so encouraged reading this!

    Anita A Westin on

  • Thank you for sharing your experience with teaching Zentangle.

    What a gift you have given and received! Thank you!

    Paulette Kirschensteiner on

  • Thank you Jody for your wonderful inspiring story. That proofs that one should not give up! Because when you want something, the heart sends out such powerful signals… Sooner or later the right people and situations are brought together. Thank you for telling your story. Love from Belgium. Karin CZT#20

    Karin Godyns on

  • Jody! I am so happy for you. I knew you were special when I met you and this is just a great story that lets everyone else know. ❤️

    I feel the same way you do… There are no words to express what ZT has done for me.

    I hope Rick, Maria, Molly, Martha and all of HQ really feel the love.

    Kim Kohler on

  • Beautiful story, beautifully told and illustrated. I too want to share Zentangle for mental health as I truly believe it can be life changing. Thank you for sharing.

    Annie on

  • Oh Judy! So proud of you! So proud of your students! Well done you!

    “… one stroke at a time…”

    Yvette Campbell CZT on

  • Yay you Jody! I’m so happy that it worked out that you could do what you wanted to do and I hope that you’ll be able to continue with the program. I love that you gave the participants tangle names! Do they know about that? Maybe they’d like to learn “their” tangle.

    Margaret Bremner on

  • Such a heartwarming and beautifully written story. Yes, you have discovered how you can help. Simplicity, patience, an open heart, and love. Well done. Inspirational.

    Lisa, CZT 23

    Lisa on

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