The Curse of the Creative Mind

I put in my two weeks’ notice on Monday. I won’t go into details, I’ll just say that I felt it was time for me to move on. A new chapter was ready to be opened.

However, it’s hard to not feel like a failure in these moments, because I often feel like I should be able to work things out. I think of my failed attempts over the years and it becomes overwhelming. Even with photography and writing, for example. I had pictured myself much further along by now in my personal terms of success. And as I was reflecting on this the other day, and how there must be something wrong with me, I had a sudden thought.

What if every creative person had given up on their dreams when it looked like they were impossible?

We see the stories all the time, of what stars were doing before they were famous. Jon Bon Jovi, for example, briefly worked as a janitor and even sold newspapers for a while. What if he had never pursued music the way that he did? The world would have been robbed of one of the best songwriters out there.

Stephen King always wanted to be a writer, but he had to settle for selling stories to magazines and newspapers before he finally got a break with Carrie. That didn’t happen until he was 26. While this is still pretty young for someone to find their career take off, it happened because he pursued it extensively and put in the hard work to back it up.

Harrison Ford didn’t land his first major role until he was in his early thirties, after which he spent time as a carpenter. What if he had stayed in that line of work? The world would have a very different Han Solo and Indiana Jones.

But I especially thought of Robin Williams. He always pursued comedy and acting, but he had to take his share of small time nightclubs and live performances at bars before making his way into television, all while battling depression. What if he had let that defeat him early on? What if he had succumbed to his depressive thoughts earlier? It was tragic enough that he let go of his life when he did, but can you imagine if it had happened in his twenties? The immense joy that he brought to people would have been lost forever. He was gone far too soon as it stands, but he also fought for a long time.

Now, I’m certainly not trying to compare myself to someone like Stephen King or Robin Williams. But it gave me a little bit of hope to think that there is value in the people who give us the creative arts. Books, movies, theater, craftsmanship…it all ties to together to make this world a little more beautiful. We need all manner of jobs, but we need entertainment as well. It gave me a renewed sense of determination in pursuing my dreams and the things that bring me joy.

I believe that our creative outlets usually reflect our inner state of mind. When we are happy, sad, angry, pensive…it manifests itself in our work. (This also proves true in most jobs, but that’s a blog post for another time.)

So for a small moment, I just want to encourage my fellow creatives. It’s hard to fight through the failures and rejections. To stay positive when you just want to give up. To ignore to the negativity of those around you. But when you overcome these obstacles, you become stronger. Resilient. Unbreakable.

Stay strong, my friends. I know you can do this.

Wildfire Season

Well, as many have probably seen in recent news, my beautiful home state of Oregon has experienced some of the worst wildfires we’ve ever seen. I won’t go into the political side of things (though I most certainly have my own opinions about it), but I will say that I am so grateful to our firefighters who are bravely facing the oncoming flames.

It breaks my heart to see such destruction, especially for the people who have lost their homes and/or businesses due to this catastrophe. We’re Oregon Strong, and we’ll get through this, but there are some days when it’s hard to stay positive.

We experienced the density of the smoke here in Central Oregon. It rolled in like a thick layer of fog.

At the worst of times, I couldn’t even see the houses at the end of the cul de sac that’s barely half a block away. This was particularly unfortunate for me, as I’m allergic to smoke in general. I relied heavily on antihistamines and prayed daily for the safety of our poor wildfire crews. It was easy to grow restless. I live in Oregon for a reason, and it’s primarily because I like to spend copious amounts of time outdoors.

This is a time when we are reminded just how easy it is to take simple pleasures for granted. Being able to go for a walk. Keeping the windows open for long amounts of time. And for many of us, being able to visit our favorite trails. I’m utterly devastated that some of my favorite hiking spots in the entire state are going up in flames. I’m almost afraid to learn about just how much damage has taken place, when it could have been prevented.

But I digress.

For now, I will look at the many photos I have of these places and I will be thankful that I got to enjoy them when I did. I will savor these moments of clean, pure air now that the rain has finally washed away the stench of smoke. And I hope that I will not take for granted the moments that make this life so special.

Be blessed.

The Steadfast

Safe to say life is a little crazy right now. People are wondering what the future looks like, whether or not they’ll have a job to come back to, how this will affect their kids, etc.

I don’t have any real words of wisdom other than hold on to your “constant.”

What I mean by that is the thing that gets you through the worst of times. For me, I happen to believe in God. I’m not a very stereotypical Christian anymore because there’s a lot of theology that I happen to disagree with. I won’t get into the details of that, but the one thing that has stayed constant for me is my relationship with God.

Perhaps you’re a spiritual person in a different sort of way. Perhaps you’re not spiritual at all and you find hope in logic. Whatever your constant may be, hold onto it.

I like to think of it the way I do my favorite mountains. I happen to live in beautiful Central Oregon, and because I was born and raised here, the mountains have been a part of my skyline for as long as I can remember. There are three in particular that are incredibly well known in this area, generally referred to as the Three Sisters.

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This is from my absolute favorite viewpoint. It’s hard to capture in a photograph, but you’re so close to the mountains that you can see the details of their ridge lines and the rocks and crags on them. It’s amazing.

Because I know this area so well, I always know where the Three Sisters are located. From my particular hometown, you can see their peaks from almost any part of the city. It doesn’t matter if they’re covered by clouds or fog, or if the sun has set. I know they’ll always be there.

That’s kind of how God is for me. It doesn’t matter if there are times when my own clouds of anxiety keep me from seeing Him in the moment. He’s still there for me.

So I repeat, whatever your “constant” is, hold onto it. This, too, shall pass, and we’ll come out the other side. But whatever you need to do in the moment to help get through it, be patient with yourself. It’s going to be okay.

Hugs to you all! (Digitally, of course, so we’re ten feet apart.) 😀

Happy New Year!

I’ve been a geek pretty much all my life. I was a geek when it was extremely uncool to be one, and I was a geek when they were fairly well accepted in everyday life. It’s simply a part of who I am and what I happen to be interested in. I have a Lord of the Rings collection. There is still fanart from The Legend of Zelda hanging in my room. I’m cool with this. 

And honestly, the older I get the more I realize that some of us were just meant to be kids forever. I missed out on a lot of the spontaneity of youth because I let fear rule my life. Now I’m in my mid-30’s, and I don’t give a crap what anyone thinks of me. Quite frankly, I like this version of me much better. 

One of the things that hasn’t changed about me over the years is my love of costumes. I went full-out the first time I ever went to a Comic Con and bought a really great Black Widow costume. It was pricey, but LEGIT. I loved the experience so much that I realized it brought back a little dream of mine. 

I had always thought it would be really fun to do costumed Christmas cards. I tried to get my ex-husband to get in on it with me, but he utterly refused. He told me it was a stupid idea, one of the many times his verbal abuse made me feel like a terrible person, and it was all I could to get him to pose for regular pictures. 

Here’s the thing. I adore photo Christmas cards. I love seeing smiling faces and happy families and watching my friend’s children grow each year. I like seeing what they’ve chosen to wear this time around, and what the backdrop is. So for me, I thought It would be so cool to have a theme each year. Dress in costume, go the whole nine yards. I mean, wouldn’t it be great to be the one that everyone looks forward to each year, wondering, “What did she come up with this time?” 

Well, I left that abusive marriage about three years ago. Best decision I ever made. (Which only slightly makes up for the worst decision I ever made, but I digress.) I’m still a single gal, and for the first few years it seemed a little weird to just do Christmas cards of me by myself. Yeah, I know, I could have done whatever I wanted, but I ultimately chose not to go that route.

But then I got my beautiful Bailey last year. Suddenly, around the fall, I realized that I had the partner in crime I’d always wanted. She looks pretty “wolfie” in appearance, so I decided to do a last-minute themed Christmas card. My friend’s mom is a great photographer and agreed to take the photos for me, so I threw together a costume using materials that I found from Goodwill and St. Vincent’s. 

They turned out fabulous. Every bit of what I wanted them to be. I loved seeing them, and I sent a copy to every friend and family member that I could think of. The response was exactly what I knew it would be, and people thought they were great. 

So you know what? The next time someone tells you that you can’t do something, or that an idea is stupid, do it anyway. Maybe the response won’t be so positive, but gosh darn it, if it makes you happy then that’s all that matters anyway. 

Be fabulous, my dears. And have a blessed New Year, from Red Riding Hood and the Wolf. 

Before and After, and the Work In-Between

Can we take a minute and talk about a couple of words that most people don’t like to talk about? No, not those words, you dirty-minded person. 😉  I mean those OTHER words.

Hard. Work.

I confess that there are many times when I seek out instant gratification. I can be very patient when I want to be, but sometimes I just don’t give a flip and want it done NOW. As in, like, finished yesterday. But there’s something to be said for slow and steady progress. For the satisfaction of knowing the blood, sweat and tears that was put into your craft, whatever it may be. I’ve studied many things over the years, from singing to bellydance, and there’s always been a sense of pride from the work that I’ve done in those areas.

Most recently, I finally started pursuing my passion in photography, as previously mentioned in this blog. I’d always enjoyed it to an extent, but I didn’t really start seriously studying it until about three years ago.

One of my favorite places to go is Sahalie Falls. It’s only about an hour or so from where I live, which is amazing, and it’s just a beautiful area. The McKenzie river is green and lush, with several waterfalls and pretty areas all along it. Sahalie Falls is one of the most popular tourist destinations, with a short three-mile loop that allows you to see the waterfalls from both sides of the river. A couple weeks ago, I went there with a good friend and completed the full loop for the first time in a couple of years. When we approached what was nearly the end of the trail, I just had to stop and take a photo of the tiny little waterfall cascading near the trail. It was much fuller than it had previously been, thanks to a large amount of recent snowfall, but it was so nostalgic to me.

That tiny little waterfall was my first ever attempt and capturing a long exposure image. Basically, long exposure means your shutter-speed is set for a longer period of time, so it creates a blurred effect for things that are in motion. That’s how you get that beautiful, flowing look for things like waterfalls or rivers. I had never tried it before, but I remember the sense of pride I had when I first took photos of this place. This was how it turned out:

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I tweaked it in Photoshop, because I hadn’t yet purchased a copy of Lightroom, and even printed out a copy to hang above my bed at our old house. This was it, I had found what I wanted to do forever. I was so happy with the results that I posted it everywhere, convinced it was going to be one of my best pieces ever.

Well, it’s not necessarily bad. But I can see where I over-exposed a lot of the image and didn’t set the shutter for the right speed. Not only that, but over the last two years my style of photography has gone from bright colors and exposure to more dark and moody. When I processed the most recent photo, I used some of the go-to presets that I almost always use now.

SmallFalls3

Same place, same water. Completely different photography styles.

I’m still proud of both of these works. But I love seeing how far I’ve come in the last couple of years. When I look back at things like this, I see the hours of labor and studying that I put into it. I see the late nights and early mornings. I see the tears of frustration over a failed attempt or yet another rejection. But I always see progress.

I know it’s been credited to many different authors, but my mother always used to quote to me that when you find the job you love, you’ll never work a day in your life. Oh trust me, you’ll still put in the work. But when it’s your passion, it’s worth every moment.

Thank you, Taco Bell

To the random Taco Bell employee who waited on me yesterday: Thank you.

You see, when I went to grab a quick dinner with my brother and some of his friends, I was feeling pretty down. But one little piece of sunshine made me feel a little bit better. The Taco Bell employee that I met at the counter yesterday was bubbly, all smiles, and absolutely fantastic. And you know what made my day?

She complimented my makeup.

Oh, I know, that might seem pretty trivial to some people. But here’s the thing. That Taco Bell employee didn’t know that I’d had a complete meltdown that morning. She didn’t know how stressed I was from being in the middle of moving, and that my life was completely turned upside down right now. She didn’t know that my mother died earlier this year, and that I’m still grieving the fact that the one person who always understood me, the one who could’ve truly helped me through this whole process, is just gone. She didn’t know that I had looked at my makeup that morning and felt it was crap because I had cried through most of the application.

She had no idea.

She just complimented my makeup, and we laughed and joked around a little bit before she went on to the next customer.

It probably meant nothing to her. Just another day at her workplace, another dollar to be earned. But she made my day so much better because she saw something that I couldn’t see in the moment, and she said it out loud.

Sometimes we need to remember to say those little things. If you like someone’s shirt, tell them. If you notice a hair color that really catches your eye, say something. You never know what someone else is going through, and you never know who might need that little word of encouragement. It might seem really silly to you, but it could mean the world to them.

Every person has a story – you get to decide whether or not you’re going to listen to it. Just my quick two cents for today.

It’s About to Pick Up

Phew, had a little bit of a busy week. Honestly, I’m not really complaining. I like to stay productive, so it was actually good for me to have a full schedule.

I felt like I hit a little bit of a standstill during part of January and into February. I had done pretty much everything that I could to get the business up and running, was still staying active on social media and whatnot, but I was officially stuck in the waiting game. Basically, I realized that until I started selling some of my current designs, it didn’t make sense to really come up with a bunch of new ones. Problem was, I didn’t really know how to go about getting more sales apart from continual social media plugs and eventually getting into an actual store as a vendor.

Unfortunately, that was part of the waiting game. I was on two different wait lists for two different antique stores, but the lists were long and most of the people who were already established there didn’t want to leave. I can’t blame them for that – obviously something was working well there.

So I was stuck.

And I’ll be real with you guys, because that’s the sort of person that I am, it was hard not to feel just the *slightest* twinge of panic at the thought of having to go back to a regular 8-5 desk job. I didn’t have a problem getting part time work so that I could make ends meet while working on my business. But I spent so many years working in the medical field doing something that I absolutely HATED that I had a really hard time accepting that I might have to go back to that for a little bit. It was like, c’mon, life. I’ve done my time doing the crap stuff that I despise and living paycheck to paycheck. More than eight years of it, in fact. I just needed that little bone of hope, you know? It became tough enough that I really had to fight off those depressive thoughts that so often plague me.

Well, God is super gracious, as always. I had a very heartfelt cry that said, “Look, my heart knows that You’ll always take care of me, but my brain is getting in the way of that. I just need a little bit of a sign that says You hear me right now.”

Within a couple of weeks, I got connected to a different antique store, one that I had rather forgotten about but had a really good customer service experience with, and was offered a spot as a vendor there. While it’s not entirely set in stone just yet, because I have to wait for one of the other vendors to make a decision, it looks very good. The spot is perfect for what I’ve wanted, and they charge very reasonable fees for their vendors. Plus the woman who owns the shop is super nice and very laid back.

The other crazy thing that happened was I got offered a job interview for a part time position that I had applied for at a local company. I was hesitant at first, because again, I didn’t want to be stuck in a horrible receptionist position that I didn’t like. Turns out, the position that they really wanted to fill was basic organization, like making sure events were catered or reservations were made. Ordered office supplies. Some filing and possible letter writing.

In other words, it’s all the stuff that I actually ENJOY doing in an office with none of the stress. Sign me up.

The two people I interviewed with were fantastic and also very laid back. Again, the atmosphere of the office was very different from the medical field, which was so refreshing for me. The hours were slightly less than what I had been shooting for, but there was the possibility of things picking up soon, so more hours could be coming. I felt like the interview went really well, and they told me that I would hear from them the next week on what their decision was.

Well, less than two hours later I got a phone call that they were offering me the job.

I’m still just shaking my head at how quickly everything has progressed. Less than a month ago, I was really starting to feel the pressure of where I was going to get enough money to pay my basic bills. Dreading the thought that I might have to give up my business dream so soon. Wishing that I had just a little more time to be able to make things work.

Seriously, I feel so blessed.

I’m excited to get in with this store. I really feel like this is where I could make a decent paycheck and get my name out there. It’s where I can meet people and actually make some connections. Business is all about building relationships, so this is going to be awesome.

I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it again: Don’t ever give up on your dreams. It’s going to take hard work and determination, but stick through the difficulties. I know this is going to be worth it in the end.

Okay, super long post, so here’s a random photo just for the heck of it. I finally visited Tumalo Falls State Park for the first time last year, and this beautiful river is truly a gem of Oregon. Tumalo Falls itself is gorgeous, but there are several other smaller falls as well that are just lovely. Plus the river and forest look like this as you’re walking along. I mean, how do you beat that?

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Be blessed!

Perfect Song is Perfect

Okay, I’m going to admit something here. It’s hit or miss for me when it comes to Ed Sheeran.

I know, I know. He’s pretty darn popular, and I’m really not surprised. He has a great voice, and clearly is a talented songwriter. But there have been several of his songs that I’ll just flat out admit I can’t stand. I change the radio station anytime they come on.

On the flip side, there have been a couple that I’ve really enjoyed. I actually quite liked the rhythm and melody of Shape of You. It was a fun, upbeat song. Something worth adding to a workout mix. But my general consensus was the same, which was that he was mediocre.

Then his most recent song came out: Perfect.

You know what? I totally skipped this song multiple times because I didn’t care for the melody on the first couple of lines. I usually just wasn’t in the mood for something slow, and for whatever reason I thought it was going to be another typical love song that had a more R&B flavor. Turns out I was completely wrong. Low and behold, one day I happened to change radio stations and the chorus of the song was playing. I didn’t even recognize it as the same song. It wasn’t until the second verse came up that I realized I had been skipping what was actually a very lovely song. In fact, I ended up listening to it several more times that very week.

After just one line, I was ready to give up on something that I hadn’t bothered to listen to all the way through. Kind of sad, right?

It made think of how many times I’ve done that to people. First impressions are key, but sometimes they’re very wrong. Everyone has a story, and sometimes we don’t know why a person is acting the way that they do. Perhaps they just lost their job. Got a bad diagnosis at the doctor’s office. Who knows?

I was telling Brother about how much I had been enjoying the song, and he admitted it was still just “okay” to him. Kind of meh, but not so bad that he wouldn’t at least listen to it when it came on the radio.

Well, just for the record, if you want to take a song from “meh” to “HOT DANG,” just add an Italian opera singer. Specifically Italian opera singer Andrea Bocelli, if you can. I just stumbled across this absolutely STUNNING version of Perfect, and I think it just helps to encapsulate that we should never judge a song by one line, nor judge a person by our first impression. Hope you enjoy this as much as I did.

Love Without Fear

Boy, the holidays are already here. That’s just crazy. This last year has been a little bit of a whirlwind for me. I mean, the divorce was finalized, I moved to a completely different city, and ended up starting my own business. If you had told that me that all those things were going to take place over a year, I probably would have laughed at you.

But it’s been so good. All of it, the whole process. I have received so much healing the past several months, and it’s partly in thanks to my wonderful support system. My family has been instrumental in helping me both financially and emotionally. Seriously. I wouldn’t be anywhere without their love and stability.

This is where I have to give a shout-out to Brother specifically.

He’s been the best. We’ve been roomies for a year now, and he’s totally helped me out with rent the last couple of months while I’ve been getting this business off the ground. He’s been my number one cheerleader and often times the reason that I didn’t just give up and go back to a regular day job.

My church family has been my other support system. I’m one of the lucky ones, guys. We’re small in number, but fierce in love. And the other night, as I had a conversation with my pastor and his wife about many different things, something awesome happened. I felt a healing in my soul that I didn’t even know I needed.

I processed this over the next few days, almost testing the feeling of such peace, but it hasn’t wavered. You see, one of the unfortunately side effects of being in an abusive situation is fear. When you leave that situation, you break off one part of the fear because that person can no longer control you through it. But there are other parts of you that still feel apprehensive.

One of those things is fear of rejection. It’s something that I’ve struggled with my entire life, even before living in abuse, and part of the reason I rushed into a marriage that shouldn’t have happened. As other parts of my heart were healed, the fear of rejection still reared its ugly head. Especially when you’ve been single for a while and haven’t had any real prospects for dating.

That was the amazing thing about the other weekend. For the first time in my life, I felt freedom to love without fear. It didn’t matter if I was rejected. Didn’t matter if things didn’t turn out the way I envisioned them. I could still choose to love and know that it’s all going to be okay.

Everyone has their moments of doubt, but you can’t let fear rule your life. Live without regret, and enjoy the journey. I’ve had a couple of design inspirations come from this revelation, and I’ll be sharing them as soon as they’re finished. In the meanwhile, I leave you with my hope for your lives:

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Photo c. Hawk’s Haven Photography & Design

Be blessed! And thanks for traveling on this journey with me.

The Fun of Photography

I really appreciate all of the support that I’ve received in starting my own business, and that includes from readers of this blog. My amazing friends and family are already spreading the word, and every time I see that my page is shared on FB, I get a happy feeling. 😀

So why photography? Don’t get me wrong, writing is still one of my primary passions in life. But photography and graphic design is incredibly rewarding in its own right. When you learn how to post-process photos and add your own creative flair to them, you get amazing results. As I’ve played around with settings over the years, I’ve had fun watching my own personal style grow and transform. That’s part of your marketing strategy. Yes, there might be a ton of other pictures out there of the mountains or forests, but what makes yours unique? I guess my ultimate goal is that someday, people will be able to look at one of my photos and automatically know that it’s mine because it will be different enough from all the others.

While I still have a lot to learn (like night/astral photography for one), I’ve been fortunate to have access to the works of certain photographers who have helped give me some great advice. For example, I can now take a variety of pictures and know how to post-process them in a way that I never could before. I mean, I can take a photo like this:

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This was taken up at Smith Rock State Park, practically in my little city’s backyard. It’s one of the most visited tourist spots in our area.

And I can make it into something ethereal, almost other-worldly with its colors and effects:

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Does it look surreal? Sure it does. But that’s the beauty of photography. We are able to take something that seems too good to be true and bring people happiness whenever they get to see it. I think that’s part of what really drives me as a landscape/nature photographer. I love the idea of being able to capture an image for someone who might never get the chance to see that place in real life. And for the locals here who have gotten to hike this thing multiple times, it’s fun for them to recognize their own landscape on a greeting card or in a calendar.

To me, this is what makes both writing and photography such great professions. When I write a story, I want to take my readers to a whole different world, where they can forget their everyday life and enjoy seeing what my characters will do next. When I take a photo, I want to let people imagine what that place must be like and give them a little bit of peace every time that they look at it hanging on their wall.

Life is amazing, guys. After the hardships that I endured for so many years, I never thought that I could experience this kind of happiness in doing what I love for a living. It’s hard work. But it is oh so rewarding.

Follow your dreams. Do what you love. Never give up.