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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!

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Well, unfortunately, part of that new year started with me finally fighting the crud that’s been making its way through all of my friends. I don’t get sick very often, which is a plus, but when I do get sick, it just completely zaps my energy. Honestly, I haven’t felt *too* horrible this time around – I mean, I’ve certainly had worse. But there have still been minor aches and chills, and a darn sore throat.

And the phlegm. UGH, the phlegm.

Again, I’ve had worse. It’s still dang annoying. Not to mention my voices cracks at any given moment, so I never know what to expect. Also, am I the only one who gets kind of loopy when they’re sick? I don’t know if the phlegm, like, prevents coherent thoughts from entering my brain or what, but it clearly blocks more oxygen than usual. Maybe it’s because I feel so tired. I do tend to get loopy when I’m tired. In fact, I probably won’t remember writing this post by the time tomorrow comes around. I can totally see myself wondering why people are liking a post that was published weeks ago.

But I digress.

What IS exciting about 2018 is that it’s a new year of hiking! I gotta tell you, I have become more and more outdoorsy the older that I’ve gotten. It was part of why working inside a building all day every day made me die inside a little. I live in this utterly gorgeous, amazing state, so to be unable to enjoy it except on the weekends is pretty much torture.

How beautiful is it, you ask? Well, let me show you!

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It’s primarily because of these beauties right here. See, there are two small cities about twenty minutes apart from one another (I live in the smaller of the two) that are nestled up to the edge of the forest that surrounds the Cascades. The larger city is more in the pine trees than my town, but both have fantastic views of the mountains from almost anywhere. This photo was taken on a back road that used to be the main highway between the two cities before Highway 97 was put in. There is still lush farmland and beautiful viewpoints, however, so a lot of us locals still tend to take this back road.

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Broken Top is on the far left, and the Three Sisters huddle next to it.

I mean, seriously. How do you not love these? What I’ve discovered most about my own personality is that I don’t ever want to live somewhere without mountains. Granted, it doesn’t necessarily have to be these mountains in particular, though I am rather partial to them, but I have to have them in my life. I have to be able to hike. The forest has become such an incredible therapy to me, that I can’t honestly picture living somewhere without that as an option.

I have access to hundreds of trails, some of which are available year-round. That means that more often than not, I can still keep training even in the dead of winter. Some of the trails have a very low elevation, meaning that the snow melts quickly. For someone like me, that’s huge.

Whatever makes you happy, please be sure to carve out some time for it. Maybe it’s not hiking or being outdoors. Maybe it’s painting, or decorating your house. Maybe it’s curling up with a good book and a cup of coffee. Whatever it is, make it more of a priority in your life. Too many people get through the drudge of everyday life in the hopes that someday they’ll be able to retire and finally have time for these things, but I encourage you to enjoy some of the small pleasures now. No, I’m not telling you to quit your job, or to spend lots of money on a hobby.

I’m talking about the simple pleasures. The things we don’t always make time for because we’re too busy thinking about what needs to be done. The dishes will still be there in the sink, so go ahead and play with your kids for a while. They won’t be kids forever, after all. Enjoy that morning outing with your friends. Don’t worry about what tomorrow brings when you still have time left today.

When I’m out hiking, I try to take just a moment or two to simply enjoy my surroundings. Forget the camera, forget the perfect shot. Forget the business and the stress that comes with it. Enjoy what you have while you have it.

I’m excited for 2018, guys. There are a lot of great things just waiting to be snatched up, great moments to be lived, and great friends to be made. Make the best of it, and live life to the fullest.

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Here’s to a great new year!

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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.

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Autumn is by far my favorite time of the year. Seriously. You see, when you live in Central Oregon, you usually have two seasons: winter and August. Lots of snow in the wintertime, and blazing hot summers. I mean, we are called the high desert for a reason. We get very little rain. (No, no, you’re thinking of PORTLAND. Portland gets all the rain and is very weird. The rest of us in the state are fairly normal, and the Cascade Mountains block most of the rain from coming our way.)

So for about two weeks, we get to enjoy this absolutely beautiful autumn weather that’s pretty much close to perfect. The leaves change colors, the temperature drops to a livable degree, and there’s even several days of cloud cover. It’s my favorite season for all of those things, plus hot chocolate, boots and scarves, and maybe some apple cider.

Of course, the down side to the leaves changing color is that eventually they fall to the ground.

I went for a walk this morning since it was amazing outside, and also because I had been a lazy sloth for most of week. I saw all of the leaves on the ground below the tree in our front yard and was rather impressed. They’d all fallen fairly quickly. Well, a few hours passed after I returned home, and I worked away at some business stuff. (Side note: I’m working on a couple of calendar designs and couldn’t be more excited! I can’t wait to show them here.)

ANYway, by early afternoon I was ready to check the mail and see if any of my orders had come today, but when I opened my front door, I was greeted by this:

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Yeah, those weren’t there when I went for a walk earlier, so I actually stepped back in surprise because I wasn’t expecting it.

That’s right, all of those leaves that had previously been in the front yard….

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….were now all on my front porch.

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“Well, that kind of sucks,” I thought, feeling none too pleased.

Then I saw my neighbor’s porch:

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And suddenly, mine didn’t seem quite so bad.

So there you have it. White I love fall weather, I’m not so keen on the clean up side of things. But soon we will have those nasty white flakes falling from the sky, so I can’t complain. I’ll be wishing for fallen leaves when that time comes around.

And now, off for more calendar editing fun!

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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.

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Well, Hawaii was a blast. I mean, like there’s any other way to describe something so close to paradise. I will say, however, as much as I thought that I was going to be fine in the heat and humidity, I was actually a little overheated a few times. When I had gone there before, it was at Oahu, and it rained a lot. Not a very hard rain, of course, but enough that it actually cooled me down quite a bit.

This time we were at Kona, and while it was still a ton of fun, the side of the island we were on really doesn’t get much more rain than we do in Central Oregon. (Which isn’t much at all.) The muggy humidity and lack of rain got to me a few times, but thankfully it wasn’t too bad overall. I guzzled water like a freaking camel and never went anywhere without my trusty 32 oz. HydroFlask.

We packed a lot into just a few short days, so Brother and I were pretty tired by the time we got home. But we got to see the tallest waterfall on the island, watch a live volcano, and go inside the oldest church on the island. We drove all around and saw a lot of different scenery. Plus our last day there, we got to spend the whole day at one of the most beautiful beaches I’ve ever seen in my life. We made definite plans to go back someday, and now we have a better idea of what to do there and where we want to spend more time.

I didn’t get quite as many photos as I had hoped for, but I was still able to get some decent ones. Even a few that I will be able to use for marketing purposes.

Which brings me to my announcement.

I’m super excited (and a little bit scared) to introduce my latest project, Hawk’s Haven Photography and Design. Any of you who have read my book, Prince of Light, might recognize the name Hawk’s Haven. It’s actually a family name. My grandparents used to own this little one-bedroom cabin by a lake. There was no running water, no electricity, and nothing but a wood stove for warmth. But multiple members of the family used it for vacations (and even a couple of honeymoons). I was quite young when we used to go there, but I still have fond memories of it. We went there to get away from the stress of everyday life and just enjoy nature. Thus when I decided to pursue landscape/nature photography and use my photos for home decor, it felt like a fitting tribute to the name.

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Photo taken at the top of Black Crater in the Cascade Mountains of Oregon. Design by yours truly.

I’m so excited for this, guys. I’m still a writer and always will be. I’m also still working hard on book two of the Prince of Light series.

But there were a series of hardships I had to endure before I could continue working on that particular series. I know some of my followers have been here for a little while, and while I’m not sure exactly how many read my blog on a regular basis, they might have noticed some changes over the last year or so. I won’t go into details for the sake of the people involved, but last summer, I ended my marriage. In fact, this month has been a bit surreal for me, because the paperwork was finalized last October. It’s been almost one year exactly.

Believe me, you never think that you’re going to contribute to that statistic until you do. I never imagined that I would end up divorced. I mean, it’s not like you go into marriage with that mindset. I certainly didn’t. But the situation was an abusive one, and it wasn’t changing despite many efforts and time in counseling. Needless to say, writing a romantic storyline wasn’t exactly number one on my priorities, which is why the Prince of Light series had to take a hiatus.

For the most part, I feel strong. I don’t hate men, and I don’t hate my ex. I forgave him a long time ago. Unfortunately, this was the necessary path for both of us, but I believe we will both be better for it. I have amazing family support and a brilliant church family that I can’t praise enough. I am BLESSED. It’s hard to work through some of the emotional things that come from enduring something like this. Yes, I have moments where I feel like a failure. Moments where I feel like damaged goods. Anyone who has been through this can attest to that. But they’re just moments. I know who I am, and I know what I’ve been called to do. And I’m ready to start writing again.

Part of my healing has come from starting Hawk’s Haven Photography and Design. I’m narrowing down exactly which products I enjoy working on the most, and I’m always looking to improve my craft. This has been my dream since I was in my early twenties, and to finally be able to make it a reality is amazing.

And the best part? It’s a brand-new season and a fresh start.

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Sneak peek at a design not yet available on my site. Lucky you!

Thanks for all the support, dear readers. I’m still going to post on a regular basis, but hopefully you won’t mind seeing some occasional pic-spam from my other projects. Plus, I’m always looking for good quotes that are public domain, so if you think of any that would look good as a print or greeting card, leave a comment.

Be blessed!

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Another day, another cosplay! Yes, it’s the exciting conclusion to my first post regarding our recent trip to Rose City Comic Con. As promised, I will reveal the genius costume idea that my brother came up with.

After toiling long and hard about who the heck he wanted to be, Brother had just about given up on finding a decent costume. He played around with the thought of going as Titus from Final Fantasy, since that was a character that he somewhat looked like, but the costume ended up being far more complicated than it should have been. (Not to mention pretty expensive.)

He hemmed and hawed over this decision until finally — at last! — inspiration struck him. You see, a good majority of his favorite characters just to happened to be female, which initially made him rule them out. Then he finally thought, “What the heck? I’ll just do a gender-swap of my favorite DC character of all time.”

Thus I bring you gender swap Harley (or “Harvey”) Quinn:

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Not bad, eh? He opted for the Suicide Squad version of Harley, since he really enjoyed Margot Robbie’s portrayal of the character. (I won’t lie, I thoroughly enjoyed that movie, and I personally thought it was by far the best live-action version of Harley Quinn that I’ve seen.)

He got a lot of compliments on his outfit. I’d told him how I had seen MANY Harleys the last Comic Con, but no gender swaps. So you can imagine my surprise when we ran into two of them almost right away. Go figure. While we only got a picture with one, they were definitely a fun couple to hang out with:

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And of course, we couldn’t resist posing with another DC character, which was this Batgirl cutie:

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And we got REALLY excited when we found two other Suicide Squad cosplays:

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I love how Brother is totally in character. The other two are appropriately serious, and he’s grinning like the Quinn he is. 😉

But the best part was when we found a legit, absolutely fantastic Batman. So of course, Brother had to ask if Batsy would be willing to play the part of his nemesis for a photo op. Being the gracious guy that he is, Batman was more than willing to comply:

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But I promise, he really was just a nice guy overall. And probably one of the best Batmans that I’ve seen, to be honest.

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See? Just a nice guy.

So that was our overall Comic Con experience. I managed to snag a few more things for my Lord of the Rings collection, which made me happy. (Even though they weren’t nearly as epic as Karl Urban’s autograph would have been.)

All in all, a great time.

In other news, I am SUPER stoked for this week. My parents, brother and I are going to head over to the island state of Hawaii! Woot! This will only be the second time that I’ve ever gotten to go, and it’s going to be nice to see something other than the tourist trap of Honolulu. Not that I’m really complaining about the last trip, mind you. Heck, any time in Hawaii is good, in my book. But this time around, I’ll be able to do a lot more hiking and exploring and picture-taking. It’s going to be superb.

I’ll be posting photos and sharing about our adventures when I return. Plus I’m going to finally share a little more about my latest project. It’s not really writing-centered, but it’s still creative and very fun.

Until then, aloha!

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