Nostalgia At Its Finest (novel-esque post… you’ve been warned!)

So today’s a beautiful day here in sunny Florida… and, I mean, it’s REALLY beautiful out. So I did the only logical thing there is to do on a day like this and I went outside! And it would be purely selfish of me to do so and leave my adorable, precious, love bug of a pup behind, so I grabbed his water bowl, filled up a bottle of water for the both of us, couldn’t leave his treats behind of course, and set out with my blanket, ready for an awesome Monday with the lil man.

As I was getting ready to step out, I noticed my happy memories jar sitting on my bookshelf and I thought, “Hmmm… yep. It’s comin along.”

Let me tell you a little bit about my happy memories jar.
I created this little gem about a year an a half ago- on New Years Day 2013 to be exact. I did this for two reasons. Firstly, I wanted to begin keeping record of my happy memories, even the small ones, because let’s be honest… we all tend to forget the little treasures that pop up into our life journeys and isn’t it just a perfectly nostalgic joy to be reminded?! Secondly, this year in particular, to me, was the first year that I started living. I was 24 years old at the time but I felt as if I’d be reborn, and while there are a plethora of reasons behind this, I think you’ll have to do with the mystery for now because this blog couldn’t even begin to handle my life story. ;) But I can give you the bare essentials to roll with me here.(If you don’t care about the essentials of where it came from, you’re welcome to continue scrolling down to my mantra, which is what started the jar, and are MORE than welcome to adopt it in whatever way that suits you for your own life! :) I just always feel that it’s beautiful to provide a little bit of back story to help others relate when sharing something so close to your heart.)
Basically, I had always been a people-pleaser and was that person who would bend over backwards for anyone on the planet who asked me to, even strangers (nope, I’m not kidding you… I did not discriminate with my people-pleasing). You can ask those closest to me who were constantly scolding me for being “too nice”, to which I responded by telling them that there’s no such thing as being too nice, or that I’d rather be too nice than to be rude.I just didn’t understand why I was supposed to ever view it to be a bad thing.
And in a sense, I was onto something there. To this day, I believe genuine kindness to be the most beautiful aspect of a person, including and especially above physical beauty. But the way in which I went about it left me with little to no room for the word “no”(I don’t even believe I knew how to pronounce it until recently… “N… n… nnnnice to meet you?” Nope. That’s not it… dangit!), which left little to no room for meIt stunted my authenticity and, instead, lead me into some difficult situations that could have taken my life down a very, very difficult, dark, and unhappy road.
There’s clearly a lot more to it but for now, I’m going to leave it at that and save the juicy deets for another time.
The bottom line is that I was, in very many ways, living a life for the approval of and appreciation from others rather than for the authenticity of myself and how I was truly intended to live. Fortunately, however, I ultimately mastered the art of learning my lessons the hard way in my lifetime, and with my true nature still alive and kicking deep down (truly by the grace of God), screaming to be set free, it was only a matter of time before the two collided and I awoke to a better way of living that suited not only the serving nature that I had for others, but also myself and my own genuine happiness. I never thought it would be possible to find a balance between the two, but lo and behold, after 24 years of learning some very hard lessons in a very hands-on way, I was officially ready to do just that.
You see, after coming out of one of the most difficult times of my life which included a devastating divorce and even more heart-wrenching news regarding my physical health, I had been overwhelmed for months. I did my best to walk forward with my head held high and a bright smile on my face, and I like to think that I actually did well with this, at least from what others could see, but inside… I struggled. I think it’s even safe to say I was a hot mess. I won’t go into details about the turmoil I felt regarding my life, my worth, and my future, but I will say that it was, hands down, the absolute lowest point of my life and I didn’t realize that self-worth could actually fall into the sub-zero category until then. That time actually wound up playing a strong role in deepening my level of empathy because not one single person in the world knew how I felt, as it wasn’t something I cared to share… I was determined to continue being the happy, friendly, caring and sweet person that I felt I always was to those around me because if I was going to lose everything else, I was going to hold on with dear life to the one thing I had left and valued so deeply- my kindness. And please don’t get me wrong; I wasn’t being “fake”, as I genuinely believed in every happy, positive, and encouraging thing that I said and did. But I, myself, was in deep pain and was simply doing all that I could to push through and past it by focusing on brightening the day and lives of others. So when I realized how little people knew about what was so broken and pained inside of me behind that smile and outwardly positive nature, and actually how easily they assumed that I had some sort of perfect and idealistic life upon meeting me BECAUSE I was so positive in nature and “looked” like I must have such an easy life, I began to understand just how little we know of others and how ill equipped we are to make any assumptions, even seemingly positive ones. I realized that there are undoubtedly others who live broken behind their smiles and that we can never truly know or understand what a person has struggled with or is struggling with, even if we think they’ve shared with us… that unless we are walking in their shoes, it’s simply not our battle to judge. I became keenly aware of the difference that a randomly kind person or even something as simple as a smile could make to what might have otherwise been a painful or bad day, and I wanted to be sure that I always only contributed good things and beauty to the days of others. I didn’t ever want to be that person who was so wrapped up in her own troubles that she was oblivious to the world around her, closing herself off from beautiful new opportunities and growth and either directly or indirectly contributing frustration and negativity to others along the way. It was at that point that I set an intention to always remain aware of, and empathetic toward, that knowledge in my daily interactions.
I know that I promised to keep this short, and I hope that you all realize by now what “short” means to me in terms of writing (oh heyyyyy, shout out to my lovely friends who are amazing enough to read through my novel texts!! You’re zee best! ;) ). I’m almost there, I promise. But the point that I wanted to make in sharing all of this is basically to show that we all have our struggles, even those who you might never expect to have struggled or to be struggling. Whether they’re just like mine or entirely different, we can all relate to the simple fact that we have each struggled in some way. And with that, I believe that we can all relate to needing and benefitting from something like a happy memories jar, and especially what began it (what, you thought all of this was in relation to the jar itself? Get real, that was just a gateway to a much bigger story! Aw, youuuu fell for itttttt ;) ). You see, on New Years Eve of 2012, before going out in my sparkly dress and curly locks, I sat down and went to town on quite a few pages of my journal, sectioning the pages into two categories. The first was a list titled, Trials and Tribulations of 2012. In that list, I wrote about everything that was hard, difficult, heartbreaking, discouraging, and fearful. I made a list of 50. The second was titled, And the Lessons I’m Taking with Me from Each and Every One…, in which I wrote about all of the strength, beauty, and blessings to be found in relation to each struggle on list number one. After completing the first list, I walked passed my parents (my temporary roommies at the time) and went straight toward the fire that was blazing under the chimney, where I carefully laid the pages of list number one into the flames and watched with a great sense of relief as the negativity turned to ash and rose into the abyss above. The second list is what began my happy memories jar. I placed it into a glass jar and set an intention to fill that jar with all of the blessings of the year, allowing nothing but beauty to come with me into 2014 when I would sit down a year later to read them. I have to say, it was a really beautiful experience going through them the first time on New Years Day 2013… so much so that I felt inspired to bring it with me to the park and do it again on this beautiful day!
That is the list that I’ve provided below, and I pray that it inspires all who read it to live life to the best of their abilities, and even beyond… to remember their worth, even and especially in the times when it feels to be non-existent, and to hold on to the strength and the courage that exists within us all to move forward into beauty and greatness. This life is meant to be lived happily and joyfully, for others and for ourselves. I wish that for you all and hey, if you ever have trouble finding it… you know a gal that will absolutely bend over backwards for ya to help find it! ;) Live in love everyone, and seriously… thank you for reading! ❤

And the Lessons I’m Taking with Me from EACH and EVERY one… ❤

1.) I deserve happiness and am smart enough to recognize when and where it’s lacking, strong enough to stand up for myself and for others, even when it’s the hardest thing to do, and compassionate enough to di it in the kindest and most loving way possible, even when I’m hurting. I did the right thing and will have a happy, healthy, and life-long marriage one day with the right person, when it is right. (I wonder what this one was about… :) )
2.) I have had a tendency to want to be perfect for others, and I don’t need to be… because I am perfect already. I am the perfect me. I was strong enough to overcome something powerfully destructive and am now a thriving, healthy, and beautiful person.
3.) I don’t need attention from any man who’s not the man that I love. I have higher morals than that and am valuable enough to hold onto them.
4.) “It”is only ever bad and I have much healthier options, such as journaling, listening to music, talking with friends, painting, long boarding, driving, or even simply getting ready for no reason at all and feeling good about myself!
5.) I am beautiful! I am gorgeous inside and out, funny, sweet, caring, compassionate, fun, creative, interesting, relaxing, friendly, positive, gentle, athletic, nurturing, intelligent, sexy, loving… I’m the perfect version of me and it’s okay to love that.
6.) They (friends and family) love me and will be a higher priority in my life always.
7.) I have such a bright future full of so many amazing possibilities… sometimes I need to work a little harder for them, and that’s okay… it’s worth it.
8.) Do it NOW. You’ll be glad you did.
9.) There’s always something to be grateful for.
10.) There is literally no benefit to worrying.
11.) I have God, family, and friends. It doesn’t ever matter how many or how close. Life changes, but I’m always loved, and lovable.
12.) I’m too amazing to criticize myself!
13.) I’m too amazing to let anyone else’s misunderstood perceptions get to me!
14.) Life is too short and too amazing to be negative!
15.) See above… that’s their own choice to ignore it. (In reference to anyone who is difficult to deal with in life)
16.) Save more. Only spend what you have.
17.) It’s not worth it. Living in love is worth it. Forgiving is worth it.
18.) Family is most important. You can’t always make it perfect, you’re only one part of it, but you can always do your best for your own part.
19.) Leave more time for sleep. It matters.
20.) God is FIRST. He saved my life multiple times, whether I thought I deserved it or not, whether I wanted him to or not, and whether I even knew it or not. I’m still here, and that means that I have a purpose to fulfill… it means that I am dearly loved by him. He is first.
21.) Creating is my passion. It’s worth making time and energy for, and it inspires others. Do it more.
22.) Helping people is my other passion. I’m good at it and it inspires others. Do it more.
23.) Tithing is important and feels so good no matter how little I have for myself!
24.) Everything happens for a reason. There’s no need to fear the future.
25.) This is my one and only life… LIVE IT!!
26.) However I want to live my life to the fullest is what works for me and that’s not only okay, but it’s what this one life of mine is meant for. Embrace it.
27.) Listen… you can’t make everyone happy, and you can’t make what’s not meant to be, be. If someone wants to love you, let them love you, and if you love someone, let yourself love them to the fullest. The most detrimental thing you can do to yourself is to close off your heart to love. The most selfish thing you to can to the world is to keep your love from it. And the most wasteful thing you can do is to play games and try to figure out what God and fate has already decided. The best and happiest thing you can do is to enjoy the ride and be open to all of the good things that come your way, receiving them with gratitude. If something doesn’t work out, it may be sad initially, but know that it wouldn’t have worked out regardless of what you did and would have been sad at some other point. Be grateful for less time wasted. You might as well be happy and open to the possibilities and enjoy the good that can come from it, accept any of the “disappointments”, and know that if someone else does take this openness of heart for granted, they didn’t deserve your whole heart in the first place; if they take advantage, they obviously needed that openness more than you know; and in either case, it is their loss in the end and you walk forward with your head held high knowing that you always have something to gain from giving! ❤
28.) There is nothing to fear… God has amazing plans for you. Just be open to receiving them!
29.) You’re too precious to hate or doubt. It’s sad for anyone who does so… they’re missing out.
30.) Exercise makes you look and feel good!
31.) Indulging also make you happy. :)
32.) Do not downplay your beauty, on the inside or out. It does not benefit anyone and is not what God blessed you with it for.
33.) Music is amazing in so many ways.
34.) You love learning, progressing, and playing guitar! It’s worth more time.
35.) Not writing is the ultimate way to hide your heart- share it in some way, even if it’s only with yourself and a pen and paper!
36.) Journaling = healing. Do not neglect!
37.) You deserve every compliment you get. Stop rejecting them and just say “Thank you”!
38.) Everyone’s different. Some people don’t understand or accept that. Don’t be one of those people and don’t take it personally if you encounter someone who is.
39.) Any loss was never meant to be yours in the first place. Mourn the initial feeling of losing what you thought you had, but then accept that it wasn’t and isn’t yours and be grateful to have more room for what is.
40.) You’re capable of so much more than you know… don’t waste your time trying to figure it all out though. Just know that you’re capable of more than you even know and be grateful for the vast amount of possibilities to explore it.
41.) What you have is what you’re meant to have, and it’s not only enough, but it’s perfect.
42.) Don’t waste your life being unhappy… that would be the ultimate waste.
43.) Some/many things take more effort than others… and it’s all worth it.
44.) Smiles are contagious and much more beneficial, to the wearer and the world. :)
45.) If you have something to hold back, it’s not only worth sharing, it’s selfish not to.
46.) Calendars, notes, alarms, happy memories jar… all necessary and 100% worth the effort!
47.) She is just a person. She can think how she wants to- that works for her and that’s great! If she chooses to be negative toward you about your differences, that’s her choice and her loss of enjoying all of what you have to offer. Lift her up anyways. (In regards to a really negative woman at my workplace who constantly put me down. I’d realized that she must have some pain that I could not see that was causing her negativity, and I had compassion for her. I think we can all take a step back in similar situations and learn to see opportunities for compassion before anger.)
48.) Moving on is such a positive thing… leave the negative behind, take the lessons from it with you, and love how beautiful your life is.
49.) Be smart about when/how/why you move on. You’re capable of anything good.
50.) Life’s too short to be in a bad mood. There’s always something to smile/laugh about and love!

What a MESS

Sometimes, if not all times, art truly speaks to me in a very real way. I learn so many lessons about life within every aspect of the creation process from beginning, to middle, to end, and it simply blows me away. One of my favorite lessons is actually a concept that I’ve always considered, but I had trouble structuring my views on it until I began working with my crafts and seeing it’s analogies at every turn and in crevice. It’s been a monumental lesson for me to learn and take in not only as I journey through my work, but as I journey through life. You see, what I’ve come to realize is that mistakes?… welp, quite simply put: they don’t exist.

Yep, you heard me right. They don’t exist! Isn’t that fun?? HUGE weight lifted! :) And I mean it- they don’t exist in art, and they don’t exist in life either… at least not in the way that we think.

See, mistakes are typically seen as “bad”. We don’t want to make mistakes. We regret mistakes. We wish we could avoid mistakes. But the truth is that everything truly has a purpose and a reason for existence, with the ability to be learned from and grown from… even and especially those glorious things called “mistakes”. There is beauty within all of it, and this is especially true in art! When we create a color, an image, a line, a shape, a whatever-it-is that we don’t like and didn’t quite intend to create, at least not in the way that it turned out, there is an array of possibility within it. Allow me to break it down for ya.

In my experience, I’ve found that there are three general approaches to a “mistake” that we can take (I’ve got that word in quotes now and that’s where it will stay, because it doesn’t exist. It’s a made up word to carry anxiety, self-doubt, negative criticism, fear, and dwelling and I won’t allow it in my blog without it’s quote shackles, muahahahaaaaa). In artistic terms, they go as follows…

1.) We can turn it into something– use the colors within it and build another image/color/shape/line/whatever from it. In this case, we must get creative and use our imaginations, which is always fun and can lead us to new things that we may not have had the motivation to explore without that “mistake”. This can involve some initial anxiety or fear, but once we learn to let go of that we are able to see the beauty of evolution before our very eyes and it becomes exciting; something to be proud of and look forward to!

2.) We can paint over it. This one’s easy enough right? Wrong. This option isn’t always an easy one to endure, as the one thing it requires from us is an attribute that oftentimes we have difficulty tapping into- patience. Because before we can paint anything over anything, we have to let it dry, otherwise we risk mixing colors that we don’t want to mix and carrying the “mistake” that we don’t want showing into the final product. Some “mistakes” take more time than others to dry, and that’s okay… patience is and always will be a virtue, so we should be grateful for the opportunity to practice it and focus our attention on the enjoyment of working in other areas while we wait.

3.) (This one’s my favorite) We can leave it be. Learn to love it. Accept that “mistake” and allow it to show proudly in the final product of our masterpiece, telling a beautiful story. Sometimes this story is funny, sharing a good laugh regarding how it came about and the light-hearted fun that was had in the process of creation; sometimes it represents frustration that was involved in creating the piece, which is just as beautiful because the fact that it is finished despite the frustration is a testament in itself to thestrength and diligence cultivated in the experience. And there are times that we make that choice consciously to allow it to remain, while other times we simply have no choice because it’s too significant to cover or build, in which case we learn to practice acceptance and love for our work despite our ideals and original expectations not being met. Either way you look at it, there’s beauty to be seen in any “mistake” and while I, myself, have difficulty at times with accepting my own “mistakes”, I’m ultimately always grateful for them and have become a huge fan of seeing that transparency of the process of creation within the final product.

You see, “mistakes” are simply a part of our story- our masterpiece- that we didn’t expect. But they’re essential in some way, shape, or form, and are beautiful aspects of our journey. They’re meant to be there, whether we originally knew and expected it or not; the key thing to remember is that the world does not revolve around our expectations. Just because something does not turn out to be the way that we expected it to be does not render it a “mistake”; it renders it right, it renders it essential, it renders it beautiful… but it most certainly does not render it to be wrong. We are wrong for thinking it’s wrong. And when we learn to see just how right it is, and trust ourselves to take the approach to it that is necessary by following our intuition and accepting the process, not only do we allow ourselves to enjoy the experience more, but we open ourselves up to a world of gratitude and appreciation once we are finally able to step back and take a look at how it’s all coming together in the big picture. I always tell me classes to remember Monet. His paintings were a hot mess up close and personal! But when you took a step or two back to look at the piece, you saw a beautiful, dreamy image brought together not by a gathering of anxiety-filled perfection, but brought together by a large area of collective messes that I can only imagine were a joyful bliss to create.

Now that we have the weight of looming possibilities of “mistakes” off of our shoulders… let’s go make a mess of this world, shall we? ;)

Live in love! ❤

Love/Hate Relationship (12/2/13)

Sometimes my paintings intimidate me. Not at first usually, but when I reach a point closer to the end of finishing a piece I’ve begun and it’s in that stage of “the basics have been laid out, the work has begun, and all that’s left to do is focus on the details and then let it be“, I’m scared. Especially with portraits- my primary source of commission work and also my primary source of both anxiety and pride all mixed together into one tiny little 115 lb package. And I think it’s obvious why… those last two steps of work are very intimidating steps if you think about it. You’re needing to finally focus on the details, which are the parts of the painting that people will see and possibly focus on themselves when they look at it, including and especially the lovely person who requested the commission in the first place. See, laying down the basics has an array of benefits. You can be more broad with your strokes, you can take a more casual approach. After all, for the most part those basics will be painted over, and if they are not planned to be, they certainly have the possibility to be if needed. But once you’re laying the final details and bringing the image together, there’s little room for error unless you want to spend an eternity working on the same nearly finished piece, going over and over the same final details… which actually wouldn’t be the craziest thing in the world. Artists do that type of thing all the time. They leave work unfinished, and sometimes they finish it only to destroy it before it ever sees the light of day. Some people never get to that last scary point in completion of “let it be”. I guess we all have our own approach…

But mine is completion.

Mine is sharing.

Because I don’t do this for myself. I do this for others… well, essentially, I do it for God.
I paint to glorify God using one of the many gifts and talents that he has so generously blessed me with, because I believe that when he blesses us with anything, it’s not for us to take for granted and keep hidden from the world. I believe that he gives us each blessings for a reason, and that is to use them in sharing yourself and your heart, and in turn his light within you, with others.
But that’s another topic for another time. Today, I’m tackling my specific battle with paint completion and quite simply put: I paint to share.

I want my work to see the light of day… not only do I want it to see the light of day, but I want it to reach other people, inspire them, and make them smile. And I’m sure that having such high hopes for the end result of my work can only be contributing to the anxiety that comes with working toward completion, but the irony of it is that the exact cause of my anxiety is also the creator of a beautiful outcome that makes it all worth while, which is the absolute, unmistakable, unmeasurable amount of pride in myself and in my work that I have once I push through that intimidation, finish a piece of work, and realize that it was nothing to fear in the first place. It’s almost like I’m living little mini life lessons through each of my pieces. And I think we all want to share our wisdom and inspiration of life once we’ve overcome an important obstacle, because we’re proud and we hope that our sharing will help others who might have a similar experience, so who knows… maybe a small amount of my desire to share art with others stems from that type of a mentality. I do learn a world of lessons in each piece that I work on and I’m becoming more aware of the ways in which I carry those lessons into my everyday life.

For example, I don’t believe that mistakes exist. You can either step away from a “mistake” and learn to love its unexpected but wonderful contribution to a beautiful masterpiece when you come back to it, or you have more insight as to how you can build upon/paint over the dried paint when you return, and it at that point is no longer a mistake, but has become a building block. I see that concept playing out in life all the time.

I also have come to appreciate the cliche of the “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” concept with much more passion than I used to. I think the fact that it is a cliche and is a lesson taught by so many for so long now that we tend to brush it off with a “yeahhhh, yeah, yeah” kind of attitude. But it’s cliche for a reason… it’s cliche because it’s true, and because it’s significant. We all have our own idea of what is beautiful and that’s okay. The world would be so boring if we all appreciated the same exact type of beauty, and even worse- if we acquired it. Just as each piece of art is different and is found to be beautiful by someone in some way, the world and all that it has to offer (including and especially each person) is so different in so many ways… even every breath-taking sunset is different, each one speaking to each person in a different way- some more than others. It’s all a matter of perspective. And when you realize that, you realize that judgement is one of the biggest wastes of time that we can engage in. When you realize that there’s no right or wrong to something, you realize that the time you spend trying to figure out what’s right or wrong within it is quite literally a waste of energy. What’s worth the effort is taking the time to appreciate your own perspective as well as to respect the perspective of others and appreciate the beauty that that difference offers to the world.

But I truly believe that the lesson that I personally value most from my work, probably because of it’s more general value of relate-ability to day-to-day as well as life-long experiences, is the lesson of completion. That as intimidating as a piece of work can be, the truth is that we are typically more capable of not only completing that piece, but of completing it well and beautifully, than we ever really give ourselves credit for. I’ve done numerous pieces, many of which have been portraits, and I continue to receive positive feedback and additional commissions, yet I also continue to allow doubt to creep into my mind each time I reach this pivotal point in my creation. Why? Why do we do this to ourselves? It is through our own mind and our own self doubt that we limit ourselves from an endless amount of potential that is ours if we simply allow ourselves to have it.
I think the funniest part about all of this is that even despite those of us who know this lesson knowing it well, we still allow it to come back into our minds every now and then. And that’s actually totally okay. Why? Because we’re human. Plain and simple. It happens. It’d be weird if it didn’t. And the important thing is that we practice being aware of and pushing through it each and every time, because each and every time we do, we grow stronger. That’s what makes it not only “okay”, but a true blessing. Struggles are blessings too you know. Not only do we grow stronger from them, but we have another piece (experience) under our belts that we can share in our portfolios (lives) proudly.

SO. Without further ado, I’mma go tackle this piece and get it under my belt before the end of the day… I refuse to be stuck in this painting limbo with you, portrait piece!

Cue the Spotify… :o )