Thursday, January 17, 2013

Food for thought

I like pictures of Scotland. 

One of my favorite blogs I read (automatism), does a weekly post in which she shares all the interesting tidbits she's read from around the web. I love this. Her picks are really insightful, and some of the best stuff I read all week. And I read A LOT on the internet. So, I thought I'd take a cue from her page and share some of the more interesting things I read, that I could find again....

On Writing in the Morning and Chuck Close on Creativity tackle the modes of creating art and both are really different. I agree with a little of both-- some of my best work comes when I make a genuine effort to isolate myself, but I also have to just wake up and do it-- no environment is too perfect. So I agree with both . Weigh in, won't you? I would love to hear your thoughts. (Both originally came via Automatism)

Dear Diary, I'm glad to find your still alive A piece from the Telegraph reporting that 83% of teenage girls still put pen to paper and write in a Diary. The paper is British, so I'm not entirely sure if that's British girls, American girls or Western Girls, but either way, it's refreshing to hear. My diary was a life line well into college, and come to think of it, its probably feeling really neglected. Must write soon. (Which is how all of my entries end these days-- will write tomorrow, promise. xoxoxox.)

BeyoncĂ©: being photographed in your underwear doesn't help feminism is an article exactly about what is sounds. I tend to like Bey, she appears to have made good choices compared to say, Rihanna and/or Kim Kardashian. What the article got me thinking about is the perception we have of celebrity, the perception of what we have of ourselves, and what our actions say about us. I don't know jack about feminism but my gut feeling is this: If you end up taking your clothes off to be photographed for the same article in which you declare that it's ridiculous than men have the power to define what is sexy and feminism, something's not quite right.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Goals for the new year: hey there 2013!

Many people have asked me how my social media fast is going.... And I have to say: really well. While I don't find myself amazed with the gobs of time I'm sure I was wasting (there still is the Internet after all) I do find that I have a measured sense of restored balance and peace. It really feels as though someone has turned off the noisy radio that was blaring in the back of my brain, all the time. One resolution so far is working remarkably well-- I can't wait until a month in to see the difference in my life.

However, I have more goals for 2013. Do you find the new year is the only time for goals or do you reset goals as you go? I'm a 2-3 times a year person myself, BUT I'd actually like a year where I kept and achieved all the goals I set for myself.

So....2013 Goals!

Spiritual
1) stick to a regular program of gospel study.
2) prepare a Sunday school lesson every week regardless of class there or not.
3) pray deeply on how to love those I've been given stewardship for.
4) go to the temple once a month.

Physical
1) Stick to my calorie goal and have a monthly reward for getting it done 90% that month.
2) keep working out with friends 5 days a week

Mental/Creative
1) finish the rough draft of my book and get through the first revision
2) participate in the best friends book club with vigor

Social
1) have people over in our home at least once a month (sometimes I have a weird phobia of hosting.)
2) send handwritten pieces of mail to people throughout the year.

Relationship goals:
1) keep a marriage journal. Write down promptings, insights, fun things we do together etc
2) exhale minor frustrations and inhale more love. (I get angry over really stupid things)

Random bits:
1) pick one area of the house per month to reorganize, deep clean and practice keeping it that way for that month.
2) do not despair over an unclean house. It can be cleaned again.
3) do not procrastinate cleaning. 15 minutes makes it feel a lot better.
4) take more pictures and journal the year as we go.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Goodbye Social media, goodbye.

So, I've decided to give up social media for all of 2013.

Did your jaw hit the floor? Did you laugh out loud? I mean, it's true, we are talking about me here. I've been on Facebook since 2004-- the year it was started. I'm generation Facebook, right? So why would I want to give it all up?

Lots of reasons, all of them good. As much as my online relationships have strengthened via constant connection, for every 1 strong relationship via social media, I have another 25 that act as something to check, something to judge, something to compare myself to, someone to be annoyed with. I think there's a lot of people that I would think better of, if I didn't give myself the constant choice to view their lives and formulate opinions-- which over time I've done again and again (no willpower here)-- and usually over something dumb like grammar.

Then there's a lot of ingestion of media and people's opinions that either I don't agree with, and I can ignore, or there's ingestion of media that I do ignore, but I'm angry about it for the rest of the day.

And ultimately, I find it to be a huge waste of time. I'm the type that feels compelled to check on something-- no unread emails in my inbox, no Facebook notifications left unread, no @ replies on twitter left unnoticed, not even likes on my Instagram photos can go without being attended to. It's exhausting. And I do it over and over and over again even when nothing has changed. Instead of fun and lighthearted, I feel drained and malcontented. I put priority on a life online, while I leave parts of my life, my real life!-- parts I used to really like, such as goal setting and creativity, alone to wither and perish.

So I'm giving it up. I'm changing my passwords, giving them to my husband and deleting my apps by January 1. And I'll be gone for a whole year. I'll still have this blog, and you can still email me, text me, call me or video chat me-- all my info for that will still be on Facebook-- which I'm not deleting, just simplifying there, which is what I'm doing with all my accounts-- not deleted, just hibernating. Who knows-- maybe in a year's time ill have finished my book and ill be online to promote it!

If we don't connect via other methods in 2013, well, then I'm sad that we'll go a year apart. Have a great year.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Nanowrimo

If you follow me on social media, you might be aware that I've been posting a lot lately on all of my outlets (facebook, twitter and instagram) about a word count and something called na-no wri-mo.


It's not as weird as it sounds! November is national novel writing month (thus the abridged Nanowrimo) and I'm participating for my 2nd time ever. When I first heard about this, I was in college, and in the middle of writing papers constantly for nearly every class. (I wrote papers like it was going out of style. My major had a heavy writing component, and I churned out work on what seemed like an every other day basis. I was always shocked when my roommates who had more math and science based majors agonized over writing ONE paper for their midterm or final. Just one. The entire semester. I still don't have any sympathy.)
Anyway, I heard about writing 50,000 words in a month for the sake of writing a novel in college, and I about fell out of my chair. Who in their right mind would do something like that?

Well, turns out, a few years later, me.

Last year, I felt like I was finally comfortable enough to really put the work in and write what I have been talking about writing for the past 2 years, only to sit down and agonizingly creep out word after word, only to hate it and start rewriting (and rewriting, and rewriting). I have a really strong voice that spans across all of my writing, and I just couldn't find myself in this text. It was like having a foreign non creative version of me write something that is at its core, intensely creative. It felt wrong.

Even though I had thought about this for months, and I had let it keep me up late at night imagining what could happen and how it could happen, everything seemed so fuzzy. I had a grasp on what I felt like could happen, but the who it was happening to, felt like a mystery. I couldn't write it. I was bitterly disappointed, and I shut up about writing because I felt like a failure.

Later either that year, or very early on in this year, I read "The Happiness Project" by Gretchen Rubin. Have you read this book? I really like it. Its like reading one person's science experiment, only much less dry, about deliberately trying to make their life more enjoyable, and therefore increasing their happiness. In it, she talks about her love of children's literature and quotes an essay that C.S. Lewis wrote on Children's Literature, titled, "On Three Ways of Writing for Children."

Feeling like this was up my alley, I looked it up hoping maybe to find it in a library nearby or an old copy on in a collection of essays on Amazon, and to my surprise, it was available on Google Books.

In it he describes how an editor asked him to elaborate on how he wrote, The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. And he confesses, that he's not entirely sure. That it just happened. What I found really interesting is that he says:

"One thing I am sure of. All my seven Narnian books, and my three science fictions books, began with seeing pictures in my head. At first they were not a story, just pictures. The Lion all began with a picture of a Faun carrying an umbrella and parcels in a snowy wood. This picture had been in my mind since I was about sixteen. Then one day, when I was about forty, I said to myself: 'Let's try and make a story about it.' " -- C.S. Lewis, Of Other Worlds: Essays and Stories, p. 42.

I felt relieved in a way I can't quite describe. First of all, because I shared something in common with C.S. Lewis (which was absolutely thrilling)-- the image of my main character literally popped into my head one day and wouldn't leave me (or the subsequent images that followed) alone. I didn't know who she was, or why it had come. It just did. Second, the bit about the amount of time between when he saw the image first, and when he decided to craft a story around it, was 24 years. I was not the only one who had ideas that just didn't settle immediately and declare themselves. I decided that I could wait a little longer to write what I wanted to write.

The only difference between this year and last year, is that I have a lot less pressure in my life, and that for the first time, I can hear my characters, some of them more clearly than others, in addition to seeing them. It's making the writing come along nicely, for which I am grateful.

And so, I am pushing forward. I am going to write 50,000 words, which now that I've gotten into it, I'm not sure that my whole story will be a nice neat 50,000. It could easily be longer. But then, it's only day three. (See my little widgets off to the side? They automatically update my word count and the calendar turns green when I've met my word goal for the day.)

Friday, November 2, 2012

Stretching Creativity

In an effort to try and include people with what's going on in my life (thus, something to put on the blog besides really long updates and emotional traumas), I thought I'd write about some of the projects I've been working on, so to speak.

Maybe this will be like a series on creativity. Maybe not. Who knows.

But as you may or may not know, I do a lot of different things creatively. I like to jump from thing to thing as it suits me, and while that's fun, I'm actually working on being more disciplined when it comes to certain projects. While it's fun to take an afternoon and pound out an idea you had in your head, what's infinitely more rewarding is the eventual pay off from daily work on something. So, I'm taking that approach to my writing. After all, I have a degree in a writing field (sort-of) and I've let that skill slide for awhile. There was a long stretch of time where I had a lot of ideas for writing, but I was really afraid of my own skill, or perceived lack of skill, and so I felt like I couldn't try or whatever attempt that I made at it was beneath the idea itself. Defeatist much? I know.

One of the things that came over today or yesterday, as a pep talk for Nanowrimo (more on that later) and this paragraph resonated with me:

"Regardless of the words that fill those pages, whatever story you choose to tell, the great discovery of this month will be the stack of pages that bears the words that did not exist a mere month before. You will possess the evidence of time spent at your computer, unspooling the narrative in your head. You will have hard evidence, and this will always grant you conviction."- Kevin Wilson, author of The Family Fang

Basically, unless you try, you'll never know. Unless you put in the hours, you won't have a start point to assess growth.

I totally agree with that. You can't say, oh, I'm a terrible X, if you don't put in the work. Why? Because then you aren't writer, a painter, a whatever. You've never even tried.

But what if, like me, you develop a case of the "I can'ts, no, it's not possible, that's a pipe dream, someday when I'm richer/smarter/funnier/thinner" and you doubt your main skill?

Try a different one.

Seriously. Put your main skill down for a hot minute, and pick up something different. And don't just go and pick one out and say this is my new skill. I mean, you can do that, but I tend to like to do things that I'm actually interested in. Over the past couple of years, I've sloooowly made a little headway into paper design and it's turned out pretty nice. People ask me to do wedding invitations and bridal shower invitations and such. It's fun. I love it. I'm not 100% amazing at it. My first christmas card was, I'll admit now, a little too cutesy and cluttered. But what if I had never tackled the christmas card? I would have never learned indesign, or better yet, stretched my creativity in a way that was primarily visual. My loss.

So, I've learned to never say no to a creative process that comes to me on my terms. There have been a few that I've had to turn down because there was no way, no way that I could overcome my learning gap and produce a product that I was comfortable with....but they weren't on my terms, so no loss.

Which leads me into what I've done recently! My brother and sister-in-law have just announced that they are expecting! They told our immediate family a few weeks ago, so we had time to prepare, but one of the things they wanted to do was announce it in a unique way that could get the message across quickly via the internet.   (and I realize that these little shoots are all the rage... in fact, I read an article recently about how its this new thing to glam up what used to be an exciting sentence. oh well. that's millennials for you!) So they asked me to do it. I've never done a photoshoot. I remember very little from my basic camera class in film school (I was more theory and screenwriting...I never got comfortable with the technical stuff).... and I haven't photoshopped anything in ages.

So I said yes! I figured it would be a fun way to stretch my creativity. And while what I have isn't the most amazing thing ever to grace the internet... it's a start. It was fun. I learned a lot. And you know what? I felt like I succeeded, which is the most important part.

Here's the originals:



Yikes huh! We were working with an older digital camera that didn't have great glass as arthur would say (lenses) and while we tried to drench the space in a lot of light... instead of clean and crisp, we got warm. Like drenched in a mexican sunset warm. eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeew.

So there was a lot of color correction to be done. Thankfully, they were going for a instagram/photo strip look.  And this is what I came up with:

I did loads of color correcting and contouring on this one.

This one's my favorite


I think they look good. It was really fun to do. And I got a big lesson in photoshop actions, color correction and contouring. Which was awesome.

Yay creativity!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

What's been going on lately...

Hey peeps...

So, I thought about doing another looong post where I could talk about everything we've been doing lately.
But then I thought that was boring.

So instead, I recorded a video about the biggest change that's happened recently! Fair warning, it's a little shaky. I watched it a couple times on my phone, and I thought fine, but then I watched it on my computer and I was like....woah. So, keep it small screen.

Enjoy!




Thursday, October 11, 2012

A long awaited update

Greetings, blog friends. It's been awhile.

I know I sound like a broken record, saying that wow it's been awhile, and I promise, I'll be posting again soon on a regular basis to keep you updated, but believe me this time I had my reasons.

I have struggled to sum up the past months since I last posted in May. How do I begin to put into words what happened? I've been able to talk to friends and family members that are here with me, but I just left this big empty hole in my online life, and refrained from telling "everyone" (faraway friends and the whole of the internet) just because I wasn't ready to close the chapter yet.

So, let me fill you in.

Things were going well in May and the first part of June but they were really busy. I had returned to the salon for work, and as I had feared, I was losing the struggle of work/life balance. I'm a very dedicated loyal person when it comes to work, and I have a very hard time putting up boundaries of leaving things at the office, and bringing emotions and problems home with me. My life is like a wet watercolor page-- all of the paint blurs together, touches and overlaps. When you're painting, you can't go back and make two paints not touch. It is nearly impossible. It did not help that my boss was falling into old habits as well, calling me after hours, and putting immense pressure on me to nitpick at office politics, that to be frank, were not critical to the business. I was getting resentful of going into the office, but I still was enjoying working with my coworkers and my boss, and even though I was struggling with work/life balance, I was still having a lot of fun at the salon. A salon is a wonderfully creative, fun atmosphere with the right mix of people. So, things were getting harder, but in many ways, they were the same as they had always been.

Until I got a call early one morning on my way to the office in mid-june. My boss had not shown up for his first client. More oddly, his first client of the day was one that started a full hour than when he normally began. Chad never, ever missed his first client of the day, at the beginning of the week. Not without calling the night before and making arrangements to change the appointment himself. And when one of his clients was on the books earlier than normal, he was always very aware and prompt about showing up on time. Even stranger, calls to his cell phone from the salon went straight to voicemail. When I tried calling, I got the same result. As I turned into the parking lot, I got a very bad, very weird feeling in the pit of my stomach. By the time I arrived at work, his first client of the day had left because she had waited 30 minutes. I instructed the front desk to call his next two clients and apologize and reschedule. I waited another 15 minutes and then called his family members that I knew and expressed my concern that he wasn't there. I even called a staff member who lived nearby and asked him to go beat on Chad's door. No response.

I locked the office door and called my dad, "Dad, I think something is very wrong," I said and explained the circumstances. He sighed and told me that more than likely, Chad was hungover or passed out, but that I needed to be responsible and cover all my bases. "Call the police. They'll go over." I coordinated with a family member and they agreed to meet the police at Chad's house. I was to wait for instruction.

The next two hours were some of the weirdest of my life. The staff was acutely aware that Chad had not shown up for his day-- his absence in the salon was always conspicuous - and worse they could read that I was very worried about it. I lied and said all was fine, that I was sure everything was fine. I tried getting on with my day, completing tasks that I knew had to be done, while keeping my phone glued to my hand and muttering a variety of prayers under my breath--pleading with God that he was passed out, that perhaps he was only slightly injured and that I could visit him at a hospital that afternoon. I was a ball of nerves waiting for news. Someone pointed out that our color delivery had not arrived yet, and that we were in desperate need of some essential colors and that we were running low on foils as well. I jumped at the chance to get out of the salon-- I've always found that a task and a good drive calms my nerves.

I was on a very busy highway that was congested with lunch hour traffic when I got the call. "He's gone, Jessica, He's gone." I don't remember what I said, or how I got off the phone. The scenario that I had kept on the very edge of my mind all morning, praying that I wouldn't have to touch it, was in fact the reality. I could hardly breath, my mind was racing through cascades of sounds and images, but seemingly empty at the same time.

I immediately called my mother, and I sobbed into the phone-- my gut felt like I had been punched repeatedly for hours at a time, my chest aching with the cold I already had was screaming with pain with these endless racking sobs-- only a mother could understand what I was even saying.

I then called Arthur-- it was his birthday, bless his heart-- and he immediately dropped what he was doing, packed up his work items and agreed to meet me at the salon.

I pulled into the supply store parking lot, (which was a miracle that I arrived without crashing, hitting someone or something, given my state) wiped my tears and got out of the car. It was so strange-- moments ago, I was filled with raw emotion, and yet, as soon as I left my car I nosedived into this numb, dazed-like trance. I had maxed out for the day-- or possibly forever it felt like. I had no more emotion left in me.

What happened next was one of the most tender moments I have ever experienced as a human being. I was checking out, and the girl behind the counter simply asked me how my day was going and hesitatingly I acknowledged out loud that I had just found out that a good friend of mine had passed away. She stopped, asked if she could hug me, and without waiting for my reply, came out from around the counter and gave me the most life affirming hug. It was like tenderness and pure love were being pushed back into my soul, filling in part, these cavities that hung in the center of me. It was so essential, and I have thought many times over the past few months about that moment when a stranger was willing to share empathy and love with me. I was so grateful that God had made this person who felt comfortable enough to do that, and that He inspired her in that split second to do that-- because it so very needed. I needed to get through the end of the day, which was a pretty miserable one.

I don't know how to describe telling your staff, who are really just work friends, that their leader and friend and confidante has passed on. It's awful. You can't explain why, or how, or give them any of the details. Somehow in your head, you think that maybe there was a way to explain it better, or if you knew more, that you could soften the blow. You can't. It's miserable all around-- and I pray that I never have to experience something like that ever again.

The end of the day was filled with more love-- I left late that afternoon and went home and zoned out. Crawled in bed and tried to sleep-- snuggled with Arthur and watched hours of mindless tv. About 8 pm, there was a knock on my door, and to their everlasting credit, my dear sweet friends were there, dinner and birthday cake for Arthur in hand. They came in, sang, made our home feel light and airy again, and were even sweet enough to bring bubble bath and goodies for me too. (Somewhat hilariously, after singing happy birthday to me, they sang in monotone notes, a line of "really sad day for you" which sounds exactly how you imagine it to sound.)

The rest of the week slowed down to an incredible slurried pace. The funeral was on a Saturday. Life moved on, but with this big, giant hole that I was constantly negotiating the edge of.

I have thought so much about Chad since that day. About our conversations, about the way he smells and what his hugs feel like, and his brilliant way of swearing. How he greeted me with a cheery good morning every day, and planted kisses on my cheek all the time. How he would like an outfit someone was wearing, and the way he would complement them or tell me about the latest and greatest in his life. How he was constantly dancing, and how much he loved Rihanna. I even missed his voice so much, that I found old deleted voicemails and listened to all of them-- but they don't have the same zest his regular voice did-- he was very to the point and weirdly aware of what he sounded like when he was leaving a message-- so he never really sounded like him. I desperately miss all of the laughing with him-- no matter what we were working on, or talking about or even just in the process of doing-- there was constant laughter. Loads of jokes and looks and little remarks that he and I shared. I miss him so much. People know that I lost Chad, but a lot of them didn't quite get our relationship. Outside of my husband, father, and brothers, Chad was the closest male friendship I've ever had. Yes, he was my boss, and yes we had a lot of work in our relationship-- but we were very good friends.The future always had Chad in it, which I think in part, made it very hard to go on.

I left the salon towards the beginning of August. It was too hard to be alone in that office without him, surrounded by all of the little things that were him, and what was worse was I didn't have him to turn to. More than once, I locked the door, lowered the blinds and cried my eyes out. We were a team in how we accomplished things together, and there were a lot of questions and situations that I just couldn't handle alone. I don't think I could have pushed the business forward the way it needed to because I was constantly negotiating "What would Chad want? Or what would he have done?" And the truth of it is-- it's not his business anymore. He left it here. I had the sense that something was amiss, and I sat down and talked to a therapist-- who wisely pointed out that I was depressed. When I realized that I had been fantasizing about Arthur getting a job change that would, oh darn, make us move to another country, I realized that I felt trapped. That's not a way to live, ever. I knew it, and I realized that if Chad was here, he would insist that I do the right thing for me.

Mostly good things pop up about Chad now. Every once and awhile I have a blue day, where I get upset and angry about what happened. But that's rare. When I do think of Chad, he pops in my head as he does in my dreams-- we're sitting on a pristine white beach, and there is gorgeous blue water in front of us. No one else is there-- we're just having a conversation, one that's silly and rambling, and Chad is laughing, rollicking back and forth with laughter. I feel lifted whenever I see him like that, and I look forward to sitting on the beach with him someday in the after life, and finally figuring out what we're laughing about.