Sunday, December 7, 2014

The Pay It Forward Project

Recently, I began in a small quiet way to give back. With all that has happened to me within the past year, I still manage to feel gratitude above all else. Things could be so much worse but really they are not. I think what I've gone through this year has done something to my brain but in a positive manner in that I am a bit more connected to what others go through and in some cases, this would be others that have a whole lot less than I do.

I feel that a lot of us are just getting by for the most part and I've become a lot more aware of that in the past year than ever before.  Sometimes it takes a major lifestyle change to make you see what is truly important and to figure out just what you truly need to be happy. For me, it was a lot less stuff. Right now, I have everything I need. Got my art stuff and my computer plus a roof over my head, a good car, a great job and a great diverse group of friends. I have the finances now that I need for the goals I have for my future. But having said all that, I am not wealthy in the least nor do I have stocks, 401K or anything else that denotes great wealth in this culture of consumption.

I decided to do something a bit different every time I get paid. Rather than blow money on things that don't matter such as buying lunch every day at work, I am brown-bagging it and I will keep more money in my pocket. But aside from that, I have made it a personal mission if you will to kick a spare $10 to someone that might need it very badly.

I am selective about where it ends up. The people that benefit from my small donation are the ones who are generally ignored by society in general. At this time of year especially, there are more child and family-centered charities than you can shake a stick at. Don't get me wrong, those are great. But what about the people who don't have kids who need a leg up? Or the guy living on the streets with only his dog for company? What about them? Or the single adult of any age who has no one? I'm all in.

So starting with my last check, I found an individual who really needed help and anonymously threw this person a spare $10. Today, I found someone else who also was in pretty dire straits and just donated another $10 to them. Yes, I know $10 is not a lot but to someone who is desperate, it can mean the world. It could mean groceries for the week, cat food for the week, another gallon of gas in their car or a bus pass to get to work. But most of all, it can mean hope to this person, family or whomever.

From here on out, whether it is Christmas or not, I plan to find someone who can use the spare money and make a donation. And when my finances change, I plan to give a bit more.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

The Longing

Lately I've been in the vortex of a longing that instead of going away  had only grown stronger over the passing days. This yearning had no name, only a feeling and certain images and things seemed to bring it out more. 

I've had a trying year on so many levels (as evidenced by a lot of these blog posts) and through it all, I think that I tried my level best to always see the good in the situation as well as take care of myself mentally and emotionally. But perhaps I had not taken care of myself as well as I thought.

Every year when I was still working at a stable company, I had amassed as much vacation time as one might have. And every year, rather than getting out of Dodge and having a proper vacation that either included driving more than one hundred miles or simply hopping on a plane, I chose what folks like to call the "Staycation" where one stays home and does a lot of local activities. I did these sort of Staycations mostly due to finances. The last proper vacation I had was a five day weekend to Myrtle Beach with my former car club, in which we all drove up to an event called 'Cruisers At The Beach'. (I once owned a PT Cruiser and was in an active club from 2001-2013.) The last proper week-long vacation  was in Myrtle Beach and that was in 2000. 

I had tried hard to sort of tamp down the restlessness but it would not go away. It changed from the small not-so-silent voice into a roar that I could no longer ignore. It's funny the things that trigger the parts of us that we think we're so powerful against. The things that are never spoken or hinted at and yet something innocent is a trigger and then the floodgates open. 

Last weekend, I had gone to see the new Robert Downey Jr. movie  'The Judge'. I am not going to give spoilers but I got so much more out of it than I expected to. Anyone that knows me knows how much I love my RDJ and even if the movie sucks, I will still go see it. At any rate, this movie took place in Indiana yet the location they actually used was Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts. I am from New England, via Connecticut and had spent some of my happiest times in Massachusetts. Seeing this old familiar scenery awakened something in me that only grew stronger within the passing week. 

(Bridge of Flowers, Shelburne Falls, MA)

(Shelburne Falls, MA)

I saw the movie twice last weekend mostly because of seeing Robert and the greatness that he brings to any scene of a movie that he is in. I also could not get enough of that scenery. And that small voice in my head kept screaming "You need to go somewhere now!" Seeing this scenery just made me miss going away somewhere and it made me realize that I needed a lot more of that in my life. 

Well, I came to the decision during this past week that yesterday (Saturday) would be the day that I cleared my calendar and obeyed whatever Spirit would whisper in my ear in terms of an escape plan for the day.  I wanted to get as far away from home as I could where 1) I felt like I had actually gone somewhere and 2) it had to be within driving distance. I had a Post-It note that was covered with ideas of places to visit.

However, I ended up visiting a place which I had gone to in the past and while I had enjoyed both those times, I really wanted to experience this place in a way that I had not in the past. I went by myself and have never had an issue traveling anywhere alone, ever. As fun as things are with others, I just wanted one day to go as Spirit directed me and if something felt right to do, I'd do it. So I ended up in Mount Dora, FL where it's said that this is the highest part of Florida. 

On the drive up, I had a feeling inside that was indescribable. I felt my energy level soar in a way that it hadn't for some time. I felt instantly better and in a positive frame of mind. I took a highway to get there and then off onto a country road that was only two lanes. I was in heaven. 

This jewel of a city is far inland in Florida and is about 2 hours give or take from my home. It only took less than a tank of gas to and from. I left home and got there before noon. I found a nice public parking spot and just set off on foot. 

                                                               (Mount Dora, FL) 

                                                                  (Mount Dora)  

I spent a lot of time simply walking around, camera in hand and just went crazy taking photos of anything that struck my fancy. I had no plans really. The whole day stretched before me with no sort of itinerary and I loved it! I went into maybe two stores tops but mostly was out and about, wanting to immerse myself within this town. 

I took something called the 'Mount Dora Canal Cruise' and it was about two hours of bliss. I was able to get out on Lake Dora and experience it in a way that I hadn't before. I had always known that the Lake was there but had never really seen it the first two trips to Mount Dora. 

(Seaplane at Lake Dora)

(Cypress trees in Lake Eustis) 

(Big cool building on wharf at Lake Dora)

The whole day I just did what the little voice in my head told me to do. I walked until my feet and legs were ready to give out. As an aside, it is truly amazing the people that one finds on their journeys. 

I happened to stop into an ice cream place to get my vanilla soft-serve fix. There was a small line ahead of me and the guy in front of me told me that he liked my shirt. I have a shirt with a VW Bus on it and the saying 'Not All Who Wander Are Lost' and I wore it yesterday. I like the saying as it completely described me yesterday and you all know how much I love anything VW. At any rate, this nice guy went on to ask if I had a VW. I said no but am an artist who is inspired by them and have taken many photos of them. Turns out he is one of the founders of the Gainesville (FL) Classic VW car club. I am a member of most of the Facebook pages for these clubs, including that one as a matter of fact. Amazing! I never imagined I would run into anyone with any sort of connection to VWs or any other club at all. Wow. 

Speaking of VWs, the one and only shop I really spent any time in had this shirt -

And naturally, it had to come home with me. I was walking through this shop and it was  if I was guided to this shirt. So I got it. I showed it to my friend at the ice cream shop and he told me that he too had seen this shirt. 

I returned home at about 7:30pm last night, spent from all the walking and time in the fresh air. Doing this was the best thing I could have done. I just wished I had done it sooner than this. It also ignited the desire to do this more often. I will return to Mount Dora because I want to do this next-

Yep, they have trains up there! I am very fond of train rides and when I was going to college in New England and had no car, this was the best thing to take. The whole time I was walking around Mount Dora, the train horn I heard intermittently was real and not a train horn like you hear down here on some guy's jacked up truck. Hearing that again was music to my ears and awakened a pleasant memory of times gone by. 

It seems that no matter where I am, I seem to find where the classic cars are or they just find me. I disembarked from the Mount Dora Canal Cruise and saw this parked just up the street. It had not been there when I left-

                                                                    (Lil Red SS)

I thought that this car parked by the railroad crossing sign made for a great shot. There was a restaurant on the other side of these signs and I saw some people watching me take these photos from the patio of this place.  They may have been the owners of this car or not. 

All in all, so needed. I just feel like a different person already having gotten out of here. The day had gone well and I felt my energy level kick into a higher plane. Doing this also reminded me that I need to start traveling again and to not cut off that part of me that has always loved to explore. 

Saturday, October 11, 2014

A year ago....

I had taken a Saturday afternoon to meet and listen to author Tim Dorsey at the local library. At the time, the specter of potential job loss loomed large over my own head and those of my coworkers. I was doing my level best to find cheap/free pursuits that made me feel good as an escape for how much things sucked or the multitude of worries that weighed heavily on my shoulders. Had I known a year ago how much things would change, I would have been floored. I certainly would not have believed it. Little did I know that a mere few days later, I would lose a job that I loved and a chain of events would unfold that would change my life for the better.

I remember being very afraid of what the future held. I also had made the error of trying to maintain a lifestyle and standard of living that no longer fit me. I was doing what I thought I  "should be doing" as compared to what I "wanted to do" or what just felt right and natural. I don't claim to have all the answers and everyone's path is different but one thing I have leaned that when you try to force things, disastrous results are often the outcome.

I will say that the past year has been one of the hardest in my life but really when you get right down to it, I wouldn't trade any of it for anything. I had to go through all of that to get to where I am now and from where I sit, things are not nearly as stressful as they were even as much as six months ago. I can feel the difference tenfold. Most people I see that I haven't seen for a long time have noticed the change. They remark at how 'happy, at peace' and 'not as stressed' I appear to be to them.

I also had to give up a lot and for some people, it might look like great sacrifice but for me it was things that I had outgrown a long time ago. Currently, I am finally again working for a decent company that has a lot of potential and opportunity. I am living in a quaint and quirky section of town that is nice and peaceful. I have given up my old home in the process of starting over among many other things. I am living in a smaller space now and love it! 

Along with the physical changes of moving and growing, I have also bitten the bullet and taken far more creative chances in the past year beyond my wildest dreams. It was in February that I made 'For All Time' available to the masses. Could it have been written better? Yes! Could it have been better overall? Agreed! But I got off of my ass and did it. Same with my art. As opposed to being a shrinking violet, I have gotten out and went looking for the right people in the proper situations to get my photography and such out to the general public, along with a sprinkling of self-promotion.

I am not even close to finished. I was recently made aware of another opportunity which will enable me to both move forward with my life as well as finally purchase ISBNs for my novel. I plan to remain with the company I am working for now with an eye to making a prosperous future with them along with pursuing more creative endeavors in my free time. The things I gave up to get where I am now are more than worth it.

The only regret? Not doing all of this so much sooner. But then again, I am a firm believer in the fact that when we are ready to change our lives, it will happen when it is supposed to. And on that Monday almost a year ago, what was supposed to happen did.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Deja Vu

Can't believe it's been almost a month since I've written anything in this blog. At one time, I would write every single week but lately....other things have taken over my life.

The primary thing that has been center stage is the 400+ page novel I just finished writing. I'm in the editing phase now and as soon as finances clear up a bit, I will be buying an ISBN number for it and first uploading it to Kindle and then later to a softcover format. I dickered back and forth whether to make two books out of one but might just do it in one shot. It all comes down to money right now.

Deja Vu is the working title of the novel I wrote back in 2010 and into 2011. I had put it away in Oct 2011 after having poured so much time and energy into it. Between then and now, I had begun this blog which springboarded into All The Rods and later All The Creatives. My artwork had shifted into several different directions and then I also wrote  For All Time in amongst all that.

Having put For All Time up into the Kindle market made me think very hard about doing it for Deja Vu as well,. I knew that I needed to finish Deja Vu  first and do a lot of editing on it. Also I wasn't sure where the file was either. I had to buy a new computer last year and had put a lot of important files onto CD-Rs. I found Deja Vu on one of those CDs and uploaded it into my computer.

Reading it again reminded me of how much I had missed those characters. So for the past couple of months, I have both finished and embellished quite a lot of the original writing. The first finish to the book was one that hadn't set well with me as days passed, so I deleted it and wrote another one. I am now in the process of beginning a sequel to this novel.

I am one of those people that become very attached to the characters in my books and as I wrote the last chapter a week ago, I felt a bit sad. I've never been good at goodbyes even though my life has been full of them. I decided while finishing up Deja Vu that the tale would again shift but the same four primary characters would remain within it, along with a few additional ones.

Deja Vu begins in 1890 and is actually two stories within one. The first story concerns Vivienne Marsh Wainscot, a young Canadian woman born into privilege who is trapped in a loveless marriage with an abusive man.  Vivienne's parents are in denial about this insidious abuse and live their lives as if nothing is out of the ordinary when nothing could be further from the truth. Vivienne's only plan is to escape from her hell on earth and she knows the 'why'  but not the 'how'.

The second story within Deja Vu concerns a pair of twin brothers (Robert and Raul Levette) who run a successful British shipping company. Both have recently become widowed. When a chance to travel from London to the States arises for one of them, Raul embarks on a journey that changes his life and sets forth a course of destiny that impacts not only himself but his twin brother Robert and the men's dear friends Roderick and Jocelyn Carstairs.

The main story is how Vivienne Marsh Wainscot and Raul Levette come together in a tsunami of passion, madness and desire and how the after effects consume everyone else in its wake.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

A Year Ago....

Life as I knew it at the time would never be the same. A year ago yesterday was when I heard that the job I loved so much at the company that I thought I might retire from was potentially going to be letting me and others go within a month. Life as I knew it at the time would never be the same again and I was afraid...very very afraid.

At that time, I imagined that I had to maintain a standard of living that proved to be no longer in my list of capabilities. At that time, I was living well beyond my means, I just didn't realize it at the time.  The potential  "threat" to my job became a reality a month and a half later. But at the time, I just going into my Labor Day weekend and that news alone ruined the weekend for me because on top of wanting to chill and relax, I had a set of new worries to ruminate over.

It is often said by others that sometimes the lowest times of our lives are the best because the most personal growth seems to come out of them or things happen to us that change our lives for the better. During that weekend, I also made the decision to do something that definitely changed my life for the better. I decided on a whim to do something only to pick up my sagging spirits.

As a diversion and a cheap and free way to pick up my spirits, I decided to attend the St. Pete Beach VW Beach BASH. It was held at a park in St. Pete Beach. At the time, I thought old VWs were cool as hell. I had no clue that the simple act of doing this would help to change my life in ways that I never imagined. So off I trotted on a hot Sunday armed with my camera for the sole purpose of seeking the new and different.

I took a lot of photos and typed up a nice write-up for this blog. It was a great way to use a Sunday and it had done the required thing for me which was to give me something cool to smile about and for an afternoon, not have to think about how much everything sucked.

After attending the VW Beach BASH that hot sweaty Sunday, a new hobby and passion was born and soon I wanted to check out more of these events which led me to make the long journey from St. Pete to Dade City in early November to check out the mighty event known as Bug Jam. By then, I was in the midst of unemployment while at the same time applying for job after job. At this event, I took a crapload of VW photos.

From there, I planned to attend and be a vendor at the glorious weekend long event known as 'VWs Over The Skyway'. The fever had set in big time by then and there was no turning back. I try to make it to a lot of the larger VW events now with the sole intention of taking as many photos as I can. Who knew that the simple act of salvaging my ruined Labor Day weekend would set forth such a huge change in my life for the better?

All of the photos used in this article were taken that day by the way. Since then, I have become a bit more educated about older VWs and feel as though I love them even more.

I think it is amazing that a snap decision to help myself feel better could lead to something so amazing. Sometimes I am in awe of how life ends up working out for the greater good.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Go Your Own Way

Yes, 2014 has been a lot of  this. I don't think I've done more of the 'Go Your Own Way' in years. So much to tell and this is the first time I've had to sit down and take stock of my life and where I want it to go.

The first part of 2014 was the Great Undoing. This was the time period where I shed a lot of things that no longer served me. It was something that was years in the making and long overdue. One of the reasons that the Great Undoing didn't happen in 2013 is that I was flat out afraid to let go of the familiar and step away from the path into the unknown. The thing about ignoring something like this is that it's going to keep coming up, that not-so-still, not-so-quiet voice inside that compels you to make a move, a decision or a better choice.

I will go on record to say that we are all different and all walking our own paths. Not everyone would be behind what I've had to do and that's okay because it's not about them, it's about me. As I like to say 'I've spent the first half of my life doing what everyone else thought I should be doing. Now that I've come to the second part of my life, it's time to do what I think I should be doing." 

I had to let go and give up a lot of things that I thought I could not live without. I gave up my home, willingly, I might add, because I had outgrown it. It was proving to be far too expensive while my income slowly dwindled. I am happier now, living in one third of the space I lived in for years. There is less overhead and less responsibility. I was able to secure housing through a friend and am grateful every day for this chance to live here.

I left a position with a nice big company because it no longer served me. The position was temporary and no one in charge seemed to care nor did they know if I or the other temps would become permanent employees. The stress level while working there was through the roof and I began to cast my net far and wide. I found a great new job within an industry that is thriving, thankfully. Granted, I am making a bit less at the new job but the opportunities and benefits while working here completely outweigh that.

I am working in a position that I'd always been afraid to try because I doubted my ability to have what it took to do this job. Well, I'm here to tell you...I love what I am doing now! I am good at it, which completely surprised me because I never worked in his position before. I just gave it over to faith and let the chips fall where they may.

In other areas in my life, I am cutting out the fat so that I can live the life I want to. The thing is, I don't need a lot to keep me happy. I used to think that having a lot of stuff  was the way to go. Um, no, not so much. The more stuff you have, the more stuff you need to worry about. I also gave away a lot of stuff to move into my present living situation. I feel happier, lighter and more satisfied.

If anything, letting go of the old and figuring out what it takes to make me truly happy has had the effect on my gratitude level. I think that when you have a loss, whether you choose it or it chooses you, you begin to look at things differently. I am grateful for the smaller things now than I used to be. I am grateful for a nice new job with wonderful coworkers and a boss who gives more than a crap about her people. I am grateful for a roof over my head in one of the coolest spots in Pinellas County. I am grateful for the talent that God gave me and the chance to share it with people. I am grateful to know the people I know and meet the people I've met through doing a variety of things in my life.

So, if you're thinking of going your own way and doing your own thing, I could not recommend it more. You will feel like a different person and perhaps a better person for it!

Friday, July 4, 2014

Home is where the heart is

Yes, home is where the heart is and with this recent move, I truly feel like I've come home. I've been in my new place for a week now. I moved in here on my birthday and spent the majority of last weekend tying up loose ends and running here, there and everywhere in between. Today is the first day I've actually had to sit down and take it all in.

I already knew that Gulfport, FL had its own brand of unique charm to begin with. Gulfport has also served as a willing subject for most of my local photo shoots as well. This part of the county has a small town feel to it which I find refreshing and charming. The place I used to reside was St. Pete, FL. St. Pete has a lot of great things about it but as of the past few years, it has become a bit rush-rush-rush, go-go-go. At least in the section I was living in. I might move back to St. Pete at some point in the future but then again, who knows?

The thing about living here now is the feeling of peace and tranquility I feel. I also noticed that my creativity is beginning to come back as well. I haven't had the time lately to actually do a whole lot creatively but I feel it coming back to me now.

Gulfport is an artist's haven anyway. There are a lot of creative and artistic people that live and work within this area. The gallery scene is beginning to pick up a bit as well. The town also has two Art Walks a month. (I hope to participate in the near future.)

I think the fact that this area is more quaint and homey makes it easier to notice the things that would get lost otherwise in denser populations. (Although downtown St. Pete's Art Scene has been growing in strength in the past few years.)

At any rate, it is going to be great to explore this area and partake of all its glorious offerings. I hope to remain here long enough to leave my own imprint on it as well.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

The Song of the Skies

During the anticipation leading up to the move from one residence to another, I have noticed that there are things I'm going to miss about living on this end of town, one of which is what I call  the Song of the Skies.

Every day, starting first thing in the morning and going on well into the evening, I am blessed by the sound of passing aircraft. I live right in the flight path of Tampa International Airport and have the pleasure of hearing the passing planes singing to me. We don't get the big boys here, like the A380 which is an enormous jet, so monstrously huge you wonder how it even gets off the ground nor do we have the wonderful 747 jumbos like you see at Kennedy or some of the larger airports.

Some people don't like living in the flight path of a major airport. I could understand if you lived in an area where it felt and sounded like the incoming planes would land on your roof. A good friend of mine is lucky enough to live in the flight path for St. Pete/Clearwater Airport which services smaller commuter airlines and private and corporate jets. The planes over there fly low enough to get some good photos of them, unfortunately my camera is never in hand when they are flying over though. One day....

I remember 9/11 vividly for reasons other than the images and media we have all seen from that day. It was the day that the Song of the Skies was silenced. That was the day where no one was flying anywhere. It felt really odd to not have at least something singing me to sleep or greeting me when I got up the next day. I didn't like it. It was unnerving because Tampa Airport was always active with a lot of landings and departures. That marked the only time that had there was no aircraft activity.

As I sit here typing this now, another roar of jet engines beckons like a siren song just outside the window. Due to the slower pace of that engine, it sounds like he was getting ready to land. One of these days, I might actually get lucky enough to get one of these big birds flying over.

In my new place of residence, I am not sure if I will be privy to the Song of the Skies. I have seen planes flying over that area but they are not as numerous as they are here. Where I work my day job, I am but a mere few miles away from St. Pete/Clearwater Airport and can see the planes coming in for landings as well as taking off. I can't see the runways but can see them in their final descent patterns.

One plane in particular is a personal favorite which flies out of the Coast Guard Station which is right next to that particular airport.

I get to see and hear this wonderful watcher of the skies and seas nearly every day. I've become accustomed to his low thrum of his four props beating the air and when I hear him flying over, I smile. I was at a picnic last weekend at a park that was not close to any airport but my antennae went up when I heard that unmistakable sound of the Coast Guard plane. I couldn't see him due to heavy cloud cover but I knew it was him just the same. Sort of like I know where a vintage VW Bug is by the sound it makes. There is nothing that sings like the Coast Guard C-130 Hercules. 

Since my new home is going to be much closer to the beach, I anticipate the music from both the Coast Guard plane and his brother, the Coast Guard helicopter. 

The CG Copter also has a distinct drone as well. When I hear the sound of a large helicopter, it's either Bayflite (which is the air ambulance transport for all the major hospitals in the area) or this handsome boy. Every time the weather gets bad, you can always count on seeing this helicopter working double time closer to the beaches and water. I live right off of Tampa Bay but am not waterfront per say so I see a lot of Coast Guard action. 

Like I said, it's not going to be the same not living in the flight path anymore but you know I will keep my eyes to the skies anyway no matter where I am. 

Saturday, June 7, 2014

The Great Undoing

The past few months have been quite the rollercoaster ride to put it bluntly. I used to be one of those people that was so afraid of change that the mere thought of it made me want to hide under the covers and stay there until I was pulled out, kicking and screaming. I am beginning to see, a little later than most people, that change is a very necessary part of life and a requirement. I've learned to become friends with it and for the most part change has treated me pretty well. If anything, it has taught me more about myself than I ever could have imagined. My only regret is being so afraid and letting what might have been great things slip out of my hands due to this fear.

Change has enabled me to get very honest about parts of my life that are no longer working and no longer suit me. I think I have changed more in the past 6 months than I have in the past ten years. Once change took hold, things began to get very different very quickly. I was able to face a lot of difficult things in my life with a clear head and maturity that would have been lacking beforehand.

One of the most significant changes is my moving from one residence to another. I have lived in the same place for the past thirty years. I was in my early twenties and thought I knew a lot about the world. As time would bear out, I didn't know a damn thing! I was told that buying property was the 'smart thing' to do as rents went up, etc etc and homeownership was the Holy Grail. It was one of the biggest check marks one would attain on the 'Life Script' and if you owned a home, that meant you had somehow 'made it.'

I did love living here at one time, probably more so in the beginning as I was truly on my own (albeit with a roommate for the first ten years) and that meant I could basically do as I liked whenever I liked and it was great. But over the years, I began to feel very disillusioned with the whole idea of homeownership and these feelings began to spike as I kept getting laid off or let go from one job or another and my income began to reflect this.

Home ownership can be very rewarding. Some people are born to it and some of those people have homes that they live in and homes that they rent out to other people. Some people really go whole hog into refurbishing their homes, upgrading frequently and making their places into showplaces. There's nothing wrong with that. All the power to those people. But it's just not for me and has not been for a very long time as my priorities have changed greatly as I've begun to develop other interests and desires. I have also become known as 'house poor' and in this economy, there are a lot of us.

People seem to think that my living here thirty years means that this place is paid off. Nothing could be further from the truth as I was bitten not once but twice by the Great Refinancing Bug of the time spanning the early 2000's to the recession. This home is no more mine than the day I signed the papers on closing date.

The thing about a paid off house is that, you still need to pay taxes as well as do a lot of upkeep. Things still break. You might need a new A/C unit or a new roof or some other things. It really never ends.

This year I made the difficult decision to give this place up and put it on the market. Once I did that, the mental shift began to occur and for the first time in so many years, I began to open my mind to new possibilities and opportunities. Once the decision was made to put it on the market, then the Great Purge began. I donated furniture to various charities and gave away unseen amounts of stuff in other directions.

It is truly amazing how much crap one can accumulate in thirty years or less in some cases. Within the process of getting rid of stuff, it is amazing how much lighter I feel. It is good to get rid of things that no longer suit us. It's also a great way to figure out which things we really cannot live without as well as the things we might need to create a new life elsewhere. For example, I am keeping my computer stuff as well as all of my art papers and such. These things turn into extra income so therefore they are coming with me.

The place I will be moving to is much smaller than where I am now. It suits me to a T as I am single with a cat. I will be a caretaker for a friend and living in the efficiency apartment behind the main house. I really could not be happier or more excited. I will have my bedroom, a private bath and a studio. Yes. the old diningroom in the main house is going to be where I am putting all of my art and computer stuff. I have already mapped out where everything is going to go.

You really have no idea what this move is doing for me emotionally. It really is going to be good for me and I feel such a lift knowing that I have the open road ahead of me now. The community where I am moving to is part of the biggest local art scene around here. It has long been a dream of mine to live in that area and now that I really am going to, just seems like a dream come true. I think that spending time in that atmosphere is going to do things for my creativity in such a way that I really cannot wait to see what unfolds. I have not been this excited about anything in a very long time!

Friday, June 6, 2014

The Company We Keep

As I've been a member of the job-changers club (not especially by choice), I have come to notice a few things. It's a well known fact that most of us who work for a living spend more time with the people we work with than our own families (if we have them) or with our outside-of-work friends. This is especially true if you log many hours at a job in the form of massive OT (been there before!). 

I am working at a place now where the woman who trained me has been working there for thirty years and will be retiring in just a few months. When asked why she has remained as long as she has, other than her immense benefit package and great financial compensation, her number one reason was that she enjoys the people. I've heard that before in many other circumstances. I've often heard the refrain "I hate the new management/direction of the company/whatever but...I love the people here so much that it would be too hard to leave!" 

I get it that in some cases, this doesn't always bear out. There are situations where your job is a means to an end and you are really only there for the financial considerations and not so much for the social aspect. Some people are steadfast in their rule that "they don't come to work to make friends." I sort of get that but unfortunately I am not wired that way. And it only gets worse if you're like me and like to become rooted somewhere because the longer I've stayed somewhere, the more entrenched I get and the closer I get to the people I'm working with. 

I have been fortunate enough to be in work situations where I was able to stay somewhere long enough to feel planted and then I bloomed. When I take a look at my social structure, it is truly amazing at the amount of contacts and good friends that I have amassed simply due to the fact that we all worked for the same company during the same time. I would also go out on a limb to say that some of my deepest friendships are with people who were initially coworkers and over the years have evolved into friends or beyond that, into a family of choice. I don't know if this is because I'm single and don't have a steady boyfriend/husband in my life or because it's just the way I am to become so close to people at work. 

I think that most work situations, even if they are the worst job ever, are made better by having people that you can hang out with and at times commiserate with that get you. You're all 'going through this together' and sometimes it makes the tough things easier to bear, if you know that you're not alone in that experience. You tend to band together. 

And then there is the experience that I'm in the midst of now where a lot of my coworkers from my last company have been scattered to the four winds when the company ceased to exist. Some of us are working, some of us are unemployed, others are retired. Thankfully due to social media such as Facebook, we are all just a tap away from each other. Facebook is a great way for all of us to stay on top of what is going on in each other's lives and even to set up times to get together. 

Having been in situations where people have been let go around the same times I was, there is also the phenomena known as the "Former Coworkers of XX Company Picnic/Happy Hour/Get Together." This is alive and well from what I've seen and experienced. I think also that it is a sign of the times where so many people have been blown out of good jobs due to layoffs, company shutdowns or casualties of the economy. I seem to see a lot more people who no longer work for XX company than present workers, sad but true. 

When I look at my Facebook feed, other than special interest groups that I subscribe to or know people from, most of my feed belongs to former coworkers, who even though we no longer work together, I still care very much what happens to all of these people. 

Beyond the friendship aspect, I've noticed that some of these relationships have entered closer, deeper bonds than I ever could have hoped for. The important people in my life are a good mix of folks I've encountered on my life's journey (due to membership in various groups) as well as a good smattering of former coworkers. Some of these fine folks have helped me tremendously in my personal life and continue to do so on a daily basis. I am truly blessed to know the people I do and proud to have such long-standing relationships with them. 

Friday, May 23, 2014

The Turning of the Tide

Wow! It has been a long time since I've had the chance to just sit down and get caught up with this blog. Things have been interesting, crazy, scary and great all at the same time. I think the buzzword of the year has been 'Change'. 2014 has been a change every other day, if not several times a day. The changes occurring include change of scenery, change of mind, change of experience...a lot of things.

I've come to a lot of realizations within the past few months in which I'd cast aside things that no longer served me in order to create the life that I really wanted. For so long, I've spent years trying to please other people and live the way that they thought I should be living. After a while, it's become apparent that I've long since outgrown those roles and in the process had become depressed and unhappy. I was like a round peg trying to fit into a square hole. When I gave up trying to suit others and what they thought I should be doing and began to really think about what I wanted, the shift began to take place.

When I was younger, I was sold a bill of goods about what life is about and what we all should want. Some people called it the 'Life Script'. Basics of the Life Script include going to college, getting married, having children, buying a house and many other things that people do around the world, not just here in the US. I'm not saying that this is bad. The Life Script works really well for some people and they are very happy fulfilling those preset roles and then there are others like me that come to the realization that parts of it are not all it's cracked up to be.

I was in my early twenties, when I became a homeowner. At the time, it seemed like the thing to do. I was convinced that I was making the right choice. It was sold as part of the 'American Dream'. For a good long time, it was great. I was making the requisite amount of money to live on my own as a single person, while maintaining a household. And then 2008 happened and I became one of millions of a statistic, where people who had been living pretty well suddenly found themselves cast adrift via massive layoffs, housing crashes and many other things.

I had lost a decent job where I had been with a company just shy of twenty years. I had wanted to retire from there but life had other ideas. My position was eliminated and I managed to find another job with a good company in a completely different industry. I wasn't making what I was at the first job but managed to hold it together as best I could while the cost of living began to rise higher than my paycheck. This 'good company' folded the end of 2013 and I was laid off yet again. I managed to get another job but this time as a contractor/temp at a financial company close by my home.

It seemed that with each successive position the pay decreased while the cost of living skyrocketed. I had become a slave to my home and it was beginning to chafe. I was getting tired of going into massive debt just to keep a roof over my head and after a while, the American Dream had become the American Nightmare. I finally had to make the hard choice to put my home on the market.

By the time that the decision came for me to do so, I was more than ready. I began to feel as if I was in a bad marriage. It was great in the beginning in the Honeymoon Phase with a few pockets of good times but the rest of the time began to wear on me greatly. It just never seemed to get any better. I was beginning to feel like I had a choke-hold around my neck with no way out. Having my own place was no longer a pleasure, it was a chore.

So, the place has been on the market now since mid-March. It's a condo in a sea of many other condos for sale. I'm not quite sure about how the condo market is doing but my realtor is maintaining a positive attitude.

I had always thought, due to earlier conditioning, that letting go of my home would be this traumatic experience but to be quite frank, it has been a lot easier than I ever expected. I opened my mind up to the possibilities that stretched out before me. Because I had been living here for so long, I had amassed a great deal of "stuff". In the process of throwing out, selling and donating this 'stuff'', I've marveled at why I had ever thought I'd needed any of it when it was so easy to just let go of it.

I barely have any furniture left and I am completely okay with it. I even got rid of my TV and cable. I still have internet though, can't live without that. I'm going to be donating more furniture again because I am going to be moving into a much smaller place soon.

In a midst all of this transition, it's been really interesting to see who was in it for the long haul with me and who wasn't. I gotta tell ya, I've got some really good friends who have listened to me, put up with me and have been nothing short of supportive. This transition has also opened the door to other relationships as well. I just am floored at how great people have been and how truly blessed I am.

As the sun sets on one life, it will rise again on another.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Here's the thing about goals...

Magic Bus-drawing and Zentangle

Funny thing about goals, at least to me, anyway... is that when I set my mind towards one possible outcome, life seems to give me something else to consider. I wouldn't say that the new thing would be instead of the original goal but as a companion to the original goal. 

When 2014 came around the corner, I had a goal to write a book which I did and sell it to people which I've done. Aside from doing that, I wanted to loosely get something going with my art. The form of what I'd want to do was pretty vague at the time. I knew it had something to do with photography but hadn't settled on one certain direction. I never expected two months ago that I would also begin to put my own spin on drawings and be selling them as greeting cards. I never imagined that I would even want to really pull out the stops and make my 'part-time art thing' as a viable business. But here we are in mid-March and I'm ready to really go for it. 

I attended a local event yesterday called 'Country in the Park' along with my other friends from the Pinellas Park Art Society. All of us had many art mediums that we were proficient at and were either selling or displaying or both. That's the thing with PPAS (Pinellas Park Art Society), a good majority of the members have multiple talents. We have people within the group that paint, do pastel drawings, do scratchboard, photography and many other things as well, meaning that the people are good at more than one thing. A lot of us do a lot of different things and it's all good.  For someone that likes to draw, paint or what have you, this is a great group of people to be around. They are encouraging and always sharing their ideas with each other. It is because of my association with them that I have become a better artist. 

So, yesterday was spent as part of this great group. We had a row of tents set up and I had  a packed table. 

The above two photos show my table as I was getting set up. These photos are just a general idea of what I was working with. I left enough space behind all of this so that I could work on cards. I got two done and the rest of the time was spent talking to people that came to my table. 

Yesterday was a great day for me. I went in, expecting to have a good time. I let go of expectations for sales of photos and cards. I've been disappointed in the past when I've had the idea of making a certain amount of money. Putting a set amount does not work for me because it ends in disappointment. But yesterday was profitable and I am still on a high, mostly due to what a great day it was as a whole. The sales were part of it but I also had a lot of wonderful conversations with people. 

For some reason, the VW stuff goes over really well. I sold a lot of VW prints and some cards as well. Even people who might not be 'car people' found something to love. VWs make people happy. I love doing the art of them and I love taking pictures of them. You could say that this is a passion of mine. I've always loved cars and more recently have become more enamored with vintage VWs. 

That's the thing about following passions. I'd do it even if people didn't like it. Creating these pieces of art is that important to me. The nice thing in addition to all these good feelings I get from following my passions is that people are responding well to it. And knowing that people get such a big kick out of what I'm doing is enough to let me know to move forward with all of it. I'd move forward anyway but it is nice to accomplish that with the fact that this stuff will be purchased and people will enjoy their purchases. 

Some highlights from yesterday....

The above photo was part of the original All The Goods logo. I had two prints of of that which I was selling mostly because some people really love lighthouses. Anyway a man came to my table with his wife and another lady. The man said and I quote "That is the most beautiful lighthouse picture I've ever seen!" Needless to say, I never expected to hear that and I got a bit teary-eyed because it validated the fact that what I'm doing is meaningful to other people and what I'm doing speaks to them. The man's wife ended up buying a print of this photo as well. 

A bit later, a very interesting lady came by to see what I was selling and she had a lot of nice things to say. She told me about the 'Peace Through the World' photography contest where the winner would have their work exhibited in a gallery in Rotterdam, Holland. Hmm, I could do with some world-wide exposure. Why not? Even if I didn't win, I'd still get the joy of the experience out of it. It never hurts to try. (Note to self-Google this later.)

I have another event to look forward to the end of April. I have signed up to be a vendor at an event called 'VWs Over the Skyway'. The local VW club is hosting this event locally and I am going to be bringing all of my VW photos and cards. I think it's going to be really fun and I'm really looking forward to it. 

Having the goals of furthering my art has really opened up doors for me that I never knew existed or maybe hadn't thought about in depth. I'm eager to see what comes next. 

Monday, February 17, 2014

In pursuit of something "completely different".....

(Photo by Kim Salter)

I have been pretty busy and that's putting it mildly. Since the last time I checked in with all of you, I have acquired a new job and have gone full steam ahead in my part-time endeavors. I have a data entry job that I love and despite the fact that my schedule has changed, I still go full bore on my creative pursuits. Currently. I'm nurturing the photography side of things by going on as many photo shoots as my schedule allows and when I'm not engaged in that, I'm working on new greeting card designs. Also, I recently published my first novel which you can find here-

I have decided to go with Amazon, as they are a great company and they have a farther worldwide reach. Not only that, they are very easy to download for many people. FYI, a Kindle is not required to read this book. It works just as well as on your PC, Mac, tablet or phone. 

Just in case you didn't get to check out my last blog, my new book is about a young British woman who loses her whole family on board the Titanic. Rather than letting the tragedy mark her for life, she instead embarks on a journey of self-discovery and blossoms into the person she was meant to really become. 

I have always had an avid interest in the Titanic and also in stories where the protagonist changes in some way, usually for the better. You could say that I am drawn to such stories and people because I can relate. I am not the person I was in my 20's, 30's or even as much as ten years ago. I am on an ever-enduring quest to figure out what I want to do in life. I think that as I hit a 'certain age', it became imperative for me to get off my butt and try some new things. And I have and it's paid off handsomely in terms of self confidence and my own blossoming into a person that I can not only admire but live with as well. 

As a result of my partnering with Amazon, this blog is also going to be part of my Author Page feed as well. Hopefully, this means that more people will visit this blog as well as All The Rods and All The Creatives. 

You can visit my Author Page here-

I am going to try my level best to keep all these blogs going. I apologize for not doing so recently. And as always, thanks to all who come, visit and read. 

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

For All Time

(Photo credit-Terri Mills)

My life has changed beyond my wildest dreams and I have so many people to thank for it, I can't even begin and it's going to take a while. 

It is truly amazing how a life can change in the blink of an eye. Mine did. Two weeks ago, I felt alone and lost without a notion of how I was to get along. I had a change in circumstances which made things look rather bleak. First I got mad and then I got busy. 

I was able to not only change things but for the better. I am in disbelief at how keeping my faith and my head has made things so much better. 

'For All Time' is the name of my first ever full-length novel. I have always been extremely fascinated by the story of the Titanic and have dutifully watched every documentary I could about this ill-fated vessel. The movie 'Titanic' is possibly my favorite movie of all time. 2012 was the hundred year anniversary of the sinking and in the back of my mind was a niggling of an idea that would not rest. The small voice grew louder and louder until it was impossible to ignore. 

Images were coming to me in bits and pieces. They displayed themselves in my dreams and also in those silent contemplative moments when they would scurry across my mind like grey clouds across a storm-filled sky. 'For All Time' was begging to be written. And so in July of 2012, I began. 

'For All Time' centers on a young British woman named Lillian Spencer Graham, who is aboard the Titanic on its first and only voyage. She is a newlywed who loses not only her dear husband Freddie on the ship but also her in laws and her own parents. She seems to have lost everything until her luck changes in a most unexpected way. 

This story focused on those deep friendships one has that have spawned the expression 'family of choice'. Lily, now all alone in the world, must depend on her newly created family of choice who offer her all the world has. The theme of love in all its forms is also a central theme to this story. 

Lily has left behind one world to grow into yet another and in the process grows into the person she was meant to be. 

Inspiration for this story came via the Titanic and the rich history of this wonderful ship. I also drew inspiration from the following:

Robin and RJ Gibb's gorgeous 'Titanic Requiem'. I listened to this soundtrack over and over again. It kept company with me as I uploaded my manuscript into NOOK Press. 
Find out more here- & here

The influence for the artistic life of Lily was inspired with love and gratitude by the members of the Pinellas Park Art Society. The book was dedicated to them for all they've given me as a means to develop as an artist. The dedication is my way of showing them my deepest appreciation for their support. To find out more about this organization and the wonderful people within it, please visit them here-  and here

**Note, when the book is made available for World Wide sales, I will post the info within this blog.**

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Happy New Year to all! Here's to a wonderful 2014!

Well, my entirely different new life has taken another path already. Recently, I had taken a job within an industry that I'd never tried before. It turned out that I was not a good fit to do this no matter how much I twisted and forced my nature to accept this sort of work. I just came to the sad (happy?) conclusion that it just was not for me. I'm not a quitter. I will hang in there even in jobs that other people don't like or say are awful. I have a very good knack for taking a situation and tailoring it into something really good. But this one was just beyond help. With my decision to leave, I felt a pinch of guilt and a little fear. But I'm pressing forward anyway because just within a few day's time, things are starting to change for the better.My only regret was the time I wasted try to be something I wasn't.

But not all is lost. When in training for this job, I learned a lot. Not only about what I was going into as a career but about myself as well. I learned that when I want to change my life, if I pour my heart and soul into doing it, I can attain it. But to accomplish this, I can't sit back and expect things to happen for me. I need to be the one to get up and do it myself. While doing the prep, training and courses to succeed in the new job, I also learned that when it's time to hunker down and learn something, I can.

There's an old saying in Recovery groups, take what you need and leave the rest.

I don't believe in New Year's Resolutions per-say but will tell you a few things I've already started doing before the stroke of midnight-

1-Keeping an open mind
2-Surrounding myself with only the good in life. This means not watching the news, not listening to negative mindsets and aligning myself with people that are making their lives and others' lives better.
3-Counting my blessings
4-Being more mindful with my money, only spending it on things that will serve me
5-Becoming more willing to put myself out there in terms of sharing my talents with the world
6-Saying yes to what I really want and not wasting my time with things I don't want
7-Choosing who to spend my time with (See #2 above)
8-Knowing that I am valuable and people want what I have to offer
9-Learning from my mistakes
10-Listening to my intuition a bit better

So having said all that, Best of luck to all of you in 2014! May this be your best year yet!