photographer. artist. author. singer. songwriter. musician. teacher. student. humanitarian. visionary.

Posts tagged “happiness

Dean’s List!

I’m in a ridiculously good mood: I just found out that I made the Dean’s List again this semester. SO stoked. In the past, I wanted to make the Dean’s List solely for bragging rights (I can admit to that), but now, I have to make the Dean’s List or there’s no going forward. When I begin working on my Master’s degree- just around the corner- there’ll be no such thing as “making a C”. If you receive a C in psychology at the Master’s level, you’re automatically expelled from the program. Yep; anything less than a B- and you’re considered a failure. So, I set the bar really high for myself every semester because I have to. But my semester’s finally over, and I have until July 7th to relax and enjoy my summer (and work on my photography & art). It’s OVER! 🙂

Digitally rendered watercolour on washi paper/ Bernheim Forest- Clermont, Kentucky
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The Crucified Way

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Never in a million years did I think I’d live to see the day when my Church would be divided. It happens to many churches. There are differences in opinions, feelings, ideologies, and ultimately, beliefs. So, church members branch off so that all people might feel included and have a place to go or belong. It doesn’t make the people who left “wrong” and it doesn’t make the people who stay in the original church “right”. Each person must decide for him or herself what is best in their lives.

I was born into a family of Pentecostals. My Church is Christ Gospel (Headquarters) and my Pastor is Rev. B. R. Hicks. She’s getting up there in years (in her 90’s) but she’s got plenty of fire left! 🙂 I consider her my spiritual mother and owe her a great deal; I always will. I was raised in duality, however: when I lived with my Mom, I went to prayer meetings twice per week and church four times per week. We didn’t have a t.v.- didn’t wear make-up, pants, etc. (skirts/dresses only), and lived a pretty clean life, to say the least. (I remember once, becoming heavily convicted at 14 because I was reading “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.” Yep!)  When I lived with my Dad, however, it was AC/DC, loads of whiskey, beer, and pot, and I had free reign of my life. I was perpetually bouncing back and forth between my parents throughout my adolescence and I was the only one of my siblings who did. Both sides- the spiritual world and the carnal world- were well developed within me. I’ll always be grateful for that. Had I been raised “only in church”, I would have felt inadequate, or as if I were a perpetual sinner and could never measure up to my cohorts and peers. Had I been raised “without God/church” (only) I’m sure I’d be dead by now, as I’m rebellious by nature and like to live life on the edge. Having both sides has allowed me to “sin with the sinners and sup with the saints”, as it were. What it’s also allowed me to do is get to know people from all walks of life- judging no one.
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There’s a saying in my church that we call “the Crucified Way”. It’s choosing to focus on Jesus’ crucifixion and believing that all things go back to that: the Cross. As Christians, we pray and ask God to “crucify our flesh” so that our own carnal pride will become crucified- transformed- and cleansed so that rather than making something “about ourselves”, we make it about Jesus and His will. It’s no secret that we’re living in a self-fulfilling, hedonistic world where it’s all about “gaining followers”. I think though, we can become lost, chasing after a hollow goal if we’re not purpose-driven and sanctified- seeing the world through anointed “holy” eyes. Without that, it’s too easy to get caught up in “self” and “status” and “followers” and “likes” and on and on and on. But we all do it, no matter how clean we think we are- we all do it.
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But back to the matter at hand! Recently, my Church has become divided. Bro. Bill Hudson (whom I really like a lot) started a separate church and many people have left our home Church to join his. They call it “Return Ministries”. Keep in mind, I, myself haven’t been to an actual Church (building) in quite some time- but that has no bearing on my feelings and beliefs. I love my church- Christ Gospel- and always will. Whether I’m actually “attending the building” doesn’t add to or take away from my walk with Jesus- one bit.

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I love my Pastor very much because she’s taught me what it means to forgive and to love, truly. I’ll never forget what she said one day, “You can’t love people from a distance.” In other words, you have to “get your hands dirty”. DO something to show people you love them. Help them clean their house, give them food or a ride to the store- HELP them! Don’t merely say a hypocritical prayer that “God will help them or bless them” and leave them out in the cold…
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It’s because of my Pastor that I was able to forgive my offenders – 100%- and find healing in my life. She’s lived by example and has poured out her heart, soul, time and her very life to help other people (like myself), and I’ll always be indebted to her for that.

There are a lot of lies on the internet about her, and there are people who have set out to destroy her her whole life. But just as the Bible says, “The servant is not above his Master,” and just as they tried to twist Jesus’ words, they twist hers too and try to make her out to be all sorts of things she is not.

I’m only one person with once voice. But consider this (part of) my testimony and that I have learned from Rev. Hicks how to love, forgive, overcome, how to give to others selflessly, how to actually give thanks to God for hard times, and how to take my eyes off of myself and put them on Jesus. She’s an awesome person, in general, but she’s an incredibly awesome woman. 

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What I love most about her, though, is her refusal to “go with the flow”. She stands on what is in the Bible- 100%. In 2015- that offends a lot of people. People want conformity and change. Under pressure, Moses struck the rock (in the wilderness) so that the people would have water, but he struck it out of fear and to silence them. He didn’t strike the rock because God wanted him to. He did it because the people moved him to do it- but it wasn’t God’s will. He “went with the flow” so there wouldn’t be an uprising.

Rev. Hicks doesn’t “go with the flow to silence the masses”, and again, that’s one of the things that I love her for the most. People blame her for their own unhappiness, but if we don’t give others credit for our success, why should we blame them for our misery?

The single greatest thing I’ve ever learned from Rev. Hicks is this: “Nobody can push your buttons unless you allow them to.”

That statement literally changed my life. We each have the power and ability to choose LOVE. To choose peace. And to choose forgiveness. I’ll forever hold these precious lessons close to my heart, and I’ll forever be grateful for what Rev. Hicks has taught me. ♥

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Speak to Me, Lord

It’s 2:52 am: I’m getting to bed early tonight.

Somebody’s been misbehaving again, and it isn’t me. I won’y mention any names, but I’ve gone and gotten my heart broken again. Damn. We were doing so well too…

I’ve moved into Brian’s old room; it’s comforting seeing his graffiti on the walls, I’m sleeping with his big, squishy teddy bear. I can admit to that. :0) I’ve been crying my eyes out for two days and haven’t eaten for 2 & 1/2. I’ll eat when the tears stop flowing. In all of this pain, I know God has lessons for me to learn. Pain is one of the best tools God has. My heart right now, can be compared to the earth, and when the ground is broken up, it seems destructive and things are ripped apart on a microscopic level. It’s dark…it’s cold…the seed that’s been in the ground for days begins to shake- there’s a revolt, and a miniature earthquake. After much pressure and tumult, that seed busts open, and new life springs forth. After a while, the roots seek out the deep and they thirst for water. This is my heart right now. I know there are seeds of love that are bursting forth, but in order for that to even take place, I have to deal with the cold, dark, isolation and the tightly squeezing pressures around me. I remember that these situations bring new life, but I must suffer the pain first. For whatever reason, it’s for my growth.

I was able to get the sunrise that I was after. I hadn’t taken a sunrise shot in years and it certainly paid off.I was admiring the abstract composition of the distorted lines interweaving themselves in and around the dock, when I turned around to take one final glance behind me [insert Hallelujah chorus here] BAM.

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Abstract waterscape by the docs
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The In Between

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The purples, and blues and pinks faded away and was quickly replaced by a small, white. orb that was surrounded by the most beautiful shades of yellow, gold, and orange I’d ever seen. To make it even more epic, it all happened while the church bells down the street began ringing, as if on cue, to accompany the sun up from his bed. It was spectacular.

I couldn’t help thinking, ‘Speak to me, Lord’.

And He did.

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EOS REBE/SMC Super Takumar 135/3/5/natural lighting/manual


Road Trip!

Welp- it’s official. Josh and I are going to see his family! He hasn’t been there (apart from two times, shortly) in about 7 years. Losing both parents at an early age and then being shuffled through foster homes, he had all of the odds stacked against him in life, and like me, should have ended up a statistic. But he’s kind, strong, loving, and highly intelligent (I know you’re reading this Brianna, and I know you’re laughing!) but he really is. He’s overcome great odds; it ripped my heart out of my chest to see him writhing on the floor last night, wailing and crying out for his Mother.

So, after pulling a few strings today, I’ve managed to coordinate a road trip. The house is stocked with $300 of groceries- Bob’s got his smokes- Brianna’s got her Carl back (he had escaped earlier) and after fueling up, we’re headed out to Huber’s Winery to pick up a couple of bottles of Catawba Rose to go with Josh’s Aunt’s “Wild Gypsy” candle we bought for her. I’ve heard about his family for so long now, I feel like I know them already, and I love them all truly. I’ve been missing his sister, Kat, lately. I feel sad in my heart for her and I just can’t put my finger on it, but when my fall aid is finalized, we’re going to take a trip to see her too.

I had an odd dream last night. I dreamed that I was walking in the snow but it was warm, like a mild summer day. (I usually dream in monochrome and sepia tones, much like my photography.) But last night, the palette was explosive! Wild, vivid colours. I walked into a patch of sunshine: I could tell by the grass’s shadows that it was about 6:00 p.m.- just when the shadows are stretched to their peak (and the best time for photographing them if you want dramatic photos). As I stepped into a triangular area of bright sunlight, the snow became mingled with dollar bills. It was literally “snowing money”. I walked with my eyes closed and a bizarre smile plastered on my face, and when I woke up, there was a warm glow all around me. Is that…is that what happiness feels like?!

I suppose it was a bit prophetic in a way- I was able to access $500 for groceries and a road trip- last minute. Josh is strangely tense. I know there are a lot of emotions he feels right now. It’s like being around a brooding storm without thunder- but a very quiet one just the same. I understand.

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My New Man

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Aka: Einstein

I adore Einstein. And so, I redecorated my living room wall. It’s my “happy place”. I drink tea there, watch “Chopped” there, (study there) and really, just stare off at the pretty colours and lament that Einstein is dead.

He was a good one.

I’ve decided that after I graduate (later this year, or perhaps as early as 2014) I’m interested in transferring over to a B.A. in Sociology. I entertained the notion of a B.A. in Criminal Justice, and I think I’d make an excellent parole officer, but my heart is in sociology. Plus, I’d like to travel extensively. We’ll see how that works out.

I’ve decided to learn Swahili. Why? Because I’ve been overwhelmed lately. When I’m overwhelmed, I don’t like to taper down. Rather, I jack it up. I study something new or hone my skills in a new craft, talent, or ambition (such as gourmet cooking, a musical instrument, or new medium in art) and I can’t think of anything that I want to do more right now than learn Swahili.

Ok. I can think of about nine other things. But Swahili is pretty high on the list. Besides, I have dreams of going to Africa one day and volunteering some time in an orphanage or two. I can choose to be lazy and let somebody interpret our communications, or actually learn Swahili. I choose the latter.

There are a few “eligible bachelors” who are doing very well for themselves who have let me know that they’re interested in me. But I would have to completely put my dreams and ambitions on the back burner, yet again, to foster my energies on somebody else and darn it- I’m just not going to do that.

Sorry, gentlemen. I am OFF the market.

I’m going to learn Swahili and travel and make a CD of my songs and do all sorts of things that I’ve never done before. Now I’m off to study for an exam in metamorphic rocks and make Swedish meatballs just for me.

Air kisses dahling


Photo Therapy (part 3)

There is a heck of a lot of chaos going on behind the scenes in my family right now, and I don’t mean my immediate family (altogether), but outside of my four walls. I live an interesting life for sure. Because of my walk that I’ve walked, there are those few family members that will always want to dig up bones in my graveyard.

I say go dig your own graveyard and leave my bones alone. I’ve made peace with much of what’s happened to me in my life. Some things, caused by my own stupidity- others, caused by those who cannot let go of their pasts. Sadly, I know many people who live in their pasts. It’s true that I rarely visit mine. I have memories, sure. Good ones, and lots of them. But I don’t hang on to the things that hurt me, and I certainly don’t invite others to a bitter banquet so they can feast on my rags. I’ve given all my rags away, to people who are much worse off than me.

I really do not understand how people can think they’ve got it so bad. And if you think I haven’t lived through some wicked stuff, you can read my Bio. We all go through trauma, disease, famine, humiliation, and other facts of life, but to grovel in a pool of your own vomit, and to stay in it by choice, so that others can pity you?

Moving on. I’ve sadly had to block several of my family members (again) because they simply cannot stop hating. Hate! Hate! Hate! It blows my mind.

I blocked them because I believe you have to put the negativity out of your life. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. But you don’t have to sit down and have tea with it either. I take my cue from Jesus, yet again. He was asked to come to the house of distraught parents. Their daughter had died. When He came to them, He told them that she was only sleeping. (I love that part.) They laughed him to scorn, the Bible says. Can you imagine? People wailing and grieving and seriously hurting, and then there are those who take pleasure to mock and laugh at such a time.

What did he do? He didn’t tolerate it one bit. That’s what. He tossed them out of the house, and he “shut the door”. I know when to shut my door. It may seem that I’m angry, but don’t mistake my strong stand in life for anger- I am grounded, completely, and pretty unshakable in my faith.

I have to regroup quickly when people are gnashing on me so viciously. I’m only human. Just because I’m a Christian doesn’t mean I don’t have anger and all of those other things. If you punch me in my face, I may punch you back and just say I’ll repent later. I’m still working on that “turning the other cheek” thing. 

But on that note, I do know when to walk away from people who claim this or that, but cannot stop devouring you. I do know how to shut my door- Jesus taught me that one.

When I feel these things in my life, I choose to do things that are constructive. It does no good to sit around and stew in it, and really, you have to act quickly, because rage is like a cancer. It will eat away at every cell of your soul, and it feels so good to pay them back, but you’re only hurting yourself in the end. Every arrow that flies out returns to you. Make sure you send good arrows.

I choose photography. When I go out into a scene, I compose my surroundings. Photography forces me to change the way I see the world. I have to choose a focal point. (That takes your mind off of the wrong focal point.) No matter what you’re feeling, you can go out and capture a view of the world that is altogether different than the way you feel.

Bitter people chewing on my back has been my catalyst for change many times, to do good for others. It gets me out of that dark place, and pushes me toward my art- singing, writing songs, playing my guitar/keyboard and, photography- all of which allow me to see and feel beauty. I can choose to be happy, no matter what.

And so I am. 🙂

I’m not one to toss around rose petals (like Joel Osteen, no offense to him, love him truly, but he’s happy like…….10000% of the time. Sorry Joe, my car breaks down routinely and we’re scrimping for toilet paper half the time- it’s REAL up in this household if ya know what I mean…).

And so, I take pictures. Not in spite of, but because of all of the family chaos lately, I went out and shot this sunset. I’ve never been a landscape photographer and I’ve never been fond of “sunset shots”. It’s not that they’re not beautiful, I’ve never had the necessary growth as an artist to appreciate them, that’s all. I do now.

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Who knew that the cruelty of my enemies would be the very thing to help me see beauty?
Thank you enemies.

And that is how I turn things around.


From Zero to Hero

When I first met J, he had long hair well past his shoulders. He was a total stoner, just as I was,  and was fresh out of a foster home: he was 18. My brother had brought him over one night, looking for some Klonopin (of which I had plenty at the time) and sort of left him on my doorstep. My brother was inebriated and wandered off into the night, having left his friend behind. 

I had lost two of my children to the system some 14 years before, due to a series of tragedies, and so my heart really went out to the guy when he shared with me his story. His mother had been murdered when he was only 7. His Dad died of a heart attack when he was 14. He was sent to live with his grandmother afterwards, who treated him unkindly, and from there, he was placed in one foster home after the next. I was still fighting for the return of my own children at that time, and when we compared notes, we soon realized that our stories were strikingly similar, except he was “the kid from the foster homes” and I was “the parent fighting for mine to return”; nevertheless, we shared the same feelings, ideas, notions, beliefs, struggles, and hopes. It was obvious that there was an age gap- 18 years to be exact- and I thought, at best, we would become friends who shared a spectacular understanding of loss and life. 

We talked for the next three days- without sleeping. We smoked a lot of weed and bonded entirely. We both knew that we had “found somebody” who could truly understand our paths, both past and present. We discovered that we were both Christians, and singers/songwriters/musicians. We were also both French and Indian (native American). 

As I learned more about this amazing guy, I realized that he had a gift in the areas of endurance and overcoming tragedy. I hadn’t yet learned many lessons that he had learned, and at some an early age. I followed him like a shadow, studying his easygoing manner, his very slow and methodical way of speaking. I noticed that he never spoke without giving what he said much thought. I on the other hand, often stuttered and, especially in his presence, was tongue tied and gushed out any ole thing my brain was thinking at the time. I completely lacked finesse and grace. 

I was also extremely hot-headed. If somebody pissed me off, I was ready to roll- and I do mean roll. J and I weren’t by any means “an item” but we grew close and formed a unique bond. I taught him the ropes in photography; how to compose a shot and the importance of exposure and lighting. He soon became my apprentice and model. I painted a huge set of butterfly wings on my wall and he became my living butterfly. (They made for very interesting pics. 🙂

The weeks turned into months, and the months years. I grew to love J with all of my heart, and have never known a love so strongly, apart from my children and parents, but this was a different kind of love altogether. I’ve learned so much from him, as he has from me. We quit smoking pot ( 5 years ago) together, and we quit smoking cigarettes together around the same time. We quit drinking whiskey together and somehow, we’ve worked the worst out of each other and have polished up our best parts. 

When we first met, we were both aimless, bleeding wounds in life. He’s been able to comfort me, and repair some places in my heart and soul that were dying. I’ve been able to care for him and give him the nurturing and love that he’s craved for many years. 

Although he was riddled with unspeakable horrors as a child, he was able to become an outstanding academic student, which has rubbed off on me entirely. We’re now both college students and can call each other a “life partner”. We’ve literally grown up together. Saying that J is a “boyfriend” is somewhat insulting. He’s so much more. If he were my husband, there would be labels and expectations and such. We share a unique friendship, but with a love and respect much stronger. I’ve often told him that I would rather be dirt poor, living in a cardboard box with him, under a bridge, than to have a fine mansion without him. And it’s true. 

And that’s the funny thing about love. It’s such a precious thing in this world; when it comes to you, you must hold it like a child, cultivate it, and care for it like the most delicate of possessions. In five months, it will have been 7 years since J showed up at my door. 

“I love this little pitty…and this little pitty….and this little pitty….” J says, grabbing my toes and smiling at me. I return the smile, my heart swelling and burning with love.

Who knew it would take an 18 year old kid to make a woman out of me? 
(And such a trainwreck of a person to make a man out of him.)

We’re not the same people were were years ago. We’ve merged into the same being in a way. We can give each other one look and say so many things. He picks things out of my head almost constantly- verbatim- and that’s really freaky, but so very neat. I feel like the very threads of our souls are intertwined. I speak much slower now. 🙂 And I always think before I speak. 

My little car is falling apart, and so I’ll be getting another soon. I told J that I will give him this one when I do- it can be his fixer upper. He just replaced the alternator and the battery, and I love the way he stands here, holding his prize (like a caveman) – the beast- conquered. 

Life can change so quickly sometimes. One big earthquake can bring a nation to its knees and everything you have today can be gone tomorrow. I think of these things daily. I can’t speak for tomorrow, but today, love is not only in my life, but it rules it. I barely have two pennies that I can rub together, but J’s love has made me a rich woman. 

And I’ll take love over money, any day…

 

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