Saturday, September 26, 2015

Even in the Smallest Places...

It is a bit hard to believe that the last time I wrote a blog post was back in June. The days have come and gone and now I find myself writing a post at the end of September.

I am not really sure what I intend for this post to be. Maybe I long for it to be a step back into writing and into creativity. Maybe I simply want it to be a reminder to myself.

Life has been hard lately. There have been incredibly good things and beautiful moments. There have also been some of the hardest experiences of my life. Most of it feels too raw to write about right now.

On a difficult day I recently heard a song called Garden by Noah Gundersen. It spoke to me deeply. One of my favorite lines from the song has been, "Even in the smallest places can a garden grow."

Those words remind me of flowers at my Grandmother's old home. There were these little flowers that she called "Johnny Jump-Ups" (Viola Tricolor) that would grow even within the tiniest crack of cement. I still think of those flowers fondly.

Sometimes life can feel a bit barren and hardened like sidewalk cement. Yet, even the smallest places, such as a crack in the hard stone, can hold a garden. Beauty and joy can spring up even in hard circumstances. I am learning to process the hard things, to really look at the dirt, but also to remember that there is beauty and hope.

It is my hope that I will slowly ease back into posting on this blog. That may look like words or it may simply look like photographs with just a line or two typed out. Whatever it looks like, I miss this space and look forward to filling blank post pages once again.


Thursday, June 4, 2015

Austin Trip Part One: City Life

Austin City

Austin City

During the end of May I went on a week long trip to Austin, Texas. I have been amazed by how much the week away impacted my life.

Today I am starting a blog post series all about my Austin vacation and the many ways it caused me to grow, reflect, celebrate life, rest, and become re-energized. I hope you enjoy reading about my travel adventure. Along the way I plan to ask a question at the end of each post and would absolutely enjoy hearing some of your answers!

City Life

The city lights sparkled brightly. There was a golden snake of traffic that seemed to ever slither on the highway. The view from the 20th floor of the Hilton captivated me in the mornings and in the evenings. My eyes were ever drawn to the city and the world below that I could observe from the comfort of my chair. I spent many hours there with a book or my journal.

I liked to watch the city wake in the morning. It began to move slowly as the sun brought in the new day. I also liked to observe the movement of the city throughout the day and the way it came awake in a new way at night. Apart from quieter moments in the early morning, the city seemed to be in an almost constant state of motion.


I was mesmerized by my view of the city, but the city also taught me lessons beyond the walls of my hotel room. It caused me to step outside of my comfort zone. It taught me to be a little adventurous.

Little by little, I learned to navigate parts of the city. I took time to walk many miles between conference sessions and my scholarship award dinner. One time I accidentally walked into one of the less safe parts of down town, but thankfully I listened to the inner prompting to turn around. I spent hours in Book People browsing their shelves and wandered around the streets people watching. I learned to safely navigate street interactions and to walk with the rhythm of the city. With each adventurous stroll I took, I realized that I was learning to explore the city all on my own. There was no one there beside me to lean on and there was no one else to speak with as I took one step after another. It was just me.

The city taught me to be a little more adventurous. It taught me that I am okay stepping out on my own. It reminded me that one day I hope I will have a partner to explore the world with, but it also taught me that my "someday" hopes do not mean that I am not able to go on adventures alone. I am so thankful that I stepped outside of my comfort zone and explored a little part of Austin alone.

It is a rather grand adventure learning to navigate parts of a new city, but it is also an incredible opportunity to grow.

Have you ever explored a new city? Did it teach you any lessons?


Monday, June 1, 2015

Graduation: Associate of Arts Degree...

I did it! I officially graduated from my community college with my Associate of Arts.

On May 15th I walked across the stage at commencement with a  bright smile. It took three years and a lot of work, but I am so proud of myself and incredibly thankful. There was a time when I did not know if my health would be well enough to go to college. Yet, here I am. My health is in such a good place and I have completed one of my first major academic goals. I am also incredibly thankful for the support of my family and friends, as well as the campus faculty and staff. I may have been the one enrolled in classes, learning, studying, and taking tests, but I know that I could not have done as well as I did without such an amazing support network.

It is amazing to think how much I have learned, how I have grown, and how life has changed since that first blog post I wrote about my very first day of college back in 2012. That is one of the incredible things about keeping a blog. Even when I do not write for awhile this space is still a way for me to document my life and share it with others. It is amazing when I take time to reflect back that this blog provides a way to visually see elements of how much I have grown.

I am not the same person that I was when I first began college. I have grown in more ways than I ever thought possible since that first day I got lost on campus trying to find my classes. I am really excited about the lessons I have learned, the connections I have made, and the woman I have become these past three years. It is amazing how much you really do change and grow in this stage of life.

This fall I will begin a new adventure at a larger university. I will be living on campus and starting work on my Bachelor's degree. I imagine that I will write about my first day at the larger university and that I will one day look back at that post with amazement too. I am excited for new classes, learning a new campus, and all of the incredible opportunities I will have to grow. Life is truly an adventure.


Sunday, May 3, 2015

Reflecting on lasts and looking forward to firsts...

Dream a Little Dream

Window Dreamer

Life has been very full lately. It has been filled with many wonderful experiences and happenings. It has also been exhausting. This semester I ended up making a schedule that has very long days and I admittedly over committed myself between classes, work, and extracurricular commitments. It has also been mentally, emotionally, and physically draining working on the transfer process and scholarship applications and other preparations so that I may transfer this fall. However, the semester is almost complete and then I will be able to truly rest this summer.

This week is the last week of regular classes and then the following week will usher in finals and graduation. I am incredibly excited to graduate from community college and prepare to transfer to a larger university in the fall. I am truly in the middle of a transitional season right now. Lately I have been experiencing a lot of lasts at community college and this fall I will experience a lot of firsts.

As I process life lately I am so incredibly thankful for the love and support of my family, friends, mentors, and other individuals I have met through my college. I could not do all that I do without all of their support and encouragement.

On the days that I just want to stay in bed to rest, I remind myself how far I have come. There was a time I never thought that my health would be well enough to attend college full time, work part time, be involved in campus leadership, and also engage in other activities. I am so thankful for the relatively good health I have these days and regularly remind myself to appreciate it. I have also been reminded lately that I need to make sure that I take better care of myself and not overfill my plate when I transfer in the fall. (I am having to learn to say, "No." Why does that seem to be a never ending lesson for me?)

All in all, life is very good lately. I am so thankful. Tonight I reflect on the lasts and look toward the firsts that are to come.


Wednesday, April 8, 2015

The Kind Strangers...

Please note: Before reading this post I would like to share that I hope that my post and unfortunate blood donation experience in no way deters anyone from giving blood. I also would like to be clear that the blood donation staff were wonderful.

Even after all that I experienced yesterday and the recovering I still feel my body in need of today, I do not regret giving blood. I helped the lives of strangers somewhere in the world and that is something I do not regret.

I would also like to encourage everyone who reads this to consider donating blood at least once in your life. If you are able to donate, your blood could be a life saving donation to strangers desperately in need of it. Yet, through my experience, I have also learned that there are some individuals, such as myself, that can follow all the rules and instructions and still not do well after a blood donation.

My hope is that this post will truly be focused on the beauty of kindness and that the kindness I encountered yesterday will inspire other genuine acts of kindness.


Dear Kind Strangers,

Thank you for helping me walk from the cafeteria to a nearby chair as my vision went away and your voices sounded like echoes at the far end of a brick tunnel.

Thank you kind Radio Shack employees who were at the cafe for lunch. Thank you for the crackers and the water you brought me. Thank you for staying with me. Thank you for finding a wheelchair to transport me to the nurses' office. Thank you for encouraging me that I did a kind thing donating. Thank you for making sure I did not fall and hit my head at any point and time. Thank you for making sure that the nurse knew everything that had happened before you left and wishing me rest and to feel better soon. You were both such beautiful and kindhearted women.

Thank you guy with the kind eyes. On account of my vision issues, I can't really remember anything else about your looks. But I remember your eyes were kind and handsome and that you were so very thoughtful. When the Radio Shack employees were going to pay for the lunch I left behind, you insisted on paying for it instead. In fact, you brought the lunch over to me. You encouraged me with kind words. You told me that I did a good thing donating and that my body just wasn't handling it well. You had to leave, but you made sure that I was in good hands before you went on your way.

Thank you kind nursing staff. I already knew all three of you through my job on campus, so technically you are not strangers, but I am so thankful for the care all of you provided me with. I've been told I was as pale as the stark white pillow on the cot where I rested. I imagine that must have been startling to see. Thank you for calling my family to come get me. Thank you for calling my supervisors to let them know why I was not at my office. Thank you for monitoring my blood pressure. Thank you for doing everything in your power to help me recover. Thank you for taking me in a wheel chair across campus to my relative's car so that I could go home. Thank you for checking on me when you saw me on campus today. Thank you for thanking me for my blood donation, but also for being honest with me that it is probably not wise for me to donate again.


Dear family,

Along with the letter to kind strangers I need to thank all of you. I am so glad that I have an incredible family to lean on when life does not go as planned.

Thank you for picking me up from campus. Thank you for helping me safely walk. Thank you for helping me recover. Thank you for picking me up early again today so that I could come home and rest some more after realizing that I still do not feel quite back to normal. Thank you for buying me gatorade and soup. Thank you for holding my hair as I got sick, putting cool washcloths on my eyes, and calling the doctor to clarify information. Thank you for loving me. Also, thank you for bluntly, but also lovingly, telling me that I do not need to donate again.

All five of you mean so very much to me. I am so thankful to have you.


Saturday, March 7, 2015

The Meadow Maiden...




Her hair grew long,
Her eyes grew bright,
and her smile, from time to time,
danced like a flame in the night.
It was she who sang with songbirds
and tucked the flowers into bed.
I met her on a sunny day
and listened to each word she said.


Saturday, February 28, 2015

Painting the afternoon away...











Home is Where the Heart is.

Last weekend I had the opportunity to spend an entire afternoon running errands and painting with my sister. We explored the craft store shelves and she envisioned transforming three small canvases into a trio of sky art while I envisioned filling a large canvas with a heart shaped city. I was drawn to the acrylic paints and splurged by purchasing all of the colors that spoke to me.

As we went to the checkout and paid for our items, I was reminded how much life has changed. We both have paychecks and buy our own art supplies now. Yet, it wasn't so very long ago that we were little girls running through the backyard until the sun drifted to the edge of the sky. It wasn't so long ago that we dropped dimes into the offering bowls at church because that was ten percent of our allowance. In some ways it feels like just yesterday that $5 made us feel rich as we skipped through the dollar store aisles. Now,  more than $5 can easily be spent on a single bottle of paint. We aren't little girls anymore.

As we sat in the kitchen and began to set up our supplies and prep to paint I smiled at the way the sunlight highlighted Dana's beautiful hair. I thought about the whispers she hears from the little girls each night she works at the local restaurant where she cleans and serves the customers.

"Look, Mommy! She has princess hair." the little girls often whisper to their mothers across the table.

It is true. My sister has beautiful princess hair that cascades down her back in gentle waves. She also has artistic hands that weave it into the most graceful braids. Graceful. She is so very graceful. She is graceful as she diligently scrubs the tables clean at work each night and greets the customers with a smile. She is graceful as she sits and devours book after book in the mornings as the sun glows through the living room curtains. She is graceful as she drives me to campus a few mornings each week and as she takes time to tidy her side of the room.

As we spent time painting together I was reminded of her graceful beauty as she sat painting in the afternoon sun. Her eyes sparkled with the joy of creativity as she brought her vision to life on the canvas.

We did not speak very much as we painted. Instead we let music dance around our brushstrokes and eventually we let happy silence whisper to our creative hearts. We painted, we were together, and we were joyfully living in that simple moment.

I need to finish touching up the messy bits of my painting and Dana is still creating her third piece, but I am so thankful for that beautiful time we spent together and painting the afternoon away. I am so thankful for my creative, graceful, intelligent, and kind sister. I cherish the time I spend with her.


Monday, February 23, 2015

The Ice-Day...






Ice Flowers

Today is an ice day. I received notification from the college that the campus is closed for the day and I smiled realizing that would mean I could venture out into the cold and take time to photograph some of the beautiful aspects of the ice and sleet.

The ice and sleet is inconvenient for a lot of people today, but I am enjoying seeing the world dressed up in winter. There is such beauty in the sight of little purple weeds cloaked in ice. The sleet patterns are intricately formed as it comes to rest on the car windshield. The world is also extra quiet with most everyone staying indoors and the cars sitting still in the driveways. As I walk around and hear the crunch beneath my feet I smile. It is truly a beautiful ice-day.


Monday, February 16, 2015

Little details...

January Plant

Life is full of little details and little moments that are so easy to miss.

My schedule is crazy these days, but I am trying to take time to slow down, to notice details, and stay engaged with the world beyond work and college courses. Some days I do this well and other days I do not, but I am learning.

What details in life have you taken the time to notice today?

May you have a Magnificent Monday!


Sunday, February 1, 2015

Hello, February...


Dear February,

You seem to always be the month of reds and pinks. Well, at least in my part of the world. When you arrive the world is filled with hearts and Cupid's arrows. Then, after your 14th day, the world is filled with discounted chocolate and teddy-bears that say, "I love you."

Some years I've despised you for bringing Valentine's Day along. Some years I haven't really cared. Some years I've been giddy about your arrival. This year I am thankful. I am single and the happiest I've ever been to be so. Sure, when I make a connection with someone I explore it, but I wake up smiling even without an "in a relationship" status. Someday I hope that you will arrive and I will have a wonderful life partner by my side. Yet, in the mean time, I don't feel sad. I'm thankful.

There is so much love in my life that I can't help but smile. I smile when you arrive with the swirling hearts and romantic cards. I smile. I smile for the couple sitting in the coffee shop. Their hands are wrinkled, but they still press them together and gaze into each other's eyes. Only they know all the good and bad they've walked through. I smile for my parents who show love on more than a single holiday a year. They love through the highs, the lows, and the seemingly ordinary. I smile for the love of my friends with their spouses and the love they already have so strongly for the little lives that are growing inside of their wombs. I smile for the love between my brothers, sister and I. And, I smile for the way my friends still love me even when we see each other rarely. I smile for the love of my parents and the ways they've taught me to love others. I smile for the love of God. I smile for the hope I have. I'm not perfect, life is filled with messiness and so many hard things that I do not understand, but life is also filled with love. I don't think I will ever fully understand love, but love is real.

Yes, as you arrive, I smile for the abundance of love in my life.

So, February, you've arrived. I sit here writing this letter with a pile of handmade notes by my side. They are just waiting to take flight and hopefully bring a smile to some of the ones I love. Because, when you arrive, I think of so much more than just romantic love.

Thank you, February. You've taught me a lot of lessons over the years. Today I sit and give thanks. I give thanks for love.


Saturday, January 31, 2015

Tea and happy music...


Some days are meant for taking time to drink a cup of tea, reading a book, and listening to happy music.

Need a happy song for your day?

I recommend this one by The Well Pennies. It reminds me of summer roadtrips, beautiful weather, and dancing around the kitchen while doing the dishes. And, really, what is better than that?

Happy weekend to you!


Sunday, January 18, 2015

A Wedding in the Park...










This weekend I had the opportunity to photograph a small private wedding ceremony for a friend of mine. It was the first time I have ever photographed a wedding and it was so special. The bride and groom had a simple ceremony in a nearby park. There weren't hundreds of guest, a wedding party that goes on for miles, or decorations. None of that was needed. The ceremony centered around the bride and groom and was accented by their yellow roses and the natural trees of the park. Though their ceremony was very simple, there were moments that it took my breath away far more than many of the more elaborate weddings I have attended.

As I walked the couple through the park and photographed them, I saw how much they love one another. I saw it in the ways they made each other laugh, in the ways they expressed their affection, in the ways that they reassured each other in stressful situations, and most of all in the way they looked at one another.

During the ceremony the bride and groom shared beautiful vows that each of them wrote, the officiant got a little bit emotional even though she had never met them before the ceremony, and the mother of the bride glowed with joy even as tears dripped down her face. Those are just a few of the special details I was able to observe as I stood in the midst of trees and looked through my camera lens. The ceremony was, as it ought to be, centered around love.

I am so thankful that I was able to be with the bride and groom on their wedding day and to help document these moments and details for them. I am by no means a professional photographer, but I am so thankful for my camera and the ways that I am able to use it to capture glimpses of this tapestry we call life.


Thursday, January 8, 2015

Interview with Artist Angelia Murray...

Hello everyone!

I am so excited about today's blog post! I am still amazed at how all of this came about.

Last month my dear friend Sara Beth had a chance to visit New York City with her husband. While visiting Central Park she came across the artwork of Angelia Murray being sold by Angelia's husband Michael James Murray. My sweet friend was captivated by the art and knew that I would love Angelia's work. Sara Beth surprised me and purchased a print of Angelia's Elephant on Broadway and brought it back as a Christmas gift for me.

When I received the Christmas gift, Sara Beth included a note with the artist's website. As I browsed Angelia's website and Etsy shop I became truly enchanted with her work. I specifically connected with her Whimsical Daydreams series.

As I looked at Angelia's work I realized that I wanted to contact her to share how much joy her work was bringing to my life. In my email I invited Angelia to participate in an interview for my blog. I was so pleased when she agreed to participate and I hope that you will enjoy reading the interview as much as I enjoyed conducting it.

May you be inspired by her work and her words in today's post.

Elephant on Broadway
Giraffes On the Yellow Brick Road
Strawberry Cosmos
Penguins Ice Skating in Central Park

Thank you for taking the time to participate in this interview and share your work!

What first sparked your interest in painting? When did you first begin painting?

It all began in high school during my sophomore year. I was taking a lot of science and math classes while my friends were taking a lot of art classes. In order to break the monotony I decided to try an art class. I never thought it would resonate with me. My first drawing was of a squirrel and it was terrible. I then moved onto Acrylic paint, which is an impossible medium for me now. I found my love for watercolors during my last semester at St. Mary’s College. At the time I loved how I could just get lost in the pigments swirling in the water.

You mentioned in our correspondence that you just recently began selling your work. Can you share a little more about your journey to begin selling your work and sharing it with the world?

My journey to getting my artwork out there is kind of like my yoga practice: sporadic. It comes and goes depending on my confidence level. Graduate school was the first real start of committing to myself as a professional artist. However, my husband and artist, Michael James Murray, is my biggest cheerleader. He truly is the one who inspired me to chase after my dream continually reminding me art is subjective and you will be rejected. You just have to get it out there. So that is what I am doing. I started my website, my etsy and sell my work at small events in NYC. I am working up the courage this year to apply to group gallery shows. I am no longer just letting my artwork sit in my studio. Baby steps.

What advice would you give to other artists that are nervous to “get their work out” in the world?

My biggest advice is to keep making art, lots and lots of art. Some of it will be good, but most of it will probably be bad. That is okay as long as you keep making art. Do not fear rejection. Easier said than done. Remember art is subjective and foremost a business. Be organized and prepared. Create a website and a business card. Someone once told me you should have an elevator pitch ready; meaning a short interesting statement of what it is you do. You just never know who you will meet.

I have become truly enchanted with your Whimsical Daydreams series. What was the first Whimsical Daydreams painting that you created?

On my website I have a lot of paintings within the Whimsical Daydream series, but to be honest the one I considered to be the very first is Strawberry Cosmos. This painting combined city and nature together fairly successfully. It felt a bit more grounded than my earlier work. The butterflies and cocoons were really important to me at the time because I was seeking transformation.

What has been your inspiration for your Whimsical Daydreams paintings?

Whimsical Daydreams started at an artist residency in September 2009. My studio was tucked within trees and flowers with lots of wildlife, which I had not experienced in quite sometime due to living in NYC and traveling about 3 weeks out of the month for a corporate job. The residency brought a clarity to my mind, a break from my real life. This is when I decided to explore symbolism within insects, animals, and plants. So in essence I was trying to create little messages within my painting. I have found the people who connect with this series tend to find these meanings as well.

One of the aspects that I really enjoy in your pieces are the elements of New York City that you incorporate in whimsical ways. You create such a joyful juxtaposition of the natural world with the concrete and noise of city life. 

Could you share a little bit about how the city inspires you and the art you create?

I have been in NYC for about 10 years. I am originally from a rural town in Southern Maryland. I really could not tell you how I ended up in the city other than the fact I wanted to be an artist. I was following my dream at 21 years old. I knew no one. I just did it. It was the best decision I ever made. The city is now my home, but my love for nature remains. The animals and plants that appear within my work all have some symbolic meaning. I incorporate humor and lightness in order to wipe away my own cynicism.

Thank you once again for taking the time to participate in this interview. I have one final question for you.

What does living a creative life mean to you?

Freedom. I can at least say I tried to succeed at something I love.

Angelia Murray is an emerging artist recently graduated with her MFA from SUNY New Paltz, NY. In addition to her artistic endeavors, Angelia spent 5 years working as a Marketing Representative for photo industry giant, B&H Photo. Her career in marketing provided multiple opportunities for international and domestic travel, from which Angelia draws her artistic inspiration in regards to constructed space. 

Her repertoire not only includes drawing but photography as well. Angelia has participated in an artist residency at St. Mary’s College of Maryland and Vermont Studio Center as well as studied technical proficiencies through classes at the Maine Media Workshops, under respected photographer Christopher James and others.

Angelia is highly involved in the photo community, but drawing remains her primary passion. Angelia has shown paintings at the Samuel Dorsky Museum, New York State Museum and galleries in NYC, Maryland and Brooklyn.

She lives and works with her husband, Michael Murray and daughter in Peekskill, NY.

If you would like to see more of Angelia Murray's work you can visit her website and Etsy shop.

Her work and words have been truly inspiring to me and I am glad that I have had the opportunity to share this interview with others that might never have heard of her before.

May life be filled with creative joy!


Friday, January 2, 2015

January 1st- 12 hours of photos...













Yesterday was the first day of 2015. It was filled with the joys of listening to rain patter on my window, writing, and spending time playing board games with my family.

As I woke to the sound of the rain, the day began to beckon me to document it in some way. It was as if I had opened a brand new journal and the pages could not stand to stay blank any longer. I decided that I wanted to document the day by taking a photo an hour for 12 hours. This was the first time that I've documented a day by taking a photo each hour. I found it to be a very enjoyable way to capture such a relaxing day at home. And, taking one photo every hour was a wonderful way to capture some of the memories of the first day of a new year.

Now, whenever I want to reflect back on how this new year began, I can look back on the memories that are weaved into these images.

I hope that the first day of the new year was a wonderful tapestry of memory making for you as well!