Quiet Serenity & Joy

I should start by saying there is a part of me that is a wanna-be photographer. I LOVE taking photographs. I love capturing everything that I find beautiful about the world around me. Moments of humanity and joy, beautiful details in life and nature, and things that inspire me. My expertise in this field is comprised of Photography 101 in college. But despite my lack of formal education, I soldier on and make up my own rules to create images that make me personally feel something.  

So on vacation last week in the Outer Banks of North Carolina, I did something I had always talked about doing, but never did. It wasn’t anything difficult or scary, but it did require sacrificing sleep, one of my most prized hobbies – I got up in time to walk down to the ocean and document the sunrise.

I rolled out of bed at 5:45, and schlepped down to the beach in time for the sun to rise at 6:04 am. In the moments before the first rays of sun appeared in the sky, I was overwhelmed by the activity on the beach. The ghost crabs had clearly been very busy, tunneling ALL over the beach. There were little holes EVERYWHERE all in a row at the edge of the water, completely untouched by human beings taking their walks along the water’s edge. And the crabs themselves surrounded me, eyeing me suspiciously.

Suddenly, peaking out over the horizon came the hot orange sun, creating the most intensely pink sky. As I started shooting, I realized I had never stopped to just watch a sunrise or sunset from start to finish. Stopped fully to just watch and appreciate the beauty of it. How sad is that? It’s something that happens every day, and at 31 I was fully appreciating it for the first time. I was in awe of how quickly everything changed with this one act of the sun making its way up into the sky – the coloration of the world around me changed so many times in the ½ hour it took to ascend into what most would call full daylight. The ocean changed. The crabs hid. And the world of man awoke. Every stage was so beautiful. And it filled me with this sense of how incredible the world is, and how small my place is in it. But at the same time, as I witnessed the day begin, it filled me with the thought that the possibilities for the day were endless.

I walked the length of the beach all the way down to the Avon Beach Pier, photographing anything of interest as I went, and walked back home. My whole trip lasted about an hour and a half, but I came back at 7:30 feeling refreshed, free, and accomplished – I had witnessed this miraculous thing that, yes, I know, happens every day, but was completely awe inspiring, and I was able to document every moment of it that had brought me joy.

This idea of starting my day by doing something that brings me joy and fills me with a sense of accomplishment is something I’ve been thinking about since returning home. And so on Thursday, I decided I’d get up an hour earlier than I normally do, and just paint a little bit. The night before, I set out my easel, canvas, paints and brushes, so that all I would need to do is get out of bed and begin in the morning. I didn’t want to give myself one reason to NOT paint. And it totally worked. It wasn’t as though I got a ton done, but the point was that I started my day with something that was completely for me, something that made me happy, and no matter what happened for the rest of the day that day, at least I had done that. Victory. And it’s a strategy for taking charge of creating my own happiness that I will try again in the future. What strategies do you use?


Painting Snow White

“Stay with it. It’s worth doing. It’s not a crime to fall short, but it is a crime to abuse yourself for not being what you want to be.”

“Snow White” is a painting I have actually had sketched and sitting on a canvas for 3 years. Yep, that’s right. 3 years. It was part of a project I began in celebration of my oldest daughter’s 3rd birthday. She’s now almost 6. Her party was Disney Princess themed, and at the time, her favorite princesses were Rapunzel from “Tangled”, and the classic “Snow White”. With all of the best intentions, I only managed to complete the one painting of Rapunzel in time for her party, and it has always bugged me that I never completed Snow White. In my defense, I definitely bit off more than I could chew with my pinterest inspired party (ugh, the pressure of pinterest! But that’s a topic for another post…), and shortly after the party, I discovered that I was pregnant with my second child. So into storage it went for a time when I might one day have more time…

But in all fairness, I should also state for the record that i always have trouble completing artwork. There is something in my mind that either says that A.) because this is just a hobby of mine, it’s not important enough to complete, OR B.) once it’s at a place that some might call complete, I feel it’s not good enough to call complete – there is always something that could be redone or improved upon and I have trouble letting go.

            And so, and in beginning my 2nd project as part of my 2 Hour Per Week challenge, I dusted “Snow White” off, and in the spirit completion, I decided to give her another try. If I’m being completely honest, I was not pleased at where I was when I got about ½ way done. And it sat for another 3 weeks before I forced myself to pick up the paintbrush again. Painting is something that takes time, layering, and patience. And part of this process is allowing myself to love the process, regardless of the outcome. While it’s not my favorite piece I’ve ever done, I finished it. It’s done. I can now move on and look forward to the next project. And my daughter finally has her painting to hang in her room in time for her 6th birthday.


Movement & Momentum

Committing to this journey to be more creative on a consistent basis, I have given myself what I’m calling the 2 Hour Challenge. Simply put, I will take 2 hours every week (usually on the weekend) to make something. It is my time to put my headphones on and create whatever my little heart desires in that moment.

In a quest of mine to document my children as they are right now, in this moment in time, I decided my first project was to take a photo of my youngest from a recent barbeque and turn it into a charcoal drawing. There’s something about the original photo that completely captures who she is: wild, independent, carefree, confident, (and a little sassy). At 10 o’clock on a Saturday night, I decided to just put in my headphones and work. I didn’t look at the clock, but decided I would work until I was tired enough to go to bed. I wasn’t sure how much I would get accomplished, but amazed myself by fully completing this sketch in 2 hours! It was so encouraging!

But more than the physical end result, I proved to myself that devoting just a small amount of focused time can leave me feeling accomplished, connected to myself, and in balance. As mothers, we often feel it’s too selfish to take time for ourselves. As a people pleaser (and a Cancer), it’s something I have struggled with since day one of motherhood. Guilt is just something that comes with the territory. But something else I’ve come to realize is that being out of balance doesn’t help anyone.

It’s funny what doing this little exercise this weekend did to my overall outlook and attitude. In the week that followed, I felt more at peace with myself, proud of my accomplishment, and looking forward to my next 2 hours of being intentionally creative.

I heard something interesting about momentum this week that I am finding to be very true. You can build up just as much momentum continually NOT doing an act as you can consistently performing an act. So, an easy example of this is the feeling you have each week that you don’t go to the gym building and building until there is so much momentum moving in the negative direction that is seems impossible to jump start the good habit again. But on the flip side, once you start doing something, it becomes easier and easier each time as the momentum builds on the positive side of the spectrum.

I’d love to hear from you – what are your thoughts on momentum? What has helped you to kick start that project you were dying to start? Once you started did you find it became easier to move forward as you consistently starting meeting your goals?