Monday, November 28, 2016

Pump Up the Enthusiasm

Those words came up in my reading the other day regarding marketing art work and I decided this is what I need to do about my art work. Marketing is difficult for me. I have to decide how I can “pump up the enthusiasm” without being obnoxious.

Most ads these days are obnoxious to me! It’s a catch-22, as I’ve mentioned before. I have product, but I am so against the hard sell. I absolutely hate these commercials where it sounds like they are yelling at you to buy their products, so much so, I will avoid those products unless absolutely necessary; like Bob of Bob’s Furniture, for instance. 

Last night I was watching “$10,000 Pyramid” on TV which has Michael Strahan as host. All his loud enthusiasm in trying to excite the audience is such a turn-off. It sounds so fake and is totally unnecessary. If people like game shows, they will watch. They don’t need all that falseness. 

Then there are those commercials where two people are “having a conversation” about a product. Again, it’s like they are yelling at each other about how wonderful that product is. Someone suggested I watch a video of a product yesterday and the two “conversationalists” were so loud and fake-sounding, I couldn’t watch the whole thing. 

This is all psychological marketing strategies. Marketing experts have studied human behavior and know how the brain works. They’ve learned how to get their messaging out to people; how to convince people to buy. And they’ve targeted our children (just think about kids’ Christmas wish lists). 

It’s all about pumping up the consumers, getting them excited about the product, and trying to convince people that this product is a must-have. Stop and think about what the marketers are doing. The loud, excited voices of the “actors” are a tool to make you buy something. That loud excitedness gets people enthusiastic and excited, and it excites those around them. It’s all kind of brainwashing the consumer.

We are all being played by the media and marketing strategies!!!! Think about it. Think about the commercials you are listening to, that your children are listening to. Even when you aren’t consciously listening, even if those words are just background noise, your brain is hearing it! Your brain is taking in – YOU-MUST-BUY-THIS-PRODUCT – which  makes you want to run right out and buy the latest and greatest whether you really need it or not.

This all said, how do I sell my products? I am excited about what I do. When I finish a project, whether it’s a book, a poem, an article, a drawing, or a nicely edited photograph, I am excited inside. Wow, I did it! I accomplished something and I want to show the world. I want everyone to see – and hope my books and pictures will find a new home. 

My heart and soul goes into my work. This is a piece of me, something I’ve slaved over, thought hard about, and I’ve done the best I could. These are not cookie-cutter products. Many, like the drawings, are one-of-a-kind. These aren’t things you (and everyone else) can run to Walmart, or the likes, to buy. The love of what I do goes into everything I make. You can’t buy that in a big box store.

Pumping up the enthusiasm? I’m still thinking how to accomplish that without feeling like I’m being pushy. And, if I’m afraid I’ll be that way, does that mean I will be? 

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Making New Christmas Memories

So after the past few days of tears and grieving for Christmases past, I am ready to make new memories. Talking about that grief lifted a huge weight from my shoulders. I am surprised how good I feel this morning. (I know, I have the month of December to go, but I feel I made a great break through. It still won’t be easy. I can do it and, do it well!)

The neighbors across the street put up more lighted decorations yesterday and their place looks great. I want lights, too, especially now that I have a cute farmer’s porch to make pretty. Colored lights bring me joy. I loved my summer solar lights – brought inside for the winter as they are not receiving enough sunlight. Now it’s time for holiday lights.

I threw out many big boxes of Christmas decorations when I moved; all the old lights, ornaments, and garland of the past 20 years along with a four-foot tree. (I had a lot of stuff!) I kept only a couple of small items and a fake wreath. I don’t regret getting rid of the old. It’s one thing to have nice memories, but I don’t need a constant reminder of what was. It’s time for changes.

Now I have to buy new decorations – not a lot. Maybe I’ll even get a small tree for inside. I ordered a few things online and I’m eagerly awaiting their arrival. Small steps, as right at this moment, I am still planning on spending Christmas day alone. Still, I can surround myself with beauty. That I can do.

Being around others on Christmas day will take a lot of courage and I’m not sure I’m ready for that yet. The last thing I’d want to do is to have a meltdown in front of grandchildren. I don’t feel comfortable around excited, happy people on this day. But I’m getting better.

I really am making new Christmas memories.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Grieving for Christmases Past

I’ve been an emotional wreck these past three days. For three days, I’ve spent the mornings dissolved in tears; my heart ripped open bleeding more tears into my soul, and my head pounding from the stress. 

I’ve struggled with the holidays since my mother’s passing in 2011, but this year it sneaked up on me. I thought I was OK. This is my second holiday season in a house that does not have memories of her (except for her picture which I keep close by where she can watch me working). I have a lot going on and I keep happily busy.

Thanksgiving morning it hit me as I wondered if my sons would call to wish me a happy day. I’m usually the one to call them first, but on holidays, I would like them to call me. My oldest messaged to wish me a happy day and somehow that set me to thinking about past holidays and how, since my mother passed away, I choose to isolate.

Today it dawned on me that my vision of Christmas morning is of our house in Kensington with the tree in front of the picture window and sparkly garland tacked around the main living spaces. Presents (we always went overboard at Christmas) would extend from under the tree, to in front of the TV and fireplace, into corners of the living room. I picture my dad standing tall in his green, black, and white plaid flannel shirt, my brother and his wife, and the aunts and uncles. Mum and I would be in the kitchen getting dinner ready; the aromas of roasting turkey and various vegetables and more wafting through the house. And my sons would show up with wives and grandkids. 

Christmas was basically the same year after year – it was Christmas. It had been that way since I was young and Don and I were the only kids. But changes came as changes do. The older people started leaving one by one. My mum and I tried to carry on, but others wanted their own Christmas celebrations at their own homes on Christmas day. Yes, we were invited, but mum was stubborn and would not leave the house and I guess I’ve picked up that same trait.

So, five years after my mother’s passing, I realize I’m not just grieving losing her (and having her pass on Christmas Day!), I’m grieving for all our Christmases past ... because they can never be the same. I have total respect for other family members making their own choices. I certainly make my choices and stand by them. 

There’s no going back. New Christmas memories need to be made and while I may still choose to be alone Christmas day, today I have a better understanding of the grief encompassing me around the holidays. I’m getting better. 

Thursday, November 24, 2016

A Holiday Revelation and Yet Another Issue to Work On

After five years since my mother’s passing, and more, really because there were the years of decline, the holidays are still tough for me. I’ve been blaming it on my mother’s passing, but wait ... it really started when both my sons decided they (and their families) would stay at their own homes for the holidays. They have every right to do so and I allow them their choices. I understand and can see things from their stand point. I know they love us (me, now).

Then when my brother and his wife also decided not to come any more, Mum and I settled into our “alone” holidays. Ma refused to go out, although we might have gone once or twice to Don’s for Thanksgiving, but Christmases were just the two of us. We stopped buying presents. Today I am realizing how much that still hurts; and how MUCH it hurts!

I’ve occasionally talked about this in past – a little. I’ve never told any of them how much it hurt and how much it hurts me still. Ma never talked about it at all. Maybe it hurt her more than she ever let on, and more and more she’d just sit in her rocking chair locked in her own thoughts. After all, Christmas, especially, was her favorite holiday and she so loved buying presents for everyone and having everyone come to the house. She lived to have a house full of family. Suddenly having the holiday day just being the two of us must have been more traumatic for her than I ever realized.

Maybe it’s time to start talking ... except I can’t without tears. Every year the season is full of tears. And I CHOOSE to stay alone.

I’ve been afraid. If I start to talk about how I feel, it will all come down to being my fault. I’m afraid that they will start pointing out all the things that I did wrong and where I was/am lacking as a mother and grandmother. I’m afraid that somewhere along the way I’ve hurt them. How can I ever fix that? How can I ever know that I didn’t do anything wrong? At least I don’t think I did. But I’ve always had to be true to my authentic self.

I have mentioned the poor mother/grandmother aspect before, but not so much about the holiday issue. I just kept telling myself that they all have the right to celebrate holidays as they see fit (and they do). I still love them no matter what. Maybe it’s only in my mind that there are issues.

This is something to work on during this season. I have to be gentle and loving with myself, as I am with others, and work on better understanding why I feel as I do. I thought I had this behind me, but evidently there’s more I need to resolve within myself.

The work goes on. I am Enough! I am getting better! I am a good, loving person!


A Few Words of Advice on Advice

Advice doesn’t have to be taken literally. Advice and feedback are tools that help one move through periods of stuckness. I use the words I am given, as gentle proddings to help me figure things out for myself. 

And, I don’t take offense when I give advice and it’s not taken. It’s not my job to tell anyone what to do. My hope is for the words to help someone find a way to move past their stuckness; that it will help them think more clearly. The words can be way off the mark, but if it gets the thought process working, I feel I’ve done a good thing.

Sometimes an initial reaction of “I couldn’t do that!” is enough to start steering me in the direction needed. It’s that boost to get me moving. It’s about movement; moving through the obstacles or finding a way around them. Someone else’s words can stop the mental spiraling downward and give me the courage to go on in my own way.

Going my own way is very important to me. I’ve always been like this, never wanting to look or do exactly what everyone else was doing. That made me an outcast as a kid – which I didn’t understand at the time. Now I am proud of the fact that I try to be different. Now I understand how much courage it took to be different. It may mean I’m weird, but I am my own person and not a cookie-cutter of anyone else. I am proud to be ME!

Perhaps, too, this is why I have this attitude about advice. I don’t expect anyone to be just like me. Yet, I can take the well-meaning words of others and turn them around and help put me on my right path. After all, that is what advice is supposed to do – help us stay on our own paths.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Back to the Drawing Board (Literally)

The day before yesterday I went back to the drawing board – literally. I haven’t done a charcoal drawing in two years although I think about it often. 

The stand-up easel is always ready with a drawing board and a blank piece of paper attached. I also set up a table easel nearby, also with a board and a blank piece of drawing paper taped to it. There were a couple of photographs on the easel for a someday drawing. Neither were what I really felt like working on, but I didn’t feel like looking through photos on the computer and printing anything new.

I put a drop cloth under the stand-up easel, put on latex gloves (charcoal is messy), and got out a wide piece of vine charcoal. Returning to drawing is like riding a bike, right? You don’t forget. I began laying down the background. I used a lint-free piece of paper towel to rub the charcoal smooth for the sky and water; so far, so good with that first layer. 

I work in short time frames and after a break to work on my book, I went back into the studio. This time I put in a few foreground trees and leaves. These first steps are getting just the basic shapes and the darker values. Oh, wait, I forgot to put in the reflections in the water. I squeezed the shading between trees and once that was done, although not perfect, I was satisfied with the first day’s work.

Yesterday, I returned to the drawing board. I added color. I’ve added touches of pastel color in the past, but this time I want to do more color. Uh, oh, here’s where I realized I had made a very amateur move: I had already started putting in foreground shapes before fully finishing layering in the background. And, as I said, charcoal is messy – and so is pastel. Both media smudges easily and while smudging is used in layering, once I start putting in foreground detail, it’s harder to correct/change background without making a mess of the drawing. I reached the stage I don’t like what I’m doing.

So, what did I do? I started another drawing, a different picture, on the table easel. Jeez, I can’t ever just do one project. I have to have multiple things going on at the same time. I got the first layering done then went back to working on the book. 

I always go through a period of not liking my drawings. There’s that time frame between the thrill of the beginning and the excitement of the finished piece where I get discouraged and hate what I’ve done. I see all my “mistakes.” Sometimes I’ll walk away for days – the last time I walked away turned into two years. I have uncompleted drawings that I’d like to finish, but for this first time back in awhile, I wanted to do a new picture.

Usually, when I persevere and continue working, I get past what I don’t like and get a finished product which pleases me. There’s that sense of accomplishment. I can’t compare my work to anything anyone does. What’s ironic is that when I look at other works of art, I prefer the crisp lines and fine detail, yet that’s not how I work. Then again, one of the aspects of my work is in creating the “illusion of detail.”

What also amazes me is, after I’ve been away from the drawing for awhile, what I notice in the picture I’m working on compared to the photograph I’m using as a guide. Why didn’t I notice the reflection came over farther? Why didn’t I see that branch bent the other way? How come I didn’t see that tree should be taller?

This never fails and it intrigues me. Luckily, I’m not trying to do an exact copy of the photo. The photograph is just a guideline to the drawing. I still want to capture the essence, though, and I want to have sizes proportionate. 

And so, the work continues. 

Thursday, November 17, 2016

What’s Holding Me Back in Writing my Book

Doreen Virtue, who wrote “The Courage to Create” says, “Write the book you wish you could read.” 

I’ve been giving this a lot of thought. What kind of book do I want to read? I like biographies, histories, and travel; mostly non-fiction (although I do occasionally read fiction). I don’t want fluff jobs. I want the truth, the authentic journeys, and not just the facts. I am intrigued by what people think, how they react, their emotional journeys. I want that personal-ness.

I’ve been mulling over issues about the latest journey; the trip to Wichita, Ks. So much of the traveling had me scared and miserable. The driving was stressful; the downpours added to the anxiety, there were crappy hotels, hours of boring driving in heavy traffic, having thoughts spiral around in my head, and getting with the wedding party and being around strangers in situations not comfortable for me. 

What’s really funny is that once I got home, I realized what a wonderful experience it was. I concentrated too much on my nervousness when I was driving and yet, the overall trip was utterly amazing and I saw some great sites (and sights). It was awesome seeing family I’d not seen in years. Yes, I would do it again – well, maybe not the same place because there are so many other places I want to see – but I definitely love exploring this country by driving.

I’m struggling with the book. I don’t want it to be boring. I don’t want to offend anyone. I want my story to show the truth (my truth, how I saw things, knowing my view of situations may not be how someone else sees them) and that it’s not all roses and great times.

So, how do I write the book I would like to read?  Number one is being true to myself and telling my story, and my story isn’t just words. The journey is also about pictures; sharing what I see with my readers. Yes, I know that, as a writer, I’m supposed to do that with words, but words are not enough, not when I also have a picture. Plus, taking photographs is part of who I am. 

Number two is that I need to stop worrying about what others will think. Like I said, I never want to offend anyone, but life isn’t perfect. As much as I want to be kind and a good person, a whole-hearted authentic person, there are times that I won’t live up to what others expect. I have to be me.

I’m figuring out some things and have an idea to help the book along. 

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Learning Something New and Learning Something New

Today it’s hitting me about my attitude towards learning anything new. This is a strange statement to make because I have learned so much these past few years and I’m constantly learning something new. However, I have been graced with a few awesome opportunities, and because there are huge (for me) learning curves, I’ve totally balked at taking these advantages. This is causing me guilt and grief. It would be awful to blow these chances.

Learning these programs will greatly increase my online presence, help me be a better photo editor, and give me greater ability to get my books written. These programs will be immensely helpful, yet every time I pick up the book to study or make the attempt to practice on the computer, my mind totally turns into a snarling mess of angry, confused snakes. 

What’s with that? Is it about following book directions? Is it about trying to work through all the lessons on subjects I don’t care about to find the meat and potatoes of what I want to do? It’s easier to just stay with the old and familiar programs.

So, I procrastinate. I put it off. I promise myself I will get to it. I get a whiny, “I don’t know where to start” mantra in my mind and I keep promising myself, “One of these days I’ll get to it.”

Yesterday, a friend posted a saying from Dr. Wayne Dyer: “If you believe it’s going to be difficult to learn something new, you’ll experience the difficulty you predicted.”

Gosh, that’s exactly what I’ve been doing! It’s all about my attitude. Duh!

Then last night I was reading “Greatly Daring” by Brene Brown. She defines vulnerability as uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure. 

This is it, too. Learning this new stuff definitely fits the uncertainty subject. I don’t like the not knowing. I don’t want to “practice”… why isn’t practice a four-letter word! It will take too much time. And reading what to do isn’t like someone showing me what to do. Reading means I have to decipher what is written if I don’t fully understand. (Do I sound like a little girl throwing a temper tantrum? That’s what I feel like when thinking about this.)

It’s risk. Do I take the courage to delve into these new lands? Sometimes I like ruts. I’m comfortable knowing what I know. I feel I’m leaping into the unknown where there’s the fear of failure. What if I can’t do it? (But, I know I can.) 

Then there’s the emotional exposure, and for me, that will be living up to what I learn. I will have to put myself out there with these new tools. I’ll really have to get working on my books (and I’ve been dragging my feet about this, too). I’ll have to do better photography. Plus there’s the guilt of wasting a gift that someone was gracious enough to give me. How bad is that?!!!

Maybe the messages and readings these past two days are telling me it’s time. I have to give up the belief I’m lazy and just do it. I am NOT lazy! I do a lot every day. However, I can do things better. I have to make the time to learn the new programs. (This reminds me of my mother always wanting the magic pill from the doctor to make her better. I want the magic to automatically drop the new knowledge in my head so I already know it.) 

A final note: Another message coming through lately is not focusing on the end result, but enjoying the experience of the journey.

Yep, I need to adjust my attitude, forget about the end result and allow myself to have fun on the journey of learning.


Friday, November 11, 2016

What Happened to “Proud to be an American?”

This morning I am saddened by the news I heard last night. I try to avoid news at all costs because it depresses me so much. Unfortunately, I caught a news clip when I turned on the TV last night and I can’t stop thinking about it. I keep hearing some woman’s voice screaming into the camera. What the HELL is the matter with people! I am appalled that this country is turning into a violent nation – or is this just all the media wants to throw at us.

This election had to be one of the worst ever for slander, mud-slinging, anger, hate, and now, now that it’s over, horrible violence and protesting the results. Is America turning into some kind of militant country where violence is becoming the ruling force?

Myself, I have hope for this country. This is MY country and I love it! 

The election, no matter what side of the fence you are on, is over. We have a president-elect. People VOTED and the person who won had the most votes. I don’t understand the protests and the violence is gut-wrenching. Is this an America to be proud of? And if the other side had won, would there have also been the protests and the violence?

All this violence is making me feel we are no better than other countries full of hatred and violence. This isn’t the America I know and love. And yes, I know there have always been problems. We are not perfect. 

But, we are a country built on freedom of speech. Freedom of speech is a good thing when it’s for positive results. People have the right to protest and speak their minds. I understand that people get angry (and hurt), however, destruction and violence doesn’t solve anything. It creates heartache and despair and more anger.

One big thing we have to remember: It's not the words that come out of someone's mouth, but the actions of that person that matters. Look how many make pretty promises then don't live up to what they say? A person's actions and what he or she accomplishes for the good is what we should all focus on!

How can anyone respect these kinds of action? Violence is brutal with no logic or common sense. When people lose control and let their emotions erupt in anger and they in turn get others all riled up, the situation deteriorates. No one wins. Violent acts just make the protesters/perpetrators look like idiots. Why would anyone want to listen to someone who acts like that? I don’t get it. Violence is NOT the way! Violence will only beget more violence. 

I know people think violence is the way to get their voices heard, but often when people are overly angry, they don’t make sense when they talk. They don’t really get heard because those listening and watching can’t get beyond the horrible actions.

I’m not saying I agree with everything that went on during the elections. I truly believe the entire system needs to be revamped. I believe all the mud-slinging and slander during the elections brings everything to a boiling point and people lose sense of what’s really important. What is truly best for this country and for us, its people. 

I want to be proud to be an American! However, seeing these acts of violence makes me feel ashamed. Please, people, let’s work together. We need to be more courteous to those who don't share our views. It's OK to disagree. Let's build respect for all.  I have hope – we have to hold on to hope. 

Friday, November 4, 2016

Learning Tough Lessons

Speaking up and speaking out take courage. Too often I bite my tongue and let people walk all over me. Today I take courage to speak out, and while it may not be in the direction where it should go (that would take more courage than I possess at this time), I am saying something about what happened. I cannot let it continue to stew inside me.

I was asked to do a job for a guy in July. I was a little apprehensive because the subject is out of my comfort zone, but I was excited, too, because I would learn a lot. He agreed to my hourly price and at the first meeting, he paid me for two hours. We did the first interview for which I wrote an article. Then there was an event at which I took photos (which I sent to him) and wrote another article. 

I emailed copies for approval. There were multiple phone calls with changes, additions, and more changes after the original article came out. One call was 8:30 p.m. There were calls and emails about ads in the newspapers, more changes, and after working on an ad, he decided against doing it.

I emailed a final bill. He refused to pay! I told him my time is important. I have a lot going on and took time out of my busy schedule to take this project on. All the phone calls and the writing and then making changes take time. He was the one who kept changing his mind about what he wanted to say. As it was, I didn’t even charge him for all my time spent on this project.

A month went by and I got a phone call. He said he’d pay what he owed me if I’d do another article for him. He said he’d call with a time and place. I never heard another word. How low can one get? 

Needless to say, this whole issue has left a sick feeling in my stomach. My dreams have been haunted and his name keeps popping up to remind me. I put a lot of effort into the project. I always try my best to do a good job. My heart and soul goes into what I do and to be taken advantage of is crushing. But, I have to move on from this.

I’ve done a lot of soul-searching about how to handle the issue. Some say I should take him to court… but I can’t go through that. If I’m not willing to go that route, I have to let it go. It’s hard with so much going on that keeps reminding me of what happened. It’s a constant effort to force myself to not think about it. I’m angry and hurt and all I think is sleaze, scumbag, and creep. I don’t like to think this way about anyone.

One way to get it out of me IS to get it out of me and to do that means I have to talk about it. As you can see, I’m not naming names, although with all the political bashing that goes on, this would just be one more. Am I angry about it? Of course, I am. How can I not be? I’m out $200 and time I could have put into other projects. Plus, it’s the ethics of it. This incident just supports what I believe about big business and politics.

There is a lesson in this although I haven’t quite figured it out… yet. Maybe I have to get it out of me before I can see clearly the lesson.