Goodbye Skinned Knees

I am audio powered.  I love music, musicals, movies with music integrated into the plot (Mr. Holland’s Opus, Sister Act 1 and 2, The Soloist and tons others), I love the sound of waves crashing on the beach, the wind rustling the leaves on the trees, birds chirping in the early morning, laughter and countless other sounds.  Some of the most memorable moments in life all have music involved.  Because of this, I could really kind of relate to the role of  Rita Watson in Sister Act 2.  Only my voice isn’t as amazing as hers and our family lives are or were a little different.

At any rate, there’s a scene in the movie where she has just quit the choir and Sister Mary Clarence kinda sneaks up on her as she’s walking down the street and asks her why she quit the choir when she clearly loves singing so much.  I don’t remember the entire dialogue that is exchanged, but I do remember when Sister Mary Clarence quotes the writer Rainer Maria Rilke.  The quote says “don’t ask me about being a writer. If when you wake up in the morning, you can think of nothing but writing, then you’re a writer” and Sister Mary Clarence goes on to explain to Miss Watson that if she wakes up in the morning thinking of nothing but singing, then she’s a singer.  It’s been a several years since I first watched this movie and yet, this lesson was revisited again recently.

As I’ve asked God over and over “am I a photographer, am I a creator” I found myself remembering this scene more than once.  I think it could also be said that if, when you wake up in the morning, you can think of nothing but taking pictures and making pretty things, then you are a photographer and a creator.   I really come alive when doing either thing, but especially when it comes to taking pictures.  I would do it if no one paid me to, I would do it if no one ever saw my captures, I would do it no one liked the captures they did see.  I love everything about photography.

I love looking back at my captures and remembering the details that can’t be photographed.  What people said, where I was when I saw the capture, the weather, the amount of shots it took to get that “perfect” one, how I feel looking back at the capture later, the editing process, and of course, people’s positive reactions when they see my captures.  Unlike when I have created some papercraft project, when I take pictures I don’t compare myself to any other photographers, I don’t critique my captures nearly as intently as I do my papercraft projects and I am now in search of an amazing camera bag that will double as a purse so I can keep my camera with me at all times.  You just never know when the sky will be amazing, or that flag at the grocery store will be flying just right against the blue sky, or when the moon will be full during the day or,or, or.  I have “gone back” for captures more than once because I didn’t have my camera at the time…sometimes it works, but often if you miss a moment you’re out of luck.

When I first bought my DSLR and took some pretty great shots “out of the box” I thought hmm maybe I should start charging people to take pictures.  I took a bunch of pictures, made up a flyer and some coupons and a few other things and had great success failure.  Pretty much zero interest in my work.  I kept taking pictures though (remember I absolutely love doing it), and reading and learning so I could take better pictures, but I kinda gave up on the idea of doing it as a profession.  Still though, despite having given up, there was this nagging push in that direction and I continued to get positive feedback from places I least expected to.  From people who, if biased, would certainly not be biased in my favor and pretty much everyone else who saw my work.  I still didn’t have the courage to follow through on the push though.

So…God did what He does sometimes and pushed harder.  First I began to think about submitting my images to the county fair’s still exhibits.  I’ve always loved this part of the fair.  Nothing like seeing something beautiful and your knee-jerk reaction being “oh wow”, but I never thought I had enough talent to enter.  The first time I got the thought or prompting I dismissed it.  Let’s be totally honest here…I dismissed the prompting the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th time too…maybe even the 5th.  It kept coming so I finally thought hmmmm ok maybe I can do it.  I chose 4  of my favorite photos (you can see the images I entered into the fair here) and sent them out to print.

Then I had a complete anxiety attack over picking up the photos and whether I was really ready to enter them.  I had never seen any of my work in print so what if it didn’t look as good printed as it did on the computer?  What if once printed they looked terrible?  What if, once they were printed I just couldn’t make myself move forward with entering them?  What if…then I thought about what I tell my kids all the time:  what if IF never happens….next stop the dollar store.  I got to the dollar store and they were out of foam core so I had nothing to mount the photos on (per the rules of the fair they have to be mounted) and I was off the hook.  Or at least I thought I was…Lil Sis reminded me I could enter the ones I had enough scrap foam core for and when we got home from picking up the prints my daughter remembered that I had three pieces of foam core in storage.  It only took one to mount the 4 images.

The time came to turn the photos in and even at the last moment I almost gave up.  When I told one of the volunteers I was there to enter some of my photos he goes “professional level, probably not” or something very similar and I almost walked out.  Thankfully I had my little Ranga with me and her presence helped me have the courage to move forward anyway.  I got all of my photos labeled and tagged and then was told to give them to Darren.  When Darren got them he had a totally different reaction and I walked away floating on cloud nine (see the link above for his reaction).

During this process, I saw someone entering on the professional photographer level.  She was just as nervous and insecure as I was.  I caught a glimpse of her photos and honestly thought mine were better and immediately set a goal to enter again next year as a professional.  I set this goal without thinking about it really…it’s the first time I’ve been able to set a goal with a deadline in months, maybe even years.   It was such a powerful moment.

During this whole adventure, a good friend texted me and let me know she was going to pay me to capture her wedding.  My first paying  gig is a wedding!!!!  WOW talk about exciting!  And, while all of this was going on, I was also being prompted to design new business cards specifically for photography and get them printed.  I’m very reluctant to spend money on too much right now (especially investing in me), but nothing ventured nothing gained right?  So I designed a pretty amazing business card and then came the prompting to post it.  That was HUGELY scary for me…if you’ve ready my story then you know why.  Over and over I heard God tell me that those who trust Him needn’t fear and so, I finally did as prompted.  It was the most relieving experience I’ve had in a long time.  Imagine being rid of a burden so heavy your back was arched under the weight, but you honestly didn’t know you were carrying it.  That’s kinda where I was.  I have experienced so much joy since releasing that burden.

What on earth does skinned knees have to do with this post you ask?  God has pushed so hard so long and caught me totally off guard so many times that I’ve skinned my knees repeatedly.  Guess what?  Skinned knees STILL hurt as a grown up and I’m tired of hurting.  I’ve hurt in one way or another for so long, I almost don’t know what it’s like to function without hurting. I’m getting there though and it’s such a beautiful thing to let go of hurt and instead hang on to hope.  God has let me know abundantly clear that I need to pursue creative endeavors and trust myself.  He trusts me and has proven it repeatedly.  It’s scary though; I’m not gonna even lie.

It’s scary to take a chance on yourself when, to your best recollection, you can’t remember ever having done so.  It’s scary to trust yourself when a lot of your decisions have had disastrous results.  It’s scary to trust yourself when you have had the confidence beat out of you emotionally and physically and you are having to start all over again to figure out who you are and who you want to be.  There is so much I’m scared of right now, but this much I know “God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power…” and I am choosing to take back my power how and wherever I can.  I believe that any desire the Lord places in our hearts and souls will be successful when we take time to give that desire the time and attention it deserves.  I know He wants us to be happy and successful beyond our wildest imagination and so, because of this knowledge, I am taking a chance on me and pursuing creative endeavors.

I’m already seeing the blessings of this decision.  My first paid capture is a wedding, the bride’s mom wants me to do her son’s senior pictures, I’ve entered the fair (despite the outcome), I’ve made, posted and ordered business cards, I’ve had enough confidence to set a goal for the first time in a long time, and I’m happier than I’ve been in a very long time too.  It took some bloody knees to get me there, but they are scabbed over now and healing just fine.  I’m looking forward to where this creative adventure takes me and will keep you updated along the ride.

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Sometimes you just have to wait

I drank way too many Diet Dr. Peppers late tonight (well last night actually) and am still wide awake.  As I sat at my desk rummaging through the things I still hadn’t gotten put away I came across this black ribbon and electric blue lace.  It inspired me to whip up a card and I’ve decided to mail this card to my oldest daughter in one of my nifty DIY bubble envelopes.  It’s really rather simple, but I’m sure she’ll love it all the same!

Supplies Needed:
A2 Card Base (mine is Core’dinations)
1 41/8 by 53/8 (use solid color)
1 4 by 51/4 mat designer paper mat (mine is K & Company)
Lace (Joann’s — 1.99 for 4 yards)
Ribbon (stash)
Adhesive (hot glue, foam dots, ATG)
Spellbinders Beaded Ovals, Small and Large Classic Ovals
Manual die cutting machine (mine is the Grand Calibur)
Ink (I used Memento)
Verve Stamps (New Mercies)
Heat fix bling
Hot fix tool (or I-Rock)
String of pearls

Ok…ready set go…adhere your solid colored mat to your card base and set aside.  Hot glue your lace to your ribbon then affix to your patterned paper mat and hot glue your string of pearls.  Using the manual die cutting machine of your choice cut the largest beaded oval die in your card base color, cut the largest of your two ovals using the same color as your solid mat, and finally cut the smaller of your ovals on a light piece of cardstock (I used white) for maximum clarity with your sentiment.  This sentiment comes from the New Mercies set by Verve and is perfect for my daughter who is struggling to wait upon the Lord for the deepest desires of her heart.  I hope it will encourage her and brighten her day both.

Next I matted the larger of the plain ovals to the beaded oval using homemade foam dots, stamped my sentiment, adhered it to the oval with my ATG and then used more foam dots to pop it up off the card a bit.  I was originally oriented this card vertically, but liked the horizontal look better and re-did it.  Once my beaded oval was adhered to my card base I placed heat set bling to the center of each bead on my oval and really love how doing so gave this project some extra pizzazz.

Be sure to head over to Verve where all stamps are 20% off through the 4th!  When you place your order, tell Katrina and Julee I sent you!

Baking my soda

to make washing soda.  Who knew right?!?!?  I sure didn’t.  In fact, I kind of came across it by accident.  I was looking for something else entirely (don’t get my lying about what it was cuz I have no idea right now) when I came across numerous blogs that said by baking your baking soda it actually turns into washing soda.  Washing soda is a staple around here for laundry detergent, dish washer detergent and countless other things.  It’s not even terribly expensive either, but it’s not as cheap as baking soda is.  Remember my previous post…I pay 3 cents an ounce for baking soda.  In store washing soda costs about $4 a box for a 55 oz box…I haven’t bought any in a while so I forget exactly.  Anyway, at this price it breaks down to 7 cents an ounce…more than double what baking soda costs and all I have to is heat it.  So I figured hmmmmm lemme try it.  Here’s my cookie sheet covered in baking soda (please excuse the dirty stove):

I baked my soda on 400 for about an hour.  When finished it looked like this:

It is extremely hard to tell in these photos bout after about an hour in the office my baking soda looked, smelled, and felt like washing soda.  One of the websites I came across saying you could bake your soda and make washing soda was Penniless Parenting and she offered a scientific explanation.  I myself am going to trust her because I only passed chemistry due my exemplary test-taking skills.  She says “the difference between baking soda and washing soda is water and carbon dioxide. Seriously. Baking soda’s chemical makeup is NaHCO3 (1 sodium, 1 hydrogen, one carbon, and 3 oxygen molecules). Washing soda’s chemical makeup is Na2CO3 (2 sodium, 1 carbon, and 3 oxygen molecules). When baking soda is heated up to high temperatures, it breaks down to become washing soda, water steam, and carbon dioxide.  By cooking your baking soda, you can easily and safely get washing soda without needing to travel to far flung places to buy it, and you can make as much as you need at a time and don’t need to lay out a lot of money on buying washing soda. (If you buy baking soda in bulk as I do, you can make washing soda especially cheaply.)”

You can bet I’m gonna save those 4 pennies per ounce (not to mention the drive time, gas, and anxiety that comes with a Wal-Mart run) and continue baking my soda whenever I need washing soda!

Carpet Cure

Sometimes you can’t win for losing.  Hardwood floors are colder in winter and collect dust and hair like nobody’s business and carpet traps dirt and odors deep in the fibers.  Even the el cheapo carpet I have in my apartment that is basically a step above indoor outdoor carpeting.  One partial solution I’ve found for avoiding a repugnant smelling carpet is a good vacuüm.  I have a Shark and LOVE it (thanks Miss Nicole for the recommendation).  It has super suction and picks up a lot of dirt and ick that designer imposters have left behind.  Nevertheless, sometimes odors stay and even if you get your carpet smell good stuff at the dollar store it can still add up when you vacuüm every day and like smell good things as much as I do.  So I figured I’d try my hands at DIY carpet freshener.  I am loving it already and we haven’t even used it yet.  It’s smelling up the entire house at the moment.  I just sent my daughter for a sniff check of our hallway carpet (the smallest section of carpet in the house) and she said “feet, nasty caca.”  She sprinkled our carpet freshener down the hall and is now vacuuming it up (we didn’t even let it sit as most sources I saw said to).  In her post carpet freshener sniff check she reports “mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm.”  I asked her if that meant it was a winner and she replied “YES”.  So…if your carpets smell like feet, nasty, or caca…try this:

 

You will need baking soda, a container with a shaker top (or a drill to make a shaker top like I did for the container I used) and essential oil.  I learned that there’s very little difference between fragrance oil and essential oil so I opted to purchase half ounce bottles of fragrance oil from Bulk Apothecary.  My jar is 25 ounces and is pretty much filled to the top.  I used about .25 of the half ounce bottle to scent my baking soda up super good.  The scent I used is called Ocean and it’s a nice clean scent.  In my room, where I like it a little fruitier, I’ll probably use my Caribbean Escape or Cucumber Melon oils to make up a batch just for my room.  How’d I make it you ask?  Easy peasy lemon squeasy.  Just fill your container about half full of baking soda, add about 10 or 20 drops of oil and stir it up really good.  Fill it the rest of the way up, add more oil (to your own scent preference) and stir it up some more (I used a butter knife to stir mine up).  Make sure your oil is good and mixed up and your baking soda isn’t wet because the oil may stain.

Now, let’s talk about cost savings shall we?  A 32 ounce bottle of carpet freshener from Wal-Mart costs $1.98 according to their website.  This means it’s 6 cents an ounce.  I know what you’re thinking and you’re right, that’s really not too bad.  The problem is this.  The ingredients are Carrier, Sodium Sulfate, Flow Agent, Sodium Silicoaluminate, Fragrance, Odor Eliminator, Benzyl Benzoate.  I don’t know about you, but I’m not sure what any of those ingredients are and if I don’t know what they are, how can I determine what kind of health risk it may or may not create.  I do know, from watching the Bag It documentary that “fragrance” on a label is often code for phallates and those can do some REALLY bad things to our bodies.

Cost-wise, my carpet freshener is 3 cents an ounce for the baking soda and about 2 cents for the fragrance oil.  Ounce for ounce, my version is a little cheaper and I can customize the strength of the scent, I can reuse containers I already have (instead of buying store-bought stuff in a plastic container) and thereby reduce my plastic footprint on the environment, AND I can be sure of what’s going onto my carpet and into my skin and lungs.  As for me and my house….we will be making our own carpet freshener from now on!