Knock, Knock

Knock, knock.

Who’s there?

[Silence]

I open the door to see the back of her head..

Walking away..

From me.

Knock, knock.

Who.

Is.

There?

[Silence]

I hate being ignored.

She’s a real piece of work.

It’s been five years since we’ve seen each other..

And spoken to one another.

I’ve seen her numerous times in between then.

I’ve tried reaching out.

All I’ve gotten is..

[Silence]

Silence..

Is..

So..

LOUD!

It’s deafening.

It hurts my ears.

It hurts my..

Heart.

What a heartless person.

It.

Just.

Hurts.

I try to see her perspective.

She may have her reasons.

She must have her reasons.

I’ve theorized quite a few.

If any/all are true..

I’ve accepted it.

I’m an only child.

Don’t even get me started on my brothers.

I’m an only child.

I’ve accepted it.

I do miss her.

Well..

I miss..

Certain parts of her.

Definitely not her..

Attitude.

Judgment.

Loose lips.

Superiority complex.

Insults.

I’d rather adjust to her absence..

Than be frustrated by her toxic presence.

My message to her that may very well forever go unanswered:

“Thank you.

Yes.

Thank.

You.

Thank you for showing me how not to be a sister.

Thank you for making room for other people..

Who have stepped up..

Who have chosen to be in my life..

They are my chosen family.

And you’re..

Missing..

Out.

Oh, well.”

Knock, knock.

Who’s there?

[Silence]

I don’t care anymore.

This piece I wrote during another Journaling Workshop virtual event hosted by The Mighty that I attended earlier this week. Again, I can’t say enough about this group. They’re such a breath full of fresh air. I enjoy their company. We let all the feelings out on the floor. As I mentioned in my last post and the post before that, I highly recommend checking out their virtual events (&/or articles, social media posts, etc).

I debated about attending this virtual event since I’ve been under the weather, but I powered through it because I knew.. I needed it. It’s one of the few things I look forward to these days. Besides, nobody there could catch my germs, even if I was contagious.. Well, maybe their computer could catch a virus or two! Haha.. I’m glad I stuck it out and joined because a good piece came out of it. Go figure, even with my irritability and fatigue. I really thought I wouldn’t be able to churn anything out.. besides.. nonsense.

I chose the above photos to complement my piece because the covered bridge represents the care I had taken to preserve our estranged relationship. To bridge the gap.. between us. I kept hope alive longer than warranted. I didn’t want to burn any bridges. I’ve decided to take the high road. The covered bridge has a plaque that reads: Hyde Road. How fitting! How punny. Hy..de Road. High road.

The covered mailboxes are taken care of too. To protect those precious messages. Each mailbox is different. Varying in size, design, color, material, condition, and even how it’s attached to the post. Some by nails, brackets, or bungee cord! Some are barely holding on by a thread. Some are enclosed. Some are open ended with no cover. How symbolic of how we, humans, are.

Every family is dysfunctional.
I have chosen to function through the dysfunction.

Every relationship takes a hiatus.
I have chosen to make the most of the time I have.. with the people who choose to be.. Present.

The TGIF that turned into a WTF

The road map of life gives us countless avenues, U-turns, alleys, side streets, ol’ dirt roads, highways, exit ramps, bypasses, detours, overpasses, fast lanes, railroad crossings, pit stops, and forks in the road. We’ve all hit a fork in the road in our lives at some point. Some more than others. I hit one recently. A pretty big one, at that. It’s going to change how I spend most of my time. I lost my job. I guess there’s a first time for everything. I always have a plan, a backup plan, and even a Plan C. Just in case. I’m a planner. It’s what I do. It’s how I operate. My anxiety is mostly worrying about the future.. because the future is unknown, unpredictable, and scary.

I gotta admit.. I was blindsided. Hell, I’m still recovering from whiplash. Luckily, the damage that’s been done hasn’t diagnosed me as totaled. I’ve been given a severance package, which is nice. I will receive a payout for my unused PTO. Awaiting to hear whether I will receive my bonuses I earned/accumulated from last year. Pretty sure I won’t, which sucks! I keep forcing myself to focus on the positive and be thankful for how this ended. I’m fortunate to have such a strong support system in my life. Sure, the road flares are lighting up the dark night sky; but my air bags deployed properly, my hazard warning lights are flashing, and my road crew is taking care of me.

I first spoke of my job in my first blog post:
“For the past five years, I’ve been desperately craving a creative outlet because my day job, while it has great benefits and flexibility, is at an IT company that I find monotonous; however provides me the luxury of ample spare time to express myself outside of the cookie cutter IT world.”

Maybe this is my opportunity to explore creative positions the world has to offer.. well, at least in the metropolitan area. I am open to a remote position where I can work from home. With the way technology is advancing nowadays, remote positions seem to be more common than not. I theorize, someday soon, if we must report to the office or meet a client that our presence will strictly be in hologram form.

In Kindergarten, I was assigned a project where I had to lay down on a large sheet of paper, trace my body outline, and draw/color in my future-grown-up-self. The stereotypical “What do you want to be when you grow up?” assignment that every kid in the world is asked at some point in their young lives. Most kids’ answers were: firefighter, rock star, athlete, veterinarian, astronaut, president, etc. Nope, not me. I wanted to be a Planeteer. Specifically, Linka who had a magical ring that could create and/or manipulate the element, Wind. I have cared about the environment from a very young age because my parents recycled way before it was the “cool” thing to do. I’m proud to say that I’ve never littered in my life and don’t intend to.

Interesting how kids’ answers change throughout their young lives because they are asked that stereotypical question “What do you want to be when you grow up?” over and over. I remember changing my answer several times. I wanted to be a Veterinarian once when we got our first pet, a black and white bunny named Oreo. I believe I changed my mind about that career path because I couldn’t stomach blood or putting an animal down.

I remember briefly wanting to be a singer in junior high. We had a guest speaker in our Health class, they tricked us into thinking that our answers would be confidential and placed in a time capsule for however many years. I thought.. I had a good voice, but now.. I’m sure it’s only good enough for karaoke, haha.. Disney karaoke, specifically! I highly recommend visiting the bar formerly known as Video Archive, now known as Tiki, where they have Disney Karaoke on the last Thursday of every month.

I was not fond of being forced to take a Study Hall period in junior/high school because we weren’t allowed to talk or get up from our seats whatsoever. I volunteered to work at the Library as an assistant in lieu of study hall. That was where my love of reading and books skyrocketed! I thoroughly enjoyed organizing, alphabetizing, and categorizing books on shelves. Creating displays, coordinating events, and interacting with faculty/students. This is where I obtained my exceptional skill of multi-tasking! I wanted to be a Librarian! I’d love to be a Librarian today. I happen to know a couple librarians and they rock! You know who you are!

I decided to accompany my junior/high school classmate to try out for our school’s dance team. This classmate was one of those people who couldn’t go anywhere or do anything by herself. She didn’t drag me there, but I wouldn’t have tried out on my own. So, in a way I thank her for helping me discover my love of dance! I tried out and made the team! I had never done any formal training before, so I was quite surprised to say the least!

I remember one pep rally; our Dance Coach couldn’t attend for whatever reason so the Cheerleading Coach stepped in to assist the Dance Team during our performance. I was super nervous, as I always was before any routine in front of whatever size audience. The Cheerleading Coach decided to turn us a different way, away from the bleachers, and toward the Freshmen class (including the marching band). These were my people. My Freshmen class. Some friends of mine cheered us on. Cheered me on. It helped shake my nerves, so.. I just let loose. Put it all out on the floor.

The crowd was ROARING! I think it also helped that our routine was the longest one in our arsenal and.. it had a lot of pelvic thrusts and booty shakin’ moves. When we changed formation positions, I noticed the other girls weren’t really putting their all into each move and their facial expressions weren’t lively or animated. This made me feel good that the crowd’s positive, loud response was most likely for me. My theory was proven to be correct after our performance as I tried to leave the gymnasium. I had several of my classmates, some I knew and some I did not, come up to me, pat me on the back and compliment me on my dancing skills. I felt a little taller as I walked down the hall. Made me feel good.

Then.. the Cheerleading Coach (who coached our undefeated National Champion Cheerleading Squad) came up to me and asked if we could speak in private. I always initially have that stomach dropping moment where I feel like I’m in trouble and am being sent to the “Principal’s Office,” even though nine times out of ten, I haven’t done anything wrong. She asked me if I was interested in transferring over to the Cheerleading Squad! I. Could. Not. Believe. It. What a compliment! I knew the majority of the Cheerleaders were having issues landing their back handsprings. They were having issues with gymnastics, in general.. and that was hurting their squad. They were losing their edge.. and of course, increasing their chance of losing their undefeated title in the upcoming championships. I politely declined because I did not know how to do a back handspring or any gymnastic move for that matter. Also, my cheering voice was not great, haha.. She seemed disappointed, but I knew it was the right decision.

Even though dance was a short-lived experience in my adolescent life, I did want to be a Dancer when I grew up (not so much anymore since my knees gave out on me, haha..). Being a Dancer was up there on the list. Right next to Librarian. If you’ve read my first blog post, Once Upon a Blog, (go on, click it.. read it, I’ll wait.. I got all the time in the world now.. #FUNemployment); I talk about how I developed my passion for creative writing and photography, which spawned into my Graphic Design college major. I like to think that I am a creative person all around who has to wear many hats. Graphic Design includes being your own photographer, creative writer, web designer, social media specialist, print designer, etc.

I was apprehensive to publicly share my career setback this week, however, am glad I took the risk because I think humility can be a compelling attribute. I admire those who possess and share this quality. I hope the next time you hit a fork in the road and you just can’t seem to make it safely over to the shoulder; know that your road crew will be there for you: previous colleagues, professors, classmates, and/or family members. It’s important to network til you land on your feet. It’s not what you know. It’s who you know.” -Proverb. Trust that you are not alone. Please share your fork in the road stories in the comments. I’m interested to hear about them!

Waiting for the Fog to Lift

Have you ever been in a funk that you can’t seem to shake? We’ve all been there. I’ve been in a funk ever since I returned from overseas. Jet-lag isn’t to blame as some of you may suspect. If it was, that’d have to be some serious jet-lag; considering we were only away for a week and have been back to the States for months! Haha..

In my Transformation post, I mentioned that I have intermittently utilized medication to help with my therapeutic process. Upon our return from the across the pond, my therapist and I decided it was time to revisit medication. I admit, it helps take the edge off my anxiety, which was at an all-time high. Dangerously high. It scared me. The new medication allows me to relax, and sleep comfortably; however, it has fogged my creativity. Being in this fog has affected my life in numerous ways. One of which is of course.. being able to write/create this blog. My boyfriend, Jaimie, suggested, more than once: “Just write about the fog!” It took some convincing. I pondered the idea for a while and thus.. this long overdue blog post was born! Welcome back readers/subscribers! I hope you missed me! As I have missed you all so! I’m curious if you had any theories as to where I went and what I was doing.. in lieu of writing. Please feel free to share any theories you may have had! I’d love to hear them!

I believe the winter weather has also contributed to my funk, the fog, and severe lack of motivation to be creative. I just want to curl up into a ball, under a pile of blankets, and hibernate until spring. I find myself sleeping more than usual (medication side effect), which has put the household chores on the back burner. Speaking of, I have a dirty pan literally on my back burner at home. Hey! At least I scraped the leftover egg particles out of it.. haha! No judgment. Oh! “No judgment” reminds me of my beloved Dance2Fit studio that closed last month. It was where I reignited my love of dance. I found my tribe of women friends there. It did hurt my soul not being able to attend as often as I would’ve liked since I moved an hour away.

I’ve gained quite a bit of weight since autumn, which has affected my self-esteem and confidence. Turns out that weight gain is also a side effect of the medication I am taking. I’ve modified my food choices and portions. At work, I try my best to stand at my desk as much as possible. Sometimes, I sneak in some squats and stretches too. I sit occasionally when my knees bother me. I walk around the office to complete various tasks throughout my workday. I think every little bit helps, for sure.

I’m in the process of looking into a new studio to dance at. Exercise must be a fun activity so I can trick myself into staying active and becoming more fit. I think I’ve narrowed it down to one fitness center that has a little bit of everything: various group fitness classes, which include dance and yoga (I’ll be attending these, maybe try some others), exercise equipment, and my favorite: massage machines to help relieve sore muscles after working out! Oh! I can bring a workout buddy for free, however they have to pay for the classes, if that’s what they want to do. All the other perks are available for them. I’m sure my boyfriend, Jaimie, will be utilizing their treadmills when it’s too cold or too hot outside. I don’t blame him. Hell, I don’t even run! If you ever do see me running, something is chasing me, and you should run too!

I’ve been spending a lot of time with my new Little from Big Brothers Big Sisters. We hang out once a week for a couple hours. She’s a quiet, shy little nine-year-old, which is fine by me because I talk enough for the both of us! Haha.. I try to change it up every week: physical activity, arts and crafts, board games, culinary, theatrical, educational, volunteer, etc. I thoroughly enjoy volunteering, BBBS included, however I’m looking forward to sharing that with my Little. We’re due to volunteer at a food pantry soon. This may be her first volunteering experience. She mentioned at the beginning of the year that she has a 2020 Goal of reading twenty chapter books, so I added a trip to the library once a month so I can help her achieve her goal! I’m a bookworm, so this adjustment to our scheduled activities doesn’t bother me a bit! I did support/accompany her (and her family) when she ran a 5K for Girls on the Run. Her mom and I walked that, haha! We’ve attended a couple BBBS sponsored events, which are nice because they’re free! Free is always good. We met another Big and Little at these BBBS events and we recently had an arts and crafts play date. The girls seem to enjoy spending time together. They’re complete opposites and there’s a couple years difference between them. Guess opposites attract! I should know because I think we’re a good Big/Little match! Kudos to our BBBS Match Support Specialist! I highly recommend volunteering for BBBS nearest you! It is rewarding and fun!

There was a health scare in my family that did put things in perspective for me about how every day of life is precious. My dad had to have his left kidney removed, which was scary because we weren’t sure if his body would adapt to operate with one kidney or if he would need to be put on dialysis. He’s recently retired from twenty-five years of service driving for a transportation company (fifty years in the workforce). He transported mentally and/or physically disabled, elderly, dialysis patients, etc. He may have been in his clients’ shoes. I’m happy to report he is doing well post-surgery! I’m glad that my mom is retired as well so they can keep each other company. Oh! They did recently get another dog, so their dog now has a playmate. This makes my heart happy because he really did need a buddy to run around and play with in their large backyard.

Speaking of playmates, Jaimie and I recently got another cat, so our cat, Hex, has some company while we’re away at work. She had separation anxiety issues when we would leave every day. She would get sick and tear up the carpet. It took time for them to adjust to one another. Our new cat, Hairy Houdini, is a lot younger and more kitten than cat. He’s very playful and rambunctious. Complete opposite of Hex. They tolerate each other at best. There were hierarchical issues when it came to food, however she has reclaimed her role as Alpha and he is the Beta. I’m happy to report that Hex has not gotten sick or torn up the carpet as often as she used to, so I consider this as a win! She has been too distracted with chasing/bullying him around that she’s forgotten how anxious she was about being separated from us. I must admit, I’ve transformed into a cat lady. I enjoy snuggling my cats and being a homebody. Toss in a good book and tune in to WMKV 89.3FM.. and I’m content for hours!

Another thing that affected my motivation, mood, and creativity was having a life-changing adventure with Jaimie in London and Amsterdam. We had so much fun together exploring, spending real quality time together, and experiencing a lot of firsts together; that when the trip ended and we came home to reality.. it deeply affected me. We’re both empathetic people so we kind of fed off one another and kept asking each other: “What’s the matter?” We concluded that we were inadvertently bringing one another down. We believe things will lighten up a bit when we start planning our next vacation. We decided to add a couple mini vacations or weekend road trips in between to keep ourselves in check. We desperately crave something to look forward to. Time away from work. We need that work, play, life balance. We are both consumed with wanderlust!

I took the two above photos of a vulture on a roof and flying off awhile ago when I was entering my office building one foggy morning. I noticed the vulture’s intense concentration: waiting for the opportune moment to fly. I’m sure it had an internal, instinctual checklist: adjust for the wind’s speed and direction, factor in visibility per foggy conditions, and be clear of all air traffic obstacles. I edited the two photos into one photo, edited their shape into ovals, added a blur effect on the edges, and adjusted to fifty percent transparency to exaggerate the fog. I tend to edit photos individually and then post them as a single image within WordPress, however this process seems to be better. I did utilize Microsoft PowerPoint this time around. I’ve previously used the application called Polish (on my Android smartphone) to edit photos quickly. If any of you follow me on social media (Facebook or Instagram), I post an announcement photo that somehow relates to my weekly blog post. This week’s announcement photo just makes me giggle! Feel free to check it out!

I was anxious to publicly share my ongoing internal struggles after this long of a hiatus, however, am glad I got back up on the horse; in more ways than one! I admire and respect those who’ve been knocked down but refuse to give up. I hope the next time you feel stuck in your head and you just can’t seem to shake it; that you’ll take the time to seek the help you deserve, whichever avenue you choose: therapy, medication, exercise, meditation, diet, etc. Trust that you are not alone. Please share your foggy stories in the comments. I’m interested to hear about them! We can help and support each other in our trying times.

Let’s Play “I Spy”

  • Look to your left
  • Look to the right
  • Look in front of you
  • Look up
  • Look down
  • Look behind you
    • BOO!
    • Gotcha!
    • Haha..

Find anything interesting? What would you choose as your “I Spy” object? Think about why you chose that. Really examine it. Get as close as you can to see it in detail. I prefer to choose an unusual yet specific object when I play “I Spy” because I’m competitive. I like to set the bar in hopes that my opponent will step it up when it’s their turn, so the game will become more challenging as we go. I’m sure it’s been awhile since you’ve last played “I Spy,” I know it has for me! Playing games aren’t just for kids.. I mean, think about it..

Whilst playing any of the above games, I would usually find faces in inanimate objects! Do you see faces too? One of the first memories I have of seeing an inanimate object face was when I would jump up and down on my parents bed and watch myself on their huge vanity mirror. They have this glass ceiling light fixture with blue accent shapes.. and the blue accent shapes look like an angry face! It was kinda symbolic of the “strict” no jumping on the bed rule that my folks rarely enforced. I did enjoy singing “No More Monkeys Jumping on the Bed” while.. jumping on the bed; I was such a rebel! The bottom center three flowers are the eyes and nose. The curved line is a sly smile. The top flowers are its wild, frizzy hair.

“I see you.. misbehaving!”

Another one of my early memories I had seeing an inanimate object face was in my childhood home bathroom. Below the sink, the bottom right cabinet door’s wood grain looks like a cloaked pig chief holding a staff while addressing his tribe. Do you see a pig? The snout is distinctly pronounced. Its tongue is perfectly shaped inside its open mouth. Pointed ear, enlarged eye, and I think this swine was reincarnated as a tree!

“Oink oink my fellow hogs!”

Another cardinal rule in my house growing up was: no playing with your food! I never did well abiding by rules.. I was a little stinker! I dare you to ask my parents about the spaghetti slinging incident! Oh, it was infamous. Anywho.. I do like how my food makes silly faces at me! The photo below has a Tupperware lid making impressions: two eyes and an open mouth. Maybe it’s shouting at me. What do you think my mashed potatoes would say if it could?

“Have a spud-tacular day!”

Even when I eat out at a restaurant.. My food speaks to me! My garden salad remnants decided to make a silly face at me in its shallow lemon dressing. I highly recommend Kinneret Grill! The sampler is to die for! If you’re not stingy, it’s enough for two people, haha.. Their vegan shawarma is the best faux meat I’ve ever had! Oh, their maple glazed sweet potato fries.. are delish! Everything is made fresh, large portions for a decent price, and I thoroughly enjoy the hospitable atmosphere!

“Lettuce pray.. Olive you!”

While visiting a friend of mine at her house, I noticed her little space heater was winking and smiling at me! See how the knobs are different and the red light is the tongue? Oh, and the indentation of the plastic makes a smile. Whoever designs these machines must be having a good ol’ time!

On a road trip years ago, I photographed a bathroom dispenser because it reminded me of The Brave Little Toaster movie and its secondary character, Air Conditioner, (voiced by Phil Hartman). I combined the two photos into one per Android’s collage feature so I could see the resemblance side by side! This movie seemed to inspire Disney to create.. Toy Story! Similar concept, but kids relate more to their toys than household appliances, so I understand why one’s more popular than the other. Do you find yourself telling inanimate objects to: “Stay!” when they’re about to fall? I need to know I’m not alone.. Please tell me you do the same thing!

One day when I was a kid, my girlfriend and I were stuck hanging out at her uncle’s job at Rent-a-Center. We setup camp on an extra large sectional couch with our Burger King Cini-Minis and milk. Every TV played The Mask, on a loop, for his entire eight hour shift! One particular scene (1:38-2:48) was where I first learned about the Rorschach test. This later inspired my abstract painting style.. with a twist. I specifically painted my nude body and then imprinted myself onto the canvas. I tried to make it as symmetrical as possible, except for the random splatters to fill the negative space. This is a good conversation piece when guests visit. They tend to blush more than I do!

What do you see?

An illustrator I admire is Hanoch Piven; he works with mixed media to create colorful, witty portraits. He is best known for his celebrity caricatures. He uses everyday objects and arranges them to hint at their identity. I created my own little portrait with a water bottle, some googly eyes, a Lisa Frank lip sticker, & Silly Putty. All of these items are in my office desk drawer! You can tell that I don’t like meetings because I get lost in my own world.

I must ox you a question.

I hope the next time you’re playing a game or daydreaming, that you’ll be inspired to take a moment to examine the details.. such as inanimate objects that look like faces! Who knows? Maybe you’ll start your own faces photo collection. If you do, please follow me on Instagram or send me a Facebook friend request and share them on my page! I’d love to see them! I’m sure the other readers would too!

Transformation

I walk through life three steps forward and two steps back. I’ve always struggled with my mental health. My earliest memory is at the age of five and not being able to sleep because I’d be worrying about what happened earlier that day, what would happen the next day, and/or what the future held. I found myself organizing and setting up my toy figurines instead of playing with them. I played well with other kids but preferred to play by myself because other kids made messes and I just couldn’t have that. I deeply empathized with other people’s struggles just as if I would be going through them myself. No one put a name to these feelings, behaviors, or habits until I decided to go to therapy in my mid-twenties. I was diagnosed with obsessive compulsive personality disorder, anxiety, and depression (I discovered I’m an empath as well). It was all beginning to make sense. I was comforted by the fact that I.. wasn’t alone.

My therapist put it simply: “Having anxiety and depression is like straddling a doorway with one foot inside and one foot out. The foot inside represents depression, worrying about your past. The foot outside represents anxiety, worrying about your future. The threshold represents the present and you’re just pissing on it.” My therapist utilized a specific type of therapy during our sessions called DBT. She gave me homework from scanned DBT chapter packets; I would read it, highlight sections I connected with, write within each activity and answer the corresponding questions. My therapist and I would discuss each chapter during our sessions. This type of hands-on approach really helped me feel more in control of my mental health. Within these DBT chapter packets, I learned about mindfulness, grounding, self-care, healthy outlets, it’s okay to say “No,” and about medication (pill shaming). I’ve equipped myself with an arsenal of tools to help me throughout the day, especially at work: I listen to music (free with no commercials), snacks/mints/water within reach, meaningful decorations, soft ribbon, and squishy toys. I prefer to utilize grounding because it stimulates my other senses, distracts my mind, and forces me to focus on these individual items/sensations instead of dwelling on the issue(s).

Some of my favorite self-care and healthy outlets that I enjoy are:

  • Not answering my cell phone
    • for business calls outside working hours
    • while visiting with company
  • Dance2Fit classes
    • highly recommend Sylvia’s studio in Hamilton
    • it’s worth the commute!
  • Comedy clubs
    • Laughter is the best medicine!
  • Clean up after company leaves
    • thereby being fully present
    • considerate of their time
  • Massage therapy
    • physical health matters too!
  • Strolling through the Village of Mariemont
  • Waterfront views
  • Coloring, writing, or reading in nooks while listening to my radio program
    • highly recommend Mystery Playhouse Whistler/Suspense (M-F @ 7pm)
  • Creating this blog!

I also learned in therapy that I’m a constant complainer, which I’m sure I inherited (nature vs nurture). While Facebooking, I came across a video of an internet personality, Kristina Kuzmic, who instantly drew me in with her New Year’s Resolution. I don’t usually participate in New Year’s resolutions, however this one seemed like something I needed to do. I kept this activity to myself and gradually noticed my life to change.. for the better! My perspective on situations and my life in general drastically lightened. I stuck with it, every day, three hundred sixty-five days later.. I felt like a different person! I highly recommend this exercise to anyone who struggles with seeing the silver lining each day.

I discovered more of Kristina Kuzmic’s inspirational videos (I highly recommend following her)! She talks about being a mom and wife mostly, however there are other topics she touches on that I can relate to. A favorite video of mine hit home because my mental health issues stem from childhood (as I’m sure most people’s do too). This other video resonated with me because when I lost my classmate, coworker, and friend.. ’twas a traumatic experience that I couldn’t seem to shake on my own, which prompted me to seek help in the form of therapy and medication.

“..You’ve been through a lot and here you are, wiser, stronger and still you!..” -My college professor stated when he suggested that I write.

This one line means the world to me because it feels good to know that my efforts haven’t gone unnoticed. I’ve transformed over the years. Through blood, sweat, and tears, I’ve learned a lot about myself, tested boundaries, and yet my character has remained intact. As much as I’ve lost, I’ve gained so much in return: a full understanding of my mental health issues thus not feeling.. alone. I’ve become aware of triggers and have created plans for various scenarios. I’ve acknowledged my faults and am dedicated to improving myself. I’ve become selective with the company that I keep therefore I spend my time more wisely. I’ve learned to enjoy my own company, which used to terrify me! I’m gradually pushing limits to “messes” around the house, which has helped my new cohabitation situation a lot. I’ve been trying new things that scare me in hopes to overcome them.. I’m still working on that one! Haha..

The above photo was my inspiration for this week’s blog post about how we all go through a transformation that changes who we are. This tree was severely damaged and had to be cut down. The city of Hamilton was able to preserve and transform this historical landmark into a functional sculpture piece for future generations to enjoy!

I was apprehensive to publicly share my internal struggles this week, however am glad I took the risk because I think vulnerability can be a powerful thing. I admire those who possess and share this quality. I hope the next time you feel stuck in your head and you just can’t seem to shake it; that you’ll take the time to seek the help you deserve. Trust that you are not alone. Please share your transformational stories in the comments. I’m interested to hear about them!

Alleys by Allie

For years, I’ve been taking photos of alleys wherever I go; especially throughout my travels because I find them fascinating! Alleys tend to be overlooked because they’re purposely hidden and thus becoming “a needle in a haystack” of all the sights to see as a tourist. We are too focused on the architectural skyline, the landscape, and/or every tourist’s favorite.. people watching! We are visually overloaded therefore the details become distorted and mostly discarded.

According to Google: an alley or alleyway is a narrow lane, path, or passageway, often reserved for pedestrians, which usually runs between, behind, or within buildings in the older parts of towns and cities. It is also a rear access or service road (back lane), or a path, walk, or avenue (French allée) in a park or garden. The origin of the word alley is late Middle English. From aler “go,” from Latin: ambulare “to walk.” A covered alley or passageway, often with shops, may be called an arcade. Synonyms for alley include: passage, back alley, backstreet, pathway, walk; corridor, aisle; ginnel, snicket, twitten; twitchel; vennel; wynd; gully. In the 19th century, American cities used alleys to hide the more utilitarian, less attractive functions of urban life including service and servant access, barns for horses and carriages, and even small shops and areas for children to play. Nowadays, alleys are used for garages, to store/set out garbage cans, where transformers, electric meters, and telephone equipment are installed. The ownership of the land that is platted as a street or alley is actually statutorily presumed to be owned by the abutting property owners. The platted public street and alleys are available for public use for public purposes as long as they are platted.

FUN FACT:
According to Urban Dictionary, an alley cat has multiple definitions:
1. a stray cat, a homeless cat.
2. a sexually promiscuous person, usually a woman.*
3. a type of race that bike messengers partake in for fun that simulates the average messenger’s work day.

*Fun fact within a fun fact (it’s like dream within a dream = Inception): I’m going to feel awkward the next time my family calls me “Allie Cat” because now I know this definition and I’ll question which term they meant to call me. A stray cat or a promiscuous woman? I hope a stray cat! MEOW!

You’re in for a treat this week! Yep yep yep! Settle in and get comfy because not only do I have a photo of an alley to share, but I have three! HIGH-FIVE! Alright.. Toppin’ it all off with some more fun facts and miscellaneous stuff.

I took the photo (right) while driving through my hometown at the corner of C & Main as I waited for the traffic light to change. The overgrown weeds is what caught my eye first! Man, oh, man.. The condition of this alley screamed that it hadn’t been maintained well, recently or if at all. The blue spray painted curb is a little reminder that my hometown has become infamous for constantly being under construction. No one had been passing through this alley, safely, that’s for sure because I noticed the rusted lock and three faint lines of rusty barbed wire at the top of the chain link fenced gate. Ouch! We interrupt your regularly scheduled blog to bring you this important message: Are you up to date on your tetanus shot? Yes? Good for you! No? Well, you better skedaddle to your nearest pharmacist! I’ll wait.. Sike! Moving on (play @ 48 second mark)..

I captured the above picture during an evening stroll through Hollywood, California while on spring break. If you look closely, you can see this alley is in between two residential buildings that’s scattered with litter, a discarded shopping cart, a folding chair, unknown spilt liquid (some of which is pink), a city sign, and four tied pieces of tape that spells “CUIDADO” which I translated from Spanish to English; it means “taken care of” or “watch out.” The city of LA has an interesting definition of “taken care of” if that’s the term they intended for this unsightly scene! In this instance, I’m sure they meant the latter. The little green and pink floral patch neatly frames the composition, which just goes to show that even in a whirlwind of a mess; there’s a silver lining to be grateful for and admire.

A group of friends and I were exploring Pittsburgh’s Historic Strip District when I came across this quaint hole in the wall alleyway. I combined two photos into one per Android’s collage feature so I could capture every detail. The Strip District is what the kids nowadays call.. Hipster. It’s an eclectic urban street market sprinkled with multicultural influences. I immediately felt the flower power as I stepped into this peaceful realm. Each stop seemed to be some type of organic business: mom and pop shop restaurants, fresh from the farm produce stands, hand-stitched clothing stores (I saw a pair of slippers made from alpaca fleece), homemade soaps and candles, used bookstores, etc. This alley gate has “Enrico” advertised on it which is an entrance and/or exit of an Italian cafe named The Enrico Biscotti Company. Immediately, I could tell this was a functional passageway because of how clean it was with the aligned tables and chairs under the brightly colored canopy, the string of lights, the stacks of signs, the brick wall scribbles in either chalk or spray paint, and a vintage freestanding mixer.

I hope the next time you’re out and about, especially when exploring new territory, that you’ll be inspired to take a moment to examine the details.. such as alleys! Who knows? Maybe you’ll start your own alley photo collection. If you do, please follow me on Instagram or send me a Facebook friend request and share them on my page! I’d love to see them! I’m sure the other readers would too! And I’d be more than happy to give you my two ¢ents.

Here comes the miscellaneous stuff!
There were a few things I didn’t mention about my blog on my first post last week because I secretly hoped that everyone noticed them and/or explored this blog page on their own, if not.. that’s okay! You may be new to blogs.. I know I am! I’m here to help ya out and of course.. overthink things! haha.. Okay, so, if you’re interested in being notified via email every week of each new blog I post, please feel free to enter your email address and click the “Follow” button on the left navigation panel of this page (you’ll only be able to see the “Follow” hyperlink button if you’re reading this on a laptop or desktop computer). You may not see a left navigation panel if you’re reading this on a tablet or cell phone. For tablets and cell phones: there’s a three horizontal line icon (that looks like the image I’ve included above for your reference). If you scroll up to the upper right of this page and click the featured icon, it’ll expand to showcase more information of my blog. The more information includes my:

  • Blog Theme
  • Blog Stats
    • how many times my blog has been viewed
    • 63 hits this past week!
    • thank you all!
  • Clickable hyperlinks to follow me elsewhere
    • on Facebook, Instagram, my portfolio website
  • Search bar
  • About Blogger
    • a little biography on me
    • includes a music video that is my new self-proclaimed anthem
  • Fun Fact
    • this will change every week to spread knowledge!
    • Watch out now.. it’s addicting!

Oh! When you see an underlined word within my blog text, it’s a clickable hyperlink! Please click them as you read, it’ll be fun! I promise.. or your money back! I don’t make a profit on this blog.. not yet anyway.. Haha.. When you click a hyperlink, it’ll open a new tab to a video or page for some extra entertainment or reference. These clickable hyperlinks help move the story along. They also provide some context as to my intended tone so you can get a feel for my sense of humor. You may have already noticed.. I love pop culture! Fun fact: I always thought the “pop” in pop culture meant.. like soda pop or bubble gum popping. Nope, it’s short for “popular.” Who knew?! Show of hands! 1.. 2.. 3.. Okay, you can put your hand down, people are staring at you! Haha.. Hope you come back to visit next week!

Once Upon a Blog

I received a random message early in the morning from my college professor that prompted the creation of this blog:

Allison, I remember you as being a creative witty person with a wry sense of humor. Have you ever thought that you might be a good writer? Even part-time. With the right amount of perseverance and patience I believe you could be very successful. You have a unique view of things and you are able to express it well. Just saw a recent post from you and it “triggered” fond memories, especially your graduation speech which was brilliant! Do you keep a journal? Maybe you could write a blog? One of my sons has a friend who writes a sports blog and he is making considerable cash. Take a look back through your journals and you may find a theme that reflects your spirit, your wit, your attitude toward life. You’ve been through a lot and here you are, wiser, stronger and still you! Don’t know what got me on this this morning, but it’s good to touch base! Talk to you later!

I let this marinate for a couple weeks. I tried not to force any ideas because I wanted my blog theme to be organic and somewhat.. original.

There I was.. driving into my hometown and peacefully enjoying the view of a beautiful green field (I decided to take the rural scenic route). No sign of civilization for as far as the eye could see. Just nature thriving.

Where Millville Ave and Walnut Street meet

I thought to myself: “Wow! Now, that is a picture worth a thousand..ish words. I could put a frame around this and have quite a bit to say about it. Wonder if anybody would read it?

Out of nowhere.. BOOM!!! Inspiration struck! I had found my theme.. or rather my theme found me! I think this theme will reflect the attributes my college professor recommended that I highlight very well. This theme will incorporate my love of photography, graphic design, and creative writing!

I first fell in love with writing in elementary school. My English teacher wrote a journal entry prompt on the board every morning for us to start our day off right; by exercising our most important muscle.. Our brain! Such journal entry prompts were a simple or philsophical question, random scenario, or abrupt storyline that needed to be finished, etc. I enjoyed the freedom of being able to create with the written word, reading it back, watching my teacher and classmates hearing me read it aloud (whenever I felt confident enough, haha). I quickly learned that reading and writing go hand in hand, therefore this fueled my interest in reading and dedication to improve my vocabulary.

My English teacher took notice of my obsession with learning and the sudden anxiety that struck my core when the school year was about to come to an end. In the years previous, I would “play school” all summer! I was fully equipped with a retired student desk, outdated/donated textbooks from my mom’s teacher friend. I would role-play as the teacher, take attendance, assign seats, create syllabuses, hand out assignments, grade them, and give out homework. My English teacher kindly communicated her concern with my parents and the school decided to award me a free “scholarship” to summer school so I could keep my structured scholastic schedule all year round throughout my entire elementary career.

I saw Nickelodeon’s Harriet the Spy summer blockbuster movie with my dad, which electrified my interest in writing! I bought a Composition notebook, just like Harriet’s, to record all my “secrets.” I turned out to be a horrible spy though (haha..) so I just kept with the writing part. Oh! I even bought similar shoes as Harriet’s. Tried to find her orange pants to no avail. The setting of the movie is not exactly clear, however with a little research I discovered the book of the same title was originally published in 1964 by Louise Fitzhugh, therefore it explains the vintage fashion style, absence of technology, and classic vehicles throughout the film. In hindsight, Nickelodeon and Paramount were smart to stay true to the era in which Harriet grew up in in the book. I found it to be charming because they kept it simple with no outside distractions. Just good old-fashioned spy-work and back to basics writing.

In high school, I took a Creative Writing elective class with another one of my influential English teachers. His freestyle teaching motto was: let it flow and see what happens. We were assigned to write various styles such as: poetry, short stories, songs, etc. I leaned towards more of the shorter writings because I had to be honest with my-high-school-teenage-self: I didn’t have the time, attention span, or motivation to write an elaborate beginning, middle, and climatic end. I accepted it and stuck with what I felt comfortable with. With the urging of my English teacher, I entered a couple poetry contests. I placed and was published in a book called Impressions of Youth, along with all the other placed and winning entries (I have a copy but couldn’t find it anywhere online to share with y’all). The teacher realized there were a fair share of us that were shy about reading our pieces out loud with the class, so he allowed us to select a brave classmate to read our pieces on our behalf. In hindsight, that was very cool and kind of him. Oh! We could bring in snacks, some kids brought in coffee, and it felt very much like an open mic night at a local cafe. We even snapped our fingers instead of clapping after each piece was read.

I first fell in love with photography in high school when I took a couple Darkroom Photography elective classes. I found it fascinating that in order to capture an ideal shot, you need light; whether it be natural or artificial; however, the initial preparation process and development end process needs complete darkness! Yin and Yang process. Every step has to be precise, delicate, and balanced:

  • Cut the film and roll it into the canister in complete darkness
    • Take photos
  • Extract the full canister without exposing it to any light
  • Whilst in the darkroom: cut the film again to place it onto the mechanism to shine light through it onto the photo paper below
    • Duration could vary, depending upon the exposure type of photograph you’re trying to achieve
    • Double exposure photographs are fun and trippy!
    • Could add a stencil to frame images such as stars, hearts, etc
  • Soak the photo paper in chemicals
    • First bin was a specific time
    • Second bin was a different, specific time
    • Third bin was a different, specific time
  • Hang to dry

Before high school graduation, I distinctly remember a speaker (of some kind) came to explain the three avenues, one of which we were destined to take: College, Workforce, or Military. I had no clue what I wanted to do with my life. I didn’t even know if my folks could afford college because all my siblings went straight into the workforce after high school; therefore, I presumed I’d do the same. A Brown Mackie College Admissions Recruiter came to speak to my English class. Their pitch went the same as all the rest of other college admission recruiters, however their class structure was different because instead of taking multiple classes at once over a period of multiple semesters during a school year; this school offered one class course at a time for an entire month. She explained it as: “Easing yourself into the college life.” My-high-school-teenage-self thought: “Hey! Now, that’s a good way to decide if college’s right for me. One class for one month at a time? Sure. Didn’t sound like too much of a commitment!” So, I decided to check the box on the comment card that I was interested in learning more about the college, but I couldn’t bring myself to check any of the listed majors because I wasn’t interested in Accounting, Economics, or Paralegal.

Soon after, I had a meeting with a different Admissions Recruiter, they gave my mom and I the grand tour of the campus, explained each and every major they offered, but I was hesitant because I still wasn’t interested in any major yet. My mom suggested I bring my darkroom photography and creative writings to show the Admissions Recruiter and see if that could help determine which major could incorporate both of my interests. They immediately spit out: “Oh! You’re an artist! Let me introduce you to our new neighbor, The Art Institute of Ohio – Cincinnati, and their Admissions. I think their Graphic Design major would be a great fit for you!” The more I learned about graphic design, the more I felt like this was something I could see myself doing every day. Being creative. I learned as a graphic designer, you have to wear many hats: writer, photographer, typographer, etc. I’m a variety type of person so this fits me perfectly because I don’t like doing the same thing every day.

The rest is history! I graduated top of my class, was on the Dean’s List with a 3.5 Grade Point Average, I was voted Graduation Class Student Speaker, was Awarded Best in Show at the Graduation Portfolio Show, and was a Regional Finalist for the Art Institutes’ National Portfolio. I felt on top of the world! The famous reporter question to any winning athlete is: “You have just won the [insert tournament name here], what are going to do next?!” Yep, you guessed it.. I went to Disney World! I went for a paid college internship, whilst there I took a Creativity and Innovation Class at their College of Knowledge. I even received my Ducktorate! Haha.. I proudly showcase my Ducktorate at every interview. It always gets a good laugh! Interviews can be awkward because they’re forced interactions so it helps ease the tension.

My first out-of-college-adult-job was at a small commercial photography studio as a Production Assistant, which was a creative, multi-tasking position where I directed the photographer, took photos in their absence, pre-edited the photos, edited the photos in post, took inventory of photography equipment in the studio and warehouse, etc. I worked there for a couple years until I was recruited for another job, which paid more. Hey! Money talks.

For the past five years, I’ve been desperately craving a creative outlet because my day job, while it has great benefits and flexibility, is at an IT company that I find monotonous; however provides me the luxury of ample spare time to express myself outside of the cookie cutter IT world.

I had privately protested photography for the past decade-ish because everyone became instantly equipped with a camera in their cell phone, which mass produced an unforeseen amount of self-proclaimed “photographers.” I quickly became uninterested and unmotivated in photography because it seemed to dull the originality and creativity for me. Took me awhile to realize that I shouldn’t worry about what other people are doing and that I should do what makes me happy; regardless of what is #trendy. With my mentor’s and my significant other’s encouragement, I have decided to reignite my love for photography, design, and writing! A thousand-ish words and countless scrolls later.. my blog is born.. TA-DA!

Thank you Duff and thank you Jaimie, for I dedicate this post to you both.