Hope is a GOOD Thing!

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I’ve been thinking a lot about HOPE lately, an my past and present feelings about it.

I used to be quite a tentative “hoper.” I would hear all the time AND say to myself frequently:

“Don’t get your hopes up!”

But I have a new attitude about HOPE recently.

My thought is that life is scattered with hopeless moments. There are times when you wish you had even a fragment of something to look forward to. Those are depressing times. I’ve lived those times… OFTEN, and far too recently.

I’ve decided that when I finally have something to actually hope for, DANG IT – I’m going to get my hopes UP! I want to stand on the rooftops and shout it out! “I HOPE!!” I LOVE how I feel when I am HOPE-FILLED.

It feels SO GOOD!!

Sure, what I’m hoping for might not actually happen.

Often I end up being disappointed, and that’s my forever excuse for not being hopeful in the first place. But isn’t it worth it to just allow yourself to feel joyful with HOPE? At least for the precious time to wonder and imagine that maybe something GOOD is about to happen? It is in our moments of hope when our imaginations soar. We see life as an endless sea of possibilities! It’s such a wonderful place to be… even if only for a fleeting moment.

At least you HAD that moment. You felt it. You held it. A moment to raise your face to the sun and smile, grateful for the feeling… because for so long you have felt such void of hope.

And because you allowed yourself to feel that hope, maybe you’ll allow yourself the treat of feeling it again.

I know I will.

It’s a wonderful place to be.

“Hope is a good thing,” Stephen King writes in Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption. “Maybe the best of good things.”

I totally agree.

 

Mid-Life THRIVING!

200277130-001I recently had an amazing conversation with a friend back in my hometown who was feeling more than a little frustrated about her mid-life slump. Life is feeling dry. There are no exciting prospects, not even the feeling of something great to look forward to.

Another friend of mine spoke with me about the disappointing aspect of mid-life, and we both realized WHY it feels like such a slump.

Here’s what we realized:

When you are in grade school, there is something to look forward to – every year. You look forward to spring break, Christmas, summer break, Halloween trick-or-treating, birthday parties, the school year being over, the next school year starting up again, so on, so forth. In middle school, you look forward to when you finally get a boyfriend. When you’re in high school, you have real goals. You start to feel like your life is about to begin and you get excited! You get excited about your career goals, wondering what’s going to happen. The future is one big, open, exciting question mark! College gets intense – you feel right on the cusp of finally getting the life you are hoping for – a great career started, or at least your first real job! After you graduate and you begin your first jobs toward your career, you look forward to finding the perfect partner to marry, and fantasize about having a family. And then you experience the joys and miracles of having children.

And then…

… um…

… What now?… What now? You ask yourself.

You find yourself in what feels like a pit of nothingness, depressed, because you have no idea what there is to look forward to next. Retirement may never be an option, and even if it is, it’s over 20 years away. So… so what is the next goal? The next thing? The next piece of your life to hope and look forward to?

I really see this a lot in people. It’s an easy place to find yourself if you’ve never really done anything more than what has been expected of you. It’s a very frustrating place to be.

One of my friends decided to make a new name for her “mid-life crisis” – renaming it her “MID-LIFE THRIVING.” I freakin’ LOVE that. Ingenious!!!

What I’ve been doing to get through it is continuously work on the things I always told myself “I CAN’T DO.”

My “I CAN’T” LIST:

  • I can’t write without having complete and utter solitude, so I’ll never be able to finish my books.
  • I can’t get my writing published.
  • I can’t focus on my work with distractions around me.
  • I can’t be a teacher.
  • I can’t work with kids – they scare me.
  • I can’t do belly dancing.
  • I can’t be a good cook.
  • I can’t make time to do the things I want to do.

Write out YOUR “I CAN’T list, and try REWRITING your “I CAN’T” into “MAYBE I CAN…”

FOR EXAMPLE:

  • Maybe I CAN write without having complete and utter solitude, so I can finish my books! I should try!
  • Maybe I CAN get my writing published! Hey, what about trying self publishing, or guest blogging to start with?
  • Maybe I CAN focus on my work with distractions around me. I am getting used to tuning things out. It’s worth a try!
  • Maybe I CAN be a teacher! I should try and see if I like it or not.
  • Maybe I CAN work with kids! I do have two of my own, and THEY think I’m funny.
  • Maybe I CAN do belly dancing. I could take a class and just try it out to see if it’s any fun.
  • Maybe I CAN be a good cook. I should try cooking more things I would order in a restaurant.
  • Maybe I CAN make time to do the things I want to do. Even little bits of time could be helpful!

You’ll notice that every “maybe I CAN” also ends with an idea of what to TRY OUT. Really work on figuring out what you could do to FIND OUT if you can turn that “I can’t” into an “I can!”

All the things on the list above are real for me – I faced them and continue to work on turning those “I can’ts” around!

Share in a comment what you would like to try turning around!

I’d love to hear it, and promise to answer you with positive encouragement!

 

 

Time to “Make Good Art!” ~ as Neil Gaiman would say

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I am so excited to be involved with Lilla Rogers “Make Art That Sells” Assignment Bootcamp! I’ve been involved in so many different online programs, but this is the first one which is 100% geared toward furthering my career in freelance illustration. I’ve been a professional illustrator for a long time, but it wasn’t until I was laid off from American Greetings (as an ornament designer) when my illustration career actually began to TAKE FLIGHT! I was able to concentrate on my efforts to become a full-time freelancer. In April, 2011 I was finally hired (dream job) as an illustrator for an Akron company, Blue Frog Gaming. I was thrilled to finally have a job with the title “Artist” by my name.

But all good things must change, of course. The company had to downsize after a few years, and I was back to full-time freelancing again. Since then I have been trying to rework my portfolio as well as dip my toes into picture book writing, illustrating and PUBLISHING (a childhood dream of mine).

Now that I have a few self-published books under my belt, I feel I’m ready to commit to 2015 as a YEAR OF PRODUCTIVITY. My intention is to produce books, of course, but by joining this course I know the commitment is really about producing work as an illustrator and really polishing my new, improved portfolio, geared toward thrusting myself fully into the world of illustration so I can reach financial success and freedom.

I have a handful of clients (good ones), but I know in order to be lucrative as a creative professional, I need to really concentrate on producing a strong, new portfolio.

Wish me luck, please! And I wish you success as well!! There is enough work out there for all of us!

LRSSchool-logo200Time to share this again, by Neil Gaiman – the BEST advice for artists ever given.

30 Book Ideas in 30 Days! (I’m a WINNER!)

vinvogel_piboldmo_winnerEvery year I participate in NaNoWriMo and have yet to actually meet the 50K word goal. I am always busy with projects in November, so Nano always ends up being a losing battle for me.

HOWEVER…

Coming up with 30 Picture Book ideas in 30 days seemed like a challenge I could really dig my creative teeth into!

I was right!

On day one, I immediately realized how this was going to stretch me. Coming up with ideas is the easy part for me. Concentrating FULLY for a WHOLE MONTH on purely idea generation was the true challenge for me. Normally when I get an idea, I work with the one idea, bring it into something great, and then move on to the next thing before I’ve been able to really figure out how to make the idea into something solid. I’ll wear the idea out or overwhelm myself, and another idea will start pestering me and interrupt my flow of executing the current idea.

So I LOVED this challenge, and gave myself permission to move on every day to a new idea, staying with the flow of idea energy. On day TWO I struggled big time with tis, coming up with a book idea that I totally LOVED. I ended up writing the whole manuscript (picture book length). It rhymed and everything! I even had the main character sketched out. When that idea came to full fruition, I moved on to the next day. It was frustrating and freeing at the same time. Everything inside me wanted to start sketching layout plans for the book. But I had my permission slip to say NO. I HAVE TO KEEP COMING UP WITH IDEAS. WHEN THE MONTH IS OVER, THEN I CAN SIFT THROUGH MY IDEAS AND HOPEFULLY THIS IDEA WILL STILL LOOK GOOD TO ME (as it does, thank goodness!).

I also have another idea brewing which I am looking forward to bringing to life in 2015. A Monthly challenge of my own to share with the world… purely based around idea generation for professional creatives. It’s an idea I had last year and shelved it when once again I became too overwhelmed.

I am very excited to enter 2015 with 30 book ideas and a new Create-A-Way project to introduce to the world!

Get a Mini-MARNEY in Your Pocket! ~ Reviewing “Hop, Skip, Jump!” – PART ONE: History of My Marney Fanhood

Me and Marney in Cleveland, OH - Her Creating Time book tour!

Me and Marney in Cleveland, OH – Her Creating Time book tour!

I have been a fan of Marney Makridakis’s work for several years now (since my discovery of Artellaland.com in 2008). I first discovered her website when I was shifting into my new life as an Independent Contractor, exploring the creative options out there and searching for creative inspiration. Her website, Artellaland.com, amazed me. There was SO much there to browse. I found myself staying on her website for long periods of time just to look and learn – asking myself if I would ever be able to produce such a magnitude of
work.

Wanting to soak up as much of this awesomeness as possible, hoping to learn a few things from this natural creative wonder, I signed up for everything I could: subscribed to The Artellagram Museletter, Artella Magazine, and The Blissness Magazine (one after the other – not all at once). I signed up for the multiple free teleclasses she offered, and learned from observing her in those venues. I had the pleasure of hearing her across the phone line during those teleclasses as she stumbled through the new technology of these teleclass settings, teaching me that it was totally OKAY to exhibit your imperfections when you’re trying something new like that (A quote comes to mind from “Goddess” Leonie Dawson – “It is better to be IMPERFECT than UNFINISHED.”). She came across as REAL. And she was indeed THE REAL DEAL. My respect for her grew even more, and I was able to see myself trying out new things like this as well, without fear of falling flat on my face (thank you for that, Marney).

I listened to audio lectures as part of the Complete Idealists Blissness Action Camp while I scratched out illustrations and caricatures as a contractor, just soaking it all in. I was HOOKED. I knew that anything this woman put out into the world, I wanted a piece of it… her words spoke to my core.

And then I took the biggest leap (well, the FIRST big leap, anyway) when I joined the Inaugural Artbundance™ Certification Training Program. By then I had already launched a few Artist’s Way-inspired Creative Women’s Retreats, had budded a little “Blissness” (to use Marney’s word) of my own called “Create-A-Way,” and was ready to see what could happen with an Artbundance™ Coach certification under my belt. As always, I got my money’s worth and more with the content. I STILL have material from that program that I haven’t made full use of yet. She had a series of “Artsignments™” that as a Certified Artbundance Coach you could use in your own coaching venues. I printed it all out and wished like CRAZY there was a printed book that had everything there that I could just flip through.

Well, VOILA!

HERE IT IS! And WHAT a gift this book is to the world!

“Hop, Skip, Jump: 75 Ways to Playfully Manifest a Meaningful Life!”

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To those who do NOT have Marney’s ARTbundance™ Certification Training, but have been thinking about it, this book is the PERFECT stepping stone for you. The exercises in this book introduce Marney’s playful approach which she uses in all her wonderful programs! It’s seriously like having a Mini-Marney right there with you! Ha!

There are 75 exercises (SEVENTY FIVE!) in this book which can be used in SO many ways to boost a playful attitude toward your work, business and life. It might sound like a hefty book – and YES – when I first received it, I thought, “Oh my gosh this is a thick book!” But when I flipped through it, I realized it was a VERY friendly book – one to KEEP OUT and flip through (I have been harping on my OCD husband to PLEASE not put it back on the bookshelf!). The chapters (exercises) are no more than three pages each, with prompt, “HOPPY” paragraphs (perfect for my “SKIPPING” mode).

Order NOVEMBER 11, 2014 and you get EXTRA goodies, by the way (book launch day)!

I’ll be continuing my blog posts this month to share my own experiences while “PLAYING” with the exercises in this book, as well as sharing some of the exercises I have done in the past with Marney!

Looking forward to sharing more of my adventures with Marney in later posts – I haven’t even gotten to my Mapping and Mentoring with Marney experience, as well as when I brought her to Cleveland, OH as part of her Creating Time book tour – but I’ll save those goodies for later!  :)

Are You a Hopper, Skipper, or a Jumper? TAKE THE QUIZ!

I’m in the process of reading & reviewing Marney Makridakis’s newest book, HOP, SKIP, JUMP: 75 Ways to Playfully Manifest a Meaningful Life. I thought it would be fun to share her book trailer as well as a special QUIZ she has available so you can find YOUR most productive manifesting style: Hopping, Skipping or Jumping! PLUS, if you order her book on November 11, you get a $15 gift certificate from Marney’s website – a GREAT deal, because her website is FILLED with lots of fun inspirational, creativity-driving e-products!

Busy, busy, busy!

aug-10-blue-beeI can’t believe it’s been so long since I’ve posted on my blog! I’ve had quite a lot going on. I’ve been blessed with some full-time on-site work recently (YAY!), but have consequently had to put a couple illustration projects on the back burner (ICK!). And now NaNoWriMo is coming up (a month to devote to writing 50,000 words), and also PiBoIdMo (the SAME month, challenging me to come up with a picture book idea every day).

Am I a glutton for punishment? Yeah, I guess so.

And quite possibly I am about to be slammed with freelance work (hopefully).

Okay. I’m feeling a little overwhelmed.

But happily so.

Why add more to my plate by participating in Nano and PiBoIdMo? Well, I just love those two challenges. It’s the one time out of the year when you know there are thousands of other writers trying to do the same thing, and most likely not making their goals and getting frustrated – just like me. You know the saying, misery loves company.

PLUS I have FOUR or FIVE book ideas that are SCRAMBLING to get out of my darn head. And each one is totally different. I have the next Wearing My Weird book that is solidifying in my mind (thank goodness for the people who have asked me to write another one), a book about my own dad’s life, a nonfiction book about my creative heroes that has been gestating for the past 4 years that MIGHT end up being the most important book to write (keeping the title secret for now), a spiritual book, and a children’s book I wrote and illustrated back in college that just needs to be polished up (I SO wanted it to be completed before Christmas! Not sure that’s happening now)!

So I visited my blog today to add the Nano and PiBoIdMo widgets, noticed I hadn’t blogged for a while, and decided to finally type up a new post to explain what I’ve been up to (yes, I’m still alive!).

The HOPE & SUPPORT Challenge – for Suicide Awareness Month – WHO’S WITH ME?

2878660a0be6531e2b579500927cf379One of the most fundamental reasons why I call my business “Create-A-Way” is to communicate to others that there is always a WAY. There have been painful times in my life when I felt totally STUCK, even in recent years. Struggles are overcome and new struggles take their places.

It’s just life.

We ALL go through times in our lives when we need encouragement. Sometimes EVERY DAY.

So I suggest a CHALLENGE for September.

Send a piece of snail mail to at least one person every week this month (starting today) who you know is having ANY kind of emotional stress. It can be a Facebook friend (message them and ask for their address), a loved one, or maybe even an acquaintance (does someone at work/school seem depressed/overstressed lately? Leave an anonymous supportive note on their chair).

Why send/give a physical note or snail mail? An email or an electronic message or even a text is too quickly dismissed. It might make them smile for a moment, but sending a letter or card or even a postcard means SO much more. It means you care THAT MUCH MORE, and you are SERIOUS about sending them your message of support and love. A physical note can be kept as a memento. It can be tucked into a journal or under a pillow. It can be treasured.

Please leave a comment as a way to mark your commitment to the challenge to send a message of love and encouragement to someone you care about. Even if you only do it once this month… BRAVO.

And if you’re reading this post AFTER/BEFORE September, I challenge you to send that snail mail to someone TODAY.

Trust me… there is always someone around you who is in need of a little emotional support.

Oh Captain, My Captain…

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A quote from Dead Poets Society rings in my memory this week, in reaction to the passing of Robin Williams. It was the excerpt to be read at the beginning of every D.P.S. meeting:

I went to the woods because I
wanted to live deliberately…
I wanted to live deep and suck
out all the marrow of life!
To put to rout all that was not life…
And not, when I came to die, discover
that I had not lived…

Robin’s untimely death tears at my heart and soul as I remember my own battles with depression, past and present.

I think the saddest thing about this for me, is that when I was at my lowest, I would watch some of my favorite Robin Williams films to uplift me or to just forget my inner pain. The messages in his films were so inspiring to me.

It’s a sore reminder that even our heroes – the people we turn to for help – are suffering as well, and facing their own demons.

So many thoughts are running through my head since the news of Robin’s death. I think about my own demons. I think about a dear friend I lost this past year to suicide. I think about people close to me that suffer from Bipolar and/or depression, and my concerns rise… again.

When I was sixteen, I watched Dead Poets Society MANY times. The character Neil in the film was an inspiring one, much like Williams. He was filled with passion. The character inspired me SO much. When I saw the movie for the first time, it was on TV at home. I remember exactly where I was standing at the side of the living room couch while watching the scene when Neil began to descend down the stairs to his father’s den to shoot himself. I remember vividly because I felt I was watching myself. I knew that character. I knew what he was thinking and I knew what he was going to do.

And when I realized I was right, my stomach seized up on me. Queasiness hit. That film, to me, was all about the message to NOT give up and give in to those inner demons that tell you life is hopeless. Because when you give up and give in, the possibilities that are waiting for you just around the corner are GONE… And the legacy you had the chance to leave will never happen. Lives you had a chance to touch and change… gone.

Again, I tend to resort to a powerful Dead Poets Society quote:

…life exists, and identity; that the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse…

That the powerful play GOES ON and you may contribute a verse…

What will your verse be?

 

Amazing Authors I met at Author Alley this Year!

IMG_3515I wanted to share about some of the most interesting books and people I had the pleasure of meeting at Author Alley this year (my first year at Author Alley).

jerry_lewis_celebrities_coverI had the goal to meet one specific author I wanted to get advice from, who ended up being a really awesome individual, Irv Korman – author of I was Jerry Lewis’s Bodyguard for 10 minutes! and I was Jackie Mason’s Chauffeur for 5 Minutes. I wanted to get some advice regarding the book I’m working on about my dad’s life. My dad’s brushed up against several celebrities when he lived in Canada, and I want to write about his encounters. It was good to talk with Irv and get some important tips – most importantly to RECORD my conversations with my dad as I interview him about his experiences. It was cool too, because Irv also works as an entertainer for parties, so when a little girl bought Pretty Betty Butterfly, he made her a little balloon apple – a very cool surprise!

I was thrilled to meet the two wonderful people sitting on each side of me as well. They were both professional illustrators as well as writers, which we had in common.abirdsc

I met Lawrence (Larry) Hohman who had written and  illustrated a series of alphabet books, called Alphabetical Books in Color. We actually both graduated from the Cleveland Institute of Art, which was another wonderful coincidence! I bought his book on bugs for my son Jack who is obsessed with bugs lately. Larry did pretty well at the event by selling a whole set of his books to one customer. That was exciting (and envious) to see!
fd5db72ecf996469e71348ecbb9379c4Another great person I met was Dixie Frank! I bought her wonderful children’s book, I’m So Glad You Saved Me – The True Story of Ringo Star-ling. It’s a beautiful story with equally beautiful illustrations. I highly recommend it. Her book is a true story about the Starling she rescued as a baby bird. This bird is actually quite amazing. Dixie told me that Starlings actually are mimicking birds – like parrots. So this bird talks and sings, and whistles the Andy Griffith Show theme! Ha! Dixie also creates Pet Portraits and does face painting for events as well.

There were other authors I wish I could have spoken with more, and their books looked very interesting to me as well!

Here are my favorite books & authors from the event:

Jennifer Priester – author of The Mortal Realm Witch Series – a series for ages 8-12 years old.

James A. Willis – Author of many “Weird” books and Ghost Stories (yummy!)

Tali Nay – Author of Schooled – A book about the things you REALLY learn in school – the life lessons you remember for the rest of your life. This topic of course interested me.

Mary R. Woldering – Author of Children of Stone: Voices in Crystal – A very interesting looking book. If the title interests you, I recommend checking it out! And this awesome woman lives in Euclid, Ohio – so excited to live so close to some of these people!!

Joel Ayala Ayapana – Author of The Book of Positive Light – Remembrance of the Heart. This guy will be conducting a workshop at the Ohio Journey Expo this year, and has an iTunes Radio page.

The experience at Author Alley was an interesting one. Not the best when it comes to book sales (but I guess selling 2 books isn’t too shabby for an event that’s tucked away in an alley), but a wonderfully fun networking event! I definitely want to do it again next year, and am looking forward to having at least a couple new books to sell next year (my gears are working)!

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