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A Year in Review

Scrolling through pictures that have been collecting on my phone for the last several years kicked off a trip down memory lane and it was on my heart to share the journey God has taken me on and just how much my life changed in 365 days.

November 2016

So, this time next year I was working as a traveling studio photographer specializing in portraits. Although it wasn’t my dream job, it was the first time in my life I was truly happy with the work I was doing. It was an experience I never had before, it was fulfilling.

In addition to that position, I was also a dedicated volunteer for The Sanctuary for Independent Media and I was exploring my options as a freelance writer. I met one of my favorite artists, Ted Leo ( of Ted Leo and the Pharmacists ) when he played at the Low Beat and inspired by our conversation he stopped the show to place a call to action that it was within everyone’s reach to make difference and our responsibility to advocate for human rights ( he also called me his friend).

I was enjoying a lot of freedom in my job, my paychecks, and being very involved in my community until tragedy struck in the form of a car accident and overnight the life I was living changed drastically. Coming home from location in Massachutes, a deer ran out in front of a large truck. As he slowed, I changed lanes from right to middle when the deer turned around and stopped in front of me. Unable to move left or right without striking another vehicle I had no choice but to collide with the animal. The deer became roadkill, my car suffered $2500 worth of damage, and I, hysterical, was consoled by a very concerned officer with at least two tickets.

And a little part of me died with that animal on the side of the I90 that day. I was blessed to borrow a vehicle for a week which allowed me to get another paycheck in and attend a Friendsgiving but ultimately I lost my job due to being unable to travel and went into Christmas season devastated. To be honest I don’t remember Christmas 2016 or very much of December at all. I may have swallowed my days whole with incessant sleeping, a habit I’ve always done to cope with my depression. I do remember being rather bent on moving. I joined a local carsharing program which took some of the sting out of being forced back on the bus line. I received an email on an account I rarely check about a job I had applied for who-knows-when. It was for Managing Editor in Cheif for a small community newspaper in Addison County, Vermont- Middlebury. I replied to the email, had a phone interview, and was then called in for a second interview in Vermont. I didn’t have much money left, I definitely didn’t have my rent for next month, and I didn’t really know anything about life in Vermont   (whom by the way was one of the first states to abolish slavery in America) but it was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up. So I charted my course to Middlebury which turned out to be about a three-hour drive. It was chilly winter day, the road conditions were far from ideal, but I was excited. The data connection on my journey was poor. That is to say that I could route my journey when I had internet access and it would be effective so long as I didn’t make any wrong turns because it could not recalculate. I made it to my interview with time to spare.

( side note: my outfit was inspired by an episode from a podcast I used to listen to, The Babysitters Club Club, in which they described an outfit of Claudia Kishi who in one book ‘dressed like the ocean’ in varying shades of blue. You wouldn’t have guessed by looking at me because I looked very put together but I was wearing tights, a dress, a skirt, and a sweater. It’s hard to imagine myself wearing more clothes but I looked hot and I was warm.)

The interview went well: the current Editor was highly impressed by me although I could tell the office manager ( the woman who would become my boss) had her reservations. I was sent on my first assignment and that’s when the trouble started. I was sent out to find a story in Addison County before I left because Ashley, the office manager, wanted to know how I would be able to assimilate into the position and the town. Thanks to a tip from a local gas station attendant and artist, I discovered the Compass Music and Arts Center in Brandon, VT, an organization identical in several ways to The Sanctuary, where I interviewed several people including a resident artist who was also paraplegic.

Leaving Brandon I felt very encouraged and that maybe there would be life for me outside of the Capital Region but upon navigating the winding back roads and nothingness that is Vermont, I got lost. Unable to find a single business to ask for directions, I was forced to pull into a museum which was open but had zero occupants where I either connected to a feeble wifi source or got just enough data service to make a poor quality phone call.

At this point I was running late to return the vehicle I was renting. It was past due probably by 30 minutes already and I still had about a three-hour drive once I found may back to Middlebury, which I did shortly after although now I was rushing trying to limit the number of late fees I was incurring and also racing against the waning daylight. It had to rely mostly on memory and chance to find my way back to Albany. It was between Ticonderoga, NY, and Glens Falls, NY, where I started to doze off. I had been driving for hours and honestly hadn’t even slept well the night before. I was determined to fight my drowsiness, a mistake that almost cost me my life.

Somewhere in Warren County, I started to fall asleep. The air was moist, snow had fallen recently, the roads were wet and the weather was cold, and the cars on the road I was on were driving fast. I had been out completely when I hit black ice possibly, lost control of the vehicle, and broke through a guardrail. I woke up as I was bouncing off a ditch in time to collide with a tree. My first thought was the paraplegic man I interviewed at Compass and began to freak out. My rental car was totaled and I had to be cut out of the vehicle to be brought to Glen Falls Hospital. I was conscious enough to tell the first responders that they could not expect to reach skin ( as I lamented over the number of layers I was wearing).

It was a devastating experience and I wish I could say I survived to be grateful for my life but to be honest I was barely hanging on spiritually. I made it home badly bruised with a lot of pain and I found out later that I got the job. It seemed impossible but I accepted the position and prepared for my first week a few days later. I took a bus to Burlington and was then picked up by the former employee to job shadow. The company put me up in a four-star hotel and I spent a week feeling like a princess. It felt like I was positioned to be the next big deal: a big fish in a small pond. There was an alternative scene that I felt I could find my place in but in highly rural Addison County, not having a car was going to be a challenge but I was determined to do whatever I had to do to keep my new title and office.

Still, over the course of the week, I began to develop my own reservations as to whether Ashley and I could work together. To me, it was clear that she was mostly interested in what my talent could do for her and that creatively we were going to butt heads. It was a day or so before Christmas when I returned home. I had planned to be back in VT Tuesday after Christmas which fell over the weekend but I started to get cold feet. I moved to Schenectady in 2010 with next to nothing and I wasn’t as ready as I thought to make that kind of relocation again. I asked for a week but despite knowing my circumstances upon offering the job and denying my request for relocation assistance- I was fired. Hurt and angry, I struggled to be professional but ultimately I felt relieved that that door had been closed to me because deep down inside I knew it wasn’t right. Although the experience left me feeling confident because I was able to achieve such a prestigious position due to my experience and character, I also felt empty like I had nothing else left and I remember thinking ‘I give up.’

2017

January was by far the darkest month of the year. I was recovering physically and mentally from the car accident but I began to disconnect and disassociate. I stopped going to church, I stopped going out at all actually. Rarely venturing farther than walking distance, and even less frequently traveling beyond the main road. There was a lite suicide attempt in which the Albany police showed up at my door to check in on me -thanks to my friend, Marse. Thanks to my Uncle, I was able to repair my car and then I sold it. I used the money to pay rent for a few months and it turned out to be a blessing that I didn’t have to work. It wasn’t until May 2017 that started working again. I picked up several marketing gigs and made a good amount of money rather easily and without having to work full time. I also started getting involved in the creative scene. I was invited to several parties where I was able to network with some of the ‘who’s who’ of the Capital Region. I knew it wasn’t enough though, I felt out of options: I’d tried all the companies for employment, tried all the gyms, met all the guys, and I felt stranded in this small city that I was beginning to resent. So I applied to school in Seattle, Washington and was accepted. I was eager but reluctant again to move under such circumstances and I felt as if I couldn’t give up my New York residency without at least giving The University at Albany a chance. The in-state tuition along with the federal and state grants would mean a lot more funding and a much cheaper way to finish my undergraduate degree than anywhere else, including my home state.

I was accepted as of August 2017 and I began to transition into being a full-time student. For me, that meant making some changes to the way I was living so that I could make school my first priority.  I was so happy when school started: I was working towards something again and my life felt like it had a purpose. Plus I started school feeling very confident. I am not a traditional student and I’ve outgrown a lot of the hang-ups that held me back when I was teenager. I’ve lived a rather unique life and because of that, I have a lot of experiences that put me ahead of my peers in several ways.

I made my first friend at orientation and I’ve become quite popular since then. I started a club dedicated to Mixed Martial Arts and turned it into the gym experience I was looking for, complete with professional instruction. I connected to several campus ministries and now my life is full of Christian friends and fellowship, people who are eager to help carry my burden be that a ride, a hug, or just an ear. I also have the ear and attention of the most powerful men and women of the institution who have offered to mentor me and are impressed by me. I continued my work with the radio station, hosting my first show over 4th of July and then helping with the national 2017 Grassroots Radio conference where I made connections to other radio stations who are interested in syndicating my show. I was able to interview Blues Traveler when they came to Schenectady in August and then Flogging Molly earlier this month (both to yet to be released). I have been able to connect with my (Philosophy) department personally and am blessed to have found that they respect me as an equal. There is an abundance of people in my life right now that really appreciate me as a remarkable woman and they’ve filled my life with love and laughter.

My dreams have come true this semester, most of them- so far.

So I have a lot to be thankful for this Thanksgiving but I am far most grateful to serve a God who remembers me.

.

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#Goals

Over the summer I had a dream: I was at a university and I was in a leadership position. Upon being sent on a mission to Canada, I turn to inquire how many troops that I will have with me to which the other person responds, ” Why do you any troops?” and I say, ” because while I’m up there I might as well take it.”  #tyrantdreams

I was telling my martial arts teacher, confidant, and friend the same story and he revealed that he is in fact from Canada. He laughed and said he didn’t think I’d have more trouble “taking it.”

The conversation came up again this week when his Canadian accent crept into his speech. Turns out he mostly tries to hide the fact that he’s from Canada to which I said, “Don’t worry Stephen, once I conquer Canada you’ll no longer have to be ashamed of your roots.”

We laughed. But I wasn’t kidding, at least, not about my dreams of conquest ( I have no particular opinion about being Canadian). Being back in college I get the question “what do you want to be when you ‘grow up?'”  …a lot. It seems like everyone is always hung up on what you’re doing or what you’re going to do. When I wasn’t going to school it was “what’s your job?” Now it’s what will be your job?

If you’ve kept up with my journey then you know that I’ve held more jobs than boyfriends and that for various reasons nothing’s really worked out. So when I think about the future I do think about it so much in terms of “what will I do?” but “who will I be?”

and I want to be a Che Guevara, Martin Luther King Jr.,

or better yet a Jesus.

…the only thing I haven’t worked out is that all those people died in various horrible ways.

 

 

Karios

I’m back to blogging after a long and decisive break. If I picked up where I left off with my entry, then my life’s completely changed in almost every way. God has answered several of my prayers and I’m constantly reminded how trees bear fruit in their season (Psalms 1:3).

I returned to school this fall to finish my bachelor’s degree. I changed my major to Philosophy and I’m really happy with my choice. I almost ran away to Seattle, Washington where I had been accepted to art school but convenience and affordability won out. Surprisingly, I do not think my degree there would have benefited me as much as the current path I’m traveling: it would have prepared me for a job, but right now I feel like I’m preparing for life.

Part of that for me is evaluating where I’ve been and where I’m going, and looking at it in context of where its lead me, how I’ve let it change me, and what my goals are. Although I am constantly growing I still find myself the same in so many ways. When I look at my dreams in the broader sense I want comfort, security, flexibility, and love. If I look more closely those ideas become family, ability to travel, home, sustainable income. And the desire to set the world on fire.

Today I decided to re-publish all my previous entries because I’ve decided that I’m not ashamed of my past experiences. I lived a messy and fabulous life: I’ve taken risks, I’ve made mistakes, I’ve loved and I’ve lost. Every circumstance has served a purpose in my life even as I still struggle to see the bigger picture. I started this blog like the story of my life, an American gypsy, a woman trying to carve out her place in this world, and without the contrast of my struggles and failures, I believe my successes won’t shine as bright.

And there has been success and there will be more to come.

For now, my focus is on pulling all the separate strands of my life tightly together so I can move forward in one direction with a precision that I was lacking previously because something can only be learned in time.

Yesterday morning I blew off NYC for Albany: missing my NYFW audition and sleeping in instead. The night before I had a strong feeling that I shouldn’t go and despite how much I was looking forward to it, I decided to go with my intuition. Thursday Pastor Christina had asked if we could start my confirmation class Sunday (today) and walking in NYFW would have meant missing church. I was conflicted so I asked myself “What would God want me to do?” and it was an easy choice.

Plus Friday had been a busy day and work had ended later than I expected, I didn’t get to prepare for the show the way I would have liked. I wouldn’t of felt 100% my best Saturday and  I’ve learned that there’s no point in going for anything if you can’t do it 100%.

It turned out to be an excellent day: I went to a Native American festival, Gathering of the Tribes in East Greenbush, and a music festival, Peacestock at the Sanctuary for Independent Media. I’ve wanted to go to the Gathering of the Tribes for a few years now and I remember a time when East Greenbush might as well been on another planet. It’s not exactly accessible without a car. My roommate and I went together and I was relieved that she drove. There was music, dancing, and vendors. I ended up spending most of my cash on stones. For as long as I can remember I’ve been picking up rocks. I know have the begining of a collection from stones all over the world ( and one from outside the planet). I used to have more. Yesterday I bought blue lace agate, blue moonstone, and labradorite from a lovely woman named Cheryl, a yoga teacher who loves charity -like me! I believe that everything emits energy, and rocks specifically carry different types of energy that can be used for healing purposes. Cheryl also practices sound therapy which involves a quartz triangle that she holds over your head and gently bangs like a drum producing different vibrations that you can feel throught your body. It was amazing. I made sure Janet got one too.

After we left the Gathering we visted the Sanctuary for the last hour and half of Peacestock. Apparently it had been sparse all day but got lively when I arrived, so said Melissa the project coordinator for the Sanctuary and one of the only two paid staff members. The Sanctuary is run almost entirely on volunteer support. As soon as I saw the crew they put me right to work manning the donation table and email list. I didn’t mind as volunteering there never feels like work! Plus I got to spend time with Melissa and I told her about how I didn’t go to my audition. She sympathized saying it was an expensive risk but honestly I was worried less about not making the cut and more worried about if I did. After all they invited me to come down and be evaulated. I feel so much more confident lately, it’s wonderfully. I’m glad to finally feel like myself again. Still there will be other opportunities and I was happy I stayed in the area and had a nice chill weekend. I’m trying really hard to not push myself past my limits and not having anywhere to be was a nice change from the work week.

Then on a whim I decided to get fancy and try a new bar, the Speakeasy 518, a cash only jazz club. It was pretty swanky. It was the first time I’ve ever gone out by myself to a nightclub and I had a blast. They’ve created a real authentic atmosphere and a great ambience. I felt like I had reached a new level of hottness in my little black dress and the jazz reminded me of my grandpaw and made me feel close to him.

And as planned, I start my confirmation classes today between the Adult and Children services in lieu of bible study. In the first service everyone was in a particularly chipper mood for some reason unbknownst to me- but I also have been feeling new hieghts of happiness. Could it be that love is in the air? Someone is doanting a boxing bag to our church that will available once we move into our new building. Things are getting very exciting at The Oaks of Righteouness that’s for sure! Stay tuned ❤

A lot.

There were absolutely no tears this weekend: it was blessed from beiging to end. The only thing is though, I missed my watermark.

Artifacts from the weekend

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Tired & Home finally after a very long day

Only four in my job and I’ve already been to over a dozen new cities in New York and also Massachutes. I LOVE my new job as a studio photographer! I’m finally getting a chance to explore the north east and I’m getting paid too.

A lot of my time is spent driving, maybe even as much as 30-45%, sometimes more. Sometimes when I’m driving I’ll have flashbacks to random memories in Phoenix- nothing particularly spectacular but I’m reminded of Arizona often and it makes me realize how much I  miss it.

Still, I feel like I’m connecting with the north east in a whole new way by creating new memories and doing what I love: shooting kids and driving. 😉 Hahaha I’m just kidding, I photograph kids and adults.

I’ve found myself back in school, though, reliving pre -school all the way through high school and it definitely makes me feel my age. And it also makes me feel bit cooler because even though I was totally bad ass back then I feel like the younger generation appreciates it more because I’m a cool adult. Or I’m deluded but ,either way, I’m happy.

I’ve also learned just how much work photographer really can be, especially when shooting on location. I carry a complete studio complete with lights, a roving camera, tripods, backdrops, and more all in my tiny little chevy. When packed well my equipment takes up 90% percent of my vehicle.

But for me there’s nothing like hitting the road and planning out a new journey. Which I’ll do again tomorrow as I embark to NYC where I have an audition to model for a show the last day of NYFW!

Miss USA and Miss Universe are watching it but hopefully Miss Troy will be rocking it on the stage Sunday!

And so the saga continues…

XOXO

A

 

Once upon a time there was a girl.

She was beautiful, with eyes of gold and sunshine.

She was a fortress of strength on the outside, but inside she was weak.

And she lived in a world inside her head.

And there she was a Princess:

Unbreakable.

Untouchable.

Impenetrable.

Yet, she had no name.

But it didn’t matter,

She didn’t matter.

She lived in a castle made of the finest porcelain.

She wore gowns made of the finest silk.

And she wore jewelry made of the most priceless gems.

Still she was nameless.

Unworthy.

Insignificant.

Inconsequential.

Though there were no guards, no dragons, and no spells;

Yet she was captive.

The only place she found refuge were her dreams.

(And she wished she could sleep forever…)

On the top floor there was a room.

Her favorite room.

Completely empty with one window the overlooked the village.

There she found solace in watching people go about their daily routine.

Imagining their life stories.

Sometimes she had visitors.

And they were nameless too,

because they didn’t matter.

They never stayed.

They called her whatever,

and took what they wanted,

and never left anything the same.

Her heart.

Bro

ken.

So broken.

All that was left was tiny shards.

(never let them see the tears)

She always saw them coming,

and she always watched them go

-through her window,

in the vacant room,

on the top floor.

Then came a boy.

He did not wear the finest clothes,

nor did he have golden hair,

or fine speech.

He was tall.

He was shaggy.

He had one green eye and one blue one.

His name was Preston.

And he did matter.

He bowed in her presence.

He looked only into her eyes.

And he said, “I have come to rescue her majesty from the demons that keep you.”

She didn’t seem him coming.

She told him not to address her as royalty.

And when he asked for her name she told him she had none.

So he said he would call her Chere.

Ma Chere.

He claimed her.

But still she was…

hallow.

vacant.

empty.

For awhile he did live in the castle.

For awhile he did consider it his home.

But after awhile he asked of the beast he had come to slay.

And she told him that there was no beast.

no guards.

no dragons.

no spells.

and he was free.

So he left.

and she was not surprised.

(for everyone always leaves after a while.)

Days passed and she did not sit by the window,

she did not watch the villagers go by,

she slept. she wanted to sleep forever.

And she did not see him coming

when he knelt down beside her bed,

and he feared she had died,

but when he touched her she stirred.

And she asked,

“why did you leave me.”

He replied,

“Because i want you to know that I’ll always come back.”

When he left there was no dragon

no guards.

no spells.

Just dark cold emptiness.

He said he wanted her to understand,

that he can’t save her–

from herself.

And someday she’d understand.

t o g e t h e r

they created a paradise.

t o g e t h e r

they rarely ventured outside the palace walls.

t o g e t h e r

they were happy.

and the villagers grew jealeous.

and they raided the castle,

and burnt it down.

so they ran.

till their clothes were torn and dirt splattered.

till their bones ached and stomachs cried out.

till they were free.

and deep into the nothingness they found nirvana,

Still the Princess was not satisfied.

She was restless,

and tormented.

She yearned for the peace she saw in Preston’s eyes.

So she asked,

“Where have found the meaning to life?”

and he said,

“there is no meaning to life. you give your life value and no one else can take it away”

Once upon a time

there lived a girl

with eyes of gold and sunshine

and she did matter.

She was not nameless anymore.

Last week for the first time I found myself asking what would I say to my future daughter instead of wondering what my mom would say to me. I started training a new job as a studio photographer and training has consisted of being the subject of many (many, many) portraits  and so I found myself fidgeting quite a bit sometimes and worrying so much about my appearance that I became overcome with frustration and I just had to stop, take a deep breath and I thought if my daughter was watching me would I want her caring so much about her appearance that it interferes with her life? The answer, of course, is no. But the inner dialogue had me changing the conversation and I realized there’s been a shift in consciousness: I apparently have come to rely on my own inner voice, rather than Mommy’s (who still speaks to me in so many ways. Felt kind of profound. I think this shift was brought on by my convent experience. I stayed with 5  Nuns for about a week in Greenwich, NY. I was invited to stay longer but this new job cut the experience down. I was nervous as the image of nuns tends to conjure a lot of preconceptions in the mind. Ruler slapping and whatnot but the experience could have been farther from that perception. I learned a lot and I found the discernment which I’ve been praying for.

“Many are called but few are chosen”

Matt 22:14

Every since my mom and grandpaw died, I’ve been feeling a bit disconnected, orphaned. It’s not that I relied on them much but having them in the world was comforting- no matter what happens I could always go home. My sense of home was my family and now that’s gone and my world turned upside down.

I actually grew to love the Convent and the Sisters so much that becoming a nun felt like a very real option. Right there next to Sister Galesia, there was a place for me. The back of their brochure puts out a call to action “looking for women ages 21 – 50”. Yep that’s me. But aside from that I genuinely loved being there. I enjoyed having church services throughout the day, gardening, reading, tea and cookies at 3. But my favorite thing was in the night after everyone else would go to sleep I would return to the Sanctuary, the most Holy of places, and spend time with God: praying, crying, talking to him like a friend, or sometimes just being still in his presence.

What I discovered was I do have a place in God’s kingdom and although I’m not ready to make such a grand commitment, the feeling of acceptance and peace made me feel whole instead of lost.

Leaving was very sad, like being born again: saying goodbye to the comfort of the womb and back into the loud, harsh, sometimes cruel world. Deep down inside it was my desire for my own family and the love I already feel for my future daughter that has carried me through and the belief that it will come to fruition.

Ultimately I’ve decided that being a mother is my calling and if necessary it is something I am willing do to alone: I will choose to be a single mother if I don’t meet the right man.

One thing is for certain, I’m not settling.