Inspired to Move in a New Direction

On July 6th, our lives changed permanently when we lost our sweet dog and fur-baby, Gracie Lou.  She was only 1 year and 7 months old, and I gave her to my husband for Christmas in 2011.  She grew to be the smartest, and most well-behaved dog I’ve ever known, and won the hearts of neighbors, friends, and especially family – being easily considered a grand-kid by our parents.  It has been a little over a month, and I’m now realizing that the effect both her life and death have had on my life are without question one of the main motivating forces behind the direction my life and businesses will now take.

DSC01435The day she passed away, we were playing at the lake (her favorite place in the world), when we believe she had a sudden seizure or stroke.  We’re unsure of the cause, but I personally believe it was brought on by either a congenital condition, too much water ingestion, unknown toxins in the water, or a combination of them all.   Despite our best efforts in rushing her to the vet when she looked sick at the beach, she passed away in the arms of my neighbor as I drove to the overnight veterinary clinic.

There really aren’t words that can describe who she was to me and my husband, other than being my first dog, my best friend, my little shadow, and a REALLY really smart little girl.  She knew dozens of awesome tricks, and was so incredibly well behaved that we constantly knew we were spoiled to have her.  She was more like my child than anything else, and she grew up on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter where hundreds of my friends and followers knew and loved her too.

Gracie passing away was my first experience with death.  No one close to me has ever died, and I have never been to a funeral.  Ever.  So having the one companion that was closest to me be the first experience was jarring.  I was scared I wouldn’t handle it properly, or that I would forget her, or that I would go off the deep end never having to deal with grief.

But I didn’t.

Instead, I began to take note of each feeling as it happened, and tried to just allow myself to do what I needed to do, when I felt I needed to do it.  When I wanted to cry, I cried.  When I wanted to write down my feelings, I did.  When I wanted to talk about her, I rambled on and on to anyone who would listen.  I even Googled the stages of grief in order to make sure I was doing everything “properly,”  yet knowing there was no “right” way to deal with death.

As silly as it sounds, when Gracie died I suddenly had this overwhelming feeling that I needed to make a big change.  Not a change that made me deviate from who I am, and where I wanted to take my business and my life – but a change that was within me the entire time I’ve started blogging and doing business online.  A change that I’ve been postponing, and too afraid to make until truly understanding the fragility of life and how the impact we make on the world is all that is left once we are gone.

Sure, this is a pretty deep realization considering that it was a DOG that made me come to the light.  Not my wise grandmother, or infant son.  Not my husband or mother.  It was my dog.  However, that’s the perfect premise for introducing the first and most important lesson Gracie taught me:

Lesson #1:  Be real.

Normally, I wouldn’t admit that the death of my dog had such an impact for fear of what people would think.  But now, it’s different.  When I first started blogging back in 2008, being real wasn’t my goal – yet it happened anyway.  I blogged my feelings and thoughts, and was 100% ME.  I wanted to be real, tell the truth, be honest, and relate to anyone else who thought the same way I did.  Well, 5 years, 3 businesses, and a few blogs later…I’ve progressively become more opaque and more concerned with my online image than actually connecting with people.  Unfortunately, so many other business owners and web designers I know have done the exact same thing, omitting their entire personal identity in favor of ensuring a cookie-cutter brand and online persona based on who they WANT to be perceived as.  In all reality, the business I built long ago (April Showers) was tremendously successful because I was REAL, and I blogged nearly every day.  I connected with my readers and actually had FUN getting to know people online, and still maintain many of those relationships now.   While I’ve grown as a business owner and learned a lot about professionalism and running a company, it’s time to merge these ideals together to build a brand and business I’m both proud of, and that people can relate to.

This brings me to the reason why the title of this post is “Inspired to Move in a New Direction.”

As of this post, I will be taking an indefinite blogging hiatus here at Delightfully Inspired.  Instead, I will be blogging regularly at Creative Girl Media.

The nature of the posts I will be writing there won’t be about my personal life.  They will be about my many passions, which range from being an entrepreneur to social media, and will DEFINITELY have a more interesting twist than the dry, and borderline boring content I’ve posted since Creative Girl Media’s inception.  I’ve always wanted to TRULY connect with my readers, and share SO many thoughts I’ve had, yet have been too afraid to post about.  Posts like, “The Feast and Famine of Being a Web Designer” where I finally tell the truth about what it’s like to rely on just 2-3 clients per month to pay the bills.  Another blog series I have planned will highlight some big changes I’ll be making as a web designer, including why I’ve decided to offer “real-people” prices, rather than continually hiking them up to stay competitive with other designers.  Or why I used to hate taking phone calls, but now encourage it.  Knowing when to stand your ground, and when the customer is right.  Or why it’s sometimes completely worth it to hire help, no matter what business you’re in (including being a mommy.)  This business is my PASSION, and so is my life.  I just want to LIVE my life, more than talk about it, and instead channel all that energy into who I am as a business owner, and a brand, so that everything I work so hard for and am passionate about are all working toward the same goal.

So this is why I’ve decided to focus my energy where I feel it’s both needed, and wanted most.  It will be my outlet to help people in all the ways I know I can, and also share all the thoughts and feelings I once was too worried would tarnish my image in years past.  The beauty of being a business owner is that I can try new things, experiment, and decide what works best.  For me, sharing my personal life on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram is more than fulfilling.

I’ll keep this site up for awhile, rather than redirecting it to CGM so that I (and maybe you, if you’re interested) can look back at all the years past of shenanigans!  It’s nice to see how much life has changed, and how much I’ve grown.

I’m so grateful that we had Gracie for as long as we did, and that her passing has impacted Bradley and me in positive ways.  A long time ago, when blog awards were popular, I received that award for “making lemonade when life gives you lemons” multiple times.  It seems the hand my husband and I have been dealt is a little more challenging than many we know, and may continue to be that way (if history has taught me anything) for the rest of our lives.  Everyone has their challenges though, and no matter the severity of what we all are going through, it’s the way we react to each challenge that determines our fate and our ultimate happiness.

The challenge of my little companion passing away has taught me SO much, but mainly that I can control the direction my life takes if I choose to.  Giving up that fear that keeps you from following your dreams is one of the hardest things to do, but can open up an entire world of possibilities once you realize YOU are the only one holding you back.
Here’s to making the choice, to take a chance, in order to change!

Las Vegas Themed Wedding Invitations

I designed these for my good friend Abby, who had her wedding in Vegas in March!  They look and feel just like real playing cards….only of course, they’re giant sized. :)  I love designing wedding invitations, and honestly anything for print.

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They put this cute little thank you card on the tables at the reception.

Who I Was When My Mother Defined Me

The other day, I received a card from my mom.  She lives just 20 minutes away, but never passes up a chance to send snail mail.

In the card was a picture:

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As a baby, I lived in New Mexico for just under a year, and my parents would take me to the famous balloon festival in Albuquerque.  While I don’t remember the festival itself, I remember looking back on those pictures in my childhood.  We had this little wooden box with colorful balloons carved into the top, and every chance I got – I’d put something in it – from Barbie shoes to plastic jewelry.  When finished playing with it, it would go back on the shelf carefully.

Mom told me I could have the box when I told her I was writing this post.  She said it was the last thing she owned that my father ever gave her.  (After 17 years of marriage, and 16 years of divorce.)

Since I’m a web designer, I love that I can change my designs on a whim and have fun re-creating who I am visually on the web.

This design is who I was when my mom defined me.

A little white peach-fuzz covered baby in the heart of New Mexico, surrounded by a nursery full of hearty ten pound Hispanic heartbreakers.  The daughter of a Mexican food loving tomboy, who loves horses and the countryside.  A Baptist from the South who had a little “Georgia Peach” accent until the age of four, and was more jealous of her Mamma than her new baby brother when he was born.   A little girl who learned to tie her shoes by herself at the top of the stairs (incidentally, while in one of the few time-outs I received as a child.)

These are the stories my mom tells about me.  My husband and everyone else in the room frequently tune out the redundant stories, but I never do.  Not because the stories are about me, but because of the look in her eyes when she tells them.  A proud mamma who loved her little girl, and looks fondly on the times when it was just her and her daughter.  I can only hope to have the same feeling for my child.

Even if I grew up to be a horse-less web designer, there has never been a moment when I didn’t know she loved me, and was proud of me.  I grew up to be different than she is, but when she defined me… I wasn’t half bad.

Love you Mamma!

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Perfect Beach Waves for Straight Hair

So, the beachy wave is a hard thing to master for people with straight hair.   No matter how much sprunching, diffusing, or moussing you do, it’s nearly impossible to keep that natural, piece-y wave longer than ten minutes.  Luckily, I finally found THE best way to achieve the look in a cinch.  I also found the best way for those who hate curling irons and hair products (at the bottom.)

beach waves 2Best Method

1.  Pre-heat curling iron.  The bigger the better, but my 1″ does just fine.  Snag a bag of ice, ice pack, or something nice and cold (hello Diet coke!)  This is optional, but if your hands run warmer, you’ll get better results working with them when they’re chilly.

2. Towel dry hair, and apply a volumizing product from root to tip.  Usually, I just do my roots with Matrix Total Results Wonder Boost.  (Clearance at Target.  Complete stroke of luck that it’s the best one I’ve ever used.)  But a simple homemade salt spray would do just fine to add texture as well.

2.  Don’t brush or comb hair.  If you’re in a hurry, blow dry it on HIGH heat, but low speed.  The higher the speed, the straighter your hair will be.

I flip my hair upside down for extra volume.  You’ll need to separate your hair with your fingers to make sure everything gets nice and dry!  I usually throw my damp hair in a bun while doing my makeup.  This let’s my hair air dry naturally a little before taking the blow dryer to it.matrix-total-results-amplify-wonder-boost-root-lifter-profile

3.  Separate hair into 4-6 rough equal sections.  I’m too lazy to fasten them each with a clip for this style, but if your hair is particularly unruly – go for it.

4.  Wrap each section (these are BIG sections!) around the curling iron WITHOUT clamping it.  Leave the roots and tips out of the picture, and focus on the shaft.  (Heh.)  The focus here isn’t to get the perfect curl – it’s to make the hair nice and HOT!

5.  Unwrap the hair from the iron.  The big section of hair should have made a pitiful looking wave instead of a curl.  PERFECT!

6.  MOST IMPORTANT STEP:  Put your hand on the ice pack for a moment, then make a “claw” with your fingers and SCRUNCH that hot section of hair up close to your scalp.  Don’t make a tight fist, just touch your fingers to your head like you’re making a “cage” around the hair.  Give it a few tight scrunches and really get that heat out with your cold fingers.  Removing the heat from the hair is what makes this style last! 

7.  Repeat this step for the other sections of hair, then finish with hairspray.  I always lift sections of hair and get that texture under each layer.

Seriously, this style takes me 10-15 minutes tops.  No curling 20 little bits of hair, spraying them furiously with intoxicating goo, only to have them fall out later.

Au-Naturale Method

Towel-dry hair WELL, squeezing as much water out as possible.  Don’t brush or comb.  Replace all the products with a little home made salt water.  Twist hair and form a bun on the top of your head, then secure with a hair tie.  A nice 45 minute bike ride in 80 degree weather will set this up nicely, but a high heat, low speed hair dryer will do the trick too.  Then cool everything off and ensure your hair is dry.  This method is a little less predictable, but works too!

The most important trick is taking your hair from the super HOT state to the COLD state.  The greater the temperature difference, the more receptive the hair will be!

Confessions

My good friend and I were chatting last night, and she asked about the May Blogging Challenge and why I haven’t blogged yet.   I confessed that I have to spread my 3 blog posts per week among all my blogs/websites (which means only one post per week on each), or we’d have to add at least 6 more hours to each day… so if you’re wondering why I’m not participating in my OWN challenge…have no fear.  I’m just a big cheater. :)

Anyway, the idea behind this challenge is to GROW your blog.  So I’ve been thinking about cool recipes I could share,  neat tips that are pin-worthy, sharing all my bobby pin storage ideas…  Then it occurred to me that the only place I share my life is on Facebook and Instagram.  Montages of me giving “thumbs up” in every photo and a billion dog pictures don’t exactly shed any insight on where I am, so I’m going to try and give my life a quick once-over here.  In the form of confessions.  Because that’s just more fun.

robieI ran a half-marathon two weeks ago!  …and haven’t run since.

<—-This picture was taken at the top of the summit, after running 8 miles uphill.  That look is a mixture of pain and camera-awareness.

I go for bike rides now, but running?  No way.  My legs are tired, my knees still hurt, and my toenails are STILL the most sore part of my body!  I know, I know…I need to get back on the wagon.

My office turned into the laundry room.

For several weeks a pile of clean laundry (a very, very large pile) has been on my desk.  I’ve been exiled to the couch because I can’t muster the courage to spend the hours folding…despite the fact that it’s my favorite chore. (Seriously.)  But I purposefully planned an anniversary party in 10 days so that cleaning would be inevitable.  That said, the kitchen has been outstanding for weeks.  Maybe we can shift our energy to the garage next.  Baby steps here.

I stopped thinking about getting pregnant.

For the past 6 years, it was at the forefront of my mind.  I still think about it every now and then, but honestly – everyone else is thinking about me getting pregnant more than I am!  To clarify though, it’s not because we’re done trying.  The hubby will be undergoing a pretty serious surgery this month, and we’re waiting until he’s done healing to start up again.  Then we’ll be pursuing an IUI right out of the gate.  So for the first time in years – it’s kind of nice to just…not worry about it.  People always say that’s when it happens – but I 100% guarantee that it won’t…unless the twinkle in his eye can magically float over to my fallopian tube during his recovery.  ;)

To be honest, there’s no shortage of little baby girls in my life right now – and handing them back to their mothers when they poop is the greatest.

I am still driving a gas-guzzling pickup.

Since totaling my car, we’re still stuck with this big blue beast while deciding on a new ride.  While environmentally hazardous, watching me dismount the driver’s seat certainly is entertaining.

I’m in the midst of following through with over-ambition.

I’m writing blog posts, e-books, recording workshop videos, getting drafts done, coding websites, and basically haven’t moved from my seat but once a day to get in a little exercise and make meals.  I’m sure it will all be worth it once I’m done, and staying on schedule is seriously nice.  I suppose it’s time to make up for the weeks spent running miles and miles each week to prepare for the race.  Maybe I should Google ‘consistency’?

I haven’t scooped the cat litter in almost 2 years.

Try not to picture a heaping mound of cat crap in my house, because my husband does it religiously.  Since he does it so often, I don’t even consider it part of my routine or even THINK about it.  Then the other day we both realized I haven’t done it a single time since moving to the new house and I wanted to crawl into a hole a die.

Teaching online is harder than I thought.

I teach online classes, and the entire dynamic has changed since I first started a few years ago.  In all fairness, I was the one who changed it and actually think this method works MUCH better because students can study on their own time.  This means procrastination and technical difficulties can absolutely NOT get in the way, because all the materials have to be available immediately to download.  Today I re-recorded a video 5 times and just about cried on the sixth (and successful) attempt.  The term ‘learning curve’ is both incredibly accurate and ironic.

and on a positive note….

My husband and I are becoming business partners.

Locally, there’s little in the way of savvy social media experts or web designers.  So we’ve decided to join forces and bring the expertise offered internationally to a local level, and really help our community.  There are several ad agencies that focus on TV, radio, etc…. but having a company that focuses on new media only, along with excellent design, and a dramatically different style than anything I’ve done in the past is something I’ve wanted to do for awhile.  Looking forward to moving up in the world!

I’ve never been so happy to never be lonely.

I value my quiet time, but probably the absolute best thing going on in my life right now is that we’re just minutes away from both our families and friends.  Getting everyone together means the house is always packed with bustling kids, adults laughing at inappropriate jokes, salsa, spirits, fighting, religious debates, snuggling babies, running, etc… together.

I do miss these two though.  They’re my little brother’s children.  How he produced something this adorable…I will never know.  Starting a “move to Idaho” fun soon. :)

And that’s where I am!  I promise, at some point I’ll share my tips on bobby pin storage.