Back to the Beginning

Last week’s class assignment and homework, brought me back…way back. Some of us may have a more colorful recollection of Kindergarden than others, but if any of you still have your memory box from childhood you probably have some macaroni art or animals made from various shapes.

To help us learn the basics, how to manipulate figures and transform them within Photoshop we worked with some of our important food groups! While neither of these images are “portfolio” worthy they were fun and surprisingly challenging. I think all of us in the class found the artistic part of the assignment an act of stepping outside of the box. It isn’t often that someone asks you to use food and make it into something artistic, something different.

In class, we all made little food chefs – see mine below. He reminds me of the swedish chef from the Muppets.


Meanwhile, the homework caused me much frustration. It is sometimes shocking that what seems like the most simple of tasks I can turn into the most complicated. I had visions of grandeur, I wanted to build a bridge or recreate a beautiful scene from the Serengeti – below is what I ended up with. Had my soon-to-be three year old “nephew” Joe Joe come up with this I would hang proudly on the fridge, but I expected more of myself. Why as adults do we always have to expect more? Why can’t we be happy with this silly little elephant?

courtney fruit elephant

After this project and seeing what my classmates came up with, I’m trying to extend myself a bit of latitude 1) I’m still learning the programs 2) It was meant to be a fun assignment 3) It’s not that bad.

Be happy that you are doing and learning something new and that you’re enjoying that, not beating yourself up because you have to start back at the beginning.

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Sigh of Confidence

Last week, I finished and submitted my very first photoshop painting project. It took seven hours to complete, but was the most enjoyable experience I’ve had in quite awhile. Creatively it was challenging. Adobe I’m finding is not the most intuitive program to work with which is also providing some technical mind-stretching activities.

The assignment was to take a photograph and paint it. Below is the original photo I took while on holiday in Kauai a few years ago. Those that have been will recognize it as the Na Pali coast, absolutely stunning, but perhaps not the easiest selection to do as a first stab at Photoshop.

Na Pali Coast Copyright All Rights Reserved

Na Pali Coast
Copyright All Rights Reserved

Given the size and complexity of the image, I opted to crop out half the image. I created two layers for both the water and the mountains and a final layer for the sky. Below is the final outcome.

Copyright All Rights Reserved

Copyright All Rights Reserved

Since this was my first time I didn’t realize I could rotate the canvas to get more even brush strokes, which could have helped on the directionality being a bit haphazard. Also, we haven’t worked with the ‘blur’ tool yet, but that could have possible helped me with the water. One thing I wished was that when using the mixing brush you could sample two specific layers versus one or all.

In any case, as a first project I’m quite happy with the final outcome. As I would like to pursue a career in graphic/web design in the coming months this project was a huge mental boost – maybe this jumping off a cliff and trying a completely new career isn’t as crazy as I thought. Just maybe, with time I could be good maybe even talented. With all the changes and doubts I’ve had in the last month this gave my a huge sigh of confidence to “keep on swimming.”

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Where One Door Opens…

To new beginnings.

Last month my life experienced a major event. I left my job of nearly 8 years.

While there were lots of things I loved about my job, I needed a new challenge. After many, unstated, years away from school I’m going back. Three weeks ago, I started a digital media and design program, and so far I’m loving it! What a refreshing experience to learn something new and to be/feel creative again.

As such, I’m looking at revitalizing my little blog but also make some tweaks. My original vision for this blog, for Project Lola was to get unsolicited stories from other women experiencing the joys and let downs of life. While I will still certainly accept and consider any standalone pieces you may send my way, as I think allowing women to have a safe place to share their experiences is important, I also want to use this as an opportunity to dialogue about making this type of life change.

There are many of us out there, men and women, parents and children who may feel stuck in their current circumstances, that may dream of making a change. I also know that many of us are terrified of making any big changes, “why rock the boat” as it were. I’d like to share my real-time experiences and feelings of going through this journey in hopes that perhaps it inspires others to stop worrying about the boat and just going for it!

So this is me – going for it!

Carpe Diem

Carpe Diem

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Gasping in the New Year

So I ushered in the New Year gasping – not in wonder and awe that we’d survived the world’s ending as predicted by some, but – for lungs full of air! Some mysterious agent, all the usual suspects were ruled out, laid me out for close on two weeks. The only thing I knew was that for the first time in memory, I had to get help to breathe.
In the days leading up to the Urgent Care visit, I lay in bed acutely aware of my body’s struggle for oxygen. The changes – physical, mental and emotional – brought about by this lack of oxygen were astounding. My face had shrunken and had become grey. I was weepy. Speaking was almost impossible (a nightmare for someone who started talking before her first birthday). The times I did try speaking, my voice was weak and filled with huge ‘hollows’. These hollows were only rivaled by the ever increasing dark circles and sink holes that were appearing around my eyes. Each morning as I leaned over the sink to wash my face, I would straighten up to notice my eyes growing glassier as if a little light was receding far back into a darkened room. The windows of my eyes were like foggy black glass at a smoggy dockyard. Too fatigued and mentally incapable of forming a coherent thought, all I could do was lay in bed and watch what was happening in my body and mind, as it happened.

The little air I could draw in to my body fought an uphill battle to get to my lungs. It ran an audible obstacle course through mucus-filled bronchi; the air would bubble up and then a curious little ‘clicking’ sound would begin. It would dissipate when I exhaled only to appear again on the inhalation. Because of the sound, I could track the oxygen as it made its arduous journey to my lungs.

This struggle highlighted how free and easy breathing normally is, and how much I take it for granted. Other insights came later – body and mind are intricately intertwined in the delicate dance of life. Getting to know this balance or even just paying attention to it from time to time is well worth the effort. We don’t have to wait for something to go wrong, or for the systems to begin malfunctioning before we appreciate what a wondrous thing breathing is. Can we afford not to notice this ‘everyday miracle?’

After all, everything we do in life is by courtesy of breath. So being mindful, even for a few minutes a day, is beneficial in so many ways. Scientific Meditation research is showing that even spending 12 minutes a day improves short term memory, increases attention, and decreases distractibility. In as little as 8 weeks, Mindfulness meditation brings about structural changes to the brain: new neural pathways and connections develop, grey matter increases, and different parts of the brain are activated to respond to life situations. And as the brain likes repetition, doing this everyday for a few minutes will make a big difference to our brains and how we negotiate life from moment to moment. If you are interested in the brain changes brought about by mindfulness, check out the link to “Your Brain on Mindfulness” and “The Neurobiology of Mindfulness” on my website.

In this New Year, may you do some healthy gasping in awe of life’s wonders!



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Keeping in Perspective

There’s nothing quite like watching a film or reading a novel that shares a tale of great tragedy and heartache to help you remember what is truly important – keeping things in perspective.

Tonight, a friend and I went and watched the Naomi Watts / Ewan the-impossible-posterMcGregor film The Impossible.  We knew little about the film going into it, and in hindsight may have picked a different more cheerful film for the night.  The original plan was to see Bill Murray in Hyde Park on the Hudson, but poor reviews had us concerned so we made a last minute swap.

For those of you unfamiliar with the premise of The Impossible, let me share, the story follows one family torn apart during the tsunami that hit Thailand on December 26th, 2006.  The film is based on a true story, which always makes watching it that much more intense – this isn’t just someone’s imagination at work this really happened to those people.

For me personally, I think it is necessary to watch or read stories such as these to help keep me grounded.  Often, I find myself getting nose-close to my problems or concerns and forgetting the big picture – how simple life truly is.  Life is about living and loving, if you are doing and feeling those two things really nothing else matters.

There will always be someone out there that has it worse off, and I am not suggesting that anyone compare themselves to someone else.  However, I do think a teaspoon of gritty, honest reality is healthy to keep us all in check.

Films like these make me want to go home and hug those I love, including the dog.  But it shouldn’t just be a film making you feel these things it should be ominpresent, always there.

So next time you talk to someone you care for, tell them you love them.  Next time you see someone you care for, hug them.  You never know the difference that action will make for them or even for yourself, you never know when that will be the last opportunity you get to express your love.

LOVEThere will always been problems, heartache, death, and everything in between but if we lose sight of LOVE then we truly lose everything.  Many scientists believe that what sets us apart from the animal kingdom is our ability to think and reason, but I would propose that it is our ability to feel and most importantly to love.

Even though tonight it took a film so raw and intense my abs hurt, I’m appreciative of the reminder.



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