Belief Systems

Once a month this year, I'm going to share a more personal story with you on the blog in a column called Heart and Soul. This month, my story is about changing my belief systems around what my value is as a person. Heart and Soul a personal narrative column on Sweet Eventide blog

During the times when I've been ill with lymphoma, I had to find ways to believe that I still had value as a person. It isn't easy for me to say out loud that I didn't believe I had value, but it's true. I felt useless. In addition, I had to learn anew every time I had lymphoma. Sometimes, I learned again in between but forgot because the old beliefs are a strong, well-used muscle and the new beliefs were little baby muscles that I forgot to keep using.

What I'm learning now is that the new beliefs "didn't stick" each time because of a couple of big things: a cultural belief that our value is defined by what we produce or what we earn (or both), and a subconscious belief that I'm not enough or I'm not worthy or I'm not valuable (or all three). Truth be told, it took a lot of conscious effort and support from loved ones when I was ill to believe in my value.

Guess what? I consciously realized yesterday that my new-found value beliefs go away once I'm healthy. When I'm healthy, I go right into Prove It Mode. I set out to prove my value, to prove I can be productive and helpful, to prove my gratitude and to give back to those who cared for me again. As a result, my self-esteem goes up and up and up. However, it's built upon a shoddy foundation of the old belief that my value is defined by what I produce. I hadn't realized this pattern until now.*

I'm honestly relieved that I realized this eight months into my recent recovery instead of years from now. I can repair my foundation more easily because the new belief system is more recent. I thought this year I had work to do around under earning and now I see that's only the obvious layer of this issue of value. The real emotional and psychological work on value is not really about money. It's also much more sad to face. It's hard to admit these things, to say clearly I don't totally, wholly believe that I have value. Ignoring it doesn't make it go away though. So I made myself a big reminder.

handwritten watercolor affirmations about belief systems by jessica nichols

I'm going to do this deep work. It takes more than a handwritten list of affirmations, I know that. Yet, it's a start. It's a visible reminder to do this work. Again and again and again until I've chipped away at the old foundation until it's gone and replaced by a new solid foundation. Tara Mohr's book Playing Big has been recommended to me. I'm going to dive in this weekend.

* I'm working with Megan of Tended Wealth on personal finances and she is compassionately assisting me with these realizations on my belief systems. I cannot recommend her enough if you have work to do around money!

My 2016 Word of the Year

Happy new year! I'm going to tell you the story of the word I chose to guide me this year. It's a little long, so go pour a cuppa, but it all makes sense in the end.

Tree in Snow on Mt. Hood in Oregon

My journey to my word of the year started back on Winter Solstice, although I didn't know it then. This was my second year doing a small Winter Solstice ceremony. Last year, I wrote down a list of things I wanted to release and burned them in a bonfire. This year, I smudged myself and did a verbal release. My list was very short: I released any need cancer has ever filled in my life, and I released any need to hold on to that identity going forward. Then I welcomed in what I desired which was to be healthy and whole in mind, body and spirit. When I was all done smudging, I pulled an animal medicine card and it was the Swan card: grace.

Photograph of the Swan animal medicine card illustration

It tells the story of a little swan who wants to visit the Dreamtime, but  Dragonfly, the guardian of the Dreamtime, tells her she is only able to enter once she is willing "to accept whatever the future holds as it is presented, without trying to change Great Spirit's plan." She agrees "to surrender to the flow of the spiral and trust" what she is shown in the Dreamtime. When she emerges afterwards, the Dragonfly is stunned by her transformation. Swan explains that because of her acceptance, she was changed and she learned to "accept the state of grace."

The next two paragraphs I read that night gave me chills, considering what I had released during my smudging moments before.

"So it is we learn to surrender to the grace of the rhythm of the universe, and slip from our physical bodies into the Dreamtime. Swan medicine teaches us to be at one with all planes of consciousness, and to trust in Great Sprit's protection.

If you pulled Swan, it ushers in a time of altered states of awareness and of development of your intuitive abilities. Swan medicine people have the ability to see the future, to surrender to the power of Great Spirit, and to accept the healing and transformation of their lives." (I underlined the part that nearly made me faint.)

So I sat with this reading for a bit and then the holidays happened. The new year arrived and with it my thoughts for my word for 2016. I started choosing a word for the year in 2014. That year and last year, a word came to mind quite easily. This year, not so much. I came up with a trio of words to guide my work life for 2016 easily, but I was quite stuck on a personal word. Susannah Conway's email course, Find Your Word, was recommended to me so I signed up. It was truly helpful and a wonderful process that I recommend to anyone. It doesn't matter that it's January 12th either, you make the rules.

Find Your Word 2016 email course with Susannah Conway

First I did a guided visualization on my ideal day. Then, a series of questions about the coming year: what is happening, what I hope to happen, what dreams I want to nurture, what areas of my life need support, what qualities I want to develop in myself and finally, what does my heart need.

From these exercises, plus a long list of suggestions, I made a list of 16 possibilities and then narrowed my list to six words: Power, Peace, Grace, Grow, Golden and Pride. For each word, I wrote how I define the word, what it feels like, synonyms and the dictionary definition. Now the hard part, simmering on the words. I eliminated a few easily: Peace, Pride and Grow. I loved Golden, but decided to make it a color guide for the year instead. So it was down to two: Power and Grace.

These seemed like very opposite words to me, two different directions to go in and both were calling to me. Power meant physical strength, big energy, and financial power. (My husband and I have begun a big money transformation over the past few months so this meaning appeals to me). Power felt awesome, inspiring, hard but worth it. Grace meant soft, polished, elegant, and feminine. Grace felt intuitive, lovely and serendipitous (due to my pulling of that medicine card).

In the end, I went back to the question, "What qualities do I want to develop in myself this year?" My answers were forgiveness, softness, gentleness, confidence and respect. This question is how I have used my word of the year in the past to guide me. It's a very internal thing for me. After sleeping on it last night, and talking it out with two trusted friends, I made my decision.

2016 word of year for Jessica Nichols

And there you have it, a very long story about my word for the year! I put the word in gold glitter to start incorporating the golden word I didn't choose (which meant warm, shiny, magical, magic hour, light and delicious to me). I hope you enjoyed hearing the story.

Do you choose a word for the year? I would love to know, please leave me a comment and tell me about it.

Being a Giver

After I healed from radiation, I had enormous amounts of energy and a desire to give back to everyone who helped me through my relapse. The day after my last radiation treatment, I chaperoned a two-mile walking field trip for my son's class. That was the level I was jumping in at. During the summer heat waves, I found this happy place on the Clackamas River, it was an easy 30-minute drive from home, a short trail walk, a shaded area near a cold, uncrowded bend in the river. There I sat, thinking of a family friend who had been diagnosed with liver cancer in May, right around when I was seeing rapid results from radiation. I felt so good in that spot on the river that I thought it would be very healing for our friend too. Thus began a journey from which I am now needing to restore myself. clackamas river oregon

Somehow our friend did pack himself  and his little Chihuahua up in the car and drive from Arizona to Oregon. I dove right in to setting him up with my oncology team and attending all of his appointments with him. It was the typical newly-diagnosed whirlwind of scans, tests, consultations, etc. At the exact same time all of this was going on, school started and my role on the Board of Directors there became a high priority as we were in the process of hiring a new Executive Director. For five weeks, from Labor Day through mid-October, I gave everyone my all. If I was not at the oncologist's office as a caregiver, I was in interviews with candidates. One evening, we managed to take our friend on an evening picnic to the very spot in the bend in the river where I had the idea for him to move to Oregon.

And then, it all ended. Our friend died unexpectedly two days before he was scheduled for his first treatment on October 16th. The Board finished up the all the rounds of interviews and made a decision on October 22nd. Then we went on a quick weekend trip to California for a family birthday on October 24th. Last week, I started saying no to almost every request made of me. An empty cup quenches no one's thirst is a phrase that has been ringing in my ear for years, but especially now. I am not sure how long it will take me to come back to neutral. I'm not there yet because even simple requests for information around home make me edgy. I want to screech every time someone speaks to me* but instead I go for walks, I buy a ridiculous number of beautiful pumpkins, I go to pretty cafes, I take baths with tons of lavender essential oil. Yesterday, I even got a spontaneous massage when by 11 am, I just couldn't even do Monday, you know? I just couldn't do it.

I possibly derailed my recovery by signing up for NaNoWriMo, I'm not sure yet whether that was brilliant or idiotic. I've longed to do more writing for many years. I was a writer long before I was a photographer or an artist. I'm revisiting a magical trip to Italy with my grandmother in 1999, two years before she died. I've got the photo album on my desk. It's hard work, but I've dreamed of writing the story of that trip for years. I've got three books I want to read right now too: Overcoming Underearning, Daring Greatly and Rework. My paintings have not been touched since September. I have squeezed in some new work when I could.

I do not regret all that I gave of myself. I felt absolutely compelled to help our family friend, although my naturopath gave me quite a look when I went in for a checkup. Her look said, "You were a caregiver for a cancer patient four months after finishing cancer treatment? What?" In addition to the caregiving and the Board work, I signed up for every meal train that was needed since I was the lucky recipient of a meal train earlier this year. I also help with the middle school art program every Friday at my son's school.

I'll be honest, there were some costs for all this giving I did. My house is a wreck. Well this weekend, I got the main level in shape and I felt so much better. My office upstairs is still a mess but I don't have it in me yet to fix it up. I cleaned out the fridge last week and found stuff from Labor Day weekend still in there. Ewww, that's not my style. When I'm giving that much to others, I have to protect myself and cleaning and cooking fell to the bottom of my priorities. But the biggest cost has been needing to be alone while I restore myself. Some things stayed high on my priorities, like going to sleep by 10:30 p.m. almost every single day. I also did some things for myself like attend the Hello Sessions and start physical therapy for some aches and pains leftover from the months spent in bed this spring.

southwest charter school middle school aerosol art field work

It's so sad that despite all I have given, there is still a voice in my head criticizing me for all that I haven't managed to do, especially when it comes to my work. It takes what little reserves of energy I've got left to shush that voice. But I'm never giving up on me, so hopefully no one else will either. That mean voice in my head can suck it, that's for sure. When I follow my heart and my intuition, I don't go wrong.

Probably I am not succeeding at not screeching as often as I hope.

Ozette Loop in Olympic National Park, Part 2

We woke up in our tent to the sound of gentle rain. Ahh, what a lovely way to wake up. Except that we had to pack up our wet gear and hike the next section in said rain. The hike in was on a beautiful boardwalk through the forest and our group covered the three miles in about an hour. "Where's today's hike?" we started wondering, realizing we didn't see a trail marker anywhere on our way in. "Oh! We hike along the coast for three miles." "Oh."  "We hike along the coast for three miles."

With our packs. In the rain. On six inches of squishy sea vegetables or slippery rocks with barnacles.


Sea Vegetables | photo by Jessica Nichols, Sweet Eventide Photography

So there are zero pictures of the actual hike. It took 3.5 hours to go the three miles. It was actually very Zen. Every step could cause a fall and a twisted ankle so you could only focus on the moment. Or stabilize yourself to see what was coming next, how much farther we had to go (there was no way to tell). It was definitely the most strenuous hike I have ever been on and it was flat. However, we eventually did arrive at Cape Alava and scored an incredible camping site! Photos galore!

Lightweight Camping Chair | photo by Jessica Nichols, Sweet Eventide Photography

The Noodle carried a 28-lb. pack and when we arrived, we opened the chair immediately.

Our Campsite View at Cape Alava | photo by Jessica Nichols, Sweet Eventide Photography

Our reward -- the skies cleared and we had this view!

More Found Objects | photo by Jessica Nichols, Sweet Eventide Photography

I saw a pile of these found objects so I put them on display.

Sunset at Cape Alava | photo by Jessica Nichols, Sweet Eventide Photography

Shortly after sunset, we tucked ourselves in bed.

Tent View at Cape Alava | photo by Jessica Nichols, Sweet Eventide Photography

The view from our tent at Cape Alava.

The Gift of the Boardwalk | photo by Jessica Nichols, Sweet Eventide Photography

The beautiful boardwalk on the hike out, we love you boardwalk!

Stay tuned for the photos from the Osett Memorial to an ancient Makah village. Part one of our backpacking trip is here if you missed it.

Ozette Loop in Olympic National Park, Part 1

My husband, son and I recently completed our first backpacking trip with friends. We backpacked the Ozette Loop in Olympic National Park. I have wanted to visit Olympic National Park since 2013 when my sister-in-law went and told us all about it. For part one, I will share photos from the first leg of the trip, where we drove six hours to the starting point and then hiked three miles to the Sand Point camp site in one hour and set up camp in the late afternoon. ozette loop (11 of 55)

Sand Point beach

Sunset at Sand Point camp site

The Forest at Sand Point

Found Objects at Sand Point

Magic Light at Sand Point

Stay tuned for part two, the story of the rugged hike and the second camp site called Cape Alava.


Determination: firmness of purpose sunset portland oregon summer

Since I last posted, I have been to the depths of despair and back again. This fifth journey through lymphoma was painful, literally and figuratively. I have never seen cancer the way I did this time. I was stuck in bed, watching it grow. My husband, family and friends got me through each difficult day. We tried so many things to heal me. We finally found a treatment that was stronger than the lymphoma. It was hard to tolerate, but worth it. Since finishing treatment, I have been embracing life! Walking, swimming in lakes and rivers, painting, etc. I have been eating whatever I want too! I am rebounding. It's been two months since treatment ended. I'm still finding my way, figuring things out, unsure of my future, grateful for every minute I can bend at will, jump, walk -- everything I could not do for months.

As for my work? Who knows. I am my work and my work is me. HOW I share it and live from it is another story to be written. I wanted to capture some of my thoughts here, tonight. I cannot compare myself to anyone else, any more. It serves zero purpose, even though I do try sometimes. I am determined to live fully, with love and in color. That's all I know for sure.

Just Start (again)

Instead of continually NOT posting because I have so much to say and no idea where to begin, and inspired by Tiffany Han's podcast about just starting, I'm here. I'm starting. Again. Just Start

I'm simply going to say that I am in extreme learning mode since my relapse. I'm learning how to eat way healthier than I have ever eaten before. This takes a lot of time! I'm new to it and I'm not efficient yet. I'm learning how to let my heart lead the way instead of letting my mind be in charge all the time. This takes a lot of courage! I'm learning how to fit my work into all of this and it's not easy. It is not coming effortlessly or naturally. I have had a lot of upheaval in 2014, starting in May when we began our house hunting process. Work has been pushed largely to the back burner these past few months. I'm trying to be patient with myself and not compare how my business is (or is not) positioned for holiday sales this year. It's hard though. I do have a pretty calendar for 2015 ready for your gifting needs! I am proud of it and that I made it happen.

An Untold Story of My Life

When I found out about my relapse, after I moved through the grief and shock, I wondered on an energetic level why cancer would return to my life after such a long remission. I asked a trusted friend for guidance and she asked me what untold stories I had inside. I knew right away that the biggest untold story in my life is about my relationship with my mom, who has been absent from my life since I was very young. It is time to share the story. After my friend asked me that question, I decided with utter confidence to contact my mom at the last known email address that I had for her to find out once and for all the real story of how and why she left me. I told her there was nothing she could say that would scare me. My mom's husband replied quickly to my email and said my questions were a shock but that a letter would arrive soon. I was deeply happy to know the email address was valid and the communication process had begun. I felt like a little girl as I checked my mailbox every day. The letter arrived and my mom explained everything to me with sincere and plain honesty. It was a very sad story and I finally learned that she always did love me and that not raising me and being estranged from me broke her spirit in terrible ways for most of her life. At the end of her letter, she asked if I thought I would ever come to a place of forgiveness. Instantly, I emailed to tell her that I completely forgave her. It was the lightest, easiest and most free decision for me to make. It was an utter relief to know the truth finally and I knew it was time for both of us to heal.

nissa morning

Shortly afterwards, on November 6th (a full moon), I met with a shaman for energy healing work to restore the buried and hurt parts of me from losing my mom as a young girl. When I was originally diagnosed with lymphoma, my intuition at that time that told me there was a connection between that parent/child relationship and my health. I worked with a hypnotherapist and healed my relationship with my father, from whom I had been estranged for a year before he died. I trusted myself this time too (see step 6 here) and I knew it was time to heal my other parent/child relationship in order to release all this deep, emotional pain that had been stored in my body for my entire life.

My work with the shaman actually ended up centering largely on how my mind works tirelessly to keep my heart safe from pain and this has actually enabled me to survive many things. However, my brain needs to work with my heart and soul now. We came up with a plan for me to claim space for my heart and my emotions so they don't get brushed aside where they can do me harm. My biggest fear going in to the meeting was that I would cry in front of her. I can cry fairly easily when frustrated but it's very difficult for me to release tears of deep sadness. Guess what? I started weeping at the door while she was smudging me. It was the start to a vulnerable, powerful and very emotional journey.

dear brain

After I left Nissa's house, the beautiful shaman,  I took a lot of time to get home. I stopped in the St. Johns neighborhood, a place I've driven by and through many times but never stopped. I followed my heart to a boutique, a vintage shop and an awesome camera shop. When I got home, there was an email from my mom with this photo that she had kept all this time. I had never seen it before. It is the sweetest gift.

mom and me

I never expected to find myself in this place where I am now. It's a peaceful place of curiosity. My mom and I are continuing to exchange letters and emails. All the anger of my childhood and indifference in my adulthood towards my mom has evaporated. I'm getting to know her now, at the age of 44. It's remarkable.

It has taken me 40 years to find the courage to ask my mom how she could leave me and a month to find the courage to share our story. Vulnerability is hard work but I'm learning time and time again that it's worth it. My name is Jess and I'm not a motherless daughter anymore.

Official Before Photos

We have had a lot of work done to our new house in the past 10 days: we had the basement waterproofed, radon remediation, electrical repairs and the downstairs hardwood floors are almost done being refinished. I took official before photos of every room in the house last week. living room before

Although we loved the look of the bare, sanded white oak floors, there was no way to finish it to that color so instead we went dark with an antique brown. We got a sneak peek through the front door yesterday which I shared on Instagram. Our flooring contractors have been fantastic to work with and very patient with me while I asked over and over, are you sure the clear will change the color of the wood? Answer: "Even licking it will change the color of the wood." ;)

Hopefully Saturday, I can take a few moments away to get after photos of the downstairs to show the floors. The attic, which is where my office will be, has more work to go. I made a royal mess painting up there because I didn't cover the floors. I ripped out the carpet and discovered hardwood floors painted an icky brown. So I knew I'd want to paint them so I didn't cover them while painting the walls. That was a huge mistake because I ran out of time to paint the floors before we move in. Yikes! I've never been such a messy painter, I really lost my mind there on that one. After I take some after photos, I'm going to work on cleaning up my mess as best as I can so I can move in.

Our movers arrive in 47 hours! Gotta go finish packing! Do you need to catch up on house posts? You can find them here: part one,  part two and part three.

Charming Details

The home we purchased was built in 1925 and there are many original, and charming, details still going strong inside. doorknobcopper sink


Today I took proper before photographs of the entire interior. I know we plan to paint and have the floors refinished and that alone makes for a fun before and after. I still need to photograph the basement, there is a lot of work happening down there starting next week. We move in in 9 days!

Follow along on our house adventure each day on Instagram: @sweeteventide.

Interior Photos of the New House

As promised, here are some photos of the interior of our new house! I haven't been inside for awhile so I'm assuming the seller will be removing the personal items you can see in some of these photos. living room

This is the main living space, you can see a clawfoot tub back there in the hallway.

dining room

This is the dining room, it is much smaller than the one in our rental for the past three years.


This is the kitchen, small but very functional with tons of storage.

Overall we are downsizing from a large farmhouse-style home to a cottage-style home. Every space is smaller: living room, dining room, kitchen and bedrooms. Our rental was a two-story home with a finished attic, a bonus room and a huge basement. Our new house is a one-story home with a finished attic and a huge basement. We are losing our guest room and both offices. Jeff's office will go in the basement, to be finished someday. My office will go into the attic. We are going from 1.5 bathrooms to 2 bathrooms, and believe me, 2-bath houses were rare in our search.

Stay tuned next week for photos of some of the charming details and the house hunting story in more detail.

Did you miss the first post about the house? You can find it here.

In Escrow

In mid-May, my husband and I began the home buying process here. This was our intention when we left California, to move to Portland and eventually quit renting and become homeowners. Our timing on this process was less than ideal as the market has changed substantially since we moved here in 2011. It is now a seller's market and buying a home in a seller's market is not something I would wish on anyone. I will write a separate post about what we went through, but know that this process has consumed nearly every moment of my days since May 12th. However, we are in the final days of escrow on a home and I wanted to share a few Instagrams on my blog this week as it is all feeling more real now. chimney

The chimney with an S on it. We'd like to DIY it into a J.

ginko tree

There is a ginko tree in the back yard! For two years, I have vowed when I bought a house that I would plant a ginko tree. Well I didn't even notice it when we made the offer on the house, I noticed it during one of the inspections!


There is a custom greenhouse in the backyard! Honestly, it was a totally unexpected, and dreamy, bonus.

We are moving to a totally different neighborhood of Portland, but one we have spent lots of time in. It is closer to school, so less of a commute also. Our number one goal in our house hunt was a neighborhood where families are outside hanging out with kids close to the Noodle's age. Our new neighborhood scores high on that goal.

I will share some interior photos later this week in a separate post. If you can't wait, you can always search my hashtag on Instagram: #theJsnewhouse.

In Honor of Maya Angelou

It took me 10 years to put myself through college, there were many semesters that I wondered if it was worth all the struggle. To be honest, there have still been times over the past 16 years since graduation when I wondered if was worth it. However, yesterday when I found out the world had lost Maya Angelou, I knew it was worth it. It was in the final few years of my college experience when I was introduced to Maya's work. Her words busted my heart open to myself. She was one of the first women who helped me to own my voice, use it in my writing and love myself in that way. maya quote web small

I was so moved by those words yesterday. I paused. I reflected. I shared on my personal Facebook that "In Maya's honor, today I stand proud of myself for all that I have overcome in my life, starting from way back in 1974. I rarely give myself credit, rarely acknowledge it all. It can be uncomfortable, yet therein lies my strength."

Someone asked me "What happened in 1974?" You see, I was born in 1970 and 1974 is the year my parents got divorced and my mom left me. That is the year everything changed for me. I don't remember the years between 1974 and 1978 very well, I have glimpses of things in between. I've always called it a "swiss cheese memory." And I have been overcoming things ever since, all my life. Haven't we all?

As I said on Facebook, I want to be stronger, lighter and more free with every passing moment.

Thank you Maya for everything you have taught me and for all I still have to learn. For now, today, I stand proud of myself.

P.S. This poem of Maya's, "When Great Trees Fall" was extremely soothing to me yesterday.  Did you know I used to have a series called Friday Poems on my blog? When I read poetry, I feel called to write. When I read Maya Angelou's work, I feel called to write. I was a writer long before I was a photographer.

Love Makes the World Go Around

I believe love (and art and flowers) makes the world go around. red rose photograph text graphic

Valentine's Day is a natural time to introduce you to one of my favorite companies online right now, So Worth Loving. I discovered them on Instagram last fall and I received their yummy hoodie as a Christmas gift from my husband.

So Worth Loving company, Free to Be poster

Every day on the SWL Instagram feed, I am treated to wonderful reminders about the importance of living with love for yourself, daily lessons in being kind and gentle and forgiving. Please gift yourself the time to click on the SWL about page and watch the adorable Eryn Eddy explain her company and what it's all about.

Textual excerpt:

It's not about your relationship status.

You're worth so much more.

So how do you define yourself?


Happy Chinese New Year! Happy Year of the Horse!

Xi Nian Kuai Le!

Happy Chinese New Year!

Schleich horse and knight photograph by Jessica Nichols

I am really excited about Chinese New Year this year. Why? This article explaining the meaning of the Year of the Horse and what led us here resonated with me on a deep level. I feel I have been through two years of "degeneration, dissolution and chaos" while I adjusted to life in a new state and struggling with different issues in all facets of life: family, motherhood, business, health, loss of various kinds. I have been soaked, sometimes drowning, in water for two years.

And now, I have shed my skin as the Year of the Snake was ending. I said goodbye to some clutter, cleared some space; I've started trying new things, driving new routes, and saying yes to things my intuition was voting for without letting my head take over too much. It turns out I actually started this intuitive work last year. It turns out it has been leading me right to now.

The Year of the Horse is "a year to follow your inner voice like never before."

I feel so ready.

Let's gallop!

Quiet Beauty of Winter

Are you feeling the pressure -- to do the decorating, the making, the baking, the buying, the wrapping, the organizing, the traveling, the everything? I am starting to feel it but I yearn to pause and see the quiet beauty of winter. Bare Tree Winter Branches Golden Snow Photograph

This post is permission for you to stop, take a deep breath (smell the roses through your nose, blow out the candle through your mouth) and simply be still for a few moments. Tell someone how much you love them today, let someone ahead of you in line, have cereal for dinner and cut yourself some slack.

I hope you have whatever kind of weekend you need right now: productive, social, quiet, calm, organized or spontaneous.

P.S. Don't forget to enter my postcard giveaway this weekend!

The Declaration of You: Success

Special note: The Declaration of You, published by North Light Craft Books, is available now and gives readers all the permission they've craved to step passionately into their lives, discover how they and their gifts are unique and uncover what they are meant to do! This post is part of The Declaration of You's BlogLovin' Tour, which I'm honored to participate in alongside over 300 other creative bloggers. Learn more -- and join in by clicking here.

When I was approached to contribute to The Declaration of You BlogLovin’ Tour on the topic of success, I said “Absolutely!” immediately after reading the email. And immediately after that, I thought, “OMFG.”

I am not even going to lie to you all, that is exactly what I thought. Exactly like this lady, whose photo someone didn't keep, thereby enabling me to buy it at an antique store and pin it above my desk for moments just like this.

The reason I had such a wild set of reactions is due to the ongoing conflict that exists between my heart and my head. My heart said YES without any hesitation whatsoever. Then, my head bullied its way in and took over for awhile.

This is what I wrote when I accepted the invitation to write about success for the BlogLovin' Tour:

“Success is a challenging topic for me in some ways but not others, so I'm grateful for the lead time to think.”

After preparing to write this post, I have a renewed clarity and sense of authenticity around success. I will tell you what success means to me. But first let me tell you about how I recently lost my way.

For the past three months, I have narrowly and wholly defined success as getting an A+ on a Giant Metric Test Fest (so that I could then advance to the Giant Consumerist Society Test Fest). You see, I had made a business plan for Sweet Eventide Photography, and I had outlined my goals for the second quarter of this year (in a gouache painting no less). Then I dutifully began doing a number of things that I thought would help me meet these goals:

I was blogging consistently on my pretty new blog/portfolio website!

I was including a short description before my photos to improve my SEO!

I was creating and launching a new product that represented my mission!

I was out shooting new work!

I was making treasuries to increase my visibility on Etsy!

I was trying to think like my customer!

I was actively maintaining my Facebook page by asking questions and posting a photo with my links in the comments!

I was still dealing with the Chris Benz/Lancôme/Saks copyright infringement drama!

(Oh wait, that wasn't one of my quarterly or annual goals)!

Hold up, wait a minute, let me put some boom in it!

(Sorry I couldn’t resist.)

Do you know what I was not doing in April, May or June?

I was not making the quarterly goals!

I was flunking the Giant Metric Test Fest!

I was not selling a damn thing!

Okay, that’s an exaggeration. I sold 12 things over these three months. That is an average of one, yes, ONE sale per week. One sale per week does not a thriving, profitable business make. I was very aware of this fact every excruciating minute of the second quarter of 2013. I was studying my ass off but failing the Giant Metric Test Fest anyway.

While I was not making enough sales and when I was not throwing my hands in the air, I was either reading the umpteenth article on how to run my business or obsessively refreshing my stats. Over the past year, I have purposefully created a symbiotic relationship between me and my business. I even made a Venn diagram to illustrate how I was in the middle between my life and my business. You see, I want to have an authentic, soulful business because I am an authentic, soulful human. This is a lofty idea but it can cause trouble if you’re not careful. I was not careful and I was defining myself by Sweet Eventide’s success or failure. (Although it took writing this post to realize that is exactly what happened.)

Towards the end of the Giant Metric Test Fest, I got the request to write about success. I also happened to have a light bulb moment about my need to divorce information, because the way I consume information comes from a place of lacking and it divorces me from my heart.

I do not want to be divorced from my heart. because my heart knows that the kind of success that is not a challenge for me to think and write about is life success. It is only when I measure myself against the standard, traditional life path that I come up wildly short. I didn’t go through college in four years, I didn’t choose a degree that led to a career where I worked my way up the ladder, I didn’t get married, buy a house, have two kids, in that order and build a nest egg all along the way.

No, instead I took 10 years to get through college. I married the wrong person the first time. I bought a starter house and went back to renting instead of upgrading. I am building a business around a passion and a gift and it has nothing to do with my degree. So maybe I don’t have all that career and money success stuff figured out yet, but guess what? I have some important life success stuff figured out already.

I know that being in a four-year durable remission has allowed me to graduate to annual oncology checkups, without scans. This is a special, incomparable level of success for a cancer survivor.

I know that my second marriage is based on love, friendship, respect, admiration, honesty and awesome communication and it has a solid decade behind it as a foundation for the future decades.

I know that my son is growing up in a stable home with two loving parents, who make mistakes and admit them, try new things and get help when it is needed.

I know that the incredible, wise and utterly beautiful circle of family and friends that surround me offline and online are a clear reflection of incredible, wise and utterly beautiful ME.

I know that when I listen to my heart and trust it, I am not only on the right path. I am on the only path that matters.

I know that I'm on the right path when one of my lovely customers said, "Your stuff is stunning. Seriously. What you are giving to the world is beautiful and thought provoking. That's what you need to focus on and remember. I spend 10 hours a day in a grey cubicle doing meaningless work. But it pays the bills, right? You are infusing the world with glorious and uplifting images."

I know that when I choose self-care over housework that I have made a good choice that day.

I know that when I open the door and invite people into my wabi sabi home for good company or a simple meal that I have made a better choice that day.

I know that when I keep my patience and encourage my child, or any child, that I have made the best choice that day.

I know that when I tell my son that anger is powerful and scary but love is more powerful and infinitely stronger that I am giving him a gift that I did not receive as a child.

I know that every day, no matter how little sleep I have gotten or what is ahead of me, that I wake up and open my eyes with an internal sense of hope and optimism that my wonky life path has never managed to squash.

I know to look for light and beauty everywhere I go because I have seen plenty of darkness and ugliness.

I know that when a life ends, metrics and money are meaningless.

I know that on the Giant Life Test Fest, I have earned my A+ and that is how I define success!

You can watch The Declaration of You book trailer right here!

Thank you Michelle and Jessica from the bottom of my heart for inviting me to be a part of your colorful, beautiful BlogLovin' Tour!

Hello from Portland

Hello from Portland!

hydrangeas in our front garden

What an emotionally and physically draining few weeks it has been for The Js! Leaving California was really hard but we did it and we arrived in Portland six days ago now. We're getting acclimated, unpacking and making this house a home slowly but surely. We put in a tree swing and a hammock on our front porch -- priorities, right? We met some neighbors yesterday on the 4th of July and Jeff's mom arrives tomorrow evening -- we couldn't be more excited to have our first visitor. 

The good news is I am finally to a place where I can blog again regularly. 
How has everyone been?!

Weather Report

There has been very stormy weather here at my house in the past week, and unfortunately the forecast continues to show unstable weather patterns, mostly cloudy with some intermittent bursts of sunshine.

climbing ivy in Puerto Morelos

All kidding aside, I must admit it is a major shock to be home from vacation. The Noodle is out of school and I didn't line up anything for our summer past Mexico, so it's just me and him for endless hours each day. I've got some bug again, I'm enrolled in a totally amazing but rather overwhelming e-course as well as my ongoing career crisis. I'm trying to tackle that one with the help of the awesome Michelle Ward via some group coaching sessions all summer. 

I have other commitments that I made that I'm struggling to fulfill, plus we don't know if we can keep our rental house for another school year or only part of it which dramatically affects our decisions about where to live, so my husband and I have that huge decision to tackle as well as all these other things. I know all of this stress won't last forever but I am feeling super overwhelmed.

Thanks for listening friends...

Bubblegum Dreams

My Noodle was in his first bike race this weekend and after we went out for lunch. Here is the first scoop of bubblegum ice cream of the season. 

Do you see me there in the spoon?!

I loved bubblegum ice cream as a little girl and I still like it because it's full of delicious surprise treats. Actually, it reminds me of my life this week:

Surprise #1: one of my blogging classmates posted about me on her blog Hettle this morning.

Surprise #2:  Sarah featured me today in her Etsy Treasury These Make Me Smile. Treasuries only stay on Etsy for a limited time, so click quickly. :)

Surprise #3: we are waiting on a job offer to come today. I'm hoping it will be a pleasant surprise, not an unpleasant one like I have dreamed the past two nights.

Surprise #4: I am beginning a new class Unravelling and I am so curious what I will discover about myself in the next eight weeks. I bet there will be some surprises.

Surprise #5: The Noodle is turning six this week. I hope I surprise myself and pull off a worthy celebration for him.