Tag Archives: vocation

Getting the paws wet

In order for my artwork to raise enough money to be of any help to the animal rescue groups I support, I have to get my stuff “out there” for folks to see it. Self-promotion is not my strong suit. I am helpful for a living, but not in a look-at-me kind of way. It’s always been me encouraging my groups to shine and I stand back against the wall to give them the spotlight like a proud mama. As a musician, I’m not the Diva; I’m the accompanist who makes the Diva look really good when she performs.

So learning how to promote my art has probably more emotional and mental reprogramming hurdles to get past than learning curves on the tech.

Still, my brain is going full-tilt learning how to use ads and boosts and other such marketing jargon for the various platforms my artwork is “out there” on. I boosted my first ever studio post on Facebook this week and am running my first ever ad campaign on Amazon. I have put up posts on Pinterest and Instagram, which means now those platforms are trying to get me to spend more money I haven’t made yet on ads on their platforms. Seriously, dudes. I have to see how the first attempt goes before expanding and I also have to make sales.

Since the whole point of the venture is to learn how to do this properly so that I can then transition to creating products specifically for the nonprofits I work with as fundraisers where the funds go directly into their own accounts and all they have to do is promote what was gifted to them, I need to know how this works. Most likely, I will have to do the whole thing just to get the rescues and churches up to speed and then train someone how to monitor it and keep it going.

I am asking my Caffeinated Music followers, fans and fellow nonprofit folks who “get” what I’m trying to do for their assistance.

If I don’t have a good showing, how in the world will I convince the places I serve that this is a viable idea for fundraising? Churches and animal rescues run purely on donations and the work of many hands of passionate people. I can only donate so many hours in a day, but what I can do is to create something replicable that can be sold with little to no effort on the part of the agency themselves, yet stands to potentially be very successful as a sustaining operation.

I want to keep designing things like the planners, journals and coloring books and am definitely NOT using crappy PLR stuff like the garbage that I see multiplied everywhere. Honestly, lack of originality offends my creative ethic. I design my things from scratch.

What I need is for folks who also have passions for pets and their favourite nonprofit groups to help me make this all work by sharing my Facebook post, my Instagram posts, my Pins, and my BigBlackDogStudio information.

The animal rescue 2020 Dog Lover Planners are out on Amazon at this point. The Cat Lover one with its own set of original artwork is nearly done and hopefully will be up by next week. After that, I am going to do one for Church Music Directors and Ensembles. Not a catchy title, I know, so I have to work on that. I am also compiling the best of my Miss Ryan’s Guides for another whole line for students.

Please will y’all give me a hand up with this major undertaking?

LIKE my studio’s Facebook page and share the posts with your friends, please?

FOLLOW and LIKE my Instagram posts and share them?

PIN my Pinterest thingees?

Maybe even subscribe to my Furday News weekly mailing list where subscribers get freebie design pages for coloring. Pet-centric, of course!

Maybe even BUY a planner or two? They are under $10 and will make quick and easy gifts for all the dog lovers on your lists. GET THEM on Amazon:

I don’t run ads on my Caffeinated Music domains because I think it looks way more trashy and disruptive than it would ever make a few random dollars. Thank you to anyone to feels my heart’s wish to make this a success for the fur babies and helps out! Mu-wah!!!!!

Next up will be the CAT LOVER PLANNERS!

Four cover options are available on our 2020 Dog Lover Planners!

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Diva flashback to the Mozart Alleluia

So, I am working on some projects from home and one of them has to do with using video for things like web conferences, one-on-one’s and such that thanks to the magic of the internet, we no longer have to drive anywhere to “meet” with clients. Part of what I needed to do was to look back at my old YouTube channel that was started way back in 2008 or 2009 when this blog started and carefully examine it for modern things like metadata, descriptions and keywords.

At the time I did the videos, they were for the purpose of teaching my choirs and musicians songs through demonstration, and putting them up on a quick video meant the person could practice as much as they wanted at home during the week. If this is your first day with me, I’ll cut you slack on not knowing this unshakeable pillar of my music as ministry philosophy:

Thou shalt not sight-read for Jesus on Sunday, but shall prepare thyself first privately and then with thy fellow music team members before leading worship in community.

Ten years ago, I was also using Windows XP and the original MovieMaker (best software ever) that Microsoft discontinued. The jerks. Still not happy about that which is why when my Windows 7 laptop fritzed this spring, I finally bailed on PC and made the switch to a Mac mini. Now, I am learning to use iMovie to edit video. In the meantime, I use my little iPhone 4S with no editing. Hey, it still works, okay? Don’t judge.

In other words, I wasn’t on the YT channel to listen to my songs and stuff; I was supposed to be examining it for the upcoming overhaul to make it search engine friendly, something it desperately needs. It’s bad. So before I can take the next step in what I am working on, I need to get my SEO ducks in a row on an existing channel. The good part of that is that I can then see if the metrics change substantially or not to know if I’m doing it right. Back to the digression.

Of course, one cannot help but hear oneself singing in one’s own videos running on the screen while trying to figure out how I need to completely change out every single one of the 80 plus video descriptions. Both the bad descriptions and my caterwauling were painful.

A few of the videos made me laugh more than cringe at my squeaks and bad hair due to the purpose I recorded them. This one is the Alleluia from Mozart’s Exultate Jubilate, a coloratura favourite for its zippy scales and high notes. A young friend was trying to learn the song so she asked me to make her a video. No make up. No fancy clothes. Accompanying myself (shouldn’t do that, especially for a classical song).

Hope ya’ll get a kick out of this 10-year-old, no frills Diva flashback 😉

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Writing review and future projects

I started this blog way back on December 20, 2008 to journal through various discernment processes I was going through. I have several hobbies about which I am passionate, and there are several things I do for a living that I am very good at.

Three things I have enjoyed making a livelihood through are:

  • wordsmithery (writing, editing, proofreading),
  • leading musical ensembles, and
  • teaching others what I know.

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Look for beauty in everyone

Continuing with my “notes from online dating experience 2014” theme, a very good-looking man a state and a half away had reached out to me to pay me a compliment recently. When I responded, I thanked him and said I appreciated his own well-written narrative, seeing as I find myself attracted to intelligent as well as handsome men 🙂 The fellow wrote back that he was “flabbergasted” that I had actually taken the time to respond, much less nicely and was willing to engage in conversation with him. It makes me feel bad that online dating is more renowned for its badly behaving people than its sincere and well-behaved ones. So, the conversation continued a little longer and he inquired as to why would I take the time to pen something nice to someone I wasn’t likely going to ever meet or who really didn’t meet any of my preferences other than being a good writer? I gave a good thought to it, wrote down my thoughts and sent the following back to him to try and explain. Soul-searching like this is something I highly recommend to anyone merely because it helps you get to know who you really are. Self-knowledge is something I feel is sorely lacking in the world today.

Since being nice in general and uplifting whenever possible is part of my ministry vocation and something I feel very strongly about, I wanted to copy and paste what I wrote in here to share because any kind word or other random act of kindness may be the one act you do today that makes a difference in someone’s life. As St. Therese of Lisieux said, “do small things with great love.”

Fair enough question. As an artistic/creative person, I appreciate beauty for its own delightful sake wherever I find it. Although I’ve been in vocational ministry as a music director for just over thirty years and am by default “nice” for a living, one thing I feel strongly about is that there is too much tearing down of people in this world and not nearly enough effort toward building up, lifting up, strengthening, encouraging and blessing of others. Perhaps in my old age, I’m more and more cognizant of that negative energy that swirls around us, especially prompted by the media through horrific music, violent films and video games, etc. I see people’s faces lined with stress, their eyes averted from making eye contact during their day because they are so used to looking up and seeing other people’s faces snarling with pent-up anger, bitterness, loneliness and other pains they cling to. We tend to see in others things that mirror ourselves; I decided a long time ago that I did not wish to reflect back to the world the bad experiences I had had, but rather would focus on the joyful things. That is how I choose to live out my day: remembering the beautiful, the happy, the wonder. I look for it in others and when I see something – anything – I make a point of telling them, not because I want something from anyone, but because they deserve to know that more than just their pain shines through their eyes. I want things like that to give people hope in humanity and perhaps just a little lifting of their spirits enough to rise up above what has been pulling them down.

It is true that my “type” – if one were to go by my virtually unbroken record of past loves – has definitely been the blue-eyed, German/Scandinavian boys. My family is Scandinavian and German on one side, so all of my cousins as well as the German/Dutch settlers of my hometown fit that picture. I grew up around hunky farm boys and muscular men are what my eye sees as “normal.” There’s a little bit of Irish/English mixed into me, explaining my freckles and greenish eyes and the red tint that used to appear in my otherwise very dark brown hair before it went silver years ago. The other half of the family – the one that was estranged when my mother divorced when I was 5 – was Italian, so there was more dark hair, eyes and skin that didn’t burn in the sun. I got the olive skin that tans as well as freckles, for which here in Florida, I am ever so grateful. 🙂

One thing about me that has been steady since I wrote my first creative piece back in middle school a hundred years ago: I communicate best through my hands. My writing, playing the piano, my touch – these are the ways I best express what is on my mind or heart. When I read someone’s profile who obviously has gifting and skill in written communication, it’s something I gravitate toward. The intellectual conversations stimulate and re-energize that part of me that too often is forced to operate in dumbed-down mode for daily life.

I’m very happy you reached out to me, happier still that you appreciated my response, and would enjoy getting to know the you inside if only for the span of several greatly enjoyable emails. Most of the “hits” I’ve gotten online during my first two and a half months have been from mostly mid-sixties, lonely men. Not always with teeth. I usually just ignore the ones I categorize as “WTF not even close” but do write back a nice, “Thanks, but no” response to others who take the time to send me something more than a generic spam blast. Now, you are going to laugh at this part, but I am human after all: of the 3,000 some that the profile says have looked at my profile (whether or not they click anything), I think I have found maybe a dozen of them physically attractive from their photos. Therefore, my non-scientific conclusion would be that there are a lot of really homely men out there, making it therefore ever more my conscience-owing duty to try harder to encourage those who do or have something going right (in my eyes), but then simply lean back and enjoy the ride and mutual flow of attention from men I find physically as well as intellectually inspiring. I am hoping to find my Chosen One to spend the rest of my life with and it will have to be someone whose mind attracts me as much as his physique.

I hope you have a wonderful day as you start the beginning of this week.


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St. Joseph comes through again!

Getting on my Catholic soapbox here for a minute, so please bear with me while I ramble. I know a lot of superstitious people think that burying a mini-statue of St. Joseph in their front lawn is supposed to magically sell their house. I did not, I repeat – DID NOT – do such a crass thing.

What I did do was pray last week and ask for his help in sending me a buyer for my house at the price I needed and to help me find a new house for us to move into down where we’re interested in heading. Not only that, but we’ve had a drought here for just over a month with absolutely no rain. So lemme tell ya how it went down.

Two days after my chat with St. Joseph, which happened to be the afternoon of the same day our houseguest left, our realtor calls with a last minute request to bring by some interested parties who initially had no intention of seeing our house, but another one that proved disappointing. On twenty minutes’ notice. We have dogs and cats. Vaccuuming takes longer than twenty minutes, you know? But hey, what a “coincidence” that the house was all spiffy that particular day already, and the yard had been mowed two hours earlier and the sun was shining and the berries on the bushes were ripe, and my mother said, “sure, come on over!” They did. They came, they saw, they loved it and two days later, they made an offer. In a stale real estate market, our house was all of 31 days on realtor.com.

As for the drought, around 7:30pm the day they looked at the house, we had a big blow-in with some heavy rain that left the evening nice and cool and comfy. Not to mention perk up all of our flowers and especially the poor withering hydrangea bush. We’ve had some more rain since during the signing of contracts and all. Talk about a nice refreshing both physically and spiritually, if you don’t see the connection, I don’t know what to say, but I do not in any way at all believe it’s been a coincidence.

Bottom line is that once again, prayer to St. Joseph does not go ignored when it’s sincere and within God’s plan. I had no father growing up. St. Joseph is special to me, and one again, dependably, he provides a helping hand. You can be superstitious all you want and do silly things like planting magic totems in your front lawn, upside down, no less. Or you can have a serious faith-walk and believe in the communion of saints and that those who have gone on before us are already partying with Jesus, so you go ahead and ask one of them to put in a good word for you because you were and still are their friend and they’re happy to do that for you. Since they’re already there and all.

It’s all about the relationship.

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In the right place

I’ve been working around four out of five days subbing at the high school and enjoying it greatly. With the kind of enthusiastic “Norm!” greeting I get from the students when they come into a class and find out I’m filling in, I dare say – if there were a vote on these kinds of things – that I’m the most likely candidate, though unofficially, for the title “favourite sub” and the teachers and staff all tell me they like me, too. I know I’m still using my gifting in encouragement and all because just Friday after school one of the teachers came into the office as I was handing in my timesheet and said in front of the principal that he was amazed that three boys in his class did more work for me in one day than he had been able to get them to do all week. God’s favor is definitely on me in this role and it’s paying the mortgage to boot. What more could I ask, right? Oh, wait, let me pull out my list ……. kidding!

So I’m still here, still praying for full-time fulfilling work, still praying for wisdom and healing and to go out each day to be a blessing to someone (preferably everyone) that I meet during the day. I’ve actually been so busy, I’ve gone days without checking email or even turning on the computer at all and don’t miss it a bit. Haven’t even updated my blog or youtube pages. It’s like with the start of the school year, God’s put me in the path of students who must need something I have to share and being used of God is where I want to be.

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me at Trinity Ctr beachside1Back from the weekend conference. More on that later. Went into the weekend with the anticipation of a cross between a spiritual retreat and music workshop and was hoping that God would “speak to me” somehow, some way, somewhere while down at the beach. As I sat on the white sandy beach watching the surf roll in and out, watching the clouds float by in the beautiful blue sky, I fully believed that God would take that wonderfully scenic opportunity under the majesty of His summer sky to give me a glorious revelation to the question most pressing, even suffocating, on my heart.

But He didn’t.

He waited until I got home and caught up from last week with some of the blogs I like to read, where I found His answer to me in yet another gem from Jon Acuff at Stuff Christians Like. And after reading the comments on post #600 “Asking God geography questions,” I see I’m not the ony one struggling with the “how long O God” and “where am I supposed to be/what am I supposed to be doing while I wait here” questions of life.

Not going to give away the punch line. It’s well worth reading, so please read his post. God usually doesn’t speak to us in a Franco Zeffirelli dramatic experience, but rather through other people, and today, He spoke to me through Jon.

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