March was National Women’s History Month and I was fortunate enough to be able to share with you interviews from four incredible women. If you haven’t had a chance to read them, please do. I’ve no doubt you’ll enjoy reading them as much as I enjoyed sharing!
Renee.Here she shares with you her incredible weight loss journey as well as advantages and pitfalls of weight loss surgery. Side note: Congratulations, Renee on your marriage to Dave!
Heather. A Wife, Mom, Christian and incredible Artist! Read her story about developing her talent, career, work/life balance and starting her own business.
Janni. What a warrior! Her story is one of survival. PTSD, an abusive marriage, health issues…she openly discusses her struggles as well as her victories. She’s an amazing author, too!
Katrina. Spiritual mystic and (my) life-saver, Katrina shares her story of spirituality, her thoughts on the importance of meditation, advice on traveling a spiritual journey as well as advice on Tarot readings.
If you missed it, you can read my blog on empowering women here.
Continuing with our March Celebration of Women, I’m honored to introduce Heather. I have been in awe of her artistic skill for some time and I’m so glad she’s part of our celebration!
What I love most about this interview, aside from getting to know Heather better, is how her passion for art, life and God absolutely shine through. She is so genuine and her responses so heartfelt. She’s got a great sense of humor, too! Such a joy! Thank you so much, Heather!
Before we get to the interview, I’d like to share these encouraging words from Heather:
“You didn’t ask, but I’d like to share that I have no degree, and only about 6 months of college. When it’s your thing and you’re passionate about it, you can find someone to teach you or some way to learn. I’ve had a few people I’ve worked with be snotty about that, but then I’d be mad if I had their student loans too. College is awesome and if you can go, go. But just because you can’t, doesn’t mean you’re less of a person, stupid or not worthy of career greatness.”
Talk a bit about your background. Have you always been interested in art? Was there a specific moment you decided art would be your career?
My mother gave me a pilgrim and his turkey that I drew when I was three. To be fair, the turkey looks like a turtle with dinosaur spikes on his back, but you can tell I was working through how to make what was in my head get onto paper. The pilgrim resembles those entertainers that paint a face on their belly and wear giant hats over their shoulders. I’ve always drawn. My mother kept a sketchbook, her and my father both work with wood and leather, and my mother was also a mechanic. My maternal grandmother was a bead and sewing crafter. I’ve just always been surrounded by makers. So, I think I always said I wanted to be an artist, except maybe for that brief minute in 5th grade when archeology stole my heart and then again in 7th grade when I thought a missionary was my calling. But those didn’t stick the way my art did.
How did your first job as an artist come about? What lessons did you learn during your first job as an artist that you’ve carried with you as you pursued your career goals?
My first real job as an artist came when I’d just come home from my first semester of college in Savannah at School of Visual Arts and was trying to change to an Atlanta art school. I had a weekend job at a bank, but my mother was not happy with that so she told me that I must have a job for the rest of the week, Monday through Friday or get out. I was not about to settle for the vision I had for my life. Rather than going to the closest McDonalds as she wanted me to do, I went into the closest sign shop in the area, off of Main Street in Forest Park (located in Georgia), and asked if they were hiring and they were! This was my first experience learning sign making and really having daily use of computer designing. Of course, I was a smart-ass teen so I went by Zesto’s on the way home and brought in Gyros for my mother and I announced I had a job. She got a huge smile and said, “At Zesto’s?” I smiled back and said, “No ma’am, at a sign shop.” I was proud and she was annoyed that I wasn’t grunting in something I hated. This is just where we were then. The biggest thing I learned at that job was not to settle. If I wanted to be an artist, there’s always something I could be doing to make money and use my skills.
You are a wife and mom who has worked full-time as an artist. How have you managed all of your responsibilities? Any time management and/or organization tips you’d like to share?
I honestly have a lot of regret on this subject. The first five years with babies I just did design work at the company I worked for and didn’t really do much art at home…maybe a painting a year. Then I was struck with an uncontrollable urge to create and honestly, I haven’t stopped since. I really would like to tell you that I just worked on art once the kids were asleep or when they played, but it was just all the time with them at my feet or playing around me or sitting next to me. I wish I had taken more breaks to play with them, it goes so fast. Now I beg them for time, and they haven’t got it to spare. Word to the wise – it really does happen in the blink of an eye. I do have a tip for people who want to make art but are always on the go. I carry a field sketch mixed media sketchbook, water color paint, and a water brush pen in my purse at all times. When I’m in the car rider line, in a waiting room waiting on the doctor, auto repair shop… whatever, I have my paints and it’s easy to use. It’s great to get ideas out and capture moments. My house is never the neatest in the neighborhood. I’d rather paint. And I’m the queen of frozen dinners!
You seem to have an incredibly solid faith. How has your faith impacted your life as an artist?
This is possibly the easiest thing to answer that you’ve given me. When I was in my young and stupid teens doing everything I could to find myself and was as far from God and what he wanted for my life as I could get, the art didn’t come. I was blank. The little that I got out was just a cheap imitation of what was influencing me, not even a good representation. It’s unfortunate, it was the true jumping off point, when you want to get those scholarships and opportunities and nothing. I did some art, sold some art. But it was just not what I have flowing through me when I’m close with God. Once I came back to him, the flood gates opened. And so did the opportunities. I got my job designing in the Coca-Cola Company HQ for a contracted company through a prayer list. I started designing for Shane’s Rib Shack because someone asked a friend of mine from church if they knew a designer… all from God. I learned the method of stroke by stroke classes from a dear friend and mentor (spiritual, artistically and maternal) that God put in my life when I was a teen and who I reconnected with as an adult. When you know the source of your gifts, it’s easier to harness them.
You have started your own business as a graphic design artist. What led you to decide to start your business?
First, my husband’s support and encouragement. Without that I wouldn’t have attempted this! He’s kind of my manager, my chauffeur, counselor, etc. I was tired of being used up and then being put out to pasture. The first time I was told there would be no more raises ever, no matter inflation, etc…forget that! I was out of there within a month. The pay wasn’t up to par as it was. The second was after 13 plus years for the company that contracted with Coke. Coke did a series of layoffs each time business got slower, until finally the last layoff took our big clients. Then I was laid off by the contract company. After seeing how well my contract work was going and that these companies really valued what I had to offer, I took the leap. Well, actually I was shoved…you know with the layoff. And the Lord’s made sure the clients and projects have come on a regular basis so Praise God for that!
Have you faced any obstacles while starting your business? How did you handle them?
Fear. Luckily my husband is great at calming those and again encouraging me. Forgiveness. It’s something I had to work on. But if you don’t get that straight, you’ll poison everything you do. Those lost years that ended up flickering out at other companies did grow me, and sure not everything is fair, but I can’t get anywhere holding a grudge. Also, self-employed taxes. Can I just be frank? They suck. After I pay the man and then the bills, there ain’t much left. But I only started this working for myself thing in June and the bills are being paid. Some companies take a long time to get there, so I’m very grateful. I’m grateful that now, when I’m starting my business, we have the leader we have in Washington. He has a heart for American businesses and small business, and it’s been a relief tax wise.
Who and/or what sparks your creativity? Are there artists who inspire you?
That’s a great question! So very many things inspire me. Little day trips to small towns with my husband, remembering my grandmothers, a good sermon, my own emotions (Lord help me and those around me), trying new foods, a good documentary or movie. A trip to Disney fills my creativity tank for a good year plus! I take in the foods, the gift shops, merch, the atmosphere… it’s seriously a creative recharge. Covington Square (located in Georgia, east of Atlanta) was the initial shock to the system when my oldest was five that started me painting again. I was so inspired by the shops and atmosphere that I went home and painted for a year straight. My hands hurt that year! Oh, new art supplies are a great boost to creativity too.
What does your art mean to you?
Breathing. Creating art is not a choice, it’s a must. It’s involuntary at times. Sometimes it’s very planned and other times it’s a huge vomit of emotions at a canvas before my head explodes with hurt, anger or joy. Plus, I just always see pictures in my head.
What is your favorite artwork that you have created? Why is this your favorite work?
This is so tough. They are all my babies. I’d have to say it was one of these two. I keep both by my bed side. So that while I drift off to sleep, I can see my favorite place (on earth that is, Heaven’s gonna rock!)
What advice would you give aspiring artists and anyone interested in starting their own business?
You simply have to do because you love it. It’s just not something you do to get rich. Not to say there aren’t rich artist out there, and sure there are times of great influx of funds, but there are also the other times, so you’ve got to love it. I’d do this whether I was making money or not. I just wouldn’t get to do it as much if I wasn’t making money with it. Be persistent. Look for ways to make money with your gifts.
Tell everyone you meet what you do and ask if they need your services/art. I literally go door to door, town to town like an old encyclopedia salesman to see what shops need design help. I’ve had one or two be rude, but I’ve had so many thank me and say that they’d been praying for help and that I was an answered prayer. That really feels amazing.
Most of all, read anything you can get your hands on by Dan Miller. Especially an old copy of No More Mondays or 48 Days to the Work You Love. He has a free weekly podcast and walks people through how to do what you love for a living. He believes that it’s insane to think that you could make more money doing something you hate than something you love and are therefore more passionate about. I listened to him for years before I began this adventure and I really feel he prepared me for where I am.
For more information on the skills and talent Heather has to offer, please visit her website.
If you are interested in researching Dan Miller and the books/podcasts Heather recommended, please visit his site.
March is about celebrating women and the is the first interview of four remarkable women that I’ll share with you this month.
Meet Renee and get a glimpse into her weight loss journey. Here she shares personal details of what she has gone through and her story is inspiring! While gastric bypass surgery isn’t for everyone, Renee has had a great experience with greater results.
Tell us about your background. Has weight always been an issue for you?
Weight has been an issue for me as long as I can remember. I was the chubby kid as a little girl and as I got older I was always the big girl. I think I was one of the lucky ones even though most people made fun of me. I had good friends that loved me for me and didn’t care about my weight.
Did your weight cause you to deal with any limitations? If so, what were they?
Limitations yes of course. I couldn’t keep up with the others when I was young so that left me alone a lot. It limited me in the men that were interested in me so more often than naught I was the third wheel.
At what point did you decide enough is enough? Was there a specific turning point for you?
Let’s see, enough was enough when my health started going bad and fast. I was diagnosed with high blood pressure put on two different medications. My legs were swollen terribly to the point I was put on another medication. I was pre-diabetic could barely walk to the end of the driveway and honestly wasn’t sure how long I would have and for the first time in my life I wanted to live. I had a future to look forward to not just exist.
You chose surgery to help with your weight loss. What led you to this decision? We’re there obstacles to overcome before surgery?
The decision to have surgery was actually an easy one. I had been researching surgery for 5 years or so and when all the health issues started my primary care provider recommended it. When I checked with my insurance it was covered…okay, decision made. But obstacles were not that bad. The worst was the waiting and the insecurity if I could actually do it. I had failed at weight loss so many times I was sure I would do something wrong to mess this up also.
Some people feel weight loss surgery is unnecessary and all one needs to do is eat healthy and exercise to lose weight. What is your response to those who criticize weight loss surgery?
I won’t lie, I was definitely not eating right or exercising but I had done that year after year with the same results. I would lose 30-40 pounds and then gain it right back. I couldn’t seem to be able to do it alone. I needed help and the surgery was the tool I needed. And that’s what it is. It’s a tool. If I don’t use it correctly, I don’t lose. It’s not a quick fix or an easy way out. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done but it has worked. All those medical conditions and medications are gone. I’m slowly building my stamina and can walk 20 minutes and still breathe. Best thing I ever did.
Talk about your recovery from surgery. Was healing difficult? Did you experience restrictions during recovery?
I took three weeks off for recovery and probably could have used another. Healing was painful as you have 5 incision sites in your abdomen and of course no matter how you move you are pulling one of them. It was a good week and a half before I even felt like moving much but we are told to at least walk a couple of times a day. That first week and a half I got to the end of the driveway and barely made it back inside to sit down. After that it got easier. I was making two laps and losing weight very fast. But getting very tired. The first week you only eat about a medicine cup full of liquid 3-4 times an hour. Second and third week you add in baby food and pureed foods but still no more than a few bites. By the fourth week you are slowly adding in soft food eggs and cream of wheat and corn beef were my go-tos but I couldn’t eat a whole egg. I couldn’t even eat the baby serving for cream of wheat.
How have your diet and eating habits changed since surgery?
Well I kinda started on this one in 6 but after the restrictions were lifted my habits changed in amount mostly. I never know if what I’m about to eat will settle well or not. One day I may be able to eat half a grilled chicken breast the next the same thing may make me sick. In the six months since surgery I have learned to replace potatoes and pasta with green beans and zucchini. I’m still not perfect and do have meals that I have the potatoes but I’m trying more and more to replace with the better choices. A typical meal now consists of 3-5 ounces of meat/protein 1-2 tbsp of veggies or potatoes or pasta or some combination of the veggies and carbs. A meal before consisted of 3-4 times the amount of all of that plus dessert. I can’t believe the amount of food that I used to eat.
To date, how much weight have you lost?
Since 8/28/18, I have lost 73.8 pounds. I have gone from a 26-28 size pantsand 3-4x shirt to a 16-18 size pants and a large -xl shirt.
Fashion Alert! I’m guessing you’ve shopped for new clothes, yes? That must be a blast! How did you feel trying on new clothes?
I actually only went shopping recently after I was given such a hard time about nothing fitting. I couldn’t believe I was in an 18. I had not been there in 15 plus years. And when I went to buy my wedding dress, the one we picked out the sales clerk said I don’t think this one will fit but we can get an idea. The feeling of that dress zipping all the way up is indescribable. I have never felt more beautiful and can’t wait to wear it at the end of the month.
Lastly, what advice would you give anyone considering weight loss surgery?
Advice that’s easy. Don’t wait. The one thing I regret is not doing it sooner. I feel better than I have in years. I have more energy and I’m enjoying life so much. Don’t let anyone talk you out of surgery. This is a very personal and difficult decision and one only you can make. Be strong and don’t give up it will all be worth it.
If you are interested in gastric bypass surgery, please visit WebMD for more information.