Joy on Track

My family and I first found Rising Appalachia during our first First Friday Art Walk and I was hooked. The energy and vision of their music is invigorating, but it’s their soul and their joy that really makes it beautiful. I found this and had to share.

I’m also a sucker for trains (and am long overdue for a train ride) and jam sessions.

PS – I also took this video while we were there. I had a longer one on my GoPro, but it seems to have eaten it. If I can recover it I’ll post it.

Of Squirrels and Type

Diggory made the trip with us.

One of my favorite sounds in the world is that of a typewriter. There’s something primal to the creative soul about the sound of a key striking paper, leaving an impression behind, and that metallic clinking. Tap tap tap tap tink tap tink tap.

My daughter and I spent our Sunday evening at a Type-In hosted by Bryan Sherwood, aka the Kentucky Typer, at A Cup of Common Wealth in Lexington; check out their fun little Pay It Foward, you can even buy me a drink online! There were typewriters everywhere (read heaven), people swapping them across tables and making the rounds to try other models out. We took two of mine, both gifted – a small, blue Royal and my Underwood Leader.

I was gifted a little Easter egg about my Underwood: The H key was backwards, apparently a rare thing, and I was told to leave it that way. The color was also discussed, as that particular shade or patina was unusual. I felt like a proud mother, though I already was with my 15-year old sharing my love of these wonderful machines.

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An IBM Selectric sat at the end of our (door made into a) table with a typewritten note in the top (above). I hadn’t realized that model had originated in Lexington, and it made me feel even happier that we’d moved up to Kentucky. My mother had worked on one of these machines back when I was in high school, and I remembered the gentle whirring. My daughter turned it on and swooned, continuing the time honored tradition of laying your head on the keyboard to listen to its gentle hum.

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Overall the event was a big success and I think thy got double the turnout they were thinking they we going to get. The woman next to us, Anne, was actually from Winter Park, FL, my old stomping grounds growing up. We got to meet with a couple people I knew from Instagram, one even recognized my name which was a nice surprise.

@TypewriterRevolution on Instagram was there with a binder full of his lovely ETCetera publication (that I am now hooked on).  As soon as I am able, I’ll be picking up a signed copy of his  book, it looks fabulous.

I also discovered the Typosphere, so if you don’t hear from me for a while, I’ve fallen down the rabbit hole…

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Because goals.

My family and I recently saw Kubo and the Two Strings (make sure you stay for the credits).  We were in awe. I am a huge fan of the work that comes out of Laika, and even applied for a job with them once before Boxtrolls was released. The story was wonderful, as all Laika stories that I’ve seen; i.e. Coraline, ParaNorman. Stop motion itself already has such a wonderfully rich history, the new work I have seen coming out of several newer studios is no exception.

And just because. Out of Laika came HouseSpecial. Originally Laika’s commercial arm, now a standalone studio. This is one of my absolute favorite commercials. Enjoy!

Now that we’ve settled in a bit, I’ve been working on The Owl and the Mermaid again. As this year has been one of remeasuring comfort zones, I’m toying with the idea of doing a book trailer and was totally inspired by this.

Coming together


Three months ago my family and I packed up and moved from Florida to Kentucky. We needed to make major changes, get somewhere we could dig in roots a little, surround ourselves with joy and just clear out the stagnant energies in our lives. I had lived my whole life, save for two years, in Florida and I had been wanting out since I was 13 years old.

33 years later I’d had enough.

I wanted mountains, greener living options, a more creative existence, more options and chances for joy for my daughter and my husband, and A CHANGE OF SEASONS. I longed to be able to actually see a difference in my environment from month-to-month. We’ve come up to visit multiple times, and the whole landscape is lovely. I liked Berea my first visit, but I’ve fallen head over heels for her since the move. Right now we are waiting for fall and I’m about to vibrate out of my skin.

My mother was feeling the pull, too.

With the help of family still living in Florida, we moved my mother up today. I’m so grateful she had their help and I’m looking forward to spending two more days with them before they head back. I know she is going to be in her element here once she’s settled, and I know how relieved to be out of Florida she is, because I was in that same spot very recently, too. My half-brother is moving down in a few weeks as well and I feel like it’s all coming together.


One of the things that I am most looking forward to are road trips with my mother to North Carolina. I grew up with her working for the airlines and it wasn’t uncommon for us to hop a flight to NC, grab a rental car, and drive to Gatlinburg, TN and just explore. We both get wanderlust in October, which was our ritual traveling time, and this year we’ll get to act on it. We’re also looking at Chicago to meet family, the Smithsonian, Michigan, and as far north as New York to visit friends.

For now, though, potluck dinners, board game nights, and card games will be peppering our coming weeks and I’m feeling pretty blessed right now.

Comfort Zones are Overrated

Spy. Classroom. Scalpel.

I got my round one writing assignment for NYCMidnight’s Flash Fiction Challenge at midnight Friday night and have been writing, rewriting, outlining, and generally banging my head on a pillow. We were given 48 hours so the deadline is midnight tonight.

I’m at 846 words out of the needed 1,000 for submission.

I’ve never written Spy genre before so it’s a real challenge. With this particular genre, you have to be concise with details and you focus your subplots. I dove in head first the moment I got the genre/location/object prompt, brainstorming for about 20 minutes till an idea hit. I wrote for about an hour then let it percolate overnight. I started writing again this morning a little before 8am and, four handwritten pages in, I decided I needed to revert to outlining and work on my summary.

I loved writing loglines and working on elevator pitches at Full Sail, so that’s where I’m starting. With what I know.

It’s going to be a long haul waiting till mid September to find out if I made it to round two. The best thing I can do is put it totally out of my head and mark a reminder on the date so I can make sure not to miss any emails. Till then, good luck me!


Today was like a second Christmas for me. My husband’s aunt sent me a lovely card from their family for my birthday with the express wish that I buy something for myself. She knows that I would have spent it all on bills, but her request allowed me to give myself permission to do something I have been wanting to do for a very long time.

I bought myself a drafting desk.

Screen Shot 2014-12-07 at 10.34.38 PMThose of you who know me, or found this site through ArtfulLE, know my story. Most of my time is spent either in bed or in a large overstuffed chair in our living room with my feet up on a matching ottoman. Having LE is a daily challenge; even more so, not wrapping makes it mandatory for me to have my legs up when I’m not on them. This chair is where, even right now, I do most of my work. I have a desk, but I can only sit at it so long. Sitting at a 90 degree angle makes my legs worse, and I dream for some space-age looking recliner with an overhead computer to solve all my problems. Till then, I needed a desk that inspired me, that had room to spread out, but that wouldn’t become just another flat surface to set stuff on.

I brought it home a couple days ago and spent most of today putting it together. Slowly savoring it. My daughter helped get it into the studio and I just sat there, running my hand over the surface. It was really overcast today, but the little bit of light that came in from outside was all I needed. That spot will be perfect as it gets a lot of morning sun, just what I need. I may even get a plant.

Sitting there, I kept getting the urge to name it. I dismissed it at first, but this was something special: Possibility. Passion. Motivation. And for some reason it felt “male”. It’s a rustic, vintage style (faux) oak drafting desk with black metal fixtures, it’s soft, smooth, satin surface cool and comforting to the touch. It began to nag at me, though, so I finally entertained the thought.

Felix…(laugh) nah…hmm…a name, a name…Felix…that’s kind of an odd name…FElix. Hmm. FEE.LIX. Felix?

I laughed and my husband asked me what was funny. I told him that I had the urge to name it, that it was kind of nagging me (to which my daughter chimed in and told me I should then) and told him that the same name kept popping up in my head, but it was kind of a weird one compared to most of the names I typically come up with.

Val: “What name?”
Me: “Felix.”
Val: “It means happy in Latin.”

I could feel the smile creep across my face even as the tears came.

Felix it is.

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Day Two

Every year there are certain traditions we’ve carried on. As with anything, we evolve over time. Here’s our top 10 for this year:

  1. Nothing Christmasy till after Thanksgiving.
  2. Youngest family members play elf.
  3. Nog, Apple Cider, and Hot Cocoa with marshmallows become part of our food vocabulary.
  4. At least one White Elephant Ornament Exchange party must take place.
  5. Handmades heavily influence both tree theme and gifting. This year knitting is the theme.
  6. Ria designs and hand-renders our Christmas cards. This year I’m collaborating with #myscoleoptera aka Rock Paper Fox.
  7. Christmas Eve is spent at my mother’s where we share wine and tapas buffet-style. We can bring one mutually agreed on present from home and open it there. We can also open one thing from mom. Anything else she brings later.
  8. Christmas morning we get up early, open gifts and drink cocoa, then have breakfast. Mom comes over in the afternoon to open her presents.
  9. We try to do at least one daytrip to see the lights with mom in St. Augustine. This year we’re hoping to do an overnight with mom in St Augustine. We are also mailing our cards out from Christmas, Florida this year so I can take my family to see the fort.
  10. New this year: Christmas letters! My cousin Sandy and her husband Ron do a Christmas letter each year that we always look forward to. I’ve been wanting to do one, but I wasn’t really inspired till this year. I’m designing self-mailers and having a blast.

What are some of your holiday traditions? Do you have decorations that have been handmade or handed down? Tag me on Instagram @renmeleon so I can see them!

Don’t forget to download your free digital-Advent paper crafts!

Day One

renxmas_Frenchnutcracker_seethroughSome of my favorite things to do each year are make ornaments and decorations for our home. I love the hand-me-downs that I’ve gotten from family and friends over the years, but to be able to make something that I can hand down to my own daughter to build her own traditions with is very special to me.

This year, my daughter and I have been doing a lot of knitting so our tree reflects that. Garlands of finger-knitted bulky yarn with a flurry of new snowcapped, hand-made ornaments over white tree lights. I’ve also made it a point to weed out the decorations that no longer suit us and either gift them or recycle them in some creative way, giving them new life.

So are you ready? Check out the Advent page for today’s artsy freebie! And if you would like to share the page with friends, just click on the image at left and save it to your computer. From there you can post it to Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest!

Defining Passion

I’ve been watching a free series that has been offered by the ever fabulous and thought-provoking Michael Hyatt on platform tweaking. Even if you are pro, I recommend taking a look at the series. He posed a question at the end of the first video that was a lot harder to answer than I had expected or should have been.

What Are You Passionate About?

Once people find out that I have created my own career path and work from home, it is not uncommon for me to get into a discussion with them about how they are not happy with where they are and what they would really like to be doing. In every conversation so far, there has been one common theme: Their goals don’t match the end result of the path they want to be on. The question that I pose to them is this:

If there were no limits to money or location, what is the one thing that you could spend the rest of your life doing and be happy?

Most of us have a difficult time seeing past roadblocks and ruts we have fallen into, the thought of having that kind of control, so it takes a minute to recover before we can even begin to answer that. There have only been a couple of people that I’ve spoken to that know exactly what they want and have a clear focus. Michael’s question put me on the spot as well and I had to answer this for myself.

My end goal: To be able to travel with my family, write, create, and teach while experiencing the world through art, food, creative and cultural interaction as we share the expanding of our own eco-centric views of the world.

Spelling this out, I see a definite need for some self-alignment within my own path. We live a creative life but, while we have traveled a little more this year than most, my husband is still trapped in a 9-to-5 job that doesn’t align with his own desires. As his wife and best friend, I want a lot better for him and for us as a family.

Moving Forward

What am I passionate about? This was my turn, and it wasn’t easy.

I am passionate about a number of things, which is good and bad. In the past I would head in several directions, keeping my interests separate instead of integrating them. I thought that keeping them compartmentalized would help me to stay organized. It did for a bit, but if I hit a bump with one or, with my health more often, it would throw everything off. From there I overlapped my projects in an effort to go in one main direction. Progress. Finally, I cleared my plate and started getting more focused on what I wanted. I stopped taking clients and dug into my own projects that had been neglected for so long. I’m much happier now and have made great advances, but I am still whittling away at what we don’t need in our lives in order to focus on the more meaningful.

Finding balance when you work from home is a unique challenge, but it’s doable with a direction and a plan.

Death means change

Yes, a rosary AND tarot.*No, nothing is wrong, outside of the normal. I pulled the Death card this morning, which would have the untrained freaking out. It doesn’t mean death though, that is usually the Tower card aka cataclysmic, not-so-happy change. But the Death card is a motivator. It means change is coming…which is why I pulled it.

I got wind of a job lead in the UK yesterday and am applying for it today. I pull the cards when I’m led and one always, quite literally, jumps out at me. Writing for gaming was one of the reasons I took the Creative Writing MFA from Full Sail. The job is a script writing position, one of two, with a game developer. I glanced over it, a pipe dream, till I read that they valued talent over experience. I’m not sure if I am talented enough in that industry, but I’m a quick study and I’m giving it a shot. It’s all a leap of faith. Let’s hope they would allow me to work remotely, otherwise it’s beg to be relocated.

“You are entering a growing phase. Acknowledgement comes slowly. No one will offer a helping hand unless you beg for it. Don’t take no for an answer. Avoid self-pity.”

The idea of moving isn’t a new one. We’ve wanted out of Florida for a long time. My health cannot take the heat or the allergies (bugs mainly) and I miss having a change of seasons, especially this time of year. We have been eyeing three places; Western North Carolina, Colorado (Denver-ish), or Eugene, OR as I have family there. We would need to be relocated via an employer to be able to afford it, so I’ve been looking. If we had to stay in Florida, Jacksonville. My dream home, though, honestly: New York.

“Get rid of some old habits. Stop doing anything that doesn’t feel right for you.”

This has been a theme for a while. I cleared my plate at the end of 2011, already a year of big changes for us with claiming our home, our wedding, and a clearing out of anything that didn’t influence us in a positive way. I took 2012 to regroup, refocus, get my Masters and complete a graduate certificate. I’ve been writing on an almost daily (more-so lately) basis and long for a job where I can use my talents. I’m focusing on the things I love that can help enrich our lives – getting my book(s) finished and uploaded to CreateSpace, designing products for Etsy, and working with hand-lettering (10.00 off a class with link) as well as an ongoing book design gig. I’m also submitting work to a couple of publications and a Christmas greeting card contest.

So we’ll see if the job and a move are in the cards for us. It is all in God’s Hands as to where He wants us, so we’ll just keep praying with an open mind and be ready for the challenge if I’m called. Speaking of motivator, time to consolidate so more and attack my studio! Artsy supply grab bags on Etsy soon…
The tools of the trade for a Christian-based pagan, I love this little deck. The artwork is fabulous, it reminds me of an old gypsy deck.

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