Stepping Forward With Famous Footwear

Hey guys!  Gosh it has been such a long time since I've been able to sit down and write out a blog, I have to admit I'm a little embarrassed.  Things have been absolutely wild around the studio, I've been working on so many new projects I feel like I haven't sat still in weeks.

I was absolutely floored to open my email a few weeks ago and find a message from Famous Footwear asking me to participate in their newest ad campaign, #StepForward.  Just wow, what an insane opportunity!  The entire premise of this campaign was so close to home for me, as the road to where I am has been a bumpy one full of twists and turns, stalled cars, and tires flying off along the way.  Quite honestly, if you would have told teenage me that I would someday have a home, a family, and not only be able to pay my bills on time, but to pay them while working a job I absolutely loved... I probably would have laughed in your face.  My past isn't something I talk about quite often, as it isn't a fun story to share - it's vulnerable to say the least.  But, I think if sharing my story will help one person of similar circumstance then hey, that's a good enough reason to finally speak about it publicly.




Growing up I remember not always having much.  There were a lot of times when bills would go unpaid and the electric company would show up to disconnect our power.  It happened so frequently that I remember our next door neighbors running an extension cord from their house to ours so that we could plug in a few things and make it one day to the next.  There were more times than I can recount when there wasn't food in the fridge, and we had to get really creative about what we were going to eat that day.   There is one day I remember being at the house alone after getting home from middle school and the landlord was pounding on the door just yelling, asking why the rent wasn't getting paid.  My dad wasn't home yet, and I was really scared. I didn't know what to say to this man and he just kept yelling at me, telling me soon we wouldn't have a place to live.  Looking back, I think this is the first time that it really set in for me that these things weren't normal.  This wasn't okay, and I just couldn't live a life like this.

I worked hard in school, very hard.  I got good grades, and school was kind of a safe place for me.  I spent a lot of time with my teachers and really liked having the positive adult role models.  When I was in 11th grade I had an empty hour in my schedule and took an art class just because one of my good friends was in it at the time.  I think that was kind of fate intervening - art became my everything.  When I was drawing or painting or getting my hands dirty in clay I was able to tune everything else out, I was able to just make, and that brought me so much happiness.  After that class finished my teacher invited me to take the advanced art class the following year, and I hesitantly accepted.  This teacher absolutely changed my life.  She challenged me creatively, she made me see something in myself that I never knew was there before.  Most of my senior year was spent in her classroom with her constantly pushing me to apply to a local art college - which I just saw no place for myself at.  Art, as a career?  How was that possible?  Eventually I caved and with her help put together a portfolio, a few months later I got an envelope in the mail that I brought to her room and we opened together.  I didn't just get accepted, my portfolio paired with my grades got me a full scholarship.  I don't think that I had ever felt such a sense of pride and purpose than in that moment.



College was a challenge for me, it was so much different than I expected.  I would go to class all day, then immediately after drive to my job at a local thrift store where I'd work all night, only to return home and stay up late into the night working on projects.  It was hard, but it was everything I had dreamed of.  I was finding my way out of my circumstances.  I was making great friends who had similar drives and interests and being exposed to so much positivity.  I was working hard and it was paying off.  Everything seemed to really be falling into place.

At the end of my freshman year of college, my (now) husband, Alex and I learned that I was pregnant with our son.  While this was a wonderful thing, it did mean taking time off of school, which consequently meant losing my scholarship.  There wasn't even a shred of a possibility that I could pay for college on my own.  With no one to help me, I had no choice but to drop out.  This was the most helpless I have ever felt in my life, it felt like everything I had worked so hard for was being ripped away.  Like I was finally building a real life for myself only to be put back where I started.  I was absolutely devastated.  I had no idea what to do next.

For the next few months I felt so lost, I started working a full-time mall job which I was miserable at.  I had no direction, I was barely even making art anymore, it was a hard time for me.  I began spending my days off with Alex while he worked as an apprentice at a tattoo shop near our tiny one bedroom downtown apartment.  I'd sit in the tattoo shop just drawing and later began learning how to paint with watercolor, something I had never tried up until this point.  I loved it, I loved the process and it was definitely during this time that I started to develop the style of art that I am now known for.  These days at the tattoo shop, though I didn't know it then, completely changed my path and shaped so much of who I would become.

In December of that year we had our son - I think any parent will tell you that their child was the most perfect thing in the universe, but I swear that this little boy was everything.  Becoming a mom ignited a spark inside me, I had never known love like that before.  I was no longer enough, he deserved better, he deserved everything, and that tiny 7 pound sweet heart became my biggest motivation to be the best person I possibly could.  When he was born my husband and I moved into his parents house for a few months, I quit my mall job and Alex continued tattooing.  I drew and painted in my free time, and started sharing some of the art that I was making online with friends.  Almost immediately I began to accumulate a bit of an online following and was constantly getting messages asking "how do I buy this?", or "can I pay you to paint something just for me?".  This was so unexpected and so so incredible.  I put up an online website and began to sell some prints of my art and do commission work.  This was happening.  Somehow, despite everything - every little set back, I was making art and people wanted to buy it.



Shortly after, we moved into our own apartment, and our little family flourished.  My little passion project was becoming a business.  I was shipping out orders of my artwork daily, and all over the world.  Even then, in that tiny apartment where our closet housed nothing but shipping supplies and boxes of mugs filled our living room, I couldn't have imagined that this business of mine would become what it is.  Now, almost 4 years after starting, Honey and the Hive is my family's main source of income.  I have shipped my art and products all over the world.  I have been written about by Buzzfeed, Hello Giggles, ModCloth, and fricking MARTHA STEWART!  I sell my artwork in over 20 stores throughout the US, Canada, and a few online marketplaces.  I've released a variety of different products, I've created art for big businesses, and ...I'm working with FAMOUS FOOTWEAR!  Again, if you had told teenage me that this is the life that I would someday have ... there's no way I would believe you.

While running a creative business is a challenge all of it's own, there is nothing else in the world I would rather be doing.  I may never be rich, I may never be famous, but that's okay.  I have a tiny family I adore and we can pay all of our bills on time.  Our fridge is full of healthy food, and my son will never have to worry about someone knocking on the door and telling him he won't have a place to live soon... this to me is worth more than all the riches in the world.  In my mind, in my eyes, and in my heart, I have made it.  I have accomplished so much more than anyone thought that I could.  I beat the odds.  I came out on the other side.  I woke up every single day, no matter how hard it was.  I got up, I put on my shoes, and I worked my butt off.  I never ever let my circumstances get the better of me, I never let myself be a victim, and I never settled.



I made a choice at a young age, I promised myself I would never go back to the life I was brought up in.  I made the choice, no matter what, despite anything life would throw at me, to step forward.  To keep going.  To find a solution.  To make my dreams a reality, and to make a life for myself that I could be proud of.


I really want to thank Famous Footwear for allowing me the opportunity to be a part of this campaign.  While it isn't something I talk about often, I think it's important to be honest about who we are and where we come from.  I would also like to thank Alycia Choroszucha for her amazing work behind the camera capturing these moments and my story (and for not making fun of me when I was laughing too hard to talk).  And thanks to anyone who read through this, I know it was long, and just know I love you and I'm so so grateful for you all.





Thank you to Famous Footwear for kindly sponsoring this post and providing the Nike shoes featured here. All opinions are 100% honest & completely my own.

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