Friday’s Featured Writer: Tory Harvey

Happy Feature Friday, everybody! For our second guest author, I am pleased to introduce you to my dear sister-friend, Tory Harvey. I know you’ll enjoy this reflection on God’s brilliant artistry. Please leave your comments and encouragements below.

Tory Sunset

Morning canvas – soft, forgiving

Casts warm rising glow on frosted cars.

An ephemeral pink flood replaces sidewalks,

And orange lenses my eyes.

Washing over land and me with hues too beautiful for the eye.

Soft serenity, welcoming dawn

Gives way to sharp-edged, mirrored clouds

Reflecting the stark harshness of the coming day.

About the Author: With an unquenchable wanderlust, Tory can often be found traveling the far reaches of the world, documenting its beauty with her camera and notepad. When she’s not traveling, Tory likes to explore new hiking spots, beaches, and restaurants. She just finished her Ph.D. in Education and currently teaches in the Teacher Education Program at UC Santa Barbara.

Tory Harvey


Friday’s Featured Writer: Rayvell Snowden, Sr.

Happy Feature Friday, everybody!! As promised, I have a very special written piece to share with you today that is sure to touch you deep down in your heart. I am delighted to present our inaugural guest writer – my dad. Please, leave your comments and encouragements below!

Grandma Winnie and Daddy

Mom and Me
Rayvell Snowden, Sr.

Sitting there watching her and listening to her shallow breathing, I was reminded that she was only fourteen years older than I.   My mind took me back to my earliest memories of the two of us.

I guessed that I must have been three or four years old.  But the memory seemed as fresh as the day it happened.

“Rayvell, sit down baby. Momma don’t want you to fall off.”  I was standing on the end of her cotton sack in the cotton field.  She was pulling cotton, and as she pulled up to the next group of cotton stalks to pull the cotton bowls and put them in the long cotton sack that was strapped over her shoulder, I sat or stood on the end of it pulling what cotton was within my reach.  I’m sure, looking back now that I was no help to her at all but it kept me busy and out of her way.

Funny things that I know now as I sit here reflecting on those moments that had no meaning for me then…  As an example: I would learn as we traveled around following the cotton harvest that there is a difference in pulling cotton and picking cotton.  In Oklahoma we pulled cotton (taking the entire bowls) and in California we picked cotton (taking the cotton out of the bowls).  Looking back now I’m sure that was a hard time in my mother’s life, but I never remember her complaining about it.

Now as I sat watching her laying there not able to speak or to move I felt such overwhelming love for her.  I also realized that I had never made a point to tell her in unmistakable terms how much she had always meant to me.  I wanted to tell her and hold her.  Why hadn’t I ever told her?  I tried to convince myself that in my thirty three years I must have told her, but why couldn’t I remember? I did remember that on a very few occasions she had hugged me and told me that she loved me, but in my embarrassment I pulled away from her.  I always knew that she loved me and I assumed that she knew that I loved her too.  However, sitting here now, I couldn’t be sure that she knew.  I experienced such pain in that moment, because until that moment I never really believed that she was going to die.  Oh, yes, the doctors had told us that she didn’t have much time left but we kept seeing improvement in her and I convinced myself that the doctors were wrong on this one.

At this time my siblings and I were taking turns sitting with her.  We didn’t want her to be alone.  I remembered that earlier in the day when most of us were there with her she opened her eyes and looked at us.  I knew that she wanted to speak to us but she couldn’t.  I saw a tear form in the corner of her eye as she looked at us.

Convinced now that the doctors knew what they were talking about, I watched her very closely. Several times during the night she stopped breathing for long periods of time.  I called the nurse in a couple of times to check on her. The nurse told me that at this stage, patients sometimes would stop breathing for long periods of time and then start up again. I didn’t want to see my mother suffer and at the same time I wasn’t ready for her to go. There was so much that I needed to tell her.  Why hadn’t I told her when there was time?  She was only fourteen years older than me.  Too young to die, and yet I knew that it was not in my power to stop it. I was thinking, she has been so good to us. She gave all she had to us.  Did all she knew to do for us and we could do nothing for her.

I sat there with all of these thoughts going through my mind and then I felt myself conceding to that old fear that I’d had in the past.  I remembered that my grandmother had died at the age of forty-one.  Now my mother was dying at the age of forty-six; maybe we were all going to die in our forties.  That’s about the time that life was starting to make a little since, but then it was over and we would die.  Why?  I just could not get my head wrapped around that concept.  What was the purpose of life anyway if we had to die as soon as life started to get good?  Were we just supposed to get married, have some kids, get a good job, buy a home and then leave it all for someone else?

My heart hurt; I was afraid and confused.  There had never been anyone in my life that I knew of who had beat those odds.   No one had ever gone to college or had a job, (aside from working in the fields). I didn’t know who to cry for — my mother, myself, or my younger brothers and sisters.

My attention was drawn back to my mother.  She was quiet but her breathing was ragged and labored.   I would be with her until morning when my sister would come and sit with her.  I found myself (to my surprise) wishing that she would not linger any longer.  I just didn’t want to see her suffer anymore.  I would stop being afraid and recognize that this time was precious.   There were no one else there and this time belonged to Mom and me.

About the author: Anyone who has had the privilege of a conversation with Ray knows that he is a well of wisdom. A lifetime of sometimes unbelievable but always amazing experiences has served all who know him very well — family, friends and strangers, alike. Although he is retired from the field of college education — he ran the Industrial Technology Department at Allan Hancock College for almost thirty years and his time there is decorated with countless accolades — Ray continues to teach one class each semester in order to continue imparting his life and work experience on the next generation. He is currently writing his memoir.

“Feature Friday February” trial month kick-off in one week!


Okay! So (clearly) not today, Friday, but next Friday I will be posting the first Friday Feature piece and I am really looking forward to it! I had planned on today but then I landed a production gig and, well, better to start a new thing in the new month, right? So next month is going to be a trial month for my guest publication campaign, just to see how many people would like to have their work posted. So I’ve decided to call it “Feature Friday February.” We’ll see how many takers we get and worst case scenario, you’ll get an extra post from me four weeks in a row! =) If you know anyone whose work needs to be seen by the world, send them on over!

**Submission instructions and more info in previous post!!

“Featured Fridays” Call for entries: Share your work on Cotton-pickin’ Blogs!


The vision behind Art -N- Us Productions is not only to be salt and light in the world; it is also about helping others find their voice and tell their stories — whether through the written word, moving pictures, photographs, painting, or any other creative outlet that resonates with you! With that vision in mind, I am extending the opportunity to you to showcase your work here on my blog spot for what will be called “Featured Fridays.”

Starting with the first Friday in February I would like to share one creative’s work with my followers and, by extension, the world wide web! Maybe you don’t have the desire or know-how to launch your own blog or website, or perhaps you are just venturing into the world of the creative and you want a safe place to wet your feet. OR maybe you just have one particular piece of creative expression that you are just burning to share with an audience. This is your chance to be published! My tribe of followers are mighty in spirit and I would love to share this creative journey with you all in a new way!

So, whether you are a follower, a stopper-by, or you know someone who should submit their work for others to enjoy, please, send it on! I have already chosen a very special piece for a Feature Friday preview post for this week and I know you will all be moved. You will not want to miss out on this opportunity to shine your light and have your voice heard! All ages welcome. I’ll be waiting with bated breath =)

You can email submissions to:

Please include:
– your name as you would like it to appear in your post
– If written work, please send as text in the body of the email (not an attachment); copy and paste is fine; just make sure you have paragraph breaks where you want them!
– title of piece, if applicable
– a little blurb about you (1-3 sentences is fine)
– *if you have a video, please just send the embed link (which means you need to upload it to Vimeo or YouTube); do not email me the actual file! =)
– if you are not sure about how to submit, comment here or email me at the address above and I will help you!

*No works featuring inappropriate language or content will be featured, as my subscriber base is quite broad and I want everyone to be able to enjoy!ARTNUS APPROVED DESIGN (2)

Avenue 200

Ave 200 - Grandma_AuntMae_house
We called it going to the Country. Grandma King’s house. Smelling like cow manure every second of every day, and in the summer time it was especially bad because the heat caused the stink to coat itself a little thicker onto your tongue every time you opened your mouth to speak. And if you managed to refrain from talking, it would plow its way through your nostrils and settle at the back of your throat where you couldn’t possibly cough it out. The grass was always muddy from Grandma leaving the hose running in the yard to water the fruit trees. The dirt parking area outside the gate, which ran the length of the entire property, could accommodate twenty cars, no problem. And a lot of times, it did. Whenever we traveled back to Tulare, my birthplace, from the Central Coast to visit our relatives, all the aunts, uncles and cousins would gather at Grandma’s house and the adults would talk while the kids ran around and got motley in the yard and on the farm in the back. When my cousins got there I’d forget about the smelly air and the bad taste it left in my mouth because who has time to complain when there is so much playing to do?

Her backyard extended farther than I ever got the chance to fully experience. As a little one, it seemed to go on forever; by the time I was old enough to really explore it, I had lost interest. I used to think that between Grandma and her sister, Aunt Mae (they were next door neighbors for all of their adult years) they must have owned the entire Country!

This is what I am remembering as we stand outside the gate of the front yard that leads to Grandma’s house because it looks so different now. The endearing but tired blue wood paneling has been stripped away, and it’s all stucco on the outside. It may be beautiful and made over but it’s still Grandma’s house.

“Would you like to come in?” The lady who owns the house offers kindly.

I choke out the words “Yes, please,” and turn to my mom, heart racing, because it’s been seventeen years since I’ve seen the inside. And I know that as soon as we cross the threshold into this memory keeper, my heart will break with longing because there really is no going back to the Country. Not like we used to.

Lauren C. Snowden

Remembering Grace

Lauren and Grace - Volleyball

January 19, 2016, marks the 12-year anniversary since my best friend, Grace, passed away. Tricia, my bestie since kindergarten, and I, were asked by Grace’s family to speak about her at the funeral. At first, I was reluctant. I didn’t know if I could handle it. But after taking a breath and a second to process what was being asked of me, I knew there was no way I could decline the honor.

Last week, as I was cleaning out files and rearranging my office, I came across a folder. Inside was my tribute to Grace. I also found this buddy picture we took back during varsity high school volleyball that I had tucked away as part of an AP project for my government class. It was like I was seeing the picture for the very first time. As I sat there staring at the photograph and reflecting on the day I wrote those words in honor of my friend, I felt in my heart so much gratitude for what my pastor, Rick Bloom, would call a “God wink.” I thought the timing was fitting to share those words with you. For those of you who knew Grace, you can attest to the account that I wrote. For those of you who did not have the privilege of knowing her, I hope this gives you a glimpse into a beautiful life well-lived, and a little insight into the young woman who left a Grace-shaped hole in every heart she ever touched.

Remembering Grace
(presented January 24, 2014)

I think it’s possible that no one has ever been named more perfectly than Grace. When I looked up the word “grace” in the dictionary I found 15 different meanings. But the very first definition was “harmony or beauty of form, movement or expression.” Anyone who has ever even seen Grace walking down the street is a witness to the light that radiated from her face—not just sometimes, but all of the time. She had a smile that would light up the sun. But Grace was so much more than a pretty face; she was the most selfless person I have ever known. She was willing to give the shirt off her back to someone in need, whether or not she knew them, and there are times that I can recall her giving away her personal possessions willingly and joyfully, without thinking twice about it.

Grace was also very athletic and shined in every sport she played. A good friend of ours, Carrie Hartford, talked last night about Grace’s amazing back row defense on the volleyball court. I played volleyball with Grace as well but I could only play in the front row; I was the middle blocker and an outside hitter. Grace and I always laughed about being the perfect pair because she wasn’t tall enough to play the front row and I was too terrified of getting hit by the ball to play in the back! But one thing that made us different was that Grace just never thought to be afraid of the ball. Her philosophy was simple: “they hit the ball and I dig it.” She went through her whole life that way; no matter what was thrown at her she kept on fighting back. That will always be a great inspiration to me.

Another definition that stood out for me was “a sense of propriety or consideration.” Grace always exemplified this quality, especially in her sickness. Every word she said and every action she took over the past eight months was out of concern for her family and her friends. I was blessed enough to be able to share the past eight months with Grace and there were many things that we talked about. Even in her most difficult times, when I would visit her in the hospital, she was always more concerned about me than she was about her own condition. The most reassuring thing that she told me in our countless conversations was back in July after she’d had her first surgery. She said, “You know, Lauren, I’m not afraid to die because I know where I’m going. I just don’t want to right now.” From that point on, I knew that whatever happened, everything was going to be okay.

There are many ways to define Grace but none fully conveyed what Grace means to me… so I put it in a letter.

For my Grace:

How special I must be that God tailored the perfect angel and put her in the perfect body—just for me.  The bond we had goes beyond a friendship; you are my sister.  There is no one who knows me like you, no one with whom I can sit in silence for hours and walk away feeling absolutely stimulated and encouraged.  As I write this, I can feel your arms around me—even at the very thought of your name—and I pray that communion never goes away.

I have not known a person with such passion as yours, a passion for life and for loving other people.  You were a living example of God’s grace and I know you were purposed to show others how to love.  I am so blessed to be the one who introduced you to the best friend anyone could ever have: Jesus.  And I am so grateful for the spiritual relationship we shared that thrived for the nine and a half years that followed.  In the past eight months, you have taught me much about two of the most important tools in life…courage and hope.  I can only hope for half the strength that you have exemplified during a time that was more difficult than I could have ever imagined.  You are my hero.

Grace, I know you were only here for a short while but you touched more hearts in 25 years than most people touch in a lifetime.  Nothing hurts more than the reality that you won’t be here for me to touch your hand or kiss your face, but nothing gives me more joy than the knowledge and understanding that now you are supping with Jesus.  I love you more than anyone could ever know and I am thankful that I was able to show you that.

Thank you so much for choosing to share your life with me and for giving me your friends and your family.  I know that I will never share with anyone what I shared with you but I pray that God will show me how to carry on your legacy and always be the blessing to others that you were to me.  God bless and keep you while I miss you…

Always love,