simplifying

This weekend was a perfect fall weekend. The sky was a shade of blue that made you stare, not quite believing the luminous blue was for real-a shade so saturated it didn’t seem possible. My husband did yard work, my kids ran in and out of the house, my dogs chased frisbees. And the whole time I had a gnawing uneasy feeling. I was supposed to be doing something, not just relaxing, enjoying the day. I felt like I was playing hooky. A year ago I imagined this moment. Making a living doing what I chose to, enjoying my family and my time with them. So why in the world should I not be completely at ease??? I explained my feelings to my husband to which he (a bit too quickly) replied, “It is because you can’t relax! You can’t just ‘be’ in the moment and enjoy. You always need to be thinking of your next great idea!” Wow. This annoyed me, irritated me, really steamed me up. A sure sign that he was exactly right. Ever since I was a young girl I have schemed to make money, had goals, plans, something in the works. It seems I am not happy if I don’t have a bunch of things going at once. This past Thursday I took the morning off and I painted a painting just for me. It was so different than anything I have ever done and it was so freeing. At the end it was exactly what had been in my head and I was so happy with it. So happy I did another, then another. “Hmmm, I began thinking, I should do a whole series and contact some galleries…” See? I just can’t relax. Can’t just “be.” So I really thought about all this last night. After a lot of contemplation I decided to simplify. That for the next few months I will concentrate on nothing else but commissions. I may draw or sketch for me, but no brainstorming on how it might make me money. That not only gets exhausting, but takes the pleasure of creating away. I will have more than enough work with my commissions. I am not going to offer holiday cards, or prints, or anything else. I will enjoy my holiday season by painting other people’s dogs and maybe something else just for me. It is comforting to think that I am giving myself permission to enjoy what I have and know it is enough. I have the beginning of next year to try new things and see where it goes. I don’t anticipate this will be that easy at first, but simplifying sounds really nice right now.

honeysuckle love

I am in love with the scent of honeysuckle. Today my husband was working and our second car has sadly taken it’s final breath, so he dropped me and the kids off very early at their school. I ate breakfast with them then walked the mile or so home. On the way home I passed by some honeysuckle. Immeadiately I smiled. I picked some and just smelled it the whole way home. I get giddy off the perfume of this flower. I can’t even explain it! It just makes me so happy!! Right now it is sitting next to me in a glass and I just keep inhaling it. I have looked high and low for any thing honeysuckle scented. Apparently I am not in a majority that love this scent. Target a few years back carried a spritzer that I LOVED, but after one season discontinued it. One of the bath and body places recently had a honeysuckle scented line, but it was awful, smelled mostly of alcohol and was no good. There is a perfume called Michael that is very close, but is $50 a bottle and well, it is not THAT close. I am on a hunt for anything honeysuckle! So my next idea is to buy the essential oil and make it myself. I am almost to that point. If any of you out there know of any honeysuckle products out there…contact me! Write in in my comments section or email me. I will be grateful forever! I will paint your dog for you!! Anything!! Mmmmm, the scent just washed over me again….I swear it is a chemical reaction…love, love, love honeysuckle!! This surely is what heaven smells like.

fun stuff

There is nothing, NOTHING I like more than giving presents-especially ones I make. I love mailing them off, then the anticipation of waiting until they arrive. I try my best not to tell people when I sent them out a package, but I often fail miserably and email a quick, “Look for a surprise soon!” Hey, at least I pass along that sweet anticipation feeling, right? I had just sent Jill at Mortal Mom (her url is in my faves list-go check her out!) a package, and could hardly wait until she got it. Most recently was my best friend’s baby’s first birthday. This was the woman I went to art school with and knows me just about best in the world. I sent her a book I made all about her son Ethan Kai. He is a sweetheart, but has another personality trait that has meant this mom has not slept through the night in a year now. Sadly, that is not an exaggeration! See my gift here: http://www.abeytacreative.com/ethankai.html

I wish I could make a living by making gifts for people. Oh wait, I already do!

finally!

Well, it took a year, but I did it. I finally got my very own business cards! Printed by a real printer! In a nice little box filled with 500 hundred of them!! Now, this is significant for a variety of reasons. The most significant is that I no longer have to print them out on card stock, then cut them down with an xact knife one by one. (yes, I know they make the perforated paper, but I am seriously anal and hate those edges-plus cutting them down brought me back to my art school mock-up days, I suppose!) But after a year of that, enough was enough. Secondly, I have never in the past 7 years of being a professional ever had a business card. I have worked in over 8 companies in the past 7 years (yes I get bored easily!). This is because I have committment issues and have always been contract. Contract employees don’t get cards. I used to be jealous when I saw other people whip out their cards and say, “Here, take my card!” At my last job where I actually got hired status, I was ABOUT to get my cards…then I quit. See? Committment problems. But no more!! Hot off the presses!! Woohoo! No more late nights almost cutting off my fingertips!

But most off all it is significant because it says I value myself. That I spent money on me. That I could still be cutting my own cards down to save a few more bucks, but I finally am at the point where I value my time over money. And that is pretty amazing for me. It is a good day.

cozy

It is a rainy, chilly day here. We have been completely unaffected the past week from the big hurricane-in fact, we had so much gorgeous weather it has been amazing. But today I awoke to grey skies. What I love best about these days is the way light indoors seems to create such a cozy warm feeling. It seems to happen more in the fall and winter months and makes me feel so safe and secure somehow. It reminds me of the wonderful days of my childhood where homework was my biggest responsibility. Ah, if we only knew then, right? I have lots of work to keep me busy (almost ALL painting-yay!), my husband is back from his far off treks for a bit and the kids have a teacher work day. I can hear them in the other room laughing together and watching cartoons. My husband just brought me a coffee with frothed milk and cinnamon sprinkled on top. Right now, life is grand. And as you read this I pass this feeling on to you. Go pass it on to another and soon we will all be feeling warm, safe and and cozy.

reality

Ok. Here we are at Friday again. I am working on many projects for many upcoming events, finishing up design projects and paintings due. I have delivered art this week to a dog day care and I have already received new commissions as a result of dropping that order off. Things really are moving in the right direction. I am a busy lady! “She must be raking it in!” you think. But want a reality check from a freelancer? Someone that is “doing it on their own?” I know many of the people that read this are either doing it themselves, or want to. I just want to give you a glimpse of how it can really be. (NOT for all, but I know for many of us “doing our own thing” people out there this is common story.)

A typical week: Today I got an email from a dear client who asked me 2 weeks ago to hold a $300 check, he still needs me to hold it. Yesterday, I got an email from a design boutique that I worked my butt off two weekends ago for that said I may or may not have my $420 check by mid week next week. Call if I don’t get it by Wed. Thanks. Last week I bounced 3 checks because the day I was told I could pick up a $450 check and I went to pick it up (1 hour round trip) I got there and was told it had accidentally been mailed. I got it 3 days later. This was all design work. As far as painting, well I get half up front and get the rest upon delivery. My painting clients are awesome! I have about 8 paintings in line, but because of design jobs, I have put them in back of the line, therefore no money until I get to them. I have a festival this weekend where I should make a decent amount of money, but there are no guarantees. I have done these fundraisers before with much success, I have also walked away after 8 hours with nothing. (ok, that only happened once, but still ya never know.) I love, LOVE what I do, which is the ONLY reason I keep slugging away at this day after day. Because that not knowing when the money is coming? Well, I won’t sugar coat it, that can really suck. And for any of you that didn’t know? My husband freelances as well. Double suck. There should be a law that states artist cannot marry each other. Artisits MUST marry an accountant or lawyer, ya know someone STABLE! Kidding!!

Now, as I write all this, you may think I am down, sad, even bitter. No! On the contrary! Even with all the down sides, the up sides FAR exceed the negatives! Plus, there is a real high when we do make it each month without a phone shutting off, or the gas company calling…again. When that check comes in at just the last minute to cover the bills and mean we can eat? That rocks! Is living like this for everyone? No. Does every person working on their own experience this? Absolutely not. I quit my fulltime job without a dime in the bank, better planning might have helped. I tend to be a jump right in kinda gal – not always the smartest thing. I tell you these things to help you plan, to give you a glimpse that while working for yourself can be scary, but mostly I want to tell you that with passion for what you do, it WILL persevere over the bad things. And in time, those bad things, like waiting on money all the time, will go away because you cannot fail if you do not stop trying. And with all this, I consider things going really, really well. People love my art and buy my art. I make people smile with my art. That, to me, defines success, not my bank account.

And taxes…let’s just say I owe the government my firstborn….

right where I should be

I have a million things that I want to do. My mind is constantly buzzing with ideas and I never seem to have enough time to do them all. Yesterday as I dropped off some art to sell at Camp Woof, a very cool doggie daycare, the owner said something wonderful to me. She said, “Michelle, no one out there is doing what you do, your time will come for everything you want to do. You don’t have to force it, because the doors will open up when they are supposed to.” That calmed me down so much. We had been talking about a new dog boutique that had just opened up around the corner and how my art would be perfect there. I wanted to call and schedule a meeting with the owner, but I also knew that I cannot handle one more thing on my plate. And that felt like opportunity was passing me by. That is when I have to remember those words. “The doors will open when they are supposed to.” In the meantime, I need to focus on all the tasks at hand and just keep crossing things off my ‘to do list’ to make room for my ‘want to do list.’

And throughout all this I will keep that seductress called fear at bay. Even though I have all these things happening, I still can hear that little voice calling my name, telling me how it can all fall apart at any moment. There is not an ounce of evidence for that, yet still I find myself stopping and listening from time to time. Powerful, that fear gal, ain’t she? I have concluded that there is actually something comforting in fear and that is why we graviate towards it. She can keep us in all our old familiar patterns just by listening to her. If I choose to go forward instead, listening to my heart instead of fear, that is scary. But scary is not even remotely like fear. Fear paralyzes, while scary can be exhilarating if we allow ourselves to feel it. So I will put my hands out, blinded by the future and trust that all the scary feelings are leading me exactly where I should be going, in exactly the timeframe I should be doing it.

almost big enough

Last night my daughter woke up to get a drink of water. She then came and found me painting and asked me to tuck her back in. As I followed her sleepy, wobbly walk I noted that she was half of my height. When did my little baby girl get so big? Then today on the way to school, I asked her, as I do every morning, “Can I drop you off at the door or do you want me to walk you in?” She always exclaims with a bit of fear in her voice that she is not ready for drop off like “the big kids” and needs to be walked in. Today though, she hesitated. It caught me by surprise. She said, “Not today Mama, maybe tomorrow. I am feeling a little bit bigger lately.” Ouch. I have never been one of those parents wishing my children stay small and dependent forever. As a matter of fact, I have envisioned myself pushing my children to explore, travel, do that semester abroad, travel cross country. But still, today, I found myself realizing that the saying that time flies is too true.

On my way home I saw a brand new baby carrier box at someone’s sidewalk. A new baby had just been brought home from the hospital. Someone in that house was experiencing those sweet, new emotions you never realized were possible that only your new baby can bring. Quicky my mind flashed to my 23 year old self, 1 month out of art school and bringing home a baby I had no idea what to do with, but sure it was about to be the best thing that had ever happened to me. I could never have imagined how my life would change. These past 7 years have literally flown by and the feelings I had today as I walked an “almost big enough” five year old down a school corridor were as sweet as when I first began this amazing journey of being a mom.

enough bones to go around

So this weekend when my husband briefly came home for the day-he is already gone again…sigh…and we went to the local farmer’s market. We love going there as a family as it is always an adventure. We see the fish and lobster, try new cheese, pick out a great bottle of wine, get some gourmet chocolate, try a new fruit, you get the picture. I have been meaning for a week now to get the dogs some good hearty meat bones while I was there. You just go to the meat counter, ask em for a leg bone, and for about $1 a pound, your dog is in cow heaven. I got $8 dollars worth of bones with meat still all stuck to the bone – it is A LOT of bone! So I get home and give one to each of the dogs. I have ever done this before so I am just eager to see them go nuts. Well, Lucy, the world’s sweetest dog on the planet decides she wants both bones. She won’t let Rufus near them. I mean, these are huge, there is more than enough for each dog. All day long poor Rufus just watches Lucy. At one point I tried to give Rufus his, but he wouldn’t even accept it if Lucy was there. Then, last night I was watching tv after the kids were asleep and gave Rufus one of the bones and put it near me on the floor. He went to go sniff it and Lucy barked so loud it scared Rufus right into my lap! (Have I mentioned he is about 100lbs?? and a baby??) I figure I should not get involved and should let them work it out. Rufus, the big brave dog that he is, ended up sleeping with me last night. Still shaken up from the bark I suppose.

So here we are to this morning. I just dropped the kids off at school, have coffee brewing and I decide one last time to give Rufus his chance. I give him the bone, and this time he grabs it quick! I guess he decided this is his chance! He races to the back door, I open it and he runs out with his bone! Here is the funny part. Lucy, the greedy dog she is, runs after him! I am not kidding! She leaves her bone to go chase Rufus! They chase each other around the yard for like 5 minutes. When Lucy sees he is not giving it up she comes back up the stairs and sits on the landing watching him. He is out (in a drizzling rain I might add) sitting in the grass happily chewing on his bone-finally. Meanwhile, Lucy is so concerned with having both bones, that she has niether. She does not want to take her eyes off Rufus, so she can’t go get her bone in the liviing room.

Now I know I don’t have to point out how very human my two dogs are being and the obvious analogy that can be made. Instead, just go share your bones today! There is plenty for us all!

Happy Friday!!

Not that Fridays have the same sacred value they used to, but if they did I would surely be crying in my coffee if I had to be in an office on a day like today. It is an absolutely gorgeous day here! I have been working since 8am and the sunlight is dappling on the leaves right outside my window, the sky is powdery blue, the birds are chirping away, Rufus is under my desk warming my feet, and I actually got to put on my favorite fall sweater because there is a lovely chill in the air! I am an html girl today finishing up a website job. I worked on paintings for a greyhound ‘Greyfest’ fundraiser last night, my husband is coming home from 8 days in NH tomorrow, (for just 1 nite-then he goes to Houston for 5 days, but I’ll take it!!) and all seems right with the world. I am promising myself I will treat myself to some sketching and a latte at the Starbucks patio in a few hours. It would be an absolute crime not to get out and enjoy this weather. These are the days I imagined when I thought about working from my home. What a wonder when you get to have a moment where you realize you have everything you’ve wanted and need. Absolutely delightful. Have a beautiful Friday!