Whatif Monster Moments are Everywhere – moments I need to write down so I never forget…


Above photos are my Whatif Monster Halloween costume I am wearing for a half marathon I am running in Saturday. You only live once, right??

This past week I was doing school visits down in Panama City, Florida. I did 20 presentations in 4 days. It was a lot of visits and a lot of children and A LOT of fun. I kept having to stop and pause to really take it in. For years I had been dreaming about school visits. About talking to kids, about teaching them that heart, passion, hard work and perseverance IS enough. That if you don’t give up, you cannot fail. I made every child pinky promise me they would promise to listen to that little voice in their heart when they finally heard it and to never quit – even when it got really hard. Even when they wanted to give up. Even when they wanted to cry from failing for the hundreth time. They all promised me. Because I told them I had cried. I had wanted to give up. But I didn’t and I got to be there now, talking to them. I said, “In 20 years, I want each of you to find me and call me up and say, ‘Miss. Michelle! I am a doctor, teacher, scientist, artist, musician, dancer, writer, veterinarian now! Can you imagine what the world would be like, what an AMAZING place it would be, if you all followed your dreams?'”

After I said that at one of my presentations, the last one actually, a little girl in the front row began to wave her hand wildly with a look of great worry on her face. “We’ll do questions at the end sweetie.” I said, but I could tell she was very worried about something serious.

Later when I was signing books, the little girl came up to me. With just as worried an expression on her face.

“Miss Michelle!! How am I going to call you???”

“What, do you mean, sweetie?”

“In 20 years, how will I call you? My mommy doesn’t have your number! And I made a pinkie promise!!!” (She was WORRIED.)

“Ooooh,” I smiled. “Okay, don’t tell anyone I am giving you this, because I don’t have enough for everyone, but here is my business card. It has my number on it. You can call me with this.”

The look of relief that washed over this girls face and the giant grin that replaced it was priceless. Then she skipped off like the weight of the world had been lifted off of her.

At another presentation, there was a little boy I saw that was crying at the end. He didn’t want to be in any class pictures and big, giant crocodile tears rolled down his face. I looked at his teacher and she said, “He is a great student, I have no idea what is wrong.” I asked if I could talk to him. She said yes. I asked him if he would hold my hand while we walked back to his classroom. He did. His teacher suggested he introduce me to ‘Bananas’ the monkey when we got int he classroom. She took the other students to a corner rug. The little boy brought me to a HUGE stuffed monkey. He was trying so, so hard to hold it together and be polite. “This….is….Bananas…” and he broke down crying. I hugged him tight. “Oh, sweetheart, what’s wrong?? Do you want to tell me?” I asked quietly. He looked at me, you could tell his heart was breaking about something. Finally he spoke, “My…doggie…just…died.”

Oh. My. My heart burst into a hundred million pieces of sorrow for this child. His dog had just died and he had to sit through an hour presentation featuring dogs. It must have been HORRIBLE. I hugged him tight and said I was so, so sorry. After he was done crying (and me too) I looked him in the eye. I asked if he remembered Bailey from my book – shaggy dog. He said he did. Well, Bailey was MY doggie when I was a kid and I promised I would pray to Bailey to go find his doggie and play with him and make sure he was happy and they would watch after us. He said that would be good and smiled a tiny bit. Then I drew a dog on a post it note and made it out to him and signed it Love, Miss Michelle. Then he smiled a little bit more. I told him I had to go, but I would never ever forget him or his doggie. And I never will.

One more more moment (in SO many) was a visit where a little blond girl ran up to me.

“How much are your books??”

“$6 each.”

“Hmmm, I bet I can get my mom to buy one and I have money saved up and can buy the other.”

“You would use your money to buy one of my books?!”

“Yes! I save it to spend on extra special thing.”

(and then I floated away from happy)

About ten minutes later the same little girl comes up to me. “Miss Michelle, Molly is crying. Her parents never get her anything at school. And she is crying. And she is my best friend. Is there anything you can do to help Molly?”

“Show me Molly.” I said.

She took my hand and brought me to a little girl, literally sobbing into a corner. I took her hand and asked if she would come with me. Molly and I walked away from everyone.

“Molly, do you like my books?” I asked.

“More than anything, but I know I can’t get them.”

“Is that why you are crying?”

“Yes….sniffle.”

“You know, you have a VERY special friend. She cared so much about you that she told me how much you loved my books and she didn’t want to see you sad.And you know what?”

“What?”

“Obviously, someone that has THAT special a friend must be an AMAZING person. And I don’t meet AMAZING people just any ol’ day. Can I give you two of my books and sign them for you so that you will remember me?”

Oh my goodness. The smile that came across that girls face could have lit up an entire city. After I signed it for her she took them and ran to show her friend. Them, the smile on her friend’s face, that you remember, did not have any books of her own, smiled even MORE than Molly. The genuine look of happiness for her friend was something I will never, ever forget. When you hear the phrase ‘priceless’ that moment should be the definition.

And people, our future is in good hands. These children that are just starting out in life are a wonderful, joy-filled, compassionate force to be reckoned with. I for one, am not worried about putting my old age in their hands. But just to be safe, I will keep visiting school and encouraging as many of them as I can to follow their dreams!

He’s here! He’s dear! And he’ll take away your fear!!

OMGOSH!!!! He’s here! He’s here! And I am IN LOVE WITH HIM and the AWESOME folks at Binkley Custom Plush Toys!!!

If you haven’t already pre-ordered, you are going to want to NOW! Order your little Whatif Monster because he will take all your worries away for you. He will do the worrying and you go take your chances, risk, dare and DREAM! Because my little green dude is MAGIC! And with him by your side to remind you that life is not about worrying, but about LIVING and MAKING MISTAKES and LEARNING and TRYING AGAIN even if you fall flat on your face! He will be by your side no matter what!

Check out my dude!! (and I love you guys so much I didn’t even stop to clean up after I got off the treadmill I was SO EXCITED to share him with you! Ahem. Sorry about that. I really do love you. Good thing it’s not Smell-a-vision.)

Why I love you and why my 15 year old has to admit he is wrong. heh.

Last week my son and I were in the car waiting on his sister to get out of her improv class. There is a lot of sitting and waiting on kids when you are a parent. Especially when they are in middle and high school – after school activities you know. I probably sit and wait more than most. I share custody of my kids. (I hate that word, ‘custody.’ Makes the kids sound like possessions. Ick. Terrible.) Anyway. Two years ago we ended up moving into my husband’s house that was about 25 minutes from where we all had lived – me, the kids, their dad, their school, etc. We tried to sell the house my husband already had and buy one where we were renting, but we all know the housing market… Hence we live 25 minutes away. And the weeks I have the kids, there is a lot of driving. And waiting when need be.

Back to the story. This waiting leaves time for talking with one of the kids one-on-one a lot of times. I love that. My kids and I are really close and can talk about anything. I love that too. So my son, is 15. And like many typical 15 year olds he can be rather, um, cynical is a way to put it. Nicely.

He is taking AP History and they are learning about world religions. And all the fighting that seems (ironically) to go hand-in-hand with loving your particular God, the land your particular God wants you to live on, and faith in your particular God. And how people think their particular God wants them to fight to the death for him and over. And over. Insert a cynical 15 year old that is learning about this, whom has also learned all about the major world wars that involved land and religion and lack of tolerance and well, you get a 15 year old that declares, “Mom, face it. People SUCK.”

Me: No. They don’t.

Son: Yes, mom. They do. You just like to wear your pretty rose-colored glasses and make your little dog paintings and green monsters and pretend they don’t suck. Your world of unicorns and rainbows is make-believe.

Me: They don’t suck. You are wrong. And my world is the actual world.

Son: You are deluded, Mother.

Me: No, I am not. It is just that the news does nothing but tell us terrible things. And the history books have to document all the terrible things so we can try not to repeat them again and again. So it SEEMS like people suck. But most people? They are awesome. And giving. And generous. And tolerant of each other.

Son: Mother. Puh-Leese.

Me: Okay. Think about YOUR world, son. Every single person in YOUR world. Not on tv, not on the news, not in the paper. Think about the people in YOUR world that you have DIRECT contact with. Can you think of anyone that is truly evil? That truly is a terrible person? That TRULY sucks?

Son: Hitler.

Me: Dude. I said that you know DIRECTLY.

Son:…….

Me: Exactly. Now, most people would not be able to come up with one truly evil, person that sucks. And if they could, it is probably only one or two people. Again, I mean a person that you DIRECTLY interact with. Therefore, if you take that fact and multiply it by EVERYONE, does it not make sense that the VAST MAJORITY of us people are good, and happy and nice and giving and tolerant?

Son:……..

Me: Yeah, well, you may not like it, but most of the people in this world are good, generous and loving people. Sorry your cynical 15 year old world can’t quite handle my rainbows and unicorns, but there are more of us out there than you think.

And when I get emails from people that support my Whatif Monster concept with encouraging words or by buying from my campaign? There is a cynical 15 year old that dies just a little inside because he has to ADMIT HIS MOTHER IS RIGHT.

And to that I say, THANK YOU LOVELY PEOPLE!!! 😀

Whatif you fail? What then?

I woke up with the Whatif Monster whispering in my head today. Actually that’s a lie. He was whispering a lot in my head last night. Okay, that is a lie too. He pretty much is always whispering my my head all the time, just a lot louder yesterday. I choose to ignore him, but last night, he really got loud. It is probably the PMS. Nothing like hormones to make you doubt yourself and be sure that you are going to be found out for the utter failure your hormones promise that you are. Ugh. Only part about being a female I would trade in. At least it only lasts a day or so, right? still. ugh.

What are MY whatifs? What if my my book doesn’t sell? What if I don’t get enough money to manufacture these monsters? What if I never make any money and can never pay back the money I have already invested into my business? You know what? I have no idea what I will do if those things happen. I guess I will have to figure it out if it does. Part of me thrives on the not knowing. The exhilaration of working hard everyday, making phone calls, making connections, going to schools, meeting people and seeing what comes of it. It is SO exciting! Never knowing what is in store!

But on those other days? The ones where self-doubt creeps in? The ones where you look at your credit cards that you maxed out for your dream? The days where you spent more money than you made and you just promised to comp another school visit because the school has no funding and you would rather spend your own gas money than to even THINK about saying no to talking to little kids? Those days you crave KNOWING. You crave it like you want chocolate and you think you would push your husband into traffic if he got the last bar of chocolate before you on certain days of the month.

For just a moment, wouldn’t it be nice if you just KNEW that it was going to work out? You KNEW that you weren’t going to go into debt over this latest venture that you are wondering if you thought through enough before making BIG, HUGE promises to the world? You KNEW you would not fail?

But we don’t get that. Even on days where we want to stay under the covers and say, “What are you TALKING about? I didn’t promise anyone I would produce 1200 monsters with money I do not have!! That would be CRAZY! Surely you are talking about some stupid person, because who would commit $6000 to a project without having a CLUE if they could do it?!?! That is not me, can’t you see I am hiding sleeping here? Go away and turn off the light when you leave, please.”

Yeah….

So I am going to go paint a pet portrait now of a dog named Gus. And try to shhhh the whispers of my Whatif Monster. Because it will all work out. Somehow. I believe that with all my heart. Even if I have no idea HOW to believe it right now. Because we cannot fail if we do not stop trying, right? Right.

Success still doesn’t always pay the bills and why that’s okay.

It is 6:34am and if I focus, I mean REALLY, REALLY focus I can get this blog entry running through my head and out before I need to shower, pack the car and wake up The Soph and get out the door to Norcross Splashfest where I am doing storytime today at 12pm and tomorrow at 1pm (plug!). Coffee will help. One moment. Sluuuuurp.

Okay then.

The Universe has been pretty amazing to me lately. I am getting opportunities to travel, both locally and out-of-state. People want to fly me (and GASP! pay me!) to come for storytimes and school visits. I am being invited to festivals and people are talking about flying me to conferences. I am getting emails that my books are selling with ‘great success.’ Really? Me? When did this all happen? How?

Well I do know ‘how’ – the ‘when’ just all snowballed. Over the past 10 years.

You know, when you work for anything, not just an artistic dream, but maybe a medical degree, science degree, mechanic certificate, there are inevitably DAYS. You know the kind – the late night, what in the heck am I doing this for, everyone else on the planet has the common sense to be out with friends, watching tv, eating a pizza, SLEEPING and you are EXHAUSTED wondering if ANY of this is worth it AT ALL. I mean, there you sit late at night painting, watching all the ailments of Henry the XIII and all about every single wife because the Tudors series is over and you are in withdrawels so deep you will take anything, and I mean ANYTHING to ease the shakes – did you know his skin was rotted so bad you could smell him from 3-4 rooms away? In a CASTLE. And last time I checked? Castles? BIG rooms. No, that’s just me? Ahem… Anyway, um…where was I? Yes, late night, the rest of the world certainly has it easier than you. Right?

I have known for a long time now that I wanted to write and illustrate children’s picture books. I have been an artist for as long as I can remember. I always felt lucky that at least I KNEW my dream. That right there? The knowing? Way ahead of the life game in my opinion. At least I had an INKLING the path I thought I was supposed to be on. I say this, because, I am not so smug to think I have the Universe all figured out. I see myself writing and drawing for children until I am so old I cannot grasp a pencil in my hand anymore. (then I want to be like Henri Matisse and have some poor assistant do my bidding while I hold a long stick from my bed. (Google it.))

But I do get the Universe has its own ideas. Perhaps I am right, perhaps not. But this I know: I am exactly where I am supposed to be right now. I feel it to the depths of my soul. And every single pet portrait, missed vacation, missed sleep, delirious, bleary-eyed walk to the bed at 4am after finishing some painting made it worth it. And yes, I sure wanted to give up MANY times. Because sometimes following your dream is so damn hard. And let’s not forget about reality. If I had a dollar for every time someone offered me an ‘opportunity’ for ‘exposure’ that helped them out but sure as heck didn’t pay me? Well, I would have actually had money for bills. HA!

And just so we are clear, I am not swimming in money. A lot of my visits that I am doing are expenses only pay. I am going to Panama City for a week and won’t come home with any money, but I won’t have spent any and I WILL have sold a lot of books and MOST importantly, talked with and hopefully inspired hundreds of children.

Yes, I want to make money at this. I have to. I have bills to pay like everyone else. But success for me is about doing what I love and following my dreams and my passions. I am very lucky to have a partner that is paying the bills while I pursue this. I know that and I don’t take it for granted for one single second. That gives me the advantage of being able to do all this faster. But make no mistake, I would still be doing this if I was still single, had a full time job and had to do all this at nights and weekends. Because for the past 10 years? That is exactly what I have done. When you are on your right path, even when you don’t know where it is leading you, you can’t not do it. In my experience anyways. Money or no.

So yes, I still don’t make so much money. I still get rejections all the time on my other books. (good ones, we are CLOSE, but nonetheless rejections. And WOO-BOY! do they still sting. Recovery is faster though.) And dude, I have NO CLUE how I am coming up with $5000 more dollars to produce my Whatif Monsters if I don’t get more pre-sales either. I am DETERMINED to earn it myself through pre-sales or school visit money or pet portrait earnings!! I will NOT give up!!

Um, on that note? Would you pretty please like to pre-order a Whatif Monster? They will give you good luck and magic and darnit if they aren’t the CUTEST things! Really. Go here now and get one – only $15! http://www.indiegogo.com/Whatif-Monsters-for-Everyone?a=230675&i=addr Awesome. Thanks!

It is 7:09 am and I think I got out what I wanted to. The message in a nutshell? Success is something you feel. It is not always reflected in your bank account in the beginning. Or maybe ever. (but let’s hope enough to pay our bills, right?) But when you know you are doing what you are meant to be doing, even if it is for just right now? There is no amount of money in the world that can buy that feeling. This I know.

If you are not already following your dreams? BEGIN. Today. Even if it is just having the COURAGE to admit what it is you LONG and DESIRE to do. (And totes order a Whatif Monster to remind you everyday to keep at it. What? Don’t forget to be a good business person too, I know you’ve got bills too. Believe you me, the gas company don’t take passion for payment. I tried that.)