A stroll down memory lane. With bunnies. And dogs. (And a Hippo.)

I am working on a pet portrait today. I have a few free weeks before my next week of school visits and a person emailed me asking if I still do pet portraits. She knew of me from a client I had probably 8-9 years ago. It was Joe Bunny. Not the client, the pet of course. But now I have a vision of a giant bunny-man sitting with me asking me to paint his portrait. HA! (Oh, I do entertain myself so easily.)

Anyhoo, it got me nostalgic, reminding me of how far I have come, and what I did to get here. Hundreds of pet portraits. So many late at night in the wee hours when it seemed everyone else on the planet was sleeping, but I was up painting. Sure, there were a few moments of desperation, wondering if this would lead to anything, but I can honestly say that I knew it would. There was something inside me that knew, I just KNEW that somehow, some way it would pay off. I just had no earthly idea HOW it would pay off. At least I knew I was consistently and constantly practicing, honing my painting style. And it was fun. And it certainly helped with much needed extra income.

So when this lovely lady asked me to paint her sweet Ruby, I said yes – but made her promise not to tell anyone I said yes. (I don’t have much time for pet portraits these days.) But one or two here or there?  Oh, it reminds me how much I adored painting people’s pets. And I really, really did.

Sometimes I still can’t believe I got the thing I most wanted – that I created exactly the life I wanted. And grateful? Doesn’t even begin to sum up how I feel. What astonishes me, what overwhelms me, is that I have so much MORE than I ever dreamed. The school visits? Oh my, they fill me up like sunshine. These kids fill up my soul to the tippy, tippy top. That I have the honor and privilege of talking to the future of this country and inspiring them to be great, to be more, to dream BIG, GIANT DREAMS?  There are no words.

And I’ve said it before and I will say it here again, I am shocked at how thirsty these kids are to here that they can and SHOULD dream BIG. Now, I never sugar coat it, I tell them about hard work, late nights, rejection and tears – oh, so many tears you will shed trying to make your dream happen, and still, they WANT, NEED to hear it. They drink my words up right in front of me. They are desperate for it. All of them.

People sometimes ask me if I meet kids I don’t like as I am always gushing on about them all after a visit. And you know what? I don’t. I never see the bullies, I never see the class clowns – well, maybe I see them for a few minutes in the beginning – but once I begin, something happens after the first 5 minutes. They begin to listen. To really, truly HEAR me. And for 45 minutes we do this energy dance. We pass this amazing, uplifting, hopeful energy back and forth between us until suddenly time is up. And when it is over we all look at each other and feel it. They believe in me and I believe in them and for that moment in time, we all believe in ourselves. It is magical. MAGICAL.  I can’t imagine not having that in my life with these children – something I never had ever imagined having at all, is what I love most about my career. It’s like getting everything you every wanted and finding out there is SO MUCH MORE – and you can have that too. And you realize, suddenly, perhaps finally, that it really is about the moments along the way, all of them and when you enjoy them all and know you have no control of the how, your dreams can get so much more big and amazing.

I guess I should go work on Ruby now. I have babbled long enough. Oh! Before I go, I promised Lucas a third grader in Indiana that I would make my painting of a Garden Hippo Gnome into an actual Garden Hippo Gnome and take a picture for him. This is for you Lucas!

Here is the original painting I bring to school visits:

Here he is outside my house (you can see little Otto Von Schmidt at the door – heh.):

Here is a detail view of Herb – the Garden Hippo Gnome:

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