Well, the past week has been a time of tears and healing. It has also been a time of laughter and friendship. I notice that, unless I write here every day (which rarely seems to happen anymore), I never know where to hop back on board.
I could tell you that I have a puppy asleep at my feet. I call her my "Magic Ella Bean" because she has brought magic into my life and reminds me of a deliciously black French roasted coffee bean.
I could tell you about how happy I am to be alive and living a life that feels so true to me.
I could tell you how I'm looking forward to going out for a lunch of chai and Nepalese food with the most wonderful friend in the world.
I could tell you that my life has been swallowed whole by dogs and my work.
I could tell you about the photo shoot I had with a singing dog and how--WOW--that dog could really sing! Deep howls, held in tune with the harmonica, causing so much happiness to rise up from my center that it was hard to hold the camera steady!
I could tell you about all the ways that the Universe has conspired to help me to do what I'm doing and how amazing I think it is when people I've just met offer to help me to the extent that they do.
I could tell you about how hungry I am to travel north and to sit in the silence of the woods.
I could tell you about how sweet it is to watch Ella and Louie snuggle and how physically, emotionally, and mentally connected they are every second of the day.
I could tell you how happy Anu is to have me back again now that the "young dogs" can entertain themselves.
I could tell you about the porcelain cup I am drinking my coffee out of and how the gold edging catches the cool morning light, adding a bit of unexpected elegance to my day.
I could tell you about how I've decided to dream larger than life...because over and over again I am learning that life is as good as we allow it to be.
I could tell you about my aunt and how I felt her presence in the warmth of the sunshine when we walked out of the church after her funeral. She has become sunshine particles and birds and all sorts of things. She is so completely with me. I notice her often and feel a swell of emotion every time.
I could tell you about Being Brave and how grateful I am that this project has become a part of my life.
I could tell you about how good it felt to read my first glossy feature article and how happy I am with the way that Marni Wedin crafted our interview into an article (Thank you, Marni!).
There's so much I could tell you. But the question, once again, is where should I begin?
This morning I feel a profound sense of sadness. The sun is shining and I am drinking coffee out of one of my very favorite blue bird cups. But the thought of sun shine and birds only makes me more sad because these are things that my aunt loved.
Today I will travel north to attend her wake and, tomorrow, her funeral. A few days ago she lost her fight with Luekemia. She was 49 years old. In my mind's eye, I see her smile. I see her sense of hope, her determination to live. I see her love for the natural world--for rain and deer and water. I see her loving her kids and growing huge gardens. I see her strength and sparkle.
I am afraid to see my uncle's sadness now that she's gone. Of all my aunts and uncles, they were the ones I was closest to. I feel the weight of her not being here anymore. I feel it so strongly that I have avoided writing about it here. Her death creates an enormous crack in my foundation.
The other day I came across a photograph that a dear friend gifted to me. It is of a birdcage hanging near the sea with its door open. In the threshold of the door is a single feather and the cage is slightly tilted as though blowing in the wind. I look at that photo and think of my aunt. I imagine the door of her heart being opened and out she flew.
My aunt has been set free and I find that profoundly beautiful. It's just that I already miss her dearly--in a way that words are unable to touch.
Photo by Maddie, a beautiful friend and very talented photographer.
It was Monday, July 21st when I first heard the story of a dog that has since changed my life. Her name is Ode (pronounced O-Day), meaning "heart" in Ojibway. Ode, just a puppy, was found with both her ears intentionally burned off. She was the victim of unimaginable torture--but I am happy to say that she has been given an incredible second chance. Little did I know how deeply her story would affect me and how swiftly she would alter my life and work.
In early August I met Ode for a photo shoot in preparation for a portrait that I would eventually paint of her for a silent auction to help raise money for other animals in need. The day I met Ode was the day that I stepped over a threshold--and, when it happened, I knew that there would be no turning back. As an artist and animal lover it is important that my work hold meaning. To live a purposeful and satisfying life takes great amounts of bravery. For me, that act of bravery was in taking the leap towards becoming a full time pet portrait artist. Recently, through Ode, that leap has grown to include a commitment to helping abused and abandoned animals. Over and over again, through painting, I am graced with opportunities that allow me to experience the deepest imaginable love. Pure. Egoless. Unconditional. In honor of Ode, I will be donating 20% of all commissioned portraits and a substantial portion of greeting card sales to animal rescue efforts until December 31st, 2008.
By commissioning a portrait of the pets who have changed your life, you will be helping the lives of many more animals in need. A 50% nonrefundable deposit is required for all commissioned work and must be received no later than December 31st, 2008 in order to be included in this fundraising promotion. Your deposit will hold your place on the waiting list.
Send me photos preferably as email attachments. Snail mail is acceptable, but please no originals, since photos will not be returned.
If possible and/or necessary, scheduling a photo shoot is an option if you live in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area. Travel and transportation per diem required outside 20 mile radius of Minneapolis, MN. When possible, I truly enjoy the opportunity to meet the dogs I paint.
50% nonrefundable deposit due. If definite size and/or dimensions have not yet been decided on, approximate payment must still be made to hold your place on the waiting list. Your place will not be held until deposit is made. If a photo shoot is scheduled, your deposit will be due at that time.
Sign a Fine Arts Commission Contract once details have been decided on (two copies--one for each of us) .
I will begin your painting as soon as possible. I currently have a small window of time open in November/December (2008) and will be booked again until late spring/early summer (2009).
Remaining amount of commission due once the painting is completed. Full payment (+ shipping, if applicable) required before delivery.
Hang your new painting on the wall for you and your pet to enjoy!
Then feel good about the fact that a large portion of your commissioned pet portrait went to a very good cause. The rescued animals thank you. As do I!
Note:It is not necessary to decide on the exact dimensions of the painting since it is often best to let the photo do some of the deciding. However, if you know an approximate size or price range that you would like to stay within, I am happy to work with you to come up with something that fits your wallet, your walls, AND your pet!
Can't decide if it's worth it? Watch this video. Ode, my inspiration. (p.s That's Ella (formally Eve), my newly adopted babe--the black pup in the video with Ode, her best friend.)
Video and photography by Marilou Chanrasmi. Proceeds of fundraising promotion will be donated to Pet Haven. www.pethavenmn.org
Special thank you to Karen Good of Red Lake Rosie's Rescue and to all the volunteers of Pet Haven Inc. of Minnesota.
May all animals be happy!
*promotion excludes Dogs of Linden Hills project participants . (exhibition participants please contact me if you're interested in donating)* ~
Finally, what kitten lovers have been waiting for!
Dear Kitten Lovers,
You didn't think I would forget you, did you? Well, "kittens happen"! Kitten cards are available either singly or in sets of 6 at my Stray Dog Arts Etsy. Buy one for yourself and all your kitten loving friends!
50 cents per kitten card will go to help support animal rescue.
Photo of Louie and Ella taking a nap together mere hours after her arrival. And, no, this photo was not set up. One would think that they've known each other their entire life.
At the moment there is a puppy asleep at my feet. It is late and she is making little suckling sounds. I imagine that she is dreaming about her mama...the way that little puppies do. I reach my foot to touch her and she stretches, then snuggles in close. She is a lover and has barely left my side since since she got here.
Today is our new baby's first day with us. We had to postpone her arrival due to a house full of painters redoing ceilings and windows...and the concrete workers who came with their jack hammers and concrete saws...and the Renaissance Festival that swallowed up several whole days.
But finally...finally she is here and life just couldn't get much better than this. Our dear girl, she is a perfect fit. ;)
We've renamed her "Ella"--short for Eleanor. Named after Eleanor Roosevelt, she is my little "Be Brave" girl...and I am already hopelessly in love.
Ode--she is a brave spirit. So brave, in fact, that she changes every single person who comes in contact with her. Myself included. She is, after all, the one responsible for altering the mission of Stray Dog Arts. Painting dogs has led me home (home, that is, to my truest self), but Ode is the one who opened up the heart of this home in a way that I was unable to imagine before her.
Ode has opened up doors and windows and friendships and opportunities that have altered everything for me. This little pup who was horrifically abused and then abandoned has opened up my eyes to a whole new way of being. If there are angels on earth, then Ode is surely one of the most high spirited among them. Sweet Ode, what an incredible teacher she is.
This particular painting will be donated to a silent auction for Pet Haven's Fall Benefit. It is also the first painting in the series of many that will promote animal rescue efforts.
This is just the beginning....
* * *
Thank you for breaking me open. Thank you for sparking an entire world of possibility. Thank you for leading me to Eve. Thank you for showing me that everything is possible. Thank you for connecting me with Marilou. Thank you for your rambunctious, bubble-loving energy. Thank you for showing me that there is always hope. Thank you for teaching me the importance of letting go. Thank you for being a living example of bravery. Thank you for changing the world, just by being you. Thank you for teaching me how allof us can make the world better by simply being our truest self. Thank you for helping me get over my self-doubt and fear over whether or not I will be successful. Thank you for showing me another way of seeing. Thank you for leading me to endeavors that support me--inside and out. Thank you for being an inspiration. Thank you for playing ball with me and jumping on me and showing me how you can run. Thank you for helping me be a better person. Thank you for leading me to Pet Haven. Thank you for bringing me to this place of open-hearted love. Thank you for showing me that anything is possible when you BELIEVE.
Thank you for changing my life. Ode, I love you.
your friend forever, Jessie
*read more about Ode's story here and here and here and here. **and you just MUST look at this photo of Ode with her best friend, Eve (aka. the new baby of our family). Now that's friendship. ;)
I've just washed an put away my brushes after an entire day of working on Ode's portrait. It's just over half way done and has reached, what I call, the awkward stage. Every piece I paint goes through this stage. It is the space in between initial excitement and finished satisfaction. It is the space that makes me question whether I am really any good at this at all.
Luckily, I have come to learn that's all it is: a stage. It is a right of passage that I must travel through with each painting. And yet sometimes I wonder if I will ever rid myself of this feeling. I suppose that if I want to keep growing, the sensation will always exist, at least to a degree.
Sometimes I'm amazed by how many brave things there are to do in a day. I mean, sometimes it takes bravery just to switch paint colors or to move from the nose to the eyes, from white fur to dark, from light to shadow. Every moment feels like practice to be brave, be brave, be brave...
This scary, doubtful, love-filled, crazy world. It amazes and stymies me on a regular basis.
On a side note, if I owe you an email, letter, phone call, or visit...please forgive me, but I am attempting an impossible amount of work in preparation for this weekend's upcoming event. Not to mention, our house as been taken over by a painting crew AND Eve will be here before we know it!
I have to chuckle at the bravery it took to allow Ode into my heart. I must have known that she would lead me to big changes. Little did I know!
My (rather big) Be Brave Action of the day: Ask our landlords if we can adopt Eve.
Their answer: a resounding YES!!
I'm gonna be a new dog-mama!!! :)
I'll be sending out baby announcements soon. She won't be "delivered" by her Fairy Dogmother until later in the week. I can hardly wait! This really feels too good to be true. I look forward to writing more about her very, very soon. I am simply beaming. :)
On July 21st, the very first day of recommitting to the Be Brave Project, I met a woman who has changed my life forever. Her name is Marilou. I could not have known at the time of scheduling an appointment to meet for coffee that this would be the outcome. Although I have not known her for long, we know each other well and have connected on a very deep level.
Some of the very first words out of Marilou's mouth was the story of Ode. Come to think of it, I'm pretty sure we completely skipped the standard "hello-how-are-you-nice-to-meet-you" part of the conversation and just dove right into a friendship that feels like it is going to last a long, long time.
On Thursday I had the honor of helping Marilou celebrate her birthday AND meeting Ode (pronounced O-Day). I've written about Ode's story here. Since hearing her story, the direction of my pet portrait business, Stray Dog Arts, has been altered forever. From the very beginning I've wanted my work to benefit animals in need, but up until now I did not know how I could go about doing that.
When I began the Be Brave Project last October I had no idea what direction I was headed in. At the time I was feeling very lost and without a real sense of direction. That is part of the reason I decided to Be Brave in the first place. At the time I thought it was about finding a better paying job. Oh! But now I know that was only a teeny-tiny-little bit of it! What manifested for me because of the Be Brave Project is something that was beyond my wildest dreams. Being Brave led me to my truest self. It led me to create Stray Dog Arts.
On Thursday I met not only Ode, but Ode's incredible foster family as well. Ode is so full of energy and spirit! She is a warrior girl, without a timid bone in her body. It is so incredible to see a puppy who has been through so much...be so happy. I am grateful for Mary and her family for fostering Ode back into not only physical health, but emotional health as well. If Mary is not able to adopt her, then I know someone else will. Ode is destined for greatness wherever she goes. She will be an adoption success story to the Nth degree.
There was another puppy that was rescued from Red Lake at about the same time as Ode. Her name is Eve. Eve is being fostered alongside Ode and they have become, much like Marilou and I, fast friends.
I fell in love with Eve.
Yes, that's her at the top of this post. She is a nondescript little black dog. She's also crawled right smack dab into the softest part of my heart. As hard as I try, I cannot seem to get her out.
To be honest, I feel like a bit of a weakling. I went with Marilou to meet Ode in order to get to know her and take some photos for a portrait I will be painting of her. In the process, I met Eve. This was the first of probably many photo shoots for the portraits I will paint of stray and rescued animals. Obviously, I can't go around adopting all the incredible dogs and cute puppies that I meet. I feel like I need thicker skin for this job--yet, at the same time, I know it is my thin skin that makes me good at what I do.
I should point out that I passed up many, many, many wonderful dogs before finally adopting Louie. I might have a soft heart for animals, but I also know that I need to be wise about the choices I make. Eve, on the other hand, perhaps proves this otherwise. There is a whole world of black dogs out there that will never get adopted simply because they are black. It is truly unfortunate, but often black dogs are invisible dogs. Eve, however, is nowhere near invisible--not to me, anyway.
Being a renter, already with 4 animals (2 dogs and 2 cats), I have resigned myself to the idea that I WANT HER!!! Even so, I am not sure that my landlord will agree to the actual having. If my landlord says no then I don't want Eve to miss out on an opportunity to be adopted while she is in her most adoptable state: puppyhood. She is scheduled to be at an adoption event today and I am absolutely terrified that someone else is going to bring her home! I also know that, if that happens, it was meant to be and, even if my heart gets broken, I would be happy for her.
If she is still available after today, then I am going to BE BRAVE and ask my landlord for permission to adopt her. My heart feels like it is on stilts.
Yesterday morning, as I drove to a photoshoot appointment, I think that meeting Ode and Eve finally hit me. To be honest, it hit me pretty hard. It felt like the valves of my heart were being compressed and flattened. To breathe was to threaten an entire flood of tears. Ooooh, this is some heavy stuff I have gotten myself into. It is also some of the most fulfilling work I have ever done. Although I will continue to do commissioned pet portraits, I will be gearing my artstic efforts towards helping to raise funds for rescue.
One of the portraits I've decided that I want to paint to raise black dog awareness is Eve's. I cannot imagine how hard it will be to paint her portrait if she is adopted by someone else. I fall in love with the animals I paint--all of them. But Eve...she has already become my little muse. These magnificent dogs...this is only the beginning.
But I'll tell you...I want Eve to be with me for the duration of the journey.
Please visit Pet Haven, the rescue organization who has helped Ode and Eve if you would like to make a donation to help other animals in need.
(More photos of Ode coming soon!) (Thank you, Marilou, for capturing this photo of Eve and me.) ~
I've been trying to write about it for the past 4 days. It was a Be Brave purchase that I made last week in an attempt to organize my life. By golly, I think I've even figured out a system!
Unfortunately, I haven't scheduled in enough time for blogging, hence the late introduction.
Not only does it temper the chaos in my life and help me to keep track of myself and valuable information, it also has space to journal, explore values and goals, and set priorities. Ah, now that's what I was looking for!
I woke up early this morning because my pup/dog, Louie, has a case of itchies that have made it difficult for him to sleep. Poor boy. We think it is allergies, something triggered by our trip up north, but we're giving it time to see if it will work itself out since we have brought this sensitive boy to the vet more times than we can count in this first year of his life. Leave it to me to adopt the "sensitive"dog. The one that is prone to infections and is devastated when left alone, even if only for a short bouts of time.
Then again, his sensitive nature is also what I love so much about him. I have never, in my whole dog-loving life, met a dog that was so good at snuggling. At the moment, after being rubbed down with something to relieve the itch, he is back in bed with my husband, his muzzle resting gently on V.'s neck and a leg thrown over his shoulder. Truly, this is love at its finest.
Even though the sun had barely risen when I first got up, it was so beautiful that I decided not to go back to bed. Never mind that it's Sunday. I committed to my "awakeness" by brewing a pot of coffee. I love that bubbling, brewing sound when the rest of the world is still asleep. As I waited, I reminded myself to do this more often. The air is warm. There is a soft breeze ruffling the leaves of the trees. My wolfie girl, Anu, stretches, reaching for kisses. Birds chirp and holler. The cat, Viscosa, sits in the open window taking it all in as though these morning movements are the most amazing things she's ever seen. And she's right.
Today is not like any other.
Today is a good day to enjoy going out for breakfast with my husband and then to an art fair and maybe even to an outdoor market. It's a good day to dream and paint and read the most inspiring book (still just a manuscript, but destined for greatness) that I have ever read. It's a good day to think about my friends--both old and new. It's just a good day to simply live from my center--however that ends up manifesting itself.
Some days, like today, I feel like there is so much life to be lived. I got up early because I decided that I didn't want to miss any part of it. Anyway, these quiet mornings are beautiful. Even the constant hum of the freeway has gone hushed. Since first awakening, the sky has been transformed into a perfect layer of clouds--a tinge of pink and orange still filling the air, causing the grass and sidewalks to glow, ever so slightly. The cloud cover offers a perfect reprieve from the heat and hectic pace of the days leading to this one--and, for this, I am grateful.
Today I love my life. Really, truly, and completely. Sure, things could be easier...but then good might not feel this good.
At the moment I am sitting up to the old wooden table in the back yard. Louie is laying at my feet chewing on a stick and Anu is laying in the shade enjoying soft summer breezes. Actually, all three of us are enjoying the breeze--immensely. I'm sick of summer heat and even the slightest relief from it makes me incredibly happy.
I have a freshly brewed cup of coffee made from deliciously fresh roasted Ethiopian coffee beans in my favorite red and brown ceramic mug. I've had this mug for 14 years. Me and this mug have gotten to know each other well.
I really don't have much to say except that I will continue work on the Alphabet commission today and plan to finish it by Sunday. Ahhh, yes, a long awaited accomplishment. This morning, the woman who commissioned the piece came over with her partner and assistant to see it for the very first time. I'm not sure if that counts as doing my one scary thing for the day, but I am sooooooo relieved to say that they love it! I have to admit: I'm loving it, too.
The first half of the painting process, I spent a lot of time and energy being worried that they wouldn't like it or that it wouldn't turn out like they were imagining. The second half of the project I spent a lot of time and energy feeling bad that it has taken me so long to get it done. I threw in a lot of extra work that I hadn't planned for, including: a half dozen portraits, designing a line of cards, a butt-load of marketing, a call for dogs, a large number of photoshoots, a lot of emails and phone calls, a couple of events, a show, and plenty of the unexpected. All said, I am happy with the amount of work I've accomplished in the past 3 months. I've been telling people that I'm busy working on this alphabet commission for so long now that I'm starting to think that they don't really believe that I'm doing any work at all. HA! If they only knew.
Anyway, I'm excited about the possibilities of these letters. I have enjoyed painting each canvas much more than I thought I would. Somehow, this project became a meditation of color. It's given me space of mind to simply relax and savor color. My mind has been on overdrive lately which means that I am supremely grateful for anything that causes an internal state of quiet.
But the point of this post is not to tell you about the weather, my dogs, coffee, or what I'm working on. The point is to tell you that I did not do anything brave yesterday. That is, unless you count CLEANING THE HOUSE, which I did with amazing speed despite the level of chaos that had descended on it. Nothing like visiting clients and a visiting mom (who is on her way) to inspire a good dose of house cleaning! And, believe me, it needed it!
I've started to realize that it is very easy for me to get swept up in the daily busy-ness of my life and that, when this happens, there is not always room for intentional acts of bravery. But this, my friends, is dangerous territory. It has the potential to leave one sitting in a rut. Granted, every single day offers enough newness for me to consider at least one of my actions brave. This past month my life has been ON, amped to the max. I like it this way.
And so I ask myself: What acts of bravery would I like to accomplish in the coming days and weeks? here's the ever-evolving list that I've managed to come up with so far...
purchase a new festival tent
create another new line of greeting cards
add several new designs to the existing line of cards (on-going project)
purchase and learn Quickbooks
open up a separate business account--it's time.
get a handle on my personal finances--start keeping track of how much I'm spending and where I'm spending it and, from that, create a budget.
tackle the chaos called: my office closet.
create a resume for a business association that I've been invited to join.
and a cover letter.
learn more photography skills. Take a class?
begin work on my "secret" project (it's only secret because it is still incubating).
create a Be Brave link list--this is only scary because I'm afraid it will be an overwhelming task...but totally worth it. I want to create a space where Be Brave participants can find each other.
go through the entire house and GET RID OF everything that does not currently serve me.
and then sell it all in a big rummage sale! :)
finish my website. It's been a work in progress for too long.
continue eating well and working to lose weight. ...still in progress, but progress has been made! :)
get organized--ok...that is a totally abstract statement. This one is going to require some more in depth work.
make an appointment to see a tax consultant. I need/want to learn more about how to direct my business taxes towards rescue organizations. I have no clue how to go about the ins and outs of small business taxes.
ask for a discount for a bulk scanning order of paintings for fine art prints.
call and ask for a lower interest rate on my credit card.
continue to add images to my Flickr account and use it as a networking tool for Stray Dog Arts--this is something I started working on this week, per the lovely Thea's suggestion! :)
create a wholesale order form and brochure for greeting cards.
make a list of retail stores to send it to--nationwide.
begin a series of paintings to raise money for this rescue organization.
touch up my hair--ugh. It's a mess.
get a pedicure. My feet would seriously thank me. This might not be scary to some...but it isn't something I normally do and I'm realizing that the only reason I haven't already done it is that I am (truth be told) a little scared! :)- Funny how even life's little luxuries cause silly and unexpected fears to keep us from just doing it. Anyway, it's good to throw some enjoyable bravery into the mix once in awhile! Life doesn't always have to be hard. :)-
find a packaging supply company that carries inexpensive boxes (ect.) suitable for paintings and prints. Shipping costs SCARE me! Does anyone have any suggestions???
attend a motivational conference (next Wednesday, I'm already signed up)--something I've never done before!
Holy crap...do you see where this is going? There is no end to the possibilities! When I'm feeling tired or not-so-brave this list will be here to help remind me where I want to go. Next time I'm not sure what brave action I want to take on, I can always come back to this list.
Now I invite you (no, I DARE you) to make your own list! What's in store for you? I'd love to hear about it. ;)