Friday, April 25, 2008


I've been feeling exhausted lately, but after an evening of painting I feel absolutely re-energized. I wouldn't even bother writing about the extreme tiredness that has accompanied my week except that it fits this photo of Louie so well that I couldn't help but make some sort of connection between the way I've been feeling to his frumpy bottom lip and relaxed pose.

Last night I layed in bed reading a book (Writing as a Way of Healing by Louise DeSalvo) in preparation for the oral defense of my thesis. I've barely even had time to think about any of it and so it felt good to take a few minutes to reconnect myself with the project that I've already grown distant from now that it's finished.

I read a chapter titled "Writing Pain, Writing Loss" and thought about how writing helps me to clarify and better understand the experiences and emotions that are muddy or unclear to me. My thesis revolves around the idea of a sense of place. It is a memoir and explores the past 3 years of my life. It's about loss, but it's also about what I found. Last night, for unknown reasons, a question popped into my head and I wrote it into the margins of my book: "What did I lose, really?"

If I were to boil down all of my losses into one little nugget of truth...there is an emotion at the center of it all that is just as raw as it ever was. It still causes tears to spring to my eyes. It still causes a lump to catch in my throat. It still causes a sharp, deep-pitted sensation somewhere inside of me that I can't quite locate. There was one central experience that encapsulates all the losses combined--and that was the death of my dog, Abe.

I set my book down and attempted to follow two lines of thought: one was the feeling of true groundedness and connection I felt with the land I lived on and the love I felt for Abe; the other was that tight knot of loss I felt in losing both at the same time, and also my grandpa. I should clarify, however, that I didn't actually "lose" my house. I sold it. I sold it because the town it is near lacked the opportunities I desired and I couldn't afford to keep it as a vacation home. Although it was extremely difficult to leave that place in the country, in it's own way, it was necessary. Sometimes following one's heart hurts like hell...and this is one such example.

I didn't expect such a barrage of emotions to come swelling to the surface last night, but now they don't seem to want to go away--at least not yet. Writing past the surface has caused me to look at things from an altered perspective and to realize that these powerful emotions are much more of a gift than a loss. I am grateful to have loved so deeply. But it surprises me how easy it is for me to relive that place and time--as though I could turn around and it would all be there.

This coming Friday I will defend my thesis. A part of me is looking forward to it. Another part of me just wants it to be over. And yet another part of me wonders what it will be like on the other side of a three year struggle. Of course, life is never so black and white, simple, or well-defined. Defending my thesis won't cause me to quit missing Abe. It won't bring back my grandpa's smile. It won't be what connects me to a particular place. It won't rebuild my family. It won't fulfill my dreams. It won't do a lot of things.

Instead, life will just keep moving forward in its own mysterious ways. I'll make more mistakes to be replaced by unexpected joys. I'll keep trying to follow my heart, one little step after another. And, most likely, I'll be altered by life over and over and over again.

In the meantime, Louie has found a new obsession. It started today and the timing is frighteningly uncanny. You see, when Abe died I put his ashes in a ceramic urn that I made myself. The lid has a deep bowl that curves downward, just the right size for his old tennis ball and collar. It sits on the bookshelf, not getting much attention except for an occasional dusting. Today, however, Louie noticed that tennis ball. And now he can't quit thinking about it. He has sat in front of it for hours--whining, begging, and whimpering for us to give it to him. He walks away from it only to return. We haven't given it to him (yet?) because he has about a zillion toys and I don't want Abe's tennis ball to become something to be forgotten about.

But in all honesty, it trips me out a bit.

I find it strange how life gets weaved back into things. I'm not even sure if we ever lose anything. Tonight I painted for several hours and, during that time, everything felt right. All the difficulties went away. The worries, the doubt, the problems that I've had to deal with. My exhaustion was replaced by a feeling of energy. And I am reminded, once again, that none of this would have happened if all that pain and loss wouldn't have come before.

Maybe Louie is psychic. Maybe Abe's sending messages from beyond. Maybe Louie is just obsessed with tennis balls. Maybe things will never be easy. Maybe these tears will never go away. Maybe I'll keep loving so much that someday my heart will burst.

And maybe, in the end, everything will work out perfectly. Or maybe, just maybe, it already is.


Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Oh my dear blog, how I've missed you!

Oh my gosh...has it seriously been this long since my last blog post?? I think I've set a new personal record. I don't think I've ever gone this long without posting--not even while on vacation! I will say, however, that I've been on anything but vacation!

And so where to begin?? Well, let's see...

Last week I found out with just two weeks to spare that one of the Twin Cities' biggest fundraising dog events of the year has exhibitor space (which, for some reason, I stupidly wasn't aware of). Of course, I immediately called the director of events and (lucky break) there were still two spots left! Several problems though:
  • I didn't have tent to exhibit in.
  • I didn't necessarily have the $ to invest in everything needed (space, tent, inventory).
  • I was totally unprepared and in great need of inventory!
  • The event takes place THE DAY AFTER I'm scheduled to defend my thesis.
  • Not to mention, I was still dealing with thesis details AND working AND trying to make headway on the big alphabet commission.
And so I said thank you very much, but maybe next year. I told the woman I wanted to do it, but just didn't feel like I could pull it all together in time. After I hung up the phone I felt a big, ugly bout of depression fall on my head.

Later in the day I sent Thea an email whining about how I had depleted myself to the point of tears by trying to accomplish too much in too little time (during the course of my week long "vacation"). And then I told her about how frustrated I was over my newest dilemma (not knowing about the dog event until so late in the game) and my need for balance in my life. I should mention that I don't usually email Thea, but did so because I had been feeling a strong urge to do so. Oh my holy yes! And am ever glad that I told her about all of it...because you know what she did? Well, long story made short...
(Dear Universe, thank you for blogging friends.)
...she said that she didn't mean to be a trouble maker (oh! I love trouble makers!), but she felt a surge. Then she asked the little question: "I know this sounds crazy, but what if you did sign up?" And then she shared a whole bunch of ways to look at the situation a little bit differently and well...the rest is history. She nudged me--and such a perfectly needed nudge it was!!! Because I was signed up by the next day! :) And that depression? Presto gone!

Can you guess what I've been doing since? Yep, you got it...getting ready! And in order to keep this post from snaking into's the highlights in a bulleted format:
  • After Thea suggested that I imagine myself writing the check for the space with a smile on my face and gratitude that the money came out of nowhere, easily...I checked my bank account and realized that there was more there than I thought! *smiling* The check was written easily and with a smile on my face. :)
  • Thea suggested that I imagine my tent dilema being solved by receiving unexpected help. Ok...this one sort of blows my mind away. I thought I was going to need my own tent and (after frantic research) found one on sale (but it was still money I don't really have). Tow hours later I found out there was a miscommunication and TENTS ARE PROVIDED!! I was able to easily cancel my tent order and proceeded to clap, dance, and smile over my good fortune some more! :)
  • There will be 8,000-9,000 animal lovers and lots of media in attendance! Um...could it get any better? That's a lot of people--the right kind of people, that is!
  • In the past week I have created a contract, updated my price list, and the best part... designed and ordered greeting cards!! :) I am really excited about the cards and will offer them for sale on my new Etsy soon! (ps. the ugly etsy banner is only temporary).
  • I ordered 2,000 more post cards and 500 business cards. Will it be enough? :)-
  • Connected with 2 metro dog culture business/event directors and hit it off fabulously with both. Dang, I love these people! Not to mention a commission for someone who is capable of promoting my work to the moon and back again! :)
  • Traveled home, met with my thesis adviser (and a couple favorite professors), accomplished necessary editing, and am ever-so near the end of it all! Oh my god...this is a major accomplishment. How many years have I been working on that thing?
  • Got rejected from one art fair, BUT found two more events that will be much better for me. I was a bit bummed and stressed out upon first receiving the rejection letter (came today)...but the more I think about it, the more I think it's going to work out for the better.
  • Went shopping and found some wonderfully inexpensive new clothes for NEW YORK! Um...did I mention that I'm going to New York in 3 weeks? I can't wait!!!! :) Oh, and you should see that freaking fabulous sunglasses I got! I've decided to dub them my "happy glasses."
  • Met a blogger/email friend for the first time and she is so INCREDIBLY WONDERFUL!! :)
  • Met with our dog trainer today with Anu (I love saying that: "our dog trainer" ;)). 9 years of leash aggression has been addressed and solved! Sure, we need to continue practicing what we learned, but why didn't I do this a long time ago?? Amazing. Maureen is incredible!!!
  • Rearranged my office for a more efficient and comfortable workspace. It was getting ridiculous. Even my cats were about a thousand times more comfortable than I was.
  • Speaking of I started my first feline portrait (of my sweet baby, Viscosa).
  • Spent an afternoon hanging out with and taking photos of horses.
  • Painted half an alphabet. Found out that it doesn't need to be done as quickly as I originally planned, which opens up the time I need to finish preparing for the event which is less than two weeks away!
  • Was given a gift of a pine cone and, in the process, learned a great lesson about what is possible when you allow yourself to fully open.
  • Stayed up until nearly 2 am writing this post...but loved every second of it because I've missed it here!

Ok...I'm sure I'm leaving details out, but this is enough to catch us up to speed. Yeah? Basically, I've been running my ass off...but I don't remember the last time I felt so involved, focused, and HAPPY!! Running my ass off is nothing new to me...but being energized by it? Now THAT is something new! :)

This work, it inspires me. I am loving the business aspects of Stray Dog Arts just as much as I am the creative aspects. I told Thea that I didn't think I could do the Walk for Animals because my life felt out of balance. Turns out that signing up for all this has put my life INTO balance. Weird how that works. I felt myself turn a corner for the positive this past week. And you know what? It's all starting to fall into place more beautifully than I could have ever planned for.


Thursday, April 10, 2008


Yesterday I spent a large portion of my day beginning work on my largest commission, to date. The stack of boxes full of canvases stretching from floor to ceiling has been a bit intimidating, but it felt good to finally get started on it. For the next couple weeks I will be taking a side-step away from my pet portraits and will be focusing on a series of 25 (18"x18") canvases, each with a letter of the alphabet inspired by vintage wood, metal, and Las Vegas boneyard signs.

The finished piece will hang in a nearly 8 foot x 8 foot square on a huge beautiful wall of a designer's studio/office space. Wanna know the best part? My artwork will be sharing a home with THREE Bloomsbury orginals!!! And if you're not familiar with the Bloomsbury Group, they were the wonderfully wild group of artist and writer friends who Virginia Woolf hung out with. I realize that this makes me a complete and utter literary geek, but someone please pinch me! As a grad student I spent an entire semester intensely studying the Bloomsbury Group's work and writing essays about the influences that occur between visual art and writing. And now my art is going to be next to their art?? In my book, that counts as a compliment to the highest degree!!

Anyway, when all is said and done, I'm looking forward to having giclee prints made of the letters and trying my luck with them on Etsy. I'm enjoying this feeling of having several baskets full of eggs (versus having all my eggs in one basket). Although the commission alone is enough to make me happy, it would be nice to have a gift that keeps on giving, so to speak. That is, a source of income that doesn't require me to be constantly producing new work--especially at times when I need a break, am working on a project that doesn't produce instant income, or when I get backed up with other commissions.

One thing I'm learning is how to manage both my flow of energy and flow of income. Maybe it's because these endeavors feel so fresh and new and exciting, but I'm having a lot of fun with this--mostly because I'm beginning to realize just how much I get to create my own reality. I realize that I might sound like I'm regurgitating Law of Attraction philosophies, but (holy cats!!) it's FOR REAL!! Ok, ok, in all honest, I occasionally start doubting myself, my art, my dreams...BUT the second I let go of those thoughts and simply get back to work, things start flowing again. It's down right weird.

Granted, I find it difficult to simply turn off my negative thoughts, as though they were a light switch. However, every time I just set my thoughts aside and return to my studio or do whatever needs to be done, the ball starts rolling once again. On Tuesday I went and talked to my boss about hiring another employee because I wasn't sure how much longer I would be able to work there and I don't want to leave her in a pinch during her busiest season. Mind you, I've been putting that conversation off for months now because I was, well...afraid. Now that all is said and done I'm left wondering what I was really so afraid of. She was absolutely understanding, thankful, supportive, and hopeful for me. I cut back to 2 days a week in May with the understanding that even that might not last much longer.

When I got home I found an email for a new commission in my inbox. Later in the day I met 3 dog trainers, 2 of whom want me to paint their dogs and know of several other people that would be interested as well. It amazes me how taking a step forward, no matter how big or small, is all it takes for the Universe to crack open and rain gifts.

These days, I am growing--as an artist, a dreamer, a thinker. I have a new word in my active vocabulary and it is: entrepreneur. I don't know why, but I'm really loving that word these days. I barely even know how to spell it! But I love the way it feels, the way it sounds, the way I have to consciously make my mouth muscles move through its unfamiliar word shape.

There were certain concepts that struck me most deeply during the past 3 months of participating in Circe's Circle. They are:


And that is what the word "entrepreneur" represents for me. It is an avenue, an opportunity, a path. The part I love the most is how I get to make it look any way I want. Well, actually, we all get to do that. I just didn't realize it until recently. ;)

(Louis, my studio-mate and business partner)


Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Wolfie Love

This is my wolfie, Anu.
She is my greatest teacher
of love and wildness.

But my wolfie, old girl, is not so wild anymore
forever full of love.


Sunday, April 06, 2008

The Chronicles of Jessie: The Story of a Woman Who Succeeded (a story in progress...)

It's a gray spring morning and I've used the quiet time of this morning for an opportunity to clean the house. Vinny's been sick most of the week and things were starting to feel in need of a good de-germing and airing out. Luckily, spring has arrived to our frozen corner of the world and I was even able to open doors and windows. The house is now filled wish the smell of fresh air, candles, coffee, and quiet. *Deep breath* I am enjoying this feeling of freshness immensely.

But that's not what my post is supposed to be about. Hmmmm...where to begin? I want to tell you about a book that I'm reading and LOVING: Secrets of Six-Figure Women by Barbara Stanny. I found the book through Jamie after she gave us questions from the book as homework for Circe's Circle. I found the questions interesting and, since I've been putting a lot of focus on my financial well-being these days, I of course ran to the nearest bookstore and bought it. Mind you, I've never shopped in the business/finance section of the bookstore before and I had absolutely no idea that there was anything in that section would be THIS GOOD! I haven't been able to put it down!

The book, however, is not a sit down and read from cover to cover sort of book. It's more like a read a chapter and then do a whole lot of thinking, journaling, excavating, visualizing, and realizing sort of book. I decided early on that I wanted to blog about my experience of moving towards my dream. Granted, dreams are ever-evolving, but I feel truly blessed to be walking the path I'm on. I'm beginning to see how I could even start mapping it all out. And, although we each will have a very unique experience in following our hearts, it's important to me that I share my journey here just in case it should inspire another to do the same. For me, there is nothing more powerful than knowing that there are others striving for similar goals and blogging has been an incredibly empowering tool for connecting and amplifying the positive energy of growth. We are a domino effect gently nudging each other forward--helping each other through our lows and celebrating our accomplishments no matter how large or small.

One thing that I quickly realized in reading Stanny's book is that I fall very easily into her category of UNDER-EARNERS. I mean, I was actually cringing as I read that chapter because of how well I fit all the credentials. I feel as though I have grown a lot in these past few months and also as though my vision has expanded enormously. I look back at the way I thought about what I was capable of having, doing, and earning at the beginning of the Be Brave Project and compare it to where I'm at now and I'm just like: WOW!! I was limiting myself in so many ways! But it's a learning process, isn't it. Because I'm still learning. There's still so much farther to go. Even now (especially now!!) I'm realizing just how many limiting beliefs I've been carrying around...but the weird thing is how much FUN I'm starting to have myth-busting my thinking patterns. Sure, it is sometimes painful and aggravating and enormously frustrating, but the more I experience myself moving past those feelings, the more I am beginning to learn that it IS possible to move past anything!

I'm beginning to think of this blog as "The Chronicles of Jessie." Right now is the part where I get to witness myself move from near poverty to enormous wealth. I've always had issues with money (who doesn't?). I've always equated money with shallowness, mental illness, loneliness, disillusionment, lack of soulful purpose, lies, and unhappiness. When I was in my teens and twenties I boldly committed to living a life true to my heart, not money. I do not regret that because it served me well and pushed me to live a wonderfully non-conventional young life: I traveled the world, lived great adventures, and learned about myself in ways that I could have never learned if I had lived those years striving for money. I lived well and I lived completely.

However, I am beginning to realize that my old beliefs about money no longer serve me. And, if anything, they are a hindrance to my ability to live from my heart. These days I am learning how money can be a positive force. Financial success. That is something I never thought would be a part of my story--that is, until now. I thought that living true to myself meant that I had to live with less. That was the trade-off (or so I thought). But my eyes are just now starting to open up to the possibility that there is no reason in the world why living passionately and soulfully can't bring you everything you want and more.

Yes, so this week, in my mind, I've been blogging about all of these thoughts (a whole lot more eloquently, I might add!), but basically, The Chronicles of Jessie is going to be the story of a girl woman living her dreams. Despite whatever hardships may or may not arise, I think (well, actually I know) I would like to make my life a success story.

I had a happy realization last week that I've made more money doing art than I have doing anything else in my entire life. LIGHT BULB! :) Who said you can't make a living off of art? Who said you can't make a GOOD living off of art? Myth: BUSTED.

Everything is changing and my life is already not the same life that it was before. These days I'm learning how to be open. I'm learning how to discard old crutches and belief systems. And ya wanna know what? ...this week is the first time in years that I've had more money than I actually need to squeak by. Coincidence? I don't think so. I'm nowhere near six-figures (yet? ;)), but I am standing here feeling AMAZED by how good this ABUNDANCE feels!!! :)

Recommended reading: Secrets of Six-Figure Women by Barbara Stanny.


Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Trixie and Adeline

Tonight I lovingly packaged up my most recent commissions for two very dear blogging friends Tori and Imelda. I am learning rather quickly that it is impossible to know in advance how long, exactly, it will take to paint a portrait. Every painting I have ever done has always been a new experience. And this was no exception when it came to painting portraits of Adeline (top left) and Trixie (bottom right).

I am still amazed by how much emotion I can have for a dog by the time I am done painting it. I suppose if you look at something long enough, you can walk away with a greater familiarity of it, no matter what it is. But it's hard to explain. It's something more than that. I am sitting here right now struggling with words to explain what I mean...and finding it impossible. Something extraordinary happens when I paint dogs. It is an intuition, an understanding, a unexplainable connection. All I know is that I am grateful that this happens because, somehow, it feels very much like a gift.

As I worked on Adeline's portrait what I felt was an absolute, pure, complete trust. I can tell that she loves her people with her entire being. You know that feeling of loving someone so much that you can barely stand it? That feeling of wanting to be close, so close that you can never get close enough? In painting Adeline's portrait, it seems to me that she has given her whole heart to Tori and B. and they have given their whole hearts to her. I mean, really, how many hours did I work on her painting, feeling that powerful love the entire time? Do you see why this work fills me so completely?

In painting both Adeline and Trixie, what I saw (or rather, felt) was the great amount of love that they hold for their human companions. Trixie (Imelda's dog), has sadly passed away. Still, I could feel her life stretching right past the canvas and into our living, breathing world. Funny how that love and energy doesn't go away--even after one dies. I smiled often while painting Trixie's portrait--mostly because of the goofy little grin she had on her face, but also because I could sense her body just barely able to control her eagerness for love. Several years ago, my dog Abe passed away. If one could ever have a soul-dog, then he was mine. He was what one might call my familiar. When he died my whole world just sort of fell out from under me. He might have been "just a dog," but to me he was much more than that and his loss was the most devastating experience of my life. Adopting Louie has helped to heal my heart in a hundred thousand ways. I was even starting to forget that tender spot in my heart. That is, until I started painting Trixie's and Adeline's portrait.

The thing that blows me away is how everything in my life has brought me to this work. I have struggled often these past couple months in maintaining a belief in myself that is strong enough to get me past this time of "in between." That is, this time between stretching myself too thin between both work and painting...this time before taking the necessary next step into full-time artistville. There have been many days when I was the only person that actively believed in myself (or at least that's how it felt). There have been days when even that belief became dangerously nonexistent. If I wanted to play it safe I suppose I could get a job with benefits and a steady pay-check, but then I pick up my paint brushes and am filled with such...aliveness.

What would it take for me to believe that this work will take care of me? What would it take for me to have greater faith that my heart knows the most financially/ emotionally/ mentally/ spiritually/ physically satisfying path? And what would happen if I allowed myself to feel as connected to me as I do the subjects I paint?