Friday, May 30, 2008

living larger...

These past couple weeks I've been trying to figure out a routine for myself and noticing that I waste a lot of time--most of it in front of the computer. I've been reading about Virtual Assistants and also Jame Aurthur Ray's Harmonic Wealth. Melba once wrote that the self-help section should be retitled to something like self-growth. I can't remember her exact words, but I agree with the concept. Self-help assumes that there is something wrong that needs to be fixed when, in reality, I couldn't be happier--I'm just trying to maximize my happiness to its fullest potential.

Ray's book is based on a lot of Law of Attraction concepts and is very similar to Barbara Stanny's Secrets of Six Figure Women. His language contains a bit too much flare and cynicism...but looking beyond these flaws, what I'm mostly getting out of this book is a big kick in the butt. That is, he has made me realize how I'm successfully self-sabotaging myself with my growing ability to procrastinate.

Don't get me wrong, I work hard and I work a lot (why do I somehow think this makes me a better person?). But how much of that time is actually spent hitting the refresh button on my blog, emails, and etsys? How much of that time is spent being distracted by the dogs or the phone or housework? It's quite ridiculous, actually. But these are the things that I seem to do best in my most inefficient glory.

I've been fighting with myself over making a schedule (even just a loose schedule) for the past 3 weeks now. I don't want my new schedule to look like my old schedule (full of stress, rigidness, and endless work, work, work)...yet I DO want a schedule that offers me enough structure to keep me on task and moving forward, yet time enough to let my hair blow freely in the wind once in awhile. Is this even possible?

This process has caused me to ask myself a few questions, such as:
  • What is holding me back from what I want to do the most? And how/why do I let it happen?
  • What are my priorities, really?
  • How can I shift my day (and energy) around to make sure those priorities aren't taken over by lesser important tasks and procrastination?
  • What's keeping me from becoming my best self?
  • Are my actions (and non-actions) a form of self-sabotage? And, if so, why am I doing that?
  • What can I do for myself?

Although all these questions are important to me right now, I have to admit, I like the last question the most. That one I hadn't thought of until just now, as I'm writing. What can I do for be successful, to feel good, to be satisfied, to feel rested, accomplished, to move forward, to live from a place of purpose?

Two words keep returning to me. They are:

  1. Priorities.
  2. Intention.

I need to prioritize what means the most to me--and then I need to create days that allow those priorities to come first. Time to paint is one of those priorities that gets pushed to the back burner on a regular basis. That doesn't make much sense considering that painting is my biggest money maker right now. So why do I let it get pushed aside? There are books upon books written on this subject alone and I could probably write another one (hmmm...maybe I will)...

Ok, so I've decided to start getting honest with myself. One aspect of that means that I had to admit to myself that, now that the weather has gotten nice, I've been avoiding the basement (where my studio is located). Who wants to hang out in a fluorescent lit basement when there's a whole world of green grass, flowers, birds, fresh air, and sunshine?? Not me.

So yesterday I took my first step in setting myself up for success and bought myself a table easel so that I could move my studio outside. OMG! I painted for nearly 10 hours!! Granted, life can't be all frolicsome, but why not make it more enjoyable when you can?

This dog never leaves my side.

Louie's favorite game is to hide under my painting apron and then "surprise" me. He thinks this is great fun.

Anyway, as of yesterday, I've broadened my studio space by a million. I like painting under a canopy of trees. I forget myself.

As for my unresolved self-sabotaging ways...well, these are things I'm interested in figuring out about myself. I'm finding that it's those little tiny niggly little things that are the biggest culprits in holding a person back. They add up quickly and have a keen ability to stop growth dead in its tracks.

I want to be my best self--inside and out. Granted, I've got a long ways to go, but despite frustrations I am really starting to like this journey.

Here's some James Aurthur Ray quotes that have resonated with me (not to mention, they'd make good fortune cookie or Yogi tea quotes):

  • "It's already created. You just have to align with it" (53).
  • "Be the success you seek" (68).
  • "To have more you must be more. If your intention is big enough, then you must grow to meet the size if that idea" (66).
  • "It was Einstein who so wisely stated that we can't find the solutions to our problems with the same level of thinking that created the problems"(82).
  • "Take yourself and your desires seriously and live your values" (72).

And my favorite:

  • "Don't wish for an easier life. Wish to be at your finest" (63).

By the way, I saw a psychic while I was in NYC. She was at a street fair. I paid her $10 to read my palm and she told me that success would come to me in July. I don't care if she knew what she was talking about or not. I feel a huge sense of relief in believing her. I mean, what if everything we believe came true? Good or bad. Because, in a way, I think that it does.

And you know what? Every time I spend time painting something good happens. Last night I got an email from a writer for Modern Dog. I'm being interviewed next week! For what, I'm not sure. Maybe a feature article?? I don't know, but whatever it is, I'm excited about it! :)


Friday, May 23, 2008

lovin' a whole lotta NEWNESS!

I'm happy to announce that my new
Stray Dog Arts Etsy is open for business!
  • Greeting cards
  • Prints
  • Originals
  • and Gift Certificates are available!

And when you're done shopping, head down to your local bookstore for a copy of Bark magazine and check out my new ad! Ooooh! I'm nearly giddy with excitement! I love Bark. A magazine where canine, literary, and inquisitive love collide!

My next endeavor is to learn how the hell to keep tabs on myself. Anyone have suggestions for programs/books/information on record keeping, project management, and accounting? I need a system...this coming from someone who barely balances her checkbook! :)-

Welcome to my new life, in all its chaotic glory! :)
With love and big fat kisses,

Prints have been added to my old Patch of Sky Etsy as well. Another new line of prints and greeting cards will be on its way soon!


Wednesday, May 21, 2008

I {Heart} NY...(ie. Inspiration City)

Hmmm....where to begin? I've just returned from a trip to New York City and I don't even know where to start! I went there on vacation with my sister, mom, and grandma--the first trip of its kind. We survived the four days together and, dare I say, we even had fun doing it! Well, actually, we had lots of fun. NYC is a walker's paradise, but even more so, it is an ARTIST'S PARADISE! I'm not sure I've ever been so inspired by a particular place. Holy wonderful! I spent the entire 4 days that we were there gathering inspirations for future projects. 3 projects, to be exact. And now my hands are just itching to get to my paint brushes!

A couple weeks ago, after an (always) incredible telephone conversation with Fiona, I decided that from now on, when presented with options, I will always choose the more adventurous route. I decided this one afternoon while standing in a coffee shop ordering iced tea. I love how our little lessons in life have the ability to make themselves known in those non-extraordinary daily moments. On that particular day I chose mango tea over Irish big deal, right? Having never tried mango tea before, I was happily surprised...and that's when it hit me. That's when I decided to always take the more adventurous option--no matter how big or small. As I drove away with my cup of iced tea in hand I felt another shift, an opening up, a sense of possibility, that singing-heart sort of feeling. And I must say that, in my book, there is no better feeling than that of singing-heart-open-to-possibility sensation! Perhaps that is what has always drawn me to adventure...but adventure has been one value that I've sorely neglected these past couple years. But you know what? It feels good to have woken up to it once again.

I carried this rekindled adventurous life philosophy all the way to New York with me and am totally fired up by it! :) You see, I carry this "little-ol'-me" view of myself. It's the "I'm-a-Nobody Syndrome." I have a feeling that all too many of us have this problem, but since it doesn't get anyone anywhere, why hold on to it?

I've been noticing something about myself. You see, I've been observing myself when in action (and non-action, as is sometimes the case) and it is so OBVIOUS that I shine more brightly when I live from my center. Actually, I've been noticing that about a lot of people. I know where my center is by the way I feel. If I get an idea and it makes me buzz with excitement, then I know I'm on to something. When I ignore those ideas, I go flat. I get tired, depressed, cranky. When I pursue inspiring thoughts, this energy has a snowball effect and I am met by positivity, inside and out. I'm talking about my experiences here, but the same thing is true for ALL of us. This amazes the hell out of me! We are ALL capable of SO MUCH! Every single one of us! And this thought inspires me beyond all get-out! I love thinking about the ways that each of us can create our own successes if we just get out of own way! :)

I spent a large portion the past four days wandering the streets and taking photos of New York's City's dogs (among other things!). I have never met such an incredibly intelligent and socialized population of canines! Needless to say, I was nervous about asking for a photo every single time. I mean, who am I? I'm just a ridiculous small-town weirdo with a camera, right? Ok...but leaving the view of myself at that would have gotten me nowhere, so I put the thought aside for a second (tip: a second is usually all it takes to dive past any fear), told the person about my project, and asked if I could take a photo of their dog. Every single time I was met with such enthusiasm, respect, and gratitude!!! It was down-right weird! :) Why would anyone care about me or what I'm doing in such a big city?? At least that's the conception I was carrying around about myself. I'm glad I decided to set those thoughts aside long enough to be happily surprised.

Now that I'm home I look forward to turning some of these ideas into tangible form. I spent part of the morning searching Craigslist for an affordable studio apartment in Greenwich Village. I can't afford it yet--but "yet" is the operative word here. I'm on a mission to get back to New York so that I can finish what I've started. I don't doubt that it may take some time, but I'll keep you posted on my results. Miracles happen. ;)

In the meantime, I'm off to my back yard "studio" with paint brushes, paper, and strong coffee to get started on materializing my recent inspirations.

Here's to ridiculous amounts love, happiness, and adventurous vision!! :)


Thursday, May 15, 2008

I'm off to NYC...See ya on the flip side!

I'll return to my sorely neglected blog on Tuesday. That is, unless I find a computer and a little bit of alone time. ;)

Mmmwwaaa! Sending kisses to you, my friends! :)

image credits: wikipedia

Sunday, May 11, 2008



I've decided that there is nothing better than love.
No matter what form it takes.



Friday, May 09, 2008

island dogs and gauguin dreams...

I just finished this painting in memory of "Lu," a stray island dog that was found and adopted in Florida. Commissioned for a mother's day present, I completed the portrait with just enough time for it to dry and then be delivered this Saturday.

I never met Lu, but I can tell by her eyes that she was one incredibly intelligent dog--and I liked her from the moment I laid eyes on the photos. Lu seems like one of those once-in-a-life-time sort of dogs. It's obvious why her family misses her. I would too.

But there's something interesting about painting dogs, even when the portrait is in memory of a loved soul. I had fun painting Lu. It felt like I was painting her back to life. Oh, if only it were possible!

One of the reasons I enjoyed this commission so much is because of Lu's story. Being an island dog, I couldn't help but think of my favorite Paul Gauguin paintings and his imperfectly written memoir, Noa Noa. I came across it while working on my art degree and that little book swallowed me whole. At that point I was already fairly obsessed with Gauguin's life and work, but I fell in love with the book because, even though it wasn't very well written, it was fascinating. Maybe I fell in love with the book BECAUSE it wasn't very well written (but was fascinating anyway). I think that's when I learned the importance of telling our stories--no matter what our level of writerly talent might be.

Painting Lu woke up a side of me that had started to fade away. She woke up the part of me that is curious about the many stories there are to listen to or tell. She has made me think about those sacred colors that live below the surface of our day to day lives. She made me start dreaming about far-away places (India, I miss you!). She made me think about my own story and how I might live it to its furthest reaches. Painting this portrait of Lu has caused me to amp up the color of my dreams.

I think I've found a new love for island dogs. These little experiences, what if we truly let them lead us to whatever is next?


Wednesday, May 07, 2008


Yesterday I received a very special gift in the mail. After seeing a necklace that Suzie made, I asked her if I could commission a piece of my own. Let me just say that the power she infused this necklace with takes my breath away. It is not an ordinary piece of jewelery, but is an absolute gift of magic.

Something really powerful happened to me after defending my thesis this past Friday. I experienced a shift. You know that feeling you get on a molecular level that causes your whole world to forever be altered? I was on highway 94 when it happened. I had both hands loosely on the steering wheel; it was raining, and I was leaning slightly forward with a smile on my face completely and utterly turned on by the world and everything around me. Never mind that the sky was grey and threatening to turn into snow. Never mind a lot of things. I was happy and completely present--and for the first time in my life I felt like a woman. Not a girl, but a woman.

Granted, I'm 33 years old and maybe I should have started feeling like a woman a long time ago. But, you see, I've been a daughter, a student, an employee, an underdog for so long that I had never really experienced the full power of my woman-ness.

In my teens and early 20's I was so completely ME. I didn't care what other people thought. I was independent. I was fearless. I was also relatively young. Somewhere along the line, to an extent, I lost the best parts of myself. As a student, adult daughter, and employee I started seeking all the same things: approval, respect, praise, admiration. And I now see how, in the process, I lost little pieces of myself, bit by bit. I allowed my confidence to get rubbed down. I gave away my fire and grace. I replaced some of my favorite qualities with a lowered sense of self-worth. But in these past several months I've started to understand something about the ways that waiting for approval can hold a person back in some seriously disabling ways.

Lately, I've been thinking a lot about the ways that I've limited myself. I've been trying to understand what happens inside of me when I feel less than capable or less than beautiful or less then anything. What, exactly, happens in the moment that I quit trusting my true self? What is the sensation? What is the trigger?

The day before defending my thesis I met up with my dad for a quick hello. He neglected to wish me good luck or really even acknowledge my accomplishments in any way. In the moment of lamely saying goodbye I felt heart broken and invisible, yet again. But you know what? As I walked away I realized something important: it no longer needs to matter. I can't change him. I can't make him care. And if he does, I can't make him show it. Most importantly, I realized that it is a waste of energy to try and prove myself to him or anyone. Because I've wasted a lot of energy doing that for too many people. I'll still have a relationship with my dad, but from here on out it is going to be on different terms. I'm no longer going to vie for his praise or approval. I'm no longer going to do that for anyone.

After leaving the defense I went out for lunch with one of my professors and she said: "You know, Jessie, you've changed. You're not the same person that you were before." And the funny thing is that I feel like a different person. I feel it from the inside out, and the outside in.

My point is this: I am no longer the same person that I was. I cannot explain it. I cannot describe it. But all I know is that something very important has shifted somewhere deep inside of me. For the first time in my adult life I feel like I am completely and absolutely me.

These days, my life feels like it has caught on fire. I feel empowered and strong. I feel fearless and am hungry for adventure in a way that I have not been in a very long time. Something has shifted and now there is no going back. I am learning and growing and am still scared as hell on a regular basis. But I also feel more capable, willing, daring. Suzie made this necklace with the intention of bringing fire, vitality and joy into my life. I put it around my neck knowing this and feel grateful for the power radiating from her creation. Should I forget any of the lessons I've learned, this necklace is surely a beautiful reminder.

This past week my aunt has been staying with my husband and I while she receives outpatient treatments for Luekemia. She's been in the hospital for the past 4 months and will return for another 3 months beginning next week. I have spent the past several days making sure she is ok and feeling comfortable. I have been sitting in a hospital watching dozens of cancer patients (some just babies and children) and their families doing whatever they need to do just to get through it. My aunt amazes me to extremes. This morning, while sitting on couch, she received the phone call that her own mom died last night--also from cancer. Yesterday, while sitting in the hospital, I received a call that Clara, my adopted grandma, passed away. I keep thinking about Patry Francis and the way she is open to life--it's beauties and pains--with such intensity and love. It is humbling and empowering all at once.

Today I am grateful for the magnificently fierce women in my life. They teach me not to be afraid of transformation. These brilliant butterflies--I am grateful for all of them, including you--my beautiful, strong friends.

"You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face." ~Eleanore Roosevelt

Read more about Suzie's pendant on her blog. Her story makes me love my new necklace even more!


Saturday, May 03, 2008

Afterward {a recap}

Comfort food. Oh, sweet room service!
My perch, eagle's nest height.
This is where I prepared for my thesis...

Loving thoughts sent all the way from the UK.
Thank you, Meg!

I received so many wonderful comments and emails from my blogging friends. Wow--I can't even tell you how much that filled my heart! I spent a large portion of my defense talking about how blogging and this blogging community has influenced my writing. I not only thought about all of you, I talked about you! Your energy was with me, loud and clear. Oh, and I should mention that I thanked you all in the acknowledgments, too. ;)

Ready or not...
This is me about 15 minutes before leaving for the defense. I sort of felt like shitting my pants with nervousness...but then I thought: "ahh, hell, I'm as ready as I'm ever going to be!"
and guess what!

I passed! :)

This is the after-thesis-defense-photo. Dr. Nancy Michael (one of my very most favorite professors ever {far left}) walked passed the room just as we were finishing up--perfect timing! The only person this photo is missing is Dr. Mark Christiansen. But these here are the most important women in my academic life. The description I have for them: intelligent, fierce, creative, empowering, and capable of great amounts of love. I might have had a tough time in grad school, but holy kali ma, I am grateful for these powerful women in my life! I have to admit that yesterday made every struggling bit of the past 3 years totally worthwhile.

Afterwards, I drove the 4 hours home, then stayed up until midnight getting ready for today's event. 5am came too soon. After much rain and forecast of snow, I was glad to see the sun just barely peaking out on an otherwise dark horizon. By 6am there were birds chirping. Whew!!

Saturday: Walk for Animals

These girls, participating in the walk, both had little kittens tucked in their jackets. So cute! I couldn't resist taking a photo. ;)

Speaking of kittens...
This is a painting of Opal, my hair stylist's baby:

I have more photos and stories to share...but for now I mostly just wanted to say hi and thank you and to let you know that my week has been a raging success. You all have been with me in more ways than you could possibly realize. Despite the exhausted stupor I presently find myself in, I cannot even tell you how good it feels to have closed one chapter of my life and opened another--all in one fell swoop. The timing could not have been more perfect for these details to fall into place. Divine synchronization? I don't know. But one thing I DO know is that I'm going to sleep good tonight!!!


Thursday, May 01, 2008

twas the night before my thesis defense...

I planned on writing a really thoughtful and introspective post tonight, but now I don't really feel like it. At the moment I am sitting in my hotel suite overlooking Lake Bemidji. I've successfully tucked myself away from the world for some much needed quiet time. Vinny decided to treat me with a bit of luxury before my defense tomorrow--oh, and it feels so nice! I have a soft, king size bed all to myself. Actually, everything in this room is soft. The couch, the chair, the towels, the little bed I made for myself on the over-sized windowsill, even the wonderful dinner I ordered from room service left me with a perfectly comforted feeling. The tension from my day disappeared after a long soak in the hot tub outside, snow surrounding me, but I was warm underwater, enjoying the cool breeze on my face and the crystalline sounds of ice being stirred by waves on the lake. There's an eagles nest at atop the pine tree directly out my window. I love being perched at eagle height.

Just now I pulled two tarot cards from The Goddess Tarot--one for tomorrow (my defense) and one for Saturday (the animal/art event). I llayed back on my big soft bed, kicked my legs up and laughed a big, hearty belly-laugh because the words felt good. This is what they said:

For Friday: King of Staves-- Regal, expansive, and energizing, the King of Staves is the epitome of the sun's power. He has the ability to inspire others to grow because of his enthusiasm. Meanings: Dynamic, stable enthusiasm. Master over business ventures. The ability to bring ideas to fruitation.

For Saturday: I. Magic~Isis: The great Egyptian fertility goddess Isis is a potent symbol of the alchemic transformation suggested by this card (oh, and such a beautiful card it is! it speaks to me on a very deep level). She alone was the possessor of the secret name of Ra, the Egyptian ruling god, giving her unlimited magical powers. Meaning: A growing awareness of the magic within yourself. A yearning to grow beyond perceived limitations. You are able to transform your life through the strength of your originality and power--all you need to to is own it. Renewed creativity and vigor.

I defend my thesis at 11am. I started to get really nervous last night and was this morning too. At some point I realized that I have a choice. I can be miserable and nervous because I was allowing myself to feel that way since that's just what people do in these sorts of situations. OR I could NOT be nervous (or sad or depressed or any of those other negative emotions that were vying for my attention) and INSTEAD just enjoy this moment of rest between an incredibly hectic few weeks.

Please send me your wonderful bloggy vibes over the next couple of days. You people, my blogging community, what would I do without you?? And I'll be sending love right back at ya. ;) Actually, I'm sending it now. Can you feel it?