Stepping Fully Into My Life

So my New Year’s began with more of a whimper than a bang. My baby has a horrible head cold, so my husband and I were all set to spend New Year’s Eve together at home, snacks and drinks on hand, to begin getting giddy about our future projects, the things that have been put on hold because of the chaos of living, and New Year’s Day was supposed to be spent having a glorious planning session on how to implement the creation of those projects. However, my daughter kept waking up because she couldn’t breathe, and I could feel myself starting to succumb as well, so I would wander back and forth between cuddling her and trying to get excited amidst filling sinuses, and last night I wound up going to bed at 8PM.

My plan for 2018 is to begin living the life that I have always wanted for me and my family. One where my husband and I share both income-making and raising the children duties, one that gives me time to actually take care of myself the way that I know I need to so I can take care of others in the ways I want to. One that gives me more flexibility – for parenting, for travel, for fun, for personal and creative growth.

I had hoped to be freelancing full-time by the end of 2017, but that didn’t happen. We need to have a firmer financial base for me to make the leap (either more in savings and/or my husband bringing in new income streams, which both are being worked on). So new goal is by the end of June, by the time my son is out of school for the summer. I horribly hated having to work this past week when he was out on holiday break. It was the first time since he started preschool that I didn’t have the time off with him. Last summer was super hard too. So no more.

But getting this cold is a reminder that I’m STILL not as physically healthy as I need to be, so taking care of myself physically is important this year, as I begin implementing my plans. Self-care, self-love, and mostly more sleep need to happen. I need to have both patience and persistence as I begin to implement my plans. I need to accept that I can’t have it all at once.

So the online shop is on hold until I leave my current position. I can’t sew for 8 hours a day and then continue to sew late into the night. I have, at most, another hour worth of sewing in me, plus some extra on my days off. I have a costume commission for this month, and potentially 2 designs for the spring plus a paid workshop that I’m in talks to do, and I may have to bring shop work home with me once we get into prom alterations this spring. Any extra sewing time will be spent alternating between some personal sewing (want to make some things for the house) and coming up with the samples/patterns for my first offerings in the shop, so that hopefully once I leave my current position, I can be opening the shop within a matter of weeks.

That leaves me with 1 to 1.5 hrs a night to split up between music, writing, and art, on top of sneaking in a little bit of writing during the day when it gets slow. I want to start promoting myself more again, and I have some lofty goals for getting work out this year. We’ll have to see what happens. When I am able to be freelancing, I hope to double to three hours a day spent toward those things, setting things up so I can be painting while my kids are doing arts and crafts again, like I used to, having fun creating together.

Again, this is going to be about patience and persistence. About applying my will toward the creation process. About making sure I’m not burning out and then having to recuperate, rinse and repeat. About creating a sustainable and nurturing life for everyone in my home, myself included.

I do not regret my time working at the theater for a few years, even though I was so overworked. It gave me amazing health insurance to have my second child, and it gave me the financial stability to get a mortgage and a decent home for my family. I do regret this past year working the bridal alterations because of how much time I’ve missed with the kids, but it gave me the flexibility to work from home for the first six months for part of the time, which was huge for my relationship with my daughter, and I’ve learned so much working on these gowns that I can apply to my own designs. It means a lot to be able to support my family, so there is that too. But I’m ready now to step into the life that I’ve been saying I’ve wanted for almost 10 years now. Our time on this earth is too short to try for less than what we truly desire, no matter how “safe” other paths may be.

And if the world completely falls apart around me, if my dreams don’t come true, if we end up losing our civilization, at least I’ll have tried. At the end of the day, that’s the most important thing of all.

May your 2018 give you the strength and courage to follow your own deepest, truest selves as I will be.


Year-end Reflection

It’s that time again, for me to pause and take stock of myself. Not that I’m not consciously and subconsciously doing this lots of other times in my life, but it has become a tradition to do a year-end reflective blog entry at the end of December and a year-beginning hopes and goals entry in early January, so here we go.

This time last year, I called 2016 my “Year of Change”. If I were going to give myself a tagline for this year, it would have to be my “Year of Recovery”. It was a hard slog much of the time, overcoming my feelings of lack, dealing with little sleep with the baby. Feeling directionless and trapped in ways I did not like one bit. Lacking care for myself in many respects. And my personal strife coupled with the appalling state-of-affairs nationally and globally just made me so tired. I’m still so tired. Bone-tired sometimes.

But I’m recovered, mostly. I’ve shared tidbits of my process on how I did it, but most of it has been intuitive and has only been accomplished out of love for both myself in this experience we call life and love for my family who has to put up with me. The final steps involve putting into action the things I know I need to do, and I am ready. I’ve got lots of plans to start rolling with. I have hope and passion and creative drive again, and even though the world may fall apart around me, I will create and love and encourage free-thinking and creativity and self-healing for others.

My one major goal for 2017 was to let myself play more in both my creative work and my daily life, and I feel like I’ve failed at the goal for the first time since I’ve started setting them. I’ve played with my kids, but not enough, and I did not get outside nearly enough nor did I really give myself creative playtime. My productivity was so low for me on all creative fronts. So that goal needs to be incorporated in my 2018 goal somehow. But I’ll do a post on that in a couple of days.

If 2017 was a dark one for you, I hope you find your light soon. We all need to be shining as bright as we can to push this darkness back.

Business Decision Making Time

I’m going to spend a little time today writing out my options and thoughts on the sewing line I want to start in the coming year as an income stream once I am able to move into freelancing full-time again, which will be on top of the freelance design and build work I currently do and will continue to build doing and the alterations I’ll take out of the home, and this will be the bulk of my income while I build up the creative work I do here with writing, art, and maybe someday music without stressing about the income the work here brings in as of yet.

So firstly, I have to pick a direction. I thought that I had, but I’m second-guessing myself now on whether I need to narrow my options more. After a lot of research, it seems like other shops are most successful having one niche thing they do very well, for example, a creator only makes tutus, or waist cinchers and corsets, or capes, or fairy wings, or hair accessories, or purses, etc. Or they focus on a very particular niche market, like horse blankets with a handful of horse accessories, or ice skating costumes, or ballet costumes, or burlesque costumes. Sometimes even more narrowed, like a shop only sells pasties for burlesque, with nothing else. The upsides to having a shop like this are:

  1. You get really really good at something so you can market yourself as an expert and build a reputation
  2. Being really good at something means you learn all the shortcuts you can possibly take and still make a really good product
  3. If it’s a “rinse and repeat” kind of pattern adjustment to create different looks, you aren’t starting from scratch every season to mix up your selection
  4. It’s a lot easier to train potential future employees/family members/friends to help you if the orders start piling up, which is again a time saver
  5. If for some reason you ever want to start mass-producing anything via hiring out a factory (not something I think I’m really interested in), having easily repeatable patterns makes the process much easier

The downside for me though is that the thought of limiting myself in this way bores me. Because my background is in costume design, my initial thought (and what I find much more interesting) was to design an entire look and then offer up the pieces of the look in a shop, and to also include interesting patterns of other things I’ve developed over the years. To have vintage and costume inspired pieces that could be worn in a wide variety of settings, maybe include some men and children’s pieces as well as accessories, and to tie in the designs with some of the work I am producing here eventually as far as inspiration goes. But if I go this route, I may potentially be running into problems down the road.

Part of my concern is that my husband and I already had an online shop, both on Etsy and via our own site, where we sold fairy-related art, costume pieces, and even bath products under our label, and we made it all. And we never were able to really get a good month of sales, in part because we were spread all over the place instead of having a particular focus, and also because we were frequently going for quantity over quality (a mistake I will not be making this time around). So is it narrowed enough to simply stick to sewing/wearable creations under my unique vision, or do I force myself to start very narrowed and see how it goes? Also as an aside, I made up a big batch of a face scrub/mask to give as Christmas gifts, and I had forgotten how much I love to make the bath/beauty products and it would be fun to eventually try selling those again. The recipes I had come up with were really good, but it is such a saturated market. So for the meantime, I will just allow myself to create more of those for myself and for gifts as I can carve out the time to.

Anyway, any of you have any thoughts on this that could help me reach a decision? Do I do what “feels” best to me despite it possibly being more complicated and time-consuming? Or do I follow good examples of other successful businesses and stop being so freaking stubborn in life? It would be nice if something could be easy for a change.


Breaking Free from “Lack”

I have had to do a lot of healing and reflection this year, and I wanted to share one of the tools I used to lift myself out of the funk of being in recovery mode so maybe you can test it out in areas of your life to see if it helps you.

One of the down sides to getting fired after working myself ill and being on unemployment was really feeling an overall feeling of “lack” – lack of funds, lack of health and vitality and energy to do what I want, lack of social contact/loneliness, etc. I was doing the self-care I needed but couldn’t muster my usual motivation and inspiration and drive.

So what was my trick to get over this? Here it is: anywhere I felt a lacking in my life, I would find a way to give that to others. Easy to say but a tad difficult at times to put into practice, so I’ll give examples.

With my monetary lack, I had to find some way to give something materially without costing us in the process. So one thing I did was donate breast milk to a milk bank that primarily gets the milk to premies. That satisfied me in many ways because it meant milk I had pumped but my daughter wasn’t using was going to good use. I also heard about some families in need in the area and gifted baby items and children’s clothes to them. And recently I collected items for Puerto Rico aid, a drop in the bucket for what they need, but since I could afford to purchase some things now as well as donate a little money, it is good to see how giving back grows. Doing just those little things made me feel useful and made me feel more materially secure in that I had something to give.

In the lack of social contact, when I felt lonely not being at work with other artists, I made an effort. I contacted some friends to see if they’d want to exchange letters, I reached out to some local friends that I saw were also isolated to set up times for coffee dates, and I made plans to see out of town friends, and by taking the steps to initiate, I got out of the doldrums so fast. I also made sure to not take offense when plans fell through or people didn’t want to write because it wasn’t about me or even them but about the connections. And I made a real effort to connect with some of the clients at my new job, which is a big step for me outside my comfort zone.  I know we all get into that “nobody likes me, everybody hates me, guess I’ll go eat worms” thinking sometimes, and once in there, it is difficult to get out of it. But really, there are so many interesting people in the world, and there is a very good chance someone finds you interesting too. So it is worth making the effort.

So, my challenge to you. Ask yourself where you are most feeling “lack” in your life, and what can you do to relieve that lack for someone else? I really believe by taking the focus off ourselves, we can sometimes do a great deal of good both for ourselves and others simultaneously.


I Am Ready

“I am ready” is a thought that’s been rattling in my mind during my moments of relaxation and meditation that I manage to grasp. I’ve been waking up with it, even delirious from staying up too late prepping things for my sister’s wedding and dealing with a teething baby again, and now that I’m in recovery mode from all that, it’s becoming more and more insistent.

The only problem is that I have no idea yet what I’m ready for. So that’ll be interesting to discover.


Some Thoughts on Life

I’ve been listening to some random lectures and talks online while sewing in recent weeks, and a couple of things I’ve heard have stuck with me, so I wanted to share my thoughts on them.

The first was a positive, truly inspiring lecture, and the line that stuck with me was when the speaker was telling everyone to stop comparing themselves to others, that we each have a purpose to fulfill here in life. And the line was that we are all puzzle pieces making up the world, and the puzzle pieces fit with other pieces to make the whole, and without even one piece, the picture is incomplete. So we’re all vital, we’re all important. And it’s our connections with each other that are truly the most important thing. I thought that was truly lovely.

The comparison game is such a tempting one, isn’t it? And we’re bombarded all the time by advertising and programming that tells us to fall into that trap so they can sell us crap, and the prevalence of social media in our lives makes it oh so easy to constantly compare and then bring ourselves down by our lack. We spiral low, shop to make ourselves feel better, drown our sorrows in more media or unhealthy habits, and let ourselves get trapped. It’s terrible. But I have learned to look at my twinges of jealousy as the sign markers for where I need to grow and direct my life. My friend is traveling off to far lands while I’m trapped with a baby and no money? Plan a day trip or weekend trip with the family and crash with friends. Someone I know released a single or put out a new book? That little pin prick is the drive for me to carve out a little time to create. And continue to make differences where I can. But this metaphor of a puzzle is one that will help quell the twinges all together, I think.

The second was a psychologist speaking about something that touched deeply on my spiritual awakening that occurred several  years ago, and I’m going to be deliberately vague because it’s very personal to me, but mainly what she said cast the entire experience in a very negative light. And I reflected on this a lot, and I’ve decided that I still am glad I went through my experiences because of the profound growth that I’ve had. There was a catalyst, a rebirthing, and then a test, all in one, and there were risks involved, but because I stayed true to myself and listened to my heart, it was a test I passed. It was necessary for my evolution, and this speaker would have cast me as a victim. And I don’t know if she truly sees the world that way, or if she’s just out to make more clients and make a buck.

So here it is, any period of growth is tumultuous. Any true spiritual experience has risks because we live in a materialistic age and have lost a lot of the knowledge of the spiritual so you enter blindly. But I know that everything in life has a positive and a negative side – the same tool can be used to heal or to harm. And it is each of our own responsibility to guard our own paths. To a lesser extent, we can help guard the paths of those we love, but really it has to come from within. We need to decide the things we value in our hearts and souls and then not waver from those values. Because it is when we become untrue to ourselves that others can manipulate us.

Anyway, those are my random thoughts.


Gratitude Can Become a Trap

We had a friend over last weekend for sketching, snacks, and mead, and over the course of the evening, the sentence “Gratitude can be a trap” came out of my mouth as I was discussing my life after having my daughter and leading up to losing my job. And I realized the truth of the statement. If you always feel grateful for what you have, even when life turns extremely difficult, the gratitude can easily become an opportunity to not process emotions properly or to allow situations to continue long past the point they should. At least, that’s how it worked for me. I have a wonderfully supportive and hands-on co-parent in my husband and my mom took time off after the baby was born, on top of help from other family and friends. So when I felt overwhelmed in my recovery, I buried those feelings in gratitude and told myself “It can be so much worst, I have no right to complain.” And I believed it. And because my previous employer allowed me to have the baby with me, when the nigh impossible job I had actually became really impossible, rather than complain, I just kept plowing ahead and told myself how lucky I was to get to have the baby with me. It became this kind of feedback loop that helped contribute to tunnel vision that got so severe I couldn’t even tell when I started working myself sick.

I don’t want to downplay the role of gratitude in my life. It’s really important. But it’s a passive virtue, and therein lies the crux of the issue. The passive and the active have to be balanced against each other, rather than allowing either one to dominate your life to an extreme, and I think the action that should accompany gratitude is another ‘g’ – generosity. Generosity of spirit. Generosity of love. Practiced both outward onto the world and inward toward one’s self. Because if you are generous towards yourself, you won’t allow people to drive you to your breaking point. You won’t drive yourself to your breaking point.

What are your thoughts on gratitude? Have you ever felt yourself in a similar situation? Do you find yourself falling more into a passive or active attitude toward life, or are you fairly well balanced?


Life and Love and Creativity

I have been absent again from posting here lately. The baby has been teething and starting her one year growth spurt, and I have also snuck away on a few short trips with the family, visiting the 1000 Islands and Buffalo/Niagara Falls. It is so much work to travel with kids, but the time with friends and getting close to nature was well worth the effort. I feel more grounded, more accepting of the current state of affairs in my life, and ready to allow myself to expand again after feeling retracted for so long.

My time to create has been so short, and this was one of the biggest things I had to come to terms with. Almost all my efforts right now are going into creating my sister’s wedding dress and jewelry. The only writing I’ve been doing lately is an occasional email or letter, and I haven’t had any time for music or painting. Because my energies are being poured into my family and into the work that allows us to survive, and that is where they need to be right now. Because the love I have for my family and the joy I experience witnessing my children grow makes the sacrifices worthwhile.

All this to say that my creativity is not gone; the fire has merely been stoked, waiting the right opportunity to blaze once again. In the meantime, I will guard my embers and feed them as I may.



Taking Responsibility for My Life Path

I’ve still been feeling rather stuck on where I want to grow next creatively and career-wise in life. There are excuses, some more valid than others (lack of sleep due to baby – very valid excuse), but I realized lately that I’ve partially been sitting around waiting for some signs from the universe. Aside from allowing myself to be trapped in an office job for about a year and a half longer than I should have let myself be back in the early 2010s, my life path has always progressed organically. I’ve mentioned before that I decide I really want to try something out, and it happens. Opportunities come up and I take them, and they may not be specifically what I had planned, but things progress. I work my butt off, gain experience, and that’s what life is for me. Taking opportunities as they come. But before I decide I want to do something, I spend an insane amount of time hemming and hawing and waiting for a nudge or hint that I’m doing the right thing. Sometimes I get involved with very serious doubts on whether it’ll be good in the long run but just trust that I’m meant to be at certain places at certain times. A healthy way to live life, I think, but I’m pretty sure I don’t get to have it that way this time.

I have to take action myself. I preach taking personal responsibility and I know that there are inherent human freedoms, and I have to now step fully into the weight of that and take charge of my life. Which means deciding what I really want. Which is something I’ve always had a difficult time doing. And I find it doubly so now, because beyond a vague desire to “be creative”, what I really want is more time with my family. Which we’re working toward, but I miss that ambitious drive to push me through on projects.

I think I also have always wanted outside validation, a stamp of approval that my work is good. All of us creatives have that to a certain extent, don’t we? I want to march to the beat of my own drum, but I want other people to be tapping their hands along to the rhythm. It’s almost like my whole life I’ve been looking for permission to create the way I want to. And if I didn’t get that outside validation, I kind of just stopped pushing forward with that side of my creativity. Which is a tough thing to admit, but it’s true.

So I have a lot still to process in these realizations that hit me a couple of weeks ago. But processing through this is A Big Deal, and this will lay the groundwork for the next part of my life. A life path I will choose wholeheartedly. It will still be eclectic, and I’ll probably still be all over the place in my creative instincts, but it will be mine.


Freedom’s Just Another Word…

I came across this quote recently from the author David Foster Wallace that I thought was interesting, because it’s the exact opposite of what most people think of when they imagine freedom.

The really important kind of freedom involves attention and awareness, and discipline, and effort, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them, over and over, in myriad petty little unsexy ways, every day.

The truth is I have found more internal freedom than I ever thought possible through having my kids. I’ve grown so much in making space that includes family and deep soul connections in my life. I’ve lost fear. Which is the biggest freedom there is. So even though I can’t go out partying if I get the urge, even though I can’t blow my paycheck on concert tickets and new clothes, even though I frequently put another person’s needs before my own needs and almost always put someone else’s needs before my wants, I am free or on my way to being free in the ways that truly matter.  Sometimes, though, I very badly need the reminder, and so this quote hit home.

What are your thoughts on freedom?

Also, the title of the blog post comes from the Janis Joplin song “Me and Bobby McGee” which I’ve always loved singing along to.