Shalom's Cottage Home Blog

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Rock Island, IL, United States
Hi, I'm Shalom. Artist, crafter, gardener, flea market enthusiast, bargain hunter, and lover of flavor. Welcome to my journey!

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Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Monday, November 3, 2008

Let it Snow!!!

I started getting ready for the holidays in July this year, so I have had a VERY long time to look forward to this season. As an artist & designer, I am nearly overwhelmed each year by the smorgasbord of wonderful designs that I see showcased at this time. It's candy for the eyes! So this time around, I got to add a little of my own "spice" to the mix with my very UN-traditional snowflake design. It all started as a series of sketches and at the time I was also designing some flowers for another project and the 2 ideas sort of combined into one. Have a merry, minty Christmas everyone and enjoy all of "snow" (hopefully fake).

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Ode To The Purple Coneflower

Come into the garden for a moment and enjoy the complex, yet simple beauty of a beloved heirloom flower. Lose yourself in the majestic, towering stems, the satin-soft petals and the geometrically fascinating seed heads. Appreciate for just a moment something beyond the scope of your normal day and when you leave, take with you a renewed desire to slow down and enjoy every little moment.

I am somewhat obsessed with this flower and have been both drawing it and painting it in different ways for many years. This is my first representation of it in a digital artform. I also grow the flower at home, in my garden and look forward to it's return every year, as it produces somewhat of an explosion of blossoms that last for months with little care required. I love the vibrant petal colors, which range from hot pink to pale lavender, the intricite ways they curve and curl around one another, and have always imagined the flowers coming alive as dancing ballerinas in the night. With this art piece, I hoped to catch a snapshot of midsummer favorite in a modern, yet timeles way.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Who are the Bubble Coi?

This illustration started off as most of my finished artwork does - a series of pencil sketches in vastly different styles. In the end, I decided to go with "simplicity" and let a collection of multi-sized dots create the illusion of the fish. But, as often happens with art, the end result started to take on a life of it's own - similar and yet very different from what I had originally envisioned. I didn't plan for there to be so many layers and my original idea was for the dots to be perfectly round, not wobbly and water droplet-like. Still, I am pleased with the outcome and it was fun to let my right-brain (artistic) take over from my left-brain (logical), allowing the piece to be experimented with and become what it is, even while straying somewhat from the "plan". Looking at this piece now, I imagine dappled sunlight filtering through clear water and drawing moving shapes on the back of the fish as they twirl around. A mother and child spending the day together in carefree bliss. I hope you see it too.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

A Trip Down Childhood Lane...

Isn't this how everyone remembers the neighborhood where they grew up? Houses decorated in bright floral fabric patterns, pink-trimmed trees, huge blooming flowers everywhere and inviting front porches which led to doors that were never locked. And of course all our friends were always waiting in their backyards where we would spend whole summer days in another world, occassionally refreshed by a glass of mom-provided iced lemonade.

Well, if that' not how it actually happened, it sure is fun to pretend that it did, isn't it? With this watercolor and ink illustration, I hoped to capture some of that imagination that ran wild in me when I was a child and to convey a feeling of carefree, endless playtime. Childhoold goes by so fast, but when you look at this piece, you can get a little of it back again, if only for a few moments.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

A Happy Day in Summer

This is part 2 in my Happy Day series for children. One of my favorite books of all time, is The Little House by Virginia Lee Burton, which fantastically illustrates the changing seasons. Although, my artistic style is quite different, I have always held a child-like fascination with the wonders that each new season brings. With my Happy Day art prints, I hope to highlight some of my favorite things and rekindle that spark of simple delight in others. What better way to celebrate summer, than with a garden of dandelions and a fluttering butterfly?

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Thinking Summery Thoughts

I am so excited to be able to offer this new line of Mini Dahlia Notebooks. They were created in response to a customer who requested my original regular-sized Dahlia notebook (the pink one) in different colors and smaller. I had not thought to experiment with the colors or the size until she contacted me, but I am so happy with the results. I love when someone tosses me an idea out of the blue and I am able to run with it. Sometimes we artists find ourselves in creative "ruts", which is where I must admit I was at the time my customer contacted me. Any "jumpstarts" are always appreciated, so don't be afraid to ask an artist to do something for you. They will probably be delighted!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Lessons from Bookmarks: Breathe Deeply of Sunshine

Just think about exactly what that means . . . On that first really warm, sunny day coming out of long and dreary winter (like today!), it is SO rejuvenating to just step outside, close your eyes with your face to the sun, and breeeeeeathe in. Try it. You'll like it.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Orange Love

And now, the culmination of my 21-sketches brainstorming session on oranges (see 2 posts ago). I really do love everything Orange: the color, the fruit, the taste, the smell. So, appropriately titled, I think. This one has actually sparked an idea for a whole new kitchen re-design . . . someday.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Lessons From Bookmarks: Take Time to Unwind

Continuing with my bookmark series ... The message behind the bookmark I designed here is simple enough. It's important to balance out the craziness of our lives with "down time". We are only human after all and can only go so long or push ourselves so far before we must unplug and give our minds and bodies a rest from the responsibilities of life. If we don't, we risk serious emotional and health problems. Coffee and energy bars can help us get through the workdays, but they are not permanent solutions.

"Unwinding" is probably different for everyone, and is not the same thing as sleep. In fact, if you try to go to sleep before you've had sufficient time to relax, it will probably take you much longer to actually fall asleep, and the sleep you do get might not be the most restful. But don't think of unwinding as merely a tool to help you get better sleep, either. Think of it more as the sugar in a cake recipe. If you bake a cake without it, it will most likely come out looking fine, but it sure won't taste as good. Remember, you work hard and you deserve a little time to yourself, a little sweetner. It will make everything else in your life seem worthwhile, if you actually give yourself a break once in a while.

For me, the perfect way to unwind after a long day (and since I work evenings, this means the time right before I go to bed) is by curling up on the couch with a hot cup of chai tea and my latest book under soft, diffused light. I read for about an hour or so and by that time, my entire body - inlcuding my mind - feels relaxed. I like to wait until I get to the point where I'm having trouble concentrating on the words on the page or on anything I have to do the next day - REALLY tired. I have learned the hard way that trying to force myself to go to bed when I'm not tired, results in me laying awake for hours and being uncomfortable. So this is not only something that is one of life's simple pleasures for me, it also helps me sleep better.

There are other ways to unwind, that don't result in sleepiness. For instance, I consider taking a long walk through my neighborhood at a brisk pace a good way to unwind as it releases stress and leaves me feeling refreshed and healthy (notice I said walk, not run). However, I never get on my computer to unwind as I associate my computer and being in my office with work. But working in my garden or sitting down with an embroidery project are good "time outs" for me. I cannot say, however that watching TV is a good way to unwind, unless it's for a limited period of time, because the constant flashing lights and colors coming at you tend to keep your brain alert and leave you with eye strain if you stare at the TV for too long. This is not the case with a book, which is simple black text on a neutral background.

Some other ways to unwind, even if they are work, but not what you do for a living could be:

• Cooking
• Sewing
• Painting
• Writing in a journal
• Playing an instrument
• Singing
• Bubble baths
• Going on a picnic
• Taking a bike ride
• Going out for coffee and conversation
• Visiting your local library

I'm sure there are many others, that I cannot think of at this point, but however you unwind, make sure that you are getting what you need out of it and enjoy yourself.

Friday, April 4, 2008

How Many Oranges Does it Take to Turn on a Light Bulb?

Apparently a lot, in this case. I counted 21 individual oranges or slices sketched (not including the 2 page thumbs at the bottom) before I tore the page out of my sketchbook to scan in. Why am I doing this, you ask? Well, I have this inkling of an idea, a vague sort of blurry vision bouncing around in my brain for a digital design depicting fruit - specifically oranges - and this is how I am trying to "spark" that idea into igniting. If that makes absolutely no sense, I'm sorry, but all I can say is that artists are weird like that and we all seek inspiration in different ways. In my case, I already know what I want to do with this piece - I just don't know how.

I want to create something that is both pleasing to look at and represents a certain level of artistic skill, but that hasn't been done before. I researched "modern fruit art" the other day and I honestly didn't find much that was illustrated in the same "style" I'm going for, but I also didn't get many good sources either.

A source is not to be confused with copying. A source is something that sparks you brain into "art-mode" and you end up creating a piece of art influenced in part by it, yet totally different. Still, as I said, I am finding a shortage of sources for this piece I want to create, so it's up to me to sketch my heart out until I find a design that I want to run with. I would do this anyway, even if I did have lots of sources; but in this case it simply means that the creative process is a little bit harder because I have to try to draw pictures in my head based on past memories and other stored information. It's not impossible and not unpleasant, but it does take a little longer, which in cases like this, often leaves us artists staring at a blank page for quite some time before a sketchable idea takes form.

The first night I attempted to brainstorm, I only sketched about 5 different orange styles before I ran out of ideas. But overnight, my brain, once primed, started conjuring up new images and by the second night I had all of the different styles, shown above, down on paper. As I was sitting there trying to decide which one would work best, I suddenly realized that the entire sketchbook page had kind of an interesting look to it. Like some sort of funky wallpaper (minus the written notes). I still don't know exactly how I'm going to proceed with this design, but I hope you enjoyed this cutaway of the inner workings of my brain. Now it's back to work for me!

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Lessons From Bookmarks: Perspective is Everything

I recently designed a line of bookmarks with little inspirational messages that I made up and I thought it would be interesting to explore the meaning behind each of them. If you are like me, you get a little thrill up your spine when you see a piece of art or good graphic design paired with the perfect written message. I love to collect samples like that and leave them all over my house to remind me of what's truly important in life. That is what I was aiming to do with these bookmarks - to share universal wisdom through art. I may have penned the words, themselves, but the truths behind them are timeless:

Perspective is Everything. The concept is just like reading the sentence. At first glance, it doesn't look like much, but if you chew over it for a little bit and look a little further in, you will start to understand the full meaning behind those 3 powerful words.

I'll give an example to make it easier to understand: a friend of mine recently called me to share the bad news she and her husband owed a lot of taxes this year and it was going to take some serious planning and reorganizing of priorities in order to get themselves in a position to pay it back. They had also experienced some medical hardships in the past couple of years and so had been more distracted than usual and had not payed close enough attention to their finances to avoid this situation in the first place. My friend called me, knowing that I would listen and be sympathetic, but that I might also have a different perspective on the matter. She was so overwhelmed by the enormity of the circumstances, just recently discovered, that she couldn't see past the problem.

When she asked me what I thought they should do, I first told her that I was very sorry for their situation and I realized that it was going to be a challenge to get through it, yet not impossible. I then grabbed my calculator and punched in a few numbers. Then I asked her, "Well, you've been thinking about getting a part time job, right?" (she has been a stay-home mom all her life, but currently only has 2 teenage boys left at home). She said, yes. Then I told her that based on my calculations, if she got a part time job, working only 10 hours a week, and put all her earnings toward paying off the tax debt, it would be gone in about 2 years. There were a few moments of stunned silence on her end of the phone, followed by a timid but hopeful "Really?"

We also discussed that it would probably be best for them to consult some professional advice for this matter as well. But it felt SO wonderful to be able to take some of the heaviness off her burden, just by having a different perspective. One of the last things I said to my friend, before we hung up was "Really, when you look at it, getting rid of this debt is only a matter of a few extra hours a week spent outside of the home and some numbers being pushed around on paper." And that is the truth. It doesn't have to become any bigger of an issue in her life than that; and she once she has a plan in place to deal with the problem, she will be free to enjoy her life and look forward to many other good things.

I don't claim to be a financial expert, or even a deep well of worldly wisdom, but I do know that sometimes all you really need is to see things from someone else's perspective. So don't be afraid to ask.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Sketchbook - check, Idea File - check, Paint & Paper - check, Caffeine???

So, I came up with this idea that there MUST be some correlation between how an artist drinks their coffee and the type of art they produce (since, logically, one's artwork is an extension of one's personality). But I couldn't prove it, so I decided to do a little survey. The results were as varied as the artists themselves who participated, but I did get an interesting window into one essential part of their lives. They all like coffee - a lot. Well, OK, some people prefer tea, but they are just as particular about it.

I, myself, drink at least 2 cups a day, heavily creamed and honeyed with a touch of cinnamon, and I prefer to enjoy it, slowly, with both palms wrapped around a warm, heavy mug. But, hey, if styrofoam's the only option available I won't complain, if I'm in need of a little pick-me-up. And for me, just inhaling deeply of the fragrant aroma before I even take a sip, is a pleasure unto itself.

What does that have to do with my personality and my artwork, you ask? Well, perhaps nothing. But I DO know that that kind of coffee is considered "girl coffee" and I am definitely a girly-girl. I like to dress in bright colors and florals, I love nature and beautiful surroundings and I believe my artwork reflects this part of my personality. Sometimes, I find myself just staring into my coffee mug, enjoying that quiet moment, tucked under an afghan on my couch in my beautiful living room, and I think "what a lovely picture this makes".

But that's just me. Here are some of the coffee preferences I gathered from my survey of artists, matched with the type of art they produce:

• Black with sugar: exotic-style jewelry with a devilish twist

• Straight black: unusual painted sculptures made from everyday objects

• Will take it anyway she can get it: delicate charm jewelry, featuring lots of flowers and hearts

• With sugar and cream: bright colored, comedic art

• Triple espresso with light cream and lots of honey: delicate beaded hair jewelry

• Black: funky graphic designs

Maybe I'm just reaching, but I do kind of think I can "see" some connections here. Or maybe I'm just making them up. But I thought it'd be fun to do this little experiment and it was. Mmmmmm I want some coffee NOW!

Saturday, March 29, 2008

When A Project Goes Bad

"For what do we live, but to make sport for our neighbors, and laugh at them in our turn?", Mr. Bennet in Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen

Truly, sometimes the best response to any of life's less-than-stellar moments (or in this case, accomplishments) is to laugh, thereby gaining the most useful thing we can out of it, since laughter is good for us.

I took up this project several months ago when I thought I'd like to try my hand at collage (I'm the kind of person who can't resist chasing every rabbit off the beaten path). I had a "vision" of sorts in my head, then I roughly sketched out a design and then I just started cutting and pasting and painting, thinking the piece would take form "naturally". But I didn't like how it looked finished the first time, or the second, or the third....And finally, I just rinsed my brushes out, let the piece dry and decided that "collage" is not for me. Not even for fun - so much do I hate this piece that I have created. It doesn't matter how long I have it turned against the wall, hoping that the next time I look at it with "fresh eyes" I will have a better appreciation for it. It is simply, without a doubt, the ugliest piece of art I have ever created and now there is nothing more I can do with it, but to laugh at myself and let a few others laugh at it as well. Now, I suppose, compared to something a pre-schooler might put together, it is relatively good, but it is just not good enough for me. I didn't even enjoy the process - I was frustrated the entire time. Lesson learned. Back to the beaten path for me - it is long enough and I will probably enjoy myself much more, if I just admire the scenery along the way, instead of getting lost in it.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

A Happy Day in Spring

Continuing with the Spring theme . . . I just polished off this little girl (it's definitely a girl) at approximately 4am this morning. The tree was part of an old graphic I had done for my website a while back and it's been kind of sitting in the back of my mind for a while, poking at me now and then to do something with it. So I sat down last night, intending only to "play" with it a bit. 4 hours, several cups of coffee and wasted test-prints later, I was done. But that's the glory of being in the "zone", when you have an idea you really like you just have to run with it. I think what I like about this one, other than it's cheerful cuteness, is that I have finally conquered my fear of "simplicity" with this design. I tend to want to add more all the time, I guess to prove to myself and possibly others that I am a "real" artist. But, you know, sometimes you just don't need it to tell the story.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Welcome, Songbirds!

In the absence of anything truly relevant to share with you, artwise (too many other necessities of life have gotten in the way of my creativity lately, filing taxes, a really dirty house, Easter activities), I thought I'd show an old favorite of mine. I painted this with watercolors a few years ago as a gift to a friend who was going through a difficult time. She has the original and I will never sell any copies, but I did scan it before I gave it to her, so I could enjoy looking at it from time to time. It was warm today, for the first time in I don't want to think how long (winter here has really been a drag this year), and the birds have been happily twittering all day. Their enthusiasm is contagious - I think I finally have enough energy to tackle a few more of those "necessities" I mentioned above and I really can't put them off any longer. The sooner they are out of the way the sooner I can get back to creating!

Friday, March 21, 2008

Meet Lavinia

I just couldn't resist doing a little bragging today! I just finished this design today at 3am and I am so proud of it. To me it represents a new milestone on my journey as a digital artist - I feel I have embarked on an exciting new path with the style of this piece. When you are a relatively "new" artist and are working on developing your own style (one that you are totally in love with and that is also recognizable), you can definitely tell when that style begins to take form. I am very pleased with how this design turned out and feel a new creative energy spinning around inside my brain now. This is "Lavinia", the 1st in my "Shy Peacock" series for 2008. Look for her cousin, "Chloe", coming soon!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Enjoy Your Trip!

(Photo courtsey of
"Life is a journey", they always say. So why do we only see how far away our next "destination" is? I'm as guilty of this as anyone, so I thought I'd come up with a list of little ways to recognize what makes up the "journey"; since probably 90% of our lives are spent on the trail to the next big thing and only 10% of them actually enjoying our accomplishments.

The Journey of Life is . . .

• being snuggled in on all sides, between my husband and my dogs
• the scent of creamy coffe mixed with honey and cinnamon wafting upwards as I stir
• warm sun on my face during an early spring walk
• the first green spikes of hardy perrenials poking up from the barren earth
• laughter among friends in between outakes of a song practice session
• the newest issue of a favorite magazine in the mail
• seeing a promising new sketch on paper at the end of a brainstorming session
• coming home to a hot, delicious crock pot dish
• driving around town with the windows open and the radio blaring
• wearing flip-flops instead of socks
• getting lost in the 75% off clearance section at a favorite store
• being generous with my time - putting a smile on someone's face
• staying up til 5am with a book I can't put down
• finding a fabulous new blog that promises waves of future inspiration
• a new pair of shoes or earrings
• song birds in the morning
• cooking with my husband (I chop, he cooks)
• wearing my favorite color - pink
• looking at old pictures and tearing up or laughing, again and again
• playing the piano or singing as loud as I can when I'm alone in my home
• seeing the pride my art students have in their work, after they apply what I've taught them
• when the seed packet displays return in the stores
• the feel of a freshly mopped, smooth wood floor beneath my bare feet

I could go on and on, but it's getting late. The important thing is that each of us take time to pay attention to the many moments that make up our days, because those days stretch into lives. A life well-lived is a life that is lived in full. Enjoy your life!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Why I Love Digital Art

I run into all sorts of interesting responses when I tell people that I specialize in "digital art", ranging from "What's that?" to "Oh, so the computer does all the work for you." I much prefer the former, because it gives me a chance to open someone's eyes to the wonderful world of graphic design as an art form. The latter response I usually just try to ignore, because anyone that will look down their nose at your craft without actually understanding anything about it, is usually so caught up in their own little world that they really only want to hear themselves talk. I'm not going to launch into a long schpeel about how intensive and detail- oriented digital art is, because it really doesn't matter (although I do have to point out, that it takes more skill than simply point-and-click, as is a wide mis-conception). But, since I do find myself so drawn to it, and am fascinated and inspired by many other talented digital artists, I wanted to take a moment (as much for myself as for others) to sing it's praises. I really have no idea what kind of a list I'll end up with, but usually the best way to figure yourself out is to start writing down all the thoughts in your head, so here goes:

• You don't have to clean up a bunch of messy paint after each session of "creating" and it doesn't smell funny. You can also wear your nice clothes, if you want to.
• The simplest sketch, can be turned into "art" with a little skill in tracing and an eye for color.
• Simple is good. Less is more. If you can evoke the proper response with a clean-cut image on a white background, there is nothing more that needs to be added.
• It is forgiving. If you don't like the way that line curves, or you want to move that object over there (or delete it altogether), you may do so to your hearts desire.
• It can be modified. Have a dream in the middle of the night for a whole new "look" for your original idea? No problem. Just save a new file and get started (the old one will still be there, if you decided to go back to your Plan A after all).
• Half the "fun" is in creating and putting together a collection of shapes, object, lines and colors that by themselves had no meaning until you came along and gave them new life.
• How many different ways are there to design an orange? Let's find out.
• Layers. Layers. Layers.
• Color. Color. Color.
• How many "stories" can be told with just one picture?
• The blending of reality and imagery - it is imagination brought to life.
• Sometimes all you want is a really cool pattern.
• Words can be art. Visual poetry.
• It's easily reproduced - bringing art to people all over the world, as efficiently as possible.
• The possibilities are endless.

Well, I think that about covers it for me. In the end, you just have to "feel it". Art is personal, and there are many different tastes and styles. I've chosen to embrace digital and I hope that many others will come to enjoy and appreciate it as the art form it is. It sure makes me happy.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Turning Ideas Into Assets

Ever been flipping through a magazine or just minding your own business somewhere and have one of those “mind bursts” where an awesome idea pops up and you just have to jot it down before you forget? That happens to me all the time and for years, I had notes in dozens of magazines scattered all over the house and drawings in various notebooks that might have or might not have been the main one in my purse at the time. And it seemed that every time I actually had some time and wanted to sit down at my craft desk to work on making a specific idea into real artwork, I could never find the original sketch or picture. It wasn't a big deal (just more of an annoyance) until I decided to go into business and I realized I needed a better plan for collecting and organizing my thoughts, since they would most likely turn into money-making artwork some day. I started to think of my ideas as valuable supplies that couldn't afford to be wasted, and in the few years I've been selling my artwork, I've developed a plan that (with a little tweaking from time to time) seems to be working.

• I have an “Idea” Binder. This is quite a behemouth of a binder, but it is really quite useful. I have divided it into several “categories” and in each of those I put page-protected sheets of blank paper with pictures I've cut out of magazines that fit the category. These pictures are not arranged any certain way and they tend to be cut out at odd angles and secured with 1 or 2 pieces of scotch tape (my pages wouldn't win any graphic design layout awards), but now whenever I get in a mood to create a certain type of artwork, I have only to flip to the category I want and browse through the pictures I've personally selected for instant inspiration. I collect these pictures, whether I have a specific idea in mind at the time or not, because if they stand out to me at all, I never know when I might need them at a later time and I don't want to have to go searching for “that one photo I remember from a magazine (not even sure which one) about 3 months ago.” I might have even tossed the magazine away by that time – Ouch!

• When do I have time to collect all these picures you are asking? There really is no set schedule, but I do try to have a pen or colored marker handy when I'm flipping through a new mag, so I can put a star by the pics I really like. Then, if I know the whole magazine is a keeper, I will write “KEEP” in big, bold letters on the cover, to remind me not to toss it when I do house cleaning. If I do decided to get rid of some piles of paper, I will usually briefly flip through the mags first and either cut out the highlighted pics first or just stack them on my desk to be dissected later. If I have time to cut, but not sort, I will tuck the new pics into the pocket of my binder and the next time I crack it open looking for ideas, I will take a few minutes to add the new pics into the appropriate categories.

• I carry a small sketchbook or notebook with me at all times. I work evenings at a hotel front desk and I keep my sketch book in my lunch tote so it is always handy if I have the time to flesh out a new idea while I'm at work. I usually have 1 or 2 newer magazines in there too for some visual backup. If I'm just out and about with my purse as company, I at least have a small notebook handy, so I don't miss out on any potential “mind bursts”. These notebooks frequently contain my grocery and to-do lists as well, but they are there when I need them. To keep all my personal sketches organized I have also added another section to the back of my Idea Binder, where I put all notes and drawings that didn't originate in my main sketchbook. Once it's time for a new sketchbook, I will usually tear out my “favorites” and add them to the binder as well. I should also add that I always sign and date my sketches, for future reference (I figure this might also come in handy if I ever have to deal with copyright issues).

I have found that anything I can do to keep my most important assets (my ideas) in one place, organized and easily-accessible saves huge amounts of time and lets me get right down to the business of creating – which is hard enough to find time to do as it is. Just thought I'd pass the word along.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

I Don't Wanna Go To Bed!

It's after 2am and I feel like I'm just getting started. All day long I rush around doing everything that is necessary to run a house and fufill my obligation to others, so that by the time normal people would be pillowing their heads, I'm itching to go into my office and have a long rendezvous with my computer. I kiss my husband and dogs goodnight, pour what's left of this morning's coffee into a mug and nuke it for a few minutes (yes, I do and it's really not that gross), make sure the pot is set to turn on at the proper time the next morning and that my husband's lunch is prepared; then I close my office door behind me and it's blessed silence without interruption for 2-3 hours, sometimes more (depending on the size of the coffee cup). I've never quite figured out what it is that turns me "on" at this time every night, but I've come to accept that it works for me and I get a lot of "my work" done this way, so why fight it? When the morning comes, it will take every ounce of willpower to roll myself out of bed before noon (and this is true whether I go to bed at 9pm the night before or 2 am the same day), so I figure while I'm awake and kicking that is the time for me to spring into action. It's amazing how much you can accomplish with several hours of uninterrupted time: get halfway through a brand new digital tracing of a sketch, redesign a whole web page, get a ton of that pesky online marketing stuff out of the way, update my business files, do some serious research on a new topic, and the most rewarding part is being able to actually cross some things off my To Do list before I do finally crawl into bed.

I spent a large part of my life up until this point (still a few years shy of 30) trying to figure out why I was so different from other people, and was constantly miserable. But when I realized that true beauty is in accepting yourself for who you are and then expressing it joyfully, I became a much happier person. Staying up late to get things done is just a small part of how I feel I've "matured" as an individual, but now that that's out of the way and I have found a consistent schedule that works for me, I am now free to work on all the other parts of me that need "polishing". Even if you don't know exactly where you're going yet, once you start to figure out who you really are, you'll know you're at least headed in the right direction.

Friday, March 7, 2008

In Preparation for Spring

I feel it - even though everything outide is still brown and the air is chilly and I'm wearing socks and sweaters constantly - an inner sense that the earth is changing. As someone who hates winter and cold with a passion (even though I live in the midwest and should be used to it by now), I always look for the earliest signs of spring, long before most other people would: tiny brownish-red buds forming on the naked brances of the trees in my yard, the sun that feels warm (not just bright) through my car's windows. And I am tempted to peek under the clumps of dead leaves in my empty flower beds for those first yellow-green spikes from early bloomers. It still feels like winter, but in only a few weeks, Spring will popping up everywhere and there will be no stopping it. Just knowing that the end of winter is in sight, puts light in my heart and a bounce in my step. I feel a new energy and my hands itch to start making lists for plans well into the summer months. Already I have some new flower bulbs lined up, ready to go into the ground as soon as it's safe. And I also am seeing my house - really seeing it - in a new and very dirty light and realizing that it's about time I gave it a thorough cleaning. One thing I always have to do to welcome a new season is buy a new silk floral arrangement - this time it was yellow dogwood blossoms on an irregular branch. It looks very lifelike and spruces up my kitchen just enough to inspire me to get going on the rest of my house.

Life goes on and on, and just when we think it's out of anything useful, it recycles it'self all over again and if we are lucky enough to be a part of that process, we should be very thankful.