Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Back to the drawing board

Guess what I should be doing?


Guess what I'm doing?

Farting around.

I've been drawing pencil portraits since the late 80's, full time since 2005.  In my pre-artist, corporate days, I had no choice but to drag my sorry, possibly hung over ass out of bed at an unholy hour.  If there was something important going on at work that day, I'd probably lost a good 3-4 hours of sleep flopping around, freaking out about it the night before.  I have a number of self-soothing mental tricks I try to play on myself when I'm worked up at night.  They rarely work.  I'd lie there and picture sabotaging myself in a variety of ridiculous ways.

To make up for my meager allotment of sleep, I would debate before bed whether my curly hair could make it another day so I could snag a shower's worth of extra morning snoozing.  Or I would choose my business clothes ahead of time and maybe even inspect them for baby spit up or coffee stains before my coworkers pointed them out during the work day. Regardless, work mornings would find me tearing around, swearing and stomping, throwing papers all over the kitchen island looking for something or other, ravaging the junk drawer for parking change, flying out the door in a panic.  I'm chronically disorganized and quite dramatic about any inconvenience.  This is fun for my husband because I'm always inconveniencing myself and usually him, too.  Those mornings were not fun.

I always waited till the last possible moment to wake one of my boys.  It is a crime against humanity to wake a sleeping child. 

Those chubby little fists laying next to their pink angel faces... just shoot me.  They looked like I was robbing them of at least five more hours sleep.  Something howled inside me when I woke them.  I'd tickle their backs, snuggle them for as long as I could before changing/dressing/feeding them, doing all I could to ease them into their happy little boy days away from me.  All the while I was trying to ignore that loud TICK TICK TICK of time passing too fast.  I thought the worst part of those mornings was a full out sprint at the train station, or the horror of potentionally MISSING the stupid train.  Being a few sweaty strides away from closing commuter train doors is almost as bad as a minor car accident or getting a ticket on the way to work.  So easily avoidable and so damn infuriating... you can't even believe it's happening.  But the train was nothing.  That clock ticking was my life, my babies, my house, my stress level.  Time was never, ever my friend.

My corporate job in downtown Chicago wasn't bad, although it often seemed like I was being punk'd by my career path.  The IT world is quite methodical and precise.  Add accounting and it's almost hilarious that I worked in it... exactly the opposite of every creative, emotional, distracted aspect of my being.  It was a bunch of grown ups always wanting to analyze serious stuff instead of joking around with me.  Actually, I got away with a lot of smart ass comments during serious meetings, which is kind of awesome. I carved out a creative little niche for myself and kicked a little ass, as much as work drove me beserk, I was proud of my accomplishments, my little sales trophies.

And then it was over.  After 20+ years of a losing battle of balancing work and home, it was all over.  They say that men define themselves by their work, but women do, too.  All I'd ever been was a professional (okay, sort of immature, but still corporate) person.  I'd won some awards, gained respect in the channel.  Now I was just fired.  I kind of deserved it for thinking that I was indispensable, threatening to leave and criticizing my boss.  As much as it hurt, and it hurt bad, there was a big shiny satin bow on the axe that fell on me.

I lost my job when my youngest, Max, was starting kindergarten and Joey was starting third grade - the first big year of homework. I've been there every day for hugs goodbye and hello, snacks, help, friend-rides.  When Joey was able to take the bus straight home for the first time - no day care pick up, he walked in the front door, his sweet little voice calling out, "I'm home!" It was just about worth my complete professional humiliation.

Transitioning from a corporate life to becoming a full time artist was hard. I cried over my my lost job for almost two months.  I'm a mess like that when something - anything - is wrong... a blubbering pile of woe is me.  More fun for my husband.  Growing my new little business was a different kind of stress.  It's a will I fail kind of stress. It's a how am I going to make a pencil into a bill paying magic wand kind of stress.

It's been a long and weepy road.  But my mornings... especially now that the boys are big and can pick out clothes (kind of) and wipe their own asses, there is no comparison to how my mornings have changed.  Ahhhh, my mornings.  In the first few years, I used to walk the kids to the bus stop in my running clothes, go for a run and get right to work.  Eventually it turned into coffee, yogurt, email and Facebook before running, often meaning that sometimes running doesn't happen.  It sure isn't happening this morning because I did something really weird to my right butt and thigh muscle at spin class on Monday morning.  Thank you, Fran, spin dominatrix.

After marketing my portraits for seven years, I'm not in such a panic anymore.  But maybe I shouldn't be quite so relaxed either.  Running a small business that was just starting to take off right before an economic crash has meant tightening our belts.  Sometimes to the point of looking like that creepy picture from Ripley's where the woman has a 9 inch freak waist.  Shouldn't I be hustling a little more?  Maybe take a page from my old corporate days and sprint for the train once in awhile?  I really want to get HBO again.

Yeah, yeah enough farting around.  Back to the drawing board.  Right after I answer a couple personal emails and see if I can find my creepy ex-boyfriend on Facebook.


  1. Boy oh boy can I relate! I have our morning routine down to a science to allow Frances to sleep as long as possible. But when something throws the schedule off (having to give a morning dose of medicine or Frances wanting to drag ALL of her stuffed animals from her crib) the whole thing spirals quickly out of control. The thing that is so difficult for me is that it's an entire system dependent upon the previous step in the day: wake up, get ready, get baby ready, daycare, train, bus, office, work really hard because you can't work late, bus, train, home, baby dinner, bath, bottle, bed, parents dinner, fall asleep on couch on dinner plate, repeat.

    I envy that you have a talent that you can use to support your family but on your terms. I aspire to be able to work part time in the next few years.

    Your blog is great - keep up the good posts!

    1. Thanks Kristy, hang in there. It's brutal when you're on that work/home/kid hamster wheel. Sometimes you want the wheel to speed up and it is just barely moving and other times it's spinning so fast, you would do anything to get off and hide under your hamster saw dust. Unless you want to eat mac and cheese and live in a trailer on one income, working moms have got to do what we've got to do. It's a mixed bag running my own business. It's not equal to my corporate income and I don't know if it will ever be. I love my life, but we weren't able to send Joey to a fancy college prep high school. If I'd stayed in the corporate world, we could have done it. Oh, the guilt. Love you!!!!


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