Wednesday, February 29, 2012

to thine own self: thoughts on happiness

Many years ago I was living in a place I didn’t like. I was working at a job I didn’t like. I was struggling with infertility and what I thought was my only bright spot in life, my husband, was gone all the time with work.

It was at this time that a friend of mine happened to come into the office where I was working. On his way out the door, he made an off hand comment about going to have his weekly treat.

I was curious and asked exactly what he was going to do. “I’m going to go get my weekly cigar and smoke it on my commute home. I give myself a treat every Friday afternoon as a reward for making it through another week of work.” He explained.

Now, I am completely against smoking and if I had been a more brazen girl, I might have challenged him to quit and find another treat. But at the time I wasn’t brazen. I was bitter and unhappy and I really didn’t have it in me to worry about other people and their bad habits. After all, it is pretty hard to love others, when you do not love yourself.

But I thought a lot about the concept of treating one’s self. I was no stranger to treats. I regularly went home and “treated” myself to a heaping bowl of Ben and Jerry’s. But what I was really doing is medicating. Losing myself in calories.

Today I can say I am a happier person than I’ve ever been before. That is not a comment I make lightly. It has taken me a lot of time and practice to get to this point. I have had to make changes that at times have been painful. There is no concrete formula for happiness, but I want to share some of the things I have learned along my journey.

The first thing I want to share is an absolute truth. It is this: Nobody can make you happy. Only you can make you happy. People can add to, or take away from, your happiness, but ultimately relying on another person to change your mental state is folly.

The next truth I’ve learned is that I am enough. Like most mother’s I put a lot of pressure on myself to live some sort of imaginary life where I am superwoman and everything is hunky dory. What I’ve come to realize, and remind myself of when I forget, is that people aren’t going to love me less because I am not superwoman. I am loved because I am me, with all my flaws. People are much more interested in how they feel when they are with me than my latest accomplishment.

Another thing I have come to realize over the years is that I must try my best at the things that are most important to me. For instance, fitness is important to me. When I slag off and get out of shape, it affects my happiness. No one else cares or even knows that I didn’t get a run in or go to the gym, but it bothers me. I’ve learned that to be happy, I have to feel that I am trying my hardest at being a good parent and wife, staying fit, and developing my creative mind. This doesn’t mean I have to be perfect. I just have to feel like I’m giving it my best.

I’ve had to stop medicating and start treating. I remember looking at a photo of myself as a child and thinking, what a great kid. I like me as a kid. If I were to meet me as a child I’d want to take her out for a treat just to spend time with her. And then I thought, you know, I treat my kids to certain things when they work hard or show some sort of behavior I like, why don’t I treat myself?

The beauty of treating instead of medicating is that treats are always better than medicine. Just ask a kid.

Today my treats are things like a new pair of shoes or a nice bar of French milled soap. I do still love Ben and Jerry’s, so once a week or so I have dessert. I’ve heard it said you shouldn’t treat yourself with food. You are not a dog. BUT, I really love dessert and if I’ve been good all week, by damn I’m having dessert.

I also got rid of all the proverbial “pebbles in my shoe”. I found I had small things in my life that didn’t bother me enough to feel an urgency to fix them, but they bothered me enough to affect my overall happiness. For me, these things were a forgiveness I had to give and an overdue task I had to get done. Proverbial pebbles can be anything from a nagging body pain to a wounded relationship to an unpaid bill. Once I plucked the pebbles from my life, I realized the weight that they had put on me. Don’t underestimate the toll that small annoyances take on your happiness over time.

The last thing I’ve found that has profoundly changed my happiness is spending time alone. This means no kids, no husband, no friends, no social media. At first it was hard. And a little boring. I am so plugged into my crazy life that it took me a while to get used to quiet.

My alone time is when I run. I used to only want to do long runs with friends, but when I moved I found myself with no running partner. And I discovered my stream of conscience. I find that my best ideas come when I am alone with my thoughts. Funny how that works. And the added bonus is that good ideas have a way of boosting your ego. Even if you never share a good idea or implement it, just having it will make you feel pleased with yourself.

Happiness is always a work in progress. Life happens. Profoundly sad things happen. Sometimes people need professional help to get back on the right path towards happiness. But working towards happiness is much better than the alternative.

If you feel that it is time to quit wallowing and start living, here are my tips to get started.

1. Decide what you want to treat yourself to and what you will do to earn it.

2. List the things that are most important to you. Keep the list where you can see it often to remind you check yourself in these areas.

3. Get rid of the pebble in your shoe.

4. Schedule alone time.

5. Practice saying, “I am enough” to your self. When you start to compare your life to others stop and think. “I am enough. I don’t need to do what other people are doing to be the best me.”

I hope you are happy. I hope my discoveries are something you have known all along. But if you are not, and you want to make some changes, give them a go.

They have changed my life. They have made me a better mom, wife, friend and artist.

But I still claim my rightful spot in the Work in Progress Society. 

Monday, February 27, 2012

for the love of maps

I've been busy. Really busy.

The littles are keeping me running. All. The. Time.

My house is a mess.

My yard is a jungle.

But I'm happy. Busy is good, even if you look like the hillbillies of the neighborhood.

I've been trying to keep up, and at the same time squeeze in studio time.  Sometimes when my life is at it's craziest, my creativity sky rockets. Not sure why. Just happens.

My current artistic obsession? Maps. I have always loved maps (all old paper ephemera really) and used them in my art, but lately I just can't get enough.

I recently found the work of Elizbeth Lecourt.  I'm besotted. Simply, over-the-top gaga.

Oh how I would love to make Birdie that last dress! I did find this map fabric that might work.

Hummmm. Another project?

Friday, February 24, 2012

photo booth

1. Untitled, 2. Photobooth girl 24, 3. Children 1, 4. Braids.jpg, 5. The Kissing Couple, 6. Friend of Grandmom's, 7. 20080130 PB guy 26, 8. photobooth, 9. Photobooth Woman, 10. 20080130 PB guy 02, 11. flapper w color, 12. Love Fae

I'm facinated by old photo booth photos.

The best thing about them is that they seem to capture more personality than photos taken by another person. I think it must have something to do with feeling more at ease when you are alone, in a little box, with a curtain pulled.

I just ordered American Photobooth by Nakki Goranin. I can't wait to get it. There must really be something special about photo booth photos. So many other people seem to love them as well.

It's kind of like watching someone when they don't realize they are being watched. It's as if the thin veneer of social trivialities falls away and you see them for who they really are.  I always like people more in this state. The authenticity of these moments draws me in.

I especially love to watch my children in this way. The expressions on their little faces as they play or concentrate captivates me. I fall deeper in love with them everytime.

  c. US National Archives

         square america

Wednesday, February 22, 2012


A word about collaboration if you will?

Lewis and Clark. Astaire and Rodgers. Hillary and Norgay. Rodgers and Hammerstein.

Yes. Indeed.

As an artist, I have a tendency to stow away in my studio and work on projects away from prying eyes. I like the idea that it's all me. Nobody else can take credit or claim ownership in what I am doing.

But this week I have been collaborating, and quite frankly, I have been reminded how important it is to work with other people.

My dad likes to say that we are all sent to Earth as rough stones. Life is like a giant rock tumbler. We need to bump into each other to become shiny and beautiful.

I have a few friends that I really love to get together with and talk shop because I always come away inspired. Sometimes all you need to take a good project to great is a second pair of eyes.  Suggestions don't make your work any less your own. They are simply suggestions. And more often than not, you will see your work in a new light and make some changes.

So here's your assignment: (If I might be so bold as to dole out assignments to people I don't even know.)

Stop, collaborate and listen. (Sorry that was rather geeky of me, but you get the idea.)

Find a friend. Talk shop. Start a creative project.

Are two brains better than one? Yes. Unless you are married to the other brain. Then you might want to shy away from doing projects together. Speaking from experience, it could get sketchy.

Projects aside, the Sugar Daddy and I are The Bombdiggity.

Monday, February 20, 2012

morocco in october? i think yes.

Happy Monday! Yes, I am happy it's Monday. Back from vacation, back to routine. It feels very good.

While I was in Utah, Mindy and I meet up to discuss our trip to Morocco in October. We are super excited about this adventure! We still have some spots left so if you are thinking about it, just know it's going to be the trip of a life time.  The workshops are going to be super fun and diverse. And she doesn't know it yet, but Mindy will be performing a little private concert for us during our henna tattoo party at dusk on the rooftops Peacock Pavilions.  Can you just imagine it? *Swoon*

Here are all the details. Payment is split into three installments, to make it a little more affordable for everyone. Please note: you won't be able to view this brochure on a iphone. You will need to look at it on your computer.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

love aint pretty

My little brother, Ryan, called me up to tell me a funny story.

He was standing at a urinal at a doctor’s office, you know, doing his business when he heard a female voice behind him.

He froze, mid-stream, in a panic that he was in the wrong restroom. But then he realized he was, in fact, standing at a urinal and he was where he should be. He turned around just in time to see a father usher his daughter into one of the stalls.

The daughter, it seems, was ill. She didn’t quite make it to the toilet before she unloaded the contents of her stomach onto the floor.

Ryan went to the sink to wash his hands and listened to the father console his daughter as she continued to throw up.  Just as he was walking out of the restroom, my brother heard the father slip on the slimy floor and fall.  Evidently he brought his daughter down with him and she let out a howl.

Ryan paused, conflicted.  My brother is a certifiable germaphobe. But he is also a true humanitarian. He had to go back and see if they needed help.

He found them both still on the floor of the bathroom stall.  He put on his most helpful face and said, “Hey Dude. You need help?”

“Naw.” The man replied. “I got it.”

And then the daughter barfed again in her father’s lap.

Having done his civic duty, my brother made a b-line for the door.

My brother isn’t married yet. He loves to laugh at people blundering down this road we all call parenthood.  I can see the humor in it too. The whole thing really is ridiculous and quite absurd.  You gotta laugh or you will cry.

But I see more to my brother’s story than just humor.

Here’s the thing. Love at it’s grandest, aint pretty.  True love means that your happiness and well-being are contingent on another individuals well-being and happiness.  And this translates into loving through sickness and strife and rebellion and all sorts of ugliness.

True love might land you in a public restroom with your sick child and a whole lot of barf. Or worse.

But for those of us who have lived through these kinds of events, we know that it is worth it.  Because although it might sound cliché and even trite, love conquers all.

I really hope my brother does get married and have kids. He’s a good guy and he deserves such happiness. And I hope that when he is dealing with all the revolting mess that children bring, he is still laughing.

Because I will be.

Friday, February 10, 2012


Well we're off.

Tomorrow we will hop on a plane and take the kids to play in the snow. 

And when I say "hop on a plane", what I really mean is pack for hours, drag crying children out of bed early in the morning, schelp ourselves to the airport, disrobe the children and ourselves to go through security, eat a fattening meal and wrestle the babies for two hours to keep them quiet on the flight.

I pray one of them doesn't poop during the flight. Been there. Done that. Don't want to do it again.

My friend Wendy Whitacre is a photographer who just started a world tour. Yesterday, on her flight to Costa Rica, a woman gave birth. In the airplane. No kidding.

Now if I could just get something like that to happen, and divert the attention from my noisy kids, I'd be golden.

But you know, it's all good. I've been beaten down learned enough to know that family vacations are important. Are they miserable? Yes. But important.

Au revoir my lovelies. I see you on the other side of hell.

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

smell this

I recently heard a talk from an author who had written a book on how to be happy.  She said that using your sense of smell more often can make you happier. Then she proceeded to pass around little vials of perfumes that smelled like happy places. You know, like the beach or the garden.

I've been thinking about this idea. Sugar Daddy smells everything. And I mean everything.

Give him an orange- sniff then peel.
Give him a new book- sniff then read.
Give him a sharpie- sniff, sniff, sniff then write.
Give him a kid with a poopy diaper- yep. Sniff then change.

He literally smells anything you hand him. But the strange thing is that I rarely sniff anything and yet my sense of smell is way better than his. And I can't say he's a happier person than me. We are pretty much even in that department.

One thing that really interests me is what scents other people love.  The Sugar Daddy loves the faint scent of skunk. No, I'm not kidding.  He also likes pipe tobacco, cut grass and rubber sporting equipment.

Some of my favorite smells are freshly sharpened pencils, wet cement, tomato plant leafs, limes, baby lotion and towels from my grandmother's cupboard.

Here's what I don't like, no, not one bit: two poopy diapers, of varying crap smell, first thing each morning. The inhumanity! Also, I can't tolerate cold bath water smell, moldy laundry and seaweed on the beach.

When I think about the smells like like, they are all linked to memories. So I guess maybe this author maybe onto something. If I smell the things I like more often, then do I relive happy memories more often and thus become a happier person?

Meh. I don't know. I'm not totally buying it. But I'm going to try it anyway.

Today I'm smelling stuff.

I think I should also mention that this author of happiness also said that if you are tired during the day the only thing you have to do to regain your energy is to stand up, and hop up and down three times.

This was the point in which I quit giving any credence to what she had to say.

Hop up and down. Please. I need a big hit of caffeine, a bite of chocolate and a babysitter.

Friday, February 03, 2012

love tokens

What tiny treasures rattle around in the bottom of your jewelry box? In your travels, have you ever picked up a shell, a cool pop top, a postage stamp, a skipping stone? Do you keep your children's teeth as they fall out?

I find that for most of my life I have been a bit of a squirrel. I gather and stash all sorts of tiny things. To me, they are like the crumbs of bread that Hanzel and Gretel dropped to find their way back home. My little treasures lead me mentally back through the years, back to my childhood.

Some of my most treasured possessions would be worthless to anyone else. I have a small crumpled paper with the name “Ben” and a phone number scribbled on it. It was the first thing he ever gave me. I have a stone he found in the forest. It is shaped like a heart and I was delighted when he left it on my pillow. I have a tiny withered daisy that my son gave me one afternoon. I have a small wooden spoon my best friend carved.

They are just things. But every so often I hold them in my hands and I feel loved.

Someday, I will write down what each love token means to me, where I got it and who gave it to me. And in the mean time, I will continue to keep and treasure and hopefully give a few love tokens in return.

Thursday, February 02, 2012

alt design summit

I know I haven't said much about ALT Design Summit. I guess I was so inspired by what I learned there that I have been too busy creating and doing.

But I do want to say that if you are on the fence about going next year you should know it's a no brainer. Just go. Save your pennies. It will pay off.

Here is a short by my very favorite film makers, Tiger in a Jar. I've loved them for a long time now and believe me, if I had known that they were actually at ALT, I would have made a huge fool of myself gushing all over them.

Lucky for them, I had no idea.

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

the farfar project: part deux

First off, I'd really like to say thank you for all your kind comments regarding The Farfar Project. I have had such a great response, and it has made the whole process even that much more enjoyable.

I have fallen in love with these men. I have been thinking that maybe for my next project, I will write down the stories I have created for each of them. But I'm not sure. They are near and dear to me. And a little bit silly.

I am currently working on having the portraits made into cards, prints and calendars. The calendar won't be available until next January.

If you are interested in buying a set of cards (12) or individual prints, please contact me, ( and I'll put you on the list for when they become available. Now, without much ado, I give you part deux...

K. G. Persson- Worker (Occupation Unknown)

Karl August Andersson- Carpenter

Ollas Per Persson- Yeoman

Olof Nilsson- Master Painter

Wilhelm Magnusson- Worker (Occupation Unknown)

G. V. Gustafsson- Crofter