An Artist, A Forest Ranger, and A Marine Biologist

16 Jun

Walk into a bar. . .just kidding. Actually this is a partial list of things I once wanted to be ‘when I grew up.’ At various turning points in my formative years the list also included Dolphin Trainer, Christmas Tree Farmer, Actress and, very VERY briefly, E.R. Doctor. I think that last one had more to do with George Clooney than anything else.

Anyway, when I was in college and on my third or fourth major it occurred to me that, as a child, no matter what occupation occupied (hee hee) the top position on my Someday list, I always added the words ‘and a Mom’ on to the end of the title.

“When I grow up I want to be a hot shot pilot and a Mom,” I’d say (after watching Always).

And I eventually figured out that, while all those other things interested me, what I really wanted to do was raise a family. That maybe instead of saying “I want to be an interior designer and a Mom,” I should actually be saying, “I want to be a Mom, and maybe a _____________ on the side.”

So, where am I going with this? Well, I mentioned in a previous post that I would fill everyone in on my brief foray into the world of fabric design and how that journey led me to where I am now, with that ‘__________’ on the side being filled with the prestigious title of  ‘unpublished writer.’ 🙂 This is that story.

About a year and  a half ago, I went through. . . a phase, I guess, for lack of a better word, when I realized that I had completely given over my identity to my children. 100%. And while I was beyond happy with my kids and my husband(remember the part about my childhood dream of being a Mom? Livin’ it.), and I didn’t feel the need for a career or a paycheck to validate my worth, I did feel a certain sense of loss in that small part of me that is just for me. It hit me one night that I hadn’t drawn or painted a picture- something I love to do- in years. I hadn’t written a poem or a children’s story since Princess Vocabulary was a baby. I was still sewing, another passion, but everything I made was done either out of necessity, or in an attempt to earn some extra cash. I spent so much time nurturing my family and giving all I had to give for them, that there was nothing left for me. And while I felt a sadness when I recognized this truth, I also felt selfish for wanting more than the beautiful life I already had.

Then, at about the same time, two things happened. Well, three.

1. I went to a meeting for the women’s organization ( Relief Society) of the church I belong to (LDS) and listened to a speaker who, I felt, was speaking directly to me, telling me exactly what my heart and soul needed to hear. You can read the full talk here , if you like, but I came away from that experience with the words “Water cannot be drawn from an empty well” ringing in my ears. I knew that I was an empty well, that my family thirsted for me, and that, without doing something to replenish myself, I would have nothing left to give.

2. One of my very best friends came to town, and, in the midst of a girl chat in the wee hours of the morning, asked why I had stopped pursuing my creative hobbies when- in her opinion- I had so much talent. We got to talking about the years we had known each other, the things we had done together, our mutual love for the art of sewing and design, and we remembered when we had once dreamed of becoming textile designers together.  She, in fact, had pursued that dream very successfully. She invited me to come with her to the spring Quilt Market (a fabric industry trade show)in Portland, OR and see what it was all about.

3. I sat down with paper and pencil and drew like I hadn’t drawn in years. And while I was drawing, I poured my heart out to one of my other very best friends, my husband, who, like the wonderful man he is, pledged to do whatever he needed to do to help me have a little more time for me.

So, not only did I decide to go to the Portland Quilt Market, but I ended up putting together a portfolio of designs to show at the market as well. I met a plethora of creative, talented, fun and friendly people and learned a little bit about what they do. Then I met with 12 different textile producers, got a few no’s, a few maybe’s, and actually a couple of yes’s on my portfolio. I came home full of vim and vigor and a renewed sense of self.

As a family, we spent the next several weeks adjusting our habits and schedules to incorporate Mom’s Creative Time, and, to my surprise, I found that because I was using my artistic talents instead of smothering them, I actually became a better mom.  Adding another ‘thing’ in my already busy life made everything else easier- because it was a worthwhile thing to add. My muse was unleashed and was positively affecting every aspect of my existence. I came up with dozens of new design ideas, paintings and drawings. I sewed from my own sketches- just for the fun of it. And I found myself making up great stories for the kids (see where I’m going with this?).In fact, one day, as Princess Vocabulary and I were playing a game we like to call Fortunately/Unfortunately, we made up a story that I just couldn’t get out of my mind. A story that felt like it had already existed inside of me for a very long time and was finally find its way into my consciousness.  And even though I really did not have time for another ‘thing,’ I sat down that same day and wrote three chapters.

Over the next week or so, I composed a basic storyline in my head and thought up the characters who would play it out. In the evenings I would sit down to work on a fabric design and instead pick up a pen and scribble dialogue or character histories. I discovered that giving myself license to create visual art had opened a door to something I loved even more (which was slightly distressing considering the amount of time and money I had already put into making a go as a fabric designer), and I couldn’t choose between them. And I kind of thought, okay, I like writing, and I really feel attached to this story, but am I really cut out to be a writer? My talent as a seamstress/ artist/ designer had been validated by friends, family, strangers and industry professionals, but I hadn’t thought of myself as a writer in a very long time.

And I didn’t start to think of myself as a writer until one day, in the car, in the parking lot of the art supply store where we were headed to buy me a new sketchbook, I read my story to CD. And he gave me a reaction that I didn’t expect. He said, “I had no idea you could write like that. You need to be a writer. I can tell when you are reading what you’ve written that you love it- you are a writer.”

So here I am 🙂 A writer. I tried for awhile to divide my time between the two pursuits- fabric design and writing- but found not only that I always went for the pen first, but also that I couldn’t really put my whole heart into both. And, Princess Vocabulary wants to know how her story will end, so, what can a mom do? 🙂 My well is no longer dry. My family’s thirst is quenched and so is mine.

So, if an artist, a forest ranger and a marine biologist really did walk into a bar, how would that joke end? 🙂

Keep Soaring,



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