I’ll bet many of you subscribe to design blogs (DesignSponge or DesignTherapy), or like me, you still receive copies of Traditional Home and Country Living in the mail each month. Perhaps you are glued to HGTV in the evenings, watching the transformations of home staging and how far you can streeeetch a $60,000 budget for a kitchen make-over. 😛

I personally enjoy reading blog articles about the life and work balance of artsy folk… how a home-based business occupies the same space as their home-schooled children’s classroom and the functioning living area for an entire family. What I’m not surprised to find is a virtual tour of their homes, immaculate with clean lines, vintage furniture, and quirky OOAK accessories.

The appropriate staging has taken place – a brewed cup of coffee sits on the crumb-free counter, the dog poses restfully on the swept hardwood floor (squint hard, but I dare you to find a stray dog hair!), and you won’t find a basket of laundry or an overflowing trashcan in ANY shot. Not even in the fringes… I checked the shadows and blurred backgrounds, too.

Now, granted, if a crew of photographers were coming to my house to shoot an interview, I’d probably toss everything objectionable into the nearest closet, and bring
all my quirky, OOAK accessories out of storage to proudly display on tables and countertops. You know, the typical danger zones where nothing survives 10 minutes in the presence of cats and kids.

I know, I know, that people do not honestly live this way… in these pristine, clutter-free homes… with mom working diligently on her ceramic teapots, dad …doing… something equally productive, and the kids quietly entertained by the stack of art publications on the coffee table. I know that 5 minutes after the camera crew leaves, chaos ensues. The cat knocks over the ceramic masterpiece, the mother starts yelling at her children to stop tearing out pages from the hardcover copy of “French Country Hideaways”, the dog is chewing the vintage braided rug, and dad walks in – oblivious to it all – and demands to know where the remote control to their upstairs TV is.

What I would like to see on a design blog? A home that looks well-worn and lived in. How about an interview with a designer or artist who fights to maintain balance, and whose home is a reflection of that internal struggle… because I can’t be the only person on this planet who feels overwhelmed trying to keep up with Ms. Craftypuss and Mr. Artsypants, or am I??

the kids' messy play corner of our living room.

The kids' play corner of the livingroom... is hiding a carpet AND a bookcase, somewhere.

My typical day begins around 7:00AM, perhaps sooner, when the kids wake me up …and then go prancing downstairs to destroy the livingroom, while I dress and brush my teeth.

kitchen sink full of dishes

Breakfast dishes in the sink...

Then I cook their breakfast, and finish washing any pots or trays from yesterday’s dinner that were left overnight to soak. I serve their meal, watch as they toss bits on the floor and grind it into the table, while checking my e-mails … reading the meticulous design articles… and plotting a course for the day.

toaster pastry crumbs on the TV stand

Their after-breakfast snack... Crumb-Tarts.

When I jump into a project, they demand to play outside. We play in the backyard for an hour or two while the temperature is still cool. They finally get crabby, and want a popsicle, so we come in for lunch and air-conditioning.

a vacuum cleaner unplugged in the dining room

My vacuum cleaner never gets put away... it's always on guard.

I fix lunch, and they destroy what’s left of my house while I’m occupied in the kitchen. Then I come out and start tidying the room, throw a load of laundry in the machine, run the vacuum… they have finished mangling their lunches by this time, and decide to raid the kitchen for sweets since Mommy is busy elsewhere.

an empty laundry basket

My daily goal is to keep the basket empty... Hooray!

I usually find them covered in a sticky, gooey substance which can only be remedied by a bath… which was exactly their plan.

cat litter boxes on the back porch

The cats contribute to the state of confusion too!

After bathtime is over, there is generally more playing, havoc-wreaking, tidying up, laundry to fold, trash to dispose of, and litter boxes to clean… and yeah, whatever art project I started this morning.

the children's bedroom

There are monsters living in the toy box.. they bite the hand that cleans.

Once in a while, I’ll get lucky – and they’ll grow sleepy in unison, and I can carry them upstairs to their beds with minimal fuss. That gives me a couple blessed hours to do something… but what?

TaraFly's son, Jacob, sleeping on a pile of clean laundry

Piles of clean laundry are waiting to be put away...

There is always another load of laundry, a few stray dishes to clean, more crumbs to vacuum… I could take a shower, shave my legs, or weed the garden.

coleus growing among the weeds

My bulbs are beginning to grow among the weeds.

Or I could retreat to my studio and work on a painting, a digital portrait, adding more listings to my website or Etsy shop, or write a blog (which is what I’m doing now – because I was late getting it published this week).

Various art projects unfinished on the drafting table

Projects in progress in my studio, including Joe's belated Father's Day gift.

Sometime in the middle of a task, the dreaded noises grow louder upstairs and alert me to the fact that my beasts are awake, with their batteries recharged for more destruction.
And then Joe walks in the door, home from work… looking worn-out and hungry.

I’ll cook dinner while crossing my fingers that he entertains the kids long enough to keep them from invading my space. Something simple like opening an oven door to check the temperature of chicken breasts, is make more difficult when little hands are grabbing at you. Or how about when my hands are covered with dough paste, and they decide to go fishing inside the trashcan?
Their squealing, giggling, and chatter is enough to send Joe upstairs for “peace and quiet” until dinner is ready, and then … more dishes, more tidying up, and on and on it goes….

TaraFly's regency cat digital painting in progress

Digital painting of Jane Austen cat characters, I've been messing with for weeks.

In the late evenings, once I’ve tossed the kids into their rooms for the night, I can finally sit down and do something… but there are so many things to finish, and so many more things in the planning stages that might never see the light of day… when every hour is a juggling act, my work gets pushed farther and farther behind, and deadlines that once seemed very lenient are now looming just around the corner.

I didn’t mean to turn this virtual tour into another session to rant and complain. Because, in all honesty, I do love my family… and the career sacrifices that I make are justified by the time I spend engaging their little minds… okay, warping their minds, I’ll admit.

I could hire a nanny and lock myself away in the studio for 14 hours every day, and eventually make tons of money, but where would I be without a family that needed me? And who would I be, if I always put myself first? My life would be a decorative wrapper, but empty inside.

No matter how many pieces I sell, or how popular I become, the greatest thrill in my day is getting a big, cheesy smile from my son, and hearing my daughters laugh when I make silly voices for storybook characters.
Then Mia takes the book from me, sits on the couch, and reads it to herself… while trying to imitate me. She recites each sentence with my inflection and emphasis.

Tara Fly's two-year-old daughter reading a book

Mia is reading "The 3 Little Pigs" in her best Mommy impression. 🙂

This is the story I’d like to see in print somewhere: A family bonding together, a zen garden in the midst of a disorderly mess.

Just in case the reporters come calling, though, I might use the spilled maple syrup to super-glue some pottery to my bookshelves. I’ll throw a knitted afghan over that stain, and cover these cracks in the coffee table with a stack of National Geographic magazines.

Okay. Home staging is all done! I’m ready for my close up. 😉