relationships


Digital Painting of Phantom Cat by TaraFly

We dance delicately in this transparent masquerade.

Since it’s 3:00AM, and I haven’t gone to bed yet… I thought it might be an excellent time to draft a blog about a serious topic.
Which may or may not get published later today when I wake up.

So many of my drafts never make it.

We, bloggers, are faced with a difficult decision every time we sit down to type.
The decision to share or not to share. And it’s a doozy.

Many of the blogs I love to read involve sharing glimpses into someone’s personal space:

how they decorate their homes, how they manage their time, how they run successful (fill-in-the-blanks), and even how they cooked dinner last night.

If they share the recipe, even better!

Some blogs go a few giant steps further by sharing too much information… but perhaps topics which seem unnecessarily sensitive to me are precisely what someone else needs to hear.

Whenever I consider sharing something deeply personal, I always ask myself whether anyone might benefit from reading it.

And then I ask myself whether anyone might get hurt by reading it.

Because we are not blogging into a vacuum, our words being sucked into cyber oblivion… even though it may feel that way at times. Especially when staring at numbers on a Dashboard.

Someday… somewhere…. someone will read our words.
What impact will it have on them?

Freedom of Speech may grant us the unalienable Right to say certain things, but does that mean we should say them?
It’s an ethical question, without an easy answer.

This post was inspired by a blog I’ve been following, written by a jilted ex-wife who has been recounting every painful experience of her divorce, along with her husband’s rebound marriage to his lover…
You can well imagine all the lovely fodder that goes along with that sort of drama, sprinkled with a heaping tablespoon of custody and parallel-parenting issues.

Although she never mentioned the ex or his new wife by name… various innocuous clues she has scattered across her posts could lead any curious (or bored) web surfer off on a merry adventure to find these abominable sinners.
I was curious and bored one evening, and found them quite easily using a combination of People Finder, Classmates Alumni, and a few other search results…

I had more than enough information about the parties than I cared to know. Thanks Google.

Now, granted, you know I’m not a malicious sort of person who would stalk and harass complete strangers to show my loyalty to a blogger (who is also a stranger to me). Nor do I blindly accept every accusation made against them…
Having dined at both ends of the table in my own relationships, I can assure you, the truth usually takes a seat somewhere in the middle.

Apparently other readers lack the courtesy I take for granted, and have left nasty online messages for the couple.
A form of cyber bullying – from adults, no less! Juvenile behaviour which prompted the couple to take the blog authoress to court, asking that she “cease and desist” from writing about them, and thus provoking her readership.
And apparently the judge denied their request.

The defense maintains that her blog is “helping” women to cope with the aftermath of messy divorce, by sharing terrible personal experiences and their outcomes, and serving as a model for wives wanting to reclaim control and reinvent themselves.

My blog, too, has become a personal reinvention project; an online journal where I can sort through my feelings, and reach out to sympathetic individuals who might be facing similar circumstances.
Perhaps one reader has already fought a battle I’m currently engaged in, and they’re willing to impart some of their hard-won knowledge…
And perhaps I’ve learned a couple of things worth passing along as well.

I’ve sat here at this desk many, many times… questioning whether or not to spill juicy bits.

And most of the time, I don’t spill. Sorry guys!

And here is why: most of these experiences involve not only me, but family, friends, co-workers, exes… a whole cast of characters, in fact… none of whom auditioned for a starring role in my made-for-internet soap-blog-drama.

I may joke about the ex who dumped me because the Hale-Bopp comet was interfering with his brain… or sigh with relief over the breakup with the obsessive man who texted me 156 times per day, and demanded I answer each text.

But did I give you all the dirty details? Do you really know anything about these people?

Nope. And I plan to keep it that way.
For their sakes, as well as for mine.

Once upon a time, only celebrities needed to worry about their private lives being exposed.

Normal people didn’t have an audience willing to devour the embarrassing published photos from paparazzi, the sordid memoirs of ex-lovers, and the unauthorized biographies of their estranged family.

We didn’t need a PR representative to maintain our “image” for us, working tirelessly to put out every fire, tracking down credible sources to refute the allegations.

But unfortunately, the internet has created a new breed of celebrity… and not the media attention-seeking teens like Justin Bieber and Rebecca Black.

Normal people are becoming famous simply by sharing too much information, and everyone associated with them will be dragged along for the ride, kicking and screaming in protest.

Mr. Comet Man could potentially become something beyond his control, a symbol of a man whose brain is easily manipulated by extraterrestrial influences.
And I’m sure he would thank me for that bit of disclosure. 😉

There are certain sensitive topics, especially pertaining to my childhood, which I’ve hesitated to lay bare… even though my stories may speak to someone, because they also have the potential to inflict a great deal of pain and embarrassment on people who aren’t prepared to handle the repercussions.

A couple of these people are no longer with us, and therefore unable to give their testimony.

One non-life-changing example involved a post concerning my mother’s aversion to owning pets.
My description of her attitude towards caregiving, which I feel is accurate (at least in my eyes), landed me in serious hot water!
She had never visited my website or read my blog until that moment… Coincidence or karma?

The issue I have with many bloggers is their total lack of consideration for the feelings of others, as I struggle each day with being considerate myself.

Balancing precariously on a very thin tightrope, taking one cautious step at a time… to avoid falling into the “Tell All” temptation which may feel like liberation for a few seconds, but in reality is a free-fall to the ground without a safety net.

In the case of this jilted wife – she and her ex have children… and all this mud-slinging and negativity will not help them develop a meaningful relationship with their father (who shares custody).

Whether her accusations are true or not…. Whether she is within her Rights to speak freely or not…
Publically disrespecting and humiliating the man who is actively helping to raise her children is the equivalent of a mortal sin under the Commandments of Divorce.
(I have cement copies of these stone tablets serving as bedroom nightstands, so I know they exist).

And the poor kids caught in the middle of this verbal assault will be the ones who ultimately suffer.
I know this also, sadly, as a fact…

I can hit the “fast forward” button 20 years and predict their futures… the emotional barriers, the jaded attitudes, the broken bonds of trust…

I’ve walked barefoot in their shoes for a long, long time…

Before reality TV created stars who were famous simply for being famous.

Before our neighbors were filming YouTube music videos and auditioning for American Idol.

Before divorced parents had blogs, and the internet.

We still had our words…
and words can hurt.

To share or not to share.

A question of ethics.

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Christian A. Harvey tribute

Christian Harvey, November 15, 1976 - March 20, 2011

Sometimes life throws an unexpected gut-wrenching twist into your predictable routine, and like the first ice-cold blast of water shooting from the shower faucet – in that instant when your mind is cruelly jarred into alert panic, you realize the water heater is not working….

Then the dread creeps in, frozen fingers tickling your spine, as you contemplate how long you’ll survive without the comfort and convenience of warm water.

Freezing water is just the tip of the iceberg, pun poorly intended.
We take nearly everything in our lives for granted – the things which give us pleasure and amusement, the things which keep us safe and healthy, have all become such an integral part of our environment that we cannot imagine life without them.

We may romanticise life in Colonial America or Regency England, but I doubt whether any of us would survive one week in such primitive conditions, without having a nervous breakdown and subsequent re-evaluation of our priorities.

When we strip all the excess finery away, we’re left with humanity’s basic needs. One of those needs is companionship and social interaction with other human beings.

The greatest technological achievements of mankind were developed specifically to connect people to one another.
Transportation to bridge the gap between towns and families, telecommunication to send messages farther that people could easily travel, and the invention of various appliances meant to ease our workload – presumably so that we would have more time to socialize.

Christian Harvey, Lorrie Whittington, Tara Fly Facebook conversation

Friends react to my horrible confession... I follow Martha.

 

People need people.

Yes, it’s corny… and I cringed writing it, because I can just hear Barbra Streisand’s voice crooning in my head:
“…are the luck-i-est peee-ople…”

(Go ahead, I won’t tell… you know you want to sing it!)

But it’s the truth.
And sadly, people are one of the ‘things’ we tend to value the least.

We get short-tempered with the incompetence of our sales clerk or waitress.. and vise versa.
We belittle our spouses when gossiping with our co-workers… and vise versa.
We lose our patience with our children, our parents and in-laws, our supervisors and “The Man”… and sometimes even wish
We could escape from them all.

We desire a quiet island or mountain-top, to sit and meditate, to commune with our own thoughts.. a place free from those blasted people who dare intrude into our lives and demand our attention.

However ignoring people comes with a heavy price. When you shut people out, it’s like turning off the hot water heater.
You don’t notice anything has changed, until… you turn on the faucet to take a shower.
Then it hits you, the icy frigid water, the lack of heat…
The lack of human company.
Suddenly everyone is… gone.

Christian Harvey and filmmaker John Waters

Chris and legendary filmmaker John Waters (from his FB album)

I lost a friend over the weekend, someone very special to many of us, but unfortunately I can’t say I knew him as well as I should have.

He and I had both managed large departments for a global, evil retail super center (Toys and Grocery, respectively)…
We made small talk in the company break room and during group functions.

I knew that he was passionate about charitable and environmental causes, that he grew his hair long and then cut it off for Locks of Love (at least twice that I can recall), he had an anti-establishment view towards government and authority.
He listened to punk rock and heavy metal bands, worked in his spare time as a sound technician for local rock bands and theatre groups, and generally considered himself a misunderstood outcast.

Christian Harvey technician in recording studio

Christian in the studio, courtesy of his Facebook Tribute page

He struck me as having a somewhat esoteric nature, that I wanted to get to know better but my reserved nature held me at bay.
Nevertheless, when we both gave up our jobs in order to pursue other careers, I decided to locate him on Facebook to “keep in touch”.

And as I imagined, we clicked right off the bat, and he became one of the most engaging and entertaining commenters on my somewhat mundane posts.
Each morning when checking my e-mails, I’d see a notification that “Christian replied to your post”, and I knew I was in for a real treat:
“This will be good; get ready to laugh!”

Christian Harvey, Sarah Phillips, Tara Fly on Facebook

He was always quick to reply with a quip.

 

Occasionally, I’d post something especially bizarre knowing he wouldn’t be able to resist the temptation to respond; he was also one of the few people on my friends’ list who could appreciate the morbid side of my humor.

Christian Harvey, Michelle Ahlstrom, Tara Fly joke about meat cleavers

For the serial killer who has everything: sterling silver meat cleaver earrings?

 

But while we teased each other with observations and witty cracks, it was still the online version of break room small-talk. I never took the time to dig beneath the surface of Christian’s charming exterior, to examine the personal demons that he kept chained in the basement.

Christian Harvey Facebook photo album plaque

He was the 'nice guy loser' in his mind....

 

Despite how far we’ve progressed in the year 2011, how easily we can communicate and share every bit of our lives with the rest of the world, people are still keeping each other at arm’s length. We still maintain this level of privacy and anonymity, and are very selective about who we let into our inner sanctum.

The trouble is, we have so many “friends”… but we don’t really have any friends.

Who are these people anyway?
We collected them because we wish to know them better… but many of us never make that effort.
We just string them along on our social networking sites, leaving breadcrumbs for them to follow and nibble on, and pat them on the head with our thumbs up of praise.

When it comes to a matter of great importance, a matter of life and death, could we depend on them?
And could they depend on us?

The news of Christian’s death, knowing we had just chatted on Facebook days earlier, made me keenly and painfully aware that I never really knew what was going on in his life.
I wasn’t checking in with him regularly, and paying close enough attention to the changes in his mood and behaviour.

Instead, I was performing my joint roles as wife and mother, obsessing over my silly website portfolio malfunction, worrying that my allergies and the full moon were hampering my creativity… truth is, I’ve been completely self-absorbed.
And sadly, this revelation doesn’t come as a surprise, as I’ve been introspective for years.

Christian Harvey Tara Fly facebook conversation March 17th

Complaining about my allergies on March 17th... three days before

 

But I lost someone who mattered to me, and it was someone I didn’t even realize mattered so much to me… until he was gone.
Like turning on the faucet and fully expecting to get hot water….

And as I contemplate what happens next, and pine over the lost opportunity to reach out, and dwell in darkness over how his mother must be suffering to lose her precious child…

I’m also making a vow to myself.
And to my son and daughters, my husband, my relatives and friends – both off-line and on-line…
That I will be more attentive in the future.

I will take those extra few moments to write back, to click your profile and read your messages, to give you more lap-time and cuddle-time (if you live in my house!), and make sure that everything I say and type is expressed in a kind, compassionate manner.

It won’t be easy for me.

I’m one of those people who craves “space”, and that ever-elusive “peace and quiet”….

But anyone who has lost a family member knows how depressing that “peace and quiet” is, which comes with an empty house, an empty room, an empty chair…
In all that newfound space, you’ll see shadows moving, and you’ll turn to see – hopeful and still-expectant to find your loved one standing in the doorway, alive and smiling.

All the technological advances, greed, and ambition in the world cannot replace what we need most…. other people.

Without love, we are nothing.

So I give you my love. All of you.
Oh, and a can of SPAM too!

Christian Harvey, TaraFly joking about SPAM cans

Sharing some crazy craft project ideas...

 

Those of you who read these words, those of you who don’t… and even the ones who are too young to read, but are sitting on my lap watching me type. You get kisses instead. Unless you’d rather have SPAM. 😉

Let’s hug and embrace each other, reconnect, and share who we really are.

[And on that note, I’m going to confess share that one of my favorite songs was written and performed by Metallica.
I’m dedicating “Nothing Else Matters” to Christian, even though he preferred Pink Floyd.]

January 2nd was my 31st birthday. I’m officially “in my 30’s” now…. but no matter, I haven’t celebrated my own birth in years.
But would you believe my husband and oldest daughter completely forgot? 😛

happy birthday wishes on tara fly's facebook profile wall

My family forgot, but Facebook remembered my birthday!

The kids are too hung over from Christmas, Joe has typical absent-minded “Male Brain” and can’t remember which day it is, and I feel stupid making a fuss over myself.
Although I dropped a few hints yesterday about “feeling old”… comments which are always guaranteed to get an eye-roll and/or lecture from the man who is 21 years my senior.
Revenge was sweet, however, as Facebook reminded everyone to post well-wishes on my Wall. Thanks guys! Your thoughtful comments humbled my housemates. 😉

But Friday really was a significant day.

Firstly, Friday was the 31st… which is just like the 13th, except written backwards.
Does writing something backwards count as bad luck or good luck?

It shouldn’t matter to someone who lives with a half-black cat and refuses to eat her sauerkraut and black-eyed peas. I find superstitions simply curious.

Secondly, it marked the end of the year 2010. Although I didn’t pay attention to the clock, and realized it was midnight only when my Twitter feed lit up with “Happy New Year” written all over it…

Leave it to Twitter, because even this girl, who still can recall the license plate number to her high-school crush’s car, needs an occasional reminder as to which holiday we’re celebrating. 😉

happy birthday wishes continue on Tara Fly's Facebook wall

And the Birthday Wishes continue throughout the day... ((hugs))

But New Year’s = Resolution making.

Remember how grudgingly I caved to the popular practice of penning my business goals? I haven’t forgotten about it this year… I guess it’s time to take a closer look at how successful I’ve been, huh.

Lastly, and most memorably, I had bits of shredded cheese embedded between my keys which made typing gooey.

From Thursday’s shin-dig, no doubt, which I was unfortunately not invited to attend. I was told it was a rowdy affair, and the kitchen was ransacked – the contents strewn around the living-room like confetti.
I was engaged upstairs, ministering to a suicidal pile of CDs that had formed a group pact to jump from the tower, falling six feet onto the carpet.

There was one fatality – a Dave Matthews album I hadn’t listened to since high school. The funeral was closed to the public.

little girl playing in pile of CDs on floor

Mia was the sole witness to the tragedy.

After the events of this past week, I find it humorous to reflect on the goals I made for this past year.
When I sat down last January 1st and resolved “to create 4-5 new pieces each month, not including commissions”, I was being incredibly optimistic.
Unrealistic even.
But the dynamics of our household were very different then.

My 2 and 3-year-old have reached many physical and intellectual milestones this year, not least of which has been the mastery of overcoming barriers and outwitting child-proof doorknobs and cabinet locks. Their ability to cause mischief has increased tenfold, due to their “divide and conquer” method of splitting my attention between downstairs and upstairs messes. Now that we actually have an upstairs/downstairs in our home, not to mention an open floor plan.

They run positively wild here! LOL

“Let’s cause a disturbance in the kitchen that will occupy Mommy long enough for us to empty the contents of our dresser onto the floor.”

The spare bedroom which serves as my studio has been a godsend, in terms of keeping my art and supplies organized and out of danger, but doesn’t allow me to work while supervising the little devils. Unless I keep the door open and invite hell to come inside.

Needless to say, my productivity took a dip this year. In 2009, I was averaging a painting per week; in 2010, I managed to complete one per month (with a few side projects, like Cat Cameo necklaces).

Nor did I reach my ultimate sales goals for this year, although I did earn more overall in 2010 than the previous year. That my sales remained steady is a good thing, especially considering the slight increase in price needed to accurately reflect my expenses and give room for growth. 🙂

I’ve set my current prices so that I can work with wholesale orders and consignment shops, which is something I didn’t manage to do in 2010… but I’ve made initial contact with a couple of gallery shops, and have all the info necessary to submit my work for review in the next few weeks. I promise I will!

I’ve also done some research into three seasonal art festivals in the Washington D.C. area that I’d like to participate in this year. If I’m accepted, a hefty booth fee and inventory budget will need to be set aside.

Birthday Wishes from Tara Fly's Facebook friends

Still feeling the love from awesome peeps. And even a poopy litter cake!

I did, however, manage to update my blog each week (Or thereabouts), and I added a few functional items to my shop (namely note cards). Joe and I have lots of product ideas cooking!

2011 will be an exciting time spent experimenting with wood and cloth. Psst, he has been talking for months about purchasing a sewing machine for me – as a BIRTHDAY present, no less! – which means I’ll be cursing and stitching my fingers to assorted fabrics in an effort to create some stuffed animals for my shop. 😉

Furthermore, I began working on my cat adaptation of Pride and Prejudice… even though I must have been under the influence of some strong cold medicine when I gave myself a 4 month deadline to have an entire book written and illustrated. I deeply apologize to anyone who believed I could accomplish that.
Nevertheless, the characters are coming to life one by one. Check out Mr. Bennet Cat, Mrs. Bennet Cat, and the Gossip Girls (Kitty and Lydia).

I might not have accomplished everything I set out to do, business-wise, however I’ve been blessed in so many ways this year:
We have a lovely home, with quiet neighbors…
Our own backyard … (free from cigarette butts and empty beer bottles, hooray!)
Three bright young children who greet me each morning in Chinese … (thanks to Nickelodeon – “Ni-hao!”)
A man who supports my decision to stay home and doesn’t gripe about our lack of money (too often)…
A wonderfully supportive online community of Facebook/Twitter/blog friends…
And a passionate small group of customers who love my artwork and gush about having a framed picture of Mr Darcy Cat on their desks. 😀

More Happy Birthday greetings from Facebook friends

Oh, look! More folks took a few moments to wish me well.

So to welcome the new year, and everything it may bring to me, I will set forth my goals as follows:

1. To *ahem* increase my blog posts to 2 posts weekly… and keep them fairly relevant/on-topic.

2. To list a new item in my Etsy shop each day, instead of renewing over and over.

Even if that just means a “new” size, matted option, sets, etc. Since I won’t have new artwork to reveal everyday, unfortunately.

3. To continue producing *at least* one new piece of artwork each month. Hopefully more.

4. To get my Zazzle shop up to speed.

Many purchases are made through Zazzle, even though it’s been terribly neglected. I just realized over the holidays that Christmas ornaments have been available for sale. But I didn’t add any to my shop. Ooops!

5. To create more functional stuff (like, um… Christmas ornaments!) and that wood and fabric I was hinting about earlier. 😉

6. To make my website more marketing-friendly, i.e. adding a press kit, and better navigation.

I might even make the transition to a WordPress premium theme to run my entire site, although I know absolutely nothing about WP coding and I loathe giving up all my hard work… hehe, we’ll see.

7. To finally get my work into a retail shop and/or gallery.

8. To participate in a craft fair and/or art show.

9. To become fearless in my self-promotion off-line, and get those freaking business cards created!

I have two whole boxes of free Vista Print cards featuring Fire-Breathing Dommie on them, but my branding has taken a 180-degree turn, so new materials are needed to showcase Monsieur Darcy. 😉

10. To keep in mind, and continually work towards, my ultimate goal – to grow this career into a full-time family operated business… so Joe can kiss the soul-devouring, mass-crap-producing Retail Giant good-bye. 😉

More Birthday Wishes from friends

Do you think my husband gets the message yet? LOL ... Don't forget next year.

Of course, I have a few personal goals as well that aren’t worth sharing. But mainly to become a more compassionate and patient person.
And to whine less about my lot in life. I genuinely have too much to be thankful for to waste my time (and your time) complaining about my lack of time! 😉

Although an occasional rant may still escape if I feel it’s worth sharing. hehe 😉

So grab a glass of kraut juice, and let’s toast to the New Year 2011: To Less Complaining + More Art Sharing!

girl reading book, redcoat soldier cat art by tarafly

Mia giggling over Dominic dressed in his Red Coat uniform

I began typing this blog post at 5:30PM, after taking Mia’s birthday cake from the oven. It will be decorated as a castle, with little construction paper turrets (because Joe was too frugal to buy the plastic set from the store).

She and Jacob are taking a much-needed nap, after a day spent terrorizing cats, destroying their bedroom, digging food-stuff from the fridge to drip, spill, and smear across every surface within reach… and a host of other exasperating things to drive a mother wild. They’ve had one bath already, and may need another before the evening is over.

Thing One and Thing Two. The little whirlwind monsters from The Cat in the Hat… are the best visual description I can give of my two youngest children – who at 16 months apart – are almost identical twins in both looks and personality.
Actually, when Jake decides to wear his sister’s dress, they might fool anyone.

There are some days weeks when nothing gets accomplished in my studio or my website; those are “reactive” days, when it takes all my strength just to keep the house semi-under-control and tidy, and ensure they don’t injure or kill themselves.

Notice I didn’t say, it takes all my strength not to injure or kill them… violent thoughts would never cross my mind, however there are moments when I wish that I wasn’t a mother.

When I catch a few moments to sit at my desk, scan my e-mails and twitter updates, I’m bombarded with happy productive status updates:
“I’ve got a new piece to show you guys!” …
“More purses/pillows/scarfs/whatever-the-heck-I-make to list in my shop”…
“I’m going to spend the rest of the afternoon painting” …

The majority of these super-ambitious hard-working folks do not have kids, or they are older kids than mine. Or perhaps they have great-grandma’s secret recipe that changes children into molasses syrup.

There are days when I envy those people, with a raw green jealousy which almost boils over into anger, as the giggles of my mischievous creatures echo down the hall from inside the bedroom closet. I get up from my chair and walk into the bedroom, to discover an entire dresser full of clean, folded laundry lying in a fabric-heap on the floor, with the kids merrily jumping in it. Their fingers are sticky…

Breathe….

They squeal and run from the room. I know that while I begin the task of re-folding clothes, sorting the girls’ from the boy’s, and discarding the sticky items into the hamper… they will be plotting their attack of the frozen Popsicles in the kitchen. I can hear the dining room chair scraping across the floor…

little girl with a mischievous grin

I did something naughty and Mommy doesn't know... yet

God bless them. I love them dearly, but sometimes I wish they weren’t around. Sometimes I just want the house to myself, to sit and write a blog, or paint my new Madonna Cat, or re-design my website. Even to procrastinate in my pajamas, watching BBC period dramas..
In peace.

But I am a mother. I can vividly remember each nuance of my three pregnancies, and each trip to the hospital to deliver them… the last two labors were very short, in fact Jake arrived 20 minutes after we did!
Mia’s birth on December 24th kept us hostage at City Hospital until after Christmas, because there were no scheduled office staff on the 25th to sign our release papers.
Lydia was very upset that she couldn’t take her baby sister home for Christmas.

I grow tired of whining to my family, and to my readers, about my struggles to maintain this business and a wild herd of children all by myself.
My complaints fall on deaf ears… my own. I hate excuses.
I’ve heard so many of them over the years, from associates and superiors, from husbands and friends… that I can’t seem to shake this inner-judge who wants to scold and reprimand.

“Get some focus. Learn some time-management skills. Brush up on your parenting skills, too.”

But as I look back on this past year, and take personal inventory of my successes and failures, I know that my time will always be unevenly divided… until the little darlings are in school at least.

Home-schooling?! Bwahahaha Not on your life! I’m counting the hours until that big yellow bus beckons to carry them away. 😉

little blond boy playing on swing

What mischief is Jake plotting behind those innocent eyes?

But until then, I’ve decided – after much consideration – to begin referring to myself as a “part-time working artist”.

If I’m honest with my customers, friends, and family about where my attention lies, perhaps people will be more understanding if things aren’t done quickly. Perhaps I’ll feel less guilty if I can’t keep pace with my peers. And if I do find a block of time to myself, and work feverishly to get a million things done, I can simply feel good about my accomplishments!

Instead of saying, “It’s about time! Now don’t fall off the horse.”

I hate to feed any inclination to slack-off, but I have to be realistic. A full-time worker puts in an average of 8-10 hours, 5 days a week. That isn’t possible for me, no matter how I try to slice the pie. At best, if I keep myself motivated, I can squeeze 5-6 hours out of my little bite-sized chucks.
Trying to “find more time” just causes me to resent the needs and demands of my family.

As the beasts devour a 2-layer frosted cake in 5.8 seconds, I will stand guard calmly with the wet towels and vacuum cleaner, even though I’ve cleaned this room twice already today. I’ll try not to consider my earlier attempts as time wasted. Or that I should’ve been clocking studio time rather than re-washing a sticky pair of jeans.

I need my children in my life, and they need me too.

So Merry Christmas to all of you!
And Happy 3rd Birthday, Mia!

…you’re getting a nicer Mommy this year.

Mrs Bennet Regency Cat Thank You Card by TaraFly Art

Mrs Bennet says "Thank You", from The Crazy Cat Family

One week until Christmas – and I’ll bet your tree is up AND decorated! Your gifts are probably tucked away inside the closet, attic, trunk of your car, or else they’re in route with guaranteed delivery.   (Forgive me if I chuckle a bit over those dubious postal deadlines – it’s an old inside joke shared by the secret cult of online merchants).

Most likely, you have – this very evening – returned from the grocery store to stockpile your pantry with yams and cranberry sauce. If you live in the Northeastern United States… that includes 10 gallons of milk, a case of sparkling kiwi-strawberry or peach flavored water, 12 loaves of sandwich bread, some deli meat, and enough toilet paper to keep you in comfort in case the snow buries your house up to its shingles.
And you’re forced to dig air holes in your chimney.

And naturally, I’ve done none of the above. As in years past, we’re keeping Christmas (and Mia’s birthday next Friday) relatively conservative and quiet.
No guest list, huge table spreads, or mountains of gifts. I’ll send the cats out in a sled team if we need anything.

But despite the fact that I didn’t quite reach my sales goals for this year, and wasn’t able to splurge on fancy toys and gadgets for the kids, I’m extremely satisfied and appreciative of the support we’ve received from my loyal fans and new customers. 🙂

Purchases made from my two shops (and Zazzle, too) are meaningful, because they directly contribute to my family’s welfare, in addition to the small percentage I’m donating to sponsor a cat from BestFriends.org… an animal sanctuary, which is akin to tithing to a church owned by cats.

You’ll hear this all the time, especially in recent years – that helping the small business owner is also helping the community … but it’s the simple truth.
Each sale is important because it puts food on our table and diapers on our children, and enables a stay-at-home mother to live above the poverty line and not seek help from government welfare.
And you know me, I’d rather cut off my hand than beg.

When I began writing this post, I was reminded of an interview I’d read, which was published back in the late 80’s. One of my favorite actors, Michael J. Fox, was talking about the importance of his fans, and he said,
“My attitude is that this one paid my rent, that one bought my car, and that one paid for the hockey tickets.”

Essentially recognizing each fan as having made a direct contribution to his quality of life, and acknowledging his gratefulness for them….
it sums up exactly how I feel right now.
Of course, most Hollywood big-shots will thank “the little people” out of obligation, but the wise ones understand the truth: We created those celebrities ourselves, and purchased the crystal palaces in which they live, by spending the money required to make their films and franchises a hit.
Or not.

Mr Darcy Cat by TaraFly Regency Cat Portrait in Frame

Mr Darcy Cat handsomely framed in the hallway

Although sales of Mr Darcy Cat aren’t paying my rent yet, I was able to help alleviate my husband’s monthly financial concerns …here and there, by paying a utility bill, keeping the car filled with gas, and making a trip to the grocery store without using our shared debit card. 😉

The last few weeks leading up to Christmas have been blessed with fresh attention and excitement over my artwork, and I have a few prospects lined up for the New Year, including venturing offline and into an actual gift shop. Shhhh… fingers and whiskers crossed.

Even more importantly, to me, is the shift in Joe’s attitude towards the time I spend online and upstairs in my studio. My recent sales were steady enough to carry us through each week.   He has been more appreciative and positive-minded, even going so far as to plan an expansion with new products.   His lofty dreams involve chopping and sanding fallen logs…. which will, of course, have cats painted on them. 😉
I’m beginning to feel that encouraging sense of team camaraderie that has long been eluding me… and I have you, dear readers and fans, to thank for it!

Without you, I would be just another mom of half-feral, young children, who sits at her computer… blogging about pipe-dreams and doing nothing to fulfill them.

But this journal is more than just my mindless ranting. It is also an account of my beginning – the cold-hearted retail cocoon that I’ve emerged from, the obstacles and inner struggles I face as a growing artist (and mom), and the career roadmap that I’ve lightly sketched onto a ketchup-stained napkin.
I don’t exactly know where I’ll be 10 years from today, but I am determined to reach my ultimate goal of a self-employed, family run business.

It will be interesting, and probably amusing, to look back and read this first-person narrative of my progress over the years. And someday, you and I will be able to reminisce and say:
“Remember when…?”

You’ll make some obscure reference, we’ll both laugh, and my future hardcore fans will shake their perplexed heads.
Because it is our little inside joke.

Should we create a secret club, with hand signals and passwords, too? 😉

Two year old Mia in green dress lying on floor

What are you thinking about?

I had a million blog ideas filtering through my mind last week… many of which were incomprehensible, induced by Tuesday’s feverish brush with influenza.

Tribute to the Demon Barber

I fell madly in love with the morbid humor of “Sweeney Todd” after seeing the stage musical in 1994, and thought it would make a perfect tribute to Halloween.
For many years, I was disappointed over the lack of attention Sweeney received, and hoped that someone would decide to adapt it for film.
That is, until Tim Burton and Johnny Depp got their grubby paws on it… and now I almost wish they’d left it alone, because the purist in me screamed over every altered syllable and omission. Okay, I suppose the movie was fair enough, in spite of the glaringly absent lyrics to the main theme. 😛

Little boy wearing pink fairy wings

Fairy Jake sporting his manly pink wings

My TinkerBeau

Another Halloween story I almost told involved Jacob’s decision to wear the pink fairy wings that I originally purchased for his sister’s ballerina costume.
He insisted on wearing them all day, even while playing outside, as if the neighbors needed any further excuse to gossip about the crazy cat family.

His fascination with them didn’t surprise us, since he does occasionally like to cross-dress in Mia’s clothing. I humored him, once, by allowing him to wear the red dress he begged for, after seeing it hanging in her dresser. I assume his mimicry is a method of emulating her, as the two of them share a strong emotional bond. A mere 16 months apart, they look almost like twins, and Jake worships the ground Mia walks on.

Little boy wearing a floral shirt

Jake dressed himself today, in Mia's shirt.

When a Facebook friend posted a link to this blog post, which recounts a five-year-old boy’s desire to dress like Daphne from Scooby-Doo… well, I just had to read about his mother’s frustrations and leave a sympathetic comment.
Apparently, a few hundred other people decided to do the same…
I had forgotten to un-check the box marked “Subscribe to Replies”, and within 10 minutes after posting, my inbox was flooded with comments from other readers.
193 to be exact.
They were still pouring in as I hit the Unsubscribe link in my e-mail.

50,000 Twitter Followers

Which leads me down the treacherous path to a rant about blog marketing.
This is the time of year when businesses great and small are encouraged to connect with their potential customers by writing helpful, engaging articles such as “10 Ways to Improve Your Chances of Getting a Raise”
and “Tips for Cooking the Best Turkey Your Family Ever Tasted”.

Everyone knows that spamming with sales advertisements is O-U-T, so let’s cram relevant keywords into each attention-grabbing post and self-proclaim ourselves experts in the field of ___-Blah!

Admittedly, I subscribe to a few of these myself… but one such piece of sage wisdom, written by a business consultant, told a fictitious shop owner selling knitting supplies that she should only write about knitting, post some tutorials and tips, and god-forbid do NOT veer off into discussing how Tim Burton movies leave her unimpressed… unless she can relate it back to knitting somehow.
And how would you do that, exactly?

How do you form real relationships with people, and get to know the person behind the needles? Sure, thousands of people might follow her knitting tips… but would any of them think about her outside the knitting sphere?
When a wise-crack commercial comes on, or when their mother-in-law drops in for an unexpected visit, when they discover the best recipe for blueberry cheesecake…. will they excitedly rush to their computers to e-mail the Knitting Tips business owner? Doubt it.

I don’t care how many e-books she sells. I’m not interested in gaining 50,000 Twitter followers who are looking for advice.
If I want to sell you something, I’ll just say …click here and buy my art… otherwise, I’m just sitting here talking to myself. Or typing to myself rather.

For the record, I’m no expert… unless you want to read “10 Ways To Convince the Neighbors You’re Nuts”. (#4. Dress the entire family in pink fairy wings)

I’m the anti-marketing sort… not because I believe in the unsung success of “not marketing”, but simply due to the fact that most marketers come across as superficial, kiss-butt-to-get-a-sale zombies. Especially the sales reps I’ve met through working retail. Sparkling vampires, with the exception of one.

Tired little fairy boy in Mommy's arms

Tired from flying, he lands in Mommy's arms

Do Fairies Fall Down?

Ironically, yesterday I wanted to blog about vampires… although not the sparkly kind, of which I know blessedly nothing.
Rather, I was thinking about emotional vampires, and draining relationships in general. Those people who delight in tearing us down and making us feel worthless, and the people who place us on impossibly high pedestals and worship our golden images.

These are two sides of the same void – using us to bolster their own lack of self-esteem – and it’s best to avoid them both.

Obviously we wouldn’t want to surround ourselves with people who disrespect us, or cause us to continuously doubt ourselves, however we need to be
equally cautious around folks who refuse to recognize our genuine flaws and stubbornly cling to the belief that we represent perfection.
Unfortunately, as an imperfect human being, you are fated to disappoint them eventually, and your failure will devastate them. The tower will crumble, and you’ll find yourself bitterly rejected and abused, worse than if they’d held no faith in you whatsoever. It’s a long fall from Heaven.

We mustn’t ever lose sight of who we are, in the face of intimidation, seduction, or influence… a reoccurring theme on my mind this week.

Whether I blog about the faithfulness of movie adaptations, the self-confidence of a 2-year-old boy wearing pink fairy wings, or the pressure to be “relevant” and SEO savvy… it all boils down to “keeping it real”, remembering our strengths and weaknesses, and not compromising what makes each one of us unique.

Even if it means combining four separate topics into one post… although I’ll suggest that you read this accompanied by a 103 degree fever, wherein these ramblings will make perfect sense. 😉

4-year-old visiting the zoo tropical rainforest

Lydia exploring the tropical rainforest habitat - The National Zoo, Wash. D.C.

You’ll often hear me complaining about not having “enough time”… how the household chores and caring for the little beasties manage to both distract and drain me creatively.
The advice I hear most: “Cherish these days with your children. They grow up so fast.” …usually from empty-nesters who are looking back at their own missed opportunities.

And I want them to know that, deep down, I do cherish these days.

I made a conscious decision to put my family first when I left my full-time job.
I didn’t quit to embark on the USS Entrepreneur-Ship, and become a self-employed artist, as exotic as that sounds. I accepted the role of stay-at-home Mom because I was tired of letting other people raise and mother my children, and being held at their mercy.
When your child is sick (and that darn daycare center that you pay for dearly each week won’t accept kids with fevers)… and you’re scrambling to find an emergency sitter at the last minute, otherwise you’ll be forced to miss work – leaving your boss angry and your paperwork piling up…. the decision to stay home permanently seems reasonable. Even feasible.

Well, there were many other factors leading to the decision to remain at home… it was seriously a tough call to make, because I was a total workaholic until 2 years ago. Putting in extra hours on the job, and working every holiday, was par for the course as a retail manager. I completely defined my sense of self by a title and a paycheck.
But I haven’t regretted one single day, and you want to know why?

Are you sure? Cause I’m about to confess something truly horrible about myself…

There was a time when I was utterly shallow, and completely focused on myself at the expense of others.

My oldest daughter and my first husband were victims of my immaturity and selfishness. Unlike my second divorce, which is one of the few holidays I actually celebrate, there was nothing fundamentally wrong with Lydia’s father. He is a great guy, honestly.
It was my fault that I couldn’t remain content as a working mom living an ordinary life. I wanted excitement and freedom, with nobody to hold me accountable, and no one to tie me down.
Immediately after leaving him, I booked a flight to London. Yes, England.
I went all by myself, just because I felt like it.
I also switched jobs, for a change of scene, and I returned to the stage…

TaraFly performing on stage

Simple Joys of Maidenhood

See, as a teenager, I wasn’t serious about becoming a fine artist, although I took a few elective art classes and participated in student shows.
Acting was my real passion. I lived and breathed the theatre atmosphere, and throughout high school I focused on making acting my future career.

TaraFly as Elaine Harper in Arsenic and Old Lace

I have portrayed Elaine Harper in two Arsenic and Old Lace productions.

Performing arts colleges were the only schools I applied for, and turned down a possible full scholarship offered by the University of Dallas because it stipulated that I major in Latin. (My Latin teacher apparently recommended me to her contacts there – sending along my grades and exam scores)

Singing Christmas carols in "Wonderful Life"

It's A Wonderful Life finale... I've portrayed Violet and Mary in separate shows.

Although it was my intention to get a BFA, and I was actually accepted to the first school of my choice, passing the auditions and all… life had other plans for me.
Actually, that’s a whole blog unto itself, and it speaks volumes about my fiercely independent nature.

Eight years after graduation, I had a house, a job, and a 4-year-old daughter. The desire to reclaim my life took hold… I joined the theatre community again,
to express myself creatively and delve back into the artistic social scene. Unfortunately, I neglected my family and spent all this newfound “free time”
pursuing my hobbies.

Sunset sky view of mountain hillside and country field

The Hills of Rural Pennsylvania

My soon-to-be-2nd-ex and I had purchased land in the mountains, which meant a two-hour round-trip daily work commute. My chosen theatre was 1.5 hours in the opposite direction.
So, my typical day went something like this:

  1. Awake at 3:30AM… (shower, dress, eat)
  2. Leave house at 3:45-4:00AM
  3. Arrive at work: 5:00AM*
  4. Work ends: 2:00PM
  5. Arrive Home: 3:00PM…. (eat early dinner, change clothes, “family time”)
  6. Leave for Theatre: 4:30PM
  7. Rehearsal Begins: 6:00PM
  8. Rehearsal Ends: 10:00-11:00PM
  9. Arrive Home: 11:30PM-12:30AM

(hopefully fall asleep quickly because alarm goes off at 3:30AM, rinse and repeat…)
*I was a bakery manager then, where early shifts are the norm – the whole fresh doughnut, muffin, breakfast bagel crowd.

Now, it’s obvious that my commute carved a considerable chunk out of my day… and I often spent my lunch hour napping in my car.
But even after I left my second husband and moved closer (to the theatre, lol), spending night after night away from home begins to take its toll on more than
just a car’s engine.

4-year-old daughter asleep in her carseat

Lydia taking her daily nap... buckled into her carseat

I will never forgive myself for treating my daughter like a handbag… if I couldn’t find a sitter, I would drag her along to the theatre, roping my poor co-stars into watching her while I practiced. She would either hang out in the Green Room or sit in the audience, quietly coloring or chatting with strangers.
It wasn’t unusual to find her asleep, curled up in a fetal position in a hard metal chair, at the end of the night. With a jacket draped over her like a blanket.

If there wasn’t time for a home cooked meal, or I didn’t feel like cooking (more than likely)… I would throw some snacks and peanut butter sandwiches in her bag. Or I’d treat her to a fast-food junk meal from Burger King, since we passed it on route.

Of course, if you ask Lydia, she’ll look back with fond memories… the whole experience was like a circus parade for her, full of colorful characters, sparkly costumes, bright lights, cheering crowds, bouquets of flowers… she just ate it up.

She began to talk about wanting to perform in shows herself, and I was so proud to see her following my footsteps, because she had natural ability.
She actually did audition with me once, and was thisclose to getting cast…
The director loved her talent, but decided on a “young” girl with more stage
experience. And I witnessed my daughter’s first rejection as bitterly as if it were my own (although I got a leading role).
The other child turned out to be quite a brat, and the director later confided that overlooking my daughter was a decision he regretted.

TaraFly dressed as nun praying in graveyard

Goofing off during October's Sound of Music rehearsals...

However, it was to be my final show (at least for this chapter of my life)…

Shortly thereafter I met Joe, and finally had a chance to relax and breathe. I had found the man of my dreams, and I began realizing how it felt to “come home” and enjoy simple domestic things.

We didn’t “go out on the town”, instead favoring quiet dinners at home. When Mia was born, those maternal instincts that were late to develop finally emerged… for the first time ever, I didn’t want to return to work after my maternity leave. In fact, I agonized over leaving my baby with strangers.

These were brand new feelings to me then… and very familiar feelings to me now. Something changed in my heart. Or perhaps I just grew up.

There isn’t a day that goes by, when I’m not reminded of all the missed opportunities – those trips to the park and zoo, when my ear was glued to that damned cellphone, the family movies we never watched, the night-time rituals that never developed. Unless you count passing out in the dressing room as a ritual.

Three children walking to the park play ground

They'll never walk alone.

I’m trying my best to make amends now, and I cherish the innocence of my younger children who have never been reprimanded for talking to their mother in the middle of a scene, who have never stepped back stage, or watched strangers getting (un)dressed, or spent a night away from home.

Seeing them cuddled together on the couch each evening, watching a Disney movie and messily eating their dessert, is a picture I wouldn’t trade for any amount of money or fame.

Or time.

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