living my dream

Free Lunch by Susie Lubell

This might seem like a very ordinary picture but it is actually the culmination of years of dreaming and growing and building and working and leaping, eyes open, into the scary unknown. There is nothing staged about this photograph. It is not especially beautiful. This is my desk in the middle of my work day. A dirty palette. A bunch of paint markers in a Paw Patrol cup. A sketch I was working on yesterday. A water bottle. And lunch, made and delivered by my husband in the middle of the day. Why is Mr. Rosen home in the middle of the day, you may ask...?

He's home because he quit his job. He's been a medical device engineer since he graduated from university in 2000. He's an outstanding medical device engineer. Since leaving his company a month ago, several other companies have approached him. But he's not going back to work just yet. He's taking a break. And why is he able to take this break, mid-career, with our mortgage and our three kids and their activities and our travel commitments and bills? Because I now earn enough to support us for a while. 

I earn enough money as an artist to support my family.

Can we just delight in that for a sec?

This did not happen over night. I wasn't discovered. I don't have a huge social media following. No one asked me to write a book. I'm just a regular person who pays attention, makes calculated decisions, and is not afraid. Me supporting the family may not be sustainable for the long term. We will re-evaluate as we go. But for the next six months to a year, I earn enough money for my husband to take a break, follow his own curiousity, spend WAY more time with his kids and explore his uncommon gifts. He gave me this opportunity seven years ago when I left my corporate job to pursue life as a working artist. Now I can return the favor.

These days you can find Mr. Rosen rennovating our attic to be his home office. He has also completed a bee keeping course and will soon bring our hive home. He is playing in a band in Tel Aviv. He is dancing in Jerusalem. He is DANCING people. And he is schlepping our kids around to hockey and piano and scouts and dance and making lunch and dinner and straightening up and sometimes doing the laundry. And he's not doing all the things the way that I do all the things, but he's doing them nonetheless and it's fine. 

And he brings me lunch on most days. And then he spends his afternoons with his kids, doing projects, helping with homework, going on bike rides. BECAUSE HE CAN. He has the time. And I don't have to wrap up my work day at 1 pm, which has, as my business has grown, been the source of much anxiety. I get the whole day to work, something I have craved for a long time. 

The kids still come up to my studio to chat and ask questions. Things that their father could certainly help with. But it's a transition for them too and I try hard not to shoo them away. Nor do I expect my husband to handle everything. We work a lot more together. Life is far less stressful. We support each other and enjoy the support of our friends and family. We also put up with people's comments and confusion and assumptions. Their remarks about starving artists and about Mr. Rosen's early retirement. We don't care anymore. There's simply no time to waste one second of this life feeling stuck or burnt out or fearful.  

I never thought this was possible and neither did he. But here we are, moving forward, enjoying the challenges and the process and the time together as a family. And the lunches. 

Rite of Passage by Susie Lubell

Hallmark

Well it has been a crazy stretch these last few days. I decided at the last minute to do another little show at our JCC -  a fundraiser for the preschool -  and it went very well which is exciting but I forgot about how exhausting it is to sit at your booth in the sun and be charming for four hours and also lug your stuff all around two days in a row. And you think huh, this is pretty good money for working 8 hours and then you figure in all the time and energy you spent getting ready and set up and schlepping and recovering and filling orders and you realize, huh, I'm thirty-six years old and I work for minimum wage. But I'm happy doing it. And I'm learning too. I actually met a wonderful watercolor artist who shared some tips for shows and for framing.  So I will pick her brain more.

And on top of that we did some home improvements so my studio has been in several states of disarray since the weekend. But I am already so much happier with how it looks and soon to be happier with the way I can arrange little stations for what I do - create, communicate, print, ship etc. My own little supply chain. More on this later.

But I'm most excited to share this little piece of mail that I got today from a little company called Hallmark, who sent me an email back in October wanting to license my Tree of Life image for one of their cards (!). And here it is. A bar mitzvah card of all things which is so serendipitous since I just wrote a silly blog about bar mitzvah invitations here. Isn't the world funny like that? It's only one little card so I'm not exactly writing any press releases. But licensing has always been part of my general plan to take over the world so I'm celebrating my own mini rite of passage over here bat mitzvah style, minus the braces and Laura Ashley dress. Oy.

Move over Michael Phelps by Susie Lubell

Yesterday was such a fabulous day on so many levels. I made two sales. Always good. I finally got up the courage to make a few cold calls to some Bay Area Judaica shops. All three were very pleasant on the phone and I didn't trip over myself during my pitch. Kept is short and sweet. I asked if I could send them an email with a link to my work and all were happy to give me their email addresses. So I sent off my charming email and by the end of the day one of the three was thrilled with the work and wanted to know when we could meet to decide on what he would purchase. CHA-CHING.

I also spent two hours sketching and getting frustrated that nothing was looking like I wanted it to look. Like when your horse looks like a dog? Ever happen to you? This is why I never draw horses. I haven't painted in a while and I started to panic that three weeks into this new career my well cf creativity was dry.

Not so! I made a birdhouse! And I went back to the thing I like to draw most which is trees. And then I remembered I used to draw these "trees of life" with branches full of all good things so maybe a series of those is on the horizon. Anyway, the main thing is that I actually painted something.

But the nutella on top of an already pretty great day was swim lessons. I picked up my son and we went straight to the pool. He changed into his suit in the car and we walked over to the meeting place. One of his buddies was already there. He asked for his pink goggles that he had picked out with his dad from Target and we waited patiently until it was his group's turn in the water. I started chatting with one of the other moms and before I knew it, my son was lining up and then lowering himself into the pool and clinging on to the ledge with everyone else. And he was SMILING.

And for the next thirty minutes he had FUN. He blew bubbles and did a semi-head dunk. He went out with his teacher on the kick board. He did assisted floats on front and back. He was amazing. And all of the parents were on the side cheering for our kids and each other's kids. I loved it. When it was time to come out I wrapped him up in his giant towel and we were both so proud. And on our way out we saw the barfy girl from the day before. She looked much better. There was enough great day to go around for everyone.

Tell them your mommy's an artist by Susie Lubell

This morning we were getting ready for school and I remembered that today my son was supposed to share with his class about what kind of work his parents do. He came home with a paper bag and we were supposed to put things in it that we use at work and explain how we use those things. My husband was planning to bring home a model ear (he's designing a hearing aid) and some mechanical stuff but he forgot. So I grabbed a little Shutterfly photo book and put it in the bag and explained, Mommy is a copywriter. I write all the stuff on Shutterfly's website. And he's looking at me like I just told him I'm an appraiser or a lobbyist or an accountant - all professions he has neither heard of nor can relate to on any level. Tell them I try to inspire people to share their stories through their own pictures and words...still nothing.

Then I thought, you know what? Screw that. I dumped the Shutterfly book and went to get a few of my paintbrushes, a few tubes of paint and an assortment of my 5x7 animal prints, put them in the bag, looked my kid in the eyes and said, tell them your mommy's an artist.

And then today, at 2pm, I called my wonderful manager into a conference room and said, Dianna, I'm an artist. It's time for me to go. And she said that she knew I was doing the right thing though she was sad to see me leave. And we hugged. And I thanked her for being part of my creative awakening. It was a very good exchange. And now we can just be friends again.

So that's it. While the rest of the world is being laid off, I'm leaving my full-time, well-paid, easy-to-manage job, on my own accord. She's lost her mind! It's been said, the thing that keeps you from doing something great is doing something good. My life coach taught me that. So my very good year at Shutterfly is coming to an end and soon I'll begin the shift toward morning artist and afternoon mommy. And greatness. There's a nice symmetry there. I haven't written much on this subject namely because people I work with occasionally read this blog. I will say though that I didn't just snap because it was "put your profession in a paper bag day" at school. This decision and transition is nine months in the making. Thirty-five years and nine months.