Wanted: Juggling Teacher

I’m looking for help and advice. I didn’t start this blog to gain followers. I began the blog as a way to publicly blackmail myself into moving ahead with my art. (Don’t get me wrong, it is nice when you learn that someone cares to read your ramblings. In my case way too personal ramblings, but there’s no looking back, only moving forward) It worked for a year, and then I fell back into old habits and worse yet the land of self-doubt.  So here I sit getting older by the second (I think I can actually feel a wrinkle forming), and still trying to gain the confidence to succeed. Here’s where you come in, the person who has decided to take five minutes to read my thoughts. I’ve been a stay at home mom for a good portion of my life. Now the kids are gone, but I’ve spent twenty plus years living by their schedule. From school to after school activities, vacations, and bowing to (almost) their every need and whim, I think I’ve forgotten how to schedule myself. I need to structure my day, which when you work at home can be difficult. There is always a bathroom to clean, laundry to do, meals to prepare, etc. I make lists of things I want to accomplish artistically in a date book. A date book that I purchased last December that quite frankly has very little written in it. Does anyone out there work at home? How do you manage your time? How do you ignore the dirty socks and paint instead? How do you fit in time for friends, grocery shopping, and doctor’s appointments? Despite my best intentions I can’t seem to walk though my house back to my studio without stopping to clean. It isn’t that there’s a lot to do, and there are only two of us here, (well, five if you count the three cats, needless to say cat hair tumbleweeds abound). With no clock to punch, or school bell to answer I’m at a loss. I’d appreciate any advice.FullSizeRender(13)

 

Now that I’m done with my plea for advice, I’d like a little help. The help is with social media. I’m not so old that I’m computer brain dead. I have of course my blog here on WordPress, but I also have two Facebook accounts, a Twitter account, an Instagram account, a Pinterest account, and an Etsy shop. Everyone tells me that I need social media to move my art business ahead. I am a one woman glitter factory making fairies to sell, I am also a fine artist working on three pieces at the moment, and I just don’t know how to get to all of the posting, descriptive tagging, tweeting, and hash tagging required. I currently have three thousand one hundred and fifty five emails, and that’s in only two of my four email accounts. Clever me, I thought having one for business, one for personal, one for the house, and one Hotmail account (that’s from the dawn of the internet, I can’t seem to shut it down!) was a good idea. It’s not, it’s a nightmare. Facebook sends me “You haven’t posted this week and your followers want to hear from you” emails. Not to mention (but I will) all my friends and loved ones who post on Facebook that I feel obligated to “like”, and then those same people who post the same photos on Instagram. I feel a surge of Catholic guilt wash over me and must “like” again. Daily notifications from Instagram on who is now following me, and the new posts from the people I “follow”. From Etsy Success and Etsy there’s the “Here’s what you need to do in order to succeed in your shop”, or “remember you looked at this” emails, and Twitter notifications. New posts from the people here on WordPress whose work I enjoy reading, but again don’t know where to find the time. (Insert screams here) It’s never ending. I have no staff, or management, it’s me doing everything. I currently have only sixty pieces listed on Etsy. I have more than two hundred and fifty created. Why aren’t they in my shop yet? It’s because I have to write a description for each piece to try to help buyers understand my vision, and I have to tag each fairy or print with the recommended and allotted thirteen tags. I have more than two hundred pieces to list, that’s more than twenty six hundred descriptive words to come up with. Yes, I could use the same tags again and again, but I must vary them so that when potential customers search with certain key words I might be “found”. It has in fact become a dreaded chore, like the homework I once hated. To say I’m feeling overwhelmed is an understatement. HELP! How do you manage all of this? Are you scheduling time for each? I would really love to hear from anyone who can help me in this juggling act. And now the tags for this post….sigh….

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Letters To Timmy

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I’ve produced several pieces of art in the last few weeks, but again none that you would ever see hanging in a museum, or even a local gallery. Despite many promises to myself to return to the oil painting I love so much, I find myself drawn back to creating for those I love in my life, particularly my grandson Timmy. Life throws us all some curve-balls, unexpected losses and gains (though it seems most of the time its losses!), we learn to cope the best we can and to adjust to life as it is. For me it is that careers have taken my daughter, her husband, her son, and her soon to be born daughter to the other side of the country. Life has also moved my son to Los Angeles, roughly 85 miles from me, although if you are familiar with LA traffic you might understand when I say sometimes a flight to NY would be quicker. I am grateful for the modern conveniences of social media. Thanks to cell phones, iPad, and my desktop computer, I am able to talk, text, Face Time, Skype, and email to my heart’s content. Despite all of that I miss the face to face time, the hugs and kisses, and the pleasure of holding my grandson on my lap.

When my kids were growing up I made it a daily habit to include notes in their school lunches, creating characters just for them so that they knew I was always thinking about them. Several months ago I decided to connect with Timmy in much the same way through snail mail. I began to write him short notes, always asking Grandpa to add his own thoughts as well, and then illustrating not just the card but the envelope as well. I decided after my last visit to NY to make Timmy a box to keep his letters in. We visited one of the local antique stores looking for the perfect box, but instead found a little brown suitcase that had seen better days. It couldn’t have been more perfect. I repainted the suitcase a bright and cheery red, searched for images of vintage travel stickers of places that Timmy has been, has family living in, and a couple just for fun. I made one of one of my “Timmy” cards to personalize it. I refurbished the inside as well, using Mod Podge and tissue paper, which looks like lacquer when dry. I also added a little cork board for when he is old enough to safely pin a few things to. Of course me being me I have to go a step further, I bought him a mailbox at the craft store. Personalizing once again to make it special for Timmy (There is also a pink one waiting anxiously for his sister). One of these days I will actually pick up that palette and brush again, but for now I’m happy to send a little love across country.

 

Since I began writing the blog above I have begun the long overdue task of sorting through the boxes of my dad’s papers and photographs. It has been more than two years since he passed, and Saturday was the tenth anniversary of my Mom’s passing. While I am still grateful for what modern technology can do to keep me in touch with family, I found myself moved by looking through the papers and letters that were in dad’s boxes. My grandparents were in Ireland, they didn’t have the connections that I have. They had to wait for a cherished letter or photograph to know how their son, their daughter, and their four granddaughters were doing. Phone calls were possible but expensive. Those words written on paper were the connection of a family that was far apart. Loving words preserved, glimpses of a life since past, gifts for me, my sisters, our children and theirs. The memory of phone calls fade, Face Time is in the moment, and although an email is I guess the modern letter, and I suppose you could save the file, I wouldn’t trade these faded papers with my grandmother’s signature, my dad’s life story written by his own hand, or my mother’s profession of love to our dad in an old anniversary card for anything. I am hoping that someday long after I’m gone that Timmy and his sister will be able to look back and their grandmother’s funny little drawings, to read my words, and know just how much I love them.

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copyright symbolTimmy Mail, and all images created by Jacqueline Zuckerman contained in this post.

 

 

Precarious Unpacking

Are you familiar with Jenga? You know the game where there are a stack of pieces that you pull out one at a time until someone pulls the wrong piece and everything goes tumbling down? Welcome to my world. Nearly three months in and still unpacking. We left a house that was a little more than three thousand square feet, and moved into one just shy of fourteen hundred. To say space is an issue is an understatement. My studio is jammed with books and supplies, and there are still unopened boxes in the garage. The kitchen isn’t even half the size, actually about a quarter of the size of my old one. The weight of “stuff” is upon me. I mentioned Jenga because that is how things are happening around here. I open a box and put a precarious stack of things together, and hope nothing will fall. It’s not that I am being careless; it’s that I actually don’t have anywhere to put anything. As I told Dan this morning, “You know I’m in trouble when I’m happy that I broke something. It means that I don’t have to find a place for it!” We are collectors. (Actually it’s more me than Dan, but this is California, you know 50/50? He owns half, I own half, so he gets half the blame) Thirty years of flea markets and antique stores, and our shared passion for books. He is equally guilty on this one. We love to read, for Dan world events, current events, and history; I have an addiction to design, art, and cookbooks. We built shelves, lots of shelves, but there just don’t seem to be enough. There are bookcases in the studio, one in the guest room, and soon to be one in the very small master bedroom. Then there is art. This one would be obvious because I’m an artist and photographer, as is my daughter, and my son (if he could ever admit it) has a good photographer’s eye. My mother-in-law is an artist, as is my brother-in-law, we love Maxfield Parrish, and vintage prints, photography, and have cool funky fleas market pieces….I think I’m starting to sweat, like I said, overwhelmed, buried alive, frustrated, and unfortunately, extremely sentimental. It makes getting rid of things a nightmare. I look at a box with dread, but then I open it and the “Oh I remember this.”, or the “But the kids made this…gave me this… might want this…”, and then there is, “It might be worth something, we can’t just get rid of it.” Breaking stuff (on accident I swear) takes the decision making out of it for me. I feel an instant pang of regret, followed by an equally joyous moment of elation because I have to throw it out. I’m sure to some of you it would be easy. No room for that old doll? Off with its head. Another antique plate? How many plates can one eat off? Gone! But not me, I remember every piece, every moment. I know that the vintage wooden pillars with the delicious aqua patina were a steal for $35 at the Wheeling, Illinois Flea Market. The guy had no change and I did, so he let them go. The white shabby half column? From a road trip through Ohio with Dan and the kids, the same trip that brought me the reproduction funky, slightly creepy, painted crow with the glass eyes that seem to stare right through you. The four green Depression glass plates that Jessica bought for me, one of the first gifts she bought me with her own money. The little ceramic chef that was a gift from my mother-in-law that reminds me so much of Brian. I obviously have issues. For me vintage pieces come with a former life, a connection to another soul, something that someone cared enough to hang on to, maybe it comes from the desire to have a larger family. Most of our family is in Ireland. No big family reunions, no crazy aunt that everyone giggles about behind her back, no old family home with an attic filled with treasures. For most of my life it was just my parents and my three sisters. When the four of us were married and had eight children between us, I was thrilled. When the kids were small holidays were great. Now I am here in California, the kids have all grown, my daughter lives in New York, my niece currently resides in Nebraska, another nephew exploring the idea of Texas, my sister soon to move to Nevada, and our parents are gone. We’ve gone from a party of eighteen to three, and that is only until Brian decides where he will end up, and then there are two. There is no one in the world I would want to be in a duo with more than Dan, but it does get lonely in our little world…did I get sidetracked? Yes, of course I did. Back to the stuff! The boxes are dwindling. I am finally making some headway, and making some hard choices along the way. We have decided to set aside some things we really love, even if that means they live in a box in the garage for now.

In an earlier post I mentioned the possibility of starting a blog about our new home and the renovations we would undertake. The truth is that the house just isn’t large enough to do that. We have made some changes, significant ones, but I think that I could cover it in about two posts. Some changes will have to wait for monetary reasons, some because quite frankly we are tired, and some because we have decided that this time, in this house, we will take our time and get what we really want. So for now I’m off to the land of bubble wrap and moving boxes, and hope that in today’s game of Jenga I come out the winner.

One final note, our twenty-sixth wedding anniversary was June 24th. Dan’s job made it impossible to go out for dinner. As anyone who reads my ramblings might know, the one thing we miss the most about our old house is our garden.The new garden is a hideous mess of dead weeds and hard cracked ground, but there is just a small bit of a patio. I decided with a little help from Brian to create a little piece of our favorite city, Paris, in our own back yard. A quick trip to the home improvement store for some lattice panels and metal brackets, some rummaging through our stuff, and a bistro was born. We had dinner in the garden, and enjoyed it so much we plan to expand on it. (That will be of course once the Jenga game is completed) A few photos of the “bistro”.

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