On Childbirth & the Reinvention of Self

When I turn my reflexion on myself, I never can perceive this self without some one or more perceptions; nor can I ever perceive any thing but the perceptions. ‘Tis the composition of these, therefore, which forms the self.

– David Hume: Second Thoughts

For the majority of last year, I was creating a tiny human.


An amazing CGI rendition of what happened inside of me…
These twelve minutes stretched over 40 weeks…

While I was in it, I don’t think I realized how much it was taking from me. I had physical symptoms that reminded me that the bulk of the good nutrition I took in was going straight to the baby, but I didn’t really notice that I didn’t have my usual oomph in regards to creative pursuits.

I just pressed on… creating that tiny human… and working at light speed to try to transition to my new business model… Continue Reading

My Life is Good

So good, I’d hazard to say it’s practically perfect.

I have an amazing home with a boyfriend I love. I have a cat of 12 years who I know as well as I know myself. I have a new kitten (still nameless!) to work in some excitement. And yesterday I exercised for the first time in weeks.

The #1 reason that my life is awesome: it’s 10:33 on a Monday and I’m lying in bed with my coffee and the kitten working on this website, jenniferheller.com.

This site has been a labor of love for many years. Whatever my passion du jour (mosaics, pet portraits, wood carving), I never stop wishing for more time and energy to devote to this site. I wished for so much time to work on this site (and other silly projects) that I threw caution to the wind and quit a full-time job I’d had for years on March 31st, 2009.

Since then, I’ve been forced to overcome many challenges. My perfectionist instincts, for one. And the realization that my dreams change almost daily, for another. The first dream I followed was a failed attempt at a pet portraiture business, Van Gogh My Pet.

Hangoverville was even less of a success. Lushes in Love caught on, but never proved profitable.

But these attempts were not without their lessons. I learned that “If you build it, they will come” is frankly not true. No, if you build it and promote it AND it’s brilliant, then they will come.

I launched Artsy Geek to capitalize on the web development and marketing skills I’d been building since I built my first website in 1996. Artsy Geek, I thought, would pay the bills and then, finally, I’d have the time and energy to work on this site (and other silly projects).

This year has been particularly trying. Artsy Geek has tripled its business since January.

Tripled! I didn’t see it coming.

That growth has brought with it more challenges than I ever expected. I regularly bemoan our success, saying “If I’d known it would be this hard to grow a business, I never would have launched it.”

I wonder at this moment if I still mean that. With a team in place that I can trust, I can scale back the 60+ hour work weeks. With the confidence to charge higher prices, I don’t have to work as hard for every dollar we earn. With a great reputation, we have enough business coming in that I don’t feel the need to jump at very last dollar. (Knock on wood!!)

And having survived on practically no income for many months, I can truly appreciate every dollar in my wallet.

With this new found breathing room, my sister suggested that I take my mornings to myself. With my mornings to myself, I can be sure to exercise more often and — perhaps most importantly — to pursue my long-term dreams of being a writer, a blogger and a talk show host.

So here I am. My head sings the Randy Newman song, My Life is Good:

Sure, I don’t have a housekeeper to write my songs for me or Bruce Springsteen asking me to be boss for awhile. But I do have a purring kitten, a stack of blog entries I’ve been dying to write and infinite appreciation for what I’ve built.

Ching ching!

New Office: Pros and Cons

This whole work-home separation has been really a) wonderful and b) hard.

a) Wonderful

– More stairs! I walk up and down at least (and this a conservative estimate) six times the number of stairs I did when I worked at home.  This has to be good for my butt and my general well being.

– Biking! I bike to work!!  So fun.  And Real Simple says that biking gives you more energy which is something I definitely need.

– No cat.  No one is meowing and clawing and trying to eat some of my lunch.

– People!  I talk to at least one extra person every day.  It rocks.

– Way cool space.  Warehouse 416 is a way inspiring place to spend my time.

– Friendship! (Yes, this is somehow different than people.) I have an office mate who is pretty freaking awesome and takes great photos that make the office look even better than it actually is:

(Photos by Sarabek Images)

b) Hard.  And stressful too.

– Rubberbands are hard to locate. I always kept a well-stocked home office which, I now realize, was relied upon in non-home affairs.

– Where to file?? My desk is at work.  I pay my office bills and my home bills at the same time (always have).  Where do my home credit card bills go?  Where do my work bills get filed?  (off subject — why are they not all e-bills??)

– What to do? Get up earlier? The office is in a warehouse that has an art gallery on the ground floor, artist studios and one other business office.  It’s pretty vacant and rather creepy late at night.  Which is when I’m used to accomplishing most of the coding necessary to develop websites…what can I say?  I’m a night person.  It’s quiet — no one calls and I can put on a soap, and get in the coding flow.  I’ve been tried staying late by talking myself out of American Horror Story memories and dissolving into the comfortable lull of Days of Our Live, and then boom!  The timer from the weekly Toastmasters meeting goes off startling the wits out of me and bringing back American Horror Story memories.  SO SCARY.

– No cat.  When I drop some food on the floor, I have to clean it up.  That’s a serious bummer.

 

We got an office!!!

I’ve dared to day dream of an office lately.

After 2 1/2 years plus of working out of my living room and running Artsy Geek via Skype and coffee shop meetings, I felt life was passing me by.

It wasn’t that I didn’t get out…I did.  But not as much as I wanted to.

It’s funny the strange packages answers to dreams come in.  I met with a potential client last week.  We instantly hit it off and she was telling me about how she needed to get an office space immediately.  I asked her what she was looking for in the office space.  When her words echoed my needs exactly, I ventured to mention my interest.

Not two days later she had found us an affordable office space with room to entertain clients and interns housed in one of the coolest art gallery / warehouse spaces I had ever visited on my Oakland Art Murmur wanderings.

Yesterday we sealed the deal. Warehouse 416 is the new home to both Artsy Geek and Sarahbek Images.

The whole walk back to my home office, my head sang, “Let’s put a new coat of paint on this lonesome old office…”

Myron.com. Sounds like moron.com, appropriately enough.

I received a stuffed envelope addressed to “MS. Jenniffer Heller” in the mail last week. Ms. Jenniffer Heller of “Artsy Greek Designs.”

OK, so it’s a promotional letter from some people who managed to get both the spelling of my first name and the name of my company wrong. It’s not the first time it’s happened, though it is the first time I’ve caught wind of “Artsy Greek.” Normally it’s “Artsy Geeky” or some such.

I open up the package and double over with laughter.

“Dear Ms. Heller,”

Yes!  They got that part right!

“Surprised to see the Artsy Greek Designs name on the enclosed Regatta Horizons Duo Diary sample?  Looks impressive, does it?”

I inspected the sample more closely.

Wait, that's not our name or our phone number!

I was definitely impressed.  The letter went on…

“Why just send a pocket calendar when you can make a really big impression?  The Duo Diary is two gifts in one – a pocket calendar and notepad.”

The question they didn’t address that’s worth asking…why send a pocket calendar at all??

But, you know, these pocket calendars are printed with erroneous information in gold.  I do like gold.

I received this letter dated "August 2011" with its limited time offer in October.

Only $1.99 each??  What a steal.  What do you think?  Essential tax-deductible purchase or the most essential tax-deductible purchase ever??

the truth of the matter is

I had a wonderful 17 days wandering around and having adventures with Will.

I came home, had a whirlwind-back-at-work 4th of July weekend and week after before heading out to Colorado for my grandmother’s postponed memorial and ashes scattering.

I’d never scattered any ashes before.

My grandmother had a computer. It was large and boxy and took up half of the room I used to sleep in with the water bed. She used it to write, as I often use mine to. She never had to use her computer to work.

Whether I’m writing or working or having fun with art, most of the time it’s at the computer. And it’s hard to work at the computer all day, every day. It was hard to come back to a life like that after walking for 6+ hours a day and exploring and swimming when I felt like it. Continue Reading

to do to do to do to do

I’ve just arrived in Berlin on my first vacation in three years.  Now don’t get me wrong; I’ve taken a few long weekends to camp or visit family, and I long ago instituted a rule where I  don’t work on Sundays.  But other than that, running Artsy Geek pretty much rules my  life.

When Will and I made plans for this European vacation at the beginning o fthe year, I had an anxious feeling in my stomach.  It’s not that I didn’t want to go; I wanted to go more than anything.  But I was terrified about how I would afford it and whether I would find myself working frantically on the train as the vistas passed me by unappreciated. Continue Reading