Not only to fly, but to bring the world's eyes...skyward.

Friday, January 14, 2011

The Speed of Life

When Pam and I were married in 1999, she was busy enough being a world-class mom to her boys, Christopher and Justin. Mini-me came along a couple of years later, and then, just as we were really starting to hit our stride as a blended family, came 9/11. I began to think I'd better forget any definition of the word "stable" that didn't have to do with horses.

They say when times get tough, however, survivors flourish. I'm not sure what that makes me, since by all outward appearances I'm still doing about the same as I was then, but Pam's a different story. As the airline industry cinched our belts, she insisted she do something more to contribute to our little branch of Household Finance, but with no degree or professional experience, we agreed she'd be very lucky to get any job that would bring home even minimum wage after taxes and child care expenses. Having grown up in an often dual-income family, I knew a job would put our family's bedrock, the one that two boys, their stepdad, and a baby all loved and were loved by unconditionally, under stress -  and cast our relatively happy home into chaos. Not to mention strangers would be "helping" raise our child. Joe Pesci couldn't have said, "No friggin' way!" any better. If she wanted to help, that was fine, but it had to be on our terms, and whatever she did had to make her no less happy. This house never has been big enough for two active neurotics.

For my part, I was going to just fly my wings off, bypass those low-paying magazine gigs, and use my layovers to write The Great American Novel. When I finished that "in a couple of years" (I was pretty sure it'd be fantastic), it would bring a modest but helpful figure, and by that time the predictably cyclical airline industry would be back to making really bad excuses for not treating its employees better. If you want to give God a laugh, tell Him your plan, right? Ten years later, I'm done writing that book, I only hope it's good because I've been unable to sell it so far, and I'm still working under conditions that would have made any 20th century airline's pilots go on strike.

Pam, however, as she's known for doing, found a way.

She started by getting back into scrapbooking - something she did in her previous life in Washington. She did it so well and enjoyed it so much, she started making "ready to fill" scrapbooks for other people. She sold some on E*Bay, and reinvested all the money into more supplies. The feedback she got from exercising those creative synapses made her start branching out into Artist Trading Cards and various other things, which stoked her fire. Then somebody poured some gasoline on it. She successfully competed for a job doing what's quite possibly her purpose on Earth - something that blended her love and talent for art with her love and talent for teaching: she became an art teacher at a local private school.

School politics left her in a dilemma about whether to stay after the first year, and she ultimately decided to leave, but that fire reached critical mass when a fund-raising student art auction at the end of the year raised a record amount of money. That fire was now sucking all the air out of every room she walked into. She didn't know how yet, but she was going to be able to say she was an artist.

By this time I'd finished my novel (the first time), and she swears she started feeling small around me. Here I was already making a living doing one thing I love to do and nearly at the top of my (decimated) profession, and now I was (someday) going to become an author to boot. Now, my love's not exactly competitive, but she cuts herself less slack than Tiger Woods (luckily for me). She started submitting articles for art magazines, and perseverance paid off. After one or two, heck, maybe even three rejections, she got her first byline.

They, and she, haven't stopped since.

Last month, just before she helped teach at a retreat in Paris, she got her first look at her biggest gig yet. Art at the Speed of Life is now available for pre-order from Interweave Press on Amazon, and several dozen advance copies are sitting here on our kitchen table, waiting to be sent to anyone who wants one personally inscribed by one of the newest, most productive, and I have to say most friendly and down-to-earth mixed-media artists in the world. If you're one such person, you should have a look around Pam's website and then maybe to her Etsy shop and become one of the first to read this visually stunning book in which she and over a dozen other established contributing artists show how Life doesn't have to stop you from doing what keeps you Alive.

Oh, and she's also a great kisser, by the way, but before you go get all googly-eyed and falling in love, I'd like to point out that she has yet to take even a single flight lesson. Guess my second-favorite Missouri author/artist Sara Evans had it right - love doesn't have to be perfect.

11 comments:

  1. What a beautiful testament of LOVE and respect for your wife. It's no wonder she is flying high and using her wings to guide so many others who want to claim the title of artist. Congratuations Pam, for following your heart and reaching such heights. Your work continues to inspire me on my creative journey. It's so nice to see a husband validate and celibrate his wife's success in such a heartfelt way!

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  2. You are a dream hubby, and I'm so happy you are Pam's...She is such a sweetheart and deserves the best!!! Blessings..a friend of Pam

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  3. Great post - a loving tribute to your wife and family. Wow, a family with two authors...dreams do happen. Congratulations, Pam, for following your creative dreams and on your book being published.

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  4. I have to agree...Pam is the most friendly & down to earth artist in the world. Love that girl!!

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  5. Oh my goodness I am sitting here with tears streaming down my face. this is just such a beautiful, heartfelt message. I lost my husband two years ago, he was 32 and I was 33. I only wish I hadn't assumed I had so much time in front of me to tell him all I felt and how very much our children and myself worshiped him. Pam is so very lucky to have you and you her. Thank you for showing me true love does exist.
    Kirsty

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  6. So inspiring! This is beautiful. Go her, and go you!

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  7. Congrats! That must be super exciting.

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  8. Ok, I really love the comments, but I have to ask, where were all these women who so adore thoughtful, supportive guys when I was sleeping with my pet rock as a bachelor? (Apparently, sleeping with all the guys who can't retire now because of their alimony payments...) ;-)

    I actually had one girl ask, as she got into my 1972 ragtop for our first date, "What year did you say this was?"

    My proud reply, "1972."

    Hers, "Smells like 1972."

    I still bought her dinner, and I've never forgiven myself, or understood why I did that.

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  9. What a great story. I loved hearing it and can't wait to meet the two of you one day. Pam and I have talked on FB (I live outside of STL) cause we are on a similar path - my book also comes out in a few weeks. Anyhoo, I so admire her art and the life she has invented. Hearing your side it is even better.

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  10. So many awesome comments! Me like! Thank you all!

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