nothing to see here, move along

Not surprisingly, the busier I am, and in turn the more I theoretically have to blog about, the less I actually sit down and blog! It's hard to believe I'm already nearing the end of a second academic year of unemployment-by-choice. Here's what I've been working on:

S1:E3 #artistsinoffices Lisa Jonas Taylor in her home/studio.
Mostly, the podcast! Over a period of about four months between November and early March, I interviewed ten artists, including five here in the Bay Area and five elsewhere (Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, and Northern California). I'm in the thick of the editing process right now, with intro/outro music provided by my friend, Mr. Neat Beats.

I've been posting teaser images and quotes on Instagram plus related articles and such on Twitter and seriously cannot wait to be done, not only because I want to share these conversations with the world but because I have a few other things I'd like to wrap up before another summer of full-time mom camp (having barely survived the recent 7-day teacher strike as it is). I'm hoping to release the first half of season one by May 1st, with an episode a week to follow.

To that end, earlier today I caught up on another side project, the #sweetonoakland cookies. I donated a 6-month "subscription" to monthly 'hood cookies to my kids' school fundraiser last fall, so that's provided some motivation to keep that project going. I'm halfway through that commitment so more cookies soon, after which, barring a cookbook deal, I'll probably take a break to focus more time on other stuff.

Nothin' to see here, move along.

Other stuff primarily including my screenplay. Yes, I'm still writing it. No, it's not done yet. And no, I don't know what I'll do with it when it's done. But I will finish it. Eventually.


2018 holiday gift guide!

One of my weaknesses as a creative person is that I'm not super focused; contrary to popular advice, I like to work on multiple projects at a time. To that end, my creative efforts are pretty scattered across the interwebs. Some of those creative efforts can be yours for a modest fee! That's right - I sell things! So I thought I'd round them all up in one gift guide for the 2018 holiday season:

The photobooth film strip bookmark style holiday card!
In my main shop, in addition to custom holiday and New Year's cards, of course, you can find:

ready-to-send holiday stationery

a set of 3 cheerleader note cards

original screen prints

and digital art prints.

If you're a cat person, you can also buy a digital download of my 'I Feel Kitty' print (inspired by the poster design for the Amy Schumer flick, 'I Feel Pretty'). It's just $5 y'all. You can also follow my cats on Instagram. That's free. You're welcome.

That's it for that shop, unless you get engaged this engagement season in which case head back to the shop and peruse the save the dates and wedding invitations.

In my other Etsy shop (yes, I have two), I offer ready-to-send and custom Android phone cases

Mother's Cookies inspired note-cards

and, new today, DIY art kits for kids (and grown-ups, too!).

Due to ongoing drought conditions, the new state animal is the hardy tardigrade.
But wait, there's more! Remember the tardigrade project I started a couple of years ago? I haven't updated it much recently, but I did create a Redbubble shop at one point to sell products printed with the California flag redesign (waterbear in lieu of grizzly bear). You can get a variety of wall art and prints, men's t-shirts, women's t-shirts, a travel mug, and stationery & stickers all printed with the above image, which I made with felt and thread.

Get to shoppin', friends!


work, work, work

Now that my youngest kid is in (public) kindergarten, I have more time and money, which is why I continue to be unemployed-by-choice (spending about half of the traditional work-week with the kids and doing SAHM-type stuff). With more time, I'm certainly getting more done, and it's very exciting. I continue to plug away at two different bodies of work in my studio (here and here), am hoping to finish my screenplay early next year, and have finally started work on the "artists in offices" podcast!

Thanks to the generosity of an anonymous donor (if you read this, thank you; you know who you are), I got all the gear I wanted to get started about a month and a half ago. I made a couple of practice audio...things, one of which you can listen to here, in order to familiarize myself with said gear, using Adobe Audition to edit, etc. Interviews for the podcast began a couple of weeks ago. Not surprisingly, it's been challenging to find time that an artist with a day job is willing to sacrifice to talk to me for about an hour instead of working in their studios, but I'm on track to record about ten episodes for the first season into February of next year. The full season will be released by May 2019, hopefully sooner in the spring.

If you'd like to follow along, I have Instagram, Facebook (it's a closed group but feel free to join if you're into this kinda thing), and Twitter accounts created to socially mediate this effort. Eventually, the website will forward you along to where the podcasts will be hosted, with info on subscribing and all that good stuff. And if you're curious about podcast content beyond the title's summarization, this recent Vulture article by art critic Jerry Saltz is pretty spot-on (and hints at the podcast's second season, which will focus on parent-artists). The title of this post is taken from lesson 5 (of 33) about how to be an artist. You guys. It is so good. And validating. Stay tuned!


Damn I Wish I Was Your Kitty

As promised in my 2017-18 round-up post this past May, I finally finished a pretty silly video to accompany the cat-themed parody I wrote of Sophie B. Hawkins' 1992 song 'Damn I Wish I Was Your Lover'. I have this habit of singing my own lyrics to a variety of songs, made up on the fly, usually while trying to get my kids to do something when they're stalling. It's very improvisational and they're usually pretty corny. But sometimes it works. And singing is a proven stress reliever, so if nothing else, it helps me refrain from yelling at my kids all the time.

This habit overlapped serendipitously last spring with researching pop songs of the early 1990s as part of my screenwriting prep (yes, I'm still writing a screenplay). I wrote the lyrics, loosely dedicated to the plight of the adult shelter cat, in March or so, but finally finished and posted the video just yesterday. It's a little embarrassing and I put this project off many times due to utter absurdity, but always felt compelled to return to it (like my lice-themed parody of Hamilton's 'Wait For it' - video for that is up next! And by "up next" I mean in six months or so). A video of me singing along, featuring the newer addition to our cat family, Wolfi, is cut with shorter videos of mostly adult cats at Oakland Animal Services, where I volunteer every weekend. Give it a watch, share it if you have any (crazy or sane) cat ladies (or dudes), and most importantly, adopt your next companion animal from your city shelter and by all means, spay and neuter your pets!


Ja, it's redundant!

Yesterday was National Chocolate Milkshake Day. Yeah, it's a thing. There are multiple, random, mostly food-related holidays every day. When my midlife crisis flares up, I tend to look to these daily reminders that we're just making this stuff up as we go. Like the Indigo Girls sang it best, they "help me take my life less seriously."

That's about as deep as this post is gonna get. I was thinking about where in Oakland to get a chocolate milkshake. And I can think of a few (off the top of my head, Park Burger is probably my favorite). But, frugal as we have to be right now on one income in ridiculously expensive Bay Area, I didn't want to spend $20-25 on milkshakes for the fam'. So my holiday approach went bargain as I fondly recalled Arby's Jamocha shakes. Specifically, they remind me of summer vacations as a teenager spent with my maternal grandparents in Winnemucca, Nevada. My grandmother was retired by then but my grandfather was still working full-time. He'd come home for lunch most days, occasionally bringing take-out with him. I always looked forward to the oddly satisfying combination of roast beef and coffee-flavored chocolate. It's right up there with a frosty and fries from Wendy's.

I don't do red meat anymore but I do do coffee and chocolate. So what does "jamocha" mean, anyway? It seems to be a hybrid of java (meaning coffee) and mocha (meaning coffee and chocolate). So the "ja" is redundant, especially given how mild the coffee flavor is. But who cares?! It's delicious and fun to say! Sadly (or maybe not), the nearest Arby's in San Leandro is now closed permanently. So if I wanted a Jamocha shake to celebrate National Chocolate Milkshake Day, I was going to have to DIY this project.

Internet to the rescue! I found this top secret recipe online. The only thing I did differently, since my kids would be having some and after dinner to boot, was use decaf coffee and freeze it in little silicone cups (an ice cub tray would obviously also work but our fridge's icemaker has made those redundant so we tossed them years ago).

Break up the coffee cubes in the blender for a few seconds first, then follow the directions from there. I couldn't exactly do a side-by-side taste test but if memory serves me, this was pretty accurate. Cheers!


always finish strong

I did it. I survived 10 weeks of summer break (just 9 weeks with the 10 year old, who finished school a week after the 5 year old, two weeks of which he was at day camp and then sleep-away camp). Notice how I don't use the word "vacation"? It wasn't easy but, like the experienced runner I am was, I knew how to finish strong. Before I get to how we spent our last week, however, let's back up to early June.

Unrealistically ambitious, as usual, I created a to do list that linked to a weekly spreadsheet, with lots of projects carrying over from my school year to do list, as explained in this pre-summer post. Additionally, I started a weekly project collecting the detritus from nightly sweeping in emptied out snow/glitter souvenir globes originally used in this project. I filled a globe every week so now I have ten of these, a few of which have started to grow mold or...something. I'm still working on painting the bases and I'm not sure how I'll display and document these. What should I call them - globes of domesticity? Souvenirs of staying home?

In mid-June my brother and niece came to visit for a few days. We had lunch with Neal at his job in SF, sought out the perfect view of the Golden Gate Bridge, showed off Oakland a bit, and spent a day in Monterey. It was a nice way to start the break part of summer break.

For the week of 4th of July we escaped the madness of nonstop illegal fireworks in Oakland and drove instead to Bend, Oregon to visit family via Lassen Volcanic National Park. After that trip we welcomed our second set of foster kittens from Oakland Animal Services, having returned our first pair in mid-June (see Rosie, above). After a particularly trying day later in July, it dawned on me that, though admittedly imperfect (we can't save every underage kitten that comes to the shelter), the relatively short span between input and output in fostering kittens versus caring for children 24/7 was key to preserving my mental sanity during this summer experiment, even when spending time with kittens meant getting less of my to do list checked off.

That was summer's low point, in the middle of the three-week stretch during which we had little more than morning swim lessons planned each day. Fortunately, about a week later I managed to plan for both kids to be elsewhere at the same time so I could finally see Sorry To Bother You (I caught an advance screening of Blindspotting - if you live in Oakland you really must see both). It was my first time seeing a movie alone and it was heavenly.

During the penultimate week of summer break (I've written before about my fondness for that word, right?) the 10 year old went away to his first sleep-away camp. He had a blast and well, yes, taking care of one kid is easier than two. It was also nice to have some one-on-one time with my 5 year old and having just one kid in tow made playdates much easier to schedule.

For the final week of summer break, I'd planned early in the summer, not knowing just how stressful the middle portion would be, for the kids and I to go glamping (that's fancy camping if you don't know). Just the three of us. And I'm so glad I did. Other than nasty air quality due to wildfires north and south of us, distancing myself from the seemingly endless domestic duties of daily life allowed me to truly focus on just having a good time with my kids, something that's tough to sustain for all ten weeks of summer. We swam, ate ice cream for dinner, saw a movie when the air quality gave me a headache, and brought out the iPads only in order for me to enjoy the campground's outdoor shower. Alone. After all our ups and downs throughout the summer, we ended on a really positive note. And I've already mostly forgotten the epic meltdown both kids had in Berkeley's Live Oak Park when we did not have ice cream for lunch earlier in the summer.

Now to gesso these wooden dollhouse remnants for the second portion of my summer souvenir art project!


book deal dreams

As I near my final week of kid-free time (and by week I mean roughly 16-17 hours) to make stuff and write, before spending the summer with both kids in tow nearly 24/7, I wanted to take a little time to recap this academic year of unemployment-by-choice. First, a round-up of the posts I've written here about that decision and throughout the year (I didn't blog as much as I thought I might, only averaging about one post per month):

  • The announcement.
  • lice-themed parody of Hamilton's 'Wait For It'. I include this because I'm a parent, and the reality is this kind of stuff happens more often than you might think, sabotaging hours, sometimes days, of your well-laid creative plans.
  • I had planned to elaborate on the articles included in the initial announcement to quit my day job, above, but only wrote about a couple, here and here.
  • My first day of unemployment-by-choice included a field trip to The Color Factory. I was not overly impressed, despite the price tag and hype, and, in hindsight, shouldn't have been spending that kind of money on that kind of "experience".
  • Now that my most recent office gig was behind me, I could finally write the complete "artists in offices" chapter of the Burning Bridges series, a series of blog posts about my many day jobs over the past 22+ years.
  • I made a few things in the fall before I really got to work in my studio, including this Day of the Dead altar for my past cats. I've also spent much of this year volunteering with and advocating on behalf of Oakland's cat population, through my work with Cat Town and Oakland Animal Services. I volunteer with cats and kittens more consistently at the latter, but have done some administrative work and fundraising for the former. I was even interviewed by KQED and NBC Bay Area about the shelter's staffing crisis. So this post is key to taking total stock of how I spent my year. After all, I wanted to be a veterinarian throughout most of my childhood and for the first couple of years of college, before I switched my major to art. I won't say I haven't researched the cost of vet tech certificate programs.
  • I also saw a lot of art, mostly with my kids accompanying me. I wrote about the first half of the year here. We got out and about a little less in the second half of the school year but I'll write a recap of those field trips eventually.
Waiting for Daphne.
  • A little side project this year has been this Instagram account dedicated to mostly bathroom selfies I take while waiting for my daughter. I spend more time with her than my older son, as she gets ready for kindergarten (because preschool is expensive). I also wrote about these images here.
  • Finally, in January this year, I started making progress on my recent collection of mixed media...stuff, collectively titled 'Heavenly'. I wrote about the beginnings of that project and other stuff I did in the fall to "warm up" here.
  • In late January/early February I began applying to - and getting rejected from - various, local art residencies and exhibition opportunities. I wrote first about my generalist tendencies - problematic when you have so little time and really need to focus - here. Later I wrote about my frustration in the face of said rejection and my decision to pivot to screenwriting here.
  • I've been really into reading memoirs lately, perhaps because so much of my own art and writing are autobiographical in nature. In April, my last post before this one, I singled out 5 reasons why creative folks should read Felicia Day's memoir.

Day writes about her experience with Geek & Sundry, "the more mistakes, the better the story afterwards, especially if there's a happy ending." I feel like my starts and stops make one helluva story, but I'm still working on the happy ending. After all, nobody wants to read a story about a string of mistakes, do they?

Anyway, that sums up much of how I spent the past nine months. But in the spirit of checklists, let's see how much I accomplished from that initial to do list in my announcement last June:

  • I’m writing a screenplay. I need to finish it by next March so I can submit it to the Sundance Screenwriters Lab. 

Okay, so this is not finished and was not submitted to the Sundance Screenwriters Lab. And the story has changed a lot. But! I did manage to write over 40 pages and I feel pretty good about that. The trick will be finishing it, especially if I find myself in another day job situation at the end of summer. Which is likely.
  • I need more time to make art in my cozy little backyard studio. Preferably before I turn 65.
Yeah, I did this. Just not as much as I'd like and I haven't been successful in getting any of this new work out into the world anywhere, other than via social media. And maybe it's just crap, I don't know. I have also, if I'm being honest, been challenged by my lack of funds to go toward art supplies and any opportunities that require a fee. I've done a few and I've bought some supplies, but I have no money to put into my art practice. None. Nada. Zilch. Such is the paradox of making art.
  • I’m starting a podcast (and/or support network) about(/for) other artists in offices.
I did indeed start a Facebook group and very sporadically post items of interest to it, with minimal but satisfying interaction. I'm also very slowly making my way through the book Artists in Offices. And, most exciting, I took a class, at CCA of all places, with Julia Scott, about podcasting!

Hello old friend.

Unfortunately, it turns out podcasting is a little more expensive to pull off well than I imagined (is it considered bad audio to use Voice Memo on my iPhone?) so my goal is to buy minimal gear I'd need to practice with my kids this summer before scheduling interviews in the fall. I have a handful of willing interviewees so, again, I just need more time to pull this off.
  • I'm going to revive my boutique wedding invitation design business. But maybe explore platforms other than Etsy!
I did handle a handful of holiday card orders in November/December and continue to get the occasional ready-to-send card sale in my Etsy shop. But this one's tricky. I'm reluctant to officially call it quits, because if I could make some dough this way it'd be ideal in terms of schedule flexibility and parenting obligations and such, but the truth is, I do very little to promote my business. And there were things I didn't love about it, mostly the fact that, like a full-time job, it took over my life. I'm constantly debating "closing" the business so that, in the very least, I no longer have to pay the fees associated with owning a small business, regardless of income (business license, resale permit, checking account fees, etc.). But I'm hesitant to do so.
  • I’m working on a kids’ book based on the Cosmos series, starring a cuddly tardigrade as Neil deGrasse Tyson.
This has officially moved to my summer to do list, in the hopes that I can work on this during the summer months. In the meantime, you can check out past tardigrade tomfoolery here.
  • I’m planning to volunteer at the cat cafe until they just give me a job.
See above. No job offer yet, but I have been spending a lot of time with cats. Probably too much, if I'm really being honest. But I dig it. 

(Sweet) Caroline. Current foster kitten for Oakland Animal Services.
  • I’m compiling a “quit your day job” bibliography that will eventually be turned into a manuscript for a self-help book with the working title: “Little Boxes: How to get out of the office and into the studio...” (or something like that).
As I wrote above, I only elaborated on two of the articles included in said bibliography. Not exactly a book manuscript. But a girl can dream about a book deal, can't she?
  • I'm going to figure out how to make hand-stitched felt phone cases for Android, minus the carpal tunnel syndrome.
No progress made on this point and I'm 100% okay with that. I would, however, love to sell the handful of ready-to-send cases in my product inventory currently stored in my garage so if you know anyone with a really old Android device (and/or a really small smart phone), send them my way!
  • I’ll be making videos for my YouTube channel “dances with kids” of me, dancing with my kids.
I've made a few videos, some dance-related, some not. I have a video currently in the works for my cat-themed parody of Sophie B. Hawkins' 'Damn I Wish I Was Your Lover' (Damn, I Wish I Was Your Kitteh. Obvs.) so be sure to subscribe if you want to be one of the first to see that! You won't be disappointed.
  • I’m developing recipes for a cookbook called “Sweet on Oakland: Cookies Inspired by Oakland Neighborhoods".
I started a new recipe for the Dimond 'hood of Oakland in the fall but it flopped and I never really got back to it. This, like the tardigrade kids' book above, has been moved to the summer to do list. You can follow that project here. If you know anyone in the cookbook publishing industry, hook me up!
  • I’m starting a food truck business that serves only peanut butter & jelly sandwiches. Each PB&J order comes with a free carton of milk!
Again, nothing. But I have made countless PB&J sandwiches over the past 9 months. I'm sure I'll make a lot more for my two kids over the summer. Maybe I'll get creative. 
  • I’ve signed a NDA and I can’t tell you where I'm going from here.
This was never true, of course. I've signed nothing and I'm going nowhere. But if you want to offer me a super cool, creatively fulfilling, preferably not full-time but still well-paying day job I can do mostly from home, I'll sign an employment contract on August 13th, when my kids go back to school. Book deals also accepted.