Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Life changes and my break from artworks


Why I stopped working on artworks for a while:


Just a couple of years after starting my art business in 2004, my husband and I started flipping houses.  We had already remodeled and sold our first house successfully, and really enjoyed it.  We bought our next house (already remodeled) and purchased a two story flip house at the beginning of 2008... Right as the market crashed...  We suffered thefts and break-ins, the heating system was destroyed a week after we bought the house due to previous owner error, and the project was just too big.  Our "remodeled" house proved to be a nightmare as well, and in the middle of the other project we had to stop and rebuild the back half of the house we lived in.

renovating our 1896 home, remodeling an older home, rebuilding an older house
We discovered the back wall was not attached to the floor, after
our kitchen fell down!  So much for a home inspection...
renovating our 1896 home, remodeling an older home, rebuilding an older house
A little structural integrity for our 1896 home.  I loved this
house, it's too bad it was in the middle of the city.
renovating our 1896 home, remodeling an older home, rebuilding an older house
I don't remember what I was working on here,
but obviously  I'm busy doing something!
After spending over a month with a hole in the middle of our house instead of a kitchen, we finally installed a new kitchen, rebuilt the back wall of our house, and were ready to continue with the flip house.  It was a slow, grueling 8 years trying to get it finished.  Halfway through that 8 years I went to work as a legal assistant to try to help pull the project through financially, but with the market crash on top we just couldn't make it happen.  After two years of typing, my tendons in my forearms started tearing, and the stress of the environment started giving me panic attacks.  By the end of four years there, my arms and hands were in really bad shape.  Two good things came from this time period though - I got braces (yay!), and I bought my horse.

PSSM1 horse, muscle disorder, polysaccharide storage myopathy
Thanks to this guy, it was all worth it!
After four years, I was put to part-time and, because of the overwhelming debt from the flip house, we were no longer able to stay afloat.  We finally decided it was time to make some big decisions.  The flip house wouldn't sell in it's current state for what we owed (we tried to sell it for over 6 months).  I couldn't type without ice packs on my hands, and consequently I also couldn't work on the flip house (drawing/sculpting was no longer possible either).  We filed for bankruptcy and I quit my job, and went on full-time to my next adventure:

The beginning of a new life:


During the same week that my job changed to part-time, I was offered a training position at my horse's boarding facility.  Even with my tattered tendons, I jumped on the opportunity.  After quitting my job at the law firm, I started training full time.  I started colts and tuned a few older horses for over 2 years, and I loved it.  This was a time in my life where I experienced a lot of personal growth.  I learned so much from every horse that I was blessed enough to work with, and enjoyed the friends that I made during this time.  This is probably also one of the single most important experiences for my artworks, as I'll explain later...

training young horses, starting colts, artist Jen Pratt
One of my favorites!  This mare was a difficult one to start,
but had a great mind and personality!
training young horses, starting colts, artist Jen Pratt
This guy was extremely curious and a fun one to work with.  He
got injured in a pasture accident and I had to stop working with him.
training young horses, starting colts, artist Jen Pratt
Giant 3yo Clydesdale.  Could be a little flighty,
but tried her heart out for me.

Things are about to change, again:


Unfortunately, the tendon issues got worse, and moved up into my elbows.  My horse was also starting to have health issues that the vets couldn't figure out.  I decided to take a break from training and see if I could help my horse get healthy again, and get my arms healed up (actually, I should state that my doctor decided this - when I was told I could lose the use of my arms by the age of 40, I decided I needed to focus on my health - and the chance of never doing artworks again - first).

It was during this time off that I learned I have Asperger's Syndrome.  That was an eye-opening moment.  All of a sudden, I was learning more about myself than I had in the 37 years prior.  I learned about my extreme shyness, why working in an office situation was causing panic attacks, and also about my proprioception issues that sometimes made training horses a bit difficult.  I learned that Asperger's generally came with muscle issues, such as fibromaylgia and hypertonia, which could explain why I have so much trouble with my tendons (these issues with my arms are not the first time or place I've had tendon issues).  I also learned why living in the city for close to 20 years had my health and sanity waning.  It was time, again, for some big decisions.

Focusing on the important things:


To get my horse healthy again, I started trimming his feet and massaging him (this did NOT help my tendons, but it did help my heart to watch my boy get better).  I started doing yoga, and even began jogging again, though that was short-lived due to knee strain.  I decided that other people's views on the "ideal" house and environment (bigger homes, city life) was not conducive to my happiness, and my husband and I started looking at the prospect of downsizing while moving towards getting land of our own.  I started reading minimalist books, and formulated an insane idea to hopefully make life easier.  Then this happened:

mobile home rebuild, 1970 trailer remodel, old single wide renovation
Meet "Gilda May", a 1970 junker trailer!
mobile home rebuild, 1970 trailer remodel, old single wide renovation
3/26/16 - Don't let it fool you, it's nastier than it looks!
mobile home rebuild, 1970 trailer remodel, old single wide renovation
3/26/16 - Soft floors and weak cabinets are hiding...
single wide rebuild, 1970 trailer renovation, old trailer remodel
4/1/16 - Extreme rot!  Good thing we were planning major demolition!
single wide rebuild, 1970 trailer renovation, old trailer remodel
4/2/16 - Hubby fixing a rotten area so she'll survive the move!
She's not pretty, but she has a heart of gold!  We bought this trailer that had been sitting empty for almost 5 years and had fire, termite, and water damage.  We moved it to a nice mobile home park out of the city and close to my horse, and remodeled it (basically, we tore out everything and rebuilt it!).  We bought it in March of 2016, and were finally able to move in (while still unfinished, but livable) in December of 2016 (right after getting a PSSM1 diagnosis on my horse and moving him closer to our new home - see Jax's Story if you want to know what else I was up to during this time).  All of this work, of course, set my tendon healing back quite a ways, but it was worth it - it's turning into a very comfortable, inexpensive-to-maintain home (and no mortgage!).

buying an older mobile home, moving an old trailer, buying an old single wide
4/5/16 - I don't know why, but I love this picture.
She looks as determined to get out of the city as I am!
single wide rebuild, 1970 trailer renovation, old trailer remodel
4/7/16 - the demo work
was all (well, mostly) me
single wide rebuild, 1970 mobile home remodel, old trailer renovation
4/19/16 - I guess I just love
tearing things up lol
single wide rebuild, 1970 mobile home remodel, old trailer renovation
5/29/16 - reconstruction work was all (well, mostly) Jared
single wide rebuild, 1970 mobile home remodel, old trailer renovation
6/25/16 - Insulation going in
single wide renovation, 1970 trailer remodel, old trailer rebuild
7/10/16 - Finally, a floor to walk on!
single wide renovation, 1970 trailer remodel, old trailer rebuild
11/5/16 - as usual, not paying attention and got my picture taken!
single wide renovation, 1970 trailer remodel, old trailer rebuild
11/27/16 - it's starting to look like home
single wide renovation, 1970 trailer remodel, old mobile home rebuild
1/2/17 - the beginnings of a kitchen


Downsizing meant giving away, donating, and selling a LOT of things, including the majority of my houseplants.  I still hate that I had to sell my 6' tall philodendrons, but I did get to keep these: 

single wide renovation, 1970 trailer remodel, old mobile home rebuild
Still quite a bit left of my house full of plants - a few
orchids, my herb garden, and my small black elephant ears.
Coupled with my bird of paradise, not a bad group of plants!
single wide renovation, 1970 trailer remodel, old mobile home rebuild
Just a few months after our move, this
beauty rewarded me with its first blooms.


Towards the end of 2017, my tendons are getting better and it's finally time to get my workspace in order!

artist workspace, art work area, art studio
My desk area with tons of storage
artist workspace, art work area, art studio
My small items that take up way more space than they should!
artist workspace, art work area, art studio
Jared (hubby) built this easel and it works amazing!

So at this point, you're probably thinking "this is after they downsized?"  It is!  With art materials, it's hard to really follow a minimalist approach lol, though we have minimized many other things and aspects of our lives.  But, we went into this seeking comfort and ease of living, not really to follow a methodology.  

The drive behind all of this:


We still have a bit of work adding in the half bath, finishing the kitchen, and of course flooring throughout.  But while we've continued to work on the house, we haven't been killing ourselves to get it done.  There's this pervasive feeling that "things need to be done now" - the problem is, when do we enjoy life?  When do we relax, live, and focus on the journey instead of the destination?  How do we become "that couple" in their 80's that giggle about the silly things they've done, the moments they most enjoyed, and the life that they lived?  And most importantly, how am I closing in on 40 years old before figuring this out?

Difficult decisions can set you on the right path:


For me, the answer is in simply choosing what is important, and letting the rest go.  The path I'm on now came from necessity:  I had to choose my health, or money (along with ego and pride for pulling off the impossible with our flip house).  I chose my health, which lead to an amazing experience of training horses.  During that time I had to choose between the normal idea of home and community, or a stepping stone to my dream of my own land and comfortable surroundings.  I chose to follow my heart and do what seemed counterproductive to "moving up". Again, my health came into question, and another difficult decision:  I took a break from training, and during that time, another huge decision: my horse's health, or the possibility of training horses again after (if) my tendons healed.  I chose my horse, and moved him to a different facility that would give me trails and an indoor arena on site.  

At this point you may ask how I've benefited from these decisions.  In short, I'm happier than I've ever been.  My horse has an incurable disorder, however, the fix is to exercise and play with him daily.  My home is cheap and easy to maintain, and it's no longer in city limits (read as no barking dogs or sirens waking me up, less traffic, and so much more!).  I have time to get back to my artworks, my health is improving on many levels (including tendons), and I'm one step closer to land and having my horse on my own property.  Through my experiences with horses, I've gained the "feel" I've been missing in my art, and have learned to enjoy the journey rather than seeking a destination.  At this point in my life, I truly feel blessed and ready for whatever God has next for me.

"Love Your Life"


If you poke around on this site long enough, you'll see little artworks here and there with the theme "Love Your Life".  This is my new motto, one that I hope to keep in mind daily.  As all of these events were unfolding, it seemed like so many things were working against me, and there is so much more that I didn't write down in this post.  But when you take everything as a whole, you can see a theme develop that is actually quite beautiful, and pushing me in the direction that I've always wanted but couldn't quite find.  The reason for this post is not to "air my dirty laundry" lol.  It's to share my experiences, and if possible, to help others find their "beautiful theme" as I've found mine.  In short, I hope this helps others to "Love Your Life".




About the Artist:

horse artist, equine artist, PSSM horse
Since starting my art business in 2004, I have been on a roller coaster ride that's taken me from art, to house flipping, to legal assistant, to horse trainer, and a full 180* back to my artworks.

I'm thankful to get back to my art, and also for the life experiences I've gained.

Things in life that matter the most!  Jen, husband Jared, and Jax








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