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It’s the little things

This weekend, I’ve been reflecting on little actions that have affected our little family during this last week. I’m amazed at how often these everyday, throwaway, and otherwise inconsequential things have consequences that are disproportionate to the action itself. In no particular order, here’s what I mean:

  •  My older daughter, who because of a difference in age cutoff dates for kindergarten between California and Vermont is much younger that her peers in the same grade, started what we call 6-1/2 grade this year. Academically, she did fine last year, except in English. This year, we found that last year’s English teacher retired and she now has a younger teacher who has a complete different pedagogy and instructional method. My daughter is now engaged and excited about everything she does at school. One tiny change — holding her back from progressing to a full 7th grade class — has already resulted in some amazing differences in her attitude and self-confidence. This flower, given to her by her younger sister, really reminds me of my older daughter because of the profusion of petals that mirrors her wide variety of interests and joy for life.

pink flower

  • My darling husband, who has been a frustrated in his professional life, applied for a position as the Lister for our little town. This Lister works with tracking property assessments, verifying values, and other related issues. It doesn’t have a lot of pay or a huge number of hours, but it is a job in which he has ample training and experience for his to excel. He was selected by the Town’s Selectboard, and starts this week. Although it seems little, I see the huge implications: success in something he desired to do, a chance to network into a more fulfilling career in a field he enjoys, and a way into the close-knit word-of-mouth based real estate community in our town. Our goal is to buy our first house together in one year, and here’s a first step.
  • My younger daughter went for a walk yesterday, and here’s what she brought me. It is my absolutely favorite shade of red on the planet, and she brought it because she knew I would like it.red flower
  • I started a certificate program in which I will learn about Autism Spectrum Disorders. Our younger daughter is not on the Autism spectrum, but her tests revealed that she exhibited some traits and may yet be “on spectrum,” as it’s termed where I work. She was very excited that I am learning about this condition and how to teach people with it because I’m learning ways to connect more closely with her. I’ve also been invited to a private lunch with Temple Grandin, whom I tremendously admire, and have discovered a chance for financial stability that we would otherwise not have found. All of this happened because of one simple choice to learn how to be a better teacher.

It’s these little things in which I sense the Creator working her magic. I think these small magical occurrences heal our souls, re-energize use, and renew our strength to spread love to the world.

How can writing an accounting text be art?

I’ve been working on a textbook for what seems like forever. Actually, one of my best friends and I have been doing this. Whenever people ask me the topic, which is payroll accounting, their eyes inevitably glaze over and they mumble a sort of  “ehrm” sound.

Umm

 

It’s not the sexiest topic in the world. Part of me feels embarrassed that I chose to coauthor a textbook about one of the most nerdy, probably least glamorous topics on the planet. I could go into the practical reasons why the text is important and why we wrote it, but the fact that it is being published at all is enough.

Today I ran across an article about the business of being an artist. As a business professor, I have to admit that I have had trouble understanding why someone would deliberately develop his or her artwork with the intent of  making it a career. I’ve probably looked like Mr. Cumberbatch (in the image above) when one of m students had the courage to tell me of their career plans as an artist. I guess I’ve always viewed the art business as being for people who either liked to be poor or had enough familial money to not worry about making a living.

Reading this article changed my perspective — both about my own work and about my students’ ambitions.

In Art, Inc.: A Field Guide to the Psychology and Practicalities of Becoming a Successful Artist, Maria Popova explains how selling your artwork is an investment in your own future. How people who create art are inevitably sought after to help other people understand the world or find meaning in their lives. As I consider the art on my walls, I realize that it simply never occurred to me that my purchase and display of other people’s art was a way to find meaning in my life.

But it is.

Each piece has a special significance for me. The painting of my brother and me when we were very young reminds me of my grandmother’s house, of innocence, and of times before adult cares overtook my life. A print of what I think is a Monet piece that depicts a bridge makes me think of my journey through life and  the way I see my purpose in it. Even my old watercolors of WSan Francisco, which reminds me of the house where I grew up, have their place in my life.

Popova’s article mentioned that the artist’s mindset is what defines their perception of their work. For me, writing this textbook has been so much a part of my life that it is as natural as breathing. I don’t see it as anything special because I’ve been writing for so long that the process has become commonplace. When my coauthor and I went to a professional conference a few months ago, it started dawning on me how unique this writing piece is. People I didn’t know were in awe of this work, which I found odd because of my perspective that it was ultra-nerdy but commonplace. And that it was a project on which I have worked without monetary reward that I have become accustomed to it being a labor of love.

What I didn’t realize until today was how much creative talent went into this work. And how much my coauthor and I deserve any material reward that comes. We have labored countless hours on taking a mundane concept for which only one not-so-good textbook existed and have engaged our skills, talents, and unique gifts to make a student’s life  — and understanding of this small, but very important, piece of accounting — a little better. And maybe, just maybe, it will enable the student to secure a fruitful career so they may buy a piece of art that lends meaning to their world.

So this tiny part of my life comes full circle. The study, labor, and artistry that went into creating this nerdy book is one of my gifts to the world. I am an artist.

 

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