Tuesday, January 23, 2018

New Year Reflection and Thoughts on our Changing Society

How has this past year been for you all? What was your 2017 theme? While there have been many triumphs for me personally, I feel that I have been mentally and emotionally exhausted the past six months especially, and I am positive that at least a large contribution to that is due to the many global and cultural atrocities that are coming to light. This past year has been one of plenty of introspection and especially transitions for me--that would be my theme for 2017. Transitions through work, transition of location cross-state, transitions through personal development, and most notably, transitions of values.

Ever since I was a little girl, I knew I wanted two kids; a boy and a girl. It has never not been a part of my mind as I thought about my future. Consciously, I wasn't completely sold on the whole American dream, 'green-lawn-with-white-picket-fence' vision, but in a way, I was still following that conditioning. I had this idea that you sort of somehow effortlessly flow from being a young adult in your early twenties to being able to physically, mentally, emotionally, and financially handle children. It is only in the last year or so that this idea has completely changed for me.

I have become increasingly aware of the issues going on in our globe, specifically climate issues, and what large contributors are present but widely disguised in our culture. These problems are becoming so pressing and grave that I often find it hard to live the life of ignorance that we are socially constructed to. (I intend to write a more in-depth blogpost about climate issues and how it affects everything, but I will try and keep it brief for this one!) When I researched the topic more, I found out that having a child in this consumerism-driven country is the single most carbon-producing thing you can do in your lifetime!

If making such a huge carbon-footprint isn't a good enough reason to rethink having children, just look at the economic and financial factors that go up against millienials in this era. College tuition has gone up 1120% over the last three decades, leaving thousands of millenials plagued with potentially a lifetime of school debt. Rent, utilities, food, gas, and other living expenses across the country are only getting higher while wages have overall been very slowly increasing, or staying near the same depending on the job or location in question; this means that our current minimum wage is not enough to support individuals in this society.

Many millenials are then forced to life with their parents since they have no way of developing a savings, let alone paying their bills and debt. For this reason, they are then put down for 'not leaving the nest' or 'not being enough of an adult' by those that don't understand the societal and economic cirumstances that keep them there in the first place. Not to mention that the workforce here isn't always an easy thing to handle these days...

Whoever said there are lazy millenial workers out there need to show me where they are, because I've only seen hardworking ones in my community. Many I know work multiple jobs, sometimes working part-time jobs all around the hours of their full-time jobs!
While I waited for my printed decks to arrive (as well as feeling low on funds after both moving and my car dying) this past summer, I decided to get a part-time job. For months, I tried to get in touch with companies over some decently basic jobs. From online translation to teaching painting to paint-n-sips to instructing pottery to even cake decorating, I couldn't believe the lack of timely response--if any response at all--for the handful of jobs I applied and even interviewed for. Overall, I felt little to no care and respect for my time and energy by businesses, both big and small.

The job I finally did get and decide to pursue had a very lengthy training (where pay was minimum wage for over a month), and yet I somehow learned nearly all of the tricks-of-the-trade and how to successfully perform the job from my co-workers rather than the manager. It was a relatively fun job that actually never left me looking at the clock, wondering when it was time to go. But that was mostly because it was incredibly fast-paced, physically and mentally-exhasuting job that was a constant balancing act of multitasking.

While this job has served me over the last 6 months, it was also a very hostile environment to work in. Five co-workers (who were all wonderful, professional people and hard workers) have quit in the short time that I have worked there, one was fired for reasonably expressing the unfairness in the workplace to the manager, and all of us nearly all quit at the same time after the company's HR department refused to help us. There's been emotional meltdowns, lies, severe unprofessionalism, and a lot of both time and extra hard work gone unpaid for. I am shocked at the level of consistent unfairness and disrespect I witnessed.

I made the tough decision to once again lack reliable, consistent pay in my life and say enough is enough--I'm going back to my full-time work as a self-employed artist. I knew this was not a healthy environment for me to be a part of. Why should we choose to live our short lives often in frustration, irritation, and stress over the unfairness of our institutions--especially the workplace, in which we are involved with the majority of our days? 

Overall, I feel an unbelievable sense of freedom after recently leaving this job. And yet I am so grateful for it, as well as the job search prior, as it all reflected to me the sick way we treat our fellow humans in the business world--I think I needed to go through it to fully understand it and how I can support those in my community. As I reflect back, I can't say I've had a single job with a company--big or small--that left me feeling remotely well-treated and cared for.

Mind that when I say "cared for," I do not mean working a little to profit a lot, I mean working hard for a professional business that has honest, down-to-earth morals, where I am not disrespected inside or out of the workspace, and am paid a reasonable amount that is promised to me for the work I put into it. That's really all I am looking for out of those jobs. Perhaps I have simply been a part of only the less fortunate jobs out there, but I get the impression that this is a situation that many of us have at least experienced once--that is, if we are not already currently experiencing it.

It's not an unpopular opinion to see greed present within corporations (both big and small), which are represented in just about every direction we look here in this country. You can barely drive a mile in the area (if that) without seeing a brand name somewhere, whether it be on a big billboard, a chain/branch of that business, or even a soda can lying the street. In this country, we have a very unhealthy relationship with work, and it shows. We are socially constructed to have much more of a driven, work-heavy, and corporate mindset compared to that in other places. In this country, work becomes us. We are our work. 

When you meet a new person, one of the most traditional things to ask is, "What do you do?" meaning, "What is your job/career?". While inquiring about hobbies/interests may be part of why you ask the question to begin with, that aspect almost always comes second. If one takes time off of work for personal reasons, it can be looked down upon by peers. Most, if not many jobs, are working within coporations, often a hierarchal system that is set in place by whoever is in the very top position, who is often paid exponentially more than those working at the bottom.

As I look at this messed up system and difficulty to financially thrive, I think, "How could I possibly do this and support a family?" The only ways I can clearly see is that you perhaps studied how to be a doctor, an engineer, or are involved in some other well-paying field. Or, of course, you just happen to be born into a very wealthy family. Even graduating from college does not guarantee you a good job; I have multiple peers who, after getting their masters, will land minimum wage jobs right after graduation to make ends meet and try to chip away at their debt. This is quite insulting to the time and energy it took for phD students to acquire the knowledge and passion they currently have within their degree. It's also an incredible shame to our society; when the educated (and our educators!) are not given a decent enough means to live from the earnings in their field where they cannot adequately focus their time and energy on their work, we are severely missing out on the knowledge, the science, the studies, etc. that they have to help our species grow and expand.

Taking care of children is also exponentially expensive. Even when we don't think at all about the enormity of college tuition, expenses are very high. There's food, diapers, clothes (that they grow out of), utilties (water, heat, etc.) in a safe home, and whatever additional furniture/materials needed to raise a healthy child. You might argue that there are ways to cut expenses, and there certainly are. For instance, children's books can be found at libraries, thrift stores have plenty of affordable clothes, family and friends might be able to hand down cribs, strollers, etc. But even then, for many families find that this is not enough to be afforadable. And in addition to these expenses, there's also daycare.

If one or two parents spend all day working to financially support their child, that child needs to be watched. If you are already working at minimum wage, how do you pay a sitter at minimum wage to take care of your kids for the same amount of hours that you are working? Even parents on benefits struggle; SNAP (national food benefits program; food stamps) benefits have been severely cut, especially in this last year due to the brutal tax cuts that have been recently made.

Mind you, if you do have kids or are highly motivated to have kids, I write all of this with no intention to insult or press judgement; despite the climactic repurcussions and potential financial struggles you may be facing, we do serevely need a generation that is smarter, more conscientious, more open-minded, and more empathetic than we are if we want to do our best at saving the life on this planet. This just gives a greater responsibility to parents nowadays; for those who do choose to have children, it is of the utmost importance to raise them with the right morals, with special focus on teaching empathy, openmindedness, and pursuing truth. We need a new generation that will be willing to continue to courageously fight for what's morally right despite what our culture, media, or government may say. In addition to that, we need a generation that is caring enough to support those outside of ourselves, despite our differences; to me, that includes not only humans, but the life that is also trying to survive on this planet.

That's why I am very excited to be working on children's books to teach good morals in how to care for the earth and one another. The last six months I have been so distracted from the part-time job that I have been severly disappointed in my own lack of posts (both blog and social media) as well as greatly reduced focus on my own work. But I am so happy and excited to be back, doing what I feel is the best way I can contribute right now. Up until this last year, I dreamed of doing Reiki full-time and helping people, but my focus has dramatically changed to helping the life on this planet. After all, humans are the true infestation on the earth, right?

While I admit writing this post is certainly cathartic and healing for my own self, I truly write this for all of you hard-working people out there. I hear you, and I feel you, deeply so. Whether you are working in the corporate world, for a small private company, or just doing you (like my crazy self!), I encourage you to always remain true to yourself and to get out of situations that may be toxic for you. While I personally have left the coporate "machine" for my own personal standards and morals, starting your own business as millenials in this economy is much harder than the past. 

So, simply do what makes you happy as much as you can, and do what you need to in order to survive. Millenials have become a new generation of transitions, and less so of stability--may all of us embrace this cultural shift and focus on quality of life more than quantity. This world has come into an extremely pivotal time; more and more dire situations are coming to light, whether it's close to home or affects all life globally. It's becoming harder and harder to have the time and enough true rest to replenish our physical, mental, and emotional systems. So may we all be gentle with ourselves and those around us, for all of our sakes--empathy is very important right now. We are all in this together, and the more we are there to support ourselves and one another (and stand up for what is right!), the better off we all are. 

While we cannot always control the circumstances around us, we can control how we meet those circumstances. Hence, this is a perfect time to consider the following: Which aspects are unhealthy and need to shift out of your life? What aspects of your life need to be honored and have more focus put upon them? May this new year be one of courage, integrity, and truly reaping the rewards from following our hearts. Wishing you all big, big blessings for this new year; may we instigate positive change in our own lives and beyond! 

As always, thank you very much for reading, dear viewer. I know this wasn't the most positive of posts (nor straightforward by any means, haha), but I felt these issues are pervasive and important enough to have a conversation about regardless. Speaking of conversations, please feel free to comment below; I would truly love to hear what you all would like to focus on for this new year! :)

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

(Belated) Christmas Letter

Sooo I initially planned to post this Christmas letter, but then got focused on other things and it fell
to the wayside. As of the last week, I thought about posting a New Year post, then remembered
the Christmas letter I had already drafted--so I decided to post it even if it was a couple weeks
late. But for those of you who have wondered why I haven’t been posting as much (wow, has it
really been a full year since I posted??), what’s been going on in my life, what project(s) are next,
etc., this (as well as the next post I will make) should answer it. Thank you in advance for reading
this blogpost, I appreciate it more than you know!
Also, feel free to write in the comments what you feel you accomplished in 2017 I would love to hear! :)
Hello family, friends, and supporters!

I am writing you during this time of year to express my profound gratitude for all of the support you
have given me. Working tirelessly on my own to advertise my own work only becomes worth it when
people are willing to listen and connect with what I do; it is because of YOU that I am able to pursue
my dreams of helping the world through my passions, and there are no words to adequately share my
gratitude for this. But I can at least share an update to show you how far I’ve come thus far thanks to
your support:

These last two years have proved to be a whirlwind of some intense and positive changes in my career
and personal life. In summer of 2016, I decided to quit my full-time job and take a giant leap of faith by
completely pursuing my own dreams. While this was one of the hardest things I have ever done in my
life as it has presented many challenges, it could not have been a better decision. I then spent the next
year working alone, holed up in my little Flagstaff, AZ apartment/studio, I had started a live Twitch
stream account and filmed myself live as I painted 4-5 days a week. During this time, I started making
animal portraits, which then evolved into the biggest project thus far in my career, my Animal Essence
Oracle Card Decks: Mammals.

In addition to creating the animal pieces for the project, I spent many hours researching and writing
descriptions that best fit that of each animal. I felt that the animals themselves had, in a way, chosen
me to create this project, and the message they each wanted to share with the world came through
easily and effortlessly. If you want to read more about the turning point in which I started this deck,
you can read my blogpost here: https://karenkliethermes.blogspot.com/2017/01/artist-statement-

I took another leap of faith and spent half my savings to print and order 500 decks. It would be an
understatement to say that there were many stressful hurdles in getting this project birthed to life. But
with much gratitude, it ended up all working out, and I indeed had approached the day where they
arrived at the front door.

To be closer to my family and have more opportunities for my work, I made the decision to move from
Arizona back to Colorado. This has certainly panned out better than I could’ve ever imagined. Thanks
to a wonderful, talented artist connection who got me to be a vendor at Sedona Wolf Week 2017, I
began my new path of towards animal conservation. This event got me a vendor table at the Running
Wild Race (Denver), which got me a vendor table and live-drawing performance at Katie’s Night
(Denver), which got me a vendor table Rock of the Apes (Denver) this coming May, and so-forth. All of
these events are ones that bring awareness and financial support to rescuing/saving/protecting animal
species in need. Donating my artwork to these kinds of organizations is a very small price to pay in
comparison to the knowledge, connections, and sense of benevolent community that I have received
in return.

Sedona Wolf Week 2017

Running Wild Race 2017

Katie's Night 2017

Body Mind Spirit Expo Fall 2017

This tremendous direction towards helping the animals has made me finally feel like my overwhelming
plethora of interests and passions has found its perfectly fitted glass slipper. It wasn’t until I was writing
my speech for the Body, Mind, Spirit Expo that I realized the foundation of my work isn’t just about the
animals; I now see that I am to help bring awareness regarding the importance of treating our planet
better, working as a tiny cog in the collective machine to bring healing to all life. If you're interested in
hearing this speech, feel free to watch it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sbxFayMiwEU

It was this speech that really set my train on the tracks and lit the fire within. I hope to continue to
inspire people with more speeches, especially surrounding our younger generations—as a collective,
we need to learn how to take better care of our planet, and teach our children this. I am also becoming
very impassioned about creating my own illustrated children’s books, and of course, continue to make
more card decks. I am currently working with the Plan B Foundation, a non-profit supporting North
American wolves, to illustrate a children’s book for them to use to educate children on the subject of
these serious matters. Additionally, I got my work cut out for me as I am currently doing the research
on birds for a bird deck! I have no idea when exactly this will be ready for purchase, but it may be
awhile--we’ll see. After the birds deck, I am intending to make a reptiles/insects deck, then an aquatic
creature deck.

Front Cover Ilustration for Plan B Foundation Non-profit Children's Book

From Plan B Foundation 2017 Newsletter

If all of this wasn’t enough of a career high for me to be on, it was around this time that I
unintentionally made a huge achievement as a local artist—my card decks were accepted into
the Denver Art Museum gift shop. The most amazing part of this was that this opportunity came
to me; never would I have thought or dreamed for my decks to land one of the most prestigious
stores in the area. A lovely lady, who just happened to work at the Denver Art Museum, found, loved,
and purchased my deck. She then showed it to her boss the very next day, and he immediately
contacted me, asking if it could be part of their collection.

The best part of this accomplishment is that here I diverted my artist path away from the more
professional, art gallery direction (which I often found to be too pretentious for my own personal
tastes) and more into my own path, one that was grounded in my authentic, spiritual self. To think
that my heart-centered work technically got into the Denver Art Museum instead of the way that I
was trained all four years of my college education—and within two years of graduation!—completely
blows my mind. Not to mention that the statistic of art students that are simply still doing art two years
after graduation is a slim 10%...this was all validation that I am indeed on the right path.

I started out being a full-time artist with a great wealth of determination. But if I am being honest, that
determination was also paired with an underlying sense of terror. I am so happy to say that in recent
months, I feel that I have finally started to learn to trust that I am always okay—financially, and
whichever way else. I am learning to trust in the Universe. As humans, we cannot predict which way
our worlds around us change, how those around us change, or how we ourselves change. But what
we can do is live in the moment, being the best humans we can be to ourselves and others in each of
these moments. We can learn to feel safe in that we are always growing, always moving, always
changing, always adapting.

In addition to your support of me and my work, I so appreciate you taking the time to read this letter. I
hope that sharing my experiences can perhaps encourage you all to follow your passions and your
dreams (or validate it if you already are!). Because after all, one could use my experience as proof that
the Universe conspires with us to make our dreams come true; we are what we think, what we feel,
etc. I believe we have each been placed here on this learning platform called “Earth" to learn specific
lessons through experience, and we have been each given special gifts that make this challenging life
on a difficult planet all the more rewarding and beneficial to yourself and your surrounding community.

I wish you all overflowing blessings on your own special paths; may we all choose to live genuinely
from our hearts, doing what fulfills us and encouraging those around us to do the same. I hope you all
have immensely beautiful holidays spent with those that you love, and feeling fulfilled with overflowing
with love, appreciation, respect, joy, and peace.

With Overwhelming Gratitude, Love, and Light,

~Karen Kliethermes