My point, if I have one

My Wife Inspires Me
March 27, 2011, 8:09 pm
Filed under: Inspired Woman Articles

Note: this was written for a challenge called “Who Inspires You?” by the Inspired Woman magazine. I’m very proud they selected it for publication in the February/March issue.


Art & Soul

My wife, Kim Eslinger, is an artist. I don’t simply mean that she creates works of art, which she does, but she is an artist because of how art is in her and how she sees art all around her and how her many expressions of art come from a place so deep inside her soul. Her passion for art and for life and for love simply spills out of her and is absolutely, irresistibly contagious. She’s like the Pied Piper, but with brushes and pencils and crayons, rather than a pipe.

Kim’s passion for art comes with a price, which she is more than willing to pay, and I have to tell you about that to help you understand why she is so inspiring to me.

As I am writing this, she is doing homework. Or maybe she’s correcting someone else’s homework. She is a full-time teacher and nearly a full-time student. For several years, she has been working to finish a degree that will make her a better teacher. The scene in our living room right now is a replay of hundreds of similar evenings: I’m watching football; shes doing homework. I’m watching golf; she’s correcting homework. I’m watching the news, folding laundry, reading, fixing something, breaking something…and she’s doing homework AND correcting homework, and maybe developing some new curriculum. I’m going to bed, she’s “almost finished” with the homework. Midnight is an early bedtime for her. This is Kim at home.

Kim at work is no less resolute. Until recently, she was teaching three different classes at two different schools: an art careers class and a technology class at the middle school, and a digital design class at the high school technical center. That meant three sets of lesson plans, three bundles of homework to correct, and an “office” in the trunk of our car (then our living room, then back to the trunk). I often thought that if her art career students had any idea how hard she worked, they would never choose a career in art! This year, she feels like she’s catching a major break because she’s teaching in only one classroom.

It’s easy to question whether anything that requires this much work is worth it, but she gives it little thought. It’s just something that has to be done to keep her job. I know better, though. Nothing as mundane as job security can account for such a determined, tenacious pursuit of her goals. This is her calling. She’s always had a gift for teaching, even though I don’t think she recognized it as readily as everyone else.

In the earlier days of our marriage, Kim worked from our home as a freelance illustrator and graphic designer. She’s a very talented artist, and in those days, she also entered art shows regularly. She typically made a good showing with her illustrations of horses, carousel horses and wildlife. She misses that part of her creative expression, and hopes to return to it when she finishes this degree. We both look forward to that, yet I can’t help but wonder if she would have discovered her teaching gift if not for the need of a steady paycheck.

Which brings me to my next point of inspiration: how teaching just naturally flows from her. One day, she started a summer art camp in our barn. Sounds logical, doesn’t it? No? Well, it’s not like it just popped into her head. She was temporarily working for the after school “BLAST” program, doing arts and crafts with kids until their parents came to take them home. She created a problem, however, when the kids didn’t want to go home. Their parents recognized the value of what was going on there. They liked what they saw, and asked for more, not after the school day, but after the school year. Thus was born the Art Barn Art Camp, a successful little business she’s been running for several summers. By “successful,” I don’t mean that it makes much money. It makes her happy.

It would be a mistake to view Kim simply as a driven career woman, although she certainly is driven. For her, the late hours and extra workloads are not the kind of recipe for success you see in motivational books, or magazines for career women. It just comes down to her incredible passion. If she’s going to teach, she’s going to learn all the tools. If she has to drive all over town to find her students, well, fill ‘er up and let’s go. If she’s going to invite dozens of little kids to learn about art in a barn, she’s going to drag them through the woods to hunt out “art supplies” and she’s going to turn the slope in our backyard into a water slide (and be the first one to slide down it) and she’s going to inspire a slew of volunteer teenage staffers to become artists and teachers just like her. It’s all pretty much by accident; the by-product of her passion for life, for art and for kids.

So now, as I finally get around to finishing this little writing project a month after starting it, she has completed the last of her classes and aced the last of her tests. She’s ready for the cap and gown. REALLY ready. And this time, she is determined to walk up to the podium and accept her diploma in person. I made her miss her last graduation (25 years ago) by scheduling our wedding that day. (Hey, she didn’t tell me!)

My wife inspires me. She inspires me to recognize art in the world and people around me…even in myself. And now, with the burden of college coursework lifted, I get to see what comes next. I don’t have a clue what it will be, but it’s a good bet that it will be another inspiring work of art.