I'm the main face behind the Buoyant brand. I'm also a wife and mom, a globe-trotting linguaphile, string musician, and mixed-media artist. Enneagram 3 and ENFP.
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Welcome to the Becoming Buoyant podcast, where we’re all about sharing our stories as entrepreneurs with chronic illnesses, making the invisible visible and breaking stigmas along the way.
In the twelfth episode of Becoming Buoyant, Andi Moklestad joins us to share how she’s found a way to continue to pursue her creative passions while living with lyme disease, fibromyalgia, and chronic fatigue. While you can’t always predict how your health will affect you tomorrow, you can create a plan to help work with your illnesses.
Welcome to the Becoming Buoyant podcast where we’re all about sharing our stories as entrepreneurs with chronic illnesses, making the invisible visible, and breaking stigma’s along the way. In each episode, you’ll learn from expert guests exactly what it takes to build a meaningful and sustainable business without sacrificing self care. We want you to shine your bright light on the world, friend, and are honored to be part of your creative life giving journey. Let’s dive in, shall we?
This is the Becoming Buoyant podcast with Emilie Steinmann, episode #12
Emilie: In today’s episode of Becoming Buoyant I’m joined by Andi Moklestad of Andi J. Creative. She hosts amazing creative art parties, such as watercolor and acrylic painting, to hold space for others and allow them to really savor the important moments in life with people they care about deeply. She’s learned how important it is to accept not knowing everything when it comes to your health, when it comes to running a business, and all things in life, and with Lyme disease, and fibromyalgia, and the chronic fatigue she has also learned that time is not the limiting factor for her, energy is. So I’m really excited to have you join us in today’s episode and learn more about her story and the things that she has learned in her business, and I think some of that will help you as well.
Emilie: Hi Andi, I’m really excited you came on the Becoming Buoyant Podcast today to share a little bit more about your story and what it’s like to live as a creative and chronically ill entrepreneur. So without further ado, let’s get started. I’d love to hear more about you kind of beyond the title, but tell us what you do, who you are, things you love, everything about you.
Andi Moklestad: Well, thank you for having me. First of all, I’m Andi. I have a business called Andi J. Creative where I primarily offer in-home art parties where I teach people how to paint in my area, I also have an Etsy shop of different art pieces and things that I’ve created that sometimes they’re prints, or mugs, or whatever. Outside of that, I’m a musician and so I also teach some piano lessons-
Emilie: Oh, I love that.
Andi Moklestad: … which is super fun. I drink decaf coffee, but I still drink coffee because I just love it, and I feel like little adventures make me really excited, just trying new food, or I don’t know, going places, hanging out with friends. That’s kind of me in a nutshell.
Emilie: Yeah. Sometimes just the simple things in life are actually the most rewarding things, right?
Andi Moklestad: They go a long way.
Emilie: I love that you say you do art parties, painting parties. I have all these things in my head right now of all the parties I want to have you teach at. Well, I have to wait until I move back from the Midwest, because I live in Iowa.
Emilie: But I love that. That’s so fun to bring people together-
Andi Moklestad: Yeah!
Emilie: … and be creative. So I think that’s great. So how does that work in and with your health? What kind of health hurdles do you have or what have you experienced and then how does that work with your business that you’re running here?
Andi Moklestad: So it started with having really bad migraines and things like that, which my gut was treated for Lyme disease. Now I would say I have Fibromyalgia as well as Orthostatic Intolerance and a few other things. I was a graphic designer so when I first started having health problems, having migraines and working on the computer didn’t really work out very well together. So I started working with Valerie Guvik, a business coach, and through talking with her, kind of figured out first what I really cared about in that season.
Andi Moklestad: Having health problems for me really slowed life down a lot. And like I mentioned, those little things in life became really important. Like a sunset, or a cup of coffee, or being able to actually really hang out with a friend. I realized those things everyone needs and sometimes it helps just to have a time on the calendar where you create space for that.
Andi Moklestad: So the vision behind our parties was let’s just have a space where you’re like, “I know how to teach people how to paint.” It’s been fun to see how empowered people feel where they’re like, “Whoa, I actually made something cool!” But it’s also just a time to relax and hang out with people. Then also, I can schedule it. You know, there are seasons where I haven’t done as many because I can’t, but then other times where I can do more and so it’s also flexible with my health needs.
Speaker 1: That’s so good because it pours into your passions.
Andi Moklestad: It’s really fun.
Emilie: And it helps you serve other people, but then at the same time it works with your health, not against it, which I think is so good because sometimes, I feel like with chronic illnesses or invisible illnesses that some of us have, we don’t fit the box. And especially in a world nowadays where so much of what we do is around a computer to say “Oh, I’m just going to work a nine to five office job” just doesn’t fit when you get chronic migraines. So I love that you found a way to be really intentional with not only your time but help other people reconnect with friends, slow down, enjoy creative processes, and that’s just so fun.
Emilie: Okay, now I need to know what kind of painting do you like to teach? Is it mostly acrylic or is it watercolor or a little bit of everything?
Andi Moklestad: I offer both acrylic or watercolor depending on what the group wants. So I’ve found that acrylic parties tend to be more high energy and I still haven’t figured out exactly why that is. I think it might be partly because people have canvases and are facing each other and I tend to be a little farther away from the group so everyone can see. Acrylic parties tend to be more, I don’t know, just a little louder and whatnot. Then watercolor parties tend to be a little more soft music and more relaxed, just a little different vibe, which isn’t something I intended. In both of them I’ll have whoever’s hosting choose a painting or they’ll ask their group “Hey, what do you want to do?” And I have the gallery of options, then I’ll just lead them through step-by-step.
Emilie: That’s so fun. I love that. So theoretically maybe it’s just that the energy is watered down with the watercolor.
Andi Moklestad: Yes, exactly.
Emilie: It’s just watered down energies. It’s all good. But maybe that is the case that you have to be really intentional with your watercolor art to make sure that you’re not over saturating it with water and then everything bleeds out and you’ve got nothing left. So maybe people are just a little fearful. But that’s super cool. I love that you do that. It’s, it’s so fun.
Emilie: Actually at my house, I have two little girls, they’re three and six, and we paint just about every weekend. We find some way to do paintings whether it be watercolor or acrylic or really messy finger paint. Sometimes they’ll go outside and they’ll smash up chalk on the driveway, they’ll mix it with water and they’ll paint their Cozy Coupe. Creative expression. Not my favorite version of it, but it’s so fun to have a creative outlet and kind of force you to slow down a little bit like that.
Emilie: You know, when it comes to your health condition-
Andi Moklestad: Yeah.
Emilie: …You didn’t say exactly when you were diagnosed, which we can get into a little bit more of those details of course if you want to, but how do you think you’ve grown as a person because of your health journey?
Andi Moklestad: Yeah, I think being forced to stop. I was really busy before getting sick and it was just very abrupt. I went from a 60 hour work week to being in bed all day. It was like, “Okay, so what’s the point in my life now?”
Emilie: Right, so now what, yeah? Now what?
Andi Moklestad: I think learning to understanding my value and worth as a human being apart from my accomplishments has probably been one of the biggest things that I feel I have learned and am always continuing to learn because it’s easy to forget that.
Andi Moklestad: I think learning to actually slow down and deal with things when you’re just stuck with your thoughts, it’s “Ah, I actually have to deal with that now.” You can’t just [inaudible 00:09:14] and avoid it because it’s just you and your thoughts. So I think that’s probably the one of the biggest things was just I got to get more comfortable with myself and I have worth and value. Even if it doesn’t look the way that like I think it should look or maybe that it normally looks, I guess.
Emilie: I think that’s something that I’ve personally struggled with, but in interviewing other people for this podcast, I’ve definitely heard that multiple times. The biggest benefit of having a chronic illness is you really start to separate your self worth from the accomplishments and expectations you had. When you grow up as a kid, you’re thinking, “Oh, what am I going to be when I grow up? What am I going to do when I grow up?” And all of these big, big lofty ideas, but then you hit a plot twist and then you’re like, “Okay, well what if I’m not able to do things the way that I thought I was able to do or the way I expected things to turn out?” Really being able to get slow in your mind and sit there with your thoughts even as frustrating and painful as it is, it really forces you to understand your own personal worth outside of all those things.
Emilie: I absolutely love that lesson that you’ve learned and I feel like I’m still in that process right now. It’s, coming around…
Andi Moklestad: Yeah.
Emilie: …but sometimes it’s hard to accept that I’m not as accomplished as I want to be or that kind of a thing. What is one thing you wish you would’ve known when you first started your art business, kind of transitioning from the graphic design into now offering these parties? Obviously you said you had to coach, which is fantastic.
Andi Moklestad: Yeah.
Speaker 1: So yeah, you can really avoid a lot of mistakes because they’re helping you through things. But what is something maybe that you didn’t even know you needed to know when you first started?
Andi Moklestad: I think that I think when I started I just had the expectation I have to get all the things figured out first. I need to know cause I didn’t want to mess up. Just realizing that of course I want to do things well, but all of business and probably all of life is learning and so it’s okay to not know. I can work hard and I can ask people who do know and realizing that that’s okay and it’s not me failing if I like don’t already know all the answers. Then I think the other thing, which my business coach did tell me, but I don’t think it really like it’s one of those things that you’re like, Oh now I know what you’re saying.
Emilie: Yeah, like it sinks in years later.
Andi Moklestad: Exactly. You’re like, “Oh man, it’s too bad I didn’t listen to that.” You know where I feel passive income and just like different kinds of income. Realizing that maybe accepting that I can’t predict my life. That’s always true and it’s especially true of chronic illness that art parties; I can’t do it every season so it makes sense for me to work on my Etsy shop or figure out other ways that I can still be able to work or even times where I can’t at all and can still be serving my clients and make so many.
Emilie: Yeah! That makes sense. Having passive income or at least diversified income that helps you kind of ebb and flow with whatever health season you’re in is so good. I’m really in that phase as well right now where I’m like, okay, yeah, I know a services I offer as kind of my primary thing, but what, what else could I do that say if I have a migraine and it, the effects of it lasts for a week.
Emilie: I don’t want my business to fail just because I had a week off. You know what I mean? And I think that goes for people who are healthy too. You should be able to take a real vacation or have real sick days or take care of your family when they’re not feeling well or all those things. I feel like as any entrepreneur, that’s something that we need to focus on working on. So the whole passive diversified income thing is so on top of mind for me now too.
Andi Moklestad: It takes a lot of intentionality, I feel.
Speaker 1: Yeah, and to really identify the time when you do feel healthy and inspired and well to take that time and really seize it and say, “Now is when I’m going to create this thing that will serve me later.” It’s almost like putting into retirement as lame as that sounds.
Andi Moklestad: Yeah. But it’s true. It’s like the long run where you’re not going to feel a lot of benefit right away.
Emilie: It doesn’t feel great. You don’t get this excitement over it, but you know that it will serve you down the road in a time of need. I think that’s a really good way of putting it. If there’s something that you wish other people knew about what it’s like to be a creative entrepreneur with a chronic illness, and that other person, what you wish they would know. They could be a healthy person with a business without a business or even other chronically ill people without businesses. If there was something that you wish other people knew about what it’s like, what would that be?
Andi Moklestad: Maybe I’ll speak to two groups separately, so I think a few people who are healthy. One of the things that I’ve found that sometimes is like hard to explain is the difference between time and energy. Everyone has limits, everyone gets tired. I think at least in my experience where it can feel like isolating or different with a chronic illness is that there are not very many days where I’ve run out of time. I have time and I’m laying on the couch and watching Netflix when I wish I could be working or whatever. It’s often not time that’s the limiting factor, which at least for me is what it was before I had health problems because I would just go from 6:30 to 10:30 or whatever and go about my day and so I didn’t have to miss things or rearrange my day according to energy. It was time and so I think it changes the conversation sometimes. Something that’s hard to understand when that’s not when that’s not your life.
Emilie: Yeah, when it’s not your reality. I never actually thought about that before because I would always say that time would, it would be my limiting factor. But now that you mentioned that, I feel like no, that’s actually not the case. It’s actually energy because there are a lot of times when I need to rest probably more than others do. But it’s okay. It is what it is. We just, we know what our, what our bodies are capable of.
Andi Moklestad: To others who have chronic illnesses; I think, at least for me sometimes it’s really hard to read things about being productive. I can map out my whole week and I can have super specific goals and then just feel so crushed at the end of the week when that’s not how it went. To just affirm anyone listening, that’s okay and it’s not a failure. And I think that life with chronic illness is being flexible. There’s so many times where I lay out my week and I’m like, “okay, I’m going to do this and this and this”, but because of how I’m feeling on one day, then I have to switch it and be “Okay, maybe I can’t work on this thing but maybe I can paint a little bit.” If I can’t think really and create content for something, maybe I can paint or if I can’t paint maybe I can do something else. Just being flexible, which is not something that I am naturally very good at. I’m a very planned person so it’s hard to let that go and not not view that as a failure.
Emilie: Yeah, I feel like we actually are pretty similar on that way. I feel like growing up I was kind of the Type A person; that kid who had all the homework organized binders with color-coded tabs, all the highlighters for all the different purposes. Things were super well organized and I never ever, ever failed to accomplish tasks that I needed to get done. It was just not part of my identity. I feel like as somebody who is, I completed things almost to the point of perfectionism, which is a different thing altogether, but one of the things I have learned from having chronic illness is that flexibility just the same as you is learning to have a little bit of self compassion when things don’t go as planned because more often than not, things don’t go as planned. So it’s not for a lack of effort.
Andi Moklestad: Yeah, totally. Yeah. It’s not like you can just try harder and it’ll work like it doesn’t, so it looks that way.
Emilie: Most definitely not. Yeah, you can’t, you can’t force things to work if they’re just not going to work. You can definitely try to keep organized and you can put systems in place or bring on a team of people to help or all sorts of different techniques. But I think that flexibility aspect is such a huge thing that we have to learn to accept that it’s okay to be flexible and [put off for tomorrow what you couldn’t get done today. It’s okay.
Andi Moklestad: Yeah. Yeah. Like the world actually won’t end if this thing doesn’t get done.
Emilie: Yes. We put a lot of pressure on ourselves as entrepreneurial spirits. You know, we really do put a lot of pressure down and it’s okay if something doesn’t get done and it’s okay to ask for more time or it’s okay to only give 100% and not 150% I know that’s a lot of us. We try to give so much more and it’s okay to give 100 not 150.
Andi Moklestad: That’s so real.
Emilie: But we have to be able to protect our energy and not totally burn out at the end of every week. So I get that. Well Andi, it was so nice to have you on the podcast today and I’m really, really glad we had a chance to connect and I would love to hear a little bit more about some of your business building type tips, things that have worked for you maybe in the next season. I’m hoping to bring a lot of guests back on to chat more specifically about things that they’re really great at doing and I think that would be really fun. So if you would like to join me, I would love to have you.
Andi Moklestad: Oh well thanks. Thanks so much for having me. I really enjoyed it.
Emilie: So awesome. Well I’ll talk to you again soon.
Emilie – Outro: Hey friend, thank you so much for tuning into today’s episode of Becoming Buoyant. It means the world to me when I can read all of your comments and reviews. So if you’re listening on iTunes, please go to the leave a review section, send me a sweet little message and if you really love the episode, you can leave some stars. Hopefully five would do the trick. If you’re watching on YouTube, make sure to like this episode if it resonated with you. Leave a comment if you have some suggestions on other people that might want to come on. And of course, let me know what you think. And then make sure to subscribe on either platform, subscriptions mean the world to me. It tells me that what we’re doing here on Becoming Buoyant, makes a difference. So I hope you have a wonderful day ahead and I hope you tune into the next episode of Becoming Buoyant. Take care.
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