The Hermit Life

I haven’t felt much like writing lately. I have felt more like burrowing deep into my home and not coming out for an indeterminate amount of time.

I suppose we could blame my melancholy on the time of year, although I am hyper-aware that each successive morning and evening is a little brighter than the one before, thanks to the ever-changing rotation of the earth’s axis. Yeah that’s right, I have a science degree.

Perhaps we can blame it on my mom’s cancer, because you know I’m already milking that for all it’s worth. “Sorry, that thing you invited me to? I can’t go, because… my mom is sick.”

Meanwhile, she’s 300 miles away, so it’s not like I can do much for her from my own home. But, I did go up to visit her last week. At this point my function in visiting her is to bring tidings of comfort and joy. I brought books, magazines, games, and of course, my winning personality.

We shared a hermit-like existence for a few days, which are my favorite kind of days. Introvert life! We sat around reading and drinking tea, slowly plodding away at a puzzle, and when she took her naps, I worked on my artsy things or took the dog out for a walk. In the evenings, we’d enjoy dinner while watching a movie. It’s the lifestyle I wish I could live every day. Except for the cancer part, of course.


A blue evening on Lake Champlain

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what to do next. I’ve been trying to nurture my artistic side as much as I can, and my writing, although many days it’s a challenge to come home from work and plop down in front of my laptop, or at my art table, although it pains me more when I neglect to do so.

Lately, I feel like I am frustrated so much of the time. I feel like there’s never enough time to do the things I want to do. (See above paragraph about reading, puzzling, making art and taking long walks…). I feel like there’s got to be a better way to balance my life.

Speaking of balance, one thing I have done to improve my life lately is join Weight Watchers. I lost 2.4 lbs in the first week, so that was cool. I’ll have to write more about that in another post because my eyes are ready for bed now. It looks like tomorrow will be a work-from-home day, thanks to the storm that’s coming.

So stay tuned, friends, and let’s venture into the unknown together… or, we can just hang out in the same old, predictable middle-class lifestyle…  eww, just kidding. Let’s check out the unknown.

California Dreaming

California recap – continued from my last post.

Saturday morning, I woke up and hit the trail. I had my eye on it all week, as it was right across the street from the hotel. Dave and I walk on the rail trail near us quite often, so I thought it would be cool to check out this Southern California edition. It was quite different from the woodsy Connecticut trail I am used to.


I guess they never have to worry about snow and ice, or even that much rain, deteriorating the carving or messing up the stone path. It waas cool to walk along and look at all the funky plants.

I walked about a mile but it was so bright and sunny, I was starting to feel over-sunned, so I went back to my room. The freckles on my legs were popping out like crazy. Annoying.

That afternoon, I went up to Encinitas, which was just a couple of miles north of Solana Beach. My aunt Dotty was going to be in town, so we made arrangements to meet up for lunch.

We ate at the Lotus Cafe, which had lots of yummy vegetarian options. We sat and talked for a long time, which was really nice. We had only met once before, and this was our first one-on-one. I’m so glad we were able to talk and get to know each other better. The time flew by, and I think we would have kept talking for hours if we could have!


Post-lunch selfie!

I had thought I would spend my afternoon at the San Diego Botanic Gardens, but Dotty pointed out that they had been having such a drought lately that the plants might not be looking their best. She mentioned that there was a meditation garden in Encinitas that was free, so I decided to check that out instead.


It had beautiful ocean views. I stood and watched the surfers for a while.


Nice shady trees in the garden


Lots of plants I don’t see back East!


A bee’s work is never done

I would have liked to have stayed at the gardens for longer, but they closed at 5, so I was kindly asked to leave. Oh well. It’s definitely a place I would visit again if/when I get to go back out there!

I drove back to Solana Beach (seriously, it was like less than 5 miles away), and I walked down to the beach to watch my final Pacific Ocean Sunset. *wipes tear*

I took approximately 500 photos, but I’ll just show you one of the cool ones:


Would I watch the sunset every night if I lived there?

The next day, it was time to pack my bags and move on. Next stop: Anaheim. I drove up early in the day, because I was told that traffic would be hideous if I waited until afternoon. I got to my hotel just before lunchtime. So I grabbed a bite to eat and then settled into my room. If it hadn’t been 104° F, I may have taken a walk around and looked at the sights, but I wanted nothing more than to be indoors.

A few months back, when I posted on Facebook that I was going to be out in California, quite a few people messaged me asking if I wanted to hang out. Of course, I would have liked to hang out with everyone, but I didn’t have that much free time!

Jakki and I have been FB friends for a long time now. I don’t remember exactly how we met – it may have been on a FB group for people with ectrodactyly. Jakki also has EEC. She was still in high school when we met, and I have watched her go through college, find a man, and settle down. (Wow, that sounds like I am the ultimate FB stalker, doesn’t it?)

Well, anyway – Jakki and her boyfriend live close enough to Anaheim that they came and picked me up and took me out for the night! It was the first time that Jakki met another person with EEC, so it was a bit emotional. It’s always neat to meet someone else with EEC and see just how similar we are. Like long-lost cousins or something.

We went to Laguna Beach, which turns out has a lot of cool art galleries. We kept popping into them, mostly so we could cool down (it was still like 100° there, believe it or not!).


Hanging with Jakki in the Dr. Seuss exhibit!


This one spoke to me.


We were posing in front of a dolphin, but he didn’t quite make the photo.

















After we explored a bunch of galleries, we had dinner at an Italian restaurant. It was yummy and gave us some more time to talk.


The Mona Lisa watched me tinkle in the restaurant bathroom!

After dinner, we got gelato and ate it down by the beach, but by then the sun had already gone down. I was happy to see some stars though, as I was thinking it would be nice to see the stars over the ocean, but I never stuck around long enough after a sunset to see them.

So that was fun, getting to meet Jakki and her boyfriend. I hope she can make it to one of the NFED conferences so she can meet the rest of the EEC gang!

The next day, I was working from my hotel room and checking in on the booth setup for the trade show. I was pretty excited to get upgraded to a suite at the Marriott. It was hands down, the nicest hotel room I have ever stayed in. It felt pretty weird being in it alone though. It would have been fun to have had Dave there with me. It was too much space for just one person! Not to mention, I really didn’t want to leave it to go down to the tradeshow. haha!

I won’t bore you with talk of the trade show. Blah blah blah. Does anyone actually enjoy these things?

Tuesday evening arrived, and it was time to head home. Despite enjoying my time out there, I was missing Dave and my furballs, and the thought of fall back home. So I headed to the John Wayne Airport to wait for my flight.

I had a few hours to kill, so I figured I’d try out Ruby’s Diner, which is supposed to be a SoCal staple.


It was barely 7pm when I went in, and they were already closing up shop. I was able to get a sandwich and fries, and of course, a chocolate shake. I figured I would stuff myself before I got on the plane so that I could sleep without getting hungry.

Another two hours later, and I was on the plane! I should have taken a picture of my ridiculous getup – extra-thick neck pillow, light-blocking eye cover, and earplugs. By the grace of all that is holy, the seat next to me was unoccupied, so I was able to relax even more and not worry about bumping elbows with some shmuck next to me.

I wouldn’t say it was a deep, restful sleep, but it passed the time. Before long, it was 4:50 am, and we were taxiing into Newark.

While I was wandering around Newark waiting for my flight to Hartford, I stumbled into the MET store. I saw they had a little Spirograph kit for $25. I held it. I looked at it. I put it back. I went out to the gate, sat down, and ordered one on Amazon instead.


Because I am 12 at heart.

I had this idea that I could use the spirographs to start a zentangle design. So that’s what I played with this weekend.


Attempt 1


Attempt 2

I think there’s some promise there! But the Spirograph is still hard to use. I had one as a kid and I was always getting frustrated because I would lose control of the pen and ruin the design. Maybe now I will have the patience to master it. Maybe.

Well, that wraps up my California experience. I hope I can go back again before too long! It’s one of those places I’ve always wanted to go, but it took a work trip to actually get me out there!

Now I am sick – I picked up a cold or something on the plane, I assume. I was going to go to bed early tonight, so I guess I should get on that before “early” turns into “late”.

Au revoir!


My Happy Place

After a good month of not doing any Zentangles, I finally spent some time over the weekend making a couple.

 Usually I just draw them in black ink and then use a pencil to shade and add some depth, but I decided to experiment with color again.

I love color, but sometimes I find it hard to work with because I want to use ALL THE COLORS!  

Using all the colors can get a bit murky though. Or it can become an assault on the eyes.

Last night, our Toastmasters club held a speech contest. We had three really great and inspiring speakers. When I got home, I was pretty wired, so I decided to bang out a quick drawing before settling in for the night.
I really like how this one came out. It really just flowed so easily.

When I got in the car today and heard on the radio that Brussels had been attacked, I kept thinking about this drawing and how soothing it was for me. Weird, right?

I wish the terrorists would lay down their arms and pick up some art supplies. Maybe that will be my life’s purpose- to encourage art, not war.

Write or Draw or Paint?

Let’s hope no one was holding their breath after my last post because that was quite a long wait. I’m sorry for that. I hadn’t intended to take a hiatus. In fact, I had intended to write more! Instead, I fell into a funk for a couple of weeks and did not feel like posting anything.

If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll see that I have not been completely devoid of creative output. I decided to revisit the One Zentangle A Day book and do it all over again.


I’ve also decided to revisit Downton Abbey. I stopped watching it a couple of years ago after the tragic death of Sybil. I knew there’d be more tragic death to go through, but I decided I was already feeling rather low so might as well indulge myself in misery.

My evenings have mainly consisted of sitting on the couch and drawing while Downton plays in the background. Clearly, this leaves me with no time to write.


Dave recently began working second shift, which means that he is not home in the evenings. I don’t think this has been the cause of my mellow emotions lately, but it probably doesn’t help. I’m sure it is a combination of the darkness of winter and the fact that I am on the edge of a virtual precipice. (So dramatic…)


I’ve mentioned in previous posts that I feel like I am ready for a change. I can’t yet share what that change will be, only that I am not entirely happy where I am right now. I can either steel myself to carry on and soldier through the current situation, or I can make the effort to change the thing that is really dragging me down lately. And once I’ve made that change I will tell you all about it.


This one took a long time! Like, four episodes of Downton Abbey!

As much as I am always talking about change and embracing change and blah blah blah, there is a great part of me that also wants to just dive under the covers and avoid anything that is going to be difficult. I find that the more I push myself out of my comfort zone, the easier it gets to try new things… but conversely, when I let myself start slipping back into the comfort zone I find it harder to get up and get back out again.

I am ruled so much by my emotions. I guess that was obvious when I said I didn’t write for the past two weeks because I didn’t feel like it.

I’ve read that people who are dedicated to becoming writers make time to write every single day, whether they feel like it or not. Same as artists who paint or draw every day, whether or not they’re in the right mood.

Pretty much the only thing I do every day regardless of my mood is basic bodily functions and important grooming tasks such as teeth brushing. Everything else is entirely subject to whether I feel like it or not. I’m not sure if that’s anything to be proud of.

In other news, last night my coworkers and I went to a paint bar in West Hartford. It was supposed to be a group outing/team building sort of moment, but half our group bailed. Whatever!

In case you live under a rock, a paint bar is what it sounds like. A painting studio with a bar. Artists lead the group in making identical copies of a painting that has already been created by someone else. Wine, beer and snacks are available.

Being a trained artist, I was a bit skeptical going into this, though I confess I was looking forward to blowing my teammates out of the water with my mad painting skills. However, since the two people who I had intended to impress ended up not even showing up (painting is for losers!), that was a moot point.

The painting we were to do was this winter scene with a snowman standing on it’s head, with stick legs popping out of his bottom ball. Ok, it is kind of cute, though probably not something I would have painted if given another option.


Did you know that snowmen have legs?

I’ll admit that I did have fun doing it, I mean, of course I did. Even though it wasn’t original art, I still enjoyed smearing the paint around and everything. The paint was really low quality, like, crayola or something, so it didn’t behave as nicely as I would have liked. But I guess I can’t have expected them to break out the professional stuff.

In the end I decided that it was fun, especially for people who don’t have an art background. You get to create a painting in two hours while you drink wine and hang out with your friends. The instructors were nice and helpful. Obviously if painting is really your thing, you have to put your ego on the back burner and just know that you will not be creating a masterpiece.

Painting was never really my favorite creative outlet. But doing it last night reminded me that I *do* enjoy it, when I give myself the time. Maybe I will try my hand at it again this year. The last time I painted anything was in 2009, when my boss at the time commissioned me to paint his beloved dog, Bully.

Bully done

Bully, 2009


So in the end, perhaps it is good that I don’t always feel like doing one thing or another – I certainly don’t have time to write, draw, watch Downton Abbey and paint all in one day!

It’s Only Tuesday

I’m not one to wish the days away, but going back to a full work week after two nice, long holiday weekends is rough.

Last night I gave my 6th Toastmaster speech. I might be starting to get the hang of it. I spent a ton of time preparing a PowerPoint presentation to accompany my speech, which was on the art of Zentangle. One of the slides was a mini slideshow of some of my favorite pieces. Other slides showed the various steps of creating a Zentangle. It was gold.


One of many Zentangles

I arrived early and took pains to rearrange the room so we’d be facing a blank wall where I could project. We got the projector out of the closet and set everything up. The projector had one of those old connectors with the weird trapezoid shaped plug with all the little prongs in it. My computer doesn’t have a port for that kind of plug.

My heart fluttered for a moment. But wait! There was a USB cord in the case with the projector!

The projector was on, shining it’s bright blue glow on the wall. My computer was on, with the PowerPoint open and ready to perform.

But no.

The cord did not seem to comprehend that I wanted it to transmit the presentation to the projector. Various meeting attendees offered suggestions. Try Windows P! Function 8! Hail Mary!


There would be no presentation to go with my speech.

If I wasn’t still chilled from the 9 degrees outside and if I had functional sweat glands, I would have been sweating like a sinner in church.

Instead, I contemplated my choices. One, I could gather my things and leave at my earliest convenience. Or two, I could work with what I had.

Fortunately, I had considered the possibility of technical difficulties while I was preparing my speech, so I brought the book I had planned to mention, plus my Zentangle travel kit and a bunch of tiles.

Because I’d been rehearsing my speech so much, and also because Zentangle is near and dear to my heart, talking about it was easy. I was still pretty nervous with having to think on the fly and I really had no idea how I was doing on time, since I’d timed my speech to go along with the slides. But it all worked out okay. I used the book as a prop and I used the items from my kit as props, and of course, the main attraction, the Zentangle tiles.


During the break, I spread the stuff out on a table and a handful of people came up and looked at them and talked to me about it. So that was cool, and by then I was so glad to have gotten the speech over with that I didn’t care about the technical issues. Ok, I cared a little. I spent a LOT of time putting that presentation together and no one got to see it.


All in all, I’m happy I completed the 6th speech and I realize the fact that I got thrown a curve ball only served to educate me further in the importance of being prepared for anything. Only four more speeches to go and I will get my Competent Communicator Certification! Woo hoo!

I’ll close with my brilliant closing line from my speech last night:

I hope this brief overview has inspired you to try your hand at the art of Zentangle!

Embrace the corny. 🙂

Austin Trip, Day 1

Hello! I made it safely to Austin. I am going to try to make this quick, as I’ve been up since 4 am.  Really, that’s only an hour earlier than usual wake-up time but somehow it seems extreme.

I always feel a bit degraded when I go through security. Shoeless, belt less (which for me means nearly pantsless), posing with my arms up in the scanner.  It’s just awkward. Actually the most awkward part for me is the scramble to put myself back together once everything comes through the X-ray machine. I usually gather my belongings and walk to a bench so I can put my shoes on without trying to balance my carry-on and my backpack all at once.

Anyway. For this trip I decided to bring some zentangle tools. I wanted to keep it light, so instead of bringing my sketchbook plus all my pens and stuff, I pared it down to a handful of paper tiles and just the essential pens. I remembered I had a little pouch I’d been given at the Denver airport, which just so happened to be the perfect size to carry all my stuff.


My travel Zen kit. Thanks for the pouch, Denver!

I also had two fresh Brené Brown books to listen to. The first one turned out to not actually be a book but a speech. It was called Men, Women and Worthiness, the experience of shame and the power of being enough. It was about shame, obviously, and how it is the root of a lot of issues that people have, such as perfectionism, addiction and even aggressive behavior.

While I listened to that, I dew a couple of zentangles. This one is my favorite of the day:

I’m always trying to use all the colors in one drawing.

The other audio book I had was The Gifts of Imperfection. I only just started that one toward the end of the trip so I’ll comment on that later.

So anyway, here I am in Austin. We went out to a wine bar called The Grove for dinner. It was really good and had a cool atmosphere.

I’m so beat now, I’m going to drop my phone on my face if I don’t put it down now.

So long.


Auf Wiedersehen.



Sunday Funday Post: Zentangle

Two things I have been getting right lately are that I’ve been meditating each morning and I’ve started Zentangling.

Day 4

Day 4 tile

Whatsy-tangling, you ask?

Zentangling. I first heard about it sometime last year, when my friend Kristina posted some of her drawings online and mentioned that she had been doing it to relieve stress. I was immediately jealous that she was posting cool artistic pictures and I wasn’t, because hello, *I* am an artist!

I continued to doodle all over my meeting notes at work, and on scraps of paper during phone calls, but I rarely broke out my sketchbook at home. I wanted to know more about this Zentangle business, but it was just one thing too much. So for Christmas, I asked Kris (my brother) to get me a book about Zentangle.

et voila:

One  Zentangle a Day

As you can see by the book cover, this is a six-week course in the art of Zentangling. I am so into it right now, that I’ve actually done it more than once a day on a couple of days because I just couldn’t wait to do another one.

Day 2 - morning

Day 2 – Morning

Day 2 - Evening

Day 2 – Evening









It’s been like rediscovering a part of myself that I lost. Drawing has always been such a part of me, but sometimes I neglect it. I get caught up in the hustle and bustle of life, and I don’t give myself the time to sit down and do what I really love. When I was in high school, my art teacher made us do weekly sketches. We’d turn them in on Friday and then over the weekend he would hang them up on a bulletin board for everyone to see on Monday. He would rank them, so there’d be first, second and third place, and then a bunch of honorable mentions. If I remember correctly, the really bad ones didn’t even make it on the board. This brought out my competitive streak in a major way, and my goal was always to get first place. It usually meant that I would stay up ridiculously late on Thursday nights to complete my submission, but it also meant that by the end of senior year, I had a ton of great drawings in my portfolio.

So anyway, I think getting myself to stick to this six-weeks of Zentangle, will be a great help in getting myself back on the wagon. It’s amazing how it’s already ignited the fire in my belly. What I like about Zentangle is that you only need 30 minutes a day to do it. It is a form of meditation, because as you’re drawing, you’re only thinking about the pen and the paper, and everything else is irrelevant in that moment. At least, that’s how it is for me, and that is why I have always loved to draw.

Day 3

Day 3

I’m sure it’s not something that everyone would be interested in, but if you’re like me – an artistic soul trapped in the routines and demands of a non-artistic work life, I highly recommend that you check this out. If you’re one of those people who thinks they can’t draw, don’t let that stop you from trying this. I mean, look at the drawings I posted – they are all just variations of lines. Just let your hand do the walking.