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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.

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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.

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March Motivation

Hey there! It’s been a while since I wrote a current-events post. As usual, I am busy thinking up so many things I want to do and trying to do everything at once and then feeling overwhelmed and rushed and anxious about life.

How do you find balance? I constantly feel the need to create things; to produce. Whether it be writing or drawing or painting, it’s like an itch inside me that I am forever trying to scratch. That’s why I like Zentangle so much – it is easy to bang out a quick drawing in a short amount of time, and most often it looks pretty cool.

A few weeks ago I was out in sunny Southern California at a work-related conference, and they had a motivational speaker give the keynote. He was billed as a magician and a corporate speaker, and my first thought was that his performance was probably going to be the cheesiest thing I’d seen in a while. Fortunately, I was very wrong. He was amazing, and quite inspirational. His name is Vinh Giang – here’s his promo video.

Once I got home, I looked up Vinh on YouTube and I watched a bunch of his stuff so I could keep the inspiration going. I also happened upon a TED talk by David Litchfield, where he talked about how he challenged himself to draw something every day for a year.

So of course I got excited and inspired and decided to give myself a daily art challenge. Notice I said art and not just drawing, because why would I limit myself? (Insert eye-rolling emoji here… )

You may have already found it, or seen my oversharing of my daily pieces on FB, Instagram, LinkedIn, Google+ and wherever else I could find… but if somehow you missed all of these, my daily art challenge site can be found here:

DailyArtChallenge

I am already kind of regretting that I made it a daily challenge instead of weekly or something, but so far I have managed to do it every day.

Vinh says in his talks: the biggest illusion you will ever experience in your life is when you tell yourself that something cannot be done. I’ve certainly fallen victim to this mentality many times. It’s something I want to change – I want to believe in myself, that one day I will be a professional writer and a professional illustrator. I don’t want to spend my whole life just thinking of what might have been if only I’d tried a little harder.

So, I will keep blogging and keep arting, and one day I will figure out how to make it all work!

Throwback Thursday: If I had 3 Wishes

In first and second grade, my teacher encouraged us to make books so we could practice our writing skills. At the time I was very impressed with myself because I wrote a lot of books. In looking through these “books”, 30 years later, I am amused by the fact that very few of them are actually finished. I would start off very excitedly and a few pages in, I would literally drop my pencil and move on to something else. The foreshadowing was unrecognized at the time, but looking back, it is quite telling.

Currently I’m working on scanning all my childhood paraphernalia, as it is starting to disintegrate into dust (construction paper is not meant to last). God knows I’ll probably get 1/3 of the way through and lose interest – in that regard, little has changed since second grade.

I do intend to share some of my early childhood creations, starting with this gem:

If I Had 3 Wishes

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Obviously I wanted long hair and a full set of teeth…

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Mrs. Bush was the best!

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My cat, named Bunny, disappeared one day and we never saw her again. Sad. Also, it would have been nice if I could look more normal so other kids wouldn’t make fun of me.

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My neighborhood was full of old people and it sucked.

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Who is this, RIngo Starr?

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Look at the sad pioneer woman!

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And her sad woodcutter husband!

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He’s about to get his 3 wishes! But aww, that’s the last page of my book.

If there’s one thing I wish Mrs. Bush would have taught us, it would have been storyboarding. Maybe I was just out that day. But to this day I struggle to plan things out – preferring instead to jump in and get started, only to find out that I’ve run out of paper (or time, or budget) before I could finish my story.

Perhaps one day I will learn!

Throwback Thursday: The Incredible Hulk

Last weekend I went up to Vermont to visit my mom. She had some pictures that she’d gotten from my grandmother, so we went through them together and reminisced. 

Many of the pictures I had seen before, but this one here, I don’t think I’d ever seen. 

I must have been about 4 years old. I’m in the “big bathroom,” as we called it. It was pretty sweetly decorated ar that time, as you can see. Years later, once my younger siblings came along, this place was a wreck, with blobs of toothpaste in the sink and a trash can overflowing with paper cups and Q-tips. Ok, so the blame lies mostly with me, as I liked to make potions and experiments with the toiletries. 

Back to the picture. I’m playing with a Fisher Price toy sink. I remember being very into that toy, having always been a fan of water. It had the impressive (to a 4-year old) ability to actually squirt water out of the faucet. It came with a set of dishes, cups and utensils, which I suppose was supposed to teach young girls how to wash dishes or something. Clearly the lesson was lost on me. 

Instead, I was giving my Incredible Hulk action figure a bath. The Hulk had come into my life one day while I was watching cartoons. I don’t remember the details, but I recall masculinity… rage… green muscles tearing through fabric… and I liked it. 

When my mom asked me what I wanted for Christmas, I said I wanted an Incredible Hulk doll. And on Christmas morning, there he was,  in my stocking. 

All that being said, and despite this photo evidence, I don’t think my relationship with the Hulk went on for very long. I soon moved on to gazing lovingly at the Brawny Paper Towel guy. 

I bet he smells of fresh mountain air and pine sap.


It’s funny the things you remember from childhood. Did you have a crush on a fictional character? Tell me about it! 

Summertime and the Livin’s Easy

When I was a kid, I had a hard time understanding why I got to have summers off from school but my dad had to keep on going to work every day. I couldn’t get it in my head that grown-ups didn’t get the summer off. It didn’t seem fair.

To this day, it upsets me that I can’t have the whole summer off. There’s so much I want to do! It doesn’t help that I work for a German company, and our German counterparts take off entire months at a time. I don’t know how much vacation time they actually get, but it seems to be way more generous than our US system. Unfair. Maybe I should move to Germany.

Anyway, that’s not what I came here to write about! I wanted to bang out a quick update, as I am soon to be off for one of my two weeks of vacation this summer. We are going to be camping in Maine and I intend to fully unplug. I’m bringing primitive writing tools – pens and paper – in the hopes that I will be inspired to write something deep and inspiring. Or perhaps churn out some interesting zentangle-inspired art. I haven’t drawn a thing in months!

Last weekend we celebrated the 4th of July at my youngest brother’s home in the Boston area. The weather was unbelievably perfect. We spent most of the time lounging by the pool, and of course eating tons of food. On Monday, we got to check out the school where my brother works (he had the right idea being a teacher – he gets summers off!). Then we went up to Newburyport, which was a cute little town on the coast. It was only a two-day visit, but it was like a mini-vacation for us.

Dave and I in Newburyport, MA

Enjoying a jaunt around Newburyport.

Speaking of vacations, Dave and I are finally going to go on a big trip together! We’ve started planning a trip to Costa Rica. We’re reading guidebooks and maps and we’ve been scouring the internet. We don’t have a date set yet, but Dave wants to go before the end of the year. I realize that’s like 5 months away, but the way things go at my job, you just have to blink and the time goes by like nothing.

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The trip will be worth it if we see a baby sloth doing pull-ups.

In other news, my minimalism journey kind of hit a wall in the last few months, because I’ve been spending less time inside the house. The piles of crap in the back room are still there. I did take one evening to go through more of my clothes and get rid of some of the things I never wear. I even attempted to fold my shirts in the Konmari way.

Konmari shirt drawer

Folding the shirts this way is supposed to let you see them all in one glance, so you can easily find what you need. It beats my former technique of shoving them in and struggling to shut the drawer.

The Konmari method comes from this book called The life-changing magic of tidying up. You’ve probably heard of it, because everyone makes fun of it. It’s the one where you’re supposed to hold each one of your possessions and ask yourself if it brings you joy. I didn’t even finish reading the book, but since I had already been going through my stuff and clearing things out, I went ahead with the clothes. My parameters were pretty simple: do I actually like this shirt and actively wear it? Then I kept it. If not, out it went.

Morningtime flower

In other news, my garden is looking fabulous these days.

In conclusion, I am very much enjoying the summer so far and I hope you are too. I’m especially looking forward to being unplugged next week, and returning with renewed energy to work on this blog!

Thank you for reading this far. 🙂

 

 

 

Pre-Birthday Thoughts

Tomorrow is my 36th birthday.

Thirty-six. Damn. I don’t feel 36, although is it an age anyone really feels? What does any age feel like?

The other day a younger co-worker asked me how old I was going to be on my birthday. When I said 36, her face grew somber. “Wow, that is so old!” Luckily she followed up with, “You don’t look that old!”

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*Snapchat filter = not what I actually look like

Ah yes. In my younger days I would have said 36 was middle aged. When my mom was 36, she had four kids, the oldest of whom (me!) was 15. I don’t even know where I’d be if I had a 15-year-old child in my life right now. I guess it’d be a lot different.

In some ways I feel like I should be more grown up by now. I still feel like a kid (or at least a 20-something) most days. I don’t even feel like my body is all that womanly. When I travel for work, I don’t even wear business clothes on the plane (unless I have to), and people assume I’m a college kid. I don’t really mind this… it kind of lets me fly under the radar.

In all honesty, I feel like I’ve fallen into a bit of a rut lately. Maybe I’m just used to switching it up every couple of years, and here I am going on year five of working at the same company. I’ve let slip some of my ambitions, and being reminded of my age is a swift kick in the pants. Oh yeah, I wanted to be an artist. What the hell am I waiting for?

The good news about my job is that recently we’ve started using WordPress to host some of our content. So I’ve been learning how to build a website. I’m really excited about that, because basically since I started this blog I have had the idea that I would upgrade to a paid account and put my art on here and have a little storefront to sell some of my art and tchotchkes. Now that I’ve finished my competent communicator manual, I can devote more time to this page.

Woo hoo!

Well, that’s enough for now. I gotta rest up, now that I’m getting on in years.

Late Night Hotel Room Thoughts

Hi from Racine!

Today it hit me. I may actually be afraid of being hungry. It’s long been a joke with people who know me that I always need to have a stash of food somewhere. At work, I have an entire drawer dedicated to snacks. If I am going anywhere, I pack snacks or I plan ahead and know when and where I will be able to eat again. 

Today I packed for my quick trip. One outfit, pajamas, undies, my laptop and 2 packages of peanut butter crackers and 6 (yes, six) granola bars. 

Of course I’m not actually going to eat 6 granola bars in a 24 hour period. But… WHAT IF I GET HUNGRY? 

As I was pondering my fear of hunger today, I recalled how as a child I would ask my mother what was for dinner as soon as we were done having breakfast. To my astonishment, sometimes she hadn’t even thought of it! She’d say “I don’t know!” in an exasperated voice. Sometimes she’d add “have you ever missed a meal?”

Well, yes actually, I had. Every surgery involved a period of starvation the night before (ok, so it was after dinner – don’t nitpick) and often I’d miss a couple of meals after thanks to my aching mouth and propensity to puke post op. 

But was that it? I don’t remember feeling hungry on those occasions. 

Perhaps I starved to death in a past life? 

Definitely something to ponder further. But now I must sleep!!

Late Spring Inspired Memories

Hi there!

I’m sitting outside on this lovely evening and I’ve been itching to blog for days now. There is a lot on my mind and I want to write about these things, but they are too hard right now. So instead, I will write about something that makes me happy.

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Awkward garden selfie. Disregard the towering bags of mulch behind me!

 

This time of year always awakens excitement in me. Perhaps this is a remnant of my schoolgirl days, when the arrival of warm weather, insects chirping outside the open windows, and being able to wear shorts again were signals that school was almost over for the year.

It’s no secret that I was not a big fan of school. Just like it’s no secret that I am not a big fan of work. Hah! Of course I always enjoyed learning and doing interesting things, but school, like work, wasn’t always fun and games.

From Memorial Day onward, school got fun. It was like we could all see the light at the end of the tunnel. Countdowns of remaining school days were chalked out on the board. Teachers would conduct classes with the lights off, to keep the room cooler (did it though?) Rules could be bent a little. The excitement was palpable.

Summer was hands down my favorite time of year as a kid. Waking up in the full light of day to the scent of freshly cut grass and moseying on down to the kitchen for a bowl of cereal was soon followed by asking Mom if I could go in the pool. Usually pool activities were reserved for after lunch, when it was hotter and after Mom had been able to get some things done around the house, but it never hurt to ask. I loved that pool so much. While on land I often felt clunky and awkward, once I was in the water I felt as graceful as a dolphin. Mind you, I may have looked awkward to anyone watching, but I was having fun.

Geronimo

Freedom, oh free-dom!

Sometimes we would take trips down to the shore. My great-grandparents had a trailer down in Somers Point, and we would stay there for a couple of days at a time through the summer. Days would be spent alternately choking down seawater as I attempted to play in the waves and getting burnt to a crisp on the beach, while evenings were spent chowing down steak sandwiches or pizza and then going on rides along the boardwalk in Ocean City. As a kid, I thought Ocean City was the most magical place ever.

As you can see, a couple of day of warm weather and I’m easily transported back to the enthusiasm I had for summer as a young kid. I only wish I could have the amount of time off that I did back then! Maybe it’s time to reconsider my career path…

Speaking of which, tomorrow I’m off to Chicago, but I will be leaving exactly 24 hours later. Talk about a whirlwind trip!

 

Throwback Thursday – Scarface

It’s long been a joke in my family that if I am in an area where objects are airborne, I am going to get hit in the face. I’ve been hit with basketballs, volleyballs, Frisbees… you name it.

Most people get injured at least a few times on this rocky road of life. And nobody makes it out alive. But when you’re born with pre-existing “injuries,” it can seem even more offensive to hurt yourself in some additional way. I’ve had a couple of doozies over the years. Luckily none of them have been life-threatening, but just kind of stupid, and at the end of the day I’d ask myself, “Why me?”

The first time was when I was about 5 years old. It was a sunny summer morning and Kris and I were running around the house. We lived in a contemporary split-level house with an open floor plan that allowed us to run wild from the front door through the foyer and into the living room without obstacle. That day we were running back and forth, leaping onto the couch at one end and then back to the front door. Since it was a warm day, the wooden door was open, leaving only the plate glass storm door between us and the great outdoors. After hurtling off the couch, I ran full-tilt towards the storm door, hands outstretched and ready to bounce off the door.

Except I didn’t bounce. As my hands made contact with the glass, it shattered, and my little body shot through head first. It happened so suddenly that I didn’t even comprehend what was happening, just that one moment I was running and the next I was lying on the slate patio out front, looking up at the eaves of the house. Mom was soon by my side in a panic, lifting up my shirt to check for cuts.

Somehow, the only part of me that had major cuts was my cheek and my lower lip. My arms were scratched but not enough to require stitches. We went to the emergency room and they stitched up the cuts on my face. The doctor said I was lucky I hadn’t severed my head.

The next insult to my face happened at school, when I was in 7th grade. I was one of the herd trampling through the hall on the way to my next class, which was Chemistry, where I was looking forward to doodling in my notebook and gazing out the window for 45 minutes. Just as I strode into the stairwell, a boy ran in front of me, his long legs flying. Somehow my own legs got caught up in his and I fell forward. My arms were full of my books, so I could hardly catch myself as I fell. My forehead hit the first step. A concrete step with a metal edge.

I was so embarrassed to have fallen in front of everyone, so I quickly pushed myself into a sitting position and tried to gather my books. When I reached up to adjust my glasses, I realized that my forehead was burning. I was bleeding. Someone ran to get the nurse and moments later I was being whisked away in a wheelchair, holding a wad of gauze to my head.

Once again, I was lucky. If I had fallen a few inches further forward, it’s likely I would have broken my nose, or worse yet, fractured bones in my face. Instead, I obtained a lovely inch-long scar on my upper forehead.

In the years since then I have also hosted countless poison ivy rashes on my face, two separate incidences of scratched cornea requiring the use of an eye bandage, a weird phase in my teen years where I kept getting sores in my nostrils (which I lovingly called nostrilitis whenever it showed up) and of course the jaw surgery which was probably the worst planned assault on my face ever, but the results were totally worth it.

In conclusion… be careful with your face, as it’s the only one you’ve got. I’ve certainly learned to be careful with mine, after those tumultuous early years. If you’re ever around me and you see me wince and duck in the presence of flying objects, or wonder why I refuse to try certain risky activities involving speed and/or force, perhaps you’ll remember my tales of blood and stitches and you’ll understand.

What about you? Is there a particular body part you’ve repeatedly injured?

Edit: here’s a pic of the above mentioned scars, plus sun damage from my years of lounging in the pool all summer. 

 
Purple= born this way (well, ok, there was some surgery involved.) Dark blue= plate glass window. Green= school steps incident. Yellow= cornea scratches, and the last one, which I forgot to mention in the blog post: Light blue= sun damage. Luckily this pic is not detailed enough that you can see all my wrinkles too. 😅

Hello from Atlanta!

Ok, so it doesn’t really count to say that I’m in Atlanta because I am only at the airport for an hour or so. But I got to my gate and nothing much seems to be happening so I figured I would bust out a quick blog post.

Here is the final version of the drawing I worked on last night.

The colors are even brighter in real life!

I don’t have much else to say. So far I do not have a headache. Here’s keeping my fingers crossed that I won’t get one today! Dave said the pollen count is really high at home today so I will probably commence sneezing as soon as I walk out of the airport in Hartford.

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I ended up running into a coworker at the gate, so I sat and talked with her until it was time to board. Now we are about to take off.

Up, up and away we go!

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