What I Miss

I talked to my friend Melissa via Discord for the first time (with the exception of “you still ok?” texts) since December.

We’ve been friends for eightteen years, so long stretches of not a whole lot of talking — because I have a kid, because she works a weird retail management schedule, because we both have anxiety (which is incredibly mentally draining) — is not unusual or particularly upsetting. With COVID, though, this absence from each others’ lives has been longer than intended or anticipated. So chatting was good; more than good.

She mentioned a post that popped up on Facebook Memories that morning, of a beach trip she, I, and my sister took, nine years ago (holy shit); we reminisced about how drunk we got, and walking back from the bar to our hotel, how worried all of us were that she was going to run into the sea “to make sweet, sweet love to the waves, as was her wont.”

Oh, God — I miss the beach, I said.

I miss going out and getting buzzed, and I miss streetlamp lit walks back to our hotel, and the smell of saltwater and the crash of waves in the background. I miss bad karaoke at La Bec Rouge, and free Sour Apple shots on Ladies’ Night, and mind-numbingly hot waitresses, and seductive indie guitarists playing on the patio.

I told her how, every once in a while, I get struck by how badly I miss something that COVID has changed, or taken away, and how I keep thinking I should write about that, even though it seems like everyone and their mother is writing about it, and I couldn’t possibly add anything exceptional or new to the mix.

You should, she said. It’s good to think about. It’s good to keep in perspective, and to aknowledge an appreciation that you never really considered before.

So, here are the things I miss that I’d never really appreciated before.

I miss stopping to grab a latte at Dunks before an all-day shopping spree with my wife.

I miss calling my mom up in the early morning and asking if she wanted company, then packing a bag with stuff for Bear and heading to her house to spend the day there.

I miss impromptu McDonalds run with my sister and her kids.

I miss propping open the front door, and letting Bear play with the neighbor kids (as long as I could still hear them!) until dinner time.

I miss standing outside my son’s school with the other parents, waiting for the janitor to open the doors for afternoon pick-up.

I miss listening to podcasts on the treadmill at the gym.

I miss piles of air matresses on the floor, hard cider, and old I Love the 80s reruns at sleepovers with my friends.

I miss clandestine cigarettes out on my sister’s back porch after the kids have gone to bed.

I miss stocking up at the grocery store for supplies for a weekend potluck.

I miss scrounging through clearance racks at the change of seasons.

I miss sitting and reading a magazine in the Children’s Room at our library while Bear plays with the hand puppets and Thomas the Tank Engine activity table.

I miss rainy nights in the Boston’s Theatre District, and long walks between the restaurant and the theatre before a show.

I miss the early morning anticipation in the admission lines for Comic-Con.

I miss cosplay meet-ups in Boston, I miss conventions, I miss packed-to-capacity panel rooms with a hundred nerds in costume.

I miss midnight movie releases and line parties.

I miss my sister stopping by hours early before a party with alcohol and baking supplies.

I miss sending my son to school on field trip days.

I miss crowding around a computer with my mom and brother to play an escape-the-room game.

I miss knowing my wife has something wonderful planned for our birthdays, or anniversaries, or whatever special occassion she’s remembered (the day she gave me my ring, the day of our first date, the day we met it person, etc.)

I miss impromptu hotel stays with fancy dinners when my wife thinks I’ve been too stressed lately.

I miss… the freedom of not having to plan for my every move, to take into account every possible precaution to make sure I’m not bringing home a potentially deadly pathogen. I miss being able to be impromptu. To be spontaneous. I missing being able to do, without having to mentally measure physical distance or remember to bring masks or stock up on hand sanitizer.

I miss being able to write my chronic anxiety off as “excessive.” I’m tired of my fears being vindicated. The novelty has worn off.

I made my first trip to a store today, set foot inside a retail establishment for the first time since March 12th. It was terrifying, even though everyone wore a mask and kept their distance (though that was really encouraging to see). I have my first social event tonight that isn’t just with my family, in the form of an outdoors, socially distanced get-together for the 4th — nine people including us, BYOB, some food but all single-use disposable serving utensils and all disposable plates and cutlery, plus a bevy of sanitation precautions for bathroom usage and hand sanitation. It makes me feel a lot more comfortable going somewhere where I know we and the other guests and interested in mantaining all the safety protocols, but man, I miss not having to worry about safety protocols.

I miss the days when the biggest social safety protocols I had to worry about was keeping my wallet and drink close by and arranging a designated driver.

But if we keep living like this, we keep… living. And honestly, I will trade conveience for peace of a mind and a chance to safely see my friends. I hope all of you realize that that’s a worthwhile trade off.

There’s a lot to miss, but there’s a lot we can still do if we’re just conscientious about it and follow the experts’ guidelines.

Stay safe and sane, everyone.

Camp NaNoWriMo

First, before I get into the meat of this post, I’m celebrating the fact that my state has just had the first day with zero COVID fatalities since March 21st. All our numbers are down, as well — hospitalizations, intubations, and new diagnoses. We had, in our state of roughly 8 million, 114 new cases today.

For a state that had formerly been a “hot spot,” reporting thousands of new cases and up to 200 deaths per day during the height of it, this is incredibly positive news.

We still have a long, long way to go, but here’s the bright and shining proof that — gasp! — slow reopening with strict restrictions and enforced masking actually works, what a goddamned shocker, right?? It’s like, I don’t know, like Science is Real or something.

Anyway, that all being said, and with me beginning to be able to breathe a little easier (through my mask, which I will continue to wear for the foreseeable future), who is ready to take on Camp NaNoWriMo?

I…. have a very mixed relationship with Camp NaNoWriMo, which you can read a bit about here, in an essay I had originally published in the NaNo publication on Medium (and which needs to be seriously updated). Camp NaNo has a different energy that hasn’t always worked for me, though to be fair, in the last several years, every iteration of Camp had coincided with things going wonky at work, my social life getting turned up to 11, or taking on more than one creative challenge. This is the first time in at least the last four years when Camp has no other real competition for my time, save the rhythms of daily life.

I’ve joined my Cabin, am pantsing my project (which I’m still not 100% on), and readying to launch my YouTube channel (finally!) with some Camp NaNo vlogs. So, it’s on.

Is anyone else participating? Hit me up on Twitter (@rarelytidytweet) or on the official @rarelytidywriting)!

(Also, no worries, art isn’t off the table, but rather than force as I’ve been doing, I’m going to work on more lighthearted design stuff (I have some hopes/ideas for merch!), practicing anatomy/perspective, and collecting ideas. Art will be back full-force second week of August (why second week? I’ll tell you when we get there)).

Stay safe and sane, guys — and go out. Enjoy the summer weather.

Just mask up, keep your distance, wash your hands, and follow local guidelines. Come on, guys. Don’t ruin it for the rest of us.

Ringing Out #Pride

I’ve had murals on the mind, as of late.

I’ve had a lot on my mind, as of late; I’m sure I’ve mentioned it.

This is the crossroads of those two things.

A few days ago, my husband of ten years became my wife of ten years. Or rather, revealed she was my wife of ten years — coming out is about recognition and revelation of what has always been there, however deeply it may have been buried.

One of people’s first questions over the last few days when she’s been telling people she’s trans is for them to ask — either bluntly (as my father-in-law did) or with more subtle, gentle language — if she and I were staying together.

I mean — yes, of course. We love each other, and gender is incidental to me at best (my own gender being fairly ambiguous, and my sexuality being pretty flexible). Any fears or concerns I have — and I do have them, don’t get me wrong — are focused entirely on the cruelty and intolerance that others are capable of, not of my own feelings of attraction or affection towards her. The relationship between she and I, our own interpersonal give-and-take, has not changed. Will not change, at least not directly or dramatically from this, and at least not any more or less than any relationship shifts and changes over the years as both parties themselves grow, and shift, and change.

I cannot imagine not being in this with her for the long-haul. I cannot imagine her not being in my life.

And so, as Pride Month winds down, and my wife begins living her life authentically, I painted our closet doors with our Pride flags.

From left to right: genderqueer and bisexual (mine); trans and lesbian (hers).

The weather has turned from warm to hot; the typical summer thunderstorms have been rolling through all day, teasing a break in the humidity.

We’ve been invited to some social events — all outdoors, all socially distanced, all COVID safety guidelines compliant — and are hoping to get out a little more frequently with smaller groups of friends in the warm weather. I know there must be some mental health benefits to seeing people, and I know (intellectually) there are safe ways to do that, so we should probably make an effort. I miss the sun. I miss seeing people’s faces.

Stay safe, sane, and inside — or outside (masked and socially distant, of course).

Writing on the Wall

Well, not writing, strictly speaking.

I’ve been trying to overhaul the house. I get bored easily — with my personal appearance, with projects, with my house. I’ve changed up the former two multiple times since quarantine started — check out all my art projects, my to-the-skin undercut, my pink and green hair — so it was only a matter of time.

In lieu of bouncing off the walls, I’ve opted to paint them.

Done on a whim, with masking tape straight from the Dollar Tree, and Apple Barrel paints. The metallic gold clung a little too tenaciously to the tape so as I was peeling it off, it took a decent chunk of the triangle off with it. My solution to that is keeping the bottle of gold paint and a paintbrush nearby, and every time I think of it, brushing on some new paint. It’s looking better and better everyday.

Colors are Apple Barrel’s Black, Antique White, Pewter Gray, Nutmeg Brown, Chocolate Brown, and Folk Art’s Pure Gold.

More murals might be in my future, I think. I’ll let you know.

Stay safe, sane, and inside.

Tablet Update

The tablet work is hit or miss. The tablet itself is great; I move the pen, it goes where I want it to go. I feel so much more in control of my work than I did trying to do literally anything with the analogue mouse. I guess what more tripping me up is Corel, because beyond flat color and some basic text stuff, I actually have absolutely no idea how to use it. I’m thinking sitting back and watching some YouTube tutorials is going to be seriously in order.

I also don’t know if this is going, in any way, to replace analogue drawing, but it would be nice, as Andy has said, to be able to do art and not have to worry about my resources (i.e., I’m low on canvases, running out of ink, only have a few sheets of paper left, etc.)

I think I’m bothered by the fact that this has revealed a core truth about where I am that I’ve been trying to ignore, and that is that I need to step back from ambitious projects as my raison d’etre and actually focus most of my time on studying other people’s technique, do a lot of gesture drawing, do a lot of anatomy work, etc. instead of trying to produce a ton of polished works.

(Which isn’t to say abandon all projects all together, just that my time should skew more towards other things).

I’m done with work until, at minimum, September, and trying not to panic/have anxiety about what “returning” to work will look like (we aren’t ready to go back to school. There are 1,800 people in our building. There is no way we can comply with the guidelines that are being recommended. This would seriously be so disasterous. And my son goes to school in one of the epicenters (our hometown). He’s five years old, and there is no way that his teachers, dedicated as they are, are going to feasibly ensure that all the kids comply perfectly with safety standards. But if one of us goes back, the other is fucked, quite frankly. Ugh, I’m sorry, I can’t keep talking about this). In the interim, I’m going to try to even divide art time between working on projects and working on learning technique.

Because you all know how awesome I am at time management, right?

If anyone has any suggestions about good tutorial videos about either working with micron pen or working with Corel Paintshop Pro, that’d be much appreciated.

Stay safe, sane, and inside.

Breaking Through

As was evidenced the last time I was feeling art blocked, the worst thing I can possibly do is “nothing.”

So I’ve done some doodling (nothing I want to share at the moment). I’ve done some planning. I actually had a bit of a breakthrough last night while browsing Tumblr (after setting up my new art/ephemera/inspiration blog, @allyourcrookedheart) and wound up adding a few ideas to my Art Doc on Google.

And then I went and bought myself a tablet.

A Huion Inspiroy to be precise. I haven’t used a drawing tablet since my sister’s old Wacom back in 2001, but I figured since Andy bought me a Humble Bundle back in September that included the pro-version of Corel Painter, I might as well give it a shot. Even if I continue doing analogue drawing and scanning my images to color, I hate hate hate trying to do basically anything except basic web navigating with a mouse. I’m sure there will be a learning curve, but now is as good of a time as any.

So, here’s to gaining momentum; I seem to be my most creative when I’m staring down something new and shiny, so hopefully this will give me that jump start. Wish me luck.

Stay safe, sane, and inside.

Life Update

So life has been kind of a lot lately. Not bad — I don’t want to give that impression; we remain incredibly lucky — just a lot. It’s a combination of things that are so minute they don’t warrant individual examination and things that are simply not my right to divulge at the moment, but either way, life has sort of gotten in the way of creative endeavors.

I mean, not entirely. I have three #DrawingPride sketches that are in the works, I have two other sketches I’m slowly puttering away on (one in the planning stages, one that’s in an early draft in my sketchbook), I still plan on doing the Tarot set, and I’m working on setting up a few hopeful side hustles for the summer and beyond.

Working, I guess, has not been the issue, but feeling capable of the focus needed to actually see anything through to completion has sort of dwindled and died.

Temporarily, at least.

Things I’ve Been Doing Instead of Being Creative or Productive

  1. Solved our first Hunt a Killer case! One month and probably about sixteen hours of work later, 30s theatre icon Viola Vane has been laid to rest. No spoilers for the case, but I will say the hunch I was so certain about for the last couple of boxes was way off. We’re already mid-way through Class of 98 (box-wise, though I feel like I really need to go back and comb through the evidence more thoroughly), and we’ll be getting the first episode of our next serialized case shipped tomorrow.
  2. Started (sort of) rewatching Adventure Time. I don’t remember what spurred me on to decide to start the rewatch, but I’ve been picking and choosing old favorite episodes for a couple of days to revisit. I’m seriously considering starting a full, linear rewatch very soon.
  3. I’ve read 20 fics for The Fanfic Summer Reading Program. I did a deep dive back into House and Sherlock fandoms for my first week of summer challenge. I’d forgotten how much I loved both of those fandoms, and I might wind up continuing to read in them despite my Nostalgia Week being over.
  4. Realized that because of quarantine-induced lack of personal purchasing, my personal budget for June is $300. I’m not looking to go and blow it for the sake of blowing it, but I am looking at potential “just for me” purchases to brighten the days.
  5. Started playing Dream Daddy. Woo, boy, am I late to this game, but I’m having so much fun. This game is hilarious, and it makes me so happy that you have the option of being gay or bi and of being cis or trans. So far I’ve completed Joseph’s track and Robert’s and… I’m pretty sure I got the “bad” ending for Joseph, but I think… I think I got the best ending I could for Robert? I don’t know. After I go through the whole game once I’ll prob restart it and try to get different endings.
  6. Bought my son his summer wardrobe. If any of you have kids, go see if The Children’s Place summer sale is still happening, because man. I got the Bear eight shirts, six pairs of shorts, and a pack of underwear for about $67.
  7. Brought my sibling-in-law in to expand our Dungeons & Dragons party (via Discord and Tabletop Simulator). They’re playing an existing character that they’ve made and played for other campaigns. Bear loves getting to talk and hang out with his entle, and after yesterday’s hour-and-a-hald D&D session, they stayed on the call chatting and hanging out for another four hours.

I’m hoping you all are doing well, holding tight and preparing to ride the (sigh) “second” wave of this virus (we never saw the crest of the first wave, but let’s not get into that). I have read that with proper precautions and a slow and responsive reaction to medical data we probably can do a slow reopening without seeing a major spike. But again, that requires people to act responsibly and… well, you all know how that goes.

But all of you are cool, responsible folks. Right??

Stay safe, sane, and inside. Cheers. Hope to have some cool art stuff to show you all soon.

Fanfic Reading Challenge

Because I love a good challenge. And also because I’ve been saying I’m going to “get back into” reading fanfic over and over and over again. And and, because it might be nice to incentivize reading outside my wheelhouse — i.e., A/B/O fics, AU fics, crossovers, etc.

Fanfic Summer Reading Program is to get people reading and interacting with fan-written works. There are pre-fabbed weekly themes, but you are welcome to chose your own, or do a different fandom or character each week. I’m not entirely sure what I’ll be doing yet, but I’ll be sure to let you know.

Hopefully this will also help spur/inspire me to get back into reading professionally published fiction, as well as completing my own fanfic (I have one sitting in limbo, almost finished, since 2017. I have another that I never finished but got almost 10k words into from 2015. It’s awful).

The only addition I’m think I’m making is making one week a “Nostalgia” reads week, where I seek out new fanworks for old fandoms that I haven’t seriously read in years (i.e., Sherlock, Doctor Who, Supernatural, Avengers, etc.)

This summer is going to be so palpably different from past summers, returning to a long-held tradition — binging fanfic — in the midst of the chaos feels cathartic and comfortable.

Stay safe, sane, and inside, guys.

My Existence…

The first of a hopefully ten-piece #DrawingPride.

I am… so bummed. Because apparently I have no idea how to spell “existence?” As in, I spelled it with an “a” instead of the second “e.” And I was apparently so confident in that misspelling that I did it three separate times.

Uggghh.

I’m proud of the piece anyway. Some day I will buy some White-Out and fix this, but that probably won’t happen during Pride Month, so I’ll have to own up to this mistake. Even writers aren’t all perfect spellers.

Prompt #3 from #DrawingPride 2018, radical.

Happy Pride & An Attempt to Banish Art Block

I’ve not done any original art in what is probably about a week now. I would say that’s unacceptable, but what good is that — it doesn’t change anything. I’ve been feeling less than inspired and overall just kind of blah. I’d run through my backlog of ideas — which, to be fair, took me nearly six months, so that’s not awful. I’m the person who used to stew for weeks and not have any ideas they deemed worthy of committing to paper, so in the context of my personal history, that’s pretty good.

Still, this isn’t where I want to be.

I thought I had a solution; I was going through old art of my from last summer, when I was head-over-heels, up-to-my-neck submerged in the Good Omens fandom, and I found a piece of fanart. I had painted, in watercolor, a version of a Tarot card (The Lovers) featuring Aziraphale and Crowley. I was an even less skilled artist than I am now, and yet I still really liked the piece, even upon rediscovery.

I thought I might like to try my hand and doing a partial Tarot deck — a few of the Major Arcana, maybe — in my own style and interpretation (but not fanart). I know it’s not a groundbreaking concept (I think everyone and their mother has done a Tarot deck), but because it’s slightly derivative, it gives me the structure I need to function when I fall into one of these Brain Weird spirals.

I still plan on doing that, by the way, but if I’m doing my own take on something, I want it to the best possible take, which means some research. I wanted something I could jump into right away.

And then I found out about #DrawingPride.

June is LGBTQ Pride Month, and to celebrate, some queer artists participate in a 30 day art challenge. My schedule, skill level, and Brain Weird won’t allow for a consistent work a day without stressing me the hell out, so I don’t think I’m going to participate officially, but I am going to draw some inspiration from the prompts and aim for two per week (which will ideally be about ten in total).

I’m also not going to adhere to the chronological prompts for 2020, but pick and choose the ones I most relate to from the past three years (including the current one):

For instance, I really feel no authority to do twink or leather, bathhouse or ballroom; but bisexual, safe space, genderqueer, transition, nonbinary, family, equality, etc.? Those I’m down with. Those I feel comfortable and confident in putting to paper, because they are much more in line with my own experiences.

So this is what I’ll be spending June doing, and during the in-between times I’ll be doing a little research into the symbology of traditional Tarot cards so that I can attempt to capture the essence and meaning of the cards in my own interpretation.

Let’s see how this works out for me.