Anniversary

This is not how I expected to be celebrating my anniversary.

This is a significant one — ten years, a full decade of my life spent with my wife. We’d been talking, around the time of our ninth anniversary, of doing something big this year. Our wedding was anticlimactic (we had a small gathering in a hall where the air conditioning died several days earlier, in the middle of a heat wave, and people left — partially for their own safety — after about 3.5 hours), but the social aspects of it was lovely. We both enjoyed getting together with friends we rarely saw in the days before, congregating in hotel rooms afterward, sharing pictures online in the weeks that followed. We had thought that maybe, this year, we could do a vow renewal, or plan another little-big party (our wedding was only 40 guests, why would this be any bigger?) to celebrate the milestone.

Well. We all know the end of this story.

I am less upset than I think society thinks I should be. I’m frustrated that one of the few days of the year that are truly “ours” is being spent at home in mundaniety, but overall, I’ve made me peace with the situation. Let eleven be out big year instead — it would be perfectly on brand with our affinity for palindromes.

When I met my wife, Kira, she was 21 and I was 25; I don’t know why people felt like that was such a big deal at the time, but I had a number of friends joking about it, asking if she was old enough to drink, checking in about if she knew milestone shows from our youth. My parents warned me early on — my mother in particular, who had already earned quite a reputation in the way of wanting to control literally all of our interpersonal relationships — that someone “her age” wouldn’t be ready to settle down and was going to “use me” (in other words, all she would want was sex and all I would want was marriage and babies. Because those are desires that are set in stone and dictated by strict age guidelines, I guess).

The reality was, we were both incredibly young, in different ways. I had a job on a career path; she was working retail. I was just starting to gain my independence and was subleting a place from my parents; she had left home at 16 and never really gone back. I was on the path through graduate school, she had taken an extra year to complete all her high school credits. She had lived in dozens of cities in nearly a half dozen states, and I had never left my hometown. She had had two serious girlfriends before me; I was brand new to the dating scene. We were definitely going at different paces in some ways, but neither of us were ever really “beyond” the other; rather, we met each other where we were, and helped each other along. What was familiar territory for me was sometimes a mystery for her and vice-versa; we guided each other across terrain where we were sure-footed, to make sure the other didn’t slip.

We moved in together in September of 2009, while Kira was recovering from pertussis; in late October of that year, she surreptitiously told my mother she was going to propose, and took her ring shopping, so my mother could help pick out something to my tastes. On our eightteen month anniversary, in the restaurant where we had our first dinner date, she proposed.

Aside from family, Kira has been in my life longer and more consistently than anybody else (I have friendships that predate our relationship, but with long stretches of radio silence because life got complicated and time has a way of escaping us). We continue balancing each other out, being comforting when the other is sad, quiet when the other needs to vent, supportive when the other is trying something new. She has never stopped encouraging me in any and all of my silly, self-indulgent endeavors (how many times did she go on a grocery run and come back with chocolates, paint palates, and canvases for me??), and continues to be patient in reassuring me that things will be okay, despite, often, all evidence to the contrary.

I am incredibly lucky to have met her, and to continue to have her in my life.

Here’s to the next ten.

Camp NaNoWriMo: Halfway

So, in news that is surprising to absolutely no one who has ever heard my tales of prior Camp NaNoWriMos, things have not been going so well.

Part of it is that I have put an enormous amount of pressure on myself — it’s been weeks and weeks since I’ve actually been creative, and the project I decided to undertake was both ambitious and highly personal (fifteen narrative poems based around seminal and/or transformative moments in my life; so, yeah, no biggie), and those circumstances are wearing heavily on me.

As a result, little to no writing, as it were, has gotten done.

But!

  1. I am building a YouTube habit out of vlogging my trials and tribulations vis-a-vis NaNoWriMo, and while the videos are nothing special at the moment, the habit is helpful as I work my way up to branching out to other kinds of video (I hope to do speed drawing, writing tips and trick, weekly poems (my own, and old favorites) kid’s books reviews, etc).
  2. I joined a writing Discord for people who were in my Camp NaNo cabin, and I have to say, it is nice to be part of a writing Discord where everyone is there by invitation (it’s never going to cap at more than 30 people, which makes it actually possible for person-to-person interaction), and everyone is over the age of 30.

Also, while no “writing” is getting done on the main project, I am doing a crap ton of outlining, free-writing, and brainstorming for each poem, and have decided that, in order to preserve momentum, I will be bringing in past incomplete NaNo projects to work on when I’m burning out on this one. Words written are words written, and are a net gain, regardless on which work they’re written, right?? They’re still words I wrote, on projects I’m working on, and they still count. They still matter.

Anyway, while I’m not totally disillusioned, I think this may be the last time I attempt Camp for a while. It just never seems to work out for my the way I want it to.

To those other who are participating in Camp this week, I hope you are finding a more traditional brand of success with your own projects.

Stay safe and sane, everyone.

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.

Missing Work

Today was the first day in a long time when I did nothing art related. Well, I’m doing a massive Reeves paint-by-number that my sibling-in-law gifted me back when they were downsizing in prep for their temporary move to Sweden, but nothing as “authentically” creative as my own drawing, sketching, or designing.

Part of that was time constraints; I had synchronous (video) classes today at 8:30, 9:30, and 11:30, with 10:30 being occupied by a trip to the school to retrieve some essential belongings. Being back in the building was bizarre. The hallways were all one-ways, with designated up and down staircases; half the classrooms were torn apart for the summer cleanings, so the hallways were packed with all sorts of classroom detritus, doorways to classrooms with newly waxed floors were hung with caution tape; signs and posters for upcoming events and club meetings that never got to happen were still hanging on the walls. It wasn’t “burst into tears” sad, but it was “dull ache deep in my chest” sad.

I’m glad I brought my keys as sort of a last minute whim, because when I got to the room I needed, it was locked. Opening it was like opening a little time capsule. Krissy’s umbrella was still hung up behind her desk. Stapler and paper puncher still on the table where Patty, Kyle, and I were sitting when news of the closure came in through e-mail. When I opened the cabinet where I usually kept my laptop and found it empty, I had a moment of panic until I realized, oh, wait — the day of the closure, I’d spent some time on my laptop, at the desk in the back. The laptop and bag were still propped against the filing cabinet under the desk where I left them, 11 weeks ago.

My mail box was empty, but my cap and gown had come in, for the graduation ceremony that would have been June 1st. The ceremony that I would have carpooled with Kathy and Patty for.

It’s weird, and I don’t think I realized it at the time, but man, what a difference it made just… seeing people’s faces? Only a few — they were tightly controlling the number of people in the building, and only at a distance — but just seeing other human beings in person, who don’t live in the same house as me? I’m not really a “social” person, I don’t make friends easily and I’m uncomfortable in most social situations that don’t have clearly defined rules and roles, and I have managed to completely take for granted how significant of a role in my social needs fulfillment that this job — full of people I’ve worked with for years in an environment and role that I know like the back of my hand because I’ve worked here for nearly 40% of my life — fulfills. How much stopping into a classroom and chatting about TV, or my son’s latest escapades, or school gossip, actually meant, how much it actually bouyed me along and helped me feel tethered to something.

Quarantine has not been bad, honestly. I am incredibly fortunate to be in isolation with people I love, incredibly lucky that I can do my job from home, incredibly privelleged that we have not lost income. But there are moments and days when I’ll think I’m totally fine, and then I’ll get a work email or see a video the kids put together, and I just lose it. I just utterly lose it.

I miss commiserating with people I feel comfortable with. I miss the kids. I miss sitting around the tables in the learning center and shooting the shit once the last kid leaves. I miss faculty meeting where all the teachers act like goofy middle-schoolers and our department head surprises us with donuts. I miss hiding out in the vocational office during a free block, or running copies as a favor to a friend.

But so it goes. We’ll see what the fall brings us. When I do finally find myself back, I know we’re going to celebrate. I’m looking forward to it… whenever it is.

Stay safe, sane, inside.