June Wrap-up

So I’ve started actually moving again in June, wrapping up several pieces that had been languishing, ignored, on my hard drive for weeks or months. I took a few reference photos for other drawings I want to do in the next few days, and still have several more to take — I realized the other day that of the five A-to-Z redraws I was supposed to do in May, it has taken me until the end of June to complete just two of them. I’m still interested in revisiting several of them, so I will have to do some reference photos for them this week, as well.


Life keeps moving. We’ve been venturing into the Outside World a little more, establishing household routines, buckling down and actually making strides on goals we’ve been talking about for ages. Life has some semblance of order and routine, and we are secure enough within our social bubble to finally be making plans with friends and family again.

I am glad, as I am often actively glad, to live in Massachusetts, where we have more than half the population fully vaccinated (and 70% of the actually elligible population), and a 0.33% positivity rate. I’m hoping the trend continues; I’m liking this controlled return to something approaching normal. I’m liking having something like a life, again.

Stay safe and sane, all.

A-to-Z Challenge: Queer/Queen/Quaint; Rider/Rise/Reward; Spine/Sign/Study

Come on, how much do you love my conceptualization of the mom? It’s great, right? Art at it’s finest.

“These are the best we could do?” Arianna murmured doubtfully as yet another potential suitor — smug and dark-haired, just like all the others — left the dining hall. “These are our best and brightest? This parade of arrogance and swagger?”

“They have every right to be proud,” her mother chastised sharply. “Pride is not the same as arrogance if it’s earned, Arianna. These you men are high born and highly skilled.”

“So their parents have money and they’re good with a sword,” Arianna said dismissively. “I don’t see how that sets them apart from me in anyway, and yet I’m constantly being told to be humble.” She side-eyed her mother, boredly.

“I can only assume that humility is to be the ‘lady-like’ counterpoint to my husband-to-be’s arrogance. Oh, apologies — pride. What a quaint arrangement.”

Her mother let out a long suffering sigh as Kiara, one of the servant girls, entered the room with an elaborate tray piled high with pastries and a gilded teapot. She waved the young woman in, rubbing at her temples.

“What would you have me say, Arianna?” she asked. “We have traditions, we have expectations and social mores. You are expected to find a husband, to be taken care of, to have children. Do you not want a secure life?”

“I don’t want that life,” Arianna sniffed. Her mother shook her head in frustration as Kiara poured her tea in a delicate china cup. Her mother took a long sip.

“You don’t know what you’re talking about,” her mother huffed, placing the cup back in it’s saucer with a little more force than strictly necessary. “You’ve not lived long enough to know. Your life will be long, God-willing, and what a horrid thing it would be if you were to live it alone.”

“I never said I wished to be alone,” Arianna aid airly. Kiara set a pile of sweet cakes on a plate before her. Arianna winked at her surreptitiously. Kiara’s face turned bright pink as she turned away, grinning.

“I only said I don’t wish to have a husband.”


Five a.m., and they pulled off the highway to eat, not a leisurely breakfast but a desperate devouring of the last remnants of the meal from the previous night; ham and cheese sandwiches kept cold in the front pocket of Erin’s Jansport with a sweaty dollar store ice pack. They rinsed their mouths with flat coke, tore into packets of Little Debbie swiss rolls with their teeth, and leaned themselves and their old bike against the guardrails on the highway as the turned their faces east.

How much further to go?” Kelly asked, her voice hoarse from disuse and the road. Erin took the last swig of Coke and shrugged.

“Miles or time,” she said, tossing the bottle over the guard rail. Kelly clucked her tongue disapprovingly. “Which is more helpful?”

Kelly shrugged. “Time, I guess.”

“Probably another five or six hours.”

Kelly chewed her lip thoughtfully, scuffing the road with her well-worn leather boats. Dry puffs of dust rose from the pavement in diaphonous clouds.

“That’s not so bad,” she muttered.

“No,” Erin agreed. “Not after everything else.”

“Yeah.”

“Yeah.”

The sat in silence for a moment, Kelly picking absently at the blood stains crusted on her jeans, the flesh still tender under the bulk of the bandages. She forced herself to stop worrying the injury, sat on her hands to keep her promise. The cold pavement against her hands, and the pressure of her weight was comforting, in a way. She turned to Erin and chanced a smile.

“At least we get sun today,” she said. Erin glanced over at her, her face unreadable. The corner of her mouth quirked, and she dipped her head in agreement.

“Yeah,” she said. “Yup. At least there’s that.”


She felt the gentle swish of her shirt in the path of approaching footfalls, but was still startled when she felt a hand on her back

“Naomi!” she signed. “Don’t sneak up!”

“Sorr-” Naomi started before catching herself.

“Sorry,” she signed. She pushed a stack of books out of the way with her foot and sat facing Zara. “I thought you had your hearing aids.”

Zara pushed her hair back to show her the buds in her ears.

“Turned them off,” she signed. “People never respect the silence of a library and I am beside myself trying to get shit together for my thesis.


Not going to lie; this might be my last year doing A-to-Z. I might take on some other monthly challenges, or seriously rethink how I handle this challenge, but I feel more and more — and I felt it a little bit last year, but hooo boy, is it full force this year — I feel more and more that it’s actually hindering my creativity more than helping me.

Actually, no; let me rephrase. I’m actually happy with what it’s doing for my creativity, because I was running out of ideas and also because I tend to stick with very similarly themed and similarly composed drawings, so this has been good in helping my generate scenes I normally wouldn’t consider drawing/painting. It’s hindering my productivity, because despite how rough the sketches are — and yeah, I know, they are rapidly degenerating before our eyes — it takes time and effort to conceptualize what I want to do for the sketch and what the story behind it is.

I already have a few front runners for what I might want to work on next month — and that’s exciting! — but I’m not getting much else done right now, and while I was a-ok with that at the start of the month, I’m regretting it a little now.

Because I hadn’t banked on the fact that, hey — ideas generate naturally, as well. They develop organically.

I have non-A-to-Z art ideas now, but I really can’t devote the time and energy to them that I’d like to, because I have to shift gears and conceptualize something new every day.

Next month when I’m not on a timeline, I can work on multiple projects at once and can easily do some of my own ideas alongside those generated by A-to-Z, but right now, my fingers are just itchy, man, ya know?

Hope all is going well for all other participants. Stay safe and sane.

A-to-Z Challenge: Potential/Pick/Pier

He sat on the dock and caught his breath; off in the distance, he could see the silhouette of a solitary fisherman out on a dinghie. He was an impossibly small shadow against the setting sun, and Denny considered, briefly, if he could chance a quick binder break. He looked around surreptitiously, fingers worrying the bottom edge of his binder before thinking better of it. He breathed in, as deeply as he could, , slicked his wet hair back, and stretched his back until it cracked. Just a few weeks until top surgery. Just a few weeks more until swim team tryouts. He could keep it under wraps (literally and figuratively, he mused) until then. He was sure he’d be a top pick. He was abso-fucking-lutely sure of it.

It would be so good — so so fucking good — to breathe easy for once.


Just a quick one tonight. Support trans athletes and support trans inclusion in sports.

Stay safe and sane.

A-to-Z Challenge: Nun/Name/Needle; Outside/Offensive/Oven

I will be honest; I’ve not got the energy to write out the vignette for the first of these, but the second of these has no vignette attached to it at all. There was no story or scenario in my head for the second one; the words generated, and automatically I thought about a couple of days last week, where the temperature far exceeded what we were expecting and we were sorely unprepared for it.

The first one was a little bit drawn from vague memories of my own Catholic schooling, but also somewhat inspired by a scene in The House on Mango Street. I imagine a young girl — disheveled, embarrassed — wearing shoddy, falling-apart clothing to school and being made fun of my her peers. One of the sisters sits with her in the classroom while the other kids are at recess, offering comfort and mending some of the more egregious rips and tears in her clothing. I like the idea of the scene quite a bit. I feel like I’ve said that about a fair few — which is not a bad thing! I would rather an excess of project ideas rather than a dearth — so I’m not going to say this is in the running just yet, but don’t be surprised if you see it again next month is all I’m saying.


I am on Spring Break! I spent yesterday and today getting my house in order so that I could throw myself into projects, both personal and creative, over the next seven days. I have activities to do with my son, I have four library books checked out on digital loan, I have three new podcasts I’m ready to check out, and I have two shiny art projects — not including the A-to-Z — that I’m working on. All in all, I’m incredibly glad for break.

In another bit of news that reminds me me both that I want to start writing new poetry again, but also that I need to bring over and archive my collection of sestinas (some of which are over a decade old at this point) — I was a finalist for the 2021 Robert Frost Foundation Poetry Prize with a sestina a wrote bordering on ten years ago (holy shit) called “Noise.” I miss writing poetry, particularly sestinas (they’re like a little puzzle to me; it’s such a thrill and a joy, figuring out how to piece it all together), and that is definitely something I should make room in my life for this summer.

I am breathing a deep sigh of relief and am eager to have a productive and relaxing break. Hope you all, whether you are working or not, have a lovely week.

Stay safe and sane.


This month, I’m using a random word generator to generate three words around which I will then craft a sketch and a literary vignette. I will chose my five favorites to fully flesh out (as full digital paintings and short-short stories) in May and beyond.

A-to-Z Challenge: Mother/Misery/Mass

I don’t have a vignette written for this one; I just wanted a young mother-to-be coming in off the streets, out of a bad situation. It’s been raining, and her hair and clothing is plastered to her skin; she sits in the final row of pews to be less obtrusive, but the church isn’t currently holding mass. There are a few people scattered here and there, kneeling in prayer and rising only to light a devotional candle before they leave.

Can people even do that anymore? The churches in my city used to be perpetually unlocked, open to anyone who wanted to come in at any time. I’m pretty sure they lock the doors now, when not in active use. It’s still an image I love, though, and one — now that I think about it — I’ve used before, ages ago, in a NaNoWriMo novel that I lost after the laptop I’d saved it on was stolen (note: back up your work, kids!) I’m not a religious person by any stretch or by any means, but I grew up immersed in a lot of Catholic “stuff” and for every religious “trauma,” I also have a good or pleasant nostalgic memory — I spent a lot of spring feast days and special occassions in grammar school in church for the morning session, and celebrating in the afternoon. As much as I don’t miss the religion, I miss some of the rituals, and some of the memories of my youth.


I’m exhausted. I’ve been exhausted for days, and maybe the reason it’s coming to a head today is because I finally got my period, or maybe because this is the first day I feel like I can really breathe a little bit — my parents and brother got the first dose of the vaccine today, and it was the last day of work before April break. I feel like a lot of pent up tension is released today, but the result of that is this weird emotional let down — like I’ve been holding myself together with duct tape and safety pins and now that everything is done, that whole scaffolding is just crumbling.

So I will have to catch up on A-to-Z tomorrow and Sunday. That’s fine. I also have chores tomorrow, but I got a hell of a lot down yesterday and today and I am trying extremely hard to give myself the due credit for my progress instead of berating myself for not having completely finished.

And I think I’m going to kick off the first night of Spring Break with some mindless YouTubing, a chat with my mom, some Annie’s Organic Peanut Butter Snack Bars, and our new Rosé All Day candle.

Cheers to you all. Stay safe and sane.


This month, I’m using a random word generator to generate three words around which I will then craft a sketch and a literary vignette. I will chose my five favorites to fully flesh out (as full digital paintings and short-short stories) in May and beyond.

Creativity Dump

I’d forgotten how fun Twitter prompts were.

Back in the day, like a hundred iterations of the blog ago (ok, so probably like, early 2016) I used to do Twitter prompts all the time.  I don’t know when or why I fell out of it; I think because I felt obligated to turn every prompt into some elaborate, epic poem, when really the point was to create a piece of micro-poetry that could — gasp — be posted on Twitter.

Returning to it this past week, man, it is fun.  The really strictly condensed prompt tags like #hintfiction (25 words or less), #storyin12 (12 words or less) and #hangtenstories (10 words or less), as well as #haikuchallenge have been a source or real, genuine creative enjoyment for me these last few days.  I’ve actually decided to start a monthly archive of my filled prompts on my Poetry and Other Writing Page.  You can read them here.

I also finished a drawing last night, which got a much, much warmer reception on Facebook than I was expecting:

87934652_10157028941939352_69173059642195968_o

I am ever grateful that tomorrow is Wednesday.  Hopefully I can be a bit productive around the house and maybe even get some exercise in.

Take a minute to breathe, guys.  In and out, slow and steady.  We can do this.

 

The Brainweird

I have The Brainweird.

It’s not a term I came up with — you see it a lot among neurodivergent folks — and I usually use it on the lighter end of things, for the little inconsistencies and annoying quirks of my brain rather than the more disruptive stuff (which, thankfully, has become slightly more manageable the older I’ve gotten).

Today’s edition of The Brainweird is how I manage to feel absolutely useless and stagnant even when I’ve objectively accomplished a fair amount of what I’ve set out to do.  We (Bear and I) went to my mom’s today.  We each happily did our own things, and then reconvened to happily do some stuff together, and Bear got to spend some more time with Boopy and Goob again (I didn’t come up with those names, by the way, it just happens to be a convenient fact that my friends have given their spawn goofy nicknames that translate well to a certain degree of anonymity).

In our “doing our own thing” interims, I’ve done a fair bit of art, completing one project and starting in on another, and wrote a number of Twitter poetry prompts,  and yet I still feel like I could have done More, in some way.  I can look at the work I objectively did and know that the work is at the top of my game (not flawless, but the peak of my ability at the moment), and still feel like I’ve failed in some way.  Part of me feels like maybe it’s that something so self-indulgent as playing at being an artist, especially at my age and skill level, is almost unacceptably selfish (which is not something I ever project onto anyone else, so this isn’t aconcept that I ever globally apply, it’s really just me who apparently doesn’t deserve to do this for themself. So, yeah.  That’s where I’m at at the moment).

It might be — and I’m hoping it is — in part hormones¹, because it really sucks to not be able to enjoy my accomplishments even when I’ve finally actually accomplished something.  Not helping is the fact that my vacation is essentially over, and there was so, so much more I had hoped to do (even though, again, I did a lot of what I set out to do, which was relax and work on art).

My last finished drawing is something I am incredibly happy with, though I’m dissatisfied with the shading.  Still, I can see how far I’ve come since I started drawing/painting in February of 2019:

20200219_200339

It’s Friday night, and I hope you have something fun or relaxing lined up to treat yourself.  Enjoy your weekend.


¹Lending some credence to the idea that it might be at least in part hormones, I finished The Sun is Also a Star the other night and bawled my fucking eyes out.  So, I mean, something definitely up, yeah.  (I’m still slowly working on The Fifth Season, but I spend so much more time with my phone than me (borrowed) physical copy that it’s slow going.  I’ve also got a digital copy of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children to start).

Little slice of life

I spent the first official day of my vacation at my parents’ house.  Bear got to hang out with the kids — including his cousins — and I got to spend some time with my brother and sister, which is an increasingly rare occurrence, especially since my sister and I had kids.  And honestly, I adore my niece and nephew (and Bear, obviously), but I’ve got to say, more and more I keep thinking that my siblings and I need to plan a Just Us night out.  Nothing especially crazy, just a night out, maybe at a local pub, without kids.  We could leave the kids at home with our partners, go drinking, and then come home and crash — hell, even at my place (my son is quiet, a heavy sleeper, and out like a light by 8:30 even on a bad night).  I miss having time to just shoot the shit with them, you know?  The last time we even really came close to that was our cousin Nikki’s wedding, and that was October of 2018.

I spent a couple of hours art-ing today, which was nice — I did a relatively quick (like maybe an hour and a half?) drawing in my sketchbook, and started another one , the latter being one that I had on the brain for a while, the former just something to occupy my hands while I sat and chatted with my mom and sister this afternoon: 20200217_162447

Today was immensely enjoyable, but also very much just about spending time with family and family friends in that sort of low-key, very familiar sense — wonderful to experience, but not exciting fodder for a story.  It was chasing toddlers, singing silly songs, laughing with my siblings, going with my sister on a McDonald’s run, coloring with my son, doing my nieces nails, etc.  I was dropped at my folks house at 7 am and picked up at about 5:30 pm, so it really was basically the whole day.

It’s Monday.  If you were off for the holiday, I hope it was relaxing, and if you weren’t, you are amazing, you are wonderful, and I hope people treated you with the kindness and respect you deserve.  You’ve gotten through the hardest day, just put one foot in front of the other; you’ll get where you’re going one step at a time.

Vacation

Tomorrow is Friday, and Valentine’s Day to boot.  Andy and I actually make fair effort to prioritize couple time (a privilege, I recognize; we are incredibly lucky to have my retired mother live so close by and  be perpetually willing to babysit), but it’s still nice to have an “excuse” to go out and be self-indulgent.

Bear is staying at my parents’ house tomorrow night, so Andy and I have the evening and the earliest part of Saturday to ourselves.  Honestly, having the morning to ourselves feels like so much more of a treat — not being awoken to the sound of a five-year-old trying to teach himself how to play “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” on the recorder is a luxury you don’t recognize until you start being roused every morning at five a.m. by a one-man woodwind concerto.

Tomorrow is also, notably, the last day before mid-winter break, and I am so excited to have a week to pursue personal projects; I haven’t had a break that was filled with familial or domestic obligations since August, and I’m incredibly excited to get time to work on some creative endeavors (and a little bit of self-care, as well).

Today I did quite a bit of reading, and am 3/4 of the way through The Sun is Also a Star (I’ve got a soft spot for YA fiction, but haven’t been reading much of it in the last few years), and about 1/5 of the way through The Fifth Season.  I also did a little bit of art and wrapped up not one, but two drawings:

20200213_201705 (1)

20200213_201631

Tomorrow is Friday!  Sing a little song, do a little dance.  You have arrived.

Recovering

20200209_173814

I’ve not been keeping up with my creative endeavors, but I’ve not been entirely slacking, either — I’ve got one more day, officially, with this challenge before I move on to lips, though at some point I think I’ll need to revisit noses (I hate them.  I hate them, I hate them, I hate them). Lately I’ve just been trying to recover from being sick — because inevitably, when I take a sick day for any reason than actually being basically bedridden (as I did this past Monday), it is all but guaranteed that I will get terribly sick in subsequent days.  So, getting sick wasn’t exactly a surprise so much as it was confirmation of the curse that’s followed me for well over a decade at this point.

I was determined not to take an additional sick day as a point of misplaced pride, so I carried cough drops, kept my hands clean, and went through a lot of Kleenex and hand sanitizer.  This is our last week before mid-winter break, a beautiful nine days off with no obligations, before the long haul of March (the month of No Days Off and MCAS testing) hits us full force.

Being sick knocked me on my ass, though.  I’ve not gotten any sign work done, and even reading has kind of been a slog, since my head has been full of cotton and I’ve been distracted by how badly my throat hurts (ugh, it had been a while since I had a full-on sore throat, and it is such a miserable experience).  All of that has more or less subsided (throat is still tender when I yawn, but swallowing is okay now).  I’m starting to look forward to getting back on track with my art, now that my head can actually hold onto thoughts beyond “So tired, need sleep.”

Today Bear and I sat down and did Valentine’s for his class.  Oh man, let me tell you — what a wave of nostalgia when he brought home The List of Classmates.  I remember sitting down every year and spreading things out in front of my like I was some master craftsman — colored pens or pencils, tape (if I was sending a goodie along with the Valentine), stickers, envelopes — and crossing names off with this, like, refined precision.  It was honestly probably the most organized and on top of things I had ever been (or like, would ever be) in my life.

Bear and I picked out Toy Story valentines, but he wanted to do something a little Extra.  There were some Valentine’s packs that had little treats, but most were candy (and the school has a no food treats rule, because of food allergies), and the ones that weren’t were stickers for properties that we’d never heard of.  So, Bear and I spent the afternoon making bracelets for his classmates.20200209_141155
I’d had the elastic laying around from a mail trade with an online friend about five years ago, and the plastic beads let over from making pride charms seven or eight years ago.  The letter blocks were an impulse buy from Dollar Tree within the last two years, and I was thrilled to finally get to use them for something.  The whole ordeal — letting Bear address and sign all the cards, making the bracelets, sealing them — took about two hours.  He had a great time, and it was nice both spending time with him, feeling like a Pinterest Mom for once in my goddamn life, and getting to do something moderately creative after nearly a week of stagnation.

Tomorrow is Monday.  Starting is the hardest part, but chill out, charge up, and start strong.  You can totally do this.