Expanding Outwards

I went out yesterday for the first time since March 13th.

It was terrifying. It was also necessary,

I’ve now read a couple of articles from experts — one from CNN, one from PBS — about creating quarantine pods or “quaranteams,” expanded social circles during the time of quarantine. Essentially, if everyone is amenable, you all have about the same level of casual exposure, you all agree to socially interact with only the selected members of your “pod,” it might be time to expand your social circle to include a small group (under ten individuals total) outside your immediate family.

I’m still not sure I’m a hundred percent on that, though I want to be. My parents and the people in their house total seven, and all of them have about the same risk level as us (one person working less than 40 hours a week outside the house in a fairly isolated environment, with mask; grocery runs at supermarkets enforcing COVID restrictions; no other social contact), and experts say that’s a pretty low risk situation.

But it’s not a “no risk” situation.

But literally going outside is, at this point, not a “no risk” situation. So what do I do?

We went to visit my folks. All of us wore masks and maintained social distance (only exceptions are when my mom handed me a bag of stuff I left at her house, and once or twice when Bear reached out to hand her a flower he had just picked from her yard). It was nice; we all sat outside and the weather was absolutely gorgeous (65 and sunny), and seeing them in person, even though we couldn’t sit together, was a lot different than talking to them via Facebook video or on the phone. It was a good hour or so, and we got to talk and take in some air.

When it was time to go, it hurt my son to not be able to hug my mom, but he’s heard enough about quarantine and COVID lately that he got it, even though he wasn’t happy.

I want to expand our pod to include my family, I really do. I want my son to be able to hug his grandparents, I want to sit with my mom while we watch true crime shows, I want to unbox a brand new Hunt a Killer box face-to-face with my brother. I want my son to be able to spend a night at grandma’s while his dad and I get some chores done and have a quiet evening. I have been trying to listen and adhere to everything the experts say — I always wear a mask; we only shop every two weeks and we literally wash and/or unbox all our groceries as soon as Andy brings them home; whenever Andy comes home from work or shopping, he strips in the basement, and immediately showers — and now, experts are saying this might be a viable step. This might be something we can do while still staying safe, and it could do worlds of good for everyone’s mental health, to finally have some social interaction after months of isolation.

So why can’t I do it? Why am I so, so afraid?

(I know why I’m afraid. It’s a pandemic, and I have an anxiety disorder. But I have a lot of friends with anxiety, and several of them have already taken this step. I want to. I want to so, so badly).

This isn’t a now or never situation, I know. Maybe I’ll feel different in a week or two, or a month. But for now, as much as I want to, I still have to keep my distance.

But we’ll visit again next week, at the very least. Seeing them was good. Being in the air was good.

And I know someday things will be good again.

Before & After & Dungeons & Dragons

I’m still fighting some hefty art block; I went from having a running roster of ideas at the ready to spending hours doodling and gesture drawing just to come up with something.  I know that I’m going about things the “right way,” i.e., actually sitting down and going though the motions to unblock myself instead of swearing off drawing until “inspiration stikes,” but it’s still frustrating.

That being said, I finally went down to the basement and grabbed my Inktober 2018 sketchbook, and, again — wow.  There actually wasn’t a ton of stuff in it analogous to anything I’ve been drawing lately, so I just took the two drawing that were full-face portraits and am comparing it to a drawing I completed last weekend, on Mother’s Day:

So… that’s encouraging. I still have a long way to go, but holy hell, did I come a long way already.


Today was a low-key day. I finished a drawing (which I’ll upload later), puttered around the house a bit, called my mother, and embarked on what is sure to be a journey full of ups and downs — started to learn how to play Dungeons & Dragons.

Bear has been asking my husband to teach him for the last few weeks. I’d like to say it was watching my husband run his own D&D and GURPS campaigns over the last three years (twice a week, from out home via Tabletop Simulator and Discord voice chat), but no. No, it’s because he’s overheard us listening to Dungeons and Daddies1 (not a BDSM podcast) for the last six months, and has decided it’s the coolest thing in the world. So my husband has essentially been shown up in the eyes of his son, by four fictional (and debatably competent) dads on a podcast very much not intended for children. I think we’re going to win an award for parenting some day guys, I really do.

The first stage of the campaign was character creation — Bear decided to be a Fighter hill dwarf (or “dwarb,” as he says) and I’m a Druid halfling named Veerle. Bear has apparently heard and retained enough of the aforementioned podcast that he began wildly casting spells that a. he cannot cast because he does not have magic, and b. did not apply in any way to the situation:

Bear: I Rage!
Me: You rage?
Bear: I Rage at them!
Me: You don’t have Rage.

Bear: I cast Speak with Animals!
Andy: You can’t. You have no magic, and there are no animals here.

Bear: I attack with a spell!
Andy: You… you have no magic. And there is no one here to attack.
Me: We literally just arrived in town. We haven’t even seen any people yet.

Eventually I just looked at my husband and mouthed “I cast Magic Missile!,” because I feel like playing with him is going to be stuck in a very innocent version of the Dead Alewives skit.

Sketch is from ’96 (I remember it from high school) but this animation is cute.

All in all we played for about two hours; Bear’s first time in combat, his first roll was a crit hit and he took great pleasure is describing how he cleaved a goblic clean in twain; I, uh, crit failed at least one of my rolls and by all rights should have been permadead, but we fudged the rules since I was the only other player and Bear didn’t want to play alone. He got a kick out of it and is looking forward to playing more tomorrow. It would be nice if this could become a weekly thing, but we’ll see how long this holds his interest.

Hope today was a day of some rest and relaxation. Stay safe, sane, and inside.


1 Highly, highly recommended. I often re-listen to it at night before I go to sleep, and I’ve woken my husband up laughing on even the n-th re-listen.

Creative Break and Family Time

I’m itching to crack open my new sketchbook.  Why??  I have several pages — like, more than several, really, though I’m definitely running low — in my old sketchbook, but I’m aching to open and start in on the shiny new one.  Do a lot of artists have multiple sketchbooks going at once??  Are they frequently thematic, or sort of an “anything goes” situation?  I plan on using the pages in the old one; I stopped doing really thoughtfully planned pieces with a lot of reworking and started doing more illustration- and comic-book-style drawings, because they were good ways to practice perspective and anatomy without having too much of an emotional connection to the work (which always leads me to second-guessing, obsessive reworking, self-editing, etc).  I’ve also been doing loose, experimental perspective sketches, so I’m definitely still using the old book.  I don’t know.  I feel like not giving myself permission to open the book is akin to my old habits of hoarding art materials until “the right time,” but I feel like starting it now feeds into my habit of starting multiple projects and than slowly abandoning them, one-by-one.  Advice?


I haven’t done any real art in several days (though I might post a sketch I did of a “Disney-style” witch illustration I did, which I kind of like despite some fair anatomy issues, and a mermaid (for Mermay) that I feel similarly about, despite similar issues).  I’m waiting on my watercolor pad to arrive, because my son made an art request that actually I really liked — “I want a Queen surrounded by birds” — that I sort of instinctively conceived of as a watercolor, so I want that to be my next significant project.

Plus, you know.  I’ve had other things to do.

I’ve been feeling incredibly lethargic lately, so a couple of weeks ago, I ordered a fitness journal in an attempt to start tracking things again — not so much calories, per se, though I will note them if it’s easy enough (calorie counting drove me bonkers, it plays into my worst obsessive tendencies) — but just general accountability.  It tracks glasses of water consumed, what you ate for each meal, what you did for physical activity, how long and how well you slept, how you feel that days, and how you think you could do better tomorrow.  Around the same time I ordered it, I got an email from some coworkers saying they set up a Wellness Challenge, to run from May 4th (around when my Fitness Planner was set to arrive) to June 2nd.  It seemed like perfect timing.

When my Fitness Planner arrive Saturday, days before the Challenge was set to start, I decided it was a great time to get other things in order as well.  So, I flew through and got the house clean, reset all my alarms so I’d get back on an actual schedule (5:30 seems excessive, though, so I set them to 7 am), broke out an old binder to use as an organizational “command center,” and re-committed to actually having checklists, to-do lists, and daily purpose.

It’s four days in, and it’s working for me so far.  I’m doing a little housework each day, writing out simple lists of priorities each morning, and doing — at the very least, in terms of physical activity — the ab circuit and daily challenge for my fitness challenge each day.  Also, re: water — hey, did you know drinking eight to ten glasses of water a day makes you feel significantly less tired?  It’s true.  Weird how that works, right?


Having things in order also means I have time (and energy!) for other stuff.  A couple of weeks ago, my mom told me my brother (who lives with her) got a Hunt a Killer subscription, so when the box arrived two days ago, he forwarded me and my sister photos of all the documents in the box, and I got online and Video Called him, my mom, and my sister, and we worked on that first box for two hours.  It was a lot of fun, even though we finished the objective of the box pretty quickly (like within twenty minutes).  There was still so much to go through and decipher, and it’s been fun messaging back and forth with them about theories and things we’ve read on the forums, etc.  I wish I could work with them in person, but this is still a lot of fun.  And honestly, my sister almost definitely wouldn’t be able to join us in person anyway, so this isn’t so different to how we would have to arrange it regardless of the circumstances, if we wanted to do it as a team.

On today’s roster is trying to get a little exercise in (the goal is 25 min, plus the ab circuit), clean out the fridge, take care of the upstairs bathroom, watch some Gravity Falls, find a good book to read, and meet up with my family after Bear goes to bed for happy-murder-fun-times.

Hope you’re all taking care of yourselves and each other.  Find something to do each day that makes you feel good.  And water!   Drink water!  Apparently that’s important.

Stir crazy

This has been my only creative outlet lately:

Things have been… rough, mentally, for a couple of weeks now.  I’m not sure quite what to do to fix that, since so much of what is causing it is outside my realm of control, but I muddle on.

It’s Thursday.  Give love to those around you, in whatever weird, wacky way you show your love.  Keep together.  Be strong.

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

I also started a working on the poetry challenge that I mentioned in a previous entry, and while I don’t think I’m going to do daily postings, I think I will likely archive them here in batches at some point as I move through them; I may do a batch of postings for accountability, and then archive my favorites for posterity.

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.

There were two little things that transpired today that did find it’s way to my other social media, so I’ll share them here.

First is my sister’s epic shirt (if you’re a fan of Les Miserables, which — if you don’t know, I will get into someday — my sister and I are superfans of):

86346136_10157009533604352_1894242755501096960_o
Who else mentally added “….24601?”

And this anecdote, which is honestly a recurring theme with my brother and I (see also: the time we all got drunk and put him in charge of the Twister spinner):

So Rob told Bear and Boopy they had to wait for the walkie-talkies to charge before they could use them, mainly so they’d stop whining for them for a while. The base light on the charger was red, and he told them they’d have to wait until it turned green before they could use it.

“That light doesn’t actually change color,” he tells me. “I just told them that.”

Well, a while later, they both come running in yelling that it’s green. Rob blows them off for a bit, but they’re insistent, so he goes and investigates. A minute later, he calls me in.

“What color is that light?”

“….It’s green, Rob.”

My brother, once again, temporarily forgetting that he’s colorblind.

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.

Stars

Today’s daily sketch, continuing the Week of Eyes (Day 2):
20200123_181729

I think I want to branch out to trying to draw eyes as they would appear in more exaggerated emotional states (anger, fear, intense sadness, etc.), but the tips from the previously mentioned tutorial are really helping me, I think.  I still have ages to go, but in time I think I might be able to draw quite realistic human eyes (the rest of the human form to follow… hopefully).

Today has been blessedly uneventful.  Last night, my father-in-law — who has spent the better part of his professional life in software, though he holds a degree in astrophysics — drove the 45 minutes down in order to take Bear out and show him the Orion constellation, so that he could see the unusual dimming that is happening with Beetlegeuse.  My son is interested in space and is aware of constellations, but this was the first time he’d ever gone out and really looked up — my husband and I know don’t know much about the stars, and living in a densely populated urban area, had more or less assumed that given the light pollution, any attempt at seeing anything recognizable (or anything at all, really) would be mostly all for naught.  But with my father-in-law’s help, Bear was able to go out and see a star that may very well go supernova at any moment, and my son seemed to find that pretty cool.

I stayed in during this lesson, partly to give my son time alone with his grandfather, partly because it was about 10 F outside, and partly because, as interesting and intriguing as I find space, I find it massively anxiety provoking — like agoraphobia on a cosmic scale, is probably the closest I can describe it.  It’s beautiful and awe-inspiring, and incredibly scientifically interesting, but also puts me in mind of how powerless and untethered I am in the vast scope of things and honestly, I don’t need that negativity in my life right now, ya dig?

Afterwards they came inside, and my father-in-law read Bear one of the Findus and Pettson books that are among our family favorites.  It was a pleasant evening.

I spent most of the day feeling like it was a Monday, though I know (and am glad!) it’s not.

Tomorrow is Friday!  You made it.


PS:  I titled this entry and then simply could not get this out of my mind:

Small Break

Today was a much needed day away from holiday and cleaning responsibilities, though going to my parent’s house is always a mixed bag.  They love Bear and Bear absolutely loves going there, but literally all the do is argue with each other and put each other down.

Bear, fortunately, is usually too absorbed in his own thing to notice or care, but I have to sit there and just weather it while they each try to sort of sway me to take their side in whatever bullshit argument is happening at any given time (they don’t do this in front of the other, so I’m not put on the spot to take a side and defend anyone, thankfully; it’s more like, when the other party leaves the room, I get ranted to in this conspiratorial way that suggests they think I must be “on their side.”  It’s been happening for basically my whole life, and at this point has moved beyond uncomfortable to simply annoying).

I catch myself, occasionally, when I’m annoyed at Andy, having to bite my tongue to avoid doing this to Bear; in my case, it’s to keep myself from muttering something like, “Of course, your dad didn’t put the groceries away again,” or something else fairly innocuous, but still, I don’t want to get into the habit of doing what my parents do.  The issues you have with your spouse are yours, and while I try not to judge, deciding to sit and fume over them instead of working them out is a choice, and one that you are making everyday.  But don’t try to make an issue you have with your spouse into an issue your kid has with their mom/dad.  That’s unbelievably petty and unfair.

Anyway, as much as I do genuinely love them, I could rant about my issues with my parents all day, but I’d rather not.  Most of the day was quite pleasantly spent.  I got a quick nap while Bear watched Sia music videos, and my sister and her kids loved their gifts.  I bought my sister Lore Olympus-inspired candles from a maker on Etsy, and her eyes literally bugged out when she opened the box.

“I LITERALLY ALMOST BOUGHT THESE!  I even messaged the girl to ask her about the fragrance!”  So that was super, super satisfying, and made my day.  Also, Lizzy was really into the Sweets Shoppe cart I bought her, and literally pushed it around all day, shoving coins into people’s hands and making them buy Popsicles.  All in all, a successful year of gifting.

Back to The Big Clean tomorrow, starting with the kitchen.  I will probably do more Before and Afters, even though the Before in this case is hand-wringingly bad, because we haven’t done dishes in, uh, days, because of the holiday, being out, not having gas (or hot water), etc., etc.  But it will make for a much more dramatic After shot, so there is that.  I’ve got to start a running list of storage accessories etc. that I’ll need to instate some organization and get myself sorted, and then maybe a Dollar Tree trip before the weekend is out.

I’m hoping by Monday I’ll be more or less done, and I can get started on some crafts and personal projects and otherwise enjoy New Year’s festivities before getting back to the daily grind of working parenthood.