Busy Hands

I think I’m going to recommit to learning American Sign Language this week.  It’s been ages (I don’t even know how long, honestly) since I’ve gotten any practice in.  I stalled out at Lesson 13 sometimes in probably February and just haven’t gotten back to it.

I know a lot has been said, including by me personally, about not feeling pressured to be “productive” or to emerge from quarantine with a bevy of new skills in tow.  But my anxiety has been hovering around baseline (with a lot of restrictions on social media consumption), and if I’m in a headspace conducive to pursuing an interest, I might as well — I certainly have the time to fill.

Even though it’s been a while since I’ve pursued any ASL studies, I remember feeling about it the way I feel about drawing now: how strange and unfortunate it was that I put off practicing it for so long under the baseless assumption that I would be no good at it.  And not just “no good” to start — everyone starts out not being good — but never any good.  I had somehow convinced myself that I would never get any better at either skill, because I had this perception of myself as being uncoordinated.  Which, to be fair, I am; but there are different kinds of coordination, and coordination can be improved with practice.  Within a couple of weeks of starting sign practice, I was remembering and recalling signs, able to show some dialectical variations; I was actually learning.  I was getting better.

So I’m going to start setting an alarm for 2:00 pm each day, and take an hour or so to work on ASL.  My work is done for the day by then, and any chores I do with any regularity should certainly be out of the way by then.  Let’s get back on track.


Speaking of improvements, I recently unearthed the mini-sketchbook I bought from Dollar Tree back in 2018 when I decided I was going to try my hand at Inktober, and oh my God, is that sketchbook a revelation, let me tell you.  Again, I know I have a long way to go, but it’s amazing how, even with sporadic practice (it’s really only since December/January that I’ve made art/drawing a regular part of my routine) my art has grown in leaps and bounds.

I have three new drawings to upload anyway, so I think I’ll try to find something relatively analogous (in subject matter or composition) for each of those in my Inktober sketchbook to do a side-by-side comparison.  That ought to be good for a laugh.


I spent some time today working from a resource my husband uncovered on Twitter¹ called Croquis Cafe.  They have both a Vimeo and a photo reference gallery of nude models for gesture drawing, anatomy drawing, etc. and it’s really great.  I did a few sketches of their model Tamara and was happy with the results.  (Also, please notice the emphasis — the subject matter is entirely non-sexual, but it is still full nudity, so NSFW, if that’s relevant to you).

Stay busy, safe, and sane everyone.  My husband is picking up reusable face masks for us tomorrow, courtesy of a friend who made them for us for free (two each for Bear and I, five for Andy since he’s an essential worker).  I’m hoping this makes me feel secure and safe enough to leave the house to go for walks and get a little fresh air, since I am actually starting to get a little stir-crazy.


¹ I deleted and recreated my Twitter yet again, because I still don’t know exactly what I want to use it for.  I start doing Twitter writing challenges and amass a following of folks who are very much Twitter Writers, and then I lose interest and start posting about, like, DnD Real Play podcasts, and I just know they’re all going “WTF?” and meanwhile my reading list is just haiku and self-promos (which is an absolutely valid use of Twitter, but I’m definitely not the target audience).  If you use Twitter for a smattering of personal.creative things, hit me up: @milkandkerosene.  I have zero followers and like, two tweets at the moment.

On Lockdown

No 31 Day Challenge today, because today’s prompts seemed like it was essentially a repeat of Day 12, so I’m skipping it.  Not going to rehash what we’ve already gone over.

The Governor has just made an official announcement that 1.) all schools in my state are now closed through April 7th; 2.) all bars and restaurants are closed; and 3.) all gathering of over 25 people are prohibited.

So I’m now at home — mostly alone, since Andy works security and still has to go in, at least until further notice — with a five year old.  Who, by the way, thinks this is the greatest thing ever.

I’m going to try to keep Bear’s weekday routine as close to usual as possible, which means up early, breakfast, circle time, chores, some academics, arts and crafts, and then independent art or reading (basically hobby time).  I also found some basic Draw With Me tutorials for little kids and some pretty simple beginner recorder tutorials so that maybe he can learn to make a pleasant noise on that damn thing.  I’m hoping that I’ll have the opportunity to do some of the things that I’ve been putting off as well.

My Quarantine To-Do

  1.  Clean the basement and the garage.  Once the weather gets nice and the worst of this passes (hopefully), I’d like to open up the garage and use it to augment the finished basement as a gathering spot, as well as use it as a more expansive arts and crafts studio.
  2. Continue with my Sign Language learning.  It’s once again been a very long time since I managed to sit and study lessons, and I feel it slipping from me again, so I want to try to devote at least an hour a day to it.
  3. Read more.  Our library is closed, but I have three books currently out on digital loan and a massive bookshelf filled with books that I’ve never read.
  4. Catch up on TV and/or start some shows I’ve been putting off.  Killing Eve, Derry Girls, Shrill, and Fleabag are onlya few of the shows I’ve had recced to me, and I’m hoping to have time to sit and actually consume new media.
  5. Start painting with acrylic again.  I got the house cleaned today, and I actually have space, as well as time, to spread out my paints and actually work.
  6. Plan out a topic and start setting up posts for Blogging A-to-Z, and get in the habit of note-taking and brainstorming for NaPoWriMo.  I often like to keep to the prompts for NaPo, but it’s not a requirement, and some prep might be good for me this year.
  7. Play some online games with my friends and family.  I’m trying to set up a movie night via screen-sharing on Discord, and my siblings and I want to pick a night to play Card Against Humanity or Uno online.
  8. Do some self-care.  Exercise, maintain a hygeine regiment, treat myself in small ways (pick up a hair mask or an exfolianting face mask on a grocery run, painting my nails a fun color, etc.), do some crossword puzzles, remember to gratitude journal everyday.
  9. Start a YouTube channel.  
  10. Create some ‘zines.  I often have little, fragmented ideas for art or stories that really don’t lend themsleves to something long form, so this would be a great time to turn them into something short form.  And hey, maybe even eventually sell them.
  11. Finish up my fanfics.  All, what, five of them by now.
  12. Pratice calligraphy.  My father-in-law is a master calligrapher, and bought me a set of pens and gifted me an old, ornate book for me to learn, and I’ve just been putting it off.  Maybe now’s the time.

What are you all doing while you’re homebound?

It’s Sunday.  This… suddenly means less than it used to.  Chill out, relax.  Nothing to do now but stay safe, sane, and busy.

Goals for 2020

First thing’s first, my daily sketch:
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This was about a 20 minute sketch, done while my soup was simmering on the stove (White bean and kale, if you’re wondering).  I was very happy with the proportions, as that tends to be what I struggle with most (I’m not saying it’s perfect, but it’s much better than my usual attempts, especially given the time frame).  Again, I have trouble with matching the values; I don’t go as dark on the dark, and the lights tend to be glaringly so; I attribute that partly to lack of skill, sure, but also I feel like if I had softer, more rounded pencils, I’d be able to do more fluid gradients of shading.  As it is, I only have my mechanical pencil, which is generally fine because I usually prefer to ink or paint anyway.

Today was my first day back to reality in two weeks, and I take comfort in the fact that everyone at work seemed as dazed and confused as I was.  I barely slept last night, but I was up with my alarm by 5:20, and eased into the day by brewing a cup of coffee, having a shower, writing up some brief morning pages and a to-do list, and listening to a favorite episode of Worst Bestsellers (which, if you like bad books, is highly recommended.  The episode I was listening to was their crossover with I Don’t Even Own a Television, another “bad books” podcast which I very much recommend.  I also may have a bit of a crush on  J.W. Friedman, but that’s neither here nor there).  Work itself was productive but overall uneventful (which, rest assured, is a good thing), but I am selfishly glad that tomorrow is Friday already, because the day also felt like it lasted several.

Anyway, I mentioned yesterday that, in addition to my bucket list goals (a living list that grows sporadically), I have some 2020-specific goals that I want to cast out into to ether in the hopes that it will help hold me accountable.

  1.  Consume more media.  Which, honestly, probably sounds weird, but.  If I want to produce content — poetry, painting, short fiction — I need to be consuming content.  That’s reality.  I tend to get into ruts of “Comfort listening/watching/reading” things: endlessly watching the same show, or listening to the same album (or, worse, song) over and over, ad infinitum (and nowadays, a lot of that is media is also directed at and intended for five-year-olds).  I don’t intend to stop that, per se (that’s also kind of part and parcel of my neurodivergence, I think), but I do want to expand past that.  Watch new TV shows, stand-up specials (which used to be one of my favorite things to do), listen to new music and podcasts, read new books and poems.  Speaking off…
  2. Read 50 books in 2020.  I used to do that, easy, when I was in college — not so much because I was reading books for school, but more that I was reading books to avoid the books I had to read for school.  Also, I had long waits between classes and not exactly a ton of friends (okay, like five, basically).  Now, with the ADHD, the kid, a full-time job, and other creative pursuits, I’ve let this slip and I want to rectify that.  Today I started Natalie Goldberg’s The Great Springmostly because I’d been musing about meta-writing, and I’d loved her Writing Down the Bones when I was younger.
  3. Buy people more thoughtful presents.  I don’t love how commercial the holidays have become, but I do like buying people gifts.  I especially love buying themed gifts, or handmade gifts, or just unique gifts in general, but I tend not to do so as often as I’d like because November rolls around and I suddenly feel the time crunch because I know the holidays will be here any minute and I just need to get things done.  Throughout the year, I’d like to make it a point to pick things up for people whenever I see something I think they would genuinely love or that would bring them pleasure, instead of making a mad dash to the mall two weeks before the holiday.  I also want to buy more secondhand, or from small businesses or independent makers.
  4. Take more photos of my loved ones.  I have approximately five hundred thousand pictures of Bear.  I have maybe a dozen of my husband.  Fewer of my siblings, and almost none at all of my parents.  Even photos of friends haven’t really been a thing for a while now.  I try to enjoy things in the moment, and made a conscious effort, years ago, to not go camera-crazy, but now I feel like I have no momentos of so many instances and events in my life, that I really want to strike a healthy balance.
  5. Do something special for my husband for Valentine’s Day/our anniversary.  (I just realized that sounded like I’m conflating those two dates; they are not the same day.  Our anniversary is July 17th).  My husband always treats me and surprises me in little ways on special occasions, and I don’t feel like I’ve ever really returned to gesture adequately.  I’d like to either buy him something special or treat him to a meaningful experience.  Since this’ll be our 10th anniversary, it seems like as good of a time as any.
  6. Return to a regular gym routine/eat more nutritiously.  I don’t do diets, especially diets that outright exclude any particular food or food group, but I do think eating reasonable portions, drinking lots of water, regularly exercising, and eating more of the “good” stuff is generally pretty solid life advice, and I should follow it.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

New Year

I don’t want to burden Bear with the whole New Year’s Resolution trend just yet, but it’s hard to talk about the upcoming year with him without mentioning or bringing up particular goals.  He’s cottoned on to the idea that people make changes at the start of a new year; it’s in pop culture, on TV, and he unavoidably hears me and my friends talk about our own ambitions.

I asked him if he had any goals for the new year.  He thought about it for a minute before deciding his goal for 2020 would be “to listen to [his] grown-ups better,” which overall I think is actually a pretty great, self-aware goal.  I tried to suggest that maybe he’d want to consider “keeping [his] room clean” or “trying new food” as a goal, but then I thought, hmm, if I ask him to clean his room or eat his broccoli, wouldn’t his own resolution to listen to me better hold him to doing it?

Man, it’s so rare a loophole works to my benefit.

I mean, realistically, he’s likely going to recant literally the minute he’s actually asked to do something he doesn’t like, but still, at five I appreciate the self-awareness.  At least he knows it’s something he needs to work on.  I guess it’s still up to me to help strategize how that’s actually going to be accomplished.

My own resolution is a little more loosely framed this year than it had been in the past; basically I want to make measurable progress on at least five of my bucket list goals (the primary focus right now being returning to the gym, drinking more water, and eating more “real” food), and knock out the ones that are one-offs (i.e., buy a binder, get a tattoo, write five fan letters, etc.)

So much of what’s on the bucket list are creative goals — at some point during the summer I became obsessed with publishing a zine or a chapbook, and I still want to follow through on that, and I’m determined to host a limited run podcast, though I’m having a hell of a time finding someone to co-host with me (I have a number of different ideas for what I’d want to do, but again, having trouble finding a co-host).  Painting and writing are always top priority as well, though I feel like I made great strides in 2019 towards making them part of a semi-daily routine; in their case, it’s more carrying forward and continuing the momentum rather than forging a new habit from the ground up.  Oh, and if it hasn’t become apparent, I’m also trying my best to write something everyday — yes, even if it’s just a “what I did today” entry.  2019 was the surest proof that “branded” blogging is just not for me — I’m not good at it, I don’t enjoy it, and I don’t want to do it.  I just want to talk, damn it, and have a place to keep the things I make that I’m proudest of.

I hope I make a lot of things I’m proud of this year.

My bucket list, by the way, is a sort of living document, so I’m constantly updating it and adding new goals.  I encourage others to try it out in the new year — I did it back in 2011/2012 and actually had a lot of success!  This was back on LiveJournal, and the memory of it was actually one of the things that spurred me to return to personal blogging.  I found a community of like-minded folks that actually offered real support and feedback on my goals, my failures, and my successes, and it was probably the time of my life I felt most successful and productive.

If you have, or plan to make, a bucket list, please share it with me here.


Oh, and on the topic of bucket list goals, specifically “Produce one sketch every day,” here’s today’s (getting a head start):

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