8/11/22: Post-op Life

I write “post-op life” as though I was the one who went through surgery.

My wife had her surgery a week ago — Jesus, I can’t believe it was that long already. She was in the hospital from about 5am on August 4th until around 8pm on August 9th. Everything went well, she passed all the milestones they needed her to pass before discharge, and things on the home front have, thus far, gone pretty much exactly as expected.

I’m thrilled to have her home, and thrilled to have her doing well, though I am exhausted — there was no time to rebound between the adrenaline crash when she finally came home, the the sudden need to become caretaker, and I’ve not had much sleep, much down time, or any time at all to myself for the last week. I in no way hold it against her, nor am I resentful — I really am just tired. I hope as she recovers more and gets more independent, I get some time to just chill before I have to return to full-time work on the 29th.

I’ve not been in the headspace for art the last week and a half, but I’m still going slow but steady on Medium. Check me out there if you’re interested. I’m hoping to get back in the art swing soon, especially since Fat Craft is edging on on its deadline, and I have an art pitch for Fandom for Choice due in like, six days.

Hope all is well. Take care of yourselves, and each other.

8/3/22: A Photo-heavy Update

My wife is currently at work upstairs, already an hour into her day because she decided working overtime this morning was a good way of keeping herself distracted so she doesn’t perseverate on the fact that her surgery is tomorrow.

The surgery is a good thing; she’s been waiting on it for over a year, and it is, of a sort, elective, so she’s opted into this and wants it — like, really wants it. She is excited and relieved and thrilled that the day is finally here, but it’s still a major surgery and, well, that comes with major anxiety. So, I feel her.

I’m climbing the walls, myself; COVID protocols say I can’t stay at the hospital with her, and lack of a car (or license) means I won’t be able to go and see her during her stay either (and Uber/taxi would range between $50 and $130, each way). We have a semi-private Discord set up (for close friends and immediate family) where we will all be able to congregate, chat, talk, group video call, etc. after the fact, so that’s likely what the next six or so days of my life as going to look like — logging on in the morning, signing onto Discord, turning on my camera and going about me day, ready to be there whenever she gets on.

I know I will feel immediately and instantaneously better the second she’s out of surgery, but tomorrow morning is going to be an emotional minefield.

In lieu of having anything else to talk about (or really, being able to think about anything else), here are the latest things I put up on Instagram this summer. I know not everyone uses Instagram, so I do want to try to remember to update here as well, going forward:

Also, I have been selected as an artist for the Fandom for Choice Zine, a fan zine benefitting the National Network of Abortion Funds in the wake of the overturn of Roe. I am beyond excited to be selected, and to be able to draw all my little blorbos while upholding choice and bodily autonomy. Could not ask for a better job.

Send good vibes to my wife, please. I am going to be an absolute wreck for the better part of tomorrow, but I am also so excited for her to be able to begin this new phase of her life.

Take care of yourselves, and each other.

7/26/22: GISH is Coming

GISH is Coming

I am not going to pretend I have been anything other than blessed to get the summer off. As much as I bemoan the fact that I have, quite literally, spent most days sitting online (like, literally all day), I have been spending that time writing, or working on art, or organizing my team for GISH.

This will be my 11th year GISHing. I kind of can’t believe that. 11 years of making Skittles portraits and cucumber skirts and tampon animals. 11 years of elevator tea services, and stormtroopers at the spa, and lip syncing inflatable dinos.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with GISH, the best I can do is direct you to the official website, but also a Tumblr user going by Gishwhes Historian has an amazing and comprehensive site full of the history of the GISH scavenger hunt. Please check them out here if you are genuinely curious.

The short of it is, it is a massive, global, multi-media scavenger hunt put on by Misha Collins (yes, that Misha Collins) that has a huge performance art/random acts of creativity vibe going for it, but also a large charity component.

Teams compete for the grand prize which is generally a trip, and which this year is to the Amazon. Having done this for over a decade and having seen the quality of the entries put forth my the winning team, there isn’t a chance in hell I’m going to win, but it’s an incredibly fun diversion ever year regardless.

If this sounds interesting to you, I encourage you to sign up next year. It’s usually in August, and generally lasts about eight days. This year it’s July 30 throught August 6th, so it very much is just around the corner. I’m Team Captian, so I’ve been spending the last few days making sure all my teammates are able to connect with each other, to the Discord server, the FB group, and been posting up refreshers, intros (quite a few newbies on the team this year) and general ice breakers. I’m very excited to start the hunt on Saturday.

Aside from that, I’ve been puttering away at art (slow going on my current two pieces, but going nonetheless) that you can keep up with here, and writing on Medium, which is proving to be a fun community (you can read my stuff here).

Hope all is well in your world. Take care of yourselves, and each other.

7/12/22: Dreaming of Better Things

I don’t know if it’s specific to a particular time of year — I don’t track these moods — or just whenever I have a moment to slow down and let my mind drift, but lately I have been thinking a lot about my future. My living situation in particular.

Kira is loving her new job, and they seem to really like her, too. She does the job well, feel gratified by it, and looks forward to starting work in the morning. What a fucking 180, huh? This is the same woman who, at her old job, would text me multiple times a day about how much she wished she could leave, more than once through tears and from a bathroom stall. She is happier when she comes home, has more energy, more patience, and is just generally a different person.

It doesn’t hurt that the pay is a massive improvement. Not “get rich” improvement, but to the extent that, should this job move to permanent after her six-month contract, we would be able to actually move by next summer.

So of course, that’s got me thinking about new houses and new starts.

This summer so far has already been about embarking on new endeavors — I started taking pole, which is amazing, and started writing again, which is also amazing but also way more of a slog than drawing (seriously, how can these two activities feel so incredibly different to me?)

I also made a conscious decision to start seriously perusing the Zillow and Redfin emails that I still get (mostly because my instinct with unwanted mail is to just delete; I never, like, fully unsubscribe because I’m a trash pile), and have been browsing houses in my area in morning over my coffee.

Kira and I have slightly different make-or-break criteria for what we want out of out new home, though most of the significantly important things mesh, I think.

We both agree that whatever else, our new home needs to be a single-family home (living in a duplex hasn’t been awful by any means, but if we’re going to move anyway, we’re going to move somewhere were there aren’t strangers on the other side of our wall). We both know we want off-street parking, a dishwasher, a bigger back yard.

She insists on central air, which, honestly, I can’t argue with — installing the window units every year is a massive pain in the ass, and HRT has absolutely decimated her upper body strength, so it’s becoming more and more of a physical struggle. That being said, while that would definitely tip any house further into my favor, I could forgo it should other conditions be right. As of right now, Kira is adamant. Like, will not fucking move about this, so. We’ll keep out fingers crossed for more homes with central air to be on the market next summer.

I feel like I’m more flexible. I don’t know that I have any other dealmaker/breaker criteria — there are things I want, there are things I don’t want, there are things I would love, there are things I would tolerate. As long as its a standalone house not in need of a full overhaul, I’m probably going to be amenable to at least checking it out or considering it.

What would I like to see in a new house? That’s a different story. I’ve got a long list of things that would make a home more enticing to me, and I’m both encouraged and disheartened to see so many of them on the market right now (encouraged because it means they exist round me, you know what I mean? Disheartened because I’m convinced if they all go on the market now, there won’t be any available to me in a year).

I would love more counter space in the kitchen. More cabinet space. A larder, if possible, and an island. Recessed bookcases or curios in the living room. Open floor plans. No carpeting — no, not anywhere (well, I could be okay with it in the bedrooms, I guess). Hardwood or laminate flooring. At least 1.5 baths (I could live with one , but two would be phenomenal). A third bedroom that Kira and I could use as a studio (with both do art, and she does modeling, so she has a lot of photography equipment).

A big backyard with room for a garden — full sun, so things will actually grow. I would love to try my hand at growing veggies, and that’s not something I feel like I can really do here. A privacy fence would be wonderful (we could always put one up ourselves, of course, but what’s the harm in hoping someone’s already done the work?) A master bedroom that could accommodate a king-sized bed. And if I could find a true walk-in closet, I think I would cry (Kira and I have… so many clothes).

I feel rejuvenated by fresh surroundings, you know? I feel energized and more creative and productive in spaces that are well organized, or that I feel like I can make beautiful. I feel like we moved into this place in a fit of desperation (we really and truly did like the place, it was objectively the nicest of all the places we saw, but we were also motivated by absolutely hating where we were and needing to get out fast — that might be another story for another day, though) and now that we have a little more stability, and a child who is nearly eight (instead of eighteen months), and a better sense, aesthetically and personally, of who we are and what we want out of a space… that now is the time to make that change.

Or start considering it, at least.

All of this hinges on several tenuous scenarios at the moment, but it doesn’t hurt to dream, I suppose. Eventually we will want to move regardless, and it’s good to know what we’re looking for before we becoming overwhelmed by the process.

I hope you are all doing well. I’m glad to be writing on Medium again, which, I hope, will allow me to be a little more candid on this blog, and be a little more personal or anecdotal.

Take care of yourselves, and each other.

6/23/22: Welcome to Summer

I’m not going to lie, Tuesday was the orientation day for my district’s summer program, and I spent the better part of the morning in a sort of hyper-vigilant anxiety state, convinced any moment that I was going to get a frantic text from my co-worker Dave telling me I was, in fact, on the roster for the summer. Obviously that didn’t happen, but for a hot minute there, it was a genuine concern.

So, now that fear is put to rest — welcome to summer!

My wife is upstairs, doing day three of online training for her new job, and Bear is on the front porch — inexplicably in rain boots on a sunny, nearly 70° morning — blowing and chasing after bubbles. I’m settled at the computer with a mug of coffee and a To-Do list, working sporadically on the first item, which is to draft some articles for Medium.

I’ve been talking about returning to writing for ages now, and I figure summer is the best time to start. My biggest pitfall when it comes to my writing is the incessant Bees in My Head , but even they tend to be quieter and easier to deal with when the rest of my life is a little more relaxed. And while life with my son is never “relaxing,” taking the stress of teaching out of the equation does help, a bit. If I’m going to embark on something challenging, now is the best time to do it.

So over the last few weeks, I’ve been occassionally compiling a list of topics that I feel like I can comfortable and conversationally write on, and joined a couple of publications that seem to match my vibe. Hopefully it will prove to be a fulfilling endeavor.

Unsurprisingly, I anticipate that most of my writing will be about the creative process, growing as an artist, and personal and creative development. If that’s your thing, then please join me. The “Writing” link on my home page leads directly to my Medium account, or you can simply click here.

I hope you all had a lovely solstice. Take care of yourselves, and each other.

6/13/22: Pole Class

A couple of weeks ago, I signed up for Intro to Pole, on what probably seemed like a lark to anyone not privy to the inside of my brain.  Honestly though, it was fulfilling a desire I’d had dating back to, I’d say, at least 2019 – it was definitely pre-COVID – when I first discovered the pole fitness place near me and idly considered how much fun it might be to take a class someday.

I took, way back in the day (somewhere along the lines of ten years ago), a six week primer at the Boston Academy of Burlesque Education (B.A.B.E. for short) and for a brief time, burlesque was a major interest.  Of course, ten year ago I was ten years young – just turning 30 – and 75 pounds lighter.  My body was a different body.  I was a different person. 

In the intervening years I’ve had a complicated relationship with my body.  I have been fat for most of my life, and prior to the brief time when I was 135 pounds and taking burlesque, I averaged about  200 lbs (at 5’4’’) for most of my adult life.  Getting to 135 was a physically and mentally draining ordeal that left me with a borderline obsession with calorie counting and weight watching.  Quite frankly, it felt shitty, especially as someone who considered themselves both a feminist and body-positive.

Fat liberation… except for me.  “All bodies are beautiful…” except for mine.

And that’s really what it was.  I never judged anyone else’s body except my own.  I often found myself in spaces with women who were fatter than me who I found strong and beautiful, but I never thought of myself in those terms.  I lived in this weird compartmentalized reality where every body was a good body and everybody (and every body) deserved respect… except me.  Except mine.

In the intervening years, I’ve made several conscious choice – not always easy, often time with a lot of deeply ingrained self-loathing and negative self-talk – to extend the concept of body positivity to myself.  I don’t know why that’s hard.  I don’t know why I can wholeheartedly believe in and uphold respect for other people and not extend and apply that same respect to myself, except to say that messages of white, thin, cishet normative beauty are insidious and we are taught at a young age to hate ourselves.  But I have been surrounding myself more and more with social circles – even if most of them are virtual – of fat people; body positive people; fat people who are athletic, sexy, creative, active; fat people who model; artists who center fat bodies in their work – and it’s been… better.

I’ve got a lifetime of bullshit beauty stigmas to break down, but it has been better.  It has.

I thought pole would be a good next step, and boy, so far, it has been.

So many bodies!  So many big bodies, so many fat bodies, so many bodies like mine doing strong, sexy, amazing things.  I mean, ok, I can’t do about 90% of them yet, ha ha, but I have proof that I can get there.

All this a very long preamble to say, I’ve now taken two classes – one of Intro to Pole, one of Liquid Motion (with another Liquid Motion class next week), and man – fucking ow.  Intro to Pole absolutely kicked my ass.  Though, to be fair, I honestly didn’t expect to leave the ground at all my first go – I’ve been almost entirely sedentary the whole duration of COVID, and was never exactly strong to begin with – but I managed a few crunches on the pole!  And I did two poses on the pole!  And I almost died trying to do a chair sit, but we’ll get to that when we get to that, ha ha.  I hurt – like bone-deep, muscle-deep aching – for days afterwards, and had huge, black bruises on my arms and thighs, but oh my God, did it feel gratifying and wonderful.  For the sheer pride of having done it.  Of saying I’d do it and following through.  Everything beyond that was just confetti.

I will likely take breaks over the summer, just because the classes are fairly pricey ($30 a pop; not bank-breaking by any means (and I can technically afford it), but I want the opportunity to spend my money on other things this summer as well), but I’m hoping after this to do a class at least every two weeks, and start an exercise routine in the interim.

Not to lose weight.  I’m through with killing myself to make myself less. Fuck that.

I don’t need to lose anything. I’m going to work to make myself more – to gain strength, stamina, and flexibility. 

I urge you all to make more of yourselves, as well. 

Physically, if you want, but metaphorically, definitely. Take a risk. Be seen.

 You deserve to take up space.

Take care of yourselves and each other.

6/9/22: Rule of Three?

You know the rule of three, right?  It’s a writing rule implying that events that happen in threes are, for whatever reason, inherently more satisfying to the reader.  Some people feel like this is rule of life as well; that significant, sometimes even life-changing events, happen in threes.

We’ve had two of them this past week.  I’m anxiously awaiting the third, and hoping it follows suit with its predecessors in being incredibly positive and encouraging.

While I don’t feel completely comfortable discussing the first (it’s a medical issue, not directly involving me; but suffice it to say, it’s celebratory news!), the news I can share is that after months of applications and interviews, my wife was offered a new job!  Hybrid schedule (three days in office, two at home), in the field she wants, and an automatic 55% pay increase.  We are beside ourselves.

This in turn gives me some grace, as I found out that I was not hired for summer work, which is more than fine, to be honest.  It gives me the opportunity to pursue art more fully, gives me a chance to develop some healthy habits with Bear, and opens up my schedule to start getting the house ready to sell, since that’s something that’s been on our radar, and in 2023, our FTHB agreement ends and we can sell without a penalty.  I am beyond excited.  I haven’t had a financially secure summer off since 2008.

I have been struggling with energy lately, and I think I am more burned out than I have been willing to admit, so taking work off my roster of obligations is probably a good move, to be honest.  I have so many things I want to try to get done – creative projects, healthy habits, cleaning and organizing – and the only way I am going to feasibly be able to do them all is by opening up my schedule.

It’ll also ease the burden on my wife a bit, where she won’t have to concern herself with the family commute (child care drop off, driving me to work) while she acclimates to the new job.

As guilty as I feel – and I do feel guilty, I weirdly feel like I’m letting people down, especially when my coordinator was like, “oh, I will email and inquire about that!” and I was like, “Well, hold on a minute…” – but also, the last two summers have been anything but relaxing.  Summer 2020 I didn’t work, but I had applied to, and Summer 2021, I was still too gun-shy about COVID, and I struggled through that with a myriad of stress -health issues (both mental and physical) and financial worries. This is the first summer I have to myself where I might actually be able to do something other than survival.  This might be the chance to prep for a new phase in my life.

I have other thoughts, but I’m trying out these cool new things called Brevity and Topical Cohesion, so I will bow out gracefully on that point.

I hope you are all doing well, and treat yourself and those around you with grace.

Take care of yourselves, and each other

5/23/22: Taking Risks

This past weekend, I attended a conference; without naming the conference (and thereby initiating a cataclysmic clashing of my creative (online) and working (off-line) lives), suffice it to say, this conference was A Big Deal. Admittedly, I had been slightly coerced into going by a colleague who should likely be a lawyer, given her powers of persuasion, but also, another big part of my decision to actually take part – despite the unfamiliarity of the situation and the responsibility inherent within it – was the prevailing attitude of “why the hell not” that has been carrying me through this past year.  As I wrote in my last blog entry, I feel like my life has been put on hold the past two years, and now that it’s become abundantly clear that this is never going to totally Go Away, it’s time to saddle up (with my mask on and my vaccines up to date) and go and live my life again.

But, no.  More than living my life again.  I’m not going to pretend that anything I’ve done this year has been revolutionary (this conference, because of its focus of activism, actually comes closest to being something actually revolutionary), but my life prior to COVID was very much a series of missed – no, not even missed – passed up – opportunities.  It was a string of risks I didn’t take because the fear of failing or being rejected wasn’t counter-balanced by the perceived possibility of a positive outcome.  It wasn’t worth trying and failing when failure was such a frightening prospect, and how much better would success feel, really?  Trying new things seemed to present only additional opportunities to fail.

Man, did I have this wrong six ways from fucking Sunday.

Here’s the thing:

I have started to feel like I value myself more today than I did yesterday, more this year than I did last.  Certainly more than I did in the late spring of 2020.  I have made huge strides in the pursuits I’ve undertaken – I’ve gotten involved in activism, I’ve become an artist, I’m making strides in learning a language (just for fun! Because that has value too), I’m writing a book, I’m participating in a maker’s market, I’m reaching out to consign my work at local brick-and-mortars, I’m planning to panel at a convention.

Oh, and I signed up for a pole class.  Last night.  After three years of saying, “man, I wish I could do that,” I’m doing it.

And I’m going to fucking suck at it.  At first.  But I’ve been down this road before.  I know how this story plays out.  

It’s just a matter of time.

Take care of yourselves, and each other.

5/15/22: Big Scary Things

NaNoWriMo used to do this thing, starting around 2007 or so, called “The Year of Doing Big, Fun, Scary Things Together.” It was similar to setting New Year’s Resolutions, where participants held each other accountable and were supportive while trying “big, fun, scary things” together.

These things didn’t have to be exceptionally big, or scary — unless you count the possibility of failure as scary, and Lord knows, many of us do. I never really participated, was never really into the idea of taking risks, however low the stakes, because the one consistent stake in every endeavor is the aforementioned possibility of failure, and that was enough to deter me.

Post-pandemic (well, sort of), that fear of failure has become less of a hinderance. I’ve spent two years putting my life on hold. I’m more willing to put myself out there.

I was just accepted into The Bi+ Maker’s Market, something I genuinely thought wasn’t going to happen — I’m just a dinky little Redbubble shop with less than twenty things for sale — right on the heels of acceptance to Fat Craft Zine, something else I didn’t expect to come to anything. Riding the high of that, I just applied to panel at Arisia. We’ll see what happens.

I think it’s at least in part the warmer weather; things are starting to feel possible again, days are longer, and warmer, and brighter; freedom from the worst of my work constraints is imminent. I want to do new things, I want to have excited conversations with folks fueled by glasses of wine or chilled margaritas, I want to sit around a table, hands covered in paint, and have mad sing-alongs with my friends as we create art; I want to play a round of exquisite corpse with my most unhinged friends, stifling giggles as we pass a notebook around at midnight.

There are things — big, fun, scary things — that are outside of my grasp because of money, or circumstances, or logistics, but there are so, so many things that are within the scope of possibility for me. I can go to cons and have frenzied conversations with likeminded people over shared passions. I can paint portraits of people I love and admire, or of wild dreamscapes or ridiculous kitsch. I can reach out and find other artists to collaborate with and make uplifting, celebratory art. I can spend quiet time alone learning new languages, listening to new music, watching new movies, reading new books. I can sit up, late nights, sipping margaritas on the porch with my best friends. There’s so much I can do.

I’m taking small steps. Small steps in becoming the best version of myself. I’m taking more risks, and successes are becoming more frequent even as the failures are beginning to hurt less and less.

Life is lovely, at least for the moment. I am happy, at least right now.

I hope all is well with you. Take care of yourselves and each other.

5/9/22: Back to Acrylic

I started thumbnailing my Blackbeard portrait last Sunday night, transferred it to canvas and started blocking in the colors Tuesday night, and almost immediately decided I hated it.  Not in the, “can’t see past the ugly stage” way (I mean, I went through a little of that, initially), but more in an, “I can already tell there is something fundamentally, structurally wrong” way.  

So Wednesday night, I set it aside and started over.  I’ve decided that this is my one full “do-over;” if I have problems front his point on, I’m just going to have to work with it instead of “wasting” canvas (I’m not actually “wasting” it, I’m just going to gesso the other one and reuse it, but it’s the principle of the matter – sometimes you have to start over, sure, but sometimes you just have to work with what you have and make the most of it.  I’m still trying to suss out when each of those reactions is the most appropriate). 

 I am much, much happier with the new painting, I feel like it looks more like Taika (not in any way perfect, but much more recognizable), and I think part of that is that the new reference photo has far better lighting and makes it much easier to distinguish different values in the face and clothing.  I’m learning more and more the value of a good reference photo – I’m certainly not blaming the initial screencap for the failure of my first attempt, but I will credit the new screencap for the (thus far) success of my second.  I think if I were more skilled, I could have made the first work, but for someone of my ability, having a very clean and clear reference photo is definitely a huge help.  

I can tell something is going right because I am excited to get home and get my chores done so that I can actually work on the painting, which is not something that happens when a piece is going badly.  I know I should probably be starting to work on my Fat craft piece, but I already know, conceptually, what I want to do, and I’ve taken (and chosen) my reference photo, I just need to sort of sit down in the right headspace to work, but in the meantime, this is at least providing me with some creative momentum.

Sleep has not been my friend lately. Nothing in particular has been keeping me up, I just find myself waking in the middle of the night feeling strangely refreshed, which generally means reading or laying in bed until I eventually fall back to sleep, only to have a final hour or so of fitful sleep before having to wake up for the day. Naps help, but by the time I get home and get myself situated, it’s already dangerously close to 4:00 or 4:30, and taking a nap that late in the afternoon feels like setting myself up for sleep failure come my actual bedtime.

I am glad that, at the very least, the longer, warmer days are a welcome respite from the cold and dark that has been this past winter. Later this week we are looking at upwards of 80 degrees, and hopefully I’ll get to spend more time outdoors, which also helps regulate my sleep, I’ve found.

Hope you are all well. Take care of yourselves and each other.