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.

5/3/22: Acceptance!!

So, after weeks of waiting with my fingers crossed for my next big collaborative art project, Fat Craft Zine has made their decisions and sent out acceptance and rejection letters.

I was accepted.

I am thrilled.  I will be honest, I did not really expect to get in; there have been several projects and zines as of late that I thought I would be a shoe-in for, and didn’t make it.  I also am familiar with the caliber of talent that has, in the past, been included in this zine, and on the basis of that, would not have been shocked had I not made the cut. That being said, I am incredibly grateful and excited to have the opportunity to participate in this round of Fat Craft.

I already have a concept I’m excited about, so it really comes down to setting up my photography equipment and taking the reference photos I’ll need, likely this weekend.  This is a long term project, and I have plenty of time to work, but as another idea that involves multiple figures interacting (which is not my strong suit, yet), I want to give myself ample time to get the work done, and be able to work on other things at the same time.

Still, squee!  I’m happy to be working with a concrete goal in mind again, and am eager to get started.

5/1/22: Screen burnout

I am burned out from staring at screen most of the weekend, but hoo boy, did I get stuff done.

I finished the two digital pieces I’ve been working on:

And after that, I spent hours making buttons. I need to get some good photos of the ones I’ve actually physically made so far, and to create a gallery for the rest of my designs, but suffice it to say, I have, what, 20 designs already? And I’m incredibly, incredibly happy with my purchase.

I am going to contact Fits the Vibe tomorrow to ask about selling, but tonight I’m going to thumbnail my portrait of Taika Watiti’s Blackbeard and find my desktop easel.

It’s warm enough in my living room tonight to warrant turning on the fan, and at nearly 7 pm, the sun is just starting its descent below the horizon.

I hope you are keeping well. Take care of yourselves and each other.

4/28/22: Surprising Productivity

Yesterday was unexpectedly productive, despite the fact that I felt dead on my feet when I got home (not from a particularly bad day or anything, just hormones and hormonally-induced insomnia that’s been hounding me for the last couple of nights).

I wound up not only uploading all of the art I actually like to my Redbubble, but also submitting to The Bi+ Maker’s Market much, much sooner than expected – my son likes to use my laptop for gaming when he comes home, and I didn’t expect to get much time with it until the weekend, but he got off earlier than usual last night and I managed to get everything uploaded and sent off.  My only regret is when it asked for a social media account for the shop, I used my Twitter – which I do use primarily to talk about creating and post art, but is still a little more geared towards me as a person – instead of my Instagram, which is all and only art.  Ugh.  Oh well.  I don’t think it will make or break my application, but it’s still a bummer.

Then, as though that wasn’t enough, I actually got some work done on Stag King 3.  I’m still stuck on a lot of it – the background I have right now is incredibly rudimentary, but at least there is a background – I’m not staring at two figures floating in completely undefined space – and having them grounded at least somewhat makes it a little easier, maybe, to further conceptualized where I might want to go with it.  The issue is trying to draw grass, without making it look too cartoony, pushing it too far into the uncanny valley, or just making it look too… flat, I suppose.  I’m planning on looking up some tutorials on it later, but the only reason I even have the mental energy to do that is the fact that I finally pushed myself to block something in for the time being.  I’ve moved past the, “this is going to look like shit forever” phase and into the “this looks like shit, but I can work with it” phase, which is a much more positive place to be.

Ok, I mentioned “other fun new hobbies” yesterday, but then said I wouldn’t elaborate since I didn’t know what would come of it all, right?  Well, mere hours after saying that, two things happened that directly related to the hobbies I was referencing, and means I can probably say now – I bought a pinback button maker.  

Maybe you know, maybe you don’t, but I love pinback buttons.  I own a lot of them (used to own more, but they have the tendency to go missing because I’m a klutz and catch them on things all the time.  I decided it was about time to invest in my own so that I can make my own buttons on a whim, but also that it might be fun to make some for sale.  I don’t think I’m going to go the online route for that, simply because I don’t trust myself or my ADHD to be able to keep track of the orders and the shipping and the postage, etc., etc.  So instead I thought I could sell via word of mouth, on my socials, and through – maybe – local shops who do consignments style sales.

Well, yesterday, two things happened:  One, I found a really incredible deal on a multi-size pinback maker, and two, Fits the Vibe, a local thrift store/upcycling/consignment shop, put out a call via social media that they were looking for new local vendors to work with.  It was absolutely perfect timing.

I want to have a little bit of a store of inventory before I actually contact them to inquire, but how funny is it that these things all happened on the same day?

Things are going well overall; I’m having a bit of an annoying day, because I have to leave the building today to go to a work site with a student and I forgot my badge yet again, so when we come back I’ll have to buzz in. Which, granted, isn’t a disaster, but it’s an embarrassing little annoyance that could have been avoided had I had any sort of executive functioning skills, a working memory, a sense of organization, etc., etc.  

But tomorrow is Friday, I’m staying that night at my mom’s, I’m buying canvases and making buttons on Saturday, and Sunday is supposed to be gorgeous and I hope to spend it outdoors and maybe with some friends, schedules permitting.

Hope all is going well for you and yours.  Take care of yourselves and each other.

4/27/22: Maker’s Market and Painting Inspiration

The first couple of days back at work after a break are always tough; I’m lucky enough to enjoy my job and to have had serendipitously chill schedules the past two days to ease myself back into the routine, but still, I’m exhausted and glad that tomorrow is already Thursday.

Art has been slow going.  I am currently working on two things, both of which are turning out objectively okay, but which I’m just feeling very blase about.  I’m falling into that pitfall too, that I hear a lot of online artists talk about, where I’m starting to feel guilty about the length of time between my posts (specifically posting my art), and I feel like this is a slippery slope back into rushing through things just for the sake of having done.  I’m no great shakes as an artist, obviously, but I’m worlds better when I take my time.

I’m going to keep plugging away at my illustrations, but the next few days are going to be spent mostly prepping files for upload to Redbubble, and then submitting my Redbubble shop for inclusion in The Bi+ Makers Market, which is being put on by the Bisexual Resource Center again this June.  

Last year I found out about it literally a day or two too late to submit, and I swore to myself that I would make the deadline this year.  While I don’t have an extensive history of completed works under my belt, I’m of the belief that you really only need a handful of pieces you’re proud of to start a shop, and I definitely have several that I’m excited to get up as prints.  

While there is no guarantee I’ll get in, it doesn’t make sense not to apply.  Even if it doesn’t result in a lot of sales, it gets my art in front of peoples’ eyes, and that could be useful for the future.

Months ago at this point, I was bitching about a failed attempt to get back into traditional (acrylic) painting.  I was so determined to produce something that I rushed in without an idea and utterly ruined a canvas.

(I want to take a moment aside to say, jumping into something without a clear idea is not always a bad thing, especially if you keep an open mind and are looking to generate new ideas or experiment with new mediums or techniques.  In my case, however, it was sheer impatience and was really nothing more than this manic urge to check “Do an acrylic painting!” off my Art To-Do List, and as a result really was just a waste of time and resources).

Recently though, I finished watching Our Flag Means Death, and it has utterly eaten my brain.  I’m spending more time that I would care to admit on fan accounts, consuming fic and art, and over-all just being obsessive.

And I decided I want to try to paint Taika Watiti’s Blackbeard.

It is… a hell of a challenge, for someone who has trouble drawing from life, doesn’t generally draw men, is still new to painting, etc., but it is a subject matter I am excited about and I really, really want to give this a fair go, though I am utterly prepared to and sort of expecting to fail – which I think is the best attitude going into this endeavor – excited but pessimistic, ha ha.  I expect to fail, but I’m excited to try.  I can only be proven right or pleasantly surprised.

I’m also considering a number of other creative endeavors that I can’t speak about just yet (since there’s not a guarantee they will happen), but expect to hear more about some new silly little hobbies in the coming weeks.

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