December Doodles

For over ten years now, myself and my friend Marty LeGrow have had a little tradition: we participate in a doodle-a-day challenge for the entire month of December. These usually take the form of little one-panel comics, starring cartoon versions of ourselves, our friends, and our pets, and with silly punchlines or visual gags. There are also a lot of in-jokes that have developed over a decade, which tend to carry over into each year. And, to be totally fair, we rarely manage to finish all 31 days. But it’s the thought that counts.

IMG_7584

This sort of deadline/challenge is a great way to force creativity out of me. I really do work best under pressure. It’s even motivated me to purchase a new drawing tablet (a really basic cheap one – I don’t do enough drawing to justify anything fancy) and to start learning how to work in Adobe Illustrator (holy crap, anchor points have changed my life!). The learning curve on Illustrator is really steep and I’m slowly working through a series of video tutorials with exercises, so it’s going to be hand drawn doodles for a little while longer while I hammer that out.

IMG_7592

Day 1: Vices

IMG_7603

Day 2: Excuses

At the end of November, Marty and I each come up with a list of about 15 themes and then merge our lists to give ourselves a month’s worth of daily prompts. Here’s this year’s list

Vices
Excuses
Snowstorm
Working Hard
Weird Pets
A Bad Plan
Learn a New Skill
Musical Instruments
Good Hygiene
The Very Best
Winter Clothes
Your Favorite Color
Watching TV
Chores
Journaling
Comics
Haters Gonna Hate
Holiday Shopping
Snacking
Taking Out the Trash
Nostalgia
Decorating
Hats For Everyone
Yule Log
Pizza Time
Resolutions
Side-Hustle
The Elves Are Back
Ninjas
Social Media
Deeg and Marty’s Bodexcellent Radventure

IMG_7611

Day 3: Snowstorm

IMG_7661

Day 5: Weird Pets

Advertisements

Giving

Every winter for several years now, I’ve been a part of a Secret Santa with some bird people I met on instagram and facebook. I usually hand make something – generally a plush of the person’s bird(s) – but this year I was paired with an extremely talented costumer and I’ll admit I felt like my rustic little toy just wouldn’t cut it. So I got a little bold and made that cross stitch cockatiel, and while there was something a little bit self-serving about using that project to help manage my anxiety, it is the act of givingĀ  itself that is truly transformative.

IMG_7547

I’m hard-wired to want to make other people happy, which is perfectly fine by me. I love creating things and giving them to the people in my life – it’s how I show I care. If I cook for you, bake for you, sew you something, write you something, ply you with food or drink… it means you’re important to me. There is something both selfish and selfless about giving and I genuinely believe it can be both at once – and this is not a bad thing.

Giving someone a gift or your time may be a comfort or a rush for many of us and it’s understandable to want to ride that high and feel elated. I suppose there are worse ways to improve your mood, but it can go too far in some cases – like when someone has issues with boundaries and gives too much of themselves in a way that hurts their emotional well-being.

The holidays can be taxing for this reason – expectations to give are high and we often let this rule us. It casts giving in a negative and stressful light for many, who are – in some cases – doing it out of a sense of obligation. Striking a balance here is hard because we never want to disappoint our loved ones, but our own personal boundaries of what we can handle emotionally and financially are important, too.

One thing might be to give to yourself. I know, it sounds a little silly. But there’s something known as self-care and it involves re-centering on your own emotional needs and ensuring that the house in your heart is in order. This might mean buying yourself an actual gift, but it could also be a hike somewhere, a bubble bath, dinner with a friend, or just a quiet night alone with a book.

Don’t forget to take care of the most important person in your life – you!

 

 

 

Finding Your Zen

Don’t get me wrong, writing is soothing to me, but it can be kind of high pressure. Not entirely like an athlete, it’s a matter of ongoing practice and consistent performance if you want results. Sometimes, it’s what I do to unwind. Sometimes, though, I just need to put on Food Network and do something relatively mindless with my hands.

Lately, I’ve been getting back in touch with my artsy-craftsy side. My D&D DM arranged for a mini painting night at a brewery near where we play (Mully’s in Prince Frederick, MD, and if you haven’t gone, definitely check them out!) and, since I’d never done it before, I decided to haul ass down there on a weeknight (two and a half hours in traffic UGH) and try out what I knew might be a new hobby.

IMG_7194

Well, I was right about the hobby bit. I really enjoyed hunching over and squinting a bunch and painting my first mini. I definitely made a lot of rookie mistakes with the way I approached the black sections, but one of the other players/painters, Brian, really gave me some great pointers.

I tried my second mini a few nights later at home and definitely improved by leaps and bounds! I only had a handful of paint colors, including a bright turquoise aqua, that I managed to muddle down to a deep green for the cloak. I found it so completely comforting and relaxing to do for about two hours that I feel like it’s a way I can use to deal with anxiety.

IMG_7227IMG_7244

I find that the best things for my daily moderate anxiety (thanks to a traumatic event in July 2016) are those that keep my hands and mind busy, but aren’t too stressful. Sometimes video games are great for this, but sometimes the pressure to achieve something in combat can be a bit much and I need something more mellow.

IMG_7264

I also am trying cross stitching for the first time (seriously, anyway, I’ve dabbled before) to make a present for a friend for the holidays. That, it turns out, is also very soothing. Cross stitching and a glass of wine while listening to D&D podcasts is really fantastic. I had a pretty high anxiety day yesterday and was finally able to calm down in the evening once I started to stitch. It’s no wonder art therapy is used so widely with patients with depression or PTSD.

 

An Attitude of Gratitude

It’s the time of year when we’re all meant to spend some time reflecting on the good things in our lives for which we are thankful. I’m definitely thankful for oversized meals with stuffing and mashed potatoes and cranberry relish. But there’s more to it than that. A full plate alone does not a Thanksgiving make.

Thinking back on the past year and a half (which has easily been the hardest point in my entire life), I came out the other side a better and stronger person and, I think, with a new view of what’s really important in my life. So here’s my list of the things that I am thankful for this holiday season (and every season!).

  • Friends who hold me up, value me, and believe in the person I am and the person that I can become.
  • A wonderful and supportive father who is always up for a chat about anything that strikes our fancies.
  • Three birds in my life who have honored me with their trust and love.
  • Effective pain management, which took about seven years of suffering to finally figure out.
  • Craft beer, which is an excellent diversion and fun source of blog-spiration (check out Beerily Thus if that’s your thing!).
  • Opportunities to tell stories, be they traditional print fiction or of the tabletop RPG variety.

There’s a Chill in the Air

With daylight savings time coming to a close, we find ourselves thrust once again into nights that seem to fall all too soon. I’m not a big fan of leaving my desk job at the pretty standard 5pm and not getting home from my 45-minute commute before it’s pitch black out. There’s something deeply uncomfortable about the pressing darkness and the wordless threat of winter.

I may have blankets and tea and warm leggings aplenty to keep me comfortable, but I never really look forward to winter. Not like I used to. Not anymore.

snow

I think it comes down to snow. Something that beautiful and magical should be wondrous and worth looking forward to – and as a child, it absolutely was. But now? Now I have to shovel the stuff and worry that a blizzard will knock out the power and force me to somehow find warm shelter for me and my birds.

Snow isn’t magical anymore; it’s a menacing reminder of the responsibilities that I have to three helpless little souls who need me. And if that isn’t a metaphor for adulthood, I don’t know what is. What was once wondrous is now just another burden as we can peer behind the curtain of what keeps an orderly life chugging along.

So, horrible grinch that I am, I hope for no snow this winter (or maybe just a light dusting or two). But I certainly am looking forward to hot cocoa. I guess it’s a trade-off that I’ll have to learn to live with.

Meet Abraham!

You may remember some of the wonderful birds that I’ve fostered before for the Phoenix Landing Foundation, an organization dedicated to finding homes for parrots. I’ve been a temporary home for four African Greys, one Senegal parrot, and one Meyers parrot in the past. Since my life got turned upside down with divorce and trauma last summer, I’ve been working to get myself back on my feet, but have only been focusing on myself and my two birds.

Now that I’m solidly settled in to my life (six months at my job, re-upped my lease on my one bedroom apartment, paying down lots of my debt), I decided that I could take in another bird and give them the home that they needed.

IMG_6794

Here’s Abraham, the black headed caique. He’s about four years old and very sweet-tempered so far. A zen little man during our first few days together (though he hates me for taking him to the vet), he likes walnuts and The Great British Bake Off.

I’ll be changing his diet gradually (he’s a little chubby!) since he eats mostly seeds. I’ll also be working on some basic clicker training and working on getting him to step up onto a stick instead of a gloved hand. He’s a little shy right now, which makes perfect sense – his whole world just changed! I won’t be shoving myself into his space too aggressively so he can just get used to me.

IMG_6801

For now, he’s in quarantine (for 30 days), which is to ensure that he isn’t ill and won’t make my two parrots sick, either. At the vet yesterday, he had some testing done (fecal and blood samples were taken and one was a lot more upsetting for him than the other!) and I’m waiting to hear back on those later this week or early next week.

Overall, I’m really optimistic that he’ll find the right home. Caiques are popular birds for a reason – they’re very fun, silly guys! But they’re not beginner birds by a long shot. They can have some real attitude. As for me, I’m a fan of attitude, even if it means the occasional bite. We’ll learn to work with one another over time, I’m sure!

IMG_6848

If you or someone you know is interested in adopting him, please contact me! I’m happy to talk to you about him and to ind him a good forever home.