Life Reboot, number….I’ve lost count now.

10 03 2015

Weather: Michigan Winter on the Wane. After weeks of sub-zero wind chills and cold air temps and snow snow snow….We’re finally stabilizing back up into the low 40s & 50s.

So I haven’t post anything since my post- brain trauma write up. Time to catch up with all the craziness.

I am pretty much fully recovered. Had a third angiogram and a 4th CT Scan. Which basically told me that 1) all the blood has cleared out of my skull, and 2) I still have no answer as to what caused my brain bleed. The doctors all told me there is close to zero chance of this happening again, which is weird, considering they don’t know what caused it. C’est la vie.

I’m off almost all of my meds, which I am infinitely thankful for, because the getting up in the middle of the night to take horsepills was getting a little tiresome.

There have been bumps in the road. I had an allergic reaction to the dye from the angiogram which resulted in a week of severe skin irritation and a lot of Benadryl being taken to stave it off.  Once that finally vanished, I succumbed to that week’s version of plague. (Luckily the head cold version, which sucked nonetheless) Still have lingering nasal yuck, but hoping for it to be all gone soon.

The down side of perpetual sickness, even if it changes up the version, is that everything in your life kinda gets put on hold. Have only been to the studio twice since getting home from the hospital. I’ve missed several weeks of TaiChi. My weight is getting ridiculous again, but that happens when you’re stuck on a couch feeling miserable.

Then there’s the non-illness related bumps in the road. My dad’s only brother, who was my favorite uncle, passed away this week. He’d been ill with heart problems related to previous health issues. Still, it hurt to see him go. It was kind of like losing another connection to my dad. We’re going to the wake this weekend.

Now there has been some GOOD news, albeit stress inducing, but in a GOOD way. We purchased a house! Here in St. Joseph and in our price range and in town proper. Never thought we’d get all three. Closer to the studio. Closer to town. Putting down some roots finally. Brian hated living in the apartment, but made do. We lucked into a four square style, 2-story house with almost all the features we wanted, including fairly brand new appliances. (Which is a god send, because we’re gonna be tight as ticks until I can get some work/artwork sold.) Will be so happy to get all our stuff out of storage and start paring down the non-essentials.

All in all, things have been slowed down, and both Bri and I feel like we’re rebooting. We will be putting a lot of energy into getting the house organized, getting back into the studio to make up the time we’ve lost over the past few months, and getting ourselves back in shape. It’s time. We’re in a very good place now, and I don’t want the opportunity to slip from our fingers. Having had a pretty serious scare on the health front has, without being totally cliche, put things in perspective.

The long cold winter is finally over.

Hoping for a productive, creative and new start this spring.

More regular blogging will happen once we get settled in.

I’m happy.  I’m alive and with the person I love, and we’re about to embark on a whole new adventure.

I really really can’t wait. :D

 





So THAT happened…..(A clinical look at life and nearly losing it.)

26 12 2014

So. I’m sitting here on the couch on Boxing Day, having not really celebrated Christmas.

Not because of any particular hard feelings, but because I’d just gotten out of the hospital after a 13 day stay.

Because I’d nearly died.

I’m not one for melodramatic over analysis or handwringing, so when I say I nearly died, understand that it’s because I beat 50% odds that could have easily gone the other way.

On December 11th, I was getting ready for a possible job interview. I was nervous but no more than usual. Suddenly a clamp tightened on the base of my skull. A tension headache, I thought. No big deal. I’m stressing the interview. Took some ibuprofen. But the clamp tightened. Then the back of my head ballooned into something huge and painful. To the point that I was starting to cry from  the pain. And sweat. OMG I was sweating so much. Tried to get up off the couch and my skull decided that was the time to try sliding off my neck. I let out a little yelp of pain, but managed to get to the dining room table where my phone was. I texted my husband Brian with the words “Head hurts. Very bad. Getting scared.” He texted back “Call 911″ I was tempted, by years of “grit your teeth through it” stubbornness to just sit and let it wind down. But it wasn’t winding down. It was getting worse. So I called 911. And got a lady who immediately sensed the distress in my even robotic tone.  An Ambulance was sent immediately. It arrived in under 5 minutes. Brian showed up just as I finished emptying the contents in my stomach into a mixing bowl grabbed by one of the EMTs. Then I was bundled into a gurney, wrapped in blankets, wheeled out of the apartment and put in an ambulance. My last clearly remembered thought was the EMTs putting monitor patches on my chest and sticking an oxygen tube up my nose.

The next thing I remembered was waking up December 18. I was being extubated. I managed to ask through a very raspy voice how long I had been out. 7 Days. My sister Kirsten and my Mom were there waiting. Telling me that Brian was at work but had been there almost every day since I’d been hospitalized. Apparently I’d been helicoptered to Kalamazoo, to a hospital that was better suited to dealing with my  particular brain injury.

Brain Injury. I figured I’d broken something in my head, considering the pain. Apparently, I’d suffered a subarachnoid Hemorrhage. Basically, I’d bled out into my brain. No, the doctors didn’t have an answer HOW it happened, but apparently I had two arteries in a place most people only have one. Plus I have a little pocket at the base of my skull. None of which anyone would have known about without the 2 angiograms that were done on me. There was still blood in my skull, so they were waiting on it clearing out before doing a third angiogram to see if any answers were forthcoming. Lucky for me,  my fast call to 911 and the quick transport to the hospital may have saved my life. I spent a week on a ventilator, eating through a tube, getting my lungs suctioned daily because of pneumonia, worrying the crap out of my husband and family, and possibly not waking up. Ever.

Then I woke up, shook the pneumonia, got off the breathing tube, started taking a metric ton of drugs and injections to keep my head from exploding again. I spent 3 more days in ICU, weak as hell, dealing with humiliating lack of independence on levels I can’t relate here. Then 2 days in a private room. More independence. Solid food. Shower. OMG SHOWER! and many visits from nurses and doctors to test my blood, my oxygen levels and give me thrice daily shots in the stomach to stave off any clots creeping up to snuff me out. (Mind you the staff at all points of my care were FANTASTIC. Never had better care before)

I’m home now.  With 6 prescriptions of everything from blood thinners, to vaso-suppressors, to anti-seizure meds. I have a walking cane because I am still too wobbly to walk down the hallway. I still get chronic headaches. I have to set alarms to take medications in the middle of the night.

But I’m alive. And my husband is relieved and takes amazing care of me.

I still don’t know what actually happened.

I do know something though. My health issues may have exacerbated the situation. And the balance of the problem? Might have happened anyway.

So now I’m stuck with a series of thoughts that are difficult to deal with.

1) I very nearly died. I could very nearly die again. There is literally no guarantee at either end of that spectrum.

2) I have an epic circle of friends and family that all rallied in ways I’d never expected for my support. I am nearly on my knees from being humbled. It’s one thing to know people online and from afar. It’s entirely different to have people starting prayer circles for you and helping support your husband and family.

3) I don’t know the long term effects of this. I won’t know for a while. So far, my focus and short term memory seem to be a little off. Hopefully that will improve.

4) I’m covered in wounds. From tubes and injections and bruising. It’s disconcerting not to know where half of them came from.

5) My eating habits have radically changed.  My voice has changed, possibly permanently. I’m not sure who I’m turning into, but I’m trepiditious.

6) I have another angiogram coming up.  I have a 50% chance of coming out of it with no new answers. I’m weirdly okay with this.

7) I need to figure out what I want out of life. Now. I want to do a lot of things. I want to BE a lot of things. I’m caught in the crossfire of taking the slow road of recovery and the wide open field of endless possibilities.

The weirdest thing out of all of this is how epically calm I’ve become. My emotions are very still. It could be the meds. It could be brain damage. It might just be the natural reaction to almost dying. I’m not obsessing on what might have happened, which seems like a waste of  energy.

The only thing I do know is that I want to be healthy enough to be with Brian for a good number of years going forward. And maybe that’s goal enough for now.





So THAT’s done……NOW what do I do?

9 07 2014

Weather– Can I just say how lovely it’s been up here in Michigan? We’re on average 10-15 º cooler than where we came from in Indiana, plus lake breezes. AHHHHH!

So….. As of today’s writing, we’re 100% done with our old house. Papers signed, all our stuff in storage, new owners are already re-painting the living room- DONE.

And with the year long process of getting the house ready for sale and the usual several month process of selling & closing behind us, I’m suddenly missing a large block of distraction and worry. The hole it’s left is…both a relief and a source of discomfiture. I have a ton of things I can focus on now, but something has me spinning in place.

Maybe it’s just a matter of taking a few days to let it sink in. We are never going back. The house no longer belongs to us in any capacity. A place that I lived for over 11 years (16 years for the husbeast), where I laughed, cried, fought depression and found joy….is not mine anymore. Mind you the regret is very small, the relief- HUGE. The neighborhood was starting to slide a bit. The location wasn’t really doing much for helping us get our burgeoning art careers off the ground. Too close to family drama, too far from the city to use its resources.

It was definitely time to find an elsewhere to be.

This weekend is the Krasl Art Fair in Saint Joseph. It’s huge. We’re definitely going, if for no other reason, to get a feel for the art community first hand. Of course, with not having worked on anything in months…I’m feeling a bit like a pretender, a hack if you will. Studio space is our priority. I want to find some part time employment, just to help out. Ultimately, I’d like to get to the point where my art IS my part time job, with writing being the other half of that equation.

Now I have the time and resources to do it. We ended up having to get a second storage unit because of the amount of studio equipment and supplies we have.

Also, as a side note–we have a LOT of stuff. We both agreed that it’s time to start scaling back on things. When we get around to purchasing a house next year, we’re gonna try to dispose, or donate, or sell, at least 1/3 of our things. If you own too many things, they end up owning you, as the saying goes. Time to part with things that we haven’t touched, read, looked at in several years.

My health is slowly getting better. I’ve lost a few pounds and I’d like to continue the trend. I’m well above what I should be. (Not looking to be skinny, just healthy. Knees and ankles will definitely thank me for it. )

Again… there are no obligations or distractions on the near horizon anymore. We’ve been putting things on hold or pushing them further ahead of us….waiting for the RIGHT TIME. Some were just because we had the house crap going on. Some were….well, those were just excuses. We could have been doing a lot of them now, already. So now comes the litmus test.

Are they still things we want to do? OR have we been paying lip service to goals, dreams and plans that maybe aren’t really what we want anymore? We have nothing keeping us from doing them now. Literally. Finances are always a concern, but that is the least problematic obstacle there is.  Will to do something? That’s another animal altogether. We have no excuses, none of worth. So why the hesitation? When the universe suddenly parts the stormy seas for you, giving you a clear path and a light at the end of the tunnel, why do you pause?

Part of my problem, and it IS a problem, is that during the whole “get the house sold” time, I got way too immersed in social media and online timesinks. It’s time to pull back on those, but the lazy brain keeps slipping into the old rut. That’s just lack of discipline.

Another part of the problem is parallel to suddenly not having a longterm debt hanging over your head and finding yourself with money in the bank. The smart way to view the money in the bank is money to save towards things we have been wanting to do- travel, invest in new house, etc. But the lazy brain starts harping–YOU HAVE MONEY–GET ALL THE SHINY THINGS YOU’VE BEEN WANTING! Again–Discipline.

Recovering time is like that extra money in the bank. You can either use it productively, putting it into things that matter (with a little fun on the side) or you can squander it on meaningless things that only satisfy an immediate interest that will fade quickly. So…need to spend the next few days building that discipline back up. I know what I WANT to be doing. I WANT to be working on art, working on my book, spending some time tooling around the town taking photos. Eventually, I know both me and the husbeast want to start traveling again. We haven’t taken a proper trip in about 6 years. Haven’t taken an international trip together….ever. And after 9 years married, that’s a shame. We’re both second generation Americans, with parents from Europe (Except my dad, but he’s only two levels shy of Europe himself). Our passports haven’t been updated in YEARS.

Depression and fatalism leads to a sort of woolen complacency  where everything you build up as an ideal gets put up on a shelf as a shiny idol- something you admire, but never really try to reach for and touch. It makes for a weary existence where you stop trying to make the goals happen, keeping them on the horizon as a happy thought, but not a reality. There’s a twisted security in not pursuing your dreams– if you’re not taking up the challenge to make them happen, you’ll never be disappointed or frustrated. It’s just a happy thought of “When _________ is done, we can do that”, with something new always replacing the blank space in that sentence.  Somewhere a while back I heard a quote that said something along the lines of “Every time you say next week, next month, next year….you are wasting time waiting for that imaginary time where there are no obstacles, distractions or challenges. It never comes.”  And in the meantime, a lifetime has slipped away, sunk in the dreary minutiae of other people’s obligations, demands and the low level fear of trying to achieve a goal and not making it.

Well, there’s the rub. The husbeast and I are literally in that magical place of no distractions, no obligations and very few obstacles. Yet we sit, looking at each other as though shell shocked. What do we do now?

Perhaps our better question would be, where do we START now? At least that gives us something to work with. Actually…Just saying that has made things look a little better. A new START. Perhaps it’s time to not look at the jumbled pile of put off goals, and unmet ideals, and slightly tarnished dreams. Perhaps it’s time to sort them into boxes, set them aside and put up a clean canvas. Perhaps, if we get let the Universe unfold as it should, with us remolding our goals and pulling out only the necessary components as we need them from the dream box….perhaps the pressure to do ALL THE THINGS will dissipate and we’ll find ourselves where we’re meant to be.

I’m willing to try that.

For now, I will make a start by heading off to make some phone calls that I’ve been putting off.

Then I will work on some edits.

Because discipline doesn’t just arrive because it’s needed. It needs to be built piece by piece, less like armor, more like chain mail, link by link.

Time for our new life has arrived and I’ll be damned if I’ll squander the gift of time and resources that has been literally dropped in our laps.

For now, the social media and the interwebs can do without me for a while.

Hey—-did anyone notice this fantastic world that exists outside? I need to go investigate it. Look at it. Experience it.

Till next time……Gonna go spend time here with this guy. :)

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So THIS is what happy feels like….

3 06 2014

Weather: low 70s. Sunny. Lake is calm.

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So I was doing my usual surfing around zee net and was reading some of Wil Wheaton’s blog when I came across this entry,
Being a Grown-up” and found myself smiling a lot. Now I have nowhere near Wil’s readership, fame or general charm, but I really commiserated with the ideas there.

We’ve settled into our apartment in Michigan fairly easily.  I’m still looking for a job, but it’s not breaking my back. Husbeast’s job is covering us fine for now. House back in Indiana….News on that soon. Good news. We bought a second car for me, so I’m not clawing the walls with cabin fever (it’s a bright orange 2007 Chevy, enough to get me around locally, and to work, once we get to that point.)

I was just puttering around the other day– done some laundry, surfed the web, cleaned the apartment– and I was listening to a song as I waded around the usual websites. The song is immaterial but a line caught my ear and suddenly I was crying. Not from sadness. I didn’t recognize the emotion at first. Realized I was happy. Really and truly happy.

I think people forget that Happy doesn’t mean everything is alright, perfect, and settled. This was the Happy that comes with realizing that a long slog through an untenable situation is finally ending. That, although there are still challenges and possible obstacles ahead, they’re not the same, soul crushing things I’ve been dealing with the previous 10 years and they are going to be off my plate. FINALLY.

I looked out the window at Lake Michigan. Some storm clouds had rolled in and the lake was a little turbulent. It felt cleansing, rather than ominous.

I felt content. I know it’s not going to last forever, but I’d forgotten what that felt like. Like a song that you haven’t heard in years, and suddenly it comes on the radio, and you suddenly remember the lyrics and a smile pulls your lips up.

It came back this morning when I wrote a lengthy post on Facebook about trying to step away from polarization in thinking, about trying to start working with people instead of always being in opposition to things. After writing it, I realized that’s where I’m happiest. When I can step back from the snarling warfare that has become every discussion/debate online, and really look at both sides. And see that everything in this world is not either/or. That there are always more options than just A vs B. That this world is so much more complicated than a soundbite, or 140 character vent or Facebook post. (Including mine). And I’m okay with not knowing what the right answer is. That I can see that parts of arguments FOR and AGAINST something might have equal value. I’m wary of anyone saying they have all the answers or, more off-putting, the ONLY answer.

In deference to Wil’s post that I linked to up there, I felt something click into place reading it. I’ve felt like a fraud of an adult for a long time. Not because I’m irresponsible, or that I act immature, but that I don’t feel like I have all my shit together. I’m 47. Shouldn’t I have a better grasp on….well, everything? After reading Wil’s post, I finally was able to shed that last bit of insecurity. I think the reason I feel content for the first time in a while is that I’ve come to terms with MY definition of being an adult. And I’m completely secure with it.

For me, being an adult means taking care of your obligations, taking care of those in your care, and understanding, with acceptance, that some things in your life are meant to happen, and some are not. That you can do ANYTHING you want (within legal boundaries of course), but there may not be time to do EVERYTHING. Letting some lesser dreams go to focus more energy on the ones you REALLY want to pursue. There’s peace in not letting other people’s negativity infiltrate your soul. You can empathize without absorbing. You can sympathize without making it about you. You don’t have to attend every argument you’re invited to. And it’s okay not to weigh in on everything that crosses your path online. Having passionate ideas is good for your brain. Do what you can to help others, do what you can to lift up others in need, whether physically, emotionally or spiritually. But the key factor is, keep YOURSELF out of the equation. By this I mean, do things without need for recompense, praise or reciprocation. Do things because they’re the right thing to do.

A few things I’ve learned recently, and I try to practice are:

1: Accept apologies without suspicion or judgment. Even if you doubt the person’s sincerity, let it go.

2: Question any possible inflammatory statements before posting or saying them. Will the outcome be helpful or merely inciting others to fight?

3: Know when to walk away from a discussion that has lost its purpose, become needlessly mired in personal insults or has reached a stalemate. (Also know when to walk away from people who are constantly engaging in these kinds of arguments)

4: You owe nobody an explanation when you say NO to a demand for your time or services that you deem excessive or unfair.

5: Be nice. To everyone. Be polite. To everyone. Be compassionate. TO EVERYONE.  However, this does not mean you have to agree with them, support their actions or let them walk all over you.

6: Creativity starts when you stop worrying about what others think or what the market wants. Make what you want to make. Stop taking the advice about creativity from people who don’t create.

7: If the internet becomes overwhelming, or you find you’re getting angry at people you don’t know, or if you find yourself getting bored scrolling, turn off the computer and go do something else. In fact, start doing it more even if you aren’t any of the above.

8: Lastly, you are under no obligations to talk about or reveal anything about yourself, ever. It has to be a choice. Anyone who tells you otherwise has an agenda.

These are the things I’ve learned and am trying to apply daily. And in practicing what I preach, you, gentle reader, are fully entitled to ignore, object to or embrace these things. Do what’s best for you.

I guess this whole happiness things does pivot on choices in the end. You can choose to be happy– remove the things from your life that are unnecessary or causing undue stress or fostering unhealthy attitudes– or you can choose not to be. There’s no penalty or judgment in either direction.

I suggest, humbly, that we all try to find our own guidebook to being an adult and stop beating ourselves up for not meeting some arbitrary criteria. Be the best adult you can be. Don’t condemn others for not adult-ing the way you do.

But let’s all try to grow up a little. It’s not hard. It’s not scary. And you’ll shed a lot of baggage in the long run.





Ch-ch-ch-changes.

15 05 2014

So.

Long time — no post.

I have an excuse. A good one.

As I’m writing this, I am staring out the window of the apartment I now share with my Husbeast and our two KatKids, looking at Lake Michigan.

In the interim time between this post and the last one I posted, we have moved to Saint Joseph, Michigan, the Husbeast started a new job, we have our house back in NW Indiana on the market, and our lives have become radically different.

I’m happy…TRULY HAPPY for the first time in a long time. Considering we’ve gone from a 2400 sq ft home to a 700+ sq ft apartment, and 90% of our belongings are in storage at the moment, you could say we’re learning to live with less, and it’s far less difficult than I thought it’d be. We have mostly cut the cord on cable, with limited local stations, and use a Roku with Netflix & Hulu to catch up with our shows when we feel like it. I’m looking for a job, but we need a second car, alas-the only unforeseen bump in an otherwise seamless transition.

Granted the only downside at the moment is the loss of studio space, though we are working towards rectifying that situation. I’m back in writing/editing mode. Books that have been simmering on the back burner for too long are finally getting a focused look. Also, am sketching ideas for artwork to work on once we get a studio nailed down.

I’m suddenly in the perfect place to work on, share and join a community in art. Opportunities abound. The only intimidating factor is where to start!

I’m gonna try to start blogging a few times a week again. I actually have things to talk about again.

Let the adventure begin.

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Breaking the Rear View Mirror

31 12 2013

Weather:  Well…it’s cold. And snowy. Proper winter for once. Been several weeks of temps in the teens with a rare 50º day shoved in there. After several years of weirdly mild winters, we’re getting back to A good old fashioned Midwest Winter. 

I usually use this post to note what has happened in the past year and start roughly graphing out what I hope to do in the new year.

Except this year has been particularly heavy on the downs rather than the ups. There’s been too much death, economic difficulties and negative thoughts. Plans fell through, depression killed a lot of creative output and yet again, the best of intentions collapsed under apathy and self-immolation.

The ups were less numerous, though I will say with much pride that we finally turned a profit at Einini Glassworks, which bodes well for 2014 if we increase our output and momentum.

So instead of rehashing the minutiae of the year, I’m gonna just smash the rear view mirror and focus on looking forward.

I’m making big plans for the upcoming year. I’ve sunk so far into a rut that I don’t much like the person I’ve become. Instead of lamenting the person who seems to be wearing my skin, and badly at that, I’m going to figure out what person I am going to be.  Not want to be, mind you- AM GOING TO BE.  Slightly more commitment there.

I had a bit of an epiphany recently. It hit out of the blue, as epiphanies are wont to do.  Something had been missing from my perspective for a while, something that seemed to have exited stage left when my creativity went on vacation. I rediscovered it when I started spending time in our yard taking seasonal photos.
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It was a sense of transcendence, finding the sublime in the mundane. The source of my creative ideas had always been rooted in finding the interesting bits among the dull piles, whether it be a turn of phrase that sparked a story idea, a particular angle of a shot that made something everyday look ethereal, or finding a way to flesh out a visual from my brain into some form of practical media. I’d stopped looking. I’d stopped SEEING it. I think a lot of people have turned off that part of their perception. Because it’s always there, nestled amid the grey and ugly and boring things that populate our everyday lives. Cynicism blocks it. Boredom makes us gloss right over it. We’re skimming the surface of things all the time.
Because we’re in such a rush to see and know and read and connect with EVERYTHING, we miss the individual, the small things that fill the spaces between the big events, the shouting masses, the bombastic imagery.

I’d lost that quiet place in my brain where things take root, and grow. I’d stuffed my skull, from floor to ceiling with amusements, trite and banal, with anger at things I had little investment or control over, and with the dull cotton stuffing that inevitably accompanies reading the bottom half of the internet. Music had stopped being inspirational or soundtracks for the visuals in my head, relegated to background noise with a pleasant tone or a memorable beat. I’d literally stripped the color and flavor from my life. Some of it, I can blame on the resurgence of my depression, which always covers everything in shades of gray. There were enough crises that cropped up that escalated from manageable to chaotic that made focus nonexistent. I found small moments where I was able to recover enough clarity to accomplish SOME creative output. Ultimately, the biggest killer of that momentum was spending hours online, accomplishing little more than attempting to amuse my friends, keep up with every single post or comment or Tweet and playing the passive observer, rather than contributing anything of note.

The husbeast and I have lots of conversations. Mostly talking about what we want to do, what we haven’t been doing….and of course, what we would do if our circumstances were different.  So we talk and talk and talk and rarely act on any of it. He finally said the other day, “How about we shut up and do something?” And we did. This preceded the aforementioned epiphany, but I hazard a guess that it contributed to it’s revelation.

Something has shifted recently, birthing this need to be constantly informed, “up” on things…this dread of being left out or left behind. I know it’s turned this information junkie in me into something of a monster. I need to slay it, kill it dead. Or at least reduce it from Godzilla to an ostensibly smaller lizard I can cage up and put away.

So–intent for 2014. Regain my transcendence. Regain my focus. Make more things. I think I’m going to set myself a challenge to make something new every day, whether it be trying a new recipe or writing a new scene, creating a new art piece or even just writing a brain dumping blog piece. This of course means that I need to make space for creation in my life. I plan on cutting back my online time, indefinitely. I plan on cutting back on my tv time. Less talk more action, as the husbeast says. I’m going to do my damnedest to get out and experience the world first hand, instead of living vicariously through photos and videos online.

I’m going to be turning 47 in a couple weeks, and I think that’s as good a time as any to cut the ties on the person I seem to have slipped sideways into being, and literally face the upcoming year as a blank canvas.

The person I am going to be is someone I can be proud of, someone who will add new things to this world, not just idly sit by and watch others create.

So goodbye 2013, with your sadness, your dull detour into the doldrums, and your barrage of self-defeating idleness. Hello, 2014. Challenge me. Make me sharper. Make me MORE. I’m ready.





Expanding your Toolbox

27 09 2013

Personal update first:
Glanced at the dates and cringed. But I have a legitimate reason for falling off the posting cliff –After years of waffling, the Husbeast and I are FINALLY putting our house on the market, and getting ready to relocate.

Granted– our grand plans to move to the Pacific Northwest have been knocked over under the weight of financial realities, but they are not fully dead. Postponed rather than killed off.

We’re looking further east in Indiana, mostly because we can get more house for our (rather meager) housing dollar.

Now onto the meat of this post. The husbeast and I were chatting in the car this morning, heading to the train station where I drop him off for the commute into The City where he works. And by chatting I mean, he groggily nodded as I pontificated out loud. As you do.

We were listening to music from zee iPod and a My Chemical Romance song came on. I commented at length that I loved artists who had multiple outlets –e.g. Gerard Way sings (well, SANG) for MCR, but also has a very healthy career in comics, award winning even. Steven Archer & Donna Lynch from the band Ego Likeness also make amazing art & write great books.   It’s really less about the number of things that these artistic multi-taskers work on and more interesting to look at why they do it.

A lot of my friends are artists, writers and musicians. Not a calculated thing, I just have more in common with them. Most of them are single art/media focused. Which is fine, because they are VERY GOOD at that particular media. Several others are multimedia. Some have pursued the different branches of the art tree because they got bored of one particular track, or because, due to one unforeseen event or another, had to change track. (Injuries, money, relocation, etc.)

But there are a handful of my artist friends and idols who juggle multiple disciplines for the same reason I do: to expand their toolbox.

As creatives, a lot of us are usually juggling a bunch of ideas in our noggin, which makes for some uneasy translations from brain to physical manifestation.  Results can vary from satisfactory to “oh gods why did I even bother???” If you work in a single media, that can make things even more challenging, as a single media is limiting. If you only paint or sculpt or write, sometimes getting the idea in your head to manifest in the physical world can be like shoving the proverbial square peg into a round hole.

Your toolbox, as it were, doesn’t contain the right tool to tell the story or describe the image in your head.

At this point you can do one of three things: 1) wrestle the idea into shape as best as you can with the tools at hand, 2) abandon the idea and work on something else, or 3) you can decide to expand your toolbox and manifest the story/idea through different means.

Number 3 can be both exhilarating and daunting by equal measure. Trying a new method of idea translation, especially one you’re not well versed in,  can be frustrating.  But if you at least try, you might be surprised at the results. No one is going to be an expert the first time you try another method. If you’re a good painter, you’re not going to switch to sculpting and create at the same level instantly.  But here’s the rub: ideas are fluid and complex and never come with a step by step instruction how to manifest them. By adding different tools to your toolbox, you give yourself a wider selection of ways to tell your creative story.

I started out as a writer, with no intent of trying another media. I wrote to give my ephemeral brain stew some structure. Words were my building blocks. My ideas always came as images. Sometimes moving, sometimes still. The moving images were easier to write. They were movies, complete with soundtracks and actors and dialogue. I was writing the transcripts of these snippets and then, like putting concrete around a wire frame, I built a story.

The still images? They’re vivid, they’re specific and they don’t really do more than lodge themselves in my brain, waiting for passage into the physical world.  I stashed them in my brain locker , in carefully labelled Tupperware, for later use.

A few years ago, The Husbeast decided to take some stained glass classes. He’s a graphic design production artist, so his comfort zone is working with computers and design software. Learning a hands-on, physical art was new for him. (He’d dabbled in painting and art classes in high school, but nothing serious). He was instantly hooked. He started building pieces, working towards making Tiffany reproduction lampshades. Watching him get absorbed in translating images in his head using pieces of of glass and metal was fascinating. I started thinking that, since my novel had stalled in the middle of my gazillionth editing pass, maybe I too should find a craft that would allow a different outlet. Since there was a metric tonne of small glass pieces and leftovers from The Husbeast’s projects, I decided to try my hand at mosaics. I made some pieces for Christmas presents, and they turned out pretty damn good. Then the inevitable happened: The ideas started poking out the Tupperware in my head. All those still images that had stumped me now had a way to manifest. I bought sketchbooks, and to my surprise, found out I wasn’t too bad at drawing the things in my head. But even with this new tool in the toolbox, I realized that there were still ideas that I sketched that wouldn’t be served by mosaics. So I’m learning to paint, and photograph, and sculpt.  I want to learn to make tiles and pottery. I want to have as many tools at my fingertips as I can, so I don’t have to shove ideas into that Tupperware anymore.

I have no idea if I’ll be any good at any of these new tools, but my perspective has shifted.

Instead of taking my ideas and wrestling with them to make them work with the tool I’m best at, I’m now letting the idea dictate the tool.  I think all of us, all creatives, can be served better by increasing the options in our toolbox.

It doesn’t matter if it’s something as simple as learning a new brushstroke or switching the substrate you work on or changing the genre of your story, or if you decide to completely change the medium to something you’ve never tried before.

Tell your story in the best way you can.  Don’t be afraid if it seems impossible.

You got the idea, created it from nothing into something. Somehow, I think if your brain gifts you with art, it probably already knows how you need to make it.  Just find the art equivalent of the Babel Fish to translate it into life.








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