Monday, August 19, 2013

Project Musings

For every project I've finished, I've started at least three more that remain unfinished. One of the things I want to learn how to do the most is focus. Focus on one project until it's complete. Finish things. Not feel like a failure because the time and money I've spent are piled up in a corner, supplies wasted.

I'm trying to remain positive about this, to think that I'm finally engaged with arts again. I'm writing. I'm painting. I'm making things. But I want to do more. I want to write and record music. I want to make my own clothes.

I keep trying to remind myself that I don't have to do everything right now. That I have years ahead to accomplish my goals, that I should always make progress, but there's no deadline. But that's hard when I realize that the thing I went to college for may not be what I do with my life--even if that's what I had my heart set on. I'm not happy with my current job, but it takes away 50 hours of my week (30 working, 20 driving). I need to focus on my health--there's another 10 hours a week at the gym. Then there's sleep--about 70 hours a week. Those leftover 38 hours in a week are the ones I spend with family, with friends, getting ready for work, getting ready for bed, doing projects. Otherwise, I'm missing some sleep or skipping the gym.

All I can think is, if not now, when? When am I going to work less than I do now? When will I have more disposable income? When will I be free of obligations?

The pressure I feel is self-imposed, of course. No one else cares when I finish projects--very few people actually know about them. It's all in my own head. I'm feeling stretched to the max, which is what anyone in my life stage feels like.

Currently, I'm working on two paintings, four stories, several stuffed animals (I did get my first commission!), and I want to start a web comic. I'm doing all of this while working, reading, meeting health and fitness goals, and maintaining social relationships (and dealing with heartbreak).

I'm doing the best I can, but it doesn't feel like enough.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Health and Fitness

One of the reasons I've long been absent from this blog is that much of my free time has been spent trying to meet a different sort of goal--becoming healthy and fit. These goals don't coincide very well with any sort of sedentary activity, as crafting and blogging tend to be. I've been working out (almost) daily for six weeks, and I'm making progress toward accomplishing my goals.

Week One                                   Week Four

But after six weeks, I'm still struggling to find a balance between work, working out, spending time with family and friends, writing, painting, and crafting. Although I am disappointed by this realization, I understand that my health has to be a higher priority than it's been in the past. Without my health, I cannot do anything else I wish to do and do it well.

I'm noticing small changes here and there that let me know I'm making progress. I'm getting stronger. I sleep better. I have an overall sense of well-being that I don't think I've ever had. Although I am trying to lose weight, I am happier and feel better about myself than when I was thin. Feeling good about yourself has very little to do with what you look like; it comes from what you do to take care of yourself.

I was an overweight child. I was active--I took dance lessons for eight years and played outside--but genetics and a poor diet meant that I was always fatter (and taller) than other kids my age. I was self-conscious of that fact then, and I still am now.

When I was sixteen, I became ill. I lost 70 pounds in six months. People who didn't know I was sick told me how great I looked, but I didn't see it.I still saw a fat kid when I looked in the mirror. I wore clothes that were too big. I still avoided pictures that showed anything other than my face. I could count my ribs, see my spine, but I cried because I thought I was fat. Body dysphoria is hell. (No, I did not have an eating disorder.)

One of the few pictures showing anything other than my face. Ignore the fact that I was trying to be a burlesque model.

See that collar bone? It gives me chills now.

And here I am now. I think I even look happier.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Felt and Friends

When I first started making stuffed animals, my friend Caitlin suggested that I try felting. She described the process as "where you take a bunch of hair, wad it up, and stab it with a needle." I'm not sure why, but I imagined felting to be bloody and also involve teeth. I burst out laughing (much to Caitlin's chagrin), and neglected the idea until Sarah sent me this adorable video called "Make a Cute Kitty."

After I got my first paycheck from my new job (yay!), I went to the craft store and picked up some supplies for a felting adventure. And it was quite the adventure! Felting is a lot harder than it looks. For one thing, it takes a lot longer than you'd think, and you'll stab yourself a few times with very sharp needles.

Here's a look at what you'll need:

Felting wool, felting needle, a work surface you don't mind scratching, and a ton of patience...

Here I am, working on the head of my animal...what am I making?

It's starting to take shape (hours later).

And...SURPRISE! I made a bear.

I bet you thought I'd make a kitty. Well, that's because I was going to make a kitty. But then I looked at my felted creature and saw a bear.

Sarah also made a felt friend...anyone care to guess which animal she made? Drumroll, please...! A kitty! :D

I borrowed this picture from Sarah's blog. Photo by The Guy Behind the Lens (check him out here).

About a week later, I did make a kitty, which turned out looking like a fox:

My lesson learned from felting? Sometimes you can't plan for how your work will turn out. Sometimes I jut just happens.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

A Day with Friends

Spending time with my friends is one of the most rewarding things in my life. Today, I went on a short hike and downtown adventure with two of my best friends. We are fortunate to be near both a medium sized, art-friendly city and the mountains. 

It was a great way to recharge my batteries after a long week of work and preparing my house for this week's guests. 

After I completed the study for the first in a series of paintings, my friends Tina and Sarah gave me some canvases to paint on; I now have to do five paintings related to body image! I have pretty good ideas for the first and last paintings, but it's going to take some time for me to know what to do for the middle three.

This week, I am also planning to start making stuffed animals again. Instead of building a complicated prototype, I'm going to make more stuffed animals like this fella on the left:


Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Work in Progress: Trapped

Recovering from depression is a difficult journey, especially when a lifetime of depression is combined with 15 years of bullying and abuse. Some of the negative messages are fairly easy to deflect; I'm clearly not stupid, worthless, or brainless. But there is one message remaining that permeates through every facet of my life: I am fat, ugly, and unattractive. 

Body image originates from a number of places it shouldn't: the minds and mouths of others, the media, and comparing ourselves to others (especially those whom we arbitrarily designate as more attractive than ourselves). 

Reforming my body image to a more truthful one, one that originates with me, is a slow and painful process. I'll never completely remove outside influences from my thoughts, but I can choose whether I want to accept them as my own. I have to ask myself, Why do I think that way? all the time. I have a list of questions to ask myself periodically.

Am I healthy?
What do I like about the way I look?
How do I feel in my body?

I'm going to journal my answers to these questions, but not in writing. I've decided to document this process visually through drawing and painting. The first piece I have is a drawing I did months ago:

It's a pretty raw, judgmental, self-hating image. It's one of the ones I almost ripped out of my sketchbook, but decided to keep. From this drawing, I did a 20-minute study of the style of painting and color scheme I want to use.

Before you laugh, remember I said I did this in 20 minutes.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Banana Oatmeal Breakfast Cookies

With my new daily schedule, meals are kind of tough for me, especially breakfast. I don't start work until noon, but I only eat breakfast before I go. I don't get a break while I'm at work, which is the only thing I don't like about my job. Breakfast has to be a small but filling meal because it's all I eat until dinner.

A few months ago, I made cookies using only mashed bananas, dry oatmeal, and chocolate chips. I decided to recreate these cookies, but with more protein packed in. This time, I added mixed nuts and applesauce to the cookies. 

The Recipe:
2 bananas, mashed
1/3 cup unsweetened apple sauce
1/2 cup chocolate chips
1/2 cup mixed nuts
4 cups dry oatmeal

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Mix all ingredients in a large bowl.  Form cookies from the dough, and place them onto a cookie sheet. Bake for 15 minutes, until the cookies are firm.

Updates and Project Planning

The past few weeks have been full of change and excitement. A couple of days after I decided to take a break from blogging, I got a phone call about a job I'd applied for and interviewed for back in April. The interview had gone so badly (in my mind, at least), that I never called to ask if I would be hired. Frankly, I felt like I couldn't live down the anxiety of making the call.

I got the job. I teach preschool now. I wake up in the morning, and I'm supposed to be responsible for things. It's mind boggling.

After receiving that good news, I took a mini road trip to see a couple of my friends. It was a very inspiring weekend; my friend Lauren and I visited several art museums and shops. I came away from the experience recharged with ideas for projects. I may even apply for an internship with an artist collaborative in the future. 

So far, I have ideas for a couple of novels, a series of paintings, and sewing projects. I need to organize my time more efficiently if I am going to accomplish all these things. After completing my first full week at work one thing has become painfully clear: I need to be healthier if I'm going to accomplish my goals. 

At the end of every day, after work and going to the gym, I'm exhausted. For a while, I probably won't feel like getting much done, but I'm going to do the best I can. My goals are to first work out daily and to eat more healthful foods. Secondly, I will continue to create something each day, or make progress on a project daily. I may not be able to update my blog daily, but I will do the very best I can.