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:


Cheers!

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.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Happy Birthday, Mom!


One of the reasons I've been absent from my blog lately is that I started a new job last Monday. The good news is that I like my job, but the bad news is that I won't get paid for at least another two weeks. The disappointing part is that I didn't have money to give my mom something for her birthday.

Then, I remembered this salvage fabric I found at a warehouse sale a month ago. I made this simple bag from three pieces of cloth. I really hope my mom will like it!

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Veggie Tacos



As part of my quest for better health, I've decided to eat less meat. Since I already limit the types of meat I eat, the only real change is in how often I eat meat. For last night's dinner, I made vegetarian tacos. 

Everything about this meal was the same as any other time I've made tacos, but I replaced the beef with lentils, and I opted for a tortilla made with spinach to add some more nutritional value to my meal.

The "Recipe"
- 1/2 cup of lentils (measured before cooking)
- 1/2 of a shallot
- 1/2 of a jalapeƱo
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 1/4 of a tomato
- fresh cilantro
- fresh lime juice
- chili powder, cayenne powder, garlic powder, minced onion, salt, and black pepper to taste
- jasmine rice, flavored with adobo and coconut oil
- spring mix lettuce
- shredded cheese

I'm really pleased with how the tacos turned out, even if they're technically burritos! I didn't miss the meat at all. 

 

Friday, July 5, 2013

Pre-Update Post

I am back from my vacation safe and sound, and I will have plenty of real updates (and some exciting news!) coming over the next few days!

Take care,
Brittany

Friday, June 21, 2013

Green Tea Gummies

I've started an online program that helps me keep track of what I eat, how much water I drink, and my daily activity level. It even analyses the nutritional content of my food and grades me for the day.

It has some pretty strict standards. What I thought was a decent breakfast got a D rating. It wasn't even a Pop Tart...it was a granola bar. So basically, a computer program is guilting me into eating better food.

But I wanted some gummy bears today. I'd successfully made gummy candy before, so I thought I'd give sugar free candy a shot.

First, I mixed these two things together:


I let them mingle in a sauce pan for a few minutes; then I cooked them together on medium heat.


Then I poured the mixture into a container...


...and chilled in the fridge for half an hour. 


There's just one problem. They're gross! Next time, I will brew a fruity tea that I know I can drink without adding a sweetener and see if that works better.

Cheers!




Thursday, June 20, 2013

Rabbit/Dog?



So this odd little thing is a dog. I made him in three hours today. But tomorrow I'm going to chop off his head and give him a new body.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Today, I did something silly.

Periodically, I get the impulse to get rid of things I've written or artwork I've made. Today, I tore through my sketchbook and got rid of anything that didn't please me. In the past, I've regrettably done the same with journals and stories I've written. 

It's something I've pretended not to understand when my friends do this. I do understand it, though. This impulse exists, for me, as a way of counteracting the notion I'm not good enough. But if I get rid of everything I'm not proud of, then it's hard to see the growth I've experienced as a writer, an artist, a person. No one was born gifted in writing fiction or painting; they simply had the desire and dedication to be great. 

I've hit a number of stumbling blocks lately. I'm finding it difficult to complete any of various projects including

- rereading The Catcher in the Rye
- practicing guitar for a minimum of 15 minutes daily
- exercising for an hour daily
- making stuffed animals based off my niece and nephew's drawings
- making stuffed animals of my own designs
- composing meaningful writing as a response to 642 Things to Write About
- practicing using my sewing machine
- keeping up with this blog
- starting a second blog

All of this is a lot to ask from someone who generally doesn't eat, sleep, or bathe in a predictable pattern, especially when I'm met by failure at every turn. I'm not giving up, though. I just need to figure out how to balance everything better than I have been.

Over the next few days, I'm going to take a break and get some much-needed socialization. Then next week, a trip. I'm not sure how much I'll be doing or blogging in the meantime, but I think I'll come back refreshed in the next week or two. 

Stuffed Animal Updates

It seems like forever since I decided to make stuffed animals using children's drawings. Forever, as in a few wees ago. 

Truth is, I'm stuck.

The two I tried to make didn't turn out right at all, and I have some ideas about how to make the stuffed animals better next time around. But I feel completely unmotivated. I get out my fabrics...and then I don't do anything. I feel so much pressure to get things done that I can't seem to finish anything I start.

I'm not sure what's going on, but I'm going to figure it out.

Friday, June 14, 2013

The "I Haven't Slept Yet" Self-Portrait


I completed this cartoony drawing in about half an hour at 7AM today. I have no idea what's going on with the background.

I have no idea what's going on.

The Soundtrack to My Life

One of the assignments I have from my therapist is to create a list of songs that say something about me as a person. The other assignment is to reread The Catcher in the Rye. The point of each of these assignments is to work with something I enjoy as a way of rebuilding my self image. Reading and listening to music are two of the most enjoyable things for me, at least they were until my attention span was completely shot to hell. I'm going to blame student teaching kindergarten for that. I hear from veteran teachers that eventually your attention span matches that of the children you teach.

The difficulty of both of these tasks is that I can't focus on one thing. In the time I wrote the first paragraph, I paced around my room, checked my email, spun around in my desk chair, and scrolled through my Tumblr dashboard. It's a sad state of affairs.

The hard part about creating my the soundtrack of my life is that I'm not sure what to say about myself. When you spend most of your life outwardly playing at having no personality while inwardly fantasizing about being a dominatrix lesbian stripper, what do you have to say about yourself? The song that embodies that is probably Led Zeppelin's "Heartbreaker." What if you're sitting at a party, not saying anything to anybody, and fantasizing about whooping a bad guy's ass on the top of a burning building? Well then, it's "Tales of a Scorched Earth" by Smashing Pumpkins. Those are two songs I like, that I see myself as some sort of character doing something that interests me, but they don't really say anything about me. Just that I have an imagination, and it goes to some interesting places.

In the story of my life, there's no character development and the ships all sail, hit ice bergs, and sink. Thankfully not while Celine Dion plays in the background.

But after some stalling and thought, I think I've come up with a good start.

My emotional state(s):
"The Cosmic Game" by Thievery Corporation (generally peaceful)
"Bron-Yr-Aur" by Led Zeppelin (whimsical)
"Good Feeling" by the Violent Femmes (sad/wistful/wishing good things didn't have to end)
"Climbing up the Walls" by Radiohead (restless and strange)
"Smashing" by Giant Drag (horribly depressed)
"A Warm Place" by Nine Inch Nails (sort of empty after crying)
"Sorrow" by the National (depressed again)
"Cross Bones Style" by Cat Power (helpless)
"Drown" by Smashing Pumpkins

How I relate to others:
"Talk Show Host" by Radiohead (self-perpetuated alienation)
"Better off Alone" by the Black Angels


How I feel about society:
"The Masses Are Asses" by L7
"Real Estate" by Flight (The song has "let's destroy the world" in the chorus, okay?)
"All of You" by Magdyn Osh (People are assholes, but it's still a miracle that they exist.)

How I deal in romantic relationships:
"Billie Holiday" by Warpaint (the idea that I'd do anything for this person...)
"Beekeeper's Blues" by Susanna Hoffs (...who sucks.)
"She's Gone" by the Brian Jonestown Massacre (But that's okay, because I'll wait around anyway.)
"When You're Old and Lonely" by the Magnetic Fields (Oh, you'll regret treating me like crap, sir.)
"Fuck This...I'm Leaving" by the American Analog Set (Later, bro!)

What I want from life:
"Someone Else's Life" by Joshua Radin
"A Place Called Home" by PJ Harvey
"Make Yourself" by Incubus
"For Emily, Whenever I May Find Her" by Simon & Garfunkel


Thursday, June 13, 2013

The Table - A Tale of Perseverance

My friend Tina gave this table to me when she salvaged it from her neighbor's trash pile. At the time, I was hell-bound to move out of my parents' house, which I ended up not doing, but I kept the table. I figured I could find a use for it while I lived at home, and then take it to my new place when I decide it's time to move out. When I did a major overhaul on the upstairs of my parents' house, I tried to re-assemble the table. And failed. Miserably.
I attached the legs to the tabletop and turned the table right side up. It fell over faster than an alcoholic at happy hour, knocking my head on the way down. I swore at the table and its mother, and then I shoved it over to the stair landing, where it waited for my dad to take it apart and out of my sight. But my dad isn't known for task completion, especially not if the task involves coming upstairs. So the table sat for weeks, waiting. Taunting me.

I hated that table. It sucked. It failed at being a table, and it almost killed me. I hated looking at it at the top of the stairs, its stupid legs pointing in all different directions. I hated the way this table said I'd failed. That I couldn't even put together a prefab table that probably came from Walmart. That my education was useless because I couldn't even master this one life skill.

Today I decided to give that table another chance. It's not the table's fault I didn't know how to put it together the right way. It's not the table's fault it fell and hit me. It's an inanimate object that can't reasonably be blamed for anything. The problem was that I had failed and given up.

On the outside, I'm rebuilding a table. On the inside, I'm rebuilding myself.

On the outside, I'm quietly taking the legs off the table and putting them back on, correctly this time, with the parts I didn't use last time. On the inside, I realize I'm not worth giving up on.

On the outside, I see that I don't have all the parts I need to finish rebuilding the table, but the outcome is looking better this time. On the outside, I ask my dad to find me some more washers and a wrench.

On the inside, I feel like less of a failure, just because of this one tiny thing. I still feel disconnected, lonely, and aimless. I still look at myself on the inside and the outside and don't always like what I see. But I also know that I can be better, that I need to be better, but I can't do it alone. On the outside, I ask for help. I ask friends; I ask family; I ask writers, artists, musicians.

On the inside, I'm rebuilding myself. On the inside, my mind hisses at me saying--


I'm fat. 
I'm stupid. 
I'm ugly. 
I don't deserve to ask for what I need or want. 
I don't deserve your kind words. 
I deserved for them to leave me. 
I'm not worth the resources I use to live.
I don't deserve to live. 
I'm not good enough.  
I'm not ____ enough.
I'm not enough.

Those are the messages I've said to myself for years. Messages that didn't come from me but from people who bullied and abused me, and the guilt and shame I felt in response. Long after abuse ends, guilt and shame and a broken self image remain, all of which lead to insecurity, unhealthy coping mechanisms, and doomed-from-the-start relationships. I didn't deserve any of those things. No one does.

In essence, recreating myself is a self-destructive process. It's deconstructing what I know about myself and sorting out what I know to be true and what came from elsewhere. Many of the beliefs I've long held about myself are not my own; they came from the cruel mouths and minds of others when I was so young I could only internalize the negative messages and not defend myself against them.

I am no longer a defenseless child who is shamed and punished for standing up against abuse. I've been away from that place for a number of years, but the trauma is still there. I am reluctant to open up to new people and experiences. I've tolerated (often manipulative and sometimes abusive) behavior from people in relationships that never should have been okay, all because I thought that's all I deserved. And with how difficult socializing can be for me, I marvel at the fact that I've had friends and boyfriends in the first place.

My defense against abuse/being mistreated by others has always been passive-aggressive, sarcasm, and avoidance. My new defense is going to be better than that. Stronger. My new defense is two-fold: removing hateful messages and replacing them with kinder truthful messages.

I'm kind.
I'm thoughtful.
I'm funny.
I deserve to live, and I should respect others and the Earth.
I am good enough, but sometimes I need help. That's okay.
I deserve the good people in my life.
I am intelligent.
I am beautiful.

 Note: This entry is a follow-up to last night's post.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

The Night I Almost Died (Trigger Warning)

The following paragraph is from my personal journal, dated April 1, 2013:
The pills were waiting for me when I returned, staring up at me from the desk like so many blank faces. I wasn't sure why I had left them on the desk when I emptied the bottle; at the time, the bottle was what I'd wanted. Why didn't I throw the pills away? But they were there, and a small voice whispered that I knew what to do with them.

April Fools Day used to be one of my favorite holidays. Every year, I've planned some innocuous prank for my family and friends. Every year except this one.


It was the first weekend of my much-needed spring break. It was a shortened school week, and Friday was a half-day just for the teachers. I spent most of my day at school alone because my mentor had already served her mandatory three hours. I didn't have any more lesson planning to do because my internship was almost over at that point, so I cleaned the classroom and prepared some of her lesson materials for her.

I left school, took a nap, and then began packing for my trip up to Greensboro to visit my friend Lauren. I was in a hurry to leave my apartment, and I couldn't find my spare pill container. Then I remembered the sleeping pills my psychiatrist had prescribed that I had only taken once or twice before discovering they kept me awake. I had never bothered to get rid of the pills, and I was thankful because I needed the bottle they were housed in. I dumped the pills out on my desk and kept packing my bag. I glanced back at the pills and thought, They'll be here waiting.

I wish I'd stopped for a minute and thrown them away. Instead, I brushed off the thought, closed my door, and left.

My time in Greensboro was a happy one, despite the incontinent kitty who kept threatening to poop on all my stuff and the futon I was sleeping on. Lauren has been one of my best friends for years, and I think she could tell that, even though I was having fun on the outside, something had gone horribly wrong on the inside. I remember surfing the internet, catching up on our boy talk, and exploring coffee shops and restaurants in town. All the things that were supposed to be fun.

We went to Geeksboro to watch the latest Doctor Who. I knew I was supposed to be having a good time. I was in a frigging geek-themed coffeehouse (yay, overpriced sugary coffee-like beverages married to all my favorite entertainment) watching my favorite television show with my best friend. All of those things should have made me happy, but they didn't.

Later that Saturday night, we decided to get sneak into her old college's art studio and get drunk while making art. I learned a lot about myself that night. For one thing, my body's reaction to different types of alcohol is weird. I've had up to six shots of hard liquor and was not drunk. But two glasses of wine and a wimpy flavored beer did me in that night. Another thing I learned is that I'm a very happy, tuneful drunk. I suddenly knew all the lyrics to the music we were listening to, and I sang right along. Not a single fuck was given, unlike when I sing any other time. From what Drunk Lauren could tell me, I have a pretty singing voice. I started to fall asleep on the carpet in a pile of charcoal pencils, indicating it was time to leave. We stumbled through the mile and a half to Lauren's apartment and went to bed. I was, for the first time in a long time, blissful.

On Sunday I learned that I should never, ever drink again. No, I wasn't hungover, not in the headache-y, nauseated way. But all of the sadness I had been trying to push away all weekend (and who knows how long before that) fell on me all at once.

I wanted to die.

I tried stalling for as long as I could before heading the 120 miles back to my own apartment, but eventually I had to leave. I couldn't bring myself to tell her what was going on, although I think she was perceptive enough to know there was something wrong.

I sped the whole way home, often going as fast as my ages-old car would allow. I cried off and on throughout the trip. It's a miracle I wasn't pulled over for speeding or killed in some accident for all the attention I paid to driving my car.

When I got home, I dropped my bags on the floor of my room and glanced at the pills. They were still there on top of some school paper I'd left out. I looked up at my calendar and laughed. It was March 31. If I did this late enough, people would find out I was dead on April Fools Day, which I found absolutely hilarious. I know that I have a warped sense of humor, but looking back, I'm appalled that I ever found that funny.

I invited my roommate Sarah to join me for dinner in the cafeteria. I wasn't sure why I wanted to eat dinner or why I wanted to eat dinner with her; I think I wanted to say goodbye and eat bacon one last time. Maybe I was stalling, hoping to change my mind. There's a part of me that's always felt that she didn't really want to eat with me, that she may not have had the time to that day; but she was kind enough to do so, and for that I'm thankful. I remember trying to be cheerful for her, all the while wanting to say goodbye. I just didn't have the words.

After she returned to the art studio, I went back to our apartment. I remember our roommate Ashley was in the living room, watching one of my favorite movies, Ghost World while she worked on her own art projects. I sat down to watch it with her, but I couldn't connect to the movie. The two characters I'd always admired for being quirky and cynical outcasts were now bitchy and hollow. I remember mentioning this to Ashley, who commented that two high school seniors must seem very young to me, a fifth year senior at university. I agreed with her, with another pang of sadness.

Ashley asked how my trip was, and I told her it felt like every minute I spent with Lauren was another goodbye, and that I felt the same way when I ate dinner with Sarah.

She looked up from her project. "What, are you moving away?"

"No."

I opened my laptop and made a post on my Facebook: goodbye.

I closed the laptop and went to my room. And there the pills were, on my desk, waiting. Only I didn't take a drink with me. You can't take a bottle of pills without a drink, dumbass, I told myself and started crying. I didn't have the mental energy to go back to the kitchen for a drink of water or one of my roommate's beers. All I seemed to have energy for was crying and abusing myself and laughing hysterically.

My phone rang. Lauren. There she was, demanding to know what was going on. I don't remember what I said to her; I don't think I was coherent enough to remember. But she understood that I had pills, 28 prescription sleeping pills, and that I intended to use them. She asked if there was anyone who could "keep the pills in a safe place" for me. I said no, Sarah wasn't home, Ashley didn't get it. Instead of giving the pills to someone else, Lauren made me promise to flush them down the toilet. I did so, and verified that I hadn't just flushed so she could hear.

The pills were gone.

She kept me on the phone for another half hour. I don't remember what she might have said to me; nor do I remember anything I said to her. I only remember crying, some mix of anger and relief.

The next morning, I woke up alone. My roommates were all in class. I stayed in bed all day, listening to a reading of The Bell Jar on YouTube. For a long time, I did not move, did not dress, did not eat. When I did decide that remaining alive meant that I had to eat (at least anorexia has never been among my problems), I dressed and walked to the cafeteria, shrouded in a complete mental fog. People, including an old boyfriend, spoke to me as I bought my lunch. I saw their mouths moving, but I failed to hear the voices coming from them. I wanted to speak, to reply, but my mouth felt glued shut. It was probably useless to say anything, since I hadn't heard what was said to me.

I walked slowly back to my apartment, crying. I don't remember what I ate. I don't know what I did the rest of that day. I only remember feeling angry and resentful that I was alive, that my method of escape had been taken from me. 

But deep down, I knew it was my choice to survive.

Edit: After one of my friends read this and responded privately, I decided it would be a good idea to add this--

I'm okay now. I have good days and bad days. The important thing is that I'm taking steps to have more good days than bad ones. I have a support system comprised of family, friends, and licensed professionals. 

I'm getting better.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

How the Next Generation Will Be Born



Although simple, my aim with this illustration is to provide commentary on the effects of inadequate sex education for American teens. Even if teen pregnancies are on the decline, we haven't done our job unless teens have the knowledge to make responsible choices.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Non-Update Update

Today is the first day I haven't kept my promise to myself to create something each day. It's been one of the most difficult days I've had in a long time. I don't want to bore anyone with details, but if you read this blog, thank you. :-)

I will have something for you tomorrow.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Untitled

rain pounding
sheets outside my window
your face in the glass
window
haunting my sleep
I tried 
to throw you away
with yesterday's news
(forget)
but I remember you
more clearly than myself

642 Things to Write About

Prompt: Put your iPod on random shuffle, write down the lyric of the first song that comes on, and use it as an opening line.

"Everything in its right place," he muttered, his knuckles bloody, fingers wound around a bleach-soaked cloth. Seven hundred strokes, he'd counted. Seven hundred was better than six hundred. Safer. 

Now that the sink was pure,he could begin washing his hands. One, two, three, he counted. The scalding water cut its way through the cracks in his skin like so many glass shards embedding themselves in his raw flesh.

Seventeen, eighteen, nineteen...

Friday, June 7, 2013

Dear 19-Year-Old Me,

Right now you're thinking about changing majors or schools, and you're right about that. Graphic design's main function is advertisement of a product or an idea through clever packaging and promotion. You're worried that you'll only end up in the ad industry designing cigarette or beer ads instead of book covers. The anti-consumerist in you would hate you for being a corporate whore.

You have what it takes to be a good designer, but competition isn't part of your nature. You're miserable because you've just spent two semesters thanklessly cutting and gluing paper squares. You're not getting the intellectual experience you'd always imagined. 

But let's be fair. You probably aren't going to be swept off your feet by a handsome young professor during fireside discussions of philosophy and socialism no matter what school you go to.

So change your course of study to something that genuinely interests you, like anthropology or psychology. Continue studying literature and philosophy. Surround yourself with people you can learn from, who make you feel good about yourself.

But don't study education, where you'll be sucked into a world of vapid aliens who care more about the newest Coach handbag than the injustices capitalism causes in our society. Where you will take redundant classes that don't challenge you.

You're going to graduate with over $25k in debt. You might as well try to enjoy your college experience instead of letting it be something you hate.


Love, 
Me

Thursday, June 6, 2013

642 Things to Write About: Describe nearly drowning.

Under the water you see only black. Invisible siren's hands pull you down; water replaces the air in your lungs. For a moment, all is peaceful. Calm. You accept your fate, that you will die here in this black water, not more than fifty feet away from your mother. You wonder if you will be missed, if anyone notices that you're nowhere near the surface of the water. Another set of invisible hands tears you away from the siren; you are free. You take in your first new breath of salty sea air.

This entry comes from a journal called 642 Things to Write About. One of my new goals is to complete at least one exercise from this book each day. I really like this journal because the topics range from real-life based writing to fictional writing, with some prompts that could be either. I will be adding some of my writing exercises to this blog for your comments/criticism.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Homemade Mac & Cheese

Wednesdays are crazy for me because I clean for my mom on that day, which doesn't leave me much time for crafting. Today's creation is a simple homemade macaroni and cheese dish, only important because it's the first I've ever made. 

I cooked a box of elbow noodles. I mixed two eggs, a cup of heavy cream, a tablespoon of melted butter, salt, and pepper. I poured the mixture over the noodles and stirred in some shredded cheese. Then I baked the dish until the cheese was golden.


Tuesday, June 4, 2013

From-Scratch Southern Family Dinner

I usually avoid eating fried foods, so tonight's dinner was a treat. I don't like the taste of most fried foods, but I do like fried chicken. So I decided to make chicken tenders, mashed potatoes, and fresh green beans.

I would love to have a cooking show or channel on Youtube, but I'd be terrible at it. I'm a messy chef, and I could probably never tell you exactly what I did to make something. Even if I use a recipe, I don't follow it to the letter.

The Chicken
- Chicken breast tenderloins
- 2 eggs
- flour, sugar, salt, pepper, cayenne pepper, paprika, Italian seasoning, garlic powder
- 1/2 vegetable oil, 1/2 extra virgin olive oil

The Potatoes
- 6 red potatoes (skins on)
- salt, pepper, Italian seasoning
- 2 tbsp butter
- whipping cream
- 1 tbsp minced garlic
- parmesan cheese

The Green Beans
- 1/2 lb fresh green beans
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- smidgen of butter
- dried onion flakes


It was all yummy too! 

The Bag That Pride Re-Created

Do you remember The Bag That Failure Made? Let me refresh your memory.

Fail Bag is quite photogenic.





It was this bag, and although you can't see from the picture, it was poorly constructed. If I opened it, it lost its shape and was difficult to close. The ends of the zippers poked out if they weren't tucked in just right. My friend Caitlin is leaving for the Peace Corps soon, and I just couldn't give her the Fail Bag. But I wasn't sure what else to do. I put it away, and I chatted with some friends about it, all of whom assured me she's would appreciate the bag anyway.

I love my friends, but they were missing the point where I wasn't proud of the bag and felt ashamed to give it to someone as a gift. After one of these conversations, I went to bed but couldn't sleep. Then it hit me. The zipper was the part that gave me the most trouble because it was the last thing I put on the bag. What if I put the zipper on first, before there was a bag?

This was only a shocking revelation because I didn't look up any tutorials for bag making. I had figured it wouldn't be that hard to make a zippered pouch. I probably did it completely backwards and wrong. I started trying to take Fail Bag apart so I could remake it using the same materials, but as poorly constructed as it was, it seemed perfectly content on remaining a bag.

So new plan. Make a completely different bag, starting with the zipper and working my way from there. The fabric I used was really thick, which was part of the problem with Fail Bag. Hemming the fabric make it thick and bulgy in places. I decided to use a different attack mode for this fabric. I lucked out and bought a square of fabric that had overlocked edges, so I used those edges for the zipper part. That meant they would be exposed, but I think they look better than a shitty hem would.

Pinned and ready!

Here it us, under the needle!

I stitched the sides of the bag to the zipper, and then I stitched the bottom of the bag. I used a simple straight stitch, and then I put a zigzag stitch over the first seam. I did the same for the other two sides.


Everything was going well until this happened.


Thankfully, it was not due to a problem with my machine. As I was guiding the fabric through, the machine collided with my hand, causing the needle to become loose and pop off. I stopped, put the needle back on, and re-did the stitching. I thought my luck had turned sour when I pulled the bag out from the machine, cut the thread, and then realized there wasn't a seam like there should have been. It turned out that my bobbin had run empty. However, I did finish the project. :-)
 

Fail Bag is on the left, and the new bag is on the right.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Works-In-Progress: Stuffed Animals!

My parents and I collectively babysit my niece and nephew most weekends, and they're the most of-the-wall five and six year old you'd ever meet. I've spent loads of time with kids this age while student teaching and babysitting. Your average kindergartener's main areas of interest include animals, zombies, farting (seriously, what does the school cafeteria even feed them?), and Netflix.

Yesterday alone produced gems such as my nephew announcing to everyone that he was going to fart, and then he made a ran for the front door. My parents were always pretty permissive with their own kids, and now more so with my sister's kids. So the kids get to do pretty much whatever they want all weekend, including drawing on the walls, tv, computer monitor, my dad's clothes, my craft table, and every important document that arrives in the mail.

This was the first time I'd been home for a babysitting weekend since I moved in with my parents mid-April, and I wanted to rein the kids in. I want them to express their creativity, but not on the walls or furniture. I also wanted to reduce their "screen time" as much as possible; I've always hated how my sister and parents use the tv and iPad to occupy the children. At their age, it's more appropriate for them to play with toys and art materials. So I decided to start on a new project and involve the kids in it.

Yesterday, I posted photos of my niece and nephew drawing. I've saved their drawings (an elephant and a reindeer), and I've begun making stuffed animals from the drawings. First, I used their drawings as a guide to make a template for the stuffed animal. I tried to stay as true to their drawings as I could.

My niece's most detailed drawing was of this elephant, so it's the one I chose to work with.

See the drawing on the right? He wasn't very interested in drawing; he was just sweet enough to do a few for me because I asked him to.

Next, I selected fabric for each toy. I did not buy new fabric for this project; instead I have a modest collection of cloth and old clothes I rescued from a Goodwill clearance center. I chose two articles of clothing that were no longer wearable, but still useable for the project.

At first you don't notice...

...but this poor cardigan is eaten up with holes.

Okay, honestly, the only problem with this shirt was that I thought it was ugly and couldn't pass up getting this much fabric for like a quarter. This shirt would be flattering on exactly no one.

After I selected the fabric, I cut two pieces of each fabric to make the front and back side of the elephant and the reindeer.

I also added details to the template along the way.


 My next step will be to practice machine sewing curved lines with samples of each type of fabric. My last stuffed animal was hand-stitched, which is fine for decorative purposes, but it wouldn't last ten minutes in the hands of my munchkins. ;)


Sunday, June 2, 2013

New Project: Sneak Peek!

I'm babysitting today, so that means I don't really have time for crafting since I don't have much in the way of kid-friendly supplies. I did, however, give the kiddos markers and paper for drawing, and I'm going to use them as inspiration for my own upcoming project.





Any guesses about what I'm up to? ;)

Saturday, June 1, 2013

The Bag That Failure Made

You might remember this post, where I revealed a sneak peek at a gift I've been making for a friend. You might have guessed that it would require sewing. Yesterday, I was ready to give up on machine sewing for good. I was in tears, trying desperately to make one of the two sewing machines I possess work.

But then I found this delightful lady, Tanya Johnson on YouTube. She is pretty much my favorite person right now. 


Isn't she delightful? I paid more attention to her than any other sewing guide I watched. She has videos for several different types of sewing machines. You can check out her channel here. Her video was especially helpful because I don't know enough about sewing machines to know what all the parts are called, and she had a guide that was specific to my machine. I really do need a series of videos and tutorials that are idiot-proof.

After running through a few test fabrics, I got to work making my mystery gift for Caitlin, who is leaving at the end of the month for her Peace Corps journey. The fabric I chose was upholstery grade, which has the bonus of being durable with the drawback of being thick and hard to sew together. I also chose a thread that matched one of the colors in the fabric to better hide that I am shit at sewing.

I put my favorite album on the stereo and set to work.  (Fun facts: It is Siamese Dream by Smashing Pumpkins, and I've worn out or given away at least three copies of the album in the past ten years.)

My first seam!!!

Even I know to press my seams. ;)

I was feeling really good about myself. I was nostalgic for my teen-self's musical taste and general badassery (and the fact that fourteen year old me could sew shit). Then tragedy struck:

What the fuck is this even?
 It was the same thing the machine kept doing that had me convinced it was broken anyway, despite my best efforts. But I realized that it's probably been my mistake all along. I set to it with a seam ripper and some scissors and fixed it. Then it was time to add the zipper. I'm not sure why I decided that my first time making a thing in ten years needed to include a zipper, but it did. This is probably the shittiest zipper installation known to man.

I finished making the bag (didn't you guess?!) right as the album was coming to a close. I am proud of how it looks, but I'm not sure if it's functional. Is it okay to give someone a handmade gift with instructions not to actually use it?
 
The front/back.

The back/front.