“Do your thing and don’t care if they like it.”

Screen Shot 2016-02-25 at 8.54.30 PM
dog, thin mints, remotes, charging fitbit, earbuds, cell phone, yellow shopping list, bullet journal, my laptop (with my disheveled shadow on the screen)

“Do your thing and don’t care if they like it.” -Tina Fey, Bossypants

Today is my last day “at” work (I’m working from home, which means I’m slouched down on the sofa). I scribbled that quick drawing a few days ago, realizing rather quickly that I’d been over-ambitious trying to draw so much (and color to boot) in ten or twenty minutes. Anyway where I’m sitting now is not much different, except with the addition of Carter’s cough drops and a pair of scissors.

This is the beginning of maternity leave. I have six and a half weeks before my due date. I feel like a high school senior who’s been let out before everyone else, waiting to graduate. Relieved, excited, fearful, unsure.

Baby has been riding low in my belly, knocking the wind out of me occasionally as I’ve been walking. Today I took a stroll during lunch to the post office, and had to stop and double over twice–not in pain, but more in discomfort as she rolled inside me. She hiccups everyday, often in the evenings or in the middle of the night; I can feel the rhythmic flicker a few inches under my belly button. So she’s head-down, which is good.

I woke up this morning abuzz with excitement, wondering what I was going to accomplish today, tingling at the thought of deleting my work inbox and then ignoring it for the next 6 months. I got up, showered, took the dog out, ate breakfast and then sat down at the laptop to delete around 500 emails; finished a few evaluations and last tasks for work, and to write the first round of thank-you emails for baby gifts we’ve received. I walked to the post office, picked up a sandwich from the deli, and came back to delete a few more emails, run the roomba around the house, and drew up a shopping list.

I have to cook for myself now–no more corporate handouts!–so the shopping bill ran over a hundred dollars this week. Two different kinds of sweet potatoes, two different kinds of pears, pink lady apples, blueberries and blackberries, bananas, milk, turkey, shrimp, eggs, cilantro, lettuce, bean sprouts, mushrooms, onions, shallots, green onions, tortillas, whey protein, limes, avocados, and four fudgey brownies. I like that list. It sounds good enough to eat.

Shrimp tacos tonight; tomorrow, fruit smoothies for breakfast, fried eggs; leftover shrimp tacos for lunch; dinner, maybe some turkey lettuce cups and sweet potato coins. If I have the energy I’ll poach some pears in the slow cooker with cinnamon. As for the week ahead, I have some tea eggs and frozen wontons; it looks like I’ll need a few more entrées. And I have two fudgey brownies left, at the end of today!

So many things flitter through my mind as things I need to do but they are so many that I find it hard to put a finger on the most important ones. Tomorrow I’ll do a David Allen Getting-Things-Done style review. I’ve been neglecting journaling as I’ve neared my leave date, but now I can commit to it–at least until little girl decides to make her grand entrance. Good night, & see you in the morning.


“Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves, at the same time.” [part deux]

spoon o'destiny

With full scale guts-level renovations in one house and preparing the other for sale and husband heading to law school and the day-to-day slog, I’ve been busy. The house is in a state of unrest, with boxes everywhere. My nighttime written journal entries are so boring, basically lists of things I’ve done and things I need to do, it’s gotten colorless and utterly grim. They’re robotic with only the barest hints of human emotion (“feeling iffy today”), and none of this stuff is anything I want to remember when I’m older.

There’s not much time for leisure art time, so I’ve taken to drawing Outfit-of-the-Day in my bedside journal, maybe spending around 5 or 10 minutes at most on each one while I’m sprawled on my stomach in bed. The goal is not to do good art or to even record my fashionable-ness (I’m the farthest thing from a clotheshorse…maybe a clothesgerbil). The goal is to have some record of the day, and to unwind with a little sketch.

The interesting thing is, every drawing is so different.

The inescapable fact of adulthood is a narrowing of your options. That was what was so breathtaking about being in college: as my oboe teacher told me ten years ago, you have the world by the balls just by the sheer fact that you’re twenty-one years old. You can go anywhere, do anything, and it seems that every idea and profession and possibility is offering itself to you like a crush of drunken, enamored strangers at a bar. At twenty-one, there are no strings, no commitments.

I had my birthday last month, and am coming up on my first wedding anniversary. I most definitely have commitments now: a husband, a dog-beast, a job, two (!) mortgages, a dentist appointment every half year, and no less than six houseplants. The houseplants are surprisingly needy.

One one level, my prospects are certainly narrowed; I may never finish my dissertation, never go to law school, never become a professional pianist (not that I have ever wanted to accomplish all these things, but things seemed so…ripe and possible when I was younger). I will probably never be as fluent in Mandarin as I or my family would like.

Being an adult requires giving up certain things, saying no when you’d like to say yes just for the hell of it, and making choices. Irrevocable ones, which means you are killing off the unchosen options to move forward with the one you’ve chosen. Or if you’re not killing them off, they are getting short thrifted.

In simpler terms, a grad school friend told me that you could have it all (a good family life, a strong career, and a healthy/fulfilled self), but not at the same time. Inevitably, one thing suffers. Shonda Rhimes referred to this conundrum in this year’s Dartmouth commencement speech (worth a read for the “pass out, die, poop” references alone): “Whenever you see me somewhere succeeding in one area of my life, that almost certainly means I am failing in another area of my life.” Creatively, I might be failing right now, but I’m okay with that.

I am confident about my choices and mostly happy with them, despite the occasional dream about having finished the diss. I like the trajectory of my life right now, even though it’s not anything I would have predicted ten years ago.

And the interesting thing about the OOTD drawings is that they are so different, changing every day, and I still think each drawing looks like me in some way. Each one different yet accurate. Some of my freedom and some of my possibilities are dying off, that’s true, but I am not as fixed and finished a person as I thought I was when I graduated college. I guess what I’m saying is that my internal life is growing more vivid even as my life on paper looks ever more flat and limited, and I never expected that.

I remember reading in Suzanne Farrell’s memoir some reference to the fact that creativity needs  limitations and structure to really thrive, even if it’s just to break that rule or structure, spectacularly. Beauty and creativity are like roses and climbing vines, they need something to grow on.

I’m thinking of using my woefully neglected tumblr to record my OOTDs. Maybe?

Almost fourteen years ago I started college (on 9/11/2001, which was the day my parents dropped me off at my dormitory). The professor in my freshman seminar gave all the eager, anxious students in her class this poem, and I loved it very much. I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately.

Seed Leaves

Here something stubborn comes,
Dislodging the earth crumbs
And making crusty rubble.
It comes up bending double,
And looks like a green staple.
It could be seedling maple,
Or artichoke, or bean.
That remains to be seen.

Forced to make choice of ends,
The stalk in time unbends,
Shakes off the seed-case, heaves
Aloft, and spreads two leaves
Which still display no sure
And special signature.
Toothless and fat, they keep
The oval form of sleep.

This plant would like to grow
And yet be embryo;
Increase, and yet escape
The doom of taking shape;
Be vaguely vast, and climb
To the tip end of time
With all of space to fill,
Like boundless Igdrasil
That has the stars for fruit.

But something at the root
More urgent than that urge
Bids two true leaves emerge,
And now the plant, resigned
To being self-defined
Before it can commerce
With the great universe,
Takes aim at all the sky
And starts to ramify.

-Richard Wilbur, New and Collected Poems

“Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.”

“Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.” -Thomas Merton, No Man Is an Island

A feeble attempt at an OOTD drawing.(from my sketchbook, last week.)

Life never ceases to be interesting, and I have learned now that if ever things seem to be dull or boring, gird your loins: the other shoe is about to drop.

Carter is recovering from appendicitis and appendectomy, and we are midway in the process of purchasing a little brown house in Berkeley. I think I am still mildly sleep deprived from the last week, although I did get in a few nights of sleeping in the center of the bed like some kind of debauched pagan queenThere is a lot of uncertainty right now, but the important thing is that he’s on the (slow, achey) path to recovery.

Assuming all goes well with the house purchase, we’ll be committing every weekend to renovations so that the house will be livable when Carter starts law school. It’s tiny and needs a lot of work – new bathroom, new kitchen, hardwood floors to be refinished, etc. I think it will look cozy and dainty when done. We’ll have to downsize some of our furniture, but there’s room for my baby grand!

What will I have time for in the next few months? I have no idea. Life is speeding up again.

I have been able to get some small amounts of drawing and journaling done. Not much beyond that at the moment, which is okay. It won’t be forever.

“It’s a burden, being able to control situations with my hyper-vigilance, but it’s my lot in life.”

“It’s a burden, being able to control situations with my hyper-vigilance, but it’s my lot in life.” -Tina Fey, Bossypants

I love the New Year and I love setting goals and resolutions. My track record for achieving said goals is spotty at best. But, I decided that this year I’d track things more carefully. Almost two months ago (!), I set the following goals:

Adopt healthier habits:
1. Weigh-in every morning as usual to track my weight [Meeting target]
2. Continue calorie counting/estimations on MyFitnessPal [Meeting target most days]
3. Walk a minimum of 10,000 steps per day. [Exceeding target]
4. Do 1 video workout per week [Under target], although I did do a 30 min workout last night.
5. Attend 1 class workout per week [Attending ballet 1x a week, so meeting target]
6. Make and attend annual checkups, dental cleanings, etc [Need to make an appointment to see the optometrist, but otherwise on target]

Write every day:
I am getting approximately 1,000 words/day written on side project, which is separate from journaling or blogging. Taking journaling into account, I’m really doing pretty well here. It’s a slog in the middle, far from the beginning or the end of my writing project. [Exceeding target].

Draw every day:
Figure drawing is helping a lot on this count. Carter has been helping by reminding me to draw a doodle in my journal in bed at the end of the day if I haven’t done any drawing earlier. [Meeting target].

Read 75 books:
Raised the number to 100 on Goodreads. [Under target] currently, but working on it.

It’s fun to set goals and begin projects, and fun/a relief to be finished with them, but the other 98% of the way…it can be slow. And demand a level of discipline that makes me want to flop around on the floor like a dying fish. Does anyone like the middle of a project? Anyone? Sometimes there are exciting bursts of activity/inspiration, but actually doing the daily grind to keep up with one’s goals…less fun. Sometimes downright awful.

I do think that the quality of my work suffers when I force myself to do something – writing in particular. There is a sense of flatness and hurriedness that shows up when I reread those sections. On the other hand, this is all editable. And sometimes surprising things happen after slogging through, just trying to hit a certain word count.

Still undecided as to whether trying to enforce these goals as habits is going to be worth it. I’ve got a toddler living inside my brain and she does not like to be forced to do anything, and would much rather throw a tantrum and then run in circles and then take a nap.

“We must travel in the direction of our fear.”

“We must travel in the direction of our fear.” -John Berryman, via Mikko Kuorinki

Halloween drawing! Pumpkinhead & creepy doll, charcoal. About 1 hour.

Hello November! Only two more months until 2013. Finished a book this weekend–finally, I have been so bad about keeping up with my reading–and read all of my back issues of Sunset that I hadn’t gotten to. Carter finished the bathroom renovation project, just about, and I tidied up the house, did laundry, and cooked. There was an IKEA trip, design class, Home Depot, Target, and Costco. I stayed up until midnight Friday constructing a color wheel for design class with acrylic paint. It was exhausting. I know I’ve told myself that I don’t need to try that hard in community college art classes since they are larks and not meant to be taken so seriously but it’s hard to shake old habits. It’s hard to not want to be perfect, even when perfection is unnecessary or a poor use of time.

When I was in middle school, I loved my English teacher. I (and a few friends) would crowd into her classroom during lunch to watch Pride & Prejudice (the Jane Austen version). My eighth grade was her last year teaching; she was leaving once we graduated to become a full time mother to her growing brood–I think she had 3 young children at the time and would have at least one more child. I remember her telling me, wistfully, that time seemed to speed up every year as she got older.

Smack dab in the midpoint of adolescence, I internally scoffed at the notion. For me, on that day, time stretched out slow and uneven, like kneading raw dough; college lingered in the distance both too close and far away; my friends too were caught somewhere between childhood and something else. My mind dismissed her observation, but I’ve never forgotten it.

And now, more and more, it feels true. The immediate impulse, then, is to shovel more experiences and feelings and thoughts into the day, to make use of the time before it sprints away. Of course this has the opposite intended effect: the more you do, the faster time goes by.

Still, the urge to do more and more is irresistible to me. There is so very much to learn and try and taste and I can’t slow down.

“Maybe it’s because your dance moves are terrible.”

“Maybe it’s because your dance moves are terrible.” – Kate Beaton, Hark! A Vagrant

Last weekend was enjoyed without the benefit of laptops or internet access or smartphone data plans. Friday night were chores and the like; Saturday I headed off to the design class and then Carter picked me up for the long haul up to the mountains. Let me say: the mountains do not suit me. I am a beach and oceans person. The mountains usually mean dehydration and altitude unhappiness. It was bizarre and uncomfortable to be so thirsty all the time. It was beautiful, though, I’ll give it that. We had a very pleasant dinner with Carter’s family, and we went out in jeeps and motorbikes on Sunday morning. I got off the jeep with some bruises, tenderized like so much raw meat. I loved seeing the people but I am not a fan of the mountains. I am a confirmed city girl. My bruises are looking better today, though!

This week flew by, probably due to the start of classes at the community college. So I ended up enrolled in not one, but three classes (oy!), and am contemplating one more. Is it insane for a fully employed adult to take a 50% courseload? Probably. But I don’t care about grades any more, so I feel like this balances things out a bit. I’m taking basic design, basic drawing, and intensive ballet (twice a week). I get home between 9PM and 10PM three nights out of the week, and pretty much just crash into bed soon after that. It’s like I’m working at the ole law firm again, except that I get out a few hours earlier, with a lot less soul-crushing.

In fact, the opposite of soul-crushing: I love my drawing class. So much. Sure, I don’t think I’m the most talented student in the class, and I’m not the least talented either, but I’m having fun.

“No water or towels.”

“No water or towels.” -the waterless hand sanitizer bottle that I am sitting across from

From this side of defeat:

I might have a tendency to overcommit to things. But! Sometimes this pays off. I took on quite a few projects at work this past quarter (involving overtime! The horror!) and to my delight found out today that I’ve earned a really, really good rating for my work. So, I am pleased!

While projects and ideas often fall to the wayside, there are definite benefits. My tendency to overcommit has resulted, for one, in a double major in college (I actually took the maximum number of classes allowable, beyond what was required for both degrees). On top of that I piled, willy nilly consequences to the wind, membership in the chamber orchestra, chamber ensemble, and various work-study jobs: sewing, tutoring, eventually RA-ing. In fact I had a job from freshman to senior year; the cautious girl I am, I don’t think I’ve been without a job since I graduated high school. I worked every summer/off term, except for the one term where I was recovering from a car accident.

There are some very valid arguments for why I should try to put a damper on my natural disposition to overcommit. Obviously, I can’t do everything well. I recognize the drawbacks. But, in my defense, I do have a spidey sense about what my initial commitment level is. Certain things I commit to are high value and I give them my greatest amount of attention–relationships and my job. Relationships come first, then job. Next, I semi-commit to healthy habits and reading/writing. I could do more on this count, but I confess that I will periodically drop a little lower on these items. Finally, there’s fleeting commitments where I know I might work on/enjoy/study feverishly for awhile, but won’t have lasting effects on my schedule/dedication: drawing, looking at art, interior design, beauty & fashion, etc.

It would be a very sad life if all I did was to do one or two things, when the world is a glorious, multifangled oyster.

Speaking of healthy habits, a chat I had today:
Bri: Those bars they have at the gym are the grossest
you know the cryptkeeper
it’s like eating the cryptkeeper
Coworker: Necessary evil
 Bri: only ground up and formed into a bar shape
 Coworker: Hahaha

Okay, I am feeling  a little punchy today.