Life happens when you’re trying to study

Well… well. I’ve been here only on and off recently, because I’ve been focusing my energies elsewhere (on schoolwork), but right now I don’t entirely feel like working. I was up until 2 AM last night, working on this stuff, and into the early morning the day before, as well (1:30 AM). I had to take a nap in the afternoon, today; I just wasn’t motivated to get back to it, so soon.

It is amazing, though, how much more I get done by doing work, rather than warming up first by writing about working. I have also noticed, though, the mental difference between writing by hand and typing. I go back and revise while working, much more when I’m typing. It’s easier to rephrase and rearrange what I’m doing, which I’ve noticed happening a lot, recently.

On a different frequency:

My tomato plant…is fruiting. I raised this one from a seed, so I’m a little sad to see it reach the end of its life. It’s kind of just been in the back of my mind, about how it started off so little, grew to be maybe four feet tall, and is giving me little modest presents before it dies. People talk about the tomatoes that “I” grew, but the plant grew them for me; I didn’t grow them. I kept the plant alive for months; that’s my contribution.

It was easier on me to grow an annual, though. It’s less of a psychological burden, knowing that you only have to take care of it for about six months. And if it dies early, it doesn’t seem that big a deal. But it’s another thing to have your baby that you’ve cared for all its life, giving you little things to eat, and you know it isn’t going to be around much longer. (Which seems a little silly when you had to thin out seven other little plants to give this one all the resources it needs.)

We’ve had to stake it up, actually, because it grew so big that it couldn’t support itself. One day I was even sitting next to it and saw a branch almost fall off! We put stakes in and I tied the branches up, and amazingly, that piece that almost fell off, is still alive. It must have healed somehow, or the sap could flow from the main stem to the branch alright, even though it was broken.

It was part of a little kit my folks got for me from a company called Back to the Roots. The kit contains a planter with what’s called an, “olla pot,” which is a terracotta pot that stores water and gradually dispenses it to the soil when it gets dry. I’ve had to water it much more frequently, since it got big.

It actually has been a bit of a profound experience, to grow this. I kind of feel like I connect really well with plants (and I’m fairly sure it has to do with gender and quietness). I need to ease up on watering the succulents, though.

Let’s see, what else:

There is a bead show coming up in about two weeks. I’m undecided as to whether I’ll go or not; I am leaning towards, “not,” but it will be an opportunity to stock up on Czech seed beads and pressed glass beads, in-person. I haven’t been able to do beadwork at all, since I started working hardcore on my Culminating Experience. Not only that, but I’ve cut my work hours down, so I don’t have as much money to spend, there.

I just consulted with D, who says that if I get ahead on my work by that time, I might consider going to it.

Right now, I know I have a paper to turn in by Monday night. It shouldn’t be too hard, but then again I need to review the prompt. On top of that is my portfolio work, which I can likely say that I’m more than halfway through, at this point.

It’s basically the case that I can get through one essay roughly every two days, give or take. But I don’t want to leave all this work to the last minute, which is why I gave up the extra work hours, and why I’ve been working so hard on my essays.

Today…I visited a fabric shop. M had to get some fabric for a new project; in turn, I was able to see some garments which were made using patterns that the store apparently carries? It actually made me want to try my hand. The thing is that I need more clothes that fit, and will especially need them after I begin to work more days out of the week.

It’s been brought up that instead of the Misses’ pants that I’m currently wearing, most of which tend to fall down without a belt, I might need to move to a smaller-numbered size in Womens’ Petite. Womens’ sizes are cut for larger bodies, and Petite would be shorter and more curvy.

I am very strongly considering wearing more clothes cut for female bodies, basically because of fit considerations. The thing is that I may need a smaller size number in a larger cut. The reality is that I’m now in my mid-thirties, and I’ve, eh, been growing into my body.

While I did lose a good deal of weight recently (about five pounds in three days, if I recall correctly) because of a bout of food poisoning, I’m gaining it back. And I don’t hate it. I’ve known people who have had eating disorders; what I’ve learned from them is that it’s better to be a little heavy than it is to be anorexic or bulimic. Another thing I’ve been learning is that right now, I look fairly…Polynesian, even though most of my genes are a mix of Asian and African.

I’ve also reached a level of security with my body, where I know that what conclusions others draw about who I must be because of what I look like, are generally wrong. It could also be wrong that my doctor assumes I’m overweight because of my height combined with my weight; I have potential tendency to heaviness on both sides of my family, even though (like M) I was very thin, as a youth. My sibling has also filled out as they have aged, though, so that’s another cue that my doctor may be wrong about her supposition that because I’m heavier than average, that this needs correction.

So this knowledge makes me a bit more secure in being okay about my weight. I know that some of it is definitely coming from medication, which is leading me to be more moderate in how much I eat. (Two of my medications tend to delay satiety.)

After graduation, though, I can try again to get off of the medication which is causing most of the weight gain — the problem is, it is rather notorious about being difficult to stop, without causing symptom relapse. But if I can cut down the dosage or get off of it, the slow, incremental weight gain should reverse, and from my last attempt, I know that my abdomen should slim a good bit (abdominal fat is basically the side effect I am most annoyed/concerned about, due to the fact that it can have adverse health effects).

But yeah; if I became a Library Assistant or Librarian (the latter of which, I should be able to very soon), I could wear dresses and skirts without worrying about getting them on the floor. The thing I know about dresses is that the ones I’m more comfortable with, actually don’t show too much of my body. On top of that, I’m more comfortable now with earrings and long hair — I got most of the damage cut off, recently, and the existence of a certain Samoan football player with hair like mine (Troy Polamalu), does make me feel a lot better about having and keeping long hair.

So…I guess things are more alright than they have been, at least where it comes to me and my feelings about my embodiment. I’m not sure whether this is due to age and maturity, or what…I am actually glad, though, that I haven’t so far opted for testosterone or surgery, because in my own eyes, I look really nice right now. I have no ill feelings toward my chest (except for feelings of exposure when too many details show through), and I’ve basically ceased to want to be male…especially since I’ve started settling as gender non-binary. I’m not entirely sure why it’s stopped, except I know now that what I am now is easier for me to live with, than who I was when I was upset that my body wasn’t someone else’s.

It also helps to have birth control. I feel less vulnerable on it, and it makes my body give me less trouble. The thing about it, though–! is that I’m pretty sure it’s making my chest bigger. 🙂 I’m…not totally opposed to this! But especially since I’m growing, I should really start checking more regularly to make sure I don’t have cancer. Not doing self-exams is just one of those things that I got used to when I was ignoring my chest. Now I see it as kinda special (probably helped by the fact that I call them “my dudes”). ;D

Yes, it can be a little difficult to balance this with wanting to use an eyebrow filler to see what I would look like with a beard 🙂 but…it’s OK. Wanting to play around with that is OK, I mean. 🙂 I think maybe it has to do with seeing and getting to know a lot of “normal” people, and realizing that most of them have back stories and inner lives I know nothing about and can’t predict from their appearance. From that, I’ve gotten to kind of realize that I’m lucky. I have my flaws (some of which I’m growing out of), but to myself, I’m still beautiful.

And I realize that everyone is beautiful, to someone.

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Drawing from life for the first time in months.

I would have posted this last night, but as it was, I got to bed after midnight. I was cleaning up the craft table when I realized that having my pencils out (as versus put away) and readily available would likely help with coming back to drawing.

Yesterday, I drew from life for the first time in months. Apparently, I remember something from all those drawing classes — it was easier than I expected. Something I found out as well, is that my subject gave me details that I would not have thought of on my own — which is a reason to draw from life.

I sketched the leaves of a tomato seedling I have growing, right now, and it appears to be proportional and relatively accurate. There’s a level of grace that I saw there that I can’t really describe, but I think I captured it in the drawing.

Also, I was able to push out a few imagined gingko leaves and fuchsia blossoms, though with the latter…I particularly remember them around my grandmother’s house (as a kid, I would pop the flower pods open). I’m wondering about finding some photos online to help me with knowing what the rest of a fuchsia looks like.

And yeah, the Pitt brush pens helped a lot with this. I’ve realized that I need to be using colors that don’t exist in real life, too. (Or maybe they do, and I just don’t remember them…)

For whatever reason, I’m very low-energy right now (the only reason I’m up, really, is to work on my Programming homework, most of which I’ve gotten done), so I’m not sure if images will make it into this post. I’ve spent the last few days mostly asleep, though. I know it’s something biological, but I am having a hard time believing that it all is biological.

I had realized that one of the reasons I got the baby succulents at all, was to sketch and/or paint them…so I didn’t actually have to go out looking for plant cuttings to draw. The succulent with the stalk is now blooming with yellow tube-shaped flowers…I think it’s an Echeveria, just from the way it looks, but I’m not sure.

In any case, I haven’t yet tried to draw any of those, though unlike cut flowers or produce (two of my other favorite subjects), they’re not apt to die within the next few days while I get up my nerve to approach drawing them, so I’m good. 🙂

I also started cartooning again, though this was not at all from life. It’s actually got me reconsidering my decision to move away from comics. I generally don’t find people all that fascinating to draw, but if I’m cartooning…that’s not really drawing people like someone would draw nudes. Kind of like directing a dramatic movie isn’t the same thing as videotaping family gatherings. I have run across people who apparently love drawing nudes, but it’s not really my thing. (The biggest reason for me to draw someone without clothes is that drawing clothes is harder.)

In addition, I’ve realized that I don’t particularly have to have human characters in my stories, meaning I don’t particularly have to draw representations of people. This widens the field a great deal. As a cartoonist, I can edit out or alter the parts of drawing people that don’t appeal to me. And as I’m already interested in Science Fiction and Fantasy, that will likely be a good area to explore.

On top of all that, I wanted to note that I wanted to play around with some of the international-sized papers I’ve got, rather than just sticking with Strathmore and Canson. I also have a couple of types of Mixed Media papers that I can use, which I’ve never tried before (I got them out of flat storage, yesterday).

But anyway, just drawing…helps. And drawing from life helps when it’s hard for me to imagine what to draw.

The succulents are happy! :D

Okay, now for random gratuitous pictures of the succulent babies!

Baby succulents in three-inch-diameter terracotta pots
They used to look like this…

That was 6 days ago.

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…and now they look like this…

Check out the tiny bud on the bottom one!

A blue-green spiky rosette with a frond coming out of it!
This one looked like this 6 days ago…

I’m not sure if this is a flower stalk, or what…

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And now it looks like this!!!

I’m not sure if the latter one is going to die or not, if that thing blooms…

Anthropomorphizing plants :)

Imagine my surprise when I open Photoshop to observe its functionality, and see that Photoshop itself has updated. The other night I mentioned that it was on the fritz, and now there are at least three updates which could have been the issue.

What I can say is that I’ve stopped using Photoshop, and am now using a different image editor. It helps…to have options.

In any case, I now have images of my new babies. 😉

Baby succulents in three-inch-diameter terracotta pots
Baby succulents in 3″ terracotta pots

I might just get addicted to these things. They came in little 2″ pots, and I moved them to 3″ pots, today.

They’re really cute. The succulents themselves were $3.50 each at a really nice nursery in my old neighborhood. I believe the pots were $0.89 each, because I got the inexpensive ones (I’m not betting these little ones will stay this little forever). The saucer wasn’t too much, either. The sand was a bit expensive ($5 for a small bag), but I like the way it looks; and as for the cactus potting soil, I don’t know how much that was.

For some reason I see these little things and — I am not a type of person to go around calling things “sweethearts,” but these are sweet little things! 🙂 (little plants and birds, I have a soft spot for, and can gush over with baby talk!)

A blue-green spiky rosette with a frond coming out of it!
Another repotted 2″ succulent baby.

The one to my left, I put in a 4″ pot, because it is trying to spread and establish a runner. I actually got it for this reason…there were others of similar size and shape, but this one was the one which had the most ambition. 😉

It was also on the edge of being root-bound, when I took it out of its pot. This could have been the reason it was sending out a runner.

I accidentally had to repot it twice, as well, because I didn’t know what I was doing the first time and tried to shake the dirt and sand out from between the leaves…and dumped out the plant before the dirt and sand came out! D:

Well. You live and you learn. I have a tendency to anthropomorphize my plants, too, and apologized to this one when I accidentally caused it to fall out the pot. (I don’t think I could not apologize to it…)

I also am really sensitive to the fact that the plants, if they are aware, have no idea what is going on or why the ground is shaking or why the sun is moving around at different angles or it gets hot and suddenly cooler (this all happens on the ride home)…

It also helps that these ones were stronger than the ones I started out with, from Home Depot (sometimes the leaves get really fragile and break off at the touch, especially if the plant is overwatered or otherwise stressed).

The other plant I got is this one:

Miniature Umbrella Plant
Mini Umbrella Plant. It was in a 4″ pot, and I think it’s now in a 5″ one.

I am not entirely certain why it is that I am drawn to some plants and not others, but I know that when I am at the nurseries, I’m paying attention to which plants I seem to have an energetic affinity, for. That is, if I pick up a plant and it seems off-put by me, I put it back. So…this means that the little ones I get are kind of like my friends.

(I know I’m weird and miniature plants may be like my version of collecting kittens instead of [human] friends…the thing is, I can care for a plant without pressure to talk to it. But that frees me talk to it more!

(And yes, I have just remembered that I’ve been cooing over and cuddling a kitten in a certain span of dreams…)

Right now I’m into small things, too. I’m still uncertain as to when and how to trim my 5-Finger Maidenhair Fern. It’s in the shower room, where it likes to be; the issue is that sometimes I forget it’s in there, and it dries out from exposure to the heating vent. It isn’t an issue so much now that it is no longer Winter and the soil doesn’t get bone-dry over two days…but there’s still damage.

The dead foliage seems to strike sporadically, though. Like there will be green leaves, then brown leaves, then green leaves again, on the same stem. Because the sections with brown leaves are fragile, I’ve had to remove some just because of testing them for structural stability (whereas the green-leafed areas were not as brittle). Of course, now it looks pretty much worse.

I’m not sure if I should trim the entire stem back, and wait for new shoots. I know those guys are sensitive to being repotted, too, but to be honest I don’t know how crowded the pot is, because I never repotted it after bringing it home (it seemed fragile enough, as it was). Maybe I should think about trimming and repotting it. I should be able to find information on how to do so safely, online.

Yeah, and…I’ll put some remarks on quilting, in a separate post.

Planties! :D

So…within the last three days, I’ve acquired 5 plants! Four of them are little tiny succulents, but still!

Now I’m wondering if I should use the pots here, or get something else for them. Maybe I can go to the Japanese dollar store and find something suitable. M has some pots, but they’re either too large, or ugly.

(not kidding)

I’ve also been working on a quilt square, and found a rubber thimble today which should help. My issue is pushing the needle through the fabric and stopping it with my thumbnail…which obviously is only going to work, to a certain point (the point at which I have no more thumbnail because I’ve gradually destroyed it with needle tips).

Unfortunately, my photo editor is down, for now. With all the updates that have been happening, it could have been anything.

Well, tomorrow is another day. I should be able to pick up some inexpensive ceramic pots…and I admit I am having trouble not thinking of the plants as living things. But “living things,” to me, means that I worry about and have empathy for what I think they may be going through, from what I know about life as a human…not the most rational thing.

🙂 But they’re cute. Pretty much all of them are cute! (I like miniature things, so…)

Photojournaling? Why art?

Hey; it’s just me.  The first few lines don’t describe the rest of this, so read on:

I’ve not had such a great time today; looking forward to archiving your work so you can graduate is kind of stressful.  Tomorrow, I get to see my Vocational counselor.  I’ve just started looking around at possible positions I can move into so that I’m less of a financial burden on my family…I can see, though, that I will need to practice driving (and obtain a License) in order to gain some positions.  For example, if I’m working somewhere that has a 45-minute commute one-way, it’s more reasonable for me to drive myself, than not.

(Seeing how people drive in this area, though:  that’s still…risky.)

Anyhow…I was thinking up things to write about, and started looking through my image archives.  I had forgotten so many things that I had done, not so long ago!

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At Ala Moana Mall (Honolulu), in March of 2017.  This koi kept looking at me!

Everything just happened so fast after we got back (read:  my relative’s death and the ensuing family chaos) that it was easy to forget about this.  In effect, enabling this trip was his last gift in life, to us.

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View from the lanai of the Doris Duke House (a.k.a. Shangri-La Islamic Art Museum)

The previous two photos are of Hawaii…none of the others here, are.

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From one of the days I ventured into the sun; April 30 of this year.

The one at left is from one of the first times I went out by myself on foot, in recent memory.  I need to become more independent; this is a step towards that.  I have not felt safe venturing out of the house without another person with me, for a while.  I’m sure some here can relate.

One of the reasons why I write about my disability so openly here is that — to me, it is obvious, but — the more I do so, the more aware I become of the fact that my illness has profoundly impacted my life.  This is to the point that it borders on absurd to intentionally keep it a secret.  I don’t tell everyone about it; then again, most people don’t question my mental health — or if they do, it strikes them as normal.

Appearing “normal” is double-edged, even though it doesn’t seem to be.

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From May of this year.

My illnesses (I have what’s — overall — called “comorbidity,” which essentially means that I’m dealing with multiple diagnoses at the same time) run in my family.  This means that I am up close and personal with the fact that I have relatives who seem to display signs of mental illness but who will not see a doctor — any doctor — for help.

This cannot be due to anything other than stigma and a feeling that to admit having a problem that they can’t solve themselves makes them “weak.”  It’s not “weak” to seek help when you need help.  It’s not “weak” to gain information you’re lacking.

And it isn’t great for me to watch their lives spiral out of control for no reason other than pride and an inability to question their own thoughts.  I’ve been seeing mental health professionals since I was 14 years old.  There is no shame in actually working out your problems.

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From June of this year.

But before you can work out your problems, you first have to admit imperfection…which seems more than some can muster.

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From June.  A few days ago, actually.

Of course, the people one surrounds oneself with, can also make one afraid to admit to imperfection…because keeping someone in a weakened state means they’re more easily manipulated.

(I will try not to get into commentary on that…particular dynamic, now.)

But it’s apparent…from the work that I’m doing, combined with what I speak of, here, that I am — again — finding respite from human problems in the natural world.  And I think I’ve done that, ever since I was about 11 or 12.

Particularly, plants seem to calm me…and have, since I started hanging out with them by myself, in lieu of hanging out with abusive “friends.”

The art, then…may manifest as an attempt to honor these spirits…whether they’re self-generated or not.

Seeing spirits in life is a point where Buddhism and I apparently part ways…I’m not sure if that is so true in the U.S., as Pure Land schools are more popular here, and they’re more belief-oriented…

…but that gets into an entirely different post!

And my energetic sensitivity also may get into a different post.  (I’ve stopped denying it.)

But the little blossoms…well…have I told you the meaning I find in them, before?  It’s not a usual one.

Because flowers are, generally speaking, both male and female, and since many of them are beautiful — I find meaning in the fact that they exist as they are, and in the fact that they break the idea that one has to ascribe to a gender binary to be beautiful and natural in that beauty.  People who don’t know me, think that it’s a “girl thing.”  I don’t correct them.  They’re just seeing surfaces.

Yeah, I wonder:  does my art exist to generate peace…?

Ah, the why art question, again:  I should just make it into a phrase.  “Why art?” with “art” as a verb…

Because art calms.  Art reclaims me from the nonsense and panic of the world.  That’s why art.  Life is too short to waste on hurting others and being hurt.  I wonder what would happen if we had a culture shift, where more of us centered ourselves…though maybe that is far from being possible, right now…

Yes, in Art, books do (actually!) help.

I’ve heard it said that one can’t learn Art through reading books, but sometimes those books actually help urge someone into action.

I’ve been reading in a book on Chinese ink painting techniques…and may just have gotten the inspiration to work on a painting (I’m not giving away the title until after I’ve decided whether to buy it or not).  This is on the canvas I intended to start on last semester when I got my easel (the canvas is 30″x30″, just under the 34″ maximum height my easel can take), but a different image than originally intended/settled for.  If I can pull it off, it may turn out to be a beautiful, wonderful painting.

I think a large part of the reason I haven’t started on this yet (besides time pressures) is the fact that the canvas is square, and so it isn’t entirely straightforward to think of a way to make the composition dynamic.  Though, it is possible.

I had wanted to work with an image of this plant before, but I thought that maybe I should work on something less…daunting? perfect? instead.  What I’ve done is taken one of my second-favorite images (not the most-favorite one, which this one may be a prelude to) and cropped it down in Photoshop, then printed it.  Next step is to gesso the canvas with a base color, then work loosely with vine charcoal over the surface to draw in the shapes.  After that comes glazing over the correct lines, wiping everything else away, and starting in with color (which is where I may want to bring in the colored pastels — given that I have no time limit).

I might want to do one or more practice versions of the drawing first, though, just so that I know where everything is…though that will mean working on not-so-great paper (full size is…pretty big, and the only thing I’ve got in that size is cheap butcher paper that’s kind of irritating to work with; moreso than newsprint).  Or — a better idea.  I could do a smaller version of this on one of my square watercolor blocks, though…the methods differ.  I would need to mask some areas, if I used watercolor.

Hmm.  I think that what I’ll do is work at about 2/3 scale on a newsprint pad, first, including value renditions if I can (including white as well…I am not sure if I want to go into colored pastel on newsprint); then go into drawing on canvas (given that I haven’t worked in charcoal for months).  Watercolor is just going to be tough…unless I do it loosely, and very small.  Also, that method seems to work best when one hasn’t decided on a layout yet; I have my layout already.  What I need to do is figure out where everything is placed, and get my arm used to the directionality of the lines and forms.

At least I’m getting back into the art…