Wednesday, November 30, 2016

May 2016 Calendar



After trying and failing to make April into something wild, I think I succeeded with May. This was the first month that I feel I really made the picture into something that it wasn't meant to be. The original picture looked to me like either a bunch of vines (without the thorns - I drew those in myself) with some leaves and heart-shaped flowers, or like ribbons with hearts. Even if it was just meant to be an abstract picture with representing anything in particular, it just looked all cheery and happy to me before I did anything with it. That had to be fixed. I never liked the may picture from the start because it felt too simplistically happy, and I was going to make it into something cool, something wild, something totally different than whatever it was meant to be.

This is a picture of ideas being generated in someone's imagination. Each of the four corners is colored in light gray, to represent the rest of the brain, the part that isn't involved with the imagination. The pointy shapes in the corners are ideas entering from the outside, I'm imaging the ideas being injected in, sort of like squirting frosting out of a plastic bag. The pipes or vines contain ideas, the colors keep changing because ideas keep changing as well. Imagination feels like a run-on sentence that just keeps going on and on and changing from one thing to another, into so many different possibilities. That's why there are no parts of this picture that are just one solid color - because everything is constantly moving and flowing and changing and creating new ideas. So, the ideas travel through the pipes, changing colors as they go because all ideas change a lot while they're traveling on their way to become something, the ideas meet at those hearts, which are the crossroads of different ideas fusing together. I added the raindrops coming from the hearts to make them look like they are bleeding - bleeding in a good way because there is so much passion in the fusion of the ideas that it cannot be contained in the tiny space. From the heart, the two colors mix together to form a new color, which then travels and meets yet another idea and creates another fusion, which looks more like a spiral of two different colors that never actually blend together, as opposed to the hearts which blended the colors and had a new color come out the was a mix of the two, because there are all different levels of fusion and different ways of mixing ideas together. The creatures with the eyes are figments of the imagination, and they also have the swirling colors and are constantly changing. If you look closely, you will see that I made breaks in the pipes where streams of color are flowing out of the pipes and filling in the background area. This is because the ideas refuse to be contained within the pipes and will fill the surrounding area. The piece in the center is every idea coming together into something amazing. 

This is the first time that I did so much shading and blending of colors, a technique that I love and use in later pictures. I'm especially happy with the way that the center of this piece came out, and particularly the part that looks like a flame. 

It's also the first time that I added so many things to the picture that weren't there initially, like adding the spikes to the pipes, making what had looked like leaves into eyes, and adding the drops from the bleeding hearts. This is also the first time that I created so many of my own patterns within the spaces. In January, February, most of March, and April, I colored all of the solid spaces in with solid colors. If there was a circle, for instance, I would just color that circle one solid color and saturation. This is the first month that I did shading and spiral patterns using multiple colors within the same shape. 

I surprised myself with this picture. I hadn't done studio art for years, I had just recently gotten into coloring and drawing within a year or so of when I bought this calendar, and I hadn't gone very far with it. I had honestly expected all of the calendar pictures to look more like January did. February felt like my limit - it felt like that was the farthest I was going to go when it came to coloring the calendar pictures. May just proved me wrong. May was the month that I felt like I was an artist again. It was like, okay, this isn't just a pretty decoration for my cubical - this is real, this is serious, this is art, this is me.

My grandma always liked to color. When my mom and her sister were little and liked to color, my grandma would color with them. She did the same thing with me when I was little. I had always assumed that she was just coloring because I was, but my mom said that my grandma definitely enjoyed it. By the time all of these advanced coloring books became popular (I say "advanced" instead of "adult" because "adult" implies that coloring is inherently for kids), my grandma wasn't able to do such detailed work anymore, but my mom said that she probably would have done advanced coloring if it had been popular earlier. My mom told me that she still remembers the time when she was little and they were coloring together, and my grandma was coloring a rooster, and she used different colors to color in the same feather (like, she colored half of it red and the other half green). My mom was little then, and she had always assumed that you had to color each shape with just one color, and when she saw my grandma color in the rooster's feathers like that, it was the first time she realized that you could do that, that you could use more than one color within the same shape.

I don't actually remember a time when I thought you had to only use one color for each shape. I mean, I may have felt that way if I was doing something for school, but on my own, I don't remember ever thinking that way. Coloring May felt like that moment of revelation that my mom had as a child, when she realized that you weren't limited to just one color. I felt young and passionate again. And May was only my fifth picture - I had been away from this type of art for so long, yet it didn't take much time at all for it come out again. When I finished May, I just thought to myself, You are an artist. You can do amazing things.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Try Shifting YOUR Sleep Schedule Back by 5 Hours

So, I've spoken about this many times before, but before I had a job, I used to stay up until like 4:00 AM and wake up at noon. I liked my sleep schedule. I had no desire to change it. And yet, no one accepted that. My ex and his family in particular would always just start telling me how to shift my schedule when I had never expressed any desire to change it. They never accepted how much it sucked to have to suddenly shift my schedule to wake up so much earlier. When I eventually had to change my sleep schedule when I got a job, everyone acted like it was just something that needed to happen and I felt like I had to act like it was less of a hardship than it actually was to me. But I realized something when I woke up this morning - an analogy that I wish I had thought of at the time:

Think about your normal sleep schedule - what time you normally go to bed at night and wake up in the morning. Now, imagine what it would feel like if I told you that starting tonight, you have to shift your schedule back by five hours. This means that you have go to sleep five hours earlier than you normally would, and wake up and start your day five hours earlier than you normally do. Think about how disruptive this would be to your life. Could you physically fall asleep that early? Could you drag yourself out of bed that early? Could you just change your schedule that drastically, that fast, without warning, because you just found out that you start a new job tomorrow or that someone else expects you to wake up that early, and they think it's unreasonable when you try to compromise for a time in the middle? What about all the things you had planned to do during those hours that you thought you'd be awake? How many things are you going to miss out on because of this sudden change? Just think for a moment about how disruptive this five hour shift would be to your life.

THAT is what it was like when I had to shift my sleep schedule, My first job came without warning - I was told that they wanted me to start the next day. And all the other times, my ex and his family just acted like it should be no big deal for me to shift for them. What you just imagined your day would be like if you suddenly had to shift five hours backwards is exactly what it was like for me, it's just that no one thinks of it that way because everyone thinks of waking up for a 9-5 job as normal. My sleep schedule was normal for me. And asking me to shift five hours back was NO DIFFERENT than asking people with more conventional schedules to shift five hours back, and it was never okay for everyone to act like it was.

Friday, November 25, 2016

The Hypocrisy I've Always Faced

Me: I am deeply affected by this thing that happened that has hurt me directly. I'm not okay now, I don't feel happy, I feel horrible. I'm going to spend every moment of my time speaking out about this bad thing that has happened to me and I'm going to do major things about it.

Other people: Don't sweat the small stuff! You need to learn how to not let these things hurt you so much! You should just let it go and get on with your life and choose to be happy!

Later...

Me: I am not deeply affected by this thing that is not disrupting my life directly. I'm going to focus on my own life and do things that make me feel happy.

Other people: No! You have to be deeply affected by this and do something about it! How dare you live in your own personal bubble and do happy things and not say or do anything about this issue!

*********************************************************************************

Me: I am no longer going to be friends with people whose behavior is hurting me directly, regardless of how long we have known each other.

Other people: You shouldn't drop friends just like that! Give them a chance. They have good intentions. You've known each other for so long and now you're just going to throw the friendship away over a difference of opinion? It's good to be friends with people who push your boundaries and offer different opinions. You shouldn't surround yourself only with people who think like you.

Later...

Me: I do not want to stop being friends with someone because we have different beliefs on certain issues. I wish they didn't think that way, and I would not make new friends with anyone who thinks that way, but we have already been friends for a long time, I still love them, and I am just not willing to throw the friendship away over this.

Other people: It doesn't matter how long you've known them. You have to stop being friends with anyone who thinks that way and only be friends with people who think like you.

Friday, November 18, 2016

PSA

If you do not experience a particular form of oppression, you do not get to have a say in how people who do experience that oppression should be reacting to it.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Nothing

When I said that I got 3 Cs and a D on my report card back when my grandpa died and that no one ever had any business pushing me to improve my grades and that it was the same way this time around. I meant it. I really, truly meant it. There is nothing that would make me function on a higher level. Nothing, nada, zero, zippo, ziltch. I think people have this idea that I'm gonna just spring into action when it's necessary and I won't. I absolutely won't.

If the house were on fire, I'd roll my eyes like OMG WTF do I seriously have to go outside now, and I'd drag my heals on the way outside and then call a friend to complain about the fact that I was stuck standing outside before I'd even call the fire department.

See what I mean? There is NOTHING that I'm gonna suddenly jump up and function for. And believe me, I have a very, very long list of things that I actually *want* to be doing that I don't feel well enough to do, so even if I did suddenly start feeling functional, anything that anyone else expects me to do is going waaaaaaaaaayyyyyyyy at the end of the list. I mean that. I function for no one.

Hate.

So, one person says, "I hate women."
A second person says, "I hate rapists."
And a third person says, "You're both bad, we should love and not hate."

Yeah, this is where the whole "Don't fight hate with hate" thing goes and it is fucking sick.

Have some respect for those of us who never intend to hold hands and sing campfire songs with people who have done horrible things to us, directly or indirectly. Have some respect for those of us who want to fight back.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Meh.

I never really got to just focus on my grandma and take the time I needed to grieve. Never. There was always someone pulling me in another direction or the election taking over my brain so I literally couldn't focus on the letter I was writing to her. Always something else. Always something I had to put first. Always some other obligation, whether it was someone literally pushing me to function (like my aunt at her wedding) or myself pushing me to function because everyone was yelling that it was time to stand up and fight instead of just shutting down for a while. I never had a chance. Grandma never got a turn to just be the number one thing on my mind. It's not fair. But I don't know how to make room for her in my mind with everything else that's in it right now.

And I never got to really act like that C C C D student that I said I would be like. Never. It's not fair and it's not okay. It's never going to be okay until I get that chance.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

White Privilege

Having White Privilege does not mean that everything in your life is perfect. I've seen a lot of people reject the idea of white privilege because they have also face difficulties or disadvantages in their life, it feels like white privilege means that you haven't faced any problems. It doesn't. White privilege means that those of us who are white benefit from institutionalized racism. We are more likely to get hired, less likely to unfairly punished or stopped by the police or arrested, we see representations of ourselves in media, and the list goes on and on. Saying we have white privilege does not invalidate anything else that we struggle with; we can still experience white privilege while having other issues. For example, let's say that white person says that they are not privileged because they have depression. Now, having depression sucks. No argument there. But a white person who has depression still has white privilege, because someone of a different race who also has depression would be treated differently. A black person who has depression is likely to face more discrimination when trying to access resources to help with their depression, they are less likely to find a counselor who fully understands what they are going through, and they are more likely to face hiring discrimination, workplace discrimination, and housing discrimination, among other things. Saying that you have white privilege does not invalidate the fact that you have depression or any other issue - it does not mean that every individual white person has a better life than every individual person of color. It means that with all other things being the same, if you and a person of color were in the exact same situation, you would be treated better because you are white.

I have white privilege, and it's in everything I do. I talk all the time about how school ruined my life and college was the most traumatic experience ever, and I have really long blog posts about them. But here's the thing - if I weren't white, if I were African American or Latina, and I wrote the exact same things about college being traumatic and about school ruining my life - my entire race would be judged for it. People would read my posts and think that African Americans or Latinas are just not good at school. It's because I'm white that people read my stories and see them as my individual experience. It's because I'm white that people accept that when I talk about not fitting in because of personality differences, people see those things as my individual experience and don't try to make it about my entire race. And that's something that's important to keep in mind. Think about how you read my anti-school stuff and what it would sound like if it came from someone of a different race. How would you perceive it differently? Would you make judgments about an entire group of people? It is a huge privilege to be able to talk about stuff like I talk about and not be worried that people will judge an entire race as a result of it. We all need to stop and notice whether we really are treating everyone the same, and making sure to correct ourselves if we're not.

No Tone Policing

This is a great webcomic about tone policing:

Using Invalidation to Shut People Down

I talk a lot about how to validate other people's feelings, but I want to take a moment to talk about how to actually use invalidation in a positive way, to shut someone down if they are saying something racist, sexist, heterosexist, etc. This is basically the reverse of a technique I describe in the validation book, so I am trusting my blog readers to ONLY use this method when someone is saying something bad against a group of people, not to invalidate anyone's personal problems.

This is a much, much smaller issue, but when I was in college, I hung around with this group of girls who used to complain a lot about how other people dressed. They specifically had an issue with girls wearing spandex as pants, without anything over them. Whenever they complained about this, I told them that there was nothing wrong with wearing spandex as pants and that people could wear whatever they wanted, but they ignored me. They just kept talking right over me and it didn't matter what I said. So I switched tactics. Instead of telling people that they were wrong, I acted clueless. Our conversations went like this:

Person: "There was a girl in my class wearing super tight spandex today."
Me: "Uh-huh?"
Person: "They were skin-tight, you could see right through them!"
Me: "Uh-huh?"
Person: ....

Basically, I said "Uh-huh?" in the tone that says, "yeah, and?" as if I waiting for them to tell me that a dragon flew in through the window and ate the girl wearing the spandex. My tone indicated that there had to be more to the story than that, because someone wearing spandex to class is not any kind of a story on its own. And the thing is, it actually worked. When I used this method, people did just drop the subject because they did not know what to say.

Now, this is a dangerous thing to do when someone is talking to you about an actual problem that is effecting them directly - I actually talk in the validation book about how not to do this to anyone. But I've found that it was effective for shutting people down about the spandex issue. Saying "Uh-huh?" will not always be the best response, but you can pretend to be confused and not understand what the problem is. You can ask the person questions. For example:

If someone tells you that they were nervous when an African American person came into their store, that they were worried that the person might steal something, ask them, "What do you mean by that? Did he actually do anything threatening? It sounds like he was just looking around the store like everyone else." If the store owner claims that the person was loitering too long, say, "I do that all the time! I go into stores and spend forever looking through stuff and don't end up buying anything. I think pretty much everyone does that." Just keep defending the person with a tone of, "I'm totally clueless as to why you would think this person was stealing," thereby invalidating the idea that there is any reason to assume an African American person was going to steal anything.

If someone tells you that they were uncomfortable on an airplane because someone got on the plane wearing a hijab or a turban, ask the person, "What did the passenger do that concerned you? Did they say something threatening to you?" Again, sound totally clueless, like you have no idea why they might find this person threatening because you don't think of people wearing a hijab or a turban as threatening.

If someone tells you that a boy came into their class wearing a dress, you can try saying "Uh-huh," like I did with the spandex issue, until you force the person to actually say that they don't think boys should wear dresses, and wait until that point to tell them that anyone can wear whatever they want. Or you could ask what kind of dress the person was wearing and say, "Cute! I've been wanting to get a dress like that! Do you know where they bought it?" Speak with a tone that this is totally normal and acceptable, nothing out of the ordinary. Speak the way you would if someone were acting like it was front-page news that a girl wore a dress to class. Invalidate the idea that there is anything wrong or weird about a boy wearing a dress.

I'm normally against invalidation, but in cases like these, it can be a powerful tool. Use it wisely.

How to Respond to a Racist Joke

This is a great video on how to respond to a racist joke:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bg1aTLsS69Y&t=1s

Please watch this video, and please let's all stick up for other people when we hear something racist!

Friday, November 11, 2016

Video About Racism

Please watch this video, and consider subscribing:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H4LpT9TF_ew


Calling All Writers

I am calling all writers to say that we have an important role in influencing our culture - we need to be writing more stories with characters of all different races and religions, LGBT characters, characters who have disabilities, and these characters need to be dynamic human beings who have rich life experiences and not be stereotypes or token characters. We need to do this especially in children's stories. And we need to write a mixture of stories that specifically address problems and discrimination issues, as well as stories that do not focus specifically on differences, that are about something completely different and simply have that character as the star. And we need to start it at a young age, so that kids who identify with the characters will see themselves represented and feel good about themselves, and so that people who don't identify will learn to respect and appreciate people who are different from them. This is important, and it's something we need to start doing now.

So for example, think of a story you know for kids that is about anti-bullying - it can be a book, movie, TV show episode, just any story that you think sends a strong anti-bullying message to kids. Do you have one in mind? Okay, now look at the character in the story who is being bullied - are they white? straight? cisgendered? able-bodied? thin? middle class? Think about how many of our anti-bullying stories are like that, how much of our anti-bullying rhetoric treats everyone like we all have equal privilege, and doesn't address the fact some people are targets of bullying much more than others. We need to write anti-bullying stories about kids who are called racial slurs for being African American or Asian or Latina or Middle-Eastern, for being Muslim and wearing a hijab, for not speaking fluent English or for having an accent, for feeling like a girl inside even though other people think of them as a boy, for having a crush on another kid of the same sex. I am not suggesting that white straight cis kids cannot be bullied as well - I was bullied, and I am not trying to erase anyone's experience who has been bullied. I am saying that in addition to the bullying narratives that we've already seen in mainstream culture, we need new ones. We need to hear the voices of people whose experiences are already being erased. Stories like Chrissa Stands Strong do not cut it, they don't address the issues that kids are dealing with today and they don't give kids the tools to stand up to bullies who are yelling "Build the Wall!" at their classmates. We can do better. We need to start doing better.

And even if you are writing an anti-bullying story about a white, straight, cis, able-bodied person, I urge you to dig deeper into the systematic reasons why they are being bullied. For example, if someone is being bullied because of the way they dress, maybe that character comes from a low-income family and cannot afford the "cool" clothes that the other kids wear, or all of the latest gadgets. If a boy is being bullied, the reason is often because he doesn't act tough or because he acts "girly," which is an example of sexism in that we view female-associated traits as undesirable. If a girl is being bullied, is it because she doesn't conform to beauty standards? Because she is a "prude" for not wanting to do sexual things, or a "slut" for wanting to do sexual things? If someone is being bullied because they just don't act like the other kids, examine issues of neurodiversity and how our brains do not all work the same way. No matter who is being bullied, look into the expectations that our society places on them to look a certain way and act a certain way, and basically be someone who is white, straight, cisgendered, middle-class, Christian, able-bodied, thin, neurotypical. Almost all bullying has its roots in systematic oppression. And when we write stories about bullying, it is our job to bring that to the surface.

In addition to the anti-bullying stories, we need more diverse characters where the whole story isn't about their specific difference.  About a year ago, I was rereading some of my favorite picture books from when I was a kid, including the Little Critter series. Most of the books were really funny and had lots of cute moments, like when Little Critter is mad that he can't keep frogs in the bathtub, or when he tries to wash his bedroom floor with a garden hose, or when his little sister pulls the paper towel roll from the bottom and they all fall down in the store. I was laughing my head off rereading these books. But when I got to the book called A Very Special Critter, which is about Little Critter meeting a new classmate who used a wheelchair, it suddenly felt bland. It felt like I was just reading any old generic story that teaches kids that some people use wheelchairs and they are just like those of us who don't, it totally lost that cute, funny, charming quality that all of the other books had. I felt like it didn't do justice to the character who used the wheelchair - yes, he was portrayed in a positive way - winning first prize in an art contest and winning ice cream for the whole class - but the book did not have the same humor as the others. There is no reason why this new boy could not also want to keep frogs in the tub or wash the bedroom floor with a garden hose. The story emphasized that this new boy was "just like us," but the book itself did not feel that way. And this is what I mean - when we write stories about all different characters, we need to be sure we are creating unique, dynamic characters that have rich experiences and are just as good as any other characters.

Here's a good example of what we should do. In the Baby Sitter's Club Little Sister series, there is a book called Karen's New Friend, where Karen gets a new classmate, Addie, who has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair. At first, Karen takes the wrong approach, trying to help Addie with every little thing even when Addie doesn't like it. But then, Karen experiences first-hand what that is like - two girls who are sisters come to stay at her house, and things are weird between them. Like, the girls clearly don't want to be there, but they are being overly nice to Karen like hanging up her clothes for her - and it feels weird. At one point, one of the sisters reminds that other that they have to be extra nice to Karen because her parents are divorced. They've basically been tiptoeing around doing every little thing they can for Karen, treating her like she's been through a tragedy or something. Karen is very upset by this, but it makes her realize just how upset Addie felt, and she apologizes to Addie and learns how to be a good friend to her. But's here's most important part: the story doesn't end there. Addie does not just exist to be a lesson to kids and then disappear. Addie stays in Karen's class and is a regular character who has thoughts and ideas and a life story, and in the book Karen's School Mystery, Addie and Karen are hall monitors together and they solve a mystery together of who has been stealing things out of kids' desks, and they come up with a plan to catch the students in the act. So, the series has the initial books where Karen learns how to be a good friend to Addie, but they also have a follow up story in which Addie is a star and solves a mystery and it's not focused on her cerebral palsy. These are the kinds of stories that we need more of.

I'm thinking again of the Babysitters Club and how all the stories start out introducing all the members of the club - explaining that Kristy loves sports and isn't into makeup and fashion she gets great ideas and has a huge step-family, Mary Anne is serious and cries a lot and lives with just her dad because her mom died of cancer and she has a boyfriend, Claudia is Japanese-American and is an amazing artist with great fashion sense and not into school at all and has an older sister who is perfect, Stacey is from New York and dresses really sophisticated and she has diabetes, Dawn is from California and her parents are divorced and her brother moved back to CA with her dad so she just lives with her mom and only eats health food, Jessi is African American and is an amazing ballerina and is aspiring to be a professional dancer and loves to read, Mallory has red hair and freckles and is the oldest of eight kids and aspires to be a writer. We always get that summary of the group at the beginning. There are even stories in the series that address the racism, like when Jessi first moves to the neighborhood, and in the book Keep Out Claudia where a racist family does not want Claudia or Jessi babysitting for them. So, there's no reason why we can't have a group of kids where the narrator explains that their friend is a transgender girl. Another character can be a Muslim who wears the Hijab and is celebrating Ramadan, and you plan to get together have dinner after sundown during the time that they are fasting. Another character can be an immigrant from Mexico who is undocumented and sometimes worries about getting deported and does not get to do things that other people can do easily like get a drivers license or financial aid for college. When the kids talk about who they have crushes on, some could have crushes on people of the same sex, and some could have no crushes because they do not have romantic interests. All of these characters can exist and have stories, and it is up to us to push them into the mainstream media so that they become normalized, so that it doesn't occur to kids to bully someone for these reasons, and have that bullying turn into violence later on. 

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Fuck Trump

I don't even know what to say right now. I feel like I've been grieving since Tuesday night, I feel absolutely SICK reading about all the hate crimes since Trump's been elected. I'm appalled. I don't even know what to say right now.

If you're a person of color, you NEVER deserve to have anyone calling you racist slurs, and no one should EVER tell you to "go back where you came from." You belong here, this is your home, you have just as much right to be here as anyone else. All of the white people in this country  were immigrants at one time and do not have any more right to be here than you.

You have the right to practice your religion without being bullied or harassed or labeled as a terrorist. Muslim people are not terrorists. Ever notice that when a white male shoots up a school, we never target all white men as a group? That we never target people of their specific religion or white European ethnic group? Ask yourself why.

If you are an undocumented immigrant, you do NOT deserve to live in fear of being deported, and you deserve the same rights that I have as a citizen.

If you have been sexually harassed or assaulted, it is NOT okay, it is not your fault, it is 100% the perpetrator's fault and you deserve to be believed, no matter who the person is who assaulted you or how famous or popular they are.

If you are LGBTQ, you deserve to be yourself and love whoever you love and not have to worry about being bullied or losing your job or being kicked out of your home. If you are trans, you have the right to dress how you want and be called by the correct pronouns and use the bathroom that is most comfortable for you.

And above all, if you are a parent or a teacher or anyone who works with children, it is imperative that you teach your kids about racism, sexism, Islamophia, and everything else. I'm all for anti-bullying, but generic anti-bullying is not enough anymore. We need to talk specifically about our prejudices that cause us to bully.

Make sure your kids are aware of things at a young age. Make sure they get to meet a wide range of other kids, and they learn how to treat kids who are different from them with respect. Model the behavior by treating people who look different from you with respect as well.

Read your children stories with characters of all different races and backgrounds. Show black characters and Latina characters being dynamic and relatable. Show your kids picture books with Muslim characters who wear the hijab.

Do not assume that every child is heterosexual. Don't talk to them about marrying a person of the opposite sex. Let them know that you can be attracted to male people, female people, both, or neither. Let them know that everyone does not identify as male or female, that some people are in the middle, some people are neither, and some people are born into the wrong body and may choose to transition. Talk about these things casually, normally, while the kids are young.

When you teach your children about history, teach them about the accomplishments that women and people of color have made to our society. If their school history lessons try to act like everything got resolved, let them know that racism, sexism, and everything else is still going on today, and how we need to fight it.

If you find out that your child is calling their classmates racial slurs or telling them to go back where they came from, do not punish your child - talk to them about why they did it. Punishing your child may prevent the behavior in the short term, but it will not change your child's biases. Ask your child why they did what they did to get to the root of the problem. Teach them to think about how the other person feels by putting themself in the same position - for instance, imagining what it would feel like to be bullied as the only white student in an all-black school, or for their Christian beliefs and traditions, or for being an American immigrant in another country.

And finally, teach your kids that adults aren't always right, authority figures aren't always right, Donald Trump is not right. Don't let your kids think that just because someone has some sort of authority like being the president, it means that you have to listen to them. Make sure they know how to challenge adults and authority and don't just go along with what authority figures tell them.

Not sure what else to say right now. It's still pretty surreal. I took a personal day tomorrow to rest and process things, and I still need to write that goodbye letter to my grandma by Wednesday. The grief just keeps piling up. I love you all. We can fight this together. 

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Truth

I actually sort of *like* the idea of having everyone over for a pool party once I've cried so much that my apartment is flooded. You're not being disrespectful if I *invite* you to do it.

It has this freaky bitter cathartic fuck society quality to it, like Sadness would be her glory and Joy would be totally frantic trying to mop up the place while everyone else parties on like nothing's wrong and everything's wrong all at the same time because it's okay to not be okay.

So yeah that's my freaky fantasy at the moment. 

Needs

Things I Need at a Time Like This:
1. Validation.
2. Cuddles.
3. Talking about what's actually wrong.
4. Meaningful writing/art projects and friends who care about them.

Things I *Don't* Need at a Time Like This:
1. Outside.
2. Exercise.
3. Meeting new people.
4. Going on trips.
5. Stimulation.
6. Smiling.
7. Staying busy.
8. Anything else that's listed on any How to Be Happy list that you find on the internet.

I actually have the things I need at this moment. I have true friends who get it.

If everyone else in the world could back off about the things I don't need right now, that'd be great.

April 2016 Calendar


April is probably my least favorite picture. I had a cool idea, but didn't quite execute it properly. The flower in this picture is supposed to be an orchid. There is a psychology theory that some kids are dandelion children who are okay in any environment, and some are orchid children, who need to be in a specific kind of environment in order to thrive. I had meant for this to be a picture of an orchid. I drew the raindrops in myself and faded the colors, to show that the flower was delicate and would become washed out easily with just a drop of rain.

Now, I absolute love the concept behind this picture, but I realize what I did wrong: See, with the month of March, I felt like the split between the warm and cool colors was the main focus of the picture - the thing that made it interesting. I was imagining that the raindrops could be the thing that made this picture interesting. I kept the rest of the picture kind of plain and flat and boring, thinking that the raindrops would do the job of making it interesting. But after much more coloring and experimentation, I realize now that in order for this concept of the raindrops to be effective, the initial picture has to be much, much more engaging. Basically, with the background picture being simple, it just looks like an ordinary picture of a flower in a rainstorm. The raindrops don't look like they are supposed to represent anything bad. What I think would have been much more effective is if the flower picture had been really interesting and engaging - lots of shading and swirled colors and all kinds of cool tricks that you'll see in my later pictures - and that picture was so eye-catching and enjoyable to the viewer that the raindrops feel annoying. That when you look at the picture, you would love the flower and want to look at it and you'd be wanting the raindrops to get out of your way so you could just see the flower. The raindrops would make you feel unsatisfied, which would achieve their purpose. This picture didn't turn out as I had hoped, but I love the concept and I'm sure I will use this idea again in a future picture, now that I have a better idea of how to execute it.

At some point towards the end of the month, I added the caption "Proud to Be an Orchid Child," to make the picture feel more wild and more about something. My picture that has the caption is blurry, but I may go back and take another pic at some point.

And one final thing about this picture: the biggest reason that it didn't come out as good as I had hoped was because I was feeling horrible during the month of March, while I was working on this picture, because it was my breakup anniversary. (My actual breakup anniversary is in April, but I remember that it was the Tuesday before Easter, and Easter fell in March this year, so it felt more like anniversary around Easter and I had lots of flashbacks). I while back I wrote a blog post on the myth of suffering for your art, and this calendar picture is a direct manifestation of what I explained - feeling bad does not create great art. Not for me anyway. While being in a bad place makes me want to create art that is wild and will have a huge effect on people, I have to be feeling well enough to create the art in the first place. So this picture reflects that perfectly, and in a kind of meta sense since the point of the picture was about becoming lifeless when something goes wrong. 

Friday, November 4, 2016

March 2016 Calendar


I knew I wanted to do something different with March. February had that wild elaborate pattern that just lent itself to being a cool picture. I didn't have to do much other than choosing the colors. March was different. March looked more like January in terms of the detail of the drawing itself, and I didn't want another simple one like January. Once I did February, I couldn't let my calendar to return to the land of ordinary again. Plus at the time, the drawing for March was actually my least favorite in the entire calendar, although I've changed my mind about that now. I had to do something special with March to make it come out more interesting, to make it just as cool as February, in spite of the drawing being less appealing to me.

I thought of doing a split between warm colors and cool colors because March is a seasonal transition month. I was originally going to put a wavy line in the middle, but it just didn't look right, so I went with a straight diagonal line.

I had my doubts about this idea as I was working on the picture. The first two pictures were all about putting colors together that looked nice, and that usually didn't involve colors that were next to each other on the color wheel. February in particular was all about lots bold contrasts between colors, and using as many different colors as possible. When I found myself faced with only warm colors and only cool colors, I felt limited. Very limited. I kept thinking that each side would come out too flat, too boring, because I didn't have enough colors to work with. I kept wondering whether I should ditch the idea and go back to using all of the colors for the whole picture, but I really wanted to make this idea work.

I think that by limiting the colors choices, I actually learned new techniques. I played around more with the saturations of the colors. On the cool-colored side, I lightened the area around the stars to make them pop more. I was really pleased with the way it came out. I like that both sides of the picture draw me in for different reasons. One of my coworkers said the same thing - that she couldn't decide which side she liked better because she was attracted to the brighter side, but the darker side looked so cool. March is still my friend Eli's favorite picture.

What's special about March is that it marks the beginning of the calendar pictures having a meaning. January was generic, February I wanted to look like fun party time, but March is the first one that tells a story. You can think of it as the seasons changing, but you can also think of it as the same experience being different under different circumstances, like how you might feel differently about something when you're older vs. younger, you may see the same things in a whole different way.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

February 2016 Calendar


February had one of the most elaborate patterns in the calendar (The most elaborate was October, with February as the second most). This one was a vast improvement over January. With the more elaborate pattern, I developed some better coloring techniques. The January picture was kind of flat - I used the same saturation for all of the colors. In February, I purposely colored part of the picture lighter so that the center circle and the patterns on the edges would pop more. The style is much wilder than January. On the outer frame of the picture, I used several different patterns, each one matching the one across from it. While it is symmetrical, it is much more interesting than January, which had the exact same pattern repeating all the way around in a circle. Additionally, this picture is not completely symmetrical - the pattern that is just inside of the circle of red hearts, but before the 8-pedal flower pattern, I chose the colors at random.

February still had that "wow" factor with everyone at work being so impressed by it, and they all saw the improvement as well. I think January was like, "Wow, that's so cool that you have a coloring calendar!" and February was more like, "Wow, I can't believe you're so good at it!" And it wasn't just other people's reactions - that was how I felt as well. In January, I felt like I was doing something wild simply by bringing a calendar that I colored to work. In February, I felt like I was doing something wild with the calendar. January felt more generic, like I was doing what a person is "supposed" to do. From February on, I knew that this calendar was my art project, that I was going to do amazing things with it. I would later look back on February and think of it as tame compared to my later works, but at that moment, it felt wild.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Grief Counselor, Part 1

I had my first meeting with a grief counselor today. It went...well. Sort of. Not super good, but not bad either. She was not invalidating, she did not pressure me to suck it up and deal, she actually validated all of the things I was upset about, not just in terms of missing my grandma, but in terms of everything else that happened in my family at the same time, and everyone expecting me to be functional when I'm not. She made an important suggestion - that I write a goodbye letter to Grandma and we read it together next session, and it can be as long as I want it to be. That is very important to me, I intend to spend the full two weeks working on it, and so I definitely appreciate that and I will be at the next appointment so we can go over it.

But I felt something missing. Like...something that just didn't quite click.

Here's the thing: if Grandma hadn't just died, if I had just gone to the counselor for general support, not related to one particular issue, and I was planning to establish a long-term relationship with her, I could understand talking about lots of different things. But this was supposed to be grief counseling. I was going to here specifically to talk about my grandma. Now, I understand that some other stuff is relevant to that - like asking about what support systems I have with my family and friends, but a lot of it wasn't relevant, and I had to work to keep the conversation where I wanted it. She wasn't good at reading me and listening and paying attention to what I needed and where I wanted the conversation to go. It was like she had a list of things to talk about, whether I needed to talk about those things or not.

It was *not* a disaster by any means. On my -10 to +10 scale, I would give it a +3 or a +4. Which is good. Anything above zero is good.

The thing is though, that I could sort of understand her getting all that baseline info if I were going to be seeing her for a long time. But I only have three sessions. Through a benefit at my workplace, I am entitled to three free counseling sessions, and I was only planning to use those three, unless I formed a major connection with the counselor and thought that I would seriously benefit from seeing them more. She knew I only had three sessions because she got the referral information. I just want to talk about my grandma and about grieving and about all the stuff surrounding it like my fear of people ditching me and my recurring desire to run away and go live in the woods away from society where no one can have any expectations of me. We didn't need to waste any of this session talking about stupid stuff that I don't need to talk to a counselor about.

Sometimes it's hard for me to express to another person just how not-okay I really am. I used to think I had a good relationship with my counselor in college because she knew how not-okay I was, but I realize now that that was never the case. Imagine that you and your friend are on a swim team together, and your whole team gets changed together in the locker rooms so often that it becomes no big deal to you. Now, imagine that you're having a sleepover party with a bunch of friends, including your friend from the swim team. When it's time to get changed, most of your friends are waiting in line for the bathroom so that they can change in privacy, but you and your swim team friend don't mind getting changed in front of each other. It doesn't mean that this person is a closer friend or that you trust them more than the others - you're just comfortable getting changed in front of each other because you've already done it so many times. That's what my relationship with my college counselor felt like. It wasn't that we had a truly deep connection. I don't feel like she fully validated or respected my feelings, there were at least two times that she turned the conversation to something completely irrelevant and wouldn't listen when I told her that those things were non-issues for me, and, oh yeah, she told me that her job would be at risk if I hurt myself and that was clearly her main concern. So not the best counselor around to say the least. But I felt a deep connection to her because since she responded to the call that night that I posted the message and got in trouble, she saw me at my absolute worst already. I felt comfortable being my complete not-okay self around her because she had already seen everything there was to see, the same way that you'd feel comfortable changing clothes in front of someone if you've already done it a million times and there is nothing new for the person to see.

But anyway, back to this current counselor. Okay, I don't mean to brag about having written a self-help book. But that is part of my story, the fact that I was celebrating finishing the book one day and had my whole world come crashing down the next day is part of my story. The fact that I never really got to share my book with Grandma because it would have been too complicated for her to understand, and she never got to see her acknowledgement in this book or her dedication page in my next book, that's part of my story. I can't just not mention the book at all. And yes, I would expect any counselor to be impressed by it. But we talked about it for way too long, and I know I should have stopped, I got really caught up because I love to talk about my book, but before long I realized that I didn't want the praise anymore. I didn't want her to keep looking at me like wow you're so amazing you've written a book. I know I say never tell people to get over it, but there was a part of me that just wanted to tell her to get over the fact that I've written a book. Yes, I write books. All books you read were written by humans. I am a human. This is not a difficult concept.

Yes, yes I love getting praised for my book and I appreciate it. I always feel better about myself after getting praised for it. But the kind of praise she was giving me - that shocked, OMG I can't believe you actually wrote a book kind of praise - I get that every day. I can get that praise anywhere, from anyone. I'm not in need of more of it. I didn't go to a counselor to get that kind of praise. I don't want you to be impressed. I want you to understand how not-okay I am. I want you to see me as not-okay, not as this super-awesome person that you think I am. Sometimes it just feels like the hardest thing in the world to communicate how not-okay I am. Yes, I felt better about myself after leaving, I appreciate you telling me that I'm already perfect the way I am, but that is not what I need to hear right now. I need you to understand how not okay I am and not just read me as this functional adult who has normal desires like a boyfriend and career focus (both of which I had to actively deflect the conversation about) and does impressive things like writing books. Seriously, I'm not okay, those things don't make me okay, please understand that I am not okay. You know how other people still do stuff like go to school and go to work and buy groceries and take care of their children even when bad things are happening? Well, I'm not functional like that, I'm not the kind of person who would continue doing those things, but if it helps you, think of my writing as my job, and understand that the fact that I am doing that the same way that anyone does anything (and as I told you, I'm not even working on the book right now, I finished it about a week before I got the news about Grandma's condition, and I have not been up for looking for publishers or anything since then).

The next session I'll have that long letter to read, so that will take a lot of time and hopefully we can focus on the things in the letter and not everything else under the sun.

January 2016 Calendar



January is the simplest of all of the months. It was the first calendar design that I ever colored, and I did not use any fancy techniques or add my own flare to it - I just colored it. I didn't even press as hard with the colored pencils as I would in later months, so it doesn't pop as much as the others. But even though it's the simplest, January has a lot of sentimental value to me.

For a long time, I hated my job. I had a working-with-people job that sucked because it involved working with people, and it drained me. As a result, I didn't like my workplace and didn't bond with anyone there simply because I didn't like being there. I had no pictures, nothing personal at all at my desk because I didn't care. I didn't think of it as home.

Then in September 2015, I got moved to a more numbers-based position, and suddenly, I had my energy back. Within the first week that I did the new job, I had so much more energy when I got out of work every day. As a result of having a job that was a much better fit for me, I realized that most of the people I worked with were very nice and I made more of an effort to bond and form friendships. Beginning shortly after I started the new job, I felt a connection with everyone and looked forward to seeing them every day. Now I can talk to the people in my department about a lot of things, and I don't feel lonely at work like I did in the beginning.

This calendar marks the beginning of that. Why? Because this was one of the first personal things that I added to my work area. Since I colored it myself, it felt really warm and cozy and intimate to have it at my desk. It made me feel more like myself at work. And everyone loved it. I probably got more praise and attention on this month than any other simply because it was the first and no one had seen anything like it. In the picture above, it is actually hanging in a part of my cube where more people can see it - it was mid-January when I realized that I wanted to move the calendar to my desk so I could look at the picture myself. To this day, I think I have the best calendar in the whole building. Everyone still compliments it and is so impressed with the creativity. My boss loved my coloring so much that she actually gave me a picture of an elephant to color for her and she keeps it at her desk next to the pictures of her grandchildren, which I think is really sweet. It means a lot to me when people at work compliment me on the calendar. It makes me feel more like me.

I first saw the calendar in the store back in November 2015, and I kept debating if I should get it. I finally decided to go for it. It felt like a bold move, because I knew I was planning to have it at work, and that no one else had anything like it. And I also felt like it was the right time. I was with a nice department, I had been there long enough that I wasn't walking on eggshells to prove myself anymore. I was ready. I was ready to be me.

January may be the least exciting of all the pictures. It's simple. It's symmetrical. It's the least vibrant. It has no interesting shading, no special techniques, no symbolism behind the colors, nothing added to the picture to make it my own. But at that moment, on January 4, 2016, it was the wildest, most vibrant, exciting thing that anyone in our department had seen. It was my own. It felt like the start of a new beginning.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Calendar Project

To be clear, I'm not okay, I'm still grieving and will be for a very, very long time, and...well, I would say that you can expect a major drop in writing quality, but it feels weird to say that since A) I haven't been focused on my blog as much in 2016 anyway since I've been more focused on my book, and B) the last time I said that, my writing quality actually improved after the fact, depending on how you judge quality. So anyway, that's not the point, I just need to preface this by saying that if I write about stuff on my blog that has nothing to do with my grandma, that doesn't mean I'm over it because I'm not, it just means that I feel like doing something warm and cozy and cuddly, and there's only so long I can just watch TV and movies without getting bored, and I just finished the coloring project that I had been working hard on all month, so I think I'm ready to do a blog project that is low-key and feels all warm and cozy and cuddly like a teddy bear.

For any blog readers who don't follow me on Facebook, I have a coloring calendar, meaning a wall calendar where each picture is is a coloring picture, and you color it in yourself. I have posted all of the pictures so far on Facebook, but I have a lot to say about each of them. I was considering having a special December post with all 12 calendar pictures, but I don't want to wait until December is finished, so I'm going to give each calendar pic its own blog post, where I post a picture of the calendar page and explain what it means to me. If I do a bunch of them at once, I may set the posts to update at midnight each night so that you'll get a new one each day.

Since I am not feeling well, I am just going to use the photos that I already have on my computer. When I'm in a more ambitious mood, I may go back and take better pictures of the calendar specifically for the blog posts, but not right now.