I don’t really bake cookies with Neil in this post. I’d like to. But I didn’t – I just liked the title. (Neil, if you’d like to bake cookies with me, or would like me to send you some cookies, just tell me your favorite kind and you’ve got it.)

I spent most of this weekend in my pajamas. Yesterday, I finally got up, got dressed, and ran errands with Ash in town, but as soon as we were home, I was back in my PJs. (Honestly, I think if more people spent weekends in their PJs, we’d be a happier humanity.) Despite the happy PJ time, my spirits were low.

In fact, I’ve been moping for the past few hours about Things That Suck when, out of nowhere, while reading Mr. Neil Gaiman’s Magical Tumblr, I felt this brilliant moment of clarity, as if a breeze had blown the clouds across the sky and a bright star (or possibly Venus) had suddenly winked into existence and brought with it a shining, glorious epiphany. An epiphany that lit up my mind and the night like a million fireflies and then. And then. Well. Then it blinked out. Just as quickly. Unfortunately I wasn’t really able to decipher what the epiphany as a whole was about, but I could see, just around the edges, words. And THAT meant something to me.

You see, ever since I was laid off in April, I have been slowly (and quickly), embracing many of my old hobbies. Things that at one point in my life, made me ME. Painting is one of them. I’ve been painting and drawing and sketching again and it’s ALL I ever want to do anymore. Oh I’ve missed it. I’ve also been baking. Cookies, brownies, yummy little chocolate chip bars oozing with caramel, goodies that will clog your pores and leave you guzzling milk from the carton. And I’ve been gardening. We have fourteen happy little okra plants in the front yard and a brand new garden bed in the back ready for planting. I’ve been playing video games, catching up on cooking shows, hanging out with Ash. So many wonderful things to bring me back to ME, but I have yet to do what I spent five years of college doing in order to get my Creative Writing degree.

Write.

I’m constantly jealous of my friend Meg of Bow Ties are Cool because all she does is write. She writes and writes and writes about writing and she’s wonderful at it and I wish I had her dedication and enthusiasm. But why don’t I? Why is that I sit here and wish it but don’t do it? What’s stopping me?

NOTHING.

And it’s that NOTHING that came to me while reading Neil’s many insightful responses to people asking him writing advice all the time. (Was that the epiphany? Maybe…) Neither him nor Meg ask for permission from anyone to write. They just do it. I’ve been sitting here waiting for someone to tell me that it’s okay to just sit and write. My fear is in the sitting part I think. I hate just sitting because I’m scared that it will look like I’m not doing anything. Like I’m just sitting. Staring at paper. Or a blank computer screen. And don’t ask me why I feel that doing design and development work is different – it just is. It’s for other people, at least that work. Even painting is for others – it’s for my shop. But writing? It’s not for anyone but myself. Even blogging is for the most part. It’s writing for myself, my thoughts, my beliefs, my stories. So it gets pushed away. Even as I write this, it has taken two days to write because I feel guilty writing it and keep stopping to do something else.

So how do writers stop feeling guilty for doing something that’s mostly for themselves? How do you get over your fear that people will think you aren’t a proper, productive member of society if you just write?

In school, I had classes that I was SUPPOSED to write in. And it made me happy. I was supposed to do it. Nobody could stop me, so I let myself just sit and write and the world was good and I was happy because I was MAKING THINGS UP and that was my JOB. Now? Not so much. So despite all the activities I’m doing to be ME, I’m still not entirely ME. Does this make sense? See, now I’m just writing to write. Because I like it. Blah blah blah I’m writing and nobody is in the room to stop me. Blah. WRITING.

Alright. So there’s my question. And there are my thoughts. All written down nicely for you. Now, I’m feeling guilty and unproductive so I’m going to go bake. Cookies. For Neil. Or Meg. Or for my girlfriend because she would probably be the one most likely to eat them considering she’s the only one in Texas. Go me.

THE END.

Some Resolutions and a Chickadee

Chickadee-dee-dee-dee.

Happy New Year! Resolutions? Sure. Why not. 1. More Art. 2. Less candy (crap, failing this already). 3. Be more fit (got kicked out of bootcamp on the first day because of a hurt disc but I’m joining a yoga/stretching class so we’re doing good on this one). 4. Bring back The Family Menagerie. 5. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes (agh). 6. DANCE MORE.

I don’t think any of those need elaborate explanations. Mainly, my focus this year will be on health and personal growth. I want to be healthier both in mind and body and so I’m turning to things that make me happy. Drawing of course is good for the soul, as is dancing (and singing – which I’m quietly going to try to do more of – Ash got me a ukelele for Christmas so I’m teaching myself to play), and making mistakes is important for growing (I’m horrible at allowing myself mistakes). I have a horrible reputation for not taking care of myself physically so I’m making that a priority this year. Get healthy. Eat more veggies. Treat my body with respect. Be Good. And all of that jazz. Excitement!

I’m slightly less excited about the whole “less candy” thing.

My favorite part of the resolution is drawing more. Keep an eye on this space as it’ll be updated again in the very near future with more sketches. For now though, since really this post is about my favorite things and being happy, you should all check out my tumblr since that’s my virtual happy place. It’s full of shiny, happy things.

And that, ladies and gents, concludes this first “life” post of the year. How have you been? Have any resolutions you can’t wait to kick into gear?

Humanity and the actions at UC Davis

I don’t even really know where to start on this. I used to blog politically here a lot more back in 2007 but have tried to refrain from that for several reasons now. This, however, has struck such a nerve in me that I have to say something.

Police Pepper Spray Peaceful Protestors

First, if you live under a rock (or another country) and don’t know about the incident of police brutality on the UC Davis campus, then read this and watch the videos if you can stomach them. I almost didn’t. I couldn’t get through the whole thing without working myself into such anger that I had to leave the room. It’s hard to watch. It’s hard to believe something like this would happen in our day.

Why? Maybe I live in a bubble. The Occupy movement here in Austin has been dramatically more civil than in other parts of the nation. While there have been a few arrests, there’s been little to no drama, and the APD has been supportive of the safety of the protestors to the extent that they willingly stop downtown traffic to allow the protestors to parade through the streets. I think this is a direct reflection of the education system in Austin and the high acceptance and tolerance levels in our liberal Texan city. We’re lucky. Some folks, like the students and faculty at UC Davis, are not. The police man who pepper sprayed the young and old who sat on the sidewalk with their arms linked in peaceful protest did nothing but prove that peace and solidarity and the strength of community can and will win out over violence.

It makes me despair in the future of humanity, but gives me hope that there are people out there who will give their all to preserve peace.

The Despicable Actions of the Administration

This arcticle by UC Davis professor Bob Ostertag is the best article I’ve read so far about the protest and why it and the actions of the administration were so horrendous. He mentions to the health and safety hazards of pepper spray and how, days after the brutal attack, there are several students who are still sick and burned from the chemicals.

“As with chili peppers, some people tolerate pepper spray well, while others have extreme reactions. It is not known why this is the case. As a result, if a doctor sees pepper spray used in a prison, he or she is required to file a written report. And regulations prohibit the use of pepper spray on inmates in all circumstances other than the immediate threat of violence. If a prisoner is seated, by definition the use of pepper spray is prohibited. Any prison guard who used pepper spray on a seated prisoner would face immediate disciplinary review for the use of excessive force. Even in the case of a prison riot in which inmates use extreme violence, once a prisoner sits down he or she is not considered to be an imminent threat. And if prison guards go into a situation where the use of pepper spray is considered likely, they are required to have medical personnel nearby to treat the victims of the chemical agent.

Apparently, in the state of California felons incarcerated for violent crimes have rights that students at public universities do not.”

Thank you

The Shadow was Only a Small & Passing Thing

When using your VOICE becomes a crime so heinous it “forces” officers to use violence on children, my faith in humanity dwindles. My heart breaks. And at the same time, my spirit is uplifted by the community of people, young and old, who refuse to give in, who link arms and raise their voices louder, and who, no matter how many times they are beaten and burned and kicked, refuse to act in kind and instead remain peaceful and connected in their solidarity and beliefs. They remind me that there is still beauty and hope left in humanity and they are the ones that will save us in the end. Thank you to those old souls who know the importance of never giving up for what you believe in.

New Years Resolution Numero Uno.

We’re going to split this down into different posts so I can focus on my intentions for each. Do I know how many there will be? Nope. I honestly haven’t given it much thought, so I’ll blog about them as I come up with them. That’s just how I roll. Speaking of roll, I could really go for some sushi.

Maybe New Years Resolution Numbero Uno should be stop getting distra-

PUPPY.

Or blog more. I’m sorry. I’m being left to my own devices. Which means eating a lot of sugar. Let’s see if we can get this post back on track. Where was I.

Resolution: MAKE MORE ART.

So I continually make up excuses for why I don’t draw anymore. I’m too busy. My room needs to be cleaned. There’s too much to do. The cat stole my eraser. It’s endless. So what I’ve finally realized is that if I want to draw, I’m going to just have to do it and to hell with all the other responsibilities I have. Is this responsible? Maybe not but it sure will make me happier, right? Right.

So this is my first New Years resolution (better late than never huh?): MAKE MORE ART. So check out my deviantart page and feel free to kick me in the butt and tell me to update it more often. I don’t need an eraser, right? The cat can have it.

So, even if it’s just one small doodle a day, I’m going to start making a conscious effort to get more art finished and out the door. I’m sure the thousands of people I owe art to will appreciate this. Again… better late than never, right?

Right.

Eulalia! R.I.P. Brian Jacques

When I was in sixth grade, my cousin introduced me to a book series that changed my life. Walking into the library of Phoenix Middle School, I would make a beeline to the bookshelves that lined the wall on the left. Second bookshelf in, second shelf down. I was more familiar with this area than any other and I’m pretty sure I checked those books out more than anyone else.

Redwall by Brian Jacques. The first website I ever created housed my Redwall fanfiction and fanart. I had a page of Redwall quotes and book reviews. That artwork and that “Redwall Story” I wrote were the first things I ever posted online. The first forum I ever took part in was in the ROC (Redwall Online Community) and the very first character I ever RP’d was Mara Treeflyer – a squirrel maiden that lived within the walls of Redwall Abbey.

While the site and fanart and fanfiction dwindled after I went to college, I never stopped reading every book Brian Jacques came out with. The Sable Queen came out last year and I haven’t had a chance to read it yet, but I’ve stayed up to date with his books since 1997. There is nothing better than curling up with a big blanket, and a dog, and a Redwall book on a rainy afternoon and losing myself to the stories of Martin the Warrior and Constance the Badger and the great hares of Salamandastron.

So when I heard the news yesterday, that one of greatest and most inspirational children’s author that ever walked this earth had passed away, I was dumbfounded. Of any author (other than, perhaps, Tolkien), he has made the biggest impact on my life. That first story, that first artwork, the very first WEBSITE (!) I ever showed anyone other than my family were all based on Redwall. My best friend? I met because of a forum where I posted Redwall-inspired artwork. I most likely wouldn’t be where I am now, a writer and illustrator and web designer, if I hadn’t read the Redwall series and been inspired to take part in the ROC.

I won’t lie. When I heard the news I cried. I felt like a dear, old friend had passed away. His voice lulled me to sleep many times while I listened to my Redwall tapes. No on in the world could speak Mole speech like he could. I remember road trips with my dad while we both listened to the story of Cluny the Scourage. When I was in high school, I took home my first First Place Ribbon in 4N6 with a fun reading of Cluny and Basil Stag Hare. Redwall is entwined in my life.

Brian Jacques, thank you for every word you ever wrote down. Thank you for Cornflower and Jess Squirrel and Gonff. Thank you for Samkin, Triss, Basil and Constance. Thank you for Salamandastron and Mossflower and Loamhedge and, most importantly, for Redwall Abbey, where all the stories are told. And thank you for Benn and Denmark, too. I wish there had been more stories about those two. Thank you for introducing me to some amazing friends who have changed my life and who have made me a better artist and writer. Thank you for the amazing life you shared with us.

“Don’t be ashamed to weep; ’tis right to grieve. Tears are only water, and flowers, trees, and fruit cannot grow without water. But there must be sunlight also. A wounded heart will heal in time, and when it does, the memory and love of our lost ones is sealed inside to comfort us.”

Eulalia.

Images from my favorite Redwall illustrator Christopher Denise.