Monday, April 27, 2015

Gross Happens

I was doing the dishes the other day and there was a bowl in the sink that was just icky. I have no idea what was in it or how long it had sat there. Because no, I am not one of those perfect parents who keeps the sink clear every day. When I rinsed it out and shoved it in the dishwasher, I wondered if Mike Rowe ever considered doing a Dirty Jobs episode on homes. One doesn't even have to have kids for this, especially if you have pets. As I have six kids, well, I have mostly kid stories.

Gross: When your son gets distracted by something while peeing and turns to look at it. Because when a potty training little boy turns, it's not just his head but his whole body that swivels, which then gets pee not only on the toilet, but also sprays the walls and floor and whatever else is nearby.

Gross: The leftover moldy bit of something hidden under a child's bed that is the source of that smell you've been wondering about for days.

Gross: Finding a sippy cup under a couch with rotten milk in it. Note: the sippy cup in question was not used by a toddler. Those I could keep track of. No, this one was dug out of a cupboard by a six year old when mom wasn't looking, who then filled it with milk, took it to the basement and then promptly forgot about it. Nasty. I threw the cup away.

Gross: Finding the toddler has painted the wall with the contents of their diaper. Lots of parents have these stories. Lots of kids are not afraid of poop. In fact, quite the opposite. It's more of a fascination with the goopy stuff that comes out of their body, much to the adult's dismay and the child's utter enjoyment.

Gross: Having people over for an evening show in the back yard with a projector and finding poop where you're setting up chairs. "Oh, I didn't know you had a dog."  "I don't. I have a four-year-old boy."

Gross: The hair that clogs up the bathtub drain. With six girls in the house, including mom, not only does that add up quickly, but one becomes best friends with a snake tool really fast.

Gross: Teenage girls' laundry. Specifically the bloody kind that they forgot to soak and has sat at the bottom of the hamper getting smelly and nasty and stained beyond repair. It's not that the blood itself is gross. Because, seriously, it happens every single month. A girl gets used to blood pretty darn quick. It's just the mess that comes with it that's nasty. It's like leaving a snack trail for vampires.

Oh, yeah, and on the subject of teenage laundry, let me add something about sports. One of my daughters was on the basketball team, ran track, and played rugby. Her gym bag smelled horrific. Not that she didn't do her laundry, but sometimes she'd forget about her gym clothes and leave them in the hot van, thus letting them bake for a couple of days in between games or meets or whatever. Ick.

I'm fairly certain I'll have these issues with my son, but for now he's six so his sweat glands haven't yet decided to add their input to his messes.

Gross: That litter of kittens your cat just had because the kids let your un-fixed cat out?  Yeah, those babies may be cute, but they don't come potty trained. Four cute little balls of fur became four pooping and peeing monsters. They didn't just do it in the open where I could find it and clean it. No, they had to climb out of every enclosure I could think of to seek out every unknown corner and crevice in the house to leave their little presents. Several months after finding a home for the last kitty, I found poop in the shoe closet behind some snow boots.

And while the smell of cat pee does come out... eventually... and with special cleaners, it's traumatic for an 8 year old to have to wear her sister's coat to school because the cat peed on her favorite pink leopard print winter jacket. Traumatic for the mom, too, because she has to convince said child to wear the alternate coat. Never, ever, ever again will I let a cat have kittens in my house. Worse than potty training children.

Gross: Trying to clip the dogs' nails. My dogs think it's pure torture and can't figure out why in the world I would do such a thing to their beautiful long nails, and don't I know they will die a horrible death if I clip that nail?? They hate it so bad that they pee and try to poop on me so I'll leave them alone. I'll admit, that's why their nails get so long in the first place. I haven't figured out who it's more traumatic for, me or the dogs.

Gross: My 2nd child having an upset stomach. Kids get sick, everyone does. But this particular child didn't *want* to be sick. So even though she had a bucket, she'd put her hands over her mouth every time to try to stop it from coming out. Which then got it *everywhere.* The hubster and  I would just pray and pray that she wouldn't get the flu or whatever stomach bug was going around, because we dreaded the clean-up.

There's the puke, the snotty noses, the sick messes, the food messes. There are the messes you don't find for days and/or weeks.

One may start out parenthood with a soft stomach. Honestly, I still dry-heave over some of the messes I have to clean up. But they do make funny stories eventually, and one builds up a tolerance over the years. Sort of. At the very least, you learn really quick that hands ARE washable, thank heavens.

The not-gross messes, like a 2 yr old little girl completely covered from head to toe in mom's lipstick?  Those are just as fun stories to tell, years later, but not so much while it's happening. Looking back on it, I wish I'd taken a picture of my daughter and how proud she was at making herself all beautiful. Cleaning her up - and getting it out of her ears - turned my bathtub pink. I scrubbed that tub for weeks before it came off, but she was pleased as punch with herself.

As a parent, I think Gross never really gets easier, but we learn how to clean it up without freaking out. Um, most of the time. Because Gross Happens, whether you just have pets, or one child, or ten.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Huh. Ribbons. I seem to love them.

Yep, ribbons. I can't explain it, I just seem to have a thing for them right now. So ok, a ribbon it is.



A firey, flamey golden ribbon if I have anything to do with it.  I'm mostly happy with this sketch. It's not perfect, and I see a couple of places where I need to exaggerate the ribbon, but that's all fixable.

Now, I get to transfer this to tracing paper to do color comps. I want to make sure I have the idea for the flames right *before* I start inking.

I wish, wish, wish I could photoshop bits of this image so I could move them and re-angle parts of them. Either I'm too lazy to erase all of it and start over, or I just need to leave them as is and make it work. 

Friday, April 24, 2015

Being an Art Student

I have a degree in Illustration. That means I went to school and took all kinds of art classes, including  *gasp* figure drawing classes. Yes, most of the models were *louder gasp* nude.

There are several members of my family who consider all of those drawings porn.

I have never understood why. Seriously, Porn? Because I'm learning how to draw the human figure accurately? I'll be honest, while in those drawing classes, I was barely aware that it was a nude person up there while I was drawing.

I was focused on 'how does this muscle shape and curl around that bone?' 'what is the proportion of that leg to the torso?' 'if that's the shape they'er making, how exactly is the spine curving and what do I do to draw the pelvis correctly?'

It is/was all about accuracy, shadows, light, form, proportion, and how to blend charcoal and oils into accurate renderings.

Porn...pbbbth.  Instead, I have a reverence for the beauty of the human body. It's nothing to be ashamed of.

Now... if I were drawing something specifically to evoke a sexual response in someone, then sure, you could call it erotica or porn. Otherwise, TALK TO THE QUACKING HAND.

This is all in preface to my new art project. Because OMG nudity. *sigh*

So I'm a little annoyed, grumpy, and irritated at having to self-censor my artwork on FB so I don't have to hear the lectures from well-meaning helpers. I'm well aware that I could post it anyway, but that's more of a headache and I'm under orders from my psychiatrist to avoid stress.

Therefore, I am going to post pictures here of my project as I go. It's therapeutic for me to not only pour emotion into my drawings, but to put all of that out into the nether. (As evidenced by all my previous soul-baring blog posts.)

Today, I'm sharing the initial sketch. It's very rough and very not perfect. It's going to be some kind of phoenixish/fire something. Don't ask me what those ribbons are all about, I have no idea. Maybe I was playing with partial modesty? They may stay, they may go. It's again related to emotions I can't really explain.

BLUE??  yep. I forgot to change my camera's white balance. Ooops
I'm not thrilled with the arms right now, and am doing more roughs in my sketchbook to play with form. Also: it looks like she's wearing underwear, I know, but that's how the hips attach to the pelvic area. It won't look like that when done.

Why then did I put in on the huge drawing board already?  Because I needed to. It makes me itch to complete it when I see it there. And I have wonderful gummy erasers that fix anything needing fixing. haha :)

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Artwork

I spent some time yesterday updating my 'portfolio' blog. I don't think I'd use it to apply for a job anywhere yet, but I added a lot of the stuff I worked on last year before all of my creativity disappeared.



If you're feeling bored, you're welcome to take a look: vansoolenartworks.blogspot.com

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Further progress

I'm so pleased that I have not only started an art project that means a lot to me, but have nearly finished it. It's taken me over 20 hours to work on this, and wow, it's kind of fun to see it evolve.

Day 3: I mixed gauche and ink together and painted the dragon. My 11 yr old daughter followed along and salted the paint as I worked around the dragon. I wanted to set the texture for the future scales. After all that had dried, I then went in and inked part of the butterfly. I wasn't sure how I wanted to do the dragon's head, so I left that alone.

Just a side note: That butterfly is NOT red. I can't get photoshop or my camera to get the pink and purple to show correctly, so... meh. You'll always see it as red digitally.




Yesterday (Friday April 17) I went in with ink and drew in the scales. And then, because my white gauche paint was all dried up, I mixed blue gauche and white acrylic and then used a small paint brush to add the white highlights to the scales. I am kind of pleased with the final effect.

Using the same blue, I colored in the butterfly. Originally I had in mind that I wanted the butterfly to look like it was merging with, or matching the dragon. But then I decided it needed to be it's own separate self. So I painted over some of the blue on the main wing of the butterfly. I just felt that the white looked better.

And then I did the head and horns of the dragon. It's difficult to see what I did with the horns in this picture, but I am pleased with how they turned out.


All that is left now is to add a background. If I had known what I was going to do with this when I started, I would have already had a background laid out. As it is, well, we'll see what happens.

I think this is one of the few colored pieces I have ever done that I am proud of. But maybe that's because it means something to me. I poured a lot of emotion into this one. It took a lot of patience and a lot of steps to complete.

I'll admit right now that patience in art is very hard for me, except when I'm working on a portrait. To learn that I can do it with other art is fascinating to me.

I have no idea which emotions I'll be exploring next. I have no idea if I'll attempt another dragon. Right now I'm going off my gut, and this is what came of it.


On a side note, someone offered me $20 for this piece. I am hoping that was a joke, because I sure laughed. At worst, it's worth at least $150. For me, it's priceless because of what it represents, and it is NOT for sale.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Arting Harder

As most of you know, I've found the lack of creativity and/or imagination very frustrating.

In the last two weeks since my attempted Walk of Doom, my meds have been changed, I've been on an emotional rollercoaster, and I've had plenty of time to think. And sleep. And think.

I think the new meds have started to work. I know this because this happened in my sketchbook a couple of days ago:

I was so excited I had to text the image to several of my friends. Because ART!!  I ARTED!!!

And then the next day, this happened in my 18x24" Drawing pad:


And for reasons unknown to me, I pulled out my ink set and began inking, not quite sure where I was going, or what the outcome would be.

1: I was ecstatic that I had an image in my head to begin with
2: It came out on paper nearly exactly as I'd imagined it.
3: When I made it much bigger for my giant art pad, it STILL came out like I imagined it.
4: And for the love of Pthalo Blue, I was playing with color! Holy milestones!

SO COOL!!!

Now, just because my creativity has started to kick in, doesn't mean it's all the way back yet. I find myself going slower than I used to. I'm putting more emotion into this piece because there are some difficult things I feel, want, and dream that I cannot articulate. And as my brain connects or reconnects synapses and feelings and fingers, I find that I get emotionally exhausted as I work.

So this one is taking a lot longer for me to finish than normal, but I am ok with that.

I made a flub with the ink - my hand was a little wet, and the ink smudged on part of the... hair? wavy whatsits on the back? The next day I decided it looked cool and incorporated it into the picture with a damp paper towel, then inked over it.

Yesterday I bought colored ink for the butterfly. Today I woke up with an idea for texturing the scales of the dragon.

The important thing to me isn't how perfect it is, (because it isn't,) it's that I've made progress. Check it out:


The good student in me is screaming "AAACK!!  Off Balance!! Fix it!!!"  But the artist in me is insisting on patience. It'll get there. I know where and how the balance with the tail will be. I know where I need to adjust the inking on the tail. And Oh Holy Crap I hate that I inked the butterfly green. Ick. Double-ick. After I experiment with the scales on the dragon, I'll un-mask the butterfly and fix it, fix it, fix it. Because ew. And it's too close to the blue/black of the dragon ink. And it's just wrong. If I'm the butterfly in this pic --which I am I think-- I am NOT green. That is not my current color.

I'm not used to forcing myself to exercise patience in art. This is a new thing for me. But I kind of have to. After a few hours with ink and nibs, my brain says "Ok, done." And that's that. No more images, no more inspiration, no more ability to guide the pen in a coherent line or shape.

Part of my artistic self is still in hiding. I still can't envision someone else's dream or idea. I don't know if I could work on a timetable yet for the simple reason that I have no idea how long it will take me to finish my current project. I'm not even confident that I could draw something not related to my emotional state right now.

And that's ok. Healing, growing, and re-learning can't be forced. It comes when it comes. I think what's important here is that I'm trying. I haven't given up --on my creativity-- just because it got hard.

I still scribble in my sketchbook. I still attempt to work on my story, although no creative juices have started flowing in the fantasy/sci-fi direction yet. Which is ok. One project is good right now. I have hope that eventually I'll be able to regain all that I've lost.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Choices

I've had to look at some of my choices very closely in the last couple of weeks in an attempt to pinpoint self-destructive behavior. Some of the coping mechanisms I have used fall in this category. Some of the things I do in my free-time also qualify.

Sometimes I have to make choices that are for the overall good - you know, what's best for my family and kids. I can't *always* be selfish and just do what's best for me. Recently one of those choices has made me sad. I know it's for the best to say no to this, but it was one of those things that made me feel good. It wasn't good for me; *isn't* good for me; but I miss it.

However, the less destructive behavior I have - things that tear me down emotionally, physically, or spiritually - the better I will be.

Sometimes it's hard to choose the right.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Humbling

I saw my psychiatrist today. I spent a good part of the session answering questions like, "Define 'not functioning'" "Are you still having suicidal thoughts?" "Explain how you don't fit" "How's your anxiety?"

Obviously there were a lot more questions like that. And quite a lot of waaaah, poor me in there. He listened, he took notes, his voice was moderate and kind. And then he asked, "What can I do to help you?"

I shrugged and said, "I don't know if you can."

It was obvious that he then made up his mind. He began typing in his computer and said, "Ok, we are going to switch your medications. Hopefully we can reconnect you to your creativity again. But--" And here he turned and looked at me, quite seriously.  "You made an extremely poor choice that would have long lasting incredibly negative effects on your children, your family and friends. You need to find more effective coping skills to deal with frustration and stress. You NEED to get back into therapy. Find a way. You're extremely determined when you want to be, so you can make this happen. It needs to happen for your thought process to get back into alignment so you can see the difference between your choices."

Sometimes I need to be smacked upside the head with a wallop of reality. I had prayed and prayed that my doctor would be helped to know how to help me, and I needed to hear that.

And now, hours later, now I feel the shame. The "what in the world was I thinking???" has kicked in. The realization that my sweet, sweet children would have been traumatized and hurt - Would have been? no, HAVE been - putting it mildly. Scarred forever. What kind of mother does that to a child?

Well, obviously this mother. This mother who is struggling to control her thoughts, her feelings, and everything. I guess I just have to come to terms with the fact that I am not the one in control here. I have to have a little more faith than I have had.

It's extremely embarrassing and humiliating to see how wrong I was. At the time it felt like the only right decision. Tonight I don't even want to admit that it happened, but the whole world knows.

Guilt can be unhealthy, but it can also be a spur to be better, to make something right. I don't know how to make right the fact that I scared everyone - that I gave up. I can only hope that by continuing to try to be better, by still being here, those who I hurt can eventually decide to forgive me. Maybe I can learn to forgive myself for being weak.

The consequences are very real. One of my children won't look at or talk to me. Another is afraid to go to school because she's worried I won't be here when she gets back. Another cries over everything and holds on so tight when she hugs me, willing me to still be her rock. And yet another is angry and doesn't understand why I'd do that to her.

Oh, there are probably more consequences that I'm not aware of or that haven't cropped up yet. Some that are less obvious than the blisters, the sore legs and muscles. More than the emotional pain I've caused everyone around me.

I won't say I don't deserve this. Of course I deserve it. I may get to make a choice, but I don't get to pick the end result.

I will say that I will attempt to make things right. I know I'm limited in what I can do and what I can give, but I will do what I can. I have to struggle with down days and I may not be able to do everything, but I CAN, for crying out loud, be here.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Words

I find it somewhat amusing that I can articulate how I'm feeling, but I can't seem to write fiction. Of course, I also find it extremely frustrating.

After Wednesday, as my husband was holding me super tight, afraid to let go, he said, "You should finish your book."

That was super awesome to hear. I'd never heard him be excited or supportive about that particular endeavor before. Not that he complained or said anything against it, but he hadn't been a cheerleader, either.

However, when I sit down and stare at the screen, I don't hear the character's voices. Yeah, yeah, I know I'm crazy, but when I'm in the middle of a writing streak, it's like I'm seeing a movie in my head. I can be each character and act out what they'd say and how they'd say it. I'd hear their voice, then I could put it into words on paper.

It doesn't work anymore. Just like drawing. When people describe an idea, the normal for me is to be able to envision what they're imagining and attempt to sketch it out. Now when people talk about an idea, I attempt to 'see' it, but end up struggling to remember what again was it they wanted? Squirrel.

I miss creativity. I miss caring about creativity. I miss feeling like I had a place in the world and knowing where it was and how I fit. I miss me.

I'm still not entirely convinced I should still be here. And I know that's a problem.

Boy, for a long time I thought it was all cool and stuff that I could tell when I was in a downslide. I could call and ask for help before things got bad. I had a safety plan and wasn't afraid to use it, so ha! Now here I am. I logically *know* things are bad because it's been pointed out to me, but I don't FEEL it.

I feel like being here is all wrong and twisted. My reality is skewed and I can't find the ground.

I still try. I want to find my self. I know I have help, both seen and unseen. I know I have people who love me, as evidenced by the explosion on Facebook when I went missing. I was trying to get home; not here home, but Home home. I just wanted to get out of this trap where gravity is all wrong. I feel like I'm dancing with David Bowie in Labyrinth and the stairs are all wonky.

I know bed. I know sleep. I know children need breakfast and school. I know there is cleaning and dogs and oh, yeah, I should eat. Sleeping is hard. I know that plays a big part in the stress because I get three or four hours at a time before I wake up and can't get back to the dream I was in.

Are my meds working? Probably not. Not when I think about it. Not when I'm sitting here wishing I could just escape and fly away. But the thing is, I don't feel the fog. I can feel the sunshine. I can find the laughter. I just don't feel connected to it. Does that make sense?

It doesn't make sense to me, but that's my reality right now. I enjoy the quiet, but I am afraid to be alone. If I'm alone, I might float away. But I don't want to be alone with my rowdy, lovely, loud, wonderful children. Yet I have to, and yet they drain me. They need me. Right now that feels so overwhelming.

So here I sit, writing the words about my mind. About my brain. Wishing that I could lose myself in fiction, and unable to. Wishing I could create, but stare at a wall or a blank page in a sketchbook unable to find form or figure.

Creating, zoning feet, connecting with people: that was how I felt the spirit, that was how I knew who I was. I could feel God guiding my hands, my thoughts, feel Him encouraging me along. And now that's gone.

How does one function when one's talents disappear? How does one re-learn how to listen? it's as if everything I've known and done since I was a child has been ripped away from me, and I am an empty husk.

If there truly is a reason for me to still be here, I have to find ME. Have to. I have to fit somewhere. That may make no sense to some. That may sound entirely selfish to others. But I am more than just a mother. More than just a wife. Kids grow up and leave the nest and I refuse to be a shell when they find their own lives. I was me before I was wife or mother, I should be able to continue to be me while in those roles.

I don't understand why my brain chemistry suddenly changed. I don't understand the plan. I wish I could see it. I wish I could know what the proposed end to this road is. I need to find my connection to it if I'm going to survive.

I have a friend who is a therapist, and he mentioned something about self-identity and how it related to one of his clients. I think I know now how I self-identify, and I don't know how to adjust that image to accommodate the changes in my brain chemistry. I thought I could a few months ago. I either don't know or can't remember what my plan was.

What am I now? Just a mother? Someone who cleans, cooks, and pleases everyone in the home except herself? Has dinner on the table at 5:00 and fresh cookies from the oven when the kids get home? Has that EVER been me? Oh heck no. Nor do I ever want to be that. I want to play and make messes and throw water balloons at my kids. I want to teach them how to play football and giggle at Junie B. Jones books. I want to read, and write, and express myself.

WHERE DID ALL THAT GO????

Sunday, April 5, 2015

On Politics and Religion

Politics:  Oh, hey, guess what? I have opinions about gun control, abortion, marriage, government, and all kinds of stuff. And I vote accordingly.  Hopefully you do, too. And I hope some of you have very different opinions than I, because it would totally suck and be boring if we all thought the same.


Religion: Yep. I totally am religious. I believe what I believe and I --very much imperfectly-- try to live it. I'm pretty sure there are millions, if not billions, of people who are also religious. And millions who would consider themselves spiritual, or agnostic, or atheist, or some other belief / non-belief 'label.' And how cool is that? All these different ideas, all these beautiful ways of seeing the world and life and each other.

So, yep. I have my opinions.  Hopefully you have yours. I love that you have yours. I'll believe what I believe over here, and hope, hope, hope that what you believe and choose makes you happy, too.

Can we be friends even if we're different?