February Update

Hello blog! Just a quick check-in to let you know I survived the holidays. December Sketches, Christmas, New Years, my birthday, Valentine’s, Etc.

I finished the December Sketch-A-Day Challenge  and completed 31 sketches for the first year ever! It wore me out, though, and I wasn’t super thrilled with all of my sketches. Well, okay, here’s one that turned out nice.

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I’ve also have visitors. Four whole people in December, including my brother and some very dear friends. Two of whom stayed for almost a month.

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And then my parents visited, and we went to Cambodia, which was my first time leaving  Thailand in a lot of months. Then my parents went to India, and then came back to Bangkok where I met them a week later, so it was like they visited twice.

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At the end of a long day of touring Angkor in Siem Reap, Cambodia. Angkor is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, commonly referred to as Angkor Wat. Angkor Wat is actually the most famous of many ruins, and we are standing near the back of Angkor Wat in the photo above.

Oh, and on my birthday I had dinner outside by the river with these lovely people (and the guy taking the photograph, sorry Andrew!). They even got me a CAKE, which was ridiculously sweet. Then, at home, I had a drink out of this glorious unicorn goblet which recently arrive in the mail from Lady Higg.

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I’m also writing, when I can. I’ve been wrestling some plot demons, but I think I’ve found a solution—to at least some of the problems. What with preparing final lessons and student grades, picking up an extra class, making travel plans for my last few weeks, and job hunting, it’s been hard to find the time. Did I mention I’ll be home in less than a month? See you soon!

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A Lost Month, and Beautiful Things

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Floor at Wat Pha Sorn Kaew, Buddhist Temple in Khao Koh, Thailand

Okay. We have some catching up to do.

First of all, culture shock is real, and I lost August. Not entirely lost—I traveled to Chiang Mai and Bangkok, I wrote some, and planned and organized thoughts for the rest of my novel. I went to school every day, and joined my friends for dinner and lunch and afternoons at coffee shops. When I wasn’t with people or fulfilling a work obligation, though, I was lying on my bed watching Gilmore Girls, and even when I was with people I mostly felt really, really bad. I identified with many of the things on this “13 Lies Your Depression is Telling You” list, I felt like a terrible teacher, and I wanted to go home.

I don’t know how much of this was the isolating effects of culture shock, and how much was mild depression. I’ve always struggled with ups and downs and probably always will, and going to Thailand in the first place was a response to some pretty serious negative feelings about my self-worth. I didn’t feel like I was capable of anything, so I went to the other side of the world to prove myself wrong. I’m not necessarily knocking this as a solution, but… you’re still you, even in Thailand, and all those bad feelings won’t instantly go away.

I’m doing amazing now, though, and I’m really grateful to everyone who sent me emails and skyped and chatted on facebook and talked and ate meals with me during my bad month. The human contact was so needed and appreciated. Somewhere along the line I got really cynical about a lot of things, and I made a decision a few weeks ago to be more grateful and less self-defeating. To believe that things can be done when I start them, instead of assuming laziness and failure from the outset.

Here’s what I’ve been up to:

Running. Thursday will mark three weeks successful completion of my 5-runs-a-week routine. I run around our school building (.4 miles a lap!) and the students laugh and smile at me. They wave and shout “Hello teacher!” when they see me, every time they see me, which is sometimes three or four or even six times per run! This is a good system because I always run a little faster after a student makes me smile. My favorite was when a group of M1 girls (seventh graders) said, “Teacher, fighting!” as I went by. That’s my new mantra, whenever I’m out of breath and want to stop: Teacher, fighting!

Strength training. Three days a week, I’m doing push ups and squats and crunches. Like, more than I knew I could do. I’ve flirted with pushups in the past, and exercise machines and stuff like that, but this is the first time I’ve realized how it works. You do this. It feels like this. This is uncomfortable, but instead of stopping you do a few more, or a lot more. Sweat drips onto your yoga mat, your muscles surprise you, and you feel fierce. In a few days, you come back and do even more.

[Reality check: I still can’t do more than three full push-ups in a row. Instead of letting that discourage me, I’m killing it with the modified ones and I’ll work my way up to full ones very soon.]

Other stuff. Stretches and yoga, which get mixed in with the running and strength training. While on a school trip, I got up early to do yoga on the balcony while the sun rose over a misty sea. My yoga instruction is entirely from youtube videos, but maybe all these people who are talking about yoga all the time are actually onto something.

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Environment. My brother told me a while ago that a clean house fights depression, so I’m trying to do things to make my surroundings feel nice—even though I’ll only be here for six more months. It’s difficult because my house is dirty and desperately needs a coat of paint, but I’ve been putting things on the walls and investing in cleaning supplies. I haven’t kept up with the cleaning quite as well as the exercise, but I’m picking things up more often and working on some projects. I’m sewing fabric curtains for an ugly piece of furniture, and I bought a new bed set and a folding table to go by my bed. Little things, but worth it for the happiness I get when I use them, and the happiness that comes from feeling at peace with my surroundings.

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I’ve also done some traveling these last few weeks to the ocean and the mountains. The ocean, man. I lived a ten-minute walk from the ocean for last past two years, and didn’t realize how much I missed it until I saw it again. And yesterday’s ride on a mountain highway to a stunning temple 117 km (70 miles away) was awesome, and now I’m remembering my plans for longer bike trips. Things feel possible again, and it feels especially amazing because nothing felt possible in August.

There’s a lot more to say, always is, but for now enjoy some pictures from yesterday’s road trip!

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The five sitting Buddha statue at Wat Pha Sorn Kaew

Me and Anna, my friend from Germany who has been teaching at the school and sharing my house for the last two months. It was her last weekend in Phitsanulok, and I'm so glad we got to do something fun together!

Me and Anna, my friend from Germany who has been teaching at the school and sharing my house for the last two months. It was her last weekend in Phitsanulok, and I’m so glad we got to do something fun together!

Stairs!

Stairs!

Mountains!

And mountains!

Leaving on a Jetplane

All my bags are packed, it’s time to go

I’m standing here, outside your door…

I’ve been singing that song all week. My bags have been (mostly) packed since late last night, and I’m sitting at the Portland International Jetport waiting to board my first flight. This one’s to JFK, where I’ll board a flight to Abu Dhabi later this evening. My final flight is from Abu Dhabi to Bangkok, and I should arrive about 25 hours from now. I’ve just said goodbye to my parents and my boyfriend, and I’m a little sad. It’s been a wonderful last weekend in Portland, though; my boyfriend and one of my oldest friends teamed up to orchestrate a surprise going-away party on Friday evening, and there have been a lot of good times around all the packing and panicking and last-minute goodbyes. Thank you for all the support and well-wishes; I love you all, and I will do my best to keep you posted as my journey continues.

So, I’m moving to Thailand in a week

Maybe I should have mentioned something earlier?

It was such a hard decision to make that I didn’t want to post anything before everything was settled, and then when everything was settled I became too busy to do anything else.

I’ll be teaching English at Princess Chulabhorn’s School in Phitsanulok, Thailand, for an entire year. To prepare, I have been taking an online TEFL (Teach English as a Foreign Language) Certification class, which includes a 20-hour practicum that I have been serving by volunteering at an adult ESL class in my community. I have a week to pass my final exam, move out of my apartment, pack my bags, and say goodbye to family, boyfriend, and friends.

And then… well, then I’ll have an adventure. Updates to follow.

See you in Bangkok.

Day 1

December Sketch-a-Day challenge. It’s happening. I can’t tell you how excited I was when two of my friends posted sketches to the facebook group today before I’d even started thinking about my sketch for the evening. And here’s that sketch, by the way, my second annual It’s The Monday After Thanksgiving, Work Sucks, and I Need a Haircut self portrait (you can find last year’s here.) And remember it’s not too late to join the december challenge;  you can post sketches to your blog or find us on facebook by searching for the December Sketch-a-Day Challenge facebook group.

I probably won’t post sketches here every day, but I thought I’d let you know that I’m off to a good start.

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NaNoWriMo and December Sketch-a-Day Challenge

Winner-2014-Web-BannerI finished NaNoWriMo today. I wrote my 50,000 words, and that’s a wrap for November. Here’s the graph; I even managed to stay pretty close to par all last week, despite traveling to Boston for a really lovely Thanksgiving dinner and weekend with cousins and friends.Screen Shot 2014-11-30 at 6.25.21 PM

I have a lot more time to do creative work than I thought I did, but I need to be working hard every month of the year, not just November. Last year, in the wake of NaNoWriMo, I instigated a Sketch-a-Day challenge for December. I didn’t finish in time, but Ruthanne of A More Colorful Life sure did and I still think it’s a great idea. So this year, I’m doing it for real. If you need an artistic kick-in-the-pants, please join us! I’ll link to your blog if that’s where you’re posting December sketches, and if you’d like to join the online December Sketch-a-Day Challenge community, do a Facebook search for the group I made (it’s called December Sketch-a-Day Challenge) and request to join. The goal is 31 sketches, 31 days.

The Sketch-a-Day Challenge is my big goal for December, but I don’t want to stop writing. I also don’t think I told you anything about my NaNoWriMo novel? It’s the self-indulgent telepathic dragon novel I never knew I had to write, and I don’t think I’m even fifty percent through the story at 50,000 hastily-written words. I have a lot of good stuff, especially good ideas, but a lot of those words are unusable and a lot of them will change once I figure out some answers to the Big Story Questions, and I’m finally at a place where I know which Big Story Questions I should ask. So I’m going to keep working on it. Most especially, I am going to take some time for outlining and researching and organizing—all the things I didn’t have time for during NaNoWriMo. I know I need to do lots of non-word-count related work on the story, and I know my sketch challenge will take up the majority of my daily creative energy, so I am setting a very small writing goal of 500 words a day. This makes a total of 15,500 words for the month. That’s sure a significant drop from 50,000, and I’ll top it if I can, but I think 500 words and one sketch every day will be enough to be getting on with. And I think I’ll get tired. But I think I can do it.

What are your goals for December?

NaNoWriMo, By the Way

NaNo Stats for 22 November 2014

NaNoWriMo Stats for 22 November 2014

I’ve been quietly doing NaNoWriMo all month. That stats photo above is from yesterday, my most heroic day of writing so far, where I wrote 7,027 words and caught up on four days of writing in one 12-hour period. It was day 22, yesterday, and last year I didn’t break 37,000 words until day 28, so historically speaking I’m ahead! And most importantly, caught up to par, if I can manage around 2,000 words today (which I’m sure I can).

Having a local writers group who are also doing NaNoWriMo has helped a lot this time around. We’ve met up for write-ins a couple times a week, sometimes at apartments and sometimes at bars, and it helps so much to be able to discuss plotting and inspiration issues with other folks who are sharing the same frustrations.

I think the best thing about NaNoWriMo this month is that the consistent goal has allowed me to notice patterns, and to be more aware of how the choices I make affect my workflow. This week, for instance, I began the week officially Caught Up after some pretty intense work days over the weekend. Monday, I stayed on track because I didn’t play a really fun looking board game with Brother, Mr. Huntington, Brackett, and Ranger B. Instead, I said hello to everyone, went into my room to write, and then said goodnight and went to bed. Tuesday, I stayed on track because I didn’t plan a big dinner for myself and Mr. Huntington. Instead, I microwaved something for myself after work while I caught up on my word count, and then I invited him over afterwards to watch Adventure Time and drink hot chocolate. Wednesday, I had a horrible, no good, very bad day at work, and I didn’t write because I only had enough energy afterwards to eat the dinner Mr Huntington cooked for us and go to bed early. Thursday, I didn’t write because I attended an event with Mr Huntington after work, and then got dinner with friends, and then it was bedtime. Friday I PLANNED to write, and I invited over some writing buddies for that express purpose… but sometimes your writing night turns into a medley-themed party (we had a carrot medley, a ravioli medley, and a wine medley) and I had a beautiful time talking with my friends and didn’t write a single word. And all of this was allowable, because I did have a spare 12 hours on Saturday, yesterday, in which to write for all four days.

So the lesson is compromise? It’s always been compromise, but when I don’t have a clear goal the things like boardgames and events and nice home-cooked dinners always take precedence over spending a few hours alone with my computer. And I think we’re somewhat conditioned to choose the social activity, to do the thing, to not be lame and not be a hermit. And I don’t regret the choices I made on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday to be social rather than productive. The social activities were seriously important and productive in their own ways, good for my relationships and good for my mental health. The difference between this week and every other week was that I knew what those choices meant for my writing goals as I made them, and I traded those three nights for my entire Saturday. And then I followed through, and caught up to my goal.

ADDENDUM: Speaking of goals, remember that Sketch-a-day challenge I started in December last year? I didn’t complete it last year, but this year I’m going to try again and think I can do it. Stay tuned.

And then I stopped making excuses and started working on my illustrations—patiently, slowly, and a little more every day.

The end.

Or the beginning.

Most likely, a particularly productive bit of middle. I’ll try to stick with it as long as I can.

Work in Progress!!

Work in Progress!!

 

31 Sketches

Back in December, I promised you 31 sketches; one for every day, to be completed by the end of the month. Obviously, I fell a little short. I’M REALLY BAD AT THINGS SOMETIMES. Today, February 23rd, I’m finally giving you 31 sketches. They’re at the bottom of this post. It may be months late, but I’d like to say “I did it,” so I can move on. Before scrolling down, though, you should browse over to someone’s blog who isn’t bad at things, who actually completed the sketch challenge on time, and who met all her artistic goals for the year. And who I don’t think I actually said Happy Birthday to, even though her birthday is the same day as mine. So! A belated happy birthday to my Aunt Ruthanne of A More Colorful Life, born on the best day for birthdays, and a big congratulations to her for completing all her goals this year. Check out her sketches for the sketch challenge (Sketching Again, Still Sketching, More Sketching, Sketching and Beyond!), her first big painting, her art doll with the best hair, and her tie-dye art quilt (that doubles as the blog banner!). This year, she’s already set a new goal to make 50 paintings. It’s really inspiring to see someone actually doing all the art stuff they want to do, and I hope I can follow Aunt Ruthanne’s example into this next year.

Oh, and here are those sketches. If you’d like the bigger version of anything, just let me know.

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Very Inspiring Blog

I have been nominated for an award! Many thanks to Ben over at Shudderingwords for the nomination. He is writer working hard on his book, and also blogging and doing the college thing at the same time. Pretty inspiring stuff!


Since it’s right after thanksgiving, I’m going to use this as an excuse to list fifteen blogs I’m thankful for. I recognize that this functions a little like a chain letter, and if anyone I’ve nominated would rather not take a whole blog post to continue the chain I won’t be in the least offended. Just know that I enjoy your blog and I hope you keep doing what you’re doing!

Below are the rules for the Very Inspiring Blog Award so please follow carefully:

1. Display the award logo on your blog.
2. Link back to the person who nominated you.
3. State 7 things about yourself.
4. Nominate 15 other bloggers for this award and link to them.
5. Notify those bloggers of the nomination and the award’s requirements.

SEVEN THINGS ABOUT ME (as if this blog hasn’t been completely about me since day one…)

1. I’ve spent A LOT of time practicing my harp this week. This is still the new instrument honeymoon phase, but… I really love it. I feel like this is what all of my musical training has been leading up to. I’ve never felt this at home with a musical instrument before.

2. This was the first time I’ve been home for Thanksgiving in five years. I kept thinking it’s Christmas, since that’s usually the only holiday I’m around for.

3. I used to hate mushrooms. Then in my early teens I decided to like them, because I realized that hobbits like mushrooms. I now genuinely love the taste of mushrooms.

4. My bedroom at home (where I am currently staying) is painted a very dark, highly-saturated purple. The trim is dark grey. The paint job in general is very sloppy, which, now that I’m a sort-of professional painter, drives me crazy.

5. I collect various editions, translations, and retellings of the Beowulf epic.

6. I have a lot of verse memorized, including that three-page monstrosity from Tolkien’s The Fellowship of the Ring.

7. I almost adopted a dog this week. It was a near thing. Common sense prevailed in the end, though, and no dog for me.

FIFTEEN NOMINATIONS

Chalk the Sun

Love this blog. Julie writes wonderful book reviews, and also writes elegantly about writing and life.

100 Owls

These owls are cute and majestic. Really nice art.

Ayesha Schroeder

An aspiring writer with an intelligent voice. She also posts tweets from literary agents once a week, which is a really great resource.

The Wizard’s Tower

A writer figuring out how to do it, and being honest about his struggles and triumphs.

Any Singular Woman

Dark, sexy poetry where the rhythm is always spot on.

Black Tea & Birds

Lovely short poems that are pleasing, surprising, and satisfying.

Elizabeth Creith’s Scriptorium

Someone who already has a career in the writing an editing field. The blog is following her current work on a novel called The Swan Harp. I don’t know anything about it, but it has the word “harp” in the title and I can tell Ms. Creith is an excellent writer, so I’m sold!

Homeschool Hijinks

A blog about a girl named Grace who is a home-schooled writer. As a former home-schooling writer named Grace, I find this particularly cool.

A Serendipitous Happenstance

A writer with a work in progress who writes really well about writing and health and other things. Always a pleasure to read.

Possible Truths

This blog is a personal journey; a snapshot of an intelligent person engaging with the world and asking the hard questions with an honest and unapologetic voice.

Kilolightyear

She hasn’t updated in a while, but there’s something about this blogger’s art and sketches that I really love.

Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog

When I first discovered this blog, the current post was a photo of its author surrounded by goats. She is quirky and honest and the blog is fun to read. She’s also raising the money to visit her overseas lover, which is pretty romantic and cool.

Celeste DeWolfe

A real-life friend from school, and a fellow writer and blogger.

Ales to Stouts

You’ve all heard of the excellent Lady Higg? This is her blog, which granted hasn’t been updated in a while, but I find Lady Higg inspiring in general, and her blog will be awesome when she gets back to it.

Witnessing the Past: The Evolution of a Free Mind

Another friend from school, who is an excellent writer with a truly inspiring life story.