Here I lay,
Limbs twisting and clutching
My own trembling body
So tightly that it bleeds.
I can feel the flames at my back.
For too long I had spent my time
Putting out the fires that others set
To trap me
To choke me
To burn me.
I had finally set my own.
Plumes of smoke rise from the blazing bridges.
Smoke dances from the sky.
My lungs fill,
so familiar with the choking
that I had long ago
forgotten how to breathe.
But alone is better than.
But broken is better than.
I can feel the caress of another warmth.
My eyes open to light
pure and potent before me.
In its promise to be better
The light beckons, and I release my tight coil.
My lungs are sharp as they fill with air,
As they exhale the smoke.
It brightens, and I press my palms down,
Muscles aching, burning, as I push myself up.
Here I stand.
My shadow stretches behind me
to remain with the familiar fires
I dare not look back.
My shadow pleads.
It would be easier to stay.
The road illuminated by the light is jagged
The light beckons, brightens.
I step forward,
Shards of broken dreams crunch
And slice beneath my feet.
They weren’t my dreams.
I was an animal behind glass
To be witnessed.
To be the glory of another.
Blood spreads across
The ash filled path
As I walk forward,
Legs tired, and buckling, and burning.
My shadow caresses my limbs.
Choking is better than pain.
Familiar is better than guessing,
Than betting on a future,
Than daring to dream.
I dare not go back.
The grip tightens and I fall to my knees.
They split open from the shards,
By the failure.
The light beckons, and brightens.
Tears clear the ash from my face.
I’m too tired.
Too tired to walk.
Too tired to try.
The shadow covers me,
Begs me to coil again.
The light beckons, and brightens.
Pain of growth is better than
Choking on the familiar.
Trying and failing is better than
For a little while, I’ve been doing these random character design challenges, where people give me random ideas, and I make something out of it. The last one I did was a Squirrel Pigeon Griffin:
These challenges really help me stretch my creative muscles and get the artistic spark going by taking a random idea and bringing it to life. Keeping this muscle strong helps me in my daily art work, as well as my personal projects.
With this in mind, I’m putting together a Creative Play Zoom meeting to do some of these challenges as a group! In the same way as my individual challenges, I will gather some random ideas from around social media. Then, during the zoom meeting, we will all try and draw it in our own styles. There’s no competition with it, only fun!
We’re giving this a try on Friday, November 13th at 4pm EST. If it goes well, I will schedule more!
Here’s what you’ll need:
Something to draw with.
Something to draw on.
An internet connection/ Zoom.
That’s all! The goal here is to have fun. The $15 fee is per household, so anyone can join in! CLICK HERE TO SIGN UP
If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out.
I’ve been developing this character for a personal project of mine. I haven’t revealed much information beyond that, yet, but plan to do so in the future.
She’s been through several phases of design, including style of lines and clothing, and now I’m comfortable with the design and ready to move forward.
Here’s the first attempt:
And here’s how she ended up in the final design, after a few other sketches in between:
I’ll be sharing more about this project as time goes on, so stay tuned!
This week, my Character Design Basics class starts! I’ll be teaching this 4 week course over zoom. There’s no experience necessary, so it’s a great class for kids and adults looking to learn something new. Click Here to learn more and sign up!
On Friday, I asked what I should draw, and I designed a quick character on FB live. Unfortunately, the sound didn’t turn out well. However, it gave me the opportunity to take the character design a step forward.
In this speed drawing, you can see the original sketch book drawing for a moment, before I take off with a more fine-tuned design. This process is normal for character design— the first sketch isn’t the final. It takes time, and trial and error, to shape the final character.
So, here is the final piece for “Spooky Dragon Fairy.” Thank you Vin & Liubo for the idea/ challenge.
▪️What should I draw next? Leave a comment below.
▪️To learn more about character design, you can sign up for my upcoming class: Character Design Basics. There’s no prior art experience necessary, which makes it a great class for kids, and adults looking to learn something new. CLICK HERE!
▪️Please feel free to tag and share with a friend!
A few years ago, I was scrolling through Facebook and taking in all of the First Day of School photographs that my friends took of their children. The kids had backpacks filled to the brim, and their first day outfits were all pristine and unique to them. Most of the kids smiled, while some families went with more of a humorous route and posted photographs of kids clinging to the door, or moping with arms crossed while their parents jumped in the air. I’d smile, and give them a like, then watch my son as he played on the beach.
It gave me an idea.
You see, my son is homeschooled, and for the past few years we have spent the first week or two of September on the Cape. So, while most kids had been shuffled back into their classrooms, we spent time on the nearly empty beaches and in the quiet museums.
That year I thought it would be funny to take portraits of Brayden on the beach and title them “Not Back to School” pictures. It would show how we could take his education on the road, and give a bit of a nod to the tradition of the First Day pictures. While it did get some laughs, it also became a yearly tradition. It was a way to make sure I had new portraits of him as he and his personality grew.
Here’s one from last year:
Obviously, this year is a bit different.
The pandemic has shifted things for everyone. For the most part, kids won’t be back to school. Remote learning is back on the rise, with some schools doing a hybrid program. I’m sure we’ve all been following that news, so I won’t dig into it, but the point is that the First Day pictures will look and feel different, if they happen at all for some families.
Our plans have changed, too. We were lucky to have been the first ones into the house we rent on the Cape back in June, so we could quarantine there, but the fall trip won’t be happening. We’ve cancelled all other travel, too, and we’re sticking with safe, local day trips to get us out of the house every once in a while. We’re trying to make the best of things and get creative.This year, that includes his Not Back to School portraits.
I wanted to continue the tradition, in order to capture him at this age, but this year I wanted to add just how different things are. That’s why, in some of these photographs, I’ve included his mask. Quarantine and caution have been important this year for many, and we aren’t excluded from that. With high risk family members, we’ve been careful to keep our circle small, and our outings as safe as possible.
There’s a mix of locations within these photographs. I wanted to include where his father lives, where my partner and I live, and where we take walks together. For the most part, this is how small our world has become, and will continue to be until there is absolutely safe to do anything else.
I encourage all parents to photograph this time in their children’s lives. If they’re homeschooled, remote schooling, hybrid schooling, or going full time with a mask, it’s worth documenting. There will be a day, later on in our lives, where we look back to remember how things were, how things changed, and how we all adapted. Photographs help us remember, and help us share our stories.
We have been homeschooling our son from the beginning.
There are a multitude of reasons behind why we chose to do so, but that in itself would be best served as it’s own, separate post. (Comment below if that’s something you’d be interested in). When we made that decision, we did all kinds of research and planning around how we’d approach it, including how to cover subjects outside of our area of expertise, and how he’d have social time. What we didn’t plan for was how to approach homeschool during a pandemic.
None of us did.
Now, you might be wondering what the big deal is. After all, we’re already used to schooling at home, right? Well, some of the time, sure, but that wasn’t all we did. Sit-down-schooling would only take up a couple of hours in the morning, and then we’d have the remainder of the day for other activities.
The pandemic, and thus the quarantine, has drastically changed things for us. As you look through the following changes you might want to point out that some of these options are opening back up, but in our case, we’re holding out until there are better treatments for COVID-19 because of family members who are high risk. So until then, we’re still operating like we did back when the initial spike happened.
Here are three differences we had during the second half of the school year last year, and things we’re preparing for as we gear up for this year.
1. Field Trips and Travel
Field trips were a major part of our homeschool experience. We’d frequent museums as part of the learning experience, especially the Museum of Science in Boston, which we have a membership for. These trips were a tangible, fun addition to his learning.
Most years, we’d include travel as part of his learning, too. We’ve taken trips to other states, and two other countries. He’d have the chance to explore nature, cities, other museums, and hear different languages, too.
Experience can’t really be replaced. There’s something magical about learning out in the real world, like discussing tectonic plates as we stared at the crack that runs through Iceland, and geothermal activity as we sit in a hot spring and watch a geyser go off. This change has been felt hard by all of us, though we’re trying our best to still get out of the house in safe ways, like with camping or driving up to Maine.
One thing we’ve done, and will continue to do to try and fill that wanderlust, is virtual tours. It’s not the same, but it’s something to experience the outside world while we’re mainly stuck indoors. One of our favorites so far has been the Paris Catacombs tour, especially since he was reading the Tunnel of Bones by Victoria Schwab. He was able to better visualize the setting for the book after the virtual tour, and he has added it on the ever growing list of places he’d like to visit.
Socializing is to homeschool as protein is to vegans. (Yeah, we’re vegan, too). What I mean to say is that this is one of the most frequently asked questions or stated concerns when someone learns that we homeschool. People want to know how kids socialize with others when they’re not in school every day. I’m sure, at this point, we’ll hear it less, but it is a major change for us with this pandemic.
Before COVID forced us to stay safe and separated, we socialized quite a bit. Other homeschooled children would join us on field trips, or we’d attend a co-op, or we’d have indoor or outdoor playdates after the day’s work was done. In the evenings, he would simply go outside and play with the neighborhood kids, most of whom went to the local public school.
Now he has Zoom, Skype, and FB Messenger Kids video chats with his friends. It doesn’t even come close to the experience that he has in person, obviously, but it at least keeps the kids in contact while we’re all in separate situations. As an only child, this part has been hard on him, most definitely. Still, and again, we’re trying our best. The adults in his life have been taking more time to spend with him, and to play. We remind him, too, that this is all temporary.
B plays lacrosse. During the off season, he had been attending clinics for skills practice, too. Sports are not only for socializing, but they’re also great for exercise, sportsmanship, team building, and they add a bit of structure to our weeks. Yes— homeschooled kids can play sports for the local school. Each school district tends to have rules around this, but where we are and at his young age, he just has to live in the district.
There isn’t really much we can do about this one. Sure, we can play catch with him, but none of us played Lacrosse on any sort of serious level. We aren’t a team, we aren’t teaching how to win or lose gracefully, and we aren’t his age. We can’t fully replace the sport he lost, but we can still get him outside.
We take daily walks, which is nice for the mind as well as the body. Aside from that, he plays in the yard, either with a ball or just running around. It’s not the same, and it’s definitely not as structured, but it’s something.
For us, it’s important to keep in mind that these changes are temporary, and there will come a day where we can add life experience back in. Until then, we’re staying positive, and trying to make the best of it.
So what will our days look like now that we can’t really get out into the world? Well, with room for flexibility, because it’s one of the reasons we chose to homeschool, the mornings will be about the same. B will wake up and read for a while, from whichever novel he is working on. After that he’ll have breakfast, because nutrition is important for a growing mind. Then comes the schooling— math (aka teeth-pulling), history and social studies, and science.
Within a couple of hours, the core subjects will be finished, and he’ll have the rest of the day for fun. Every day there is plenty of time for outdoor play, free play, art, music, exercise, and quality time with his family. While this year has definitely been different, we’re still trying to make the best of it.
This week’s post is going to be a bit shorter. The last one was already late, as I’m trying to get out all of my content as I wade through the grime of what I’m working through and healing from lately. Writing is my passion, it’s one of my jobs, and even that has felt heavy. So I’ve turned to writing about my situation, and it’s been helping a little bit.
Writing can be healing, for all of us. You don’t have to be a writer in any other area of your life in order to feel the benefits. Even when it’s hard to describe how we’re feeling, it can help to try. Using metaphors, or writing down direct emotions and occurrences help our minds wrap around what’s happening, and can push us along the healing process.
Here’s what I’ve written about this situation so far:
I’d like to write more about writing as part of the healing at some point, and perhaps I will, but for now I’ll leave you with this- go ahead and write down what’s happening to you. You don’t have to show a single person. You don’t have to keep it. But get it out, and see how it feels.
For the past few years, I’ve taken multiple trips. Some for a day, or a long weekend, and others for a full week or two. Before 2020 started, I had already planned multiple trips both out of state and out of country. Visiting other cities and countries, or simply enjoying some time at the beach has become such an integrated part of my life that not having it, due to COVID has been a bit of an adjustment for our family.
Of course, we’re all having to adjust in one way or another. Travel seems like such small potatoes compared to the upheaval that we’ve all gone through this year. There has been change from every side, and pivoting, and needed flexibility. I’m definitely not discounting any of that, but traveling has still been on my mind, and the lack of it still weighed on my heart.
The year’s planned trips had long been cancelled, obviously. We’ve been in quarantine and have kept our circles extremely small since the beginning of the stay at home orders. Still, we’ve been trying to make the best of things, and still create happy memories during this year. We may not be able to travel like we used to, at least for now, but we can still have fun and explore.
We’ve been camping, we’ve taken drives to the coast, and we’ve been to the drive-in movie theaters twice. Each time we’re able to do something, it lightens the load of the quarantine we’ve been under, but we’re still taking every necessary precaution to stay healthy.
Still, I have been missing traveling, deeply.
So, when the opportunity arrived for a day trip to Maine— and by opportunity I mean access to an entirely safe bathroom— we were excited for a change of scenery and a day of adventure. It was the perfect way to get out of state, but still be safe and not need a place to stay overnight. We packed a picnic lunch, towels, bathing suits, and made plans for the day.
We kept in mind that we might need to be flexible, because each option of where to spend the day was entirely dependent on the amount of people and how well they were social distancing. While New England’s numbers haven’t spiked in a while, we know that the risk is still possible with the increase in tourism and the decrease in vigilance from a number of people.
With our top plans and contingency plans ready, we packed up the car, threw on the Hamilton soundtrack, and we were off.
The drive itself was nice, even with the, “are we almost there?” questions from the backseat. It was a warm, sunny day, and traffic wasn’t too bad as we made our way to York. I could feel the anticipation building as we drew closer, with hopes that we’d have sand between our toes and be able to wade in the cool ocean water. This was followed by quite the exhale of disappointment as we went through town and gazed out at Short Sands.
The beach was packed, the streets were packed, and there were hardly any masks in sight.
I was grateful that we had already discussed this possibility, and had previously prepared our son and come up with contingency plans. The day wasn’t lost, we just needed to pivot and try other ways to enjoy it. Flexibility has been the name of the game with COVID, and this was no exception.
We stopped at our safe pit-stop and had lunch, talked to a couple of C’s friends at a distance, relieved ourselves, and regrouped. It was during this time that an entirely different idea came up, one that we hadn’t discussed before the trip, and it sounded like the perfect solution; drive up Mount Agamenticus and check out the view.
At the very least, it would be a nice view. We wouldn’t need to worry about passing other people while hiking up it, because we’d be in the car and could park at the top. If it was clear enough, then we could get out and look around. So, we finished our lunch, and we headed out.
Thankfully, there weren’t many people atop the mountain. Those that were there were spread out, and each of them was wearing a mask. I sat in the relief that we wouldn’t be stuck in the car for the day, but only for a moment. Of course, it would have been all right to only take a nice drive and look at the sights, but it was so much better to open the door and step out somewhere new.
And what a view it was.
It wasn’t the tallest mountain that I have been on, by any means, but that didn’t make it any less beautiful. The summit’s view of forests and the sea was spectacular, and the greenery around the area was pleasant. We took our time walking around, taking pictures, and enjoying the outdoors as a family. While our son wanted to rush, we were able to slow him down, at least for a little while. He loved looking at the sculptures, the distant view, and the abundance of grasshoppers. We weren’t there terribly long, but it was a beautiful stop.
We drove past the lighthouse that we intended to view, too. Unfortunately, we didn’t get out of the car due to the same overcrowding and lack of masks as the beach, but it was still nice to see as we wrapped up our day.
While the day may not have included the beach, or even sitting on the rocks and looking at the lighthouse, it was still a great family day. I’m grateful that we went, and that it was able to ease a bit of the gnawing wanderlust in my soul.
We’re making more plans for day trips, and how we can accomplish them in safe ways. Continued vigilance will be important for our family, for the high risk individuals especially. We know we aren’t out of the woods yet with this pandemic, but we’re determined to make the best of it, in any safe way that we can.