Trees 101


I've embarked on a massive purge of my home office and am finding a lot of stuff I never did anything with.

Update, 2:11 p.m.: My friend and coworker Veronica points out that today is Arbor Day, which is entirely coincidental. Weird.

Creative process: Flaky people who work full time and like to drink and take themselves too seriously sometimes edition

I was really into the idea of doing a big, beautiful cactus mosaic, but the design wasn't coming together and then I decided I wanted to do an ocotillo instead, but then that was looking like it was really going to suck too. So I scrapped the whole thing.

Then I just lost all momentum. I spent my evenings drinking wine and sulking in front of the internet for a couple of weeks before deciding that maybe I needed to shift gears for a while.

Suck so much

Really, cut it out!

I also realized I needed to stop beating myself up for not doing something fun and creative every damn spare minute of the day. That's just stupid, as well as extremely counterproductive. (Plus Jesus, take a step back, I'm not not saving lives here. Everything will still go along just as it does if I don't glue some crap to a board or whatever.) 

Luckily, just as I had decided I was not necessarily creatively broken forever, I ran across some projects left over from last year when I had plenty of ideas and no time; now that I had some time and no ideas I was free to finish them up.

One turned out super crappy so I won't post it here, and another is a surprise for someone so ditto, but I can show you this lino cut I abandoned last spring but started again last week.


I need to clean it up a bit and I want to give it a caption, but it's largely finished now.


Once I started making progress on that, I felt much better. I drew a bunch of dumb little doodles and cut them out, just for fun.

This Saturday my friend Phyllis came over. The two of us drew a bunch of little doodles together and cut them out and used them to make a collage.

Tornado warning

It rained all day, so that's where the weather theme came from. Eric sat at the table with us and worked on his own project and we played records and listened to the rain and shot the shit and made a goofy little art piece together. When we were finished we celebrated with a few margaritas. It was a great afternoon. 


Finally, yesterday I got this little dude from the housewares clearance aisle in Marshall's. I plan to tile her up and put her in the backyard. Should be a fast-ish project. 

So now art is fun again. The cactus/ocotillo/failure board will join the growing pile in the corner of my office of unfinished and unstarted projects. Some I'll pick up again and finish; some I will keep stumbling over until I decide to move them to the trash can out front. I'm learning that if something just isn't working that it really is okay to quit, at least for a while. There's only so much time and energy, you know?


It's the 27th anniversary of my mom's death.

When you live with grief for a long time you know you're going to feel all kinds of ways about your loss depending on the season or the day--sadness, acceptance, the sensation of being punched repeatedly in the solar plexus--and sometimes, for long stretches, not very much at all.

This year I mostly feel angry. I'm 40 this year, the same age my mom was when she died. That's preposterous, that this--this spot where I am now, where I have some things to look back on, and things still to look forward to, and things to regret forever and things I still have time to fix--this was all she got, and the last few years of that so frightening and full of pain to boot.

It's appalling. I'm so pissed. I've felt like kicking something all week, but there's nothing to kick.

So what can I do? Have lunch with my sister, walk the dogs, pull some weeds, pick out Christmas presents for people I love, cook dinner for Eric, text with my friends and family. Write an inadequate blog post. Drink wine, cry a little. God damn it.

No more November!

This month went fast. And now I am no longer under a self-imposed obligation to post every day. Which I did do, mostly, although the writing was thinner than I'd hoped. I guess it takes more practice than just a few weeks.

Still, on a personal level, it was a very good month, and daily blogging lends shape to things. It encourages you to notice things more, to distill things into a few paragraphs--or, conversely, to find at least one thing to salvage from a shitty or utterly unremarkable day.

I do plan to write more than I have been, but I am not going to post every day in December. There are enough obligations in the month already. So I'll post when I feel like it, and be quiet when I don't.

Hey, look! By my clock it's just now December as I'm wrapping up this post. Thanks for reading. Come back and see me soon.

Greetings from the toy convention.

The people watching here is amazing. It's nerds on parade, flowing through the aisles like a river, and it's beautiful. Blue hair, cat T-shirts, punny tote bags ("Sofa King Rad," with a little cartoon king poking his sword and crown out of a couch-cushion fort was my favorite). Hot dog tights.

HOT DOG TIGHTS. Jammed into black patent-leather platform shoes.

One guy in his early 20s breathlessly told me, "I love this place because at home we're all weird but then we get together and you see how many of us there are!" I wanted to hug him but instead I just sold him a sticker. My face hurts from smiling. Some of that is come-buy-our-stuff customer service smiling, true, but mostly it's genuine.

Fulmination culmination


Freshly-painted heads. Photo by Eric.

Tomorrow morning we fly to Los Angeles to attend Designer Con, an art and toy extravaganza in Pasadena. Eric rented a booth there and has been feverishly painting, designing, printing, and packaging toys nearly every day for the past several months. It's been intense.


A couple of krampuses. Photo also by Eric.

He's been playing around with customizing existing toys for a long time, but it's only in the past few years that he's ramped up his efforts and started designing his own figures and putting them out. He even wrote a backstory for the latest batch. I'm extraordinarily proud of him--plus I'm excited to go take in the spectacle of ~300 toy vendors in one place.

His website is here and he is krotpong on Instagram if you want to go see what I'm talking about.

Dogs, birds, words.

Not much happened today. I got up, made a smoothie, went to work, came home, got takeout, came back home and ate it, and walked the dogs. That was it; that was Thursday. I did not live a great story, as the fake-inspirational wheatpaste signs all over town would have us do.

I do have a few small things to share, though.

The first is this great Vine someone made. You'll have to turn the sound on and let it loop, oh, 20-30 times to get the full effect:

(Aw, come on, play it one more time!)

The second is that I figured out how to flip the bird in iMessage while playing around texting with my friend Leslie.


The new emoji update gave us the little middle finger guy, and it's wonderful. But sometimes you need a bolder, more abstract statement, and that is this:


I sure told them, whoever they are!

(No one was really a jerk to me today. But if someone ever is...)


Fine, I'll just wear a barrel and disappear, then.

I keep seeing sad articles about Generation X, how we're this teeny demographic blip between the Boomers and the Millennials who are going to end up shafted on benefits and have a muted voice in politics. How we are destined to age and die alone, poor, and broken in our desert tent cities, eating dry cat food out of the bag while we tunelessly croon snatches of Nirvana and the Pixies to ourselves.

I think it's all a little overwrought. And yet, my sister and I went to one of the big department stores in the mall tonight to shop for something to wear at our stepmom's birthday party this weekend. We walked through the enormous juniors section--it just kept going and going--and rounded the corner into the Older Women area. Creased slacks, sweater vests with faux-fur collars, crisp blouses with gold-rimmed buttons, rack after rack of this. We kept going and circled around to the fancy dresses, and then the juniors again.

Where was the section for us? There were a few displays here and there that had stuff I would consider wearing, or at least could see people I knew in, but mostly there...kind of wasn't one. I never find much I like in department stores anyway, but the message seemed pretty clear.

"I feel betrayed by fashion," my sister, whose hardest choice at the mall had long been what not to buy, said a few minutes later while we pawed through limp, uninspiring tops that were just a little too young for us at another national chain. She seemed genuinely distressed. I didn't know what to tell her. "Join the club, kiddo," seemed callous and obnoxious, and I am trying to be less of those things.

Plus, I felt a little disquieted myself. If we're such a nonentity that the big guys aren't even bothering to market to us during our biggest earning years, maybe there really won't be any social security left by the time we're 67.

A few things I liked today:

Ooh, shiny!

Ok, this first one is boring because it's just the weather. But oh, wow, today. Cool air, yellow sun, blue skies, green everything else from the rain. Days like this are a Texan's reward for putting up with August.


The next thing I liked is a little boring too. Ok, boring's not fair at all; it was slow and contemplative, as is only fitting about a documentary about a topiary gardener.

I think A Man Named Pearl is only available on DVD right now, but it was worth waiting for. A really sweet movie, with lots of greenery to enjoy if you like that kind of thing. Many thanks to Phyllis for recommending it.

Bow wow

(I don't have a picture of Phyllis at the moment, so here's a picture of her dog Bow Wow instead.)

The last thing I liked today, or at least liked enough to write about it, is this blog. It looks like it hasn't been updated in a while, but it's written by Mad Mike, a man who spends his days walking around Austin looking for, and often finding, drugs on the ground. His lengthy account of the week he spent in jail is excellent. This Vice interview gives a quick background of the guy if you're curious.

Now, sadly, I must stop looking at things I like and go to bed. I hope your day was full of things you like too.


I went to the eye doctor today. I read for a living, so I am careful to get my moneymakers checked every year.

They're in good shape. Everything was stable; my prescription is the same as last year. But in addition to the usual jumble-of-letters eye chart, we did some close reading tests this time too. I passed all of them.

"You have a good range," my doctor told me. "You don't need bifocals."

Well, super! Except it had not even remotely occurred to me that I might need them. I asked her when people's close vision starts to degrade.

She glanced at my chart and then looked at me. "About now," she said.

"Oh!" was all I could think to say. Then I thought, but not me. And then I thought, not yet.