The Nothing Ocean

So! Here’s another installment of what I’ve been referring to as diary comics, although I think they need another name because “diary comics” tends to mean comics about your day or at least recent past. These are memoir comics in the sense that they are memories from a ways back, but they are diary comics because they are based on actual diary entries.

For this one I chose an entry that was very evocative and poetic because I wanted to see what would happen to my style if I allowed for more expressive and abstract imagery. I had so much fun with this! I let myself get a little messy and I tried some new techniques, like using a sponge with white gouache paint for the ocean spray, a dry brush for inking the waves, and salt for rock texture.

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Leaving Ramona

You guys, I made a comic! It’s been a looong time. The drawing group that I sporadically attend sometimes comes out with a zine of anthology comics based on a theme. I missed out on Cats, Movies, and so many other good ones but for this one- Hometowns- I finally got it together.

I kept it short to ensure that I would start and finish the damn thing, but once I started it was all over way too soon. I can’t wait to get back into doing comics!

This comic really surprised me; I was having a hard time narrowing down this huge topic into one doable story until I stumbled upon a journal entry that seemed to just sum up everything about that intense time into just a few sentences. When I found that it all came together pretty effortlessly. Once again journaling saves the day.

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My Time Machine

I’ve been listening to a lot of the Mortified podcast lately. My mom got me into Mortified several years back, and since then both she and I have performed in Portland branch of the event. (If you don’t know, Mortified is a nationwide movement of people getting onstage to read from their adolescent diaries.) When I did it, I chose the time period of when I was about 17 and it’s intense stuff, losing touch with my friend group and becoming kind of a loner. Listening to the podcast, I started to get curious about who I was in middle school, and what I wrote about getting my period, my first kiss, how I felt about the first day of 8th grade. So I dug into my boxes in storage and found my 8th grade journal, delighted with the detailed descriptions of this awkward and tender time. And when I got to the end I wondered, “Wait- THEN what happened?”

So after some searching I found my 9th grade journal, and 10th (I skipped 11th because I had already gone over that recently), and then got lost in the turbulent roller coaster of 12th grade. Then of course I had to move onto my first year of college and so on. I didn’t read EVERY journal, or even one entire one, but I did a lot of sequential skimming, piecing my past together loosely in my mind. I got an urge to create a timeline of the significant events in my life.

I might still do that, but meanwhile I managed to, for the first time in my life, compile all my journals together into three sturdy boxes, labeled by time frame and arranged IN ORDER. Dang. Twenty five years of journaling, at times almost excessive. I’ve slowed down quite a bit in the last ten years, and that’s why it was so mind-boggling to find thick journals that only spanned a month or two.

Having such densely packed accounts of my experiences is such a gift; it feels like a time machine that allows me to be 12 again, to be 15, 18, 23 again. When I put the journal down I’m left dazed and disoriented, swimming in a strange stew of mixed emotions: yearning, regret, shame, confusion, wonder, joy, and also a compulsion to somehow “make things right” with people who I hurt or abandoned. There’s an urge to reconnect with people who used to be essential components to my life. But I also don’t want to get too caught up in the past, I want to move forward and create new artifacts for my future self to delight in.

In Defense of the Color Pink.

If there is a Most Hated color, it’s gotta be  pink. I don’t think any other color carries so much controversy. Especially now, in these gender neutral times, pink has even more power. Wearing it makes a statement. Refusing to wear it makes a statement. It’s almost impossible to wear pink casually, thoughtlessly.

I think I went through a pink-hating phase as a kid. Purple was obviously the superior color. Pink was my sister’s trademark. Then later purple became lame, and green was the new favorite color. But in my teens, I think sometime after my short lived Goth phase and coinciding with my punk phase, pink made a serious comeback. I came to realize that, as a traditionally “feminine” color, it had been shunned by much of society as a weak, wussy color. Boys didn’t wear it, and most girls didn’t either- only girly girls, and then it was a pastel pink. I started wearing a lot of magenta and dyeing my hair bubble gum pink. My friend Chelsea who had spiky black hair and a “Monroe” piercing liked wearing pink and red together, and she looked like a walking Valentine, singed at the edges.

Later I went through a hippie/tomboy phase, which I’m still kinda in, but I never lost my love of pink. I’m comfortable in pink, I wear it defiantly. And I’ve wondered if maybe I’m more comfortable in it than some women because I’m more masculine in a lot of ways, and pink is my way of tipping the scales a bit. Just like a man wearing pink, I feel comfortable enough in my masculinity to embrace my feminine self.

Now I have a two year old daughter. Sometimes I dress her in pink. (Admittedly, this is partly because pink clothes are often on sale.) Sometimes she wears head to toe pink. Other days she wears red and black, blue and green, or brown and orange. But I’d be lying if I said I don’t consider the public’s view of her when I choose her clothing. And the times when I feel most aware of this is when I dress her in pink. After all, I know a few moms who have actually told me, “I will never dress my daughter in pink.”

Mainly, I want people to know that I dress her in pink not because she’s a girl and that’s what girls are supposed to wear. I like to think that if she were a boy I would be just as inclined. I want people to understand that pink is just a color, a beautiful one, and choosing to avoid it is just making it more powerful. I hope they can see that I’m embracing the femininity of pink in a Grrrl Power kind of way, a backlash against all the pink haters. But most of all, I hope they see my daughter as a person first, and a girl second.

 

Beach Rocks

We spent the last week of the year at a beach house in Bandon, OR with Benny’s family. It was stunning, and the rocks kept stopping me in my tracks, commanding my attention. I loved their shapes and texture. Some reminded us of buffalo.

When we got home I kept trying to paint them. None of them quite capture them perfectly, but it was fun to try.

 

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A Long Time Coming

Art has always been a part of my life in some form or another. I’ve always made time for art alongside work and school and relationships, and oftentimes I’ve blended art into the other aspects of my life so that it becomes not a separate category but just a way of being and seeing. I remember coming home after a day at college studying Symbolic Logic, Metaphysics, and US History, and diving into my box of collage materials and reveling in brilliant, nonsensical chaos. A few years ago I took on the challenge of creating a daily diary comic, which I did for ten months (see Blog Archive Feb 2011 to Oct 2011).

So imagine how I felt when, a few months after giving birth to my daughter, I sadly packed up most my art supplies and moved my art desk to the basement. We just didn’t have the space for it and honestly, I was having difficulty imagining a scenario in the future where I might have the time, energy, and inspiration to sit at my desk and create something.

But a few months ago we bought a house, and we have twice as much space as we did before. I was able to set up an art area again. Also, Mina has been going to bed earlier, around 8:30 instead of her old bed time of 11:00. So I have a few hours in the evening to paint.

  
  

During those 18 months when I wasn’t really making art, sometimes I would  fantasize about the art that I would make if I could. I always pictured bright, colorful paintings, messy but detailed, with some white space, with little to no outlines. It’s so satisfying to see them in front of me, coming to life through my brush, these creatures that have been waiting so long to arrive.

(Side note: This blog post was written on my iphone while I lay on the bed nursing my squirmy, teething toddler so that she could nap.)

 

The Day After Birth

Remember when, the day after giving birth 
you were summoned from your room 
and for the first time 
were away from your new baby, entrusting her 
into the capable and tender care of your husband? 

You pulled your bathrobe closed, giddily waved goodbye
and followed the woman up the wooden steps 
to a room where you undressed and lay on your side, closing 
your eyes and letting your raw, emptied, blown open body 
begin to heal. 

As you lay, breathing, swimming 
in the sensation of hands on skin 
molding muscle and shaping form, your exhausted mind 
drifted and dreamed 
seeing the image of your newborn in your arms, and your hands 
on her became her hands on you and you forgot yourself 
and imagined that you were that fresh, tender baby 
sleeping in your mother's arms, that you 
had suckled and dozed, tiny stomach full 
of that first golden milk, that these were your 
first pulls of air. 

You would surface 
from sleep, remember for a moment that no, you are the mother 
and your baby is downstairs, and you realize that this is the first 
of many moments 
where parent becomes child, child becomes parent-
she, beginning to stretch 
and unfurl her cramped limbs while you 
lay fetal and wrapped in a blanket, as if still tucked 
in the dark haven 
of your mother's young belly. 

One Year Later

It was July of last year. Mina was about two months old and I had her propped up on my sweaty, milk-stained nursing pillow, barnacled to my boob as she had been almost constantly since birth. Benny was crumpled next to me on our cat-clawed green velvet couch, said cat purring indignantly on his lap. Our house looked like several art/cooking/cleaning projects had been abandoned partway through and then kicked around for good measure. I’m sure I had a hungry, exhausted, bewildered look on my face because that’s how I looked for the first six months after giving birth. Looking for something to watch, we found an Aziz Ansari stand up comedy special, who we knew from watching Parks and Recreation. We watched for a bit, chuckling now and then, and then he came out with this bit:

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We forced out a few tense chuckles, and I could feel my cheeks get a little hot.”He’s right,” I thought. “What have we done?! We have this magical little creature in our lives now, but we don’t really have ‘lives’ in the same way anymore. We’ve basically sacrificed everything for the chance that reproducing will enrich our existence in some way. Did we make the right choice?”

Having a baby does seem to reverse every accomplishment you’ve ever attained. Oh, you’ve worked hard to stay physically fit and limber, and have a carefully chosen wardrobe that flatters your figure? Well, now your body is completely different, stiff and painful, flabby and deflated, and the only thing that fits you is sweatpants and your “oversize” shirts.

So you’ve finally got in the habit of washing dishes regularly, putting clothes away right when they come out of the dryer, keeping your documents filed, bills paid, emails responded to, groceries shopped for, yard maintained? Well, now there’s no chance of keeping up on all that stuff. All you can do now is sit trapped under a nursing baby and look around your disheveled house, attempting to clean and organize it with your mind.

You finally found someone you want to spend the rest of your life with and you’ve put time and energy into building a healthy, fun, sexually satisfying relationship? Well, sorry, you won’t see him at all anymore except for a few hours in the evening and maybe a bit on the weekends. You certainly won’t have time to talk about anything besides whose turn it is to get the baby to sleep and what takeout you should order, and if you’re cosleeping forget about spooning. Also forget about sex, especially if your lady parts are still healing from childbirth, which will take much longer than anyone implies.

But now that it’s been a year, I feel a little differently. Not that I disagree with Aziz now, in fact, his words seem even more true, but I have a certain defiant pride instead of sheepish embarrassment. The thing is, when I think back to when I was deciding whether or not to have a kid, I remember that one of the reasons to go for it was that I was bored. What I mean is, I felt like I had pretty much figured out how to do things and I had reached a plateau. I had stopped growing and learning and I wanted to tackle a new project, something BIG that would challenge me and take me beyond the limits of my current capacities. That could mean a few things: I could travel to a foreign country, I could dive into some kind of artistic pursuit, I could take on a physical challenge like a long bike trip, or I could become a mother. Even now I’m not sure what it was that made me choose the last option, because the others sound pretty tempting too. I think partly it was because it was the only thing that, once I had started the journey, there was no going back. All my life I have enjoyed quitting things once they’re no longer fun, but here was one thing I did not have the luxury of quitting. I would be forced to follow this thing through to its conclusion, which meant the likelihood of my complete and utter transformation would be 100%.

I can honestly say that nothing in my life is the same as it was 13 months ago. But I wouldn’t say it was “destroyed”, even though I agreed with Aziz when I heard his views on parenting. I would say that every aspect of my life got turned sideways, upside down, inside out; still there but facing a different direction. Some things that are very important to me (alone time, sleep, art) were almost nonexistent during that first year, but now that I’m slowly starting to get some of that back, an interesting thing is happening: those things have taken on a heavenly glow, and I savor every bit of delicious morsel that I can get. I can do way more in an hour than I could’ve done in a whole day pre-baby. Time is precious, and I can’t squander it anymore. I’ve felt every minute of this past year; I think because I’m living life consciously again.

I also get how hard it is to hold onto yourself after becoming a parent. It’s hard to maintain a sense of self separate from this little being who is dependent on you, to remember that you are also an artist, you are also a musician, you are also a writer, you are also a woman. But because it’s so easy to lose that, it makes me want to hang on so much tighter. It makes me want to root for myself, to pull myself out of the swamp and rub her shoulders, hand her a paintbrush, tune up her guitar. That’s something I realized early on: taking care of yourself is one of the best things you can do for your child. However, knowing that and living it are two different things.

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Yup, Still Pregnant.

So, I’m not really drawing comics right now so I don’t have much to show off on my blog, but I guess there’s nothing stopping me from just checking in anyway.

I’m currently 34 weeks pregnant, hitting the home stretch, and this phase of pregnancy feels WAY different from how it’s been. This whole time I’ve just been settling into being pregnant and marveling at the novelty of it and fantasizing about my baby in a very vague, distant way; and now that I’m not working and I’m basically just chilling at home, finishing up the Harry Potter series and doing embroidery and checking things off my To Do list, it’s becoming very real that life is about to change dramatically.

1499555_10152035807054019_1384147726_n(The first pregnant photo. 10 weeks? I thought I had a belly. Just wishful thinking.)

1460124_10100809219813996_78922525_n(At 20 weeks, Thanksgiving with the family. My baby bump is the hot topic of conversation.)

Pregnancy has treated me well- no health problems, no nausea, anxiety has been fairly manageable- only until the last month or so have I really started to feel uncomfortable, big and bulky and achy, and it’s just hard to move around and get up and I’m starting to feel like a sideshow freak. My belly has gone past being cute and round and now it’s just enormous. Even my husband and my mom who see me regularly sometimes stop and marvel at the monstrosity I’ve become. I feel my baby’s movements inside me almost all the time, and she’s become a substantial being, a creature that could survive outside of me now if she had to. Sometimes I feel impatient and exhausted, like I’m going to be pregnant forever and I think, “You’re STILL in there?! Isn’t it about time you made your way out?” As if she were a lazy teenager glued to the TV.

547533_10152165905637269_944543649_n(About 25 weeks. Really starting to get into being pregnant, and having fun with maternity fashion.)

And even though I’ve been a really good sport through this whole ordeal, once in a while I just break down, and I can’t handle being upbeat and positive anymore. I think mainly what gets to me is how pregnant women are expected to just live their ordinary lives and for the most part they’re treated the same as usual, yet to me we’re on a whole other plane of reality. This spiritual state of being a somewhat godlike creator of life, it’s like losing yourself and at the same time being more yourself than you ever have been or will be. Pregnant women are really floating among the cosmos, we’re drifting along with plankton in the sea, we’re in touch with something deeper than just day to day life.

A while ago I wrote about this in my journal: “I’m worried about money, about giving birth, about the magnitude of bringing a new life into the world. I’m overwhelmed by attention from my friends and family, dealing with the strange transformation of my body, grappling with the pressures of being healthy and conscious at all times, worried that I’m not eating healthy enough, that I’m not active enough, that I’m not listening to my body closely enough. I want people to treat me with awe and respect, not like the same person I’ve always been but now just a little crazier and less predictable. I want to be pampered, taken care of, treated delicately. I feel like I’m pretending to be human, when really I’m a spirit, a beast in transformation, a shifting moon, a stone in the river. I’m not of this world.”

For someone like me who is normally very self-sufficient and prides herself on being low maintenance, this yearning to be pampered and treated like a Queen comes as a surprise. And it’s a hard thing to ask of people around me. But I figure if I’m gonna get that kind of treatment, I better get it now because soon I’ll be a minion for the new Queen on the Block.

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988801_10152208936339019_921398754_n(About 30 weeks.)

Benny and I have been taking a birthing class which has been very helpful and makes me feel more prepared about giving birth. I used to crave a rite of passage ceremony like they have in some cultures- a walkabout or a vision quest, something that would test my strength, endurance, and cunning, and I would return changed- a warrior. I wanted an experience that would take me completely out of myself, give me the kind of focus that you only get when you’re fighting for survival. I have a feeling that giving birth will take me to the very extent of what I can handle, and although that’s scary, it’s also exciting. Not everyone gets to go through something like that. And when it’s over, we’ll have a daughter! Pretty cool.

935015_10151701519174019_653291473_n(This photo was taken around the time that I got pregnant. I thought it was an interesting foreshadow of my belly-to-come.)

So here’s what I HAVE been working on lately- embroidery!

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