Friday, July 29, 2016

Things about Stranger Things

A Netflix original series has popped up and swiped its arm across the table in a gesture that clears the playing field for horror. 

Stranger Things is good, but I'd be happy even if I didn't think it was. It started out as just my friends within and supporting the horror business singing its praises, but has since trickled down even to people who don't normally dabble in that kind of thing. That's great news. That's big news. 

The characterization, the pull of the love between a parent and a child, and the love of friends who become like family, is more powerful than anything else going on. I'd had a discussion online weeks ago with people who said they hated horror. What they meant was they hated terror porn-the miles of meat films with characters you weren't invested in, or didn't even like. 

I can't say I like that stuff either. 

I feel like it's a drive-through hamburger that has been soaked in grease, whereas the refined stuff that is multiple levels is a three course meal from a restaurant with a Michelin Star. It's okay to like the cheap stuff, it's okay to eat it sparingly if you're careful of your health, but judging an entire genre by it cuts the beauty out of it for you-and you might not even know what you're missing. 

Stranger Things is a good example. It even has Jungian themes, sort of disguised as an RPG, but they are definitely there. 

And believe me, it's still plenty creepy. 

It takes the everyday objects and makes them communication vehicles for trapped souls-or harbingers of the arrival of something terrible. It's a great technique, taking something we view as safe, as coincidental, and then twisting it. One of the scariest parts of Silent Hill is the radio. The rising static as you pass by something that wants to kill you-and you can't see it yet-but, now you's there. via GIPHY

And, on top of the frights, there is human complexity. There is desperate sadness. Desperate love. Desperate hope. There are moments when characters decide, in life or death situations, who they are. That's the heart of horror. And Stranger Things being a success means this is becoming more accessible. It's a period piece, doing a great job or portraying the 80's right down to the title sequence. It's also a quick watch, there's no reason not to try it out. 

Monday, July 18, 2016

The Summer V 2.0

Trying to get things put together over the summer is, well...

Are we taking pictures?

Take a picture of these sticks we painted (they actually
do look pretty cool). 

Take a picture of my new hat. I found it in the sandbox.

Hectic. I don't have an illusion it will get faster or better when school starts again, because then you have a lot to get ready and be present for even if the older kids are gone for several hours a day. Being the caretaker means these projects are between laundry piles, and meal plans. It gives you some time to do routine things and daydream, but it also means you've got to struggle for balance-which most parents probably do. Graduating and finally being able to participate in life right now is about dealing with all the things I had no time or space for during the last two years, it's been weeks busy with appointments rather than the summer I thought was coming. 

I wonder, sometimes, if a regular 9-5 (or 7-3, in the case of the education system) would have been better. Would I be less stressed, working for a direct paycheck. Would we be better off financially? Would the kids have a better role model of a working mom? 

Yeah. Probably. 

But this is what I do. 

If the afterlife is a place, I think the first people I'll ask to sit with and have a drink while talking to will be people like Poe and Van Gogh. I want to know how they dealt with being creators when, during their time, they were mostly not valued. Most of us dream of when the whirlwind of work required to be an artist/writer makes a difference in our lives, and a difference in lives of our children. 

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Oculus as an Allegory.

I'd been excited for and gone into the 2014 film Oculus thinking it would be an incredibly psychological story of horror. It was. But I spent most of the film swallowing that lump in my throat. It's a tragedy, too, make no mistakes. They did a good job of going for the heart and then the head, but the realism in it was almost too real.

The perfectly captured, in an other-worldly way, growing up in a dysfunctional household.

The walking on eggshells, the avoidance, the wondering of whether you were interacting with the parent who seemed to care about you or the one who wished you didn't exist-and the horror when you mistook one for the other. 

The worst scenes were when the kids, overwhelmed with the madness in their home, tried to get help. Phone calls didn't work-the same demonic voice repeated a scripted phrase until it melted into gibberish. Outreach to the neighbors was brushed off as mischief, as wanting attention. 

If your emotionally abusive parent could even kind of hold it together in public, you were always dismissed, save for those who could look and really see beyond the thin veil. And, most of the time, even they can't help. The powerlessness of that was recreated almost perfectly. 

Mental illness and personality disorder, like the Oculus mirror, shatters entire families for generations. Like the mirror, it also has no "good guys vs. bad guys", for the ill themselves are trapped and suffering. However much you want to help, with things like this, there will never be any change without the willingness to undergo it...

The film, most importantly, shows the two ways of dealing with such a traumatic past in the two children, adults when the film first opens: acceptance and moving on, and becoming enmeshed. One gives you a chance at a better life, though you yourself must seek help in the form of therapy and healthy ways of coping with what you survived, and the other just leads to you being as trapped as the lost spirits in the Oculus mirror. 

No or low-contact, and finding healthy ways to draw out the poisons fed to you by those ill are the ways you survive such events, such backgrounds. You might lose family support, but those who can see behind the smoke screen will have known for as long as they have known you, and you can set out making and keeping healthy relationships much easier without dragging unresolved trauma around (it's heavy). I was incredibly fortunate, I had friends that are family in all but blood, which, to me, doesn't count for a lot, other than coincidence. The love of a support system make a greatest difference, but...

It is you that must do this healing, this inner work, with no expectation of help from those who were supposed to love you...and could not. The good news is- it's possible to do so. Self-care and trying to put together the best life I could for my children and myself and and my spouse has kept me together throughout, and it keeps me looking toward the future, instead of reliving painful moments of the past.  

As for the film, it's a good film. Really underrated for what it accomplished. I'm not sure what the writers and producers intended, whether this crafting to be similar to the dysfunction of a regular home was carefully sculpted, or an accident, but it spoke to me on that level; and it reiterates how important it is we use things like horror and fiction of all kinds in order to make sense of the senseless, to remind us of what matters. The scary stuff, however much people don't favor it in the mainstream, does that like nothing else. 

Monday, July 11, 2016

Top Ten Tuesday-Ten facts about me.

Via Literary Dust

Top Ten Tuesday's 10 facts about me-

1. I've been writing since Kindergarten (and yes, most of the stories were scary).
2. My natural hair color is almost identical to my skin color.
3. I can't wait until they come out with colored contacts for people with astigmatism.
4. I wanted four children (still do, but am not healthy enough to even consider it).
5. At least four people have told me I remind them of Rose from The Joy Luck Club personality-wise.
6. My favorite kind of music is industrial.
7. My favorite color is black.
8. My heroines as a kid were Morticia Addams and Lily Munster.
9. I consider commercial/gaming art on the same level as fine art.
10. I'm not extremely fluent in ASL, but I can have a conversation with you in it (and so can my youngest daughter).

Saturday, July 9, 2016

High hopes and Buying a Planner, and High Hopes for Buying a Planner.

I had all these grand plans about after I graduated. 

Mostly about taking care of myself-caring for my hair, my body, managing my time. But, like every final I've had in the past two years, I am sick. Another round of kidney stones, not as bad as last year's (I had to give a presentation about the workings of a website for that one), but not fun, either. My mom and I were recently into a serious argument about the handling of my dad's car accident (he's okay, and continued right on along to his MD appointment after being hit, but it was scary). The truth is, we have never gotten along. Arrangements so she doesn't feel alone or abandoned have to be made, but I think meeting on neutral ground and just focusing on the grandkids is the best plan. Right now, though, I just want time. And quiet. Two things I've felt utterly out of my grasp for a long, long time. 

I'd tried to go ahead and take the kids to the park during the early stages of getting sick. I was the only parent at the park in the evening sweating and breathing extremely hard. Lots of fun. Generally there are two stages of hell with stones, the first is the "something is crawling through my guts!", followed by the "I feel like I'm being stabbed with a porcupine when I pee!". The former is my least favorite. >:P But, I'm not in severe pain right now, just...tired.

So, we stayed in today, in a pop-up pool in the backyard and my husband grilled us dinner, and other than running to the store for supplies, I did nothing but watch the kids play. That, not having to be somewhere else or glued to the computer working, I've missed that. 

I did manage to buy myself a weekly planner, a little one from Office Depot, before the stone attack hit. 
The print is my son's from his kindergarten's lesson via "The Kissing Hand".

Using it has already helped, but I probably need detailed stickers to remind me about the daily chore stuff, picking up dry cleaning, I'm not doing so much writing in the tiny spaces. I've been able to make grocery lists in it and plans for when to shop (during school, and especially summer school, it was literally mad dashes in under thirty minutes and clawing through the aisles trying to remember what we were low on and why I made the trip...) and I feel better already. I've missed my last two days of writing due to being sick, but I'm hoping it's not a pattern. At least, writing it down and marking it as done or not holds me accountable. I'll let you know if that helps, but it's worked for every other aspect of my ADD life.

And then, there's this project. 
Forgive the crummy lighting. And the Green Toy's tea cup. The baby thought
she was helping. 

No, not decluttering my bedroom. 

Although I also need to do that. 

These are hand-painted illustrations to be digitally reworked for my children's book. When I met with a comic book artist and manager, he told me to redo the line work on the final four canvases (I feel like I was wore out about midway through this project. It was what got me accepted into the program I was in, but 12+ paintings was a lot of work for a few months, and I think it suffered for that reason) and, going in digitally is my quickest way to fix that. 

I have a cover, but I don't like it. It is missing something and also needs reworked. 

It's a lot, but the skeletal framework is there, and I just need to flesh it out. 

I think the logged writing time in my planner will either count for CDW book II or putting this together. I hope to have progress on both at the end of summer. In addition, the blog needs better graphics, I am looking to join up with a local writer's group, and I have got to put together a functional design portfolio. 

Maybe I can just title an hour slot in the planner as "work" and count it for all of those...

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Certifrycation Class, and What I Really Learned...

*No, I didn't misspell "certification". The title is an inside joke for fans of "Chowder". :)*

Tonight was my last night of class. 
My peanut butter ice cream cake. Because when you're an adult, you
get to make your own damn cake for special occasions. 

Without the editing or even the extra credit, I will have kept my all "A" standing, and I have completed my certificate of Graphic Design. 

Me and my trusty companion, Flashy McDrive, who survived
Maya, Terragen, and other terribly complicated files...
It's short of my BA, but the focus on this was technical work-hours with Maya, Illustrator, Dreamweaver, (insert Adobe product here), etc... , I felt this was the better choice for me.

I started when our third child, my baby, was four months old. My pregnancy, filled with worry and sickness, my child herself born in ill health, and me, reeling with self-doubt from events I couldn't control-all of it overwhelming. We moved when I was in school as well, that first semester; I sometimes painted canvases on the floor of my parent's house or in the hotel in the late hours as we waited for everyone to finish their move-in paperwork. I was still in school when my mother was hospitalized, a second time, and my friends, new and old, had to help me pick up the slack to even visit her. How many nights did my husband, working his demanding job, have to come home and do all the things I couldn't? How many nights did my mom and dad have to do that? 

I've lost count. 
Even the older kids had to do less fun things and sacrifice their time
for all of this. They handled it and helped out really well.

I didn't do it. I couldn't have.

We did it. 

And, at the end of it, I'm left with some lessons and questions for myself.

We, in this day and age, are surrounded with knowledge. You could, for mostly pennies, take a free or low cost course online or work through the tutorials in specific subject books and learn what I did. Okay, you won't get the experience of meeting everyone, but you can kind of curb that too, by starting or joining groups, being taken under the wing of masters in your desired line of work. In the end, you learn with practice. It doesn't matter if you walk through the doors of academia, you can be a learner without having paid for your entry there. So, why did I do this?

I didn't think I was worth it. I didn't think I was worth the time it takes away each day to study on my own, to work, to learn. And, if you are in the arts, everyday you are not doing work, you are losing money. Certainly, we suffered tragedies, but I should have, all along, been working, been believing myself worth that time. It's hard to do that, being a stay-at-home parent. You feel only as worthwhile as your most productive day, and if your life is complicated by anything extra, there won't be as many productive days as there will be days of survival. I didn't believe in myself anymore. This was my way of getting that back. I'm not entirely there yet. But I'm trying. And it led to other realizations...

I'm more than this printed piece of paper. This was an adventure, a test for me, and a reframing of what I thought I knew about myself, about my craft. Don't get me wrong. I am grateful to been given the chance to do this-it took so much for me to return to the university and, as I said, it wasn't just me that had to sacrifice, everyone I loved had to. But, would I encourage everyone to do this?
No. No, I probably wouldn't. The support needed to attend a physical university is astounding, particularly if you have other responsibilities, Online might be a better option, and the way I would go if I ever decide to pursue something further in my field in college. I would like to see the day when both online and physical schools offer free or low cost tuition for attendance for everyone, but if that is on the horizon, it still seems much too far for most of us. 

You see, my class dates are over, my assignments done. 

But the work, the work is just beginning.

I have to keep up the pace, without the aide of a guiding professor or a looming date. This time, it will be on my own. 

 The hours of devotion to what we are given the chance to master in this life still demand to be logged, and if you truly want to do something great, you must log them. You don't need to be a college student for that, if you don't want to. You will be no less a master, at least in our sectors of diy knowledge, for things like writing or art. And while you need the piece of paper to be an astrophysicist, don't let that stop you from studying it yourself- if it's what you love. 

I guess that is the lesson, actually. You're always worth it-whatever time you need to take to make yourself what you want-you're worth it. 

Monday, July 4, 2016

Deadlines and the Things Before and After Them.

After a laid back Independence Day, which consisted of taking the older kids to visit and swim with our family friends, and watching glittering and mostly quiet fireworks in a very dark playground, I'm finishing up my last project.
The ad for my last project, a product line. It's not critiqued and might change a bit, but
this is mostly it. 

My last project at this university. We get to review with our peers, and let them gently tear down the weak spots so we can revamp, but this is it.

And it has been an obstacle course here lately. Two cars in need of repair, one of which we never would have been able to fix without help from our family, a quick mini-vacation to a cabin squeezed in between deadlines, and, after feeling horrible for a long time, I was finally told I was anemic. 

I'm getting better now, with iron pills and hormone therapy, and the pains in my legs doesn't wake me from a dead sleep. The headaches are less frequent, the weird tightening and numbness in my hands not the huge deal they were. The worst part of it was being out of breath while doing ALMOST NOTHING. It impaired even being able to carry my toddler on outings. Coming back around the other side of this, I sort of wondered how I didn't put it all together on my own. Even my MD's nurse asked why the hell I didn't come in, and I didn't have an answer. We were just too busy.

I've started a list of things I want to do in the week after school, as we catch our breath. One is getting my hair cut (mine is thick, and summer is hard with long, thick hair), the second is buying myself a personal planner to make my daily world, when I'm not subject to telling time via when an assignment is due, easier. And the third I want more of the laid back time of summer. The not going to places that require too much driving summer, the swim every chance we get summer, the have time for people who need us this summer. 
Our cabin view. 

The best photo I could get of all three of them.