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Birthday Cake Santa Claus

Today is the eighth anniversary of the day I made my very first post in this blog. Today also happens to be the day known as the Feast of the Epiphany, Little Christmas, and Three Kinds Day and it usually signals the formal end of the Christmas season. Usually I try to keep such anniversary posts light by tooting my own horn while marveling at how long I’ve been keeping up with this blog. This year it’s different. I don’t feel quite as light-hearted as I have in previous years. And it doesn’t help that that I’m writing this post while the entire region I’m in have been covered in sub-freezing temperatures that have been known as the coldest New Year since 1940 and it had just suffered through something called a bomb cyclone so it is still below freezing outside. I’m still trying to hold on despite the fact that all hell broke loose this past year.

It all started on January 20, 2017 when Donald Trump was sworn in as the 45th President of the United States. It all went downhill fast. It would take several separate entries to describe everything in detail but here are just a few of the highlights (or maybe I should call them lowlights): His penchant for issuing bizarre postings on Twitter that sound increasingly alarming (especially the ones about North Korean leader Kim Jong Un). He has appointed to various cabinet positions people who either lack experience or are outright hostile to the positions they have been assigned to (such as appointing a climate change denier to lead the Environmental Protection Agency and giving the Department of Education a new leader who is not only a proponent of for-profit charter schools but is also hostile towards the idea of having government-funded public education available to all children). Then there are his frequent weekend golf trips. This guy has taken more vacation time in his first year of office than his predecessor, Barack Obama, have in the eight years that he occupied the White House.

And don’t even get me started on that recently passed tax reform bill that Trump says he will sign where the wealthy individuals and corporations will get major tax cuts while middle and low income people will not only have their taxes raised but the social safety net will be shredded even further than it already has been in the nearly 40 years since Ronald Reagan was elected president.

Some of my problems are personal. My mother’s health has been deteriorating slowly over the past few years ever since she has been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. It’s gotten to the point where I have to make all the phone calls because she literally no longer has the energy to even make calls on her cell phone. She doesn’t even return any voice messages I leave on her cell. Our conversations have gotten shorter because she gets tired all of the time. When I visit her in person she can only hold a conversation before she gets tired. We basically watch TV when I visit because at least she’ll sleep off and on. But she’s definitely a shadow of her former self. I don’t even bother with having any kind of deep heart-felt conversations with her because I don’t know if she has the energy to even process everything I say.

At least my mother is still alive as of this writing. I found out through one of my ex-husband’s relatives that my father-in-law had passed away in October. On Christmas Eve I received a phone call from another one of my ex-husband’s relatives telling me that there have been a couple of other deaths this past year as well. One was my ex-husband’s aunt (who was also my father-in-law’s younger sister) and the other was Annette, a longtime family friend.

I knew both of them pretty well. The last time I saw my ex-husband’s aunt was in 2010 (just a few days before I made my first post in this blog). She and her husband had just sold their longtime home in Scituate, Massachusetts and moved to a retirement community outside of Philadelphia in order to live closer to their children and grandchildren, who had all settled in neighboring New Jersey. My ex-husband’s aunt and uncle lived just a few miles from Longwood Gardens. After visiting my ex’s aunt and uncle in their new place, we all headed out to Longwood Gardens because it was having its annual Christmas display. I found that display to be so amazing that I shot a short video.

As for Annette, she was the friend of my mother-in-law’s who used to invite her and any of her grown children who were in town over to the Long Island home that she shared with her then-husband each Christmas Eve where she would serve her corn chowder. I wrote a post back in 2010 about that tradition and I even included the actual recipe. I later made this animation featuring that recipe while I was playing with this website called MySimpleShow.

The last time I saw Annette was in late 2010 when we held a memorial service on the East Coast for my mother-in-law that was held for the benefit of her longtime friends who couldn’t fly to Phoenix (where she lived the last 17 years of her life) for the original funeral back in March.

If all that weren’t enough, I learned that Ben, a man whom my late aunt used to babysit as a kid (and I met him several times when I visited my aunt, uncle, and cousins) had killed himself. I also learned through Facebook that my onetime high school guitar teacher had died the year before and he was only in his early sixties.

Then there is my effort to find a new day job to pay the bills. (I’m currently getting alimony from my ex-husband but I really want more money so I could pay off the debts I incurred due in large part to my divorce.) It has been over a year and a half since I left my last job at a newly formed startup because I wasn’t getting paid (the boss wouldn’t finally pay me for the work I had done until six months later). I don’t regret leaving that startup, especially when I saw that my ex-boss has spent the past year actively doxing his own sister on Facebook not once but twice.

I’ve been spending time at the local branch of the American Jobs Center doing things like going to seminars on all aspects of the job search process. I was told in those seminars that I needed to build my personal brand because that will make me stand out from the crowd of other job seekers. I was told that I especially needed to build my personal brand on LinkedIn because LinkedIn is the best way to a new job. I was told that I needed to learn how to market myself online. I took a couple of free online marketing classes that were on where I learned how to market myself online as much as possible using tools like Hootsuite to schedule posts. I learned through those online courses that once I am able to market myself to the point where I’ve built my personal brand online, I will get so much attention that the job opportunities will miraculously come to me.

So I started to post links on my various social media accounts to older blog posts highlighting my skills in writing, art (both traditional and digital), and photography while using Hootsuite to schedule them. I was told that I also needed to share links of articles written by others showing my knowledge on certain subjects that would be sure to build my brand. Each week for the past few months I would schedule on Hootsuite a mix of links to newer blog posts, links to older blog posts, and links to articles that are in my fields of interests to be shared over Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

The one thing I learned that all of this brand building is incredibly time-consuming. I would literally spend several hours a week with trolling websites for external links then scheduling those posts on Hootsuite. I spent time carefully vetting each link in order to make sure that any links that include controversial topics or NSFW content do not get posted on my LinkedIn account (although I would post them on my Facebook and Twitter accounts since neither one have the stated reputation as being THE Social Media Network For Professionals). I even followed the advice from the American Jobs Center and tried to go to networking events where I made every effort to be friendly and introduce myself to new people. It was all to no avail. No one has come forward saying, “Hey, I love what you’ve posted on LinkedIn so much that I want to hire you!” No one has come forward saying, “Wow, you’re really an expert and you have such a fantastic personal brand that I want to refer jobs your way.” I began to feel that something was wrong with that advice but I kept at it because I was told by professionals who are experts in the human resources field that this is the best method for all job seekers.

The best I was able to do from all of my online marketing efforts and going to networking events was to snag a two-night stint serving as an extra at a taping of a TV special featuring finance guru Ric Edelman.

But then I came across this article through a link on Facebook titled The One Thing Nobody Ever Told You About Personal Branding where basically the writer says that building a personal brand in order to advance your career is overrated. His contention is that, instead of spending gobs of time marketing yourself on social media, you would do better to build your reputation by actually doing the work in your field (whether it’s in a job you already have or you’re currently volunteering in something that’s related to your field) and treating people well.

At first that article flew in the face of what those human resources experts were advising me and other job hunters at the American Jobs Center. But then I did a Google search on “building a personal brand is overrated” and I found a few other articles that echoed the same idea. Branding is an Overrated Buzzword says that one should focus instead on building his/her reputation by being passionate enough about your job/career/interest to focus working on that while also working consistently at your job/career/interest. Developing a Personal Brand Is Overrated says that developing a personal brand can take a lot of time that would’ve been better spent making the best product or doing the best work that you can do. The writer says that making tweets or sharing photos online is just a small portion of building a reputation and a reputation is made through doing your best at what you are working on. The Pitfalls of Personal Branding is even more blunt in saying that personal branding results in the pursuit of online attention stunts that may backfire and do serious damage to your real reputation.

That last article made a good point and I was especially reminded of it when I learned about a recent incident. A few days ago a popular YouTube star known as Logan Paul has come under fire for going to a park in Japan (which has a reputation for being a spot where numerous people have committed suicide) where he found the body of a man who had committed suicide by hanging from a tree branch. Instead of calling the Japanese equivalent of 911 or flagging down a park ranger/police officer/someone else in authority, he decided to film the body while he’s nearby wearing a hat that resembles the head of one of the three-eyed green alien toys from the Toy Story movies and making sick jokes about finding that body. Then he uploaded the video online. While the video in question has since been deleted and Paul has uploaded another video apologizing for his actions, there have been online petitions circulating calling for YouTube to delete his channel altogether.

I’m starting to think that the advice I got about personal branding was just wrong. I focused on marketing myself online at the expense of actually taking the time to developing my talents. I should’ve been volunteering more in the community on projects related to my interests. I should’ve been focusing on creating new arts and crafts for sales both online and in real life. But I ended up following what turned out to be bum advice for me. I shudder to think about how many other unemployed/underemployed people have been taking similar bum advice from human resources professionals and career counselors about personal branding by wasting their time trying something that is highly unlikely to work for them.

Luckily I haven’t inadvertently damaged my reputation in real life by my misguided efforts to develop a personal brand online.

So my conclusion is that focusing on building a personal brand is ineffectual at best while, at worst, could create a bad side effect that will severely harm your reputation and make it difficult for you to find new work opportunities.

I’m going to cut back on my online personal branding marketing efforts and just focus on doing my best work in real life. I’m not going to give up on this blog or social media altogether. I just want some better balance between promoting my work online and doing my work in real life. I’m hoping that doing this will enable me to live my life and conduct my work with more authenticity than just spending time on social media hyping myself on how great I am. I’m hoping that being more authentic to myself and to others will really convey what kind of person I really am that I haven’t been able to convey on social media.

Well, anyway, I’ll end this post with a few highlights from this past year. I especially needed to remind myself that I did do things other than sitting at home fretting about job hunting, my mom’s health, the recent deaths of people I know, and the Trump Administration. There are times when I think that I didn’t do anything in 2017 but then I look over my posts from the past year and these blog links prove that it’s not true.

Visited the American Visionary Art Museum for free on Martin Luther King Day.

I took part in the Women’s March on Washington, which had a far larger turnout than Donald Trump’s own inauguration the day before.

Checked out The World of Pets Expo.

Walked around Savage, Maryland on Groundhog Day.

Went to the Werk for Peace Dance Protest that started outside the Trump International Hotel and ended outside the White House.

I went to a Valentine’s Dance at my church.

Attended my first focus group movie screening (which was a documentary about the DC Divas women’s football team).

Walked around historic Riverdale Park on an usually warm February day.

Checked out the annual Sakura Matsuri in Washington, DC.

Attended Kamecon on the campus of the University of Maryland at College Park.

Walked around historic Laurel one spring day.

Spent two nights working as an extra on a television special featuring finance guru Ric Edelman.

Attended the Greenbelt Green Man Festival.

Went on the Gateway Arts Open Studio Tour.

Checked out the latest outdoor art installations around Takoma Park.

Helped out with a yard sale where I found all kinds of vintage kitsch items.

Attended Creator Con in Silver Spring.

Walked around Mount Rainier, Maryland.

Visited two possible locations of a real-life exorcism that served as the basis for both the book and film versions of The Exorcist.

Checked out DC Pride Weekend.

Saw a new shopping center that was erected on a former farm in Riverdale Park, Maryland.

Saw some art murals in an industrial area of Annapolis.

Walked around Catonsville, Maryland during the Fourth of July weekend.

Checked out a large toy show in Timonium, Maryland.

Spent one hot summer after under the solar eclipse.

Walked around the Washington, DC side of Takoma Park.

Attended the German Festival in Timonium.

I made my first-ever visit to a megachurch.

I attended two different art events in one day.

Checked out some newly painted murals on vacant buildings in Hyattsville, Maryland.

Took part in a fall yard sale full of interesting vintage kitsch items.

Attended Baltimore Comic-Con where I saw DMC of Run-DMC fame and purchased an ocarina.

Checked out three Mall events in one day—Fiesta DC, the pro-Trump Mother of All Rallies, and the Juggalo March (the latter included fans of the Insane Clown Posse protesting the FBI’s classification of them as a gang).

Walked around historic Gaithersburg.

Spent an afternoon at Dinosaur Park in Laurel, Maryland.

Toured an Eastern Orthodox Church during a local Slavic Festival.

I purchased a camera off eBay, which took some spectacular photos of the Greenbelt Pumpkin Walk.

Checked out a Halloween-themed art walk in Hyattsville.

Went to Clark’s Elioak Farm, where I visited the attractions from the now-defunct Enchanted Forest.

Took some photos of an outdoor decorated Christmas tree covered in snow.

I went to Baltimore on the day that Fox broadcasted a heavily attended Baltimore Ravens football game.

Went to the Doll and Teddy Bear Show in Gaithersburg.

Saw the fall leaves in the Roland Park section of Baltimore.

Saw historic Annapolis at Christmas.

A few of the art shows, craft fairs, and other arts and crafts related events I participated in: I went to Dr. Sketchy’s Anti-Art School in both Baltimore and Washington, DC several times. Went to an artist networking event at the Prince George’s African American Museum & Cultural Center in North Brentwood, Maryland. Took part in a Craft-In on International Women’s Day. Attended the Resist art exhibition reception at ReCreative Spaces. Participated in the Cosplay Life Drawing Night in Rockville, Maryland. Attended an exhibition that was inspired by the Women’s March on Washington. Participated in the Greenbelt Maker Festival. One of my animations, The March of Liberty, was shown on an outdoor big screen at Light City in Baltimore. I went to a DC Drink and Draw event in Adams-Morgan. I took part in a couple of events at the Greenbelt Labor Day Festival including an Art Show and a Retro Town Fair (where I won a couple of ribbons). I painted a fox on a rock at an event that was sponsored by Artists & Craftsman Supplies in Hyattsville, Maryland. I took part in the month-long Internet art event known as Inktober. I took part in the annual Holiday Craft Sale at Paint Branch Unitarian Universalist Church in Adelphi, Maryland in December. I had one of my pieces on display at Trinacria’s Ristorante & Bar in Baltimore that went from early December, 2017 to early January, 2018.


Santa Claus

There was a house on Good Luck Road that used to really get into the holiday spirit by decorating every square inch of the house in Christmas lights complete with lights that blinked in synchronization with the Christmas music that was piped outside. It became a bit of an annual local tradition in the Washington, DC area as the locals converged on that house in an effort to enjoy the dazzling decorative displays.

I have memories of when I first visited that house with my then-husband (he was the one who had heard about that house from either a newspaper article or maybe a coworker at his job—I don’t remember which it was) and we would keep on returning to that house several more times over the years. My husband drove me to that house as a Christmas Day treat just three months after I underwent hip surgery in 2011. I even wrote a post about that particular trip while I was blissfully unaware that he was secretly planning on leaving me just three days later.

I would visit that house a few more times by myself after my husband left and I always enjoyed seeing it.

Last year I wrote a blog post titled End of an Era? after I got a message from a local TV station asking me for permission to use footage from a video I had shot of the house then uploaded on to YouTube back in 2010. I found out the reason: Ted Adelman, the homeowner responsible for those Christmas displays, was battling cancer and he did not feel up to decorating his home that year. In an interview he gave to that local TV station, Ted Adelman promised that the lights would return in 2017.

Unfortunately he was never able to keep his promise for this year. During the Fourth of July holiday weekend, Adelman’s family had announced that he passed away.

Last night, on Christmas Day, I decided to drive past the house on Good Luck Road to see Ted Adelman’s family would continue the tradition without him or not. Other years I didn’t need the actual house number to search for as I was driving because his decorations definitely stood out at night, just like these two photos I took three years ago.



As I cruised along Good Luck Road I didn’t see any signs of any overdecorated Christmas houses. I eventually pulled over to the side of the road and did the one thing I never had to do before: pull out my smartphone and do a Google search for the exact address of that house. I found an old article about the house (back when Ted Adelman was still doing it each year) that had the full address and I typed that address into my smartphone’s GPS, which I used to find it. Here is what the same house looked like last night.

Not only have the family decided not to continue Ted Adelman’s tradition of decorating that house but the house now has a For Sale sign posted in the front yard.

It looks like the Christmas House on Good Luck Road in Landover is officially just a memory now. It’s sad that a local tradition is gone but that’s the way life is sometimes. I will definitely miss going for a special drive on a cold winter December night checking out those lights. I want to give a shoutout to Ted Adelman’s family for all the years of pleasure that their decorations have given to me and to numerous other people over the years. Thank you for your efforts to make the winter holidays a bit cheerier. I wish Ted Adelman’s survivors well in the future wherever they move to.

In case you’ve missed it, here’s that video I wrote about earlier that I shot back in 2010. I not only shot that house but I also shot the house located across the street that seemed to be in some kind of a decorating competition with the other house by loading the front lawn with all kinds of giant inflatable Christmas decorations. (Curiously I noticed that the same house across the street also doesn’t have those inflatables posted on the lawn this year. I don’t know the reason why the owner isn’t decorating the house this year.)

You can also see still photos of the house that I took in 2012 and 2014.

The only moral I can offer about this story is to always try to appreciate whatever Christmas customs or traditions you follow because one day they could change or even go away for good just like the annual Christmas house on Good Luck Road in Lanham, Maryland.

Yesterday I spent Thanksgiving with the family in the home of one of my cousins. The night before I decided to try my hand at decorating an edible house. I purchased this Hershey’s Chocolate Cookie Mini House Kit from a local Five Below store for only $5.

This kit has everything needed in order to construct that house so I didn’t have to worry about doing the old fashioned baking method. All I had to do was just construct it and decorate it. The next few photos show the results of my decorating, which you can compare to the photo of the house that’s on the box in the above photo.

Okay it’s pretty obvious that I’m not a professional cake decorator. (LOL!) But my family still liked my effort and that’s the only thing that matters.

I parked my car near one of her neighbors and I took a photo of their tree in its glorious fall colors.

My cousin’s neighbors love to decorate their home for nearly every single holiday—both major and minor. I’ve taken pictures of their Thanksgiving decorations before but it looks like they have added yet another inflatable decoration.

The little turkey in the next picture is one that I think is new. Or I have never seen this particular inflatable bird in any of my previous photographs I’ve taken of that house.

My cousin has undergone some changes regarding her pets. Years ago she and her husband adopted two puppies and two kittens over a one- or two-year period. The big advantage is that the pets grew up as siblings and they basically tolerated each other. The big disadvantage is that all four pets have died close together. It started with Cookie the cat in 2015. Then the family went through 2016 with just three pets. 2017 became the year they lost the rest of their original four pets. Gonzo the dog died in March. Soon after Gonzo’s death, my cousin and her husband decided to adopt a new dog (which I’ll write more about later in this post). So their pet count went up to two dogs and one cat. During the Labor Day holiday weekend my cousin made a sad post on Facebook announcing that Lucy the dog had died as well.

So I arrived at her house expecting to see the new dog and the last of the original four pets, Purdy the cat. That cat had long acted very regally as if she is the Queen of the House. (Heck, I even once dedicated a post to Purdy’s regal ways.) When I asked my cousin about Purdy I learned that the cat had died as well. Apparently her health underwent a major decline over the past few months and it got to the point where putting her to sleep was the only option. My cousin admitted that she didn’t mention Purdy’s death on Facebook because she was afraid that her Facebook friends would start to wonder why her family had lost three pets in the same year. I can understand her rationale because not everyone would’ve known that the reason why this happened is that the pets were close in age and they arrived at the home around the same time. In any case, here are a couple of photos I took of the late Purdy in happier days.



So now the original four pets are all gone. But they have one new dog, who was adopted earlier this year after Gonzo the dog died. Her name is Layla and she is a year-and-a-half old. Layla is also incredibly shy. This next photo is the only decent shot I was able to get of her while she was resting in my cousin’s husband lap.

Let me explain why Layla seems to have a purple spot on her forehead. (No, she’s not some rare purple-spotted breed.) My cousin’s husband has this penchant for dying a dog’s hair in a variety of funky colors on special occasions using food coloring. He used to frequently do this to Lucy, which you can see in this photo.


The only dog he never did this to was the late Gonzo and that was because he had black fur.

Basically I visited with my family and socialized with my mother. Her health hasn’t changed much. She’s not getting better but she’s not getting worse either, which is all I can hope for at this point. (She has multiple sclerosis, which has no cure.)

Years ago my husband and I joined a forum that discusses political issues. Ever since he left he has cut way back on his participation in that forum where he posts the occasional brief message but they are a far cry from the days before he abruptly left home three days after Christmas in 2011 and refused to do anything other than get a divorce. (He used to write more lengthy and thoughtful posts on that forum before he left me.)

I recently got word that one of my online friends from that forum has died. I knew her only as Mrs. Peel and I had never met her in real life. She was one of the original founders of that forum and she was one of the administrators until health problems forced her off of the forum.

Her death has followed on the heels of the deaths of two other forum members, Magatha (in 2014) and Sister Whozit (last year). When I was thinking of a way of honoring Mrs. Peel, there is one thing I could post. Here is some background.

In 2006 some of the Canadian members of that forum decided to host a meetup in the apartment of one of the members in Montreal. My husband and I decided to take an extended car trip where we visited his father and step-mother in New York City, then drove into Montreal for the meetup, followed by visiting another forum member in New Hampshire (who wasn’t able to go to the Montreal meetup but she invited us to visit her in her hometown), finally ending up with visiting his aunt and uncle in Scituate, Massachusetts while we took a side trip to nearby Boston. It was during the Montreal leg of the trip that we met Julie, who would be brutally murdered by her boyfriend a year-and-a-half after that meetup.

My husband and I did plenty of sightseeing in Montreal. During our walks we came across La Rue Peel, which had us laughing. My husband urged me to take a few photos to post online for Mrs. Peel. Here’s a closeup shot.

Then my husband had this idea of taking a picture of him fake humping the street pole bearing the Peel name.

I remember we posted those photos for Mrs. Peel to see. I think she got a kick out of it although I don’t exactly remember for sure how she reacted to those pictures.

I did a Google search where I saw Wikipedia pages devoted to La Rue Peel written in both English and French. Thanks to the Wikipedia, I now know that Peel Street was named for UK Prime Minister Sir Robert Peel.

R.I.P. Mrs. Peel.

Dancing Skeleton

Today is the day after Halloween and the first day of the two-day Mexican holiday known as El Día De Los Muertos (Day of the Dead). In addition, Inktober officially ended right on Halloween yesterday. I succeeded in drawing and uploading 31 ink drawings in 31 days from October 1-31. I finished Inktober at the same time as I ended up getting sick with this stomach flu where I constantly felt nauseous and I alternated between going through dry heaves and diarrhea. The fact that it also happened on the same day as Halloween totally sucks. I barely managed to get myself together enough to give out treats to the trick or treaters. Instead of going to a Halloween night party at a friend’s house, I had to make an emergency run to Giant after the official trick or treat time ended just so I could pick up some medication and toilet paper.

Today I feel better in that the dry heaves and diarrhea has subsided and I feel mostly tired. I took a nap today and I’ll probably go to bed early tonight so I can rest some more.

As I go over the drawings I did during the month, I realized that I could easily put them into certain categories (with many of those drawings falling under more than one category).

Animals: Penguin, panda bear, black cat, dinosaur, swan, pig, two former ride cars from the now-defunct Enchanted Forest amusement park shaped like a duckling and a swan, Willie the Whale, goat, and Zombie Dog.

Based on Dolls I Currently Own: Volks Dollfie Dream, Batgirl and Wonder Woman (with Donald Trump and by themselves).

Building: Crooked House.

Clark’s Elioak Farm: Two former ride cars from the now-defunct Enchanted Forest shaped like a duckling and a swan, the Crooked House, Willie the Whale, goat.

Death Penalty: Guillotine.

Friday the 13th: Black cat.

Halloween/Day of the Dead: The Wicked Witch of the West from The Wizard of Oz, Goat Man, Zombie Dog, Day of the Dead skeleton, Frankenstein, Jack O’Lantern.

Hollywood Scandal: Harvey Weinstein.

My Own 100% Original Character: Zombie Dog.

Native American (For Indigenous Peoples Day a.k.a. Columbus Day): Wolf kachina.

Real People: Donald Trump with Jesus Christ, Donald Trump again (with Wonder Woman and Batgirl), Donald Trump yet again, Donald Trump one more time, Tom Petty, burlesque performer Reverend Valentine, Harvey Weinstein, my father-in-law, my mother (which also includes Elvis Presley), Madonna Girl Dale.

Religious-Related Drawings: Jesus Christ (with Donald Trump), Unitarian Universalist flaming chalice, wolf kachina.

People Who Celebrated a Birthday During Inktober: My mother.

People Who Died During Inktober: Tom Petty and my father-in-law.

Politics: Donald Trump with Jesus Christ, Donald Trump again (with Wonder Woman and Batgirl), Donald Trump yet again, Donald Trump one more time.

Relatives: My father-in-law and mother.

Superheroes: Batgirl and Wonder Woman together with Donald Trump and by themselves.

Supernatural Book/Movie Characters: The Wicked Witch of the West from The Wizard of Oz and Frankenstein.

Virtual Models from Woman running with a gun, woman dressed in psychedelic tye-dye outfit holding a gun.

The biggest challenge for me is that working on a new drawing a day then uploading it online to this blog and various social media sites took a portion of my time that I could’ve spent doing other things (such as doing house cleaning, putting up Halloween decorations, sending out a few more resumes). That was the main reason why I had quit a previous effort to do one new drawing per day starting on January 1, 2016 (which was a New Year’s resolution). I think the reason why I was more successful at Inktober than my previous daily drawing effort last year was because I knew it was only for 31 days that I had to worry about doing a new drawing each day. After that I could draw as much or as little as I wanted.

Even though there was an official Inktober prompt list of one word for each different day, I was more interested in doing my own thing since this is the first year I participated in this. (Inktober has been going on since 2009.) I only used the official prompt list if I was stumped for inspiration. Now that I got my desire to draw whatever I wanted for Inktober out of my system, I’m thinking that if I was to do this again next year, I would discipline myself by sticking strictly with the prompt list. It would be a way to challenge myself, especially since I’m sure that there will be a word or two that will have me totally stumped at first.

The biggest benefit I got from Inktober is that I was able to learn which social media sites gave me the best exposure in terms of publicizing myself and my work. I uploaded my drawings to the current popular social media accounts (Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter) as well as other social media sites I haven’t posted anything in a while. These sites used to be relatively popular until they were overshadowed by Facebook/Instagram/Twitter. I decided to upload to them because I wanted to see if I should still bother with them. I found that the absolute worst were Flickr and Google+ because I only got one “Like” on both platforms and that was it. Tumblr was hit or miss in that I got maybe one or two Notes (which is Tumblr’s version of “Like”) for some of my drawings but there were others that got zero Notes. (The one drawing that got the most attention was the one I did of Tom Petty and that one only got four Notes.) Minds, the open source alternative social media site, was just as hit or miss as Tumblr in that I got maybe one or two “Likes” on some drawings but others were totally ignored.

By far the best response I got was on this blog and Instagram. In fact I got new followers on both platforms because of Inktober. Twitter came in at a close second in that I also got new followers as well as retweets. Facebook was surprisingly more of a mixed-bag. While I got a better response than Flickr, Google+, Tumblr, and Minds combined, the response rate was lower than this blog, Instagram, and Twitter.

The one major social media site that I didn’t use was LinkedIn because that one is more of a professional social media site and some of my drawings were either too political (such as the ones featuring Donald Trump) or the subject matter was one where I just didn’t feel comfortable in posting there (such as the one about the Harvey Weinstein action figure). I’ve seen people get chewed out on LinkedIn for posting anything that was even remotely controversial (especially one that’s political) and I’d rather avoid it since it’s common knowledge that would-be employers tend to look you up on LinkedIn to see if you’re someone they would even want to hire. I don’t want to lose out on any potential opportunity because of some post I made there.

It was time consuming to upload the same drawing on so many different social media sites per day but at least I gained knowledge on which ones are worth investing my time in promoting myself in the future so it was worth it in the end.

I also learned that there is certain value in practicing drawing only for yourself because you’ll never know when one of those drawings you’ve done have struck inspiration to do a regular art project based on what you’ve drawn. I’m thinking about doing a watercolor version of that swan I drew during Inktober because I really liked the results.

Another positive result of Inktober is that I discovered and that site was valuable in providing virtual models for me to practice my drawing with. I plan to use that site for my drawing more often.

I also looked at other people’s Inktober drawings on social media and I was amazed by the amount of creativity I saw there. There were a few people who did some really ambitious things for Inktober. I saw some people do two or more drawings per day, which I personally admired since I found it a challenge to do even one new drawing in a small sketchbook every single day. I saw one guy who was working on a graphic novel and he decided to use Inktober to draw and ink one new page per day. There was another person who decided to use Inktober do a large complex drawing where the person inked just one section of that drawing each day with the goal being that the large complex drawing would be completed on October 31.

The biggest challenge with Inktober is to maintain my enthusiasm for continuing with drawing one new drawing per day then uploading it online. The first few days I was very eager and enthusiastic. But then I came down with this nasty cold but I continued to work through that cold even though my body wanted to get more sleep so it can knock off those cold germs. After I got rid of that cold I began to gradually view the daily Inktober sketches more and more as some time-consuming daily chore instead of something that I was excited and enthusiastic about. Even though I tried to keep the designs relatively simple and I used a small sketchpad, I still found myself burning out towards the end. This was especially true when I wanted to put up Halloween decorations or go to some Halloween-related local event only to remind myself that I needed to make time for my daily Inktober drawings.

By the last week I went to Clark’s Elioak Farm because I wanted to draw enough pencil sketches so I could just ink over them on the allotted day for the next few days. Then I spent one additional evening filling up my sketchbook with enough Halloween-themed pencil sketches to last me until the very end of the month.

But then I began to just burn out on even doing the ink over the pencil outlines, especially during that last weekend before Halloween. I started to partially-ink over more than one pencil sketch a day or two before the allotted date while leaving each one intentionally unfinished until the allotted date, when I would finish it so I could technically say that I did work on one new drawing per day each day during Inktober. One evening, about two nights before the end of Inktober, I used my free time to do the bulk of the inking on my scheduled drawings of the last two days while leaving just a small area of each drawing unfinished so I could spend less than 15 minutes completing each drawing on the allotted day.

I did it this way because I grew tired of spending anywhere from a half-an-hour to a full hour working on each new drawing then spending additional time photographing my drawing then uploading it on my various social media accounts. You may think that I was cheating but I don’t care. If I hadn’t done something like this, I would’ve grown so tired of spending a chunk of time on my Inktober sketch that I would’ve quit just days before October 31.

Right now I’m typing this in the early days of NaNoWriMo, which is something similar to Inktober where you spend every day in November writing your novel. I’ve read about people who are doing NaNoWriMo but I’m definitely not taking part in this. Spending time each day doing Inktober was enough for me without having to go from doing daily Inktober drawings in October to writing daily NaNoWriMo prose in November.

Now that Inktober is over, I’m going to take some time off from drawing on a daily basis because I have other things in my life that I need to focus on (such as the upcoming winter holidays in December). Ultimately I’m going to try doing a new drawing in my sketchbook at least once a month. I would do this by just working on that drawing in blocks of 15 minutes on a given day (and that would be only if I had extra time available for me to do such a drawing). I would keep on working on the same drawing, 15 minutes at a time and one day at a time, until I’m finished. Basically I want to practice my drawing but on a more leisurely schedule where I can balance that with other activities that require my attention at the same time.

Of course only time will tell whether I actually achieve this. (LOL!) But I’m willing to at least give it a try.

Here are a few things I would advise a person who’s thinking about doing either Inktober next year or simply wants to devote a different month to doing one drawing per day (such as December or March or June):

1. Don’t obsess too much about drawing supplies. I know the official Inktober site has a list of recommended supplies but some of these supplies (such as Micron pens) can be pretty expensive to those on a tight budget. If you can’t afford the recommended Inktober supplies, don’t fret. Just go with cheaper supplies instead. I did my Inktober drawings using a cheap pack of multicolored Paper Mate InkJoy pens that I purchased at Target for only $10. And I wasn’t the only one who didn’t use the best supplies either. I saw quite a few Inktober drawings that were done only with the cheap disposable blue ink Bic ballpoint pens and I found them to be just as interesting and well-done as the ones that were used with the more expensive pens. As for drawing paper, I would recommend shopping around because sometimes you can find the best bargains. Here’s one example: I’ve seen 9” x 12” (23 cm x 30 cm) sketchbook drawing pads on sale at my local Five Below store for only $5.

2. Use a small sketchbook that’s no bigger than 9” x 12” (23 cm x 30 cm). Not only will you fill up the page faster than with a larger sketchbook but a smaller sketchbook is more portable. I did my Inktober drawings using a 4” x 6” (10 cm x 15 cm) sketchbook. When I decided to travel to Clark’s Elioak Farm to do some more Inktober drawings, all I had to do was to put my sketchbook (along with my pens and pencils) in my purse and I was good to go. Heck, I saw some Inktober sketches online that were drawn on Post-It Notes.

3. If you can, try setting aside a certain time each day to work on your Inktober sketch. It could be when you wake up the first thing in the morning or after dinner or whenever. If you can’t commit to the same time every day, then just take advantage of whatever free time suddenly materializes to do your drawings. I’ve seen people admit that they did their Inktober sketches while riding public transportation on the way to or from their day jobs. I’ve even seen people admit that they did their drawings on the sly while being forced to sit in on a boring lecture at school or they took advantage of some downtime at work. Just do whatever works for you.

4. The one thing about Inktober I learned is that you can do some advance drawings in pencil as long as you wait until the designated day to do the final inking. In fact, I learned that this year’s official Inktober prompt list was put online two weeks before the month began so one could have the luxury to decide what he/she wanted to draw on the designated day and even do a rough sketch in pencil. I took advantage of this policy towards the end of the month when I began to burn out on doing a new drawing every day and I was in danger of quitting before the month was over. What I did was to go to Clark’s Elioak Farm, where I finished one new drawing in ink but I did other unfinished drawings in pencil that I could finish in ink over the next few days. By the time I finished that series, it was close to Halloween so I spent one evening just doing a pencil drawing of Madonna Girl Dale (who usually wears a costume in public all year round) followed by pencil drawings of traditional Halloween and Day of the Dead figures until the 31st drawing of the month. So I spent the last week of Inktober just coloring in one previously made pencil drawing in ink per day until I reached the last drawing on Halloween.

5. If you hit a rough patch where you really can’t focus on doing any complicated detailed drawings or you don’t have a lot of time to do anything too complex, just do a simple drawing that you can easily finish in 30 minutes or less. I experienced this challenge earlier this month when I came down with this horrible cold that literally left me feeling very weak and tired all the time. For those days I decided to do simple drawings of a penguin and a panda bear because those animals were relatively easy for me to draw quickly before I felt tired enough to take another nap. As an added bonus, those two drawings were basically black and white drawings so I didn’t have to do much thinking while I drew them. I also didn’t bother with drawing backgrounds because that would’ve been more time-consuming and I didn’t feel wide awake enough to draw something that would’ve been more complex.

6. Don’t be a perfectionist about your drawing. The whole purpose of Inktober is to practice your drawing, not focusing on being the next Rembrandt or Keith Haring. The idea is to do a quick drawing that can be done in a small part of your day.

7. Don’t be afraid of posting your drawings online, even if you personally feel less than enthusiastic about your latest drawing. I found that people tended to be really nice towards those who posted their Inktober drawings and many of them gave positive feedback. I personally didn’t encounter any cyberbullying in the month that I posted my Inktober drawings online. Just post your drawing online even if you personally don’t like it because there will be people who will like it better than you do.

Well, that’s it for Inktober 2017. I’ll end this post with a couple of embedded things in case you’ve missed some or all of the Inktober drawings I’ve been uploading over the past month. One is a YouTube video that includes some catchy background music.

If you prefer to view the pictures at your own pace without background music, you can view my Flickr album instead.

Inktober 2017

A few days ago one of my ex-husband’s relatives contacted me on Facebook letting me know that my father-in-law was dying from stage 4 cancer and he also had a collapsed lung as well. I dedicated one of my Inktober drawings to him. Yesterday that same relative contacted me to let me know that he is now dead.

My father-in-law and I had always gotten along well together. He was a very brilliant man who devoted much of his career to near infrared spectroscopy and he and his second wife had their own consulting company that focused on it. For years I could only tell people the name of what he worked on but I literally couldn’t describe what it was about (other than it dealt with infrared light). The Wikipedia has a page on the topic that does a good basic explanation for people who aren’t experts in the field like my father-in-law was.

I last saw my father-in-law and his wife in person back in 2011. It was seven months before my husband abruptly walked out on me three days after Christmas (and three months after I underwent hip surgery). When he left I thought his mind had snapped and I had hoped that he would return home after a day or two. When it became apparent that he wouldn’t return, I sent an email to my husband’s relatives, including my husband’s father and step-mother, letting them know that if they needed to contact him they should use his email, cellphone or work phone because he was no longer at home. I remember his father and step-mother emailing me back expressing shock that my husband had ran away like that and they expressed support for me.

I sent them one more email after that. It was one month after my husband was gone. That was the day I found out from friends that he was seen in public with a woman who was a friend of ours. On top of it, she was the same woman who was open about her mental health issues that were so severe that she spoke about how she had an experimental pacemaker installed in her brain. I also know that she went on SSI disability shortly before my husband left me for her. I let his father and step-mother know that my husband was with another woman.

I know from other relatives that my father-in-law had summoned my husband to his place in New York City in an effort to talk some sense to him. Unfortunately that effort failed since my husband stuck with this schedule he had planned in his head where all of the separation of our finances had to happen by a certain deadline (he even threatened to sue me every time I dared to question why he needed to adhere to such a stringent schedule that he devised himself) and the divorce also had to happen by a certain date. He married the mentally ill woman just two months after our divorce was final.

In the years since I’ve had friends tell me disturbing things about their interactions with that couple. I can only imagine what my father-in-law had to directly deal with in the last few years of his life. I’m sad that my father-in-law had to spend his last few years with the knowledge of what happened to his son. It must have been hard for him to witness his son going from seeming to live a respectable life with a good job, a nice townhouse in a decent neighborhood, having a wife he basically liked (that’s me), and being involved in activities that were all connected to our church (such as his stint serving on the Board of Trustees) to suddenly chucking most of it in order to marry a severely mentally ill woman.  I wouldn’t be surprised if my father-in-law started wondering “Where did I go wrong in raising him?” I only hope that he didn’t kick himself too much or delved into feeling guilty because, to be honest, it wasn’t his fault that all this crazy drama happened.

At least my mother-in-law was spared this drama (due mainly to the fact that she died over a year before my husband left me).

My father-in-law was 86 when he died. He seemed pretty happy with his second marriage, his work, and his life in New York City.

Rest in peace.

I can’t believe that I’ve actually done my 20th new drawing this month. I’ve actually managed to keep up with drawing one new drawing a day for this month as part of Inktober. I’ve seen other people’s Inktober work on social media and there are a few people who are actually drawing two or more drawings per day this month. For me, I think it’s a major achievement that I’ve actually disciplined myself to make one new drawing per day and I feel a sense of accomplishment about that.

In any case, I want to dedicate today’s drawing to my mother, who’s celebrating her birthday this month. I added Elvis Presley in his Jailhouse Rock days because she has been a major Elvis fan ever since he became famous while she was a teenager.

I also realized that this year is the 40th anniversary of Elvis’ death. I remember the news reports of the throngs of people who descended on Graceland for the 1st, 5th, 10th, and 20th anniversaries of his death. For some reason I haven’t heard a word about similar mass remembrances of his death this year. My only guess is that the hard-core Elvis fans who used to make such pilgrimages (and these were the people who became fans when he first became popular) have either died off or gotten too old to continue to make such trips. Oh well.

A couple of days ago I received word from one of my ex-husband’s relatives that his 86-year-old father is in the hospital with stage 4 cancer and there’s a chance that he may die soon. Since that time I’ve looked on the Facebook walls of my ex’s relatives whom I’m still in contact with and I haven’t seen any updates on my father-in-law’s situation. Nevertheless I decided to dedicate today’s Inktober drawing to my father-in-law.

UPDATE (October 21, 2017): I’ve just got word from one of my ex-husband’s relatives that my father-in-law has died. May he rest in peace.

Tom Petty died suddenly yesterday so I did this drawing based on the video “Don’t Come Around Here No More” which was based on Alice in Wonderland and he appeared as the Mad Hatter.

I have a cousin who is married with two sons. Years ago she and her husband obtained four pets—two puppies and two kittens. All four pets were around the same age and they all arrived at my cousin’s home within a few months of each other. The four animals generally got along well together.

The one big disadvantage of getting four pets the same age is that they tend to die around the same time. Cookie the cat was the first of the four pets to die and he passed away in 2015. (I don’t have any pictures of Cookie mainly because he was so shy that he was in hiding most of the time when I was there to visit. I would see him dart from one hiding place to another from time to time but he never stood still long enough for me to get a picture of him.)

Gonzo the dog was the next one to die and he died earlier this year in March. This past Labor Day holiday weekend, my cousin made the sad announcement on Facebook that Lucy the dog has died as well. Here’s a photo of Lucy that I took back in 2013 while I was testing out the camera function of my new smartphone that I purchased the day before.


Lucy was a sheepdog who was very friendly and she was especially devoted to my cousin’s husband. She would patiently stand by as my cousin’s husband dyed her fur for special occasions (which is why her fur has a purple and pink tinge to it in that photo).

Here’s another photo of her with Gonzo that I took on that same day.


Of the original four pets, Purdy the cat is the only one who’s left standing (although she can usually be found seated either on a footstool or in a box). She remains healthy as of this writing.


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