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Today is another Throwback Thursday where I periodically highlight something from the past in this blog. Now that it’s official that Bernie Sanders is running for President of the United States for the second time, it’s time for me to bring this animation I did out of the YouTube archives and feature it in this blog once again.

I originally did that animation as part of a short course of Adobe AfterEffects that I took at the Takoma Park Public Library back in 2015.

While I’m at it, I might as well also feature a Bernie Sanders music video that I appeared in. The song is called “Be a Believer” by The Bachelor and the Bad Actress. I’m the one in the flying pig hat who appeared at the 7 second, 46 second, and 56 second marks.

You can see some behind-the-scenes photos I took on the day that the video was shot in 2016 right here.

That video actually got attention from a few media outlets like Mashable. It also led to this ludicrous rant on Fox News from one-time MTV VJ Kennedy, who somehow saw threats of Soviet-style communism invading the U.S. in that video that no one else saw. (LOL!)

Right now it’s too early in the campaign process for me to decide whom I’ll support. (I’m torn between Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and Tulsi Gabbard.) But if any of the three end up being the front-runner, I may even re-register as a Democrat so I can vote in the primaries once again. (I had left the Democrats and registered as an Independent back in 2016 because I was so disgusted with the great lengths that the DNC under Debbie Wasserman Schultz had gone in order to make sure that Hillary Clinton ended getting the nomination even though Bernie Sanders not only outdrew Clinton in the polls but he was also polled as being the only candidate who could take down Trump. That disaster was one of the main reasons why Donald Trump now occupies the White House.)

I’m hoping that Donald Trump gets defeated in 2020, assuming that he doesn’t get removed from office beforehand (whether it’s through being impeached as a result of the Mueller investigation or Congress finally getting its act together and invoking the 25th Amendment.) It’s past time for the U.S. to start heading in a new direction where it doesn’t get dominated by Wall Street oligarchs who only care about making more money (even though many of these people are already millionaires and billionaires). I have spent my entire adult life seeing the U.S. being increasingly dominated by the wealthy who have waged class warfare against the middle, lower, and poor classes in this country. I have never known an earlier era where we had such things as interstate highways, a space program, and a secure social safety net where the elderly and most vulnerable could still survive without worrying about being homeless and hungry. All of these things were made possible through a heavy tax on the wealthiest in this society.

By the time I was an adult, Ronald Reagan was president and everything was upended and reversed for the worse and it has continued through a succession of presidents—both Republican and Democrat. And it’s the average American who has been getting increasingly screwed as a result.

Here’s one such example and it comes from my own background. My mother was able to rise out of a childhood spent in poverty in Baltimore by working as a secretary and she and my dad were a two-income family back in an era where women were expected to stay home. Nowadays poor people who had a similar childhood to my mother’s have a much harder time working their way out of poverty.

I could rant further about how the U.S. is the only developed nation who does not provide health care for all of its citizens or how there are politicians who are dedicated to declaring that life begins at conception and go through great lengths to restrict access to abortion and birth control yet refuse to do anything about the rise in mass shootings in recent years. (The cynic in me says that these politicians will only do something about the gun situation if someone breaks into the obstetrics ward of a hospital or birthing clinic and starts mass-shooting pregnant women in the stomach resulting in dead fetuses.) But I’m running out of time and I have other pressing things that I need to do at the moment so I’ll just end this post right now.

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Valentine's Day

Yesterday morning I stopped off at a local Giant supermarket on my way to work where I saw a huge amount of heart-shaped balloons on sale. That’s not unusual since Valentine’s Day was the following day. But I saw some balloons that said “I Sing. Tap Me to Play!” So I did just that and found that these balloons were musical balloons that played brief snippets from popular love songs. I had never seen anything like that before. To give you a general idea of what this balloon is like, I shot this short video of one of the musical balloons playing Queen’s “Crazy Little Thing Called Love.”

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Groundhog Day

The Smithsonian unveils a portrait of Henrietta Lacks, the black farmer whose cells led to medical miracles.

A 1950’s TV show had a villain named Trump who promised to save the world by building a wall.

Wedding photographer arrested after sleeping with guest, peeing on tree and threatening cops.

92-year-old doctor rides subway to work to see 200 patients and has no plans of retiring.

My evangelical church is gaslighting me, but I refuse to fall for it anymore.

Do missionaries help or harm?

Fortnite creator Tim Sweeney is buying thousands of acres of forest to stop it from being cut down.

The Kirsten Gillibrand saga highlights exactly what’s wrong with the Democratic party.

Here’s the video of the gender reveal in 2017 that started a massive wildfire in Arizona.

96-year-old style icon Iris Apfel gets the Barbie treatment.

Hitler and the Nazis were seriously into their amphetamines and opiates.

The woman who cared for hundreds of gay men as they were dying of AIDS.

Thirteen incredibly useful facts about anxiety.

Historian finds German decree banishing Donald Trump’s grandfather.

What is it like to live without any friends?

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A six-year-old boy is making $11 million a year on YouTube reviewing toys.

Bill Clinton’s crime bill destroyed lives and there’s no point denying that.

100-year-old life hacks that are surprisingly still useful today.

After it stopped posting to Facebook, a Danish broadcaster saw its traffic stability improve.

A country without a heart.

A grasshopper has been stuck in this Van Gogh painting for 128 years.

How to build a hexapod robot out of tongue depressors.

An insider explains how rural Christian white America has a dark and terrifying underbelly.

An entire Manhattan village owned by black people was destroyed to build Central Park.

21 books that changed science fiction and fantasy forever.

What well-meaning white people need to know about race.

How Southern politics defended white supremacy—and made the South poorer.

Want to grow the U.S. economy? Cancel student debt.

When you’re “too functional” to have your mental illness taken seriously.

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Last Friday was the annual anti-abortion March for Life protest in Washington, DC. On the same day there was an unrelated protest that also happened in DC called the Indigenous People’s March. When the two different groups met on the mall, this viral video featuring the jeering students from Covington Catholic High School in Kentucky made the rounds all over social media. The smirking kid wearing the red “Make America Great Again” from Donald Trump’s campaign now says that he wasn’t disrespecting that Native American drummer. He claims that he was trying to defuse the situation.

Except these kids from the all-male high school weren’t exactly model citizens at that march. Apparently before that standoff with that Native American drummer (who also happens to be a Vietnam War veteran) these same students were caught on video saying “It’s not rape if you enjoy it!

Even before that March for Life incident that school had problems ranging from that school’s star basketball player being accused of rape to having students appear in blackface at games where the opposing team had African American players.

Even if you’re inclined to believe that smirking kid’s claim that he was defusing the situation, just watching the video will make you question that kid’s statement.

I hate to say it but standing in front of someone wearing a red Make America Great Again hat while arrogantly smirking is NOT how you defuse the situation. If I had been a teen who was caught on camera doing something similar to what Nick Sandmann did, the one thing my parents would NOT have done is hire a PR firm trying to make excuses for me. What really would’ve happened instead is that my parents would have yelled at me about how I had not only disgraced and embarrassed myself but I also disgraced and embarrassed my whole family. Then they would have grounded me for at least a week (if not longer).

Besides, if you really want to know the REAL way of defusing a potentially explosive situation, take a look at this video I shot seven years ago back when the Occupy Wall Street movement was still going strong and its local Occupy DC chapter held a day-long event on the grounds of the U.S. Capitol Building called Occupy Congress. This incident happened during one of the teach-in workshops where the facilitators paused for questions and comments from the participants. This one man gave a very long and rambling comment that I had a hard time following. His speech went on for several minutes. One of the facilitators finally told the man that they needed to move on with the teach-in. The man’s friend suddenly went ballistic and began yelling and screaming. I immediately shot some footage with my cell phone. This man was so belligerent that it was obvious that he was itching for a fight. At one point he even pulled off his shirt even though the event took place in Washington, DC in January. Fortunately no violence broke out so no one was hurt and it was due to the volunteer peacekeepers who did everything to prevent a fight from happening. And they did it without wearing arrogant smirks. Here is the video.

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I bought myself a Hairdorables doll just so I would have a surprise package to open on Christmas Day. (For those unfamiliar with the concept, Hairdorables are a line of dolls that come in a blind box. You literally don’t know which doll you’ll get until after you pay $13 for the box then open the box at home.) I ended up with Willow, who seems to be into unicorns, judging from her hairband.

I finally got around to checking out the official Hairdorables channel on YouTube, where I saw a these videos featuring Willow.

If you have a Hairdorables doll other than Willow, you might want to check out the YouTube channel for any videos starring your doll.

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Back in 2010 I was in New York City with my then-husband visiting his father and step-mother, who lived on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. During that trip I decided to walk down Fifth Avenue until I found out that this particular weekend was also the annual Puerto Rican Parade. I pulled out the videocamera I owned at the time, shot this short video, uploaded it on to YouTube, and even wrote a short post about the video and my overall trip to New York.

Recently I was going through my old videos because I’m working on a special compilation video for the tenth anniversary of this blog (which will happen next year). I took a look at the Puerto Rican Parade footage and my jaw dropped when, starting at around the 16-second mark, I saw the Trump Tower’s gold letters. I realized that this parade was winding its way past Trump Tower. Even though this video is nine years old it now looks like it was shot in an entirely different era, back when Donald Trump was known as a celebrity businessman and reality TV host with a penchant for putting his name on all the buildings that his company erected throughout Manhattan.

It’s also obvious that the parade took place long before there were such things as Trump talking openly about Mexican drug dealers and rapists, Trump’s refusal to provide aid to Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, Latino children being caged in interment camps, and Trump currently refusing to open the federal government unless he gets his border wall in an attempted effort to keep those brown-skinned Latinos in Mexico. If I had even thought about raising the possibility of Donald Trump becoming President of the United States to the people who were there, I probably would’ve been laughed at because that possibility seemed so ridiculous.

Granted, he ran for president on the Reform Party ticket back in 2000 but it ultimately went nowhere. (To be fair, the Reform Party was then on its last legs as a viable political party.) Other than that ill-fated run, he was mostly just a celebrity until he flirted with the idea of running for president as a Republican in 2011 by catering to that awful birther nonsense where people (mostly racist whites) were claiming that President Obama was not born in Hawaii but he was really born in Kenya so he really wasn’t qualified to hold office. He dropped that idea when NBC told him that he couldn’t remain in his TV gig if he was running for president. But then he decided to run for real in 2015, he got elected president in 2016, and he’s now overseeing the longest federal government shutdown in U.S. history (which is still going on as of this writing).

Seeing that Trump Tower building in my video brought back all kinds of memories of the times I actually went inside of that building where I saw that indoor waterfall cascading down a wall of pink marble along with the gaudy chandeliers and gold fixtures. I remember once seeing in person George Ross, who was one of Trump’s managers who became famous for being one of the onscreen observers of the contestants on the The Apprentice. He briefly posed for photos with a few fans who recognized him until he had to excuse himself because he said he was on his way to a meeting. He seemed to be very polite in person. (I left my digital camera at my in-laws’ place on that day so I have no photos of him. I’m still kicking myself for that mistake. LOL!) I remember when Tower Records had a store in Trump Tower until its eventual demise. (I still miss that store chain but that’s another story.)

And speaking of Tower Records’ Trump Tower location, here are a few tweets from MSNBC’s Chris Hayes about how Trump unsuccessfully tried to shakedown Tower Records for more money beyond what the store was already paying Trump in rent. Basically Trump wanted a cut of the $100 fee that Tower Records was charging each indie band to be featured in its listening stations (where customers could preview a certain CD before buying it).

I haven’t been back to New York City since 2011, which was a few months before my marriage suddenly imploded. I’ve seen recent photos of Trump Tower online and there are now barricades with more cops outside than when I used to visit that place. Even if I somehow managed to make a return trip to New York City, I would not be inclined to even set foot in Trump Tower or any of the other buildings with his name on them because Trump has become someone whom I loathe. Ever since he decided to run for president he has shown his true colors and they are ugly to the bone. I’m sorry I had ever been a regular viewer of The Apprentice and The Celebrity Apprentice until 2011 (when I could no longer stand to watch Trump on TV after he tried to cater with the racist birthers and smear President Obama). I was even sorry that I had ever purchased that interactive Donald Trump doll as a gag gift for my then-husband. At least I sold that doll on eBay during the winter holiday season a few months after the 2016 elections.

When I watch that video of the Puerto Rican Parade winding its way past Trump Tower, I find myself wishing that Trump had never run for president and simply stayed a celebrity businessman and reality TV show host. Had he done so, the federal government would be open today and thousands of federal employees around the country would be reporting for work as usual and doing their jobs while contractors would also be working. At least the U.S. economy would not be on the verge of a total collapse like it is now.

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Birthday Cake Santa Claus

Nine years ago today I wrote my first post in this blog. Since it’s now this blog’s ninth anniversary, I decided that, instead of posting some video featuring “Happy Birthday,” I’m going to post The Beatles’ notorious “Revolution 9.”

The past year was really tumultuous for me. It began with the brakes dying on my car and I didn’t have enough money to get them repaired. I still wasn’t able to find work since my last job in 2016 (which I left because I wasn’t being paid). I eventually had a friend pay for them in exchange for helping him with some of his eBay sales. Then my alimony ran out and I tried to explain my latest round of bad luck regarding car troubles and not being able to find work to my ex-husband while hoping that he would extend the alimony for just a bit longer but he refused to budge. I knew talking to him was a long-shot because he has totally changed in many ways since he left me for a woman with severe mental health issues. The only consolation is that many of our longtime friends have noticed the change in him as well and some of them have admitted to me that they now avoid him.

On top of that I went to a church service one Sunday without realizing that the Men’s Group was doing a lay service and my ex was among the participants. He started his speech with “My marriage imploded…” which rankled me because HE was the reason why our marriage broke apart. (Here’s a blog post I wrote expressing hope that he would return soon on the night he literally ran away from home like a spoiled teenage girl who decided to run away because her parents failed to give her a pony for her birthday.) Many of our longtime friends know the real truth why our marriage broke apart (it was another woman who I was friends with and who also has severe metal health issues) so I didn’t have to make an ass of myself by protesting loudly during the church service.

But I was having an increasingly hard time with paying my bills and, at one point, I nearly faced eviction from my townhouse because I had fallen too far behind in paying the monthly co-op fees. (The house is paid for but I still have to pay the monthly co-op fees, which are lower than the average rent of an apartment in the Washington, DC area.) I ended up turning to a nonprofit group for a crisis intervention and, for the first time in my life, I had to accept charitable help. It was hard because I grew up with my mother frequently grumbling about people going on welfare while she and my father worked at regular jobs without accepting much help from the government or anyone else (including nonprofits) and she used to talk about how she grew up poor in Baltimore back in the days before there was such a thing as welfare without much help (other than her and my aunt getting my grandfather’s Social Security benefits as teenagers for a few years after his death until they reached adulthood). In her rants she used to somehow implied that people who accept charity (whether from the government or a nonprofit organization) were weak or lazy or something.

At the same time I accepted a job as an administrative assistant for a guy who was dealing with his late aunt’s estate among other things he had to deal with. He started me out on part-time work while telling me that it was going to eventually go to full-time. Except the full-time hours never materialized (I never worked more than 18 hours per week) and he frequently took a week off for out-of-town trips every month, which amounted to fewer work hours for me. I finally left when he went for a very long extended trip to India without paying me for the work I had already done. He paid once he came back but it was the straw that broke the camel’s back for me because I had so little money in my bank account that any late payments severely affected my cash flow.

I also did some freelance work for a therapist and I still do the occasional job for her. In fact, later today I’m going to go to her home to help her with a few things that she needs done.

But things had gotten so dire for me that I had a friend move in with me a few months ago just so we can split the expenses. It’s the first time I’ve lived with another human being since my husband abruptly walked out on me back in late 2011. (I got a pet hedgehog named Spike a month after my husband left—that was in late January, 2012—and he stayed with me until 2013 when he died after living with me for a year-and-a-half.) So far things have gone well. While I’m still broke, at least I can pay off some of the debts (especially the monthly co-op fees).

In a way it’s nice to have someone to talk to at home again after living alone for so long. But I still don’t regret the six-and-a-half years I lived alone because, until my husband’s walkout, I had never lived on my own. I grew up in my parents’ home. When I went away to college I had to deal with roommates. After I finished my studies, I moved back to my parents’ home. I lived there for 10 months until I got married and I moved in with my new husband. There were advantages to living alone in that I didn’t have to answer to anyone but myself and I could come and go as I pleased. The only big disadvantage was that when I had something bad happen to me I couldn’t confide in anyone else at home since it was just me. Sure, there was the year-and-a-half when I lived with Spike but he was a hedgehog.

My current housemate is a computer geek and he’s just as knowledgeable about computers as my ex-husband was. The only difference is that we sleep in different bedrooms but that’s okay. I’m not going to write about him in this blog too much mainly because he frequently expresses himself online so if you want to know more about him, check him out on Twitter, YouTube, Medium, and his personal website.

Heck, to be fair, I didn’t write too much about my then-husband either before our marriage ended. I would occasionally mention him in passing but that was about it. He didn’t want me to write about him in this blog and I honored his request. Theoretically I could write a whole lot about him now that we’re no longer married but I really don’t want to spend a huge amount of time bashing him in this blog.

It’s generally a good practice not to write too much about the people closest to you in your life. Right now a mommy blogger is getting roasted on the Internet after she admitted that her nine-year-old daughter, whom she had been blogging about since the girl’s birth, had recently discovered old blog posts about her and she asked her mother to stop writing about her online. The mommy blogger has refused saying that, “Promising not to write about her anymore would mean shutting down a vital part of myself, which isn’t necessarily good for me or her.” Yeah, I think it’s totally self-centered on her part and she’s basically telling her daughter that her feelings don’t matter because Mommy’s needs must always come first. I can only imagine how her daughter will turn out in the future, especially as she reaches adulthood.

Not only was my personal life turbulent due to financial problems but I also had to deal with living in the United States of America under President Donald Trump. Just before Christmas he decided to shut down the federal government because he wants his stupid border wall erected along the U.S.-Mexican border and, as of this writing, he refuses to budge. A couple of days ago Trump has said that he is willing to keep the government shut down for years. Meanwhile my federal employee friends are furloughed and dealing with stopped paychecks. I assumed that my ex-husband, who works for NASA, is also among the furloughed but I don’t know for sure since we are no longer on speaking terms. I know that in past shutdowns he stayed home until the government re-opened and Congress has always authorized backpay for all those furloughed federal employees. The worst came when he was off for a month during the winter holiday season back in 1995-1996 and he received backpay for that month that he didn’t work.

In the midst of all this Trump shutdown drama I managed to find a new day job. Basically it involves making government documents accessible by people with various types of disabilities. I learned about this job through my new housemate and it turned out that the person who owns this company is a former teacher I had when I decided to undergo training for a desktop publishing certificate back in the 1990s. (I did it in the hopes of landing a better job than office work. It didn’t work out for me in the long run but that’s another story.)

I started the training phase the day after New Year’s Day. I managed to succeed at my initial training and the person is hiring me on a trial basis for 10 hours a week for the first three months. If all goes well, then I may get more work. I learned that I was hired just a couple of days ago.

I can’t write too much about this new day job because I had to sign non-disclosure agreements as a condition of my employment. Fortunately the company had lined up jobs from state and local governments since they won’t be getting any new work from the federal government until this whole stupid shutdown ends.

Right now I’m cautiously optimistic. I’ve had other jobs fall through for me in the past so I’m not going to get hyped up just yet. But it seemed strange that my life seems to have deviated from my peers. When my friends had steady jobs (especially with the federal government), I alternated between being unemployed and underemployed. Now that many of my friends have been furloughed, I’m on the path to possibly working at a steady job. It’s strange how life works sometimes.

Last year I wrote in my annual anniversary blog post about how I followed all of the job acquisition suggestions through the local American Jobs Center only to come up empty for me. The employees at that place kept on suggesting that LinkedIn is the key to getting a new job and not to bother with newspaper classified ads because they were so old-fashioned. Yet I got one of my previous jobs through an ad in the local newspaper and it was the same thing for my occasional gigs working with the therapist (whom I’m going to work for later today). And this latest job was the result of a combination of taking that employer’s classes back in the 1990s and a mutual friend learning that she needed help.

In the meantime I’m in the process of publishing my first book. I uploaded copies on to Amazon and Smashwords right before the Christmas holidays and I got diverted by both Christmas and this sudden new day job that fell into my lap so I spent the first week of the new year undergoing intense training. Once things settle down I’m going to devote myself to promoting my new book so I’ll have another source of income (I hope).

I didn’t do as much this past year mainly because of tight finances. I’ve gotten a first-hand look at how important money really is and how limited your life becomes due to a lack of money. Even riding public transportation requires money. These days my idea of being self-indulgent is to go to Five Below and buy a box of candy for $1. Maybe one of these days I’ll do an animated video presentation on how frustrating it is that you need money for everything but, right now, I’m basically in survival mode.

I also learned that my ex-husband’s step-father passed away this year. Even though I haven’t communicated with him since 2011, I’m still sad that he’s now deceased.

Despite my current woes I managed to do a few things and I even had fun at times. The most memorable thing I did was participate in a counter-protest against the Unite the Right 2, a sequel to that alt-right rally that took place in Charlottesville, Virginia and it resulted in the death of a counter-protester named Heather Heyer after she was literally mowed down by a white supremacist’s car. These alt-right people decided to take their act to Washington, DC but we counter-protesters were ready for them and, we outnumbered them severely. In any case I basically stayed closer to home this past year because of money problems. Here’s are the highlights of things I’ve done over the past year:

I experienced an interactive version of the famous Nutcracker story at Artechouse on the last weekend of that exhibition.

Visiting the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore.

Posting my own photos of a rare albino squirrel in College Park, Maryland.

Visiting the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore for free on Martin Luther King Day.

I attended a birthday party for everyone at my church.

I attended a special 90th birthday party for a friend from my church.

I went to the second Women’s March on Washington in downtown DC.

In late January I shot photos of a Toys R Us store in Annapolis, Maryland. I returned to the same store in March and April when Toys R Us decided to close all of its stores in the United States and liquidate everything.

I went on the Final Friday Art Walk through Hyattsville, Maryland.

I walked around the Adams-Morgan area of Washington, DC in early February.

Walking around Greenbelt, Maryland where I saw an Amazon locker for the first time.

I took a Good Friday walk around Takoma Park, Maryland.

Witnessed the digital conversions of old Super 8 home movies.

Experiencing a rare spring snowstorm on the day after the Spring Equinox.

I got a chance to visit Historic London Town in Edgewater, Maryland while paying only a $1 admission fee.

Seeing a wild turkey in a tree.

I attended a protest of the Poor People’s Campaign in Annapolis, Maryland.

I walked around the Harbor East area of Baltimore.

I attended Light City in Baltimore.

I saw all kinds of interesting handcrafted goods and vintage items at an event in Crofton, Maryland.

I worked on my first-ever 4K video.

I ventured into real estate photography on one of my day jobs.

I worked with the Takoma Park, Maryland chapter of Girls Who Code.

I attended the Greenbelt Green Man Festival.

I went on the Gateway Arts District Open Studio Tour and Mount Rainier Day.

I created my first real video game.

I had the opportunity to attend a Sunday sermon given by the Rev. Dr. William Barber of the Poor People’s Campaign.

I attended a Greek Festival in Lanham, Maryland.

I attended the Poor People’s Campaign Rally and March on Washington.

I went to the first By the People Art Event at the Smithsonian.

I sat in on a yarn spinning event.

I visited an organic health food store with a pinball arcade.

I checked out the National Night Out in Takoma Park, Maryland.

I was among the throng of people who counter-demonstrated against the Unite the Right 2 rally in Washington, DC and we outnumbered the neo-Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan.

I witnessed a new way to do a job interview via a smartphone app.

I saw some cool art in Riverdale Park, Maryland.

I walked around Eastern Market and Capitol Hill in Washington, DC.

I went to a pumpkin festival that was held despite a nor’easter that went through the area.

I saw a Halloween House by a lake.

I saw some local fall foliage by a lake and by a giant crucifix.

I discovered a new makerspace that had recently opened in my area.

I went to the 10 x 10 art show in Hyattsville, Maryland.

A few of the art shows, craft fairs, and other arts and crafts related events I participated in: I attended the Art of Resistance Screenprinting Workshop just days before the second Women’s March on Washington. Maker Faire NoVa on the campus of George Mason University in Virginia. Assisted with screen printing banners for the Poor People’s Campaign in Baltimore. I attended a few sessions of Dr. Sketchy’s Anti-Art School in Washington, DC. I participated in the Greenbelt Spring Maker Festival in Greenbelt, Maryland. I attended a workshop on designing rainbow clothes for Pride Month. I received a second place ribbon in the Mixed-Media category at the Greenbelt Labor Day Art Show. I won a third place ribbon in the Needlework category at the Retro Town Fair in Greenbelt, Maryland. I took part in the month-long Internet event known as Inktober. I participated in an artist exhibition at Paint Branch Unitarian Universalist Church in Adelphi, Maryland. I helped out with my first Edcamp at Loyola College in Columbia, Maryland. I finished out the year with my first-ever 12 Drawings of Christmas, which ran from December 21, 2018-January 1, 2019.

Santa Claus

As you may know, I did a special event in this blog known as The 12 Drawings of Christmas where each day from December 21, 2018-January 1, 2019 I uploaded a new drawing. It’s similar to what I did for Inktober with a few exceptions: 1) I only did 12 drawings over a 12-day period instead of doing 31 drawings over a 31-day period and 2) unlike Inktober, where the drawings have to be done in ink (pencil can be used as an underdrawing as long as the finished drawing is inked over), I permitted myself to use whatever drawing medium I wanted. It helped that this was something I did on my own instead of an organized event like Inktober so I could control what media I wanted to use. It also helped that I only had to deal with doing 12 drawings instead of 31 drawings.

It was pretty liberating to allow myself to use any media that I wanted, in contrast to Inktober where I am only limited to just ink. I’m financially struggling at the moment so I have to limit myself to using cheap pens that I can find on sale at Target and Five Below. These pens don’t really have a wide variety of shades, especially certain colors like brown (which I can only find in dark brown among the cheap pens). Buying something like Copic markers is just not in my budge at the moment. At least with the more media variety I allowed myself for The 12 Drawings of Christmas, I could switch to colored pencils if I didn’t have an ink pen in a certain shade that I needed (such as light brown).

Working on The 12 Drawings of Christmas was basically a more laid-back experience than Inktober since I only had to worry about 12 days. I did one drawing based on a song lyric and one political drawing but the rest was basically fan art. The only real snag were the two-day period where I drew Elsa from the Disney movie Frozen followed by Abbey Bominable from Mattel’s line of Monster High dolls the next day. I drew both drawings based on the dolls that I currently own in real life. Both dolls wore a piece of clothing that was made from tulle and both tulle clothing had snowflakes on them. It was a bear trying to simulate tulle with my ink pens then trying to draw snowflakes on top of that.

The results were worth it, especially since these two drawings face each other directly in my sketchbook, which created a certain kind of unity between my drawings of these two very different females.

After spending two days in a row on relatively challenging drawings, I spent the rest of that 12-day period doing simple drawings based on free tutorials I found on websites like How to Draw Step by Step Drawing Tutorials and Easy Drawing Tutorials. I find that it doesn’t hurt for a trained artist like myself to use tutorials because I could use a refresher on how to draw something a certain way every now and then.

Unlike Inktober I never approached the feeling of being burned out. That’s because I worked on far fewer drawings than Inktober so I only had to worry about creating 12 drawings instead of 31 drawings.

Like Inktober I wrote blog posts about my drawings and I uploaded them on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Jobcase. The main difference is that I also uploaded the drawings in the off-topic section of this political discussion forum that I belong to. I usually don’t do this but I thought that my online friends could use some cheering up after the recent death of a longtime member known as Moomba so close to Christmas. I got some pretty positive response to my drawings in that forum.

I also got some positive responses from my Facebook friends whom I know in real life. One night I went to a local cafe where one of them asked me in person when I was going to upload my next drawing. That was cool.

I also did a video version of The 12 Drawings of Christmas that I uploaded on to YouTube on New Year’s Day (the same day that I did my last drawing in that series). In case you’ve missed all or part of my series, you can view the video below.

You can also look at The 12 Drawings of Christmas blog category to view the original posts.

Ever since Inktober I figured out how to count “Likes” on Twitter (which I wasn’t able to figure out before so I didn’t count any Twitter “Likes” when I tabulated the original Inktober “Likes” a few months ago). So, for this round of counting “Likes” on the 12 Drawings of Christmas, I was able to include Twitter for the first time along with counting “Likes” on Instagram, Flickr, and this blog.

While I was working on The 12 Drawings of Christmas, I tried to predict which of my drawings would get the most “Likes”. I thought that my drawing of Elsa from Frozen would be the winner because that film still continues to be popular plus I’m still seeing new Frozen spin-off products in the stores (especially toys) years after Disney released that film. I also thought that my drawing of Kizuna Ai would also have a chance at the number one slot mainly because she is a virtual YouTube star who has gained a huge cult following plus I had her along with Santa and Mrs. Claus attempt to emulate that distracted guy meme that has been passed around the Internet for the past year.

I was wrong on both counts. I found out that the first place winner by a landslide was my drawing of Wysa the penguin mascot of the Wysa smartphone app. My drawing of Kizuna Ai and the Clauses ended up in second place but it was a very distant second since Wysa got 90 “Likes” while Kizuna Ai and the Clauses only got 28 “Likes.” (Remember, the counts were based the reactions on three different social media sites and this blog.)

Here’s the complete list of the drawings in my 12 Drawings of Christmas series ranging from the most popular (or most “Likes”) to the least popular (or fewest “Likes”).

First Place: Wysa the penguin.

Second Place: Santa, Mrs. Claus, and Kizuna Ai.

Third Place: Partridge in a pear tree.

Fourth Place: Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.

Fifth Place: The Grinch.

Sixth Place: Abbey Bominable from Monster High.

Seventh Place (Tied): Krampus taking Donald Trump away and Olaf the talking snowman from the Disney movie Frozen.

Eighth Place: Elsa from the Disney movie Frozen.

Ninth Place: Christkind.

Tenth Place: Baby New Year.

Eleventh Place: Nutcracker.

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Santa Claus Baby New Year

Since today is New Year’s Day, which ushers in a brand new year, I’d thought I would write about what I recently did for myself on Christmas Day.

I haven’t opened a wrapped gift on Christmas Day since 2011. It was three months after I underwent hip surgery. For my birthday on December 15 my husband surprised me with a new iPod Touch. Ten days later on Christmas Day, I opened a wrapped gift and found that he gave me a new iPad. With a new iPod Touch and a new iPad, I felt really blessed to have two new Apple devices on top of my ability to walk slowly improving after my hip surgery.

It all came crashing down just three days later when my husband came home from work, announced that he was moving out, then ran out the door before I could even respond. My iPad stopped working altogether just three years later. My iPod Touch still works even though it has older software (I can’t install the newest version of the iOS software because the hardware is now considered old).

Over the last several years, before my marriage fell apart, my mother would send me a $200 check for my birthday and a $200 check for Christmas but that was it for gifts. (She also used to send my husband checks as birthday and Christmas presents until he left me.) At least I could treat myself to a nice meal or some nice clothes for myself. The checks stopped in 2016 when my mother’s health deteriorated (she’s currently struggling with multiple sclerosis and it’s gotten to the point where I can only talk to her on the phone for no more than 2 or 3 minutes because she gets tired).

After my marriage ended I usually went to my support group’s annual post-Christmas party where we have a white elephant gift exchange. If it weren’t for that, I wouldn’t even get a wrapped gift.

There were times when I miss getting a wrapped gift that i would open and I would be surprised with what I got. I finally decided to rectify that situation.

For the past few years there have been the rise in popularity of blind boxes which housed some kind of a collectible item. One can find them in comic book stores, Target, Five Below, Walmart, and other similar stores. Two years ago I purchased a cheap blind blister package that had a Hatsune Miku keychain inside. The outer pack showed photos of six possible designs that I could get and I didn’t know which one I got until after I brought it home and opened it. I only purchased one keychain because I wasn’t very comfortable with the idea of possibly getting a duplicate because I couldn’t see what I was really purchasing until after I purchased it.

I used to collect Wacky Packages as a kid and they were in blind packages. The difference was that Wacky Packages were basically flat stickers. If you ended up getting a duplicate it was no big deal. You could trade it with a friend but if you couldn’t find any friends willing to trade with you, you could always use that duplicate as a sticker. I remember plastering my notebooks and other items with my duplicate Wacky Packages stickers. When it came time to clear out my childhood home after my mother decided to sell it, I found an old 45 r.p.m. record case that had a Wacky Packages sticker on the bottom for Neveready Batteries (a parody of Eveready Batteries).

But 3D objects in blind packages were another matter. If you ended up with a duplicate 3D object, chances are that you will have a harder time with getting rid of it. Most stores will not accept returns for purchasing a duplicate. You could sell it on eBay but you may or may not get anyone willing to buy it. If you’re lucky enough to have a fellow collector willing to trade with you, you might unload your duplicate that way. Or you could wrap it and give it to someone as a birthday or Christmas present. Or even donate it to Goodwill or the Salvation Army.

Yet I could see the allure of buying a blind package an opening it on Christmas as a substitute for opening a wrapped present. There weren’t too many blind packages that really excited me enough to consider doing this until I learned of a new line of dolls that were released by Just Play a few months ago called Hairdorables. Hairdorables are a series of small dolls with huge amounts of hair that is as big as they are. Not only did the dolls skin and hair come in a variety of colors but I found their faces to be totally cute—complete with impish smiles. Each doll and her accessories comes in a blind box where you don’t know which doll you get until after you buy it and take it home.

The dolls were released in August but, for some reason, the local Target in my area didn’t start getting them until mid-December. Meanwhile I kept on reading about these dolls online until I finally saw the boxes in real life. I purchased a Hairdorables box from Target on Christmas Eve. (The local mall was far less crowded on Christmas Eve this year than in previous years.)

I brought the package home and waited until the following day to open it. Here’s the Christmas tree along with the box still in its plastic Target bag.

Here is what the package looks like. As you can see, you literally don’t know which doll you’ve actually purchased until after you open the box.

The back of the box shows a list of 36 possible dolls that could be in that box.

Here’s a close-up of that box where you can see the Hairdorables available in a variety of hair and skin colors.

One of the side panels of the box tells the story of Hairdorables.

The story goes like this:

Hello influencers!

It’s your time to SHINE!

Meet Noah and the #Hairdorables!

Noah is a super sweet girl with a talent for styling hair. When she posted her front braid tutorial for fun, she never imagined it would go viral!

Since then, Noah has loads of inspiring friends who love to share their passions, so when she asked them to contribute to her channel, they all yelled out a resounding YAAAAAS! Check out the Hairdorables channel on YouTube!

They are dolls for the Internet age that are packaged in such a way as to make filming an unboxing doll video very easy. I chose to shoot a series of still photos instead of making an unboxing video because there are already so many unboxing Hairdorables videos out there and I wasn’t in the mood to make a new video. You open the box a certain way, starting with the yellow pull tab at the top of the box.

Once I pulled down the pull tab I found that the box reveals two compartments that you pull slightly apart.

As you pull the compartments apart you see that there’s a piece of paper in the middle being flanked by the two compartments where the doll and her accessories are held. Basically you are instructed to open the box in a certain order where you open the side containing the doll last. It’s designed to build up suspense to the ultimate surprise—which doll you received.

As for the paper in the middle, one side has a promo drawing of the Hairdorables.

The other side has a checklist of all of the Hairdorables dolls that are available in its first series (while implying that there will be a second series along with more subsequent series).

I didn’t look too closely at the checklist because I’ve read other people’s accounts about unboxing the Hairdorables and I learned that if you study the checklist too much, you will figure out which doll you received while you’re unboxing the accessories. I really wanted the whole experience to be a surprise so I only glanced at it quickly.

I also want to take the time to say that even though the Hairdorables checklist (which you can view online here) says that there are 36 dolls to collect, it doesn’t mean that there are 36 different characters. There are actually 12 different characters with each character having three different variations where each variation will wear a different outfit and have different accessories.

Getting back to the box, once I removed the checklist I found that there is actually a little backdrop where you can pose your Hairdorable doll. I like the idea of reusing the box for play since it would generate less trash than a typical doll box.

The box instructed me to open the left compartment of the box first. The compartment have four smaller sections that are in exact numbered order.

I opened the door marked with the number one and I got a small plastic bin with a top wrapper that had this pun: “Hair we go!”

I got a pink hair comb and a tiny square of tiny stickers.

So I opened the door marked with the number 2 and got a bin with this pun, “You go curl!”

I got a pair of winged sneakers (which looked really intriguing because it reminded me of the winged sandals of the god known as Hermes or Mercury in the Greco-Roman myths) and another sticker.

The stickers could be peeled then folded in half in order to create a tiny smartphone for the doll.

The idea was pretty neat in theory but it turned out to be impractical in reality after I unboxed the doll because her hands were unable to hold the tiny smartphone.

It was time to open the door that was marked with number 3. I got a bin with this message: “[heart] UR Style!”

I got a pair of white angel wings along with another sticker featuring two of the Hairdorables dolls and the hashtag #BraidsRule.

Then it was time for me to open the door with the number 4. I got the bin with this pun: “Sheer Genius.”

I got another sticker with two of the dolls and the hashtag #VacayAllDay. But it was the hairband that really thrilled me. It’s a mint green hairband with a unicorn horn! It brought back memories of when I unsuccessfully tried to market myself with my 1990s Unicorn With An Attitude animation series. I was also intrigued because I once read a series of books by Anne McCaffrey and Margaret Ball about the adventures of Acorna, a humanoid girl born with a unicorn horn.

After opening the first four compartments it was time to unbox the doll herself.

I opened the door and I got another plastic bin.

Removing the plastic bin reveals more box graphics that suggests a clothes closet.

The bin wrapper had yet another pun: “Let’s see what’s in hair!”

Here is my new doll as she was packaged in that bin as shown from the front and back.

I removed the doll from the bin and found that there was also a small card that reveals which doll I received. One side of the card mentions that her name is Willow, her favorite color is mint green, and her motto is “Style is a state of mind!” The other side shows a cute drawing of Willow.

Once I removed the doll from her bin I put on her winged sneakers, angel wings, and unicorn hairband. Willow has an oversized head on a small, thin body. Here is my new Willow doll placed against her backdrop. I found that the doll can’t stand on her own but I could lean her against the backdrop to make it look like she’s standing. I ended up having to use the flash for the next two photos because the area was a bit too dark (even though I had turned on all the lights on the Christmas tree and opened the blinds on a nearby window to let natural light in).

After that last photo I decided to move everything outdoors. It was sunny outside but the temperatures were in the low 40s. At least I could take better photos of the doll and her background. According to the checklist I got the Willow Wings variation doll and it’s also supposed to be her signature look. (I learned that the dolls designated to be “signature looks” tend to be more common to find than the other variants.)

Willow is incredibly cute with a very impish smile. Her brown skin and pastel rainbow color scheme kind of reminds me of the Studio Mucci Instagram account. Of course her unicorn headband is to die for!

Willow is among the smaller dolls I’ve purchased. Here is how she stands against the 1/6 scale dolls. In this photo she is flanked by Clawdeen Wolf of Monster High and Barbie. As you can see, Willow looks like a toddler compared to those dolls.

Willow and the other Hairdorables are definitely 1/12 scale dolls. Here is how she stands against my other tiny dolls. From left to right: Dollcena Disney Hawaiian Harmonies, Little Pullip Alice Fanatica, Willow, and a Bobobie Sunny Asian ball-jointed doll.

Willow has a mass of long hair that reaches to her feet. I’ve dealt with doll hair over the years but I have to say that her hair is the softest doll hair I’ve ever felt. I really love her pastel highlights that make her hair resemble cotton candy.

I really loved the doll that I received even though getting a unicorn girl was definitely the luck of the draw. The most controversial part of Hairdorables is the fact that you literally don’t know which doll you’ll get while the package costs nearly $13 per box. (Most blind box packages cost anywhere from $3-8 depending on the size of the item inside.) I’ve read reviews online from parents who purchased multiple Hairdorables boxes for their children only to get duplicates.

I’ll admit that I’m still pretty ambivalent about blind boxes in general. While it was fun finding out which doll I got, I had also only purchased just one box. If I had purchased two or more boxes and I ended up getting an exact duplicate, I don’t think I would have been as enamored with the concept. I think just limiting yourself to only one box is the best way to get maximum enjoyment from opening a blind box.

While there are other blind boxes who put codes on their packages that hint at what’s inside (such as the Lego Minifigs blind packages), so far Just Play has not released any hints on how people can avoid inadvertently purchasing duplicate dolls.

I’ve read about some people saying that the best way of telling the boxes apart is to weigh them. Apparently different boxes have different accessories so it affects the weights. Then you somehow sneak a scale into the store and weigh each box to discover which doll that box may have. This method only works if you have purchased at least three or four Hairdorables boxes (while hoping and praying that you didn’t purchase any duplicates) so you can weigh them at home and write down the weight of each doll box with a certain doll inside. Then you would take your scale and list to the store, weigh each box, and compare that weight with what you have on your list. The big problem with that method is that not everyone can afford to use this method, especially since the boxes cost $13 a pop. On top of that, you would have to carry a scale into a store and weigh each box while hoping that a store employee doesn’t decide to confront you while you are doing it.

There is an alternate method is to see the imprinted lot number that’s located next to the bar code of the box.

Next peek at the back of the box to see what the background looks like. You may need to use a flashlight or use the flashlight that’s on your smartphone for this step.

The theory is that if the lot number and background matches, chances are that it’s a duplicate doll and you shouldn’t buy it. This video from the Up and Play YouTube channel demonstrates both the scale and the peeking at the background methods.

There is one major limitation with the idea that a different background means a different doll: That theory doesn’t always work. This blog post on the Toy Box Philosopher site mentions buying two Hairdorables packages with the same background but with different dolls and accessories.

I had thought about testing that idea out by buying a second Hairdorables box, which I would open on Little Christmas (January 6). I was thinking about replicating my childhood when my family used to celebrate that holiday by refilling the stocking with candy, small toys, and practical items (such as a pair of socks or underwear). Some years I would get a small package while other years I only got my stocking refilled.

But then I decided to ditch that idea when I learned that the second series of Hairdorables will be officially released later this month. I decided to just wait for the second series and bypass the dilemma of whether to buy a second Hairdorables Series 1 box and risk getting a duplicate doll. I just only hope that the Target store in my area can get the new dolls much sooner than the four months it took before that store even received its first shipment of the Series 1 Hairdorables.

The YouTube channel My Froggy Stuff managed to received advance copies of the new Series 2 dolls and made this video.

Based on the video, it looks like the biggest improvement is that this new series of dolls will each come with a doll stand. That is a great idea since my own doll can’t really stand on her own. Like the previous series, the new Series 2 doll boxes will also have backgrounds that can be used for displaying the dolls or playing with them.

Like I wrote earlier, I think it’s a good idea to have the boxes double as a display area for the dolls. The only disadvantage is that the boxes tend to take up space, especially if you own more than two dolls and you don’t have much space in your home. I found this tutorial on the American Girl Outsider blog on how to break down the backdrop so it won’t take up as much space in your home. You’ll need to scroll down to the bottom of that blog post in order to get to the tutorial.

I have to admit that it was pretty fun to once again unwrap something that I didn’t know what was inside until after I finished opening the box.

To learn more about Hairdorables you can either check out the official site or you can visit this site that was set up by a fan called the Absolute Hairdorables Wiki.

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