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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 Alison.com 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.)

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 Figurosity.com: 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 Figurosity.com 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

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.

I was in the Union Square-Hollins Market Historic District mainly because I was attending a networking event that was held at Lithuanian Hall on Hollins Street. This area is notable for the fact that the famous writer H.L. Mencken once lived there. My mother also came from that area. She grew up on Stricker Street. So I decided to arrive in the area a little bit earlier so I could explore the area while it was still daylight outside.

I took the light rail from the North Linthicum stop until I reached the city then I took the Charm City Circulator bus to the Hollins Market stop. While I was traveling I kept on remembering the stories that both my mother, grandmother, and aunt used to tell about their days when they lived on Stricker Street. It was a time where most stores and other places were within walking distance and the neighbors used to watch out for each other. Imagine the shock when I got off of the bus on West Baltimore Street.

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West Baltimore Street looked just as bad as the area that was hit by violence that happened in the wake of Freddie Gray’s death nearly two years ago.

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Hollins Street wasn’t much better. It was very common to see boarded up shops and row houses.

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There were times when I found it hard to believe that H.L. Mencken once lived on this very street. It’s obvious that this area has seen better days.

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Here’s the intersection of Hollins Street and South Stricker Street. My mother and late aunt grew up on South Stricker Street.

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The next photograph shows one of the few blocks of row houses on South Stricker Street where it looks like people are still occupying them and they also look pretty nice and well-kept. Unfortunately most of the row houses I saw on that street had just as many boarded up buildings as the ones on Hollins Street and West Baltimore Street.

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Here’s the intersection of South Stricker Street and West Baltimore Street.

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The weather was too rainy for me to do much exploring (which is why all the photos in this post are cloudy and gray). I stopped by the historic Hollins Market.

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The outside walls are adorned with mosaics featuring Edgar Allan Poe, the Inner Harbor, and the various Baltimore sports teams.

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I’ve been to Lexington Market several times before. Hollins Market is small and narrow compared to Lexington Market. I stopped by an hour before closing and I saw that half of the stalls were either empty or they were already closed for the day.

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The back of the market had this mural featuring famous Baltimoreans Babe Ruth, Edgar Allan Poe, and H.L. Mencken.

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I had originally planned on eating dinner at Hollins Market but since it was close to closing down, I ended up going to Mi Ranchito, a Mexican restaurant that was located across the street from Hollins Market. I found the food pretty affordable and tasty. I loved the Frida Kahlo illustrations that lined the restaurant.

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On my way to Lithuanian Hall for the networking event, I saw something that looked like a TARDIS from Doctor Who. On closer inspection it looked like one of those Little Free Libraries but there were no signs indicating that it was an official Little Free Library. The middle shelf looks like it could hold books but it was empty when I was there that day. The yellow words said “A book is like a garden, carried in the pocket. Once you learn to read, you will be forever free.”

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My mother would be very sad if she knew what happened to her old neighborhood. A few days after I was in the area I saw this video on the BBC News site that was about Baltimore that brought me to tears mainly because I was born in that city and I grew up near there. It’s really upsetting to see Baltimore rotting with its residents barely surviving in poverty, especially since the United States is supposed to be the richest nation in the world. It’s no wonder people became violent after Freddie Gray was killed by the police.

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I had a relatively quiet Halloween this year due mainly to a combination of tight finances and my mother’s latest health battle. (She spent a few days in the hospital earlier this month for sepsis.) I purchased this interesting pack of marshmallow Peeps from Five Below because these Halloween Peeps looked pretty unusual. I’ve seen Halloween Peeps shaped like black cats, ghosts, jack o’lanterns, and gravestones but this was the first time I’ve seen Peeps shaped like Frankenstein’s head.

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But that’s not all I found at Five Below. I also found pumpkin spice-flavored Peeps. These are the chicks that I usually see at Easter but I guess Just Born has decided that chicks aren’t just for Easter anymore.

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I wasn’t sure if I was going to like the combination of marshmallow, white chocolate fudge, and pumpkin spice but I found that they were quite tasty.

Among the treats I gave out this year was Utz Bats & Jacks Pretzels. That pack usually gives out a free black and white Halloween decoration (which is basically the Utz girl dressed as a witch while being surrounded by bats).

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The same decoration is given out each year. I know that the decoration is in black and white because it’s meant for children to color it using crayons or other media. I displayed it outside a couple of years ago in its uncolored state at the last minute before the first trick or treater arrived. This year I decided to take out some colored pencils and color it in.

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I did the coloring Friday night. I displayed it in the trunk of my car at my church’s Trunk or Treat event yesterday (Sunday), which was held in the parking lot for the children at that congregation. I took some photos of the event, which I’ll write about later.

After the Trunk or Treat event I hung that same colored decoration on the door of my home alongside the ghost from the Scream movies (which I’ve owned for a number of years) and a traditional Mexican Day of the Dead decoration (which I purchased from Five Below just a couple of days ago for only 99 cents).

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Like I wrote two weeks ago, I purchased this new bat to replace a previous bat that was stolen from the porch in 2014.

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I have a Grim Reaper dangling from the bottom of my mailbox near my small coffin.

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I also have some smaller Halloween items placed on the front porch near the coffin and Grim Reaper.

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I deliberately didn’t cut down the dead Black-Eyed Susans and other dead foliage in order to have this dead plants effect (which is way cheaper than buying fake dead Halloween foliage in the stores). Safeway had a special “2 medium pumpkins for $10” sale so I bought two pumpkins and carved jack o’lantern faces on them then placed them among the dead plants. I kept the seeds and roasted them so I now have healthy snacks.

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The next photos were taken in Glen Burnie earlier this month during one of the days I visited my mother in the hospital. After that visit I drove past a couple of homes where I saw those Donald Trump signs on the front lawn, which were the first homes I’ve ever seen anyone display anything that was pro-Trump. (It figures that I saw them in the town where I grew up from ages 5-19.) After I took photos of those two houses with the Trump signs, I decided to stop by Giant because I needed to buy a few things and I thought it would be easier to buy them at the Giant in Glen Burnie then drive straight home. I got out of that store just in time to enjoy this lovely sunset.

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In the same shopping center as that particular Giant I saw that one of those Spirit of Halloween stores had set up its temporary shop there.

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I went over to that store where I took these pictures documenting what’s considered “in” for Halloween 2016.

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Of course since this is an election year, there would be opportunities for people to dress up as either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump.

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There was a Bernie Sanders mask available for sale. It’s too bad that there were reports of primary election rigging in places like IllinoisMassachusettsKentuckyArizonaNew YorkCalifornia, and Nevada since there were many poll results that stated that Bernie Sanders could’ve beaten Donald Trump by a much wider margin than the current narrow margin between Clinton and Trump. (Some recent polls say that Hillary Clinton has since come out way ahead but who knows what will go down on November 8.)

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I didn’t buy anything at that store due to tight finances. Even if I could afford to shop there I don’t think I would buy very many items because I’m really not into large lawn displays and there are so many costumes and masks that I can really keep in my home before I get overrun with costumes and masks.

I spent the bulk of Halloween day going to the first of a two-day session on how to improve my job hunting skills that’s offered by the State of Maryland. It’s currently being held in its offices in Laurel, which is located next to Laurel Shopping Center. During one of the breaks I walked around the far end of that shopping center where I saw the place where a second-run movie theater used to operate (but it went out of business a few years ago). There’s currently a haunted house known as Laurel’s House of Horrors that’s operating there. I didn’t go inside at all mainly because the admission was $30 and I’m really not into spending that much money on something that’s only going to last one hour at the most. I have to admit that the exterior looked interesting.

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I’ll finish this entry with this giant spider in the center of this giant spider web that’s currently displayed outside Makerspace 125.

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Here’s a update to a post I wrote a few days ago. My mother was released from the hospital a few days ago. I’m pretty relieved because money has been tight for me and I had to use more gas to commute up to the hospital in Glen Burnie (where she was staying). I’m really hoping that she doesn’t get any more sepsis episodes for the rest of this year.

I’ve written in the past about how unhappy I was growing up in Glen Burnie mainly because the other kids called me “retarded” and that label stuck with me not only all the way through grade 12 but even during my freshman year at Anne Arundel Community College the fellow students who knew me from school continued to look down on me in a condescendingly way like I was diseased. I ended up having to make friends with students who attended other high schools because they didn’t know me growing up so they weren’t exposed to seeing kids call me “retarded”. It wasn’t until I transferred to the University of Maryland in College Park that I was finally able to put my past behind me because most of the students there knew nothing about my past.

I don’t regret leaving Glen Burnie because my ability to lead a normal life would’ve been seriously compromised in terms of having friends or even being able to find jobs (especially if one of my old teasers had been a hiring authority at a place where I submitted my resume).

Where I live I see the occasional Hillary Clinton signs on the lawns but those are pretty rare. I have never seen any Donald Trump signs at all—until I visited Glen Burnie. When I was leaving the hospital after visiting my mother on Saturday I drove past couple of houses that actually have Trump signs on the front lawns.

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It figures that I would see pro-Trump people in Glen Burnie. Never mind the fact that Donald Trump has never given a rat’s ass about lower middle class/working class towns like Glen Burnie. I mean, look at what he has built in his career as a real estate developer. No one living in Glen Burnie could ever afford to move to any buildings that has Trump’s name on it unless he or she won the Powerball lottery.

And then there are the rape and sexual abuse allegations against him as well as all of the creepy comments he made about how he’d date Ivanka Trump if it weren’t for the fact that she is his daughter. I just only hope these homeowners don’t have wives or daughters but I have a feeling that they have women in their lives. If I was the wife or daughter of someone who supports Donald Trump so much that he has placed a pro-Trump sign in the yard, I would wonder if my husband or father secretly approves of rape and sexual abuse. If I was a daughter I would also wonder if my father also has secret desires to date me if I wasn’t his daughter just like what Donald Trump has said about Ivanka.

It would be pretty ironic if either of those homeowners were among those who taunted me all through school by calling me “retarded.” If that’s the case, it would be appropriate that they are Trump supporters given how Trump has made fun of a disabled man.

Keeping pro-Trump signs on the front lawn after every horrible thing Trump has said and done over these many months are advertising “I AM A DOUCHEBAG AND I’M PROUD OF IT!!!” Especially given the reports that Donald Trump refuses to say whether he will even honor the election results if Hillary Clinton wins in a few weeks. I’m sure these assholes don’t give a damn about keeping the U.S. a functioning democracy or honoring the U.S. Constitution. They probably will refuse to watch videos like this one showing Keith Olbermann expressing outrage over the possibility that Trump may not even honor the election results if he happens to lose.

I am so glad I left Glen Burnie years ago. At least I’m among people who have accepted me as I am and I don’t have to see any pro-Trump lawn signs.

For the past few days I’ve been trying to get my life in gear. I’m working on a new series of DIY videos on how to customize one of those new Made to Move Barbie dolls, the first of which I’ll write about tomorrow. I’m also currently looking for a new day job to pay the bills since my last one ended so badly that I had to write a retraction post about that startup because the startup’s founder had previously talked me into writing a glowing post about the startup in this very blog instead of getting a separate blog account that would be devoted to promoting that startup. (As a result, I had to institute a new policy that I would no longer use this blog to write about work that I’m doing for other people until after there was some kind of closure to that work.)

But then I read something about one of the candidates in this year’s election that literally triggered me into remembering my divorce. Here’s some background information: Lindsay Lohan was a child star who appeared in many Disney movies while she was growing up. She was one of those child stars whose appearances as a teenager in the films Freaky Friday and Mean Girls showed that she had the potential to be one of those rare type of child stars—someone who could successfully make the transition as an adult actress taking on mature roles that could potentially gain her an Academy Award nomination (and maybe even an Oscar) a la Jodie Foster or Judy Garland. That promising potential was sadly squandered when she got into drugs and alcohol and one could easily spend an entire afternoon perusing the gossip sites for a litany of the troubles she has gotten herself into since she turned 18.

A new recorded audio from Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s past has recently surfaced where Trump was engaged in a conversation with radio shock jock Howard Stern over how hot the then-18-year-old Lindsay Lohan was while mentioning that her father, Michael, was a train wreck that would affect Lindsay needing a father figure in her life. Stern asked Trump “Can you imagine the sex with this troubled teen?” Here is Trump’s answer:

“She’s probably deeply troubled and therefore great in bed. How come the deeply troubled women, you know, deeply, deeply troubled, they’re always the best in bed?”

Of course that audio provoked all kinds of protests ranging from Lohan’s Freaky Friday costar, Jamie Lee Curtis, to Lohan herself. But this story has triggered me on a personal level for this reason: For many years I was in a stable marriage to a man whom I thought was very loving and devoted and who was also full of integrity. In September, 2011 I underwent hip surgery. During the next three months I received very loving care from my husband while he kept on telling me that he loved me. We celebrated a lovely Christmas holiday together. Just three days after Christmas he came home, told me that he was moving out, left me with two notes (one was a schedule that he wanted me to follow even though it would ultimately lead to our divorce while the other was a “reason” letter where he essentially blamed my purchase of the 1970’s historical American Girl doll on the day before my hip surgery because that doll “added to the clutter” of our home), then ran out the door.

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For the next few weeks I reached out to him numerous time by phone, email, and texts but he refused to answer them and he refused to speak with me. I wondered if he had found someone else and I suspected that if he did she would’ve been someone whom he met through his NASA job. It wasn’t until a month later when a few of my friends let me know that, yes, they had seen him with another woman but she wasn’t a NASA co-worker.

That woman was someone whom I knew and I thought was a friend. She has also been open about how she had spent much of her adult life battling severe depression. In fact she said that her depression is so severe that she has an experimental pacemaker in her brain. Despite that she was only able to work only a couple of days a week and she ended up getting SSI disability. About 11 months before my husband left me in 2011 she ended up spending a few days at Sheppard Pratt Hospital in Baltimore because her body had grown accustomed to the current course of treatment and she became really depressed. My husband and I had planned to visit her in the hospital one night when it turned out that she was released the afternoon before our planned trip to Baltimore. I was completely dumbfounded to learn that my husband had chosen this person—with all of her personal baggage—to be his mistress instead of one of his female NASA co-workers. My husband married this woman two months after our divorce became final.

When I read Donald Trump’s words on how deeply troubled women are the best in bed, I started to imagine my ex-husband having that same attitude. For the last few years I kept on thinking that my husband would have stayed with me if only I had developed a severe mental illness, which is totally fucked up thinking. My husband could have left me for any one of his female NASA co-workers who are all very intelligent, very independent, and share his fascination with air and space travel but, instead, he picked the one person whose life and career have been adversely affected by mental illness. I feel horrified that there are men out there like Donald Trump and my ex-husband who are getting attracted to deeply troubled women when these unfortunate women should really be left alone to quietly deal with their own issues in their own way without interference from anyone else (unless the women themselves ask for help).

My ex-husband has actually acted on his impulses and I have totally lost all the respect I ever had for him. (There are other longtime friends who had confided in me that they now avoid him as well because they have become so alienated by his behavior in recent years.) I don’t know whether Donald Trump has ever knowingly had sex with someone with mental illness or who’s deeply troubled in other ways but he has been accused of rape and sexual molestation of women and girls as young as 13.

I wish I could say that I’m shocked but this is the man whose inappropriate remarks about his daughter Ivanka have served as the basis for The Daily Show‘s two-part series Don’t Forget: Donald Trump Wants to Bang His Daughter and Again, Don’t Forget: Donald Trump Wants to Bang His Daughter and he has bragged about how you have to grab women by the pussy.

Those latest Donald Trump/Howard Stern remarks reopening old mental wounds about how my marriage fell apart is bad enough but a couple of days ago I got word that my mother is once again back in the hospital in Glen Burnie for sepsis. Friday I had to cut short my job hunting attempts so I could travel from the DC area to Glen Burnie to visit her. Yesterday I went to the hospital for the second day in a row.

I had planned on going today but there is this strange smell emanating from the kitchen that has been going on for the past couple of days and I really need to do a thorough cleaning to get to the source of that. (I suspect that there’s a dead mouse trapped somewhere in some crack or crevice.) I’m going to have other family members fill in for me today then tomorrow do this schedule where I stop by the Maryland Workforce Exchange for professional help on how to improve my job hunting efforts in the morning then drive on to Glen Burnie to visit my mom in the hospital in the afternoon.

But right now I’m going to have to get in a position where I force myself to work on the kitchen because I’m feeling kind of sad and depressed over everything. 😦

My latest trip to Baltimore came during a really crazy period. A few weeks I submitted this painting to a special art fundraiser that was being put on by the Escape Artists Gallery where the proceeds would go towards helping the victims of the recent Ellicott City flood.

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On the day I submitted that painting I also took a few photos of the area near the Escape Artists Gallery, which I posted here.

Soon after I submitted that painting I made an appointment for an interview for a potential job, which would be located in Jessup yet the interviews themselves took place in my old hometown of Glen Burnie. The night before that job interview I got word that my mother became very ill and she ended up in a hospital that was also located in Glen Burnie. I went through with the job interview the following morning while I took a change of clothes. After the job interview I went to Crabtowne USA where I ate lunch and changed clothes in the women’s restroom then headed to the hospital. For four days before the start of the Labor Day holiday weekend I would commute from the DC area to Glen Burnie to visit with my mother. Between those visits I would photograph some old haunts that I used to go to when I was growing up.

My mother managed to recover from her latest bout with sepsis and she was released from the hospital on the Friday, the same day that signaled the start of the Labor Day holiday weekend. A couple of days earlier I had received an invitation to go to the closing party for that art exhibit in Baltimore that would take place Friday night. Since my mom was in the process of getting out of the hospital, I decided to just bypass Glen Burnie and go straight into Baltimore.

It was the fifth day in a row that I commuted from the DC area to the Baltimore area but this trip was relatively relaxing compared to the previous four days. I arrived in Baltimore a few hours before the start of the party because I wanted to walk around the area some more.

I took the light rail into the city. At the light rail stop that’s closest to the Escape Artists Gallery there is this interesting looking statue that seems to depict soldiers from the American Revolution.

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This abandoned building has some nice art deco features and it probably was a really nice building a long time ago. Even though it looks deserted it still manages to maintain its art deco architecture.

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The main reason why I wanted to arrive in Baltimore early is because I found out that the Walters Art Museum is located just a couple of blocks from the Escape Artists Gallery. I had only been in that museum one other time and that was when I was a teenager. I remember my mother took me to that museum (which was then-named The Walters Art Gallery) because she kept on saying that she wanted to take me to that museum as well as some of the other nice places in Baltimore. I think she finally got around to taking me there when she realized that I was growing up and she wanted to take me there before I reached adulthood. The only things I remember from my one and only prior trip are the collection of Fabergé eggs and this mummy that was still in its sarcophagus.

So I was all excited that I would finally make my second visit to this same museum in my life, especially since it offers free admission. What made this visit even better is that, after enduring several weeks of high heat and high humidity, that awful heatwave went away. (What happened is that Hurricane Hermine was coming up the East Coast. It never went inland but it was powerful enough for the beach resorts to ban swimming and it blew away that high heat and high humidity. The weather was totally wonderful.

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I spent around two hours in that museum but, to be honest, if I had to do it again, I would spend the entire day in that museum because there is literally so much to see. I only managed to see two of the floors and part of a third floor. I took some pictures of the art that I liked, which show just a portion of what The Walters Art Museum has on display. (Some of the photos include nudity so they are definitely NSFW.)

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The Walters Art Museum also offers this really great view of the nearby Washington Monument.

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I stayed in that museum until it was closing time. As I walked outside I began to really enjoy the sunny yet very pleasant weather. I sat down on a chair that was located near the Washington Monument as I enjoyed the excellent weather and rested from walking around The Walters Art Museum for two hours. After a while I got up again and took some more photos around the area, including the Washington Monument and the Peabody Institute.

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At one point I thought about eating dinner at this locally owned pizza place instead of the Subway that’s located under the Escape Artists Gallery. While I could afford to eat at Subway, the pizza place was slightly more expensive so I decided to hit the ATM machine that was located inside that pizza place. But then I got one of those “Access Denied” messages on the receipt, even though I had just deposited the latest alimony check from my ex-husband. I briefly walked a block north to see if there were any other ATMs in the area but I didn’t find one and I was too tired to try walking a block south so I ended up eating dinner at Subway instead.

Finally was time for the party at the Escape Artists Gallery to begin (and it was located directly over the Subway where I ate my dinner). I arrived after the party was scheduled to begin only to discover that I was the first person who arrived. So I ended up talking with one of the people who ran the gallery where I learned that it had sold only half of the art currently in the show and the bulk of the sales happened on opening night. Since then the gallery had sold only one or two additional art pieces but, as a fundraiser, it was a bust. I also learned that my own art piece was among the unsold art pieces.

I walked around the gallery where I not only saw my own painting hanging (which you can see in the photo below) but I also saw the other works of art that were currently on display.

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This next photo shows that the party consisted of just seven people (including myself). I talked with the other party people for a bit but it was pretty much a bust. I decided to leave that party a half-an-hour before it was scheduled to end. I said my good-byes to the person I spoke with when I first arrived and she suggested that I take my painting with me since the show was going to close in two days. I took up her offer because I was really dreading making yet another trip from the DC area to the Baltimore area for a sixth day out of the last seven days.

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As I was walking back to the light rail station with my painting, I took a couple of gorgeous sunset photos.

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I even got a chance to see how gorgeous the Washington Monument looks at night when it’s all lit up like in the next photo.

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When I arrived at the light rail station I saw that the Revolutionary War soldiers statues that I first saw when I arrived were bathed in a warm yellow light.

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Just a few days before Labor Day I got word that my mother was sent to the University of Maryland Baltimore Washington Medical Center in Glen Burnie for sepsis. I even wrote a couple of blog posts on August 31, 2016 and September 1, 2016 about my mom’s latest hospitalization. Luckily the staff managed to treat it so she could be released just in time for the start of the Labor Day holiday weekend.

When I was growing up in Glen Burnie the hospital was known as North Arundel Hospital. I was there when I was a high school senior in order to have a pilonidal cyst removed just before the start of Thanksgiving Day. (In fact I was released just the day before Thanksgiving.) I visited other relatives during their hospital stays when it was still known as North Aundel.

The University of Maryland took over North Arundel after I permanently left Glen Burnie and they not only renamed that hospital but it also did major amount of remodeling of the original hospital building while adding other adjacent buildings next to it so that hospital is now way larger than when I remembered it while I was growing up.

I took a few photos of the hospital. It’s very glitzy compared to my memories of the old North Arundel Hospital. But my mom did get excellent care during her recent stay so I have no complaints.

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I also spent some time exploring Glen Burnie while I was commuting both to and from the hospital. In fact the whole week before Labor Day was spent commuting from the Washington, DC area to Glen Burnie. I checked out what was once one of my favorite shopping malls growing up that was known as the Glen Burnie Mall. In the years since I’ve moved that mall changed its name to The Centre at Glen Burnie but it has definitely gone downhill since I left that town. One of the few interesting things I found about that mall is that it was the first time I’ve ever seen a vending machine that dispenses Pringles potato chips. I purchased one and I found that it sold the small individual sized cans in that machine. But I still found it pretty novel that there is actually a vending machine that sells nothing but Pringles potato chips.

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I also went inside of Toys R Us, which is still going strong even though its main entrance faces a nearly dead mall. I saw that there is yet another re-release of Furby, which brought back memories of the time I did a fan site devoted to Furby in the late 1990’s-early 2000’s only to get all kinds of crazy attention from people who ere desperate to get their hands on these electronic critters. This new Furby generation was on sale for a whopping $99! (I remember when the original Furbys only cost $30.)

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I last took pictures inside this mall back in 2014 and even then it looked dead with very few stores still in business. As you can see, this mall has gotten even more deserted since then. There’s one end of the mall that’s not even worth walking to anymore because all of the storefronts and kiosks are completely closed and empty.

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I did some driving along the downtown Glen Burnie area on Crain Highway. This downtown was once very lively with a lot of locally owned mom-and-pop stores back when Glen Burnie was a small rural farming town. But then the developers built new shopping malls and shopping centers and those new shopping areas had siphoned off much of the original downtown businesses. When I was growing up, I saw mostly empty storefronts. In fact, that downtown was notorious for the New Glen Theater, which originally started as a regular movie theater but, by the time my family moved to Glen Burnie, that theater showed nothing but pornographic x-rated films. After I left Glen Burnie the New Glen Theater was somehow closed (I have no idea if the owner decided to sell or if the local officials seized it through eminent domain) and torn down. The downtown has undergone a bit of a revival in recent years. (Naturally all this happened long after I moved away.) There is this really cool antique store at the intersection of Crain Highway and Baltimore-Annapolis Boulevard that is filled from the floor to the ceiling with antiques. One could easily spend the whole day in that store.

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I also checked out this large big box discount store that’s located closer to where my childhood home is located. It’s known as Gabe’s and there aren’t any stores with that name in my area. In fact, I did a search at Gabe’s site and I found that that chain does operate stores in my area under the name Rugged Wearhouse.

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As you can see Gabe’s is a discount place with a constant stream of merchandise that’s similar to places like Roses, Burlington Coat Factory, Marshall’s, and T.J. Maxx.

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I last visited my mother in the hospital on the day before she was scheduled to be released (which was the Friday before the start of Labor Day weekend). I brought my latest painting, My Little Pony, with me because it was also the first day that the Greenbelt Labor Day Art Show was accepting entries and it was the most convenient time due to the fact that I was going to Baltimore the next day (which I’ll write about in a future post). I left the painting in the car while I visited my mom. Afterwards I stopped off at this Royal Farms Store. I decided to pick up some dinner and I love Royal Farms’ fried chicken.

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This particular Royal Farms Store had an adjacent car wash that was also touted as being environmentally friendly.

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This particular Royal Farms is pretty spacious, as you can see in the next few photos.

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Royal Farms has a unique way of ordering food that I haven’t seen anywhere else. You go to this touch screen and order what you want. This screen prints out a receipt. You go to the cashier, show the person your receipt, and pay for your meal. Then you wait until your meal has been packaged then you pick it up.

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I also purchased a pack of Berger Cookies because I haven’t had them in a while and they are such a great treat.

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I basically drove from Glen Burnie to the Greenbelt Community Center so I could drop off my painting for the Greenbelt Labor Day Art Show. Then I returned home where I ate my Royal Farms fried chicken meal and Berger Cookies.

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