It’s been a while since I’ve last posted, but I did not vanish into thin air
I’ve been busy with writing and with editing as well as posting my illustration efforts on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.
Writing for children
Writing children’s picture books may sound easy. But don’t be fooled! I’ve worked many years as an editor for IT, finance and research content and can say this much: children’s books are just as complex if not more complex to bring to perfection!
Ready to submit? Not so fast!
I thought I was ready to submit my children’s picture book manuscript ‘Miah and the Moon’. Approximately last August I realised I really wasn’t!
This means, should I be in the lucky position that a literary agent or publisher expresses their interest in ‘Miah and the Moon’ I would need to have at least two additional polished manuscripts ready. Unfortunately, I don’t.
Decompress and get back in the game
After a moment of anxiety followed by long walks in nature, various yoga routines and silent meditations, I realised the moment to act is ‘now’. Now is the time to act on whatever I felt was missing for me to submit my work and fill the gaps. And so I did.
Go for it in whichever way suits you best. But go for it!
After searching for the right solution to my problem I nailed it down to two options: Either becoming an SCWBI member or a 12 x 12 member.
Becoming a 12 x 12 member
Because the main factor for my despair last August 2017 was that I needed more written material to show for, I went and subscribed to the 12 x 12 challenge membership. If you’re unfamiliar with 12 x 12, it’s a one year challenge with the goal to produce 12 picture book manuscript (drafts) in 12 months.
So far so good
I polished the ‘Miah and the Moon’ manuscript and got familiar with the 12 x 12 forum and how things work. It’s a lot of information to take in and takes time to learn it all. The community is supportive and kind. One of the many benefits of being a member: I did not miss out on the picture book pitch events over on Twitter this year!
I’ve written a second picture book draft called ‘Mikkie and Molly’. It’s still unpolished but has taken a satisfying shape already. I’m eager to sketch a few illustration and storyboard samples, already.
Last but not least, while illustrating a cow, I was kissed by a muse to write a picture book draft titled ‘Matilda flies with Birds’. In this example, a simple sketch led to a picture book story.
I love to draw and to tell stories. It gives me immense pleasure to combine illustrating and writing. Before joining 12 x 12, I thought I may have to give up one or the other. But now I’ve discovered it is more than okay to do both. I’m not alone.
12 x 12
The registration deadline for 12 x 12 is closed to new members. But if you follow the link: 12 x 12 Membership you can opt to be alerted when registration for 2019 opens. Please feel free to ask me any questions regarding the 12 x 12 challenge in the comments below. I’ll try my best to answer them.
Until then, I’ll be posting my 12 x 12 journey on this blog. Maybe it’ll help you decide whether it’s as good fit for you as it is for me.
I haven’t posted for a while, because I needed to digest last month’s MATS Bootcamp assignment as the theme was quite controversial and got me a bit down. ‘A bit’ is probably an underestimation of how I felt last month. I felt downright depressed about the topic. And here’s why:
The Mini for June
The mini for the June assignment was Ellis Island. We were not given a particular focus. Rather, we were to research, observe, and create.
My online research resulted in me finding many portrait photographs of people who passed through Ellis Island between 1892 until 1954.
They looked exhausted, sad, annoyed or uncertain.
I did notice some interesting images of boats, ships, architecture and suitcases the passengers carried with them, but the intensity of the people’s faces did not let me go.
Deciding upon an approach
I decided to work on my portrait sketching skills:
I don’t sketch portraits very often (next to never, actually) and thought it to be a good opportunity practice.
But the week passed with a heavy feeling in my heart. I was thinking about the lives back then and the lives today being forced by circumstances to leave their current homes to venture out to new lands in hope of a better life.
The thing is, ‘Ellis Island’ still exists, just under different names and in various locations of the world. And all nice-talking aside, for some, Ellis Island was but a prison stop before they were sent back to where they came from.
This assignment reminded me too much of the current plight of people being forced to leave their home countries with their future in the hands of the judgment of officials and authorities.
Some get through the human sieve others don’t. Who get’s to decide where we may or may not lay our hats? To me, it’s a painful topic.
In modern-day, plain and simple travelling of mine, I can say that I really dislike going through customs. Not because I’ve got anything to hide, but because from 7 out of 10 times, I’ll be stopped and will need to undergo additional screening. I keep blaming it my ‘nose’. Whatever the reason for the holdup, I detest this kind of invasion of my privacy.
Cutting to a chase, admittedly, this topic struck a chord with me and I was left hoping the main June assignment would depart from Ellis Island and we’d be assigned something on a lighter note.
The June Assignment
As the second Monday of June arrived, it was clear, we were stuck with Ellis Island. But this time it was worse (at least to me)! The topic was hair or hairstyles of Ellis Island and all this needed to be designed for a mug. What?! And while many in the Bootcamp community saw the lace, and shoes, and bags, and fashion, and embroidery, but I could only see the people (luckily, I was not entirely alone and did have some empathisers).
In addition, the people in the photographs passing through Ellis Island were wearing either scarves or hats. Not much hair to see! At this point, I was toying the idea of passing the June assignment entirely.
But, I never cut and run without giving something at least a try. So, I rationalised: I like drawing lines. Hence, I like drawing hair, waves, tree structures and any kind of structure in which I can incorporate lines. But hair on a mug? I was still stuck.
For inspiration, I decided to learn more about Ellis Island and watched a documentary on YouTube. But upon watching the documentary only meant the second week of June left me with a heavy heart, too.
After watching the documentary, and as I intuitively guessed, a fraction of people arriving at Ellis Island got to pass with no health checks, no screenings, no nothing. All the rest were held back and scrutinised with medical and lice checks, x-rayed, they even had to undergo questionable intelligence checks!
The methods used to judge over these people reminded me all too much of the methods the Nazi Germans used in the second world war.
People were judged by their looks and facial features and deemed ‘stupid’, ‘imbeciles’, ‘idiots’ for the shape of their eyes, eyebrows, noses and mouths.
However, while watching the documentary, I did notice afterall a couple of people who stood out for their beauty despite the overall sadness that emanated from the photos and the documentary.
Coming up with the Design
And so I decided to portrait these particular people and to use them in my mug design:
One of them was a woman undergoing a health check. To me, she was so graceful in this uncomfortable situation and she had these beautiful two, long, dark braids, graceful hands and classical facial features:
The second person I noticed was a woman posing in a group photo of nurses who worked on Ellis Island. She kind of had a Mona Lisa smile and a voluptuous figure. I liked how her hair got a bit messed up by the wind during the photo shoot:
The third (two) person(s) who caught my attention was a man and a woman. Obviously, they had just met after a long time of no see. They could have been related or a couple, that was not clear. But they were immensely happy to see each other. Their embrace was so heartwarming and emotionally intense:
Lastly, I noticed a couple of children on Ellis Island for their expression of curiosity, fear, and annoyance and the overall innocence they radiated:
The Mood Board
I had already designed the mugs before the mood board was published.
The colour palette I had chosen for my design was luckily pretty much in tune with the mood board suggestion.
Another feature that was added to the assignment was the need to include lettering in form of quotes of strong women.
This did not fit so well with my design and so with no time to redesign, I decided to add some tuned-down lettering with phrases around having or getting together for tea.
Are you still with me? Thank you, I feel honoured and hope you will not be disappointed if sticking with me to the end. So far, you’ve probably also noticed that the June assignment really got me brooding and thinking. And, believe me, you’ve just read a fraction of the controversy happening in my head.
Overall design and symbolism
Despite the turmoil in my mind and the many open questions and concerns I had, I wanted to keep the design timeless, clean, clear and simple so that it could be enjoyed out of context, too.
The golden circle:
Can be the moon and – at the same time – the sun. Standing for activity and passivity. There are times in life we can take action to improve our situation, and other times we need to let go and move with the flow even if it means to sit still and take action by non-action.
Gold symbolises warmth and abundance.
It can stand for the wealth of our personality shaped and moulded over time and linked to a certain culture and its traditions.
At the same time, it can stand for our hopeful vision for a better and abundant future.
Water stands for emotion,
while waves stand for the turbulence of our thoughts, the noise in our minds as well as outer circumstances.
Water and waves also stand for long-distance travel, adventure and discovery.
Blue stands for our ability to be in tune with our intuition and our ability to communicate.
Lettering – all about connecting:
I kept the content really light and simple and chose a layout making the lettering only noticeable upon a second glance.
I’m a tea person, and to me, tea is a culture, a way of living.
Good tea cannot be rushed neither in the brewing nor in the enjoying part of tea. Sharing tea moments with others is a wonderful way to connect.
I also kept thinking of the beautiful tea ceremonies of Japan (I’m quite fond of the simplicity of Japanese art and graphic design) and tried to incorporate this into the design.
The final version of the May assignment for MATS Bootcamp using the suggested roses, a quote from Gertrud Jekyll and the given trend colours.
Journal/notebook and more in this design available in my Society6 store here (lined and blank paper options)
Before we were given a mood board with a suggested trend colour palette, our initial assignment was to play with and study roses in as much detail as possible (see previous post: In the Name of Roses).
For the mini assignment, the main working colour was still pink. That is why my first colour experiment was with pink.
But with the mood board, this changed drastically, as the colours were darker, bolder, and more adventurous. In the beginning, I hesitated to follow my first hunch to use the nearly black colour as background and opted first for the greyish-blue:
But the next day, upon looking at it again, I just felt that it was too flat for my taste and tried the nearly black background, which is the one I ended up posting to the online gallery, too.
But looking at all three colours, I find they all work well in their own way. I guess, colour choice can depend a lot on current colour trends and then on personal likes and dislikes.
The final design with no quote:
I’ve noticed that colour trends can inspire me to try new colour combinations I might not have considered.
With clothes, I know the colours that suit me well. All the powdery colours make me look like an old chewing gum that was stuck under a table ages ago.
I like stronger, brighter colour on me like grass green and a juicy yellow. The non-colours black and white go well, too. Brown, depends. I’ll always run away from grey.
As far as blue is concerned, I’ve become overly saturated with it as blue has become too uniform and corporate for me. At one point, I suddenly noticed, I had mainly blue clothes and an occasional red, white or black something to combine it with. Kind of as if I’d been affiliated with Tommy Hilfiger, which I’m not. That is why I think the blue journal design just did not work for me.
Also, I do not wear flower prints. I do not decorate my place with flower prints, either. I hardly illustrate or paint flowers.
So, drawing roses turned out to be a challenge. I feel, for not being a very ‘flowery’ kind of person, I’ve managed to find just the right amount of flowers I can handle in this design (I will put a flower in my hair if I find a nice one that fell off a tree, though. Flowers on a balcony and garden, lovely, too. A bunch of flowers for inside the home, also: fine).
I think, if I were to design patterns with flowers, I’d go more abstract with the flower design with bolder shapes and colours and then soften it with line work as in the yogini’s hair. Then, I may even consider wearing a flower pattern.
This is what MATS Bootcamp is doing to me. I am suddenly thinking of design, patterns, textiles, fabrics and clothes. It’s been a while since I had these thoughts…
As for the next MATS Bootcamp assignment: next Monday we will get our June mini assignment. Can’t wait.
How is life treating you lately? I hope all is well on your side of the world.
Today was a really dreary and cold day. The kind of day where all I’d want to do is stay in bed with a hot cuppa chai or a hot almond cinnamon chocolate drink and a good book.
But there were enough tasks to do, and so I got out of bed, took a hot shower, did my daily yoga and meditation and was off to work.
One thing I got done today was to colour in my roses sketch I did on the weekend as part of the MATS Bootcamp roses study.
Roses are really tricky to draw. It’s like you see something and then when you put it down on paper, that what you had in mind looks nothing like what you executed on paper!
So, I tried again, and again, and again… until, after many failed attempts, I kind of got the hang of it. Or let’s say, I am not as intimidated by drawing them anymore.
In the following are the results of my weekend rose exercise sketches I dare to share:
And finally, the above shown digital sketch in pencil and black ink pen straight from my sketchbook. I made this one as a compilation of my rose exercise:
I think this weekend and for the moment, wild roses turned out to be my favourite roses.
Not just because they are relatively simple to draw; because they are. But, their simple shape and pink colour tossed around haphazardly in a juicy green bush is so beautifully chaotic and charming. A bit like an abstract painting.
I guess it’s kind of in my nature as a Sagittarius to like all things wild. 😉
The other thing I noticed is, I must have quite a vivid imagination because while sketching, drawing, inking and working digitally on all roses, I had the feeling I could actually make out the scent of the roses as if I were sniffling in a bunch of roses as depicted in the above sketch.
Now where many artists and designers participating in MATS Bootcamp mentioned having had this on their mind ‘Roses are red, violets…’, I couldn’t help having the song: ‘I beg your pardon, I never promised you a rose garden,…’ on my mind.
After a while, it felt a bit like a broken record, I must admit, and I am glad that I was able to knock it out of my mind.
But as for roses, what more can I say than: they are simply beautiful.
However, behind the scenes, there has been a lot going on since I last wrote. Let me sum things up a bit:
Writing a children’s book
Since last September, I’ve been working on a children’s book titled:
‘Miah & the Moon’
The story is about an intergalactic moon hopper named Miah. Her main purpose of existence is to keep all the moons in the Milky Way galaxy happy. All is well, until one day Earth’s Moon turns terribly unhappy.
I conceived this story while brooding over what to draw for Inktober 2016. In 2014 and 2015, I participated with rather random inkings. Last year, I wanted my inkings to follow a storyline.
A day after the full moon eclipse (I believe it was September 1?) a back spasm* hit me unexpectedly and I was forced away from my ongoing canvas work and into bed. Sitting, standing and walking for more than ten minutes in a row was pure torture for about two to three weeks. It was so frustrating having to interrupt painting on my Paradigm Shift series. Up to then, I had been advancing so well.
Then again, taking a different perspective, it was also a blessing in disguise. I had more than enough time to plot my story for Inktober 2016! Laying in bed on my back like a turned over turtle with only pencil and paper, I roughly plotted ‘Miah and the Moon’. I also worked on rough sketches of Miah’s character.
By the time it was October, my back was feeling better and I was able to sit long enough at a table to create my inked illustrations for Inktober following the rough plot of Miah and the Moon.
Now, good eight months later and after a lot of editing, having the story edited, getting feedback on it, reading it out loud to a varied audience and having it read out loud by others to me, I feel almost ready to consider sending ‘Miah and the Moon’ out to publishers.
I find this step scary. So scary, that I am procrastinating it away. But, I am hoping that the MATS Bootcamp (next paragraph) will help me boost confidence to prepare myself well enough to take me to that next big step.
Advice on best practice on how to get a children’s book as author/illustrator newbie published is very much welcomed and appreciated.
* In case you were wondering: I fully recovered from the back spasm. Actually, it was also a blessing in disguise as I became accustomed to jogging again. Yoga, jogging and enough back rest, too, did the trick. Now I am stronger and fitter than before the spasm. All is well that ends well. 🙂
Past March, I registered for ‘MATS Bootcamp’; an online course. This course runs for five months. Each month, we are given a creative assignment. Apart from me looking for an opportunity to build confidence regarding the design of a mock up for ‘Miah and the Moon’, for some time, I’ve been also browsing the internet for a while in search of a simple online course that could help me work on style development, consistency of style, discovery of new fields like surface pattern design, experiment with new techniques and mediums, etc.
Although, MATS offers an ‘Illustrating Children’s Books’ online course it is the bigger financial investment compared to MATS Bootcamp. Not certain how well the courses of MATS will suit me, I thought it’s better to start with MATS Bootcamp and see how I like the process, structure, content and classroom. Then, I can estimate how comfy I’d feel with the ‘Illustrating Children’s Books’ online course.
So far, I am happy with MATS Bootcamp. It began in March. Creating a surface pattern design for a backpack was our first assignment.
This was a first at surface pattern design and mock-up creation for me. Despite initial challenges, I completed the assignment in time to upload it to the online gallery. I was quite happy with the result. But not just with the result being a backpack mockup with my surface pattern design on it, but also happy with how much I’ve learned, was able to experiment, and practice in the process. It was really fun.
This April, we need to create a mind map for the editorial (magazine) market. I am also fond of this assignment. Not that it will be any lesser challenging. April is a busy month for me though, so I hope I will be able to bring the assignment to completion. Mid April now, it doesn’t look good. Who knows, maybe I’ll be able to squeeze in some night shifts. If you’re interested, you can read more about MATS here.
My ‘500 Words a Day’ for 30 days challenge (Feb/March)
In short: it did not last 30 days.
But true is, although I did not write 500 words a day for thirty days, I was immersed in tweaking ‘Miah and the Moon’s’ word count as close to 500 as possible. Not easy at all! But, I am now at 750 from 900+ and feel I can let the word count tweaking rest for the moment.
As for now, I’ll be more occupied with the illustrations, the mockup of the picture book, being on the lookout for potential agents, publishers, etc.. Basically doing all kinds of research and familiarising myself with the current children’s book marketplace for author/illustrator submission process.
My personal sketchbook challenge
The 60 pages are not full yet. But I am up to 45 pages (I usually stop a sketchbook at about one-third of its capacity). So in 2017, I’ve broke a personal record and got further than I expected to with this sketchbook.
The thing is, I have the habit of drawing on scraps of paper. Of course, this is a rather messy approach of mine and my sketches end up scattered all over the
You might be familiar with the scrap paper habit: I am terrified of wasting a sketchbook with ‘shitty’ drawings, sketches, inkings or paintings. Especially, when I see all the fancy sketchbooks on Pinterest or Youtube!
I’ve always got some at hand ready to grab when ideas race through my mind. Also, I feel freer on random paper. Just one shitty sketch can spoil my wanting to continue using the same sketchbook altogether. Even with just turning the page and heading to the next one, I know there is a page I don’t like in the sketchbook and I am irritated. Sounds stupid, I totally agree.
True, I could tear the (in my opinion) ruined page out, but I am not comfortable with this approach either. I could stick another blank page over the ruined one, but I never came around to doing this. To me, it is time-consuming to repair what has gone wrong compared to just starting new altogether.
It’s easier to just grab yet another loose piece of paper to sketch an idea before the creative moment is lost. Using scrap paper just seems more efficient than trying to fix a sketchbook. I don’t know how it is with you, but things I’ve made in the past that I detest, I just want to rid myself of it as quickly as possible.
This time, however, things were kind of different. I really wanted a space to keep my creative experiments together before I approached the canvas (to me ‘ruining’ a canvas is worse than ‘ruining’ a sketchbook). And it worked really well for me! This method (change of thinking?) supported me with my ‘Paradigm Shift’ art series advancement and allowed for creative experimentations outside my comfort zone.
I do not like every page in the current sketchbook. But I am not bothered by the ones I don’t like so much. Some of the sketches (the ones I deemed as passable), I’ve posted on my Insta feed and on Facebook.
Luckily enough, some of the creative experiments inspired two more painting series. One being: ‘Spirit Animals’ with a limited colour palette (main colours: Gold/Pearl/White/Black) and the other being: ‘Micro Cosmos’, ‘One’, ‘Comforting the Inner Child’, ‘While You Slept with Eyes Open, I travelled with Eyes Closed’, ‘Peacock Dance’. For the latter, I am also envisioning a limited colour palette, but this idea has not fully ripened.
But before beginning with any new painting series, I wish to finish the ‘Paradigm Shift’ series. Three down, two to go. I am so relieved because at one point I had the feeling I’ll never see the completion of the ‘Paradigm Shift’ series.
Although, having said that, ‘Paradigm Shift’ is last on my list of things to do, as I am giving ‘Miah and the Moon’ and MATS Bootcamp priority.
It is in times like this I would love to have clones of myself. Or maybe just a five pairs of arms would suffice too, so I could do it all at once. so Just being ‘humble’. 😉
Hope you are all doing well and wishing you a great second half of April!
This week, I neither had the time to post my writing nor my illustrations.
So here is a follow-up of Tuesday’s sketch and writing:
The Day Mikki Was Lost (31-day writing challenge 7/31) (1186/500)
We once lived in a four-family building.
I was good friends with the neighbour’s children and we used to play on the backside of the building’s premises. Mikki would sit on the kitchen balcony and observe us play.
‘Mikki,’ I would call her sometimes, ‘all well up there?’ and she’d meow in response. Not sure if that represented a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’. I guess it was closer to a ‘no’ when soon after she’d walk along the narrow copper ledge that connected the balcony with the roof terrasse to chase birds instead of us.
It made me nervous watching her balance along the ledge and she did fall a couple of times. Luckily, we were always around to witness her fall and able to attend to her immediately. Apart from a few scratches she always remained unharmed as she usually would fall on the side of the grass patch below.
One late November, I came home from school looking for her. After searching indoors without success, I went to search on the kitchen balcony. When she was not there, I looked through my bedroom window that was facing the rooftop terrasse. With no luck there either, I went to the side of the living room and the living room balcony, as she sometimes would wait in front of this balcony door to be let back in.
I started to get a bit nervous. I went to my neighbours and asked if she possibly entered through their balcony door (Mikki had free access to both our balconies). Unfortunately, they hadn’t seen her, either.
At this point I was more than worried, I was terrified suspecting that she could have fallen off the roof.
I went upstairs to the old lady living above us. She remembered seeing a cat downstairs at the main entrance but shooed her away as she did not recognise her to be Mikki! ‘Oh no’, I thought to myself, ‘what a tragedy!’ I immediately went to search for her around the building premises. Nothing, no trace of Mikki.
I was devastated. Once my parents got home from work, I sobbed and told them what happened. Everybody of the building was alarmed and we all went searching for her in. But Mikki was nowhere to be found.
Back in my room, I felt empty. I could feel that the tiny little space she usually claimed for herself now left a giant void of nothingness. I was heartbroken, crushed, and concerned about Mikki’s wellbeing.
She was not used to being outside like this. She also had no idea of the dangers of busy streets and we lived on the main road of this small town. This street was often busy during peak hours with many trucks as it leads to the freeway. I hoped Mikki would have gone up the hill in direction of the fields and not down the hill across the busy main road in direction of the freeway!
The next day, my dad suggested we write a small column for the newspaper that our cat had gone missing. We lived in a really small town of about 6000 people, so placing an add in the local newspaper was not a big deal.
I did my part and wrote pamphlets with a description of Mikki and where and when she went missing and stuck them wherever I could. I also informed friends and teachers at school.
Days went by, still no Mikki. It was already mid-December and I was drowning in sadness wondering if she was ok. When some folks came up with the rumour she might have been caught to end up as a Christmas meal (how bizarre is that!?) terrified me.
Shortly before Christmas, our phone rang. ‘Good evening,’ the lady on the phone said, ‘I read your newspaper add about the missing cat and wondered if Mikki was still missing because I happened to have seen a cat that fits your description.’ My parents and I immediately jumped into the car and drove to the area Mikki may have been sighted. But it was getting quickly dark and we didn’t spot a cat.
We called the search off. ‘Thank you for your help,’ my dad said, ‘and please do let us know if you see this cat again.’ Disappointed we got back in the car and headed home.
Christmas came and passed. It was a sad one.
On December 31st we received another phone call. This time it was a different woman who lived in the opposite direction of the first suspected sighting. This made us very doubtful that it could be Mikki but we wanted to stay positive.
‘You two go check. I cannot come along as I don’t think I can handle the pressure of another possible disappointment.’ my mum said.
With hope in our hearts, my dad and I jumped into the car and drove to this lady’s home.
Upon arrival, two small dogs barked at us in excitement as we entered the apartment.
‘For some days, I’ve been observing this cat in the neighbourhood’, the lady said, ‘this one looked too skinny and dirty to be accustomed to outdoor life. She also seemed hungry and frightened. So I took her in. My neighbour remembered your newspaper add and kept it in case she would spot the cat.’ she continued. ‘Follow me, I brought the cat into the guest room and closed the door so she is not stressed about my two dogs. As you can see, they are very curious and lively!’ the woman added and laughed as she led us down the hallway. The dogs jumped along.
‘Here’s the room’, she said and opened the door in a way the dogs could not slip in, ‘you can go in and see if this cat is Mikki.’
I entered into a long narrow room. There was a cupboard to my right and a single bed to my left. At the end of the room was a window. But no cat in sight. ‘She might be hiding under the bed’, the woman told me, ‘feel free to check.’ she encouraged me.
‘Mikkiiiiii!’ I exclaimed the moment my head touched the floor. Mikki came charging right at me and she practically jumped into my arms (a thing she never did, she hated to be carried). I stood up with Mikki in my arms. I was overjoyed!
I always wonder what Mikki must have experienced in those five weeks on her own. I hoped she had some good experiences. But the condition we found in her gave evidence that Mikki certainly had a rough time. Her teeth were broken, her fur was not white but yellow with car oil stains and she was only fur and bones.
Of course, we nicely pampered her and after a couple of weeks of rejuvenation, Mikki was quite the usual grumpy pants we knew and loved.
Walking Down Memory Lane (31-day writing challenge 7/31) (748/500)
There are days I really miss having a cat, or a dog or a rat or some kind of feline company.
I used to have a cat named Mikki. She was a very special one. But I suppose everybody feels like this about their pet friends.
Mikki was the result of a beautiful, long-haired Persian cat mama and a scruffy, short-haired street cat papa and this is the story of how she came to me.
One day, a school friend announced that their family was giving away three kittens and whether anybody was interested in adopting one. Of course, I was interested, but I knew I needed to ask my parents for permission first.
The next day, after getting the ok from my parents, I approached my friend: ‘Are you still giving away kittens?’ I asked.
‘Sure,’ my friend replied, ‘we’ve got a red tiger, a grey kitten and a white one with big black spots. Which one would you like?’
‘Oh, can I have the black and white one?’ I said without hesitation.
‘Sure! Shall I bring her to school tomorrow?’ my friend asked me.
The next day my mum came to school with me to pick up the cat. I still can remember how my friend and her mum approached us on the street right next to the school building with a paper bag.
As we reached them, they handed the paper bag to us. I looked into the bag and saw this cute and tiny white kitten with black markings on her head, a big black spot on her back like a saddle, and a black tail. In the bag were also three cat food cans, to give us a headstart with feeding her. Her eyes were so big and she meowed out of the bag. I was in love. It was love at first sight.
I’m not sure if I was able to focus on school lessons that day. Probably not. What I do remember, though, is that a long-term and very close friendship began on that very special day.
Mikki and I were so tuned into each other. She knew exactly what my mood was. And, if I was sad, she would always come to sit close.
Despite being an absolute sweetheart, she could also be a terrible grumpy pants. She would get totally annoyed when I would pick her up and carry her around.
Also, I could always read when she was up to no good:
Let’s say, she was not supposed in to go in the kitchen. When I would notice her sneaking past the door in direction kitchen out of the corner of my eye, I would just say: ‘Mikkiiiii!’ in a low but assertive voice. I knew she heard me as she would cough at me in protest. Then I would get up and point with my finger in the direction she came from without saying anything. Believe it or not, she would indeed turn around and head back to where she came from, but not without giving me another couple of coughs in protest. This ritual was often continued back and forth until one of us got tired. It was our little ‘how to outsmart the other’ game.
Mikki’s favourite place to sleep was under freshly made bedsheets. When I would notice a little lump in my bed, I would gently poke her. She would then make this cute cricket-like sound. Gee, I’m smiling widely as I write these few lines.
When I moved out of my parent’s home to go to university, I did not get to see her so much anymore. But on one occasion, my parents were gone for two weeks and brought Mikki to my apartment so I could look after her. Looking back, I am so grateful that I was able to spend this precious time with her, because, shortly after, she passed of old age. She was 16 years old.
Since then, I could never get myself to get another cat. No cat would be Mikki. Even today, I sometimes have dreams in which she appears. In my dreams, I am thinking to myself, ‘oh, Mikki is here! I must enjoy our time together before she leaves again.’ And I do. These are always feel good dreams. Mikki will always have a special place in my heart.
Last night, I did as I said I would and took my Epsom salt bath that made me sleep like a grizzly.
Home Spa (31-day writing challenge 6/31) (1112/500)
I truly love taking baths. And I’ve experimented with all sorts of baths. From bubble baths to milk baths to sodium bicarbonate baths to oil ‘baths’ to my all-time favourite bath: the Epsom salt bath.
So, let me share my bath evolution with you:
The bubble bath: not really sure how effective or healthy bubble baths are. But, they were always fun to get in and they filled the bathroom with a loving aroma.
I do not take bubble baths anymore because I had become suspicious of the chemical contents inside the bottles. I wondered whether a bubble bath was indeed a good thing for my body as well as how environmental friendly it was.
However, I did not give the bubble bath completely up until I discovered the milk bath. Since my first milk bath experience, I left the bubble bath once and for all behind me.
The milk bath: No woman lesser than Cleopatra herself, the queen of ancient Egypt, inspired my milk bath phase. After reading that she used to bathe in milk wanted me to get to the bottom of it.
My first milk bath got me hooked, as it was indeed quite special. Not only did my skin smell as sweet as a baby for hours after the bath but during the bath, I felt as if I was staying in a 5-star hotel presidential suite. For a good hour, I felt like a queen myself. It was a taste of paradise.
Surrounded by candles and burning incense, I would shut out the world and dive into bathing bliss. But after a while, it did not feel quite right to use milk in my bath for ethical reasons and I stopped after I discovered the Sodium Bicarbonate bath that had the ability to restore the acidic/alkaline balance of the body.
The Sodium Bicarbonate (SB) bath: this bath is really great if you have skin irritations, pimples or are suffering from acne. It is also beneficial to take these baths if you have a high ‘pitta’ dosha (‘fire’ constitution – Ayurveda) as it cools the body down.
I’ve never tried this but – thinking about it now – it may also be helpful to bring a fever down.
A ‘thing’ of mine with the SB baths: I loved to lay flat on the bottom of the tub and open my eyes and listen to the sound waves that were carried through the water. Quite the underwater world experience and it had a cooling effect on my eyes after hours spent in front of the computer.
Having said that, I would not necessarily recommend SB baths on a regular basis if you have a high ‘vata’ dosha (‘air’ constitution – Ayurveda) as it might cool you down and dry you up too much as it did with me. When I noticed that the Sodium Bicarbonate bath was not the best for my constitution on a regular basis, I discovered the Epsom salt bath!
The Epsom salt bath: these baths are heaven! Seriously, I love taking Epson salt baths. For a starter, because Epsom salts warm the body as they permeate the skin, even though the water is cooling down the body is heating up! What an awesome effect!
I also came once across a research paper that stated that giving the body magnesium through the skin was remarkably more effective than taking magnesium tablets orally. So while relaxing in the bath, I am giving my body the magnesium it needs! It also makes my skin as soft as silk.
And, Epsom baths are the antidote to insomnia. I am wondering why doctors prescribe sleeping pills when the most effective sedative is an Epsom salt bath?! Because of its sedative quality, I need to make sure I schedule the Epsom salt bath wisely or else I may not be able to get up in time the next morning. Bathing in Epsom salt makes me so tired that I fall into a such a deep sleep that lasts an hour or two longer than usual.
Last but not least on my bathing rituals list is the oil bath: Well, it is not so much a bath as it is an oil massage followed by a hot shower or bath. There are many articles online about treating yourself to Abhyanga (Ayurveda self-massage) at home and its benefits.
So let me just share my personal Abhyanga experience with you:
I mainly use coconut oil (as suggested by my Ayurveda doctor) that I warm up in a bain-marie. To create a relaxing atmosphere in the bathroom, I put instrumental background music, light candles and burn some incense. Then, I focus on my breath (abdominal breathing) and massage the oil deep into my skin from head to toe. Once I am done, I take a hot shower. I only use very little Dr. Bronner’s Baby Unscented Pure-Castile Liquid Soap to wash the excess oil off. After Abhyanga, I feel light, refreshed, and energised.
Even after showering, there is always a pleasant, thin layer of oil left on my skin to prevent it from drying out. But, especially in winter, I will add an extra layer of an aloe-vera-gel-coconut-oil mix after bathing. This way, all year round my skin stays firm, well moisturised and elastic with a healthy glow.
Another good thing about coconut oil is: it does not stain clothes!
For all those who have noticed that the illustration is fashioning a facial mask: indeed, I’ve also had my fair share of experimentations with facial masks leaving me with two favourites. But, I’ll share this in another post with you.
Do you have any bathing rituals or home spa you’d like to share and can recommend?
As for my 500 words today – it’s not going to happen.
I desire a long Epsom salt bath and wish to get to bed early for a change. Been sleeping like five hours max a night all week. The rest of the hours in my typical day are filled with a plethora of things to do. One task after the other. I’m either writing, painting, illustrating, planning, reading, coaching, etc.
In winter, with its limited sunlight, not sleeping enough can have negative effects on my health. Maybe, I’m related to bears that need their winter sleep for survival… I sure love honey as much as they do.
I certainly need to work out a better schedule and will probably need to ‘purge’ a couple of tasks, projects, and goals so that my attention is better focused on what is essential to me. I’ll study my planning thoroughly on the weekend.
Anyways, today is not even about not knowing what to write. After all, it was quite an eventful, interesting, and inspiring day.
But, I feel my mind, body, and soul need to shut down and stay shut down for a while – at least longer than 5 hours – the three can reboot tomorrow.
So, today is my official writing 500 words time-out day. I hope you had or are having a lovely Friday. Catch you tomorrow!