Archive for October, 2015

Drawn to Halloween

Sunday, October 18th, 2015

Starting back on October 1st, just as I was plugging in my phone and crawling into bed, I would see a notification pop up on my phone that our daughter Valerie had posted another illustration on Tumblr.

The illustrations that she is posting are part of “Drawlloween” which is a month-long, online gallery for Halloween-inspired art. I’m not sure which rabbit hole of the internet you would have to dive down to find out how Drawlloween started, but every day of October is assigned a subject such as ghost, pumpkin, raven, amulet, skull, werewolf…you get the idea.

Valerie's Drawlloween #7: Pumpkin
Valerie’s Drawlloween #7: Pumpkin

Creating an illustration every day or almost every day – Valerie combined alien, eyeball, and zombie in one illustration – is a lot of work. So why is she doing it? Drawlloween isn’t a competition and there really aren’t even bragging rights unless you count the “notes” (the equivalent of “Likes” on Tumblr) that each drawing receives.

For Valerie, it’s another opportunity to explore and refine her illustration style. And because the goal is to post one illustration a day, she can’t agonize over her work. She knows that if she wants to be a professional animator or illustrator, speed – in addition to skill and style – is going to be a required.

But participating in Drawlloween is more than that – Valerie just can’t help but do art. Until I had her and watched how she was compelled to draw at every stage of her life, I didn’t understand what it meant to have creative drive. Starting with when she was a toddler and would sit at her Little Tikes table imitating the drawings in “Angelina Ballerina” books right up to today as a 23 year-old woman, she is always creating. Sometimes it takes the form of doing an original embroidery design, or a mobile or a gif, but usually, it’s an illustration. So Drawlloween is just the current creative outlet for Valerie.

It makes me appreciate what a true artist is and how different they are from most of us – whether their art form is music, writing, visual arts, or even cooking – constantly expressing themselves through their art form is as necessary as breathing.

So with a little more than half of October behind us, I hope that you enjoy Valerie’s Drawlloween drawings to date.

Toto, we’re not in Korea anymore

Sunday, October 11th, 2015

In an unusual happenstance, at the same time that our daughter Jennifer is struggling to adjust to life in Asia, our son Ethan is dealing with re-acclimating to life in the US after spending the past year in Asia…Korea to be specific.

For 12 months, Ethan was stationed at Yongsan Army base in Seoul. He was very fortunate to be assigned to headquarters where he worked with (as he described them), a very unique mix of personalities and experience that made it a great place to be. He totally respected his superior officers and over time, felt gratified that his talents were recognized by them. On weekends, he and his friends could grab a cab and venture out into one of the world’s biggest cities – Seoul was literally feet from the gate of the army base – and do whatever soldiers do on a night on the town.  As his mother, I appreciate that he was vague on the details.

Last week, he flew to his new duty station – Fort Riley in Kansas – and based on his phone call to us yesterday, he’s suffering from some culture shock.

Fort Riley is the third largest army base in the nation and as is typical for these huge bases, it is located on 100,000 acres in the middle of nowhere. No matter which direction you head, it’s two hours to either Wichita or Kansas City. The army base itself is so spread out, that to be able to get to any kind of entertainment, as he said, he needed to buy a car yesterday. Thankfully, he ran into soldier he was friendly with in Korea who is willing to share.

He misses the sense of place and purpose he had at Yongsan. When he was in Korea, his rank didn’t change but he became an individual to the people he worked with. He’s been in the army for three years and at 27, he is older and liked being able to show more maturity to his commanding officers. He wasn’t just another “SPC 4” which is the rank of all soldiers who complete their AIT (Advanced Individual Training).  But at Fort Riley, for at least the next two weeks during “In Processing,” he is back to being one of the sea of enlisted soldiers – many of who are 19 and have only been in the army for a few months.

He knows he just has to make it through the next two weeks of “death by PowerPoint” and he’ll be able to join his unit, settle in, and start work. Sure, he’ll have to start over in the sense of building new friendships and developing new routines both for life on base and off, but that can all be very positive. It all contributes to the person he will ultimately become.

News from Nanjing

Sunday, October 4th, 2015

Shortly after Jennifer arrived in Shanghai, the talk among the students turned to what they were going to do when they had a few days off from school in honor of National Day on October 1st. Jennifer texted that she and a couple of friends were going to take the train to Nanjing – “Don’t worry Mom when the first thing that pops up on Google is the Nanjing Massacre,” otherwise known as the “Rape of Nanking.” Thanks for the reassurance.

But that’s (almost) ancient history. My immediate concern was whether Jennifer and her friends could find their way around in China when their grasp of the language is such that they can only eat at places that have pictures of the food.  If I had my way, they should all wear badges around their necks that say in Chinese, “If found, return to Shanghai, c/o Pepperdine University.”

This is one of those times that as a parent, it’s much better to pray that she stays safe during the trip and hear about the details after the fact. And besides, what could I possibly do? She’s 15 hours and 6,000 miles away.

Jennifer and her friends, did in fact, make it to Nanjing and back safely to Shanghai (“Oh Mom – did I mention there was a typhoon?”) and thanks to a 90 minute internet call on WhatsApp, we got to hear about the weird moments of the trip. And that’s the fun of going; coming back with stories.

A few highlights from Jennifer’s call:12032831_991505694241025_9095128276873964463_o

In Shanghai, wai guo ren (white people) get stared at but in the less cosmopolitan city of Nanjing, people stare like you’re ET. Of course, this is only exacerbated by the fact that Jennifer’s two traveling companions are blonde.  The girls shared an elevator with a young Chinese family and the child’s jaw literally dropped open in complete awe at the sight of them. His mom tried to close his mouth, but nope, he had never seen anything like these Americans and it fell right open again.

Feeling like you’re one of five white people in a city of 3.6 million can be a little intimidating when it comes to calling a cab in a very crowded marketplace.  They were barraged with nonstop shouts from cabbies of “Hey, pretty girl! You want ride?” They were relieved when a female cab driver rescued them from the melee.

Jennifer and her friends got blind massages. What does that mean? Getting a massage from a blind person is a common experience in China. In fact, there is a government sponsored program to train blind people as masseuses. Jennifer and her friends paid about $10 for an hour and a half massage which included the masseuse performing a Van Halen drum solo on her fully clothed butt.  Okay, the song may have been open to interpretation, but it was percussive and it was loud. Good thing that she and her friends were face down because it took everything that she had not to start giggling uncontrollably.

They were exhausted from the stress of the trip and were so glad and relieved to get back to their Jia in Shanghai. It’s amazing how a place that seemed so foreign just a month ago, now feels like home.