Betterment of Self Challenge: You, Me and the Common Cold

Dear Readers,

One thing that I’ve encountered and had to battle is the terrible summer cold. At first I thought it was just an onslaught of allergies from the weather changes, but more and more symptoms pointed to something more diabolical.  Like finding it physically painful to just stand, breathe or just exist.

Forget about it!

Good news, it was only a four-day week so work was done by Thursday.  Bad news, Friday was to pick up my best friend, Mandy, from the airport.  She flew in from the Lone Star state to visit/find a bridesmaid dress for our mutual friend’s upcoming wedding…well damn.

Luckily, she was exhausted herself (I’m a bad friend).  Working a 12-hour shift at a hospital then flying straightaway to Nebraska will do that to a person.  (If you’re reading this, Missy, thank you again for flying up!)  We ate, we laughed, we helped each other figure out how to put on strappy dresses.  By the way, we all look fabulous.  Mission.  Accomplished.

In the midst of our fun I did manage to make it to the gym Saturday morning, cold or no cold.  We were going to be too busy the rest of the weekend so it was do or die! (Preferably the first option, though.).  I felt much better afterwards; I think the required even breathing and elevated heart rate helped clear the old shnoz and my muscles were forced to work and pump blood through them.  I was glad to be back.

Afterwards though, I wondered if that was the best idea despite the whole feeling better part that followed.  So curious was I that I headed to the dreaded WebMD.

Oy.

I know, why go to the place that would frighten you into thinking a stomachache could be an infant alien growing inside you waiting to free itself?   I’m a glutton for psychological torture I guess.  But it did bring up a valid and *gasp* logical standpoint on exercise and sickness.

“Listen to your body.”  Is it telling you you’re too dizzy to run?  Does your fever and pounding headache hint at maybe skipping those weights for a couple of days?  Will you pass out from bending down and just picking up your water bottle?  If yes, you should pass that fitness regime for the day and focus on recovering.  If you’re not suffering from your body imploding on itself, you may be okay.

Alright WebMD, you can have this one.

To sum up, yes sickness and exercise can go hand in hand, but if your body is telling you not today or you may pass out or cause real harm, opt for a lot of liquids and catching up on sleep instead.  Always remember to let your body repair when needed.  What’s the point in a fit body when it’s falling apart?  

Okay, my little update / health rant is done…I’ll go back in my corner and draw some pictures.

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Betterment of Self Challenge: I’ve a Playlist for That!

So, yeah…I’m not dead!  And I swear I’m not abandoning the blog, just taking time to find things to blog about.  And today’s a little bit of a fluffer, so sorry about that.  But it’s an important, albeit little tidbit on motivation.

So, I’m roughly three months in to my Betterment of Self Challenge, and little by little, I’m getting better.  My weight has kind of plateaued, but I can tell I’m gaining muscle and (hopefully) losing some fat.  To help with realizing my progress, I’ve also started measuring my arms and waist on a weekly basis.  I suffer from flabby arm syndrome, something I’ve loathed about myself all my life, so it’s a good point of focus for me.  

But on to the title point of this blog; I find music is a great source of motivation, especially when I’m huffing and puffing at the gym.  Oh, it’s a pretty sight, as well, let me tell you.  So what I’ve done, and I highly recommend to anyone starting off on their own fitness challenge, is create your own fitness playlist.  I suggest songs with enthusiastic beats, powerful lyrics and are, of course, from artists that you love.  Generally if it compels you to physically keep a beat and makes you feel like a bad-ass, add it!

Here are a few that have made my playlist, lovingly titled, “Run Forrest, Run!”

Hot in Herre by Nelly; Ice Ice Baby by Vanilla Ice; Buttons by the Pussycat Dolls; Blow Me Away by Breaking Benjamin; I Gotta Feeling by Black Eyed Peas; Get the Party Started  by Pink; Whenever, Wherever by Shakira (English AND Spanish!); Stronger by Kanye West; Little Wonder by David Bowie; All My Life by the Foo Fighters; Gimme All Your Lovin’ by ZZ Top.

A great playlist is also a good tool for alternative paces, say on the treadmill or elliptical…especially the treadmill.  I’ll do a speed walk “song” first to warm up than the next song run at full but almost entirely even pace, then move back to a speed walk on the third song, and so on and so on.  FYI I’m up to about a three minute pace where I can jog.  I’m not a huge fan of running, but for some reason I feel compelled to keep going back to the treadmill.  I think I’ve watched too many Walking Dead episodes; if running away from a hoard is what’s going to save my life then damnit, I want to be able to do it!  Sorry, nerd moment! (FYI, not really sorry…)

So my lovely readers, I also have a small request to make:  my playlist needs a little updating with the times.  What songs would you suggest that I add?  Is there a song out there that’s a great beat and gets you pumped up each time you hear it?  Or that song that makes you sing out loud in the car, even with the windows down?

Love always,

NiSH

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Art & World Cup Bandwagon-Jumping

Dear Readers,

First off, hello!  I’ve missed you all!  I’ve left comments here and there for some, but unfortunately not all.  So so sorry.  My new Big Girl Job takes up a lot of energy and I just plop into bed some nights, not to be woken again until the next morning.  I’ll get this acclimated soon, I swear!

In the midst of all that, I’ve been a good patriotic girl and have been following our U.S. team in the World Cup tournaments.  Actually watching games and all that!  Granted, I don’t know a lot about soccer, nor would anyone I know ever perceive me as a sports fan, so you can say I’ve been caught up in the World Cup storm.  I’m a bandwagon-jumper, I’ll totally admit it.  But there is a sort of drama to the games that’s appealing; a ninety-minute battle, country versus country filled with rapid footwork, quick wits and pulled hamstrings.  Oh, and don’t forget the yellow cards.  I’m half impressed because below the waist I’m as uncoordinated as they come, so the concept of confidently guiding a ball on a field of green with not much more than your feet is just mind-boggling to me.

But not to get too sucked into the sports side, I’ve found that the high-def images provided by FIFA provide ample art models to the average artist.  Here, let me show you…

Goalkeeper Tim Howard

    Goalkeeper Tim Howard

Jermaine Jones victory face!

Jermaine Jones victory face!

Anyone who has taken a Life Drawing class will tell you there’s not really a way for a model to hold poses like Mr. Howard or Mr. Jones above for a prolonged period of time.  So these angles and stances are a nice treat to those artists looking for more action-packed models.  (Graphic art panel artists?  Yes?)

Notice also, there’s enormous waves of emotion during these games, and the players never fail to deliver.  You can just see in their faces the progression of emotions.

Whether blood-thirsty victory….

I am Dempsey!  Hear me roar!

I am Dempsey! Hear me roar!

Or exhausted desperation.

That's my ball, Jack!

That’s my ball, Jack!

This just makes me chuckle.  Povre Christiano.

Heehee.  Sad Ronaldo.

Heehee. Sad Ronaldo.

Face studies, anyone?

In short, I’m that lame sod off in the corner, enjoying what little I know of the game and thinking, “Man, I wish I could capture that moment on canvas.”  Maybe start with pouty-puff Ronaldo up there.

So all my non-sports fan artsy-fartsy pals out there, don’t forget to turn your artistic eye towards the World Cup this summer.  It’s an untapped reservoir.

It’ll make Coach Klinsmann happy…

And we like him when he's happy.

And we like him when he’s happy.

Olé olé!

-NiSH

 

 

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Favorite Poetry

Dear Readers,

I may still be a little absent here and there until my new job kind of acclimates itself.  Training orientations, accessing new accounts, the whole reporting in the morning thing…it’s a toughy.  But to let you know I am still alive, I’d like to share a poem that I’ve recently fallen in love with.  I’ve actually wanted to post it for a while now, but just haven’t had the time.

It’s called Desiderata by Maxwell Ehrmann.  Something about this is just wonderfully romantic but simple at the same time.  I’ve not read a lot of Ehrmann’s other works, nor researched a lot about him yet, but I sense a wise urgency to the tone.  It’s as if he is trying to fit in as much life wisdom as he can for his readers, because for some reason, there will be no time in the future to tell.  It’s a melancholic but moving thought.

Desiderata

Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence.

As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons.

Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even the dull and ignorant; they too have their story.

Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit.

If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.

Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.

Keep interested in your career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.

Exercise caution in your business affairs; for the world is full of trickery.

But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals; and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself.

Especially, do not feign affection.

Neither be critical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perrenial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.

Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.  But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.

Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.

Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself.

You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here.

And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be, and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world.

Be cheerful.  Strive to be happy.

 

I think the verses that resonate the most with me is the last parts, starting at “Beyond a wholesome discipline…”  I think that we can all agree that we have had those moments, however brief, in which we thought “I’m not good enough.  I’m not supposed to be here.”  and these lines address that fear and anxiety.  We are all children of the universe and have a right to be here.

Ah!  I’m tearing up just thinking over these lines!  It’s a wonderful poem and I hope you all can appreciate it in some way as well.

And what about you?  Is there a poem, phrase or quote that strikes you?  Either in the mind or heart?  I’d love to hear if you don’t mind sharing in the comments, or link a post of your own to mine.  (Mama, I’m borrowing your link ideas, sorry and thanks!)  But honestly, I’d love to hear from you.  I’m always excited about new writings, artists, and how they inspire and move the world.

With a peaceful soul,

NiSH

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Bodies as Canvas: For Mama

Dear Readers,

It’s been a shamefully long time since I’ve posted anything, and I am so so sorry!  Life has kept me busy with starting a new job, keeping true to my fitness goals, and learning that one of my best friends is PREGNANT (I’m going to be an auntie! *squee*), but I’m still mad that I’ve neglected my cyber buds.  So so sorry!

To start off my return, I am posting this in dedication to Mama for her “Show Us Your Ink” post today.  We are showing off our inks, maybe the little stories behind them, and that we’re proud of our marks.

Here’s mine!

 

It's really hard to take a selfie of the back of your neck, did you know?

It’s really hard to take a selfie of the back of your neck, did you know?

I got mine I think around my second or third year of college.  My best friend Mandy and I decided to get one each together – an unofficial friendship tattoo stuffed with loopholes to the dedication tattoo curse.  Non-matching, different placements, friendship still intact, yay!  We scoured the Internet, books, every kind of media to find our designs, and I found and customized this tidbit.

It’s a form of the Celtic triskel, and though it has various VARIOUS meanings in many different cultures, I’ll explain what I saw in it.  It’s perpetual.  I like that it symbolizes perpetual movement forward, no matter what.  I’d like to think of it as a reminder that the body, mind and spirit will always ascend, move forward, despite what life is going to curve ball at you.  It’s scary but inspiring in a way.

Anywho, I love it, but I only wish I had placed it somewhere I could see it more often; you know, without having to awkwardly turn and angle a camera phone over my shoulder.  Ah well, lessons for next time.  I’ll keep moving forward.

In case you missed my subtle hint to check out her blog at the beginning of this post, check out Mama’s blog here.  She’s a hoot!

Love,

NiSH

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That Feeling at That Moment in That Book

Dear Readers,

I’m currently reading Frances Hodgson Burnett’s novel, The Secret Garden.  It’s been on my Book Bucket List for years, ever since I watched the 1993 film version in my childhood.  I remember being mesmerized by the story of a spoiled but lonely little English girl from India re-discovering a long-forgotten garden at her uncle’s estate.  I loved the film so much – still do, actually – and usually if that is the case, I like to read the original story to see where those imaginings or events came from.  Fangirling, book-style!

So far, it’s highly enjoyable.  Burnett’s writing is relatively easy to read, with her book set in almost complete third-person omniscient, sometimes just lapsing into Mary’s point-of-view, and the flow is remarkably smooth.  It’s quite refreshing; a lot of classics tend to be very thick in tone or flow, or so word-heavy that I’m lost in the details.  In fact, the flow is so easy that I really like to read this aloud, much to the dismay – or joy? – of Lucy Cat.  It’s so hard to tell in felines.  The dialogue is also entertaining, switching from proper British English to Yorkshire, depending on the character.  If you remember the 1993 film version, the book pretty much illustrates the same accents.

But to the point!  I recently reached the point where Mary hears the crying from the hallway, and no one will tell her where it’s coming from.  So one night when she hears it again, she follows the sound through the dark hallways of Misselthwaite:

The door of her room was ajar and the sound came down the corridor, a far-off faint sound of fretful crying.  She listened for a few minutes and each minute she became more and more sure. She felt as if she must find out what it was…There was a candle by her bedside and she took it up and went softly out of the room.  The corridor looked very long and dark, but she was too excited to mind that. She thought she remembered the corners she must turn to find the short corridor with the door covered with tapestry…The sound had come up that passage.  So she went on with her dim light, almost feeling her way, her heart beating so loud that she fancied she could hear it.”

For some reason, I really like this moment.  There’s rain and wind outside in the dead of the night, and everyone is asleep, except for this little ten-year-old girl, and the source of this crying.  It’s spooky and exhilarating at the same time.  Much like when you’re a child, and for some reason or other, you were awake when everyone else was asleep.  I used to love that; it was like re-discovering a place that no one else was privy to.  Much like Mary was doing now. Picturing her wandering through those dark and winding corridors, led only by a faint memory of directions and a mysterious crying, it made my heart beat faster, as well!

So, in the essence of wanting to keep that moment, I decided to make a little art project of it.  Being an art person, I love holding onto a visual of something, whether a scene, a feeling or a moment.  Unfortunately, I don’t have all my tools for oil, so acrylic paint had to do, instead.  I had another spare canvas board to use and one afternoon-turned-evening, I doled out this moment.

 Image

Still working on the placement of shadows when I don’t have a literal model, but I’m quite satisfied with the piece overall.  It came out a little more eerie than I was hoping, but it is an eerie moment in the book, as well.  Comments?  Critiques?  Sweet nothings?

Lastly, for my painter friends out there – what do you usually do with used solvent for oil painting at home?  I was spoiled at my university because we had a big barrel that was taken care of for us, but home’s a horse of a different color entirely.  Suggestions? 

Love as always,

NiSH

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Art! Finally!

Dear Readers,

My high school art teacher told me once that smudging with one’s finger was cheating.  Well, not to snub one at you Mr. T, but it’s not cheating.  At least not with charcoal.

One of the small pleasures I have in my art is charcoal drawing.  It’s spectacular in that I can get an image onto canvas/paper quickly like pencil, but with wonderful sweeping movements like paint.  AND…you can smudge the dickens out of it!  Something about getting your hands literally caked with black dust and it being okay…it does things to me.

But onward to the reason of this post.  My mum recently asked that I recreate a painting – photo of a painting, really – for a friend to hang in her new house.  She has this beautifully simplistic print of an African American woman’s face, eyes lowered, and a single tear rolling down her cheek, and you cannot tell if it’s from grief or joy.  All you see is the woman’s face and neck, and the rest is cut off by the stark whiteness of the background, as if she’s bathed in white cloth.  It’s beautiful, but for the life of me, I cannot find the artist’s name anywhere.  I think it was a thrift store find from years ago, but it continues to be one of the most captivating wall hangings Mum has in her house.

Sorry for the less than keen photo.  Photoshop helped bring out a little color.

Sorry for the less than keen photo. Photoshop helped bring out a little color.

Anywho, I don’t want to do an exact copy – I get incredibly uncomfortable when asked to do that to another artist’s work, known or unknown – so I thought that I would try a charcoal medium.  Then I thought I should practice.  I had a leftover cheap canvas board that I got oh-so-long-ago from somewhere or other, so why not?  Plus, I’m a little rusty and wanted to work out the kinks before the real thing.

I had at my disposal…

DSCF1966

–          One charcoal pencil, black

–          One charcoal pencil, white (optional)

–          One click eraser (optional)

–          One kneaded eraser

–          One 12” x 16” canvas board

I personally LOVE to use my click eraser when using charcoal because if I need to erase a bit of black stuff in a small area, or maybe “draw” an image into a charcoaled area, it’s amazingly helpful.  But that’s just me.  Also, the white charcoal pencil is only optional if you’re like me and are still working on the whole “leave the white space alone if it’s to be white in the first place” thing.  Eternal student, everyone…

Now in the past, I’ve used the grid method when trying to make photographic replicas of images or photos.  You know, the penciled on grid over an image to be proportionally enlarged on art paper or canvas.  It’s to help with proportions, placement and likeness, and it is very effective.  I had every intention of using this method (I even measured out a grid and everything!), but that was chucked out of the window very quickly.  It’s one of those methods that I know is helpful and useful and makes a great image, but I loathe at the same time.  One for the pure act of measuring.  I hate it.  It takes me too much time to measure out my grids because I’m too much of a perfectionist to let a millimeter slide.  Aggravating.

So, I did layers instead.  Light, almost not there contour lines to get my space down.  Erase and edit as needed.  Then mapped out shaded areas to the best of ability.  Definitely edit as needed.  Then the fun.  Strategically scribble in charcoal and smudge where seen fit.  But a fair warning.  DO NOT wear a white T-shirt while doing this.  There will be dust.  Black dust.  Everywhere.  E. Ver. Y. WHERE.  But the plus side, your fingers and hands may turn into a wonderful black and skin tone art piece in themselves.  Liberating, isn’t it?  Or terrifying if you’re like my former coworker.  Absolutely petrified of dirty hands.

Give or take an hour or two – at this scale at least – and boom!  Charcoal happiness.  Granted, most of that time was due to dramatically darkening my shadows correctly and getting my proportions as accurate as possible.  I love a little chiaroscuro, don’t you?  Don’t forget that white charcoal pencil as well if you have that spot of dramatic light reflection.  Or if you have surpassed me, you just left that spot of white canvas/paper alone.  Yay progress!

DSCF1968

Not bad…for a first draft.

One thing I almost forgot.  Cheap aerosol hairspray.  No to little frou-frou additives.  I always try to give my charcoal stuff a healthy spray to set the charcoal, and attempt to avoid smudging.  This isn’t to say it will never smudge, (double negative! Bad Nish!) but it’ll at least attempt to hold the charcoal in place.

What do you think?  See anything I can improve?  I always take suggestions, so if you see a spot for improvement do let me know!  I love comments!

Now to just get to the store for real charcoal paper…

Love,

NiSH

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