Thursday, 26 March 2015

I'm Back, Baby.

After four months of radio silence, Oh Hey It's AJ is back, and perhaps you've noticed things are a little different around here...  Let me explain.

The short version is that I lost everything.

The slightly longer version is that things all went wonky.  My MacBook died in November and the repair fee was insane, so I opted not to fix it.  My Internet BFF was going to send me her old laptop but then I discovered that my Mac issue was a known issue that others had petitioned about and that Apple had decided to extend the warranty on that particular hardware problem, so poof!  MacBook all fixed up. 

While I was offline, the hosting on my blog expired and I lost all my old posts and every picture that I had posted, because I am the worst and I didn't do backups.  This is especially embarrassing when you take into consideration that I have been working in web for over a decade and if anyone knows better, it's me.  

Sooooo... Blogger.  I don't have the patience to set up a whole new self-hosted Wordpress blog for myself right now.  Maybe we'll revisit this later, but I just wanted to get OHIA back online, and this was the quickest route.  I found a few old posts floating around in the Wordpress app on my phone, copied them over (no pictures, though... *whomp whomp*), and here we are.  

Time to rebuild.

So, for now I just wanted to pop in and say "hey, I'm back, wheeee!" and get everything all up-to-date around here.  Thanks for bearing with me!

Sunday, 22 March 2015

Apparently it's November Now.

Note:  This post was originally published on November 4, 2014.  All posts prior to this date - along with images from April 2014 to March 2015 - have been lost forever to the Internet black hole.  


Soooo... it looks like I blog once a month these days.  I'm going to make a serious effort to change that.  Are any of you guys even reading this anymore?

Oh, and before I get distracted and forget, I have to tell you guys about some new stuff in my art shop.  (Shameless self-promotion time!)  I'm offering cartoon-style watercolour pet portraits - at a wicked "introductory special" discount, btw - and also custom pet sculptures.  Christmas is less than 8 weeks away, just sayin'.

Halloween has come and gone, and for the first year in a long time, I didn't get dressed up.  I just didn't have the time to plan out a costume for myself, y'know?  I made costumes for both J-Bird and Baby Turtle, and it's really hard to find time for costume-making projects with a newborn.  I mean, I was still working on J-Bird's costume the night before Halloween... although, if I'm completely honest, that could have had something to do with how long I procrastinated starting on it.  See, J-Bird wanted to be Naruto this year and I could not find a kids' Naruto costume anywhere, which meant I had to make it.  "No biggie," I thought, "I'll just grab an orange track suit and make the adjustments."


It it impossible to find orange track pants.  We managed to locate an orange sweatshirt at a thrift store, but the pants were not happening.  So George and I loaded the boys into the car, made a trip to the fabric store, and picked up a couple yards of orange micro-fleece.  I was going to sew the pants.

Here's why that was terrifying.

I have never turned my sewing machine on.  About ten years ago, I had a machine that used to belong to my great grandmother, and I sewed a few squares together before loaning it to a friend of mine.  While she had it, it broke down (probably because it was a jillion years old already), so she brought it back and I stuck it out in the garage.  Two years ago, I mentioned to my mom that I wanted to make some curtains but my sewing machine was broken, so she decided to give me hers - apparently, she's not much of a seamstress, either, and wasn't using it.  She brought it over and it sat in my bedroom closet until a week before Halloween this year, when I dragged it out and brought it down to the dining room table to make J-Bird's costume.

And then I promptly chickened out, returned it to its case, stuck it on the dining room floor, and started working on Baby Turtle's costume instead (which, obviously, was a baby turtle costume.)

Once Baby Turtle's baby turtle costume was all finished, and I could procrastinate no longer, I pulled the sewing machine back out of the case and got to work.  And I was so stressed about it.  I kept picturing J-Bird wearing his costume to school only to have my shoddy craftsmanship come apart at the seams and leave him standing in his underwear in front of the whole school, so even though - spoiler alert! - the costume totally ended up working out, and even though I tested the seams over and over again), I made J-Bird wear shorts under his costume.  Y'know... just in case.

{pictures of the boys in their handmade costumes were here}

So there you have it - Halloween costume success!  Now... what percentage of J-Bird's candy do you think I can claim in the name of "costume-making payment"...?

Dear Sleep, I Miss You

Note:  This post was originally published on October 9, 2014.  All posts prior to this date - along with images from April 2014 to March 2015 - have been lost forever to the Internet black hole.  


I don't remember being this tired when J-Bird was a newborn, and J-Bird had colic - which means I slept even less than I'm sleeping now.  Apparently it's a lot easier to handle newborn-related-sleep-deprivation when you're 22.  (I think I just heard all of you collectively shout "DUH" at me.)

{some sort of image was here}

I have no idea where the days are going, though.  Seriously.  I'm exhausted and the house is a mess... And I'm totally behind on replying to emails/Facebook messages... And there are 74 unread posts in my blog reader.  I don't know how "mommy bloggers" do it.  I cannot even imagine trying to fit daily blog posts in right now.  It took me three days just to find the time (and energy!) to shampoo my hair.

I'm also still a hungry, hungry hippo - Baby H (aka "Baby Turtle") eats all the time, and apparently his constant feedings meant that I need to re-fuel frequently, too.  There aren't even words to describe how excited I am about Thanksgiving dinner this weekend, you guys.  (Yes, Canadian Thanksgiving is way earlier than American Thanksgiving.)  I can't stop thinking about all the turkey and pumpkin pie I'm going to stuff into my face when we go to my folks' house for dinner on Sunday.

{i had an image here titled 'eat all the things'.  i'm sure you can picture it.}

There's only a few weeks to go until Halloween.  I'm making a turtle costume for Baby Turtle (obviously) and it is going to be adorable.  For J-Bird's first ever Halloween, I made a lamb costume using a onesie, some hot glue guns, and like 200 cotton balls, so I figured I have to make Turtle's first costume, too.  J-Bird wants to go as Naruto this year, and as far as I can tell, Naruto costumes for kids are not a thing that exists... so it looks like I'll be making his costume, too.  Uh, I guess I should probably get started on that, huh?  I think I'll skip the whole dressing-up thing this year since I've already got two costumes to worry about making in the next 21 days.  Plus I probably won't be going out this year - it's too soon for Baby H to be out in the cold!  George and J-Bird can do the trick-or-treating this time around.

Are you dressing up in costumes?  What are you all planning to be for Halloween this year?

And Baby Makes 4... (Unless You Count the Dog)

Note:  This post was originally published on September 17, 2014.  All posts prior to this date - along with images from April 2014 to March 2015 - have been lost forever to the Internet black hole.  


Eleven days ago, Baby H decided to join us, and it has been a whirlwind ever since.  I forgot just how much sleep-deprivation actually accompanies a newborn baby - after all, it's been ten years since I last had a newborn in the house.

George has been amazing.  As we got closer and closer to the due date, he got more and more nervous, and it was all for nothing.  He's a natural!  By diaper #3, he was a pro-star at changings, and he mastered the art of infant-holding in no time.  Thankfully, he was able to take a week off of work immediately after Baby H's birth; I have no idea what I would have done without him.  Seriously, you guys.  He made sure that I got a nap here and there, he took over getting J-Bird ready for school and getting him to and from the school bus stop, he handled all the meals (for everyone in the house who isn't exclusively on a breastmilk diet)... he was fantastic.  I need to get the man a present or something.

But back to Baby H.

He was born on a Saturday morning.  On Saturday night I was sitting up in my hospital bed, feeling him, we he made a face and clamped down hard and it just reminded me so much of a baby turtle that I couldn't stop giggling.  I've been affectionately referring to him as "Baby Turtle" ever since, and J-Bird has picked up the nickname, too.

He has the most adorable little dimples.  I'm going to be in so much trouble when he starts smiling, you guys.

He likes to hold hands while he eats.

{this used to be a picture of Baby H's hand wrapped tightly around my index finger}

Speaking of eating, he wants to do it ALL THE TIME.  Especially at night.  Midnight snacks are his favourite.

I'm pretty sure there is nothing in the world that is softer than his hair.

He's the spitting image of his daddy.  Like, a miniature carbon copy.  Zero of his features are mine.

And I am complete, totally, head over heels in love.

{and this held a picture of Baby Turtle and I once}

How the "Magic" Happens

Note:  This post was originally published on August 11, 2014.  All posts prior to this date - along with images from April 2014 to March 2015 - have been lost forever to the Internet black hole.  


I have this Internet BFF named Jodi, and Jodi has her very own dog blog (along with other internet-y projects) called Kol's Notes.  Apparently, there's a little "blog tour" going around right now that asks bloggers about their writing process, and apparently, Jodi thinks I have some sort of "process" that I should share, because she nominated me to join in on the tour.  (Haha.  Hahahahaha.)

So, okay.  Let's talk about my "process" through the three questions provided as part of the Writing Process Blog Tour, shall me?

1. What are you working on?

Geez.  Mostly, I'm working on growing a human being.  (That feels like a cop-out answer, but you guys, I'm so tired and sweaty.  We're in the home stretch, and Baby H is due in the next 2 - 4 weeks (depending who you ask) and I mostly just want to lay on my couch in front of a fan.)

{this was a picture of a big lazy hippo}

But I actually do have a number of projects on the go, including:

  • a post about how neurotic I am when it comes to art projects
  • two baby shower posts (which I don't have photos for yet, MOM...)
  • a confession about my "strange obsessions"
  • a "studio tour" post (my studio is legit in the middle of my living room, but we'll call it a studio anyway)
  • an introduction to a very talented friend of mine

2. Why do you write what you do?

What?  I don't know.  I don't even understand this question.

I write what I write because this is my personal "lifestyle" blog and this is what I'm currently living.  Does that make sense?  I write about art stuff because that's how I (mostly) spend my days, and I write about George and J-Bird and Baby H because they are my loves, and I write about what's happening in my life because it's what I know.  I'm not going to write about science, because I am not scientific, and I'm not going to write about fashion trends because I live in yoga pants and tank tops, and I'm not going to write about cars because I don't even drive.  I write what I know and like, and hopefully there are people out there that are interested in the same things who want to read it, y'know?  Simple as that.

{there was an image here once, but truthfully, I don't even remember what it was}

3.  How does your writing process work?

Hahahaha, again with that whole "process" assumption!  OK, here's how my "blogging process" usually goes:

First, I realize that it has been like a week or more since I last posted, and I chastise myself for being a terrible blogger and a slacker.  Then, I open up my Wordpress dashboard, pull my laptop on to my lap, and start typing.

For realz.

Sometimes I have something I specifically want to blog about, and that makes it easier because chances are, I've got a bunch of pictures prepared and I've already sort of thought out what I want to say.  Other times, I just let myself start writing and I see where it takes me, and then I tweak the post as needed.  Juliette once said that she liked my writing style because it was easy to get a mental image of what I was writing about, and I think it's because when I post, I just write the way I would have a conversation with someone.  And sometimes that means I am scattered and kind of neurotic, but if I happen to be having a scattered and neurotic day, then that's what is going to come across.

So there you have it.  The "secret" behind my blogging methodology is basically that I am not very organized and I blog without rules and there is no secret behind my blogging methodology.  TADA!

And now I'm supposed to nominate three other bloggers to take part, so I choose...

Kellee from Kellee the Caffeinated
Juliette from The Other Juliette
Aussa from Hacker. Ninja. Hooker. Spy.

Oh, and this is cheating but I'm going to add an extra nominee:  my baby cousin (who is like 22 and probably tired of me referring to her as "my baby cousin") just started her first blog and I don't know if she has a "process" yet, but she was a journalism major so maybe she knows secret writing tips and tricks that she can share or something.  GO, KELLY, GO!

Saturday, 21 March 2015

What Happened To July??

Note:  This post was originally published on July 31, 2014.  All posts prior to this date - along with images from April 2014 to March 2015 - have been lost forever to the Internet black hole.  


Soooo, July is over.  I'm still trying to wrap my head around how quickly it disappeared.  I feel like I spend all year waiting for the summer to get here and then it's gone before I ever get a chance to enjoy it.  This summer is going especially quickly because our calendar is intense.  J-Bird has softball twice a week, plus we've had baby showers and birthday parties and doctor's appointment and all sorts of craziness.  Here's a quick recap of what's happened over the last two weeks:

For starters, J-Bird turned ten.

I am officially old enough to have a child whose age is comprised of double-digits.  I tend to make a pretty huge deal out of J-Bird's birthday every year, and obviously this year was no different (again, double-digits, you guys!)  George basically played the "best stepdad ever" card and was like "Oh, P.S., I booked his birthday off so I could take him out to do fun stuff."  How cute is that?  So we spent a busy and fun-filled day celebrating our newly-turned-ten-year-old:  we took him to Starbucks for a frappucino in the morning ("Do I get to have a venti since it's my birthday??") and then we brought him home to open his presents.  His stepmom, who is a teacher and has summers off, stopped by with J-Bird's little half-sister for a visit and to drop off presents, and after that, we headed to the movies to see How to Train Your Dragon 2 (J-Bird has see the first movie probably close to 86 gazillion times and was super-amped on going to see the sequel!)  Then we rushed home, got changed, and headed off to the park for softball (J-Bird's team totally won, BTW).  I brought pop and cookies decorated like baseballs, and J-Bird's team sang happy birthday to him, and then we came home and had a Mario Kart 8 tournament until it was way past bedtime.  I'd say it was a birthday success.

{photo of the 10-year-old J-Bird was here}

George's nephew also turned ten.

Which meant that we had birthday party festivities to attend!  J-Bird and George's nephew get along swimmingly, being born two days apart, and this year's birthday party included a trip to laser tag.  J-Bird could not have been more excited about his first laser tag experience, you guys.  I heard about it for weeks leading up to the party.  For a brief moment, during one of their three games, J-Bird was in first place!  I managed to get a (crappy) picture of the scoreboard, but the by time the round ended, he'd fallen to fifth.  Still pretty awesome for a newbie, right?

{this was a picture of the scoreboard}

And obviously, J-Bird had a party, also...

We did ours on the following weekend (July 26th) so that there was no conflict with George's nephew's party.  Remember how I was freaking out over trying to throw a Pokemon party and I had no clue what I was doing?  I figured it out.

J-Bird loved his party.  I was totally calm the night before, as I finished his birthday cake and prepped the decorations.  I was even calm in the morning, before the party started, as I hung decorations and inflated balloons.  But then my house was filled with people, and my broken A/C made is so hot in here that I was super-attractive and dripping with sweat (it was like the surface of the sun), and there was a lot of noise and commotion, and I was trying to lead party games, and EVERYONE was cheating or flat-out refusing to participate, and I will be honest:  I lost my zen.  And I lost it right as George came up to see how I was doing (so, bright side?  George was the only one who saw my demon face, and not the kids...)

{this was a fun GIF of demon-face from the show Cougar Town}

But aside from my momentary meltdown, everything was good - the cake turned out fabulously, the decorations were cute, I managed to come up with a bunch of Pokemon-themed games, and the loot bags were freaking adorable.  (They were Pokeballs filled with candy.  So. Perfect.)

{here was a picture of the Poke-party}

I know that seems like a lot of excitement in two weeks, but guess what?  That wasn't all.

The day after J-Bird's birthday party, I had another baby shower!

But I'm not going to tell you about.  At least, not today... it was too spectacularly planned by my fantastic cousin to just get a mention in a recap post.  This shower deserves a post of its own - so keep an eye out for that in the next couple of days!

Friday, 20 March 2015

Tourist in My Own Town: Taste of Lawrence

Note:  This post was originally published on July 8, 2014.  All posts prior to this date - along with images from April 2014 to March 2015 - have been lost forever to the Internet black hole.  


Last summer, my gorgeous friend Kelly came to Toronto for a visit.  We were out having dinner/drinks and chatting away when she used a phrase that has stuck with me ever since - she was talking about taking her two daughters out to a bunch of different places and said "I feel like a tourist in my own town".  Tourist in my own town.  I don't know what it is about that line, but I love it.

So it just became a new feature on the blog.  See, Toronto has about a gazillion events that take place every summer (I'm not kidding; there was just a news report on how tired Torontonians are having these constant street closures due to summertime events/festivals) and since I actually like the summer and don't feel the need to hibernate, I can go play at the events and then tell you guys about them.  (Disclaimer:  I'm pretty pregnant these days, so while this currently feels like a fantastic idea, I can't guarantee that I won't change my mind about wandering street festivals and amusement parks while carrying 40 extra lbs. and doing the prego-waddle.)

This past weekend, we just so happened to have hit up one of Toronto's annual street festivals, and of course I took photos, so let's recap!

It's called "The Taste of Lawrence", which is a blatant rip-off of one of our bigger and longer-running street festivals, Taste of the Danforth.

About four years ago, I lived in a condo right at the intersection where The Taste of Lawrence took place, and it was pretty convenient to be able to step out of my front door and into a street festival.  I'm pretty sure that for all three meals on the Saturday of that weekend, I just took the elevator down, picked a food vendor, and bought something delicious.  J-Bird loved it.  There was a small midway, and there were only a few rides that he was big enough to go on, but he rode them over and over and had a blast doing it.  When the sun went down, we walked to the main stage and watched a hula-hooping show where they set the hula hoops on fire.

J-Bird has wanted to go back every year wince, but it always fell on a weekend where he was at his dad's and he kept missing out...

Until this year.

This summer, things have worked out differently and J-Bird was around for the Taste of Lawrence weekend, so obviously I had to take him.  (Plus, I found out that there was a Beaver Tails stand there this year and there was no way that I was missing out on Beaver Tails, you guys.  I am pregnant and those things are delicious.)

We found a spot to park, made our way over to the tents, and what should so happen to be right in front of me but the Beaver Tails stand.  Obviously it was fate.  If you've never had Beaver Tails before, let me describe this magical item to you:  it's a piece of dough that is pulled and stretched in to the shape of a beaver's tail (duh) and then fried.  Then it gets brushed with butter, and then you can choose from a bunch of magical toppings.  Years ago (and I'm talking, like, well over a decade) I worked in an amusement park with a Beaver Tails location, and your options were pizza sauce and mozza cheese; Nutella; apples and cinnamon; or cinnamon, sugar, and lemon juice.  The end.  Their menu has clearly expanded because there were way more options, and I ended up going for something called "The Choco Vanil'", which was vanilla icing with crushed Oreo bits on top and then finished off with some chocolate sauce drizzle.  #noregrets

{there was a picture of my Beaver Tail here}

Both of the boys opted not to get a Beaver Tail, because they're insane.  (Although George definitely took a few bites of mine.  FYI, stealing bits of delicious deep-fried pastry from a pregnant woman is not safe, and you probably shouldn't try it at home.)

We wandered the festival for a while, checking out a bunch of booths.  J-Bird found an ice cream truck and we told him to pick whatever he wanted, and he chose a Rocket.  A Rocket, you guys.  As in those three-coloured Popsicles that we can find at ANY convenience store, except this one wasn't even Popsicle-brand and it was $3.50.  There were Sno-Cones and slushies and soft-serve ice cream dipped in chocolate sauce, and my kid picks the one thing that he can get literally any other day.  I do not understand the workings of the brains of children.

One of the booths was selling natural honey/wax products and they had bees at the table, which George and J-Bird thought was the coolest thing ever.  I was not so impressed.  Bees + AJ = not friends.

{this was a picture of George and J-Bird checking out the bees}

Every year, my amazing friend Jenny gets a booth for her yoga business (and to sell beautiful mala bead jewelry) and I always drop by and say hi.

{picture of Jenny's booth was here}

J-Bird was starting to get impatient for the midway fun, so we said goodbye to Jenny and her husband and walked the final stretch to the "fun zone" - the place where the games and rides were.  I feel like you have to go through some sort of seriously sales-pressure-training-course to become a game operator at a carnival midway, because OMG they are so pushy!  And there's like a whole strip of them in a row, so after you say no to one, the next guy starts calling at you, and they will totally use anything they can to try and get you to play.

And it worked, because here's J-Bird throwing darts at a dragon.

{This was a picture of J-Bird playing carnival games}

(He totally won, in case you were wondering, and now we have a stuffed ninja-penguin worth about $2 in crappy materials that cost $12 in darts.  I know, I know, you're not paying for the prize, you're paying for the fun.)

It turns out that J-Bird has grown so much since his last trip to Taste of Lawrence that he's officially big enough to go on every single one of the rides, so he opted to skip the "kid rides" and go for the bigger stuff (although he wanted someone to ride most things with him).  Since I'm currently not able to do anything fun, George got to go on all the rides and I got to stand off to the side and hold water bottles and balloons and ninja-penguin stuffies.  But it also meant that I could get pictures of my two favourite people on carnival rides together, and I can't think of a better way to end off this post than with some snapshots of my boys having a blast.

{and then there were four or five pictures of the boys on rides...}

So that's the first "Tourist in My Own Town" post.  We measured J-Bird and found out that he's tall enough to go on almost everything at Canada's Wonderland, which George is super stoked on, so I have a feeling that there might be a Wonderland post coming up, too - stay tuned for that!

And Then I Fell In Love With A Goat.

Note:  This post was originally published on June 10, 2014.  All posts prior to this date - along with images from April 2014 to March 2015 - have been lost forever to the Internet black hole.  


Last weekend, one of my oldest and most awesome friends, Shannon, invited us out for a visit and a trip to the "spring fair" in her town, which obviously I was 110% on board with - I am not about to turn up a chance to see her two adorable sons, Little G and Baby G, nor was I going to miss out on a fair that advertised something called "Celebrity Pig Racing".

Saturday afternoon, George and I hopped in the car and left the city.  The weather was absolutely gorgeous, and we drove along with the radio turned up and the windows all the way down.  As we got closer and closer to our destination, I wondered more and more about why we live in the city.  Forget smog and concrete.  Check out the roadside views where Shannon lives:

{this was a picture of horses in a roadside field}

When we first arrived, Little G was taking a nap, but Baby G and Puppy Casino were wide awake and kept me giggling while Shannon and her husband Brett put the finishing touches on dinner.  And speaking of dinner... oh em gee, you guys.  I wish I had taken a picture of the food!  It was so delicious - there was steak and chicken, amazing potatoes, asparagus, kale salad... everything was fantastic.  And Casino?  She knew exactly where to sit.

{this was a picture of Casino hanging out under the high chair}

After dinner, we made our way over to the fair.

We started out in the agricultural tent, where they had baby Holstein cows and tables with pamphlets about farming, and oh yeah, also these two goofballs:

{this was a picture of two goats}

Outside the agricultural tent, I found the perfect George-sized vehicle:

{picture of a giant tractor.  i could have sat in the wheels.}

It was almost 6:00 pm, and I was on a mission, you guys.  At 6:00 pm, the Celebrity Pig Races were starting.  I had no idea what they were, but I knew that I had to see them, so we made a beeline for the "race track".  It turns out that "Celebrity Pig Races" are basically just races featuring pics with entertainment-related names (i.e. HAM-mah Montana).  Even still, they are adorable.

{picture of celebrity pig races was here}

But there was something even better.

Shannon told me that the fair had... a PETTING ZOO.  OK, yes, I am an adult, but whatever, dude.  Hook me up with some of that $2 petting zoo food and let me go touch ALL OF THE FURRY THINGS.  I grabbed a second cone of petting zoo food for Little G, and together we walked through the gate and in to Paradise.  (Pro Tip:  Apparently if you neglect the birds and focus on the sheep, the ducks will get mad and bite you to get your attention.)

{this had a picture of me being bitten by a duck}

OK, this is where the magic happens.

So I found this little pig, and when I was petting him, he dropped on to his back like a dog and waited for belly rubs:

{yep, this was a pic of belly-rub piggy}

And when I was kneeling down and rubbing his fat little tummy, I felt a small child fall against my back.  Or so I thought.  Until suddenly my earlobe was wet.

It turns out that what I thought was someone's child falling against me was actually a pygmy goat climbing on to my back and then nibbling on my ear.  And then my hair.  And now we are in love and I've decided that his name is Obie and I can't stop thinking about him.

AJ and Obie the goat
By all that is good and holy, this picture was not lost forever like the rest.
Meanwhile, George was shopping for dinner making friends with the chickens:

{picture of George holding a chicken}

I could have stayed at the petting zoo forever, but there was more fair to see!  So Shannon took Little G to clean his hands, and George and I made a quick visit to see the horse before we left the petting zoo area.  Side note:  Obviously George is a country boy at heart and we need to move to a farm and get Clydesdales and baby goats, right??

And what's a trip to the fair without a stop at the midway, right?

{I'm missing like three pictures here, of Shannon and Baby G, and of Little G holding ride tickets, and of Little G and Baby G together}

While there wasn't much that Baby G could go on, with the exception of a little truck ride, Little G got to try out a few different rides.  I think that he was more excited about being in charge of carrying the ride tickets than he was about actually riding anything, though.

Before we left the fair, the boys had to try and win something through a display of showmanship, of course.

{this was a picture of Brett and George playing carnival games}

Except they did it all wrong.  Everyone knows that carnival games are a huge scam.  The key to winning is to choose one of the games where multiple people compete and then you're destined to win... (or to play my personal favourite game - the one where you choose a floating duck and win a prize because every single duck is a winner.)

It was such an awesome way to spend a Saturday and I'm so glad that Shannon invited us.  We're totally going next year.

And if Obie is still there, I'm bringing him home with me.

The Panic Files: Baby Steps

Note:  This post was originally published on May 19, 2014.  All posts prior to this date - along with images from April 2014 to March 2015 - have been lost forever to the Internet black hole.  


Remember when I told you guys all about how I was a crazy hypochondriac who also suffers from generalized anxiety disorder? Did I also happen to mention my weirdo thyroid?  Let's do a brief summary just in case I left that out (or you're new around these parts and don't know what's up with my panic attacks):

I have had an anxiety disorder for more than a decade, and yes, I have seen a therapist, and yes, I am medicated for it.  I also have an auto-immune disorder called Graves' Disease.  One of the fun things that happens when you have Graves' is that you end up with a hyperactive thyroid, and hyperactive thyroids have a tendency to worsen anxiety.  See how it all comes full circle?

My anxiety disorder was diagnosed way back in 2002, long before anyone knew what was happening with my thyroid.  It would be almost another decade before the Graves' Disease diagnosis happened, and while the two can go hand-in-hand, my specialists are certain that my anxiety disorder wasn't caused by my thyroid issues; it just happens to be worse because of my Graves'.  (Still with me?  I know, I know, I'm all rickety and falling apart.)  During the "peak" of my hyperthyroidism, when we were doing all the testing and looking at treatments and waiting for something to start making a difference, my anxiety go so intense that I stopped leaving my house.  The only "safe zone" I knew was my living room, and even the living room didn't make me immune to panic attacks... but I knew that I could lie down on the couch and close my eyes and wait for the terror to pass.  The farthest I ventured was downstairs to the lobby of my building to pick J-Bird up from the school bus, and most days I would stand in the lobby with my hand on my heart, trying to will it to slow down a little and pleading with myself not to hyperventilate.

It totally sucked.

My doctors doubled my anti-anxiety medication and started me on beta-blockers (because my heart was under pretty serious strain at that point) and anti-thyroid meds.  And little by little, things got better.  I don't take beta blockers anymore, and my heart is totally fine.  I'm on the half the dose of the anti-anxiety medication that I used to be.  I will have Graves' Disease forever, but my thyroid levels are at a high-normal range now, and most of the hyperthyroidism symptoms have eased off a bit.  (*knock on wood*!)

But I'm still struggling with being in public alone.  I mean, I can leave my house now, so there's that.  In fact, I beg to.  I work from home and although I love it, I get stir crazy sometimes.  Every single day, I ask George to take me somewhere - out for coffee, to the grocery store, to the art store, anywhere - just so I can get out for a bit.  I can't do it alone - I need George.  George is my anxiety-crutch.  And yet, I can tell there's been progress.

I remember being in a grocery store about a year and a half ago, picking up something to throw on the barbecue, when George asked me to go get hamburger buns.  They were only three aisles away from where he stood, and yet I walked to the bread section on legs that felt as though they were made of Jell-O.  My heart felt like it was sitting in my throat, and I was convinced that everyone in the store could probably see the beads of sweat forming on my face.

Fast forward to a year later, and this is what I'm doing right now:

{imagine a photo of me sitting at Starbucks here}

That's me, at this very moment in time, sitting in a Starbucks and writing this blog post.  Why isn't George in the picture?  Because he's not here.  He dropped me off with my laptop and some Frappucino-money and then drove to the gym a few blocks away for his daily workout.  I'm sitting on my own, typing away, taking sips from my double-chocolate-chip frap, and pausing every so often just to look around the store at the dozen (or so) strangers who are also seated at tables in this very location.  Some of them are on their laptops.  There are two women chatting away in armchairs, their venti cups waving around in their hands as they talk.  A college student is studying a few feet away from me, his textbook open and a pen in his hand.  And me, I'm here, too.  I'm not trembling, and my heart isn't racing, and I'm not wishing that I was home in my "safe zone".

It took almost two years of baby steps, and sometimes I stumbled, but here we are.  I'm alone in a (busy) public place, and I'm doing just fine.

All Art, All the Time

Note:  This post was originally published on April 29, 2014.  All posts prior to this date - along with images from April 2014 to March 2015 - have been lost forever to the Internet black hole.  


I'm typing this with terracotta-coloured clay under my fingernails and acrylic gesso smeared across my hands.  I'd be surprised if I didn't have art supplies smudged across my face.  My hair is up in what is probably the messiest top-knot of all time.  I'm a mess, and I love it.

{image lost, probably forever}

Lately I've been kind of mopey and stressed.  I haven't been able to contribute to the household finances very much, and I'm not okay with that... but the web design biz has been slow for long enough that I'm pretty close to giving up on it after 14 years in the game (more on that in a later post).  I've also been someone bitter about our pregnancy complications, and while everything is currently going well (*knock on wood*!) and I'm starting to feel better about things, I'm still kind of pouty that we're considered a "high-risk" pregnancy.  Plus, modified bed rest is super boring.  Oh, and also, I've been having a terrible time sleeping lately.  Baby H has taken up in-utero Greek dancing or something, which he likes to practice around midnight.  I'm also convinced that he's using my bladder as a trampoline, because I can't make it through the night without getting up to pee, and Jack has recently decided that it's his life's ambition to sleep in whatever position takes up all of my space and makes me as uncomfortable as possible - and bonus points if he can manage to shove all four of his paws in to my spine.

*whew* Wow, did I just go on a rant or what?  But bear with me, it's totally topical.

I want to be an artist.  I have an amazing artist friend who makes her living selling awesome paintings and I'll admit it... I am super jealous.  That, you guys.  That is what I want to do with my life.  I bet you when people ask Christie (the amazing artist friend referenced above) what she does for a living, she says "I'm an artist".  BAM.  Full of confidence and without turning it in to a question.  Wanna know what I say?

{image lost}

This Chick, who I have sort of turned into my very own life coach, already knows all of this about me, because she's been listening to me whine about wanting to be an artist for what probably feels like forever - (sorry, Jodi) - and she is not shy about verbally kicking my ass a little bit when I need it.  "Oh, you want to be an artist?" she said one day, after I'd thrown myself a particularly pathetic pity party via Facebook chat.  "You keep saying that, but what did you paint today?  What did you draw?  Show me what you made."

I wish that I could tell you that that was enough to kick my art goals in to high gear, but it turns out that apparently I needed something more to really set the wheels in motion.  And that's where my ├╝ber-rant up there comes in.  I started getting overwhelmed with stress and crankiness and self-pit and lack of sleep, and one day last week, I turned to George and just kind of let it all come pouring out:

"All I want to do all day is art.  I want to paint, and I want to draw, and I want to bury my hands in clay, and I want to make tiny Fimo miniatures, and I want to... I don't know, do glass blowing or whatever.  I just want to make things all of the time and I want that to be my job, and why can't I make that happen?!"

{meltdown image lost to the interwebs}

*pant* *pant* *pant*

George's first response was to advise me to maybe NOT take up glass-blowing, as he doesn't feel like someone is as accident-prone and clumsy as I am belongs anywhere near molten glass balanced precariously on a blowpipe.  And then he said, "So that was quite the outburst.  Why don't you go sculpt something with the new clay I bought you and try to relax a bit?"

So I made some snails.

{you got it... image lost forever.}

And then I started on a little tree house...

{bye bye, picture}

And now, our dining room table is covered in:  three sculpted and primed snails, one large clay mushroom, a drying terracotta tree trunk, a bowl of slip, a container full of paint brushes, a bottle of acrylic gesso, two primed and drying canvases, a bottle of ink, a calligraphy pen, watercolor paper, a notepad covered in art project ideas, my laptop, and my Wacom tablet.  (George is totally okay with me spreading everything out across the dining room table instead of using my drafting table, of course, and never complains about it at all.)

So, here goes:

Hi, I'm AJ, and I'm an artist.  I have a lot of projects on the go right now, and I'd love it if you'd follow my art page on Facebook and "like" the kind of stuff you want to see more of, because I'm going to be posting a bunch of different things while I figure out my style.