thoughts

Man I Festo (I guessto)

I grow, I change, and so do my perceptions. I am 37, a toy designer, a counselor, a bachelor, an artist. I live in Bessemer City, BFE, and I worship Jesus Christ in a church filled with some of the most amazing Republicans you’ve ever met who still don’t believe the planet is getting hotter.

Needless to say, I have been feeling very cut apart from the herd lately, and sometimes I resent that. But I want to take some time to own my particularities and blurt them to all two of the people who read my BLARG! So here we go:

I am middle aged. I am white. I am articulate. I have a short attention span.

I don’t like reading because I can’t stay still that long unless I’m going to sleep.

I like milk chocolate. I think most people who eat dark chocolate say they like it to impress people.

I adore ice cream and I adore my step mother for always stocking the freezer with it whenever she knows I’m visiting. I adore my step mother. It took me a long time to appreciate all she did for our family but now that I do I can’t believe how lucky I am to have her as a parent.

I love stuffed toys. I love to draw. I only like certain music. I cannot stand Radiohead because for more than a decade people insisted I like them ‘cause everybody else did and that means they must be good. I find Radiohead pretentious. I don’t like Wilco. See my reasons for not liking Radiohead but I don’t find Wilco pretentious, only boring. I like music with tight vocal harmony. I enjoyed the novelty of the Spice Girls.

I would rather be a werewolf than a vampire. I would not like to be a zombie.

I don’t like the way sex possesses the general public. I resent the expectation that I should like sex. I hate dating. I enjoy spending time with a best friend, but I loathe the expectations our culture puts on people in a dating relationship. I hate picking up the tab for the woman all the time. I have never been swayed to hasty, impulsive decisions by feminine beauty. I have been swayed to create art because of feminine beauty. I have been moved to tears by feminine beauty. I have been drawn closer to Christ because of feminine beauty. I have become closer to God because of feminine beauty but I have never been manipulated into doing things I didn’t want to do, and I have never been suckered into making a contract with my body because of feminine beauty. I have, though, been manipulated by societal pressures about the view I’m supposed to have about feminine beauty to do numerous, countless things I didn’t want to do. A woman cannot wag her hair, bat her eyes or squash her breasts up against me and think she can have her way with me. I am not that stupid.

I want kids more than I want a wife. I’d rather be an artist than a boyfriend. I’d rather be a father than a husband. I’d rather make art or clean my house than roll around squashing my body up against someone else’s. I’d rather be a Christian than a republican or a democrat. I’d rather work hard than be pleasured.

My art is awesome. I draw well but I could draw better. I sew well but I could sew better. I have amazing ideas but I can be lazy and disorganized. I am ridiculously excited about the future, which is already here in some ways.

I am a Christian. The Holy Spirit activated my soul when I was 14. Jesus is who he says he is. He is real. He is alive. He is eternal. He is God. Christ is my only justification and should be my only motivator, but I am a distracted human and am prone to do things I should not. I am a Christian, and I voted for Obama twice. As an American who values personal freedom, I believe in marriage equality. As a person who remembers having snow days as a kid, I know for a certainty that the world is getting hotter.

I. Hate. Hot. Weather. I hate people who hate winter and fall. I hate people who complain about cold weather after 7 or 8 months of blazing hot. I have less road rage these days.

I want to meet more single people who don’t want to date. I want to have friends who don’t get married and abandon everyone except for other married people (can I get an AMEN?!). I want to show up at a friend’s house with a sixer and chill for an evening over TV and amazing food without being turned away because I’m a third wheel. I love, love, love my friend Meighan for being the ONLY married person alive who has not treated me like I have a communicable disease because I’m pushing 40 and still single, and welcomes me into her home with or without invitation. I love her husband Chris for the same reason (he and I go way back anyway). I love that they’re on the way to my dad’s house. I love that I can stop by at all hours, pick up a trowel and help with the gardening, have my way with the kitchen and crash in any number of spare beds. I miss my other friends who have disappeared into marriage only to ever be discovered again by other married people. I miss my long-time college friends and high school friends who extend an open-door invitation but still need months of advanced planning before I can hang with them ‘cause of all the married couples they’ve already got on their social schedules. I miss my friend Melanie who always invites me to visit her in SC. I miss my friend Amy who wonders why we never get together when we’re only two towns apart. I miss nearby friends who I never see for this or that reason. I miss my friends the Davisons who invite me over frequently. I want to be more bold about inviting people I like and esteem to socialize. I want to do this without freaking out that people will think I’m weird or gay for doing so. I am grateful for my friend Rich who has a kid but still invites me to visit.

I want more time to do the things I love, but I love all the things I’m doing. I want to sleep more and worry less. I want the body of a Greek God.. I want more ice cream. I want more chocolate. I want men to be men without being thuggish, grunting sports fans. I want to make cartoons and movies. I want to be ridiculously rich so I can pay my family’s debts and the debts of hardworking people who can’t get ahead. I want Black History Month to dissolve into utter, total, complete awareness of African American History without needing a special month set aside to forcibly remember. I want artists to get paid what they deserve. I want politicians to work day jobs. I want lazy people to move to their own private island to dry up and die. I want to snuggle without being coerced into sex. I want to adopt children.

I want to sleep ‘cause it’s late. For me. I rise early so I can have time for art. I am so grateful that tomorrow is Friday and the laundry is done.

0 Comments

Wow. Two entries in as many days. I must be having an interview Friday..

Ten years. I’m still wrapping my brain around that. I was 27 years clueless when I started Stupid Creatures. I gotta stop beating myself in the head over all this hindsight business. Time to move forward!!

I hereby solemnly swear I am no longer going to stress myself out over art. I'm going to do what I can in the time that I have, but I will stay consistent creating more pieces. I intend to draw more, and I won't make excuses. I will draw what I can in the time I have every day. Maybe I'll make some merchandise with what I draw, maybe I'll draw just to practice. Maybe I'll join a forum and take drawing prompts every day.

Realistically, I have about 3 hours a day I can work on art. More like 2, now that I think of it. I rise and dress, then I have 2 hours left before I leave for counseling. When I get home, I primarily get ready for the next day, and depending on how long that takes I can squeeze another hour out of art time.

This morning I made a 1-sock creature and didn't get around to stitching its arms or eyes on, or closing its stuffing hole. That much I can bang out tonight without stressing myself out. But scratch that. I’m baking brownies for my kids tomorrow for Valentine’s Day. Sakes alive. If I had been more disciplined with my time this morning I would have probably finished at least the eyes, if not the whole thing.

My goal for artistic endeavors until future notice is to be able to start and finish something in the 2 hour window that I have without letting a project drag into my usual abyss of never-get-finished. I'll work on some more epic, huge pieces once I've conquered using my time wisely and have gained more self-discipline.

These new goals kind of stem from my counseling environment. A healthy mindset often starts with accepting your situation and doing your best with whatever it is you have. Once you've done that, you can aspire to more if that's what you want, but it's useless to want more than you can expect from what you've already got. That only causes crazy stress and makes a person depressed when plans fail.

I figure I've got a good 50 or 60 years left in this life if things go well. That's plenty of time to produce quality work within my means and abilities, and to grow those means to achieve more than I now have.

On my list: My cartoon pitch. I’ve got to get drawing on those characters. Get the stylesheets and set designs nailed down. I’ll likely do that this weekend.

I’ve got to get ready for an interview Friday with a local NBC affiliate, and that involves packing my car with monsters, making sure I’ve got books and business cards, then make some freebies to give the hosts as thank you gifts.

I’ve got to develop a new concept for Land of Nod since they’ve asked me back for another product line.

And just today I’ve been approached by a potential licensee to use my drawings on his products.

Will that 2 hours a day be enough for all this art? It’s going to have to be.

So.. with that, I won’t make any commitments to make a creature a day. Maybe one a week? Gosh.. I’ll be sewing in my coffin. I love it though.


0 Comments

My thoughts on poverty right now

New-Year-Monsters
Dear All Of You. It’s been a while. Here’s what’s on my mind.

My opinions on many things change constantly now that I’m a full time counselor, especially about poverty, our country, socioeconomics.. stuff like that. Working with kids and their families in their homes and in day treatment has given me incredible insight into why some kids act they way they do. It has also given me insight into things like poverty and classism, and how much those things can affects a person’s mental health.

I used to generally believe that people need to do more to help poor people (but that right there is an abstract concept with no clear application). And presto, I work in an industry funded by taxpayer dollars (which does not take private insurance as payment, and therefore services only those eligible for tax-funded programs like Medicaid), attempting to help people improve their own lives and raise their kids with a better sense of personal responsibility and work ethic and blah blah blah.. I and my coworkers are a living and breathing example of how America does indeed help the poor. My experience has given me informed opinions about what Stephen Colbert waxed on about. Strangely, or not, this industry is full of employees who are Christians (take that for what it is). Stephen Colbert still had some good points about following Christ’s example and helping the poor. We are commanded to do that, just like Jesus said. Trust me, if you have a job and pay taxes, you’re helping the poor already. Of course, it’s probably more the Christian thing to do to help the poor of your own volition rather than wait for the government to garnish your paycheck (or to take a paycheck for it like my coworkers and me). And it’s important to consider that throwing tax dollars at the phenomenon of “poverty” hasn’t changed the fact that people are still poor. So, what’s not working (a bit of reality therapy here)?

fish-mural
I want to help people not with just financial assistance, but with new ideas about what they themselves can do to change their own course. I’m a fan of the “teach a man to fish” end of things. But many of the people I serve as a counselor don’t want to learn “how to fish,” ‘cause once they do, their providers will say, “Look. You can fish!! You don’t need me to give these to you anymore!!” Trouble is, in this economy, those proverbial “fish” (jobs with living wages) are scarce. And try as they might, it's harder in general for my clients to break into the workforce 'cause of racism, classism, cultural differences or any number of fickle prerequisites.

Still, it is remarkable to me the abuses I’ve seen done by people in my client base to their systems of government aid. I’ve seen so many falsifications on Medicaid applications, nondisclosures of income, reports of “medical” conditions that anyone can fake or even invent that it makes me wonder why we have these assistances in place at all. Shoot, my brother is a tax auditor and he sees rich people and corporations make the same falsifications on their own disclosures at tax time. When I see a family living hand to mouth on government money drop a couple thousand dollars on a giant television that takes up half a wall, I’m like.. Wait a sec.. Aren’t you guys hungry? Weren’t you just asking me to help you get shoe and clothing donations for your kids? WTF is up with that TV?!

People everywhere, no matter how rich or poor, have a proclivity to lie, cheat and steal ‘cause it’s easier than working and telling the truth. The clients I work with know exactly what to tell me so I’ll write a good report and say that the treatment is working but they still need it for a while longer. If I can focus on the kids, not just their parents, maybe I can get some new ideas into their heads and they’ll make different decisions than their parents made and start ending various cycles. Stephen Colbert was likely right. The only way to stop poverty and end this massive contributing factor to what our culture perceives are mental health issues is to follow Christ’s example, not just in the giving, but in the way we receive as well. There is only one Bible, and nowhere in it does it tell people to lie around and take while everyone else works.

kid-art
It’s easy for me to tell a client “work hard and your life will improve,” but in many cases, while generally true, it takes so much more than words, a smile and a clipboard to help a family affect some positive changes. It takes lots of time, lots of learning, building relationships, patience and a thorough understanding of what it means to grow up poor. Poverty isn’t the only contributing factor to mental health issues. And for Pete’s sake, sometimes we’re not necessarily dealing with people who are insane. If my training is correct, and if behaviors stem from legitimate needs, than my 14-year-old client who was arrested for stealing personal hygiene items wasn’t crazy or insane. He was just trying to meet his needs ‘cause his parents don’t wake till 3 in the afternoon or do jack squat to provide for him. I want to see what alternatives to a lifestyle exist before I tell a person or an entire family to *POOF!* CHANGE! My insight into the mental health and juvenile justice systems is deeper these days, giving me a much more informed opinion about my experience as a camp counselor and the numerous reasons why the kids I looked after were there.

More soon, everyone. Thanks and love..

John
0 Comments