This week, I’ve been self-reflecting. Usually, that sort of thing comes with a kind of fierceness, a mental violence I perpetrate on myself over past mistakes, missed opportunities, and the like. I simultaneously recognize my failings, and blame myself for having them.

It’s not a productive way to go about it, but it’s all I’ve known for the better part of my life.

Better part of my life. Now that’s an ironic statement, if ever there was one.

The reason I say “usually”, is because this time, my reflection comes without the usual self-flogging. It comes, because I have had a death in the family; my husband’s step-dad and a very dear man whom I have also known for the better part of my life. He joins my husband’s mother, who died about two years ago, sadly, and far too soon.

BettyNDwain
Betty and Dwain. Together in eternity.

Being faced with death tends to make me look at my own ending in this world with a razor focus. I ponder on the things people might say about me, how I might be remembered.  Betty’s death brought waves of uncontrollable grief for a very long time–she was as much a mother to me as she was my husband’s. But, eventually, I began to see her ending as the way of all deaths. Inevitable.

No matter how wondrous one’s soul, no matter how special one’s presence on this planet, eventually our time here ends. I don’t mean the statement as dark, or fatalistic. It simply is the way of things.

Which brings me full circle, back to the topic of self-reflection.

As I get older, I have a lot more life to look back on. Many more chances to regret, and to do double-damage-points for not only having things to regret, but also feeling guilty for feeling regretful!

But regret and guilt are time sinks. I know there are plenty of adages out there that apply here to “look only forward” “you can’t plan your future if you’re living in the past”, and all those empty words that make great memes but fly through a Facebook timeline as fast as they go in one ear and out the other while actual people are trying to get through actual difficult times in actual life.

But I do get it, finally. I have precious few moments to get where I’m trying to go, and every time I stop and flog myself, it breaks my momentum. It steals those valuable emotional resources I need to propel myself.

I’m pretty sure Dwain wouldn’t mind that his death has, among other things, given me pause to check my navigation. But I’m absolutely sure he wouldn’t want me to use it as new, inventive way to self-punish. Dwain would want me to be gentler to myself. Kinder. I need to start talking to myself the way I talk to other people.

The way Dwain talked to me.

Betty once called me outrageous. We had been wise-cracking, and I said something funny and off-the-cuff, and she laughed, and looked at me with warm, happy eyes, and said, “Jackie, you are outrageous.”

It set me back at the time. To me, “outrageous” was this terrible insult. It was one of those words that described the parts of me I’ve always tried very hard to suffocate. My artsy-fartsy traits. My penchant for “head in the clouds” and wearing jammie pants to go grocery shopping, and raising my Millennials with birthday parties where everybody got a prize just for playing games and there was no “winning”. As a kid, I was weird and hugged trees (literally) and wrote stories with happy endings, and loved shoes with strange colors I never saw anyone else wear–without realizing no one else wore them because they thought they were ugly.

I was not appreciated for my weirdness. I was mocked. Relentlessly teased. Violently bullied.

And so, when Betty, a woman I enduringly admired, looked at me with such a light in her eyes, and called me outrageous, I was shocked. I just tucked the moment away behind a little door in my soul, and left it there, puzzled and a little sad.

It has taken me all this time to realize she wasn’t teasing me. She was loving me. That was the expression on her face at the time, but I didn’t recognize it. I didn’t know she could think I’m outrageous, and at the same time, love me for it.

I honestly didn’t know.

That’s another lesson I can add to all the things I’ve learned from Betty.

Maybe it’s time I learn to start loving myself they way I love other people.

The way Betty loved me.

Outrageously.

 

The fungus-carrying meteor has officially crash-landed in my front yard!

Fungusoutside
The neighborhood is doomed! Doomed, I tell you!

But this is just the beginning. Soon, tendrils of fungus-y alien membrane will crawl across the ground, shoot into the trees, and begin swallowing everything in its path–including my family!

A lot has been happening in my studio this week to make these things happen (sometimes aliens need a little help from earthlings), and I’ll be working right up until trick-or-treat kicks off in two days.

Here’s what I’ve been up to.

I used the same spray foam insulation and whirled it onto some nitrile gloves we already had in the garage. I also purchased some heavy duty elastic from a craft store, and sprayed foam onto it, to create the chunks of alien fungus we’ll wear as part of the makeups. I’ll tie or pin the elastic strands around our shoulders, arms, wherever.

bodyparts
I am the queen of “use what I’ve already got”. I found gloves. I used them.

I painted basically the same techniques from the meteor onto the body parts, except instead of rock colors, I used flesh tones to make it appear as though our skin itself is bound up in the blobs of disfigurement taking place. I also made some green nurnies.

bodypartsandnurnies.jpg
Starbucks green tea latte is optional.

Wait, what the heck are nurnies, you ask? More about that if you keep scrolling!

But I wanted to give the meteor every chance at surviving long-term, plus I wanted a shiny, gooey finish on the fungus parts, so I hit them with a glossy clear coat.

weatherproof
I’m sure alien fungus can survive a Georgia rain shower, but why take a chance?

And then it was time to remove the beach ball innards! Swirling lights will go inside to give it a glow, so I had to make room. First, I deflated the beach ball. I’m sure you’ve noticed that in our modern day inflatables, there’s a little flap inside the plug that keeps air from sneaking out involuntarily. Handy. But also tricky, when one wants to deflate on purpose! So I inserted a screwdriver to hold the flap open, and just pressed, and waited, and waited, and waited…until the beach ball was small enough.

deflateinnards
That safety flap in inflatables seemed like a good idea at the time.

Then I gently peeled the beach ball away from the foam, and, Voila! No more beach ball, and room for lights!

removeinnards
I have a video on my Facebook page of the beach ball coming out with a soft plop that is kind of satisfying to watch, if you’re curious: here.

But let’s get back to nurnies.

That’s the term for bits of stretchy, mangled, latex ropey blobs that are usually stored in a sandwich baggie in a makeup kit for adding texture or other interesting things. They tend to look like tendons or cartilage, and can be bitten and torn to add some realism to the ripping away of body bits by zombies or monsters.

They’re super easy to make, but I’ve added my own twist of using yarn, as well, because I want long, swinging, membrane-like tendrils to drape from the meteor and the trees, and all over my family.

Makeup suppliers like Kryolan have skin-safe latex (be aware, some people have latex allergies), but you can also get the same stuff from places like Spirit Halloween or costume shops. Since I am using so much for many tendrils, I’m using the stuff I got from the Halloween store. I also chose green yarn I already had, with dark spots and light spots, to really sell the creepy factor.

teaandlatex
Cup of English breakfast tea is optional.

Here is my step-by-step, nurnie-like technique for creating drapey, icky alien tendrils.

Paint out a strip of latex onto a smooth surface.

paintlatex
Nothing to it.

Let the latex dry. Or, if you are like me, and don’t have patience for the natural method, hit that strip with a blowdryer. It will turn clear. Add one more coat of latex, and dry it again.

drylatex
See it turning clear? Clear = dry.

Then lay a long strand of yarn across the dry latex, and start rolling your hands (and the yarn) back and forth. The latex will peel up, and stick to itself, and to the yarn…

rollyarnlatex
It’s hard to show hands moving during a still photo.

… and you’ll get wobbly, bobbly, pieces of ick!

Disgusting. Perfect!

I’ve only made a few, but I need SO MANY MORE, so that’s what I’ll be doing for a couple days. Plus, I’m going to experiment by dragging these things through some homemade slime to see how I like that, too.

As always, you can keep an eye on my Facebook page for daily(ish) quick videos in between my more detailed, weekly blogs.

I hope your Halloween is out-of-this-world! Hey, don’t wait, create! Get out there, and turn it loose.

When we moved into our new house, we were left a gift by the previous owners; years-old, separated, rancid paints.
excess old paint

Now, I go through a lot of paint, myself, so I understand the drudgery of discarding the old stuff. I’m sure you all have leftover cans stacked somewhere, like me, because you know you’re not supposed to put uncured paint into the bin for the landfill–it’s not safe for the environment.

Dried paint, though, specifically latex (water-based) paint, is perfectly safe to discard in the trash bin! Here’s my tip for getting your old paints dry and safe, as quickly and easily as possible.

REMEMBER – this applies to latex paints ONLY. Do NOT discard oil-based paints into landfill garbage.

Kitty litter is your friend! Get the cheap stuff, it actually works better. Plain clay, non-clumping, store-brand cheap. This ginormous bag was about 4 bucks.

kitty litter discard paint

You’ll use the same amount of kitty litter as you do paint. Is that a 50/50 ratio? Hey, I’m an artist (kinda), not a math whiz.

I used a bucket larger than a gallon, because I needed the room to mix properly.

Pour the litter in, give it some serious stirring and mixing, and then set it aside for about an hour.

kitty litter into paintkitty litter mix paintmixed paint kitty litter

Easy-peasy!

I dumped mine over into a box lined with a garbage bag, because I didn’t want to leave the dried paint glob in my multi-function bucket.

dried paint discard

You may choose to do the same, or just leave the whole shebang right in the old can. When set, dump it right into the trash!

If you have a hugely large amount of old paint, or oil-based stuff, you can contact a local recycling location to deal with it. Here’s one for Atlanta-based folks like me:

https://www.atlantapaintdisposal.com/index.html

For those of you elsewhere, a little Googling will help you find a place.

Now there’s no reason not to paint the town! When you’re done, you can safely dispose of the leftovers.