Thursday, December 31, 2020

how it went

Here’s my problem with resolutions:  When people make resolutions for the new year they tend to see them in an all or nothing sort of way.  If you decide to do whatever healthy or productive thing, you start off excited about it and you get up every day and make that thing happen.  Then, somewhere between January 2 and July, depending on your discipline level, you miss a day or otherwise stumble.  With a new year’s resolution the reaction is typically, “I failed.”  Most often, the resolver will ditch the whole thing and fall right back into the habits of the old year, just a little more despondent over their lack of dedication.  They seem to forget about the healthier lifestyle they created for a few days or months.  They forget to see the daily victories and instead focus on the one slip-up.  

With this in mind, in January of 2020, I listed several of my goals to improve my life.  You can find them lower on this blog but as a quick reminder they were:

-Exercise every day

-Practice gratitude

-Sketch/Write in my sketchbook every day

-Eat better

-Get in exhibits

-Read every day

-Choose positivity

We all had a perfect year to make excuses about why we ditched our personal goals, but I tried to stick with these goals all the way up until today, Thursday, December 31.  I wrote an entry on July 1 providing a 6 month update and today I give you the year end summary.  

-I exercised every single day.  Every single day.  This is my easiest victory for the year simply because it’s a habit I formed before the year began.  It may not have been all the exercise I planned for each day, it may not have been at the time I wanted to do it, and it may not have been the smartest thing for me to do, but I freakin’ did it.  I ran every day in 2020.  I did PiYo and other exercise some days.  I’ll admit that I did not do ALL the exercise I wanted to do on many days, but I did something.

-I kept a gratitude journal this year.  Actually it was just an excuse to buy a cool, small sketchbook, but I wrote down at least 11 things for which I was grateful each day.  I remember missing a few mornings and having to go back at night to write them down.  I also remember missing a few days and not realizing it until the next day when I wrote down the date.  But I went back and filled in each day with at least 11 things.  This was also not such a huge deal because I had started to make this a habit from last year.  It took maybe 60 seconds each morning.  But it set a tone for the entire day.

-I was supposed to sketch/write in my sketchbook every day.  Ok, I missed some days here.  Actually,  lot of days.  But remember that opening paragraph?  This is not a failure situation.  This is a situation where I set a goal and did a really good job of regularly entering information, both visual and written, in my sketchbook.  I did not cheat and call my little gratitude sketchbook my actual sketchbook.  My actual sketchbook is larger and I really only missed a couple of buckets full of days.  Strangely, as the year wound down and I had more time here at home to rest and relax, I found it harder to open my sketchbook.  At this moment my last entry was December 25, almost a week ago.  I want to keep at this goal for next year.

-Eating better was another goal.  Any goal writer can see that I left this one intentionally wriggly as a goal.  It’s very open ended, difficult to define objectively, and who knows how to judge it other than by my word.  While my eating habits were perhaps not as healthy as yours, they were improved this year.  I had more salads as meals than ever before in my lifetime.  I made the choice to only drink water (sometimes in the form of coffee and mimosas).  I chose to avoid fast food unless it was a dire situation and I chose to zig zag around fried foods when I had a choice.   I don’t normally weigh and I only go to the doctor if I’m forced, but I feel great and my body is healthy so I think this goal went very well.  (I looked for a photo of healthy food, but let's face it, broccoli isn't sexy so those pics get deleted quickly.  But that's a healthy waffle with coconut, whole grains, and a banana!)

-Getting in exhibits is difficult even in a regular year.  The pandemic forced many exhibits to cancel or postpone and sent many artists into a panic.  I was fortunate to have my most productive year ever in regard to creating new drawings and working from home allowed me the opportunity to seek out exhibits.  As a result, I was lucky enough to have 6 exhibits this year, which is good for any year.  I also have 2 solo exhibits coming up in early 2021 and I’m waiting on a few more rejections to come in.  

-This morning I read the final chapters of the New Testament, completing my sub-goal of reading the Bible all the way through chronologically in one year.  I read the Bible every morning and this year I read a couple of books about Mr. Rogers, a handful of books for school, and a couple more for fun.  Back in high school when I was writing essays and book reports about books I still haven’t read, I never thought I’d read for fun and yet, here we are.  By the way, that chronological Bible thing?  Regardless of your beliefs, I highly recommend reading that.  It was eye opening in so many ways. 

-What a year to choose positivity!  This one was perfect for 2020 and it’s one of the reasons I see this year differently than most of you.  My goal was to make a conscious effort to see the positive in every situation.  A dude eats a bat?  That’s easy enough to joke about.  A global pandemic?  Ah, it probably wont be so bad.  Don’t leave the house? I mean, I’m a hermit so…fine by me.  No seriously, stay home for months?  Ok, I’ll just draw a lot, remotely entertain my students, make music with my kid, start a new project of recreating famous art, and cook a lot of meals at home.  It’s easy to look at all the things this year brought and make memes, jokes, and excuses.  I’m glad I had this goal to keep me on a different path.

So that’s how I did.  I have nothing to brag about, but I also do not see any of my missteps as failures.  Goals are set in order to make us better and on December 31, I consider myself a bit better off than I was on January 1.  All of these goals helped me to encounter this challenging year in positive ways.  I can easily see that trying to be more positive and more grateful were immensely helpful to me this year.  These two goals kept my head in a place where I could have a proper perspective in tough times.  They also put me in a position to help others find the bright spots in dark times.  If you had goals, resolutions, or moments of joy this year, I’d love to hear about it.  You can always reach me by electronic mail at thedougmcabee at gmail dot com.

Monday, December 28, 2020

the best of 2020

So that 2020 huh?  

Yeah, but did you take time to remember the good things that happened?   Because I'm sure there were some.

On December 31, 2019 I wrote this in my sketchbook:  “I’m alive, I’m well, I’m loved…THAT is more than I deserve.  I am grateful!”  A year later, I’m still alive, well, and loved.  I am very grateful.

In early January I celebrated my birthday by virtually running with several friends.  I had this student, Nick, who always said he’d never run.  For some reason Nick decided to run for my birthday.  Then he decided to run again the next day and the next.  This year he ran every single day and on January 4, 2021 he will likely have his one year runniversary.  He’s getting fit and getting fast and I’m really proud of him.  Nick’s runstreak is one of the highlights of the year.

During the spring semester, a group of students gathered weekly on Thursday mornings to do “The Ninjas Of Kindness”.  The ninjas would do acts of kindness for the campus.  One day they all offered free hugs or high-fives.  Another day they gave away balloon animals.  They made so many people smile.  Highlight.

Speaking of running, I started running some extra miles last January and training for a half marathon.  It was sort of cool.  Very challenging, but cool.  I’ve always toyed with the idea of running a half marathon but I was afraid to do it because I didn’t want to endanger my 5K every day runstreak.  Fear is the enemy of fun so I signed up for a race.  On March 7 I ran the Myrtle Beach Half Marathon and enjoyed it.  Didn’t miss a day of my 5K streak either.  A very good thing.

Seven days after the half marathon we were working and schooling from home.  While this meant some not-so-great things in terms of emotions, it also came with some very cool family dinners and some very, very cool outside play-times after dinner.  On a toilet paper run (kidding) G found one of those foam airplanes and brought it home.  Somehow that became one of the joys of quarantine.  The kids and I threw that plane all over the yard throughout the spring.  We had contests, did tricks, and when a breeze took it into the high grass, we got to rescue it with the truck.  Eventually it was held together by duct tape and a couple of bamboo skewers but we still loved it.  Highlight.

The family time kept coming with Quarantunes With Violet and the Art remixes.  I know the family mostly tried to escape helping with the remixes and Blue got sick of hearing music in the house but we did have some very enjoyable bonding times with these activities.  Extra family time was fun.  Definitely highlight worthy.

Summer vacations were particularly nice this year.  The beach was a great place to relax our brains and sort of mentally check out for a bit.  The sunrises were spectacular, as were the beach walks.  And the food!  Coming out of quarantine take-out-only food, it was really nice to eat some of our favorite things in our favorite places.

Getting to go back to face-to-face instruction in August, for the kids and for me, was great.  I thrive on being in the studio and the exchange of energy with students.  I was so happy to be back.  I had to resist going back to my frequent high-fiving ways but the very first day of classes I walked past one of my people and I saw the high-five in her eyes.  ECoop threw up her hand and I gladly slapped it as I walked by.  It was so great.  I’m sure we both disinfected immediately afterward as any responsible person would in a pandemic, but that was a great high five.

There was also a cool moment near the end of the semester when I was forcibly hugged by Hannah.  I’m not a hugger and typically the only hug a student will ever get from me will be at their graduation.  Hannah is an Olympic class hugger and her hugs are coveted by her friends.  On Hannah’s birthday I was lucky enough to get a Hannah hug and it made my day.  Highlight.

All of my students were a highlight this year.  They were all so happy to be back in the studio and they really worked like they were valuing their studio time.  They all stayed ahead of schedule this semester, finishing projects early and doing their very best creative work.  My Sculpture 1 students impressed me, my intermediate students made some excellent work, and my advanced students made work that would make any professional sculptor sweat with envy.  I’m so very proud of them.  They are all highlights.

The musical situation of 2020 was weirdly awesome.  It’s now been well over a year since I last attended a real concert and that sucks.  But it turns out that musicians having some extra time at home is not a bad thing for us all.  Langhorne Slim, Jeff Tweedy, The Avett Brothers, and Taylor Swift all put out new music this year and they are some of my favorite musicians.  My ears have been happy. 

The holidays have also been pretty great.  Not in the normal, traditional ways, but still great.  We did not go back to campus after Thanksgiving break so there were some virtual things to deal with for a week, but the extra time at home was a nice treat for me.  I was able to get my gift-giving in order and there was a lot more extra family time with Christmas movies and some quick adventures.  We did not get to celebrate Christmas day with my extended family but the absence of that important tradition gave me an even greater appreciation for it and for the people who make it important.  

It's much funnier to joke about the year being a total dumpster fire, but I want to make sure I don't lose the lessons of a challenging year.  If you have a list of highlights in your head, maybe write them down or even share them with me.  And if you don't have a list of highlights but you are alive and well...I can assure you that you are also LOVED.  So maybe write that down.

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

My dad and Taylor Swift

My dad and Taylor Swift would have been fast friends.  

Sure, my dad was more fond of Johnny Cash, Marty Robbins, and Charlie Pride flowing from the dash of his old Ford pickup truck, but lately I’ve noticed something about Taylor Swift I think my dad would have liked.

Dad was a teacher at our district vocational school for most of my life at home.  This meant that when I got home from school every day, so did my dad.  When I had a school holiday or a snow/ice day, so did my dad.  When I was out for summer vacation, so was my dad.  My dad was also a work-a-holic.  This meant that when he wasn’t working at school, he was working in his metal fabrication business in our backyard.  This should be simple addition for you but let me go ahead and provide you the sum: this equaled no afternoons or days off for me.  When my school friends were sleeping until noon on a day off, my dad was opening my bedroom door and telling me to get my lazy butt up out of bed at 9:00 am.  When I dared to ask why, the response was always “We’ve got work to do!”.  Summer vacation?  More like my dad’s “Summer Work At Home” program.  

I, of course, felt some teenage angst about this.  I was jealous of my friends who sat at home all day playing video games.  I didn’t understand what a work ethic was at the time and how important it would be later on in my life.  

This year has been a different life experience for all of us.  In addition to not being allowed to go out and do most of the things we enjoy, we were also dealing with a pretty scary viral situation, some civil unrest, terrible politics, and many of us were asked to work from home.  So while we were scared and likely dismayed, we were also tempted to sleep too late, eat too much, stay in our pajamas too long, and watch way too much TV.  

I understand that there is no wrong way to deal with a year like this one.  I mean, as long as it’s legal and you’re not hurting anyone anyway.  If you slept, ate, pajama-ed all day, watched everything available on Netflix, and survived with your sanity and sobriety then good for you!  Be proud of that.  If you dealt with 2020 by throwing yourself into your work, then good for you too!  

Recently we’ve all discovered what our friend Taylor Swift was up to this year.  Even in quarantine, there’s little chance you missed that Swift managed to write, record, and release a whole new album back in July.  Her album Folklore was recorded in her home with some long-distance help from friends.  Far from a collection of songs about boredom or how cute her cats are, this album reached across musical genres and allowed Swift to stretch her talents into writing from outside of her own stories.  Her recent Grammy nominations seem to support my praise of her work.  She may have also just won Songwriter of the Year at the Apple Music Awards.

It may be difficult for most of us to sympathize with professional touring musicians during this year.  It’s important to realize that much of the income for professional musicians comes from touring, something that has not been allowed since early last spring.  Swift was never allowed to tour for her Lover album and there would definitely be no tour for Folklore.  I know we’re not worried about Swift financially, but what about professional performers who are not allowed to perform?  Performers live for an audience.  I can’t imagine not being allowed to do something that I love for an extended period of time.  For a performer like Swift, this year interrupted every normal thing about her life.  She was always busy doing the next thing, making an album, planning a tour, directing videos, learning choreography, planning the fashion for her next season.  We’re talking about early mornings and late nights.  Workouts, meetings, phone calls, and perhaps a very well planned out personal life.  Now imagine that same person being told they were not allowed to do any of those things and they needed to stay at home for an indefinite period of time.  

Talk about an excuse.  Now there’s a person who could wallow, eat ice cream out of the container, and keep Netflix in business.  But instead of doing the easy thing, it seems that Swift pretty quickly went about figuring out how she could work and be creative under the conditions she was given.  And figure it out she did, with the July album release of Folklore, a Disney Plus feature to follow in the fall, and then last week, an entirely new album release.  Her 9th studio album, Evermore, is still very new in my music rotation, but seems to be just as good if not better than Folklore.  

Was Taylor Swift living in the same year as the rest of us?  How does a person manage to be so productive?  Swift indicated in an interview this week that after about 3 days of quarantine she knew she needed to work.  I can almost see her opening the virtual bedroom doors of Jack Antonoff, Aaron Dessner, and Justin Vernon and saying “We’ve got work to do!”.

I was lucky to have the time and opportunity to make a lot of new work this year.  Certainly as a response to my conditions, the drawings have been flowing and I think I have somewhere over 20 new ones since January.  Thanks to my dad, now when I sit still for more than 5 minutes, I get the itch to go and do something.  Maybe this explains the Art-Remix every day, the Quarantunes With Violet every day, and staying up late each night drawing.  While this is super-annoying to the people who have to live with me, it has helped me to have a productive year instead of a lazy one.  That’s not to say I haven’t had my lazy moments.  I don’t mind telling you that I’ve gone into my sculpture studio on a cold rainy day, looked outside and proclaimed, “I can’t be expected to work in these conditions!” before walking out.  But because my dad instilled a strong work ethic in me, now when I need to rest and I take a couple of hours to watch an old Hitchcock movie (or a couple of episodes of Dawson’s Creek on Netflix) I get up afterwards and feel the need to go finish that drawing that’s been on my table for a month.  

If my dad had met Taylor Swift they would have laughed a lot together.  Maybe they would have written a song together or more likely, maybe my dad would have taught her how to weld.  What is certain is that they both would have told me to get my lazy butt up because we had work to do. 


Maybe you have some work to do too.  Maybe you can find a way to be productive today.  If so, my dad would be proud.