Wednesday, September 09, 2015

9 Gratitudes From My Latest Trip

I didn't want to call this post "9 Things Vegas Made Me Grateful For" because Vegas itself didn't prompt these gratitudes. They come from travel and life in general. They say that practicing gratitude and counting your blessings daily can completely change your life. I haven't made a habit of writing anything down regularly, but I can see how acknowledging the good can completely shift your view. Instead of lessons learned from my latest trip (like my last post), here are 9 things I was grateful for on my latest trip:

1. I'm grateful for the weird city of Las Vegas.
I've been traveling to Vegas for work twice a year for the last few years. Sometimes I 'tsk' the city, thinking it's dirty and grimy and full of fakeness and ways to steal your money. It is those things. But it's also kind of amazing. This oasis in the middle of the desert full of lush visual stimulants and the promise of a one-of-a-kind experience. The things I like best about Vegas are its hospitality and the way that nobody cares who you are, what you do, or what you look like. You can have your own experience among the masses and not feel out of place at all. Vegas welcomes everyone. Come as you are.


2. I'm grateful for breakfast.
Always, always am I grateful for a nice filling breakfast. It's my favorite meal of the day. If I don't eat in the mornings, I get hangry and feel totally off. Sometimes when traveling, breakfasts don't come easy. Hotels don't always offer them, or they're not vegan. Luckily we were eligible for big free breakfasts every day in our hotel, and we took full advantage of them! I see girls sipping on lattes and picking at a fruit cup for breakfast and I don't know how they do it. Load me up with a fruit cup, 2 cups of oatmeal, toast, and coffee, please!


3. I'm grateful for my legs.
And that they allow me to walk for hours. Typically when I work from home, I don't do a ton of walking around every day. Then I go on a trip like this, where I walk for a good 8 hours or so per day. I'm amazed that my legs and feet can even handle it. But they do! The human body is awesome.


4. I'm grateful to restaurants that serve vegan food.
Vegas has a pretty good selection of vegan-friendly restaurants. Yet I'm still always grateful when restaurants are vegan-smart. Meaning that they either a) have a separate vegan menu, b) have dishes labeled as vegan on their regular menu, or c) know what vegan means and how to change dishes to suit it. We had an excellent server at Yard House who knew what was up and how to modify dishes to be vegan. And our two trusty favorites both have separate vegan menus: Slice of Vegas Pizza and Hussong's Cantina. We also ate at Mint Indian Bistro and Jamba Juice.


5. I'm grateful for people sharing their passion.
The reason I go to Vegas is to attend a fashion tradeshow. Soul Flower had a booth there (showing off my art!). Walking around the huge convention centers full of booths of creative stuff is inspiring. If only just for the proof that yes, there are other people out there making stuff and sharing it! Every company there had to work hard to dream up, create, manufacturer, and display their creations. It's cool to see what people come up with.


6. I'm grateful for attention to detail.
Along the lines of passionate people sharing what they do, little details of hard work really delight me. It's the little things that are evidence of someone who really cares. I always love a nice tidy new hotel room. With the bed made just so, and the towels stacked in the bathroom to perfection. And when they fold the toilet paper into a point! It's the furnishings, the interior spaces, the decor. Every hotel and casino has its own look, and I just know there were TEAMS of people creating it all. Most people probably don't even notice the embellishments or the lighting. I don't even notice it all. But it all adds to the *feel* of a place and makes you go, "ooo, this is fancy!" Our hotel had a kitchenette and the silverware in the drawer was hand forged. Each piece had little maker stamps in the silver! Amazing. (By the way, the only reason I even know such a thing as hand forged silverware exists is because of this Craft in America episode.)


7. I'm grateful for wonderful things.
Part of the charm of Vegas is all its visual stimulation. Everything is decorated, lit up, and designed to look a certain way and evoke a certain mood. It makes me happy that people don't take themselves too seriously and still make things fun. The gardens at Bellagio were filled with under-the-sea sculptures and a larger-than-life mermaid. The huge Linq ferris wheel makes me feel like a little kid - looking up at a comparatively-tiny ferris wheel at the local fair and thinking "woah, it's HUUUUGE!" Sculptures, art, paintings, statues... wonderful. This gratitude extends to more than just Vegas, too - airports, shopping malls, museums, public buildings, parks, fountains, waterfronts. All awesome.


8. I'm grateful for smooth skies.
Bumpy skies and turbulence are my greatest fears when flying, since I get motion sick. It's pretty much like playing a game of roulette, too. I never know if it's going to be bumpy so I'm always at risk for puking on the plane. Luckily this time, everything was good. All I can do is be grateful.


9. I'm grateful for my travel partner.
My husband Rob is my favorite travel partner. This time and always when we travel together, it's better than going alone. "If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together."


I could go on and on (couldn't we all?) with even more things I'm grateful for. Instead of picking apart the things that didn't quite go as planned, making a habit of focusing on the positive is a lot more fun. There's always something to be grateful for. Because if you're not happy with what you have, what makes you think you'd be happy with something else?

Thursday, July 23, 2015

6 Lessons From My Latest Trip

I was going to call this post "6 Things I Learned In Philadelphia", but these tips aren't specific to Philadelphia. They're more about travel and life in general. And I didn't necessarily LEARN these things. They're more like LESSONS. And sometimes you have to repeat lessons over and over, in cities all over the world, before you actually learn them.

1. Eat enough food and plan your next snack and meal
Getting hangry is always a bad experience and can dampen the whole day. I've come to accept that I can get pretty cranky when I'm hungry. But when all the right conditions align (hunger + feet hurting from walking + frustration at crowds of people + exhaustion from heat), the hangry intensifies. The lesson here is to: have enough to eat, plan where your next snack and meal are coming from, and lastly - EAT BEFORE IT'S TOO LATE! One afternoon while we were exploring Philadelphia, I had my snacks with me, but I waited too long to eat some. Suddenly, I was hangry and I had to immediately scarf down a Clif bar. And I didn't even enjoy it.


2. Sit around for awhile
It’s not necessary to be go-go-going all the time, moving from one place and activity to the next and never pausing. Take time to just sit in one place for awhile. I remember more about the places where we sat for more than 10 minutes. Hanging out slows you down and gives you the chance for more people-watching, eavesdropping, and solidifying a memory :)


3. Ask for what you want
When we borrowed bikes from our hotel for the day, they immediately rolled out road bikes, even though the advertised bike in the window was a cute little cruiser. I just figured the window bike was for display only and didn’t ask if they had that kind available to borrow. I suffered through a shortened afternoon of bike riding on a road bike that was too tall for me with too hard of a seat. We had to change our plans because the bike was painful for me to ride! Later in the day, we saw some ladies returning a couple of the cute cruiser bikes. They had those available all along! I blamed the hotel for not asking us what kind of bikes we wanted, but really - I should have just asked. Like my mom always used to say, "The squeaky wheel gets the grease."


4. Don’t wear shoes that hurt
How many bandaids and scuffed up toes do I need to endure before learning this lesson? At least I brought 2 pairs of shoes so I could alternate between the types of pain. Sandals = skin rubbed raw, while sneakers = blisters. Now, after this trip, I'm in the process of donating/selling all my evil shoes and investing in ones that don't hurt.


5. Take more pictures than you wanted to. Take too many pictures.
Time and time again, I wish I would have taken more pictures. I did pretty good in Philadelphia, though, and I credit the fact that I wore my DSLR around my neck the entire time we walked around. Sometimes I hate doing that because it makes me look like a tourist, but it's the only way that I can guarantee I'll have my camera ready enough to snap some pics.


6. Even a bad drawing is better than none at all.
Before this trip, I got really excited about travel sketching by reading An Illustrated Journey, featuring pages and pages of artists' travel sketchbooks. I had this vision of being an awesome traveler, sitting in cafes and drawing people on the street. But that's not my nature at all. I get anxious and nervous about people seeing me, and second-guess all my drawing skills. But I did manage to do a few scribbles in my sketchbook. And they're crappy and kind of wonderful. (I used some of my sketches as overlays on these photos!)


Travel is a unique teacher of life lessons. Being away from home forces you into strange situations and intensifies all feelings and emotions, leaving a bigger impact. Sometimes it's rough, but I know no better instructor. Travel on!

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

All 100 Days!

The 100 Day Project, hosted by The Great Discontent, is done! Well, it's an ongoing project and you can start at any time, but the official April 6 - July 14, 2015 period is now complete. The idea was to pick a theme and create one thing on that theme for 100 days in a row. I chose lettering as my theme and I'm proud (and super surprised) to say that I created a hand lettering piece and posted it to my instagram every single day for the past 100 days.

Every. single. day.
For 100 days.

They're all here: #100daysofletteringbyleiah

I've never had such an awesome track record with a creative project before! It's incredible, actually.


I never missed a day, I didn't get behind, I didn't get bored and quit. I did my lettering, usually in the evenings, every day and posted a picture. In the beginning of the project, I was super stoked and excited to do my lettering every day. As time went on, I became a lot less stoked but I did it anyway. Some days I knew exactly what I wanted to letter. Other days I sat watching TV for literally an hour or more, trying to think of something to letter.

Some days were a lot more successful than others. Some of the letterings I hate and almost wish I could take out of the project! But there are more that I love. I love the weird ones, with drippy and textured letters. I love the ones where I did a little illustration alongside the words. I love the ones where I drew myself!

These are my favorites:


What did I learn?

  1. Never underestimate the power of doing something small every day. Most days drawing these letters felt so small and insignificant and barely worth mentioning. But now at the end of 100 days they all add up and it's actually a pretty cool project to be proud of! 
  2. Done is better than perfect. This is a mantra I always try to remind myself. Even though I dislike a bunch of the letterings that I did, the GOOD ones overshadow the bad and it's a wash. Obviously this is a creative lesson I need to learn: make a LOT of stuff to outweigh all the shitty stuff you will inevitably come up with! You can't make a lot of good stuff if you don't make a lot of stuff, period.
  3. Connecting with community is encouraging. I started following a handful of other people participating in The 100 Day Project, and seeing their posts in my feed make me feel like I wasn't alone. That I didn't just dream up this crazy project on my own and was now forced to follow through by myself while everyone else ignored me.
  4. My strengths. I'm better at certain styles more than others. I'm better at wonky, funky, drippy letters. My super-perfect blog letters or scripts are bad and boring. It's fun to pick out my favorites from this group of 100 and be like, "woah, that's really awesome - I made that!"


Why did this challenge actually WORK for me when most of my long-term creative projects fail?

  1. Tiny tasks: the task I had to do every day was small. It could be as simple as scribbling my name, or as elaborate as a a super long quote and illustration. But knowing that it could be crap, that it could be tiny and small and stupid, was comforting to me. Low pressure.
  2. Daily posting: the rule for me was to post every single day. Accountability. A time frame. I had until midnight every night to finish this thing.
What next?

I don't have plans for another long-term project. I'm not going to repeat 100 Days of anything right now. I look forward to the break!

I do, however, want to keep some of this momentum going by just creating MORE and creating more ugly/bad/wonky stuff, just to get it out of my system. I feel like I'm still on my journey to find my artistic style and creative stride. 


Sunday, June 14, 2015

Graphic Novel Inspiration: "This One Summer"

I've read a few graphic novels in the past and always enjoy them, but never really considered seeking them out until now. I picked this book up at my library on a whim (they had a special display of graphic novels). "This One Summer" by Mariko Tamaki and illustrated by Jillian Tamaki.


It wasn't my favorite book ever, but the illustrations and the way the story was told through the comic-book-style panels was inspiring to me. So I wanted to share a few of the pages and things from the book that caught my interest.

(No real spoilers here)

Things I liked:

The dancing!

These "spooky" noises and how they're floating out of the woods:

The way the water was simplified. It's almost minimal, yet you can still tell what's happening. A nice contrast between the lush greenery scenes (like the woods in the previous example):

The relationship between these two girls was weird, but I like how their physical contact was illustrated. So *squishy*:

The body diversity! Every character was so detailed, and honest, and everyone looked so different from one another:

LOVED this nervous stomach-flipping. It made me smile while reading:

This funny grandma and how she was illustrated to really look like a cranky old hag :)

The night scenes, especially the glow from the campfire and starry night sky:

Can't wait for my next graphic novel requests to be filled. I love the library :)
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