Friday, September 28, 2012

Art Room Insider

Happy Friday everyone! Whew. I don't know about you, but I am super excited I don't have to set my alarm for 6:17am tomorrow.

Yes, I set my alarm at a very odd time. Truth is: I can't bring myself to set my alarm for 6:15 or 6:20...or any normal time.  I realize it's very strange.

Anyway. I totally digressed!

Today, I thought I'd show you my little art area/room in our house.  It's the first time I've ever had space to create that wasn't the kitchen table.  When my husband arrived in Myanmar, he scoped out potential houses, in part, with a view to help ensure I could have an area to paint.  Bless him.

The art 'studio' is upstairs in a large, open-spaced living room with beautiful teak wood floors. Half of the room contains my husband's drums (he's a drummer) and my keyboard. The other half is my little artsy space where I also keep a lot of my sentimental things.

Above are some cards that have a special meaning to me. The photograph is of my grandmother. One of my besties made me a birthday hat for my last birthday and bedazzled my birthday candles. Love her.

Here's a further glimpse:

Did you see those cute little pots that hold all my different brushes? They're pictured in both collages. And here's another shot:

I found them in Bangkok at an expat supermarket selling French yogurt. Yes, the most wonderful, rich honey yogurt imported from France was contained in each of these sweet pots. I didn't buy them for the yogurt, though. I knew I wanted them to put my supplies in! They make me happy every time I see them. I also get a bit of joy knowing they didn't break in my suitcase flying back to Yangon. (It's the little things that count.)

The mixed media piece you see is a painting I've been dabbling with. I can't seem to finish her for some reason. I quite like it, but she needs something. Maybe hair. Or a necklace. It'll come. Eventually.

You can check out more of the art I've created on my mixed-media page here.  I'm self-taught and haven't been painting very long, but I love heavily textured pieces. I tend to use fabric and beads in my work.

As I create, this is what I see when I look out my window. :) 

 Have a brilliant weekend!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012


 Tried to find the original source to no avail. Next best thing a Pinterest source.

I have a theory.  I think people who move around a lot are resistant to completely unpacking. Resistant to taking everything out of their suitcases. Resistant to hanging up those last few pieces of art on their walls.

Our container shipment arrived in May from the USA. Right behind this chair where I'm sitting are two large baskets filled with who-knows-what that I haven't sorted.  I'm completely crazy-anal about how I organize my books on a bookshelf. So much so, I'm known to even throw tantrums about it. (Just ask my husband.) It's usually one of the FIRST things I do when unpacking. I haven't done it this time. We still have stacks of picture frames and art work resting against our walls, waiting to be hung.

I hate moving. HATE it. I really don't like packing-up; but there's just something about unpacking. I can do a lot of it, but I don't ever quite finish. It's been like this for years. Since I started moving around. And I've moved around a lot (see this post).

Before my husband and I met, he had very few possessions that didn't fit in a backpack. A couple small boxes were kept in a friend's attic, just in case he ever settled down.  He has had a transient life for nearly all of his adult years.  After the last several moves we've made, he hasn't even unpacked all his clothes to hang in the closet. His jobs required him to travel upwards of 80% of the time, so it made sense he lived out of bags, even at home. (I usually unpacked his bags for him.  Well, sometimes.)

I thought maybe this was an oddity, that we were really weird (well, we are; that's a different story) but in the last week, I've talked to two other expats who feel exactly the same way. They too absolutely hate unpacking all the way.  Today, my dear friend, V, told me,
"Yeah, I hate unpacking because the minute you get that last photo on the wall, you move." 
Totally true!  It's like you'll jinx it! I keep thinking, "Well, maybe we'll end up moving to a new house. Then we'd have to take all these pieces of art down. What a pain in the ass. I'll just leave it longer to see what happens. Just in case."  Have you ever thought that way?

I spoke to another expat last week who told me she also is resistant to unpacking from little holidays and vacations to places; she tends to always leave a few things in her suitcase. I do the same thing. We mused if it's because we don't completely want our adventure, the beautiful holiday, to end.

Since our family moves around so much, we may not feel like we can give ourselves permission to truly settle in one place, to call it home. To hang our pictures up and say: this is it. This is where we are.

We might fight against that, unconsciously, because we know it's not permanent. And permanence feels like a luxury.  And a lie.
JUST what EVERY expat needs! Source

It's the issue of transience. It's always around us when you're an expat.  Even as we're in the midst of settling in to a new place, we're watching others leave. Coming. Going.

I've noticed that expats who only have one year left on their contract are already planning and processing that next move. They're thinking about where they will go. Where they shouldn't go.  They're asking questions about countries and cities to other expats, gathering information.

They're already mentally checking-out from the place they are, gearing up to leave. You have to, though. It's kind of necessary if you're going to keep moving around.   But does this mean you're not completely open, completely present where you are now?

Have you moved around a lot?  Do you have difficulty totally unpacking like my friends and I, or is it the opposite for you?

Monday, September 24, 2012

Writing Insider: My Process

All Rights Reserved. Becky Cavender
Recently at one of our writing group sessions in Yangon, a friend asked me what my writing process is. So, I thought I'd share.

My writing process depends on what type of writing I'm doing.  Is it like that for you, too?  Most of the time, I write at the computer, unless I'm writing poetry.  I write poems by hand, in a notebook.

Whenever you find me at the computer, there's always, always be a gargantuan sized mug filled with tea or coffee. Did I say always?

Today, I drank Stash Tea's Licorice Spice, one of my favorites; but since we shipped it from the USA when we moved, I don't drink it often.  I want it to last.  In case you're actually interested, I drink whatever strong brand of English Breakfast tea I can find here. NEVER Lipton's Yellow Label. (It's so nasty and weak!) I nearly cried when we ran out of PG Tips. (Can't even find it in Bangkok!)

When writing poetry, I usually sprawl out between three notebooks: a large sketch book (for making lists of words and ideas); and two other notebooks where I write and rewrite and rewrite. I tear out pages of one notebook + put it next to another and compare the lines. Rewrite.  I write on my bed, laying on top of pillows with books and my sari jewelery box filled with pens (pictured). It's messy. And I need to be alone.

After identifying words I like, I go back, circling them with a colored marker + make more notes. Soon, I start writing, putting those lists of words together.

What is your process?

Sometimes I get caught in the comfort of writing lists, of making connections between words. The moment before I start writing sentences, I take a deep breath.

There's a scared silence in me, a hushed gasp. I get nervous. Scared it will be shit. Scared I won't be able to link up all my thoughts. Scared I just won't be able to write at all.

It's almost as if I have to force myself to put the pen on the page. Pushing through that momentary fear is what makes the poem come alive. The images emerge. And sometimes they really are crap images.

But I think it's like that for most types of art. You take 500 photographs and maybe pull out your top 15. 20. 30. No different writing poetry. You edit those words. Read it aloud. Figure out what sounds right. Ask yourself if it's true.

Living in Myanmar has given me the time and the space (not always privacy though) to write. After years of neglecting writing poetry, I've begun again. And I have my writing group here in Yangon to thank for that!

Anyway, hope you had fun looking at the pictures!

Friday, September 21, 2012

15 Things You Didn't Know

About Me: 

photo credits here and here and here 

  1. Washing my hair is the first thing I do when I take a shower. (Except when I don’t wash my hair that day!) 

  1.  I brush my teeth before I eat breakfast.

  1. When I was a kid, I had an imaginary friend, Sarah. (OK, some of you know that.) But you probably didn’t know that behind an old, wooden hanging shelf, I placed stickers which I’d press to “call” her to me and then, ZAP! Sarah would instantly appear.  

  1. I know how to huff rum cake. It’s a family secret.

  1. A friend of mine in high school chased me with a banana. Yes. I ran away. That’s how much I hate bananas.  I sometimes measure the amount of love I have for my daughter (immeasurable) by the fact I will pick up a banana, peel it, and give it to her. I’ve learned to actually touch it with my bare hands. But it still GROSSES me out!

  1. I eat scrambled eggs everyday for breakfast. 

  1.  Daisies – any kind of daisy – are my favorite-favorite-favorite flower. They're so happy!

  1. I’m an INFP and a 9 (Peacemaker) on the Enneagram. Yes. I am an introvert. Be nice.

  1. Don’t ask me to a peel an orange for you. It will take ages.  

  1. I love eating frozen grapes. Try it! You’ll love it and then you’ll be thanking me! I promise. Well. Unless you don’t like grapes or frozen things.

  1. I can easily watch three movies back to back. After four, I get tired and confused and need a little break. (Go figure!)

  1. I grind and clench my teeth. A lot.

  1. Over the last ten years, I have lived: on three continents; in five countries; in two states; and have moved 11 times. CRAP! That equals to moving more than once a year!! The LONGEST I’ve lived anywhere in the past decade is: two years and one month. For real.

  1. My dream car is not a Range Rover or a Lexus or a BMW or whatever. (They’re nice, though!) My dream car is a VW BUG!!!  I have wanted one since I was 10 years old.

  1. I still have a yellow VW Bug Transformer my dad gave me when I was 11. I took it to Burma with me. I won’t let my six year old daughter touch it. And I can still turn that Bug into a transformer within seconds
 In fact, I found this YouTube vid with the SAME Transformer I have. 

I am sorry to sounds totally elitist and snotty, but it took this guy over ONE minute to make the Bug into a Transformer. COME ON! I totally need to do a video to show him how it's done!

This is a pic of the same 1980's Transformer I have. (Not MY Transformer. If you want me to take a pic of mine, I will!) lol

What are some things I don't know about YOU?

Tuesday, September 18, 2012


We were challenged to be a little crazy + declare our truths, who we are.  So I did. Right on my little ring finger.

Yesterday was day three of the Flying Lessons ecourse I'm taking with a community of over 400 (I think!) amazing, creative, spellbinding women.  Talk about empowering!  

We've been asked to dig deep and pluck out our fears.  In an act of courage, look those buggers right in the eye, give them a name, flip 'em around, and let them go.  Some of us have re-named those pesky fears, turning them right side up into the real truths about ourselves.  

Getting dirty with fears isn't the most comfortable way to spend a day; but Natalie Goldberg reminds us: 
“Write what disturbs you, what you fear, what you have not been willing to speak about. Be willing to be split open.”

― Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within

Don't you love that? You have to speak your truth. Write the truth.

So, the truth is: it's difficult for me to label myself as a writer. My fears yell at me and tell me that I'm not good enough, I don't have the credentials to back me up, and so no one will take me seriously.

But the real truth is: I AM a writer!

I've been a writer since I was in elementary school. I write. Daily. Without fail. Um. That kind of makes me a: writer!  I've also completed that children's picture book manuscript (just awaiting my professional critiques so I can start sending out query letters to agents).

We were challenged to answer our truth when the next person asks us what we do: "I am an artist." Or "I am a writer." Or whatever it is.

Well, you haven't asked me what I am. But I'm gonna tell you. (And myself!)


I am a writer.

I am a writer.

I am a writer.

It's what I love.  And I'll be courageous. (Most of the time!)

Monday, September 17, 2012


Our first day of Flying Lessons, the ecourse run by mixed media artist, Kelly Rae Roberts, started yesterday.  We were encouraged to journal about our dreams. And we were told to be brave and dream big

This is scary for me. It's hard for me to dream. I've sort of blocked myself from doing that for years. Suppose I'm scared of disappointment. Of failing. Of wanting something so much, it hurts and it's all you can think about, only to have it  

Clearly, that's happened to me before.  I mean, who HASN'T it happened to?  But I know I haven't quite stood up all the way from that first great big disappointment.  Haven't brushed all the dirt off my knees.  Some of that mud and grit still stays there, despite it being a LONNNGG time ago.  I TOTALLY need to get over myself already. 

I also need to give myself a little credit. Maybe I didn't have the skills to deal with big disappointments way back then. I do NOW though. I've had many, many other disappointments since the first great big one.  I know how to deal. I'm not a kid anymore.  And disappointments are part of life.

So why I am so scared still? 

I need to get a grip.

One of my best and dearest friends, K, mailed me the notebook and pen (pictured above) allll the way to Myanmar!  They're my favorite colors and I love it. (I even got the same one from my brother for my birthday! The people in my life sure know me. lol) 

I decided to use this notebook to write my dreams and goals and keep notes during this ecourse.  It helps that K wrote the below inspiring and lovely sticky note on the cover page. I just need to start believing it more.

So, this morning, I started writing.  It wasn't so scary after all.  I gave myself credit for already moving towards many of the things I want to do.  That felt good. I am setting goals and I'm completing them.  I'm already working towards those big goals.  And it's been EXCITING

I'm feeling grateful for the opportunity that living in Myanmar is giving me. We're in a very, very fortunate position: I don't have to work for us to make ends meet. I can spend time on my writing. Developing it more. Pursuing the goals I have set for myself. Working towards getting that children's picture book published. Work on becoming: a writer. 

It'll happen...

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Flying Lessons

Please check out the e-course by Kelly Rae Roberts here

I feel very, very fortunate that tomorrow, I begin mixed-media artist Kelly Rae Robert's e-course, Flying Lessons: Tips + Tricks to Help Your Creative Biz Soar.

I'm especially grateful for this right now because I'm at a crossroads. Living in Myanmar is providing me the opportunity to make big decisions about the direction of my career.  I'm scared.  But I know I want to  need to write.  

I need to learn how to make a living doing this, think long-term.  I want to get the children's picture book published, yet I have to think beyond that.  How will I supplement my income, but doing what I love?

This ecourse will inspire, create community, and provide solid business advice.

I found Kelly Rae Robert's art and blog while living in the Washington, DC area about five years ago. Her art touched my heart.  It spoke to me.

Each piece had a message of hope, of encouragement. Reminders that you're good enough, that you matter. They were messages I needed to hear.

I loved that many of her pieces were themed around women. This resonated with me because of my long-term career providing direct service in women's reproductive health. I was (am) passionate about women's stories. Each piece of Kelly Rae's art  told a story.

I continued following her progress and success.  After just under two years of living in DC, I moved back to Washington state. It was a tumultuous time.  

I needed something - an outlet - to help.  Yes, I was writing, but...writing cut deep and I was achy and sensitive. Kelly Rae's book, Taking Flight, was a salve to that ache. It also inspired me to play. To try painting again.
I hadn't ever thought of myself as an artist. I can't draw for the life of me. There have been a few times - long ago - that I'd painted successfully: a large mural spanning two huge walls at work (of all women) and a painting I did for my dad (of a woman).

Both of these occurred completely out of the blue. I just had a feeling one day that I could do it. That's all it was: a feeling. 

It had been years since I had felt it. But upon looking at Kelly Rae's art + reading her book, the feeling came back. I started painting. 

Look, I am not trained. I don't know a lot. I love art. Always have. But, my talent is...probably quite limited and rudimentary.

Still, like when I write, I get lost in the art. The process.  Hours pass and I have no clue. There's a rhythm. Calmness. Peace. It's like meditation. Or something. 

I created several pieces I gave away as gifts. I found immense pleasure doing this.

I was proud my piece, "Taking Root" was selected for a group art exhibition at the Peggy Lewis Gallery (Allied Arts) in Washington state during April 2011 called "Survivor."

All I know is that it feels good to paint. To create. I feel the same way about writing...but when I can't put words down, I paint. However much I fumble through it. 

It's about creating the story (the painting). It's about making it meaningful (often in a somewhat personal/cryptic way) with layers. 

All this is to say: I'm grateful to take this ecourse at this time.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Crab Rangoon

I spotted Philadelphia cream cheese at City Mart on Dhamazedi Road the other day. Does that seem boring and irrelevant to you? (Nodding.) I can understand why; but, cream cheese is a bit of a luxury item here and you can't always get it.

It cost over $6.00, but I bought it anyway; just because I could. And just because next week City Mart could be out. And then we might not see it again – ever – or we might not see if for several more months.  That’s how it rolls here.

Once I got home, I realized I had wonton wrappers and crab in the fridge. Hmmm… I can make crab rangoons if I want, I thought. Yummmm!  Right?  I love crab rangoons.

Then, for a moment, I realized I LIVE in “Rangoon” (Yangon, really. The Brits and Americans just refuse to call it Yangon) and probably could live in heavenly crab rangoon bliss forever!

And then I remembered that there was no way crab rangoon was authentic Burmese/Myanmar food. I mean, whoever heard of cream cheese being a staple part of an Asian diet?

Wikipedia  and multiple other sites informed me that some dude called Vic, who owned Trader Vic’s restaurant in San Francisco, probably created these little yummy morsels in the 1950’s, just like he created the Mai Tai.  What a smart man. I would kiss him if I could.

Are you hungry yet? Want to make crab rangoons at home?

Here are a few recipes for ya:

  • If you want super simple, go here to the Rasa Malaysia website for easy Asian recipes.  

There are other variations, too. Many include a dash of streak sauce, A-1, or soy sauce in there. Many have scallions or green onions, too. Just make it however you want with all its gooey yumminess!

Anyway, next time you go to a Thai place or a Chinese place or whatever kind of restaurant, and you order crab rangoons, you can think of me…all the way over in Rangoon. Err. Yangon.