Scenes from my summer

betty ming liu Making art, Money issues 20 Comments

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I almost didn’t write this post because I’m so, so tired! But blogging is about being in the messiness of the moment. So here’s the latest on my book, which is the door to the next dimension of a creative life. All this is happening just in time for my 57th birthday…

Last Tuesday, I packed my daughter off to camp, which gives me nearly three weeks to be completely alone in a quiet house. Finishing the latest draft of my manuscript is now serious, round-the-clock business. Don’t ask me what time it is because I work until I can’t give anymore, sleep for a few hours, and then write some more. Loving it!

My themes are now very clear. Over the past decade, I’ve shelved two completed fiction manuscripts. This current project, in its fourth rewrite, is non-fiction, a how-to guide: How I survived my control freak parents and found the path to true love, great sex and happiness. I had to get the word “sex” in there for marketing purposes, haha! Let’s see if it survives the rewrite.

Meanwhile, I’ve also just started a month of art workshops to prepare me for doing my own illustrations. Nude sketching is loosening me up to draw gesturally. Asian watercolor landscaping is fascinating because the hand involved is so different from either oil painting or even Western watercolor. Asian watercoloring is also an exercise in working in grayscale, which will give me depth in making black-and-white book illustrations. Then, at the end of July, I’ll spend a week of mornings learning to draw hands and feet, which involve so much articulated movement that they are the most challenging body parts for most artists.

As if this isn’t enough, the money pit otherwise known as my house keeps screaming for attention. Not exactly what I need when I’m unemployed and living off my savings. Still, the upside is that repairing the front porch and replacing the rotted backyard deck makes being home so much more inviting. I’m also proud of myself for making time to weed and mulch part of the garden.

But just when I thought I could sit in the rocking chair and take in the breeze — near disaster. Yesterday, my 12-year-old refrigerator died, soaking part of the wood kitchen floor. Thank goodness my plumber came over right away. He turned off the water pipe for the ice maker and advised me on how to buy a new fridge, which is on my shopping list for this afternoon.

Actually, I take the fridge situation as a positive sign from the universe that I’m truly ready for my next life. That fridge has always been way too big. I bought it right after my divorce, when I relocated to Hastings-on-Hudson, downsizing from a 6,000-square-foot house to a 2,500-square-foot house. But back then for the move, I bought a huge, new fridge that suited the old lifestyle — where I was coming from and not the unknown world ahead. Now that I know how to nourish myself, I’m ready for a smaller, cozier, more compact fridge.

With all this going on, staying in touch with friends and relaxing is more important than ever. While it’s tough carving out downtime in my crazy schedule, I did manage to hang out on July 4th, taking in an outdoor concert and fireworks at the beautiful Caramoor Center in Katonah, N.Y. To stay healthy, I’ve been getting to the gym. Another essential is keeping up with my yoga and stretching exercises to counter the nasty muscle knotting that comes with long hours at the computer. Thank God, too, for the dog…having Rosebud forces me outta the house for a daily walk (when it’s not raining).

If I sound a bit intense, part of the reason is my upcoming birthday. When I turn 57 later this month, I’d really like to have the manuscript rewrite done. I’m certain that completing this round of the book will get me to the other side of who I was always meant to be. It will also free me up to dive into creating the visuals that will go with each chapter. My hope is to finish this project over the summer and self-publish in the fall, just in time for the winter holiday gift-giving season.

Well, the big rebirth is definitely underway. I probably should be scared because I’ve never been a published author and illustrator. But you know what? All I feel right now is excitement. And that in itself is a great early birthday gift because it means I’m finally comfortable with myself.

So if you’d like to stay close while I work through this adventure from week to week, please subscribe to my blog! I’d love to have your company and your good energy. It will keep me going. xoxoxo

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Comments 20

  1. Skye

    Happy (early) Birthday to you, Betty!
    I have never heard of anyone actually giving themselves a gift that takes work, but with all gifts, I guess someone had to work for it, even if the receiver did not. This is different in a special way, because you already know what you are getting. What you are getting is also a surprise…you and your book are going to go through many things during the rewrite period. It sounds like you already are, and it is all going to turn out great.
    About the fridge, good lesson there. Get rid of what you don’t need. I think you taught me that about writing. Good reminder for you right now as you polish the manuscript.

    Happy Writing, Happy Summer and Happy Birthday! xoxo

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    betty ming liu

    Thank you, Skye! Yeah, well, I’m working to make my birthday work! It’s a deadline that hopefully will inspire me. I need the push right now. This latest version of the manuscript is the one that pulls together tone, voice and themes. That’s why I think it will be the bridge to helping it — and me — take off. Wish me luck with that fridge. I hope it won’t be too ugly or bulky. xo

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  4. Erica Euse

    Hi Betty,
    Just wanted to leave a comment to let you know I am still reading! The honesty in your blog is so refreshing and inspiring. It makes me happy to see someone doing what they love! I look forward to reading your book.

    Best,
    Erica Euse

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      betty ming liu

      Hillary, it’s taken me half a century to reach this point. But worth the effort. I was just telling a friend that I would NEVER go back to my 20s, 30s or 40s because my life was still in too much transition. Things feel pretty good now! Thanks for the encouragement. :)

  5. Gigi Lin

    I love your watercolor painting! It looks very dreamy yet I can feel what I presume to be rushing water in the picture.

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      betty ming liu

      Gigi, thanks — but don’t you like my nude dude too? Haha! The first watercolor painting was purely about experimenting with brush strokes with no landscapes in mind. But I’m thrilled if you can see water. Will post more as the workshop progresses!

  6. Christina

    Yay for progress! Yay for new beginnings and for the ability to appreciate right where you are. You are, indeed, already very wealthy!

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  7. Cassandra

    Happy happy birthday. Self publish to your little heart’s content. You’ve got all the skills to make a successful book so jump in with both feet and swim, swim, swim…Yes, I think that refrigerator pooping out on you was a good sign because now you can shop daily or every other day since you won’t need to worry about feeding anyone but you and Rosebud once your daughter is away at college (until the holidays, Spring break and summer). Best of luck to you! Maybe you should try acting as well. They are sorely lacking in Asian actors in the pre-baby boomer range and you don’t look like you are in your 50’s anyways… The sky’s the limit!

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      betty ming liu

      Thank you, Cassandra! Last night, I collapsed at 11 and slept through the night for the first time in a few days — my first solid, six-hour snooze in a while. Now I’m good to go again. And funny, I had the same thought about the fridge; my life has gotten simpler because food became less of a demand. As for acting, a few years ago, I took a shot at being a model/actor for commercials. The agent loved me for the reasons you mention; I make a great mom-with-older-children type of character and even went on a few go-sees. But it didn’t work out, at least not back then. Thanks though, for resurrecting the thought. I love being in front of an audience so let’s see what options lie ahead!

  8. Leslie

    Wow, Betty, on all fronts!

    It is inspiring to read about how you are pushing yourself in so many areas. Also the fact that doing it is not always neat, but often messy. You get a star for pushing yourself out of your comfort levels, or perhaps for creating a whole new set of new comfort levels!

    Brava, and keep going. I could certainly take some lessons from you.

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      betty ming liu

      Thanks, Leslie! What a lovely idea, that I’m creating new comfort levels! I’m getting used to the idea of doing things that might not work in the conventional sense. Getting used to entrepreneurship! Thanks for the encouragement. :)

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