Sunday, December 28, 2014

State of the Me 2014-2015

I've been writing these yearly posts for a while now, and I'd like to believe I'm getting closer to achieving my goals. Since this sort of assessment can help shape my reality as well as describe it, I'll keep the spin positive. ;)

This year's overview is that I've made decent progress, but I'm perhaps farther from my goals than ever -- due to moving the goal posts. So let's dive into the status on my usual long-term goals, and wrap up with my new ones!


This was my biggest goal category from last year, -- a very important part of life to focus on, and one where I feel like I've done well over the past year.

I am very lucky to have an apartment that is so perfectly suited to guests. We have a nice guest room, plus we have extremely convenient access to downtown Zürich as well as to beautiful forests for hiking. We've had some wonderful visits from family, and hope to welcome many more friends and family in 2015 and beyond. With those who haven't had the opportunity to visit, I've had some great skype visits. And I've had lots of awesome parties and outings with local friends!!

I've also made some great new friendships in addition to building up the old/gold ones. I even feel like my relationship with my husband has been warmer and more fun. (Not that it was ever bad, but when you see someone every single day it's easy to become apathetic.)


This has been the biggest, most stressful goal category of 2014. The kids are doing OK in school, but not nearly as well as they should be. We've made some progress getting them to do as much of their homework as possible on time, but they're nowhere near being self-motivating about it -- and they waste their energy on fighting us to get to do the bare minimum and call it "good enough." I really want them to learn that it is easier for everyone in the long run if they'd just expend that same effort getting it done.

The kids have done some programming and other tech projects (some great ones were thanks to my dad during his recent visit), plus we had a bit of Math/Science fun at Camp Quest, but I would like to have done more. I'm hoping to re-launch my Math Club at the beginning of the 2015 school year, but I'd like to feel like we've gotten them out of the woods with respect to grades before focusing on that.

The kids have come up with a few independent projects on their own (such as Nico's new YouTube channel), yet I somehow feel like they're not very ambitious. OTOH (spinning this positive), maybe it's just that they're not insecure. They enjoy playing together for hours on end, inventing elaborate stories and dramas together (which is part of why it's so annoying that getting them to write a 200-word essay for school is like pulling teeth, grr). My two kids get along great and hardly ever fight with each other.

Work + Languages

My German is increasingly fluent, and I've been speaking more German at work, even for technical discussions, instead of always pulling the discussion back to English. We got a new colleague from Germany, so now my two closest colleagues are German. This is cool because when they discuss our projects among themselves, there's no temptation for them to slip into the Swiss German dialect (which I wouldn't understand), and I can join in the discussion in German.

As far as the work itself is concerned, I've done lots of interesting projects this year, including some where I've taken the initiative to suggest a project that needed to get done and that I could do. My biggest problem is probably the fact that I have so many non-work-related projects that I'm excited about, so it's sometimes a challenge to stay enthusiastic and motivated. Perhaps I should put that on my goal list for 2015. ;)

Between friends and my husband's colleagues and trips (not to mention at home), I have had quite a lot of opportunity to keep up my French, despite how little French is spoken in Zürich. I'm happy that I've had the opportunity to take a French-language yoga course for the past four years and counting -- I think it had been great for my physical and mental health (in addition to multi-tasking as French conversation practice with the other students before and after class). My German class is almost like multi-tasking as well since I like my German teacher -- my weekly skype lesson with her doubles as chatting about my life with a friend.

New Stuff!

My biggest new goal that I came up with in 2014 is that I would like to produce a comic book / graphic novel. I've always wanted to do it -- comic books (especially ones that are (semi)autobiographical and/or take place in unfamiliar cultures) are my favorite genre of books to read for pleasure.

Over the Summer I came up with a story idea but despaired of being able to produce it (because I don't draw that well, as you can see from my online novel). But then I thought "you know, it's not rocket science." I have all of these ideas and pictures in my mind of imaginary people and places I would love to draw -- and the distance in technical skill between where I am/was at and where I need to be to draw what I want to draw isn't insurmountable.

So, I've been spending my tram commute copying photos from the free newspapers in order to improve my skills at drawing people in natural postures and positions. And I've improved a lot in just this short amount of time.

I got a (computer) drawing tablet for my birthday, and I've been drawing all of my characters' faces from various angles in svg (scalable vector graphics). I am almost done with my initial drafts of my characters faces, then I will move on to making a series of hands and feet, and then I will try my hand at a group portrait. Then comes the architecture (which I've also been practicing and coming up with ideas for).

Just yesterday we took a family trip to Neuchâtel (to see the new Asterix film in French), and of course we took time to visit the bookshop. I didn't find any comic books I really wanted this time, but... I found I was a little disconcerted by how good the artwork was in all of these random comics I've never heard of. I don't mean the photo-realism, but rather things like the techniques for making simple backgrounds interesting, and the use of stylized eyes on otherwise realistic people, etc.

But, now to spin this positive. I have been collecting and poring over comic books for years, of various styles, and I've always appreciated and analyzed the ideas for how the drawings are composed. And after making a real effort to try my hand at doing it, I'm noticing even more details and techniques than before -- which is a key part of improving my own hand. None of these other artists created their work utterly ex nihilo out of their own heads. Like me, they loved and appreciated the works of others, and felt inspired and came up with their own ideas as well.

My other new goal is more a fantasy than a goal, but I'll throw it out there since it's something I've fantasized about doing this past year. I'd like to incorporate my three websites as a non-profit organization, and (through ads or something) pay some people to work part time as editors and publicists to help authors of LDS-interest works -- plus pay people to write good articles for MSP (to keep good, regular content there, to increase readership, to help monetize the site to pay for the editor/publicists). Maybe even turn MAA Books into an indie publisher.

The reason this is a fantasy is because in order to make it work, I'd basically have to work full time on it, and I'd have to pour a bunch of my own cash into the project, which would require me to increase my hours at my day job to full-time. Perhaps you can see the problem with this. I figured I'd mention it, though, just in case a giant cache of money magically descends upon me -- or if someone else out there has a similar dream and wants to discuss joining forces.

So that's about it for this past year. Please wish me luck for 2015. Good luck on your own dreams and goals!! :D