Kindness Chronicles, Photography, Quotes

Today is My 1 Year Anniversary with Olivia the Cat

Today marks one year since I adopted Olivia from an animal shelter. I deliberately chose an adult cat since people usually prefer adopting kittens. I’m happy to have her in my life. She’s really deepened my love and appreciation for animals. I’m also grateful that I can provide her a good home.

Haruki Murakami Cat Quote

The is the first time I saw Olivia at the shelter,  TLC Rescue Inc! She was so chubby and cute.


Initially she was very skittish and would hide under my bed.  About a week later she felt comfortable enough to lay on my bed. 


Recent photos of Olivia



Olivia, Today


View more photos here!

Kindness Chronicles

WATCH: This photographer will make your day

Lately I’ve tried to focus on being kinder and appreciating the limited moments I have on Earth.  Unfortunately, it’s shocking how easy it is to stumble into negative thinking. You have to be vigilant and seek out positive role models, people who aggressively appreciate life.  Meet Brian Nice, a photographer with enviable comedic timing who’s planning to travel across America to inspire survivors of Traumatic Brain Injury.

Garrison Art Center show 1 (Photograph by Brian Nice)

A recent photo from the Garrison Art Center show in August 2012.

“The project will include the production of a gallery exhibition of photographs, a full color coffee-table book, and a documentary film about the journey. Any profits from the project will be donated to an outstanding local facility called the Therapeutic Equestrian Center in Cold Spring NY, which helps others affected by Traumatic Brain Injury.”

A brain disorder may have almost taken Brian’s life 4 years ago, but his spirit appears stronger than ever. If you want to feel inspired today and help survivors of traumatic brain injuries, then please support Brian’s project on Indiegogo.

“I love photography and I want to keep taking pictures. After my first brain bleed and surgery in September 2009, I could not imagine how I would be able to continue doing the art I loved, any physical activity, or even the basic task of living life. It seemed like all had been taken away from me and my goal was to simply survive…”

Garrison Art Center show 3 (Photograph by Brian Nice)

A recent photo from the Garrison Art Center show in August 2012.

“…A friend gave me a point and shoot camera and this was an uplifiting experience. My current work is very different, yet it helps me express and show how I see the world now. It allows me to continue my art and gives me a real sense of myself. I still connect to the world through a camera – I just have a different perspective. ” -Brian Nice

Illustration, Kindness Chronicles, Life Lessons, Quotes

George Saunders’ speech reminds us to be kind

Last week, George Saunders’ convocation speech to Syracuse University graduates went viral. He didn’t espouse the usual advice (e.g. follow your dreams), instead he focused on an often overlooked trait in the business world: kindness. I’ve been musing about his wise words for the past few days and decided to share some of my thoughts.

"George Saunders’s Advice to Graduates"

George Saunders gave a wonderful convocation speech to the graduates of Syracuse University

Sometimes it’s hard to be kind. It’s hard to endure the shallow insights of an egotistical corporate PowerPoint-bullshit-artist and not tell him to go rehabilitate his soul. Being conscientious isn’t usually compatible with having corporate ambitions. Obviously not every corporate employee lacks a soul; some of the most conscientious people I know work for corporations. What is disturbing though, is that being kind, honest, generous, fair, and introspective may win you love from peers, but won’t lead you to the executive suites. It seems those rungs on the corporate ladder are mostly rewarded to the servile, arrogant, narcissistic, abrasive, selfish, manipulative, and/or shallow characters. Now you may ask, where does competence come into play? Well, it depends on the goal you are competent at achieving.

George Sunder's Quote on regrets, photo by Arlene Ellis

An excerpt from George Saunders wonderful convocation speech to the graduates of Syracuse University (

If the corporations’ goal is to create profit for profit’s sake, then how an employee helps meet that goal is not that important. Who cares if Bob is known for berating and backstabbing his coworkers? Do the clients love him? Yes. Will the clients give us more business because of Bob? Well, yes. Are we getting richer because of Bob? Yes. Well then, he’s staying! There are those who may argue, “Well, without profits people will have no jobs, be forced to live on the streets, and have to sell their organs to help pay their light bills!” I guess that scenario could happen, so Bob should just keep being a jerk—or more accurately a charitable jerk.

George Sunder's Quote on why we're not kind, photo by Arlene Ellis

An excerpt from George Saunders wonderful convocation speech to the graduates of Syracuse University (

Here’s something to consider, we have a limited amount of moments on earth, why not try being kinder now? Yes profits are essential for jobs, but can a little be sacrificed for the sake of integrity and compassion? Most of us wouldn’t want our wrath to be the last experience someone endured moments before death; nor would we want to experience someone’s wrath right before dying.

By the way, I’m writing this primarily to my present and future self, but I think lessons are more powerful when shared. I’m certainly not a role model for kindness. I’ve said hurtful things in moments of anger and exhaustion, or during that wonderfully hormonal time of the month. I’ve also felt very guilty about saying hurtful things and I’ve decided to hold myself more accountable. I’m learning how to take preventive measures, how to measure the consequences of my words before releasing them.

Mother Teresa quote about kindness, photo by Arlene Ellis

More and more I am believing in the power of kindness. When I was younger I endured frequent bouts of depression stemming from internalizing traumas. I used to blame some of my abrasive behaviors on those traumas. But we’ve all experienced various degrees of pain and it doesn’t justify being mean. I’ve often rationalized that I was only rude to bullies, but honestly I was sometimes short with loved ones. Yet my loved ones still forgave me and were still kind to me. It was their compassion that rescued me from despair.

Mark Epstein quote about trauma, photo by Arlene Ellis

Excerpt from the Opinion page of the New York Times, “The Trauma of Being Alive.”

Several days ago I reconnected with a professor who wrote to me that she cried when she reviewed a Christmas card I made for her ten years ago. I didn’t remember the card and asked her to email me a copy. I was curious to read the voice of my 20-year-old self. After reading it, I realized the archival quality of kind gestures. I discovered that a simple card, made in a  moment of gratefulness, would still be moving someone’s heart ten years later. Try to be kind today.

Handmade Christmas Card from 2002 (Arlene Ellis)

The front and back of a handmade Christmas card I gave my professor in 2002. Apparently I was into quotes back then too!

Handmade Christmas Card from 2002 (Arlene Ellis)

The inside of a handmade Christmas card I gave my professor in 2002. Apparently I was into quotes back then too!

Apparently, I wrote her a poem too. Oh the poetic days of my early twenties 🙂

Poem from 2003 (Written by Arlene Ellis)

It’s cool to see that even back then I was into textiles inspired by biology.

Life Lessons, Quotes, Uncategorized

How deep is your well of moments?

Paul Bowles Quote

“Because we don’t know when we will die, we get to think of life as an inexhaustible well. Yet everything happens only a certain number of times, and a very small number really. How many more times will you remember a certain afternoon of your childhood, an afternoon that is so deeply a part of your being that you can’t even conceive of your life without it? Perhaps four, five times more, perhaps not even that. How many more times will you watch the full moon rise? Perhaps 20. And yet it all seems limitless.”
― Paul Bowles

My heart is in the right place, but sometimes I should just keep my mouth shut. Over the past few years, I’ve offered to draw something for three different people who experienced tragedies. I’m not the best at articulating my love, but I know how to draw it—that is until my ego gets in the way. Within hours of offering the gifts, I began to panic, “What am I supposed to draw? It must be really memorable and fit the occasion. It should inspire them every time they look at it. I can’t just draw anything?!” This is when the chronic guilt begins. “Why did I offer? What’s wrong with me? I’m going to disappoint this person.” The guilt stalks me for days, which turn into weeks, then into months and sadly enough, the months turn into years.

"Homecoming" (Illustrated by Arlene Ellis, 2013)

“Homecoming” (Illustrated by Arlene Ellis, 2013). Inspired by the Wine-throated hummingbird.

I promised the above illustration to a bereaved friend two years ago. Actually, she requested that I draw something different , which was perfectly reasonable considering I asked her what she wanted illustrated. This friend had helped me cope through a tragedy and I wanted to repay her. The trouble was that what she wanted drawn didn’t resonate with me. Should that have mattered? I don’t think it should have and yet it did. Drawing to help someone cope with a tragedy can be emotionally tolling. It’s not a commission, since I’m usually offering, and it doesn’t feel like a physical offering; it’s me expressing  a love too deep to explain in words. It was’t her fault and I should have clarified things, but I didn’t. Instead I drew nothing and thought about her illustration almost every day throughout those two years.

"WIP 1 Homecoming" (Illustrated by Arlene Ellis, 2013).

“WIP 1 Homecoming” (Illustrated by Arlene Ellis, 2013). Inspired by the Wine-throated hummingbird.

If the offering stemmed from love, then why did my ego come into play? My ego was really my fear. I was afraid that she would underestimate the degree with which I cared. Of course this was irrational because the mere gesture indicated that I cared.  But unfortunately I’ve spent so many years building up walls that I have often misunderstood my own capacity for love. I’ve spent just as many years trying to deconstruct these walls using logical reasoning. This didn’t get me very far. Objectively, I understood why I had erected the walls, but this didn’t give me enough strength to remove them. Then I began drawing again and brick by brick the walls have begun to come down.  I haven’t given up on logical reasoning because it grounds me. I’ve just decided to complement it with my emotional intelligence.

"WIP 2 Homecoming" (Illustrated by Arlene Ellis, 2013).

“WIP2 Homecoming” (Illustrated by Arlene Ellis, 2013). Inspired by the Wine-throated hummingbird.

Why did I decide to finally draw this illustration for my bereaved friend? On Sunday night, I had a deep conversation with another friend about overcoming fears and the illusion of plentiful moments. He said that we behave as if we have an unlimited well of moments from which to drink, so we rarely take the time to savor each one. This made me think of my bereaved friend. What if I never have the moment to give her the illustration? I instantly knew that I needed to start drawing.

“Whatever you do, you need courage. Whatever course you decide upon, there is always someone to tell you that you are wrong. There are always difficulties arising that tempt you to believe your critics are right. To map out a course of action and follow it to an end requires some of the same courage that a soldier needs. Peace has its victories, but it takes brave men and women to win them.”
― Ralph Waldo Emerson

What moments are you waiting to happen to you?

"Homecoming" (Illustrated by Arlene Ellis, 2013)

“Homecoming” (Illustrated by Arlene Ellis, 2013). Inspired by the Wine-throated hummingbird. (Detailed features)