Throwback Thursday: a Tale of Two Yzmas (Emperor’s New Groove)

Next up in our throwback series here on the blog are actually two drawings, both of the lovely (hideous) Yzma. I first loosely sketched a sort of creepily uplit portrait of Yzma’s grinning face, and then, at the brilliant suggestion of one of my old university friends, I drew her in her cat form. 

Both were oddly stress-relieving exercises.  

Up next week is another of my favorites. Hope to see you then!


On Markers, Whiteboards, and the Color Green

I’ve never been good at resisting a blank whiteboard and fresh markers.

A few days ago, I drew this young lady on an empty whiteboard in an exceedingly green room and made the horrible choice to use a green marker. Naturally the whiteboard reflected pale green. By the time my short bout of art-making was done, I felt ready to bleed green.

Anyway, I intended for her to be 20s-esque and vintage-y, specifically with regards to her makeup and hair (which I purposed to style in classic 20s finger-curls). Here is my Green Lady of Very Green Green-ness:

Vintage 20S Girl with Finger Curls on Whiteboard


The Secret Place in the Library

There’s a special secret hidden place in the library at my school.

My best friend told me about it before she graduated, before she moved away to England.

To get to the hidden place, you leave the first floor of the library to go up the stairs and cross to the right through the tables and the uncomfortable wooden chairs and the soft padded chairs that it’s impossible to do homework and stay awake in, and you enter the forest of bookshelves. You walk through the bookshelves all the way till it looks like you’re at the edge of the building, till the rustling of pages and the gentle flirting of students and the clicking of pens fades behind you into nothingness, and just when you think you’ll never find the hidden place, the wall opens out more, just in the back corner, and there are more bookshelves. And if you walk past them, very quietly so no one follows you, you can see the hidden place tucked away in the very, very top back corner of the library.

It’s just a little ugly wooden desk in the corner all by itself, hidden away in the back corner behind the last of the bookshelves, with a misplaced-looking antique lamp that’s actually rather pretty on top and an ugly gray swivel-chair to go with the ugliness of the wooden desk. But the afternoon light comes drifting down soft and mellow and burnished gold through the bookshelves and touches that hidden place with magic, and somehow the ugly gray swivel chair doesn’t look ugly anymore. And you can go sit in it and lay down your heavy book-bag and pull on the chain of the lamp, and an amber-honey glow lights up the desk and touches your face and makes you glad to be alive.

It’s quiet there. So quiet. But a good kind of quiet.

It’s not the silence that rings in your car when you’re driving home from finding out you didn’t make the cast list. It’s not the silence that yawns around you when you finally realize that a friend has betrayed you, made you look like a fool. It’s not the silence that sinks in the pit of your stomach when you’re alone in your room and hungry and miserable but you won’t eat because you’re starving on purpose.

This quiet isn’t empty. It’s a quiet filled with the silent voices of all the books keeping you company on the shelves. It’s a quiet filled with the scent of their book glue, old and safe and sweet in the air, and with the sights of the book-spines in leathery gold-embossed straight rows, begging for you to trace your fingers softly across them.

And you can sit at that desk and pull your brown sweater closer around you and open your thick hardbound anthologies and be glad there’s such a thing as required reading. And even your annoying little paperback textbooks that you don’t care about and wish you hadn’t had to buy, seem a little more worth your while.

And every once in a while, if you lose yourself far enough, you can feel for one moment like you’re in England.

Or every once in a very, very long while, if you’re very lucky and if the light falls just the right way and the books with their silent book-voices are in just the right mood, you can think for an instant that you’ve made it into a faerie-tale.


bobby pins, broken hearts & stuff

Found a couple of her bobby pins in my drawer today.

I could always tell which ones were her bobby pins, because hers were curved and could hold hair better than my straight ones could. I used to like it when she’d lose her bobby pins around my house, because then I could find them later and use them myself.

Funny how constant a role bobby pins played in our friendship. They were like currency.

“Hey—do you have a bobby pin I could borrow?”

After a school day we’d take our bobby pins out and let our hair tumble down onto our shoulders while we huddled on her couch watching Doctor Who on the MacBook resting across our laps. That was a long time ago. I used to think she had the weirdest taste in television.

Or we’d stand in front of my bathroom mirror in the morning and put bobby pins into our hair while we brushed and teased and braided and talked about good stories, old books, and cute boys. Most of the time we’d have spent the whole night before sitting up on my bed eating popcorn and laughing and crying about our dreams, our triumphs, our fears, our griefs.

Three days before she left, I did her hair for the first time. We both thought it was sort of weird that after years of Best Friendhood and hundreds of hairdos done together, neither one of us had done the other’s hair. We’d only done our own. I used so many bobby pins that she texted me a picture of the pile of them on her counter when she took them out.

The last thing I did before she boarded the plane was to reach out and fix a bobby pin in the long auburn braid she’d twisted around her head, because it was coming undone.

Even though it wasn’t a permanent goodbye, even though I was (and am) prouder of her and happier for her than I can say, even though if I’m honest with myself I’d never ever want her to give this up, it was hard to say goodbye. It’s hard to say goodbye to the person whose voice was on the other end of the phone when you called crying the first time a boy broke your heart. It’s hard to say goodbye to someone who brought you an old wooden treasure-box of books and treats when you were bedridden from sickness, or who sat on your kitchen counter and talked to you while you made coffee in the middle of the night trying to stay awake to study for finals the next day, or who brought you more soy chai lattes over time than you could possibly count.

She’s gone now. The terminal swallowed her up and the plane whisked her away. I looked up how many miles away she is exactly, but the number is big and I don’t like it. So I’m not going to put it here.

But some of her bobby pins stayed behind on accident, and I found them in my drawer today. I like to think that maybe one or two of mine found their way into a pocket in a bag, or a fold in a carefully-packed sweater, and traveled with her across the ocean.

Maybe she’ll find one of them by chance when a stray section of hair won’t stay put, and she’ll use it the way I’m now using one of hers I just found.

And like always, it holds my hair perfectly. Much better than one of mine would.

Came home from the airport after saying goodbye and drew the memory I won't ever forget.

Came home from the airport after saying goodbye and sketched a memory I won’t ever forget. You can sort of see the braid she was wearing.

His Name Was Zach: a memory.

I still remember the day I first got engaged.

His name was Zach. Zach Evans, I’ll call him. His last name started with an E, but I don’t remember exactly what it was. Maybe that’s for the best. There was another boy there, too—Daniel, and I don’t remember his last name at all—but Daniel wasn’t as handsome as Zach, and besides Daniel didn’t want to marry me anyways.

I guess Zach and I were old enough to make our own decisions. After all, we’d made it to preschool. We were both all of four years old. And we saw each other every single Sunday in preschool class at church, so we had, you know, a pretty solid relationship with one another.

One fateful Sunday, Zach and I joined our four-year-old hearts together forever. I don’t remember if I asked him or if he asked me, but I do seem to remember goldfish crackers being involved. After that, it was simple: when we grew up, we were getting married.

Daniel the Other Boy was less than thrilled about Zach’s engagement (since of course all girls had cooties), but he tolerated me fairly well. After all, engaged or not, preschoolers have got to play. Although Daniel was quick to remind Zach of his duty to Boy Code if ever Zach grew too twitterpated.

I remember the day Zach and I reached our first big relational crisis: the day the Lions and Tigers Game came up. In the Lions and Tigers Game, see, Lions were the boy animal, and Tigers were the girl animal. Lions were kinda cooler than Tigers, but no girl was allowed to play a Lion. The problem was, the point of the game was the enmity between the Lions and the Tigers. We’d prowl around on all fours. Roar at each other. Sometimes, we might even kill each other. Lions vs. Tigers: a fight to the death.

How could I play a Tiger and be against Zach?

I presented the case diplomatically to my fiancé, working hard to convince him why Tigers could be just as cool and manly as Lions. Zach, in turn, understood the problem and initially agreed, gasp, to play a Tiger so he could be with me. For a moment, I thought I’d won the day.

But then Daniel stepped in. Zach play a Tiger? Unacceptable. Lions were the boy animal, and Tigers were the girl. End of story.

Zach weighed both the arguments and agreed to my dismay that his playing a Tiger would indeed upset the balance and negate the point of the game. In the end, he made the difficult decision to play a Lion after all to uphold the order of our preschool world. (He may or may not have worded it a bit more simply.)

But he also told me something that impressed me so strongly that seventeen years later, I still remember it in direct quotes.

“Don’t worry,” he said to me. “I’m still going to marry you.”

At that, I knew that he was the One. I was only four, but I remember how affirmed I felt, and how fantastic it seemed to me that a person could care about another person so much that he’d set aside societal norms and expectations in order to protect and further relationship with that person.

I didn’t think it in those words, exactly, but I remember how it felt.

Then seventeen years fled by. I haven’t seen Zach since preschool. I have no idea where he is, and we’re definitely not still engaged. At least, I hope we’re not. Since I’m the one whose family moved first, I guess I’m the one who walked out on him. I don’t think he minded too much. It was a whirlwind romance, anyway. And he had goldfish crackers to console him.

When I was first drafting this post, this is the part where I started saying things about how far removed I’ve become from that four-year-old paradigm, and how life is now way, way more complicated than that ridiculous Lions and Tigers Game.

And then a question struck me, and I think it changed me a little bit inside.

What if life isn’t way, way more complicated than the Lions and Tigers Game? What if it just feels more complicated because the Lions and Tigers Game has different, more sophisticated names now?

What if I need to be a lot more like Zach was?

Or, I mean, maybe life is way more complicated, after all. And maybe this is just a silly memory from long ago that makes me laugh when thunderstorms send bolts of iron lightning cloud-to-ground and my family comes together to brew hot tea and talk about old things while the rain streams outside. That’s okay too.

Storms over the Florida ocean this summer, the kind of storm that calls for hot tea and old memories and thick books.

Storms over the Florida ocean this summer, the kind of storm that calls for hot tea and old memories and thick books.

upcoming things and why I’ve been a terrible writer

I was going to write on this trip, I swear.

Brought my computer, my books, my journal, my sketchbook, my Sharpie pens, my pencils. I had visions of finishing my book manuscript, completing my projected studies, creating profound works of ocean-inspired art—all with the roar of the waves around me and the sun shining down on me as I relaxed with my books on the sand. (Anybody hear the heavenly music playing? Or is that just me?)

And then I actually got to the beach. I opened my computer once, I think.

All told, during the entirety of this trip to the seaside, I composed exactly one poem.


While my books sat untouched up at the house, I threw away my intentions, piled my hair on top of my head, and ran down to the beach every morning. In between sipping raspberry Snapples and running around in the surf and falling asleep on the sand so I got a super awkward sunburn-quasi-tan thing only on one side—I was a terrible student.

(Side note: I did also drink one Diet Coke on the beach. I did not, however, manage to write a hit song. After all these commercials I’ve been seeing lately about Taylor Swift writing “22,” I feel pretty ripped off. Stupid Diet Coke.)

I guess I just didn’t have the guts to say no to a view like this.


Sunrise on the water from my balcony.

In any case, I will probably be putting some observations on this past week at St. Augustine into a comparison-travelogue-type deal with a couple other beaches, in order to try to salvage some remnant of sanity from all this.

And then after that, once I gather my wits and settle down from the ride home (I’m writing this on my phone in the car on the way from Florida back to Texas), some things are coming up here on randilynnpedia that I’m quite looking forward to. Artwork, fiction, book reviews. The whole nine yards, whatever that means.

So thanks for stopping by, and farewell for the moment.


An Open Letter to Collateral Damage Characters

Dear collateral damage characters,

You know who you are.

I’m not talking about “characters from Collateral Damage.” Sorry, Arnold.

Collateral damage characters, you span all genres, touch almost every audience. You’re blue collar and white collar. Old and young. Manufacturers. Journalists. Architects. Politicians. Students. You’re everywhere.

While we watch the drama of a story’s central characters with bated breath, you get murdered by the bad guy or smashed under falling buildings or stricken with the plague of the zombie apocalypse. You’re collateral damage.

And we don’t really care.

Oh, we mourn for some characters who die, all right. The hero’s dad, say, or the best friend or the girlfriend or whoever else we’ve been led to care about.

But we’re not supposed to mourn for you, collateral damage characters. We don’t even know you.

We watch you be flung from bridges or crushed by crumbling architecture or exploded into flame—only to see the vastness of the story’s conflict. Only to come to respect, if we can, the awesome power of the villain, whether he’s a character himself or a faceless force set to overwhelm the protagonist.

And I can’t apologize for that.

We can’t mourn for you, collateral damage characters. Not really. Those of us on the sensitive side may be saddened to watch you go; or if your demise is particularly gory or cruel or disturbing, you may impress some of us with the intensity of it. But we can’t actually grieve for all of you. We’d go insane if we did.

So I’m not apologizing.

But the fact is, collateral damage characters, the stories that employ you wouldn’t be anything without you. A serial killer isn’t a serial killer unless he kills serially. A zombie apocalypse isn’t a zombie apocalypse unless it zombifies multitudes of unfortunate humans. An invading alien force is laughable unless it can use its freakish alien technology to wipe out heavy percentages of the human population.

You’re the nameless characters who fall to the serial killer, the zombie apocalypse, the alien invasion. And that killer, that apocalypse, that invasion is the force that drives the story. It’s the conflict, the story’s most vital element.

Collateral damage characters, you hold up stories’ conflicts.

So then, however unmourned or little noted, you are crucial to the stories in which you suffer. You’re the reason we fear the conflict and wonder if the hero will make it to the end. In essence, you’re the reason we keep watching or reading or listening. You make the story matter.

So I guess what I’m trying to say is thanks.

Thanks for, you know, dying and stuff.

A Fangirl


Graves on Howard

There didn’t use to be graves on Howard.

Howard Road, it’s the only connection between my house out on the lake and anything close to civilization. A ribbon of black asphalt underneath cobalt Texas sky, it used to snake through the hills without care.

Then one night, when I was driving home on Howard, I was stopped.

Twilight was falling just then, I remember. It had been a long day of friends and wakeboards and surfboards and Arizona iced tea. The salt of the lake was still in my hair and the taste of the sun on my lips as the sunset sank dying into the lake’s purple lap like a picture straight out of The Lion King.

But I had to come to a stop on the road. Lights were glittering in my eyes in the dusk, red and white and blue. The kind nobody wants to see. Ambulance lights. Police car lights. Fire truck lights. And flares lay flickering across my path. Must’ve been one heck of a crash.

There’d be no taking Howard home tonight.

Had to take Old Italy ’round instead.

A day or so later, the crosses showed up. Simple white wooden crosses nailed up to a chain-link fence by the roadside—a little white scar on Howard’s shoulder. I barely noticed. Wondered for a half a second why I’d never seen them before, then forgot about them.

I drove by them every day. I should have known there was a reason there were fresh pink flowers always carefully placed underneath.

I just never stopped to think.

Weeks passed, and the silent crosses faded into the rest of the landscape cradling Howard. I ceased to notice them at all, though I passed them every day. I passed them to go to work, to church, to the bank, to the movies, but I didn’t see them anymore.

Then one afternoon, there was a man standing on the side of Howard.

A cowboy if ever I’d seen one, he stood with his bare head low, the back of his neck deep red and beaten hard with a lifetime of honest outdoor work. His arms were strong, his hands thick and hard where they hung at his sides. Square-toed boots poked out from beneath his sun-faded Wranglers.

I saw him as I drove by, saw him standing there with the gangling sturdy stance of a true Texas man, and I wondered. What was he doing, this strong man in his prime, standing by the side of Howard with his head bowed?

He should have been playing an old acoustic guitar or barbecuing brisket or drinking sweet tea on a back porch somewhere. Maybe horseback riding with a pretty Texas girl with cobalt eyes just like the sky, or making plans to go to the Rangers game tonight.

So what was he doing standing there looking down at those white wooden crosses?

Then all at once, I knew. I knew what he was doing.

The crosses were grave-markers, I realized with a tightening throat. Grave markers that had shown up since that night I’d had to take Old Italy around. I remembered that night, remember how it felt to be driving home, and it hurt to remember, because I realized that I had been slightly inconvenienced while this man had had his heart gutted out.

Whom had he lost? Mother? Sister? Daughter? The pretty Texas girl with the cobalt eyes?

And here he was, coming back to say goodbye again, bringing new pink flowers, standing over the graves to protect them because he could no longer protect those who’d been laid in them. He was grieving.

For one sacred broken moment, I was the only guest at a mute funeral for people I didn’t know. For an instant, as I drove by without stopping or slowing down, that stranger and I, we grieved together.

Because there didn’t use to be graves on Howard Road. But now there are.

The Sandwich Problem

“I don’t mean to rob you of your free will, Randi,” a friend said to me recently. “You can pick whatever type of bread you want to make me a sandwich. White, wheat, rye, sourdough—even ciabatta. I’m open to anything.”

Needless to say, he didn’t get a sandwich from me.

Ah, the perennial Sandwich Problem. Little did I know back in the olden days when I was a little girl that one of the complex issues I would come to face as I reached adulthood would be the web of half-joking confusion and prejudice surrounding one of the First World’s simplest and most unassuming menu items: the sandwich.

In theory, a sandwich is only (and I quote from what Abraham Lincoln once said was the most reliable resource available: the internet) “a food item commonly consisting of two or more slices of bread with one or more fillings between them.” In practice, however, through no seeming fault of its own, the sandwich has become a cause of strife, at times frustrating and offending both men and women depending on the stance taken. With all the tension surrounding the sandwich, it’s only a matter of time before somebody writes an adaptation of Pride and Prejudice—Sandwich Edition.

Common jokes on the issue vary from Why should women be paid to work at Subway? Isn’t that their civic duty?—on the male side, to Anytime I see a hot guy I think, “Man, I’d love to make his sandwiches.”—on the female side. But sometimes the situation is a bit more serious.

Let us examine the conditions.

For the most part, men who wish for female-made sandwiches tend to channel their attentions one of three ways:

1. “Woman, make me a sandwich.”
2. “Would you like to make my sandwiches?”[i]
3. “If I bought you ingredients, would you make me a sandwich?”[ii]

In turn, most women tend to react one of three ways:

1. “OH MY GOSH HOW DARE YOU INSULT ME THIS WAY. Go make your own sandwich, you misogynist beast.”
2. “Psh, sure, I’ll make my man a sandwich. But why would I make you a sandwich? You’re not my man.”[iii]
3. “Oh, absolutely. I will gladly make any man a sandwich. I believe it’s a woman’s place to respect men and make them sandwiches.”

This post does not presume to advocate which approach or response to the problem may be correct. There are enough angry and offensive written opinions online already, from both sides of the situation. (Because everybody knows that shouting and cursing at the other side is always the most logical way to win a rational argument.)

However, it is my concern that we are greatly, terribly, overwhelmingly missing the point.

Think about the sandwich in its innocent simplicity. Think about how incredibly disproportionate its seeming unimportance is with the magnitude of the conflict, the tension, the division surrounding it.

That, my friends, cannot be a coincidence.

As famously stated by Abraham Lincoln, “A house divided cannot stand.”[iv] Could it be that the simple sandwich is actually a tool in the hands of a powerful enemy who is even now plotting our destruction? Could there be a force hoping to divide us by sandwich just as Lincoln hoped to divide the Confederacy by capture of the Mississippi River in the early days of the Civil War?

Legend has it that the sandwich was created in 1762 when the 4th Earl of Sandwich demanded in the middle of the night that a piece of roast beef be put between two pieces of bread so that he could eat it while continuing to play a gambling card game without getting his fingers greasy.[v]

Let that sink in.

The Earl needed the brand new sandwich—which some say his cook invented to appease his vague demand for a snack he could eat while playing—to give him the strength to keep playing so that he could win and thereby assert his dominance over the other gentlemen against whom he was pitted in gambling battle.





The very existence of the sandwich is rooted in a spirit of warfare. Small wonder, then, that the sandwich has continued cutting its rift in unity through history to the present day, where it continues to be one of today’s most divisive and tense topics of debate. The only difference is that now the sandwich conflict is between men and women at large instead of between gamblers.

Here’s the scary part. Who was the cook who presented the Earl of Sandwich with the first sandwich in history? Nobody knows. The name is shrouded in secrecy, lost forever in accidental obscurity.

Or was it accidental? Could there have been something sinister happening in the kitchen that midnight over 250 years ago, that somebody would prefer to keep hidden? Somebody who cleverly planted the sandwich in our midst as a deliberate tool toward our division and subsequent ruin? Somebody who is even now waiting and watching as the sandwich festers among us?

With the facts in mind, I am forced to conclude that the sandwich is, and has only ever been, a deadly instrument of war. The implications of this conclusion are frightening.

I’m not the biggest proponent of conspiracy theories, but there’s nothing like a good sandwich to make me wonder about the Illuminati. Or the aliens. Or even the vampires. But I’m not implying the sandwich is a gamepiece of a deadly and possibly otherwordly conspiracy.

It’s just that the facts are implying that.


[i] This is basically a proposal. Proceed with caution.

[ii] This is the most complex approach, involving multiple considerations regarding friend zones, attraction levels, and social obligations. Proceed with caution.

[iii] This is commonly known as a rejection. Proceed with caution.

[iv] This Abraham Lincoln really did say in 1858.

[v] Though sources vary slightly, this also is the real history of the sandwich.