Rockin’ The Rheum: Bouldering Short Video of Level V1 Challenge!

It hasn’t been long since I couldn’t even climb up the staircase at subway stations at the early stage of my Rheumatoid Arthritis, so I was excited when I was able to finally climb a basic level V0. Since then, bouldering became my main exercise to live with RA. After I felt like I mastered the beginner level, I was ready to move on to V1-requiring trickier foot moves, hand-holds, and angles. The first time I tried V1, I felt like there is a big gap between V0 and V1. It was so challenging for me to complete it. The angle of the wall and height were so scary. My insecurity prevented going forward. The only thing to overcome the fear of heights is just to keep climbing and practicing. I tried for days and finally, I completed it! When I got close to the top, I just didn’t want to fall. My mind was in a survival mood, so my brain was telling my muscles “Catch it and hold it!” The excitement of reaching the top was priceless. Now I gained more confidence than ever before!

Completed level V1 the first time!

Here is the T-shirt, I’m wearing, which is available at Sugarhill Closet Shop.  Short-Sleeve Unisex Hokusai Wave Panda T-shirt

Rockin’ the Rheum: The Reason I Began Bouldering

So many people love bouldering and I am one of them. For me, bouldering is like solving a puzzle by using physics and body movement. Since I started bouldering, I’ve gotten more confident about my body despite Rheumatoid Arthritis. I feel like I’m a superwoman even though I have a chronic disease. I just want to share my life with RA and my bouldering journey. I hope I can inspire other people who have similar conditions as mine.

In addition to RA, in the summer of 2021, I got a big bone spur in my right heel and it had been acting out so badly. The pain was like I was walking on a mountain of needles. Then I started getting physical therapy. My body was so weak and out of shape before I started physical therapy, but after eight months, I could start walking again – I didn’t have to stand around struggling and waiting for my body to be able to get moving like a stalled train on the NYC subway!  

I started bouldering in June of 2022, so I am a newbie. I will share one of my early-stage videos in the next blog post. I am embarrassed to share the videos of me bouldering, but in the future, I hope to look back…and see the progress!  

Yey, the first time reaching the top of V1!
Here is the T-shirt, I’m wearing, which is available at Sugarhill Closet Shop.  Short-Sleeve Unisex Hokusai Wave Panda T-shirt

Artemis Launch! Von Voyage, Snoopy!

I was invited to observe the Artemis 1 launch because I made the astronaut Snoopy a Zero-Gravity Indicator riding in Artemis 1. It was a super exciting experience because the invitation was from NASA!

Guest pass!!!

The launch was at Kennedy Space Center in Cocoa, Florida. We arrived at Kennedy Space Center around 10 pm on November 15th. The launch happened at 1:47 am on November 16th!

Artemis launch and me being nervous and excited during the countdown.

The amazing thing was the moon was covered by a veil of clouds until a few minutes before the launch, but suddenly, the view of the moon got so clear when the launch happened. it was crazy to see the bright light and feel the shake of ground from the explosion. Also, it was thrilling to think the Snoopy that I made is in the rocket, heading to the moon! He will return to earth on Sunday, December 11, 2022. I can’t wait to see him again.

Making the Astronaut Snoopy for Artemis 1 Mission

Astronaut Snoopy is in progress at my Harlem, NYC studio

Me and Snoopy

Snoopy has become a high point of my career, I feel I have developed a relationship with Snoopy! This project was all about relationships.  Peanuts Worldwide LLC and my former employer, Martin Izquierdo Studio have had a long-term partnership. Martin has been one of the leaders of New York City’s theatrical artists for decades.  I started working for him right after graduating from grad school with an MFA in Costume Design.  The first big project I had was making angels’ wings for Victoria’s Secret fashion show.   Since then, I worked for Martin for more than 18 years.   About six years ago, I started creating Snoopy’s costumes for the “ Snoopy and Bell in Fashion” Exhibitions. I was an integral part of that project.  I created Snoopy and Bell’s costumes for designers like Oscar De La Renta,  Monse, Rachel Zoe, Paul Tazwell’s Hamilton musical, and more.

Me and NASA

Peanuts Worldwide also has a long-term relationship with NASA.  Since Artemis will be going to the moon, NASA asked Peanuts to make a special Snoopy doll wearing an astronaut’s costume.  Then, Peanuts called Martin, and Martin called me. However, Martin closed his studio after the pandemic, so I had to create Snoopy without a big space and all the amazing resources at Martin’s studio.  Martin and I started working on the project in April 2021.  I was a little nervous working on a big project all by myself in a studio space in a small apartment where my teenage son and elementary school daughter ran around.  Snoopy was small enough to fit on my studio table, though,  so I figured all will be fine.

Martin and I sometimes visited Ted Southern’s studio for meetings about Snoopy, and to be filmed by Apple TV for their short documentaries.  Ted is another past employee of Martin’s studio, having been one of the main artists behind Victoria’s Secrets wings and numerous other projects.   Coincidentally, he had moved on to founding his own aerospace company called Final Frontier – designing spacesuits!  He was the perfect teammate.  He was the liaison between me and NASA, consulting on the materials I needed for constructing the suit.  There were so many restrictions on materials, so Ted’s expertise was invaluable.  NASA wanted to use exactly the same space-safe fabric as real astronaut suits for the miniature Snoopy suit.  Using standard clothing materials would present problems in space due to moisture, oxygenation, and other environmental issues.  That was the most challenging restriction for me.

Alternating Snoopy’s Body for a Perfect Astronaut’s Suit

Logistically, I had to alter the actual plushie. The prefabricated Snoopy plushies made of NASA-approved materials have a very short neck, arms, and legs.  Martin got a great idea to add 1/2″ length to the arms and legs and 1/4″ for the neck from the original plushies, to better accommodate the miniature suit.  Since I had to make two Snoopy dolls (one for Earth and one for the Moon), Peanuts provided +8 Snoopy dolls to experiment. I was cutting apart pieces of Snoopy’s body and putting them together to create the ideal figure – much like Dr. Frankenstein.  I even sewed gussets, a tiny piece of fabric on his underarm to help him with movement when he floats in zero gravity.

Snoopy Come Home!

One of the Snoopy figures is intended for permanent display, along with my costume patterns and samples, at the Santa Rosa Snoopy Museum.  For that Snoopy, we built a helmet.  Ken Berman, who is a master puppeteer  (and conveniently my husband – as I said, this project was all about relationships!) made a helmet for the Earth Snoopy.  Snoopy’s suit’s collar is connected to the attachment of the helmet, and the helmet had to be removable.  We carefully worked together and matched the measurement of the 3-D printed collar attachment and his suit’s collar measurement.

I’ve always had a wonderful creative dynamic with Martin, so the creative process was very smooth. It was an intense process of making mock-ups for some parts since the tiny details using heavy fabrics posed a physical challenge.  I completed both Earth Snoopy with a helmet and Moon Snoopy in the middle of August 2021.  I was very lucky to be a part of this wonderful team of collaborators.

As a bonus- we were invited to witness that launch in person….more on that in my next post!

Happy Thanksgiving! Snoopy Ballon Was Spotted!

 Hard Working Dog

Snoopy working his night sift.

Snoopy is the hardest-working dog in the world! He was sitting in front of the American Museum of Natural History last night getting ready for the Macy’s parade. He is also working in space as a Zero Gravity Indicator on the Orion AND as an astronaut on Earth…all at the same time!

 I will talk about my work with Snoopy for NASA’s Artemis 1 Moon Mission in my next blog post. I have some footage on Sugarhill Closet Instagram of myself making the Snoopy that is onboard the Artemis…on the moon right now!

Rocking’ the Rheum – Living with Rheumatoid Arthritis

Hello, world!

I got laid off last week because of their budget cut.

I have worked at a big organization where I enjoyed developing my career and skills with wonderful people.  It was depressing to me because of the feeling of being excluded and invalid.  The day they told me to lay me off was a week before I had one of the big events in my life.  Now it is about two weeks passed, I feel already better.  I have started thinking to organize my brain and want to write about what I have done in my career and living with my health condition, Rheumatoid Arthritis.

In 2019 I was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis.  My whole entire joints were in intense pain.  I couldn’t move them.  I couldn’t walk, get up myself, hold a pen, brush, needle, or scissors, you name it.   All my career, living as an artist, my hands are important parts of tools. I felt like my career was over.   Little by little, my condition has progressed since then because of my medication (thanks to the science), my wonderful doctors, and my exercise/obsession – Bouldering.  There is no cure for RA, but I have found a way to improve mobility and live with RA.

Since I got some free time, I would like to share the journey of my past artwork and bouldering life with RA.  My lovely husband named my blog title “Rockin’ the Rheum!” I have a lot to learn about bouldering, I hope I can share my experience and inspire people like me.

Rockin' the Rheum 1

Bad Time to Be AFK!

My kids love playing online games like Roblox and AmongUs with their buddies.  Since the pandemic started, online gaming has been the biggest key to socializing with their friends.  They’d stay on screen 24 hours if they could, but they need to eat, do their schoolwork, and exercise.  When I call them, they often complain “Mom, bad time to be AFK!”  I asked what does AFK stand for?  They told me ” Away from the keyboard…DUH!”  They are teaching me the vocabulary of the new generation, and now I feel kind of…hip! After all,  I have to be a hip mom whom they can talk to.  So I made a t-shirt, to prove I can speak their language.

Bad Time to be AFK!
AFK T shirt, bad time to be AFK, youth T shirt, and kids T-shirt,

Jigoku, Hell Calligraphy

“To hell with circumstances; I create opportunities. ” –  Bruce Lee

Honnouji Calligraphy

Honno-ji T shirt

Honnouji is a well-known scene in Japanese history as the site of Daimyo Oda Nobunaga’s final battle. His trusted general, Akechi Mitsuhide launched a rebellion at the temple in 1582, and destroyed Nobunaga’s life and rule.  Nobunaga was the most powerful daimyo in late 16th century, and attempted to unify Japan during the Sengoku Period.

“Without destruction, there is no creation, there is no change” – Daimyo Oda Nobunaga


Snow in April in Sugarhill Harlem, NYC

“Snow provokes responses that reach right back to childhood. ” – Andy Goldsworthy