What Do Your Doodles Say About You?

You know how it goes. You have a pen or a pencil in hand. You’re in a meeting, a lecture, or maybe on the phone and you’re supposed to be paying attention. Before you know it, the margins are filled with pictures and scribbles. Maybe they’re abstract or they actually resemble something someone could name. Almost everyone does it, so what do those little doodles mean?  

One study, published in the scientific journal Applied Cognitive Psychology,  showed that doodling helped people remember things better.

It did so by helping people use just enough brain energy to keep from daydreaming. Those who doodled remembered more items on a memory list than those who did not.

As with handwriting or maybe dreams, many believe doodles provide insight into who we are. And, although we could doodle just about anything, people doodle many of the same things. So, for fun, here some of the more common doodles and what they may say about the doodler.


Doodles of faces tell you how the person doodling views him or herself or how they view other people.

People who draw pretty faces are optimistic and outgoing. Those who draw funny faces may have a good sense of humor. And those who draw ugly faces, may be less social.  Introverts tend to draw a face in profile more often than others.

The features and other characteristics of the face tell a story too:

  • Big eyes can mean the person is outgoing or sensitive. Small eyes may show introversion.
  • Eyes that stare could indicate that the person feels they are being watched.
  • Lips that are big or full can show desire, while thin lips may mean the person is lacking romance.
  • Wide faces show innocence. Cartoon-ish faces show a need for attention.


Women tend to draw flowers more often than men. They can be indicative of a kind, tender person. On the other hand, pointy petals may show that the person is distrustful. When the flowers have nice rounded, perky petals, they reveal a positive attitude. Droopy or dying flowers can show that a person does not want to open up.

Geometric Shapes

Doodling squares, rectangles, triangles and other geometrical shapes is the trait of a logical person who may be a good planner.

Here are a few more specifics on certain shapes:

  • Boxes and cubes show a hard-working person.
  • Triangles are a sign of someone looking for answers, risk-takers, or looking to advance in their career or social life.
  • Triangles within other triangles show someone is feeling threatened.
  • Squares show a need for stability in their relationships.
  • Squares inside other squares or groups of squares show frustration.
  • Stars and diamonds show ambition.
  • Swirls and spirals are a sign of a lack of ambition.
  • Hearts show romanticism. Hearts inside of hearts show shyness.

Squiggles and Lines

Even squiggles and lines can mean something based on the type of line drawn.

Squiggly lines have soft lines. They show an exploration to get somewhere. Zigzag lines, with straighter points and angles, denote more aggression and impatience. The weight of the line can also show the mood of the person drawing it.

Just for Fun

Doodling also depends on your mood, your environment, and what’s on your mind. For example, I often take inspiration for my doodles from items around me, as I did with the doodle at right, which is my version of Bucky Badger, the University of Wisconsin’s mascot. I saw a picture of it and tried to copy it while I was listening in on a call recently.

What about you? What do you usually doodle and when? What do you think your doodles say about you?

To read more about doodles and what they mean, here are a few articles here, here, here, and here.

Book Review: Almost a Mother

I met Christy Wopat last year at a writer’s conference when she spoke about writing her memoir, Almost a Mother: Love, Loss, and Finding Your People When Your Baby Dies. Now, almost a year later, and just before Mother’s Day, I finished this book. It tells about the birth and loss of Wopat’s twins, Sophie and Aiden, who were born and died shortly after she gave birth to them just after 21 weeks.

The memoir talks openly about the way our society is unable to handle the loss of babies like these. She talks about how so many called her loss a miscarriage even though both babies were born and she held them in her arms.

Much like another book I recently reviewed, Everything Happens for a Reason she recounts the many inappropriate and awful things people said to her as they find out what happened.

People said nothing, offered cliches, or even in the case of one neighbor literally ran away. One relative even said something unimaginable, telling her, “They probably would have been serial killers.”

Finding Support

As she processes her loss she finds there are no resources for dealing with her grief and anger. She and her husband tried a loss support group but it wasn’t a good fit. Books were either placating or too clinical. A teacher, she had the babies mid-year and decided not to return to school until the next fall and was criticized for her decision. Someone even told her to “get over it.”

It wasn’t until she went online and found others like her writing honestly on their own blogs about similar losses that she started to heal. She had started writing her own feelings down after the births but eventually began her own blog under the title Almost a Mother.

It was with these bloggers that she found her way back to a place where she was more hopeful. The bloggers she met online became her real friends and were there for her through the pregnancies and births of another daughter and son.

Many of these bloggers have gone on to give birth again and Wopat and their children have met. Wopat makes clear, there is no one way to grieve or move on. It was interesting to hear the many ways these women have dealt with their losses.

Moving on from Loss

When I listened to Wopat speak last year she was clearly not a bitter person, though the writing of that time in her life is honest and raw. She was willing to say the things she was thinking at the time. They may not always be pretty, but I believe telling her story truthfully was absolutely critical, considering all the terrible things that were said to her and to other women like her. Hopefully, we can all learn to be more empathetic to the grief and loss of those around us.

Wopat was generous with the writers in the room and encouraged us to tell our own stories. Based on the positive feedback she received,
she said people need to hear them. I have never lost a baby and I am not a mother, but I believe that this book would be helpful to those facing similar losses. I believe first-hand stories from memoirs are one of the best ways to understand our own lives.

Win a Free Signed Copy of Almost a Mother

I am giving away my signed copy of Almost a Mother: Love, Lost & Finding Your People When Your Baby Dies.

Book Cover Almost a Mother by Christy Wopat

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Milwaukee’s History and Burial Trends of the Rich and Important at Forest Home Cemetery

A few weeks ago on my trip to Milwaukee, I visited the Forest Home Cemetery. It is a beautiful old cemetery and the final resting place of many of the most famous names of Milwaukee. It is a history lesson in Milwaukee and burial trends.

St. Paul’s Episcopal Church developed the cemetery for the city. There were six cemeteries in the city at the time, but some were limited to specific religions and some were city run and poorly run with shallow graves. The church solicited money from 50 prominent Milwaukeeans to raise the initial money for the land on which the cemetery would stand.

The first person was buried at the cemetery in 1850 and shows the changes in burial trends over the years. Before the Civil War, most grave markers were made of limestone and marble, while after they were made of granite. This was due to the industrial age and a new ability to cut the harder and more durable stone.

Beauty is a Sign of the Times

As Milwaukee grew in wealth and size following the war due to the industrial age, from 20,000 in 1850 to 285,000 in 1900, more significant monuments filled the cemetery. They were designed in the Egyptian-style popular at the time and took the shape of obelisks, sarcophaguses, and urns. They are beautiful monuments that showcase the desire of the living to produce the most stunning and largest memorial for their dead.

The cemetery is listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places and caters to tourists. In the summer they offer tours. People can also drive and walk around on their own as we did. The man in the office was very helpful and gave us a map and guide. The guide included lists of people buried in the cemetery in the following categories:

  • Black Leaders
  • Early Educators
  • Leading Physicians
  • Military Heroes
  • Milwaukee Mayors
  • Milwaukee’s Beer Barons
  • Pioneering Women
  • Powerful Industrialists
  • Wisconsin Governors

We used the map and guide to find some graves with names we knew, but mostly we drove around and looked at the beautiful monuments. Many of them reminded me of some that I saw in the famous Bonaventure Cemetery in Savanah, GA. I will share pictures of that historic cemetery another time.

Images Tell the Story

For now, here are a few pictures from Forest Home Cemetery. I’ve made notes in the captions if the grave marked a famous person. Most of the pictures I took were of graves that I found interesting or beautiful.


Before I Read the Book: Listening to Robin DiAngelo Speak About White Fragility

I recently went to see Robin DiAngelo speak. I first of heard of her last year when her book, White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism, was released.

At the time I heard about the book I was not only too afraid to speak about race. I was even too afraid to read the book. Now after seeing her, I’m ready to take the next step. I’m ready to read the book.

I know, having heard her speak, that this slow process I am taking is a privilege of my whiteness. We live in a racial hierarchy where as a white person, I am at the top of the pyramid of power. The racial status quo makes it comfortable for me to support racism 24/7.

Intentionally Uncomfortable

I know these words are shocking. The thing about DiAngelo is that she, a white woman, was able to deliver her message with humility, honesty, and even a few jokes. She warned the mostly white audience that we would feel uncomfortable with her message. But that was okay since we live our lives in comfort every day.

To reduce racism she told us we needed to be less white. And that didn’t mean to be more of whatever European race we were, Luxembourg- American in my case. She said we could not be less white by being more ethnic. The way to be less white and to oppose the racial hierarchy was to be more humble and practice more humility.

Redefining Racism

DiAngelo defines racism as a system of sanctioned discrimination against people of color, not individual events between individual. She displayed a slide with examples of this system of discrimination against African Americans in the United States that go far beyond slavery to many examples today from educational discrimination to historical omissions. This goes against the mainstream definition of a racist as an individual who consciously does not like people based on race and who is intentionally mean to them.

She says racism is not one event between two individuals, but the system we live in. As a white person raised in our society, I cannot help but have a racist worldview and racist biases that I am invested in. As a white person, the system of racism benefits me. It helps me stay comfortable and overcome any barriers I do face.

She asked the audience to think about the question, “What are some of the ways in which your race has shaped your life?”

She often gives people one minute to answer this question. People of color never have a problem answering this question or filling the time. White participants often cannot answer the question or fill the time, even though being white has played a part in every moment of our lives from where we were born to where we lived and went to school. She says when we cannot understand what it is to be white, we cannot understand what it is to not be white.

DiAngelo says this leads white people to become uncomfortable with the thought that they are racist. This leads to what she calls White Fragility, or the inability of white people to handle racial stress. It’s the feeling of “What can I do?” or “I’m doing my best.” She says this leads to people pushing back and feeling hurt and becoming outraged against the thought of racism.

Practice Humility and Learn

There is no easy answer, DiAngelo says, and you can’t solve racism by being nice to people of color. Her suggestion? Internalize a framework of humility. She says we need to acknowledge what we don’t know and try to learn. She recommended her website as a start. There are loads of resources there including a number of videos where you can hear DiAngelo speaking about her book and its topics and a Reading Guide to the book.

Her book is also a start, so I purchased it and will read it too. I hope to learn much more.

How Do You Tell the Story of a City?

This weekend I was part of a book release for the new The Milwaukee Anthology by Belt Publishing. The Milwaukee Anthology includes non-fiction stories about the Milwaukee-area. I’m excited to have an essay in the book about my hometown, Port Washington, which is titled “Living Like Kings.”

I grew up outside of Milwaukee in a place that was always described as “20 minutes north of Milwaukee.” Port Washing sits on Lake Michigan and my story talks about how salmon stocked in the Great Lakes in the 1960s changed communities like mine, the lake, and families in the region.

Salmon were put into the lake to hunt alewife, a type of fish which had nearly caused trout and whitefish to become extinct. Doing turned out to be boon to the city, which transformed into a place known for its marina and fishing. It was also a windfall to my family of 11.

My six brothers fished nearly every day. We stockpiled canned salmon in our root cellar and ate it in an endless loop of recipes. I have eaten so much salmon, I am pretty sure I am made of it. A line from my bio, “she ate so much salmon as a child, if you cut into her you would find flaky flesh that you could easily lift away with a salad fork” comes from this essay.

The essay follows our odyssey as my family and our community grows and salmon popularity and population rises and falls with economic and environmental changes. In honor of the essay, and my town, I’ve included some pictures below of Port Washington and my family during this time.

About The Milwaukee Anthology

The book is just the latest in Belt Publishing’s City Anthology series. They are a small, independent press founded in Cleveland in 2013 as a platform for new and influential voices from the Rust Belt and Midwest.

The Milwaukee Anthology includes the work of more than 50 contributors telling the stories of the communities and people of Milwaukee. The book is available at Belt Publishing’s website.