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Doodle Bubble Designs Blog

Thoughts from a third culture kid and small stationery business owner!

Doodle Bubble Designs offers hand illustrated greeting cards, paper goods, and stationery that are perfect for everyday encouragement, birthdays, and holidays! Sympathy greeting cards available as well.  You can also find funny cards such as "You're my Favorite Badass" and "Badassery." Creative and funny gift ideas for Valentine's Day, Mother's Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas.

All designs are handmade in Los Angeles, California.  

Dear Self

Ruth Sze

Much needed letter to ourselves:

Dear ________ (Self), 

I’m sorry that I taught you to sing the “I’m not good enough” song—and I left no room in your head to hum anything else, and no strength in your voice to sing anything else.  And I know you started to believe every word.

I’m sorry I didn’t let you take deep breaths of courage—but instead I let you breathe in the stale, old smells of your insecurities, shame, fears. And I know those only took you right back to places of failures and defeat.  

I’m sorry I covered your ears from kind and encouraging words, the compliments and praises—because I didn’t think you deserved them, and so I didn’t let them travel to the bruised and weary areas of your heart.  And I know you really needed them.

I’m sorry I often kept your eyes from seeing the good and the hope, in people, in the unexpected, in the circumstances—but often trained you to notice the darkness, the bitterness, the destruction. And I know everything started looking blurry and grim. 

I kept you just surviving, but I didn’t let you thrive. I kept you moving, but the direction was never forward. Today, and forward, I don’t want to hold you back anymore. 

I hope the muscles in every part of your being will re-learn the rhythms, the movements. I hope you’ll still sing, but sing “I am enough,” over and over again, until your voice knows it and your head holds it. I hope you’ll keep breathing, but breathe in the crisp scent of forgiveness, of triumph, of grace.  I hope you’ll listen to the loving, kind words when they are spoken to you, and let them travel deep and rest there. I hope you’ll see more than the darkness—because there is always, always more to see. 

Today, and forward, this is my hope for you. Will you carry it with you?




Ruth Sze

Pain--the more we stuff it in and not allow ourselves to feel, the more it can hurt and demand to be dealt with. We talk about being brave and strong and adventurous in this life, but when we take those risks, we also make ourselves vulnerable to misunderstandings, to getting hurt, to the uncontrollable. We can dedicate our time and our love and our energy, and never see the return on any of our investment. We can feel constantly burdened by the no longers and not yets, a million unanswered questions and requests, as we try to use every drop of strength left to feel hopeful.

Pain--have we felt it recently? Or have we covered it up with lots of "okays" and "fines," as we pressed forward to the next thing and the next and the next? 

Whatever is your pain, your struggle, the weight you are carrying now, I'm sorry and I don't understand all the whys and hows too. But thank you for choosing to exercise your heart and your limits, for sharing your life with others, even when the outcome and rewards may never be promised to you. Thank you for allowing yourself to FEEL. That is also a part of being brave and strong and courageous. The pain may feel like the realest thing right now, but it is just as real as the joy and the renewal and the healing that also comes. 


The Raw, Imperfect Parts of Us

Ruth Sze

You can find the print above in sizes 5x7 and 8x10  here !

You can find the print above in sizes 5x7 and 8x10 here!

I’m always hesitant to show my doodles and artwork to people because a part of me is always thinking, Who am I to think I’m an artist? I never went to art school or learned any techniques for creating, and sometimes I would imagine a real artist looking at my work and thinking what an amateur I am.  I have felt many times like an underdog, simply because I didn’t have fancy tools and developed skills to be in the artsy world (let alone build a business selling art). My voice in my head would scream those things at me, and I’ll take them in as truth.

The raw, imperfect parts of us--the parts that feel overwhelmingly not good enough, not refined enough--those are the parts that are scary to accept and share with others.  In our eyes, they aren’t beautiful and they don’t have worth and value. But just like doodles, I’m learning to think of us as unrefined, beautiful pieces that can still serve a purpose. We’ll constantly be evolving, but that doesn’t mean that today we have nothing of value to bring forth. If we only strived for perfection in our creations, we would never want to show anything.  If we only strived to be our perfect selves, we would never connect with others.  

I think showing the raw, imperfect parts of us is a process, one that often involves daily doses of courage and learning to love and accept ourselves. I think we start by learning to stand face-to-face with what’s in front of us. We learn to embrace what we already are and can do, instead of what we aren’t yet and what we don’t have.  We hold on to a hope for what we want to become, and accept that through the process we are still valuable and lovable enough to continue to be better.

So when I doodle and create lines and shapes and letters, I’m fully aware that in many ways my work is imperfect, incomplete, and lacking.  I know there are many different creators out there and many who may be more well-trained and refined in their technique. I know there’s always room to develop my creations more and improve them. I can easily take those things and many parts of my story, and feel sorry for myself--or I can not let the circumstances define the rest of the road forward, or keep me from ever reaching my potential. I know that through the process of creating and showing my work, I will improve--and I’ll also improve in the process of loving and trusting in my abilities and worth.

Though I’m still scared every day, I think every morning I'll have to learn to choose to be brave again. I don’t think insecurities and fears just wash away with praises or an accomplishments.  We have to learn to walk with the fears sometimes, and accomplish things even when the fears linger. We have to learn to focus more on what we could gift to others with what we create and who we are, instead of focusing on what we could lose and the embarrassment we could feel. There are days we’ll feel capable, and there are days we’ll feel incapable--but the question really is, are we willing? Are we willing to be brave again, to show the raw, imperfect parts of us and the process?

So I’m hoping to share more with you guys here, and I hope to create a space where we can encourage each other to start be more and strive less. Where we can rest and find joy about who we are today, and keep staying hopeful for what we are becoming tomorrow. So thanks for joining me here, through the raw, imperfect process. I hope it’ll encourage you to be braver to live out yours as well.

You can stay in touch with me by joining the e-mail list below, where I'll be sending free printables, coloring pages, and other goodies that I may never add to the shop.  I’ll also keep you updated when a blog post is up! 

Also, the print above can be found here in sizes 5x7 and 8x10!

Brain, Chill Out!

Ruth Sze

Hand illustrated doodle design Brain Chill Out

I have kept a journal since I was 10 years old--the year my family moved to Brazil from California. I wrote because it felt safe there. I could ramble, be sassy and silly, or ask the many questions that were swirling through my mind. There were many changes going on around me, and writing gave me a space to unleash my voice, when words wouldn’t come out quickly or I couldn’t articulate verbally. I felt safe from being judged, from people giving me a “who-let-this-girl-out-of-the-crazy-house” look, or just from people feeling sorry for me.

The difficult part about moving at the age of 10 is that instead of having the chance to dive deeper into hobbies, routines, and one community---I was adjusting to a new culture, navigating a new reality, sorting through new questions and concerns.  Not everyone in your new “home” understands the changes you’re going through, and the people in the place you’ve just left can’t comprehend what your new life is like.  It’s a weird disconnect from your past, but also from your current reality. You can be left feeling so alone in what you’re experiencing.

I think we go through those moments constantly through various stages of our lives—as circumstances arise, as we receive unexpected news, as life hands us some brutal cards.  We start to believe that nobody understands.  It feels like nobody is carrying the same weight of the craziness in our minds or feeling the same ache in our hearts. It feels like you’re the only player in the game, and apparently there’s no rulebook. 

But our brains seem to keep processing. We find new things to worry about, new questions we want answers to, new situations that make us feel lost.  We seem to create outrageous scenarios in our heads, or remember hurts that we thought we’d handled. We muster up the courage to be brave, and then we fill our minds with doubts and scary stuff.  We experience so much joy, and then imagine so much hurt at the loss of it.

Many times, we simply need to tell our brains to chill out

I don’t think it’s about quieting all the thoughts and voices in our brains. It’s about calming them, sorting through them, weeding out the lies and holding on to the truths. It’s about figuring out what’s worth fighting for and what isn’t.  There are things we can’t ignore, and there are places in our minds we should never visit again.  It’s about learning to know the difference between them.

I hope that before our brains go into overdrive, we engage in the best method for us to chill it out. Some of us may journal, some of us may bake. Some of us write songs, some might need to go climb a mountain. Whatever it is we do, I hope we find the ways to sort through the thoughts and frustrations, hopes and dreams of our crazy brains.  Because they matter--and when we learn to process and sort through them, embrace the truths and weed out the lies--we can start to heal.

We can also start to share about them, encourage others through them, and feel less alone in them.  Because not everyone may understand the details of our specific stories, but we've all experienced certain emotions and experiences that connects us as humans--moments of pain, loss, questions, doubts; moments of redemption, triumph, celebration, joy.

So let's remember to tell our brains sometimes that yes, we hear you--but seriously, it’s okay to chill out sometimes.



P.S--Thanks for joining me here! This is only my 3rd post--and if you liked it, you can check out my previous two posts on restlessness and part of why I started Doodle Bubble Designs. Hugs! :)


Bloom + Wander

Ruth Sze

When I moved to Brazil from CA at ten years old, I began diving into a culture that was different from my parents’ (Chinese) and from the culture I had begun to adapt to (American).  For the next seven years, I’d dip my toe into all three, feeling aspects of belonging and ownership, but fully immersing into none.

As I continued to move on to different stages of growing up, I was overcome by the reality that in all those cultures, I might never experience feeling at home.  My life became a frequent battle with restlessness. In the simplest ways, I could barely sit down through a movie without pausing to do five other things.  In helpful ways, it made me curious, willing to explore and pursue new things.  In the most painful ways, it made me hesitant of long-term commitments and unable to fully connect with many communities.

I doodled “Bloom Where You Are Planted” and “Wander” a few days from each other, without even realizing it.  It was a couple months after my wedding (about 5 months ago), a season of entering into all sorts of commitments and newness. I was figuring out my place in the changes, fighting off bouts of restlessness, and finding strength every day to embrace the choices. Though the concepts of “Bloom” and “Wander” can be seen as complete opposites that can’t live in harmony with each other, I found myself processing my desire and necessity for both.

I saw “Bloom” as a call to be grateful—to own the decisions I’ve made, grow where my feet have planted, invest in friendships worth blossoming.  It is a call to wholeheartedly invest in seasons of my life, and the work and people in them.  I saw “Wander” as a reminder to never forget my experiences in other places and with other people—to avoid getting consumed in my own little world, engulfed in my own needs and plans.  The call to wander reminds me of where my heart has been stretched, and to continue to live with arms stretched and palms open.

But when each is taken to its extremes, I’ve seen its harm as well. At its worst, blooming where I’m planted can turn into complacency, into fear.  It becomes the unwillingness to move beyond my comfort zone, to connect with the world outside my own.  Wandering at its worst is the lack of commitment and wholeheartedness.  It is impatience, it is excuses, it is complaining and griping.

Wherever our restlessness stems from, I know it’s powerful and real. I know the pain we can feel while holding still to see sights of blooming where we decided to plant. Some days, the blooming does not feel worth it, and we feel exhausted and stupid for trying. And some days the wandering doesn’t feel worth it—we want to rest, settle down, feel at home somewhere.  I know we get engulfed in the fears and unknowns of wandering, as we share more of who we are and let more people into our lives.

But when we start to see some of the harvest of those choices—they can be just as real and powerful.  Blooming might have challenged us to grow with someone, or hang in there through a rough, dark patch (of your own or with someone else). It allowed us to watch something we’ve poured into blossom. Wandering might have allowed us to cross paths with many people, exposing us to their realities, challenging us through their bravery and resilience.  We might have had a chance to shed layers and walls we’ve built, and experience new freedoms.

My hope is that we’re able to go full circle, through planting, blooming, wandering, more wandering, and then planting again.  That we won’t be resistant to the process of being brave and scared, rooted and growing, wiser but still curious. That’d we’d learn to take full ownership of each season as we live through it, but be courageous enough to dream again when it is time. I hope that when waves of restlessness wash over us, like waves of longing for home can wash over me, that we’ll lean in to the call to “Bloom” and “Wander,” in its balance and harmony.

P.S.-Thanks for reading! The "Bloom Where You Are Planted" and "Wander" prints are no longer for sale at the shop, but you can e-mail me to see if I have a few left in stock! E-mail: hello@doodlebubbledesigns.com

Heavy Things

Ruth Sze

October 2014--That's me in a hospital bed, doodling with my watercolors!

October 2014--That's me in a hospital bed, doodling with my watercolors!

I was in the hospital for a heavy thing last October. The ultrasounds and CT scan showed I had a big, solid mass--the size of a volleyball--in my abdomen.  It was pushing on my other organs and I needed it removed. When I entered the ER on a Monday for a CT scan, little did I know I’d be staying at the hospital until Saturday.

I had started feeling discomfort a few months before, but I didn’t think much about it. Like so many things, I thought my body was just changing.  I thought cramps were just a new symptom my body was experiencing as I got older. I felt discomfort and a little “off”—but it wasn’t any type of sharp, unbearable pain. Sometimes I think we get used to things--the weight of heavy or uncomfortable things, and we seem to find ways to manage.

When three tests indicated it was a "solid, complex mass,"  I was scheduled to have surgery two days after I went to the ER--on my birthday. I had just gotten engaged about two weeks prior to the hospitalization.  The celebration and planning quickly came to a halt, as I didn’t know what my next week would look like anymore!

Lying on a hospital bed, there's not much you can hide.  You actually don’t want to hide much, in case it might be more detrimental to your health and delay recovery. Your heart rate and temperature are constantly checked, your meals (or IVs) are being monitored, and even your bowel movements are logged (Oh joy!).  

You want to do the things that make you feel alive, free.  You don’t necessarily feel brave—but sometimes you feel you’ve been given just enough strength to go through each hour of each day.

When stressful times arise, I tend to need a lot of time to process.  I kind of get into a bubble--I doodle, or write about things I can’t quite understand.  It started when I was about ten, right after my family made a big move to Brazil from the U.S. (more on that later).  More than a decade later, it’s still true—take me through an unexpected hospitalization on the week of my birthday, and you’ll find me wanting to hide in a corner somewhere with some paper and pen.  

The photo above was taken by my then-fiancé (now husband) that week.  He still says it’s one of his favorites—because I was just in my element, seemingly so unaffected by what was around me as I water colored and doodled away.  I didn’t want my computer, I didn’t want to watch movies or TV—I wanted to create patterns and shapes, movement in a space where I was confined. I wanted to escape to my doodle bubble.

My time at the hospital ended with good news: the solid mass turned out to be a fluid-filled cyst, and the doctors were able to safely drain and remove it with surgery (YAYYY).  The tests showed nothing was malignant, and I was ready to go into recovery.  I was out of the hospital two days later.

I was no longer carrying that heavy thing physically—but I thought about that week a lot, even as I dove back into a whirlwind of events (visits, work, wedding planning, etc).   When I was there, I just wanted to be out of the hospital.  I thought about the people outside, going about their days, grabbing lunch, getting stuck in traffic. Their days continued, as things seemed to have paused for me.

I kept thinking about how I wish we could be somewhat as bare, vulnerable, and determined as we are when we are unexpectedly lying in a hospital bed.  Ready to let go of the heavy things we carry. Making promises in our heads that we are going to live better.  Vowing not to take for granted anymore the everyday things our bodies are able to do.  I thought about wanting to pour out as much as I could, if my life was going to change drastically or be cut shorter than I expected.  Pour out my gifts, however small, to my friends and family, my circle of influence.  Do as much of the things that make me feel alive.

As this October approaches, I’m jumping into my new adventure of sharing more of my creations with you through Doodle Bubble Designs. I want to shed more and more of the weight of my own fears and doubts, and not just get comfortable carrying the heavy things.  I want to pour out, instead of just constantly taking in. I want to keep creating, because I’ve been given another day, and the hands to make things.  

I hope the heavy things in our lives, whatever they are-- I hope we don’t get too comfortable with them.  I hope we don’t just carry them around with us, as they push against all that is healthy and good, that is trying to keep us alive.  I hope Doodle Bubble Designs reminds us to keep creating movement where we are, keep fighting to be bare, vulnerable, and determined to live, even when we’re not in a hospital bed.


From Ruth: Quick update since soft launch!

Yay, I finally put my work out there, and I didn’t die from a vulnerability hangover! I often get scared and let my doubts take over, but I’m hanging in there, and the encouragement has been very supportive.  I still have a lot to figure out at this point, as I balance designing with my other job, and figuring out the direction I’d like to go with DBD.

I juuuust created a Facebook business page, so please JOIN ME HERE for updates. What it’ll look like next is I’m planning to add a Custom Designs page (for custom invites, gifts) and a Free Printables page (with free to-do lists, coloring pages, etc that you can print at home!).  I’m also going to be creating a few more greeting card designs and art prints for the shop, and I can’t wait to share those with you!  So, if you’ve read this far, I’m guessing you are in this adventure with me (or you are married to me: Hi Taylor!). Thank you so, so much for your support. It means the world to me.