Monday, December 12, 2011

[Almost a Record]

Hey, I just noticed something... except for 2006, I've posted more entries this year than any other since I began the blog in 2000! If I didn't have Facebook and Twitter, I'd probably have double the entries (and half the readers, because I'd have to vent somewhere, and not everyone can handle that...).

Okay, nothing more to see here. I must get me some munchies so I can take something to relieve the pain so I can get some grading done.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

[Pain Persists, but Dogs Divert]

I had kind of a rough day today with my back. I started out on a good note--no headache, fairly clear mind, etc.; however, as soon as I walked out the door to go to church this morning (I'm going to one closer to home for now with a shorter worship service, because I'm not physically up to the longer service at my home church yet--especially not after a full week of teaching, grading, and other madness) and the sun slapped my eyes, my head started pounding and my back started aching.

I had hoped it was the start of my recovery from my wreck--but it ended up being more painful than the previous week, especially toward evening. My muscle relaxers do help, but they also break me out, so I end up taking Benadryl too. That means I can only get the relief at bedtime--which also explains why I feel better in the morning--it's still within the 12-hour relief window.

It is what it is. I got my portfolios graded last night, so I did have the freedom to rest and recline for the afternoon.

Instead, I took Sassy to Bass Pro. We both needed the exercise, and we both needed to get out. Fortunately, it didn't make me hurt worse, but while I can normally walk with Sassy at a slow pace for about three hours, we only made it a little over an hour. To my credit, even Sassy was tired, and I think it was because she can sense I'm injured, so she worked harder to keep her excitement in check, and if you know my Sassy, you know that's the ultimate challenge for her.

I have the best dog in the world. Seriously.

I did take some photos of the cutie today, since I dressed her up:

In these first few pictures, she was peeved at me for telling her to stay.

Epic pouting.

Perking up... and neckerchief straightened out


I'm posing here, Mom!

Yeah, I'm a ham.

"Do you wanna--"


More Baroos with my massive stacks of portfolios in the background
Good night, all. I start giving finals tomorrow at 9:15, so I best be off to bed.

Monday, December 05, 2011


It's one of those weeks, and intensely so, minus the lactose intolerance attack.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

[How the Girl Stayed Sane]

I don't know about you, but in my life, it seems as though one thing going wrong ends up having a domino effect. I don't know if you've noticed or not, but I haven't really posted here for awhile; there's a reason for that...

I was too busy trying to remain sane.

When last we left off in significant blogging, I was preparing for Pets and Pumpkins. I'd just finished a portrait I gave away in a drawing, and I had just found out my cousin had extremely aggressive terminal lung cancer. Within days of my finding this out, she passed away. That was at the end of October, and the dominoes just kept on going.

The first Saturday in November, my dad and I drove up to St. Louis for her memorial service and drove back home that same day. By the time we got up there, I had a full-blown migraine. It did not stop until, well, today.

As if that weren't enough, on Tuesday the 8th, the weather was not very ideal for driving--rainy, hazy, and cold.  On my way to work that morning, traffic was insane, and just as I was clearing the hill before turning into the left-turn lane to campus, I had to throw on my brakes. I stopped. The guy behind me did not. He slammed my left rear bumper, sending me ricocheting across the other eastbound lane to the right into the concrete bridge barrier on the other side. After seeing I was conscious and surprisingly clear-headed, the driver proceeded to scold me for changing lanes without using my blinker.

I hadn't changed lanes. I always pull into that left lane from the time I turn onto Chestnut, because I know I'll be making a left turn, and I don't like to change lanes without absolute necessity. Fortunately, a woman about two cars back saw what happened and backed my story. I ended up with whiplash, intensified migraines, and a mild concussion. As of this past week, I'm still getting sleep paralysis, even when I'm not sleeping on my back, which is normally how I'm sleeping when I experience it.

Outside of the pain, the dizziness, and missing two days of work (and two weeks, effectively, of my ability to do any real paperwork or painting), I'm alright. My poor little Chevy Aveo5 (Blueberry Shortcake), however, did not survive. Before even opening the hood, the car repairman estimated repairs to cost at least $10,256.

Needless to say, Blueberry Shortcake was totaled. Poor thing. Only two years old, just over 9,000 miles on it, and it's gone. Rest in peace, little hatchback.

The wheel was completely folded under. See the broken axle?

Miscellaneous structure parts

That little car served me well. There was no damage to the inside of my car, and the shell took the brunt of the force--the airbags had no need to deploy, and OnStar did help me immensely.

So, for the next two-ish weeks, my parents lived in my house and helped me shop for a new car. I put in a lot of hours browsing, comparing prices and models, researching my old car to estimate how much my insurance would give me, until I finally ended up getting the car I wanted to begin with two years ago, and even better, I ended up with a one-year-newer model.

Purty, ain't it? So many cool hidey-holes, and much more suitable for me with a big-ish dog. If I didn't have only three classes in the spring, I'd get some cute accessories (i.e. seat/steering wheel covers, some dog magnets, etc.) to personalize my new family member.

The ordeal will go on for some time yet, however. The other insurance company owes mine plenty of money, plus my $500 deductible with which I plan to install remote start on the new car. That could take awhile, and I have an appointment Thursday with a chiropractor to get my poor ole spine straightened back out. I'm still a mess... heck, I'm still up at 5:00 a.m. from getting off the pain meds and my allergy meds. I was going to go to church this morning, but at this point, sleep takes precedence, especially since there are only two weeks of classes left, and I still need to get caught up on grading. Yeesh.

So, if I've flaked and failed to call you (of whom promised I would call), now you know the story and why I can't remember to do diddly squat right now. Hang tight--I'll be calling you soon.

I did get a couple small things accomplished, though... My art business now has its own unique website:

...and I started a lactose-free diet blog:

Check 'em out and leave comments on both! Feel free to contribute to the latter--I'm new to being lactose intolerant, so a lot of the information is new to me.

I think I may finally manage to doze off now. Hasta luego.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

[Brushstrokes Posts Moved]

Have you heard? I've set up a separate site for my Brushstrokes by Niki business! As such, I've moved the posts over to that site to keep this one as my personal webjournal and writing blog. If you want to keep up with the art, subscribe to the RSS feed at!

See you there!

Don't worry... I'll be posting again soon. It's been a nutty month since finishing my last painting, and I haven't had a chance to do anything but get caught up on grading and sleep to heal from my car wreck. I'm still very headachy and backachy, which has put a temporary dent in my artwork-accomplishing.

Until next time, kiddos!

Friday, November 11, 2011

[Friends and Family Who Like to "Help": Why I Gripe]

Oh, wonderful, well-meaning family and friends, I want to communicate something to you that may shock or confuse you, but I have a feeling others you know feel the same way, so you might end up saving some relationships in your life.

Sometimes I like complain. I'm not asking for advice (most of the time, I really don't want any, and I'm in the wrong mood to tolerate advice). But why, you ask, do you complain for people to hear if you don't want someone to help you fix the problem? Ah, so you're the problem-solving type. You are appreciated, believe me, but your skills are not always needed.  Here are a few simple equations that might help you know when to drop your well-meaning suggestions in my Facebook comments, etc.:

Complaining = Venting = Therapeutic ranting = Getting some random thoughts off my chest = Updating the world on what kind of mood I'm in that day and why it's not a good day to do those things that peeve me

Complaining =/= "Tell me what I should do to fix this," implied
Complaining =/= "I hate life and am a complete pessimist!"
Complaining =/= "Nothing good ever happens!"

"___________" =/= How I feel at all times 

"What do you suggest?" = Invitation for your good advice
"Have you ever...?" = Invitation for you to share your similar experience that I might learn from your lessons learned
"Any tips?" = Invitation for tested advice
"Tell me what I should do to fix this" = Tell me what I should do to fix this
Whining about some bad luck = My bad luck is more interesting of an update today that the nice but mundane good things that happened
"Men are jerks!" = I've been insulted or hurt by some guy and I'm in a bad mood, but I don't really hate men, and I don't want to hear how the right guy will come along when I'm not looking for him or some other cliche.

Thank you for listening. I know you mean well, and I appreciate the thought, but if I'm not asking for advice, I'm not looking for it, and chances are I'm not in the mood to hear it anyway. I'm more likely to take it when I'm asking for it explicitly.

And I bet I'm not the only one. ;)

[Stay Tuned]

I was in a car wreck Tuesday morning. No, I was not seriously injured, though I do have some physical issues to contend with. I'm holding off on writing the story here until it's all settled and I'm back in a car of my own. Once that happens, you'll get to read it all.

Sunday, November 06, 2011

[Buy a Painting and Do Some Good]

ANNOUNCING: For all paintings $150 and higher ordered and paid for by May 31 (the day before Relay for Life), Brushstrokes by Niki will donate $10 to the American Cancer Society through my Relay for Life fundraising account. Let's work together to increase the survival rate of anyone diagnosed with any cancer to 100%. No more untimely farewells for cancer.

*Disclaimer: I generally try to complete all paintings within one month, but please understand that a large number of requests (which I welcome) may push the waiting period back somewhat. Please do not let this deter you from taking advantage of this opportunity.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

[Kick Cancer's Ass]

It's been awhile since I've written, I know. I've been focusing on teaching and painting, mostly, but I've also been processing some painful news. Saturday, I lost another loved one to cancer, my cousin Patty. The list keeps on growing, and so does my hatred of cancer and carcinogens (cigarettes, etc.).

So, this June, I'm going to stop saying, "I'm gonna do that one of these years," and I'm joining Relay for Life. It feels a little feeble on my end, but I'm no scientist, so I can't find the cures myself. I can't do much right now to make preventative screenings and treatment available to everyone, regardless of life circumstance, when I can't even afford screenings myself (though if my application for the federal pre-existing condition insurance option goes through, which it should, I'll finally have coverage again and be able to get the screenings for which I'm years overdue). But I can help raise awareness, and I can help raise support. Every little bit may make a difference.

This is for the survivors (you know who you are!) and for the ones whose battle is over, whether it was the cancer itself or the effects the cancer left that finally had the upper hand:

In memory:
My mom, Michelle Cox Miniea (spinal cord cancer), age 26
My cousin, Patty Jacobs Frazer (lung cancer)
My aunt and Patty's mother, Carolyn Cox Jacobs (lung cancer)
My cousin, Stephanie Miller (brain tumor) age 10
My aunt, Ann Miller Allen
My grandmother, Octavo Whitley Miller (colon cancer)
Our good friend Dave Davis
Our good friend Bob Waggoner

The list in reality is much longer than this, and would be exponentially larger still were I to include those currently battling cancer and those who've beaten it, but one can only deal with so many memories in one day.

Will you help me kick cancer's flea-bitten, murderous ass?

Thursday, October 27, 2011

[Of Love and a Big Red Bird Redact]


Originally written in 2005:

[Of Love and a Big Red Bird]

You only think you’ve got me figured out.  At five feet tall and one hundred and mumble-mumble pounds, on the exterior, I am a calm, shy individual.  Those who do actually know me best realize that I’m also overdramatic, a cut-up, and very passionate about too many things to have any hope of leading a sane, peaceful life.  I am a reader, a writer, a musician, an artist, a disciple, a friend... a lot of things, really.  One thing you will be able to tell is that I am certainly not an athlete.  I’m a short, round ball of curves and can barely lift the laptop I’m writing on now (to my credit, though, it’s an unusually heavy computer).  Therefore, logic will probably lead you to believe that the last thing in the world that would interest me is sports.  But, I’m afraid your sense of logic has failed you this time.  What happens when I put on my favorite sweatshirt, a slightly faded St. Louis Blues sweatshirt?  While I may not be able to run more than a block without utterly collapsing of oxygen deprivation, and while the only thing I seem to be able to catch is a big, fat cold, I possess an unquenchably deep appreciation for home-city professional sports—especially for the St. Louis Cardinals.            

Two years ago, when my preciousssssss (Ahem.  Sorry, I started to channel Gollum for a moment there) team won the pre-World-Series play-offs in the final game, I screamed and danced giddily in spastic circles along with half of the residents of Campbell Apartments. I’m sure I was hearing roars of delight coming from the nearest dorms, about a quarter mile away.  My roommate, who did not exactly share my love for a little white ball with red stitching, came home during the celebration.  While she didn’t put it into words, her facial expression clearly demonstrated her conviction that I had finally snapped.  I didn’t care though.  I was sure my heart would burst with delight at the culmination of that game’s adrenaline!  Throughout the apartment complex, cheers carried on through half the night. Somehow, that game united us St. Louis area baseball fans in a way that the often territorial burgs of the metropolis come nowhere near. 
Much of the love I have for this team clearly stems from home city loyalty.  The first eight years of my life, being the developmental years, fully instilled a deep love for all things Arch-related.  I may not have lived in St. Louis for the past fourteen years, but nevertheless, I steadfastly stand firm in the conviction that St. Louis is my home.  The joy I felt the night my team claimed victory, however, goes beyond mere hometown loyalty or even pure love of the game of baseball.  But the most genuine love I possess for my dear Cardinals is rooted in a woman only seventeen years older than me.  This team links my mother and me together.          

At nineteen years old, with a two-year-old daughter in tow and a husband who was quite frankly not ready to be a husband, my mother was diagnosed with cancer of the spinal cord.  Given six months to live, she slowly lost the use of her limbs, one by one.  To top it all off, as she gradually came to completely rely on a wheelchair to move until she finally became a full-fledged quadriplegic, [Section removed out of respect for repaired relationships], she found herself a single mom.        

I have a dim memory, from around two years of age, helping her put on a pair of shorts.  For many years, I believed it had been a dream, but as I learned more about her decline, I realize that it was a memory.  I had actually stood by her bed, holding her shorts out, as she strained to lift her legs, one-by-one, and slip them into a pair of shorts.  The mere act of getting dressed exhausted her.  Soon, steroids bloated her small frame up to a whopping 220 pounds.  The stunningly beautiful young woman who had gone through life with an energy and stamina to be reckoned with was now blown up 100 pounds heavier and confined to a wheelchair and a hospital bed for the rest of her life, learning to find solace in more inactive interests, such as reading those Danielle Steele books, and watching soap operas and televised sports.       

Anyone who had known her before cancer ravaged her young body could no longer recognize the post-cancer Michelle.
She became a living miracle, a true survivor, as she outlived her six-month prognosis by six and a half years.  One day, my grandfather (who would eventually adopt me and become “Dad”) asked her where something was in her room.  Without thinking, she jerked her thumb toward the dresser behind her, her hand actually supported with her entire arm, and told him, “Over there.”  Father and daughter stared at one another in shock as the realization set in.  For the first time in almost three years, she had moved a limb!  Within weeks, with the aid of specialized silverware, she was feeding herself again.  For a formerly independent woman now in her early twenties, this was a step toward living a full life again.       

Lying in that bed, she never missed a game.  She cheered with all her might for her Cardinals and her hockey Blues team, whether the games were aired via television or KMOX radio waves.  One year, I believe it was for her birthday, Dad, Mom (my grandparents who had adopted my by this point), and I decided to honor her love of sports.  After an extensive search for an authentic memorabilia dealer, we bought her about a hundred dollars' worth of St. Louis Blues memorabilia, including matching mother and daughter headbands with a typically 90s and ridiculously gaudy, bright blue ribbon placed strategically to the side, glittered with musical note gold confetti.       

Because my mother was so young when she became sick, the Make-A-Wish foundation made an exception for her age, and granted her heartfelt wish: they would escort her and her family (Mom, Dad, and I) to Busch Stadium every year and treat us to a home game on or around her July 6th birthday.  For a week before her birthday, the excitement in our house escalated.  Then, for about three years running, two members from this generous organization came rumbling up our street each year in a van custom-made for a wheelchair.  Mom or Dad would wheel her out to the curb where, as her face glowed with an ecstatic smile, the wheelchair lift pulled her into the van.  After a half hour (or longer, depending on St. Louis traffic), Busch Stadium slowly came into view, and we piled out of the van, using the lift to get her out.  Her face always nearly cracked as she beamed with excitement.  Then we would wheel into stadium, inhaling the slightly stale aromas of hotdogs, popcorn, and Anheiser Busch beer.        

One year, we had the honor of meeting one of the munchkins from The Wizard of Oz movie.  Another year (or perhaps the same one), Redbird posed in a picture with us, and we got autographs from such classic Cardinal players as Vince Coleman.  I don’t honestly remember if the Cards won those years.  I don’t think it mattered, honestly.  She was happy to be there, with her team, with her life, and with us, her family.

We moved away from St. Louis when I was around eight years old, but my heart remained.  Neither of us, my mother nor I, ceased to cheer for our teams.  Barely a year after the move, though she had begun to regain feeling in her legs, she lost the battle for life.  A post-surgery infection rapidly spread into her lungs, and her body, worn out from the effort to survive, gave up.  On April 14, 1993, she held Mom and Dad’s hand and smiled peacefully when her Savior came to take her home, to give her rest.       

Now that she’s gone, I’ve inherited her big Blues sweatshirt; I curl up in that sweater when missing her becomes too intense.  Scarcely a month goes by that I am not overcome with a wave of grief.  She more was than a mother, she was my dearest friend.  Because I was only nine years old when she died, time has faded most of my memories.  There are days I can barely recall the gentle voice that so often said, “Niki-Honey” with incomparable affection.  But somehow, I stroke the arms of that big blue sweatshirt, the stiff fabric texture (that has now grown soft through the years) still vividly reminds me of hugging her again.       

I would give almost anything to go back to one of those days I had with her and relive it.  Even though I have few tangible memories left of those birthday games, I’ll never forget what we shared or the joy on her face.  When the stadium was torn down in 2005, a piece of my heart went with it.  The day the Cards made it to the World Series, I cheered at the top of my lungs.  I think I even cried.  Then, as the chaos subsided, I stepped outside and looked up at the stars.       

The tears streamed down my face as I laughed and cried all at once.        

“They did it, Mom... They won for you.”

Sunday, October 23, 2011

[Winning! Sorry, Charlie...]

Here's the painting I gave away in a prize drawing at Pets and Pumpkins:

Sassy, Acrylics on Stretched Canvas, 16x20", completed 10/21/11
I'm wiped out. It was fantabulous day weather-wise, and Sassy was unusually well-behaved for most of the day. Still, it was a long one, and I imagine I'll be hitting the hay before long.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

[Spaghetti the Puppy - Day 2]

Painting info moved to

Plus, Sassy's self-pity! She's got another earache--other ear this time, and to try to keep her from shaking the meds out, I wrapped her ears up for awhile.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

[Hodgepodge of Thoughts, Reactions, and Observations]

I've seen two of the three new shows I intended to check out this fall, and so far, they're grandslams in my book.

2 Broke Girls? Surprisingly entertaining, and managed to avoid overdoing sitcomy stereotypes. Oh, some of the characters are stereotypical, at least when you first meet them, but as you get to know their characters (particularly the characters for whom the show is named), they really manage to transcend the "spoiled rich girl gone broke (ala The Simple Life) or trying to understand how the little people live" (she's not as clueless as she seems) and the "streetwise girl with a heart of gold" (usually the character with whom you want to sympathize, but she's actually got few issues to overcome). Definitely promising.

New Girl, though, that one's moved straight to the top of my must-see list. She so dorky, so unabashedly nerdy, so awkward... I feel like I'm seeing what my life would be like if I were a little more traditionally attractive. Maybe. It may just be Elizabeth Bennet syndrome. Either way, though, I felt like Jess and I were soul sisters.
Schmidt: I'll be, like, your guide.
Jessica Day: Like Gandalf... through Middle Earth?
Schmidt: Probably not like... okay... first off, let's take the Lord of the Rings references and put them in a deep, dark cave where no one's going to find them.
Jessica Day: Except Sméagol...
[whispers] He lives in a cave.
Awesome. And I've decided that creepy guy from Walmart last week needs to donate to the Douche Jar. Fo' sho.

Eureka, don't go! SyFy, you officially suck for not renewing my favorite American dramedy on cable. Get rid of shows like Eureka, but keep wrestling? On a channel, badly-spelled but still, called SciFi?? C'mon. Let ESPN or Spike have shows like that. There are more of us geeks out there than you realize who have only become aware of some of these gems in their last seasons! That cliffhanger, though? I have to wait 8-10 months to find out what happens?!

Seriously, people, it's my love of an escapist story--a lifelong love affair--that led me down the English major road and all its unemployable (full-time, anyway) glory. I couldn't care less whether a book is canon or not; I just love a good story that employs clever dialogue, wit, and wordplay. It's also the root of my obsessions with:
  • Lord of the Rings
  • Gilmore Girls
  • Eureka
  • Warehouse 13
  • pretty much any classic screwball comedy
  • The Eyre Affair
  • Wee Free Men
  • Jane Austen
  • Jane Eyre
  • Doctor Who
  • The Batman tv series from the 1960s (cheesy, but on purpose and very tongue-in-cheek)
  • British humor in general
  • and more
In other words, it's the stuff that's enjoyable just based on the plots but become downright fascinating and hilarious when you've got the knowledge, education, and awareness to pick up on the depth added through references, nerd-in-on-the-joke one-liners, etc.

So look out, World! Any remaining hesitation to reveal the nerd-chic chick within that survived graduating from "The Harvard of the Midwest" *chuckle* is gone now. I shall henceforth let the dork shine like an honor instead of shame, and if you can't handle that or find it mockable, then good riddance! I'm me, and I feel good about it.


[My First Art Show--and My 500th Blog Post!]

For those of you who've been wondering when and and where I'll be showing my art, I have a booth on Saturday at Dog Fest. Think of it as my first art show. ;) I really hope to see you (and your dog[s]) there if you're in or near Springfield! Here's the flyer with more information:

I'm pretty excited about it, because as any of you who are artists know, the photograph of a painting does not show the full use of color and details that a live viewing reveals. I'm really hoping this creates an interest in my work and opens up a few new doors. Feel free to help me spread the word!

Friday, September 16, 2011

[My Sexy New Desk]

I did end up getting a new desk, but rather than replacing the old one, I placed the new one so I almost have an L-shaped corner desk (the corner holds the printer and computer tower). Plus, I now have room to stretch my legs under my desk when I'm typing and writing! Whoo-hoo!

I've taken the plastic cover off the old desk, touched up the paint where it came off from it, and once it dries, I'll use it for a writing desk and for business files and boxes (I'll post a pic tomorrow so you can see the whole thing complete).

Here it is, though... my personal style in a nutshell, minus the lack of colors--contemporary, whimsical, and clean lines. Love it!

Oh, and a new mousepad--made from recycled materials, too!

[Like a Thief in the Night]

This morning, as I sit here at the desk checking emails, blogs, and headlines, I'm eating a bowl of Cinnamon Chex (which, to my happy surprise, tastes like Cinnamon Toast Crunch). As I get close to the bottom of the bowl, I wonder to myself if Sassy will hear the spoon scrape the bottom and run in to lick the last bits of taste left, or if I'll have to call her. Just as I'm putting the last bite into my mouth, I start to turn around toward the doo--

Whoa! (I rub my head after hitting in on the ceiling jumping so high in shock) She's been in here for awhile--staring intensely at my back, her nose about three inches from my right hip, eyes fully dilated in full focus on my cereal bowl. How long has she been sitting there? She wasn't there when I started eating! How did she manage to escape my peripheral vision, since the doorway is still just within my indirect view?

I'm starting to think we named her wrong. Perhaps a better name for her would be...


Shadow? Shade?

Thing That Goes Bump in the Night?



Rosie Cotton? (What? Hobbits are known for being able to move silently when they do not wish to be seen... Yes, I know, that makes me a geek, and yes, I'm okay with that.)

Thursday, September 15, 2011

[Intentional Hiatus This Week]

I'm still here, thinking, creating, and writing, but I've intentionally refrained from blogging this week. It's been one of those weeks for a number of reasons (including finding out about a couple of recent deaths, another IBS attack that kept me home from work Monday, Sassy snagging her dew claw (again), migraines every day this week, some creepy dude propositioning me at WalMart on Tuesday, my doctor claiming he couldn't write a letter of pre-existing conditions for me to get on state insurance because I haven't been to see him (or any other still-locally-practicing doctor) since 2009, moving my lamp on my desk today and watching it peel off some of the new paint, PMDD mood swings, etc.), and I knew if I wrote anything, it would read as uber-fatalistic and depressed. 

So relax... I'm still around, still blogging--just refraining from posting anything but this explanation until I can avoid sounding too hysterical or emotional. :)

Sunday, September 11, 2011

[DIY Done]

Well, here it is, step by step, including the final product at the end of the post, in all its glory (handles chosen by availability in the end). Let me know what you think! Did I succeed in modernizing my desk, or did I desecrate an antique? Me, personally, I'm delighted with it. By the way, the color is mostly accurate in the second-to-last photo.

Friday, September 09, 2011

[DIY Decision]

After browsing thrift stores and vintage furniture shops and seeing a number of piece shaped a bit like mine but painted a bright color, I opted to paint my desk. I'm pretty sure it's going to look H-A-W-T, judging by the outcome of my desk drawers (keep in mind I took this photo after dark with artificial lighting, so the color is a smidge off):

They match my front door. ;)

So, I've got two choices left to make, preferably by tomorrow evening, and I want your feedback:

First, painting the leather inserts on the desktop: white, yellow (my walls), or green (like the background of my bulletin board?

Second, which of the following pulls should I replace my current ornate ones with? I like all four equally, and compared to others I liked, the price is right:

It may come down to in-store availability, but what's your first choice?  Let me know in the comments!