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Saturday, July 22, 2017

"Sailor"

I've always thought that if I had to serve in the military, I'd choose the Coast Guard.  I could sail around on Lake Erie, pick up drunks who fall out of their boats, and party with Canadians.  I found out they could send you to some other part of the US coastline, and I thought, that's fine.  I could go as far as Chicago or Buffalo.  I abandoned all thoughts of the Coast Guard when I found out they could send you to the Gulf of Mexico or something.  No hablo Espanol, so I doubt I'd enjoy their parties.

There were times when I was a kid that I spent quite a bit of time fantasizing myself to Canada.  As the crow flies, I was only about 5 miles from the lake.  As a fish swims, it's considerably farther down the river, but I could get there eventually.  I sent the Canadians messages in bottles, but the Canadians never called.  I stole the bottles.  The summer people next door had a storage area of such useless junk, and I didn't think they'd miss the bottles.  Maybe the Canadians could sense my theft and their silence is a just karma?

As I pause to consider whether to talk about message bottles or theft, I remember the vividness of a memory that popped into my mind earlier this week.  Jackie, Sis2's friend, stepped on broken glass in the river.  Her foot was sliced very badly, and she did it on the wrong side of the river, downstream of civilization.  My dad picked her up and carried her across the algae-slippery shale riverbed through the rapids, and then all the way home with Jackie weeping blood the entire time.

After they left, I studied the broken glass in the water.  The clear glass blended with the clear water.  Dancing reflections of current camouflaged the shining reflections of the glass.  It was beautiful and dangerous.  I picked it up and threw it into the woods in a place where no one would step on it again.  My parents made a new rule that we had to wear shoes in the river after that, a rule I greatly resented, seldom followed, and probably explains why I lost so many shoes.

Why do I remember this so clearly?  And why did this moment pop into my mind so vividly this week?

I tracked my associated memories for a connection.  Older boys drank beer and threw their bottles across the river, laughing at the shattering sound, never considering a child's sliced foot.  Perhaps their thoughtless, selfish, stupid behavior was stirred in my memory as I see the same kind of behavior in politicians or some people I know?  Maybe I feel guilt at all those messages to Canadians sent in stolen glass bottles?  Maybe there's a danger I can't see through glittering reflections?

Six years ago, I wrote another post about sending negative thoughts down the river in paper boats.  You can see it here.  Creating that post seems as clear in my mind as Jackie's bleeding foot.  I think everything we've experienced is still in our heads somewhere, and sometimes I wonder why.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

"Ice Cream"

It was a beautiful summer day -- deep blue sky, tall forest looming overhead, screaming, laughing Girl Scouts running in circles, and the "Shooush!" of rock salt getting thrown off the back end of a pick up truck.  I was standing at the wrong place at the wrong time, and had to help lug the rock salt to the designated area.  Rock salt is heavy.  More things had to be moved.  I didn't understand what any of it was.  I just cooperated while the other girls continued to happily run around in circles.

Wooden buckets were packed with rock salt and ice.  Cream and sugar were poured into a metal cylinder.  Vanilla in one cylinder, chocolate in another.  A metal collar (wo)manhandled across the top of the contraption, and a handle banged onto one side.  "We're going to make ice cream!" the troop leader exclaimed.  Great!  I love ice cream!

Girl were called from play to sit on top of the buckets, and more girls were assigned to turn the handles.  Excellent.  Girl Scouts are great at teamwork.  I turned the handle for a few minutes.  "Is it ready now?"  No, it was not.  It became a relay effort of handle turning; I'm pretty sure we turned the handles for at least 4 hours.  Maybe 5?  Time is different when you're a child.  What I know is that it took forever.

It was the best ice cream of my life.  Specks of vanilla were peppered throughout.  It was so sweet, so creamy, so hard-won, but with a troop of girls, it was quickly gone.

We packed the buckets up again, churned the buckets again, ate strawberry ice cream with super red, super sweet berries plastered throughout.  I don't know what was in the other bucket.  Who would eat another flavor when you can have strawberries?  Forget what I said about the vanilla being the best ice cream I've ever had.  That strawberry ice cream was the best.

Of course, we did it again.  I was starting to suspect that the troop leader's plan was to work us all to exhaustion.  I think she succeeded.  I quit eating ice cream when the choice became pineapple.

Night fell in the forest.  Mosquitoes came out.  We built the essential bonfire and sang campfire songs.  It was a wonderfully perfect day.

By coincidence, I was thinking about ice cream when I went to the grocery store.  I wanted to buy Ben and Jerry's Cherry Garcia.  Full test -- don't insult ice cream with low fat, or try to pull one over on me with yogurt disguised as ice cream.  $5.79?!!!  You're kidding me, right?!!!  I am not going to pay that much for a tiny tub of ice cream.

But now, the word for the week is "ice cream", and I don't have any.  It just feels so wrong.  I may have to go to the store again.  Well, I know I have to go back.  This was my shopping list:  dog food, soap.  Can you guess which 2 items I neglected to get when I spent $120+ at the store today?  I think my revised shopping list is now dog food, soap, and ice cream.

BTW, I fussed around with this art more than you'd know by looking at it because in the end, I deleted most of what I'd done.  Sometimes that has to happen.  I decided I just felt like having a happy bookmark :)

Saturday, July 8, 2017

"Portrait"

I gave my first presidential vote to Jimmy Carter in 1980.  I also nullified my first vote by guilting my boyfriend to the polls where he voted for Reagan.  Bf didn't know much about either candidate, or any of the issues, he just thought Reagan seemed friendlier.  I learned a lot about how some people vote.

I know, I know, lots of people still lionize Reagan.  I fundamentally disagreed with him about environment concerns and the "Trickle Down Theory", but I can accept that people are allowed to disagree with me.  (Though, of course, the world will run better once everyone starts coming around to my point of view!)  We can reasonably criticize any of the US presidents.  They've all had flaws.

I recently had a conversation with a friend who lives in the DC political bubble, a guy who voted for Reagan twice.  He intelligently pointed out a slew of Carter's presidential flaws.  Okay, that's fair.  Carter made political mistakes.  He was also intelligent and far-sighted.  He put solar panels on the White House.  Think about how much farther we'd be along if he could've been better able to win people to addressing climate issues back then.

Years later, when Jimmy Carter was discovered to be quietly working on Habitat for Humanity homes, some started rethinking their opinions of him.  They see he's motivated to help people.  He's thoughtful and intelligent.

I think the political errors Carter made while in office came from a fundamental misunderstanding of the motivations of influential movers and shakers.  He is a decent human being who wants the best for the people in his country.  That doesn't motivate everybody.  I've had a terrible time trying to get my mind around this.  Not the part of Carter's motivations, the part about how there are others, many others, who don't give a damn about their country or about anybody but themselves.

I used to take drives with a pal of mine.  We drove through the parks and past pretty mansions.  We enjoyed each other's company and the beauty around us.  I didn't consider that someone else could take exactly the same drive and bemoan wasted land in the park, feel anger about maintenance taxes, and envy at the pretty houses.  A person like that can be judgmental towards my impractical aesthetics while I can be just as judgmental about their callous disregard for nature and craftsmanship... and never the twain shall meet.

Park levies pass easily in Greater Cleveland.  It isn't that everyone appreciates trees.  It's that some people appreciate trees, and the other people appreciate the fact that Cleveland's parks increase their property values.  Win/win... except some people still look at parks and fantasize about turning those trees into saleable lumber and an apartment complex.

I'm never going to agree with those people.  I'm never going to agree with someone like Paul Ryan who fantasized about getting rid of others' health care while he was still a student.  What's wrong with someone like that?

I wish our current president was more like Jimmy Carter.

Friday, June 30, 2017

"Love"

Oh geez, now I've got The Beatles "All You Need Is Love" stuck in my mind due to this week's IF prompt.  You can sing with me here.  This is all happy, though I'll admit my thoughts on love have been deeper this week as I took quite a bit of time deconstructing my past relationships to find where I own responsibility in the resulting messes -- though in a way, maybe there's some happiness to be found in that too?

I know, some of you found your one true love in kindergarten, and you're still happily married with loving, perfect children.  Quite a few of the rest of us haven't been as fortunate, and many of us think that the break-ups were all the fault of our exes -- even though it's never all one person's fault.  It doesn't matter if your ex was a serial killer megalomaniac.  You have to own some of it, even if your part is falling for that person in the first place.

This concept makes some people sputter in indignation.  He's a drunk!  She ruined us with credit card debt!  Whatever.  Those are their problems.  Hopefully, they're out of your life now.  What part did you play in it?

I asked a date this question, and he couldn't answer.  (Dating tip: don't spend a first date cataloging your ex's faults to a new prospect.)  This guy didn't get a second date.  Why go out with someone who is still hung up on his ex and doomed to repeat his mistakes?

Owning responsibility isn't the same punishing yourself.  For instance, one of the things I discovered in my own self-inquiry is that my most painful relationships exhibited early signs to get out, but I didn't move on when it could've been so much easier.  What's the point of blaming myself for that?  It's over and done.  Yet, I can use this realization to help in the future.  If the warning signs are there, listen.

Some of my traits that I'd like to think of as positive, like patience and optimism, burned me in relationships.  Should I be less patient and optimistic?  No.  Just find someone who doesn't abuse those traits with empty promises.  Be aware when the promises are empty.  Set boundaries, goals, and measure progress.  Of course it's all very easy when it's hormone/pheromone-free hypotheticals, but life's a journey.  If it were easy, we'd all be living happily ever after.

I told a friend that I'm happy by myself and don't know if I feel like getting involved again since men are all a pain in the ass anyway.  He agreed, adding women are all a pain in the ass too.  Clinked glasses and laughter.  Time out for local boy Eric Carmen here while smirking at their hairdos.

Wildlife Update: The damned groundhog sat on my deck, bold as brass while I sent it mental death rays, which were somewhat diminished by my observation it's actually pretty cute.  But no!  Death to groundhogs!  I told my dog to get it.  She looked at me like, "Are you crazy?  That thing is as big as I am!"  I said, "You can take it!" and dog obediently raced to the deck and chased it away.  I gave her lots of praise.  Later that day, I saw a skunk.  Happy puppy raced into the back yard "Woo hoo hoo!!!"  "NOOooooooo!!! Not the black and white kitty!!!!"  Thankfully, she wasn't sprayed, but clearly the wildlife is winning the war.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

"Sprout"

I wrote an apt post about "sprout", mostly about my bloody fantasies about a groundhog who is decimating my garden, but my heart just isn't in it.  Well, my heart is definitely into dead groundhog fantasies, but the groundhog will probably continue to live despite my frustrations.  I'm also waging a war against maple tree sprouts, but I guess that's as bad as talking about groundhogs.  I am an excellent farmer of maples, nightshade, coltsfoot, dandelions, etc., but maybe not so great at actually achieving vegetables.  Grrr.

I'll talk about going to a nursing home instead.  Right up there with hospitals and funeral homes, nursing homes prick unpleasant memories, and I avoid them -- which makes it all the more remarkable that I had a good time at one this weekend.

My 86-year-old friend has been struggling to live independently, and breaking her arm put an end to her negotiations on the subject.  Technically she's in rehab right now, but it seems unlikely she's going back to her condo once her arm is healed.  Yes, I know, this all sounds as bad as dead groundhog fantasies, but give me a moment to explain.

First, it was an absolutely glorious day, when snow-haters decide to move back to Ohio because it's so balmy and beautiful.  Poofy clouds in a bright blue sky, birds singing, and good will towards all.  I alleviated some of my nursing home dread by going with another friend who spilled a steady stream of political damnations to which I could nod and agree while laughing at her colorful observations.

We wound our way through endless halls of the pleasantly lit nursing home, smiling at the room full of parrots and tanks of fish.  This is a Jewish home (which is odd since my interred friend is ultra-Catholic), and I was interested in all of the Jewish art adorning the walls.  There were some old testament themes, some men's portraits showed yarmulkes, but mostly it was just art.  Some of it good, some not, but it's always good to see real art.  Somehow I missed the large sign that I wasn't allowed to bring in food or drink, and got chided for my probably-not-kosher cup of iced tea.

We finally found Helen, who asked about my recent writing, and who definitely wants mentioned in my pending book.  (I assured her that of course she's included!)  We chatted and laughed, commiserated with her injury and her inadequate lunch, then rolled her down a million hallways flanked with windows, gardens, and sculptures for a Judy Garland concert.  I learned I apparently know all of Judy Garland's songs and trivia.

The singer encouraged her audience to sing along.  Some of the old folks are alert and able.  One woman had on a colorful, vintage hat decorated with flowers, and I smiled at her chair dancing to the music.  One man looked about a breath away from coma -- but he faintly sang the songs too.  Part of me couldn't help but notice that the singer didn't hit every note exactly right, but as she made her wide, welcoming, inclusive gestures to the old people, she won me over.  There must be a special place in heaven for nursing home singers.  Well, if Jewish people have heaven?  (Quick google search was inconclusive.)

I left the nursing home happy.  That's a first.  I hope never have to live in such a facility, but may all the people who do need a home like this be serenaded with Judy Garland songs, and blessings to those who make old people's lives better.

And a P.S. regarding wildlife, a robin broke into my house and pooped purple mulberry juice on the linens I just washed yesterday.  I think I'm losing the battle with wildlife!

Sunday, June 18, 2017

"Three"

The thing I like about Illustration Friday's words for the week is that they prompt me to think about things in ways I wouldn't bother thinking about otherwise.  Random thoughts like "two is a pair, and three is a set" pop into my mind.  I think about being three years old.  My first brother was born, and I started running away from home to explore my world.  But mostly, I am the third and last girl in a large family.

My mind feels like a wheel stuck in rut once I arrive at the importance of three -- but I don't know what I want to say about being the third girl of a set.  I think about running and playing games with my sisters.  I think about how hard I tried to keep up with the things their older bodies and brains could do.  I remember special moments and torments.  There is simply too many sister associations to consolidate all of it into one neatly typed blog post.

I'm the one on the right who needed a boost to keep up
We're alike.  We're different.  There were times when we were tightly packed into the backseat of the car, or a bed, or a bathtub, or in a writhing mass of arms and legs rastling on the floor.  Everything in my life was explored and used before I had a chance at it.  I learned from their successes and mistakes.  We played, we fought.  Sometimes we bled.  I often envied only children.  I feel blessed to have sisters.

I'm writing this on Sunday, and I've been thinking about being the third girl of the set since I saw the word for the week on Friday, feeling like everything I think and feel on the subject is too personal, or too ingrained, for me to recognize or share, yet also feeling my internal reluctance and difficulty is part of the point of the exercise.  Personal growth and creativity are results we gain from pushing past our comfort and resistance.

My oldest sister made her annual trek to Ohio this weekend.  I was very glad to see her.  Should I talk about sitting around the picnic table talking about menopause?  See, it gets pretty invasive, but an older sister is a window to understanding my body, my thoughts, my feelings, and my future in ways only kids don't get.

Sis1 had a health scare this year.  Thankfully, everything seems fine now, but I've been thinking of her a lot as a result... and then my mind goes into a galaxy of swirling thoughts and memories which seem so personal and important and trivial while chastising myself about taking too much for granted.  We can't count on people always being there when we think of them as absolutes in our existence.  Value them while they're here.

I feel a bit out of sync with the world to write about sisters on Father's Day, but the same point hold true with dads too.  If your dad is alive, I hope you have a spectacular relationship together and that you let him know you love him.  If it's too late for that, I hope you have great memories.

Happy Father's Day to all the dads!

Friday, June 9, 2017

"Skate"

Some people skate by in life, which is an odd expression because it seems to me that gravity is kinder to children than adults.  I distinctly remember sitting bruised on the ice the last time I skated.  Despite this fact, I'm pretty sure I have 3 pairs of ice skates around the house.  It's like the hiking boots, 1 expensive pair, 1 garage sale pair, and then the nostalgia of Dad's hockey skates which I can loan to a male skating partner if necessary.

Dad could spin on the tip of a hockey skate, which I'm pretty sure is a skill most men don't share.  Since we lived in a valley, and all water runs downhill, we had a lot of frozen water in winter.  Ponds were usually better for skating, but we skated the river too when the winters became extreme enough to freeze the running water.  That didn't happen every year, and some years we thought it was frozen enough, and it wasn't.

One year, I tested the ice and it failed.  I stomped home while fighting hypothermia, and Dad busted a gut laughing at my cold, wet, miserable self.  When he was done laughing, he built a fire and threw me a blanket.  I was toasty warm when Sis2 came in bedraggled, wet, and miserable.  I was warm enough by then to join Dad's laughter.  We might've even been consoled with hot cocoa, which was a real treat in our painfully sugar-free home.

I'm trying to cheer myself with warm memories because the nearer memories are rather painful.  There was another funeral this week, of someone too young to go.

Danny Flannery died just short of his 29th birthday.  He was one of the nicest guys you could hope to meet, which I suppose proves the good die young.  He was smart, funny, gentle, sensitive, and kind.  He was also a giant.  I don't really know how tall he was, but big enough to make me feel downright petite when I gave him a hug.

He worked in my office which was filled with mostly ladies older than myself who had known him since he was a kid in school.  The Dan memories that really touch my heart are quiet, sharing moments that happened between just the 2 of us, but I smile at drinking and laughing with him too.  But I'm sad.  Really sad.  Can you tell?  He had a long, painful last few years, and I'm sad about that too.  I wish he'd had a long life with a loving wife and children and grandchildren.

I felt like a coward, but I didn't go to the funeral.  Besides, I knew the place would be packed.  Nice guys have a lot of friends and loved ones, and they didn't disappoint.  I hear the parking was impossible.  Good for Danny.  I'm glad he was loved by so many people.  Maybe a packed funeral is the best sign of a life well lived?

I swear he's been talking to me in my dreams, but I don't know what he's saying.  I can hear his voice, but not the words.  It's like he's behind the tattered curtain in the Department of Mysteries -- which once again shows that Harry Potter addresses all the important stuff.

I feel like I should write something uplifting, but all I can think is that I hope Dad takes Danny skating in the afterlife.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

"Mind 2"

Okay, it isn't May anymore, but Illustrationfriday.com didn't give me a word for the week either, so I'll play by my own rules this week.  Besides, the May apples in my yard aren't ripe, which begs the question why they're called "May" apples in the first place.

For those of you who don't know May apples, they grow in the woods and the deer love them.  If you are able to show up at the exact moment when they're ripe, and before the deer get them, May apples actually taste pretty good.  They're kind of non-remarkable, or even a bit bitter if you try eating them before the magic moment of ripeness.

Since the last word for the week IF provided was "Mind", I'll share piece of mine about tardiness.  If you're one of those people who are late all the time, I'm talking to you.  I don't want to confuse the perpetually tardy with someone who got stuck in traffic or took an important phone call.  Everybody experiences something which might make them a bit late once in a while.  Responsible people call and say they're running late.  Or, if they're the ones in traffic, they might not call because they're being responsible drivers and don't want to add to traffic incidents.  It's you other people, the ones who don't care if I'm stranded at a restaurant alone for half an hour or more because you had to fuss your hair a bit longer, or whateverthehellyou'redoing when you're supposed to be HERE, you people make my blood erupt through the top of my head.

When you show up, I might ask if you're okay, pre-supposing you might've encountered a legitimate delay.  I might even say "It's okay" to your insincere apology, but let it be known, it isn't okay.  I'm just trying to salvage whatever's left of the get together or meeting that you have already messed up.

I had a memorable fight with a long-time friend (A) after she was late for an appointment I set up for her with another friend (B).  Friend A was out of work (perpetual tardiness being a factor in her firing), and she was very stressed.  B is a counselor, and I asked him to see A free of charge as a favor to me.  A showed up at my house half an hour after the appointment time, then drove like a lunatic to B's office, making us only 45 minutes late.  I don't often yell, but I yelled that day.  I pointed out an unemployed person had no reasonable grounds to be late for a 10:00 appointment.

A thought I was unreasonable and mean.  After all, the reason for the appointment was her stress.  Pity party for A.  I pointed out she had given both B and me a great deal of stress.  No, it's more important to remember that A was stressed.  Pity, pity party for A.

It took me a long time to come to the realization that prompt people are considerate and overall better friends, lovers, and business associates than the perpetually tardy.  They care about sharing time together, take turns at listening, and care about other's feelings.  I love these people.

Life is short.  I'm not going to waste my life waiting for someone who doesn't care about my time or feelings.  Let's celebrate the punctual!

Saturday, May 27, 2017

"Mind"

Great grandpa said, "If you want to keep your mind, you have to use your mind."  He lived by that maxim too.  His mind was great in his late 90s because he read the dictionary.  He studied the Bible so he could discuss it with people who knocked on his door.  He liked talking with children who were learning everything for the first time.

This week I heard that 1 in 3 people will get Alzheimer's by the time they're in their 60s.  I was stunned, since I'm unaware if anyone I ever knew had it, and I've known a lot of old people.  (This can explain a lot about American elections though since most voters are 60+.)

Sometimes I think that people stagnate at about the mental age of 20.  That's about the age they've finished learning how to learn.  Everything they do after that age is a variation of a theme using the mental skills they've acquired by that time.  Even if they learn new things, they're just using the same synapses in their brains to add to their store of knowledge.

When I went to college, I was confronted with the need to actually study.  This was a very unpleasant awakening.  I had managed to skip through school up till that point with very little actual effort, and I liked it that way.  Watching my college classmates studying, I felt both reluctance and curiosity.  Most of them looked miserable, and who wants to join in misery?  At the same time, I wondered how they did it, and I asked them about their study techniques.

Most of them did some variation of endlessly repeating things and reading text books until the knowledge got wedged in their brains.  I'm too dyslexic, and honestly don't have the attention span to dedicate to rote learning.  One friend told me she made up little songs with the lyrics being test facts.  That worked much better for me.  Another told me to take really good notes.  I could do that while attentively listening in class.

Most of the things I studied after college were learned in the same ways, and I got to a different point of mental laziness again.  Again, I found myself liking it that way.  I think it's human nature to do the least amount of work necessary.  It's why we get fat.

At one of my jobs, I found my old methods didn't work as well as necessary for the tasks at hand.  I read and took copious notes.  I listened hard.  I experimented.  I tried to remember what I'd learned in 3rd grade math classes.  I could feel synapses painfully growing in my brain -- and I found that after the initial doubts and misery, I loved it.

The most important thing I learned is that I needed to keep learning.  It didn't really matter what I learned.  I just needed to keep stretching my brain muscles to keep them limber.  I'm not going to get Alzheimer's.  I hope you don't either.  Keep your brain and enjoy learning as a life-long process

Happy Memorial Day for those who live where it is celebrated.  Remember those who died for your freedom to enjoy picnics!

Friday, May 19, 2017

"Team"

Every time Bro4 comes over, he says, "You should get rid of the weeds in your driveway.  They'll crack the cement."  My typical response is some variation of "I'll get to it".  Lately, I've told him about my friend's eco-friendly method of killing weeds with bleach, which prompts Bro to say, "Just use Round Up".  This conversation is as predictable as the sun rising in the morning and setting every evening.  Even if he doesn't say it out loud, I know he's thinking about telling me to get rid of the weeds until I cave to the inevitable and get rid of them. 

If you're interested in the bleach method, saturate the leaves instead of the base of the plant.  Use a sprayer with only plastic parts (no metal).  Give it a day or two and the plants will die.  The bleach dissipates, so it's better for the environment, but it's better if you don't let your pets walk on it the first day.  I'd also recommend that you do it before the plants get too big because I still ended up scraping the dying plants with my dedicated driveway shovel, which is actually a coal shovel, but who has coal these days?  I even went the extra step and swept the drive (with the dedicated driveway broom) to get rid of the bzillions of maple helicopters.

My driveway looks lovely.  Well, it did look lovely before the winds and rain came and brought down several more bzillions of maple helicopters down.  But in that golden moment when my driveway looked suburban perfect, I noticed an ant colony swarming on my perfect cement.


Ants are pretty amazing.  They display excellent teamwork.  I resisted the urge to stomp on them and let them move house in peace.  I hope they remember my peaceful nature next time one of them wants to bite me when I'm weeding the garden.  Maybe they're trying to get back at me for burning their ancestors with a magnifying glass when I was a child?  Even then, I wasn't thrilled with murder for entertainment.  I took to burning paper and leaves instead.

I watched the swarming ants for a little bit because I found it interesting that they were passing up eggs and handing them off to each other.  The eggs (or larva?) were bigger than the ants carrying them.  Then one of the ants bit me, and I decided there were better things to do than watch ants.

I don't know if it's true though?  Perhaps watching ants is the absolute best use of my time?

Thoughts, creativity, inspiration, realizations happen in unexpected moments of quiet time, and we don't get those moments if we never slow down enough to witness our own lives because we're too busy watching tv, playing video games, or doing stuff we're "supposed to" do.  Should all of our discoveries be in childhood when we have endless time to watch ants?

Saturday, May 13, 2017

"Mother"

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about taking hikes with my brother.  On one of those hikes, he spotted a mother owl with 2 of her babies.  I didn't understand what she was doing at first.  She caught a chipmunk, and then she let it go.  Why let it go when she had a family to feed?  The owlets perched on a downed tree and looked adorable.  The mother caught the chipmunk again and threw it near her babies.  They squawked off the tree trunk, one of them tumbling over backwards in a completely inelegant crash landing amongst the fallen leaves.

The chipmunk looked dazed and didn't know which direction to run.  The mother fluttered over and pinned it down with one foot while her babies scrambled back onto the downed tree.  When they were settled back into their spots, Mom let go of the chipmunk.  It ran for it's life, and Mom gave it about 30' of a head start before swooping down on the unfortunate animal.  She picked it up in her beak and showed her babies her prize before letting it go again, catching it again, release, capture, release, capture...

One of the babies eventually hopped off the tree and smelled the chipmunk in its mother's grasp.  When the chipmunk was released again, the owlet hopped after it for a few feet.  The other owlet hopped down to get a closer look too.  Mom continued to catch and release the miserable varmint until one of the babies actually got a foot on it.  Imagine the roar of the Coliseum going up at the victory.

After a while, both of the owlets could manage to pounce on the chipmunk, and the mama seemed proud enough to burst.  Bro and I were awed by being privileged enough to witness to the teaching moment.

The other night I watched a nature program that showed a mother dolphin teaching her baby how to be a dolphin.  Animals aren't "dumb" other than they don't speak our language, and people forget we're animals too.  I'm convinced the damned groundhog in my yard is smarter than I am, and the robin thinks I'm working for her when I shovel up worms in the yard.  She hops around at my side instead of bothering to poke around in the ground herself.  She's got babies to feed.

There are mothers all around us, and in both the animal and human world, sometimes the "mothers" aren't the ones who gave birth.  There are people in our lives who nurture and teach us throughout our lives.  So for all of the people who are mothers or who have mothered us, Happy Mother's Day!

Saturday, May 6, 2017

"Resist"

"Toughen up, Buttercup!"
"Grow a heart, bitch!"

Oh, the fond memories of yesteryear when I was frequently labeled "too sensitive" and I wished that other people learned to have sympathy towards others.  Did I say "yesteryear"?  I mean now, since the US House of Representatives voted to punish poor people by taking away their health care while giving the largest tax break in history to the extremely wealthy in a bill most of the representatives didn't even read, under the guidance of the most pathologically disturbed and narcissistic president ever elected by a minority of the popular vote.

Keith Olbermann expresses my point of view on this (watch here), and as Keith says, "Resist!"

The bill passed by the House is unlikely to make it through the Senate, but I'm still upset by the evil in the people who voted for it so far and the people who support them.  These people don't care about the suffering of their neighbors.  Some of them actually want the poor people to die off so they'll quit straining the national budget through "entitlement programs".  Never mind that Social Security is one of those programs.  Don't confuse the reality with the my team won feel-good rallies.

At the heart of things, people are worshipping false idols.  Money and fame are mirages.  Do you ever contemplate what you'll be thinking about on your death bed?  What really matters to you?  What is your legacy?  Are you proud of your life?  What will people say about you once you're gone?

I once attended a funeral for a man whom I knew through work.  I was surprised that his daughters spoke at the funeral about how much he had put into his job.  That's it.  No funny stories about loving father/daughter moments.  Everything he did was in pursuit of money, yet the business he spent his life creating doesn't even exist anymore.  What was the point?  That he could buy really expensive suits or that he had a really nice house that he hardly spent time in?  I thought it was the saddest funeral I've ever attended.  His "success" is a parable I look at when I think about not wasting my life.

When I die, I want people to say something else about me.  I don't really know what I'd want them to say, but something besides "She worked until 11:30 p.m. every night and every weekend!"  "She had the best silverware and the nicest manicures!"  "She shared the cutest kitty pic on Facebook!"  There has to be something more to life than that.  Nothing against hard work or kitty pics, but there has to be more.

All of us play a part in creating the world we live in.  Everything we say, everything we create, everything we buy, every politician we support has an impact on the world.  Live your life like it matters, because it does.

Resist!

Sunday, April 30, 2017

"Shoe"

In nice weather, I often go hiking with my brother -- who inevitably complains that I wore the wrong shoes for hiking as he leads our double-time military marches up or down very steep hills.  It doesn't matter that all of our hikes tend to be spontaneous activities.  One of these days I'll remember to put a pair of hiking boots in my car?  Probably not.  I'll continue to complain about getting stones caught in my sandals while forcing a stop to catch my breath and slow my heart rate.

I never felt a need for hiking shoes in the first place, but I was participating with a deafening herd of buffalos hiking group, and the hikers thought hiking shoes were mandatory.  I dutifully, if reluctantly, parted with over $100.00 for a pair of very stiff shoes.  A few weeks later, I found a broken-in pair at the thrift shop for $5.00.  If I'm going to remember to wear hiking shoes, I'll wear the $5.00 pair.

Once I had the expensive shoes, I wondered aloud why people buy them.  A man told me it was because the shoes offered a better grip on the trail.  I pointed out that my tennis shoes had a good tread on the bottom, but the man just gave me a look that clearly expressed disdain for my ignorance.  I sighed, and marched in line with the noisy buffalos.

My brother is a better hiking companion.  He doesn't burden me with non-stop, persistent chatter, but he isn't a mute either.  We have pleasant conversation along the way, and listen to the birds sing.  We stop to eat blackberries and look at butterflies which isn't possible with the buffalos since wildlife flees from hiking groups.

Sometimes I think I should join another hiking group even though they tend to be relentlessly cheerful morning people who rhapsodize about dressing in layers.  These people make me crazy, but there's something to be said for weekly exercise.  Once I resigned myself to waking up early on Sunday mornings, I usually had a pretty good time with the hiking group.  Okay, to be perfectly honest, I disliked hiking with them.  I enjoyed the after-hike lunches at local restaurants where I gained back whatever calories I might have accidentally dropped along the trail.

I think I just need a different group.  The hiking group I used to play with was really a group of bicyclists who hiked together in winter.  I've always had a strong mistrust of men in colorful spandex tights, even if they don't wear them on winter hikes.  I know they own those things, and there's just something deeply wrong about that.

I'm not very attached to "shoe" as the word for the week.  I know there are a lot of people with shoe fetishes, but I'm not one of them.  For now, I'm just delaying the moment when I put on my lawn mowing shoes and attack the front yard.  I'd rather go hiking.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

"Delicious"

An Italian woman I know described a family gathering where her kids served fried chicken, sweet potatoes, corn on the cob... I can't remember the menu, but you know, food.  My friend was rather put out about it.  "Who wants to eat that kind of stuff?!"  I don't know, everybody?  She muttered to herself about how the guests ate it all.  There weren't even leftovers, which really ticked her off.  Damned kids and grandkids have no appreciation for her lifetime of cooking.

This woman made lasagna for my last birthday because she knows I like it.  It was the best lasagna I've ever had.  It brought a tear to my eye.  I was tempted to call her kids up and call them ungrateful too.  This is a woman that bakes bread every week, makes pasta from scratch, and cans gallons of tomato sauce every year.  She makes the most delicious rice balls, and the very idea of rice balls was perplexing to me before I had one of hers.  I also later found out that everybody else's rice ball are pale, globby imitations of spectacular.

I took a day drive out to Middlefield, Ohio with my brother this week.  I guess it's only about 25 miles away, but it feels far.  Bro wanted to go to an archery store, and I thought it was downright ridiculous to drive so far for a store, but it was a nice day for a drive down country roads.  You can go pretty fast down those roads too, except when you get stuck behind an Amish buggy.

I examined the taxidermied dead animals and the murderous looking crossbow points while the nice boy at the store fiddled something onto Bro's bow.  To be honest, I hadn't really thought about the archery business being about killing animals.  I thought it was target practice and a little exercise.  That's all I ever did when I was a kid, though some of the older boys would shoot dry reeds at me, and that kind of smarted when they got me.  Older boys are nasty you know -- but the boy at the store was really nice, and Bro and I agreed that everybody is nice in the country.

We stopped at the cheese factory and I got a lump of Swiss cheese and a loop of trail bologna.  Mmmm... I wanted to find a restaurant out there for dinner, but Amish people apparently go home at 5:00.  I like Amish food.  It's just regular stuff that my Italian friend doesn't consider fit for her offspring, but sometimes I really miss the days when all American restaurants had some variation of meat, potatoes and gravy, vegetables.  Not like an Applebee's variation of the theme that's too amplified, I just want a fat grandma's basic cooking.  With pie.

When I was little, my family used to travel down different country roads to visit my great grandpa.  We always went to an Amish restaurant on these trips, and I suppose Amish food has become enmeshed in my mind with warm, loving memories.  I've been on a life-long search to find apple dumplings the way they used to be, but you never know, maybe the memory is better than what's possible to create in reality?

Bro and I wandered our way back through all the country roads and ended up eating at Aladdin's, which is Lebanese, and totally delicious in its own way.  The blueberry "Concrete Mixer" was a delicious ice cream dessert from a different road trip.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

"Fable"

Dr. Seuss (Theodor Seuss Geisel) was clearly the greatest poet of the 20th century, and he shaped more minds than anyone else ever.  Don't argue.  It's true.  You know it.

I recently read a book about Eva Braun, Hitler's girlfriend which talked quite a bit about German fairy tales.  The author's idea was that the viciousness of German children's stories had a part in the attitudes of the German people during WWI and WWII.

I don't know about that.  I wasn't there, and I'm not German.  What I do know is that my father (who had some German ancestors, so I guess I'm sort of German?) was thrilled when he came into possession of an archival-quality copy of Grimm's fairy tales.  He settled us kids around and read us Cinderella.  Dad was a great story teller.  He pitched his voice for drama, used funny voices, and everything.

I went to bed that night and screamed every time I fell asleep.  I had visions of the evil step sisters bleeding and mutilated, because in the original story, one sister cut off her toes to get her foot into the glass slipper, and one cut off her heel.  Even though my young self had a problem imagining how to cut off a heel, I understood cut off toes easily enough.  Screams rang through the night.  Screams kept my family awake for two weeks.  Apparently, my German ancestry is too diluted for me to handle the brothers Grimm -- though sufficient for a book burning.  After two weeks of night terrors, Dad reluctantly built a fire in the back yard and let me toss the horrible book into the flames.  My nightmares stopped.

I was given a Dr. Seuss album, a record -- you know, that object with magically recorded sounds in the dark ages before CDs, DVDs, and youtube.  I sat on the floor, with my eyes wide open and cheeks pink with the thrill of story time.  I also owned a Yertle the Turtle book which I read in sync with the magical voice coming out of the spinning machine.  Clearly, Dr. Seuss understood how to talk to children better than the Grimms.

I've pondered the Eva Braun author's theory about German fairy tales stressing obedience at the threat of dire punishments.  She might be right that stories and attitudes made for a militant society, but I'm glad I grew up in a time of Dr. Seuss and Yertle the Turtle.

The story in brief, is that Yertle the Turtle was the king of all the turtles.  He wanted to see farther than his pond, so he made the other turtles stack themselves up and he climbed on top for a better view.  This was pretty punishing for Mack on the bottom of the pile, who politely complained.  Mack burped and the pile toppled...

"And today the great Yertle, that Marvelous he,
Is King of the Mud.  That is all he can see.
And the turtles, of course... all the turtles are free
As turtles and, maybe, all creatures should be."

Did you know Dr. Seuss wrote this about Hitler?  I didn't either.  Seems like he could've written for some of the people alive today.  Maybe we should do a fundraiser and send copies of the book to some of these people?

Oh, right.  We have youtube now.  Watch it here.

Friday, April 7, 2017

"Illusion"

Have you ever walked past a mirror, without realizing it was a mirror?  Then, you notice that person looks familiar.  Oh wait!  That's actually me!  What did you think in the moment before all of your pre-programmed self-perceptions kicked in?  Did you think the unknown person was ordinary, attractive, or what?  Odds are, you probably didn't think that hideous person shouldn't be allowed out in public and will never be loved.

I had a conversation with a guy friend this week about our self-perceptions.  Both of us had some issues when we were kids, and there were some spiteful people who pointed out our physical imperfections.  When you get told that often enough, it becomes part of who you are, and it gets difficult to see who is really looking back at you in the mirror.

There was a time when I was a teenager when I studied myself in the mirror with a fashion magazine at hand.  I examined my features and I thought they were reasonably similar to the girls in the magazine.  I couldn't see why I was uglier than they were -- but the prevailing consensus seemed to be that I was ugly, and since beauty is in the eye of the beholder, I must be ugly.  I just accepted it with a heavy sigh.

Ah, if only we could go back and talk to our younger selves, right?  The biggest sin of bullies is that they can convince us to bully ourselves long after their cruel remarks.  I'll accept that there was a time in my life when I was too tall and gangly, I needed braces, and the prepubescent awkwardness of growing wasn't particularly kind to me, but at the time I was looking in the mirror all of that had mostly settled into place.  I wish I could tell that teenager she was pretty even if she didn't know it, and nobody really cared about that zit on her chin.

I think many of us, if not all of us, still look in the mirror with the same skewed self-perceptions that I had back then.

I dreamed a memory of my grandmother this morning.  I was my usual unkempt, wild self with a mop of tangled hair in my face.  She stroked my hair back and cooed to me before getting a scrap of fat, pink yarn to tie my hair back with a pretty bow on top.  She said I had a pretty face and it was a shame to cover my eyes with hair.  I felt pleased that Grandma thought I was pretty, and she showed me that it was so in the mirror.  I snuggled into her warm softness for a while before resuming my romping play, but I kept that bit of yarn for a long time afterwards.  It was a little bit of love I could keep in a box.

I more recently worked with women who have that Grandma quality of saying the positive.  They tell other women that they're pretty and compliment someone's new shirt.  Their kindness is remarkable in that encouraging, complimentary remarks are so seldom heard in the world.  I followed their example and told my guy friend he's handsome, and he is.  He just needs to remember to see beyond the illusion in the mirror.  We all need to see our own beauty, not just in what we look like, but in every way our individuality is beautiful.

Friday, March 31, 2017

"Hot"

I'm experiencing a dreary, rainy day and wishing for some sun.  I noticed this layout when I recently backed up some old files.  Did you know files stored on CDs and DVDs may fail over time?  Files on flash drives can fail too if you don't plug them in once in a while.  Also, store CDs and DVDs flat, not on their edges.

This layout wasn't bought, if you can believe it.  I thought it was better than the chocolate spoons at any rate.  They didn't buy my alternate idea either.  Sometimes I can dust off a layout and sell it to someone else, but I've never found a home for these layouts.

A lot of times there's no way of knowing why something doesn't sell.  Maybe the box cost more to produce than the customer wanted to pay?  Salespeople often don't express the customer's needs as well as the designer needs to understand them.  Maybe the customer didn't like the design or colors.  I liked this art, but it might've been because I was sick of doing things with dreary colors and labored illustrations.  Who knows?

You've got to be thick-skinned when you do art for a living.  Most of your work won't sell, and if you want to survive, you've just got to accept that.

When I started out, I didn't accept this truth.  People insisted on wanting the "wrong" layouts.  They didn't understand the effort I'd put into things or how proud I was of certain designs.  They weren't taking my feelings into consideration at all (!), and they could be nasty about it too.  I suppose I added to that dynamic when I got hot about it and tried to argue for the "right" designs.

"Don't discount the value of [your client's] expertise.  When he says something you don't agree with, ask him what he means.  Assume he's got a reason for saying it, and that you could learn something by listening to that reason." ~ boss to Bob Anderson after he strongly disagreed with a client's course of action.

I cut that quote out of a magazine years ago, and it's been hanging on my wall ever since.  I got in a lot fewer disagreements with customers after I accepted this wisdom.  When my sun design wasn't purchased, I shrugged my shoulders.  I was new to my job and didn't understand the full psychology of chocolate spoons.  Okay, I still don't understand the spoons.  Just give me a chunk of chocolate.  Chocolate makes meetings go better anyway.

There was another client about this time who wanted packaging in dull varieties of gingham.  (Yawn.)  I kept trying to get them to accept something more interesting, but they stuck with gingham.  When I went into one of their stores, it all made sense.  I quit wasting my time trying to elevate their tastes.  It became easy money, and that's always good.  I saved my energy for other clients.

Perhaps the most important thing I learned is don't show a "wrong" layout at all.  If you don't want the customer to choose it, do another layout.  If you don't have time, just show the one you want them to pick.  One good layout is better than a binder full of crap.

Even better, one good check is worth a little creative idealism :)

Saturday, March 25, 2017

"Umbrella"

A friend of mine told me about moving to the U.S.  He left his young family in the old country while he worked to establish his career and make it possible to bring them here.  His wife complained he wasn't working hard enough or fast enough, and she didn't think he sent enough money home for the family's comforts.  My friend had made so many sacrifices, he didn't even spare the money for himself for an umbrella.  He got soaked in a downpour when he was walking in a city, and had a moment of anger about his nagging wife's ingratitude, his loneliness, and the misery of how hard life can be.

I can live his moment so vividly in my mind.  It was his experience, but I think about it sometimes.  Ever since he told me about it, umbrellas have become a symbol to me.  I'm not poor if I have one.  I'm rich because I now have three.  I won't get wet, and I don't have an ungrateful, nagging spouse.  Life is good.

We choose whether or not to be happy, no matter what the weather is doing.  Lately, I've been aware of how my thoughts effect my creativity.  Am I drowning in a downpour, or sitting on a sunny beach under an umbrella's shade?

It's so easy to lose the momentum of our dreams.  We can confide our hopes to someone who blows holes through them.  Maybe they're just nasty, but often, the people who are destructive to our inspiration think they have our best interests in mind.  They want us to be practical and safe.  "Safe" never painted a masterpiece, created a vaccine, or changed the world.

You have to step out of your comfort zone to try something new.  You have to be willing to stumble and fail when you try new things.  You should even expect to stumble and experience set backs.  If it was entirely easy, and anyone could do it, would it matter?

Motivation dies when we think too much of the past, or too much about the future.  Past failures can make us believe our new efforts will fail too.  Thinking about the future can make us fear the unknown.  I think everyone can relate to fears of failure, but what about our fears of success?  What if you write the perfect book, get a publisher, and have to do public speaking on a book tour?  Or, are you so enraptured by your vision of the future that you don't sit down and do the things that make that future possible?

Most creative people have experienced the melting of time when you are so absorbed in what you're doing that hours disappear.  For those of us who have experienced this, it's a ecstatic state we're always seeking and often disappointed in finding.  We might try too hard, or avoid trying because we don't want to feel that disappointment.  Do it anyway.

Do it in your own voice, in your own way.  That's the gift that creative people give to the rest of the world, because nobody else can do what you can do.

It's something I've been telling myself a lot lately, and have been in a pretty blissed out state about it.  I wrote 10,000 words this week.  Yay!!!  There may come a time when I feel like I'm standing in a downpour without an umbrella, but why ruin today with a prospect that's only a possibility?  I'm choosing to see life as a sunny day on the beach for now :)

Friday, March 17, 2017

"Snail"

I enjoyed some spectacular spring-like days in February before getting socked with more snow and cold in March.  I used those unusually lovely days taking out my frustrations on my yard, whacking on a slowly rotting tree.  I stirred up a lot of angry ants and a bunch of mildly inconvenienced armadillos.

"We don't have armadillos in Ohio!" my friend said.  Well, yeah we do.  What would you call them?  Um, maybe potato bugs?  Pill bugs?

I looked up potato bug images and found some ugly, icky things.  Quite unlike the cute little armadillos.  Further research informs me my armadillos are actually woodlice, which doesn't sound cute either.  My friend pointed out what I already knew, if I had armadillos, I had rotting wood.  Since they're living in a slowly disintegrating tree in the back 40, I don't really care.

And yeah, my friend the eternal ray of sunshine pointed out that when the tree is gone, the armadillos are going to move somewhere, most likely my garage.  That's probably an astute, practical observation, but I'll deal with that at some unspecified time in the future.

I know I'm not the only person with affection for armadillos (woodlice, not the mammals that can give you leprosy).  Lots of little children have cupped the gentle little bugs in their hands and pretended to gobble the pill bugs.  They curl up into little balls, and neatly tuck in their legs so they're not creepy on ticklish hands.  Well, sometimes their little legs flutter like a feather, but that's just cute.

I also find tiny snail shells in my garden, but I have never found a living snail.  I find this very mysterious.  I have plenty of slugs though.  I think slugs and snails must be related, but the snails seem far more considerate about enclosing their slime in their own self-contained packaging.

I gently moved some worms out of my way and think I must not have changed very much since I was an intent child examining the local fauna in my environment?  My dad was good at encouraging my interests.  We had a lot of field guides to study, and sometimes he took my study subjects away for bait.

I'm just rambling with pleasant memories and associations.  The book I've been working on has a much different tone, and maybe I just need to contemplate quiet, childish play?  I was going to write a novel, but my non-fiction idea insists on coming into existence.

I looked up how many pages I have to type to create a book, but the advice is not to count pages, count words.  That's easy to do in a Word document under "tools".  Average books have 55,000 to 175,000 words, with the average about 80,000 words.  So far I'm over 21,000.  Woo hoo!  1/4 of the way there!  Okay, not all of these words are the best words, so it's going to take a lot more work, but I'm humming and happy about the process.

I've actually been pleased the weather turned back to winter.  It keeps me inside and typing.  I'm worried my budding pear trees are in trouble, but we all need to sacrifice a little in creating.  If I lose them, I guess the armadillos and tree snails will have something to eat instead of my garage?

Friday, March 10, 2017

"Punk"

A friend of mine dated a band promoter when we were in college.  He was a nice guy, and I enjoyed hanging out with him on my porch, drinking and talking.  Pleasant as this was, he would be completely forgettable in her long string of boyfriends if he hadn't asked us to go to Chicago for a concert.  We could get a ride with the band on their bus.

"Thanks, but that's a long drive, and I have a lot of homework."

Responsible words I'll regret the rest of my life.  The next time we were drinking on my porch, the radio drifting through the open window, my friend's bf exclaimed, "That's the band!  That's who I took to Chicago!"  The Talking Heads.  I could've taken a bus trip with the Talking Heads.  NOoooooo!!!  Some head pounding and aauurrgh!!!

Well, let's chalk it up to a life lesson.  When someone invites you to do novel things, go.  As sung in "Once in aLifetime" by The Talking Heads...

And you may ask yourself
Where does that highway go to?
And you may ask yourself
Am I right? Am I wrong?
And you may say yourself,
"My God! What have I done?"

Wikipedia says this band was post-punk, but close enough for "punk".  I've been happily chair dancing to their music while putting this bus together.  I try to avoid swimming in regrets.

I called another friend last night to bubble about my recent productivity in writing.  I tamped down my self-congratulations when I learned he just missed passing a state exam he needs for a mid-life career change.  It's not the first time he just missed passing it.  The last time, he bumped his head and got a concussion before the test and was only 2 points shy of his certificate.  This time, on the way to the test he got flagged down by a couple of young people who had just been robbed at knifepoint.  He called 911 and had to fill out a police report, making him worry he'd miss the test altogether.

"Are you sure you really want this career ?  It seems like there are unusual obstacles cropping up whenever you try to take the test."

He talked a lot about getting older, it's a safer career, wanting a 401k plan.

"Yeah, but are you psyched about doing it?"

He talked more about sensible choices, but in the end, well, he doesn't like some critical aspects of this career choice.  He just has so much time and money already invested in this career change, doesn't he have to carry through?  No.  Not really.  He's reassessing.

I'm reassessing too.  I started writing a book that wasn't going anywhere.  I kept trying to force myself to work on it.  I finally gave up and starting writing one of my alternate book ideas.  Now I've been having a hard time leaving the computer long enough for lunch.  When we're doing what the heart loves, ideas flow, and time stops -- whether the heart loves sensible choices or not.  I'm hoping the universe will eventually reward me with a book deal for following my heart's desires.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

"Scoop"

A long time ago, when I was still naive about many aspects of advertising, I walked down a hall at a new job and saw a giant pile of ice cream.  Scoops of every flavor of the rainbow looked especially luscious under the photographer's studio lights.  The owner of the business witnessed my Pavlovian reaction and laughed at me in his wicked way.  The "ice cream" was mashed potatoes stiffened with sawdust and glue with lacquer on top.

Once in on the joke, I considered specializing in setting up food shoots.  I devoted a good 15-20 minutes of watching a pretty woman adjusting acrylic blobs of fake condensation on the bowl and decided I'd rather scrape up road kill than work in food staging.

Moments like this have been popping into my mind because I've been backing up old files, including stuff from past jobs.  Do you know that flash drives have to be plugged in once in a while to keep them valid?  Or that DVDs eventually fail?  Plus, store them flat or the data can leak out.  I don't want to lose things because I can often rework something instead of starting from scratch.  I've also been taking time to go clean up some files so they take less memory. 

In the process, I found old art that didn't work out but has some potential.  This is a rework of one of those pieces.  I've always had an interest in this style of patterning, but never felt satisfied with my efforts.  I fussed it and am feeling much better about my approach to the style.  I'm contemplating making it a linoleum print -- or maybe fuss it some more before committing to cutting print.

I mentioned the "ice cream" experience to a photographer friend once, and he waxed nostalgic about other "food" concoctions.  I expanded my road kill fantasies to include listening to food photography methods.  All the same, the initial experience was cool and I like working with photographers.  I just can't bear the tedium of their business -- which of course can't be confused with the delightful hours I've spent on art.  You've just got to find your medium.

Sometimes I'm baffled by people who don't find their calling.  They should do different things until they find something they like.  I suppose trying new things means you'll be a rank amateur at all of those things until you've learned some skills in one of them.  You've got to be willing to suck at something, and I happily admit I'm lousy at a lot of things.  There's lots of things I can still learn, and learning is fun.

Dad used to say "You can do whatever you set your mind to", which I viewed as an open horizon of possibilities.  Sis viewed it as a punishment if she didn't achieve success.  Dad followed up with "If at first you don't succeed, try, try again!"  Sis looked dangerous about then, but Dad was right.

Play, experiment, try, and try again.  Don't let short-term defeats limit you.  We savor the successes we fight to achieve.  Looking back on my early pattern work, well, some of it wasn't good, but I enjoyed doing it in a way making sawdust potatoes pleased my friend.  I got better at patterns and still enjoy them enough to play around with previous rejects.  I hope everyone finds their scoop of "ice cream".

Sunday, February 26, 2017

"Heroic"

Neville Longbottom won the house championship for Gryffindor at Hogwarts.  He was a clumsy, pudgy, forgetful, unlikely hero, but he was willing to fight his friends to do what was right.

"There are all kinds of courage," said Dumbledore, smiling. "It takes a great deal of bravery to stand up to our enemies, but just as much to stand up to our friends."

Sometimes I think Harry Potter was a stupid, arrogant child to think he could save the world.  But he was destined to be the hero, which makes me angry at destiny playing with people's insignificant, little lives.  Perhaps I identify a little too strongly with Harry?  However, we need Nevilles.  The US really needs Republican Nevilles right now.

We also clearly need Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Keith Olbermann, John Oliver, Rachel Maddow, Stephen Colbert, moms fighting for kids' education and school lunches,  old people with hiking sticks, scientists with pocket protectors, and people with pussy hats.  They are all heroes, yet we also need people on the other side of the fight to be heroes too because with all branches of the US government in the hands of one party, these are the people who can best stand up to the current insanity.

Most Americans agree on major issues.  Dumping sludge in streams is a bad idea.  Kids need to go to school.  Old people and the disabled need social security.  Issue after issue, Americans agree about our major goals.  We can disagree about some specifics, but our goals are mostly the same.

There are Republicans in Congress and on the courts who know that the current fascist moves of the T white house are wrong.  A few have spoken up, but how many others are waiting and fearing on the sidelines without truly representing the people?  How many representatives avoid home town hall meetings because they know the voters are mad and afraid?

I'm asking Republicans to do what's right.  Be informed of what's going on beyond Fox News.  Encourage nonpartisan reviews of illegal, unpatriotic actions.

Do you really want to be remembered for being in Voldemort's party?  Remember, the different Hogwarts houses came together in the end.  Slitheran Severus Snape is remembered in the end as one of the greatest heroes.  I'm not asking you to sing Kumbaya, wear a pussy hat, and agree with Democrats on everything.  Just speak up against insanity.


Bro2 and I lunched and this is his contribution to "heroic".  We didn't vote the same  in the election, but I totally agree with his take on the topic.  We're both engrossed and disgusted with current events.  Let's all of us, on every side of it, speak up and do what we can whether we're Neville, Harry, or Severus.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

"Stomp"

My friend gave me a riding lawn mower.  This is a very nice gift even though the mower didn't work, but Bro4 agreed to fix it, not to mention going to get it in his pickup truck.  Just putting the mower in the truck was entertaining as he backed his truck into a steep ditch, blocking the road horizontally, dropping the tail gate, and 3 people shoving said mower into truck.  Did I mention the mower had flat tires and it was a cold, slippery day?  Neighbor John told me later that he really enjoyed the show.

I got a new battery as the mower has been sitting in a shed for a few years.  Turn key.  Nothing, but Bro is great at fixing things.  It didn't take long before he found a pulse and gave it CPR.  Yippee!  Of course there was more fiddling and issues, but some open heart massage eventually kicked it back to life.  Thanks Korki and thanks Pete!

I was sent to the store with a shopping list where I definitely had an urge to stomp my foot at people with less pulse than the lawnmower.  The man stared dimly at his female coworker who was doing nothing.  "She's the one who knows how to look things up."  Okay, I reined in my impatience and stared at the woman staring into space too.  Eventually, a customer spoke to the woman and it became clear that she was helping him with something.  He went off again, she went back to staring into space.  More of my life ticked past as our triangle of passivity stretched my patience.

"Couldn't you get the air filter or something while we're waiting?" I asked.  The man said that he didn't know which air filter to get.  "It's the same as this one."  (Which is in the bag I've already shown you and which remains open an inch from your hand.)  He clearly had an internal struggle about taking this kind of initiative, but eventually got the air filter.  I suggested he get the rest of the things on the list.  He did, reluctantly, shuffling slowly, one item at a time, even though all of these items were in the same place.

The woman remained statuesque, not in any aesthetic sense, just in absolute immobility.  Eventually, eventually, the other customer came back and she eventually, (did I say "eventually"?) completed the other customer's order and her opaque stare turned to me.  I explained my need for a drive belt and showed the worn belt I'd brought with me.

"We need the mower information."  I pointed at the info written at the bottom of the list.  "We need the size of the mower deck."  I explained that the belt wasn't for the mower blades, just to lower the deck, but since she insisted on needing the size I called Bro and got the info.  She maintained she still needed the actual model number, but after a lot of insistence on my part, the man eventually shuffled off for a belt.  I compared it to the worn belt.  "They're not the same size."  "Yes, they are!"  Absolutely not.  I held the two together to show there was about a foot difference.  "Well, it's your fault for not having the model number.  We don't know anything..."  "Clearly!"

I didn't stomp my foot, but I wanted to.  I took my stuff and wasted more of my life essence in the check out line where there were only 2 customers ahead of me, but it took another 15 minutes.  I drove to another store to get the belt.  The store is missing.  After fruitlessly driving around, I discovered they moved the store.  But of course, it was closed by the time I found it.  I hate shopping.

This is unintentional art.  I've decided to retire a pair of my sweatpants and liked the paint smears on the thighs.  I scanned it thinking I might use it as a background for something.  Somehow paint-smeared sweatpants seems apropos for my foot-stomping day?

Unrelated to any of this, for those of the praying type, please remember Sue in your prayers.  She has health issues.