Thursday, December 29, 2011

Here We Go Again

35th Anniversary Fifth Third River Bank Run

Another year, another attempt at securing a free entry to the race. I expanded on an incident that happened last April 2:

After one crazy experience last year, there almost wasn't a first time...

Having been indoors all winter, I optimistically showed up for a training run at the Y downtown. Doing 2+ miles on the treadmill and track, I thought I'd be in great shape to keep my own with the rest of the 5k-ers.

When I arrived, I was surrounded by lean, toned, bright-eyed people eating gel and radiating health while I stood there in a hoodie and a pair of clearance sneakers. I was immediately shy and self-conscious of calling myself a runner among the gazelles.

I set out to join the others at the start. The first song on my playlist? "Ship of Fools" by World Party - I had loaded the wrong playlist! While shuffling to a good song, I notice one toned ass after another pass me by.

And I was passed by EVERYBODY.
I slipped on a manhole cover.
I stepped in dog doo.
I tripped on a crack in the sidewalk in front of Parkway Tropics.
I pratfalled on a piece of garbage.
I was chased by a dog.
I was mocked by passersby as the early spring mist turned my curly hair into a mushroom cloud of frizz.

Getting an attitude, I looked at the looming stop sign and thought "Forget it, I'm turning around up there and going back!"

Then it dawned on me, I had made it to the halfway point. Suddenly, everything changed.

People waved.
Playful canines barked hello.
Obstacles became points where I could leap.
I found "One Little Victory" by Rush on the iPod, and it carried me home.

Inside, organizers congratulated me on being the first 5k finisher. Beaming, I hung out to enjoy a bagel and juice when the realization came to me that I was the ONLY 5k-er to attempt and complete the training run.

RBR yard sign in hand, I managed to walk out to my car a little bit taller with a little bit of swagger. Wasn't pretty, but I proved to myself that I could do it.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

2012 resolution: joy. Oh, and other stuff.

Oh yes, it's that time of year again. I'm optimistic about the idea of setting new year's resolutions because I have been very successful in completing my goals! I can be stubborn like Calvin above, but I like the idea of setting myself up to achieve.

Overall, the most important word for me in 2012 is going to be JOY. Like an internal drill sergant barking orders, my brain is going be to in full "So you're not happy? GET HAPPY!" mode. I've just had too many moments this year when situations and circumstances have sucked the joy right out of me and it has to stop.

What else?
Pass Gold MIF - for adults, it's the last moves test in the structure before you slide over to standard track with the kids. It also qualifies me as a gold medalist with US Figue Skating. Given my weak freestyle skills, it may be my only chance to earn a national-level gold and I'm going for it. Best move: power circles. Worst move: brackets.

Compete at Adult Nationals - What?! No medal aspirations!? Well, yes but the target for this ANs is to have FUN! I missed last year, which genuinely sucked; there's nothing worse than missing out on the party. I'm not going to compete in silver free this year since I'm not quite ready, but I'm planning on doing both artistic/dramatic and comedy, taking Bette and the Lunchlady to Chicago. Best move: ass-slapping choreography for Mrs. S. Joseph, long stroking moves for Bette.

1,000 Pieces of Art - ArtPrizing with Cara will be such an adventure and a glorious attempt to not only honor Geno, but stretch our abilities. I'm already at 580, so 420 left to go. Best pieces so far: the acrylic painting series.

Back on the Good Eats Bandwagon - So I let this whole pre-diabetes thing get away from me. I've been reasonably good in terms of fast food, french fries and soda pop, but I think other carbs like pasta and bread have gotten away from me. I'm overdue for some tests, so I think a stern visit with the family doctor will get me back on track.

Train Like a 5K - I have a schedule conflict, in that I committed myself to judge a competition and test session the same day at the 5/3 River Bank Run. But Michelle wants me to train for a 5K because she likes the confidence and body awareness I have had after running. So, I will train as if I were running, and leave it up to fate if I find an event to compete in.

Honey do! - Making lists of chores to accomplish around the house to help me get things accomplished. I'm such a line crosser, that I get great satisfaction out of writing it down, then scribbling it out. Think I'm kidding, I spent the afternoon touching up paint on the kitchen walls then scrubbing down cabinets. After getting the new floor, I want that room to GLEAM.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Typing Out Loud: "Winning" the war on Christmas

Bend your knees and quit looking down!

So the Christmas show as last week, and in an effort to keep the Christ in Christmas but not drape myself in tinsel or earnestness, I chose to skate to George Harrison's "My Sweet Lord." It's George Harrison! It's a song with a hippie vibe as well as a little gospel soul. And I was able to wear a stunning sheer electric blue tunic with red embroidery that I got at the thrift store for like a nickel. I got many positive comments, and Bex and Leslie think I should keep it for interp. Hm, a joyous artistic/dramatic that isn't heavy nor a generic female ballad. This could happen...

Will completed his studies with Wellerwood School, which is a pretty heady statement about his hour of fingerpaints and snack time. It is significant because he is leaving a program meant for children who are 50% or behind in their development to a pre-school program in the Comstock Park school district for kids who need a little help. This meant we had to say goodbye to Miss Felicia, who was an excellent home school teacher. We have been so lucky in terms of excellent resources for ensuring our boy get all the help he needs to have a chance in life.

I managed to get all the Christmas shopping done by December 11, sticking to budget and getting things packed and ready to ship to Texas. We were not going to have a repeat of shoving crap in a box at the last minute and paying $100 to get it there. And no panicking for last-minute stuff. And no mall.

The only thing that has been a challenge is scheduling the installation of our new flooring in the house. The linoeum in the kitchen was a sorry mess that managed to get filthy about 10 minutes after mopping. We chose of light burnt gold tile that makes the kitchen glow. Oh, it's gorgeous. It now makes everything else look shabby... We are getting carpet in the bedroom and family room this week, so we have some cleaning and hauling to do prior to Thursday. We are also going to explore the incredible world of adhesive tiles for the laundry room and go pick out some new carpet for the dining room and library.

And thankfully, dad is doing well. We had a scare with his heart, but the doctors are assuring us that all is well for now, and gave him and my mom clearance to go to Florida for the rest of the winter. The whole scene was an unfortunate taste of what it is to be an adult child with an aging parent, and prepared me for what lies ahead times four. What do you say, how do you say it, and when should you say it? I still don't know the answer, but I'm closer to it.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Why Art Matters: John Bender, The Criminal

Judd Nelson's character John Bender in The Breakfast Club comes from a long line of fictional bad boy/rebels with a cause. While some may argue for classic bad boys such as James Dean, Bender is ours due to how endearing BC is for my generation.

In a nutshell, John Bender was in Saturday detention for pulling a fire alarm. He is a product of an abusive family and a pot smoker, yet appears to be highly intelligent and a keen observer of the human condition of those around him. He can be both confrontational and kind, and in some instances, a moral compass in the group.

Nelson created Bender from a method-acting approach; so much so, he scared Molly Ringwald and angered John Hughes. He embodied the character from the hair to the clothes and the posturing. But he also colored the character with a vulnerability that with his classmates was raw, and with his principal, delicate. Within him, you could see the smartmouth teen, the scared little boy, and a weary adult. Judd successfully creates a character that while labelled The Criminal, is also a basketcase, a princess, an athlete (c'mon, the ceiling tile trick was awesome), and a brain.

Nelson also delivers some classic movie quotes:

Does Barry Manilow know you raid his wardrobe?

Answer the question Claire!

Eat.. my.. shorts.

So it's sorta social, demented and sad, but social. Right?

Screws fall out all the time, the world is an imperfect place.

Sweets. You couldn't ignore me if you tried.

You're a genius because you can't make a lamp.

Being bad feels pretty good, huh?


You're a neo maxi zoom dweebie, what would you be doing if you weren't out making yourself a better citizen?

Go fix me a turkey pot pie.

The old man grabbed me and said, "Hey, smoke up Johnny."

Prom Queen.

That's very clever, sir. But what if there's a fire? I think violating fire codes and endangering the lives of children would be unwise at this juncture in your career, sir.

Oh, obscene finger gestures from such a pristine girl.

Without lamps, there'd be no light.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

December Playlist: SHAZAM!

I love Shazam, the iPhone app that lets you record a 10-second sample of a song that maybe you haven't heard in 10, 20 or even 30 years to rediscover while shopping in Walmart or flipping channels while you are driving. The tougher one is when you are in an area with no internet service or don't immediately have the damn thing within reach. So the playlist for this month is going to be those weird, wild, ear nuggets that leave your toes tapping and electronic devices scrambling.

Classical Gas, Mason Williams - this was playing over the credits of a PBS special on 60s Rock, Roll and Remember. I spent 3 1/2 months in the 60s, so my memories of the decade are nil. I remember this song from those days when Tigers games were on WJR and the DJ would trot out the post-game instrumentals, a gentle segueway from the Honeybaked Ham's Herb Alpert "Taste of Honey" theme music. I don't know much about this song.

Mas Que Nada (2011 remix), Sergio Mendes and Erykah Badu - lots of ice dancers skating to this, and it's a very infectious mix of modern hip hop and Brazilian dance beats.

White Horse, Senor Coconut - a merengue with a funky little horn that makes the hips move independently of anything else your body is doing. You could be washing the dishes and your hips are dancing. Laundry, and hips are swaying. It's the kind of song you can see a Saturday Night Live sketch built around.

Stuck Inside a Cloud, George Harrison - from the first note I thought, "that has to be George." Signature slide guitar, but weak vocals, so I'm guessing mid to late 90s.

Too Sad to Cry, Imeda May - weird bluesy/country song from someone I've never heard of.

Bring it Home to Me, Sam Cooke - Dave and I both Shazamed this song seperately with the intent that we had to hear it again. Amazing

Not Fade Away, Florence + The Machine - Fell in love with this band apparently well before their SNL appearance. Not Fade Away is an old Buddy Holly classic I think everyone has covered, from the Beatles and Rush to Flo.

I Want You, Fefe Dobson - Not sure where I heard it, sounds like energetic garage punk.

For You, Manfred Mann - One of those songs you always hear on classic rock that you always ask, "who sang this?" Manfred Mann is the answer.

Lady, Little River Band - this one too.

Zero to Sixty in Five, Pablo Cruise - as a skater, I am always listening for something I can skate to that is uncommon and cool. This falls into that category.

Funnel of Love, Wanda Jackson - The soundtrack to the movie "But I'm a Cheerleader!" featured some awesome music, this included.

Being Authentic, Shantel - more latin beats, God I love WYCE.

So Alive, Love and Rockets - Weird, cool song form 1988 that was a hit I haven't heard in a while.

Somewhere Down the Crazy River, Robbie Robertson - ditto.

Abbey Road Medley, The Beatles - basically it's side two, which lasts through 10 songs, some as long as four minutes, some as short at 23 seconds. You have a Beatles chorus, a Ringo drum solo, a serenade in Spanish, and general awesomeness that lasts for about 20 minutes. Uncle Buck played it on his morning show last Sunday and I was almost late for work because I had to listen to the whole thing. Worth it...

Thursday, December 1, 2011

From the Book of Geno: Renderings or The Best Things in Life are Free

Cara and I have had some crazy ideas in the past. Tattoos. Ice skating. Spamettes. Posing in the Paris, MI park under the fake Eiffel Tower while drinking and wearing berets (never did that one).

We got our inspiration while attending ArtPrize this year, a day-long OD of cultural relevance. We started talking about our years in the graphic design (Visual Communication) department at Ferris, and everything we learned. This banter led to a few "hey, what if...?" scenarios that brings us to where we are today.

Cara and I will be entering ArtPrize 2012 with our entry entitled From the Book of Geno: Renderings or The Best Things in Life are Free.

We are creating an installation of at least 2,000 unique pieces of art that patrons can take away for themselves to enjoy. As of this writing, I have 499 done; Cara is well on her way to 200.

So why the long title? Gene Connelly was one of our instructors at Ferris, and as homework, we would have to produce for him as few as 10 or as many as 100 sketches in our sketchbook. Sometimes these sketches would come out beautifully and result in a nifty little piece. Others becoming nothing or else be the stepping stone to some other idea. To Geno, these weren't mere sketches but "renderings."

The Best Things in Life are Free part? That again comes from our delight at getting our buddhas this year. Would people be delighted to receive a free and unique piece of art. But our delight didn't stop there, we also both enjoyed collecting the cards each artist had available to remember the experience by. Each card is a unique voting card.

Other inspirations include Felix Gonzalez-Torres' art installations with the candies and cloud posters and the story of the artist and the king who wanted a drawing of a crane that took a year to create.

So this is project is the story of two artists who will create for a year then give it away for free and how we arrived there.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Typing Out Loud: Thx!

Thanksgiving is tomorrow, so of course we have a turkey brining on the back deck and a jello pie in the fridge, a holiday favorite of mine since 1979.

So what am I thankful for this year? It feels a little early for a retrospective of the year, but since the awards shows are already starting, I guess no time like the present to look back on '11 thus far.

I'm thankful most of all for my dad's continued improved health. He's battled 3 cancers the past few years: skin, colon and leukemia. I can't even imagine the brave face he had to put on and the patience my mom has had to exhibit being strong alongside him.

I'm thankful for the little boy beside me that is hellbent on destroying our house via magic marker, hockey sticks and matchbox cars. I often think of when Will was in the hospital, a tiny, frail little thing that has turned into QUITE a robust little man. How'd we get so lucky with him?

Helps to have a good partner by your side, and Dave is a great dad and husband.

On a personal trajectory, I'm thankful for some amazing opportunities to develop as a person and athlete. I competed in my first-ever 5k; the YMCA summer olympics in swimming, biking and running; and passed my silver freeskate test.

I'm grateful for the chance to participate in a few artistic endeavors too. I was in a group show at Pine Rest's Leep Art Gallery and had a painting in ArtPrize. I'm already 472 pieces into next year's installation, a collaboration with my best friend Cara. I also had the unique opportunity to stand up for myself against a deadbeat client; I ended up suing and won.

I'm grateful for the people surrounding me in my life. Skating is that much better because of my adult skating friends, they make the effort worth it. I'm grateful for my co-workers who make an often thankless job tolerable, and sometimes, even enjoyable. I'm grateful for the team of babysitters I can entrust the care of my house and child to.

I'm very thankful for this blog. As an unemployed copywriter, I have the ache to put thoughts in print, creative or otherwise. Some of my prose here has been rather pedestrian, but sometimes I hope I have been witty, insightful and entertaining. I know I have enjoyed using this as an outlet.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Why Art Matters - Documentary Maker Morgan Spurlock

Documentaries can feel a lot like going to a boring lecture with a droning professor who is the only one in the room that cares about the subject. That is not Morgan Spurlock's m.o.

He first became a name as the maker and test subject for his Academy Award nominated film "Super Size Me." In it, he examined the fast food culture in our society, while examining the effects such a diet had on an average Joe, namely, himself. The results were real, shocking, thought-provoking and ultimately, changed the way many restaurants do business.

Morgan knew his formula and turned it into a fascinating turn on the FX channel with the television documentary series titled "30 Days." Each episode focused on a different theme and the protaganist had to live in an opposing world for 30 days. The first episode was filmed immediately after the Academy Awards, entitled "Minimum Wage," and Morgan had to live on that wage, including obtaining an apartment and furnishings, for the allotted time. Other episodes were a redneck living with a muslim, a teetotaler living as a binge-drinking college student, a patroit living as an illegal immigrant, a homophobe living with two gay men and a law-abiding citizen trying to survive 30 days in jail.

Morgan tells these tales with humor, honesty, and backs his documentary style with supporting and even sometimes, opposing statistics. He allows his subjects to come to their own terms and conclusions and at times, the episodes did not end well.

Spurlock has gone on to create even more documentaries, and even directed an episode of The Simpsons. And while he is not as overtly left-wing as his contemporary Michael Moore, he has quietly created a revolution of his own.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

November Playlist: Countdown 1979

Although I am one of the older team members at the hospital, my co-workers have taste in music similar to mine, and will name-drop songs that were popular when I was a kid and before they were born.

I'm still trying to get over Karissa, a skating friend, for calling Blondie's "Call Me," an oldie.

The year 1979 was kind of a big deal for me, since I turned 10 that September and was growing more independent. It's also the earliest I can remember listening to top 40 radio and having a favorite song.

My Sharona, The Knack - I got this album for my 10th birthday, and played it continuously.

I Want You to Want Me, Cheap Trick - there's lots of joy in this song, and lots of energy.

The Devil Went Down to Georgia, Charlie Daniels Band - "sonofabitch" v. "sonofagun" so scandalous!

Chuck E's in Love, Rickie Lee Jones - Two things I remember is Rickie being a cute tomboy playing her guitar on Solid Gold and my cousin Nancy playing this over and over because she was dating a Charlie.

Renegade, Styx - cool song the older kids listened to.

I Was Made for Lovin' You, KISS - kind of sexy and supercharged. Our neighbors were really into KISS, but I didn't see what the problem was with their foray into disco.

September and After the Love is Gone, Earth, Wind and Fire - to this day I still listen to and love these two songs.

Don't Stop Til You Get Enough, Michael Jackson - grooving in the Jodis' van after bowling with my classmates.

We've Got Tonight, Bob Seger - who needs tomorrow?

Dance the Night Away, Van Halen - this list is starting to look like a classic rock playlist.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

My muse Will - Master of Disguise!

As a child, I usually had my Halloween costume figured out by August 15. Concept in place, I planned for scenarios such as weather, party v. trick or treating and style. While at the time we nagged our mother for the fancy pre-made costumes, by October 31, we were more or less garbed in the genuine articles: real referee uniforms from my dad; costume jewelry and scarves from my grandma; 70s fabulousness, including the coveted silver sandals, from my mom.

Style, however, bit me in the ass one year when my teen aged cousins Nancy and Gina took us girls on a 10-block-quadrant candy marathon. Instead of the traditional pillowcase, I took a stylish, though limiting, plastic pumpkin. While my sisters' cases bulged with chocolatey goodness, I struggled to stash candy in my overflowing Laura Ingalls skirt pockets as the pumpkin could hold no more.

Perhaps my first lesson in form following function.

I looked forward to planning for Will this year. Previous holidays, he was more or less oblivious to his charms and what he was wearing, so Will was at my will. First year he was a sweet little knitted tiger; the second year he was Godzilla, inspired by his "rawrrrr" and a 50% off costume at K Mart.

Because he is still so small, I thought I could get away with the Godzilla costume for one more year. That was plan A. Plan B was in case of warmer weather: Magnum PI in a Tigers hat, Hawaiian shirt, fake mustache with a Porsche matchbox car.

Godzilla... he loved the beanie and put the booties on straightaway. The crunchy body of the costume freaked him out and he turned to temper tantrums and me to pleading, compromising and screaming before we both gave up, exhausted, with a glint of hate in each other's eye.

So that was out.

Plan B, well, I wouldn't know a Porsche matchbox car from a Audi Roadster. Also, not-so-little Mr. Growth Spurt succeeded in growing out of both his Tigers hat and his Hawaiian shirt.

So that was out as well.

Mama had to dig into her bag of tricks (and closet) at the 11th hour to figure out how Will was going to have a legitimate Halloween experience without reducing him to the surly teen-equivalent who shows up with a garbage bag and t-shirt emblazoned with a snarky "this is my Halloween costume".

A batting helmet! Baseball jersey! Mitt! Bat! Ball! Alas, form following baseball player function failure: while wearing a too-big helmet and jersey is cute, it is completely impractical for the physical demands of ToTing.

Luckily, he had a fireman's hat and a onesie with a Dalmatian driving a truck. I found a pair of Monsters Inc. track pants with reflective bits for the bottoms. A puffy vest turned inside out revealed the perfect red. But he was lacking the finer details and accessories.

This called for a trip to the dollar store. I love that place, and to prove it, I walked in and the first thing I laid eyes on was a fireman set, with a fire chief whistle, badge, ax and crowbar. Best dollar I ever spent.

Dave and I took him to a few neighborhoods, including a lovely subdivision where our friends the Fishes live. We were greeted by dogs, a Captain America, a statue of David dressed as Harpo Marx, goofy graveyards, parents half in the bag from beer and pizza, and lots of candy.

We did enough houses, no more than a dozen, to legitimately say he went trick or treating. The weather was perfect, we had fun as a family, and well, I was so happy to see kids and families out having fun on this most glorious day of make-believe that I practically burst.

My little firefighting hero was most definitely form following function.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Examining the creative process - 2012 Adult Mids logo

Look, it's Evan Lysachek and Alissa Czisny... really.

I'm looking proudly at the end result of a several month process creating a logo for US Figure Skating and the competition we are hosting in March, Adult Midwestern Sectionals.

The process started in late July/early August when our bid was approved. We discussed how we wanted to represent ourselves and the club to make us unique from other cities.

I was completing my painting for ArtPrize and the thought was capitalizing on Grand Rapids' reputation as an arts destination. We have the Meijer Gardens, the GRAM, and the UICA, not to mention Kendall College of Arts and Design, Aquinas and Calvin.

Excited about my co-chair's enthusiasm for the idea, I explored famous artists for inspiration. I wanted to spoof Warhol's Marilyn quad with a depiction of Dick Button, but without permission to use Dick's face and no connection to him and Grand Rapids, that idea was killed.

A cartoon panel a la Lichtenstein was also in my sketchbook, the idea that I would create 5 panels: one for the event and one for each discipline. Response was lukewarm and even though it was a great idea, the task of creating so much for one logo was rather overwhelming.

Several other ideas were batted around until I came back to Alexander Calder. In Grand Rapids, you always come back to Calder. We are the home of La Grand Vitesse, the nation's first publicly fund work of art. The co-chairs perked up with this idea, and so I began to explore the world of Calder and his art.

I looked at his paintings, sculptures, mobiles and jewelry. I sketched twisty skates, twistier skaters. I experimented with his 70s groovy suns and bendy figures. Every time, I came back to his whimsical mobiles.

I played around with shapes and forms, attempting to have skates dangle from one of his geometric wonders. It looked.. tacky. Frustrated, I stared at a few mobiles for inspiration and let my pencil to its work. One of his swoops looked like a body in arch. Bet that could be shaped into a layback.

Not satisfied with one form, I wanted a second. Since the layback is accepted as a feminine form, I wanted one that could be id'ed as masculine, so I looked at male skater pictures and it came down to Braden Overett's camel spin (perfect!) and Evan Lysachek's (Olympic champ!) bullet sit spin. Evan's sit seemed to compliment the Calderesque forms I was experimenting with.

I doodled and sketched to get the arches just right, and it was at a Basic Skills competition I judged up north, in between events, that I finally got it just right.

From there, I drew the logo in Adobe Illustrator and constructed the artwork based on US Figure Skating specifications. Being my second logo (!), I knew to do some things, but needed to send it to USFSA for tweaks. The final tweak was a register mark last night and I got approval today.

In math and the sciences, it's important to "show your work" so you can pinpoint where your calculations went awry. As a artist, it's also, in retrospect, fascinating to see an idea evolve.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Someone To Watch Over Will

Why wouldn't you want to watch me?

Seems we go through this once a year, a babysitter crisis. We now need to have someone in place in a week.

Dave suggested craigslist, but the seediness of their personal ads, horror stories of creepers and homicidal maniacs put me off. Great place if you want to sell baby stuff, not so much when you are looking for care for your baby.

So I hit and and I'm relieved to report we have 5 potential situations and will be interviewing 4. The 5th is a daycare in-home that is on the way to the rink and the bank, but not work and will be a last resort.

So in order to choose the best possible care provider, I'm reviewing the applicants as carefully as if I were the boss/hiring manager/human resources of a company, and well, I guess I really am.

To protect the applicant's privacy, I won't reveal much about them here, but of the four, one is too good to be true, two are very promising and the fourth has at least been prompt and humorous in her responses which is a good thing. It may be hard to choose between them.

The whole thing has been exhausting and stressful though. We really loved having Patty as a member of the household and we are going to miss her, but when opportunity knocks, you have to respond. I'm still fighting the feeling of rejection, and have to remember business is business. And for the other girls, I remember being a babysitter and moving on to regular employment. I think it's just the nature of the position.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Typing Out Loud: The Devastating View from Both Sides of the Coin

There was a horrible incident last week here in Grand Rapids, and although it didn't affect me directly, people I knew were involved.

Three men dead, leaving children fatherless and wives widows.

It's hard to know what to type, thus this monthly installment of TOL.

From the point of view of the law-abiding, I'm startled and horrified at the sudden and blood-thirsty death suffered at the hands of these criminals. The officer was attempting to prevent an incident from escalating where civilians and more were hurt.

A family relative was one of the first on the scene to identify the officer who was killed. Words cannot adequately describe the nightmare that enused.

The typical anger swelled inside me at the viciousness, selfishness and destructiveness of the criminals who committed these acts.

Then I found out who one of the criminals was, and my anger combined with a sense of sadness, frustration and loss.

He was the stepson of a former co-worker. I knew him when he was just a little boy, a cute kid that would make funny faces, give me hugs, and earn a piece of candy or gum. I haven't seen him in 20 years, since I graduated from college and moved on from that job.

Watching his dad's press conference, a man I didn't like then, was heartbreaking. It takes guts to stand in front of the press and law officers and offer a public apology on behalf of your deceased son and denounce his actions. His shame was plain to see.

I don't forgive or condone his actions, and given the violence of his actions and potential to hurt many more, his punishment was justifiable. Oh, but don't you wish at moments like these for a time machine? Even as a fringe player in his life, I wish I could go back 20 years and use my thin shred of influence to show him a different path.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Cue the Beastie Boys, cuz "she's crafty!"

Ribbons and scissors and bows, oh my!

It's October 16, so Christmas is only... well, there's actually plenty of time. Still, that has not stopped me from getting started on crafting for the holidays.

First project I'm working on is converting some tasseled perfume bottles into pendants.

What's awesome is the bottle tops already have holes drilled into them where the tassels were threaded. I unhooked the tassels and threaded split rings through and reattached the tassels to the rings. The gold tops match the gold rings perfectly.

Next, I'm using embroidery floss as the lanyard. Cutting the line to 36", I turned the floss into a simple necklace and am using a doubled sheet bend knot to secure the string. I will make the knot solid with a dip in clear nail polish.

I will package the necklaces with droppers so the recipients can fill the bottle with their favorite scent.

So three simple perfume flasks have been re purposed as fantabulous necklaces.

What's up next? More necklaces! I purchased five artisan glass over sized buttons. Playing with some line, I *think* I have figured out how to make these into pendants, which will result in five more necklaces. Or else I can play around with stringing them flat into one layered looking choker-style.

There's also playing around on Pinterest for craft ideas. My thoughts were to create things as gifts coming from Will. Good to know I can do something with those empty wine bottles...

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Why Art Matters - Barefoot in the Park

For someone that loves the arts, I'm woefully uneducated in the theater department - plays, musicals, operas and the like. If asked to go, I'm right there, but I don't actively seek it out. I don't know why, because I fell in love with the play Barefoot in the Park when it was broadcast on HBO back in 1980. To this day, after countless performances of Grease, Bye Bye Birdie, Fiddler on the Roof (a teeth grinding endurance test for me), Carmen and Romeo and Juliets, Barefoot stands atop the list as my favorite.

The story is impulsive Corie marries uptight Paul, and they kick-start their honeymoon in a tiny 5th floor walk-up apartment. Paul is pessimistic, cautious and in a perpetual state of "what's next!?" Corie is flighty, funny, optimistic and ready for whatever is next.

What works for me in the play is how obviously in love Paul and Corie are. No matter how flighty Corie's plans are and how exasperated Paul is with her, she wants to make it work for him and he wants to amuse his wife's flights of fancy.

As a tween in a perpetual state of unrequited crush, dreaming of my own little love nest, this play was romantic and fun. I identified with Corie's attempts to make her little apartment a home. I hoped to have a Paul who would stick with me no matter how crazy I was.

I grew older, got married and have had upteen apartments and houses. I saw BITP performed by Kentwood High School in 2009 at a time when we were making do with what we had and needed a reminder that we were in it together. A few details of the play had been updated to reflect modern times, but the heart remained the same. As an adult, I identified with Corie's pluck, Paul's grounded nature, and the wish to have a Paul who would stick with me no matter what.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

October Playlist - way back in the ohs!

Countin' em down with Casey

I love countdowns, always have. So when VH1 put together their top 100 songs of the aughts, I was excited to see how their list shook out. And of course build my own based on their results. I was surprised at how much I agree with, but the complexion of my list changes a bit with my substitution/addition list below.

Onto the countdown!
OutKast "Hey Ya!" (2 on VH1) - funky, fun, crazy.

Justin Timberlake "SexyBack" (6) - I would have had this #1.

Kanye West & Jamie Foxx "Gold digger" (7) - rawk.

50 Cent "In Da Club" (10) - hey shorty, it's yer birthday.

Gnarls Barkley "Crazy" (14) - sounded brand new and 30 years old.

Beyonce "Single Ladies" (16) - cannot be denied.

Britney Spears "Toxic" (20) - don't judge me.

Alicia Keys "Fallin'" (22) - should have been higher.

Missy Elliott "Git Yer Freak On" (24)

Usher "Yeah" (27) - Yeah!

Gwen Stefani "Hollaback Girl" (30) - B-A-N-A-N-A-S!

Amy Winehouse "Rehab" (31) - I'm not out lighting candles for her, but what a loss.

Eve and Gwen "Let Me Blow Ya Mind" (45) - slinky.

Kid Rock and Sheryl Crow "Picture" (46) - awesome.

Snoop Dog "Drop It Like It's Hot" (66) - I will never forget being in the security office at the department store I worked for and seeing the staff inwardly grooving while appearing professional.

Colbie Callait "Bubbly" (71) - reminds me of Philo

Jet "Are You Gonna Be My Girl" (72) - reminds me of the Synchro St. Louis girls.

Chamillionaire "Ridin" (74) - song about drugs that is too much fun to be about drugs.

Plain White T's "Hey There Delilah" (78) - nothing is sweeter (or more awkward) than when a boy writes a song for a girl.

Lil Jon "Get Low" (80) - ok!

Macy Gray "I Try" (85) - just a singalong belt-it song. Love the hair.

Flo Rida "Low" (92) - yeesh, this middle-aged white girl called him Florida way too long. Doesn't mean I can't appreciate.

OK GO "Here It Goes Again" (93) - thanks to Molly for giving me the inside scoop on the band before they hit it big, but this video was just awesome.

The Replacements
Black Eyed Peas charted at #12 with "I Gotta Feeling". I'd take that out and put in "Hey Mama" or "Let's Get it Started."

U2 charted with "Beautiful Day" (15). My sub: "Elevation."

Christina Aguleria charted with "Beautiful" (18). I substitute "Candyman."

P!nk scored with "Get the Party Started" (23). Wow - great song, but she improved the quality of her work with every record after that. Pick one.

Nelly shows up with "Hot in Here" (25). I cannot deny "Country Grammar" having lived in STL at the time.

White Stripes chart with "Seven Nation Army" (26). I say IN ADDITION you put "Fell in Love with a Girl" on there.

Lady Gaga "Bad Romance" (49) - roma- oh- la- la. IN ADDITION I add her with Beyonce for "Telephone."

Shakira shows up with "Hips Don't Lie" (52). Give me "Objection Tango" any day.

I know Norah Jones "Don't Know Why" (54) put her on the map, but I love "Been Thinking About You."

Nelly Furtado "Promiscuous" (73) but I prefer "Like a Bird" and "Maneater".

Bruce Springsteen "The Rising" (81) I know, Academy Award and all that, but give me "Girls in Their Summer Clothes."

Daughtery "It's Not Over" (94). I'm opting in another American Idol, David Cook, with "Billie Jean" and "Come Back to Me."

Pussycat Dolls "Don't Cha" (96). C'mon ladies, get classy! I'll do it for you with "Jai Ho!"

Sunday, October 2, 2011

MyArtPrize 11

Everyone's a critic, including myself. I mean no disrespect to those that are currently in the top 10, there are a few I agree with, but in the limited amount of ArtPrize I've seen, here's how my top 10 + 1, in no particular order, shakes out.
Laura Alexander, Tempest II - no disagreements there, and where I placed my vote.
Lew Tilma, Grizzlies on the Grand
Ji Lee, Pieces of Mind
Stephen Klapp, Castled Void
Robert Landry, JOY
Was and Eckstrom, Ghost of a Dream
Rino Pizzi, The Mona Lisa Project
Michelle Jennings, Tiffany Peacock
Joe Mangrum, Cross Pollination
Lauren Taylor, The Stories We Tell

And finally, a long standing, stale joke I tell every time People Magazine's 50 most beautiful people issue comes out, I say I'm #51. Well, for ArtPrize, I come in at number 11. Hey -- it's my list.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

To Live and Die with ArtPrize - a pictoral with editorial

Been there, done that, got the socks.

Cara and I went down to AP on Friday night, just us girls. We went to Rumors, then up to the Hub where we went shopping. I got a tee, a button and a Monroe/Belknap chocolate bar (milk chocolate with gummy fish and kettle chips). And free socks! Cara did some serious shopping, and scored all that plus a tour guide and a Center City chocolate bar (dark chocolate with chilies and lime).

We were up at the Children's Museum, walked the neighborhoods, and went to XO for Asian food. It got chilly, but we insisted on the festivity of eating on the sidewalk cafe. This changed my order from sushi to Thai.

We headed towards Rosa Parks Circle, enjoying the sites, looking at the art in the shop windows and debating the merits of each. Hearing the bands, we went to the BOB.

Oh holy crap. The BOB was a mass chaos of food, booze, art, performance, and... well... stuff.

Here's the problem with the BOB as a venue. Outside, no problem - it was a carnival of color, light, music and motion. It was fun, the crowd was into it, there was lots to see and do. I loved the artist on the scaffolding next to the bandstand who would "paint" the concert as it was happening. There was a sand artist there too, creating a new sand painting every day, so beautiful. There were large sculptures, viewer participation, and of course beer tents.

Then we headed inside... ugh. The experience immediately became hot, chaotic, loud, and annoying. We headed into Crush, with their dress code and judgement, to check out the pieces that were there. The sequined portrait was cool, but similar to what we've seen before with push pins, BBs, corks, etc. The DJ was playing everything as loud as humanly possible, and being our chic but obviously 40-ish selves, a little out of place among the high heeled and minidressed little girls that were there to be seen.

It got progressively worse, as we wove our way through the throng, attempting to peruse without interrupting some one's dinner or conversation. Some of the work deserved better of the venue, four amazing portraits with the subject's stories etched into the lines on their faces, were sequestered to a corner of the Monkey Bar.

We anticipated our Saturday with one vow:


There is an artist whose whole concept is giving and seeing where his art ends up. The results are 10,000 little Buddha statues all over the city. When we saw the Buddhas at the UICA, we vowed we would get one for ourselves.

Saturday, we crawled up Fulton on our way to Rumors, and there they were on the ledge, three Buddhas remaining. Like a woman possessed, I pointed and shouted "BUDDHAS! Go, go, GO!"

Cara bolts out of the car, leaps over a shrub, shimmies between spectators on the sidewalk and snatches two of the three while I randomly shout coaching/encouragement from the car.

Cara leaps back into the car and triumphantly hands me the porcelain figure. Without skipping a beat, we joyously shout "BUDDHA!" and exclaim over our good fortune.

Cara spotted all these t-shirts spread out on one of the Heartside's side streets. When we stopped to inquire, it was a "happening" orchestrated by Assocreation, an artists' group/collective based in Belgium/Ann Arbor. They were looking for volunteers to be team leaders in getting the project started, and we agreed to do it.

I was in charge of a paint station, wetting sponges with paint for people to step on and then step on the tees. Since we were juggling Will, Cara took over taking the completed stomped shirts over to the venue to be hung.

The whole project fascinated us on several different levels. According to the artists' statement, the idea behind the project was to create a visual impression of our footprint on the world. It was also fascinating as a group artwork, watching how participants worked at leaving their mark on the shirts.

It was also interesting from a psychological standpoint. We spent a precious afternoon hour cheerfully working at an event in which the only benefit to us were free crappy t-shirts that had been stomped on in the dirty street. And we were not the only ones -- there were 20 of us that cheerfully went about this work as directed by the slim redhead with the voice of a bullhorn. She bossed us with authority, and just enough positive reinforcement to keep us going.

That puzzled me, and when I attempted to read the artists' statement, one of the Assocreation team members, a blonde with a camera who was capturing the event, stopped me to ask why I was leaving. I told her, "I wanted to read what your philosophy was on the project. I'm doing all this work for this event for free, and I hope the message is positive. I'd hate to do all this only to have you mock us for being suckers." That is when I read about the footprints on the world, and she assured us the message was a good one.

So, a few moments to participate in a group art event, and three free tees. Yes, Will got one too.

Leaving a choice phrase behind in honor of one of my professors. One might ask me, "what have you learned?"

Any regular reader *crickets* knows I have some self-esteem issues. When it comes to me being in ArtPrize, I worry someone is going to scornfully rip the facade away and expose me a hausfraud (get it?!) Even though I gave the painting lots of thought in terms of color, composition, message, meaning, right down to the rose petals, I self-consciously worry about the legitimacy of considering myself an artist.

Perhaps, finally, I can put those fears to rest.

Unloading the painting from the car and into the venue, the tough but sweet bartender, a seen-it-all kind of gal, assisted me getting the painting up and her weathered face warmed when she saw it.

Meeting artist #1 at the reception, I handed her a card and she gave me hers, explaining our art's meaning. We shared our stories as moms, me with the child who survived his dangerous beginning and she with tales of the one who didn't. We hugged within 5 minutes of our initial meeting.

I was introduced to yet another artist, a 94 year old fabric artist. Drinking fruity drinks, she drilled me on my concept and my message, which I was able to share in depth. With tears in her eyes, she shared a family story that took place 89 years ago. Her mother gave birth to her younger sister at the same time a sickly young woman gave birth to her child. Unable to care for her newborn, doctors asked the artists' mother if she could wet nurse the child until the mother was strong enough to come home. She took care of the baby for two months. When people came to take the baby, the children in the family protested, but the mother protested, and told them that God gave them a wonderful opportunity to nourish the child and give her health. Again, another hug.

A Rumors regular had fallen in love with it, and has asked, if it's not too much trouble, if I'd be willing to leave it up for his Breast Cancer Awareness benefit in October.

A makeup artist burst into tears seeing it, as his boyfriend's grandmother recently died of breast cancer, and said "I have to bring him to see this, he will love it."

I've recieved compliments on my choices of color, the composition, the curly hair signature, my subject matter, and how fresh the petals look as a non-traditional frame.

Then there's the artists' attitudes. Of course I had one smarmy guy dismiss me in an exchange of cards. But so many others have been kind, respectful, and have been welcoming in a kinship of creative I haven't felt since college. One artist, whose smile made my painting glow, asked me if I considered myself an abstract expressionist or a conceptualist. I bashfully admitted that I was a graphic designer by training and didn't consider my style to be anything but my own quirky thing. He accepted this and my work with appreciation.

Finally, there was this, from Dave's cousin Liz:

"So we discussed ArtPrize today in my drawing & design class. I was the only one who knew someone who is participating. My teacher thought your piece was inspirational because you based it off of Will. She loved it. Just thought I'd tell you (:"

I was the matter of discussion in a high school art class! I bored freshman art students! There's something nerdy-cool about that.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Typing Out Loud: "I wanna be the girl with the most cake..."

So... how do you think Marie A felt about bread pudding?



Two of my less charming traits.

I acknowledge every day how lucky I am: I have a nice house, a great family, wonderful friends, and am involved in some pretty interesting pursuits that has made my life rich and full.

So why do I want more?

Is it good old-fashioned ambition? Ambition is a wonderful thing: Olympic champions rely on it to go faster, higher, swifter; scholars depend on it to pull down A's; artists need it to make their craft unique; for doctors, it's a high bar set that quite literally life or death.

It has been said before, however, that ambition is a wonderful assistant, but a cruel master. That can be interpreted as ambition is a great tool to help one achieve goals, but should not a sole motivator.

That brings me to jealousy. Even though I have so much, the desire to be richer, thinner, more talented, prettier, and funnier hasn't gone away since I became aware these things are important for success in life. Sometimes, I'm oddly philisophical about the fact that while I don't possess A, my B compensates for it and then some. But other times, the green-eyed monster devastates me when I hear of another's good fortune, as I wonder why this didn't happen to me.

I consider this jealousy also a sign of greed, or "being the girl with the most cake." I feel like I'm fighting human nature in this scenario, because even though I try to be a fair as possible, when it comes up to slicing that proverbial cake up, I'm looking to score the slice that's just a sliver bigger or at least has a big frosting rose on it.

So does age help you combat this? I don't want to be bitter while surrounded by ever-increasingly empty prizes at the age of 70, yet I don't want to give up on pursuing the various goals I have in life. To quote Dear Abby and sis Ann Landers, perhaps the best advice is to MYOB, and quit competing against others on some sort of imaginary score card and do for myself and also, cut myself some slack.

Besides, I don't really like cake -- I'm more of a chocolate gal.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Why Art Matters - Tales of Two Mermaids

Gaga as Yuyi the Mermaid

It's just amazing how a song can grip you and change how you see and hear things. Even alter the course of your world.

Cases in Point: Lady Gaga's "You and I" and Rimsky-Korsakvo's "Song of India."

First is Gaga. I've been trying to love the album "Born This Way" without a whole lot of success. I *liked* but didn't love most of the songs, but one song Gaga would perform here and there simply on piano would stop me cold, but I never found out what it was or managed to get through the album to the song.

Then comes this trippy little slice of Gaga life, where she's a dude named Nebraska that she herself is travelling to reunite with. She's a mermaid! A scarecrow! A bride! A country hick! A rocker!

The lyrics are hilarious mashups of country/rock ballad cliches. A sample:

"You takes like whiskey when you kiss me oh,
I'll give anything to be your baby doll...
Something something about this place,
Something about lonely nights and lipstick on your face...
It's been two years since you let me go,
I couldn't listen to a joke or rock and roll,
Muscle cars drove a truck right through my heart...
Cuz you can't buy a house in heaven!"


But the beauty of it is IT ALL WORKS. She sings it beautifully, she creates this bizarre little world where she is believable as a guy, a mermaid, a virginal piano player in love with Nebraska, the dude. There's something about that mashup of cliches arranged *just right* that you are right there with her, lipstick, daddy and Jesus Christ.

Well played, Stephanie.

Sadko in the Underwater Kingdom

The second song that took me completely by surprise is an aria from the opera Sadko, Song of India. I heard it the Valentine's day episode of Mad Men, as Don gazes at Betty while she descends the stairs at a very posh society outing.

It's gorgeous, it's lush, and the melody has captured my imagination. A search online has informed me this uncommon opera is about a man from Novogord who leaves his home in search of adventure and riches. Classical paintings that depict the underwater wedding are lush and beautiful and establishes that crazy ain't confined to modern-era Lady Gaga.

So, lushness, love, crazy fantasy are the words of the day. And Song of India couldn't have come at a better time, as I have completely butchered U2's "All I Want Is You" in an attempt to condense a 7 minute song into a competitive 2:10 program.

Yes, I'm skating to Song of India, pending coach approval.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Birthday, Birthfest - Creating An Aura of Princess

Really, any one will do...

I'm a complete diva/princess/queen when it comes to the subject of my birthday. I'm grateful to people for tolerating the "aura of princess" that I project starting around September 7 that typically continues through the weekend after; this year festivities will wind down on Sunday, dinner with the inlaws.

Not to say all birthdays are awesome. Believe me, I've had some dog year birthdays. My 15th was a disaster due to unrequited crushes, diva girlfriends that forgot and the lack of hype. My 23rd I felt oddly old and forced gaiety that resulted in an unfortunate streaking episode in the forest. And my 32nd was post 9/11, and I don't think anyone had any fun that week at all.

I cannot explain why I love my birthday. Maybe for someone who shied away from attention, it was the one day/week that I could be comfortable being showered with attention and affection. The weather is usually picture perfect, not too hot, pretty sunny and relaxing. There's the expectation that something special could happen - Dinner? Party? Flowers? Candy? Balloons?

But it always comes back to presents. This year I got the aerial class from Dave and Will; but that is the tip of the gift-giving iceberg. And the free stuff from companies has blown me away:

A grande blend from Biggby Coffee;
Nail polish from Ulta;
A custom-blend perfume from Aveda;
Bottle of perfume from Yves Rocher;
Bubble bath from Sephora;
Lunch from Noodles.

That's not even mentioning all the free desserts, knick knacks, drinks and specials from other peeps.

Most of all, I think it's people going out of their way to say or do something special to help me celebrate that gives me an extra glow.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Aerial fitness a.k.a., my Midlife Crisis; a.k.a. 42 or 24?

"She flllies through the aaaaaair with the grrreatest of eaaaaase..."

In one of my more spontaneous moves, I agreed to enroll in a 6-week aerial fitness class with my friend Monica from work. Of all of the things I have ever wanted to try, I can honestly tell you this was never on any short list, wish list, bucket list, to-do list. But as luck would have it, Monica talked to me the week prior to my birthday.

The significance? I'm a complete diva when it comes to my birthday, and for the week prior, it is ALL about ME.

Add that to my not-so-unique situation of turning 42 while attempting to maintain my mental and physical age of 24 a.k.a., a classic mid-life crisis.

What you get is an overweight female Walter Mitty-type with a thirst for new experiences swinging from the rafters of a tiny martial arts studio.

I showed up for the 7:30 class in skating gear since I deduced that would be the most appropriate. The level 2 class was finishing up, 6 long, lean, flexible yoga-types. I worry.

Then it's our turn to take the mat for stretches and warm-up. The two teachers are a laff-a-minute-"girlfriend!" instructors who put us at ease immediately. Jackie and Sabrina have a love for what they do and it shows as the class ticked into prime time.

In no time flat, we are warmed up and ready for the silks. The first lesson is to wrap the silk around our right leg and lock it by clamping down on the silk with the left. In order to do this, you also have to pull down on the silk then pull yourself up while twirling the silk around your leg.

This is harder than it sounds. In eight attempts, the best I manage is 3 inches off the ground but typically I end up with the silks wrapped around my foot, which is flat on the mat. Being a skater, I had a tendency to point instead of flex, which doomed me. But I did it a couple of times, which earned a few high fives.

Next up was attempting to shimmy up the silk using the wrap and grab. I failed miserably at this.

Then we tried the knot. You started with the wrap, then doubled the silk back over the foot to secure the knot so it wouldn't slip. I excelled at this, and rocketed up the silk and swung, kicked, flexed and didn't want to come back down. Monica and I traded turns scaling the silk and being pretty.

Last, it was time for conditioning, stretching, cool down and dialogue. Conditioning consisted of a series of push-ups from different positions. I did 10 standard push-ups, but only managed 5 decent and 2 crappy ones from hands under the ribcage. We switched to crunches, and did 25 standard, 8 with my feet in the air, and 8 with my legs spread. I'm not quite sure of the quality of the crunches there towards the end.

We took turns stretching each others arms and as we were going through these paces, shared small talk and were asked what we liked about our first day and what we wanted to work on. I said I really liked knot work but wanted to improve the wrap and inch up that silk.

I was exhausted, but felt like I accomplished something. Working with a small group, it was nice to get to know the other 3 instead of try to remember everyone in a group of 6 or more. Also, the instructors were fun, engaging, and most of all, encouraging. They gave us enough to make us work towards a goal while giving us something that gave us a sense of accomplishment.

I'm looking forward to next week.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

September Playlist: ArtPrize, hell people!

My inner Kelly Bundy sez "I...! am an artist!"

While studying art history at Ferris, I had a professor who was passionate about art in all its forms. Dr. James Walker's lectures were filled with students, enraptured as he, carried away by color, form and action.

"Lookit that form!" he'd shout, clicking frantically from slide to slide. "That bust is not the bust of a stone, it's alive! The curves! The colors! Hell people, that's art!"

All his lectures were like that, an exhilirating journey that was an adventure and a love affair. He made you passionate about art. And in turn, as an artist, made you want to create GOOD art.

So this episode of the Playlist is dedicated to music that is inspiring, tunes that help me slip into my creative zone and hopefully I've created something that Dr. Walker would find dynamic.

Bullet the Blue Sky, U2 - the essential U2 song, earnest vocals by Bono about the political crisis in El Salvador, paired with the aggressive play by Adam, Larry and The Edge. My sleeper pick for their best song ever.

Edge of 17, Stevie Nicks - imagine being an impressionable young girl of 12, 13 and have this be a hit. It opened a world of possibilities. Ooh, baby, ooh, said ooh.

Claire de Lune, Debussy - It sounds like soft spring rain. It also feels like early morning summer dew, a lover's kiss, a pastel drawing, a sugar cookie, and your favorite, soft sweater.

Flamenco Sketches, Miles Davis - the song looms large in the legend of Dave and Mel, but take that story away, and you have a long, romantic jam that gently swirls.

Calypso, John Denver - This song has a physical movement, you can feel the roll of the sea, as well as a distinct color, the blues and greens of the ocean.

All Through the Night, Cyndi Lauper - I feel like this is the girly version of a Bruce Springsteen song, that wistful two crazy kids in love racing through the night, clinging to and being with each other.

Venus as a Boy, Bjork - the dreamy quality of the song marries well with the loopy delivery of the lyrics. You can imagine this mortal from Iceland falling for a god.

Groove is in the Heart, Dee Lite - because sometimes your brain needs a kick in the pants of pure energy.

I'll Take You There, Staples Singers - inspiring gospel/soul.

Melt With You, Modern English - fall in love and let's dance.

Ode to Billy Joe, Bobby Gentry - I love Southern Gothic. What did they throw off the Tallahatchee Bridge? Why did Billy Joe himself jump?

Pink Houses, John Mellencamp - another story to tell, one of my top 2 favorite JCM songs.

Pop Muzik, M - "Shoo be do wah, pop pop shu ah"

Stay, U2 - this song again?! Yes, especially when you tumble in for a pack of cigarettes when you don't even smoke.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Typing Out Loud: A Few of My Favorite Things

The question isn't "why would a 42 year old woman want this?" The question is, "how do I get one?!"

I think the original concept for Oprah's "Favorite Things" show was to go shopping with her girls and spend/write off/get corporate sponsorship to give away scads of awesome stuff.

I don't have a studio audience, but I have a random, "typing as I think" list of stuff I love.

The world of Hello Kitty: I could have cared less about Barbies or teen idols growing up, but would spend my last dime on the pastel knick knacks from Japan. Of all the characters, Little Twin Stars, the twin angels in pastel pinks and blues were my favorite. Did I carry LTS wallet and purse well beyond the age I should have? I don't care.

Detroit Tigers: I loved going to Tigers games as a kid. At first it was for the giveaways - raincoats! hats! mini bats! oversized pencils with tassels! Then it was for the game. I remember the thrill of seeing Tiger icons like Mark Fidrych and Lance Parrish, but also rooting for those guys who were up for a cup of coffee like Scottie Earl and Max St. Pierre. Highlights of course were the Bird years and the World Series runs of '84 and '06.

Thrifting: I mentioned back in October the methods by which I thrift, but never why I enjoy it. For one, it's effective recycling. Two, it's insanely economical: I bought a whole wardrobe for Will today for $6, or the retail cost of one shirt at Target. Three, it's helping a good cause, as most thrift stores in the area are non-profit organizations. Four, by taking things I no longer want to resale shops, is now self-sustaining.

Sugar snap peas: so good, so sweet, I love them alone as a snack or tossed in a salad. I will ask for extras in chinese food. I will decimate a bowl on the buffet line.

Victoria's Secret Dream Angels Divine: it's scent is a soft jasmine with a hint of warmth. It's as close as I have gotten to finding the original Love's Baby Soft Soft Jasmine.

Bath and Body Works Night Blooming Jasmine: this is a close second.

Baskin Robbins Daiquiri Ice: the original recipe is BACK! A long-standing tradition in my family was waiting for the freebies to come around your birthday. There was the Burger King Kids' Club coupons as mentioned in the LIW post, then there was the Baskin Robbins birthday postcard, a smiling cartoon kid with a stacked ice cream cone, wishing you a happy birthday and presenting you with a free cone. I usually got bubble gum or daiquiri ice. To a 10 year old, ordering a daiquiri sounded sophisticated, but it was the tart lemon/lime that i loved. And that icy green color was just gorgeous. Thank God the company came to their senses and got rid of the yellowy green salty crap concoction they dreamed up to replace it. In 1986, Coca Cola fans had their New Coke war; daiquiri ice fans waged their battle in 2008. And we won.

Facebook: I hope that doesn't sound lame, but I have friends truly all over the world and facebook helps me keep tabs. I've been able to reconnect with old friends from high school and college.

Jackson Coney Dogs: several of the iconic coney joints in Jackson have gone by the wayside: Todoroff's and Christoff's to name a few. Oh, but thank goodness for Jaxon Pizza Factory, Andy's Pizza and Jackson Coney Island for keeping the tradition alive. All you need is chili (beef heart and chili powders, I do know the secret), the boiled dog, the steamed bun, slip of mustard and finely chopped onions. Paradise on a bun.

Freebies: My husband jokes that Grand Rapids' favorite word is "free" and I resemble that remark. I'm like a little kid, and love the feeling that I'm getting some sort of little present from someone, even if it's a corporate entity. From a marketing standpoint, I see the value in giving away samples of your wares to encourage people to try and see if they will like. I have become a consumer of goods like Pantene and Dove because of freebies. My favorite mail order place, Yves Rocher, keeps me coming back when they give me a bottle of perfume for my birthday every year, I LOVE that.

This was fun to type, I will try it again soon!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Unfortunate Results of Budget-Cutting Copywriters and Proofreaders

I can't get a job in my field, yet Old Navy and Wet Seal are selling these grammatically corrupt shirts.

Saving that salary probably doesn't look too good on paper anymore, now does it?

I'm out there, I can design AND write AND proofread. But apparently, I have "too much experience" in knowing basic rules of grammar. In addition, I know enough to double-check my work to make sure important information such as phone numbers and websites are current/correct before I send a brochure to print. Ouch, that musta hurt...

Anyway, freelance artist/writer for hire, and I pledge that your pieces are recognized for the right reasons.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Why Art Matters - Little House and American West Idol Laura

I think it comes as no surprise to those who know me that I read a lot of books as a kid. I had one of the first white plastic library cards at the Jackson Public Library. My sisters and I were allowed to walk the 5+ blocks to the Orange Street Library, a tiny L-shaped haven that wrapped itself around Di-Mon's Floral and Gifts. Every two weeks or so in the summer, we gathered our books, our Burger King kids coupons (free fries and burgers!) and replenished our stacks.

For the summer of 1978 and 79, my stacks were all Little House books. I loved Laura at my age in On the Banks of Plum Creek, her in a violet dress dancing on the roof of the dugout.

Like any good junkie, Plum Creek wasn't enough, and I devoured the rest of the series.

She is the reason I knew what a fascinator was before Kate Middleton made them all the rage.

She's the reason I know old west slang like "all the rage" to describe something that is very in fashion.

She is the reason I like tea and horehound candy.

She is the reason one of the first things I did after graduating from college was become a member of the Laura Ingalls Wilder Home Association.

She also infused me with a marked degree of spirit and resolve. Independence. A sense of adventure. Calling up bravery in the face of fear. And the desire to claim my own "Almanzo", a hero that I could love and be a partner with, equally.

Most important, she's the reason I love to create.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Melissa Garland - Athlete! or Athlete?

So I competed at the YMCA's Summer Olympics this past two weeks. There were eight events in all, and I did three.

Last Monday was the mile. I jogged along nicely until midway through lap 3, when a pain in my calf seized up and gave me the "what up!" The good news is I improved on my River Bank Run time by over a minute, coming in at 14:02. I was the only female Y member to compete (employee/trainers did the event seperately), so by default... I won?!

The bad news is, this event enforced the fact that I still hate running. The only joy I got out of it was being done and knowing I completed it.

Monday was the 100 yard swim. I have had no swim training outside of getting tossed in the drink as a kid and instructed to move as fast as I could to keep from drowning. I know I would love to learn to swim without getting water up my nose without a nose plug. Michael, who was handling the timing, had no advice for me, since he was no swimmer either. He hit the button and I was off.

I went as fast as I could, using a butterfly backstroke, as best I can describe it. I felt fantastic, having been in the pool warming up for about 30 minutes. My time? 2:43, also known as take the world record, and add two minutes. Oh well, I'm 41 and competing in swimming for the first time ever. The event is still going on (it's individualy timed for the convenience of members), so I'm still waiting to see how I finished.

After I was done, I felt exhilirated. It was a great workout, and felt like I cleared some cobwebs out of my head, and even felt some joy in the melodic rhythm of my body fluttering in the water.

Cheered on by my activity, I was encouraged to enter one more event for the hell of it, so I agreed to the 10K bike race on Tuesday. All I had to do was ride a stationary bike for 10K, or 6.2 miles. and of course the only bike open was one with a broken TV. Good thing too, I was completely focused and posted a pretty competitive time of 25:20.

What was amazing was how I felt. I felt powerful, energized, FIERCE. Doing the mile, I just did what I cold to get through it. The swim was a loopy, casual what-the-hell. The bike, if I had someone next to me, would have been blasted off the track. I was racing to WIN.

And as far as I know, I was the only competitor in this event as well. A win is a win is a win.

So I still hate running, but think I could cross train for skating with swimming and biking. And it felt GOOD to be good at something other than skating, just to say I did it.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Liquid Gold, 2011 - vote up 54111

Well, it's almost done. With the exception of redoing the drape at the waist and the framing, the heart of the painting is done. Now, I need to hash out what the artist statement and promotional material will say. I need it to be under 2 minutes for the audio guide.

"Liquid Gold was inspired by my child, who was born 3 months premature. Being so tiny, he needed all the additional help he could get, including providing him with vital nutrients via breast milk. Seeing him thrive, my husband nicknamed the milk Liquid Gold and Rocket Fuel.

The background colors of lavender, purples, pinks and reds are reflective of the feminine subject matter. The bold strokes and figure style were inspired by Picasso and Keith Haring. I purposely created a nurturing figure that is universally identifiable, across nationalities. The curly hair is me.

Special thanks to the Healthy Kent Breastfeeding Coalition."

Looking forward to another season of ArtPrize!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

August Playlist - Summer Shuffle

Will rushed the "stage" to rock out to the Verve Pipe at his first-ever rock show. He was wearing a Rush tee until Donny changed his shirt.

My Sweet Lord, George Harrison - getting geared up for the Scorcese documentary in October about the Quiet Beatle. And, I'm thinking about skating to it for the Christmas show.

Last Friday Night, Katy Perry - a catchy little number with a cute video that made me temporarily forget I can't stand her. The lyrics are hysterical.

Pumped Up Kicks, Foster the People - the song was an indie favorite on WYCE and college radio this spring, so I was shocked when it popped up on VH1 this summer. Also shocking was how freakin' hot the band is. Dave and I Shazam'ed the song several times, and the third time, I finally bought it on the iPhone. Ain't technology wonderful?

Tightrope, Janelle Montae - first heard this song in a WERQ class, and was so mesmerized by the beat, I got through the worst of the class. Girl is lauded by fashion mags for her too-feminine-to-really be androgynous look, but the gal has genuine chops in the music department.

On the Floor, J.Lo - I should hate her, but I can't. There is something very awesome about JLo, and I take her music for what it is, catchy dance music crafted very well by her producers.

Summer, War - I have no idea how old this song is, I heard it on a soundtrack a long time ago, and requested the song on iTunes. It is finally available.

Acting as Your Slave, The Verve Pipe - CD bought from the back of a trunk when we were in college, a song I mistakenly added while trying to add the song next to it. I love when mistakes work out.

Arms, Christina Perry - sweet and tough at the same time.

Born This Way, Lady Gaga - after not liking it this spring, I came around this summer. Still not feeling Edge of Glory, a little too 80s for me. Last time I saw hair like that was Berlin's Take My Breath Away.

Save Me San Francisco, Train - "I've been high, I've been low, I've been yes and I've been oh hell no!"

Wake Up and Be Part of the Band, The Verve Pipe - TVP's second/third entries, this from The Family Album. These guys have had a career that for everyday working class musicians, is a dream come true. They were huge on the Midwest college/frat party scene, won the West Michigan Battle of the Bands for a recording contract. This turned out a few indie rock hits, then a huge top 10 hit, and a few more indie hits. This led to the song on the soundtrack, the cameo in the movie, the song in the commercial, the song over the credits on ABC Family. Semi-retired, the band was getting back together for holiday shows, which led to the holiday album. Growing older and having children, what's next but a children's album? This led to heavy rotation on Sirius/XM, concert specials on PBS, and a mishmash tour schedule that includes libraries for the kid shows and concert halls for the adult rock show.

That said, Wake Up and Be Part of the Band rule, true rockers disguised as kiddie songs. Will loves them, and rushed the stage at first opportunity. Donny was amazing with the kids, so was Brian.

There Goes My Everything, Jack Greene - We stumbled upon a bluegrass jam session in Reed City and the the band played this song, squeezing every drop of sorrow out of every note. To be honest, I think the impromptu version I heard live was better, but this will do.

Knockin' At Your Back Door, Deep Purple - Funny story, I had shreds of this song in my memory banks on a loop, for several days. I thought the same of the song was Point of No Return, and I asked friends for verification, and tried looking it up on iTunes. Came up empty. Two full days of going crazy, I share these shreds with co-worker Clint. Those shreds were "point of no return," "samurai," and "little Suzy". I also guessed the song was released between '79 and '85. I threw out the bands Kansas, Rainbow and BTO.

BOOM, he had it, Deep Purple, in less than 10 seconds.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

The Paradox of Trying Too Hard

It was recently suggested to me that I was trying too hard to make certain things in my life happen.

Like losing weight.

Getting in shape.

A new job.



Urban Dictionary defines those who try too hard as "A person trying to convey an image that is unlike his or her actual self." To which I say, this is true. I am actually overweight, in need of some toning, in need of a new job in my field, and need to improve my skating skills. These are things I'd like to improve in my life.

But where is the fine line between giving these things your best effort v. trying too hard?

I've been told when I get frustrated that I have a tendency to become a bulldog, shut down and keep driving away at the task, be it applying for jobs, trying the same failed jump. The Future Buzz blog says this about why trying too hard fails us: Where overthinking will stop creative work from even happening in the first place, trying too hard merely produces results not worth sharing. Remember - productivity is not necessarily creativity.

But HOW does one stop overreaching, a.k.a. try too hard? This is a question for which I do not have an answer, and perhaps I can discover by going backwards, find some answers.

Example 1: I used to drive myself crazy, wishing desperately to be popular in high school. As a member of the prom committee as a junior, I was charged with the task of helping with clean up, and some popular seniors were there, helping. They were sticking construction paper flowers to themselves and thinking it was shared fun, I did too. Shooting me the evil eye, these girls ripped the flowers off themselves in horror. I felt embarrassment for a second, then, with narrowed eyes, came to the sudden shocking realization that I didn't like those girls anyway. After that, I concentrated on friendships that mattered to me, and people that I truly cared about, thus becoming popular in my own tribe. This allowed me to become a happier, relaxed person in my own skin and I suddenly found myself surrounded by friends.

Example 2: I struggled to become a scholarly egghead in high school, challenging myself with honors classes. Problem was, I had mastered my classes in the 7th and 8th grade, effectively hitting the ceiling. During some crucial years, I developed poor study habits due to not having to crack a book. Also, I was determined to master all my classes without acknowledging that I was drowning and needed help. Results to be expected, poor grades and poor self esteem. What did I do about it? First, I didn't stop challenging myself in classes that I knew I could master, I made sure to do homework when the lesson was fresh or at least during breaks at work as opposed to after work. In classes where I needed help, I studied with others and took an active role in group projects. I also stepped back a little (relax? me?) and took classes that were going to recharge my batteries instead of exhaust them.

I made these mistakes in high school and college. College, I majored in things I thought I should instead of following my heart to what I wanted to do, and my grades suffered. Once I followed my heart, and relaxed, the effort was worth it.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Vacation: Can You Really Deprogram?

Hm. So we went on vacation this past week to the U.P. Vacations are a completely different animal with a two year old. It's a lot of fun, but it is also a lot more work.

Pre-Will vacation scenario: do nothing, read a book, swim for long stretches of time, nap, eat and drink late, get sun burnt.

Will vacation reality: wake up way too early by getting rapped in the head with a sippy cup, pluck boy off winding staircase, fish roll of toilet paper out of toilet, feed peanut butter sandwich, brush sand off sandwich, wriggle boy into his swimsuit, keep eagle eye on now naked boy on beach, put boy down for nap, put boy back in pen for nap, repeat, repeat, repeat, clean up broken glass of lemonade, keep curious hands off hot grill, keep curious hands from turning on stove or getting coffee pot, take bag of popcorn away after eating half the bag, take wriggling boy out of stroller, retrieve child before going off the side of pier, tell boy to "look with his eyes" at curio shop, repeat, repeat, repeat.

That's not to say we didn't have fun. Highlights for me:

A near-private beach. The neighbors were out 3 times a day to let the dogs run, and one other time, another couple brought their dogs to the beach for a run. Otherwise, it was all ours. Beautiful, clear water with one cold spring to the west, and one warm spring to the east.

Our cottage was very cute, a wood chalet interior with scalloped gingerbread detail, barrel furniture with argyle leather upholstery, winding staircase that led to a darling master loft bedroom, gaslight sconces, stained glass lights, wraparound deck.

A day trip to Tahquamenon Falls on Tuesday was pleasant, from the road trip to the walks. We stopped in Trout Lake for snacks and we learned all we needed to learn about hunting bear, fowl and deer. Will got the second of his Great Lakes at a roadside park, dipping his feet into the tannin-stained waters of Lake Superior. We had perfect weather for a walk to both the Upper and Lower Falls. Linner (was it lunch or dinner? It was both!) at the T. Falls Brewery was fantastic, and I found a stout I like, a blend of beer, coffee and chocolate. And the rolling farmland of central U.P. was picturesque.

Live music. Wednesday it was Catholic Girls Gone Bad on the pier in St. Ignace. Thursday was jazz in Cadillac and bluegrass in Reed City. My favorite was by far the bluegrass band.

My kind of souvenir shopping. The Hope Chest in St. Ignace is a pay what you want thrift store. I scored a purple Mossimo top, a midnight blue military top with fantastic buttons, a fitted lime green button down for me, a bear cookie cutter for Will to play with on the beach, and a pinewood derby medal for Dave. $1.60.

McDonald's. Cheap on the go eats for the trip up. An oasis to let Will run off some energy after being cooped up in a car seat. Don't judge.

Fish. Good on the grill, in a dip, on a sandwich, yanked off a carcass.

Time. I think Dave and I spoke a handful of times on Wednesday afternoon, mostly about nothing. It was fantastic.

Tranquility. Even though it was the end of July, St. Ignace wasn't packed with fudgies.

Made up car games. Dave "collected" clever names to pet grooming businesses.

Fudge. Mint chocolate chip. Maple walnut. Peanut butter chocolate.

Surf, the ultimate white noise.

Stars, the ultimate night light.

The crabbies:

The weather didn't cooperate, to the point we cut vacation short by a day. Nights were cool and damp, and we woke up soaked with dew, even with the windows shut. Thursday there was no line on the horizon, so at noon when it hadn't burnt off, we decided to head south.

The beds were full, too small for us to slumber together comfortably. Even then, the beds were NOT soft, and my room smelled faintly of mildew.

Bad sun tea. There was enough minerals in the water that my tea was cloudy and tasted bad.

Trinkets and trash. Probably the result of growing up or my current purge mentality. Oversized pencils, plastic Indian dolls, thimbles, moccasins, keychains, t-shirts and more don't hold the same appeal anymore. I was more than happy to pick up for Will a 10 cent bear shaped cookie cutter and a free bear poster from the DNR - that is what I gifted to my child for vacation.

Cut off. Being in the U.P. means no TV, no internet, only radio. That's nice for when you definitely want to be on the down low, but when it starts raining and you want to settle in and watch some TV or a movie or at least find out what is going on in the world, well you are SOL.

Too much tranquility. It was sad to drive through St. Ignace and see one business after another closed. No crowds to add to the excitement. And really, for a week in July, there was no activities scheduled to retain our interest in staying in St. Ignace for the full week.

Friday was a good day to unwind from the trip, and we took a motorcycle ride to Grand Haven with some of Dave's riding buddies, noshed at Tip A Few, and made it to Lake Michigan on the boat to enjoy the sunset.

The whole week was bookended by not one, but TWO garage sales. Never again.