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.