Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Resolutions 2014

Let's take a look at how I did for '13:

Pass Gold Moves - erm... I took gold moves, and got some good feedback.

Train like a 10K - did it!

Move it, move it - I did six 5ks in addition to the 10K.

Competing - I competed four times at skating competitions, getting two gold and a bronze. Not bad.

Axel - I'm close...

Shrinking Woman - I have been maddeningly gaining and losing the same 7 pounds all year long. No one is surprised by this, apparently I'm supposed to give my body time to adjust to this body. I also found I was eating wrong, and put my body into starvation mode by counting my calories too closely. Sorry body.

So, what's up '14?

Gold Moves, again.

Keep the running going - I joined the Grand Rapids Running Club, and will start doing more with them to prepare for the 10k in May, the 8k in August, the 14k in September, and the international half in Detroit in October. Not showin' off, just showin' up.

I find that I'm not quite enjoying competition anymore, that may be due to the emphasis on freeskate as opposed to exhibition style competition. Since I'm getting older and time (as well as money) is becoming more precious, I should be able to focus on competing what I like, am I right?

I do have freeskate aspirations. The axel and improving all the little things that would make me a more polished skater. How about little things, like the half jumps like the stag or a split? More variation in my spin positions, how I hold my arms in the layback?

Oh I need to lose these 15 extra pounds. I had originally stated in September I wanted them gone by March 31, but that would be 5 pounds a month the next three months, and I wasn't even losing that when it was coming off steady. Maybe a more realistic goal would be 15 by September, when I see my doctor for my annual?

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Typing Out Loud: 200!

Here it is, post #200. It's amazing to think it took me from 2008 to 2012 to get to 100, and less than two years to make it a double.

Looks like I have a lot to say.

A lot has happened since then too.

I've lost nearly 40 pounds, my father and my father in law.

I've been recognized for my art at ArtPrize, Festival of the Arts, US Figure Skating, and various galleries throughout Michigan.

I've obviously written quite a bit, and it has been noted in the oddest of places. Yes, I'm doing the River Bank Run for free for the 4th year in a row. That's almost $200 in entry fees won.

And my skating achievements have been recognized as well, from the skating to the judging.

And the running! I went from heaving my way through a 5k to upping the ante to an international half marathon this October.

Not bad for a middle aged woman realizing her Walter Mitty dreams.

I've discovered I still love to write. I still love to learn. When it comes to the playlists and why art matters, I research the subject so I can educate myself and write true, comprehensive articles. I've done a bit too much dipping into the past for nostalgia pieces, but it has helped me understand who I am today. And why I don't like The Who all that much. There's also some pieces of me I didn't like seeing, which is part of the experiment as well.

While "selfie" is the word of the year and is a scornful nod towards the current trend towards self-absorption, I do hope my writing has reflected the world around me and how the reciprocation of thoughts and inspiration are part of a bigger picture.

Or at least made a few of you laugh.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Why Art Matters: Gunne Sax by Jessica McClintock

The bows, the ribbons, the satin - oh so iconic. This dress from the 1986 collection.

There are such things, like boy bands, high heels, and the Real Wives series that make me think I have to turn my girl card in to the office that is in charge of such things.

Then formal wear season begins, and I am issued a rhinestone studded one-way ticket to Hello Kittysville, all while shrieking "Pretty!"

Arguably the most iconic prom dress designer is Jessica McClintock. She made a name for herself with Gunne Sax, a company she bought into in 1970 and purchased outright in 1972. Designer of distinct hippie and prairie looks, her dresses were a mesmerizing swirl of silk, taffeta, brocade, velvet, cotton and linen.

I of course became aware of her dresses in high school, one of many girls eagerly anticipating the March issue of Seventeen to see what looks to shop or dream for prom season. One dress from the 1986 season, a vintage-y dress in off white with a mock choker, sweetheart neckline, with trumpets of purple and pink flowers scattered on the fabric haunts me still. I would even take the dress above.

The appeal is in the feminine details. Ribbons, bows, lace, beads, flounces. Her dresses were cut to fit and flatter most any girl. And romantic; I'm sure it's no accident many of these dresses came in pure white, to remind a teenage girl to look forward to her wedding day.

Since I didn't go to prom in '86, that elusive dress passed me by. The next year, Gunne Sax debuted the bubble skirt and I just couldn't go for that, especially when I had a formal sitting in my closet, a "will do" remnant from being a bridesmaid.

I contemplated a McClintock for my wedding dress, but her collection was a tad too casual for the church wedding I was planning. Wistfully, if we were ever to run to Vegas to celebrate our anniversary, I would scour ebay for just the right JMc to flaunt as we renew our vows at some drive-thru rock and roll chapel. Just a thought...

A few years ago, fate dropped a vintage ice blue brocade Gunne Sax gown into my lap. I wore it once to the Whitecaps winter banquet with a snow white wrap and a rhinestone baseball pin. Far too formal for the occasion, but memorable because I was able to mingle with major league ballplayers feeling a bit like a princess.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

December Playlist: Living in the Gilded Cage

The Garanimals Method of putting together a rock band. Is Stevie Nicks #28?

To hear these songs is to hear that life on the road isn't all groupies, green M&Ms on the contract rider, and screaming "are you ready to rock [insert city name here]?!" before launching into the encore comprised of songs everyone knows by heart.

Limelight, Rush: Loving the life but loathing it at the same time.

Faithfully, Journey: song dedicated to the girlfriends and wives back home while the boys are dealing with flashpots, empty bottles of Jack, writer's block, etc.

Jukebox Hero, Foreigner: boy dreams, boy lives dream, boy realizes dream bigger than him, boy is washed up but never forgets the roar of the crowd.

Shooting Star, Bad Company: boy dreams, boy lives dream, boy realizes dream bigger than him, boy dies for dream, but if you listen to the wind, you can still hear him play.

Home Sweet Home, Motley Crue: kind of insightful yet ambiguously penned. Is every night on tour like coming home because they are at home on stage? Are they looking forward to tonight because it's one day closer to coming home?

American Band, Grand Funk Railroad: It's all about the groupies, and having a whore in every port. I don't know if it was the effect of the 70s but GFR isn't exactly poster boy material, but that didn't stop them from taking full advantage of rock stardom.

I Wanna Be a Rock Star, Nickelback: I despise this band, but this song is a hoot and a holler. It makes fun of while embracing all the trappings of rock stardom.

Turn the Page, Bob Seger: world weariness from Michigan's favorite son (sorry Ted Nugent). My next door neighbor use to play this over and over on an 8-track of Live! Makes you second guess approaching a celebrity if you see them alone in a diner nursing a cup of coffee.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Typing Out Loud: A Peek Thru My Johari Window

So some info is flying around the internet I let loose. What else is there to know...?

There's a little thing sweeping facebook right now, where your internet friends ask you to 'fess up to X amount of factoids about yourself that maybe many people don't know about you.

My facebook friend list is comprised of people I've known forever as well as people I've never met in person, being friends of a friend or people I've come to know via the internet, so some of this is either forgotten information or new information I'm releasing to the masses.

It was an interesting exercise to see what info about myself I was willing to share, and why. I think it goes back to the communications/psychology device, the Johari window. The Johari window is comprised of 4 panes: known to me and others; known to me but not others; known to others but not me; and the unknown. As transparent as our lives have become online, I have enough decorum to know there are some things, thoughts, experiences and knowledge that belong only to me. At the same time, I am intrigued by those things known by others but not me about me.

Anyway, here's the list I posted about myself:

I won my grade school spelling bee, which led to me representing the school at the Knights of Columbus county spelling bee. I hiccuped saying "k" for the word "kindergarten" so it came out "k-a" and thus I went down in flames.

I wanted to be a writer early in my life, I can't even pinpoint the exact early influence. My first book was about Anna and Joe, who found a cave on their farm. There was a girl who lived in it, the cave being a portal to alternate realities and adventures . Pretty heavy for 8 years old, but I was embarrassed of it by age 10 and decided to throw it away. I can still see its orange cover flying through the air at the dump and that lump of regret is still in my gut.

I also knew I wanted to be an artist as early as kindergarten when I created a snowman out of clay with arms and legs so he could play with us. When my teacher remarked snowmen didn't have legs, I smarted, "mine does." I also got in trouble in 4th grade because I refused to make a Christmas collage, preferring to draw. "A collage is NOT art!" I protested. Hm, perhaps it's more accurate to say I learned to be a temperamental artist early...

If I had to be perfectly honest, in reality, I'm rather shy. A lot of things I've done in life like reading in church and studying communications, is direct combat against my natural inclination towards being an introvert.

I was a radio DJ in my younger years. I was a guest on my great Uncle Joe's weekly program "Polka Time" on WIBM and WKHM for about 4 years. I DJ'ed college radio at Lansing CC and Ferris State.

I have been contemplating grad school for years. I have 11 credits towards a masters in communication, but haven't mustered the enthusiasm to go back. I'd love to get my masters in fine art but in the last few years have found I don't need the degree to create.

While you all know about me becoming a skater and a runner as an adult, there was a third sport I took up as an adult. For two years, I was a member of the O'Fallon Parks & Rec Fencing club. I was pretty good at foil, and was moving onto saber. I was asked to join a renaissance fair team, but declined when I joined the synchro team, and quit.

Biggest fears: car accidents, speaking in public, something happening to Will or Dave. Last Thursday was definitely no picnic as 2/3 happened.

Bonus: while I have lost close to 40 pounds in the last two years, I admit it's a struggle, daily. Every day is either an opportunity to eat healthy and exercise or the chance to read a book and eat a box of Timbits. Some days you have to listen to your body and rest, and some days I have to force myself to get off my ass.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Why Art Matters: Whoopi on Broadway

I have been told, frequently, I am funny enough to have become a comedian. A nervous bout of stage fright coupled with the craving to be universally loved and adored while knowing that never happens put to bed any delusions this may ever happen. Also, when I was a teen, I was exposed a bar  raised so high, an accomplishment so great, it seemed almost foolish to try. Probably the single, greatest stand-up one woman shows ever created.

Whoopi On Broadway.

The show originated as The Spook Show, a series of character monologues. The show was picked up by director Mike Nichols, and debuted on Broadway, renamed Whoopi on Broadway and ran for 156 performances, one of the shows taped and rebroadcast on HBO. She won a Drama Desk award for this performance as well as a Grammy for best comedy album. Her performance led to her role in The Color Purple.

But what made it so poignant?

She created characters that were funny, engaging and thoughtful. There's the drug dealer (with a PhD.) that stumbles upon the Anne Frank house in Amsterdam. The surfer girl who discovers she is pregnant and all alone. The little black girl who wishes to be white with long blonde hair. The Jamaican companion of The Old Raisin. The physically disabled caregiver who dreams of agility and the man who falls in love with her and takes her dancing.

There is an art, a grace to creating characters you can laugh at while you fall in love with them. There is a truth to these characters that reaches deep inside you. I've been the little girl who wore a slip on her head, pretending to have long, luxurious hair. Someone who limitations may not have been physical but were felt nonetheless. One who finds friendship and sorrow in the unlikeliest of places.

It's recommended watching.


Tuesday, November 5, 2013

November Playlist: Trip Through Your Wires


Saying you're a U2 fan is akin to saying you like breathing. While there are a few naysayers who aren't impressed, 80,000 of your closest friends at one concert can attest to the ongoing popularity of the boys from Ireland.

I was aware of the band in their early days, introduced like most via MTV playing Sunday Bloody Sunday and Gloria. And like most, I fell in love with the band when The Joshua Tree went huge.

They have been and still are in some cases, punk, earnest human rights advocates, arena rock, electronic, roots, disco and straight ahead rock and roll. Even they will admit they became so huge, they became parodies of themselves.

My play list will try to avoid the obvious, but sometimes the obvious are obvious for a reason.

Trip Through Your Wires - Filthy harmonica, and one of the most overlooked U2 tracks and most certainly the most overlooked track on the Joshua Tree album. Very bar band.

Bad - The drug addict song. The build up of drama in this song is intense and delivers.

Bullet the Blue Sky - song pretty much showcases the awesomeness of every single member of the band.

Angel of Harlem - People like to dis Rattle and Hum as some sort of vanity project, but it works. The band has said this was their learning period of the history of American music, and this tribute to Billie Holliday is as fine a sing a long song as any.

Far Away (So Close!) - There are days when my body craves this song. It creates in my mind a smoky bar with not a lot of patrons, the house band, and the girl who loves them.

All I Want is You - In the song Sometimes You Can't Make it on Your Own, Bono sings in tribute to his father, "you're the reason I have operas in me." All I Want is You is a prime example of a U2 opera, maybe even a symphony. Damn thing clocks in at about 7 minutes. It starts quietly, builds, swirls, soars, comes down, goes back up, and the coda takes you for a desperate ride courtesy of The Edge. Even the video is a swirling operatic storyline, the midget ringleader for an Italian circus in love with a trapeze artist. Someone dies, maybe two, who knows, it is completely ambiguous and up to you to decide what the hell happened.

Elevation - After their ride through the 90s doing European rock, electronica and disco, they claimed to apply for a role as the biggest rock band in the world. Application accepted. I still want to skate to this.

Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me - U2 became so big, Bono felt the need to adopt an additional persona on stage, thus becoming The Fly. Do what ya gotta do. This song is from one of the Batman soundtracks, the video itself comprised of the members of the band becoming comic book characters. Hell hath no fury like a primary rendered Larry Mullen Jr!

Mysterious Ways - it's one of the first songs Dave and I shared in those early courtship days. It's an amazing tune that opens your eyes a little to a bigger world view. Plus Bono laying on a Moroccan tile floor is pure sex.

Numb - The Edge's only lead vocal hit. A weird monotone song off the wildly imaginative Zooropa, it goes through the emotions he was feeling from his divorce. Video by Godley and Creme, they of the extreme avant-garde closeup.

An Cat Dubh - Off the first album Boy, it's simply a loud, crashy tune that sounds like a polished mess. I have no idea what the title means.

Fast Cars - Track only found on special editions of How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb that has a particular tango feel to it. I think I have stated before, if I ever make it to the point I need to pass a solo free dance, it will be to this.

Trash, Trampoline and the Party Girl - As punk as they would ever sound, this song was featured as a bonus track on I don't know how many albums. On their last big US tour, they were hauling girls up out of the audience to perform a song request. This was the song the girl in Chicago requested.

Sweetest Thing - Bono misses a birthday, and writes a song in apology to his wife, becomes international hit. The video is delightful.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

What's Right in the World: Say a Little Prayer

The title of this article just may be an excuse to post a picture of Aretha.
While watching one of the Tigers’ final regular season games in Minnesota, I heard an ambulance siren over the game audio. Instinctively, I said the prayer “Jesus, Mary, Joseph; pray for us.” It was a quick little phrase taught to me in third grade by Sister Mary Getulia (unsure of the spelling, going phonetically here), as a way to offer up a prayer for whoever the emergency vehicle was for.
The seriousness of offering said prayer was reinforced just a year later when the ambulance was for Father Rokowski, the beloved pastor of our church, who suffered a heart attack and later died.
It’s just something I’ve always done. Dave has noted an almost Pavlovian effect: when I hear a siren, I nod my head.
I admit I am not particularly religious. I’ve even broken up with someone over religious differences (Feb angst!) Yet there are some spiritual things I truly connect with and I have my own moral code that is probably inconsistent with my Catholic upbringing. I struggle to see the effectiveness of rote recitation of prayers someone else has written, and saying them repeatedly over a rosary as opposed to a real conversation with God about what's going on in the world. And yet I love the beauty and symbolism of a rosary.
And I love the simple, earnest simplicity of the quick “JMJ” prayer. It’s like wrapping up all your hope, fears and wishes for another person in six simple words.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Why Art Matters: My ArtPrize 13

Guardian Angel, my pick for AP13

Mixed bag at ArtPrize this year. Very few pieces grabbed me by the throat and demanded I love them. On the downside, there was an excess of cut paper, piles of recycled discards reshaped into something, and butterflies. Still, I found a few precious things to love. In the past, I was able to come up with a top 10; I'm not even sure I can come up with that many this year.

Fashion Has Heart: the designers teamed up with veterans and asked, "what was the worst day of your life?" and created designs based on those stories. What was remarkable was even the darkest story had rays of hope and resilience. The resulting work has just as much impact, a unique blend of tough and tender. Janet Champion is a true American hero.

Guardian Angel: Beautifully crafted and upon viewing it, created a sense of serenity and joy. Black wings on canvas painted in acrylic, a mosaic tiled body, a graphite pencil face and a stained glass halo. Pictures simply do NOT do it justice.

EggPrize: Ok, I got angry at first. It appears the EP guys took our From the Book of Geno concept, shrank it down, put art in Easter eggs and charged people for the privilege. But it worked. I got a tiny 3/4" x 1" painting, and it was a thrill of chance missing from our installation. I still defend that it was ours to begin with.

The Shell: Manipulated photography that took me a day or three to realize it was a woman wearing only paint. It was so abstract yet so sensual. The colors were alive, impressive.

Word by the Diatribe: Spoken word poetry transcribed into braille books and performed daily. In an effort to create an artprize piece accessible to the blind, the artists forced the issue of what is art for everyone. They themselves were able to add emotion to their spoken word, and adding an additional layer to their concept. Passionate, I'm glad to have met two of them.

The Transmaid: The only piece of art made out of recycled materials that worked for me. It also crushed my heart. The sculpture depicts a beautiful mermaid cutting her tail in half. How I saw it, the mermaid was destroying her uniqueness to be like everyone else. How often do we do this to ourselves, hide or alter the real us to fit in? And her efforts were grotesquely beautiful, you knew it would end for her badly, no matter what Disney tale she was being told, she was still going to be half woman, half fish. And the use of the recycled elements was beautifully crafted. Loved the hair made out of champagne cork wire cages.

Monsters: Whimsical children's illustrations that were a refreshing departure from the earnest, political entries at the BOB. Sometimes you just need to see a 4-eyed monster with an overbite. Adorable.

Will You Still Need Me: 64 Guan Yin figurines cast in all 64 Crayola crayon colors. For me, it was a mix of old, new and youth. My grandmother had one of these figures, so it made me remember her. The Crayola smell is one of youth, and the figures, arranged so neatly, made me think of the years as the added up.

UPlifting: the only Top 10 piece in my top 9, it is a bronze water fountain sculpture that is simply a celebration of the human form. In figure skating, it is also a level 2 pairs lift since it originates at the waist. It is where my vote went, God I hope the panda made out of tires doesn't win.

Friday, October 4, 2013

October Playlist: Ear Worms

Don't get too entranced with Blurred Lines you fall on the train tracks.

A funny thing happened over the summer: I started posting on facebook the songs that I would wake up listening to in my head, and people began to respond.

Why? I think the ear worm is a blessing and a curse of a phenomena. There's no consistency! It could be a song that has been played ad nausem over the summer, could be a favorite that triggered a memory, could be something out of the archives of your memory you haven't heard in 30 years.

So this is a list of the tunes that buzzed me this summer:

Shout! The Isley Brothers - This is the one that convinced me there's a non-stop Polish wedding reception going in my head.

Prince Ali, Robin Williams from Aladdin - blame judging Basic Skills.

El Paso, Marty Robbins - on dad's birthday. Awesome.

Voices Carry, Til Tuesday - Dave was reading Al Jorgenson's biography in the bathroom and he mentioned this Amiee Mann song was about him.

Josie, Steely Dan - I think the line "When Josie gets home, from school." got lodged up there.

Fast Cars, U2 - considering ice dance, and if I do, I want my free dance to be this.

Dancing Barefoot, Patti Smith - once that bass line infects your brain...

Blurred Lines, Robin Thicke - once that hook infects your brain...

ANY theme song to ANY children's programming - it's intentional, I'm sure.

Dumb Ways to Die, Metro Trains - PSA out of Australia where cute characters do some pretty dumb things. Will loves it. 

Royals, Lorde - New Zealand singer with spooky-pretty eyes, hypnotic voice.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Typing Out Loud: Bullies

This hurts my heart. I hope I never see Will go through this.

I'm encountering a civil war of sorts in the adult skating community, where it appears one is bullying the other. It is shocking, as an adult, to witness this behavior in a sport that is supposed to be fun as well as supportive.

But I guess I'm in my life-is-beautiful-prom-queen bubble half the time and don't always see things as they are.

I had a few bullies in my day. In grade school, there was Angela, who basically picked on and started fights with everyone. Her favorite thing to say in the morning was "let's all ignore [insert girl's name here] today," and watch as the psychological damage slowly unfolded until that girl would go home by the end of the day in tears, wondering what the hell happened. Could have been the wrong color barrettes. Could have been she hadn't been isolated in a while. Could have been getting a better grade on a paper.

I rarely participated in this nonsense, so the isolated girl and I usually formed a two-person front against her. In those times when it was my turn, I usually stood alone.

Her underlying motivations varied. She was an unhappy person, who valued physical beauty above all else, ironic considering the burns on her body due to an accident. I remember her showing us modeling head shots that were taken and sent out in hopes of getting some work. She never did.

For obvious reasons, we grew apart once she changed high schools. We shared a distinct bond based on growing up in the same neighborhood together, but we didn't value each other as friends.

Ah, but teenage years are ripe with Life Lessons and Angela was replaced with not one but TWO, Kelly and Susan. Want to know why I was so offensive to them? I was polite to teachers, and in their opinion, I was a suck up, an unforgivable sin. They made fun of my clothes in assembly, which in hindsight is highly illogical since we were all in classic Catholic school uniform and dressed more or less the same. They would follow me in the halls, singing the Styx song "Lady," a bland love song they turned into a taunt.

Their mockery was apparently infectious, since it spread to Dave in English, who would pull my bra straps, whisper hateful things, throw little balls of paper in my hair, make fun of me loudly when I got less than an A. This one hurt, because he was the grandson of Mrs. O, our next door neighbor, and one of my playmates when we were younger. He would come over on Friday nights to visit, and a neighborhood game of tag, statues or hide and seek would break out. He could have made the transition from a small grade school to a big high school easy on me, but he betrayed our friendship. I think his actions, unexplained to this day, probably hurt most of all.

Funny thing was, no matter how much he hurt me in school, I never tattled to his mother or his grandmother, sticking to some sort of unspoken kid code. Why? Probably because if I had, things would have only gotten worse. No one likes a tattle tale, esp. a 15 year old one. That too explains it, I was growing up and wanted to fight my own battles.

So how did I get out from under their grip? Kelly had drug problems, and went to rehab, never to return. Without her partner, Susan lost interest in me and ended up quite friendly at a class reunion, striking up conversation as we pitched in to clean up after. Dave too had some substance abuse issues, which I think may have humbled him, as we went from hostile to mellow.

The prom my junior year was liberating, as I was on the prom committee and showed up to do some post-party clean up. A group of mean girls (nothing else describes them more accurately) were half-heartedly helping, and sticking paper flowers on each other. Smiling, I joined in. The exaggerated horror on their faces that I dare ingratiate myself in their group was striking, as they ripped the flowers off themselves and went to another part of the auditorium to clean up. Instead of that heated, embarrassed shame for being caught trying to be in with the in crowd, I got pissed and suddenly, I realized I didn't like them anyway. I was caught off-guard by that sudden realization, and laughed out loud as the burden of popularity was lifted from my shoulders. This caused that group to turn, stare and declare me "so weird!" That made me laugh even more.

Oh, I fear for Will, bullies are everywhere, and in all shapes and sizes, from employers to telemarketers to salesmen to little boys at the kid zone that want the toy you have. Almost all I have encountered are battling some demon that is kicking their ass, so they are looking to return the favor. I want to protect him, but I want him to learn to make his own way, however he see fit. He's such a happy kid, I don't want his light dimmed, but I want him to be strong and be his own person.

It's hard to stand alone. But sometimes, you must.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

What's Right in the World: Talk Like a Pirate Day

Argh ye scaliwags, I'm here for me treasure!

So I donned my gold hoops, a pair of knickers (really, yoga pants), a pirate hat and grabbed one of Will's stuffed animals to claim a dozen donuts at Krispy Kreme in celebration of Talk Like a Pirate Day.

Why? It wasn't really for the donuts. Although the one handed to me fresh off the line was amazing.

It's about being silly. Celebrating what's right in the world, that an every day American can waltz into a donut shop, bark "Arrr!" at a cashier who then hands over a treat. That I can go about my day with a stuffed animal on my shoulder and people will look at me as if it were a matter of course. It's about finding the fun in everyday life.

I also know there are people I know who would shudder at the mere idea of stepping outside their comfort zone, even if the prize is free donuts. I know I had misgivings about being an adult woman driving across town to the only KK in the area. Was I going to be laughed at, mocked?

Well, even before I got out of the car, a little girl saw me, with parrot, and excitedly pointed me out to her grandma, who was wearing her knickers and an eye patch. They met me at the door, saying how clever I was to remember the bird, and the staff were looking for things like hooks, swords, parrots and the like to complete the pirate look to seal the bounty deal.

The patrons were well impressed. The staff? Methinks a tad weary of "arrs!" and "ahoys." When I gave the girl at the counter the above speech about claiming treasure, she merely handed me a box and moved on to the next customer. Meh.

But how fun. How silly. And certainly, most definitely, one of those things that is right with the world.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Why Art Matters: Little Treasures Everywhere, for the Taking

Take a book, leave a book.

My first encounter with a free lending library was many years ago at a hotel in the UP, while Dave was at a snowmobile club meeting. While he was at his all-day talks, I was left to my own devices at the hotel which featured a hot tub, pool, free Internet (a novelty in the late 90s), and a library full of free books left behind by vacationers to enjoy for the moment, or take home to pass along. The novelty of a communal library without the hassle of a library card was delightful, and in respect of the sharing nature, I helped myself to one instead of greedily hoarding as many as I could carry. I don't remember the title, but I did pass it along.

Where I passed it on to was a geocache, or modern day "buried" treasure. Geocaching was a phenomena of the early days of the Internet that continues in popularity today. People would hide treasures in plain sight, usually in a canister, plastic shoebox or some sort of treasure chest. People would look these treasures up on the website, and using a GPS, attempt to find them. I remember leaving this book in a "library" cache, an exclusive leave-a-book-take-a-book military ammo box.

There were other treasures to be had while geocaching, and I scored through the years jewelry, toys and trinkets. We had what we called out cache bag, full of happy meal toys, bug tags, bug spray, the GPS and maps printed from the sites. The most thrilling find was our first, on a bluff overlooking the Missouri River, a hard one we didn't know was hard until we acquainted ourselves with what all the symbols meant. Unfortunately, we haven't gone on a hunt since we moved back to Michigan 8 years ago.

But I'm ready for my next treasure hunt, and that would be discovering a local Little Free Library. A Wisconsin man came up with the idea in honor of his literature loving mom, and simply put a cabinet out on his front his house filled with books with one rule: you take a book and you leave one behind.

Since that inception, the Little Free Library has grown in number to more than 10,000 across the US. All you need to get started is erect a secure cabinet on your property and encourage visitors to participate. The little libraries have as much personality as the owners themselves and can run on themes. My guess is if I were to be able to post one at home, it would be a Little House library to start.



Wednesday, September 4, 2013

September Playlist: Birthday Hits!

Hey Betty, spin the latest beat from the Hit Parade on your hi-fi!

My first recollection of a favorite song being a big hit on my birthday was The Knack's My Sharona on my 10th birthday. I loved this song so much, I begged for and got the vinyl as a present.

Before anyone thinks, "woo, sophisticated tastes for a 10 year old," know I carried a Little Twin Stars wallet in my pink Hello Kitty purse until I was 13 old enough to know better. (I got sapphire earrings for that birthday, and I still have those too.)

For a good while, what song was #1 on my birthday mattered to me. In later years, those songs served more as a bookmark for a place in time. I'll focus on the early years for now.

On with the countdown!

1975 - Get Down Tonight, KC and the Sunshine Band: I went way back to birthday number 6 because a.) I remember my sister loved KC; and b.) this song blistered live at Muskegon Summerfest.

1977 - Best of my Love, The Emotions: A disco-era movie soundtrack staple, and also a great groove from my VD present, Can You Dig It? box set.

1979 - My Sharona, The Knack: love. See story above.

1981 - Endless Love, Diana Ross and Lionel Richie: What was I, twelve? No boy on the horizon, or even my radar, T (Feb. angst!) has probably just started 7th grade with me then. Good song, but as far as duets go, I'd take Billy Preston and Syreeta's With You I'm Born Again.

1982 - Eye of the Tiger, Survivor: oh hell yes! Power chords! Power moves! It's got Rocky, Tigers, classic rock and lives on in the annals of adult figure skating (of course). Bex will snap to attention the moment this plays.

1983 - Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This), Eurythmics: cool and creepy. It baffled me at the time someone as beautiful as Annie Lennox would diminish her beauty on purpose, but now I get it. By creating a mystery around herself, she created an aura around the song, and made the focus about the music. Of the 80s new wave bands, their catalog endures.

1986 - Venus, Bananarama: take an icky early metal song and remake with an English dance-pop band? The girls looked beautiful, the song was catchy, and they were able to do what Blue Cheer could not, make this song sexy. Yeah baby she's got it.

1987 - La Bamba, Los Lobos: I loved this song and the movie and the soundtrack back then. The movie, however, has not aged well at all. This remake has. I bugged my friend Jill, who was fluent in Spanish, to translate. It lost none of its mystery or charm.

1989 - Cold Hearted Snake, Paula Adbul: It was more of a song of the summer that crept up the charts and finally hit number one my first week at college. A standard at the clubs, it was a dance floor filler as student bodies mingled. I didn't identify with the lyrics since I was grappling with a breakup I instigated (Feb angst!). Maybe I was the cold cold cold hearted sssssssssssssssssnake.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

What's Right in the World: Farmer's Markets

I just had to have them. Now they are sitting in a bucket on the counter.

The best part of a Michigan summer, outside of baseball, boating and beaches is the embarrassment of riches to be found at roadside produce stands and farmer's markets.

My favorite is at 7 Mile and Alpine, Under the Pines. Last time we were there, we bought peppers, potatoes, peaches, plums, beans, garlic, tomatoes and beets. The only reason we didn't buy corn was because Dave had bought a dozen ears roadside on his way home.

The tomatoes this year have been so good, they have effectively ruined "industrial" tomatoes that most restaurants purchase from big business farms (I know there's a better term for it, but don't know what it is). Date night dinner last night featured one of the tomatoes in Dave's salad, a firm but bland fruit that did nothing to enhance the flavor.

Ah, but I sampled a caprice salad at the grocery store with local tomatoes and cheese. The flavor was out of this world.

Today we stopped by a roadside stand because we were out of corn, and Will enthusiastically shouted "Beans! Cucumbers! Blackberries! CORN! I love these mom!"

And that is one of the best things about all this fresh goodness, is Will's willingness to eat beyond the little kid diet of chicken nuggets and fries and eat beans and berries with relish.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Why Art Matters: Ah, Romance!

Hey Fabio, commence with the bodice ripping!

When Dave gave me a kindle for Valentine's Day last year, it unwittingly opened Pandora's box to a guilty pleasure: free romance novels.

I feel justified in my affection for the tales of orphaned woman falling ass-backwards into a torrid affair with their boss/doctor/rancher/local bazillionaire. My grandmother consumed these tales daily, and I remember her selling, buying, trading her Avon boxes (the reliable 70s equivalent to today's copier paper boxes) with other enthusiasts.

The genre is a billion dollar business, even if no one admits to reading them. I can attest during my ah, research, there are genres within the genre: western, contemporary, Christian, Amish, comedy, vampires, merry Ol' England. You can pick what trips your trigger, be is romance, bondage, soft-core porn, psychological thrillers.

And it's not just for heterosexual middle aged housewives. There are stories for readers of all ages, and orientation.

What I don't like about them is the stereotypical set up: gal with no family (why?); brooding millionaire with black hair who is almost always angry with a secret; the inevitable pregnancy at the end. There are some books that I start where I can predict the ending within 4% of the book read (no more page counts, not on a kindle).

I know what I like, and maybe that's the biggest joke of all, the contemporary ones that reflect the world that I inhabit. I don't need to pretend to be a vampire, a scandalized lady in waiting, a rock star who forgets her birth control, or a penniless spitfire desperate to hold onto the family farm. I like the ones that make me laugh, the slow and easy romances that come together easily with superhot passion.

Kind of like me. Bah dum dum ching!

Really, I do like the ones that do break away from the formula, although I will tolerate the occasional miracle baby. They're a nice way to pass the time and read myself to sleep.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Typing Out Loud: If a Friend Dies, Why is it About Me?

I received the devastating news yesterday that a friend of mine recently died tragically. I’m devastated for her and our mutual friends, and feeling terribly guilty because these events unfolded over a month ago; we weren’t aware and missed our chance to say goodbye properly.
I could explain it away in light of a houseful of family, and managing dramas both large and small. I could also explain it away as to the peculiar relationship I had with this friend, who at times was intense and other times was pissed off at me for no reason at all.
But again, back to the missed opportunity to be there for her and for our friends, who were grieving and we were not there. I’m overwhelmed with the thought we could have been, but also wonder if dealing with that would have been one too many French fries on the plate.
Is that self-centered? Here I have a friend who died and I’m worried about having to deal with too much, turning the tragedy onto myself. It makes me think of a passage from a short story I read years ago, “From Up on Fong Mountain,” a young girl who was given the assignment to keep a journal in English class, an assignment that coincided with her first relationship. In it, she had teased her boyfriend that his favorite subject was himself, and she asked the thought-provoking question, isn’t everyone’s favorite subject themselves?
I think it’s natural, of course. You world exists from your point of view, it couldn’t otherwise. But at what point do you have to step outside of yourself and see things from a different view and not be the center of your world? Does it come down to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, the close you get to self-actualization, the easier it is to see beyond your self?
How much of the world do you miss by being insular? During my highly dramatic teenage years (they’re all laughing at me!), how much better would my high school experience have been if I could have stepped beyond the fortress my shaky self esteem built to see everything actually didn’t revolve me. In a shockingly reassuring conversation with my friend Jill at our reunion, I muttered a not-too-pleasant remark about a missing classmate who had picked on me because of my hair, and I had hoped he was bald. Jill dismissed him with the remark, “He picked on everybody.” Again, I thought I was the only one! If I had stepped away from the situation, I would have seen it wasn’t me (and my hair) that was the problem, the problem was he was a jerk.
Again, back to me. *sigh*
Since I have more than the adequate experience grappling with funerals, I guess to rectify this missed opportunity to say farewell, I should ask what would she have expected of me in this situation? A laugh, a drink, a chance to reminisce over some unforgettable moments we shared together. Looking out for the friends she left behind. Most importantly, thinking about her and how she fit into the universe. To borrow from Greg Proops, “Tonight in the cosmos, flying as high as a home run ball is a gal getting ready to step outside for her 5th inning cigarette break. She of devilish tongue and rogue tastes. An unassuming girl if you didn’t know her BUT a complicated being if you did. If you think of her, know her spirit lives on, at the minor league park she loved.”
Later Jules.

Friday, August 9, 2013

August Playlist: Van Halen-Hagar-Cherone-Roth?

How many high school notebooks have been graced with this logo?

I have lived through three incarnations of the band Van Halen, and I believe I am in the rare circle of person who has seen all three in concert.

As a band, they are high octane from the guitars to drums to larger than life personas. In a band with two brothers, you'd think the squabbling would be between those two, but the reality is Eddie Van Halen just couldn't or wouldn't get along with his charismatic lead singers.

The combustion worked, however. Which did I like best? Oh, like a mother, you can't distinguish between your favorite child, although there is at least one you shake your head at, Gary Cherone.

A great band for so many reasons that make this list:

Runnin' with the Devil - that intro!

Eruption - that solo!

Dance the Night Away - a surprising waltz into top 40, a brilliant move towards pop radio friendly singles.

Beautiful Girls - this may be the self esteem talking, but work with me. Other rock bands featured fetishized models in their videos, alienating middle America gals like me, who couldn't even buy the MAKEUP possible to look like that, let alone the clothes. When Motley Cure sang about the Looks That Kill, they weren't singing about someone like me. But God bless David Lee Roth, there was something about his phrasing, and his singing that this song was about YOU. There is a certain "woohoo, wimmen!" exclamation in his vocals that makes a girl strut.

And the Cradle Will Rock - "have you seen junior's grades?"

Everybody Wants Some! - I think this has hit the playlist in the past based on the Claymation music video in the movie Better Off Dead. Quotable, even garbled. Love that low tribal drum that opens the song. Classic Rock Playlist claims this is the ultimate Van Halen song since it is equal parts Roth/Anthony/Alex/Eddie.

Unchained - "c'mon Dave, gimme a break... hey, hey, heeeeey... one break.... comin' up!"

So This is Love? - for all the overplayed staples of classic rock radio, this one doesn't get much play. Too bad, it is a great jam.

Pretty Woman - oh, the VHS cheesiness of the low rent video production that is this video. DLR and Eddie were always at the forefront, but let's give it up ladies for Alex as Tarzan and Michael as a Viking. Oh, and that strut thing with Beautiful Girls? Back with a vengeance.

Big Bad Bill is Sweet William Now - anyone who bitches about DLR being a heavier rocker than Sammy chooses to ignore Dave's affection for tin pan alley. In mommy's fantasyland, she can see her son skating an exhibition to this with all the ladies swooning.

I'll Wait - from 1984, a classic staple on heavy rotation.

Love Walks In - mixing my eras and influences, the period when Sammy looks like Brian Krakow from My So Called Life, and they were promoting Sammy as DLR's harder rocking replacement with a ton of live conert videos.

Inside - one of the many songs on 5150 that made me think the songwriting was going in a new, mature direction. A fan of Sammy's from his Standing Hampton days, I was a quick convert to Van Hagar.

When It's Love - I think OU812 is my favorite VH album, and I remember playing this cassette til the tape wore thin. Video could be all Sammy's hair blowing wild and free *sigh*. Warner Bros. contract and Michael Anthony in Mickey Mouse tee? Subtle jab at the man.

Cabo Wabo - I think of it as VH's version of Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville.

Source of Infection - franticly energetic.

Black and Blue - sexy.

Poundcake - sexy. Ex-boyfriend didn't like that I liked this so I think it made me like it even more. What was I thinking?! Faithful readers *crickets*, yes indeed, it is the same ex who thought it was unladylike to listen to Zeppelin. If I write a cheeky memoir, I think I have my book title.

Right Now - reinforcing the "thinking man's VH" with an award-winning video about life's possibilities in the here and now.

I tried to list something from the Cherone years. Can't do it. I remember thinking at least the song "Without You" was good, but it sounds like VH in a blender with Pearl Jam and STP. Sadness. This concert was disappointing too, even the Black Crows, who were the opening band, dialled it in.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Typing Out Loud: Just a Quick Race Before Hash

Candid from the race. Green is not my color.
A cupcake and a cookie? Love it!

So I participated in the Color Run a few weeks ago and the experience was a mixed bag. Awesome because it reunited me with some high school girlfriends, including one I haven't seen in over 20 years. Fun because I was all sorts of colors by the end. Special because it was in downtown Lansing around some old haunts I used to frequent when I was a student at LCC. But disappointing because I approached this event with the thought this was a real race. With 5 color stations and a water station along a narrow stretch of road with 20,000 racers, I never got above a brisk walk.

I trained for this?!

So with that in mind, I actually had what I consider a body craving for a race. Interesting, I've never had that before. I had three choices: the Y's Grand Haven 5k, a Cookie Dash 5k, or a Streets of Fire 8k.

I chose the cookies.

What I ended up choosing was a race close to home, on a cross country track, early enough to get it over with but not so early I wasn't able to sleep. And, it was organized by my friendly-but-not-quite-friends yet Y workout companion Rebecca.

Beautiful weather, a challenging course, and TONS of cookies at the end. I discovered dairy-free blueberry cookies. I discovered I don't mind a CC course, and improved my time by about 5 minutes compared to the Fuel Your Fire 5k last October. And, for the fourth race in a row, Ringo Starr made an appearance at the finish line. Even though I had the ipod on shuffle, I got Boys for the final stretch and I Wanna Be Your Man for the finish line. I think I need these cookies and a Ringo Starr shirt for my next race.

And we went out for breakfast after, and mommy got her corned beef hash. I earned it!

Monday, July 15, 2013

Why Art Matters: Local TV Commercials

So the partners read me the Freddie Rumsen speech... I'm going for the Dirt Cheap Chicken!

As a freelance Ad Girl, I love Mad Men for it's dramatization of the advertising business of the 60s as well as the soapy lives of the employees. Since I pay equal time to the business side of show, I find it interesting that outside of securing Chevy, Don Draper hasn't landed an account all season; the emphasis is about DD's personal downward spiral, but it looks like his professional life hit the toilet too.

Couple that with the hilarious depiction of a Wallside Windows ad by a coworker who barked, "Winders? We don' need no winders!"

Where will Don land when he hits rock bottom? My brain is spinning him towards small-time, locally produced commercials.

There is an artless art to the local ad, in the fact it's so bad, it's good. Yet there is a little something special about them.

Mascots: Mel Farr's Superstar. The Dirt Cheap Chicken. The Mattress Giant (oooh, ahhh!)

Shameless -- or charismatic -- Business Owners: Becky's Wholesale Carpets, with her tiara and flying carpet. Sundance Chevrolet's "Howdy Pardner!" Rose City Motors homespun guarantee that they will send you home in a "vee-hick-le."

Catchy jingles: everyone knows you "save big money at Menard's!" I haven't seen an ad for Mel Farr since the 70s, but you depend on "Mel Farr Superstar for a far better deal!" Empire Flooring's 800 number song.

Low end production values: lots of these ads are single camera productions on VHS (you can just tell!) with bad shadows, visible boom mikes, 80s video productions like flashing bursts and dizzying swipes. Used car lots are notorious for the shouting announcer too.

Far-fetched storylines: local father-son-grandson heating/cooling ad features the three generations (with a surprise 4th generation appearance twist) playing baseball with and against each other. The before mentioned Wallside Windows parodies of The Godfather as well as Newly Rich.

Monday, July 8, 2013

What's Right in the World: Who's the guy in the pointy hat with Mr. Woolsey?

Don't wear your warm ups and don't leave your harp in Sam Clam's Disco.

I'm looking forward to the Color Run this weekend for many reasons. First is getting completely stinking dirty. The second is meeting up with girls I graduated from high school with. We all had such a good time at our reunion last November, people are getting together here and there to do things, from bar hopping to open houses to 5ks.

Being alumni of Lumen Christi, when we talked about putting together a team for the run, it was only natural for us to select something special that was tied to the school and our experiences there. Mr. Woolsey was a natural choice, being resident cross country coach and freshman religion teacher (who also scared all the seniors in marriage class). Since his teams won a ridiculous number of state championships while we were classmates, dubbing ourselves his "other" dream team felt like a great homage to the man.

Teammate and fellow '87 alum Aimee ran into him at a graduation open house, and explained what we did in his honor. Touched, he gave his blessing and by way of endorsing our efforts, is getting us LC track shirts for the run. Awesome sauce!

But what's with all the jokey punch lines earlier in the blog? In order to get our attention and keep us engaged, Mr. W. would frequently open a class session with corny jokes. One was the tale of Bill Simms, who was so well known and so famous, people would often wonder who the guy in the suit (President of the U.S.) or the guy in the pointy hat (the pope) was that was with Bill Simms. The other is a silly pun on "I Left My Heart In San Francisco" that I unfortunately don't remember the set up. They were all groaners, but to think I remember the setup to one and the punchline to the other 29 years later is a testament to the man's standup by way of teaching.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

July Playlist: American Idol!

Oh I'm sorry, did I just slam-dunk this competition?

In terms of pop culture phenomenon, few can argue the impact of the TV show American Idol. The show has been a ratings hit from the first season, and it's contestants have dominated the pop, country, Christian, R&B, and Filipino charts as well as making a splash in theater, TV and the movies.

All out of a little singing competition resided over by a cranky Brit, ditzy pop star, and session musician.

Admittedly, I haven't watched the show for a couple years now, but when I did, I was a fanatic. Not voting-for-two-hours-straight crazy, but enthusiastic water cooler conversing. What got me there? Well, the following is my favorite Idol performances.

Angela Peel, As We Lay - Who? Black girl in punk band who could wail. A true talent that somehow slipped through the wild card cracks.

Nikki McKibbon, Hard Hearted Hannah - I'm a sucker for big band and rockers. Put 'em together, yay. Lot of people disliked Nikki, I didn't get the hate.

Kelly Clarkson, Stuff Like That There - She went from front runner to the only one that mattered. She held the word "it" for what felt like a minute and a half without wavering.

Ruben Studdard, Kiss and Say Goodbye - I LOVED the Velvet Teddy Bear, Claymates be damned. He wrapped old R&B melodies around his vocal chords and performed them ever so sweetly, and this rendition had me jumping on the couch.

Jennifer Hudson, I Have Nothing - I'm sure glad she showed Simon how wrong he was about her curls, her looks and her voice. Grammys. Academy Awards. Her best performance came, appropriately, during movie soundtrack week.

George Huff, What a Wonderful World - Probably one of the sweetest, most even-keeled performers on Idol ever. Only reason he was eliminated was because someone had to go. Shame.

Fantasia, Something to Talk About - One of the most unconventional Idol winners with a nasally speaking voice and interesting back story. Man did she perform.

Bo Bice, Time in a Bottle - My clear favorite for season four. I line listed at least 4 other songs here until I figured it was too much. And he remade the song Blaze of Glory for the adult-skaters-know-it-by-heart movie Blades of Glory.

Nadia Turner, Time After Time - Another cute black girl with an afro and a definite sense of who she was and what kind of singer she wanted to be. Unfortunately not an AI. I hope she is still performing.

Carrie Underwood, Crying - Although a big fan of Bo, she did a beautiful  job on this song. This was a year when Dave and I went head to head, as he was a big Carrie fan. She won me over with some of her pop releases in later years.

Chris Daughtry, I Walk the Line - He was part of my one/two favorite until he was unbelievably eliminated. What's up with that America?! He's crying all the way to the bank, thanks.

Taylor Hicks, Not Fade Away - Lots of people give Hicks crap for not being more radio friendly but I loved an Idol who knew the history of music, as his version of this Buddy Holly classic proves.

Lakisha, Stormy Weather - I know Simon was in the business of making stars, but he underestimates the American public when he rudely dismissed Lakisha based on her plus sized status. She proved to him her voice was plus sized as well, belting 'em out until she made top 4.

Melinda Doolittle, Nutbush City Limits - tiny girl, tiny speaking voice, tiny self esteem. Oh, you want me to sing now? Here comes the sonic boom.

Amy Davis, Where the Boys Are - I was surprised she was eliminated in the wild card, I really enjoyed her performance. And, loved the dress.

David Cook, Billie Jean - They could have had Idol Sings the Phone Book week, and I probably would have listed his performance of "Yellow Pages, Plumbing" as my favorite. He was just that good.

Adam Lambert, Tracks of my Tears - a flamboyant screamer, he floored me with this performance. It was soft, amazingly heartfelt.

Megan Joy, Michael Sarver with Steve Martin, Pretty Flowers - during the finale, actor Steve Martin came out to perform a sweet bluegrass number with two of the finalists.

Crystal Bowesox, Me and Bobby McGee - right in her wheelhouse, she personified the Janis Joplin spirit.

Phillip Phillips, Home - didn't watch the season yet this song invaded the airwaves, and was the go-to Olympic theme song for athletes.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Typing Out Loud: The Power of Positive Thinking

I did it: I am signed up and will be taking my adult gold moves in the field test next week Friday. The butterflies have already started to flutter. Why? Because I want this, I want to perform well, I want to test well and pass.

The flip side is the negative thoughts are already creeping in. In order to exorcise those demons, I'm going to just type them out and air them out.

Patterson is so cold, I'm going to get stiff and fail.

I'll get so nervous, I'm going to blow those brackets.

I'm going to embarrass myself.

I'm not a real gold level skater.

I'm going back to the other side. I want to focus on some of the positives heading into this test, and see if I can combat the negatives that are currently making my arms hot.

I'm prepared. I have been working on this test since I passed silver moves three years ago.

I'm ready. I have been working and tweaking those brackets and I have finally got it down.

The judges are proud of me. At a competition this weekend, one judge nodded and said I was ready without seeing me skate. One gushed, "Oh you have arrived! Your gold test is a big deal, good for you!" and another was more concerned about what I would wear than whether I was prepared, which tells me that I must give off the aura of being prepared.

Michelle is nit-picking small things, which is a clear indicator that she is now looking for ways for me to be over-scored.

Past history: Granted, I have failed a moves test once. But I was also sick with a cold and the coach who prepared me for the test was new to moves. Since, I passed silver moves over by 3 to 5 tenths over, and was told my pre-bronze test was one of the best tests - PB or otherwise - he had ever seen.

I can do this.

Visualization. Even as I am typing this, I'm visualizing going through my test, remembering all the little things I need to do and how to do them. Pacing in the power circles. Waiting for the 3s. The push for the figure 8. Sitting on that hip and riding the edge to the bracket, and getting the hip swish.

Confidence. As I was struggling with the brackets, I started saying "confident" in my head before the turn instead of saying " #$%! " Huge difference in how I held myself and how I skated.

I think most of all, I'm going to muster up excitement this next week. I should be excited - this is a GOLD test! I should be eager, I've worked my ass off for this. I should be proud, I've done the work, now it's time to show it off.

I hope this little exercise works.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Why Art Matters: Festival

We had Bosnian, Pakistani, Lebanese, Greek, Australian, Vietnamese and American food.  

One of my favorite festivals of the year is Festival of the Arts the first full weekend in June. It is a three day celebration of arts, be it dance, music, performance, writing, visual, or in the kitchen. In the past, I would go all three days, but with the boy, we were lucky to have a family date last night for a few hours.

We started the night with the band Ejector Seat while enjoying chicken kabobs, pavlova, vegetarian spring rolls and vegetable stir fried noodles. Pavlova is a meringue shell filled with blueberries, strawberries and topped with whipped creme, a favorite of mine since I started going to Festival. Another favorite, the vegetarian noodles were good but NOTHING compared to the spring rolls - delicate wrappers filled with cucumber, carrot, lettuce, mint, tofu and noodles with hoisin dipping sauce.

After a trip through the artist tent and sharing a tandoori chicken tikka, we took a seat at the Calder stage to enjoy a performance by Hark Up Horns. How to describe? According to the site, "gospel favorites with a big band sound." They played a lively mix of religious and secular music, including Route 66 and Dance with Me.

Will started requesting loudly a hot dog, so when they stage was changing for the next performers, off we went in search of booth 6. Six is next to four, so after grabbing Will a hot dog, we scooted over to the Greek booth for a marinated pork sandwich called souvlaki. The line was behaving at the Lebanese booth, so I got a schwarma, a beef and lamb mix served on a pita with lettuce, onion and cucumber sauce.

We made it back to the Calder stage in time to see the Lifehouse Full Life Mass Choir, featuring Rev. Marvin Sapp. Kind of a big deal, the man has won a ton of Grammies in the gospel category. Such amazing musicians. What miraculous vocalists. And Rev. Sapp is truly a charismatic performer, getting the crowd whipped into a peace and love frenzy in the spirit of the Lord. A sharp contrast to the street corner preachers venomously exercising their free speech rights by telling passersby that God hates us because we are sinners.

The line for the rib tip booth was finally short, so while Will got an ambulance tour while Dave got us some rib tips and a smoked turkey leg. We savored the atmosphere as Will told us his new ambition in life was to be an EMT so he can "help people and drive the ambulance... WOOOOOOOOOO!"

Our last adventure was pausing to take in the band Head while Will played backstage with the band's kids and got a handful of candy from the bucket.

It was a family date pleasing to the palate as well as the ears.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

June Playlist: Catch That Boogie Rhythm

Stylin' 40s style.
This month's play list has one song on it, the Andrews Sisters "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy." Why? It's 2013, and at a competition this weekend, I saw not one, not two, but THREE artistic skating programs that used this music and all the skaters were under the age of 18. This song is 72 years old.

The song was written by Don Raye and Hughie Prince for Decca, and the Andrews Sisters debuted it in an Abbott and Costello movie. The legend goes the song was inspired by the story of a jazz musician from Muskegon who was drafted for service during WWII at the age of 38. Older than the typical private, the spunky solider offered his own talent at entertaining the troops and thus became the infamous Bugler of Company B.

Since 1941, the song has become a defining piece of American culture. It is ranked #6 on the list of Songs of the Century and has been remade countless times, the most popular being Bette Midler in 1971.

Defining the song's eternal appeal is a tough one since I am in no way a music expert, I can only comment on what I like. The brass in this song is tight, the rhythm jumps. It's perky, patriotic, and has a certain energy that speaks across generations. I have loved this song since I was a child and the years have not dimmed its joy.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

What's Right in the World: Holiday Weekends

I'm not into camping, but if I was, it would be in a space-era Airstream.

I've stocked up on sweet corn, sweet cherries, mosquito repellent and wasp bomb - must be getting ready for another Michigan summer.

Memorial Day weekend kicks it all off, even though I was wrapped up in two blankets and shivering overnight. But it's the start of summer, right?!

What's exciting is the projects around the house we have kicked off, painting the shutters, doors, frame and garage doors. Out went the crap shrubs and in its place hostas. The back deck has also gotten a makeover, as out went the picnic table and I painted the deck a beautiful shade of blue. Will calls it the beach. I've pulled some infrequently used deck chairs and put out a cabana rug and hung tea light holders. It  looks like we bought a new house.

Biggest challenge now is to create a decent backyard for Will to play in, and get some living plants growing in sandy, shady soil. Good luck, huh?

But all is not work this weekend, even though I'm typing this from work. We are going to the musical fountain dedication tonight, mom-in-law returns from Texas sometime in the next 24 hours, albeit with a heavy heart. Depending on how Tuesday shakes out, I'm taking Will to the zoo with his class.

Hm. This is more like a typing out loud rather than a WRITW, but the that is also the charm of a lazy holiday weekend, do what you want and keep the sand out of the house.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Why Art Matters: The Making of a Runner

Fashionable race wear.

I am a runner.

Anyone who has been reading knows that it's a big deal for me to type those four little words. And I really didn't believe it until after this weekend's River Bank Run.

After a few self esteem issues and near-disaster runs over the course of the last year, instead of giving up on running as a means of fitness, I sought to find ways of connecting to the sport.

First there was the "persona." I combined my nickname from skating with a little something from the Josie and the Pussycats soundtrack to become the Punk Rock Prom Queen. It made sense to me in relation to figure skating, as you adopt a character when when performing. It also helps me to think of putting an imaginary tiara on so as to hold my head high when the going gets tough.

The other thing I did to focus on being "in" the run was to notice 10 things along my route that I would not otherwise see or experience. What did I see?

I saw my friend Dante complete his 5k race.

I saw an old guy decked out in head to toe Polish garb. I dubbed him the Polksa Falcon.

Coming around Fulton by Grand Valley is the 10k's S-curve, a little switchback from Mt. Vernon to Watson to Front to Butterworth. From my perspective at the back end 12:00 miler pacer group, I was able to see a river of neon-colored humanity bobbing through the course. I even mentioned to the woman beside me "would you look at that..."

I discovered a few pieces of broken glass in a small pothole that street sweepers must have missed. I noticed the glint, like diamonds, in the morning sun. It also made me think of Say Anything, the moment when Diane Court fell in love with Lloyd Dobler, his gentlemanly gesture of kicking the glass out of her way.

The lilacs.

Running through the neighborhoods along the route, I was cheered by the neighbors watching the spectacle go by, and loved the first woman to offer her high five and "you rock!" to me.

The sidewalk chalk statement "YOU ARE HERE" prior to the 2 mile marker at the zoo.

Cold water never tasted so good as it did at the first station.

Winding through the zoo, a puff of wind had petals from the flowering trees raining down on me. Beautiful.

The flowering trees themselves in pink, purple and white.

Heading down Lake Michigan, I was startled to hear sirens behind me and prayed that there was no crisis. It was a fierce battle of the leads in the wheelchair/handcart race. They looked like cooler-than-cool sci-fi superheroes zipping by in their rigs, and they even made a super cool "zwinnnnng!" hum as they sped by.

The sea of humanity as the 10k racers merged with the 5k walkers and it took a little more effort to push ahead of the genial pack ambling along in jeans and flip flops. Still, it was entertaining to see the groups walking together supporting various causes, sometimes in homemade t-shirts. Congrats to the class of '78 on their class reunion and I hope Ariel makes it to summer camp!

The brutality of the last mile. Ugh. But the sight of the ladies I had stayed on pace with helped me make over the 6th street hill and Ottowa's hump. Rocker girl in splatter pants. Hot pink Hispanic lady. Indian woman with doe eyes. We didn't exchange names, but I'm sure glad we had that last mile together and shared congratulations over bananas at the finish line. 

My other inspiration for the last mile? My two dads. I could heart Dave's dad saying "c'mon Melissa, you can do it!" and I could see my dad's grin and hear him say "good for you, I'm proud of you."

I came up on the finish line to the Beatles version of "Matchbox," one of the few Ringo leads. My last race? I finished to the Beatles "I Wanna Be Your Man," another Ringo lead. I think my next race has to be completed by hearing "Boys."

I did, however, tear my earphones off just in time to hear the announcer say "---a Garland, Comstock Park!" as I approached the finish line. Sweet.

Oh, that finish line was sweet, and I can't wait to see the pictures. I finished with a double fist pump while internally screaming "YES!" I'm sure I didn't scream it out loud because I had no spit left to form the words.

And tears. Anguish, triumph, sorrow all mingled into one. Dave's dad Phil had sponsored me for the race and was eager for me to accomplish this. He died that morning. Dave had said at 6am that no one would fault me if I skipped the race. Even with a heavy heart and little sleep, I knew there was no way I could or would skip it. I did last year's race for my dad; this one was for Phil.

It was the best run.


On my way to skating on Monday post-race, I was listening to a podcast where figure skating coach Audrey Weisiger enthused on the creative process and how some of the best skaters she's ever seen weren't necessarily the ones with all the accolades. Listening to her words, it struck me: I successfully defined myself as a runner on my terms, by using my eyes as an artist.

I am an artist. And I am a runner.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Typing Out Loud: Women

So many faces.

Seriously world, WTF?!

It is 2013. In this day and age, right here in America, women are being kidnapped from their jobs or being held captive for 10 years and raped, repeatedly. That's not to mention those who are being abused emotionally or physically by their spouses, manipulated and taken advantage of, treated as less than human due to the nature of their culture or religion, denied rights due to political machinations, or made to feel like their entire self worth is tied up in whether the males species thinks she's "hot."

I'm not one for superhero comics, but the world is in serious need of Superwoman, complete with her gold lasso, to whip some assholes in shape.

But what can a common, everyday gal like me do? What are some solutions?

For one thing, be political. Make sure your local politicians know our society cannot tolerate leniency on scumbags who hurt or harm others.

In the workplace, demand worker safety.

Learn how to protect yourself. At work, I was taught non-violent means of de-escalating a patient. With bad guys, all bets are off. Remember those kicking, screaming, biting and hair-pulling knock-down, drag out fights with your siblings? Good, you have some combat training, put it to work.

Pay less attention to the girlie magazines that tell you that you are less than ideal.

Stand your ground on the issues that matter to you most.

Look out for one another.

These are a few of the actions I, as a frustrated middle-aged mid western female, can conjure up.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

May Playlist: Melllllllooooooow

Tuning in.

It's funny thinking about my parents in the 70s, as they were in their 30s, and younger than I am now. I remember them going out on couples dates and attending parties, the whole ritual feeling terribly sophisticated and distinctly 70s.

I remember them going out with my dad's best friend Terry and his wife Chris, and we girls joining Tracy and her sister in a group slumber party at some one's condo. A condo! The basement had black, white and red diamond linoleum, groovy plastic furniture that reminded me of chess pieces and an upholstered bar with a bobbing drink bird where we stole maraschino cherries and olives. The basement opened up into the back yard with a weeping willow tree that freaked me out, as someone told me snakes hid in the branches. Then Chris and Terry divorced, yet another exotically adult scenario I didn't comprehend, and that put an end to sleepovers in the ritzy condo.

There was also the tiki party - adults only! - our neighbors Tony and Virginia hosted 3 doors away. I thought the tiki lights were the most beautiful thing I had ever seen, next to the large, plastic hibiscus flowers. And catering! To this point in my life, parties were made up of family home cooking by committee, the only indulgence being a bakery-bought cake. I watched with fascination as uniformed girls with serene smiles circulated with silver trays to the delight of the guests packed into Tony's beautiful back yard, framed with grape arbors and festive umbrellas. My parents came home from this party with gifts, as each guest was given a travel-sized item to go along with the Hawaiian theme. Dad got a tiny Shower-to-Shower that I played with so much, he eventually gave it to me.

Of course there was a typical bowling banquets, company Christmas parties, dinner parties. Although I was not privy to these swank 70s extravaganzas, I am confident my parents and their friends were not jamming to Zeppelin. Instead, I imagine these K-Tel tunes were rotating on the stereo hi-fi.

Please Come to Boston, David Loggins

I've Got a Name, Jim Croce

Lady, Little River Band

Chevy Van, Sammy Johns

Danny's Song, Loggins and Messina

Annie's Song, John Denver

Magnet and Steel, Walter Egan

American Dream, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band

Fernando, ABBA

You Don't Bring Me Flowers, Neil Diamond and Barbra Streisand

I Love You, Climax Blues Band

Shambala, Three Dog Night

Suavecito, Malo

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Why I'm Psyched to do the RBR

Hey, isn't that the girlfriend from Mallrats?

I got the postcard in the mail yesterday, giving me my bib number (21288) and verifying that I am running the River Bank Run's 10K race on May 11.

Yep, no turning back now.

In light events surrounding the Boston Marathon, I think most participants see it as our patriotic duty and right to run in the race; I know I do. But what else motivates me outside of defiance in the face of terrorism? For a 10K, makes sense to make a top 10 list.

(BTW, I refuse to say my run is an act of heroism. Let's reserve that definition for people facing real danger.)

10. Chance to slip into my racing alter ego, the Punk Rock Prom Queen. Why? After October's Fuel Your Fire race, I felt the need to find a persona that would help me find an inner drive. Prom Queen comes from my skating nickname. The punk rock, well I just picked that up from the Josie and the Pussycats soundtrack. Fitting, since I don't care what I wear, don't care how fast I am, as long as I finish.

9. Discovering 10 things challenge. I can drive 6.2 miles in nothing flat. But what do I miss along the way? I am motivated to find 10 things I would have missed otherwise. Could be a gargoyle on a building, maybe a frog crossing my path or someone's spring flower garden.

8. Last year, I did my 5K 14 pounds lighter than 2011; this year, I'm doing a 10K 23 pounds lighter than that! You do the math.

7. Killer mixes. One of my suggestions, Rush's "One Little Victory" was picked up by the RBR organizers and included in their training mix off their phone app. My favorite mix has been the Beatles, entitled "Why Don't We Do It in the Road?"

6. I'm gonna eat anything and everything I want in victory post-race. Cake? Loaded nachos? Cake? Beer? Cake? Don't mind if I do!

5. My collection of racing tees and bibs grows by one, and there's a new story to add to the boot box.

4. By continuing to train, I'm kicking diabetes ass.

3. By being active, I'm encouraging others to do the same. Will wants "to run da race!" I have girlfriends wanting to try too, leading to a group of us doing the Color Run in July.

2. I want that finish. I want that pin.
1. It pains me to admit, to validate myself, prove I can do it and that by completion, I really am an athlete and vanquish the latest bout of self doubt that creeps in like so many gray hairs along my temple. I thought I was done with this kind of self esteem issues after the first time I did the RBR, but of course one must never become complacent. With new challenges comes new fears and hopefully, a new reward.