Sunday, December 28, 2014

Stories for the Boy

Will's coming home party, 5/30/09

First, a few changes to the blog.

I've decided to do away with the monthlies "What's Right with the World" and the "GR Foodie." WRWTW was basically turning into a Typing Out Loud and GRF is a topic that is well covered in internet-land and I didn't find much joy in writing about food.

So, what's up?

Starting in January, I will do a monthly feature on childhood stories, either mine or about Will. As I'm losing more and more of my elder relatives (RIP Ciocia Stella and Uncle Poncho), I'm sad in the realization that I don't know many of their stories. I'm hoping as my dearest husband is reading this, that he feels the need to share a few of his stories for this memoir of sorts.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Typing Out Loud: Did I Win the Battle and the War?

cue the Pink Floyd cash register

Back in 2010, I was approached by a flower company to write their spring 2011 catalog. They asked for a quote and were delightfully surprised how affordable I was going to be. I, in turn, was eager to prove to this new client I would be worth the investment. Given a specific deadline, I turned the project in under budget, five days early. When no revisions hit my inbox, I billed and waited for my check.

And waited.

And waited.

And waited.

When it hit 90 days past due, I hit them with a past due penalty and attempted to phone my contact, who was happily boating in the Caribbean according to his facebook posts.

120 days.

150 days.

180 days.

This was getting ridiculous. Dave suggested talking to his lawyer friend, who drafted a letter on my behalf regarding the delinquent bill.

Then I get a phone call, from the president/owner of the company. He spun a homemade tale of financial woe in order to persuade me to drop my case. I swear I could hear his thumbs sliding up and down is suspenders. He said, "we declared bankruptcy before the season, so we didn't even use your copy." He cut-rated me to $500 to drop the case. Then he tried pulling the small town I'm-just-an-Andy-Griffith-type trying to feed my family, to which I replied "so am I sir, so am I." He then threatened that if I went through with litigation, the chances were high I wouldn't see a penny. Facing a dwindling payout of $1600 to $500 to $0, I was simply furious, and replied "you'll be hearing from my lawyer."

Talking to my lawyer, he said it was good I didn't accept the cut rate because then they could write me off as a entity they owed less than $1000 to.

Over the course of the next three years, I received a ream of paper from the attorney's office, a play-by-play of court proceedings as the company was dismantled. It was a legal soap opera of who was getting what, who was getting shut out. It was made very clear that my stake was minuscule compared to the lawyers, suppliers,  IRS, and the family. I was last in line. By mid-2013, I was pretty sure I was getting nothing and most of the paperwork I received in 2014 did nothing to change my mind, with wording that equated to "if there was anything left, I would be getting 5 cents on the dollar the amount owed." A lousy nickel!

In September, around my birthday, I received a letter stating that as of October 14, the case would close permanently. As 10/14 came and went, I decided to accept it was over and while I won a case, I lost since I saw no money.

Then I got a letter in the mail today, along with a check for $48 or 3 cents on the dollar.

Getting such a paltry sum should seem like a loss, but for some reason, I'm treating it like a victory. I am proud of the job I did, knowing I gave them my best writing. I didn't back down, I stuck up for myself when the suit tried dismissing me. And once I received the check, I immediately alerted my lawyer, with the promise of paying him his 30% cut, or $15, because while others may do shady business, it's important that I conduct business with integrity.

What to do with $33? I want to do something with it to make the investment last well past expectations. Practicality won, and I took advantage of a year-end deal in order to get new glasses and oontacts. I got a very glamorous pair of new glasses for under $40. Since my last pair lasted 10 years, I would say that was a very wise investment in my payout.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Why Art Matters: Mission Statement Piece

I was given the task of creating a piece of art for my department, replacing a piece of "corporate" art that had grown so dull and faded, all the colors were a muted blue-green.

The assignment was given to me in July, with a deadline in October.

One of the roadblocks I faced was the recycling aspect. I was given the framed piece and told to replace it. Again, a dull blue green with a gray border. Talk about artist's block!

And given the corporate color of hunter green, I felt the obligation to work within the blue-green-gray palette. I created a steely cage around my creativity on top of that.

So my brain rebelled, and I had the mad desire to go in the opposite direction. I wanted a warm palette that incorporated the exact opposite. Give me, red, orange and gold please. But what to do with those colors?

I was driving home from the rink, at the 4-way stop at 8th and Leonard. The service ditch was alive with a riot of wildflowers and reeds, practically on fire in the light of the setting sun. I was struck by the philosophy of all gardeners who consider weeds to be plants in search of a purpose. Abstract thoughts flew, God as a gardener, those struggling with mental illness in search of health and purpose, etc.

I found my inspiration.

I fiddled in photoshop and illlustrator to sketch out my idea, but again, my fingers itched to create and touch. I wanted to do this by hand, I did not want to churn this out in a computer program.

I headed over to T-Square and spent entirely too much time enjoying the process of selecting the papers. Comparing and contrasting, switching things in and out, I found my colors.

Next, I drew my landscape on the backside of my paper. I drew daisies, bee balm, cattails, dandelions, grasses, and thistles. With a steady hand, I got out my xacto knife, and carefully cut away the excess, leaving behind a beautiful late summer silhouette.

The craft part kicked in, and I used spray glue to adhere the silhouette to its backing. I was left with spot glue issues, an issue with the technique employed. Hm. The simplest solution was using the excess paper and a craft punch, stamping out enough dandelion fluffs to hide the problem. The happy accident led to a whimsical illustrative effect that was missing from the piece as it was.

I created the statement plate in a classic font in a golden brown and had it printed on cream paper, staying in the warm color palette. To frame, I again chose cream border and a brushed gold frame. This was a challenge, as the assistant at Michaels was entirely too enthusiastic, and got carried away, picking heavy gold scrolls, double frames, border on border. I had to pull her back, stating the framing was becoming more important than the artwork. The other challenge was the size of the piece and the cost of framing. While I wasn't given a budget, I knew the original quote of $60 was going to be too much. I pressed for and finally got her to find an economy border and frame that would be more suitable for the custom work.

The piece was completed and deliver in October, 2014.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Typing Out Loud: RBR submission, the 2015 edition

They have given me so many free runs through their "Submit Your Story" program, I'm almost embarrassed to try it yet another year.

But try I must. I think since music propels me, it must also guide me.

There are many runners who proudly collect their bibs and medals, posting their personal best times on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Me? Under my bed is my boot box. While the box does indeed contain bibs and medals, instead of collecting finish times, I've been inscribing the lid with finish line songs.

In my other competitive life, I'm a figure skater, motivated by music to portray characters that are funny, abstract, and ethereal. I'm keenly aware of how a great tune can push you to new and greater heights. I always build my playlists with that in mind.

I celebrated Detroit to ELO's "Hold on Tight to Your Dreams." It was me and U2's "Elevation" finishing the River Bank Run. I celebrated the Diemer with Bruce Springsteen's "Girls in Their Summer Clothes" and danced at the Color Run to the Isley Brothers "Shout!" Almost every single race in 2013 was finished with a Beatles song.

My training/personal dance party was halted this summer by surgery and forced convalescing. As recovery was slow, I faced the decision to drop out of the Detroit international half and do the 5k instead. When it came time to resume training, I was painfully slow, and pouted. But never say quit; by time I participated in the Step Out for Diabetes (B-52s "Love Shack"), I changed my perspective by including all the finish line songs in a playlist titled "Bulldog, You're Still in the Race."

And the Detroit 5k? Off my PB by more than 6 minutes. But another gem for the boot box, scrawled in Sharpie for 10/18: Dee Lite's "Groove is in the Heart."

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

December Playlist: Christmas Music that Doesn't Suck

We adults here at Georgetown will be scaling it back a bit for our show.

I have a love/hate relationship with Christmas music this time of the year. First, there's the fact it starts the very moment the last fun-sized candy bar hits some kid's pillowcase. Second, the same ol' same ol' gets trotted out every year. Most importantly is the diva requirement that the latest pop princess assault our ears with their wink-wink-nudge-nudge interpretation of "Santa Baby."

So what's good?

Riu Chiu, The Monkees - for every critic out there, Mickey Dolenz' lead backed by a Tork/Nesmith/Jones harmony puts any manufactured claim to rest.

Oh Holy Night, Donna Summer - while I'm a critic of the glory note, all is forgiven in this breathtaking song. I list Donna because I recall her note perfect performance on Solid Gold as a kid, but really, almost any diva rendition will do.

The Happy Elf, Harry Connick Jr. - so this month I was desperately digging up pieces to skate to for the annual Christmas show. Why not use the above songs? Riu Chiu is acapella, and impossible to skate to in a large auditorium. OHN is usually snapped up by May. I dragged up a pile of Christmas CDs to evaluate, and this one jumped right out. I don't know a thing about this song other than it saved me from skating to something dull.

Gabriel's Message, Sting - oh, my first ever skating Christmas show solo! Fitting because I was the angel Gabriel in both the 7th and 8th grade Christmas pageants. It was a favorite from the Very Special Christmas albums.

Christmas in Hollis, Run DMC - "But each and every year we bust Christmas carols!"

We Three Kings - I did a little research, thinking this was going to be something culled from a stone tablet etched in a monastery from the Medieval period. Nope, written by a rector from a church in Pennsylvania in the mid 1800s. This may be next year's selection, if I can rock a middle Eastern look.

St. Stanislaus Church, Christmas evening bell service - temperatures in the low teens, and I took my lovely son out for a walk so we could listen to the bells. Traditionally, the bells started at noon on Christmas Eve, and rang until midnight. One of my favorite memories is playing outside in 1979 and listening to the bells all day.

Sleigh Ride, Spice Girls - it's overplayed for a reason. This version the harmonies are oh so fun. Have considered skating it in a snowmobile suit.

Christmas Can Can, Straight No Chaser - acapella with attitude.