October 27, 2009

It's the Best Cartoons Ever, Charlie Brown!

My wonderful husby e-mailed me at work today to let me know that "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown!" will be airing tomorrow night, and would I like to watch it with him?

This was a very sweet gesture, but also one he knew he didn't have to make.  You see, every year I make it a point to watch "The Triumvirate" - the aforementioned "Great Pumpkin"; "A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving" and of course the mother of them all, "A Charlie Brown Christmas".

As a kid, I LOVED these specials!  The first and foremost reason is definitely the music.  Even as a kid, I could appreciate the fantastic jazz by Vince Guaraldi and Ray Charles on vocals (especially "Little Birdie", from the Thanksgiving special).  Back then, of course, you couldn't download any song you wanted so you would have to wait ALL YEAR to hear that one song.  It was something I actually looked forward to all year long.  I also loved (and still do) the quiet philosophy and melancholy that the shows exude.  I recall wondering why, even though I loved the shows, I always felt a little 'far away' after they were done.  I never felt that way about Rudolph or Frosty - nostalgic, yes, but not melancholy.

The first thing I do every Christmas season is spark up the holiday section on the ol' iPod (it doesn't have the same ring as "haul out my Christmas albums, does it?).  I love all types of holiday music but my favorite disc BY FAR is the soundtrack to "Christmas..."  From the first piano notes of "O Tannenbaum", I get a little farklempt (yes, I'm speaking Yiddish while referring to Christmas music.  What can I say - I'm multi-cultural).

For many years the Charlie Brown Christmas special wasn't aired in the Green Bay market because the downtown Appleton holiday parade pre-empted it. So in '88 my dad videotaped it for me while I was in college (they were already living in Madison). I still have it, 21 years later, old ads and all. I don't have a way to play it anymore but I'll keep it until the tape is brittle. And yes, I know I can get it on DVD (probably even Blu-Ray) but there's nothing quite like the 'event' of watching old holiday specials live.

I could go on and on about how much better these specials are than, say "The Transformers Save Christmas".  And I'd be right.  I feel bad for these upcoming generations and what they'll feel nostalgic for because in my opinion, nothing will compare to these 30-minute masterpieces.  If it's been awhile since you've seen them, I highly suggest giving them another try.  I can all but guarantee that you'll love them.  We can all relate to the messages and I can think of no better way to ring in the holiday season.  You may even feel farklempt yourself.

Thank you Charles Schulz & Bill Melendez, wherever you are.  And thank you, ABC, for continuing to run these wonderful shows (it's not quite the same as when CBS aired them and you got to hear the "Special Presentation" music and Dolly Madison commercials, but it's great nonetheless!).

October 25, 2009

Retreating into art

This past Friday, I was fortunate enough to participate in Raevn's Nest, a yearly artists' retreat held in Cedarburg.  This was the second annual retreat - I hope it's the second of a million more.  Kim Rae Nugent is the hostess of this wonderful event (hence the name RAEvn's Nest).  Three nationally recognized artists (Jill Berry, Laurie Mika and Richard Salley) came from far and wide to teach this year. 

I only took one class, on Friday night (the retreat began on Thursday and ran through last night).  I got to see Jill Berry again, which was wonderful.  Jill taught the very first art class I ever attended at Valley Ridge last March - it was called "Personal Geographies" and it was all about cartography and how it relates to our own stories; we made maps (real and imaginary) of our own lives.  It was a two-day workshop and it was marvelous. Jill and her family live in the Denver area so naturally when I found out that Jill would be back in Wisconsin for this retreat, I signed up right away!

At this retreat, I also got to see many of my art friends from our Milwaukee ATC group (Carolyn, Kathi, Gary, Diana, and Marsha) and Valley Ridge Art Studio (Lisa & Pam) in a different setting, and a few of us ate dinner together.  I also met a new art friend, Carmi, who lives in Toronto.  Many of you may already know that Toronto is my all-time FAVORITE place on Earth, so we hit it off right away, comparing notes on our favorite Canadian things.  We both agree that Tim Hortons coffee is worth traveling for! 

Everything about Friday night culminated into one of those nights that I will forever remember - the colder-than-normal October air; the somehow perfect rainy day; the fun dinner with friends; the fantastic "Make a Scene!" class with Jill and the best part of all - talking art with like-minded souls.

When we were waiting in line to order our food Carmi, who is a full-time artist, asked what it was that I did during the day that kept me from making art.  I thought that was a great way of asking about my job because believe me, there are MANY days that I ask myself that same question.  Of course the most ironic part about this conversation is that it would certainly be more difficult to attend these retreats and workshops if I didn't have a job 'that kept me from making art'.  Someday, I hope to have a job that allows me to incorporate my artwork into a living, but there are certain factors that should really be in place first.  I know some of my friends would offer the advice, "If not now, when?", but there are icky things like insurance and a mortgage to consider, unfortunately.

And that got me to thinking - what sort of line, if any, should be drawn between your vocation and your avocation?  I would really love to hear your thoughts on this.  Really!  So make your comment below or on Facebook, but I really value your opinions - let's discuss!

Happy Sunday,

October 16, 2009


It was quite a weird day at work - it seems many of the more paranoid people were out and about today.  One of our customers was saying he had been laid off for about a year and when I mentioned to him that the job market is looking up he said to me, in all seriousness, that it didn't really matter because the world was going to end in 2012.  I had another customer call us to inquire why we were calling her, because our number came up on her call-waiting service.  I told her it was probably a solicitation call, but she said it couldn't be because she already receives the paper.  "So what is it, then?", was her very desperate plea.  She was afraid that someone had sold her number to other companies and wondered why we had her number anyway.  I didn't bother explaining the reasons behind this.

Others called today because we have tickets going on sale Monday for an upcoming event, and they were all worried that they had missed the opportunity to get the 'good' seats (they're all in the Fairgrounds' Cow Palace, so honestly, do any of them really constitute "good" seats?).

And these calls got me thinking - what sorts of thoughts are running through these people's minds all day?  Every single aforementioned case has an element of fear.  The fear of the world ending; the fear that someone is going to telemarket them to death; the fear of missing out on something 'important'. 

Then I realized - pretty much all of our emotions stem from one - FEAR.  Seriously, think about it - why do we get angry?  Fear!  Anger is fear realized.  We get angry because someone or thing has wronged us.  If we didn't care about what that person had said or done, we wouldn't have gotten angry.  Prejudice is 100% fear-based.  We are afraid of people who are different than us.  Seriously!  Why should we care what color someone's skin is?  Why should we care what or who someone is praying to?  What does it matter what sort of meat people eat or don't eat?  Why in the hell do we care if someone is sleeping with someone of the same sex?

You guessed it - FEAR.  We're afraid that our tiny worlds are going to be turned upside down if anyone different changes our narrow ways of thinking. 

Jealousy also totally equals fear.  Why are we jealous?  Because someone has something that we want - a bigger house, hotter spouse, more money, better job, kids/no kids, better clothes, etc.  Why do we want those things?  Because people will like us more if we do (of course this isn't true, but it's what we think, right?  That, or that we'll be happy only if things are better).  And if we don't have these things, and someone else does, then everyone will like that person more than us, and we'll die alone, homeless and penniless and 20 pounds overweight and no one will ever love us again.

So how can we combat some of this fear?  Let's start getting a little more selective about what we choose to hear on TV, the radio and over the internet and the kind of attitude we take in our daily lives.  Take the case of the Balloon Boy yesterday - had anyone confirmed that the kid was in the balloon?  No, obviously NOT!  But all of the stations were talking like he was, and we all believed it.  The entire nation was duped by a bratty 6 year-old and his nutty family!!!  And what was the basic reason we watched?  Out of fear!!  We were all terrified (for no reason, it turns out) that some kid was going to die a horrible death and we were going to see it happen live (for many people, I'm sure it was the morbid curiosity that kept them tuned in).

So this Halloween season, let's all be afraid for the right reasons - getting more candy.  Unless you're afraid of gaining weight.

October 13, 2009

I Heart the Grocery Store!

I just returned from a power-shop at Festival Foods.  Yes, for those of you outside the N.E. Wisconsin area, we have a grocery store called Festival.  I imagine that the owners wanted to create a carnival-like atmosphere whilst shopping for your pork roast.

Works for me!  I LOVE the grocery store!  Who's with me?  I may be in a very small minority, but I truly enjoy slowly (but not so slowly that I enrage those around me) perusing the aisles in search of tasty meal ideas.  And oh my Lord, there are so many choices!!  I would love to find out the number of new products that come out every year, and how many fail.  Wouldn't that be the coolest museum ever?  One of my Flickr friends has an awesome collection of old packaging, mainly from cereals and snack foods.  If you're interested, take a look:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/25692985@N07/

My fondness for the grocery store goes back a looong way.  When I was a kid, every payday my mom, dad, Jen and I would all go McDonald's for dinner, and then the grocery store.  Sure-Way was a great one for looking through all of the great mags like Tiger Beat and "16" and the fun cheap toys that were made in Japan.  But the best shopping trips were the ones we took about once a month, to Copp's Warehouse.  In my 5th grade world, that place was HUGE (in reality, it was probably much smaller than a typical regular grocery store today.  In 1979, though, it probably was huge).  But it was big enough that we would take our walkie-talkies and hide behind all of the stacks of food  and play hide-and-seek (it was a true warehouse, where you had to mark your own groceries with a grease pencil).  A couple of times, we ran into our friends from down the block and had a BLAST!  It's actually one of my favorite childhood memories.

I've even had a collection of play food nearly my whole life.  When I was 8, in the summer of '77, my great-grandpa died (he was a wonderful man - my mom's maternal grandfather).  He had this huge 6-bedroom Victorian house in Hoopeston, IL and my Mom, my Grammie and her sisters, plus all of my mom's brothers helped clean it for the estate sale.  There were TONS of toys that Jen and I got to bring home, and one of them was a play grocery store complete with play boxes of food from the 30's (these were my Grammie's and great-aunts' toys)!!  I adored this set and when we cleaned my Grammie's house when she went into assisted living a year ago and it was still there, I was ecstatic.  It got a little rusty, unfortutnately, but miraculously the food boxes survived.  I've attached photos for you to see.

When I started doing ATCs about three years ago, I realized the potential of making some fun art with grocery store-related items, and started collecting even more.  I currently have a set of cardboard foods that are fairly tiny, some of which I've used in my cards.  I also have some vintage tiny foods from 1965, and some vintage French and German versions of play food as well. Here are some photos of those as well!

As with most collections, it didn't end there.  I started thinking about all of the arcane objects associated with grocery stores of the past - the cha-chink stamper used to price cans; old plastic signage that's been replaced with LCD screens around the store; old labels, stickers, price tags, etc.  that the price scanner took care of 20 years ago.  If you search Ebay you can find some of these items very cheaply, but people are starting to catch on that the way we shopped years ago is in danger of becoming totally extinct, so they're buying up all of this vintage stuff.  I'm probably partially to blame for increasing the value of it all!

I hope I always find the fun in food shopping, instead of the chore that most people feel it is.  Granted, I don't have kids, so I can afford to be leisurely.  I'll be one of those 90 year-olds, mowing down people in my motor scooter, too stubborn to stop driving, just so I can get my weekly grocery store visit in.  Hell, it'll surely be the highlight of my day.

October 6, 2009

Getting older...

Tomorrow is my 41st birthday - it sounds weird to say it. I am now the age that my mom was when she graduated from college.  I was 18 at the time.  I remember that day like it was yesterday, and I remember thinking that when I was 41 I'd probably be married and have two kids. Well, I got the married part right (twice).  Back then, 41 sounded like the dark side of the moon.

Isn't age relative, though? I'm sure I'm not alone when I say that living in your own skin, your age doesn't seem so bad when you get there. Does this make sense?  Perhaps it comes from having multi-generational parents - my mom and dad were 26 years apart (my dad was born in 1920 and my mom in 1946). So technically, my dad could've been my grandfather. As a matter of fact, my own grandmother (my mom's mom) is 4 years YOUNGER than my dad was. I have a half-sister who's four months OLDER than my own mom!! CRAZY!! Try explaining that to your grade school-age friends!

So when I was born, for those of you trying to do the math, my mom was 22 and my dad was almost 48. In the gift of hindsight, I can't possibly imagine being 22 with kids. Now, before anyone reads this and gets defensive, I said I couldn't possibly imagine ME with kids at 22 - maturity-wise, I was on par with Adam Sandler or Will Ferrell. Still am, actually. On the flip side, try and picture yourself at 48 or 49 with newborns. But that's exactly what my dad did (he had just turned 49 when my sister Jen was born). Doesn't that sound exhausting? But somehow, it worked. My dad, because he walked 3-5 miles a day (up to 10 in the summer) was in FAR better shape at 60 than I am at 40.

Which brings me back to my original point - relativity. In my head, I'm still 19 and probably always will be, although I hope I've grown a little and have learned from my mistakes. I will say that I'd rather be the age I am now than back at 25. Oh sure, I was far thinner, but I was also very uncertain about where I was and who I wanted to be. I honestly don't mind aging one bit. It is weird to think that my journey on this planet (barring catastrophe, Lord willing) is halfway over, but maybe this is the lesson we all must learn - we'd better make good choices, be true to ourselves and others, try and not mind the small stuff (a lesson I'm still learning), and be healthy (damn you, warm apple pie!).