February 28, 2010


I don't know about any of you, but I feel that this obsession with being clean has gone a bit overboard.  Yes, germ-free is fantastic in a place that should be sterile, like your doctor's office.  But to me, a few germs isn't such a bad thing.  For instance, you will never catch me with hand sanitizer in my purse.  I've always held the belief that that which does not kill me, will only make me stronger.  Which apparently is Kanye West's motto also.

I was in a public restroom, though, that gave me the willies a little, and for a stupid reason - they had a soap dispenser with a pump.  Now at first, you'd probably think, "Oh, great!  At least it's not some disgusting BAR of soap!".  But think about it - where you put your hand to dispense the soap is where possibly hundred of others have also put their (unwashed!) hand to dispense.

And because this thought was so uncharacteristic of me, my mind began to wander about the other myriad places that may seem innocuous, but are more than likely teeming with millions of germies just waiting to get us.  So here is a short list of places and things that, unfortunately, will probably make me think twice now:

My gloves.  Or rather, the insides of my gloves.  We touch doorknobs, money, all kinds of dirty things - and then we stick our grimy mitts inside gloves.  Probably not a very clean place, when you think about it.  But now I'm thinking about it.  Ew.

Community newspapers at restaurants.  No, not "Your Hometown Newspaper Since 1870!"-type community newspaper -  "community", as in, everyone's read it.  Usually occurs at places like McDonald's and "family" restaurants, where older people tend to congregate (hence, the newspaper).  I just hope they washed their hands before they picked it up and read it (not likely).

Airports.  This one's a no-brainer.  I can't think of a place on earth that's germier than an airport - okay, maybe a bus terminal.  No - okay, I've changed my mind - a bus terminal would be worse.  Yep.  Oh yeah.  Definitely worse.

Clothes on the rack at the store.  Dang it!  Now WHY did I have to think about this one?  I already despise buying clothes; now I'm going to wonder whose B.O.-ridden pits have met the sweater I'm about to try on.  Grody!

Alright!  There you have it.  I hope I haven't ruined your day with my bizarre ramblings.  Perhaps you are a germophobe and these thoughts are old hat to you.  I actually hope this is the case.  If not, then maybe we all should start carrying sanitizer in our purses or pockets.  Or start bathing in it.

February 26, 2010

Giving props

Yesterday I was having sort of a "blah" day - you know those days, when you're not really down, but not really excited about doing anything?  Yeah, one of those days.  I actually had to write myself a "pep talk" note to try and get out of my blahness.  My state of mind was mainly caused by a lack of motivation as far as my work is considered.  Being a freelance artist (or a freelance anything!) is wonderful, and I love that I get to make art all day long.  But unlike a 9-5 office job, where you know what you have to do and just do it, it's different with a job where your creativity is in control.  Sometimes your head blocks out the creative process and gets in the way of just, well, creating.  That's when the "blahness" sets in.

But something happened yesterday that turned my day completely around.  About 3:15 or so, I was taking a break (a euphemism for checking my Flickr, Facebook, Blogger and Etsy sites) and went to my Flickr page to check my stats.  In the stats, Flickr lists the main referrers to your photostream; most of my photo views come from other Flickr members, but sometimes an odd one sneaks in.  And that's when I saw it.

I noticed that one of the referrers was the New Yorker blog - as in the "New Yorker" magazine.  I wondered how in the world someone could get from there to my Flickr page, seeing as how I never went on that site before.  So I followed the link, and lo and behold......

The New Yorker used one of my ATCs on their site!!!  I was completely flabbergasted.  It took me a minute for it to register that I was seeing my work on a national site, and work that the author picked, not something I submitted!  Like my sister said when I told her - out of all of the photos she could've used about telephone directories (read the article - it's fun), she picked my artwork.  What are the odds of that?!?

So that is what this blog entry is about - giving props to the following bloggers/websites/authors who have given me massive support over the past month and a half.  I don't know if it's coincidence or fate, but the mentions on websites and blogs started coming in right around the time I made the decision to become a full-time artist.  And I'm sure these lovely people have no idea how much of a difference they've made as far as how I feel about my decision - heck, with a few exceptions most of these people didn't even know of my career change!

So without further ado, allow me to list the people who made me realize that I didn't make a foolish career move:

Pam Kueber at Retro Renovation - back in January, Pam contacted me to do some work for her super cool site.  As a result, you will see one of my "retro" collages every month throughout 2010!  She is the main reason I chose to leave my desk job.  Thank you, Pam, for helping instill that extra "oomph" of confidence I needed to make my career dream a reality.

D'Ette Cole at W5RAn.com - last November, my Flickr contact Viv Strauss told me about this great site.  I contacted D'Ette and she asked me if she could use my artwork for her site.  I of course said YES!  Have a stroll around the site - you could get lost for hours.  Thank you, D'Ette, for introducing me to your very cool collaborative magazine!

Gillian Allen at art e-zine.co.uk - about three weeks ago, I got a Flickrmail (e-mail on Flickr) from Gillian Allen, who had seen my ATCs and wanted to feature them on her site.  Again, how could I refuse this?!  What she did for me was amazing - not only did she feature about 20 of my cards, but she put up links to this blog and my Etsy shop!  Gillian, thank you for your amazing generosity!

Carolyn Brady, on behalf of Ronna Mogelon at ATC Quarterly - in the Summer 2010 issue of ATC Quarterly (I think), our Milwaukee trading card group will be featured.  This is exciting news but not surprising, considering that Carolyn has been our tireless leader of the group for almost three years and we're getting quite a reputation as being a very organized, thriving and fun group.  So imagine my excitement when Carolyn and Ronna chose one of my cards to be featured in the article!  Thank you, both of you, for being so supportive of my work!

Deirdre Foley-Mendelssohn at The New Yorker - it was only yesterday that I was made aware of the usage of one of my ATCs on this site, but it totally got me out of my funk.  I wrote Ms. Foley-Mendelssohn an e-mail, thanking her for using my work, and she wrote me a lovely note back.  How fun is that?!  I have to admit, it totally made my day.  Thank you so much, Deirdre!

Last, but not even remotely least, I would be remiss if I didn't thank all of my family and friends who have made my career choice so much easier - my wonderful husband Brian, my sister Jen and her amazing family, my awesome mom, and my incredibly supportive network of friends.  I couldn't have done any of this without you cheering me on.  Thank YOU from the bottom of my heart.

P.S.  Those of you who regularly follow this blog know that I try to not make this site all about ME, but rather just talk about ideas or current events.  So thanks a million for allowing me to break from the norm and be a little self-indulgent the last couple of days.  :D

February 25, 2010

My Obituary

Last night I started reading a new book - I'm only 17 pages into it but I can tell already I'm going to love it!  It's called The Dead Beat (actually, it's called This Publication, proudly set forth under the title of The Dead Beat, will gratify the reader with a survey both humoruous and poignant of the wonders enfolded in the pages of an ordinary newspaper, and including many marvelous tales relating to Lost Souls, Lucky Stiffs, and the Perverse Pleasures of Obituaries, as witnessed and faithfully recorded by Marilyn Johnson) and, as you can tell from the rather lengthy title, it's about reading, writing and collecting obituaries.

Maybe I started reading this particular book because I miss talking to my funeral home buddies every day (hi to Chris at Werner-Harmsen, Janet at Uecker-Witt, Rhonda at Kohl's & Randolph, Jana at Twohig, etc.) - I used to call them with the obituary prices at my job at The Reporter.  Part of my job was to measure the obits every day and bill the respective funeral homes.  Because I had to measure the obits, I would also read them.

After a while, you become aware of patterns in obits.  April and Ruth, the obit clerks for The Reporter, have a set way of writing them, but there are little clues as to how the family feels about the deceased.  Some have a little humor infused in them; others may have been written by the deceased themselves.  Some are very short and to the point; whether for the sake of saving money (the obits at our local paper run $1 per line) or because the deceased wasn't particularly favored usually remains unknown.  I personally love the obits that take up half a page.  We have a convent here in Fond du Lac and those sisters are verbose!  Every time a nun dies, expect at least a 3-column obit.  Yes, most of them spent their lives in community service, but I'm surprised that the church would pay for such a long memoriam!

Because I spent nearly five years reading the obits on a daily basis (and now that I'm home, I've kept up the habit), of course my thoughts occasionally turn to how my own obit will read.  One can't help but wonder how he or she will be remembered; I think it's just human nature.  I know one thing - I will write it before I die so that my family won't have to do it for me.  That's a lot to ask in a time like that!

Oh, what the heck - why don't I write it right now!  I'm just writing my blog so I'm making this up as I go.  But (nearly) everything in it will be true, so you may learn some things about the Melster you didn't know.  Here goes:

Melissa Mary Jones Bushner Kolstad, of Toronto, ON (I WISH!), formerly of Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, was born on October 7, 1968 and passed away on August 16, 2069 saving a busload of children from a fiery wreck off the Pacific Coast (okay, so that part's probably not true - not too many 100 year-old women have the strength to save a busload of kids.  But I'm in the fortunate position to make up how I die, so why not go out with a flourish?).  She posthumously received the Medal of Honor from President Zutter, her own grandniece (hey, why not?).
Ms. Kolstad was born in Reno, Nevada to the late Robert E. and Suzanne Jones (yes, my dad died already but I'm just assuming my mom won't live to be 123!) and grew up in Green Bay, Wisconsin.  She was a 1986 graduate of Ashwaubenon High School and graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay in 1991.  Shortly thereafter, in 1992, she married her first husband, Daniel Bushner.  They were married until 2003 (that sounds better than "they got divorced", doesn't it?).  In 2006, she married Brian Kolstad and at the time of her passing celebrated 63 years of wedded bliss.  The had no children, but raised 17 mutts in their lifetime (okay, this hasn't happened yet either, but I'm trying to butter Brian up for a doggie).  :)
Ms. Kolstad held several positions in her lifetime, ranging from: Production Assistant at two separate television stations to finance jobs at two separate newspapers (now online "newsfeeds" - hey, it's 2069), to membership director for the local association for home builders, to bookseller (now e-bookseller, hey, it's 2069) at Waldenbooks.  But her favorite vocation was also her passion, and a position she held the longest - artist.  Ms. Kolstad was a world reknown collage artist and held many shows around the world (okay, this isn't true either, but it could happen!).
Surviving Ms. Kolstad are her wonderful husband and soulmate of 63 years, Brian; her sister (and best friend!) and brother in-law, Jennifer and Michael Zutter, of Sun Prairie; her two beautiful nieces, Natalie and Mia, of Paris and London, respectively (knowing those girls, they will live very exciting lives!) and the aforementioned grandniece, President Graysa Zutter ("Graysa" was a name my nieces gave one of their stuffed animals).  She is further survived by a brother and sister in-law, Richard and Kristin Kolstad of Fond du Lac, and their two wonderful children Joshua and Sydney, of Stockholm and Los Angeles, respectively (again, these two will go far). 
Visitation will be on Tuesday, August 20 (yes, that's the real date for that year - I looked it up!) from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. to accomodate all of the visitors who may be traveling from great distances to pay their last respects.  In lieu of flowers, just send cash (tee hee).

So, what do you think?  I like it.  If that's how I go out, I think that would be a lovely way to go.  And who knows?  Maybe my grandniece WILL be president!

So that gives me about 59 years left.  That's not too shabby.  I'd better go and start working on becoming a world-reknown collage artist.  :D

February 23, 2010

Buying Local

I just got done grocery shopping - anyone who follows this blog knows how much I love going to the grocery store (and for those of you who haven't read my blog before, I seriously LOVE it!)!  I added another stop along the way today, though - the Eden Meat Market.  Luckily, I live on the far east side of Fond du Lac so the trip isn't so far for me (it's about 7 miles out of town).

Now why on earth would I travel seven miles out of my way for ring bologna?  Simple - their meat is incredible.  To me, it's worth it to travel that far.  Another really good reason?  They're local.

In my opinion, it's becoming more and more important to buy local.  What a paradoxical age we live in - we can now purchase pretty much anything we could ever dream of (old Canadian grocery store matchbooks, anyone?), but our local businesses need us more than ever.

Maybe some of you have seen that little 3/50 Project link I have on the left hand side of this page.  The basic premise of this project is that, every month, choose three separate local businesses, any type at all, and spend 50 bucks there.  And it's not $50 at every place; they just mean $50 divided by 3, or roughly $16.50 per place. 

How easy is that?  If you get your hair done at a non-chain salon, chances are you are already spending the $50 a month.  But there are so many other options!  Let's say you want to buy a gift for someone - pick a cute little downtown shop instead of buying it online (and even though you might complain about paying a meter for parking, you're saving 10 times that amount on not having to pay shipping!).  Or instead of ordering flowers from an online shop like 1-800-Flowers, try one of your local florists - you'll get a custom bouquet, something that's impossible over the phone (and the local flowers are always going to be fresher, too!).  And of course, there's always restaurants!  Try that local Mexican place instead of Taco Bell - you KNOW it's going to be better!

This might sound like I'm trying to take business away from online stores - heavens no!  I have an Etsy shop too, so I like it when people from out of town purchase my stuff!  :D  But did you know that when you shop local, 68% of that money stays local, whereas none of your online purchase comes back to your city in revenue?  Just something to think about.

I just thought for about five minutes about all of my favorite places in Fond du Lac, and I came up with a pretty big list.  Here are some local places that I would totally miss if they went out of business:

Sanopelo Aromatherapy Salon
Bellafini's Italian Restaurant
As You Wish - Fine Stationery
Fond du Lac Antique Mall
Botanicals Floral Studio
Eden Meat Market
Graphic Center
Gallery & Frame Shop
Windhover Center for the Arts
Fond du Lac Reporter

And that's just a small sample!  I know that if you thought about it, you could come up with your own list and it would be just as long (and Fond du Lac has a population of only 40,000!).

Let's show our local peeps some love before it's too late!

February 19, 2010

The Sedentary Life

Does it feel lately like your days just fly by, and you wonder what happened to the time?  Do you ever have days like that, where you look up from your work and it's already 2 p.m.?  Well, I have the perfect solution for that.

It's called a treadmill.

Every time I complain about how fast time goes, I should jump on this thing.  The time usually crawls when I'm walking on it but yesterday, about 11 1/2 minutes into my 30-minute walk, my iPod went dead.  I'm ashamed to say that I almost quit my walk because I didn't know what I was going to do with myself for 18 1/2 minutes!  I stuck it out and got through by making mental lists of all the things I wanted to accomplish in the day, but it did take some effort.

And why is that?  I've heard various people say that the human body wants to be in motion - if you look at babies their little legs are constantly moving.  We weren't meant to be a sedentary species.  We're bipedal because we were meant to walk further distances at a slower pace, as opposed to (some) quadropeds who can move very quickly for short distances.  Oh, and opposable thumbs help too. 

I can't speak for all of you, but I am very happy with leading a very "relaxed pace" lifestyle.  I'm really quite good at it, too.  Reading, making art, writing this blog, watching my favorite shows - that's the pace I'm comfortable with.  I wish I could call myself a person who leads an "active" life, but for the last 41 years or so it hasn't been that way. 

Oh sure, as a kid I ran and jumped and played just like all the other kids, but right around the age of ten or so I just realized that I would rather stay inside and watch game shows and "Days of our Lives".  Thirty-one years later I've stopped watching daytime TV, but you might catch me napping around mid-day.  Lunch is exhausting!  :)

To all my friends and family who run, play tennis, swim, golf, bike, ski, etc. - good for you!  When you're old, you'll be those people living in the retirement communities in Boca Raton for "active seniors".   I'll be across the hall, watching a cryogenically unfrozen 150 year-old Bob Barker hosting "The Price is Right".

February 18, 2010

I heart Etsy!

A little over three years ago, I joined the Etsy community.  I only joined because one of my Flickr friends was selling a canvas and I wanted to buy it for my sister.  In order to buy or sell on Etsy, you have to create an account.
Not only did I create an account, Etsy created a monster!!  I can't tell you how many countless hours I spent looking at the dizzying array of items available for sale there.  And when I realized that you could purchase vintage items and supplies, I was HOOKED.

Many, many of the supplies that I use for my ATCs come from Etsy.  If you see any old tickets, invoices, metal thingies or bubblegum machine toys in my work, I got them on Etsy.  The selection is so incredible that I can type in "vintage grocery store" and lo and behold, I can actually find old grocery store items or miniatures.  It's like having your own special concierge picking out your favorite things (I know that Ebay has been doing it for longer, but there's just something different about Etsy).

Nearly everything that I bought my sister for Christmas this year, I found on Etsy.  I found a wonderful little vase, some letterpress notecards, and a vintage mint-in-box dollhouse settee, much like one that she has in her own home.  Before Etsy, there is NO WAY I would've found all of these awesome things, and certainly not in the same weekend!

About a year and a half after finding Etsy, I started making some items and selling them there.  It was so thrilling to put up a canvas for sale and have it sell in the first week!  I did more canvases for Etsy but then I was asked to sell them at a gallery in Manchester, England so I took them down, and didn't do much selling after that, until....

Until about three weeks ago, when I suddenly had far more time to make stuff!  If you've been reading this blog then you know that I quit my job at our local newspaper to forge ahead in the arts field, with a little help from some friends.  So on top of that work, it is now possible for me to focus on other aspects of my artwork, and that certainly includes my Etsy shop, Snizzers & Gwoo!  I've already sold 3 pendants and I couldn't be more excited.  And Etsy really wants you to succeed!  They have a lot of tutorials and hints to make your shop as prosperous as you want it to be.  It's a win-win for everyone!  :D

On the (hilarious) flip side, there is a website dedicated to some of the, shall we say, more "interesting" items for sale on Etsy.  Maybe you've heard of it?  It's cleverly called Regretsy, and once you're on that site expect to spend a good hour there.  I actually laughed out loud a couple of times because not only are you seeing the weirdest stuff, their snarky comments make the site perfection.  I especially love the section called "Spelling Errors".  It's hysterical.

If you haven't found your way to Etsy (or Regretsy!) yet, I highly suggest checking it out (or setting aside an afternoon!).  You will be astounded at what you'll find.

February 16, 2010

Wishin' & Hopin'

No, this isn't going to be a post about Dusty Springfield, but I am doing some "wishin' and hopin'" of my own.  :D

Today I attended a very informative meeting about the future of Fond du Lac's downtown, and how the Arts Council is partnering with the Downtown Fond du Lac Partnership and creating an "Arts District".

The consultants met with us (artists and performers) today to talk about what we would need in order for us  to make this dream a reality.  There were many different opinions about what would constitute this "Arts District" - performing arts venue, artists' studios (that's my main focus!), arts education, gallery space - it was all quite heady.

And when I say "heady", I mean:  what if?  What if this dream were actually realized?  What if we could make Fond du Lac a destination for art-related activities? 

I imagine an area where artists could collaborate and earn a living doing what we love, at an actual out-of-the-house studio.  I would love to see Fond du Lac have a "gallery night" - lots of cities have them and the ones I've attended (Oshkosh and Duluth, MN) have been really well-attended.

There is an image amongst many Fond du Lacians that our city is good for nothing but catching walleye and drinking beer.  Yes, we are known for our Walleye Weekend, and yes, many, many beverages are consumed there.  But it certainly isn't all we have going for us!  About 10 years ago, our festivals committee formed the Fall Festival, which morphed into the Fondue Fest (get it?  Fond du = Fondue?), and last year 30,000 people attended.  There were also a lot of artists selling their stuff there, so there IS a market for art.

I guess the thing that annoyed me the most about today's meeting was the negativity amongst some of the artists - some were downright beligerent.  I just don't understand this kind of thinking.  Maybe it's scary for some people to get their hopes up.  I can understand that.  But to actually make a point of going to this meeting solely to voice your disapproval of the people of Fond du Lac?  That makes no sense to me.  I think if we all band together and try and make this work, we have a really good shot of something wonderful happening.

To be continued....

February 14, 2010


Last night Brian and I finally got around to watching "Julie & Julia".  Lovely movie.  And I knew there would be people smoking in it.  How?

Well, there was a public service announcement before the movie sponsored by "Truth", the coalition that wants to make sure the public is aware of the dangers of smoking.  When I saw this PSA I turned to Brian and said, "Well, there'll be incidental smoking in this movie." (On movies that are rated PG-13 and lower, the term "incidental smoking" is now placed amongst the other warnings like violence, nudity, etc.).

Seriously?  How is it that I, along with probably 75% of my peers, grew up in households where at least one parent smoked, and 30 years later one is treated like a pariah for the same habit?

Don't get me wrong - I am an ex-smoker with 7 1/2 years of "sobriety".  I am extremely glad I quit, for several reasons:  financial, Brian despises it, cosmetic reasons - oh, and my health, too  (it's just that when you're 35 your health probably isn't the first reason you're going to quit, and it wasn't).   I've gotten so used to clean air that when I do smell a cigarette it actually makes me a little nauseous. 

On the other hand, when I was in the habit, I really loved smoking.  I still look back fondly at those smokey fun times at the bars, when everyone smoked so no one really had a problem with it.  The whole ritual of smoking - the brand choice; the accoutrements like fun lighters and matches; the "hipness" of drinking espresso and smoking a pack with your friends while discussing existentialism; these are all things I will miss.  And because a large part of my artwork that I do involves poring through old magazines, I miss the world where cigarettes reigned supreme, even if I never lived in that world. 

I guess I miss the time when people could smoke without feeling like criminals.  It seems like such a simpler time, when the world was blissfully unaware of the dangers of smoking - lung cancer, heart disease, strokes, low birth weight, emphysema, COPD - a time when "3 out of 4 doctors agree - Camels are the mildest cigarette for your T-Zone!".  And deep in my heart, I know that beginning smoking as a habit was one of the stupidest things I've ever done.  It doesn't make you cool.  It doesn't make you a rebel.  I figure I wasted close to $15,000 on my stupid habit.  When I think about what I could've done with that money, it makes me sick.  But live and learn, as they say.

Starting on July 5, the state of Wisconsin will be completely smoke-free in all public venues, including all bars and taverns.  This is actually a good thing, because the playing field will be leveled.  Right now, Fond du Lac (where I live) is smoke-free, but the tiny outlying towns aren't so the bars in Fond du Lac are losing tons of money to these little out-of-the-way places where you can still smoke (and I can't imagine the blue cloud hanging over the patrons' heads!).  That's not fair to Fond du Lac bar owners.  I will say, though, that we stopped going out to the bars specifically because the smoke was so heavy and one's clothes reeked so badly upon leaving that it just wasn't worth it anymore.

The irony of this whole conversation is that, even though the act is becoming illegal everywhere, there will never be a Prohibition-type ban on cigarettes.  The tobacco lobbyists are so active, especially in states like the Carolinas and Virginia where the crops bring in so much money, that it would be political suicide for anyone in Congress to even consider making cigarettes illegal in a 'drug' sense.

So where does that leave us?  Well, I don't know.  Here in the States, it's such a divisive issue.  I can certainly see both sides' points, seeing as I've been on both sides of the fence.  If I had to choose, I guess I'd say "live and let live".  I certainly don't think any less of people who smoke, and it is still a legal product.  How about this for a metaphor:  If I offer to drive somewhere, you're more than welcome to smoke in my car. 
*Artwork above by me*

February 11, 2010

Where have all the Davenports gone?

At my old job, I was sometimes accused by my co-workers of being hopelessly out-of-date.  We've probably all done this - you're trying to make a point, and you use a phrase or pop culture reference from 20 years ago - which in your head still resonates today, but with others?  Not so much.  I believe I referred to Anita Hill and one of the people who I was talking to didn't even know who she was.  Yikes.

Then I started thinking about words that one would see all the time before, but in the last 10-20 years seem to have gone the way of, well, Anita Hill.  Here are some examples:

Tablet:  Growing up, I heard this word all the time, meaning both for writing and for swallowing.  Now no one uses it.  If you're actually writing (does anyone do this anymore?), you use a notebook or sometimes, note pad.  If you're taking medication, you're probably taking a pill (not to be confused with The Pill!) or a capsule.  Or, one may use the now-generic "Aspirin" to mean anything from aspirin to Tylenol.
What happened to "tablet"?  Was is advertising's fault, what with their fancy names/euphemisms for pills?  Capsules, caplets, tabs - you hear all of those, but never 'tablet' anymore.  Strange.

Davenport:  Okay, many of you probably never heard this one but if you had older parents, maybe you did.  Growing up, I was in the unique position to have parents that were 26 years apart so my dad was old enough to be my grandfather (he was born in 1920).  He used this word all the time.  My younger husband (born in 1974) didn't know what it was, so don't feel bad if you don't.   My dad used "davenport" interchangeably with sofa all the time.  Sometimes, he even used "divan".  I credit my multi-generational family for my better-than-average vocabulary, for reasons like this.  FYI - "Davenport" is actually a brand name for a type of sofa, as is "Chesterfield" (like in the Barenaked Ladies song, "If I had a Million Dollars").

Nowadays:  As a kid one of my second grade textbooks was called, "How it is Nowadays".  I believe it was for reading.  Nowadays, what second-grader would know what "nowadays" means?  I suppose it's pretty self-explanatory, but really - when's the last time you heard this word?  I find myself using "these days" or just, "today", as in, "our world today".  I'm curious - does anyone out there use "nowadays" anymore?

Typing:  This one isn't quite there yet, but in the next 10-15 years people will definitely know how old you are (see "davenport", above) if you're still using it.  I'm told that in schools nowadays (tee hee) the correct class to take is "Keyboarding".  It wasn't that long ago that it was still typing class, was it?  I've been out of high school (gulp) 24 years, and I think it's a safe bet that they were still using those fabulous IBM Selectrics up until the early Nineties.  But with the advent of this here Interweb and Smartphones and all of that, it won't be long before you're an old fogey if you use "typing" as your verb of choice.

Fogey:  See "Mel" in the dictionary; can also be referred to as "unhip".

February 10, 2010

The Joys of "Manglish"

I was just on Facebook when my friend Nick posted a clip from Engrish.com.  Have you ever looked up this site?

Basically, it's postings of signs that contain mangled English from around the world.  Fluent English speakers will use their phones or snap photos and then, if they pass muster, they're posted.  Some people that post are ex-pats; some are stationed in foreign countries; others are just on vacation or a business trip.  Some photos are taken right here in the US or Canada or other predominantly English-speaking countries that have strong ethnic communities.

Here are some examples of Manglish (mangled English) that have been found around the globe:

"We are breads.  Every day we made energy for most people.  Some people eat we with jam or butter." (Sign found in Chang Mai, Thailand)

"FRANCE - Let's show the power more & more?!  Dream hope real play!"  (Toddler shirt found in Japan)

I'd like to show France the power more & more!

Before you could easily post anything to the Internet (and keep in mind, it's really only been about seven years, as incredible as that may seem) there were books on this very subject.  I happen to have some of these books, and one of my favorites is called "Free Drinks for Ladies with Nuts".  The author, Jane O'Boyle, has traveled extensively and compiled, along with her friends, some of her favorite malapropisms found abroad (with a special section in back for "English gone wrong").

They say that English is one of the hardest languages to learn.  I don't know if that's true, but it seems to be difficult to learn how to spell, judging by how many people even here in the U.S. that can't differentiate between "their", "they're" and "there" (or "than" and "then", for that matter).  It's epidemic.  Don't even get me started with the atrocious use of apostrophes (or should I say, "apostrophe's"?  GRRR!!!).  So if we can't even figure out our OWN language, how can we expect non-native speakers to get it right?

Maybe therein lay the humor (no, not "lies"!).  If we hear the Manglish coming from Yugoslavia ("The flattening of underwear with pleasure is the job of the chambermaid."), then we can feel that much better about our own abilities as a speaker of English.  I mean, we would never be THAT bad, right? 

Although, I would really like my underwear flattened with pleasure.

February 8, 2010


A couple of months ago, I posted a video on Facebook from comedian Louis C.K. about how "Everything's amazing and nobody's happy".  Chances are you've seen this, especially if you're on Facebook a lot (which I am, unfortunately).  If you haven't seen this, I strongly suggest you take four minutes and watch it.  No, go ahead!  I'll wait.  :D


Welcome back!  Wasn't that a hoot?  Aside from being hilarious, though, Louis brings up some very valid points - the main one being, since when did the world owe us anything???

If you read some of the comments below the You Tube video, you'll see a lot of people blaming TV, the Internet, parents, lenient schools, etc. for Gen Y's attitude.  Maybe they all did play a factor in the way people these days (and not just younger people) feel entitled to pretty much everything, and the sooner the better.  Maybe it's just that we've had it good for so long, that we don't know what "bad" is.

Louis talks about how that guy on the plane was really upset when the in-flight wireless connection, which he knew about for all of 10 seconds, went on the fritz. And Louis' reaction is perfect.  But just this morning, as I was getting ready to watch the news with Brian before he left for work, I tried turning on the TV and it didn't work.  I got super annoyed because Brian was playing Sudoku on our AT&T U-Verse yesterday and I didn't know how to get it back to the TV mode.

Oh REALLY?  I'm complaining about this??  MY TV PLAYS GAMES!!  Isn't that unbelievable?  If you stop and think about it, that's just amazing.  We can now play games right through our TV, with no added console or anything.  And you can play with other AT&T subscribers.  Incredible.  And while we're on the subject, most of us have over 100 channels to watch!  Remember back when you had 4 - NBC, ABC, CBS and maybe, PBS?  There was no Fox yet, even!

"Entitlement" should be a swear word, in my opinion. I know how good I have it. And even when I didn't have it so good, I still had it better than 95% of people living on this planet.  There's no war waging in our backyard.  There are equal opportunities for women.  There are programs in place in this country for people in need.

Check out this photo, entitled "Migrant Mother",  one of my favorite of the 20th Century.  Now THAT'S something to think about. 
The story behind this brilliant photo, taken by Dorthea Lange, is that this woman had just sold the tires on her car to pay for food.  And I'm sure this isn't the worst story of the Depression.  My dad lived through it (he was nine when the Stock Market crashed), and my grandpa had to keep moving them around the Midwest just to find work (of all things, he was a jeweler).  There was one story about my grandma, who was stoking the fire one night.  She had newspaper in one hand and a $10 check (a month's worth of work) in the other, for some reason.  Guess which one went in the fire.  My dad said she wept and wept, because that money was going to have to last them for some time.

I don't mean to be a major downer, but maybe we do need a reality check.  Just take a look around you today!  Chances are you have at least one vehicle in your family.  You probably have a nice, warm house or apartment.  You most likely won't go hungry tonight.  You'll probably sit down and watch TV or plunk in a DVD and relax at some point.  Some of us will work on our hobbies.  And then we'll sleep, on a mattress, under warm blankets.  In a house.  With a furnace.

Maybe a lost Internet connection isn't so bad after all.

February 7, 2010

Game Day

The Superbowl is today! 


I don't know about you all, but I'm not much for the pomp and circumstance that is the Superbowl.  Oh, I take that back - in '97 and '98 it was fun.  I'm from Green Bay, so when the Pack headed to the the Big Dance those two years one couldn't help but get caught up in the excitement.  In '97, the year they won, we partied downtown all night.  There was a genuine feeling of camraderie that evening; not a single cop car was overturned, nor did anyone start any fires, as happens quite a bit in the bigger cities after a huge win.  No, this was a lot of high-fiving and goodwill.  It was a really fun night.

But take today's game - the Colts and the Saints?  I have no emotional investment in either team.  I've visited both cities, but that's about the extent of my connection.  Brian isn't a big sports guy (one of the million reasons I love him!), so he doesn't have to have 'the guys' over for brewskis and meat snacks.  No, I have a feeling that we'll be watching one of our DVDs tonight instead.  Seems like a good night for "Inglourious Basterds"!  :D

But why do you suppose people rally around a team?  Is it because they root for the underdog?  Do you suppose they just love the game of football so much that it doesn't matter WHO'S playing, just as long as a game is on?  Is it for the commercials (We'll be watching those on Hulu.  That's the only reason I ever watched the game before.)?

A couple of days ago, The Onion posted a fantastic article about The Game.  It's a very sarcastic (natch) story about how people all over the country are questioning "the tenuous and ephemeral concept of victory".  Oh, if only that were the case.  I have seen this match reduce normally level-headed men into grunting Neanderthals.  I've heard the Superbowl being compared to the Gladiator events more than once, and the stereotypical commercial of the "bros" in their face paint defacing their wife's good furniture with nacho cheese has been done to death.  I could go on and on about the sustained adolescence of a certain breed of "guy" but that dead horse has been beaten as well.

So, guys (and ladies) who would rather watch old episodes of Lost for new clues, take heart.  You are not alone.   We'll just have the restaurants to ourselves tonight.

February 5, 2010

Cleaning up

I just spent the last two hours cleaning the office.  Man, did that feel good!  I am going to bare my soul here - I found receipts buried in the strata that were from - wait for it - 2007.  Egads.

At my 9-5 jobs, my desk was as spotless as it could be.  It had to be - I found it impossible to work in a cluttered space.  I was always terrified that I would misplace an invoice or paperwork that someone at Corporate would desparately need.  People at work assumed I was a neatnik at home, too.

To that I say, HA!  I have always been a clutterbug.  I come by it naturally - my mom is the same way.  She has books stacked to the rafters in her house, as do I.  She's got a stack of newspapers waiting for the recycle bin - so do I.  She saves scraps of paper with numbers on them that might be important, and greeting cards from 5 years ago.  Oh, so do I.  I can take solace in the fact that my sister Jen also inherited this idiosyncracy.  We talk about it often.

Oddly, my dad was the most organized person that I've ever met.  He was the kind of guy who would label EVERYTHING.  I have very fond memories of Dymo labels making appearances all over the house (I was so enthralled, in fact, that I bought my own Dymo label maker and tapes with my allowance money when I was eleven.  I was a geek).  If it couldn't be marked with labels, then my dad would get out the ol' engraver.  He passed away in '04 but my brother in-law Mike inherited all of his tools, which were Craftsman brand that he bought in the 70's - and are still in perfect shape.  Whenever I see that beautiful handwriting of his engraved in those tools, it makes me smile.

But back to our house - poor Brian!  The house in which we currently reside is a house that Brian built for himself back in '02.  So when we got married I essentially moved into his house, which was neat as a pin before Hurricane Mel left her path of destruction (normally I don't make it a point of referring to myself in the third person, but I'm trying to make a point).  Brian is not a very sentimental person when it comes to objects.  Now, this is a trait that I can get behind!  I definitely have to be in a certain mood to be motivated enough to clean.  Brian can just walk in a room, pick up stuff and move on.  He should teach a class on organization!

So, it's off to the next project - my studio.  UGH.  This one is gonna hurt.  Wish me luck - I'm going to need it!

February 4, 2010

Forgetful Jones

If you're my age, give or take 10 years, you might remember a character on Sesame Street called Forgetful Jones.  He was a cowboy Muppet with a girlfriend named Clementine. 

That was one of my nicknames in grade school, and for good reason.  My Grammie used to call it being "out of it" - but whatever name you call it, that's me in a fairly large way (it surely didn't hurt that my maiden name is Jones).

Take, for instance, this morning.  As I found my way into the kitchen, ready to pour the coffee, something didn't seem right.  I then noticed that there wasn't any coffee in the carafe.  Why?  Well, the night before, as I was getting the coffee ready, I did everything except put water in the coffee maker.  The grounds were there, the filter was in place, it was even set for Auto On.  But water would've been helpful in the process.

Oh, I wish that were the only time I've done that.  Sometimes it's forgetting the coffee but turning on the machine.  Or everything's in place but I forget to turn on the machine.  Think of something to forget and I've done it.

Growing up, I was always losing or forgetting umbrelllas and mittens and the all-important permission slip.  In second grade, my forgetfulness was so bad that my teacher Mrs. Husak put me behind a screen for nearly the entire year so that I would concentrate better (it didn't help, and let's not even delve into how irresponsible this was of her!).  But it wasn't just in the past, obviously - my co-workers at The Reporter will all vouch for the fact that I've left my travel mug on top of the time clock countless times.  My poor sister and friends have carted me all over town helping me look for my wallet, which I've left in untold bars, restaurants and clubs (If you ever doubt the kindness of strangers, I'm here to say that every time I've had my wallet returned to me, everything has been intact).  If my photo were next to the word "forgetful" in the dictionary, I wouldn't be surprised.

On the flip side, I am able to tell you what day February 7, 1984 fell on (it was a Tuesday, I believe), because I was a sophomore in high school and I came home really sick that day.  Oh, and it was the 20th anniversary of the Beatles coming to America.  I remember that July 8, 1995 was over 100 degrees, and it was a Thursday.   I can also tell you what I was wearing on certain days, even 30 years ago.  I can tell you who sang what song and what month and year it came out (without the aid of the Internet).  I was also (and am, still) the birthday and anniversary keeper for my ex- and current husband's family. 

I wish I could tell you why I have no short-term memory.  The weird thing is that five years from now, I'll be able to tell you that I forgot to put water in the coffee pot on February 4, 2010.

Well, I'm off to the grocery store with my list in hand, of course.  Now, if only I could remember where I put my keys.

February 2, 2010

What's for Dinner?

What's for dinner?

How many times a day do you think that question is asked?  A million?  A billion, give or take a couple million?  I'd say that all of us, regardless of what culture we're acclimated to, has an evening meal. 

If we all do it, then why is it so hard to figure out what to have?  Is it a matter of being so tired at the end of the day, that we just don't want to think about it?  Are we so overwhelmed with choices at the grocery store that we don't know where to begin?  Do so many of us have dietary restrictions that it limits our choices as to what we can eat?

Just a couple weeks ago there was a story on TV about a Texas family who have their meal plans all laid out for the entire YEAR.  Yes, they know what they're going to have on August 16.  You can see the menu here.
Okay, maybe that's a bit extreme.  But maybe we would all eat healthier meals if we planned them ahead of time. 

And whatever happened to certain foods that people would eat regularly?  Was it Gen X or the Boomers who decided that aspic was disgusting (and for the record, it is.)?  Or how about Spam?  Does anyone eat Spam (or its lesser known counterpart, Treet) anymore?  And let's talk about vegetables.  A restaurant in Fond du Lac called Schreiner's is a statewide landmark and has been a part of our city since 1938.  And judging by its menu, not a whole lot has changed.  For example, on certain days you can get creamed rutabagas as your vegetable side.  Rutabagas!!  Have you ever had them?  Lord knows they were never served at our house, mainly because my dad, who you'd think would've liked that sort of thing because he grew up in the Thirties, really didn't like many vegetables at all.  So I gave them a shot.  And you know what?  They were really good.  Of course, they were creamed so that may have had something to do with it.  But Schreiner's also has more "elderly" fare like liver & onions.  I never had that growing up, either, and I found I love that dish as well.

You might be saying, "Wow!  We can't eat those things anymore; they're all so high in fat and full of cholesterol!".  Well, I have a (very medically unfounded) theory about that.  I think that processed foods are what are making us heavier, not necessarily fatty foods.  I think back to when I was a kid, in the 70's, and there were a couple of people on the block that were really heavy.  Now think about your neighbors - chances are that the heavy ones are in the majority (and yeah, I can count myself in that majority, too).  We're eating a lot of fast food (sometimes all three meals) or frozen pizzas, when those things used to be a Friday night treat.  We're eating Lean Cuisines and ready-made stuff instead of from scratch.  All of it has high fructose corn syrup (HFCS).  I think there may be a connection.  And I don't think our "scratch" foods have to be Certified Organic, either; I just think we have to be smarter about what we eat, however hard that may be.

So if you haven't eaten yet tonight, there's some food for thought.  Now, what's for dinner?  :D