May 25, 2010

The Great Reorganization is underway!

Why?  Why do I do this?

I'm sure I'm not alone, but why do I wait until the situation is so dire that it takes me days, possibly even a WEEK, to fix?

Okay, so it's not life-or-death, but it's annoying all the same; I'm talking about cleaning my craft room (or art studio, whatever you'd like to call it).  The Great Reorganization (you know something's severe when you capitalize it) began in earnest yesterday.  I spent nearly the entire day just cleaning off the tops of my two workspaces!  I found detritus from projects I had finished TWO years ago! 

You have to admit, that's bad.  I thought I'd come clean (pun intended) to you all so that maybe you can keep me in line.  I've written about my cleaning skills (or lack thereof) before, but this takes the cake.  The dust bunnies had multiplied, formed colonies, and taken up residence behind doors, under tables, and around lamps so thoroughly that I went through two Swiffer cloths to try and round them up.  EGADS!   I mean, clutter is one thing but I don't like a dirty house, and that's what had happened.

Now that I'm a full-time artist and learning all there is to learn about what that entails, there is one tenet that I hear over and over - that if I don't take myself seriously as an artist, no one else will either.  This makes sense.  I would NEVER have allowed my workspace at my 9-5 jobs to look like this!  As a matter of fact, my desks were always spotless at my jobs.  I always felt like I would forget something if it were buried beneath piles on my desk, so I rarely had any.  I also wanted to portray myself as a hard worker who values her position in the company.  So why am I not following that rule with this job?  It should be even MORE important to me to have my space neat and tidy, since I'm working with paint and glue.  My clients are very, very important to me and if they were to have seen my space before TGR how would they have felt about my work ethic, whether or not the sentiment would've been unwarranted?

I would LOVE to say that my space will stay the way it looks in the "after" photo.  I can't make any promises.  But I am going to try my best to keep it as clean as I can.  Wish me luck!  :D

Oh, and for those who are looking for the "word"?  It's "disaster".  :D

May 20, 2010

Stuff n' Things

I suppose that it would make sense to talk about stuff in my blog, considering the title.  :D  But today I'm going to talk about specific stuff - garage sale stuff.

Back last month, I wrote an entry about how excited I was that garage sale season was starting - but that was the other side of the story.  Yesterday, I was part of one.

My mom and dad in-law host a sale every two years or so, mainly because Rose (my mom in-law) just wants stuff OUT of her house.  I can relate.  Even though I really like "stuff" (for proof of this, you can check out my other blog, Ephemeraology),  I get a little crazy when I have too much of it.  And because collections evolve and change, I want the old stuff gone.  Example:  about 12 years ago or so, I had a teapot collection (WHY?).  Now, with the exception of a scant few, I don't know what I was thinking.  Out they go.

Around here, you can't really have a successful g-sale if you don't have kids' clothes.  Thank god for my sister and bro in-law - Brian's niece Sydney and nephew Josh are 7 and 8, and there were TONS of their clothes there yesterday.  That really drew people in!  Kristin, my sis in-law, had them so reasonably priced that people were buying them in PILES.  My dad in-law Dave also had a lot of "man" items - fishing poles, an ice auger, a table saw, etc. and a lot of men stopped by. 

Brian and I combed our house for items that we could sell.  Besides the trinkets I no longer wanted, I found old diswashing detergent and a huge refill of liquid soap, priced them at a buck apiece, and they sold.  I had old magazines, priced them at 10 cents each, and sold about 40 of them yesterday (but that was only half of the pile - yes, it's an "issue" I have).  Old Mah Johnng tiles, framed pictures, my 25 year-old vacuum (that still runs like a champ), hotel samples that I had bagged up - all of these things of ours sold yesterday. 

This just goes to show you - you can never rule anything out!  There was a small can of deck stain that sold yesterday, which no one thought would.  Who knew?

"Stuff" has been talked about for the last 50 years, ever since we've had the disposable income to have it (if you're like me, you're thinking of the timeless George Carlin bit right now).  I mean really - why do we have so much stuff?  What purpose does it serve?  But we love our stuff, don't we?

God help me if we ever have to start storing our stuff in a rented garage - I won't admit to having a problem until that happens.  :D

May 16, 2010

Stones vs. Beatles

Unless you don't watch TV or hop on iTunes every now and then, you're probably aware that the Rolling Stones are rereleasing their 1972 magnum opus, "Exile on Main Street".  Everyone keeps referring to it as their "38 year-old album" - that can't be right, can it?  Holy smokes.

One of my Facebook friends uploaded a video of Keith Urban covering "Tumbling Dice" on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon the other night, and when I watched it I was reminded how great the song was.  I never called myself a Keith Urban fan, but he did a fantastic job with the song.  Right after that, I started combing through iTunes and I downloaded some of my favorite Stones songs, of which there are many.

As I was indulging in my typical Sunday morning routine of coffee, English muffins and Entertainment Weekly, I read a review of the "Exile" rerelease - for the original album, they gave it an A+ (and the bonus material, a B).  I don't think I've ever seen an A+ given for anything in EW before; not for a TV show, not for a movie, not for a book - not anything.  So that's saying something.  Maybe it'll get more people to give the album a listen - like myself.

As I was developing my personal music taste around 11 or 12, I was introduced to the Beatles via "Sgt. Pepper's" by my Uncle Lou (he gave me his own copy on vinyl).  It is not an exaggeration to say that it changed the way I thought about music.  Here was an album so sonically perfect (to me, and to be fair, a zillion other people as well) that it made the current stuff on the radio pale in comparison.  I mean, how can you compare "Celebration" by Kool & the Gang to the Beatles?  They're like two different animals.  And thus began my tween musical snobbery (before you rally, I actually DO like "Celebration".  How can you not?  It's such a feel-good song!).

Growing up when I did, perhaps it's unfair to compare the Stones and the Beatles.  The Beatles broke up when I was a year and a half old.  The Stones kept charting until I was in my twenties!  Maybe it's like when a musician dies too early; do people revere Jim Morrison because he was a musical visionary (meh) or is it because he died tragically (and preventably) at 27?  Is it just me, or do other people sort of imagine that if he were to have lived, he'd be playing Vegas, bloated and washed up, a la Elvis?  Just a thought.

Well, maybe it was like that for the Beatles.  These guys quit, just up and quit, while they were still on top.  How many people have the cahones to do that?  The Stones, on the other hand, just kept going and going.  And maybe it's because I had to endure such hits as "Emotional Rescue" and the now-ubiquitous "Start me up" that I didn't think much of them.  Had they ended with "Exile", perhaps I would've seen a whole different side to them, but instead my Stones experience was clouded with their latter-day sins (to be fair, I LOVED "Undercover of the Night", which came out when I was a freshman in high school, in 1983 - isn't it weird that you could actually see the Stones on MTV back then?).

As it happens often with me, unrelated pop culture experiences make me change my mind.  Take the movie, "The Royal Tenenbaums", for example.  It's one of my favorites of all time.  I know a lot of people are divided on this movie, but you can't deny that it has an AMAZING soundtrack.  In a pivotal point in the movie, Margot (Gwenyth Paltrow) is playing some old Stones vinyl and reminiscing.  She plays the one-two punch of "She Smiled Sweetly" and "Ruby Tuesday", and I can't imagine two better songs for the scene.  It made me re-evaluate my attitude toward the Stones' place in my personal music collection (thankfully!).

Fifty years from now, when the Boomers are all gone; when my generation are octo- and nonogenarians and my 11- and 13 year-old nieces' grandchildren are musical scholars, I wonder how history will play out.  Will the Beatles and the Stones be lumped together, or *GASP* - worse yet, the Beatles, Stones and Elvis (horrors) be lumped together?  Will anyone care about the impact that all of this wonderful music made in the world?  I only wish I could be around to hear what they have to say.

May 10, 2010

On being a daughter, a granddaughter and an Auntie

Here in the States, we celebrated Mother's Day yesterday.  Was it Mother's Day in other parts of the world, too?  Chime in if it was!

I was very fortunate that I got to see my mom, my Grammie, my sister (who's a mom) and my mom in-law all at different times last week.  It's good to let them all know how important their jobs are!

And frankly, I don't know how they do it.  I really don't.  I am not a mom myself, nor do I plan to be, so I am in awe of this enormous task that moms have every single day.  I am so lucky that my sister Jen and I are so close, because it's very important to me to be a good Auntie.  But as invested as I am in those girls, my role is still not even close to what my sis has to do.  And she does it SO well.

When I was born, my mom (whom I still call Mommy, thank you very much) was only 22, and only 23 when Jen was born (and then she was through).  I can't fathom this.  I remember me at 22 and I was nowhere near ready for motherhood.  Hell, the thought scares me more now than it did back then!  The fact that, for the rest of your life, you will be a mom?  Wow.  What other station in life can you say that about?  Sure, I'll be a wife for as long as Brian's here on Earth, but that's different.  We're a partnership and the dynamic is one of equals. 

I will say that I got VERY lucky in the mom department!  When we were growing up, she was the type of mom that was very interested in our days at school, but never smothered us.  When we hit teendom, she didn't care how we looked or what we wore (neither one of us had a weight problem and we were very straitlaced, but she still wouldn't have said anything if we weren't).  She never offered unsolicited advice, and she still doesn't.  She's a wonderful listener and a very caring soul.  "Our Mom" (as Jen and I call her) is just awesome and I'm so proud to call her "Mommy".  :D

Which she probably inherited from my Grammie.  Grammie will be 86 in August, and I feel so lucky to still have her here.  She does have dementia, which manifests itself in different ways, but deep down she is still the same wonderful lady she's always been. 

Grammie has been a huge part of my life since my birth.  I am the firstborn, my mom was the firstborn, and my Grammie was also the firstborn, so there's a common bond there.  Plus, my middle name is Mary, which is her name.  She was Jen's and my music teacher when we were in grade school, and she is a huge reason that Jen and I are both musically inclined (her mom and her sisters, plus my mom's brothers, all have a music background).  She married a not-so-nice man (my grandfather, whom I only saw a handful of times before he died last year) but they divorced when I was about 10 months old.  So it was really only ever Grammie, which suited me fine (I never knew my dad's parents).  We were doted on as little girls, and pretty spoiled, too, but only in a monetary sense; manners were EVERYTHING growing up!

When you put my mom and Gram together, you get one of the neatest mother-daughter relationships I've ever seen, and one that made a huge impact on me.  My mom and Grammie talked ALL the time, but it was more as friends than as mother-daughter.  They love the same things, like British mysteries and crossword puzzles, and even though my Grammie got very conservative later in life and my Mommy is a tree-hugging liberal, they were able to set aside those differences and not let them get in the way of their relationship.   It may sound corny, but I wish every mother-daughter relationship could be like the ones that I currently have or see around me.

I know this will continue, too, because I see the relationships that Jen is cultivating with her girls.  It does my heart so good to see the outpouring of love once again, just as in generations past.  It's this kind of cycle that we should celebrate every Mother's Day. 

(Photo of me, Mommy & Grammie taken at my cousin Sam's wedding in June of 1999)

May 7, 2010

On being BUSY!

What's that old saying, "Idle hands are the devil's workshop?"  I have found this to be true.  Or, at the very least, "Idle hands leads to low self-worth and boredom."

So if this is true, what is the opposite?  I haven't found a quote for being TOO busy.  Maybe it's because, at least in my Protestant work ethic-laden area of the globe, being busy is what makes a moral person.  It's engrained in us from very early on that working, at anything, is something to strive for.

But shouldn't there be a happy medium?  Maybe in June.

It seems as though May is an INSANE month for many people.  There are graduations, end-of-the-school year activities, Mother's Day, rummage sales, lots of birthdays (it seems like many folks were busy in August too, if you know what I'm sayin'....), just tons of things going on.  The weather is getting nicer here in the Western Hemisphere, so lots of people are beginning their gardening, painting, lawn care - GAH!!!  Is there any time to just breathe and enjoy it?!?

Being on the other side of the 9-to-5 fence, I really thought I'd have more time to just relax.  HAH!  Yes, I am doing all the things I absolutely love to do, but it definitely keeps my busier than I ever thought!  Plus, I'm volunteering more, starting new projects, building my business - all of these things that I never anticipated would bring so much work.  And I love it.  But I certainly AM busy.

I think humans have an instinctual need to be busy.  We are animals after all, albeit smarter that the average bear (sometimes).  But too much slothy time can mean trouble - it almost always does.  Isn't that why we love vacations?  Because deep down, we know that we will eventually settle back into working?

So many people have lost their jobs over the past year and a half.  I personally know many people that this affected.  I worried about it myself many, many times.  And it wasn't so much the money that was a concern, it was "What am I going to do now?".  I think that's true for many people; if you don't feel as if you have a purpose, then what IS our purpose?  How are we going to contribute if we can't work?  It's good to see that things are slowly turning around as far as unemployment goes - it makes for happier, busier people.

I like Europe's idea.  They all work hard but they also take two-hour lunches.  They have more vacation time than anyone else in the free world.  They take naps in the afternoon, but they still put in an 8-hour day.  They have the best maternity leave laws on earth.  Let's adopt THIS way of life!  I think we'd all be less stressed, don't you?

May 6, 2010

What Happens Next?

I love movies - I always have.  The first movie I ever saw was "Star Wars" - I was eight.  We had a movie theater less than a mile away so as soon as I could, I would walk down there and spend my allowance money.  I was one of those kids who would see the same movie over and over again.  I think I saw E.T. three or four times in the summer of '82.

Here's the catch - every time I saw E.T. it was like seeing it for the first time.  You see, I have what my sister and I like to call "Movie Amnesia" (she suffers from it, too).

Let me preface this by saying that I'm one of those people with whom you may not want to see a movie, especially if it's a suspense or thriller genre.  I have to constantly ask, "Okay, now who's that, again?", and things like, "Wait - I thought he died in the beginning!", etc.  So I suppose it would stand to reason that because I'm trying to hard to follow along, I may forget key plot points along the way.

Probably the best example of my movie amnesia came with the 1990 movie "Presumed Innocent".  If you haven't seen it, Harrison Ford plays a prosescutor who is accused of murdering a woman with whom he is having an affair.  I must've seen this movie five times before I remembered who reallly murdered the woman (I won't give it away, in case you haven't seen this 20 year-old movie and you'd like to).  In this way, it's kind of fun being inflicted with this disorder - it's a new movie every time!   Another, more recent movie that affects me the same way is "The Departed" - and we OWN that one!  You'd think that I would kind of know what happens in a movie that we own.  But nope, same problem.

Unfortunately, my amnesia sometimes stretches into TV shows as well.  Just a year or two ago, "The Office" started running in syndication.  Now, I've been watching this show from the very first episode.  Religiously.  Never missed an episode.  But when I see the promos and teasers for the reruns, I always have to ask Brian, "Okay, which one is THIS?".  And he always knows.  Because Brian has the exact opposite of my amnesia - the man has total recall for every movie/TV show he's ever seen.  It's incredible.  I'm in awe.  And he's awfully handy to have around that way (one of the thousand reasons he's like the most awesome person EVER).

So if you're the very unfortunate person that's sitting by me in the theater, I apologize in advance.  I should probably take this opportunity to apologize to Brian too, as well as anyone else who has been annoyed by my odd afflliction.  Next time, I'll take notes.  :D

May 4, 2010

Mistakes have been Made

All over the place today, I've seen blogs and status updates and news articles about making mistakes.  I don't know if it's because I'm open to that concept today or if it is just a coincidence that there is so much talk about mistakes, but when I begin to see patterns in things I read or hear about, I like to find out what the Universe is trying to tell me.

Here are the "mistake" ideas I heard today - first up is this status update from my friend David:

"Perfection is a poisonous myth that disguises itself as candy. Don't eat it. Don't believe it. Don't be a slave to it."

Now there's an idea that I can adopt for my own.  I've never been a perfectionist - far from, in fact; but I can't stand it when something I'm working on (mainly my art, my cooking, or my computer) isn't working right (okay, maybe I AM a perfectionist).

I subscribe to the Etsy feed in my e-mail, which serves up wonderful advice about sales and marketing for those like me who have an Etsy shop, and this is what is said today:

"There's an old proverb that goes, 'If you don't make mistakes, you don't make anything.' We all make mistakes...."

Isn't that a lovely sentiment?  Basically, it's saying that we all make mistakes every day and they're just part of the creating (and creative) process.  It certainly is true; I do make "mistakes" every day in my art.  But the great thing about being a collage/mixed media artist is that there's this thing called glue.  And when a collage element isn't working, you take this "glue" and paste something over the offending item.  It's like magic.  But that's not to say it isn't also quite frustrating when the work in progress isn't cooperating.

I tend to make the most mistakes when I try to rush through something.  I love taking my time with my artwork but when I feel a deadline looming, I tend to get really stressed and invariably that's when things go south.  This is around the time my potty mouth gets the best of me, too - I start dropping the Effingheimers left and right (GASP!).  It'll never be as bad as when I worked in the television industry, but I still try to not swear on a daily basis.

What I really should do is practice what I preach.  One of the most wonderful parts of my art career is teaching workshops.  And a HUGE part of these workshops is making sure that my "students" are made abundantly aware that in making art, there are no mistakes.  Really.   So why am I any different?  What makes me so gosh darn special?

Of course, the whole idea of making a mistake is rooted in fear - fear of getting fired, fear of losing one's admiration or trust, or just the fear of "not being good enough".  And for sure, there are some mistakes out there that are MAJOR (BP, I'm looking in your direction).  But let's be honest - most of us do not commit grievances of an enormous degree very often.  It may seem like a big deal at the time, but more often than not what we think is going to be life-altering just turns out to be a minor upset.  What's more important is that we don't repeat these mistakes.  And maybe be a little easier on ourselves, okay?  :D

May 3, 2010


This is going to be a super-fluff piece all about my love of brownies.  Sorry if it's too frivolous, but I felt the need to sing the praises of the best dessert - EVER.

I have always loved brownies.  After about the age of 10 or so, they became my birthday cake.  When my dad retired, he'd make these Rocky Road brownies that were TO DIE FOR.  He even omitted the nuts - because (and I know I face opposition on this opinion) no dessert should ever contain nuts.  Not in ice cream, not in cookies, not in cake and certainly not in brownies.  Why mess with a beautiful thing?  Mixed nuts are fine on their own - just not in my chocolate.

About ten years ago or so, at the height of my laziness, I would just make a batch of brownie dough and eat it in front of the TV.  Thankfully, I've seen the error of my ways (and my waistline!) and ended that practice.  But there's a reason that Hunt's pudding makes a "Brownie Dough" flavor - because, aside from cookie dough, brownie dough is as close to Nirvana as we're ever going to get here on Earth.  Yeah, yeah, spare me your lectures about salmonella - for brownie dough, I will gladly ingest raw eggs.

Since I've been working from home, I've made a few batches of cookies, pies, and breads.  But the hit of the family seems to be these brownies!  If I can make Brian and my friends and family happy with a mere pan of brownies, I'm happy to do it.  Aside from the dirty dishes (which Brian happily takes care of in the trade-off), they're no problem whatsoever.

According to Wikipedia, the first brownie was served at the Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893.  Get this - it was served with an apricot glaze and walnuts.  Say what?  Now why would they go and ruin a perfectly good brownie with walnuts?!  Apricot glaze I can see on a pound cake, but a brownie?  Not so much.  Of course, Wiki also has a link to hash brownies.  I've never had them myself, but that may take the brownie experience to a whole new level.  And I can imagine that they just may be the best @*!(^%* brownies you'll ever have in your life.

If there is an afterlife, there will be brownies there (at least in my version of it).  And The Big Cheese will ask me for my recipe in exchange for his/her recipe for Nanaimo bars.  Because, little-known fact, God is Canadian.  :D

May 2, 2010

I Guess it was Inevitable....

I came to a realization this morning.  It's not revelatory, nor really that important, but kind of surprising....

I just don't care about new music anymore.

Now, if any of you reading this knew me from about the age of ten on, you'd be surprised by this.  Starting in the Summer of '79, I started becoming very interested in popular music, mainly Top 40 but also anything from the 60s and 70s (which at the time weren't considered "oldies" yet).

And when I discovered it, I went all in.  It became a personal quest to memorize every song on the radio, even if I didn't like it.  I also figured that if I was to have an opinion of a song one way or another, it was my duty to know everything about it - who sang it, when it charted, what I was wearing when I first heard it (sorry, family joke there).  My poor sister - I used to quiz her about classic rock songs and if she didn't know who sang a particular song, her pat answer became "Blue Oyster Cult".  She still uses it to this day.

I used to LOVE to discuss music with anyone who'd listen.  I have two brothers who are quite a bit older than I (they're 14 and 18 years older, to be exact) and they were always astonished that I knew "their" music.  My uncles (who, coincidentally, are the same ages as my brothers) were also fascinated by my almost encyclopedic knowledge of any group out there, but mainly The Beatles.  I became the go-to person for the question, "Who sings that song....." (this was pre-Internet, mind you).

There were periods in time that I sort of "dropped out" - one of those times was the early 90s, when Grunge became the rage.  At the time I hated it, probably because I was "supposed" to like it.  If there's anything I can't stand, it's being told by "them" what I should be listening to (and yes, I realize that every time I listen to the radio, that's what's happening; I'm talking more of a trend thing).  So I just kept with my old standbys like Jethro Tull and Emerson, Lake & Palmer and, of course, The Beatles and Led Zeppelin.  I realize now that I missed out on some great music, but that's what iTunes is for.  And even then, I eventually got back into a radio-listening routine.

I still love Top 40.  I like to know what "the kids" are listening to.  I like that I can connect with my Tween nieces and "their" music (and I know a lot of the lyrics!).   The difference now is, with very few exceptions, I'm not purchasing any of it.  It used to be that when I heard a song I liked, I'd rush out and buy the CD.  Maybe iTunes has changed all of that, too.  If I can buy the single for $1.29, why commit to the whole album?  In a way, I'm reverting back to my 10 year-old self, when I saved up my allowance for 45s (irony alert:  The singles I purchase today are actually CHEAPER than they were in 1979.  What an age we live in!). 

So if I still love Top 40, what do I mean by "new" music?  I guess it's the music I'm "supposed" to be listening to right now - the songs that my digital music channels, my hipster friends, the cool ads on TV, NPR, or anyone else "in the know" are telling me I should like.  Bands like She & Him, Vampire Weekend, MGMT, Pomplamoose, etc. that are so hot currently.  Try as I might, I just can't get interested.  I don't know if it's their blase attitude or what - I'm bored.  Or maybe I'm just too tired to try and absorb it all. (NOTE:  one fantastic thing about these new bands is that they're embracing art & design like never before, and incorporating it into their own branding.  I LOVE that).

At least with the whole Grunge thing, I adopted the look - maybe that made me a poseur, but what's more comfortable than Doc Martens and baggy flannel shirts with ripped jeans?  That was a look I could get behind.  Now it's all cute sundresses with cowboy boots - I'm 41 and wear clothes from Kohl's.  I'm not about to start looking like I'm trying too hard.

Maybe this is another phase - maybe, in 2022, I'll start listening to The Hold Steady and think, "Why didn't I give this a try when it came out?".  But I don't know; something's different this time.  Is this it?  Is this the point where I start to say, "In my day, we had GOOD music!"?  Dear God, I hope not.  But secretly, maybe it's how I feel.  Only time will tell.

*Photo of Vampire Weekend from Breaking the Midnight*