July 29, 2010

Are Women Mean?

I was watching syndicated morning show "The Daily Buzz" this morning, and one of the topics presented was:  Are women mean? 

Apparently a blogger was saying just that (the actual title of the blog post asked the question, "Why are women such bitches to each other?").  A lot of the post deals with these problems in the workplace, but it does touch on other factors as well.

Since I'm the one writing this post, I'm going to give my opinion on whether or not women are mean to each other:  the way I see it, it's a resounding YES.

Before you think that I don't have any female friends, that's not true.  I have cultivated many wonderful friendships over the past 25 years - but I will say, it's been hard trying to find good women friends.  The ones I do have (and I count my online friends in this mix too) are amazing ladies who have enriched my life in myriad ways, and I cherish them!

Oh, but we all know the women to whom I am referring, don't we?  Guys, I'm sure you could think of a few yourselves (I'm not woman-bashing here, either; there are plenty of guys out there that could use a swift kick in the fun zone.  But I never really deal with those types of guys).

It has been my experience that men are easier to talk to, joke with, and be around.  I have always been the "pal" in any group of guys - I feel very lucky that guys were always comfortable around me, probably because I can be just as raunchy as they are and I'm not a 6'1" and 125 lbs. supermodel (FAR FROM!).  I have never had to deal with hurt feelings with men, or wondered if they harbored any resentment toward me for some reason.  It is very unfortunate that I have, my entire life, had to deal with these issues with many women.

Starting in the second grade, with Karl Buchmann, I have enjoyed the company of men more than women.  Why?  Because boys (and the men with whom I am friends) are hilarious.  My guy friends don't turn on a dime, emotionally, like many women do (and because I'm a woman, I'm guilty of it too).  My guys never pulled a "what's that supposed to mean?", or answered, "Oh, nothing." when asked if everything's okay.

Keep in mind that I pull all of these things myself, so I feel I'm able to vent about why I don't hang around with women of this ilk.  I don't know - maybe I wouldn't hang around myself!  :D

I've always tried to present myself in the friendliest manner possible - I don't mean that "everything is SUPER!"-type friendliness, reserved for perky hostess types.  I'm talking about a "Happy to know ya!" sort of demeanor.  And this really is who I am, most of the time.  These days, I don't get snickered at or blatantly picked on, but it was probably my happy attitude that got me in hot water with the "mean girls" at my school.  Oh, they loved picking on me - I was such an easy target!  They'd ask me things like, "Where'd you get your clothes, Goodwill?" or "Your teeth make you look like Dracula - we'll call you Count Jonesy!" (Jones was my last name at the time).  I would get tripped in the hall, called names, you name it.  And I always gave them what they wanted - they made me cry, EVERY time.  I mean seriously - is there anything more horrible in this world than a 16 year-old girl?!  Not in my mind.

It may be a little clearer now why yes, I do believe that women are mean.  They're mean in a social way that men just aren't.  You will just never see a group of (straight) guys gossiping in a corner about some other guy, unless that other guy is doing something so outrageous it can't be ignored.  If a guy in a group complains about a third guy in the group, especially if that third guy isn't there, he will be placated by the other guys in the group and the subject will be dropped.  There is no talk of hard feelings in a group of guys, nor is there a shunning of one guy out of many.  In a social setting, most guys are pretty inclusive; if introduced to a third party, they'll ususally include that guy in conversation right away.  They may not become friends, but the evening will probably be a nice experience for the "new" guy.

Ladies, how many times has the exact opposite been true when you've been out with your girlfriends?  I'm going to say PLENTY.  At least, it has been my experience.  Well, I just don't play that game.  If that means that for the rest of my life I only get to keep the women friends I have currently, that's more than enough for me.  I found the best, anyway!  :D

I'm going to put it out there - let's start a "No Mean Women" group!  If we see women behaving like Third Grade brats, let's call them on it!  It's the only way this type of ridiculous behavior is going to stop.  Who's with me?

P.S.  As I was looking for clip art in Publisher tonight, I typed the keyword "mean".  The picture you see above came up - but, surprise surprise - there were no photos of little boys in the same situation.  Interesting, no?

July 22, 2010

You're Asking HOW Much?!?

As I was perusing Facebook yesterday, I came across a post from Craft: magazine.  It featured a "Brisket Flip Flop" - a soft sculpture made by Robert Tabor of SoleSensations.  On Robert's Etsy site, he is charging $295 for his piece (oddly, on his own Website, he's charging $500.  So if you'd like to buy it, make sure you buy it from the Etsy page!)

In the comment section of the Craft page, I was quite shocked to see so many comments about how much he was charging.  Here's an example:
"When you call something a sculpture you can charge $295. I bet we can knock it off for less than $10."  Or another:
"TWO HUNDRED AND NINTY FIVE DOLLARS?!?!  Interesting but um, no." 
To which I replied:
"Yes, but remember - how long did it take them to do? You have to factor in labor for one's work, just like anything else. And they are making a living from their work, just like a plumber, a carpenter, an electrician, or anyone else providing a good or service." 
A comment after my retort:
"I agree but $295 is a just a tad bit RIDICULOUS."


I will be the first to admit - before I began making things for sale, I would go to galleries and balk at prices too.  I will also be the first to say that I'm not at the place yet where I understand pricing.  That being said, I don't think that $295 for an original, clever sculpture is out of the question.  Let's break down the cost:

Labor:  Mr. Tabor is a veteran in the art world.  Not only does he do sculpture, but he's done graphics and window displays for clients such as Nabisco, Macy's, and Mattel.  He's been around for more than 20 years and has made a name for himself.  So he's going to charge more than minimum wage for his labor.  If this piece took him 5 hours to do, at $40/hour, that's $200 right there.
Materials:  Let's look at the layers in this particular piece.  You've got the foam top, fabric, ribbons, trims and rhinestones (which I don't see, but I guess they're in there somewhere).  Let's put the material cost at $75.
So we're up to $275 already.  For an established artist, I think it's criminal that's he's netting a mere 20 bucks for this piece!!
Oh, if only more people would look at our work this way!  Now, let's see how I price my work:

Labor:  Since I'm just starting out, I certainly can't, in good conscience, charge $40/hour.  I figured a good place to start would be what I was making at my old job, which was a little under $12/hour.
Materials:  For my pendants, as an example, my expenses are roughly $4.
Because my pendants are one-of-a-kind, fully designed by yours truly, they usually take more than an hour to do.  So I'm at about $17 already.  Unless I'm running a sale, I charge $20 per pendant, plus shipping.  So when you factor in the labor, I'm making about $3 on every pendant.

It is frustrating when people balk at your prices.  And even before I started making items myself, I would overhear the rudest comments from people at art fairs and shows about the pricing structure.  People - you're not in Wal-Mart!  If you have a problem with cost, wait until you're out of earshot of the artist before you start ranting about the "ridiculous" price.  These items are handmade, and if you're at Art Fair on the Square in Madison, for example, that artist had to go through a very rigorous judging before they were even able to set up their booth!  A good rule to follow is this:  if you don't have something nice to say, don't say anything at all.

I know this:  before I even consider doing an art fair, I not only have to hone my skills more, but I have to develop a thicker skin.  I've seen plenty of art that I didn't like, but when an artist puts his or her work out there, they are subjecting themselves to a type of vulnerablity that most people don't experience in their daily lives.

Of course, Regretsy items are the exception to this rule.   :D

P.S.  I have to give MAJOR props to all of my customers - I appreciate your business so very much!  I hope this blog post didn't come off as bitter - that wasn't my intention - I just wanted to show how some artists price their work.  I also do what I do out of the sheer love of it, not to get rich.  If I happen to make a little money off my pieces, even better!  :D

July 20, 2010

I Don't Buy it

There is a very interesting story on NPR this morning.  It's entitled, "Eating Nutritiously - A Struggle When Money is Scarce".  They chronicle the morning routine of the Williamsons of Carlisle, PA.  The focus is on eight year-old Alex, who, "ate a blue ice pop for breakfast".  According to the article, Connie, Alex's mom, tries to get him to eat healthy but if Alex gets up early he "grabs what he wants for breakfast".

The article's main gist is the correlation between poverty-stricken families and obesity, and how it's a growing problem.  One food pantry worker is quoted as saying, when told that the aforementioned Alex drinks orange soda instead of milk:  "A gallon of milk is $3-something. A bottle of orange soda is 89 cents," she says. "Do the math."

I know firsthand how hard it is to feed a family of four on a VERY limited budget; we didn't have much growing up.  In the Seventies and Eighties, my dad made about $10K/year.  We lived in an apartment.  We had the "reduced lunch" lunch tickets (SO embarrassing).  Going out to eat consisted of McDonald's on my Dad's payday - a HUGE treat for us.  My dad sacrificed his vacation time and took the money instead to make sure we had great Christmases and new school clothes (and we did).  But I never felt like we were "poor" (even though, technically, we fell below the poverty line).  And my dad was far too proud for us to ever go on Food Stamps or assistance.

Flash forward to January of this year.  When Brian and I decided together that I was going to quit my 9-5 job (and the insurance and money that went with it), the goal was to somehow make up my salary by cutting other things out of our lives (mainly: prepared foods, going out to eat, vacations and my Etsy habit).  I'm proud to say that we've succeeded on all fronts and as of the 6-month mark of my new artist career, we've not only managed to save what I would've made in salary, but we've exceeded that amount.

So pardon me if I don't buy this story of the Williamsons.

I'll give you an example:  yesterday, which was "market day" for me, I spent, for the week, $23.96 on my groceries.  Yes, that's 23 dollars and 96 cents.  And that included a 4/$9.98 soda deal (Brian's hooked on Diet Pepsi; I don't drink soda at all).

You may ask how on earth I do this.  Well, I'll give you the breakdown of this week's menu:
Monday (yesterday) - we had dinner with my in-laws, so that meant a freebie day for us (and incredible cedar-plank salmon to boot).
Today (Tuesday) - I'm making enchiladas tonight, one of Brian's favorites.  I make between 5-6 enchiladas, which ensures leftovers.  Cost for tonight's food:  $3.65 (I had leftover tortillas from a meal last week).
Wednesday - tonight is Spaghetti pie, made with whole-grain spaghetti.  Cost for tonight's meal (using leftover spaghetti sauce): about $2 (the cheese is the most expensive part).
Thursday:  Smorgasbord night.  We're leaving for a trip to Michigan on Friday for my grandfather's memorial service, so we want to eat all the leftovers so nothing goes to waste.

So this week is a little odd, but you can see that my meals typically run between $2-$5.  And that's not per person; that's for the whole meal.  I cater my menus around what's on sale and the coupons I have for the week.  So if you eat at Chez Kolstad, be prepared to eat something made with chicken, Bisquick and frozen vegetables, or possibly a quiche, casserole or crock pot dinner.  If you're lucky, you may hit a steak night (about 6 times a year).  Breakfasts consist of cold cereal for Brian and yogurt and a banana for me.  I always buy cereal on sale - mainly, when you can get 4 huge boxes of Kellogg's cereal for $6.  That cereal will last us about 4 months, on average.  Lunches consist of leftovers or half a can of Chunky Soup (which is the recommended serving size) and a slice of bread.

The Williamsons get $600/month in food stamps.  Now, before you call me heartless and think I'm going to go off on "welfare recipients", I'm not.  I wholeheartedly believe in these programs, but I also think it's not an excuse to go out and buy the worst/most expensive possible food you can think of just because you can (it used to gripe my dad's butt something fierce to see people paying for lobster and steak with food stamps, when we NEVER got to eat those things ourselves).  If Alex's mom is so concerned about him eating a blue ice pop for breakfast, then why are they in the house?  For the same money, and clipping coupons, he could've had a banana and a cup of yogurt.  I don't think it's necessarily a matter of not having money; I think it's more likely ignorance about how to eat properly.

Yes, the Williamsons are a family of four.  But all the meals that I prepare for the two of us are usually 4-person servings (it's hard to find recipes for just two people).  If you prepare foods from scratch, you will save SO much more than if you go out and buy a Stouffer's lasagna.  My in-laws would spend one or two Saturdays a month cooking for the weeks ahead so they could just pull something out of the freezer instead of being tempted to go out because they'd be too tired to make something. 

I guess all I'm saying is that if you want to save money and eat right, it can be done.  Brian and I are living proof.

July 15, 2010

The ABCD Diaries giveaway

Wow.  I am sitting here, nearly hyperventilating.  About three weeks ago, Christin Banda contacted me via my Etsy shop, Snizzers & Gwoo, about possibly doing a giveaway - would I be interested?

Since I had never done this before, I had no idea what a giveaway entailed.  When I checked out Christin's site, "The ABCD Diaries", I learned what goes into making a great giveaway!

Before I go any further, I do have to say a MAJOR thank you to Christin!  The mere notion of someone finding my Etsy shop and thinking enough of my work to FEATURE it on their blog?  Well, my heart is full of gratitude!  What an amazingly thoughtful gesture!

So, how does this giveaway work?  It's really cool.  First, you start on the ABCD Diaries blog.  Then you can be linked to my Etsy shop or this blog or my other blog, Ephemeraology.  If you "heart" me or buy something on my Etsy page you're entered (but I want to reiterate, no purchase necessary - I mean, I'd love it, but please don't feel obligated!  How's that for low-pressure sales?  :D).  If you comment here or on my other blog, you're entered.  If you blog about the giveaway or me, you're entered (how flattering!).  All the details are on the ABCD blog.  :D (Above is a photo of the pendant that you could win!)

This was just one more experience this year that has shown me the Universe is an amazing place.  You give a little, you get a LOT.  I am so grateful for the kindness that others have bestowed upon me - please know that I am enjoying and appreciating it all SO very much.   Thank you!!!

July 11, 2010

Summer Fun

I can't believe that the summer "season" is nearly half over already - how on earth did THAT happen?!?  Time does seem to move faster in the summer, probably because even though it's warmer and we may be moving slower (certainly true for me), a lot of us have super busy weekends and activities during the week that keep us plugging along.

So far this year I've been to Sheboygan twice to see the exhibits at the John Michael Kohler Arts Center.  All summer long they're focusing on humor in art - it's FABULOUS!  If you're in my neck of the woods (Mid-Eastern Wisconsin) I highly recommend a trip.  And I'm not just saying that because two of my pieces were in an exhibit there.  :D

In early June, I went to one of my favorite places  - Persimmons, a workshop studio/store in Manitowoc, was hosting a "Night O' Fun" with artist/author Rice Freeman-Zachary.  If you don't know who this cool lady is, check out her blog - she is a HOOT!  On top of meeting Rice and having her autograph my copy of "Living the Creative Life", it was great to hang out with Kim Geiser, the owner of the shop, and some of my friends that I've met through her.  It was just one of those great art experiences and a super fun evening!

I also went to an INCREDIBLE estate sale about a month ago - I mean really, that sale may have been the best I've ever seen.  There is another one next week, put on by the same company.  I'm planning on going to that one, too (you can read about the June sale on my other blog, Ephemeraology).  The amount of stuff that was for sale - it was an entire lifetime's worth of collections, even old newspapers from the 30s and 40s.  And it was right on Lake Michigan, which gave the sale a very summery feel.

It seems like this has been quite the summer for theater, too!  Last weekend, Brian and I and my nieces Natalie and Mia (who are 11 and 13) went to see "As you Like it" at the American Players Theatre (see the photo, above).  If you're not familiar with this particular theater, it's in Spring Green, WI (also famous for Frank Lloyd Wright's Taliesin house and The House on the Rock) and it's outside, which only adds to its magical quality.  The troupe mainly performs Shakespeare, Shaw, O'Neil and other classic plays, but they just opened an indoor theater where other, more "experimental" plays are held.  This is my seventh year attending - we always do one play with my sister and her family, and one play with myself, my mom and my sister.  And we have AMAZING seats - fifth row.  Awesome.
We also always attend the Fond du Lac Community Theatre musical, which used to be held in February (and I sometimes performed in) but they changed it to a summertime event.  This year the offering was "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat", and it was fantastic.  (Yes, I'm biased, but it really was wonderful).

Next up - a trip to Michigan in two weeks with my mom.  It's not for the most fun reason (her dad died last November but they waited to hold the memorial service until everyone could make it) but we'll make it fun.  It's in lower Michigan, on the western side of the state.  We're driving, and it's been a LOONG time since we've done such a long drive - I'm really looking forward to it!  After all, what's summer without a road trip?  :D

I am a "fall girl" at heart - I can't wait until the temps fall into the 50s or so.  But this summer has been wonderful so far and if the second half is as good as the first, I don't think I'll want it to end.

July 4, 2010

Why I love (and not so much....) my country

Today is Independence Day in the US.  It's never been my favorite "holiday" - I like the fireworks, but not at 2 a.m. in my neighborhood, set off by soon-to-be juvies.  I like picnics, but I hate bugs.  I'm not a big fan of summer in general so if we would've gained our independence as a nation on, say, October 24, that would be infinitely more fun.

But I do love my country and if it means enduring a sticky summer evening for some explosives, I shall comply.

Why do I love my country?  Let me list a few reasons for you:

1.  I can say whatever I want, whenever I want, about whomever I want, with no fear of imprisonment or worse (okay, maybe not in a crowded theatre, but if you're going to pull that kind of crap, then you should get what you deserve).  I happen to be quite fond of our current president, but did not feel the same about our most recent former president.  I spoke of him often in not-so-flattering terms and even now, if his name arises in conversation I still yell out interjections, the likes of which I shall not utter here.  I LOVE that I get to do that.

2.  I don't have to worship anyone, or I could worship anything.  If I wanted to start the Church of the Eternal Dick Clark, I could.  I'll bet that there'd be people willing to join, too.  Our church would resemble the old American Bandstand set, and of course the highest of the high holidays would be our lord's New Year's Rockin' Eve.  Isn't it wonderful that I can do this if I want?

3.  My stuff is relatively safe.  I never have to worry about John Q. Law entering my house in the middle of the night because they heard I own bootleg DVDs of  all 12 seasons of Cheers (I don't, by the way.  How totally random would that be?).  Ever seen the movie "Reds"?  'Nuff said.

Okay, those reasons aside, I'm now going to rip on our beloved country for a bit.  Here are the reasons why I'd rather live in Canada:

1.  Insurance.  What the hell is it with this country?  We are the only developed nation in the world that has problems with middle-class people going bankrupt because they get sick.  This is an abomination.  I am a firm believer that a healthy country and its inhabitants is a prosperous country.  It makes me want to scream that our healthcare system has run so amok.  I don't pretend to have any answers, but here's a start - let's cover EVERYONE'S preventive care (kids' immunizations, annual womens' exams and mammograms, prostate exams and colo-rectal exams).  I'd be willing to bet that if we did these things, we could catch 50% more cancer and other life-threatening illnesses than we currently do.

2.  Immigration.  This is a very touchy subject.  Yes, illegally entering this country is a problem in some states and those folks shouldn't have the same rights as our natural born citizens or those who willingly took the time to become citizens legally, but certain states are handling this crisis in a not-so-American way.  I am very concerned that the States' power in this instance is out of control and the Feds need to step in (yes, I know this is a violation of the 10th Amendment, but....).  What a quandary - here you have people who want to enter our country for a better way of life, yet our country is showing them our ugliest side.   For shame, Arizona. Oh, and the next time you go to Europe and complain that the folks over there don't speak English, take a good hard look in the mirror and behold the tools you've become.

3.  The Religious Right.  Egads - here's a group of people I'd like to round up and have them form their own country, one with whom we don't trade or associate.  Hypocrites.  Bigots.  Prejudicial.  Ick.

So I guess the reason I love my country so much is somewhat the same reason I wish I could move up North (hey, my dad was half Quebecois; maybe that's an in!).  On second thought, I think I'll stay.  Besides, all my stuff's here and no one'll search it.  :D

*The beautiful photo you see here is courtesy of my very talented photog husby, Brian Kolstad*