September 29, 2010

Up and Running!

"Tuesday Morning, 9:30 a.m." by Mel Kolstad (me!)
 I viewed my very own exhibit today - does that make me an exhibitionist?  :D

For those of you who hadn't heard via Facebook or Flickr or e-mail, the co-op group in Fond du Lac, of which I am a founding member (and so is Brian), opened our first exhibit today called "Exposure", at the Windhover Center for the Arts.  Our group is called Fond du Lac Visual Arts and we eventually will be taking members.  There are six of us in the group and we each are displaying about 6 or 7 pieces.

It's all sort of surreal.  Considering that I still have a hard time with the "artist" moniker, I'm flabbergasted that I get to have my own works in a show!  With the exception of one piece, I made all new works specifically for the exhibit.  I know me and I tend to be a bit of a procrastinator, so I purposely started on my pieces early, like back in June.  That way I'd have time to get them all framed, if needed be.  I'm happy to report that I had all of the pieces done and framed two weeks ahead of schedule.

The staff at the Windhover did an amazing job of hanging the show; we all placed our pieces how we wanted them on Monday, and the staff came in yesterday and did the rest.  It was so exciting to see MY name up on the wall along with all of my new art.  I'm a little anxious about it - of course, those little voices I hear have a tendency to place doubt.  What if nobody likes my work?  What if they call it "amateur"?  What if people balk at the prices I've set?  What if, after viewing my stuff, they're just not impressed?

I'm going to bet that there will be people who just don't care for my stuff.  What I have to keep telling myself is that it's okay if they don't like it!  They don't have to like it.  Only I have to like it, because I made it.  If they like my work, wonderful!  That would be fantastic!  But if they don't?  Oh well.  I just don't want to hear it said to my face.  :D

One last thing - I am so very excited that Brian is a part of this group as well!  All of his photographs turned out amazing.  The images he chose to be framed are spot-on fabulous.  It's a very professional grouping, and I hope he knows how talented he is.  I hope he knows what I mean when I say I am very proud of him and what he's accomplished this year as well.  It means more to me than anything that we get to do this together!

September 27, 2010

The Bane of my Existence

I just passed the 8-month mark with my new art career.  I absolutely love how this year has gone so far - all of the art opportunities, the flexible schedule, saving tons of money by staying at home - it's ALL great.  But there is one smallish problem that has plagued me since January.


I'm relatively new (again) to suburbia - I've only been back in it for the last five years.  Before that I always lived in houses right in the city (both in Green Bay and Fond du Lac).  I'm not saying that living in town is akin to the "concrete jungle", but where I am right now is total suburban land.

Don't get me wrong - I LOVE the house that Brian and I share and the thought of moving makes me sick to my stomach.  But sometimes, I'd like to wring my neighbors' necks.

Within the 5-house radius of my house, both in the front and back yards, it seems that everyone owns a leaf blower, riding lawn mower, weed whacker and other extremely noisy lawn implements.  I am constantly surrounded by that awful din of motorized equipment.  One of my neighbors stands out in her driveway with the leaf blower just waiting for leaves to fall - I witnessed this while on my walk today.

Let's break this down - first of all, do these people seriously have nothing better to do than to wait for leaves to fall so they can blow them out of their driveways?  I've got an idea - how about you just wait under the tree with your hands cupped - it's far quieter and more environmentally sound.

Secondly, how lazy do you have to be to use gas-powered equipment instead of a good old-fashioned rake?  I find it interesting that those folks who could stand to lose a couple of pounds are the ones who rely on leaf blowers and riding lawn mowers in the first place.

And really - for your suburban patch of grass you call a lawn, do you REALLY need a riding lawn mower?  REALLY?  Because there are patches of grass that your behemoth can't get to, so you have to dig out your electric, NOISY weed-whacker to clean up the job.  How much sense does this make?!?

Now, Brian mows the lawn with a regular gas-powered mower, so I can't claim we're Mr. & Mrs. Al Gore either.  But our lawn gets cut about once every 7-10 days, like normal people.  We both could find a hundred other things to do besides annoy our neighbors with our noise-polluting equipment.  And speaking of noise pollution - one of the offfending neighbors likes to blare the radio whilst he's out leaf blowing - it has to be loud so he can hear it above the roar of his mighty manhood extension, doesn't it?!

Oh, and do we really have to be out using our expensive toys at 7:30 in the morning on a SATURDAY?!?  Find a new hobby, people!!!

Well anyway, thank you for letting me vent.  I know that you out there would NEVER be so inconsiderate to your fellow neighbors, right?  I didn't think so. :D

September 24, 2010

The Nightfly

I had an unusual bout of insomnia last night - I haven't had one in a long time!  I used to go weeks without a good night's sleep, but it's been years since that's happened.

There were a couple factors:  our room was way too hot; the winds were wicked; I couldn't get comfortable; and I had a head full of thoughts.  Group these things together and I suppose it's inevitable that it's not going to be a good night.

When I worked in TV, I thrived at night!  Even though our production crew had crazy hours (sometimes beginning at 5:30 a.m and ending at 11:00 p.m. in split shifts), we'd go out after work every night.  There would be nights where I'd get two hours of sleep, work my first shift (5:30-8:00 a.m.), go home for a couple hours and sleep, come back at 11:30 and work my second shift, etc. etc. etc.  There's only one explanation for how I could do this - I was 24. 

Normally I get up at 6:30 and I'm more than fine all day, but I just can't handle three hours of sleep anymore!  And did you ever notice that when you're awake and thinking at 3 a.m., it's never about happy things?  Okay, maybe it is for some, but I'd be willing to be that 95% of us who are up at these ungodly hours are not thinking about the best days of their lives; it's more about what happened that day, or what's coming up that's going to be unpleasant or nerve-wracking.  I can see how people get hooked on Ambien!

One nice thing about the night - it doesn't last.  Morning comes, and everything looks a little better.  It's like our brains have a switch that turns gloomy thoughts into lighter ones when the sun comes up. 

I'm going to use that to my advantage and go back to sleep.  :D

September 23, 2010

The Joys of Gardening, Part 2

About 3 1/2 months ago (I believe it was June 3), I wrote about my garden.  I was very excited about it - I had just planted a tomato plant, a cucumber plant, two green pepper plants and four onion plants.  Here is that photo:

It's so fun to see this again, because the garden EXPLODED!  I remember thinking that I should've gotten more than one tomato plant, but am I ever glad I didn't!  One cuke plant was enough, too - it yielded about 15 cucumbers.  It's just Brian and me in the house so we really don't need more than that.  Now that I know how successful the garden can be, I may try my hand at canning next year, especially for the tomatoes - that one plant went insane and I'm still harvesting fruit!  All in all I'll be that we'll get 40 tomatoes, give or take a few, from that one tiny plant (which, as you'll see, is far from tiny now!). 

Our peppers, on the other hand, didn't fare well at all - so far there's been a ton of growth but every time a pepper got to be about halfway to maturity it would begin to rot from the inside!  It's pretty gross, actually.  I don't know what went wrong - Brian thinks that maybe it was just too hot of a location, being so close to the white siding.  The onions were the nicest surprise!  I yielded about 13 onions, which were small but VERY powerful! 
So, here's the garden the way it looks today, September 23: 
How about that tomato plant, huh (yes, that's just ONE plant!)?  It grew so big it actually bent the cages that were supposed to contain it.  You wouldn't be able to see them anyway but the onion plants are all gone, and so is the cucumber plant (that just withered up on its own).  Here's the bizarre thing - all of a sudden, I'm getting decent green peppers (and some that are red, too!)!  It would certainly prove Brian's theory right - it's been much cooler lately.  We'll see if any of the peppers mature, but it would be really odd to have new peppers in October, wouldn't it?
One thing I know for sure - I'm hooked.  I loved tending the garden this summer.  It's so fun to see the progress and to reap the rewards!  Everything about it was great - the actual husbandry, the flavorful veggies (not the crap you get at the grocery store in the middle of winter), the money I saved by growing my own produce, the satisfaction of knowing it was "organic", the new recipes I tried because I had an abundance - it just feels great.

The only problem is waiting another eight months to do it all again!  I look forward to it with relish.  :D

September 20, 2010

The (Difficult) Art of Relaxation

Brian and I went away this weekend - actually, the place where we went is only about 3 miles from our house, but whenever we're there it feels like we're in another state.

The place we stayed at is called Moondance B&B, and it's right in Fond du Lac.  Our friend Sue owns it - it's actually a one-bedroom house on her property.  What's great about Moondance (besides the gorgeous decor and the view!) is that guests are left to their own devices - there's a full kitchen and it's stocked with whatever is requested.  For us, that meant Thomas English muffins.  :D  Sue always leaves little treats, too - this time we were greeted by a plate of muffins and a mni pie from the Little Farmer, an orchard/farm that makes incredible pies, muffins and other fall treats.  This was our second time staying at Moondance - the first time was in January, for our 4th wedding anniversary.  It was wonderfully relaxing, when I was able to relax.

Which brings me to the actual post - why is it so hard to relax and do nothing?  Is this weird?  Do any of you reading this have a similar problem?

It always baffles me when people tell me that they went to some wonderful all-inclusive resort somewhere and did nothing but lay by the pool and drink margaritas - I'm a little envious, too.  I would have a hard time doing that.  I can handle the pool for about an hour and then I have to do something else.  If I have a book along I may be able to eek out another hour, but it would have to be an engaging book.  No, I would much rather be exploring what the city has to offer (museums, attractions, etc.) and learning something.

In my "normal" life, during the week, I'm always busy.  If I'm not writing in my blog or updating the many facebook pages I administer, I'm in the studio or visiting friends or attending meetings in between running errands and cooking dinner. But you'll never catch me just reading, and the TV is never on during the day.  To me, that would be "cheating".  I feel like I have to be productive all the time.

I wonder where this notion came from - kids certainly don't feel this way!  As an adult I've felt like this since I can remember, but I think it got worse when I quit my 9-5 job in January.  Now that my job consists of me being creative, I'll admit that I feel a little guilty about having so much fun and getting paid for it.  It still blows my mind that I get to do what I love for a living.  Maybe I'm worried that if I fully relax on the weekends, people will either think I'm a spoiled princess or a total slacker, either of which would be upsetting.

I was sick a couple of weeks ago and spent two days in bed.  I did nothing, and I was okay with it, but I didn't feel well.  Maybe that's why we get sick - it's our body's way of telling us that we can slow down and the universe won't stop spinning if we're not a part of it for a couple days.  Now if I could only do that when I'm feeling good, I'd be all set.  :D

September 13, 2010

The Woods

Yesterday was a picture-perfect day in most of Wisconsin - brilliant sunshine, not a cloud in the sky, low humidity, and 78 degrees.  It was one of those days where you feel guilty if you're not a part of it.  So before the Packer game started at 3 p.m. (I believe it's actually a sin to miss The Game in Wisconsin), Brian and I set out to walk one of the many wonderful trails in our area, and there are a lot. 

We first went to Hobbs Woods, a gorgeous parcel of land set aside by its original owner (well, not original, but you know what I mean) to be maintained as a place where people can go to hike, relax or picnic (it's also where Brian proposed to me).  It was really busy, of course, so we left and tried a trail in town instead. 

This trail starts out in town but eventually hits patches of wooded area with streams and neat little bridges.  We walked about three miles yesterday but when walking a trail like that, to me it never feels as strenuous as when I'm walking three miles around my house.  There's also so much more to take in.

My favorite of these trails is the Wild Goose Trail, a decommissioned railway that was turned into a walking/biking trail about 10 years ago or so.  It stretches from Fond du Lac all the way to Juneau, which is about 55 miles. I discovered it in 2001 and started out biking but soon switched to walking to take in more of the beauty of my surroundings.

I'm probably the billionth person to realize this, but for me, the experience of being in the woods is my church.  No where else do I feel serenity and peace more than when I can walk in the (relative) quiet of the trees.  One hour amongst the birds and "friends" (what I like to call the cute woodland creatures one sees in this setting, like squirrels and chipmunks and rabbits) and I always remember that life is great, and that everything is always going to be okay.

One of the coolest things I encountered during one of my trips on the Wild Goose trail happened when I was on my halfway break. I would walk about two miles and then stop below one of the big bridges and sit on the rocks by the rapidly-flowing stream before I headed back. The water was pretty loud but it served as white noise for my thoughts. I was just sitting there, pretty still, for I don't know how long - and an entire family of beavers walked right past me. It's like they didn't even see me, or care that I was there. I turned my head just enough so that I could get a better look but not enough to startle them. I suppose it wasn't surprising they were around, considering there was (and still is) a HUGE beaver dam very close by. But it was the only time that ever happened. I would go back and hope that I'd see them again but the closest I ever got was seeing a little head peeking out of the water every now and then.

There have been a couple of instances in my life where I needed to escape to the woods any chance I got.  It was the woods where I worked out my feelings about my dad's stroke and eventual death; it was where I pondered what the hell I was going to do when I was separated from my first husband.  The woods was my therapy during that time in my life - but it also made me sit quietly and remember that although my troubles seemed insurmountable there was something bigger going on around me and if I let go of myself for a while, It would let me be a part of it.  And if that's not the definition of "church", then I don't know what is.

(The photo above is the Wild Goose Trail, exactly at the spot where I would go under the bridge and sit.  Photo courtesy of Fond du Lac County.)

September 10, 2010

Word Play, or Am I Weird?

Yesterday I made a batch of brownies.  I've made more brownies this year than in my entire life combined hence.  As I was gathering the ingredients, I quickly realized that I was going to use up both the sugar and the cocoa, so I got out my running grocery list and added them so I wouldn't forget.

And as I wrote these items down on the "Sugar Daddy" paper (thank you, Target "Dollar Spot"!), I had a realization that perhaps I do things a little differently than others - but maybe not.  So I'm going to ask all of you reading this blog entry - when making out your grocery list, do you write things normally, or do you try to make yourself laugh?  Is this an odd question? 

I really never made grocery lists when I worked full-time; I just ran in, grabbed what I thought I needed and left.  When I began really taking inventory, clipping coupons and writing thorough lists, I just started writing things in a "Mel" way.  My first thought was that if I dropped my list or accidentally left it anywhere, maybe somehow it would make its way into the "Found" series of books or on the blog.  Or the person who discovered it would think me a total freak.  Either way, the idea was intriguing.  After a while, though, I just started writing the lists my way because I enjoy laughing.  Shocker.

Some of the "odd" things I write are on the lists in the pictures.  For example, "Team Coco" in this case reminds me I need to pick up cocoa; it's not a reference to my allegiance to Conan O'Brien.  When I see  "Anton Chigurh" (pronounced "shi-GUR"), I know that sugar is on my list and not that Javier Bardem was awesome in the aforementioned role in "No Country for Old Men" (if that's not your cup of tea, perhaps you'd like "Suge Knight" better).

As you can see, I also enjoy saying things twice, like "crabby-crab" and "sour creamy-cream" and "coffee-coff".  These things make me laugh.  Try it - isn't it totally fun saying "crabby-crab"?  And you can't just say it in your normal voice, either; shake it up a bit.  See?  Did you make yourself laugh?

I'm sure a lot of you have kids in your life.  My inspirations are my "smooshers" Nat and Mia (my sister Jen's kids) and Brian's niece and nephew Josh and Sydney.  Because of them, I will never say "chocolate" unless I'm out with people who don't know me very well - in my world, the word is actually chockit because that's what Nat called it.  "Noodles" is for suckers; the REAL word is noonles, which is what Josh called them and is infinitely more fun to say.

Also, foreign accents and pronounciations make their way into my list.  My friend Chad took Spanish for years in high school and college, and he used to crack me up by over-emphasizing the difficult "dth" sound which native Spanish-speakers can do with ease.  So, from now on, it's enchiladtha ingredients on my list, which of course I sort of whisper to myself when I'm writing because it's so fun to say.  Conversely, and this may be un-PC, my favorite breakfast staple will forever be known to me as Engrish muffins.  Sorry, but that makes me laugh.  A couple of times I almost got caught saying this in a restaurant as I was ordering breakfast, though.  Oopsy.

Of course, all of these things are said out loud as well - I'm not going to confine them to just my lists!  If someone were to ever bug our house, I wonder if Brian and I would be committed (those of you who know Brian may think he's not silly.  Au contraire!  You just don't have the great fortune of experiencing it like I do). 

I guess my point to this entry, besides exposing one of the odder parts of my psyche to you, is that there are ways of making your world a little more fun and interesting.  Don't enjoy a task?  Then put a spin on it!  If you hate mowing the lawn, try writing a song about how much you hate mowing the lawn, and then singing that song to yourself while you're doing it.  Come on, you know you'll chuckle a couple times - how can you not?  You wrote it!

Your assignment is to try and make yourself laugh today.  Try a new accent when answering the phone at work (if someone calls you on it, just say you have a cold).  Think of your favorite Seinfeld-ism when you're in the bathroom and then try not to laugh so people think you're insane.  Come on, there are a zillion things you can do.  But I guarantee it'll make your day a little more interesting.  :D

September 8, 2010

A "Vast Wasteland"

The past couple of days, I was sick with one of those colds that just likes to hang on long enough to be most annoying.  I'm very fortunate in the fact that I can climb into bed if I want and not have to worry about calling in sick to work, which is good because I know I wouldn't have called in and it would've made for very long days.  So instead, I hunkered down and rode it out.

We have a TV in our bedroom, but it hadn't been used since Conan's untimely and unfortunate departure last January. I finally gave in and turned it on Sunday afternoon.  I figured I'd catch old reruns and watch them until I passed out on cough medicine.  No such luck!  I caught one rerun of "Frasier" and then the station began running infomercials.  I finally just left the TV on the Science Channel and let it lull me to sleep by showing me how to make a snare drum.

Like almost everyone who has cable, we have approximately 200 channels on our set-up. Brian and I certainly have our favorite shows, like Mad Men, 30 Rock, Project Runway, The Office, and a few others; but otherwise we don't watch TV. And we record everything with our DVR so that we can watch when we want. About the only shows that we watch live are Jeopardy after dinner and "The Daily Buzz" in the morning before Brian leaves for work (which I promptly turn off when he leaves). So to try and find shows that were interesting in the middle of the day was pretty difficult.

I know people that can watch TV for 10 hours a day; in fact, I used to be one of those people.  I'm not passing judgment - I'm saying that for me, I just can't do that anymore.  That's not to say that I don't waste time surfing Facebook or any other Web-related distractions, but at least I can choose what to read when I'm on the Internet.   With TV, you're stuck with what they choose to show.

When I did watch TV, about 10 years ago, I'd turn it on in the morning and leave it on all day.  I know that I worried more when I watched a lot of news.  I couldn't watch "Cops" because it used to make me paranoid that someone was going to break into the house.  I started to identify with the characters on "Northern Exposure".  I would freak out if one of my favorite shows was pre-empted; it would throw a wrench in my day.  I used to schedule other plans around my TV viewing, and get nervous if the two coincided.

Sounds crazy, doesn't it?  Yet somehow, I don't think I'm alone.  I don't know if I was so "blah" because I watched too much TV, or I watched too much TV because I was "blah".  But TV definitely factored into that time in my life.

I wonder sometimes if all of the divisiveness in our country is TV's fault.  Let's think about this:  before 24-hour news, most people watched Walter Cronkite and read Time magazine and their local newspaper to get their news.  There were a couple of Sunday morning political shows, but they consisted of highbrow commentators politely stating their case and discussing the matter at hand.  Now what do we have?  Five very different news channels with very different viewpoints.  It's gotten to the point where people can judge you based solely on whether you watch MSNBC or Fox News.  How sad is this?  And the SHOUTING!  Since when did this become acceptable?  I wonder sometimes what would happen if everyone just stopped watching "their" news for a week (and turned off the TV altogether!).  I think we'd all be less stressed!

I certainly have guilty pleasures when it comes to my TV viewing - the most obvious is probably "Project Runway".  Throw 17 designers together and you're going to have some bitchiness.  And I love watching.  So again, I'm not passing judgment, but are we really spending our time at night watching stuff like "Rock of Love: Tour Bus" and "Keeping up with the Kardashians"?  What are we really getting out of this?  And what could we be doing instead that may be a tad more edifying?  Reading?  Playing board games (no, video games don't count)?  Working on a hobby?

I am easily distracted, so I know that if I chose to spend my time watching TV during the day, I never would've accomplished all of the art that I've done this year.  My mind would've been somewhere else, and eventually I would've succumbed to the siren song of TV Land.  I know this to be true.  And I think it would've made me "blah" all over again.

So here's to turning off the TV every now and then!  I think you'll find that the world is a better place, with friendly people and a nice community.  Try it!  You may even lose your "blahs"!  :D