Protected: Starting Over, Again

Written by admin on July 1st, 2011

This post is password protected. To view it please enter your password below:

The Incurable, Insufferable Creative

Written by admin on June 28th, 2010

Lately I’ve found myself doing obnoxious “crafty” things. Things that involve hot glue. And I’ve become reacquainted with a feeling I haven’t had to face since I was a child: an aimless desire to CREATE something. When I was kid I can remember annoying the hell out of my mom by saying “I wanna build something.” I often took this out on spare pieces of wood in Dad’s shed. Oh, the atrocities I built! Apparently, they were all chairs or step-stools of some sort. But I remember how much I LOVED building all that crap. I wonder what happened to it all… Dad probably burned it before we moved.

But now I have those feelings again. It comes from being out of a creative field for so long. For over a decade I got to be somewhat creative. As a prepress tech, it was often creative problem solving but I also often got to do layouts and my right brain was happy and busy. Now? Now I work at a job that rarely, if ever, stimulates the right brain. Everything is rote memorization and other left brain stuff. My poor right brain, the stronger half, is neglected and sad. But with no opportunities for a prepress tech or non-avant-garde-holier-than-though-yes-I-also-do-web-design person on the horizon, it looks like I’m going to have to go around “building stuff” for a while…

So what have I “built” lately? I’ve made lots of buttons. I turned those same buttons into magnets (helllloooo, hot glue gun!). I’ve made displays for gift cards. I’ve toyed with taking a woodworking class. I’ve gotten overly fond of using the power drill I got for Christmas (is it unhealthy to walk around the house actively looking for stuff that may need a hole drilled into it?) I’ve overdone a few simple layouts. I’m thinking about restarting my old habit of making coloring books. Really mundane things.

I miss having free time (being unemployed) to paint and let the right brain go wild, but alas, I have to be able to buy hot glue sticks.

Catching Up

Written by admin on October 1st, 2009

I was intending to write a blog about every day of the Edmonton Folk Festival. I neglected to factor in the fact that I’m an introvert who is very sensitive to the sun. Consequently, I would go back to my hostel after an entire day at the Festival and just relax.

The festival was great. I dare say it’s the best folk festival I’ve ever been to. It would have been much, much more fun if there were folks there I knew and could hang out with as it’s such a bummer to not have anyone to turn to and say, “that was freaking brilliant!” I did meet a wonderful couple from Vancouver (I think) who were big Oysterband and Chumbawamba fans so it was great to sit with them and chat. I hope to run into them on the internet some day but we never exchanged email addresses.

I drove back from Edmonton to Minneapolis in one day. Yes. One day. I did pull over at the first rest stop in Minnesota and catch a few hours of sleep. I was very eager to be home. It’s a good thing I did: I came home to a very sick kitty.

Claws had a dental surgery before I went to Canada and we thought everything went well. But for a 16 year old kitty, these things can be unpredictable. The surgery pushed her kidneys too far and she went into the final stage of chronic renal failure. She and I battled hard for a month with the hopes that we could tame the disease and live a few more comfortable and loving years together. She gave up this fight 3 weeks into it. She was heroic and patient and never bit me despite the twice-a-day needle pokes for fluids and the syringe feeding and the weekly trips to the University of Minnesota’s Vet Hospital (which has a wonderful and caring staff). Clawsie took her final nap on September 11th. I’m very honored and blessed to have been present at her birth and at her transition of this world. I miss her daily (hourly) but I am confidant that I did right by her in not letting her lose her dignity to the kidney disease.

I have not been catless for 20 years so, needless to say, I didn’t even make it 2 weeks before I was at Feline Rescue meeting new kitties. Erik and I brought home a mom and her teenaged son and they are settling in to their new forever home. I forgot what it was like to have kitties who misbehave and who wake you up knocking things over in the night. It’s both charming and alarming, but we’re all getting along wonderfully. Both kitties have sensed that Claws was here before them and seem to have paid homage to her. Missy has taken to Claws’s old purr pad and made it her own. Brody has taken over Claws’s scratching post that she never really cared for. Neither kitty scratches on the basket that Claws always did. They simply walk by it and give it a sniff from time to time.

For those keeping count, I’m now on month 10 of being unemployed. Stunning, really. I never thought I’d have this bad of a time getting a new job after being laid off. I’m still doing freelance graphic design (got a great new client!)  and I’ve started teaching kids Irish dancing in addition to my adults class. That helps both financially and mentally. I’ve been accepted to the University of Minnesota for a History degree and will most likely pursue that next semester seeing as no other opportunities are on the horizon.


Folk Festival - Day One

Written by admin on August 7th, 2009

I walked to the folk festival site yesterday. It wasn’t that bad of a walk except I got a bit turned around (it would be highly unusual if I found my way directly to somewhere). I walked around a bit in awe of the turn out. Edmonton is serious about their folk festival!

I picked up my tickets and waited for the lass I was selling Erik’s ticket to. I’m very sad Erik isn’t with me, but at least I found a buy for his ticket. She turned out to be very nice and helpful and even let me join herself and her friends on their tarp.

A word about tarps: these folks are very into tarp location. There’s a lottery for getting into the festival first in order to put your tarp down at the ideal location in front of the main stage. After the tarps are settled, there’s a good 15 minute conversation with each person who arrives about the successful or unsuccessful tarp locale. Directly in front of the main stage is all tarps. To the left and right of the main stage there are dance areas (just grass - no dance floor is actually put down; so a bit scary for an old injured step dancer such as myself). I’m so accustomed to there being a mosh pit DIRECTLY in front of the band that it’s a bit tough to swallow the idea that I won’t be right in front so I can dance AND take pictures. And people SIT on the tarps. There’s no standing and getting enthusiastic. It’s certainly a different culture than that to which I am accustomed*. But I’m good with it; especially after a long day of walking around downtown and then walking to the festival. Today I plan on being UP quite a bit more. CHUMBAS TODAY! I’m so excited…

I walked back to the hostel from the festival as well. I was advised that this COULD be a bad idea, but that’s why I left the festival while it was still daylight. Up 202 stairs and noticing things in the brush under and around those stairs did heighten my defenses. I probably won’t walk back today; I’ll take the bus. But walking up the stairs allowed for a beautiful view of the festival from a distance:


Just to the left of the pyramids you can see all the people filling the hill at the EFMF.

When I reached the top of the stairs, I came out
behind the Hotel Macdonald, which is a nice-looking
hotel and is rather imposing when viewed from the
bottom of the stairs. And, much to my delight, there’s
a statue of Robert Burns beside the hotel. I took
photos of that as well. If I had the funds, I’d switch to
that hotel from the constantly-under-construction
hostel (I almost had a wall dropped on me whilst
writing this post).

It’s 9:42am now and I don’t know how to fill my day before the festival begins this evening. I’ve been told Whyte Avenue is cool, but that would require me to get in my car again (ugh) and, also, I don’t really have the money to go shopping. Perhaps I should just go for the experience….

*I rewrote this sentence so it didn’t end in a preposition.

From Minneapolis to Winnipeg

Written by admin on August 3rd, 2009

I’m writing this after a cider which, I ahve to admit, has gone to my head, so FORGIVE ME!

I drove the first leg of my trip today: from Minneapois to Winnipeg. It was a long drive but not so bad thanks to The World/Inferno Friendship Society, shuffle, The Levellers, Jim Macolm, Clandestine and a few other “friends” who don’t mind me singing along (as long as I’m ina c ar by myself and they’re many, many miles away).

I didn’t stop for lunch: just munched on trail mix and bagel crisps. Had a lovely Greek salad and hummus dinner here in Winniepg with Tara and Courtney (who are my hosts this evening) (and who also bought me the cider).

I made good time getting into Winniepg right around 4:00 (having left MPLS at 8:30). I was a hair nervous at the border, but they swooshed me right through after one cautious question: “What do you do for work?” Er, oo, graphic design. I left out the freelance bit for fear of it causing more questions.

Some observations: it’s very, very hard to see the km/hr reading on my car’s speedometer; I don’t know the traffic laws in Canada; road signs are VERY hard to spot in Winnipeg; Google maps dont’ always fail (I found the place I meant to in a relatively easy manner excluding the difficulty with the road signs); I warned people with my bumper stickers in that I have a new one that states “I ahve no idea where I’m going.” They have no idea how true it is…

Ill post pictures some other time. I kinda hate the fact that there are three people in this room and we’re all on computers! Ack!

I Still Miss Shannon.

Written by admin on July 6th, 2009

After 7 months of joblessness, I’m applying to go back to college/university. I’ve been accepted by my preferred university, but one of the smaller colleges is asking me for 2 letters of recommendation. Odd. I graduated with a GPA of 3.98. Maybe they don’t believe it.

But what this brings me to do is getting back in touch with profs from 10+ years ago. And it also dredges up how much I miss Shannon Anderson. She was my French professor at Truett-McConnell College and one of the main reasons I got to go to Appalachian State University for my Graphic Arts degree. She was always supportive, a great listener and a great advisor.

She was killed in a motorcycle accident shortly after my return from living in Scotland. I still miss her and still expect to run into her whenever I’m somewhere where Energy is high. RIP Madam Shannon.

The Museum of Russian Art, Minneapolis, MN

Written by admin on June 12th, 2009

A couple of weeks ago I finally went to The Museum of Russian Art here in Minneapolis. I wanted to go for quite a whie but never found anyone to go with me who had a similar schedule (you know: wide open). So I went alone and was reminded that it’s the way I prefer to see art: alone. I prefer alone because I can spend as long as I want staring at a painting and feel no pressure to move on to the next one or ven to look at each and every one. Let’s face it, some art you can tell you have no interest in within seconds.

When I first walked in the museum I was greeted by  friendly representative of the museum (I don’t know if he was a volunteer or an employee). He explained about the exhibit downstairs and (of course) told me where the gift shop was. I then took an immediate right into the main room of the museum (for those of you who are not familiar with this museum, it’s in an old church that visually conjures the Alamo for me). It’s dark inside but welcoming.

The first painting I saw was by Petr Isaakovich Geller called “Sewing Factory.” Once upon a time, I had great disdain for paintings done in oil, but I’ve certainly had my mind changed by Russian artists. This painting is phenomenal. It’s of a room of women who are serfs and their job is sewing. The ‘landlord” holds utmost power over these women, including gratifying himself sexually. The expressions on the faces of the women as the landlord puts his arm around a young woman is extremely moving. Her downcast eyes tell us that he’s done this before. Even after going through the entire museum, THIS is the painting I will be going back to see time and time again.

As I moved through the museum, the one consistent issue I had was the lighting. Since most, if not all, of the paintings in the main room are oil, the spotlights that are focused on them cause quite a glare and I found myself repositioning a lot in order to make out certain features. Sure,t he lighting looks nice in photographs of the museum and creates a lovely ambiance, it’s not very good for devouring the paintings.

Other paintings that I was particularly moved by:
• “Coal Worker” by Aleksandr Aleksandrivich Deineka; my Dad’s people are from West Virginia and Ive always had a soft spot in my heart for coal workers.
• “At the Canned Food Factory” by Meer Moiseevich Akselrod; I fell for the lines and appearance of simplicity in this piece
• “Sunday in the Village” by Nikolai Dmitrievich Dmitiev-Orenburgsky; one of the oil paintings that just shocked me with its realism. I used to be bored by realism, but the capture of people and their expressions when done by hand instead of film is much more intimate.
• “Last Snow” by Olimpiada Aleksandrive Busygina; Maybe I just connected with this one after 3 years of upper midwestern winters

The upper floor (which is a sort of cat-walk/balcony around the main floor) sort of freaked me out. The balcony banister is all glass and, consequently, you can seeing everything on the first floor as you walk around. This made me very dizzy and very nervous. I didn’t feel like I could move around the paintings comfortably (in order to truly see the details due to the aforementioned lighting issue) and rushed through the paintings on that level.

The exhibit that was in the basement, Postage Stamps: Messengers of the Soviet Future was beautifully designed and well thought out. There were magnifying glasses attached to the various exhibit stations so you could really admire the stamps. The lighting was better for this exhibit as well.

And now, I’ll talk about the gift shop. I love teapots. We could go into a long, boring psychological evaluatio of why, but it’s just easier to accept the fact that I really like teapots. The gift store has A LOT OF TEAPOTS. All of them were beautiful and all of them were fine porcelain from St. Petersburg. I couldnt afford a cup, much less the pots. The set I really fell in love with depicted farm life. My mom grew up in the country and working fields, etc. and the set really reminded me of my family in South Georgia. I was going to splurge and buy a cup but the gift shop worker (and her lovely, lovely Burmese Mountain dog) told me it was only sold as a set. How much is the teaset that depicts farm-life (often the poorest of the poor people)? $750. And with that, I’ll close thi blog and let yo ponder wealthy people admiring the wor ethic of poor people as they sip tea.

Try, try again

Written by admin on June 5th, 2009

On a whim I applied to go back to college because if one bachelor’s degree isn’t good enough surely TWO will be better! Of course, sometimes I get slightly obsessed with my whims and throw myself into them. That’s happening now. Or, at least, it was happening until I saw the price of tuition.

I applied to St. Kate’s (which just became a university on June 1st: St. Catherine University). Why St. Kate’s? I like the fact that the student body is mostly women and that the curriculum includes, specifically, women’s studies incorporated into everything (not just it’s own little major or minor in the dark, dusty corner of the room). Will I be bothered by the Catholic connection? most likely not. After all, I went to a Baptist college for two years and came out with life-long friends. Of course, those life-long friends were all professors and not students…

I would like to do the degree I was so sorely tempted by the first time through college: History. I miss being in the academic world and I miss talking about fun things like what Napoleon was up to after his regiment won a big battle in Egypt (missing Sphinx nose, anyone?). If I get accepted and get amazing financial aid (which is the ONLY way I would be able to go after being unemployed for 6 months), I would minor in Latin. Seems the proper thing to do for a hIstory major, and I’m tired of not being able to read inscriptions on old buildings, old papers, etc. And it’s a building block for graduate school should I head off in that direction (when I would need to know Latin, French, German and, by my own design, Gaelic).

So I’m gathering papers. I’m making copies of awards I’ve received. I’m wondering how the heck I’m going to afford this. But I get stupidly excited reading about the History major. Does that happen to anyone else?

upcoming blogs: The Museum of Russian Art

On Volunteerism

Written by admin on May 24th, 2009

There’s been a recent push for “America” (as an entity and not as individuals) to begin volunteering again (apparently American used to volunteer more than they do now? I dunno…). It’s interesting to me to even think that there are people in America who have never volunteered their time. I began volunteering my time in high school when I joined certain service-oriented organisations and found it to be very rewarding. One volunteer position even led to a paid-position. I still volunteer my time at an all-volunteer bookstore and have learned a lot from the experience. I’ve signed up to volunteer at a venue that brings world music to the twin cities area and I’m really looking forward to that experience. i’ve volunteered so many places andI ahve goos (and bad) stories from just about all of them.

For people who have enver volunteered somewhere but who may be catching the fever to get out there and donate a wee bit of you life somewhere, look for things that interest you. Even if it’s not a nationally-known organization, the experience will be rewarding. And it gives you a chance to talk the organization up to people you meet. It’s a conversation starter. It may lead to a job. It may make someone else’s life better too.

The Power of Poetry and Song

Written by admin on May 21st, 2009

From an early age, I can remember my mom and dad singing songs to me or playing songs on the radio and emphasizing “listen to the words.” Dad was a poet, Mom a singer. Words were important.

Ever since then, I’ve paid close attention to Words. Especially words of songs but, later, to how words fit together in poetry. I’m always fascinated by the master poets: Rabbie Burns, Seamus Heaney, my dad. How attentive and careful with their words.

Folks music puts less emphasizes on good poetry, but whena  song has it, it HAS IT. Here’s one I first heard by Susie Malcolm, a Scots singer. I later heard it by Ed Miller (another Scots singer who transplanted to Texas). But he changed the lyrics and the words don’t quite fit for me as well.

Generations of Change

(Matt Armour)

My faither was a baillie on a wee fairm at Caiplie
And he worked on the land a’ the days o’ his life
By the time he made second, he said he reckoned
He’d ploughed nearly half o’ the East Neuk o’ Fife
He fee’d on at Randerston, Crawhill and Clephinton
Cambo, Carnbee, Kilrennie Hill
At Kingsbarns he married, at Boarhills he’s buried
Man, if he’d lived, he’d be ploughing there still

For those days were his days, those ways were his ways
To follow the plough while his back was still strong
But those days are past and the time’s come at last
For the weakness of age to make way for the young

I wasnae for ploughing, to the sea I was going
To follow the fish and the fisherman’s ways
In rain, hail and sunshine I watched the lang runline
Nae man mair contented his whale working day
I’ve lang lined the Fladden Ground, the Dutch and the Dogger Bank
Pulled the big fish from the deep Devil’s Hole
I’ve side trawled off Shetland, the Faroes and Iceland
In weather much worse than a body could thole

For those days were my days, those ways were my ways
To follow the fish while my back was still strong
But those days are past and the time’s come at last
For the weakness of age to make way for the young

My sons they have grown and away they have gone
To search for black oil in the far northern sea
Like oilmen they walk, like Texans they talk
Nay, there’s no’ much in common between my sons and me
They’ve rough-rigged on Josephine, Forties and Ninian
Claymore, Dunlin, Fisher and Awk
They’ve made fortunes for sure, for in one trip ashore
They spend more than I earned in a whole season’s work

For this day is their day, this way is their way
To ride the rough rigs while their backs are still strong
But this day will pass and the time come at last
For the weakness of age to make way for the young

My grandsons are growing, to school now they’re going
But the lang weeks o’ summer they spend here wi’ me
We walk through the warm days, we talk of the old ways
The cornfield, the codfish, the land and the sea
We walk through the fields my father once tilled
Talk wi’ the old men who once sailed wi’ me
Man, it’s been awfu’ guid, I showed them all I could
O’ the past and the present, what their future might be

For tomorrow is their day, what will be their way
What will they make of their land, sea and sky
Man, I’ve seen awfu’ change, still it seems very strange
To look at the world through a young laddie’s eyes