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Snowed In

Journal Entry: Wed Mar 21, 2018, 3:59 PM
21 March 2018

Mood:  Optimism with a feeling of Doom

Listening to:  my dogs snoring

Better get to the Doom first...

Well, it's snowing...again.  And sleeting.  They're calling for 5-8".  Joy.

Now on with the Optimism:

I heard from my editor a scant 24 hours after sending the proposal.  She was *really* excited!!  She gave me a word count (50,000 or thereabouts) and asked for some sample art, so I am working on that now! 

Art in the To Be Framed category has been piling up.  Yesterday I matted and framed three things--here are two of them:


This is a watercolor my Aunt Joyce did, probably in the 70s.  She went through a whole rabbit phase--truly she had Rabbit for a totem--she was soft spoken most of the time, but heaven help you if you threatened her or her family!  (Hint:  don't ever corner a bunny--they will come out fighting!

In any case, my Dad had framed the bunny in the frame below, which now holds my husband's chart of Masonic divisions.  It looked for crap on the bunny.  I went fishing in my frame collection--mostly frames procured at the Salvation Army--and found this one with the $2.99 price tag still on it.  I am thrilled with the result!

David's Masonic chart posed some special problems:  the gold border you see is printed on the paper--there really is no way to mat something with a margin that small.  I ended up mounting the whole paper on a piece of really nice mat board--you tell me, but that's a heck of an optical illusion that gold border gives!!


So I've started black and white illustrations for the book proposal:  I'm also working on commissioned sewing and paintings...Spring must be close!



  • Listening to: Soundtrack for "Rogue One"
  • Reading: The Geology of Egypt
  • Watching: my husband balancing the checkbook
  • Drinking: water

The Monday Burn

Journal Entry: Mon Mar 19, 2018, 3:02 AM
19 March 2018     5:14 AM

Mood:  Meh.  Headache looming on the horizon.  Tired from a busy weekend.  Went to bed too early last night and didn't go to bed happy.  Had to write a Letter of Concern to a loved one.

Listening to:  the furnace trying to make the 64 degree living room into a 68 degree living room.  Clunk clunk clunk as the water moves through the old iron radiators.  I am thankful we have a house and oil to heat it.

One of the things I busted my ass on this weekend was a proposal for a new book.  I'm excited about this, but I really pushed to get it done (because it was pushing me).  Here's an excerpt from the Introduction:


Tata Rodriguez was a tall, heavy set Cuban, and his desk—a gigantic and ornate mahogany dinner table, cluttered with papers and books and sprinkled with ash (cigarette combined with cigar, if my nose was to be believed)--was perfectly proportionate to him—and his enormous spiritual presence. The hot westering sun streamed through the window behind him, an impromptu halo for a man I would learn was well-versed in the habits of his saints. In the corner, a window air conditioner labored to keep his halo from giving us all heat exhaustion.

Eileen introduced us. Tata's sonorous voice accented his Cuban Spanish-accented softened English. Sometimes he positively rumbled. And his laugh— the round, hearty “Heh heh heh heh heh” I would come to associate with him—came so easily to him: there was no sign of pretense in his mannerisms. No, he could not be anything but the Real Thing.

Tata (even though that title implies that one is a godchild in a spiritual “house”, I found myself using it almost immediately) gratefully accepted my gift. While we seated ourselves in the two chairs across from him, he examined it closely. “Wow,” he said; his voice was reverent. He looked up at Eileen. “You said she was an earth spirit?” He pointed at the images on the portrait. “Look at these spirals and horses: she's air!”

I was dumbfounded. This was not really the direction I had expected we'd be taking on first meeting. Why? Because the people out at the camp talked about elements. This was a totally different spiritual mindset. Shouldn't we be talking about the spell Louise had cast? And since when was I an air spirit? Me? The girl who'd collected rocks and minerals since she was four years old, who loves mud and hikes in the woods and digging in the dirt? Air? Me? How could he know that? He hardly knew me! And what did it have to do with anything anyway?

Tata set my portrait aside and pulled out a long thin paperback volume about the size of a legal pad. It had a black cover and its pages were filled with some sort of sigils—lines and curves, arrows and spirals, plus and minus signs. As he flipped through the book, he told me they were called firmas and that they were associated with the different spirits, or Nkisi. Finally stopped and set the open book in front of me. “What do you think?”

I liked the feel of this book. A lot. The drawings guided my fingers around their lines, spirals and arrows. I turned the page, tried out the symbols there, and didn't like them nearly as much. Finally I pointed to one on the page he had first shown me and said, “I like this one.”

He chuckled and nodded. “I thought you would.” A moment passed as he searched under his papers until he extracted a handful of large cowrie shells. These he threw several times. I wondered if he was getting the answers he needed, and had just come to the conclusion that they had told him to kick me out of the house when he concluded with a decisive nod and set the shells aside. He got up and walked over to a sideboard as impressive as his desk, and started rooting in one of the drawers. “That's Centella,” he said as he extracted a necklace of brownish beads with white and black stripes. “Put this on. Centella is the Nkisi of the marketplace and the whirlwind and she guards the gates of the cemetery. She is a powerful protector. “Now,” he continued, pulling out a pad of legal sized yellow paper, “If you make this--” he sketched a skirt with panels, and labeled each one a different color, “You will be very happy to dance in it.”

I took the paper from him, folded it neatly, and stuck it in my purse.

“Okay,” he continued. “Go on over there and clean yourself off by the water altar.”

“Um,” I said.

Now he laughed, not mockingly, and pointed. “Pour some of that Agua Florida on your hands, then pretend like you're washing all over. It's just to clear your head, that's all. Eileen, you show her.”

The water altar was set up on another monumental piece of furniture—this time a bureau with a mirror. The altar itself was comprised of seven glasses of water set in two lines of three, with the seventh located in the middle. A nice looking quartz crystal lay at the bottom of each glass. Across the central glass was a large crucifix.

“What's it like over there?” he asked as I followed Eileen's directions for “cleaning off”.

The Agua Florida powerful scent had sent my head spinning, but I nodded. “Peaceful.”

“Good,” he remarked. “That's how it's supposed to be. Did cleaning off help?”

“I think so,” I said. My whole being was humming. Was that what it meant, to be “cleaned off”?

“Good,” he said. I'll be right back.”

Eileen looked like she was about to burst. “Isn't this amazing?” she enthused.

I looked around the room, at the shelves of papers and books, the statues—particularly the huge statue of the Virgin Mary presiding over three men in a boat that occupied a side table near the desk—and the odd assortment of materials that filled the shelves and the mantle of the old Victorian fireplace. It wasn't what I had expected—but what had I expected? An Important Man dressed in a leopard skin wearing a necklace of human teeth and holding a spear? A darkened room hung with herbs and rooster feet?

Then I remembered: in Jorge Amado's books, the priests are regular people.

Tata reappeared in the doorway. Let's go downstairs.”

As I followed him towards the basement, I glanced out a window and saw street lights. When had night fallen? We'd just arrived!



If it's accepted, this will be a non-fiction book about Palo, an Afro-Caribbean religion that is a cousin to Santeria.


Meanwhile, The Promethean Oracle was not chosen as Oracle Deck of the Year 2017, but it was still really cool to be nominated!!


Projects:  Finishing up a costume for a friend of mine, a Sith.  I love making Sith costumes!  Jedi are so...brown.



Up and Coming:  


 The festival season begins in earnest really soon!  I have a new credit card processing company:  www.nationalmerchants.com/  They are FANTASTIC.  

I have been contributing to Fanlore, a website devoted, you might have already deduced, to All Things Fannish.  Scrapbooking has many advantages, as long as you don't let it run your life--if  spending money at Michael's becomes a daily thing, seek psychiatric help.  For one thing, in my search for the stuff I wanted to go into the book, I recycled SEVEN  document boxes stacked high with paper.  Many things were thrown out or went to recycling or the Salvation Army.  But I digress:  here are some of the Fanlore links:

fanlore.org/wiki/Colonial_Con     (I wrote this one)


To the others I contributed commentary and images.  

Scrapbooking also has me working in Photoshop Elements.  





The photo is from 1987 and yes believe it or not that's me.  In the background used to be my best friend's apartment door, but with much patience and learning-on-the-fly, I even got the letters at the top to look like they were carved in the background!


I like that the bottom looks like a painting!


Speaking of paintings I have a few of those on the horizon too.  More on that later!











 
 

  • Listening to: Soundtrack for "Rogue One"
  • Reading: The Geology of Egypt
  • Watching: my husband balancing the checkbook
  • Drinking: water

Dear Amun: Egyptian Gods for Modern Times

Journal Entry: Mon Feb 6, 2017, 5:43 PM

Thoth, the Persuasive Speaker



Anyone with even a passing interest in Ancient Egyptian gods and goddesses knows that Thoth is the Ultimate Intellectual.  He is responsible for the creation of writing, laws, and medicine, and he is linked to the creation of the calendar.  In one cosmogony, he is said to have created himself.The ibis-headed god of writing, medicine, laws is also the god of persuasive speaking.

Why do we need persuasive speech?

After all, we have Persuasive Pictures.  Turn on the news and you don’t really get news:  you get weather, traffic, sports, politics, and how many people got murdered yesterday.  You get clips from important speeches and interviews, delicately plucked at the moment of peak ripeness to fuel editorials from the talking heads–the pundits and their kin–who, with practiced gravitas, do their best to convince you and hundreds of thousands of other viewers that This is the Truth, the Way It Is, Really. 

In writing this particular blog I looked at the deep division in our society and asked myself, “Is persuasive speech even worth pursuing right now?  Who’s going to listen?  Why bring this aspect of Thoth up at all?” 


The answer:  for the same reason that your English teacher tried to pound the importance of making a persuasive argument in the first place.  You might need it during an interview, pitching a new project to your boss, making a bid for a huge contract, or trying to get your spouse to let you buy that huge TV you’ve been wanting. 

Our government leaders must be able to make such speeches.  They must be able to convince other the leaders of other countries, our own Congress and Senate, and us that what they are doing is right for our country and the world.



Now to the creative visualization portion of this blog:

Envision the person or persons who need to make their best argument during stressful times.  Now gentle, graceful ibis-headed Thoth enters your line of sight.  He places his hand on the shoulder of the person needing the assistance:  if it’s you, imagine the weight of his hand. He breathes the fire of inspiration and strength of conviction into them–into you.  Imagine him with you–with them–as you make your argument, pitch your project, or with the President speaks to other world leaders on issues that will impact us all.  His presence is very calming:  you will remember everything you need to remember and your speech will be steady and strong. 

You don’t have to believe, just follow directions.”

the Witch Doctor “True Stories”




  • Listening to: Soundtrack for "Rogue One"
  • Reading: The Geology of Egypt
  • Watching: my husband balancing the checkbook
  • Drinking: water

Badger is BACK, and with a Request

Sat Dec 5, 2015, 4:03 AM


Here I am, after a year.  And what a year it's been.


At the very end of Labor Day weekend 2014, I had injured my left knee while trying to keep up with two lines of very enthusiastic people pulling a soon to me megalith at Stones Rising.  I didn't know it, but I was about to embark on a year-long exploration of exactly why the stereotypical old person is grumpy.  


 The knee hurt--quite a lot--so I thought I'd twisted or sprained it, and off to the chiropractor I went.  When she and I agreed it wasn't helping, I went to my general practitioner.  When, several visits later, we determined that what we'd been trying wasn't helping, I went to an orthopedist.  The orthopedist gave me a cortisone shot and prescribed Round 1 of PT.  The cortisone shot gave me hot flashes for three days and then wore off; the PT was great.  The doctor gave me lubricant shots.  They didn't work.  Finally the doc said we should do arthroscopic surgery.  He didn't have a great rep as a surgeon, so I found another one who did and then there was surgery...where it turned out that yes, I had a torn meniscus, but--far worse-- I had galloping arthritis in that knee.  The doctor was irritated that it had not imaged in the MRI or X-ray.  Round 2 of PT.  I join a gym and ride the bike on non-PT days.  PT doesn't work--it helps a little, but not enough for the doc to declare me healed.  By this point we are towards the end of what has been a miserable camping and festival season.  Sometimes I couldn't even stand.  I called my doc and we determined that I should get the damned knee replaced.  

 

I can unequivocally say that that was one of the best decisions I have ever made.  

 

 I can also say that I now understand the meaning of "out of spoons" (if  you don't know Spoon Theory, look it up.  It will explain a lot about how people with chronic pain deal with the assumptions of people who don't have chronic pain.)

 

 I now know why it's hard for people with chronic pain to be creative.  Dealing with pain is exhausting.


I now know who my friends are, and I have a lot of them, with loving hands who picked me up when I couldn't walk, fetched things, and helped me to my campsite when I needed it.  They were there for me when I cried out of frustration, and they understood because they knew that I'm not the kind of person who cries in public, that  I'm the kind of person who values her independence.  I have friends even at Four Quarters outside events:  neighbors at a rave which draws 4,000 kids who made me a breakfast sandwich when the EMTs had put me on the disabled list and sent me (in misery) back to bed; friends of long standing from another, much smaller, event, who gave me use of their golf cart and brought me my dinner when I couldn't stand.    


I now know that my husband of 27 years is an even more wonderful man than I knew.

 

Unfortunately, the buildup to the surgery, and the surgery aftermath, made it impossible for me to, even with help, sell artwork at Stones Rising or any of the other major events I usually attend. This means I'm going into 2016 without the funds to pay for vending space at my spring events.  


To this end I've set up a GoFundMe account:  www.gofundme.com/8hct5dbd I've included gifts for those who donate special amounts too:  $50 gets you a pack of greeting cards, and $100 a 5 X 7" print, your choice.   There is no requirement that you donate (I won't take you off my list of friends who helped me or anything  :D  ) but every little bit helps.  Heck, I'm just grateful if you took the time to read it!

Please share this with your friends!  Thanks!

  • Reading: a book on Ramses II
  • Watching: CSI (Original series, first season)
  • Drinking: COFFEE
As you can see, I have posted a bunch of portraits of African-Americans.  These will eventually be submitted to the Black Arts Deviant page, but they're also some of my favorite portraits from over the years.  You'll see numbers in the titles:  these are the years in which they were drawn.  Do read the commentary, as it will give you a better idea of what went into the design of these drawings!
  • Reading: a book on Ramses II
  • Watching: CSI (Original series, first season)
  • Drinking: COFFEE
...an honest politician--

No, really, something completely different, NOT complete fantasy...

Let's try something else...

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away...

That's better.

Let me introduce you to Beaks.

I grew up with English Springer Spaniels.  Our first Springer was Morgan, and it was a miracle that we ever got another because he was so crazy.  Our second Springer was Megan.

Megan was a much calmer Springer, but like every other Springer (or, for that matter, dog) I've ever met, she had a very different personality.  She was quirky.  She was a ruthless mole-hunter.  She ate pears--right off the tree.  Like many Springers, she developed ear issues, and eventually went completely deaf--which was when she started sleeping on the dining room table so that she could hear the vibrations in the dining room window when Dad came home.  When we told Dad that we'd discovered her doing this, he remarked, "So that's why the stamps kept sticking to the table!" 

Springers do just that:  they spring.  One time Mom made a roast and Morgan went from a standing start to ON the table.  Having done this, he looked very shocked and got down immediately.  Another time I came home from college and Dad motioned to me to come to the back door.  We walked outside , where Megan was sleeping, and he said, "Megan, squirrel."

Megan sprang up, tore out into the yard, and then began boinging  like a gazelle (much later, I learned that this behavior is referred to as "pronking".  Hilarity ensued. 

At about the same time, Dad started calling calling Megan "Beak" because her nose seemed to be into everything.  Not only did the moniker stick, it became a part of our family language, referring to any English Springer Spaniel.  Even my husband and our friends use it. 

And then one day Dad and I were shooting the breeze and he wondered, out loud, what would happen if Megan could actually fly.    This resulted in rather a lot of rather whimsical art, and eventually beading...Beaded Crest

But it didn't end there.  Soon I was drawing little cartoons in the margins of my college notebooks.  Once I thought them long-lost, but in the process of sorting through the recently transferred contents of an old exterior hard drive (RIP Anubis Drive, you served me well) I ran across a file called "Soph--Beaks".  I thought it was photographs...but it was not.  Back in the days when printer/scanners were shiny and new, my best friend scanned EVERYTHING, including, it appeared, my cartoons. 

So, that's Beaks.  Prepare yourselves for some silly scribbling and perfectly awful puns!
  • Reading: a book on Ramses II
  • Watching: CSI (Original series, first season)
  • Drinking: COFFEE
I realized that I haven't blogged at all here:  this is because I am a.) REALLY busy, b.) blogging on Blogspot and Tumblr, and c.) REALLY busy.

You'll notice that there is a proliferation of illuminated letters in my posts.  This is because early this February I had a brainstorm in which I would produce illuminated letters with Stones from Four Quarters www.4qf.org and use them to create a songbook with these as the title letters/letters of the first words in a line, etc.

The biggest problem is that I don't letter.  Ever.  That was my Dad.  He had the eye, the steady hand, the ability to freehand the most complex of fonts.  Pretty early on he and I realized that this wasn't going to be my artistic path.  We moved on from that.

For this project I used graph paper and the fonts from several books on illumination.  Soon I had drawn one of each letter I needed.

But how would I make these letters so uniform? 

I asked myself the same question.  Much as I loved this project, I wasn't interested in killing myself just to do this work--which was to be a donation. 

Moreover, how was I going to transfer them to appropriate paper?  This in and of itself is a bit of a job as well.  There had to be a solution.

Then I had a Thought.

I do my prints on Moab, one of the best archival inkjet papers around.  I know for a fact that you can paint on prints that have been printed on Moab...and I wondered...if I copied a template onto Moab would I be able to paint on it?

So I slapped one of the soon-to-be templates on the scanner bed of my trusty el cheapo HP Deskjet all in one and hit "black and white copy".  Out came a somewhat messy copy of my letter (there were pencil marks and some of the graph showing).  Well, I'd be painting over it. 

Hopefully.

Because of the marks I needed to cover, I pulled out my gouache, which I haven't used in years (since I discovered the ecstasy that is Daniel Smith Watercolors) and tentatively touched a brush to the paper...

And it did not curl, run, or fold, spindle, and mutilate itself in any way. 

Thanks to this idea, I was able to belt out at least one letter a day till they were all done.  This meant that a potentially months-long project was reduced to about a month and a half (if that). 

And life was (and is) GREAT!
  • Listening to: Snoring Dogs (this is not a punk rock band)
  • Drinking: COFFEE
Greetings and Salutations, all!

One of the reasons I haven't been posting journal entries is that I've been writing a book!  This book and deck of cards, The Stone Circle Oracle:  Transformation Through Meditation, will be released around November 28th!  Here's a link:


What's really cool is that it's available for preorder on Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble.com!

Onward, because I need help!

Please just copy/paste your answers into a response.  THANKS!!


The Stone Circle Oracle Marketing Questionnaire

 

Schiffer Publishing, the nice people who are publishing my book, have a lot of very pointed marketing questions about what my target audience wants.

 

Hello, target audience!

 

This information will be kept between you, me, and my publisher .

If you would like to be on the mailing list to receive news about the Stone Circle oracle, please message me privately.  

 Here we go…

 Question Numero Uno:  what "pagan", "new age", or other pertinent periodicals, blogs, and websites do you visit?  You don't have to have the URL or publisher names.


Moving On:  In the "I'll take anachronistic forms of communication for $200, Alex" category, are there any pertinent TV or radio shows you view/listen to that might be in a position to feature this deck?

 

 Fast Forward to Today:  Are there any podcasts you favor?

 

 Furthermore: Do you belong to any organizations whose members might be interested in a shiny new oracle deck?

 

 Recalling what we're selling here, so that  you don't tell me about that fanfiction site you visit almost daily, What pertinent social media groups/chatrooms, etc. do you visit most often?

 

 Bottom line nitty gritty question #1:  when you want to purchase similar merchandise in a physical shop, where do you go?  You don't need to worry about addresses or phone numbers.

 

 Bottom line nitty gritty question #2:  When you want to purchase something like a deck of oracle or tarot cards, or some other spiritual material online, what internet sites do you visit most often?  You don't need to worry about URL's.

 

 Thank you for taking the time to help me out in this pretty involved stage of publishing!

 

  • Drinking: coconut water

Celestial Shootemup Weekend

Wed Oct 13, 2010, 7:45 PM


badgersmegalithicmelange.blogs…

The above link will lead you to my blog about Sunday, when I painted a mural of the Bubble Nebula in a day, just to prove to myself that I could.  It was one of those silly things that you do, one of those things that in the middle of which you find yourself  thinking, "Oh my Goddess, what was I thinking?" and the Goddess laughs and dances away, leaving you with the paintbrush in your hand and paint dripping all over the place.  

No one but I knew about this plan.  After all, if I blew it or ran out of gas before the end of the day, I could just carry on as if I had foreseen having to come back to the store more than once to finish the job.  

This also became an exercise in following my Father's advice:  "you don't have to draw every damned leaf on the tree" became "you don't have to paint every star in the nebula."  By placing this time constraint on myself I prevented myself from getting hung up in the enticing, wispy details of the nebula.  I had to fly and create, be an Impressionist, channel Van Gogh, slap the color up there and work it into something beautiful.

I gotta tell you, about an hour into things I really did think, "I am NUTS!"  But I kept going, started focusing on the "bubble" and got it to the point where I heard my Father's voice yelling, "STOP RIGHT THERE!".  Having made that stride, I was able to build outwards with cloudy ochres and blues.  

There is a point where the click is almost audible.  Suddenly blobs of color became nebulous wisps of clouds, overlapping the red ochre or blue-black space; dots of white paint become stars.  I stepped back and exclaimed, "Booyah!"

Still, I was under the gun...well, my gun.  I had reached the bottom third of the mural and was not looking forward to blocking in the rest of the color with a brush.  I rocked back on my heels and considered:  did I pack it in or did I press forward?

Wait...I had a little roller and paint tray!  I pulled them out and dumped some of the colors in the tray, mixed them with the roller and rolled them onto the wall.  Success!  Soon I had covered the rest of the space and was able to work the color the rest of the way with a brush.  

It was a close thing, let me tell you.  I was unable to find the energy to finish the sides of the frame (they are not really visible) but the whole thing was finished.  I was totally jazzed!

  • Reading: Spook Country
  • Watching: Bones
  • Drinking: Wine

Celestial Shootemup Weekend

Wed Oct 13, 2010, 7:45 PM


badgersmegalithicmelange.blogs…

The above link will lead you to my blog about Sunday, when I painted a mural of the Bubble Nebula in a day, just to prove to myself that I could.  It was one of those silly things that you do, one of those things that in the middle of which you find yourself  thinking, "Oh my Goddess, what was I thinking?" and the Goddess laughs and dances away, leaving you with the paintbrush in your hand and paint dripping all over the place.  

No one but I knew about this plan.  After all, if I blew it or ran out of gas before the end of the day, I could just carry on as if I had foreseen having to come back to the store more than once to finish the job.  

This also became an exercise in following my Father's advice:  "you don't have to draw every damned leaf on the tree" became "you don't have to paint every star in the nebula."  By placing this time constraint on myself I prevented myself from getting hung up in the enticing, wispy details of the nebula.  I had to fly and create, be an Impressionist, channel Van Gogh, slap the color up there and work it into something beautiful.

I gotta tell you, about an hour into things I really did think, "I am NUTS!"  But I kept going, started focusing on the "bubble" and got it to the point where I heard my Father's voice yelling, "STOP RIGHT THERE!".  Having made that stride, I was able to build outwards with cloudy ochres and blues.  

There is a point where the click is almost audible.  Suddenly blobs of color became nebulous wisps of clouds, overlapping the red ochre or blue-black space; dots of white paint become stars.  I stepped back and exclaimed, "Booyah!"

Still, I was under the gun...well, my gun.  I had reached the bottom third of the mural and was not looking forward to blocking in the rest of the color with a brush.  I rocked back on my heels and considered:  did I pack it in or did I press forward?

Wait...I had a little roller and paint tray!  I pulled them out and dumped some of the colors in the tray, mixed them with the roller and rolled them onto the wall.  Success!  Soon I had covered the rest of the space and was able to work the color the rest of the way with a brush.  

It was a close thing, let me tell you.  I was unable to find the energy to finish the sides of the frame (they are not really visible) but the whole thing was finished.  I was totally jazzed!

  • Reading: Spook Country
  • Watching: Bones
  • Drinking: Wine

Back from Stones Rising

Thu Sep 9, 2010, 3:05 AM


I have a new blog:  badgersmegalithicmelange.blogs…

I can easily add photos and captions to entries on this page...I plan to blog here too, though perhaps not as extensively...

  • Reading: The Geology of Pennsylvania
  • Watching: Good Morning America
  • Drinking: COFFEE (what else?)

It Really Works!

Fri Aug 20, 2010, 4:34 AM


Last weekend I attended Mountain Music Madness at Four Quarters Farm.  This was not an event I would normally have attended:  it was a techno music event and the median age of the attendees  was about 20.  I had been asked to be on staff, to "keep the kids happy", which I figured I could do if I steeled myself to face the hundreds of insolent young ravers we were expecting.  

Turned out that I was in for an incredibly pleasant surprise.  The kids (and yes, I am qualified to call them 'kids') were mindful; they loved the Land; they were respectful to those of us on staff.  I spent Saturday walking the Land and visiting campsites and talking to them, and by Saturday afternoon I had groupies.  GROUPIES!  They called me "Mama So":  "Look, Mama, see how much trash we've collected!"  "Look at all the cigarette butts we've collected, Mama!"  One of them called me the "Qui-Gon Jinn of the forest".

So that night I put on my fluoresce-in-black-light party pants and headed topside to go glow in the dark.  Pete and Jamie, who were also on staff, had done an amazing job decorating the Stone Circle, and I wanted to see it in all its splendor.  With my itty bitty flashlight hanging from its cord on my neck, I took my walking stick and set off down the path.  

On my way I decided to visit some of the campsites I had visited in daylight, just to say hello.  It was fully dark, and my light illuminated the path but not my face or yellow staff ribbon.  Keep this in mind.

So I walk into the campsite and hear those two magic words:  "How much?"

I sidled up to a guy who was roughly a foot taller than I was, and said in my most innocent voice, "Whatcha sellin'?"

He had a baggie.  "Doses," he replied.

"Of what?"

"LSD."

In a crowd of 20 year olds, this was about the last thing I expected to hear.  I expected pot or "pharms", not acid.  Acid is Timothy Leary and the 1960s, not Four Quarters Farm in 2010!

"OH, YOU ARE SHITTING ME!" I shouted.

The dealer was taken aback.

"You are NOT selling this here!" I commanded.

"I am not selling this here!"

I looked at the buyer.  "You are NOT buying this here!"

"I am not buying this here!"

"I did not see you!  You were never here!"

"We are ghosts!"

The dealer was rattled.  He started stuttering and apologizing and pretty much begged me not to report him.  (This was not an act, trust me.  He was SCARED.)  I stressed the importance of our drug policy and left...

...feeling mighty pleased with myself.  I have now truly earned my JEDI MOM license plate.

  • Reading: The Geology of Pennsylvania
  • Watching: Good Morning America
  • Drinking: COFFEE (what else?)

Box from Colorado

Wed Jul 14, 2010, 5:28 AM


"There's a huge box from Colorado on the front porch," my husband, David, tells me.

My stomach drops.  It's been nearly a year since my sister Tina's death; I've known all along that Rob would be sending me a box, but I haven't been looking forward to it.  Sometimes it's fun to get a box of goodies, but I would rather have my sister back.

I don't rush out to the porch.  I've been in the garden and I'm hot and sweaty and really dirty, so I go inside and shower and change clothes.  Once I am cooled off I go out with my pocket knife and slowly cut open the tape lining the box's seams.  I can tell that Tina always sent the Christmas packages:  Rob's taping is more...random.  Then again, I can't imagine how hard this job was for him, so  perhaps in an ordinary situation his package-taping would be much less random.

On top is a children's book, "Peter Picket Pin".  Peter Picket Pin was a prairie dog, and he had dozens and dozens and dozens of cousins.  This is a book that ALL of us read, from Ken, who is the eldest, to me, the youngest.  Some years ago at Christmas dinner our sister Kel revealed that Tina had this book and Ken and I chorused, "TINA HAS PETER PICKET PIN????!!!!!"  The next year (thanks to abebooks.com) we all got our very own copies for Christmas.  Yet here I am, holding the original bone of contention.  

David comes to sit with me.  I take the books out one at a time and read each one, "Fix It, Please", "Disney Donald Duck Stories", "The Kittens Who Hid from Their Mother", on and on.  These are books I loved, but I don't want them.  I want my sister back.

Further down is a Ziploc bag of jewelry.  It looks like a lot of things Tina made.  I fish through it:  she was quite good at making jewelry, but then I spot something else.

"No way," I breathe.

It is Tina's charm bracelet.  I remember some of these charms from when I was a kid, fishing around through her jewelry box.  This bracelet is practically the story of her life:  the silver sombrero Mom and Dad brought back from Mexico when I was about 12 (I have an identical one); her miniature class ring from Bishop Shanahan High School; the lei and pineapple from when she moved to Hawai'i, the Seattle Space Needle; charms from Valley Forge, Virginia, Colorado, and Lancaster PA.  There is a charm with St. Patrick, and one that says "Always 21".  Curiously, there is a charm for Gemini (but she was a Cancer; I am perplexed).  

On and on....

I still want my sister back.

In the bottom of the box, beneath other artifacts, there is another Ziploc bag, this one full of marbles.  David and I look at each other:  "...Marbles?"

When I write to Rob that night to let him know that I have received the box in good condition, I say:

"Thank you for sending me Tina's marbles.  As everyone says I have lost mine, I am sure they will be put to good use."

Tina would have cracked up.

  • Reading: Mythological Papyri
  • Watching: Good Morning America
  • Drinking: COFFEE (what else?)

Remembering to Breathe

Mon Jun 7, 2010, 5:32 AM


You see them all the time:  little froofy signs that say "Breathe" with little spirals and stars around them.  You think, "argh, healy feely crap!" and run in the other direction.  You think, "Duh, of course breathe!  I have to stay alive, I breathe!"

I have sleep apnea, so sometimes I DON'T breathe.  During the test where I was diagnosed I held my breath for 16 seconds at one point (my best friend exclaimed, "You could go pearl diving!"  I also have asthma:  one might think my body has a thing for not breathing.  

Apparently one would be correct in that thinking.  After an all night alchemical fire ritual Thursday night, which I thought was going to be the death of me ( I had been walking like an old woman, I lacked energy of any kind and apparently looked like death warmed over) I was walking to the Coffee Dragon and I exhaled.  And inhaled.  And oh my goodness what the introduction of oxygen does to how one sees colors!

Here's how I see it:  I have been in my annual pressure cooker, which involves back-to-back shows and much, much driving.  I think that in being busybusybusybusy I fell prey to the idea that "if I can get this wrapped up, I can relax" but at this time of year I have so much to do that I had not reached that point at all for at least a month.  Which means, if I'm right, that I have been holding my breath for almost a month.  

I think I will make a sign that says "Are You Breathing?"  I think this is a much more meaningful statement than "Breathe".  

Now, all I have to do is treat all these mosquito bites:  apparently my newly oxygenated blood tasted REALLY good!  :O

  • Reading: The Mineral Gods Must be Laughing!
  • Watching: Good Morning America
  • Drinking: COFFEE (what else?)

Revelations

Journal Entry: Fri Apr 16, 2010, 3:47 AM
Once again, we are in Virginia:  this time there is, thankfully, no snow from which to flee.  Down here there are those who might argue that THEY should run away north to get away from the fearfully high pollen count!

Yesterday Emily and I ran errands.  One of our stops was Michael's (we were slumming):  she wanted a sketchbook, I wanted to look at the baking section to see if they had a round cooling rack (for one of David's baking projects).  While there I bethought myself to pick up a pad of paper for a drawing I really need to get done.  Emily will tell you that I spent ten minutes feeling up the Strathmore and Canson offerings for weight and tooth and grumbling about the quality of the paper until the horrible truth dawned:

I have become a Paper Snob.  

Yes, it's true:  there was a time when I thought Strathmore charcoal paper was just fabulous, and when I would have been satisfied with any one of the tablets of drawing paper Michael's offers. Those days are apparently long gone:  specialty papers have spoiled me.

...and I've yet to find a REAL art supply store down here!!!

  • Reading: The Mineral Gods Must be Laughing!
  • Watching: Good Morning America
  • Drinking: COFFEE (what else?)

OH MY GOD, IT'S PINK!

Journal Entry: Mon Apr 5, 2010, 5:13 AM



I have returned, triumphant, from setting up my campsite out at Four Quarters Farm www.4qf.org.  The weather was perfect:   I feel so good that even the poison ivy  which is an inevitable part of campsite setup does not bother me.  Heck, the TREE lying where my tent was supposed to go, while posing a series of logistical issues, didn't really bother me.  After all, how could I feel bothered when the stone table that had been placed at the roots of the tree, was still standing?   

The drive home was long but pretty uneventful:  the highlight was my friend Chrisso calling me to say that her husband, who was driving home from Ohio had just called her asking, "Who do we know with a silver minivan that has a pod on the top and the license plate JEDI MOM?"  I had just blown past him on the Pennsylvania Turnpike!

The hot shower at the end of the drive was glorious, and although my camp bed is mighty comfortable, nothing beats our bed at home!

Fast forward 8 hours to this morning.  I get up and, escorted by the cat, who is in her glory since we haven't picked up the dogs yet, come downstairs, grab a little breakfast and plug the coffee in, then sign into the mineral collectors' chatroom I frequent.  There is the inevitable merriment over my poison ivy:  the guys can't believe that I can get it this early:  I have to remind them that I can get poison ivy just by walking past someone who is thinking about that case of poison ivy they had in 1978.  Eventually the coffee brews, so I walk into the kitchen and over to the shelf where my favorite coffee mug is stored.  As I do so, I look out the kitchen window.

Last summer, my next door neighbor built a swingset for his daughter.  It was wood colored all summer and winter.  It looked great.  

When I look out the window, it's a good thing I don't have a mouthful of coffee.  I blurt, "OH MY GOD, IT'S PINK!!"  I then collapse into a fit of giggles at the horror of what I see.

There, gleaming in the early morning light, is the swingset.  It is pink.  Barbie pink.  Doll aisle at Wal-Mart pink.  Bubble gum pink.   Ironically, also Pepto-Bismol pink.  This is not a color that occurs in nature.  This color clashes with nature.  

I'm going to have to plant more bamboo...

  • Reading: The Mineral Gods Must be Laughing!
  • Watching: Good Morning America
  • Drinking: COFFEE (what else?)

You Can't Run Faster Scared

Journal Entry: Sun Mar 28, 2010, 5:53 AM




I am sitting in the breakfast room of our hotel:  I'd wanted to let Emily sleep but was tired of sitting on the floor in the dark.  

This breakfast room is too bright.  I like the lighting a degree dimmer, like morning light, rather than broad daylight, which is what we've got here.  The management has the Weather Channel on, which is good insofar as you can see what's happening outside, but bad because the repeat the same thing over and over and over and over and over.  I will be dreaming about tornadoes in Oklahoma for a month.

The room is fairly quiet when I arrive, but right after 8 AM it begins to fill up with teenaged girls.  Closer examination reveals them to be a softball team.  Much as I hated sports in high school, I observe:  the dynamic between the girls is quite interesting.  

They crowd around the food counter, making observations about the offerings.  "They have little powdered donuts!" one exclaims.  Another complains that the apple juice is too sweet.  "They have hot chocolate!" one girl calls to her friend.  

Then I hear:  "The toast is stuck in the toaster!"  There is a conference, I hear one girl accuse another of trying to trick her and she then storms out:  "I'll see you in the room, REBECCA!"

Coach arrives.  She is a trim middle aged woman of moderate height, with the obligatory utilitarian haircut and a VERY no-nonsense attitude.  She is very clearly in control--I admire this:  I know of teachers who can't control a classroom, let alone a pack of teenaged jocks.

Coach scans the room, counts heads.  She visits the girls' tables to make sure that they are eating.  They discuss the previous day's game and when one girl complains of being sore she is unsympathetic.  "Get over it, it's a sport.  You're going to hurt."

The subject turns to today's game.  I don't envy them, being up on a hill in the damp cold I experienced walking across the courtyard from our room to the breakfast room.  I will settle for my nice warm mineral show.  Coach tells them that the game was moved up to 11, and when one asks if they are leaving at 10 she tells them to "do the math" and presents them with what is essentially a word problem "If we leave at X time and the trip takes X amount of time, and we'll get lost like we did the last time, and then we have to unpack all your stuff when we get there, do you think leaving at 10  will be enough time?"  The downtrodden girl admits no.

Now we're talking about room arrangements.  Someone had gotten a suite elsewhere in the hotel, and Coach tells them that was supposed to be her room but she had wanted to be in the same hall as the girls.  "To keep an eye on us so we don't get out of hand!" one girl pipes up.  "Oh, you bet," Coach assures her in a voice that guarantees death to the girl who defies her.  I like Coach:  after doing battle with awful lacrosse-playing teenaged boys one year and vicious teeny bopper cheerleaders another (I still get the willies when I encounter cheerleaders) anyone who has that level of control over kids has my undying admiration. "If you'd made a racket I would have chased you down, and you can't run fast enough."

"I can't run fast?" the girl jokes.  Oh boy.

"No, you can't," Coach replies without a hint of humor.

"No, you can't," another girl adds in a voice that has the ever-so-slightly condescending tone of a seasoned player talking to a rookie.   "Not when Coach is mad.  You can't run faster scared than Coach can run mad."

Spoken, I bet, from personal experience.

I really like Coach.

  • Listening to: the Weather Channel (whoo hoo)
  • Reading: The Mineral Gods Must be Laughing!
  • Watching: the Weather Channel (whoo hoo)
  • Drinking: COFFEE (what else?)

Our Day in Court

Journal Entry: Thu Mar 25, 2010, 4:15 PM




It is 5:30 AM.  I wake up, toss and turn a few times, and then give up:  there's too much going on today for me to lay idle.  I've got to pack for the Chambersburg gem and mineral show; I've got to clean the house because Emily is having educational testing done tonight, and, most importantly, today is the hearing regarding our lawsuit against the Pottsville Area School District.  I'm awake, I'm wired for sound.  And I haven't even had coffee yet.

While the coffee is brewing it occurs to me that I need my cash box and charge machine (a/k/a "the knucklebuster".  I look in all the usual places.  They are nowhere in sight.  I don't freak out, but my mind races ahead to what will happen if I can't find the cash box, which has my business license in it.  Despite its being wildly unlikely, i convince myself that the missing items must be in the storage shed:  I will find them when I drive over to get my display racks.

I have my habitual Kashi granola and yogurt.  While chewing (I should run a poll to see how many of you know what's coming here) I bite down on something much harder than the granola.  I exclaim aloud, "That is SO not a piece of tooth!"

It was.  Cue Queen singing, "Another One Bites the Dust".

It is freezing this morning.  I am glad that I decided to wear jeans and a sweatshirt to load the van:  I would have frozen to death in the outfit I have chosen for the day.  I am to be believable, accountable, "together".  Somehow I don't think being an accountable popsicle is the idea.  

The storage shed is not as disorganized as I'd visualized.  I am able to get at my racks and other equipment with ease, but the change box and knucklebuster are nowhere to be seen.  I force myself to put the problem out of my head as I drive back.  I have barely enough time to wake Emily and walk the dogs (or was that walk Emily and wake the dogs?) and then I have to leap into the van and drive across town to the hearing.

I arrive at the school district building early and sit down to collect my thoughts.  I write down observations about eighth and ninth grades, and try to remember what happened when, who did what to whom, and how it felt.  Gradually the other players drift in:  the special education director, the guidance counselor, my attorney, the school district's attorney, etc.   Eventually I am asked to come into the conference room, which us already  stuffy and hot.  Suddenly I am glad of my summery outfit.

We begin with opening statements.  My attorney's description of Emily's school career makes me want to cry.  We have been through a lot in this school district; so much was done wrong, and we have fought so hard to try and get our intelligent child to work up to her potential.  Unfortunately, the school district's idea of intelligence and need have proven to be far different from ours.  And that, my children, is why we are here today.

The school district's lawyer is a stuck up, rigid, smug condescending, irritating, pompous ass.  And I'm being nice.  He has a red face, and attempts to conceal his near lack of chin with a beard are foiled by a sort of beardly bald spot right in the front.  At the previous hearing, he tried to paint me as a bad parent:  I am determined to not let him rattle my cage.

My testimony is so-so.  I'm not good with dates, and all the papers look the same.  FYI:  a lot of them ARE the same form, just used at different times.  We break for lunch after they have finished questioning me.  I come home, and while consuming an apple I notice a bin in the study (of all places) and there in the bin are my cash box and knucklebuster.  This is why I forced myself to let the issue go:  I would have felt incredibly stupid if I had given myself high blood pressure over an issue that ended up being so easily resolved.

Back to the hearing.  It's roaringly hot in the conference room and I wonder if the temperature is intentionally set at "hellish" in order to punish upstart parents like myself.  Fortunately I have brought a large cup of water.

It's time for someone else to get the third degree:  I move over for the director of the Special Education department to be questioned.  At first it sounds like she actually knows what she's doing but when my attorney begins her cross examination everything seem s to fall apart.  The structure of the department--or lack thereof--is quickly revealed.  Without going into details I can tell you that by the end of the session the Special Ed lady was running scared, her confident facade torn away to reveal that she didn't know what the hell was going on, and the school district's attorney was looking daggers at my attorney.

The hearing officer calls it a day and we spill back out into the cool air.  I have a headache and want a nap but there's too much going on.  Still, my brain wants nothing to do with anything that required an IQ above 2, so I check my email and sort out my new greeting cards.

I've recovered slightly...

  • Listening to: Emily being tested
  • Reading: The Mineral Gods Must be Laughing!
  • Drinking: COFFEE (what else?)

Criticism vs Critique

Journal Entry: Fri Mar 12, 2010, 4:46 AM




I recently read a journal entry in which the author, who had clearly been the target of unfriendly criticism, discussed the difference between constructive criticism (critique) and plain criticism.   The anonymity of the internet has provided some of the biggest creeps with a new place to stomp all over people.  What's a serious artist to do?

I've mentioned before that my late father, who was also an artist, was a taskmaster with me.  It was not unusual for me to bring him a piece of artwork and have him say, "That's nice, do more."--not exactly criticism, but not terribly specific either.  He rarely said things that were truly unhelpful, the most notable exception coming when I painted "Rapture," and he said that he "did not like the direction my artwork was taking".   Geez, Dad, your little girl was in her early 40s when she painted that!   Six months of telecommunicational silence showed him the error of his ways.

This whole line of discussion got me thinking about what motivates people to behave the way they do.  To me, artists and art lovers doing critique can be divided into several groups:  

1.  Your art doesn't run to their taste.  Sure, someone who digs abstracts may not get into that Turner-esque landscape, and vice versa.  In order to provide constructive criticism, a person needs to set aside their tastes (which is sometimes difficult) and address technical points such as composition, color usage, and line.  This CAN be done, but I think that a lot of people find it easier to slam someone than to actually think about the possible merits of a piece.  Art lovers who can't articulate such things could just say "I'm sorry, it isn't to my taste."  How hard can that be?

2.  Your art falls uncomfortably close--either in technique or subject matter--to theirs.  Here's where a lot of really hurtful stuff happens, because the person doing the critique often allows their insecurities to show.  Even if you feel that you could do better than the artist you're critiquing could, there is no excuse to actually SAY that.  If people would stop and put themselves in the other person's shoes and ask, "How would I feel if someone said that to me?" perhaps this would happen less.  Unfortunately, the powerful Artistic Ego often obviates that by assuring the critic that their work is SO GREAT no one would ever dare to say that to them.  

3.  They're a Legend in Their Own Mind.  This mindset has produced everything from schoolyard bullies to historical figures like Saddam Hussein, who are Big and Bad in their little kingdoms but once the wide world gets hold of them the insults and threats fly.  These are the classic flamers, who, as our mothers said when we came home from school complaining of bullies "dish it out but can't take it".   A subgroup of this category is People With Job Titles like Art Director, who believe that their title gives them the right to be insulting to anything that doesn't float their boat.  

So how do  you deal with these individuals, the ones who can't seem to say anything useful?

Above all, be graceful.  This is probably something your Mom said when you came home with stories of bullies.  You are better than anyone who feels they have to use insults to get their point across.  Being graceful is a classic defusing mechanism:  if you don't rise to the occasion, the individual often goes pfffffffff and slinks away.  This is hard, and I suggest that as a stress reliever you save wine or beer bottles for breaking in the privacy of your own home.

Here's the quotable quote of the day:

All we can do is make sure that whatever we paint or draw or write or photograph is our absolute best, so that at the end of the day we can definitively say that our detractors are idiots.

--and I wrote that all by myself!!

  • Listening to: Good Morning America
  • Reading: The Mineral Gods Must be Laughing!
  • Watching: talk shows
  • Eating: yogurt and granola
  • Drinking: COFFEE (what else?)

OWWWWWWWWWWW

Journal Entry: Thu Mar 11, 2010, 6:01 AM




A five-hour drive followed by a super duper surprise root canal*

Need I say more?


*not really a surprise; they never are anymore

  • Listening to: Good Morning America
  • Reading: The Mineral Gods Must be Laughing!
  • Watching: talk shows
  • Eating: apple sauce :(
  • Drinking: COFFEE (what else?)