In an Ironic Twist of Fate – I Eat My Words

I’m very excited this morning – Amazon has just informed me that my oil paint fine tip markers should be arriving today.  Wheeeeeeeeeee!!!!!

Yes, in an ironic twist of fate, I posted that I am not artistic and hate ‘doing art’.  I did it right here, posting it for everyone to read (ok, all 45 of you anyway).  So of course, since then, I’ve started ‘doing art’ – making things that look like things that are not things I’d be embarrassed to show as things. It’s all about the things, isn’t it?  I admit it started with some Mod Podge, an old record holder/cabinet and pulp fiction covers.

I'm hooked

I’m hooked

I made it for a friend after seeing something similar at a cool store called Pop-Cycle, which specializes in repurposed art.  I kinda like repurposed art. I won’t use the dreaded word “upcycled” because my friend has threatened bodily harm if I adopt that hipster word. So I shan’t – except now I like to say it to her at any opportunity.  Luckily she can’t harm me through the telephone – she’s across the United States, where it’s safe for me.

Hey Lu –

I’m safe until next February when she might be visiting.  Wish me well…

Any who – I love making things.  I don’t know what suddenly turned on in my brain; but it’s quite awesome. I’ll probably never be drawn to drawing (hee hee), and I’ll have to look at other people’s works to get ideas, but it’s a start.  I feel kind of artisan-ish.  I fervently hope I don’t become one of those weird craftsy people who sport vests bedazzled with fake gems and pictures of cats…and if I do anything in gingham, several of my friends have permission to smack me upside the head with a shoe (Karen & Lisa, I’m looking at you).  There’s a fine line between artsy and frumpy-craftsy… that’s a line I hope to never cross.

But in the meantime, I’m going to be making lots of paper flowers, mod podging whatever I can, inking up our stemware with bats, and chalk painting the hell out of our furniture.

You can never go wrong with Morticia

You can never go wrong with Morticia and  black tissue paper flowers

This weekend I’m painting the cabinets with chalkboard paint – and I cannot WAIT.  Mawhahaha –

So I guess I’ll now take “Art Projects for $100, Alex”

Posted in art, change, painting | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 25 Comments

I’ll Take Art History for $100, Alex

I should preface this post with: I love art and I love schools that have art classes.  This is a just a little tongue-in-cheek.

The dread comes around 1:45PM Tuesdays and Thursdays. The day was Thursday.  The scene replays vividly in my mind.  I look around the room, most everyone looks a bit on the ‘joyous’ side. Fresh eager faces – sketch pads in hand, pencils at the ready.   In comes the teacher.  Up goes the drop cloth draped over a bumpy mound in the center of the room. A clutter of bicycles and assorted bike parts meets the eye.  We are instructed to draw the  shapes of the ‘negative space’.  Twenty-five minutes in to the exercise we are forced to ‘take a creative break’ –  I took mine in the parking lot, got on my own bike and rode home. Screw Art 100.

I get home, lock up my bike and enter our little shotgun duplex apartment.  My boyfriend looks up at me with eyebrows raised as I throw down my sketch pad in utter disgust and exclaim, “I can’t draw that fucking negative space! I hate art class!” There, I said it. Then I cried. Who cries over drawing the spaces between wheel spokes? Me. That’s who.

It was the first class I’d ever dropped in the sum total of 2 semesters of college that I had under my proverbial belt.  And let me tell you how it felt.  FREAKING’ AWESOME.   I wish I had the wherewithal to stand up during any of the 5 torturous art classes I attended with the words of my son at his 5 year-old birthday party, when he was annoyed that we had to break open a pinata instead of the gifts… “THIS IS A PLACE OF PAIN AND MISERY!”    Yes, art class is a place of pain and misery for me.

I am no artist.  I married one, and almost all of my friends are crazy amazing artists. I’m missing some sort of gene, that’s my best explanation.  I cannot translate what my eyes see or what may be in my mind to anything coherent on a piece of paper…and I’m just fine with that.  I feel a little weird admitting I never really enjoyed art classes – they were filled with frustration, tragedy, and lies.

  • Frustration: not feeling comfortable with the artistic medium we used (from crayons to clay – it all didn’t work for me)
  • Tragedy: the results of my attempts
  • And Lies: from the poor teacher who had to say something positive. You can’t say “well, this one has a gene missing” on a report card.

The Lazy Cowgirls sing it best…

In the days of college I learned something – those who can’t draw negative space take Art History.   We were good friends, Art History and I.  Lectures, viewing art, and writing… I can do that.  I’ll take Art History for $100, Alex.

(Yes, yes – I know many art majors take Art History as part of their requirements….I took it in lieu of Art 100 for my ‘art’ requirement)

Posted in art, Blogging, Humor, quitting, Story | Tagged , , , , , | 37 Comments


Cakes, pies…
and suicide……

A bittersweet month – filled with change and firsts.

Change is not my forte. Big change unsettles me. A new co-worker to train; a co-worker of 10 years says good-bye.  Feeling a little weird as the waves settle into a rhythmic pattern and all that has felt strange slowly becomes the norm.

Then the ‘firsts’ – my first charity bake.  Placing first – a very happy moment.  It helps to keep the sadness of another first at bay.
Death.  The biggest change of them all.

And not just life ending – but suicide.  That’s a first for me.  I hope there’s never a second. It’s not something I want to get used to; I can’t image anyone “gets used to” suicide.  It’s horrible. There’s no argument about it. No debate – no philosophic angle to expound upon.  Death. Done. End.

My neighbor of 19 years committed suicide on Maundy Thursday.  She was 49.  Fifty seemed too much and in the midst of good things happening; she couldn’t hang on.  Leaving on a high note – Ok.  Maybe.  I don’t know. I’m not judging.  I’m just sad.

I miss her every day – she wasn’t my closest or best friend  but she was part of my every day life. Our driveways were ‘kissing cousins’ and we were always gabbing over the wall. Trading this or that. She was close to my son as he grew up – she was a dynamic elementary teacher and artist.  I can not even count how many times I made dinner for two and my little son would bring over his special plate and they’d have a ‘dinner’ date.  She drove me crazy sometimes too – but that’s how it is with people in your life.  But she’s gone now.  The empty driveway –  “Melissa’s Art Room” in letters on the side door to her sun room (she taught art to little random-shrieking girls on Saturdays) – I see it every day.  Sometimes it’s OK – sometimes it’s less OK.

We had a little gathering for her last night.  Good Bye, Melissa.  I miss you – even your crazy stuff I miss.  Nineteen years.  Poof…done. Changed.

She tasted my test pie for the charity bake.  But she wasn’t there for Easter leftovers.  Thursday she was dead, I didn’t know…my world was the same.  Good Friday – 7:30AM…the knowledge came and life turned upside down.  It’s so odd how much ‘knowing’ makes a difference.  I can see why ignorance is bliss.  I didn’t want to have to tell my son – shatter his innocence with explanations of suicide. Death is hard; suicide is – well it’s something else.   I was angry with her – but not anymore. I can understand, just a tiny bit from my own experience, that desperation.  I hope she found peace.

This is really kind of rambling – and there’s no end game  – it just is.

Melissa is gone.
That is all.

Oscar Night for Melissa - and her date Dorian

Oscar Night for Melissa – and her date Dorian

Posted in change, death, grief | Tagged , , , , | 40 Comments

The Peer Pressure I Will Not Succumb To

“30 minutes a day.”

“1 hour a day”

“Only on the weekends; and only for an hour or so”

These are the statements I’ve heard from parents concerning playing video games.  I totally “get it” – but I don’t limit my 12 year old son’s playing like that.  Yes, he has to finish his chores (if he has any that day…I don’t always do them every day either). Yes, he has to have his school work, if any, done. Yes, he has to practice his guitar.  But if he’s doing his work at school and what he needs to do at home – I don’t over monitor his ‘screen time’.  He mostly plays driving games – but even that is not a justification that I’m using for my more ‘lax’ philosophy about gaming and screen time.

Every time I think of imposing strict rules about gaming – I think of my own childhood.  And I think – what if people felt the same way about my favorite pastime that they do about video games? What if my parents told me that I could only read on the weekends or for just an hour a day …or even worse, 30 minutes per day? That’s actually worse than being told I couldn’t read at all….it would give me the taste of reading without the satisfaction of a meal or a snack.

Gaming is an escape – but so is reading. And we could argue about the pros and cons of each pastime – but the point for me is not what he does it is how he feels about it. He identifies himself as “a gamer”. He’s tried soccer – we all hated it. He takes guitar, he has friends – he does all the things that kids typically do, but he has a passion for gaming. He doesn’t even care to play RPGs (Role Playing Games), violent games or on servers with others- he likes to play his games on his own machine.

My son is much like me regarding passions. I like – nay – I love to read. I have to read.   Now, I was not what you’d call ‘the bookish’ type. I had/have extrovert tendencies. So unlike many reading introverts, whose parents probably begged them to ‘get some fresh air’, I was socially active (well, to some extent). I always had a best friend, played at their houses and they played at mine…but my own time was time for reading. In the mornings, in the evenings, on the weekends, in the bathroom, in the mornings at sleepovers (I was the kid that got up at 6AM on a regular basis), in the car, waiting at any kind of appointment. I was never without a book. I could read for 6 hours straight. And often did. But it was not frowned upon because our society sees reading as an intrinsic ‘good’. And I was lucky in that. I always think about what it would be if it wasn’t. My own dystopia nightmare would be a world that banned reading. It makes me shudder to even think it.

So every time I think of imposing limits on my own child’s passion – I think about what that would have meant to me if my parents did the same. And it puts me in check.  I’d have been miserable. I hated sports (and as an adult, I am very active), I was not interested in clubs, band, or anything of that nature. That was not me and that is not my child. Taking away reading and/or gaming did not and would not make either of us suddenly want to take up a sport, join a club or become socially different.  It would just make us miserable and desperate to do it on the sly.  I’d rather my son played games in front of me then take to sneaking around and lying.  I cannot in good conscious take away something that he has a passion about just because of the pressures of society. So for good or for ill, those are my reasons.

Posted in Childhood, Children, Parenting, Reading, Society | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 42 Comments

It’s a wrap




I hear it again and again… from family, friends, my son’s teachers. But it never gets me down; it will never change me.  I am who I am.

I love plastic wrap.

And I love a securely wrapped item sealed with the industrial-sized (‘food service grade’) plastic wrap that I lovingly keep on my counter at all times. Right behind my cutting board. It is always there for me.  It understands my need like no one else.  It lasts me 2-3 years at a time (because, well, yes, I date each new box…I’m a stats-nerd on a very shallow level…10/28/2012).

I was unaffected when my kindergarten-sized son would tell me his teachers couldn’t get his lunch items unwrapped.  I am unfazed at my step-father’s angst during Christmas when he cannot figure out how to unseal the cookie plate.  Find the crinkly edge, I advise, and work from there. You can always get in with a little perseverance.  It’s not Fort Knox, it’s just food.  Scissors – there’s always scissors.

I can unwrap any item I wrap – the formula for wrapping is always the same. With a little practice, you too can do it.  All my wrapping starts with a long piece that goes under that item and folds over; then turn 90 degrees and repeat.  If there is any possibility that air might invade, OR something can shift, I give it an extra piece across the top that tucks in at the bottom.  So start at the bottom… if that doesn’t work, start at the top…you can get in; I have faith in you.  And, well, scissors. There’s always scissors.

Ahh - that's the stuff...3000 square feet of happiness

Ahh – that’s the stuff…3000 square feet of happiness. Only my brother-in-law and my baker-friend, Leesa, understand

For Calahan

For Calahan – can or can you not open it?


This shall be opened only by a magi or someone handy with scissors ~

Posted in Baking, Food, Humor, Secrets | Tagged , , , , | 52 Comments

Rotary Terrors

It starts the same way every time…the dial-face looking at me. Me looking back. Even before my finger finds the “9” hole in the dial, I know I will not be able to manage this kind of phone. It’s a rotary phone. My finger starts its upward escalation and for a reason I never understand I cannot complete the motion all the way around…The danger is becoming more menacing and I’m in a full on panic, desperately trying to dial 911. Sometimes I get the ‘9’ completed but the ‘1’, which should be the easiest to dial, eludes me utterly. As the danger increases my abilities to dial decreases until I abruptly wake up. All day long I have a vague sense of unease. And then it passes.

I’ve had this dream ever since I could remember and I’m pretty sure it’s the reason I have a deep seated dislike for phones and phone-related technology. Even beyond the obvious reasons that most people complain about them in our phone-obsessed society. I hate phones for those reasons too – no worries. But it goes farther than that.

What prompted this phone post was a recent event at our house. My kid’s friend (age 10) spent the night and the next morning was calling his mom. I handed him our phone – the kind that has a (tangled) cord and mounts to the wall. He dialed than stared at the handset in confusion and said he didn’t know how to use our phone.  Hee hee…I suspect he was looking for some kind of ‘send’ button. Ironically, I’m usually the one staring hopelessly at any number of phone-based technologies and asking “how do you use this thing?” – From the simple cordless phone, to the dreaded work-phone-systems all the way to smart phones.  I still have an actual machine that answers the phone.  I like it that way.  I use manual caller ID: they call…they listen to the message…and they identify themselves.  Then I decide if I’m going to answer or not (most likely “or not”). I refuse to have a phone message service. Having to call to retrieve my messages defeats the whole purpose of having an answering machine; which is to not have to use the phone.

I like the wall phones with a cord and a number pad. And message machines.  So I basically stopped at that point along the phone-evolutionary chain. I jumped for joy when rotary phones went out of fashion. But pagers were a horrifying fad or gateway drug to cellphones, as I like think of them.  I’ve never even used a pager because even then (I was in my late teens/early 20s) I knew it was a bad decision to make yourself readily available at all times.  I have a cell phone – but it’s a relic. Don’t get me wrong, I think cell phones are great for emergency situations – but beyond that….the thought of having a phone constantly on me and ringing all the time puts me off. I advise most people to not call me on my cell (if they happen to have the number, which I cannot remember so I have it taped to the back of the phone). If they leave a message, it might be days before I turn my phone on. And a few more before I realized I have a message. I have to admit I get annoyed at having phone messages that I have to retrieve – which is irrational, I know.  My favorite is when people ask me how come I never answered their text messages…that they’ve unknowingly sent to my landline.  Also, the general assumption that have caller ID on that phone is kind of irritating but their loss, if they  call and leave no number….meh… one less call to make.

One of my friends used to keep their rotary (ahhhh!) phone in their freezer – so I’m not the only weird one.

I will end this short and pointless rant with some DJ Dave. We agree about phone-related technology.

Posted in Aversions, Humor, Philosophy, Random Thoughts, Writing | Tagged , , , , , | 29 Comments

A Leap of Faith – The Week Wrap Up!

And finally – the wrap-up on the reblog posts for Progressive Education.

The Mercenary Researcher

The Wrap-up and a Huge THANK YOU!

“Study without desire spoils the memory, and it retains nothing that it takes in.” 
― Leonardo da Vinci

This last post wraps up my series on A Leap of Faith – Jumping Across the Abyss to Progressive Education.

However, we will have a couple of treats for you NEXT WEEK! I have some POV’s about education from places OTHER than America! Stay Tuned!!

But before that happens …

I want to thank the contributors, Jennifer, Harrison & Janet, for taking time out of their day to write a post for The Mercenary Researcher. Their insight and experiences are truly inspiring; exploring the road less traveled takes courage.  For all the great things each person wrote, there were undoubtedly rocky parts along the path.

I know my son was teased in summer camp by kids because he didn’t go to a ‘real…

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