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When I started thinking about this piece, I thought about it as just a list of my (many!) seemingly arbitrary rules for reading. Once I got started, though, I discovered that those rules actually tell you so much about me that they double as personality traits. In fact, they say so much about me that I’m actually a little uncomfortable sharing them now, but I’m going to anyway because I’m done with the piece; this paragraph is actually, chronologically, the last one I’ve written, and who wants to waste all that effort?
Which (obviously) made me think about my own set of personal reading rules.
1. I'm a note taker. If I don't have pencil and paper at hand—or am too lazy to get up and go find pencil and paper—I will dog ear pages. Yes, that's right, I AM AN UNREPENTANT DOGEAR-ER.
1a. Since I realize that this confession will probably result in you all shunning me forevermore—you're totally going to cross the street to avoid me at BookExpo next week, aren't you?—I'm going to go ahead and ADMIT ALL: Yes, I even dogear library books. (I always un-dogear before I return them, though.)
1b. If it makes you feel any better, I dogear the BOTTOM of the page, not the top.
1c. I don't write in books. Ever. I do use the Note feature on my Kindle a hella lot, though.
2. When Josh gets ready to read a new paperback, he preemptively breaks its spine, and I flinch every single time.
3. Halfway through any given hardback, the book jacket starts driving me bananas and I take it off and throw it behind the couch. I retrieve and replace when I'm done reading.
4. The only genre I seem to be capable of reading without going into Literary Analysis mode? Vaguely smutty historical romances.
5. I've said this before, but it should be included: I'm a really, REALLY visual reader. When I'm wrapped up in a book, it's like I stop seeing the words and have an actual movie playing in my head: therefore, I had to stop listening to audiobooks in the car because I kept running stop signs.
6. I'm a vocal supporter of Putting The Book Down If It Isn't Working For You, but I find that I rarely actively do that myself. More often, I realize months later that I set something down and never returned to it.
7. I'm a one-book-at-a-time girl. And I always have at least two back-ups in my bag, JUST IN CASE.
It's one of those records that just keeps getting better and better every time I listen to it. Also, every time I think I'm ready to listen to another album, I only get two songs in before popping this one in again. CLEARLY I NEED TO GO BACK AND GET THEIR PREVIOUS STUFF.
The stars alined and I took a long weekend, heading south for my niece's First Communion. And because of/in spite of being A) grounded in Chicago overnight B) flying last minute standby to Memphis and C) avoiding tornados while driving from Tennessee to Arkansas, getting there was all the sweeter.
Now my sketchbook is full to bursting and I'm ready to hit the ground running, full of strawberry shortcake and bonhomie.
And I wasn't the only one sketching this weekend. I think that kiddo's going to put me out of a job in a couple years.
...Josh and I have mourned the demise of the Late Night Jalapeno Popper Doritos. They were super-chemical-y, true, but they were also strangely addictive, and we've never found another Special Edition Dorito that compares.
They aren't at all chemical-y, and the flavor is more subtle than the Doritos (I mean, DUH, that's kind of a low bar), and the texture is SO NICE because in addition to being all multigrain-y, there's also some chia seeds and other good stuff crammed in there... anyway, we polished off the entire bag on the way home from the grocery store, and every couple of minutes, one of us would turn to the other and say, "THESE ARE REALLY GOOD."
Seriously, for the entire twenty minute drive home, we pretty much only uttered variations of that sentence.
But just in case you're thinking we've suddenly gotten all classy or something, we also brought home a bag of the Lays Chicken & Waffles chips, too.
PS. NO, I DID NOT GET PAID TO WRITE THIS. I just really liked the chips A LOT.
Runners were wandering around still, confused, cold. They had a combination of runner’s fatigue and shock. Shivering and stunned, they were desperately trying to contact family members. Some walked in circles because they didn’t know how not to keep moving, but they also didn’t know where to go. They had spent 25 miles moving forward, towards this one destination called the finish line and now they were stuck, aimless. Their ultimate goal was suddenly gone, devastated by two bombs. Those of us who were there to watch, gave them our cell phones so they could call family members who were waiting for them. They were waiting for them right by the bombs. We gave the runners money so they could get on the T when it worked again. We gave them our coats.
What warms your heart on a cold day? What warms your heart when the tides of change come crashing in? What warms your heart when the” no’s” become overwhelming? What warms your heart when the crowd scatters and you are “Home Alone”?
I have a whole list of favorite things I like to look at periodically. These are things that Warm My Heart. I found myself smiling and even laughing. They are things I feel that God has blessed me with. When I look at them I see stories! I see people, I see events… and more. Life is so much more than what we see during our day. Life is a tapestry of stories that intertwine and make memories for us. Some are so real we can almost re-live them just recalling them to our memories.
God my Father, Jesus my elder brother, the Holy Spirit my helper.
All my Family
Friends / art friends
Rosie and Violet
Coffee with cream
Odd things for the house
Trip to Maine and beyond
Goat yogurt and blueberries
Colors : purply blue, raspberry, Yaya green
Good movies with popcorn
Breakfast in bed with a good magazine.
a zillion best friends!
the valley between Kenosha and BaileY
a crackling fire in the stove
deep snow and 4wheel drive
My cozy studio
a good book
a comfy chair
writing a story
a bike ride . . …… and today…. Matthew!
Today’s Warm Fuzzy came from a friend. She took this wonderful picture of her son sleeping with my Peepsqueak plush. He is so cute! Matthew is on my list!
What are your favorite things? I am sure mine will grow!!
Happy Passover and Easter greetings, hope you all had swell weekends. I had a first rate brunch out with friends on Saturday and Easter dinner with family was terrific. Also, hello sun and temperatures above 30 degrees. It's really Spring -- Huzzah!
On the illustration front, things have been humming along here. I can't believe it's a little over a month before the release of Bella's Rules and The Glitter Trap. More on both of these in the next few weeks, scout's honor.
Things I have liked lately:
* Swiss Chard: The Winter Farmer's markets had me trying some new (to me) vegetables and Swiss Chard was a pleasant surprise. Also, those colors are neat. In case you're curious, this is what I made with them.
* Murdoch Mysteries: Victorian era crime fighting in turn-of-the-century Toronto is my newest Netflix discovery. Delightful and not too devious, it's really entertaining. Also, there's an episode where Annie Oakley makes an appearance. This would have made my five-year-old self's head explode because I had a doll of self-same sharpshooter. Fact.
* I sewed this pattern for Easter and am hooked on sewing more vintage pieces. I did have to make some heavy modifications to the bodice which almost derailed things. But, the dress got finished and I didn't even have to use scotch tape on the hem (just kidding, sort of). Random observation: slouching in dresses from this era is completely impossible. Score one for posture improvement!
* And more drawing/stitching is of course happening.
In honor of St. Patrick's Day ... a re-posting of one of my favorite stories. Enjoy! :-)
I was standing in line at the post office when I heard, “And how long are you going to be?” I looked behind me to see an older man, possibly in his sixties, with an unwavering face and twinkling eyes that just screamed of dry humor and wit. I smiled and laughed, noting that I just had the one box and would make it fast.
I didn’t expect the conversation to continue. Thankfully, it did.
“My wife has me mailing these birthday cards to Ireland,” he continued gruffly. “We’re always sending things over there.”
Being a travel fanatic, I was intrigued. “Ireland, huh,” I responded, “I’ve never been there, but it’s on my list of places I want to visit.”
“Oh, we’ve been there many times … at least a couple dozen,” he said. “Both of our families are from there, and many are still living there.”
“Really?” I asked, “Is that where you met?”
“Oh no …”, he chuckled. “I was an auctioneer. Traveled all over the place. One day, I received a call from a rancher in central Oregon. I was to come pick up some items that would then be auctioned. That’s when I met her.”
“At the ranch?” I asked, amazed at such a chance meeting.
“Yep … she was the rancher’s daughter. That was thirty-some odd years ago … and things have been going downhill ever since,” he added with a sly grin.
“Well … it couldn’t be too bad if you’ve been together for thirty-some years!” I countered with a smile.
“Well, she was quite the successful businesswoman. I couldn’t give that up,” he said with the dry wit that had become the trademark of our short conversation. He then went on to explain that she had owned several thriving businesses – including a clothing shop and a salon – in the very complex we were standing in. “Back in the day, there would be a line of people waiting to get into her salon,” he added with a hint of pride.
I glanced at the service counter where, fortunately, the customers in front of me were having some sort of difficulty with their mailing progress.
“I can’t believe both of you are from Ireland, and you ended up meeting on a ranch out in the middle of central Oregon,” I added.
It was then that he told me that on one of their first trips back to Ireland as a couple, they decided to check into each of their family histories. Through their research, they discovered that their grandparents had been from the exact same small town in Ireland. His had owned a hardware store; hers had owned a grocery store. They traveled to that little town and discovered that – even to that day - his family’s original hardware store and her family’s original grocery store sat on the very same street, right next door to each other.
“Wow,” I said with all the eloquence of a rock. “That is absolutely amazing … a marriage meant to be.”
The customers at the counter retreated and it was my turn.
I mailed my package and turned, intending to smile and convey wishes for a good day with this man who had shared his wonderful story with me.
He was nowhere to be seen.
I couldn't help but smile. ‘A marriage made in heaven’ came to mind. Yes, definitely that … sprinkled with a little ‘Luck of the Irish’, had clearly brought these two individuals together.
My potentially-tedious trip to the post office was made special, with a beautiful and unexpected story of providence usually saved just for the kids and grandkids. It made this German-Irish girl feel a little lucky too!Display CommentsAdd a Comment
To celebrate this great milestone, Maria and I went to Jaxson’s Ice Cream Parlour and ordered the biggest sundaes we could find
Monday marked my One Year Anniversary of Running Stairs. I have been doing aerobic workouts for more than 17 years, but a year ago I started running up and down the courthouse steps with my neighbor, Maria. She and I had been walking our dogs together for a while and decided to try running the stairs after my husband told me he tried it while on a midnight run.
There are 28 steps. We call it an “inning” when we run up and down once (56 steps). The first time I ran, I strained to do 13 innings. Stepping of this sort is one of the most strenuous exercises. Over the course of this past year, I ran more than 1,000,000 steps, up and down, that’s more than 17,850 innings! The most innings I ran at one time during that year were 100, or 5,600 steps. It took about an hour. On a regular basis (5 X per week), I ran 60 and sometimes 80 innings, 40 at the least. We ran in the rain, extreme heat and some cold (for FL) weather.
Some tips if you want to try this: Bring a towel for sweat and plenty of water. Buy a cheap stopwatch to time yourself so you can mark your improvements. Stretch your calves on the steps before you run. Have a cell phone in case of emergency. Take 60-90 second walking breaks between innings. We break after 20 or 25 innings. Don’t stop moving when you take a break or when you have just finished! We walk 1/2 mile to and from the courthouse, so it is a great warm up and cool down. Make sure you stretch when you’re done or your calves and quads will get very tight. I run barefoot due to plantaar fascitis. When I wear any type of shoes it causes heal pain and even knee pain. No shoes = no pain for me.
Let’s see how many steps I can run in the next 12 months and hopefully I can accomplish some other milestones unrelated to working out.
I stayed home sick after doing something to my back that made me realize that I AM NOW OLD.
Over the course of the day, she A) wandered around the house caterwauling for no apparent reason. Then... B) she decided to hang out on the fridge even though there is approximately a half an inch of free space up there. And finally, C) she knocked a plastic laundry basket right ONTO THE TOP OF THE WOODSTOVE.
I found this round rock today while I was running. When I was a toddler, my mom was having a difficult time. My dad was working at an all-news radio station that was going down the tubes (and would soon become an all-rock-and-roll station). My dad had chased jobs across four states, and they were so broke they couldn't even afford a stroller.
My grandmother came to visit and later went for a walk. She bounded back into the house, calling, "Nora, guess what?" She was so excited that my mom thought she must have figured out some way to solve their problems. Instead, she handed my mom a rock, exclaiming excitedly over how round it was.
After she left, my mom laughed until she cried (or maybe it was cried until she laughed). She carried that rock in her purse for years, and there were times there was no money in the purse, just the rock. But she always said, if all else failed, she had a round rock.
In my family, it's an honor to go through hard times and earn your round rock. So if you're in need of a round rock today, think of this one as yours.
* New shelves in the studio (thanks, Dad!). You guys, laser levels are the best. I'm already filling up the shelves with art supplies and assorted ephemera. In case you're curious, my sister made the bird.
* I'm still trying to make peace with oil paints. I don't think I've quite hit my stride yet, but I like the change of speed and (if I am being brutally honest) making a mess.
*I brought Natalie Chanin's Alabama Studio Style home from the library the other week -- the book has completely blown my mind. The way she combines sustainability with creativity is really something else and it's well-worth the gander if you're the slightest bit crafty. So when Favorite Sweater started sporting a hole this week, it got a makeover, in no small part due to the aforementioned book. And lemme' tell you, from henceforth, NO beleaguered garment shall be safe in my presence (insert: Vincent Price style-laughter).
Five mornings per week for the past year, I run the steps at the regional county courthouse (about 40 minutes per visit). The design of the building includes two extremely wide flights of stairs (28) that lead to a large platform and many doors that happen to be locked at all times. After September 11, the courthouse changed the entrance to a ground level door armed by a security guard and a metal detector. There are signs outside the courthouse telling visitors that there is “No Entrance at the Top of the Stairs.” The problem is that at least half of the courthouse patrons do not see the sign and begin their ascent up those 28 steps.
During my year at the steps, most of the workers acknowledge me as they walk into the building, as I’ve become a “regular.” I have stopped hundreds of people from wasting their time and energy hiking those stairs in the heat only to discover they cannot enter the building that way. I’ve stopped a pregnant woman who appeared to be ready to give birth, wearing spiked heals from walking up the stairs, a morbidly obese man who had a hacking cough, a very old lady with a cane, a woman with several tiny children, people who cannot speak English and whose language I cannot speak either. And the list goes on. Most of these people are so grateful for not having wasted their energy that they thank me profusely. I also answer countless questions while running:
Q.What time is the courthouse open? A. 8:00 am.
Q. What room do I go to for a new passport? A. 2nd floor. Turn left.
Q. Is the courthouse open on President’s Day? A. Nope.
Q. Where do I vote? A. Not here. Go east down this boulevard (as I point in that direction) one and a half miles and turn into the library parking lot on the left.
Q. Why on earth do you run up and down these steps? A. It seems as though I like to punish myself.
And the list goes on.
Today when I saw the security guard there, I told him that I thought it would be appropriate for the county to pay me for my work, since I have assisted so many visitors. Well that generated a big laugh from him. And then it made me think about all the times I’m not running stairs and visitors are unnecessarily climbing up and down those steps and have questions but there’s no one there to help out. Somehow these people survive without my assistance.
For the man who refused to stop blowing smoke up my nose while hovering around the steps I was running, despite my kind request, I somehow neglected to tell him there was no entrance up there.
Well hello, there is still a world out there. A few months ago over the course of about 2 weeks I was contacted by three new clients about doing some projects all due during February. The first was an educational publisher who had seen my work at the SCBWI LA conference in 2011. Their project was a fun little picture book about a girl having a bad day. The typical 16 illustrations plus cover were needed. Then came a call from a school and library publisher with a middle grade adventure novel needing 8 interior illustrations plus cover. How exciting! I'd never worked on a chapter book before and I loved the idea of working in black and white. Now about this time I already had in the mix some projects from the Most Awesome Art Director Ever a.k.a. my friend Keith - about 15 illustrations for various VBS books. Finally just after the first of the year, I got an email from Carus Publishing asking me to do my very first project for Ladybug magazine. That was really special, because it came after years of submission as I mentioned in this post.
Now did anyone do the math on all those projects? Let's see, 16 + 9 + 10 + 1 = one mind boggled illustrator and 2 months of super human time management.
December and January were awash with doing sketches and getting approvals. By January 31st all the sketches were approved and the deadlines lined up like this: Feb 8, 15, 22, 28, and March 1st. This photo represents how many cups of coffee I consumed on a daily basis, the kitchen counter in the background represents the state of my house cleaning. Fortunately there's no photographable evidence of how many frozen pizzas my kids ate for dinner.
To any budding illustrator readers out there sometimes this is what the blessings of diligence look like. Creating an illustration is not the same as filling out a spread sheet so the hardest part was keeping the creative well flowing every time I sat down to work (the excesses of caffeine and lots of 80s music helped.) Often I felt like the sketch above, a carhop twirling and zigging between customers. Instead of carrying a plain old hotdog to each one, I was carrying meticulously crafted wedding cakes.
Even though it was a blur of work, I'm intensely grateful for each project as they all represent a new step in my career. Each one is turned in now and I'll post finals and details as they are all approved. For the moment I'm looking forward to a bit of a night off.
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...I was listening to an interview with one of the authors of Big Data, and it made me realize that I'm turning into my father.
Author: If Big Data correlations identify me as a 44-year-old male who's a journalist and who has grand eyes for things I can't afford, it may think that I'm going to be susceptible to embezzlement, and maybe I will get a knock on the door by the police, who say, 'We have reason to believe that you're about to commit a crime.' This is sort of like pre-crime in Minority Report.
Interviewer: Oh, that Tom Cruise movie from a few years back.
Me, bellowing: IT WAS A BOOK FIRST, YOU DINK!
And now I'm all het up.
When I tell him, Dad will be so proud.
Well, either that or he'll tell me that I shouldn't get so worked up about these things.
To which I'll respond: I LEARNED IT FROM WATCHING YOU, DAD. I LEARNED IT FROM WATCHING YOU.