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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Mud Slinging Pyromania and Other Creative Endeavors

So, some of you may be wondering where the name of this blog comes from... I'm surprised myself I haven't written about it yet. Among other creative endeavors, I throw pots. I have to say that traditional drawing and pottery are really my first loves. I've tried to give up one and then the other to "get more focused" but I can't really live without either.

I'm sure I have some kind of disorder this way.... a pathological need to make stuff. I can't help it. And when I'm not able to do so, I honestly go a little crazy. I'm not kidding about the crazy, here.  I feel heavy and depressed, slightly useless and very emotional. I can relieve this by the simple act of doodling which I tend to do at inappropriate times. I'm not sure it's a good idea to draw a "love sucks" tattoo in the middle of a business meeting, but I honestly can't help it. It's biological for me. But it's better if I can spend some real time creating. And that's what you need to make pots, time...

Throwing pots, or "mud-slinging" is a very visceral art form. That makes it very therapeutic as well. In my book, it should count as exercise. There is a LOT of lifting and pushing and shoving and basically muscling the clay around until it forms something recognizable. My boxes of clay run 50 pounds each and I haul them around the studio, most of the time with ease. I'm proud of that because I'm freakishly strong after all. Maybe that's why I want a Viking to call my own... I don't want to feel like I might break my partner.

In college, I had a clay class with a woman named Edith Freeman. She is a well-known artist in this region and her primary medium was woodcut printing. Beautiful, intricate work. She was in her 80's when I knew her and has since passed away. She was truly wonderful. I do miss her. I remember one day, she brought in homemade brownies and she offered me one. I said I really shouldn't because I was on another terminal diet (that's another blog topic), but she put her arm around me and said... "Honey, you'll be so glad you were sturdy when you get older, you don't want to be a frail little thing who can't work." Of course at the time, I didn't fully appreciate being called "sturdy", but now, like she said, I'm very grateful for it.

Well, let's get back on topic... There are a lot of things that happen between carrying the clay and firing, but I will save those for later posts... Firing is really where the "pyromaniac" part of the BLOG comes in. There are a lot of ways to fire pots, but the most interactive is really Raku. If you're not familiar with Raku, it's an amazing process and as a potter, you have to be prepared to lose some work in the firing. It's like natural selection for clay. Raku is very hard on a pot. Basically after firing the pot in the bisque stage (the first firing, which is not a full firing), you glaze and then fire the pot again. This is true for most firing techniques, but in Raku, there is a critical difference.

Basically, you second fire the pot to somewhere around 2200 degrees Fahrenheit (okay, that was hard to spell!). Then you fling open the door of the kiln and while the pot is red hot AND taking care not to light yourself on fire in the process, you grab the pot with special and very nifty tongs and basically throw it in some combustible material like straw or sawdust. Upon doing this, said combustible material, immediately COMBUSTS, hence the name combustible... I actually just like saying combustible. It sounds kind of scientific and smart. I use a steel garbage can with a lid to hold the straw or sawdust and said pot. The garbage can doesn't melt and straw or sawdust burn nicely and they're cheap and easy to find.

Once again, you must avoid lighting yourself on fire at this point... It's very exciting isn't it? Instead, you throw more combustible items into the garbage can, over the pot, then quickly put the lid on and let the the whole thing 'reduce'. I'll explain reduce at some point too, but I don't want this post to be too technical. Suffice it to say, it's a bit like 'simmering' in cooking terms. When you feel as if the combustible material has burned down enough, this is mostly by instinct, you then remove it from the container. The straw or sawdust should, at this point, be mostly ash. While the pot is still relatively hot, you plunge it into a bucket of water. This sets the reduction (don't worry about understanding what that means) and is called quenching. What's really important is that if the pot hasn't broken yet, it probably will when you quench it. But if it survives, the results are usually very dramatic, like the process itself.

Typically, Raku glazes are metallic or oil-slicked in nature and feel very ancient and mystical to me... like something you'd find in ta wizard's chamber or Atlantis. I don't have a good example to show you yet, but I plan on trying to light myself and a few friends on fire at some point this summer. I'll post pics when we get around to it. You cannot Raku fire by yourself. It's just not smart. Although, I have to say I've been tempted... see the definition of the term "pyromaniac". I actually have so much fun firing that I experiment with it all the time. It really is surprising that I haven't, at the very least, burned off my eyebrows yet. But knock on wood, they're still intact.

Now, I have to admit that trying to light myself on fire by doing Raku, may be a subconscious attempt to get rescued by a beefy fireman. In fact, where is a big fireman when you need one? Well, there you go. That's why the blog is called "Mud-Slinging Pyromaniac" and yep, that's me. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go sling some mud. Lighting myself on fire... well, that'll wait a day or two.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Deer Crossing

I went for a drive today just to enjoy the countryside and the fact that I had taken the doors off the Jeep to let in some fresh air and sunshine. I was at that point in a leisure drive where you are one with the road, so to speak. Not literally, of course, that wouldn't be good. But there's a point in a drive where you just feel. You stop thinking and drive and you're almost a part of the car.

I was feeling that way when I came across a road sign that said "Deer Crossing". You've seen these signs right? It's a silhouette of a deer bounding over cross roads. After seeing the sign, it's all I could really think about.

Do you think the deer know they're supposed to cross at these signs? I'm guessing not because about a 1/2 mile later, there was an unfortunate carcass. I've always said a little prayer for the fallen each time I've passed by a dead deer or raccoon or porcupine or ground squirrel... or even a skunk. I just think it's a nice thing to do, I apologize and wish them peace. Everyone deserves a prayer, even skunks.

So, what's the solution?

Deer Training: This is usually the first reaction to a problem. Training. Don't get me wrong, I think it's noble to want to teach deer to cross at a designated area and maybe this would bring the number of deer fatalities down a bit. But I think there may be some logistical problems with getting deer into a classroom. First, the scheduling. I'm guessing that deer don't wear watches, so just getting them to class on time is a problem. And I don't know about you, but I've never actually seen a deer sit still long enough to learn anything. And a human teacher would probably scare the bejeezus out of a classroom full of deer anyway, like an even more twisted "Far Side" cartoon. Even if these things were doable, I'm pretty sure we'd still have deer fatalities. Maybe it's the signage. Do you suppose deer understand silhouettes of themselves? So, on to solution number two.

Equal Opportunity for Skunks!: Personally, I think this is a great idea. I mean deer aren't the only animals that deserve special treatment, right? Does an animal have to be beautiful or extraordinary to be worthy of our respect or at least our understanding? I mean, I'm not fond of spiders. I do think they're fascinating but honestly, if a spider surprises me, I end up screaming and jumping around like I've just gone mental. I can't help it. It's an instinctual reaction. I've actually seen people react this way to dogs, but quite frankly, that's just silliness. My point is that it might be worth it to implement equal opportunity crossings for other animals. But again, herein lies the problem. How would the animals know which crossing was for them? Would we stack all of the signs in one place? Would we post a different sign every few feet? Would we include only mammals? Would we include only wild animals? If you think about it, for any square foot of real estate... urban, rural or wilderness, there are tens of species and depending on the place, hundreds. That is if you include insects. And is it practical to include insects? I mean as a rule, we (humans) don't' really like them. They're not 'pet-able' right? They're not cuddly... Unless you've recently watched "A Bug's Life", then you may think so... for a little while anyway. I don't really have the answer to any of these questions, but I think they're worth thinking about.

And finally, Being Mindful: I once took an Environmental Ethics course from a man I deeply respect. It was one of the most profound and the most depressing courses I've ever had. We discussed a variety of environmental issues including species protection, wilderness protection, energy use and living more responsibly to name a few things. It struck me that people who subscribed to a greener environmental philosophy generally were the same people who loved to hang out in the wilderness. This included me. But I started wondering whether that was even responsible. I mean if you really think about it, everything we do as humans impacts something or someone else. Simple by taking a step on a wild trail, we are altering it. I went around in my head about this for weeks. Like a close encounter with a spider, it almost made me mental.

But here's the thing. I've come to understand that in the process of living, things die. I don't like it. I wish I could change it. But that's the way it is. One day, I will die as well. I especially don't like that, but again, I can't do anything about it. In life, things happen, accidents, tragedies even, but they are uncontrollable and sometimes (not always) unforeseeable. What I can do is appreciate every moment, every sunrise, every connection I make. I can try to be kind. I can try to be loving. I can try to help who and where I can. And I can let myself be human.

And in the meantime, I can honk the horn and yell out the window every few miles to alert the deer that I'm coming. Yes, I really do that ;)

Monday, April 25, 2011

Conversations With Dull People

In Harry Potter & the Half Blood Prince, the movie that is, there is a peculiar hourglass in Professor Slughorn's office. I can't remember if it's actually in the book. I'll have to listen to the book again to find out. Yes, I love audiobooks and the reader for the Harry Potter series is magnificent, truly.

The sand in the hourglass speeds up or slows down dependent upon the quality of the conversation. This got me thinking about the relativity of time. I'm sure the intent in the magical world of Harry Potter is to speed up time when the conversation is dull and slow it down when the conversation is brilliant (there's a little English turn of phrase for ya).

So, why in the real world does it work exactly the opposite? Why is it that conversations with dull people seem to last f-o-r-e-v-e-r while at the same time, conversations you wish would not end, are over before you know it?

Quite frankly, this is a dilemma because there are so many more dull people than fascinating. I mean honestly, why is that? I don't know where I fit really. I'm not arrogant enough to consider myself brilliant. I have a fair IQ, and I try to be clever, but mostly, I just go where my brain takes me. Usually that means the weather. You'd think that most people are somewhere in the middle as well, right? Not in my experience. I know it's a terrible thing to say? I'm not trying to be mean. I honestly think it's because we just don't have the time these days to figure out if someone is really interesting or not. Instead, we conduct short little conversations in passing and even though they are only minutes long, sometimes seconds... they seem to take f-o-r-e-v-e-r. The types of conversations we have time for include dull topics like the weather (there it is again) or what the price of gas is these days. Honestly, who cares. The weather is the weather and we don't have any control over the price of gas. The worst part is, I get sucked into these topics all the time and sometimes I even start conversations this way. ARGH!

So it seems, I'm a really dull person as well. And here's the thing, the more attractive the person is, the more dull I get. The other day in the elevator, a handsome man said good morning to me and I nearly choked on my tongue. Why is that? Then of course I spent the rest of the day beating myself up because I was so dull... or idiotic might be a better term.

Wouldn't it be wonderful instead to sit around talking about art or new discoveries in science? Politics, the environment, the relativity of time or even talking about cars would be much more interesting than the weather. Now, there is an exception to "everything's more interesting than the weather" rule. When the weather discussion is pertinent to other aspects of the conversation, like "you've chose to hike the Appalachian Trail" for instance, and are concerned about how the weather will affect your hike, then okay!

What I've discovered is that most of the truly fascinating conversations I have are actually with children. I don't have any kids of my own, but I run across these miniature people occasionally and they truly are fascinating. They ask the most amazing questions and come up with truly incredible conclusions about things. I'll never forget about a little girl I met in the post office one day. She was carrying a small box with her. It had holes in the top which suggested she was keeping some kind of creature in it. I asked her about the box and she said it was her pet grasshopper. She went on to tell me all about him, what he liked to eat and the conversations she'd had with him. Let me tell you, that grasshopper wasn't dull

I guess if a grasshopper can be interesting... surely I can be. Or at least, surely I can keep trying... and that brings me back to the relativity of time. Certainly it's all about perception, right? When we're enjoying ourselves, time only seems to go faster. When we're not, it slows down. I think J.K. Rowling had it right, it should be the other way around. So, maybe the lesson is that we must immerse ourselves completely and totally in all of our conversations. Maybe by doing that, we can discover the "fascinating" in every seemingly dull person. By doing that, maybe we can speed up or slow down the passage of time. That's silly, right? I mean it's all about perception... or maybe it really is magic.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

It's All Fun & Games Til Someone Loses a Head...

NOTE: This post is totally based on the subjective history as written in the Showtime series "The Tudors". It is not based on any real historical research, I'm not that ambitious.

I'll try not to give anything away about the show in this post, but even someone with a rudimentary or should I say Wikipedian knowledge of Henry the VIII, should know that he was pretty tough on the ladies. In fact the entire series really does a good job of showing how difficult medieval life was on everyone, but particularly on the women associated with the King.

Watching the show actually inspired a bumper sticker design of mine:

I do like twisted humor... But honestly, throughout 4 seasons of beheading and gawd-awful torture... I mean nasty things like the "rack", drawing & quartering and hanging until almost dead, then doing it again... being submersed in boiling oil, pulling out fingernails, cutting out tongues, being burned alive at the stake, hanging in chains (I thought that was a band, by the way... it's NOT). I nearly couldn't take anymore. I'm pretty sure I didn't really know the meaning of the word twisted and it's definitely not humorous.  Honestly, I just started watching the show for the costumes... and the let's be honest, the gratuitous sex.

I came away thinking that greed trumps just about everything else. Generally, it wasn't the greed of the Queen or new potential queen, it was the greed of everyone associated with the woman in question and the greed of the King as well. As portrayed in the show, Henry VIII was... well, let's just say, he was a selfish, childish, bastard (not the literal sense of the word, but the 'bastard' sense of the word). I kept asking myself, why would someone want to marry a man that sort of willy-nilly beheads or otherwise disposes of his wives when the mood suits him even if doing so made them "Queen of the realm". That title does sound cool, but it's not worth a beheading! I mean, certainly, you can't blame the first wife... It was an arranged marriage and she didn't know he would turn out to be a spoiled-rotten lunatic! She ended up fighting like hell to keep what she'd earned. Good for her! But you may be able to guess how that turned out! Now, let's say you were potential wife #3, wouldn't you have to ask yourself, "is the jewelry really worth the risk?" I don't think the fickle King was worth it with his childish disposition and his stinky leg, so it had to be the jewelry, right?!

And throughout all of it, there was constant maneuvering, manipulating and cheating for power and position and titles and basically... all things meaningless. I hate this phrase, but it's appropriate here: "AT THE END OF THE DAY", you're Duke of whatever, who cares?? If you're headless, does it really matter what your Duke of... or that your a Duke at all? I'm pretty sure your central nervous system would agree with me here.

I also have to say that the most religious, not faithful or spiritual or catholic or protestant, but religious of those in the show were really the most lunatickie (I think I just invented a word there). Seriously, some of the priests would give the Marquis de Sade a run for his money and let me tell you, there was no safe word to save your hide. 

In short, being a medieval woman not only sucked, it was dangerous. You could be promised to a masochist, beheaded, tortured, used, sent to a nunnery or cast out altogether because of the whim of a man... OR because a rival woman was really really good at manipulating said man. I gotta say, even though I love the clothes, I think I'll stay here in the 21st century where I have control of the remote... and my head!
(another shameless plug, buy this bumper sticker at:

PS: Wikipedia, despite my little dig, I actually love you! SUPPORT Wikipedia everyone!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Scotland or Bust!

Well, about a year ago... I think at the start of my mid-life crisis, I started thinking about moving myself and my dog and maybe the Jeep... to Scotland. Just out of the blue. If the money would have been available, quite honestly, I would have been gone already.

Most people will probably think that this isn't a crazy idea, I mean people make moves everyday. Including big moves to other countries. What makes it crazy is that I've never actually been to Scotland. In fact, I live in Montana and I've never even been to Canada! Montana borders Canada by the way.  In addition, I don't have a passport quite yet (although I was supposed to have that done by now). I got stuck at the emergency contact field on the form. I didn't have one.

It's not that I haven't ever traveled. I've been to at least 8 states and some more than once. I mean really, I know how to get around!

I thought I would hate Florida, but I loved it. Sea World with it's dolphin nursery, the armadillos and the constant sunshine. Really lovely. The most fascinating thing were the gardens. What we consider tropical plants meant for indoors and constant care here in my neck of the woods, were actually planted OUTSIDE and they were enormous. I had a ball trying to see how many of their outdoor plants I actually had in my living room at home.

Texas was fun because of the people. They were all so friendly and it seems their state greeting was "Hey girl!" I loved that.

The sheer number of public transportation methods in San Francisco were mind-boggling. In my city (I use this term loosely), we have a city bus system, but they stop running about 6:00pm and there are no other alternatives... I guess we have taxi cabs, but I think only 4 or 5 of them.

I loved Oregon as well. Friendly, mellow people, beautiful gardens and a laid back attitude. The best thing was that there were still a lot of things to do like art galleries, theaters, parks etc....

Illinois was stuffy. I got the feeling that the people I met there really considered themselves to be aristocratic and I kept thinking "this is Illinois, isn't it?" Sorry Illinois. I didn't see Chicago and I know my experience isn't representative of all your people.

But there is something about Scotland that just calls to me. Something about the landscape, the people, the attitude that is extremely appealing. The accent doesn't hurt either. I like accents. I think they're fun and frankly good exercise for the brain. Really any accent is fun to listen to. I'm sure people think I have an accent in certain parts of the country, but I love them all... New York, Boston, the southern US, you name it, I like listening to it. OK, back to my subject...

In preparation for the trip, I've been trying to learn Gaelic. Obviously, the Scottish speak English (with their amazing accent), but Gaelic is making a comeback like Native American tribal languages here. Let me just say, Gaelic is hard with a capital HARD. I can say "my name is Lori" in Gaelic and that's about it after a month of study. It seems to me that Gaelic is one of those languages where someone threw a bunch of letters together then pronounced something completely different, or maybe it's the other way around. Was it spoken pre-modern alphabet and someone tried to retro-fit the letters to the sounds? I'll have to look that up. In either case, they don't exactly match and I mostly don't get it, but it's fun to try. And of course, fun to listen to.

Dreamy Scotland. Some of the most beautiful landscape in the world in my opinion. If you've seen movies like "Stardust" or "Centurion", you'll know what I mean. It actually does remind me a bit of Montana. Independent people, unforgiving terrain and sheer tenacity and spirit. But different and farther away ;)

You may wonder why I'm thinking about moving to a place that reminds me of home when I could just stay... uh... home. It might seem a bit pointless, I guess. But honestly, there are several reasons. The biggest one is this: You know when you're on a trip and it's exciting in the beginning. You can't wait to get there and you know you're going to have an enormous amount of fun and you do have fun. Well, there's a moment on the way home... I think it hits about a 1/3 to 1/2 way home when you just want to BE home. You are done with the trip, it's over, you're ready to be in your own bed and off the plane or out of the car. Your mind has already checked out. That's sort of how I feel about Montana right now. It's not that I don't love it... or think it's absolutely beautiful... I do. But I am just done with it for now.

I can't actually move yet, and yes it would be crazy to make plans to move before even getting there to see it firsthand, but that's in the works as well. I'm also sure that there's a a big brawny man in a kilt waiting there just for me (possibly of Viking descent) so why not take the chance?  I know, I'm obsessed a little. At the very least, it will be a new adventure in a new place... the land of sacred standing stones, castles, epic romance and Braveheart.  The problem is that I truly think when I actually get there, I won't want to come back. I think my soul will know that I'm home.


Friday, April 22, 2011

Going Topless

Evidently, May 14th is national "Go Topless" day as declared by Jeep owners around the country. I think it should be an official federal holiday, but what do I know? I'm counting down the days. The best part of having a Jeep is the ability to take the top off and really enjoy it. In fact, I nearly broke down at the end of topless season last year. Spending the winter under the top was downright claustrophobic!

Why do I talk so much about my Jeep? Well, there is nothing better than being in the middle of the mountains, nothing between me and Big Sky country. I absolutely love it. And when I can't sleep, which is quite often, I like to go for a night drive. It's hard to concentrate on the road with the stars in full view, but it's totally worth it. In the summer, if I'm able to take lunch away from work and take a drive, it feels like a sun-filled mini vacation. 

And there seems to be a genuine Jeep subculture as well. I didn't know this until after I bought it, but Jeep drivers waive, nod and honk at each other in solidarity. Who knew?!

I know I seem a little obsessed with my Jeep, but it's not because I think the Jeep is cool, or better than other vehicles. Instead, it's a couple of things. I bought it just for me, because I liked it, not because it was practical---it's absolutely NOT! And I love what it does for me. It makes me feel free. And when life is full of responsibilities, hardship and decisions, it's nice to just BE. And that's how I feel in it. In touch with all my senses at the same time. Like I am a part of the wind and the sun. Like I can fly, even if it's not too gracefully.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Advice for a Virtual Date

So, a lot of people are online dating these days. I am not one of them. Frankly, I spend enough time on the computer and don't want to add my social life to the mix. I do however, think it's a great alternative to some of the traditional ways of meeting people, especially hanging out in bars. That's just not my scene. I have, however looked at potentials online, it's like window shopping for men with no commitment or risk, how could you not at least peek. There is still a stigma associated with online dating though and I have to say the most interesting guy I've seen online had the following byline: "Willing to lie about where we met." Now that was clever. Not venturing any further, I will go as far to say that he seemed to at least have a great sense of humor.

Even though I am not online dating, I have thought about it. What if you were to meet someone who was not in close physical proximity to you? How would you handle a date? I mean, there is e-mail, sure... and you can talk on the phone. But actually flying to meet someone? In my book, that is a big commitment. Are you sensing that I may have a problem with commitment? Huh? Maybe I do. ARGH, Like I need something else to work on!

Anyway... in my day job, I design virtual or online training. One of the goals with this is to create a virtual experience for the learner. So I am going to apply some of these principles to creating a virtual date. Anyone who likes the idea, please feel free to use it. I would love to hear how they work, so don't forget to come back and fill out the comments below.

Requirement One: I am going to assume you are have already e-mailed, phoned or otherwise communicated with your date, so you probably have a little bit of an idea about what they like.

Requirement Two: A guy or a girl can be in charge of planning the date. Ladies, don't feel like you have to wait for the man, you can take charge as well. Whomever takes the first step, if you are the recipient of the first virtual date, reciprocate by designing your own and sending it back to them.

Requirement Three: Remember this is virtual. That's what's so great about it. The sky is the limit. You have no physical or financial limitations. Can you imagine the possibilities? The only things that are required are a good imagination, some ingenuity, and an Internet connection (although you can do this in "PowerPoint" or better "Keynote" for the clearly superior Mac people out there ;)

In my example, I am going to use someone named Pete. Primarily because I don't know anyone named Pete. That in itself seems a bit impossible doesn't it? I mean Pete is a fairly common name. What kind of a place am I living in that I don't know a Pete?! Ok... getting off track. In my fictitious virtual example, I am going to try to woo a guy named Pete. And here's how I would do it:

-------------------------------->start imaginary virtual date<--------------------------
Dear Pete,
I'd like to take you on a virtual date. It will be a date unbound by the laws of time, space & money. Think of it as Astral Projection or Remote Viewing. This is going to require some imagination on both our parts, but I think it will be worth it. Within the text, you will find links and objects that will help you get the full experience. Don't forget to follow all the links. Also, since this date is virtual, you can participate whenever you want to! We're going to have so much fun. See you soon.

It's a little cliché, but I'm okay with that. We'll start in Paris for breakfast (note: I wish this person would have spelled espresso correctly, you'll see what I mean). Maybe a little sidewalk café because it seems so romantic. While drinking café au lait and enjoying fresh croissants with real butter (virtual-NO CALORIES!), we can watch Parisians in their natural habitat and discuss Sarah Gruen's Water for Elephants. It's Paris after all, how could we possibly have a bad conversation.

Since we're in Europe anyway, we might as well hop (thru time & space) over to see the Piéta by Michaelangelo at St. Peter's Basilica. It's breathtaking and I'd love to see it in person, wouldn't you? Michaelangelo and Leonardo DaVinci are fascinating and I know you like art as well... I just had a crazy thought... We're not bound by time or space... Maybe we should just drop in and meet Leonardo DaVinci. What d'ya say?

Wow. I don't know if we can top that, but I'd like to take you someplace that is a little closer to home for me. It's called the Pryor Mountains.  I took this picture there one summer. It's incredibly beautiful. I think you would like it. We can picnic with the local marmot and nap in the sun.

Before dinner, I think we should detour to Argentina and tango! I am rhythmically challenged, so it may look like this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5xi4O1yi6b0, but I will do my best...

For dinner, I think I'll make you something... maybe some Italian Bread Bowls with a good wine. I actually don't know much about wine, but I'm hoping this is a good one. After dinner, it might be time to curl up on the couch and watch a good movie, like Monte Python & the Holy Grail... or something more action packed like Centurion! Whatever the movie is, I'm sure it will be fine and hopefully you'll steal a kiss...
----------------------->end imaginary virtual date<---------------------

Now, wasn't that fun? I enjoyed putting it together. Now, if I only knew a "Pete"! I'm hoping you enjoyed it as well. So feel free to borrow any of the ideas here and have fun. Use your imagination and for my sake, be creative! Who says you can't be romantic in cyberspace?  

Go forth, your virtual date awaits!

Waking Up from Winter Blues

I am desperate for spring to get here. And I mean truly desperate. My very spirit feels like it hasn't felt the sun in years. Winter gets me down a bit, so when spring actually gets here, I go a little crazy. When things like this get me down, I look to the sunshine, fresh air and my dog to find solace and fun. Oh, yeah and my Jeep helps too.

Sun and fresh air are easy enough to explain. I think they just lift our spirits. Feeling the sun on my face, wind in my hair (ENTER JEEP, stage left) make me feel free and alive. Especially after a long winter. I think most people these days are affected to different degrees by winter in the form of social affective disorder, SAD. SAD, which is appropriately named by the way, seems to be more and more prevalent. I only have anecdotal proof here, but haven't you noticed people are just grumpier in the winter... sadder? Of course SAD affects a higher number of people in states where there are actual winters>> like Montana or Maine, let's say. People in Florida... not so much. It can also lead to deep depression, so I don't want to make light of it. It is a real disorder with real and sometimes fatal consequences. I'm not sure I actually have SAD, but I do feel quite sad during the winter. Lucky for me that this week is turning out to have a couple of beautiful days. Days in which I can feel the sun on my face and the wind in my hair. Days that really help me appreciate being alive. Thank goodness!

I also look to my dog Hairy (isn't he beautiful?). I named Hairy for, you guessed it, his prolific coat... but also as a double entendre for Harry Potter. My Hairy is a little bit magical as well. He is extremely emotionally sensitive and he loves to hug... everyone. This is not something I taught him. In fact, I've tried to train him not do it, or at least to wait to be asked for a hug, but he is persistent. So I gave up. And frankly, I don't think it's always a good idea to train ourselves or our dogs not to emote. Women are taught over and over again that showing emotion reduces our power... Power over what, I wonder. Power over how we feel? Power over others? I have to feel like this is a bit ingenuous. Although being emotional all the time would be exhausting and probably a bit non-productive, I think it's a bad idea to ignore our emotions altogether...  I'm getting off track a bit, but really, but my point is that Hairy has an expert ability to get me 'out of my head'.  He is a 100 pound dog example of joy and love and all things shiny like the sun!

Harry doesn't care if I bring home the bacon (unless it's actually bacon and not a metaphor for my paycheck). He doesn't care if I wear designer clothes or drive an expensive car. He doesn't care if I'm able to expertly create a PowerPoint presentation for a big business meeting or whether or not I have a few extra pounds. He's just happy getting fed, going for rides or walks and giving hugs. He has these spurts of energy as well where he sort of transforms from a serene and gentle "buddha-like" dog to a Tasmanian devil. It's a sight to see. And it brings me a lot of laughter... another great natural medicine.

And when I am feeling a bit down, Hairy's most magical qualities come out. He'll approach me with no prompting and depending on how I am sitting or standing, he will hug me. I wish I had the words to adequately describe it, but I'll try. If I am sitting, he'll walk up and rest his head right below my throat (he's a big dog) and sort of lean in. It's a bit like a baby snuggle up under the chin and it's very sweet. In that moment, I feel calmer and more able to face anything difficult. I could explain this in a more scientific way, like studies show that owning and petting a dog or cat can truly reduce your blood pressure and chemically make you feel calmer... and there is truth in this. But I think it's something bigger. A connection between two completely different species. A kind of understanding moment. And I think it's kind of beautiful.

So, thank you to Hairy for helping me through the long winter. Now, let's quit writing and instead get in the Jeep, feel the wind in our hair and stop somewhere we can walk under the sun.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Gender of Cars

I'm kind of a car enthusiast... Not a fanatic, but I enjoy driving different kinds of cars and seeing what they are made of. Some are a bit "vanilla" and some are amazing. All of them are fun to drive in their own way. Americans in general are fascinated with the car I think. It really is a metaphor for a lot of things: freedom, sexuality, lifestyle & attitude. I've already talked about how I bought a soft top Jeep to help me deal with my mid-life crisis, but in total, I've had 14 cars throughout my life and there is quite a range of makes and models.
  1. 1970 Toyota Corona: Yes like the beer, it was adorable and I still miss it. It looked like a miniature version of the black UN diplomat cars, only red.
  2. 1974 Ford Maverick: Column shift & nearly indestructible. I think the bumpers were filled with concrete and encased in iron. It was army green and I always want to fix a bazooka shell to the hood and put PATTON on my license plate. It might still be out there somewhere!
  3. 1973 Toyota Corolla: Dependable, economical and brown.
  4. 1990 Honda Civic: My only brand new car ever, but insurance was too pricey.  I only had it about a year. I did love it though. It was the first car I drove over 100mph. Don't tell anyone, okay? I absolutely DO NOT recommend it. Please don't do it.
  5. 1974 Subaru DL... I was taught if you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all.
  6. 1981 Chevy Cavalier Hatchback: The hatchback door shocks were broken, so every time I hit a bump, the hatchback would fly open. That was okay though, I was never able to lock my keys in the car... unlike ALL the others!
  7. 1974 Toyota Corona: V-6, fantastic car, wish I would have appreciated it more. It was dependable and fast and in it's birth year, a bit of a luxury car!
  8. 1981 Toyota 4wd Longbed Pickup with a topper: Would still like another one of these. GREAT truck!
  9. 1987 Toyota 4wd Supercab pickup: Another great truck, but extremely lightweight. I nearly flipped it a couple of times and decided to get something more substantial.
  10. 1990 Mazda Navajo: Great while it lasted. It was fun and I could camp out in it.
  11. 1994 Ford Explorer: Also great while it lasted. VERY comfortable and I bet it's still out there as well.
  12. 1997 Isuzu Rodeo: Another great SUV. Very dependable and fun to drive. Lots of room and great for dogs!
  13. 1999 Mercury Villager Van: (momentary lapse in judgement): I nearly had a mental breakdown after I bought this one. But I still actually have it. It does carry an awful lot of stuff like 4'x8' sheets of plywood, and it's comfortable.
  14. 2005 Jeep Wrangler: My DREAM car! What else can I say.
I might have a few of those mixed up, but you get the idea, I've had a lot of cars over my lifetime. I've loved many of them, hated some of them too, but they've all given me fun stories to tell in my old age. One thing that I've discovered with my vast car experience is that all cars have genders. Of course they are implied, but it makes me wonder what a cross between a Ford Pickup and a GEO Metro would look like?

In any case, I believe that cars have genders and I've taken a stab at describing a few. Sometimes the gender is dependent on the year of the car in question and some cars also reflect a level of maturity or aspects of personalities... for instance a mini-cooper is male, but also teenage. So, there you go?

  • Land Rover: Teenage boy, but one who speaks with perfect grammar
  • Jeep Wrangler: Depends, utilitarian like mine with no silly frills, snorkels or ridiculous tires, then girl (mine is named Betsy). With all the other stuff, teenage boy with something to prove.
  • Any Subaru: Unic
  • Dodge Ram Pickup: Man, sometimes all hat, no cattle.
  • Any Honda, even the Honda truck, girl. Except for the Honda Element (which I actually like), it's unisex.
  • GEO Metro: Girl... with glasses and a killer wit.
  • Ford Escape: Frugal woman. The hybrid version, an upwardly mobile eco-warrior.
  • Chevy Camaro: 60's & 70's, definitely boy. 80's-90's, girl with big hair and lots of blush! 2010 model: definitely boy.
  • Dodge Challenger: All years, man... all man.
  • Chevy Mustang coupe: Any year, woman. (sorry guys, but it's true).
  • Chevy Mustang Mach I or II: Man, definitely, see Dodge Challenger.
  • Chevy El Camino: Man who knows how to build things.
  • Any Chevy Truck: Practical woman who knows how to build a fence.
  • Any Ford Truck:  Practical man who knows how to build a fence.
  • Any Mercedes: Mature man, possibly with an ascot or at least a tie.
  • BMW: Teenage boy with too much allowance.
  • Contrary to popular belief, most mini-vans are actually bachelors. I know it sounds contradictory, but this determination was made because the seats are a lot like recliners and the new ones have DVD players and TV screens. If you've ever been to a bachelor's apartment, you'll notice that the recliner is placed directly in front of the television. This is true for every bachelor, trust me.
Well, there you have it. My take on car genders. I know how fascinated you must be. I sure had fun writing it, though.  If you beg to differ or have cars to add, please comment. I'd love to hear it!

For a little car attitude, see www.cafepress.com/bumpertude

The Unicorn in the Room

So, I've recently had to come to terms with the fact that I don't 'fit in'.  Although it's something I've dealt with all my life, my mid-life crisis is changing my attitude about it... and in a good way! No longer am I trying to fit in, but instead I am embracing who I am. It really hit me the other day during a business meeting. As I was sitting with people who were talking about driving to kid's baseball games, watching sports and sending kids to college, I realized that I was the odd man, I mean woman, out. I do my best to understand their perspective and share conversation, but for the most part, my life & my attitudes are very very different from theirs.

For instance, I believe in unicorns... and fairies and angels. Basically I believe in almost anything that sounds absolutely impossible. This sounds a little bit like my 'second childhood' has pushed me over the edge of sanity, right? But I'm as sane as the next person. I just choose to believe that magic is real. Why? Because it's a beautiful idea, isn't it? It's beautiful to think that something miraculous exists beyond us. It's also a great source of inspiration.

Let me tell you how I got here. As an artist, I've always been blessed with a wild imagination. I was an only child and from the time I was a little girl I daydreamed about fantastical characters and alternate universes. I particularly believed in wizards and unicorns, gnomes & fairies, elves & dragons. Sounds like the makings for the ultimate fantasy geek, right? Well, I don't actually attend Comicon, but I do think it would be fun.

Here's the thing. I didn't live in a house where my parents read me bedtime stories. In fact, it was just my mom & I unless I was staying with my grandparents, and none of them read to me. In fact, I can't remember one instance of anyone reading to me. I didn't have any early reader books. The first memory I have of someone reading to me was my second grade teacher, and he was really good at it. It's probably the reason why I love listening to audiobooks now. It's my indulgence. Some women like pedicures... I like a great audiobook read by someone who is really good at it.

So, I have to wonder where these imagined characters came from. If I didn't have any knowledge of fairy tales, how could I just know about fairies? I don't know the answer to that. But I do vividly remember moments where I knew it was true. For instance, I used to play at my grandparent's hobby farm. There was a shallow ditch running across the pasture and I loved to sit in the ditch and watch what passed by. There were dragonflies, snails & earthworms, crickets and birds, a plethora of tiny creatures that most people didn't notice at all. I would build boats for the snails out of milk weed pods complete with leafy sails and set them on their course. Looking back, I sure hope they made it safely to wherever I sent them. But I had a clear picture in my head of all of them communicating with each other, assisted by tiny fairies when they got in trouble and off to lands where they could see dragons and ride unicorns.

That imagination is alive and well today. Thank goodness. It's always been there, but it sort of woke back up when I started reading the Harry Potter stories a few years ago. What a magical and wondrous book! A friend recently said that J.K. Rowling was divinely inspired. She suggested that there was real magic happening in the writing of that story. She's a friend who believes as well, thank goodness for her. And I agree.

Artists and Art Historians have talked for centuries about divine inspiration. People accept the term without really thinking about it. But I'm here to tell you, it's absolutely true. I've felt it. There are moments in my studio, whether I am drawing or throwing pots, that I forget myself... even forget what I am doing and just work. It's not like I'm possessed or anything dark like that. It's a sort of stepping outside of myself. It's like I can understand the clay, or the pencil. Like the medium just works itself. I can tell when it's not happening and during those times it almost always pays to get out of the studio. In the inspired moments, the magical moments, the ideas create themselves. The forms create themselves. I am just tool in this. But I am always fascinated by it. And I always thank the fairies when the project is complete, because I truly believe they were in the room.

So there you go. I believe in fairies & other crazy things. So be it. Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to replace my DVD player so I can watch Lord of the Rings tonight. ;)

Sunday, April 17, 2011

I Pee On Stress!

On Friday morning, I walked into my office (of my day job) to find a little clipping from a newspaper or magazine. It was strategically placed on my keyboard. It said:
"Learn to Handle Stress Like a Dog: If you can't eat it or play with it, then pee on it and walk away."
First, a BIG thank you to the co-worker who left it there. I needed it. It was a rough week and it brought me laughter which is a great natural medicine. It also brought me some wisdom cloaked in the guise of humor. Dogs, and my co-worker, are really brilliant that way.
Let's think about it for a minute. We internalize stress like no ones business. In fact, we're learning (when I say we here, I generally mean people much smarter than I am) that stress is a silent killer. Working diligently over years to shorten our lives and make the time we have alive, harder and less enjoyable. Don't let stress win... Just say no to stress, RELAX DAMMIT! Yes, great advice, but difficult to follow.

So, how do we deal with stress more effectively? Lot's of people suggest meditation or relaxation techniques, but these, if not done effectively can actually add stress to our lives. We, essentially, beat ourselves up because we can't concentrate or don't know how to do it (meditation that is). And frankly, finding the time to practice meditation can add stress as well. Let's face it, meditation is hard work.

I'm going to take a bit of a diversion here that has a point, so stay with me, okay? Have you ever watched a program like Mutual of Omaha's Wild Africa, or something like it? A program where an unfortunate gazelle or deer gets run down by the consummate predator? It's difficult to watch right? Well, here's the thing... Imagine that the gazelle gets away. Sometimes they do and here's what happens... When the gazelle is at a safe distance away from the danger, I'm guessing they know this purely by instinct, they collapse. Yep, they collapse into a heap of nerves and shake until the 'stress' is relieved. At which time the gazelle gets up and trots merrily on it's way. Stress dealt with. This is the natural way to deal with stress. To allow the physical reaction to it. Even mental stress creates physical symptoms. In the gazelle's case, the physical symptoms are initially adrenaline and other things that fuel the "flight or fight" response. The gazelle can't fight, so it flies. (Check out Healing Trauma: A Pioneering Program for Restoring the Wisdom of Your Body by Peter A. Levine)

Now, how does this relate to my stress or my point for that matter? Well, people don't fly & generally, don't fight either. Ha ha, you know what I mean. We essentially internalize this stress. We can't help it. Our society doesn't look well on collapsing into the shakes after a stressful business meeting. And it certainly doesn't allow us to deck the person who just ticked us off or treated us badly. I know we like to think it does, movies for instance are great for showing us this is okay. But honestly, we know there are real consequences for acting this way. You also have to remember that I am generalizing a little bit here. I know there are exceptions to these observations, that people do fly off the handle and physically react. Things like road rage do exist. But you have to ask yourself, does road rage exist because we've finally pushed down enough stress to blow like a Paula Dean pressure cooker? I think there's some merit in that observation.

Here's another... observation I mean. When the gazelle is in fight or flight mode, non-essential systems shut down. What's non-essential, you ask? Well, things like digestion. Interesting huh? Do you see where I am going with this? If not, here it is... Americans live highly stressful lives (the reasons for that, I'll save for a later posting). In fact, some reports suggest that the American life is one of the most stressful in the world. What other thing have we been hearing about lately? Obesity. Could it be that the stress we are not effectively dealing with, is shutting down our non-essential symptoms like digestion? I think so! I think it's a really valid conclusion. We know stress can cause us to eat as a way of finding comfort. So, in this case, stress carries a one-two punch! And of course in some cases, obesity can shorten the life-span. So the less we deal with stress, the more likely it is to affect us, physically and emotionally.

Now, back to the brilliant clipping left at my desk. "Learn to Handle Stress Like a Dog: If you can't eat it or play with it, then pee on it and walk away." What a wonderful idea! Let's be clear, I am absolutely, positively not advocating that you ACTUALLY pee on things... or people... that upset you or cause you stress. Although I do think that could be cathartic. Also, what you do in the privacy of your own home is none of my business. However, we can all visualize this, can't we? The next time you feel particularly upset, whether its traffic or people who treat you badly or even the water bill that pushes you over the edge, visualize yourself peeing on it. You heard me. Just metaphorically pee on it and walk away. I did it several times on Friday and I have to say it was wonderful. This may be a little crass, but honestly it relieved the stress almost immediately. Huh, maybe the phrase "relieve myself" actually makes sense to me now! If nothing else, it will make you laugh and laughter is a powerful weapon against stress. So, go forth good people, and pee, pee, pee!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Mid-Life Crisis Wanderlust

I can hardly believe it, but this year I turn 40. Yep, the big FOUR-OH! I used to think that guys with their mid-life crisis excuse used to buy red convertibles and step out on their wives were completely full of shit, yep, you heard me. But as I fast approach this milestone of mid-life, I am starting to believe there is something to it. And YES Virginia, women can have mid-life crises as well. I know this because I am smack dab in the middle of one and have been for nearly a year now. There are some other stressful things happening in my life, but I truly believe my behavior and feelings of late are directly related to being 40.

I am happy to say that I bought a convertible. It's actually a Jeep Wrangler, which is the perfect convertible for a Montana girl like me. In fact, when I pull up along side a red Miata sporting a blonde (which is essentially the anti-me), I actually consider running over her... or just running over the Miata ;) I am also happy to say that my newly found and dearly loved convertible has spawned many bumper sticker ideas, so it might actually pay for itself in the long run. Not to mention the fact that I can climb things, run over things, barrel through the mud and feel the wind in my hair and the sun on my face. What's better than that?

Another odd thing is happening to me in this wave of second childhood. I feel like changing... Changing everything actually... Me, where I live, my job, my city. There are days when I just want to unzip my "me-suit", put my dog in the Jeep and hit the road for destinations unknown. I think the only things I don't really want to change are my dog and my Jeep.

Honestly, if I had enough money to feel secure about it, I'd be gone tomorrow. I'd hit the road in search of adventure, eligible lumberjacks or maybe Vikings... or maybe both? I'd also see as much of this country and other attached countries as I could possibly see. When I finally wore out the Jeep, I'd grab a flight to Europe and do the same--maybe my Viking search would be more successful there?

Picture the adventure as a little "Eat.Pray.Love" a little tattoo parlor, and a little "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Universe". Bon Voyage!

(If you would like to find your own adventure bumper sticker, check out my online store at: www.cafepress.com/bumpertude. If you want to see some other fun designs, try www.naughtyviking.com)

Monday, April 4, 2011

Finding Creative Energy

So, here's the deal. I have to make somewhere between 200-300 pots between now and June 10th. I currently have 21. I'm a little stuck in the mud... and not in a good way. Lately, I've found myself whiling away the hours in front of my computer designing t-shirts, writing blogs (the one you are reading right now) and wasting away in front of Netflix. In fact, I think I may have a bit of a Netflix problem.

It's not that I don't have ideas or clay, or the equipment to work on, I am just having a bit of trouble getting started. Any ideas on how I can break this non-productive spell? If so, please send comments. Practical solutions with real action plans would be greatly appreciated--I've already tried yelling "get off your ass". I'm afraid it didn't work.

Always Yours,
Befuddled in Billings ;)