Tuesday, January 27, 2009


I didn't realize what a rut our daily path of routine had dredged out over the years. Now that we're out of that ditch and on a new road, I'm appreciating some of those changes.

On Monday morning, the first day of unemployment for the hub, I groaned a little when the alarm clock went off and he nudged me saying "that's for you." I was the first out of bed and had to get up three times to hit the snooze button instead of the guy. I was also the one to visit the cold bathroom first (one of the joys of owning a 113 year old home.) Usually hub had the space heater turned on and the room was all snuggly warm by the time I got in there. A small pleasure that I didn't appreciate enough before. After umpteen years of getting up at 4:45 a.m. for work, the hub is enjoying sleeping until he wakes up. It's also nice that he's able to stay awake past 9:00 pm.

It's nice having the guy around all day. We're talking more. Granted it's about things like filing for unemployment, searching for jobs and details of the severance package but I didn't realize how little we talked with each other on a daily basis. This is something that I want to work on. See? There are good things coming out of this mess.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

The scary world behind the smile

We've been watching the news and hearing of all the large companies laying off hundreds of employees at a time. Businesses closing their doors and others cutting back to bare bones because of the dwindling demand of products and services. 

Then we hear about the greedy executives using bailout money intended to be made available as loans to businesses to help invigorate the economy but rather choosing to use it for redecorating bathrooms or holding on to the money to help their institution "weather out the recession." Does no one with decision power have a the ability to do the right thing without thinking of themselves first? I know there has to be stories of good being done with the bailout money but we don't hear about those. It's not as shocking as the media's focus of the dirty rotten scoundrel story. 

And then there's health care. This government has dragged it's feet for decades on the need for universal healthcare for all US citizens. Now it's crisis time and they haven't even started. There are so many things needing to be fixed.

It's hard not to get caught up in the storm of these times. You can ignore it for small bits of time, but it's still the dark cloud looming in the distance. You turn your head occasionally and peek at it from the corner of your eye. We pretend that it won't effect us too much but we really know we can't be so sure. Attempting to think we will be prepared for when and if it does hit us. Thinking that saving a few bucks a month by cutting back on lunch outings or buying the bologna instead of the sliced roast beef is going to be enough. But thinking it most likely won't effect us. We're safe from the storm..aren't we?

It can happen in the blink of an eye. Or, in a few minutes in the bosses office, being told on a Friday morning that after 25 years, his position has been eliminated. Not a layoff, eliminated. Gone forever. This is your last day. We're so sorry - it's not because of your work performance, you're an outstanding employee, but each department had to make cut backs and this is the hardest decision we've had to make. 

Then the phone call to his wife, me, that was cut short by my sobs. In a moment the storm is overhead and on top of us without warning. I'm crying in fear for what is to come. Knowing what we've seen on the news. All the bad news. That companies are firing, not hiring. What about our health insurance? If one of us gets sick, will we be destitute paying off some medical emergency debt for the rest of our life? It's hard not to go down the dark road. It sucks you in.  

I put on a smile and tell all it will be alright while behind the smile my worry deepens. I keep thinking of all the things I need to learn. What happens when we can't pay the bills? How are we supposed to buy our own health insurance at 2 to 3 times more cost on an unemployment income of 30% less? The numbers don't add up. How do people do it?

Behind the smile I wonder if we will be like so many others and have to hand over the house keys to the mortgage company. Will we have to find homes for our cats and dog? That unthinkable loss of our Rico, it's too hard to go there. That dark road, it sucks you in.

Behind the smile I wonder if he will find work. Will he go on interview after interview and be looked over because he's 53? If he's not chosen time after time will it change him? Will it make him laugh less? Will this hurt him? I want to protect him from any hurt that may come his way. Will they know that he used to bring smiles to so many he worked with or that he was called the chocolate fairy by the receptionists? That he found joy in his work of solving the tough questions their experts couldn't figure out. Will they know how many cried or sought him out to say goodbye and shake his hand the day he left? Those aren't questions they ask on an interview. 

He is optimistic and confident we will be fine. I need to catch a ride on his flight and stop crawling down the dark hole of mourning. I'll get there eventually. It's hard to be sad for too long when you live with a 6 foot 3 inch tall chocolate fairy who flies through the air in a tutu after all (see photo to right). 

We will be OK. 

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Taking Flight

Last night I finally made time to begin creating something non-yarn related. I purchased the book "Taking Flight" by Kelly Rae Roberts on mixed media collage and have been reading and staring at it for over a month. I've always loved the look, artistic freedom and layers upon layers of creativity of collage art. I've been a long time admirer of magazines such as Somerset Studio; ooohing and aaahing over the beautiful creations within it's pages. I knew I wanted to give it a try but wasn't sure where to begin. This book explains step by step a few artists techniques.  

As a graphic designer, I was intimidated by the photoshopped digital collages using photos and textures that started gaining popularity in the late 90's. How did they achieve the right balance? How do they choose color adjustments? How do they make it look so right and not clumsy? I had a project that forced me to dive in and start experimenting with the digital piecework. It was all about trial and error. Even after this, the non-digital version of collage art seemed overwhelmingly difficult.

I wish I just dived into new creative projects without thinking about them too much. But I tend to read, observe, google, plan, learn and generally roll it around in my head far too long. So long that it becomes all the more of a daunting undertaking. Is my perfectionism slip showing? Then there's the tendency to think that I have to try to sell what I make. Why do I do that? Why not create for the sake of creating?  

I want to change, really. At least I took a first step last night and finally started on some small collage projects for practice. (See, there I go again, "for practice" because practice makes perfect. Ugh.) I finished one up this morning while having my coffee. My sister and her husband are flying to their vacation spot in Mexico which inspired me for the first one. After I finished, I glued it onto a card and am mailing it off to her today. It is far from perfect, looks nothing like the images in the book, is a bit strange looking and was just for fun. It's a start! And sometimes just getting started is the biggest step in "taking flight."

I have a few more projects started so will be making time to experiment and play with mixed media collage...finally!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


"nothing can stand in the way of the power of 
millions of voices calling for change..."
- Barack Obama

"Any people anywhere, being inclined and having the power, have the right to rise up, and shake off the existing government, and form a new one that suits them better. This is a most valuable - a most sacred right - a right, which we hope and believe, is to liberate the world."
- Abraham Lincoln

Monday, January 19, 2009

A good read

Martin Luther King, Jr.
"I Have a Dream"
delivered 28 August 1963, at the Lincoln Memorial, Washington D.C.

I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.

Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.

But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languished in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. And so we've come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.

In a sense we've come to our nation's capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the "unalienable Rights" of "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note, insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked "insufficient funds."

But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. And so, we've come to cash this check, a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice.

We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of Now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God's children.

It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering summer of the Negro's legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning. And those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. And there will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.

But there is something that I must say to my people, who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice: In the process of gaining our rightful place, we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again, we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.

The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. And they have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom.

We cannot walk alone.

And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead.

We cannot turn back.

There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, "When will you be satisfied?" We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the negro's basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their self-hood and robbed of their dignity by signs stating: "For Whites Only." We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until "justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream."

I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. And some of you have come from areas where your quest -- quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive. Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed.

Let us not wallow in the valley of despair, I say to you today, my friends.

And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal."

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today!

I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of "interposition" and "nullification" -- one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today!

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight; "and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together."

This is our hope, and this is the faith that I go back to the South with.

With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith, we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

And this will be the day -- this will be the day when all of God's children will be able to sing with new meaning:

My country 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing.

Land where my fathers died, land of the Pilgrim's pride,

From every mountainside, let freedom ring!

And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true.

And so let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire.

Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York.

Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania.

Let freedom ring from the snow-capped Rockies of Colorado.

Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California.

But not only that:

Let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia.

Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee.

Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi.

From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

And when this happens, when we allow freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual:

Free at last! Free at last!

Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

She's the one

She's the one I talk to every day, sometimes twice a day. If I haven't heard from her in two days, I have to call to see if she's OK and her dogs didn't chew up the phones. We've been friends for 26 years. She's the one that introduced me to my husband. 

She's the one I can talk to about absolutely anything and I believe she knows me better than anyone else in this world. She's the one that can call me on the carpet and I don't go into defense mode. She's the one I can call and do weird, interesting things with and she'll always be game. She's the one I can trust with my life. She's the one who's parents home became my home away from home.

She's the one that can always make me laugh. She's the one that understands that sometimes urge to just run away in a motor home. She's the one I called on 9/11, when the 35W bridge collapsed and when Barack won. There is never a dull moment with her. 

She's the one that has scrimped by for a year while looking for a job. She's the one that has had to endure the calls from bill collectors to work out deals. Whose husband's hours were just cut back. She's gone on interview after interview to be beat out by the one with the penis. She's the one that is probably going to be offered the job tomorrow. The great job. The one she deserves. The job fate has been holding for her until the last possible minute. The job that's going to take her to St. Louis. And it's hitting me. She's the one I'm going to miss. 

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Questions Answered

I've been MIA on my blog this week. A combination of being busy with my graphic design work (a good problem to have) and a glitch with Blogger. I recently uploaded an update for Firefox that decided my blog posts should be in an Arabic font. I messed around with it and now it's just doing the titles in a font that has squares in it. What the heck?! I decided to try a different browser, Safari, and it seems to be doing the trick for now.


Bill over at Just A Moment Of Miscellany posted an interview in which questions were asked of him by another blogger. Here's five questions Bill asked of me when I requested to be interviewed. (If you'd like to be interviewed by me, see instructions at the end of this post.)

1. If you were to do a summer weekend excursion, which would you choose - Baraboo or Door County? Tell why you pick one over the other.

Definitely Door County. It would have to be a long weekend though as it is on the opposite side of the state. I've been there only once. I was with an artist friend that had an art show in nearby Sheboygan. On our way home, we took a detour and spent the hottest day of the year visiting a few places. I would love to rent a cozy Door County cabin on Lake Michigan for a week or two. Take in the architecture, shopping, food and do some painting and sketching along the way.

2. You've mentioned hot air ballooning. Have you gone to the Oshkosh air show?

We have not been the the Oshkosh air show. When we first got into hot air ballooning, we went to several balloon rallies in Minnesota and Wisconsin. We've kept the ballooning in our own area for the past few years. After visiting those other locations, the hubby has decided that we have some of the best flying right in our own backyard.

3. Why don't you have blogs in the the month of June, and why so few in May?

You know, I don't know why. I didn't realize the trend until you mentioned it. Probably the best explanation would be that I start spending a lot more time outside. It's the time of year when the days start getting longer and I get the urge to garden and tend to things in the dirt once I've finished my graphic design work in the office.

4. Do you have favorite places to visit in Minneapolis, Milwaukee and Chicago? Please mention a few.

I get to Minneapolis quite often since we live only 45 miles away. I don't really have a favorite place in Minneapolis but rather like to discover new places. One of these days I'll find that one thing that I have to revisit again and again. One place I've enjoyed on several occasions is the Como Park Conservatory in St. Paul. It's a wonderful dose of green and flowers and humidity when the winter drearies set in.

I've been to Chicago and Milwaukee each once. Both are places I'd like to spend more time exploring. I absolutely loved the Art Institute of Chicago when there last summer. Again, I was only there for one day so was limited on what I experienced. I need to take longer vacations!

5. Has blogging offered you any surprises? Spurred you to try something new or different? Think different thoughts

Absolutely, all of the above! The biggest surprise was discovering how much I enjoy writing and telling stories. I haven't written much other than letters since I was in school. I would start journals but abandon them within a week or two. I'm not sure exactly what made me start a blog and am also not sure why I've stuck with it. I think it's probably the readers and the sense of community that has developed. I have met up and made friends with some local bloggers which I'm sure our paths would've never crossed if it weren't for blogging. And there are many others that I would definitely get in contact with if visiting their area. Blogging has made me realize the world is a small place and we all have a lot in common.

I am trying new things because of blogging. Most recently I've been intrigued with the guerilla art knit-ups. In fact I'm working on one and will be putting it up, and blogging about it soon. The list is endless though...books, art, destinations. Most of all, it has made me a better observer of everyday happenings, my surroundings and thoughts.


If you'd like to be interviewed by me, here's the instructions:

1. Leave me a comment saying, "Interview me" with your email address or send me an email at talk2balou at gmail dot com.
2. I will respond by emailing you five questions. (I get to pick the questions).
3. You will update your blog with the answers to the questions.
4. You will include this explanation and an offer to interview someone else in the same post.
5. When others comment asking to be interviewed, you will ask them five questions.

Monday, January 05, 2009

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

I used to be an avid book reader in my younger years. Somewhere along the way, I lost the patience to just sit and read for more than thirty minutes at a time. This explains my tendency to read poetry, short stories and magazines. It was the discovery of audiobooks that brought me back to enjoying books. I often will strap on a fanny pack with a cassette player or CD Player or hang my ipod around my neck and listen to books while I do other things. It makes the time fly by while driving down the road, tackling piles of dishes, doing loads of laundry, pulling weeds in the garden or scrubbing floors.

This weekend I listened to "The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society" by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows. I admit, the title piqued my interest when I saw it in my iTunes audiobook fiction section. The reviews were wonderful and the audio sampling was acceptable so I downloaded the book. The narration talent of audiobooks is so important. This book is narrated by a team of five talented voices that bring the characters to life. I half-wish I owned the printed version of this book simply for the beautiful cover design. I washed the dishes, scrubbed the bathroom, folded clothes and finished knitting a scarf while "reading" my book.

The story is written as a series of letters to and from an author set in 1946. It took me a little bit to get used to this letter writing style, but after a while it seemed very natural and the characters came to life. The letters focus around post WWII England and especially, the quirky and charming residents of the channel island of Guernsey and it's unusual members of the literary society. Guernsey was occupied by the Germans during World War II. This book brings to light some of the conditions and hardships the islanders must have experienced during the occupation.

I thoroughly enjoyed the book and it's cast of characters. It had me laughing and crying. I look forward to listening in again. I'd highly recommend either the audio or written version.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Moon Doggie

Last night I let Rico (the fur child) outside to do his duty. I usually have him on leash at night but he's been so good lately I let him out without clipping it on. My mistake. There must have been a rabbit or something at the edge of the woods because he took off like a speeding bullet after the critter. Most likely a rabbit finding tidbits under the pine trees behind the house.

After a few minutes of calling for him, I went in and got my boots and coat on to walk over to the woods and listen for him. Often I can hear him rustling through the woods, ignoring my requests to return. I walked to the edge of the woods and listened. I took a moment to stop worrying about the dog and admire the view. The moon was bright and cast indigo shadows on the light blue snow. It made me think of a poem by Robert Frost.

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening
by Robert Frost

Whose woods these are I think I know.

His house is in the village, though.

He will not see me stopping here

To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer

To stop without a farmhouse near

Between the woods and frozen lake

The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake

To ask if there is some mistake.

The only other sound's the sweep

Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark, and deep.

But I have promises to keep,

And miles to go before I sleep,

And miles to go before I sleep.

Rico did return about 20 minutes later with tail between legs and head held down low. His way of asking forgiveness rather than permission. Maybe he too was drawn to the woods lovely, dark and deep. Regardless, a promise I need to keep...to take a moment to clip on the leash.