Tuesday, May 29, 2012

But Is It Art?

Over the weekend we took a family trip to Seattle, only about a 45 minute drive, but a place we forget is so close.  I lived in Seattle in my younger days, moving to what I think of as Rural Suburbia once I "settled down", a place where you can tell your kids to go play in the street and not be considered a bad parent.  I am as about as far from Cultural Urban Chic as you can get and still have running water.

During our jaunt to the Big City, our youngest asked that we go to the art museum.  Being the youngest, she doesn't often get a say in what we do, so I made it a point to drag my husband and reluctant teenage son along to soak up some art.  I'll admit, I felt a little out of place, a little Beverly Hillbilly-ish.  The first exhibit I saw when we walked up the stairs was this:  pieces of cardboard boxes, glued together and hanging on the wall.

I am not proud to say I burst out laughing, surprised by what they considered art.  It reminded me of the projects my kids used to create with used paper towel tubes and empty milk jugs.

This was the most head scratching display, but there were other pieces that left me wondering if I just didn't get it:  a painting done in textured white acrylic (I whispered to my daughter that it was a polar bear in a snow storm), a piece of brass with glass attached that looked like a shelf, and what resembled a large packing crate.  At this point a was feeling a little embarrassed, like they were going to find out I didn't know what any of this was supposed to be and ask me to leave (this was not helped by the antics of husband and teenage son).  But there were several things that I liked--cars hanging from the ceiling, paintings of the Pacific Northwest from the late 1800's, and a haunting troop of masked Africans that seemed frozen in time.  My daughter seemed to be enjoying herself, and they didn't have a lot of people there, so we wandered at our leisure (son and husband lagging behind), pausing at what interested us and skipping by what we didn't get. 

The Webster dictionary defines art as "the conscious use of skill and creative imagination especially in the production of aesthetic objects; also: works so produced."  But I just keep thinking about that cardboard creation.  Is something that looks like it took no more skill than a preschooler possesses, having just mastered scissors, be considered art?  In the children's book, Olivia by Ian Falconer, the title character goes to a museum and sees a painting that looks like someone flung paint at a canvas.  "I just don't get it," she says.  When I read this book to my older daughter, who was 5 at the time, she told me she  "got it"--it was leaves.  And sure enough, the picture was taken from a Jackson Pollock painting called Autumn Rhythm #30.

So, I'm thinking about art.  If cardboard and polar bears in snow storms are good enough, why not something from a few local artists in their early periods.   I like to call this exhibit "Pictures for Mommy:  A Mixed Medium Medley"

In this first work, our artist is using glitter crayons and water color paint to depict the princess at night.

This painter has a bold choice of colors at a young age (in tempera paint on butcher paper).

 And our last contributor has a solid concept of what an elephant can do.

Later we were talking about our trip to the art museum,  joking about the cardboard art.  My youngest patiently explained it wasn't just cardboard-- if we'd looked a little closer we'd have seen that there were fish and a bird and...

Oh, crud, I'd totally missed that.  My photo here doesn't show all the pieces, but the first one could be a bird and the next one does have a rabbit-like quality.  Apparently I could not see the forest for the trees, or the art work for the cardboard.

Out-classed by a grade schooler.  Again.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Questions for Kimberly

A new week, a new set of answers.  This time we hear from Kimberly, a fellow blogger who started me on my 11 questions/ 11 answers quest.  Kimberly's blog, www.kimberlyemerson.com, proclaims that reading is dangerous--it leads to thinking.  Oh yes, she has something interesting to say.

1. Favorite book from childhood?

So many to choose from! When I was little, The Monster at the End of This Book. (Grover kicks Elmo's furry red butt). When I got to chapter books, Mystery of the Musical Umbrella by Friedrick Feld. After I got a little older, most anything by Zilpha Keatley Snyder (The Egypt Game, The Famous Stanley Kidnapping Case, and especially Black and Blue Magic). Oh, and ESPECIALLY The Westing Game, by Ellen Raskin. I just read that one over again, and I'm glad to say I enjoyed it just as much as an adult.

2. TV show you're embarrassed to admit you watch?

I haven't watched it lately, but probably King of the Hill. I'm drawn to it with a mix of fascination and horror.

3. What are you reading now?

Murder on the Orient Express, by Agatha Christie. I love mysteries, and sometimes I feel the need to go back to the classics.

4. Favorite subject in school?

Drama. I love acting, and it was fun to pretend to be someone whose personality was totally different from mine (or was what I secretly wanted mine to be). Of the core classes, English. I was good at math, but it was boring.

5. Most interesting trip?

Probably my first trip to New Orleans, in my early twenties. I had no idea of all the history there. With the different food, accent, and sometimes even language, it comes the closest to being another world, while still inside my own country.

6. If you had to save one thing from a house fire, what would it be and why?

I'd save my cat first, but she's not really a thing, so I'll say my photo albums. Cliche, yes, but they are reminders of really good memories....unless of course I had some really GOOD chocolate in the house. Then I might have to re-prioritize. Good chocolate should never be wasted. (Kidding - sort of.)

7. If you could have any job, without constrictions of education or salary, what would it be?

In a perfect world, I'd get paid to do my writing. If it has to be a job that I get a salary for, I pick chocolate taster for Moonstruck Chocolates. That way, I wouldn't have to take out a third mortgage in order to buy some.

8. Weirdest memory from childhood?

I guess there was no large-item-trash pick-up in our neighborhood, because when we wanted to get rid of a lot of stuff or a big thing, we drove it to the dump. There was a Foster Freeze right near it. We didn't eat out a whole lot when I was a kid because money was tight (my parents were teachers), but we usually stopped at the Foster Freeze on the way to or coming back from the dump. So we were the only kids in town who said, "Hooray, we're going to the dump!"

9. One thing most people don't know about you?

For some reason, the sight of barnacles, on a boat or anything else, makes me nauseous. I loved the first Pirates of the Caribbean, but I could barely keep my popcorn down through 2 & 3.

For the record, I did send Kimberly 11 questions, but she only answered 9.  What, no nick name?  Kimmy or Kimber, maybe?  I do hereby christen you K-Em.  And as for how Kimberly knows me, we found each other's blogs through our mutual friend, Angela (who has yet to answer my questions and better get on it lickety-split young lady, or I'll make something up).

Thank you, Kimberly!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Eleven Questions for my Friend Greg

I asked several bloggers, friends and family eleven questions and today I got my first response from my friend, Greg.  As I warned you all, this is being posted on my blog, so nothing you don't want a potential employer, wife or mother to see!

1. Favorite book from childhood?That would have to be Dr. Seuss books in general. Don't know if I have a specific favorite, though the Grinch was way cool.

2. TV show you're embarrassed to admit you watch?
I don't watch much TV unless it's futbol. Over the years I've enjoyed watching Teletubbies, Sex & the City, Sponge Bob Squarepants, and South Park, to name a few. Of those I'd have to say Sex & the City would be most embarrassing.

3. What are you reading now?Nothing at the moment. Last read Fledgling by Octavia Butler. Soon, however, it will be Red Shirts. I pre-ordered the ebook (not from Amasauron).

4. Favorite subject in school?History.

5. Most interesting trip?Mongolia, '93.

6. If you had to save one thing from a house fire, what would it be and why?
Barring my family (in which case I'd die, because I would try to save everyone), it would be my soccer ball. Or my yoyo. The wooden one.

7. If you could have any job, without constrictions of education or salary, what would it be?
I would teach history or be a game developer/producer. If I were 18 again, it would be as an attacking midfielder for FC Barcelona.


8. Weirdest memory from childhood?
I was 2 or 3 and we lived in an apartment complex. I was standing at the open backdoor of a neighbor's apartment, which led to the kitchen through an entry area with closet. A woman (German with blonde hair) was offering me cookies or something. She was smiling and looked extremely friendly. Her son, who was a little older than me, was standing in the closet, hidden from his Mom's view and was also smiling at me. He liked to bite. I ran back home in fear.

9. One thing most people don't know about you?
An ancestor from 5 generations back was a priest on Guam who had 6 kids with his housekeeper. I guess that makes me a quarter unholy bastard.

10. Nickname?
Froggie (from Guam).

11. How do you know me?
We both worked at Elliott Bay Book Co. back in the 90s.

Thank you, Greg!  (Just so you know, you're weird childhood memory is creeping me out. And a yoyo?)

You know you want to answer my questions...C'mon, it's not hard...Greg did it...

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Eleven More Questions

I answered eleven questions about myself in my blog, baring the most intimate details of my soul, so now it's my turn to pose the questions.  I'm not sure I know eleven bloggers,  so I decided to include friends and family in my interrogations.  I chose my interview-ees in part because I thought they'd have some interesting answers, as well as who would be more likely to answer.  Full sentences, grammar or correct punctuation is not necessary (but we all have spell check!). Please, Please, PLEASE send me details of your fascinating lives!  (Or hum drum, whatever.)

1.  Favorite book from childhood?
2.  TV show you're embarrassed to admit you watch?
3.  What are you reading now?
4.  Favorite subject in school?
5.  Most interesting trip?
6.  If you had to save one thing from a house fire, what would it be and why?
7.  If you could have any job, without constrictions of education or salary, what would it be?
8.  Weirdest memory from childhood?
9.  One thing most people don't know about you?
10.  Nickname?
11.  How do you know me?

I've emailed this to several people, but I'd love to hear from anyone else who has something to share with the rest of the class.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Detachment Parenting: Creating an Adult From Scratch

We've all seen the Time magazine cover, showing the hot mom nursing the way-too-old-looking-preschooler.  Yes, they are trying to sell magazines by making Attachment Parenting look like a naughty secret, but if you read the article it's only slightly weird. Much of it I have probably done once or twice with my own kids (except the nursing the preschooler part), but I never considered it to be my parenting style.  I follow something I like to call Detachment Parenting, wherein I teach my child to exist without me while simultaneously keeping my sanity.  It's sounds radical, I know, and I'm sure Time will be contacting me soon for a cover story.  You, my lucky reader, will get the inside scoop of how I plan to raise three children into adults without every getting a visit from CPS.

When my oldest was an infant I would bring him into the bathroom while I showered or needed a potty break--what if he started to cry?  When the second came along, I would leave the door open a crack so I could hear them--I did have bionic mother hearing, after all.  Once number three came along, I figured they'd all survive the 15 minutes I needed to feel human again.  Soon they were old enough to make their way to the bathroom door, pounding on it incessantly and asking unintelligible questions,  and I was forced to institute the "Three B Rule".  They were only allowed to interrupt me in the bathroom if someone was barfing, something was burning or there was blood.  I am happy to report that they are all still alive.  Lesson learned:  not everything is an emergency.

Taking young children along to events they don't include a playground or singing Muppet characters can be a trying event for both parents and kids.  When my three were little I'd always pack toys and snacks to keep them occupied.  Once they got older, they had to bring their own entertainment: a book, DSi, Barbie or crayons, packed by them, in their own bag that they carried.  Being the younger sibling dragged along to a sporting event seemed to be a recipe for whining.  I tell my kids that while I know they're not enjoying themselves, their complaining is not going to make time go faster, it's just going to irritate their mother.  They will just have to suffer in silence.  Lesson learned:  sometimes you're going to be bored--bring a good book or suck it up.

Bedtime at our house is sacred (well for me, anyway). The oldest child gets to stay up the latest, but forfeits television rights after a certain hour.  When it is bedtime, it is bedtime. On weekends and during school vacations my kids are allowed to stay up just a little later and then they must adjourn to their rooms where they can stay up as late as they want, as long as I don't hear them  The youngest must be in her bed, but can be reading or playing her DSi or whatever--quietly.   Mommy is off the clock and will no longer be granting any requests for snacks, answering questions about who my favorite Twilight character is, or helping with homework projects that should have been started hours ago.  Lesson learned:  Mommy needs a break...or good sleep habits are important, or whatever.

Don't get me wrong--I think it's important that kids know you'll always be there for them.. I nursed each of my kids to the age of one, came when they cried, stayed up with them when they were sick, read them each their own bedtime story (until they asked me to stop), attended every tee ball game, band concert and karate practice time would allow.  My kids always come first, but they need to realize that the rest of the world may not see it that way. Lesson learned:  Mom will always be there for them when they need me, but they are going have to learn to stand on their own two feet.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Respect the Van

My car is midnight blue with a 240-hp, 3.5-liter V-6 engine, a marvel of modern Japanese technology...complete with eight cup holders and seating for seven.  Yes, I drive an eight year old Honda minivan that is usually full of goldfish cracker crumbs and smelly soccer socks.

After careful scientific studies (and a whole lot of my very biased opinion), I have come to the conclusion that other motorists have zero respect for minivan drivers.  This is something I always suspected--it seemed I was getting cut off a lot in traffic, cars pulling in front of me, shooting out of driveways instead of waiting the two seconds it would take for me to pass by.  I began to feel that I must have a sign on the front of my car that read "Go Ahead, I'll Wait."  Or maybe "Don't Worry About That Turn Signal, I Have ESP." 

I didn't really think about it while driving our spare car--a Toyota 4Runner--, but when I picked up the van from the shop and was driving it home people were speeding around me on the freeway like I was a grandma in an Oldsmobile doing 45 mph in the fast lane.  The following day I was cut off twice, both times I was lucky I was looking or I would have been walking home...on crutches...with a bruised hand after having punched the idiot who insisted on pulling in front of me when I was doing 40 mph in a 35 mph zone.

I am tired of being the responsible driver, but I also value my life so I watch out for the kamikaze drivers and continue to wonder if it's me or my vehichle.  Is there something I could do to make my van more menacing?  A skull detail and some flames?  How about a bumper sticker containing a few choice 4 letter words?  Maybe a few dents and a side mirror hanging off--I know I always give those kind of vehicles a wide berth.  Maybe I should swerve more.

The other day I took the van back in for one last service and was driving our 4Runner through the grocery store parking lot, when from the corner of my eye I saw a flash of yellow.  Thank goodness for reliable brakes, because I narrowly missed the older gentleman on a bicycle, riding hell bent through the parking lot trying to pass in front of me.  That's right, I was cut off by a senior citizen...On a bike.

Crud.  Maybe it's just me.