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Friday, December 30, 2011


As I huddle next to my space heater and peer at the computer screen through bleary, sleep-deprived eyes and type with slightly frost-bitten fingers, “highlight” holds a certain amount of irony while I wait for the furnace guy to call and explain why my furnace sounds like a jet flying through the house. The woman at the 24-hour phone service asked, “Is it an emergency?” In other words, do you want to pay triple to wake up the poor guy who actually fixes furnaces? “No.” Sigh. That was many hours ago. I’m starting to rethink “emergency”. It is winter after all. Maybe the “highlight” is that the temperature has worked its way up to 45F outside, which is actually rather balmy for this time of year.

I had a disagreement once with my sister about optimists vs. pessimists. My position is that all pain is temporary and it’s better to look towards future good when things aren’t going well. My sister said it’s better to always look at the down side of things because then you’re never unpleasantly surprised. In this case, she wouldn’t be surprised about a roaring furnace, but her resulting happiness would only be in being right about potential furnace disasters. That doesn’t seem very helpful when I’m cold and don’t want to hear anyone rubbing it in. Wait… extra friction might create some warmth?

When I visited California, my host apologized for the “bad weather”. Huh? I looked around at the blue ocean, the handful of puffy clouds slowly drifting across the clear sky, and wondered where the “bad” was hiding. He moaned that it was “so overcast”, and I laughed. My friend Korki recently said it was a good day because she “almost saw blue”. Yeah! Toughen up California boy! People in Ohio actually live longer than you people with reliably pleasant weather. Of course we might have a heart attack digging snow out of our driveways, but at least that’s a quick death instead of your prolonged skin cancer. Yep, I prefer looking for positives.

Of course I can get down just like anyone else. In fact, I can get somewhat more down because I’m a competitive perfectionist. Why experience a simple down when you can experience exquisite misery? Obviously you’re just not trying hard enough. On the other hand, how can I be anything less than grateful that the furnace broke on a Friday instead of on the weekend when the repair guy wants to party on New Year’s Eve and charges holiday rates on top of weekend rates? I’m glad that my furnace problems happened in 2011 instead of bringing unpleasantness into the new year. I’m glad my brother Pete gave me some beautifully split firewood. It’s all a matter of perspective.

I often think the pessimists have me outnumbered. How many people are waiting for the world to end in 2012 because the Mayans quit filling in their calendar? Church people love to predict disasters too. “Do what we say or bad things will happen!” I mean really, what’s worse than perpetual hell? Why not focus on the promise of perpetual heaven? A lot of people listen to the negative rants by politicians too, which is why we end up having wars and doing a lot of other stupid things, but they always seem to be looking in the wrong directions. Why get riled up because some people are gay? Isn’t that the gay people’s problem if it’s actually a problem for anyone? Let’s talk about pollution instead which we can prove causes cancer and other unpleasant and preventable problems. Of course the longer I sit in the cold, the more negative things I’ll probably think about. At least I’ve got a home and a warm puppy, which is more than a lot of people. Sometimes we all need a reminder to be grateful for what we have.

I like making snowflakes. I liked cutting them out of construction paper when I was in elementary school, and I like drawing them in PhotoShop. I used bevel/emboss just to highlight the highlight theme. I don’t know why I picked these colors. They seem illogical, but seemed logical in the cold.

Happy New Year everyone!!

Friday, December 23, 2011


Doves have been the messengers for God and wars. Even the extinction of the passenger pigeon was a message of a sort. Too bad we’re such slow learners, but tis the season for peace on earth and good will towards men, and the dove is a symbol for that too.

I don’t really have a good story for doves though, unless you want to count the time my dad caught a snow white bird and thought he might be able to hold it for ransom with the rich people up the hill. Alas, it was just a snow white pigeon. I would’ve been willing to keep it just for its tame nature and beauty, but Dad released it back in the wild.

I have successfully taught my dog to leave the mourning doves alone when they splash in my miniature pond in the back yard. “Whooooo whoooooo” in the mornings is a happy way to wake up, and Penny has my full permission to chase as many bunnies, chipmunks, and ground hogs as she wants to chase. She can leave my doves alone – though for some reason I can’t fathom, hunting mourning doves is legal in Ohio. That’s hardly a fair fight when all they do is walk around and peck at bugs on the ground. Am I allowed to use a Bloom County comic here? This has been in my box o’ stuff for maybe a couple of decade because it cracks me up…

The sad thing is that I have personal acquaintance with “fat-bellied stogie suckers”.

But getting back to my miniature pond in the back yard, I keep a pump running in it through the winter. Birds can usually find food, and lots of people put out seed for them, but water can be hard for them to find in winter. The pump keeps the water from completely freezing solid, which may also be keeping my goldfish alive. I’m not really sure about that though because it’s entirely possible that something ate my goldfish. It’s hard to know for sure because the fish like to hide when I come outside.

In case you can’t tell, I’m feeling pretty scattered at the moment. Holidays create chaos, and I’m just typing random thoughts before the next burst of activity. I hope everyone has a happy holiday and a merry new year!

Friday, December 16, 2011


I “borrowed” my dad’s new fishing rod once. He was very proud of it. The length of charcoal gray graphite gave him an ecstasy I didn’t really understand, but I took it with a clear understanding that getting caught in my theft might constitute a death sentence. I suppose I was certain that I could return it without him finding out about it. I didn’t count in the thought that he might get off work early that day. I didn’t consider that I could get caught red-handed with it when I was standing in the river, unable to flee to safety.

A fish jerked the rod out of my hands just as I turned to see Dad running down the hill towards me, and I saw a tough older boy running further downstream. “Vince stole your fishing rod!” seemed like the most logical connect-the-dots thing to say at the time. I don’t care if I was a little kid, and lying is a thing little kids do. I knew better. I don’t care that Vince was a rough, bullying kid either. Just because he’d done plenty of other nasty things, he wasn’t guilty of this. I started to feel shame even as the words flew out of my mouth. Vince isn’t his real name. I won’t add to my sins by naming him now.

Dad must’ve known I lied, but he told Vince’s father about the theft. Then Dad walked me past their house while the heavy slash of the belt and screams filled the air amongst the shouted obscenities. That was the way things were back then, which isn’t to say I condone that kind of thing. My remorse was real, but I couldn’t go into their house to say I lied. Vince’s father was a scary man, even without a belt in his hands. Besides, if I confessed, then I’d be the one getting the belt and Vince was already wounded by that time. Thus started a 20+ year penance of shame, guilt, remorse cycle. That cycle got even worse when I was wading in the river and stumbled into the algae covered wreck of Dad’s pride and joy fishing rod. Years of spring floods had only moved it about 10 feet from that fateful last sighting – which understanding the laws of river physics, is damn near impossible, and yet, there it was. It wasn’t even pinned down by a rock. It just laid in the place where it had sunk so many years before. Dad and Vince’s father were both dead by that time, Vince was even bigger and scarier than he was as a kid, and there was no redemption for my sin. Repentance sucks.

Some years after finding the lost rod, I ran into Vince in a fashionable bar. We were both drunk and happy at the time, and I confessed and asked for forgiveness. I suppose it was a selfish act to admit my remorse because I wanted to feel better about it, and my sister later said that was incredibly stupid since Vince still has a hot temper, but Vince laughed about it. He said he didn’t remember the incident, and what’s one more beating out of the many beatings he received? I don’t think it’s true though. Whether or not he remembers that particular incident, he now knows that I’m sorry, that someone else knew about the whippings, that someone else cares. It’s never too late to say you’re sorry. It won’t change past events, but it might help us look at the past with different eyes.

In the olden days, before selling indulgences to heaven or Martin Luther, confessions used to be given in the full light of the Sunday congregation at church. There was no hiding. If you sinned, you had to tell all of your friends and family what you had done. That’s real repentance. No hiding in a dark closet to confess your secrets to a priest with a chain of prayers for penance. Kneeling in the dark by the side of your bed didn’t count either. In the olden days, the people sinned against had some justice.

Solstice (December 21) is a traditional time of contemplation, letting go, forgiveness, and hopes for the future. The darkest days of winter lengthen into light, and we can let go of things that hold us back. If we can help lighten someone else’s load, even better.

My computer hates me again today, so I’m keeping things simple on visuals today. I think the bobber looks a lot like a Christmas ornament though, so let’s say I’m keeping things seasonal :)

Friday, December 9, 2011


When Grandma died and we were moving Grandpa out of their house, I kept a lot of things that were meant for the curb. I didn’t want to let go of Grandma or the house. Keeping things that mattered to her helped me feel like I had something to keep her close. I was studying genealogy at the time and especially kept things I thought might help me verify family connections. Hence, postcards. Too bad the most interesting postcards didn’t have a thing to do with my DNA since they were written to my Great Grandpa (and his family) who was my Great Grandmother’s third husband, and not Grandma’s biological father. Even so, I knew Grandpa Winters, and it’s interesting to see that he was alive at the same time of steamboats (b. January 19, 1884). Time is a funny thing. Through Grandpa, I’m only separated by steamboats by 1 degree. The log cabin was from a relative of my Great Grandmother’s second husband, so not a direct relation either. I just find it fascinating. I’m not sure who Jerome Brown was, but I find that photo of Tokyo pretty fascinating too. Tragic, but interesting.

I’ve copied the messages as written, including misspellings…

To Master George Winters, Kokomo, Ind.
Jan. 20, 1913
Hello George
How are you by this time? Mabel got her ring last night (Sat.) and she said it was a daisy. She wears it all the time. George - Grandma and I are sending you a big box so write and tell me if you get it. Tell Mamma to send her pillow cases and I will stamp them. Time was out hunting last night with Pa. Be a good boy. Aunt Mary

Oct. 10, 1912
To Mr. Wilson Winters, Kokomo, Ind.
Dear Wils
You can now rest at ease for everything is alright at home. I am really telling you the truth about George. Mary W.
(This was written after a series of increasingly dire postcards predicting George’s likely death. He apparently fully recovered, grew up, moved to California, and made a million dollars. Good for him, but drat, why wasn’t he a direct relation?!)

Decorating Room of Crooksville China Co. Pottery
April 25, 1916
To Mrs. Rhoda Winters, Kokomo, Ind.
Dear Sister: Why on earth don’t you write? Are you sick or what is the matter? Mamma will be crazy if you don’t write soon. Papa said last night he thought it was strange you hadn’t wrote. We are all well and busy as bees. Susie worked Sat. night until 12 oclock and was all in Monday but is rested up now. Mabel thot easter was great. Did George get his box? I was going to make him candy but didn’t have time. I think he might write us once in a while. Now for goodness sake do write a card if nothing else. Love to all. Mary

(Mary nagged a lot about writing :) Grandpa worked at a lot of the different pottery factories in Ohio. He hated it, and would’ve rather been a full-time farmer. I grew up with a lot of Hall Pottery like this cup and teapot, and like to think of Grandpa making them.)

May 23, 1913
To Mr. S. W. Crawford, Fredricksburg, Ohio
Banditti (?)
Dear Bro: will send you a card (on no?) Bordetta (?) now so address (?? this Ohio (?) This is the N. W. corner of cabin inside. Everybody (will?) & hope you act the same (m?) roof. Your bro Hugh C. Wayne Co.

Destruction caused by aerial bombardment, Tokyo, Japan
ST(?) Sgt. Jerome B. Brown

*Note for posterity – Mom says Grandpa’s last name was Winter. Mom ought to know, but I always called him Winters with an ‘s’ at the end. Some of the postcards are one way, some another, but most have an ‘s’ and the card for his funeral had an ‘s’ on the end, so I’m going to continue with the ‘s’ until I find proof positive of the true spelling.

The envelope at the top is part of a set of boxes I did for 1800 Flowers.

Friday, December 2, 2011


I’ve been thinking about the Occupy Wall Street movement a lot lately. I don’t know how much people outside the US are aware of this movement, but the basic premise is people camping in public places in different cities as a nonviolent protest against the extreme wealth of the top 1% and the resulting anger of the remaining 99%. Well, I’m definitely in the 99%, but I really don’t want to camp in the cold to point that out. Various cities have started clearing out these encampments, often with harsh methods including spraying tear gas in the faces of people quietly sitting with their heads down. If the police wanted to shake my benign, hands-off attitude, they’ve done a wonderful job of it. I still don’t want to camp in the cold, especially if I could get tear gassed, but I’m feeling more motivated to express my moral support for the people hardy enough to do it. Something has to change.

The problem is, I really don’t know what to do. The playground bullies have a firm grip on business and politics, and they aren’t going to let go. I don’t have the money or influence to fight them with their own weapons, and I don’t want to let them drag me into that kind of a fight anyway. All I can do is say what I think and hope that others will agree and start speaking up.

My class was eating lunch in the cafeteria when I was in second grade. A girl demanded my apple. She offered to trade something insignificant for it. My hand was in motion when I realized I really wanted to keep my apple. I said “No”. All of the faces of my classmates snapped in my direction to see what would happen next. This wasn’t the first time Rosalyn had extorted food by charm and/or implied force. I could feel the hopes of my classmates riding on my resolve. Rosalyn backed down. When she tried her move on another kid the next day, she was met with another refusal. When she chose the weakest member of our pack, the rest of us stood up and told her to back off. Rosalyn learned to play by the group rules, and I was blessed to have the nicest class in our school.

In a way, this was a really insignificant moment in time, but it changed me. I learned to say “No”. I learned that the rest of the class was just looking for someone to say it first. They just wanted to hear the drum to know which way to march. I’m listening for a drum too to show me what I should do next. We are the majority, and whatever happens with the Occupy movement, at least they’re trying to lead the brigade by beating the drum.

Anatomy Correction

I have to admit that I didn’t really put my heart into my drummer. I was thinking about my general despair about the state of the world, but I really can’t ignore lazy anatomy. Instead of just fixing it and pretending I had it right in the first place, I decided to offer a basic lesson…

The size of the head is a standard measurement for the entire body. Despite what you might see in magazines which stretch bodies to 9, 10, or more heads tall, the average adult is 7 ½ heads tall. Basic points of measurement are the waist and elbows at 3 heads from the top, the crotch at 4 heads from the top. Keep in mind that we’re just talking the size of a bald head without factoring in hair or hats. Babies have bigger heads in proportion to their bodies.

I stretched my boy into less dwarfish proportions in PhotoShop, and narrowed his shoulders so he looks a less like a linebacker. I probably ought to fix his hands too, but I never meant this to be fine art in the first place :)