So, here I am.....

The girl that said she'd never blog. The far from computer savvy girl that is always up for a challenge despite a serious lack of time.My blog goals. Do I have blogging goals? Hmmm, I guess I should. So I pledge to be funny, lighthearted, not vent or complain to much and maybe just maybe share a crumb of wit and wisdom on occassion.I will most likely chat about etsy, my addiction and muse. the incredible artsists and friends I have found in a community that oozes with creativity, friendship, support and a home for all things handmade.You will hear me ramble about the insanity of my life including my 3 boys, ages 12, 16 and 53. Yes, that last one I am married to, but trust me, he is just as much boy as man. After 17 years of marriage I find myself raising him along with them. Then again, he would probably say the same of me at times. I will often speak of friends I would go to the ends of the earth for and a family that more often than not defines dysfunction. Then again, I strongly believe a functional family is the stuff legends are made of.I am a lover of music of all kinds and not so much the TV ( except maybe Glee). I have an addiction to handmade glass, especially venetian and lampwork beads as well as unique pottery. I have made a concerted effort to tame my jewelry fetish with my own creations which can be seen at you haven't figured out by now, I can jabber my jaws and my fingers as if someone could care what I have to say.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Cool Jazz

We are so lucky to have our kids is a school that has such a great Fine Arts Department.  Not only do they get a great education, they get to do all kinds of cool stuff.  Opportunities to travel the world playing venues like Pearl Harbor, Obama's Inauguration and European tours in recent years.  The many bands, orchestras and choirs have traveled and competed so many fabulous places.

This year, Alex is a very proud member of the Jazz Band.  The cream of the crop musicians are directed by the cream of the crop director, Ryan Adamsons.  Ryan seeks great learning experiences for them all the time.  Whether it be the Bob Lark Band clinic and performance, Jazz festivals and competitions or visiting musicians, Ryan is always showing them ways to improve and become class A musicians.

Last night we had the pleasure of listening to the perform for a full hour on the stage at the Jazz Showcase nightclub in Downtown Chicago.  As opening act for jazz singer Dee Alexander, they did a great job.  Solos by Nate Fox and Eric Tranton (to name a few), were spectacular.  The audience was not thinking teenage public school music class band performance for a second.  They were enjoying high caliber up and coming musicians.  Ryan emphasizes improvisation and encourages the kids to solo.  They love it and it helps them grow as musicians.  I think it's frightening at first, but the confidence and understanding they gain has them comping at the bit in no time.

The surprise of the night (for me at least) was the above clip of my lovely meanager playing an impromtu solo, as much a surprise to him as it was to us.  I was so glad to notice the nod and have a quick second to ready the camera.  The film quality on my little Nikon point & shoot is poor, but you can still enjoy the performance.  I wish I had gotten a few other solos, but another audience member did, so stayed tuned for future youtube postings of the entire show.  Int he meantime, indulge my proud mamma moment above

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Are You a Big Bully?

I'll admit, I'm getting up there in years.  Hell, I'm inching in on half century mark.  Not sure when that happened, but it did.  I am reminded of this more often than not lately.  As we continue to watch the world change at record pace, I think it only natural to look back comparatively and relate our own experiences to that which is happening today.  It can give us compassion, empathy, perspective and a deeper understanding of what is truly important in life.
In today's world, "bully" is a hot topic.  We are facing it in every aspect of our lives.  No longer is the bully relegated to the schoolyard playground and no longer is he(or she, let's be fair) accepted as an unavoidable part of growing up.  This was not always the case.  How many of us remember the excuses that were made to explain a bully's behavior?  "oh, he's just jealous", "really, he's just intimidated by you", "if you stand up to him, he'll go away".  So often it was thought easy to outsmart the bully at his own game or after meeting his bully parent(s) that we should accept his behavior because it wasn't his fault, he didn't know better.  Was it that bullies hadn't grown up and left the playground or that we only cared when they went after innocent children?  It doesn't really matter, the fact is, they've infiltrated and in true bully fashion, want control;  of everything.
Now, don't get me wrong here.  No, I don't think bullies have been secretly breeding a mass army in a diabolical plot to take over the world.  I think we have better identified the disease and developed treatment protocols.  Wouldn't it be awesome to someday add a bully vaccine to our regularly scheduled immunizations?  What a different playground that would be for 1st graders making friends or 5th graders playing kickball.  The big question would be, how many booster shots you would need throughout life.  The truth of the matter is, we have bullies at every stage of life, in every form.  No longer is he the brawny, thug with a few petrified goons by his side.  He is the corporate investor stealing your retirement lunch money, the soccer mom who can't fathom her Johnny warming the bench, the union member fearing the inability to drive their jaguar through a blue collar community that employs them or the politician that can't get the what's in it for me question out of the #1 spot.  You see, in my opinion a bully is someone that puts themselves and their wants above and beyond anything else regardless of those around them.  Their total disregard for the impact of their actions because it's all about them.  Even if it isn't, it is at lest about them first.  The 21st century bully can be highly educated and live on the right side of the tracks.  Coercion are their fists and intimidation their posse.  Bottom line is, they still want your lunch money before your head goes in the toilet for the proverbial swirly.
We can't afford to live this way.  We can't continue to isolate ourselves with iPods and internets and big overgrown great rooms.  We are humans.  We need social behaviors to survive as a species.  We need to see the impact our actions have on others.  We need to witness remorse from a wrongdoer and the celebration of a winner.  By nature we need support ,encouragement, and the bond of family.  It's what separates us from the wolves.  It's what makes soldiers strong and keeps firefighters alive.  Cops know it, championship athletes know it, musicians know it. It permeates the thoughts of our traditional heroes for a reason.  It goes beyond "I".  There is a greater good achieved when the "ayes" are because of the "we". 
Now, I'll let you in on a little secret.  The magic that makes this all work is when it's done because you believe it, not because you're told it.  Believe in the power beyond your own skin.  Believe in the greater good.  Invest in something other than that which benefits "you".  The reward will be greater than any you can imagine, and here's another secret, it's bully prevention (okay, maybe that's not such a big secret, but it's true, nonetheless).

Monday, February 13, 2012

This will not go on your Permanent Record

It seems these days, finding a nice surface to write on in a classroom is not as easy as picking up a piece of chalk at the front of the room.  SmartBoards, white boards, overhead projectors and other new-fangled apparatus have brought the classroom into the 21st century, leaving the chalkboard in its dust (literally).  I can whole-heartily understand the reluctance of teachers to turn their backs on a class full of youngsters.
Don't shed a tear for the chalkboard just yet.  Chalkboards are not the passive victim of technology you may think.  They are popping up everyplace else.  Restaurant menus, waiting rooms and home offices, not to mention kid's bedrooms, playrooms and the home kitchen.  In every color of the rainbow too.  No more black board, yellow chalk in these hip spaces and a few creative, inspiring teachers are still holding tight to their old boards,  but using them in a new exciting way.

While visiting a local school this weekend, we were temporary guests in a most inviting classroom.  I wish I had a camera.  I do believe Harry Potter's friend Dobby may live outside this classroom behind an old arched wooden door under the staircase at the end of the hall. (no kidding, this thing was awesome) Finding that little door was a highlight of the weekend.  It was like a world of fantasy and childhood wonder, all in one little doorway.  Again,  my delight countered by my distress of not having a camera to document this lovely find.
Back to this inviting classroom.  If only we could have met the tenant.  Something tells me she is as magical and fascinating as her classroom.  A classroom is the expression of a teacher.  Her(or his, let's be fair)  personality, philosophy, character and world views can all be conveyed in her wall art,  the projects falling from the ceiling on yarn and paperclips,  the books;  not just which ones, but how easy they are to open up, crawl inside and lose yourself, and her Chalkboard.  Better yet, the fact that she has one, and uses it!
This classroom was a wonderland.  A bin labelled "Free Books" right up front.  I mean how cool is that!  But really, I think my favorite was the neon, handwritten decorative quip that showed her wit to all.  On her old fashioned  blackboard, to the side of her new-fangled "Smartboard" sat the words "What A shame. it has no name" complete with a colorful magnetic clip clutching unclaimed works.  I tell you, this was my kind of teacher.
Where is this tangent headed?  Back to the beginning of course.  You should all know by now, just how easily I digress.  See, this lovely, flowing writing, all around this room, was thin, precise and yet whimsical and no chalk dust to be found.  Florescent, Caribbean and tropical colored sharpies seemed to be the writing instrument of choice.  On the Chalkboard!  Obviously, the chalkboard is the kryptonite to the sharpie's super powers of permanence.  Who knew?
Our fascination was notched up one more degree.  How cool!, we thought.  Add in my constant surfing of Pinterest and all it's handy dandy ideas, information and eye candy and before you know it, we're discussing the freedom of mixing your own "chalkboard paint" in any color your heart desires to be applied to any surface you desire.  No longer is the chalkboard black,  and no longer is it relegated to the underside of a smartboard, forgotten and dingy.
Even "Martha" has a foolproof recipe for this great vehicle of communication, creativity and old school comfort.  Go ahead, mix up a few cups full and let your inner child write on the walls again.  Even sharpies won't go on your "permanent" record.
                                                     HOMEMADE CHALKBOARD PAINT
Start with flat-finish latex paint in any shade. For small areas, such as a door panel, mix 1 cup at a time

1. Pour 1 cup of paint into a container. Add 2 tablespoons of unsanded tile grout. Mix with a paint stirrer, carefully breaking up clumps.
2. Apply paint with a roller or a sponge paintbrush to a primed or painted surface. Work in small sections, going over the same spot several times to ensure full, even coverage. Let dry.
3. Smooth area with 150-grit sandpaper, and wipe off dust.
4. To condition: Rub the side of a piece of chalk over entire surface. Wipe away residue with a barely damp sponge.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Thoughts of a Friend

It may be cold and dreary and gray outside today, after all, it's February in Chicago.  However, there is a ray of light today that comes from within.  A light, tempered with sadness, but a light that cannot be extinguished.  You see, I had a friend.  Today is his birthday.  he would have turned 21 today.  he would've been a man.  Unfortunately, he was taken before he had the chance.  Or was he?

You see, Brian was no ordinary friend.  You couldn't get him down.  You could never wash the smile from his face or the light in his eyes.  He beamed so brightly, that everyone was caught in his spotlight at some point.  Once he shone on you, his light was in you.  It made you see things from a different perspective.  You looked for the simple joy in the smallest of places.  You felt the laughter from deep inside.  You questioned,... nope, that was him.  Sometimes the questions felt as if they'd never end, and yet, you didn't mind.  How could you?  They were always asked with such an infectious smile and jovial attitude, you didn't care how many times you answered them.

I received an email from Brian's family yesterday asking to think of him or share a story.  Ididn't really need to be asked.  I think of him often.  I think of his family often too.  I wonder how you deal with losing a child or a sibling.  How you fill that void and find the strength it takes to keep moving.  I think of Brian and how, some days, I could really use one of his smiles or a few of his questions.
A good snowfall makes me remember how he marveled in it's wonder and burst at the seems to rev up that snow blower.  This would have been a long winter for him, waiting for snow that never came.  Yet when it does snow, thinking of his delight makes me hate it's mess a little bit less.  Soon we'll be hearing the constant rev of the lawnmower (his other favorite machine) and holding our breath for a Cubs win  on a sunny day.  Somehow that sunshine will be brighter with a little of his light smiling down on us.

There was not a right of passage into manhood for Brian here in our world, but that's okay with me.  His simple love of the little things and his ability to share a joy that knew no bounds with everyone he met was monumental.  It is a rare man who can touch so many in such a short time.

I miss you my friend, but I don't envy those you laugh with now because you will always laugh in me  and I will always smile at your memory.  I will NEVER forget you.

That Time Again

Seems I don't get 'round these parts much lately.  It's that crazy busy life of mine, I tell ya.  It seems it's always something.  How I'll fit a job in the mix (a real live, hand me a paycheck, good work, pat onthe back, bonafide job) is beyond me, but I'm gonna try.  All I need is someone willing to hand me that paycheck every so often.  Too bad those people are hard to find these days.  Don't they know I have a college bound meanager to support?  Believe you, me, he NEEDS to go away to college  for both our sakes.

On to the good stuff......

It's that time of year again.  People are asking more and more each day if I'll be hosting my "Home Show" again this year.  The answer is YES!  Hip, hip, hoorah!  It's always a fun time.  I love showing my appreciation to my loyal customers.  Sharing a glass of wine and getting to know them just makes my day.  No hustle and bustle of crowded hallways and gyms.  No pressure searching for the perfect Christmas gift for Aunt Sally or feeling guilty about a personal purchase the week before Christmas.  This one is all for the fun of it.
I'll be cooking up some yummy snacks, chilling a bottle of wine (ha!  make that a case) and cleaning the house top to bottom in preparation for the big shin-dig.  All you have to do is stop on by, visit a bit, shop a little and share a laugh or two.  I'll take care of the rest.

One of those things keeping me plenty busy this year is my youngest son.  Graduating grade school and heading off to the High School is a big deal.  I am busy helping plan all the graduation activities and setting the stage for his success at the high school.  There's the end of the year dance with all it's regalia, a keepsake DVD of the past 9 years for all the kids and other assorted celebrations.  Truth is, this all costs money, and so, a portion of proceeds from this year's sale will benefit the fundraising efforts of the 8th grade parents.
Erik will be heading off to join his brother and the music program at Niles West High School in the fall.  I couldn't be happier.  The music programs and Fine Arts overall are top notch.  In addition to the graduation fund, I will be once again supporting the Niles West Music Parents also.  They do great things for the programs, the kids and the staff, be it band, orchestra or choir.  Scholarships, music lessons, trips, etc. are those out of the classroom experiences that make a program stand out.  So again, a portion of proceeds from the sale will again benefit the NWMPA.  Be sure to mention either of these great causes at the show.

Now let's get to it!

When:  Saturday, February 25th
             11am - 7pm
for more info, please contact me through comments or via email
and to whet your apetite, a little taste of what will be available for sale can be seen here.

I look forward to a great event.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Consider Yourself Warned

If you read my last post, you are well aware that I have an agenda these days.  Couple my need to share (a lot) with my technological ineptness (not only was there no such thing as STEM in my day, there were barely computers) and you understand the reason I have not created a separate blog just for STEAM.  Ice this cake with lacking the ability to come up with a catchy title, the creative platform this blog can sometimes be and a small but captive audience base and here we are.

So, be prepared for STEAM posts to be interspersed with recipes, artist features, family crap and the occasional rant.  A little reality never hurt anyone, especially when followed by a cocktail or two.

Stay tuned

Are You Riding the STEAM Train?


If you know anything about me, you know I'm passionate.  I get excited.  I talk about things.  I love kids.  I value education.  And, my kids are not athletes.  Well, one can run pretty darned fast without being chased or running away from trouble, so maybe there's a bit of an athlete there.  The interesting part of that is how I am constantly hearing about how his endurance on the track relates to his circular breathing. Again, those of you that know me can only imagine the visual"circular breathing" conjured, but hey, I learned, and who knew all that trombone practice would make Erik a better runner?  Those damned Fine Arts.  They're just honing in on everything.

 Good for them!

So, back to this STEAM train.  I'm sure you've all seen a steam engine or at least know what one is, and if not how it works, at least what it does.  Similarly, if you are raising children, have any interest in education movements, work in the fields of science, technology, math, engineering, or manufacturing, you are also familiar  with STEM.  It's interesting, it's fascinating and a National movement to put our country back in the limelight.  A movement to cultivate learners with an integral knowledge of the inter working of these disciplines.  I and my children are fortunate enough to attend a High School with one of only 2 state-of-the-art STEM labs in Illinois.  They have been afforded the opportunity to begin this learning process in grade school through an outreach program and now, this year, to delve even deeper into these concepts as middle school students with a STEM lab in the grade school through a grant from PLTW (Project Lead the Way).   How fortunate for them that we live in a progressive, forward thinking, quality school district.  Yay! for us.

Now, if I haven't lost you to the distraction of a shiny object, put you to sleep or totally confused you, back to my question.  Are you riding the STEAM train?  STEAM is a movement to take STEM to the next level.  To fill the void in this great new innovative concept.  It adds Art to STEM.  It brings the idea of putting America and its next generation back on top of the world innovatively.  It puts us ahead of the pact in thought, in concept, in creativity.  In other words, it is the train to be on.  Hell, if you're gonna ride the train, get a first class ticket!

Why am I asking you these questions?  Why am I riding this train?  Why is this important?  Why is this the soap box I choose to make my passion?
Because we need to change the way we think.  Collectively.  This world, its leaders, its educators, its CEO's, principals, parents and youth need to change the value we place on the Fine Arts and the priority they are afforded.  We need to value creativity, expression, and beauty and the individuals they create.We need to open our minds fully and give the Arts there due respect.  Is this the age old argument?  Yes.  Can we tell you something you haven't heard before?  Yes.  and the answer is STEAM.
Integrating the Fine Arts into the industrial, mechanical process gives us innovators.  People who can look at things from a different perspective, create what has yet to  be imagined, humanize what we already have and make it useful.  Creativity, passion, expression of the soul can be the key to making a good thing great, solving the unsolvable from a new direction.  Hell, playing a wind instrument can be the difference between a runner and a track star.  Who's to say it can't prevent the labored breathing of a future respiratory patient?  It may take the scientifically trained doctor to experiment with such a concept, but it is likely the musician that sees the possibility because he lives it.

The bottom line is, we can't leave the arts behind.  We can't diminish or sideline them.  We need to embrace them and appreciate not only their beauty but their usefulness and their rightful place among the sciences.  Without engineers, we would not have the preciseness of a Stradivarius or the complexity of the keys that give a clarinet or saxophone its clarity, but what good are they without the artist who can make them useful.

I think of this now, more than ever for several reasons.  The recent loss of Steve Jobs has presented the world with a biography of innovation.  Designs, that because of creativity changed our world, literally.  Innovations that made engineered items relatable, comfortable and intuitive.  There's no formula for intuition, it's felt, it's understood, it's evolved.

I also think of this now, more than ever because my children are becoming adults.  Creative, artistic, passionate young men with a thirst for knowledge, an intelligence for success and a love of the Arts.  Yes, I live this, everyday, and I am blessed to do so.  They have a unique way of looking at the world and as much as they relish the traditions of holiday celebrations, "that's the way its always been done" will never satisfy their questions.  For that, I thank the Arts!

So, jump on that train, catch that plane, hell, crawl on your hands and knees, but get there.  Embrace the arts not just for their beauty, but for their strength, their usefulness, for what they bring to the party.  Grab them from the corner of the room like Swayze did Baby and tell the world, no one puts the Arts in the corner!  I beg of you, get out of the proverbial balcony and out on the stage.  Sing this song, dance this dance and take our youth and their education to the next level.