Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Sturgeon Bay Speed Racer

I was in Sturgeon Bay over the weekend and went to see the Third Ave Playhouse's matinee of Shooting Star with Doug Mancheski and Amy Ensign. It was a great play about old lovers that meet up by chance years later while they are snowed in at an airport. The house was packed-sold out-which was great to see. This is such a wonderful theater and the plays I've seen there are intimate and outstanding!  I'd never seen Amy act before and she was amazing! And of course, Doug was his usual magnificent self! He has such a range of skills. If you've only seen him in his comedic plays, you owe it to yourself to try and catch one of his shows at TAP and see his more serious side.

The average age of the crowd at this play was 75+.  It's weird to be one of the 'youngsters' in the crowd at 54! Reminds me of the time I went to Irish Fest on a  Burkhaulter tour bus out of Madison in my 30s. The average age on that bus was 812 and all they adopted me as the naughty grandchild. What a trip that was! But I digress....

So it's closing in on 2 PM when I catch a movement out of the corner of my eye and turn in time to see a man in a wheelchair careen down the sloped aisle and bury himself and his chair in the staging curtains by the right hand side of the theater. No one moved or said anything. I think we all thought it was the start of the show until he started asking 'What happened' and someone from up back came to get him. The man who rescued him told him  that he shouldn't have been fiddling with his brakes on his chair, but the guy wasn't having any of it-kept insisting he was pushed. After I found out he was was pretty amusing.  It was even more amusing when, during intermission, the lady to my left, who never moved during, or acknowledged in any way, the entire crash incident, asked me if I saw her husband 'wreck his wheelchair?'  I said, "That was your husband?" She said primly, "Yes, the wheelchair thing is new."

After the play, I went up the aisle and there the guy was again, headed down-slope, fiddling with his brakes. I stood in front of him and said 'Hey, you already took quite a ride once there, Speed Racer! How about I give you a ride to the top of the hill?' He through that would be a fine idea so I did. By the time I got to the first flat level, the guy that rescued him from the weeds the first time came up and took over. I think his 'handler' was seated in the middle and couldn't get to him quickly when the fertilizer hit the fan! Poor old guy has got a steep learning curve ahead of him...literally.

As an aside, I wasn't the youngest person in the crowd. There was a ~10 year old and her mother sitting to my right. They knew Amy and the girl had flowers for her and was all dressed up special. There is a uber steamy scene in Act II. It's a pretty small theater and essentially the characters were making out pretty heavily right in our laps in the front row. The look on the little girl's face was absolutely hilarious. She finally looked down at her hands until it was over. I can imagine there was 'discussion' in the car on the way home. If I hadn't been driving alone, there would have been a discussion in my car too! LOL!

It was a lovely afternoon, highly entertaining on all fronts. Again, if you get a chance to go to S.B to TAP, I encourage you to do so. It's worth the drive!

Friday, April 05, 2019

One Starfish At A Time

When I was younger, I went to Lincolnville Beach, Maine with my family. We were wading in the shallows and I  found a group of starfish on the rocks. I held my left arm outstretched, palm up and lined several of them on the underside of my arm. I showed my folks, and examined them all closely before slowly tipping my arm thinking that they would all drop gently back into the sea-bloop, bloop, bloop. Imagine my surprise, and abject terror as it turns out, when they remained firmly  affixed to my arm. To put it mildly, I panicked and lost my sh!t briefly! I just knew that they were dissolving the flesh of my arm with some kind of slimy, sucker acid. I marveled that I felt absolutely no pain even though I was obviously the first person in all of time to be killed and eaten by a marauding gang of starfish! Someone has to be first...just my luck.

I flailed around until I finally got it under control and realized that it was easy to pick them up and gently lower them back down to the sand. Apparently it was just the bloop, bloop, bloop scenario to which they objected, which I guess I can understand. I would hold on tight should someone try to drop me from a great height as well. The underside of my arm was unscathed and I went on to pick up many other starfish over the years with the understanding that if I try to drop them, they will dissolve my arm. Hey, They weren't on there that long enough for that hypothesis to be completely disproven to my complete satisfaction.

I was thinking about this story the other day when I was reminded of the Starfish Parable. I am long enough in the tooth at this point where I've come to an understanding that I am not going to make a huge impact on this life. I'm not going to be famous. Very few people will know my name and fewer still will remember me when I'm gone. So I have decided that- particularly in light of the lack of empathy, responsibility, politeness, common sense and courtesy I see around me every day- it's my job to smile at people, lend a hand when I can, and make a human connection with folks I meet. I've done this to a limited extent all my life, but now is the time to step up my game.

I may be the only person that smiles and acknowledges them that day. Our world right now is so self absorbed, we don't even see people right in front of us. I may be the one that perks up their day with a compliment. Maybe I can ease someone's struggle a little by holding that door, taking their cart to the return, helping to carry something for them, or just letting them know that I see them. So many of us walk through life feeling invisible.

The Starfish Parable is one of my favorites and I think of it often. It goes like this:

One day, an old man was walking along a beach that was littered with thousands of starfish that had been washed ashore by the high tide. As he walked he came upon a young boy who was eagerly throwing the starfish back into the ocean, one by one.
Puzzled, the man looked at the boy and asked what he was doing. Without looking up from his task, the boy simply replied, “I’m saving these starfish, Sir”.
The old man chuckled aloud, “Son, there are thousands of starfish and only one of you. What difference can you make?”
The boy picked up a starfish, gently tossed it into the water and turning to the man, said, “I made a difference to that one!”
It's such a simple, little concept but seems it has gotten lost in the world today. Everyone is isolated , selfish and self absorbed. Simple social etiquette seems to have gone by the wayside. I hear a lot less 'pleases' and 'thank yous'. I see and hear a lot less of us all treating each other with kindness, consideration and basic humanity. Maybe THAT's why I'm here. Maybe I'm won't make a big splash and wow the whole world, but if I can make many small ripples every day and make a difference to a person or two, that would be A-OK with me. Maybe I'll start a movement! 
As an ironic aside, I've been such a fan of this parable since I first heard it, that a couple of years ago, I had a wee starfish tattooed  on the bottom side of my  left arm at the wrist. It doesn't come off...even if I tip my arm. 

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Thursday, April 04, 2019

Providence in October Ain't Hard On the Eyes-Tales of a Zentangle(R) Teacher

In late October I was blessed to travel to Providence, Rhode Island to obtain my  Zentangle Teacher certification. Southern New England is absolutely gorgeous in the late autumn. The fact that the seminar was held on the top floor the glorious art-deco Providence Biltmore Hotel, and my room was on the 12th floor, was pretty amazing too. The views were spectacular!

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I always wanted to go to the seminar for the experience, but NOT to learn to teach. I  told anyone that said, 'you should do classes' that was the last thing on earth I wanted to do. I would hate speaking in a roomful of strangers. And I had been to so many classes where there was always that one annoying person that kept derailing the class... and how would I ever handle that without Valium...or a mallet? Nope. Not cut out for teaching. Not for me. Never. BUT...then I got the unexpected opportunity to go-my company generously offered to send me if I would come back and lead sessions as part of our Corporate Wellness platform- so I jumped on it! I would enjoy the seminar and then 'suffer though' leading sessions at work as return payment. At least it was people that I knew for the most part.  I could muddle through for off to Providence I went.
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The seminar was everything I dreamed it would be and more. The class itself was held in the grand ballroom. There were close to 160 people in my class from many different countries. We had classes on different Zentangle techniques and how to teach them. Rick Roberts and Maria Thomas (who created the Zentangle method) and their daughters, Molly and Martha, were amazing teachers and warm, welcoming human beings to boot! There were so many creative students there. The artwork was dazzling. Everyone was super supportive of one another. It was very nurturing and  Kumbaya. The rooms, service and meals were first class and there was entertainment in the evening after supper. I learned so much and made so many new friends! The three days flew by to quickly!
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So now I was back in Wisconsin, with my teaching certification and a company that was waiting for me to lead team-building sessions. The chips had fallen...the fertilizer was about to hit the fan. Now I had to teach. Crap.

My first official class was for our Front Desk Coordinators team. It was a team building event/retirement party for one of the team members who was leaving. Since it was a combo thing, they chose to have it at a local tequila bar rather than on campus. Let that sink in a moment...a MEDITATION class in a TV filled, sports bar....with copious amounts of booze. Talk about trial by fire. I obsessed for days about all of the things that could go wrong, no, that would go I would go down in flames my first time taxi down the runway. I settled on the notion that no matter how bad it was, I could console myself with tequila afterward as it was close at hand. I'm not a drinker but I was willing to become one if it all went sideways.

The big day came, I went to the venue and found that our 'area' was not a separate room, but just a cordoned off section in the dining area. It started at 3PM so there were few customers, but TVs were blaring from every available wall space. I asked the bartender if she could turn the ones in our section off and got a glazed stare. No one had ever asked that before. She had to work to find the remote. But we got them off. I set up and the ladies came and settled in. I know all of them, at least to say hello to, so it wasn't a 'stranger danger' situation. I had practiced all of the things I wanted to include and techniques I wanted to teach a million times in the weeks before the session. I was as ready as I'd ever be...which didn't feel ready at all!

I started in, looking out across the 12 friendly, smiling faces and it all immediately clicked and fell into place. I didn't even have to look at my notes. They were eager to learn and have fun. Creating art with the Zentangle method has been a huge part of my life for going on 10 years now. Everything just flowed and I LOVED it! I was sharing something that I find so much joy in with others. What could be better than that?

I panicked a little bit more when I ventured out to teach my next 'all stranger'  class but it turned out the same way. It's not difficult to teach your passion to people who are eager and want to learn it! So I've been teaching way more that I imagined I would (which as you recall was ...never...except for the much dreaded 'indentured service' sessions for work). I enjoy it so much and am anticipating expanding my repertoire of class techniques in anticipation of teaching even more. I'm hooked!

One of the things I love the most is that everyone in the class sees and hears the exact same instructions  but in the end, when we put all of the tiles together for a mosaic, every tile is different and each one is beautiful in it's own way. There is no right or wrong. That in itself is a lesson. I'll leave you with these two mosaics from my class last night. Tangle on!

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Sunday, March 31, 2019

Popping Up Again Like the Flowers of Spring

Wow! Five months since I've written on here! Doesn't seem like that long on the one hand....but on the other, it seems like 5 years!  This has been the longest. winter. ever.  To be fair, not a lot of earth-shattering, blog-worthy stuff has been happening, Maine for Christmas, work, teaching Zentangle, crafting, reading and trying to keep our sanity here at McCurdo Midwest. But it looks like to long months of house arrest are finally over. Our spring flowers are up-crocuses mostly. Once the 5 foot snowbank in the garden melted, we discovered that they had jumped the gun and were already 3-4 inches high under there! Bless their little hearts.

With the warmer (relative term) weather and the ice gone, long walks are once again on the docket. Love to take three or four miles through Prairie Park and watch the world waking up again. I have been bringing plastic grocery bags with me and picking up the trash and detritus of winter. That in itself is...interesting. Sometimes the combination of things tickles me. One day I found condom wrappers and a Fisher Price baby rattle. I thought to myself, 'Well, that didn't work!'  Sometimes the reactions I get to picking up trash is worth the effort, like the day I returned with an overflowing bag of  econo-sized vodka bottles and six packs of empty, hard tonic cans and my neighbor asked me if I had had a party out in the woods. Yeah-'cause that's how I roll.  Do I look like I sneak off into the woods to drink?  I hunker in my own dwelling to do that, Sir!

Mostly I get a lot of  'why are you doing that's? I started out saying things like, 'Gotta take care of the planet' or 'Looks better with out garbage all around'. But I got tired of the 'That's a great idea' and 'Awww! That's so nice'  comments then seeing the same people out walking everyday sans garbage bags of their own. I figured I wasn't able to get the point across anyway, so for my own amusement  I just started saying 'Community Service' or 'Work Release Program'. I think word has gotten around. I dont' get asked much anymore.

April is full of different things to do, a trip to Sturgeon Bay, teaching numerous Zentangle classes at work and after, Prairie Tangler's meeting...Just going anywhere without dressing up like a Lapland Reindeer herder is exciting.

I've decided I'm going to try to update this once a week if anyone is still hanging in there. Based on the comments from her minions about not having posted in so long, my stalker is still checking so that's something I guess. I know all of the folks back home are still buried in the white stuff so I will leave you with this... I hope all of the snow in your lives melts soon so you can peek your heads out of the holes and hollows and sniff the fresh spring air! Happy April!

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Cooper and The Garden Guest

I discovered earlier this summer that finches aren't the only thing that like my thistle seeds. Even though there is a plethora of seeds on the ground, this little daredevil shimmies up the iron pole, tightropes across the shepherd's hook, rappels down the rope and eats them directly from the source! 

He's a tiny White-Footed Wood Mouse and I see him most nights when I take Moose out before bed. We chat a bit and then I leave him to it. As long as he stays outside, we don't have any issues. 

Since he normally comes out after dark and I have closed the blinds way beforehand, Cooper has no idea that inches from his window seat hangs a potentially tasty hors d'oeuvre.  That all changed the other night when I walked down to Gus's diner in the daylight to meet a friend for supper and didn't get home until well after dark. I came home to this!

Come here, little guy. I just want to be your friend. 

So close and yet so far...I can't even stun him with my laser beam eyes!

Maybe if I climb up the window from the top of my cat tree, I can get the jump on him! Death from above!

He was going absolutely bananas so I finally closed the blinds. The minute I did,  Cooper immediately curled up and went to sleep on his window seat! No trying to get through the curtains. No more meowing and carrying on....he was done. Out of sight, out of mind! Now I pull the curtains at dusk and we haven't had a problem since. I wish all issues were resolved this easily!


I can't believe how excited I still get over finding fossils out here. This whole area was submerged in the Cambrian Sea about 550 million years ago, so the ground is mostly a limestone base fulled with corals, trilobites, crinoids and shells. The beaches are full of fossils, as are rocks in quarries and even the landscaping rocks around businesses. I've been here 30 years and you would think I had found a finorkin' T-Rex every time I spot one. It's the little things I guess!

I found some beauties (to me) in Algoma.

Chain Coral

Chain Coral

I don't know but the black bits looks like the outline of a small crayfish. 

Honeycomb or Petosky. I'm not sure really. The holes are much bigger and darker than the other honeycomb pieces I found. Here is the other side of it. I'm leaning towards Petosky.

Thought this was a lightning stone but it's just a rock with some kind of concretion. Still cool!

Crinoid fossil. Crinoids were organisms that looked kind of like segmented reeds. 

This is just a piece of sea glass but I was happy to find it since it's one off the biggest pieces I've seen in a while and I've been hunting Lincolville beach every summer for years!

I stivered back to the car with my winter jacket pockets so loaded I could barely waddle, happy as a clam! Some people buy expensive lucky and I that I'm happy with a rock!

Crazy Autumn/Respite in Door County

It's been a crazy autumn around here. I've loved it, but am eagerly anticipating a little bit of a slowdown after the holidays! At least I've got my Christmas shopping done. If I don't get it done by Halloween, I have failed. My dislike of being trapped in the Madison crowds and getting folded, spindled and mutilated at every turn, prevents me from enjoying 'holiday' shopping in the traditional sense.  Thankfully the stores have their Christmas stuff out in August now so I can get a jump on it!

Work has been nuts, but I was able to get a couple of days to go up to Door County to see Northern Sky's production of 'Muskie Love'. Friend, Doug Mancheski, was in it. Someone told me that since I love 'Guys on Ice' so much, that I needed to see 'Lumberjacks in Love' (which I did two summers ago) and 'Muskie Love'. The perfect trilogy! 'Muskie Love's basic bones structure kind of lies in  Shakespeare's 'Much Ado About Nothing' ..but as a musical comedy....set in a fishing village.... in Door County, Wisconsin... and the Packers are kind of in it. There is a character named DNR Doug that was hilarious! I loved the music and hope they put a CD out. Doug sang a song by Dave Hudson called 'On Green Bay' that was so beautiful it brought tears to my eyes! What a voice and what a poignant song!

Stayed overnight in Fish Creek, since the play was at the Door County auditorium, had breakfast at Al Johnson's Swedish Restaurant (goats on the roof doncha know) in Sister Bay, and then did the fall foliage drive back by Northern Sky's soon-to-be new home before crossing over to the other side of the peninsula and going to Bailey's Harbor. My plan was to go to Whitefish Dunes State Park and fossil hunt on the beach. Great plan, except there was no beach! The water was so high and the winds so wild that the water was coming right up to the trees and the beach was closed. Instead, I walked up the shore the other way to Cave Point where things were really rocking and rolling!

I met a bunch of nice folks at the point and took pictures for a bunch of people with their cameras and cell phones. For some of them I'd take a picture of myself first. I like to think of them back home  in Chicago, going through their vacation pics and wondering who the heck that lady is! I walked the path through the woods, along the cliffs, which are 2-3 stories above the water, and still got hefty doses of sea spray, although it was worth it to hear the water sing in the caves in the limestone cliffs-like Thunder Hole in Acadia x10!  It was only 40° so I was glad to get back to the warmth of the car after an hour and a half outside although the walk totally restores the soul.

From there, I drove down to Algoma where  there was a beach I could walk to look for rocks.

 I'm glad it was a long beach because one half of it definitely belonged to these guys:
And I didn't want to have to sift though all their poo for the good rocks. Better to just stick to my end of the shore! There was a beautiful lighthouse at the goose end too!

Manitowoc and Two Rivers have a bike path/park that run down the entire length of the shoreline with placed to sit and watch the lake. It's absolutely gorgeous, no matter what the weather.

I went by it on the way up to Fish Creek and had wanted to stop on the way home, but after 90 minutes at Cave Point and another two hours at Algoma, I was cold and done in  and still had about a 3 hour drive to get home so I just went back through Green Bay. I am relieved to tell you that I actually made it back over the scary, tall bridges in Green Bay. They are knuckle-tightening on a calm day and the winds were really whipping making them extra exciting! I may or may not have said a few swear words in amongst my prayers! I didn't invent any new swears, but I t strung the existing ones together pretty creatively while traversing a swinging concrete slab way up in the sky!

I had a wonderful time. The play was awesome. Visiting with Doug is always a pleasure and I got a little taste of the coast of Maine right here in the Midwest. I found lots of fossils, made new friends and didn't catch my death of pneumonia out traipsing around in the wind and rain. Can't ask for more than that!

Thursday, September 20, 2018


I've been spending every free moment studying Zentangle materials for my CZT class at the end of October. I've been practicing the art and method Zentangle for about 8 years now, but I have only been doing what I enjoy so it's time to learn, or at least become familiar with, all of the things I haven't tried. If my company is being so generous with  their money, time, and faith-sending me to class, the least I can do is be prepared!

So, I had seen the term 'Zenbuttons' bantered around but hadn't really investigated them. There is a section in the Zen Primer that talks about reticula and Zenbuttons stem from that, so I thought I ought to at least try it. What I saw online didn't grab me that much but I decided to do at least 5 so I could get the hang of it.

The first one I tried was with purple and black on a tan tile. It went OK but I wasn't thrilled with the process or the outcome. My outside circle was wonky, the highlighting was weak, and it just kind of sat there overall. 

So I went back to the drawing board. (Pun intended.) I looked at the instructions and then at the first tile and decided all of the things I wanted to change with the second one. I used blue and black on a tan tile and put a Zengem in the middle. I like that one a little better but it still didn't pop for me.

For the third one, I decided to make more bands and spaces for the reticula to make it a little less clunky, stayed away from the strictly monochromatic colors and upped my white highlight to make it 'shinier'.

This is what it looked like before shading:

 I was amazed at what a difference a little bit of graphite and white chalk could make. Finally, one I was happy with.

 I guess the thing that I am most happy with is that I can see definite progress with each new button as I get used to the method.
(From left to right).

That and the fact that while the process got a lukewarm reception at first, I really like doing them now and have idea for my last two already! Why is it that my inner three-year-old never learns to stop dragging her feet and just try something before she decide she doesn't like it!? Two more under my belt by the end of the weekend and then it's on to square medallions! Wheeeeee! Loving the ride!

Update: Finished the last two!

# 4 Orange Autumn

#5 Red and Black

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Diva Challenge 367-'NZepple

Laura's challenge this week was to use the tangle pattern 'NZepple. 'NZepple is one of my Mac and Cheese tangles. It appears in 90 % of my work. It's so relaxing to do and I love the way that, even though the same design is repeated over and over in a grid, it creates a secondary pattern.

I love to use it as in the background of this tile.

Or make it wonky style and turn it into sea shells like in the bottom left hand corner of this tile. (Kudos to Margaret Bremner who first turned us on to this variation called 'Cockles and Mussels'!)

As long as 'NZepple, Hybrid, Quiltz, Mooka, and Zinger exist, all is right with my world! What are your Mac and Cheese Tangles?

Sturgeon Bay Speed Racer

I was in Sturgeon Bay over the weekend and went to see the Third Ave Playhouse's matinee of Shooting Star with Doug Mancheski and Amy En...