You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘Milieu’ category.

Like the weather lately, the past week has been schizophrenic for me. Handsome Hunk and I took advantage of the great weather to explore the city last weekend and soak up some spring, snapping a few photos of buildings and grit along the way.

On Easter Sunday at sunrise, my book club friend Claudia died after her husband opened the windows to let the spring air in. She’d had enough. Parkinson’s had ravaged her body and left it vulnerable to other ailments. I have a feeling that Claudia was a “handful” all her life: she definitely was a

Claudia

spitfire who always had something unique to contribute to our discussions and much to our delight, she rarely minced words. She served in the Peace Corps, became a social worker and was a creative spirit who loved and participated in all the arts. There have been several times in the past few years that we thought beautiful Claudia was near death, but she always rallied and I never thought of her as sickly. We’ll truly miss you Claudia. I bet at every book club someone will sigh and wonder what you would say.

Last Monday I flew to San Antonio on business with two male associates the age of my daughter. It’s quite the social experiment all that generational togetherness. We worked 9 hr days and ate Mexican food and drank “Top Shelf” tequilas every night, and they were the ones who declared themselves tired and wanting to head back to the hotel to crash. Personally all that “on time” with the clients wore thin with me too.

The Shrimp Pimp in our hotel parking lot in San Antonio, TX

So, this week is jam-packed with getting things done to leave on Friday to visit my grandchildren. I have a pile of new little baby and toddler clothes to take with me. I can’t wait for some little hugs and grimy-faced kisses. Gigi is on her way!

Here’s a little “gritty in the city” photography:

Handsome Hunk and I have a Sunday ritual during the winter. We head to the club in the morning for a workout (I take an hour spin class) and then we linger over breakfast in the café. It takes the edge off the cold, gray days and gives us a false sense of accomplishment for the weekend. We then plow through two Sunday newspapers and often make soup to last the week.

In addition to adding to the work-in-progress encaustic diptych above, I played with my new acrylic paints today. What surprises me, is that acrylics take longer to dry then I thought they would. I’m painting layers that I plan to sand through in different places, so making sure each layer dries before I paint another is important—I think. Right now it’s all about experimenting since I’m used to painting with oils.

Recently I stumbled across Katherine Cartwright’s blog dedicated to the “advancement of critical thinking in art.” In her most recent post, Paint for Yourself, she proclaims, “the point is that I need to paint for myself and the odds are that few people will feel the same way I do about my paintings. And, when you get right down to it, what’s the point of painting from someone else’s view anyway?” Amen.

Yesterday I spent ten minutes of every hour imagining I was paddling about in the beautiful turquoise water of the Caribbean:

And mentally replaying our walk through the botanic gardens on the island:

C’mon Mother Nature, you can do it. Let’s hear it for Spring!!

Some things don’t go of style but stay elegant and fresh throughout the years. That’s how I feel about the Finnish Marimekko fabric designs

Marimekko fabric design originally introduced in 1960s

that first appeared in the U.S. in the 1960s.  As 2010 approached and I started to anticipate turning 60 in the coming year, I must have subconsciously started channeling the 1960s. Since it was time to do a bit of freshening up in the apartment and I had a new sewing machine, I selected two Marimekko prints (there’s a wide selection available at many places online) and made a reversible duvet to spice up our bedroom. We also bought a versatile hounds tooth area rug to liven up the living room.

Sometimes minor changes like these quell my restlessness for change in my surroundings—cheaper than a new place or a second home!  I’ll probably swap out new marble squares around the fireplace and put some different colors on the walls when the spirit moves me. And I would love, love, love to take out all the beige travertine marble in our master bath and replace it with white subway tiles that have a tinge of aqua to them.  I’m never quite satisfied since I  appreciate all types of décor—pastel colors, subtle and austere and lively colors, eclectic and homey.  Wouldn’t it be fun to have several houses in exotic places to explore all sides of your decorating personality?

New Marimekko fabric duvet, wild colorful side!

New Marimekko fabric duvet subtle, tranquil side.

My favorite configuration of the duvet...folded down over the pillow to expose the bright, colorful side!

Hounds tooth carpet gives a bit of spark to the living room.

Sha na na na, hey hey hey, goodbye to the Oh’s, the Aughts or whatever you call our current decade. I remember how jazzed we were to welcome it in. Handsome hunk and I joined the throngs of people at Chicago’s Navy Pier for fireworks on New Year’s Eve 2000. Actually there were fireworks upon fireworks upon fireworks (my version of heaven) as we looked down the Lake Michigan coastline to see all the celebrations illuminating the sky. Afterward, I toddled (hobbling the final few blocks) several miles home wearing high heels, no unoccupied cabs available. It was an exhilarating, glorious night.

Like all decades, the Ohs were a roller coaster. The dot com era flamed in and out so quickly it seems now like an illusion, though its technology increasingly dominates our lives. My husband and I were both out of a job for a year, overlapping six months during which time we watched in realtime horror as planes soared into the towers. Loss of loved ones, marriages, new little beings coming into our lives, travel and the realization that we aren’t young any longer—and that we aren’t old. Then there are the events that happened worldwide which will be chronicled in countless articles, blogs and TV shows this coming week. Sonny and Cher had it right, the beat goes on–whether you’re dancing to it or not.

Now it’s time to welcome the twenty-tens, the tens, the teens or whatever we end up dubbing this new decade. 2010 looks like a friendly number to me. I too will move into a new decade in another way since I was born in 1950. Vintage me.

My husband and I have decided that “ADVENTURE” will be our theme for 2010. It’s a wide open concept. Can you sum up your personal aspirations for this clean-slate, shiny, hopeful new year in one word?


Fall in the City

My worries travel about my head on their well-worn path. Yes I understand, I thought when I came across this line in a book I’m reading. Like a circle in a spiral, like a wheel within a wheel. Never ending or beginning on an ever spinning reel…I sing to myself. The light goes out, my husband softly snores, and I lie there. Not worrying exactly. Thoughts pop into my mind and start leaping about, winding around, jutting here and spiraling there. I try unsuccessfully to contain them, erase them and chant over them. Sometimes I feel as if my mind is crackling with electricity. In the past few weeks, insomnia has returned and things can start to look bleak when you’re short on sleep.

Today though felt soothing like drinking a chocolate milkshake. It was a glorious November day, unusually warm and sunny. A cloudless sky as you can see from the photos I took on our trek across the city to Lake Michigan. The last of the leaves, sunlit and clinging to nearly bare branches, got their chance to dazzle. Watery, abstract reflections of tall buildings made me want to grab a brush and paint. And, the harbor full of abandoned boat slips looked a bit forlorn on such a warm day.

I’m contemplating our good fortune with the arrival of our granddaughter, Mia, born last Wednesday. She joins two older (barely—the oldest isn’t even three yet) brothers who have discovered that she arrived with some different equipment then they have.  If I lived near my daughter I would put my insomnia to good use and rock and sing to my sweet Mia in the middle of the night while everyone else sleeps. Like a circle in a spiral…

Don’t Call Me “Hon”! Does this strike a chord with anyone? People don’t know you. They may take your order at a restaurant, blow dry your hair or do your nails, weigh you in at the doctor’s or cash you out at the grocery store. Yet they call you “hon” or “sweetie.”

I imagine my hand rising to smack some sense into these people. Yet I say nothing. Maybe they mean well. Maybe they are being condescending. Maybe they are trying to feel superior. I thought it might be an age thing, someone thinks you are over 50 so  that gives them the right to use such familiar diminutives (now there’s a word I haven’t used in a while), but I just saw a Facebook post by a friend who is in her mid thirties surprised that a waiter half her age had the audacity to call her “hon.”

I work with a lot of people the ages of my children. And I sometimes am tempted to call someone I’ve developed affection for “hon.” I resist the impulse. They deserve my respect as professional co-workers. I am NOT their mother. They aren’t my little sweeties.

So what goes with this? Does it bother anyone else? Should we rise up and say something? Where are the etiquette police?

“Be sweet,” handsome hunk calmly says to me when my sarcasm or caustic mouth starts to get out of control. Sometimes hearing that only discharges both barrels, but most of the time I stop and tell myself, “Yeah, I need to get a grip.” It’s one of many little tricks we’ve devised to cope with each other’s humanity. Sometimes a successful relationship is nurtured just by humoring each other from time to time. Like yesterday when I agreed to get up early today to go on an excursion to the forest preserve in the ‘burbs for a hike. “Sure, sure,” I mumbled. Going for a walk in the woods sounded great, but getting up early on a Sunday less so.

This morning at 7:30, we left the clear skies of the city and soon encountered a blanket of fog and chill in the air. Thirty minutes later we pulled into the parking lot at the trailhead. Starting to lift, the fog still cloaked the trees; there was no one else around except a few random runners and we were enveloped by a tranquil, muted beauty. I stood still. Silence, except for a few chirping birds. Quite different from the sounds of trains, els and frustrated taxi drivers that punctuate our daily lives.

It was a 4.5 mile up and down trail through woods, fields and around ponds. The fog made everything pastel, even the pond “scum.”

DSCF2322

We encountered several beautiful spider webs, this one with the dew still on it. It triggered a discussion about the difference between a cob web and spider web – I still need to research that.

DSCF2326

Some things are still brilliant even in the foggy morning:

DSCF2330

We passed along a meadow as the sun started to burn through the fog and it sounded like rain in the trees. It was only the acorns and other nuts dropping through the leaves to the ground.

DSCF2331

We startled several sunning bullfrogs in this little part of one of the ponds:

DSCF2333

Getting out of the city was a healing change of pace for me. I’ve been in a very unsweet mood since Obama’s speech and the inexcusable rudeness that erupted threw me for a loop. In today’s NYT’s, Maureen Dowd has come to the reluctant conclusion that racism is at the crux of this. Sadly that is what I believe to be true too. My daughter tells me to get over it and consider the source, but this recent behavior really is like a kick to the gut. Sometimes we ponder if there is intelligent life on other planets, I wonder if there’s intelligent life here on earth.

Ok, be sweet.

EZE

One of the blogs I regularly enjoy is Art Propelled by an artist who lives in South Africa. In addition to seeing her beautifully carved totems and panels, there also is an exotic quality to her musings about living life in a far off land where I once lived for three years. She recently blogged about Art from the Banal or Discarded, amazing art created from bottle caps, copper wire, metal sheets, safety pins and more. The pieces that bowled me over were by Nigerian artist, Joseph EZE and made from flip flops! You can best view more of his work on another blog, A View From My Corner. The ingenuity of people continually astounds me. I  cringe when I hear anyone say, “there’s nothing new under the sun.” Sounds like such a cop out, doesn’t it?

If you’re looking for a good summer read, I  recommend The Girl Who Played with Fire by Stieg Larsson (though maybe not so much for you, Mom). As I neared the end of the book earlier this week, I read until one a.m. When I turned out the light my mind kept buzzing and I was awake until 4am. I felt as if there were 30 tap dancers dancing up a storm, slapping knees and clapping hands in my brain. The next day I wasn’t too bad off, but the following two days the lost sleep caught up with me and I found it a bit difficult dragging my considerable butt through the day. It’s not great literature, just a good read and not too formulaic or predictable. After reading a book, I always ask myself, would I recommend this to my friends? And generally the answer is “not really” or it might be “maybe,” but I would caveat the recommendation in some way.

Today was hot and steamy and now it’s thundering and lightning. We got home from the library just in time. New books I picked up to read are: Cat in a Topaz Tango by Carole Nelson Douglas (the cover caught my eye), The Good Thief’s Guide to Paris, a mystery by Chris Ewan (I’m a sucker for any book set in Paris) and one that I had on reserve, You or Someone Like You by Chandler Burr (I read a positive review on The Daily Beast).

Currently I’m just getting into the book, On Moving by Louise DeSalvo. So far it’s an interesting meditation on moving, searching for dream houses, and re-imagining our lives with a change of location. I confess that I’m getting the itch to move again. Not necessarily to a different city, though that might be fun too. Just a different point of view, new rooms to decorate, a new neighborhood to explore and so on seem appealing to me.

Like many other people we’re looking forward to the season start of Mad Men tonight, and we’ll be viewing it on our new big screen TV, all 40 diagonal inches of it. People who know us may faint when they read that, we’ve been holdouts for so long. No cheering, please. (Writing this brings to mind the first time I wore a bra in the seventh grade and the girls in the lockers around me clapped and cheered, obviously an embarrassing moment in my life.) Anyway, last weekend we capitulated and walked into the appliance store with a padded (bras must still be on my mind) figure in mind to spend, and walked out having spent, almost to the penny, twice as much. The great American way to shop! But, for the most part, we up-sold ourselves and can’t blame it on the sale guy. So now we can see all the actors pores, wrinkles and bad complexions in high definition. Hallelujah, they are human after all! Just like the rest of us. My husband likes to remind me that what he loves most about me is my humanity. This is code for you’re-not-perfect-either-ha-ha.

Even though today is a fry-an-egg-on-the-sidewalk, steamy day in Chicago we wanted to be outdoors. Before noon, handsome hunk (HH) and I packed the backpack with a blanket, our Crazy Creek chairs that have been so convenient and comfortable to take to concerts and picnics during the past ten years, a thermos filled with ice tea, a crossword puzzle and the Sunday papers and headed out. Our destination? Olive Park on Lake Michigan near Navy Pier. Thank goodness for the slight relief of a cooling breeze as we wound our way through the city streets to the lakefront.

12240948-1Olive Park is on a little peninsula that allowed us with just a slight swivel of our heads to look back at the cityscape and beach and out at the lake dotted with sailboats and cruisers. We spread the blanket under a tree, read for a while and watched the young teens flirt by splashing each other in the water—remember those exciting days of burgeoning sexuality?! We drifted into a conversation about summers when we were kids. I think the conversation kicked off when HH wondered aloud about the “whys” of today’s obesity epidemic.

During my grade school years, my family lived on a suburban street lined with new brick homes that contained tons of kids the ages of my sister, brother and me. Summer days were spent running up and down the sidewalks, playing hopscotch, jumping rope, swimming in plastic pools in the backyard, riding bikes, vacation bible school, cooking out, playing house in makeshift tents, catching pollywogs and bees in glass jars and going camping.

It was non-stop activity from our snap-crackle-and-pop breakfasts to the evening chimes of the Good Humor truck. Stubbed toes and sunburned noses were the badges of a great summer. We resented having to come in for one hour of quiet time during the heat of the day (something the mothers of the neighborhood conspired on) and to eat dinner.

As I write this, I realize that my Mom must have been indoors on these summer days, cleaning, washing, ironing and preparing meals, and my Dad was off at work in an office building that may not have been air conditioned at that time, while we were out having the times of our lives. Thanks Mom. Thanks Dad.

HH’s family transplanted themselves from Pennsylvania to their cottage in northern Michigan each summer with his Dad traveling back and forth as frequently as possible. HH’s days were spent swimming, sailing, riding his bike and hanging out with his summer friends.

It was fun to laze on our blanket and dredge up fond memories. It made us wonder. Is summer so different for kids today? Does the mix of air-conditioning, video games, working Moms, fear of kidnappings and other factors prevent the free-flowing, active childhoods we experienced in the 1950s and 60s that also kept us lean in our early years?

Encaustic Painting, 24"x24"

Encaustic Painting, 24"x24"

Whan the sunne shynth make hey.
[1546 J. Heywood Dialogue of Proverbs i. iii. A4]

I’m in full commiseration mode with farmers who prefer to go swimming, write a story or finish a woodworking project in the barn instead of heading out to the pasture to make hay on a sunny day.

My consulting gig ended last Friday and though we can use the income, I was craving the time back in my studio. Not to be. They have another job they want me for that will last through the end of September. I smiled and said, “certainly,” but inside I was deeply despondent. It’s a fast-paced agency environment, and longish days that tend to sap me of energy. It’s difficult to then come home and spend time in the studio painting. My morning boot camp that gets my blood flowing three times a week will probably have to fall by the wayside too. If possible, I am going to try carve out time here and there if the project allows and not work full days.

Sunday started off with gnashing of teeth. Trust me, no one can be pissier during a computer problem than me. It took almost two hours to fix it, including an online chat with tech support. Enter handsome hunk. To dispel the bad energy that had descended on our abode, he dragged me out of the condo to see the Human Rhythm Project at Millennium Park. I’ve always wanted to be a dancer. On the way we couldn’t resist the fun of shadow-voguing.

DSCF2010
DSCF2015
I mentioned in an earlier post that I belong to the Encaustic Art group on Facebook and they are having a “Summer Art Challenge.” I entered three of my pieces. I think they have about 233 pieces posted now and the people in the group are voting. Each of my pieces has received votes: this is a real mental boost and makes me feel happy that other artists see value in my work. I just finished up another two encaustics. The one at the top of the post is one you haven’t seen yet.

Now, it’s Monday. The sun is shining. Time to make hay.