Tuesday, January 31, 2012

My Best Older Friend --- 1990

Grandma Flip Flops
I've been seriously under the weather these past few days and very behind in my blogging.  My Mom did bring me my Grandma's flip flops and the original essay I wrote about her.  I didn't realize that I was  a couple years older than I had remembered.  Also, it doesn't seem like my writing has evolved that much in the last 21 years.  Grab a tissue for the "cookie/wrinkle" line and stay tuned for my next post.

"My Best Older Friend"

Grandma Schalz is the Grandma on my Mom's side.  She's a lively seventy-six year old.  You would think she would be in a retirement home, but instead she works in one!  She's an immaculate housekeeper.  The residents love every bit of her.  They give her delicious treats, which she shares with me.  

My Grandma enjoys cooking and baking.  She spends her spare time baking the "never-stop-eating cookies. "  You won't stop eating until you see your face in the bottom of the tin.  She bakes the cookies to have just the right amount of wrinkles to match the wrinkles that are worn on her hand.  That's what makes them so good.  

Our family shares a paper route.  Every day my Grandma comes over and helps majorly on the paper route.  I'm sixty six years younger than my Grandma and she can walk faster than I can!

My Grandma makes me laugh.  One thing that makes me smile is her unique "Grandma-slang."  She manages to change a letter or two in a word or name and from then on that's it with Grandma.

She makes me feel good about myself.  Daily she affirms me by telling me "Anna you are fast, just like me."  "Anna you always get your homework done right away."  I'm glad my name is the same as my Grandma's, Anna, "My Best Older Friend."

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Loca Over Logos

I'm working on developing my logo for business cards, tags, etc.  I have playing with a design showcasing the pinwheel, but it has been challenging.  I'm hoping that finishing this pinwheel painting will help blow me in the right direction.  Here are some photos illustrating where I am at.  Any suggestions, impressions? 
Tag possibilities
Detail of Unfinished Pinwheel Painting

Tag Possibilities

Monday, January 23, 2012


Grandma With Birds And Tree Lungs
When we traversed the river in my hometown, I knew we were heading not only to my Grandma's house but to another world.  The houses on her side of town sagged a little more, were closer together, and sometimes painted hot pink.  Occasionally one of the larger Victorians boasted a cluster of mailboxes next to the front door. Although both of my parents grew up on this side of town, it was foreign and separate from me.  And it felt even more strange to know that there were people and places of which I wasn't a part.

Once we pulled into Grandma's driveway, she would greet us waving through the screen door.  She'd usher us in, whooshing my brother and me onto the davenport.  Before we knew it, we'd have a hot, mushy bowl of goulash on our wobbly metal TV trays.  She'd switch on the TV set and we'd be turned on like automatons while she'd take our Mom out back to marvel at the flocks of flowers and visit with old friends and neighbors.  We sat happily on our thrones only leaving to steal a chocolate covered Graham Cracker from the tin in the kitchen drawer.  Somehow, getting caught never felt like a real threat considering Grandma regularly pushed cookies on us like a --- grandma.

There was not much to do at Grandma's house, but enough to keep us occupied.  Either we played with vintage baby toys, tinkered with the police radio, or drew on envelopes with crayons stored in an old tin.  (During the holiday dinners, my cousins and I would melt these crayons over an open flame creating our own "candles.")  Grandma didn't even have paper in her house, so she saved the envelopes from her opened mail.  This completely baffled me, and I probably secretly resented her not having a flawless, smooth sheet to bedazzle with my drawings.  But, I cherished her teaching me how to draw birds which I am still constantly drawing, painting, and sewing. 

My Grandma was and still is beloved by her neighbors on the other side of town.   She was the queen of a block that organized a community yard sale in the fall.  Mom would empty drawers and closets hauling bags to my Grandma's house.  We'd pile the tables high with items priced from a quarter to a dollar.  I'd sit behind a card table loaded with a muffin tin full of neatly separated coins, homemade muffins and brownies, and brown lunch bags stuffed with freshly popped popcorn which my Grandma popped on her basement stove.  Neighborhood kids would empty their piggy banks to buy these treats.

Though the neighborhood demographic had shifted since my Grandma had moved in, she found common ground with her new Mexican immigrant neighbors.  Her standard remark was that she loved their "peppy" music.  My Grandma never met a polka beat she didn't like.

Whether it was the freshness of the fall air, the vibrance of the neighborhood, or the anticipation of the high-school bonfire that night, I was always left feeling giddy as quarters passed through my hands, clinking into the muffin tin.  In retrospect I loved seeing my Grandma buzz around us like a productive bee around placid flowers.  She worked and served with such pleasure that you felt like you were doing her a favor by not helping.  I've never known another queen bee who earned her crown through a life of servitude.

Out With The Old, In With The New

My Grandma recently asked my Mom to help her clean out her closet.  This is an unusual request for the 97 year-old who has stingily retained Depression Era frugality.  However, together they filled a bag with unused flip flops from the seventies, some old clothes, and at least thirty pairs of nylon pantyhose.  Her one condition for parting with these items was that I use them.  While I am looking forward to receiving forty-year-old rubber flip flops, I am much  less delighted about a fistful of used nylons.  For my Grandma, pantyhose are like gold and never to be parted with.  As a girl, I would stare at the hand sewn mends running the lengths of her ropy calves.  The mends made scarred ridges in nude nylon.   If a pair wore past the point of repair, they were spared the garbage can and instead stashed in a crumpled brown bag in the garage.  Come summer, she would use them to tie back her tomato plants.  Something else belonging to me was in the closet.  Among the old clothing, my Mom discovered a buried essay of mine.

In second grade I participated in the "Best Older Friend" essay contest which was held by my parish school.  We were encouraged to write lovingly about our "older" friend, and whoever wrote the most accomplished essay would win a  day trip to be enjoyed by the writer and her muse.  The previous year an eighth-grader won for writing about his friend, the parish priest.  Everyone swooned; I wasn't impressed.  In fact, I was fairly confident that I would surpass his efforts.

I proudly announced to my parents that I was going to write about our neighbor whom I considered old and a friend.  After all, we would eat loads of popcorn together while watching movies, and occasionally she'd bring me on outings to Pioneer Village or the zoo.  I had a good time.  My intention was dashed as my parents awkwardly explained that I couldn't pick a friend who was merely in her thirties.  I gave it another shot and decided to write about my Grandma.  While "friend" may not be the term I would have ascribed to her, I did see her almost every day when she'd hurry to our house after cleaning the retirement home.  She usually had a sheet of brownies and some stain-free laundry under her arms.  We'd spend the afternoon rolling and delivering papers.  Not that it was a race, but Grandma bested us at both of these tasks.  Yes, Grandma was my new, best older friend.

I knew my essay would have a winning simile that would push my essay onto the shortlist.  I was going to compare the wrinkles in her hardworking hands to those in the perfect chocolate cookies she regularly baked for us.  Curiously, when I read the line,  a tear would come to my eye, but everyone else remained fairly stoic.  In the end I must have been overlooked.  I don't remember, but I imagine that probably a 7th grader took home the prize and enjoyed a delightful day trip with her friend.  I'd like to give it another shot, though, and if worthwhile, I'll post the second grade version.  To be fair, a novel could be written about Grandma, but here is a slice in the next post: Namesake

A Disclaimer for Those Who Know My Grandma:  In writing about someone still living and very close to many hearts, I realize that my perceptions and facts may vary from yours.  In fact, I am very interested in how many differing characterizations can exist for the same person and events.  However, I want to make it clear that I am writing a memoir piece that leans heavily on the arms of fiction.  Please post any corrections, variations, questions, etc.  I'd be interested in learning from you.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Heart Strings

Paper Hearts in Piles

I always love when you can combine passions into a singular task.  In this case, it's making garlands and spending time with my kids.  Whenever Abe wants to paint, I pull out some sheets of watercolor paper and get to work making painted paper.  The more layered and splattered the better.  So if the kids help out there is nothing to worry about.  In fact, Abe inspired a new technique of printing with an old cardboard dowel from one of my weaving yarns which ended up making a stippled effect.  Another reason to love making garlands is to savor the beautiful images created by the process.  Check out the photos posted and then try making some!
Make several sheets of  painted paper.  This shows the Abe dowel rod technique.
Cut your hearts out, but don't eat them.  Keep the remains for confetti to celebrate the completion of your project.
Choose complimentary yarn.  In this case hand died cotton yarn leftover from my weaving class  at CCA

Stitch the hearts together
Hang and Enjoy

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Outta My System and Onto Canvas

Acrylic on Canvas 22" by 28"


I finished this painting titled "Outta My System" this past week following a girls' weekend in the woods.  It was inspired by the Russian nesting dolls and represents women as binders of family and community which can be very life giving and sustaining but also very limiting and conflicting.  I am hoping as I do every year that I can paint more regularly.  I miss the smell of Acrylic.

Entrepreneurial Name: An Origin Story

Underwood Typewriter--My Lap Top
Those hot summers of youth led to some earnest plan making.  When the dust settled, and all the books were read, and the pool no longer a novelty, my brother and I would start scheming.  How could we earn some real cash?  We'd done the Junk Sale thing which didn't go over very well.  I suppose the junk drawer contents really were junk. "Jonny-down-the-street" suggested we sell hot dogs.  This sounded completely lame to us.  Plus, I am pretty sure we'd have confronted some health code violations.  No, we needed something enterprising--something grand.  Perhaps all those afternoons spent tightly rolling newspapers and lobbing them onto slanted porches seeded the idea into our heads.  Fingers still muddied with ink, we birthed Pinwheel Papers, an original publication produced by us. 

A side note:  Pinwheel's name was inspired by the Nickelodian TV show from the 80's.  In addition the network featured a promo for itself with claymation worm-like shapes that inched along until it formed a spinning pinwheel.  We likened them to pin worms, a persistent threat and affliction that my brother and I shared.

As I mentioned the paper was to be written and published by us, but we did lean on cousins and friends to  write some fluff pieces, however we saved the meat and bones for ourselves.  My brother tackled the hardline current events stories such as when the pigs flew, and I could be found on page two with the recipe corner.  Yes, sexism in the news room was a real concern in those days.  A typical soup recipe would read something like this:  Open a can of soup, Pour into a pan, Add water, Heat the pan, and Stir.  Yes, we were cheeky yet fairly proud of our work.  We were cranking it out when an opportunity to increase our readership came.  

A dinner party brought two elderly women to our table.  In an effort to make her fat, smug children seem more charming, our Mother had my brother and I pitch Pinwheel Papers to our audience.  Yes, we were creative--downright crafty.  We presented our first couple of editions--handwritten in pencil with hand drawn illustrations, and we would make handwritten copies for our readers.  Our elderly guests were very pleased.  Whether they were genuinely impressed or somehow felt obligated is still unknown, but we did cup our sweaty little hands around a dollar each which they paid us for advance issues.  

The next day, all fired up, we marched to the drug store to reinvest in Pinwheel Papers by buying a stapler which we would use to bind the pages together.   But alas, those advance issues would never be written let alone sent to our patrons.  Our business folded without another word written.  Our planned production of Top Hat which was heavily covered in the entertainment section would never be performed.  Only the poster advertising its summer arrival would remain on my bedroom door like a sticker partially unpeeled.  Did our creativity crumble under the pressure of having support or expectations?  Or was there a heat wave that lured us back to the pool?  

At any rate, this blog is a continuation of those Pinwheel Papers, a creative pursuit worth finishing.  Here's to those who believe and encourage us in all that we do, and may the good luck of the pinwheel blow your way.