You’ve Got (Chain) Mail!

Last Thursday, I was in the studio attempting to finish some paintings to get ready for another open gallery coming up, and nothing seemed to be working the way I wanted it to. I was frustrated because both pieces I was working on at the time weren’t coming together the way I envisioned they would. After about 30 minutes of fighting with them, I admitted defeat and packed it up for the night.

I was feeling restless. I had wanted to be creative all day and it seemed like the muses were thwarting my every attempt. Since the day was still young, I was tossing around some ideas in my head on how to occupy my time and ended up calling my friend John. Originally, I wanted to see if he would be interested in going for a walk in Bexley with the dogs and me, but when I got him on the phone he already had plans.

“We are going to Donny’s (another friend of ours) to learn how to make chain mail, wanna come?”

Uh… yes please! It sounded like the perfect amount of creative effort and busy work I needed to clear my stir crazy brain.

When we got there, we congregated in Donny’s workshop which is located in the garage attached to the house they are renting. On a giant plywood table he had displayed at least 20 samples of chain mail for us to look at.

Many, many samples… Most of the pieces on the right are European chain mail, to the left you see Persian…

He gave a little history lesson on the differently “families” (a term he invented) of chain mail, their origins, and how you can identify them. I actually learned quite a lot, like for example- in European chain mail, the links all lay flat, whereas in Persian chain mail the links are all slanted. Japanese (or Chinese, I can’t remember which) is a very loose weave because metal was scarce in that part of the world, and it was generally only used to link plates of wood armor together. Then there are the present day weaves people have developed just for funsies.

This is a modern day weave and I had to include it because the name cracked me up… “Rhino Snorting Drain-o.” Haha awesome!

I would like to note that this information was not useless information at all. When Mike and I were at the Columbus Museum of Art this weekend, they had a piece of ancient armor display and I was like- “That’s Persian armor! Look all the links are slanted!” And sure enough, when we looked at the placard identifying the piece it was from Persia… Donny seriously knows his stuff!

Anyway, after our history lesson we learned a weave called a four-in-one. Which simply means the connecting pieces all have four links traveling through one loop. (Four inside one, four-in-one… pretty simple.)

In theory, I could understand how to weave the pieces together to connect it into one cohesive chain, but it practice it was actually very difficult to do. It took me about five tries the first time before I successfully completed my first connecting link. I ended it up turning it into a bracelet. The whole thing took me about three hours to make. I attached a charm I had conveniently found earlier that evening in my apartment complex parking lot when John picked me up. I had no idea when I nabbed it that we would be making jewelry, let alone that it would be the perfect accent to a chain mail bracelet.

My finished bracelet with the pendant attached 🙂

Donny had tons of finished armor he had created too. He’s been doing this for a long time so some of his stuff is pretty bad ass. I would have tried on the scale armor if it hadn’t weighed 30 pounds. I don’t know how knights used to fight in this stuff… seriously! Not to mention the metal used today is probably lighter than anything they had back then. (For example, we used aluminum links to make our bracelets.)

This is a horrendous picture of me because I was straining to hold up the armor… Stupid bird arms with no upper body strength!

At the end of the day I knew enough of the craft that if I had the patience and a lot of time I could probably create my own rudimentary set of armor. I find that pretty awesome.

The whole gang. Working hard, or hardly working… You decide 🙂

Guess I am totally ready for a zombie apocalypse then lol.

MmMmMmM!!!! Brains!!!

Christmas In July

In the chaos of the last few days… (see my post about it here…) I never did get the chance to write a post about my Christmas in July extravaganza.

Over the weekend, I went home to Findlay, Ohio to spend a crafty filled couple of days with my mom and my best friend Amber. My mother got the idea to do the Christmas in July weekend after the last holiday season. She always has a ton of Christmas projects she wants to get done and never remembers to do them until November or December, which by then there isn’t a lot of time to get everything done. So to solve that problem we both wrote a note on our 2013 calendars last December to schedule a weekend in July to start on some of these projects. My friend Amber, who is also very artsy decided she wanted in on the fun too.

We started pretty early in the morning, making ornaments and decorative trees, only to run out of hot glue sticks. (Every do-it-yourselfer’s nightmare!)

An explosion of Christmas craft supplies!

So we ended up taking a lunch break and got food at a yummy local Lebanese place- Cedar Valley Cafe. I got their beef and mushrooms, which ended up being enough food to feed me for 3 days!

So yummy in my tummy…

After we stuffed ourselves full of delicious food we swung by JoAnn Fabrics to pick up some more coveted glue sticks, and then on the way home we had to stop at a local legend- Dietsch’s Brother Fine Chocolates and Ice Cream. No trip home would be complete without it. Dietsch’s was recently named one of the top 10 best ice cream parlor’s in the nation, and anyone who has dug into a cone of their chocolate peanut butter, or mint chip ice cream would totally understand why. I actually got one of their new flavors of ice cream-toffee caramel crunch, which had bits of their crushed up toffee chocolates, that they also make on site, mixed into the ice cream. Oh. My. God. It was like I had died and gone to heaven. If you ever pass through Findlay you seriously have to stop at one of their two locations, it’s more than worth it. Compared to some of the ice cream parlors here in Columbus, their prices are very reasonable and you get a ridiculous amount of ice cream for the money.

Ice cream heaven right here…

For as long as I can remember, it has always looked this way- like an old fashioned ice cream parlor from the 50s. I love their sweet little heart chairs 🙂

After we pigged out on ice cream, we went back home and resumed our Christmas craft party complete with Christmas music playing on the stereo… some of the albums that made the play list included…

Michael Buble- Christmas
The Carpenters- Christmas Collection
Bing Crosby- White Christmas

And one of my personal favorites- John Denver with the Muppets- A Christmas Together

I love Animal in “We Wish You A Merry Christmas”… “WON’T GO! WON’T GO!!!” Hee hee, our neighbors probably thought we were crazy, but that’s okay, we were having too much fun to care.

Amber using her mad cutting skills…

A mixed media Christmas tree in progress…

At the end of the day we got a handful of things done, but the best part was getting to spend time with the people I love. It’s amazing to me how rejuvenating it is just having a girl’s weekend. After the rough time I had had with the identity theft business, I could definitely feel my spirits lifting just hanging out and being silly, while painting and getting my hands dirty. I love how the simple act of creating something can make you feel so much better. I always feel like a proud mama when I have finished a project, sort of like “look at what I just gave life to! I made this with my own two hands!” It’s such a cool feeling. We decided we will have to do it again every year.

Do I smell a tradition? 🙂

The results! The painted ceramic ornaments towards the bottom were incredibly time consuming…

Customer Service, Identify Theft, and Scummy Dogs… Observations on Stress

Yesterday while I was at Mike’s house, his brother Matt was giving me a hard time and I said, “Be nice to me, I am having a bad day!” Matt’s response was “Every time I talk to you, you are having a bad day! When are you not having a bad day?” And then he proceeded to make fun of me for that instead, for the rest of the night (pretty sure it’s his way of showing brotherly affection :/)

But it made me stop and think. Do I really say I am having a bad day as much as he claims, or is he just a great big exaggerator? I decided it was probably a little bit of both.

Not going to lie, this summer hasn’t been easy. I seem to be in this constant, discontented funk when it comes to my job. It doesn’t help that I have at least one cancel almost everyday, and at the end of the month I am responsible for all that lost time, despite the fact that I have no control over whether people keep their appointments or not. It’s one of the most incredibly frustrating parts of social work, and lately I am finding I don’t really care so much anymore. You can only do what you can do, make up what you can, where you can and then you have to let it go. There is no point stressing over something you can’t control. I tell myself this, but it’s easier said than done.

So that alone generally puts me in a bad mood. But this last week has been rough for other reasons though. Last Thursday I was stupid enough to give all of my debit card information to a scammer, and didn’t realize it until they already had everything they needed to drain my account. Fortunately, as soon as I got off the phone I realized I had done something stupid and immediately called the identity theft line at my bank and had them shut down the card. Now I am just waiting for a new one. (Which is a pain in the butt by the way because my debit card was basically my only way of paying for things. I’ve had to be creative this week…)

Then yesterday I had a dentist appointment and so I had to get up early and wrestle with my insurance coverage to make sure the appointment would be covered. This was my first medical expense since I switched and my new insurance includes an HSA account. In theory they seem pretty cool, but it has been the biggest pain in the ass to put together. No one really ever gave me clear instructions on how to create one so I ended up messing it up royally. I spent 40 minutes on the phone with customer service before the whole fiasco was straightened out, all the while silently cursing the HR department for not giving me better guidance during setup in the first place.

I also had to pick the dogs up from my ex-husband yesterday, which meant a trip to my old house. I didn’t realize how much it was going to affect me, but being in the house I had once called my home was excruciatingly difficult. I won’t go into details, but it made me miss my old life in some ways and I cried a good majority of the way back home. I was glad to have the dogs back though, I missed them. Well, glad to have them back until Carwyn did one of the stupidest things he’s ever done in the 4 years I’ve had him.

I got back to Mike’s house and let the dogs loose in the yard while we were looking for their frisbee, which we thought might have blown away in a storm we had recently. Mike’s housing development abuts a golf course complete with a pond several houses down. We thought maybe the frisbee had gotten caught in the brush around the pond so we went looking for it, with the dogs along for company.

I am searching through the bushes when I hear Mike yell “Carwyn no!” I turn toward him to see what the problem was and hear a “Splash!” from behind me. Carwyn had decided to jump off the cement overhang into the pond. The dirty, algae infested pond that had been festering in the heat all last week. I look over to see Carwyn scrabbling to get out, but the embankment was too high. I had to haul him out by his harness. The dumb dog was completely covered in black mud and algae, and was gracious enough to share the stink water when he shook himself and covered me in it as well. I am standing there covered in foul smelling muck and Mike starts laughing so hard he’s bent over practically sitting on the ground. Angry as I was, I couldn’t help but laugh too. What else can you do in a situation like that? We ended up having to hose Carwyn down and give him a bath in the backyard.

A lot of frustrating moments culminated yesterday and reduced me to a crying, sniffling mess, until the world gave me yet another horrific wake up call.

While I was at the dentist having my gums stabbed by the little pick axes the dental hygienists use (torture devices if you ask me…) I saw a news blurb about a fatal hit and run that had happened sometime Sunday. They were looking for information on the person responsible. I didn’t think much about it until later that night when I was checking facebook and saw a friend post about an that acquaintance I used to play soccer with had been killed in a hit and run. Turns out the news story I saw earlier in the day was this same women. It was so sad, she was only in her early 30s and was a lovely person. She will be missed by many I am sure.

It was just another macabre reminder that life is too short to bitch over little stuff. Isn’t it amazing how so many of the things we bemoan and stress about in everyday life, really are insignificant in the grand scheme of things? It was annoying having to do the whole new debit card song and dance, but none of my money had been stolen. It was frustrating dealing with the insurance company, but at least I have insurance and can afford wellness visits as opposed to the millions who don’t have access to healthcare at all. It was disgusting that I had to hose nasty scum water off my dog, but he had never been swimming before and could have drowned, but he didn’t so things could have been a lot worse. It’s a lesson I am going to try and remember in the coming days and weeks. To not worry so much about the small things, and if I am really being honest, most of them are small things.

“It is not stress that kills us, it is our reaction to it.”- Hans Selye


Carwyn before his bath… He was actually even grosser than this, this was after he shook himself on me about five times :/

Bath time for stinky puppies! He was a good boy through the whole thing, but he was NOT a happy camper ha ha.

Antiquing… A Hilarious Visual Journey

So right now I am back home visiting my mother in Findlay. Tomorrow we are going to be having a “Christmas in July” party along with my good friend Amber, where we are going to be making Christmas ornaments and other Christmas crafts. (More on that in another post.) But today we went to one of my favorite places in the whole world… Jeffery’s Antique Mall.

For those of you who have never been there, all I can say is that you are seriously missing out. The entire building is like a mile long loop of just the most awesome antiques (and hilarious junk) in the Northwest Ohio area. We go just about every time I am home and we spend on average at least 2-3 hours walking around looking at everything. Here is a summary of the good, the bad and the completely ugly in picture format… Enjoy!

We will start off with the best of the worst we could find. Mom and I actually had a contest to see who could find the weirdest stuff… Here are the results…

 Right out of the gate we found this gem. She looks like she was on the wrong end of a street fight and received black eyes as a result. Sweetheart, seriously, blue eye shadow is so 1980s…

Next up was Bling Buddha. Clearly for gangstas who are looking to express their spiritual side ha ha.

This lovely item looks like one of the mutant toys from Sid’s house in Toy Story. If I had woke up in the middle of the night with this thing in my bed as a child I think I would have peed myself.
Before Littlest Pet Shop looked like this… there was this cat…

 No house would be complete without a caveman with fuzzy hair gnawing on a haunch of mammoth flesh… (Chest hair sold separately)

 And if you get bored with your caveman, you could always mount a 6 foot long giant fish on your wall!

Move over grumpy cat, there’s a new grouch in town. His name is Bitchy Bulldog!
Please don’t park in the middle of this booth… clearly there is a funeral.
Ladies please try and control yourselves and your Barbies… Camel Toe Ken and his giant afro are only available for a short period of time. (Seriously his shorts were crammed so far up his leg joints I couldn’t pull them out. His crotch must have been really hungry LOL!)
My question for this magazine is, why would you put a model on the cover that looks that ticked off? Come to think of it, if I had to pose like that I would probably be angry too…
The thermometer I can clearly understand, the thing wrapped around it is not only confusing but terrifying. It’s listed as a “child” on the label, it looks more like the tar baby from the brer rabbit stories than a child. Either that or it’s just horrifically racist… maybe both.

Lovely picture of me showcasing a giant syringe… You could probably shoot a lot of drugs with this puppy ha ha.

So if that stuff wasn’t weird enough for you, we have our Horrific Items Hall of Infamy winner…

WTF is this!!??? It looks like a disembodied head, and what’s with the cards? “Ugly” doesn’t even begin to cover it. Simply put, this is nightmare inducing…. What idiot would pay anything to own this? I wouldn’t have that in my house if you paid me to display it.

Not everything was that strange though, there was actually a lot of cool stuff too…

Like this metal belt I would totally wear, sadly I did not have $45 to spend on it though…

And what child (or fully grown male) doesn’t want their own shield? This sucker was the size of my torso and was made out of real steal and leather…

I love old typewriters, maybe someday I will buy one like this…

Also, if I wasn’t poor I would have bought some of these awesome vintage window frames… So much amazing art could be made with them…

My Great-Grandma Arnold actually had a ceramics shop were she made these. My brother and I both had little ones that we used for a night lights at Christmas time when we were kids…

Who doesn’t love the Muppet Show?! If you don’t then I’m sorry, we can’t be friends anymore. I love the Swedish Chef hee hee…

Same goes for Star Wars… we can’t be friends if you are a Trekkie. Unless your name is Sheldon Cooper, then it’s cool…

This vintage picture of this baby was just too freaken cute…

I think the coolest thing we found though was a copy of my Grandparent’s Senior yearbook…

Here’s my Grandpa, he’s the second from the left in the top row. He was a handsome devil in his day 🙂

And here is my Grandma…

I came away with a pretty good stash of old photos and some old stamps that I will use in paintings. It was a fun afternoon, I always love spending time with my mom digging through old stuff. One of these days I am going to have to make my way over to their sister location in Springfield Ohio, I am pretty sure it’s just as big or bigger than the Findlay location! Which is saying a lot because you do a lot of walking in the Findlay store to get through everything. I am probably going to pass out early tonight so I will be ready for tomorrow’s Christmas crafting extravaganza!!

Artful Luggage

Not a long post today, just wanted to share a project I was working on tonight…

When I was in college, every year I would participate in a service project called “Love Luggage”. The basic idea was that you painted hard shelled suitcases for foster children. Most of them had nothing to put their belongings in when they traveled from family to family. The suitcases were not only functional, but something beautiful that belonged just to them. It was always tons of fun coming up with whimsical designs for my suitcase each time I made one. It was then I sort of fell in love with idea of painting hard shelled suitcases. Last year I found one at Goodwill and decided I wanted to create my own artful luggage. It’s apropos actually, because it’s the same suitcase I have been using to drag my art supplies back and forth from my house to Mike’s. Now it will be as pretty on the outside as the contents it carries on the inside 🙂
Here’s a look at my process of painting one side from start to finish…

This is what it looked like when I started this afternoon… I had painted it this way almost a year ago and then got stuck with what I wanted to do next. This is basically just a bunch of acrylic paints mixed together with gesso…

With all the painting and art journaling I do, I end up with a lot of scrap papers that I never throw away because all mixed media artists are hoarders haha. So I started gluing down the random bits of paper from my stash. It looks very hodgepodge-ish and disjointed, don’t worry I will bring it all together!

Next the whole thing got a layer of black paint, which I scrubbed back in places with a baby wipe so you could see the paint and papers underneath.

Next, I covered that with images out of this awesome book I picked up at a library book sale. I think the book is actually a history of the theater, but as you can see it’s chock full of all these super cool old looking photos. You can’t see it very well from this angle, but some of the original colors are still poking out through the background.

Then the photos get a wash of blue paint, and some stamping with gold acrylic. Getting closer!

Finally the quote is painted on which states “Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson. Again, you can’t really see it because my phone camera is sort of crappy but the small letters are highlighted in gold, and the big letters are outlined in charcoal.

And then this is what happened when I set it upright… I had painted it upside down! FACEPALM! Oh well, shit happens sometimes!

So that’s just one side. Someday I need to finish the other big side and the edges. I think I want to do some cool finishing on the inside to make it a truly artsy suitcase like with cubbies for paint and brushes etc., but I am not sure when or how I am going to do that.

I will keep you posted, hope you enjoyed 😀

How Mary Anne Got Her Groove Back…

The last few days have been so wonderful, I am sort of bummed out that I am back home alone in my apartment once more.

Saturday Mike and his brother Matt were both groomsmen in the wedding of one of their good friends, and I was invited as Mike’s plus one. Things started off a little rough, and I had sort of a diva moment while I was getting ready that morning. It had been awhile since I had styled my hair fancy and I decided to adhere to the old adage of “dirty hair styles better.” Yeeeaahhh… apparently I can’t even conform to something as silly as hair wisdom as mine did not prove that phrase to be true at all. I spent 45 minutes curling it, only for it to fall flat as soon as I was done.  I tried pulling it up into an updo only for it to look like I had just come back sweaty from a run at the gym. I was about ready to cry it looked so bad. Fortunately, the boys had to be to the wedding early, so I decided to stay behind and attempt to fix it and just meet up with them later. After a wash and dry it actually took curl and looked much, much better, I wasn’t embarrassed to be seen in public anymore!

I got there and didn’t know a soul except Mike and Matt, and their friend, the groom, whom they introduced me too. It didn’t matter that I had to sit by myself during the ceremony because I just adore weddings. It’s hard not to be all smiles at a wedding, even if you don’t know anyone. Weddings are such a celebration of love and joyfulness (or at least that’s the idea) it’s hard not to be in a fantastic mood while you’re there. 
I have to say it was a funny, because this was the first wedding I have been to since the divorce and I wasn’t sure how I was going to handle it, but that day I felt exquisitely happy.  At the reception there weren’t a lot of young people, and those who were there didn’t seem too interested in dancing, but I desperately wanted to because I love to dance. At first I was scared to be the only one out there (plus Mike), because I was worried about other people watching me and thinking “who’s that crazy girl?” But then I decided to say screw it and have some fun. So we danced and I kicked up my heels like I was back in college at an Uptown 80s night again. But I didn’t just dance, I played with bubbles, listened to children giggle and talked about Big Bang Theory with five middle aged hairdressers too!
It was crazy because I literally felt like I was high on happiness. I felt truly alive for the first time in a LONG time. Even on the way home Mike and I jammed out to the radio with the windows down while I sang Justin Timberlake into a hairbrush.  I love how I can share those moments with him, and be my quirky, crazy self without being afraid of what he’s going to think. Having permission from someone I really care about to be who I am, wholly and unabashedly is such a blessing.
More and more lately I feel like a butterfly emerging from my cocoon. In the spirit of learning to be brave, I am trying to take more risks in finding my joy, even if they are small ones like doing the electric slide very poorly in front of a bunch of other people. I feel like I am finally getting my groove back.

I am also really excited because I signed up for my first online mixed media class. It starts on Aug 6 and I am pretty pumped.
This weekend reinforced what I have been learning the last few weeks, which is that life is all about taking risks. Sometimes they are painful, sometimes they bring great joy, and sometimes we don’t know which way they will go until we gather our courage and go for it. But without risk you aren’t really living, or at least not living joyously. One thing’s for certain, I, for one, would rather dance and look like a fool, then sit on the sidelines wishing I was out there busting a move instead. Just sayin…

Flowers from the wedding… You can’t tell but there were bubbles floating around them.

Sunday was a lazy day playing frisbee with the pups.

Typical brothers.
And now we are friends again lol.
A beautiful day turned into…

A beautiful sunset 🙂

Learning To Be Brave

Have you ever noticed that sometimes it seems to take tragedy to “wake you up?” I found out yesterday that an acquaintance of mine, her longterm boyfriend was shot and killed over the weekend. He had no enemies, and there seems to be no motive. I had met him once before, he seemed like a really nice guy. I am very sad for my friend and their families, and I hope they find the person who did this so they can have some closure.

It’s these seemingly horrific (and senseless) acts of violence that make you hold onto your loved ones a little tighter and thank god they are safe, at least for one more day. Mike and I had dinner last night and when we both saw one another, we just held each other close for a moment longer than we normally would, both considering the fact that life is short and sometimes we don’t always get the opportunity to say goodbye.

Even though I didn’t know my friend’s boyfriend well, his death has still really touched me. I had been thinking about what it means to “be brave” lately, and the news of his passing sort of shoved these thoughts to the forefront. What’s the point of being afraid of what tomorrow might hold, when you might not get the chance to see tomorrow? What’s the point of being afraid of chasing down your dreams when at best they could come true, and at worst they might not? Even if you fail you are still alive! I think to truly live means to take chances, even if they are scary. Does anyone really want to look back on their life when they are 80 and say, “Man I really wished I had at least tried doing ______”?

For many months I had been listening to CDs in my car when I drive for work and only recently started listening to the radio again. As a result I heard the Sara Bareilles song “Brave” the other day. I had already heard it several times before but never really LISTENED to it. This time I did.
I had to pull over into a church parking lot because I started crying. I felt like I had been slapped in the face with some of the lyrics… 
“Everybody’s been there, everybody’s been stared down by the enemy.
Fallen for the fear and done some disappearing, bow down to the mighty.
Don’t run, stop holding your tongue.
Maybe there’s a way out of the cage where you live, maybe one of these days you can let the light in.
Show me how big your brave is!”
I have been living a lot of my life out of fear, bowing down to society and society’s expectations, and you know what? It sucks. I don’t want to do that anymore. I don’t want to be afraid anymore, I want to be brave and face life with fearlessness because we truly only have this one life to live. 
It’s a process, it always is. My brave is pretty small right now but I hope, with a little nurturing, it will become a lot bigger. I hope that when I am 80 I can look back and say “Man I was a badass when I was younger! I did all the things I ever dreamed about! (Or almost all the things.) I wasn’t afraid to go out and make it happen!” Wouldn’t that be a lot cooler? Yeah, I think so too.
How big is YOUR brave?