Temple Square

I’m in the midst of a two-week break between semesters.  Besides waiting less-than patiently for my summer semester grades to be posted (I’m really only worried about my Math class, I’m pretty sure that I didn’t get lower than a “B” in any of the other classes), I’ve been trying to find things to do to keep from being bored–how in the world did I manage two and a half months as a kid?

Anyway, given my sudden influx of all sorts of time, I’ve had a craving to get my watercolors out. The problem is, I’ve let my sketching taper off, and I didn’t have a clear inspiration for a painting.

To that end, I went to Temple Square in Salt Lake City yesterday. And, because I can’t visit Salt Lake without bugging Sis, I dragged her, G and E along with me.

It’s been a while since I’ve been to Temple Square–and I have to say, going on a Tuesday afternoon in the summer is a much more pleasant than going at Christmas Time. I’m a cold weather kind of gal, but I’ll take 90’s and no crowds to 20’s and loaded with tourists.

The original idea was to do some sketching there, but I threw my camera in my purse as an afterthought.  Which, had I been thinking, I would have just taken the camera–there was no way that I could have expected a 5-year-old and a 18 month old to wait patiently while I sketched. It was hard enough getting them to wait patiently while I took pictures.

I was more interested in the gardens than the architecture, but still:

It’s something of a requisite shot.

At the Conference Center. Not happy that his Mom and Aunt were telling him to stay out of the water.

In the lobby of the Joseph Smith Memorial Building. Originally known as Hotel Utah, it was built in 1911. Love the Art Nouveau styling.

Now, onto the gardens:

There were lots of gorgeous hostas, which, I think will work well for watercolor painting.

There were lots of gorgeous hostas, which, I think will work well for watercolor painting.

Hostas, or any plant with gorgeous greenery, really, make me think of an allegory once told me. I was taking a religion class, and my instructor was talking about having bought her first house, and putting in a garden. Her mother had suggested only plants that produced flowers or fruits, and getting rid of everything else. The point was we should fill our lives with productive things. In my literal-minded view of the world, I stopped listening to the lesson, and instead thought about all the beautiful, useful plants my instructor would miss out on if she took this advice. Like hostas. I came to the conclusion that it was a bad allegory.

And yes, hostas are technically a flowering plant, but you plant them for the beautiful leaves, not the rather lackluster flowers.

Black-eyed Susan. I’ve got this sketched and stretching, as soon as it’s dry, I’m going to try painting it.

I have no idea what this beauty is. The pink and purple flowers came from the same stalk as the orange and yellow flowers. The leaves look like mint, but it doesn't smell like mint.

Petunias are flowers that I've had to learn to like--but they are so cheerful, and they like the hot weather.

Just a couple of random lilies. I love how everywhere that could grow a flower is growing a flower. G didn't believe that there weren't any fish in the water in the background.

I wasn't the only person taking pictures of flowers--and if I had been thinking like a photographer and not a painter, I would have taken pictures of people taking pictures of flowers. I'm pretty sure I was the only person taking pictures of tree bark, though.

So, I’ve got plenty of inspiration, and for a handful of change for a parking meter, I had a fun outing with my sister and nephews. I think when you live close to monuments like Temple Square, it’s easy to take them for granted.

At least, I realized on the way home that I probably should have just gone to the public garden by my house for inspiration.

In other news, I’ve opened up an Etsy shop. You can find it here. Right now, I just have dog toys for sale, but hopefully, I’ll be able to expand into more artistic territories.  I’ve even already made a sale–a feat made less impressive considering the buyer is my cousin and one of my product testers. (Thanks, Sarah!) Anyway, check it out.

Writing Creatively

Medieval illustration of a Christian scribe wr...
Image via Wikipedia

So, first of all, I’d like to fully acknowledge the irony that I’ve been neglecting my blog because of all the work that has been required from my creative writing class.

The good news is, I’ve learned a lot about myself as a writer.  For instance, I’ve discovered that I like to write creative non-fiction, which should be good news if I continue with this blogging thing.  I’ve also discovered that I have a hard time with plot, especially when it comes to endings. Which is probably why I struggle with fiction. And probably the most important thing, I’ve discovered that when I’m hashing out an idea in my head, I need to sit down with a notebook and paper.  The computer is great for the actual writing process, but, let’s face it, it’s a giant box of distraction.  If I can find a quiet corner, and organize my thoughts before I sit down to the computer, my writing will be, well, written. And I’m not going to be distracted by Wikipedia or TVtropes or my favorite blogs.

So, anyway, I’ve put a few of my stories from this class in the “Stories” tab.  But here they are in link form, for your convince.

Scout

The assignment for this story was to write in someone else’s voice. I was thinking of Mom when I wrote it; it’s her story after all.  I don’t know how well I succeeded in separating my voice from hers. And yes, Mom, I know I didn’t get all of the details right. It was for a creative writing class. I was writing creatively.

Pet Store

This assignment was to write about what my character does for a living. This exact incident never happened, but I was influenced by my time working at PetSmart.

Catch and Release

This was simply an assignment to write a piece of fiction. The first line was one chosen from a list–and I have to say, it kinda feels like I shoehorned the story to fit.

Also, I don’t know anything about fishing. But, my narrator doesn’t, either, so I suppose it all works out.

Hmm, that doesn’t seem like a lot for the amount of work I’ve done for my class, but, at the same time, it’s not everything. There’s stuff I’ve written that I absolutely hate and am not sharing with anyone I don’t have to. Also, there are stories that I’m working on revising for my final project that will go up, well, after the final.  But for now, just know that I haven’t forgotten about you!

Happy Independence Day!

Okay, I’m a little late, what with the spending the weekend at my parents house, with additional visitors, (I love you all, but still, ugh), trying to convince a little dog that the world isn’t going to end just because there’s thunder and/or fireworks (ugh. Also: July is a tough month for Lulu), trying to do five days worth of homework in a day and a half (see: spending the weekend with family and friends. Also, ugh) and my washing machine breaking. (expletives considerably stronger than ugh. At least things didn’t flood) So, I hope both of my American readers had a better holiday weekend than I did, and I hope that the one outside the US simply had a good weekend–you know, because it’s Wednesday now…

Also, this:

This is from an advertisement for a local grocery store. I’m choosing to believe that whoever put this ad together knew full well what random quotes do to a phrase, and truly meant those quotation marks around “safe” and “sane”.

After all, “safe” and “sane” fireworks are the best kind, right?

Please, tell me. I don’t remember–I’ve spent the last three Fourth of July’s trying with various degrees of success to peel a nervous little dog from off my face.

Bully

Okay, this will be the last post about the lolcat. (also here and here). Probably.

If you missed the edit from my last post, the lolcat doesn’t live directly below me. A very sweet, kind and understanding woman does. She came to talk to me after reading my letter, and after explaining what was going on in detail, she was appalled, and promised to keep her eyes and ears open as well.  I was embarrassed that I had thought the worst about her, but she agreed that my deduction made sense.  I know have a new suspect for the role of the lolcat–one that I find much less worrisome than the woman who lives downstairs.  For one thing, I know my new suspect has a temper.

After meeting my downstairs neighbor, I had something of an epiphany. The lolcat, whoever she is, is nothing more than a bully–and I learned how to deal with those in Middle School–ignore them when possible, laugh along with their teasing and above all, don’t give them the rise that they’re looking for, and eventually they’ll wander off to find someone who is more fun to pick on.  Not only is the lolcat a bully, but she’s a coward. I shouldn’t let a woman who refuses to air her grievances with me face to face have any control over my life–much less put me in a funk for two and a half days. So, I’m done with her. I’m going to continue to work on keeping Max and Lulu quiet in an effort to be a good neighbor, but I was already doing that. And I’m not going to take extraordinarily measures to keep this woman happy–because, if she’s who I think she is, I’m not sure there’s a whole lot that could keep her happy.

I may have just made things worse.

I’ll readily admit that I’m not the smartest person in the world, but I know that acting in anger only leads to more anger, retaliation, and the next thing you know the Navy SEALs are sent in, when the whole situation could have been avoided with simple words.

After giving myself a day and a half to rage about the lolcat, (also, here) I came up with several revenge plans–which are much funner to plan than to enact, especially if you’ve got enough foresight to envision the consequences–then made a decision as to what I should do. And, when I’m trying to smooth things over, what I do usually involves baking.

Today, I made a batch of bread, and left one of the loaves on the lolcat’s doorstep, along with this letter:

Dear Neighbors,

Please accept this homemade whole wheat bread, and my apologies. I feel like there is an animosity between us that, as neighbors, we can ill afford. I am sorry that my dogs are noisy at times, but I want to make my position known.

I have spent most of my life battling severe emotional disorders—I was diagnosed with major depressive disorder at the age of ten, and my depression often manifests itself in the form of anxiety. I have spent a lifetime talking to therapists and trying to find the right combination of drugs that would get me, if not to normal, than at least to functional. Over the years I’ve learned that acting in the heat of emotion never results in the outcome desired, so I’ve allowed myself a couple of days to calm down, and collect my thoughts and feelings. I wish I was a brave enough person to explain all this in person, but I am not.

I share this with you not as an excuse, but as an explanation of how important Max and Lulu are. It’s been three years since they’ve come to live with me. In that time, I’ve been able to completely cease both psychotherapy and drug treatment—and it’s because of my dogs. On my very worst days, the days when I don’t want to get out of bed, I still have to, because Max and Lulu need me. They calm me down when I’m anxious. They cheer me up when I’m sad. They have quite literally saved my life—when I lost my job last year, I was suicidal, but I couldn’t abandon my dogs. The simple fact that before I could do anything to harm myself, I needed to provide for their care and welfare prevented me from doing anything rash.

Max and Lulu were adults when I acquired them. Their previous owners had done an excellent job with most of their training, but socialization was lacking. However, as the previous owners live on a side street in a quiet, rural town the fact that they would bark at passing vehicles or pedestrians wasn’t as big of a deal.

When they came to live with me three years ago, everything seen and heard outside the windows would set them off. Passing vehicles, people on foot, the roosters in the pen to the east, the trains, the birds…everything. I spent a lot of time teaching them to be apartment dogs, and have gotten them to the point where they only bark when they see, smell or hear another dog, when people are talking loudly outside, or when Lulu wants someone to come pay attention to her. And yes, I realize that that seems like a long list, but consider how much noisier they would be if they barked at every car that drove by, or every person going to check their mail.

I have tried to be a good neighbor when it came to Max and Lulu, and I honestly thought I was succeeding until a couple of weeks ago. I realize that living in a condo complex like Lakeridge comes with challenges, like hearing the neighbors dog’s bark, or crying babies, or loud music, for instance. I assumed that everybody else did too. I’m not really sure how to proceed at this point. On one hand, I’m angry at the idea of having to run the air conditioner when it’s in the 60s outside, because if I leave the glass door or windows open the dogs might bark and be annoying—I’m still looking for a job, and am on a very fixed income, and I don’t want to pay a cent more in utilities than I have to—but on the other hand, I don’t want you to be angry at me, or my dogs.

Likewise, keeping them contained isn’t an option. I know you didn’t believe me when I tried to explain this on Sunday, but being confined to the crate doesn’t stop the barking, rather, it intensifies it, and adds digging, growling and howling. The crate lives in my bedroom—directly above your bedroom. If the dogs are keeping you up at night, (and if they are, why don’t you tell me that, rather than the vague “annoying”?) restricting them to the crate would only make things worse. Furthermore, I don’t feel good about restricting their access to water at any time, especially as the weather warms up. You said that it’s not that hard. I say it’s not that easy.

Max and Lulu are my world, but I know to you they are only yappy little dogs. Imagine if someone was leaving vulgar notes on your door complaining about your sweet baby, and perhaps you can understand why this has upset me so much Please know that we are trying, and we are getting better. In the mean time, please be patent with us.

I tried to be gentle. I tried to show understanding and compassion, and above all, I used vowels.  I also signed my name.

I don’t know what’s going to happen next.  I hope that we can put this whole business behind us.  I’m afraid that it won’t be that easy, though.

 

edit:The neighbor that I thought was the lolcat came to return the bread. She’s not the one who left the note.  On the plus side, I have a new friend, and an ally in this whole issue.  On the downside, I’m horribly embarrassed, and have no idea who the Lolcat actually is.  So… now, I don’t know what to do.

Happiness

Is happiness an inherent right? As an American, I’ve totally been indoctrinated to the idea that “Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” are inalienable to all men.

So, pursuing happiness is okay, but what happens when I find it–or don’t, as the case may be? Is my potential happiness worth more or less than another persons? Should I abandon what makes me happy, or at least what has the potential to make happy to allow someone else to find their happiness? I think the answer to that is a resolute “yes” if my happiness willfully causes someone else pain, but what about otherwise?

This all stems from my neighbor the lolcat. She struck again yesterday, but this time, I caught her at it. And, apparently, I can’t have my windows open, or let the dogs have free range of their home because they might bark, and that’s annoying to her. Never mind their mental or physical well-being, or mine, not to mention energy consumption because I have the air conditioner on when it’s 60° F outside.  If she mentioned sleep, or disturbing her baby, I wouldn’t be so upset by it all, but no, what she says is “annoying”.

On the whole, this has put me in a bigger funk than it strictly should have. I don’t like inconveniencing other people, and the thought that what brings me the most happiness on a regular basis–to whit, the dogs–causes someone else annoyance bothers me a great deal.  I don’t know how to deal with this situation, I hate that my neighbor has had this much power over me, especially when she didn’t have the balls to come and discuss her issues face to face. At the same time, I realize that I do have neighbors that I share common walls with, and don’t want to annoy them any more than possible.

I do have to wonder, though, if the lolcat complains about the other children, or the loud music, or the trains, or the roosters, or the traffic or the other dogs or any of the other noises that comes from living in an apartment complex conveniently located to both campus and the freeway.  And is the random, loud sobbing of a grown woman better or worse than a barking dog?

In less whiney news, I’ve started gathering inventory for an Etsy shop. I’m still not sure it’s going to pan out–I’m working out shipping and pricing and the like. Still, I figure it won’t hurt (much) to try.

Nature

I am a country girl at heart. I grew up in a town of less than 4,000 people. We moved there when I was eight, prior to that, we lived in a community with about 200 people–and that’s where I consider home.

Moving from the country to suburbia, where I now live, has brought some advantages–it’s nice to be able to go grocery shopping without worrying about the stores closing at 9, for instance.  However, while I love not having to worry about yard maintainance, I am keenly aware that the area surrounding my condo is far more black top than grass and flowers.

But, at the end of my parking lot lies a dirt road that’s been sealed off from vehicular traffic.  Crossing over that chain is like stepping into a different world. Rather than the oceans of asphalt, you have this:

I like to take the dogs back here, but I’d kinda forgotten about it.  See, it’s only good for dog walking during the spring–in the winter, it’s too wet and slick, and during the summer and fall all that pretty green grass dries up and distributes foxtails in little dogs coats, paws and in one terrifying instance, eyes.

But for now, it’s green enough that it’s a pleasure to walk through. I’m slightly amazed at how much it’s changed since the last time I had been back there.  For instance, apparently, a civilization of tiny plastic people rose and fell, leaving behind only ruins to prove of their exsistance:


One thing about living in Utah, if you’re not right in Salt Lake City, it’s not uncommon to find bits of rurality right in the middle of town.

Besides horses, I have bees, chickens, goats and cows for neighbors.

This year, in an effort to avoid walking a whole-gasp-tenth-wheeze-of a mile-gasp to find nature, I decided to see if I could bring nature to me.  A cheap hummingbird feeder later…

This is Herbert, and he is king.  There is at least one more hummingbird that visits me on a regular basis, but only if Herbert isn’t around. I’ve seen Bogey a couple of times today, but he’s too skittish to hang around when he sees me pulling out my camera. I can understand that, he might be nervous about pictures of him feeding here getting back to Herbert.

Herbert and Bogey are both male black-chinned hummingbirds, by the way. Herbert is back-lit in that picture, and most of the times that I’ve seen him, so it’s taken me a ridiculously long amount of time to figure that out.

It’s true that being out in nature–even just being outside is good for the psyche, good for the soul. It’s easy to forget that–at least it is for me.   So, get out and explore. Even if you go to a park or field or wooded area you think you know, you might be surprised what you find.

New semester, new drama

It’s currently a quarter to three. I have successfully avoided going to bed by cleaning house, doing homework and now writing a blog post.  It’s not that I don’t want to bed, it’s more that in the past few weeks I seem to have lost the ability to sleep. But, as it’s not affecting my daily activities, I’m more annoyed than concerned.

I survived last semester, despite what the frequency of my posting may have implied. In fact, I thrived. I got a 3.90 GPA for the semester. My GPA is now high enough that I can get a job on campus–you know, if there were a job opening on campus that I was qualified to do–and I have started summer semester.  I have two blocks of classes–Fit For Life (a health/exercise class) and 2D design first block, and then at the end of June, I’ll start stress management (stressed? who me?) and creative writing in the second block, with an online math class all semester long.

I’m beginning to think that the start-of-semester drama might just become a regular thing. I don’t know how what happened this week compares to what happened last semester–I suppose it’s worse, but I’m not as emotionally torn up about it.

Okay, so Monday, first day of class. Minor freak out because I’m the largest and most out of shape person in my Fit for Life class–even though that wasn’t really a surprise. Fat folk would tend to avoid that class, and get the required credit from a health class that would allow them to be sedentary. My 2D design class turned out to be nothing at all like I was expecting–and will require much more work. Slightly bigger freak out about that. After spending a lot of money on books, I came home, and began working on my online math class (I am NOT going to let myself fall behind) and then…blue screen of death.  A couple of hours trying to get the computer to restart, followed by a couple of phone calls to my computer engineer of a brother-in-law, and my hard drive died. Completely.

Yay.

Granted, it was much better to have this happen on the first day of the new semester rather than, say, three weeks ago when I was finishing up my final English paper and studying for finals, but it still left me in tears. Fortunately, the Brother-in-law has a several unused computers lying around his house and he (or, more properly, Sis) offered me use of one of them until I can get a new hard-drive.

So, Tuesday, no school, I went up to Sis’s house to trade computers (eventually, I was having car trouble on that day as well) and because she wasn’t feeling good, to keep her from killing her kids (it wasn’t QUITE that bad, but I did see some spectacular tantrums). This included several very educational games of “I Spy” to wit:

me: Is it a stoplight?

G: nope

me: is a go light?

G: YES!

It’s a little scary that I’m learning to think like a four-year old.

Then home, and more time and trips to Best Buy to set up the loaner computer than should have been strictly necessary. But, it works, I’m on line, and once again stressing over random story problems with no real-world application. But, once again, I hope that this constitutes all of the drama alotment for summer semester–or even just first block–so I can concentrate on my studying and getting through school as quickly as possible.

Growth

Yesterday, I waxed…emo about the end of the semester and the various changes it brings. I guess maybe I should offer proof that I do indeed know that change isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and the value of growing and stretching.

Case in point: This semester, I’ve been taking a watercolor class, which ended yesterday, part of what brought out my inner whiner. But this class–well, on the first day, when our instructor told us what we’d be doing as one of our last assignments–namely a portrait–I was skeptical and a little frightened.   I’d tried watercolor before, but I wasn’t that great at it. Of course, I was trying to teach myself, and had low-quality paints.  I also knew that my drawing skills weren’t that great–a potential problem for an arts major–even if my emphasis is graphic design.

ANYWAY: here’s the point. And a bit of showing off.  This is the first thing that I painted in class, back in January:

This was my first graded assignment:

These had the same reference photo. Notice, among other things, that I completely lost a snow bank in the color image.

This was my portrait, and very easily the best thing that I painted for this class:

for the record, this is a girl, not a boy. In fact, it’s me. This was painted from a photograph my dad took when I was 4 or 5. The weird lines at the top are a result of my scanner.

I’m not happy with the left eye, but still.  Four months.  That’s what it took for me to get from the random artichoke and tree-symbols to a fairly decent portrait.

It would have been easy to be half-assed in this class, and not progress beyond artichokes and tree symbols, but I worked hard, and I kind of can’t believe the results.  I know I’m a long way from opening up an Etsy shop, let alone quitting school to paint full-time.  It makes me wonder then, what can I accomplish in the next four months?  Four years? Four decades?  If I sit around and resist change, I’ll never know.

Everybody’s Changing

M.C. Escher, Metamorphosis II  Source: Wikipedia

Change is a constant in life, as hard as it is. Logically, I know that this is a good thing, that without change nothing would get done. Forget sitting around in mud huts, if we never changed, we would have never crawled out of the primordial stew. It is only when we change that we can grow and develop.

I know this, but lately, I’ve been looking at the lives of my friends.  When you live in a college town, and are surrounded by people who stubbornly refuse to grow up and graduate already, this is the time of year for change.  People are graduating, moving, getting married, quitting the crappy jobs they worked to pay for school and getting real jobs in their chosen professions. It’s all a bit overwhelming, and it’s not even me who’s doing the changing. Even the end of the semester–changing classes, having to meet a whole new set of people, and not going to sit with the friends that I’ve made over the past few months seems a little overwhelming.  I don’t want to make new friends, I just want to keep the ones I have.

To make matters worse, I’m also painfully aware of the consequences of not changing, namely being 30 years old, single, unemployed, and doing school the way I should have ten years ago. Refusing change equals stagnating, and I lost most of my twenties to stagnation.

So, onward and upward to better and brighter things. Or something like that. I know that change isn’t always–or even usually–bad. But still…

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