Category Archives: Art


After my father-in-law’s funeral last week,  Husband and his two siblings divided up the memorabilia. There was no quarreling or hard feelings or difficulties. Husband got lots of photos, an Ohio State sweatshirt, an acrylic painting of willows on the Sheboygan River that his mother had done years ago, and two beer steins that his dad and stepmother had bought in Germany and Austria.

We decided that our son should have the steins. He was back at the hotel when all this dividing up happened, and when we got back to the hotel I marched up to his room, a stein in each hand, knocked on the door, and enthusiastically announced “Bier Her!!”  A total stranger answered the door. I was at the wrong room on the wrong floor! The middle aged female occupant was very nice about it, and we laughed, but my did I feel embarrassed.

Tell about a time you were embarrassed. Any interesting stories about dividing up things after a funeral?

The Order of Things

Last week when I was in Madison, my friend and I spent a couple of hours yakking in her bedroom. At one point she had to take a phone call so I was left to let my mind wander.  That was when I noticed that all her books are sorted first by fiction/non-fiction and then alphabetically by author and THEN alphabetically by title.

Except for putting titles by the same author together (mostly), my books are not categorized at all. My fiction and non-fiction are wantonly cavorting together and nothing is alphabetized at all.  I feel so inadequate.

Do you have your books organized? Tell me how?

Saving Me From Myself

I have always had a penchant for t-shirts with slogans. When I was 13, I discovered a Northern Sun Alliance catalog while babysitting and was smitten by the huge number of t-shirts with not just slogans, but left-wing, liberal slogans.  (Imagine my excitement when after five years of living in Minneapolis, I discovered that Northern Sun Alliance is actually located here!)  I saved up my money, filled out the order form (yep, a paper order form) and sent off for my very first slogan t-shirt.

(FYI, Northern Sun doesn’t sell this t-shirt any longer but you can still get this slogan on a poster or bumper sticker!)

I have a hard time staying away from t-shirts with sayings that I think are relevant or funny or geeky or all of the above. I also have trouble staying away from State t-shirts and those cheap t-shirts that the DNR sells.  This means that I occasionally have to go through and purge my t-shirt drawer as I have WAY TOO MANY.  Right now I have t-shirts w/ dragons and reindeer, Pluto, Mongols, Gravity: It’s the Law, Pizza John, cats with books, more dragons, State Fair themes (at least 5), Stihl lumberjacks and Rocket Sheep.So you wouldn’t think I’d be in the market for any more…. well, you’d be wrong. Now I’m trying to figure out how to keep myself from getting a t-shirt that says “If the earth were really flat, cats would have knocked everything off the edge by now.”

How do you justify getting something you want when you really don’t need it?

Push Pin Traveler

My father had a huge map of the world mounted on a bulletin board and hung in his bedroom. He had two colors of push pins… white ones for places where he and my mom had played tennis and yellow ones for places where he had jogged.  There were pins in a few countries outside the US and lots of pins inside the US.  A lot more white ones for tennis than yellow ones for jogging.

Many of my folks things went into storage when they downsized and after a few different “clean up the storage” sessions, no one is quite sure what happened to the map. I’ve always wished that I had it.  As someone who travels for their work, I’ve always thought it would be fun to have a map.

YA and I have had two bulletin boards for years and made the decision a couple of weeks ago that we could easily consolidate everything onto one board. You know where this is going, right?  I went online the next day and ordered a world map and a box of multi-colored push pins.  I now have the map mounted, but of course, tried to guess the size screws I needed for the job, so now I’ll be making another trip to the hardware store.

I will not be doing any kind of color coding but have decided that each US state will only get one pin, even if I’ve been to multiple places in that state (although I am debating about a separate pin for the Grand Canyon – my map, my rules, right?) I did decide that I would wait to put the pins in until the map is on the wall, since I don’t want to risk any of the pins falling out to become dog treats while I’m installing it.  Hopefully it will be up in the next day or so.

You have a space on the wall. What would you like to put there?



Pohjala’s Daughter

About 15 years ago, we planted two rhododendrons named Pohjola’s Daughter. They were  Finnish cultivars said to be cold hardy. They were sort of root bound, and I remember thinking that I could have done a better job freeing the roots when I planted them.  Well, I was right, since they didn’t get appreciably bigger or bloom until this May, despite my constant fertilizing and fussing.  The flowers were so pretty.  It was a long wait, though, and I thought they were aptly named when I researched the story of Pohjola’s Daughter, and how she kept suitors away by giving them impossible tasks to complete before she would marry them. The story comes from the Finnish epic The Kalevala.  Sibelius used the story for a tone poem.  According to Wikipedia:

The tone poem depicts the “steadfast, old,” white-bearded Väinämöinen who spots the beautiful “daughter of the North (Pohjola)”, seated on a rainbow, weaving a cloth of gold while he is riding a sleigh through the dusky landscape. Väinämöinen asks her to join him, but she replies that she will only leave with a man who can perform a number of challenging tasks, such as tying an egg into invisible knots and, most notably, building a boat from fragments of her distaff. Väinämöinen attempts to fulfill these tasks through his own expertise in magic; in many of the tasks he succeeds but he is eventually thwarted by evil spirits when attempting to build the boat and injures himself with an axe. He gives up, abandons the tasks and continues on his journey alone.

I find  our translation of The Kalevala pretty tedious to read, and I think I need to find a new one, since the stories are so interesting. I also find it interesting when life imitates art the way our rhododendrons did.

What is your favorite epic poem or story to read?  When have you seen life imitate art?

Literary Bust

As I was reading this morning (Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith [aka JK Rowlings]), the narrator casually mentions watching a show about art and the camera pans the room, to include a bust of Beethoven.  There is a smidge of discussion about how the protagonist looks a bit like Beethoven and then the story moves on.

But as the story continued, I was distracted by the thought of the Beethoven bust. Hadn’t a bust of Beethoven just been a book I finished last week?  And wasn’t there a bust of Beethoven in a book I read a couple of months ago.  Time to backtrack in my reading history.

There was indeed a bust of Beethoven in Transcription by Kate Atkinson.  It was included in a description of a room and then later was used by a Nazi sympathizer to try to escape from the MI5 agents who had uncovered her treachery.

The previous literary bust turned out to be Baudelaire, not Beethoven, in The Alice Network by Kate Quinn.  In that book, the Nazi (yeah, I know you ‘ve all heard me say I’m sick of WWII books, but apparently not that sick) uses a bust of Baudelaire to break the fingers of the young spy.  Gruesome.

I have no idea what this means to the larger world, that busts of Beethoven and Baudelaire have shown up repeatedly in my reading the last few months, but it’s fascinating to me.

Pick a bust for your living room… any composer, artist, writer or super hero. Living or dead.  Who is it?

The Family Escutcheon

Today’s Post comes from Occasional Caroline.

My nephew turned 40 over the weekend. He has had challenges throughout many of those years, including struggling with addictions. He has been sober for a number of years and is doing well now, but is ever vigilant not to slip back down that slippery slope. Forty is a milestone and he invited family and friends to a gathering to help him usher in the new decade. The invitation and his situation, brought to mind an episode and an item from the family canon that I thought would be meaningful to him and support both his sobriety and his interest in family history. My problem was that the story really started in the late 1800s and the chain of custody of the actual facts has more missing links than the other kind. Here is the story I was able to cobble together from the collective memories of my mother, brother, sister and me, and present to my nephew:

We thought that you were the perfect person to hand down this family heirloom and story to. Although the people who could give us the most accurate information are no longer available to confirm or refute these “facts”, here is what might have happened that we have pieced together from the memories of those of us were around for parts of this saga. Total historical accuracy is not what you’ll read here, this is the new truth from the 21st century onward…

Long, long ago, when your great grandma, was a young girl, a man in the family (quite possibly her father, but maybe not) regularly drank more than was prudent. Each day (or possibly more or, less often) he would send one of his 3 sons, (if indeed it was Grandma’s father) to a neighborhood bar to have this brown pitcher filled with beer, and returned to quench his thirst. Grandma developed a loathing for what excessive drink could do to a man.

At some point, when he was old enough to know better (in his 40s), her son, your dad’s, aunt’s,  and my father, did one of 2 things. Or, more probably, he did both and one was the straw that broke the camel’s (Grandma’s) back.

Scenario One: He drank too much at his favorite bar, headed home, driving drunk on back roads, and was pulled over by the police and given either a DUI ticket or a warning. Somehow Grandma found out about it (back then all legal infractions were published in the local newspapers, so she may have read it, if indeed he got the ticket). In any case Grandma knew and she was furious with him.

Scenario Two: He arrived at a family gathering in a state of intoxication, which his mother quickly recognized, and she was furious with him.

Whatever the infraction/(s) was/were, at some point, still furious, his mother presented the family symbol of excessive drink, the brown beer pitcher, to her son as a stern reminder of her fury and disapproval of his lack of sobriety. It was also, of course a loving reminder of her parental devotion, and concern for his welfare. We are all quite certain that his mother never, ever saw him drunk again (which is not to say that he was never drunk again, just not in her presence).

So, with pride and recognition of your years of sobriety, and to commemorate your fortieth birthday, we present you with that same little brown jug, which is now the family symbol of keeping the plug in the jug.

You have become the keeper of the story and the jug, and you may use, alter, enhance, embellish, retell, hide, proclaim, ignore, or do anything else with them you wish.

Author’s note: I have thoroughly examined the pitcher for any identifying marks and found nothing etched, stamped or printed anywhere on it to help identify where or when it began. It is fairly small, about 7 inches high. Notice that the handle appears to be a greyhound. What’s up with that? In any case, if the back story is at all accurate, we assume that the pitcher is at least as old as my grandmother would be; she was born in 1890, so nearly 130 years, but it could be older.


What’s in your family canon? How has  your family embellished family “history”?