Sunday, February 23, 2020

ceramics and pottery

Today's blogging prompt is "ceramics and pottery." 

I really love ceramics and pottery. For a tactile learner, such as me, ceramics and pottery are awesome. It's all about touching stuff and molding stuff. That is super fun and very exciting. I never tire of working with clay, even though it isn't my go-to art form, just because the only way to do it is to have a studio. It's not an at-home activity because it can tend to get a bit... muddy.

When I was a kid, I had opportunities to try pottery. My efforts were interesting and definitely unique.
Only one piece survives from my childhood. It had been a gift for my father, and he kept it for all of those years. I think that is truly amazing. In fact, he put it on the mantelpiece in the family room. He must have treasured that unusual piece that I created when I was about eight years old. 

Today, my ceramics and pottery are not quite as wildly abstract as the creation from the eight-year-old Alice, who was experimenting with shape and color.
There is a certain freedom that small children have in art that appears to get lost as we grow up. All of the time! Once we start wanting our creations to actually look like something, we lose a bit of that spark that we have as kids. 

Nevertheless, it is possible to reclaim at least some of that spark and joy. For us, as adults, it has to be a conscious effort because it no longer happens naturally.
For me, it occurs in my joy for color and shapes. I hope that, in feeling that joy, I am able to release that eight-year-old Alice back into the wild, to let her touch the clay and to enjoy playing with the paintbrushes.

Friday, February 21, 2020


parasite: an organism that lives in or on an organism of another species (its host) and benefits by deriving nutrients at the other's expense.

Two days ago, on a cold winter's day, my friend Lee and I went to see the movie "Parasite." Well, Lee had called me that morning and asked me if I wanted to see the movie in about an hour and a half.

"Sure," I said. I wanted to hibernate on such a cold day, but I love movies even more than holing up inside in the hopes that winter will end faster if I don't look at it. Well, heck, I truly love movies. So much so that, when I was a student in journalism school, my career goal was to be a film critic, something that never happened.

I was very excited about seeing the first foreign language film to win the Best film award at the Academy Awards. "Parasite" was also the winner of the Palme D'Or in the Cannes Film Festival. 

"Parasite" is a 2019 movie that was directed by Bong Joon Ho, in Soeul, South Korea. 

We went to the movie theater and plopped into our seats as numerous previews were shown, one after the other. There were car chases, gruesome battles, people climbing onto really high things in the most dizzying way possible, and women in nineteenth century dresses painting with oil paint and not getting any paint on their fashion statements (that's not very realistic). 

And then, showtime! The feature film is about two families in Seoul: one rich and one struggling financially. For one family, it is the best of times, and, for the other, the worst. The Park family lives in a large house with enormous windows; the Kim family lives in a basement. The view from the wealthy house is gorgeous nature. The view from the basement is a bar and a vagrant who regularly uses the side of the building as a toilet. One family holds dinner parties and serves extravagant hors d'oeuvres and wines. The other family tries to get random jobs and to find free meals where ever they can. The wealthy family has all of the technology that anyone could wish for, while the poorer family has to steal wifi by finding the one spot in the house where they can get a signal. The families become intertwined in various employment relationships. Eventually, it becomes apparent that one of the families is parasitic. What is not apparent is which of the two families is the parasitic one: the wealthy couple that relies on the poor family to provide English tutoring, in-home art therapy services, and to chauffeuring or the poorer family who tries to get as much money as possible out of the rich people.

I found the movie to be spellbinding. I felt all emotions when I watched it, from laughter to terror to tears. In one of the funnier scenes,  the Park family housekeeper hilariously imitates a North Korean broadcaster, to great comedic effect. There were moments of terror, and there was tragedy, but I will say no more.

In my opinion, the thing that made this movie brilliant was that it left you thinking and wondering who the parasites really were. It also powerfully illustrated the chasm between rich and poor. It painted a portrait of how different the lives of the rich and the poor were within neighborhoods just a few miles of each other.

I cannot recommend this movie enough. If you get a chance, go see it. It is definitely worth watching.

Thursday, February 20, 2020

A celebration of glass windows

chapel at Stella Niagara
Nature Preserve
Today's blogging challenge is to write about glass windows. I love windows made of glass. They are beautiful. They are see through and they are reflective at the same time.

Glass windows were invented in the fourteenth century, but they weren't used in homes until the sixteenth century.
St. Luke's Mission
of Mercy, Buffalo
Before that, most glass windows were in churches and cathedrals.
window at the Grand
Island Welcome
Center, designed to resemble
a Frank Lloyd Wright
window style
They were beautiful, decorative stained glass windows that were made with methods that are no longer used for a number of reasons, including safety.

I love to draw and paint windows and to take photographs of windows, just because they are so beautiful.
picture window
in North Tonawanda, NY

North Buffalo, near
the Buffalo History
Buffalo's west side
Another set of windows from Buffalo's west side, taken during the annual Garden Walk. The earliest building in Buffalo was constructed around 1800. Most buildings were constructed after about 1814, as Buffalo was burned down during the War of 1812.
windows in Buffalo's west side, framed by a purple house
Saint Paul's Episcopal Cathedral in downtown Buffalo
North Buffalo
window framed by ivy in Buffalo
Van Horn Mansion, Burt, NY. Originally owned by Judge James Van Horn, this building was opened in 1823.

round window in a chapel at Niagara on the Lake

downtown Buffalo
In this blog post, I have tried to show a wide variety of window styles that have attracted my eye within the past few years. I hope that you have enjoyed the tour of Western New York windows.
near the Buffalo History
Museum in Buffalo

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

A New Home for WaveLengths!

I have been getting my hair care and pampering session at WaveLengths for some time. My hairdresser, Jacquie, succeeds in transforming me every time. I come in with a head looking like an unpruned shrub, and I come out, looking great! Jacquie is not only my hairdresser, she is also my friend and confidant. I asked Jacquie what she thought of the new location, and she said that she loved the size of the shop, as well as the layout of the stations.

Today, I went to a new location to get my pampering and to have my hair pruned... um... cut.
Yeah, well, I could do my own pruning job but... attacking my hair with a set of pruners might not be the best idea to keep me from wearing a hat 24/7. Which would cause the infamous Hat Head... but, when you've subjected your own hair to pruners, Hat Head would be a big improvement.

Fortunately, Jacquie is always available to save me from myself and my enthusiastic use of pruners. And, today, she introduced me to the new location.
It is a great spot. If you like food, you're in luck. Within walking distance, you can find Eggsquisite Eats and the Viking Diner, which I plan on reviewing soon. 

Anyway, the new location is gorgeous! It offers much more space the the old location, which always felt cramped. The decorations are beautiful and very modern. 
blow dryer in the sky
The blow dryers hang from the ceiling, sort of like the Blowdryer of Damocles (or the Sword of Blowdryer).  When the hairdresser wants to use one, she just pulls it down. 
this is the color bar!
And there is a color bar, with seating. You can sit there and watch the hairdressers mix color. 

The only thing that could use some improvement is the hairwashing area.
I need a taller chair!
You sit on a chair, and the sink can be tilted to accommodate your height. It looked great in theory but in practice... I was too short and... a few random and runaway spashes of water later, my wet shirt ended up in the dryer. 

You can't see the
other customer but you
can see her feet!
Despite the soaking that I got for being Fun Sized, I would have to say that this new beauty salon is definitely a fabulous experience.
Look! My new hair!
And, yes, I left feeling transformed with my new hairdo. (I did take a picture of me, but my eyes were... shut... how do you take a photograph and shut your eyes at the same time? I don't know, but, somehow, I did that...)

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

plastic.... shopping bags... are not my.... friends....

Today's blogging challenge is to write about plastic shopping bag. Well, it's supposed to be a gratitude, but, honestly, I can't find very much about plastic shopping bags that I like.

Plastic shopping bags were invented in the early 1960s by a Swedish engineer named Sten Gustaf Thulin. Those bags are made from a material called polyethylene, which was discovered by chemists by accident in 1933. Some people claim that plastic bags were manufactured to save the environment because people were using a lot of paper bags, and trees were being cut down so that stores could pack groceries in paper bags.

In the United States, plastic shopping bags became common in the 1980s. At first, they were not popular because they didn't hold their contents as well as paper bags in vehicles. Supposedly, people in cities liked to carry plastic bags home after a shopping trip but that is hard to believe because plastic bags tend to twist around your wrist as you are walking, which means that you are risking getting your circulation cut off by your shopping bag. Personally, I am not a fan of having a shopping bag that cuts off my circulation. I am very fond of my hands and I like them to be intact. Not only that but plastic bags tend to be flimsy. Since they are frequently overfilled, the bags have a bad habit of tearing. And then breaking, spewing their contents everywhere. That could be a problem if you are walking three miles and you are carrying... eggs. I don't know about you, but I'm also not really a fan of... prescrambled eggs!!! And on the road! Road eggs, anyone?

There are actually benefits to plastic bags, however. As much as I'd like to say that single use plastic shopping bags have no redeeming value whatsoever, I would probably be wrong. One benefit of plastic bags is that they are good for cleaning litter boxes.
Cats appreciate a nice, clean litter box.
Also, they are good for cleaning up after dogs when you and your dog are out for a walk. Everyone appreciates that. No one wants to step in... never mind. And they are a nice, inexpensive way to line small trash cans.

But those benefits don't make up for the fact that plastic bags are made of a material that simply does not break down. It takes a single use plastic bag 1,000 years to break down, all the while leaching toxic stuff into the soil. Having lots of nonbiodegradable stuff in a landfill is generally considered a bad idea.
Another drawback is that many of the plastic bags end up in waterways, where they cause hazards for marine life. I have to admit that I prefer fish to plastic bags.

So what can be done with plastic bags to keep them around for a while and out of landfills and waterways? 

Or maybe, you just want to lessen the impact of large quantities of plastic bags in your house. You might have discovered that they are sort of like creatures in horror movies. They take over your house, spending every night mating and reproducing. You wake up in the morning and you discover that your home is loaded down with paper bags, almost to the point of sinking into the earth. How do you get rid of those Bags from the Underworld? You could recycle them. That could work. Just take them to the supermarket and dump them in one of those big boxes at the door of the supermarket. Or you could repurpose them. You could actually make stuff with them. 

If you have an enormous quantity of plastic bags, there are a few things that you could make with them. One would be sleeping mats for the homeless. Apparently, the sleeping mats are relatively comfortable and they will last for a while. Another project that you could make with large numbers of plastic bags would be a basket. This is kind of a time consuming project but you will end up with a basket for storing dirty laundry or other stuff. And if you use colorful plastic bags, you will end up with a very attractive basket. You could make coasters, bracelets, or jump ropes. Or you could make a reusable bag out of single use plastic bags. Maybe that reusable bag is more user friendly than those diabolical single use bags.

Here is a link to some suggestions for creative projects with plastic bags. Oh, and by the way, if you want to crochet with plastic bags, instead of yarn, you can do that. It is actually called "plarn." link to five recycled plastic bag projects.

Here is another link for you. It has a collection of things that you can make from plastic bags, including jewelry, coasters, flower pots, pencil pouches, and more. link to a site that tells you how to upcycle plastic bags.

So have fun with those plastic bags and turn them into something else. Something really fun or something really useful and something really colorful. You could have a great time creating some fun object, while you are keeping plastic bags out of landfills and waterways.

Monday, February 17, 2020

A holy ground of acceptance and change

Note: Today's blogging prompt is "acceptance," and it came from Lorna MacDonald Czarnota.

This morning, at church, the choir sang "Holy Ground," in four-part harmony. It felt so good to sing that. Harmony is everything. It gives shape and color to the song and makes it feel whole. You can sing anywhere, even in sad spaces where people feel forgotten and abandoned. I remembered a group of volunteers who came to the Danbury Prison Camp once a week to share music and faith and other stuff. They brought guitars and listening ears and stories. Every week, we sang "Holy Ground," with guitar accompaniment, in unison. That was twelve and a half years ago. Until a few weeks ago, I had not seen or heard the song. 

Those years flowed by, full of adventures and hope and sadness. I had walked across the midwest, New York State, and Georgia. I had survived pneumonia and an ulcer. I lost my father and I gained two great nieces and a great nephew. I learned that change is an integral part of life, and that includes change that brings pain, as well as change that brings joy.

I also learned that acceptance is an integral part of life. It is something that I struggle with. How do I know what to accept and what not to accept? I do know that there are things that I can accept. I can accept that things change. The world was never meant to be static, and change is inevitable. I can accept people for who they are, not who I want them to be. And it made me more open to them. 

Acceptance of change can be hard. When you are tired or when your feet are sore, you don't feel open to acceptance. When you struggle with writer's block, acceptance of that isn't easy. When you struggle with self-esteem, you wonder why you should have to accept that. And then you hear the song "Holy Ground" in your head. In four-part harmony. 

"This is holy ground. We're standing on holy ground. For the Lord is present, and where He is is holy..."

The song doesn't specify which space is the holy space. It could be a church or a forest or a road that never seems to end. It could be on a city street or on a rocky beach next to a lake. It could be in a city that looks as if it were falling down. Or it could be in a prison. Acceptance means just that. Accepting people for who they are and for who they will become, as opposed to judging them for their past. 

For me, what acceptance does not mean is accepting that things that I would consider to be unacceptable: injustice, prejudice, racism, and cruelty. It means going within and fighting the prejudice that is inside of me. The prejudice that grows inside of me, just because I live in a culture that is steeped in prejudice and racism. Sometimes, I struggle with myself because I feel that I too am filled with that toxic stuff. Confronting the prejudice inside of me is hard, but, at the same time, it is good to work on dumping the poison. And this is where I go back to acceptance.
I can accept the fact that I need to change myself. Because I am a work in progress. And I can make these changes for the better, with faith, hope, and acceptance of who I am as a human being

Saturday, February 15, 2020

The family of your heart

Today's blogging prompt comes from my friend Lorna MacDonald Czarnota, who writes a gratitude post every day on Facebook. Today, she posted one word, "family." I asked Lorna if I could use some of her gratitude posts as blogging prompts, and she very graciously said yes.

I think about family often and about what the word "family" means.
I think about who is included in my family. Is it just relatives or can I expand that to include others? I have a friend named Amy who asked me to paint a picture for her and add the words, "Friends become our chosen family."
Until that point, I thought that friends and family fell into two separate groups. But, when I worked on that painting, I had the chance to reflect on it, and I realized that some of my friends had become as close as family. In fact, they had integrated me into their family groups, inviting me to share holidays with them.
They have shared with me their happy times and their sad times. And so, they have become family. I have biological family and I have friends-family, and I feel very enriched by both.

I like to observe families who share a particular talent. It is very delightful to listen to family groups share their musical groups, either as instrumentalists, singers, or both. There is something about the vocal blend of people who are related to one another. At Saint Martin in the Fields Episcopal Church on Grand Island, there is a family that often sings together. Their vocal blend is lovely, and you never hear a single voice sticking out. I also have a friend named Ellen, who has three adult children. They all sing, and they are a lucky family indeed. There is one soprano, one alto, one tenor, and one baritone. It isn't every family that is a vocal quartet, even if they all sing together.

In fact, there has been research that has proven that family members do have a unique vocal blend. Because they have a similar facial structure to each other, their voices have a similar timbre. Their harmonies resonate. When they sing together, they sound like one voice or they sound like many voices with a perfect blend. Generally, in a choral group, it it is more of a challenge. Really good, well blended choirs don't have that genetic advantage that singing families have. So choir members need two things: good ears and a good director who knows how to place singers in such a way that their voices don't clash.

One last comment about family. Your treasured family members can be relatives, friends, or your pets. Your cats and your dogs or your other furry friends become close family members. They are as much family as siblings, parents, and children.
You share your life with your pets.
They make you laugh. They exasperate you when they decide to chew your favorite slipper as if it were some sort of chew toy. They frustrate you when you serve them food and they turn up their tail with disdain and walk off in an annoyed huff at your obvious lack of taste in all things culinary. And when they pass away, your heart is as broken as if they were human.