Friday, December 30, 2011

Christmas in Florida, and other paradoxes

Let's face it.  Having Christmas in 80% weather is just...weird.  Oh, sure, for those who didn't grow up in New England, it's normal, but for proud Yankees like me, even after many years, it's still a little strange to see Christmas lights decorating palm trees instead of pines, and sprawling stone houses instead of neat, boxy colonials.

That said, it's really all about family (or Jesus, or shopping, take your pick), and it was neato this year to have my bro and sister in law with us for Christmas.

Most of the week was about vegging and eating, both of which my family excel at.  There were some presents thrown in there, some dominoes, and no golf, alas.  We made Chrusciki, a Polish "delicacy" consisting of fried dough drenched in powdered sugar.  As I manned the hot oil (with varying degrees of success), I could feel my grandma looking down on us and smiling.  They weren't as good as hers, but then again, she used lard, and we did not. We enjoyed my mom's awesome roast, and my sister-in-law's yummy coffee cake, a new tradition.  And pierogi. And naps.  Naps are excellent, and often necessary during such intense eating and lazing about.

Once my bro and SIL left, though, the remaining Beznoskas threw down in the fun department.

We saw the Muppet movie.  I loved it.  Especially when, faintly in the background of a montage, I could hear "Piiiiigs Iiiiiin Spaaaaaaace!!!!" I teared up when Kermit sang "Rainbow Connection," mostly because I miss the time when being naive and hopeful was possible.  My folks enjoyed it more than they thought they would.  Bonus.

We went to the Kennedy Space Center, and I renewed my five-year old self's vow to become an astronaut, and will spend part of tomorrow watching Apollo 13 for the 17,000th time.  Space is cool.  It's a shame we can't get our national financial house in order so we can keep exploring it. 

The next day, we went to Magic Kingdom for a fleeting few hours.  Splash Mountain with my dad. It's a Small World with my mom.  A blue sky above Cinderella's Castle.  I never want to get old enough to not enjoy Disney World. 

All this fun was accomplished within the space of two point five days.  It was me and my parents, and it was nice to, for a change, not feel weird about that.  That's the good thing about tourist stuff in Florida; it's being enjoyed by all combinations of family units, and many are not having as much fun as we do. 

And then, I came back to Arkansas and a messy house that I thought was clean when I left, but pales next to my mom's beautiful clean house.  Talk about a plunge into the cold pool of reality.

However, the weather gods have cooperated to ease me back into real life with a lovely warm weekend.  So warm, in fact that I cleaned out my garage and car today because it was too nice to stay inside.

And on the last few days of 2011, things are looking good.  I have friends to ring out the New Year with a game night.  I just remembered that my snarky 2011 New Year's resolution post was mentioned on Arkansas Women Bloggers (hopefully making a few folks laugh).  I have lots of new books to read.  My dog remembered who I was.  Wisconsin's in the Rose Bowl. 

And for the coup de grace, today I was seized by my long-dormant (more like non-existent) foodie tendency, and cooked myself a fantabulous dinner of kielbasa with onions and apples, over locally made pasta with a side of sauteed brussel sprouts.  AND!  I bought a butternut squash to cook tomorrow.  This is big deal, because I LOVE butternut squash anything, and I have never once attempted to cook with it.  Why?  I have no idea.  I can't wait to try it. 

(For those who are wondering what has happened to the real Jodi, and if she's been kidnapped and replaced, rest assured, this won't last.  Cooking like this is a luxury for me that comes after a week of vacation and with no work for another 3 days.  Once real life and 50+ hour work weeks kick back in, life will resume as normal.) 

It's likely this will be my last blog entry of 2011.  It was an interesting year, but I'm ready for 2012.  If the world doesn't end, big things could happen.  Or a bunch of small things.  Either way, I'm good with it.  Change is in the air, methinks.

Best wishes to all.  Be safe on New Year's Eve. 

Monday, December 19, 2011

Adventures at Lake Wilson

There are some things progeny do that we probably shouldn't tell our parents about.

For example, there were a few things on my travels in Europe during college that I will never share.  Sorry, Dad.  Some things are better left unsaid.

Yet, what's a blog for if not to share life's adventures with a few dedicated readers?  So allow me to regale you with tales of my escapades at Lake Wilson.

Saturday was a lovely sunny day, the kind where I would, if I were the sort, pat myself on the back for moving to Arkansas, where a 60 degree day is not unusual in December.  Indeed, at this time of year, the opportunity to be outside in daylight is so rare that I was seized by a strange urge to go exploring, preferably in the woods, and NOT on a paved surface, as I find those get real boring, real quick.  So I did a bit of research and discovered there is a short loop around a lake at the south of town.

It's called Lake Wilson Park, and it seemed likely to be deserted, woodsy and involving a body of water, which is another obsession of mine  (a tough thing in a landlocked state).  So I threw my dog in the back of the car (this isn't an exaggeration - she hates the car so much that I have to manually heave all 48 pounds of her into the car), and headed south. 

Turns out the bridge was out (seriously), so I went with instinct and traveled further south, eventually finding my way to the right county road (road is a generous phrase) which led me to the park from the other side.  Reports of its isolation were not mistaken, and as I was getting ready to head onto the trail, I felt that strange feeling that only single people can feel.  Bridget Jones sums it up nicely in her first movie when she says:
Right there. That was the moment. I suddenly realized that unless some thing changed soon... I was going to live a life where my major relationship... was with a bottle of wine... and I'd finally die fat and alone... and be found three weeks later, half-eaten by wild dogs.
In this situation, it translates to:
Huh.  Nice trail, really remote.  No one around.  I should probably tell someone I'm out here.  After all, if I fall in the woods, no one's going to hear me, and it might be days before anyone realizes I'm missing.  Sadie isn't the Lassie type to run for help. Hmmm...
Of course, it wasn't really as bad as all that.  My cell phone still worked.  So off I went.

It was lovely.  The trail was covered in leaves, which meant I was paranoid that I would step wrong and fall on my face when my bum ankle decided to turn, but it made for a nice focus.  It reminded me of a leg of a hike we took on the Grand Colorado Adventure, where the need to put one foot in front of the other took over, and there really wasn't room to think about annoying work emails, dishonest vendors, or why I feel the need to say "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas."

I snapped a couple of great photos along the way.  It was magic hour, so the light was amazing. So was my dog, who is quite clearly in charge of the world in the photo at right.

It's a short hike, so before long I wound my way down where I was obviously supposed to cross a small stream/dam and get back to my car, a mere 30-40 feet away.

However, due to some heavy rains, the stream/dam was, well, if not quite a raging river, at least an impressive brook.  I stood there for 10 minutes, dog patiently at my side, trying to figure out if I could cross without tumbling into the water, which, a few feet downstream, poured over a 20 foot high spillway.  There was a lot of physics going on in my head, mixed with some statistics, and the basic answer was "there's probably a 1 in 4 shot that you'll be able to step on that pointy wet rock, leap to that pile of sticks that might be solid, after which you'll have vault over that rushing water into the mud, and hope you don't miss."  I didn't like those odds, so I made like a pioneer and followed the river downstream, searching for a better place to cross.

Remember how I said it was magic hour? After magic hour, it starts to get dark, real fast.  As I traveled further downstream, and further away from my car, I honestly started to wonder if I could make it back around the lake before nightfall.  And if I couldn't, what then?

Eventually, I found my way to a spillway that had about 6 inches of slow moving water pouring over it, and I bit the bullet and waded in.  On the other side, I gave fleeting thought to scaling the hill, but instead decided to try the trail again, even though it was going in the direction I didn't want to be going.  There, I found a fence, climbed through the mud under it, and voila!  There was the road.  Blessed, blessed road.  Not the way the trail was supposed to end, but it would do.

Slosh, slosh, back to the car, Sadie trotting happily along as if we hadn't just narrowly escaped spending a night in the woods.

What's the moral of this story?  Probably the same thing moms always say when kids leave the house; dress in layers (I did), tell someone where you're going to be (I did), watch where you walk (I did), and try not to fall into the river.  Sound advice, I'd say. 

PS: The info on the website for the Lake Wilson Trail said "use caution when crossing the spillway portion of the trail."  No kidding. 

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

A day I need to remember

Today was not a particularly awesome day.

I woke up later than I'd planned, to another gloomy morning. 

There were too many meetings at work, which is normal but often mind-numbing. 

I had to do a couple of pretty not-fun things at work related to sales and thorny vendor relationships.

My email inbox is overflowing.

It's been thunderstorming since 3pm.

I'm not done with my Christmas shopping.

Yet, oddly, I feel great.   Here's a confession; I worry a lot about mood swings, based on family history and my own morbid imagination that ponders if, as a 35-year old single girl living in the marriage-focused, generally conservative mid-South, far from family, the Red Sox, the ocean and adequate snow removal equipment, I'm not a candidate for therapy.  I really want to project a calm, easy attitude in all aspects of my life, but it's not easy, and I'm not successful as much as I'd like to be.  So when I face a day like today, and come through it feeling good, if not downright chipper, I have to stop and take stock of what's changed.

And thus we arrive at the crux of why I need this blog entry today.  The only thing that's changed?  I have 3 days of eating well and exercising behind me.

***cue cymbal crash***

Now, I'm sure scientists (if they read this blog) would tell me I don't have enough data to make this causal connection.  But since Monday, I've eaten all but one meal at home or via a packed lunch.  I've stretched my walks with Sadie (in the dark!) so I'm getting at least 1.5 miles a day.  I've filled my fridge and cupboards with "good" snacks, decided I can get away with half a turkey sandwich at lunch (with guacamole instead of mayo).  I've taken my vitamins, eaten just one handful of mixed nuts as a snack.  Given away (nearly) all my Cookiefest cookies.  Not eaten after 8pm.  These things may seem small, but they add up.

And yikes!  When listed like that, those are a lot of bad habits to break at once.  

Then this morning, I was building an outfit around some new boots I'd purchased.  And suddenly, I spotted a skirt that, years ago, fit me great.  And then a shirt that I'd worn last year, but hated because of how it just didn't fit. Slowly, tentatively, I pulled them out of the closet.  I tried on the fit.  Ok, sure, we can attribute that to the magical powers of tights to trim the tummy.  Then the shirt.  And...holy crap.  It fit.  Without the straining of buttons I remembered.  Then I put the boots on (wide legged knee boots, the only kind I've been able to buy), and...gasp...they are almost too big around the calves. 

If you've never really worried about your weight (and I mean really worried, as in if I don't do something about this I'm endangering my future worry) you can't understand how good these things feel.

And how quickly your good mood can change. 

That's why I think it's important to remember days like this.  Days when things don't go well, and it doesn't ruin everything.  All the books say that, when you eat right, you will feel better.  They ALL say that.  And yet, it's so easy not to.  And then wonder why you are snarky and sensitive and grumpy.

There's no guarantee that tomorrow I won't be back here, writing rantish blog entries that I never publish because I might offend people. 

But for today, I just had carrots with yogurt dip for a snack.  I'm only eating one piece of pizza tonight at trivia.  So for today, bring it on. 

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Chili, blogs and cookies. Two of the three are not good for my diet.

Good grief.  I guess the holiday season is here.  Seriously, it's pretty insane the amount of food and fellowship I've already been exposed to over the last week, and that I've exposed my twitter and facebookverse to as well.  Allow me to go on the record and officially apologize to all my dieting friends for the plethora of food photos I've sent into the interwebs this week...I'm sorry.  I will try to do better, especially since I've been liking fitting into those old jeans recently, thank you very much. 

Not that I'm complaining.  Far from it.  From the virtual interactions of new friends and blogs to explore on Arkansas Women Bloggers (still time to register, ladies, if you haven't already - they are doing giveaways) to the 1st Annual Walton Arts Center Staff Chili Cookoff to the 5th Annual Cookiefest with my gals Jennifer and Lisa, it's been a week full of festivities, and more are on the way. 

I didn't win the Chili Cookoff, but I think it's worth a bit of applause that I even entered, considering that I've made chili twice in my life, including this time (we don't count the gallons upon gallons of chili I made while working at my family's deli, since that was done via a very precise recipe that allowed for no mistakes, and was also done under my mom's watchful eye).  And not that I'm biased (well, ok, I am) but my chili rocked. 

And then, Cookiefest.  Ah, Cookiefest.  Probably one of the best 1/2 dozen days in my year, when I get to hang out with two amazing friends and bake.  And bake.  And eat.  And bake some more.  In an effort not to break my "no eating in the evening" rule (which was obviously on hiatus during Cookiefest), I won't list the cookies we made.  I'll just give you the stats, and an image that pretty much sums it all up.

70.5 dozen cookies made (that's 846 cookies)
2lbs of puppy chow made
17 different varietals of cookie

Yep, those are Cookie Monster T-shirts.  Our names are on the backs.  This is the real deal, friends.  :)

We tried a new schedule this year, one that allowed us to gather in the morning, shop at leisure (with a little stop at a local holiday market where I dropped a cool $50 just like that), bake, eat and watch Wisconsin win a slot in the Rose Bowl, sleep, then wake and bake some more.  Much, much better than working a full day in the office and THEN commencing.  Why didn't we think of that 4 years ago? 

In completely unrelated news, I nearly made a total ass of myself at the local Walgreens today when I stopped by to pick up some photos I needed to get developed (I know, right? How old school!  It was a disposable camera that I took on the Colorado River portion of my vacation this past summer.  More on that later).  My photos weren't there.  I was just starting to get huffy with the clerks when I realized I was at the wrong Walgreens.  Ugh.  In my defense, they both were on the northwest corners of the same main street through town, but still.  How mortifying.

But after many apologies and a quick exit, I prevailed and eventually got my photos, and what a treat they were.  Just a few shots from the first day of the Grand Colorado Adventure, but they took me back to the peace, beauty and stunning landscapes that another Jennifer and I used to feed our souls for a few days.  It's official, folks.  I have the travel bug.  I want to go places.  Lots of places.  Immediately.  Too bad about the whole work thing.  Such a shame I have to do it in order to feed this travel habit I'm cultivating. 

Another bonus of these photos is a gentle reminder that the days of tank tops will come again. I love fall/winter clothing with it's boots, blazers and, for Yanks like me, fleece jackets, but they often lull you into a false sense of body comfort. It's good to remember how very hard it was for me to allow myself to be photographed wearing a top like the one I'm wearing at left, and how very much I want to be able to wear whatever sleeveless shirt catches my eye next summer.  So after a weekend of definite indulgence, it's time to get back on the horse. 

Luckily I have a lot of people who need gifts/thanks for their support over the past year.  Thus, let the next phase begin:  Cookiefeast, where I share the love...and the calories...of Cookiefest with the world. 

Sunday, November 27, 2011

A very technology Thanksgiving

It's hard to believe Thanksgiving is here and gone already.   But whoosh, there it went, and now comes a slog of a couple of weeks filled with work days that are too long and evenings that are too short for all of the Christmas revelry that presents itself. 

But before we skip to the eggnog and laments about the difficulties of attending Christmas parties alone, let's recap the last week or so.  Since the National Arts Marketing Project, I've enjoyed blasting back in time to the 80's via the kick ass rock musical Rock of Ages.  Sadly, there were many folks who decided, for whatever reason, not to see this show, and to them, all I can say is you missed out.  Hearing "Don't Stop Believing" performed live by some pretty talented singers was way, way better than Glee.  Also, during this time, my love affair with Twitter has only increased, aided by a new experience, a Twitter party, with the Arkansas Women Bloggers network.  This was something else.  It turns out that there are dozens of "chat" programs you can use to aggregate tweets on twitter, and follow certain hashtags (like #nampc and #arwb, for example).  While this may be old news to many, it was new to me, and pretty cool.  I've got a bunch of new followers and followees, so here's my official plug, ladies of the Mid-South: head on over to Arkansas Women Bloggers (using the convenient linked image at right) and register.  It's free and it seems like a good bunch of gals to have on your side, especially if you like to cook and have kids (neither of which applies to me, but hey, every party needs an odd one out, right?)

Anyway, I got to enjoy this online community on Monday, while also watching the Pats on Monday Night Football, which sums up the dichotomy that is me pretty handily.  Then came a shortened week of way too many meetings and deadlines for the few days before Thanksgiving, accompanied by some seriously frantic cleaning that included me scrubbing the floors by hand, mowing the lawn in the fading twilight, and vacuuming twice.  Twice.  I must have lost my mind.

Then, my parents arrived.

My folks are, in a word, awesome.  They worked their butts off their entire lives and retired just this past spring, selling the family business and setting themselves up for a life of leisure from here on.  So instead of flying to see me, they spare my mom from dealing with motion sickness and road trip it, stopping off for a little gambling in Mississippi along the way.  How cool is that? 

So they arrived on Weds and we went to Hugo's for dinner, followed by a stroll around the Fayetteville Square for Lights of the Ozarks, then went shopping.  Some slight changes in plans meant that we had Thanksgiving at my place instead of a friend's, so we slapped the card table next to my dining room table and made a feast of it. There was some football thrown in there, a few trips to the dog park and a visit to Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art.  And I regret that I don't have any photos of either of my parents sprawled out on the floor "wrassling" with my dog, but it did happen, and is just another example of their awesomeness.

But really, the weekend was about technology; specifically, the indignity that I suffered when my mom got to show off their fancy new IPhone 4.  I still have a, harumph, 3G.  This seems rather unfair considering that my parents have never sent a text in their lives before now, but life isn't fair, as our parents loved to tell us growing up.  :) Thus I found myself playing the role of tech support, trying to explain the difference between a text message and an email, how the IPhone automatically (and sometimes randomly) put aps into folders and how to set up voicemail.

Now, to be fair, my mom picked it up pretty quick, and was soon sending pictures and texts like a pro.  But it really became hysterical when we went to the museum, and we got separated.  I had the idle thought that, if I was with my friends, I'd text them to find out where they were, but I was enjoying the paintings and didn't really think of it (plus the service in the museum is pretty spotty).  So when my dad and I emerged into the light again, we found my mom waiting for us.  She promptly turned to me and said "Jodi, I texted you three times!  Where were you?" 

OMG.  LOL.  As I checked the phone, it got better: she even used texting parlance:  "where r u?"

We headed off to dinner at a pretty amazing restaurant called Tavola Trattoria in Bentonville, as as we were waiting for our table to be ready, mom was busy emailing photos to her friend.  Then, as we sat down at the table, she pulled out the phone again, saying "I don't want to be rude but I want to make sure I did this right!"  This struck me (and my brother, via text) as hysterical, more so when our food arrived and my dad tasted it and said "Wow.  This is really good.  Do I need to text someone about it?"

Anyway, this is probably only funny to me, but it was just such a great reminder that one should never underestimate one's parents. 

So, 2011 is almost over.  The next weeks will be a whirlwind, I'm sure, so for now, I'm glad I had a weekend of leisure with my folks, followed by probably the laziest Sunday I've spent in a while (my DVR queue is pretty empty thanks to today).  My tree is up, my shopping has begun (sort of), and Cookiefest is next weekend.  Bring it on, St. Nick.  I'm ready for some holiday cheer (a little mistletoe wouldn't go amiss, either).

Sunday, November 20, 2011

The National Arts Marketing Project Conference

Well, so it's been a busy few weeks 'round these parts.  In the midst of it, I was able to attend the National Arts Marketing Project Conference in Louahvull, KY (that's Louisville for you Yankees out there) last weekend.  As I mentioned in a previous entry, it was an unusual conference for me, one where I listened more than spoke.  This, it turns out, is a good strategy.  It allows for new ideas to take root and dented confidence to heal a bit.

As I've said before, hanging out with marketers is cathartic if you are one yourself.  After all, no one but a marketer can understand how hard we work to make good decisions, accept as many ideas as we can, and make the sales that make it possible for our colleagues to keep getting a paycheck.  And how, despite our best efforts, a lot of it comes down to making guesses, educated ones, some good, some bad, but guesses nonetheless. 

This year's conference was far more social media heavy than any conference I've been to, and I admit, it got a bit tedious.  But it was a riot to be part of the twitteratti (#nampc) at the conference, and I used twitter as a form of note-taking, recording gems from our amazing keynote speakers and some of the more profound presenters.  I also found myself tweeting with the guy sitting next to me, and met a woman I'd been following on twitter, only to find that, once we'd introduced ourselves, there was nothing left to say.  Awkward.  :) And I also, to my embarrassment and sheepish pride, received a basket full of fabulous bourbon goodies for tweeting the "funniest tweet" of the conference, which, it turns out, was quoting someone else quoting someone else.  Good thing there's no copyright on tweets. 

We got to visit the Louisville Slugger factory and museum (I held both Mickey Mantle and David Ortiz's bats!), and ate some pretty great food at the 21C Hotel's restaurant, Proof

As for the wisdom gleaned from the conference, I think it can be summed up by the following: 

*Research is key (good thing, cause I need some!)

*Let the data drive your decisions (and, it turns out, your need to manage up (your boss), down (your staff) and sideways (your peers))

*Engage rather than broadcast (so hard to do when everything is about sales)

*Your front line staff have more power than you ever will. 

*Prayer should not be a marketing strategy (this was the tweet that was deemed funniest, which gives you an idea of how serious we marketers can be)

So all in all, it was a worthwhile weekend, capped off with a trip to Lynn's Paradise Cafe where I ate a world-famous Hot Brown, an incredible cheese/turkey sandwich in a bowl which probably set my diet back by two years. And now I'm back, and blissfully travel-free until Christmas.  Thank goodness.  My dog might eventually remember who she belongs to.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

It's so easy to be bad...

Just a quick note to reflect on how very easy it is in modern America to do the wrong thing.  And I'm not talking about police pepper-spraying students.  That's too big and scary for me to tackle right now.  So I'll stick to the mundane.

The Sonic Effect

Today, I was scrubbing the floor a-la Cinderella, and mentally making plans to take my dog to the dog park.  While also reflecting on how thirsty I was, this was my thought process:

Lazy Self:
Hmmm...this is hard work, this floor scrubbing.  I could sure use a giant iced tea right about now. Oh, idea!  If I drove to the dog park instead of walking, I could swing by Sonic during Happy Hour and get a huge iced tea.  That would be awesome.
Self who is trying to lose weight:
Um, Lazy Self, wtf?  One, you have tap water and sugar free iced tea mix right here in your house.  Two, the tap water and sugar free mix you will drink here has no calories and is already paid for. Three, if you drive to the dog park, you are not exercising your dog, which is the whole point of going to the park. Four, if you to drive to the dog park, you are not exercising YOURSELF, who needs it most of any of us involved in this conversation.   And five, if you get a big iced tea from Sonic, it comes in a giant Styrofoam cup, which will be here on earth for, oh, I don't know, 10 MILLION YEARS. 
Lazy Self, ducking head in shame:
Ok, ok, jeez, we'll walk. 
But the fact is, Lazy Self had the easier idea.  Seems like most of the bad choices are the easier ones. 

For example, when dining out, we all know the right thing to do is set aside half of a meal to pay attention to portion size.  Have you ever done that?  Whipped out your tupperware in the middle of a restaurant?  I didn't think so.  It's inconvenient, and basically says to the world "Hey!  I'm overweight and I'm trying not to be!  Isn't that great?  Go ahead, look at me with pity.  I love that." 

On the flip side, there are the annoyingly easy tips like "Drink skim milk. Switch to diet soda."  Great, thanks.  I've only been doing that for my entire overweight life. 

Ah well, if it were easy, we'd all be skinny, I guess. 

But the good news is that since Self who is trying to lose weight won this debate (today, at least), this was the result:

Saturday, November 12, 2011

8 minute blog entry

I have 8 minutes to complete this entry before heading to a dinner while at a conference here in lovely Louisville. Actually, I have no idea if it's lovely since I've yet to be outside in the daylight. 

Crap, 30 seconds wasted on typing that.  Moving on.

Anyway, I'm here for the National Arts Marketing Conference, and I wanted to blog so I could document a really odd occurance.  So far, I have enjoyed this gathering immesley because all I want to do is listen.  Usually I sit at a table, steaming, because I want to be presenting myself, or sharing my great ideas. 

Today, none of that.  I'm soaking it all in, and having some fun retweeting the wisdom I'm hearing from others. 

I feel this must be a sign of something - that I'm getting older and wiser, that I've either got more confidence in my ideas, such that I don't have to share them (unlikely) or that I have less confidence in my ideas, thus being oh-so-open to other people's brilliance (far more likely). 

Either way, I like it.  Now I'm off to have dinner at the 21C hotel, a branch of which will be opening up in my home region soon. 

Whew.  2 minutes to spare.  Not bad!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

When art is not good for your health...

This painting does not appear at Crystal Bridges Museum of
American Art, but a similar one does.
The South Shore Newport, Rhode Island,
Near Boat House Point
, 1874

by William Trost Richards

So, here's the situation.  I'm sick.  I have head cold that is threatening to ruin some weekend travel, and I should have been in bed an hour ago. 

However, Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art opens this Friday, and on Monday, I got a sneak peek in the galleries (well, my second one, really, but who's counting?).  And I have become slightly obsessed.

My first time there, as we zipped through the 19th century room (full of Hudson River School work, so I'm told by those who know), I was drawn to a painting of breaking waves.  I immediately wanted to stop and stand in front of it for hours and examine it.  As I pondered the remarkable fact that I could in fact do this once the museum opens (since it's located just 30 minutes from my house.  30 minutes.  !!), the tour rushed on, and I abandoned the painting.

Then Monday, I was there again, and we were being kicked out of that same gallery as the party wound down.  So tonight, in honor of my head cold, I gave my preview passes to some friends, and settled in with my dog and some TV to try to recuperate.  However, I couldn't stop thinking of this painting. 

So I begged one of my pass-users to find the painting and tell me the artist so I could google him.  She did.  His name is William Trost Richards.  I've never heard of him, which is no big surprise since I'm not up on such things. The painting, according to the label, is called "Along the Shore" and it was painted in 1903.  Oil on canvas. 

Here's the issue - I can't find this painting on the interwebs.  Google is hiding it.  Where in the world did Alice Walton get it, and why isn't it listed in the lists of this guy's work?  What am I doing wrong? Where are my art history friends when I need them?

The good news is that the museum, and their library, is nearby, so eventually I'll figure this all out.  But now, I can only marvel that I have spent a significant portion of my evening trying to track down information about a painting by an artist I'd never heard of until today. 

I guess this is what happens when a major American Art museum comes to my town. 

I'll take it.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Philosophical phonderings phrom Phoenix

Well, Tempe, actually, but I couldn't pass up the chance to use the "word" phrom.  And really, it's just the next town over.  Though I'm sure my friends in Tempe would take umbrage to such a flippant dismissal of the differences, as I'm wont to do when airline pilots tell me that we're landing in Fayetteville, (city 25 miles south of more than 70,000 people) instead of in a former pasture in Highfill, AR (population just under 600).

Yesterday ended a series of travel adventures, some for work, some about but not for work, and others for fun, and all I have to say is thank goodness.  It seems this happens every year around this time; I have trips left and right, and the result is that home, couch and dog take on a rosy glow.

Speaking of rosy glow, I was visiting ASU-Gammage, a Frank Lloyd Wright designed performing arts center that was large, round and orange.  But interesting, that's for sure.

The conference was about marketing, and there is always immense comfort in hanging out with other marketing folks.  They understand, frankly, that the statement made by the Gammage CEO (in jest) - "You all know that, if a show is a success, it's a great show, and if it's a failure, it's your fault" - isn't entirely untrue.  I'd also add that everyone in the entire world thinks they know how to market something, and it's one of the great tests of a marketer's personal fortitude if he/she can graciously accept every idea and "I just want to help" that gets tossed out.  I'm not very good at this, I will admit, but I'm trying. It just feels GOOD to sit with others who know exactly how you feel.  

What doesn't feel so good is our insatiable need to share our great ideas, to prove to the room that we are smart and know what we doing.  I can handle that for about 2-3 hours, then I start to fade off.  I start to do things like idly browsing the photos on my cell phone, looking for those I can delete since I have over 1000 on there and I can't update my aps.

And here we arrive at the most remarkable thing that happened to me on this trip, and it had absolutely nothing to do with work. 

While browsing my photos, I came across this photo of myself.

The odyssey of this photo is interesting, at least to me.  It's from my brother's wedding in July, and until two days ago, I couldn't bring myself to post it, because all I saw in it was a curly haired gal who had her hair straightened and now wonders if everyone will say "gee, Jodi should straighten her hair more, she'd look so much better if she did," or a fat, single spinster at her younger brother's wedding.  No doubt it will hurt some people to hear me say that, but it's how I felt. 

Then the other night as I came upon the photo, I saw it with different eyes. I'm not sure what happened, but my attitude about myself has changed lately.  Maybe it's because I've been able to fit into some old jeans, and notice some of my clothes hanging a little looser.  Maybe it's finally getting some clarity on some things in my life that were weighing on me.  Or maybe it's finally figuring out how to be proud of who I am while also striving to improve.  I think that is really, really hard, because how can you "love yourself" when everything you are doing implies that who you currently are (physically, at least) isn't ok? 

The other night, when I saw this photo, I found myself thinking "What the hell, Jodi?  This was a beautiful night, a happy memory.  So you're not as skinny as you want to be.  Get over it, and keep working on it." But I also saw what a pretty picture this is, really, with the ocean and the colors. And I also found myself saying "You know what? I don't look half bad.  Am I bigger than I want to be?  Sure.  But I've always been bigger than I want to be, and it shouldn't keep me from sharing a decent photo, for crying out loud."  So up it went onto facebook, and the kind and complimentary comments came after.  Genuine or not, they did warm my heart, and give me even more incentive to keep working and struggling, so that maybe after the next wedding, I won't have to wait months to post a photo of myself.  

So a shout out to the dogged marketers at the conference for a bunch of great marketing ideas (I was listening even as I was photo-browsing), and for the discovery of this photo.  If I hadn't tuned you out, I would have missed this great insight into myself.  And for those who prefer the straight hair, tough luck; within 2 hours of this photo my hair was curling again.  :)

From Farm Art to Football - a weekend in Madison

I seem to recall, around this time last year, writing a similar post about my adventures in my beloved Madison, WI.  This time (over the weekend of 10/13-10/16), I was back in town for a board meeting; doesn't it sound terribly impressive that I serve on the board of my super-awesome graduate program at the Bolz Center for Arts Administration?

I do have this habit of coming to Madison in the fall, when it's pretty much the best place on earth, with crispy fall New Englandish air and more arts, culture and amazing food than you could want.  And friends, let's not forget those (more on them later). I choose to conveniently not wax poetic about Madison in mid-February (my last trip there when it rained/sleeted and there was a huge, jittery protest going on as the state had a non-violent civil war). 

This trip involved a board meeting, true, but mostly the weekend was about art, football and food.  For art, we enjoyed a unique project called the Farm Art D/Tour, a 55-mile loop through the Wisconsin countryside with random artworks and "culture stands" placed at intervals along the road.  It was amazing, more so when I managed to get ahold of the wheel and thus prevent myself from getting carsick in the back seat. Coincidentally (and familiarly) my friend Jen (my compadre for the Grand Colorado Adventure) was in the front seat navigating as I rounded sharp curves. This time, however, if I'd gone off the road, I would have run into a corn field, not over a cliff to our untimely deaths.

Here is one of my favorite photos from this adventure:

We also visited some artist studios and later in the weekend, a dance/theater/multi-media/haunted house/installation piece that was indescribable, but cool.

Football was awesome as well, especially since we trounced the hapless Hoosiers, and the UW Band looked especially awesome.  

And the food.  Wow.  Madison is a on a local food binge these days, or maybe it's just the friends I hung out with.  But we ate well, from cheese curds to salted chocolate ice cream to Jen's incredible tacos that featured microgreens instead of lettuce.  I wonder if they even sell microgreens in Arkansas.  

And speaking of friends, it was a different group this time.  A few of my fellow alums, one I'd never met, one of a different generation, and the occasional interloper from Germany/England who added some color commentary to our adventures.  But it was still great, because for some reason, I feel safe and comfortable with these friends.  There's not a lot need to censor myself, which I have to do a lot in my public life.  And we all had that "go-with-the-flow" mentality that is so essential to extended visits; I didn't feel like I was imposing when I spent 4 nights on my friend's couch.

I also got some work-related goodness as well, but that's not for this forum; just suffice to say it was another chance to realize that, hey, I might know what I'm doing, and I might be appreciated more than I think.

It was another great trip.

Of course, waking up to this view probably impoved my outlook on life considerably:

On Wisconsin, indeed.

My good mood will not be defeated

Originally written on10/8/11

Since I came back from my awesome adventures in Colorado, I have felt in better spirits than I can remember in quite some time.  The heavenly fall weather doesn't hurt, that's for sure.  I find myself in the strange position of feeling good about work, my progress in getting healthier and my hopes for romantic entanglements, along with a real, invigorating sense that I am seeing and appreciating the beauty of my world in more ways than one.  This is a heady, awesome feeling.

However, I also know that it means that the other side of the coin, when and if it comes, could be seriously crappy.  So in an effort to head off any impending grumpiness, I am going to allow myself a little mini-rant, fully realizing that I may offend, annoy or other otherwise implicate some of you. (or maybe not, since I'm not sure I even have any readers anymore who aren't bots) So, let us commence.

What the eff is up with these moronic drivers these days?  I swear, I have almost been in a wreck at least 6 times in the last two weeks, and I was NOT at fault; I've been cut off, veered in front of, nearly rear-ended, and narrowly avoided a multi-car pileup on the highway.  It's been a variety of offenders, too; the redneck in the pickup, the teenager texting and the perfect blond in the giant SUV.  I wonder why so many people feel it's their right to drive like idiots?  Oh, I forgot, it IS their right.  Super.

I am singularly, seriously tired of our "cover your ass, take no responsibility for my mistakes, blame others" world.  And I am not just talking about Congress.  I know a lot of people, near and far, who need to, to quote Book of Mormon (the Musical), "man up."

Speaking of Congress, I get a newsletter from a local representative entitled "From the Front."  It's petty, but this bothers me.  I happen to have family and friends who are at or in "the Front." I'm pretty sure they are a long way from Washington DC.  I'd unsubscribe in protest, but I think it's important to hear how our representatives are spinning themselves, even if I don't agree with them.  So I'm relegated to complaining on the interwebs.  Oh, the power.

And speaking of power, there is finally some zany movement on the left to counter the crazies on the right.  Occupy Wall Street; I wish I knew what they stood for, but I have to admit I tend to believe that corporations with huge cash coffers and unlimited political influence are pretty dangerous to privacy and democracy.  Is Occupy Wall Street the solution? I seriously doubt it.  But I do appreciate that we're now considering that the enemy might not be teachers, union workers and immigrants. 

Why does there have to be an enemy, anyway?

Ah well.  I can't change any of these things.  It just feels good to say them.  Time to move on to better things, like sunshine, Broadway and film festivals.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Martha Graham is not a cracker

Despite my public statements to the contrary, I don't really have much use for terms like "important" when it comes to art.  When someone tells me that an artist or an artwork is important (thus implying that I'm ignorant or uncultured for not caring about her or it), I have to quell the urge to snark: "Says who?  Why?  Who decides what's important?"

So I feel no shame when I admit that I know Martha Graham was and is important to the world of dance (I can spout off the appropriate reverence when needed), but before tonight's show, I really didn't know why.   But I was by gosh not going to miss the performance by her company tonight, if only to see what all the fuss is about.
Graham in her iconic solo Lamentation.
Photo Credit: Barbara Morgan.

I think I get it now, and at the risk of being blasphemous, it's not because Martha's choreography is all that pleasant to watch.  Appalachian Spring, considered to be one of her most hopeful works, has ominous overtones that linger long after after the curtain falls. Her movement is interesting, weird, and highly symbolic, but it's not going to leave you significantly lighter of heart.  It's not going to leave you, period. 

It also helps to consider the context in which Martha began dancing and choreographing.  It was the early 20th century.  Women barely had the vote.  War was rampant, as was poverty and social injustice.  And from what little dance history I know, dance was about technique and presentation, about the beauty and lightness of a dancer defying gravity on a perfectly pointed toe.

So I can only imagine the knickers of the dance world getting twisted up big time by Martha's earth-bound, emotional, clomping, clapping, sarcastic, satirical dance.  There were so few leaps and lifts in this show that when they did happen, you filled your lungs with air because you knew there wouldn't be more for a while.  The dancers were strong, precise and compelling, but this night was about the choreography.

Blasphemy again, but the most interesting works on this program to me were the ones that weren't choreographed by Martha.  Three young choreographers, back in 2007, created works inspired both by the anniversary of 9/11/01 and Martha's iconic (eek, there's another of those words!) work, Lamentation.  These works reached into my gut and messed around, to point where, at the end of the third work, if the lights hadn't come up and the audience start to talk, I probably would have had a good old fashioned crying jag. Maybe it's because the memory of 9/11 influences me like World Wars I and II did Martha, or maybe I'm in a particularly sentimental mood; who knows.  But after a heart-wrenching sequence of the entire company performing on stage with no one touching, making eye contact or even acknowledging their shared grief, a couple finally comes together, and I told myself "well, at least they found each other."  And then, like wax melting on a candle, the woman in the couple sinks to the floor, leaving the man hugging nothing but a memory.  Cue the tears and get this girl a tissue, would you?

Martha sounds like, from what we learned tonight, a fiery, passionate - dare I say bitchy? - woman who was determined to be different.   So what surprised me most about tonight was how familiar the dances seemed.  And that's how I know Martha Graham was important to modern dance.  Her aesthetic has become part of modern dance, so that when I see a flexed foot or a strange bend of the arm, it doesn't look looks normal.   But it wasn't normal when she did it.  It was revolutionary.

So you go, Martha Graham.  I humbly admit that you were pretty darn important.  And I will hereby and henceforth do my best to make sure that you are not confused with a tasty cracker that goes great with marshmallows and chocolate.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Musings from an Inn...

As I sit in a cozy chair by the window of my Inn (the only one near the outlet) patiently waiting for the mess the airlines made of my flights to be sorted out, I've stumbled upon a bit of mystery.

I just looked out through the film of the gauze curtain and realized I'm about 50 feet from a building across the street, and just a few lights are on in there.  I can see a person move around the room, and as I draw the gauze back, I feel like a spy or a voyeur, looking across a misty alley into someone else's life.  As I watch, the light flicks off, and I drop the curtain.  Then the light comes on in the next room; someone's going to bed after being in the living room or kitchen; were they doing the dishes, filling out a crossword, calling a lover?  Both of these window have curtains.  Two floors up, a florescent light blares without curtains to soften it, and no one moves.

This just begs for some Gershwin, not the tinny Mozart playing from my IPhone.  The person in the curtained room could be a lonely widower, or a sleep-deprived writer who is just pages from the next great novel.   The florescent room could house a workaholic, a chain-smoking trader or ad man who is avoiding his wife by claiming important work.  Or a social worker, poring over case files each night, trying to find a way to help another lost child.

Or, even more curiously, someone could be watching me type with his/her own imaginary soundtrack playing, and he/she should be imagining that I'm writing the next great novel.

The florescent lights have gone off, and I'm still on hold.  I guess I have the airlines to thank for this little moment of mystery.   Sleep well, world, and take a moment to think about what your neighbors across the street might be creating or dreaming tonight.  It's fun little journey.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Grand Colorado Adventure, Parts II and III

Here's a hint for all of you out there - don't wait two weeks to blog about your vacation.  It takes longer to conjure up what happened, and it's not nearly as much fun.  However, it's also kind of nice to go back and try to reconstruct the days. 

(Full disclosure: long blog entry ahead, proceed at your own risk)

"Views from Lunch #2, 9/4/11, Estes Park, CO"
So, when we last left off, I was sitting in a cafe writing and working crosswords and generally communing with Colorado.  I left the cafe and headed out for a solo walk along the riverfront, just enjoying the weather and the air.  Then my friend and I met up for some shopping.  There was a terrific art fair going on in Estes Park, and I dutifully supported local Colorado and Wyoming artists by purchasing more than I should have, but I love all of my newfound treasures, especially my glass necklace, which we'll talk more about later. Next came lunch (with wine!) at a slightly overpriced Italian restaurant with a lovely view (see above left), thus beginning my photo series "Views from Lunch", which was completely unintentional but fun, nonetheless.  (Note - I still haven't developed the rafting photos, so "Views from Lunch #1" will have to come later)

Next, we tracked the signs to the Alpaca market and spent a few moments learning about this crazy-looking species who's wool is soft and lovely.  Turns out a pair of Alpaca (Alpaci? Alpacus?) sell for a cool $25K, and they are kept mostly as pets.  We got to see a baby one, too, which was officially cute.

Then we took a drive up, up, up the Trail Ridge Road to a series of scenic overlooks where we took dozens of photos and I learned how to drive on a two lane road, 9000 feet up, with no guardrails. This would come in handy the next day, but I get ahead of myself.  The views were just amazing, and we passed through at least 4 different zones of vegetation.  I have too many photos to share them all but one of my favorites is at right - it's the Alpine Tundra, but it looks like another world. 

Back down the mountains we went, stopping to visit with some elk along the way, eventually finding our way to a fabulously yummy Indian restaurant called Nepal's Cafe, which, despite being a tad shabby and dirty, served amazing food and countered the mediocrity of the cuisine on our trip so far. 

One thing that was evident about Estes Park on Labor Day weekend was that there are a LOT of families with kids there, and that can definitely cramp one's style.  So, the next day, we set out for an early morning foray, on foot this time, into Rocky Mountain National Park.  We were on the trail by 8:30 or so, and I personally did a lot of self-back-patting, because we reaped the rewards when we visited Bear Lake in the cool (and generally quiet) morning air.  Only a mere 9400 feet in elevation, it's a very popular trail, and you can see why at left.  Then we struck out for Alberta Falls and Mills Lake, about 2 - 2.5 miles one way, on our way to 10,000 feet (give or take a few).  There were just too many gorgeous views, vistas, waterfalls and cliffs to mention.

Eventually, just when I was starting to wonder "are we there yet?", the lake popped into view.  After some oohs and aahs, we trekked to a quiet lakeside rock to eat of our Comfort-Inn-created lunch of PB&J on pilfered bagels.  I had my most meditative moment of the trip, sitting cross-legged at the water's edge, listening to nothing and everything and wishing I could just stay there forever. Here's what I saw:

Views from Lunch #3, 9/5/11, Mills Lake,
Rocky Mountain National Park

But alas, we had to head back, and so we did, stopping briefly when my ankle decided, as it often does, to roll on me, and I face-planted onto the trail.  My friend, to her credit, didn't laugh (or at least not too loudly), and I did my best "nothing to see here, everything's fine" bit while attempting not to limp on.  Down we trekked, and did some more self-back-patting as the trail filled up with families and kids, and by the time we got back to the trailhead, we were sufficiently sweaty, tired, and happy.

Food seemed like a good idea, and remembering that there was a restaurant at the top of the Trail Ridge Road, we decided to take the back route to the top, the Old Fall River Road, the first road ever to cross into the Rocky Mountains.  It's a one-lane, one-way dirt road that is supposedly "safe" to drive, but I'm not ashamed to admit it freaked me out a bit.  Ok, more than a bit. Huge ruts meant that you bounced and skidded and risked terminal damage to the undercarriage of your car, and the switchbacks were insane.  And of course, there were no guardrails of any kind (the natives didn't need 'em, so why should we?).  The views were spectacular, but I was gripping the wheel so hard that my muscles were sore the next day.  It was worth it; I just won't do it again.   

Views from Lunch #4, 9/5/11,
Alpine Visitors Center, RMNP
Anyway, we made it to the top and the Alpine Visitors Center, and made like Hobbits with a Second Lunch.  A little shopping at 12,000 feet, and then back down we went on the luxurious paved road (for the wimps - real drivers drive dirt roads!).  By the time we got back to town, showered and changed, the entire place had rolled up the sidewalks and we had to beg the hotel clerk to tell us of a bar that was still open.  We wound up at The Rock Inn, a local hangout where the kitchen closed at 10pm on the dot.   I got to enjoy watching my friend attract the men in the bar (a familiar theme by this point), and over local beer (mine was blueberry and very yummy - don't judge!) made plans for our final day.

Views from Lunch #5, 9/6/11
Dushanbe Tea House, Boulder, CO
The following day dawned rainy and gray, and we said goodbye to the Park and headed to the flatlands.  Our destination: Boulder, where we were greeted with medicinal marijuana signs and the Celestial Seasonings Factory, which, curiously, made me not want to drink Celestial Seasonings tea (not exactly the outcome they were hoping for, I imagine).  Perhaps it was that we were bound for the Boulder Dushanbe Tea House, which served incredible food and sold amazing loose-leaf tea, and where I took the final in the "Views from Lunch" series (at left).   We visited an impressive 3-story bookstore on Pearl Street, dodged the rain a bit more, and then headed off to the airport.  After a brief tussle with the rental car agency (tell me why I would agree to pay $8 per gallon for gas, hmmm?) had our final meal in the airport before departing for reality and our respective homelands.

Whew.  Now that the play-by-play is over, I found myself reluctant to bore you with too much of my philosophical musing, so I guess I'll just say I haven't enjoyed a vacation/adventure like that in a long while.  I turned off and/or ignored my email, and since we spent a great deal of time simply putting one foot in front of the other (or in my case, attempting not to drive off a cliff or fall flat on my face), there wasn't a lot of time for fake stress.  I came back feeling really, honestly refreshed, and the feeling lasted for a while.  It's fading now, which brings me to my glass necklace, which I've chosen to wear as a sort of talisman, reminding me to try to get back to that place of peace in my head, where the worries about life, love and livelihood are not big enough to erase the joy of being in the moment, celebrating fresh air, nature and blue skies, which just so happen to exist here in Arkansas, too. Cheers to that.  Special thanks to Trip Advisor, unofficial sponsor of our adventures, and thanks to my friend, Jennifer, for being an excellent chipmunk stalker and great travel companion.  Hope we do it again sometime.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

If This is It?

Astute readers will note that Part II of the Grand Colorado Adventure has not been blogged upon yet; never fear, it's coming.

However, I feel the need for a little rant.

Last night, I attended a free performance by Huey Lewis and the News, one of my favorite bands from childhood.  In the mid-80's when their albums Sports, Fore and others were popular, my parents were listening to them, and so was I.  They were my first live rock concert.  At my brother's wedding recently, "The Heart of Rock & Roll" was on the wedding mix, and the DJ was befuddled, as were most of the wedding guests, who I guess didn't groove to Huey's raspy voice and rockin' tracks in their youth.  However, the 7,000+ people crowding the parking lot last night to see these aging musicians got it.  I'm just sad that they didn't appreciate it more.

Let me say again that this concert was free.  No cost to get in.  For those of you out there who might not understand the math, that means that someone paid the artists fees, travel costs, production fees for that big 'ol stage that sprung up on the asphalt, and then opened the gates. There's a lot of free music out there these days; concerts in the park, at bars, festivals, etc.  I could go on for hours about how I hate that we've come to expect music for free, and get mad when we have to shell out some cash for it.  But that's a rant for another day.

Two things jumped out to me last night.

1.  About 5 minutes before the show ended, as Huey was winding up his encore and teasing the crowd about what song he was going to sing, he made one last final plea (and it was a plea, more than a little desperate) for people to buy his new album.  Clear as day, the woman behind me said (I'm paraphrasing):  "He'd BETTER not play one of his new songs right now.  I want an OLD song."

2,  As we walked out of the parking lot, the ground was covered in crushed beer cans.

Number 2 is easy to lament; we're slobs.  If a trash can isn't in sight, we figure, "hey, that's their problem," and chuck our trash onto the ground.  Oh, there are just so many parallels for this small action in how we treat our world these days, but lest I be accused of being a liberal communist who wants to destroy industry by cleaning up our air, I'll move on.

It's Number 1 that truly gets me a'ponderin'.  Last night, the crowd tolerated the band's new music.  I'll admit I wasn't as excited to hear that music as I was the old hits that I remembered from past, but I enjoyed them, and thought they lent a nice feel to the evening.  But toward the end, I heard rumblings from more than just the lady behind us.  There was a feeling of "I didn't come here to hear new music.  I came to hear the songs that are familiar to me."  Huey himself zinged this sentimentality by lamenting, before they sang Power of Love; "Who knew, 25 years ago when we wrote this song, that we'd have to sing it every night of our lives?"  Can you imagine that?  You're an artist, you're on the road, and you have sung the same song every show for a quarter of a century.  That tenacity, and the ability to make it sound good each night, amazes me, much as the ability of a Broadway actor to perform a role 8 times a week, week after week after week.

At the risk of being too intellectual, I think this phenomenon, which has existed ever since live performance became a thing, says something about us as a people.  We crave what's familiar.  We crave what's safe.  The new stuff is interesting, but it doesn't touch a chord inside us.  In fact, when it comes right down to it, we merely tolerate the new stuff. Oh sure, there's that self-identified "new music" crowd, but I'll bet even they beg their favorite bands to play the hits. Sadly, I think this mentality translates into politics, movies and social change, too.

Still, though, I have to give props to musicians like Huey Lewis and his band for trying, even in the face of our laziness, to create something "new."  Maybe someday a Huey cover band will play one of the songs on his 2010 album.  It's a long shot, though, when the Heart of Rock & Roll is still beating.  :)