Mr. Noodle

Mr. Noodle
Mr. Noodle

Saturday, September 14, 2019

We become homeowners!

As of yesterday, I am happily in possession of a mortgage in my name. We don't have the keys yet (Monday, they say, if not sooner) but we have certainly started preparing to move.

Dan and I celebrated our 11th wedding anniversary yesterday, and it has been our dream from day 1 to have our own home, to no longer be at the mercy of landlords and dumpy rentals. Where we are now has unsafe electrical, crappy plumbing (not even a euphemism - the sewage from the toilet backed up into the bathtub on Christmas Day, while my mum was visiting), floors that aren't level, and a number of other issues we are happy to leave behind. Our new house has space for us and all our things.

It will be nice to not have to get Noodle every night. Since we moved into our current rental, two blocks from where we had lived for about five years, Noodle goes back to the old neighborhood every night after we go to sleep. Every. Night. The next day, we go pick him up around dusk, as one would do if they were picking up a child from school. We come around the corner and call "Noodle!" and sometimes he comes running, sometimes he is already waiting, sometimes he is sleeping under a deck and doesn't want to come out. A couple of times he has been stuck on a roof, so I had to climb the nearby trees to retrieve him. He goes back because he is popular in the old neighborhood, you see, and Nancy The Cat Lady feeds all the neighborhood kitties. Everyone who lives on that block knows that Dan and/or I will go retrieve him every night. For a while there, people sat out to watch. It's cute and charming, but it will be nice to not have that extra thing to do in the evening.

Our new neighborhood has more kitties than our current one, so Noodle will have friends. Since Djarfur went missing in March 2018 (I remain hopeful he will come back to us one day), Noodle has been without his best friend. He only sort of gets along with Feiminn, though that has improved over time.

Today we went and cleaned out the workshop of our new house. It's 100 years old, and it has not been lived in for a while. The woman who was there before had been there alone for about 30 years after her husband died, so there were lots of treasures left in the house. A yogurt maker! A waffle iron! Some very old wooden chairs that I will lovingly restore and paint. A mature cherry and an apple tree, and more grapes than we know what to do with. There is a lot of overgrowth in the yard, and let me tell you my pruning shears are raring to go. I love pruning. I'm excited there is so much biomass for my new compost pile. Once we move in, a lot of those grapes, which are ripe now, will become raisins (seedless!).

So this is a big step in our life and we will finally make some headway.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

status of our kitties

Four months ago, one of our family went missing. At the time, we were looking at other places to move, but when our kitty went missing, we put our search for a new home on hold. 

After Djarfur had been missing a couple of months, we realized we couldn't wait forever, so we started looking again. We found two solid possibilities near where were already living, applied for them both, and got the one we wanted. 

Moving is stressful of course, especially for kitties. Our two remaining kitties, Feiminn (Djarfur's litter mate) and Noodle didn't really get along before we moved. Feiminn was the tender and sensitive kitty and Noodle was the proud, outgoing, athletic kitty. Their roles completely flipped when we moved. Feiminn settled into the new house right away - especially since we have our own private back yard that is fenced in. Noodle was freaked out for days, and by the time we started letting him back outside, he kept going back to the old place. 

Here we are more than a month later, and Noodle still keeps going back to the old place. We have a routine now. If we can go get him before 9am, we do. After 9am he is on his rounds (?) and is not available. If we don't get him in the morning, we get him between 8 and 9pm. 

At first Noodle *hated* being in the car, so we switched to walking the two blocks with our cat carrier and each taking a handle on the way home (Noodle is not a light kitty). Every time we passed Cafe Niche, he meowed in complaint. 

We did that for a few weeks and then it was clear that this wasn't going to keep him at home either, we went back to driving over and bringing him in the car. Weirdly, it has had the effect of habituating him to the car and he no longer complains in the car. That will be useful the next time he goes in for vaccinations. 

Meanwhile, Feiminn is super chill. He has lots of places in the house where he likes to hang out, but he spends a lot of his day underneath the back deck, rolling in the dirt. He has never been happier. It's been wonderful to see, because he was nearly despondent in the months after his brother disappeared. 

Noodle is very lovey and attentive when we are home. He even goes to bed with us sometimes. But then, sometime between 12pm and 1am, he decides to meow loud enough to shake the house and starts bouncing on me and Dan. Between my earplugs and Dan's CPAP machine, it's hard to get us out of bed but that about does it. So we shut Noodle out of our bedroom. By the time we wake up, he is gone. 

I don't know what it will take for Noodle to stay home and get used to his new neighborhood. My animal communicator friend noted that Noodle has a high status in the old neighborhood (he is very popular there among kitties and humans) and no status in the new one. Also, it seems we only have one other kitty on this street, and I believe I saw that kitty leaving out of our pet door last week. 

Dan figures that 'when it gets cold', Noodle will stay home. I want to believe that, but still, that seems like several months away (we have averaged 97 degrees for the last six weeks. Averaged.) 

I welcome your advice. Also with finding Djarfur. We miss him still, and every day I grieve his loss, wishing I knew how to get him home. 

Sunday, July 15, 2018

and now I write

People have been telling me my whole life 'you should be a writer'.

Now I know, I am a writer.

Yesterday I completed the second of two sessions in a Creative Writing Bootcamp put on by Lifelong Learning at the University of Utah and it blew my mind.

I learned, aside from everything else, that I'm pretty good at this. In fact, after reading one of my pieces out loud, the instructor said "fuck that was really good".

I know I began this year, 2018, as my 'year of art exploration', and then it morphed into many things. I started out with drawing with the intention of painting, but the class I signed up for was terrible (I never did get my money back, yet they kept sending me bills for subsequent months). Then I joined a choir, rehearsed with them for 9 weeks, performed, and dropped that choir. Two days later, I was in another choir, one that fits me much better. We performed two Easter services (Holy Thursday and Good Friday), and then we prepared for our big concert in May where we performed Mozart and PDQ Bach. That was a lot of fun, they are nice people.

At that concert, my friend Jenn told me that my favorite author, Michael Ondaatje, was coming to Salt Lake City the following week. A dream come true!

I pre-ordered his newest book, Warlight. I lined up outside the venue 45 minutes before the doors opened (I was the first in line). I got a seat front row, center. I was eight feet away from my literary hero. He read from his book, took some questions from the moderator, then the audience. Several people asked him about his writing process.

One of the things he said that stayed with me - which was a light bulb moment for me - was when he said he didn't know at the beginning of a book where it will end, he just starts writing.

I thought, I could do that!

So I cast around looking for writing events in Utah. I came across the League of Utah Writers Summer Symposium in Logan, and I went.

Already at the first session, I felt like I got my money's worth, it was so useful. I got some validation there about my writing ability. I met some people, but mostly it turned the gas up on the fire that had been lit within me.

After that I looked around for what was next.

Having spent so much of my life in academia, naturally I looked at what continuing ed at my institution had to offer (as an employee, I get a 50% discount). I found this Creative Writing Bootcamp, that was two Saturdays, four hours each.

It got me doing Morning Pages again. It got me thinking Yes I can write stories. One of the things I have been struggling with in this writing journey was wondering if I could do fiction and then how. This workshop has given me the confidence to do that. Next I wonder how to get published. I like to put the cart before the horse, you know. But I can't publish anything until I write it.

I have since joined the League of Utah Writers (LUW) but have not been to a writing group yet (we moved last month, our life is still somewhat chaotic and we haven't completely settled in).

Something Johnny Worthen said in the Bootcamp - he asked us all what our writing experience was. I had never considered that before. I wrote hundreds of teenage poetry (sadly, long since burned), I have been writing a journal for 23 years (I still have all of those), I had an English Lit degree (60 essays), blog, Morning Pages, and 9 years of Twitter.  Johnny said Twitter doesn't count but journals do. He quoted a famous author having said you aren't really a writer until you've written a million words. I'd say I have long since done that. I am a writer. And oh my goodness I have just signed up for the Quills Conference next month.

If I have any readers left, thanks for sticking around. I'll be spending more time on my laptop, possibly working out my ideas here. 

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Dan teaches me drawing

I had not done a lot this past week, art-wise, since a number of things came up that prevented me to showing up at the - what - drawing board? I guess so. I made significant progress on knitting my Sunwheel mitten - which isn't technically art but it scratches a creative itch. Given that I'm working on a complex pattern, people are super impressed when they see what I'm working on.

There is a thrift store chain in Salt Lake City called Deseret Industries, or "DI" for short. I go there quite regularly, probably twice a month, and I often check out the area that has picture frames, mirrors, and paintings. So far I have come home with a few small canvases with ugly paintings on them, the DI sells them for $1. I knew I could paint over them and start from scratch, so I had a tidy collection of them that I finally got to tonight.

Dan already has a good collection of acrylic paints and brushes, but tonight what I needed was a large volume of white to make a clean slate, so to speak. Soon into this very simple act of covering up old paintings with white, I realized that I needed a painting smock. Dan leaped out of his chair, he had just the thing! And quickly fished out a lab coat he used when he worked at a distillery. It's very big on me, but perfect for my purpose.

He's been bugging me for a while about gesture drawing. He wanted to teach me gesture drawing. I did a drawing exercise with my weekly art planner that I mentioned last week, and he basically said okay when you are finished what you are doing, we'll do some gesture drawing together. As luck would have it, all three kitties were in the living room and available to be subjects for drawing. So we started there.

With manila paper and charcoal, we drew a few things. Feiminn. Djarfur. The IKEA watering can that they use to drink water out of. And the cat tree we assembled on New Year's Eve. (There were a few other things too but they are not worth sharing). Dan gave me encouragement and praise for my technique, and instructed me for what to do next time. He's been to several art schools, and has thousands of hours of drawing logged himself, and he also happens to be a great teacher.

Djarfur, cleaning himself

It turns out I like gesture drawing better than I like line drawing. At least for now. I think that will help me develop confidence.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

I joined a choir

When it rains, it pours.

It's almost as if announcing my intention to the Universe had this cascading effect of throwing lots of things at me.

Last week I was out for a walk with my friend Emily and she told me she was thinking about joining a choir. She described a choir that was very similar to a non-auditioned choir I was a part of before I met Dan, 11-12 years ago. I went straight home after that and signed up for Utah Voices. Emily and I carpooled to Bountiful (about 12 min north of where she lives) and joined the second rehearsal of the season, our first.

Boy, am I ever rusty. I don't know any of the Broadway songs and I certainly don't know Mozart's Requiem, but I am excited to learn them and learn to read & understand sheet music in the process. There were probably about 100 people there. The director is fantastic. The accompanist is amazing. I am really going to enjoy this. We perform in March (Broadway songs), May (Mozart) and July (?).

That drawing class I mentioned last week? That turned out to be a major disappointment. I arrived at my class on Tuesday after having spent another $75 on drawing supplies. The class was supposed to start at 6:30, and by 7:00, the teacher had not shown up and no one at the school came to tell us if she was still coming. There were two other new people too - what an impression to make! I left. She arrived, apparently, just after I left. I was so pissed off at having my time wasted like that, I decided to withdraw. I mean, I live with an artist for heaven's sake, it's not like I need to pay someone for instruction. So that was a good lesson for me. 

I emailed my complaint to the art center the very next morning and after three business days I have yet to hear back from them. So I'll leave an honest review on Google. I returned the drawing supplies I don't plan to use and at least recovered some of my money.

Meanwhile, there is the library. I got this great book on folk art with some accessible exercises. Most of them call for painting, which I'm not quite ready for, but I do have a massive collection of colored pencils, so I'm starting there.

And, since Dan is so encouraging of me pursuing music, he felt it very important to get a piano keyboard for when I practice, for tone control. He is currently learning about/building electronic instruments and would have eventually needed one anyway. But we are well on our way to having a recording studio in our home. (How did that happen?)

Today I went to the book store for a day planner and found this gem in the art section. It has ideas for things I would not have thought of doing, so I expect to show some of the things in this blog.

I don't have any major goals for this year of Art Exploration. I will have performances, so that's nice. I can't say I plan to have a show - maybe once I have accumulated some things worth showing I'll do that, but goodness, we are only in mid-January. One thing I would like to see though is having more art in our home, art we created ourselves.

And if all this wasn't enough, I started seeing a new chiropractor yesterday (she cleared a migraine I had had for four days!) and when I mentioned to her that I had joined a choir, she invited me to her bag-piping troop. Oh I was sorely tempted. I am very interested in bellows instruments, and apparently bagpipes only have nine notes. I love bagpipes. But I think I need to focus on what I do have right now.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

I started a drawing class

I am the forever student. I am always learning something and have so many interests so always want to learn much more than I realistically have time for. I have been studying Danish for almost a year now (according to Duolingo, I am 67% fluent, though I have yet to converse with a native speaker). Near the end of 2017, I decided to declare 2018 my year of Art Exploration.

My husband is an artist, part of a larger family of artists. His youngest sister is at a fancy art school in Ireland right now. His mother has been painting for 30+ years and is having a show this spring. I have no art at all in my family history, I have only dabbled here and there with things. Of course, you can count my multiple knitted sculpture as art (and I do), but those days are long behind me now as I have not had time to knit since before immigrating to the United States (almost five years ago!).

A thing I do sometimes is go to Salt Lake City's largest thrift store chain, Deseret Industries, and buy secondhand paintings on canvases. Not because I like the subjects (I really don't need a painting of a temple or of 'Marissa' (?)) but I've heard a thing that painters do sometimes is paint over an old painting. For $1 a canvas, how could I go wrong?

However, people keep telling me that you must learn to draw before you can paint.

I have drawn things in the past, mostly stick figure cartoons or goofy animals (mostly cats and sheep, duh), and one year for Christmas I drew caricatures of my husband's family as matryoshka - in lieu of gift tags. But I am only familiar with pencils and colored pencils.

Last week I started a drawing class at a local art store. The supply list was awfully long (!) and I doubt I'll ever be interested in using graphite sticks regularly, but I now have all the things I need going forward to explore different drawing techniques.

I have also started listening to some art podcasts. The first one is the Thriving Artist, and I think I've only listened to one or two of those. The topic was about the business of being an artist, that is, making a living doing it. Very interesting. I just got promoted in my research job last month and have a shiny career ahead of me, so I don't have any plans to be a career artist any time soon, but you never know where life will take you. The other podcast I found is the Savvy Painter - that one comes out every week and it's been very interesting learning how people manage their lives around their painting.

I'm not sure if I'll stick with the drawing class I'm enrolled in - I don't 100% love it, but I'll finish out the month I paid for and go from there. Dan has offered to draw with me (he's taken tons of drawing classes, has been to three art schools) so I think we may take that up. There are other things I want to explore too - such as painting, ceramics, fiber arts, and maybe some other sculpture. We have three kitties now, so whatever I end up making has to be cat-proof, but I think I'm up for the challenge. I do think I have the discipline for self-study though. After training for a half-marathon in 2016 and learning a second language using an app on my phone, I know I can persist if something really catches my interest. So I will explore.

I plan to use all the learning tools available to me. We have a fantastic library system in Salt Lake City with a massive art collection. There is also the Internet. I even have some artists in my life here that I could hang around. I'm not sure about posting pictures of my progress and projects, we'll see how happy I am with them. I'm not interested in being "good" - I'm too whimsical for that. I just want to make things that I like to look at. I joined Instagram a couple of months ago and that will help with inspiration.

If you, dear reader, have any recommendations what so ever - books, videos, podcasts, IG accounts - please throw them my way! I'd love to hear from you and get exposed to things I have not yet seen.

Thanks for reading, I hope you enjoy this year-long journey with me!

Monday, November 20, 2017

am planning to return

Goodness it's been a year and a half since my last post. Forgive me. A lot has happened in that time and life continues to gallop apace. 2017 has been my 'year of fermentation' and I am declaring 2018 my 'year of art exploration'. That will mean all sorts of things, so stay tuned (if you have suggestions, I'd love to hear them).