Category Archives: Sorting things out

One of the first steps in a multi-media artpiece is to see what raw materials you have to work with. This might mean looking for a base, going through beads, or seeing the perfect something to serve as the focus of the work. We’ll start here for now.

“Back in the Saddle”


Oh my. I haven’t written a blog post since Joe died, more than a year and a half ago.

It’s been way too long. Much has taken place since then.  Significantly, a year ago in February, I got really (REALLY) sick, and missed three weeks of work, and then began a slow upward trend healthwise. I escaped into knitting, the first thing I felt I could try, but largely ignored my multi-media artwork (although I did organize all my craft bits by color, which was actually quite an accomplishment).  I started walking the stairs in our library to build up some endurance and graduated to running the bleachers at the high school football field in the summer.  Peter gave me a FitBit; it says I’ve walked across New Zealand (990 lifetime miles, or least that’s the distance I had walked by the end of last year). I started dancing again last fall (yay for Oula!), and have lost about 15 pounds.   I started re-evaluating the stress level I can handle and determined I wasn’t doing so well in that regard, professionally.  Most recently, after four-plus years, I retired from my full-time job as a project manager at Tyler Technologies; tomorrow I start a part-time position here in Teton Valley, giving back to the community, assisting the local school district with PR. In a nutshell, I’ve gone through some life changes since you last saw a blog post from me.

This record is not meant to be a diary of doings, and I appreciate you hanging in through that last long paragraph. Several constants bear mentioning right here, though: Peter and family and traveling  — all of which I love to write about, although one lesson I’ve learned better as I grow older is to respect other’s privacy. (Not everybody wants me to write about them, in other words.)

So — what is my blog going to be about now, if I am going to revitalize it?

Our trips provide never-ending fodder for writing. I must have several hundred ideas of things I think merit exploration.  I jot these down by the dozens in whatever notebook I happen to be carrying on a journey.

In the Piazza di Pietra in Rome  And the photos!  We have some 2,000 pictures *just* from our most recent adventure in Italy and Malta, and about half that many from Singapore and Cambodia last fall (the only reason being it was half as long a trip). But all of them need to be organized and sifted through with some discipline before sharing — a daunting task in and of itself. That will take a while, I know, so will start with just this one, in the Piazza di Pietra, Rome.

I’m also reading, a LOT, again, which has re-widened my world, which I’d somehow let slide into smallness.  In fact, my Tyler teammates all gave me books at my retirement party — a gesture so touching and so personal I’m moved to tears whenever I look at one of the notes that went along with each gift.

But that starts my inner debate — How do I pick THE book to write about?  Would the two book clubs I belong to mind if I write about what we’re reading there (and maybe even relay parts of their respective discussions)? Should I reactivate the old grouping “My Weekly Reader” to talk about books on a regular schedule?

Which prompts another internal discussion: in the past, I’ve often set goals to write a post every day for a month about a single topic, or to do one a month for a year, or whatever.  I’d set limits like a maximum number of words, or using only ONE picture per post. However, Peter has (wisely) shown me that this kind of self-imposed obligation, while helpful in providing structure and creating expectations on the part of readers, can be demoralizing if I don’t meet whatever goal I’ve set.  And that’s not why I want to write….

That said, writing a blog, as I’ve told others, is only worth it IF YOU DO IT. In other words, it’s not enough to just “have a blog.” It needs INPUT. It needs THOUGHT. It needs ATTENTION.  The words don’t just appear magically.

And that’s why I’ve been reluctant to get “back in the saddle,” I guess.  The stats say this blog has had 12,000-plus posts; I know I have many friends who have been loyal readers, and I don’t want to let them down.

Can I even live up to my own expectations?

When every day provides new inspiration from — and concern about —  so much of the world’s happenings — where do I start?

Well, for now, I’m just going to begin.

It might take a while for me to gear up; when I sat down at my laptop today, I didn’t even recall how to access my site to start composing. I’m fuzzy on adding links; it took 10 minutes to refresh my memory on how to insert a photo (and it has no caption or anything fancy like that).  How exactly does the rollover to Facebook work? I’m not exactly sure. Have I already written so much that no one will read this whole entry?

None of that matters.

I certainly have “the need to express life in a creative way.” As I explained to a friend earlier today, that’s the BEST reason I want to resurrect this blog. (It’s also the reason  why, as we speak, I’m also planning out a new artwork.)

Here’s hoping I will find some leftover wordsmithing ability deep in my brain, an insight or two into the universal condition that will strike a chord, an observation about a place or happening to bring a smile or the spark of curiosity to someone.

This post has a new grouping that’s called “The Sunday Open.” While I may not write every week, this day of the week has proven to be good creative time for me. Plus, it provides, at least, a catch-all category with a suggested timeline, with no commitment except the goal of posting on a fairly regular basis.

Please comment here or on FB — I’d love to hear your impressions and reactions.

Thanks and see you on the trail of new “Jewelry and Junk” to come!




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Filed under Journeys..., On writing, Sorting things out, The Sunday Open

On inspiration in art — 2015.2

I started creating with “jewelry and junk” after my Mom moved to an assisted living facility and weren’t sure what to do with her 27 drawers of jewelry — some of it of the costume variety but all of it special for one reason or another — mostly because it was hers.

Both Joan and I were looking for a way to celebrate our memories of which shell earrings she used to wear with which muumuu, the stunning pieces that she purchased on her travels — Mexican silver, a crown-shaped ring from Thailand, a seemingly endless supply of pins from cruiClock by Joanse-ships and state capitals and special events. We sifted through it all and separated out the “good stuff” between the three of us.

It wasn’t long before Joan was making bookmarks with beads (we sold these at Dark Horse Books), and treasures such as this lovely clock — which has been a beloved part of our home for a LONG time.

I started making frames and tins for friends, then tried my hand at more difficult pieces using all kinds of recycled bits. It didn’t matter whether it was a cap off a Bic pen or a spangly rhinestone earring — everything seemed to find a place somewhere (even if it rested a good long while in my collection of  “stuff.”) You can check out a lot of my work here and here, (this latter is one of three FB photo albums of my work).

Soon people were saving things for me; I’d be gone for an afternoon from the bookstore and might come back to find a box or baggie of jewelry, or odd-shaped bits of packaging, that some thoughtful person had brought in for me.

And then I started to hear Game Fish by Larry Fuenteabout “real artists” doing this kind of work. For example, “Game Fish” by Larry Fuente is at the Smithsonian Art Museum!

This giant piece is made of hundreds of pieces of kids stuff — toys, dominos, plastic figurines, even a baby-doll arm. Inspiration indeed.

And suddenly, in February, after years of doing my artwork, I have discovered many others who are working with found materials to create amazing pieces.

Check this out — by a British artist named Jane Perkins — a reproduction of one of my favorite VermeeJane Perkins Girl with a Pearl Earringr paintings but all done in  pieces!

She has created amazing canonical works — including Van Gogh’s “Sunflowers,” and portraits of Albert Einstein and Marilyn Monroe. She calls herself an “artist in found materials” — love that description.

I also recently learned that several of my cousins are making tins and other multi-media pieces, like these two made by my cousins Janie and Laura.

This was afJnJ_Janie_made_for_Margeter I had created “great women doodads” for all my girl cousins, and a tin for my Aunt Marge Rambo, which another cousin says sits on her kitchen. JnJ_Laura_made_for_Ally


I also really like these shoes, which a friend saya on Facebook and tagged for me. They’re of Swarovsky crystals, mostly…

I’m not sure how they get the beads to stay on them but they are certainly inspiring!

Sparkly shoes from FB

Which brings to my latest effort….

Last week, I donated this little book tin to Ollie-Fest, a fundraiser for the Eva Dahlgren/Dan Hundere family. It was given away in the raffle; not knowing the recipient, I found him on Facebook and send him a message, saying that I was hoping to chat with him about this unique piece.

book tin for Ollie FestHe wrote back that his daughters, four- and six-years old, “absolutely loved it. They filled it with all sorts of fun stuff and have carried it around the house the yard and collected shells and leaves from all over the yard.”

I’m so happy to know they are playing with it and enjoying it —  lots of good synergy there. The tin is from the Girl Scouts and the dominant color of green represents all things that are healthy and growing, as well as recycling, long a passion of Eva’s. This tin’s shape,  a “book,” is special because Ollie’s such a good reader — no surprise since Eva’s a librarian and was a long-time employee of ours at the bookstore.

All of this encourages me to work on yet another piece for a fundraiser, and to remember that inspiration comes from others’ joy in your work, from the examples one finds elsewhere, from sharing your ideas with others  — but mostly from within.



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Filed under Around the Valley, Cool causes, Fun art, Matters of the heart, other finds, Scrapbook, Sorting things out

Starting with appreciation — 2015.1

After writing so rarely over the last 14 months, since I started back to full-time work, over the holidays I committed to writing on my blog at least once a month in 2015. Here it is, January 31 — I better get on it!

What’s funny — ironic, really — is that I’m having such a hard time deciding on a topic.

Plenty of engaging activities in Teton Valley this weekend, and lots of wonderful friends having birthdays, but it’s kind of late to write about the former, and invasive to broadcast the latter (at least without permission.)

I know families who are facing health challenges — I mean terrible health challenges — but that’s too private a subject as well.

I have something like 50 posts in draft form, all worthy of development; my tiny travel journals contain pagefuls of scribbled ideas, too.

But there’s nothing burning I simply HAVE to write about, no one subject that keeps coming back into my head over and over and over, nothing that has been popping up when I’m in the shower, driving the car, or sitting in a meeting this week.

Rather, I face the “too-much-potential” problem: when one has a plethora of possibilities, it’s difficult to choose just one option.

Compare it to the comfortable lives most of us enjoy. We don’t have to worry about clean water, food, shelter, or power; we have access to health care and opportunity and political expression.

In too much of the world, survival on the most basic level means individuals don’t have the essentials we take for granted, let alone the many luxuries of technology and wealth.

I don’t always realize when I’m in a situation of saturation. Could it be that my angst of dissatisfaction, over something as silly as not easily selecting something brilliant and profound to write about,  arises from my overwhelming abundance?

Let me say right here: I am not complaining! Here I am, well-fed, sitting in my cozy and colorful home, with the woodstove blazing, a library of books to educate and entertain me, incredible support of friends and family, rewarding professional challenges, and more cherished memories of travel than I can count.

So, rather than find something to expound on, it seems like a perfect time to just be grateful.

Hopefully that’s enough.

Next month I intend to find a just-right subject.

For now, I’m following my friends from Peanuts, and …. hmmm, skating into February!

Goodbye January for blog



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Oct-Nov — “O/N it” 1

I have no single particular overall theme in mind for the blog post series I begin here — but recently I have been bothered by how quickly time flies, and how elusive it is to capture the brilliant moments of life. So that’s my goal, to share one “something” that’s completely relevant at the moment. Some of my more perceptive readers might catch on that that’s what I *always* try to do in these eclectic essays….

Today it centers on the numbers, and the symmetry that surrounds us if we only see it.

* The series will run for the next five weeks. Why? We leave on another trip about then, and it’s been almost five weeks since my last blog post — the former exciting, the latter not so. (Haven’t I had anything to say since early September? In a word: YES — so better get “on it!”)

* I’m shooting for 20 posts in the series.  This seems entirely reachable, an average of four per week.  Setting the target to write daily always strikes Peter as a “homework assignment,” and my intended-to-be-daily series tend to dribble off at the end.

* Eva Dahlgren is a special friend who never fails to inspire me — she and husband Dan have recently remodeled their house and wow, does it look great! Plus she’s heading back to grad school in a few months (at the same time as juggling full-time work and a busy household that also includes two kids, three dogs, and a cat.)  I admire her courage and willingness to jump into the unknown future. The timing doesn’t work for either Eva or I to lead the Young Writers After-School program this year, though. Recalling last November’s intense crunch with the kids during “National Novel Writing Month,”  it feels absolutely right to recommit to my own writing; this blog is just one part of it.

* We watched the Teton High School Homecoming parade standing on Eva’s front lawn on Friday morning. An “aha moment” of historical perspective as I saw the flatbed truck marked “Class of 2014” drive by: I was part of the Class of ’74 (forty years ago!), and if my mother had attended high school, she would have been part of the Class of ’34, forty years prior to that. Just think how much change the world has seen in just our two generations!

* Thus another bit of symmetry: I’m nearly exactly the same age that my mother was when she met our Up With People cast in San Sebastian, Spain in September 1973 — a memorable visit, for sure. One of the things I distinctly remember is turning to Cast Director Ken Ashby, who had driven me to the airport to pick her up, and saying “Oh my gosh, she has way more wrinkles than I remember.” A teenager’s comment, embarrassing in its bluntness even then. And humbling to recall: when I look in the mirror now, I see so many of her characteristics in my own face.  I now know how well-earned was every single one of those wrinkles!

* We have no fewer than a dozen books to read and refer to about our next destination and I’m doing the “sponge thing” to absorb as much as I can. Sometimes what sticks out isn’t sightseeing advice or a tidbit about history, but instead a line is applicable to other parts of life. So, these  two quotes, gleaned from some weekend perusing, bear repeating here:

  • “Failure was so often better than success: there was so much more to be learnt from it.” (~ Peter Stothard, referring to Roman historian Symmachus, in Spartacus Road)
  • “Great travelers always enjoy gazing upon rivers.” (~ Bruno Racine, in Living in Rome, regarding a couple with homes on both the Tiber and the Seine).

You may have figured it out — Trastavere, here we come!

*Lastly, we picked up a box of peppermint tea on Saturday at the grocery, and the box had an “inspirational commemorative tin” inside. On the back was this bit of wisdom:inspiration_moments_when


Hmmm. Golly, this seems to be one of these times for me.  I’m looking for work, and what an exercise it is to compress one’s life into a single-page resume, sorta like the history one carries on one’s face.  While I face the daunting task of finding a job, feeling concern about aging but yet as excited about the challenges of life and the opportunities of travel as ever I was when younger…. well, I might as well start a new blog series.

Have a great week, everyone!

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Filed under Journeys..., Matters of the heart, My Weekly Reader, On writing, other finds, Scrapbook, Sorting things out

Road Trip Redux

A couple weekends ago, we put the top down on the two-seater and headed north on a return odyssey to Virginia City, Montana. More than three years ago, we had driven through this historic spot – once the capital of the Territory of Montana and site of one of the richest gold strikes in America – while driving home from a winter-weekend escape to in Bozeman.

I wrote about that road trip on the Life In The Tetons blog soon thereafter (it was my first post there), noting that I wanted to check out Virginia City again, maybe even as soon as that summer.

Well, time flies, and we hadn’t been back yet. On that cold winter’s day in 2010, we were the only ones strolling along the boardwalked streets, and it had a definite lonesome feel…. I wondered what it would be like in hot weather, with the sun blazing ovcornererhead. How different would it be with tourists, the eateries and souvenir shops open?

This short video captures the feel of our visit. It was still a little on the melancholy side in spite of the picturesque setting, green grass and flower boxes adorning front yards rather than snow.

The historic vibe remains terrifically interesting. More of the little buildings had open areas to check out, full of long-goview from the hillne products like original Edison records, with old scales and cash registers standing testimony to previous customers’ purchases. We wandered off the main street and up to Boot Hill, where plain white markers show the burial spots of five men who met their maker at the end of a rope. The back roads, especially one along a now-dry creek, were also lined with sweet tiny cabins and more elegant Victorian-style homes.

We saw mgas_stationore leftover vehicles this time, including a horse-drawn stagecoach (now offering tours), an ancient Tin Lizzie (fuel supplied by two equally aged gas pumps), a vintage bicycle, and various styles of buggies in cobwebbed storage sheds. Transportation in this remote site was just as important then as it is now.

Whoever wrote the many National Historic site plaques created exemplary copy; it was both informative and engaging – great stories hide behind these storefronts!  A goodly number of characters once called this place home, including an African-American woman (born a slave) who once owned the city waterworks. The “Driggs outbuildings,” which we’d missed last time, were once an L-shaped brothel; the connection to local folks named Driggs would be a stretch, I’m sure.

I took a lot of photos of doors, no surprise, and especially liked the stone building that was once the location of the Montana Post, with its tables of type-face boxes that once contained letters ready to be set with the latest news.

Like most days-of-yore destinations, contemporary life intruded. We shared the walkways with others, folks checking their phones and correcting their children. At least three other convertibles were among the cars parked along the boardwalk, and a band at the saloon belted out amplified tunes.

But because Virginia City hasn’t yet been discovered (or is far enough off the beaten path that its traffic is much lighter), tJA_vigilante gift shophe outdoor seating area at the Bale of Hay bar was nearly empty. Few passengers had purchased tickets for the little narrow-gauge sightseeing train (we didn’t see it operate at all), and depressingly for shop-owners I’m sure, little commerce seemed to be taking place at the retail businesses. In fact, the entire Vigilante Gift Shop was for sale, a steal for under $200,000.

After a picnic on the Main Street (and I’ll admit we brought the makings in our very own cooler rather than contributing to the local economy), we headed up the highway to Nevada City – and found it even emptier. Without many automobiles, the photos we took look like we’d stepped into a time machine.

I’m glad we went to these ghost towns again; my impression that they are worth saving was reinforced, as was my interest in learning more about them.

The visit served as a poignant reminder of just how short (and precious!) our history is here in the Rocky Mountain West. Virginia City was a progressive and modern place in its peak, the early 1870s, but with most of its buildings made of wood, they are subject to ruin through weather and time.  Many have been preserved or recreated, but one doesn’t sense much community yet rebuilt there.

In the 1940s, one Montana couple, Charlie and Sue Bovey (he was the owner of the old Model T), first began the work to keep these places alive, and my hat is off to them.

Going back to Virginia City pushes me to rethink my own position about saving history right here where I live.

In our travels we’ve seen historical sites that have lasted 1,500 years (or twice that), places that continue to thrive and are much more than tourist attractions only. If Virginia City is destined to last another 150 years, it will need an influx of both residents and visitors.

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Joining a board?

I was recently asked for some impressions about a particular nonprofit because a friend had been queried about joining its board.
While it’s not my right to criticize or assess any group, debating whether or not to join an organization’s leadership team is a big decision. 
To help my friend, I put together a list of general topics that I have taken into consideration (and the questions I have asked myself) when considering taking on a new commitment.  
I thought others in the nonprofit world might find them helpful, too, so here they are, in no particular order:
  • Mission of organization (do I care enough about its goals to commit)
  • Reputation within the community (is this group best known for what it DOES — or for what it DOES NOT do)
  • Board meeting requirements and schedule (what if I can’t be there)
  • Communication practices within the board itself (how much happens outside regular meetings)
  • Committee organization and minimum responsibilities (is there some role I can fill that’s a good fit for my passion and expertise)
  • Financial obligation (am I expected to donate a certain amount of money, and if so — how often, when, and can I afford it)
  • Leadership structure (who are the officers and do I respect them
  • Leadership reality (how are tough issues handled)
  • Other board members (do I like the people I’d be serving with and/or do I want to get to know them better)
  • Staffing (if there is at least one paid employee, what is that person’s skill set and is it sufficient to meet the needs of the organization)
  • Expectations of service (if all volunteer, what’s the demand on each board member to meet the group’s mission, and can I do my part well and in good spirit)
  • Personal ramifications (does this service mean I won’t have time for something else I value in my life)
  • Constituencies (what’s my relationship with those we serve and others involved in the organization in a broader sense)
  • Timing and desire (do I *want* to get involved in this organization and is this WHEN I should)
  • Gaining cultural familiarity (how will I learn enough about this organization to even make this decision)

Volunteering is one of the most important aspects of my life, but I’m careful about doing due diligence to researching what’s a good fit. Sometimes, serving in a non-board-member capacity is the best route to take; I have spent literally hundreds of hours of service volunteering for a score of local nonprofits.

CFTV_Logo_RGBica_logo_colorAt the moment, I start my second term on the CFTV board in January.

At the end of June, I finished serving three four-year terms on the ICA board, a statewide obligation that also required traveling to meetings, usually the five-hour-plus trip to and from Boise (and when we operated Dark Horse, scheduling employees to take care of business so I could be gone.)  That gubernatorial appointment was largely the result of my four years on the Teton Arts Council board around the turn of the century — and connections made through the store and as editor of the Teton Valley News.

Through just these commitments, I have made so many friends and created so many valued memories.  The most important lesson learned (and relearned, over and over): Giving earns you so much.

Just about every good cause needs involvement and leadership!  Here’s hoping that when you are asked, you will consider serving.

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Gimme strength (8/12)


This is the front of one of my favorite cards of all time, given to me by Susie Work, a longtime bookstore customer, my very good friend and a fellow board member of the Community Foundation of Teton Valley. I don’t remember what particular “hot water” I was in to warrant the card at the moment she gave it to me — years ago, in fact — but I’ve kept it for Eleanor Roosevelt’s wisdom (and Susie’s support.)

Today’s “hot water” is the removal of a 2-centimeter basal cell carcinoma from my back this morning.  Luckily it was a non-aggressive type organism.

The cheerful medical assistant asked me if I wanted to see what the dermatologist had cut out: note to self — next time say no.

It looked like a quarter-inch-deep section of an eyeball (same shape and with the bad spot in the center) — ick.

But as Peter put it, this kind of thing is a little bit like getting the oil changed in your car — not exactly a fun chore, but something that needs to be taken care of — so we did it.  (It was the second visit to the dermatologist for our family in two weeks; his was in a more prominent spot; good thing he looks so handsome in his sunglasses.)

Have spent the day mostly napping and “taking it easy” — code words for thinking of all the things I SHOULD be doing. Oh well.

As Scarlet O’Hara says in Gone With the Wind: tomorrow is another day.

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Filed under August '13, Matters of the heart, On Being Human, Sorting things out