Monday, April 28, 2014

Carroll High School Fine Arts Night Display Ideas!

It's that time of year again! No, not prom season--it's awards and recognition season, and once again, it's Carroll High School's turn. Check out Carroll's Fine Arts Night Wednesday, May 7, from 6-8 p.m. at 3701 Carroll Road, Fort Wayne IN.

I work at a big box home improvement store. Sunday, I had two young ladies and their parents come in trying to figure out an inexpensive way to display artwork. Face it, even if mom and dad say it's okay to blow $200 on a one-time only display, why would you want to? If you ARE going to spend money, it makes sense that whatever materials you decide to use, you can use again.

So here are some ideas for displays. I realize time is short, but I decided to put some ideas together. If you like them, spread the word!

For an impressive display, get your hands on a refrigerator box. If you can't find one, try and get a couple of range/dryer/washer/dishwasher boxes and paint them the color(s) you want, then tape them together. You'll have at least four sides, and a fairly tall display. You can weigh the boxes down with books for extra stability. Try and find boxes with flaps intact. I would suggest going to the home improvement/appliance stores in person to get the boxes. If you call the store, chances are you will be transferred to a department staffed by one person. They will probably be busy, perhaps too busy to look and see if there are any boxes to be had. If you actually show UP in the store, you stand a better chance that someone will track down some boxes for you. Cardboard is cheap (in this case, probably free) and is fairly lightweight. Be sure to use cardboard to mount your artwork on instead of buying expensive mats at the art stores. I think they still sell Post It note glue sticks, or some sort of adhesive that isn't permanent. Use that, or make corners for your artwork for temporary mounting.

Painting your cardboard: You will have better results if you use a primer. You don't want any printing on the box to show through. So if you are going with a black or red background, chose a gray primer.

Try and think of unconventional ways to display your artwork. A patio umbrella makes a novel way to hang artwork, as long as you have a sturdy base for it. Use fishing line and duct tape to attach the artwork so it can hang from the umbrella's outside edge. No one will see the duct tape since it will be on the top of the umbrella. Make sure the umbrella is high enough so people can walk under it.

Bookcases can serve a dual purpose of displaying 3-D artwork, such as sculpture or jewelry, and you can use the three sides to display photos or paintings. Remember to mount your prints on cardboard, and don't frame them, so they aren't heavy. If you don't have a bookcase, look for inexpensive ones such as these. You can use them over again, and to save space when you aren't using them, they are easy to take apart.

If you don't have it, see if you can borrow it. If you have lots of jewelry to display, try using a dress form, and putting a cool dress or neat outfit on it. It depends on your jewelry. Funky, modern jewelry won't look right on a formal gown.  Also consider hitting up the thrift stores for velvet jackets to use as cushions for pins. If you have satin gloves, try stuffing them with fiberfill and stitching them shut. You can use those to display rings and bracelets. Scarves would work too. Try using goldfish bowls or aquariums to display jewelry.

Wire shelving, the kind used for linen closets, comes in various depths. With some zip ties, you can attach three or more of them together and form a vertical triangle, or a cube. The wire is usually spaced in half-inch intervals, so you can attach a variety of things. Most stores can cut the length of the shelving. We have it in four, six, eight and twelve foot lengths. You can get one shelf for around $7 or so. Larger sizes cost more.

Something else you might want to consider is lattice panels. You can use zip ties at the top as a hinge, then either use more zip ties at the bottom, or twine to secure the bottoms to make a sort of giant sandwich board. It will look like a giant upside down V. You can then display your artwork on both sides. You can then use the lattice for its original intention, or use it for a garden-themed headboard or wall display panel for photos or award ribbons. 

Pallets can also be used, if you don't want your artwork at eye level. You can zip tie pallets together to make an open cube about three and a half feet high. This might not be your cup of tea, but pallets can be had for cheap, if not free.

Go scavenging! People throw out all sorts of useful stuff. If you can find four doors all the same size, you can paint them. then hinge them together for a vertical rectangle (which will be pretty darn solid) for a variation on the refrigerator box theme. Screen doors are a lightweight alternative to traditional doors. I've seen brand-new screen doors for $21. But try to borrow or scavenge if you can.

If there aren't any boxes to be had, you can always go to Office Depot and get document storage boxes. I think they come in 10 packs, so you can save some money. You can paint these, duct tape them together, and make a giant wall to display your artwork.

Most home improvement stores have sawhorse brackets for about $7 per pair. A couple of two by four by 96 inch studs cut down can make a quick table. Just slap a piece of sturdy cardboard on top, and some fabric to hide the legs and you're good to go. you can also make a giant sawhorse by buying five of the two by fours, and a pair of brackets. The fifth two by four will go across the top. You will have a sparse looking frame, which can be painted whatever color you'd like. You can hang the pictures with fishing line, or clear line. Duct tape the line to the back of your artwork. Then, duct tape the line to the top of the two by four across the top, where no one can see it. The artwork will appear to float in the air. 

Use your imagination! A lot of great artists were extremely poor before they became famous. Use this opportunity for making a display another way to be creative! Bear in mind, I don't know if you have space limitations, or how much time you are allowed to spend assembling you display. Not all of these ideas may work. Think about your artwork and if there is a theme running through it. If you need a little bit of elevation, borrow a card table or coffee table. Check out the thrifts for sheets or lengths of material to cover tops of tables, table legs, etc. Stepladders may be an option as well. You could probably make a 10 foot by 10 foot display booth out of PVC pipe. Depending on the circumference of the pipe, I saw pipe for less than $2. You could attach it with the little corner pieces. I would estimate if you did just the frame, it might run you maybe $25. Also, if you have one of those little pop-up canopies, you could use that as a display area. If it's advertising beer or some other form of alcohol, you may have to cover up the logo so you don't get in trouble.

A little bit about paint: It never hurts to prime! If you are using cardboard, it probably will have writing on it, or it won't be the right color. If you are deciding on a very dark color like black or a deep red or brown, please use a primer. If you don't, the brown or white of the cardboard may show through, and you won't be happy. If you come to Lowe's, you can get a gallon of black paint for about $21. It's called Olympic Icon, and I recommend getting it in flat, so it doesn't reflect light. I suggest using the color Black Magic, which is my favorite shade of black. It's made by Olympic. It's a pure black; if you look at our other shades of black, you'll see hints of green, purple and even brown. If you do decide to prime, get the Valspar High Hiding Primer, which is around $18 a gallon. It's white to begin with, so tell someone at the paint desk you'd like it tinted to a gray.

If you think these ideas are helpful, please let me know! My email is Please spread the word, and if you try something that works, please let me know! I will find out the date of the Fine Arts night and post it here on the blog. I just wanted to get this post up ASAP. Please spread the word if you know a Carroll student (and parents!) freaking out over displays! 

Saturday, April 26, 2014


One of my neighbors is bugging me about my trees. More to come, I'm sure.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Twenty-seven Pounds and Counting!

A colleague said I had to be a size 12. I said I wasn't, but I said after I was done with my day, I would go and try on some size 12 pants to prove her wrong.

I was wrong.

I went to TJ Maxx and grabbed the first size 12s I saw. A couple of them were jeans, one was a pair of capris. I put them on and they fit. They FIT. Yes, they were a bit tight, and no, they weren't flattering on me, but I was able to fit into size 12 pants. It has been a HELL of a long time since I was able to fit into size 12 pants.

I've had one person criticize me for juicing, saying it was bad for my heart. I don't think I've gone about this in an unhealthy way. I've done juice fasting off and on for the past few months. Sometimes it's nothing but juice, chocolate milk, hot chocolate and lots of chewing gum. Sometimes it's juicing and a little bit of lean protein. The times when I haven't been fasting, I've been eating lots of fruits and vegetables and nuts and lean protein.

My Achilles heel, so to speak, is salt. I never realized how much salt I consumed until I went on my first juice fast. Salt makes one retain water. But at least I know why it was so hard for me to lose weight for so long.

I'm eating healthier, and I like it. I'm seeing results, but most importantly, I feel better about myself. Sure, I still have cravings for junk food. Right now, I'm on the 13th day of a juice fast, and I'm counting the minutes until I can have solid food. I'm thinking about going to Flattop Grill tomorrow. That way, I can splurge and stay fairly healthy.

While at TJ Maxx trying on pants, I also found a little black dress by Anne Klein. I can fit into my Emanuel Ungaro, but it's very snug on me. Plus, I can't zip it by myself. If I were a little thinner, I could zip it part way, and pull up the back of the dress by the neckline, and zip it the rest of the way. But I'm afraid that the dress is too tight in the upper torso. I'm also afraid if I sit, I might split the skirt. So I bought the Anne Klein dress, which is very flattering, and clingy. Not a tight sort of clingy. The dress also has a bit of Spandex in it, either that or some other stretchy material, and it's VERY comfortable. So I'll be able to wear it to Write The Feminine on Friday and be comfortable and look good. There was a Ralph Lauren dress too that I was very tempted by. I may just buy it. However, I liked the Klein dress a tad bit better. The Lauren dress had a deep V-neckline, and the shoulders on the dress I wasn't entirely comfortable with. However, that dress WAS machine washable, and the Klein dress is dry clean. I may still buy the Lauren dress. It all depends how I feel about it tomorrow. I do have a habit of buying similar things, but since I haven't bought anything brand new (except for underwear and leggings) for over a year, I shouldn't be feeling so guilty if I bought two new dresses in the same week.

But I'm feeling good. Even if I don't get down to 160 by the end of the week, it's all good. I have a dress that looks good and I can breathe in, and I'll be able to fit into the Ungaro later on this spring, or sometime in the summer. And I'm relieved that I can indeed lose weight.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Write the Feminine

I will be reading a short fiction story (like REALLY short) at Write the Feminine at Ivy Tech this coming Friday April 25 at  7 p.m. It's in the auditorium on Coliseum campus. And it's free!!!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Spring is Starting Off on a Bad Note

The Smokehouse Tobacco Outlet. These are memorials people have left.

Spring is being welcomed by a bunch of people. However, it's been sad around Fort Wayne these last few days. A local business owner died from gunshot wounds the other day. You can read more about it here:

I also found out that a former co-worker committed suicide. I feel really bad, because I saw him the other day and I should have said something, but I didn't. I wasn't sure if he would remember me. It's really odd to think I saw him just a few weeks before he threw himself in front of a train.

I can't believe someone would do that. I understand being depressed. But I guess I've never felt so down that things wouldn't ever get better. I don't know a lot about him, but I heard he had health problems and was in danger of losing his job. I am not sure how true that is, but I feel bad. It's so strange. We come into the world either through a vagina, or we are cut out of our mother's bodies. But there are a lot of ways we end up leaving. In these cases, one man had his life taken, the other took his own life.

Sunday, April 13, 2014


I forgot to update this last night.  I'm sorry.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

On Mike Rowe, Dirty Jobs and the Benefits of a College Education

I've been hearing more about Mike Rowe lately. He used to be the host of a show called Dirty Jobs. I came across his name on Facebook; one of my friends had posted some sort of link, which I checked out. And I got mad.

Seems that Rowe is selling a poster that says, "Work smart AND hard." Back in the day, there was a poster on the wall of his high school guidance counselor's office that said, "Work smart, not hard." It showed a guy smiling in a cap and gown with his diploma standing in front of a desk. The guy beside him (the poster was split in half) showed a guy in a work uniform, dirty, and not looking very happy. That poster infuriated Rowe, who actually did go on to get a college degree. His platform is that college is not for everyone, and that no one should go in debt to get an education, particularly if you are heading towards the humanities, or (God forbid) getting a degree in women's studies.

Every fucking thing in this country boils down to money, and why should education be any different? Instead of studying something that is of interest to you, you are encouraged to major in the degree that will earn you the most money. Problem is, not all of those people are going to get jobs in their field of study. Rowe wants to encourage people to go into the skilled trades. He does have a point. We DO need electricians, carpenters, HVAC people, plumbers, roofers and exterminators. We need people to trim trees, move dirt out of the way, and pave roads. We need people to keep horse stalls clean and dig out roots from sewer lines. He feels that not enough people are encouraged to do this, even though we need people to do this. Here's part of the reason why: people don't want to do it. If a kid has a father who busts his ass six days a week, twelve hours a day at a dirty, dangerous job, chances are his father will encourage him NOT to follow in the same line of work. Yes, some of those workers get paid good money, but unions are not as strong as they used to be. So I'm guessing pay for some of these jobs isn't what it used to be, either.

Rowe has done all right, hosting a television show, but here's some hard truths. Blue collar jobs are dangerous. Assuming you become a roofer at the age of twenty and you work for twenty years, you're now forty years old. Let's hope you are in reasonably good shape, meaning your gut doesn't hang out over your pants and you don't go to work drunk. If you last another ten years, you'll be fifty. Is THIS the kind of work you want to be doing as you approach your golden years? And what if you have an accident? Assuming that you are not paralyzed, do you really want to be up on a roof again? Here's some stats on blue collar work deaths vs. white collar work deaths. The most dangerous blue collar job, logging, had 129 deaths per 100,000. Contrast that with airline pilot, which was ranked the number one most dangerous white collar job. Ninety-seven deaths per 100,000. From there, the death rates go down significantly for white collar workers, but it's extremely high for the blue collar jobs, even if they are ranked the same in terms of "danger." The reason why people aren't clamoring for these jobs is not only are they dirty, they are fucking dangerous. And I'd like to ask Rowe just how many women loggers are out there, and if certain women aren't cut out for college, what should they do.

For decades, I thought my English degree was useless. I applied to be a substitute teacher, but none of the local school systems would have me. For a long time, I took crap job after crap job.

Then, I got a note taker job at a local college. I really enjoyed it. I took notes for a woman taking an English class, and soon, students were asking me for help. I probably overstepped my boundaries a bit, but I did think I could do as good a job, if not better, than the instructor. A chance conversation in a bathroom led me to talk to someone about teaching. That was in 2006, and I've been teaching for six straight years. (I took off time in 2007 to pursue a truck driving career, which lasted all of six weeks. Incidentally, truck driving ranks number seven among dangerous blue collar jobs, with 39.6 deaths per 100,000. Physicists and astronomers, which rank number seven in dangerous white collar jobs, have a whopping 7.6 deaths per 100,000.) I returned to teaching in 2008. With the economy in the toilet, everyone was going back to school, and all of those people, if they hadn't tested out, needed to take an English class. Suddenly, my "useless" degree got me a part time job that paid higher per hour than anything I'd ever had before in my life. My brief stint as a portrait photographer (my own business) got me about $60-$75 an hour, but it wasn't steady work, and it ground to a halt. Teaching, in contrast has been pretty steady. Enrollment goes down in the spring, because students realize they have to WORK, but fall semester 2013, I had three classes and between that and my retail job, for the first time in a long time, I made enough to survive and to save a little.

In a perfect, fair world, everyone would be paid a living wage for doing what they liked to do. I'd like to think that the majority of American workers (as well as workers around the world) are in the field they want to be in, that they've found their "niche" and/or have found a way to peddle their aptitude for whatever it is they are good at. I know better.

I know Rowe has a point, but here's the thing. If you're laid off from your logging job because you've reached a "certain age" and the company's insurance provider won't insure you anymore, what's a guy to do? I would hope that all those blue collar workers are taking their good paychecks and saving/investing that money for the future, instead of blowing it on brand-new pick up trucks, guns, fishing equipment and gigantic flat screen televisions. Maybe you work union, maybe you don't, but what will you do when that money comes to a halt because you've seriously injured yourself on the job?

I know two female electricians. One of them seems to work pretty steadily, because she's willing to go where the work is. So if you DO take a blue collar job, say goodbye to your home and your spouse and kids. You may spend several weeks hundreds of miles away from home, because the work isn't there. The other woman, who is the sister of the working electrician, seems to work maybe four to six weeks a year. I'm not kidding. She spends most of the year on unemployment. And I seriously doubt she's going to find a full time job as an electrician. The main reason for that is her health is steadily going downhill. She's morbidly obese, and her calves are as red as beets. I'm worried for her health, but claims that she only needs a "couple of months" to get into shape, but she just doesn't have the time. I work four part time jobs, and I exercise probably three to five hours a week, if not more. What the hell is she doing all day, every day, that she can't exercise? She was laid off from her last gig, and I think it was because she just can't stand for nine to ten hours a day anymore. While she's off work, she doesn't bother to exercise to keep her stamina up. She can barely move now, and the only way she could work is if she could sit while they bring the work to her. Which isn't going to happen. She's fifty-six, which isn't ancient, but it's pretty plain to see (even though she refuses to) that her working life is pretty much over. A relative suggested she apply for disability, but she refuses to, because if she does that, she'll be admitting that she's giving up. If you work only a few weeks out of the year and you're getting unemployment for ten or eleven months out of the year, and your health is shot, and you don't want to do anything about it, you might as well apply for disability. I've tried to help her. I told her that I'd lost a good amount of weight in a short time through juicing, and invited her to come down and watch Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead with me. I told her about the guy who did the movie, Joe Cross, and how he lost about eighty pounds in two months. She asked if losing that amount of weight in such a short amount of time wasn't dangerous. I wanted to say, it probably wasn't as dangerous as being 300 pounds for the last ten years, but I didn't.

So, if she's so out of shape that she can't work her regular job, what else is there for her? At least if she had an education, she might be able to do administrative work, or maybe do some accounting or bookkeeping.

Yes, college isn't for everyone, but I don't want the United States to become a nation of ditch diggers. There's a whole big world out there, with fascinating stuff and people, and college is there to open up your mind. Yes, you could go to the library and read a lot of stuff for free (which I encourage) but a college degree shows determination, that you can be trained, that you can retain information, put up with bureaucracy, and stay motivated to finish something. It shouldn't cost $100,000. I agree with that. But I do plan to get my graduate degree so I can teach a bigger variety of college courses. Even if they eliminate the only class I'm able to teach, if I get my master's, I'll be able to teach at several local colleges. Even if I am an adjunct for the rest of my working life because there aren't any full time positions, getting a master's means I'll be able to teach for as long as my mind holds together. If I have to teach until I'm 75, as long as I'm fairly healthy, I'll be able to do that. Contrast that with my electrician neighbor, who I'm betting will be on disability before the age of sixty. And to be honest, my most interesting conversations have been with people who have some sort of education beyond high school.

That doesn't mean I won't hire a tree trimmer, or someone to fix my roof. Yes, those people ARE needed. But I'd rather see people in those jobs who really WANT to be there. Because I don't. And I'd like to see a good wage paid to people who DO perform dirty work. Union, non-union, I really don't care. If you are risking your life, you SHOULD be getting a good wage.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Raunchy Don't Cut it With Me

Someone posted to their Facebook page a link to a Cosmopolitan magazine article about pick-up lines for women. They were for women to pick up men. They were funny, but very tacky. Or crass. Here they are:

Nearly all of them have to with the sex act. And I realize how out of touch I am with the world. I don't belong. I don't belong. I'm not out for a quick fuck, which is part of the reason why I haven't dated in years. Because that's all it is. Instant fuck. Love 'em and leave 'em.

I have to get to know a guy first. Or at least feel comfortable with them. And sometimes that takes a long time. But men don't have that kind of time. I guess I've always known that, and that's why I've never had a great dating career and probably why I will never be married.

That's okay. I know what I want in a guy, and it's going to be very, VERY hard to find.

There's an acquaintance I have on Facebook, and it seems like every time he posts something, it's pictures of half-naked women and references to pot and how evil the government is. It's his page; he can post what he wants, but his explicit references to sex (he once suggested I make a porno with him) are a huge turnoff. I will NEVER go out with him. I will NEVER go out with a guy like that. If a guy wants to get with me, he'd better be a gentleman, and he'd better be smart enough not to bring up the size of his penis, or show me pictures of it. But I suppose that's expecting too much, these days.Do

Tuesday, April 1, 2014