Tuesday, September 28, 2010




Definition: A set of forms all of which contain a particular element, esp. the set of all inflected forms based on a single stem or theme. A display in fixed arrangement of such a set, as boy, boy's, boys, boys'. An example serving as a model or pattern. A mold, standard, ideal, paragon, touchstone.

I have come to the conclusion that RealityWritesCollective is lacking a paradigm. Perhaps that is why we have become less interested in posting our thoughts. I thought that all being women with children who would like to write would be enough of a paradigm, but I was wrong. We are all so different and have different motivations for being in Reality Writes. It is what I both LOVE about RWC and what prevents us from becoming more than what we are.

But maybe, what we are is enough. We are a workspace where we can post story ideas, thoughts, and inspirations. We are a group that can encourage and support each other. We can review, critique, or bounce an idea around.

Maybe lack of paradigm is not our problem – maybe we just all have a little too much work to do right now.

NEXT MEETING October 16.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Parental Judgement

Is it parental judgment or parental frustration that we get so annoyed with other peoples kids?

When I came across this article this morning titled Message to Parents Getting Louder: No Screaming Babies Allowed, I was sorta flabbergasted and laughing. Yes, kids can be challenging to be around when you don't have any, but most people will one day. And I would like to see any company financially survive a ban on kids.

People in the comments section of the article were blaming parents for being too checked out and ignoring their obnoxious little people. As if these people were perfect little angels all the time when they were children. It is shocking how many people are for such things as banning kids, can't wait for them to be in the nursing home circuit while the kids they were annoyed by are running things.

Are we just getting awfully grumpy in society today? Do we have little patience for the people in our lives and especially little patience for the people not in our immediate lives?

I thought I was above these sort of judgments of course. We often all think we aren't like that.

Then I went to an party. That had lots and lots and lots of kiddos in attendance.

I got frustrated I tell you. And I might seem like an overprotective nincompoop. I am not, I will fight for your kids too if I see injustice. (Well I am overprotective, but because I love my babies and you can't fault me for loving my babies)

But here is what gets my goat, a group of kids, whether at a party a park a play date are left to their own devices. Everyone seems to stop paying attention to their kids and lets them run willy-nilly when other kids appear.

I get it. Many times on play dates I will let my kids know that I am talking to the grown up now and I will be with them in a minute. Play dates are for Mom's as much as they are for kids, no matter what anyone says otherwise. But it is usually me and one Mom. I can hear or see any crisis or extreme misbehavior as it happens.

So often at outings, or groups, kids are rude. They push in front of each other, they find one kid to pick on and start doing just that in very subtle ways, sometimes not so subtle and there is an all out fight. But there is nobody there as far as the eye can see to look at these little people and let them know that that treatment of their friends is entirely unacceptable.

Um...if we aren't letting our kids know that what they are doing is wrong...who are we hoping is going to do that?

Are we hoping that their peers will say, "Hey, don't push that kid out of the way! It is his turn!"

I may have been judging for a moment, but I am not dumb, parenting is the hardest thing I have ever done and assume that is the case with every parent. I think more it is sheer frustration. It does take a village to raise kids, and not just directly to help us raise our own kids, like a babysitter or two that you might have available, but to be examples to our kids. One kid to another.

I don't want my kids to be bullies, the world has enough grown-up bullies in it running the joint. Our kids will one day be the ones running the world. Shouldn't we help them to understand how we treat people? Or should we leave them on their own to learn from other little kids who hit and push and bully how they should behave?

The way they will run the world starts with what they learn on the playground.

Trust me, I am no way near to being a perfect Mom. I wouldn't bother making such a ludicrous and far from the truth statement. My kids annoy me some days. Mostly it is the fighting between them that really gets under my skin, which includes hitting and pushing, which for some reason they never seem to bring to play with friends. And don't get me started on the status of their room, a tornado would actually help it out a little.

Am I judgmental? Often, yet I am trying to work on that.

Am I frustrated? Yes. I am tired of being the one standing there responding to your kids behavior while you relax and enjoy yourself.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

A new hat to juggle

Well, I think I can finally come up for air now. I have two weeks of classes under my belt. It’s hard to be a student after so many years, but I have wanted to get my MPH for a long time and now I am taking the first steps. Here are some of my first impressions:

1. I am OLD – as I walk around campus I am very aware of how stinkin’ old I am! These kids look like BABIES and in fact some of them could be my babies.
2. An hour is not very long – I remember getting antsy after an hour of class time but now it is pretty easy to sit and listen and do nothing. It is a nice break from running around, cleaning, picking and dropping off kids.
3. I have learned a lot. It is amazing to hear what some of the young students think and how naïve they are about certain things. Thank goodness I have actually learned something.
4. I have become good at multitasking. I was worried about keeping up with everything, but it is true that the more you have to do, the more that gets done.
5. It’s nice (and hard) to be able to use your brain on a daily basis. Thinking makes you feel alive.

I am on to week three. I hope I remember how to write a paper and take a test… I think I will be fine... if I just remember to breathe.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Live and Learn

Who would have thought that my own personal advice would come back and bite me in the ass. A few years ago, I wrote about how we as artists shouldn’t fall prey to spec design. Spec design is quite simply, doing the work before you’re compensated for it. I have always been confused by this ongoing problem with graphic designers, but it seems to be a common problem in my field.
This baffles me.
I won’t jump on my soap box just yet. What I wrote about a few years back in 2008 still holds true for me. Unfortunately, given my recent vulnerability due to my unemployment status, I figured I’ll do a little bit of work just to make sure the client knows what they’re getting from me is not only good work, but so they’ll ultimately be 'wowed' with the finished product.
I was recently contacted via email about a company wanting to hire me to design some pop art images for their soon-to-be opening boutique in Florida. This company sells couture designer items that have been pre-owned and at a much cheaper cost than buying them brand new.
The owner loved my pop art pieces of Louis Vuitton and Chanel handbags, and wanted me to stick with this same concept of using designer items to hang throughout his boutique with a pop art twist. The only difference between my original designs and the ones he wanted for his boutique are a change of colors to reflect the colors in his logo and more designer items to add to their overwhelming assortment of items for sale.
When I spoke to his partner on the phone, he said he wanted me to come up with some designs to send his way, and if they like them, they will then allow me to “go to town” with whatever designs I wanted. 
I made it very clear that typically I don't do spec work without some sort of compensation beforehand, and as he started to say he was OK with that—me like the weak person that I am, went ahead and said I would send him a design or two without an upfront deposit.
What was I thinking? Because I got tongue-tied in the process, I assured him that I will only do a few pieces to send his way as jpegs. Ugh!
Here is where the frustration begins.
Naturally, I went ahead and created a few designs—which thankfully didn’t take too long of my time—and immediately emailed to him.
Next day—nothing.
Day after—nothing.
Day after that—nothing, so I decided to get proactive and I contacted him to let him know that if either of the designs that I sent him were not acceptable, to please let me know and I’m happy to change whatever colors or designs he wanted.
Still, nothing.
It has now been almost a week and I have yet to hear from either of them.
Yes, again I was screwed over. For whatever reason, I don’t know. All I do know is I didn’t get compensated for my time, nor did they even have the courtesy to get back to me to say yay or nay. Nothing!
Like we always say—“live and learn.” If only I had followed my own advice (as well as many others in my field) and not accepted it without a deposit up front.
So even though I didn’t get compensated, nor did I get to “go to town” with designs with this particular businessman, I will now learn by this mistake and move forward and hope that whatever business venture or client comes my way, I will continue to present a contract to them and require my typical 30–50% deposit up front before I start the work.
I'm mad, and I could kick myself, but at this point, you just have to learn from your mistakes and move on.


Louis Vuitton Speedy

Louis Vuitton Mini-Noé

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Varying shades of green

As a child growing up in the 60's, my mom taught me to reuse and recycle.  Even back then I have memories of my mom bundling up newspapers with string and having them recycled.  I can also remember reusing every scrap of paper and bag we had for art projects and household use.  We had never heard of the word "green" back then to describe what we were doing.  It is just what we did.  We didn't waste a lot of resources, but I think it was primarily for economic reasons rather than any grandiose plan to save the earth.  My mom had a garden and we had a compost pile.  It wasn't some fancy composting bin like they sell now at Home Depot.  It was simply a pile in the corner of the yard where we threw grass clippings and organic material.  I remember how bad it smelled on hot summer days.  We were "green" before it was cool to be "green".   We were just of a different mindset back then.  We didn't waste things.

Fast forward forty years.   My kids preach to me about how we need to conserve resources, save the planet, save the whales, and all good things like that.  I couldn't agree more.  I have been doing my part for many many years.  My mom did her part by teaching me to be thrifty and practical with what I had. What I find interesting is that I would call my kids' commitment "light green". They are all talk.  When it comes down to actually participating in what they preach, they only do it when it's convenient for them. 

Case in point:  High school senior leaves for school in the morning.  She has taken AP Environmental Science, so she is enlightened about all subjects environmental and has told me about how we Americans are wrecking the planet.  As she goes out the door to her gas-powered car, she leaves her bedroom light on and the stereo blaring.  So much for conservation of energy.  What happened to simply turning off the power?

Second case in point:  Middle school kid who wants to save all living things has decided that this year it will be better if I drive him to school rather than him taking the bus.  So, each morning we are burning extra gas to go back and forth.  Hmmm, that is not very earth-friendly, is it? 

Third case in point:  I clean out the backpacks from the prior year.  There are about a dozen half-used spiral notebooks in perfectly good shape.  But do my kids want to reuse these?  No!  They would like new notebooks and would like to throw the old notebooks away.   What do I do?  I salvage all of their half used notebooks for my own personal use to write my rantings in.  The paper is perfectly fine.  I am the one who is saving the trees, not them. 

I could go on and on. 

I would like to believe that they will one day change their ways when they become a bit older and wiser.  I'm not saying that I'm perfect.  I drive an SUV and probably use more than my fair share of gas.  But I do know that I am doing my small part, and I think I am actually living in a brighter shade of "green" than a lot of the young people in the world.  

I hope I can pass on some of these values to them like my mom did to me, but sometimes it feels hopeless. 

Every time they begin talking about the gigantic subject of saving the earth I just smile and keep doing what I'm doing.  Maybe one day they will get it.  It's all the small things on a daily basis that really make a difference. 

Peggy McNeal

Monday, August 16, 2010

Climbing Quandary

On Saturday I disappeared into thin air. Well I didn't disappear, but anyone on the trail thousands of feet below would have seen nothing more than an ant trudging up a giant anthill. Anyway at 14,265 feet up, the air is indeed thin, and the views breathtaking. Or should I say breath-catching!

Here I am celebrating an arduous climb to the summit of Quandary Peak, my first 14er, those tallest kings among mountains that Colorado is famous for. I and six girlfriends left the trailhead in the valley at 7am and 5-1/2 hours later this was our reward.

I'd expected to do the whole hike, up and back, in that amount of time! Some of our husbands had done it a month ago in 5 hours. But unfortunately two of our group suffered bad altitude sickness requiring a slow pace and frequent rest stops on the ascent. (One did feel a little better after throwing up. That bad.)

Around the same time I took the above photo looking up and the summit felt sooo far away, I turned around and looked down to the highway where I'd come from. Wow. It really boosted my mood and confidence when fatigue was taking a toll.

I also contemplated the golden value of such friends I have. No one had an ego to show off. No one was trying to prove anything. There was nothing but patience and encouragement for those who were lagging. (Little did I know that would be me on the way down, running out of water two hours early and bad knees screaming their displeasure at the steep rocks.) I realized that I myself was far more flexible and patient than I used to be, willing to stay with my friends at the end of the line or offering to share my hiking poles. That's big for me, someone who has always been highly competetive. This was just not the time for that.

I love my girlfriends, their strength, humor, complete support and solidarity. Only recently have our friendships gone deep like this, and it's like drinking cool water from a deep clear mountain spring. I will take care of them. Frienships like this should be nurtured. As a Nigerian proverb says, "Hold a true friend with both your hands."

But my friends weren't the only ones that amazed me. And I'm not talking about the guy who passed us early on wearing a kilt. (We asked if it was a skirt or a kilt and he said, "It's only a skirt if you have something under it." Eeek.) I was truly inspired by a Chinese grandfather and his seven year old grandson who held hands most of the way up the mountain. Their pace was slow like ours, so they passed us, we passed them, repeat, and it wasn't until the final and steepest stretch that they went up without us. This photo shows the two of them resting a moment (with mom) and you can see how steep the trail gets. I just accidentally typed "trial" but maybe that really isn't a typo after all.

The high elevation made me far more emotional than I generally am. I nearly cried when I heard other hikers talking about an accident on the top involving a two year old girl in a child backpack that we had seen leave the trailhead on her father's back just before we did. Apparently he had set down the pack with her inside and she kicked her legs enough to topple over forward, hitting her face on the rocks. I didn't see them coming down (I believe I was squatting behind a big rock, he he) but my friends said she had bandaids and blood across her forehead. That was it, tears in my eyes. I have kids. I hate it when kids get hurt. I honestly felt like scurrying back down the trail to see if she was alright. I also got teary watching a big black dog of all things. The poor animal looked disoriented and thirsty and had run ahead of its owner down the mountain. It kept running ahead of us and behind us looking for a familiar face.

By the time we got back to the car it had been an 8-1/2 hour trek. I took some time to reflect on observations about myself. Right there in the back seat I wrote a list, so might as well share it that way.
  • I'm easily obsessive. I spent more time on 14ers.com than facebook the week prior, reading trip reports from Quandary and other peaks and searching for advice. I memorized the driving directions even though I wasn't driving. I printed a trail map even though it would be impossible to get lost with weekend crowds. I packed extra clothes, first aid, rain gear, and twice the food I needed. I spent two hours loading my backpack just right.
  • My exercise classes all summer have paid off! I felt much better than I expected. On the other hand, I still have far to go to be as fit as I want to. This was good motivation to stick with it.
  • I still have a sense of wild adventure and spontaneity even though I haven't been able to live it out for many years. I hope this is just the beginning of rebirthing that aspect of my heart.
  • I've lost my fear of indecent exposure when nature calls. There was a time when I probably would have chosen extreme bladder discomfort rather than crouching behind rocks and trees without worrying about what people think. It's liberating.
  • Lastly, I observed that I tend to be a bit self-promoting and I need to learn to listen and engage others without talking up myself. It seemed that so often when one of my friends was telling a story, I would push my own similar stories into the conversation. I'm not as good a listener as I want to be. As I think about it, I realize I frequently do the same thing when commenting on blogs or facebook. That's kind of hard to admit, but it's something to work on.
Saturday was a special day - my first 14er and the first time I ever spent a whole day with girlfriends. We climbed a mountain together, and I climbed a personal mountain, that of bonding with a spectacular group of women. We scaled so many rocks that we all called each other rock stars! Our next adventure will be awesome, I am sure.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

A dream and a goal.

My goal. I actually have one. But will it ever come to fruition? I have no idea. But for now, it will remain both my dream, and my goal.
Currently I am an unemployed graphic designer. During regular economic times, this would be considered a cliché since as an artist, it almost goes hand-in-hand, but in this day and age of recessions, extended unemployment, etc. it’s just plain sad.
I love what I do, and I can’t imagine doing anything else with my life, but within the past few months, I’ve had nothing but time on my hands. Enough time to sit back and contemplate what I would want to do with my life if given the opportunity of NOT getting a job in my field. What would/could I do?
Well, there’s the common response—work at Starbucks or places of similar environments, but ultimately, would I be fulfilled? Probably not.
I don’t expect to make much money, but I do expect some sort of happiness in my life, and if it involves a job, then why not? Is this so much to ask for after spending many years in college to learn my ‘craft?’ 
No, it isn’t.
But after much contemplation and soul searching, I have come to the realization that what makes me happy are equally combined—teaching and art. Combine the two, and the answer should be simply, an art teacher. But again, in this economic downturn, is that the smartest move since most art and music teachers are losing their jobs due to budget cuts within the school system? Add to the continuation of my education to obtain either an MFA or a teaching certificate.
Well, since I am still paying back my school loans, this might not be the most practical solution given that the end result will most likely not be a lucrative one, or worse—still remain unemployed with even a higher balance to my never-ending school loans.
Now what do I do?
Well, after living in Ft. Collins for twenty years, I also notice a lack of culture and art appreciation here. Yes, it has gotten much better since I first arrived here in August 1990 from New York City, but it does still need a significant amount of improvement considering how the population has increased throughout the years. I’ve always enjoyed walking through my daughter’s school so I can admire the artwork on display within the walls of each quad, and appreciate their naiveté as the children each create their individual masterpieces.
Then it hits me—why not open an art school for children? Something I could take charge of and be proud of and gain that feeling of accomplishment at the end of the day.
I realize there are a few here in town, but they’re small and expensive. I would want to make it available to children of all income levels, not just the rich or upper middle class. All children, doing nothing but creating their art and enjoying it along the way.
Of course, the space would have to be perfect. I dream of a large, open space loft—something with a rustic and urban feel to it. Lots and lots of art supplies enriched with splashes of color and ease of use. No intimidation allowed at this school! 
But it wouldn’t stop there. 
One thing that I always learned throughout art school myself is that in order to be a successful artist, you must go back in time and learn where and how art came from. Learning about art history—even at such a young age—can not only give each child an enrichment for art, but an appreciation as well. 
But, this all costs money. Lots of money. Something I just don’t have at this point in my life. I also wonder in this economy if opening a business such as an art school for children, would be a risky move. I wish I could take the step needed to go forth with this objective, but for now, I will have to sit back and continue to fantasize about this ambition and see what happens. Maybe it’s something I will have to save for, but for now, it’ll remain a dream and a goal.