An Evening with Art Spiegelman

Last night I attended an evening with Art Spiegelman at Eastern Michigan University, in which he presented a talk on “WHAT THE %@#$!! HAPPENED TO COMICS?!”

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Don’t know who Art Spiegelman is?  I bet you do. He created the Garbage Pail Kids. Remember those?!? If you’re around my age, then you probably remember trading them on the playground with great fondness.

Snotty Sarah. That's me!

Snotty Sarah. That’s me!

Ok now that I’ve just spent the past 10 minutes taking a trip down memory lane as I scrolled through images of beloved GPK cards… I remember the excitement of a fresh pack. What gross thing would be inside? Would I be disappointed and get nothing new? Would it be full of cards I’d never seen? Could I trade some for even better ones? This was a currency that needed to be kept in tip top shape. Peel the sticker off? YEAH RIGHT! Oddly, my dad found a box of old GPK cards in his basement not too long ago and they had been my husband’s. I’m not certain how we left them in my parents’ basement, but I digress. We both had a blast looking through them and picking out our favorites.

Back to last night. Equally if not more importantly (read: sarcasm) than GPK cards are Art Spiegelman’s books MAUS I and MAUS II.

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MAUS is his telling of his dad’s story of survival in a Nazi concentration camp, as well as his family’s survival before and after this horrible time. Many consider Art Spiegelman to be the Godfather of the Graphic Novel and some consider him the Godfather of Comics. He put graphic novels on the map as an actual form of literature demanding respect. I’m not going to do him justice here and my post is not really about what all he’s done for comics and graphic novels (and trading cards), but I needed to at least say why he’s so important and why this was such an exceptional event to have the opportunity to attend.

I have a Master’s degree in Literature from Eastern Michigan University, and perhaps it was the nostalgia of being on campus, thinking hard about literature late into the evening that was part of what was so special, but I left the auditorium feeling full. Full of thoughts, full of happiness, full of challenges to think about, full of things to read, full of images to remember… It’s what I miss about school, only better because I had no homework.

Spiegelman reminded me a lot of the late George Carlin, whom I saw perform twice in person. He dressed in all black. He talked fast and had lots of witty/grumpy side notes to insert along the way. He drank pop from a can the whole time, which I’ve never seen a presenter do before. He puffed on his electronic cigarette between sentences. I mean this guy really could give a s**t what anybody thinks of him, which I loved. He said from early on that he was going to keep us there a lot longer than they had planned for the program, and he sure did. It lasted nearly 3 hours! By the time I left, I felt like he had taught me even more how to read comics and graphic novels.

Check out the beautiful organ in the background.

Check out the beautiful organ in the background.

I like surrounding myself with people who find similar things interesting. How often do you get to be in a room full of people who all seemingly love graphic novels? (Except the poor 5 year old who was stuck sitting behind me and being shushed for 3 hours late at night…) It’s just fun to be able to fully immerse yourself into something.

Oh! And I got a book signed, of course. Which meant some nervous giggling as I stood there waiting. This time I kept my mouth shut because he intimidated me and would have probably called me out on it if I’d said something stupid. Apparently I have Art-Spiegelman-Specific-Social-Anxiety. Nevertheless, I got his signature:

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Hallelujah Chorus in the Shower

I found myself singing Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus quite loudly in the shower Tuesday morning. It just burst right out of me after having spent a little time outside in what actually felt like spring weather. Of course, I was singing the cello part since that’s the only part I’ve played (being a cellist), but nevertheless the sentiment was there. I felt slightly manic as I walked around our small town after my shower, with NO COAT ON, completely comfortable and breathing in the 55 degree air. This might not sound too warm to  you if you haven’t spent the past winter in Michigan (see my post about that here), but to me it was downright intoxicating.

I attended a special spring yoga class a couple of weeks ago during which the instructor read this quote:

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And it was that quote that was running through my mind when I spotted these brave young bulbs rising from beds outside our library, insisting that yes, this winter WILL end and warmer days are ahead.

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I even felt thankful to see a rain storm rolling into town. Because that means if it’s raining, it is not snowing. And if it’s not snowing, then spring must be on its way.

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Have you spotted any sure signs of spring yet? Have you seen something sprouting? Felt a warm-ish breeze? Sneezed from allergies? Heard a spring peeper frog? Just think — someday it will be warm enough that we’ll want to turn air conditioning on again. But for now, I’m embracing this welcome and happy change of scenery.

 

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My Inner 10 Year Old Enjoys Comics Too: Jennifer Holm and Babymouse!

Have you read Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm’s Babymouse graphic novel series for kids? I have — I’ve read all 17 of them and can’t wait for Babymouse #18: Happy Birthday, Babymouse to come out on April 22nd. I love the Babymouse books for lots of reasons. They’re funny and clever, Babymouse LOVES to read, her best friend is a weasel, she has great adventures just by imagining things, she survives school even when it’s hard, her locker is a bully, she dreams BIG, and best of all — she’s a girl comic character!

via goodreads.com

via goodreads.com

Babymouse books are written by a brother and sister duo — Jennifer Holm writes the text and story, and Matthew Holm draws the comics. Jennifer also writes YA novels, many of which are Newberry Honor Books. I’m officially a superfan. I had read on various comic nerd websites that she is a lot of fun to listen to when she speaks on panels at ComicCons, so when I heard that she was going to be at a library near me, I couldn’t believe my good luck!

Authors on the panel included: Sue Stauffacher, David Lubar, and Jennifer L. Holm.

Authors on the panel included: Sue Stauffacher, David Lubar, and Jennifer L. Holm.

You might notice that it says for “Ages 6+”. It was. I got there a few minutes late which meant that I got to sit in IN THE FRONT ROW with lots of other kids since that was the only seat left, where I heartily laughed at David Lubar’s fart jokes along with the rest of them. Jennifer was the last panelist, and she did not disappoint. She was hilarious, dramatic, and made an excellent case for why reading comics is a good thing for any age.

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She did a slide show that described how she and her brother create the books together, even though they live in different states. She showed early sketches of Babymouse, and also talked about how they developed their other series called Squish #1: Super Amoeba. She got a few kids to do a dramatic reading of pages from one of the Babymouse books too, which was hilarious.

During the Q and A session what I really wanted to ask was, "Where did your glasses and your dress? I want them..." But that would be creepy, wouldn't it?

During the Q and A session what I really wanted to ask was, “Where did your glasses and your dress? I want them…” But that would be creepy, wouldn’t it?

It was all around a lot of fun, and there were lots of laughs in the room from all 3 authors. I hadn’t read anything by the other 2 authors, but David Lubar was frickin’ hilarious and I have some of his books on request from the library now as a result. He was like a stand up comedian for kids.

Then came the book signing. I recently read one of Holm’s YA novels called Penny from Heaven, and excellent historical fiction book about post-WWII Italian immigrants told from a girl’s point of view. I loved it so much that I purchased another of her books called Turtle in Paradise which I have not read yet but assume will be good. I got in line with the rest of the kids to get my book signed, and here’s how our conversation went:

JENNI: Hi! What’s your name? (grabs my copy of Turtle in Paradise to sign)

SARAH: It’s Sarah, with an H…  (slightly nervous) I’m really excited to meet you I love your Babymouse books and have read them all and also I’ve read all your Squish books. I just discovered my love for comics about 2 years ago and I can’t get enough of them I really love them.

JENNI: Well welcome to the dark side… (sinister-ish laugh)

SARAH: I had heard through the internet that you are a great presenter on panels at ComicCons and never thought I’d get the chance to hear you in person and I was so excited when I found out you were coming here. Thank you for coming I really enjoyed hearing you talk. I just read Penny from Heaven and I’m looking forward to reading Turtle in Paradise too.

JENNI: My brother is coming here in May so you’ll have to come meet him too and make fun of him. He looks like Squish the Ameoba.

SARAH: Okay I will thank you!!! (as I walk away I kick myself for not remembering to ask her what her favorite comics are since that was my number one main question I wanted to ask, but I was too embarrassed to go back. oh well.)

My totally awesome signed, brand new, shiny copy of Turtle in Paradise.

My totally awesome signed, brand new, shiny copy of Turtle in Paradise.

So yeah… I think that in these moments when I can just fully embrace my nerdiness, I find myself truly happy. Why fight it? Maybe next time I can more calmly ask her brother what his favorite comics are, although I really wanted to knows hers. Darn. Maybe he knows the answer. Or maybe I can send her some fan mail…

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My New Desk Was Quite a Bargain!

I’m in the midst of transitioning between jobs, which means I get to furnish my own little office! Having lived in our house for nearly 10 years, I haven’t done much interior decorating in quite a while. Once it’s full, it’s full. So to have a blank slate of an office was pretty exciting. Being a therapist’s office, I wanted to make it inviting, comfortable, healing, and professional.

Although I’ve always liked the look of vintage pieces, I’ve never really bought many antiques. It wasn’t until recently that I started nosing around antique stores and getting a feel for things I like and don’t like. Man — there are a lot of interesting things out there! My friend Sarah co-writes a great blog about finding treasures at estate sales. You should check out her blog. She has helped fuel this fire in me to learn about old things – what’s valuable and what’s not.

My office is TINY and at the top of some mighty narrow stairs. So it was an extra challenge to find pieces that would be able to actually get into the room, let alone look nice. I knew I wanted a desk, but the desk needed to be no bigger than 31.5 inches wide. My friend recommended I go check out a store in Hillsdale, MI called Vintage Chic. It was a bit of a jaunt, but I’m so glad took the time to make that trip because I found the most AWESOME desk ever.

This is the desk I spotted at Vintage Chic in Hillsdale, MI.

This is the desk I spotted at Vintage Chic in Hillsdale, MI.

Here's the inside of the desk, with perfect cubbies for all desky-needs, tucked away from sight of clients. Very tidy!

Here’s the inside of the desk, with perfect cubbies for all desky-needs, tucked away from sight of clients. Very tidy!

Not only would it easily fit up the stairs to my office, but I also loved the decorative legs, the cubbies inside the desk for paper, envelopes, and pens, and the very cool floral fabric on the matching chair. Oh I was in love when I saw it.

Then I sat down. Eesh! It was all quite wobbly. I was afraid the chair would fall apart, so she offered to take $7.00 off the cost of the desk and chair together. Here’s the original price tag:

$175 for both the desk and the chair.

$175 for both the desk and the chair.

Now, I’ve historically never been a person to barter on prices. It made me nervous and I just felt bad doing it. But then I started selling my own things and realized sometimes the price is pretty arbitrary. Frankly, if I have a garage sale and somebody makes me an offer other than what’s written, I’m happy to say, “IT’S YOURS!”

So then I started looking at the desk, and it was even more wobbly than the chair. And the more I wobbled it and himmed and hawed, the more the price came down. I noticed a split in a superficial piece of wood. The key was missing to the key hole (which would have been cool to have, but wasn’t a big deal to me). And there were some pieces missing from the sides of the legs that I noticed when I looked really close on my hands and knees. Yep, feel free to envision this scene in the middle of a cute store. I became the Sherlock Holmes of antique wooden desks in a matter of like 10 minutes.

Based on what I found, the price then came down to $160, then to $140, and finally she offered it to me for $100 including the chair, and asking if my husband was handy enough to stabilize it when I got home. (I realize this is a bit sexist.)

Lucky for me, my husband is super smart when it comes to fixing stuff like this. He fixed some screws and added some support and did some other magic I’m not 100% familiar with, and now I have an amazingly beautiful, STURDY, and interesting desk.

My new sturdy desk, at home it my new office.

My new sturdy desk, at home it my new office.

I only wanted room for my laptop and a little bit of writing space. In past offices I’ve had huge desks provided by my employer, and realistically I only used about this wide of a space on any given day. With my new minimalist attitude that has bloomed over the past yearI was able to find something that is both useful and beautiful.

At home in my new office.

At home in my new office.

 

Now my questions for YOU:

- Do you know anything at all about this desk? How old it is? Style? What it is? All I know is that it came from Illinois from an old man. She had no other information. I’d love to know more.

- How do you feel about asking for a lower price on items like this? Is it hard for you to do? Easy? Fun? Painful?

I’d love to hear from you! Be happy.

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Smiling Potatoes

Check out this most happy potato. It is actually smiling:

A smiling potato my Mother in Law discovered this weekend right in my own kitchen!

A smiling potato my Mother in Law discovered this weekend right in my own kitchen!

When we discovered this, we were really wishing it looked like Jesus or Elvis so we could charge admission for people to look at the potato. But alas, we enjoyed the smiling faces ourselves.

Have you ever actually seen a potato smiling at you while peeling it? This is how I imagine all the potatoes feel at the Grass Lake Diner. As I’ve written about before, this is a very happy place for me. However, in my earlier post, I totally forgot to give a shout out to an important person at the Diner, Ryan. In fact, if it weren’t for Ryan, The Happiness Advocate Blog would not exist!

One morning I was in the Diner when Ryan was writing the menu up on their new chalk wall.

The frequently-updated and amazing GL Diner menu.

The frequently-updated and amazing GL Diner menu.

As he was writing it up there, we got to talking about how he takes pride in his work and wants everything to look good when he presents it. He mentioned the Grass Lake Diner website he was working on (check it out!), and how he enjoyed working on it and is even in school to learn how to do all sorts of tech-y stuff that’s completely above my head . So as we talked about getting his website up and running, I started to wonder why I hadn’t actually started writing the blog about happiness I was so interested in writing. That conversation was enough to motivate me to get started on this — and months later, I’m still at it!

Have you ever had a conversation with someone that later ended up making a big difference in your life? Do you have a favorite restaurant that not only makes you feel comfortable and gives you great food, but also inspires your creativity? I feel so lucky to have this happy place so close to home.

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What I Found at IKEA that Wasn’t Plastic or a Meatball

I made a trip to IKEA with my good friend yesterday. I have a new office that I will be needing to furnish and so I wanted to scope out the possibilities there. I’ve never furnished my own office before, and I’m super excited to do so! It is located in a historical, Victorian-era house which the owners have honored by decorating with antiques and furniture that looks like it’s from that time period. I particularly enjoy fancy light fixtures and have them throughout my house. So when I noticed that my coworkers all have interesting chandeliers in their offices, I got mighty excited to find my own.

This is the chandelier I already have hanging in my library at home. I love finding interesting lights to hang!

This is the chandelier I already have hanging in my library at home. I love finding interesting lights to hang!

I haven’t been to IKEA in probably 10 years. It’s so big and full of stuff that it overwhelms me, but the trip I wanted to take was pretty low pressure.  I told myself I was only browsing, keeping my mind open, and really focusing on enjoying spending the day with one of my oldest friends.

At this point you’re probably wondering why the heck I’d go to IKEA to look for Victorian style office furniture. That’s a great question. I’ve actually been looking in many places, including the local university’s property disposition shop, antique dealers, thrift stores, and online. I went there on the off chance that something might either look like it would fit in, or be so minimalist that it could serve a function in the midst of other decorative effects. I surprisingly found three things I’m considering getting: 1) a crystal chandelier that cost $30, 2) a mirror with curly, scrolly wood around it that I could paint, and 3) a fairly low priced wing-backed chair in royal blue.

I did, however, make a couple impulse purchases that I really love. The first one was this little stuffed mouse. He was 99 cents and my friend’s daughter named him Whiskers.

Whiskers the Library Mouse

Whiskers the Library Mouse

See him hiding in the books? I fell in love with his sweet little face and thought he’d have a perfect home among my shelves.  I like that he’s dark enough colored that he doesn’t stand out, but is a fun little surprise when he catches your eye.

My second exciting purchase was lingonberry drink concentrate. Have you had lingonberry-flavored anything before??? I had NOT, but it turns out I love it! I got a blob of it on my lunch plate with the Swedish meatballs I ordered, along with a lingonberry soft drink when we stopped for lunch. I was hooked! So I bought a bottle of the concentrate to use with my beloved SodaStream, and I’ve been drinking it all day. My only regret is that I did not get more while I was there since it’s a long drive away. They also had an Elderflower flavor drink concentrate, which I was tempted to purchase but hadn’t tried. Next time I go back I’ll get one of those too since this was such a big hit. Why don’t we eat lingonberries in Michigan??? Do they not grow here?

Lingonberry Drink Concentrate

Lingonberry Drink Concentrate

My semi-homemade lingonberry pop. Y.U.M.

My semi-homemade lingonberry pop. Y.U.M.

So it turns out that IKEA is much more than low-priced, modern-looking, easy-to-assemble furniture. Have you ever been delightedly surprised by a store you had formed an opinion about? Tell me about it! I’d love to hear.

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HAPPY Valentine’s Day

I enjoy Valentine’s Day. When I was little, I was so excited to exchange little cards at school with my whole class. I loved writing the ones I was going to give out and picking the EXACT right Valentine for each classmate. Decorating fancy “mail boxes” was always a big highlight for me too. It was so hard to sit there for what felt like the ENTIRE SCHOOL DAY waiting for the time to come when we could deliver and open Valentines. I love the red foil hearts, and all things red or pink glittery. This year I even bought some plastic heart garland for the mantle from our local resale shop, which proved to look lovely and festive for today.

This year I got the idea to do a craft for the holiday. I purchased a package of red pipe cleaners from the resale shop for $0.50 and spent a sleepless night looking online for a Valentine craft involving red pipe cleaners. Guess what??? I found one! Valentine dogs!

Valentine Doggie

Valentine Doggie

I followed this tutorial and started off by making red dogs. I cut up old Christmas cards from this past season to make little tiny hearts for them to hold in their mouths. They turned out cute, so I tried making pink dogs too.

Pink dog on the left!

Pink dog on the left!

And then I thought, “If I can make dogs, what’s stopping me from making other animals? So I made some bunnies.

White bunny on the left.

White bunny on the left.

And finally I made some pigs!

What's better than a Valentine pig?

What’s better than a Valentine pig?

I made a bunch of them and gave them away to friends. I also perched a variety of them on my mantle with the heart garland. They’re so small, and they were fun for me to make. I even got my dad to make one with me! My son named his red dog Little Clifford (or “Yittuh Cwifford”), which is a bit ironic if you think about it.

Do you like Valentine’s Day? Do you dislike it? Did you enjoy it as a kid? Or did you dread it? And most of all — have you done any fun Valentine’s Day crafts you can share with me?

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