Sunday, November 15, 2015

Three people.

The attacks in Beirut, Paris, Kenya, et. Al. has me feeling a bit unraveled. It makes me unsettled down to my gray matter with a sense of disconnected unease.

This week seems to have ruffled the feathers of humanity. But this has always been, I'm reminded. This torment is chronic throughout humanity's history. 

But this is happening now

Equal parts crippling and hopeful, we the spawn of past offenses are given the torch in which we have the power to affect our environment. 

Don't change the world, people. That task is insurmountable for one alone. You cannot feed every hungry mouth or inspire every person hell-bent on damaging another. 

But you can help a few. 

Over the last few days, I've reached out to a few acquaintances. It's nothing big, just a little note to tell them just how valuable they are to me, to their community, to the greater humanity. 

If I made just three people feel better and realize just a little scrap of their worth that's good enough for me. But how others respond to me is not my concern. My hope, maybe. 

Here's my request: Reach out to three people and give them your affection and respect. 

That's it. Just say "thanks" or "you're valid and important" or whatever to three people. 

Perhaps this might not affect the world, but it will affect your world and maybe someone else's. 

Simple. Compassion. Value in humanity. 

Sometimes that makes all the difference.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Who Can Get This Dolphin to Woody Harrelson? (Guest blog by Murial Barkley-Almer)

Who Can Get This Dolphin to Woody Harrelson? 

Theo Ramey is one of the most potent characters of my Lake Chelan childhood. I grew up perusing the shadows of his metal shop, creatures and vehicles and other beauty coming to life through his welding hands. His voice was gruff, his horseshoe mustache unparalleled, and his heart so incredibly kind. One of the greatest gifts I ever received as a child was made by his hands: a bunk bed of metered metal scrap and tin rosettes, all painted lovingly in the shades of girlhood. 

When the fires raged through my hometown of Chelan, WA two weeks ago, I reached out to my artist communities for support. I was gathering donation “perks” (or prizes) for an Indiegogo campaign designed to raise money for those experiencing the most profound of the devastation: homes lost, forest charred, livestock, wildlife and pets displaced and injured. Almost immediately, Theo reached out. “ I have a sculpture for your cause. It’s a dolphin.” When I saw the photos, I was awed. Theo has been collecting her parts for 14 years—combing junkyards and antique store back rooms for perfectly comprised hunks of copper, brass, aluminum, and cast-iron. But when I asked for an approximate value, his answer raised my eyebrow. “Well, I was going to ask Woody Harrelson for $10,000…but I suppose that was the 'movie star' price.” 

Turns out, Theo and Woody were neighbors once upon a time, working and playing in their own ways on Maui. While the two never met in person, Theo was friends with Woody’s cook and housekeeper and one day she brought Theo’s portfolio in to show her boss. When Woody marveled at the polished glory of reinvented junk, she told him, “I wish you could see the piece he is working on right now, a dolphin. It’s beautiful.” And Woody replied, “I’d love to look at it. Have him let me know when it is done.” 

Fast forward 10 years, a thousand scrap metal searches, and a relocation to Western WA state: Woody, the dolphin is ready, and her name is Hoover.

Now, I don’t know Woody Harrelson, but as far as celebrities go, I feel like we could be friends. A questioning, boundary-heaving, environmentally-minded activist with a penchant for spontaneous and silly? I’d like to have tea. And maybe it’s crazy, but I feel like he just might be the kind of person who would respond to the quirky plea of a desperate stranger. 


Dear Woody Harrelson,

Rumor has it, this dolphin belongs with you. You were in the mind of the artist as he slowly collected its components. Its baby-steps toward existence occurred on a plot of land abutting yours. And when the artist donated its gleaming form to our fundraiser, he did so with your name, laughingly, upon his lips. You already have one foot in our story, and I’d love to invite you the rest of the way in. And at ‘regular people price,’ of course!

Washington state is on fire, Woody. You and I both know that the Earth is losing patience with our mismanagement of her resources, of *her* art. The way the West burns seems a clear indicator for change. This week, however, my grief is too great to look beyond the immediacy of this wildfire’s aftermath—the people, wildlife, and loved animals that are displaced and experiencing loss in my hometown. I don’t have much in the way of money to contribute to the rebuilding, but I’ve got my words to use, artist friends with generous hearts, and an incurable case of 'the optimistic’.

If Hoover is your dolphin, Woody, let me know? 

Chelan (and me, Murial)

If you would like to participate in the effort to unite “Hoover” and Woody, it’s as easy as sharing this message with your social networks in whatever way you do—help us to create a trending story so that we are able to get on the radar! If you have a connection to Woody, and are able to share my message with him directly, my heart would be so grateful, and I’d love to thank you personally in kind.

Grow the Love: Supporting Chelan Fire Victims is a collaborative fundraising effort of the grown children of Lake Chelan, WA. Through art, storytelling, and heart-centered reciprocity, we are doing what we can to help rebuild the magic that made us! All donations above $25 are responded to with an artful “perk”—handwritten thank you letters, jewelry, visual and audio art, healing work and services! Check us out:

Monday, June 29, 2015

"Happy Accident"

The words scared me. When my daughter called me just after opening our art gallery on a Sunday morning, I couldn't help but feel frightened.  Accidents are forgetting to turn the lights off or leaving the water on. But in this case, we were lucky.

Because it was the most happy accident ever.

When I heard the news about marriage equality on Friday, the world opened up. I wanted to celebrate. And celebrate hard.

But it's difficult to show your support and celebrate in a small town. Being overtly political can have so many problems that bubble up and can make having a small-town business challenging. If people disagree, the world can shut you out, sales can dwindle, rent can't be paid, and you become just another failed business.

On Friday, I didn't really care about that.

The paint came first, then chalk. By Saturday, we had some beautiful chalk art in front of our little art gallery. Then the happy accident happened.

My daughter, Magnolia, forgot the chalk when she closed up shop. She forgot it outside.

The results were beautiful.

It's amazing what can happen when you leave yourself vulnerable.

By the next morning, the sidewalk in front of our gallery crept all the way down the street. The pavement was strewn about with love--love for equality, love for each other, love for love.

This is a precarious time: We are only six months into our gallery and 90% of galleries fail within the first year. Whether or not we survive, that's up to the art market in Lake Chelan. But we will continue to fly the flag for equality and wait to see what happens.

Let's celebrate, people. Today is a good day.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

When I grow up, I want to be an old fart.

I take a slice of butter just off of the top of a butter stick that went cold and hard over night. A friend  took her toast with four large hunks of butter just like her eccentric father. "One for every bite."
Maybe she hadn't said eccentric, but that is how I imagined our conversation--the two of us talking about the eccentric, old creatures in our lives.  My own great-grandmother once sprained her ankle falling off a ladder and, upon being told to wear some sort of compression device, spent six weeks wearing patent leather go-go boots.

The old creatures don't just butter their toast, they argue with their philodendrons, flirt with whomever they like, and schlep ten pounds of rhinestone jewelry (evenly distributed, mind you). Celebrated as odd and remembered as legend, the Old Eccentric Creatures inspire art, stories, and the occasional shudder from us not yet old/eccentric.

I want to be someone's Old Eccentric Creature. I want to become that old woman at the concert whose dancing resembles some drunken train wreck who transfixes an entire audience. I look forward to offering applause with pendulous, unbridled breasts that slap together when I dance. I want to wear more rings than I have fingers for and bright red lipstick and perfume that makes people winded or dizzy. I want to read the paper aloud to myself in the library and use the royal "we" in conversation.

In practice, I should find my inner Eccentric Old Creature.

I practice nibbling donuts in strange ways, hoping that someone would say, "oh, heavens, will you just look at that old, eccentric woman nibbling her donut in such an old, eccentric way," and then I remember that eating donuts in the bathroom, though it may be strange, will not be observed in a manner which I am comfortable with experiencing.

Unfortunately, I've met some road blocks. My grocery cashier isn't young enough to flirt with, jewelry just leaves green smudges all over, and Courtney Love already perfected red lipstick with enviable skill. It appears that giving a shit about not giving a shit is self-defeating.

Perhaps with age comes the notion that after the kids have grown and we're all sweated out from our nimble, haggard years at the grindstone, we become entitled to our fancies, our whimsies. Perhaps I've not yet perfected my butter-to-toast ratios just yet.

There's time, I guess. If I'm lucky.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

My life: A timeline according to chickens.

Okay. I'm sitting down to write a blog. I am writing in my old home town in what is now my pub. Okay, my husband's pub.


The last blog I wrote was about science fair and that whole debacle. But the blog before that was about how I was completely preoccupied in being woefully, miserably single. However I did mention the chickens, so let's start there, shall we?


February-ish: After three damned long years of campaigning, the spawn finally talked me into getting chickens. "They'll be so great!'" said the spawn. "Gross!" said the mom. I had always considered chickens as the meanies of the meat world.
The rodents of hell: Brian Froud's skeksi alongside Turd the chicken. 
As a kid I remember my best friend having attack chickens which are kind of like attack dogs except smaller, winged, bipedal taloned beasts of hell--maybe rodents of hell.

Purchase chickens. Eight of them. I was told that they wouldn't look like skeksis for long. SO I was told. No eggs yet.

March-ish: I am the top cool kid, hot shot at a super-duper big-kid job. I am a kick ass person. I tell people what to do. My children tell me what to do. The scantily feathered sisters at the prehistoric  sorority in my guest room tell each other what to do. They finally laid an egg. It looks like poop. Nevermind. No eggs yet.

March-ish II: I have now taken it upon myself to dive whole-heartedly into my chickenizing. I will never again find a mate. I will have chickens, and in them, I shall find peace.

We have named the chickens. They are not dead yet. Go me. We are the proud owners of Cleopatra, Maureen, Hoodoo (who I call Laverne), Hocus, Lilith, Glinda, Beaker (my little love), and Turd. We do not like Turd. Turd, as we are told, will give us bright blue eggs.
No eggs yet.

April-ish: My singularity has made me a bitter, old cat-and-chicken woman. Download Tinder app to recaption terrible dating site profile pics. Buy terrible gin. Still no eggs.

April 19th: Meet guy from Tinder. Coincidentally, he lives in my old home town. Coincidentally, he is from same old home town (though I'd never met him). Coincidentally, he's a zine editor/English major/general smart ass. Coincidentally, he is hot.

At first sight, I knew that I was doomed to live the rest of my life in utter joy with this man.

Still no eggs.

Our sexually misguided hen, Laverne. 
May-ish: I am unreasonably happy. I am the boss at an awesome job. I am the recipient of epic amounts of attention and affection. The world is becoming increasingly adorable. Cynical me wants to punch In-love me in the throat. The fella, who owns a restaurant and bar, buys me really, really good gin.

I am given another chicken. Her name is Mo. She is the feathered version of Mick Jagger on psychedelics. I have nine chickens. NINE CHICKENS AND NO EGGS.

June-ish: My job--my awesome big-kid job--will be gone at the end of the month, I'm told. The fella asks me to marry him. I say, "duh."
He shows me the video of his high school death-metal air-band. I tell him that I'll still marry him and that we all have shady pasts.

June 21st: Laverne is acting funny. She is gigantic and pretty and has a waddle that goes for miles. Today Laverne crowed. Not just like a small, timid little crow, but a loud pubescent holy-hell-I-have-found-my-voice-and-all-others-will-suffer-my-wrath kind of crow. Laverne is a dude chicken.

A columnist from the newspaper calls me. They want to run a story about my hermaphrodite hen. I'd like to think that the story was sympathetic to my wretched rooster state; however, most people just laugh and laugh at this poultry genitalia switcheroo.

Still no eggs.

July-ish: I marry the fella in spite of his penchant for death metal. I am now the co-owner of a restaurant and bar. My parents take the chickens. I slowly move to my old home town. I am still slowly moving into my old home town.

I went back to see my chickens.

I found an egg.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Worst Holiday EVAR: Science Fair Eve.

Harry Shearer's syndicated weekly radio show, Le Show, features an "apologies of the week" segment where he highlights the public apologies from large corporations, celebrities, politicians, etc.

Today I'm here to provide my own personal apology of the week.

I'm sorry, people, for every bitchy thing I did today. But you just don't understand what's going on: It's Science Fair Eve.

For those who have yet to shat forth the next generation of would-be hard-core procrastinators, let me tell you how it goes:

1) You receive a notice that the SCIENCE FAIR will be happening. You will receive this notice in January--at least you should have received this notice in January, but for some odd reason you will only find it when you are cleaning out the lint trap in the dryer. At this exact moment your spawn will waltz through the door after school with the infamous stress-inducing trifold poster board.

2)Your upper lip will start to sweat when you notice that the trifold poster board is completely naked.

3) You will begin mumbling in tongues like a well-traveled sailor when you are told that the completed tri-fold poster board, along with experiment and conclusion are due.....tomorrow.

When we sign up to take on the responsibilities of ensuring the survival of offspring, we don't typically think of the damaging effects Science Fair Eve has on the psyche. When you find out you're pregnant, you don't ever stroke your belly and hum, "I can't wait until I'm huffing rubber cement at 1:30 a.m. whilst sticking jellybeans on cardboard."

But you must. It is a right of passage. Only once you have undergone the wild ordeal of paper maché-ing a a giant pair of sunglasses that look more like a uterus will you understand the panicked horror of Science Fair Eve.

But FEAR NOT, friends. I'm not here to gripe incessantly. I'm here to offer hope. I will offer you three last-minute projects your kids can use.

The flower--nature's dial-it-in project. Google flower anatomy. Print, cut, and paste information on trifold. Buy a flower at the store (science fairs typically occur when everything in nature doesn't really give a shit about being all sciencey and most vegetation is dormant--at least in our neck of the woods. This furthers my theory that schools conspire to rid you of your will to live. They are also probably in cahoots with the wine dealers). Done.
Poster board title: "Flowers are pretty, but not as pretty as my mother."

Living death--whatchagot project. Clean out your refrigerator. Give you child that tupperware from the back of the fridge--the one with the leftovers that are older than your first born. (NOTE: When you give the plastic death bomb to your child, get a little misty and with a shuddery voice say, "I've been saving this for you since you were born." They will have no choice but to use it. ALSO, when science fair is over, said child can throw it away at the school and NOT in your home. Win/win.) Poster board title: You can go with either "Mold vs. Plastic" or "The effects of parental academic negligence." Your choice.

Foot funk--why the hell do little boys' feet smell so bad? No, seriously, I want to know. It's messed up. For this one you can google sebaceous glands or something like that. Staple a few of the socks you found between the couch cushions to the poster board (if too tough, you may want to use nails or spritz them with water and they'll adhere themselves. Google foot odor. Bleach all areas surrounding science fair project.
Poster board title: "My mom didn't even try this year."

Other science fair options are "how foot rubs keep me from getting grounded" or "Lightbulbs: It's Called Magic" or "Pie and it's effect on the mood."

The final option comes complete with poster board visual! Yes, this was the OMG-I-can't-believe-it's-Science-Fair-Eve scientific discovery this year. I spent an hour figuring out how to draw lattice in a word. I smell like rubber cement. My eyes want to bleed now.

But somewhere in the torrent of hormonal hysteria, mostly mine, I think we had a good time. My face is so happy it's dancing....or twitching depending on your Science Fair Eve knowledge base.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Taking inventory.

I am far from any semblance of the quintessential mother/woman. If one were to be defined by their things, I'd say I'm screwed by modern-day's standards of living: Single mom, two baby daddies, trailer by the river, etc. Some days you look at your life sunny-side-down.
If you ever find yourself taking inventory and your list should appear similar to the one above, you may want to just admit one thing to yourself.  
"Self," you'll say, "you done Jerry'd up your life." 
There's really no way to pinpoint the moment that brought me to this state of a Springer life (all right, I'm sure there is, but that would require a nostalgic exegisis and we all know how well those go, don't we?). Regardless of the reasons, I'm in it. I'm neck-deep in the midday televised squalor of humanity.

But on days when one feels particularly worn out and emotionally underwhelmed with life, it's important one takes inventory of the miracles all around you. 
Here's my personal inventory:

One daughter. I am the proud owner of a sweet, pubescent tween who is happy to live out her days atop Mount Whateverest--::ugh::eye roll::--whilst communicating in monosyllabic grunts,  sighs....or worse, Broadway show tunes. 

One son. I never knew how expensive extracting quarters from an esophagus could be until I had this miracle of medicine. I attribute my closest emergency room friendships to him and his fearless appetite for...please, let's not give him any more ideas. 

One cat. This cat plays guess-what-it-feels-like-to-suffocate on a nightly basis when he finds no greater joy than cleaning his delicates while sitting on my sleeping face. 

Three-quarters of a dog. This don Juan of a dog finds joy in humping random dogs where ever he may find them. Having only three legs, my dog is always unsuccessful with his romantic interludes. These botched attempts at romance would be more entertaining if he simply avoided going for dogs that were tethered to their owners. Thanks to him, meeting new friends has never been more awkward. 
Yes, they are eight adorable sacks of childhood
 issues waiting to happen......

Eight baby chickens. I don't think of them as chickens but more severe traumatic events covered in downy adorableness simply waiting to peck-the-bucket. Chickens, like goldfish or sea monkeys, are not known for their longevity. They are obnoxious, flightless pooping machines that affix themselves upon the hearts of young, tenderhearted children only to face death on a daily basis if their downy keisters are not cleaned. It is because of this eminent threat of poop death that there is a toothbrush on my counter in a jar that says "not for faces...OR FOR MOTHERS."

One therapy jar. Because every day there is THAT moment. Because there is only ONE bathroom. Because Mom is still learning how to mom one humiliating mistake at a time. Because sometimes we run out of toiletpaper/peanutbutter/hours in the day/patience. Because on occasion I eff things up. And because I say "fuck" instead of "eff" most of the time...This is why we have a therapy jar.

Because sometime down the line, when my children are old enough to manage themselves, they'll realize that their mother effed things up. They might want to pay someone to talk about it. That is when I will give them a wad of nickels and twenty dollar bills and I'll look them in the eye and say, "I knew this day would come."

One perch. Once place that I can sit and drink coffee/kombucha/gin. It's where books are read and stories are built and then written. It's the place where nighttime jitters are quelled. It's a place where both secrets and giggles are shared. It's that one sweet spot in the house where we don't worry about the things we need to do or what we don't have.

This is not the place for inventory. The joy in a quiet snuggle with a child cannot be quantified in numbers. It's where the world, no matter how Jerry'd up it may be, is just right.