Musings on Pets, Art, Vampires, and Trying to Make Sense of Anything At All.

It started out as one of those days where the dog ate all of the cat food, the squirrels at all of the bird food, the cat tried to eat a bird that flew into my house, I’m trying to take photographs and the fall lighting is all off, then the cat barfed on the carpet. The other cat is asleep out on the deck. He never causes me problems aside from his yearly “I am an idiot and got myself gravely injured again,” vet visit. Today, I am also feeling a great sense of loss that has come over me in a wave.

A sense of loss and melancholy isn’t uncommon for Vampires. I just had to throw that out there.

I put on some sunscreen and decent clothes and went out in search of art supplies. I didn’t need any. I thought it might inspire me to try to put pen or pastel to paper. That is to put it to paper without fear of disappointing myself.

At the downtown art supply shop, the one that had been there for decades, I wandered the isles looking at brushes, textures, tools, and colors. I was drawn to all of the shades of gray, then got sort of perturbed that some asshole decided to write a bad porn book of that name that became oh so popular with bored middle aged women who didn’t date enough when they were single. Still I looked and imagined what I might create.

I felt a cold hand upon my arm, then looked to my left. “Connie,” I said upon seeing my old friend. Constantine Jones, the very one I wrote the story Night Dogs about. He’d told me about that night a few years back. I valued his friendship because he matched my love of art, both in creating it, and in studying it.

“Juliette. Pastels today?”

“Maybe,” I said.

We talked of art and our lives. He asked about my children. I asked him what he was up to. I purchased pastels and paper. He picked up a few brushes and oil paint. Then we walked down the tree lined street to a small independent coffee shop.

As we sat in the shade sipping our coffee nobody would have suspected that we were Vampires who’d know each other for over a century.

No, dear reader, this isn’t a story of fangs, dripping blood, or darkness. All creatures, even the most ardent predators, the lions, the hyenas, the wolves, and the wolverines, still need their times of peace. We are always aware, but sometimes we just need to take a break from what keeps our bodies alive and think about what keeps our passions alive.

Even more so it is the small things that matter. It is things we do for tangible reason like having coffee with an old friend. We talked about art, as kindred spirits do.

Connie touched took my hand in his. It was warm from holding the coffee. I thought how odd that was to have a warm touch from another Vampire.

“Your heart is heavy,” he said to me.

“I don’t know what it is right now,” I told him. “I’m fine.”

“You’re not.”

“It shall pass. I just have too much BS that I have to deal with.” That is true, but isn’t that the case for a lot of us.

Standing across the street I saw a lone figure with dark hair and a black suit with the tie loosened. Connie looked as well.

“A ghost,” he whispered. “Why is he looking over here?”

“I know him. He lives at my house most of the time, but he’s buried near here.” I motioned for my ghost, Nigel, who was an artist in life, to come join us.

I pulled up a chair for a friend that nobody but Constantine Jones and I could see. I ordered coffee for Nigel. He sat in the chair holding the cup and letting the aroma pass through him. He can’t drink it but he can smell it, which is a small comfort for a ghost.

We talked more of art, and the weather, and small things that friends talk about.

After two hours Connie went his own way and Nigel came home with me. As we drove down the freeway Nigel changed the radio station about thirty times. I finally yelled at him to stop it.

And now I’m home. I don’t know where Nigel got off to.

From my window I cans humming birds in the lemon and orange trees. The calico cat sits snoring in a chair. I can hear the other cat scratching a piece of wood outside.

I feel better. Sometimes we just need to get away from ourselves for a while, or at least get into a different place where we can be the selves we need to be, and deserve to be.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

Creative Spirit

Articles abound about how schools stifle creativity by forcing children to conform to certain ways of thinking and doing things. Fortunately that isn’t always true.

Unfortunately what happens when kids get out of school, either high school, or college is devastating.

Doors are slammed in the faces of those who put themselves out there into the world where all things are subjective. The real world, especially the workplace, is set up to stifle creative thinking, the individual, and anyone with new ideas. Employees are hired for their creativity and drive, then that creative is beaten out of them, only to be replaced with the acceptable mediocracy of the prevailing management.

We’ve all seen how our government works with old men asking fear filled questions about the dangers of social media and other subjects they will not even attempt to understand. They are the same people who cut off funds for our arts and sciences because they do not trust what they do not understand. Unfortunately they do not want to understand – that would mean opening their eyes to new and different ideas. That would mean letting go of ignorance and opening up their minds and maybe even their hearts.

Friends and relatives can be the worst at killing the creative spirit in a child or young adult. They all have loud and negative opinions about hopes and dreams of the young people they know. They say things like, “only communists and socialists get Political Science degrees,” or “you can’t make a living as an artist (or a historian, a marine biologist, a fashion designer, a musician, a bed and breakfast owner, a baker, a vintage motorcycle mechanic, a poet, a writer, an art historian, a speciality crop farmer, or anything else where someone has new ideas, or ideas on making old ideas better.)

Dreams are easy to kill, especially in those who have had doors slammed in their faces  time after time after time. Even if you go around back there isn’t always another door or even a window to crawl into.

Don’t tell a young person that they are a failure before they have even tried.

I feel that individual sports and activities such as music and acting can help prepare a child for the negativity and judgments of adult life.

For example, my daughter roller skates. That is Artistic Roller Skating. It is like figure skating on ice, except on roller skates. When the skaters do their events, be it Figures, Team Dance, Solo Dance, or Freestyle, they are out there on the floor alone. They skate in front of a panel of judges. The skaters have specific requirements, but they are all judged individually on their own merits. That is a tough lesson for kids, and a good one. My daughter skated for years without winning. Finally she did win Gold at the National Championships – Twice. She got Bronze once. She also went to the National Championships and didn’t win. But she went. She went out of love for her sport. She did it because she wanted to do her personal best.

We should all strive to do our personal best even if there is no Gold Medal at the end. Even if there is no cash reward. Even if there is no fame.

Creativity in any endeavor is an act of love. Don’t stifle that love in the young people you know.

I have been writing this odd little blog since 2012. I haven’t received a MacArthur Fellowship. I haven’t received a penny off of my efforts. I has not made me famous (maybe a little bit.) But I continue to write this blog anyway. My thoughts on parenting, Vlad, Eleora and Tellias, Nigel the Ghost, and the rest of it are all stories that must be told. It is mine. I encourage you all to find what is YOURS and hold it close and keep doing whatever it is that makes you happy and creative.

Today the 2019 MacArthur Fellows were announced. Sometime this is know as the MacArthur Genius Grants.

Twenty six people from a variety of fields were awarded a $625,000 stipend that they can do whatever they want with.

From the foundations president John Palfrey: From addressing the consequences of climate change to furthering our understanding of human behavior to fusing forms of artistic expression, this year’s 26 extraordinary MacArthur Fellows demonstrate the power of individual creativity to reframe old problems, spur reflection, create new knowledge, and better the world for everyone. They give us reason for hope, and they inspire us all to follow our own creative instincts.”

They give us reason for hope, and they inspire us all to follow our own creative instincts.

I was so happy to see one of my favorite artist Lynda Barry on the list. I love her work so much.  Lynda Barry, 63, graphic novelist, cartoonist and educator
“Inspiring creative engagement through original graphic works and a teaching practice centered on the role of image making in communication.”

For years I had her Poodle With A Mohawk poster on my wall. I still have the poster. I’m going to put it back up.

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Congratulations to all of the recipients and to your creative spirit, and thank you for inspiring generations now and in the future.

So now, your assignment for today is:

  1. Encourage.
  2. Inspire.
  3. Support.
  4. Discuss.
  5. Hug.
  6. Read.
  7. Learn.
  8. Love.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

 

Inspire (it isn’t a dirty word)

In my home I have a wall of bookshelves. Don’t we all. There are also more books scattered all over the house on other shelves as well. One of my favorite quotes of all time is from film maker John Waters, ““If you go home with somebody, and they don’t have books, don’t fuck ’em!”

John Waters also said, “It wasn’t until I started reading and found books they wouldn’t let us read in school that I discovered you could be insane and happy and have a good life without being like everybody else.”

But back to what I was looking for. I was looking for a book about California art, but ended up on the other side of the wall looking at poetry and literature.

Then something in my mind just shattered. It was my current WIP (work in progress.) The structure is there but there had to be more. The characters need to care more about each other.

So there you have it.

Over the years, and I’ve been over quite a few, we adults find that things like work (jobs), school, judgmental friends and relatives, and society in general has totally beaten any inspiration and creativity out of us. Or at least they try damned hard to.

I never understood the disdain some people have for creativity, change, innovation, and inspiration. The artist is revered but damned if anyone wants to study art. The writer is mocked as a quaint hobbiest. The inventor is mocked with the mythical idea of the man who would rather spend his life inventing a better apple peeler, or mouse trap than feeding his children.

My advice to my children, and anyone else who finds everyone around them is trying to suck every bit of inspiration out of them, is don’t listen to them. Shut out those who say no. Shut out those who make condescending remarks. Shut out those who say your creativity, be in art, music, writing, or even science, is a waste of time. Shut them out. Make them more of a pariah than they want to make you.

Inspiration isn’t just some stupid workplace poster that usually insults rather than inspires.

Inspiration can come in any form. It can be love. It can be acorns that have fallen on your car. One idea inspires an entirely different idea out of nowhere. Just go with it. Don’t think about it too much. Just don’t listen to the assholes. They don’t want you to be inspired. Being inspired makes you dangerous. That is a good thing.

I also tell my kids that if they’re around those who are boorish and lack imagination, and lack empathy, and want to be jerks, to just keep their ideas to themselves. You don’t have to share your world with assholes.

Creativity doesn’t have to be monetized either. Don’t ever forget that. 

And when you’re young, and even if you’re not, it is OK to just move on.

Let yourself shine, even if it is just on the inside. Have satisfaction knowing that you aren’t like them.

Then share with those who care, and understand, and those who feel safe sharing their ideas with you as well. Yes, know you can always be inspired by listing to others. Your story is wonderful, but it isn’t the only story. Don’t shut others out.

In the meantime, since I’ve turned this post into a vent rather than what I was going to write (don’t mind me, I have other things to share so just move on to the items below.)

I recommend you check out the books below. These are four of the books that distracted me and got me thinking about other things. They are by two authors I admire and respect. I am honored to consider both friends.

They both have a reverence for words, and actually see the world around them. They’re observers of life, and love, and everything.

You might be inspired. You never know.

Sack Nasty
Prison Poetry by Ra Avis

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Dinosaur Hearted
By Ra Avis

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Centripetal Force and Other Stories
By Jon Obermeyer

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Wingspan
By John Obermeyer

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One last quote. This is something we don’t say often enough to each other.

You are loved.
~ Ra Avis

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For those looking more for the Vampire side of things, I understand Vlad will be back soon with mire diary entries.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

 

 

 

 

 

 

96 Colors

96 Colors

Yesterday my new set of 96 Firm Pastel Color Sticks (Prismacolor Nupastel) landed on my front porch along with pastel paper to draw on.

I am so excited.

NINETY SIX COLORS! AND PAPER 18 x 24 INCH PAPER!

It has been years since I’ve created any serious fine artwork. Sure I doodle and still occasionally do graphic design shit but I’m ready to start working on a grander scale again.

So what are YOUR goals for today?

  • Do something creative (even if it is fixing something without instructions.)
  • Seek out color.
  • Keep away from bad blood (for both Vampires and non-Vampires.)
  • Laugh.
  • Look at the moon (Werewolves – that is up to your discretion.)
  • Talk to your kids. Hug them. Listen to them. Encourage them.
  • Go to a museum (I will be there.)
  • Banish Demons (especially the ones with the big leathery wings and yellow eyes.)
  • Have fun.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

 

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I’ll Meet You At WordCamp Sacramento 2018 (Yes, I’m a Speaker!)

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I will be speaking about personal blogging (i.e. non-commercial blogs like yours and mine,) the blogging community and keeping your unique blogger voice alive at the 2018 WordCamp Sacramento this September.

Yes, I am over the moon honored to have been chosen as a speaker. Note: I will be speaking under a different name. More on that later. 

As you all know, I’m passionate about my blog, your blog, and supporting each other. I’m passionate about creativity. I’m passionate about sharing. I’m passionate about you.

From the official WordCamp Sacramento site:

WordCamp Sacramento is a casual, locally organized conference happening September 15-16, 2018 that covers everything related to the world’s favorite platform: WordPress. Whether you’re brand new to WordPress, you use it casually, or you’re a seasoned professional, there is something for everyone at every skill level!

In its fourth year, the event will include a Beginner Track and two mixed tracks of sessions running concurrently on both Saturday, and three mixed tracks of sessions on Sunday.

Tickets go on sale in June.

For more official information click on this link: https://2018.sacramento.wordcamp.org

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I’ll be talking more about blogging and the event as we get closer to September. In the meantime I’ve got to bug Vlad about getting his latest Vampire Diary post finished, and I have some book recommendations too (and a new summer feature for Wednesdays.)

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

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Yes, this is the place.

Creative ideas with or without belching

You never know where creative ideas are going to come from. I’m around teens a lot. Teens belch. Write what you know (so I write about teens and Vampires) but sometimes we can be inspired to write something new. Maybe some more Science Fiction. So on the drive home from the post office yesterday I thought of a story and told my 18-year-old daughter and sounding board Clara.

My idea:

There is a planet with two different forms of life. The first form of life belches a lot. They belch out gas that the second form of life need to live.

Clara looked at me and said “Mom that isn’t one of your best efforts.” Then in a deep strong Southern accent she says, “Bob come over here and belch in my face so I can keep living.”

“I was thinking they were more like toads or something.”

“Mom, that is so lame.”

Later I told my husband who respond with “That is really bad.”

So much for being the next Philip K. Dick. Maybe on a good day I might get close to H.G. Wells. That would be a really great day.

On the other hand, I seem to have written about gassy planets and the like before.

Monday morning could have been out of a science fiction story…

Being with the elderly is always interesting. A little bit of time travel, a little bit of wisdom, a little bit of “I’m too old to give a shit about what anyone thinks” attitude. The attitude is what makes being really old so delightful.

I stopped by to see the Elders. They’re ancient Vampires. Nobody is quiet sure how old. They look like they’re around 19 or 20 but they’ve been around since before the birth of Christ. It is my job, now with the help of my brother Val, to look in on them and make sure they’re ok.

When I arrived they fluttered around me, giving kisses and hugs. They sang a song to me Irving Berlin’s “I Love to Have the Boys Around Me.” Yes, they’re pretty random, but also exceptionally sweet.

Eleora had her long reddish-brown curls up in a loose bun and a most interesting outfit. She’d taken one of those old lady track suits. You know the kind I’m talking about – velourish fabric pants and top, always matching, usually in bright colors. Always monochromatic. Eleora rarely wears trousers (what she calls all pants.) But she wanted that track suit. So she made the pants into a skirt. Remember those skirts in the 1970’s made out of jeans? The legs were split and usually patchwork fabric (yes, like a quilt) was a large triangle in the front making a swell skirt. Well, Eleora had done that with her track pants. It was a riot of colors and patterns all in reds. She was so happy dancing around for me.

So maybe I don’t need science fiction to be weird. Sometime I just need my own life, which is always weird and astounding and fantastic and full of astonishing things I could never imagine.

 

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

 

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