America Image – Creative Commons License

postcard-front

Here is the redone illustration created for postcard size. I am granting this a CC-BY licensing, so if you want to print out your own postcards or flyers or use this for what you will, have at it.

My postcards will be ordered tonight for my Write-to-a-politician gathering. My friend who is an artist AND a scientist has created a science-friendly postcard that I will be printing as well, and I hope to get a good turnout when I schedule this event (probably early March by the time things ship). And my suggestion of a workshop at our local domestic abuse shelter got positive feedback and has been forward to the pertinent person in the organization, so my efforts for getting involved are progressing.

My new job got pushed back a week due to complications in the life of the shop owner. I am getting a little nervous but glad to have an extra week at home with the baby and take advantage of the extra time to get some smaller projects done. Life is what it is, right?

Getting Involved

I have a lot of transition going on in my life yet again, but it is important to me to start taking more action in the world. So, I am going to tell you what I’m doing in hopes that it may inspire you to do something as well, and if you have any suggestions for improvements on my end, please feel free to suggest!

  1. Inspired by my friend Shing Khor, I will be posting a political write-in get-together early in March. Date still undecided because I am waiting for postcards from her (she made this Lady Liberty movement),  I am going to create this weekend and print a small run of postcards from my America Lost illustration below, and I’ve contacted a friend of mine to potentially use a piece of her art to create a science or educationally-minded postcard.
    America Lost

    Copyright 2013, Kat Micari

    It will be open house style with snacks and beverages, and I’ll have a list of government officials with addresses and suggestions of different topics for people to write about. My hope is to include stamps for people too, and I may put out a tip jar to help cover postage but we’ll see.

  2. I’ll be making the postcard file available for free download for everyone, so look for that here early next week! And use it how you will.
  3. I contacted a local organization that works with victims of domestic abuse to potentially do a hand sewing workshop monthly or so. If they’re interested, I’ll start with them, and if not, I’ll contact other organizations of at-risk populations. Hand sewing is an important life skill for people to have and something I can easily teach and make not scary. If the first organization goes well, I’ll add more as I feel I can handle it. Even if they don’t have money to reimburse me, contributing a handful of dollar store sewing kits and using my own muslin supply for the samplers won’t cost me more than $20 a workshop, and I can definitely afford that once a month or so.
  4. I am going to start a monthly “sketch/art” meet up at my house of mine and my husband’s creative and creatively-blocked friends. People will bring sketchbooks or whatever they’re working on, and we’ll sit and hang out and play. And hopefully brainstorm ideas to creatively get things going in the wider community. As an added benefit, it will force us to keep the house clean enough for people to come over every month.
  5. I have started to ask really difficult questions or make suggestions to get people thinking. And then I let them respond to me and I’ve gotten some really well-thought responses. I don’t argue with them, though I could, because I’m really trying to get their gears going mentally. My plan is to step up the questions slowly.
  6. My husband and I are trying to become more sustainable and self-sufficient, and I will be talking more openly about that rather than hiding it because I don’t want people to feel bad. We’ve started composting this week, and my husband has started taking notes for the first veggies and herbs we’re going to attempt to grow. My reverse osmosis water filter has been installed finally by my husband and the water is delicious (no chlorine! no fluoride! and if something like Flint MI happens here, we’ll be set!). And I am going to be making reusable facial wipes instead of using cotton balls/wipes thanks to a post suggesting it from a friend of mine. We already cloth diaper and use cloth wipes, and I switched to handkerchiefs years ago (though apparently used tissues are good to go in the compost heap). Not a perfect system yet, but baby steps are better than no steps at all. Why talk about this more? Because sometimes the most revolutionary thing you can do is be healthy in body and mind so you have the strength and stamina to fight the good fight, and not enough people connect those dots yet.

So that’s where I’m at. Since I’m starting the new job and still taking care of baby, this feels like what I can handle at the moment. As I get a rhythm going in my work/parenting/creative schedule, I’ll try to add some more community-based actions. But this feels like a good starting point for me.

Do the Right Thing, Always

“Do the right thing, always”. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. It was one of the core values at the office job I had on my last break from the theater world, and it is a value I have always felt (though sometimes fallen short of). But it is one we should all be striving for.
 
“Do the right thing, always” – Not “Do the right thing when convenient”. Not “Do the right thing because I’m afraid of what will happen if I don’t.” Not “Do the right thing when someone else is watching”. Not “Do the right thing because the higher power I worship is telling me to.” Not “Do the right thing when it also serves my financial interest.” Not “Do the right thing for me and mine and screw everyone else.” But “Do the right thing, always” because it is the right thing, and it is done for the sake of itself.
 
I think it is so important that as many of us as possible carry this value in our hearts and live it every chance we get. That we take action in our world out of rightness – at home, at work, with our families and neighbors and community. That we start supporting celebrities and businesses that follow this core value rather than excusing and admiring bad behavior. That we hold all of our so-called leaders and civil servants to this level and demand they play by a strict code of ethics. But it starts with individuals. It starts with us. Because it is only by standing and taking action through rightness, even in the face of adversary, that we will get through this. It isn’t easy and it isn’t comfortable, but it is absolutely necessary. Are you ready?
In the interests of being honest, I posted the above word-for-word on my personal Facebook page, too. I felt it was important to share both places.

The Rain On My Parade – an abstract painting

the-rain-on-my-paradeweb

The Rain On My Parade – Copyright 2017 Kat Micari

I finished a painting! Hooray! It felt really good to do, too. Now I’m going through and updating all my other listings on Fine Art America and then I’ll start working on the gallery section here on this site. Progress!

You can get prints and other fancy merchandise of this at Fine Art America, if you are so inclined. I really like this one as throw pillows.

 

America, Home of the Free?

I haven’t posted very much about the new political and social climate here in the States. In part, I try to avoid saying our new president’s name as much as possible. But honestly, I am having a hard time getting angry.

See, I’ve been angry for years. Since a young teen really, so it’s been a couple of decades at this point. I have been spouting off about the dangers we were heading toward for a very long time. And now that we’re here, all I can do is feel sad. Sad that we allowed this to happen because of our complacency. Sad that so many people are suffering. Sad that so many still don’t understand that we are all culpable for the actions that those in power take and have taken because we fueled the beast with our sweat and our dollars, and in fact we still are doing it even as we fight it. We handed over our power and said “take care of it all for me” and then stuck our fingers in our ear and were surprised by the results of our actions. We are reaping what we sowed, and our parents sowed, and so on even back to the founders of this great experiment of a nation. Which is why I snicker when people want to go back to the “good ol’ days”. But that’s a tangent so never mind.Not that I am into saying “I told you so”. I just feel on the outside of a lot of what is going on because I’m not angry or grieving or surprised. I find myself in Observer mode, giving people room to feel anger and grief, trying to help others process when I can, to encourage others to take their feelings and turn them into actions, to take action myself in small ways that never feel like enough.

I still find myself feeling hopeful that we can build momentum and make a big leap forward as a society, even as a species, but I know it could go either way, and that every leap forward comes at a steep cost. I don’t worry so much for myself but for my children. What kind of opportunities will they have? Can we fix enough? Will more people in their age group understand basic truths about the way the Universe operates and that no one in this world has to suffer unnecessarily? And is our having to deal with the craziness that is happening right now the impetus necessary to get us to a brighter future? I have to believe that possibility exists so I can go about my day and be present for my children.

In the midst of everything going on, I want to remind all of you that sometimes the most revolutionary thing you can do is to take care of yourself body and mind. Keep yourself toned and sharp. You owe it to yourself and your loved ones not to be complacent, to be ready to fight and win in a war of words with Truth over opinion, with Love over fear. And you should be ready to defend yourself and others physically if it comes down to that and to even run if it really comes down to that as well. The times are uncertain, but the future is still not set in stone.

Job Opportunities and Future Creative Endeavors

I have a job offer that I am accepting. It starts in a couple of weeks. I’ll be the one working full-time again, while my husband will continue his part-time position he found for a few months at least to replenish our savings a bit and continue freelancing from home while watching the baby. And we’ll see how things go.

As it seems to matter less now that I keep these two sides of my lives separate, I will discuss my former job and my future job. I was working as a theatrical costume designer and costume shop manager at a local theater before I was let go after getting sick and being unable to complete the costumes before a show opened. Costume design is what I have my training in, and it’s something I really enjoy doing when I am working with people that are good to work with. But the entertainment industry is one that is really easy to be taken advantage in, to burn out, to deal with all kinds of crazy personalities, and to drive yourself into the ground. If you want to check out my work (and learn my real identity – ooo) you can see my portfolio page here. I need to update my Bio page eventually, as all I did was remove the section about where I had been working, but I’m in no rush to do that yet. I also have a tumblr blog where I occasionally post pics of me wearing vintage and repro vintage outfits as a kind of soft-marketing for the custom work I do here.

My new job is going to be doing bridal and formal gown alterations and helping to grow a second shop to it’s full potential. I’ll be making the same rate of money, even bringing in a little more possibly, and I’ll get to work from home part of the time. And the hours, while possibly getting crazy during prom season, won’t be anywhere near what I was putting in every time we led up to a show opening at the theater.

So, pluses are my family and I get to live at the same level of comfort we were at before, maybe even better because we will be able to start building our savings up again. I’ve worked with this woman and in this shop as a freelancer several years ago when I was freelancing show by show at the theater as well, so we have a relationship and I really admire her. I’ll get to help people feel beautiful and confident on their big days, and I’ll still get to be creative in making the bustles of gowns (which I actually love doing) and some custom work as it comes up. I’ll have more time with my family and more energy to put into my own creative work. And I’ll get to surround myself by pretty fabrics and dresses almost every day.

Cons are that after working in theater, almost everything else feels boring by comparison. There are so many little problems that need solving, so much fly-by-the-seat decisions that need to be made, that it is difficult to move at a slower pace. This is why I’ve said in the past that I have two speeds – 100 mph or not moving at all because I overworked myself. So maybe this is actually a plus, because I’ll be forced to modify my way of doing things. Anyway, the other con is that costume design is this blend of everything I enjoy doing – reading and analyzing scripts, historical research, psychoanalyzing characters, inputting all of that in my brain and sketching out ideas, collaborating with the scenic and lighting designers to best realize a director’s vision, occasionally doing fancy renderings, having to read actors to get them to want to wear what I want them to, and then buying/sewing/renting the costumes and making sure they all fit nicely and the actors can move in them the way they need to move. All while on severe budget and time constraints. Doing alterations won’t engage me in the same way. Again, possibly a plus because it will leave me room in my brain for my own projects to be bubbling away, and it will also allow me to focus on my further growth as a human being, allowing me to listen to podcasts and lectures while I work and to just daydream a bit more than I’ve had the opportunity to do in recent years. Another con is that some of my work at the theater was put into helping in our local school district, occasionally going in and working with very poor, at-risk students. We would also pull some of those students into shows we were doing sometimes. Now I won’t have that direct interaction in the community that I felt was really valuable, so I have to find a way to add that back in again somehow.

All this leaves me with having to decide where to put my few hours a week of creative energy. If our positions had flip-flopped and I was the one freelancing from home, I would have tried to build up my sewing business, doing alterations, yes, but also coming up with some kind of line. I could have made a lot of money off of vintage-inspired kids clothes but probably would have quickly gotten bored with it too (cutting the same thing over and over isn’t exciting), and I’ve been leaning toward creating a custom corset and costume line since grad school and have so many ideas for it. But I don’t know if I’ll feel like sewing a lot more after sewing so much during the week, and it feels silly with the world being where it is to put a lot of energy into corset making. I also have two big commissions for the year all ready lined up which will take a lot of time. So I may still dabble at creating a line of things to sell, combining pieces I’ve already made with new pieces, but I doubt that I’ll be motivated to move very fast on that end. So I’d like to focus more on work under this name, as I move to fully unblock myself. I’ve been loving painting this abstract, and may do a couple of more before tackling those bigger pieces I’ve been putting off for years. The writing… I have to see what will happen with that. I have enough poems to probably put together another collection, and I’ll have the time now in theory to try to get out to some poetry readings. The fiction is difficult. I read through some old story ideas and I am really interested in a lot of them, but with reality being so much like fiction these days, I’m having a really hard time wanting to delve into it. I’m not going to push myself too hard on that front, because I can’t force myself, but I will write something every week. And music – I’m building myself up on that front too. I probably won’t try to start pushing myself more until the baby is a little older and weaned, but I want to have that in my life again. Maybe I’ll combine the writing and the music and start writing my own songs again as a means to get back into writing. I don’t know. It’s all kind of up in the air right now. I need to continue to give myself permission to play, and I am trusting that it will sort itself out.

So that’s where I’m at. We’re going to have a rough transition into me being out of the house as the baby definitely likes me better than daddy at this point, and I’m sad that I can’t be a happy housewife for a while longer. But it will be good. I am glad that we’re going to survive this bump, and I feel like I got a nice little 2.5 month extra maternity leave and the chance to fully heal, which is more than so many people get. And I’m also proud that my work ethic stands on so firm a footing that upon posting that I got fired from my job, I was made a job offer with no questions as to why I was fired (we did discuss it later on). This is also the second time that someone wants me so badly that they are creating a position in order to have me. Having me available is the impetus toward someone else pushing forward in an endeavor, and that feels really great.

Beginning to Refill My Creative Well

I have begun the work on refilling my creative well, which is the last part of me that really needs healing. Physically and mentally, I’m back to my former self. So yay for that!

Earlier this week, I started a new abstract painting with no plan in mind, just letting myself play with the paint. It will be interesting to see what happens with it. I love doing that, but I also have a really difficult time knowing when I’m done with a painting when it’s not of a particular subject matter.

Musically, I’ve begun playing the piano and singing a lot more. My baby loves to either sit in her little toy chair next to me or right on my lap while I play, so that’s been a huge boon in the process. I found the box that held my personal songs that I’ve been working on and plan on cracking into that today. That same box also held all of my flute music, so I will be bringing that out for the first time since we moved hopefully this weekend. Baby steps. I’ve also begun listening to more music again, mostly jazz and classical around my daughter to foster brain development for her, and I’ve found having it on in the background is helping my brain too.

Writing-wise, I’m still primarily just posting here and little snippets on my personal page (mostly political and social stuff there mixed with personal) and getting back on track with morning pages. I haven’t been able to journal at night with the baby’s schedule, and I am having a difficult time writing fiction. I think playing music is helping me get back in touch with the writing, and I may focus on writing poems and songs and “pieces” for a while before delving back into fiction.

And before I can really develop a plan for where I want to focus my creative energies moving forward, I have to figure out the survival part of things. Which I have definite possibilities that will hopefully be firmed up soon.

In some ways, with everything going on in the world, it seems crazy to be focusing on this stuff, but at the end of everything, it’s the creative spark we all share that will let us evolve as a species.

MLK Jr. and The Boondocks

Boondocks-mlk-2006-1070.jpgMartin Luther King Jr. Day makes me think of Aaron McGruder’s The Boondocks. There is an episode in season 1 that is a “what if” scenario, and it has Dr. King going into a coma instead of dying after being shot and then waking up shortly before 9/11 happens. That particular episode won a Peabody Award and stirred up all kinds of controversy for having Dr. King get frustrated and give an incensed speech to a crowd (you can watch that scene here).

I began reading The Boondocks comic when it first appeared in my Sunday comics. I was in high school, already questioning everything around me (seriously, teachers either loved me or hated me because I wasn’t one of those students just falling asleep or scribbling notes but actively listening and probing). The comic opened up my white suburban girl’s mind to a whole lot more than my little world, and I loved that Aaron McGruder’s comic touched on all Americans, including my own group. It was inclusive in it’s satire and brutal in it’s honesty, traits I greatly admire. So once I found out the cartoon was debuting on Adult Swim, I was very excited. Then I watched the first episode, and I laughed so much, wondered if I even should be laughing at some of the jokes, then laughed some more. Each episode of the first season was artistically beautiful, pushed a lot of boundaries, hilariously funny, and a handful of episodes even made me cry – the season finale especially. And each made me question a little more. Season two was also very well done, season 3 you can tell there was a lot more studio interference, and I haven’t bothered with season 4 since Aaron McGruder wasn’t involved with it. But to me, this is what art and entertainment should be – it should make you somewhat uncomfortable, leave you asking questions, and still entertain you.

Back to MLK, it’s an intriguing thought, isn’t it? What would his response to our modern day life be like? What would many of the people who stood up for what they felt was necessary think of us today? And would they feel that the actions they took were a waste or no?

On Unemployment and the Cycle of Poverty

I wanted to share some facts I’ve learned about being on NYS unemployment that I didn’t know before, and since many of you haven’t ever experienced it either and there is still quite a few preconceived notions about people who end up on public assistance, I think spreading this knowledge is important. Because it is very, very easy to be doing everything “right” according to societal standards and still wind up needing help. And if I had lost my job 4 months after having my son, while living month-to-month and completely depleting my savings account while on maternity leave, we could very easily have found ourselves in a very bad situation. Thankfully that isn’t the case for us now, but it could have been.

So, I got my first payout of unemployment last week. My last paycheck was 12/16. It can take 3-6 weeks to get your first payment of unemployment. If you are living paycheck to paycheck, you are already screwed. Beyond feeding yourself and your family, you are already behind on the rent or mortgage for the month which in many cases means a late fee and sometimes means your rent automatically gets increased. There is one unpaid week of unemployment (not sure of the reasoning behind this… just to make sure you realize how bad you’ve got it?) and then once unemployment does kick in, it is substantially less than your paycheck – in my case about 50% gross though I’m not sure if it’s on a sliding scale. And I absolutely get the thinking behind not making it exactly what you were making previously because then it’s potentially rewarding people for getting fired, but still, if you’re living paycheck to paycheck like many people have to do, then you get to start playing the rotate-what-bills-you-can-pay-this-month game, start accruing more late fees, and eventually start getting dinged on your credit score (which can lessen the number of jobs you can get – did you know some places check your credit score before hiring?), and get kicked out of your living situation. And I suppose the theory is that being faced with all this, you will get yourself a job (any job) as soon as you can, so this doesn’t happen.

Well, you have 10 weeks to look for a job in your former field that pays 80% or more of what you were making before, and after that, you have to look for any job you can physically do that pays at least that much. Which means that if you were an office worker or customer service rep (many of whom have some kind of degree beyond high school because you usually need that to get one of those jobs these days) and you hypothetically make between $11 and $12 an hour, if you can’t find a replacement job, you could easily wind up working a minimum wage retail or restaurant job. Not only that, but “reasonable commute” to work is 1 hour by personal vehicle and 1 ½ hour by public transportation, which is understandable in a big metropolitan area (we did it when we were in Los Angeles) but completely ridiculous for any of the upstate NY areas. The distance I can drive in an hour, and being required to put that wear-and-tear on my vehicle for a low paying job is crazy. Someone having to be on a bus and make three transfers to go work at a McDonald’s is crazy. But that is what happens, because a lot of the time, when you get close to running out of unemployment benefits and have no option but to go on public assistance to support yourself and your family, you have to take whatever work you’re handed to keep up the benefits. Your kids are now in a publicly-funded daycare when not at school and you barely see them so thus aren’t really given the opportunity to raise them the way you see fit anymore (not that you’d have the energy at this point anyway), you are commuting almost 3 hours a day, constantly stressed until you just grow numb to it, and the obstacles in your way are growing daily because you will never catch up on the bills. This is one of the ways the cycle of poverty begins and why it can be so difficult to break.

My point being this: whether you are a conservative with a pull-yourself-up-by-the-bootstraps mentality or a liberal that feels intellectually and morally superior or you are a supposedly “woke” individual (and how much I am coming to loathe that word is a separate entry in and of itself) who enjoys putting down those who are still “asleep”, realize that there are many, many people who are doing the best they can, and sometimes doing anything beyond mere survival is impossible because of the systems that are in place. So try empathy before you cast judgement on someone. And don’t separate yourself from the masses. Creating the “other” is what got our society into this mess.

A Few Book Recommendations

I used to be a voracious reader. A couple of years ago, I noticed that I wasn’t reading as much as I had in the past. It started in grad school, then working crazy hours, becoming a mother, trying to create… somehow, there wasn’t much time left for reading. When I noticed I was reading less, I made an effort to read for at least 10-15 minutes every day, and very rarely missed, and now one of the nice things about having a nursing baby, though, is that I have a lot more time to read in short chunks. And I’ve been trying to read a wide variety of books. I’ll always love fiction, but I’ve been really alternating between fiction and non-fiction, old books I’ll get off of the Project Gutenberg site (and as soon as I have a more stable income again, I intend to donate) and new books from authors that I “meet” online… everything that might expand my mind and make me think.

I had two books that helped me a lot leading up to my losing my job and in the aftermath that followed.

The first is Coffee for Consciousness by Vito Mucci. This is one of those times that soft marketing techniques worked. Vito and I were in a Facebook group together and I had liked some of the excerpts and memes he had posted and made a few comments, he friended me, and I’ve enjoyed his life views for a long time before purchasing the book. Going through the stress I was, reading this book when I did was perfect. It has a very conversational tone to it, which I enjoyed because it really feels like you’re just sitting down and having a conversation about life and the way humans and the universe work. The book just gave me some really strong reminders about how to look at the situation I was finding myself in, and also some new perspectives that really helped me to face my “big meeting” with the strength and conviction in myself that I deserved to give myself.

The second is Arthur Schopenhaur’s On the Basis of Morality, which you can find for free from many sites online. I chose to read it as a follow up to my tackling Kant a while back, and I was actually chuckling out loud at moments while reading, which I did not expect from a 19th century essay on ethics. And reading the response of the committee at the end (because he wrote the essay to enter it into a contest) was priceless. Even if you don’t have the same sense of humor that I do, though, it is an incredibly worthwhile read because of the argument for morality being based on compassion and for his views on ego and self-will. It gave me so much to think about about humanity as a collective group that I was able to not think about myself and my problems. And in turn, I have the feeling that my writing is going to taking a deeper look into things, which is cool.

How about you? Read anything lately that really makes you think?