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Clothing, Hair, and Skin

What brought me here today:

Moving meant that we both had to divest ourselves of a lot of accumulated “stuff”. We knew many items could be replaced. And the stores where we me might find them. After four months, we’re feeling more settled. But are still noticing differences between Finland and the US. It seems odd to me that enough change has occured in such a short span of time to make us both feel a little ‘out of it’ as a buyer of products. (A consumer?)

I think that’s the just the nature of a capitalist economy like the US. Everything is in a state of never-ending change. New and improved items are the norm. Bigger! Faster! Longer lasting! New packaging! Larger size! It can become overwhelming at times. Perhaps my age has something to do with my inability (hestancy?) to ‘get with’ the program(ing)?

All of that being said, there are products I miss being able to easily purchase in FInland. Some of these products I can find for purchase online. But the price and the shipping makes buying them cost prohibitive for me. Amazon can ship just about any product anywhere in the world. If you’re willing to pay the price. I’ve chosen to try and find new products that I like in the US. And hope to someday be able to purchase those products of Finland that I miss.

Shampoo and conditioner:

Erittain shampoo and conditioner. I didn’t realise how much I missed it until I was trying to find a new shampoo and conditioner in the US. My hair (and my husband’s hair) looked and felt just awful when we tried using the same shampoo and conditioner we used in the US before moving to Finland. I cannot help but think that it’s not just the shampoo or conditioner’s fault. The water quality here may be playing a part as well.

We have been trying hard to reduce our single use plastic purchases. Traditional liquid shampoo and conditioner use plastic for bottling. I hunted around and found a shampoo-conditioner all-in-one in a bar form. We both like it a lot. Love Beauty and Plant has some a lovely shampoo+conditioner bars. It works well for both of us. And it’s reducing our plastics usage. I consider this a win-win!

Lotions and cleansers:

Lumene lotions and facial cleasing products are missed a great deal. I can find them on Amazon, but they are so much more expensive than Lidl or Prisma in Finland. Lumene products never irritated my skin. The cleansers, lotions, cremes, etc., never turned or smelled strange on me. And they never irritated my skin. No rashes or bumps. No incidences of itching or redness.

I was happy to see that Burt’s Bees continues to grow as a brand. Their cuticle cream was one of the first products I purchased many years ago to keep my art teacher fingers looking healthy. They have a nice selection of Burt’s Bees products at Target too. It’s not as easy as getting Lumene at Lidl or Prisma. But I can find them. And they aren’t cost prohibitive.

I still feel like Lumene is better over all though. Burt’s Bees will do nicely for me for the foreseeable future. I need some body lotion and have been looking over what the brand has to offer. I would like to purchase products that come in recyclable containers. Or a container that I can personally recycle and use in conjunction with my art practice.

Clothing:

Finding clothing that fits me in Finland was a challenge at the best of times. It’s not that there aren’t any people my size in Finland either. Clothing on the whole is more expensive there. I did shop at a specialty clothing shop called Zizzi. They had a lot of great pieces, and all in my size! Kappahl was another place that I would shop. There were Kappahl’s in every shopping venue. It was lower priced than Zizzi. But Zizzi had better quality clothing in my opinion.

Much of my outer gear was donated instead of bringing it with me. In fact, much of my clothing was parted with. My Zizzi insulated winter tunic came with me though. I call it my ‘boil-in-bag’ because it keeps me so incredibly warm. Sometimes almost hot! I also brought my warm wool socks and mittens. OH! And the amazingly well made dresses that my friends gave me as a going-away gift!

Finding clothes to fit me in the US is easier, and less expensive in the US. I just purchased a new water proof coat, new bras, and multiple pairs of leggings, and I didn’t break the bank. I’ve also gotten a good pair of closed-toe shoes that I can walk in. Believe ir or not, I was wearing sandals up until about six days ago! I brought a pair of winter boots from Finland that I can wear through the coldest part of the year.

What I wear now:

Finland changed the way that I dress. Leggings, thermals, and under shirts with a tunic or dress over the top is my standard now. Jumpers, scarves, hats, boots, etc., can be added or subtracted as the weather dictates. A good set of thermals (pants and shirt) with added tunic and socks, plus winter gear (coat, scarf, gloves, etc.) makes you toasty and warm at -10 to -15 C. Once you’re inside though, you need to be able to peel off the winter gear and still be comfortable and mobile. Leggings, socks, and tunics are fuctional clothing choices.

Dressing in layers was also the rule of thumb in New Mexico. It could be a frosty 30 F at 7 am, and then warm and sunny and 80 F at midday. I learned to layer up, and then peel down as the day progressed as an art teacher. Warm socks inside of clogs meant that I could easily kick them off if my feet were too warm. A cardigan could be peeled off if I was too warm. An under-tank shirt helped keep the chill off and didn’t become too hot to wear.

I still have a few items left to purchase. Land’s End has the thinner, “under socks” that I like to wear under a pair or two of thick, wooly socks. In fact, I’m wearing a pair of these Land’s End socks right now. Their almost eight years old! I would also like to find a cardigan and a new jumper. Most of the items I’ve found have weird logos on them. Or they’re in some insane colour that just would not work for me.

So now what?

Like I said, I have a few more items that I would like to find. There’s no rush on them either. I would also like to make myself some additional leg warmers. Not the kind you’re thinking of though. I wear them in the winter to cover part of the top of my boot/shoe and my ankle to keep the cold and snow out of my footwear. These can be crocheted on my own.

Thank you for reading, and I will see you again next Friday.

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Halloween Weather

What has brought me here today:

There’s a large part of me that is having a difficult time getting into the flow of the weather here. This seems like some sort cognitive dissonense. I think the weather should be colder. The days shorter, with less light. Almost all of the leaves should have fallen off the trees. Birds should be flying south. Frost should be on everything in the morning. And perhaps some snow should be falling as well.

Then there is all the Halloween decorations and reminders in the shops! There are signs in different neighbourhoods announding Halloween parades for children. Then there are venues holding Halloween events for children, in lieu of trick or treating. Some of the houses in our neighbourhood have lots of terrific Halloween themed decorations as well. I mean, BIG displays too!

Background:

As a child, I adored Halloween. I loved figuring out what I wanted to be for Halloween. Then getting the costume together. We always had homemade Halloween costumes. A mask or some additional details for the costume might be purchased. But the vast majority of the costume was made at home. My older brother made some cool costumes for us. I rememer my bother and I were a pair of dice one year!

Then there was trick or treating! Dear God! That was a miraculous event for a kid like me. The kind of kid who has not just one sweet tooth, but a whole mouthful of them. The concept of dressing up, going door to door, and getting free candy was all that was needed to pique my interests. Free. Candy. Oh! And candy that I was in complete control of too. No one could take it away. Or prevent me from eating it either. It was all mine.

There were candy exchanges. Every American kid who has trick or treated in the past can attest to this. My younger brother and I would go through our candy loot and make trades for favourite candies. I was a sucker for Smarties and anything chocolate. Jolly Ranchers were also a favourite of mine. Except the grape ones. Gross. Fortunately, our older brother (who sometimes took us trick or treating) loved grape Jolly Ranchers.

Worst Halloween:

The Halloween of ’78 suuuucked. A few weeks before Halloween, the chicken pox ran rough shod through my second grade classroom. I still remember my teacher coming over to my desk where I was working. She wanted to know why I was scratching my forehead so much. I remember her putting her hand under my chin and making me look up at her. She told me to put away my work and go directly to the nurses office. I was the third kid in the class to get chicken pox.

I still have scars on my face from my bout with chicken pox. It felt like I was sick forever too. In 1978 there wasn’t much to do about chicken pox other than send the kid home. And let the virus run it’s course. Oh. And lots of calomine lotion. Ick! I don’t rememer much of the fever part. The itching was the thing that got to me. I was miserable! Like I said, I scratched so much that I still have scars to this day.

There was no way I could go trick or treating. My face was a mass of big, red bumps and scabs. I wore a sheet and was a ghost to hide my face. My older sister and her boyfriend took me and my little brother out to a couple houses of his family members on Halloween night. One of whom was my second grade teacher! There was candy. But not nearly enough for my sweet-tooth-heavy sensibilities!

Present Day Halloween:

I did not think that the short time away from the US would make me so sensitive to some holiday decorating. The lifetime of accumulated experience prior to break from Halloween should have more weight. Or at least I think so. Finland doesn’t celebrate Halloween. There were never any big displays in shops or neighbourhoods. No trick or treating either. It’s too cold for that!

The thought of getting trick or treaters got me excited for Halloween. I may not be able to dress up and go get free candy myself. But I can make damn sure that the children who come to my door get awesome candy and someone who will tell them their costumes are awesome! But there’s no trick or treating in the neighbourhood we’re living in this year. The Halloween parades and planned events at different venues are safer for the kids. And I completely understand that. There will be other Halloweens.

Weather:

Many of my Nordic friends are posting pictures on Instagram of the weather. I honestly never thought I would actually miss the weather in Finland. But I do. Perhaps that’s incorrect. I miss all of the things that come along with the weather turning colder. Hygge is the word some people might be familiar with in the US. Everything gets more warm and cozy once the weather starts turning colder in early October in Finland.

The month of October, (Lokakuu: mud month) is the last bit of autumn that’s pleasant before November (Marraskuu: dead month, not a direct translation). Marraskuu is sometimes referred to as “the month that shall not be named” because it’s just miserable all the way around. It’s cold, wet, and dark. Most of the time, there’s no snow. Only rain. I cannot express adequately to you readers how completely miserable this month is. Cold. Increasingly dark. And so, so, wet.

Your reward for getting through November in Finland is December (Joulukuu: Christmas month). A month of tremendous HYGGE! And SNOW! Centimeters  and centimeters of lovely, white, noise dampening, easy-to-walk-on, light-reflecting SNOW! October is the reminder of the cruddy stuff that we have to get through (with the help of hygge) so we can enjoy Joulukuu.

My brain:

Right now, my brain is not seeing any of the above. It rained and was overcast for most of the day yesterday. Today looks like it’s going to be more of the same. The thing that is unnerving me is that there are green leaves on the trees! How can it be colder and rainy and the trees still have green leaves?! My brain is just not allowing me to adjust as quickly as I would like it to.

All the reminders of Halloween in the shops and the neighbourhoods combined with the off-kilter weather makes me feel unsettled. Like there’s something wrong. Global warming has a part to play in my current feelings of off-kilterness. I’m sure of that. Another part is that we’re living so much closer to the ocean. The weather is just not going to be like I remember it was as a kid. Or when I was living in central Finland.

So, what now?

I do plan on eating Halloween candy. As an adult, I can buy it and eat it for dinner if I want to. I won’t eat it for dinner. Maybe. The weather is just something I’m going to have to become accustomed to over time. There’s no way to hurry this process either.

Thank you for reading, and I’ll see you again next Tuesday.

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Scary

What brought me here today:

I had a strange thing happen to me earlier in the week. By the time it was over, it had become uncomfortable. Bordering on scary. This interaction was with someone on a social media platform who is a follower. They admire my artwork. This person seemed to quickly go from pleasant admirer, to irritated and demanding in the blink of an eye.

The fact that I didn’t see how quickly the interaction had changed to a negative tone disturbs me. I was so pleased to chat with someone who had questions about how I created my artwork. In the past, I’ve had some incredibly lovely interactions with people via social media about my artwork. This must be why this negative interaction with this person disturbed me to the degree that I’m actually writing a blog post about it.

The incident:

I received a DM from a follower on Instagram. This person does not speak English. And I don’t speak her language. Messages had to be run through an online translator so we could understand each other. The conversation began like many that I’ve had. This person admires my work. They had some questions about some specific techniques and processes as well. It was pretty close to other conversations I’ve had with people online.

The first mistake I made was in taking a photo of a technique in process and sending it to them. This made the follower want more, in the way of a video. When I told them that I didn’t have any videos on YouTube or my website yet, this seemed to kind of make them pissy. My second mistake was offering to video chat and show them the technique. This failed miserably. My phone is old and the connection was bad. So I ended the chat.

This follower then started pelting me with video chat calls. I did not pick them up. This made the follower angry. They didn’t understand why I wouldn’t answer. I decided to end the whole back and forth by telling them that I had to work to do and that I could talk to her at a later date. The follower then got demanding. They wanted me to show them what I was working on. They didn’t understand why I couldn’t just set up my phone and let them watch me making art.

My tiny freak-out:

I really started to lose it at this point. I was scared. Whether or not the follower intended this or not isn’t the point. I just needed this person to go away.  Now. They were repeatedly told that I needed to return to work, and no, they couldn’t watch me work. When I stated that the work I needed to do was not art creation, but writing and computer work, it just seemed to piss them off more.

By this time, I had spent over an hour talking to this follower. There was work I needed to be doing instead of dealing with them too. To get away, I simply said that I wouldn’t respond to anymore of their messages. After sending five or six messages that I didn’t answer. They finally stopped messaging me.

I have not blocked this person. Yet. If and when they start this kind of stuff up again I will block them. My husband thinks I’m being way, way, way too nice. I don’t disagree with him. Giving people the benefit of the doubt is something I like doing. But believe me when I say, if  the line is crossed again, they will be blocked.

Nature:

I’m an incredibly talkative person by nature. Small talk is not something that I’m bad at either. I’m better at keeping my mouth shut now. Finland taught me that. I’m kind of an ambivert. There are times and places where I’m quite animated an chatty, like when I’m  teaching art to children. I require down-time in between these interactions to recharge myself. Time alone with my own thoughts is a requirement for a mentally and emotionally contented self.

Entrepreneurship:

I’m a small art business owner. A one-horse operation. This requires me to be a bit more extroveted in a few different arenas. Social media platforms are one way for me to be out there connecting with the people who like and purchase my artwork. The pandemic has made this kind of interaction the safest option for me and customers from a physical standpoint.

I require some down-time to be alone with my own mind in between my more extroverted interactions. Social media platforms are something that I can easily turn on and off when I need that break. Or when I have to work on any of the many pieces of my business that I need to. Creating my artwork is one of the ways that I prepare myself for interactions through social media.

Social media:

I do not consider myself in any way, shape, or form to be a social media big deal. The number of followers that I have is not incredibly large at all. Compared to many art creators, I’m a tiny little art fish in a HUGE art making and selling pond. That’s okay with me. I value all of the people who take the time out of their day to like and comment on my posts. I’ve made some insanely cool connections with fellow art creators that I value a great deal. These followers make me feel less alone in my little one-horse art business.

Currated content:

Who I am in reality, and the person I choose to show to the world through social media are not the same. It’s a strange dance. I know that I tend to over-share here in my blog posts most of the time. Time, and a lot of editing are involved in the creation of my blog posts. What ends up being posted has been carefully constructed for my readers. It’s definitely me. But it has to be noted that it’s a very currated me.

The same can be said of the photos that I post for people to see. I rarely post pictures of myself. Almost all of the photos posted on social media are of my artwork. The way I see things, I’m not selling my physical image. I’m sharing and selling my artwork. To be a bit more honest, I detest having my picture taken. What I personally look like should also have no baring on whether or not someone purchases my artwork either.

Parasocial interaction:

The curated content is what people who follow me on social media interact with. That’s me, but like I said before, a version of myself. I enjoy making connections with people. I’m a teacher at heart. Sharing my love of art and creation is a big part of my identity. A part of my identity that sometimes can overwhelm other parts of my identity.

I’m an artist who sells their artwork. There is a transactional nature at the center of my rationale of even being on social media to begin with. It feels callous to say that, but it’s true. Even when there is no money and goods being exchanged, this transactional aspect is in play. If you like a picture I post, you give it a thumbs-up or a like, or a pin. Or perhaps you visit my website and comment on a post. The algorithm has been fed, and I receive more viewings and more likes, etc.

The big problem with the scary follower is that they were demanding more of me than what they were paying. Liking my artwork on a regular basis does not give a perfect stranger access to watching me create my artwork. Nor does it allow them unfettered access to me explaining how I create my artwork, including patterns.

So, now what?

It’s a weird balance that I need to find. I want to be open and friendly with my followers. But at the same time, I just do not have the bandwidth or time to deal with the scary, demanding followers. There have to be some solotions to be found to this potential problem.

After talking with my husband about this incident with the scary follower, I will be making some changes. There were some rookie mistakes that I made in my initial interaction with this follower. Those mistakes will not be made again. This also made me think about the FAQ that I have on my webpage. I can make some adjustments to that. Then direct people who may get demanding to reading that.

Thank you for reading, and I’ll see you again next Friday.

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Trade Off

What brought me here today:

I’ve been thinking a lot about employment lately. I’m a licensed visual art teacher (Ages 5-18) with ten years of experience teaching at the elementary school level. But I’m not teaching art at any school right now. I’m working for myself instead. My husband is my business partner. He runs his own small business Dancing Lights Press.

We both work from home. Each of us have our own work areas in the apartment. There are daily work hours. Sometimes these are extended for me. Because sometimes I just get on a roll and want/need to finish a piece. The same goes for my husband.

There are definite benefits to working for yourself. It’s not for everyone. There are trade-offs that sometimes need to be made. It’s important to know what these trade-offs are. And how to negotiate them. Being a small business is not something I ever thought I would do. Thanks to free programs like Tyobileet, my mind was changed.

First things first:

You’ve got to have some kind of business plan. My husband has a degree in business. With the help of Tyobileet, I discovered so much about myself and how I wanted to work. Tyobileet did so much to help me figure out all of the diverse ways I could take my art business. I felt as though I had within me so many different options to choose from. This also helped me feel as though I wouldn’t be narrowly defining what my art business would be.

Then the pandemic started. All my plans for teaching art workshops went completely sideways. I had to change around my business plan. A friend I made at Tyobileet suggested that I open up an online shop. Her advice was amazingly precise. She helped me to decide how I wanted to show myself and my work online with WooCommerce.

My husband’s first hand knowledge of running his own small business has been endlessly helpful to me. He might roll his eyes and say I don’t pay attention to him. But I do. Thanks to him, we each have long-form, fully fleshed-out business plans. The pandemic is still playing mary-hob with some of my plans. But that’s okay. I have plenty that I can do to work around it.

Road less traveled:

I thought that I would have more agita about this part of having my own small business. The path that my life and my art business have taken seem out of character for me as an individual. At least when they are compared to the trajectory my life was on prior to moving to Finland. That path was a well-trodden one. Teach art in the public schools. Do my “own art” during the summer. Sometimes sell my work at craft fairs. Retire from teaching when I’m 67-70. Then make art in my old age. And sometimes sell my work at a craft fair.

After living for seven years in FInland the aforementioned path just did not look inviting to me at all. The idea of going back to teaching art full time again in the US public school system was not something I wanted to do. I love teaching art. Being ground-down, mentally, emotionally and physically by the job of teaching is just not worth it to me. I have some borderline PTSD as a result of some of the things that happened to me as an art teacher. Things that I never want to go through ever again.

One of the trade-offs of having my own small art business instead of teaching art in the public schools is the regularity of a paycheck. For me, it’s the least easy of the trade-offs. There is security in knowing every two weeks there will be money in the bank. But when looked at from another angle, it’s trading off my mental, emotional, and physical well-being for a state-dictated amount of money.

Breathing room:

I’m an intrinsicly motivated person. Art has always been one of the central interests of my life. I need little prodding to begin my work day creating artwork. If it weren’t for my husband, I would work straight through meals and late into the night. This intrinsic motivation is great for being an artist. It tended to make my life as an art teacher complicated in a very bad way.

When working for myself, I keep to a daily work schedule. Much like I did as an art teacher. The biggest difference between the two (besides all of the children) is that I’m completely in charge of my own work schedule. My work schedule is flexible. I don’t have to teach three classes of art before I can walk across the hall and pee.

This morning, I had planned on finishing this blog post. My plan was to proof read it. Then finish writing a few additions. Then publish it. Instead, my husband and I walked to the grocery store for a few much needed items. While walking, I took some pictures for the Go Marielle Instagrm account I post to daily. The two of us talked about future plans and growing our businesses. We both enjoyed the walk, even though it did rain a little.

Adjustments:

I have the flexibility to adjust my work schedule like this as a small business owner. There are all kinds of small shifts and adjustments done to my work schedule throughout the week. I know what needs to be done. And by what time. The way in which I get to those points is up to me. As long as the tasks are completed well, and on time, I’m happy.

The other side of these kinds of adjustments are when I get a piece started and don’t want to stop. I have to stop and think about what tasks can be moved around so I can continue creating art. Some tasks like processing pictures, having to work on the not-so-fun parts of website and online shop maintenance, can be moved around.

Some tasks, like writing copy for items in the shop, or blog posts are done a little bit at a time. I’ll fill in time between other tasks by outlining a couple weeks of blog posts. Or setting up Instagram posts and Insta Story posts in Canva. The same can be said of designing and writing my Go Marielle posts. I have half an hour before my husband says lunch will be ready? Okay. I’ll drop in all the faces for a series of Go Marielle posts.

Off time:

There isn’t any. Well, that’s not completely true. My husband and I both work an eight-hour plus day each week. But that includes most of the weekend, and well past 18;00 as well. That walk to the store earlier? I always have Marielle with me, so I can take pictures for Go Marielle. I got work done, even though it wasn’t the work I had planned on for this morning.

The flexibility to schedule my own pace for work production means that I’m working many more hours than I did as a public school art teacher. But I enjoy what I’m doing. I’m creating my own artwork and selling it to people who are willing to give me money for it. And I don’t have a principal attempting to convince me that my fellow teachers all hate my guts while doing it.

Stuff:

Some of the things that I don’t have, don’t bother me. We live in an apartment we can comfortably afford. There’s no car to fuss and worry about. Our wardrobes are probably much smaller that most of our friends. None of those things bother me. We’ve made the decision to live in a rather frugal, John Wesley kind of manner. The items we do buy must have a positive purpose in our lives.

It may look as though I don’t have a lot. And that fact must make me unhappy. Nope. Not at all. I have a studio to work in, art supplies, and a crap-tonne of ideas. Plus the time in which to bring those ideas into the physical world. Oh yeah, and a husband who loves me unconsitionally and is a true partner in all of our endeavours.  Life may not be perfect, but I’m content.

Cost benefit analysis:

What I gave up was making me miserable in exchange for a steady paycheck. Adding to that misery, was the fact that I love teaching art. And yes, working for yourself can be a lot of feast or famine. My husband does an amazing job making sure that the famine parts of this inevitable cycle don’t suck as much as they could. And yeah, we have to do more planning when we want to go to Target, or the grocery store. But for me, I don’t have to worry about a car. The walk is nice and the bus ride not incredibly long.

These are the trade offs I’m willing to make so that I can live a relatively simple life of being my own boss as a small business owner. Perhaps it’s the way that I’m looking at these “trade-offs”. Some people may think that part of a trade off is puttin up with going without the thing your want, until you can somehow attain it. As if it’s a temporary time of unhappiness until…you get or buy what you want? (Car? House? Job? Significant Other?)

I look at my life as a small art business owner more like, “What do I have and what can I do with it?” So, I suppose this could be interpreted as a glass half-full kind of outlook? Perhaps. I sometimes think I’m far too sarcastic for that.

So, now what?

It should be noted that our current living and working situations will inevitably change in the future. Neither one of us knows what may happen in the next few years. I do love teaching art. And would love to begin teaching workshops again. I’ve ruled nothing out and prefer to keep my options open.

My small art business isn’t where I want it to be. But I’m working every day to get it there. I’m building up a body of creative work, along with my dolls and Go Marielle. These things not only allow me to hone my creativity, but show people what I’m capable of. Even when there isn’t a guaranteed paycheck at the end of every two week pay period.

And now, back to work!

Thank you for reading, and I’ll see you again next Tuesday!

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Getting Used to Here Pt. 2

What brought me here today:

We’re a little past the three month mark for living in Wilmington. My husband and I feel as though we just moved here yesterday. While at the same time, we’ve lived here for a year or more. This could be due to the fact that we returned to the US, and not another country. The US is familiar, yet incredibly different from when we moved to Finland. We’re still feeling a bit out of sync I suppose.

There are some things that I’m enjoying quite a bit. I guess Wilmington is growing on me!

People:

I’m getting much better at greeting people that I meet on the street. And I’m enjoying the interaction, even if it is brief. I didn’t realise how Finnish I’d become when interacting with people in everyday settings. Sometimes there would be a short verbal exhange at a bus stop, like “Has the #12 bus come already?“. But that was it. No small talk or joking around or anything like that.

Since we walk and take the bus everywhere, we interact with lots of random strangers during the week. In Finland I would never say ‘Hei!‘ and smile at a person on a walking path. That would be considered weird, and a little creepy. More often than not, I would say “Huomenta!“, usually to an older person on a walking path. But nothing more. And I’d say something similar to the bus driver when I got on the bus.

Interactions:

This past Sunday, my husband and I walked to do some shopping. Along the way, we discovered the Italian water ice shop open. We’d wanted to try some, so we got in line. There were several people ahead of us. One gentleman and his wife were picking up some water ice and a couple slices of pizza to take home. He was itching to get home before the football game started. He chatted away with myself and my husband while we all waited for our orders, and had a lovely time!

The week before, we had what I can only describe as the most intensely interesting bus ride of my entire life time. Here are some highlights. The bus driver’s son is in the hospital after being shot; his legs still aren’t moving. A woman that the bus driver drove past at at stop, because she was smoking a cigarette, got on the bus and was not happy with him. He told her he was trying to protect his health. She sat down, and an older lady asked the smoking lady if she remembered her. She did! They started reminiscing about family. THEN the smoking lady got up and walked to the front of the bus to show the bus driver she had tiny bottles of alcohol.

THEN…the bus driver encountered a car that was blocking the regular bus route. There was no way he could get the bus down the street. So, he backed the bus up, did a three-point turn, and took the bus in a different direction. He ZOOMED down the street, hitting every green light too! Then he hooked back up to the regular bus route, bypassing the block with the car obstruction. The entire time, there was more drama going on within the bus too! A lady that got on the bus was talking loudly with the bus driver. I couldn’t make out what they were talking about, but it was intense! My husband was white-knuckling it beside me, looking a bit overwhelmed by it all. He pulled the cord two stops before our regular stop and we walked home.

It was the most exciting, drama-filled bus ride of my LIFE. It was a complete three-act play in less than 20 minutes! I was ready to ride the bus until there was some sort of conclusion too! While walking home, we discovered that there was something happening about three blocks from our bus stop. There were a lot of police cars at a specific spot for what seemed like an incredibly long time.

Exploring:

My husband and I get around via the public bus and train system, and by foot. Neither one of us likes having a car. I personally hate having to worry about where my ‘giant, metal baby’ is and who might be doing some kind of damage to it. My husband hates all the added expenses that a car brings. Gas, insurance, parking, and maintenance. YUCK! Taking the bus or train takes a bit more planning at times. But the lower stress and worry for me is a fantastic benefit.

We’ve been conducting a once a week exploratory walk. Usually on Saturday or Sunday. And we include packing a lunch to eat in a park along the way. Sometimes our walks get a little out of hand too. One Brandywine Park walk was far too long. We were having such a lovely time that we completely forgot about the time. And how far we had walked from home. Needless to say, we plan our exploration walks much more carefully now!

I’ve enjoyed getting to see different parts of the city while doing this. It makes me feel so much more at home here. And it allows me to construct the visual map of the city in my head. Then I know how far one place is from another. It’s also added to my knowledge of the bus system and the routes.

Parks and green spaces:

I was so worried that moving to a city would mean that I would have to get used to not having plants, trees, and general greenery around me. It was as if I somehow thought that I was moving to a city made of nothing but brick, stone, and concrete. Wilmington is not that at all!

There are so many trees here in the city! Even downtown there are small green spaces that are well maintained with huge, lovely trees in them. Wilmington really goes out of it’s way to preserve and take care of trees. There are three lovely parks within a short walk from our apartment. And they are full of large trees of all kinds of varieties. The large oaks are my favourite. There are also tons of sycamore, linden, maple, and even a few walnut trees!

There are not a lot of ponds and lakes. But we’re on the Del Marva penninsula, and already so close to the Atlantic Ocean that it doesn’t bother me too much. One of the parks we go to has an amazing man-made pond that is part of an initiative to grow native species of plants. There’s ample benches to sit on and enjoy the pond too.

SQUIRRLES!

There are so many squirrels here! Every on that I’ve seen has been what I take to be a standard American grey squirrel. They’re not terribly afraid of people either. Some will stop and check you out from a comfortable spot on a tree. We’ve had some squirrels come very close to us while having lunch in a park. They must just be so used to humans, and humans with food, that they can afford to let their defences down a bit!

Grocery delivery:

I detest grocery shopping. I’ve never enjoyed it. Part of me thinks it’s because I can sometimes make horrible choices based on my level of hunger at the time of shopping. My husband is the meal planner and cook. Trips to the grocery store with him are now more like just taking a long walk and carrying things.

Having groceries delivered for us means that our work day isn’t interrupted by a three hour errand. The one grocery store here in Wilmington within walking distance is still quite a walk for us. Add to that lack-luster produce offerings, and you can see why we have our groceries delivered from the Sprouts on the northern side of the city. We can get to this Sprouts by bus. The problem with that is that it takes a three hour erran and turns it into a five hour errand.

We shopped at Sprouts before we moved to Finland. So we’re familiar with the brands on offer there. Plus, the produce is a lot better. I should note though that even though the produce is better at Sprouts, it’s not as good as Lidl in Finland. But that’s another post for another time.

So, now what?

This blog posts only covers the bigger high-lights of things that I’m liking about Wilmington. There are other smaller things, like bodegas that make hot sandwiches. Or all of the amazing historical architecture just in our own small neighbourhood. OH! And Italian water ice! These topics will all be addressed in time. I’m sure.

Completely off the topic, I do have two new items listed in the shop today. Cassandra Tuesday and Annabelle Wednesday. These two little vampire girls are looking for a good home where they can help celebrate Halloween! There are stories behind their names. Cassandra is named for Cassandra Peterson. You may know her better as the character she plays, Elvira Mistress of the Dark. Annabelle is named for a character from the movie The House on Haunted Hill. This was the first horror film Cassandra ever saw. The Tuesday/Wednesday parts of their names is for the character of Wednesday Addams. Her original name was Tuesday-Wednesday. Calling them Little Vampire Girls is for the Jonathan Richman song.

Thank you for reading, and I’ll see you again next Friday!

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Getting Used to Here

What brought me here today:

Seven years doesn’t seem that long, does it? It feels as though it was much, much longer. I hadn’t thought that living in a foreign country for less than ten years would change me much. But it did, and much more than I realized. There are foods that taste weird to me now (bread and carbonated drinks especially). My sensitivity to noise has increased. Having trees, plants and birds around my living space is now an important component to my personal and professional well being.

These aforementioned differences seem trivial don’t they? They are, compared with some of my long-term concerns, like healthcare and being able to obtain my prescriptions for a price that doesn’t drain our bank account. In Finland, I paid less for my prescriptions without medical insurance than I did within the US with medical insurance. But comparisons like that are for another blog post on another day.

Cars:

There are cars everywhere! EVERYWHERE! There were plenty of cars in Finland, but they just didn’t seem as ‘in my face‘ as they are here in Delaware. Cars in the US seem to be a symbol of freedom of movement that has become ingrained upon the psyche of some Americans. I totally understand that. A car means that you can go where you want to, when you want to. And not be beholden to the schedule of a city bus or train.

What the increase in cars means is that there’s not nearly as many good walking paths for people like me to use. The US builds its infrastructure around the automobile. Not around human beings. This is requiring us to be more creative in how we get to places that we need to go on foot or bus. Many of the sidewalks we use are broken, wobbly, tilted at weird angles and require me to stare at my feet while I walk to make sure I don’t trip.

While at a local mall recently, I asked for directions to the Michael’s store that was in one of the stores apart from  the mall. The person helping me could describe how to get to the store easily by car, but was stumped as to how to get there when I told her I was on foot. When I looked used my phone for directions, there was thin sidewalk along a main entrance that could be traversed on foot. Then a large intersection to navigate just to get to the parking lot of Michael’s.

Noise:

I’d become so accustomed to fewer cars, and a lot more nature as a buffer for noise in Jyväsklyä. And by nature, I mean green, leafy forests in the summer, and deep, cold snow during the winter. Both of these things block most of noises from traffic or machinery for most of the year.

The people are much quieter too. The quiet Finn is a long-standing stereotype. First of all, it’s not true. A Finn might be quiet and not talk much when they first meet you. But once you become better acquainted, perhaps even friends, a Finn can talk your arm off too. Add a few beers and it happens even quicker!

I’d become so used to people on the bus being almost silent in Finland. Even when going to a crowded place, a large amount of Finns don’t create a huge amount of noise. By and large, I found public spaces and large groups of people in Finland to be quite calm and low-key. I’m constantly finding myself startled when I hear people talking loud enough for me to hear them from my second story apartment.

Walking:

My husband and I walked and bussed everywhere in Finland. There weren’t many places within the city we lived, or the cities we visited that couldn’t be easily gotten to by walking, busses or trains. There were times in which we called a taxi, but that was rare. Walking and biking were the norm for many Finns. I liked it quite a bit because it was good exercise.

Good, public, well-maintained paths are the norm in Finland. The paths are wide enough so that snow plows and gravel spreading trucks can drive on them too. We could walk from our apartment almost 5 K (a little over 3 miles) to the city center of Jyväskylä. Depending upon the weather, we could take different routes that were less hilly, or better graveled, depending upon the season.

It’s going to take me a little longer to get used to walking here in our new city. I mentioned the sidewalks here in one of the previous paragraphs. Not all of the sidewalks are obstacle course-worthy. But enough of them are that I need to keep my klutzy keister aware of where I’m walking so I can keep all my teeth inside my head.

Personal safety:

This one took a little longer for me to put a finger on once we arrived in the US. While living in Jyväsklyä I had only one instance in which I felt as though I was in an unsafe situation as a female. It took place during daylight hours. At a bus stop. And the man who was creating fear within me was obviously intoxicated. Nothing happened. I simply re-entered a store to watch for the bus from a window.

It’s sometimes hard to explain to men how a woman has to stay on guard all the time when she’s out in public in the US. I have to stay aware of who is around me and how they’re acting at all times. As nice and welcoming as our new city is, I will not be going out by myself after dark any time soon. And that makes me a little sad.

As a woman, I need to make sure that I have clear routes of escape, if the need arises. I need to be prepared for someone attempting to take my bag or backpack as well. Gone are the days when I could put in my earphones and listen to music in public alone while on the bus or walking home after the sun went down. I need to be aware of my surroundings at all times. The possible threat of physical violence requires me to change my habits. And feels as though my personal freedom of movement have been clipped short.

So, now what?

As with any new place, I’ll get used to the environment over time. I don’t know that there is any way to rush it either. I still have yet to eat American chocolate again. I’m not pushing it either. I’d rather enjoy the Reese’s Pieces that I missed while living in Finland instead.

Thank you for reading, and I’ll see you again next Tuesday.

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Frugal Pursuit

What brought me here:

I sometimes stop to look around and compare what my life is in real life to what I feel has been modeled to me by my culture and upbringing. At my age, I thought that I would have a more settled life. Settled in things like my career, home and car ownership, children (maybe) and my perceived place within larger society. These were the expectations of a very young, inexperienced version of myself.

Moving from Finland back to the United States has brought many of the aforementioned thoughts back to the forefront of my mind. For me, this is just part of readjusting to living in the US again. The intense messages of consumerism and a certain degree of societal conformity are hard for me to ignore. Part of the reason I want to write this blog post is so that I can clearly explain myself and my reasons for living the life that I have freely chosen.

Okay, what gives?

Yeah. I know it sounds strange. It’s as if I’m making some huge, life-altering declaration. It’s nothing as dramatic as that! Perhaps I feel I need to explain myself because the way in which I’m choosing (along with my husband) to live my life seems to be in almost direct contradiction to not only the culture of the US, but in some manner, the ways in which I was raised. Heck, it runs contradictory to being an artist and an art teacher as well.

Stuff:

When my husband and I moved to Finland, we sold, donated, gave away, trashed and recycled most of our belongings. There were some boxes that I had moved from apartment to apartment and had never really gone through them. I couldn’t understand why I kept things in boxes that I never used or even looked at. It didn’t make sense to me at all. I was just moving these time capsules from place to place for no good reason.

While we were in Finland, I did get better about sorting through and getting rid of things that I knew I wouldn’t use. But in all honestly, the last year or so saw me concentrating more on my artwork, and much, much less on sorting, donating, and recycling my ‘stuff’. This made the act of packing up and moving just a little more stressful for me. And I’ve decided I don’t ever want to do that again.

What’s the plan?

Well, in a nutshell, not to buy as much stuff. But let’s face it, that kind of explanation is as infuriating as the doctor who tells you to simply eat less to lose weight. I’m not trying to say that I’ve found some magical plan that is super-easy and lots of people can duplicate. I’m also not talking about some Marie Kondo kind of solution either.

The over-all plan is something that my husband and I have been talking about for about a year. It dove-tails nicely into each of our own business plans. And will help us get to the next stage in our goals to build our businesses.

What we buy:

My husband and I are both in agreement that we want to put money into each of our businesses so that we can grow in the directions we have planned. For me, this means that there need to be some equipment purchases, including a new computer, lights, and a camera to start. My husband also has a list of equipment purchases to make as well.

We also have decided that we owned too many clothes that we did not use. Working from home doesn’t place the same sort of clothing requirements on us as it does for a public school teacher, or office worker. A capsule wardrobe is something that we’re working towards as well. It reduces our impact on the environment, and our budget. This was an easy adjustment for us to make.

We’ve decided to purchase less furniture too. What we do purchase is targeted to assist us in building our businesses. A good bed and mattress, along with sheets, pillows and comforters is a must for both of us. Neither one of us can work if we’re getting bad sleep. A nice kitchen table has been left for us by the previous tenant. So we only need to buy two chairs for it. There’s no immediate need to have four chairs.

Frugal or cheap?

There are some people who might say that we’re not being frugal, we’re just being cheap. To that, I just roll my eyes and shrug. This is how we are choosing to live. We’re not pushing it onto anyone else. Our credit scores are good and we have money in the bank. That’s something I find so much more satisfying than buying objects that I will just have to schlep with me when we move again.

John Wesley has been an influence on both of us regarding how and on what we spend our money. One of the things that Wesley did that my husband and I both admire is a simple calculation for managing his personal money. If he earned 10£, but only needed 5£ to live on, the extra 5£ went into savings. If his earnings rose to 20£, he still lived on 5£ and saved the rest.

In a way, that is what we’re attempting to do by purchasing fewer things like clothing and home decor. We want to spend our money as precisely as possible on the items that will help us to attain our entrepreneurial goals. I personally don’t feel as though I’m being made to sacrifice much. I will have the things I need to be content. What else would I need?

Walking contradiction:

Having written all of the above, there may be people who say, “But wait a minute. Didn’t you spend a chunk of cash to ship your artwork to your new home?” Yes. I did. I also taught several art workshops to pay for the shipping to do so. That had been decided upon when I accepted the offer to teach the workshops.

From an emotional standpoint, I didn’t want to part with my larger pieces of artwork. But, when looked at from an entrepreneurial stance, those pieces of artwork are also needed so that I can begin establishing myself as an artist in the city of Wilmington and surrounding areas. So, when looked at from a different angle, spending the money to ship the artwork will be worth it.

So, now what?

As I’ve said in several of the previous blog posts, I’m working on the floor with my computer on some plastic bulk candy containers (that presently contain some of the artwork that will be for sale again on my website). Again, at my age it seems like a strange, really poor thing to do. But then I remind myself that I am firmly a Gen-X-er and suddenly feels rather punk instead.

Thank you for reading, and I’ll see you again next Tuesday.