Finding Creativity and Artistry Anytime in Your Life

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Leslie Ditzy Vids YouTube Channel images.My friend, Leslie, is an inspiration to me. She used to drive me “batty” – her term for it – but now she has come into her own in her olderness and is not just an inspiration to me but a mentor and motivator.

The niece of an Oscar winning actress, Leslie has come out of her turtle shell casing and into her own as the queen of Ditzvids.

In a form distinctive and yet similar to Tracy Ullman, the actress and comedian famous for her various characters, Leslie continues to unveil a wide variety of characters adorned in antique hats, veils, glasses, sweaters, and other paraphernalia.

She explains to me often that the clothes make the character. She’ll try on different hats and wigs and suddenly feel the entity coming out of her. They have unusual and creative names, often representative of their personality.

There are so many characters she’s created that get me rolling on the floor and literally peeing my pants from laughing so hard. I’m not sure if these are funnier because I know Leslie and know how out of character (and sometimes “in character”) these are, or because they are just that funny.

Sandra Ledbedter is one of my favorite characters. In the video above, she prepares for vacation with her boyfriend in Hawaii, and her nerves, as well as her query personality, comes out beautifully. In the next video, she’s on vacation with her boyfriend in Hawaii and decides to use “modern technology” to send a video post card. Honestly, I could see my mother sending the same post card back home.

Sandra’s brother, Ernie, is a character she describes as literally taking her over. She fell into the “ARCHitech” personality so completely, she lost herself. The brilliance comes through in this unique video.

“Flatulance Air” is a unique airline, and this “safety” presentation for the flight is brilliant, an airline really run on gas.

Estrella the Smari Swarmi is a hoot, the Swarmi without a glass ball as someone took it. LOL!

In this video, Kiki states the truth that all of us over the age of 40 wish: Shoe designers, please make shoes for us to not only make us feel good but look good, whether or not we’re heading for the dance floor.

During the Olympics, she came up with an Olympic Swimmer character that won an Olympic Rhinestone.

Eugenie is a royal house maid for the queen – Elizabeth – and she invites you for tea.

Watching the Ditzvids from Leslie, I am reminded of how little creativity I have in my life and that I need to get more. She is shining and thriving with these beautiful video characters, stretching her imagination in every direction, embracing different parts of herself as well as other people.

Her courage to put these “out there” in the world is wonderful to watch. She gets judgmental about herself and her friends and their opinions of what she is doing, saying she knows that everyone thinks she’s looney and “off my meds” but she keeps producing them, improving constantly. I’ve previewed some of the future releases and trust me, she’s come up with some amazing characters and outfits.

I need to put myself out there more again. I need to risk with my creativity. I need to push myself to do more and experiment with my art, in all directions.

Thank you, my dear friend, Leslie, for pushing me to become more fully me. Just one of the many reasons I love you so much.

Sun Splashed Forest

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Sun comes through the clouds to cause the water droplets dripping from the forest trees to sparkle like gems. Photography by Lorelle VanFossen.

Soon I will have new equipment that will allow me the ability to capture what I see in my mind. While that sounds technologically prophetic, technology today is finally able to recreate what I could do with my analog professional camera gear.

I’m not talking about special effects, so easily used, to the point where “real” is only a concept. I’m talking about photographing what I really see and having the end result on film, untainted with special effects.

Looking out the window as the heavy rains ceased and the sun burst through the clouds for a moment, our forest burst into sparkling gems – gems in motion as they spilled from the wet moss and last of the autumn leaves, giving in to gravity.

My ability to describe with words the scene before me is slowly evolving as I expand my rhetoric to include descriptive and not just technical language, but my eyes and spirit race back to the familiar, camera in hand, analyzing the scene to make the best choices to capture the moment as I see it.

I would set the camera on the tripod and frame the single tall Douglas Fir in the foreground to isolate it from the busy surroundings. I’d close down the aperture as far as light would allow to maintain the speed in which to catch the drops and create a star burst effect with the sun-drenched drops. My eyes see this, but cameras have to be set to properly to recreate what I see.

All I have with me is my phone, so the end result, while decent quality, shows a wet forest backlit by the sun coming through the clouds. The drops are invisible, the details are lost in the clutter of too much of the forest in focus. The phone camera is top notch, but digital still lacks the ability in that class of camera to capture contrast and detail. The light overwhelms its meter, so the shift towards neutral to compensate takes away the punch.

So I’m stuck with words. No matter how technical our lives become, words still matter. Our ability to speak and be heard drives us to constantly improve our ability to communicate – well, it should.

And I’m stuck with memory to preserve the moment. These moments in nature happen in a split second and are gone, sometimes reproducible, sometimes not. I hold them as long as I can in my eyes, feeding the memory cells deep in my brain, so when I need a peaceful image in the future, this will be one of a select few that will rise to the surface on demand.

Since I know my own swiss cheese brain well, I wish I had a better quality camera instead.

Lightning Paper

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Lightning Paper. That is the Cherokee word for email.

I’ve encountered many languages thought to be dead or dying. Hebrew, Swahili, Cherokee and other Native American Indian languages for example. While thought to be dying, many of these languages are being reborn through technology.

A story tonight on NPR’s Hear and Now featured a team from Google and the Cherokee Nation talking about their projects to create a Google Search and now Gmail in Cherokee, helping to not just introduce the language to young people, but also to help older native speakers communicate with modern technology with their friends, family, and younger generation.

With the revival of Hebrew with Ben Yehuda’s work in Israel, words had to be created to accommodate modern words and technology. They weren’t driving cars nor playing on computers or drinking out of plastic bottles during the time of Moses, so the language needed to adapt. The base word for computer is “machine” which fairly represents what it is. Other words like “auto” for car were adopted from other languages as needed, creating a similar mishmash lexicon similar to English, which steals from just about every language in one way or another.

I loved the phrase “lightning paper.” It perfectly represents the concept of an email, better than the word email. It makes me reconsider the words we use today and how they should be changed to be more poetic and apropos to their intentions.

“Blog” is one of those words I’d love to change. Originally they were called online journals then weblogs for a company now defunct called WebLogs. Blog is such a vulgar sounding word, closely related to the sound one makes when they vomit. I’d love to go back to online journals, or even dynamic website, a term I use in my classes on web publishing to explain the difference between a static HTML website and a database driven site.

I’ve fought over naming things and the abusive use of metaphors in the American English language most of my life. My mother had thousands of them at her disposal to make her point.

“Don’t be a bump on a log.” That meant don’t be lazy or just sit there waiting for something to happen.

“Need a kick in the head?” Not sure where that one came from but it usually translated to “you need a kick in the ass” or “please think before opening mouth.”

“I stayed out until the dogs were hung.” When challenged on this one, she didn’t even realize how violent that expression sounded. In fact, it dates back to when England owned much of Europe, building great walled towns. Aggressive dogs were literally “hung” with chains and hooks on wires between in the outer and inner walls at night. You had to be through the gates and into the inner walled and protected areas before the dogs were “hung” on the runs or be left outside the walls unprotected for the night.

While traveling many years ago through the southern United States, a man in Georgia exclaimed to me, “Well, ice cream don’t grow hair!”

I wanted to argue with him, yet when I paused to consider each word, I realized that I couldn’t argue with him. He was right. Ice cream does not influence hair growth in any way, shape, or form. Not sure the origin of such a bizarre commentary which represented awe and wonderment, but it is certainly colorful.

Stormy Day

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First major storm of the winter brings leaves and branches down on road in North Plains, Oregon. Photography by Lorelle VanFossen.

Found out this morning that the husband of a friend of mine had died a few days ago.

I’d battled the blustery rain and wind to this meeting, braced with the first breath of winter in the Pacific Northwest, then stunned by the news. I’ve tried all day not to think about it, but the storm had other plans.

I fought to handle the car in the stiff side winds after the meeting. I dashed through pouring rain into the store to pick up some items for our two Thanksgiving dinners, one for us on the official day, and the holiday party we were throwing a few days later for friends. Leaving the store, the pouring rain had gotten braver and I was drenched through my coat within two minutes as I unloaded the cart and filled the back of the car.

Kalon, our house mate, texted me that the lights were blinking on and off and asked if he could park his new BMW car in the garage as there “branches falling from the sky.” Before starting the car, I replied affirmative and asked him to meet me when I drove in to help unload the groceries.

If I didn’t have a clock in the car, I would have thought it was near sunset. The dark clouds blocked out the sun and the rain took care of the rest. Branches were on the road everywhere, but small and easily ignored. The water alongside the road was threatening to cross the road, but the current swept it downstream.

As I climbed up the foothills towards home, I came to the T in the road near the pallet mill. Water gushed over the drain pipe and onto the road, a gray mass of slit and sludge. I swung wide at the shallowest point and drove through, water spraying outwards, tires whizzing under me.

Thrilled to be past it, but nervous about the onslaught of the storm, my mind flipped to my friend. She’d made a serious life-changing decision a while ago to put her 95 year old husband in a care facility, but it was gut wrenching. A few weeks ago, she’d gotten a call from the facility informing her that her husband was on the way to the hospital as he’d fallen down in his room and had laid there for many hours before anyone found him. He’s injured himself quite badly but had retained consciousness. No one had responded to his cries. In a place like that, sometimes it’s all you an do to ignore the cries, but this was unconscionable.

He’d been repaired and was recovering, last I’d heard. Rehab and some good care and he’d be back to normal, as normal can be with those injuries and that age. She’d spent every minute she could with him, helping him, feeding him, reading long hours to him. Another friend told me that they’d really hoped it would make it through Christmas, but life had another plans.

My heart broke for her and her family, but it also weighed on me as it does when you face morality in others. My father died a few years ago, leaving the family a mess with poor planning and bad behavior by family members. My mother, on her second (or third?) husband, just finished a few weeks in Hawaii to celebrate her 75th birthday in style (and warmth). My step-mother works hard in Arizona caring for her daughter and her children as well as aging neighbors, and she’s not a young thing. Many of my family members are aging, and I wonder what the future holds for them, as well as my old self.

I send a voice text to hubby to warn him to be careful of the water on the road and turn the corner on the street towards home to find small tree branches on the road. I get out and clear them, and drive on, wetter than I was before.

I turn down the long hill of our driveway, thankful to see that it is clear so far of trees. I check the neighbor’s driveway that Ys off from ours for fallen trees and it looks clear. We keep an eye on our older neighbor, helping where we can, but secretly. He is fiercely independent and wants to do it all himself, so we pick up tree branches and keep the driveway clear when he isn’t around.

I turn the corner and there lay a huge tree across our driveway, a couple hundred feet from my door. I texted my husband about the tree and then our house mate to get him to come help me. I grabbed purse and umbrella, finally giving up against the downpour, parked the car and made my way over the tree and towards the house to change into working clothes.

Kalon and I tried to get the chain saw to start while carrying on a third-party conversation via text messages with my husband. He kept insisting he’d come home and deal with the tree, but I was a veteran of the chain saw, so why bother. Unfortunately, we couldn’t get the saw started, so I gave up and told him to come home. He wanted to anyway. A chance to chop up a tree? Are you kidding. I’d hate to spoil his fun and do it myself.

Then I realized how much I still needed him. Sure, I always needed my best friend and husband, but I realized how truly precious he was to me. I always need that reminding.

Don’t we all.

The Future of Teachers and Their Role in the Classroom

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I am taking an online course for online teachers on how to teach online better. I was proud of one of my essay assignments, so here it is.

My maternal grandfather was a teacher, freshly graduated from a “Normal School,” as they called the equivalent of community colleges and teacher colleges then, with his first assignment in the backwood, boondocks of a one-roomed school house in Taylor Rapids, Wisconsin, home to the last of the Wisconsin northern wood loggers. The students had “slates,” hand-held backboards, upon which they wrote their sums and assignments. Paper was precious and expensive, saved for special occasions. Most assignments involved memorization and presentation, and a good brushing before leaving class to get the chalk off hands, faces, and clothing.

From drawing in dirt to chalkboards to computers to mobile devices, education technology has not changed that much, yet there continues to be resistance and concern over what technology is “doing” to us, as it it were a monster sucking the brains out the backs of our skulls. It’s just another glorified chalkboard, a few steps up from writing in the dirt or counting with sticks.

I’ve been working with a few teachers to help them teach with Google Hangouts. I look at these tools as no different from walking into a classroom. Why can’t I use the whiteboard (today’s chalkboard – just as messy) in a Google Hangout and the Screen Sharing feature to make my points online?

Lawrence Ragan’s research article, “The Role of Faculty in Distance Education: The Same But Different,” is designed to make us confront our fears, myths, and break down the barriers that get in our way of using technology, and to be more creative about the choices we make. Once we have identified our barriers, it’s time to get “off the pot,” as my grandfather would say, and embrace new technologies and make them our own.

The Future of Teaching

“There are distinct advantages to teaching online, and, of course, one noticeable disadvantage: in a purely online course, the class participants may never meet.”

I disagree with this statement in Ragan’s article. Breaking down the misconceptions of a life lived online, I tell my students (fans, followers, and clients) that I live on the Internet. It’s a friendly place where everyone knows your name, well, at least the ones who should know your name.

Working online since before 1993, I’ve found that I have more (and better) friends online than I do in person. In person, hair, body type, facial structure, accents, personalities, age, and stereotypical judgements and preconceived notions get in the way. I worked with a young man for 3 years on a variety of projects before I discovered that he was 15. We did great things together, and we continue to do so (he’s now 19), but if I had known, I would have run the other direction, missing out on wonderful adventures and life lessons, and changing people’s lives through our work. I feel that way about many people I meet online, some I would never have met in normal day-to-day life.

The conversations started online in my industry continue without pause when we meet in person, and continue in our virtual world. Done right, the relationships created online can be just as strong as those in person, sometimes more so.

It begins with transparency, authenticity, and authority in my industry. You need to be clear about who you are, your expectations, and your goals. You need to be honest and stick to the truth. People instinctively know whether or not to trust you, online and off, so don’t give them a chance to doubt. You must also have authority, the voice of clarity, reason, and wisdom. Without those three, people don’t care. When they stop caring, they lose interest.

To be more specific, in my keynotes on blogging and social media, people often ask me if they have to respond to every comment on their blogs or social media accounts. I explain, “No, you do not, but you must make people think that you do.”

That’s the hardest part of my art form, and to define in online communication and interactivity methodologies.

What is the Role of Faculty in Online Education?

Teachers that they can’t “wing it” any more. Online classes have to be mapped out specifically and concisely. Gratefully, we at Clark College (Vancouver, Washington) have access to great training programs like this to help us learn how whether we are teaching fully online or publishing educational material and supporting documentation in Moodle or online.

The Quality Matters Program is a way of making teachers accountable for their educational and presentational material. It is a system of checks and balances that set the standards for structuring a quality educational program online. No longer can you just throw out an assignment and some reading material to get the student to do some research and write a paper and call it done. The article on R2D2 is a prime example of how to energize the educational process by involving the students in the process.

How did most of us learn about sex? Certainly not first from our parents or teachers, but from each other. While probably not the best example of positive learning reinforcement and strategies, we likely learned more about sex that would help us in future relations than we did from the scientific and technical (or religious) instruction. I truly believe that students learn best from other students, and with other students. Creating environments for teamwork and collaboration are great, and can happen easily in an online environment, but also push the student to figure it out for themselves. Retention improves when they come up with the answers rather than being told.

I see the future of teachers more as moderators and facilitators rather than educators. Yes, there are still things we can teach, but our role online and in the classroom is to guide. To point the way. To help them, as one teacher in our department explains, roll their own. When they leave our institution, the greatest gift we can give them is to help them learn how to find the answers they are going to encounter in the real working world.

Is the World a Better Place?

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The entire 90 minute commute to work was painful as my body refused to relax and drop my shoulders from above my ears. I tried screaming at the radio, calling them short-sighted idiots, liars, and time-wasters, among the more colorful names I really used, and still tension wracked my body.

It was the day of the election and returns were starting to come in that late afternoon from the East Coast. Mitt Romney was sweeping the south and east. Fear and anger gripped me.

Couldn’t people see that the Romney as governor of Massachusetts was not the Romney running for US president? Couldn’t they see the manipulation, the switching sides to benefit whomever he was talking to rather than staying consistent and steadfast in his true convictions and beliefs. He was once a strong advocate for same sex marriage and abortion, but switched sides as he went after the religious right, an archaic group who still believe the founding fathers were the same Christian believers as they are today. Not true. The founding fathers were Deists. They believed that god did what he set out to do and left us behind to be caretakers. The religious extremists of the United States have rewritten history, including their own, determined that past and future presidents must bow to their will in order to win their votes. And Romney did.
Continue reading

November 2012 The Ballot Box

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The ballot box alongside the road in North Plains, Oregon. Waiting in line to put my ballot in the box.

I wait in line for my turn to vote.

My mind casts back to all the different ways people have voted over thousands of years. By a show of hand. By stub of pencil. By flipping a lever. By punching a hole.

Today, I vote by car.

Well, not really, but it feels like it as I slowly move forward in the line approaching the big metal ballot box outside of the Police Station and Public Library in North Plains, Oregon. Continue reading

Lorelle Writes

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Someone once added up how many articles I write and publish annually. The number shocked me.

1,975.

When I stop and look at my legacy, almost 2,000 articles a year for over ten years – I am humbled and staggered. That is a huge legacy and a lot of words.

Yet, these are all technical articles. They rarely take much creativity or imagination and I’m a fairly imaginative and creative person.

Recently, I decided to follow in the footsteps of my great-uncles who wrote and took creative writing courses for many years, one self-publishing his stories in a couple of books and the other hiding his creative tales with fellow family members until they could be gathered together and shared through my Family History site. I’m starting to attend writing workshops and events, expanding my creativity through the written word.

This site is a collection of those writings and my photography. While I will continue to share my stories on my other sites, this serves only me, not my fans, friends, and family.

I consider this my selfish site. Something I’m doing just for me.

Enjoy.

Election Day 2012

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The following was written from a prompt from the Forest Grove Writer’s Workshop. The assignment was to write about your feelings on the election.

“I’m not going to vote for Shawn Smith or Robert Taylor. They both suck.”

The pile of slick election ads, voter’s pamphlets, and ballots before us on the table, and time running out, I didn’t know what to make of my husband’s response to the position of state representative.

“I’m sick of them both.”

I stared at the tall, slender man I adore sitting across the littered table. A brilliant and over-educated, and thoughtful, engineer, his bearded face did not resemble the patient, tolerant expression I’d grown to love over the years. He resembled a red-faced lunatic at the moment.

“Look at all these. For Smith, against Taylor. For Taylor, against Smith. Taylor is a good guy. Taylor is a bad guy. Smith is a beast. Smith is a saint. I’m sick of all of these.”

He shoved the colorful assortment of glossy artificially created candid moments at me.

He was right. Sheet after sheet. Brochures, flyers, all touting the goodness of one and the evilness of the other. One or two about other candidates, but mostly these two guys battling it out on our dining table.

I thought of the money spent on all the printing, photography, and mailings and thought about how much that would feel the hungry, help put a student through school, or repair a road or two. I thought about how it also made money for graphic artists, photographers, printers, postal workers…but mostly I thought about how much the campaign junk mail infuriated my calm husband.

Is this the way to vote? Not on the merits of someone’s abilities, expertise, and experience but on the quantity of junk mail they generated? Did the candidates approve every one of these, or were these all handled by their campaign managers. Are we actually voting on the quality of campaign managers ability to reach us, or on the validity of the candidate.

When I pause to consider what irritates me most about the never-ending political campaign in the United States, the event that begins the day after the election and continues until the day of, four years later, in spite of the candidates twisting their own words and promises, and the media distorting the truths and the fictions even more, the one thing that irriates me the most about elections is the phone calls.

The calls happen when I’m least ready to race to the phone, dripping wet from the shower, in the middle of cooking, eating, watching a movie, on my other phone with a client, sleeping in after a very late night working…yet, I race to the phone with thoughts of emergencies, family problems, and panic in my heart.

When I hear the recordings or the human beings trying to express enthusiasm for one more call to preach on behave of their wunderkind or issue, I want to scream at them, “I will now NOT votes for your candidate because you called me! I’m on the do not call list!”

I know that the Do Not Call List doesn’t apply to electoral campaigns, and it certainly doesn’t apply to robot-callers and scammers, but I can dream, just as I can dream of a day when my vote might really count.

Today, how do you really make a decision about who to vote for when you really don’t know them? How do you get to know and trust them. Without the media, how would we know. We have to trust the media. As one of the media, I don’t think that’s such a good idea as sometimes I barely trust myself.

Without more information, my husband chose to not vote for either of them. A part of me appreciates that, so I join him, living out the true definition of democracy.