I am a Rube Goldberg device.

Quote from A. A. Milne (Christopher Robin to Winnie the Pooh) Part of my book Just Be.

In my search for a new way to pay the bills, I have found myself applying for some very interesting positions and in some very interesting ways.  The most recent application asked “In 150 characters or fewer, tell us what makes you unique. Try to be creative and say something that will catch our eye!”  Here is what I wrote:

“Info enters my brain in the usual way. I then I twist, knot, bend, cut, spindle, fold, & even mutilate it to create art, education, magic, & beauty.”

Boom! 149 characters.

But this got me to thinking about all the things I am and even some that I am not.  In society, all of us are so often defined by aspects of our life that are really meaningless in the grander scheme, yet we think are so incredibly important to our individual identity.  For example, think about being a new kid at school.  One of the first questions I was always asked was “What’s your nationality?” Maybe this was a function of the time or maybe where I lived, but this particular question was a real kicker for me as I was adopted as an infant.  Back in 1967, most adoptions were closed, meaning there was little to no information given about the birth parents.  However, the one piece of information that my folks were given was my nationality.  So when asked, I had an answer. Interestingly, I would blend this information with that of my family so it would come out something like, “I am Pennsylvania Dutch and Swedish, but my family is Swedish and Norwegian.”  Now I just say, “I am lily-white northern European.”  Adds a real touch of class, don’t you think?

I have to admit to being out of touch with what kids ask now, but if nationality is not the question, then I’m sure  another has taken its place.  Why?  Because when I was asked about my nationality, I was really being asked, “Who are you?”  In some ways it’s the equivalent of asking another adult, “So, what do you do?”   But what are we really? Who are we at heart?  I am not from Sweden, I am not Pennsylvania Dutch.   I am not really lily-white northern European.  I am a great American mutt.

But I am more than that. We are more than that. We are so many things that when you put them all in a blender and hit the frappe button, you create something amazing, something truly delicious.  Here is my recipe for me:

  • I am a woman. One that loves to work on the plumbing, doesn’t wear make-up, has really short hair, thinks high heels are not for me, could exist if I never wear a dress again, sweats easily, blushes even easier, and cries when passionate, but not when really angry.
  • I am a daughter, friend, wife, sister, sister-in-law, aunt, niece, granddaughter, cousin, former co-worker, and casual acquaintance.
  • I am a writer, artist, crafter, designer, do-it-yourselfer, seamstress, teacher, blogger, creator of weird things, collector or weirder things, and admitted fan-girl. (Although, I have to say that the fan-girl status is a new one.  Is 47 too old to start? Let’s talk Supernatural another day.)
  • I am a narcoleptic – although this might be more of something I have than who I am. But when you can fall asleep in front of a drum line during full practice, it might be who you are.
  • I am weird, eccentric, bizarre, unique, unusual, strange, odd, quirky, one-of-a-kind, and peculiar – and proud to be each one.
  • I am a risk -taker, a devisor of cunning plans and harebrained schemes. (I am also a frequent visitor to the emergency room – that often being the outcome of a harebrained scheme.)
  • I am not quite right in the head.  But someone needs to be that for others – why not me.
  • I am afraid, anxious, fearful, panicky, slightly depressed, and strong enough to overcome each – with a little help from my friends.
  • I am usually late (but very rarely for dinner – ba dum bum.)
  • I am a care-taker of furry animals.  One of them is currently curled up asleep in the sleeve of my sweatshirt, and I happen to be wearing it at the same time (the sweatshirt, not the animal – shame on you for thinking that.)  I am also a keeper of plants and fish.
  • I am occasionally stupid, too talkative, insensitive, self-centered, egocentric, short-sighted, and idiotic. But come on, who among us isn’t at some time or another?
  • I am organized and disorganized, clean and messy, cluttered and… hmm… well… extremely cluttered – all at the same time.
  • I am beautiful, happy, smiley, genuine, friendly, caring, kind, thoughtful, loving, remarkable, amazing, and incredibly imperfect.

Just a quick side note here, I have multiple tattoos, each one with great meaning to me.  However, the most important, (and by far the most painful to get) are the ones on my feet.  On the inside of my left foot, below the ankle bone, is the word “Beautiful”. This is to remind me that yes, I am, in fact, beautiful. On the right foot is “Imperfect”.  This is to remind me that it is okay to be imperfect and to stop beating myself up over my total inability to be perfect.  I’ll let you know when that one works.

  • I am a dreamer of big and small dreams alike.
  • I am me.

I has taken me a long time to find the “me” in all of the chaos that resides in one person.  I certainly don’t think I have found the final me.  I don’t think you can ever find the true “me” because it is always a work in progress.  But I am slowly beginning to accept that the current me is an unique person. But then we all are unique.  Each and every one of us is a single original work of art –  not to be repeated – not to be underestimated.  You are as unique as I.   And while we all need to feel that we belong – that we fit, match, blend, mesh, or meld – we also need to know that there is something about us that makes each stand out, that we are different, and that our characteristics are those others will admire.

I thank my birth parents all those years ago, for having the foresight to tell me my parents about my biological heritage.  Once, it might have been what defined me, maybe not.  But on the path to finding our own unique “me”, we have to start somewhere.  Just so long as you remember that the search never ends.

Tomorrow, I will find a new me.  Right now I feel like a Rube Goldberg device – an extremely complicated machine with many moving parts, a lot of them goofy and probably silly, and over-designed to do one simple thing  – take the next step – whatever it may be.

“Info enters my brain in the usual way. I then I twist, knot, bend, cut, spindle, fold, & even mutilate it to create art, education, magic, & beauty.”

I think I captured what makes me unique pretty well in 150 characters or less.  It’s kind of a cool exercise.  I recommend you try it and can’t wait to see what you come up with.  Post your unique description in the comments.  Celebrate what makes you… well, you.

Ready, set, go!

Why are their eggshells on my windowsill?

Leave a trail. From my book "Just Be."

Over the years Mike has asked me many variations of the same question. “Ange, why are there…?  The beginning is usually the same, but the ending varies greatly.  Recently he asked, “Ange, why are there egg shells sitting on the windowsill?”  The answer is simple (and seems obvious to me).  I had an idea I could make paint bombs with them.  See, once I say it, it seems obvious.  Right?  Wait… It doesn’t?

Okay – here’s the skinny on egg shell paint bombs:  you carefully cut off a small part of one end of an egg and then dump the guts into your pan, pot, or whatever you mean to use it for.  Then you rinse the shell and set it on the windowsill to dry out.  (Now you see why they were on the windowsill – obvious right?) Once they are dry and you have enough, you fill them with water base temper paint, go outside, and have an egg shell bomb paint fight.  Tada!

Here’s another one: “Ange, why is there a really big box of busted light bulbs and a huge mound of dirt sitting on the dining room table?”  Now, I know you can figure this one out… no?  They are perfect for making terrariums.  Take out the guts of the bulb, add dirt, a few semi-aquatic plants, and voila! Instant terrarium.

I have an innate need to find the perfect use for each item I see.  I collect both ordinary and unusual items thinking that they must have a purpose that hasn’t yet become obvious.  A box of shells, a shelf of bottles, a basket of rocks, a wine carafe of marbles, small bowls, a light up weeble-wobble (I think this one could become a Minion), a slinky, silly putty that changes color in UV light, clamps of all sizes, small boxes, small bottles, broken colored glass, and on and on and on.  Each one gathered with a thought that somehow it will become the perfect thing to finish that project.  My co-workers used to say that I have a Master’s Degree in using ordinary items in extraordinary ways.   Unfortunately, this also means I have a house cluttered with all the little bits and bobs that I haven’t yet found that perfect use for, but I just know I will.

Life is like this too. I have recently found myself a victim of “reorganization” (which is a fancy way of saying they walked my entire department out of the building), and I find myself looking at the bits and bobs of my life.  I wanted to be in fish and wildlife management; I have an English degree; I taught special education; I camp; I waited tables; I made custom clothing and costumes; I  take in abandoned animals; I altered wedding gowns; I am an artist;  I managed, wrote, taught, learned, stretched, grew, fell, climbed, and stumbled my way to where I am now.  And I am proud of who I am.  I am beautiful and I am imperfect.  But somehow these pieces (and the nine hundred and eighty-seven others) will fit together to make something new.  It too will be beautiful. And it too will be imperfect. Some pieces will have to be discarded and some modified to fit just right.   And I will stutter, and stammer, and be afraid.  But I will also fly, and soar, and find the perfect use for that one thing in my life that I didn’t think was important, but I kept – just in case.

Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Don’t go where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.”

Scary?  Yes.  Can I do it?  I have no idea – yet.  Somewhere in the odds and ends of who I am is the perfect combination items needed to build that new project – me.  I just have to figure out which windowsill they are sitting on.