Art Rack


Getting my creative on. I bought this patterned board at our local Gardner’s Market from talented textile designer and artist Holly Zollinger. It was in my office at the University and has been homeless since I left teaching. The hooks are from our old house in Wellsville. I stripped about a million layers of paint off of them and have carried them around for ten years. The two have finally come together and the bath has a new towel rack.

Italy Vase


Monday. It ended up being a good one. I worked out and on the way home quickly stopped by a thrift store and found this awesome colorful geometric ceramic. It is stamped Italy 727/18 on the bottom. I thought that made it pretty special. I then grabbed some loose stem flowers from the florist and one of Chase’s darling high school friends selected some bright buds to freshen the atmosphere around here. Uncle Tom came by and we scanned sheets of WWII stamps and photos of my grandfather Nathaniel Thomas Toole (such a good name) from his training days in the army, before he was killed in the war. This hanging out with family and friends and discovering unknown stories is becoming quite the habit. Tomorrow I’m going to visit a student who lives in an old Victorian in town previously occupied by polygamists to see the “secret tunnels”


The boys have left the nest… sort of. I’m not adjusting too well, but there are some shifts in the scenery around here. Their teenage haven party room boy grossness decor is being decimated. It was a good run while it lasted but now the graffiti is painted over, except for a few favorites, and a bright color luscious studio slash guest suite is emerging. I’m executing this on a fairly non-existent budget and so I have hunted and gathered a beat up brass bed and giant hand loomed rug from the antique store to freshen up the joint. I’m adding pink to the palette. As a mother of sons this is a first. I bought some Eames chair and other mid-century designer letterpressed cards from the Kirkland Museum in Denver a few weeks back and trimmed them up to fit in some gaudy shiny frames. I am pleased by the contrast, the disjointed oldness and newness thrown together, color and form the constant that holds it together. Hmmm… sounds like this free flying family of mine.

Things are a changing around here.

Super What?

Super Bowl XLVII was more than a week ago. I know the number because it corresponds with my age. I was thirty-two when I attended Super Bowl XXXII and thirty-five when I attended Super Bowl XXXV. I came into possession of tickets to the big game because my dad was an NFL official and he called the action on the gridiron… twice. Years ago I wrote a poem for him for Christmas. It began:


Have you seen the men

who man the field, and hurl flags of gold?

With nerves of steel,

dare penalize Montana, Boomer and Bo.


I also made him a Nativity that I called “Joe and the Three Wise Refs” Joseph was number 16, Mary a cheerleader, baby Jesus a football, and yes the trio of astute observers all signaled touchdown.


Hello, my name is DeAnn Olsen and I am a football fan.


The Green Bay Packers and the Denver Broncos matched up in 1998 in San Diego. My sisters and I did the Macarena with a cardboard cutout of Terry Bradshaw while wearing cheese heads. I rode in the elevator at the hotel with Magic Johnson. I wanted to let him know that I was there in 1979 in SLC when he won the championship, but I just stared. I just stared at Jewel, who sang the National Anthem that year, not believing she was an actual celebrity because she was wearing pants and not a gown. I just stared at Gayle Sayers, a leading character of the viewed once a year, tear-inducing flic, “Brian’s Song.” I thought I had arrived. I was a walking billboard for collecting NFL paraphernalia. T-shirt, jacket, hat, pins, pendant, stickers, flags. Hell, we even came home with true to scale embossed solid chocolate football centerpieces from the après events.

But, on the way to the game, we noticed, amid the brightly branded attendees making their way to Qualcomm Stadium a barefoot savior-looking fellow, head bowed, holding a sign quietly questioning the superness of the Super Bowl. What?


Super What?


Greed, Fear, & Pain.


Imagine the hilarity. The laughter broke out. When John Elway was hit so hard that he went spinning around like a helicopter I high-fived my comrades and a chorus of “Question your Obsession with Violence” was sarcastically shouted.


This year the San Fransisco Forty-Niners and the Baltimore Ravens matched up in New Orleans. Before the game started the Sandy Hook Elementary Choir, those that survived the bloody massacre, entered the arena and sang a heartfelt, “God Bless America” along with Jennifer Hudson, a superstar herself, left singing singly after her family was shot down one quiet evening. Then Ray Lewis takes to the field, his signature dance performed to the roar of the masses,* his twisted Christian glory given to God. This man may have murdered two. His plea-bargain settlement swan-song played out on the biggest stage in sports. A sport that leaves blank spaces of magnificent trauma etched in grown mens’ brains because they are hit too hard and too often. A sport that for all its brilliance and strategy and even beauty, is proving to be an expedited yellow-brick road to a premature demise.


I just stared at the television. The announcers spewing their soulless spittle, meaningless statistics, and acting easily entertained by the sound of their own voices, laughing at their own jokes. Then the lights went out. I thought this surely has dwindled into dystopian American society playing out in a “Hunger Games” extravaganza. We certainly celebrate our survivors of violence. “Dodge the bullet” become a star. Out wit, out deceive, out manipulate your neighbor become a star with a bank account. What about the thrivers and thinkers, the creators and caretakers? The day-to-day doers? Where do they fit into what is becoming an almost literal battle to the death?


Ravens won. It was close… next year the same confetti will fall on the winner and the MVP will head to Disneyland. Same old. Same old. I’ll probably still bring out my commemorative seat cushions, and blood diamond pendant, and critique the advertising that for all its millions of production costs will be forgotten a few days later. Its uncanny the staying power of one silent sign carried by a barefoot activist with head bowed, but I think it’s time to, “Question your obsession with violence.”

*the video linked to above is of the welcome home in the Raven’s stadium. I find it disturbing… the flames and fireworks, the hero worship, and mostly the song accompanying it.

Better Late than Never, That’s How it Works around Here

We are already 10 days into 2013. A year ago I left for Australia on this date. How I ache when I recall the fantastic memories from that trip. This year I am fighting a cold in the freezing cold in inverted air that is more polluted than Beijing. Seriously, we are down right cold and dirty. I haven’t driven anywhere in three days, it hurts me to breathe outside. The frozen pollution particulates feel like sandpaper scrubbing my throat. Before Christmas, before the air got turned inside out, we took a family adventure to Cozumel. That is the fifth time in two years that I have been there. The first for the boys. And I’m not kidding that we had to beg to get them to go. What young adult turns their parents down for an all expense paid trip to the Mayan Riviera? Apparently my children. I tell you, the way I thought I was going to be as a mother and how my family is turning out is nothing like I imagined. But once we arrived they were incredibly grateful and enjoyed themselves. Chase passed his Nitrox course. Land found the skatepark. The diving together was great until one day Land took a stroll down the beach to take photos and was bit quite severely by a stray dog. In Mexico. Aribe. We had to trust the doctor that there is no incidence of rabies on the island. He had to load up on antibiotics and ibuprofen. He gathered major sympathy from the other young adults who were vacationing with the parents. And so he just rested and partied and whatever while the rest of us dove. It is always something. We made it back to Utah and drove to my dad’s on Christmas Eve. We stayed up quite late and slept in and prepared ourselves a delicious Christmas brunch. It was glorious and sunny. Overall a good holiday. We are trying to back away from extreme gift-giving… we’ve been extremely guilty of that in the past. This year I found Chase a rare book and a bargain down jacket. Land was gifted a bargain wool peacoat and I found film and a battery for his 1968 Polaroid Land Camera. Yeah I was a hit. Double digits was all I spent on their holiday outlay. (oops, that doesn’t include the beach week) Well, happy New Year. I’m still trying to understand all the features of this new blog format. Big ideas at the beginning of the year. Baby steps, baby steps.

It’s Not Always Black & White

2013 is finally here. Hooray. So many things I would like to accomplish in the fresh start months. I am beginning, yet again, a new blog. I wanted to set it up myself. Learn some basic coding or at least attempt to figure out the jargon. I kept waiting for it to be done before I went online. But alas, there is no there, there. And so it will evolve and change as I uncover new meanings and techniques. I call it do-ology. A play on my initials and the act of doing, and the connectedness of ecology. I’ve always thought is was clever. Years ago I constructed and sold these little paint tables for toddlers – the pseudo company was called do-ology and I guess it stuck… or is growing or evolving or at the least moving in some direction. I have been exploring computers and art. Experimenting with video-making (attempts are valiant, but not brilliant) and illustrating in Illustrator, and photographing in Photoshop. I wanted to create a colorful “logo” for the blog header. I put that bird on it, a magpie to be precise. Made me laugh and remember Portlandia “put a bird on it.” But the stubborn shadowy magpie kept insisting to stay. My sisters and dad and I usually are keenly aware of the presence of birds and how we feel my mother’s energy is expressed to us here in the physical world through those flying wonders. Throughout the spring and summer the magpies clung to my yard. I observed their haughty behavior. I relished the sun glimmers of navy and green. I discovered they are not just black and white. I began to look forward to seeing them. Their stark contrasting coloring reminded me of football teams and band suits, and mascots. The loudness and chaos of the game. I have one of my mother’s Super Bowl sweatshirts, bold and bright like that. Although, she was elegant and stylish she did have a casual uniform consisting of football jumpers. I think of my mother when I see magpies. Strange I know, but what are you going to do. She was persistent and beautiful and always there to pick up the scraps and pieces that I left in my growing up jet stream. I wrote about the magpies last summer:

Deep black and snow-washed white, definitive, not a touch of grey garnishes my hollow bones. I am contradiction. I’m indifferent to the black and white terms you define me. Light reflects iridescent green and blue, sky and tree, from my darkened secret-society feathers. My voice is a caw, caw, caustic song. Shudder inducing. Magpie is my name. I have no innate need to demonstrate my delicate, or not so, ways of wind walking. I’ll leave that for hummingbird or hawk as they navigate the swell skies gathering the approval of you earth bound dwellers. I’m content to hop and caw and peck and water-bath fluff my feathers while the show-offs dance the sky. And as they perform I’ll forage food, pick at ticks left groping on dead carcasses and chase away the beautiful posers. I’ll sort your greasy garbage and flit-fly the territory of your yard terrain unconcerned with timetables or acceptable definitions of bird flight. I am magpie. Definitive Contradiction.

Changes are plenty with the coming of 2013. What are you hopeful to implement in the New Year? I want to be more mindful and remember it is not all black and white.