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1  Re: Ongoing ATC Swap -- July 2018 Gallery! in The Swap Gallery by Patraw on: Today at 07:49:42 AM
My third card arrived on Friday, July 20th. Hawaiian Mountains and Clouds selected my "Paper Dolls" theme. I could be wrong, but I think this may be the first mail that I've ever gotten from that island state in my life! The ATC came nestled inside of this arctic envelope, decorated with a polar bear motif (I blurred out our addresses for privacy purposes, and I always go to great lengths not to reveal my real name, so, keep it a secret, okay?) Rainbow Dash says that polar bears are indigenous to Hawaii--everypony knows that!

Affixed to the envelope, was one of those new "scratch & sniff" stamps, which actually work pretty well. Very fruity aroma--kind of banana-bubble-gummy to my nose. These conjure up memories of the scratch & sniff stickers I used to sometimes get as a kid, often as rewards in elementary school. I still find old scratch & sniff children's books in thrift stores from time-to-time (Strawberry Shortcake in particular), but, as those are usually from the '80s or 90s, the scents on those pages are always long expired, so scratching them yields nothing but fingernail marks on the paper.

As for the ATC itself, Mountains and Clouds made me a jointed ballerina paper doll! She noted that she created this card design several years ago. The ballerina's azure outfit and pulled-up blonde hair remind me strongly of Disney's take on Cinderella. The blue background also gives me the impression that she's dancing underwater. The ballerina has eight points of articulation; she moves at the shoulders, elbows, hips, and knees.

The back of the card has some colorful cloud, fish, and mountain stamps on it too, which are a fun visual spin on Mountain and Clouds' Craftster title (I blurred out her real name and e-mail address for privacy purposes.)

Here's a quick animated GIF I whipped up of the ballerina doing some dancing (and maybe a little farting--she's counting on that scratch & sniff stamp to conceal everything) so you can get an idea of the range of motion that she's capable of. Rainbow Dash feels that it's probably not terribly safe to prance around on your tippy-toes, eyes squeezed shut, when there's also a giant rectangular piece of drywall glued to your back, but what does she know? This is art!

The "manly" part of me would like to deny that I have any interest in ballet or ballerinas, but since I've accumulated numerous ballerina collectibles, even a super "girly" video game (Imagine: Ballet Star), over the last several years, that's obviously a lie, so, I might as well just embrace it.

I'm only exaggerating slightly when I say that I can find a book on almost any subject if I dig through my piles long enough!

2006 Barbie: 12 Dancing Princesses Interactive Princess Genevieve (African American version). This was a relatively expensive electronic ballerina doll that originally came with three sensors that girls could attach to both wrists and one foot to "dance along" with animatronic Genevieve (which "only" required a staggering 10 batteries, across five separate compartments, to accomplish--yikes!)

Much cheaper 2013 McDonald's Kristyn Farraday (African American version) and Odette (both characters are, of course, really Barbie) from Barbie in the Pink Shoes, another ballet-themed animated film.

Thank you very much for my little dancing diva, Mountains and Clouds!

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2  Re: 2018 Ongoing ATC Swap Discussion Thread in New Swap Theme Ideas by Patraw on: July 18, 2018 02:16:38 PM
Aye, that book is pretty amazing, and there are like 3-4 other books of the artist's creations available too!

NEVER put your ATCs between two copies of Entertainment Weekly, sandwiched between dozens of heavy hardcover books, to dry.  My cards stuck to the magazine and the colors from the Maybelline ad transferred to the front of my cards when I peeled them off (i.e., the white marks on the woman's chin and eye).  Fortunately, I was able to color/paint over those marks and salvage my three ATCs.  Then, because I studiously ignore all lessons that life tries to teach me, I dried the re-sealed cards again, this time between two lined sheets of notebook paper, and, you guessed it, the red/blue lines transferred onto my cards too and I had to fix them again.  In the past, I've always put blank white paper (to absorb moisture from the drying glue) around my cards before placing them between the books, and never had any problems, so, were I a wise person, I would have just continued to do that and saved myself a lot of work and grief, but, I am not a wise man.
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3  Re: 2018 Ongoing ATC Swap Discussion Thread in New Swap Theme Ideas by Patraw on: July 16, 2018 07:22:07 AM
I probably am going to do She-ra for Sonja Boo (I'm working on it, just verrrrrrrrrrrrry slowly), but, I found and bought this picture book on Saturday, thinking of her "anthropomorphic fruits/vegetables" theme.  There's some pretty cool photos in here and they're all done completely with real fruits/veggies (the eyes are black-eyed peas).

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4  Re: 2018 Ongoing ATC Swap Discussion Thread in New Swap Theme Ideas by Patraw on: July 13, 2018 12:39:56 PM
I don't know if this is one of the themes that I'll do for Curiousfae or not yet, but I found and bought this at a book sale yesterday afternoon, so, I now have plenty of photographic reference material to work from for that particular theme if I do decide to go that route!

I bought like 70-80 books altogether, my lower back is not happy with me!  Grin

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5  Re: Ongoing ATC Swap -- July 2018 Gallery! in The Swap Gallery by Patraw on: July 13, 2018 10:48:24 AM
My first swapped ATC of the month, from Blupaisan,  arrived on Thursday, July 12th. The pale yellow envelope had one of those new, heat-sensitive total solar eclipse stamps on it, which was pretty cool, as that's the first one of those that I've ever gotten on any of my incoming mail to date. It reminds of the similar "rub signs" that vintage Transformers and Battle Beasts toys used to have on them.

Blupaisan chose my "Don Martin Style" theme. Don Martin is one of my favorite comic strip artists of all time and, along with Spy vs. Spy, his work was always my favorite part of vintage MAD magazine. Don's artistic style is instantly recognizable, and probably the most notable thing he did with the human anatomy was that he almost always put an extra bend midway down people's feet where none should exist. While I didn't have the time or ambition to dig it out of storage, I have a feature in an old issue of either Mad or Cracked magazine where they did "plastic surgery improvements" on various comic strip characters, and Don's got "foot straightening" (the Simpsons got eyeball reductions, Andy Capp had his hat surgically removed, Garfield had lipsuction, etc.)

 Before we move on to the contents of the envelope itself, Blupaisan did an extra illustration of a Don Martin-esque mailman delivering a letter on the front of the envelope. Unfortunately, the "Shook Shook Shook" sound effects got partially covered by the printed bar code, but, it's awesome nonetheless!

Inside of the larger envelope was this smaller one, containing the ATC, and addressed to a Mrs. Grace Gustofson in Jamestown, New York, which is pretty far from Michigan. It's stamped February 13, 1939 too, and my time machine is on the fritz (Rainbow Dash "accidentally" poured a slushee into the plutonium reactor--I don't want to talk about it), so, I don't know how I'll ever pass it along to her! And, oh, how I wish postage stamps still only cost 2 cents . . .

The ATC itself depicts a smug, Martin-esque politician who apparently can't even be bothered to pick up infants himself for baby-kissing photo opportunities. Since he has his eyes closed, if I was there, I'd be sorely tempted to plant something other than a baby in his open palm to see if he'd blindly kiss it, sight unseen! Some dog poo perhaps? Blupaisan did a great job of capturing a Don Martin character's typical body proportions and expressive features here and the background looks nice as well.

Speaking of which, while Blupaisan didn't tell me what it was, I got the "Fonebone 2020" reference because Jeff Smith's Bone is another comic series that I've read in the past and loved.

For comparison purposes, here's a sample of one of Don Martin's strips, scanned from my copy of The MAD Gross Book. They often had bizarre and humorous twists like this.

As an extra, Blupaisan also included this sheet of paper with several handwritten diary(?) entries on it, that I presume are for the benefit of Mrs. Gustafson, which talk about several sorority meetings (but, given that they're dated 1916, and the envelope is 1939, somebody sure took their sweet time sending them!) Women won't ever let me join their sororities, and I can't for the life of me figure out why--it's like they're discriminating against me for some painfully obvious reason, but whatever could it be?

While it takes place much earlier in time, Blupaisan's letter reminded me of a book I recently read, Rachel's Journal by Marissa Moss. It's about a pioneer girl, and her family, moving out West to California, and is done in a diary format. The most memorable part of this volume to me was when the families were passing through a desert and the girls found an abandoned doll in the sand and wondered what had happened to the girl that had owned it, and whether or not one of the many graves that they'd seen along the trail was hers--that made me incredibly sad. I'd never read an account of the trip out West from a girl/woman's perspective before, so, that was interesting and educational. For example, I never knew that women used to sew small rocks into the hems of their dresses to weigh them down and keep the skirts from blowing up and revealing their legs when it was windy (and which also resulted in bruised shins from them bouncing against their legs when they walked, and I also imagine that extra weight would be very bad if you got swept away in a river).

 I've started keeping a (digital) diary in recent months, but, mostly all I write about are the results of my doctor appointments, unusual happenings, and the weird dreams that I sometimes have.

Thank you for your ATC take on a Don Martin comic strip, Blupaisan, and I also appreciate that your envelope illustration helped shook it to me a little faster!


Curiousfae's envelope came on the same day as Blupaisan's, but I don't remember which one I opened first! Well, "B" comes before "C" in the alphabet, so, that's the order I'm covering them here.

 Inside of the envelope, the ATC came taped inside of this textured card--the pattern looks like dragon scales to me!

Curiousfae chose to combine two of my themes, Betty & Veronica and Don Martin style, so, I got a double dose of Mr. Martin fun in the mail yesterday. And just think, I wasn't too confident that anybody would even be interested in that theme! I feel that Curiousfae did a really great job of adapting those two young ladies into Don's style and she made sure to include one of his crazy sound effects too. They're probably banging their heads together rushing to see who can do something first for Archie . . .

Here's another of Don's cartoons for comparison, this time his spin on Rapunzel. That must be some aromatic hair (although I suppose having your armpits tugged on might be slightly less uncomfortable than your head, as I imagine that would distribute the climber's weight more evenly--it'd still hurt something awful though!) I've always noticed that Mr. Martin didn't draw women very often for some reason; most of his strips focus on males. When women are present, it's generally only because the joke requires a wife, girlfriend, etc. to make it work. Make of that what you will.

And this is a page from one of my many Archie digests. In the unlikely event that you've never heard of Betty & Veronica, Betty is the blonde who's the kind, wholesome girl-next-door, while Veronica is the raven-haired lass that's a conceited, spoiled, rich Daddy's girl (while she can be pretty vain and mean, Veronica generally does do the right thing when it really matters). They're both in love with, and always competing for, the affections of Archie Andrews. But, Archie really doesn't treat Betty all that well in my opinion. He bends over backwards to do anything for Veronica while Betty is generally relegated to being his "Plan B" girl when Veronica is busy or just doesn't want anything to do with him. Betty really deserves better than Archie and hopefully someday she'll get it.

Curiousfae also sent me a fun extra: a Fortune Teller Miracle Fish! I've read about these and seen them on TV before, but never owned one until now. All you have to do is place the thin translucent plastic fish on the palm of one of your hands and then, observing how it reacts to your body heat, you look at the chart on the back of the envelope to see what that means. Between this, and the miniature Ouija Board that she made for me back in April of 2016, I think that Curiousfae is trying to tell me that I should quit my day job and take up a career predicting the unknown!

The detail on the fish didn't scan too well, so, the writing on its' side reads, "Place the Fish in palm of the hand. The movements will indicate your fortune. Keep fish in envelope when not in use."

I tried the fish several times, in my left palm, and all of the attempts resulted in both the head and tail bending or the entire fish curling up, so, I guess that means I must be madly in love.

Curiousfae, thank you very much for your unique take on my favorite feminine duo and the magical love fish (Rainbow Dash almost-kind-of-sort-of promises not to mistake it for a gummy Swedish Fish and devour it)!

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6  Molly in More Art, Less Craft: Completed Works by Patraw on: July 10, 2018 12:40:02 PM

(No. 2 pencil, ink, and permanent marker--I messed up the fingers/hand holding the dog's head something terrible!)

Meet Molly Rae Hakkarinen (pronounced "Hack-ah-rye-nen"; I believe it's Finnish, many European immigrants, particularly Finns, Italians, and Swedes, came to my area of Michigan to work the iron and copper mines generations ago, thus, lots of people here have last names like that). Molly was one of my childhood classmates, but she's been dead for almost a quarter of a century now. About half-past-midnight, early on Friday, August 19th, 1994, she was out walking with another young woman when the pair decided to try crossing US Highway 41. Molly never made it to the other side. Donald Ranta, a 59-year-old man, hit her with his car, near the National Ski Hall of Fame, claiming that he didn't see her because she was wearing dark clothing (I wasn't there, but I've been down that stretch of highway many times in my life, so, I know that it's pretty well lit at night, and, I'm obviously prejudiced in her favor, so, you'll have to forgive me if I'm inclined to sympathize with the dead girl). Molly was badly injured by the impact, in critical condition, and, despite everyone's best efforts to save her life, she died two days later at the hospital on August 21st. Molly had only been fifteen for a little over a month. Today is also her birthday; she would have been thirty-nine this year.

If you have children, never feel foolish for warning them to watch out for traffic, no matter how old they get--tragedy is never more than a single step away.

After all this time, I'm not sure why I still care so much, but I do. Beyond seeing each other in the hallways, at recess, etc., Molly and I barely knew each other. I didn't have the hots for her or anything like that. The one time I can even remember her speaking to me, she was quite cruel. And yet, I couldn't even type this up without tears and snot running down my face. All I really know about Molly's interests in life are that she was a member of the local chapter of the Salvation Army, loved Dalmation dogs (although she never had one) and enjoyed the music of the bands Poison, Slaughter, and Skid Row.

This is Molly's last school year book photograph (top left), from 1994, when we were both freshmen--she didn't even live long enough to begin her sophomore year in September. Even so, I also looked at the 1995 year book, and it upset me that I couldn't find any dedication or mention of Molly whatsoever, like she never even existed, which is just wrong. When we were in elementary school, an entire family perished (mother, father, and young children) when their house burned down, as a result of leaving Christmas candles lit and unattended when they went to bed (please, never do that), and I distinctly remember that the next school year book was dedicated to their memory, so, I don't know who dropped the ball in 1995. Molly deserved better than that.

And this is Molly's oldest sister's (Brandi) senior yearbook photo, from the same volume, just so you can get an idea of what Molly might have looked like, sans glasses, had she lived three more years and become an adult:

On a lighter note, I'll also share with you my "picture" from that same 1994 year book, which, like Molly, also happens to be my final "appearance" in those annual tomes. To put it bluntly, I was a troublesome chronic truant (I only lasted about two weeks at my original high school, and, if you added up all of the time that I was physically there during those two weeks, it probably wouldn't have even totalled a single full day). If I'm not going to attend class, I'm sure as hell not going to show up to get my picture taken, right? In fact, my last memory of Molly is from the previous year, in eighth grade; I simply wasn't around often enough to even encounter her, or many of my other classmates, in ninth.

I should have this page blown up and framed. My younger brother once told me, "You used to play hooky from school, and, now, you play hooky from life.", which I'm afraid is a very accurate description of me indeed! In all honesty, the school should have just omitted me altogether, rather than messing up the page layout like that. I don't recall ever going fishing whilst I was ditching school, but, if I did, I hope I caught a big one!

All right, that's enough year book reunion nonsense.

On Friday, May 25th, I made the trip to visit Molly's grave for the first time in years. I'd thought of going to see her again many times, but, for one reason or another, I always put it off. Sadly, it looked like no one had been there to care for her marker for quite some time as her gravestone was pretty well colonized by lichens. I pass by that cemetery several times every year and, if I really care about her so much, I could have very easily made the short detour to see that Molly's final resting place was being kept tidy, right? Well, long story short, over two days, I spent a couple of hours cleaning it up, and, from now on, I'm going to make sure that Molly's grave doesn't fall into disrepair again.

Maintaining Molly's gravestone is the least I can do for her. Here's Molly's marker after I cleared off the lichen, carefully dug out all of the gunk that had filled up much of the carved lettering, and removed the dead leaves and other debris. I contemplated getting new flowers to replace these old synthetic ones, but then I reasoned that might be disrespectful to both Molly and her family, as they could have some special significance. It's not easy to make out in my photos, but, the bottom-most text reads, "She Gave The Gift of Life" and the animal in the right corner is her favorite, a Dalmation dog.

As anyone who really knows me can probably guess, I was delighted to find a doll on Molly's grave. This is a McDonald's Bratz Sasha from 2003, but Molly died before Bratz even existed (they debuted in 2001), so, it couldn't have possibly been hers. There's a chunk broken off the front of her sunhat, Sasha's hair has seen better days, and the color is wearing off her bellbottoms, but, all-in-all, considering that she's likely been exposed to the elements for a considerable amount of time, Sasha is in relatively decent shape. And, if you're wondering, no, I didn't take the doll--I'd never steal anything from anyone's grave, and most certainly never Molly's.

And then there's this cute plush Minnie Mouse. Like Sasha, she's probably been keeping silent vigil over Molly for years, as she's pretty sun-faded and moldy. Minnie's tag has been cut off (as parents often do), so, I can't tell you the plush toy's date or manufacturer, but, it doesn't really matter much in her case, because Minnie Mouse was around long before Molly or I were ever born anyway, so, unlike Sasha, Minnie is a character that Molly would have been familiar with. Besides, without the tag, even if it isn't true, I can still pretend that this particular Minnie Mouse did belong to Molly and maybe she even had it since she was a little girl (that said, Molly's cousin told me that Minnie and Sasha were most likely gifts from Molly's nieces or nephews).

My City annually warns us residents to remove objects like these from graves during the fall, before the snow flies, but, given their weathered condition, no one has disturbed this pair in some time. You'd have to be pretty heartless to take toys off a dead teenage girl's grave and throw them away. I sure couldn't do it. I get weepy just looking at Minnie.

When I returned on Monday, May 28th, Memorial Day morning, to finish cleaning Molly's grave, I suddenly spotted something beneath the flowers and dead leaves that I had missed on my previous visit: a Dalmation figurine wearing a fireman's hat and with a bucket stuck on its left front paw! On the bottom was written "To Molly" and "Bro" (Molly had two sisters and two brothers, but, as he didn't give his name, I don't know whether this was a gift from Shawn or Andrew). Investigating in the leaf litter further, I uncovered another two hidden firedog figurines, one with a firehose and the other with a fire extinguisher and wearing a fireman's coat. The pup with the hose was blank, but the other had a message on its bottom like the first one I found; however, it was too dirty and faded for me to make out what it said. I tried washing it, but I was unable to make it any clearer, so, I'll probably never know what it said, although the most logical explanation is that it's from the other brother. The dog with the firehose also had some structural damage; there are a couple of holes broken into the resin, revealing the hollow interior. I cleaned the trio off as best as I could with water and then lined them up together in front of the gravestone's left side, since Sasha and Minnie already had the right. Between the three canine figurines, and the Dalmation carved into the gravestone itself, Molly's favorite dog breed is very well represented!

Rooting around further, I didn't discover any other surprises (other than some lively spiders), so, I believe that I successfully found everything that Molly's family had decorated her grave with. While I was going to finish cleaning up her stone regardless, I'm really glad that I came back and found those three puppies as that told me a little more about Molly and her family's love for her.

And, yes, since today is her birthday, I went back to the cemetery to visit Molly again early this morning, before the heat got too unbearable. I promised her that I would, and under no circumstances can you ever break a promise to a dead girl. I didn't bring my camera, but Molly's grave was still looking good (summer sun and rain have doubtlessly helped), so, other than disposing of a rogue scrap of synthetic flower fabric, I didn't have to do anything but get comfortable and talk--Molly is a great listener, but she never answers. I don't believe in ghosts, but a part of me still hopes that Molly's shade will someday prove me wrong and make an appearance (even if she only does it to tell me that I'm an idiot).

Over the years, Molly Hakkarinen has become a defense/coping mechanism for me. Whenever I'm feeling sorry for myself, I'm reminded that I've gotten to live "x" number of years that she didn't and seen/experienced many things that Molly never got the chance to and that I should be grateful for it. From that perspective, most of life's difficulties are trivial and complaining about anything is like spitting in Molly's face. It doesn't matter how serious my gripes are, because Molly's death trumps anything I could ever bring to the table (and even if I died too, she could still put me in my place by asserting that she's been dead longer, so, I still wouldn't win). When things are really bad, sometimes I even wish that I could have died in her place, but, of course, one can't make deals of that sort, and certainly not after the fact.

I understand that Molly's story is finished and has been for some time, but, on another level, I still don't accept that and I never will. Molly shouldn't be lying in a coffin six feet under the ground at the local cemetery, she should be working in a career that she enjoys, raising children of her own, or just pursuing her dreams, but, thanks to an inattentive driver and, perhaps, some poor judgement on her part, Molly is gone forever and there's nothing that I or anyone else can ever do about it.

Molly died before the internet really took off, so, until publishing this today, there really wasn't much to be found online about her (almost all of the data that you see here I had to research in person at two local libraries and the cemetery, but I also got a bit of information about Molly communicating with her cousin). Aside from thinking about her a lot, the main reason I wanted to do this was that I feel that there should be some kind of electronic memorial to her existence for other people to see/find. I hope that she's never far from her surviving family members thoughts, and I would like to believe that our other classmates think of her from time-to-time as well.

I have never forgotten you, Molly, and I never will. Even if you stop mattering to everyone else, you will always matter to me.

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7  Re: 2018 Ongoing ATC Swap Discussion Thread in New Swap Theme Ideas by Patraw on: July 07, 2018 08:17:05 AM
Thank you, blu, and I wish you luck with your illness as well (speaking of which, Lyme Disease was one of the things I considered might be wrong with me too at first, as I do get bitten by ticks now-and-then, and there is some overlap in symptoms with MS).

I'll probably get some ATC'ing done this weekend, particularly on Sunday, which is almost always the slowest day of the week for me.  I picked "TBD" to keep my options open, but SonjaBoo's She-ra/He-man theme will likely prove to be too much of a temptation for me to resist . . .  Grin 

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8  Re: Sylvie in More Art, Less Craft: Completed Works by Patraw on: July 07, 2018 07:28:52 AM
Thanks everyone!

For comparison, here's a photo of the real Sylvie:

@curiousfae:  I agree that Sylvie is a pretty name and that it would be a great choice for a little girl (if I had a daughter, I'd be partial to the name Astrid).  Because I've always got toys on the brain, Sylvie makes me think of Sylvanian Families.

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9  Sylvie in More Art, Less Craft: Completed Works by Patraw on: July 06, 2018 08:38:41 AM
This is a transgender woman I know that's a member on another online forum I belong to and goes by the name of Sylvie.  She saw the drawings I did of the young woman I used to go to school with and asked me if I'd do a portrait of her, so, I figured, why not?  I did this last night before I hit the sack with No. 2 pencil, ink, and permanent marker.

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10  Re: 2018 Ongoing ATC Swap Discussion Thread in New Swap Theme Ideas by Patraw on: July 05, 2018 11:19:04 AM
I'm throwing my hat in the ring this month as well (just sent in my questionnaire).  Ive been in a drawing mood lately.  I considered joining in May or June too, but, I've had more pressing matters to deal with.

Things . . . aren't going so well for me.  Last Wednesday, my neurologist diagnosed me with Multiple Sclerosis (an  incurable autoimmune disease in which your body decides that it's going to be fun to attack, and wreck, the nerve cells in your brain and spinal cord).  It turns out that getting kicked in the head by a pegasus, for years, isn't very good for your health . . . who knew?

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I'm doing better than I was, and I feel more-or-less okay right now (other than some sporadic, but persistent, double vision), however, that's likely going to change when I start doing regular injections to suppress my immune system (in the hopes of reducing the severity of the damage that my central nervous system is going to suffer over time).  Women are twice as likely to develop Multiple Sclerosis as men are, so, this is what being too in touch with my feminine side gets me (I kid, there are many theories, but, no one is really sure what causes MS).

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