Vol. I, Issue 1 - Mar/Apr 2013
Hey, whatâ€™s the mutter?
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what’s the mutter? In this issue: The Math of Resolution looks at the numbers behind resolutions, and the need to measure progress in hard numbers versus satisfaction or contentment. Page 4
Words and Pictures profiles Jody Magrady, a Chicago-based photographer and teacher whose work explores what happens when elements and nature interact. Page 8
Resolutions can be about exercising your body or exorcising your demons. To read about the Math of Resolution: page 4.
In Not So Mysterious you’ll learn how a plucky teenage detective kicked off a passion for reading for one of our editors. Page 12
Mutterhood meets its readers at the intersection of intelligent and inane, with a healthy dose of WTF thrown in for good measure. Our goal is to leave you with something to mutter about long after you’ve finished reading.
Copyright 2013 Ellen Fowler Hummel, Cathi Kern Borushek and mutterhood.com. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any form without written permission from the copyright holders.
2 — Resolution
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RESOLUTION 1. A formal expression of opinion or intention made, usually after voting, by a formal organization, a legislature, a club or other group. 2. A resolve or determination: to make a firm resolution to do something. 3. The act of resolving or determining upon an action or course of action, method procedure, etc. 4. The mental state or quality of being resolved or resolute: firmness of purpose. 5. The act or process of resolving or separating into constituent or elementary parts. 6. The resulting state. 7. The act, process or capability of distinguishing between two separate but adjacent objects or sources of light or between two nearly equal wavelengths. 8. A solution, accommodation, or settling of a problem, controversy, etc. 9. The progression of a voice part or of the harmony as a whole from a dissonance to a consonance. 10. Reduction to a simpler form; conversion. 11. The reduction or disappearance of a swelling or inflammation without suppuration. 12. The degree of sharpness of a computer-generated image as measured by the number of dots per linear inch in a hardcopy printout or the number of pixels across and down on a display. Courtesy dictionary.com
3 â€” Resolution
- Mar/Apr, 2013 Ellen Fowler Hummel
Math of Resolution
WALKED DOWN THE wood-paneled staircase and into the Weight Watchers meeting at 8:30 a.m. on Labor Day morning, determined to drop 20 pounds before January 1. My logic went something like this: Most people make a new year’s resolution to lose weight, but how cool would it be to wake up on New Year’s Day without having to worry about it? If I could lose weight, then that would free me up to make more meaningful resolutions, like be a better friend, learn a new vocabulary word each day, or get at least eight hours of sleep a night. Maybe start a charity or run a marathon - being thin, the world would be my oyster.
The irony of my first Weight Watchers meeting taking place in a church basement wasn’t lost on me, in fact the person who suggested the program was herself, as she joked to me, a veteran of church basements. While I didn’t get the feeling that the people in line with me bottomed out (no pun intended) in a strictly pharmacological sense, I understood that most of us felt low in ways that for this group were measured in pounds. Our members fit every demographic, some men but mostly women - college age, retired, young mothers, a 40-something man who worked from home, women with kids in high school and college. Given the day and time we were mostly homebased citizens whose vices included frequent trips to the refrigerator and well-concealed potato chip habits.
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I myself was just a scoop of ice cream away from defeat. The regulars said hello to each other and shrugged their shoulSpecific ders when asked how the previous week went. goals only We stood single-file, in work if you’re our socks, waiting to be the kind of called to the scale. Two person who long folding tables displayed Weight Watchers likes that products - measuring sort of thing. spoons and handheld And I’m just counters for tracking not. food points, cookbooks, copies of the official Weight Watchers magazine, and boxes of Weight Watchers brand snacks and smoothie mixes.
The package labels shouted points values and
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serving sizes, the numbers printed in 16-point type and circled in white at the bottom of every box. I picked up the stainless steel food ladle that measured exactly one cup, and right away I knew I was in trouble. While my determination to get healthier was strong, I wasn’t sure this was the right path. “I didn’t know there’d be so much math,” I said to the woman behind me. The math of resolutions is interesting. Each year, the most popular ones include losing weight, exercising more, eating healthier, as well as quitting smoking and saving more money, or giving more to charity. You can measure all of these in exact, minute ways: lose 15 pounds; exercise 35 minutes, seven days a week; run a 5K or a 26.2 mile marathon. If you skip that mid-morning latte one day a week and instead put that $5 into a jar, you’ll have $260 at the end of the year. Think what you could do with the $260 you'd
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save! Do one kind thing for someone each day, and you’ll have 365 good deeds for the year. Who wouldn’t want that in their moral bank account?
precision. When I couldn’t find exact points values in the 10,000-food online database, I guesstimated how much fiber was in 10 Oatmeal Squares and how many total fat grams were in one cup of stir-fried vegetables. Each week I weighed in, and each week I lost nine-tenths of a pound, or 2.1 pounds, or 1.2. I asked the meeting leader why Weight Watchers didn't round up or down and gritted my teeth when I was told "because every little bit and bite counts."
I stepped on the scale and waited to hear my starting weight. As the meeting leader calculated how many points I could eat each week to lose 5 percent of my total weight, then 7 percent, and then told me when I could expect to reach my goal, I read through the starting guide and realized that tracking points would be the bigThe numbers weren’t whole anygest challenge. Specific goals only work if you’re more, and I couldn’t get past it. the kind of person who likes to keep track of thngs. And I’m just not that person.
It was those tenths that would be my undoing.
Resolve to read more? Absolutely. It too ranks high on the list of perennial popular resolutions. Say you decide to read one book a month; that’s 12 books a year, and you can even brag about it in public on GoodReads and a host of other apps and websites for bibliophiles with the same resolve. But if you’re like me, you revel in the ambiguity of a resolution like that. Read more what? People magazine, or maybe Time? Does reading count if it’s done on a monitor or a screen, rather than with a book with real pages or an actual printed newspaper that covers your fingers with ink? What about Twitter, Pinterest and Facebook, do they count? (My answer is no, but yours may differ.) Conventional wisdom says it takes at least 21 days for a new habit to take hold. My Weight Watchers journey lasted a bit longer - 89 days to be exact (not that I was counting). During that time, I measured food and tracked points with
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I sailed through Halloween eating just one bite-sized Butterfinger, and felt great. As Thanksgiving approached we talked about emotional eating triggers and vowed to replace pumpkin pie with two-points-a-serving pumpkin mousse made with pureed pumpkin and Cool Whip Lite. I measured and weighed everything I ate. I drank water, and I hit the gym five days a week. The Monday after Thanksgiving, I weighed in to find out I’d gained .8 pounds. The lovely woman who recorded my weight looked up. “Oohh, it looks like you are up a bit,” she said. “What do you think you could do better this week?” And that was it for me. If she'd told me I’d gained one whole pound I’d have been okay with it. But eight-tenths of a pound? I couldn’t get my head around the unfairness of it. It wasn’t actually even a pound, but I felt like a total failure. The numbers weren’t whole anymore, and I couldn’t get past it. Right then and there I resolved to turn in my Points calculator for a more holistic approach.
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Please understand that I’m not knocking Weight Watchers - it’s a safe, healthy and successful program for millions of people. In my case however I felt like the numbers were cheating, because I sure wasn’t. I had all sorts of conspiracy theories - the scales were rigged to keep you coming back, the low daily points values weren’t realistic for healthy eaters.
of ourselves. Resolve to swim 10 laps twice a week, buy Streetwise once in awhile, or hold the door open for the person behind you. Don’t try to shoulder the entire responsibility yourself, but do what you can. The effort is still there, as is the underlying wish to make a change whether it’s for you or the world at large. That’s what counts.
That’s the other side of a resolution, which is the psychology of it all. Most parents know that to introduce a new food to a picky eater, they need to serve it at least 15 times before the child will take a bite. Ninety percent of alcoholics have at least one relapse within four years of treatment. And be honest: How many of us really hit the gym for 45 minutes six days a week, and do two to three days of strength training, like the fitness experts recommend?
I make a lot of resolutions, the majority of which I don’t keep. Writing this essay is one, so I can cross that off my list. Losing 20 pounds, well, I’m still working on it. Others include reading a book a week, exercising six days a week (50 percent success rate so far) and writing every day (done).
Small steps, people. With most resolutions that’s all we should expect of each other, and
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Most of all, I resolve not to beat myself up
when I look back and honestly evaluate my progress. Numbers don’t lie, but in most cases I believe they are open to interpretation. I’ve never really been that good at math.
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Words & Pictures Mutterhood profiles one writer or photographer in each issue to peek into the creative process and find out what influences and inspires them. Our first artist is photographer:
Describe the type of work you do. I donâ€™t use manipulation in my photography, either in the darkroom or with the computer. When I did darkroom work exclusively, I mostly worked in black and white. Currently the digital work is mostly color. I rarely do portraits, but enjoy doing street photography, which involves making photos in public places, of people one does not know and who often do not know they are being photographed. I am especially attracted to marks, patterns and colors made when elements and nature interact. Most of the projects I am currently working on address this and have fairly abstract elements, while still suggesting a narrative, either fictional or actual.
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What is your background? I am the oldest of five children and was raised in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Minnesota. I’ve lived in cities, suburbs, small towns and on a 180-acre farm. I got my first Brownie camera in third grade and really never stopped making photographs.
❝I am especially attracted to marks, patterns and colors made when elements and nature interact❞
I came to Chicago right out of college (Valparaiso University) and began work at an insurance company, learning Information Systems analysis on the job. As an adult I searched for a creative outlet, but soon learned I preferred being on the viewfinder side of the camera. I got a Canon AE-1 and took leisure classes on how to use it, then night classes at Columbia College Chicago. I eventually earned my MFA in photography from the University of Illinois at Chicago. While there, I began studying photography and was lucky enough to have bosses who supported my studies.
Once I retired from the insurance company, I supported myself doing part-time systems consulting and also began teaching photography at the Evanston Art Center, The Art Center in Highland Park, and eventually at Columbia College Chicago. In 2008 I retired from all
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paying jobs, but continued hanging with my adult ed students, who I then and now consider friends and critics. When I started making photos, everything was darkroom-based and I have a full darkroom at home. Today, I mostly use the digital darkroom: a Canon D-SLR, Adobe photohshop Lightroom 4, Adobe Photoshop CS6, and an Epson printer.
I count myself lucky to have both a computer systems and photography background. Who would have thought the two paths would merge someday?
What does a typical work day look like? I don’t have a typical day, but may have a typical week. If it is winter, I usually work on photos I have already made. If it is warm out, I may go out shooting. (I also plan my vacations around shooting.) If I have a show coming up, I am reviewing, editing, printing, matting and framing. As long as the image can be printed on 13” x 19” paper, I don’t outsource any part of the process. Then there is the concomitant writing: titling work, artist statement, etc. It is sometimes hard to switch
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from the visual to verbal work and back. Like most jobs, my workday is influenced by the highest priority. I do try to have both a short-range and a longrange plan, stay organized and keep from being overwhelmed.
❝As an infant, my mom would put my carriage under trees for listening and looking❞
What is your creative process? I feel I am as much a teacher as an artist. One of my desires has always been to facilitate the creative process in adults through photography. I even wrote about it in my master’s thesis. I hope I can pass on as much as I receive. When I was teaching, I was lucky enough to have two very accomplished Adult Ed groups. Since retiring, I meet with them generally each week, now as peers and friends. I am grateful I have them for mutual critiques, support, encouragement and prodding. My work would not be as strong, nor would I work as hard, without their input. I am still a student, too. I take classes, look at photographs, read books, go to lectures and visit museums
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and galleries just to keep absorbing, learning and thinking. Chicago is a great city for a photography student!
What else inspires you? Any favorite places or books? For peace and serenity, I love being in the woods, especially in the Appalachian Mountains where I grew up. There is nothing more calming to me than the smell of rich earth, with the wind soughing in the high tree branches and the birds providing treble notes. My favorite city? Paris Je t’aime! I bring my heart, my
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❝I’m interested in capturing my feelings about what I see (funny, poignant, heart-soaring) and bringing this back to share with others.❞ camera and my curiosity. I take away inspiration and a soaring happiness from the walks, museums, cathedrals, parks, flea markets and even the creative graffiti. It is a photographer’s dream.
Describe your latest project. One of my lifetime projects is photographing trees. As an infant, my mom would put my carriage under trees for listening and looking, and tree was one of my first words. Several years ago, I had a show at Woman Gallery, called “Soul Tree”. I am also working on two long-term series, which I am going to hold close for a while longer.
If you weren’t taking photos now, what would you like to be doing? I would still be making photographs, but traveling the country in a camper van and volunteering at national parks.
Resolutions, yes or no? Any you’d like to share? Yes! My 2012 resolution was the word generous (with time, friendship, myself, money and treating as much as I can given my fixed income). I feel I did well on that; as I look back, it seems it is integrated now. The year before, my resolution was to give up swearing, unless I stub my toe or am very scared. I allow myself to have one slip a day, note it, and make sure that was it. I don’t swear that much now, I have managed that too.
Jody Magrady is a Chicago-based photographer and teacher. Her creative influences include:
Photographers: Garry Winogrand Lee Friedlander Joe Jachna Holly Roberts Sally Mann Art Sinsabaugh Ralph Gibson Stephen Shore Henri Cartier-Bresson
Visual artists: Photography is visual dialogue. Between the artist’s private and public selves. Between the artist and viewer. Resulting in a dialogue Between the viewer’s public and private selves. Setting up a path for dialogue From the viewer to the artist. To heal the pain of separation. --Jody Magrady
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Annette Messager contemporary French multi-media artist Emily Carr painter June Wayne printmaker & tapestry designer
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NOT SO MYSTERIOUS The first book that changed my life came in a dark green Marshall Field’s bag, left by a customer in the Bridal Department where my mother worked. In those days, anything that came from Marshall Field’s signified something that was sure to be wondrous. She brought it home after a late night shift and well past my bedtime I started reading, struggling to see through the light underneath my door until I fell asleep in its pages. That’s how The Mystery at the Ski Jump by Carolyn Keene, a Nancy Drew book, came my way. Changing my life may seem like an overstatement, but it was the first giant leap I can pinpoint on the road to my lifelong love of books of all kinds. As an adult, I can assign all types of important feminist principles to that night. Here I was, an elementary school girl, being exposed to a take-charge teen who solved mysteries and drove a roadster. Although I wasn’t sure what a roadster was, her life sounded glamorous and I wanted in. She was her own gal, with great friends and a dreamy boyfriend. That book sparked a need to know more and I devoured the Nancy Drew books, then moved on to biographies of great American women. Annie Sullivan saved Helen Keller! Dolly Madison saved George Washington’s portrait! Nancy Drew saved everyone! “I could do anything,” I thought as I read while walking to school and by the streetlight late at night and in the park on the swings and under the table at family gatherings. What I couldn’t have seen at the time was that although my empowerment was sparked by a teen detective and informed by those heroic women, it was really shaped by the person who brought me that first book. Here was a mother, not more than a girl herself, with four kids and few resources. Never one to pity herself, she worked most nights and weekends in that Bridal Department, helping starryeyed girls find the perfect mix of satin and tulle in which to start their married life. In her spare time she was the chief cook and bottle washer, transportation captain, homework checker, cheerleader, patcher-upper and nurturer that made all of us want to be better. Carolyn Keene, the author of the Nancy Drew books, was really an assortment of women who wrote Nancy’s adventures under a collective nom de plume. This group created Nancy, helping to determine who she was, her values, her spirit and where she was going in life, all without fanfare and acknowledgement. This collective of strong women made her who she is today. And really, isn’t that how we all got here?
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mutterhood magazine and mutterhood. com are wholly owned by: Ellen Fowler Hummel and Cathi Kern Borushek. All rights reserved.
Credits: Photos accompanying the Words & Pictures article - Jody Magrady. The Math of Resolution - Ellen Fowler Hummel Not So Mysterious - Cathi Kern Borushek Remaining photos - Cathi Kern Borushek
Next Issue: Trek
13 â€” Resolution