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May I Brag about My Brother?

sibling rivalry turned pride

My brother won an award, and I feel like bragging about it. This is a big deal.

The award is a big deal, sure. It consists of recognition for teamwork – and a designated parking space – at the hospital where he works.

But the biggest deal about the deal is that I’m genuinely happy for my brother – and not jealous at all.

Anyone who grew up in a house peppered with sibling rivalry, heady competition, and racing to see who could do what first might know how absolutely glorious it feels to actually be happy – instead of jealous – when a sibling does something cool.

Sibling Rivalry

I’m not sure when our sibling rivalry began, but I’m guessing it was the day my younger brother was born. I don’t recall being pushed aside for my new baby brother, but I do recall thinking I was the queen of the world. That meant anything that had the potential to take attention away from me could be cause for alarm, whether the potential was actually realized or not.

While you might expect rivalry from a batch of sisters like the Kardashians, where they’re all competing for fame, fortune, and the biggest butt, it’s not something you would necessarily expect from me and my brother.

That’s because we:

  • Are four years apart
  • Have totally different interests, dreams, goals, styles. He kayaks. I paddle board. He paints saints. I paint skeletons, dogs and spiders.
  • Are pretty much on opposite sides of the personality scale (aside from our matching sarcasm and wit)
  • Are fans of different football teams
  • Took totally different paths in life, with totally different results. He went to college and medial school immediately after high school and eventually became a surgeon. I hopped on a Greyhound bus bound for New York City and eventually realized my dream of making a living through writing, art and creation.

Despite our massive differences, I still felt the need to compete. I wanted to be the first to call Mom on her birthday, send Dad a Father’s Day card, book my plane ticket for a family visit, or get dibs on the last corner piece of deep-dish Buddy’s pizza.

Competition seemed to always be part of our relationship, at least in my head. This competition sometimes reared up mightily enough for me to turn into underlying envy. I’d look at everything my brother had, which included many things I didn’t, and want to use some of that sarcasm on him.

When I heard about this latest award, however, my heart didn’t harden with jealousy. It opened with love.

What the Heck Happened?

I can pinpoint several factors that are likely to have contributed to this glorious change of heart. They include:

  • Keeping a daily gratitude list for the past year, which makes me grateful for what I have instead of what I think I lack
  • Realizing there is enough God, love, money, fun, and everything else in the world to go around for everyone to enjoy, reassuring me that I won’t get less if someone else gets more
  • Being part of a supportive community that actually cheers for people to succeed rather than secretly hoping they’ll fail
  • Stopping the dang comparisons. Someone will always be smarter, younger, richer or have fewer dental fillings – but only I can be me.

No doubt I’ll be keeping up the above practices. The daily gratitude list comes with illustrations, has spawned several art projects, and consistently obliterates negativity. The realization that there’s enough of everything for everyone helps me revel in abundance.

Supportive communities that actually cheer you on are like getting a big hug every time you’re in their presence. And stopping the comparisons helps ensure we’ll enjoy the unique person we were born to be.

Not only that, but I can merrily brag about my brother and his award, instead of groveling and wondering why I didn’t win one. I can be happy for who he is, what he does, and that he’s my award-winning brother. But that still doesn’t mean I’ll ever give up dibs on the last corner piece of Buddy’s pizza.

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Top 10 Books as Gifts for Curious Tastes

best book gifts

Books make a fast and fabulous gift for folks with curious tastes, but not just any book will do. You don’t want your book gift to end up on the big, dusty pile of reading material everyone one day intends to read by never does. Nope. You want a book that’s super special for the recipient. It needs to be a book that stands out, stirs the mind, and gets read so frequently it starts developing those dog-ear things. Here come 10 of them now.

Full Disclosure: Five of the 1o books are mine.

For Folks who Have a Thing about Rats

Yes, rats. Whether your pals love ’em or hate ’em, friends are sure to get a kick out of ’em with this illustrated rat dictionary. Rats Incredible features a slew of words that contain the word “rat,” along with black and white rynski illustrations depicting the definitions.

Two editions of Rats Incredible are floating around and, although both are out of print, you can still buy a copy of the second edition on the ryndustries website.

For Yoga (and Skeleton) Enthusiasts

Bony Yoga is suited for yoga enthusiasts of all ages, as well as for those who dig skeletons (not literally). This real-life yoga guide provides descriptions of 84 yoga poses, each featuring a cartoon skeleton performing the pose to the best of his or her ability. Note: The skeletons are pretty durn good!

This happy book has been gifted to yoga instructors, as well as used in classrooms and as bedtime reading for kids. One elementary school teacher sent me email attachments of the kids’ art projects, which featured skeletons doing yoga. How cool is that?

For Medieval Torture Device Fans

Whether you’ve always wondered what the heck a Pear of Anguish is, or you simply wanted a better look at the Iron Maiden, you’ll get it with Infernal Device: Machinery of Torture and Execution. This short and scintillating book gives you realistic, full-color renderings of some of the most excruciating torture devices ever created.

My beau gifted me with this one early in our relationship. That’s how I knew he was a keeper.

For Grim Fairy Tale Fans

Many fairy tales these days are lame. Everyone always la-de-dahs around and then lives happily ever after. Not only does the happily-ever-after ending make a story cliché, but it doesn’t serve to teach kids any lessons. The Boy with Moldy Cheese Pizza Under His Bed teaches a grave lesson indeed.

Enjoy a short and not-so-sweet illustrated story of what happens to kids who don’t clean up after themselves. Warning: This story is not for those spineless kids who cry if they don’t get a trophy every time they breathe.

For Grimm Fairy Tale Fans

If one little fable about the dangers of being a slob isn’t enough, go for an entire collection of the best fairy tales from the best fable authors ever. The Brothers Grimm were where it’s at for creating scary fables with horrible ending that taught magnificent lessons.

Since I don’t have a Grimm collection on hand to recommend, I’m going with the one published as part of Tolkien’s Bookshelf series. (Yes, Mr. Lord of the Rings himself enjoyed Grimm influences.) The book is Tolkien’s Bookshelf #10 Grimms’ Fairy Tales – Illustrated.

I selected this version in the hopes that the endings are true to the original stories before they were Disney-ified. Also like the idea of the stories being accompanied by old-timey illustrations rather than big, bubbly colorful cartoons.

 For Urban Legend Lovers

From alligators in the sewers to Kentucky Fried rats, urban legends leave you laughing, thinking and making sure your sewer grates are secure. I have The Big Book of Urban Legends, but I see it’s since been updated it to The Colossal Book of Urban Legends. Surely you can’t go wrong with either one.

Loads of lucrative legends are accompanied by even more loads of lovely illustrations. Super book for mining tales you can share at your next dinner party (unless, of course, you’re serving Kentucky Fried Rat). 

 For Big Dreamers

A dream dictionary wins hands down here, but not just any ole dream dictionary. Years of use have made me particularly fond of Cloud Nine: A Dreamer’s Dictionary for its variety of entries and interpretations. The explanations are thorough without being overwhelming. And it even includes kooky things like termites and bogs.

Sure, you can try to interpret your dreams with stuff you find online, but having a master reference book lets you scribble those handy notes in the margins. That way you can keep track of recurring themes, significant symbols, and continue to look things up when the internet inevitably crashes.

For Meditation Mavens

Those who meditate are going to adore this book, while those who don’t meditate might just start after absorbing all the beauty that comes pouring out of it. The book’s title is Offerings: Buddhist Wisdom for Every Day, and I received it as a gift from my mom several years back. (I see a mini version is now on the market, although I have no experience with the mini.)

With striking photos and even more striking words of wisdom, this hefty hardcover gives you 365 insightful tidbits on which to meditate. It’s gorgeous enough to keep the page open to your daily thought, propping it on the kitchen counter, coffee table, or mildly scratched podium you picked up for a song at an estate sale. 

For Folks Frazzled by Jerks

Whether it’s a coworker, neighbor or group lunch attendee, jerks tend to pop up in various areas throughout our lives. Give your pal a keen way to deal with them with the Little Book of Big Jerks.

This full-color illustrated guide not only outlines 12 of the most notorious jerk types we run across regularly, but it also gives you 12 handy solutions for dealing with them without losing your cool (or your mind).

For Fans of Fast, Hearty Laughs

Traditional bucket lists can be so bland, not to mention unattainable. C’mon, are you really going to climb Mount Everest? When you review all those ridiculously difficult goals, you can end up feeling like a total failure. Not to fear, the fix is here in the form of The Septic Bucket List.

Rather than outlining a list of things to do before you die, this full-color, illustrated book gives you a rundown of things NOT to do before you die. These things are easily attainable, can be achieved from the comfort of your own home, and are pretty dang hilarious.

Still stumped for a gift book? Don’t be. Dive into more info on Rynski books and we bet you’ll find your own keeper!

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What to do with Old Greeting Cards

art therapy

Greeting cards are glorious, but they end up presenting a dilemma. Once you’ve enjoyed their sentiments and displayed them long enough to gather dust, what the heck do you do with them?

  • Throwing them in the recycle bin feels rude.
  • Throwing them in a little box in the closet works for a while, until the little box becomes a big box and the closet becomes the garage.
  • Keeping them up for display too long transforms the dust they gathered into corrosion. It also confuses house guests when they see a birthday card sent to you in May that’s still on display come October.

There must be another option. There is.

Make a Greeting Card Collage

The greeting card collage idea came to me when our art therapy group was assigned the topic of
SPIRIT – and mom had just so happened to have sent me a box of my baby and childhood greeting cards she found while cleaning out her basement.

The two worlds merged beautifully.

Childhood cards worked for the SPIRIT topic for several reasons (as you have to explain to the doc who heads the art group):

  • They were given in the SPIRIT of love.
  • They portray the SPIRIT of family.
  • Baby cards are especially a propos, as babies are new SPIRITS fresh out of heaven.
  • Most of the folks who had given the cards were now dead, and thus SPIRITS themselves.

Pretty good, eh?

greeting card collage

Tips for Making a Greeting Card Collage

Gather your supplies:

  • Canvas or some type of foundation
  • Mod Podge or other quality collage glue
  • Paint brush to apply the glue
  • Scissors to cut out portions of cards that catch your eye (like the freakish 1970s illustrations of baby faces)
  • Gaggle of greeting cards

Set the Theme

You can certainly make a hodgepodge Mod Podge collage with snippets of cards pasted randomly all over the canvas. Or you can pick a theme, as I did.

My overall theme was an angel (more SPIRIT). I cut the card snippets to look like feathers in the wings and picked particularly striking sentiments to serve as the angel’s face and body.

The face contains childhood writing from my brother in a smeary green marker. I cut it into a skull shape to add an edgy feel to the angel. The body features a funny card sentiment, again from my bro. It’s a pithy phrase about how having a sister is fabulous, especially if you can’t have a hamster.

Start Cutting and Pasting

The rest of the process is pretty straightforward. Set aside time to go through each card, snipping out sentiments that are near and dear, make you laugh, contain freakish 1970s illustrations or otherwise catch your eye.

WARNING: Do NOT attempt to go through old childhood memories on a weekday before work in case you’re overcome with emotions as I was.

Paste your greeting card snippets on the canvas, give the final product a finishing coat of Mod Podge, and then prop the whole thing on your séance table or couch back so it can sit around for months and gather dust.

Yep. My project backfired for a spell. Instead of having greeting cards on display gathering dust, I now had a whole greeting card collage on display gathering dust. Don’t fret. I found a permanent home where it’s now nestled nicely. A place where I aim to dust frequently.


Like the collage idea? Get inspired by other rynski art.

greeting card collage
Greeting card collage detail from right wing.
greeting card collage
Greeting card collage detail from left wing.
greeting card collage
Greeting card collage freaky 1970s face.


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Cranky Today? This May be Why

jiminy crankball cause of crankiness

You know those days. You wake up annoyed and cranky, ready to drop-kick anything that gets in your way. What the heck is going on? There’s a good chance you’ve been invaded by the Jiminy Crankball.

What’s the Jiminy Crankball?

The Jiminy Crankball is a small, fuzzy invasive species that makes people cranky. He usually crawls in through the left ear, first infiltrating the brain and then moving throughout the rest of the body.

How You Get It

The Crankball species is especially adept at pinpointing weaknesses and certain circumstances that are basically begging for members to invade. These include lack of sleep, being hungry, or getting a $290 parking ticket in Phoenix.

Any annoyance that disrupts your normal routine can invite the Crankballl, as can stepping in cat puke and listening to bad house music.

Oh yeah, you may as well set up lawn chairs for the Crankballs during the monthly womanly thing. That’s when they come around in swarms.

How You Get Rid of It

The only way to eradicate the Crankball is to address and resolve the weakness that let him enter in the first place. Get some sleep. Eat some treats. Deal with the parking ticket. Get back into your normal routine. Clean up the cat puke. Shut down that godawful music. Take a hot bath and a nap.

What Else You Need to Know

Crankballs are highly tenacious, breed quickly, and are extremely contagious. Let them fester in your body for days on end, and you’ll end up surrounded by people who are equally as cranky as you are. It’s like going to work when you have the flu only to infect the whole office.

If you’re not sure of the exact weak point that let the Crankball in, try extra sleep or a healthy meal anyway. You can also talk to others about your crankiness. Crankballs prefer to live just under the skin in the dark. When they’re subjected to attention, laughter or light, they tend to rapidly flee.

Need more helpful hints for dealing with difficult things? Check out the rynski guide for dealing with jerks.

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How to Instantly Lose $290 at the Local First AZ Fall Fest

beware of things that bite

This is an open letter to Local First Arizona after 19 of the Arizona businesses that attended the Fall Fest each ended up with $290 parking tickets after parking in a dirt lot as instructed by Local First AZ.

The violation? Parking on Non-Dust-Free Lot or Area. 

Talk about having a teed-off, 117-mile ride back to Phoenix that evening!

Please Note: The headings were not part of the letter sent, but added to make it easier to read.

Here Comes the Letter

Hi Thomas,

I am one of the 19 Local First Arizona vendors who received a $290 parking ticket from the City of Phoenix after parking in the lot at 1102 N. Third Street as specifically instructed by Local First representatives. As you know, this ticket was issued on Nov. 4, 2017, to a number of vendors attending the Arizona Fall Festival.

The ticket was accompanied by a note from your organization instructing me NOT to pay the ticket and to instead request a hearing.

Since the note stated that Local First AZ would help us businesses fight the ticket, I am confident your organization will indeed provide assistance since this fiasco is in no way the fault of the vendors who were following your precise parking instructions.

Double Woe for Tucsonans

Because I run my writing and art business out of my Tucson home and making the 4-hour round-trip drive to Phoenix would result in loss of full day’s loss of wages, the assistance I require includes:

  • Requesting a court hearing on my behalf
  • Showing up for the hearing on my behalf as a representative as I cannot sacrifice yet another day to drive to Phoenix and back
  • Successfully fighting the ticket at the hearing, explaining how Local First AZ is responsible for the parking violation since the group instructor vendors to park in the aforementioned lot
  • Payment of the $290 fine by Local First AZ if the hearing is not successful on behalf of the vendors

Triple Woe for One-Woman Show

I am a small, single-person operation. Attending the fair required a lot of time, effort, energy, resources and money. While the overall experience was satisfactory, that satisfaction was quickly annihilated upon finding a $290 ticket jammed beneath my windshield wiper after the event.

While Local First AZ is an organization aimed at helping local Arizona businesses, this parking ticket fiasco hurts them dearly. I do hope your organization steps forward to correct the problem on behalf of the handful of local businesses that were merely following your instructions.

All the Blah Blah Enclosures

Attached please find a copy of my vehicle registration and the parking ticket. I am NOT mailing back a request for a hearing, as the ticket indicates this action should be taken ONLY by registered vehicle owners who can show up in court (or risk a default judgement being taken against them).

For Local First to request a court hearing on behalf of the registered owner of the vehicle, the ticket says to:

  • Call 602-262-6785, press 3, then 2

Please confirm you’ve received this letter and that the actions outlined are part of the Local First strategy for helping the businesses to which you’ve promised assistance.

Thank you,

Ryn Gargulinski | Ryndustries

Booth W40: Books, Art and Wheels

local first az fall fest
Rynski at the fall fest in happier times before the $290 parking ticket