My first name is Erika. Not Erica. Not Ericka. My last name is Hammerschmidt, which has thirteen letters, including five consonants in a row. People still find it easier to spell than my first name.
In college I majored in German and Spanish. I also accidentally minored in art, just by taking so many art classes for the fun of it. I grow my own vegetables. I cut my own hair, but even when a professional barber cuts it, it still sticks out on one side and in on the other. I’m an author, artist and speaker living in Minnesota. I work at Target as well as giving speeches on autism and writing books. I am married to a space alien named John Ricker, who, like me, is on the autism spectrum.
Below you will find my latest news. Add me to your bookmarks! I’m always up to something.
Sirius the starling has shed a bunch of feathers on the side of his beak… they started to grow in again, but then they were gone. The other side of his beak hasn’t done it.
I’m not sure if this is a normal part of the spring molt or not. He hasn’t done the full spring change, any of the years since we got him (his beak has never turned yellow) but something is different this year.
John recently made friends with the owners of Andrea Pizza, which just opened a new branch in Dinkytown, near where he goes to school. (Seriously, this is a great pizza place! GIANT pizzas for very good prices, with tasty sauce and a crust that is chewy and satisfying in just the right way. Go to http://www.andreampls.com/locations and check it out if you’re in the area.)
They needed art for their walls, so John and I donated a bunch of our paintings and photos! Here are some pics of what’s up so far (once they get more hooks they’ll hang the rest).
We’re thinking of making a habit of creating art to donate to restaurants. We’ve got a lot of canvases and paint that we haven’t used yet, and painting is fun, and sharing our art with local businesses can only be good publicity.
If you know a restaurant or other business that needs art on the walls, let us know! It may be a while before we have anything new to donate, but we will eventually.
All we ask is that they keep our pictures up for customers to see, give customers our contact info if they ask about the art, and, if the restaurant closes or they can’t keep the art for some reason, donate it to some other business that could benefit from it.
Hey, remember when I posted about buying bugs from Arbico Organics?
Well, they found that post, and liked it so much they sent me some more treats for Sirius, to say thank you! Another bag of dried flies, and a little canister of dried fly pupae (“Cocoon Capers”) which he was delighted to try!
Look at him eat those little things. He’s adorable and soooo happy.
I can only reiterate: Arbico Organics is a great company!
After about ten years at Target, I have moved on to a new pharmacy tech job at Merwin LTC.
I had gotten to work in the Target pharmacy for a couple years, starting as an inventory specialist and eventually becoming certified as a technician. I really enjoyed it, and was very sad when downsizing and system upgrades eliminated my pharmacy job and I was moved back into the stockroom.
After a few weeks of this, Greg, a former coworker of mine from the pharmacy, started posting on Facebook about his new job at Merwin, and how great it was, and how they were looking for new techs.
So… I decided to give it a try, and sent them a résumé listing Greg as a reference. I got an interview, which ended in a job offer, and next thing I knew I was learning to be a pharmacy tech again.
It’s closer to home than my former workplace, and on better roads for bicycling, though not on any very good bus routes. I’ll be riding my bike most of the time.
Actually in the winter I’ll be riding a trike, for stability in the snow. My parents are lending me one. Someday I hope to have one of my own, preferably with a fairing, and a narrow enough wheel base to fit easily through my door. This one is a bit of a hassle to get in and out, but we’ve figured out a pretty good system for it.
So far I really really like the new job! I’m picking up the work pretty fast, and the time goes by fast because there’s always something to do.
And the people seem really nice. The day before Halloween a lot of people came in wearing costumes, and there was pizza, cookies, ice cold soft drinks, and candy for everyone. It’s a very friendly and happy environment.
I’m hoping to learn about the super-cool prescription filling robot soon.
Recently I got inspired and wrote out the text of a children’s book, with descriptions of the illustrations I want to draw.
It’s about dragons and fairies and wizards.
It’s also about definitions.
It’s also about learning to see how amazing things are, even if they’re common and you’ve gotten used to them.
I don’t know if I’m good enough at drawing to do the illustrations justice. I want them to be really gorgeous and magical. I might end up commissioning someone else to do them, except I don’t have money, so I might have to wait until I do, or find someone who’s willing to draw them in exchange for getting a percentage of any revenue from the book.
Here is one of my current fantasies, which I’m writing down mostly so I’ll be able to remember every detail of it years from now, if the time ever actually comes when I can put it into action.
Basically, John is hoping that someday he can get a comfortably-paying job that lets him work from home, and in the fields he’s studying, that’s somewhat a possibility. And we may soon be in a position to put a lot of money in savings (if we can sell the condo before another dismal housing market crash happens…) Anyway, we have a dream about what we’ll do if we, somehow, manage to become totally financially stable.
It involves buying a piece of not-very-developed land, not too far outside a city somewhere, and setting it up with wind and solar power, and a fair chunk of space to grow our own food… living somewhat off the grid.
And we would make part of it into some sort of attraction for local people. We got the idea from this awesome hobby-farm/petting-zoo/mini-golf-course near Minneapolis:
http://bigstoneminigolf.com/ (warning: horrendous flash site, with embedded music and everything. But great place to go in person.)
John and I have somewhat different dreams after that point. John wants to have a horse. I’m fine with pretty much anything as long as we can have wind and solar power AND a Monolithic Dome Home. I am praying that Monolithic is still in business by the time we can afford one, because these ultra-energy-efficient, ultra-long-lasting, friggin-tornado-proof miracles are an absolute object of worship for me.
Anyway, the following is what I fantasized about today. I thought of it because of our amazing pet, Sirius the Starling:
…and how, even though he is a totally ordinary bird by ecological standards, one of the most common, overpopulated pest species on our continent, visitors to our home STILL act as if they are witnessing some amazing zoological wonder whenever they get to see him and hold him.
Granted, he IS pretty awesome. He can sing. And talk.
And play the piano.
So the feeling is somewhat justified.
But anyway, I was thinking about how even a common bird, or other small animal, can be a kind of wondrous and fascinating thing, to people who aren’t used to seeing any animal besides a dog or cat up close.
And I got the idea for the Bird Garden.
I want to have two Monolithic Domes.
One, we will live in.
The other will be a shelter for “pest birds,” the invasive bird species that aren’t protected by law, that most states allow people to kill, capture, and keep as pets, but that wildlife shelters often won’t take.
Common starlings. House sparrows. Rock pigeons. If you find one orphaned or injured, bring it to us. If you must have a nest of them removed from your property, give us the babies instead of destroying them.
We won’t breed them or release them. (We couldn’t, anyway. Most birds raised by humans consider themselves humans, and don’t even want to fly away and live as birds, or mate with their own kind.) They will live out their lives in the Bird Dome, an educational and entertaining attraction.
It will have a tiled floor, several big windows (with shutters in case of bad storms) and plant-friendly electric lighting as well. It will be FULL of potted plants. Everything from flowers and vegetables to trees, as long as they’re bird-safe. And statues and sculptures and fountains. It will be like an enchanted fairyland.
Except the fairies will be birds.
There will be plenty of hiding places for them in case they want to be alone, but if they want company (probably human company, since they’ll be mostly human-raised and human-imprinted) I will spend virtually all my time in there. If I can’t, I will hire people to spend time with them when I can’t be there.
And whoever is there looking after them, will also get to be a tour guide. People from the city who want the experience of being surrounded by tame birds, they can come visit any time, for a tiny entry fee and hand-stamp that lets them stay all day.
They can buy baskets of food to let the birds eat out of their hands. They can peruse my gift shop where I’ll sell all the random crafts I make, as well as any bird-related stuff I can think of. They leave with warm feelings in their hearts, and lots of newly-learned facts about birds that I will have shoved into their heads.
And maybe we’ll have other animals living in the Bird Garden as well… rats? guinea pigs? lizards? Anything that’s fairly easy to care for, fairly friendly, and not very capable of harming a human. I’d have to figure it out. (The Big Stone petting-zoo/mini-golf-course has goats and horses and stuff, and I wonder how they do it without too many instances of customers getting bitten or kicked and suing them. I’m gonna inundate them with emails of praise and advice-seeking, if I can brave their awful website.)
So, that’s my fantasy. I know it will cost money and might never make money, and it would be lots of work, and there would be legal things as well as logistical things I’d have to figure out. But, for the moment, I’m finding it incredibly fun to dream about.