Julenisse 2022

Meps’ 2022 Julenisse

Jeg præsenterermin tredje åreligJulenisse! (presenting my third annual Christmas-elf)

Having completed 18 months of Danish lessons, I continue to learn about the havoc these small barn creatures have wrought on Nordic families for hundreds of years.

His digital mischief this time may not impact you directly, but it illustrates the far-reaching effects of tiny, unseen elves that inhabit your house, computer, and cell phone. Whether it’s mismatched socks, a trip to the emergency room, or the failure of your favorite social media platform, we know who is to blame.

If you can, print this page and then take a pair of scissors and cut him out. Fold the tab back and tuck it under a book on your bookshelf or a candlestick on the mantel. He’ll sit with his legs dangling over the edge and no need for tape.

Don’t forget to leave out a bowl of porridge or plate of cookies for the Nisser on Christmas Eve! These tiny evildoers must be appeased every year.

Julenisse 2021

Julenisse 2021, ©2021 Margaret Meps Schulte, all rights reserved.
Meps’ 2021 Julenisse

The onset of the pandemic last year inspired my unorthodox illustration of a Nisse, the mischievous elf of Danish folklore. Families of yore were expected to set out a bowl of porridge to appease these little barn creatures on Christmas Eve. Otherwise, the elves would wreak havoc on the household the following year.

This year, I’m continuing the tradition with a new commentary on current events, featuring our mischievous friend.

Please print out this page, then take a pair of scissors and spend a few minutes cutting out your Julenisse (Christmas elf). Fold the tab back and tuck it under a book on your bookshelf or a candlestick on the mantel. He’ll dangle happily there there, with no need for tape.

A warning to you: Be assured that unseen Nisser inhabit your house, no matter where you live! You can appease these supply chain-disrupting mischief-makers with a bowl of porridge on Christmas Eve.

As always, I suspect a small plate of cookies will suffice, and Santa will be happy to share.

Julenisse 2020

Julenisse 2020, ©2020 Margaret Meps Schulte, all rights reserved.
Meps’ original 2020 Julenisse

Julenisse: The original “Elf on the Shelf”

In olden times, farmers in Denmark blamed all kinds of misfortune on a mischievous elf who lived in the barn: The Nisse. On Christmas Eve, members of the household were expected to set out a bowl of porridge to appease them. Otherwise, the elves would “up their game,” bringing even more suffering to the household.

Old-fashioned Danish Christmas decorations included paper versions of the Nisse, which are cut out with a tab that can be tucked under a book or other item on a shelf, making them look like they’re dangling or climbing the shelves.

As you can see by the artwork on the front of this card, I’ve made a huge assumption about the dumpster fire of 2020. Last year, since I literally spent Christmas in a van down by the river (it was fun!), I did not set out a bowl of porridge for them. So this year, I plan to appease them with a lovely bowl of risalamande, our beloved Danish rice pudding with cream and almonds.

I hope you’ll grab some scissors, cut out this Julenisse (the word Jule means “Christmas”), fold back the tab, and place him on a shelf. Whether you do or not, be assured that unseen Nisser do inhabit your house! Be sure to appease these pandemic-causing mischief-makers with a bowl of porridge on Christmas Eve.

I suspect a small plate of cookies would also suffice, and Santa will be happy to share.

“Riding With Freddie” remembers Dunedin’s friendliest resident

"Riding With Freddie" painting
“Riding With Freddie” by Meps Schulte. 60×60 inches, acrylic.

Freddie Webb was a Dunedin icon, locally famous for her friendliness, humor, and comical headgear. She cruised the streets in a bright yellow golf cart adorned with teddy bears, inviting complete strangers to ride with her and joking with everyone she passed. As part of the “Love Downtown Dunedin” campaign, the Downtown Dunedin Merchants’ Association commissioned artist Margaret “Meps” Schulte to create a five-by-five-foot painting to commemorate Freddie’s 92-year life in Dunedin.

“Freddie was never afraid to talk to strangers, and she could get away with anything!” says Schulte. “She was a friendship ambassador to Dunedin visitors, and with all her kidding around and teasing, she kept folks in town from getting too serious.”

The centerpiece of the painting is a smiling image of Freddie offering candy to children from her golf cart. It’s surrounded by scenes from her life, including the home where she was born, the tree her sister planted in the 1930’s, and the home where she lived out her 92 years. The painting includes teddy bears, rubber duckies, Freddie sailing on St. Joseph Sound, and her signature hat, which was bright orange and fuzzy. There’s also a scene showing Freddie inviting a family to ride, something she did often.

In the spirit of Freddie, Schulte even delivered the painting from her studio in downtown Dunedin on the back of a golf cart. “It was too big to fit into a car, and it made people smile to see Freddie riding across town in a golf cart,” she said. “She will never be forgotten.”

The painting is available for viewing at Lafayette & Rushford, in downtown Dunedin at the corner of Broadway and Main Street. There will be an official unveiling on Saturday, November 7 at 4 pm at the Mural & Canvas Art Walk & Block Party. The event will be held outdoors, with social distancing and safety protocols, at 730 Broadway. Tickets are available from the DDMA website, lovedowntowndunedin.com.

Love Downtown Dunedin is a new DDMA marketing campaign, targeted specifically towards the revitalization of the downtown Dunedin area. It includes murals and local art projects, events, and merchandise that celebrates the comradery of the community.

Pinellas Trail bench celebrates the art of painted rocks

Painted park bench on the Pinellas Trail

Margaret “Meps” Schulte was selected by the City of Dunedin to paint a colorful park bench, entitled “Dunedin Rocks,” for the Pinellas Trail, an urban greenway used by 1.5 million cyclists, walkers, and runners a year. Placed just north of the intersection with State Route 580, the trompe l’oeil design celebrates the practice of kindness rocks, painting artwork and messages on stones and placing them in public places for anyone to take.

“People who would never call themselves artists are not afraid to pick up a brush and paint a rock,” said Schulte, who lives in Dunedin, a few blocks from the newly-placed bench. “The next thing you know, they gain confidence and start making original art. The practice of sharing these rocks in public places encourages Gifting and Radical Self-Expression, which are two of the Ten Principles of Burning Man.”

The bench is placed between two of Schulte’s favorite restaurants, Eli’s Bar B Que and The Scone Age Bakery. The hands painted on the bench reflect the black and white ownership of the two businesses. The artist said, ” I envision people getting takeout from both restaurants and enjoying it on the bench placed between them. It’s a friendly, shaded spot where you can smile and say hello to people on foot, bicycle, or skateboard.”

Trapped at a Rally

Alexis Glasgow on stage with a sign in the foreground that reads "Let my son live."
Alexis Glasgow on stage at the “Peaceful Solidarity Candle Light Vigil” in Dunedin on June 8, 2020. She spoke after the program was concluded by the organizers.

By the time they had been holding court on stage for nearly an hour, my blood was boiling.

I was being held hostage, in broad daylight, in a public park in Dunedin, Florida.

The gathering had been promoted on Facebook as a “Peaceful Solidarity Candle Light Vigil.” The image said “Together we rise,” with a row of fists in all colors.

But the result was a display of pure white privilege. Look at us white people, gathering without violence or rioting. Look at how nicely white people can talk about black people. See how we can get together without looting any local stores.

The organizer was white. The bagpiper who played “Amazing Grace” was white. The minister was white. The mayor and all the other speakers were white. With the exception of the mayor, they were also all male. They talked about how wonderful it was to have a peaceful gathering, and they thanked and congratulated themselves and the participants for coming.

The hundreds of people in the crowd were there in good faith. They didn’t know they were going to be used to promote this message. There were people there of all ages, with a handful of black participants who probably  represented Dunedin’s actual numbers, about 4% black.

Today, it’s apparent from their Facebook posts that most of them are completely unaware of what happened with their complicity.

I sat in the middle of the crowd with three friends, completely trapped. If I stayed, I was one more white person who appeared to support the systemic racism that the speakers had no idea they were portraying. If I walked out in disgust, I wasn’t supporting the Black Lives Matter movement.

It was a lose-lose situation. My friends and I were literally squirming in our seats.

Up on stage, the organizer began to quote Dr. Martin Luther King for the second or third time. Finally, I lost it.

When he paused to take a breath, I shouted, loudly enough to be heard by all, “STOP QUOTING BLACK PEOPLE AND LET THEM SPEAK!”

On stage, the man shut up, stunned. There was a moment of collective shock, and then the crowd cheered.

What happened next? When he scanned the crowd for black faces, it became evident that he had not booked a single black speaker. His eyes fell on a black woman with a sign that said “Let my son live.” “Hey, you, with that sign, come up here and speak,” he called out to her.

I wanted to cry. This is not how allies work. We do not drag unsuspecting black people on stage to be the token representative of the entire movement. We do not suddenly demand that they jump in front of a microphone to validate us.

She did a great job, speaking briefly about her experiences and fears as the mother of a black teenager. Judging from the applause and cheers, the crowd appreciated her more than any of the previous white speakers.

After she spoke, the organizer announced that he didn’t want the event to go on for too long, so he was going to end the vigil. He later followed up on the Facebook event page, writing “I hope I did the cause justice, and If I even only inspired one person as a call to action, then that makes it worth my time. I am far from done.”

The crowd milled around a bit, unsure if we should just go home. Then something magical happened. Alexis Glasgow took the stage, and she saved the day.

Alexis is young, black, and female. Hers is the voice we need to hear.

Three days earlier, Alexis and two other women had organized a large sit-down protest at Coachman Park in neighboring Clearwater. Raised in Clearwater and attending American University in Washington DC, she has a young, fearless black voice, and she is using her words to fight for justice. Alexis is the kind of leader that allies like myself need. She can help us understand the work that needs to be done.

Alexis brought us back to the reason why we attended the vigil. She talked about the Black Lives Matter movement, about the injustice that is all around us. She gave us hope that there will be change and that it will be led by the black voices we have been silencing for 400 years.

If you are an ally, your job is to listen. Not to white people speaking on behalf of black people, but to black people speaking up for themselves. One of the signs I’ve seen at protests is “Silence = Violence.” Allowing the white speakers to go on for an hour last night was an act of oppression.

It is not up to us to speak right now. As allies, we have the resources to produce events, to rally our white friends, but the speakers MUST BE BLACK. The leaders MUST BE BLACK. If you don’t have black friends, then call on people who are not your personal friends. Ask a black business owner or a black minister if they will speak. Ask someone from a neighboring community to speak.

There are many black people who work in Dunedin and cannot afford to live here. Ask them to speak.

If I ever attend another Black Lives Matter event that has been co-opted by white people, I will no longer sit quietly, listening. Silence = Violence. LET THEM SPEAK.

The Joyful Bear, Chapters 24 & 25

Frankie has traveled more than most bears, as visitors to his blog may have noticed. In Chapter 24, he and Meps share some thought-provoking concepts about travel.

Chapter 25 talks about photos, and what the camera really sees when it captures your bear — or you.

Looking for the previous chapters? Here they are!

Looking for the next chapters? We haven’t published those yet, but we will very soon!

You can find the whole series (in reverse order — chapter 1 is at the bottom) in the Reading The Joyful Bear category.

The Joyful Bear, Chapters 22 & 23

Have you seen my quick Easter PSA about the Teddy Bear Network? Here are the details! This segment also includes a short, relaxing chapter about Frankie’s incredible napping ability.

Looking for the previous chapters? Here they are!

Looking for the next chapters? Here they are!

You can find the whole series (in reverse order — chapter 1 is at the bottom) in the Reading The Joyful Bear category.

The Joyful Bear, Chapters 20 & 21

The in-person audience has grown significantly in this episode of The Joyful Bear. In the next two chapters, we learn more about Precious and how her unique talents helped a grieving friend and a stranger in the post office.

Looking for the previous chapters? Here they are!

Looking for the next chapters? Here they are!

You can find the whole series (in reverse order — chapter 1 is at the bottom) in the Reading The Joyful Bear category.

The Joyful Bear, Chapters 18 & 19

Meps and Frankie are very excited to introduce someone special in these chapters!

By the way, if you are located near Dunedin, Florida, you can find the Dunedin Teddy Bear Hunt group mentioned in the video on Facebook.

Looking for the previous chapters? Here they are!

Looking for the next chapters? Here they are!

You can find the whole series (in reverse order — chapter 1 is at the bottom) in the Reading The Joyful Bear category.