Friday, July 03, 2015

Want a flag painting?

I'd like to offer to paint an original watercolor of the US flag (or the Texas flag) in the style represented above. I'll do one in any size you like. Prices (not matted or framed):

4"x 6" --- $20
5"x 7" --- $25
8"x 10" --$40
11"x 14" --$50
22"x 30" --$150

Allow about three weeks turnaround time, more or less. Shipping charges will be added onto the price unless you want to pick it up in person.

Paypal (gradualdazzle-at-gmail-dot-com), personal check, cash (in person). E-mail me at that Paypal e-mail address to arrange matters if you're interested.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Get off my lawn.

Yesterday, the Supreme Court handed down a 5-4 decision finding that same-sex marriages are legal all over the US, regardless of each particular state's laws.

I decided to wait for the inevitable chaotic celebrations and denunciations to die down a bit, so I left the TV on "Dirty Jobs" or "Star Trek" or whatever else wouldn't have non-stop news coverage from any side of the ideological divide.

I think that I have been very consistently small-"L" libertarian in my views concerning most social issues. I believe that the federal government needs to protect the country's borders and mobilize our military to ensure our country is well-protected. I believe that maintaining some awesome national parks is within their purview. And I believe they should maintain the interstate highway system effectively and efficiently. I think that a centralized FBI that coordinates law-enforcement issues and helps states share information about crimes and evidence is necessary. I believe they should make sure that no state infringes on an individual's right to own and/or carry arms. Other than that, I think they need to get off my lawn (meaning, they need to get out of our lives and our business).

The federal government should have ZERO involvement in education. At the MOST, a state should be able to decide for itself if it wishes to provide public education and how that should be administered... but even then, it should be a buffet rather than a force-feed. Offer the education. Anyone who wants it can come get it. Anyone who doesn't? They can live with the consequences. Colleges and universities should receive ZERO federal funds, and they should be able to determine for themselves how they accept students... state-funded colleges adhere to their state's requirements. If you don't meet the requirements, you study harder until you pass their test. You don't get to pitch a fit and make them change their standards. The onus is on YOU, the individual, to achieve to the level of your choosing.

The federal government should have ZERO involvement in personal relationships of any kind. This means marriage, civil unions, or otherwise. It is none of the federal government's business who you love, choose to live with, etc. It is also none of the federal government's business who you choose to sell or buy from, where you choose to live (or who you choose to rent your property to), or what happens to you if you have a hurricane or a wildfire or tornado. People who need outside help should either rely on themselves or rely on their neighbors or their family. Period. If Chuck and Steve want to go to Metropolitan Church and get married, that's between them and Metropolitan Church. It's none of my business. If Fellowship Church believes that same-sex relationships are not permitted in their belief system, that's their right. And if Joe the Baker doesn't want to make a cake for someone, it shouldn't matter WHY. He has a right to choose who he does business with. If it makes enough people dislike him, he will lose business and suffer the consequences.

I am, therefore, perpetually disgusted that nine black-robed individuals in Washington, DC continue to have so much sway over my personal life. ObamaCare is an affront to me. Federal involvement in personal relationships is an affront to me. But I am, apparently, in the minority these days. [shrug] 

EDIT: I believe that Justice Antonin Scalia, in his written dissent, agrees with me:

I write sepa­rately to call attention to this Court’s threat to American democracy. 
The substance of today’s decree is not of immense personal importance to me. The law can recognize as mar­riage whatever sexual attachments and living arrange­ments it wishes, and can accord them favorable civil consequences, from tax treatment to rights of inheritance. 
Those civil consequences—and the public approval that conferring the name of marriage evidences—can perhaps have adverse social effects, but no more adverse than the effects of many other controversial laws. So it is not of special importance to me what the law says about mar­riage. It is of overwhelming importance, however, who it is that rules me. 
Today’s decree says that my Ruler, and the Ruler of 320 million Americans coast-to-coast, is a majority of the nine lawyers on the Supreme Court. The opinion in these cases is the furthest extension in fact—and the furthest extension one can even imagine—of the Court’s claimed power to create “liberties” that the Consti­tution and its Amendments neglect to mention. 
This practice of constitutional revision by an unelected commit­tee of nine, always accompanied (as it is today) by extrav­agant praise of liberty, robs the People of the most im­portant liberty they asserted in the Declaration of Independence and won in the Revolution of 1776: the freedom to govern themselves.

(I added the bold because THIS.)

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Flowers I saw today

First off, here's a lovely specimen of Monarda citriodora, generally known around these parts as Purple Horsemint or Lemon Beebalm. When you gently crush the flowers in your hand, it emits a pungent aroma that some people think vaguely resembles lemon or oregano. Me? I think it smells like those stinky liniments like Ben-Gay or perhaps a combination of liniment and fennel. It's not unpleasant, but it's not something that I'd like to smell all the time. And these flowers emit this scent pretty freely when they're crushed.

The above picture and the one directly below depict Chamaecrista fasciculata, a legume commonly known as Partridge Pea. It's a legume, which means it is a distant cousin to peanuts, pinto beans, locust trees (which, interestingly, has leaves that look very much like the Partridge Pea), wisteria vines, and even the lupines like the Texas Bluebonnet.

Finally, I occasionally get asked about this one. It's Solanum elaeagnifolium, or Silver-leafed Nightshade. It is considered a noxious weed and is not only toxic to livestock, its stem is covered with nettle-like hairs that sting. In South Africa, this same species of plant is known colloquially as Satan's Bush. It can thrive under truly awful conditions, which is why it's so commonly seen on roadsides, and it's extremely difficult to eliminate because its roots will regrow even if there's just a half an inch of root left in the soil. It's not an unattractive plant, however, and gardeners who practice xeriscaping find this plant to be well-adapted to those conditions.

Tuesday, June 09, 2015

Freedom Feels Fantastic

The yearbook is DONE. My classroom is DONE. And tomorrow? Tomorrow morning at about 6am I will board a jet plane and head to Sacramento, CA, to go on one of my insane blogger jaunts. I'm meeting Libby there, and the two of us will road-trip from Sacramento to Pullman, WA, to visit the former blogger CalTechGirl and our pal Margi. On the way up, we're going to stop in various locations to do crazy things and take pictures with our phones using my selfie stick.

Have I mentioned that I've never met any of these people other than online?

But I have a pretty sound track record for these sorts of trips. Last summer I spent a month at Pereiraville (another blog) in Orlando, FL, taking care of their menagerie while they vacationed in Alaska. I've been traveling to meet online friends since 1998, and I've never had a bad experience.

I'll post pictures of my lunacy here during the next few days.

Friday, June 05, 2015

Almost over

Tonight is GRADUATION NIGHT. [festive utterances] Assuming all my cameras function properly, I'll have what I need to submit the yearbook for publication this weekend. That's one pile of work almost completely cleared.

Not only do I take the pictures for graduation, I play the processional and recessional. And this year, I'm also accompanying my choir, who will be performing "Turn, Turn, Turn" during the ceremony.

But the biggest load hanging over my head right now, my source of procrastinatory stress, is my art classroom. I have to sort it and pack it all into the closets and take home important stuff, because they're stripping all the floors and re-finishing them, and because there will be a ton of construction going on. The high school part of construction won't be anywhere near done at the end of summer, so I won't be moving into another classroom as I'd hoped. But when are construction completion estimates ever really accurate? Especially when the entire month of May was a complete wash -- literally -- we got almost THIRTY INCHES OF RAIN during this May.

At any rate, because the task is an overwhelming one, I am blogging at my desk rather than cleaning the room. This is my modus operandi.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015


So this morning at school, I got a smart-phone notification that my Amazon package had been delivered. MY FITBIT!!! As soon as I was free for lunch, I dashed home and picked it up and read all the instructions and set it up and put it on.

I bought the very cheapest one possible, which maybe I'll get used to, but it's not my favorite because it doesn't have the digital readout of steps. BUT... that might be a good thing. I can still keep up with my numbers using the Fitbit app on my phone.

Tuesday nights, at least for the summer, are piano lesson nights. I have two adults and one kid who wanted to continue taking lessons through the summer, so I picked Tuesday night to be the night I do piano. To increase the number of steps I take during the day, I decided to walk to church. It's not that far, and the weather app said it wouldn't be raining until after my lessons were long overwith.

The goal is to reach 10,000 steps in one day. But looking that up, that's FIVE MILES. Holy moly, dude. I'm not going to beat myself up for not reaching 10,000 today. By walking to church and back, I made it to 4,334 steps, which is more than a mile and a half. Considering that I've been a slug for quite a number of years, a mile and a half is pretty darn great. I'll take it.

I'm only going to post about it here on the blog, for a couple of reasons. Yes, there are about two of you who read my posts here... but I'm just not ready to make this fully public yet. Plus, once my mother and sister know I have a Fitbit, they'll be all encourage-y and exhort-y, and I just don't need that from anyone right now. I want to do this nonchalantly.

But if I'm actually going to make it to 10,000 steps a day, I may actually have to start walking to school. Which is not an unreachable goal... but it just may not happen every day.

Heck, though... anything is better than being a sedentary slug, right?

I'm just going to track things for a while, without setting any unreachable goals for myself which will discourage me. And then if it suits me, I'll start setting personal goals.

At first I thought I would probably need a non-judgmental friend to team up with. But the more I think about it, the more I think I need to do this alone. Just me.

I may use this blog to discuss it, and I may not. I'm definitely NOT going to post any of it to Facebooger. I don't need encouragement. Or judgment. Or anything. I just need to be left alone about my personal fitness.

Sunday, May 24, 2015


Last week was the final week of regular school... and the week in which I was preparing for the talent show on Friday. The talent show seems to have been well-received... the amount of money received was not terrific, but I'm still grateful for all of it, and I will manage regardless. The choir will have to stay in about four different hotel rooms during the week of camp, but because I miscalculated the number of my kdis who wanted to go to choir camp, I'm also going to absorb the cost of putting them up in hotel rooms. It's just what I have to do. We were able to raise about 1/4th of the amount required, thanks to the talent show, but I'm still going to have to foot the bill for 3/4th of the hotel. I'm willing to do this because I am so glad we have a choir and I'm delighted for any of my kids to have the chance to get educated.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Emotional Wreck

One of the side effects of the horrible busy-ness of this time of year is that I'm on the ragged edge of falling apart emotionally. If all the cogs on all the wheels don't line up just right, and something goes awry, I can normally just handle it and move along, being a fairly happy person in general. What ALWAYS throws a wrench into my life is the human factor... when someone else is unreasonably uncooperative and lacks understanding, and THEN one of the cogs breaks on a wheel... that's a recipe for a bit of a cry.

But I already feel better.

[waving my hands upward]

Let it go. Just let it go.

(not the Idina Menzel sort of "let it go", but the sort where you just move along and let it pass)

The serenity prayer sort of "let it go." You know -- the kind where you accept the things you can't change. I generally don't lack the courage to change the things I can. Once in a great while, I fail to discern the difference. Lord, I need wisdom.

And peace.

Right now, thanks.

[just kidding]

Wednesday, May 13, 2015


This school year, I think I have hit my absolute peak of productivity to date. I've been busier than I've ever been in my life... to begin with, I took on the job of beginning a high school choir, and I feel that these ten intrepid souls who dared to leap into the unknown have progressed far beyond my expectations. I still had my high school art classes, although they removed the 8th-grade art classes from my schedule -- which freed me up considerably. I miss having the junior high kids, though, because I really enjoyed having a peek at the upcoming high school kids... but on the flip side, the eighth-grade art classes were compulsory, which meant I had humongous class loads and quite a few kids who had absolutely no interest in the subject. So while I regret not getting to know the upcoming freshman class, I can really attest to the need for me to concentrate on high school alone.

All the while, I still have complete editorial control over the entire school district's yearbook, and responsibility over all district-wide photography issues. This year is my eighth year to do the yearbook, and I hope I continue to be granted that privilege -- some folks hate doing the yearbook, but I'm one of those perverse individuals who absolutely LOVE it and WANT to do it. That being said, the part I'm NOT fond of is the bookkeeping aspect of it. But I've adapted, since I love yearbook so much. External motivation works.

The last two weeks of regular school are upon me, which means every single thing about the yearbook that hasn't been done had BETTER GET DONE. So I'm scrambling.

And I also juggled requests from outside groups for artwork... but I feel confident that my art classes have been able to produce what was needed. Once graduation hits and I've submitted the completed yearbook, remind me to make a list of all the stuff I've managed to complete. [sigh]

Next Tuesday evening is the district's athletic banquet, where all the kids in sports get awards. Sports here are KING, QUEEN and PRIME MINISTER of EVERYTHING. Academics don't get much attention, regardless of the teachers' attempts to make inroads. No, if a kid ain't into sports, they don't get regarded with any sort of seriousness.

I attempted to make sure my son got at least a modicum of recognition in this department by trying to get him interested in the cross-country running team. Even if he was slow, at least he could still DO it. And yet during his eighth grade year he was diagnosed with asthma and the doctor recommended he not play sports. Since he really didn't enjoy any sort of sport at all anyway, it wasn't a hard choice. But my heart died just a little bit, because I know full well that kids who don't do sports, even a little bit, are completely disregarded by the majority of the district.

As an aside, I don't understand this approach. Not a single one of those parents, board members or booster club members are involved in professional sports. So why the HELL are they so consumed by them? I guess as a high school pianist and IQ nerd, I'm just not meant to understand the attraction.

Anyway, I'm certainly not the first fine-arts or academic teacher to complain about the inordinate dominance of high school sports, and I'm sure I won't be the last. But I'll be perfectly candid here: if there were NO athletics or phys-ed involved in public school, it would not disappoint me.

And I guess if I were being completely candid, I do not think that public education is the best way to go... which I KNOW won't make me any friends among my colleagues.

I tend toward the truly libertarian view that education is a commodity that should be subject to the free market. If you value education, you'll pay for it, and your kids will appreciate it. If you do not value education, your children will go uneducated, and they will suffer the consequences. And if your children are motivated to GET an education, they will seek it out and pay for it.

But that's unpopular, I know.

Whatevs. It ain't happening, so never fear.

Still, the undue emphasis on sports spending is obscene and insane. Share that amount with the fine arts department, why don't you? Professional actors make at least as much as professional athletes, and they're just as rare.

Thursday, May 07, 2015

Being Nice

I'd like to discuss "Being Nice" today. I'd like to preface this with the caveat that I am fully aware of my own shortcomings in this department. I am not always Nice. I try to be. The compassionate and forgiving Savior who lives in my heart is always working on me.

And sometimes Nice doesn't mean pleasant. Sometimes you have to be stern, forceful or passionate, which isn't always pleasant.

So really, when I say Be Nice, I think what I'm trying to say is to Be Compassionate. Always try to put yourself in the other person's shoes before you do or say something.

But for the purposes of saving pixels, I'm going to say Be Nice.

And that goes double when you live or work in a small town. Especially when you didn't grow up in that small town.

Nine years ago, we picked up and moved from the inner city of a bustling metropolis of 100,000 to a small town in north Texas. Eight years ago, I landed my dream job of art teacher and yearbook adviser in a nearby small town. And seven years ago, we bought a house smack-dab in the center of that small town, which boasts a population of around eight hundred, give or take.

It was a little bit of culture shock for my oldest child, who had unfortunately absorbed a "hood culture" attitude at her previous school. But as my regular readers know, she also came pre-packaged with a set of DNA that wasn't going to cooperate with polite society, regardless of her surroundings. My other two adapted quickly, being friendly and kind-hearted by nature. Looking back, even though my eldest did finally land herself in jail for shoplifting recently, it was long after she lived under our roof -- and I believe that our move to Ruralville delayed her entry into criminal behavior significantly. Had we remained in our inner-city locale, she probably would've been locked up much sooner and even ended up addicted or dead. She may still be a hot mess, but she's alive and married and has a baby on the way.

But I digress. As is my wont, being of the attention-deficit variety.

Being kind, compassionate, NICE... in a small town... especially when you didn't grow up there... is not only a good thing to do, it will likely determine whether you remain there or not.

On a purely logical level, let's say you do or say something mean to someone who you believe has wronged you in some way. It's a guarantee that that person is somehow related, by birth or marriage, to EVERY. SINGLE. PERSON, in the county. And word gets around. You want to destroy your reputation really fast? Treat Cousin Matilda rudely in line at Wal-Mart. Your child's math teacher is married to Matilda's nephew. She may not take off points unnecessarily on the next math test, but you can guarantee that during the parent-teacher conference, she will regard you with suspicion.

On a broader level, however, being Nice to someone -- even if they're downright MEAN to you -- means that you see past the fact that I WAS WRONGED and you see that the person who WRONGED ME actually may be having a really, really bad struggle with something right at that moment and didn't really need to be kicked in the gut for something as trivial as a parking space. Will it kill you to have to walk a little further? Not likely. And on the flip-side, that person who was really nasty to you about that parking space may really just be taking out his frustration on you because they're desperately grappling with issues at home.

Being Nice is not usually an inherent trait in the human heart. We're full of ourselves. So it pays to practice it. The more you do it, the better you get, until eventually you just do it out of habit.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

I can breathe again now.

My contract was renewed for next year. [heavy, deep sigh] People here always look at me like I'm crazy when they ask me why I'm so anxious this time of year and I tell them that. But you have to realize that the person who makes the decision whether or not to recommend to the board that I be re-hired is my principal... and I'll be frank, here, I have learned never, ever, ever, ever to trust any school administrator. Ever.


Yesterday, while driving to take pictures at a track meet, I was able to enjoy the loveliest time of year in Texas -- wildflower season. Here are a few for your enjoyment:

 Castilleja rhexiifolia, or Splitleaf Indian Paintbrush

 Castilleja indivisa, or Texas Paintbrush
I thought this one was super-cool because it was literally hot-pink
instead of the usual flamey orange-red, like the next one:

 Castilleja indivisa, or Texas Paintbrush

The hot-pink one was right next to the Splitleaf one, so I thought maybe the Splitleaf might just be a spent version, but the more I look at them, the more I think not. The hot-pink one was exactly like the red variety, too, so I don't think it was a separate species. I think it was just an amazing fluke. I'd like to have a yard full of it, but Castilleja is a hemiparasitic genus, meaning they take part of their nutrients from the roots of nearby plants, and transplanting them doesn't really work because they don't survive the process.

 Lupinus texensis, or Texas bluebonnet, interspersed with
Castilleja indivisa, makes a spectacularly lovely sight on the roadsides,
as you can plainly see:

I didn't mind at all having to be on the road so much yesterday. My son had a doctor's appointment in the morning, and I had requested a substitute teacher for the whole day so I could then go to the track meet and take pictures, so I ended up putting a whole lotta miles on my MINI Cooper... but they were beautiful miles, and I love driving that car so much.

I didn't end up getting much sleep last night because we had thunderstorms, and one of my little dogs is mortally terrified of thunder and lightning and rain. My two dogs sleep with me, but when one of them is restless, they contrive to murder sleep* for me. Alas, I soldier on.

*quote from Anne of the Island, chapter VIII, "Anne's First Proposal," by Lucy Maud Montgomery:

To sleep went Jane easily and speedily; but, though very unlike MacBeth in most respects, she had certainly contrived to murder sleep for Anne. That proposed-to damsel lay on a wakeful pillow until the wee sma's, but her meditations were far from being romantic. It was not, however, until the next morning that she had an opportunity to indulge in a good laugh over the whole affair. When Jane had gone home -- still with a hint of frost in voice and manner because Anne had declined so ungratefully and decidedly the honor of an alliance with the House of Andrews -- Anne retreated to the porch room, shut the door, and had her laugh out at last.

which was a reference by LMM to Shakespeare's MacBeth, Act II, Scene 2:

Methought I heard a voice cry, “Sleep no more!
Macbeth does murder sleep”—the innocent sleep,
Sleep that knits up the raveled sleave of care,
The death of each day’s life, sore labor’s bath,
Balm of hurt minds, great nature’s second course,
Chief nourisher in life’s feast.
I love oblique references like these. :) I think it's the English major that still lives inside me somewhere.

Monday, April 20, 2015


Tonight is the Big Scary School Board Meeting in which they choose whose contracts to renew or not renew.

I have piano lessons to give until 7pm, and then I'm going to go home and take one of my precious hoarded Ambien and then pray until I go to sleep.

There are a lot of unpleasant things involved in being a public school teacher, but I think that the year-to-year contract may be the most unpleasant and the scariest. I don't believe teachers should be unionized (no public sector employee should be allowed to unionize). But it would be nice not to live in fear... and I probably wouldn't even be worried except that I have absolutely ZERO trust in the person whose job it is to recommend that I be re-hired.

Whatever happens, I believe I've done my best.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Prairie Pleatleaf

Nemastylis geminiflora, commonly known as the Prairie Pleatleaf or the Celestial lily.

This past Saturday, I was out on a prairie doing an engagement photo shoot, and I happened upon these lovely little beauties. They're actually bulbs, believe it or not, related to the iris. I thought they were just too cute not to share with y'all.

Thursday, April 09, 2015

Love/Hate Relationship With This State

I really, really, really love Texas. And in the spring, when everything blooms, it's so beautiful I can hardly even bear it.

I took this photo of our state flower, Lupinus texensis, last weekend in Azle, Texas. They're known more famously by their common name: BLUEBONNETS.

They're beautiful. And they're finicky. Notoriously finicky.

You want a yard full of them? Good luck with that.

You see, bluebonnets prefer well-drained places that are untouched, unmowed, un-stepped-on, un-anything. Texans want to grow them in their yards, and they are consistently foiled in this endeavor. These rascally little plants want to bloom in places nobody messes with.

And I'll just 'fess up right here -- my mother is the only human on this earth who has successfully gotten bluebonnets to grow in her yard -- at least, the only human I know personally.

But it was only in flowerbeds that she LEFT ALONE.

Bluebonnets do not like to be messed-with. EVER.

Texas A&M horticulture peeps have successfully created maroon-colored bluebonnets, but they have yet to breed bluebonnets that grow readily in flowerbeds. So, um, good luck with that. Let me know how that works out for you.


In the next couple of weeks, at my school, they'll be handing out next year's contracts. I will freely admit to anyone who cares to read this blog that I will never NOT be fearful of not being offered a contract for the next year. NEVER. I've seen bloodbaths in school districts and in churches and in so many different workplaces, and it means I never take my job for granted. I don't necessarily think that's a bad thing, though... it's always a good idea to be wise about one's job. But in the end, I fully know that God is in charge, and that if I am on the receiving end of an administrative house-cleaning, it's not personal. I trust God to take care of me and my family, and if He wants me to seek employment elsewhere, He will show me what He wants me to do.

Yeah, you atheists can mock. But He does tell me what He wants. Seriosuly. He really does.

And if He wants me to pick up my family and move thousands of miles away, He knows I am not afraid to do that.

And if He wants me to bloom where I'm planted, He knows I'm also completely willing to do that, too.

I love Valley View. I really do. I love the people here, I love the school, I love the community. I'd like to feel like it's my "forever home"... but I'm also fully aware of how capricious politics can be. And I'm not "rocked" by that realization.

I think that being the wife of a pastor helped me develop this understanding... Southern Baptist churches are autonomous, you see... there is no "hierarchy" in the SBC... at least not where individual churches are concerned... so if your husband is the pastor of a local SB church, you always keep the knowledge handy that you can be "canned" in a heartbeat if the deacons or the personnel committee decide it's time for you to go away... it isn't wonderful, but it's how things work... and because I (as a serious Christian who loves Jesus and who trusts Him completely) take whatever comes and try to listen to God... it means that whenever there's an employment upheaval, I take it in stride and trust God to show me and Rick what we need to do next.

I'm probably OK with regard to my current job. That's according to school board members who have communicated privately with me. But nonetheless I take absolutely NOTHING for granted. I'm ready in the "twinkling of an eye" to go wherever He tells us to go.. God knows our hearts, and He knows what we're willing to sacrifice for Him. He knows that our children are completely on board with whatever. So it's okay, regardless.

It's always nice to find out FOR SURE. But living the life of a sold-out Christian may mean we don't always know something FOR SURE. I'm okay with that. And from what I know of living with my husband for twenty-five years, he's of the same mind.

BRING IT. We're on board.

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

Controversial stuff

So, you hate the current system of public education? Yeah, I do. And here's what I would do to fix it, but be forewarned -- I have controversial and radical views that may offend someone.

Assuming we absolutely HAVE to keep our system of free public education (which I quibble with), here's what needs to happen:

1. All education-related activity at the federal level must immediately cease. Period. The Department of Education needs to be completely shuttered, forever. Federal funding for school lunches? Nope. And the amount that those departments take from federal tax coffers gets taken off our taxes immediately. All responsibility for public education will immediately transfer to individual states to administer as they see fit.

2. All mandated high-stakes standardized testing in grades K-12 is eliminated. If a particular school board or district wishes to administer any sort of testing among their students, they may do so.

3. No post-secondary educational institution receives federal funding of any sort. They are either funded at the state government level or privately. And each post-secondary institution may choose to admit applicants based on a high-stakes standardized test of its own choice (or even of its own creation). Students wishing to attend a particular college must meet the application requirements of that institution.

4. Students are free to attend any school district of their choosing; students who do not meet residence requirements may be required to pass an exam before being admitted, even to a public school. Students are also free to remain at home and complete all coursework via an online course. No student past the age of sixteen is required to attend public school.

5. Public-funded post-secondary institutions may not change admission requirements based upon gender, nationality, ethnic origin, sexual orientation, religious preference, marital status, physical disability, mental disability, or IQ score. Applicants either pass or do not pass.

Eliminating high-stakes standardized testing from public schools and instead putting the onus onto higher-ed avenues allows students to pursue the educational avenue they wish to pursue, and if they fail the entrance requirements of the institution they wish to attend, they study on their own time until they make it in, and may re-take the admission exam as often as they like. Public post-secondary institutions may not charge a fee for admission exams. Private institutions may do so if they wish.

Yeah, I know. It's a dream world.

And in my libertarian country, there would be NO mandatory public education, and no taxpayer funds would go toward education at all. Those who wish to be educated may earn the money to pay for it. People whose parents were unable to afford to pay to have them educated may work to earn the money to educate themselves. Hunger and need are tremendous motivators to work. The free market would determine how much people are paid to do a particular job, and a private business owner may even choose to pay for an employee to be educated in a specific task.

Federal government would take no tax dollars from any individual citizens based upon their level of income. Funding for national defense would come from tariffs, excise taxes and import taxes. Federal legislators and executives would be limited to one term of office, after which time they must return to their state of origin for at least ten years and must participate in private sector work.

I know it's all far too simplistic to work. But oh well.

Does this mean that I'm a hypocrite, since I teach in a public school? I don't think so... I have to live and work in the world I live in right now. But my opinion is that, in a true free market economy, good teachers are still good teachers, and would either be hired by a private school or could earn money tutoring or giving private lessons. People who seek to learn a particular skill (playing the piano, watercolor painting, sewing, ice skating, carpentry, welding) would seek out the best tutor.

People tend to value things that cost them. Yes, public education costs us, but we don't "see" it readily, and it's forcibly taken from us in the form of taxation.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Last Day of March, 2015

Seen in a couple of Valley View yards today, we have some lovely wisteria blooms:

Believe it or not, I didn't have the Nikon with me when I drove by these yards, so these were taken with my Samsung Galaxy Note 2 smartphone and tweaked for sharpness (and vignetted, like I tend to do with almost all my photos -- maybe it's hackneyed, but I just really like the way photos look when they're framed-in with black vignette) in GIMP on my laptop after I got home from school.

Spring is often such a busy, frantic time of year for me... ever since I was hired on at Valley View High School, the job of yearbook adviser has belonged to me. Lots of schools like to get their yearbooks before the school year ends, so they can have signing parties... but we like to have the WHOLE YEAR represented in the book, including all the end-of-year senior activities... so our book doesn't get wrapped until graduation is over, and we get the books in August.

All that to say, I tend to be pretty crazy busy starting about now, and it doesn't slow up until the day after graduation when I submit the finished book to the publisher.

This year has been a bit different... at the beginning of the year, I finally got the new computer I'd been begging and pleading for since forever... in years past, most of the yearbook had to be done on my home laptop because the computer on my desk just couldn't handle the photo processing. For example, during one evening of basketball in which there are four games, I can easily go over a thousand pictures. Ninety percent of those photos are useless, so the next day I spend time shuffling through all of them and deleting the ones that don't make the cut. Then with the hundred or so pics I have left, each pic has to be white-balanced and sharpened. My old computer would take at least ten minutes just to finish processing ONE photo. Obviously I got very little yearbook work completed at school, and my free evenings were spent at home at my own laptop trying to get all the pics done.

The new computer, as our IT guy emphasized to me, is the best computer on the entire campus. LOL I wasn't trying to compete, but I knew what kind of processing power I needed and I asked for it. Repeatedly. Until I got it. [grin]

Which now means I can whip through photos with blistering speed.

Which, in turn, has meant that I am further along in yearbook completion this year than I have ever been in the previous seven years.

This pleases me.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Back to school tomorrow

Today's officially the last day of my 2015 Spring Break week. You might guess that I'm grieving about this, but if you did, you'd be wrong. [shrug] I'm a teacher. It's just what I do. And if I'm not actually teaching, I'm thinking about teaching, because I know I'm going to be teaching soon, and I have to "redeem the day" as the Scripture says.

I'm a little bummed because Isaac seems to have come down with some sort of sickness today. I tend to be the sort of mom who says "rub some dirt on it and keep going"... and I generally live my own life that way as well... but he was adamant that he felt bad. I made him AT LEAST go up to the school (which is just a few blocks away) and face his drama teacher to ask if he could stay home from one-act play practice today. They're very close to time for contest, and he's been straggling on learning his lines.

I think perhaps he's going through the sophomore doldrums this semester. Lack of motivation for anything except computer games has overtaken him, and I've had to needle and wheedle to make him to his schoolwork (which he's beyond capable of doing). It's a frustrating stage for a parent. I'm trying hard to remember back to being his age; I went through some similar stages. I was different, though; I was a deeply passionate person who was motivated by relationships and imagination. He's another animal altogether. He is not at all energized by romance and music and fantasy; the only time I see him really zing! into something is when there's a computer issue that needs solving.

I'm not really looking for advice at this point. I'm just using this space to sort things out in my head. He'll be fine, and he'll eventually emerge from the unmotivation that he's suffering from. I just have to try to walk the line between the pushy-mom and the free-range mom. I don't want him to do something (like fail a class) that affects his future... but I also need to back off and let him make mistakes and find his own motivation apart from his mom's approval.


It DOES seem mildly unfair that, after a rainy, overcast week of Spring Break, today has emerged bright and sunny and beautiful. I'm glad, though, because the sunny weather will bring the rest of the flowers into bloom. And the rain is a welcome relief from drought. It would be nice to see the area reservoirs full again, but it's going to take a lot more than what we've already gotten.


Tomorrow I have to hit the ground running; I have to take student art to the local college for their annual competition. For the past three years, I've missed the deadline for this competition, but this year the district's other art teacher has helped keep me on track with dates and times. I'm just terrible with that sort of thing, usually, but I'm grateful that my school district has people who help each other and work together instead of competing with each other.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Republican Rubbish

So it looks like Representative Aaron Schock (R, IL) is calling it quits. Kudos to him for at least knowing when it's time to GTFO.

I have absolutely no problem slamming a politician for absolutely appalling character choices, regardless of party affiliation. This guy was obviously no conservative, and I have my doubts as to his personal comprehension of what it means to be an American and a Congressman. Nobody who really cared about what happens to our country would be so overtly corrupt and free-spending.

Michelle Obama, I'm looking at you, too. You ain't the Queen. And if I ever have any say in the matter (which I won't), I'll make you pay back every dime you've charged to my account as a US taxpayer.

Not for auction, just playing around

I thought I'd experiment with the stained-glass effect of the dragonfly painting and do a stylized butterfly. I'm not as happy with it, but I'm evolving the idea.

I'm dissatisfied with the butterfly itself. But I know what I will do when I next attempt one like it.

Saturday, March 07, 2015

Dragonfly watercolor

UPDATE: Congratulations to winning bidder Josh Brinkley!!!

Up for auction today is a dragonfly watercolor, 8x10, with Sakura gel pen accents. Proceeds from this auction will go towards helping my VVHS choir kids attend choir camp this summer. Bidding begins at $0.01 and ends promptly at 12:00am on Tuesday morning, March 10. Put your bid in the comments on this post. If you win this auction, you may either pay me in person (if you're local) or pay me via my Paypal account ( If you don't live nearby, I will ship to you at my cost. And thank you from the bottom of my heart for helping my choir kids!

Thursday, March 05, 2015

Hand-painted watercolor cards

UPDATE: Congratulations to Omnibabe, whose bid of $50 was the winner!

Also up for auction (proceeds to go directly toward getting my VVHS choir kids to choir camp this summer) are ten (10) hand-painted watercolor cards. Each card is 4" x 5" and is blank on the inside so you can make it into a thank-you, a birthday, or anything else you want! Each card also comes with its own envelope and is individually-wrapped in its own zip bag.

Place your bid in the comments. Bidding will close promptly at 12:00AM Monday morning. Winning bidder should either pay in person to me (if you're local) or send the money directly to my Paypal account at gradualdazzle - at - gmail - dot - com and I will ship to you at my cost.

Bids start now and begin at $0.01.

Watercolor Painting -- 8x10 US Flag

UPDATE: Congratulations to Valorie Champion, whose bid of $40 has won!

Today I finished an 8" x 10" watercolor stylized American flag. I'd like to auction it off here on the blog to help get some of my choir students to camp. We need to get them signed up within the next week or so, so I'm kind-of in a hurry! The above watercolor painting will fit nicely into a mat that has an 8x10 opening, and into a standard sized frame, so you won't be out an arm-and-a-leg to get it framed.

Bidding starts tonight at $0.01 and will end at 12:00AM Monday morning. Time-stamp on comment will count toward final bid. Payment will either be in person (if you're local) or via Paypal to my account (gradualdazzle - at - gmail - dot - com).

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Sometimes, God says NO.

And that's okay.

During the holidays, I had gotten excited about traveling with a group from my church to Honduras to do mission work at an orphanage/school. I don't have the $$ for such a thing, but I've always seen God provide whatever I needed when He asked me to do something.

I thought I'd just do what I did about a decade ago when I wanted to buy a keyboard and amp for myself: I'd paint and then post the paintings on this blog and sell them to raise the money. And after a few months of this, I had accumulated enough money to purchase exactly the equipment I needed... most of the people who bought paintings on my blog, I had never known prior to that. Somehow they found their way there. Obviously, I know Who did that. I have learned NEVER to doubt God when He points me in a direction.

Well... as time has gone by, I have not felt peaceful about this trip. For a while I thought maybe it was because I needed to take Isaac with me. Then I thought maybe Isaac needed to go without me.

And now I am fairly certain it's just not what God wants me to do this summer. Tomorrow I'll let the youth minister know to take us off the list.

From a pure self-preservation standpoint, I really need to spend my summer putting together next year's choir and art plans. I need to practice piano and learn new music prior to teaching it to the kids rather than learning it along with them. It's what had to be done this year, since I really had no notion of how to do what I've done (which is pretty much how I've tackled every new thing I've ever done in my life)... but it's not going to be an effective ongoing strategy.

I feel I've neglected my art classes somewhat, in my hyper-focus on music. I've kept the yearbook going very well, but that's become something of a rote automatic thing anyway. I have a great staff of yearbook kids, but there are no computers in my classroom with which they can offer much assistance -- my editor uses her own laptop to work on it. Plus, my editor and several students have done yeoman's work getting photos of elementary and middle school kids and their activities, freeing me up to keep working. The school bought me a whiz-bang, bells-and-whistles computer and monitor this year which has proved to be a MARVELOUS thing to get pictures processed quickly.

Back to the summer... I also have been presented with a serious offer by the school's Ag teacher. This summer, his sows will be farrowing and there will be piglets born (as they are every summer). He is going to give me one of those piglets to raise, feed, train and show next year as a learning project, and then once show season is over, I'll get to have the pig butchered and I'll get to keep the meat. This is something I have LONG been interested in, but have had absolutely no notion of how it gets done every year. My son just isn't the Ag type; he's much happier building, repairing and servicing computers. But I've decided that the best thing would be to raise a pig that isn't going to be a show winner (because I don't want to take the attention away from the kids doing the showing). I just want to go through the process and get lots of pictures of kids doing what they have to do when no-one's looking (cleaning pigpens, feeding, training). And then I think I'd like to write about it... probably in a non-fiction sort of way, because I don't think I'm good enough for fiction writing... and hopefully publish it.

I don't plan on doing piano lessons during the summer, although I'm not counting it out altogether. But all these things that God has put into my pathway seem to be telling me I need to keep cultivating things here on the home front. I've traveled overseas and done mission work, and I can always do it again... but it really seems to me that, for right now, home's where I need to stay. Who knows? Maybe I'll be able to get the yard fenced again and dig up old, tired plants to replace them with fresh new ones... all with an eye toward someday having backyard chickens (which is another long-term project on the horizon, as several of us are planning to petition the city council to allow backyard chickens in the city ordinances).

There's no place like home, you know.

UPDATE: There's also no guarantee that my insecurity about a thing equals a No from God.

I told the youth minister this morning that I just didn't have peace about the trip, and to take our names off the list. He encouraged me to stay on the list for now; he said that the music minister and his wife were also considering going along, and that that might mean a music angle on the trip that wasn't there before. Also, he reassured me about the cost of the trip (which I will admit also weighed heavy on my mind).

So for now, I'll withhold a final Yea or Nay. It's up to God. If He wants Isaac and me to go, then He will make a way.

Which also means we need to go ahead and renew our passports. It never hurts to have an active passport, even if we don't end up going.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Depression is a liar.

Earlier this week, our music minister texted me and asked if I'd sing a solo today during worship at church. For most of the week I thought about what that should be, and then this morning I wrote the following:
I was that little girl who could listen to her record of The Tale of Peter Rabbit and then recite it word for word in an English accent like the man who read the story. I could listen to the whine of the vacuum cleaner and go reach up to the piano and find the exact note it was singing. I read every book I got my hands on, often multiple times over. I memorized my Bible verses for Sunday School and then quoted long passages for extra bonus stars on the chart. I didn't have a single fear of standing before large groups of people and performing anything. 
Instead of gratitude for all the gifts God gave me, though, I looked at my outward appearance (sort-of like how Adam and Eve suddenly began to notice their nakedness, maybe?). My folks, trying hard to be helpful, put me through Weight Watchers starting in the third grade... but try as I might to defeat my body, it prevailed. I don't guess any of us really took into consideration that children's and adolescents' bodies are constantly changing, and that focusing on weight and appearance can be as much or even more damaging than the fat itself. 
I began to slowly draw back into myself, allowing shame to replace my confidence. Sure, I was smart and talented... but I was fat. Therefore, I didn't deserve friends. I didn't deserve love. I didn't even deserve God's love – because obviously I wasn't good enough anymore. I was obviously sinning by being fat, and God wouldn't bless me or want a relationship with me until I could get that sin conquered. 
Do you see the distortion and the outright lie in that? I had allowed Shame to crash over me on a daily basis for so long that I could no longer recognize the truth. My grades suffered. I even stopped playing the piano. I pinned all my hopes and self-worth onto a poor unsuspecting nice fellow in college and when it didn't work out, I tried to end it all. Shame very nearly destroyed me. 
But God continued to pursue me, and even in my haze of doubt and fear He guided me where I needed to be. And then my husband Rick introduced me to a God who was very different from my clouded vision of Him. I began to understand that God held me close and loved me EVEN IN MY SIN... that pleasing Him had absolutely nothing to do with my imperfection and everything to do with me emptying myself of all of the things I was carrying so that He could carry it all. Even if I was never thin... even if I never again got a good grade... even if I never again played the piano or sang another note... HE STILL WANTED ME. HE STILL LOVED ME. In fact, He wanted me to give all those things to Him. 
Suddenly my courage, my confidence returned like a flood – because now it wasn't based on how good I knew I was, or how capable I was to handle things. It was based on Who Lived Inside Me. HE is capable of anything. And if He asked me to adopt children with unknown and fearsome special needs, He would give me the grace to deal with them. If He asked me to travel to Haiti and smuggle electronic keyboards in and teach people in small villages how to play those pianos in their churches, He would provide the money and the means to do so. And if I lost my life in one of those villages, I wasn't afraid because I know who sent me on that journey. 
I found real joy crashing over me like ocean waves... so much joy and gladness that I couldn't help but live joyfully every day without fear. If God wants to use me to meet someone's need, I can joyfully give whatever I have, fearlessly, because whatever I have already belongs to God anyway. I can't help but lose myself completely in worshiping a God like that!

I took what I had written and printed it out along with the chords to a song I'd chosen. When it came my turn to sing, I began by reading my confession, then I played a simple acoustic-style accompaniment while I sang it:

We went on with the rest of the service; the sermon was deeply meaningful and spoke to my heart. We had a prayer for our pastor, who's having cancer surgery tomorrow, and then we dismissed.

I gathered my purse and my Bible and headed for the back of the auditorium to meet my son, who runs the sound board every week. He met me in the foyer with an engulfing hug and began to sob into my shoulder.

It never occurred to me that I had never told him any of those things. He was absolutely stunned to find out that I had almost taken my own life, and the thought of my intense despair and pain horrified him. He expressed to me that the thought that I wouldn't have been able to be his mom made him deeply sad.

It has made for very meaningful conversation this afternoon. I talked frankly about how depression lies to you... and that you can't believe those lies or let them rattle around in your head for years like I did and not be permanently scarred in some way.

Even after that experience, I think that once I had children, I began to have a better understanding of God's love for me. If I, a human full of flaws, loved my children as intensely as I did, then how much more vast is God's love for me, his own child? Since my kids came along, my depression still ebbed and flowed as it tends to do, but knowing that I was loved and needed by my kids, my husband, my parents, my sister, my friends, etc... and then knowing that God actually delights over me in the same way I take delight in my own children... has kept me from believing the lies anymore.

I have so much to be joyful about.

Saturday, January 03, 2015

Goodbyes and Hellos

So yeah. It's been a year and a half since I visited here. Mostly because I've been living the crazy life. But I've come to realize that an artist is never truly happy if she isn't expressing herself. And it's been too long since I did that through writing.

I'm in Leavenworth, Kansas today. Why in the world, it may be asked, would anyone possessed of God sense would venture to northern Kansas in January?

It's a memorial service for the husband of a long time blog friend. Hence the full-circle part of the story... so I'm back on my blog.

It's a goodbye. But it's also a Hello... I've never met any of these folks IRL (in real life), but I've known then longer and probably know some of them better than I do the people I see every day at work.

The intarwebz have changed the game for introverts like me. Now we can all get to know one another online for years before we ever meet, if we ever do at all.

I'm planning on posting paintings here in the near future, in hopes of accumulating the funds to make a trip to Honduras this summer to care for some children and families. Watch this space.

She's BACK.

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

El Rushbo's dad's famous speech about the signers of our Declaration of Independence

We should all read this, and re-read it once a year along with the Declaration itself, to remind ourselves just what this whole grand experiment in liberty is really worth.

"Our Lives, Our Fortunes, Our Sacred Honor"
It was a glorious morning. The sun was shining and the wind was from the Southeast. Up especially early, a tall bony, redheaded young Virginian found time to buy a new thermometer, for which he paid three pounds, fifteen shillings. He also bought gloves for Martha, his wife, who was ill at home.
Thomas Jefferson arrived early at the statehouse. The temperature was 72.5 degrees and the horseflies weren't nearly so bad at that hour. It was a lovely room, very large, with gleaming white walls. The chairs were comfortable. Facing the single door were two brass fireplaces, but they would not be used today.
The moment the door was shut, and it was always kept locked, the room became an oven. The tall windows were shut, so that loud quarreling voices could not be heard by passersby. Small openings atop the windows allowed a slight stir of air, and also a large number of horseflies. Jefferson records that "the horseflies were dexterous in finding necks, and the silk of stockings was nothing to them." All discussing was punctuated by the slap of hands on necks.
On the wall at the back, facing the president's desk, was a panoply -- consisting of a drum, swords, and banners seized from Fort Ticonderoga the previous year. Ethan Allen and Benedict Arnold had captured the place, shouting that they were taking it "in the name of the Great Jehovah and the Continental Congress!"
Now Congress got to work, promptly taking up an emergency measure about which there was discussion but no dissension. "Resolved: That an application be made to the Committee of Safety of Pennsylvania for a supply of flints for the troops at New York."
Then Congress transformed itself into a committee of the whole. The Declaration of Independence was read aloud once more, and debate resumed. Though Jefferson was the best writer of all of them, he had been somewhat verbose. Congress hacked the excess away. They did a good job, as a side-by-side comparison of the rough draft and the final text shows. They cut the phrase "by a self-assumed power." "Climb" was replaced by "must read," then "must" was eliminated, then the whole sentence, and soon the whole paragraph was cut. Jefferson groaned as they continued what he later called "their depredations." "Inherent and inalienable rights" came out "certain unalienable rights," and to this day no one knows who suggested the elegant change.
A total of 86 alterations were made. Almost 500 words were eliminated, leaving 1,337. At last, after three days of wrangling, the document was put to a vote.
Here in this hall Patrick Henry had once thundered: "I am no longer a Virginian, sir, but an American." But today the loud, sometimes bitter argument stilled, and without fanfare the vote was taken from north to south by colonies, as was the custom. On July 4, 1776, the Declaration of Independence was adopted.
There were no trumpets blown. No one stood on his chair and cheered. The afternoon was waning and Congress had no thought of delaying the full calendar of routine business on its hands. For several hours they worked on many other problems before adjourning for the day.
Much To Lose
What kind of men were the 56 signers who adopted the Declaration of Independence and who, by their signing, committed an act of treason against the crown? To each of you, the names Franklin, Adams, Hancock and Jefferson are almost as familiar as household words. Most of us, however, know nothing of the other signers. Who were they? What happened to them?
I imagine that many of you are somewhat surprised at the names not there: George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, Patrick Henry. All were elsewhere.
Ben Franklin was the only really old man. Eighteen were under 40; three were in their 20s. Of the 56 almost half - 24 - were judges and lawyers. Eleven were merchants, nine were landowners and farmers, and the remaining 12 were doctors, ministers, and politicians.
With only a few exceptions, such as Samuel Adams of Massachusetts, these were men of substantial property. All but two had families. The vast majority were men of education and standing in their communities. They had economic security as few men had in the 18th Century.
Each had more to lose from revolution than he had to gain by it. John Hancock, one of the richest men in America, already had a price of 500 pounds on his head. He signed in enormous letters so that his Majesty could now read his name without glasses and could now double the reward. Ben Franklin wryly noted: "Indeed we must all hang together, otherwise we shall most assuredly hang separately."
Fat Benjamin Harrison of Virginia told tiny Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts: "With me it will all be over in a minute, but you, you will be dancing on air an hour after I am gone."
These men knew what they risked. The penalty for treason was death by hanging. And remember, a great British fleet was already at anchor in New York Harbor.
They were sober men. There were no dreamy-eyed intellectuals or draft card burners here. They were far from hot-eyed fanatics yammering for an explosion. They simply asked for the status quo. It was change they resisted. It was equality with the mother country they desired. It was taxation with representation they sought. They were all conservatives, yet they rebelled.
It was principle, not property, that had brought these men to Philadelphia. Two of them became presidents of the United States. Seven of them became state governors. One died in office as vice president of the United States. Several would go on to be US Senators. One, the richest man in America, in 1828 founded the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. One, a delegate from Philadelphia, was the only real poet, musician and philosopher of the signers. (It was he, Francis Hopkinson not Betsy Ross who designed the United States flag.)
Richard Henry Lee, a delegate from Virginia, had introduced the resolution to adopt the Declaration of Independence in June of 1776. He was prophetic in his concluding remarks: "Why then sir, why do we longer delay? Why still deliberate? Let this happy day give birth to an American Republic. Let her arise not to devastate and to conquer but to reestablish the reign of peace and law.
"The eyes of Europe are fixed upon us. She demands of us a living example of freedom that may exhibit a contrast in the felicity of the citizen to the ever-increasing tyranny which desolates her polluted shores. She invites us to prepare an asylum where the unhappy may find solace, and the persecuted repost.
"If we are not this day wanting in our duty, the names of the American Legislatures of 1776 will be placed by posterity at the side of all of those whose memory has been and ever will be dear to virtuous men and good citizens."
Though the resolution was formally adopted July 4, it was not until July 8 that two of the states authorized their delegates to sign, and it was not until August 2 that the signers met at Philadelphia to actually put their names to the Declaration.
William Ellery, delegate from Rhode Island, was curious to see the signers' faces as they committed this supreme act of personal courage. He saw some men sign quickly, "but in no face was he able to discern real fear." Stephan Hopkins, Ellery's colleague from Rhode Island, was a man past 60. As he signed with a shaking pen, he declared: "My hand trembles, but my heart does not."
"Most Glorious Service"
Even before the list was published, the British marked down every member of Congress suspected of having put his name to treason. All of them became the objects of vicious manhunts. Some were taken. Some, like Jefferson, had narrow escapes. All who had property or families near British strongholds suffered.
· Francis Lewis, New York delegate saw his home plundered -- and his estates in what is now Harlem -- completely destroyed by British Soldiers. Mrs. Lewis was captured and treated with great brutality. Though she was later exchanged for two British prisoners through the efforts of Congress, she died from the effects of her abuse.
· William Floyd, another New York delegate, was able to escape with his wife and children across Long Island Sound to Connecticut, where they lived as refugees without income for seven years. When they came home they found a devastated ruin.
· Philips Livingstone had all his great holdings in New York confiscated and his family driven out of their home. Livingstone died in 1778 still working in Congress for the cause.
· Louis Morris, the fourth New York delegate, saw all his timber, crops, and livestock taken. For seven years he was barred from his home and family.
· John Hart of Trenton, New Jersey, risked his life to return home to see his dying wife. Hessian soldiers rode after him, and he escaped in the woods. While his wife lay on her deathbed, the soldiers ruined his farm and wrecked his homestead. Hart, 65, slept in caves and woods as he was hunted across the countryside. When at long last, emaciated by hardship, he was able to sneak home, he found his wife had already been buried, and his 13 children taken away. He never saw them again. He died a broken man in 1779, without ever finding his family.
· Dr. John Witherspoon, signer, was president of the College of New Jersey, later called Princeton. The British occupied the town of Princeton, and billeted troops in the college. They trampled and burned the finest college library in the country.
· Judge Richard Stockton, another New Jersey delegate signer, had rushed back to his estate in an effort to evacuate his wife and children. The family found refuge with friends, but a Tory sympathizer betrayed them. Judge Stockton was pulled from bed in the night and brutally beaten by the arresting soldiers. Thrown into a common jail, he was deliberately starved. Congress finally arranged for Stockton's parole, but his health was ruined. The judge was released as an invalid, when he could no longer harm the British cause. 
He returned home to find his estate looted and did not live to see the triumph of the Revolution. His family was forced to live off charity.
· Robert Morris, merchant prince of Philadelphia, delegate and signer, met Washington's appeals and pleas for money year after year. He made and raised arms and provisions which made it possible for Washington to cross the Delaware at Trenton. In the process he lost 150 ships at sea, bleeding his own fortune and credit almost dry.
· George Clymer, Pennsylvania signer, escaped with his family from their home, but their property was completely destroyed by the British in the Germantown and Brandywine campaigns.
· Dr. Benjamin Rush, also from Pennsylvania, was forced to flee to Maryland. As a heroic surgeon with the army, Rush had several narrow escapes.
· John Martin, a Tory in his views previous to the debate, lived in a strongly loyalist area of Pennsylvania. When he came out for independence, most of his neighbors and even some of his relatives ostracized him. He was a sensitive and troubled man, and many believed this action killed him. When he died in 1777, his last words to his tormentors were: "Tell them that they will live to see the hour when they shall acknowledge it [the signing] to have been the most glorious service that I have ever rendered to my country."
· William Ellery, Rhode Island delegate, saw his property and home burned to the ground.
· Thomas Lynch, Jr., South Carolina delegate, had his health broken from privation and exposures while serving as a company commander in the military. His doctors ordered him to seek a cure in the West Indies and on the voyage, he and his young bride were drowned at sea.
· Edward Rutledge, Arthur Middleton, and Thomas Heyward, Jr., the other three South Carolina signers, were taken by the British in the siege of Charleston. They were carried as prisoners of war to St. Augustine, Florida, where they were singled out for indignities. They were exchanged at the end of the war, the British in the meantime having completely devastated their large landholdings and estates.
· Thomas Nelson, signer of Virginia, was at the front in command of the Virginia military forces. With British General Charles Cornwallis in Yorktown, fire from 70 heavy American guns began to destroy Yorktown piece by piece. Lord Cornwallis and his staff moved their headquarters into Nelson's palatial home. While American cannonballs were making a shambles of the town, the house of Governor Nelson remained untouched. Nelson turned in rage to the American gunners and asked, "Why do you spare my home?" 
They replied, "Sir, out of respect to you." Nelson cried, "Give me the cannon!" and fired on his magnificent home himself, smashing it to bits. But Nelson's sacrifice was not quite over. He had raised $2 million for the Revolutionary cause by pledging his own estates. When the loans came due, a newer peacetime Congress refused to honor them, and Nelson's property was forfeited. He was never reimbursed. He died, impoverished, a few years later at the age of 50.
Lives, Fortunes, Honor
Of those 56 who signed the Declaration of Independence, nine died of wounds or hardships during the war. Five were captured and imprisoned, in each case with brutal treatment. Several lost wives, sons or entire families. One lost his 13 children. Two wives were brutally treated. All were at one time or another the victims of manhunts and driven from their homes. Twelve signers had their homes completely burned. Seventeen lost everything they owned. Yet not one defected or went back on his pledged word. Their honor, and the nation they sacrificed so much to create is still intact.
And, finally, there is the New Jersey signer, Abraham Clark.
He gave two sons to the officer corps in the Revolutionary Army. They were captured and sent to that infamous British prison hulk afloat in New York Harbor known as the hell ship Jersey, where 11,000 American captives were to die. The younger Clarks were treated with a special brutality because of their father. One was put in solitary and given no food. With the end almost in sight, with the war almost won, no one could have blamed Abraham Clark for acceding to the British request when they offered him his sons' lives if he would recant and come out for the King and Parliament. The utter despair in this man's heart, the anguish in his very soul, must reach out to each one of us down through 200 years with his answer: "No."
The 56 signers of the Declaration Of Independence proved by their every deed that they made no idle boast when they composed the most magnificent curtain line in history. "And for the support of this Declaration with a firm reliance on the protection of divine providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor."

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Just GIFfing around...

Isaac hollered at me to come take a look at this seriously horrifying GIF:

And I was all:

Friday, March 22, 2013

Spring Visitations and Miscellany

Tomorrow we're expecting a visit from our friends Joy and Aria McAfee. They were needing some green and spring and, well, NOT SNOW. I think we can come through on that one. We're planning a visit to the new Perot Museum of Nature and Science in downtown Dallas on Sunday afternoon, and I've taken the day off on Monday to perhaps go to the Fort Worth Botanic Garden or maybe the Dallas Farmer's Market. Somewhere outdoors. If it's too chilly, we may even head further south to see if we can spot some bluebonnets.


Springtime is a whirlwind of busy activity at school; I don't get much chance for peace and solitude because if I'm not recording yearbook payments or collecting information on the senior class or ordering the decorations for senior night or designing yearbook ads or supervising pottery-making or trying desperately to get pictures of baseball or softball or track, then I'm proctoring state standardized tests or ferreting out the reason behind the weird smell in the craft closet or collecting orders for class group pictures or jumping up for an impromptu special-ed meeting.

That's all just school. In the springtime, I generally just hope and pray that stuff at home takes care of itself. I loved when my kids were little, but honestly? It's way easier now that they're all three self-sufficient and can do their own laundry and fix their own supper and take their own shower. Yes, adolescence brought its own inherent horrors which I could certainly do without. But I don't have to change diapers, either. Perspective is everything.

But back to the busy-ness. I'm a true introvert by nature. I simply MUST have solitude in order to recharge my batteries. It's not even an option. Family vacations actually drain my tank rather than filling it back up. So once a year I try to plan something in the summer that's just for me, for more than just a day or two, where I actually get on an airplane and GO AWAY somewhere BY MYSELF... see some art in some museum on the east coast somewhere, where I can stand and stare at a painting or sculpture for an hour without saying a single word to anyone... sit somewhere quiet and just look... eat something new and different... think and think and think and never talk... this, to me, is heaven.

I could SO be a hermit.


If you're ever driving through southern Oklahoma on Interstate 35, may I humbly recommend you pull off at Exit 51 and grab some Arbuckle Mountain Fried Pies? Because they're awesome. They come in pretty much every flavor of pie you might think of. I actually buy them by the dozen and store them in the freezer for a treat later.


Okay, now I've flung a craving onto myself. [heading to the fridge] Catch y'all later.