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.

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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.
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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

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.

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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.

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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.

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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!!!
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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 (gradualdazzle@gmail.com). 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!
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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!
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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Return of the Spring

 Because Chickie asked me to, I'm posting the signs of Spring we're currently enjoying around our homestead.

First, we have Flowering Quince (commonly called "Japonica" around here). I adore the happy pink blossoms on the bare branches; the leaves eventually show up. The shrubs are unremarkable any other time of year, but the pink harbingers of Spring make them very popular. They're like little barometers; they're some of the first pops of color that can be seen in local landscapes, along with the jonquils and daffodils.
 Here's one of my regal purple iris blossoms. They're just exquisite. I'm always so glad to see the purple ones, as they're kind-of like the yard royalty. The particular specimens that grow in my yard aren't anywhere near as tall as the other ones, interestingly... but short folks can be special too, right? [she says, being all of four feet, eleven inches, herself]
 These little weedy punks always make people think the bluebonnets have arrived early... but they're not even related to Lupinus texensis. No, they're Muscari neglectum, tiny perennial bulbs which do best when [go figure] left alone to do their thing. Which, now that I say that, also applies to bluebonnets. But the bluebonnets are so antisocial that if you even try to transplant or water or mess with them in any way, they refuse to bloom. Unless you walk on them; they seem to dig being abused and neglected! But the grape hyacinths can often be seen spreading in patches of sunny yard that haven't been fertilized or tilled or herbicided, especially old-timey homestead yards... like mine, come to think of it.


The white irises are like nuns, very plain and pure and dependable. I love the way the light filters through the translucent, thin petals... like diaphanous silk.
Dude the Magisterial Moggy Man-Cat approves. He saw me sitting on the ground and trotted over for skritches. Then he settled into position next to a little Muscari blossom and surveyed his kingdom.

Happy Spring to you and yours!

Monday, March 11, 2013

Sometimes you just have to rage about stuff.

As much as I love my job and the town we now live in, this fact is not lost on me: had we not chosen to uproot ourselves from Iowa and replant here in Texas, we would not be staring in the face of financial ruin.

In 2006, we had a great house, great jobs, a church where we were happy, and no debt. We felt strongly that we needed to move closer to family, that his sister and my parents were going to be needing our help soon. That proved to be true.

However, it did not come without a huge price. The months of unemployment coupled with the need to give up his chosen career of Christian ministry and go to work for a [gasp] CASINO, the terrible health insurance (TX teachers) combined with huge health expenses for all of us, the desperate struggle to parent an extremely difficult child, and (frankly) the readjustment to life nearer our family members... all of these and many more have made these years So. Dadgum. Hard.

Obviously, one cannot just say "If we'd only just stayed in Iowa, we'd be just fine." Who's to say that would be the case? Disasters fall upon us in lots of different ways and means. But it doesn't prevent me from, every once in a while, wondering what the heck we were thinking.

I am hugely grateful for God providing me the Best. Job. Ever., though... without my life at Ballyhoo High School, I don't think I'd've been able to withstand any of this other stuff. It really has been my Happy Place.

People wonder why I'm such an enthusiastic supporter of my school and my town. How could I begin to explain to them that it's kept me from getting into my car and driving away and never coming back?

Saturday, March 09, 2013

L'amour

It's Skunk Dating Season here in the bustling metropolis of Ballyhoo, Texas, and the neighbors across the street have informed us that one has apparently decided to take up residence under the piers and beams of my 113-year-old house, because they watched him do it.

Each evening, the delightful skunky aroma wafts upward through the cracks in the floor. I'm probably weird in this, but I don't mind skunk smell, per se. Unless it's fresh and actually ON something near me, of course. Then it's unbearable.

I don't want to be near a skunk, though. We have kittycats who go in and out the pet doors, and I don't want one of them to come high-tailing it into the house one day covered in SkunkFunk. So we gotta figure out a way to get Pepe LePew out from under the house.

The neighbors were hoping to get rid of Pepe with a firearm, but couldn't get a clear shot the other day when they spotted him shuffling through our yard. I informed them that unless my kitties were anywhere nearby, they were welcome to take aim and do him in at their discretion.

I love living in this place.

I really do.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

BAM.

I spent the day today at Eagle Gun Range in Lewisville, Texas, completing training requirements for getting a Concealed Handgun License. My dear friend Betsy also joined me, and I am pleased to say that she and I both scored 100% on the written portion of the exam. I scored 245 out of 250 on marksmanship, but I don't normally find hitting a target difficult. I spent many-a many-a many-a summertime day shooting distant fenceposts with a BB gun as a kid. I am dead-tired. I had to leave the house before dawn to get down there, and the state requires a ten-hour course, so we didn't get dismissed until 6PM and I didn't get home until around 7. Tomorrow I will post a photo of my target -- a nice little souvenir.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Aaaand she's back.

After ten months, I have decided to resume blogging. I just seem to need to write down stuff. For a while, I thought perhaps that Facebook had filled my writing niche, but the longer I go, the more I miss the longer format.

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In the interim, my eldest finished her high school requirements and received her diploma. She didn't walk across the stage; it was summer when she finished, and we would've had to wait almost a year, and it just didn't seem necessary. She hasn't expressed much interest in it, so I haven't made an issue of it. She didn't exactly do the traditional high school thing, with proms and clubs and stuff.

She spent most of the summer roaming around with other friends and living in other places. We never even saw her until shortly after school started back up for me, when it appeared she had run through all the friends she had left to mooch from, and she was strung out and messed up. I wasn't having her back in the house in that condition, so I dropped her off at a homeless shelter. After a night there, she spent several weeks at my sister-in-law's house getting sober, and then came home. The rules we set down were that she could remain at home if she started working toward getting a job and if she kept the house clean for us while we were all gone to work/school. That's been iffy, but slowly she's begun to realize she doesn't have any other options, and that if she chooses to scream obscenities at us and mistreat us, she's got to go. There's oh-so-much more to this, but I'll have to save it for another post. Eventually everyone's gotta come to grips with real life, and real life doesn't look much like she thought it did.

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Dear CapitalOne Card: You're using a racist, bigoted, out-of-control wank-job like Alec Baldwin in your commercials. I will never use your card. EVER.

Why is it that Mel Gibson gets ostracized and demonized and marginalized for doing the same things as Alec Baldwin? I don't get it.

I have little use for either man, but I honestly don't get it.

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Okay, that's it for right now. But there will be more. And I don't intend to wait ten more months to post it.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Cherry blossoms

A couple of years ago or so, I was able to take a day or two to visit DC during the Cherry Blossom Festival. It was utterly breathtaking, and I've never quite gotten them out of my head since. The past week I've been administering state standardized tests, and once those have been finished, we have a lot of down time. Instead of doing something useful like tidying up my classroom, I instead chose to paint. Well, DUH. What did you THINK I would do? Anyhoo, here's the first one I quickly splashed onto the paper:
But I felt vaguely unfulfilled. Several years ago I painted a little ditty for my BFF that was a park bench with autumnish leaves... just a very simple little painting, but I really liked the effect, so I took a similar tack with this one:
I'm seriously considering doing another "painting a day" marathon. I would like to purchase a secondhand kiln on Craigslist for some ceramic and glass work this summer...

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Who's a nerd?

My twelve year old son, Isaac, mentioned to me last night that he had only one regret about his name.

"I really like the name 'Isaac', mom, but there's one thing I really hate about it."

"Oh yeah?" I said.

"Yeah. Nobody seems to know how to spell it," he grieved. "Everybody spells it 'ISSAC' and it makes me crazy."

"You'd think people would realize that it has two As and not two Ss," I commiserated. "I suppose that's my fault."

"Why is it your fault?" he asked.

"Well, I should've thought of that when I named you 'ISAAC'. Even your teachers at school get it wrong about half the time," I said.

"Yeah, but it's gotten better since they actually corrected the spelling in the school database," he said. "That was really annoying to be on the computerized roll sheet as 'ISSAC' every year. How did you get them to change that?"

"It pays to have friends in high places," I said. "I just marched right into Janet's office and said 'Change it' and she did."

"Dang. Do you think you could go in there on Monday morning and tell them to change it to 'Doctor Who'? Because it would be really cool to have the teacher call the roll and say 'DOCTOR WHO' and I could say 'HERE'"

I love having a nerd for a son.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Finality... and beginning...



Ten days ago, my precious Daddy went home.

I was able to spend those last three days with him nonstop, along with my sister and my mom, and I don't have any regrets other than I just don't think there's ever enough time.

Have I mentioned that brain tumors are vicious and undignified and it is desperately hard to watch them inexorably overtake the life functions of someone you love?

The memorial service was yesterday. It is so strange to go on with life, to see everyone around doing everything as usual, as if nothing important had occurred, and yet I'm going on, too. And it's okay.

I am joyful to know without even the slightest doubt that my Daddy is fishing somewhere in heaven with his own daddy and maybe with Peter and James and John too. I have no fears that we can all manage... Mom, Beth, me... grief is a fascinating process and it has been interesting to me to go through it and YET to be able to view it impersonally, in a "meta" sort of way, to observe my responses and my feelings and to categorize them in somewhat clinical ways. I think it was one way my brain was able to cope with the intensity of emotion and stress.

I think that I have been able to make a further leap toward accepting who I am -- I am my father's daughter and I am so very much like him, and that's an awesome thing. Not so much a *responsibility*... no, I don't feel that I have to somehow fulfill some diaphanous beyond-the-grave destiny... it's not at all like that. It's just that I am more OKAY with who I am, with my flaws and needs and strengths and with who I've been all my life.

That has to be a good thing.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

I'm just not ready

For those of you who follow me on Facebook, you may be aware that my beloved daddy is gravely ill. A few years ago he was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, which is a type of cancer affecting the bone marrow. He received lots of big-time treatment for this, including a bone marrow transplant from his brother... which meant that he had to take immunosuppressant drugs. His myeloma went into remission, but he developed an extremely rare cancerous tumor on his brainstem which occurred precisely because he was too immunosuppressed. This tumor is caused by a viral infection that we all carry around in our bodies, but our immune system keeps it from developing -- usually, the only people who ever get this kind of tumor are AIDS patients. Anyway, this tumor is expected to bring about my dad's untimely demise. Hospice is involved, but he is still mentally alert and knows what is happening (he is a medical doctor, so he's even more aware than most folks would be).

I won't even go into how angry I feel. Yes, yes, I know... I have no real right to be angry with anyone. People die every day all over the world and many of them die much younger than my dad (who's 64). It doesn't make me less angry... and I'm not really angry WITH anyone. I'm not even angry with God. I'm just ANGRY. I don't want my dad to die. He is so smart and loves to fish and hunt and whittle and talk politics and opera... he has worked so freekin' hard his whole freekin' life, and never got to enjoy being retired. He's been reduced to a feeble shell. And I'm mad as hell about it. My sister's two young children won't even remember him and how much he loves them.

Dad has asked me to put together a video montage of pictures and music for his funeral. I have been scanning pictures a few at a time for quite a while now, but it always seemed so distant that I never really kicked it into gear until this week when things started to seem like they were descending faster and faster. I took the day off from school yesterday to spend the entire day at my mom's scanning and piecing things together, and I'm getting pretty close to having something to show him.

And I'm still holding out for a miracle.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Making of a Moonflower

Recently I completed a painting of a moonflower, and I took photos of the process. First I laid down a layer of light green:


This also established the outlines of the white flower. Since the flower was white, I wanted to leave bright white highlights available for the flower's petals, and the only real way to do that with watercolor is to leave highlight areas unpainted.

Next, I needed to establish the shadowy background behind the leaves:


I don't really use the color black in pure watercolor paintings. I don't think it gives the eye enough "life"... it's too much of a cheat, and it's too final. I'm sure that doesn't make sense. Let me take another stab at it. In actual real life, there really isn't much that's truly flat black... even black marker or black crayon is often created by just an over-excess of blue or red or purple pigment. Besides, a viewer doesn't need everything just force-fed. Your eyes need something to do, to make a painting more interesting. You see my final painting of the moonflower, you don't perceive the background necessarily as "purple", even though it really is. You perceive it as "shadow", and your mind automatically classifies it as "black" or "dark" and then no longer considers it.

Next, I need to deepen the tones in the leaves. Again, sticking with only green tones is too easy and deprives the eye of its fun in piecing things together for itself. So the darker areas get some blue:


Deepening those background areas with some indigo tones:


When working with things that are white, you have to remember that there are shadowy areas even on white petals. How to go about creating these? Pale purple. Really. See? :


Details of purple splotches and yellow-green throat:


And then finally, I add some slightly darker gray-green "details" in the leaves to make them seem more nubbly and textured:


That's it.

I'm actually still learning to do this. It's all a grand experiment, and as often as not, my experiments don't turn out to be blog-worthy, or even light-of-day worthy. But it's all a great exercise in learning to SEE... to see the colors behind the colors, which when layered together give you more than the sum of their parts.

I have more to show you in the upcoming days.