Saturday, January 31, 2015
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.
Sunday, January 11, 2015
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
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.
Wednesday, July 03, 2013
Much To Lose
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.
"Most Glorious Service"
· 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.
· 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.
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
Saturday, April 27, 2013
Friday, March 22, 2013
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.
Wednesday, March 13, 2013
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.
Happy Spring to you and yours!
Monday, March 11, 2013
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
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
Thursday, February 21, 2013
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.
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.
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
Saturday, March 31, 2012
"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.
Sunday, March 11, 2012
Monday, February 20, 2012
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 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
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:
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.
Saturday, January 14, 2012
Now the stone house on the lake front is finished and the
workmen are beginning the fence.
The palings are made of iron bars with steel points that
can stab the life out of any man who falls on them.
As a fence, it is a masterpiece, and will shut off the rabble
and all vagabonds and hungry men and all wandering
children looking for a place to play.
Passing through the bars and over the steel points will go
nothing except Death and the Rain and To-morrow.
So here's what I want from whoever seeks to become my President this year:
That's pretty much it. Quit spending my money, quit doling out my money to people who I believe do not deserve it and causes which I not only do not support but which run contrary to my values and principles, and quit telling me what I can and can't do when I'm not bothering anybody.
Do I think that'll happen? Pshyeah, right. But there's how I feel. That's my ideal politician leader. Somebody who cuts the whole shmear... who sends 'em all packing.
Five more months and I get to shut the gate for good.