About My Younger Life

I am a SouthWest Virginia artist with a passion for family, Christ, sports, and music. My work varies greatly from one piece to another. It is my goal to use this site as a springboard for ideas and a road map to help me focus on a direction (not my gift). I hope others will follow me on my journey.

Spot Light or Dimmer Switch

As I prepare to be a featured artist at a local festival I have finally spent some time in my studio. My biggest obstacle this week has been heat since it is not air conditioned. Our temperatures have been around 85 and humidity in the 80’s as well. When my husband and I built my studio around 15 years ago as an addition to our house with our garage I thought it wasn’t necessary. I am cold natured anyway so the added expense wasn’t worth it. However, I did heavy research in lighting. It was north facing which is ideal, having subtle sunlight all day. There were lighting systems on the market called full spectrum lighting but they were costly. I have a light on my drafting table that has a switch for yellow, incandescent or blue, florescent. Switching both on gives a close representation of natural light. So we inexpensively mimicked that by putting an equal amount of both systems in the ceiling. The incandescent lights were also installed with a dimmer switch giving me more control.
So, what is the big deal about the color of light? Does it really matter how bright it is or if it is soft or hard light. Lighting greatly effects the appearance of the colors of a painting or any use of color media. Incandescent light will warm up the picture while florescent light cools colors down. If you are a realist like I am the use of just one of these can cause an inaccurate representation or prevent you from getting the desired look you want.

This is the project I am working on under only incandescent light:

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Florescent light:

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Both type of light:

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It hit me that it is the same with how we addressing certain situations. Harsh lighting, color lighting, subtle lighting all effect how we view something. Like when we debate an issue or present our opinion on a sensitive topic. How can we expect another person to be open to hear our opinion if it is not an accurate representation or if it comes across harshly? Strong words can be like a spot light in the eyes. However, if the lighting is too dim the image, or point, can be unclear.
I guess I went through all this not only educate others of the effects of light but also to make a point about discussing tricky topics. There needs to be just the right balance of the different types of light to create visual clarity. Just like we need the right amount of tact when trying to make a point. It doesn’t require you sacrifice your principles or soften your opinion. Your words just need to have a dimmer switch to fit the conversation.

It’s Time

Writers block…erggg. normally I post early on Wednesdays and sometimes I even write my blog earlier in the week but it escaped me this week. With the end of the school year and the beginning of summer I have lost all routine.  I have all the time in the world but struggle to schedule that time.

I remember when I was in college and tried to budget my time.  It was odd how in the fall when I played volleyball and had little time but I did so much better at getting my work done.  I knew I had to get on my projects early because games, travel and practices consumed a lot of my time.  I learned quickly to review my syllabi weeks in advance to prepare myself for how big assignments fit into my volleyball schedule.

Second semester was an entirely different senrio for me.  Compared to my first semester I seemed to be loaded in free time. Without my sense of urgency I increased my natural tendency to procrastinate. I stopped looking ahead and started filling my time with “fun stuff”. Before long I was playing catch up finishing each year worse than the beginning. Too many times my summers imitate my college second semesters.

So, a week in to my summer break and my goal of spending Tuesdays and Thursdays in my studio has already failed.  I did get in a Thursday but not the last Tuesday.  I have an art show I would like to enter next week and my pipes drawing is not half finished. Next week I am teaching at an enrichment program until noon so maybe that is my new “second semester”. I guess I need to fool myself.  Head games are not my strength but I really need to look ahead and plan better.

Here is my accountability attempt. Thursday I will put in 3 hours.  At the end of that I will schedule my next time in regard to how far I get and where I need to be by next Friday when my drawing has to be at the competition. Next post I will have photos of my pipes drawing. This is now a commitment.

Do As I Do And As I Say

Today is one of those mixed emotion days.  I wake up to the first day of my summer break. I can’t put my finger on it but I am not bouncing around the house in celebration. This is my 26th time experiencing the end of a school year and I still struggle with the abrupt change in routine. Please don’t take this as a complaint. I would not mock those of you who do not have the gift of a long break from work. I have taught so long I don’t remember what it was like to go to “work” in June and July. I do know what it is like to work long hours in an effort to encourage and motivate students. I do know what it is like to speak to parents only to have a conversation loaded in apathy toward their child.  I do know frustrated passion for lives of these youth that is at times crippling.  I do know what it is like to be blamed for, well, every short coming of the national youth culture.  I see a large number of students that have one goal; to graduate, nothing more. And there is a surprising amount of them that don’t think past today. They don’t plan and they don’t dream. They don’t have a life plan at all. It is a defeated community.

I know most of my readers are from this very community but so am I. Our children need to see us dream. They need to see us live. They need to see our struggles and experience our successes. They need to be a part of the family and not outside looking in like some reality series. Families are too busy going and doing instead of being together and letting the whole family unit dream together. My students have no clue about their parents lives. Without a connection emotionally they can only model what they see so, in most cases, they see parents too busy too communicate. They see both parents begrudgingly going to work and they feel it is because of them that Mom or Dad has to work. That they have no stake in the family at all. They don’t know it is really because people want more stuff. They want more money. Or it is because parents didn’t dream, they, too, just wanted to graduate. They had to settle for a pay check instead of a path to a dream.

I guess my mixed emotions this morning come from the thoughts of the end of a school year that was full of kids without a path. So many know no purpose. They have no direction. Kinda of like the zombie craze, they just meander through life. Sorry this blog is not very uplifting today. It is more of a plea. If you have children talk to them! Spend time with each child one on one. Even if you have to do what they like to do. Be involved not spectating. They think their role as parents ends by being there as they sit in the stands or as part of the crowd. I see a culture that likes to go places but in large groups not just as a family unit.

How do we battle this cultural apathy?  One parent and one kid at a time. Talk to others about dreaming and help them plan a path to living their dreams. Set goals with them and be a part of those goals. And don’t stop dreaming yourself. Each week is not to be lived just to get through it. I am guilty of a lot of those weeks myself and find that is when my family was the most disconnected. If you don’t have children or you have an empty nest be an example to the kids around you. Remember when grandparents talked about “the good ole days”? All it takes is some conversation and a little of your time.

It is now time for me to get on my dreams. The pipe drawing and bass guitar have not been touched in weeks. I want my own children to see me as a person who dreams but seeks to follow those by making plans and setting goals. I need them to see an example of how to recover when your dreams take a set back or your goals are compromised like when my goal to run a triathlon in April was change due to the illness and death of my Dad.  I am now entering the Hokie Half Marathon in September.  I need them to see an example of how to live instead of how to just earn a pay check. And I need them to see that even now I continue to live. Maybe if you share completely yourself with your kids it will encourage you to dream as well.

To Live The Impossible Dream

Ahhh, to dream the impossible dream.  If it is impossible then wouldn’t it be a fantasy? Are dreams and goals the same thing? How are successes measured? I know a lot of this is just splitting hairs but something to consider.

I recently watched “Percy Jackson, The Lightning Thief”.  When Percy and his companions ventured into the Underworld, Hades told them it was the land of lost hopes and dreams that never come true. Dante could have made that a level of Hell.  To live an entire life without attaining your hopes and dreams would be a form of Hell.  I know all dreams are not achieved but I do feel we all have to believe we can live them.  Otherwise, wouldn’t they be fantasies?

I have the dream thing down pat.  just ask snt of my previous teachers. I was the kid staring out the window with a glazed over expression. My mind clearly somewhere else. I am also decent at setting goals even though I tend to set them too high or too many at one time.  The one that I always struggled with was the word success.  It was always such a bad word because I could never get a handle on its definition.

Success is defined on google as, “the accomplishment of an aim or purpose”.  It is also defined as, “the attainment on popularity or profit”.  I had a distorted view of the word success.  When I left home to attend college I was going to make something of myself.  I had escaped.  I was going to get that degree and didn’t need anyone or anything.  It was my ticket to a big pay check, a classy job and proof of my success. As I blogged about in “I Believe In Me”.  I worked hard to make others proud so when I did graduate it was actually a little of a let down.  No big fanfare, no one was bowing and no job offers.  I went to a few interviews with no luck.  I was forced to take a minimum wage job working night shift in a convenience store.  It was difficult.  I barely made rent and had no money left over.  My bedroom consisted of a 4″ foam mattress, a lamp and a cardboard nightstand. This was not my idea of success.  I couldn’t tell my family that I was barely eating.  I was embarrassed that I had left home to make something of myself and here I was with my big degree making less money than everyone else.  Things continued to get worse.  I wrecked my car and lost my apartment.  I became even more stubborn, refusing to go home as, what I saw, a failure.  Next, I moved into a relatives house and worked as a waitress at a pizza place.  Most of my belongings packed in boxes in my car.  Another month went by and I had given up on a career.  I was done.

The phone call I dreaded.  I called my Dad.  “Can I come home?”  I was tired, lonely and defeated.  He was surprised that I even asked and quickly answered, “yes, of course you can.”  I tell you this whole story to illustrate this point.  All my mental suffering was at my own hands.  Not because I fought for months to keep my independence.  It was not because of my failure to begin my career.  It was not because anyone else was disappointed in me.  It was all because of my distorted view of success.  I thought it was a big pay check.  I thought it was a flashy job.  I thought it was a powerful position.  Turns out success is none of these.  Success is found in your character, in your work ethic, in your legacy.  It all cannot be summed up in a career.  It is what you are defined by as a person.

Matthew 16:26,  “What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul?  Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?”

A Weed Or Not A Weed, That Is The Question

Tis the season of sunburns, allergies and poison ivy.  I love the great outdoors and I love hard labor.  I would trade it any day for my couch and TV even with the pain I endure as I over work my muscles and expose myself to the allergen plagues.  Just something about being with nature that makes it all worth it.  However, I recently questioned it when I had a terrible bout of poison ivy.  One week, a shot and a topical prescription, I seem to be improving.  Oh, I often wonder what purpose such a plant can have so I google it.

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Poison ivy and poison oak are major food sources.  They are food sources for more than 60 species of bird on the east coast alone as well as deer.  Cotton tails also enjoy munching on the juicy stems that are poisonous to other animals and people.  Some moths use it to conceal their larvae.  Not to mention it is actually a beautiful plant that is very hardy helping to prevent erosion.

Since I think like everything was created for mankind I still question the existence of this “thorn in my side”.  I mean, other plants serve the same purpose, right?  Why do we need this particular plant.  Well, it isn’t always about the mighty me.  And beside if I had spent time learning as much about its counterpart, the Jewelweed, all could have been avoided.  God has provided a compliment to the poison ivy/oak/sumac.

I failed to remember a popular survival show I watched and failed to think about the “leaflets of three leave it be”.  Nature has provided the cure, jewelweed.  It grows usually in the same location as poison ivy/oak.  It is also nature’s antidote for other of life’s itchy’s.  It is a little harder to identify without its orange trumpet shaped spotted blooms.  But it is well worth learning how to identify it as it’s juice will counteract the effects of poison ivy.  It will also cure or lessen reactions to mosquito bites, bee stings, athletes foot, ringworm, nettle stings and a variety of other skin irritations.

Genesis 9:3 “Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you.  And as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything.”  Look around you and choose to learn what God provides.  Not just about the bad because “everything” is a lot good stuff.

Oh, Say Can You See

In all of my deep thoughts lately I have lost focus on my purpose in beginning this whole blogging adventure.  I had not been very successful at spending time in my studio.  So, Sunday I for went the usual veg out evening and decided to put some time in working on the next guitar. I know it was Mother’s Day. I can hear you thinking the vegging out thing more fitting but not me.  Even the most physically demanding tasks in a creative adventure are relaxing to me.
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I glued in most of the inlays on the new bass guitar project.  I just need to touch them up when I sand them later.  They are pearl stars and now replace the boring dots that used to fill the neck.  Still undecided on a name for it but it will come to me.  This one will be patriotic.  It represents “Courageous Freedom” to me because of the country I proudly abide in and served while in the military.  I know this country has it’s flaws because decisions are made by flawed people.  Sure some have agendas that are not so positive but most think they are making the right choices.  I am reminded of Francis Scott Key and the writing of the “Star Spangled Banner” when I thing of this project so I an going for worn flag look.   I was going to paraphrase this article I just read from http://www.smithsonianmag.com but found it too interesting to leave parts out so I did the old copy and paste.  It goes like this:

One rainy September 13, 1814, British warships sent a downpour of shells and rockets onto Fort McHenry in Baltimore Harbor, relentlessly pounding the American fort for 25 hours. The bombardment, known as the Battle of Baltimore, came only weeks after the British had attacked Washington, D.C., burning the Capitol, the Treasury and the President’s house. It was another chapter in the ongoing War of 1812.

A week earlier, Francis Scott Key, a 35-year-old American lawyer, had boarded the flagship of the British fleet on the Chesapeake Bay in hopes of persuading the British to release a friend who had recently been arrested. Key’s tactics were successful, but because he and his companions had gained knowledge of the impending attack on Baltimore, the British did not let them go. They allowed the Americans to return to their own vessel but continued guarding them. Under their scrutiny, Key watched on September 13 as the barrage of Fort McHenry began eight miles away.

“It seemed as though mother earth had opened and was vomiting shot and shell in a sheet of fire and brimstone,” Key wrote later. But when darkness arrived, Key saw only red erupting in the night sky. Given the scale of the attack, he was certain the British would win. The hours passed slowly, but in the clearing smoke of “the dawn’s early light” on September 14, he saw the American flag—not the British Union Jack—flying over the fort, announcing an American victory.

Next time you see the flag flying try not to think of all of the turmoil surrounding the USA; the riots, the political games, the negative media propaganda.  Instead remind yourself of the freedoms we have been granted.  I once saw a Facebook post that was riddled with obscenities trashing the government and it’s military. It was extremely abusive to veterans.   I chose not to reply but I wanted to say, as a veteran, “You are welcome”.  Our government and military just gave you the right to say those things publicly.  It takes Courage and Freedom to say what needs to be or not to be said. A courageous freedom.

I Believe In Me

Before clicking on the link below I do feel I need to warn you that it is a little “risque”.

One day last week I stumbled upon the “Pretty Woman” movie on TV.  It had been a long time since I had last seen it so I watched while doing a few things around the house.  When the scene above came on it really grabbed my attention.  At first it was the fact they were in bed and it just caught me off guard but it was the dialogue that made me continue to watch.  Two lines stood out in particular.  “People put you down enough you start to believe it” and the line “The bad stuff is easier to believe”.  It stung me.  I literally said out loud, “oh, wow”.

Reflecting back to my childhood I struggle to remember the compliments.  They were there but I really have to think hard to pull them out of my mind.  The negatives, however, stand out clearly.  I was encouraged to go to college but I sometimes got the feeling that it was for bragging rights to friends not because of my merits.  My art work gained me an occasional “that’s nice” but nothing more.  One time I mentioned entering the school’s beauty pageant (I know you just giggled) but my mom told me I didn’t have a chance with “the way I walked”.  I do want to preface this with the fact that my parents were much older when they had me and had already raised two children before I was a teen.  Their life was much harder.  Discipline meant love and bragging only made a child spoiled and soft.    They never stood in the way of my dreams and when I asked if I could spend a month in London during my Freshman year, after a lot of discussion, they borrowed the money and sent me over the ocean.  I understand were they were coming from now but as a teenage girl it was hard to grasp.  Self-motivation was, however, hard to hold on to so I grabbed the one trait I had I knew I could count on then: stubbornness.

I remember a certain elementary teacher telling me I would never amount to anything; in front of the whole class.  She continued to say how I needed to grow up and some day act like a girl.  I was so embarrassed.  I refused to do math homework from then on even though she would pull me in front of the class and paddle me for not having it (I am so old we still did that).  I was laughed at by another school official when I told him of my plans to attend college after high school.  Sure, I didn’t always apply myself but I always believed I could.

The day came when I graduated high school with a wonderful class rank of 29 out of 99 and my SAT scores were barely average.  No scholarship offers there but I was accepted and attended college anyway.  Time to move away from home.  The year was harsh.  The professors heard my mountain accent and saw my horrible writing and I was again labeled. I can recall my art critiques and the papers I wrote.  I was so far behind on the very first day.   I didn’t know what the others in my class already knew.  The professors would openly call my artwork “crap” and my English professor said he could tell where I was from by my poor writing.  I would get people to proof read for me and sometimes they would just tell me “it might be easier to start over”.  Every now and then I would believe them.  When I got tired of feeling so dumb I would stubborn up and dig in again.  It was a cycle.  One that followed me into my career later as a teacher.

It was much later in life that I finally broke the cycle of stupid.  The first thing was I fell in love and married a man that has never put me down or made me feel less than an intelligent and completely capable woman.  The second thing was when I really and completely got what Christ says about me.  It ended those cycles.  “I praise You because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Your works are wonderful, I know that full well.”- Psalm 139:14  I don’t think we think about ourselves as part of His works.  “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace He lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding.”- Ephesians 1:7,8 Lavish means to bestow in generous and extravagant quantities.

So I say stubborn up and believe in you.  Christ does.  He died on a cross believing in you.

Well, Now That’s A Deep Subject

I have recently returned to some of my routines, one of those being playing in my church’s praise team.  This past service we did a song titled “It Is Well”.  This version is a mix of modern praise and an old hymn.  The course states “through it all, through it all, my eyes are on You.  Through it all, through it all it is well” and  later morphs into the hymn “It is well, with my soul.”  The history of the hymn adds so much to understanding of the newer praise lyrics.  So here is a brief historic reference.

Writer Horatio Stafford suffered through some very difficult circumstances.  He was, at first, a prominent lawyer in the 1860’s.  During that time he invested heavily in real estate in Chicago.  Guess what happened in 1871.  Yep, the Great Fire.  Sending him into financial ruin.  A couple years later after overcoming his capital losses, Stafford decided to take his family over the Atlantic.  A last minute change of plans put him leaving later on a different ship.  The boat his family was on sank killing his four daughters.  His wife alone survived.  It was on his way, as he past where his daughters drowned that he wrote “Ville Du Havre” titled after the boat that sank.  Which would later be known as the hymn “It Is Well”.  I had heard this story many times.  For your infoemation this information is paraphrased from Wikipedia.

I did learn some new information while researching.  He later lost a son to scarlet fever.  After that the church labeled all of these events in his life as “Devine Punishment”.  This spurred him to form a new messianic sect known as “the overcomers”.  They lived in Jerusalem where the group grew to become a major humanitarian organization helping communities recover after World War I.

All of this has sparked me to consider the word “well”.  The noun well is a described as an issue of water from the earth, a pit or sink hole, or an enclosure in a ships hold.  The verb means to rise to the surface and usually flow forth.  The adverb is when someone does something in a successful way, good and proper.  And then there is the adjective that means prosperous, of satisfactory condition.

When Horatio Stafford themed his song with the term “well”.  I am sure he didn’t mean the noun, well.  Although it is fun to insert sink hole instead of well into conversations.  I am pretty sure he was referring to the adjective form.  Oh, he could’ve described his situation as being in a pit or a sink hole but instead he chose to look at it contrary to the norm.  The lyrics don’t say everything will be ok but that it is well with my soul now.  Also, if he would have believed the “churches” Devine Punishment theory I don’t think his soul would have felt so well.

Normal Is As Normal Does

A friend of mine the other day, when expressing his condolences, ask me if everything was back to normal.  I believe he was referring to my schedule, that had been difficult during my Dads illness, but I took it to mean my life in general.  I replied, “no, what is normal?  I have to make a new normal.” There are always changes when loosing someone close to you. Changes that are not a part of normal life for the individual, aka…me.

The day before my coworkers and I had a workshop on trauma and grief. The expert spoke about how grief is always with you and that you never heal.  Correct or not I can’t view my loss that way.  I believe it is a wound.  Some wounds are worse than others and take varying amounts of time to heal.  These particular wounds nearly always leave scars.  Some are visible constantly some are not.  Some wounds cause us to make large life changes and adaptations because of the injury that caused them.  These scars also make us even more unique.  They are signs of our life battles, our experiences, our journey down a difficult path.  They give us empathy, compassion, and they connect us.

It reminds me of an art piece I started about 6 weeks ago. It is a colored pencil drawing on  black illustration board.  The subject is just a bunch of green pipes.  I just keep adding pipes and adding pipes.  It kind of remind of the Microsoft Windows Screensaver.  When finished the board will be full of them connecting and changing directions constantly over the entire surface.  Reminds me of our day to day lives. How people are constantly added and are daily interacting. Some connect while others just pass through.

Take a good look at others. Look at their scars. They are not flaws or defects in beauty but evidence of a life lived.

No Rest For The Weary

Time to get back at it.  No rest for the weary they say.  Who every that is I would like to slap them.  Why can’t the weary rest?  Is it because weary people just don’t rest, hence why they are weary?  Just a random thought.  It seems I am always tired but I am one of those that chooses not to rest.  There is always so much to accomplish.  Life is too short to do nothing.

So, with that, I started back on the second guitar in the “Courageous Freedom” series.  I sanded down the body a few weeks ago and this week started working on putting different inlays in the neck.  I debated on not changing them but once I got it in my head that I wanted stars instead of the usual dots I just couldn’t let it go.  I would have loved to have left it alone and spared myself about 5 hours of work but that would not have satisfied me.  It would have glared at me each time I saw it wondering “what if”.  I am withholding what the final result is going to look like just to tease you guys.  I will tell you that it is a bass guitar.  My love.

I have not worked on the pipes abstract I started a month ago but it is still on my mind.  I carried it with me for weeks while caring for my Dad but just could not seem to pull it out and work on it.  I could not get my mood right to do the work.  I know art can be a wonderful outlet in times of stress but I couldn’t get to that point.  Now that my life is opening up I want to get back on it.  The struggle is to get caught up on the things that went neglected during my busy season.

Why do I make choices that keep me so overloaded?  Could it be that I want to do more than everyone around me.  No, that’s not it.  I try not to make mental notes about what others are doing.  Could it be that I am afraid to do nothing one day that it will be a habit and I will never achieve anything again?  No, not that either.  How about the need for attention?  Maybe, a little.  I am, after all the third of four siblings and was born to older parents.  Is it where I find my worth?  Man, I hope not!

I can’t completely answer for certain.  I just know that ideas pop into my head all the time and if I don’t get them out it gets crowded.  My husband has, in the past, said he imagined inside my head was like the lottery machine they use on TV to make the number selections.  Ideas bounce around and I randomly select one to do.  It can be exhausting but it is me and I accept that because I am accepted. After all I am beautifully and wonderfully made by my creator.