Friday, August 31, 2007

The Flute Section

The Flute Section (sketch)
8.5" x 11"
Tonight is a big night, especially in this area of Texas, and other places too. This is the night of the first football game of the school year. Teams have new suits and equipment, and have practiced and been pumped up-ready for the opening game. Pep rallies have taken place. The band, dance teams, flag corps have worked on their routines and readied their costumes for their debut. Parents and fans anxiously wait to see their students take part in the rituals of the game. Coaches may tend to pace and chew their nails. Teachers are busy with their duties as sponsors of organizations, or in their duties of working the gate or patrolling to make sure that there are no problems in the stands. And school related organizations are ready to sell their wares and make a little money for this school year.
"The Flute Section" is a sketch I did, remembering our little group in the band hall, four flutes, and the band director, concentrating on the music and the young musicians in front of him. Of course, there were others behind us, on the other side of the director, and to our right in front of the director. This drawing began as we were getting ready for our high school reunion this past June.
We were fortunate to have an excellent band director. When he came to our school, our band went from about 19 to 60 members. He was young, and the girls thought he was cute, so the band grew. Later, he went on to become a long time director of the Texas Aggie band at Texas A&M University. And, of course, they have always had a fantastic military style band. We weren't that good, but we had some outstanding training over our years as part of the Calvert High Trojan band.
My friend and neighbor, Edie, who I shared school supplies with in an earlier post, also played flute and was always one chair, and a grade, ahead of me. Ruth Ann was one chair, and a grade, behind me, and Sandra followed her.
The school owned a beautiful wood and silver (like a clarinet or oboe) German flute. They obtained it from the POW camp that was located near the next town, Hearne, at the end of WWII as prisoners were being sent home. The school also had several other instruments that had belonged to prisoners. In fact, our band hall was one of the barracks that had been at the POW camp. Prior to that, the band had to meet in a small choir room or the cafeteria, with practice for programs on the auditorium stage, or on the football field.
The flute had the most wonderful tone and was so much easier to play than the silver flutes we all had.
The person who was first chair in the flute section got to play the German flute. Edie was first chair until she graduated. Then it was my turn. When she was a senior and I was a junior, she was out of school for the usual two weeks with the mumps, so I got to move up to first chair while she was sick.
I didn't want to go to school, so I always hoped to catch anything that came along. When there was an outbreak of mumps, I heard that you could catch them if you drank after someone who had mumps. There wasn't much opportunity for that. I didn't think that you could catch anything from playing an instrument, but I did. Edie returned and reclaimed the flute and first chair, when she was well. And, then it was my turn. I had the most horrible case of mumps! I was so swollen, I couldn't lift my head off the pillow for two weeks. My face and neck were even with my shoulders. But that was okay with me, although I was pretty miserable. I got to be at home for two whole weeks.
Edie graduated and went off to college, and I moved up to first chair my senior year. I was sure that I was playing much better with that special flute. Until then, I had been using my aunt's flute, that she had also used when she was in the Calvert High and Baylor University bands.
Still, I was shy, and didn't really want anyone to hear me or notice me. That was really hard when I had to sit on the outside row of the band. Before that, I could hide behind Edie. I didn't think I could read music very well either. But, I had this sort of gift, I guess you could call it. If I could hear the first note of something, I could play, or sing, the rest of the music, even if I had never heard it before. I would tell people to start me off, and away I would go with it. If it was a familiar first note, I was okay with it and could sound it out myself. But some things seemed like they were just blocked, to me. Sort of like math.
While my mother taught piano lessons, and I would sing with her in the choir and at home, I didn't take advantage of what she tried to teach me. I was more interested in other things, and didn't like the sound of a lone piano.
Graduation time came for me and I wanted to go to nursing school. But, at 16, I was too young. I was accepted, but had to wait until I was 18. Meanwhile, I went off to a teachers college, a place my family felt was acceptable for a young lady. The school offered to sell me the German flute, if I would be in the college band. Being shy, I wasn't sure about that, but I really wanted that flute. Daddy said I already had my aunt's flute that I could play, if I wanted to be in the band, and refused to pay the $20 for it. I thought I wasn't good enough to be in a college band, and didn't want to get in front of all those people, so I just went to school and tried not to be in anything. (They wouldn't let that happen, though. We had to go to everything!)
As I was going off to college, my high school English teacher talked to me on Main Street one day. She asked what I was going to major in. I didn't know what that meant. She told me that she thought I should major in Art, since I was always drawing instead of doing my work, and minor in English. She also advised me to not let anyone borrow anything of mine. She said I would end up without even face powder or ink of my own if I let others start borrowing my things. So, at registration, I told the people at the desks that I would major in Art and minor in English, and they entered that on my paperwork. I still wasn't sure what it meant! And my classmates thought I was a really stingy person because, when anyone wanted to use my bottle of ink to refill their pen, or borrow a sheet of paper, I said "No", and pulled all my things close to me. I kept a close watch on all my things. My $5 a week allowance would not go far if I had to replace my personal things.
Anyway, there were some tense times in the flute section, when the band director would get mad at students who didn't play a passage correctly, had not practiced, or were talking and giggling. Band directors could certainly be temperamental, but nice, and even fun, at other times. Although we were practically sitting under his nose, we would still take every opportunity to share our dreams and our secrets. We didn't think he could hear, but I'll bet he heard some interesting things. Hopefully he was, as we thought, engrossed in his music and not listening to our little girl secrets.
My little sister played saxaphone and sat behind us, when she got in band, and my boyfriend all through school days, played trombone, and also sat behind the flute section. My cousin, Doris, who was in my class, played French horn, and was seated to my right, facing the director.
We had some interesting experiences as members of the band. There were trips such as the ones to march in the Houston Fat Stock Show parade. (A couple of times, we got to see Roy Rogers and Dale Evans up close, when they were in the parade. I distinctly remember that we all tried to stay in line, but had to march around Trigger's poop in the street. Roy and Dale were carrying coat hangers with western shirts into the arena as we were in formation, waiting on the parade to start.) We went to Baylor University in Waco for band contest, and we went to the Trojan football games to march and play during the game.
There was snuggling up under quilts when it was cold and being miserable from itchy wool uniforms when the weather was hot. And watching the couples smooch during ball games as they parked under the bleachers, thinking no one would see them there. The band did. But, I learned to tie a tie, which helped me even recently when I had to tie my grandson's tie! And we marched, and learned discipline, and had to face our fears of performing in front of people. It was easier when we were with a group of our friends who we saw daily.
Shannon P. Husbands has a lovely flute drawing today on her blog, M.E. Art. It made me think of the days when I played flute. Can't do that anymore. After a certain age, I guess, the lips just won't cooperate anymore. My daughter also played flute for a while and we still have that flute.
I tried to get a group together, when I was teaching, of people in the community who had enjoyed being in band in their younger days. The band director helped us and met with us to direct on Sunday afternoons. That was fun. We hoped to practice enough to give concerts in the park or go to nursing homes. But, the band director left, and the following directors didn't want to give up their Sunday afternoons. And, for a while, there was a shortage of band directors and the school didn't have anyone to fill that position.
There is a new high school here named for General Earl Rudder. The school won't be finished until next year, but they had their first football game last night! They're getting an early start on school spirit and traditions. Students are attending classes at the existing high school until the school is ready. They already have faculty and staff and all is ready, except for the building. Rudder's Rangers won their first game, 45-0.
Good luck to all the teams, and everyone involved, tonight. It is a big night in Texas, and many other towns in America.
Besides the time when I was in the band, I think the time that I most enjoyed football games, was when my grandson played, or when we had games at home in the yard, and when, as an elderly lady, I was out on the field, among the kids, taking pictures for the yearbook and newspaper. That was interesting since I had not had the opportunity to look at things from the same viewpoint as the players. I had seen what the field looked like as a member of the band.
There was a film clip on the Texas A&M band in which it looked like you were marching behind someone in the band. That brought back memories.
As for that beautiful German flute, I heard that it was destroyed when it came into contact with a football helmet at a game after I went away to college. I've never seen another one like it. But, in looking for German flutes, I've found some flutes that are made of things like clay and even glass. I thought it might be neat to try to make a flute from clay. A glass flute sounds interesting, but that's something I have never tried to work with.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Teachers Meeting

Teachers Meeting 4"x 12" Ink NFS
Right now, there are lots of hurting feet and legs and tired kids and teachers, after the first few days of school. Students are dealing with new classes, subject matter, rules, and having to face those government mandated tests. Teachers, too, have an overwhelming amount of things to deal with all the way from a huge amount of paperwork, discipline, learning about their new students and the best way to help them in their classes, to extra duties, and also having to be sure that their students do well on the standardized tests. Not to mention the physical aspects of having to work in less than ideal conditions, having to stand and walk for long periods of time, long hours and more to do after work, lifting, dragging, cleaning, preparing materials and supplies, not being able to eat, drink, or go to the restroom when needed, lots of stress to cope with, extra duty, and many other things that are a part of the job.
I have already posted things about memories of going back to school with children in my art work. After hearing from children and teachers about their tired feet and legs, I thought I would post something that has to do with going back to school , showing teachers. "Teachers Meeting" is part of a cartoon that I did some years ago, but it still holds true these days. Some of the words are what we heard as teachers gathered for the new school year.
Until recent years, we were deluged with salesmen, and required to sit and listen to them. Budgets didn't allow for buying many materials for school, and paychecks weren't large enough to purchase all the materials and various kinds of insurance that we probably needed. After years of protesting about these hours of presentations from salesmen, it was such a relief when the school district finally got a group life and health policy, and we could contact other insurance companies for other needs, if we were interested and could afford it. We really needed that time to get our rooms ready instead of listening to someone trying to sell us something that we couldn't afford.
So many meetings were such a waste of time, and sometimes, money paid to the presenters. Some teachers got through those by crocheting, knitting, or doing needlework, while listening. If I could do it so that people wouldn't notice, I would draw, but act as if I were taking notes. Or, if I couldn't draw, I learned to play "basketball" or "tennis" with the floaters in my eye. I could make those shapes bounce around from one end of the court to the other, or over the net. I don't care for sports, but I could move around in my imagination, by playing ball with my eyes, while sitting perfectly still. Other people told me that my eyes just sparkled and danced. Little did they know what I was actually doing. I was bored stiff and just entertaining myself.
This cartoon was done before the government tests, so I didn't mention that in my cartoon. But we had plenty of other things to be overwhelmed with. Sometimes, it seemed like an impossible situation.
Time passes, though, and, somehow, things get done, kids grow up and move on.
Last night, on a local tv channel, they showed high school graduation from last May. At last, I got to see my grandson graduate. I was there at the ceremony, but I couldn't see much because of my eye problems and being so far away in that big arena.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Katrina Angels

Katrina Angels (top)
Katrina Angels -detail (bottom)
12" x 16"
Today, there are observations going on for the second anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. More stories are being told, suffering goes on, as does rebuilding.
As the hurricane developed and was coming in to hit the Gulf Coast area, I, like others, sat in front of the television set, day and night, watching all the coverage possible. I've been in a couple of floods, and a few hurricanes, but nothing like this.
One of the first early reports of the horror that occured, was from a female reporter calling in to her tv station to tell that she had been out in a boat with her crew, as it got dark. They had to come back in as it was so dangerous. She seemed to break down as she told of seeing a dog wrapped in wires, being electrocuted; of hearing cries for help in the dark, but there was nothing they could do.
I didn't know that there was such a thing as rescue swimmers. I was fascinated as the orange helicopters of the Coast Guard swooped through the skies and hovered, and held my breath each time I saw the crew members beside open doors. I just knew that someone might fall out. But, amazingly, that didn't happen. Strong men in fitted suits and helmets with dark glasses, swung on ropes through the air to drop into polluted water or onto rooftops, to help stranded people get up into the helicopters and off to what they hoped would be a safe place.
The Coast Guard seemed to be the only ones who were able to do anything, until other services arrived with their own helicopters and rescue teams. As more and more helicopters and crews arrived, the sky seemed filled with them. They were like angels, swinging on ropes through the sky, bringing care and mercy to victims.
I am still in awe of their daring, their strength, their knowledge, and skill. As I have watched more tv programs featuring these helicopter crews, I am amazed at what they do. I can't imagine being near a door in a moving helicopter, much less jumping into the ocean with crashing waves and a sinking ship. Then having to go back into the helicopter and perform medical services on victims.
As I thought about the rescuers, I wanted to do some art work as a tribute to them. I sketched in some of the scenes I remembered during Katrina on watercolor paper. I just had to show the orange of the helicopters, so I knew that I had to add color. I put in a dog, wrapped in wire; a man trying to make his way through the water; holes chopped in the roof with an axe; people in groups on rooftops; stranded cars and people; sick people being lifted up and cared for; flooded homes; debris drifting by; a city in the background; a church steeple, rising from the water, as a symbol of hope; and the sky filled with helicopters and those "angels", everywhere.
While I worked on this painting, my grandson had a project to do for school. He wanted to enter an art competition that had a theme of American Heroes. I thought he might be inspired by my "Katrina Angels" and think of them as American Heroes, as they certainly were, in my opinion. However, he wanted to paint something with an atomic bomb explosion in it. He ended up sharing my watercolors with me, and painted his explosion, with a soldier in front of it, guarding us, and a helicopter crashing from the blast. It was nice to paint together.
I thought that it was very colorful and bold. His teacher picked it to go to the big show, and he was so excited. But, it didn't win, so that was disappointing. I explained to him about how judging works, and that the important thing is that he did the painting, and others got to see what he did. He was thrilled to get a certificate that said he participated. It was really difficult for a while, as he tried to decide what to do. That was the real struggle.
Trying to create from someone else's title is often hard. When I was teaching, and we had shows with themes to particpate in , I wanted to go to the planners and ask , "Just what is it that you mean by that? What do you want?" Trying to figure that out is the hardest part. Usually I can think of an idea for these sort of things- months after the show has ended! But, some of the students usually came up with good ideas, after struggling with it for a while.
"Katrina Angels" was painted on Strathmore 140 pound watercolor paper using Winsor Newton watercolors. I liked the effect of the greens and purples, including my favorite Cobalt Violet. My grandson commented that he liked the reflection of the helicopter in the water.
I took a photo of this one and put it on my computer, in order to get the whole picture. This is the top picture above. However, I also did scans of parts of the painting to get details, which are the two lower pictures. There are different effects with using the scanner and the camera. Sometimes, the art work gets washed out by flash or sunlight when using a camera. And, with the scanner, sometimes details, like texture of the paper, detract from the painting.
Be sure to look at the links to Artists and Authors and Interesting Sites on my page. And, I hope that you will share my blog with others who might be interested. I was so excited to add the counter to my page yesterday. It was fairly easy to do, too. Thanks to Nancy Standlee for putting that in her blog.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

The First Day

The First Day
Covering Books
8.5" x 11"
We came home from school after that first day, loaded down with books, book covers, and our supplies. We didn't really have complaints of aching feet, but, often, there were blisters from those new shoes. (Tired, aching feet and legs came about the time of student teaching and later.)
We had listened to our teachers, some of whom had taught our partents, looked dreamily at the new young male teachers and wondered why a nice looking young female teacher would ever want to be a teacher. We looked at what our friends were doing, and wearing, wondered what we would wear to school the next day, checked out the other students in study hall or in our class to see if there might be someone new who might be cute and a possible boyfriend. But, no, it was pretty much the same, silly boys, year after year. We would have to go out of town to look for more mature, and cute, boys.
I looked out the window, no matter what side of the school we were on, and wished I were at home. I tried to listen, but that only lasted for so long. Soon, I was watching clouds, formations of airplanes as they flew over, the flag waving, my great-aunt sitting on her porch snapping peas or working in her yard, Mama and Bertie washing and hanging clothes on the clothesline in the back yard, and Daddy driving up the street from town to eat dinner. Paper and pencil would come out to write, or books to read from, but I started out writing, with two sheets of paper, one on top of the other. I drew girls or movies, on the bottom sheet, and slid it under my work when the teacher would approach. When the teacher stood by my desk, I pretended to be thinking really hard about my work.
Back at home at the end of the day, I got a drink of water, played with my cats a little, then lugged the books and supplies over to my friend's house next door. There, we spread out on the floor in her parent's bedroom, and covered our books with the brown paper covers with store advertising and sports schedules printed on them. My friend's covers always fit perfectly while mine were not quite right. One side would be too loose, one side so tight the books wouldn't close, or they would be off center . We didn't have Scotch tape as part of our supplies but we used white paste in a small jar, or, some years, we made our own with flour and water. Supplies were fairly simple. Scissors, two pencils, a box of crayons, or colored pencils if we were doing maps that year, a fountain pen and a bottle of ink. A tablet in lower grades, a notebook with notebook paper in later years. A protractor and compass were signs that students were now old enough to take Geometry. There were no backpacks, calculators, pencil bags, ball point pens, watercolors, or poster board for students. Some years, we had a cigar box to put our loose supplies in, that were obtained from any store where they sold cigars. We just had to ask. Later, there were wooden cigar boxes, which were really nice, but much heavier to have to carry around.
I thought I was really grown up when I got to have a blue cloth covered notebook and could use a fountain pen rather than pencil. As soon as books were covered, and notebook paper had been inserted in the notebook, names were put on the book covers. We thought we were really "slick" when we reversed the book covers, to show the plain side, and then wrote names all over those covers. Then we used fountain pen and ink to write names on the outside of the blue cloth notebooks. Those were added to all year or until the notebook fell apart and we had to get a new one. The teachers were not happy with our decorated book covers, though, and made us put on new covers, the correct way.
Now, I wonder why none of us ever thought to decorate those book covers with pictures or designs. We only copied each other in writing names on our books. (Never inside, though, except on the correct line inside the cover.) We didn't have art, and I don't remember but one other person doing any art work when we were in school. She had decided she wanted to be an artist, at one point. But, I don't recall ever seeing any art work that she did. We did have coloring books though.
My mother drew and painted, but she stopped when I was born, and didn't take art up again until I was a bit older. I wasn't exposed to drawing or art work at home, particularly, but I drew anyway. I thought of it as an escape, others looked at my drawing as something I was interested in.
We were taught to cherish and care for books and materials. We didn't dare put a mark in the school books, or even get a tear in the cover. It was really hard for me to use a highlighter or mark passages in the books I bought in later years. I still don't like to do that.
Of course, this was around the time of WWII, and there was a either a shortage or rationing of almost everything, including paper. War time followed the Depression, so people were still conserving and saving, trying to recover from those hard times.
The cost, as well as the way books are used and cared for today, have changed quite a bit. I still remember the anticipation of using that new package of notebook paper in the decorated notebook, of adding more names to my notebook and book covers, of dipping the fountain pen in ink and filling it, of going to the pencil sharpener for the first time and standing in line to sharpen my two pencils, the feel of paste on my fingers as I spread it on the corners of the book covers, and of wondering who I might have to sit by in class.
I don't have books to cover anymore, but I do have a notebook, with a fresh package of notebook paper to write on, when the notion strikes me. And, I have a grandson, to keep up with school work.
I have added a counter to my blog page. I thought it might be interesting to see where people are when they view my blog. I had seen that on several blogs and finally found how to add that on artist Nancy Standlee's ( Arlington, Texas) blog.
I hope that first day excitement and enthusiasm continues for you, and that tired feet recover soon. And, for others, I hope you get back into the rhythm of getting up early and sending the family off to school, and all the other schedules and rules that revolve around school.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Back To School

Getting Ready 8.5" x 11" pencil

Good luck to everyone-students, teachers, administrators, parents, and family members-as the 2007-2008 school year gets underway. It's nice to be able to wave "goodbye" as everyone goes off to school in the morning, after so many years when I was always in a rush to get on the road to school. Of course, there were quite a few years when, as a student, my mother chased me to school with threats of using the hairbrush or a switch, and telling me, "Don't dawdle!"

In "Getting Ready", I've shown the first step in getting ready for a new school year. Shopping!

We made several trips, with Mama and great-aunts, to Marlin and Waco, to look for supplies and new clothes for school. Some mothers sewed a lot for their daughters, and mine did, too. But, the exciting new things were those that were purchased in places like specialty shops or the big department stores, with their memorable fragrances and attractions.

As soon as all my school necessities were ready, I headed across the empty lot to my friend's house. We spread out all our clothes and supplies, and compared what we would use during the coming school year.

I started to school at age 4, in the same class with my friend. Most of the other students in that class were 6. I got mad and went home, vowing to never return to school. I spent the rest of that school year, looking out the window and wishing I was at school with my friends. When school started, the year that I was 5, Daddy made me go. I was still the "baby" of the class, but I could do what all the other kids were doing.

"Getting Ready" shows me coming in the back screen door of the neighbor's house, with a sack full of clothes and supplies, another package of supplies under my arm, and a box with a new pair of shoes. Ready to go to school. As the years passed, though, there were more boxes and bags of things to share.
Hope that you have had some memorable "getting ready" experiences.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Summer Afternoon In The City

Summer Afternoon In The City
8.5" x 11"
Summer is about over, with school starting here Monday. And, the weather man on tv last night said that signs of the approach of fall are showing up from the far north in the way of cooler temperatures. Many of us are so connected with school that seasons go by the school year schedule, rather than what is going on with the calendar or the solar system. Fall begins when school starts, summer begins when school is out. Didn't the summer just fly by this year!
I thought I would add a drawing today about spending summer in the city with one pair of grandparents. My sister and I would each go for a week, separately. We couldn't go together because we argued and fought too much.
After World War II, my grandparents, and their daughter and her new husband, moved from a small apartment in Victory Village where workers in the aircraft plant and Air Force personnel lived with their families. As soon as houses in the new additions were available, people flocked to the little houses, all in a row. My grandparents bought their house, and my aunt and uncle bought a house just around the corner and down a couple of blocks. So, they were close.
Some people planted small new trees, and plants in their yards, but there wasn't much to provide shade in the hot summer. And there were no fans or air conditioning in most houses. My aunt and uncle did have a water fan, and a small table fan, but my grandparents didn't. Grandma chose to have her entire back yard planted as a vegetable garden, with a small space to walk around the edges. So there was no shade there, and no place to play, either. We could follow her around as she worked in the garden, and look for bugs. But, that was about all there was to do in the yard.
I could sit on the porch and wait for a car to go by. An ice cream truck came in the afternoon, and sometimes I was given a nickle to buy a treat, if I had been good. Usually, though, I just had to watch that truck drive on down the street. I was hot, uncomfortable, bored, wanted to be at home, so I whined, and cried, fussed and pouted for a lot of the time I was there. Grandma's switch, though, put a sting on my legs and an end to my complaints, for a while. I just pouted in silence and was anxious to go home.
The days went like this. Grandpa got up early, before the sun came up, and cooked a big breakfast and baked. He might turn on the radio to listen to the farm news or "The Breakfast Club" from Dallas, while he ate breakfast. Grandma dressed in her long sleeved dress, and spent a long time brushing her hip length hair, then braiding it and putting it up on her head. Then she went out in the yard and chopped whatever needed chopping. She might pick some tomatoes, or dig some potatoes, whatever she wanted to pick for dinner or for the rest of the day. When it got too hot to work in the yard, she came in, ate something and drank some coffee, then washed out clothes in the kitchen sink or bathtub (not many people had washing machines), and Grandpa hung them outside on the clothesline while Grandma started cooking dinner.
I got up, had some cereal, or just looked at whatever Grandpa had cooked. I was a very picky eater, and especially didn't like eating away from home. All I liked to eat was cereal, fruit, and milk for meals. I could be coaxed to eat desserts, but, with sugar rationing, we were used to missing out on sweet treats.
I would dress and sit in the living room for a while, then go out on the porch, which was on the west side. It was cool there in the morning. Or I would follow Grandma around in the garden on the east side of the house for a little while. Then, I would make up my bed and stare at the next house from the window. Then I would move back to the living room and sit on the floor a while. There was an old set of dominoes that were missing a few dominoes, and I would stack them up and build buildings with those, then knock them down and start again.
Grandma's living room suite only made the house hotter. It was bulky, overstuffed, and covered with fabric that was scratchy, like wool, to me. And, it was a color that seemed hot pink and bright red combined. I chose to sit on the hardwood floor, which was a bit cooler and didn't make me itch.
At dinner time at 12 noon, we would sit in silence. I drank my milk and waited until I was dismissed from the table. They didnt' talk, didn't turn on the radio, just went about whatever they were doing in silence. Dinner might consist of iced tea, (milk for me) "light" bread, sliced tomatoes, fried potatoes, fried okra, creamed or corn on the cob, beans or peas, fried round steak with gravy, or liver and onions, or macaroni with canned tomatoes, fried chicken with pan gravy, plain roast on Sunday. And Grandpa might bake rolls, or a pie or cake. They didn't have salad as we have today. I never heard of salad until I was in high school, and, then, it was either fruit salad, or a congealed salad with fruit in it. The first time I saw a salad was when I was in college and I was eating in a restaurant. Usually, orders were served with a lettuce leaf and a slice of tomato, and a sprig of parsley, so there was no need to order a bowl with lettuce and tomatoes. But, people just ate the things separately, at home.
By this time of day, it was getting really hot. We hoped for a breeze through the open windows. Usually, there was no breeze at all and the heat was suffocating. Grandma washed and put away dishes, turned on her soap opera on the radio, then retired to her bedroom with Grandpa. They had metal twin beds, that they had used in the one bedroom apartment. The beds were on opposite sides of the room, with a night table in between. The table only held a jar of Vicks or Mentholatum, the wind up alarm clock with a face that glowed in the dark, and a flashlight.
Grandma sat on her bed, facing Grandpa, just looking at the floor. Grandpa sat on his bed, facing Grandma, and also stared at the floor. They usually didn't lay down, but spent the afternoon in this hot room on the west side of the house, just sitting and sweating. Grandma had her spit can on the floor by her bed. She did take a dip of snuff, which seemed really disgusting, to me.
They didn't seem to care what I did, just as long as I was quiet and didn't bother anyone. I tip- toed back and forth from the second bedroom, where I was staying, to the living room, to the bathroom, and back. There were no books or magazines to read as I did at home when I stayed with great-aunts, and it was their bath and nap time.
Finally, Grandma pulled a package of playing cards from a drawer and gave them to me. I didn't know what to do with them, but to build houses, which kept falling down. So, she showed me how to play Solitaire, one afternoon. Well, I didn't like numbers or math, so I really didn't want to do that. But, in desperation, I finally started playing, just to pass the time. But, all the while, I was thinking of what I could be doing at home. Wishing I had a friend there, or, better still, a boyfriend there, could go to the movies with someone, to a park, or even down the street to where there was a stable with horses that people could pay to ride. There were so many things to do there, and it was rare that we got to do any of them.
As the afternoon wore on, I started looking for that ice cream truck, and hoping I could get a nickle for a small ice cream cone. If I got the money, I would sit on the back steps, in the shade of the house, and try to make the ice cream last as long as possible. In late afternoon, Grandma would check her garden, pick something, if needed, and start a little supper. That might be something like milk toast, cereal, or left overs. Sandwiches were not a meal, but were considered a snack or party refreshments.
After dishes were washed and put away, kitchen and bathroom floors mopped, everyone dressed for bed, and my grandparents went back to sit on their beds for a while, then lights were turned out and they went to sleep. I sat on my bed, looking out the windows, until a cool early morning breeze came through the windows. I rolled around on the bed, thinking of someday. Wishing that someday would hurry up and come. Someday, life would be full and fun, and I would have a fan or air conditioning in the summer. Someday, I would not be like my grandparents. I thought that they were living boring and lonely lives. How could they stand to live like they did. Someday, I would have someone to love,and we would talk and enjoy life. Dreams of youth.
My grandparents didn't have a car, but depended on their daughter or son-in-law to take them shopping and to places they needed to go. There were buses in the city that could have taken us somewhere, I thought. In later years, my aunt introduced me to a girl my age, and we would meet at the movies, or she would come over, or I might just talk to her on the phone. That helped to improve my visits to the city.
Occasionally, Grandma would take me for a walk along the street and back up the next street. She usually stopped to get a switch and would pop my legs with it when I started lagging behind or whining. She did tell me how to pick out a stick that was good to use for a toothbrush and about using cobwebs to stop bleeding. She told that her father had been a "hillbilly doctor" in Tennessee and she served as his nurse, as she grew up.
I thought, "Why not just go to the store and buy a toothbrush and toothpaste, and why not just go to the doctor if needed?"
She probably talked of other things, but I didn't pay attention. I was thinking of home, my friends, my pets, my toys, and things I would like to do and the way I wanted things to be someday. I should have listened and encouraged her to tell her stories.
It was boring to just walk down those streets with rows of houses, almost all alike. I wanted to go to the end of the street and, at least, spend time looking at the horses at the stable and the pasture where they let people ride. I know that I got to ride them about 3 or 4 times, usually if Daddy was there, and he had allowed enough time for a ride. Sometimes, Daddy would take us to the park and we got to ride the little train, go to the zoo, and ride the carnival type rides there. They had the most wonderful little train with a steam engine to pull it. We had gone to the botanical gardens and concerts under the stars, when my aunt and uncle were dating. And my aunt had taken us downtown into the city to go to the big department stores. Another time, we went inside a large Catholic Church to look at the organ. My dad liked to take us to the Fat Stock Show and my mother liked for us to go to the Ice Capades. But, those times were rare.
While I didn't do a lot, I did learn some things during these visits. Besides learning to play (and dislike) cards, I learned to be quiet, patient, and to deal with things like heat and boredom. Today, I could spend the time writing, painting, drawing, but I didn't have access to those materials at that time. My drawing was usually in school , when I was supposed to be doing school work.
In my drawing above, "Summer Afternoon In The City", I have shown my grandparents as they spent the afternoon, in their bed room, and me, playing solitaire on the bed in the guest bedroom. Through the windows, you can see the new house across the street from my grandparents' bedroom on the west side, and the new neighboring house on the south side behind me. There was actually a little hall where the bedroom doors faced. I used a bit of artistic license with this, in order to show what we were doing.
I hope that you have made some good memories this summer, and that my drawing will remind you of some summer memories of your own.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Vision-Black and White Movie

Black & White Movie
8.5" x 11"
Acrylic on Paper

I love old movies-really old movies! Even black and white movies. One time, I was watching an old movie in black and white, and my youngest grandson asked, "Grandma, when did the world change from black and white to color?" I still laugh when I think about that.

Of course, it is helpful for artists to do value studies in black and white, whether that is in oil paint, acrylics, charcoal, pencil, tempera, ink, or whatever the media of choice is. Maybe watching all those old movies has made it easier for me to do those studies using only neutrals.

In the painting above, I had been watching an old movie from my bed. I blinked and tried to clear up the image, but it didn't help. I had to walk over to the tv set to see what movie I was watching. I could see a woman in a triangular shaped dress, wide at the shoulders, silver, with spangles on it. There were a couple of men, dressed in dark clothing, in the scene. Other characters were sort of smeared into the picture, with some rectangular, tall shapes that I thought might be fence posts or buildings. What looked like some Art Deco art to me, was actually a western movie. Men were dressed in dark suits, a woman, perhaps a dance hall girl, was dressed in a silver, spangled dress. It was a western street with buildings in the back and a sign near the woman. Actually, this image was sharper than what I actually saw.

As I painted "Black & White Movie", I was very aware that, although I was trying to paint something that was distorted and blurred, my brain was insisting that I paint something more realistic. Something that showed characters and buildings while still concentrating on contrast, light and shadow, and shapes. It seemed like a battle between the left and right brain. I wanted to let that right brain work, but that left brain just had to have its say in what I was doing.

I was determined to show what I was seeing, so I kept working on different versions. I seemed to work backward, from a more detailed painting, then taking away and distoring in subsequent pictures. There are six of these, each a little different. The last one, shown above, is closer to what I was seeing.

I began to think that my characters were more like Art Deco people than people in a western movie. I thought of the movie and song "42nd Street" as the paintings developed. Slick, greasey, black hair and tuxes for the men; slinky, clinging dresses and slick, waved hair for the ladies. A street scene that looks like a set for a dance number. I didn't want the painting to be about 42nd Street, so I decided to call it "Deco Street".

I actually like a lot of the old 20s, 30s, and 40s designs, including Art Deco, modern, and streamlined. I appreciate it more now, than I did when I was younger, and there were more of the original designs from that period still around.

I used only black, white, and silver acrlyic in this series of paintings. The metallic silver doesn't show up as well in the scans as they do in the original. Here, they are another gray tone. They are all on paper rather than canvas. I thought these little paintings might be studies for something larger on canvas, if they were successful as small pieces. And, too, I wanted to record the images I was seeing before I forgot them.

Deco Street

8.5" x 11"

Acrylic on Paper

I had a little trouble posting the past few days, but Blogger seems to be working again, and I figured out what I was doing wrong, as well. Whew! That was frustrating. But look for more work to come.

Check out my links to Artists and Authors and Interesting Sites. And please refer my blog and group to others who might be interested. I appreciate your comments and your interest.

Hope you enjoy these Art Deco paintings.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Vision-Fractured Flashing Crystals

Fractured Flashing Crystals
8" x 12"
Soft afternoon sun filtered through the lace curtains in my narrow bathroom window and washed the wall beside the window and part of the shower door with pale yellow. A thick purple towel hung on the shower door and a pink net "poof" hung inside the shower. This room, with its slanted roof and wallpaper with purple flowers, was a cozy place-a refuge that somehow reminded me of the bathroom that had been added onto my grandmother's house before I was born.
Over the years, I have spent a lot of time, just looking out the bathroom window in many places I have lived. Sometimes, I just watched the clouds, or wondered what was happening just over the hill, watched animals outside, or the changing seasons.
I don't look out this window very often, though. The window has frosted glass, and it is fairly small, and it has the lace curtain covering it. I have other spaces in the house, now, with better windows to look out of.
This particular afternoon in March, however, as I walked into the bathroom, I saw a curving line that resembled the outside edge of my eyelids around my eye that has wet Macular Degeneration. But, instead of a distinct line, this line was made up of parts of the shower, broken up into bits and pieces of glass or crystals. I called it fractured, flashing images inside crystal or glass shapes. The light and images were not steady, but, instead, seemed to flash or have changing light as opposed to a steady image.
I blinked, I closed my eyes, I rubbed my eyes, but the image remained as long as I looked in the direction of the shower. I went into the bedroom and put a cool washcloth over my eyes. The image disappeared when I left the bathroom.
More abstract art for me to paint. But this was too real. I would prefer to make up something, or to paint or draw more freely, rather than trying to portray what I was seeing as abstract art.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Vision-Another Night of TV

Another Night of Watching TV
7.5" x 12"
Sometimes, it seems like I can see from inside my eye. That happened at the eye doctor's office. Now I was seeing some of the inside of my eyelid. There was a lot of light around the eyelid and in the room.
I could see a little bit of the picture on the wall behind the tv set. Faces of the people who were on the tv program, were distorted in shape and in color. There was a "C" shape to the left that moved around, along with clusters of specks. These are the floaters that are often present.
After the injection in my eye, my eye seemed to water a lot and I had to keep wiping with tissues. I thought it might be just the usual sinus trouble. But, now, my eyelashes felt like they were woven together, keeping my eyes from opening completely. They also formed a curtain of sorts that I was trying to see through. They opened just enough in the center for me to see part of the tv, or whatever I might be looking at. I could just barely make out the rest of the room.
Added to the curtain of eyelashes, were what felt like big rocks-hard, golden blocks firmly stuck in my woven eyelashes. I used warm washcloths, to soften the rocks. But my eyelashes felt a little greasey and the rocks kept returning, for over a week.
The technician in the specialist's office had warned me about using some of the eyedrops that are over the counter meds used for red eyes. He said that some of those would dry or irritate the eyes. I wasn't using any of those, so I knew that was not the problem.
I didn't think that my eyelashes were long enough to actually weave together, but that's how they felt and appeared from my view. I kept pulling them apart, but as soon as I moved my fingers, the woven curtain returned. The situation did make it difficult to watch tv or focus on anything.
Anxiety, fear, frustration, sadness, anger can all fill the days and nights while you are torn with whether to just give up or to be determined and fight against something you can't do anything about. It seemed to be the only thing to do was to record it through paint, paper, and words, and hope that answers will come, and sharing might help someone else who will encounter AMD (Macular Degeneration). I don't have answers or help, but I can tell what happened to me.
I hope that you will share my blog with others who might be interested. And look at the links I have given on the right side of my page under Authors and Artists, and Interesting Links. Let me know if you see something of interest to you. I welcome your comments and your support.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Vision-Night Intersection

Night Intersection
8" x 12"
"What's that in the sky?" I asked anxiously.
"Where?" My sister was concentrating on driving in traffic on an unfamiliar street.
"Over those trees on the right. " I pointed, not thinking that she couldn't very well look to where I was pointing while she drove, and not to mention not being able to see anything in the dark.
It looked like a UFO to me. But, could it be the moon, with some sort of strange thing happening with the light?
It was dark early that night, and we got caught in the dark. I had traveled these streets for years, but, now, since I didn't drive, they seemed almost unfamiliar. I could spot some landmarks like familiar buildings, but there weren't any really tall ones in this area. Reading signs was impossible, unless the car stopped and I could look at the sign up close.
It was a relief to spot a familiar intersection with a parking lot on the left. I recognized the balls of fireworks above the parking lot as the strong lights in the parking lot. Rectangles that appeared over a line of what looked like stars, were actually lights of a pharmacy that I used, on the other side of the intersection. The stars were headlights of cars approaching the intersection from the south. Red stars in front of me and to the right were tail lights of cars in our lane, and cars on the north side of the intersection. I could see a little dark green of the grass that divided the street from the sidewalk beside me. A faint light reflected on the woods that had been left on the right side of the intersection. A bit of light shone from a parking lot for some apartments beyond the trees.
Above the intersection, brilliant red, and yellow lights blazed, with washed out green below. I could see a bit of the pipe that held the lights near the pharmacy.
My heart raced a little with excitement at the sight of the strange object in the sky. Maybe it was a helicopter. We moved, but it didn't.
There was a dot of light in the center, surrounded by other dots of light and spokes as you might see on an outer space movie of a space station.
I watched the light all the way to my house, trying to ignore the security lights that appeared as bursts of fireworks. Inside the house, after my sister left, I pulled back the curtains. I summoned my grandson.
"What's that light out there? Can you see it?" I asked, still feeling a little excitement at that strange sight.
"It's a star," he announced and went back to his game on the computer.
"Oh," I said as I closed the curtain. More shapes and designs instead of seeing things as they really are. It was beginning to be annoying, but I told myself that they might make some interesting pictures.
Lights, up close, such as the ones in my yard, or in the same room, looked fine. It was just those that were in the distance that were giving me problems and a show.

Saturday, August 11, 2007


Saturday Night on the Miles Farm
8.5" x 11" pencil
I wanted to go home, as usual. I wanted to be in my own house, with all the family that I was around daily. But, sometimes, we had to go visit my mother's family who lived on a farm in Navarro county.
There were times when we only went for the day on Sunday, when Daddy was off work. The stores were all closed on Sundays, including Uncle Tom's grocery store, where Daddy worked, and the adjoining drygoods store, owned by my grandparents. Other times, Mama and I would stay for a week or so, while Daddy stayed home to work and have his meals with his relatives. He said that he didn't even know how to boil water. So, he would make the rounds of all the relatives, friends, and even some people in town, who offered him food when Mama couldn't be there to cook for him.
I wanted to be at home around the stores, "helping" a little, but playing a lot in the mirrors, the show windows, on the counters, and getting lots of attention. Going to the picture show, getting ice cream or Cokes at the drugstore. Listening to the radio, playing on the school playground, or in the park with my friends. Going to the neighbors' houses. Going to organ and choir practice with Mama, then Sunday School and church at the Methodist Church with all the family on Sunday. Going to parties and "lunches", or meetings in the afternoon with Mama. And days of just playing outside, making mudpies, or going to play paperdolls or coloring with a friend, playing out the latest movie, making the rounds to neighbors to see what they were doing, and watching during wash day, ironing day, cleaning day, and all those normal things. I wanted to be where I could walk around town by myself, if I wanted to, feeling safe and secure in my little adventures and play. Most of the time, I was glad to escape my mother's piano pupils, though. The piano, by itself, especially for those just learning to play, just hurt my ears!
When we went to the farm to visit, we didn't leave the farm. Mama and Grandma just seemed to cook and then everyone would eat. The men would go back out to work outdoors, while Mama and Grandma would sit at the table and talk. They encouraged me to go outside and play, but there was nothing to do. Grandma sometimes gave me several jar lids and a spoon so I could make mudpies. But, then, there was no faucet. I would have to get water from the well and I couldn't reach that. I would go inside and get a little water with the dipper from the drinking bucket hanging by the door. But I didn't want to get mud on it, so I thought that was a little risky to try. There wasn't a really good place to make mudpies, although I did try it a few times, and left my "pies" on the steps to bake. No toys to play with, no swing, no dolls, and no other kids to play with. Usually, I would go outside, kick the dirt a little, walk around the outside of the house, look for kittens, then just sit on the steps, or go back inside the house. Occasionally, Grandpa would take me to see inside the smokehouse or the barn when he had to get something there. They didn't want me to risk scaring the chickens or the cows and I was scared of the big mules. I was also concerned that there might be a snake around since I had heard them talk about chicken snakes.
We never went into town, to see a movie, or to go to church. I don't remember that they had a car. They probably did, but I just remember a wagon. In those days, that was probably all they needed. Any town seemed a million miles away, over the low hills of black dirt and a faint line of trees on the horizon.
Sometimes my mothers sister would drive from where she was teaching to meet my mother and visit with her parents. My mother and her sister started taking paino lessons when they were about 3 years old. Both continued to study music and my mother planned to be a concert pianist. Instead, she married before she graduated from high school. My aunt went on to get a degree in music, taught school, and taught private piano lessons. Both of them played for their churches and learned to play organ when the churches bought organs, and they played for civic events in their respective communities. When those two got together, and there was a piano, people could count on them playing individually and duets. They were really good, and popular.
I was probably age 3 or younger, when we were visiting on the farm. My sister had not been born yet, so I had to be very young. My aunt was there to visit. And, I was bored. I wanted to go to the Saturday picture show, to choir practice, or the drugstore. I probably would have been happy if there had been another child to play with.
Evening arrived, supper was over, and everyone moved from the table to a sitting room, where there was a piano. I whined and wanted to at least listen to the radio. It seemed like they only turned it on for farm reports, news, one soap opera that Grandma liked, and "The Grand Ole Opry" on Saturday nights. (Grandma said that Tennessee Ernie Ford was our cousin, and talked about some of the people on the program as if they were old family friends. I don't know if that was true, but she was from Tennessee. ) It was too early for that program.
Mama and her sister sat at the piano and they started playing duets and talking about the latest songs. Grandpa sat in a little rocking chair, near a window and a door to the outside. Grandma sat in a chair across from Grandpa. In cold weather, there was a wood stove set up in that room. I sat on Grandpa's foot and we played "Ride The Horsey" and "Yankee Doodle", as my grandparents at home would do. I bounced around, imagining a beautiful horse I might have some day and thinking of a young patriot, riding his prancing steed. I jumped to the music as Grandpa sat on his rocking chair with his legs crossed.
As Mama and her sister played, Grandpa started playing his violin with them, while I sat on his foot and "rode" to the music. Soon, I was laughing away. I didn't know most of the songs, or I would have been singing, too. My mother told me that I knew every song in the Methodist Hymnal by the time I was two. And, I knew all the songs on the radio and in the musicals in the movies, along with the dance routines.
"Grandma, why don't you play anything?" I asked.
She went out the back door and returned with a saw and a little hammer. "This is some time for her to want Grandpa to cut some wood!" I thought.
"I'm going to play this," she smiled as she explained.
I thought she must be joking. "Grandma, no one can make music with a saw!" I sighed, sure that she was kidding me.
She sat down in her chair, draped her skirt, and put the saw across her lap. As she raised the saw and bent it, she hit it softly with the little hammer. I'm sure that my mouth must have dropped open. There were wavering tones tht matched what Grandpa and the sisters were playing.
"Now all we need is someone to play the jug and the spoons," Grandma grinned widely, which was unusual for her. Her dark eyes seemed to sparkle with mischief. Usually, she was stern and serious.
"Grandma," I said, disgusted that she would try to put one over on me.
She went to the kitchen and returned with a pair of metal spoons. She tried to show me how to play the spoons but my little hands couldn't manage that. She passed them to Grandpa and he played a bit, then passed them on to the sisters who showed that it could be done.
"Go get me that jug," Grandma pointed to the back door. There was a white pottery jug being used as a doorstop at the back door. I had seen jugs in the movies and I knew those related to whiskey. I wondered why there was a jug in this house because I knew that all my family was against drinking and lectured about it a lot. I hoped that Grandma, in her unusually happy mood wasn't about to lift the jug and take a swig of whiskey. Worse yet, I hoped that she wasn't going to have me carrying or drinking the stuff, too. I brought the empty jug to her and she told me to blow in it. I tried but the air just came back into my face. Then she showed me that she could blow into the jug and make deep, strong sounds and rhythm. The others took their turns at playing the jug as well.
"When you get a little bigger, you can probably do that, too." Grandma took up her saw again and they all started playing songs like "The Great Speckled Bird", "The Midnight Special", "Big Rock Candy Mountain", "Jeanie With The Light Brown Hair", "Froggy Went A Courtin' ", and many others. They never did turn on the radio to hear "The Grand Ole Opry" that night.
I got the feeling that, sometimes, they got together with neighbors and friends, and they had a jam session that included other instruments like the jug, spoons, bass fiddle, and guitar.
I never did learn to play those things. My grandparents moved from the farm about war time. I don't recall ever seeing the violin again. They sold or got rid of most of their things when they moved into a tiny little apartment and worked at the aircraft factory in the city. And, my mother wouldn't allow anything in the house except classical or church music, sometimes the better popular music. She didn't want us listening to "trash" she said. However, there were some Saturday nights, while she was cooking a roast for Sunday dinner, and Daddy was still working, when she would turn on the radio to a variety program or comedy, and then would listen to "The Grand Ole Opry".
Grandma was born in Tennessee, and said that her father was "a hillbilly doctor". Grandpa's father was born in Alabama. Grandma moved to Texas with her mother after her father died. Grandpa was born on that farm. So I could understand that they might like what we called "hillbilly music", back then. I guess that some of it must have been folk music. Times change.
"Jammin' " shows the family room in the farm house, with music on a Saturday night. The moon is out above the barn. In my drawing, I showed the barn much closer to the house than it actually was.
This pencil drawing is a memory from childhood. I hope that, on this Saturday night, and others, you are able to do a little jammin' of your own, and make some memories. Or that, at least, my memory has brought back some of your own memories.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Vision-Kitchen Counter

Kitchen Counter What Happened to the Edge? 8"x12" watercolor
Morning light streamed through the blinds over the sink. I had put my grandson's oatmeal into a bowl and was waiting for water to heat in the microwave. I stood in front of the sink. I remembered that I needed a spoon to stir the cereal after I added the water, and reached to put the bowl on the counter while I went to get a spoon from the drawer.
I reached, and reached- and reached. I couldn't see the edge of the counter! What happened to the tiles and the edge of the counter? Instead, there was a purple cloud where the counter edge should be. I touched the counter and tried to put the bowl where my hand was. The bowl fell, crashing to the floor. Dry oatmeal and glass scattered all over the floor. I was sure that I had put the bowl where the counter should be, but, apparently, I had missed.
"That is so stupid!" I fussed at myself as I cleaned up the mess. "Where did the edge of that counter go?" I stood up and touched the edge of the counter. It was all there again and I was seeing it. I fixed another bowl of oatmeal for my grandson. The water was ready.
How long will I be able to enjoy the morning sun coming through the blinds? How long will I be able to fix breakfast for my grandson? Maybe I should just give it up before I have a more serious accident. I had already burned my hand and now dropped a bowl because I wasn't seeing correctly. I also realized that it took me several tries to hang a clothes hanger on the rod in the closet. I kept missing the rod and my clothes kept falling on the floor. I sat down to watch "The Golden Girls" on tv after everyone left for school, sipped a soft drink, and held tight to my elderly cat.
This painting was done using Winsor Newton watercolors on 140 # Strathmore watercolor paper.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Vision-Morning Toast

Morning Toast
Making Toast In The Oven
8" x 12 " watercolors
Each school morning, my grandson and I have breakfast together. We have some nice conversation to start the day off in a calm way, which takes away some of the anxiety we both have. He's always had anxiety about going off to school, but it has been better in the past few years. No more screaming and crying, kicking and resisting, until he has gotten settled in for the day. And I was always in a rush to get dressed and out the door, feeling anxious about going to school, when I was young, and being there as a teacher in later years. I would cry, too, when I was in school, and my mother had to even chase me to school with a switch or the hairbrush-even to graduation. I wanted to stay at home. Some days, even when I was teaching, I could imagine my mother coming closer with her switch or her hair brush, urging me to hurry up and get to school before I was late.
Now, I fix breakfast for the young one, and we sit and talk, or even watch "Sponge Bob" on tv. His favorite breakfasts are French Toast, although I have a lot of trouble with consistency on that, and toast and juice. I try to sneak in some fruit with the juice and toast. Oatmeal was good, but he got tired of that. He did love cheese toast, but eventually tired of that, too. So, I put butter in each corner of bread, put it on a pan, and under the broiler in the oven to toast. I tried a toaster and a toaster oven, but oven toast is just the best. He likes this even more than cinnamon toast. Sometimes, I make the pats of butter form a happy face, or something appropriate for the day. Later in the day, we may even have toast with soup, or just for a snack.
"I wonder what has happened to bread!" I said as I put the bread on a cookie sheet. "I used to put four slices of bread on this pan and it filled it up. Now, I have to use six or eight slices of bread to fill the pan. Even when I make sandwiches, I have to make two sandwishes to be as large as one sandwich used to be. And, not to mention the smell and the taste. What ever happened to that good, sweet, yeasty smell of bread! We used to drive past the big bread bakeries in the cities, and that smell was so good! Just like another tourist attraction. Now, you can hardly smell anything, even if you put your nose right on the bread. It has about as much taste as cardboard too. Goodness only knows where it comes from. It's probably made in some foreign place, like everything else these days, frozen, and shipped a long way to us, and passed off as being fresh. I guess they cut corners in ingrediants so we have to pay a lot more and get a lot smaller bread. Or, maybe some do-gooder is trying to make us eat less. It doesn't work. We just have to eat twice as much."
I put the pan in the oven, leaving the door open so I could take the pan out when the butter melted and the edges turned golden. The cheap pan began to curl up like a piece of plastic. "I'll bet that supposedly metal pan is really covered with plastic, is why it curls up like that. We're probably getting poisoned from that pan, even though it is new." I complained as I watched.
My sister had explained to me that you need the vision in both eyes to have depth perception. At this point of my Wet Macular Degeneration, I caught myself closing the affected eye often, attempting to clear things up that I looked at. I hadn't noticed a problem with depth at all. Just having trouble reading things at a little distance, things were wavey, blurred, had spots sometimes, and colors like blue and black, beige and lavendar, green and purple, were a bit of trouble to distinguish except in the sunlight.
"It's ready!" my grandson advised me that the toast was just right to take from the oven. I picked up the hot pad and reached for the pan. As I lifted the pan from the oven, I touched my hand to the top of the stove. It felt hot, but really didn't hurt that much. But, I could see the red from the top burner on my hand.
I put the toast on plates and my grandson took the plates to the table attached to the couch. I ran cold water over my hand as an angry red welt formed. I didn't know why I ever put my hand on the top of the oven. There was plenty of room, and I never had missed the correct space for moving my hand away safely before.
I put antibiotic ointment on my hand and a large bandage to protect it.
"Now that was a stupid thing to do," I lectured myself after everyone had gone off to school. I put the dishes in the sink and turned on "The Golden Girls" to watch as I finished my toast. It was nice to wave goodbye to everyone as they went off to school, while I could leisurely eat some breakfast, watch tv, or even go back to bed, if I wanted. I would have to remember to pull my hand out of the oven lower, the next time, though. I guess it would be easier to use a toaster.
This painting makes me think of the book, "Burnt Toast", which was given to us at the George Bush Library last spring by the author, Teri Hatcher, of tv fame. The book certainly has her voice. It reads just as if you are listening to her talk. Thanks to Teri for the book. That was really a nice surprise at the leadership program hosted by former president Bush. Other participants were Harriet Miers, Eileen Collins, and Chris Evert. Some days, I end up with the title to Hatcher's book-burnt toast in my oven, and I have to start over.
"Morning Toast" was painted with Winsor Newton watercolors on 140# strathmore watercolor paper.

Monday, August 6, 2007


The Telephone 8" x 12 " watercolors
I don't like telephones. From the irritating noise they make, I know that it can only be something bad, if someone calls me. Or, even if it is something good, I sound like a blithering idiot, as the old saying goes, when I talk. I never can think of what to say, until long after I have hung up, so I just stumble around, saying nothing that is the least bit intelligible. And that doesn't even take into account my drawl and my croaky voice which I am embarrassed for people to hear.
As usual, the jangling ring of the telephone was an indication of something bad to come that day. The mail wasn't much better. The letter came first. A bill for almost $4,ooo from the specialist. I almost fainted! I thought insurance was going to pay for everything but the copay. Insurance, it seems, would only pay $125. Foundations would cover what insurance would pay, according to the doctor. Not to worry, I had been told. Just decide on which treatment I wanted and show up. My focus had been on my eye and recovering from the shot.
"Sorry. We only cover your out of pocket expenses for things like hotels, meals, and travel, once you have paid out $5,000." One foundation told me by phone. I didn't have any of that.
"So sorry," another foundation said over the phone. "We only help out with the $25 copay after you have paid $500. We can't help you."
When I applied, they assured me that I qualified and there was money to help me, if needed.
Now, over the phone, it seemed there was no help and I was shuffled out the back door.
I called the doctor's office about the bill. It had to be a mistake.
"Sorry, but your insurance didn't cover it so we will need the $3,000 amount, plus another $1800 to cover the office visit this afternoon, before you see the doctor," the office worker told me. "We require that all payments be made before patients see the doctor."
"I told you to begin with that I don't have that kind of money. I would never have gone if you had not told me that it would be paid for 100%. " I tried not to sound so concerned and excited.
"We won't make any future appointments until this is paid in full," she said coldly.
"Well, I guess I'll just have to cancel, " I said angrily. I was swelling with frustration and tears. "I won't be back until you all get this insurance business and foundations straightened out." I hung up.
I had been scheduled to go in and have my red eye checked after the shot. It was a struggle to scrape together the $25 for the copay. But, that was something that was possible. Thousands of dollars was not.
"You don't just have to have treatment," I recalled the doctor saying. "But, without it, you will lose your center vision. You won't go totally blind, but you won't be able to read, write, watch tv, cook, sew, drive (and, in my mind, I added draw or paint). "
My daughter left the house to go on an errand, and I was glad to just sit at my desk, crying and feeling angry, all afternoon.
I put my nightgown on and sat in my comfortable desk chair. I tried searching online for others who had similar experiences, and for possibilities for help. There was only similar information to what the doctor had given me and information that didn't apply to me. Everything was geared toward people who either had lots of money or good insurance.
Now, what was I supposed to do! Go blind, I guessed.
Sometimes, it feels like there is some giant above me with a big hammer, and, everytime I start feeling a little bit hopeful, that giant is right there to hammer me back down into a blob of nothing. A grease spot in my chair. The phone brought feelings that sweat and tears were pouring from me, into a big puddle on the floor. I gripped the chair arms with my hands, and wrapped my feet tightly around the bottom of the chair.
I couldn't take any more bad news.
"Well, I can't ever go back to that doctor, and I may as well give up and prepare to go blind,"I told myself. "All this reading and searching about Macular Degeneration, and having to go through that shot, was just a waste of time. Who cares anyway." I gathered up all the material that the doctor had given me to read and threw it in the trash. "That was a waste of paper," I said. Even the Amsler chart went in the trash. "What good is it to check and see if it is getting worse or changing, if I cant' do anything about it."
I moved my chair over to my drawing table, pulled out a block of watercolor paper, my watercolors and brushes. I filled a can and spray bottle with water, and started painting.
"I may not be able to do anything about this, but I can paint about what happened to me." I told myself. And, there are some interesting designs and unusual things that I have seen during all this. Maybe someone else might find them interesting, too. And, who knows, maybe my pictures will help someone else."
My eye didn't get checked and I felt betrayed and hopeless, beaten into that blob in my chair. I thought that the nice doctor didn't really care if my eye fell out of my head. He wasn't going to ever be bothered with me again. I felt that his sign in the window that said, "Don't come in if you're sick". Should have added to it, "And go home if you don't have a lot of cash and insurance." The door to care was closed to me,and my journey seemed to be on the road to darkness. Maybe I should just prepare to be a blind person. I couldn't believe it. This could not be happening. It had to all be a bad dream. I didn't want the phone to ever ring again. I knew that it could only bring more bad news.
I had already cut out so many things including going to doctors, buying medicine, some insurance, drinking water, food, clothes, entertainment, my car-everything that I could to cut expenses and still get by on my retirement. I wondered if one reason I was having the eye problem might be due to lack of blood pressure medicine. That is listed on the possible causes of AMD. But, I'm told that I make too much to get assistance, so I just have to do without things.
They say that depression, anger, confusion, and other things go along with AMD. I can see why those things happen.
It becomes very difficult to know that there is treatment that can help, but it isn't available due to money or the lack of.
There is an incident that has stuck in my mind for many years. A little boy was on the news, going around with a jar, collecting change so he could have an operation. He needed $30,000 to have that surgery. He died before he raised enough money. To me, that is just criminal, to let someone suffer and die when someone else has the ability to help that person. I know that we all have to make money, but to deny someone what you are able to give, is just wrong. I guess that is my school teacher mentality-to give and to help, and not expect a bunch of money in return. That's why doctors have money, I guess, and teachers remain poor.
I heard one presidential candidate speak a few months ago. Many of his remarks were greeted with silence from the audience after an initial enthusiastic and warm welcome. One thing he said was that "We are not going to just let anyone fall out on the sidewalk and die. After all, this is America!" I said a soft, "Ha!" No one clapped for him. He was answering a question about health care for illegal immigrants. I knew that I could fall out on the sidewalk and die, or my eye could fall out of my head, and I had better be able to take care of it myself. I won't be eligible for any help.
My journey continues.
The watercolor above was done on 140 # Strathmore watercolor paper, using Winsor Newton watercolors.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Vision-Eye Test

Eye Test 8" x 12 " watercolors
"Eye Test" was done on 140 # Strathmore watercolor paper using Winsor Newton watercolors.
A few days passed after the injection in my eye, and my eye looked some better. It still sagged and drooped, watered, and was a little pink looking. But, my birthday had passed and my drivers license had expired. My daughter took me to get the license renewed. I felt confident because two doctors had told me in the last two weeks that my vision was good enough to pass this eye exam.
What a disappointment it was. I took in my old license, the renewal notice, and my fee, ready to keep my license. I had braved all that the doctor's office had thrown at me, so I felt ready.
I was directed to look into what looked like a wooden box. All I could see was the edges of the box around my face, a wavey, black background with squiggley green lines on it. I tried closing one eye, I blinked, I squinted and it didn't change. The clerk took me to another machine and it was no better.
"Time to see an eye doctor," she advised.
"I've been to two eye doctors in the past two weeks, and I could read their charts", I told her. "I do have sinus trouble today from the wind, and I'm getting over a little eye infection."
She told me that I had two years, and to come back and try again when my eye was better.
I didn't want to tell her that my eye may not get any better, but only worse. Still, I should have been able to see something. I didn't know what was wrong.
"Just don't get caught driving with an expired license," she advised as we left.
I was dejected, to think that I couldn't drive anymore. I got my license when I was 12, and had started driving when I was 8, although that was a bit reluctantly. Daddy insisted that I try to drive the war surplus Jeep he had bought. Scared both of us silly when I drove up a little hill and into a neighbor's yard when I tried to carefully turn a corner! So, he made me drive the tractor out in the pasture, to learn how to drive better. As long as I could remember, I either sat in someone's lap while they drove, or stood on the seat beside them. I guess my driving career might be over. Good thing I liked to ride around in the back seat and talk to the grandsons , or look for pictures to draw, while someone else drives. Still, riding in a car is not that fun anymore, with all the distortion and strange things I see. I hadn't been driving since I didn't have to go to work anymore, and, even then, I preferred to have my daughter drop me off at work. And, when my knees started bothering me, I quit driving. Still, not having a license is not a good feeling-just in case I should need to drive and my eyes were better. Maybe, if the eyes and knees get worked on, I can drive again.
It was like one more thing had been taken away from me. One more stone in the path to the end of life. I tried to stay as cheerful as I could reminding myself that it was better to let someone else do the work while I enjoyed looking for pictures, taking photos, drawing, talking to the kids. Still, I knew that, if I just wanted to take myself for a ride, or I needed to go somewhere, I had to wait until other people could, or would, take me. Sometimes it's easier to just stay at home.
I hope that this one goes through. I've had trouble "publishing" or posting the last three posts. I finally got the first one to work. I gave up on the one I was going to send today, about Saturday nights, and will try that some other Saturday. I had to delete what I wrote about for this one, and I'm rewriting it shorter. I think the problem comes when my internet can't find the server, or something of that sort. Computers are a mystery to me. I did print and save the original story, so I have them to keep with my pictures.
The painting today looks like some sort of Egyptian design rather than an eye chart. But, that's how it appeared to me.
Today, I heard an interesting program on tv with an author who has a book out on a man who was blind since age 3. The blind man has had surgery which restored his vision somewhat. Colors and patterns were fascinating to him, but he didn't have the depth that he needed. So, he was having trouble with 3-dimensional things, like faces. I am putting a link to the author on my page in the Authors and Artists section.
Enjoy, and pass my address on to anyone who you think might be interested.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Vision-After The Shot

Today's painting may not be so easy to look at. I wanted to give a little warning, just so you will know. Actually, it's very colorful, if you look at it from that standpoint, rather than to think of the subject matter. I'll put the painting at the end, this time, just in case you can't bring yourself to look.

It was Friday. The day the doctor spent at another office out of town. No appointments for that day here, of course.
I got up, put the cool drops in my eye, took my medicine, and settled down with a cold washcloth on my eye on the couch. When I went into the bathroom to dress, I looked into the mirror as I washed my face. Something I had tried to avoid doing. I didn't like seeing my eye with the lids drooping a little, and a bit pink from irritation.
"Oh my goodness!" I gasped when I saw my eye. The white part was bright red and looked like it was almost hanging out. The bottom lid was red, sagged, and had a "bag" underneath. The top lid was also drooping and hanging at an angle. The corners of the eye looked as if they were about to pour out blood, they were so red. The green iris almost glowed as it stood out against the contrasting red background of my eyeball. There was little light reflecting from the lights above the mirror, just a couple of dots of light on the edge of the iris. The pupil was dark and enlarged.
I thought that, if the eye was going to turn red, from the doctor hitting a blood vessel during the injection, it would have happened right away. But, this was something different, I thought. Several days had passed. At least that is what I understood from what they had told me in the office the day I got the shot.
I called the doctor's office, realizing that he wasn't there. But, they had told me to call right away if it turned really red.
"Oh, that's very common," the receptionist advised. "I've had three other calls today from people who told me the same thing. Just put cold packs on it and take some Tylenol if it hurts too much. You have an appointment to get it checked next week. We'll see you then."

I was not comforted. I guess things were not as urgent as others made me think they were. First, the Opthamologist had wanted me to get in to see the Retina Specialist right away. He said my eye was not bleeding yet, so it was imperative that I get in to see a Retina Specialist immediately. He made the call himself, to make sure I got in to see someone before blood started leaking. Once that happened, he said that it couldn't be fixed. Right now, there was just fluid, which was bad enough. But, that, too, was Friday and the specialist was out of town. They didn't seem concerned in the other office and Monday would have been fine. All weekend I wondered and worried about what was happening to me. Was my eye going to start bleeding? Was I going to be blind by Monday? I didn't know what to expect. Anxiety had time to set in.

And, now, after being told to call right away if my eye turned really red, I had called and been told to just take some Tylenol if it hurt. Another Friday, and the specialist was in his other office in another town. Of course, things always seem to happen on weekends, when doctors' offices are closed.
Tylenol and those new medications don't do a thing for me. If it hurt too much, I would take some old reliable asprin. But, it didn't hurt any more than it had been -more annoying than pain. I just kept trying to brush away pieces of hair that felt like they might be hanging in my eye. The cold cloths and cool eye drops seemed to take care of that. It was uncomfortable to bend over, but that was more like pressure than pain. I would just try to stay quiet, still, watch tv, put the cold cloths and drops in my eye, and wait. And wonder.

After The Shot 8" x 12" watercolors

The yellow shows up more in this painting on my blog. The orginal doesn't show this much yellow, but, instead, has more orange, pink, and flesh tones. This was painted on 140 # Strathmore watercolor paper using Winsor Newton watercolors.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Vison-Ready To Go

Ready To Go
8"x 12"
and acrylic
The darkness faded away to boiling clouds of smoke-colored fog that filled the room. I could see the cabinet with a chair beside it, the door frame, and the mirror where the eye chart reflected. And, I could see my feet with my black walking shoes on the foot rest of the examining chair, poking out from the fog.
I could see the letters on the eye chart, just like they had appeared when I had looked at it during the exams. The letters were not clear with shadow images appearing behind and to the right of each letter. Smaller letters toward the bottom were blurred and were indestinguishable. Still, the doctor had said that my eyesight was good enough to pass the eye exam for the driving test.
The technician had told me, as we were signing papers before the injection, that they would give me some eye drops to take home with me and to use them every 4 hours, as directed. He said it would help if I kept them in the refrigerator. They would be soothing to my eye, if they were cold. He also advised me to use cold washcloths on my eye if it started to be uncomfortable. He explained that some people said that they felt like there was something in their eye, like a grain of sand. And, he told me that my eye may turn very red, if the doctor hit a blood vessel when he gave me the shot. But, that was nothing to be concerned about. It was normal. He also said that I might experience pressure on my eye, but it would not hurt to get the shot. They were doing lots of deadening. (Of course, I had not really believed that. My heart was pounding. I felt hot, anxious, a little sick at my stomach. I may faint. Even after the shot.)
Dressed in blue sweat pants (I guess they were scrubs but they looked like some kind of excercise outfit, to me, instead of a professional looking nurse uniform) and a patterned smock top, the nurse came in the room. She took a small, round object from the cabinet and came over to me. She put the insrument on my eye and quickly removed it. She turned back to the cabinet, put the instrument down, and walked to the door.
"Okay, you can go now," she said as she walked out the door.
I thought that was a little odd. She wasn't very friendly now. Before the shot, she had not been exactly warm, but she had been sort of in the background, with the techician and the doctor closer to me. She could have, at least, asked me how I was doing, or commented on something like the fact that it was all over and I was doing just fine.
I stood up slowly as my daughter arrived at the door. "Ready to go?" she asked.
"I guess so," I answered. I thought the doctor might have appeared to reassure me, but the hall was empty. I had to use my walking cane for a little while since my knees bothered me after sitting. We walked to the reception desk. Water ran from my eye and I used the tissue to blot the tears on my cheek.
"Here's your card for your next appointment," the receptionist handed me a card, which I couldn't read. I thought it was from my eye watering. I handed it to my daughter. I thought that, maybe, this is why they wanted you to pay before seeing the doctor. You might not be able to write a check after seeing him. But, of course, the person with you could take care of that.
"He wants to see you in a week to check how your eye is doing. If it turns really red, call us right away." She turned to talk to the person working beside her.
We went out to the car. My daughter was driving.
"The drops!" I said. "I thought they were supposed to give me some drops. I didn't get anything."
My daughter went back into the office and returned with a small bottle of eye drops.
I had read, online, about someone who had a shot in their eye. They said that, after their injection, riding in the car really bothered them. They finally solved the problem by just closing their eyes for the trip home. Now I understood what they meant. Things seemed to just whiz by, if I looked out the side windows, almost making me seasick. Light reflected off the back of parked cars like big, bright, half rainbows. The bending and distortion of objects also tended to make me a little sick at my stomach. I closed my eyes and held the tissue over my eye. I didn't like to ride this way, unable to see where I was going and what was around me.
At home, I put the drops in the refrigerator and fixed a cold washcloth to put on my eye. I walked to the couch in the den, sat on the reclining section of the couch, took off my shoes, and put my feet up. I turned on the tv to watch an old movie. I would spend a lot of time here, with the cool washcloth on my eye, listening to an old movie, in the next few days.
I didn't have nerve enough to look at my eye until later. At least we knew the answer to what would happen when they put a needle in the eye. It didn't deflate, fall out, or have all the juice inside to run out. I remembered being cautioned so often about standing on a chair and holding a coat hanger. I was told that an older girl had put her eye out when she was on a chair, with a coat hanger, and fell. So, wouldn't a needle also make one have to get a glass eye?
I couldn't help but think about the rhyme we used to say as children. "Cross my heart and hope to die; stick a needle in my eye." This was about the strongest promise one could make. I never dreamed anyone actually would do that, for legitimate reasons. But, I had just had a needle stuck in my eye.
When I finally did get the courage to look at my eye, I was horrified to see the bottom lid drooping some, and the top lid hanging a little. It was only a little pink in places, so I was sure that the doctor had avoided hitting a blood vessel. I guessed that it would clear up quickly. He had done a good job. The drops and cold packs would probably tighten the lids up again, and make my eye clear up soon. It did feel a little like something in my eye, like a piece of hair, perhaps. So, I kept pushing hair away from my eye-some of it real, some of it just the way my eye felt.
I had survived the shot and now looked forward to going back to the doctor to get it checked in a week. Hopefully the extra blood vessels would have stopped forming, the bleeding avoided, and my vision would start improving. I tried not to think about the injections that had been scheduled for every four weeks during the next year-possibly two years. I needed to think about the positive, and the "right now", and not dreading the rest of the shots. Hopefully, they would all be as easy as this one had been. Still, I was a bit uneasy about how long it might be before the discomfort would go away and I could see better. It was manageable for now. Soon, I may be able to continue drawing, painting, writing, and riding in the car with less distortion.
"Okay, You Can Go Now" was painted on 140 # Strathmore watercolor paper using Winsor Newton watercolors. Acrylics were used on the eye chart.
I hope that you will share this with anyone who you think might be interested. I am curious as to what others with AMD, or similar problems, experience. My original idea in starting a blog was to share what I have experienced so that others might be better prepared when it happens to them, or that others might relate to what they, or those they know, have already experienced.
Other subjects and memories will be posted on my blog, but I thought it best to post my AMD experiences in order, as they happened. You can see some of my other art work on my Google group, Art -By-Cecelia. I hope you will jon that group and get updates when I have added something to my blog or pages. Also, take a look at the interesting Authors and Artists, and Interesting Sites section of my blog. Check back when you have time, and enjoy!