Sunday, September 30, 2007

Sunday Drive-Radio

Sunday Drive
8.5" x 11"
A warm box of fresh, Shipley doughnuts in my lap. Musn't open, though, until we got home. And, even then, I wouldn't get one as this dozen was destined for Grandpa's house. We each got one from a sack to eat while we rode around on Sunday afternoon.
I sat in the front so that I could listen to the radio. "Would you like to swing on a star, carry moonbeams home in a jar". My favorite song at that time. I could just imagine being out on a lawn as the stars filled the skies, holding a large fruit jar of moonbeams and lightning bugs. I could even swing on a pointed, golden star, if I wanted to, or slide down a beam from the moon.
I hoped I would not be a monkey, in the song, or even a donkey or a pig, as they sang about different animals, who weren't all in the zoo.
Along with popular songs, the speaker on the radio provided us with laughs in "Henry Aldrich", "Blondie and Dagowood", "Amos 'n Andy", and dance music from a rooftop dancefloor. It kept me from wiggling and complaining.
I couldn't see where we were riding, over the dashboard. I could only make out sky and treetops. But, I knew about where we were, just from the treetops. My feet dangled off the seat, beside the heater under the dash. I was scrunched up between two large adults. In this drawing, I've shown Grandpa driving and Uncle Tom in the passenger seat.
I don't remember riding with Grandpa driving, much. Usually, Uncle Tom would drive the family in his wife's Chrysler. Or Daddy would drive while Irvin, his brother, was in the Army. Irvin usually drove after the war.
In the back seat, there would be Mama, Daddy, Grandma, "Pappy", (Uncle Tom's wife), and Daddy's sister, Thelma-unless she was out with friends or off somewhere teaching. On some occasions, we also had "Toot" and "Honey", although they often opted for a nap on Sunday afternoon, and then a short drive on their own. Sometimes, we would take two or even three cars, but those cars were large and could carry a lot of people. The grown-ups could even wear their hats inside.
Daddy had a Ford sedan, Irvin had a Buick and, later, a Chevy sedan, "Honey" had a big Nash sedan, and Uncle Tom had a big Chrysler. There were other cars in the family, but those were the ones that we seemed to use for family drives and trips.
After my sister was born, my mother could hold her, until she was big enough that we could both climb back and forth over the seats, pinching everyone who we happened to step on, or we would stand up and look out the back window as we drove. No such thing as seatbelts or car seats, then. We wouldn't have room for them in our sedans. Vehicles like station wagons and mini vans were not available to most people in those days, either. The family sedan or a pickup truck or delivery truck were all that we knew of, except for the convertables, sports cars, and wooden paneled station wagons that were in the movies.
After the whole family went to the Methodist church to Sunday School and church, we usually gathered in one home for a big Sunday dinner of red roast, red gravy, mashed potatoes, ambrosia, spiced peaches, or a pear half, English peas, sweet potatoes with marshmallows on top, rolls, cake or pie, coffee, for the grown ups, milk for the kids. People would sit around the table and talk for a while, as the hostess and a few helpers took care of the dishes. Kids would spread the funny papers and catalogues out on the floor to read. The grownups would adjourn to their homes for a short nap and a change of clothes from church clothes. Then we would gather for the Sunday afternoon drive.
During War time, ration coupons were saved so that people could have gas, tires, and even the big family dinners and parties. I can remember my great aunt doing things like boiling one egg and making one piece of toast, then cutting it in half for a meal for the two of them. He had to use his panel delivery truck for his grocery store, but the Nash stayed in the garage, unless they just had to go somewhere in it. Waxed paper was washed and reused until it fell apart. Socks were darned and clothes were patched and reworked. But, come Sunday, there would be a huge roast on the table, with all the trimmings.
The large farms in the Brazos River Bottom were home to many families and farm workers. The area was dependent on those crops of cotton, corn, and grain for income. When the crops were plentiful and prices were high, the economy for the whole area was good. So, our drives often were planned so that Grandpa could see how the crops were doing. He kept careful watch on those crops and ordered for his store accordingly.
We rode through the Bottom to Bryan and College Station. We had to ride around the campus of Texas A&M University so that Grandpa and Daddy could get a look at "the boys". A&M was an all male, military college then. And Grandpa and Daddy were big fans.
Daddy started to A&M and even played football a while, after high school. But he started to college in 1929, when the Great Depression hit. His plans of being a cotton classifier were dashed when the bottom fell out of the cotton market. He was crazy about A&M all his life, but he quit school and went to work.
Grandpa had been an outstanding baseball player, when he was young. He was offered a scholarship to play baseball at A&M, and they offered him all kinds of things to get him to go to college there. His father had other ideas however. He thought it would be best for Grandpa to go to business school and then have his own store in our hometown. Great-grandpa had his own grocery store, and he set up his son in business on that same block. The store was there for almost 100 years, although Grandpa lived to be 96. His son, then his daughter took over after Grandpa died. Great Grandpa also set up his daughter's husband, "Honey", in a grocery store next to his own, and two more sons worked for him, and one opened his own grocery store later, just down the street. Another son was a painter, one farmed, and two died.
During our rides to A&M, among the Corps dorms, I was embarrassed at being a girl among all those boys. I had heard tales of the things they did at that school. I thought I might see something that I shouldn't, so I hid on the floorboard of the car until we were safely down the street. It didn't help that one great aunt was always lecturing about what ladies should and should not do. (Ladies shouldn't expose their limbs, ladies must walk on the opposite side of the street if they should be walking downtown and encounter a place where beer was sold, ladies should only accept gentlemen callers, with their calling cards, at a certain time, with her parents' permission.) I thought that dorms in an all male school were no place for ladies. But no one else seemed to bother about that.
I felt safe again once we were down the street by the country club lake with its small dam. During drought years, especially, we looked at that little dam and hoped that water would be pouring over it. How exciting it was to see that water spilling over the concrete. That meant that we had had some rain. We had about a 7 year drought when we thought that dam would never have water over it again. That was a sad time as cows were dying or being sold, crops withered in the fields, except where there was irrigation, and people were having to come into town to get water in barrels from the fire department. I still get excited when we drive past that little dam, and I still look for water pouring over the dam. It's one of my favorite places.
A special treat, if I had been good, was to stop at the doughnut shop and pick up doughnuts to eat and a box to take home. Those are still the best doughnuts. In fact, I had one this morning for breakfast. Wonderful, soft, yeast, glazed doughnuts. Grandpa usually got a box to take home, and, sometimes, Daddy would buy one too. Uncle Tom seemed to prefer the doughnuts that "Pappy" made from scratch. Those were more like cake dougnuts, to me, fried in her deep fryer or the iron skillet.
And, then we took Highway 6 home. The radio kept us company. Most of the family were not big talkers. Grandma was deaf, so she didn't talk. My mother was quiet. "Pappy" talked some. "Toot" was the fun one and, if she was along, she kept things lively. Thelma would talk, at times, if she was with us. Grandpa might tell stories, but, usually he was pretty quiet, except in telling the driver where he wanted to ride that day, or something about the cows or business. "Honey" and Uncle Tom were very quiet. And I was a pesky little girl, when I talked.
"I don't have enough room! I'm getting smushed! I want to go home! I'm hungry! I want a drink! I can't see anything! I don't want to go there! I want to go to the picture show! I want to go swimming! I want to go play with ........" But, I stayed busy listening to the radio and dreaming. And dreading having any homework that I hadn't done at that late hour.
After the ride, we would feast on roast sandwiches on toast for supper at the home where we had dinner that morning. Those roasts lasted for several days. And, some of us could eat more than one sandwich. We couldn't get enough! By Tuesday, the roasts were usually turned into hash, with some of it added to soup ,later.
There were other rides, to other places, but this is one that the family took for many years. I can feel those warm dougnuts in my lap, still, hear the radio programs, feel the strain of not being able to see over the dashboard, and feel squashed between two big men in their heavy suits.
Most of the family is gone, now, but sometimes, my sister takes my aunt and me on a drive through the Bottom, and we still notice how the crops are doing. But, now, I am big enough to see where I am going, and we look for things to paint as we drive. Clouds, the play of light, perspective, colors, texture, shapes are part of what we notice now.
I hope that you have had a good Sunday, today, maybe with a family drive, or whatever you enjoy doing.
Notice the additions I have made to the sidebar of my blog. I have added quite a few links to blogs, other artists, and some new artists to my sections. These are some artists' blogs that I receive and enjoy. When you look at the blogs, you may also find the artist's websites. And, some that I have added, are links to the website.
I was pleasantly surprised when, after I contacted one artist, to learn that she had gone to my university and that I have at least two of her prints. I had not looked at the signatures, but just liked her work. She is another Texas artist, Kay Lamb Shannon.
If you are an artist over 60 years of age, check out "The Artist's" magazine for call for entries to artists over 60. Deadline for that is Oct. 1 so there isn't much time left. You can find more information on their blog on their website.
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Saturday, September 29, 2007

September Song

September Song
8.5"x 11"
Saturday night in a dorm room on the campus of a small college, Sam Houston State, in Texas. A night for dates, parties, dancing, celebration of a win of the big football game in the afternoon. There is bustling activity as girls put on their formals for a big dance, anticipating a perfect evening. Others meet their dates in the lobby/dining area. One young man slips his date's wrap over her shoulders as they leave for a party.
There has been much primping, borrowing, changing clothes, asking for opinions and help from other girls as the young women work for the perfect look. They hope that their dates from Texas A&M University will show up in their uniforms, especially if they are seniors and can wear the prized senior boots. But, if they are not in the Corps, or even if they are from the local college, the girls hope that their dates will arrive, dressed up and using their best manners. They hope that they can go where they can show off their dates, as well as their outfits. And, they hope that this date will be the best ever, and something that will be permanent.
Spirits are high around the town after a football win, so everyone prepares for the big night with lots of energy.
And, then, there are those without dates. There's casual dress, jeans and a large shirt, shorts, or even a housecoat and slippers around the dorm. Books might be brought out, and some might make a trip to the library, or a few might go with another group of girls, to a movie and out to eat. Those would be the ones who still had money left, and whose boyfriends were too far away to come here and take them out. It might be time to catch up on laundry, cleaning, homework, or a group might get together for a card game.
On this Saturday night, late in September, in the 1950s, she sits alone in her dorm room while activity goes on outside of her little world. She has on jeans and a shirt, she is barefoot, and sits at her desk with books on the shelf, unopened. The little 45 record player is ready with some popular selections. A Coke sits ready to be sipped on during the evening. She has pulled out a couple of sheets of blue stationary from a box on the shelf. Fountain pen and a bottle of blue ink wait to be used. She will write a long letter as she listens to the record player and the radio. She hopes that the boy won't mind getting a letter from her. She really likes him, and he has asked her out several times. But, when he gets away from her, is she just a joke to him? After all, he is older, going to a big university, he's smart, and oh-so-good- looking. She writes a guarded letter, in her best handwriting, hoping that maybe he will ask her to one of those big football games at his school, to a dance, or, even, that he will ask her to go anywhere again. Before the letter is mailed, she will ask her friends to read it, to be sure that it is alright and that there are no mistakes. After all, like other girls, she came to college to meet her Prince Charming and live happily ever after. To her, he was that one. She had turned down dates with other boys she knew. And, so, here she was, on a Saturday night, listening, and writing, with tears in her eyes, while others went out to celebrate the big victory.
It was September, and, as "September Song" played, she envisioned a landscape outside of her window, with colorful leaves drifting down to fill the parking lot below. The weather would be cool and all those fall clothes she had brought to school would be comfortable. There would be the fragance of apples and sugar cane in the air. She would wear a soft, cashmere sweater, a felt circle skirt with lots of petticoats, a wide belt, a neckerchief or a cashmere collar, pearl earbobs, and ballerina shoes, and she would carry a matching cashmere sweater or poodle cloth jacket in case it got cooler. She would wear red lipstick and a hint of mascara on her eyebrows. She would have liked to have a long pony tail that would swing when she danced, but she lacked the patience it takes to let her hair grow that long. Instead she had ducktails and swept the top in a soft swirl. When her dream date would come to take her out, she would be ready for dancing, a movie, going out to eat, or even just riding or walking around.
But, this was Texas. It was still hot in September, so it was more practical to wear cotton clothing, although girls did wear layers of clothes and those tight merry widows. The leaves didn't change or flutter to the ground. Apples didn't grow in that part of the country. You would have to go to a store or fruit stand to find them. Sugar cane was brought in to the stores. Music didn't play all the time, and Prince Charming never did arrive on his big white horse to whisk her away to an enchanted life.
The only time she got to go to one of those big football games was when she went with her grandfather and her father. She never got to go to a dance at the big school.
The boy did come back, a few times, but he moved on, and so did she. But, she still remembered. And, one day not long ago, she wondered where the time had gone and knew that her dream never would come true.
She did go out, and go dancing, and to other big dances, with other boys, over the years, and went on with life.
Back then, it did truly seem like a long, long time, from May to December, and through the rest of the year. The days have grown short, now that it is Semptember. Time to watch the young ones, and remember. As I watched the A&M-Baylor football game today, I couldn't help but remember.
"September Song" is done in pencil and shows a memory of college days. Except for football and tv programs and ads, and the stores decorated with pumpkins and Halloween objects, it's a bit hard to get in the mood for what we think of as traditional autumn around here. Often, what happens is that leaves on some trees start to change, then a norther comes through and knocks all the leaves to the ground. So, we go from summer, to a few days that look like we are going to have autumn, then we go directly to winter-for a few days. Soon, it's hot again, and summer-like.
As September comes to a close, I hope that it has been a good, memorable month for you. We look forward to the promise of October.
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Friday, September 28, 2007

Vision- Panic? Anxiety? Stroke? Monster?

Panic? Anxiety? Stroke? Monster?
What Happened?
Image Size: 8" x 11"
Paper Size: 9" x 12"
I had gone to bed a little earlier Saturday night, and got up earlier Sunday morning. A good time to drink coffee, look out the window and watch the morning colors change outside my window, I thought. If I drank coffee. Instead, I fed and watered the cats, changed the litter box, got a Sprite out of the refrigerator, and settled down at my computer. I was going to get my blog done early, for a change. I read my e-mail, glanced at the newspaper, and took a couple of asprins. I thought I would finish my blog early, work on pictures that I started the night before, and be sure to wake up the rest of the family so they could go to church.
Suddenly, I felt overwhelmed with illness. Was I going to die? Wouldn't anyone come in to check on me?
I felt like one eye shifted to the top of my head, the other one drooped, while my mouth hung open. My nose twisted upward. I leaned into the desk and clutched my arms. My neck seemed to be bulging out on the sides, my whole head distorted. Big, wavey lumps ran up and down my left arm and my body, into my feet and back up again, with smaller lumps going through the right arm. The left arm seemed to hang out and grow large as if it were inflating like a balloon. I gripped the carpet with my toes. I started to cry, but I knew that no one in the house would come to help me, even if they were awake. And there was nothing anyone could do. I couldn't go to a doctor. I felt really hot, then cold.
"Relax. Calm down". I told myself, but it didn't help. Maybe I was just upset because I had seen Tammy Faye on tv before she died, then heard of her death. But that was not today, or even yesterday. She was not upset about her situation, and was at peace, so why should I be upset. And, just think, my old friend's husband died just last week, and I wasn't that upset then. No, they were both okay and out of pain now. That shouldn't bother me.
The strange feelings got a little better and I walked into the bathroom, then the kitchen. The rest of the family was still asleep. I sat down at the computer again, feeling a little weak and strange.
"I'll look at something on the computer," I told myself "Or work on the pictures I was working on last night. I'll feel better if I do some art work."
I couldn't. The feelings and tears hit again, went away, and returned at least once more. I lost track of how many times this happened.
"Maybe death is close, maybe no one will come help me." I thought I was being silly, but I was feeling tired.
"Maybe if I sleep a while." I got in bed, put a movie on tv, though, for once, I didn't really care what was on. I didn't even care that there was an infomercial playing, but I did change the channel. I slept until my youngest grandson woke me before noon.
I tried to change the tv channels, but I couldnt' remember or find the numbers that I usually used. "I wonder if I have had a little stroke, " I thought. I struggled to remember the numbers and ended up just pushing the buttons, going through all the channels.
It was later in the day before I could remember the numbers of the channels that I always watch. That was okay, though, because I could just push numbrs until I found something I could watch. Still, I worried that it might be a symptom of something more than a panic attack.
My chest and my head felt funny, but, my head and my neck had been bothering me for a while. I thought that my head felt tight because I need a haircut. My hair is too heavy, and long, and it pulls. The headache is probably sinus trouble. My chest sometimes felt as if my heart is doing flip flops. But it was doing that before and the doctor didn't find anything other than the bundle branch blockage that I've had for years. Since my blood pressure has been really high, and has gone untreated for a couple of years, I thought that this could be a stroke. I'm not all that young anymore-except at heart.
Some of this, I thought, could be because I haven't had my thyroid medicine in over 2 years, or my blood pressure medicine, or any of the other 10 medicines that I was taking regularly before the money ran out.
I tried to remember exactly what happened, later, so I could write it down. It was a strange and frightening experience, and one I hope to never go through again. As the day wore on, and I ate a little, I started to remember the numbers on the remote control for the tv stations, and my typing improved some as I worked on my blog.
But, in trying to remember exactly what happened so that I could describe it, if needed, I couldn't remember all of it. There is a big, blank spot in my memoroy from my first realization of big blobs running up and down my body, tears, being too hot, and having trouble breathing, to being cool again, quickly, and gripping myself in front of the computer, wishing someone would come see about me. The next things I remember, vaguely, were of going into the kitchen and the bathroom, returning to my computer, more symptoms, then feeling tired and thinking I should try to rest.
I ddin't feel there was any use in telling anyone. No one could do anything. The ambulance won't come to my house because of their huge fee. My family largely ignores me. They don't want to be bothered.
I had been thinking, for so long, about my eye problem, my knee problems, my finanaces, or the lack therof, worrying about repairs that need to be made on my house, what is going to become of us, etc. But, when I got up that morning, I was thinking, pleasantly, of doing a nice blog, then spending time with my youngest grandson. I wasn't dwelling on anything and thought that I was relaxed. But, then, I have had esopohogal spasms and choking problems, when I was about to enjoy a nice, relaxed meal. Maybe, if it was a little stroke, it was helped by the fact that I had taken a couple of asprins. Or, maybe, it was just fear and worry that has taken its toll.
Whatever it was, I certainly I certainly don't like it. It's most unsettling, disturbing, and another thing to worry about. I sure don't want to go through that again!
For the next few days, I still felt a little strange, but continued to feel better as time passed.
I probably didn't actually look like the painting above, but I felt like I looked like a monster-all distorted. The nearest thing that happened to me previously, that reminded me of this was when I got hit in the face and neck by Lysol spray that went through the a/c ducts from the utilty room to the bathroom where I was washing my face. The same thing happened when I got into poison ivy when I was pulling vines out of a tree. My face and neck were all swollen, distorted, twisted, crusty, purple, green-just awful looking. Doctors said they don't like to give shots for that, anymore, but, when they saw me, they gave in and gave me shots, and ointment. I was miserable. I looked like a monster.
This time, I think that I just felt like I looked like a monster. Maybe it was just early practice for Halloween. I don't even want to think about having that happen again-even for a great Halloween look! A wig, a black dress, and some green makeup will do nicely for a costume.
"Panic? Anxiety? Stroke? Monster?" was painted using Winsor Newton watercolors on 140 pound Arches watercolor paper.
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Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Learning Times Tables

Learning Times Tables
I Hate Math
8.5" x 11"
Last night, I sat with my youngest grandson at the island counter in the kitchen, as we worked on homework. He wasn't in a good mood and didn't want to do it. Not even the promise of a chocolate soda or time to play a computer game helped. but, I had him pick out where he wanted to work and we set up a place to work while his mother cooked supper.
I added paper and pencil for myself, and sat at the counter with him, intending to draw something or look up a picture of a person that I needed for a drawing. I remember that homework was a lot easier to do, if I had a friendly person with me, in case I needed help. Or, to just know that someone else was working with me. I always remembered any comments later, and that helped me if I needed that information in order to answer a question. I could hear the person telling me what they had said, even years later.
He needs to learn his multiplication tables so that he can respond to the teacher, fast. He is somewhat of a perfectionist, and takes his time to do things right, which doesn't make for very speedy answers, usually. Last year, the teacher told us to use flashcards to learn the mulitiplication tables. To me, that is too random. Mulitiplication is something that needs to be in order, so that you can recall that chart, and just see it when it is needed, then go down that chart in your mind to find the answer. Flash cards, to me, are a game that is okay to reinforce, but you probably couldn't learn those basic answers with them.
We had stacks of dictionaries, notebook paper, pencils and a sharpener, his books, my books spread out on the counter, while his mother had to move to the counter beside the stove to work. We sat on stools and went to work.
I gave him some notebook paper, and took a couple of sheets for myself. There is a chart of the mulitiplilcation tables inside a planner that the school gave the students. And, I had one in an old-fashioned composition book that I have had for years. So, this gave something to go by. He said that his teacher wanted him to write his mulitiplication table like the chart.
Previously, I showed him the way that we used to write it, in columns. He did it easily, then, and used the chart to help him when he needed to check an answer.
As he worked on the table style, I thought, "I don't remember all of these, either. I'll work along with him, and make my own chart. Wouldn't hurt to practice a little." So, I made my own chart. He finished before I did, and I had to go to the, what I call the "cheat sheet", to finish my answers. We moved on to Language Arts and writing definitions in the workbook they have been using in school.
I started laughing as we worked on those mulitiplication tables. This was so different from when I had to learn those difficult numbers.
I guess my real dislike for math started in first grade. I had been sick for a few days and, when I came back to school, the teacher (who had also taught my father) insisted that I stay in class while everyone else went to lunch to finish up papers that I had missed. My mother expected me to come home at lunch time and right after school. I started crying when the teacher wouldn't let me leave. She tried to get me to stop and do my work, but I just cried more. I was sure that I would get a spanking and yelled at if I didn't go home on time.
Now, you have to understand that I was only 5 years old, and I lived about 1/2 block from school. And this teacher was not the most cheerful or sweet person that I ever knew. I thought that she was old, grouchy, and reminded me of a bulldog.
Actually, I had started to school the year before at age 4, when my friends, who were older started to school. I could do what they could do. But, I got mad at this teacher, one day, when she wouldn't let me play on the third floor of the fire escape. I went up there, anyway, and no one could get me to come down. After the class went back to the room after recess, I decided that being out there by myself was no fun, so I drug myself back into the room, pouting, but a little afraid that I would get a paddling. I sat down, got out my cigar box of crayons, quietly, and waited.
The teacher called my name, and before she could say anything, I threw my cigar box on the floor and went home. I vowed never to go to school again. I spent that year, looking at the school, where all my friends were. The next year, when I was 5, my father made me go back.
So, this particular day, when the teacher was trying to make me do my work instead of going to lunch, I was crying and wouldn't stop. I was sure that if I cried enough, she would give up and let me go home. Instead, she picked up the arithmetic book and hit me on the head with it.
I stopped my loud crying. I sat down, sobbing, at the table and did the papers. When I gave them to her, she smiled. But, I have avoided math ever since.
When I told my father he simply said, "She did the same thing to me!" I was so surprised that he didn't go to school and yell at her, or that my mother would yell at her because I hadn't come home for lunch.
By third grade, a kinder, but stern, teacher insisted that I needed to learn my times tables. My mind wandered to things I was interested in. And, I was even more shy after having surgery on my face at the beginning of school that year. I thought I had a horrible, ugly scar and was ruined for life. I spent a lot of time trying to pull my hair over that side of my face, like Veronica Lake, so that no one could see that scar. So, my mother would braid my hair. After recess, the braids fell loose anyway. I would even pull the braids across my scar and hold the ends of the braids in my teeth, so I could write. We couldn't have gum, so I chewed on my braids. But, the real purpose was to hide my face.
I wasn't making much progress with learning mulitiplication tables. It wasn't something that I could get excited about doing, or even felt that I needed to do. So, my parents were told that I must learn those multiplication tables and they needed to make me do it. So, each evening, my mother made me sit at the desk in the living room and work on writing those times tables. I would get so far, then I would start drawing. I dawdled, I squirmed, I looked out the window, I played with the cat as she wandered by, and I dreamed. Anything but writing those dreaded numbers.
When Daddy came home from the store for supper, I was still avoiding doing the work. They tried bribing, they tried being nice, they begged, they pleaded, they yelled, they threatened, they ignored me, then would come back and fuss at me some more.
"You are going to sit there until you do all those times tables!" Daddy fussed. His face grew red as his blood pressure rose and his patience wore away. Mama pursed her lips.
The more they insisted, the more I balked and the harder it seemed to do those numbers. I couldn't make myself do it.
Mama stood on one side of me, with the hairbrush, threatening to spank me if I didn't get busy. We didn't have a paddle for spanking at home, like they had at school. But Mama could swing a mean hairbrush. Soft bristles in a hair brush may sound like it wouldn't hurt, but Mama had a hairbrush with metal teeth in it. She would hit with the wooden, paddle part of the brush, but, as she spanked, the brush sometimes twisted and those little metal teeth stung. Even with that hairbrush hanging over me, and Mama standing there, resolved that I was going to learn those times tables, I still couldn't make myself write the numbers.
Daddy stood on the other side of the desk, determined that I was going to do my work. His spanking implements were the hammer handle, and he threatened with a belt, though he never used it. But, the hammer handle was scarey. While he made sure that I didn't leave the desk, he held the hammer in one hand and the belt in the other, letting it lie on the desk beside me.
I still just sat there, hating math, teachers, and school. I cried in frustration and anger.
"I don't want to," I whined. "It's too hard. I can't do this. That teacher is mean!"
It didn't work. I still had to sit there.
Finally, I picked up the pencil and angrily started writing, "1 x 1 =1." We only had to learn to the 10s. Then, everyone left me alone. But it took all year, of these nightly sessions, of making me write those times tables, with Mama on one side, and Daddy on the other. I'll bet that they were growing to hate the times tables too, by the time that year was over! And I was so glad when summer came and I got to skip 4th grade.
In school, we not only had to write the numbers, but we had to recite them together. Over and over. Today, many children seem to have some trouble with repitition. Once they have done something, they don't want to have to do it again, and they surely don't want to go over and over the same thing, day after day. Sometimes, repitition is necessary.
I'm glad that my children and grandchildren are not like I was!
By high school, some of our math classes were taught by coaches and we could easily get them off topic by talking about sports. We spent a lot of algebra class, with the boys talking football plays with the coach, or working silently at our desks, and playing football on paper instead of doing problems. I can't recall exactly how we played it, but we drew lines on the paper to represent lines on the field, then used a pencil to "kick off", make gains on the "field", and "touchdowns". It certainly wasn't math, though. We did have work to do, at times. The teacher would assign problems, and either someone who understood math, would do them, and we would share the answers, or, often, the answers were in the back of the book.
Plane geometry was easier for me. I could see something there. Algebra seemed like a game that the person giving problems knows the answer to. I thought that they should just go on and tell the answer instead of making people guess. I could imagine house plans, or pies with Geometry.
I didn't have to take math in college, but, when I took chemistry...well, that's another story.
I know that my grandson will learn these time tables much faster and easier than I did. Hopefully, he will remember a pleasant time with Grandma, doing homework in the kitchen, and he will be eager to learn more.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

An Angel For Laura

An Angel for Laura
Guardian Angel
8" x 10"

Today, I'm going to stray a bit and simply post this painting I did of an angel. I think that a lot of people could use an angel, now, so here is one for Laura, and for everyone who needs one. I realize that she can't see it on the computer, but the thought is there. I couldn't send a card. And, what can one do or say at times like these, when someone you know is so ill. All I know to do is to send a little angel on its way, say a prayer, and wish for peace and many blessings.

The photo is not as clear as I would like it to be, but this is an image that I had on my computer. The out of focus effect shows up a lot when the picture is enlarged. It looks better small. But, that is just the photo I took, and not the painting itself.

I thought that it turned out to be an interesting painting. It has a lot of Indigo Blue and Yellow in it, a strong color combination, and there is quite a bit of texture which was done with a knife. "Guardian Angel" was done as a result of a visualization exercise.

Good Journey, in God's hands, with your own guardian angel.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

The Last Day of Summer

The Last Day of Summer
The Frog Pond
8.5" x 11"
The light has been different the past few days, as the days grow shorter. Tomorrow, it will be officially fall, and, before we know it, we will have the government mandated time changes. (Just about the time my body gets used to the sun going down earlier!) My dad would never change his clocks. He said that the cows didn't care what time it was. They expected their feed, etc., on their time, not the government's. But, he did have to abide by the time changes as he watched the news or other tv programs, went to church, or went downtown to the stores.
About the time I get ready to paint, my light is fading, so I just work on my drawing, or turn on several lamps over my drawing table. I don't have all the nice, new, artificial lighting where I work on my art. I just open the blinds and have a lot of natural light, on the north west side of the house.
In today's post, I am sharing a drawing that I made when I took my grandson to a wonderful swimming pool here. The pool has a giant frog with a slide in it, for the smaller kids to slide into the water through, and a huge floating, happy snake that divides the pool. There are features for older people too, of course, like the high diving boards. When my grandson was in swimming, there was a woman with a floppy hat and sun glasses, and there are always the mothers, urging their little ones to swim toward them.
While it is a fun pool, it is definitely a popular city pool with lots of people around.
The pool that I really liked was the country club pool where I grew up. It wasn't so big, and had metal pipes around the sides to hold onto. The water was always cold, which was great in the hot summer. There were wooden benches around the sides and wonderful lattice work that provided shade and even a little windbreak. There was a small bath house on the north side of the pool that had something like wooden flats on the floors so that water would drain off wet swimmers and onto the concrete floor and down a drain. Yellow Jackets seemed to like to invade the little house, at times, making us hurry with showers. That was all changed some years ago when they decided that an Olympic style pool was needed. It's nice, but it lacks the charm that the old pool had.
Near the pool was a wonderful, open, clubhouse that overlooked a small lake filled with lilly pads. A wooden swinging bridge led to the caretaker's home across the lake. That was an adventure to walk on, especially when a few boards rotted and fell out! There was a small rowboat that was parked on the lake, which some people used, when the craft was in good condition. When it wasn't, it was still nice to sit in it and talk, or pretend that we were boating. There was a picnic area, where barbeques were held, and a golf course among the oak trees. That was some wonderful barbeque! I wish I had their recipe!
I remember that a young woman, who was just a few years older, and who had a beautiful powder blue Oldsmobile convertable, drove a group of us out to swimming lessons at the pool in her car. I loved that drive, with my hair blowing. I hoped to have a car just like that someday.
I had one of my most embarrassing experiences at that time when it was my turn to dive in the pool and a strap on my bathing suit broke just as I was about to dive. I just fell in the water and stayed in there until someone could find a safety pin to fix my bathing suit with. I think that I didn't want to go swimming anymore. I dont' think anyone even noticed, though, except when I asked for a safety pin and I had to tell someone what happened. One of those embarrassing moments that you never forget.
Another memorabe swimming pool was in the mountains in Raton, New Mexico. My parents, my sister, and I were on our way from our home in Texas to Colorado and Salt Lake City, Utah for a week long vacation. I was about 10 years old. We spent the night in Amarillo, then drove on to New Mexico. I remember Daddy talking about Raton Pass. We were tired and cranky from being cooped up in the car for so long. We begged to stop at every swimming pool and play area or rest stop that we whizzed by. So, it was a surprise when we pulled up to a huge swimming pool in the mountains, and Daddy sent my sister and me in to swim. Our parents stayed in the car, and we were a little unsure of what to do in a strange pool. This pool was different. I think they said it was a double pool, like two put together. It was heated and there were deep parts at both ends, while the shallow part was in the middle. Not knowing where we were supposed to swim, exactly, we chose the middle part and edged toward the deeper parts, carefully. That was refreshing and the warm water was so nice in the cool air. We were happy, for a while.
And, then, there was the swimming pool in nearby Hearne, with its gates, bathhouse, and clubhouse all made of unusual red rocks. It had a pool for kids, a life guard, and a high diving board. As we got older, we really didn't go there to swim, but more to show off our new bathing suits and in hopes of getting to know some cute boys from out-of-town. My senior ring ended up in that pool. I let my sister wear it just two weeks after we got our rings, and she lost it when she was in swimming. I guess it drained out to the Brazos River or somewhere. We didn't meet any cute guys at the pool, but we got to look at some, and we got to show off our suits, and splash in the water, being very careful not to get our hair wet. We didn't have enough nerve, or gas money, to venture on to Bryan or College Station pools, where we might have met some college guys.
When I was about 4, I went to a summer camp where my mother's sister was a counselor. They had a huge swimming pool there. I was taking swimming lessons, riding horses, and all that the older kids were doing. The hard part was being in the large cabin, at night, without my mother. However, I managed to get Pink Eye, so while the other kids were splashing in the pool each day, I was sitting on the steps of the nurse's office, getting drops in my eye. Soon, kids started to go home, and then it was announced that there would be no more swimming. There were a couple of drownings, if I remember correctly, and then Polio struck. No one knew what caused Polio then, but it was thought that you could get it from crowds or going in swimming, and who knew what else. It was frightening. The pool was closed and then we were all sent home. We were all scared because we had been exposed. But, the consensus was that I would be alright because I had not been swimming lately due to my Pink Eye. (I had been hoping that would clear up and was counting the days until I could go swimming again, while I sat on the steps with drops in my eye.) But, then, no one was really sure what caused Polio, or how it was contracted, so there was still some cause for concern. Maybe that pool only seemed so big because I was so little. I still remember it as a huge pool, with concrete steps inside, all along the shallow end.
As the years passed, fun at the pool came in watching children, then grandchildren, enjoy swimming and playing in different pools. Now, I wouldn't be caught in a bathing suit or swimming pool, myself. It's fun to watch, and remember, though. It would be nice to walk barefoot in some surf along the beach , but that's quite a distance from here.
Hope you have some good memories of the summer, now that it is ending. Of course, it feels like summer ended and fall began a while back, when school started.
I did "The Frog Pond" from a sketch I made while sitting at the pool one summer. Later, I drew it in ink, in a cartoon style, that I thought might be nice as an illustration for children. This is one that I might still do in color.
Frogs are kind of fun, aren't they! Real frogs, cartoon frogs, and props of frogs-even those with slides through the middle.
Thanks for reading and for your comments and support. Please share with others. I do welcome inquiries and comments. It helps to know that someone is reading, enjoying, and, perhaps, even gaining in some way. Remember that you can see more of my stork drawings and the series on Macular Degeneration in the older posts or archives section. All the series on Macular Degeneration have titles that are prefaced with the word "Vision".
If you see something of interest, let me know.
Happy end of summer '07! Hope that fall is a great one!

Friday, September 21, 2007

Vision- The Good Eye II

The Good Eye II
Image size 8" x 11"
Paper size 9" x 12"
These were actually two different episodes in July. But, I combined them into one painting, for the sake of composition.
As I sat at the computer, there were four small circles of light that appeared at the lower part of my screen. Trails of light sparkled downward. Something like tiny comets of red, yellow, blue, and purple, with a hint of green.
I closed the good eye and they went away. When I opened that eye, however, they reappeared. They were only there for a short while, but, again, they reminded me of what I had read previously about a detached retina. Flashing lights. But these were not actually flashing lights. Just sparkling little comets.
Another day, at the computer again, I noticed something like floating wheels, some overlapping, across the lower right side of my computer. They appeared to be divided into mostly triangular sections of light. These, too, sparkled, and were happening in the good eye.
This one lasted most of the day, but was gone by the next day, and, like the other images I have been seeing since Macular Degeneration and catarcts struck me, it hasn't reappeared.
In my painting, I used Winsor Newton watercolors on 140 pound Arches watercolor paper. For sparkle, I added a bit of silver acrylic. However, it doesn't appear to show up very well on the monitor. It looks like a bit of gray on my monitor.
There is a new feature on the sidebar of my blog. Check it out under BlogRush. You can go to other blogs there. This will change as people post to their blogs, and those are added to the list in the little frame.
And, if you have a blog of your own, if you click on the bottom where it says to add your own posts Free, you can go to their website for a short video and more information. You can also set up the BlogRush feature on your own site. By inviting other bloggers, whose blogs will be read by a different group of people, that should increase traffic to your own site.
I learned about this from Nancy Standlee on her blog. And I really appreciate her help in setting it up on my blog. (I always run into some problem that is something really simple when I try to do things on the computer!)
Check out her blog at . She is another Texas artist. I really enjoyed reading about the workshop she attended in Galveston. And, she is always up on the really cool, new things.
Be sure to check out the other links that I have on my sidebar under Artists and Authors, Interesting Sites, also Storks, and Eye Sites.
The weekend is here, and I just realized it. One advantage of retirement. It's almost always the weekend!
Hope you have a good weekend, doing whatever it is that you enjoy.
Thanks for reading and sending my work along to others who might be interested. All work is copyrighted and most of the art work is for sale. I do welcome comments and inquiries. It helps to know that others are reading, are supportive, and are interested in my work. Check out my group to see more of my watercolors, and join, in order to get an e-mail when I update my blog.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Vision-The Good Eye

The Good Eye
Image size 8" x 11"
Paper size 9" x 12"
One July morning, I was going about my usual routine, and had sat down to work at my computer. Macular Degeneration didn't seem to interfere with working up close to my computer. No wavey lines or distortion, unless I leaned back in my chair.
I had put away the Amsler grid, which was supposed to be checked daily, to see if there were changes. If so, the doctor was to be contacted immediately. That's all well and good, but the doctor wouldn't see me anymore, so what was I to do if there were changes. There wasn't anything to be done, so the only reason to use the chart, or take notice of changes was for my own curiousity. Occasionally, I would cover my good eye and see if there were differences in color or distortion. Just because I wondered what was happening to me, and what was coming next.
I tried to busy myself with things that I worried that I might not be able to do anymore. I'd better read all those books I've been saving to read, write all those stories I've been wanting to write, draw and paint all the pictures I've been wanting to do, identify all the old pictures and write the family story. Also on the to do list was to absorb all the images I can store, while I can still see them. Scenes, movies on tv, faces, poses, light and shadow, colors, etc. I thought that I should try to organize and memorize where the colors are on my paint palettes. While that is a good thing to do, I don't consciously think of picking up a warm color or a cool color. I know that, theoretically, that is an important way to work. Thinking of color harmonies and color theory can be important. But, working in a more expressionistic way, I usually just paint with what I feel like using. I look at the paint and think, "This one will work here", or "That one feels right to pick up and I'll put a little of that there", and just do it. Theory is in the background and is a foundation for me, but I go more by what I feel like using or what looks like it will work in a certain spot. Then, I let things flow and see what happens. Touch ups and finishing are then added.
On this particular day, as I looked at the computer, a crescent shape that overlapped another, appeared to my right, over the side of the computer. The shape was broken up into tiny shapes, like a colorful crystal. It sparkled and flashed as I tried to look at it. I closed the good eye and the shape disappeared. I closed the eye with the AMD and the shape appeared, still flashing and on the side. I looked around the room and even walked into other rooms to try to determine if light or the computer might be causing this new shape to form.
Several years before, I had a migrane in my eye. (That's another story, with a picture!) At that time, my opthamologist told me that the thing to look for was flashing lights, which would indicate a detached retina. He advised that the migrane was temporary and didn' affect anything. Probably caused by stress. The more recent opthamologist and retina specialist confirmed this information.
Now, I wondered if this sparkling crescent shape meant that the retina in my good eye was detaching. More concern followed. I was relying on my good eye to stay that way.
I looked for symptoms on the internet. I didn't find that shape, but again found the bit about flashing lights being a symptom of a detached retina. And information saying to go to the doctor immediately. Time was very important.
Maybe if I rested and put cold packs on my eye, it would get better. I could hope. I could pray. And hold my breath that it wouldn't get worse or that it would go away.
After several days, the crescent shape faded. I guess it wasn't a detached retina, after all.
Meanwhile, this would be another abstract painting for me to create and share. I first made a sketch in order to remember the shape and the date it occured. Later, I transferred the drawing to 140 pound Arches watercolor paper. I used Winsor Newton watercolors to complete this painting. Sparkles were added with silver acrylic paint. The sparkles do not show up very well in the scan of the painting. They appear more like gray dots on the monitor.
I do welcome your comments and inquiries. And I appreciate your interest and support. Thank you for reading, and for passing my work on to others who might be interested. Take a look at my group, Art By Cecelia, too. I have a few more watercolors on a page there.
Be sure to check out the links I have provided on the sidebar on the right of my page. You will find some interesting things to browse through there.
I'm glad that you are sharing in my journey, and I hope that my art work and blog will help someone else as they encounter AMD or similar problems. At least, someone may relate to my work, or become more aware.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Vision-Cloud Over Me

Cloud Over Me
And How Do You Feel Today?
30" x 40"
pastel on vellum
This pastel painting is large and is in an expressionistic style.
This is one of the assignments that I gave, as the need arose, when I was teaching, and something that has been given in workshops I have attended. When things happened, especially things that would affect students, such as a tragedy in the school or community, or even when I noticed that students seemed to be in need of expressing their feelings in a positive way, I would pull out paper, as large as possible, art supplies that allowed for quite a bit of freedom to work fairly rapidly, and, perhaps, put on music. Often, I taped the large paper on the board and stapled paper to bulletin boards, and all of us worked together. I was there to encourage, provide help, if needed, and give a little guidance.
Sometimes, we would just work on "How Do You Feel Today" assignments, when things were good. And, at times, I just allowed a few minutes in class to draw in a sketchbook or on paper, in order to express feelings.
These type of assignments worked for both writing and art. There just had to be adjustments for space and materials used.
And, it was important to finish in one sitting or class period. It doesn't work very well to put this sort of work aside to work on later, since things happen and feelings and mood can change between times. Sometimes, it works to get that intitial feeling down, then come back to make a more finished work later. But, usually, it is hard to get that same feeling or energy back. Finishing touches can be added successfully, but it's hard to sustain that same feeling that the artist started with after some time has passed. It almost seems as if that left brain takes over and says "use this color. use this kind of line, this kind of paint", etc. while, at the beginning, the right brain says nothing and just guides you to select colors, fill in shapes, and move in the way that would best express that mood.
Working tight and small tends to restrict feelings and force the creator to work smaller and tighter. To really loosen up, it helps to use large materials and big movements that allow the body to move.
I like to begin with a whole piece of compressed charcoal, oil pastel, or pastel. Even if it is for warm up exercises. If I use pencil, I try to hold the pencil loosely, by the side, and make many gestural type of lines. And I like to use very large paper or canvas. The 30" x 40" is a nice size paper, but I even like to use a roll of newsprint or other large paper. As I work with large materials, I gain more energy as I work, which shows up in my work. It also helps physically. Tiredness and headaches seem to be relieved as I gain energy. (I think it has to do with using a different side of the brain, the right side, allowing the tired, left side to rest. That's just my personal thought and experience.)
If I start with a pencil and a small piece of paper, I tend to get tighter and smaller as I work. I find myself gripping the drawing tool tightly, I get tired, headachey, and stressed, trying to make things "right". But, still, I often work this way, just because of the space needed, the ease of using the materials, and the few supplies required. It's just more convenient.
The same is true of using watercolors. They don't require as much in the way of materials, or space, they dry fast, clean up easily, and don't make a mess. I even use a travel set of watercolors and a film container for water, and a sketchbook or just watercolor paper in my clip board, for convenience. On the other hand, you can work fairly large with watercolors, too, and you can be pretty free with them. The drawback, to me, in using watercolors is the expense in framing. You must use a mat and glass or plexiglass to cover and protect them.
Oil paints and acrylics can be used in an expressive manner, of course, but they tend to be more messy and require more clean up and drying time. In classes, there wasn't that much time, or space, with just 5 minutes in between classes to get one class out of the way, and begin the next class. One sink with one faucet for a whole class of students and the teacher didn't help matters.
Pastels and oil pastels worked well for standing up, didn't require a lot of immediate clean up, other than hand washing, which could be done in restrooms. And, tables could be cleaned at lunch time, conference period, and after school. The dust would wash off.
The picture above, "Cloud Over Me" seems to fit in with my experiences with Macular Degeneration. There is an oppressive cloud, always lingering. A cloud that goes from energy and joy to frustration, sadness, fear, anxiety, panic, anger, helplessness, then blends into a cool calm of sorrow and acceptance, knowing that there is nothing that I can do. A cloud of things that others always seem to be able to control, hangs over me-demands for money, ability to do things that are out of my reach, witholding medical care, friendship, or even simple kindnesses.
There are boiling clouds that go from hot to cold, with tails of wind and tornado funnels hanging below. Dark, driving rain pounds the earth on the left side of the picture. A beaten , windblown figure crouches below the cloud, hands hanging limply, waiting for the storm to hit, trying to protect herself from the hovering storm. A younger figure, in the light, reaches out. The promise of sunlight and fair weather is beyond the storm. Is it all in the past, or is it yet to come? When will this storm cloud dissipate and clear skies return.
Or, "Cloud Over Me" could be about a day of rushing off to work, trying to get family and self moving, argueing, going to work, more difficulty with bosses, students, administrators, parents, going home to bills and more stress, fighting traffic during the commute, going and coming, going to evening meetings with more stresses to meet goals or conflict between people, or staying at home, preparing for the next day, with plans, grading papers, fighting with the computer, with meals and cleaning, laundry, personal care, getting everyone off to bed, ready to do it all over again the next day. And, all the while trying to fit in an extra job, art work, writing, activities, and a little tv time (where you can find more people argueing). A good tongue lashing from a boss, angry teenager, hostile parent, or other person could also generate this feeling.
And how are you feeling today?
For me, today has been kind of a lazy day. Sleeping late after spending a few days painting, and staying off the computer. The clouds seem to be in the overcast sky outside. My eyes do get tired and the green area that surrounds the purple spot in my eye that has the AMD seems to be larger. I noticed a lot of green over whatever I tried to look at on tv last night.
Be sure to check out the links to Artists and Authors and Interesting Sites on the right side of my page. One new site is that of Hobo Teacher. If you have ever been, or known, a teacher, or been to school, you can relate to his website. Also, Esther Read let me know that one of her articles on our high school English teacher, Loma Brannon, was published in the "Corpus Christi Caller Times" newspaper. That brings back memories of people in many places, who had memorable teachers. And, Virginia Vaughan is preparing to show all of her paintings of "The Last Year On The Farm". Many of those are on her website, along with more information.
If you are an artist, over age 60, you might check out the September, 2007 issue of "The Artist's" magazine. There is a call for entries on page 9. You can also look at their website, . I found a bit more information on their blog on the website.
Be sure and let me know if you see something that interests you. I welcome comments and inquiries. Thanks for reading and sharing my work with others who might be interested.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Vision-Where Is The Road Home ?

Where Is The Road Home?
image size 8"x11" paper size 9"x12"
It was June. Time for our school reunion in a nearby town. My sister came to town for the event, and took me to the hall where we visited, had barbeque, looked at old yearbooks, and spent time with old friends-people who were like brothers and sisters after spending so many years together.

Once I sat down with my classmates, and were joined by people from the class ahead of us-the class I had started to school with since they were my playmates and neighbors-I tried to stay in one spot. It was hard to get in and out from the table, and getting up and down out of a chair bothered my knees. But, I quickly realized that my eyes were preventing me from seeing who people were away from the table. The only people I got to see were those sitting with me, those who came to visit our table, and people I saw as I was entering and leaving the hall.

"Is that .....?" my friends would ask me.
I might see a figure somewhere, but couldn't tell who it was. "I don't know. I can't see them!" I laughed. I might as well laugh, although it was frustrating. Later, I wished that I had wandered around some, and taken pictures of people.

Someone spoke in the center of the room. It was a man, but I couldn't tell who it was. I did see a few people when I was in line to eat. I was a bit reluctant to get in line, and didn't really want to eat, as usual. I would have rather just visited.

Later, there was a small band and dancing. But, it was like when we were in high school. Girls willing to dance, waiting for someone to ask us to dance, but no one did. The guys hung out together, the girls hung out together. If we danced, we usually had to dance with each other, in the days when we were learning to dance. But, now, we all had marriages behind us, or had husbands who didn't like to dance, and were back to being "wallflowers". But, there wasn't anyone we particularly wanted to dance with anyway. It would have been like having to dance with your brother. And, the guys now had wives. And some of us, can no longer dance, if anyone had asked us! The spirit is willing, but the knees say "No!" So, we talked and watched, until we grew weary of shouting over the band.

My friend and classmate, Kathryn, was staying in a motel in my town, so, in order to spend more time with her, and to save my sister an extra trip, I asked her to take me home.

I chatted too much, but it was so good to be with my old friends. I explained that I couldn't see very well, and that the signs were really hard for me to make out. I realized, too, that, since I hadn't been driving for a while, I didn't really pay attention to how to get home, or where I was going. I could tell by landmarks in the daytime, if I found something familiar. But, this place is growing and changing constantly. Things that I have been seeing all my life, have been torn down and replaced. I can't read the signs until too late to turn, but I can make out landmarks.

I thought, "How embarrassing! I can't even find my way home!"

There were big signs on the freeway, but they all looked like squiggles, until I was beside them.
I told her to look for a sign that directed motorists to the big library and museum, which is fairly new. We had already passed it.
Well, we could go through town on another road, but, then that meant more signs.

It was about time for my daughter to pick up my grandson after work that night. I knew that there was a large bank building next door to where he worked, and just off this freeway. I thought it would save time and driving for her, and frustration for me, if she just dropped me off at his work and I could ride home with my family.

Through the dark of the night, out on the freeway, a green highway sign glowed and reflected lights. Letters appeared as only meaningless squiggles. The red lights of an intersection on the frontage road, just up the little hill, glowed behind the sign. A little of that intersection showed. But, which one was it? They all look alike!

Tail lights from the car ahead of us looked like red stars, while the headlights coming toward us looked like yellow stars

Lights lining that section of the freeway appeared to have spokes and faded into balls or burts, like fireworks, of light. The moon appeared to be three overlapping circles of yellow and orange. The building that I was using as a landmark, glowed bright in the night. I had not liked it when they built that tall building, taking away from the natural landscape that we still enjoy-the tree line and the open skies. But, this night, I was so glad it was there, or we might be riding forever, trying to get me home!

Above the building was a strange shape, that looked like a space station or something from a sci fi movie. "What is that?" I didn't want to ask. I already felt so dumb for not being able to find my way to my house, or even where my grandson worked, without that big building. It reminded me of the times when I was growing up in the '50s, and science fiction movies became popular. They may look fake now, but, to us, they could be real things happening. We were just learning about things like flying saucers and Martians, and outer space. I walked up the little hill to my house, after those movies, anxious and worried about what might be in those star filled skies above my house and the school. And what might be coming to get us. I didn't know if it would be Martians or Communists that might jump out and do horrible things to us, or even steal us away or murder us in our beds. My mother often had to sleep with me after scarey movies! I was terrified, but I had to act brave as I left my date or friends after those movies.

Kathryn let me out in the parking lot and went on her way. It had been a long day with a lot of driving. I met my grandson, my daughter showed up, and all was pretty much okay again. I was already missing my friends. The reunions are always too short for me.

I sat in the back seat with my youngest grandson on the way home. It was dark. I couldn't see any of the signs on the way home, as usual, because I was looking at the back of the seat in front of me. Another reason why I haven't been paying attention to signs.

When we got home, and entered our house, I asked my grandson, "What's that big thing in the sky?" It was the thing I had seen hovering over the big building, and now it was glowing blue above the big oak tree in our yard.

"Grandma, that's a star!" my grandson told me.

Logically, I knew that there would be just one center point of light with that star. The "space station" that I was seeing was definitely more unusual and evoked different feelings. It was a bit of a disappointment, but comforting to know that creatures from outer space were not hovering above us.
I knew that driving was not an option, at least until I can get my eyes fixed. I wouldn't even want to try to drive with my problem reading signs. Some people seem to be able to drive with Macular Degeneration. I don't know how they do it. At this stage, I only have AMD in my left eye, but cataracts have formed in both eyes. I think that I am still able to do quite a few things, and most of the vision problems are annoying and frustrating. The one thing that I have had to stop doing is driving. With vision in one eye, it looks like I would be able to drive. I can still see things, until I close my good eye. Then, things appear distorted, have a purple and green spot, or , at times, they are much darker.

Fortunately, I do have someone who can drive and do errands, and take me places, when I need to go. I prefer being able to look for pictures, talk to my grandson, or even draw or write in the car. There are artists who do "drive by paintings", and that's sort of fun. I don't think I could paint in the car, though. I would have paint everywhere! A few years ago, I decided to do some paintings of this area, and had my daughter drive around the countryside while I did watercolors. The car bounced too much, and I really couldn't do it. So, I opted for a camera to take reference photos. Still, there is something about painting on location. You just capture things that can't be captured through a camera.

I did this painting, first as a pencil line drawing. Then, I did a soft watercolor, which shows the pink glow of lights from the city. I like some parts of that little painting. However, I remember the lights coming out of the dark along the freeway, so I did a second painting, which is the one above. I thought that you might like to see the process, so I am including those first two pictures below.

Thanks for reading and sharing. I do appreciate your interest and support, and I welcome inquiries and comments. Be sure to let me know if you see something that is of particular interest to you.
And, be sure to check out the links I have on my sidebar.
If you would like to go back to see my earlier posts on my experiences with Macular Degeneration, look in the Archives. All those posts will be prefaced by the word Vision. I have tried to keep those in the order as they occured.
Have a good TGIF ! Thank goodness it's Friday. Time for football games, weekend activities, or "whatever makes you happy".

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Vision-May Sketch

Graduation sketch 4"x5.5" pencil

April ended, and we moved to the end of school, working toward graduation activities for my oldest grandson. Such a huge class! 750 plus. Much more than the school where I had taught. I thought that my whole high school graduation class would fit on the first row of one section, and have seats left over. We had 19, the biggest class that had graduated in years. But, that was many years ago, in another place.

The graduation was held in a large arena, where university graduations and even the circus are held. We had to sit up high, with the band in front of us, and the choir, speakers, administrators, along with all those rows of seniors filling the rest of the floor. Everyone looked tiny to me, but, with my eye problems, it was even worse. They were blurry, distorted, and the colors were different. There was a giant tv screen above the scene, but I couldn't make it out, either. They were also blurry and distorted. I could tell only that they were showing head and shoulder shots, where, in looking at the scene, we could see tiny figures and objects.

I kept asking where my grandson was sitting, or where he might be walking. I never did see him. I clapped when it was appropriate, but I never could see who I was clapping for.

That was frustrating. To not be able to see my grandson graduate, after all these years of working toward that goal, and knowing that there were classmates of his who did not make it because of the TAKS test. I was relieved, excited, tearful, at times, and I couldn't even see him, except before and after the ceremony. I felt like I missed the big moment, when he got that diploma.

But, I did get to see it on tv, finally, this week. But only when I stood in front of the set to watch.

I knew that the ceremony would be very long, with that many diplomas to hand out. I only knew a few of the other seniors. I didn't want to cry, but knew that there would be some choking up, at least. So, I packed my purse with Kleenex, along with some paper, folded, and pens and pencils. I wanted to take along my clipboard, that I use like a sketchbook. It has a compartment for keeping pencils, erasers, paper, and a pencil sharpener, reference photos, or whatever I can pack in there. I've been carrying it everywhere for a few years now. But, such things were not allowed in the arena, due to security. So, this trip, I just folded some typing paper, and put it into a side pocket in my purse. My daughter carried the camera.

And, sure enough, as we entered the lobby of the arena, security was checking purses and belongings. I told her I had a lot of Kleenex because I knew that I was going to cry. She laughed and handed us a program. It looked like it would be a really long morning. But, I was prepared to draw, if it got to be too much to sit through.

The place was packed, because, not only did we have everyone associated with our school graduation, but they had scheduled several schools to graduate that day. And, it rained!

We sat through the band and choir practicing, for the first time for this program, and then the actual ceremony. It did get long, and so I sketched. My daugther took a few photos, but we were so far away, that we couldn't see much in them. Tiny little people and objects.

The above sketch, not finished, shows the scene as the students received their diplomas. I thought that my grandson had received his diploma and was being hugged by someone as he returned to his seat. However, he said that this was not him. So, again, I didn't see him. I didn't fill in all those rows of little mortar boards. My eyes just couldn't take it!

I was showing the youngest grandson how to start with a "stick" or gesture drawing, that can be completed later, and that also helps the artist to observe enough that they can remember much of what they saw, really fast. And, now, in his art class, they have been drawing fast, scribble drawings of people. He has done a good job with that project.

I also did a gesture drawing of my daughter and grandson sitting next to me, as they read their programs.

At this stage of my Macular Degeneration and cataracts, I can see up close, most of the time. Although I do have trouble connecting lines when I draw, at times, or patterns and certain light, seem to make my eyes do funny things, I can still read and see faces. Sometimes light can make things look like there is glitter all over an area, like the way that strong sunlight seems to sparkle on a sidewalk that has reflective material, or bits of glass, in it .

The sketch below is the gesture type drawing of my daughter and grandson, as I already mentioned. I like the simplicity of it, just the way it is, as well as the lines and curves. I could do a more detailed drawing from it, but I like the way this turned out.Reading Programs 4" x 5.5" graphite
You can go back and read my other posts on my experiences with Macular Degeneration in my Archives, or earlier posts. I interrupt one series to add in other things as I feel they are appropriate. All the posts on AMD experiences, are prefaced with the word Vision, which might make them easier to find. I have been trying to show what happened to me, in the order that things have occured. The next post will be about what I saw in early June.
At first, I thought that the graduation sketches were not all that significiant. But, as I wrote this, I realized that it was quite a big deal that I couldn't see my grandson get his diploma because of my eyes.
At some events, I have thought that, they should allow people who can't see very well, to sit up front. It is frustrating to go to see events, and not be able to see. To be fighting being almost nauseated and dizzy from the distortion and wavey lines, blurring, etc. instead of listening to and seeing the person you came to see. I did request that I be allowed to sit on an aisle seat at the George Bush Library when we went to see Tony Snow speak. I still couldn't see other than figures, as we were about midway back in the auditorium. They were telling me to sit by a wall, behind tall people, until I told them that I couldn't see out of one eye. I still wonder what the Secret Service people thought, when, as Snow and Bush 41 were talking to us, and there was this one old lady, leaning out in the aisle, and winking at them! I caught myself closing one eye, trying to see better, and thought that I had better stop that before the Secret Service men pounced on me for doing who knows what. So, I spent the rest of the Q&A session, straining to keep both eyes open, and see. All I could do was listen, and visit with the man sitting next to me, during lulls in the program.
I'm beginning to think that they need to provide seating for people who can't see very well, just as they provide places for wheelchairs. Another thing I experienced, due to my knees and surgery, not my eyes, is that stores need to have merchandise located down low for people who have to ride in those little electric carts in stores. You can't see merchandise, as you shop, or reach what you need from those little carts. Now, I have to ask people to read labels or tell me what items say. I have to look for shape, color, and size of familiar objects in stores.
I had remarked thatTony Snow looked really well, then, and I was surprised that his hair looked brown. It was only a few days later when he announced that cancer had returned. He was one of the most enthusiastic and intelligent speakers I have ever heard. The place was packed with an overflow audience. I still hope that all will be well for him. I hope he didn't see the elderly lady who seemed to be winking at him when he visited the George Bush Library!
Tomorrow, look for another watercolor in my series on Macular Degeneration.
Thanks for reading and sharing my work. I do welcome comments and inquiries. If you see something of interest to you, please let me know.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Vision-April Moonrise

April Moonrise
image size 8.5" x 11.5"
paper size 9" x 12"

It was April. A night when the moon rose, full and bright, above the tree line in our back yard. The trees had filled out with deep green leaves, concealing the next house. Shadows fell across the small storage building in the back yard. The sky had a pink glow as lights from A&M and the city reflected above the trees.

It had been several months since I had been diagnosed with Macular Degeneration in my left eye and told that I had cataracts in both eyes. I had been given one injection in my eye before treatment was suspended due to my lack of insurance and income to pay for it. I had been told there was help, then hopes were dashed when I learned that there really is no help for me. That I will lose my vision.

I won't go totally blind, I've read, but I will lose my center vision. And that is important to most of the things that I do such as writing, reading, drawing, painting-even cooking, or finding my way home. I had already failed the eye exam in order to renew my license, so there is no more driving. Drawing had become a challenge due to difficulty at connecting lines, or seeing some patterns. Reflections on paper can be a problem. The way I work is changing, but that is not such a major thing. It will be a problem if I can't focus on something. Color is a bit difficult, at times, as it is hard to distinguish between some colors, such as black and dark blue, olive green and beige. I thought that was just a normal part of aging, but it is also one of the things that point to AMD. I feel like I can adjust to some of those things. But, I had also burned my hand on the oven, when I couldn't tell how far my hand was from the coils and dropped a bowl of cereal when I couldn't find the edge of the kitchen counter. Hanging up clothes on a rod in the closet took several tries, as well. If I want to see a program on television, I have to move my chair no more than 2 feet away. Usually, I sit on the couch across the room, and just put up with the distortion and abstract shapes and weird colors-and draw. I just glance up, and then I have to ask someone who that is, or what the print says, or what time the clock says on the cable box. I can't help with navigation while in a car because I can't read the signs until we are almost upon them.

I just hoped that it wouldn't get any worse than it already has been. I might be able to cope with that, and just try to enjoy, and make art, from the strange things I was seeing and experiencing.

I had feared that injection in my eye so much. Then I feared not being able to get them and pay for them.

"Come look out the back window!" My youngest grandson called on that April evening, as he often does. We have to look at interesting clouds, unusual colors, a pretty moon, or even an intersting airplane as it lands or takes off from the airport.

We pulled back the curtains and watched the full moon above white, fluffy clouds over our back yard. I closed my eyes and blinked, but the image didn't clear up for me. I had been told that would make things clear, with the cataract problem. It didn't work. There seemed to be three overlapping moons in the sky. The security light in the neighbor's yard looked like a triangle-something from "Star Trek"-as it peeked through a tree. It was quite a sight, but I knew that was not really how things looked. It was hard to know whether to be excited at the unusual sight, or to be upset and frustrated, even depressed, because I couldn't see things realistically. And even more so because this could be treated, but that option is not available to me.

So, I sketched it, with the thought of turning it into a painting. I used a #314 Draughting Pencil on this one-the drawing pencil that handles best for me.

April Moonrise

8.5" x 11" pencil

In the watercolor, I used Winsor Newton watercolors on 140 # watercolor paper.

For those of you who are interested in learning more about Macular Degeneration, or AMD (Age Related Macular Degeneration), I have added some links on my sidebar under the Eye Sites section. I hope that my experiences and my art work will help someone else.

Be sure to visit the Authors and Artists, and Interesting Sites sections, as well. There is also a section on Storks, with links to more information and pictures. The storks are migrating to Africa, now, but, there are webcams that you can enjoy when they return next year. You can look back in some of my posts and find some drawings that I did about storks.

Thank your for reading and sharing. Let me know if you find something of interest to you. I welcome inquiries and comments. I do appreciate your support.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Protect and Celebrate

Protect and Celebrate
8.5" x 11"
ink and watercolor

It was about this time of day. 2001. I had a sore throat so I called in, early, for a substitute teacher to take my classes at school, and went back to bed. My tv was going, as usual, and I slept.
"Wake up and look at the tv!" my daughter turned on the light in the room. I tried to open my eyes, and look at the small screen. The morning news was on. I'm not an easy person to wake up.
"Look! They said that a small plane has crashed into one of those skyscrapers in New York," she told me. "It may have been lost, or gone off course, but it hit way up there."
I sat up in bed, watching a stream of smoke coming from the distant building.
"Now, they are saying that they think it might be a bigger plane," she came back in the room with updates, although I was watching.
She went back into her room, with plans to go back to sleep, now that her sons were off to school.
I got up and stood in front of the tv set, in order to see better, as a speck in the sky appeared and headed for the second of the twin towers.
"Are you watching!" I shouted into my daughter's bedroom. "There's another plane."
The rest of the day was spent, watching the events of that September day unfold on television.
In the days that followed, television sets were on, even at school, all tuned to the news. As a journalism and art teacher, I thought that this was important to watch. We wrote about it, we made cards to send, and we did art work as we watched. I felt bad that some people seemed to be apathetic and cold, lacked feelings of patriotism, or even concern for, not only other human beings, but also for our country. I hoped that maybe, inside, they were feeling something, and just thought it best to be unresponsive and go about their business as usual. Most people seemed to be in shock and expressed disbelief at what was happening.
I was involved with watching, as one after another events occured. I didn't think of doing art work or writing myself. I watched and directed others, encouraged them to express themselves and do what little we could at a distance. It was hard to write or draw about that time, as it was happening. Events kept happening and it was hard to make sense of or understand what was happening.
I thought that, if I had the money, and the freedom to do so, I should go to New York and help in some way. But, I had a job, and not enough money, and, of course, I didn't think of my age and the difficulties I was having with my knees as being more of a hinderance than help in most situations. So, we made cards, we watched, and we learned.
In our small town life, we didn't know much about cities, skyscrapers, or what was inside them. We thought it was quite an adventure to go on a field trip and ride an elevator to the second or third floor of a building. Our legs ached and we huffed and puffed, if we went somewhere and had to walk up several flights of stairs. Nothing in our home area was over 2 or 3 stories tall. But, we learned quite a bit about those amazing places in New York, and are still learning. We didn't know much about flying in an airplane, either. We saw them fly over, sometimes. And, occasionally, we could go to a small airport and watch small, but large, to us, planes land or take off. We all ran to the windows to watch when a Life Flight helicopter landed in the field near the school to transport patients to a larger hospital.
We had not thought of what went on inside buildings. We had just seen pictures of the exteriors. We had no idea that there were lower levels and even trains running underneath.
Such terrible things to see, though, as we watched from afar. I still wonder about the people and their stories. I don't think it is possible to know exactly how many people were involved and lost on that day.
We continued keeping the news channel on at school, in all rooms for a while. And, in my art/journalism room, for the rest of the year. More things kept occuring and we needed to know about them.
When the "Shock and Awe" operation occured, the principal spoke over the intercom and announced that this is something historic. Something we have never seen before, and, hopefully, will never see again in our lifetimes. And, we watched in silence as bombs fell and sirens screamed.
What would happen now that we were in another war? I remembered back to World War II. And I thought that we needed to prepare, and think of how life was then. Almost everyone was involved, and there was always the fear that we would be attacked. We sacrificed, we supported, and there was an all out effort to win.
I thought of the cold fear that hit me as I drove home from school late one afternoon. The announcement came over the radio that we were at war in Iraq. The first Iraq War with the first president Bush. What was going to happen next? What could I do to ensure the safety of my family and my students, and to help my country? My car was the only one on the highway at that time. I wondered if I was supposed to pull over to the side of the road and stop, or should I just keep driving. I chose to drive home and hug my grandchildren.
I had my students make cards to send to the people in service, especially those who were from our town, or those we knew. Some students didn't want to do any work at all, and made silly, rude cards. (Those were not sent.) I told them that, someday, they may be in service, away from home, and would be happy to get anything from home-even a little handmade card from a student in our little school. They didn't believe me. But, sure enough, eventually, many of those same kids came by, on leave, in their uniforms, and thanked us for the cards, and gave me a big hug. I was so glad for those hugs because it meant that they were home, safe. I covered my bulletin boards in the front of the room, with newspaper clippings and pictures from the local newspaper about our former students who were in service, and added notes that we received back, thanking us for the cards. That was a thrill, to know that someone was happy to communicate with us. We couldn't say a prayer at school, but we could do so in our hearts.
An American flag that had been carried in Iraq was given to our school and placed on the bulletin board across from the office. People gathered to look at that flag, in awe, and to look at the pictures of the medical group that had given us the flag.
And, then there was Korea, and, later, Viet Nam. The country seemed to become less involved with each war. I knew a few people of my age group, who went to Korea. But, I didn't really see them aftr they left. I worried that we were too complacent in this country. We were not prepared or aware. Some of the WWII vets that I knew, felt that the great war was behind us, they had done their part, and they were wanting to live the rest of their lives at home, in peace. That concerned me. Who would fight for us? And who was better prepared for that than the experienced veterans?
And, so, in something that was a bit like a "Little Rascals" or "Our Gang" movie, I started a children's army. If the adults weren't ready, we would be. But, that's another story.
During Viet Nam, I didn't know anyone who was in service. The only way we knew there was a war was in seeing the occasional train with Army tanks, trucks, and Jeeps, heading for Houston, and through the reporting on the evening news of people like Dan Rather. Pictures came into our living rooms as we were having supper. We heard stories of protestors, who burned their bras and draft cards, and that they were disrespectful to returning veterans. I didn't see any of that, except on television. Like others, I was busy with my children and work. Still, in the background, there was the concern that we wouldn't win, that Communists would take over the world, or would invade our country. As we worried about Russia and Communism, some people started soothing everyone by saying that it wasn't the Russians who would take over the world, but the real danger was from the "Yellow Race". They emphasized this by saying that it is in the Bible. I never saw it, but people who belonged to another church were insisting that it was true.
We still, today, have great concerns that our way of life and our freedoms are threatened. Some people seem to think that we don't have to be strong and fight for what we have. They appear to be saying that, if we just tend to our own business, and keep to ourselves, go about our little daily routines, the rest of the world will "play nice" and not bother us. It doesn't, unfortunately, work that way.
I don't intend to get political or preachy in my blog. But, this is a time to reflect, and each day, we can't help but think about our history and our future.
My picture today is a sketch that I started for July 4th. I had several things that I worked on with a patriotic theme that day. I had not finished this one, and decided to use another one, that day, showing the days when we had our morning opening ceremony at the flag pole at school. You can see that one in my Archives for July.
I thought that I should put something on my blog today, with thoughts of 9-11 and this country. I added some color (watercolors) to this drawing and decided to use it, instead of the one I had planned to use on my Macular Degeneration experience. I hope it shows a bit of patriotism, joy, strength, celebration, continuity, tradition, and rememberance.
This is another of my works that is in my cartoon style, a technique that I easily revert to when I just want to draw something .
Tomorrow, look for more art work on my experiences with Macular Degeneration. Thanks for looking at my work. I couldn't get online yesterday or last night to post anything, in case you missed a post from me yesterday. It seems to be working again today.
Today, I will listen to the news, paint, and remember.