Sunday, January 27, 2008

And How Do You Feel Today?

And How Do You Feel Today?
The Flu
9" X 12"
colored pencil and ink

This is an assignment that I often gave my classes, when it was obvious that many people were coming to class feeling bad, when something happened that made everyone upset or sad, or even, on days when everyone felt good.

How would it be possible to show how we felt when we suffered with the miseries of the flu? Or how we felt about the illness or death of a student? Or how could we express what it was like to feel sunshine and joy?

Expressionism is certainly one way that artists use to deal with their feelings.

Who has not, at one time or another, looked at Edvard Munch's painting, "The Scream", and thought, "That's just the way that I felt!" Or looked at Kathe Kollwitz's prints of fearful mothers and thought, "I've felt that fear for my child, too."

Even our reactions to things that aren't so serious as war and famine, are often found in our art work and creations. Sometimes it is through our choice of colors, or even the way we make a mark on paper. But, those emotions are bound to come out one way or another.

In our house, this past week, we all fell victim to the flu bug that is going around. First the elementary school age child, then his mother, next, his brother, and I got it last. That meant trying to coax everyone into getting plenty of fluids, rest, and using a lot of tissue. Making sure they took their medicine, had something to eat, and could sleep or watch movies on tv.

I thought of the assignment that I once had my students do, and, so, I thought it was time to do a new "How I Feel Today" picture.

Not exactly a self portrait, but it shows something of how the flu feels!

Nose dripping like a faucet, eyes red and pouring, ears stopped up, head in a vise, with bells ringing, dizziness, mouth and throat so dry it's like prickly cactus in the desert, needles and pins sticking all over, throat so tight you feel like you are being strangled, nausea, stomach ache, head feels like it is on fire, and all that goes with the flu. This time, though, we didn't seem to have those chills and sweats, or the very high temperatures. While we have been feeling really miserable, we must have had a mild form of the flu, this time around.

I guess things are better this year, though, because, last year, at this time, two of us, and one dog, had bronchitis.

Sometime, when you think about it, write down or draw the way that you feel. You might be surprised at how much detail you can put down. And, they might give you a bit of a laugh, later.

Stay well!
And sign my guest book, if you haven't already. I appreciate your comments, and enjoy looking at your pictures.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Circle Around The Square

Circle Around The Square
A Cold Weather Story
8.5" x 11"
It was a cold January in 1958. I was a senior in college and went home for a special weekend.
Daddy was going to buy me a new car for my graduation present. He had a nice Ford Galaxie all picked out, through one of his friends who had a car dealership.
I wanted no part of such an ordinary car. I wanted a '51 MGTD, all black. I had dated a guy who drove a car like that, except his MG was white. I thought that was the cutest little car that I ever saw and would surely attract a lot of attention. It would be so much fun to whiz along with my hair blowing and, at the same time, have everyone look to see that darling little car. Not to mention, that it was sure to attract a lot of boys who would like to take a look at the engine and take care of the car. And that would, hopefully, get me some dates- boys who would love to drive or work on my little car.
Daddy finally searched and found a used '51 MGTD and he, reluctantly, bought it for me. He was sure that I would change my mind and want that shiney, new, all black Galaxie. But I was convinced that I would only look good in an MG. Without the MG, I was sure I would be dateless and an old maid.
The MG that he found was a bit scuffed and worn, to say the least. But, I thought that I could just clean it up and it would be gorgeous!
Daddy spent the weekend showing me the things that were wrong with the car, and telling me that I should leave it at home until it was fixed. I should take his '57 Ford Ranch Wagon back to college, if I just had to have a car. He knew that I would need a car to do my student teaching in the spring, so it was time to get used to driving more and be responsible for a vehicle.
I was too excited over my first new car to leave it behind and drive a family oriented station wagon. So, off I went in my little car, on Sunday afternoon, anxious to show off my car to everyone, and to test it out on the boys that hung out near Campus Corner, the drugstore, checking out each others' sports cars.
"It's going to be alright, Baby," I told the car. "Once I get you figured out, you are going to be a dream to drive!"
I'm sure that my parents must have cringed as I drove away in that little car. It wasn't just the size, but the condition of the car, that made it dangerous. But, in those days, there wasn't a lot in the way of safety checks. No seat belts, no car inspections. Just buy your license and your car, and that was it, as long as you could make it run, some way or other.
My little car had a white body, black fenders, and a green interior. I was disappointed in the color, but, if that was all he could find that was running, I would have to be happy with it. I really wanted a solid black car, but this one was still cute.
It also had some serious problems.
The brakes didn't work all of the time. The way to stop the car was to gear it down until it was almost stopped, then hit something gently.
There was no gas gage. If I wanted to know how much gas I had, I got a yardstick out of the back and stuck it into the gas tank.
The leather seats were worn, but that wasn't too bad. Just didn't look so good.
The wooden interior was sort of, well, rotten. So, when I had the cloth top up, sometimes, if I hit a bump, the top slid down the wood and collapsed all over the interior.
The previous owners had cut into the wires and changed them around. So, when a button on the dash was pulled, I never knew what might happen. Lights might come on, or it could be the windshield wipers.
At night, sometimes, if I hit a bump, the lights might go out and I had to find another bump to hit and make the lights come back on.
There wasn't an actual heater, but there was a lot of heat from the engine coming up through the floorboard. Of course, it had no radio or air conditioner. But, then, not many cars had those luxuries then. There was plenty of fresh air and I could always sing if I wanted music.
I was as happy as I could be with my cute little car. Gearing down, and little races with other sports cars was kind of fun. I looked forward to things like road rallies and getting together with other sports car owners. And I was so proud of my graduation present.
I pulled up in the parking lot just outside the windows of my dorm room as I returned to campus that afternoon. I honked the horn and waved at my suitemates to come look at my graduation present. I took my things up to my room, and brought my friends down for a look at my car. I was grinning from ear to ear as we decided that we just had to try it out. Never mind that it was a two-seater. We would squeeze in four girls, one way or another!
It was cold, gray, drizzling a little when we jammed ourselves in the car. We were hoping it would snow. So, it was urgent that we get down the hill to town, circle around the square a few times, and get back up the hill in case the hill got icey and we couldn't make it back. I was driving, one suitemate sat in the other seat, one straddled the middle of the two seats over the emergency brake, and another smaller friend sat on the shelf in the back over the batteries. (Yes, it had two batteries. And also dual carborators.)
Of course, despite the weather, we had to have the top down to show off our convertable. Besides, the person in the middle would have either had to bend over or their head would have gone through the canvas, if we had the top up.
We laughed and giggled at all the little quirks of the car and the way that we were riding. Finally, after almost 4 years there, we had "wheels"! We were almost free and almost grown, or so we thought.
We made it to the square where the courthouse was located, surrounded by stores, restaurants, and movies. There weren't many people out, but, since it was a Sunday, with students returning from the weekend, there were a few people out to eat, going in to the movies, and some students in cars. We were the only ones circling the square that cold day, though.
We were almost hysterical with laughter as we tightend our headscarves against the cold air, and sang, at the top of our lungs, such hits as "We Wear Short Shorts". Tears ran down our faces from laughing. Even the term, "circle around the square" brought hysterical laughter.
"We had better get back to the dorm. It's getting really cold and looks like it's going to rain." Someone became more serious.
One more time around the square to wave at a couple of carloads of boys, and we headed back up the hill.
We fixed the top and side curtains on the MG and went in the dorm, exhausted from laughing.
As I looked out of my windows, admiring my little MG in the parking lot, another small car drove into the parking lot. I was stunned, and watched to see who might be driving this car. I pressed my face to the window to see the car better. It was the car I really wanted. A solid black MGTD, with a little red in the interior. I didn't care about the red, but this was as close to solid black as you could probably get. This one was shiney and like new.
My excitement for my graduation present was greatly subdued when I saw that car. The figure that came out of the car was dressed in black and had a heavy black knit scarf draped over her black hair. I really liked the girl, so I was excited that she had a great car for her graduation present. But I was kind of sick at my stomach to think of how bad my car was compared to this one that she had brought back from the big city. I still didn't want the Ford, though, or even a later model MG.
My joy was dimmed, but, I thought that mine was a fun car, and we could get out and work on it along with the guys at Campus Corner. They would probably love to work on it and improve it. If we just kept our two cars apart, maybe mine wouldn't looks so bad. I have to admit, though, that it was kind of neat to see those two square-bodied MGs parked together at our dorm. There weren't any more of those around. The boy whose car I first admired had moved on to another college or into the service the semester after I dated him. I never did know. He was cute, but his car was most attractive, I thought.
The following day after our ride in the cold, one suitemate had to go to the clinic and was really sick after our adventure around the square. Another one had a cold. That put another damper on our fun. I sat at my desk in my room, looking down at the parking lot at the two MGs parked side by side, glistening in the rain.
Daringly, that semester, I bleached my hair, as much as I dared , with peroxide, to look better with my car, and even used a little mascara on my eyebrows and eyelashes (but only when I was away from home). Young ladies only wore "natural" lipstick for every day, and "red" lipstick for Sunday and dress up, in those days. Any more than that, and you were looked upon as a loose woman.
In the spring, when I went to do my student teaching, I drove my MG most of the time. I liked to cruise around in my car and find others with sports cars or who were into racing.
In the mornings, as I was going to school, I would often encounter a man who had a new MGA, a white, probably '57, model. He was the weather man on the new tv station. As we sat at red lights, there was the inevitable "Wanna drag?", and we would race our engines, then speed off. That put me in a good mood for the day.
One day, when I drove into the teachers parking area for the afternoon session, a group of boys ran out and pushed me all the way back to the street, as I was trying to drive forward. The only reason they stopped was when the bell rang to go to class and a big, male teacher came out and made them go back in the building. I didn't want to go back to that school, or any other, anymore. I made sure that I was in the same places as the rest of the teachers, and didn't get caught by myself again.
When I went away to teach, my dad made me take the Ranch Wagon, a dependable car and one that looked more like a teacher. He worried about hurricanes on the Gulf Coast, too, and wanted to be sure that I could get out of there, if needed. With my first check, my dad insisted that we go look at new cars. Again, he wanted me to get a Galaxie. I wanted an MG. We found a sports car business near home, and we went to look at cars. He sold my MG, so I had to get a new car. That was the only car that he ever got rid of.
Selecting a new car is another story.
It's hard to believe that this happened 50 years ago. I guess the cold, gray weather we are having reminded me of the day that we circled around the square in my MG the first time.
Please look at my Guest Book at the very bottom of my page. Thank you for signing and, if you like, share a picture.
Thank you for reading. I appreciate your interest and support.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Warming Up

Warming Up
8.5" x 11"
colored pencil
It finally feels like winter here. No snow, ice, or extreme temperatures. But, it has drizzled a bit and, at night, has reached freezing, leaving the trees bare and the grass dead.
In Conitz Dry Goods Store, there was a large, black, double sided metal gas heater in the center of the store, near the cash register. Another large gas heater, popped and hummed in the office area in the back of the store. This was all the heat in the building.
The stoves were stored in the summer, until more recent years, when they were left up all year, and just checked for leaks before they were turned on. That meant turning the gas on, striking a match near the hoses and the stove to see if there were leaks. Sometimes, in the closed building, there would be a bit of a smell of gas, but those old stoves served the store and its customers well. On a really cold day, frost might soon form on the big plate glass show windows in the front.
The big black metal box of the center heater held two sheets of a material that looked like cotton, one one each side of the stove. Round holes in rows, on both sides, top and bottom, allowed the heat to escape, and it also provided a place where you could watch the cotton-like material "burn". Only, it never really burned. It might singe or scorch, and seem like it was going to ignite, but it never did. I guess that was asbestos inside the stove.
The stove in the back was a one sided, open front stove, with wire across the front so you couldn't reach in. It had a cotton-like backing behind the burners like the black stove.
It was hypnotic in the quiet of the buidling, to hear the noises from the stoves, and to feel the warmth that they radiated. Sometimes it was extremely hard to stay awake while the heaters were going.
As people came into the store, on a cold day, they first headed for the stove, where they held their hands for a few minutes, then turned themselves to warm up on their front and back, then back again until they felt comfortable enough to shop or do business.
Not too many ladies or girls were wearing slacks or jeans in those days. So ladies came in with their dresses, sweaters, jackets, coats, scarves, and wearing stockings held up with garter belts or girdles, and sometimes socks on top of the stockings, their shoes, and maybe galoshes, if it was wet outside. Older ladies might wear knit underwear and cotton stockings, but the younger ladies had stockings and thin underwear. Stockings with a seam in back were the vogue and, when stockings were hard to get during the war, ladies might use an eyebrow pencil to draw that line directly on their leg. Sunbathing was also popular and the tan made it look like the ladies were wearing stockings with that line up their leg.
Ladies, with their bare legs, tended to back up to the stove. For best results, the skirt was lifted up a bit in back, so that they could get the warmth on cold bodies. Of course, they had to be sure there were no other customers, or that the men were occupied elsewhere while they took advantage of the stove.
Sometimes, my great-aunts, grandmother, aunt, mother, sister, and I , and any company we might have, would line up in front of the stove, dresses hiked up in the back, warming away. There might be too many to get full benefit from the stove, so we were glad when a man or customer came in, and someone had to move to go wait on that person. Gave the rest of us more exposure to the heat.
At times, we would have to warn someone who was enjoying the stove too much, to move away from the stove, or to put their skirt down some. Men were in the store and about to come to that area.
I don't remember that anyone ever got burned on the stove, but, at certain ages, we had to warn children of a certain height to be careful so that they didn't hit their head on the corner of the stove if they should not be watching. Fortunately, the stove was not on when children of that height were being a bit rambunctious.
We've heard the old stories of stores with pot-bellied wood stoves, and the cracker barrel, with men sitting around telling stories and playing checkers.
Well, we had "the stove", where people gathered around and visited and talked. Some people made their daily rounds, to visit in the stores on Main Street, stop in for coffee somewhere, or piece of pie, then visit some more on their way to and from the Post Office, or to pay a bill or buy some needed item. People could walk all over town, but most did drive their car, or even a tractor, or pick up, to town. And, as they visited, news and stories were spread through town quickly. People came from all over to visit with Grandpa, to interview him, and to hear his stories, especially in his later years. Grandpa started that store in 1901 and worked in it even on the day he died at age 96. After he died, friends came by to visit with his son and daughter.
The two foot stools used for measuring feet from the shoe department, were placed near the stove. There was a rocking chair, a folding chair, a couple of lawn chairs, and a leather and chrome chair, that stayed around the stove. A couple of worn wooden benches were placed near the stove. These pieces of furniture remained in the warm weather when the stoves were taken across the street to a building Grandpa rented for a warehouse.
Grandpa would work, but, when he was finished with his customer and the books, he would sit in the leather and chrome chair between the counter that held baby things and gift items, and another counter that held towels, tablecloths, bath sets, and cup towels. Here he would sit silently, share a story, listen to the problems that people brought to him, or discuss politics and the news.
Central heating, now, is nice. But it sure would be nice to be able to hike my dress up and warm myself by a real heater in this cold weather. I just can't get that close to the vents in the ceiling to get nice and toasty warm!
I used Derwent Colored pencils in the drawing above. Pictured are "the stove", with someone's hands reaching over it from the right side of the page. Between the stove and the counter with the cash register, a woman with a green jacket and a black plaid dress is hiking up her skirt to get warm. One of the footstools from the shoe department is in front of the counter. On the next counter, on the left, there are some sweaters, folded. On the counter to the right, is the cash register, done in a fucshia color. You can see the glow from the fire inside the stove through the double row of holes near the top. There were more holes in the bottom of the stove.
Thank you for reading, and for your interest.
Don't forget to sign my Guest Book at the bottom of the page.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Doodle Girl

Girl - 2.5" x 3" - ink
What do you doodle when your hand just has to do something
on paper? Is it shapes? Flowers? Vines? Numbers?
Do you doodle when you are listening, when you are thinking,
or just when you are supposed to be doing something else?
For me, it is girls. Sometimes, guys, too, but usually girls.
I start with the eye area, that dent between the nose and forehead. Then I add an eye, the nose, forehead, mouth, lips, cheek, chin and neck. Then comes the ear followed by a curl or wave to top off the forhead. Curls and waves flow and I keep adding on to those. Jewelry such as earrings and a necklace finish off the drawing.
If I have more time, I add the body. I like to work with gel pens, or an extra fine tip Pilot Precise pen. I even like to use dip pens! But they aren't so easy to use during meetings or class.

I've Been Tagged!
Sandy Maudlin, , recently "tagged" me to play an internet tag game.
Accoring to the rules of the game, I must tell 5 obscure things about myself, then tag 5 other people.
1. I was the baby of my class-the youngest. As a result, when I went to college, I was the youngest person there for my first two years. Trying to look older was a priority. It was a surprise, when I realized, in more recent years, that I had become an old person, especially to my students. When I started teaching, I had students who were older than I was. I realized that I had finally become a "senior citizen" when I was eligible for some discounts, and when I caught myself telling my students stories about the "old days".
2. I'm a night owl. My most energetic time is 3 a.m. and the best sleeping time is after the sun comes up.
3. I really dislike vegetables. The closest thing to a vegetable that I will eat is a tomato or potato. Don't even like them at the same table with me. They are pretty in their natural state, but I would just as soon eat dirt or grass as a vegetable.
4. I guess you could say that I'm a news junkie. I just have to watch what is going on. I'd like to be right there when things happen. But, instead, I watch on tv. My daughter says that it is being nosey. In the little town where I grew up, if there was a fire or accident, everyone in town went to see what happened, night or day. I guess that's where my "nose for news" comes from.
5. I always wanted to have red hair! I thought that would look good with green eyes. Maybe in another life..... I was told that I would have to get the color removed from my hair in order to get the color I want. I'm not willing to do that. I tried wigs when those were popular, but they were too hot and uncomfortable. I thought that, if my hair ever turns all white, then I will get it done red. That's never going to happen. No one in my family had white hair, even at age 96! Gray was about it. An elderly "flaming red head" wouldn't be too cool.
Bonus - 6. I wanted to be a nurse (that is after I wanted to be an actress, dancer, and cowboy!). I think I was inspired by the Cherry Ames books. And I liked to take care of people and animals. But, I was too young to go to nursing school after high school, so I went to college. My English teacher told me that, since I was always drawing, I should major in art and minor in English. So, I did. By the time I was old enough to go to nursing school, I was half way through college, and had a mental block in chemistry class. So, I finished my degree, and taught. I kept trying to be a nurse, from time to time, until I knew that I no longer had the stamina for that field. Artist wasn't one of my career choices. It seemed to be more of an escape or something to occupy my time, than something that it would be possible to make a living doing. Writing was the same way. I liked to write stories and do pictures to go with them. They go hand in hand, to me.
And I thought that I wouldn't be able to think of anything for this game of tag!
As per Sandy's instructions, I'm tagging some artists whose blogs I read :
Virginia Vaughan
Toni Grote
Heidi Malott
Robin Cheers
Jim Thalassoudis

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Among Her People

Among Her People
9" x 12 "
colored pencil on paper
I made a slide show of this one, beginning with the first drawing. (Scroll down to the bottom of the post to see the slide show.) So far, I like the drawing best. I think it is because I have looked at this for so long, that I need to see it with fresh eyes, as they say.
Originally, I had intended to dress my central figure in a white flowing scarf and a light blue dress and jacket. However, at night, when I started to color, I just couldn't find my white or light blue pencils. I picked up what I thought was light blue and colored away, before I could tell that it was actually green. I thought I could go on and work with that, but I was disappointed. I guess I could have started over, but I wanted to work this picture out. The next day, in the sunshine, I found the light blue and white pencils! So, I used those on the lower part of her clothing, and in the scarf.
Then I couldn't find the black pencil, and so I substituted brown and indigo blue, which usually works. I even added some violet and blue violet to darken. It wasn't dark enough, I thought. The next day, the black pencil appeared in the container. So, I blended the black with the other dark colors.
I liked the lilac color and added that to the figure in the right foreground and those around her, then, to lead the eye, I added a bit of that color on up into the trees, the sky, and down into the left side to lead back to the center and the first figure. I knew that I would layer colors over each figure to get the final colors and highlight and shadow. Since the figure to her left is wearing dark purple, I thought of , perhaps, using more indigo blue over the lilac and going darker on her clothing. But, I liked the way that lilac led the eye around the page. So, I settled, so far, on just blending some darker colors from the bottom. (Of course, I like purple, and green, so that part is satisfying, to me. I'm just not sure that it is the best choice for this particular picture.)
The sky was another problem. Working with thin pencil points, and layering colors, takes a long time. With these type of pencils, I try to avoid scratchy pencil marks, and insist that I try to get everything super smooth. I'm not there yet, in this one. So far, I used cerulean blue, then white, then indigo blue, true blue, and white, with a tiny bit of violet, all blended with white.
Prismacolors are my choice when using colored pencils because of the ability to layer and blend to an almost photographic finish. In this one, I also used some Derwent pencils to vary my colors. I did have black in that set, which helped. They do have a very different feel than Prismacolors.
This picture was done on Canson 65# acid free paper.
As I worked on the clear blue sky, I felt that this left the background too empty. So, I added a hint of buildings on the left, and some vertical trees on the right, to echo the upright figure. I also darkened a few areas of the sky to give it more variety.
The skin tones are also layered, and show up a bit more yellow in the scan, than they actually are. I feel like I should have worked larger, as it is really hard to do those small lines of things like lipstick and eyeliner. Of course, I always feel like I need to work very large, but it is not convenient to carry around or to store those large pieces of paper and pictures.
There is an old saying that goes, "It takes two people to paint a picture. One person to paint the picture. The other to hit the first in the head and make them stop!"
I think that is true. I often reach a point where I have to stop and ask someone else's opinion. Sometimes that is my grandson, who has a good eye. He is extremely observant! We have had several discussions about this picture.
Another option is to just put the work back for a while, and look at it again much later. All kinds of things that could be done will usually show up then. And, if I put something back to work on later, I may never get back to it. I find it best to try to finish something all at once. Besides just losing the work, I also lose that original feeling that is so important. I'm not disciplined enough, I guess, to be able to work on something for a little while, then do something else, and come back later and continue. I can always tell where I left off. Everything changes.
Sometimes, I just stop because I am tired of looking at the work, and it looks like it needs so much work still, and, at that point, I'm often ready to just throw it away. It takes a lot of self talk to convince myself to put it back for a while and not put it in the trash can. I'm much better at saving things than I used to be.
I am tempted to stop on this one, but I still think the sky could use some more layering and blending.
The first Prismacolor drawings that I ever saw, were on display at the University of Texas in Austin. They were quite large, and were just amazing. I had taken students there on a field trip, and we fell in love with Prismacolors. We just had to get some and learn how to use them. Those original drawings had around 32 layers of color on them. I remind myself of that when I am tempted to stop with only 8 or so layers of color.
I do like to draw "girls" and drapery in material. And I love to play around with makeup and hairstyles. As a student, I would do that instead of my classwork, and try to hide my papers so the teachers wouldn't catch me. I think that they all knew that I was drawing instead of doing my work!
This picture is of a beautiful, elegant, amazing woman, surrounded by her people-the people she loves. It is a clear, beautiful day, to match the beauty that she exhibits. There have been such women in history. We can use many more dedicated, intelligent, strong, beautiful, and loving women who will make this world a better place for us all.
Thank you for reading, and for your support. I hope that you enjoy my work.
Be sure to read my previous post on The Vision Test and Macular Degeneration. Other art work and experiences on the subject can be found in the Archives and are prefaced with the word "Vision". Also there are links in the side bar under Eye Sites.
Virginia Vaughan is having workshops and also shows of her paintings on the subject of "The Last Year On The Farm". Her book of that title will also be coming out very soon. Check out her website and her blog for more information. There is a link in my sidebar.
Russell Baker posted another touching painting of a rescued dog that didn't make it, on his blog. You can find a link to him in my sidebar also. These are such touching paintings and stories!
Laura Brittain's post on "Sandpaper People" was certainly timely for me. You can check out her link on my sidebar, too.
Check out my Guest Book!
Scroll all the way to the bottom of the page.

Check out my Slide Show!

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Vision-Eye Chart A Year Ago

Eye Chart
A Year Ago
11" x 14"
Yesterday, I wrote about seeing the eye chart in a different doctor's office while my aunt was getting her eyes checked. I have posted this painting before in my Vision series. I wanted to show it again as a comparison to the eye chart as I saw it last January and the chart that I saw this week.
Recently, I joined a list or forum online for MD (Macular Degeneration) support. There are people on there of all ages and who have, or someone in their life has, MD or some similar vision problem. There are some very knowledgeable, highly qualified, and experienced people on the list. I have put a link to this group and others under Eye Sites on my sidebar.
Richard Trevino is one of the helpful people on the list. I wrote a little about the online vision test for MD that he has developed in a previous post.
Information about the test, and the test itself, can be found at . You can find out more about Richard Trevino on his website which I have listed under Interesting Sites in my sidebar.
I'm not a professional, by any means, and didn't even need glasses except for close, small things like threading a needle or reading computer printouts, until recent years. So, I do not feel very experienced in vision problems. I am trying to learn all I can and prepare myself as best as I can for this journey. And I am trying to share what I learn and experience in order to help others who find themselves, or someone in their lives, in a similar situation.
I took the test at and found my results. Each time I check my vision on the test, now, it will tell me if my vision has changed by comparing the results to my previous visits.
I was curious about the test and the man who created it. So, I wrote to him and asked for information. I also told him that I wanted to share with my readers. He was kind enough to send me some very interesting information that I think is important to know. He certainly seems well-qualified to develop and offer this test and information to benefit the public.
Richard Trevino
Richard Trevino's ultimate goal is to improve the ability of people with macular degeneration to test their vision at home between visits to the eye doctor. This is important because, if bleeding occurs, doctors want to get treatment started as soon as possible to prevent permanent vision loss. There has been great progress over the past several years in the treatment of wet macular degeneration (Avastin, Macugen, Lucentis, etc.), but the ability to reach people that need this treatment has lagged. There is good research that is pointing in the direction of an online vision test. The exact form that the ideal vision test will take is unclear.
Trevino's project is the first of its kind. It is just a prototype. It is a proof of concept that vision testing over the internet for patients with macular degeneration is possible, and that people will use it and can benefit from it. It is still very much a work in progress. He is continually adjusting it in reponse to feedback from users. He also plans to develop other vision tests using different testing strategies in an attempt to find one that works best. So this project is still very much in its infancy.
Trevino has given presentations and he is writing papers to try to raise awareness among optometrists of the need for imporoved home vision testing for patients with macular degeneration. You can find a powerpoint presentation that he gave to a group of optomoetrists on this topic at
He has also written a paper on this topic that will be published in the "Journal of the American Optometric Association" in July, 2008. A second paper is currently being written, which he hopes to have published later in the year.
Trevino has approached several researchers about doing a study using MVT (My Vision Test), but has been unable to get anyone interested to date.
Trevino is a practicing optometrist, and works at a Veterans Administration medical center in Evansville, Indiana. He has an interest in research and teaching, and has published numerous papers in the optometric literature over his 20 + year career.
He developed an interest in computers in the early 1990s and has become quite a computer geek. He taught himself computer programming, and has developed numberous web sites and computer programs over the years. He never charges for his services, as he does it just for the fun and personal satisfaction that he derives from helping others.
He has no intention of ever charging people to use MyVisionTest.
Trevino got the idea for developing an online vision test for macular degeneration after reading several research papers by scientists that were trying to develop a better vision test for macular degeneration.. Although these papers were published years ago, and the results of the research was very promising, he was unable to find anything available on the internet for people to use. So, he decided to do it himself.
Currently, patients are advised by their doctors to use the Amsler Grid daily to check for changes in their vision. This is given in the form of a chart printed on heavy paper or even in a brochure. There are also examples of the Amsler Grid online. If changes are detected, patients are instructed to contact their Retina Specialist immediately. Time is very important in preventing futher damage due to a bleed or fluid leaking.
You can find a link to Richard Trevino in my sidebar under Interesting Sites, and to MyVision Test under Eye Sites.
My thanks to Rick for providing the information about himself, and for his work with those who have, or will have, vision loss.
Please share this with anyone who you think might be interested. Thanks for reading. I do welcome your comments and your support.
Don't forget to sign my Guest Book at the very bottom of this page. And join my group if you haven't already done so.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Vision-The Eye Chart

The Eye Chart
January 8, 2008
5.25" x 8.25"
Yesterday, I sat in my aunt's eye doctors' examining room with her while she had her annual eye exam. My aunt is in a wheel chair, so she needed to have someone there with her. She has one bad eye, that she truly can't see out of, and was using only reading glasses until last year. We determined that she can see much better with glasses, so they gave her some to wear all the time.
They went through putting drops in her eyes,and covering each eye, shining a light in her eyes. All the things they do in an eye exam. They had to keep directing her where to look. But, she actually read the letters as they flashed on a mirror beside where I was sitting.
I looked, too, to see what she was looking at and even checked the wall behind her, where the letters were displayed on a wall.
I was getting a little distressed. I didn't even think to close each eye and look, but I did try to see the test she was taking. I couldnt' make out any letters, while my aunt was able to read some of the letters.
The above painting shows several of the rows of letters that was shown to her, as I saw them.
For the large letters, I saw a simple diamond ring with a cold, blue stone in it. On the opposite end, there was a gift wrapped package, with a red ribbon and a bow on top. In the center, there was an abstract purple shape. In another row of letters of a different size, there seemed to be stylized shapes that resembled flowing letters, but with holes in them, like lace. One seemed to have something like a broken pencil or popsicle stick on one side of it. The smaller lines of letters were just a bunch of scratchy marks on gray.
I do realize that this is leaning a bit, and that my lines are not straight. But remember that I was sitting to one side, out of the way, looking into a mirror in a darkened room. Things were not straight or even as I looked into that mirror.
This reminded me of the eye exam I had a year ago, to renew my drivers license. Two eye doctors told me that my eyes were good enough to pass that drivers test. But, when I got there, all I could see was a black background with some green squiggles instead of letters. ( I have a painting about that called "Vision-Ready To Go" in my archives on the sidebar.) When I got my Lucentis injection, just before that exam at the DPS, and as soon as I was pronounced ready to go, I could see the eye chart in the room. I could make out letters, although some were blurry and overlapped, but I could still make them out. So why couldn't I see any letters on the eye test at the DPS office?
I wondered, yesterday, if this was my imagination, if something was not connecting with my brain, or is it the Macular Degeneration and cataracts. Maybe he was giving her a different kind of test, like they might give to children, where there are objects instead of letters. But, no, that couldn't be. She was telling the doctor what letters were there, and he was reacting to that.
So, I knew there were letters that I should be seeing.
"One of these days, I may have to get these cataracts taken care of, " I commented to the tech lady or whatever her job is called now. (I would have said nurse, but there are so many different people working in doctors' offices these days, that I don't know who is what unless I ask them.)
I expected her to say something like, "Oh, do you have a problem? We do that here." Instead, she just said a disinterested "Oh".
I didn't mention the AMD or ask any questions. After all, this was not the doctor I had been to. But, I really don't have a doctor, and just saw a doctor that I had gone to many years before when I thought I needed glasses last year. And he immediately sent me to a Retina Specialist, who won't see me anymore due to his demand for payment of thousands of dollars, before each visit, or much better insurance than I have. So, I'm kind of shopping around to see who might be interested in me and my health, at an affordable price. I guess that person no longer exists.
I didn't mention the fact that their letters looked like objects to me, but now I am wondering why I saw things the way that I did.
"Okay, we'll see you next year!" the tech lady said as she wheeled my aunt to the door.
As I stood up, I could see some of the letters still reflected on the wall. Those were thick, black letters, and not a sign of an object, or anything that looked like an object among them. And, there certainly was no color.
Maybe, in my mind, I just made up a more interesting eye chart. I'll bet I could make a story out of the eye chart as I saw it yesterday.
Look back in my Archives for more of my art work and experiences with Macular Degeneration. All of those posts are prefaced with the word "Vision".
Also, read my post from yesterday where I began telling about a website that has an online test for Macular Degeneration. I have a link to MyVisionTest in my sidebar under Eye Sites.
Virginia Vaughan has announced that her book of some of her paintings about "The Last Year On The Farm" is out and ready to be ordered. See her blog or website for more information. I have a link to her site under Artists and Authors in my sidebar.
I was struck by the work of artist Russell Baker as I looked at various artists' blogs today. He does lovely work and has some of the most compelling paintings of dogs that you will see. In some of his work, he shows dogs that have encountered terrible circumstances. Some of the stories will just tear at your heart, especially if you love animals and life. I've put a link to Russ, as well, for you to take a look at.
I hope that you enjoy my blog, and that you will pass it on to others who might be interested. Please let me know if you find something of interest to you. And be sure to stop by and sign my Guest Book at the very bottom of my page. Scroll all the way down to the very end of my blog.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Vision- Symptoms

11" x 14"
It doesn't hurt. There isn't pain. But, vision might be a little blurred. Colors may be hard to distinguish, such as in trying to pick out something in navy blue or black. But that is just part of growing older, just like having to get reading glasses because, as you get older, your arms tend to not be long enough to read, isn't it?
But, then, one day, suddenly, you may look across a room and notice that the venetian blinds are not completely straight. One end has a bump in it. The lines are wavey at one end. You blink, look away, go into another room and return, and the blinds look normal again. You wonder why that happened. Maybe it's time for new glasses? The old reading glasses from the drugstore may not be enough.
Later, that night, at a school function, you are looking down a long hall while talking to a teacher. Odd. The handrail at the end of the hall has a lump in it at one end. It's wavey, not straight. You blink, look away, walk around, then look again. The handrail is as it should be.
You forget about it, although it was a little unsettling. With a lifetime of 20/20 vision, these little quirks of sight are a bit annoying and you hope they will not happen again.
While stopped at a traffic light in town, with someone else driving, you look down the street in front of you, noticing the perspective of the road, the lack of cars driving across the intersection, the buildings where there once was a pasture. But, suddenly, you notice that the telephone poles are, like the venetian blinds and handrail, wavey. Only this time, these are vertical lines. Again, you blink, you turn away, and just hope to get across the intersection quickly so that these wavey lines will stop. It's beginning to make you a little nauseated or sea sick.
"You've got to be the navigator and tell me where to turn," the driver said to me. I watched for the street sign that told me where to turn to go to my house.
"I think that's it, " but I couldn't be sure. The letters just appeared to be marks on the sign. The pole, like the telephone poles, was wavey and making me feel nauseated. I covered my face.
It was the right street and we did make it home. But no thanks to me. I couldn't read the sign and didn't want to look anymore and risk having that seasick feeling again.
Riding with the family at night, you notice that the light pole in a shopping center parking light has 22 lights on it, instead of one! It was so annoying that you made it a point to count how many seperate lights you were seeing on the pole. Usually, it doesn't matter whether the light has one or 4 lights on it, just so it provides the needed light in that spot.
My vision was alright after each little incident. But, more frequently, the same sort of things would happen again.
And then came the time to renew my drivers license. I knew I must need glasses, so I went to my eye doctor for an exam. I've gone into those experiences on previous posts. You can go into my archives to read those posts. Each title is prefaced with the word Vision.
When I asked about the wavey lines, the doctor brought out an Amsler Grid and had me look at that. The right eye was fine, but, with the left eye, the grid had lots of wavey lines, lines that didn't connect, and a purple spot in the center. The doctor got me in to see a Retina Specialist by the next Monday. He wanted me to go that afternoon, but the Retina Specialist was not in town.
I was stunned, shocked, terrified, and had never heard of such a thing.
The wavey or bent lines is a symptom of Macular Degeneration. If you experience that sort of thing, you are supposed to get to your eye doctor or Retina Specialist immediately. I've also heard that trouble in distinguishing colors can also be a symptom of Macular Degeneration.
In my case, there was fluid accumulated in the macula. This makes the macula bend or swell and distorts vision. My doctor wanted me to see a specialist before blood could start leaking from weak blood vessels that would form behind the macula. These weak vessels would leak fluid first, then blood. Once the blood leaked and vision was damaged, it would be gone and could not be recovered.
I was diagnosed with the wet form of AMD. This is said to be one that develops suddenly and does its damage rather fast. The dry form develps slower. But there are treatments for wet AMD, and very little for the dry form. New treatments and tests are being developled.
You can't see anything happening from the exterior of your eye. Your eye looks like it always has. People can't look at you and see that there is something wrong with your vision. And, there isn't pain that makes AMD unbearable. So, looking for early symptoms is important in minimizing the damage that AMD can do.
The painting above is a composite painting I did of the first symptoms I experienced at the beginning of my vision problem. The explanation I wrote tells about what happened in each of the smaller pictures. It begins with the upper left hand corner, moves down to the lower left corner, then over to the right side and back up to the top right-counter clockwise.
I used Winsor Newton watercolors on 140 # Arches watercolor paper to do this painting.
Look under my Eye Sites section on my sidebar to see more links to information on vision and Macular Degeneration.
One new link that I added was to a site called "My Vision Test", which was created by Richard Trevino. I discovered that site through MD Forum, a list that has a focus on sharing about MD and related eye problems.
From their site, in the About section:
"MyVisionTest is an entoptic perimetry computer program. It is intended to supplement the Amsler Grid for patients with macular disease that need to monitor their vision for progression. It is offered free of charge to the public. The vision test and website were developed by Richard Trevino, an optometrist located in Indiana, USA. Although numberous published studies have demonstrated the soundness of entoptic perimetry for the purpose of detecting vision defects caused by macular disease, there are currently no published studies that have employed our computer program. However, we are in discussions with researchers about undertaking such a study. Hopefully, published studies employing MyVisionTest will be forthcoming. "
I'll write more about Rick and the test in another post as this one is getting long, I'm sure. Rick was kind enough to give me some information that is most helpful in knowing more about the test and also about the person who created the test. He certainly seems qualified and interested in doing what he can to help people with Macular Degeneration.
I also added a link to Richard Trevino's website under Interesting Sites.
Thank you for reading and sharing. Don't forget to go to the bottom of the page and sign my Guest Book. Also, join my group, Art By Cecelia, if you haven't already.
Let me know if you see something of interest to you.

Monday, January 7, 2008


Sleeping on the Couch Arm
6.25" x 4.25"
Can you see the cat in this picture?
Bitsy is my elderly calico Manx cat, now 21 years old. She is quite independent, and still gets around very well. She is aloof and a great weather forecaster. She stays just out of my reach, until she knows that I am asleep or can't reach her to pick her up. When I do pick her up, the claws go out everywhere! She likes to sit at my feet, or on the opposite arm of the couch. At night, she starts out sleeping on my feet, but migrates to behind me after I am asleep. She acts a little like a dog, by checking people out when they come in the house, and she was a good watch cat. She also bloodied the noses of a few big dogs who used to come up on our porch. They learned to stay away from her. However, when we lost a few cats to those dogs, Bitsy became a house cat. I guess that is why she has lived so long. She eats well, and will only eat one kind of cat food. Picky like me, I guess, but it has worked well for her.
When there is going to be rain or bad weather, Bitsy crouches low to the ground, creeping along until she finds the safest place in the house. She flattens out lower and lower and has a frightened look on her face. When I notice this, I put her on my bed, with her favorite blanket over her, leaving room for her to get a little air. And, when it is safe, she comes out and starts walking around. The rain may not have even materialized, yet, but Bitsy knows when it is coming.
I was watching tv and decided to check my vision in my bad eye by looking at something other than the television set. I read that people really miss being able to see the faces of their loved ones, or even faces of stranger, when they have Macular Degeneration. I wondered just how much I will be able to see. On this night, I looked over at Bitsy, sleeping on the arm of the couch, opposite me, and on past into the dining and living rooms. I closed my good eye and tried to look with the affected eye.
I could see the green columns dividing the room, the edge of the green hutch, the organ , table and lamp in the living room, though a little blurry, When I looked at Bitsy, I saw the purple spot with the top of her head and her ears sticking out on the right side. I could see one white hind leg hanging over the couch arm in the middle of the purple spot, and a hint of her side above that. And, on the left side of the purple spot, I could see her cute little Manx tail-a little powder puff that has only shown up in recent years. (She has lost a little weight, which is good, as she was a very large cat.)
If I looked at other things in the room, the purple spot moved with my eyes, so that the center is always covered. I could see around the edges, but, if I looked at something, it just wasn't there. The object of what I looked at was always covered up by that purple fog.
I realized, as I sketched Bitsy, that this is what people are talking about. I wouldn't be able to see my cat, or other things, if I didn't have one eye that is not affected by AMD. If it should go to both eyes, and I know that this happens, I wouldn't be able to see Bitsy, my grandsons, or what I might be trying to do.
For more information and sites on Macular Degeneration, look under Eye Sites. And, to see more of my journey with wet Macular Degeneration, see my older posts, or archives. Each of those posts is prefaced with the word "Vision".
I wanted to share with others what I am learning about this problem and how it has affected me. I had never heard of Macular Degeneration when I was diagnosed, and was desperate to find out what I could, to find some real help, and to understand what was going to happen. I hoped that, through my blog and my art work, I might be able to help someone else who found themselves in a similar situation.
I have promised to share with you the information provided by the man who has created the online eye test, "My Vison Test". I have a link to it under Eye Sites in my sidebar.
I had hoped to do that on this post, with this picture, but my little story about Bitsy started getting long. ( I just can't stop typing once I get started! ) I'll send out the information on a separate post today.
Scroll down to the bottom of my page and sign my guest book. You can add a picture if you wish, but you don't have to if you don't want to. You can see some of the different things people have put on there.
I do appreciate your comments and your interest.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Vision-The News

The News
4.25" x 6"
I watch the news a lot. Not just for the information or to know what is going on. But, I have been known to take notes, just to see if I can keep up with getting the important things down, keeping in practice. And to think about how I would write up what I am watching as a news story. Thinking back to the times when I worked for a small newspaper, and also wrote for a couple of other small newspapers and was a stringer for a couple of larger dailies.
I got my training through experience. It was very interesting, but a bit nerve wracking. I wanted to be sure that I didn't have any mistakes and that everything was as perfect as possible.
When I first started writng a column of local news, my old high school English teacher told me that she was so proud of what I was doing! She told me that she read my articles with a red grading pen and circled any mistakes. She said she couldn't find many.
I thought, "She should have seen what I turned in!" A lot of Xs on each page. The editor told me to not worry about taking time to make it neat, just X out any errors, and write in things I needed to add. The editor, typesetter, and all whose hands it passed through, would make corrections as they worked.
I did give credit for the lack of mistakes to the editor, but she was convinced that I did it all myself.
This, of course, was in the days before computers.
In the painting above, I was watching some of the caucus coverage on Fox News. Greta Van Susteran and Shep Smith were the anchors for a special last week. I closed my bad eye to watch. And, just to check my bad eye, I closed the good eye and watched for a few minutes. I did a little sketch of Greta. I was struck that, in the middle of the purple circle that I see, I could still make out her black blazer, which formed a point at the bottom of the screen. Her white blouse stood out somewhat as did parts of her blonde hair. Her face had a bit of orange across her forehead, but the rest of her face was shadowed a bit. Around the purple circle, there was a dark, mossy green circle.
As usual, I could see the edge of the tv set, the wall, part of the cabinet that the set is on, and the pictures above the tv set, but not her face, when I looked at it.
I can make out that there is something there, and know that there is a head, a face, several heads, and a bit of the things in the center of what I am looking at, but there is that dark circle that covers most of it, when I look through the eye with Macular Degeneration.
I've read that one thing that people with Macular Degeneration really have a problem with is not being able to see faces and to be able to recognize people. I've read that some people can't see the faces of their children, grandchildren, friends, or even people that they meet.
So far, I'm lucky in that one eye is affected, and the other is just blurry from cataracts. But I can still see faces if I am close enough and if I use the good eye. I just hope that this doesn't happen to the other eye. I guess that, since this dark spot is here all the time, I have lost the center vision in that eye.
On Gretawire, Greta's blog, there was a discussion a few weeks ago about Macular Degeneration. I know that she has a bit of an interest in the subject. The discussion is probably still there in the archives.
Maybe I should send her portrait, as she looks to someone with AMD, to her. She is a good sport so I don't think she would be upset by it.
Meanwhile, back to the news!
I have some more information on AMD and "My Vision Test", to share with you. Click on the link in my sidebar under Eye Sites if you would like to see the test. It might help for you to know more about the creator of the test and more information about it. I contacted the man who created the test and will try to share what I learned in my next post.
Be sure to check out the Guest Book at the very bottom of my page. Just scroll down. You can sign it, and even add a picture.
Thank you for reading and sharing. Let me know if you see something that appeals to you!

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Vision- A Year Later

A Year Later
4.5" x 8"
It's been a year since I got up enough courage to try to save my vision, and went through with getting a Lucentis injection in my eye. I was terrified, especially since even the threat of a normal needle in my body often causes me to faint. But I was even more afraid of losing my vision. The doctor encouraged me, and was patient and kind. So, I went through with it.
"What will happen if she doesn't get treatment?" my daughter asked the doctor when he told how much the treatments cost.
There wasn't any question but that I had to get the treatments somehow. No matter what the cost. I couldn't lose my sight, especially if there was something that would prevent going blind. I need my eyes. Most of my time is spent with art, writing, watching tv, looking for pictures, not to mention the ordinary things like being grandma, cooking, walking around, and those sort of things. I relied on the doctor to guide us and help as I was too much in shock to speak or think.
"No, you don't just have to have treatment. You won't go totally blind," he explained. "You will just lose all your center vision, the part that lets you focus on things. You won't be able to drive, read, sew, or do anything where you have to focus."
"Draw, paint, do clay, watch tv, take pictures, look at scenes, read, write, do genealogy, or anything that I do!" I thought.
"You just decide on what treatment you want and let us know," he said kindly during the first visit. "Your insurance will cover it."
So, the only hold up was my fear, but I finally got myself together and made the appointment.
In earlier posts, I have written about my experiences, and also posted art work that shows what I experienced. All those posts are prefaced with the word Vision. You can find them in my Archives in the sidebar.
I was supposed to go back a week after the shot to get my eye checked, then have regular injections about 4 weeks apart for at least a year. Then, before I went to have my eye checked, I was informed that my insurance was only going to pay a tiny part of the huge bill, and I would have to pay before I could have another appointment. I was really in shock, then. There didn't seem to be any kind of help, and I sure couldn't come up with that amount.
I was going to have to figure out how to cope with loss of vision. Still, I needed to try to do whatever possible to save my sight. I had to try. I tried every avenue the doctor told me about, and did all the research and asking others that I could.
There it was-treatment, out of sight, out of reach, beyond my grasp. But, it was there. Only not for me. Promises for help were just a waste of time for me. I didn't qualify for anything.
The only thing I could think of to do would be to drop my remaining little health insurance policy, and use the monthly premiums to make payments on what the insurance company had not paid to the Retina Specialist. I feard doing that. I thought that, at some time, I might get really sick and need to have some kind of insurance just to get into an Emergency Room.
So, I have not been back to have my eye checked or to get any treatments. In frustration, I started this blog, and have been painting and writing about my experiences. Maybe someone else will be helped by my experiences, although I have run into a brick wall.
I was diagnosed with wet Macular Degeneration in my left eye a year ago last December (mybig Crhistmas present!), when I knew that I was going to have to pass an eye exam to renew my drivers license. I also have some cataracts in both eyes. My 20/20 vision went out the window! The doctors told me that my vision was good enough to pass the drivers test, but, when I got there, I couldn't see a thing but a black background and some green squiggles in the box. So, no more driving for me. That is sort of okay, but it is very inconvenient at times.
I have done a lot of searching, studying, applying for help, and anything I could think of to do to save my sight. I've learned quite a bit, but I haven't had anymore treatments or exams. I'm afraid that my vision loss is permanent, now, and it is only going to get worse.
At this point, the cataracts cause things to be blurry, etc. But the AMD eye has distortion and, when I try to look at something with that eye, there is only a purple, sometimes purple and green, spot covering whatever I am trying to see.
I hoped that the good right eye would compensate, and I could see pretty well by using it. Hopefully, I might even be able to drive, if I could just get the cataracts fixed. But, I can't read signs until I am right up on them, and last week, I realized that I couldn't even see a neighbors house against the trees in the fading evening light. That has never happened before. So, it is best that I dont' drive, for now.
I have noticed that I don't have to wear my old reading glasses for normal reading, now. I do need them for very small print.
Watching tv is a problem, sort of. If I don't really care to watch, I'm okay on my usual perch on the couch. But, if I really want to see something, I have to get up and walk over to the tv set, or I have to put my chair about 2 feet away from the set.
The small painting above shows what a tv program looks like, to me, from the couch. The wavey lines at the bottom are the way I see the scrolling news banners. The letters are just fuzzy marks instead of letters. The foggy purple spot covers the area where I am trying to look. When I was watching this particular program, there were some men in soldier uniforms in the center of the screen, in case you wonder what on earth this picture is about!
I painted this using Winsor Newton watercolors on 140 pound Arches watercolor paper.
For more information about Macular Degeneration and related vision problems, look under Eye Sites in my sidebar. These are some links that I have found that I wanted to share.
I have added a link to My Vision Test, that you might want to try. This is also under Eye Sites. Tomorrow I will write some information about the test and its creator.
If you don't know about it, there is an online group that has conversations and some support that some of you might be interested in. This is called the Macular Degeneration or MD Forum. It does help to know what others go through, and to learn what to expect. I had never heard of such a thing as Macular Degeneration until last year when the Opthamologist told me that is what I had.
I've been particularly interested in how artists who had AMD were able to function and how it affected their art work. Monet, Degas, and Georgia O'Keefe, are just a few of the artists that we know about who are said to have had Macular Degeneration.
Thanks for reading and sharing. Please let me know if you see something of interest to you.
Check out my Guest Book at the very bottom of my page.
And don't forget to take a look at the links in my sidebar.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Birthday Cakes

Birthday Cakes
5 " x 8.5"
Check out my Guest Book at the bottom of the page. Scroll all the way down.
"What kind of birthday cake do you want this year?" Mama called out from the kitchen as I walked into the living room.
"I don't know," I mumbled. I hadn't thought about a cake. She always just made a cake and surprised me. I hadn't had a choice before.
I had already had chocolate, and plain cake with white icing, coconut, something with pecans, a marble cake, and others that I couldn't remember. I tried to think of something that would be really different. Something that would be such a challenge to make that she might even have to buy it from the bakery, or have one of the ladies in town who made cakes for people, make one for her. I knew Daddy wasn't going to pay for something like that, so, it might end up that I wouldn't even have a birthday cake, unless I stuck with something that my mother could do.
I guess that I was young enough to not realize that my mother could do anything! She could.
I tried to think of what other kids had at their parties, and of their favorite colors, and things that they might like. At school, Kathryn had told us that she liked blue ink instead of black and our English teacher had said that we could use blue or black ink in our fountain pens. So, we went to the drugstore and the variety store, and bought bottles of blue ink. That was the cool color, now. At least, that's as cool as they would let us get.
"A blue cake! I want a blue cake for my birthday!" If blue ink was cool, a blue cake would be cool, too. Of course, I didn't think that it would be possible for my mother to make a blue cake at home.
It was only a few days to my birthday, shortly after Christmas and on the heels of the new year! I always heard that I wouldn't have many presents because it was so close to Christmas and New Years. Or that I couldn't have a party because everyone would be broke after Christmas, or they were tired of the many holiday parties. But, it turned out to be just something to throw me off the track of the party already planned. Some days, right up to the day of the party, I would be told that there wasn't going to be a birthday party that year. And, then, the day of the party, I would be told to dress up, and Mama would fix my hair. She would bake my cake, fix the table, and have Bertie help her clean house for days before the big event.
This particular year, I wondered if I would have a cake-if Mama had been able to meet the challenge I threw out, or would I just have another chocolate or white cake.
I stood in the little dining area, dressed in my party dress, with my sash hanging in the back, beginining to untie by itself. I looked at the table and wondered if anyone besides my great-aunts and grandmother would come to my party.
I was anxious and kept asking, "What if no one comes?"
"They will be here! Now quit worrying and keep out of the way while we are getting ready!" Mama and Bertie were going back and forth between the dining room and the kitchen, and I kept standing right in the doorway.
"You did it! You made a blue cake!" I shouted.
Mama brought in great-grandma's blue plate with the roses and green rim on it, filled with a beautiful blue cake, with blue icing. This would be the hit of all the birthday parties, I believed.
Bertie followed Mama with another cake on a pink Fiesta Ware plate. This one was even taller. It was a fresh banana layer cake. I've never seen anyone make a cake as wonderful as those fresh banana layer cakes that my mother made. I suspect that they were a plain cake, with some bananas mashed into the mix and the frosting. Then, between layers and on top, Mama would carefully place sliced bananas. I don't know how she kept the bananas from turning brown. I know that we didn't have things like lemon juice to squeeze over the bananas and keep them fresh. Still, those cakes were good for several days.
The front door opened and guests started arriving, carrying coats and packages. Of course, it had to be cold on my birthday almost every year. That eliminated going outside to play games. Soon the house was full of noisey children and chattering ladies.
Organized games like Pin The Tail On The Donkey and Post Office or Spin The Bottle, soon turned into running around the house, hiding in various places, and squealing as we tickled each other or pulled some children out of their hiding places under the beds.
When it was time to calm down, and bows and curls in the hair were drooping, and neat party outfits were hanging like play clothes, we were called to gather at the white dining table, with its curved, black-edged corners. Presents were opened. Happy Birthday was sung. Candles were lighted on the blue cake, then blown out as a wish was made. The cakes were sliced and served to guests.
Tired, disheveled children made their way out of the front door and down the little hill to the street. Grownups lingered over their punch and coffee, as Mama and Bertie started to clean up the mess. Now Mama would have to start cooking supper. Daddy would soon come home and want his food.
I placed my presents on the baby grand piano and stared at the gifts, while the grownups talked. I looked out the window, wishing that a few of my friends could have stayed to play longer. I would have to take my new doll or clothes or whatever I wanted to share, over to Edie's house the next day.
Another year older, but celebrating wasn't over yet. Daddy's birthday would be the next week. On Sunday, we would share a family birthday dinner that featured red roast and red gravy. For Daddy, they would have fried oysters and oyster stew. These dinners were held with different families, depending on who felt like cooking.
It has been kind of nice to be an Almost New Years Baby. I never had to go to school on my birthday. They always had a holiday, just for me! By then, people had a little time to recover from Christmas and New Years Eve.
Still, birthdays were always kind of disappointing. It's sort of like when we asked my aunt what she got for Christmas when she was growing up. She couldn't remember. Then we asked what she wanted, but didn't get for Christmas. She just grinned. I knew what it was. A diamond ring! (She had her chances, but her mother always destroyed her chances.) She said that she finally just gave up on a guy giving her a diamond ring, and bought one for herself.
It wasn't really a ring that was missing, for me. It was being with someone special, getting a spectacular present, or having some romance in the day. Just like Christmas, New Years Eve, and every other holiday that could have been romantic.
It was always a little lonely, too, when friends went home. The party was over and the birthday cake was gone. Even that pretty blue cake and the banana layer cake.
I couldn't have the big party for the big _0 birthday. It could have been a milestone birthday with something memorable like that blue cake, but, instead, it was another day. I washed and ironed, watched Gene Autrey on tv. Since I wasn't having a party, or a beautiful cake like I remembered, I decided to paint those cakes from a long ago party. For supper, my daughter barbequed, and we had ice cream for dessert. This was the big celebration.
I guess that I have the greatest gift, though. And that is that I am still here!
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