Archive for October, 2009
Thursday, October 29th, 2009
"Headed to VT," Watercolor Sketch #1
It’s time to get back to the art for a bit.
“Finally,” you say!
I know! “Finally,” I say!
I’ve been working on a winter landscape painted using watercolor for the last few days. This spot is on Route 149 as you head east (I think) into Fort Ann, New York. It’s a beautiful scene that I always take note of on my way into Vermont for a visit with Jonathan and Calico. The distant mountain with farms sprinkled at her foot just calls me. Whether winter, spring, summer or fall, this is just my kind of place. I know how it feels for me when I see it and want to convey that feeling, as best I can, in my painting.
The painting I’m working on (not pictured here) is in a format that is larger than I’m used to and so there’s a bit of a struggle going on just now. I did a value sketch and color study, but the piece is still a little weak (sorry, not showing you just yet). What I’ve decided to do is paint several more small watercolor sketches to determine which design is the strongest. Here is the first, Watercolor Sketch #1.
In this first sketch I’ve divided the space making the sky dominant with the foreground supporting. The idea here is to draw your attention into the distance, to the farms and then back. I’ve kept this a rough sketch with the goal being to determine which design is the strongest. These quick sketches should not include the details that will be included in the final painting. These sketches will focus on shape, value and color. Quick, spontaneous and fun, exploring and making discoveries.
"Headed to VT," Watercolor Sketch #2
In this second sketch, I decided to divide the space by making the sky less prominent and then inserting a “shape” that might say “stream under the snow.” This shape (stream) leads you into the distance and then to the foot of the mountains. I feel this composition is the most effective in conveying my feelings and observations about this beautiful spot – distance and curiosity.
The benefit to producing several quick sketches is you learn from each one and in my final painting I plan to incorporate components from each sketch. While I like the overall composition in Sketch #2, I prefer my handling of the sky in Sketch #1 and while I like the “stream” in Sketch #2, I prefer the middle ground grasses and brush in Sketch #1.
So. . . now that I have a plan, I’ll do one more quick sketch using what I’ve learned and incorporating all of those elements into a good, solid color study. Then it’s on to producing a potential “masterpiece” (hopefully).
Tuesday, October 27th, 2009
That's Bethy and me on my Birthday in 1958. Gosh, I've not changed a bit and neither has Bethy!
Well, today is my birthday or so they tell me. My mother and father were the first to know and they tell me I was born today, October 27th. I don’t think I’ve ever known anyone born on October 27th. Just me. My Day.
I woke up this morning and immediately opened the card my Mumzie and Pa left before they departed to Arizona. It’s one of those musical cards and sings, “On The Road Again,” with a funky horse and cowboy on the front. It made me smile. I’d been warned not to open it before My Day and was told that Mumzie would know if I didn’t wait. I waited. She would know!
I am so lucky to have been showered with tons of Happy Birthday greetings so far today. From Tom, first thing this morning, then from my sister (singing “Happy Birthday To You” via email), my friends, Anne and Amy, even old friends with whom I’ve lost regular contact. Even my brother sent me a funny birthday greeting about how old I am. I didn’t get mad. I’m happy to get old in lieu of the alternative. How nice is that?
My friend, Susan, and I had dinner last night and she hand-knitted me the most beautiful mittens and hat. Creamy off white, intricate and perfectly made with a card about friendship. My friend Anne is taking me to lunch and my friend, Amy, gave me a nice card plus a CD of Brad Paisley‘s latest music. It’s overwhelming really and I know that I am, at times, a slacker when it comes to timely remembrances. I feel undeserving.
As I was looking through old photos of Birthdays Past to include with this blog, I realized that there was a time when I wasn’t here. I know, it’s true for all of us, but I wonder sometimes just where was I before I was born? Waiting in heaven perhaps for the perfect quirky family to travel down this earthy road with me? But where was I waiting? At some spiritual way station along with others waiting? But where?
Now that I’m here I know that this earthly plane is not all there is. It can’t be. There’s too much good stuff around us for it all to evaporate when we take our leave. I get more certain of it as I grow older. Even with the bad stuff that happens here we learn and hopefully grow into better people in spite of it. It just plain doesn’t make any sense to be born, grow, learn and then . . .
I’m happy to have been born on this day and am blessed in so many profound ways.
Monday, October 26th, 2009
Here's my brother Stevie and Patrick. Thank heaven for those life jackets. You just don't know when a big boulder will take you under! Side Note: That big boulder sat just outside the back door of Grandma & Grandpa Flax's camp and claimed many a pair of jeans by the end of our vacation stay.
When Jon and Calico headed west on Saturday to sunny California, driving, I was transported back in time to when things were simpler, more innocent (or so it seemed). What I mean is, memories of our family vacations – when I was a kid – came flooding back.
We lived in Alabama from the time I was seven having moved south from Washington State after Boeing transferred my father (and all of us) to the sunny south. Our family was a large one, huge by today’s standards. There were five of us kids plus my mom and dad. That’s seven total in case you’re not so good at math.
While I was growing up we moved a few times and this move to Alabama was the first. We, the Dewey’s, learned to stick together and though we weren’t rich not one of us suffered or were left wantin’ for anything essential. Not that we were immune from lusting after the latest and greatest this or that, but we didn’t need and didn’t suffer none for not having. The real essentials were plentiful – food, shelter, laughter and a loving intact family.
I remember our summer vacations were always a much-anticipated event and would always begin with a road trip from our home in Huntsville, Alabama to Upstate New York. We’d enjoy a two-week stay at our grandparents’ camp on Sacandaga Lake in the Adirondack Mountains.
Before we took to the road, we’d stock up on comic books (Archie and his gang being my favorite), car bingo and a pillow or two. Plus little boxed cereals that would be breakfast and bologna on white bread that would be lunch, both enjoyed at a roadside rest stop. It was exciting, an adventure.
On the rare occasion that we would share a meal in a restaurant, all five of us kids would be on our best behavior prompting our hostesses all along the eastern seaboard to compliment my parents on having so many young’uns with good manners and so polite. We’d all beam with pride. Oh those trips were fun.
Sunday, October 25th, 2009
That's Calico & JonBoy as they head out on the cross-country trek! Check out their blog www.calicoandjon.com!
Finally, the rain stopped and finally I’m able to connect to the Internet. We live in an “out of the way” area without easy Internet access and so we use Wildblue. Unfortunately, when it rains, when it’s cloudy or when it isn’t Wildblue outside we are unable to connect to the Internet.
Yesterday it rained the entire day, heavy at times (gosh I sound like a weather forecaster). I tried to connect a few times only to be told, “Unable to Connect to Server!” I finally gave up for the day and focused on trying to lift myself out of the pre-winter blues by watching a few chick flixs, doing a little laundry and painting a little.
Thankfully, I’m connected again and wanted to share with you a new blog that is just online and has already proven to be interesting, humorous and suspenseful – www.calicoandjon.com.
My son and his wife (Jonathan and Calico) are making a cross country jaunt to Indio, California for a series of Phish concerts at the end of October (one on Halloween). They’ve already left Vermont (yesterday afternoon) and so it’s the perfect time to jump on board and follow along as they drive across the States to sunny California.
They plan to hit as many “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives,” as is possible along their route, sharing their menu choices with a few food reviews, visit family and attend three Phish concerts in Indio on Halloween weekend. So grab your bags and and take a trip or click here www.calicoandjon.com, it should be fun! I’m going!
Thursday, October 22nd, 2009
I work in a multi-floor building in Downtown Albany. On each of those floors there resides several offices, filled with people, many of whom are women. We, these many women, share a ladies room on each floor. That fact, in and of itself, is disturbing to me. I would like to consider my restroom time a special, private time, “me time” in the middle of my work day.
Inevitably, after I’ve settled into my little spot in the ladies restroom a door can be heard opening, then the “Click, Click, Click,” of heels on the white, ceramic tile floor. After that another click of an adjoining stall being locked. Yee gads. . . is it too much to ask for a little me time? There are times when I’ll just sit and wait it out. These days, with with my new LG Env3 cell phone, I can sit, check my email and surf the Internet while my fanny dries.
Sometimes when I’m seated there in the restroom, I can hear the clicking of heels from the floor above. Does that mean my tinkle or two can be heard throughout the building? Oh no. . . ! I’ve considered “holding it” for the entire day until I get home, but that would be unhealthy and outright foolish. What’s more that plan could lead to an even more embarrassing situation than strangers listening to my “restroom jingle.”
The women on our floor tend to travel to the restroom in a pack at times and now that I’m older I do not advocate that behavior. I have found that it does not require a brigade to powder my nose or empty my bladder. What’s more, I no longer wish to share those private things with mere acquaintances.
I’ll admit there are times when I interrupt the “me time” of others, in which case I’ll do my business and scoot on out of there as quickly as is possible, always trying to be a courteous restroom comrade. At times when I just can’t wait I’ll scoot out quickly after performing my least offensive maneuver and saving the rest for later.
Now you might be wondering, just what I intend to use that “me time” for. Well… sometimes I just want to gaze in the large mirror with the bright lights and think. Thinking that takes me down the road of wonder. Wondering how I got this old, wondering why I didn’t get out of bed just a few minutes earlier and wondering if that new hair cut I’m planning to get will transform me the way I hope.
I’ll bet you didn’t realize a visit to the ladies room was quite so complicated … now did you?
To simplify things it might be a good idea to create a Ladies Room Protocol and I intend to think about that for a while and report back real soon. Until then. . . What happens in the ladies room stays in the ladies room.
Wednesday, October 21st, 2009
Oh my, I’ve not been in my art room for a couple of weeks, maybe more, and I can feel it. I can only describe it as feeling unsettled and unfulfilled. While I did do a little painting on our tee shirts for the cancer walk, I’ve not had pencil or brush in hand for real soul satisfying creativity since the 4th of October.
I know that creativity is essential to my well-being, essential to satisfying my soul’s purpose, essential for me to touch God. When I’m away, as I’ve been, it becomes difficult to return though not impossible.
This morning I walked into my art room briefly and could feel the energy, peaceful and inviting, calling me, “Come. . . sit.” I intend to go there tonight and know that I’ve been wasting way too much time watching TV and just jerking around. Add to that the knowledge that this time of the year is tough for me and as the hours of daylight become less and less feelings of melancholy begin to envelop me. It’s a pattern I have observed year-after-year and a pattern my friends remind me of when I begin my whining and complaining.
The only real remedy for these down times, these times of feeling lost and disconnected is to go to my art. It’s time to sit, grab a brush or pencil and begin putting marks on paper or canvas. I’ll check in later to let you know how I make out.
Tuesday, October 20th, 2009
Here's our team! Our small group raised $625!
My alarm went off at around 6ish on Saturday morning. Set to our local country music station, I was loudly seranaded by the Statler Brothers singing, “Elizabeth.” How appropriate, for that day I’d be walking with our team, “Save the Ta-Tas,” organized and assembled for our Elizabeth. Better known as Bethy, my sister.
We walked . . . Our team, “Save the Ta-Tas,” walked with more than 12,000 others to raise funds for cancer research, education and patient services. One of our local newspapers, the Albany Times Union, reported that the 2009 Making Strides Against Breast Cancer event that took place on Sunday, October 18th here in Albany, raised more than $1 million. How how cool is that?!
Here's my Pa, Bethy and Conrad, Saving the Ta-Tas!
It was an emotional event, as many participants walked “in memory of” or “to honor” someone close. Our team was comprised of family and friends. All of us have been touched by breast cancer in some way. We walked to celebrate our survivor – my sister, Bethy – and to raise funds for those who come after and find themselves with a breast cancer diagnosis. Our contribution makes a difference. Any contribution makes a difference.
As we walked – more than once tears percolated to surface – we celebrated and counted our blessings.
Saturday, October 17th, 2009
Tomorrow these Tees will be filled with people, all of whom have been touched by cancer in some way, raising funds to find a cure.
Cancer. Cancer is frightening, there’s no doubt about it, and there was a time when I avoided even saying the word . . . “cancer.” And then in 1996 we were forced to say the word, “cancer” and deal with the disease. Cancer has touched our lives several times. First my father, then my mother, then me and most recently, my sister.
My father was diagnosed in 1996 after finding a large melanoma on his thigh. This cancer would be surgically removed and only then would we know the full extent of this cancer’s attack on our father and on our lives. I remember waiting with my sister and mother at St. Peter’s Hospital while the surgery was underway, with an unspoken question, “How far had it spread?” Once the surgery was complete, the doctor reported that a large area had been excavated in order to find “clear margins,” but they felt they’d gotten it all. My Dad has been monitored closely since then and keeps yearly appointments with his oncologist without recurrence. Thank God.
After that, again in 1996, my Mumzie, with uterine (endometrial) cancer now more than 13 years ago. We knew it was serious and Ma was scheduled for a hysterectomy. Ma’s surgery confirmed what we had hoped, that the cancer had been found early and that the cancer had not spread. She, too, has been monitored closely by her gynecological oncologist, without recurrence, Thank God.
By the time I was diagnosed with endometrial cancer in the fall of 2007 our family had been touch twice before and the word “cancer” had become a part of our vocabulary. My cancer was discovered when I started having some bleeding, hardly noticeable, yet I knew it was unusual. My instincts told me that I needed to get this checked out and I did. Procrastination could have been life-threatening and I somehow knew that I should act quickly. After a full abdominal hysterectomy and three rounds of radiation I too have regular appointments with my gynecological oncologist. Without recurrence, Thank God.
Finally, last year in September, my sister, was diagnosed with breast cancer detected during a routine mammogram. The tumor was small and a lumpectomy was scheduled. Diagnostic tests were required to pin-point the exact location of the tumor, followed by a lumpectomy and a marathon of appointments to administer the eight rounds of chemotherapy and six weeks of radiation needed to eradicate this cancer. This cancer was aggressive and would be handled with an aggressive treatment. This past year has been a year of talking about cancer, saying the word and dealing with the reality that comes with a cancer diagnosis. Bet has just past the first milestone in her recovery and followup lifestyle, three months after her last radiation treatment an appointment with her oncologist, without recurrence, Thank God.
Cancer has changed us. Cancer. . . we now say it more easily, but are very aware of the life-changing effect it can have. Cancer has made us more aware of how precious life can be. Cancer has made us appreciate one another more. Cancer has prompted all of us to make life changes, while enjoying the here and now. Cancer has made us activists and fundraisers. No more armchair quarterbacking for us.
With a commitment to find a cure we will don our “Save The Ta-Tas” Tees (that’s our team name) and walk to raise money for cancer research tomorrow at our local event “The American Cancer Society 2009 Making Strides” in Albany, New York. I’m sure a cure can be found and it’s up to us to help in any way we can.
We speak of cancer, we walk to find a cure for cancer, cancer has changed us in profound ways.
Wednesday, October 14th, 2009
At the end of the day we all stand gazing at our prized pumpkins with great pride.
My sister and her husband (Bethy & Conrad) have been hosting an annual Pumpkin Carving party for more years than I can recall. It’s always a much anticipated event for me. It’s one of those events that creates wonderful memories for every generation of family and friends in attendance. It’s a BYOP (Bring Your Own Pumpkin) affair with food, drink and laughter in abundance.
Each year brings back memories of the previous year’s gathering. Last fall the carving party was hosted by my brother, Patrick. His son was home on leave from Afghanistan and my sister, Bethy, had just been diagnosed with breast cancer. It seems hard to believe it was just one year ago and sounds so simple, these life changing events, condensed into just a single, short paragraph.
Now one year later Chris is back from Afghanistan and Bethy has just passed her first “three month check,” after a lumpectomy, eight torturous rounds of chemotherapy plus weeks and weeks of radiation. One year later Chris will be home and Bethy’s hair has begun to grow back into a beautiful curly top of silver.
I’ve learned that life can change in a moment. Just when you’re looking to the north, life drags you south. One moment joy, one moment testing, one moment laughter, one moment grief. I’ve found that the best way for me to deal with all this uncertainty is by faith. Faith in God, faith in family, faith in friends, faith that in the next moment things will be different. One important thing to remember is – wherever life takes you there are decisions to be made and not making a decision is a decision.
This year as we gathered again at Bethy and Conrad’s it was more than just carving pumpkins. I suppose it always was more than carving pumpkins. But this year as we all stood around the table in the cool autumn air, vibrant foliage creating a perfect backdrop, we carved our orange squash, first hollowing, then designing and finally remembering last year when things were so uncertain.
I know that life can be tough at times and the best we can do is pick the perfect pumpkin, lovingly carve it and once done place it on the stoop with all the rest and wait for sundown.
At the end of the night as we gaze at our prized pumpkins, each with a warm glow streaming from all the right spots, we stand side-by-side telling each other how nice their pumpkin looks and what a great job they did . . . supportive, loving and together.
Thank God for pumpkins.
Monday, October 12th, 2009
(Click here to read “Jury Duty Part 1 – Excuses,” or “Jury Duty Part 2 – No Good Excuse,” “Jury Duty Part 3 – Reasonable Doubt” and “Jury Duty Part 4 – Unanimously at Odds“)
As the day wore on it became quite clear we were not going to come to an agreement this day. Finally at 4:30 the judge sent us home for the weekend. We were instructed to return on Monday morning to continue deliberations and come up with a verdict.
As the weekend started, my mind swirled with evidence, testimony and the heated discussions that had taken place in the jury room behind closed doors on Friday. Finally, I reasoned my way through it all and came to a decision, one I was prepared to live with, beyond a reasonable doubt.
On Monday morning as I headed to the courthouse I was glad to have had a couple of days to think and was prepared to present my position. Once all the jurors were present we picked up where we’d left off on Friday. The discussions became loud at times with one juror interrupting the other and several discussions taking place at once. We requested testimony be reread, we were given a copy of the charges and by mid-day we were no closer to a verdict than we’d been on Friday.
After lunch we decided to focus on one charge at a time and decided it was unproductive to continue loud arguments and rude interruptions. Our deliberation was serious for us all. Each one of us holding to our convictions and drawing different conclusions after hearing the same testimony and seeing the same evidence. We requested certain testimony be read a third time.
Guilty or not guilty beyond a reasonable doubt based on the evidence and testimony. A simple instruction, but not a simple conclusion. We pushed on, deliberating into the afternoon, finally sending a note to the judge reporting that we were confident we would never reach a unanimous decision. We were a “hung jury.”
The judge thanked us again for our service and said it happens sometimes.
There are so many lessons to be learned from this experience.
Justice. One thing that haunts me is how we, humanity, treat one another. Those – in this case on the Internet – who set out to intentionally take what does not belong to them. Then setting off a sequence of events that destroy another. Who are these sinister online thugs who prey on others and why can’t they be stopped?
Tolerance. Our inability to come to unanimous agreement is yet another lesson to be contemplated. While we didn’t come to the same conclusions, we did part amiably and though we did not become friends, no violence ensued. We have agreed to disagreed. Tolerance.
Personal responsibility. This is another lesson in cause and effect. One person’s actions affect another. Sometimes consciously and sometimes not, but we’re all here inhabiting this earth together and need be responsible for our behavior and prepared to reap the benefits or punishment from that behavior. Personal responsibility.
Listen and hear. Waiting to hear the whole story is yet another lesson. Don’t jump to conclusions, make hasty decisions or prejudge from appearance. After hearing the first bits of testimony one could have concluded, “Guilty.” But after getting all the information there was just more to the story than you might have thought at first glance. Listen and hear.
There are more lessons that I’m sure will emerge as the days go by.
What comes to mind for me now is . . . What now becomes of this person presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law?