Saturday, November 22, 2008

Thirty Years Ago and Today

It's 20 degrees at 7:00 this morning... but how good it feels to wake up on a Saturday morning with sunshine beaming through the windows... and how sweet it feels to drink a hot cup of tea while I download some photos of art projects we've been working on these past couple of weeks.

Thirty years ago, my life ... no, our lives... changed completely... a new person was born in me, from me. Our son was born that day.

Today is his 30th birthday... and it hardly seems possible. It's odd not having him here for dinner tonight... not being able to bake him a special cake... to hug him as he walks in the door... this is his first birthday away from home, and it feels like something is missing. I am grateful, though, that we are all of us well, that he is living where he wants to be right now, and that he works in a profession which serves to mend, heal, cure, and restore people who are hurt, sick, and dying. I'll see him next week.

                                   Happy Birthday to my son!

 This photo was taken back in March, when Steven came home to help us bury Max, to share the grief. Misty was still with us then. 

He was in high school when we brought Misty into our lives and made her a part of our family. Three years later, while Steven was in college, we decided a second dog would keep Misty company when I became a teacher and started working full time. During those 8 1/2 years the two dogs were our companions... they went with us on vacations... I took them to school with me on weekends... they cuddled with us in the evenings, and were free spirits by day. To our great sadness, Max crossed over the Rainbow Bridge, and Misty followed him less than two months later.

Pet owners know that one day their beloved pets will die, and very likely, they will die before we do. It's a risk we are willing to take. We soon learn that what we receive from our pets is so much more than what we give. When they are gone, we feel like we never gave enough, and yet, we know that we gave all that we could. It's a paradox, this feeling and this knowing. They seem to contradict each other.
In the end, after the initial shock and pain subsides, one thinks it is worth it. The love, the loyalty, the antics, and especially the joy they share with us. Their willingness to always be there. Always. No wonder we are heart-broken when they pass, and no wonder the silence is heavy and painful when we come home after work. But even that pain passes, and we are left with the memories. And they are oh, so sweet. Yes, it is worth loving a pet. I imagine some people love their pets more than the humans they live with, or their pets may be their only solace, only companionship for weeks and months on end. For some, it may be the only love they experience, ever. So love them and enjoy them while they bark and jump and wag their tails... love them and take care of them and keep them groomed and healthy.

This kind of love should be applied to our human friends and family as well! It all applies. In the end, after they are gone, we think we could have... we should have... if only I... I wish I had... . Why wait until someone dies to do more for another? Why wait until they leave this world to wish you had visited them more often, or called them more often, or said you were sorry, or said "I love you"? Why not do it now? Resolve those guilt feelings now, while communications are still open, and if they are not open, be the one to open them. Be the one, because it matters to you, and it probably matters to them too, but they don't know how to do it. But you do. Be the one!

That's my wisdom for the day!

The last few weeks have been filled with color and design in my class. I am forever amazed at what the kids will do when I leave them to their own thoughts and ideas. Last month, third graders worked on a a task to learn how to create overlapping. Their pieces were so colorful and vibrant, I just had to do the 3D glasses next. I have some commercial 3-D glasses, but wanted the kids to make their own first. !

The best moment came when they looked at their own art works through their glasses. "Ooooh!" was all they could say. Incredible. Somebody pinch me!!! Does it get any better than this! .... thank you, God!

Second graders learned about warm hues and painted the sun using oil pastel and watercolor resist. The key is to use at least an 80-90 lb paper. The water color will cause excessive warping and curling if using anything with less weight.

Paper tile pumpkins were made by kindergarteners as they learned about broken line. And how to use a glue bottle! Squeezing glue from a glue bottle is a very tricky maneuver, particularly when you have to squeeze it onto little squares. For those with the least dexterity, I gave them a Q-tip and glue-plate.

Expressive Words was a fourth grade project... many great words. Line, color, and balance were the focus of these designs. I told them to pick short words... longer words cannot be drawn very big on 12X18 paper. Here are two:

Coming soon: Kaleidoscope paintings and Holiday candles. I thank you all for visiting and leaving comments.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Juggling Pumpkins, hues, and Obama

It's been a beautiful week... in many ways! On Monday I was able to attend my weekly Bible study group... something that I'd missed for several weeks. I had even been thinking that I should just drop out altogether. After all, I had missed at least three chapters of reading, all three discussions. How could I catch up with all the things I had still to finish for school? But one of the group members approached me and said that it wasn't ALL about content study...that we were each of us part of this group, and each giving to the group. When one is missing, it's noticeable. My pastor reminded me that I wasn't so far behind, and that all I had to do was show up. Another member said she'd missed me. Another asked if I was ever coming back. Okay, I had promised, I would try to make it Monday night.

So glad I went back. Our pastor didn't have to, but, like the good teacher that he is, he reviewed the past few weeks to catch me up. I felt welcomed again, I knew that no matter how busy my weeks are, there's always a friend or group of friends who will miss me if I don't show up for the commitments I have made. I feel the same way about them when they don't show up. I know they have busy lives too, with their work and families. Mine is no fuller than theirs. Time management is a big issue with me. And biting off more than I can chew at times.
Juggling is probably an apt way to describe what I do. When one of my commitments becomes too heavy, I toss it into the air so I can attend to another one. And when a prior obligation becomes more urgent, I will toss something else into the air so I can take care of what seems more important at the moment. Hmm, I really don't care for that analogy. Tossing things into the air seems a bit irresponsible somehow. Even though my hands will be on all these things at one time and another, they're still getting tossed when I have too much for my hands, heart, and mind to attend to at any given time.
I'd rather adopt the image of one who carries her load to the end, and who helps others when her load becomes lighter. And maybe even accepting help from others who offer. The dilemma, though, is determining what that load will be. As one journeys, the load doesn't stay the same. Challenges arise, barriers appear out of nowhere, and endurance levels fluctuate. You shift the load. Life has a way of teaching us to be strong, to endure, to be faithful, and trustworthy. We gain knowledge of ourselves through the challenges we accept, as well as through the failure of them or the success of them. The good news is that even the failures contribute, in a beautiful way, to our development. We do become stronger, we can endure, and we can change. Yes, we can!
I can say this assuredly because I did get to sleep late this morning and I feel completely rested and well. I write this because I want to remember this beautiful day, weeks from now, when I might well be tired and exhausted, or even sick with the flu. (A flu shot next week should remedy that, though).
Here are some of the pumpkins first graders have been working on these past couple of weeks. Oil pastel pumpkins, cut out, glued with cardboard tabs under them so that they stand out from the black paper. Then the kids draw leaves, weeds, vines, etc on the black paper. We've been calling them 3D pumpkins.
Second graders worked on an oil pastel piece called The Sun... they are learning about warm hues... and the fact that they now understand the difference between hues and colors impresses me and the other teachers. The question I posed to them was "How can we express a warm object in a piece of art?" After I had shown them several examples of art works that did express warmth through use of color, they were able to answer that question easily.

Each student created their own sun-like image using only red, orange, and yellow. Oil pastels blend so easily. When they are through with the drawing, they will paint black tempera or water color over it... resulting in a resist.

And then there were the elections on Tuesday ... I was thrilled that I had voted early because it meant that when I got the email at school telling me that I could hang some student art work at the local Starbuck's, I was totally free! I carried the stack of mounted pieces in a large plastic pouch through the parking lot in the dark and drizzling rain. Two hours later, voila!
Kindergarten through fourth grades were well represented. My only complaint was that the room I was directed to was very small... in fact, it was a vault. The place used to be a bank. Vaults make for tiny coffee shop rooms. Cozy and private, yes... but not roomy in the wall space. I made good use of it, though.

I was pleased with the look of the display. The next day, I typed up a sheet with all the names of the students whose work is on display. Parents will be told so they can visit and admire.

The best day of the week had to be Wednesday morning when kids walked proudly into my room, telling me who had won the elections. Had they thought I hadn't heard? Or were they letting me know that they already knew?
"Hey Mrs. G, did you know that Obama won President?" one boy announced to me.
I smiled and said, "Yes, he did!"
The rest of the week the sun did shine! And today is a beautiful day.