Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Painted Over Update

Tonight, folks, I am a very happy camper. My lesson at Elaine's went incredibly well! I'm working on a still life of southwestern pottery (I'm working from a photograph) and I've been able to do the painting step by step with Elaine's helpful coaching. As soon as the painting is done (probably a week from now) I'll post a picture of it.

But I am really, really happy. I enjoyed myself tonight, and I learned some things. And Elaine very patiently listened to my griping about my other teacher. She recommended that I call the college's director of adult education and tell her what happened, because Elaine had spoken to the director a couple of months ago and apparently I'm not the only one complaining about their teacher. Elaine can't teach through the college while the other teacher is there (they don't want overlapping classes) so maybe if I voice my complaints they'll fire the bad teacher and open a slot for Elaine. That would be nice!

Meanwhile, I'm looking forward to taking four more classes from Elaine before she quits for the summer. If I can manage it, I'll try to take classes again from her this fall. I'll have to see what my school schedule is like.

Speaking of school, I got my registration letter, and I go in May 15 to sign up for fall classes. I'm really excited about this. Finally, I can draw pictures for someone and get paid for it.

Show me the money!!

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Painted Over

I think I've mentioned this on my blog before, but my hobby is painting. As the pictures show, all the work I do is "decorative art". The coffee pot is an example of German strokework folk art (Bauernmalerei) the jars are designs by other artists from books and magazines, and the wooden pumpkin planter boxes are my own design. I've painted with acrylics on almost every "decorative" surface imaginable, and I've done all the "decorative art" things that I've wanted to do. It's not a challenge anymore and quite frankly, unless I'm doing a custom job for someone, it's getting to be rather boring.

In 2001, when I was still in the "self-teaching" stage, I took an oil painting class. But because I wasn't quite bored yet with decorative art (and I was still hoping to make some money at it) I let oil painting drop and I lost my skills. This spring I decided to take another oil painting class the same way I took the first one, via our local community college's Adult Education program. However, the teacher for this class was different than the teacher I had before, and her teaching style and my learning style just did not mesh. I have a minor "method processing" learning disability, and I need to be shown step by step how to do something. If you skip steps, I get confused. Well, this teacher not only skips steps, she expects you to extract what you need to know from watching a video tape once and then doing the project. I got so frustrated in my last session that I just packed it up early and left. I was almost in tears.

But today, I found the phone number of my old teacher, Elaine Peyton, and called her. I asked her if she was still teaching, and to make a long story short, she is and she has five sessions left before she breaks for the summer. So for the next five Wednesdays I'll be in Elaine's class, and hopefully this time I'll learn something. I'm really looking forward to seeing Elaine again. Someday I hope to be able to paint a landscape from a photograph. I have so many photos of places I love (like Maysville, Iowa and Chamberlain, South Dakota) and I want to fill my house with paintings of those places. I also have ideas of mixing elements of different photos together, and right now I haven't the first clue on how to do that. I know I won't learn that in only five weeks, but I hope Elaine can get me started on the right track.

Wish me luck!

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Blatherskite on an Evening Walk

I love to go walking at sunset. I try to leave 30 minutes before the sun sets and stay out for an hour at least. Of course Judah goes with me - this may be small town Iowa but I don't trust everybody. Besides, he'd cry if I left him home.

Anyway. Tonight we went out on the rail trails, where spring is really starting to make an appearance. There's a little green on every tree, and the underbrush is starting to grow. It's not so tall yet that Judah can't go crashing through it, but most of the weeds are about 6 inches high. Once they reach three feet in height and fill in all the gaps, Judah's hunting forays will be severely limited. But for now he's got space to romp.

It was a perfect night to be out. It was about 60 degrees with a light south wind, and no one was on the trails but us. On the way home we walked through town, and I stopped at DJ's (the new name of our local convenience store) and bought a couple of Pepsi's. Walking from the trails to the store and home I watched the sky get dark and the stars come out. That's neat - looking up every few minutes or so and seeing which new stars have shown up. Slowly but surely the sky fills with stars, although the lesser stars are hard to see within city limits. You have to get out in the country, away from the light pollution, to see each and every star.

That's what I told Carl when I got home and dragged him outside to share in the experience with me. Poor guy, all he had on was shorts and a t-shirt (I had on jeans and a jacket) and he started freezing almost immediately. But I had to tell him about how wonderful it was when I was walking and smelled the commingled scents of a wood burning fireplace and freshly cut grass. It smelled like a campground, and now I really want to spend a weekend at Lake McBride. It's time for s'mores.

Pass the marshmallows!

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Boo-Boo Strikes Again

Well, for everyone who hasn't heard yet, our little Miss Mary "Boo-Boo" broke her right arm Friday night. She went out for a scooter ride with Dad (Dad was on his bike) and when Mary tried to maneuver from the street to a sidewalk, she hit a mud pit. The pit sucked her front tire down in and pitched her and her scooter face forward. When she landed she hit on her wrist and arm weird and broke both bones in her right forearm about 1 - 2" above the wrist. Carl (poor Carl - he felt so bad!) didn't have his cell phone with him, so they had to walk several blocks to get home. When they walked in the door Mary was (of course) crying, and you could see the broken bone pushing against her skin. I ordered Carl to get me ice in a bag, and a towel, and I wrapped Mary's arm up as best I could. Then Carl loaded Mary in my truck while I got Hannah down from her room, and off to the emergency room we went.

The emergency room staff at St. Luke's Hospital was wonderful. They got Mary in and comfortable, then took her to x-ray. While we were waiting for results our pastor showed up and prayed with us, and he stayed a while to see what the outcome of her tests would be. As it turns out, she had to go under anesthetic to get her arm set, so the ER staff put an IV lock in Mary's arm. Naturally Mary was terrified and screaming-crying, and this upset our tender-hearted Hannah, so Pastor Bill took Hannah out while Carl and I held Mary down and the two nurses put the lock in. When it was done Mary realized it wasn't that bad, and they wheeled her up to Surgicare. Once there we decided that I would stay with Mary, and Pastor Bill (bless his heart! he's such a great guy) offered to drive Carl and Hannah home. So they all left, and Mary and I waited for a good hour for the anesthetist, who was doing another surgery. But finally it was Mary's turn, and they doped her up and wheeled her out. It only took about half an hour, and then I got to sit with her in Recovery while she woke up, and once the nursing staff was satisfied that she was OK they sent us home.

Saturday Mary spent most of the day in bed (on the sofa sleeper in the living room) resting and watching movies. A couple of neighborhood girls (sisters) heard that Mary was hurt and brought her over bunches of dandelions. They stayed for a while, watching TV then playing computer games, so Mary had a little fun. The oldest sister, Payton, is in Mary's class, and she's already volunteered to be Mary's right arm in school. Wasn't that sweet?

So today, Mary's pretty much back at it. Her arm is in a temporary cast (one that has more give to allow for swelling) and hopefully she'll get her permanent cast a week from Monday when we go back to see the orthopedist (Dr. Fabiani). Right now she and Hannah are playing Battleship like nothing's happened. The nurses were impressed with how maturely Mary handled the whole business, and it was a great relief to me to see Mary's "positive attitude" adjustment taking hold. For all she's been through, she's been very brave, strong and cheerful.

I'm so proud of her!

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Wearing My German Genes

Recently, my good friend Cyn sent me a cute Easter link. It featured the graphics from this site, but the music following the "eggsplosion" was different. However, after a couple of days the website shut down, and I don't know why. Maybe the server's down, or they got overloaded, or maybe they got shut down because they didn't have permission to use some of the stuff they had. But the song that played after the "eggsplosion" would NOT leave my head, so I went looking for it. I found it here. Go under the guy's pictures and click on "Chicken Yodel". The version on the site Cyn sent me was an abbreviated version of the song, but I still like it. The girls like it, too. Hannah even created this cute, yet bizarre, dance to go with it. I wish you could see it!

Anyway. They guy who does this song, Kerry Christensen is apparently very famous in the yodeling world. He did the yodeling for the Disney film Home On The Range, and when I told Hannah that she said, "That's Alameda Slim singing that?" That girl never forgets a thing. But I thought the song was funny, and cute, and I'm even considering buying some of this guy's stuff on CD because I have absolutely no German music CD's.

See, Mom? All your patient teaching is finally paying off. Pass the sauerkraut!

Saturday, April 08, 2006

A HUGE Answer to Prayer

First, an update: I managed to get a full night of sleep last night. I still had anxiety nightmares, but they weren't as bad as the previous nights'.

And now for the Good News! Over the past 18 months or so, we've been very concerned with Mary's attitude. She was very negative on herself, and at one point even voiced the idea of harming herself. We went to counseling, and it helped a little, but then the insurance ran out and we had to quit. However, a couple of weeks ago, Mary had an epiphany. After one particularly bad morning, trying to get ready for school, Mary came up to me and said, "I think my negative attitude is getting me in trouble. I need to focus more on being positive on myself." I was thrilled, and naturally I encouraged this in her. It's still a work in progress, and it's getting better.

I cite this morning as a great example. Mary had two soccer games this morning. (Once a year, each team has to play a two-game Saturday.) During the first game, Mary ran hard, but she got a stitch in her side and was in pain. She didn't whine, though, nor did she get negative on herself. She just went back to the SUV after the game and laid down. She rested, then had a snack, then got ready for game two. In the second game she was even better, and mid-way during the third period SHE SCORED HER FIRST GOAL!!!! It was one of those moments where the action seemed to freeze for a second (because no one knew who was supposed to kick the ball) and Mary reached out with her foot, gave the ball a loft-kick into the air, and it sailed over the opposing team players and into the goal. I was ecstatic (that's putting it mildly). We finished the game, and on the way home Mary and I talked about everything she's been doing right: how she's thinking, paying attention, not giving up, listening to instructions and trying her hardest. We hit a major milestone, and we never would have gotten there without God's help. We still have a long way to go, but if I pray without ceasing for Mary (and for Hannah, too) I know my girls will have a bright future.

And now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go do the Happy Dance.


Friday, April 07, 2006

I Can't Believe This

For the past three nights, I've had insomnia. I think I've gotten maybe seven hours of sleep over the past three nights. And when I do sleep, it's not quality sleep because I'm having anxiety nightmares. I spent the better part of today on the couch, asleep or resting, but now it's 11:03 PM Central Time, and I Can't Sleep!! AAAARRGGHH!!!

My anxiety nightmares have been really strange, too. On Tuesday night I didn't see anything, but I kept hearing the words "oil painting" over and over. Now, I understand this dream. I'd just come from my first oil painting class in years, and I did an abysmal job on my landscape. My teacher wasn't much help, and I was very frustrated. That I get. But Wednesday night and Thursday night were weird. Wednesday night, I dreamt that Carl and I were with a group of his friends that used to live in the area during the early 1990's. They were going out, and they made it obvious that they wanted Carl to come along, but not me. They were all laughing at me, and Carl made no effort (in my dream) to defend me. Top off that bad dream with the constant thunderstorms we were having plus the fact that Boo-Boo hates storms so I had to sleep for a while with her, and you get a bad night.

So Thursday I thought "I'm tired, and I always fall asleep when I read, so I'll read in bed." However, idiot that I am, I chose absolutely the wrong book. I took Mary Higgins Clark's new book Two Little Girls In Blue up to bed, and I was awake until 4 AM reading it. I almost finished it, too. (I ended up finishing the book at breakfast.) But when I finally fell asleep I dreamt that I was being attacked and mauled by an angry wolf. A big grey wolf, at that.

So tonight I'm here at the computer blogging, hoping that I'll be tired enough to fall right asleep when I finally go to bed. I have to be in good condition in the morning because Boo-Boo has TWO soccer games tomorrow, and Carl will be gone all day at a seminar at our church. This is gonna be one dang long weekend.

I hope the weather is nice, at least.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Searching For Spring

Everywhere on TV I see signs of spring. Allen Smith has crabapples blooming in his garden. Mr. Food is cooking with asparagus (aka aspergrass). The winter sports season ended last night when Florida stomped the everlovin' snot out of UCLA (YEAH!!) and baseball (ick) has started. So since today was a relatively nice day, I took Moose Mutt out for a long walk and decided to look for signs of spring.

I wasn't finding many at first. The trees are all still barren, and the only grass that's growing is on the path. At one point, when I stopped to give Judah some water, I looked up at the trees and said, "Forest, come on, wake up!" It all still looked so grey and dull - it was sad.

But after a while I started to see things. There were teeny, tiny flowers growing on the edge of the path. And I mean teeny tiny! They had a daisy-like head, but were only one inch high and the heads were only maybe 1/8" in diameter. I wish I knew what they were called. Then, farther up the path, I saw two butterflies flittering around. While I was watching them I saw a huge shadow pass over the trees to my left, and when I looked up I saw a barred owl land in a tree. He must have seen me watching him because he didn't hang around long, and he flew off too quickly for me to follow him. At the end of the path, I found some storm damage; a tree had been blown down and it looked like there had been some flooding along the creek. And something (or someone) had broken off the fencepost that marked a turn in the trail and had thrown the post a few feet away. I find myself wondering if the wind had done that. The grass all around was flattened. It was a weird sight.

Anyway. When I got home I saw that the bird feeeders were empty, so I went to fill them. That's when I noticed that my rhubarb is starting to come up. I need to call Extension and find out if it's OK to burn my garden rubbish. I wouldn't want to damage anything. I also need to go through my tiller manual, find out what parts I need, and put the tiller and tractor together.

The weather is slowly getting warmer. The days are getting longer. Boo-Boo has soccer practice and school ends in two months.

The signs of spring are everywhere.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

With Apologies To Carl

In honor of today being April Fool's Day, I shall now recount the best prank I ever pulled. It wasn't an April Fool's joke, I think - it was so long ago now I can't remember the exact date - but it was hysterical at the time.

The time being sometime back between March of 1988 and May of 1992. Those were the years we lived in our first "house", a very nice mobile home on the south side of Cedar Rapids. Around the Christmastime prior to The Prank, Carl's employer was laying off a bunch of people in their Government Division. Carl worked in the General Avionics Division, but all of our friends were very much concerned. People kept asking Carl, "Are you getting your pink slip?" and he'd reply, "No, I'm not Government, I'm Gen Av." I, however, couldn't let this opportunity go to waste. I was working in Iowa County then, and there's a Tanger Inc. outlet mall there, so one day after work I stopped in the lingerie store and bought a pink slip. (I made sure it fit.) I pinned the slip to a piece of cardboard, put it in a manila envelope, and sneaked it to a good friend who was also friends with Carl's office mates. Our friend got the slip to the office mates, who produced a bogus termination letter, and left the entire package on Carl's desk. His office mates were laughing so hard when he opened it that a secretary stuck her head in the door to see what was going on just as Carl was holding up the slip against himself!! I guess that got his office mates rolling on the floor, they were laughing so hard.

Meanwhile, back at home, I'm making dinner and waiting for Carl. He comes home with this incredible hang-dog look on his face and he says, "Honey, there's something I have to tell you." So I sit down, and as he untangles his story and is trying to tell me why he has lingerie in his office desk I tell him, "I already know all about this. I'm the one who bought the slip!" I wish you could have seen the look of shock on his face. It was hysterical! I said, "You were telling everyone at Christmas you weren't getting your pink slip. I just couldn't let that pass. You should never throw down the gauntlet like that at me!" He, actually, was relieved that I was in on the prank because he was trying to come up with a way to explain to me why he was going to bring home lingerie from work, lingerie that he thought I knew nothing about. In hindsight, I could've milked the prank more, pretending to be angry that he had lingerie and demanding to know "who the other woman is". But that would've been too mean. Poor guy. I did make it up to him, though, when he brought the slip home. I mean, why do you think I went to the trouble to make sure it fit?

But you don't get those details! ;-)