Saturday, July 14, 2018

A New Endeavor

When I was. A little girl, I used to love to look at the oil paintings that my grandmother and her two sisters created. I would look and look...and dream. I already was aware that I had inherited the artistic talent that they all had. It had definitely been passed down to me. I promised myself that I would someday learn to paint with oils and do as well as they did. I had admired my father’s Aunt Harriet’s work in particular, as she had perfected oil painting the most. 

I planned to be an artist. Being an art major was what I was going to do. That all changed my senior year of high school. That was the year I was taking an AP art class (don’t laugh...the course exists and it isn’t for the faint-hearted). My teacher was not familiar with me from any years previous, because I was basically attending a brand new high school (We were the first graduating class...the school was formed after combining  2 previously separate high schools. This teacher had taught at the “other school”) I just couldn’t keep up with the demands and pace of the class. I was getting farther and farther behind. I finally had to drop the class, or fail it. I had talent, but I didn’t like being told what I had to paint. I also didn’t work well with tight deadlines. I painted and drew at a slow rather dreamy (some might say passive) pace. That’s just who I am.

Mr. Stevens sat with me and agreed that I needed to drop the class. He basically told me that I didn’t really have what it took to pursue art as a career. I remember that during class he mostly talked about art majors becoming commercial artists. That was where the living was made. The goal was to get a lucrative career. I totally agree that I did not really have what it took to become a commercial artist. Commercial Artists have very high demands on their time and mostly have to cater to the desires, tastes and whims of their clients. Mainly, the art is created with the goal of advertising. To be fair to Mr. Stevens, I remember him saying that keeping art as a hobby was something I should do. However, at 17 years of age, I was basically shattered. All I heard was failure. All of my goals came crumbling down to the ground. I had very high marks in mathematics. I picked myself up, dusted myself off and decided I would become a math teacher. (A very poor fit, as it turned out)

Looking back, I wish I had studied art in college. At the very least, as a minor. I would have learned so much from it. Maybe I would not have ended up with a lucrative career, but honestly at the time, I wasn’t looking for one. I mostly wanted to become a wife and mother. I dreamed of being the homemaker with a little art studio in her house. I still think it sounds wonderful. If I had studied art in college, years later I still could have gone on to become a librarian (which is a really great fit for me). Years later when I went to inquire about becoming a librarian, I found out that I could have had any undergraduate degree...in literally anything at all. I know of at least one high school librarian who had studied art during her undergraduate years. She now is retired and spends most of her time doing artwork. She is having a grand time painting and making quilts.

Looking back with regret does nothing helpful to anyone. Things happen for a reason. I guess I don’t really regret the path I have taken. I am me...largely formed by my experiences...both the happy and not so happy ones. Now I must move forward. I decided to try to make good (as much as possible) on the dream to learn to oil paint. One of my cousins heard that I was interested in learning to oil paint. She gave me a little oil set that she had picked up years earlier and had never used. Unfortunately, it is a cheap and junky set. This particular set is a no name brand and runs for about $11 from Amazon. You get what you pay for in art supplies. If you use poor products, you will only be frustrated and that can set you up for failure. I learned that in the past with a set of very cheap watercolors. I was miserable. I finally went to my friend Claudia for help. She is an accomplished water color painter. At her request, I brought my paints with me. She demonstrated that she really couldn’t paint well with them either. She could paint better than I could with them to be sure...but even I could see the difference once she pulled out the good stuff.

So off I went to Michaels to look at oil paints. I found the price of good oils to be very expensive! What would I do...purchase one tube of paint at a time? My husband would totally freak at the ~$100 price tag for a basic collection of fairly good stuff (and even these were mid-grade oils, NOT top of the line). We are talking about a set of 10 tubes that each hold 37mg of paint. I checked eBay and found some incredible deals! Wow! I found a great set of Winsor & Newton oils for $60 that I estimated to be worth about $120 from Dick Blick art supplies. I wanted them, but knew that my husband would frown upon it. (Unless he saw success and commitment first) I ended up bidding on a small set of Winsor & Newton 21mg/tubes. Nine of them. I could only find this particular set (that must have originally included 10 tubes) to be available for sale in Great Britain. In the U.S.A, I couldn’t find any set that had tubes smaller than 37 mg in the Winsor & Newton brand. The set on eBay was missing lemon yellow, but included 3 bonus tubes (37mgs each) of a German brand along with another bonus 37mg tube of Winsor & Newton Indian Red. I bid on it and won it for $15, + $7.50 shipping and handling. As luck would have it, I had a $13 credit on my paypal account, due to selling something on eBay a year ago that I had actually forgotten about. So I ended up feeling the payment of $9.50! I’m happy. Now all I need to do is figure out how to buy quality brushes and learn how to do this thing called oil painting.




Incidentally, last weekend, my husband and I, along with our oldest daughter, took a day trip to the Thousand Islands where I took pictures of this sailboat that I can hopefully use some day as a visual while painting. Nice, don’t you agree?


Here is the set I won on eBay! All of my readers (all 3 of you) must hold me accountable to learn to oil paint with your inquiries as to my progress with it.

Saturday, June 30, 2018

God Gives Us Way More that We Can Handle

All of my life I have heard this: “God never gives us more than we can handle.” I’m sure you have heard it too. I am here to say that it is NOT true. I ran across this devotional today and it completely resonated with me. Please take a minute to go to that link and read the blogpost of the pastor who wrote it.

Over the course of about 15 years now, I have pondered something that happened to me while I was in college 31 years ago. I was 19 years old, going on 20 when I became very ill with one devestating bipolar episode that was brought about by extreme stress. (I will pause here briefly to state that I do NOT have bipolar disorder. Contrary to what the “experts” say, it is not always a lifelong sentence that you cannot heal from. I recovered from it and have never had another episode, but that’s another post) That illness changed my life. It changed my thinking: the way I looked at the sufferings and “sins” of other people. It changed some of my core beliefs.
That episode completely crippled my ability to function in all relationships (no matter what the commitment level) and made daily living a complete chore. Everything I did, from getting up and dressed in the morning, to going to classes, trying to complete homework, interacting with people...and even to the simple acts of daily decision making (like what to eat), became extremely difficult. I could no longer nurture relationships and consequently lost someone very dear to me. Even my relationship with my own mother suffered dearly.
During this time, I remember believing that I was a terrible failure as a Christian. When I tried to reach out for help from my Christian friends, I was simply told to “pray about it.” I kept believing that I was simply a rotten person who deserved to be punished. I became a terrible girlfriend to the boy I was dating, and I believed that I deserved to be hated and rejected by him. I was a lousy roommate. Sometimes I couldn’t get out of bed and just cried all day. It was no wonder she wanted me to move out...more rejection that I believed I deserved. I thought that maybe even God was mad at me. Maybe he even hated me and that was why I was suffering. No matter how much I called out to Him and read scripture, He didn’t seem to listen to me or even to care. I couldn’t pull it together. I kept believing that if I tried harder to “snap out of it” that I could. I failed completely. (Another interesting note here: I had no idea that I had a medical condition. It apparently wasn’t part of God’s plan for me to figure that out for another 14+ years) The aftermath was me being completely broken by the experience. The truth was this: it was way too much for me to handle.
It was too much for me. God had given me something that I could not bear. I despaired even of life. I felt the sentence of death (2 Corinthians 1:8-9). Honestly, I often look back and marvel that I survived it. I only survived because it wasn’t too much for God to handle. I had to get to the end of myself. The end of myself happened when I acknowledged that I couldn’t put my hope and faith in anyone else but God alone. Up until that point, I had largely relied upon myself. I had been a very “together” sort of person. I had congratulated myself on being smart and not falling into the “pitfalls” of drugs, alcohol, or sex. I had gotten very good grades. I could always think clearly. My memory was impeccable. I considered myself to be a strong Christian because I was good, attended church regularly, was pretty well-versed in the Bible and church doctrine, and of course had “prayed the sinner’s prayer.” I was even dating another very put together person, the salutatorian from my high school class (I knew how to pick a winner! Not like some other people I knew). I was honest, reliable and trustworthy. People could count on me to be loyal. I was the one who could come through. Congratulations self....until the year all of that crumbled apart.

Make no mistake about this: God definitely will give you more than you can handle at some points during your life. This is to show you that you need Him. This is to sharpen your faith. It is messy. It is painful. It can seem devestating. What is faith that has not been tried? It is nothing! You have to go through these things in order for faith in God to grow (Not to mention empathy toward others too). It sounds so cliche...but that’s it. The good news is that once you get to the end of yourself,...and you realize that you can’t put your faith in anyone other than Christ...it gives you a sense of peace. You can rest in Him and stop being so hard on yourself and on the people who failed to be there for you. Life doesn’t get better instantly, but somehow He gives you the strength you need to carry on. You still have to journey through life and it will be hard sometimes. Set your hope on Him and He will deliver you, although not always in the way you think He will.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Currently...

Reading ... In the Bible I am reading through the book of Numbers with CBS (Community Bible Study). I’m at the end. Moses has just commissioned Joshua as the new leader of the Israelites. It is at the end of his life just before the Israelites enter the promised land. In fiction I am reading Cold Sassy Tree by Olivia Ann Burns. I’m reading it because 2 teachers in my building expressed shock that I hadn’t read that classic yet. So far, I am enjoying it. It’s a nice change from the typical YA book, which I read quite a bit of since I am a librarian in a HS. Non-fiction: Daring to Hope: Finding God’s Goodness in the Broken and Beautiful by Katie Davis Majors.

Playing ... I have not been playing enough lately. That means it is time to schedule another family game night...or to take time to join the Uno game that some students usually break out with after school in the library.

Watching ... I’ve been watching Escape to the Country lately which is a British house hunting show on Netflix. I love the quirky old houses made of stone. I would love to live in one. I love the little villages. It is such a refreshing show to watch compared to the American house hunting shows because it is down to earth. They show very normal down to earth homes of reasonable size and the clients seem genuinely content with the homes rather than looking at massive million dollar homes where the beautiful kitchens “must be updated” or complaining that the large master bedroom is “much too small” or that it doesn’t have a walk-in closet.

Cooking ... Lately I have been cooking more meatless dinners. Probably 2 or 3 a week, loaded with veggies and whole grains. They are surprisingly satisfying. My new favorite is Mexican Zucchini Stir fry. I serve it over a bed of rice, topped with fresh mixed greens, crushed tortilla chips and a dollop of guacamole. Delicious! I do not miss the meat, cheese or sour cream at all. However, last night we had salmon, baked potato and broccoli.

Calling ... I rarely call anyone. However, I just tried to call my husband on his cell phone and then immediately heard it ringing inside of his gym bag in the corner of the kitchen. That means he forgot it. Oops!

Crafting ... I have not been crafting much lately. I did manage to mend the queen sized quilt I made 23 years ago. I cut off the worn out borders and sewed a brand new binding all around it. It still is large enough to fit on our bed. That is a relief since I was concerned that it wouldn’t.

Loving ... sunshine today and warmer temperatures. In the 50s today...still cold for the end of April in NY...but considering that we had snow on the ground yesterday morning, I won’t complain!

Disliking ... that none of my children will be living home this summer (other than a few short weeks). We are truly entering the phase of being empty nesters.

Celebrating ... That each of my children are doing well and are growing up to be fine adults! Praise the Lord!

Feeling ... calm. I am not worried about anything lately. Content and happy.

Listening ... to an airplane flying over the town. I also can hear a few birds singing and a neighborhood dog barking. I am not bothered in the least by the barking dog. Dogs bark.

Wanting ... to take a significant vacation somewhere. I haven’t done much traveling at all and it’s would be nice to go somewhere special just to be able to experience something new and to say that I did.

Sunday, April 01, 2018

Evidence of Spring

Yesterday was a beautiful sunny day with blue skies. It got to be about 55°F out. Even so, I was feeling miserable. I woke up with a headache and little energy. I was sloughing along with coffee and a slow start to the day. I finally forced myself to go outside for a walk. I didn’t want to...but made myself. I’m so glad I did!

I decided to make it an “Evidence of Spring” walk. It is still very brown here in upstate NY...bare looking trees and a bit of snow still on the ground, but spring is on the way. I saw evidence and I took pictures. (Make sure to click on each picture so you can see it better.)








He has risen!

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Reading is Enriched with the Internet

As most of you probably have figured out, I am a reader. No surprise there since I have chosen librarianship as my profession. I constantly am reading and also listening to audiobooks. While I read, I quite often will pick up my iPad to look something up. I’ll be reading and something will strike my curiosity. Sometimes it is the mention of a place or a historic event. I have explored castle ruins and have strolled through the streets of small towns in Europe using Google Earth. I have googled historic names and events, sometimes to see if they really existed or happened....or to simply learn more.

Today I am reading a book called The Alice Network. It is a book about a young teenager named Charlotte (Charlie) who embarks on a daring journey to England just after the end of WWII to try to locate her beloved missing French cousin, Rose. Adding to the adventure is the fact that Charlie has a “little problem”...she is 3 months pregnant. She had originally been in England with her mother on a stopover enroute to Switzerland to take care of “it.” After ditching her mother to pursue her real purpose for arranging this stopover, Charlie goes to London to meet up with a woman who may know something about her missing cousin. Enter Eve Gardiner, who has a story of her own that takes place during WWI. The story commences by toggling between Charlie and Eve’s stories every other chapter.


So far, this story has prompted me to look up clothing styles of the 1940’s and 1914-1918, small towns in England and France, what a Lagonda LG6 looked like, and to find out more about the spy network mentioned in the book. Seriously, what did I do while reading before the existence of the Internet? The only negative is that it can slow reading down and the completion of a novel...but I think that’s a rather small trade off to learning so much!

Incidentally, this book has been made into a movie starring Reese Witherspoon. As soon as I’m done reading this, I am definitely seeing it.

Does anyone else enrich their reading experience using the Internet? It’s really great! I’m only on the 4th chapter and I can tell this is a great book. If you are looking for a great historical novel to read, consider picking this one up.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

K-k-k-Katie!


Here is Kate, the dachshund we had when we were kids. She was referred to in the last post. In front of the old stove was one of her favorite spots to be....that and right next to us if we were eating anything. She was a terrible beg! This was “her” rug. The picture is probably taken in the early 1980s, although it might have been earlier, judging from the old linoleum floor. I can’t remember what year Mom and Dad had carpet put in.

Those are my father’s boots there on the hearth...another familiar sight.

Thanks goes to my sister, Martha for contributing the picture.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Poor Old Friend


A few weeks ago, I was driving down a road that I had never driven down before and I did a double take when I saw this sitting in somebody’s front yard. I had to turn around to make sure I saw correctly. My heart sank when I saw a familiar  “face” looking back at me. He was rusty and neglected looking, and it broke my heart.


When I got home, I immediately sent the photo to both my sisters. I knew they would understand. I asked my older sister if she had pictures of the wood-burning stove we grew up with.  I was happy when she sent the following pictures.



I have such fond memories of warming myself by this old friend during my growing up years. I slept in a room that used to be the attic. While it was insulated, it had no heat run and used to get quite chilly. Sometimes I would run downstairs on a frosty morning and dress for the day in front of this old stove. After an afternoon of ice-skating, sledding, or simply romping in the snow, I would come into the house with frozen toes and fingers. I remember leaving my snow covered boots, hat, scarf and mittens...and even my skates on occasion, on its hearth to defrost. I would lay on the rug in front of it, stretch out my feet and rest my frozen toes on my friend's "chin." He never minded.


I wish I had a picture of our dachshund. I could almost always count on finding her roasting herself in the heat of the old stove...sometimes splayed out on her back...basking in the warmth. 

So when I saw one of my old friend's cousins...just sitting out in a front yard, exposed to the elements of time and weather, I couldn't help but feel some sadness. I'm also glad to say that my older sister, my niece, and my niece's husband and baby all live in the house where my old friend still resides. He's still safe and loved.