Friday, January 30, 2015

Seussical Fun and Drizzles


This post has some Seussical Fun, a bit of a Seuss Flashback Friday, and two different kinds of...um.... "drizzles"...

Drizzle 1
I love winter when it actually happens here. In this case, a long drizzly rain. Christian put this measuring cup out last night. It's still raining, but as of noontime today, that's how much it has filled up. Of course that means no progress is being done on construction of our house today, but I'm confident things will remain on schedule.

Seussical Fun
I love it when Mikelle puts an effort into church related activities! She's usually very reluctant. But this one was up her alley. New Beginnings (held annually every January) had a Dr. Seuss theme and a crazy sock contest.  Mikelle won! She was awarded a pink stuffed sock monkey.

I think there are up to four or five different pairs of socks there to ensure her victory!
I'm sad I'm not in Young Women...It would have been a blast working on the decorations and thematic elements for it. I love the Dr. Seuss designs and motifs. 

I also have two different Cat in the Hat costumes (well, one and a half...technically...but two of the hats for sure), two blue wigs for the Things 1 and 2 and the patches for the Thing 1 and 2 (though at the time, I just sprayed Christian's hair blue) I painted a long time ago for the kids Halloween costumes.  One of the football players at the high school I taught at a few years ago even wore my Cat in the Hat costume when the team went to read to kids at an elementary school.   
Fashionistas with the Seusstacular Socks! Smile Mikelle! It doesn't hurt!
That reminds me...I need to find the DVD "Dr. Seuss on the Loose"...It has a great cartoon of The Sneetches, The Zax and Green Eggs and Ham. We had it on VHS and watched it like crazy. But that tape has since bit the big one. I miss being able to watch it.  I found a DVD on Amazon for $30. That seems a little steep.

Seuss Flashback Friday
Our Dr. Seuss Halloween 2008. Mikelle was 8 and Christian was 4 1/2. 

I tried to get permission to wear my Cat and the Hat costume to work that day, but I taught for a district that didn't recognize the fun in dressing up on Halloween like we enjoyed as children (but even in the mid to late 90s in my early adulthood, I worked at a junior high where they dressed up...) 

Yeah, as the art teacher, I could have made that day so educational too.  There would have been Dr. Seuss books, a reading to go along with it and then an art project to match. :sigh: But that's in the past. I did incorporate Dr. Seuss into some lessons while I worked there. Just not on Halloween.
Ages 4 1/2 and 8
Drizzle 2
And now for the second "drizzle" in this entry. 

I have a question. Let's say your reluctant-with-potty-training 4 year old kid pee'd his pants in the car and some of it also got on his shirt. So you slip into a children's resale store to quickly procure replacement clothes (because stupid you only brought spare underwear).  You take less than 3 minutes to select the clothes (which is an amazing feat within itself since he has a tiny butt and most pants that are long enough fall right off his waist...) and you head over to check out and your wet-with-pee kid is standing right there with his obvious huge wet spot.  In case they didn't catch his big wet spot, you made it clear he pee'd his clothes and your goal is to replace the clothes so you can go about your errands.


So my question is....Is that really the time for the clerk to ask:

"Have your shopped with us before?"

 "Do you have one of our punch cards?"

"A rewards card?"

"I can look you up in the system...what's your last name or phone number?"

Trying not to come off too B-word like, I said, "Can you just take my money so I can change him out of the pee?!"

Geez. Is a simple transaction even possible anymore? Just wondering.

But I get it. There are requirements now in retail. Employees are supposed to ask such questions, even if the person standing there is completely ablaze and they're trying to buy a fire extinguisher.

Just like the simple days of dressing up at school on Halloween, I nostalgically think of the simpler days when you can hand someone your money and buy what you want. Boom. Done. 

The good news is, I believe we're making progress with this potty training thing. The biggest problem was Alexander wouldn't take the initiative.  Now he is doing that a lot more. Can we be diaper free in just a matter of weeks? Days? How great would that be? It was just weeks ago that I wondered if it would ever happen (I figured by the time he would be out of diapers, I would be in them). Now I see some hope.  

Until next time...

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Kids in Grocery Stores - aka Mortified in Mordor



I know it's practically cliche to complain about the tortuous experience of taking kids into a grocery store. 

But I swear Alexander takes it to a new level. 

I have to back up a bit to give this experience yesterday a little more context. 

Yeah, this is the time of year that we have a lot of, um...winter visitors. These are otherwise known as Snowbirds. So yeah, they clog up the roads. Anyone from Southern California, throughout Arizona eastward to the Gulf Coast and especially Florida knows exactly what I'm talking about. I am annoyed by them because they only live here in hell during the nice part of the year. They don't have to do the year-round sentence into the heated salt-mines like the rest of us poor saps. The snowbirds leave before the real crap begins. 

So yeah, I'm jealous of them. And when it is nice out, it's more crowded because of them. But then again - how is that different than say, tourists in Europe? Locals in Europe don't like how crowded it is during the warmer summers. So this local (moi) is rather normal to have my own crankiness about our wintertime norms. 

Because they're usually retired, these winter visitors are also older. Therefore, they tend to drive slower too. I know not all elderly people fit that stereotype, but it tends to work out that way. Or it feels like it does. And it's pretty crowded in the parking lot of the Wickenburg Safeway this time of year due to these part-time residents. 

Well, late in the evening it's not that crowded. That's because by then they had their early bird dinner at the Country Buffet and are already tucked in bed and their dentures are soaking. 

I know, I'm sounding like a real jerk. However, I'll be honest. If I could escape the summers too, I wouldn't mind annoying people here in January either.

ANYWAY...there is a point to this. 

Yesterday, between lunchtime and when it was time to pick up Christian from school, I was attempting to do some grocery shopping. Of course Alexander was with me. We innocently (at least I thought it would be innocent...silly) head down an aisle and there are four different carts with four or more elderly people disbursed along the aisle with those said carts. I didn't really think anything of it. 

But Alexander belts out, "Where did all these old people come from?!"

I am not kidding. 

At that second, I really hoped they all were hard of hearing. 
 
So embarrassing. 

A few minutes later and a few aisles over, a retired colleague (yes, retired! But at least he's a full-time resident, so I'll give him a pass...) of Chris's recognized me and we chatted. I don't know him too well, but at least I had an out to vent about what Alexander did a few aisles over. I think he asked Alexander if he thought he was old. Thankfully, X-man was too shy at that moment (but sadly not a few moments earlier!) to not belt out, "Yeah, you're old!" 

But the shopping trip did end on an upside. Either God threw me a bone to offset the carnival ride that is the boy He blessed me with four years ago, or I just got lucky. 







Is this face capable of such calamities? Yes. Yes it is.
The check-out lines were backed up (mostly for the reasons above I've already covered). I walk up with my full cart and my X-man. They open a new line and a lady (probably in her 50s...maybe early 60s) insists I go in the new line. 

I say, "No, you go...I have tons of stuff.  Plus, you were here first." 

She says, "Oh, get your skinny ass over there!"

You know, snowbirds aren't so bad!
I thanked her for the best compliment to make my Monday. Either that, or she heard Alexander insult everyone a few minutes earlier and she wanted to do her part to insist we exit the store faster. 

Anyway....Shifting gears...

It's not very often that I would give kudos to anything in a Fox News realm, but I will in this entry.

I have always liked Phoenix weather man (and eye candy... well, for a blonde anyway...) Cory McCloskey. I just don't watch him regularly. To be fair, I have pretty much stopped watching morning news altogether.
But today Cory handled a computer glitch with the sarcasm (click) and comedy (and without missing a beat) that I have always enjoyed.  

Wickenburg is supposed to be a smidge cooler than the valley...mostly night temps...but it turns out that isn't the case. 

And Mikelle googled the melting point of steel. Yeah, Cave Creek didn't escape it. But Wickenburg did...if anyone was left to notice...

But they should replay this weather report in August - it'll be much more accurate. 

 Until next time.... if we survive, that is! 

(By the way, the melting point of steel is 2,600 to 2,800 degrees F)

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Frozen Fire Slabs and Feet

Frozen Fire is the public title for this piece. I had been wondering how to title this work, but then I realized I needed to have my own working title, but then for the sake of listing the artwork, it needed it's own alternative title. Therefore, Frozen Fire it is. 

This seems to be as good of a place as any to list what I'm thankful for.

1. My crazy family. The small space we're in sure makes things interesting. And when we're in the car for more than an hour at a time? Even better. But there was a funny moment of "good crazy" last night when all three of them went through this whole ("I'm a Bear, etc...) bit... verbatim. (click) I'm sure if anyone outside of our crazy bubble witnessed that, they would have no idea what was going on. But it made perfect sense to us! lol 

Of course when the new house is done, it won't stop our crazy, but at least we'll have more space to exist within it.

2. The progress on our home. Pictures below show the concrete slab of the first level. Exciting!

3. Chris putting up with me. Friday night was a prime example of this. We were celebrating Valentines Day early because of the date of a show ("You Say Tomato, I Say Shut Up!") in Downtown Phoenix we wanted to see. Our dinner plans beforehand were ruined due to an accident on the freeway that ate up all our dinner time. Let's just say I didn't handle it well because I wanted the nice and relaxing dinner before the show. That wasn't to be. (I know, I was being a brat about silly First World problems....what about the people in the wreck? Probably more important!) And the traffic with the stupid detours because of the accident were not helping. And I was hungry. 

Then, it turned out I did not choose the best footwear for the walking the few blocks necessary from parking, to the theater, and then to the late dinner (but the shoes were perfect for the fashion ensemble!). A certain scene from Friends comes to mind. This was the only YouTube of it I could find. The scene is over after almost 3 minutes in.  Plus, Chandler's impatience is also quite relateable to what Chris had to put up with (though I can't get enough of "why don't you check my saddlebags while I chew on a bale of hay?!" lol)
Like Monica's boots, my footwear looked fabulous, but were not meant to walk the required measly 3-4 blocks. You know, walking barefoot in downtown Phoenix is underrated. Try it. It's not bad.
Adorable - but unfit for walking...!
3. Renters in our Queen Creek home. Maybe this is a premature post as nothing is official yet, but it looks as if we'll have new renters immediately after our current ones move out next month. Crossing our fingers!

Floor! Woo Hoo!
4. Good friends. After showing our new potential renters the house yesterday (Saturday), we hung out at Bruce and Liz's. They immediately asked us if we were staying over. We wouldn't be able to that time, as our ward (congregation start time) starts at 9am the following morning (don't get me started on that...we don't even share our building with any other wards...a 10am start time would be SOOO much better  and make much more sense!), but I was so grateful that they're the kind of friends that wouldn't mind if we did crash overnight again. It was sure tempting to do so considering we arrived back on this end of the world at midnight. 

I do hope I can host plenty of overnight crashers when our home is done!

A new week is upon us. Who knows...I might be able to start subbing for the local district this week.

Toodles.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Brick and Mortar

How do you build a house? One brick at a time.  

These latest photos are from Saturday morning (1/17). Again, Christian is in a few shots to give an idea of size.  Those bricks are at the ground level of the basement/first level. 

And yesterday we got to meet some of our future neighbors when their adorable dog ran onto our property. He was a happy friendly dog (a Welsh Spaniel or a mix of one?) and we took him back to his home which wasn't too far away. The new neighbors were happy to see him (his name was Hudson) and seemed excited to meet us and we told them where we were building and when we would *hopefully* be moving in.  I just hope they'll still be pleased about our presence when we are technically their neighbors.

The kids were sad we couldn't bring Hudson home with us. First, even if Hudson didn't already have a home, I can barely handle the life-forms I'm already responsible for in this time of transition. I'm not about to take on a new one.

It Must Be Love....
Considering only two more weeks from now we are graced with the end of football season (yay!), I would hope I would be paying attention to some Valentines Day themes. I finished these Love blocks this weekend and they're off to Texas.


And this is the piece (below) I mentioned briefly in my previous post. I do have a working name for it, but I'm not quite sure yet if that's the one I'm going to go with. 

I took a more traditional approach with the techniques in this one. In some ways the composition without as much intricacy made it easier. In other ways, it was more challenging because I'm having trouble leaving it alone...I want to start drawing all over it! But no... I'm calling it finished. Plus, there is symbolism there that I felt would get muddied if I took my usual approach.

I hope an official scan of the work puts it in a more favorable light as far as focus and the color than this simple snapshot. 

Until Next Time...









Saturday, January 17, 2015

This Journey

This Journey...2015
Thursday evening, from my bedroom I heard a commotion out in the family room. I called out, "What's going on out there?!" 

Christian replies, "Normal things...!"

I needed the laugh. Should I have checked on things? Sure. 

Did I? 

No. 

Speaking of Christian, the next morning, he received three awards for the second quarter. I showed up with Alexander and HOPED my iPad would keep X-man secure and stationary. No such luck. 

Christian, called up to receive his Honor Roll award
After Christian received the Honors Roll award (which to qualify means you have all As and Bs. Allow me to point out here, that he had all As and only one B. If that one B could have been an A, he'd be on the Principal's Honor Roll....Is he in trouble for that? No. But the B is also a low one. We're trying to figure out what the disparity is and why he has all As and one low B...), Alexander became more and more difficult (yelling OH! loudly when he got caught by monkeys for fell into a ravine playing Temple Run, for example...). Others sitting around us chuckled, but I wasn't finding it as humorous. He was disruptive.

I took a gamble and hoped the Honor Roll was Christian's only award and I relieved everyone of Alexander's presence and we left early. Well, that gamble didn't pay off. When I picked him up a couple of hours later, Christian informed me he received two more awards. He did know why I left (everyone could hear Alexander in the back), and I did make a point to come to the ceremony in the first place. It's just near impossible trying to sit through such events with Alexander. This would also be a good place to mention that Alexander still hasn't made it through a single Sacrament Meeting on Sundays.

This Journey Down Under
I completed the artwork for my customer in Australia (shown above). She had a few requests of what was to be included in it, but for the most part, I was to just do what I wanted. That was exciting, but I was also worried when I presented the finished work to her. I wasn't sure if it was exactly what she wanted, but she loved it. She also loved how the artwork would look on the wallet to accompany it.   

I titled the artwork This Journey. 

Outside of the wallet
Inside of the wallet
In the meantime, I have two block orders in progress, and a 2015 edition of a romantic piece in time for Valentines Day. However, I am using more traditional techniques with this piece. It didn't original set out to be that way, but I knew pretty quick that my usual stylization wouldn't quite make the impact that I had hoped.

More on that in the next post...

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

True Colors and the Kindness of Strangers

I love rain. I love the sound of rain. Especially in the winter. However, I have a strange frustration with it this time. 

When it rains, it means there is no progress being done at the construction site for the house. Still, when it's 1000 degrees this summer, I'll wish for days like this. We just better be wishing for it IN the new house!

Anyway, I spoke at church last Sunday. Yes, I used the same talk from when I spoke in Queen Creek last July. (And in the hallway afterwards, Mikelle was quick to loudly point that out...) Sure, it may sound lazy, but the real reason is I loved one of the stories/accounts within it.  I won't paste my whole talk - just the part leading up to the story and a few comments following it. It doesn't matter how many times I read the story, it chokes me up each time. And reading it aloud from the pulpit? I broke down at the same part at the end. 

(I wasn't able to find the original link to the story, but here is a re-print of it in Readers Digest as I slightly edited down my version in the interest of time...)

********** 
(beginning of talk excerpt) 

Essential to our personal faith and development is the unmistakable knowledge that our Father and our Savior want us to succeed. It it may not feel like that at time, but they do. 

Because of their love for us, they have given us resources to obtain comfort, direction, and strength for our journey home.

Bishop Davies (who is the Second Counselor in the Presiding Bishopric) also goes on to point out that is important to understand that blessings often accompany our challenges.

For example, those who suffer pain and afflictions are often better able to understand and have compassion and sympathy for others who similarly suffer.


Sometimes the blessings come from unexpected avenues, and lessons are to be learned about compassion, judgment and kindness that can go on for years.


One very poignant example of this is a story I read last year by Dana Reinhardt, a writer from Los Angeles. She recalls an experience from the early 1990s when she was in her early 20s. Her essay is titled: “The Kindness of Strangers”


She says:
 
I’m willing to go out on a limb here and guess that most stories of kindness do not begin with drug addicted celebrity bad boys.


Mine does.
 
His name is Robert Downey Jr.


It was at a garden party for the ACLU of Southern California where my stepmother was the executive director.


I was escorting my grandmother. There isn’t enough room in this essay to explain to you everything she was. I would need volumes, so for the sake of time I will tell you that she was beautiful even in her eighties, vain as the day is long, and whip smart, though her particular sort of intelligence did not encompass recognizing young celebrities.


Early 90s Robert Downey Jr...
I pointed out Robert Downey Jr. to her when he arrived, in a gorgeous cream-colored linen suit My grandmother shrugged, far more interested in piling her paper plate with various unidentifiable cheeses cut into cubes. After all, he wasn’t Carey Grant or Gregory Peck. What did she care?


The afternoon’s main honoree was Ron Kovic, whose story of his time in the Vietnam War that had left him confined to a wheelchair.


I mention the wheelchair because it played an unwitting role in what happened next.


Ron Kovic took the podium, and he was mesmerizing, and when it was all over we stood up to leave, and my grandmother tripped.


We’d been sitting in the front row (nepotism has its privileges) and when she tripped she fell smack into the wheelchair ramp that provided Ron Kovic with access to the stage. I didn’t know that wheelchair ramps have sharp edges, but they do, at least this one did, and it sliced her shin right open. 


The volume of blood was staggering.


I’d like to be able to tell you that I raced into action; that I quickly took control of the situation, tending to my grandmother and calling for the ambulance that was so obviously needed, but I didn’t. I sat down and put my head between my knees because I thought I was going to faint. Did I mention the blood?


Luckily, somebody did take control of the situation, and that person was Robert Downey Jr.


He ordered someone to call an ambulance. Another to bring a glass of water. Another to fetch a blanket. He took off his gorgeous linen jacket and he rolled up his sleeves and he grabbed hold of my grandmother’s leg, and then he took that jacket that I’d assumed he’d taken off only to it keep out of the way, and he tied it around her wound. I watched the cream colored linen turn scarlet with her blood.

He told her not to worry. He told her it would be alright. He knew, instinctively, how to speak to her, how to distract her, how to play to her vanity. He held onto her calf and he whistled. He told her how stunning her legs were.


She said to him, to my humiliation: “My granddaughter tells me you’re a famous actor but I’ve never heard of you.”


He stayed with her until the ambulance came and then he walked alongside the stretcher holding her hand and telling her she was breaking his heart by leaving the party so early, just as they were getting to know each other. He waved to her as they closed the doors.

Believe it or not, I hurried into the ambulance without saying a word. I was too embarrassed and too shy to thank him.


We all have things we wish we’d said. Moments we’d like to return to and do differently. Rarely do we get that chance to make up for those times that words failed us.

But I did. Many years later.


I should mention here that when Robert Downey Jr. was in prison for being a drug addict, I thought of writing to him. Of reminding him of that day when he was humanity personified. When he was the best of what we each can be. When he was the kindest of strangers.


But I didn’t.


Some fifteen years after that garden party, ten years after my grandmother had died and five since he’d been released from prison, I saw him in a restaurant.

I grew up in Los Angeles where celebrity sightings are commonplace and where I was raised to respect people’s privacy and never bother someone while they’re out having a meal, but on this day I decided to abandon the code, and my own shyness, and I approached his table.


I said to him, “I don’t have any idea if you remember this…” and I told him the story.
 
He remembered.


“I just wanted to thank you,” I said. “And I wanted to tell you that it was simply the kindest act I’ve ever witnessed.”


He stood up and he took both of my hands in his and he looked into my eyes and he said:

“You have absolutely no idea how much I needed to hear that today.”


I’m rather confident that when Robert Downey Jr helped Dana’s grandmother that day 20 years ago, he never expected or knew how the experience would in turn bless him some 2 decades later. But it clearly did, based on his response to Dana when she thanked him.


Sunday Doodle from 1/14/15
The Lord knows the end from the beginning. And in our personal search for support and assistance, there is one, even Jesus Christ, who can help us. He has offered his sweet counsel. “Come Unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden and I will give you rest.” “Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meet and lowly in heart; and ye shall find rest unto your souls.”


Does the Lord give us challenges in life that are intended to impede us? No. When we face test and trials, let us ask these questions:


“What can I learn from this experience?”
“How will this experience strengthen me and help me prepare for the future?”

(end of talk excerpt)
**********

Sure, I have a Robert Downey Jr bias (it is pretty obvious if you're one of the 5 people that read my blog and have been even remotely paying attention), but whether you are or aren't a fan of Robert Downey Jr, there's a man behind the Iron Man suit, and yes, his past is full of skeletons. But don't we all have skeletons? Despite our limitations and mistakes, our true character is there. RDJ's was certainly shown in the account above. 

Until next time...

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Short Update of Progress...

Here is a project that is in progress. Most of it is finished, but a wallet design is also to be part of it. 

This is more of a free-style project, though it is a custom order. I really hope it's what the customer wants when it is all said and done!

Along with this project, I have one set of blocks that are almost finished and one for Valentines Day that I need to begin.

Speaking of in progress, we have concrete! These were taken today. In one of the pictures, you can see Christian in order to give a better idea of size. 


 

It is an understatement to say we're excited!!

Until next time...