Prints and originals (when still available), can be purchased on Etsy here.
Prints and originals (when still available), can be purchased on Etsy here.
I’m watching how Superheroes are made. Mine is getting a care lesson from the ostomy nurse, gearing up for the next weeks of recovery, not flinching as she shows him how to care for his small intestine that is now protruding through his stomach.
There have been nights of pain so severe he nearly broke my hand as I held his but not one utterance of “why me?”. There has been only plans for the next day and acknowledgments that he – and we – are so lucky, that things could be so much worse. There’s been gratitude for the nurses and for Mom staying close and even concern that I am not resting enough.
So now I know how superheroes happen. They aren’t born, they’re made as they weather storms without letting the deluge force their gazes down or inward but instead keep focusing on hope on the horizon.
A little over a year and a half ago, Thing1 climbed a mountain, walking up the drive from our house about 2 in the afternoon and climbed five miles up the back of Mount Equinox that divides Sandgate from Manchester, VT. He circumnavigated land owned by Carthusian monks and negotiated a right of way with a bear that literally crossed his path on the way back. He watched as storms went by and took shelter for a few minutes as needed.
But he kept climbing.
Thing1 had been sick for almost a year. He told me later he had kept climbing because he needed that win. I know he kept climbing because, regardless of his fears or any obstacles that come his way, he is willing to keep going. He will keep moving forward, even if he has to go slowly.
He’s going slowly today. He’s stood up for a few minutes and then needed a two-hour nap to recover. The first time, I steadied him. The second time, he insisted I only spot him.
He’ll be standing again today. He’ll expend a mountain’s climb of energy to walk from his bed to the nurse’s station, but, even as I watch him wince as he works to inflate his lungs fully, I know he’ll be at the top. He’ll be walking down that mountain with a smile on his face, even if the sun has long set and he knows his mom is still worrying sick about him.
Because worrying is what moms may do, but climbing mountains is what kids are born to do.
In October, wanting to go back to school to train for something new, I took a long-heldout promotion and started working weekends.
Murphy’s Law still being the only functioning the law of the land decreed that my new weekends— Wednesday and Thursday–would be otherwise occupied, making school impossible. Most of my new weekends have been spent driving to hospitals, but as flu season winds down, I have been able to carve out at least one day on the weekend for re-creation, usually in the form of doodling.
Doodle time did not evolve into painting time until last Sunday when T2 and I went to a Paint and Sip. I haven’t played with acrylics since high school, and even though I’m more confident with watercolors, dipping a brush and a new medium with the spark again.
I haven’t forgotten how much I need to paint, but sometimes it’s easy to let the doldrums keep you from what you were meant to do. My doldrums were plastered under a layer of yellow acrylic last Sunday. When my Sunday kicked off this morning, paint — oil this time —was on the brain.
Oils are completely new and will require a more than little bit of homeschooling to get the hang of, but it’s all part of making something old new again and making the new weekends count.
And hey, I did want to go back to school.
I’ve kind of shied away from these events which, to me, seem to be more an excuse to drink wine then to paint, but the picture advertising last nights endeavor was different from so many had seen before, So I signed the two of us up.
I don’t dislike gatherings, but on personality tests, I generally score in the extreme introverted category. It took me 20 minutes to get comfortable enough to say hello to the teacher who seemed very nice and knowledgeable.
T2 who has a strong creative bent is, by contrast, a confirmed social butterfly. He took two minutes to get settled, get his paint and get talking to a couple that we had met through our favorite diner in Manchester, Vermont.
In the beginning I was mainly focused on trying to copy the painting, listening to instructions, and getting to know the new medium. The husband in the couple sitting across the table from us, however, was just as extroverted as T2, and the two of them kept the wife and me giggling as we all painted (Don’t worry T2 was drinking orange soda).
T2 was focused on his painting. He loves to draw, and when he got home he started copying the painting here just meet a few minutes earlier to see how he could improve it. In the hours at the café, however, art for him and for the other people at our table was seemingly as much a social experience as it was an academic one.
They had come with one expectation—to have fun, and we all did, and all remarking that next time the Big Guy must go along. The funny thing was that as I watched T2 redraw his composition on the first piece of notebook paper he could find when we got home, I realized that the fun was every bit as valuable to his education as if the painting and sipping had happened at the finest art school. The fun, after all, was what got him doing art and kept him working at it right up until bedtime.
A popular meme depicting T1’s generation as iPhone-addicted idiots found its way into my Facebook feed tonight among the countless photos of his peers peacefully marching and calling for an end to violence.
I’m a member of the generation that, defined by John Hughes movies and political disengagement, came of age with the MTV and PacMan. At our high school most of the focus for seniors was on the goals that would improve our own lives.
By contrast, this generation of high school seniors has engaged with the world (and they did inspire people around the world), starting the work towards their vision of a more positive future for their peers but also for the kids who will follow. They are indeed fixated, but technology seems to be the conduit for their passions, not the objects of it.
Remembering that the idea for the march was instigated by teenagers, it occurred to me that while my generation has been deriding the attention they lavish on smartphones and tablets, T1’s generation may have been using them to acquire and share ideas and make loftier plans than anyone has given them credit for.
Thanks to T1 and his girlfriend (thinking SuperGal will be her secret identity since she has demonstrated some superpowers which are fodder for future posts), I do hear about kids making plans for futures defined by civic engagement, so when I see memes mocking their cohort, I tend to roll my eyes. It’s not enough, though, to just ignore an inaccurate stereotype. Today’s marches made me rethink how I should be talking about this generation, beginning with talking about and to them with respect .
It’s been about two weeks since I made the decision to resurrect a creative routine. The decision was the result of a webinar hosted by a friend, but the fuel to keep it going beyond the first day or two came from an unwelcome source.
Saturday morning we rushed Thing1 to the emergency room because his chronic illness had generated an overnight weight loss of over 10 pounds. I knew he had not been feeling well for the last day or so, but most of his flareups have resolve themselves in a day or two.
This one is still playing out, as we continue with fluid replacement and hospital visits.
I’ve been trying to find a silver lining–acknowledging that the umpteen phone calls and emails and texts are signs that — unlike too many Americans — at least we have the resources to help him. Like any parent, however, my focus has been on the cloud over the lining.
I worry how long he will have access to the care he desperately needs. I worry for all the parents of children with chronic illness who don’t have adequate health coverage and wonder how they handle that impact on their child’s health or life.
And I paint. When I’m frustrated on T1’s behalf, I paint. When I get off the phone with the insurance company wondering if his treatment will be compromised by what they are willing to cover, I paint. The painted pages don’t express tears or shouting, they exist instead of those things.
Art has always been a therapy for me, channeling worry or depression into something productive. Inspiration is a dubious gift, however, and right now I am eagerly anticipating the moment that my new creative routine must be fueled by discipline instead.
Learning to draw on the iPad has been easier than I thought. It’s just different sensation from drawing on paper but no more different a sensation than painting.
I spent the first few weeks experimenting with the first page of a book I’ve been working on over the last six months. I still sense this new tool will ultimately speed up my workflow, but as I tried different variations, I’ve noticed an unpleasant quirk creeping back into my work.
In the past, whenever my creativity has felt stunted as it was during a very busy autumn, I’ve gone back to basics — a pocket sketchbook and a black pen. The pocket sketchbook reminds me that The only pressure is to get something down on the page. Indelible, ink ensures that corrections are impossible. Mistakes will happen, and the only thing you can do is to move forward. Freeing oneself from any expectation of perfection is like prying the lid off a mason jar filled with fireflies that have been waiting to get out all night. Suddenly you’re in the darkness. The results are irregular and uncontrolled and surprisingly beautiful.
Drawing on the iPad lets you correct mistakes; it lets you anticipate and try to prevent them. Being able to create images with a different layer for every section means being able to edit one section without accidentally disrupting another. It’s a wonderful safety net when digitizing a final version of a rough draft, but it does take some planning.
That detail is where the devil lurks. You focus on the final image, but instead of letting it flow organically, it’s easy to get caught up in figuring out the steps through the maze and even easier to begin worrying if the image is good enough. Could it be better if you removed this layer and replaced it with that?
I didn’t realize I’ve been doing just that until the second day of my kick starter when I wanted to copy a photo of Thing2 snuggled up with Jim-Bob. Deciding that tracing the photo would be too constricting because of changes I wanted to make, I started a rough sketch with the pencil tool. This is the point in my sketchbook, where I get lost in my subject. On the iPad, however, I was thinking about how I would do the next layer and what style it should be. As I began focusing on potential mistakes instead of just creating, my devilish inner critic stirred, and the firefly light flickered.
I started the second layer, determined to focus on progress, not perfection. The result was something new for me along with the recognition that discovering when not to use each tool in your art kit can the most important thing you’ll learn.
One of the facts of country life is that other critters live in the woods with your pets. Snoop, our fat black feline god of pleasure found out in August that fishers weren’t as easy to escape as bears, and we saw him no more.
We all mourned him – especially Thing2 who spends more time on the floor with the animals than anyone else in the family.
The house mice tried to feign sympathy, but there was no mourning period in the nooks and crannies behind the walls. We knew we needed a new mouser.
Thing1’s girlfriend’s (yes you read that right) family owns a few barn cats who, in addition to being excellent mousers were prolific breeders this summer. So a few Saturday ago after I got off work, we decided to see if any of the kittens could be coaxed into the slothful life of a housecat.
We had two semi-willing takers (bribed with a bit of catnip) and named them Lady Jane (because she was so grey and seemingly dainty) and Gentleman Jim who seems more like Jim-Bob now.
We got them home and Jim-Bob promptly swatted Katy-the-Wondering-Dog’s nose, confirming her opinion that cats are freaking crazy and making us wonder if a barn cat could be happy as a housecat.
It took them less than an hour to convert.
Jim-Bob unlocked the age-old wisdom of cats that tells them that humans are bad hunters but excellent servants and sampled every lap and couch. Jane — not sure if she or Katy would be the bigger wimp — held back a bit, waiting until bedtime to snuggle up with the human of her choice (Thing2 in this case).
There’s something magical about an animal that can live in the wild but still prefers to occupy the laps of very unmagical humans. I don’t know if it was magic or just the vibration from the purring, but it didn’t take us more than an hour to realize how much we had missed having cats, even if only for a month or two.