Saturday, January 30, 2016

Cowboys and Chicken Hawks

Today was a beautiful day with the temperature as close to a perfect January temperature as one could hope for.  It has been in the sixties with blue skies.  My husband and I were out at a local gun club that is located out in the boonies.  It is a nice ride.  We pass a peach orchard, lots of farms, and surprisingly a number of churches on our way.  

I am learning as a blogger that it can be work.  I try to post frequently in order to keep content current.  I am almost a one man publication.  My husband edits my things when he has time and my son has taken some pictures for me.   I always have my eyes wide open looking for ideas to write about.

The Cowboy Club was out at the gun club having a shooting competition event today.  Because I blog and because I grow ever so bolder as I grow ever so older, I went over to the shooting bay where the cowboys were loading up their gear as they finished up their day.   I asked if I could take a few pictures.  Everyone was dressed in cowboy attire.  I asked about their organization and found out a few interesting facts.  They are a competitive shooting club that uses single action guns.  They want to preserve the history of the Old West.  Each member has to take on an alias of someone from the Old West.  They try to dress as close as they can to the way their alias would have dressed. In their competitions they use weapons that are comparable to the ones used in the Old West of the late 19th century.  I had no idea that this kind of club existed.  One man I spoke with said that there were doctors and lawyers mixed in with the fray of club of members, but out on the range they are on the same playing field.

I thought that was pretty cool.  It makes me think of the body of Christ.  We are all different and we have differing gifts and abilities, but we are all on equal footing before the cross.

We headed home and started winding down our Saturday.  Mister Chicken Hawk (possibly a Cooper's Hawk) was back scouting out a fresh chicken dinner from our little flock.  I shot him, but only with my camera.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Royalty, Penguins and Hearts

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The second grade drew and painted royal portraits.  This is supposed to be them, but I gave them great discretion.  I told them they could change their hair in way they wanted and their eye color.  We spent time talking about skin tones and melanin.  Then we examined our skin looking for different undertones in our skin.  We used this information to try and mix our skin tones.  For the most part, the tones turned out pretty close.  I am okay, with that because I think we make way too much about what shade we are.  We discussed the placement of facial features and natural hair lines.  For the whites of the eyes we added a small amount of blue added to the white paint. We added a pupil and a reflection in the eyes. I think if the eyes can be somewhat natural, that the other facial features can be ghastly but the portrait will still be fairly good.  I drew several types of crowns on the white board for them to use as a loose guide.  We also had a conversation about royal attire and colors.  I love how they turned out and I think that each portrait has a winsomeness.

These are hearts that the fourth grade did.  It is a simple project in some ways, but in other ways it takes an older student to understand the limitations and to execute the project independently.  I find that younger students often will become overwhelmed by too much choice in color or that they lack  perception in knowing when enough color has been added. We talked about the art of Jim Dine and "Pop Art".   Each heart could have up to four different colors.  They blended the oil pastels and then added jelly bean shapes around the hearts.  After that they water colored the whole picture.  I would be willing to frame and hang many things from my students in my own home.

Fourth grade also did the charcoal penguins.  This was a guided drawing.  I used the directions         from  Charcoal is messy but this projects only required a piece of charcoal for each student, an eraser and a piece of paper for each person.  Sometimes using minimal materials is a break for me.  I keep most of my supplies in a cabinet that is in another area.  I love not having to drag out a cart full of materials.  I am always surprised at how different the pictures turn out.  I am also falling in love with penguins.  I have done several different penguin projects in the last month and all the penguins in the projects just look comical and pleasant to me.

Lamenting in Mud Flats

Last year, my husband and I were working in the garage and I pulled out a big plastic container that had our old cathedral style family tent that we used for years.  It leaked, but over all it was in pretty good shape.  We stopped using it because of the leak and because we really don't need a big tent anymore.  We now use  a sleek little dome tent that is light weight and easy to lug to the camping area.

I am my father's child and I really struggle with getting rid of something that may be useful.  I pulled out the old family tent and took it to the back of our property where we have a place to make outdoor fires.  I put one of our tarps down on the ground and put the old tent up.  I then stretched a tarp over the top and tied it to the surrounding trees.

I had this idea forming in my head.  My husband loves to sleep outside and we both like to sit by a fire.  Why not make a semi permanent camping spot in our own woods?  I  named it Bird Song.  I found old pillows and retired comforters and threw them in the tent.  I took metal chairs down by the fire pit.  I was going to make this a kind of bohemian decorated paradise where I could watch birds from the tent and where we could sit outside in the evening and enjoy our little retreat in the woods.  I began to haul my mismatched junk down to the woods.  I hammered nails into the trees so that I could
hang some decorations.  I had dried out gourds, colored bottles, wind chimes, and lots of candle holders.  I found a small free standing shelf for the tent.  I got a little tea kettle to set on it.  I put baskets and even a set of wind chimes inside the tent.

It looked somewhat charming especially in the evenings as it turned dark.  Candle light hides lots of imperfections. We built some fires and then it turned too warm.  We would still go down to Bird Song and when the mosquitoes got too bad, we would get inside the tent.   It really was fun for awhile.  Summer wore on and it got hotter and we went less.  Finally, fall arrived and we were able to go back to Bird Song.  By this time we had quite a collection of wood debris that was piled up outside the tent. The tent itself was musty and neglected.  All of the blankets and pillows needed washing and some of the candles had melted into an indistinguishable mass from the summer heat.

We had one pretty good fire where we burnt some of that brush from around the property.  Then the rains started and the tarp got blown partially off the tent.  Everything in the tent got soaked. The rains kept coming and Bird Song turned into Mud Flats.

Our property has always had drainage issues, but it seems that three years ago we had so much rain to fall that we wouldn't have been surprised to have Noah pull up with an ark on his fifth wheel.  The back of the property has never been super dry since then.

It was probably not smart to even to attempt to make a camping area back there.  As long as the weather stayed warm and the rain was moderate, then everything seemed okay.  With the yearly season of varying temperature and precipitation,  Bird Song could not hold up to the strain.

That is the way it is for a lot of us in our lives.  We engage in some ideas that seem pretty appealing and for awhile life seems pretty good.  We take on the eat, drink and be merry part of the equation. But many times we have built our lives without a proper understanding of basic truths. Eventually, because we lack the right kind of foundation cracks will appear in our marriages, families, work relationships and many other areas.  Our philosophies and ensuing life choices do not have the proper staying power that can withstand the pressures that will inevitably happen in the different seasons of life.

Bird Song might would have worked except that it had a faulty foundation and well, it was  a bad location and  yeah, it was made completely out of a flimsy nylon fabric that was already leaking.  In other words, it was a pretty foolish idea.

The Sermon on the Mount teaches principals of basic living.  They are radical ideas that bump up against our egos and many of our own personal desires.  In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus was speaking words of truth and words of life.

Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. "And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock.…
But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand.

The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash."

Jesus plainly taught that His words would give a stability to our lives and ignoring His words would result in disaster.

The Bible is the only source of truth that I know.  I can say that in the areas and the ways that my life has been conformed to scripture, I have found stability.  First Letter of  Peter speaks of a confirming, establishing and a perfecting.  The Second Letter of Peter speaks of "a giving of everything that we need for life and godliness".  The gospels speak of a   "truth (that) will set you free."   The book of Romans speak of being filled with "joy and peace" and "overflowing with hope".  These descriptions are just hints at the kind of promises that are made to those who take seriously the words of the Bible.

 I am not going to trust in the words of politicians no matter their political affiliations. I am not going to decipher my moral views from the latest movie or sitcom. I am not going to take advice from that glossy parenting magazine or special interest group clamoring with statistics.

I have spent enough of my time trying to dig my life out of holes.  I wish I could say that in my personal life that I embraced the truths of scripture very early on.  What I embraced was the desire to escape the punishment of hell.  It has only been through years of proverbially butting my head against the wall, that has produced the understanding that scripture truly does have the answer to whatever my question might be.  I can't just know what it says, I must build my life on those truths.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Just a Little Bit of Art, "Prescription for Stress"

I am an art teacher in an elementary school.  I was always drawn to art even as a child. (pun intended) My favorite teacher  in school was my art teacher, Mrs. Overcash. She was in her thirties. A calm and plain person who gave  classroom instruction but then also gave us time to create our own art.  In her class I found my happy place and my own peeps.   Art class was the place that I could have spent my entire school day and would have been completely happy.

Several years ago I worked in a school with kids whose parents were impoverished.  Many of the children had been exposed to life dominating habits that no child should ever witness.  As a result there were many emotionally damaged children.  Children for the most part do not have the ability to cope with a constant stressful environment.  It will produce strange behaviors.  One day I watched two kindergarten girls work on an art project in their classroom.  These girls struggled with their behavior on a regular basis.  Their whole demeanor changed as they worked with the art project.  They did not misbehave at all while they created the flowers that they were working on.  It had a powerful impression on me.

I can only wonder if they were creating some beauty and order in a world that was often for them  chaotic and ugly?  I know that art therapy is used to help many people with anxiety, anger management, and post traumatic stress, but  I am a complete novice when it comes to the intricacies  art therapy.

I watch the kids in my own class now.  Many of them are often surprised that they can have success, but as they experience success they will get lost in what they are doing.  They groan when their regular classroom teacher comes to pick them up.  They do not want the art time to be over.

I enjoy my own art and have found that as an adult that art has the ability to let me lose myself for a period of time as well.  I think that this concept is why so many of the "sip and stroke" art classes are so popular.

Not everyone can manage to have art therapy and not everyone needs  a structured program, but I personally think that the majority of our culture needs to find some outlet for art.  Photography, sewing, flower arranging, and the decorating arts can be viable ways to be involved in art. I personally think the "sip and stroke" classes are fun, but not everyone is comfortable trying to paint in a large group or can afford the time or the money to attend classes on a regular basis.  You Tube has some excellent art instructional videos, for anyone wanting to improve their skills.  But if you want to see if art can be of help to you personally, then an easy peasy popular idea is the adult coloring books.  They do not take any real artistic know how.  One only needs colored pencils and a book. It is a fairly inexpensive way to add a little art therapy into your own world.  Who knows, it might provoke a new hobby and help to relieve a bit of stress in your world at the same time.

Finding Beautiful

We had snow on Friday and Saturday this past weekend. This is the South and we don't do snow.  If we do, it is only for recreational purposes.  We don't actually want to have it around more than a couple of days.  The weather here can be bitter bone chilling cold, but in in a few days it might be sunny and sixty.

The sun was back out and the temperature reached the mid 50's yesterday.  I work in the next county over and the private school where I work follows the county school schedule.  It is a large district and part of the area was still frozen over from the snow this weekend. I like these "snow days off" after the snow has already left.

By yesterday afternoon, the temperature was almost like a spring day. The cardinals were no longer foraging in the snow and ice.  This male cardinal hung out in our front oak tree for the longest time.

I had to go back to school today and was greeted by the sunrise as I drove to work. These verses came to mind as I had to join the working world once more.

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
    his mercies never come to an end;
 they are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.

So much of our world we can miss because we are busy or distracted or we just have tunnel vision.  All of these things that are in nature should draw us to the One who created them all.  I pass incredible beauty every single day.  I hope that I would never grow so hardened by the toil and struggle of this life to bypass and ignore all of the good that He gives us. As beautiful as all of the creation is, there is One who is more beautiful.  His name is Jesus!  
Enjoy a little Jeremy Camp.

Monday, January 25, 2016

The Hidden Art of Homemaking - Book Review

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For me, I want the people who have passed through my home to have had something of a foundation on which they can hopefully have a stable and purposeful life.  If I have failed at that, then no amount of other successes will ever buoy me along.

In my first years of marriage, I was somewhat lost as to what was expected of me.  I tried to emulate what others were doing around me.  But somewhere in the fray, my brain cells starting communicating with each other and I began to form my own philosophy of home.  I know the word "homemaker" has been bashed to the point that anyone who would use that title as a description of themselves, is considered a few DNA strands away from an amoeba in intellectual powers.

But for me "homemaker" carries an earthy yet intrinsic beauty.  It is a most powerful word. We like to think that the world of art and literature has the power to make culture. The real power of culture lies within the hand of anyone who would dare to make a home. We used to say "the hand that rocks the cradle, rules the world"! My friends, that is a crafty little piece of information that we should ne'er forget.

Somewhere in the not so  distant past, the women of the world believed the lie that the job of homemaking was of less importance than a "real job". (insert heavy sarcasm)  I have a money paying job outside of my home at this juncture in my life.  I am not against anyone having a career.  If we as women were fighting for the right to work outside of the home and have any career of our choice, should we have not also have been defending what we were already doing successfully inside the home.

A tentative look at the state of our society, makes me shudder.  There have been lots of AWOL homemakers.  This is not a game.  Everyone who is born into this world deserves to have a home, not just a house but an actual home.  That beautiful word, where we are loved and accepted but still cajoled to be more.  That place where we get our bearings and someone takes the time to help us gain a little insight into the craziness of life.  Home, a place of rest and also a place of growth.

For me, through trial and error I tried to figure out the things that would make for home.  I am still learning and still working on pursuing excellence in this area.  It is just my husband and myself at home now, but when anyone comes through our doors, I want them to know that they have now entered a home and that a homemaker is on duty to make their time in this establishment profitable for their mind, body, spirit and soul. The making of a home transcends monetary means, education or social status.

 Edith Schaeffer, the wife of the Christian theologian and  philosopher Francis Schaeffer wrote a book on this very subject, The Hidden Art of Homemaking.

Mrs. Schaeffer was born in China to missionary parents in 1914.  She married Francis in 1935 and in 1955 they established the international Christian community of L'Abri in Switzerland, where anyone can come who is seeking answers about the meaning of life and about Christianity.  It is one of  my lifelong desires to spend some time at L'Abri.  L'Abri is still a vibrant community with multiple locations on several continents.

 Mrs. Schaeffer was an intelligent woman who lived out a life of purpose and grace. She was the author of a number of compelling books.  Edith Schaeffer passed away in 2013, she was  almost 99.

In The Hidden Art of Homemaking, Mrs. Schaeffer wrote about the practicality of homemaking and she gives tips on how one makes a home.  Mrs. Schaeffer saw the purpose of creating beauty in the home through the simple, the natural, and the ornate.  She shared her practical  insight that she gained through making a home for her husband and her four children.   Her book includes chapters that address gardening, music, literature, food, creative arts, flower arrangements, raising children and more.  For someone starting out, this is a fine book to begin building your own ideas of what it means to be a homemaker.  To those who have been on the journey, it can affirm that you are on the right path or help alter the direction that you are taking.

We do not have to have cookie cutter homes.  We are not cookie cutter people. I do not have an agenda to push, but I do think we need to reconsider what we are doing about home.  Success for me is not measured in my money, fulfilled ambitions or status.  For me, I want the people who have passed through my home to have had something of a foundation on which they can hopefully have a stable and purposeful life.  If I have failed at that, then no amount of other successes will ever buoy me along.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Winter in the South

The power went out around eleven yesterday morning.  I lit some candles because it was so dark and overcast.  Mama's lamp sits on the old dresser by the thrift store silver plated candelabra that I rescued for a few bucks.

I made a pot of vegetable soup last night in anticipation of possible bad weather.  I put the dutch oven in the fire place to warm up and also some left over fish and potatoes in another pan.  The electricity was back on in several hours but it good to be able to warm your food without electricity if need be.

Maggie has been an excited dog out in the falling sleet and rain and a little mellow once she is back in the house.  Right now she is by my feet, her preferred place to be.
Thankful that my husband has a supply of wood cut.  We are working on cutting wood from our little bit of property to build some fires, mostly for aesthetics,  but sometimes out of necessity if the power is out.
Mister stone rabbit is content no matter the weather that falls on him.  I love the green rye grass that grows in the winter and is unaffected by snow, sleet, or ice.

Forlorn dried up okra pod in the garden.
Cardinals out in the backyard this morning feeding. Notice the little berry in his mouth. Yesterday was sleet and ice and today we awoke to a soft snow falling.