Monday, September 26, 2016

St. Basil's Cathedral

The third grade worked on a chalk pastel project using Saint Basil's Cathedral as the subject matter. I showed them pictures of the real cathedral and we discussed the history of the structure and even a little bit about Russia.  We talked about St. Basil as landmark of Moscow and how the structure has changed over the centuries.  Also, we took a short look at the unusual and fascinating character, St. Basil.  

 I found a coloring sheet from Crayola.  This served as a starting place to draw our own pictures.  We have drawn cityscapes in the past and so after we got our first building in place, they were able to easily continue the picture with more buildings.  By adding the onion tops, it gives the illusion that this is really a drawing of St. Basil's.    I asked them to rub the chalk into the blue construction paper.  They drew with oil pastels and then went back and refreshed the lines after they chalked.  Some of the students added shadows and highlights which really helps the pictures look more dimensional. 

They added stars or fireworks with oil pastel after they finished the buildings.  I love the bright bold colors that pop.  I often will hold up a picture and compliment a student on feature of their work.  I find that as one student has success, that it buoys the others on to trying to make their pictures better.


Sunday, September 25, 2016

Walking by the Water

Today my husband and I took a Sunday afternoon walk to part of a tributary of our local water supply.  It has a trail right by the waters edge that has been made and continues to be beaten down by those who like to fish. Today there was only one lone young man hunched down under the bridge with his fishing pole who did not seem to mind being out in the afternoon heat.  

It is a couple of miles from our house.  The temperatures are still pretty warm. We live out in the country where people are still prone to offer Southern hospitality. One woman who was out in her yard offered us water and ice.  Another man stopped and offered us a ride.  

 The sun beat down upon us most of the way  and I was pretty heated up by the time we reached the water's edge.  We walked up the trail until the road was out of sight.  I explored a bit and grabbed a few shots of some the little and big things that I found intriguing.  We rested in the shade sitting on some large tree roots, looking at the cows and listening to the bleating goats on the other side of the water.  So many things are right at our doorstep if we are willing to do just a little exploring. Come and enjoy a little nature and pretend that you went on the walk with us today.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Humility and Bent Cans

I frequent a discount grocery store.  It has bent cans and out of date foods.  It also has organic and specialty items that have been bought by the lot and are sold for a song.  I have loaded up on organic ghee,  coconut chips,  almond and coconut flours etc, etc.  It is always a treasure hunt if you can get past the disorder and all of the customers who fairly litter the isles gawking at the discounted peanut butter and the extra large cans of green beans. First time customers are often in a trance and do not realize that they have entered into some kind of retail twilight zone. I once scared a young Asian hipster who had invaded my personal space and seemed unable to perceive that he was going to have to contort his body around me to retrieve the blueberry flavored, vegan, gluten free, high protein but yet highly processed health bar that was probably already out of date.

 Often whole families shop together, including grandma, Uncle Billy Bob and all of their cousins twice removed.  I grow weary trying to maneuver my cart past group family discussions on how many cans of sardines they should purchase and whether they should buy two or three fifty pound bags of sugar for their moonshine business.   The store is a diverse mix of people and people groups.  Middle eastern, Ukrainian, and  the Southern redneck all freely intermingle among the dented cans of tomato sauce and the couscous with dried garlic.

People seem to come out of the woodwork to shop at this store.  The well educated wealthy and the poorest of poor can be found checking out the wares.  My husband and I were there recently and a young girl who appeared paralyzed was propped on one of the motorized carts.  A man walking alongside her  was operating the cart for her as he shopped.  She could not move her head and  her body was so stiffened I was actually afraid that she would fall off of the cart.  I have seen ancient looking older folks being pushed in wheel chairs, seemingly  unable to track that they still were alive. It is not super uncommon to see someone pitifully deformed.  Most trips I encounter at least one person on oxygen struggling to shop for themselves.

Some days I may grow weary in Bargains trying to fight my way down the aisles, but I am also encouraged. Life has taken many of these folks down hard paths and it shows on their faces. There is also a realness there that is sadly lacking sometimes even in church.  Many of the people have been broken by life and they exude a humility and sometimes a genuine joy.

Most of us try to blend in when we go out in public.  We try to conform somewhat to standards of dress and hygiene. We like to frequent places where we can find those of our own ilk. Most of us are not very comfortable seeing the young woman who has some kind of disease that has caused paralysis or the wrinkled toothless woman who appears to be barely keeping herself clothed and fed. We want to think that the dude dressed in the expensive name brand shirt and the normal weight woman carrying the monogrammed purse is really the norm. Those folks don't require anything from us including that uncomfortable thought that we too could be caught in some tragic situation or the equally uncomfortable thought that we really are to love our neighbor as our self.

I think if Jesus were on Earth today that he would go to the Bargains Food Store and hang out with the dull eyed teen girls trying to fit into clothes two sizes too small. He would treat  the skinny wrinkled divorced man who is struggling with a 50 year alcohol addiction with compassion and he would somehow encourage the weary pregnant mother who already has 3 constantly bickering little ones.

One day some of those so humbled by life may stand before our Savior as He bestows upon them a place of honor.

Then the host who invited both of you will come and tell you, ‘Give this man your seat.’ And in humiliation, you will have to take the last place. But when you are invited, go and sit in the last place, so that your host will come and tell you, ‘Friend, move up to a better place.’ Then you will be honored in front of everyone at the table with you. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”…

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Daddy Knew How to Shake the Dust Off

Daddy is on the left at the Taylor Mattress Factory
One of my favorite people to write about is my dad.  He wasn't your typical hero, in fact he could be rather a Nervous Nellie at times.  He grew up on the farm and it was a natural as breathing for him to do farm work, but our society changed and he had to change with it.  He only went to school through the 7th grade and based on his report cards, he was not a scholar.  Years after my elementary education training, it finally dawned on me that my dad probably suffered from some sort of learning disability that was not diagnosed. I base that on a plethora of little clues.  He struggled to follow directions and relied on his memory to get him places.  We were once totally lost in Atlanta because he was relying on his memory and the idea that the place we needed to go was close by.  As a teenager I read the directions and we were easily able to find our way.  He just couldn't grasp those simple directions.  He struggled with his reading but would painstakingly keep at it.

He was also institutionalized in a mental hospital for a short time as a young man in his twenties, until they discovered that he had a thyroid condition.  He suffered unimaginable horrors in a mental hospital in the 1930's.  He never talked about it, he just took his thyroid medicine for close to 70 years and took it all in stride.  The year after he married, my mom was struck by a drunken driver and came very close to death.  She was forever crippled, but Daddy took that in stride too.  He didn't abandon Mama because she would need care for the rest of her life.

He made his way in life in his own way.  He worked whatever job that he could find. He worked in a butcher's shop early on and then he worked at the Taylor Mattress Factory for years until they went out of business. He specially made a long skinny mattress and box springs for my oldest sister. To this day I have no idea how Mama had sheets for that strangely sized bed.   As a child, we had tons of Taylor Mattresses'.  Sometimes our beds would have two or more mattresses piled up for us to sleep on.   After years of dealing with all of those mattresses, Mama finally convinced Daddy to take them to the dump.  Another family, piled them onto their truck and the mattresses gained a new life and opportunity to provide a headache for some other mother.

After the mattress factory, he went to work in a bakery.  That job didn't last very long but I do remember him bringing big bags of crumbs that were scraped from the cake pans home.  He fed those to our chickens.  He occasionally would bring some kind of sweet treat home.  It was also the year that I had a real decorated bakery cake for my birthday.  It had a ceramic black cat for a topper.  My sister Gail also got one that year and hers
had a small plastic lamb on it.

He eventually found a job in the cotton mill.  He worked two shifts whenever he had the opportunity.  He started off on the second shift which meant he worked from 3 in the afternoon until 11 at night.  Some nights Mama would let us get up and wait for him to come in.  Gail and I would hide behind the refrigerator and jump out when he walked in through the back door.  I am sure he expected it and we were probably giggling from behind the refrigerator.  Eventually he found a lst shift job and worked there until he retired in his sixties.

 Daddy always wore khaki men's work pants and a buttoned shirt to work.  He wore old men's black dress wing tip dress shoes or work boots.  He  carried his lunch box that typically had four sandwiches, a can of Campbell's soup, peanut butter crackers, a piece of cake, and a thermos of tea.  I do not see how he got any work done.  Daddy never complained that he had to work, he was always happy that he had a job probably because he was eating all day.

Even after he retired he drove a van for  Rowan County Disabilities.  His sister Lorene knew Daddy struggled with directions and was prone to getting lost.  She was always anxious that he would lose one of the disabled people or drop them off in the wrong place.  As far as I know, none of the family members ever reported a lost person.

One of the perks of being the van driver was that he got to participate in new things.  Daddy was a simple country man who never was interested or had the time or money for many normal social activities.  It was hard not to smile when he would tell us how he took the blind people bowling. To this day, I have visuals of that in my head.   Daddy was pretty excited telling us how he got to bowl too.  Even though he was probably older than some of the clientele, he would always talk about taking the old people places.  They went  to see plays, to the circus and all kinds of other activities. That meant that Daddy got to participate in all of those activities as well.   He drove the van until his later seventies and his employer became a little nervous about Daddy's abilities to drive.  That was okay, through driving the van he was now well acquainted with Senior Center in China Grove, so he just drove himself there.  At the Senior Center he found himself a new girl friend named Irene and reconnected with some of the folks he knew as a boy.  My mama died in her fifties and Daddy spent the last twenty odd years of his life a widower.

If Daddy had been born today, he would have had an IEP at school.  Someone would have signed him up for disability and he would be in therapy, but Daddy took his hard knocks and made a life for himself.  In whatever situation he found himself in, he seemed to make the best of it and even saw some kind of advantage.

I am not against anyone receiving help, but maybe we have made too big of deal out of a lot of things.  Maybe more people would learn to be resourceful if we didn't jump too quickly to the rescue or act like every raw deal is a tragedy.  Every person's life can be characterized by many different types of tragedy, but we don't have to encourage a victim mentality.  We are all a lot tougher than we can imagine.  Perseverance is a lost art. Daddy didn't develop character because he was coddled and his own mama was a world class coddler.  He developed character because he just didn't give up and he didn't give in.  Most people in that generation were the same way.  Daddy just knew the fine art of shaking the dust off his feet and moving on.

Not only that, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out His love into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us.…

Asian Landscapes in 5th Grade

We have been working on Asian landscapes the last several weeks in 5th grade.  I started the lessons showing them pictures of Asian landscapes from a variety of artists.  These works were our guide pictures.  I introduced Chinese characters and they learned that this ancient language is read from right to left. I copied some words in Chinese and they used the words to create pithy descriptions of their pictures.  If they wanted different words, then we looked them up on the internet. The class used sharpie instead ink to create the Chinese characters.  We also discussed the use of seals on artistic Asian works.  It was too intense to create our own seals, so we cheated of course.  Using white oil pastels, they wrote the Chinese characters that looked most like the letters of their initials. On top of this we used a red ink stamp.  If the white oil pastel did not show through, then they went back over their Chinese initials again.  
Our core art lesson revolved around composition.  They were instructed to use the rule of thirds, to create uneven groupings and repeating objects, and to incorporate the idea that things  in the foreground appear bigger and things in the background appear smaller. They tried and I do see some of these elements in their pictures, but I believe it will be a process for them to learn to naturally do those things.  They really seemed to like the name seals and adding the Chinese characters.  One week we listened to Asian music during the class. One of our students originally lived in China and her parents adopted her and brought her to the US.  A couple of the students added her to their pictures.  

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Going to Town, Chocolate Ice Cream and the Windows of Heaven

I grew up in the country with blue skies, corn on the stalk and dirt under my feet. We would go to closest little town near us.  It had one main street with a speed limit of 20 miles per hour.   I don't even back up that slow. The town consisted of the roller mill, the FCX Feed and Seed, a savings and loan, two drug stores, Dr. Whitaker's office, the OK car lot, the bank, two laundromats and the A&P.   Mama never learned to drive and her health prevented her from doing a lot of normal activities. She tried to learn to drive but it just didn't click with her. I can remember Daddy taking Mama to practice driving over at the Lowder's long country driveway that wound its way past the fields and apple orchards.  I was unnerved by her lack of control even as a little girl in the back seat. Daddy was our chauffeur and the one who orchestrated our town activities.   Daddy was 44 when I was born but it never seemed to bother him even as he reached the end of his prime to take his little gaggle of girls into town with him even without Mama's help. We were completely at his mercy and completely dependent on him to take care of us.  I can remember being just a bit wide eyed with wonder even in our little town.  There were too many people and too many cars for me.  We had to cross the street  with cars barreling down on us at that accelerated 20 mph and walk over those scary grates that went over the rain culverts.

Town  meant groceries at the A&P, going to pay the power bill which Daddy called the "light bill" to his dying day and maybe a chocolate ice cream cone at Brown's Drug Store when all the errands had been done.  For years I thought Daddy was just trying to give us a treat, but I really think he just loved ice cream.  Adults are tricky like that.  We would come home sweaty from the ride with the windows down and sticky from the ice cream, but we were safe back at home where things made more sense to me.  Watching the corn grow is not super stressful.

Amazing how those memories can all come soaring back with all of the emotions of  that wide eyed little  country girl sporting a skinned knee, wind whipped tangled hair and badly cut bangs. The years have flown by and sometimes I am not really sure about all of this adult responsibility.  On the outside I can be pretty mouthy and tough because I learned that life requires a backbone, but on the inside I am still that little country girl who needs her daddy.

My earthly daddy is gone.  He passed away several years ago, but I have a heavenly Father.  He is a good Father who knows exactly what I need and every single day He opens up the sky and pours out manifold blessings on my life.  He watches over me when I sleep and He is busy working in my life doing things that I never would have believed were possible.  Most days my theology rests on two truths. He is good and He is great.

"The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.