Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Different Points of View

Yesterday was the first day of classes for me. My husband stayed home with the kids since they don't go back to school until tommorrow. He also watched two other kids in the neighborhood as there are no camps this week for working parents to send their kids to before school starts. My 13 year old son greeted me when I got home. As I was walking up the driveway with him, I looked all around the yard and the front patio – and saw baseball bats, baseball gloves, baseballs, footballs, bikes laying on their sides, bike helmets, lacrosse rackets, scooters, etc. I turned to my son, sighed, and asked, “What do you suppose the neighbors think when they see this mess in front of our house?” He looked at me and said, without pause, “They think healthy active kids live here.”

He won that one.

Friday, September 4, 2009


Two weeks ago my husband and I took the two youngest kids white water rafting on a 5 mile Class 1 (the easiest) stretch of the Genesee River. This was designed for beginners – and there were families there with children much younger – and smaller – then ours! It was the first time for all of us – and we had a blast. In reflecting back on the experience, there was something about the excursion that I enjoyed just as much as the thrill of doing it. It was the teamwork needed to navigate the river.

Everyone who had signed up for this (about 40 people) had the choice of navigating their boat with or without a guide. I leaned over and whispered in my husband's ear that maybe we should opt for a guide in our boat. You know, since it was our first time and we had two kids with us and all. My husband gently whispers back "NO (insert swearword here) WAY!" So – if you opt out of having a guide in your boat then you need to appoint one person as the leader. This person sits in the back of the boat and tells everyone else what to do. My husband thought I’d be good in this role.

However, at my insistence, my husband was appointed the leader of our boat. I grew up in central New Jersey. I have no experience with boats in water. He grew up in the Finger Lakes region of New York. He has lots of experience with boats in water. It turns out I made the right call.

Everyone needed to work together to get through the spots where the water ran faster and rougher. Everyone also needed to listen to the boat leader – who had the more global perspective of maneuvering through the water from the back of the boat. It was these two factors – listening and working together - that made this event such a great learning experience for each of us.

My youngest daughter is a natural leader – only at age 10 she hasn’t yet refined this skill enough to add diplomacy to it. She had to learn not to be on the lookout for what her older brother might be doing wrong, that it wasn’t her role to correct him if she thought he was doing something wrong, and not to contradict the boat leader’s instructions if she disagreed with him. Simply put, she had to learn she couldn’t be the boss (or bossy – whatever fits).

My youngest son does not like to be told what to do. Nor does he like to be wrong in any way. He is 13. He had to learn to not be defensive when being told what to do. He also had to learn that just because he was being told to do one thing and then – quick – do something else instead (as in “paddle FORWARD – now BACK, HOLD!) didn’t mean he was doing something wrong - just do it.

This was an eye opening experience for me. I loved how we had to work as a team to negotiate the river – and had to depend on each other to do his or her part. I loved watching how my two youngest had to get over their desire to constantly annoy each other and instead work together. There was no time for arguing, no time for blame, no time to monitor who did more or what wasn’t fair. No arguing at all – just learning to work together.

I’ve always tried to work on teaching my children how to work as a team – but being kids and all – they are more interested in monitoring what the other one is doing. And reporting loudly about the unfairness of what each one got stuck doing. You can’t do that when your raft is stuck on a rock and you’ve all got to work together to get off the rock.

I saw my role as a parent in a whole different light. I also saw what I was missing. It isn't just about teaching your children how to navigate rivers on their own. It's also learning/knowing what baggage you need to get rid of in order to work together to accomplish a goal. I'm struggling to put this in words - but I do know that I need to provide more of these type of real life experiences to help them.


Monday, August 24, 2009

Daily Goals

The fall semester starts next week. As I prepare the goals for the classes I'm teaching this next semester, I started thinking about setting some personal goals of my own. One of the issues I've been examining for my next 50 years has been how to find balance in my life between my career, my family, and my self. So I came up with a set of daily goals for myself:

1. Write every day.
2. Draw every day.
3. Exercise every day.
4. Listen to music that I want to listen to every day.
5. Encourage my children every day.
6. Let my family know that I love them every day.
7. Do not work after 5:00 pm on weekdays.
8. Do not work on weekends.

I don't have any answers yet - but creating this list might get me on the right track. I'll work on why I have a tough time finding balance tomorrow.


Friday, August 21, 2009

Caramel Apples

My kids love to go to the grocery store with me. Why? Because they know that by distracting me they can get me to say yes to all kinds of goodies. They are masters at this. They also offer to help by going off on search missions for items on the list. They bring back the desired item and slip in extras. They know what snacks are my weakness and will also bring these back to the cart. I am defenseless against this type of tactic.

So tonight we had to go get something for dinner. I was determined to be strong. I said no to everything. I didn’t let anything slip past my eagle eye. Then they tried a new tactic. They asked permission. They actually asked me if we could make caramel apples. They actually asked! How could I resist!

So my daughter and I just took two caramel apples out of the oven and are waiting for them to cool. This is such a great snack! I might actually save those Pringles I stashed under my bed for another time.


Thursday, August 20, 2009

Booking Through Thursday: Recent Best

This weeks Booking Through Thursday posting asks what is the best book you've read recently. It would be The Help by Kathryn Stockett - which I just finished two days ago. This was our most recent book club selection - and I highly recommend it. The book examines how three courageous women from Jackson, Mississippi in 1962, rise above the roles they were born into during a time when our nation was struggling with segregation and racism.

It will soon be my turn for a book club selection and I still haven't decided what I'm going to pick. Any suggestions?


Sunday, August 16, 2009


One of the courses I developed teaches students how to write code for computer games on a cell phone. When we get to the part where you learn the code to move an animated character around the screen, one of the animation examples I use is a green zombie. When developing the example, I did a Google search for zombies and came across a blog that posed the following question:

You are backed into an alley by a pack of zombies. You have:

1. One weapon
2. One song blasting on the radio
3. One famous person to fight alongside you


1. A crowbar.
2. Bad Moon Rising by Creedence Clearwater Revival.
3. Buffy. I never got the whole Edward/Twilight attraction thing when the movie came out. When I saw this video, I knew I’d want Buffy by my side when the zombies attack. Buffy rules.

How about you?

Friday, August 14, 2009


So – I was putting some socks in my sock drawer today thinking I needed to get some more socks. As I tried to shove the clean socks in the drawer, poking in those socks that were sticking their little heads out the top of the drawer and gasping for air, I realized that I must already own about 100 socks.

There is a reason for this.

In 6th grade I only had one pair of socks that didn’t have holes in them. They were a pair of white polyester knee socks. We had a music teacher who taped a scale of piano keys (starting with C) on the floor at the front of the class. Each day she would call on a student to come up, take off their shoes, and stand on the first key in the scale. She would then call out a note and you would then move to step on the corresponding piano key.

I wore those white polyester knee socks to school every single day until my name was called to take my turn on those piano keys. To this day I can not identify the keys on a piano. My daughter – when she was 7 – tried to teach me but I was incapable of remembering. I am, however, prepared for the event that I may have to take my shoes off at any given moment.


Thursday, August 13, 2009

Recent Worst Books

Today’s Booking Through Thursday topic asks for the worst book you’ve read lately. I belong to two book clubs and most books I would list as the worst I’ve read would be book club selections. I like being exposed to books I might not normally choose – and some of my favorite books have been book club selections – but the same can be said for the worst.

Here are the most recent:

The Orientalist by Tom Reiss – This book was great for the historians and anthropologists in my book club. It was a tough read for the rest of us.

Eat Pray and Love by Elizabeth Gilbert – I couldn’t get past her narcissistic self-indulgence. Although I tip my hat to her ingenious idea.

Exposed: The Toxic Chemistry of Everyday Products by Mark Shapiro – Too redundant. Reading one article on the internet summed the entire book up quite succinctly.

The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory - Just didn't grab me.

Rather than end this with a list of the worst books I’ve read recently, here is a list of some of the best books I have read recently:

City of Thieves by David Benioff – A great and grim story.

Memoir From Antproof Case by Mark Helprin – Wonderful tale. Thrilling descriptions of flying a bomber plane. The main character loved his women fantastically.

Divisadero by Michael Ondaatje – A beautiful and poetic story.

She Got up off the Couch: And Other Heroic Acts from Mooreland, Indiana by Haven Kimmel – Joyful, tearful, and inspiring.


Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Women Swimmin' at Cayuga Lake

On Saturday I participated in a fundraising event called Women Swimmin’ for our local Hospice Care Center. After my oldest son’s death I went to grief counseling at the Hospice Center. I wanted to give something back so I decided to sign up for Women Swimmin’ this year. So on August 8th, along with almost 300 other women, I swam the width of Cayuga Lake. We had to raise a minimum of $125 to participate in this event. It was a 1.2 mile swim – with lots of kayakers along for support.

The swimmers were divided up into two waves. Each wave was divided up into pods of about 15 women each. A huge two story boat took one wave at a time from the dock at the Ithaca Yacht Club over to the shore at Ivy Point – on the other side of the lake. Each pod took turns jumping from the boat into the lake. Kayakers were there waiting for us and escorted us the 1.2 miles back as we swam.

I loved being a part of this community event. I can’t find the right words to describe how it felt to be one of the women who participated in this swim. It was exhilarating, emotional, and empowering. I was in the second wave of women and as we boarded the boat we were cheered on by all those who came to watch us swim. My mom and step-dad were there – as well as my husband and my two youngest children. When the boat left the dock, all the women on board let out huge cheers of joy. It brought tears to my eyes. We passed the first wave as they were swimming back – and many of them stopped in the water to cheer us on. It was amazing seeing these women bobbing in the water and waving to us! When the boat reached Ivy Point all the women on board let out another cheer of joy! There were about a hundred kayakers in the water waiting for us and they enthusiastically returned our cheers!

I was pretty confident I could do the swim – but it was also comforting to know that I could rest at any point by hanging on to the end of one of the kayaks escorting us. When I first leapt into the water I couldn’t see when I surfaced . I couldn’t figure out what happened – did I loose my goggles and my contacts? I immediately panicked – how would I be able to see to swim back? It took me about a minute to realize that I still had my goggles on – but they were filled up with water. I emptied the water out and tried to start swimming but I was still panicky. I couldn’t relax – and my goggles kept filling up with water. My pod was pulling away from me and calling for me to catch up. I started thinking that this was the most foolish thing I’d ever attempted – I didn’t eat enough to keep me strong. I already felt weak. My arms were already tired from struggling. What was I going to do?

I know this sounds silly – but I was so panicky that it took me about five minutes before I realized that my goggles were too loose! It finally occurred to me that all I had to do was make my way over to a kayaker for help. One had already spotted me struggling – and was making his way over to me. He asked if I was alright - so I asked him if I could come over for help. He tightened my goggles up for me, introduced himself (Jeff), and said he would stay with me for the duration of the swim. He must have pegged me for a hysterical swimmer (which I was at that point).

By this time my pod had long left me behind. I was alone. I just put my face in the water and swam. Jeff stayed to my right. There was a strong current that, along with the wind, pulling me to the right – but with Jeff on my right I stayed on course. I quickly learned not to fight the rolling waves and let my body roll over them as I swam. Once I started to swim, I swam the whole way without stopping to rest. I felt strong and was never out of breath. I stopped only once when I passed a marker to ask Jeff if it was the half-way point – which he confirmed. When I passed the ¾ marker I knew I was about a quarter mile out so I picked up my pace. I can’t describe how it felt to be coming in close to the dock and seeing everyone there cheering.

This wasn’t a race – but I did time myself to see how long it would take me. From my leap into the water until I climbed up onto the dock it took me 1 hour and 4 minutes. Given that I probably lost 10 minutes to my initial difficulties, I estimate I did the 1.2 miles in 54 minutes.

Allow me to strut a minute. I swam the width of Cayuga Lake without stopping. Two years ago I was 49 and never thought this kind of feat was achievable. I am now 51 and I swam 1.2 miles across Cayuga Lake without stopping.

::chin up, shoulders back, struts to and fro:: Oh yeah – I’m bad.


Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Cayuga Lake Triathlon - Post Race Report

This was my best race yet – and it rained the whole time! My overall time was 2 hours 21 minutes and 41 seconds. I finished 345th out of 359 – so I wasn’t last! I finished 17th out of 20 in my age group – so I didn’t place last here either! I also finished 175 out of 214 women. This race also included some of the worst pictures ever taken of me!

Swim: I didn’t even need to get used to the water. My only hesitation was to wait to let the pack of swimmers in my heat get ahead of me. I didn't think I'd be able to hold my own with the faster swimmers so my strategy was to let the pack go first. This was a mistake. It added about 3 minutes on to my swim time. In retrospect, I would have been fine in the midst of all the swimmers. I did the 750 meter swim in 24 minutes and 41 seconds – I swam the whole time and never once stopped to rest. I was very pleased with this swim.

T1: I am so happy with my transition time here! I peeled off that wetsuit and got my sneakers, socks, shirt, and shorts on in a whirlwind of 3 minutes and 56 seconds! This includes running from the water to the transition area! I knocked 5 minutes off my usual T1 time!

Bike: I had biked the course three times prior to the race – and each time I improved my time. The day of the race was my best time ever. The course starts out with a two mile hill with a 7% uphill grade. I think I could have done it even faster but the rain made the road very wet on the downhill. I went slower then I normally would have for the last two miles – but I’m just not experienced enough to go any faster then I did in the rain.

I am still very pleased with my 12 miles in 1 hour 12 minutes and 49 seconds.

T2: Another best for me! 1 minute and 10 seconds from bike to run!

Run: The run was my slowest event. I had trained really hard for both the swimming and biking - and as a result, I had let my training for the run lapse too much. It took me 39 minutes and 6 seconds to run the 5K. Much too slow. However, I ran with integrity – never once walked – and actually passed a few runners!

I am sad that this is the last triathlon of the season for me. I am already planning how to train better this year for faster times next year!

None of my family was able to be at this race – so I didn’t have anyone here to cheer me on. It was strange – and emotional - being by myself after I finished. Never in my life could I have ever imagined myself doing this kind of thing. I kept thinking how symbolic it was to wrap up the season going to the last race on my own. I started this journey of learning to run and swim as a personal accomplishment – and this milestone saw me celebrating my achievements alone. I was okay with that.


Saturday, August 1, 2009

Cayuga Lake Triathlon!

My last Triathlon of the season tomorrow! Can't sleep....

Wednesday, July 15, 2009


It’s been a few weeks since I’ve done Booking Through Thursday. I just love this topic!

“So here today I present to you an Unread Books Challenge. Give me the list or take a picture of all the books you have stacked on your bedside table, hidden under the bed or standing in your shelf – the books you have not read, but keep meaning to. The books that begin to weigh on your mind. The books that make you cover your ears in conversation and say, ‘No! Don’t give me another book to read! I can’t finish the ones I have!’ “

These are the books by my bedside – and some have been in this pile for many years. When I do finish one from this stack I replace it with a book from a whole other shelf containing “books on the queue!”

The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery: Since I read before falling asleep at night this bedside book is one that I’m actually reading right now.

New Orleans Morning by Julie Smith: I don’t usually read mysteries but this was about New Orleans and I couldn’t resist. I’m saving it for a light read – which I need occasionally.

Carved in Sand by Cathryn Jakobson Ramin: I heard the author interview on NPR and had to get it. It’s about all the different things you can do to enhance your memory. Once I remember to read it I’ll be all set.

Love Medicine by Louise Erdrich: I love Louise Erdrich.

Birds of America by Lorrie Moore: I try to keep up with a book club I used to belong to when I lived in Syracuse. I haven’t got to this one yet.

Zorba The Greek by Nikos Kazantzakis: I try to mix up my books with a classic now and then.

The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski: This one is for my vacation read.

The Reindeer People by Peirs Vitebsky: I saw this in a Daedalus flyer and had to have it.

We Were the Mulvaneys by Joyce Carol Oates: I enjoy her books. She’s lecturing in town this summer and I plan to go see her.

The Ghost Stories of Muriel Spark by Muriel Spark: Who couldn’t resist a book of ghost stories by the author of “The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie?”

Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson: I actually started this for book club but haven’t finished it yet.

Total Immersion by Terry Laughlin: This is a work in progress. It has changed my life.

A Shooting Star by Wallace Stegner: I love this author but haven’t gotten to this one yet.

An Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron: Just because I want to be an artist someday.

Pictures at an Exhibition by Sara Houghteling: My sister lent this to me and I’ve finished it. I like to keep books that I’ve finished by my bedside (before moving them to the "read" shelf!) so I can look at them for a while. Each time I look at a book I’ve read some excerpt will pop into my head.

Freddy and Fredericka by Mark Helprin: I just love this author too. I’m hoping to start this one soon.

The Lives They Left Behind by Penney and Stastny: I heard about this book in our local newspaper. The story haunted me so much that I had to have the book.

Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom: This was a “used book gift” one of my book clubs does during the winter holiday time from two years ago.

Vinegar Hill by A. Manette Ansay: Another “used book gift” from three years ago.

Klutz Juggling for the Complete Klutz by John Cassidy and B.C. Rimbeaux: Because someday I want to learn to juggle.

Collected Works of Ralph Waldo Emerson: There is an essay in here that my husband recommended I read.


Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Better DFL then DNF

Oh – it’s been too long since I’ve posted – and I want to post about my last race. I did not finish last!

The triathlon took place in one of the most beautiful lakes I’ve ever seen. Green Lakes State Park has two meromictic lakes – one of which the swim portion of the triathlon took place in. A meromictic lake is a lake that does not turn over in spring or fall – therefore the upper and lower layers do not mix. As a result, the two lakes are a beautiful turquoise green. There are only 7 of these types of lakes in the United States – of which 6 are naturally occurring.

There were 20 competitors in the Empire State Senior Games and I placed 17th with a time of 2 hours 12 minutes 21 seconds. We were the last heat in the swim (we were tagged onto the end of the Syracuse YMCA Triathlon). I spent a few minutes getting used to the water and getting comfortable with front crawl breathing before the gun went off.

I have to say – the swim part of this race was a bit tough. It was early in the year so I didn’t get much lake swim time in the weeks prior to the race. While I had no problem with the distance in a pool – I found it tough in the lake this time. My arms got tired and I had to side kick more than I’d have liked to simply due to fatigue. It is tough to get lake swim time in CNY before June 20th – many of the lakes nearby are simply too cold even for a wetsuit. However, I still had a reasonably well swim time – and was happy to come in 16th at 19 minutes 11 seconds.

Here I am coming out of the water and taking off my cap.

I was ready for the bike part – had spent time both in spinning class developing strength and time on the road getting better at shifting gears and doing hills. This course had a lot of up and down hills. There were two very long up-hill sections where participants were getting off of their bikes and walking them up the hill. I was determined not to do this – and there were times when I was biking slower than some were walking. Now that I know what to expect from this part of the course I will be better prepared to deal with short, steep up and down hill climbs. I did the bike in 1 hour 7 minutes 59 seconds – putting me at 19th out of 20 for this portion.

Starting out on the bike.

I may look casual here – but in reality I was frantically looking for the start of the bike race!

The run was still tough for me. I have to start doing some interval and pace training to improve my speed here. I was also tired at this point. My time for the 5K was 37 minutes and 18 seconds – placing me at 17th in this category. There was this one unbelievably steep hill in the run – with three wonderful cheerleaders at the top who cheered and encouraged me all the way to the top!

I just crack up at this picture of me running! I really look like I’m dragging my butt to the finish line here! Yes I was tired – but my posture wasn’t quite that bad at the finish. Something about that angle and the color blocks on my shirt make me look like I’m really hunched over!

I think I can knock about 25 minutes off my time for next year – which might actually enable me to place in my age bracket! I need to strengthen my arms for the lake swim, work on a quicker swim to run transition, and run more prior to the race next year. A racing bike would also give me a tremendous improvement in my biking time.

Here’s Coach John trying to look tough as he delivers the “Go get ‘em” speech!


Saturday, June 20, 2009

Empire State Senior Games

I'm heading out for my second triathlon of the season. The New York State Senior Games! Am I nervous? You betcha!


Thursday, June 11, 2009

Niche Books

I’ve just discovered a blog devoted to books and I am completely smitten with this site (I just love that word – smitten!)! The blog is called Booking Through Thursday and it posts a weekly question about books. This week’s posting is related to niche books:

“There are certain types of books that I more or less assume all readers read. (Novels, for example.)

But then there are books that only YOU read. Instructional manuals for fly-fishing. How-to books for spinning yarn. How to cook the perfect souffle. Rebuilding car engines in three easy steps. Dog training for dummies. Rewiring your house without electrocuting yourself. Tips on how to build a NASCAR course in your backyard. Stuff like that.

What niche books do YOU read?”

What a great question! I love books about Art. I have several categories of Art books – on techniques (drawing, painting, and clay), works by artists, and biographies of artists. Most recently I am studying A Drawing Manual by Thomas Eakins and Cedric Emanuel’s Canberra Sketchbook – both of which I’ve picked up at a used book sale that occurs twice a year here in Ithaca. My most favorite book that I refer back to time and time again is The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It For Life by Twyla Tharp. I’ve blogged about this book in the past.

I also love gardening books. The two I’m referencing most right now are Labyrinths by Virginia Westbury and Gardens of New Orleans by Douglas and Hardy. I have hopes to convert my backyard into one that has an NO look and feel to it – a wrought iron backdrop with a foreground consisting of decadent shades of viridian and orange – and a large labyrinth of stone to walk when seeking peace.

I’m going to try to participate in BTT each Thursday. What are your niche books?

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Note To Self

I will not acquire any more effin' pets that require aquariums, large amounts of water, filters, pumps, heating elements, UV lights, warming rocks, bedding of any kind, or water bottles.

No pets that poop in a cage.

No cute little bunnies, cool turtles, nifty tadpoles that morph to fantastic frogs, caterpillars that become butterflies, entertaining hermit crabs, bearded dragons, lizards, salamanders, fish, baby ducks, geese or chickens. No birds. Even if they sing.

Note to those who live with me: Intervention may be required.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

First Triathlon of the year: Aftermath

I'm home in time for Sunday Breakfast! The rest of my family went out for breakfast while I did the biking portion of the triathlon. But I hate to miss my bacon and egg Sunday breakfast - so I cooked it for myself when I got home from the race.

This year's YMCA triathlon was much more difficult for me than last year's race. I was much better prepared - and in much better shape - last year.

This year I got really sick about two months before the race. I came down with a sinus infection with a fever that lasted 5 days. Then I developed bronchitis. I was unable to train for about 4 weeks - and then I was so winded as I tried to swim or run.

I almost didn't do the race. My husband encouraged me to try anyway - that it didn't matter how long it took me - that finishing in itself is an accomplishment - not how quickly you do it.

So I did it. And I finished. I might have come in last again this year - but I finished. And it was really tough.

The swim was good - it was a short 9 laps. (I can't believe I just wrote that! Last year this time I was just able to do the 9 laps and had just learned to breath properly.)

The biking was tough at first - my thighs would scream at me up each hill. However, I got in a rhythm about 3 miles in (15 miles total) and my legs just kept pumpin' away.

The run was really tough! It was 4.7 miles of sheer determination to finish. My legs were like rubber at first, then they turned to lead.

The credit for finishing really goes to those I love.

J - my husband - for encouraging and supporting me every step of the way. I kept hearing him say to me - what are your goals?

DJ - my oldest son who taught me to keep going no matter what you are faced with. He never let his disabilities get in the way of his joy for life.

E - my oldest daughter whose recent trek to New Zealand inspired me to keep taking one more step. I can always do one more step.

A - my youngest son who has true athletic ability. I had to have something to do with that, didn't I? Say yes!

M - my youngest daughter who has sheer determination and true grit. This little girl has an amazing ability to pick herself back up after a fall and keep going.

Okay - I know I'm getting all sentimental and gushy. I am allowed to do that today.


First Triathlon of the year: YMCA

I'm off to my first triathlon of the year.


Thursday, April 30, 2009

My own literary diversity

I love books. I love the opportunity to talk about books. I came across a series of questions designed to identify whether or not one's reading is diverse from a blog, Alone With Each Other, that I occasionally drop in on. Many of the books listed below were selections from book clubs I’ve been in or am currently in. However, in many cases I've enjoyed the author's writing so much that I continued to read other books by those same authors.

So when I came across this list of questions in another blog, I couldn’t resist posting my own here – and added the books I listen to on tape (I have an 85 minute commute):

Name the last book by a female author that you've read.

Audio: Gosh, most of my recent audio books have been by women! To Kill a Mocking Bird by Harper Lee; Monsters of Templeton by Lauren Groff; Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte; Paint it Black by Janet Fitch. I’ve listened to all of these from September 2008 up to two weeks ago – when I finished To Kill a Mocking Bird.

Every one of these books was a wonderful experience to listen to.

Books: The Lace Reader by Brunonia Barry (January 2009); The Daily Coyote by Shreve Stockton (December 2008). I tend to read more books by women. It’s not a deliberate choice – I just seem to be drawn in more by the story.

Name the last book by an African or African-American author that you've read.

Audio: Always Outnumbered, Always Outgunned, Walking the Dog, Devil in a Blue Dress all by Walter Mosley (Fall 2006); The Number 1 Ladies Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith (February 2007)

Books: One of my favorite authors is both African-American and a woman. I love Zora Neale Hurston’s writing. I was first introduced to her through a book club pick – Their Eyes Were Watching God (August 2006). I loved her writing so much that I later picked up Seraph on the Suwannee (October 2007). I’ve also read and enjoyed The Known World by Edward P. Jones (May 2005), and Tears of the Giraffe by Alexander McCall Smith (June 2007).

Name one from a Latino/a author.

Audio: Zorro by Isabel Allende (December 2006)

Books: Another easy one for me. Isabelle Allende is another one of my favorite authors. I started with her book The House of Spirits (another book club selection August 2003). This one is on my list to read again. I was so thrilled with her writing I went on to read Daughter of Fortune (May 2006) and Portrait in Sepia (April 2008).

How about one from an Asian country or Asian-American?

Audio: The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck.

Books: I just finished reading SnowFlower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See. It was last months book club selection. One book that I have read by choice was A Good Scent From a Strange Mountain by Robert Olen Butler. This is a compilation of short stories about Vietnamese immigrants in New Orleans. Vietnamese immigrants in New Orleans? Who could resist that? I read this book in July of 2006 and I am still haunted by images from some of the stories within. From Spring of 1995 to 2001 I read a lot by Amy Tan.

What about a GLBT writer?

Well – I didn’t know what GLBT meant. And I live in Ithaca. And I couldn’t even make a guess based on the blog I found these questions in. So I googled GLBT and found it stands for Gay Lesbian Bi-Sexual Trans-Gender. Okay – but I still didn’t know of any authors I read that fit into this category – until I found a list of GLBT authors.

Books: Willa Cather. I love her writing and have been working my way through all of her novels since I first read My Antonia in October of 1999. Another book I still think about and want to read again is The Country of the Pointed Firs (August 2004) by Sarah Orne Jewet. Like Cather, Jewet is a master at creating vivid descriptions of the setting her novels take place in. Other authors include, but are not limited to, David Sedaris, Anais Nin, Virginia Woolf, William Carlos Williams. Tennessee Williams, Truman Capote, Edna St. Vincent Millay, and Gregory Maguire.

Lastly, there is another blog I follow, You Would Think. I love the author's writing style and point of view on life and am eagerly awaiting to read her first published work.

Why not name an Israeli/Arab/Turk/Persian writer, if you're feeling lucky?

I read Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Fafisi in Spring of 2005. Middle East novels seem to be a popular theme with both the book clubs I’m currently in – and I’m beginning to feel like I’ve been reading the same story (albeit well-written) too many times. In the past year alone I’ve read The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khalid Hosseini, The Space Between Us by Thrity Umrigar

Any other "marginalized" authors you've read lately?

Books: If Native American is considered marginalized, then I’d include Louise Erdrich. I read The Master Butcher’s Singing Club in July of 2002, The Painted Drum in September of 2006, and have her Love Medicine in the queue.

Your turn....


Feeling Overwhelmed

It’s been a long while since I last posted. There are several reasons for this.

First, I’d been experiencing a feeling of overwhelming doom that started after my oldest son died that just kept getting worse. I’m learning that this is a common symptom of grief. I’m starting to feel better. It was gradual – where I’d have a day or two each week where I didn’t feel that way. The past month or so has been much better.

The other reason is because this semester has been an extremely busy one for me. I was asked to serve as Interim Chair of our department while our Chair was on sabbatical. In addition, I kept my normal course load because we needed the extra money. I’ve had very little time for anything extraneous.

I’ve turned the corner on my work load and am managing my grief better – so I’m ready to return to the things I love. Spending more time with my family, my artwork, and my new blog.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

My first goal for my next 50

When I moved to Ithaca in August of 2006, one of the first things I noticed was how many runners there were here. I was not particularly athletic and I was also overweight. I thought I might give this running thing a try. My very first attempt was that fall – under cover of night. I didn’t want anyone to see me run.

Night 1: The sun sets. It is pitch black outside. I talk my two youngest kids into going with me. I start running down the street and the first thing that happens is I wet my pants. I go home humiliated. Remember – I have had four children.

Night 2: The sun sets. I try again – better prepared. I talk my two youngest children into running with me (they were 8 and 10 at the time). I run down the street – which is all downhill. I go about 1/8 of a mile and turn around. I now have to run uphill. As I’m huffing and puffing up the hill, my children are skipping sideways along side of me. It is also garbage night – so they run off to inspect everyone’s garbage and run back to me – chattering away. I cannot answer them.

Night 3: There is no more running.

Night 4: I take up Tai Chi.

My next attempt at running was in May of 2007 – I decided to try running a quarter of a mile on a trail by our house. It was tough! I was out of breath and I wanted to quit - but I made myself finish. I thought I’d try again the next day. After about two weeks, when I realized that it was getting easier, I decided to make a little rule: I had to add a bit of distance on to each run – or - run at least as far as I did in the previous run. By the end of the summer I found I could run almost 3 miles. When I realized I was almost running the same distance as a 5K race – and there were certainly a lot of 5K races around this town - I decided to sign up for one that September.

My first race - for the ASPCA

I was so nervous – I couldn’t sleep the night before the race! I came in third to the last – I beat the two walkers. But I finished!!!

So I tried another race a month later!

Finishing hard!

I was also turning 50 that fall and had been thinking about setting some goals for my next 50 years. I thought that if I could learn to run then maybe I could learn to swim. I started my first swimming class at the local YMCA in the fall of 2007. I just kept taking their swimming class over and over again all winter until I learned how to front crawl. Then I learned about a triathlon that the Y holds each May. I thought that if I could be comfortable with the breathing – and be able to swim 8 laps in 15 minutes – then maybe I could do the triathlon. I started practicing swimming twice a week (in addition to continuing with the swimming class) to become comfortable with the breathing and make the time requirement. I started running further so I could run the 5 miles. I knew how to ride a bike but had barely ridden on one in 20 or more years. So as soon as the winter weather subsided, I started bike riding. I ran, swam, and biked all through March and April of 2008.

On May 4th, 2008 I raced my first triathlon! I came in last – but I finished!!!

Then I started looking at what could be next. Triathlons with lake swimming. Half mile distances in lakes. I needed a lot of work to be able to swim a half of a mile in a lake. The Finger Lakes Tri was on September 21st at Canandaigua Lake. I practiced swimming all summer. I practiced biking all summer (well – not as much as I should have!). I started running longer distances. I ran 5 mile distances two mornings during the week and 5 to 9 mile distances on Sundays. This race also offered a triathlon for kids - so I signed both of my children up (ages 10 and 12 at that time).

The morning of September 21st found me in a wetsuit in Canandaigua Lake waiting for the gun. The swim was the scariest thing I’ve ever done. I fought panic for about 3/4’s of the swim. But I did it – and finished last in this race too! My children had a great time too! It was so cool to have them be a part of this journey!

Coming in last place at the Finger Lakes Tri

I had the support of my husband, my children, and two of my neighbors (who have since become my very good friends) – and could not have done any of this without any of them.

My husband provided me with both emotional and motivational support from that first day I decided to try running. My children were very concerned about me running alone in the early mornings. All that summer they would get up with me no matter how early it was – and my son would run by my side while my daughter would ride her bike.

My two neighbors were the runners who inspired me to run in the first place. I couldn’t let anyone see me run in the beginning – so for a long time I wouldn’t run when these two neighbors were out running for fear of letting them see how slow I was. I did finally I overcome that fear and started running with them. These two incredible women – Brenda and Cindy - provided me with a lot of advice and support.

Brenda is a marathon runner and during her early training we ran many mornings together before the sun came up. It is because of her encouragement that I started running distances greater than 5 miles. She gave me a training program to follow and taught me how to interval train. She ran by my side for my second 5K (The Zeppy Run) when she could have easily left me in the dust. Brenda counted my swimming laps for me at the YMCA Tri and again ran by my side during the run part of it. When I got home from the race I found a gift from her on my front porch – a recovery drink and a bottle of wine!

Cindy is a runner and a swimmer. She gave me a lot of advice about how to get the hang of this breathing thing when I was learning to front crawl! She is also a registered sports dietician - and gave me nutritional advice to keep me strong and healthy and to help me maintain the endurance I needed during the races. Cindy also ran the first 5K that I ran, and helped to ease the nervousness I felt. Since I had never run a race before I did not know what to expect and she assured me I would be able to finish.
I talked Cindy into doing the YMCA triathlon too! She and I did a lot of training for that together. The YMCA was also her first triathlon – and she shared all my angst and nervousness regarding the magnitude of what we’d gotten ourselves into! On the morning of the YMCA-Tri Cindy made sure I had my sports drink, water, gel packs. Check, check, check, I said. Then she scotch-taped two red licorice twizzlers to my bike handles. I loved that – two red twizzlers! She also did the Finger Lakes Triathlon with me and her son participated in the Kids Tri with my two children.

Oh – I almost forgot! I’ve lost 30 pounds since the day I started to run! 15 more to go!

I owe my success to these two amazing women, my children, and my husband. I still think back to those first few weeks after moving here and seeing my two neighbors going out for a run…. and marvel at the chain of events that has transpired since then.

Me, Brenda, and Cindy

Saturday, January 24, 2009


I’ve been thinking about my last posting and it occurred to me that there is a strong correlation between what I have described about each of my children as toddlers and what they seem to most need from me as their mother. This may have been obvious to someone else – but I really didn’t see it until I went and re-read what I had written – and then mulled it over for a week or two.

Starting with my youngest – M – it is strength I can give her. My little tiger. She has great inner strength.

Then my youngest son A. For him it is comfort. He is affectionate, loving, and supportive.

E, my oldest daughter. I will always be here for her when she needs me. I will do my best to be the calm port in a stormy sea for her.

I didn’t write about my oldest son, DJ, in my last post. I will write about him, but right now it is too painful. He was born with a rare seizure disorder that doctors were never able to get under control. He was mentally retarded, had mild cerebral palsy, neurological impairments that prevented him from speaking clearly, and poor fine motor skills.

For DJ it is different. He taught me. He taught me about unconditional love, about my own inner strength, and about compassion for others. He made me aware of these things and more – and his presence in my life made me a better person, and a better parent.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Tattoos, Tiger Stripes, Band-aids, and Little White Boots

I love tattoos. I have none. I want one. I am afraid.

My oldest daughter, E, recently got a tattoo to commemorate the life of her oldest brother.

My son was buried in a beautiful old cemetery surrounded by gates of wrought iron and walls made of a stone native to this area and quarried locally. There are paths throughout the cemetery that wind around small hills and gnarled trees. DJ is buried in a beautiful place underneath a Linden tree with a row of tall pines as a backdrop. On the day he was buried E took some of the leaves from the Linden tree to design her tattoo from. I love the design so much that I thought I’d post a picture of it here.

This isn’t E’s first tattoo. I’m not sure how many she has now – but I can recall two others. Her first tattoo is one of Tinkerbelle on her hip. She refers to it as her “I’m eighteen and I can do whatever I want now” tattoo. She asked a friend “What should I get for a tattoo?” and friend said “Oh! How about Tinkerbelle?” and so E said “OK.” The other tattoo that I recall is one she designed herself to represent me and her. This one is on the back of her neck. I love this daughter of mine fiercely.

My maternal great-great grandmother came to America when she was a young bride. She came from Scotland with her brothers, her husband, and her baby. Her brothers were carpenters and fine wood-workers. I have all of the hand planes and wood working tools they brought with them from Scotland.

The tools have the name MacRae stamped on each one – although sometimes the name is spelled McCrae.

Here is the MacRae Crest:

My brother, T, and my youngest sister, W, wanted everyone in our family to get a tattoo of the MacRae crest. My mom would never get one. My sister C (she who eats leaves) wouldn’t either. Although I’m game – as I mentioned earlier I’m also afraid. W went and got one first three years ago – she was 41. It was supposed to be a butt crack tattoo but the artist who did it was having so much fun with the design that it just unfolded across her back.

My brother T got one next. His is on the outside of one of his calves. It’s much simpler – more like the crest pictured first.

I want to get one. I really do. Once I bought E a Henna tattoo kit and she drew a spray of forget-me-nots (my favorite flower) across the top of my foot! I loved looking at it every single day – and loved that she did it. I was very sad when it faded away.

My youngest daughter, M, has also shown a strong interest in body art. Ever since she was old enough to hold a pen – and know what to do with it – she has drawn all over her body. She would sneak my red marker grading pens into bed with her at night. When I’d wake her in the morning she would be covered in red stripes. “I’m a tiger, Mama!” she would say. This was not a onetime occurrence. She routinely covered her arms, legs, tummy, neck, and even her cheeks, forehead and nose with red stripes. When she became a more sophisticated artist (as in able to draw circles too) she moved away from stripes (I was sad to see the tiger go) to all kinds of designs all over her body. Then there were the shoes. M started wearing her shoes on the opposite feet as soon as she was old enough to put them on herself. So from the time she was a wee tot until she was about 5 she wore her shoes this way. I figured, since she was so persistent about this, she must know something I don’t. I let her do it. What really amused me about this was the number of people who would say to me “do you realize that she is wearing her shoes on the opposite feet?”

Day Care, however, never even batted an eye at M’s antics. They were used to this stuff from my kids by now. Her brother (my youngest son), A, had already prepped the Day Care center well. Only his body art took the form of multi-media. His favorite media was band-aids. It started one morning when he was 3 and he told me he had a stomach ache as we were leaving for Day Care. In trying to deduce whether the complaint was real or not I asked him if a band-aid would make it better. He said “yes Mama, I think it would,” so we put a blue band-aid on his stomach. Over the next few weeks this grew into needing several band-aids on his stomach to one day showing up at Day Care with a band-aid on his forehead, one on each cheek, and one on his chin. He needed band-aids for about 6 months. I figured if it gave him comfort and got us all out the door in the morning then it was worth it. He also developed a love for thin knitted gloves. He would wear them to Day Care every day. Some days he really liked to mix it up – he would wear two different gloves. Then we went through a whole year of various costumes. I did have to draw the line at wearing the underpants on the outside of his pants though. So I made a deal with him. He could do this as long as he only did it at home.

It will be interesting to see how each of my two youngest children’s early form of body art will be expressed when they are adults. Even though E has tattoos as an adult, she didn’t draw all over herself as a child. When she was small she would become very attached to things she wore. She loved to wear the same ::fill in the blank:: every single day. Her first article of obsession was her little white snow boots. Every single day the winter she was two she wore her white snow boots. When the summer came she started wearing her tiger bathing suit – and the little white snow boots. Every single day she put on her tiger bathing suit. Every single day I let her. When the bathing suit became too small for her she slept with it.

I was also very much like this as a child. When I was in sixth grade I took a shirt of my mother’s – a faded blue cotton oxford shirt that was very soft from many washings – and paired it with a dark blue jumper. I wore this outfit every day for weeks. When I was finally made aware of this fashion faux pas by my peers I cut back to wearing it every other day. Then I started wearing the shirt to bed every night. Another time it was a pair of black leotards. I wore them every day and slept in them every night. I actually don’t remember when I stopped wearing them – I think my mother must have stripped them off me some night while I was sleeping and burned them. To this day I wear something until I wear it out. I use the same purse until it falls apart. I wear clothes, coats, etc. until they are thread bare. Not because I’m frugal or anything. Just because when I get something I love – it just makes me happy to wear it. I will buy the same style of shoe again when the first wears out simply because I love it so much. I do not get tired of things I love.

The permanence of tattoos does not bother me. When I finally build up the courage to get one, I will get three. A Linden leaf like E’s, a spray of forget-me-nots, and the MacRae crest. Maybe I’ll even throw in a band-aid and a couple of tiger stripes.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Snow Day

Today was a snow day. We had an ice storm last night that left everything covered with about a half inch of ice – so school was cancelled.

Once the kids go back to school after winter break I start working on my courses and getting ready for the spring semester. I’ve got a great neighbor who works part time and has two children who are close in age to my two youngest. I work full time – but since I teach some on-line courses, I work from home two or three days a week. We try to set up our work schedules so that we stagger the days we each go in to work so we can help each other out with snow days and the other days the kids don’t have school.

As soon as I heard school was cancelled this morning, I called my neighbor and told her to send her two kids down to my house since I’d be home.

Here’s how the day went.

The boys play computer games for 30 minutes while the girls play a board game. Then it’s the girls turn to play 30 minutes of computer games. Instead of playing a board game, the boys GET bored. I send them outside. Our driveway is on an incline – and slants down to the road. The boys are outside in sneakers having a blast sliding down the driveway. They are in a surfing (or snowboard) stance and just sliding right down to the road. We live at the end of a cul-de-sac so there is no traffic – but they also know to look out for cars too. Then they try to run back up the driveway. It’s a riot to watch them slipping and sliding in their sneakers as they try to run up the incline. After about 20 minutes I ask them to try and scrape off the ice for a path up the driveway and the walk. Once they finish ours I send them up the street to do my neighbors walk and driveway too. They were really good sports about it. Then they played outside with a couple of other boys who are home with a babysitter (they are not allowed in anyone’s house without a parent home – babysitters don’t count).

Meanwhile, I remember that I’ve got cookie dough that’s been chilling in the fridge since Christmas! I’ve got sugar cookie and gingerbread cookie dough. I’d like to break from the story here for a moment and point out that it is very much like me to make tons of cookie dough – put it in the fridge to chill – and then something prevents me from actually ever baking the cookies. My life can be very chaotic. The lesson here for my kids is this. It’s okay to bake Christmas cookies after Christmas. It’s okay to bake them after New Year’s. Actually, in my world you can bake Christmas cookies any time of the year. Likewise with Christmas cards.

Anyway, the dough still looks good so the girls and I start rolling out the sugar cookie dough, cutting out shapes – we choose Christmas dinosaurs, and baking them. Then we decided to try and make Christmas figurines with the gingerbread. We have this kit of cookie cutters where you can cut out shapes and fit them together to build a 3-D sculptures - a snowman, a Christmas Tree, Santa’s sleigh, and reindeer to pull the sleigh. We cut out enough shapes to make 4 sets of each – with two reindeer for each sled.

Then the boys came home and I fed everyone lunch.

Then the boys went off to play foosball in the basement. The girls then went outside to slide around the ice. I also ask the girls to try and see if they can scrape off any more of the ice from the side walk and driveway. They end up shoveling two other neighbors’ sidewalks.

Me? I finished baking the 300 cookies we cut out. Well, maybe it wasn’t 300. But it felt like 300 as I baked batch after batch.

Two hours later the girls came back home with another friend in tow. I started making icing. I made three colors – red, green, and blue. I gave each kid their own set of bowls – with each color of icing in a separate bowl - so no one would get anybody else’s cooties from licking icing off of fingers. Wouldn’t you know the gingerbread shapes kept breaking as we tried to put them together! I started using the icing as mortar to hold things together. I repaired crevices, cracks, and severed limbs by building up layers of frosting to try and hold things together. We were all covered in icing and we all had blue or red or green tongues.

Here are a few:

The phone rang at 5:00. 5:00? It was 5:00 already? Time for everyone to go home. I pulled out all kinds of plastic and Tupperware containers and gingerly placed all the reindeer, the snowmen, the trees, and the sleighs inside so they would at least hold together until each kid got home. They were so fragile that they won’t stay together once they are removed from the containers - but at least each kid’s mom and dad can see the finished sculptures!

So at 5:30 everyone has gone home. I look around my kitchen. Well – it was a disaster. Cookie dough, flour, powdered sugar, and frosting - everywhere. Dirty dishes. 28 dirty bowls (remember – each kid had to have his/her own bowls – with three colors of frosting each!).

Then I look at myself. I’m still in my pajamas.

I go and sink into the couch. My legs ache from standing all day. I put my feet up. I open my laptop. My husband walks in the door and there I am - lounging on the davenport in my jammies surfin’ the web. I swear - I say – I just sat down for the first time today.

Okay, I confess. I wrote this because I want credit for today. I’m sure the only thing the kids will remember is that I made them shovel.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Staying on track with Twyla

I’ve been thinking about a book I had read a few years ago. It is called The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It For Life by Twyla Tharp. More specifically, I was thinking about “Spine” - a concept she introduces (in chapter 8) to help the creative individual move from inspiration to final product. I wanted to refresh my memory about this concept so I went and pulled out the book and began to read. Twyla explains how Spine is an important foundation in every creative endeavor. She also explains the interaction between her concept of Spine with Theme and Story.

It begins with an inspiration – which is usually your first strong idea. This inspiration is the starting point of your creation regardless of your media: art, music, writing, dance, etc.

Let Inspiration develop into Intentions. What is it that you wish to explore about your inspiration? List everything you think of even if it doesn’t seem to apply at first. Try to clarify the items on the list. This can help you to develop a set of goals for your piece. From this set of goals your Spine, Theme, and Story develop.

Spine is probably the most important part of the developmental stages. Spine keeps you grounded. It is your skeletal frame for the piece. It is the underlying reason your piece came into existence. When you feel lost – go back to Spine to stay on track.

I’m not sure if there is any right order to the process of creating in terms of Spine, Story and Theme. You might already have your Story worked out – but need something to build in on. You may decide to explore certain themes but need to brainstorm about specific ways to give your theme life. However, whether you have Story, Theme, or Spine first, it appears that Spine needs to be well thought out in order for the creative process to be productive. According to Twyla, not all “final products” need to include all three components – although writing seems to be the easiest process in which to include all three. Where Twyla always has Spine to refer back to when creating her dances, she often does not need to include Story. Also, there can be overlap or “double duty” as Twyla puts it – where Spine can also be Story.

Twyla suggests there might be good reasons for keeping Spine hidden from the public. This can be (or perhaps should be) your secret – unless you are prepared to explain the path you took from Spine to your finished product. Where the Spine is usually the hidden piece – the Story is what the audience experiences.

Twyla provides several literary examples that demonstrate the relationship between Spine, Theme and Story:

The Natural by Bernard Malamud

Spine: Search for Holy Grail
Theme: Redemption
Story: Simple Story of Baseball

Moby Dick by Herman Melville

Spine: Get the Whale
Theme: Obsession
Story: Get the Whale

In this example, both the Spine and the Story are the same.

West Side Story

Spine: Romeo and Juliet
Theme: Social Issues
Story: Gang Wars on New York City’s West Side

Twyla gives many examples of her own creative process in her choreographed dances – from inspiration to Spine to finished product. In many instances she returns more than once to her original inspiration, intentions, and the Spine of the piece when she feels she’s waivering from it or is getting lost along the way.

My first experience in applying this technique started with a wall calendar I had depicting the work of Elizabeth Catlett. At the time I had this calendar, I was learning to throw clay on a potter’s wheel. I was studying the work of Hans Coper. More specifically I was studying his method of creating sculptural pieces by throwing individual components and then building a sculpture from these components.

I loved Catlett’s piece in the calendar titled “Sharecropper.” It is a wood cutting portrait of a weathered black woman. I was particularly drawn to the tilt of the woman’s head, the angle at which we are shown her features, the space the brim of her hat creates below her brow, and the set of her shoulders. This woman haunted me. It started me thinking about what can be shown about a person by the set of their shoulders and the tilt of their head.

Catlett’s Sharecropper 1952

It became my inspiration to create a bust from throwing the individual components on a wheel and combining them to form a head, neck, and shoulders. So my Spine became what could be demonstrated by the set of shoulders and tilt of head.

I threw some deep and narrow bowls (like hyperbolas). Then I threw some open cylinders (no bottoms) of various sizes for shoulders and necks. The bowls came together to form the head. The narrow cylinders became the neck. I tried to form shoulders from the larger cylinders – but it didn’t work for me. I went back to my Spine – and my original intention – but could not make these pieces work with a set of shoulders. However, what I discovered was that I could alter the angle of both the bottom and the top of the neck cylinder – so the set of the shoulders are subtly implied by the way the pieces sit on a flat surface. Here are my two most successful attempts to date:

I’m still considering these prototypes. I need to experiment more with this technique – as I want more dramatic results. These pieces were fired in a wood-fire kiln for about 8 hours. I did not put any glaze on them. I was hoping for a toastier color.

Since then I’ve been working on several painting ideas using the same Spine. One of the early scenes in the movie “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford” shows a group of men sitting around a camp fire. I had to pause the DVD just so I could study the set of each man’s shoulders – and what it revealed about each character – and each man’s character within. There’s my next painting.