Thursday, June 29, 2017

It Is Well With My Soul II

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul.
                                       -Horatio Spafford

I have been retired for one month.  I don't think I've received so much advice or had so many people tell me how/what I would feel since I was pregnant or had a newborn.  I've listened and nodded, said "Ok," and "Thanks."  It seems to me that no two well-meaning friends have the same advice or story.  That's fine.  I look forward to writing my own story.

I loved being a teacher... everything about it suited me. 
Reading and writing with 10 year olds every day is just about the best thing ever.  It was a good way to spend 32 years.

So, how is is it that I am here on my back porch watching the chickens and without a schedule?

I loved last summer... more than usual; I just savored it.  When the school year began, there was drama, some usual beginning-of-the-year stuff, some very major. It was stressful, draining... and the year had just begun!

I love to read, but when my real-life is filled with turmoil or emotional upheaval (good or bad), I can't read fiction.  I can't get into someone else's drama, so I turn to non-fiction; sometimes that non-fiction might be a blog. I love to look through random blogs.  Often I discover one that makes me want to read 4-5 posts.  But once in a great while, I stumble across someone's blog that I love, one I can relate to.  No, I don't mean they paint or are a teacher or are somehow like me or even share my same interests or beliefs.  I mean that I love the voice in their writing.  They talk to me.  When that happens, I go back to the beginning of their blog and read it from the beginning.  It's like time travel... you are reading about the blog writer's life as it unfolded in present tense... you feel like it's happening in her life right now... but it was 5 years ago... so odd...but I LOVE it!  (Although I will say, you enter someone's life and follow it along, become invested in their joys and hurts and decisions... feels a little bit like stalking... ha ha)

One evening during the first weeks of the school year, I was looking at Pinterest when I came across a cow quilt block that took me to MMM Quilts. The first line was "Thoughts on life after work and after 50."
Hmmm... worth reading a post of two.  I quickly discovered a couple of things... First, we basically had nothing in common (She makes quilts, does yoga, and lives in Canada). Second, I loved her. So... from its beginning her blog provided my reading for the next few nights. (In the mean time, I was trying so hard to get a feeling of peace with the school year.) Somewhere along the first months (remember I'm reading from the beginning) it's obvious that she's a recently retired teacher... and she is so at peace with her life... Hmmm... retirement had never even crossed my mind... hadn't been an option... that was quitting... or was it? maybe more "finishing" than "quitting."  It might have been this sentence from 12/31/13 -"I started believing, truly believing, that I was in my final year of my teaching career.  I started throwing school stuff out, recycling the mountains of paper I'd accumulated over the years.  It felt so good.  It surprised me by how good it felt." that caused the shift in thinking.

I'd had these 6 questions... I always wondered why would I retire when I can answer positively to them all.
#1 Am I still good at it?
#2 Is it still fun?
#3 Do I need the money?
#4 Are there still goals or achievements left?
#5 Do I still fit or belong?
#6 Is there something I'd rather be doing instead?

My husband, bless his heart, was so supportive through my decision... offered no advice, gave no suggestions... just let me talk... and talk... and talk...  One Wednesday night in mid-September I said, that I could only answer the first one with "yes" without thinking or adding an explanation.  He said, "WelI, 1 out of 6 is only around 15%." I went in the other room to get a tissue, blew my nose, and realized that instant... "OH... it's time!"  I came back and said it just like that. "It's time." There was an immediate surge of relief... a huge burden lifted... a peace from within.  I never re-thought that decision, not for one second.  And, I went on to thoroughly enjoy the school year.  I began that process of letting go of my stuff.  It was as if Sandra's posts had given me permission.

For a several weeks, I told no one but my dear (mu deaf - long story... an auto-correct that stuck) teaching partner and friend (I did this painting for her.) and one more person... My new dear friend (who had no idea I existed 3,000 miles away) who helped me with the process.  I cannot imagine what she must have thought when she read my first lines.  "I’ve debated whether to tell you how important you’ve been to me… I don’t want to seem weird.  I think that sometimes people are put into our lives for a very real purpose.  Let’s see… where to begin…  Don’t worry… I promise I’m not a stalker who’s longing for a new on-line pen pal...."  and I went on to tell this dear friend / complete stranger my secret, my decision to let my 32nd year as a teacher be my last and how she'd helped me.  If you're reading, Sandra.  Thank you.

So what have I been doing during this first full month of complete freedom?
  1. eye exam 
  2. annual women's exam 
  3. mammogram
  4. colonoscopy
  5. picked up all my paintings from when the shop where they hung closed
  6. home energy audit
  7. unpack all the "stuff" that was mine and I brought home from school
  8. prepared for and had a garage sale with my sister
  9. went to a painting workshop weekend at Welcome Home Retreat in Weatherford, Texas.
  10. was devastated by the loss of my 3 beloved little chickens 
  11. was given 5 new hens (who don't seem to like me, but that's another story)
  12. began Pilates (for core and flexibility) 3 days per week (sore every day)
  13. worked out with our P.E. coach (a.k.a. my personal trainer HA!) for strength training 3 days per week (sore every day)
  14. walked on trails, elliptical, or tread mill for endurance work 3 times per week (Yep, taking this getting in shape seriously!)
  15. and...currently have the shingles... yes... shingles... (FYI... if you treat that big fever blister on your chin... feel another seeming to try to come through on your cheek bone... you get canker sores inside your lips... get different toothpaste because your teeth just hurt... go to the walk in clinic to be told you have an ear infection to take antibiotics... you don't know why you feel grouchy and want a nap... and all of this is going on on one side of your head... maybe it's none of those things... SHINGLES!!
All in one whole month...
But this is what I know for sure...

It is well...
It is well...
It is well with my soul.

Original Acrylic Painting on 16" x 20" Wrapped Canvas.
This one has a home, but you can purchase one almost like it by clicking "It Is Well With My Soul."  Or, contact me if you'd like me to make one similar.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Cinnamon Sky Longhorn

Does she look familiar?
This little longhorn loves to have her picture taken, is such a pretty little cow, and is really fun to paint.
She's Cookie Dough, and she's always interested in whoever is spending the weekend crafting and relaxing at Welcome Home Retreat in Weatherford, Texas.


CHERI: I think I'm going to call our June painting weekend "The Longhorn Workshop." What if we all paint a longhorn?
ME:: I love it! I'm in!
CHERI:We'll do a couple of small projects, kind of warm ups.  Then we'll each do different longhorns.
ME: You know I love that! I can't wait.
CHERI: I've got an idea for this project.
ME: Great.  Should we come with one already drawn up.
CHERI: No, I want the canvases to be blank.  I'm going to teach you to draw them.  You'll love it.
ME: Ummm... no... I don't think so.
CHERI: You'll have to trust me.  You can do this.  It will be so freeing.  I've got some strategies that will make it easy.
ME: Yeahhhhhh... nooo... I can't draw.  
CHERI: Wait 'til you see this technique.  You'll love it.  It's kind of mathematical. 
ME: Ugh... This my pretend happy voice... 

CHERI: Gather 'round, you'll see how quickly this can come together.
ME: I trust you, but... ugh...

It's all about thirds... horn tip to head, across the head, head to horn tip... then same distance from eyes to nose... then that distance plus half from top knot to nose tip...
Just block in some lines and rectangles... Measure from the center cross... Half way from top to bottom put in the eyes, lower than you think... Look for darks and lights...
 Go try it on your canvas... Thirds... Use a ruler if you need to... just get it on the canvas... 
She doesn't like it when she gets attention or bragged on... but my goodness... what a master... master painter... master teacher... 

... believes in her students when they certainly don't believe in themselves... until they do... believe in themselves...

Eventually, we had to leave watching her and move to our own blank... very... very blank... canvases...

Unbelievable... It actually looked like... well... a cow... but...
Deep breath... what was next... darks and lights??

Then frustration...
Every one was working hard...
I got quiet...
No one was looking... 

I don't know if...
... if I needed inspiration...
... if I wanted to relieve tension...
...if I was feeling rebellious...
...if I lost my mind...

But, when Cheri walked around and got to my canvas, she said, "My, that's bold!"

I knew when I started it would be worthy of either a spanking or a gold star... 

Once the background made its way from ridiculous to fabulous (in my humble opinion), I was still so frustrated with the cow, and I've painted many cows!

Cheri said, "Close your computer, and free yourself from the reference photo. Just change the angle of that cow and make her look at you straight on.  Don't panic.  It will be simple. She must have been standing on a hill. Just lower the back by bringing down that background an inch or two. Let's un-twist her by bringing her stomach out on the other side. Just wipe off some background and add some cow."
... so... so... simple... 
Thank you, my dear teacher, mentor, friend!

Original Oil Painting on 14" x 18" Wrapped Canvas.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Country Road in Autumn

Don't you just want to drive down this road real slow in a truck with the windows down and the radio on a country station?
Yeah... I do. 
But it has to be on this exact day... no longer hot, but not cold yet... the day before some of the leaves wouldn't have turned, and the next day they'll have begun to fall.
Hhhhhhhh.... just makes me sigh...
A car or a cow or a person would just stifle my mind's imagination for this scene.  
I'm wondering... 
Who lives down the road?  
How much farther 'til 'we're there?  
How far away is the nearest store?  
How often is this road traveled? Do you have to pull over if you meet another car?
Are there cattle behind that fence? or a horse? maybe a donkey!
What sounds would I hear if I was there? birds? crickets?

I love the peaceful tone; however, I have to say it was odd working on an autumn painting in June!  I've heard musicians say how weird it is to record a Christmas album in July.  I guess it's kind of the same.  😉

This was the second project Cheri had for us during our painting weekend at Welcome Home Retreat.  Lots of lessons from this one... perspective...vanishing point... light source... claiming freedom from the reference photo... using bits of sky color in other areas of the canvas...

And, just for fun... As I began working on this post I realized something.
I wonder... If we have a third workshop... ??? Oh, dear... you do not want to see my third painting... It was a white cup on a black background... not good... not good at all... 
My first painting ever
February 2007
Our first  painting workshop
 February 2017

My second painting ever
March 2007
Our second painting workshop
 June 2017

Original Oil Painting on 9" x 12" Wrapped Canvas

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Robin's Nest with Two Eggs

Our back porch has become our favorite "outdoor living space" (as they call it on HGTV). No matter what season or weather, there are always birds chirping.  I'm not sure which bird says what, but I love hearing them.  I don't know where they hide their nests, but I love knowing they're there.

This nest was the perfect get-back-into-it project for me after a couple of months without painting.

AND... what a wonderful weekend!  I got to be a part of a painting workshop taught by Cheri Wollenberg at Welcome Home RetreatIt was a perfect balance of laughing... learning... relaxing... creating...!

The technique for this one didn't involve a paintbrush for a long time.  We used rubber gloves, scraps of cloth dipped in paint, and then an eraser.  

Lo and behold... it worked!


Here's a little peek at the relaxing part.  Don & Jackie prepare such delicious meals and take such good care of us while we're there!

Original Oil Painting on 6" x 6" Wrapped Canvas.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

My First Day of Retirement

I haven't painted or written on my blog in over a month... 
Life has just... well it's just kept me from it.
😊It's at the end too, but just in case you don't make it to the end... 😊

I've been retired now for about 24 hours.

Has it sunk in?  No.
Am I completely emotionally drained? Yes.
Have I got my thoughts about it together? No.

I've been shown so much love.
I have felt so humbled and so honored.

I have always believed that writing is the physical act of organizing thoughts, and right now my thoughts are a scattered, jumbled mess.
Honestly, I don't think I'm quite ready to gather them.

So... for today, I'll let pictures rather than words tell the emotions.

It began before I was prepared for it (or I would certainly have worn something besides a school t-shirt and jeans!) when I received appreciation for my work with the intern program from the University. 

Oh, how I love working with interns, and how many have become wonderful teachers!

Whenever anyone would say, "You can never be replaced!" my reply would be, "Then I've failed as a mentor because I've worked really hard to train countless young teachers to do just that."

...With my two interns from this year.  They are going to be such fine teachers.

My district provided a beautiful banquet to honor retirees.

I got to invite my most important people to join me.
Of course, my favorite...
He really is the best.

My dad. He's 90.
So glad he could come.
He and my mother taught Agriculture and Home Economics for 20 years.
My son and daughter-in-law.  

I missed having my daughter and son-in-law. Maryland is just a little too far away.

My people...
Melanie - my 4th grade teaching teammate, my friend
Mona - our school secretary, my friend
Julie - my 3rd grade teacher down the hall, my friend

My assistant principal came to support me. Love her so.
Wow... once my fourth grader, now a teacher and mentor herself.
 My former principal, now assistant superintendent.  I learned so much about professionalism from him.
My first principal, way back when I was just a student teacher.  He took care of me.  
 Then...When I got to the school early the next morning...
This was right in front of "my spot."

Later that day...

Surrounded by 56 of my favorite people.
To reveal this...

And just when I think I cannot possible cry any more...
Click for a little video of this...
love, Love, LOVE!!
These people... my school family!
Love them so...
After I warned that if they ever noticed the stone missing, they might think to check my own garden at home...

At our fourth grade graduation, they presented me with another to keep...
... and yes... I cried again...