Monday, February 28, 2011

Might as Well Jump


We wandered around downtown Knoxville on Saturday, after the auto show, and tried to pretend we were in a big city. Knoxville has some tallish buildings, so it worked pretty well, and just getting out and walking in an urban environment helped me tremendously. We went to the Mast General Store, bought an obscene amount of candy from their old-fashioned barrels, and drank cokes out of glass bottles. We discovered that our favorite graffiti wall was all covered up, but that the alley next to it still had a little to enjoy. I also discovered that my boys cannot jump.

It was really kind of sad.

This was the best one I got, and he had to start on the door sill and jump out, just to get his feet off the ground.

I went out to meet a friend at lunchtime today, and left the boys here.

Derek called me 4 times, Joshua called me once. They just wanted to know if I was ever coming home.

I told them I'd get back to them.
I decided to go home after all, but wasn't sure I'd ever get there. The road was completely flooded over, and looked as if it would wash away at any moment. Dr. SmartyPants left the 4x4 SUV with me today, as the weather looked iffy, and I was very thankful that he did. (Thanks honey!) I went slowly and stuck to the middle of the road, but it was still scary.

It reminded me of when I went to Venezuela, but that's a story for another day. (Maybe I'll go look for the pictures I took. It's a really good story.)
I've got 17 entries in the giveaway, so if you haven't entered yet, please do! Even if 17 more people enter you've still got a good chance of winning one of THREE prizes. THREE, mind you...

Those of you that have already entered, THANK YOU! I've got five clear front-runners thanks to you!  You're all gorgeous, and your hair looks fantastic today.
This is the last day of February, and people, I don't think I've complained about it even one time this year. In nearly six years of blogging, I don't think I can honestly say that I've ever made it through a February without complaining about it.

That may very well be because the rest of the winter was so mind-numbingly horribly cold that February has seemed like a refreshing change of pace.

A refreshing change of pace with flooding and hail. HAIL! In February. So. Freaking. Weird.
Tomorrow it will be March, and with March comes all my favorite things...Daylight Savings Time, Spring, Dr. SmartyPants' birthday, Spring, flowers, daylight, Spring, green beer and Spring.

Did I mention that there are only 20 days until Spring? Yeah. 20.

That makes me feel like jumping. And I'm pretty sure I can jump better than Joshua, so there.

Have a great Monday, people...

Friday, February 25, 2011

1001 Reasons to Play Along

Welcome to post 1001! I intended to actually celebrate post 1000, but I kind of forgot until after I posted yesterday, and it just seemed silly to go back and add in something as a post script, so we'll just be different and celebrate 1001!

It's so symmetrical! Forward...1001! Backward...1001!

That makes me happy.

So here's the thing. I need your help. I've decided to open up an Etsy shop for my photography. I'm going to start by offering prints of some of my iPhone photographs, but I'm having a hard time deciding which ones to add to the shop.

That's where you come in. I'll make you a deal...

Go over to my flickr iphone print set and have a look around, then come back here and leave a comment telling me the title number of five prints you'd like to see go in the shop.  I'll tally up the votes, and the 10 prints with the highest number of votes will be the first 10 in the shop! Everyone who leaves a comment will be entered into the magical random number generator, and the person whose number pops out will win their choice of five prints.


But wait! There's more! (I just love saying that...)

Two other commenters will each receive one print (of their choice) from the 10 - just because I'm feeling generous today. All prints will be 6x6 and professionally printed.

SO. Start commenting. I'll leave comments open until Tuesday, March 1, 2011, at midnight, Eastern time, and I'll announce the winners on Wednesday.

By the way - you can comment on the blog or on Facebook - whichever you happen to use to read here...and if you're feeling particularly giving, feel free to link to, tweet or like this post in order to increase the traffic flow a bit.

I'll send you a big fat cyber kiss if you do.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

A Sneaky Peeky

office sneak peak

I got my shelves put up over my work table, and started loading in art supplies and trying to arrange everything to be efficient and useful. It's getting there, but I'm still not quite done. For one thing, I bought two fewer shelves than I intended, so I have nothing on the shelf supports at the top of the brackets, which is one reason that you're only getting a peek instead of the entire view of this wall.

The other reason is that I'm a little unsure about the print hanging above my table. I had originally intended to hang a cork board there, but saw this alphabet print and kind of loved it, so I thought I'd try it instead. I still love the print, but I'm not sure that this is the space for it - it seems a little busy to me, although I don't think a cork board would be any less visually cluttered. We'll see. I haven't actually done any work in there yet, so it's very hard to make a final decision.

I tried really hard to get a good photo that showed what the wall color is - it's not white, but kind of a pale sea-greenish gray - very light and reflective, but not harsh. It reminds me of the cottages on the Gulf of Mexico coast - airy and breezy and salty. It's such a dramatic step up from the flat builder's tan that's been in that room since we moved in, that it is very hard to imagine how I ever got any work done in there before. This is the last room in the house to be painted, and I've never been so glad to see something go away...

I still need a desk chair, and there's a green love seat in the room that needs to be moved out but I'm starting to see the light at the end of this giant de-cluttering tunnel. I've thrown away so much junk that I can't imagine why I was holding on to - I've created huge piles of things to sell in an upcoming garage sale or to donate. All these shelves I've just installed are not even full, which is pretty darned wonderful. It's making me want to go up there and sit (on the non-existent chair) and start a new drawing or painting or brainstorming session for a new photography series.

office sneak peak 2

I love that little bubble of creative energy that starts to tickle my heart at the beginning of a new chapter of inspiration.

Tomorrow, I'll tell you all about my newest venture and ask you for a little help...and I'll be giving something away to thank you all for your support and your hugs and your comments and your inspiration to me.

Until then...

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

If I Had a Million, Billion, Trillion Dollars

Dream Car #shakeitphoto #nomad

  • I'd buy this car in full-scale, instead of staring at the Hot Wheel model on my desk.
  • I'd buy a smaller house with more land and build a light-filled studio on it that would be a haven I'd seek every morning and afternoon and evening and night.
  • I'd give a million to the organizations that help addicts become healthy and functional people again.
  • I'd buy my mom and dad a house and some land that didn't have any rental property associated with it so they could learn to like people again.
  • I'd finance my children's college education, but I wouldn't tell them it was paid for and I'd make them work really hard for it anyway, and the checks they wrote for their tuition would go to a scholarship fund for kids who didn't have enough money to go to college.
  • I'd buy my husband any car he wanted, and build him his own private racetrack so he could drive the way he likes to drive.
  • I'd give another million to start an organization to give kids whose family couldn't afford music lessons a private lesson once a week.
  • I'd hire a housekeeper.
  • His name would be Sven.
  • I'd think about buying a baby grand, but because I just bought a smaller house, I'd realize the futility in that and just get our upright tuned.
  • I'd finance a major ad campaign to convince people to not shop at Wal-Mart and to buy locally so businesses that really care about their employees and customers could thrive instead of die.
  • I'd bribe local officials to go ahead and finished that damned road already.
  • I'd buy Linda a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel and a personal dog trainer so she wouldn't have to clean up after it.
  • I'd give another million to a really under-represented cancer charity, because how else can they compete with the ta-tas?
  • I'd convince Dave Matthews to come and play for my birthday party and then he'd just move in and play for me every day, and he and Dr. SmartyPants would be best friends and we'd all hang out together and talk about the good old days, but our house would be too small, so we'd just build him his own studio on our land, too.
  • I'd still homeschool my kids, but our field trips would be slightly more elaborate.
  • I'd probably still shop at Target, but I might not stick to the clearance rack.
  • I'd show up here, day after day, and blog about nothing and people would tell me I was wasting my time when I had all that money to spend and charities to endow and Gwyneth Paltrow to hang out with, and I wouldn't care because I love all you people.
What would you do?

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Crazy Little Thing Called Love


I love this one.


I love this one, too.

They're little stinkers. But I love 'em.

They both played tennis today, and my heart smiled. 

They smiled, too.

Last night they worked on science experiments - completely on their own. They have a really cool book that makes science interesting and fun and a little silly, like the best education does, and they're loving it. In case you aren't my facebook friend, or twitter pal (where I already posted the link), you can catch a glimpse of how our science classes go here...

And in other news...because I'm sure you're all sick of hearing about my children and our homeschooling ups and downs...


Maybe then I can get back to the business of creating art and loveliness in the world, instead of spewing vitriol and snark at everyone.

I hope to have everything installed and put away and artfully arranged by tomorrow evening, at which point I will take pictures and post them and you will all envy my mad organizational skilz. And then maybe I'll be so excited I'll give something away.

What? Did I say that?

Why yes. Yes I did. I haven't had a giveaway in a long time, and I think we need to celebrate the fact that we are less than a month away from SPRING (and three posts away from 1000 posts) and have a little free-for-all around these here parts.

You should make sure and be here on Thursday and Friday to find out more about it! 



Monday, February 21, 2011



So, after the drama of the last week, the past few days have been relatively quiet. Dr. SmartyPants had been out of town early in the week, so when he got home Wednesday night, he got an earful from me about the ridiculousness of his son, and a request from me to lay down the law. He got the boys up early the next morning and sat them down and handed down the consequences he and I had decided on the night before.

So, basically, one of my children has been stripped of all his privileges until he shows consistent improvement in his attitude, work ethic, and ability to stay on task. He took it very well, and actually seemed to relax for the first time a few weeks. Kids are so strange. He's been pushing his boundaries as hard as he could for the past month, railing against the fence that surrounds him - testing...testing...testing... and as soon as the gate was shut and the barbed wire slapped on the top, he stopped being so stressed out and hornery. Everything I asked of him during school on Thursday was done promptly, with a smile and a great deal of pride.

He had to watch his brother play tennis on Thursday - their first day outside since they began lessons in January.

"I so want to be out there," he said.

"I want you to be. You know what you have to do to get it back."

"I know."

He and I sat on the back deck while his brother played with friends in the fort.

"Can I just go see what they are doing?"


"Can I go say hi to them?"


He balled up his fist and put it against the center of his chest.

"It hurts! It hurts, hurts, hurts, hurts, hurts!"

Tears started rolling down his cheeks, and his shoulders began to shake, and I fought the urge to gather him into my arms and comfort him in that moment.

"Which is harder, bud? Doing the thing you don't want to do, or watching your friends and your brother play without you?"

"Watching them. It's so much easier just to get my work done."

He walked into the house and sat down on the floor and cried a little while longer, and I let him. Later, when I came in, he was quiet and his eyes were red-rimmed and watery, but the fiery anger that had burned in them over the past month was gone. He watched out the window a while, then picked up a book about crazy science experiments and started reading them out loud to me.

The rest of the weekend passed quietly. He watched and waited, quietly. There were no more tears, although he was sad at missing out on playing with his buds. He's been marking off the calendar until his privileges start to be returned...four solid school days until tennis...six solid school days until everything else comes back.

The impasse has been bridged. His fences are restored, his responsibilities defined, his boss firmly set back into her rightful place - right up until the next emotional growth spurt happens and we do this all over again.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Impasse I Like to Call Wednesday

Winter Silhouette #photostudiofx

This is all I've got, people.

This, and an overabundance of vitriol. Wrapped in fluffy layers of snark.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Duck (and cover)


I'm SO not in the mood for this battle today. I am not. I am not. I am not. It doesn't matter what it is - it's a battle I've fought for six years, every year at about this time, and if it were just a battle within myself it would be one thing, but it's a battle with someone whose will is as strong as pig iron.

I have no idea what pig iron is. It just brought to mind pig-headedness multiplied by iron. Please forgive me if pig iron is actually soft and malleable.

I've tried every resource I know - I've enlisted specialists and people educated to help break the bricks in this particular wall. I've prayed. I've cried. I've begged. I've threatened. I've bargained. I've cajoled.

I'm pretty sure I've yelled and thrown things.

And yet. Here we are. Stuck in the same pattern. Unable to reach a resolution.

There is nothing important enough to this particular person (who happens to be one of my sweet, darling children) to make him change the way he does things. There is nothing I can threaten to take away that causes any response whatsoever. There are no chores that I can add to his plate to make him want to complete the task set before him.

He doesn't want to do it. And when he doesn't want to do it, there's very little that I can do about it.

But it isn't optional. It's something that I require of him - that his father requires of him - that life requires of him.

And so. We sit here at the impasse I like to call Tuesday, faced with this gargantuan (to him) task on one side and the tennis lessons on the other. It's like a soap opera with a cliffhanger ending - waiting to see what will happen - which will win out.

And I'm tired of the suspense and the drama. I'd like a nice romcom, with a predictable ending, thank you very much.

Boy meets task, boy loves task, boy finishes task, boy plays tennis.

Instead, I'll set my clock and watch the minutes tick away, holding my breath and praying he gets it done so I can watch him play and laugh instead of scowl and sigh.

And tomorrow, we'll try all over again.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Brush Those Cobwebs Outta Yer Heart

A Very Spidey Valentine

It's Valentine's Day, and you know what that means! It means that thousands, nay tens of thousands, of people are placing unreasonable expectations on their significant others to fulfill some requirement of romantic love driven by an unnamed corporation's need to sell candy, flowers and cards.

We don't go out of our way to celebrate Valentine's Day - but we don't completely neglect it either. The boys got some candy and action figures along with their usual allotment of annoying hugs and kisses from their mother. Dr. SmartyPants and I exchanged cards, and I gave him the box of turtles he bought for himself the other night. Surprise!

Now, I'm not bragging, but to us? Valentine's Day is just another day to show each other how much we love each other. We do it every way - in little ways - in little acts of kindness and service and mercy...

  • in the way the doctor makes my coffee every morning and brings it to me while we watch the morning news.
  • in the way I wash and iron his shirts for work.
  • in the way he stops by and picks up Japanese food for me on a day when my oldest child has exploded in anger and left a trail for me to clean up after him.
  • in the way I proofread his papers, even when I'm not entirely sure what they mean.
  • in the way he brings me my retainer at night when I'm already in bed and have forgotten it (ew.)
  • in the way I cook fettucine alfredo for him, just the way he likes it...with extra parmesan.
There aren't cards for that, but those are the things that make relationships work...a give and ebb and flow.

I think Valentine's Day has good intentions, but it seems to me to be a cruel holiday - one that exploits the lovers and alienates the singles. I feel that way about all the commercial, card-company holidays - Mother's Day, Father's Day, Grandparent's Day - for those who have or are mothers, fathers and grandparents, it's fine, but for those who don't or who aren't, it can be a painful reminder of that fact.

So here's my recommendation...don't wait for a holiday to love your people, whoever they are. Love notes, flowers and candy are readily available any time of year. Just listen to James...he knows what he's talkin' about...

Love and Kisses to all of you fine people...

Friday, February 11, 2011

Rusted. And a Little Wrinkly.


Winter annually sends me into fits of creative despair and inaction...a hibernation, really, of creative energy. Every year, I lament it, as if I had no idea that it was coming. When will I learn? I find myself stuck in the same cycle of anti-creativity year after year after year, like if I ignore the signs, the ground won't freeze.

And every year, I sit at my kitchen table, in the patch of sunlight that rests there for a couple of hours a day, reading of other people's inspiration and creation and wonder why I'm not inspired and creating. Then I beat myself up for sitting in the sun patch looking at other people's work and not doing my own and I find myself in an endless cycle of inactivity and self-flagellation and I eat some chocolate because its a mood lifter! Like an anti-depressant!

Bring on the endorphins! Aaah!

I know what I should do. I should make like a polar bear and dig a deep cave and stay there, sleepily waiting for spring to call. I should be living off the fat of last autumn's harvest and conserving my energy for the awakening that is simmering beneath the frozen landscape. I should be hibernating and dreaming of the warm sun that will begin to defrost the tundra of my creativity in another month or so.

I should rest and be patient and gentle with myself.

The tender green shoots will start peeking out of the hard earth soon. I need to be ready.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Agony and the Ecstasy


Have you ever watched your child get angry with you? I mean really, really angry...where the fire starts to blaze behind their eyes and their mouth gets small and mean? The kind of anger that, to them, feels righteous and deserved - but that you know is selfish and petty and a little ridiculous?

Yeah. So that was my yesterday.

What do you do in that situation? How do you handle it? For my part, I goaded it on a little - eager to let him get it out and express it. It's like lancing a boil - all that ire has to come out or it festers and gets ugly. I have one child that expresses himself very well - he cries and is able to tell me what is bothering him.

The other one?

Not so much. He gets hung up in his anger - it sits, maliciously stirring up his tender heart and telling him lies and making him believe them. I understand that kind of anger. I'm prone to it, myself - the kind of anger that simmers under the surface and turns inward, doing the most damage on the one who harbors it.

People like that need permission to be angry - permission to let it out in a way that does little harm to themselves and others. I guess I've taught him that, because when I finally gave him permission to "collect himself," and closed the door to the room he was in, I heard him give a primal yell and stomp his feet a time or two, much as I do when I finally give myself permission to release it. It releases that knot of anger, for me, better than crying or throwing things - and much safer than using the words that have grown out of that simmering mess.

After he'd stomped and yelled, he came out and flung himself on the couch and cried for 15 minutes straight, and I let him - I didn't comfort him, hard as it was. It wasn't comfort that he needed - it was permission and time. When he came to the table and sat down to talk to me, the fire of anger had grown small and dim behind his eyes - it was replaced by remorse and and inkling of understanding - that the righteousness of his anger was not so righteous after all. The rest of the afternoon passed in laughter and kind looks - a touch of his hand on my shoulder occasionally - and sweet kisses at bedtime.

My boy. Restored.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Memphis. An Ode.


Memphis was rainy. Memphis was cold.

Memphis was dreary. Memphis was, uh, cold.


Memphis had streetcars, theaters and blues.

Memphis had guitars, hawkers and booze.

Sun Gibson

Memphis had Elvis, King of Rock and of Roll.

Memphis had records, artists, rhythm and soul.

Elvis is Cool

Memphis had Melinda, the friend I hold dear.

Best of all, Memphis had Beale Big Ass Beer.

Big Ass Beer To Go

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

On the Mountaintop

Mountain Men

I have much to say about Memphis, but I'm still processing it. I have to share this with you all, though - Melinda and I saw these guys and were completely blown away by them. This doesn't even get close to capturing what we saw, but it's a good was a lot like being in church.

Except in a bar.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

By the Numbers

The Formula for True Love

46: The number of days until spring, regardless of what the groundhog says.
51: The number of days until I have to change the number on the left, up there.
7: The number of shirts I need to iron for Dr. SmartyPants
42: The number of hours it will take me to stop procrastinating and iron them already.
7: The number of hours I've been up already THANK YOU VERY MUCH PUPPY.
8: The number of paws I have to wipe every time the dogs come back inside.
9,426,785: The number of times I've had to wipe each of those paws. Today.
1: The number of people I text at 8 AM to complain about muddy puppy paws.
1: The number of people who then text back to laugh at me for complaining about muddy puppy paws.
2: The number of days until I see that person and we go to Memphis and I don't have to wipe any muddy puppy paws.
3: The number of people who live with me and who are going to be very glad when I have my little vacation so I will quit grumbling about muddy puppy paws.
6: The number of shoes I will attempt to stuff into my carry-on bag. 
6: The number of shoes I will get into my carry-on bag.
4: The number of times I predict I will pack and unpack my carry-on bag.
 6,332: The number of times I will stop, squeal and do a little happy dance, thinking about the weekend.
Happy Humpday, all you beautiful people! 

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Testing, 1..2...3...

The Old Man

As usual, this photo has nothing to do with this post...I just can't stand to have a photo-less post here on the old bloggity-blog...
Ahem. The ranting will now begin...

As a homeschooler, there are certain things I can do to buck the system. We don't school in the traditional school-year calendar, for example. This just so happens to be an off-week.

We'll call it, uhm, Mid-Winter Blues Break, okay? As long as we get our 180 days in a year, no one can tell me which days I have to use.

We don't have a traditional school-length day, either. Most days we start "formal" schooling around 9 AM and go until lunchtime, then read, have music lessons, sports, cooking class, home-economics (which sounds so much more schoolish than chores, people), and the like after lunch. We'll even have some more of that after supper if we feel like it.

As long as we have 4 hours on each of those 180 days, I'm golden.

My kids don't take a lot of tests, either. I can tell if they are comprehending what they are reading by asking them question about it informally. If they can tell me what happened in the story and are excited about it, I'm all...

A+ + + + + + + + + + + + + + + !

We don't do any formal schooling on Fridays. That's a science experiment, art experiment, cooking experiment kind of day. It's a field-trip kind of day. It's a...a FRIDAY kind of a day.

There are, however, certain homeschooling laws I just can't get around, because they involve the state receiving money for educating all those children, whether they actually do or not.  Those laws require 5th, 8th and 11th graders to take achievement tests, and if they don't pass them, the school board has the right to insist a child be enrolled in public school, rather than be educated at home.

Now, each state is different in their requirements, and this state is actually an easy state in which to homeschool, but I still have to state that I object.

I object to standardized testing. I don't like it. I don't like it. I don't like it. It is NOT a test of knowledge. It is NOT a test of intelligence or learning.

It is a test of sitting down and filling in bubbles. It is a test of rising no higher than the lowest common denominator. It is a test of how well a child can concentrate in a stressful situation without being distracted by a roomful of other children.

As a kid, I was an excellent standardized test taker. I excelled at it. I enjoyed it. As a college student, I loved it. I never took a class on how to pass one. I never studied up on previous tests or took practice tests, and yet, I always did well on them.

The same could not be said of my actual grades in actual classes. Do you know why? I was an excellent TEST TAKER. I was not an excellent student until graduate school.

They are completely different animals.

ALL of that is to say that Derek had to take part of a standardized test today, as he's officially a 5th grader. It was a writing assessment, and he had to sit in a room of about 10 other homeschooled 5th graders and write a creative story about whatever prompt they gave him and he had 35 minutes in which to write it. It almost killed me. I'm still a little queasy.

Derek is not a test taker. Derek is a smart kid who can learn with the greatest of ease. He has an elephantine memory. When Joshua was a baby, he called Derek, "De-dic." We now call him "Eidetic." He can recall all the chapter titles in any book he's ever read. He remembers the numbers of boats in a particular fleet during Admiral Farragut's taking of New Orleans during the Civil War. If someone were to give him the task of writing the steps involved in building a Star Wars Lego Giganto-Enormous Thing With a Made Up Name, he could do it with precision.

"Imagine you've landed in unicorn land," is not really up his particular style of writing alley, though.


I'm sure he did a fine job. He told me what he had written (because he remembered it all, of course) and it sounded like a nice story, and I know for sure that his handwriting, punctuation and grammar will all meet or exceed the standards. I'm fairly sure that based on this one assessment, the school board won't be recommending he go to public school anytime soon, but still...I'm irritated.

I am irritated that the powers that be have deemed that creative writing is an appropriate test for every child's ability to comprehend language and use it in written form. I'm irritated that fantasy creative writing is the standard. I'm irritated that girly fantasy creative writing is the standard. Why not just insist that everyone include the words "glitter, fairy, princess, and knight-in-shining-armour" in their stories?

I wonder what would happen in the prompt was something like, "Imagine you've woken up in your dream garage. Write a story about the kinds of car parts you'd find there and how they should ideally be assembled to produce the highest horsepower and pound-feet of torque."

That's the kind of standardized testing we could get behind here...

Rant over. Have an excellent evening, all you non-standard people out there.

I love ya.