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Monday, February 1, 2016

Rediscovering My Colored Pencils

One of my goals for this year was to take three art classes (or more if possible!) I checked the first one off the list with a delightful colored pencil technique class with Barbara Hranilovich and now I'm hooked!


Barb is one of those teachers who knows her stuff (she's an accomplished illustrator, can paint like a crazy woman, and yes, she works in clay, felting, makes soap -- she's just diverse!). But what makes her a terrific teacher is that she's so darned much fun, you just want to be there and learn!


And, it was a surprise and delight to discover that my other classmates weren't only my friend Kate, but a former work colleague, the wife of a different former work colleague and a woman I've known since sixth grade!


The class was a four-hour session so we weren't learning how to draw but how to use the pencils in a variety of ways. Our first exercise involved making marks from lightest to darkest to see how various pressure affected the color and intensity of the pencil. Then we moved onto doing a blended circle and square. (I loved the circle!) Again, moving from dark to light or from one tone to another.

 

Barb demonstrated and I was impressed she could do it backwards and upside down. It reminded me of a Ginger Rogers story about how she had to do everything Fred Astaire did -- but backwards and in high heels!


We practiced this a bit and also experimented on different papers. I was particularly fond of the black paper.


Then it was time to tackle a still life. I'm not terrific at drawing from life (which is why I should probably do it more often).


But it was fun to tackle the shapes of the Japanese lantern flowers and the oil can.



I needed two things from this class. The most obvious was to learn some new techniques for my non-watercolor colored pencils. I wanted to go beyond simply coloring in and really seeing how to make them work for me. I accomplished that goal -- now I just have to practice to refine it.


The second was more personal. I needed to step into the classroom and create in good company again. I've been so down this January -- Beth calls it "a case of the Januarys." No mojo, feeling under par. I needed to pick up the energy of creative people, laugh with like-minded people and admire their accomplishments while learning new ones of my own.


Mission most definitely accomplished!

Thursday, January 28, 2016

On Legacies and Memories -- One and the Same?

Recently I was asked if I thought the recent FCC spectrum issues and all that came from it would tarnish the legacy of WKAR or MSU's president. It was easy to answer about WKAR. No. They've lived by quality and it will continue, no matter how the focus will shift.


With the president it was harder. I could certainly offer an opinion of her legacy as it will last to me, but that wasn't really the focus of the question. Everyone has their fans and foes and everything in-between. I was sort of stumped and I realized the question that was unasked was "What does she want her legacy to be? A capital campaign? A good football team? Research?" I didn't know and I still don't and for me that doesn't matter.


But the topic did make me think about personal and professional legacies. Or, that favorite question that I might hear in an Oprah or Barbara Walters interview: "How would you like to be remembered?"


That's a good one, because really, who remembers? If you're the president of the United States or another world leader, you will have a legacy (though it may take a decade or two to shake down, removed from the current political chatter of the day). There's a lot of talk now about Obama's legacy as there was decades ago with Carter. It takes a long time to see the impact of accomplishments and errors along the way.

from Peter Max exhibit, Beachwood, OH

If you listen to one political discussion, the legacy is oh, so bad. If you listen to the others, it glows with achievement. Might legacy be defined by perspective?

For world leaders, I think legacy does matter because it is part of a broad historical picture. Events may directly affect life and death situations. Wars occur, the right ones or the wrong ones -- and no one will ever probably agree as to which is which. Economies go in the tank or they rise to the challenge. It takes time to assess it accurately but certainly, as Harry Truman said, "The buck stops here."


For most of us, the legacy doesn't matter so much to the general public. Sure, an institution will look at its leaders' records and acknowledge financial gifts. A community will perhaps remember the contributions of a civic leader. But what is my legacy? (It sure won't be a fortune!) How do I want to be remembered?

Photo by Judy Winter

I could attach a lot of adjectives that I would like to describe me. Artist. Life partner. Mom figure. Cook. Cat-mom. Volunteer. Helper. Bookworm. Traveler.

But am I a nice person? I hope so. But I know myself well enough to admit I have a snarky side. Creative? Sure -- but I believe we all are in one way or another. Derivative? Probably. We are a mass of contradictions. If we admit it honestly, we recognize those contradictions and maybe even work on improving them. Or, we brush them under the rug and see only the good. But they lurk and while we may think they are hidden, someone will see. They always do.

And how do I remember others? What are their legacies? That led me to thinking of my parents and others who have passed on -- other relatives, dear friends, strangers whose lives may have touched my own in odd, serendipitous ways. And I realized that for each and every one, there is only my perspective when it comes to legacy. And someone else's may be completely different.


Each and every one of the people in that photo above left their own personal legacy to me. David's grand hospitality and great cooking. Eulah's 100-year-plus approach to life. Mike's gentle spirit, grand humor and belief in me. Mary Jane's humor and big heart. Patricia's friendship, letters and understanding. Aunt Gracie's big humor and warm heart. Aunt Iris' caretaking and surrogate mom-ship. Lucinda's example of fighting hard for a cause. Uncle Marty's incredible wit and love. Diana's passion for family and Paris. Gail's gift of opening the world of different religions and cultures to me. Annette's boundless spirit and love of the hosta. Gretel's grace in dealing with death as it was when she dealt with life. The legacies of my parents and grandparents go without saying.

You can call them memories. I call them legacies.

My grandfather on my mom's side was an active civic leader during the time she and her sisters were growing up, a prosperous business man and by all accounts he loved his family very much. But every summer he would drop my grandmother and the kids off at the lake and rather than spend his weekends with them, spend them on the trout stream.


I don't remember when the photo above was taken -- it clearly shows affection or curiosity. But I was always a little afraid of him and my younger cousin terrified. But my older cousin, John, was his great buddy. Johnny worshiped the ground Grandpa walked on and still does. To me his legacy wasn't financial and it wasn't affection. It was a sense of history and a cottage that brought our families together for generations. But for John, I'm sure the legacy is more personal, one of experiences and deep affection, probably love.


There is the professional legacy and the personal one and a great example of how time clarifies things. Jimmy Carter is a fine example of that. His presidency didn't receive the respect it may have deserved for decades, even though he was probably the first political figure to grab onto the fact that driving too fast burned energy and it would be good to turn down the heat and put on a sweater, too. People laughed. They thought about the Iran hostage crisis and in a post-Watergate era he was deeply mistrusted. But over time he brought leaders together in peace and he has worked continuously to help the poor with Habitat for Humanity and in a variety of health-related efforts as well. Now scholars are reviewing his presidency with a different eye.


When one works at a university or is attached to a non-profit organization you see pretty quickly the focus on the financial definition of legacy and leaving that institution a gift -- perhaps in the form of an endowment or property or a significant financial contribution from which monuments are built to the donor. A museum. A college named after that person. Perhaps a dormitory. We think of it as money.

But I think there's more to it than that. My grandfather's legacy wasn't the inheritance he left my mom and her sisters. That bought they some pretty things and for us, our own cottage down the road from the family place. But the money itself wasn't the legacy. That's long gone.


What remains are the memories, the connections, the things we learned from spending summers together. The joy of stepping outside on a summer evening and looking into the dark sky. Playing cards a warm night. Enjoying the fireplace and popcorn with Rick on an autumn evening when the air is crisp and the trees exploding with color. Water skiing for hours, only to stop when we were running out of gas. Long walks and good talks. And so much more.


To me, legacy is personal. It's not what you have but who you are -- and what you do with who you are.

Anyone with funds can write a check. We all do it -- and it's a good thing we do. Those checks may help build an arts facility or a program or help those in need.


But it's what we do beyond that which defines my definition of legacy. Helping someone who needs it. Being a friend. Volunteering. Helping bring someone's dream to realization. Raising children with good values. Being there.


And really, if we do all -- or at least some -- of those things, I have a feeling there will be a lot of wonderful legacies running around for many moons to come.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

An Awkward Relationship with Life

I'm having an awkward relationship with life these days. It's not that it's bad. Nor is it particularly boring. It's just sort of "there."
 

I'm having terrible trouble getting any mojo going at all. Our winter isn't hard. My friends in the East and Mid-Atlantic states are under blankets of snow. I have nothing to complain about weather-wise. We have some but it seems to be melting and that's fine with me. Our last two winters nearly broke my spirit.

But I just can't seem to move forward. Dead weeds still hanging on the door.  Pretty enough sometimes. And sometimes they are just dead weeds.


Part of this might be because I've felt pretty lousy for most of the month. The terrible headaches actually started before New Year's and were almost as bad as when I had shingles on my head. After weeks of nothing helping, X-rays revealed seriously impacted sinuses, so my doc, who doesn't over-prescribe, put me on a month's worth of antibiotics (after being on a couple of courses earlier). These are more hard core and have a few side effects that aren't nearly so bad as some but enough.


Meanwhile, the knee issue revealed nothing from the X-ray, but the insurance company wouldn't cover an MRI till four weeks of physical therapy and they have to get the prior authorization first. So too much walking (and getting up or sitting down or doing steps or anything where you bend the knee) hurts and the result is that I feel more sluggy than anything else.


Right now I feel like a pile of bad bones that simply don't want to do a heck of a lot.


And then there's the fatigue. I never sleep in the day. Never. Ever. Until these past couple of weeks.

I feel as though I'm following in the steps of She Who Must Be Obeyed. Not a bad life, but I'm not getting anything done!


All of this takes an emotional toll. I don't want to commit to anything because I just don't know how I'll feel when the time comes. I've passed up things I'd normally love to do because I just don't have it in me to sit and listen to a concert or hit a movie. This makes me feel very old and I don't like to feel old.

OK -- and this one is just whining. My camera is broken. I think I know what I want to replace it with but I can't find anyplace here in town that has the model in stock so I can actually hold it and see how heavy it is. A broken camera is hardly worth a rant, especially since my dropping it more than a few times caused the break. But when you start to get down, it all seems big!


So, forgive my little rant. I'm just a little grumpy! But I really want a little break in the action (or non-action) -- and some mojo.

Last year's productivity. It's not happening this year!
Meanwhile, there are a few looming deadlines -- all self-imposed to keep me on track. Next week I'm hosting a Make-and-Take Valentine workshop. (If you're in the area, let me know!). People can drop in, make a card (or ten of them, if they like) and split. I figured it was productive and good motivation to get the house in order and do some art myself.


And, it's nearly Valentine's Day and time to make Rick's annual poetry book -- a combination of poems reflecting our past year and some kind of handmade book. I found a few poems from past years and realized I am SO not up to my game these days!


And time is running out.


So, I think maybe I should close this whiny post, beg your forgiveness for a bit of a rant and actually get something done.


Or maybe not....

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Cork Poppers: A Southern Hemisphere Holiday Gathering

Lift a glass of cheer! Forgive me if I take one last look at December and join us for a little wine and a lot of fun!
 

 Cork Poppers celebrated the holidays with wines from the Southern Hemisphere.


That's a pretty wide territory! Our wines came from Chile, New Zealand, Australia, South Africa and Argentina.


If you've read a lot of Cork Popper posts (click on the link on the menu for more!) you know that decanting any red wine always is a good option if possible, giving it some breathing room. So, that was the first order of business.

                   

Then we loaded up our plates with a great selection of cheese, crackers and bread! Never taste hungry!


Our hosts Barb and Mike kicked things off with champagne and an abundant selection of snacks from Pat, Dick and Cheryl and Rick's baguettes. Then Barb led us in a rollicking version of "The 12 Days of Wine." (This is a pretty fun thing to do and you could build your 12 days on anything -- family related, hobbies, books, you name it!) Just be sure to hold up your "verse" so no one has to remember!



There were plenty of wine bottles to open and lots of friendships and reconnecting!



The the official tasting began, starting with Dick and Cheryl's offering of Secateurs Badenhorst Family Wines Chenin Blanc 2013, from South Africa.


There were mixed reviews on this white. Our resident white champion, Cheryl, gave it an "icky," adding that it smelled like socks in the locker room, while Clayton said it reminded him of a Greek wine. Even at $12, we'll all give this one a pass.

New member Jan was up next with Alta Coleccion Bodega Piedra Negra Pinot Gros. This was a white from Valle dun Cico Mendoza, Argentina. We all liked this one much more -- it had a nice finish, was smooth and very clean. There were a bit of a peppery kick to it and was much like my favorite, Clean Slate dry Riesling. We didn't have the exact price but it fell between $10 and $20.


On to the reds. Rick chose one of our favorite wine countries -- Chile -- for our selection, a Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 from Alto Chachapoal Chile, Lagar de Bezana winery.


The label was great. The reviews less so. Comments included "it smells fungussy." This is a young winemaker who has only been making wine since the 90s. To be fair, Barb said it was "smooth," while Mike said it had a complex aftertaste. At $10.99, I'll pass on this one, too. It wasn't that there was anything wrong with it, it just wasn't quite as "right" as we would have hoped it would be.


Next up was Mike with Altos Las Hormigas Malbec Clasico 2013 from Mendoza. "Anything from Mendoza is good," someone said. That was true of this one, to be sure. One could taste the cherry in this one and it had wonderful smoky undertones. (It also went very well with the goat cheese!) Dick found the bouquet a little strong but it had a very nice finish and I'd drink this one again, especially at $13.


From one Malbec to another! Roger's offering was a Bodega Argnto Malbec 2013. Rick recommended, "Buy Roger's, not the one we brought!" It was more peppery than the one before and definitely smelled better. Dick and Clayton agreed it was the best today and I noted an excellent finish. At $9.99 it was an excellent price, too.



We were still having reds when we tried Faithful Hound 2012 from Mulderbosch in South Africa. I thought it was the best of the day and it won the best label vote from the dog lovers of our group. The price was $14.


Pat's Santa Ema Reserve Merlot 2013 from the Maipo Valley in Chile was next. The comany called it "environmentally friendly and economically viable." My notes said "one of the best." Price on this one was $16.99 but Pat paid $13.97 on sale.


Our last offering was Anne's Epic A 2013 from Chile. This was a red wine blend from Chile's Central Valley, the San Pedro region. I wrote that it had a very nice finish and Dick called it "Cherry Palooza!" I must have really liked the finish because looking at my notes, I wrote it twice and once had a big star by it! It had a bit of a cherry tone to it and according to the label, dark cocoa, though I couldn't pick that one out.


We decided it was aimed at "young, adventurous retired people." (I'm not sure who came up with that but it was true!) And at $14 only for retired people who had a bit of an income supplement if it was the daily drink. (Photos below: Adventurous retired people.)

                   

You'd think after all that munching we wouldn't be ready for dinner but that notion passed quickly! After all, when you saw Barb's magnificent table with twinkling lights and glorious individual centerpieces (each woman got to take one home), we realized we might be able to put down a bite or two.

Barb's home -- photo by Cheryl Rice

And it was fabulous! A delicious chicken dish, creamed spinach, a terrific salad and my peppermint stick ice cream cake roll for dessert. Yes, we were full!

Not too full to swap presents, though! I'm not sure where Rick found his Santa ensemble but it added to the merry!


All good things come to an end, and so did the evening. So with smiles on our faces we took off till next time.

Cheryl managed to capture us all smiling and with eyes open -- and still make it into the photo!

Till then, all of us Cork Poppers hope that the rest of your year is filled with good times, good friends and good cheer -- and if you like a little wine, good wine, too!

Note: You can find other Cork Popper-related posts based by wine category by clicking the tab at the top of this page, under my banner. You might find your next favorite!

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