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Notes from the Pond

Why we need to keep arts in the schools

I recently attended my granddaughter’s spring orchestra concert and was amazed at the progress of the young middle school and high school students. The program featured the sixth, seventh, and eighth grades, who each played three or four selection, in the first half and the high school students in the second half. By presenting the show in this manner we were able to see the gradual increased proficiency of each grade.

Even the sixth graders had progressed far beyond the basic Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star which they performed at their first concert in February. One of their selections included the Can Can by Offenbach. The seventh grade performed Brandenburg Concerto #5 by Bach and the eighth grade did a complicated number titled Variations on a Sea Chanty by Richard Stephan. All selections were performed with precision and I didn’t hear a single squeak or squeal from the strings and all students played in unison under their teacher’s direction. The high school’s performance was flawless and I thought I was listening to a professional production.

The arts are delegated to a second class position

As I watched the performance I couldn’t help but think how sad it is that school districts now feel the need to delegate music and other art programs to a second class position. True, our students need to know the basics in math and science but the arts can add so much more depth to our lives. The students who performed that night thoroughly enjoyed their experience and the audience showed its appreciation by cheering loudly. The other classes showed the same enthusiasm for their fellow performers that you might find at an athletic event.

What music taught the students

I realized those students had learned more than just the basic notes and how to play their instruments. They learned team work by listening and blending their instrument with the others. They learned discipline by watching the director and reacting to her cues. They learned self-confidence by being able to walk onto a stage without passing out. They learned to appreciate other types of music. And, they learned that all types of moods and emotions can be expressed through music from light and lively Bees a Boppin or the Can Can, or the silliness of Adam’s Family Theme to darker moods of Dark Catacombs by O’Laughlin.

I must compliment their teacher, Linda Stieg, who has obviously spent many, many hours working with these young people to bring out the best in them. She told the audience how she has stressed with the students the need for dedication, hard work, and setting goals. These are also tools which will help them in the future.

Music speaks when words fail

I sat there pondering how best to express the thoughts and joy of the evening when I saw a young musician walk by with a bumper sticker attached to his cello case that said Music speaks…when words fail. That sums it up perfectly.

Thank a music teacher

With all these positive elements how can the school systems justify eliminating the arts? A young person needs to experience many different areas in order to grow into a well-rounded individual. Work in the basics is important but they also need to develop their bodies, mind and soul with activities in athletics and the arts added to the core subjects. The next time you sit down to listen to your favorite music be sure to thank a music teacher.

Rest in peace, dear Lib

Lib was a beautiful cat with a slick grey coat mottled with patches of buff and orange. She was sleek and lean with long graceful legs and paws and a delicate pointed face and ears. She was so slender and graceful she reminded me of a model wrapped in an expensive, one-of-a-kind fur coat.

Her official name was Olivia Orange named after a character I was playing in a local play and for the orange patches throughout her fur; but, we always called her Libby or Lib. I first saw her at the dog groomer’s office where she was snoozing in a patch of sunlight with countless people and dogs walking over and around her. I thought she must be a pretty laid back cat to allow all that chaos around her without moving. Little did I know then that she was just displaying her stubbornness to claim her spot and refuse to move. I picked her up and she immediately snuggled into the crook of my neck. The groomers all cooed and awed and said she had never done that with anyone else. I thought they were just telling me that so I would adopt her. She was among a litter that had been anonymously dropped at their doorstop so I decided to take her home.

Unfortunately her personality didn’t match her outward beauty. She was independent, more so than the average cat, stubborn, sneaky, and haughty. She was the queen of the house and she let you know it. She would walk through the living room with her head held high, stop and survey the room, arch her back and look down her nose at the lesser humans and animals in the room, then exit with a swish of the tail. She was very seldom affectionate or playful, she just couldn’t be bothered with such foolishness when a secret cozy nest under my good blankets was waiting for her. She couldn’t lower herself to chase a silly feather at the end of a stick and don’t expect her to kill a mouse. I once had a mouse in the house which I managed to shoo into the enclosed porch. I then turned Lib out on the porch expecting it to be turned into mouse burgers quickly. They eyed each other for some time and when the mouse decided to make a run for it by going straight under her belly she jumped five feet into the air. The only time she lost her cool was in the presence of cat nip. Then she would roll and drool like a sloppy drunk.

However, she did have one outstanding trait—she could count. When we traveled we would leave enough dry food and water to last until our return. When we came back we were greeted with her catnip mice in her bowl—one for each day we were gone! I don’t know how she did it but she was always right on the number of days we were gone.

Lately, her age was beginning to show. Her fur stood on end and was not as neatly groomed, she slept more often, and she had even become docile. Her time had come so yesterday we paid a visit to the vet’s office. There they have a special room for those who have reached the end of their journey. It is softly lit, equipped with comfortable chairs and couch, a big pillow on the floor, and scented candles burning. The walls are lined with pictures of some of the others who have passed through this room. She nestled calmly in my arms and when the drugs were administered into her veins she looked me straight in the eyes and then went limp. There was no pain or restlessness—just peaceful, calm sleep.

Rest in peace dear Lib. Hopefully she is now sleeping in a sunbeam and running through fields of cat nip. We will miss her aristocratic touch.

 

Below is a remembrance of Libby that the vet’s office sent. I love the story of the Rainbow Bridge and, someday, I will have lots of furry friends to greet me when I’m ready to cross that bridge.

The hospital gown

 Modern medicine is wonderful. They can take your blood and discover many things happening in your body. They can also put you on a conveyor belt, send you into a spinning donut of a thing and in less than 5 minutes have a complete picture of your interior landscape. They can shoot dyes into your veins and have a clearer picture of how your system is working.

So why can’t they design a better hospital gown? Besides the obvious, that they are drafty and ugly, they are also not practical in a practical sort of way. I know they are convenient and the nurses can slip you in and out of them quickly and easily but it is another story if you are dressing yourself. As soon as you step into it, it begins to slip from one shoulder and then the next until you are standing there sans gown. Once you manage to keep it on the next challenge is to find those blankety blank ties and tie them with an IV in one arm and the other arm heavily taped from blood draws.

My room at the hospital was private with its own bath and shower. I took advantage of the opportunity for a shower before bedtime but had enormous difficulties dressing myself. Once I was squeaky clean I settled into bed for a restless night. At one point I woke and couldn’t move. It wasn’t a medical problem but a wardrobe malfunction. My IV line was caught on the bed and my gown and its ties were twisted underneath me to the point I couldn’t escape. There I was floundering and flapping like a beached whale. I finally managed to find the nurse’s call button and groaned, “Help, I’m trapped.”

And speaking of IV lines, the next time I will make sure that it is not started in the crook of my arm. If you think dressing with two bandaged arms was difficult have you ever tried to feed yourself a liquid diet with two arms that don’t bend? Another gown change coming up!

A funny thing happened on the way to the art show

Taken from an American Greetings card I received in the hospital.

My last two blog posts have been about my excitement and preparation for the art show this past weekend, but, instead of appearing at the Sunbear Gallery I was languishing at the luxurious St. Anne’s Hospital resort.

A bumpy detour

Continuing the road metaphor that I used in my last post I will say that the road suddenly became bumpy and detoured straight to the doors of the hospital. The past week was especially hectic as I completed my work and prepared displays for the show. During that time I wasn’t feeling up to par but pushed it to the back of my mind saying I didn’t have time to be sick. Everything had to be turned in to the gallery by Wednesday to give them time to prepare their displays. Throughout Thursday I continued to feel “ify” and began to think I wasn’t feeling well enough to stand for two days in the heat and talk with the people when all I wanted to do was be in bed. Friday I went to our local Urgent Care and asked the doc to patch me up for two days to give me time to get through the weekend. He examined me and then said, “I can patch you up but you will hate me later. You need to go to the ER right now.”

A popular term for the miniature White Castle hamburgers is “gut busters” or “gut bombs”—WELL—I felt like a couple of those bombs had gone off in my gut. Without going into graphic detail let’s just say the belly was bouncing. After a bad reaction to some meds things went from bad to worse. That is when I went into seclusion, had the phone disconnected, and saw few visitors.

Happy faces equal happy pills

Fortunately, I responded well to a heavy dosage of antibiotics and was able to come home on Sunday. But, the best medicine of all was a series of happy faces drawn by my niece’s four-year old son Aidan. Posted on the bathroom door was a dry erase chart where the nurses wrote their names for each shift and at the bottom was a series of emoticons to help the patient measure his pain. At the end of the series Aidan drew a sad face because Aunt Sheila had an “ouwee”, then he drew a happy face in the blank space meant for the patient to list a goal. At the very end of the chart he drew what can only be described as a blob which meant that Aidan didn’t have any “ouwees”. He then drew me a card full of various happy faces which looked to me like happy pills. All those happy faces must have worked because by the end of their visit I felt much better and even the nurses agreed my condition was much improved.

Take it from me, if you are ever feeling poorly the best medicine is the happy faces of a four-year old.

Who’d A Thought It?

Life’s journey is full of strange twists and turns.  One of the most unusual turns for me will occur next Saturday when some of my work will be on display at an art gallery. Me—who never had an art class in my life! I will have my work at Sunbear Studios and Gallery, May 19 and 20 in Alexandria, Ohio.

Some of my loyal followers of this blog may be thinking that I will have my photographs but, no, I will be featuring actual art work from my children’s books. I have three self-published children’s books titled The Sad Seedling, The Beautiful Bird from Birdburgville, and Robert Robin’s First Flight. When I wrote the books I had a very definite picture in mind and, although I worked with several artists to illustrate the books, they never captured the mood and personalities I wanted. Finally, in desperation I tried illustrating them myself and the final product wasn’t too bad. Art critics would probably find plenty to criticize but I drew my characters the way I saw them and what I liked as a child.

I need a “hook”

I took my books to a few book signings and craft shows but I felt I needed something more to draw attention to my product. Children being dragged to these events are bored beyond belief. I then decided I needed to make these characters come alive for them so I created soft sculptures of the main characters.

Making the critters

This was another challenge because not only am I not an artist but I have limited sewing experience. I found a pattern with basic bird shapes and then modified the patterns to look more like my characters. Here enters challenge number three—how to make the modifications work.

Once I had an object that closely resembled the characters in the books I then needed to make a few more adjustments so I could reproduce a number of them in as short amount of time as possible. Because the characters are so small, it is difficult scrunching all the material around the BIG sewing machine. It would have been much easier to make the characters larger but then they would be out of proportion to the ones in the books.

Finally, once the “critters” are complete then the hand work for the finishing touches comes into the picture. This involves sewing on the heads, closing the bottoms, adding buttons for eyes; and hot gluing “googly” eyes on the robins, beaks, wings, etc.

The big reveal

In March I talked with the owner of Sunbear Studios and Gallery about including my books in her shop and mentioned I was thinking of creating soft sculptures to go with them. She then told me about her art show coming up in May and to come back with them and she would decide. Today was the big reveal. I took my creations back to Meridith, the owner, and she loved them. In her words, “They are so cute.”

Art is fun May 19 & 20

So please come see me next Saturday, May 19 and 20 at Sunbear Studios and Gallery, 3 W. Main St., Alexandria, Ohio 43001—740/924-2656 (between Johnstown and Granville, Ohio on OH Rt. 37). They are planning a great art festival with live music, artist demos, door prizes, art auction of children’s art work, container gardens by Baker’s Acres, snacks, and LOTS OF FUN!

So, here I am, participating in an art show with no formal training—but that has allowed me to think outside the box. Maybe I’ll be an overnight sensation, the Grandma Moses of our time—who’d a thought it?!

NOTE—below is a copy of the flyer. I will add pictures of my “critters” later.

 

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