“And so with the sunshine and the great bursts of leaves growing on the trees, just as things grow in fast movies, I had that familiar conviction that life was beginning over again with the summer.” ~ F. Scott Fitzgerald, from The Great Gatsby

Puppy Portrait: Bailey (May 2013)
Puppy Portrait: Bailey (May 2013)

                   

Tears were warm, and girls were beautiful, like dreams. I liked movie theaters, the darkness and intimacy, and I liked the deep, sad summer nights.”Haruki Murakami, from Dance Dance Dance

Monday afternoon. Partly cloudy and a bit cooler, 83 degrees.

Finally, I made myself sit down and edit some photos so that I can post. We had Olivia this weekend, and I took the opportunity to take some shots of her in the pool, and to grab some of puppy Bailey while she sunned herself in the backyard.

My first attempt at creating a slideshow. Hope it works. Enjoy.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

                  

Music by Santana, “Smooth”

“It is, in fact, nothing short of a miracle that the modern methods of instruction have not entirely strangled the holy curiosity of inquiry.” ~ Albert Einstein

 

Sunset2 at Palm Island Park Mt Dora Fl

Sunset at Palm Island Park, Mt. Dora, Florida by Janson Jones 

“You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty.” ~ Ghandi

Well, here we are. Thursday. Another day. Rain outside my window. Muddy paw prints on my floor. Exactly 12 cents in my wallet. Life is . . . well, it is what it is.

Standard Issue School Safety
Today's Standard Issue for School Safety

A quiet peace has settled over the house. Eldest son is spending more time at home. Not really sure what the reasons are behind that, but I’ll take what I can get. Today at Brett’s school there were seven, yes seven fights. Corey said that when he pulled up to the school to get Brett, the police were escorting people out in handcuffs, most of them females. The school was in lockdown for a couple of hours. Local news stations report that 14 students were arrested.

Lockdown. In a school. And people ask me why I don’t get a teaching job. No thank you, not in an urban public school, no matter what their academic standing is or how good the principal happens to be.

The one year that I taught in public schools, I was hit three times, all three accidents, but hits, even so. You know that old myth about having unusual strength during a time of crisis? Well, it’s true. I once broke up a fight between two boys in my classroom by lifting one of them off the other. The kid I lifted, who was actually a very nice boy with very good manners, was a head taller than I was.

Another time, a girl in my class was reaching around me to hit a boy she had a crush on, and I got punched in the arm. The worst fights were always the ones involving females. Not making a generalization here. This is what I saw firsthand.

Not sure what made me think of all of that. I suppose the situation at school today. Thankfully, Brett was not in the vicinity of any of the fights when they broke out.

“Creativity is the process of bringing something new into being . . . creativity requires passion and commitment.” ~ Rollo May 

Maureen, my friend in Australia made a comment that she really liked the images that I used in the last post. I’m glad that people notice the images and the words.

Waves in Blue and Green
Sargasso Sea Abstraction by L. Liwag

I spend about half of the time writing my blog, and then the other half searching for and working on images. Sometimes I am very lucky, and I have a very specific image in mind, one that I have seen on another blog. But other times, such as with the last blog, it takes forever for me to find the precise image that I want. I usually look for images that I know have no copyright or for which I know that the copyright has expired. Or, in the case of my friend Janson Jones, I try to let him know that I plan to use an image in a post; he has graciously given his permission.

And then there are the times that the images I include are mine or a family collaboration. Someone in the family may have taken the photograph, but then I work in Photoshop (wonderful Adobe program, but eats up memory), and play with color, layers, filters. As with every computer program I know, I am self-taught on Photoshop, but the more that I work with it, the more interesting things I find to do with photographs.

And then after I have my words down, and I have inserted my images, I try to think of the perfect song to go along with my theme for the day. Of course, this is not always possible because sometimes, like today, I just kind of amble from one thing to another.

I’ve come a long way since I began blogging over a year ago. Whether or not my changes are an improvement only others can tell. I like to think that I have reached a point at which I have found a good balance between words, images, and music. These three things are the root of my creative process. I almost always write with music playing in the background, and my time at The Chrysler Museum of Art opened my eyes to so many beautiful paintings, sculptures, glass, photography, and other art forms from every time period.

I had always loved art before I worked there, but my appreciation for the visual expanded significantly during my tenure at the museum, especially because part of my job included writing about exhibits, giving interviews, etc. I had to take crash courses in artists and their works every couple of weeks. I’m not complaining at all. I loved the opportunity to learn more about an area in which my prior involvement had only been brief visits to museums. Coming at a work of art from the inside, having the opportunity to work with the curators was wonderfully informative, and therefore, rewarding.

“It has always seemed strange to me that . . . so little stress is laid on the pleasure of becoming an educated person, the enormous interest it adds to life. To be able to be caught up into the world of thought—that is to be educated.” ~ Edith Hamilton

William Glackens The Shoppers Detail
"The Shoppers," by William Glackens (detail, 1907, oil on canvas) from the permanent collection of The Chrysler Museum of Art

I suppose I don’t really understand people who do not want to learn new things. It’s as if they are content with a certain body of knowledge, and anything else would just be extraneous. I understand a need to be focused, but to close your mind to new things, developments in science, language, politics—How can you not take an interest?

I fear that we are raising an entire generation that does not know how to delve, how to dabble. The art that they see is on a computer screen not in a museum. The research they do is from the Internet not in a library. Their knowledge of classical music comes from hearing it as background music to a commercial or when it is used in a movie soundtrack.

The term classical education is no longer a matter of pro forma, and that grieves me. A true classical education meant learning about as much as possible, even if it was just a bit about everything: languages, art, music, literature, politics, science, math, culture, economics, history.  Of course, not all of these subjects are absorbed at once.

A true classical education begins early, with a basic foundation in language so as to be able to absorb basic facts. From this, students progress to analyzing what they are taught until ultimately, these students have the ability to express themselves using their expanded knowledge base. Of course, this is a simplified explanation of what is known as the trivium (grammar, logic, rhetoric) and quadrivium (astronomy, arithmetic, music and geometry) of a classical education.

Unfortunately, Latin is no longer taught as a matter of course. And the dialectic of logic and reasoning is included in schools that are focused on college-bound students, but what about the rest? Do I dare touch on the uneasy fact of how many of our high school students graduate without knowing how to read or balance a checkbook?

We are so removed from the Greek and Roman ideas of education (barring their idiotic barring of females from receiving formal education) that I fear we will have a generation whose only acquaintance with Latin may be the two phrases carpe diem and semper fi. Of course, I am over-simplifying things as I have a tendency to do when I am frustrated.

“A room without books is like a body without a soul.” ~ Cicero

Actually, I don’t really know how I ended up on this particular topic; I only know that upon arrival, I began to become vexed—a sure sign of my omnipresent impatience with ignorance (not stupidity) and how we as a society are responsible for said pervasive ignorance.

Alexander and the terrible horrible no good very bad day
One of my children's favorite books

Time to stop and have a Pepsi and some chocolate, something to sweeten my disposition. I will leave you with this: If you have young children, read to them, all of the time, from board books when they are very young to fairy tales as they get older. A little story: My daughter Alexis was with her friend Jennifer. The two of them were sorting through children’s books bought at an estate auction. Alexis kept picking up books and saying how wonderful this one was and how much she enjoyed that one.

Jennifer replied that she hadn’t read most of them. Alexis was incredulous until Jennifer reminded her that her mother was not an English professor like Alexis’s mother. Jennifer, like so many young people, grew up in a house without books; whereas Alexis already had a pretty extensive library by the time she entered high school. Not bragging, just telling a story.

Teach your children to read early and you will allow them to become life-long readers. And remember, never ever make fun of a child’s ability to read. Nothing could be more cruel or do more harm to a child’s self-esteem. Just ask anyone who has struggled with dyslexia or a learning disability.

I’ll stop now. Relenting my time on the soapbox. More later. Peace.

Just a note: I actually wrote this post on Thursday afternoon, but after writing about picking images for my posts, I froze. I could not, for the life of me, decide on any images that would be suitable for this post, with the exception of William Glackens’ painting “The Shoppers.” Probably should not have written anything about my creative process . . .

 

Expanded Grace in Small Things

wind_chimes1

Wind chimes in the Garden

“Train yourself to listen to that small voice that tells us what’s important and what’s not.” ~  Sue Grafton

” . . . to be worthy, not respectable, and wealthy, not, rich; to listen to stars and birds, babes and sages, with open heart; to study hard; to think quietly, act frankly . . .” ~ William Henry Channing

I’ve been pondering the small things in my life that bring me joy. This is not exactly a Grace in Small Things, but more of a contemplation of  several little things in my life and why they bring me such pleasure.

Here goes:
cuisinart-coffee-on-demand

  • I love my Cuisinart Coffee On Demand coffee maker. It’s the model that holds the coffee in an internal bucket and dispenses it from a spout. The coffee stays fresh and hot for two hours. The flavor doesn’t get that aged taste because the coffee is protected from the air. Granted, this is the most that I’ve ever spent on a coffee maker. My last one was a GE that I had for years and years. But I waited for just the right model and just the right sale price. It has been worth every penny.
  • My huge, flat computer screen is twice the size of the old behemoth of a screen that I had on my old computer. This size allows me to work without my glasses, which I find keeps my eyes from getting as tired as they used to when I was working on the computer. The resolution is incredible, and I can adjust the brightness to accommodate my headaches.
  • Media player is a wonderful thing to have on a computer when you also have Bose computer speakers. Again, I never invested in good speakers for my computer, just the $15-20 sets that you can pick up at Kmart. The difference in sound quality is incredible. I have compiled six different play lists for my computer. The most extensive one will play for 12 hours. I created a sleep list that I like to turn on with the volume fairly low after a stressful day and let play into the night. I used to fall asleep to music all of the time with my old clock/radio. I would hit the play button, and the radio would stay on for an hour. I would usually have it tuned to the local classical station. But this way, I have a nice mellow mix with a wide range of styles, everything from some tracks from the movie The Piano, to some  Beth Orton to Van Morrison to Vanessa-Mae, a violinist that Corey introduced to me. 
  • I love my little workspace in the corner of the bedroom. Granted, it’s a small space, but it’s mine. Corey calls it my “office.” It will be nice once we finish the house renovations as we hope to have a small room for office space, but for now, I enjoy my little corner of the world. Whenever I’m on the computer, Shakes comes and settles at my feet and goes to sleep. 
  • We have wind chimes scattered around the house. I really enjoy it when there is a soft breeze, and all of the chimes are moving. They all have different tones, and it’s so interesting to hear the combination of sounds and textures: shells, bamboo, hollow metal tubes, copper. It’s my natural symphony. 
  • tiger-swallowtail-on-lantana
    Tiger Swallowtail on Lantana by L. Liwag
  • In the late spring, our butterfly garden begins to bloom. We have lantana, rose of sharon, roses, mock orange, heather, rosemary, Hawaiian white ginger, several colors of bearded irises, and a few other plants. I wish that I had the variety of butterflies that Janson Jones has posted on his site, but I am content to watch the monarchs, painted ladies, tiger swallowtails, buckeyes, and hummingbird moths. We also get big fat bumblebees. Between the amazing color of the different flowers and herbs and the array of hues of the visiting winged creatures, the garden is one of the best things about spring and summer. 
  • We have a 16-foot round, four-foot deep, above-ground poolin our backyard. Because our house is on a corner lot, we have a large front yard and a smaller backyard. The pool takes up a lot of room, but it’s worth it. In the summer, there is nothing that I like better than floating in the pool while reading a book, that is until the dogs jump in. Both Shakes and Tillie love to play ball in the pool. Next year we hope to get an elliptical-shaped pool, which will fit in the available space better and still leave some room. The other good thing about an elongated pool is that I can swim short laps and get some exercise. As it is now, I have some foam weights designed for resistance water exercises. 
  • Speaking of dogs, one of the best things we ever did was to adopt Tillie from a shelter. She is an absolute sweetheart, as most Labradors are, but she is such a daddy’s girl. I suppose that’s because Corey picks her up like a small lap dog. Tillie loves to give hugs, and she has finally realized that she is bigger than the Jack Russells. She no longer lets them intimidate her. In fact, sometimes she bullies them by not letting them on the bed, which really bothers them. But one of the sweetest sights I know is when Tillie is sleeping right next to Corey in the bed. She actually puts her head on his shoulder or drapes a paw across him. She does the same to me when I’m the only one in the bed, but between the two of us, she definitely loves Corey more, which is fine because I’ve been able to prove to him that Labradors are the best dogs in the world. 
  • My new red wallet was a great find. Even though I mourned the loss/theft of my black Kenneth Cole wallet, I believe that this new wallet has filled that void quite nicely. I did order a Kenneth Cole black wallet on line that appeared to be exactly like my old one, but when it arrived, it was different, and I just couldn’t bring myself to use it. I plan to send it to Mari as I know that she loves Kenneth Cole leather as much as I do. That being said, my new wallet has just the right amount of pockets and holds all of my miscellaneous items without being overstuffed. It’s also the perfect shade of red, and nothing beats a good red, except black, of course. 
  • sony-cybershot-dsc-h2
    Sony Cybershot DSC-H2
  • I finally got the Sony Cybershot (DSC-H2) digital camera that I had been wanting before we went on our cruise last year. Now that I have time, I’m starting to shoot more pictures, which is something that I have always enjoyed. It has so many different settings and a 12x optical zoom so that quality of the shots that I am taking is incredible. The only thing that I need to do now is go through all of the pictures that I have taken, clean up the ones that I want to print in Photoshop, and then save them on a disk so that I can get prints. We don’t have a photo printer, but the cost of single prints at Costco is so reasonable, I think that it might be a better value than having to buy cartridges for yet another printer. 
  • cara_cara_oranges_200
    California Cara Oranges
  • Part of my nighttime ritual is to have a cup of hot peppermint tea around 11 p.m. The peppermint is very relaxing, and it helps with my finicky stomach. It also doesn’t hurt that Corey fixes the tea and brings it to me. He likes to pamper those he loves; that’s one of my favorite things about him as I have never had the pleasure of being pampered. 
  • Right now, I am on a binge for juicy oranges. I must be deficient in Vitamin C because I have been craving oranges like mad. Corey has been buying cases of big California Cara oranges that are incredibly juicy and delicious. I’ve been eating two a day. So good. 
  • And finally, I’ll close with my appreciation for broadband Internet access, which enables such quick searching capabilities as well as speeding up blog surfing. Corey set up an in-home network for all of the computers. I don’t know how I ever lived with dial-up.

So that’s my list of small things, some smaller than others, but all significant in their individual ways. As I’ve mentioned before, it has taken a while to adjust to the major life change of being on full-time disability. But one of the best things about being home all of the time now is that I have more time to stop and smell the roses, literally!

Remember:

Enjoy the little things in life, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things” ~ Antonio Smith

More later. Peace.

If you are interested in surfing blogs and increasing your own blog’s exposure at the same time, be sure to visit Conron.us at www.condron.us.