Teachable Moments

The girls had the day off yesterday for a county-wide teacher’s planning day, so I took the day off with them. We went into my campus first thing to put up the ribbons and flyers in remembrance of Somer Thompson. We have nearly 75 brick columns like the one you see here, and more than 50 of them are adorned like this (you can click on the photo to enlarge). Our campus president has already offered to waive Somer’s mother’s fees for her classes this term and provide her a presidential scholarship for next term. This morning I met with our Foundation representatives, and we are moving forward with establishing the Somer Thompson Memorial Scholarship Fund. The support from our Board of Trustees and Cabinet has been overwhelming. We’ll start raising seed funds at our regularly-scheduled Fall Fest event tomorrow and then once Somer’s mom has had a chance to get through this initial time, we’ll meet with her about the details of the scholarship. I really want her to have input into the requirements for the scholarship. If you’d like to contribute to the scholarship seed fund, please email me and I’ll send you the details.

While the girls were helping my students and I put the ribbons and flyers up, as six-year-olds will, they asked a lot of questions about the little girl on the flyers and why we were putting up the ribbons. I told them more about Somer and how important it was to remember her and celebrate her life. Each night when we put the girls to bed, I ask them what their favorite part of their day was. When I started our nightly ritual last night and asked Sarah about her favorite part of the day, she said, “Mama, first I want to tell you about the saddest part of the day.” “Okay,” I said, guessing where this was going, “what was the saddest part of the day?” She continued, “I’m really sad that that little girl was killed. I know her Mama must be really, really, really sad. Can we make her a card?” The sweetness of children… I told her that certainly we could, and then asked her what her favorite part of the day was. She replied, “Smoothing out the ribbons on the columns.” “Wow,” I said, “even more than the pumpkin patch!?” “Oh! I forgot about the pumpkin patch! Okay, that was a tie.”

In my line of work, we talk about “teachable moments,” experiences my students go through that provide valuable teaching lessons. Those teachable moments work for little ones, too. It’s sad to teach the lesson of Somer Thompson, but the opportunity to bring recognition to one child’s life to protect another’s is the most valuable lesson of all.

Behind the Camera: Pelican's Roost

“If there's any message to my work, it is ultimately that it's okay to be different, that it's good to be different, that we should question ourselves before we pass judgment on someone who looks different, behaves different, talks different, is a different color.”~Johnny Depp

Words to live by, don't you think? Sometimes it’s fun to play around in Photoshop and see what pops up. I took this photo in Port St. Joe a couple weeks ago.

The 100 Acre Wood

We’ve been enjoying some glorious weather here the past week…perfect for romps through the 100 Acre Wood, otherwise known as the Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve and Fort Caroline National Monument/Theodore Roosevelt Area. With a name like that, you can understand why we simply call it the 100 Acre Wood. Pooh would be proud. Here’s a nice little GORP write up on the park. The Willie Browne trail is the main loop, off of which branch the Timucuan Trail, the Spanish Pond Trail, which loops over to the Fort, and the Round Marsh Trail, which ends at a lookout platform over the marsh. The Timucuan Trail is pretty technical, so it doesn’t get as much traffic…which means Isabelle can have her fair reign and the whole family gets in a good workout. This area boasts the greatest elevation changes in Jacksonville. There are some pretty hefty hills laced with lots of good old fashioned tree roots to keep you on your toes, lest you end up face first on your knees. I came across this leaf this morning after we had finished the Tim and were headed back to the Trooper via the Willie Browne. Pretty girl, don’t you think? Where’s your favorite close-to-home hike?

Still Spillin' It! with Carmen...

Playing a little catch up with Carmen’s online Spill It! class. I got around to doing my transfer lesson last weekend and haven’t posted it here yet! I have to admit after doing this, yes the process is pretty cool when you get it to work well, but no, I don’t think I’ll be doing a lot of transfers. I know myself and I don’t think I have the patience. This one still isn’t completely free of the paper that must be rubbed off. The picture is one I took of a 5th Avenue NYC building just across the street from the Metropolitan Museum. You can see the actual picture here (of course, I forgot to flip the image before I printed it out but luckily there was no text in the image so it really didn’t matter). I must have totally screwed up my other one, which is why I don’t feel the need to share it here. Either never got all the paper off or got too much paper off, not really sure! Needless to say, I’ll be collaging over that canvas board. On to the next lesson…this one is more basic collage like I’ve already been doing so I think I’ll do a little better. :-)

Remember....and Be the Change

Warning: This is not my usual feel good, Happy Shack post.

For the last three days, I, like probably everyone else in the Jacksonville metro area, have been overcome with the story of Somer Thompson. The story made the national news, but for those of you out of the area who’ve not heard about it, seven-year-old Somer disappeared on her way home from school Monday afternoon. She was walking home with her twin brother and 10-year-old sister when the trio got in a little squabble and Somer ran ahead of her siblings, disappearing into the cool fall afternoon. It was about 3pm. Her body was found in a dump in Folkston, Georgia, late yesterday afternoon.

Sadly, we hear more and more stories like these every day. I just learned this morning that another little girl, nine-year-old Elizabeth Olton, has been missing in Missouri since yesterday afternoon. All these cases are tragic, yet Somer’s story hit me incredibly close to home. I grew up in Orange Park, a suburb of Jacksonville, and lived less than two miles from where Somer’s family now lives. All my friends lived in that neighborhood, and we went to those neighborhood schools. One of my best friends lived on the same street as Somer’s family, and I rode my bike there several times a week. It’s unfathomable to think that a child was taken on a street that I played on many days of my young life.

The past couple of days I’ve been talking with my girls more about stranger danger, a very important yet very difficult conversation to have with two six-year-old little girls. It’s finding that thin balance between wanting them to remain safe and make good choices while not scaring them so much that they want to turn inward and never experience the joys of childhood that all children deserve. It’s amazing how much the world has changed in the 30-35 years since I was a kid in that neighborhood. So many of us who rode the streets for hours on our bikes, staying out until dark or until Mom yelled for us to come eat dinner, now are faced with a world in which we are often afraid to let our own children do the same.

I can only imagine the devastation Somer’s family is feeling right now, particularly her mother. I’ve been on the verge of tears for her for three days, many times letting them just spill over. To bring the story even closer to home, yesterday I learned that Somer’s mother is a student right here on my campus. My students and I are working on a memorial for Somer that will take place on Monday, and I’m working with our Foundation to establish a scholarship in Somer’s name. My hope would be that the first scholarship would be awarded to Somer’s mother, and then in subsequent years, to other single mothers struggling to make ends meet while trying to make a better life for their families. If you’d like to make a donation to this scholarship once it’s established, just email me and I’ll send you the information as soon as it’s available.

So today, no, not my usual upbeat post. Today, I’m asking you to hug your babies, no matter how old they are. And think about our world, think about your neighborhood, think about little Somer and all the other kids out there who are missing or lost. And think about their families. Pray for them. Hope for them. And think about what little things you can do to maybe make this world a better place.

"We must be the change we wish to see in the world."~Mahatma Ghandi

Sunday Night Murder Mystery

So what do YOU think happened here? Tell me your version of the story in the comments! (by the way, played with rollip yet?)

Fun! The Sketchbook Project

This is one of the coolest things I’ve come across in a while. I’m in the middle of Carmen’s Spill It! class and I still have to start preparing for the Artful Journey retreat in February, but this looked like too much fun to pass up. I even got a great theme! I was assigned “You are me.” I can think of tons of things to do with that. I immediately thought of this post. Visit the Sketchbook Project website and let me know if you want to join me.

On another note, DH is having a bit surgery today for his hand (carpal tunnel), so say a little prayer for him. He’s never had any type of surgery before, so he’s being a bit of a wuss. :-) I keep asking him if he wants to see the eight inch scar in my belly again or any of the myriad other smaller scars I have from my other female-related surgeries, and he keeps saying no thank you. This reminds me that God definitely knew what he was doing when he deemed women the bearer of the children.

Behind the Camera: Feeding Lorikeets

Since we live relatively near the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens (‘relatively’ is, of course, a relative term in the largest geographical city in the country), we decided becoming Zoo members would probably be a good investment. And it most definitely has turned out to be! The cost of our annual family pass equals a little less than four trips to the zoo. And since we do live so close, we go at least once a month. Heck, outside of football season and the heat of the summer, we probably go two to three times a month. The Jacksonville Zoo has grown and expanded dramatically since I was a kid and is truly now one of the nicest zoos in the Southeast. From the very beginning the girls have loved the lorikeet enclosure, but it’s only been fairly recently that they’ve become comfortable enough to feed them. I recall a lorikeet landing on Sarah’s head during one visit, leading her to run frantically around in a circle screaming until it flew off. It was one of those moments that Mom and Dad find hysterically entertaining while the child is certain she’ll be scarred for life. :-) Olivia still doesn’t like to let them land on her—she’d prefer they sit on my hand while she feeds them—but look at Sarah now. The credit for this picture goes to Melanie Speaks, who just happened to be visiting the lorikeets at the same time and caught this shot.

Love is Time

In my SLS class last night, we talked about values and time management and how our value structure plays a huge part in managing our time. I show an inspirational video in each class, and the one I showed last night struck a chord with just about everyone in the room. I showed it at the close of the class and at the end of it, I heard “awwww”s erupt from the room and then saw a few tears as they quietly filed out of the class. It has the same effect on me every time I watch it, so I thought I’d share it with you here. It’s a good reminder that time is precious and you may never know the effect you have on another person, simply because you took an extra moment to connect. Click here to enjoy.

Let the Crap Go

Olivia created this canvas with me on Saturday. I was working on my Spill It! assignment for Carmen’s class, and Livvie decided she wanted to try along with me. (Sarah chose to paint an “Open” and “Closed” sign for their room instead.) She was following along with me for the most part when I looked over at her and realized she was crying. Oh goodness. I immediately went over to her with my paint covered hands, tried to give her a hug without getting paint all over her, and asked her what was wrong.

“I keep messing it all up, Mama!” Livvie is a bit of a perfectionist. The one thing she was doing differently than me was that she was using a paintbrush, not her fingers, because she didn’t want to get paint all over her fingers (which surprised me because the child has no issue getting completely covered with mud in the back yard). But I guess—maybe because of her art resource period at school?—she thought that painting with a paint brush was the “correct” way to paint. I quickly took her over to my laptop and showed her some of the canvases our class had posted in our ning group…to show her that, like mine, none of them were “perfect.” (No offense to my Spill It! friends!) After that, I asked her to consider putting her paintbrush down, and I helped her smush some paint around with her fingers. Then I showed her how we could take the opposite end of her paintbrush and draw smiley faces in the wet paint. That got her. :-) From there, she tried a little of the bubble wrap method and then dipped the heart shaped cookie cutter I had given her into her pink paint and added the heart you see in the middle. After the addition of the stickers, she declared it done with a quiet smile on her face, remnants of tears still on her cheeks.

I’ve been thinking about that all week, particularly in regards to the expectations we put upon our children and our selves. I didn’t have any expectations for Livvie’s painting; I just wanted her to have fun. But because of her own expectations, she wasn’t having any fun at all at first. She’s been struggling a little at school, and we’ve had to meet with her teacher. Boy, did that break my heart. I was heartbroken for her because she was struggling, and I know that she notices that Sarah hardly ever struggles with her schoolwork, and I was heartbroken for me because she wasn’t meeting the “standards.” Terrible of me, huh. What standards? My standards? No, I guess they weren’t my standards, they were the school’s standards, but I realized my standards when it comes to academics are probably pretty high too. She's in first grade, for Pete's sake! I have to admit, I never struggled in school. Not even through grad school. School just always came easy to me. But I see that it doesn’t come easy to Livvie just yet. She’ll get there; we’re committed to helping her at her pace, in whatever way she needs, providing mountains of encouragement and positive reinforcement along the way. We’re spending more one-on-one time with the two of them while they are doing their homework so Livvie doesn’t have that in-your-face opportunity to compare herself with her sister.

Back to my expectations of myself… I guess because I was always good in school, I expected that I’d be able to help my girls be good in school. I’m finding that that’s going to be a big learning process for me. And then I think about my expectations in regards to all this art stuff. I’ve always played with art. But when I started playing with mixed media, I realized I was definitely going to have to lower my expectations for myself. The first mixed media piece I created with Wyanne taught me a big lesson. Like Livvie, I too, was a perfectionist! Wy sweetly told me that I was just going to have to let that “crap” go, just play, and not worry so much about the end result. Maybe that’s a really good life lesson too. Let the crap go…just play…and maybe everything will fall into place as it’s meant to be. That’s definitely a good lesson for me right now.

Black and White with Pearls for Maria

Created this piece recently for my long-time customer Maria. Again, not the best time of day to photograph jewelry, but here it is just the same. Maria first found me at the San Marco Arts Festival a few years ago and has been one of my best customers ever since. I think by this time she must have a Happy Shack piece to match just about any outfit! Not only is she a great Happy Shack ambassador, she’s also a mom to an adorable little boy she and her husband adopted from South America. She shares some of her story on her blog here. Go pay her a visit!

Spilling It! with Carmen Torbus

I’m taking an online workshop with my blog friend Carmen Torbus and am actually keeping up so far! I must admit, I’ve signed up for a few other online workshops that looked really fun and never had the time to get to them. I still have all the info for them and will get to them eventually, but I’m actually trying to keep up with this one as we go along! I’ll be traveling next weekend so that won’t be as easy, but we’ll give it a shot. These are my first two canvases for the workshop.

This week, we are just doing the background…though I’m realizing I have a hard time knowing when to stop. I didn’t use a paintbrush at all for either of these…just my fingers, bubble wrap, a credit card, tops to various jars, and in the top one a $1 foam stamp. The bottom one is actually a total redo. I wasn’t happy with the first version of it, so I gessoed over it and started over in another color scheme. Kinda cool though how some of the deep red/purple from the first version peeks through to the second. That was one of those “happy accidents.” Ready for the next step, Carmen!

Bling for the Fur Ball

I created this piece for the Fur Ball, which benefits the Leon County Humane Society (read about the Fur Ball on the home page!). It wasn’t a very good time of day to photograph jewelry, but I needed to get it in the mail and wanted to photograph it first regardless! If you look closely, you’ll see a couple little dog-themed charms mixed in. No, I don’t live in Leon County, I live Duval County, but Leon County, home to my wonderful Florida State University, is my second home, and I’m a sucker for animals. :-) Got the request to create something for their auction from my Etsy friend Lynsi. Go check out her fun little shop.

If Only...

Conversation with Sarah while I was brushing her hair before school yesterday morning (picture taken on the Lookout Mountain Incline Railway)...

Sarah: Mama, is tomorrow a school day?

Mama: Nope, tomorrow's Saturday. Weekend's here!

Sarah: Livvie! Tomorrow's Saturday! We have two days off school!

Livvie: I wish the weekend was three days.

Mama: Me too.

Sarah: Me three. No! I wish the weekend was FOUR days. I wish "wish spray" worked on that.

Mama: Indeed.

October Free Bling Friday

Free Bling Friday time! Random.org picked number 4 out of 72 entries for September’s Free Bling winner, so congrats to Tami from right here in northeast Florida. When I visited Tami's blog to contact her, I saw that we have a lot in common, including that we are both currently taking Carmen's Spill It! workshop! Can't wait to see what you come up with Tami!

On to October! I got the sweetest email from my bloggity friend Lauren Alexander recently. She was creating some digital collage sheets and asked me if I’d test pilot them for her, “Because,” she said, “You make the best stuff!” I was honored! So in honor of Lauren, this month’s free bling includes one of her little artworks as a glass tile pendant. It’s 1” square and comes complete with a silvertone ball chain. Look for more of these in my Etsy store now and on my website later this weekend (and speaking of my Etsy store and my website, I'm currently having a "white" sale, so go check it out!). Go check out Lauren’s adorably fun artwork.

To be eligible to win, simply leave a comment in the comment box (be sure you leave me a way to reach you and where you are from!) or email me with the subject line FREE BLING and include where you're from by midnight Thursday, November 5. Want two entries? Tweet, blog or Facebook this giveaway and leave a second comment with the link. The next winner will be drawn via random.org Friday, November 6. Don't want to miss a single Free Bling Friday? Click here to sign up for free weekly email reminders or subscribe in the reader of your choice in the right column over there. Be sure to join my Facebook Fan page over there in the right column as well for Fan specials!

Birthday Gifts for You!

My artist/Etsy/Facebook friend Aimee is having a birthday! And for her birthday, YOU get the gifts! I donated this glass tile pendant featuring my “Happy Azaleas” photo to her giveaway but she’s also giving away lots of other great things for her birthday. Go on over and take a peek and get yourself signed up to win something!