Monday, October 06, 2014

Up, Over and Back Down Again...


For my birthday, well a few days later, we drove up and over Lizard Head Pass to enjoy the changing colors of the aspens, which were every shade from green to yellow to orange to brown, the weather of rain, cold and snow and warmth, confusing them. You can see, above,  the line of Highway 145 to the left and then below, the old railroad grade to the right, the space in the middle is over 1,000 feet down, if you were wondering.

Right before that we had turned off the highyway to drive up around Trout Lake to get a closer view of part of the San Migels of the San Juans...


 Then at Alta Lake, we took the dirt again and drove up through pine and aspen to get to the high lake just at the edge of timberline, where on the other side of these rocks is the Telluride Ski Resort....



Even finding a fish, impervious to the cold, though he was swimming rather slowly...





 But I would be too if I had to swim at 10,000 ft above sea level, burr!...


Driving back down to the highway, while the sun thought about coming down in the sky...


we got to Telluride for a late afternoon lunch or early dinner, enjoying the last bit of warmth, before the crisp cold comes to southwest Colorado. The moon starting to come up....


as the sun came down, captured through the glass of the gondola that connects Telluride below with Mountain Village above...



Back at the truck there wasn't quite enough light to capture a herd of elk graving as we made our way back out to the highway....


Thankful that on the weekend the dreaded road construction crews were taking a break in their race to get as much of the road work done before the snow and the skiers come...

 As we went back over the pass to our own side of the mountains, the sun no longer illuminated the aspens for us, but  in the growing twilight, they were pretty just the same...




Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Winning Awards and Butchering Meat...


Well, it is finally up and I can declare my illustration for David Sklar's "Sky Fishing" poem which was featured in the May/June 2013 Ladybug has won the Society of Children's Books Writers and Illustrators 2014 award for magazines. Official announcement HERE.
I've known for awhile, but the circumstances of finding out illustrates how everything on this earth is so "relative", because the last few weeks, we, my husband and I have been dealing with the adjustments of taking on more of a caretaker role for one of  our parents, who will be 90 next spring and though amazingly fit up until recently, now has health issues and can not drive.

Just getting off the phone in a string of phone calls taking care of said parent, I did not expect the person calling me would be a SCBWI board member announcing my first place win, which she promised came with a plaque. I think I laughed when I finally got off the phone with her. Not that I was and am not very much honored for the recognition, but because in that moment, with my head pounding for all I had to do, the lack of sleep we were suffering under since settling back into life after the racing to the hospital, two flight for lifes, the surgeries in distant cities, the home care, etc. winning an award felt like a far off thing with all the other things in front of it, the laundry, my dusty house, the lack of planned grocery trips instead of grab and goes, the dogs that were bouncing off the walls and on one occasion eating the wall from lack of attention. Don't ask me when I have changed the sheets on my bed, I couldn't tell you, maybe before the weeks end. I know there is art in my studio, I just have to excavate it, a project started that was just going to have my studio messy for a few days, well now, it is what it is.

Today? Today when everyone now  knows, I forgot about it. Only reminded because I received a gracious congratulatory email from the author of the poem. My today has been three trips to the larger town twenty five minutes away, twice for my kid, the third because I finally decided not to given up yoga...again. Another trip was needed in the opposite direction,  to take said parent to Senior Lunch. I'm averaging  an hour and a half at home to get something done between trips. Got twenty three more minutes to get this done and posted!

What else did I do today? Art? Nope. Write? Nope. Do my laundry? Nope. I butchered a deer....by myself. My daughter's first. The outside shed refrigerator is going out and thought we could keep the quarters in it  until the weekend when someone could get it to the processor, but no such luck and I was the only one with the time to do it. So, yep... trimmed out the the meat, I had cut from the bone last night, with my laptop set to watch "Copper" on Hulu on a plastic tablecloth, surrounded by freezer paper and masking tape.

And that isn't the first thing we have harvested this Fall, we are so isolated we have to travel far for specialized surgeries and such and so along home  with the patient from Albuquerque came a bushel of roasted chilies, that once have steamed in their burlap bag after roasting have to be peeled.  Got those  harvested and four crates of apples from our homestead have steadily been turned into cider by my husband, still plenty on the trees  for the other deer, I was watching out of my window as I was filleting the venison of their cousin in my kitchen. Plum rum, which grows wild on our property and makes a yummy fruity rum for the holidays are steeping in our pantry, with another case of just rum, since making the pear rum from our trees just ain't going to happen this year. Rum won't go bad, right?

What was this post about..... oh yes, I won an award and more exciting things are happening and if I had a week, I could get things situated and tell you about our big announcement... I hope this is the week, but it is Wednesday, isn't it and the week, like the last four has sort of slipped by, with this distant echo in my head that reminds me,
" I am an artist" and now, " I am an awarding artist." The echo says, "I am a writer" then reminds me the words that I wanted to so get out to the world that will have to wait a little longer. Then a louder voice reminds me, " I am a wife and I am a mother by choice, first and the rest will have to wait a little bit longer."

And it will. because I have to spell check this thing, upload it and head back towards town...wonder if the construction is done on the highway or if I should go the back roads again. A real dinner or grab and go- that isn't decided and will probably be weak to my daughter's suggestions.




Sunday, September 21, 2014

It's Not About You...



"It's not about you.
It's not about you getting the love you deserve from someone else,
because I have loved you more than anyone on this earth.
It's not about you demanding justice or forgiveness from anyone else,
because I have shown you more mercy and forgiven you more than anyone on this earth.
It's not about your future or your past.
It's about Mine.
Time is Mine.
The universe is Mine.
The earth is Mine.
The mountains and the sea are Mine.
The air is Mine,
and you are Mine, so.....
it's not about you....
it's about Me."

Jesus

Saturday, July 05, 2014

Since Spring Break...

Happy Anniversary to Me! @moonflowermuse has been tweeting for a year, sending the first tweet out from Taos, New Mexico on  July 5th 2013, waiting in the rain for a table at Orlando's New Mexican Cafe...


If you have never been there, go, the wait  is worth it for their posole alone.  I also realized I haven't put up a post on Moonflower Musing in about two month and only looking back through my photos did I remember why, been kind of busy...
those would be orca whales in British Columbia. 

How did I get up there? Meandering, like I always do and to tell you the tale, I have to start way back at our Spring Break when we went wandering on the  west side of Lake Powell and hugging the Utah/Arizona border, did a little research for a project I'm working on  at Pipe Springs National Monument...

 a waystation, supply depot and polygamy hide out for the Mormon's living in Southern Utah...




Apparently, she acts all nice and sweet until she gets close enough to the wooden fence to whack it hard with her horns and watch the tourists "have a cow"!...
From Pipe Springs we headed to Springdale and explored the backside of Zion National Park, just for fun...





where, in a wash,  we saw desert sheep up close and personal, thanks to loud and obnoxious tourist above us...




Leaving Zion, we kept to the "back of things," leaving the pavement to drive a "seventy five" mile shortcut to Lake Powell and Hite's Crossing, the only bridge either direction for hundreds of miles, the ferry at Bull Frog broken down. Down through Water Pocket Fold we went...


weirdly the few cars that pasted us all from Washington State. When the tiny dirt road started to look more like wagons tracks, I got concerned, glad when we finally came to pavement again, Daughter #2 drove for a bit, in her permit year with literally, nothing to hit except for some sagebrush...

In  three days, we drove in a 900 mile circle and  never hit a interstate, getting about 30 minutes away when we were Springdale.  So what do you do after that, you come home and drop the husband off then take the kids, who are still on Springbreak to see Grandma, nine hours the other direction in Northern Colorado. Then you drive back home and picked up our new puppy...


Cause that is what you do when you have a crazy spring and summer...is get a puppy! Next up, Piper and The Bike Race.



Saturday, May 03, 2014

You Can Give A Kid A Diverse Book But You Can't Make Him Read It...



This weekend, everyone is  "twitterpated" on a viral campaign for #WENEEDDIVERSEBOOKS. It has been an on going discussion in Children's Publishing for some time now, but the issue is definitely "trending" due to the announced panel  of the Children's Book "Rock Star" authors  at BookCon this year will all  be white and male,  read about that HERE...
Yes! We need diverse books, but we also need children to be literate enough to read them!
I have taught Art, Reading and Writing Enrichment programs to  Native American and Hispanic kids for over a decade, I'm also a freelance writer and illustrator and it baffles me that this industry does not talk more about literacy then it does. Giving a kid who can't read or reads way below their grade level a book, does not teach him or her to read, it just frustrates them, forget about expanding their world!
Years ago,  an illustrator friend of mine and her publisher very generously donated a huge stack of  her new book to my kindergarten and first graders. The kids were hugging their books as they left to go home. A next day survey revealed that none of the parents had taken the time to sit down to read the book with them. One parent sending her daughter to tears for badgering her. Knowing the parent, I had to wonder if the refusal came from her own poor reading ability.


Why aren't we talking about this side of problem?

I teach at a charter school in the middle of nowhere, near the Four Corners of Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona and Utah, across the County Road is the Ute Mountain Indian Reservation. Down the road, is the start of the Navajo Reservation. Some years over half of our students are Navajo. The schools on the "Rez" so bad, their parents drive them forty five minutes to the nearest bus stop to get to our school, which is not great in comparison to the schools in the nearest town, thirty minutes the other direction and in comparison to the school my children go to in our district still another twenty minutes away,  it is down right bad.
Two years ago, word got out we were bringing a modular in to have a library. Reading the article in the local paper, people in the community assumed that meant we did not have books and started donating them. We had books, lots of books, the kids just didn't read them, unless forced too.
It is also a misnomer that these families are too poor to buy books. They aren't. This families might live in shacks and run down trailers, but they have enough money to buy cheap laptops, tablets and video games from Walmart and when it is free time at school, that is what they reach for, not books.
How do you get a kid to read a book? Yes, having characters and stories they can identify with is important. But not struggling over every word is more important.
How do you get reading to come easy? Well, you send home plastic baggies with little books, to practice every night with a reading  log. What do white, educated, middle class parents do? Sit down with their kids and read every night. What do Migrant families do? Make darn sure their kids are learning to read, write and speak English and do their homework, even if they can not understand it themselves.
Sadly, that does not happen in the families who have been in poverty and illiteracy for generations, whatever their skin color. Lack of education drowns  trailer trash white children as well as minorities.


What can we do about it?
If parents are not or can not help their kids practice reading at home, then the schools have to do it and one or two teachers can not practice with twenty some children everyday, so it is up to local volunteers to come into the schools. Who would that be?
Well, I go to the mid day yoga class and it is full of retirees, bored retirees who take yoga everyday and then go work at the Humane Society catching feral cats in town. Nothing against cats, but if those ladies would donate an hour or two of their time a week and read with kids that would make a world of difference and yes I have encouraged them to do so.
What can the Children's Book industry do? Stop thinking the solution is to give kids a book!
The ski industry of Colorado could teach us a few things. Telluride is over the mountain from where my own kids go to school and like most schools near a ski resort, we have a ski program. From a very young age and for a very small fee, the Telluride Ski Resort gladly buses our kids up the mountain a half a dozen time a season, provides equipment and lessons to .........Teach Our Kids To Ski!
Why do they do that? Well, because  full day lift tickets are around $80 dollars and season passes can be upwards of $1000. They are trying to get kids addicted to skiing and build the next generation of people who will keep them in business!

We need to get kids, all kids, addicted to reading and then we would not be having the discussion we are because Publishing is a business, it is not a charity and when publishers take a chance and publish a book for minorities and no one reads it, they have to look at the bottom line.
What else can be done? Send authors and illustrators into low income schools. But who is going to pay for that?  Right now, often a published children's author or illustrator gets a large percent of their income from school visits. What schools can afford to pay $1000s of dollars for fees and travel expenses in this day and age? The well off one, which by the way, those school's  parents ARE making sure their kids read those little baggies of take home books and ARE taking their kids out to see the world and into bookstores. Hum?
Besides the epidemic of illiteracy is not going to be fixed by one time school visits and  the kids in these schools are too uninformed to know to be impressed by a Newberry or Caldecott winner.
Actually, because Art so much better bridges gaps between cultures, we should be sending illustrators out first! Brooklyn Illustrator Sophie Blackall proved that, taking paper and markers to children in Rwanda, scarred with years of brutality...

read about it HERE


I've been part of that magic, with Native American kids, time and time again. Without a word, we start drawing together and their world opens up and mine too!
If each of us connected to the Children's Book Industry, made the commitment to adopt our very own classroom, locally or through technology like Skype, and had an ongoing relationship with those 20 kids for the school year, it would make a world of difference.
Say, once a month, a one hour Skype visit. Sending out writing challenges to the class connected to what we write and then giving them individual feed back and praise for their work. Heck, you could even have the same book and help kids learn to read over Skype. Join in with the classrooms book club discussion. The ideas are endless and no longer is distance or time an excuse.


Or....is pushing publishers to produce Diverse books really only for those kids who can already read? Which according to several studies, collected HERE , is a shockingly low number of the US population. The US Adult Literacy rate is around 75%-90% , whether that is just addressing the ability to read labels on medicine bottles, for work, daily living, etc. Those who can read, read, the average for adults is around a 7th or 8th grade level.  15% of us are at the reading level of those in an undergraduate program and well, that would be Us- those in this industry and our children, my argument is what about the other 85%? Pleasure reading is a self motivating activity, surely we all remember that from days when we had to read something we did not want to. You can give a kid a Diverse Book, but you can't make him read it.
Which brings up my last point and I have debated including it, but here goes. Piggybacking more liberal idea like sexual orientation into the discussion is a mistake. The lack of representation in publishing of books by and about people of races other than White European is a huge problem and yes, too few of these are being made, but reading up on industry news, books about gender identity and sexual orientation have greatly increased over the past couple of years. That is all I am going to say about that, but let me illustrate my point with my own experience.
The Four Corner is Conservative in their politics to say the least and the Art Teacher before me, was fired because a parent walked in to see this...

Botticelli's Venus

Not that she was showing it  to the children, but it was the cover of one of her reference books, in her bag, behind the teacher's desk. They fired her. Well, she was also teaching the children to love and protect predators in cattle country....most of the children's families were ranchers.
When I got the job, I had a choice to make. Push my agenda on these kids, or teach them up to be educated people to make their own decisions about well nudity in art, environmental issues, etc. I have lasted at that school for over ten years, because I leave my personal political and social slantings at the door and work to give them the tools to form their own. 
We, as a nation, have a lot to answer for before bringing Native Americans or any other minority in line with our agendas. My bet is they are more concerned about saving and preserving their own cultures, literally what is left of them. We can help them by giving them the tools- literacy, education, a way out of poverty before we start trying to bring them in line with our own way of thinking.
















Monday, April 21, 2014

Here Come the Illustrators...



Oh My!! Life has been crazy, but finally got a chance to look at the line up for this year's Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators conference....Wow~! Here is INFO from their site, but wow~did I say that?! The faculty includes very knowledgeable writers, illustrators, editors, publishers, a huge amount  of African American , Hispanic American and Asian Americans  this year- kudos! But, no Native Americans that I can see either writers or illustrators, but I am not going to go off on that, because I'm impressed in what SCBWI did accomplish. 
And the illustrators, well start off with Tomie dePaola...



who I always thought  was part Hispanic for the books he has illustrated for the last forty years or so, but, nope, he is Irish/Italian, just loves to study and bring forth other cultures. 
The Saturday Gala is celebrating his 80th birthday. I've been going to the summer SCBWI conference for seven years and this is the first time he will be there. 
Next up is Aaron Becker...


One of this years Caldecott 2014  Honors for his wordless picture book JOURNEY.

SCBWI did "pretty good" this year on the women illustrators I have to say, some years it' an all male review, out of editorial or fine art background for speakers,but.....well, again, I am not going to rant, because this year's line up looks great since a female, cat loving illustrator, Judy Schachner...


 is giving one of the keynote talks and a workshop on animal characters, which I am not good at, can illustrate them in their natural habit but not so well in overalls!

What is really exciting on the illustrator front is Monday's intensive, which started about 3-4 years ago and to be honest, the illustrator side did not sound very appealing to me, the first few years more on watching the "big namers" demo their process. Now don't get me wrong, that would be unbelievable fasninating to watch someone paint, I could do that for days, but don't know how helpful that would be be to me, a collage artist in furthering  my career.

But this year, it is all about  inspiration from the Masters, something every artist no matter what the medium we use or how experience we are can benefit from.  There is a option to send in an illustration inspired by a master.....hum, do I want the likes of dePaola or a 2014 Caldecott Honor commenting on my art, have not decided that and while the SCBWI assignment is probably for younger children's illustrations for picturebooks, I already am working on an illustration as a promo for book covers that is much inspired by Wood's American Gothic...

and the works of photographers during the Great Depression that I have been pouring over as of late, these are gorgeous....


I'll show you when I get done and we shall see if I do one for a younger audience for the SCBWI Intensive. But as an art teacher, I love studying the Master and am excited about this years line up of Illustrators for the LA conference, plus the whole conference  is a really great "mom" escape at the poolside bar with a mojito or two, since I just have to find my room, no driving involved.