Thursday, January 31, 2019

A Bitter Break

The holidays flew by and before I knew it, before I was ready, school was back in session.  During the day, in addition to doing my own work, I filled in for a coworker who is retiring. I was busy in the evenings taking my youngest to basketball and swimming and I also had to volunteer 10 hours one weekend at the swim meet. Quite a few hours were spent reading and judging short stores for the Scholastic Writing Awards another weekend. Then Aaron got a concussion while we were getting Damian ready for winter formal. I needed a break and boy, did I get one! A polar vortex affects 27 states and school was cancelled for 5 days straight.

Over the past week I accomplished a lot. Some of the unfun stuff I did was work on medical reimbursements and get the paperwork gathered for taxes. But to be honest, most of my time was doing things I enjoy.  I played some board games with the boys, cheered at several of their basketball games, took pictures of the frozen lakeshore, snowflakes, and attempted to freeze bubbles. Had to see and try things for myself; even threw boiling water up in the air. I also applied for an artist residency in Washington and submitted a photo for the Hoosier Women Artists contest, updated the MHW blog, and edited a ton of photos from our last vacation. I wouldn’t have had time to do half of that without the week off.

It’s supposed to warm up now so I hope to walk the frozen ditch behind us tonight and maybe visit my favorite lighthouse in Michigan tomorrow after work. I need to experience a little more of the magic before it’s all just a pile of slush.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Summer Ache

Summer is almost over and it’s a bitter pill to swallow – literally and figuratively. I have been sick for nearly two weeks and it seems like it couldn’t have come at a worse time. I got on medicine for an ear infection on Friday the 13th and haven’t been well since. I thought I was managing, was able to pack up and head out to Wisconsin with the boys for a short fishing trip but really only kind of enjoyed one day. Besides the intense ear pain I battled headaches and fatigue. Last Tuesday I spent the day sleeping and vomiting. I went to the ER fearing dehydration so he gave me an anti-nausea med and a different antibiotic. Both made me sick every time I took them but despite frequent vomiting and dizziness I was able to make the drive home the next evening. I saw a specialist Thursday. He said I have an outer ear infection and it is affecting my ear canal as well. He gave me prednisone, ear drops, cephalexin, and zantac for my stomach. I have seen some progress, swelling is down, but I am still very dizzy and tired. I have so much to do before school starts again. The closing reception for Images of Illinois is tomorrow night in Springfield, IL and I wanted to combine that with a trip to Kansas City to meet my new niece. I am praying it works out.

When I look back at this summer I will have to try and remember the good things that happened the 6 weeks before all this – like the Michigan photo workshop I went on in June, getting an Honorable Mention in the NFSPS annual contest, spending time with my friends and relatives, and taking pics for the Shirley Heinze Land Trust.


Sunday, April 29, 2018

Give me a High Five!

Highlights High Five Magazine that is. Highlights published my poem “Hello Hoots” in the High Five April 2018 edition. I received a thank you and two complimentary copies in the mail. A couple of my friends even sent me a photo of their child holding up the magazineJ. It was a long journey but I’m very happy I am finally a part of the Highlights team. I love the illustration by Michael Slack and wrote him a little note to tell him so. Looks like he is quite an accomplished artist!


This spring I have been busy submitting to poetry and photography contests and to the editor of the latest edition of From the Edge of the Prairie book. I even applied to a few artist residencies. Now that my kids are older I have the ability to travel for workshops and photoshoots, etc. A residency would give me the opportunity to really focus on my work in a new place for a few weeks at a time without interruptions and distractions. Some provide travel reimbursement and a stipend. Wouldn’t it be nice!

Saturday, September 30, 2017

The Waiting Game

When I was younger I prayed and waited for the really important things to happen. I waited for a boy to notice me, a different boy to ask me to prom. I never got a note or wink, never got asked to the dance, so eventually I learned to take a deep breath, fake confidence, and try my best to make things happen. For the most part being bold and “confident” has worked out for me. I’ve initiated relationships, played different sports, and joined several clubs. I’m grateful for nearly every experience. I have submitted poems and pictures to magazines, entered poems and pictures in contests and have had a fairly good success rate with that as well over the past eight years. Since I have always sought approval and acceptance certificates and ribbons keep me happy. Being a part of an exhibit at an international airport and a full page spread in a well-known magazine keeps me especially motivated to continue and push for more.

I won $500 and a full page spread!

photo Sammy's mom took when he found his picture

Similarly, I have applied to numerous jobs in the school corporation (and went on countless interviews) since becoming a paraprofessional five years ago. Be patient and persistence pays off, I repeated to myself every time I went through the hassle of online applications and updating my resume. I also reminded me that on at least two occasions I was told I was close, very close, like second. That gave me a boost, a little more real confidence, and the drive to keep me going. Success doesn’t happen overnight and waiting is never easy. Maybe that’s why I always have a lot in the fire. Maybe what I wanted wasn’t meant to be now - but there is always later, always next time. Stay positive.

So here I am. In August I started a new job (with better benefits) and in September I found out one of my children’s poems finally has a publication date. (I had been hoping and waiting for that news for over 2 years). Next month I’ll hear about a few more things I’ve been working on. Rejections suck but I’m ok with them because at least it means I tried. I won't have to look back with regret because I was too self-conscious or scared of failure.

To sum it up: I’m excited for the future and endless possibilities. Good things are always worth the hard work and always worth the wait.

Ike's graduation announcement with the photos I took.

Binder I made for his graduation party

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Wrapping It Up

Christmas has come and gone and today is the last day of the year. I kept busy this past fall with photo shoots and editing. I currently have two nature photos in the Indianapolis Airport until March. I am anxious to drive down and see them and the rest of the exhibit. And I'm beyond excited to report I won first place in a magazine portrait contest. In a few weeks, after I get my prize money and copies, I will be able to share the details! I also have poems and photos in two new anthologies.

My kids have been doing well in school, work is ok; good news all around in that regard. The last few days of the year were a little tough for me though. I was asked to take pictures of the Spencer house as it was being torn down. (Tom was a well known poet and close friend. He regularly welcomed fellow writers and their families into his home and put out quite a spread. We always enjoyed the picnics, Labor Day parades, and Christmas parties he hosted.) Tom passed away over a year ago and his historical house, which was once a bed and breakfast, didn’t find new owners. His daughter couldn’t be there during the demolition so I took some pictures and videos for her then grabbed a few things from the rubble. It was a poetic ending but another difficult goodbye.

I’ve been having a hard time coming up with material to write about but overall it was a productive year and I’m looking forward to 2017. I hope to learn how edit and illustrate on my new Wacom tablet and am eager to try out my son’s GoPro among other things. New adventures await!

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Finding My (Re)purpose

It wasn’t planned but my art route took a detour. In the spring I began collecting discarded beer caps, tabs, and sharp glass for a photography exhibit on beer because I didn't have any other ideas. I glued the glass on the frames to add impact and interest. My three submissions were on display for months at the Wildrose Brewery, then they came home. No sales, no one thought them remarkable or thought provoking. No one had to have these conversation pieces or talk extensively with me about my innovative and creative displays. Still, I was not discouraged or embarrassed. It's ok to be a garbage picker if it's for art's sake, right? If it serves a good purpose?  ABSOLUTELY!

The rest of my summer visits to the lake brought sadness to me too. I kept finding kid friendly things that were left by the young beach goers and their parents, friends, family. Shovels, buckets, popped balloons, cups, ribbons, plastic ware, etc. Beach party after beach party - celebrations where no one wants to do the dirty work or take any kind of responsibility at all. So I picked up the garbage, then arranged it, photographed it, and eventually made a poster for the Dunes Environmental Center in Gary, IN. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Repurpose …Love Your Lakeshore. This theme goes along with my poems that will be published this year which both praise our environment and curse the inhabitants.

Does anyone get it? What we are doing? You are going to the beach WHY? Hiking in parks WHY? To be with nature or to trash it?

Tomorrow our school custodian is retiring. Unable to sleep early early this morning I wrote a poem and devised a plan. After scouting the halls, classrooms, drawers, and cabinets all day at school and then at home I came up with an abundance of materials. A work of art like no other eventually evolved. This 8x10 framed poem is overflowing with admiration and appreciation. It's sad, how much we have, discard, waste but this shows someone understands and respects the hard work he did, the dedication he had. Hope he can take just one more mess. Thanks John and happy (garbage free) trails!

A quick detour or new direction entirely? Not sure, but at least I have a purpose right now. It’s an interesting, fun, and creative way to spread the message. Reduce, reuse, recycle, repurpose, replant, restore, ...

Monday, June 6, 2016

First Things First

I have lots to report since I have not posted in over six months. I’m happy to say amazing things are still happening…

December:  Mapping the Muse got published. This book celebrates Indiana’s 200th birthday and my poem “All Washed Up” was chosen to represent Lake County. (This is the first of many special events planned for our state).

January:  This was the first time I entered photos in the Porter County Gardening Show and they all placed! I got a 1st for Foliage, 3rd for Fungus in the Garden, and an Honorable Mention for Insect in the Garden. It really is a nice event and I wish I had more time to look around and shop. After the show the winning prints were on display for a month at a framing shop in Chesterton.

February:  I got to get to a Michigan beach in winter – first frosting photos!!! No, it was not ideal. The big lighthouse was not frosted over but the little one had some. The railings were ridiculous though – icy blue and white spikes everywhere.  Shelf-ice, icebergs, frosted steps:  Well worth freezing for!

March:  For the first time I had a photo accepted in the Cancer Resource Center’s photo contest. I had submitted four years in a row and finally was chosen to participate in their fundraising campaign. Butterfly notecards were handed out at the gala in April and are now on sale in local gift shops. Mine is the Monarch on Goldenrod. A few other Calumet Region Photo friends also got to participate.

Each month the Chicago Area Camera Club Association has a special category digital competition. I have received a few good scores and awards but finally got the best score. The category was “triptychs.” I had to look up the meaning but once I did I realized I had already made a few through my portrait work. I entered two different series of children and worked hard perfecting a frozen lighthouse scene. In the end my “Hugs and Kisses” caught their eye. It originally was a Christmas present to my sister-in-law and all my niece’s idea J.

Other nature photos did great in the Calumet Region Photo competitions this spring. I got three awards and of those, two got Print of the Month.  …And since we didn’t go anywhere for spring break I participated in some painting events.  I plan to do more this summer.

April:  I found out a different lighthouse picture I submitted in a cover contest will be used for the latest Encore edition. Encore is an anthology containing the prize-winning poems of the fifty contests held in the spring NFSPS contest (National Federation of State Poetry Societies). Valarie has been the editor of Encore for the past 12 years. We exchanged several emails and I hope to meet her someday. Each conference attendee gets a copy and they are also available to other members and the public. I cannot wait to get my copy. The conference is in Minnesota this year so I think they will appreciate the shelf ice surrounding the lighthouse and the long catwalk - especially since it is a wrap-around cover.

I submitted photos and poems about the environment (good: the dunes and other nature experiences, and bad: the way we are trashing the planet) to both The Edge of the Prairie and the next Hoosier publication. I had tried to step away from Prairie Writers last year because I was so busy, but they are such a great group I was drawn back in. Both publications should be out in the late fall.

Finally, May:  I saw a “Call for Art” about beer while out gambling with my mom and sister in Michigan City. I had no idea of what to submit until I took a walk on the beach. I was looking for beach glass but was saddened when I saw all the garbage. I ended up picking up rusted beer caps and tabs, along with shards of glass in various colors. A few more trips to other neglected beaches gave me plenty more material. The finds made nice photographic collages and hopefully will make a statement. I attended the artist reception a few weeks ago and did reconnect with an old friend – might have made a new friend too. Maybe not that ironically, the Memorial Day celebrations on Chicago beaches made the news a few days ago because of all the garbage people left. Of course I had to voice my opinion on one of the FB posts and share a photo of my own.

Summer is just around the corner but summer break has already started!!! I have a few small trips planned and also will be participating in a few obstacle races. Maybe I can slow down and not take on anything extra??? Now THAT would be a first for sure.