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Archive for March, 2008

My mother joined our household, of four, for a family Easter. One grandson, who is only home in the summers now, is working in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Our oldest daughter and family (with three grandsons) had their own celebration in So Bend. Eight other grandchildren, who live in Wyoming, have long been missing from our embrace. It was a comfortable and enjoyable day, with the two grandsons who live with us.

 Dinner was ham, mashed potatoes, corn, deviled eggs, guacamole and chips, baked beans and Easter Bread. We remembered the salad on Monday. No one was about to forget the blackberry pie, nor the two pineapple pies. We try to make sure that everyone has something that is their favorite.

 I am not a game person, feeling that I should, and would rather, be painting or writing or sculpting, rather than playing with cards. Sometimes the noise of it is just too much. But, I even joined them for a game of Tryce. The fifteen year old took over after that. They continued to play games until it was time to take my mother home.

 Sunday evening, I started thinking about what I would consider my most memorable things in life to be.

 My family would have to top the list. Moments I have spent rocking a child, having one come to me with problems or happy events, or just to show me a flower or rock they have found. This makes me incredibly sad that I have never even met my youngest granddaughter.

 Other memories are:  

 

My mother serving me tomato soup and grilled cheese when I was ill and home from school. That’s traditional mid-western comfort food.

 

Dad always bringing me a treat in his lunch box is another great series of moments. One, where the child, me, never really realizes that it’s food right from our own cupboard/refrigerator. It always tastes better out of his black metal lunchbox. Do I sense a pattern of food developing?

 

My oldest daughter remembers things from when she was two. She remembers odd things. Not those things you remind them about every holiday. She remembers moments you just would not believe someone that young would remember; just plain, ordinary, everyday moments.

 

My first memories involve my paternal grandfather. He had familial palsy or Parkinson. We are not sure which really, but by the time he was in a wheel chair and visibly shaking, I was around two years old. I remember bringing him a glass of water. The next memory is from his funeral. My dad was crying. This is a family thing I have inherited. I could write a whole blog on the things that make me cry, (not blubber cry, just a few tears down the cheek) but should tv tell me about someone doing something nice for someone else. Or, should the time be when I am sitting and watching a parade. (Don’t even ask.) Anyway, my aunt took me for a walk during my grandfather’s service and I remember the patterns of the sun shining through the trees on the sidewalk and how beautiful they were.

 

To this day, I still love shadows: venetian blind shadows or trees on the wall, or just a glass sitting on the window sill.

 

Here is a list of other moments I remember:

 

A whale breaching off the eastern coast. They are so right when they say, “If you have to ask. It’s not a whale.”

 

Petting a lion.

 

Feeling the skin of an elephant. I monopolized my spot, in amongst a row of children at the zoo, but it was just soooo cool. It felt like a balloon full of water.

 

A Harrier jet stopped in mid air over Chicago skyscrapers. I have never heard the streets of the city so deadly quiet. Then slowly it’s nose pointed toward the sky and BAM! It disappeared skyward, in an instant.

 

Sitting on the porch, when I was maybe five, watching a storm come in over the field behind our house.

 

Wrapped in a blanket, I sat and watched a full lunar eclipse, in the quiet wintery night, in Wyoming. Sometimes I just have to experience the world alone, with no talking going on.

 

Another night, I went out alone and the house was surrouned 360 degrees by lightening storms.

 

Wyoming skies are great. One day after a storm, I saw three rainbows in the sky at once.

 

Coming home and getting out of the car every night for “x” days and seeing Haley’s comet.

 

Laying in a sleeping bag, in the sand, watching a meteor shower.

 

Sitting in a hot tub, after skiing, and sort of seeing the aurora borealis. I didn’t have my glasses or contact on, so it was rather blurry.

 

The sound of a bagpiper in a quiet campground in Nova Scotia.

 

The sound of a bagpiper in the college quad after the death of a friend.

 

 

 

The feeling of immersion in the music, and being in sync, when playing a violin duet with, my teacher, Rainer Schwartzkopf. The one thing I miss more than just about anything in the world is studying with Rainer. He is in Wyoming and I am in Indiana.

 

Watching the sun set within sight of Indian cave homes from my van and not getting ejected from sleeping in a National park where I shouldn’t have been, sleeping in my van. Thank you to whomever I owe a thanks. Karma, I hope. It was a sight I will always remember.

 

They all are.

Hope you have dozens too.

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I did it!! And,  it didn’t even take two years. I changed my banner. These are three of my paintings.

The middle pastel is of a lady I saw in Seattle. I used to travel across the U.S. to place my art in galleries, exhibit at sales and enter art competitions.

While I was in Seattle, many years ago, I went to the mall for lunch. While I was there, a dance for senior citizens started on the main floor. As I watched from the balcony, I became entranced by this lady. I went downstairs to talk to her and she was just as enchanting close up. She loved life and it showed. She allowed me to photograph her and I promised to send her copies of the photos, but somewhere on the trip home, I lost her address.  I’ve always felt bad that I didn’t get her copies because she is just so beautiful.

The work on the left is an oil painting I created many years ago. It’s of a dear friend of mine from northern Indiana, Gerrie Govert. She is a wonderful painter, teacher and friend. Another student of hers took the photo but gave me permission to paint from it. People continually ask if it’s a self-portrait.

The photo on the right is of a woman doing quill work at a Revolutionary war recreation.  Much of my subject matter came from the Native American community and re-enactors. I loved to exhibit at Pow Wows. I had a permanent sign for my both that said, “I paint with respect.”  The Sandos, from the east, were particularly interesting and I have painted grandfather, father, son and daughter.

My second sign read: ‘If you see me photographing and you do not wish me to, please let me know and I will be careful not to include you. If you do not mind my photographing, please give me your name and address and I will send you a copy of any photos of your family.’

My favorite thing was to go to sleep to the sound of the drums. It is a part of the leaves rustling in the trees and the whisper of voices on the wind.

I love living in a tent. I do not normally do much cooking but love cooking over the open fire, with simple main ingrediants. The other benefit of the fire is sitting around the campfire at night.  We had a friend who played guitar and knew every Jim Croce song.  

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My dad and David during WW II

It is raining in central Indiana. Since I grew up in northwestern Indiana, this does not surprise me. It is the reason that all I want to do is stay in, drink hot oolong/Jasmine tea and curl up under a blanket with a good book.

 

Actually, I love the rain. One of my favorite memories is camping with my family in the rain. Sitting in my living room, I can smell the wet canvas and hear the sound of the tent zipper. My brother and I would play Cribbage by the fire, after the rain cleared, or while sitting at the picnic table, under a tarp. He also taught me to play chess. He loved games. I don’t.  I have a compulsion to create and, the whole time I am playing a game, I feel I am wasting time when I should be painting.  But, I do make an exception for Cribbage and chess and would give a lot to have one more game by the fire.

 

My brother, David, was under two when our dad went off to war. He, mom and our sister lived with our grandmother during this time.  David loved our Uncle Donald.  He followed him around like a puppy dog until Uncle Donald DeWitt shipped out. One day, he woke up from his nap screaming. Grandma and mom went running in to comfort him. He told them that Uncle Donald was hurt, and they put him in a jeep, and they drove him into the forest, and he was never coming back. David was inconsolable. My grandmother said, she knew right then that her son was dead. David’s dream was a warning for her.

 

It was true. Uncle Donald was fighting in the Battle of the Bulge. There was a company in the U.S. that ran out of gunpowder so they decided to try TNT (excuse me if I have the names of the powders wrong). Uncle Donald’s weapon exploded.  An ambulance was not available, so they put him on the back of a jeep to take him to the field hospital; through the woods. He was DOA.  When they received the death notice, the day of his death was the same day as my brother’s nightmare.

 

My brother was born six years before I was. I understand he liked to spoil me when we were little. I don’t remember much of that but I do remember that he was always there to listen, when the world seemed to be crushing me. I also remember him reading or listening to music. He would come to dinner with his nose in a book. In fact, one day he came out of his bedroom when mom had company, and the company asked her who the boy was, who was visiting. They had been to our home several times but he was always in his bedroom reading and they had no idea she had a son.

 

David went off to the Air Force and became a phlebotomist. Mr. Nasty Nice would draw blood, take bodily fluids, and test them. In those days, I believe they just put their thumb over the end of the test tube and shook it up.  However, you would incur his wrath if you took a drink out of his water glass.

 

 

When he signed up for military service, he got the deal to pick where he would be stationed after basic training. As any sane person would do, he chose Hawaii. He actually spent the last years of his service at Ernest Harmon Air Force Base in Newfoundland. The Air Force has quite a sense of irony, doesn’t it?

 

After he left the Air Force, my brother worked at a hospital lab in Illinois. His co-worker invited him to dinner one night and introduced him to her daughter, Terri. They married and had four wonderful kids. He was head of the lab at St. Margaret’s Hospital in Hammond, Indiana, until he got involved with computers.  It was a passion for him and when he became ill, he was able to work from home as he became more ill.

 

Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma took his life.  He fought it for two years.  As the disease progressed and the treatments took their tole, he developed a cough. One of the few things he could enjoy was eating lunch with friends in the hospital cafeteria. One day he was coughing in line and another hospital employee told him, “If you are that sick, you shouldn’t be here.” I kind of understand, but he wasn’t infectious and for the rest of the time he had left on earth, he ate lunch alone in his office.  Which was not right either.

 

People tend to panic on their fiftieth birthday. My brother didn’t.  He panicked when he turned forty. This was before they diagnosed his cancer. I joked that he should wait and get upset when he turned fifty. Something in him seemed to know he would never make it to fifty, and he didn’t.  He passed away in 1990. I miss him every single day; especially the rainy ones.

 

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I am someone who has had incredible problems just responding to a blog. I am currently banging my head on a brick wall in figuring out how to “blog.” I’m sure there is a Blogging for Dummies book out there, but I refuse to buy it. I’ve been like that since I bought a KAYPRO, way back when, and for those who do not know what a Kaypro is: It is a computer in a metal suitcase with no memory. The memory was all on a 5 1/2″ floppy, but it had a great game called Wumpus. There were no visuals, all in your head and memory, Do you want to turn right, left or go center, then it tells you what happens, like it “smells a Wumpus” and you run into … kind of thing, and you make a decision. No fast action, just good for the memory.

As I get older, however, I find that I need to ask for help more often. and, I don’t like it. Thank goodness for Ben, the tech at Gold Rush Web Hosting, or my web page would never be up. I sit here putting things on my Blog page and taking them off that column on the right; scrolling other Blogs and wondering how they did this or that, and then going shoot, she has the same banner as I do. Like I thought no one else did????

 So, add to the list, of things to do, to replace this generic banner, which I like, with my own artwork, which is much more descriptive of who I am.  I hope I will get to that a bit quicker than I have gotten to redoing my web page. It was last updated so long ago that I don’t even remember when anymore.

 There is a reason for that. I can’t find just the right background.  Stop laughing. I’m serious. I love textures, I want certain textures in this 2D environment and I haven’t gotten it right. So, one day I finally say to myself, That’s enough you idiot. Just do it, you can always change it later. But there is a catch-22 in that sentence: “change it later.” That changing it is what I have been trying to do for over three years now. It will happen right after I have gone back and relearned how to punctuate.

 Is it my imagination or have the punctuation rules changed in the last decade or so?

 So, here I sit, conquering a new medium, blogging. Why? 1. It looks like fun. 2. I enjoy writing. 3. I’m told a writer needs a blog. 

I have been a writer most of my life. I have been an artist all my life. I have been an artist since I found it was much more interesting to draw parishioner’s portraits on the church bulletin, than to listen to the sermon.  Gosh mom, there’s where I went wrong.

I received my BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, in 1990.  I had painted commission portraits for about six years and wanted to become a better painter. By that I mean, I had the realism thing down, I wanted to grow. I was in a class with Gustin. He’s a wonderful teacher and he made me do an exercise where you have continually trade drawings around the room with other students. I was getting so darn mad, because I would just get into it and then he would switch (like musical chairs) that I started really painting; as in: putting my emotion into the work. It was good. Probably the best I have done. I was furious but happy.

By the end of the semester he tells me that he is putting me in an advanced class. I will be painting under the direction of two teachers; he is one and a woman, who goes by initials I choose not to remember, is the other. That was the worse semester of my life, with her as a teacher. She would harrangue me in class, ask to see my slides and then throw them down, do things like send me to the museum to study the color, which was the best time I had in her class. I had students ask me what was her problem with me.  She would dramatically flop herself down in a chair and say, “What am I going to do with you?” Her drama and her own paintings reminded me of the little crying woman on the tombstones of PBS’s Mystery tv program. I could see her laying over those tombstones, hand on brow, crying “ohhh” “ooohh.”

I ended up going from being a painter to a potter. I was so frustrated I went down in the basement to throw clay around. One look into the kiln room and I found out that I was a closet pyromaniac. I got a job cleaning the pottery lab, so that I could go in and breathe clay dust at 7am. I caught the 11pm South Shore back to Indiana every night.  I lived pottery. I now have a pottery studio in Brown County, Indiana where I can also paint whenever I want.

How long should a blog be? I think I may have reached the limit and my life will still be here tomorrow.

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I never met my maternal grandfather, since he died before I was born, and I was only one year old when my maternal grandmother died. They had six children and they live through the stories their children tell. 

 

Memories have a way of reinventing themselves and I have listened to many family discussions that disagree.  One memory all their children agree on,however, happened during the depression when grandfather was a bootlegger.

Granddad supported six children, a wife and a father living in his home; as well as a roving number of assorted relatives, who stayed for short and long stays, and friends who dropped by on Sunday for the best, fried chicken dinner in town.

He had trained as a classical violinist, so when the depression descended, he made extra money playing honky-tonk fiddle in bars and on the radio.  He played on the Hammond radio station as “Dad DeWitt and the Pumpkin Huskers.”  His four daughters sang and his two sons played instruments.  This was not what he became famous for, though.

What he became famous for, was the best bootleg bathtub gin in Lake County, Indiana.  The, then Mayor of Hammond was his best customer.

The still had been set up under a false floor in the coal bin of the house they rented.  One day, a cousin was helping him watch the still and fell asleep at the gauges. Yup, it exploded. Fine black coal dust sifted up out of every register in the house. No one was hurt but it days to get the house cleaned of soot.

Grandpas bootlegging career ended unexpectedly the day a black limousine pulled into the yard. The driver knocked on the door and told granddad that Al Capone was waiting to talk to him. Mom says Granddad’s face turned white as a ghost at those words. Grandma did not know if she would ever see him again. He walked to the car, with Capone’s henchman, and got into the back seat. The car did not drive off. Instead, Granddad sat in the back seat and had a conversation with Al Capone, in the limousine, in my grandparent’s yard.

Capone told Granddad that the quality of granddad’s gin was so high he wanted granddad to make bathtub gin only for him. He would buy Granddad a new car and a new house. But the house would have to be located where Capone wanted it. Granddad politely declined what must have been great wealth during the depression. He explained to Capone that he had children and did not feel it would be right to get them involved in this business. Capone was very friendly and polite about the whole thing and even gave Granddad a cigar.

After the conversation, Granddad came in and smashed the still. That is when grandpa, Omar DeWitt, decided he was not going to make bootleg bathtub gin anymore, for anyone. He was not going to endanger his family because once you start working for Al Capone, you could never ever quit. 

 

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