Saturday, November 30, 2013

Advent thoughts from Doug

From Doug, 

We decorated the house for Christmas today.  The tree is decked out and standing brightly in the corner of the living room.  Emily’s Christmas village of houses is displayed and the collection of nutcrackers are standing guard on the mantle.  I put lights on the outside and picked up a new inflatable snowman to replace the one who melted on us last year (or something like that).  

This always happens on the Friday or Saturday after Thanksgiving in our house, but only because I won’t let Emily and the girls do it any sooner.  If they had their way, decorations and Christmas music would start filling out home sometime in mid-October.  I think it is good to wait, to anticipate, to expect.  By the time the decorating happens, the girls are excited to seeeverything come back down from the attic and to see what new thing might be in the yard.

The tree and the lights and the stockings and the Nativity set that surround us for the next few weeks point ahead to the culmination of the season.  They help to build our sense of excitement and expectation.  The practice of Advent allows us to do the same thing with our hearts and our souls.  Advent is a time to prepare, to let the excitement and anticipation build as we wait to celebrate the birth of Jesus again.  

We know the story and if we are not careful we will jump ahead to the climax before it is time.  Our hearts need time to get ready.  Our souls need time to let go and refocus.  That is the goal of the calendar and activities with the elf.  Each day, there will be verses to read and an idea for your elf.  If you don’t have an elf, just use the verses (they are the important part anyway!)

Allow the story to build.  Allow your mind to focus.  Allow your heart to celebrate.  And when it is time, sing with all your might about the miracle of the coming of Christ.  By that time, you and your family will be ready and this could be your best Christmas ever!

When I was picking the verses for the calendar, this one kept coming back to me as a theme for this adventure, and really it is our prayer for our family and yours this Advent and Christmas season:

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:13)

Now go find a good place for that elf to be in the morning!

Thursday, November 28, 2013

The Advent Elf...2013 edition

Like many households in the US, we have an Elf that arrives for the Christmas season. "Jingle" our elf, joined us in 2009 and has rock star status in our home. 

The first year it was cute. After a couple of years it was a nightly chore to find a new place for Jingle to sit. You can only have the elf sitting on a picture frame so many times each season.

This year, since we are in a new house, we have new places!! Cool.

However, I really don't like the trend to make the elf do naughty things. That seems counter-intuitive to Christmas and the whole "better watch out" gift of Christmas.

I've also really been thinking and pondering Christmas and Advent. I looked up Elf and Advent activities far and wide and couldn't find anything that worked for our family. As Doug says, I am smashing Advent and Santa together. Yep... that's exactly what I was looking for. 

So I have created my own Elf Advent Calendar! I have even written the letter from Santa explaining what is going on and mapped out what the elf can do to reinforce the daily verses. 

Below you will find the calendar and the verse/letter files. I have attached them as pdf files should you want to use them.

Check back on Saturday evening as Doug will be my guest writer. I've asked him to do a weekly "What's coming up this week in Advent" post. In case you didn't know, he is an ordained minister. While he smirked about smashing Jesus and Jingle, he was completely on board and helped me with the verse selections!

Thanks for stopping by and I hope you have an awesome Advent season!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

The Payoff

There are mornings when I really don't want to get up
before 5 am to run in the dark.
There are evenings when really all I want to do is eat
ice cream and sit on the couch.

But most of the time I am able to overcome those feelings and keep on trucking with my healthy lifestyle.

And I am so glad I am.

Cause running and races have become a normal part of our life, so much so that the girls have started asking for races too!

A couple of weeks ago was the Fuel Up To Play Fun Run.

Lexi and Kylie were so excited to race.

The night before the race, they spent the night with my parents along with their cousin Aspen and stayed up way too late, but Lexi and Aspen were still ready to run. Kylie... not so much.

Doug and I got there right before the race and found out that it was a 2 mile race, not the 1 mile that I thought. Oops! :)

I love this picture of Lexi. She is such a natural runner!

As Kylie came around the bend at about 1/2 mile, she bailed. 

And here are Lexi and Aspen at the end of the race. They did great!

Part of the excitement about the race was that the participants would receive a pedometer. Lexi was pumped. 3528 for 2 miles.. would have thought she'd get credit for more, but she was happy!

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving and Maddie is running her first 5K! And I'm not going to be there! :( But I am thrilled that she is running it with her cousin! Then on Saturday the little girls are doing another 1 mile race and Doug and I are doing a 5k. It's the same race as one we did last year. Fun... I have a time to beat!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The wrong support messes up the whole piece

I had a great idea. So I thought. I created a little still life of my shoes and my marathon medal and decided to do a color pencil drawing.

It was a nice thought. But I used a black piece of paper and it was the WRONG choice. No matter what I did, it was too dark. I thought the black would be a nice deep base to provide the depth that I wanted.

marathon medal still life

It didn't work. See.

In person it looks a little better and the ribbon and medal actually look pretty good.. they jump off the paper like I planned.  It only took about a hundred layers of color pencil.

But the overall drawing is blah.

So not what I was going for.

And it's all about choosing the wrong paper to start off with.

Very frustrating.

I'm not going to give up on it though. I'm going to redo the entire thing with a white support.  I'll let you know how it turns out.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Art Convention Wrap Up

Another art convention has come and gone. 

I truly enjoy attending as I always learn something new, make new connections with people in the art world, and get refreshed.

This year I taught two hands on workshops and one technology workshop.

I even remembered to take a picture at my final workshop.

I have to say, I love teaching teachers!  

They are a hard crowd at times because they already know the content and unless you can catch their interest quickly, they will leave your workshop in a flash. I say this, because I've been this person!

My workshops went great. I had wonderful feedback and was able to share new ideas and methods for teaching traditional concepts.

In my technology workshop I taught about making snapguides. It was so much fun watching everyone get so excited about making online tutorials. I'm hoping that some of these teachers will start making tutorials that I can use in my classroom.

And in a departure from the hands-on workshops that I usually stick with, I went to a seminar called Current Research in Higher Education. It was really informative and opened my eyes to the fact that some of the processes and teaching methods that I use in my classroom I could use for research publications.

Like I need anything else to work on!! :)

Friday, November 22, 2013

Gelatin Monoprints

I'm in love with Gelatin Monoprints. In fact, if I was at home and not at a conference, I would be working away at these babies making all kinds of cards and prints for Christmas gifts. But I'm not, so I'll just blog about them instead of attending the General Session. Yep, I'm one of those people!

Anyway, the backstory on these prints is that the ladies presenting this workshop attended one of my workshops this morning and asked me to attend their's and make a snapguide on it. I said sure...if they will save me a seat! So I got a great seat and all the supplies and have fallen in love with this super easy and inexpensive process.

Here are some of my prints from today. There was no planning, no prepping and just blobs of color painted onto the gelatin plate.  I LOVE the impressionistic style I ended up with. It was purposeful as I have a couple of clean prints, but I like the squished ones best!

The camera doesn't do the prints justice!

It was so much fun!!

For complete instructions,

Check out How to Create a Gelatin Monoprint. by Emily McLemore on Snapguide.
 check out my snapguide.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Art Convention 2013

I'm preparing to leave for the Texas Art Education Association's annual conference. It's always a fun time of learning new classroom tricks, finding new products and just rejuvenating with like-minded people.

This year I'm teaching two different workshops. One is 

"Georgia O'Keeffe Meets Andy Warhol" 

It's about drawing flowers up close and then turning them into a three part stencil and printing the flowers multiple times.

You can find out more by clicking on the guide below.

Check out How to Create a Set of Andy Warhol Inspired Flower Prints by Emily McLemore on Snapguide.

I'm also teaching a workshop on how to use Snapguide and Guidecentral. I am a great fan of these sites/applications.

So that's what I've been working on the last few days. Gathering supplies for a hands on workshop for 50 (but I'm teaching it twice, so 100) and having to pack them for travel takes some planning and prepping.  But I think I pretty much have it all done... except for a few things I though about during the night, good ideas have a way of doing that...

Monday, November 18, 2013

A Week of Celebrations

It was a busy week here last week.

On Tuesday, Lexi was in a school play. It was called "The Granny Awards" and Lexi was the Granny!! She was very cute!
I'd put more pictures in this, but I recorded the performance while others took pictures. That means I don't have pictures on my computer. Bummer. Just take my word for it, she looked like a little old granny on the stage. She even had fake glasses.

Then Friday was Lexi's 9th birthday! 

We celebrated as a family on Thursday night with a special french toast, whipped cream and strawberries meal. This is the second year that we have done this, so now it's a tradition!

Then Lexi got to open a couple of presents. Kylie picked out a great game called Kornered. It's all about colors and patterns and NO WORDS to read, so everyone could play!

The big gift were stilts. Oh how she wanted those things! And she knew that they probably wouldn't be shipped in time for her birthday, so she was so excited when she was handed the box!

Doug quickly put them together.

 And she was off!

We started her off on the lowest setting with the starter legs and we have been raising them a little. Even just a few days in and she is about ready for the legs to be changed to the "advanced" leg. 

Then on Friday morning, she got a couple more presents. A pink jacket from her Daddy, a book from Maddie and a card game from me.

Then we were off to school for end of the grading period awards. Here Lexi got perfect attendance, A honor roll and two different reading awards. 

As you can see in the picture below, only two students earned one of the reading awards that Lexi got this six weeks! She was so pumped and is already well on her way to her next goal.

We ended the day with Lexi and Kylie going to spend the night with my parents while Doug, Maddie and I drove two hours away to watch a high school football playoff game! The next morning we all went to a fun run (pictures to come...) and then Sunday celebrated Doug's birthday! He went and played golf and I ran a 5k.

Whew, no wonder I don't feel rested! :) What a great life I have! I get to celebrate my children, run races with them, play games and sing songs and eat cupcakes with my family. No time for rest, but that's the way I like it!

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Remembering Lindsey: in Linoleum Print

Some people make a permanent mark on your heart.
Lindsey was one of those.

Recently I was looking at some photos of her and I just felt the need to 
create a linoleum print of her hands creating art.

Here is one of the prints from the first series.

I like the dark ink on the light paper. I also like that it's a little heavy in places.  It's not a "perfect" piece and Lindsey would have never been able to create a "perfect" piece by traditional art standards.

But I wasn't in love with it.

So I went back to work and after a few hundred (at least it felt like it..)

Here is one that I absolutely love!!

In person, it's much lighter and softer, but it doesn't show up on the screen well so I had to darken it. The paper is really white and the colors are soft.

I am so happy with the final product. In the end, this was a piece that I created for myself with only my memories and emotions as a guide. Artistically there are changes I would make, but since I'm not selling it and not grading it, I consider it to be finished!

And as a side note, if any of you out there miss Lindsey and would like an artist proof of the above print, I have a dozen or so that I don't have any need for, but I don't want to throw them away! 

An artist proof means that it's a print from the working linoleum block. No two are alike as I would print one and then cut a little more away and so forth.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Insecurities vs A God-Given Dream

It's funny how life works. Lately I've been battling insecurities. Lots of them. And today at church, we heard an awesome message on how God uses our insecurities for His purpose.  I really, really needed the pick me up.

Here are a few of the thing that really stuck with me.  I didn't take notes during the sermon, so these are my thoughts based on what the pastor was saying.

If God gives me a dream, then give Him a chance to fulfill it.
If God gives me a dream, then allow Him to work out the details.
If God gives me a dream, I need to step aside so that it can happen.

If God asks me to do something, then He will make a way.
If God asks me to do something, then He will give me the skills.
If God asks me to do something, then I need to allow Him to move.

If God challenges me, I need to stop making excuses.
If God challenges me, Its because I'm ready.
If God challenges me, I need to say yes.

So hold on everybody.

God has given me a dream. He's asked me to do something and He has challenged me to stop making excuses.

So I've stopped. And I'm starting to work on that dream.

Friday, November 8, 2013

10 Bandaids So Far....

I've been working on a printmaking piece over the last week or so. I'm on my third try. The thing with printmaking is that you carve out the area that you want to be white. But once it's carved, it's gone. There is NO putting the linoleum back.

So there is a fine line you have to reach. My first two plates I went to far. This time, I'm trying to stop right at the line. I want the details, but I want the viewer to be able to feel the piece as well.

Yesterday at school I had my student's critique the piece. They were a little leery and you could tell that they DID NOT want to hurt my feelings. But I told them that I needed their feedback, that I am a working artist, not just a teacher and want to make sure that the piece "reads" to the viewer.

It was fun. 

Here is where I am at.  What do you think? Should I take anymore of the black out. Remember, I can't put anymore black in it.

And now that you have looked at it, what do you see? I SO want to tell you, but I'm trying to not lead you!

Sunday, November 3, 2013

So Long Weight Watchers, It's been fun.

I've been renewing my membership to Weight Watchers and their Active Link for months now... not because I was tracking food, but because I wanted to see how many activity points I could earn while training for a marathon.

Well, now I know. And so do you! 

Do you see that? From August 2 to November 2 I earned 827 points! And don't forget, I had bronchitis TWICE during that time!


So what's next? 

Well... I'm going to try to lose another 15 pounds before April 5th. I'd like to get rid of the love handles and the need for a sports bra for my HIPS!! Man, pictures from races don't lie!

So it's soo long Weight Watchers. Since May 2012 you have become a dear friend, but I think that I can take it from here. And if not, I can always renew my membership!

Saturday, November 2, 2013

I am a Marathoner!

Today was the day. I ran my 26.2 mile MARATHON!

It's wasn't fast, and wasn't exactly pretty, but it was FUN! And I have to think that none of you thought I'd say that! It was fun because I didn't push myself to run a crazy fast pace, I had LOTS of friends and family come out and support me and I trained smart!

The race was Marathoning for Miracles. It supports the Children's Miracle Network. The sticker they sent out is great! It will be on my car tomorrow along with my 26.2 sticker!
We had planned to go down Friday night, but Maddie was playing with the high school band at the football game, so we ended up going to the first half of the game, getting to bed about 11pm and leaving the house at 4:30am. We arrived in Abilene at 6:30 am. It was supposed to be mid 40's. It wasn't. It was mid 30's. 

Here I am with my friend Crystal who was running the half marathon and my friend Lesley who BIKED and drove around the course to be my roving aid station! It was incredible having her help me. I needed her, but more than that, I KNEW that if I needed her, she could get to me quickly. It was awesome!!

And here I am with Doug. He did his first HALF marathon today!!! I hate that his big accomplishment was lost in my big day!
It was sooo cold when we were starting the race. Crystal's grandmother was there and she gave me her gloves to wear! Thank you Crystal's grandmother!!

Crystal and I started the race dead last. We were in the back anyway and then I couldn't get runkeeper to start! I was NOT going to do this big race without runkeeper tracking my progress!!

We ran the first few miles amid the frost and peace of the morning. Then we turned to the airport and had to run on unpaved hard-packed roads. YUCK!! We were NOT ready for that. We ran on the gravel, in and around potholes for a few miles. When we finally came through that junk, Crystal's family was there to cheer us on! FUN!! As we got to mile 8+, Crystal had to turn around go back to join the 1/2 Marathon race. (She started incognito with me 15 minutes early to pace me!! Super Friend!) Then I ran and ran and ran, alone on the country roads. 

Thankfully Lesley found me a few times and offered aid and cheering and SIGNS made just for me!! 

I wasn't sure where I was in the race, dead last? But then at mile 12 I saw a runner off in the distance and used him to motivate me. So I passed him at mile 13 and then picked off another guy at mile 14. Then it was back to lonely running on ROLLING HILLS!! OUCH. This marathon was billed as FAST AND FLAT. It was not! 

Anyway.. at mile 17 we turned back to where we had started and straight into a head wind! I knew it was coming. I went to college in Abilene (shout out to Hardin-Simmons University here.)and the wind is just part of West Texas life. My pace slowed a lot at that point.

As I neared mile 18, Crystal and her family were there to cheer for me and a dear friend ran towards me and offered to run with me for a while! YES!! Sabrina and driven two hours that morning, just to be there for me and to run with me for a little while if I needed her! She ended up running 8 miles with me! And these were CRUCIAL miles!

Then at mile 19, Doug, my mom and dad and my girls were there!! That was tear worthy! They tooted horns for me! (That was so cool! Shout out to two more incredible friends Mindy and Rachel... they made me a goody bag and sent the horns for my family!!!) My parents and girls had never seen me run. This was a huge deal for me!

From that point on, I had family and friends support my journey. It was incredible. This was my journey, but it was bigger than that, it was OUR journey! Crystal came back and ended up running 4 more miles (she ended up over 17 for the day!) and Doug walked a little with me, by that point he was DONE, but he wanted to join the effort too. Yes, he is a keeper!

I wish I had pictures of everyone along the way, but I was a little busy and I didn't want to take a chance of killing my phone battery before the race was over.

So finally, after 26.2 miles, here I am running in at the end. Lexi took the picture of me! I love that you can see my leg muscles!

And here I am at the finish!!!

And below is another picture that Lexi took. It's a horrible picture of me, but I love it. My dad is caught in the picture and I love that you can see that I'm not dying. My greatest goal for this race was that my girls would see that it was HARD, but that I wasn't doing something that would hurt me.
Now I just have to focus on those love handles and hips. no more donuts?

Love that we both got medals today!

And finally, here I am after the race and a shower that I got to take at Crystal's grandmother's house!!! See, it really was a group win.
Now that's the race is over and we have been home a while, I can say that without a doubt, this is one of those defining moments in life. To be able to say that I have run a marathon is mind boggling! That's the kind of thing you hear about OTHER people. And hear I am. Even better, I do plan on running another marathon, probably this same race next year.

In the end, my time was slower than I had wanted. I ran the first 13 miles exactly the way I wanted. Then I ran 14-17 even better. I picked up the pace just as planned. And then wham, the wind. Even then I was doing great. In fact, up until mile 21 I was feeling good. But then, the hurt was more than I could ignore. The ball of my left foot had hurt since mile 3 and it was just not going to play nice anymore. My right quad and calf were spasming and the pace dropped. Even worse, at this point, we (my two awesome friends Crystal and Sabrina and me) were running on the highway and the oncoming traffic was heavy and big trucks were LOUD and would blow you off course. But we laughed and talked and persevered. 

After it was all said and done, I wasn't last!!! In fact, I finished 3rd in the 30-39 age group. And yippee, I turn 40 next year, so I'll age up! (yes, running is probably the only sport where aging up is a good thing!)

So if reading this inspires you, I suggest you get off the couch tomorrow and go for a walk. Then find a local running group and start a run/walk/run interval program. Cause at the end of the day, there were two ladies laying on the floor of the expo with their legs propped up in bad shape. I stopped in there and had a few chicken nuggets and was enjoying my girls. As we got up to leave, one of the ladies stopped me and said, you are in MUCH better place than we are! So I said, well... I do a run/walk/run interval and that makes the difference. The other lady said, I guess we should have walked some. I told them that I did a 3 minute run with a 1 minute walk and that I just finished my first marathon in 5:13 and that while I don't want to go for a run right now, I'm good. They just shook their heads and said, that was our time.... I said that they might want to learn about the Galloway method. They agreed! I then smiled and told them good luck and walked out with my girls, without limping,  while the ladies struggled to move.

So to all of you out there, see you at the next race! I'll be one of those run/walk/run-ers enjoying my race, posting times that are better than my previous times and having a great time with my friends and family!

And thank you for sharing my journey with me!