Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Comparing messes

5-31-11 transformation brain
Today, I’m still sticking to my cleaning project. I’m not sure IF I will be finished today, but I’ve scheduled a therapeutic massage later this afternoon, as a reward to myself. I hope the large bulk of cleaning is done by then…. But this project may spill into Wednesday.

It is interesting to excavate my art closet. It contains historical layers of my creativity over the last 12 years or so. Stuff from my unsuccessful attempt at watercolor phase, my calligraphy phase, my first drawing class phase, my early pastel phase, my pixel art phase…. And so on and on!

Last Friday, Greg and I arrived back in my hometown in time for supper. Then we walked over to my Elementary School, Jefferson, which is being torn down. Tearing down the only Elementary School on the south side of town, is not making neighbors happy, since it is not only a waste of a good building, but it is unknown what might get build on this 9 acre lot.

Talk about a mess! The good news is that they are trying to recycle some of the materials. Greg did some inspection and said from his Civil Engineering point of view, this was a well built new addition back in 1970, with the original structure build in 1960.

Here is a picture of our childhood gather spot…. “The Big Rock”…. Now buried in a pile of tree debris. This rock holds special memories for many of the kids who attended Jefferson School, and there is suppose to be an attempt to save it and move it outside of the Charles City museum….. if it is not too large to move.

Here are a few other pictures for those friends formerly from Charles City. Click to enlarge-

Monday, May 30, 2011

Vacation Project

5-30-11 cleaning brain
I'm taking a few extra days of  vacation attached to the Memorial Day weekend. Greg and I have returned from our visit to my parents, up in northern Iowa...(report on that trip will come this week)..... and 1:00 PM Monday, I'm starting the cleaning project of my ART room.

Here are the before pictures:

I've got this nice big closet that is jam packed with.... "I don't know what!"

While up north in Charles City, I did get to visit with my long time high school friend Jean Ann..... who is my cleaning mentor.... ..... and she gave me some inspiration I need. Jean Ann has the cleaning gene, while I inherited the mess-maker gene. So for the next few days, I need to do my best to keep Jean Ann's voice in my head while I tackle this clean out project.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Junk = treasure = art

5-27-11 creative brain
Thursday evening I took a quick walk over to the grocery store for some needed supplies; TP and bird food. On my way home, the universe had placed a valuable treasure along my path home. This discarded and damaged CD.

As many of you know, I have been creating peace art with used CD’s….. (see over at my Peace Blog: http://www.onesmalldailypeaceofart.blogspot.com/)
 AND....I am currently out of my stash and in need of locating more CD’s.

I was joyful upon seeing this CD on the ground, along the curb of the church parking lot…. A good sign to remind myself to ask my friends to please send me your old used CD’s! Please!
Yesterday, inspired by the last Oprah show, this was the Peace Art I created.
It’s a Peace “O”

It felt wonderful this week having my paints out on the sunroom table...(me making another mess)... and creating again after my week off- being out of town.

Wishing everyone a safe and peaceful holiday weekend!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Openings and Closings

5-26-11 reflective brain
This month of May seems to signify the opening and closing of many windows and doors- some of these are joyous and others traumatic, or often both emotions occurring at the same instant.

The month of May holds school graduations, which indicate transitions and steps towards new paths and adventures in life.

My niece Sarah celebrated her college graduation about a week ago.

My God-daughter Chelsea also received her college degree this month, as well as the high school graduation of Paige, my neighborhood pal, the daughter of Peace Sister- Sue.

The month of May has contained turbulent destructive weather creating suffering and loss due to floods and tornadoes. Yet these losses also hold the seeds of rebirth, reconstruction and new beginnings..... just as new life unfolds before my eyes when I look out to my garden.

This week TV viewers had an avalanche of “final” episodes and season finales. Ann, Carolyn, Sue and I took advantage of this as an opportunity to gather together this week both Monday evening, Tuesday, and Wednesday.

Monday at Carolyn’s we watched Dancing with the Stars, and Tuesday at my house, the first hour, we first watch American Idol (Ann’s enthusiasm could hardly be contained at this point)… then as I taped the finale of Glee, to watch later…… we laughed our way through the 2 hour finale of Dancing with the Stars. We seemed to be leaning towards Hines Ward, who did in fact win…. However, I still was hoping Chelsea would win, since I think she was the best dancer of the final three.

Then the ultimate of ENDINGS…. Oprah finished up her 25 year show with two huge shows and one last simple chat with her audience. For the most part, I have been a fan of Oprah over the years. I really was into her during the “spiritual quest years” in the 90’s. She would loose me every now and then, when I felt her shows were leaning too much towards glorifying materialism and sensationalism. Movie stars were paraded out to sell their movies and over the top, rich life styles.... these shows turned me off.

Yet when all is said and done, Oprah has changed the world for the better, and touched my life in a positive way. I’m particularly grateful for all the authors I was introduced to; books and ideas which helped me stretch, grow, and opened my mind, opened my creativity to new worlds- new possibilities.

I did love the simplicity of Oprah’s very last show….. I call it “Oprah’s Last Lecture”….. but I hope it’s not her the last words I hear from her, since I found it to be very meaningful.

If some people don’t believe in God, or a divine force in our universe; I’d say look at Oprah’s life. Born black and poor in Mississippi, with every disadvantage you can name; yet some great spirit guided her to greatness. Its mind boggling to me, how can you explain such transformation without some divine spark being present. Even Oprah gives credit to God and acknowledges the miracle, as she explained the divine guidance she listens for daily. I too have learned to listen for this voice, and I thank Oprah for being a wonderful teacher to the world. May her light continue to shine for another 25 years!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Wednesday Guest Blog

5-25-11 memorial brain
This weekend, Greg and I will be spending time in Charles City. Mom and I will make our annual trip to the cemetary with flowers laid on the graves of special people. Memories of our loved ones keep our connections strong and everylasting. Ann is finding wonderful ways to keep her father's love alive in her heart. -Judy

Everyone Needs A DO-Over

Memorial Day 2011 will be very special and meaningful to me with the recent death of my Dad. Weird as it may seem, personalizing death is new to me. To be honest, I’ve always looked forward to Memorial Day as it would be the first holiday and three-day weekend since January 1. This year, it’s my turn to remember someone, Matthew, my Dad.

I’ll be the first one to admit, I was not ready for Dad’s death. Within minutes, there were many decisions to be made: do you want an autopsy, speaking with the Chaplin, final prayers, which funeral home to call, what clothes should he wear and not to mention, burial or cremation. So many decisions to make in less than 8 hours, but we got through it. One final decision was his obituary, what to write and what picture to use. That’s the source of my DO-Over.

Oh my, where was my head when selecting his picture. For the record, Dad did not like his picture taken for one reason or another. The picture selected was one that I took September ’10 while we were in Toronto and sad to say, at a family funeral. She wanted everyone to wear something bright so my Dad wore this pink shirt. While the shirt looked great, he looked tired and he was looking down (15 hour drive will do that to you). The second picture was also at a family event, his granddaughter’s wedding in ‘08. He looked great here and you would not of known we drove 18 hours to get to the wedding. After thinking it over, I asked the funeral director if he would do me a big favor and make a few more announcements using this picture. Everyone needs a DO-Over, and other than the picture, here’s a few things I failed to mention.

Dad was a well-read and informed man. If he wasn’t reading the newspaper, he was listening to the news. If there was a breaking story, he was all over it, watching it cover to cover (much like me). He had his favorite reporters but he loved watching Nancy Grace. Dad worked two jobs until the age of 65 then he took a break and only worked one job until the age of 77. He became an American Citizen in 2003 and was extremely proud of passing the citizenship test, holding dual citizenship (USA & Trinidad). He saw the dessert of Palm Springs, the mountains of California, the waters of Florida, sat in the bleachers of the Indianapolis Speedway and got to see Danica Patrick race, not to mention his Redskins adventures. He was a Republican and attend the ‘07 Straw Poll in Ames, Iowa on one of the hottest days in August and conversely, attended his first Iowa Caucus on one of the coldest days in January ‘08, supporting Mike Hucakabee. Dad lived like he had $5 in his pocket but indulged with buying good shoes and name-brand clothing. I’d say, “Dad you could buy a good shirt/suit at Kohls”. Nope, he wanted to look good in his shirt, tie and suit, and that he did.

Dad loved his steel pan music and listening to Top 40 tunes. While I listened to NPR in the car, he had tunes on his radio with Lady Gaga, Katie Perry and when Taylor Swift came on he’d say “there’s chicken legs, I really don’t care for her”. He was a fan of Dancing With The Stars, America’s Got Talent and American Idol, using “dawg” every now and then. He had an old TV and I’d say, “you need to get a new TV” and nope, he wanted to buy me a fancy one for taking care of him. I still can’t do that. We made a deal while he was in the hospital, that he would come to live with us and he agreed saying “you’d better call the landlord, I need to give a 30-day notice”. I’m comforted with the thought that he knew he would not be alone.

On this Memorial Day, May 30, 2011, I am honoring Dad with this post and this memorial garden. He will not be alone in the garden, The Angel will watch over his rose bush and lily and the light of the solar ornament will allow him to find the way to me whenever the need arises. Dad’s DO-Over is now complete.

Chat Later

That Girl, Ann Marie

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Saturday dinner out

5-24-11 reminiscing brain
Saturday was a special evening; Greg and I were invited over for dinner at the new home of one of my hometown classmates. Daryl lived in my neighborhood and we attended K-12 together. Daryl married Dawn who was two years younger than us and lived on the other side of Main Street, so I didn’t know her well during high school. Dawn and Daryl had just moved to KC in December and live about 30 minutes from our Leawood house.

Since I had just returned from my Florida Conference, I was feeling bold and when we were served mussels, I decided it was time to give them a try (Greg did too). Well, with enough butter on them, they weren’t too bad, followed by a wine chaser.

I had such fun getting caught up the lives of Daryl and Dawn, and Greg was patient enough to put up with hearing more Charles City stories. Dawn admitted to me her first kiss was with my close neighbor playmate Jim who lived across the street.... Evidently Jim was allowed to cross Main Street at some point. I'm noting this especially for Alice who reads my blog!

Daryl grilled up some of the best salmon I have ever eaten! Oh boy was that a heavenly meal!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Weekend Rapture

5-23-11 thankful brain

Is this Heaven, yes…. It’s Iowa! …. And I am back in my home state, still alive, in spite of the rapture on Saturday….. However, I’m happy to report that I think I did experience the rapture on Saturday. Maybe the true rapture (being present in the Kingdom of God) is not what happens to your body, but instead, is a “state of mind”….

I landed in KC Friday late afternoon, and spent a wonderful weekend with Greg. This was the most relaxed- blissful weekend that I can remember…. Maybe it was just exhaustion, but it sure felt like Heaven to me in so many ways. (more on that later in the week)

On Sunday, I drove home to Des Moines and was happy to see that I had not missed the blooming of my lilac bushes…. The smell is so wonderful. AND I am happy that the peonies are not quite opened yet....I didn't want to miss that either.

I had a freshly mowed lawn and I walked into a clean house since my housekeeper’s visit was on Friday. Then within 10 minutes of arriving and unpacking my car, a perfect weekend got even more perfect….. my phone rang and it was Sue and Carolyn inviting me down for dinner on Carolyn’s deck. Grilled turkey burger really hit the spot, plus good fellowship with my Peace Sisters!

Now it will be interesting to see if I can carry this blissful state of mind into the new work week. With the biggest 2011 project complete- my successful presentation at the national conference, I’m onto more deadlines coming up this summer and preparing for another state educational workshop in September.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Beauty of Western Iowa Part Three

5-20-11 GUEST Blog
Lewis & Clark Statue – If I had gone to school in Iowa, I would for sure remember that Iowa was part of the Louisiana Purchase. Short story long, Iowa was part of the French Louisiana Territory (828,000 sq miles) and after the 1763 French Indian War, the Territory was ceded to Spain, then back to France. Then comes Napoleon and Thomas Jefferson and in 1803, a series of back-room deals and a treaty, “Treaty of Fontainbleu” (haha I’ve been to Fontainbleau), then comes James Monroe’s sweet deal of not only purchasing New Orleans but the whole Louisiana Territory for $15 million dollars, or five cents per acre. Jefferson then commissions Lewis & Clark to explore the territory, 1804-1806. To commemorate the expedition, SC hosts not only this statue, but an interactive interpretation center. The 5,500-pound 14-foot bronze spectacular sculpture depicts the explorers Meriwether Lewis, William Clark and Lewis’ Newfoundland dog, Seaman.  This website is amazing. http://www.nps.gov/archive/jeff/LewisClark2/Circa1804/Heritage/LouisianaPurchase/LouisianaPurchase.htm.

Next is Sergeant Floyd Monument - You can’t miss this as you drive into SC on I29, but for 13 years I did. It reminds me of the Washington Monument and from my research, it is second in size to the Washington Monument, 100-foot obelisk marking Sergeant Charles Floyd, Jr. final resting place. Floyd is known to be the only member of the Lewis & Clark team to die on the two-year expedition (hard to believe). He was 22 when he died in 1804. There’s a lot to be learned here. http://www.pbs.org/lewisandclark/inside/cfloy.html or http://www.siouxcitymuseum.org/sgt_floyd_5.asp,  http://www.nps.gov/nr/travel/lewisandclark/ser.htm

Chief War Eagle - friend of the “white man”, 1785-1951. He was a river guide to the settlers and worked for the American Fur Company during the 1812 War. In 1837, he received a Silver Medal from President Van Buren for his work over the years. Reading his bio, he was a peace maker. He’s not easy to find, but once found, very picturesque. He’s was buried on top of the bluffs overlooking Iowa, Nebraska and South Dakota.   




Let me say, I was exhausted after seeing these memorials/monuments and we haven’t made it to the wedding yet and I have one more sight to see, (write-up at a later date) Trinity Heights.
Side-bar note, Judy this was indeed a lot of work, so I applaud you for your daily writings. I’ll stick to the weekly writings and occasional series.
Chat Later,
That Girl, Ann Marie

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Beauty of Western Iowa Part Two

5-18-11 GUEST Blog
Iowa indeed has a lot of history and I can’t believe that I did not soak up some of the history of Sioux City (SC), Iowa over the years. You see, for 13 years, you would of found me in SC at least ten times per year. With a 3.5 hour drive, stopping along the roadway was not high on my to-do list. Last October, while attending a wedding, I took the opportunity to take a leisurely drive to SC via the Loess Hills and see a few sights in the City. History I tell you, lots of history.
First, the Loess Hills Scenic Byway in Western Iowa. Here’s a synopsis:
The unique land formation of windblown silt called “loess” extends nearly 200 miles in a narrow band adjacent to the Missouri River Valley. Although deposits of loess are found across the world, nowhere but China are those deposits higher than they are in Iowa. The Loess Hills encompasses over 640,000 acres of land with over 10,000 acres designated as a “Loess Hills National Natural Landmark.”

I think this description is fascinating and one you can’t see nor appreciate driving on I-29, one must use the Byway to see the hills. The drive was on a beautiful sunny Friday in October, and I am very pleased to check this off my list. http://www.loesshillstours.com/geology.html

Off to Sioux City and on the to-do list: Flight 232 Memorial, Lewis & Clark Center, Sergeant Floyd Monument, Chief War Eagle Statue and will write about Trinity Heights on another post.

UA Flight 232 Memorial – Do you know where you were on the afternoon of July 19, 1989? Well for the people of Iowa, most were glued to the TV watching a 44-minute drama unfold. The UA flight, Denver to Philadelphia, had major engine failure and the pilot was attempting to land when the right wing tore off, the plane did a cartwheel and then blew up. Of the 285 onboard, 185 survived. The statue depicts National Guard Lt. Col. Dennis Nielson carrying a 3-year old child to safety. A vivid memory for me and a very nice memorial. Do you remember the pilot’s name? Captain Al Haynes. I wonder what happen to the little girl.


Off to see more sights in the city limits of Sioux City.    
Chat Later,
That Girl, Ann Marie

Monday, May 16, 2011

Beauty of Western Iowa Part one

5-16-11 GUEST Blog
I would call myself a road warrior as I love to get in my sweet ride or shopping mobile and hit the roads whenever possible. When I see an interesting sign, I do my best to stop and take in the sights. With that said, over the last 13 years, while traveling to and from Sioux City for work, I’ve seen the same signs and for no good reason other than “I don’t have the time”, I have not stopped. Well that changed last fall with two road trips. I’ll start with I-80 West and the towns of Elk Horn and Kimballton.  
Have you seen the sign on I-80 West for the Danish Windmill in Elk Horn? I must have passed it over 200 times over the years and never stopping.  With my recent ’10 travel to Copenhagen, I wanted to stop and see what this mill was all about. Geez, what a history, built in Denmark in 1948, the city purchased it in 1976 and shortly after that, a law was passed so that authentic Danish windmills could not be taken out of the country. And unlike mills for water or energy, this mill was used to grind grain. Read more about the windmill here.  http://www.danishwindmill.com/danish_windmill_history/history_overview.asp

Near the Windmill, I saw this unusual contraption and what … wait a minute … a charging station? Yes, the town of Elk Horn with 650 people is the home of four electric charging stations, built by and mainly used by the owner/operator. On further research, Elk Horn has been cited for this achievement. Read more about the town and its many accolades here http://www.elkhorniowa.com/.

While in town, we stopped by the Danish Immigrant Museum built in 1983. Among telling the history of the people of Denmark, it hosts the largest Danish gift shop in America.  This is quite a Museum and a must see.  http://www.danishmuseum.org/. On the grounds of the Museum there is the cutest chapel, Morningstar Chapel. It might be the world’s smallest working chapel, 6’ by 8’ chapel contains a pulpit, an altar, and four small pews. Take a look at it here, built in Waterloo, Iowa. http://www.danishmuseum.org/morning-star-chapel.cfm

While I was there, the guide asked us “have you seen the Little Mermaid”? Oh my, I traveled thousands of miles to see the Little Mermaid in Copenhagen and here, 80 miles from my home is a replica of Hans Christian Andersen’s Little Mermaid. http://www.kimballtoniowa.com/. Here’s a link to the Copenhagen’s mermaid. http://www.copenhagenpictures.dk/mermaid.html

After seeing the town of Elk Horn and Kimballton, I’m truly appreciative of the Danish settlers and their courage to trek across the pond and one-half of the United States to settle in Iowa. When you have time, check out the life stories of some of them here. http://www.danishmuseum.org/danish-american-stories.cfm

Chat Later,
That Girl, Ann Marie

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Surprise Guest Blog!

5-14-11 working brain
Thanks Ann for volunteering to fill in for me while I'm off at my National Conference!

From time to time, someone will ask me “Ann do you plan on staying here (in Iowa) the rest of your life”? Before formulating a smarty pants response, I say to myself “where else would I go, my roots, immediate family and great friends are in Iowa”? Sure I’ve seen the world, traveled to most of the States, but I’ve lived in Iowa for two-thirds of my life and unless I win the lottery, Iowa is my home. And besides, that’s what vacations are for, busting out of your hometown. And busting out I do.

Last weekend, the Des Moines Register printed the annual Vacation Iowa insert and I said to myself, geez, I saw a lot of these places on my “50 Things To See and Do” last fall. I’ve not had the opportunity to share some of the sights so I asked Judy if she needed a break from blogging while she was in Orlando for her annual meeting. Yes, the structure of writing is fueling my soul. Have a great trip Judy and I’ll keep the blog going and make your proud!

I will be posting three articles on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Look forward to some interesting pictures and short vignettes about Iowa.

Chat Later,

That Girl, Ann Marie

Only in Iowa?

5-13-11 traveling brain
Only in Iowa?......Well, maybe not just in Iowa…. But an example of why I enjoy living in Iowa (not just because I always have)…. is what I saw in the Des Moines Register Newspaper Thursday morning.

Front page of the Metro & Iowa Section was an article about 4 kittens rescued from a storm sewer. Workers at Simon’s automotive store heard a cat cry….911 was called, and a net brought these tiny kittens to safety. The article was even accompanied by two big pictures. A slow news day, ya probably.... and that's what I like about Iowa.

While I am out of town at my work conference next week, Ann has agreed to be my guest blogger and will be filling in at least three days next week. The topic, perfectly timed… will be about Iowa! Read tomorrow as she sets up her mission for next week.

Thanks Ann for volunteering to fill in for me. Maybe others will see why we love Iowa!

Our cat Clover, who lives in KC with Greg, was also rescued as a kitten and we are grateful to have her in our lives now!

Option A, B or C ?

5-12-11 aha brain
I’ve decided to stop thinking and talking about retirement. I decided this was making me feel old and confused.... and since I’m not able to make some decisions I would need to make at this time… like where am I going to live and what would I do? .... I think I could and should just keep working.

Most of my friends are younger and will still be working… I think I should pretend I’m only 50 and keep working until Greg can retire in 10 years. Then we can deal with all the retirement decisions together (?)... it's an option!

But in order to keep working, I know I’m going to really have to pace myself. Like now- I don’t need to stress about cleaning out the basement THIS summer…. I can take my time over the next 10 years. Procrastination, it’s a skill I need to get better at, but it just might be the thing I need.

For this week, I'm focusing on taking breaks and enjoying nature throughout the day. This view is out my back yard Des Moines, at the "old folks home". They make good neighbors out back.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Wednesday Guest Blog

5-11-11 searching brain
This would be the perfect time for me to ask Ann to start looking for cheap, used vinyl records for me to use for an art project. One dollar or less for a record please, scratched is OK!  PS: I like our bike!
- Judy

Memories, Some Things You Never Forget

Last week I was interviewed by a third-grader about why and how I came to the United States and some of my earliest memories. The most vivid memory was believing money grew on trees and that sidewalks were paved with gold. Vivid I tell you.

With that said, be it in Trinidad or in Maryland, we were poor. Fast forward 40 years, no matter how much money I have in my pockets, I still live like I have $5 to my name. Remember my middle name “deal finder”.

In the summer, I love going to garage sales and there’s nothing like finding a block sale or stumbling upon a sale while driving home. On Saturday’s, my Dad enjoyed watching me sift through other people’s stuff after breakfast. Shucks, I’m going to miss him giving me the business of “why do you need that or don’t you already have that”? Life does go on.

Last weekend, after breakfast with a friend of Dad’s and a fast trip to the Farmers’ Market (more to come on the Market), I spent a relaxing two hours sifting through six sales. Here’s my take:

Picture 1 was a whopping $3. I collect wine glasses, love Ronald Regan, love to bake and I’ve been wanting to get some silicone baking cups, a nice blue plate and for my camping endeavors, a stand to make “beer chicken” on the grill.

Picture 2 was a total of $5. An assortment of nuts and bolts and 8 quarts of 10WD 30 Shell Oil. The was a steal of a deal and one a guy can appreciate.

Picture 3 was a mere $5. I’ve always wanted a pie cutter, a Spanish dictionary for my European travels, two DVD’s (love Nick Cage), a John Mayer CD and my funniest find, “Richard Simmons Sweating to the Oldies”. This is a brand new VHS! Judy, watch me drop the pounds sweating to Richard.

Picture 4 cost me $6. The putter works as my self-defense weapon, a bike helmet and for $5, a wheeled cart which will work great for the Farmers’ Market or those occasional garage sales.

Last but not least, my best find of the weekend, picture 5 cost me $13 for a nice bike with a wire basket.

My co-worker sold me the bike and found the basket, at a garage sale. I’ve been wanting a bike like this for the last couple of years and now I have it. On a side-bar note, while most kids ride a bike at 5-7 years of age, I did not ride one until I was 10 or so. I remember being embarrassed at a Girl Scout bike riding event, never ever riding a bike so I had to use training wheels. Yes at the age of 10 and a memory that is seared in my brain. Needless to say, my son had his first bike at the age of two. Cheers to summer and good finds.

Chat Later, That Girl

Ann Marie