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1. Walking on the wrong side...


I had to drive Daughter #2 into the larger town this morning to be part of a group of high schoolers who would be giving advise to the graduating 8th graders  about what to expect entering as Freshmen in the Fall. All year she has been part of a county wide leadership program, involving the two smaller "villages" and large town's students.

Trying to be efficient, I decided to take the dogs and walk them around the neighborhood of the middle school, waiting for my daughter to get done with her talk and then I could drive her back to her school, located in a much smaller community about ten miles, up the highway.

I often do take the dogs "to town" to walk but had never walked them south of Main. I don't think I will be doing it again, either. All towns have a neighborhood where the property values aren't so high, but the police seem to be called there regularly. It's often referred to as the other side of the tracks. Sometimes its the southern part of town, or in the floodplains or lowlands. The hills and slopes reserved for those with nicer homes where the views are better.

Not even a block from the parking lot of the Middle School, I was greeted by a gauntlet of harassing dogs behind chain link fences and no trespassing signs. I had to hold back my two sizable dogs and zigzag from one side of the street to the other, or walk down the middle of the street. Dogs who never leave their yards are a special kind of crazy. In more than one yard there were three of them barking and rushing the fence, which also contained broken down cars and rubbish. I hurried past an old beat up truck, its cab being used for storage or as a place to sleep, both windows carefully blocked by blue towels from the inside as was the windshield.

I took the first street back up to Main and crossed at the light to the north side, where I spend most of my time, my church, the yoga studio, the soup kitchen and our favorite restaurants all right there. I breathed a sigh of relief and loosened up on the leash I had been holding firm to the last three blocks.

Passing the county offices, I was greeted by smartly dressed assistant DA's, their Oakley sunglasses and mountain bikes atop their SUV hints at what they would be doing on their lunch break or after work. One more block and I turned left to walk down the tree lined median of the boulevard  most towns in the West also have. The dogs, now relaxed, sniffed the grass to discover the paths of the dogs and walkers already past by.  On both sides of the grassy center, cars rolled by at a slow pace and beyond them were cute Victorian and Arts and Craft houses, well kept up, with blooming trees and tulips in their front yards

I often walk the boulevard, much easier then trying to keep two dogs, one blind, on a narrow side walk. But I usually walk it the opposite direction, able to go almost a mile down to the library and park. But this morning, I had to get back around to the Middle School to pick up my daughter. The dogs only had two blocks of grass to sniff, before I led them south again, navigating a horrible intersection of three converging streets, where the neighborhood quickly becomes not so desirable, pressed up against the highway and the edge of town.

Things went okay for a couple of blocks with little traffic, I walked on the edge of the street to avoid the narrow sidewalks again. Then it changed, when at an intersection, I was greeted by a older lady in a old Trans Am. Apparently I was walking right where she needed to park and she intended to push me off the street, slowly rolling towards me, not having the time to wait at the intersection for me to pass by. So facing a car, I pulled the dogs up on to the curb, no sidewalk available there and stepped around some xeriscaping, so she could get settled in her parking place.

Now this all seemed extra humorous to me because all week I have been researching, thanks to you-tube and Gopro-  road rage, that between road biker and cars for a project and then today I get pushed off the road by a car. Let me just say, never take a bike tour of New Zealand and I wouldn't ride a bike in London.

Crossing back to the south side of Main, I walked by a large vacant lot where street vendors sell out of their trucks produce or puppies and a guy has been selling those fuzzy sports logo blankets for years, but lucky it was too early for anyone to set up shop. Next to the lot, a chain link fence cut off a narrow sidewalk and the highway coming into town, from the sports fields of the Middle School. I made my way around, kept the dogs close, impressed with the green growth of the school's Farm to Table program I was passing, neatly in raised beds in front of a greenhouse. One of the many programs in our community that is trying to bridge the gap between the North and South sides. Sadly getting kids excited about real food even has to be done here in such a rural area.

Continuing around the curve of the track field and bleachers, I would soon be right next to the large semitruck making their way up Highway 491, the main  north south thoroughfare in the  Four Corners. The sidewalk was narrow, but at least there was one. Then I noticed the biker, coming towards me, on the sidewalk. Not a road biker, or a recreational biker, but a DUI biker or can't afford a car biker. But still a biker on the sidewalk, who had no intention of riding on the road, next to the semi trucks. Unfortunately he could hardly ride a bike for the way he was rocking this way and that and either did not see me or did not care that well, I was in front of him. So for the second time that day, I got out of the way of an on coming vehicle, but this time, stepped down onto the road and keeping one eye on the large blue semi rushing towards me, maneuvered  around the biker and back up on the sidewalk before the whoosh of the semi passed me by. The look on the bikers face, was either of a man who had never ridden a bike before and was trying to learn or was too hung over to remember how, but I was convinced if I held my ground on the sidewalk he would have hit me or one of the dogs.

Yesterday, I cooked at the soup kitchen. We fed about a 100. The day before at the other church who cooks lunch for the community, they fed 140. If I put too many vegetables and beans in things, I hear about it, If the salad is too fancy I hear about it. If we get fresh herbs donated, I have to use them, because no one else knows what to do with them.  We need the Farm to Table programs schools are offering and we need the leadership programs my daughter is a part of.
Disadvantages economically, socially and in education are part of poverty. But teaching rural kids for almost a decade, working with families through our church and schools, cooking at the soup kitchen I have seen people too often not take the opportunities they could have, seeming to not want to move away from all they know and that is a testament to how strong our heritage, where our families have come from is.  Something I have been pondering after  reading....


reviewed here in the Washington Post

I'm not the only one pondering such things. The large town's school district is on academic suspension, many of the parents driving their children to enroll their children in the two other rural/village  school districts who are doing much better. The latest superintendent took the gloves off in a meeting recently making the conclusion that it appeared to him many parents who remained in district did not want their kids to do better in school, afraid if they did they might leave the area. Farm to Table programs and leadership programs might not be enough?


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2. "Someone has to decide something...."


Saturday, an earthquake hit Nepal, causing massive destruction and loss of life. An avalanche at Everest added to to the death toll, which will not be fully realized until relief help gets to outlining remote villages and recovery efforts in Kathmandu conclude their work. My heart and prayers go out to the people of Nepal.

Oddly, just a day before, on the TED Radio Hour on NPR, the subject was organization after natural disasters and other things and one of the interviews was that of Morgan and Caitria O'Neill, who after a "never happens in Massachusetts" tornado almost leveled their small town, they put their unique skill sets together to organize their community's recovery efforts...



I've talked before about my experience when my grandmother was in the Big Thompson Canyon's 100 year flood, the illustration above was inspired by that and have shared my frustration of being far away when less than forty years later in 2013 the canyons of North Central Colorado experienced a 1000 year flood and here over on the West Slope, I was glued to my laptop to get news of the places and people from my childhood. 

Not that long ago, we were evacuated when a fire burned in the canyon beside our homestead... 

We, along with our neighbors were advise in a briefing at a command post when and if we would have homes to return to and what  support and assistance was available in the meantime.Two years later, driving along the road, or walking in our forest we still will find plastic water bottles, donated along with snicker bars and such from the community, carried by the hotshots in the smoke and heat and dropped to the ground  when empty, Fire fighter and disaster workers are the only ones who I think should not be looked down upon for littering. 

The subject of the last weeks TED Radio Hour, wasn't about Disasters, but about Organizing and something one of the O'Neill's sisters said in the NPR interview hit a chord with me...

"Someone has to decide something..."

In their case, it was two barely twenty year old girls who rushed back to their hometown to help, ended up being "mostly" in charge because, they opened their mouths.

I have that problem too, I often am the one to, well, open my mouth and not be guarded and that trait, good or bad is why now, not even two years on, I'm the head cook of a soup kitchen...



 Caitria and Morgan talked of having to make quick decisions about a variety of things and that is something I often have to do...




What recipe will get rid of the most of our parishable items before they go bad? Based on the weather, the time of month, the time of year, how many patrons will show up today? What to do with the three large boxes of not trimmed and dirty produce which was starting to "bolt" that a local farm brought in a half an hour before lunch has to be ready to serve? How long are we going to stand at the counter and clean and trim the produce before we declare enough and toss the rest and go home and put our feet up after making lunch for a 100 people.
I burned out a $100 plus Cuisinart food processor trying to prep free sweet potatoes to put in the freezer. It is a constant struggle to balance what we have, both that is donated and bought, with the resources and time we have and often I get it wrong... 
I thing therein lies the trait that marks those of us who do start deciding things. We aren't afraid of the sky falling, the world falling off it's axis, or tossing a box of sweet potatoes if we get it wrong. We just move on, well sometime after a silent rant, but  keep making decisions, ready to factor in our mistakes the next time something similar comes along....




And like the O'Neill sisters who were amazed that someone would question if they were even out of high school but than take their orders as gospel, I have been amazed at how willing people, on the average fifteen years older than me, want someone else to make the decisions, even after I try and poll all who are involved, getting the response often that they do not want that responsibility, even if that responsibility is if we should have corn or green beans as a side. 
Now, the opinions and sometimes criticism does come after the fact or during, once the plan is committed to about why we are doing something a certain way. I try to be pleasant and patient but all that depends on how close to noon it is, how long the line is outside and how ready I am to be off my feet. 

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3. When Hipster Wasn't Hip: Mommyhood

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4. Begin Again...


The lack of snow on the distance mountains and the warm temps have confused the trees here in the West...



 It is worrisome when old apricot trees start to bloom as early as they did this year. It is also worrisome when there is no more snow or moisture forecasted when there hardly has been any, even if that means we have apricots.
But, the snow or lack of it, the blooms, along with the green grass, baby cows and chirping birds are far out of our control, Spring, as long as God is willing, is a time that everything begins again.
This spring has stirred several new beginnings for us, or the hints of new beginnings, looking at three universities for both Daughter #1 and #2, one undergraduate and one graduate...
First, we spent some time up in Salt Lake where the blossoms were in full bloom around the State Capitol...


 to look at the University of Utah...


 a beautiful old campus up in the foothills above the city, where pasture was allotted for milk cows, beginning as an institution in 1850, three years before the Salt Lake City Temple's ground breaking. While we were there the Mormon's most important site was surrounded in pink...




Then it was over to the East Slope of Colorado to check out the University of Colorado in Boulder where we enjoyed a tour of the campus, including the Old Main building...


where the entire university was housed when it opened in 1876, the same year as statehood.
Then it was up to Fort Collins where the flower beds were already full of blooming bulbs around the even older campus...

established when Colorado was just a territory, when six local farmers donated land.


Seeing my girls, and friends of my girls...


loving on the horses near Olde Town, Fort Collins, touring campuses and pondering where they want to live, apart from me, is joyous and heartbreaking as a mother. But for new things to begin, other things have to end.
Something that was in my, our control, and signals a very big new beginning for us, our church "called" a new pastor. To clear up confusion, I am actually a "gentile". We and a few dozen families started our church about twelve years ago, we called our first pastor about a decade ago, now we have asked another man to move his family across the country and settled here in the rural West with small children to start a new life and continue to build our church....yikes!
But he is willing and we, the congregation are willing, so if God is willing this will be a good, new beginning for all of us!



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5. Proclaimed at almost 11,000 feet....





"Life wins!" 
Easter, Morning
San Sophia Station
above Telluride, Colorado 


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6. It's Too Early For This Old Apricot Tree....











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7. Peeking at the Past...


The first step to writing a novel is building a world and  in historical fiction it is more like having to recreate  a time and place that actually existed, a mighty undertaking. I love using photographs for my construction of Moonflower and I found a treasure trove in the Farm Security Administration photo archives from the Library of Congress. Taken during the depression and the war years and including much more  than Dorothea Lange's iconic images of a mother and her children...


Read this post from Yale's Photogrammar for why such wonderful photogrpahs were part of FDR's New Deal, but thank the powers that be that someone did document this hard time in our nation's history. 
The whole archive is on the Library of Congress site, but its is hard to navigate, best viewing is probably Google Images, here.

I could go on, well, I could go on with some kind of "words", but I won't just really look at the few below or in your own searching, of the fathers and mothers, the shacks and the dirty kids, the attempts to keep a sense of pride and the ones who gave up....these photos don't need words...







                             



But in writing Moonflower, I learned much from them, what was on the sparsest of diner tables, how long has Mircle Whip, a family favorite, been around, how men crouched in conversation, what they wore when they worked the farm. Apparantly, according to my mother, the reason men wore their overalls cuffed at the bottoms was to collect the ash from their cigarettes. Yup, my grandfather knocked his cigarette ash into the cuff of his overalls and it was a horrid thing if my mother or grandmother forgot to shake the ash out before washing the clothes. Can you imagine? I would have loved to include that in Moonflower, but the religious fundamentalists in the Four Corners definitely did not smoke and it just seemed out of character for Josh, ( whose Josh? read here).
My grandfather was also a dairy farmer and my mom was a little girl in the area of Moonflower, so much was learned from her stories of my grandpa in the dairy barn, with the strength to lift a container of milk into the separator with one hand and his tendency to talk naps hidden away in the hay.
My family did not have to move off their farms in the depression. They are not from the Four Corners there is no polygamy in our history, but my great grandparents really really liked each other and my grandmother was one of thirteen children with six brothers and I have always heard stories of when they were boys....


and worked the Minnesota farm with their dad...




Sadly, I knew many of  my great uncles longer than I knew my grandfather, who died when I was four, but my childhood was full of trips back to my grandmother's brothers' and my grandfather's brother's farms.
For Moonflower, I decided that one of the universal truths I was going to hold on to was, big families are big families whether they are big because your father has four wives or because your Danish great grandmother and grandfather were really nuts about each other, sibling dynamics are probably very similar. One thing my grandmother would always say was, " don't kid yourself, the older children raised the younger."
One oddity I did copy from my family was my great uncle Harry, my grandmother's oldest brother was the same age as his uncle, my great, great grandmother's youngest son. In the book, mother and daughter overlap having babies...
Even family pictures from the sixties, have proven to be helpful, my great uncles and grandfather helping fix up a old cabin in the foothills near Boulder with my dad, a cabin about the same age as the era of the forties of  my story....









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8. Back to Art....


Of course the year that winter has taken its sweet time arriving...



I had little traveling to do, except for a week long trip over to the Front Range, loving the dusting of snow around the La Sals in Utah...



So being mostly home,  I have fallen into a bit of a routine, writing and book things in the morning and art in the afternoon and weekends. I have done it enough to find that I definitely need the stitching to stay sane. I decided to tackle a fabric collage idea I have had for a long time, more for my own walls or a gallery show than for a illustration portfolio piece,..


Saturday Morning is somewhat of a family self portrait, thought the faces have been changed and my hair has never been as full and long as I stitched it,  but it's for the most part our bedroom and our dogs and definitely what Saturday mornings looked like when my kiddos were little and we were desperately trying to get a few more minutes sleep before they and the dogs, well, had other ideas. 


Started laying things down and stitched most of the background before tackling the bed, limiting how many layers you have to stitch through is always a challenge, as is working with such small bits of fabric that with over working start to disintegrate....


Hands and faces are always a challenge, and sometimes the best thing is to just start over...


Late February, the snow decided to start falling...




and Saturday Morning is progressing...




So, if I let sleeping dogs lie where they are, the rest of the winter...


sorry, it was so cute of a picture. If I keep at my schedule the rest of the winter, into the big melt, Saturday Morning, should be done soon, except for the question of home much needlework I do on it.

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9. Adobe's Photoshop turns 25...


I graduated from Art School the year Photoshop came on the market....hum, talk about bad timing. When I was in college the new technology was not in the Art Department, it was in the computer labs with the word processors and printers, only a few odd ducks had desk top computers of their own and
I do remember the cold lonely, food and drink free labs late a night when a paper was due the next day.
In the Art Department, we were still being taught layout with graph paper, rulers, T squares and those rub off letters. In the dark rooms? Well, I still have a really cool black and white photo of my roommate standing in a cereal box, a masking matte cut out of card stock to block the light. It all took a little luck, or a lot of paper to get it right.
Back then the debate of computer generated art was much of a discussion, or the evilness of it and the cheating of it. How wrong we got that should be a reminder not to predict the future because most of us are really bad at it. I do think paper and pencil, figure drawing and learning observation are still the foundation of any art program, digital or not...


I graduated in 1990 with a BA in Art and an emphasis in Child Development, going into college intent on getting an Art Therapy degree and then meandering to Tennessee to get my masters. I left college in love and followed a boy to Denver where he was attending law school.
We were married his second year at Denver University and I taught preschool. I could have continued in my studies, checked into the Colorado Institute of Art where I am sure everyone was becoming very much aware of what exactly Photoshop was and good do, but I didn't. I wanted one thing, to get my husband through law school, move back to the West Slope and start having babies...


Which we did and all the while I was developing my craft, alone, no internet, no social media and ignorant of what was happening in the digital world of Adobe and computer generated art and was blissfully happy...
Then...

My girls got older and I found my voice as an artist in fabric collage illustration and what do you do as a freelancer to get your name and your services out to art director? Well according to my schooling, that would be sourcebooks, yeah I know. I really knew then too, but so remembered my instructor holding up a copy of The Black Book and it becoming in my mind a testament to truly making it as an illustrator.
So in 2008, I laid out a few thousand dollars to advertise not in the Black Book, way way out of my price range, but in the Graphic Artist's Guilds Directory of Illustration...


The same time, I also shucked out a couple more thousand dollars to go to the Society of Children's Books Writers and Illustrator's LA conference....


Yup, 2008, the year most would say was the start of the "economic down turn." It sounded that way, sitting in the grand ballroom of the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza Hotel, listening to the publishers from New York try to put a good face on the layoff and restructuring the New York power houses were going through at the same time poo poo this new idea of independent publishing.
Yeah...late to the party again.

But I took the jump. I was a decent photographer and had already made the switch to digital, but had never edited a photograph and  had no way to lay it out and design an ad. So I called the people at the directory who kindly told me they could do it, for almost the price of buying Photoshop. I bought Photoshop and had a month to learn how to use it and make a decent ad, the deadline looming...
Luckily an artist friend told me about lynda.com...


Lynda, well actually Deke McClelland became my best bud, me intently watching and listening to his CS3 One -on One class, over and over again.
Good or bad, I got it done...


putting ads in #26 and #27 the following years and at least once in PictureBook, more for nostalgia.
What did I get for a whole heck of a lot of money spent? Well, definitely did not make my cost back by the dollar. It is hard to say if it was the source books, my website or postcards, but National Public Radio found me...

As did Cricket Magazine Group...


Plus an art director in New York whose firm only worked for Broadway. I was considered by a few publishers and art reps, all intrigued but in the end not all interested enough or with not a firm enough idea what to do with me, I pretty much invented or brought to illustration a new medium, as I like to say, putting a new spin on the traditional art form of applique and needlework. One art buyer I chatted with said it was not unusual for those of us with very unique styles to not get a lot of work, but the work we do get is big and that has definitely been my experience.
And through it all, I kept learning Photoshop, mostly by discovery new ways to do things in the process and I kept using the CS3 version, it more than enough to meet my needs of photo editing and simple layout. Until...
Until, I decided to take my destiny in my own hands, instead of finding someone else to give it to and started a publishing company...


Read here, to find out about my days writing a novel as well, in those quiet years of being a stay at home mom.
Now,  I've going back to Adobe again, knowing I would be needing its software and this time subscribed to the Creative Cloud and not only updated my Photoshop, but download Illustrator and InDesign as well.
And I went back to my old friend, lynda.com to learn what I need to and again, not with all the time on my hands, but with deadlines looming of bookcover design and such..


This time I think I managed to be on the front wave of something new, the new era of publishing where those of us looking out on canyons and isolated roads...


can compete with the best of them in the skyscrapers of New York and LA...


or at least tell our stories, the one they are not interested in, just as well.

So Happy Birthday Photoshop...
and thank you Adobe, for invented something that has allowed me to live where I want...

and do what I love...





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10. So, I Wrote A Book...



So I wrote a book, read about that here, over a ten year period, with a lot of starts and stops, a lot of do overs and motivation from both people being very encouraging and well a few not so much, but being the last born child that  I am, the nay sayers often can motivate me more just to prove them wrong.
And I "got err done"...
But now what?
Well, the conventional way would be to start looking for an agent, since 99% of the big top publishers in New York only take manuscript through their relationships with agents. I have been learning the ropes of publishing for enough years to know that finding an agent could take a writer several years....yup, several years and within that time, long periods of nothingness while agents are "thinking". It is not uncommon for an agent to ask to hold on to something for several months and then say "no thanks," in the end.
Way back, about four years ago, when I thought I was writing a Young Adult  trilogy, I took the first part of  Moonflower to LA for the SCBWI conference...


I know it is a hardship, a week on the edge of Beverly Hills, but I did meet with a New York agent who really liked it, but thought that although the main character, Luna is only eighteen at the end book, the story was too complicated to be a YA and encouraged me to write it as a complete story instead of a trilogy.
Seeing her point, I came home to this...

and went back to the keyboard and wrote another, oh, 60,000 words and tried the whole agent thing again, but this time in the "adult" or general market, polishing the first 25 pages, synopsis and cover letters to hook an agent in the querying process. Did I mention I have friends who have  been "querying" for several years on manuscripts that I think are rather good myself!
So, after pursuing the very helpful blogs, books and online sights that teach you the process, I tried to do step number one....and that is where I got stuck.
The most common advice is to make a list of about 30-50 agents, prioritize them and send out about 5 queries, sending more out when the rejections started coming in, keeping about 5 out there at all times.
Well, I sent out 9 queries, and sent them to probably the 8 top agents in New York, and 1 to the top agency in London....and I got form emails of "not thanks" from about 6 and have not heard from the rest.
Then I decided to get off that train, for several reasons, most of them too personal to really be advice for anyone else, but here they are...
You see many agents in their previous lives were attorneys and several more, well, in their bios they actually debated about a career in law or a career in publishing. Which makes a lot of sense, both paths needing the skills for negotiating and navigating all that "heady stuff".
Why did that matter to me?
Because I am married to an attorney and the thought of "getting in bed" with another one, many of those advice sites talk about the very close relationship writers and their agents have being second only to marriage, well, that was not very appealing to me. One attorney, no matter how cute he is, is enough for me...

Secondly, in my perusing of agents bios and what they did and did not want to look at, I was amazed at how often the New York agents would declare "no Westerns"...


Now, I live about as Far West as you can get and while I would not describe my stories as in the same vein as Louis L'Amour or Zane Grey, they are definitely set in the West and I actually like westerns and if I am not technically writing in that classic genre, it is definitely part of my writing  DNA.
So by this time, New York publishers weren't looking so good.
Next on the list, well how about a regional publisher? One situated in the West and no agent needed, writers working directly with the editors. After perusing about ten of those, University Presses and etc. , I found almost all only published nonfiction and the few that published fiction, were so narrow, it would be hard to work with them.
So, now what? Self Publish?
Self Publishing, or what has now morphed into the term, "Independent Publishing", is certainly the talk and as I mentioned above there are now a whole lot of helpful sites, organization and books that will tell you how to do about everything you don't know how to do and helpful freelance editors, writing coaches and book designers willing to do everything for you...for a hefty fees of course.
Should I just jump on that train?
Did I mention I was a last born child, an artist and a little bit rebellious?
Did I mention my husband was an attorney and could do all that negotiating stuff. He is also a pretty good editor. My papers in college went from B's to A's after he got his hands on them.
As I mentioned, my true profession is as an illustrator and well cover design is really a close cousin as is web design and well all other design.
So, after getting him on board, we decided to start our own regional publishing company, cause our kids were almost raised and well, it was getting a little bit boring...
That was last summer and life has been nothing but boring... read here, but we are holding onto this new crazy idea and Moonflower will be our first offering, our "guinea pig" child, you know the first one, you are still learning on and make all the mistakes with.
Then...well, I have more stories in me and there are a whole lot more stories here relevant to the Four Corners and the Inter-mountain West, both fiction and nonfiction that I know others are writing and I know a few other people who have skills like a retiring elementary teacher who has about thirty years experience in Children's literature and teaching kids to read and even one friend who actual has a degree in linguistics, all close cousins to the jobs we might need help with.
So, I wrote a book and now we are starting a publishing company...


cause we are nuts!








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11. Cooking Up A Bounty...


About a year ago I realized I was, though happily working away in the studio, spending a little bit too much time with these guys...

and not enough time with real people... not internet people but real flesh and blood people, so the solution?
I decided to volunteer at one of our local soup kitchens. It would be great, one day a week, I'd go in, help cook up a meal and be back to the studio for a half a day of work. Well....


A year later, I am now the official food coordinator and one of the head cooks. What does that mean?
I now have to be very careful how much time I do spend away from the dogs and the studio. About once a month, I commandeer someone, my kiddos... 

                  

or husband to make a hour and half to Farmington New Mexico, where there is a Sam's club to do the shopping for the soup kitchen...




literally a more than one person job.

Like most soup kitchens, we are part of a larger charitable food bank network and get almost all of our meat and other goods donated by our local grocery stores...


And since we are right on the edge of the "bean capital of the world"...



we have beans, lots of beans. The below, called Anasazi...



found dried in ruins like these,...


but propagated and now grown and sold in local grocery stores.

We also get much our produce from regional growers, sometimes having to process pallets and pallets of onions, potatoes, sweet potatoes and sometimes things like exotic peppers...

                 

Being a small town, with limited services, but high poverty both in the white, Hispanic and Native American populations, it's great when we all work together, the soup kitchens, the food pantry and the shelters.

It's a treat when local growers share their bounties, and they did often this Fall...





The end result?

              

Well last week, a hearty beef stew with Colorado grown potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots plus corn and green beans with a heart gravy for 130 people. And as the warm bowls filled the bellies of those who needed a good meal on a snowy January, I felt the same satisfactions I get in the studio when I am pleased with completing a piece of art....hum? Maybe I'm not as far away from the studio on the days I'm away from the studio? 


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12. Review: INTO THE WOODS and a Spot on Impersonation...

                            

We went "through the woods", over some mesas and down into Farmington New Mexico to do some shopping and see INTO THE WOODS, the 1987 Broadway musical turned into a musical movie by Rob Marshall, director and choreographer of many a Broadway musical and of such other films as...

CHICAGO (2002)

 MEMOIRS OF A GEISHA ( 2005)

And was the "pinch" director of the not such a good idea reboot, well actually re-reboot since the first movie was never meant to be the beginning of a trilogy, the Pirates franchise....

(2011)
But we will not hold that against him.

INTO THE WOODS, stars Meryl Streep  as the Witch, Emily Blunt as the Baker's Wife and James Corden, known more for TV and Broadway and London stage as the Baker...


Tracey Ullman is Jack's stressed out mother and Daniel Huttlestone is Jack...


who just had to open his mouth, for me to remember him in his last endeavor...

LES MISERABLES (2012)


Broadway darling Likka Crawford stars as Little Red Riding Hood...


So how did I like INTO THE WOODS? It was very Broadway-ish. I liked the score by James Lapine and Stephen Sondheim, wonderful songs, especially Meryl Streeps rendition of "Stay With Me". That song could make any mother cry and ponder locking their sweet precious children in a tower to protect them from the world. I was right there with her for a while there.

But what I like best about INTO THE WOODS, well, is Chris Pine's...


spot on impersonation of Captain Kirk...


 Captain Kirk, who is played by William Shatner, but Captain Kirk playing the role of Prince Charming...

still giggling...



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13. Apres-Holiday...



Sunday, knowing it was the "last hoorah" for Christmas Break, we took our eleven month old puppy, Piper, up and over the mountain to Telluride for a late lunch and stroll. How many skiers and dogs can you pack onto a gondola? That would be eight, the lady on the end, busy on her cellphone didn't even know Piper was there until we got ready to unload.  I chatted with the mom and daughter across from me the whole way, sharing stories about our dogs and the daughter even bringing her phone out to show me pictures of her beloved "Walt", a great name for her dog back in Houston Texas. Guess that is two ways to use cell phones when you are packed in like sardines with strangers.
Down the ski slope, we strolled around the old mining town of Telluride, now turned posh with many a photo op, like a Christmas tree made out of skis...

Telluride is the epitome of a ski town...



Whatever the season, Telluride is always a dog town...




It is actually against the law to leave your dog in your car in Telluride and there are so many dog fanatics, someone would probably break your window to free the dog before you even got a ticket from the city. 
We often head to Telluride after camping in the mountains nearby and still talk about the time we got yelled at for tying our dogs to the bumper of the truck, while, I emphasize, While....we were stuffing all the camp gear in the cab. A lady yelled at us from another level of the parking structure to tell us it was against the law to do that. Through clenched teeth, we polite told her....well, we clarified what we were doing...
The other thing Telluride is all year long is a bike town, snow and ice on the roads or not... 


The above an example of the well, old way of getting around, think that metal tube is for skis and the new way of fat tire bikes...


Something that has caught my husbands attention, where down on this side of the mountain, three fourths of the year he has his bike out to grab lunch at the market and do the mail and deposit run, But how many bikes do we really need?...

Oh... but those are all skinny tired, you see! 

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14. No Plastic...


After a week of recuperating from a fast paced Thanksgiving week, highlighted here, we got down to decorating our place and for the wreath, I needed something round and one thing we have a lot of in the sheds are bike tires.
Can't take the credit for the idea, its Daughter #2's  via pinterest.com, but really from...


I didn't have to go to town or to the dreaded Suckyoursoul-Mart to get anything. Literally took the front wheel off my allotted, hand me down mountain bike, rinsed the cobwebs and few spiders off of it, its not used much since I am the non mountain biker in a mountain biker family, I just take the photos...


The boughs? Just went out to our forest, though sadly, I was a little more careful this year on which trees I snipped from, since we lost so many of our trees in the fire two autumns ago...

                  


and my husband is a little protective of the remaining trees. But I took my shears and when he wasn't around to be emphatic, very selectively snipped the ends of various pinons branches and made a bicycle tire wreath. Unlike the REI version, I did use a whole bike tire, black rubber included. My husband should be happy about that, cause it would not be me, putting the tube back on the rim, thank you very much and I didn't take a tire off one of the more used and much more expense bikes. Can you imagine, discovering your wife absconded the front wheel off your Salsa bike, to use as a craft project?
So recycled bike tire, mine not his, boughs from our own trees and well wire that was probably about two decades old, from when just moving here, to the Four Corners, I thought I would make fresh wreaths to sell at the Christmas Bazaars,  something others in my family have done rather successfully at Christmas markets on the East side of the Continental Divide.
So made a few dozen wreaths, only to find that there was not a great market for fresh wreaths around here, being informed of this at my craft booth by countless ladies who were quite happy with their plastic wreaths and garland that they just took down from the closet shelf for the season...


In fact a lot of elderly ranch ladies went out of their way to come over to my table and tell me that! 
So check that idea off the list and so for years I had a whole lot of green wire and metal hoops, buying in bulk when the idea first hit.
Plastic foliage is very prevalent over here adorning people's doors, flower pots and cemeteries. 
Not where I grew up in Northern Colorado, where there's fresh wreaths and garland at Christmas time and fresh flowers inside and outside, especially come Memorial Day at the cemeteries.



 something I talk about here, a very long time ago.

Why not here?
Well, it seems to be a regional thing. Plastic affords bright colors and no needed of water or tending, plus it is a whole lot cheaper than the extravagance of fresh at the holidays, or so the locals here seem to think, something that is really starting to fascinate me, regional-ness- why people in a certain region do what they do and a great book to read on the subject is...


The author, Colin Woodard, doesn't get into fresh or plastic flowers and foliage, but he does get into the migration patterns of the different ethnic groups that first settled the US and here, in the Four Corners, where yes Native Americans and Hispanic cultures have a strong hold, but where the most prevalent white Europeans is Scots Irish and well it has been my personal observation, after twenty years of living, teaching and working here, such a heritage leans towards well, not fresh but plastic and practical. 








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15. Red and Green, Santa Fe Style...


After a fun Thanksgiving with family here in Colorado, where I got to use the squash from a friend's farm...


some of us, crossed the border to New Mexico and headed to Santa Fe...


Where the crowds for Black Friday were not bad at all....


and a couple hundred years of history surrounded us, like the old Santa Fe Library entrance...


On Saturday, to support #smallbusinesssaturday, we headed down to the newly renovated Railroad district and partook of local goods...


Of course chilies were everywhere, extra beautiful coming into this special season...


and never have I seen such a large tub of Chimayo chili, unique to Northern New Mexico, from the valley of Chimayo, where we had gone a few years back around New Years, read HERE  This gentleman and his buddy, called me over like they were selling something illegal. But once he lifted the lid, how could I not take a really good whiff of the sweetest red chilies ever. As I savored the smell, he told me how to heat it up in a skillet and make a sauce or add it to meat.I bought a half a kilo from him....


A few hours later I found the same thing, except this time, packaged up all nice for the out of town tourists in a kitchen store down at the plaza...


 and an eight of what I bought for twice as much.





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16. Getting Ready for a Long Winter's Nap...


It is a great comfort that no matter what is going on in our lives, the season move forward. In a time when the clouds, on occasion, dip down lower then the mesa, without us remembering to instruct it, the sun tilts sides way, the wind blows and the grass starts to turn brown. ...


and the evenings turn golden, just barely enough light for the deer to come into the lawn and pick the last of the apples on the almost leafless trees. 

More because the elements remind us, we humans do slip into our autumn activities. First Homecoming, where school is let out early and the students, parents and locals line Central ave for the parade, the cheerleaders riding restored fire trucks from up the mountain. 


Here the Homecoming royalty... 

aren't escorted in the backs of convertibles but pickup trucks and the homecoming dresses might have cowboy boots under them.


The other Fall activities- discussions of the weather, how cold and how much snow the mountains will have this winter and elk hunting. But it stayed too warm for the elk to come down low enough for a successful hunt this year. Warm enough to keep the windows cracked on the drive back down the mountain in Grandpa's old truck that carries the camper shell...







 Another activity that took much time this Fall...

Not riding horse, like you might think, but Daughter #2's involvement with the local high school's production of Shakespeare's Twelfth Night, set in the Wild Wild West. Someone leaving the borrowed boots on our porch yesterday, were so pretty in the tilting sun. 

The wind is still blowing down here on the canyon ridge, and the grass is still showing, though most of the leaves are now off the trees. 

Not so, farther up, where coming home from a weekend away on the other side of the mountains, we had to navigate this...


 and we meet these guys...

 who, looking for the grass, worked their way through a wire fence deciding the brown grass on the side or the road looked yummier. To hear them "churp" go HERE

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17. As Far as I could reach...


I haven't been active on this blog lately due to some big life changing events, like the ones I talked about HERE, a few weeks ago. The last big event I mentioned in that post has to do with the above picture, well actually book cover and I've been debating how to and in what order to tell everyone about it and the other part of the story. Way to much for one blog post, so first things first and that started over ten years ago, actually I think it could have been more like twelve, when, on Saturday, over in Utah, we hiked in between places like this...


 and along the river beds like  this...


 and along the rim of this...


and there would come a point where bribery would be necessary to get these two...


back to the truck!


 
The bribe would go something like, "Wow! When we get back to the town, what do you want...?" And the "want" usually was something sweet, ice cream or a fancy drink and a book at the old Arches Bookstore in Moab, where we would also indulge in dinner or a late lunch before heading back over the border to Colorado.
Arches is no longer there, consolidating with the bookstore across the street a few years back, but a decade ago, it had the best children's section tucked in the far corner of the tiny store and we would trade, Jon and I, one would get to browse and one would take up post near the girls while they debated with much excitement which book to buy.
It didn't take long, when it was my turn to let Jon browse, to discover that the section next to the children's was that of local history and the local history in Utah, is pretty focused on the land, Edward Abbey, the Uranium boom that supplied some of the atomic bomb and most of the Cold War and  Mormons and polygamy. Who knows what I would be writing about if we lived in Ohio?

But in Utah I picked this book...,

denoted  as used by a red dot on the spin, costing me $6 and the rest is history.

Since little girls are tired after all day hikes and the two hour car drive back home is quiet, I would read my book, look out the window at this....


and wonder about the zealous religious people that had the tenacity to hack out a life in this unforgiving land no one else dared even try in places like this,..


and like this...


And so over the years,  as the girls grew, a story grew in my head and then I started to write it down and  to seek out more history and more places to make it real as possible, a willing husband, who was glad to go  along for the drive with the promise of more hiking, backpacking or mountain biking...


This place, the Four Corners, what was cut by the Colorado River and all its tributaries, is known as the backwash of the country, to wild to be tamed and very much looked over in the rush to the more fertile land on the western edge of the country, has moved me since I laid eyes on it, first around Moab, thanks to friends who had been jeeping there for years and then on our own, hiking and backpacking...


Canyonlands, Arches, and far off places like Zion and  Escalante, many of which I have written about and sketched over the years...



But something else was happen about the same time, people were talking about Uranium and the Atomic age. There was a cost to mining the uranium that supplied the atomic bombs of the Cold War. It polluted the land and the people who live here and the government, about ten years ago decided to start cleaning it up. It was in the news and on our drives back to Colorado, we went past the reclamation, clean up sites.
And I started to talk to my dad, way up in Idaho, who as a boy, during World War 2, had to have a security pass to go to the grocery store because my grandfather worked on the antennas for the the atomic bombs in Oak Ridge Tennessee, a town that did not exist before the war and was created for the soul purpose of the Manhattan Project and reading up on my families history and part in such a monumental event in our country's history, I found Utah again, where a covert operation sent soldiers with geological and mining experiences back to find and mine the uranium for the bombs.
And these interesting bits of history melded in my brain, on the long drives home or while doing art and Moonflower came to be...

"Motherless and her father too busy with his three other wives,
 their children and leading a Fundamentalist religious group, 
young Luna has the freedom to wander around Cathedral Valley, 
Utah in the summer of 1942.With no one paying attention,
 she forges a friendship with Josh McCormick, a geologist secretly sent by
 the Army to find uranium for the atomic bomb. When he returns after the war
 to mine the uranium, Luna is seventeen and their renewed relationship could
 mean freedom from a life she does not want as a second wife
 or it could mean her and her families destruction."


 Getting it down on paper, is a whole other post as is why I picked the wild Utah flower, most consider a weed for the title of not only my story but as you all know the word that connects me to my art as well....oh! And I have a whole new website...still at moonflowerstudio.biz but now also at juliakelly.biz




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18. 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...




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19. Adding to my Bug Collection....in the March SPIDER MAGAZINE...


Have I told you I am bad at this self promotion thing? Well, it is almost the middle of March and I totally forgot to post that my above illustration is in the March issue of SPIDER MAGAZINE...


This is my third illustrations for the "Bug" magazines, but all with the wonderful Art Director Suzanne Beck. This project was to illustrate a recipe, a Welsh scone recipe and I had a lot of fun researching all things Welsh, like their amazing textile patterns...

 And their Gaudy pottery...
I'm not insulting the Welsh, it actually is called that.

I really wanted to find a way to get these gals, with their traditional top hats above lacy bonnets in, wondering...

how did that tradition evolve exactly?

Then it was a weekend of sketching...


and brainstorming on paper, moving things around in Photoshop and sending ideas to New York on a Sunday, when apparently me, in the Four Corners, Sue and her editor had nothing better to do then to email back and forth. Have I said how much I love the internet and what it does for me! 

 Really loved that pottery, though the poem is about having a picnic...


Oh, how many antique lunch boxes did I pin on pinterest.com?


Kept trying to get a spider, a bug or a mushroom in there, just wasn't working. Then Sue pulled me from my fixations and suggested the rainbow and the jam. Uhhh, don't even want to think how long it would have been before I thought of jam, my brain was still on getting old women with top hats in...

When everyone was happy with the sketch, I went to appliqueing and stitching and ta.....da....


The Guady pottey had to go, but I kept the Gaudy pattern for the tea towel in the pail. The design on the picnic cloth is from the textile above and was X stitched on actual X stitched fabric, though I did four X's per square. The jar was done with a sheer tulle type fabric and the jam on the scones are french knots. 
It was another fun and challenging project, did something better this time and of course still could point out things I will do differently next time. Let's see, I've collected a BABYBUG, a  LADYBUG and a SPIDER. But still need a CRICKET. 

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20. My time in Moab...


(click on picture to enlarge)

We were up in Moab, Utah this past weekend, most doing this...


I did a little bit of hiking, but with others to entertain my "mountain goat" family, I took the opportunity to get some serious sketching in...

(click picture to enlarge)

This, about half way up the trail to the Corona Arch, which I had sketched before... 


It was a real fun weekend, with old friends from college, their and our kids, not that much younger then when we first became friends, in the Campus Crusade group. Now we are the old ones and our kids are in college and getting married, yikes, but time doesn't stand still, though one old friend we haven't seen in over a decade, told our daughters we hadn't changed at all, while we were arguing about how to cook dinner in the campfire.
Of course we ended the weekend, grabbing really good food at Milt's, the parking lot full of like minded adventures- mountain bikes and Tulle carriers on top of SUVs and those waiting in line looking a little bit wind swept...

(click on picture to enlarge)

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21. 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.


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22. 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.
















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23. 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.



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24. 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 else on this earth.
It's not about you demanding justice or forgiveness from anyone,
because I have shown you more mercy and forgiven you more than anyone else 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, but.....
it's not about you....
it's about Me."

Jesus

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25. 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 amazing fit up until recently, now has health issues and can not drive.

Just getting off the phone in a string of phone cals 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. 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 I 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 grow 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" then, " 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 the louder voice reminds me, " I am a wife and I am a mother by choice 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 will be decided on the road, I think.




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