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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: Reflections, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 1 - 25 of 141
1. Beginning a Year of Teaching Writing with Reflection

What goals will you set for your practice this year? Here are a few suggestions.

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2. Ending a Year of Teaching Writing with a Group Reflection

One thing I love so much about being an educator is the cyclical nature of the school year. The beginning of the year brings promise, renewed energy, and a certain mania. The middle… Continue reading

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3. Ending a Year of Teaching Writing with a Group Reflection

One thing I love so much about being an educator is the cyclical nature of the school year. The beginning of the year brings promise, renewed energy, and a certain mania. The middle… Continue reading

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4. Reflection and Growth: Writing in Preschool

Have you ever found yourself in this place? A place where you begin to see something missing and immediately want to change? Be better? I hope so!

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Beth Moore offers a collection of ten publishing party ideas you can use to celebrate your students' writing.

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6. Teaching Reflective Writers

Dana Murphy shares some thoughts about the expectations we place on students when we ask them to reflect on their writing.

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7. The Truth About Puzzles.

Last week I did something reeeaaally reckless. I pulled out the Witches' Wardrobe 1,0000 piece puzzle that I did for Andrews & Blaine for Barnes & Noble. I put the box on my dining room table, and dumped out the contents. In doing so, I declared war. I had never done the puzzle before, and I've had it for over a year. I've thought about doing  it, several times. But...

The puzzle lives in a glass-doored cabinet in the living room. I see it every day. Just by virtue of it being in my field of vision, I think it was actually raising my blood pressure. 

So... We'd been having staring contests over the past few weeks. It had to stop. Finally, I decided to do it. Suck it up. Face the challenge. It was time.

The honest truth is, it's almost never a "good time" to start a puzzle around here, because I am usually pretty busy. But the larger, bigger reason for this, is because I am simply not a "casual" puzzle person. This is a naked truth I only just confirmed this about myself by doing this puzzle.

In the past, I chalked up my puzzling compulsiveness and conviction with reasonable excuses, such as "I did the art for the puzzle, of course I am going to be a little obsessive about it" or "Who wouldn't get obsessive when putting together a 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzle that's this detailed?" (Both convincing arguments). Of course there's also my general, um, 'aggressive enthusiasm' for some things, of which puzzles would understandably be included. And then, there is also the "puzzle-obsessed brain" that I think everyone must experience when they are knee-deep in the jungle of a big puzzle. Right? (...right? )

 But I can't just leave it on the table and co-exist with it... do a few pieces here, a few pieces there.  I now know this to be true. If I break out a puzzle, it's "Game On". It's basically "The Old Man and The Sea" redux— with me, dining room table and puzzle, instead of old man, his gear, and the fish.

During the time I am in the puzzle haze, I sacrifice, I make the time where possible in my everyday life, to just complete the thing as swiftly as possible. Without losing sleep or missing meals. It's like being completely consumed by a novel you cannot put down. I have to finish it just so I can "get my life back". Okay, I am not a generally uptight individual! But puzzles... they kinda turn me into Tracy Flick. Watershed moment.

So, last week, I was sucked into the vortex yet again. And yes it was torture.. But yes, I admit that I loved it! (Plus, I could actually feel parts of my brain doing squats and lunges. I kid you not.)

And yes, it was fun...

But after my puzzle session on day one (of five total), my earlier "Yay! This is fun!" had melted into a "Hmphh... this one is a bit.. um... tougher than I thought..." which by (past my) bed-time had morphed into "Hmmmm... THAT'S ALL I got done in ONE night??"

By day two, I was REALLY ready to slay this dragon. And I still was running off first-blush-puzzle-endorphins. I was also under the false delusion that I could finish and still have the rest of the day to catch up on my errands. (Pfft. Yeah, right.) I worked diligently and I saw progress, but it wasn't so visible to others yet. (I didn't quite feel the sting yet, but I was getting whupped.)

By day three, I was practically salivating to finish (when I wasn't stretching the kinks out of my neck and back, or circling the table mumbling to myself). I was also starting to really question what on earth was possessing me to so fervently, diligently work on this puzzle to completion. WHERE was the drive coming from to finish this ridiculously tough and altogether unnecessary task? It was like I was being faced with this stranger in my own brain... So, by this time, I was past the point of no return. I mean, I was having philosophical puzzle conversations with myself, like

"WHY am I doing this, again?

But WHY can't I finish this NOW?

WHY is this puzzle so HARD?

And WHY do I HAVE to FINISH it?!?!"

All the while my brain multi-tasking this whiny conversation with myself with my darting eyeballs searching, searching the puzzle junkyard for a tiny bit of red on a mold-green piece, for a little toe of pink boot, surrounded by grey... Put that one in the pile that makes up the closet door... Oh, wait, there's a separate pile for the closet handle, and one for the front door, and one for the bottom frame... Oh wait the designs are different on each side of the closet... and the four tiny skull's eyeballs all go in different directions... Aaaargh!!  Sound like fun? (Oh, quick, before I lose it-- grab the piece with the rat tail's end!)

Day four... Day four, day four... It was a haze. Finish or Bust. Every part of the puzzle I attacked and conquered like tiny villages within this puzzle town. I couldn't get myself to focus on anything else until this puzzle was finally put to bed. But soon, I was putting myself to bed... with a still-unfinished puzzle on the table.

Day Five!! The Day I Would Finish The Puzzle! Why do people think the edges are the easiest to put together?? They're NOT. I saved them for last and believe me this was not a case of "saving the best for last". Come to think of it, virtually no part of this puzzle was "easy". It's all just varying degrees of "hard". (It WAS FUN!!! But, no bones about it (...well, yes, bones about it.. But, no bones about it), this sucker was HARRRD!!!)

I found myself questioning my own puzzle abilities with this one. It was so tricky (read: cruel) in parts. Time and again, I thought "Gee, am I rusty?? Or do I just stink at this??" The art is so deceiving. It looks so carefree, silly and whimsical. And it is... But, let me tell you this... it bites!! Hard!!

When I finally finished it, I was euphoric, overjoyed!! (Aaaahhh!! Sigh..) I also took stock of the fact that I once again had climbed my own personal version of Mount Everest and I could be really proud of my accomplishment. On a more general but no less personal note, I also once again experienced the really unique, unusual, authentic mental challenge that only a crazy-insane puzzle can deliver!!

Oh, and I also needed a long nap. (My brain did a LOT of squats and lunges.)

So now, I am already itching (just a tiny, tiny bit) to start my latest. But, at this point I'm pretty sure it's just leftover endorphins... Give me six months, and maybe I'll be ready for another puzzle. :)

0 Comments on The Truth About Puzzles. as of 9/5/2013 7:08:00 PM
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Artists live a life of wonder. At times, it’s wondering what to do next. I will not lie, I have been wondering this for the last few months. I am looking for the sweet spot! It’s my favorite place to be in Art. It’s the place where you are working and you don’t want to stop. I think it’s a divine place where God kisses your life with ideas that flow out in a steady stream.

A lot of things can bar you from this place. Looking in the wrong direction, self doubt, self pity, self self self. Ha! Get the point? You have to get rid of the”self” part. If the sweet spot is divine, then you have to seek out the divine.

A few nights ago I had a dream. My dad was in the dream. Someone had driven him to my house. He slowly came up the steps to my house and said to me, ” Bloom“. In a small whisper he said, “bloom where you are planted”.
Then he was gone.
I woke up knowing the “divine” had spoken to me.
No grinding out ideas, just let the divine IN me out… to make the art I was born to make.

A flower does not worry about the bloom. All the coding for that bloom is IN the seed. It simply drinks up moisture from above and the roots go down and the bloom comes.

So… BLOOM today! You were meant to be like none other.

Filed under: dream, God STuff, Inspiring, Kicking Around Thoughts, Reflections

6 Comments on BLOOM, last added: 7/17/2013
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9. To Be Or Not To Be!


That is the question! The answer is in you. Will you be who you yearn to be in this life? Will you accomplish your dreams? Much of it is up to you.
My neighbor is an example. I met her three years ago. I was so excited to have an artist move in next door! She is a potter and when I visited her she would show me what she was making. She had some really fun pieces.
Last December she agreed to be in a garden show. She was one of two artists that would show their work in a specific garden. She knew she needed to fill the yard so she began in earnest to produce pieces with a garden theme. All winter long the kiln was firing wonderful creations! Colorful pots, bird houses and bird baths began oozing out of her garage. Her work began taking on a personality and a style like no other artist. I saw her grow in her skills.
Last Wednesday was set-up day. We placed her art all over the yard. By the time we finished, the yard look like it was out of a fairy tale! I could see that her pieces told a story. There was color everywhere! We were so excited!
We returned on Saturday for the sale. No sooner did we sit down at our table when the crowd of visitors began forming a line to buy my friends pottery. The line did not stop until the day ended. It was wonderful!!! All of her hard work paid off.
So what is my point? Find what you love and DO it! Find a way! Keep moving in the direction. To be or NOT to be? It’s up to you!

Pottery by Juanita Estepa




Filed under: change, dream, Inspiring, Kicking Around Thoughts, Reflections, Work is Play....?

2 Comments on To Be Or Not To Be!, last added: 6/25/2013
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10. Writing Matters

Today Deb Gaby and I finished leading the third day of a three-day Foundations of Writing Workshop training. At the end, we asked for reflections. Teacher after teacher commented on the impact of… Read More

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11. Dear Diary,

DRAWAll I really wanted to do today was draw. Sometimes you have to do things you don’t want to do. Some of those things you are not good at, so they take you ALL DAY! Sometimes things go wrong. Then you are sad. … and sometimes you mess up. … and sometimes you do all of that in ONE DAY! Ha!

Goodbye Wednesday. I’m going to bed!

Filed under: Reflections

2 Comments on Dear Diary,, last added: 4/18/2013
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12. Throwback Thursday: Reflections & Self-Assessments

Peruse our past posts about reflective practice and self-assessments students can use at the end of the school year.

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13. One Step at a Time!


Have you ever started a new chapter in your life?  Have you ever dared to do something you never did before?  Did you feel launched into it and found yourself in free fall? You are not alone. It happens all the time! Anyone who wants to do something worthwhile in life has to take risks and sometimes those risks lead to even more risks!

When my art career began, I was imagining all the possibilities. I dreamed of success. I created many fun little cartoons and talked about what I wanted to do with them.  Then one day, I ran into a friend who was DOING what I wanted to do.  She shook me!  She said, “Les, you have to go to the N.Y. Stationary Show and you have to go NOW!

I had heard of this show. I had many of my friends online talking about going.  This was back in the late 90′s.  There was something in her voice.  It was more like a command from heaven than a gentle nudging from a friend.  I made up my mind to go!

This was huge for me.  I had only been on an airplane once for a 45 minute flight. I practically sat on the lap of the man sitting next to me… asking him what this bump was and what THAT  bump was!    I decided I better pray about this trip.  I told the Lord that if HE wanted me to do this then he would have to make the way for me.   A few days later someone had put an envelope in my mailbox. It was  $300.00.  Enough for my flight!  It was not long until I was flying across America to New York City.  I met up with my girlfriend and stayed with her uncle and aunt. We took buses, rode trains and cabs.  Once at the show we had to pedal our portfolios. I am NOT a sales person. … but there I was asking people where their art director was and if I might have a minute with them.  Over and over.  Hmmm…. it became a little easier each time.

One last company sat down with me.  They looked through my whole portfolio and asked if I had anything more?  I pulled out one last picture of a little baby.  That was it!  That was the one the art director liked.  She asked me if I had any more and I told her I would email them to her when I got home. You better believe I was sketching babies on the airplane!

This was one of my first “be brave” moments. Over and over the good Lord has taken my by the hand and shown me what to do next.  Some would say, “you are weak if you need help for everything.”  But I say,  I am smart for asking.

I have a few more adventures I am yearning for.  There will come that day, when the dreaming is over, and the bags all packed and ready to GO!

What are you waiting for?  Be Brave!!!!!

Filed under: God STuff, Kicking Around Thoughts, Reflections

3 Comments on One Step at a Time!, last added: 3/15/2013
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14. Religion and Fear

During Lent, the minister of the church I attend sends out daily reflections over e-mail. This is today's, and I think it's wonderful. From The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything: A Spirituality for Real Life, by James Martin:

When I was a novice, one of my spiritual directors quoted the Scottish philosopher John Macmurray, who contrasted "real religion" and "illusory religion." The maxim of "illusory religion" is as follows: "Fear not; trust in God and God will see that none of the things you fear will happen to you." "Real religion," said Macmurray, has a different maxim: "Fear not; the things you are afraid of are quite likely to happen to you, but they are nothing to be afraid of."

12 Comments on Religion and Fear, last added: 4/8/2013
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15. Theory: The Klein Pyramid of Literary Quality

I am finishing out this month of blogging (hooray!) with a theory I've been working on for some time. Last February, thanks to John Green's The Fault in Our Stars -- which I loved intensely and immensely -- I was thinking about Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs and how it might apply to literary judgments. That is, to use the books within the book of The Fault in Our Stars (which form an important part of the narrative), what makes The Price of Dawn (an action-adventure novel based on a video game) better or worse than An Imperial Affliction (a literary novel about life, love, death, and the existence of God)? Is one better or worse? How do we decide that? And for me, in my real-world daily life:  What makes one manuscript better than another on a solely literary basis? To answer these questions, I hereby present, as a hypothesis up for discussion, the Klein Pyramid of Literary Quality:

(My original sketch of the pyramid above; much more readable version created by the kind Ed DeCaria.) To take these from the bottom (lowest level) up:

1. COMPLETION. The literary work is complete. (Lots of writers never even get here -- a completed manuscript -- so truly, this counts for something.)

2. COMPETENCE. The literary work is readable and understandable by a reader who is not the author.

3. CHARISMA. The literary work is able to make you feel the emotion the writer intends you-the-reader to feel, so well as that intention can be discerned. (While the subject of intention is clearly nebulous and much debated, I feel as if it is safe to say Pride and Prejudice is intended to make a reader laugh, for example, while Pet Sematary is intended to scare us, and any romance novel is intended to make readers fall in love along with the characters.)

3. QUALITY. The literary work displays some measure of imagination, originality, and/or accomplishment in at least once of these areas: Prose, Character, Plot. Ideally, all three aspects of the Quality triangle will work together to contribute to the book's Charisma or Questioning or both.

3. QUESTIONING. The literary work intentionally asks and answers questions about our human existence. (See above for caveats on intention.)

4. CONSONANCE. The literary work successfully integrates all of the above into a meaningful and beautiful whole. Consonance books are masterpieces.

How to Use This Pyramid:  To measure the literary quality of the work, you fill in all the triangles/trapezoids the particular work has achieved according to you, the reader. The darker the pyramid, the better the book is. A book must have all of the triangles/trapezoids of the previous level filled in to advance to the next level. Thus, for me, The Fault in Our Stars would be one solid dark triangle, because I think it does everything well, up to and including Consonance. But Twilight would be a dark trapezoid at the bottom (Levels 1 and 2) with just the Charisma triangle filled in above it, as it totally caught me up in the feelings of falling in love, even as I was not overly impressed by any of its Quality attributes, and I don't think Ms. Meyer especially intended to Question anything. An intensely didactic picture book might fill in Levels 1 and 2 but then have only the Questioning triangle complete, as it's asking how we should live and then answering that question, but with no emotional appeal (Charisma) at all.

Each judgment would be peculiar to its reader and the date s/he read the work, as opinions vary widely and can change over time; but that is where half the fun of literary discussion comes in, as one reader might say "Oh, this book was totally Charismatic for me!" and another would sniff, "Hmph. It barely achieved Competence!" The more widely it is agreed a book fills up the pyramid, the closer to classic status it moves in the public eye. And this pyramid has nothing to do with sales or other financial success; it is for aesthetic judgments only.

There are two more concepts that I've puzzled over whether and how to include in the pyramid:  the ideas of Pleasure and Ethics. Gone with the Wind, for instance, would have earned Consonance from me when I read it in seventh grade, and it Pleased me intensely at the time, but it's also a book rife with racial stereotypes; should it then not be allowed to achieve Consonance in my judgment, because its Ethics are bad? Or Waiting for Godot is likewise Consonant for me, but I hated reading it (I've never seen it staged):  Can it then not be Consonant because I didn't take Pleasure in it? (I guess there was some Pleasure in recognizing the mastery of the construction, how completely the Quality of its plot, characters, and prose contributed to the Questioning and Charisma it wanted to achieve; but none of that really made up for my desire for someone to move, dammit.) (Also, clearly, I would have to come up with synonyms for "Pleasure" and "Ethics" that start with K sounds.)

What do you think? Are there categories I've left out that should be included in any future revision to the Pyramid? Would YOU include Pleasure and/or Ethics, and how, and what would you call them? What books have you read this year that you would call Consonant and why?

I would be delighted to hear thoughts here! And thanks to anyone who's stuck around and read my posts through all of this month; I've really enjoyed the writing of them, and appreciate your attention.

23 Comments on Theory: The Klein Pyramid of Literary Quality, last added: 9/23/2012
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16. Facing Discouragement

I hesitate to write this blog post. Yet it needs written. Maybe for you or for the teacher next door. Definitely for me. This week I’ve had too many conversations with teachers who… Read More

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17. Reflections from Listening to M. Stiefvater

Here’s the thing: I’m not really the kind of person who follows authors around and gets their signatures and takes photos with them. In fact, I’m rather shy when it comes to this… Read More

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18. Rest.

Rest. Why does this seem like a dirty four letter word? I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about rest. We were on fall break last week. You might think I took rest… Read More

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19. Rest.

Rest. Why does this seem like a dirty four letter word? I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about rest. We were on fall break last week. You might think I took rest… Read More

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20. A Brief Rant Against My Own Interests, but for My Own Beliefs

Katha Pollitt, a critic, feminist, activist, and liberal who I greatly respect and admire, posted this on Twitter this morning:

Half of laity members who voted against women bishops in Anglican church were women.
And I wanted to say, "Sister, please." Because that "#slavementality" hashtag reflects a fundamental misunderstanding -- or perhaps better put, a fundamental willful blindness -- on the part of my fellow liberals about the way that my fellow people of religion or faith sometimes think or behave . . . and in particular, a willful blindness by my co-feminists toward women who make choices that don't advance the cause.

Those women who voted against women bishops were quite likely ladies who read 1 Timothy 2:12* literally and who find that more important or compelling than their own rights. This is a perfectly valid way to think and behave in the private sphere. It may not be the way we feminists personally would interpret Scripture or vote -- but other people's religious beliefs aren't any of our business, and liberals have fought long and hard to make sure everyone's religious beliefs stay their private business and don't come into the public sphere.

All of this goes ditto for women who vote, based on religious grounds, for a candidate who opposes abortion rights**. That does come into the public sphere, as those women's choice of a candidate can influence all women's choices about life and death, literally. But that's still a valid belief and choice, and the work of those who support abortion rights then is to argue better and either change their minds or convince other people to outvote them. Same goes for the Anglican vote:  The work lies not in insults, but in a more wide-ranging theological discussion that might open up these women's minds, if they're willing to go there (which they may not be). It's complex and hard, but not cheap, as Ms. Pollitt's comment felt to me.

[A side note if you're interested in issues of Biblical literalism and religious mind-changing:  The New Yorker from November 26 has a terrific, thoughtful, even-handed profile of Rob Bell, the founder of Mars Hill church, and his journey from strict evangelical to someone still faithful but rather more nebulous in religious definition.]

Feminism is, or should be, nothing more and nothing less than the fight for the rights of women to maximize their personal choices and opportunities within a culture that often represses them -- including those choices and opportunities some feminists might disagree with, such as those that reinforce the repressive culture. Calling those women who make different choices idiots does not advance the cause here, and I wished we did it less and argued for complexity more.

* "I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet," as quoted in the New Yorker article. 
** I should note that my own feelings about abortion are extremely squooshy, so I will not argue it one way or another, nor do I welcome arguments about it in the comments (goodness, no).

14 Comments on A Brief Rant Against My Own Interests, but for My Own Beliefs, last added: 12/3/2012
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21. On my mind…

It’s one of those days. You know, where you wonder if you really want to keep doing this? It’s one of those days. You know, where you are positive you are doing exactly… Read More

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22. Writing Unapologetically

One of the lines from the Voices Strong class mantra, taught by Christy Rush-Levine is Write Unapologetically. I love these two words side-by-side standing for genuine marks on the page. Today, I planned… Read More

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23. A Brief Ramble on Character and Self Consistency

Lord, I love Zadie Smith's essays, like this wonderful piece in last week's New Yorker on Joni Mitchell, changing artistic tastes, changing selves, and artistic continuity:

Who could have understood Abraham? He is discontinuous with himself. The girl who hated Joni and the woman who loves her seem to me similarly divorced from each other, two people who happen to have shared the same body. It's the feeling we get sometimes when we find a diary we wrote, as teenagers, or sit at dinner listening to an old friend tell some story about us of which we have no memory. It's an everyday sensation for most of us, yet it proves a tricky sort of problem for those people who hope to make art. For though we know and recognize discontinuity in our own lives, when it comes to art we are deeply committed to the idea of continuity. I find myself to be radically discontinuous with myself -- but how does one re-create this principle in fiction? What is a character if not a continuous, consistent personality? If you put Abraham in a novel, a lot of people who throw that novel across the room. What's his motivation? How can he love his son and yet be prepared to kill him? Abraham is offensive to us. It is by reading and watching consistent people on the page, stage, and screen that we are reassured of our own consistency.
This made me think of the fact that often the moments I love most in fiction or film are the moments where a character does something that is seemingly inconsistent with his or her outward character, but completely consistent with his or her inward self, which we've glimpsed throughout the proceedings . . . a sacrifice, an unexpectedly marvelous dance, a moment of honesty or tenderness they weren't capable of at the beginning. It is often the revelation of that character's strength through the demonstration of their vulnerability, and it shows us layers, dimensions, complexity, reality, all the things I like best.

That said, I disagree a little with the last few sentences of the paragraph I quote above because I don't find Abraham inconsistent at all; his obedience to his god simply outranks his love for his son, which could certainly be found offensive if you disagree with those rankings, but which is not a matter of discontinuity. And I think I like watching consistent fictional people not because I am like them, but because their dependability, the cleanliness of their consistency, anchors and comforts me in my own wild ups and downs. One of the great joys of fiction is that it can be neater than life; the best fiction either organizes the reader's emotions completely, I think, or just barely manages the messiness of reality. 

Agree? Disagree? In my inconstancy, I'm open to persuasion.

Finally, this essay also reminded me of this extraordinary version of "Both Sides Now" -- made famous in the Emma Thompson weeping scene in "Love, Actually" -- which almost makes me cry every time I hear it with its texture of pain and wisdom. It is worth stopping what you're doing to breathe and to listen:

4 Comments on A Brief Ramble on Character and Self Consistency, last added: 1/6/2013
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24. I Remember When . . .


Oh little Peepsqueak.  This picture of you reminds me of something that happened to me when I was little.  We were visiting an aunt in Washington.  She had a rope that dangled from a tree in her backyard. She also had a big DOG that came running into the yard barking at ME!  I jumped on that rope and UP, UP, UP  I went!  I did not even know I could climb a rope!  I just did it!  ha ha!

Most of my art comes from my imagination, but it is also from my memories and from my life experiences. All that being said, I think I can still climb a rope!

Filed under: My Characters, Peepsqueak!, Reflections

2 Comments on I Remember When . . ., last added: 2/22/2013
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25. Peepsqueak in Winter


Come February, without fail, I  begin to feel the effects of Spring Fever. My tulips are peeking out, our trees are budding, and my heart begins pining away for warm weather.  THEN it SNOWS 8 inches! haha!

There is no complaining on my part.  Colorado needs the moisture!  Like Peepsqueak, (above) I put on my coat and scarf and set off in our winter wonderland.  Spring will arrive as it alway does, but there are sidewalks to shovel and a wood stove to load and lots of indoor activities to keep me busy until snow gives way to rain and flowers.

Filed under: Peepsqueak!, Reflections

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