A Tip for Sneaking Bliss

A long holiday weekend is upon us. Here is a little tip for sneaking bliss.

The kids were tired, the day was hot and we were all sticking to the car’s seat. The AC was out. Again. One more stop. One more store then we could call it a day and go home.
Unbuckling, we all peeled ourselves off the hot seats and crossed the parking lot, picking up a little gum on our shoes along the way. It appeared that everyone in the store was having the same kind of day. Frowns everywhere. Tired, hot, sweaty, frowns.

“Mom, nobody is smiling,” the worried little voice broke through the grim silence of the grocery shoppers.

Without thinking, I blurted my automated reply, “Smile anyway.”

“Mom!  She smiled back, that lady smiled back. That one there, with her hair up and the sunglasses.”

Everyone in earshot stared. Then… they all smiled.

Our little family game was born. From this day forward it was our tradition, how many smiles could we get when in a store.

It does not sound like much. But try it. Smile. Count how many you get in return. And don’t worry about the ones who do not reciprocate, they need your smiles the most.

Not only will you sneak a little bliss, but you will share a little as well.

Color My Family

Our grandkids love to color. Using predesigned frames, I inserted line drawings of each of their family members, from siblings, to great grand-parents. The smiles make them great. Our smiles, whether shy or bold, are remembered by our grandchildren.
Sneak a little bliss, smile.

Another Odd Duck

Remember this? Donald in Mathmagic Land

I recall seeing this in film format, back in the days of projectors and traditional film in classrooms. In our case, the entire school viewed the film. I was absolutely fascinated.

This animation by Disney attempted to convince kids that math was important. Even though it utilized animation and a familiar character, this little film did not awaken math for my fellow students, rather, it cemented their dislike.

Not to pick on my daughter-in-law, but when she uttered the words, “I hate math,” I was compelled to show her the video of Donald. Yes, I have a copy. Her poor face contorted into a twisted ball of raw pain. This experience, at her expense, really enlightened me. Start with art. She, too, is a photographer. We can talk about f/stops, shutter speeds and light temperature without missing a beat.

Since drawing is innate to a child, really to the human creature, it is a more functional approach to utilize art to teach math and science rather than trying to tell people the reason they like art is math.

The paper Drawing on Student Understanding, Using illustrations to invoke deeper thinking about animals., By Mary Stein, Shannan McNair, and Jan Butcher exemplifies a more modern approach to recognizing the interwoven nature of art and science.

The enrichment program I started in middle school and continued through high school lacked this interrelatedness. A few successful instructors invited all disciplines for students to expand their understanding of the world around them. For most, however, they appreciated math and tolerated art in student achievement.

Years later, as I bring my personal art out of hiding, I am awakened to a sense of wholeness.

Odd Duck

I was different.

One of the boys grabbed the snake from her cage, she bit him. He dropped her and she quickly hid behind textbook boxes. The kids all stepped back. When I reached into the six-foot boa’s hiding place, she calmly slid into my hand. We became friends. It was the first week of school, I turned 11 that week. I liked drawing pictures, racing bikes, climbing trees, snakes, and math. I was an odd duck.

In all fairness, I understand her perspective. The program instructor from Seed Planted 4. When the program instructor told me that I was not good at art, that I should focus on math and science. I was crushed. She did not do this to be mean, she was trying to help me. The circumstances were such:
I lived in a poor community.
I was from a poor family.
I did not have a good home life.
I had a high math and science aptitude.

The instructor viewed math and science as my way out of cultural poverty. This was back in the days, those unenlightened days, of girls don’t like math. I was an odd duck. I liked math and was good at it. The numbers just made sense. So when she announced that I had a class where I could learn anything, I said, “I want to learn to draw,” my request did not sit well with her plan for my future.

Truth be told, I don’t think she relayed the message from the expert who looked at my art. I did not receive direct feedback. It came from the instructor, not the source, and the instructor had an agenda.

The saving grace for growing up. My favorite teacher. My grandparents.

Art finds a way in, no matter the path we take.
When the front doors are closed, we may just find a back door left ajar and have a chance to sneak bliss on the naysayer’s watch.

Kids – the original backdoor artists

Many parents have stories of various hidden locations where their child’s art had to be removed when preparing to move from one home to another. I believe this was the sole inspiration for the product Mr.Clean® Magic Eraser®.

Children seem to sneak creating art wherever they can.
On the wall.
In the closet.
Under the bed.
The backsides of doors.
On the inside of clothing drawers.
On toys like wooden blocks and trains.
And my personal favorite… on their siblings.

To a child, any surface is a canvas. Kids are naturally backdoor artists, sneaking a little bliss even when they know it’s a “no, no.” I ponder this thought, because today is my eldest son’s birthday. Framed, on my office wall are creations from when he and his brother were little.

Hot Air Balloon

by Chris Livingston (age 5 years, 11 months)

He continues his creative aspirations, sneaking in art while programming games and apps. http://www.korphane.com/

Happy Birthday Chris.
With love,

A back door opening

I put my drawing supplies away from view. I still sketched in secret, but it grew less and less.
I focused on math and science.
My next grade change in our three room school included a new teacher. For a science lesson, we made pin hole cameras. A section of our class was converted into a makeshift darkroom. My spirits energized as I watched the image come to life. This was our science class, but I saw art as the light painted image in the emulsion emerged.

I started saving my babysitting money and the pay I received for my after school job to buy a camera. It was clear to me that the science of photography could feed my creative passion.
The back door was left open and I slipped in.

Seed Planted 4

Learn about anything I want? Really?
Okay, I want to learn to draw. What 10-year-old little girl wouldn’t?

The next week the special program instructor arrived with an art book. I was ecstatic. I poured myself into the lessons. I shared every step with my favorite teacher. She told me the parts she liked the best. She arranged for the program instructor to take me to an art museum. At the encouragement of my teacher, samples of my artwork were given to the curator. The next week the special program instructor returned to my school with her interpretation of what the art expert thought of my work. I was so excited, Grandpa would be so proud.

The program instructor began slowly, without a smile, “You should focus on math and science. You are good at math and science. There is no future for you in art.”
As she began to list deficiencies in my drawings, my face grew hot, the room turned gray as all color left my view. I could no longer hear. When I was alone and no one was looking, I cried.

I never told Grandpa.

Seed planted.

My art at 10 years old.

Seed Planted 3

It was hard to breath. I was so cold. The nurses sponged my arms and legs with ice water to bring the fever down. My flesh hurt all the way to the bone. Their smiles and tenderness made it easier to cope.

When my fever broke the head nurse brought me a gift. A pad of paper and a kid set of watercolors. What a treat. I didn’t have anything like this. I had crayons, pencils and stray sheets of paper. My own paper pad and real paints, I forgot all about the needles and hospital smells.

My first painting with these watercolors was a puppy. A warm brown puppy with floppy ears and a wet nose. The puppy sat beneath a bouquet of pink, red and orange roses. The painted strokes were not translucent showing the brilliance of watercolor, but rather thick opaque pudding globs like tempera school paints.

Didn’t matter to me. I painted a puppy.

I gave this painting to the nurse who gave me the paints and paper. Then I painted another puppy beneath roses. Again and again. I gave versions of the same puppy and roses to all the nurses until my paint set was used up.

Seed planted.

Seed Planted 2

Grandpa’s lap was warm and safe. We watched the moon landing together. He was wary of these complicated things, but he knew how to draw. He drew pictures of horses and cowboys. Occasionally, just for me, he drew a little cowgirl with dark eyes and curls.  We made up stories to go with the pictures. Sometimes we made up pictures to go with stories.

Seed planted.

Seed Planted

I sat in the grass with the older students waiting for the surprise our teacher promised. Soon the upper-grade kids arrived. They carried books, homemade books.

One by one they read stories and showed us pictures. Stories they wrote and pictures they drew. Handwritten words with illustrations held together by a variety of report covers. They made books. I was captivated. They made books.

Seed planted.