Postcards and the Recipe for Summer

I woke up this morning stunned by the reality that there are 25 measly days left of my summer vacation.

Summer is my time to get.things.done. I usually use the time to “repair” and catch up on everything. I read. I write. I play. I watch a whole season of a television series I don’t have time to watch during the academic year. I create. I write letters and send lots of postcards. I purge toys, books, clothing. I catch up on [some of] the “household matters” that pile up from August to May. I plan for fall semester.

This summer is different. I wake up in the morning and go to sleep at night with an unchanged “to do list.”  Sure, I get some things done. But, despite my daily lists, I spend most of my time daydreaming or staring at the computer screen trying to figure out what to do next–or what I have the desire and energy to do next. Then, I take a nap.

As I was organizing the postcards I received over the last few months, I mulled over reasons I’m not as productive and considered strategies to increase my productivity over the next few weeks.  I paused when I ran across two love notes that scream “summer.” They reminded me that summer is not all about work, and what I need is rest not a reset.

“Pool at Luna Park,” Sketch/Watercolor by Andrea F.

Andrea F., an author/artist and Love Notes participant from Vienna, Austria, sent both images.

The first is a sketch Andrea completed while in Australia in February to escape the cold Austrian winter.  It depicts the North Sydney Olympic Pool with a view of Luna Park.  I’m impressed with how accurately Andrea sketched the scene. Check out a photograph here to see what I mean: North Sydney Olympic Pool [fourth image beneath the central image].

“Summer” by Andrea F.

 

With the collage postcard above, Andrea provided the recipe for summer–masterpieces, poetry, fancy, eternity, and pure art [see image for measurements].

Thanks for the reminder, Andrea! Summer is for all of this.

So, bear with me while I check myself: I work hard from August to May. My weekdays begin at 4:00 a.m. (sometimes 3:00), and I regularly put 75-80 hours per week into my work–preparing for classes, meeting with students, grading papers, attending other meetings, and doing my part for the committees on which I serve.  It’s insane to squeeze everything that I didn’t get around to from August to May into a two-month summer. It is absolutely okay to not kill myself working just as hard while I’m on break. Summer is, after all, the best perk of academia.

Thanks to two beautiful postcards, my break has finally begun–vacation from guilt, lists, schedules, and the fierce pressure to get it all done. I need the poetry, art, fancy, and naps (especially) to cope with life after July.

Freedom Quilt Patterns | Farewell, Mrs. Crarey

(Log Cabin)

School ends in a few days and Mrs. Crarey, my favorite second grade teacher, is retiring.  I’m sad for all the children who will miss the opportunity of learning under such an amazing person, but I’m happy for her.  She’s earned her retirement and  she will certainly make deep impressions wherever she goes.

Mrs. Crarey is simply awesome.  Even with a classroom full of many different personalities and learning styles, she has a way of dealing with her students as individuals and stimulating their intellectual curiosity.  I love her not only because she is awesome but because she just loves my son, and even today–three years after he finished second grade–she is a friend of his heart.

I will always be grateful for the way she kept his curiosity piqued and gave him more challenging work when he surpassed benchmarks.  She used his love for reading, robots, science, animals, Star Wars, and mystery to keep him engaged.  That meant a lot to this mom who was uncomfortable in a newish environment with a kid who was pining for home (New Orleans) and still adjusting to a school day structure and approach to teaching and learning that were very different from the Montessori curriculum of his previous experience.

When I blogged about the fifth grade African masks a few months ago, I mentioned there was so much more art to see–much more than I can cover in a couple of blog posts.  But in honor of Mrs. Crarey’s retirement and the tremendous gift she has been to the school, this post focuses on her group’s art fair exhibit.

Mrs. Crarey approaches art purposefully.  She typically has her students complete art projects that connect to a lesson. When my son was in her class, the students drew and learned about owls, West African-style dwellings, jewelry, and women’s attire, geckos, dinosaurs, which I blogged about three and a half years ago, Dr. Seuss, and so much more.  I’m going to miss taking a walk down to her classroom and taking a peek at her students’ masterpieces.

In addition to other art pieces, the class created quilt blocks. After reading Bettye Stroud’s The Patchwork Quilt: A Quilt Map to Freedom, reading about the Underground Railroad, viewing and studying maps of the “slave states” and “free states,” students selected a quilt pattern to draw and color.

“Freedom Quilt”

According to some studies, the quilts played an important role in helping enslaved persons make their way to freedom.  Each quilt piece held significant meaning and provided directions and warnings. Although there have been verbal statements from descendants of enslaved persons regarding the quilt code, there has been no physical proof.

Take a look at the children’s quilt pieces [click an image for a closer look]:

Follow the link to find out what each of the patterns mean: Freedom Quilt Codes.

Farewell, Mrs. Crarey…We’re not sure how we’ll survive the coming years without running into you for our quick chats, but we wish you well on your journey.  Thank you for the fond memories, for your generous spirit, and your heart of gold.

Much love…XOXOX

Mrs. Crarey and My Little One, December 2013

A teacher takes a hand, opens a mind, and touches a heart.

The Indigo Buntings of Academia

I stole a moment yesterday from all the “things to do” to “thin out” the stationery and planner pouches I carry to work with me. All the pretty things were spread out on the coffee table. Among them were at least seven letters to which I must respond soon. In that stack of letters was a gorgeous notecard from Omi, an adjunct English professor and one of my “Professors United” pals on swap-bot.

"Indigo Bunting" by Christy Lemp

“Indigo Bunting” by Christy Lemp

Lemp’s watercolor was one of the winners of the AAUW’s 2015 Art contest.  From the back of the card:

Christy Lemp always loved to draw and paint but only starred devoting more time to it after years of working other jobs and raising her family.  Spurred by the passage of a milestone birthday, Lemp quit her job and dove into her passion: watercolor painting.  After much hard work and persistence, Lemp’s dream of making artwork for people has come true. Indigo Bunting was inspired by a Mother’s Day visit of the beautiful bird to Lemp’s bird feeder.

I often think about adjunct professors like Omi who toil day in and day out with inadequate pay and benefits.  In this letter, Omi wrote about how the university that employs her changed the adjunct pay schedule from biweekly to monthly and were (or are) discussing eliminating adjuncts in her discipline altogether! I am sympathetic to the plight of adjuncts and disturbed by how some universities take advantage of them, but I know that many adjuncts appreciate having a paycheck and a job in academia, hoping that “a foot in the door” will lead to a full-time position.

According to the Chipper Woods Bird Observatory:

Indigo Buntings perform a valuable service as they consume grasshoppers, beetles, cankerworms, flies, mosquitoes, cicadas, weevils and aphids. Diet also consists of seeds of raspberries, grasses, thistle, goldenrod, dandelions and other weed seeds. It is well worth the effort to provide suitable brushy habitat and shrubby forest edges to assure a healthy population of these attractive little songsters.

I’m not in the habit of comparing people to animals, but it’s fitting that Omi wrote her letter on this card. It’s a reminder that adjuncts, too, provide an invaluable service to colleges and universities. They, often, perform in ways that other professors refuse, taking on the grunt work of service courses that leave them little time to pursue their own research and dreams.

Despite the challenges, Omi seems upbeat and optimistic. She’s writing, reading, crafting, sharing beauty, and loving her life–and her cats who “own [her] soul because she can’t resist their cute faces.”  =^..^=

Collage Art: The Little Matisses

“In the Style of Matisse” by Vaughan

[Art] is like making an expressive gesture with the advantage of permanence.  –Henri Matisse

By now, you know that there’s a special place in my heart for children’s art and art created for children, so as promised, I’m back with another dose of fourth grade goodness.

About a month ago, Mrs. Johnson, my son’s fourth grade teacher, introduced the students to the art of French artist Henri-Émile-Benoît Matisse.  Matisse, whose work spanned many decades, worked with various styles and media.  Mrs. Johnson’s art lesson focused on a technique Matisse mastered late in his career after illness and surgery left him physically unable to paint and sculpt–collages made from brightly colored paper cut in various shapes and sizes. I’m sure the students loved playing with construction paper, glue, and scissors to create their own masterpieces à la Matisse!

My little one created the one above. These (below) were created by the other students in the class. [Click on an image for a closer look].

Sixteen little Matisses. The bold colors and unique shapes are mesmerizing.  It is obvious that the children enjoyed creating the collages. I wonder if they felt as “mysterious” and “adventurous” as some of these pieces feel.

I’m no art expert, but as far as I’m concerned, children’s art–even when it is imitative–is always fresh and always bears a stroke of originality and innocence.

To find out more about Matisse’s life and career, check him out here: Matisse: Life and Painting.

The weekend is here:  Why not take some time to create something with construction paper, scissors, and a little glue?

Dinosaur Sightings!

"Dinosaur Sightings" by Mrs. C's Second Grade Class

“Dinosaur Sightings” by Mrs. C’s Second Grade Class

Like a lot of little boys, my little one is really into dinosaurs.  I can’t remember what sparked his interest in them, but I know he’s been intrigued by them since he was about two and a half.  He has dinosaur toys, books, dinosaur origami, drawing activities, puzzles, and other activities.  You can imagine his delight when his second grade teacher spent part of the fossil unit on dinosaurs.   And if you know how much I like children’s art, you should know I was tickled pink to see the bright and cheerful dinosaur art gracing the wall outside his classroom.  [See earlier posts here and here].

(Side note: I cannot say enough about his teacher and what she does to get little boys excited about school.  Yes, excited.  I’m talking  “Oh, no! What do you mean I can’t go to school?! 101.1 degree temp isn’t that high. I must.go.to.school” excited.  I’m convinced she performed a miracle on the first day of school).

The little one likes to “store” in his memory or on camera all the beautiful things he sees, so he requested that I take a picture of his classmates’ artwork.  Needless to say, he didn’t have to pull my arm to get me to do it.  He was rightfully very proud of his work–even though, as he pointed out, he didn’t draw his favorite, the Tyrannosaurus Rex (T-Rex).

"Spike the Sailfin Lizard," by Vaughan, Second Grade

A Pelycosaur Named “Spike” by Vaughan, Second Grade

It’s no surprise that my little one drew “Spike” because he has been very interested in sailfin lizards lately.   The sailfin lizard looks very much like the Dimetrodon which was actually a pelycosaur, not a dinosaur.  Pelycosaurs preceded dinosaurs.

Someone thinks this is way too much information and that we should just enjoy his class’s magnificent artwork. [Click an image for a closer look]

I spy a T-Rex, another Dimetrodon, a Brontosaurus, a Brachiosaurus, a Triceratops, and a Velociraptor.  What do you see?