Tuesday, December 21, 2010

In Mourning

I am in mourning.
A few days ago the Provo Tabernacle, the most beautiful building in Provo, one of the most beautiful buildings in Utah, was destroyed in a fire.
I read the articles about it online, and my heart hurt. I watched the video of the news footage with a moving soundtrack of a vocal solo that had just been performed in the Tabernacle, and I wept as if I were watching the memorial service of a dear friend.
Today, Mike and I drove past it as we entered Provo for a Christmas visit to my mom. It was no longer an image on a screen, but a burned out shell right in front of me. Again, I wept from loss.
I know. It is just a building. A pile of bricks, wood and glass.
Bricks that were formed into beautiful walls and 8 sided towers, framing stunning tall stained glass windows, surrounding paneled wood doors, housing a huge meeting hall full of carved pews and lined with strong pillars that supported the balcony which seemed to embrace the room. And, just as you enter, there was the large painting by Minerva Teichert (my favorite 20th century artist) which could be seen even when you were standing at the podium all the way at the other end of the hall.
A building where I attended meetings, and heard words that inspired me, causing me to do things that changed the course of my life.
A building where I went with my sisters, brother and parents to sing Handel's Messiah, and learned to appreciate the sacred music of this season as one of its finest gifts.
A building which the LDS church freely loaned to other churches when they were in need of a large hall for special services.
A building where, nine and a half years ago, we held the memorial service for my father. Because he loved beautiful structures that were carefully and lovingly built through great sacrifice by those who settled the valley. Because he loved places where people could come and hear beautiful music, and hear words encouraging us to turn to God. Because he loved places where people would choose to gather together and find peace and joy.
It can never be the same, and nothing can replace the experiences, but I do hope they rebuild it. Especially now. We need reasons and places such as this to gather.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Lean to the Left, Lean to the Right.

So I was trying to get some artwork done before church, and I had to get to church early for choir practice, and I lost track of the time because I always lose track of the time when I am doing artwork, and I ended up being in a hurry when I was getting dressed, so I let my feet poke around my closet floor to find my shoes and slip into them while I concentrated on buttoning up my blouse. I figured I could do this because I am very good at talking and chewing gum at the same time, just ask Mike.
Anyway, I managed to get myself dressed and to choir practice and then helping with class, when I noticed someone taking a double look at my feet. I glanced down and realized I was wearing unmatched shoes, a left from one pair and a right from another.
Here's the thing - I usually only have one pair of shoes for each footcovering purpose in my life. One pair of dress shoes, one pair of dress boots, one pair of walking shoes. Never have I thought "Oooh, I would love to go and shop for shoes!" It is more along the line of "Shoot, this pair is wearing out. I guess I have to get another pair of shoes". But I was at Goodwill the other day looking for some dress boots because mine have worn out (see above). I love shopping for clothes/shoes at Goodwill because I get to spend most of the time looking for old, really cool books that I turn into artwork, and only a little bit of time forcing myself to look for much needed but less important shoes. I guess someone who has the same size and weird shape of foot that I have must have cleaned out their closet and taken about a dozen pair of dress shoes and boots to Goodwill, because I actually found a few pair that fit perfectly. I ended up getting some boots and two, count them two pair of dress shoes, and my other ones have not even worn out.
So when I let my feet search around for the shoes, and slip them on, I did not consider that there was more than one pair for them to find.
When I mentioned this to a friend at church, she laughed and said, "At least both of your shoes are black. I have done that and not only were they different shoes, but also different colors."
I wondered why I seemed to be tilting a little that morning. But overall, my different right and left shoes got along pretty well.
I hope other things that tilt a little left and a little right can learn to do the same.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Hey, That's My Daughter You're Proposing To!

Charlotte is engaged.
I knew this would happen eventually, but I thought we had a little more time. Now, the moment is here.
Mike and I have done some planning for this, and for years have discussed what we would need to do. Most of the planning is not financial, but more along the lines of "How do we find out more about this guy? What makes him think he's good enough to marry our daughter?" and "How can we tactfully let him know that if he ever makes our daughter cry, we know people who know people who can and will, for a loaf of bread and a cheap bottle of wine, make him disappear?"
We have a good friend who has four daughters, all married. Each time someone has come to him asking for permission to marry one of his daughters, he interviews them and asks them a list of questions about a number of aspects of their life, their past and their plans for the future. He sees this as one of the ways he can let his daughter know how much he loves her, that he would do all he can to make sure all cards are laid on the table. Many of the questions are about things that some young people might not think to discuss with each other. But just by bringing it up, things about money, opinions, past mistakes, attitudes about relationships can be talked about. Anyone who has been married for more than a few years knows it is better to adjust direction before you are in the midst of a crisis.
When we heard about this list some years ago, we asked for a copy. We let our kids know about the list, and Mike's intention to interview potential in-laws. The list is available for them to see as well. We figure the less secrecy about what experience has taught us is important, the better.
So a few weeks ago, when Charlotte called us with the news, we reminded her about the need for this interview. Since we live in different states, we had to plan on spending Thanksgiving weekend getting to know future son-in-law up close and personal.
Here is what I did not know would happen so quickly. I love this guy already.
I love him because he loves my daughter.
This is not surprising. Of course he loves Charlotte. She's wonderful and beautiful and amazing. But it is also how he loves her....
....that he would call Mike and ask permission to marry her, promising to love her forever.
....that he would come and spend Thanksgiving evening with parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins in-law who are outrageous, fun, loud, and strong, and actually participate in the chaos. Then after the engagement was announced, graciously answer questions asking for personal details about the dating and courtship.
....that he would look for ways he could help make my mom's life easier.
....that he would willingly let Mike interview him for a couple of hours, and carefully consider the questions asked.
....that he would seek spiritual help and guidance about this.
....that he would already have an awareness of being physically near Charlotte, that his hand naturally reaches for hers.
....that he would be someone around whom she can be relaxed, and be herself.
I know that I will learn to love him for who he is. But for now, it is enough that he loves Charlotte. This much. This way.
It is a pretty good beginning to forever.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Rise and Shout, Stand and Weep

When Mike asked me last month if I wanted to go to the BYU - Air Force Academy football game I felt his forehead to see if he had a fever. We are not big sports fans. Spending most of a Saturday in traffic, and then in a noisy, crowded stadium full of people who (at least for the moment) hinge their happiness and reason for living on the outcome of a game is not even on our long list of "Oh Gee! I sure would like to do this on Saturday". But a large group of our friends was planning on going, and they invited us to carpool. We decided it would be a nice way to spend time with them. We both graduated from BYU, so that gave us a little bit of a connection to the event.
For those not aware of this, the drive from Lakewood to Colorado Springs is gorgeous. And we were in great company. The many tailgate parties, alumni tents, and carnival atmosphere in the parking lots around the stadium provided us some entertainment, just not the same kind as those who were participating. We got to visit with good friends for several hours, and we got to see how a part of the Air Force Academy culture works. At each game there is a fly over, a demonstration of the flying skills of their very impressive mascot (a real trained falcon), several performances of their marching band and drum line, and huge flag display. Each time Air Force scored, dozens of cadets would run down to the end zone and do synchronized push-ups for each point scored.
Okay, let me just get this part out of the way. We only stood and sang "Rise and Shout!" (the Cougar Fight song) twice. The last time the cadets ran down on the field to do their group push-ups, they had to do 35, one for each of the points scored by Air Force. Glad my mood does not depend on the outcome of that game.
But there was something else about Saturday. It was the ninth anniversary of 9/11. There was a special marching formation and flag ceremony before the game. We stood and had a moment of silence to remember victims of that day. Even though they are not mentioned, I think many of us also remember the hundreds of thousands of victims, living and dead, since that day. Then the honorary game captains were introduced. We stood to honor them. One is on the New York Police Force, was on duty on 9/11, has served several tours of duty overseas. The other is a New York fire fighter and was on duty on 9/11. One of his brothers was killed when the North Tower collapsed, another brother was killed when the South Tower collapsed.
That is the Stand and Weep part of the day.
I do not support the wars we are fighting overseas, but I support and appreciate the soldiers and families who are fighting.
I mourn for those who suffered loss and continue to suffer due to the horrific events of 9/11. Those include people from all over the world, from many cultures and religions, who were there on that day. And those who know and love the ones who were there. And those from all over the world who have suffered loss from the actions taken since that day.
I have no objection to the Mosque that is planned to be built a few blocks (not on or next to but a few blocks) from Ground Zero. I don't think the attacks on 9/11 were a Muslim action any more than I think that burning crosses on a lawn, or lynching people, or the Oklahoma City Bombing are Christian actions. These are the actions of terrorists and extremists, and they come from every culture and country. They are the antithesis of the core beliefs of every major religion.
So, among other things, I stand and weep. Because, as a practicing Mormon, I have promised to mourn with those that mourn, and help others carry their burdens, and follow the example of Christ in looking for how we are all a part of each other, and forgive and seek forgiveness even when it is hard.
On Saturday, even in the midst of crowds and noise and traffic, it was not hard.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

A Weekend of Labor, Terror, and Miracles

Mike loves going backpacking over Labor Day Weekend. He starts planning the next trip the day after he returns from the last. This year it was backpacking into Naturalist Basin in the High Uinta Mountains of Utah. Our daughters have planned on this most of the year. Anna has done this trail several times with Mike, I have gone on this trail once before and Charlotte has been on ones in this area. Many others were invited to join us. The final count ended up being Mike and I, daughters Charlotte and Anna, Anna's friend, and our niece who had just moved out for her freshman year at BYU. To respect privacy I will refer to the last two as A.F. and Niece.

Naturalist Basin is a stunning area. Beautiful lakes surrounded by high mountain pastures and thick forests, and a variety of wildlife. It is bear country, but we have never seen a bear. We frequently see elk, and hear them bugling at all times. We camp by a remote lake, 7 miles from the trailhead, fed by a stream that flows from a waterfall through a meadow. Even though we see many other hikers on the main trail, once we make our way to the lake, we rarely see another person until we return to the main trail.
Naturalist Basin is also a true wilderness area. The trail is 90 percent like a small boulder field that is either going up or down, rarely level, most of it strewn with small rocks among the boulders. The trail is clear during the daylight, but impossible to see at night, even with a light. Hikers have become lost in this area and never seen again.
Mike goes to great lengths to make sure everyone is prepared. He gathered food supplies and equipment all year. He divided up basic foods into individual packs for each hiker. Charlotte and Anna went over supply lists with A.F. and Niece. We made sure everyone had backpacking experience. Mike and I made arrangements to meet the Utah group at the trailhead. We checked again that everyone had layers for cold nights, water and food for the trail, divided up the equipment, went over the trail map, and reminded everyone of the rules. Never leave the trail, wait at the trail forks for those behind, stay with at least one other person in the group and never, never, never hike alone. I am a slow hiker and Mike promised to stay with me. Anna and A.F. are fast, and Anna is very familiar with where we were going, so we agreed that the two of them could go ahead and meet us at the final stream crossing, after the final fork from the main trail. Charlotte and Niece stuck together, and would wait for Mike and I every once in a while. We had been hiking a few hours, Charlotte, Niece, Mike and I had met up again. Mike showed the map to Niece again, pointing out that we would always be taking the left fork, and where we would meet Anna. He said again, "If you get ahead of us, wait at the fork". We started hiking again and Charlotte was telling me more about her new job. Niece moved on ahead. When we got to the fork, she wasn't there. We figured she had gone ahead to where Anna was waiting at the stream crossing with A.F. We slowly hiked over the roughest part of the trail and when we got close to the stream Charlotte went ahead. Within minutes Anna came running down the trail. She said Niece had never reached them, and must have taken the right fork instead of the left. She was going to run the trail and find her. I filled her water bottle and she ran down the trail. Mike and I were immediately worried. We hurried to the stream where we decided that Charlotte would wait with hers and Anna's packs. Mike, A.F. and I hiked the last mile to the lake. They left their packs and went back to help search. There was less than an hour of light left. Anna had no light, and she was wearing light hiking clothes. Niece had her pack with clothes, sleeping bag, some food and water, no light. I set up the tent, and prayed, and paced, and prayed. I was now terrified for all of them. Anna was trail running a rocky boulder strewn trail in the dark without light, Niece could be lost who knows where, and the others could lose the trail in this dark. After 10 o'clock, Mike, Charlotte, Anna and A.F. made it back to the campsite. No Niece. They had found Anna a few miles down the trail trying to make her way back, inconsolable at not finding niece.
Our prayers changed from pleas to find her, to pleas for her comfort and safety through the night until we could search again in the morning. Needless to say, we did not sleep much. As I kept looking out at the sky to see if it was getting any lighter, I thought about the news stories in recent years of those who had been lost in this area. The most hopeful was about a boy who was found after a week. I was glad Niece was not from Utah, and so was not aware of these stories. I kept worrying about what she was going through, and crying at the thought of what I was going to tell her parents.
We were up before the sun. As we filtered water, and filled our daypacks with enough food for ourselves and Niece, and tried to eat enough so we had strength to search, we went over every scenario. We decided to hike back to the last fork, leave A.F. there to relay messages to hikers. Mike, Charlotte and Anna would search the branches of the other fork. I would hike back to the trailhead, hoping she had hiked back to the car. If I didn't find her, I would drive until I had cell phone coverage, and I would call Search and Rescue. If the others found her, they would send Charlotte to run out and catch me.
As we hiked the 2 1/2 miles to the fork, I thought of Anna running this trail in the near dark. She ran over 4 miles in an hour. I was amazed she hadn't been injured. At the fork we went our separate ways. I hiked the 4 1/2 miles back to the trail head faster than ever. I spoke with every person I saw, and many offered to help search and relay information. I only stopped once for a few minutes to think and pray. Every time I felt exhausted and overwhelmed, I thought, "If this were my child, I wouldn't want anyone to give up."
At the trail head, one hiker who had verified she was not at one of the other lakes asked how he could know if we had found her. I told him to watch the news, and if this was not one of the stories, then we had found her. I drove out and got signal, called Search and Rescue and arranged to meet them at the trail head. I left messages for her parents to call me. I reached her brother and told him. He assured me she would not be one to leave the trail, but she was not likely to ask for help from another hiker. Good news and bad news. I drove back to the trail head. Charlotte was waiting for me there. She had run 8 miles out to tell me they had found her safe over 3 miles in from the fork. Other hikers had seen Niece and directed Mike and the girls to her. After giving thanks, we drove out to notify Search and Rescue, and tell her brother to keep trying to reach his parents with the good news.
When we got back to the trail head, Mike was there. He had made sure Niece was well, and Anna and A.F. took her to the camp site. He hurried out to meet us and help us filter more water for the hike back in. He and I just held each other and sobbed with relief. People in the parking lot must have been wondering what was happening.
We made our way back to the camp with gratitude and relief motivating us, rather than fear and worry. I travelled that 7 mile trail four times this weekend. This is one instance where familiarity breeds contempt. After a long hike the day before, and a sleepless night, Mike and Charlotte had logged 20 miles on a rough trail that day.
Niece told us she had not noticed the fork, had not realized we were not close behind her, and did not see other hikers on the trail. After a moment of panic when she realized she would be alone in the dark, she prayed for help, felt assured she would be all right. She bundled up in her sleeping bag and waited through the night there on the trail.
There's the labor and the terror. The miracles are that no one was seriously ill or injured from this, Niece was found within a day, and she had the courage and faith to make it through such a night, we were able to find the strength to search and bring her back to safety, the night she was alone on the trail was the only night where the temperature stayed above freezing.
Some of the things I learned, or remembered - We can do so much more than we think when we don't try to do it alone. Help and direction come in ways we can't imagine. I have amazing daughters - They didn't hesitate at all to do what needed to be done to bring Niece back, even though it meant risking their own lives. We are all at some point either losing our way, trying to find our way, or helping someone find their way back home.
Here's the other thing I learned - It will be a while before I go on a trip without being able to sleep in a warm comfortable bed. I think Mike learned that as well.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Happy 77th to Dad

Tomorrow would have been Dad's 77th birthday. Tonight at midnight we will launch a website about him. It has been in the works for a long time. It will have information about his life and work, photos, videos, (Not yet but soon. I am working on it.) and most importantly, his writings.
I have mentioned before the eternal power of language. His powerful language is stronger than death, and I am grateful for the reminders of that. I hear regularly from people who have been and are impacted by his writings. That happened again this week. A dear friend called to tell me she was reading one of Dad's essays "Can Nations Love Their Enemies? An LDS Theology of Peace". She shared her appreciation for it and I felt the grace of this expression to me, especially this week. It was kind of like receiving a birthday present for Dad, but I get to enjoy it.
So I recommend you go to this link and get a taste of this wonderful man.
Now for the mushy gratitude part.
Thanks to Jordan, Mark, Elizabeth, Dan and Todd and all those who help with the technical and design aspects, and show great patience with this crazy family of mine.
Thanks to Rebecca, Jane, Jennifer, Mark and Katherine for sharing the journey of healing, mourning, celebrating and honoring this unusual and amazing father of ours.
Thanks to Charlotte, Anna and Joseph, and my nieces and nephews for all the reminders in your looks, your expression, your actions and passion for life that a bit of Dad continues on in you.
Thank you, Mom, for being his partner forever, helping make him who he is and being someone he loves beyond imagination.
Thank you, Michael, for being all that for me, and for honoring Dad.
Happy Birthday, Dad.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

You Will Be Seeing Less of Me

Literally, you will be seeing less of me.
I have been losing weight. 24 pounds so far this year. I am aiming for 20 more pounds before the end of the year.
I won't go into the boring details of why or how. But I will say that despite vicious rumors, it is much less expensive to eat healthy, non-processed foods (translation: fresh fruits and vegetables, simple proteins) than it is to eat anything that requires an ingredient list.
I still love food. I am just creating different ways to enjoy it.
Weight and metabolism are such individual things. I have been resenting the way my metabolism has changed over the last 20 years. I finally decided to make peace.
I am feeling pretty good.
Let me just say, it is much easier to ride a tandem bike up a mountain now than it was last summer. I can only imagine how much easier it is for Mike.
I think I will ask him.
It is easier to do that now that there is less coming between us.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Reborn in the Barnes

I am in Philadelphia with my mom and sister Jennifer. No, I have not seen "The Art of the Steal", but when I heard that the Barnes Foundation would be moving the Albert Barnes art collection he established from the building which had housed it for almost a century, a building designed for this art collection, with each piece of art very specifically arranged with other paintings and objects and furniture not chronologically, not by style or painter, but for the purpose of teaching the viewer about life with art, and to teach students to see...well, when I heard that it would no longer be where it was so carefully and purposely placed, I had to go and see it before that happened. Then Mom said she really wanted to see it. So favorite-daughters-for-the-weekend Jennifer and I made the arrangements to get us all here.
For those of you who have never seen an original painting, in a decent museum where it is displayed well, even if you have seen good reproductions, but never an original, you might not appreciate this experience. It is kind of like the difference between seeing pictures of the Grand Canyon, and being there in person looking over the rim and experiencing the majesty of it. If at all possible, see art in its original form.
Then there is something about seeing the original artwork when it is displayed well, and you are not just walking past it to get to the next piece. I remember fitting in a visit to the National Gallery in London just to spend 25 minutes in front of the DaVinci Madonna there before going to a play.
At the Barnes Foundation, you approach the building in the middle of a residential neighborhood. The grounds have 18 acres of beautiful gardens designed by Barnes' wife. Expanses of clover lawns, forests of huge trees, rose gardens, japanese tea house and pond, specimen plantings surround the building which is covered with art sculpture and mosaic.
When I entered the main gallery, I stood in the middle and very slowly turned to see each wall, looking up to see the gigantic Matisse murals he had painted specifically for this room. I saw impressionist, post-impressionist, renaissance, medieval, byzantine, african, baroque, metalwork and sculptures from every time and place, all hanging side by side, carefully arranged so the colors, or shapes, or lines mirrored, or added to each other, pulling you into the images and teaching you to look and see in a new way.
Within moments, I realized my heart was racing and I was breathing a bit fast.
There were a few times during the 3 hours I was there that I was holding back tears, the whole experience was so powerful.
We went back there for a second visit today. Even better.
If you can, get to Philadelphia and give yourself an aerobic art workout.
Thank you, Jennifer and Mom for coming making a great girl's weekend.
Thank you, Mike for using your frequent flyer miles to get me a ticket. Hope you have enough to get us both flights to come here together. This is something richer for the sharing.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Mothers, Miracles and Mortarboards

I had a different kind of Mother's Day last week. Our oldest daughter graduated from college. She has earned honors and awards in connection with her academic work, and is preparing her thesis for publication. Here is the kicker - She was offered a full time job with benefits last month, and begins work in the Honors College this week. A Humanities Major with full time employment in this economy. Now that's a miracle.
Our other daughter was able to take us to several exhibits where she has her artwork on display. We were able to see her works in progress in the studio. She shared with us her idea for a project that could impact millions of people. It might take time, and effort getting many people involved. All great things do. But she has it in her to be able to do this.
Another miracle in the making.
Each moment of being a mother has the potential of bringing great joy or deep heartache. There is nothing that can teach you more about love, forgiveness, repentance, trust, and enduring than connecting yourself completely to another life, unconditionally, for the rest of your life.
There is a risk that children will choose to turn away from all you have offered them. There is a risk that they will not forgive you for the mistakes you made (Yes, all parents make plenty of them). There is a risk they will choose to do things that will cause them pain, which causes you pain. There is a risk that others will hurt them, which hurts you.
It is very likely that you will do the best you can, and your children will grow up becoming capable adults. They will make mistakes, and forgive you for yours. They will go through difficult times, their own heartaches, and become stronger for it. They will remember that you use your days to learn and grow and try to make a difference in this world. They will see that they can settle for getting by, and be fine with a basic level of happiness, or they will realize that there is a greater joy and deeper love possible.
In other words, their life will unfold pretty much the way yours did.
Each Mother's Day tends to remind me of all this. Some reminders are painful, some joyful.
This year was no different. I don't know if I enjoy the joy that much more because I know the pain. I do know it is all part of me being a mother.
That is something I hope I never graduate from. There is always a higher degree to pursue.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

I Can See Right Through You

Mike is still in pain. He can't raise his left arm, his neck and shoulder are still hurting. He can't find a comfortable sleeping position, and he has to find ways to do more tasks with his right arm. He tries not to let on that this is effecting him, but he can't always hide the tension in his face that builds up as the day goes on and pain wears on him. And yes, I do see the grimaces when he tries to do something that would normally be easy but it just hurts.
Now I am not one that responds to wimpiness, and I have frequently used the phrase, "Would you like some cheese with that whine?"
But I am not sure there are great benefits to the "I haven't got time for the pain" method of healing either.
Mike went and saw a specialist last week. I saw Mike's jaw clench and eyes water as the doctor poked and prodded his neck and shoulder, expressed concern with the bone movement and ordered a CT scan. He looked at the instacare x-ray and said it was not detailed enough to show the problems.
Even the x-ray is trying to hide the pain.
There is one thing that Mike is totally transparent about. He really misses riding his bike, and not riding is impacting him as much if not more than the pain. Each time he goes into the garage he looks at the broken and mangled pieces of his bike, and mourns a little. He had worked long and hard getting every component and adjustment perfect on that bike. No parts are salvageable. I offered to help him arrange a burial, but we need to keep it until the insurance is done with it.
We took it to the bike shop to get a statement for replacement cost. As we unloaded it, each of us carrying parts and some dangling pieces dragging on the ground, I said, "When we go in there, please walk up to the repair desk and say - I think something is wrong with my bike. It isn't handling well. Can you fix it?"
He wouldn't say it. That tells you how much the pain is effecting him.
Does a wounded sense of humor count as pain and suffering?

Friday, April 16, 2010

My Published Works

Ah, the smell of a freshly printed magazine!
Especially when it contains some of my artwork in it.
The new issue of Somerset Studio Magazine arrived today, and I had another piece published in it. I like the write up that was done for it, and I am very pleased with the detail photos. When I sent this piece in, I was concerned with how well the fine gold flourishes would show up, and they did a good job getting close-ups of them.
Okay, okay, it sounds like I am boasting.
I prefer the term blatant self promotion.
I love teaching, and I really love teaching art. There is something magical about the way students can take the techniques I share, and make something that is truly their own expression. I always learn from them as they are willing to trust the way they create.
The part of teaching that I don't really enjoy is the part that does not involve teaching. The publicity, the financing, the location, the arrangements. I put so much effort into researching, developing and preparing classes that are wonderful and unique and well worth the time. That is where I want to channel my time and energy. I love it when someone asks me to teach a class, and I can say, "You get this many people registered and I will teach it" and they say, "You got it", and then I just concentrate on getting ready to teach.
Here's the thing -
There are excellent artists, who are not very good teachers, and they are teaching a lot.
There are "so so" artists, who are excellent teachers, and they are teaching a lot.
All of them have to be good at self promotion.
By the way, if you have to choose - go with the excellent teachers. They will help you make the art your own.
I have been working and practicing for over 30 years to be a good teacher, and over 50 to be a good artist. One thing I have learned from others - the best teachers are very generous, with time, techniques and experience. But more on that later.
So I am learning how I can share the love - of art and creation.
Getting published helps. Thank you, Somerset Studio.
Blatant self promotion helps. Check out my art web for more images, and artwork, and classes. I will post them tomorrow on jodyenglandhansen.com
Now I need to go get more paint on my hands.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Welcome Back, My Friends, To The Song That Never Ends

Mike was in another bike accident today. This time a car turned right in front of him and he couldn't stop in time. He crashed into the back corner, head over heels, snapped his bike in two, cracked his brand new helmet. He remembers all of this, so I guess that means this one wasn't as bad, since his mind did not block it out. Or maybe his mind is just getting sick of all this.
And this time he called me and I (not the EMTs in the ambulance) am the one who went to the scene, picked up the pieces, got the information from the driver and the policeman, and drove him to the Instacare.  Mike insisted he didn't need to go to the ER, so this was a precautionary trip to make sure he didn't break anything new or rebreak anything that has been busy building up calcification. His shoulder is hurting and he is having a hard time lifting it.
The doctor at the instacare took one look at his anything-but-normal looking clavicle and his eyes widened. Mike quickly explained that the clavicle break was from a bike accident 3 years ago, and the shoulder and ribs were broken 6 months ago. We showed the doctor the cracked helmet. He said, "Well, that's what those are for."
He took an x-ray, and let us look at it with him. He sounded impressed as he pointed to all the broken and misaligned bones to make sure they were all accounted for in Mike's recent accidents. As far as we could tell, no new fractured bones.
Now we get to worry about soft tissue injuries. That takes time.
I got really concerned when I asked the doctor if Mike could still go on a planned skiing trip tomorrow. The doctor said, "I don't see why not" at the same time Mike said, "I'm not sure I can do that."
Usually it is the other way around.
Well, I did ask him the last time he was in the hospital, that if he was going to get in another accident, make sure his bike got the brunt of it, and not his body. Bikes are easier to replace. Maybe he is just working toward that kind of result. This time, at least it is his bike that is in multiple pieces, not him.
I am grateful he works so hard at staying mentally, emotionally and physically well with all this biking. I just wish it didn't keep smashing him to bits.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Sister Act

So I just got back into town - again. I was home from Hawaii only a few days before I left to go to Artfest. This is a great art retreat by Teesha Moore for mixed media artists, held in the spring in Port Townsend, Washington. Artfest is turning into a yearly tradition for my mom, sisters and me. This is the fourth year for most of us, and the second year some of our daughters have come as well. Katherine has been teaching there for a few years, and I will apply to teach next year. We have both been accepted to teach at Journalfest, an offshoot of Artfest for art journaling which is held in the fall. Don't worry, the shameless commerce is not yet over.
Here is the thing about leading a very busy life - it is hard to justify or follow through on going to something like a retreat, or classes that challenge you, even when it is also a gathering of family members that live far apart. If we didn't have to register far in advance, and pay a deposit, and coordinate travel plans, and promise to bring supplies to share, and rely on each other for rides, it would have been easy and convenient to say, "There is just too much going on. I don't think I can make it this year."
I was still on such a high from being in Hawaii with Mike, and concerned about handling everything that still needed doing at home, it was hard to take off again. But I'm very glad I did.
I drove up to Montana, picked up sister-in-law Penny, we drove through gorgeous country to Port Townsend with some fun stops at thrift stores, and met up with Mom, two of my sisters and two nieces. I  like seeing how three generations are now a part of this.
For 4 days we were immersed, with 700 others, in seeing, learning, teaching, demonstrating, trading, experimenting and sharing creativity and visual art. I was a part of 2 collaborative books, was able to trade several hundred pieces of art, and took 3 classes. Katherine traded packets of materials she had gathered on a recent trip visiting family in Paris, India and China. And she taught classes in glass mosaics.
We stayed in one of the old officer's houses where Artfest is held at Fort Worden. Each night we would show the work we had done and share new techniques with each other. We always invited the 6 women from next door to come for dinner, and had a great time crowding around the table talking about classes.
This year I had classes in drawing, watercolor, resin work and metalworking. Loved all of them and am already using new techniques I learned. I am working on teaching proposals for 4 new classes. I will post them on my website (jodyenglandhansen.com) after I submit them. You can also see what I will be teaching at journalfest there. The blog on that site will have more details.
In the early morning, before going to class, I loved walking down to the beach and around the lighthouse point. A very different beach from Maui, but still beautiful. I also loved seeing the deer all around the Fort. They just watched us walking past on our way to class, patiently putting up with our intrusion on their space.
My favorite event outside of class was the Iron Artist Challenge. 20 of the teachers were each given a packet of materials, and one hour to complete a piece of art.
We were able to go around the room and watch them as they worked. It was fascinating, and inspiring to see how each used the same materials in their individual way, making a unique artwork. This is Keith LoBue, Karen O'Brien and Julie Haymaker Thompson at Iron Artis Challenge.

My favorite acquisition - a ring made by one of my teachers, Susan Lenart Kazmer. It is magic in so many ways. Made from a shell used for women's money in Papua New Guinea in the 1800's, and another 1800's shell used by African women to decorate their hair.
My main reason for going - time with wonderful women I get to be related to, either through blood or through art, or both. Women who constantly challenge each other to be creative in all ways. We have much in common and many differences. Being a part of creative exercises helps us celebrate and honor it all together.
Go to http://www.teeshaslandofodd.com/1/temp.html and check out "retreats" to see more about Artfest and Journalfest. If you have never done anything like an art retreat, I promise an amazing time no matter what your level of experience. It is the way I teach my classes. The visual techniques develop skills that impact every part of your life.
And, it's a blast.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Coming Up For Air

There was something we noticed many people we met on Maui had in common. They had gone to Maui on vacation, fallen in love with the island and cancelled their return ticket. Several of the boat dives we went on had crews that were "formers". Here is how the captain introduced the crew - "This is Kate. She used to teach biology at Georgetown. She is in charge of the lunch counter on board and will be helping with the snorkel gear. This is Chris. He was a trader in Chicago. He is my first mate and is great at maneuvering the boat on rough water. This is Rachel. She was a housewife in San Jose who ran a catering business out of her home. She will be showing you how to use the underwater cameras and making a film of the trip. This is Frank. He was a neurosurgeon at the Mayo Clinic. He now keeps our bathrooms clean and functioning."
As I talked to these people, I found some had been here for a year, some for 5, some for longer. Most of them work several jobs, not always ones they like, just so they can stay on the island, go out on the water and enjoy the beautiful landscape. I asked,"Does anyone ever get tired of this paradise?" Most of them say it never gets old, but they will probably stay another year or so, then move back to the mainland and get on with their real life.
No, Mike and I aren't canceling our ticket home.
This has been an amazing vacation, but I don't want to see it as an escape from real life. I love my life - with all the ups and downs, joy and sorrow, excitement and mundaneness. I want to see this trip as part of my real life. A really amazing, stunningly beautiful, beyond thrilling part of my real life. That way I know I can fit it in again.
So we are done with all the dives. We went snorkeling one last time. It is time to check out of the hotel and hope the wet suits and swim suits don't mildew on the long trip home.
Quite a few of you have been asking about specifics. While so much of our experience was miraculous serendipity, there were also people who helped us with "I know a guy who knows a guy" information. Here are a few tidbits for those who don't want to rely on chance for a great experience in Maui.
- The best time to go is March. The height of whale season. Photos and video can't come close to seeing them in person. And Todd the dive master wasn't kidding when he talked about the difference in whale song underwater when they are close. On Monday we did a shore dive at Black Coral reef. As we were gearing up we saw whales only 100 yards off shore, the closest ever. They were about 20 yards from the edge of the rock point where we were heading. By the time we got in the water and out there they were gone, but the whale song we heard while diving made my bones vibrate.
- Always talk with locals about the best places to dive, snorkel, hike, golf, eat, enjoy the sunset, whatever else you are interested in. Many activities don't have to cost money, or cost a lot of money. Also, once you have a referral for services that do cost, use the internet to check on specials. If you can't find someone who can say "I would do that again" or "I would go to that company again", don't waste your time and money.
-If you are going to pay to get there, set aside at least 10 days to stay there.
- When locals tell you to stay away from the black sea urchins because they bite back, they're not kidding. Mike accidentally brushed against one on his last snorkel swim. It really hurts. He now has a new scar on his leg that looks like a cluster of little dots. Use vinegar to clean, then shaving cream to help remove the needles, and antibiotic ointment to follow up. It should heal eventually. At least that's what the locals tell us.
- The "Don't Touch It!" advice goes for anything else in the water. Look and enjoy. You can get quite close to things, but don't touch or harass. You could get hurt, or fined or arrested. Mike took all these great photos and videos with a Canon G10, and used the underwater casing for it.

-For something different, go to Warren and Annabelle's Magic show in Lahaina. No matter how much you wonder if something like this is for you, trust me. This is a great show and well worth the time and money. Don't worry about including the dinner. Just make sure you fit in the show. It reminded me of when my cousin (a world renowned magician) would perform magic for us at our dinner table, just inches from our curious eyes. These guys are good and funny.
-Wailea for golfing. I am taking other people's word in this one.
- If you only do one hike, hike to Waimoku Falls at the top of Pipiwai Trail. There are not enough superlatives to describe the experience of walking through that bamboo forest.
-Save up your money and splurge on the Alii Nui catamaran cruise to Turtle Point. It is better than a spa treatment. If possible, add on the scuba dive option. Maui Dive Shop handles those and they do a great job with it. Ask for Nicole to be your dive master.
- Lahaina Divers has a great multiple dive package. All their divers and equipment are excellent. On my first dive, I had a moment of panic because all my certification dives were in calm water, very different from the open ocean. The dive master did a great job of talking me through that first minute until my brain could override the panic, and everything started to be amazing. After that, it all clicked. They gave us the best experiences of this trip.
-Don't ever sacrifice the experience for the sake of a picture. We saw the most amazing creatures and were closest to the whales on the dive where Mike did not bring his camera. No regrets. If you want to bring back incredible photos, Maui Digital Imaging sells the best ones at the best prices. Dan has been able to get the best underwater shots of whales and dolphins and anything else you would want on your wall. All the photos on my blog were of course taken by Mike.
-There are easy shore dives, and hard ones. Do the easy ones - Olowalu and Makena Landing. Boat dives are the best. Lanai's First Cathedral was my favorite. Thanks again to Lahaina Divers.
-South Pacific Kayaks for sea kayaking. We love their Makena Landing outings.

-Watch the sunset from Big Beach at least once. Any where on the west side the rest of the time. If you are willing to be one of the few people still wearing clothes (Or not - I won't tell), there is a sunset celebration on weekends at Little Beach, which is clothing optional. You never know how the people there will be celebrating the sun, but all the pre-sunset activity seems exuberant and innocent enough. I won't vouch for the after dark activity.
Have the kind of life that you will want to come back to. Live so that a trip to Maui is just another way to experience paradise in your life.
Now excuse me while I go give Mike a big kiss.

Monday, March 15, 2010


My brother-in-law, the dentist would have loved the things we saw on our dives yesterday. Many of them had teeth, none of which were aligned or fit within the creature's mouth. We saw plenty of open, or gaping mouths that had one or more very hard, sharp objects as part of them.
But the only thing that bit us was the coral. That only happened because we bumped into it when we weren't paying close attention. A little coral rash isn't bad on us, but not nice for the coral.
Back to the jaws.
I am fascinated by all the ways marine life consumes its food. Unlike humans, who will eat anything, at any time and in front of anyone, I have not seen many sea creatures actually having their meal. Except on National Geographic specials, and that is what most of them are about. Okay, actually they're about creatures multiplying and replenishing, hunting, killing and eating.

We did see some nudibranchs having kinky sex (mating if you are reading this to little kids), but we also saw lots of mouths hunting for something to eat.
We saw more and bigger eels today, one of them, a viper eel caught my eye because it was like seeing a rottweiler who needed braces staring out of a large hole in the reef 60 feet under water. Unlike other morays, this guy can't close his mouth because the teeth are so large and jagged. Quite a looker. For some reason it makes me think of a guy I once dated.

We came across a huge shell animal called Triton's Trumpet. It was consuming a very large sea star by slowing sucking its inner flesh out. Kind of like watching a can collapse from change in air pressure. Okay, now the kids can say "Eeeeew, gross!"

We saw a very rare Hawksbill Turtle. Its mouth looks like...you guessed it, a hawk's bill. It was nestled in among the reef chomping away at the coral as if it were a crisp green salad. I didn't know turtles ate coral like that. It made my teeth hurt to think of it.
We found a large 6 foot reef shark under a collapsed wharf. The poor thing was just trying to take a nap, and we kept swimming around it taking its picture. Mike practically laid down next to it trying to get a close up. Our dive master saw it had a hook in its jaw, with fish line trailing out. She tried to get the line untangled and follow it up to the hook so she could remove it. She got to where she was trying to roll it over to get to the hook, when it woke up and decided that was enough. She figured it was time for us to back off at that point. It probably felt like any of us when our naptime is interrupted...grumpy. Reef sharks are usually non-aggressive, except when they're not.

There was a frog fish that likes to hang out on this wharf as well. It looks exactly like the coral around it. Even the little dangling lure on its head looks like coral. We found out that when it grabs any fish that goes for the lure, it is one of the fastest movements in the natural world. Less than 1/30 of a second. Frame by frame it looks like this - frog fish and fish, frog fish and fish, frog fish and no fish. That is how fast those jaws work. It reminds me of our kids eating dinner after a long swim meet. Now that was frightening.
I'm getting hungry. Think I will go eat now.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

The Road to Hana

Long day. We got up at 5:30 and spent the day seeing things along the Hana Highway. It amazes me to think that over 50 years ago my dad was traveling along that road on a horse and on foot as a very young missionary, but that is another story.
Many amazing things we were able to see and enjoy, but I will just touch on two highlights.

The last time we were here, we learned that the spirits of the ancestors dwell in the lava rocks. Mike took a small lava rock from one of the black sand beaches so he would make sure to return to Maui and bring the spirit of this ancestor back. Then he planned on taking another rock so he would need to return again with that one. We visited that black sand beach today. It was unexpectedly moving for him to return the rock to its home, and then choose another that would live with us until we return. He will keep it in his office, and look at it when he needs a reminder of why he goes to work every day.

Our other unexpected highlight was on the 4 mile hike to see Waimoku Falls. This waterfall is 400 feet high, and is in one of the canyons on the east side of Haleakala Volcano. We started at the coast and ascended through different kinds of woods, crossing over the gorge with many smaller falls and pools. Then we were in a dense bamboo forest. It was as if there was only us and the rich, green plants. That bamboo forest scene in "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" could have been filmed here. When there was a breeze, the trees would whisper above, and as the trunks bumped into each other, we were surrounded by the rich, deep percussion melody like giant bamboo chimes. It was beautifully haunting.
The waterfall was also stunning.

Tomorrow we get to dive some more. For now, we relish the unique beauty of this day.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Detecting Monk and Turtle Love

I know I am sounding like a broken record, but today - like each day so far this week - has been the best day ever.
We went to a dive site on a beautiful, new catamaran. Now for the shameless commerce part of our show. If any of you ever make it to Hawaii, and you are willing and able to set aside some of the budget for a "I deserve to be spoiled" experience, then take one of the cruises offered on the Alii Nui. The one we went on is a morning sail to Turtle Point, where most of the passengers went snorkeling. We took the option to go scuba diving beyond Turtle Point and out to the edge of the reef to the wall where whales swim by and scrape off the barnacles accumulated during the long journey to Maui. The crew takes care of everything, including breakfast and lunch buffets prepared on the boat. The boat is large and even in rough water gives a smooth ride. It is much quieter than most boats, and we were able to see many whales that came quite close to us. We even had dolphins surfacing with the whales around the boat.
One of the whales we saw was a very young one with its mother. It stayed on the surface and seemed to be trying to learn how to do an impressive fluke slap on the water. It kept flipping its tail up and slapping it down, again and again. But it would flop around and come down at an angle, and sometimes the slap would make the little whale flip over.

It reminded me of little kids in the middle of a growth spurt - all arms and legs and not quite knowing how to handle the total yardage of their limbs. It was a tender thing to watch.
My best friend and dive master for the day was Nicole. Ask for her when you book the cruise. We saw some great stuff. The best was the "Who could have anticipated this" stuff.
I have mentioned that we were in Maui a few years ago, and we went snorkeling with our kids, and we saw a Monk Seal playing with a sea turtle at the edge of a reef, and our guide was amazed and told us many of the people who actually live there and study marine life have never seen that, and we were beyond lucky. We have heard from others that they might see a Monk Seal out on land, in secluded areas. But there are only 1100 of them left in the world, the population is declining, and only a couple hundred at any given time are in Hawaii, and no one ever sees them underwater, much less with a turtle.
Did I mention that seeing a Monk Seal is rare?

Today, we saw a Monk Seal, playing with a sea turtle, under the boat when we were diving the reef.
When you look at the picture, I want you to keep in mind that the Monk Seal is about 8 feet long, because the turtle is about 4 feet long. We know this because later, when the Monk Seal was gone and we were able to approach the boat (we are not allowed to approach a Monk Seal), the turtle came and hung around for a very up close and personal experience.

I think she (yes, it is a girl turtle, I can tell because of her eyelashes) has a crush on Mike. She would not get away from the diver's weight line. Then she swam right to me as if I weren't there. I moved aside and she swam to Mike and kept swimming around him, within inches of him. She finally moved away long enough for us to get in the boat. She hung around on the surface by the ladder while we ate our lunch, but Mike didn't get back in the water. We were off to see more whales.
I hope she gets over him. I am not willing to compete with such a strong swimmer.

Friday, March 12, 2010

A Clutch of Eggs, A Cove of Dolphins, A Pod of Whales

More diving on Maui today. No offense to my many friends who love golf (which I think is a severe addiction for some, but it happens to be legal), but why would anyone come to Maui to golf when there is so much to see in the water? It is obvious that many do because there are a number of golf courses along the shoreline here. It is one of the unexplainable mysteries of the universe.
Actually we took a boat ride from Maui to dive at the next door island of Lanai. One of the whales we saw on the way was slapping its flukes on the water repeatedly. Huge splashes and a booming sound with each slap. One of the dive masters said that could at times go on for a very long time.
My best friend and dive master for the day was Todd. He told us about one of the times he was diving with a friend at Lanai. They were in a sand channel below a reef when a tiger shark came toward them and plunged suddenly into the sand, then shot out of it with a fish in its mouth. Right after that, his friend sat there checking the images he had on his digital camera. Todd looked up and from the deeper blue water emerged a whale and her baby, swimming right over both of them. He frantically tried to get his friend to look up, but he kept looking down at his camera. It was only when the whale was almost past him that he looked up, and got a picture of her tail as she swam away. Now that is quite a dive. Todd also told us that when we can hear whale song under the water, the whales are usually miles away. It is only when you hear it at the level of 160 decibels, and can feel the vibration to the core of your bones that you start looking over your shoulder for that whale. But they only sing when the are not moving. That might be painful, but what a way to go.
The opening act for today's dive was a section of reef wall covered in fish eggs. A variety of reef fish were going at these eggs like it was their last meal. It was like seeing an underwater all-you-can-eat buffet.
We were able to swim through several caves and caverns, one called the Cathedral. It is shaped just like one, complete with intricate patterned openings that look like a stained glass image of moving fish.
In between our dives, we boated through a cove that was full of spinner dolphins. They swam all around the boat, flashing under the water, leaping out and spinning like a corkscrew in the air. Shaun White has nothing on these guys. There were dozens and dozens of them, shooting under and over the surface, jumping everywhere. The captain anchored a little way off and let us get our snorkels on and get in the water. We were hoping the dolphins would come closer, but they didn't. It was still a treat to see.
The finale for the dive was on the way back to Maui. We came upon a whole pod of whales, at least eight of them. They were all moving very close, jostling and jumping over each other. It was like watching a bunch of college age kids playing basketball. It amazes me how creatures that weigh over 40 tons can move in such a group and still be so smooth and graceful.
Now for the encore. Mike and I were walking along the beach tonight, watching the sunset. Then just beyond the waves, we saw a small whale leap out of the water and splash back down, then again, and again. We saw its mom behind it, following closely. It was as if she was giving it lessons, and encouraging it to practice.
All day I kept looking at Mike's face, and I saw so much enjoyment there. I think his batteries are recharging.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Turtles and Sharks and Whales, Oh My!

Today we went sea kayaking. I thought we were going to paddle the kayaks along the coastline, then stop at a few places to go snorkeling from the kayaks. But that would be the routine at any other time of year. We did something differently because........
Our guide is probably not much older than our kids, but he was very knowledgeable. We also saw the guide we had a few years ago. He remembered us because when we went snorkeling from the kayaks with him, we saw a monk seal (extremely rare) playing with a sea turtle next to the reef (never happened before within sight of humans who actually talked about it). He still seemed so excited to recall that moment.
Anyway, our guide told us that we would first paddle out to open water and look for whales, then we would go snorkeling. Kayaks? In open water? Looking for whales? How cool is that?
Let me just say - and I can now say this from personal experience - seeing whales close up from a kayak is almost indescribable. So I won't try.
After that moving experience, we went snorkeling into reefs that formed over fingers of lava flows, with caves and swim through tunnels. I prefer staying near the surface with a snorkel, but Mike likes to dive down and swim through the holes and under ledges and get closer to the coral and marine life. I kept an eye on him as he dove down 30 feet to get pictures of a reef shark, and check out a sea turtle that was sitting under a ledge. I didn't want to take the chance he wouldn't come back up because his current life insurance isn't enough to enable me to travel to Hawaii every spring. There were scuba divers down looking through one cave, and I saw them do a double take when Mike swam by them with only a snorkel. I could practically see the thought bubbles along with the air bubbles over their heads saying, "Where is his scuba gear?" and "How is he doing that?"
He made it back up, with great pictures, too.
We were also able to hear the whale song at the surface when we were snorkeling, so they were quite close. I kept looking out to the deep water beyond the reef, expecting a whale to come to the reef. Not today, but there is always tomorrow.
So today we kayaked with the whales, swam with the turtles, and photographed the shark.
Enjoy the photos.

Take Me To The Volcano!

"Take Me To The Volcano!"
This is another favorite movie line, from "Joe Versus The Volcano". If you haven't seen it, go find it on Netflix, or Ebay, or somewhere. It is a must-see-before-you-die movie.
Before I get to todays installment of the Maui Chronicles, I need to backtrack.
Over three years ago we brought our three kids to Maui for a Thanksgiving vacation trip. We had a great time. I had been waiting years for the opportunity to use the "Maui is what bwings us togethow today" line on them, and I did as soon as we were in the rental car heading away from the Maui airport. The kids rolled their eyes and groaned at my Mama Joke. But they couldn't hide the fact that they were excited too.
The next day we dragged them out of bed very early to drive up to the top of Haleakala, a 10,000 foot tall volcano, to see the sunrise. As soon as we got everyone in the car and pulled out of the parking lot, I turned to them and said, "TAKE ME TO THE VOLCANO!" in the same vocal inflection Tom Hanks used in saying that line in the movie. More eye rolls and groans, some muttering and murmuring, then they got back to the business of going back to sleep until we got to the top.
Now I need to refer back to the first time Mike and I had been to Maui back in 1996. My sister and her husband had won a drawing for 10 days in a 2 bedroom condo on Maui and they invited us to join them. Trading in frequent flyer miles got us there, and we had a great time. We loved going from snowy winter to warm beaches. We also got up at 4 a.m. one morning to go see the sunrise at the top of Haleakala. It was still dark when we got to the top and found one last parking spot in the parking lot. We all jumped out to hurry over to the view point to get the first glimpse of sun. Within a few seconds we had all jumped back in the car. It was beyond freezing outside. It was colder than I had ever experienced. I hadn't even felt this kind of cold when we lived in Minnesota, and I lost feeling in three of my toes while living there. We didn't have any warm clothes, just our swimsuits and light clothing over them so we could go snorkeling later. We started digging around in the car for anything we could wrap around us to keep from turning into popsicles. We managed to endure the cold long enough to realize that the clouds were covering up the sunrise, and we were not going to see it.
So we had prepared the kids for that kind of cold. We told them about our first experience there. We told them we could still feel the bitter cold just by remembering it. We told them to bring every piece of clothing they had packed, and layer it all on until we could see the sunrise and rush back to the car. We told them and told them and told them that we were trying to prepare them so they would survive this great experience and thank us for it later.
We got to the top, braced ourselves, and got out of the car to fairly cool, but not bitter cold weather. We were actually over-insulated.
My kids looked at me with the "Is this another one of your 'I had to walk to school uphill, both ways, in the snow, in July because this was before summer vacation was invented' stories that you tell us all the time but which we will never believe because we know better now?" look that they have been giving me more frequently each year.
Oh the fickleness of the volcano.
We had a good time anyway, and saw a gorgeous sunrise.
This time Mike and I went in the afternoon. We went to see the huge crater, not the sunrise. Went to a lookout point before the summit. The whole view was covered in fog. We had been told to wait if it was foggy because it would clear. We waited. I said, "Volcano, reveal yourself!" It cleared. It was stunning and gigantic. I think I counted 7 large cinder cones almost lost in the middle of this massive crater. We decided to hike down the trail to the crater that was nearest the edge, just to look into it. We thought it would take about an hour.
Silly us.
The fog rolled back in and covered the crater, trail and everyone on the trail. We passed hikers and trail horses that were coming out, breathing hard and covered in droplets of cold dew. We kept going. I had an altitude headache. Even though I live in Colorado, I have not hiked above 9,000 feet. That's Mike's job. I have bicycled up to 11,000, but that is different. At that time, I turned around and road back down before the altitude could get to me.
I didn't like the thought that I was hiking down, and that meant I would have to climb back up. But the really hard thing was hiking in the fog. Visibility was only about 30 feet, and nothing grows up there. I felt like we were lost on a lunar surface in a dense mist. For a few minutes, the cold wind blew away the fog on the sides of the crater, but not in the crater. We couldn't tell if the first cinder cone was 100 feet or 100 miles away. After an hour, we turned around and hiked back out. 1 1/2 hours later, back at the summit, we looked into the crater again as the fog rolled away to reveal it all again. It is impressive, to see such dramatic landscape, and also look around and see the entire island of Maui, and other islands many miles away. Even with the fog, and altitude and hike, it was worth the experience.
Now, take me to the beach.
More of paradise tomorrow.

Monday, March 8, 2010

It's a Fluke!

Yes, one of my favorite lines from "The Princess Bride" is given by the pompous priest with the speech impediment performing the marriage, "Mawwage is what bwings us togetho today".
Maui is what brings us together today.
Mike and I have been in Maui for 24 hours.
On our first complete day here:
We rode a boat out to a crater where we got to scuba dive a couple of times.
We saw reef sharks, and morays, and had a "Finding Nemo" moment swimming around the reefs.
We went snorkeling from the shore through huge coral gardens.
We sat on the beach listening to the waves as dusk settled.

We cooked a wonderful fish dinner in the teeny kitchen.
And, best of all, the thing that if nothing else happened for the whole trip it would still be worth it, are you ready, here it is…
Anyone who has been to Maui in March knows that it is the height of whale migration around the island, and it is likely, at any given time to see whale spout, maybe glimpse a whale surfacing way off shore, and, if you are really lucky, a whale leaping out of the water, or breaching. This is what we were hoping and expecting to see.
It has been so much more than that.
There are whales everywhere - spouting, leaping, slapping their flukes 
and fins on the water repeatedly, whales swimming alone, with others, sometimes in large groups. We can hear whale song underwater when we are scuba diving.
 We can see all this from the shore.

And still, so much more.
When we were riding the boat to go scuba diving at the crater, we had to stop several times because whales surfaced in front of us, then swam to us and swam just under the surface around the boat. One time it was a small whale who seemed to be showing off or playing with us because he kept leaping out of the water and slapping his fins and flukes on it. Then, as he approached the boat and swam around it, I thought, "That just paid for the whole trip". 
The next time the boat had to stop, it was a mama and baby which had surfaced in front of us, then a large male showed up next to them, and they were gone. The third time, it was another baby, who also seemed to be playing with us. As it swam around the boat, the markings on its flukes seemed to glow. Yes, we got pictures, but kind of as an afterthought. We mostly just enjoyed being on the same planet with these huge creatures. After that, anything else that happens to us is a bonus. So much to be grateful for.
Now go and listen to a recording of Louis Armstrong singing "What a Wonderful World".
More tomorrow.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Happy Birthday Andrew

In 2002 we lived in Farmington, Utah. My sister Becky lived in Salt Lake City. She and her husband had bought a package of tickets to the Olympics, which had to be purchased over a year in advance. Summer 2001 she found out she was pregnant. The baby was due mid February. The Olympics were due mid February.
We were all thrilled about the baby coming. It would be the first new birth since Dad had died. It would be at a time when all siblings would be in town to enjoy the Olympic celebration. Anything that called for us to celebrate, helped us to heal.
We were also very willing to help Becky with her tickets. She was not able to use all of her tickets because some events required more walking and standing than she was able to do at 40 weeks of pregnancy. What is family for if not to help out in time of need? We were all very willing to sacrifice and attend the events for her. Loved it, by the way. Salt Lake City did a great hosting job.
But Becky refused to miss out on seeing Apollo Ohno. I think her husband rolled her into the ice rink venue in a wheel chair, so she wouldn't overdo it. She was able to see him win his first medal. Then she went into labor.
All 5 siblings, and my mom, my kids, and several nieces and nephews all hurried to the hospital and took over the maternity waiting room. When you're talking about a maternity waiting room in Utah, that is no easy task. But my family is not known to be shy and retiring. Only one sister was invited to be in the room the moment of birth, but within seconds she had run down to the waiting room and told us the baby was here. People jumped out of the way to avoid being trampled as we rushed down the hall to the delivery room. There we welcomed Andrew Woolley Apollo Ohno Eugene England Kimball. He looked just like my dad's baby pictures (at least that's what I think and the others who didn't agree need their eyes checked).
Before he was a week old, Andrew was able to see more athletes win medals. Becky got plenty of use out of the wheelchair during those olympics.
This will always be a part of the Winter Olympic experience for me. It was a great way to celebrate love and hope and healing. Happy Birthday Andrew!

Friday, February 12, 2010

A Good Time Retreat

The exciting news for this month - well, not the only exciting news, but one of the pieces of good news. I will be teaching at Journalfest 2010! I love it when I develop an art class and have a great experience teaching it, and keep tweaking it with the help of amazing students, then I send in a teaching proposal to an art journaling retreat that is held at an old fort in the charming town of Port Townsend, Washington in October, and it gets accepted, and my sister Katherine will be teaching there as well, and don't you just love it when that happens?
If you have never been to an art retreat, or a writer's retreat, or whatever kind of retreat for what you love or want to learn, I can tell you it can be a great experience. If you have been to a retreat, and you had a fantastic time, then you know. For the last few years my sisters, sister-in-law, my mom and I have met up in Seattle and from there gone up to Port Townsend for Artfest, the mixed-media artist retreat that takes place in March. We all share a house and have a great time going to classes, sharing supplies, enjoying each other's artwork, cooking tempting food and being creative together. We trade artwork and ideas and encouragement. No matter what we are each dealing with in our lives, this reinforces us for the challenges, and enhances the joys. Now another generation is becoming a part of it. My daughter and niece joined us last time and it was great to see them developing and sharing their artistic journey. If there is a way to make this happen for you, I highly recommend it.
Now for the shameless commerce part of the show. Teesha Moore and her family are the creators of Artfest and Journalfest. The Website for Journalfest will be up on March 5. Go to teeshamoore.com and follow the link to the Journalfest site for details. My website jodyenglandhansen.com has a few more details as well on the Places to Go page. I hope to see you there. I promise you will love it.
Now for the shameless affection part of the show. Dear Michael, this is for you - Happy Valentine's Day. When Dr. Suess wrote this, he must have had us in mind.
"You know you're in love when you don't want to fall asleep because reality is finally better than your dreams." Theodor Geisel (Dr. Suess).

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Maybe Not Helpless

I have been putting this off, or maybe avoiding it, or just not too sure how to blog about it. But I am definitely not ignoring it.
Terrible things happen. Most of the time it is that something happens, no more and no less than that. It isn't because you ate a red jelly bean, or your mom didn't cuddle you enough, or your great grandpa was a pirate, and it definitely isn't because Adam and Eve ate the fruit.
Sometimes I struggle with the "why". But that takes energy, and it doesn't make much difference.
A young person, deeply loved by people I know and love, is gone. I am helpless to explain or take away the loss and grief. I can send tokens of thought, I can pray, I can listen. I can stop saying I am helpless.
The earth shifted and hundreds of thousands are dead, many more homeless in Haiti. I can tune out those who turn this into a forum for fear, hate and division. I can learn about those who are helping. I can spend less on stuff, and instead send a check to help. I can assemble hygiene kits, and make phone calls, budget money to help now and next month and next year. This is not going to be over anytime soon for Haitians.
I see news footage of an old woman who is pulled out of the wreckage a week after the building collapsed on her. A week of pain, thirst, hunger and wondering if anyone will ever hear you. The first thing she does when she is out is sing praises to God, grateful for each moment of life.
I can be grateful for the miracles in all that happens, and for each moment of life.
In each moment, there is hope, and help.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Caught in a Web

Remember waaaaay back in October when I wrote that I would be taking action to conquer my fear around computers, and I would be learning how to set up a website, post pictures and be on the verge of total technical domination? Yeah, I remember. Here is my report.
First, can I just say how much I love my Mac? And I now have several new best friends at the Apple Store. For my birthday, Mike and I signed up for the One to One tutoring program at the Apple Store. I am not one who likes to participate in shameless endorsement, but here goes - THIS IS THE BEST PRODUCT SINCE DISPOSABLE DIAPERS - SINCE ADVIL - SINCE SCUBA DIVING IN HAWAII! I could go on, but you get the idea.
Here is how it works. When you buy a Mac from the Apple Store, you can sign up for One to One. This lets you make an appointment each week to meet with a tutor at the Apple Store and get personal instruction on how to get the most out of your Mac. I had no idea that it could do so much, or so easily. Then in addition, you can sign up for help with projects. You can be there for a 3 hour session, working on a project, and able to get help from an expert at any time. I think some of them are trained to sense panic, and they step in before things get out of hand.
So we went in for our projects session last week and set up our Mac. I looked at the others who were there for help and wondered why there were so many old geezers around us. My soon to be best friend "Angela" (name has been changed to protect her anonymity) came out to work with us. All my anxiety left when I noticed the glowing, apple shaped halo hovering over her head. In less than half an hour, because of her calm, patient coaching, we had my new web site up with me having a rudimentary understanding of how to keep adding to it. We also learned how edit photos for additional web work, as well as other less glorious, but still essential tasks. Just imagine what we could do in 7 days.
It only took the deadline of submitting a class proposal, and having another art piece being published in Somerset Studio. The pressure induced by a deadline produces quite a result. I have been adding something to the web page everyday. It will always be under construction, I have only begun posting images and class info, but the essentials are there. Please go check it out at jodyenglandhansen.com. I would love your suggestions.
Okay, so it is still not intuitive, and sometimes I try to do something the same way Mike does and, instead of results, I hear a soft evil chuckle coming from the screen. But I no longer tremble in fear. My new best friend with the apple halo has got my back.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Thank You, Jacques Cousteau

Hawaii is back on. To make up for the delay in going there, we gave each other a Christmas gift of scuba lessons. There is an instructional DVD that we watch before doing the homework. Then we go to class for hours of instruction and pool work.
It is fascinating to watch the DVD. Happy, incredibly fit, bronzed young people with flowing hair (even on a windy boat or underwater), easily handling heavy equipment, looking like they were sewn into their wetsuits. They move effortlessly on land or in the water, in perfect control of their position and equipment, handling emergencies calmly and easily. It is as if they are live versions of Disney cartoons. Not the villains or the sidekicks, but the romantic leads. I look at this and think, "This is going to be easy. And it will be fun looking so smooth and gorgeous in the water."
Then we get to class and start working with the equipment. I quickly realize the main point of all this is probably to provide entertainment for the diving instructors. I feel awkward and clumsy, I can't control my buoyancy or where I move in the water, and this is in a pool where there aren't currents and waves. The instructors seem to be enjoying all this, even as they tell us that we are doing fine and we will have a great time once we get out in the ocean. Mike, who is part fish, is doing great. But he already looks better than the guys in the DVD. Knowing he is my permanent diving buddy is the best thing about all this, and I know I'll do just fine in the water.
None of this would be possible without Jacques Cousteau. I remember seeing the Jacques Cousteau underwater documentaries ever since I was a child. I loved seeing this amazing world of gorgeous marine life. Then I learned that he is the one who invented Self Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus, and that SCUBA would make it possible for anyone to explore underwater. It has only taken me 45 years to get around to learning how. Okay, so I've been busy.
My daughter Anna was in Cozumel last week on her first scuba trip. She told me about the amazing things she saw, and I told her Cozumal was one of Jacques Cousteau's favorite dive spots. She said, "Who is Jacques Cousteau?"
Just what I need. Another mother-failure moment. How could I have not taught my kids about Jacques Cousteau?
I guess I will need to make up for it by sending them photos taken of our underwater dives, of me floating glamorously above colorful reefs, my hair floating beautifully around my head, surrounded by turtles and tropical fish, happily diving with my handsome buddy.
Thanks, Jacques.