Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Practice, Practice, Practice

Here are my most recent painting exercises. The first one was my attempt at a New Mexico painting. I always loved the blue windows and doors so common there, especially in Santa Fe. This painting gave me a lot of grief. 

I started out with some Indian pottery showing through the windows. My teacher thought the color didn't work with the rest of the picture, so she suggested repainting them. I did. 

She still didn't like them. Then we thought of painting a sheer curtain on the bottom half of the windows, kind of subduing the pottery. 

She didn't like that either. She then suggested I take the pots out and just leave the sheer curtains. I did. 

Finally she said, "Just take out the curtains and leave the windows empty. That's what I did, and I told her, "I'm done!" Ha! I still think it could be improved by putting SOMETHING in those windows, so for now I guess I"ll call it my Unfinished Santa Fe Window. Even Beethoven had an Unfinished Symphony!

After my New Mexico attempt, I wanted to do something Alaskan. Here's how that one came out.  It was a very challenging painting for me, and my amateurish-ness does show through. But I had fun with it, and learned a lot in the process.

 On to my next painting adventure!

Oh No!

Where should I begin this tale?

I think I'll start with Thursday night.

Our Juneau friends, Cindy and JoLynn, traveling together without their hubbies, arrived at the Austin airport. Their destination was Cindy and Pepper's condo, at the coast in Port Aransas. But, lucky for us, they were going to spend a night at our house before driving there. They were due in around 5:30 p.m., and it would take an hour to drive to our house from the airport. They were renting a car.

As these things usually go, their flight was late, so it was after 10:00 p.m. when they finally got to Temple. And they were lost. I was already in my polka-dot flannel PJs when they called from the Big Lots parking lot, needing help to find our house. Dan and I both hopped in the car to go rescue the ladies. I drove, hoping that I wouldn't have to get out of the car wearing my jammies. When we got to the parking lot, Dan transferred into the ladies' car and piloted them home.

It was late and they had traveled from Seattle that day, so they were really tired. But we stayed up another hour or so visiting and catching up on a lot of Juneau news. It was so great to have them here.  Cindy and Pepper have visited us here before, but we hadn't seen JoLynn since our last visit to Juneau, in 2006.

On Friday morning we all drove over to Stoney Brook so Cindy and JoLynn could see Mom's new little "pad," and then we took Mom with us for a nice breakfast at Megg's, our favorite breakfast spot. We had a great time.

From left to right: JoLynn, Mom and Cindy
We said our good-byes there at Meggs, and Cindy and JoLynn headed south to Port Aransas.

You see that smiling face on my Mom? The next time I saw her, she wasn't smiling!

I had just taken my bath and climbed into bed, on Saturday night, when my phone rang. It was someone from Stoney Brook telling me the bad news that my Mom had taken a fall and had probably broken her arm. They had called an ambulance to take her to the ER at Scott & White Hospital.

This time I didn't go out in my PJs, but quickly put back on the clothes I had worn that day and dashed off to the ER. I got there before the ambulance did, but they soon arrived. Poor Mom! She was in GREAT pain, and her wrist looked like this. (Don't look if you get queasy about things like this!)

The x-rays showed that she had broken both the ulna and radius of her left arm, right at the wrist area. They were bad breaks. The orthopedic doctor mentioned surgery, but in the end decided just to reduce the fractures (move the bones back together) and splint her arm. The splint goes above her elbow. He said in a couple weeks she can get a cast, which will be shorter.

For a couple hours afterward, they kept her in the ER, trying to find the right pain medication that would both ease the pain (which was severe) and not make her sick. They weren't very successful. In the end, they decided not to send her home, but to admit her to the hospital. It was somewhere around 7:00 a.m. when she finally got placed in a room. 

Not to bore everyone with details, I'll just sum up what's happened since. They finally found a combination of pain meds that work pretty well and don't make her sick (Fentanyl and Tramadol). And by last evening she was doing much better. 

I spent several hours at the hospital with her during the day. Then after dinner I went back up, but didn't stay long. A cold front has moved into Central Texas, bringing ice with it. I didn't want to risk having the roads ice up before I got home, so kept my visit short. But she was in good spirits and was happy, because the doctor had told her she might get to go home Tuesday (today). We shall see.

The GOOD part of this story is that Mom is living close to us now. Had this happened when she was still in Carlsbad, I'd have had eight hours of winter roads to travel just to get to her bedside. 

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Picture Day at Stoney Brook

Awhile back I got the idea in my head to volunteer to take portraits for the residents of Mom's home, Stoney Brook. I thought it would be nice to do it and have the pictures ready by Valentine's Day. I talked to the Activities' Director, Hannah, about it a couple weeks ago, and she was excited. She said that it was perfect timing, as she was just doing up the activities calendar for February.

I asked my friend, Janet, if she would be interested in helping me, and she was excited about it. What a good friend! We told Hannah that Thursday, February 5, would be a good day for the two of us to take the pictures.

I went and scoped out the place, looking for a spot with good enough light and not in a high traffic area. First Hannah talked me into using the exercise room, but after thinking about it and testing out my camera there, I told her that it just didn't have enough light, since I didn't want to use a flash. So she showed me their little spa room. There were windows all across the end, and the light was perfect. However it was a small space, divided in half by a half-wall. Still, it seemed the best option.

So, Thursday of this week was the big day! Janet and I showed up extra early to finish setting up the space. We had to move a massage bed out of the way, bring in a chair for the folks to sit in for their portraits, and hang a sheet on the wall as a back-drop. Hannah also brought us a three-paneled folding room divider that she thought would make a good back-drop. I brought a light and a diffuser for Janet to manage while I took the photos.

Before people started showing up, Janet and I surprised my Mom by going down to her little apartment and knocking at the door. I had managed to keep the fact that I was the photographer-of-the-day a secret from her. She was so surprised to see us, and even more surprised to hear that we were there to take the pictures.

We had 34 folks signed up for portraits. I started out the day using the room divider as a back-drop, but quickly found it not the best. It had black frames around the panels, which just didn't work well. It was hard to keep the frame from looking like it was sticking up out of peoples' heads! Finally I just went to the sheet. It also wasn't great, but better than the divider. At the end of the day, after we had broken everything down and were ready to go home, two more ladies showed up. They had both just had their hair done for their pictures, so we couldn't turn them down. I just sat them in front of the bare wall, which was a tan color, hoping it would look okay.

The day went well. It was such fun getting to talk with these special people. They all had a story to tell. A few of them were married couples, who had been married 50 or 60 years; one sweet couple said they'd been married 65 years. One gentleman was a real comedian. He kept telling us jokes during his sitting, and hung around for a few minutes afterward doing a little stand-up comedy routine!

Yesterday and today were picture editing days. I tried to edit at least two poses for everyone. I only printed out one 5x7 for each person, but if they want more, Hannah will help them order from Walmart. I'm giving her a flash drive containing all of the edited photos. This afternoon I printed up the 5x7s. I think they came out nice, for an amateur like myself. Here's the funny thing. Remember the two ladies who came in at the last and had to sit in front of the bare wall? Well, the wall made the best background of all! Next year I'll skip all the rigmarole and just use the wall. Ha!

Here's one of my Mom's pictures. She was one of our early appointments, so was seated in front of that room divider. Maybe I'll re-do hers, in front of the tan wall!

A few more of the smiling faces from Stoney Brook.