Art Appreciation

I just finished watching a video at Khan University that discussed art and context. As an artist myself I generally am trying to accomplish one or more of a few things.

copyright 2011 Kendall Stewart

First is to accurately portray some object while at the same time catching the mood of the object in a way a photograph might not.

Copyright 2012 Kendall Stewart

In some instances I am simply trying to create something that brings beauty to the fore.

Copyright 1996 Kendall Stewart

Sometimes my paintings are absolute accidents, but once an accident starts to please me I try to build onto it and again draw out the beauty that is visible, at least to me.

When it comes to appreciating art I am always happy to share with people how my art came to be, what I think of a piece, what I was trying to do, etc. However the thing that I want from those who look at my art is to first and foremost determine how the piece makes them feel. The examples that were discussed in the video were Monet’s Cliff Walk at Pourville and Malevich’s White on White. In Monet’s piece it is easy to look at the piece and come to personal conclusions about what the painting represents, how it makes you feel personally, what you like or dislike about the painting. In the instance of Malevich’s painting it is much more difficult to come to those conclusions by just looking at it. Though you may easily decide if you like the piece, getting a feeling from it may be more difficult. So this is an instance where after looking at it, making some initial personal judgments, it is nice to get the history of the painting and the artist’s view on what it was they wanted to accomplish. Something that I would originally of viewed as, “Well I could do that!”, now offers more to think about. So here’s what I think:  while I still stand by the belief that foremost in appreciating art is how the work makes the viewer feel, it is obvious that we can grow in our estimation of a piece by learning what the artist felt and thought and experienced at the time of their work.

Every Moment, Every Hour, Every day…

It has been a while since I posted anything on here. Due to various health issues I have not been very motivated to write. And have often thought that I just didn’t think much of anything at all. A real stumbling block to a blog called “What I Think”!!

Some of what I have been dealing with is physical, but much more of it has been mental and emotional. There is something about mental and emotional problems that are especially wearing. Since the problem can’t be seen it is more difficult for friends and family to be sympathetic. The “snap out of it” mentality is particularly hurtful. I have been blessed with family and friends that don’t look at me funny when they find out I am bi-polar and that I have an anxiety disorder. But even with that the last several months have been a struggle.

Something a friend said to me has made a great deal of difference to me and I keep it in front of me as much as I can. I’d like to share it mostly for people that might be struggling themselves with any mental or emotional disorder. She told me, “Every moment, every hour, every day that you get through is a success. It means that the next moment, hour, day has hope for something good.”

Sometimes I can get through whole days, but more often it is only the hours and moments that I can get through. It is good to have the reminder that they are a “success”. And how wonderful that they add up to make days, and even weeks and months now. As for the “hope for something good.” Yes, sometimes the successes lead to good. I mean, when I have a good day I only got there because of the moments that I survived.

I share this for two reasons. For those of you who are struggling, you can succeed. You may have to take it a moment at a time but each one of those moments is a success. For those who know someone who is struggling, be patient, be kind. They may not be able to see their successes yet and what they really need is love and understanding.

My Heartbeat: Obadiah

 

 

One of the pets that I currently have is my dog, Obadiah. He is, of all the pets I have had, the one that is completely attached to me and I to him. Not to say I haven’t loved all my pets, I have. But there is something about Obadiah.

 

 

 

For starters, to all those die-hard “get your pets from a shelter” people, I am sorry. I have had many pets from shelters and I really am a fan of the idea, but Obadiah is a pet store kid. I had been visiting that store for years just to play with the dogs as I never had the money for a dog. And over the years I had built a report with the manager of the store. I think we both knew that I was never going to have the opportunity to have a dog again and the visits helped when I was having a bad day.

 

 

 

This one day I was having one of my days and I needed a puppy fix. I happened to be right at the store so I popped in. This was the one time in my life that I happened to have money in my account as I had just gotten back pay from Social Security. I should never have gone in, but I wouldn’t change it now for anything. I went in and my eye caught sight of a little white and honey colored puppy that was just a teeny bit of a thing. He had the biggest eyes. He was what they called a chineranian, in other words a Japanese Chin and a Pomeranian mix.

 

The Pomeranian started out as a large, sled-ty...
The Pomeranian started out as a large, sled-type dog and was downbred to become the small companion dog it is today. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

English: Japanese Chin (Neru)
English: Japanese Chin (Neru) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I chose him to play with and it was perfect. He had a great attitude. Not hyper, but not overly laid back. He played without being more than I could handle, I tire easily sometimes. He chased the toy he was repeatedly given, then curled up on my lap after enough playtime had been achieved. Then I picked him up and went to look for the manager so that she could put him away. This was the moment. He just kept looking at me with those big dark eyes and I could just see all the love in the canine world peering out at me. I had found the manager and we proceeded to discuss all the reasons I could not take this little guy home with me. And she was really good at it too. We talked about vet visits and cost. We talked about food and toys and grooming. We talked about my bad days when taking him for a walk would be too much for me. Finally after 10 or 15 minutes or so I let her pry him from my hands. I knew with reason that I should not have a dog. Mostly for those unexpected costs. After she took him back to his pen I wandered around the store. I looked at everything! I tried at least three times to leave the store, but I couldn’t. Occasionally I would walk back by the dog pens and see him, I couldn’t help it, I was drawn back to him over and over again. Each time I would look at the price, being a pet store it was a ridiculous price and I knew it. I suppose another 20 to 30 minutes went by and I still had not managed to leave, and I really was trying. Finally I found the manager again, I told her that I was struggling and asked if anything could be done about the price. As it happened the owner was in the store that afternoon and so she said she would go back and talk to her. I started praying that very moment. I prayed just let them bring it down to x amount and I am sold. I wish now I had prayed for something lower because my prayer was answered. The manager came back with the exact amount I had prayed for. All hope was lost at that point of me not having that pup. Out he came to be carried around as I chose leash, collar, bowls, toys, food, treats, etc. I remember I had a dentist appointment that day so I loaded up the car with everything but my new puppy and went home and arranged things. I went to my dental appointment and then straight back to the pet store. The name Obadiah was chosen, everyone in my house gets a Bible name these days, and off we headed for home. He moved into my heart within moments of my meeting him, and he hasn’t left since. He is incredibly intuitive, knowing my good days from my bad days. And he has no qualms making me get out of the house and exercise with him if my health allows. But he never pushes me out of bed or off the couch if I’m not up to it either. Despite his Pomeranian background, he has learned to bark under his breath at things rather than at a full yap, except when someone knocks on the door. He is gentle and laid back in nature, loves everyone, but me most of all. With his semi-smooshed in nose he snorts a lot which has led to one of his many nicknames, snort. He can count to ten in Portuguese and knows a few commands in Portuguese as well. We’ve been together for 5 years now, I’m hoping for another 10, but I try not to think about it. He is my best furry friend, and I am his best friend too. I hope I live up to that as well as he does.

Obadiah:

 

 

 

 

Pepe le Pew-Stewart

A friend of mine asked to hear about people’s pets. In my case I thought that could be a long post, I don’t even know how many pets I have had in my life. So I thought I would share some of the most special friends I have had in my life here for any who are interested.

The first I will tell you about is Pepe le Pew-Stewart. Daddy always said that he couldn’t have the last name Stewart because he already had the last name Pew. But when you are 8 years old that just isn’t the way you think. Now, over 30 years later, I am standing by that name. He was after all part of the family.

Pepe was by far the most exotic pet I ever had. Yes, as the name suggests, he was a skunk. Mind you he was a de-scented skunk so no fear of startling a cloud of stink out of him. I remember he liked mashed up bananas when we first got him, what he was fed later I don’t remember. I do remember him being mostly patient with me. I had the horrible habit of dressing him in my doll’s clothes, putting him in a stroller, and then walking along the neighborhood sidewalks with him. I am sure that this is probably why when he heard me coming he had a habit of hiding.

One of the things about Pepe though was that he was blind or very near to it. You couldn’t come near him with the smell of food on your hands or he would try to take a bite. Not his fault, he just couldn’t see to tell if it was a finger or nice bit of meat wagging around in front of his nose.

Another thing I remember about Pepe was that he had kind of a funny scent. And no we are not talking about the kind of smell where you have to get out cases full of tomato juice, just a musky smell. A lot like a ferret smells. His fur was course, not soft the way a cat’s or maybe some dogs’ furs are. He had beady little eyes, just black dots. He had puffy fat pads on the bottom of his paws, and little black nails. I used to like to softly squish his paw pads for some reason, and he never seemed to mind. I also remember bringing friends to see him. He had his own little area in the laundry room with boards stacked up to keep him from escaping into the rest of the house. He was definitely a novelty to anyone that visited.

When it came time for us to move though, Pepe couldn’t come with us. And that is the sad part of the story. We gave Pepe to a teenage boy and his family. He, the boy, evidently had several exotic pets and was considered to be responsible. I’m sure he was. We, my parents that is, passed on the warning of always washing your hands thoroughly before handling Pepe. A neighbor came by to see the latest addition to the young mans menagerie and didn’t wash her hands. She had been making meat loaf before visiting. Pepe bit her, go figure. He probably thought he was being given a banquet. The neighbor insisted on Pepe being tested for rabies, unfortunately to test for rabies in an animal you have to kill them. So Pepe got put down. I still remember coming home from school one day and mom giving me the news. I was devastated. He was a really neat pet, and not once did he bite or scratch me while I humiliated him with baby doll clothes, dresses no less. I still miss him when I tell this story, and I still get a bit teary eyed. Though I don’t think I blame the boy anymore, I probably do still hold some bit of a grudge for the lady. But who knows what happened, and I guess now it really doesn’t matter. Although I am thinking the young man probably learned a tough lesson.

So here he is, Pepe le Pew-Stewart:

pepe le pew stewart

Life – To Choose, to live.

I just finished watching the movie “The Way“. It is the story of a man whose son dies beginning a trek through France and Spain. When the father gets to France to collect his son’s remains he decides to take up the trek in place of his son. I thought it to be a really good movie. Very moving, watching the father come to terms with his loss. Seeing how, in the end, he changes, grows. I suppose that is all in how you view life. One scene that I really liked was a flashback of a conversation between father and son:

Father: My life here might not seem like much to you, but it’s the life I choose.

Son: You don’t choose a life dad. You live one.

Personally I agree and disagree with both. I agree with the idea that we have a life, we have been given a life and yes we live it. Each day, each moment we live. But how that life is lived is determined by our choices. The son could have just as easily replied that the life he was living was the one that he had chosen.

So it is for all of us, each day and each moment are filled with choices. And those choices determine everything about our lives. Some may turn out to be mistakes, but they shape us. Some will turn out to lead us in directions of growth, happiness, joy, but just like our mistakes, they also shape us. And so maybe we choose to live. Or better yet, since I cannot answer this question for anyone except myself, I choose to live. I choose to live my life the best way that I have found. I’m just glad that I chose to live a life that makes me happy and fills me with true joy.

 

I said what? Then I did what?

For several days I have been thinking about McDonald’s Caramel Iced Coffees. Yes, I know this is a strange thing to think about over an extended period of time, but I never ever said I wasn’t weird! What I kept thinking about was not the deliciousness (and they are delicious), or the caffeine, it was about consistency. I can order the same thing and depending on who’s making it there is no telling what I will get. Size may vary, recipe is sure to vary (particularly by shift), store makes a difference too. Anyway, since I really enjoy having my caramel coffees, I get really aggravated when I can’t get a consistently made coffee. But as I have been considering this I also found myself turning my vision inward. How consistent am I in things. I found I wasn’t very pleased with the answer. There are certain things I feel I should be doing everyday without fail. If I manage 50% of these things 75% of the time I feel pretty satisfied with myself. So I can complain about my coffees all I want, but what I really need to consider is fixing my own consistency problems before I start having a fit over something as mundane as a McDonald’s coffee. At least that is what I think.

Autumn, Let Me Count the Ways…

I love autumn, it is my favorite time of the year. And today has been a perfect autumn day. Being such I have had on my mind all the things that make autumn the best, at least for me. So here is what I think.

+ Crisp air

+ The chill of the early morning, when the sun first comes up

+ Fall colors

+ Crunchy leaves

+ The way on a clear day the colors seem to POP! more

+ I quit being miserably hot

+ Going for walks with my dog

+ How the sun seems brighter

+ Watching leaves float, fall, dance, twirl down to the ground

Off the top of my head those are the highlights of autumn. Here are some more:

Maple leaves
Maple leaves (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
English: the forests in new hampshire in autumn
English: the forests in new hampshire in autumn (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Autumn Landscape
Autumn Landscape (Photo credit: blmiers2)
Autumn is back
Autumn is back (Photo credit: Geekr)
Autumn leaf color
Autumn leaf color (Photo credit: INABA Tomoaki)
Autumn leaf color in Shinnyo-do, Kyoto, Japan
Autumn leaf color in Shinnyo-do, Kyoto, Japan (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

The Internet – Helpful or Overwhelming?

When I was in school we often had to do reports on one thing or another. Book reports were easy, you only needed the book. Others were more involved, requiring visits to the library, encyclopedias and other books on the given topic. One year I had to do a report on a state, I chose North Carolina. I remember having to call and request from the chamber of something or another and get information sent to me so that I could get the information needed for my report. It was a big deal, and once I received the information I remember pouring through looking for the things that were required for my report.

I’ve often thought how much easier it would be today. Today you just hop on your computer, type in a few keywords and poof! you have your report information. Since I started doing the around the world blog, I am finding that this is not really the case. It really is not all that easy because when you type in your keywords there is no telling how many pages are going to come up that are irrelevant to what you are looking for. In fact you receive so much more information, some of it false, than you could find in two or three local libraries. But still somewhere in all the links what you need does eventually show itself.

So I have decided that what I think is this, the internet is overwhelmingly helpful. It has what we need, we just have to learn to weed out the false and irrelevant and have a lot of patience. Not much different from my library days.

Bullying At Any Age Is Wrong

English: A Bully Free Zone sign - School in Be...
English: A Bully Free Zone sign – School in Berea, Ohio (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Okay, let me preface this post with the fact that what I think is that laughing at someone is just plain wrong. It absolutely doesn’t take into account the person being laughed at, their feelings, or the possible outcome of that moment in time affecting someone for the rest of their lives, and don’t think for a moment that life will necessarily be long. Laughing at someone is the act of a bully, period.

I also want to say that this post is not meant for children. Kids, if you are reading this I have two suggestions. If you are the bully, and trust me if you are laughing at someone for some unkind purpose, you are the bully. My message to you is stop. It’s that simple. For any young person reading this that is the victim of being bullied my suggestion is this, stop reading, go find an adult you can talk to and tell them what is happening. You are not alone! I speak from experience, very harsh experience. Talk to someone you can trust. Get help.

Some states in the United States have implemen...
Some states in the United States have implemented laws to address school bullying. Law prohibits bullying of students based on sexual orientation and gender identity Law prohibits bullying of students based on sexual orientation only School regulation or ethical code for teachers that address bullying of students based on sexual orientation Law prohibits bullying in school but lists no specific categories of protection No statewide law that specifically prohibits bullying in schools (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Now my post for adults. Those of us who have somehow survived the adolescent social ladder, even if we did it from the bottom rung. We are older and wiser now, or at least we like to think we are wiser. What is the difference now? Is it the same as when we struggled with acne, liked computers before they were in every house, had to wear the brace for scoliosis, or whatever it was that gave us the “geek”, “nerd”, “loner”, “nobody” status. When I first had the idea for this post I was thinking of what I have learned over the years. And really only recently learned to put into practice. But as I type and the years of being bullied come back to me, I am not sure what to say. I don’t know what I think. And I find this distressing.

I know that I sometimes perceive someone laughing at me. But then my perception is wrong. I know that sometimes when someone laughs at me, should it be a small matter, I join in and it changes everything. Now I have begun to laugh with them. If their intent was to be a bully I have deflated them. If I have misconstrued the whole thing I have defused the situation for myself.

However, bullying is just as wrong for an adult as it is for a child. So do we laugh along at the cost of our own bruised psyche? I started out answering the question, “Laughed at or with – what’s the difference”, with our own attitude toward it. But I think now I am wrong. The difference is the pain it causes, even if it is a small pain, the sting is there. So I guess the key as adults is to learn to let go of the sting. We don’t have the advocates that a child might have, hopefully has. So learning to move past it, that is something I wish I knew how to put into this post.

Well, like it or not, and I don’t think I do, this is where it ends. Bullying is wrong at any age, and laughing at someone is definitely a form of it. No matter what rung of the ladder you feel you are on, stay on the ladder. That is my hope for you.

Great American Smoke Out

Smoke
Smoke (Photo credit: AMagill)

Okay, this is a day late. Yesterday, here in the U.S., was the day where people are encouraged to try not smoking for just one day. The hope of course is that one day will lead to two and so on.

I am an ex-smoker and I write this well-meant post from experience as a smoker, quitter, and now as a non-smoker. This is a much touchier topic than many would think, so I preface this with this fact. I only ever mean to be helpful and occasionally humorous. So here goes, this is what I think.

As a smoker I loved to smoke. I liked the calm it gave me. I liked the taste. I liked that my hands had something to do. Add to that the fact that nicotine is proven to be as addictive as heroin and the decision to quit smoking does not come easy. So first and foremost a person really has to have a reason and a desire to quit. Reasons are numerous, money, health, health of a loved one, being respectful of the life given to us by our Creator. I am sure there are many, many other reasons out there to quit. The problem then becomes desire. Desire does not come so easily. But without it, you will be hard pressed to overcome this addiction.

As a quitter, that was tough. I quit twice. The first time I was in tears within hours. I just wanted a cigarette so much. There are a lot of programs out there and nicotine replacement options. And I will tell you that if one fails for you, and you want to be a quitter, try another. My first quit was with the gum. Worked great for me. My second time quitting I tried the gum, no go. I tried an herbal program, no go. Then the patch, success. Now it is important to keep in mind that with the nicotine replacement products you are not quitting right away. You may stop smoking right away, but you are still “using” the nicotine, which is a drug. Is this bad? That is for each person to consider. So long as you are in fact decreasing your dose as directed I personally think of this as a viable option. If you disagree, that is okay too. Now if you are going on the patch and never decreasing your dose so as to be nicotine free then you have really just switched the method you receive your drug.

As a non-smoker, how do I feel about smoking. I still struggle everyday. Sometimes I dream about smoking. Though much less now after nearly 7 years. When I smell a cigarette I am liable to have one of three reactions. Sometimes I can’t stand it. The smell, the smoke, it bothers me like I wish it would have when I first started smoking. Other times, I don’t even notice it, these are the best times. And then sometimes I want to rip the cigarette out of the person’s hand and finish it for them. This hasn’t changed in 7 years, and I don’t expect it will. A reason that I am glad I still have both my reason and my desire to not smoke. I feel for people who smoke, not in the sense of “aw, look what they are doing to themselves” but more like “look at what is being done to them.” Yes each person makes a choice to smoke but once that decision is made it is then the cigarette that takes control. And it is happening to them, whether every non-smoker in the world were to tell me different, this is what I think, this is just how hard it is to hang up the habit.

A note on the fact that there do exist some people who can quit at the drop of a hat and have no adverse effects in doing as much. I am glad that it is easy for you and I hope you will and will stay quit. Part of me doesn’t like you quite as much, well not you, just that ability, because I had to struggle so hard to get where I wanted to be. I shouldn’t be jealous, but I am just a touch. Others would do well to realize that this is not the norm. Just because your Uncle Joe quit in one day doesn’t mean that your wife can.

This leads me to what you can do to help a loved one quit. The key

Expensive cigarette surrogate used to give up ...
Expensive cigarette surrogate used to give up smoking. Without tobacco, without nicotine. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

is patience. And I’ll tell you what patience is and what it isn’t in this case. If someone you know is trying to quit smoking, letting them have that cigarette and rolling your eyes at them, that isn’t patience. Or giving them the silent treatment, putting on that stern face, exasperated face. We  can see your body language and it does affect us. In fact most things people do and see frustrate us in our attempt and only make us want another cigarette! When I quit this last go around I had some fantastic support and I want to share that with you.

First I had a friend, she was very opposed to smoking. But never once did she demean me because of it. She understood that while she hated the behavior she should not hate me. We rarely discussed it, but sometimes I would bring it up. I knew her reasons for not liking smoking and I didn’t entirely disagree at the time. And I did want to quit, I just hadn’t found the how. One time she made the sweetest comment to me. She told me, “When you are ready to quit you will” That was it. No pressure, no judgement.

The second support I had come as a surprise to me. My co-workers at the time were incredibly supportive. Every day was a counting day. A congratulations for making it this far. When things got stressful and I didn’t have a cigarette that was practically a reason for a party. But also came the day, actually two of them, and I tripped. Stress got the better of me and I had a cigarette. The response from my co-workers? “You went without for x days, so in x days you only had one cigarette, how great is that?!?” They always managed to twist this slip up into a positive. and they always managed to convince me that I wouldn’t give up that I could still quit even if I did have one cigarette.

The third support I had was my family. They were very encouraging, always looking for things that might be helpful to my quitting. Also cheering me on.

No Smoking - American Cancer Society's Great A...
No Smoking – American Cancer Society’s Great American Smoke Out (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I think that the key to really helping a person to quit smoking is to focus on the positive and ignore the setbacks. Or if the setback is brought to the fore by the quitter then turn it into a positive. Find a way to be encouraging, patient, and always remember it is the addiction that should be hated. The person with the addiction should be loved.

And that is what I think!

The Pet Stretch

Stretching
Stretching (Photo credit: hosieo)

I have been back and forth to my desk today. A busy day, cleaning, reading, writing, crosswords, you understand, all the important stuff. Next to my desk is my guinea pig. He’s beginning to get old for a g.p. but he’s a cute little guy and sometimes he amuses me with his antics. Running in circles, staring out the bars with a pitiful look that means, “food please?”. And of course sometimes he stretches. Today when I caught him mid stretch it occurred to me that there is in fact a mammal stretch. Or at least a pet stretch.

I have 3 critters, Cana, my guinea, Obadiah, my dog and Tirzah, my cat. And everyone of them does the same stretch. And looking back at 4 dogs and many cats I can’t think of one that doesn’t do it. You know the stretch, front paws out in front, head down, butt up in the air. They all do it.

I’m not into yoga, I don’t like it’s background, but I can’t argue with the need to stretch. So I thought I would give it a try, not down on the ground mind you, I might get stuck. So I stood up, raised my hands up in the air, then pushed my butt out. I can tell you, I looked really ridiculous, but it did feel good.

So on this very random thought I’ll end with a request, and it is what I think: take a moment and stop what you are doing and just stretch. You don’t have to do the pet stretch but just stretch something.

See? Don’t you feel better now?