Thursday, March 31, 2011

Tomatoes, the love of my life

I could write a hundred blogs about tomatoes.  Next to my family and a real close second is my garden.

One of two garden entries
It is divided into vignettes, almost photo perfect segments, little paradise areas in my otherwise industrial back yard.  Most of these are flowers happily in areas to themselves or in various pots I have collected over the years.  The biggest section, "the garden" is the accumulation of almost forty years of working the soil to perfection.  This area, about forty feet by sixty feet is my organic vegetable plot and the prima donna here will be my heirloom tomatoes!  They will easily reach seven feet tall and are proudly supported by my ornamental iron creations.
 My "Washington DC Tomato
    I start my tomatoes from seeds that I have saved each year and every year I am always amazed at what can be produced from one tiny seed!  My favorite has no name.  It is from a plant that I found in Washington DC growing and abandoned in a parking lot strip of earth.  I suspect it is related to the Russian Black Krim or Cherokee Purple variety.  Big, deep, dark,  red and full of flavor like you wouldn't believe.
   I start about 100 tomato plants, keep about 25 for myself and give the others to friends and neighbors.  In a really good season, when the Gods are happy and the weather is perfect I may get a couple hundred pounds of tomatoes from these plants.  Years ago I built a food dehydrator and on these really good years with a bountiful harvest,
 It takes about 25 pounds of tomatoes to make about one-half pound of dried chips!
I will slice them up and dry them.  They become like potato chips except they are tomatoes!  The year before last was such a season and I sent these to friends all over the world!

My Entire Garden is HERE

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Spring, 1970

   Just to let you know I am consistent I wrote the following in the Spring of 1970 while helping to teach an undergraduate class while I was in Graduate School.  deja vu, nothing changes, all the issues that bother me now bothered me then.  I was a History Major and the professor asked me to write a position statement on
why I was teaching his class!

Instructor's Position Statement

   If I said that I was here to help you, that would put me into the position of being a doctor -- that you have ills that I could cure.  I am neither sure that you have ills nor that I could cure them.  A teacher of any kind is not a doctor; he does not diagnose symptoms and prescribe medication.  But perhaps I can tell you where the pharmacy is.  One role of a teacher is as a provider of choices; he does not show a direction, but directions.  In this sense, education is the key to freedom, and freedom is a means to individual discovery.  This is what I am interested in and primarily why I am here.
   Freedom is not so much the absence of restriction as it is the presence of alternatives.  American society has put the first men on the moon and educators perhaps deserve to pat their backs for their helping hand.
But American society also has the highest mental illness rate in the world.  Where can educators pat themselves for this?  On the one hand, we demand freedom and even fight for it, yet we discard it at every possible instance.  We choose without knowing what our choices are.  There are as many different kinds of teachers as there are people teaching; each is a group of one.  The possibilities are endless and without limit. I would like you to explore the possibilities of you.  That is why I am here.
   You have been given a proposition in this course: write a contract.  This is an incredibly simple task:
a couple of tiny reports, a diagram or two, an observation feedback, hold a "conference," etc.  All this could be accomplished in a rainy weekend and you will have passed the course.  Sound like a Mickey?  It is, if that is all you do.
   But there is a catch!  What do you have to offer a child growing up?  Will you be just "another teacher" and look upon each student as just another student?  Why should you be teaching someone else's kid something?  What do you have to teach them anyway?
   You have tough competition ahead of you.  Not from the 130 students registered in Block I, they are not your problem; they might even be your aid.  Have you ever bashed ideas around with them or talked about a good book you've read?  Have you ever read a good book?  By the way, where is Biafra?
   Your competition is the machine --you might want to make sure that what you have to offer the machine cannot offer.  Machines could free us to do what they cannot do if we let them, yet do we even have the guts to turn the damned things off?
   Your competition will be a student coming to you with idealism, hatred, ignorance, prejudice, love.  What can you tell him?  his name is Sammy and he has a world to grow up in. How do you explain it to him? How do you help him come to know himself?
   Society is a conglomeration of Sammy's and Susan's.  One in ten is being treated for mental illness.  Many are killed in wars, many more by automobiles, and many are starving.  We have an extremely high rate of suicides; divorce rate in Oregon is 51%. A list of societal ills takes more paper than I have.  But these are not just society's illnesses; they belong to Sammy and Susan.  Can you teach them anything?
   This course is about teaching.  You will be given bits of technical methodology interspersed with philosophical ideas, commentaries, and practical achievements that we could put into a machine -- you we can't.
   There is no recipe for being a good teacher.  You are given two conditions and some ideas.  The conditions are you and your students, not necessarily in the position of giver and receiver, but toucher and touched, developer and developed, with teacher and student often switching roles.  We learn where we can.
Consider for a second a searcher lost at night.  You are not so much a guide as a spotlight, showing many paths; if you show them adequately, the searcher will know when he has found the right one.  You will be working with people in a state of transition so you must be able to find them and help them transcend.  Can you find a way to reach someone -- to get Sammy interested in listening to you?  Why should he?  What will you have to say?
   Hopefully, you will get three (maybe more) experiences from this class:
                   1.  You will get some practical suggestions concerning observations; a bit of methodology in
                        how to improve and create your teaching ability; how to communicate effectively.
                        Obviously, a term will not be enough time to complete the task; you must feel free to start
                        a task to be finished later.
                   2.  You will learn about Sammy and Susan: Hopefully, they will become a part of you, and
                         teaching won't become something to be "left at school" as you leave for home.  What do
                         Sammy and Susan need and how can you help them get it?
                    3.  Hopefully you will learn something about yourself. Why do you want to be a teacher?
                         What will you have to say?  How can you reach someone else?  How can you reach
                          into yourself?  What will you find?

   We hope you use your freedom wisely.  You have not been given an outline of responsibility that might restrain you.  You have been given a "carte blanche."  You must put your name on it and, periodically during the term, bits and pieces of your mind. (Don't wait until the last minute!).
   I am interested in the discovery of Sammy and Susan and you --that is why I am here.  In self discovery, one may discover nothing, but that is not to be feared -- nothing is a place from where to depart.

(Jerome Anthony Carlin was a senior history major at the University of Oregon when he wrote this statement.  He received credit for teaching the course outlined in this article. Published in SPATE Journal,
Spring 1970).

Well, that's my story and I am sticking with it. The times and dates have changed, that is all. Life is still about children and identity, what's it all about and who we are.  I haven't changed much, really I haven't.

My Art Site is HERE



Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Not Tonight Deer!

I don't really spend all my time in the basement on this computer attempting to turn over rocks that are way too heavy for me to lift.  As rational human beings it is sometimes difficult for me to understand how emotion trumps reason.  We seem to encompass fear and while maybe not understanding an argument at all we entrench and get into our camps, unmovable and hunkered down.  On occasion and you might think too often, I talk politics on this blog.  We live in a political world and all issues have a direct effect on us.
     I try my best to encourage conversation because I think in talking we will know more about these issues.
I try to not use emotional catch phrases like "liberal" and "conservative" or "socialism". These are all designed to get emotional responses and cloud the issues.  The truth of the matter is that I don't know exactly where I stand on a lot of issues.  I am exploring.  I know what seems to be never is and there are consequences to everything.  And, to be honest, there are just some things I do not understand.
    I have had every life experience to make me a Republican.  I have never "used the system", never been to the ER without paying for it myself, never been on food stamps, never collected unemployment, never had subsidised housing or assistance with a utility bill, did not relie on government assistance for my education, have never filed for bankruptcy.  Most of my life has been as an employer not an employee.  I have great private health insurance and have paid into it for over 35 years.  I have never received a dime of public money for anything.  All of this should make me a Republican, shouldn't it?  It is kind of a self-righteous position: I got mine, go get yours!
    These are the issues that nag at me and cause reflection.
European countries, especially Ireland and England have been confronting their national debt with austerity programs, basically curtailing programs for the poor, cutting back on assistance of any kind, raising taxes on the middle class and those lower and it is simply not working!  It is not working simply because that is not how money works.  Money only works when it is in circulation.  Someone has to spend it in order for another person to get it.  Think about food stamps (or whatever they call it these days) for a minute.  What would happen if you got rid of them?  Part of me is in favor of this.  I think the free hand outs discourage
people from working!  But what would happen to Safeways?  to the packaging industry? to the farmers?
to the jobs that are created or maintained from this benefit?  We NEED that circulation of money!
    We have become piranha in a fish bowl and think our survival is bent upon pulling down those above us!
Now we are attacking pensions and collective bargaining.  This won't be a good thing for my business at all.
I sell my art to people who have more money than I do.
    How can anyone be against National Health?  That just makes no sense to me at all.  Sure, I imagine there could be a better way to do it, but to be against it?  That's nuts!  We have it already!!!!!  We have the best, most inclusive health care in the world...IF you are over 65 years old!  We are amongst the worse if you are younger.  That is not an opinion.  It is verifiable.  We have a pretty decent, although not perfect, National Health Care for Veterans.  Why would you want to get rid of this?  Some jobs, although fewer every day, actually come with health benefits as part of the pay package.
    Money has to circulate or nothing works.  That again is real, it is not an opinion.  We are not burning it, it is still out there somewhere.  So the question becomes where is it?  Maybe off shore accounts?  Maybe in FIVE BILLION DOLLAR BONUSES!?  One economic difference from the 1960's to now is the rich are getting richer.  That is not an opinion.  This might have worked (trickle down theory) when it was spent but it is difficult to spend $5,000,000,000 dollars.  It is not just one guy.  40% of American wealth is controlled by just 2% of the people.  Is this really what we want?
    Another thing I think about is the idea of a society, as a concept.  How do you judge a society?  Do you judge a society on the amount of billionaires it produces?  Personally (and this IS an opinion!) I think a society should be judged on how it treats its elders, its children, it infirm and less able.  Most of my life one misstep and I could have been there.  Some of my accomplishments I attribute to just plain luck.
 "Not tonight deer" a deer fence!
    Enough of that crap for today, right?  What do I really do?

This past week I have been working on this project, and yesterday I installed it.  A deer fence to protect the back yard plantings!  The total height is about 8' and the whole trick to it is to make it so it isn't a dominating barricade to the backyard.
 Funny how we like nature and move to where the deer live and then attempt to fence them out!
Most of the structure is designed to develop a rust patina except for the leaves which are stainless steel, I hope a shinny reminder to the deer not to jump!

More of what I do HERE

Monday, March 28, 2011


How do you paint something beautiful, destroying something beautiful? or how would you put this to a poem?  I am mostly not a painter (but "I slept at the Holiday Inn last night"!).  I dabble in paint when words fail me.  I have an on going one sided argument with a friend of mine, one sided because she never responds, about what kinds of things may influence an artist. It is not really a difficult discussion, just imagine how you might be different if you painted one hundred years ago or five hundred?  Even today, they round up artists in some countries and shoot them if they paint the wrong things.  Or you start painting on shovel handles and you will never sell them!  Artists are influenced and we produce for customers but there are other influences. The ocean is not always serene and blue with white capped waves and sailing ships in the distance.  Two things have happened in one year that will forever, or for now anyway, alter our view of the oceans. One was man made with the oil spill in the gulf and we can discover our incredible power of destruction.  The other was the recent tsunami in Japan, the most destructive force in our lifetime!
     Sometimes, when I am at a loss for words I get the paints out and try to capture what I want to say.
More Paintings can be found HERE

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Back to the Third Grade!

   I don't have to go back to my college days to discover how young and foolish I was.  Sometimes I reread these very blogs that I am writing now and realize that I never really explained what I meant to say!  Life can be complicated within a single sentence.  Language may not be the best form of communication.
     There is a huge satisfaction now in looking over a sunset and realizing all of the things that I have done, the things that I have built, sunsets on other continents that I have seen and people who touched me along the way.  I didn't get here by myself.  Despite my faults and I am sure I have many, I am with the same woman for over forty years and couldn't imagine it any other way!  She is the strong one of the family, my anchor.
As I look across the horizon, behind me I am blessed with two beautiful, hard working, sensitive and intelligent daughters and realize that I am a pretty lucky man.
     At some point in their lives they will have the same thoughts that I have.  How did they get to where they are and, simply, where are they going?  I know that some people never think these thoughts, never wonder beyond the next cup of tea, have an ability to be "in the now", don't know where they have been or where they are going.  I know people like that.  Sometimes I think God made marijuana just for them! or Valium.
Or maybe even television?
     I would be the first person to tell you that I do not know all the answers!  I think I am a Democrat but I
admit there are days when I think I may be a Republican!  I really truly hate Fox News and think everything there belongs on "Laugh In", that comedy program of the '60's when we still had that ability to laugh at each other.  So, all of this gets me to thinking.  How did I become a Democrat?  What is there about me that I have been married for over 40 years?  Why am I so lucky with my children?  What is there about tomatoes
that makes my garden so important to me?  What do I want to be doing next year or next week? What will I be when I grow up?
     Along the way I meet people with similar spirits and maybe in discovering how they did something I can discover how I did something.  It is an investigative sort of life, turning rocks over.  I learned a long time ago that if you have an anticipated outcome you will always be disappointed.  It is better to keep your eyes wide open and be happily surprised.
    I am a nudger I admit that.  I think it is okay to be uncomfortable.  Part of that is the school teacher that is still within me and my construction background.  My job was always to get something done.
   I really don't do this 24 hours a day.  It is not a phobia and I have a life beyond questioning.  Like you, a lot is dealing with the petty and  pedantic things of life, routine, maybe necessary things that give us balance.
   So, this all brings me back to the third grade when I first learned that I could write three sentences in a row!  Somewhere way back in this blog I told you about Miss Westen, my third grade teacher and that horrible assignment: "What did you do over Summer Vacation?".  This week, I promise, I will tell you the rest of that story!
My Website is HERE.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

More on Poetry

    You only get your first girlfriend once.  Mine twisted me upside down, flipped me backwards and stood me on my head.  I knew about poetry a little bit but she was pretty overwhelming, for a time my only every world.  I remember in college writing a million poems to her.  Slow mail days, I would receive one from her and write her six.  I was eager then too.  Those were the days when I wrote: poems and gibberish, short stories, love voodoo mist kinds of things.  Mostly then as I do now, trying to figure everything out, place meaning where there might be none.  It is strange the kinds of things we remember from our youth.  I can tell you of the day I met her.  I can quote conversation we had.  I remember ordering apple slices and wedges of cheese in a restaraunt and she was a Princess from another country at my side.
   I have saved the strangest things, bits and pieces from my youth.  I have all the old poetry, mine and hers
and reread them from time to time.  It is not with a longing or missing her, I understand that life goes on and we are far different people now, but I sometimes miss that boy that I was.
   I can't for the life in me remember exactly what happened and I have tried a hundred times to rediscover it.
I am pretty sure I didn't know it then.  Somehow we failed and lost a slippery hold, that happens.  She took with her my desire to write.  Now, almost forty-five years later I am digging amongst the ashes, piling cinder upon cinder in an attempt to create a fire.  If I can find that boy again, maybe now I can carry his hand and lead him to where he needs to be.  Aren't we all doing that in a way?  or trying to do it? or should do it but maybe we are not?
   Most of what I used to write is just plain garbage, like a fire gone amok, emotions tripped over contradicting descriptions, but I kept them as a journal, for one day I knew that I would like to know what I was.  Here is a poem I wrote 45 years ago:

The Painter

Capturing a moment in a gentle mist,
a simple canvas, lightly touched
pale blues and darker reds and
ivory colored lace
her skirt carried by the breeze.

Into lonely hours I paint continually
my hands and brush both heavy.
a moment more and face and hands
grow lily pink,
reflecting a caress of moon
along the strands of hair.

In her eyes, a little dark,
a blotch of blue waits for tomorrow
to complete the lake or pond,
as sleep is sinking, fills into my
bone, that I may dream and
she tease me out of thought.

                   April,'67 jac

Well, it is a poem and I won't explain it.  It could be anything you would like it to be, a chameleon poem.
You can find me HERE also

Friday, March 25, 2011

The Worst Gift I Ever Gave

I will put in the mail today.  Apparently this stuff is difficult to get and I have "my sources"!  I certainly hope it is never needed, never
ever needed.  The situation in Japan is getting a little worse and I am
not sure how they measure a little.  I feel so safe yet so isolated on
this side of the Pacific, but you never know just how the winds will
blow.  The Earth rumbles and moves about without anger and we
 too much will damage your thyroid, not enough might kill you
get squished like little bugs.  It is the way it is, life is precarious.  It is fragile and we are but visitors.
 About the size of a postcard but a little heavier
So, my friends, this is on its way to Canada and you can blow me snow kisses and I do so hope you will never need these.

On a Happier Note, I made two of these, although different, of course! I will borrow them for an "art show" but they have homes. One goes to Pamo, my favorite cartoonist of all time, who instigated this idea of exchanging art, what an honor, from her home to mine!  I actually enjoy the idea even when it makes me feel a bit like an interloper, of having my art stuff scattered about this world.  I feel like an everywhere man, my art is all over the world!
The other one, the match to this piece really belongs in Florida.  A copper background because she is full of life, like the rays of the sun beaming brightness. The rose because she is a gypsy girl and the butterfly because she was once a cacoon and is now finding flight!  So, I need an address for that? Care to send me one?
Two Blogs in one day, don't miss the earlier one!

A Way with Words...

     There are ten trillion brain cells and we don't use most of them.  There are only 20,000 words in the English language yet mostly we use the same 500 every single day.  Synopses in the brain are like little relay switches, some are much like a computer, on or off, zero or one.  When they are not used they wither and when used often new ones can appear.  Our brains can grow!
    A lot of this is just an excersize, learning a new word a day, reading a whole book from cover to cover,
having a great conversation with someone you are in disagreement with, finding Libya on the map!
    What really happens is we get into a comfort zone of daily routines, things we think we have to do and we narrow our attitude to support our behavior.  I am such an old fashioned guy.  I still read the newspaper from cover to cover!  I read the sports page and I hate sports!  I read the business section and I am happily retired.  I read all the news "that is fit to print" and most importantly, I read the editorials, especially those I may disagree with!  I don't watch much television but caught myself the other day watching MSNBC and couldn't believe what was being passed as "news"!  Talk radio is much the same, both the liberal and the conservative programs are out to add fire to the flames!  They appeal to our emotions because they know.
They know that we have become too lazy.  What the Hell is happening in Sudan and who gives a crap?
     When I raised my daughters (sounds like cattle, huh?) I had no idea of what they were to become.  If they wanted to become beachcomers that would have been okay.  I would just encourage them to become good beachcomers!  The biggest single restriction put upon us is our own fear.  Fear of not being able to do something, fear of failure, fear of losing our footing, of what is comfortable and familar, and even, a fear of success!
    I hope I do "have a way with words", that would be a great thing.  I would rather open synopses, expand horizons, and in the process lose a fear of heights than have today be just like yesterday.  I don't know all of the answers, or any answers for that matter! That would make life pretty simple, I would just pass on what I knew and it could be added to and the world would get better and better!  It doesn't seem to work this way.
Every generation must start from scratch.  I know you have to ask questions to get answers. That's all.
My Other Blog is HERE

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Kitchen Chatter

     Most Blogs are not earth shaking and mine isn't either. Followers drop in and drop out, gain or fain an interest, sometimes happily join in on the conversation and other times slink away, thankful to be unnoticed.
Some get literally thousands of "hits" and dozens of comments and I wonder what their trick of attention is?
    I am reminded of my High School Days, the Rally Squad and the Popular Students and wonder whether there is a connection?  I never learned the art of being popular.  I thought I got it right when I joined Facebook and had hundreds who befriended me!  How did they even know me I wondered? Sure, why not!
I would always click "yes" and then actually and really go to the trouble of checking them out on their page and I was always left wondering, why did they pick me?  I left "Facebook" because of the Movie, the advertising and they started to put restrictions on me!  Not ONE of my "friends" has ever written me, wanting an update.  They were "Facebook" friends and not in the real world.
    Blogging is a little different and I really have a handful of friends who will write me personally or leave a personal comment to me for the world to see.  That is pretty amazing and it is a slow gradual process, like strip poker or "truth or dare".  We learn to be comfortable with trust.
   Andrea has me figured out.  I am fishing in a very big pond and sometimes she has caught me "chumming",
throwing bait into the waters to see what I could catch!  I do this not out of any disrespect but because I am not a consistent fisherman, not familiar with these waters and have an arsenal of bait.  Sometimes in disturbing the lake the really big fish will come to the top.  I can fish naked (fly fishing, not with worms!) and that doesn't bother me.  It seems as though I talk about a million subjects, sometimes a scattered shotgun approach to fishing.  None of us are single people.  We are complex human beings.
   In High School I only had two friends.  Half of them are dead (I could tell that story!) and the other guy
just drifted and we went different ways.  I belonged to no clubs, not really athletic, not much of a team player at all.  I had one girlfriend although I never kissed her and she killed herself, there is another story!  Most of my stories I have told so I admit I am now left with chumming with dynamite!  Sometimes that works and other times it fizzles.  I admit that I am after reactions.  Stirring the waters.  Unbalance in an unbalanced world.  In reality I am after what you are after, sure footing on the slippery rocks.
    I am not good at kitchen chatter, just being pleasant and oh so nice.  I wonder what would happen if you took all the names from the comment section and removed them?  Much like a final exam where the papers are numbered to prevent prejudice, would they be interesting?
 One of eight varieties that I grow in my garden
    Gardening season is approaching, so be looking for that as a subject line.  I consider myself an expert on heirloom tomatoes and organic gardening.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Two in One Day! or How I Taught Pamo to Poem!

What do you think? Am I?  Could be!
There is a certain nakedness about poetry that people are fearful of, too much fat or not pretty enough. That is the first concept you have to dump.  I suspect that writing poetry is not unlike selling motorcycles.  "Will it really go that fast?"  You are thinking yes it will, off a cliff maybe! and wondering why this fat middle aged dude even wants a bike in the first place!  You are not selling motorcycles, you are selling images, imaginations, fantasy.  "Oh yeah baby, you will look great and she will purr like a kitten!"
    Poetry isn't so much of writing about experiences as it is using your experience as a filter to explain the extrordinary or even the mundane of life.  Just like a motorcycle sale, you have 15 seconds in which to do it!  Words become carefully manipulated, crafted, honed, sharp and to the point.  You can't take back an uncomfortable kiss.  We have all had these; it is not necessary to describe your own, I can image mine.
That is the job of a poet, to create an image, and because mine might be different than yours it becomes dynamic and encourages conversation!  Then you can relax because you know that the motorcycle will sell itself!
So, my wonderful friend, Pamo, yes you would be a great neighbor! and you have given me a topic and I
attempt to stay with it this week, so more on this tomorrow!
My Other Blog is HERE:

Rules to Painting

 My paint on the welding table.
Stay within the lines and don't make a mess.  Those were the only rules I remembered from my grade school days.  We didn't have a regular art teacher and art taught every day. Once every two weeks the art teacher would visit our class for an hour and we would "do art." This was in 1st, 2nd and 3rd grade and she must have had some affect on me as I still remember her name.  Mrs Albright
taught all kinds of art, painting and ceramics and mask-making over balloons.  Thanks to my mother (mothers save everything!) I still have some of my original pieces!  Only a mother would like them.
    Except for painting houses and apartment complexes I hadn't painted, the art kind of stuff, since 3rd grade. One day I got a notion and I am not sure what caused it, I just felt like painting.  I began with 12 colors, all acrylic and some cheap throw away brushes.  I had no idea what I was doing. I am not even sure what a "color wheel" is and the only rule I remembered was "paint within the lines."
 My first paintings were on copper.
     Well, I am a mad painter so I threw that rule out first thing!  Not angry, just passionate and impetuous, quick, fast, now!

I forgot to buy canvas!  My shop is a welding shop and what I had to work with was metal.
I found some copper panels and a few stainless steel panels and began painting on these.  It is actually a fun experience.  The paint is alive.
Paper and canvas suck up the paint and it stays where you put it.  On metal there is no absorption,
the paint is easily teased, slow to dry and eager to move about.  The artist looses a little bit of control
Camera or Poetry?
and the paint acquires a will of its own.

Initially I just played. Experimenting. What happens when I do this or that?  And then if I liked something, always the thought, "how in the heck did I do that?"  That is the problem of painting by accident, difficult to recreate.
 Dark Moments on Metal
I did not want to be a camera painter, reproducing what I saw. I wanted to capture what I felt, more like poetry in paint.

I quickly realized that all the rules, the two that I remembered and "no dribbling of paint" could be thrown out.
Painting is about fun, like cooking but no one has to eat it.
Most of my paintings are only saved to my computer.  They live a short life and I paint over them, sometimes six or seven paintings deep. They will be hard work for archivists of the future!
I do save a few, they are here and there in my shop, gathering metal dust and adding color.  There are two or three in my house although I am seriously considering painting over them and two or three have actually been sold!  Can you believe that?!  Actually hanging in someone else's house!  I feel like an intruder!
MORE can be found HERE

Monday, March 21, 2011


I have no lofty goals.  I come and go as I please.  If I want to I do and when I don't, I don't and it all pretty much doesn't make any difference.  I live on a one-third acre "farm" in the city and not in a particular order, I have my greenhouse, my shop, the garden and little plunge pool, two cats and my daughter's dog to keep me company.  For three more years, until her retirement, I see my wife sporadically, without schedule, a ghost sometimes.
     I don't play golf and am happy to have discovered a hobby that people pay me to do.  I am a welder.
I don't work on automobiles or trailers, I have no love for cars nor anything with an engine.  I am not a fabricator, seldom work off blue prints or do any kind of production welding.  I play.  I have a welding table but seldom use it.  I weld off an easel, a vertical frame in my shop about eight feet tall and as wide as I like to make it.  I weld like a painter, stand back and look and weld, adding this and that until I like it.
    Fourteen years ago I had never seen a welder, didn't know the mystery of joining steel together, making one from many, creating strength from small pieces.  It was all a gift from a friend.  Just like that one day I came home from work and at the entrance to my shop there it stood, everything to get started.  A small welder, a mask, a cut-off saw and even some scrap steel!  And a note:  "Happy birthday, you will like this!"
Wow, it was a lot of money, maybe $400 or so, but more than that it was a present from someone who really knew me, maybe more than I knew myself!  No directions came with these and I admit I had a slight fear of being electrocuted.  No one really knows how electricity works!
     I practised every day.  I had seven people working for me at the time, two or three jobs always going on at the same time.  I owned the construction company and I grew to hate it.  It is difficult to get out of something you have been into for over thirty years.  Building things, causing things to happen, running a crew is all I knew how to do.  That summer I was in my shop welding for two hours every day before I went to work.  It is an amazing process, mixing atoms of steel.  It is not like gluing at all and it doesn't have the limitations of wood.  It has, well it has the strength of steel!!!  It changed my dreams and what I thought about.
    You can learn to weld in five minutes but to get good at it takes practice.  And then to learn what goes together and what clashes with the design takes experience.  Trial and error, but nothing goes to waste. You just cut it up and do it again!  I eventually got pretty good at it and developed a "name" at least around here.
   This has all become a part of the equation to my retirement, a little welding, some gardening, pet the dog, squeeze the cats and now I have taken up painting and that is a whole other world that I am having fun with!
You can find a lot more HERE!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

I-Pad shortage, OMG!

   It is nice to awaken in the morning and not discover the ocean at my front door. Japan and their troubles are still bothering me. I feel powerless.  I suppose there is not really much I can do, and in doing nothing it will pass, for me, "like it never happened", something read in a newspaper.  Just another tragedy to add to the accumulation of human misery.
   The headlines scrolling across the top of my computer warn of shortages.  The Japanese might starve and we might have a shortage of I-phones. Damn!  Pretty inconvenient that.  I suspect that I will be okay since I don't really know what an i-phone is.  I still have my land-line, the same phone number for almost 40 years, but there will probably be other inconveniences to discover.
     I am curious about property laws in Japan.  In much of the world a property's debt is connected to the buyer and if it devalues you still own the debt.  Not here, we can return the keys to the bank and walk away!
Can you imagine, your house is scattered all over the place, unrecognizable pieces mixed along the beach,
and you still have to pay the mortgage?  I believe insurance policies for earthquakes and tsunamis are difficult to get in Japan and have a record of paying twenty cents on the dollar when you do have one.
    That is all probably just a little problem to them right now, their food is radioactive.  No longer compared to one x-ray, they are talking cat scans now, like 400 x-rays!  I wonder if the i-phones will be radio active now?
     It is interesting how the world goes on and it must, of course.  But pausing is good too, we are given a chance to discover what is really valuable.  I wonder, if I had a twenty minute warning, what three items I might take with me?  What of all the stuff in my house and my shop would be worth carrying?
   An interesting game I played in college goes like this:  if you could place three items on a card table to represent you, what would they be?
This is what I do!

Saturday, March 19, 2011


I am thinking about Japan this morning, what is ahead for them, the daunting task of putting their lives back together, the challenges ahead for them and which direction they will go?  The 2006 tsunami was far bigger, killed far more people, somewhere upwards of 200,000, but did most of its damage in rural areas, fishing villages, and a few tourist's towns.  It left no nuclear mess to clean up, no kind of 21st Century reckoning!
   Life is pretty simple when your house has a thatched roof and can be put together in a weekend.  The fish return and you can get back to normal pretty fast, back to the way life used to be.
   Japan can't do this.  The clean up alone will make the Hanford Nuclear Site look like a picnic ground. Anything remaining and the ground it is built upon will have to be removed and there is no place to put it.
It must be buried deep, a forever graveyard of radioactive mess.  Even the equipment used in this deconstruction, the bulldozers and backhoes, and maybe the men operating this equipment will need to be buried.  A monument to our quest, to our need for power and possessions, to our reach toward God!
     Egypt too is in a process of rebuilding and I wonder if there is a relationship there?  One the physical structural and the other the intellectual, legal and spiritual components of a society?  Can these be separated?
What kind of Hubris would allow for beachfront construction of nuclear power plants?  What kind of society would allow some kind of police state?  Is there a peace we have lost site of found in a grass hut?
My other blog is HERE

Friday, March 18, 2011

2:30 AM!!!

Well, now I have done it.  It is 2:30 am and I am wide awake, here in my shop office drinking coffee.
I have strange sleeping habits I admit.  I go to bed when I am tired, haven't yet learned that napping ability.
My wife works graveyard shift from 3:30 pm until midnight so she is not here to entertain me or keep me awake with chatter.  Television puts me right to sleep and my body says if that is where I want to be I might as well go to bed!  Last night that was 6 pm!  Then at 2 am there was a gentle knock on the door!
     "Jerry, I can't find the dog!"
     "Tuxedo" is actually my daughter's dog.  So I will tell you that story.
Jane and I were married for over fourteen years before we decided to have children.  Getting married was one thing and having a family and a ton of responsibilities was something else entirely.  I had school to finish, a house to build, things to do.  We met by accident on a train in Italy and really only knew each other for three weeks before we got married.  Well, this was the sixties, that should explain it all.  We had discovering to do, more travel, more adventure, more getting to know each other before we wanted children.  Then there was the other problem.
     The flight from London to Portland, Oregon is about 16 hours and Jane sat cross legged the whole way.
She was stiff and sore upon arrival but otherwise okay and we were pretty excited to see each other after three months of letter writing and only one phone call.  A week later we were married!  No immigration hassle and paper work in those days.  A week later she was in the hospital and almost died.
     That deserves a chapter in itself and I will tell it later.  $2,500 later (think $25,000 in today's money!)
with no insurance of course, she was safe and out of the hospital.  No one knew anything in those days and we were just married, right?  So she gets on "the birth control" and a week later she is back in the hospital
with more blood clots!  Again, inches from death.
    So, having a baby fourteen years later was a huge decision, not really the fun of saying "okay, let's do it."
There were huge risks involved.  She had to, "administer" would be the word, heparin twice a day because
warfarin taken by pill would affect the baby.  These are shots injected in the stomach area twice a day which she did herself for the entire pregnancy.  She was black and blue all around the mid section, looking like I might have beat her up!  "Maybe this will work," the doctor said, "there is some risk and it may affect the baby".
     All during this time I did what I do, I built things.  My mind of course is racing, what if this and what if that?  I built a changing table.  I built a rocking horse.  I built a bed and a storage box for toys. I built a set of alphabet blocks all the letters from exotic hardwoods inlayed onto oak blocks.
    Nine months later, "Jennifer" arrives, healthy, ten fingers and ten toes and I am the proudest, happiest dad in the world!  It is funny, having children.  My daughter is certainly her own person but I can see her mother in her and maybe a little too much of me!  As she grew older she developed my wanderlust, my sense of adventure. an urge to travel, always after that expanded horizon.  A genetic curiosity to discover what is on the other side?  This comes with an aversion to being tied down.  My daughter, the traveller and she did it more and bigger and better than I ever did.
    Europe several times, teaching for over a year there somewhere, and she was in Africa in the Peace Corps.  She would do what I did, come home and work for a year, save her money and take off!
    About four years ago she realized that this was going to be a continuing life style unless she could find something to hold her down.  That is when she found "Tuxedo", three months old, a mix breed dog.
He looks ferocious but he isn't.  He is a mix of Pit bull, Rottweiler and Mastiff and now at 128 pounds he is a big boy!  For now Jennifer is in Texas (another chapter to be told later!) and "Tuxedo", so named because of a white single spot on the chest of this otherwise black dog, is in my care.  And now he was missing!
    My yard is fenced and cross fenced, all ornamental iron work, both beautiful and meant to contain my daughter's dog and keep out the uninvited.  Somehow he jumped the damn fence!  How in the heck did he do that?  What excitement goes through a dog's mind?
    So I am up now and I found him quickly, tail wagging and the most thrilling expression on his face!  He had his own adventure!  I will be discussing this with him when it gets light.  We will walk the fence line together, dog and man, talking about "things",  the dangers of the real world, the need for adventure.  We will talk about poetry and love and the necessity of boundaries.  I will explain to him the best that I can, that responsibilities are also valuable.  He is a good dog and will listen intently, looking deep into my eyes, but he can't stop wagging his tail.
My Other Blog is HERE!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Blowin' in the Wind...

   my friend, the answer is blowin' in the wind!  When you can get past the grief and pain what is happening is really interesting.  No longer confined to history books and geological studies, we are living through the shifting of the earth.  Pretty powerful stuff, continents under continents, mountains being formed and Japan is now eight feet closer to the United States!  Faith moves mountains?  Certainly they move.  The earth's axis has shifted.  We can't even imagine that kind of power!  Not an isolated event, we might even get to share in this experience.
     Four nuclear reactors are breaking apart, getting really hot, maybe hotter than the sun!  These were built on a fault line, near the beach with an ocean view.  Are human's crazy or what?  It is not just the Japanese, we have them too and they are all over the world.  We like a nice view and the earth moves so slowly, doesn't it?  Not in our life.  We know these things are dangerous, that the radiation can have a half life of,
well we don't even know!  We create situations and pass the responsibilities onto others, knowing there will be a problem for other's to deal with.  How were we supposed to know that there is a time for everything and that time is now?  Well, crap!  I was thinking about Spring and my garden, that is about as deep as I get.
    The prevailing winds blow east.  That is towards me.  I am told the radioactive clouds will be minimal and there is no cause for concern.  Yeah, I would probably say the same thing if I were in charge.  No worries.
I know I would say that for genetically engineered food, the Gulf Oil Spill, fracturing of the Earth.  Oh, there could be a danger but it would be minimal.  That is what I would say.  No worries.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Art History

It is both interesting and a little disappointing reading books on Art History.  It is interesting to see skills and techniques picked up and copied along the way, new methods and new materials to work with, always new ways to express art.  I am a bit disappointed but not surprised to discover the power of money. That has been what has changed and controlled art all along.  Who is the customer?
     I know there are exceptions to this.  There has to be or art would die.  I know there was Vincent Van Gough who only sold one painting in his life and that was to his brother to forgive a debt.  What I am hunting for is art with passion and not a price.  The artist with a burning desire, not how the world has influenced him,
but maybe how he has influenced the world?  I realize that there are artists out there and have always been, who are excellent mechanics, crafted in their trade, who can produce beautiful masterpieces for a price, but there must be others who would do it for a tuppence, who just have to create art whether they get paid for it or not!
    This takes a huge amount of desire and we don't have apprenticeship programs any more.  Oh, we have schools but that is not the same.  They can teach the mechanics of art but where do you learn passion?  I think as children we are born with passion and enthusiasm and from experience we get it beaten out of us.
Funny that, experience which should be freeing and liberating confines us and keeps us quiet.
    On this topic, here is what I am thinking today:  Where is the influence now on the artist?  If you can go back in history and say the Church influenced this and that or government caused certain influences, our attitude toward nature changed and that altered art, what is doing it now?  Sure, you can follow the money and go to Calvin Kline, maybe even McDonald's, certainly Walmart, maybe even the interiors of brand new cars with their sleek lines and smells, French underwear (although I have never seen any!) and the Internet.
That for sure has an influence!
     But if the outside world around us really influences an artist, where is the art from Katrina? Where is the art from the oil spill in the gulf? and now, with the power of Vesuvius, where will be the art of Japan?
Two hundred Billion Dollars and counting, 10,000 dead and counting, maybe nuclear meltdowns and radioactive clouds and sickening rains.  What is the artist to do?  How can we describe this in our art? Or is this a story we would even tell?  What does influence an artist anyway?  The 2006 tsunami took over 200,000 lives and has been long forgotten. 
     Do we want to leave this to history?  Let it be for the Historians to record this? or geologists?  What might an artist say?  Something, I hope.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

The Hatfields and The McCoys...

Now I am right in the middle of a big mess, a neighborhood feud of some proportions.  I am in the process of constructing an Entry Gate that will serve three families in the middle of wine country.  They battled it out in Court over a four year period with the fourth neighbor, country kind of issues: who builds the road, where does it go, who can use it, where are the property lines?  Who has easements and for what?  These are not City lots, we are talking hundreds of acres here.  We are talking serious money and power, "Dynasty" kind of issues over grapes not oil.  It really isn't even over grapes, it is a power struggle.  These guys all used to be friends, got drunk together celebrating the end of the grape harvest, a long season of hard work, gambling
always that this will be a good season.
      It is a beautiful surrounding with rolling hills, line after line, rows of well tended grapes each with their sentinel rose bush at the beginning.  The rose plant is susceptible to the same diseases as the grapes only more so.  If the rose shows signs of stress the grapes will soon follow and they are a warning to the farmer
to take better care of the grapes.
    There is no warning for bad energy, the wrath of frustrated neighbors, the shards of emotions torn apart which, one would think, could sour the wine.  It is so strange.  It is a beautiful surrounding, a tourist destination and I think of "Zorba the Greek", gypsy dancing girls, loud and wonderful music, barrels of wine
and a fine pinot noir poured into crystal goblets.  I see the setting sun just over the hill and green, lush plants with their succulent purple offerings.
    To this setting I was thrilled and honored to add my name!  I get the challenge of building an entry gate, an art piece, something that belongs and is appropriate, something I think will outlast the very grapes it is designed to protect.  What a fantasy world I live in!  I couldn't have been more wrong about that.
    My gate posts are 3/16ths steel, six inches by six inches, sunk four feet into the ground and surrounded in concrete.  This is a lot of concrete, not from bags mixed at the job but from a concrete truck, 3000 pound strength and a lot of it.  I want the posts to be strong.  Have you anticipated what happens next?  It has never happened to me before and I couldn't see it coming!
   Yes, the neighbor who lost the four year court battle just happens to own a backhoe, a heavy earth moving piece of equipement!  The next morning one of my gate posts was gone!  Dug up and hauled away, just like like!  I wonder what the grapes felt as the earth was being torn up so very close to them?  I wonder what kind of wine will be produced this year?  What kind of season these vintners will have?
    I am just a welder, an artist in my little backyard shop.  I will wait this out.
What I do is HERE.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Value and Happiness

I had such a wonderful and provocative response from my friend Rama to my last post and I will attempt to answer her questions in today's post.  Basically she asks why I continue to belittle imports from China and not just concentrate on my art, saying that there is a market for both.  I agree with her 100%!!!  The people who buy imports are not my customers and for the most part, my customers do not buy imports.  So there should not be a problem there at all.  But I see two problems and they stay with me.
     The first is interesting actually.  Why do we buy things to make us happy?  I have spent most of my working life creating additions onto houses to accommodate more stuff.  I have seen four car garages so full of stuff that you can't even walk in them let alone park a car.  We don't use this stuff.  We accumulate it and store it, have garage sales and haul it to the dump.  It seems in my experience that the wealthier people buy less stuff than those with less money, but they buy things of better value.  Maybe that is a trap of poverty, always spending money on junk and never saving enough to buy something that might last.
     Food, shelter and medicine, these are things people need and for most of the world people spend every waking moment to secure these essentials and they are not given the luxury of wondering what would make them happy.  For others, "happiness" become a vessel to be filled.  We get the attitude of "make me happy"
or buying our way to happiness.  I am sceptical of all this consumerism.
     And here is the other thing.  I go to our local "dump", landfill/recycling yard at least three times a week in search of interesting discards, something I can make "art" from and I see what gets thrown away.  These areas are the biggest monuments in a modern city, taking up far more volume than the Empire State Building!
We don't keep things.  When they have lost their allure we toss them and most of us have no clue as to what happens to this stuff after we put in in our trash cans.  Most of it is buried, creating mountains, and covered in plastic, leaching chemicals into the waterways for thousands of years to come.  Buried and forgotten.
The steel is mostly recycled and that is a good thing.  More steel is produced today through recycling than from mining iron ore.  I have seen truckloads of brand new imported steel products, chairs and tables, trellis's
and exercise equipment that have been taken to the dump because of a slight defect, missing one bolt, or a chip in the paint.  From the beginning these are not worth repairing!
        Here is another interesting example of what I am trying to say.  I can buy an American or German grinder, a hand-held machine I use in my shop every day.  This might cost $100 and twice a year I will have to replace the electrical brushes, costing about $5. to keep this machine running in top form. These are repairable machines and will easily last ten years, maybe longer.  Also on the market (and I admit I own some) are cheap Chinese imports costing less than $20.  These will last, maybe, three months and are not repairable.  They are designed to be thrown away.  Which one is cheaper?
      We don't repair anything any more, from grinders to kitchen appliances to televisions and electronics, to Chinese "garden art" and paintings on the wall.  Everything has become for now and when finished it is tossed.  This has become normal.  I think it is all nuts, that is all I am saying.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Because I think I can...

My attitude did not cure me of cancer but helped me get through it.  It is helping me get through the trauma of the cure and it lingering gifts too.  My lung capacity is about half of what it was and although I am getting stronger, the littlest things tire me out.  Today I will set two big gate posts, hiring someone to dig the holes for me. I will set the posts and mix the concrete with the aid of my helper.  My hands throb during this process and I will take an extra Vicodine but they will still hurt.  It is the gate that I want to build and setting the posts is a necessary beginning to this project.
      All of the work I do now is word of mouth, friends of past customers, someone who has heard of me, seen my work in another place, talked with me during a show a long time ago, somehow heard of me. It is flattering beyond belief, better than three girl friends (I think?).  They don't just want a gate, they want my gate!  Something that I built for them!  I sign them sometimes but it is pretty easy to recognize my work.  If it is stronger and different and unusual, then it is probably mine.
    Most of what I do is "installation art", maybe you would call it that.  Big things.  Years ago I opted for big art just because I could, because that is where my experience led me, because you can't box it up and get it from China and just because I like big heavy things, huge art.  Mostly this means gates and sometimes their adjoining fencing but I have done pretty big wall hangings too, about 10' wide and 5' tall with whatever I could find placed here and there.  I want to steal your focus.
    I am not as young as I used to be and some aspects of this work I no longer look forward to but I am pretty happy that I still can!  The posts will be up today and then the fun part begins, creating like a mad painter, welding actually, steel upon steel until I like it.  It is for a winery and others will see it too and then maybe my phone will ring and I will get another job!  If I do my best that is the way it seems to work, word of mouth.  I'll post a picture when it is done.
My other Blog is HERE!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Monopoly Money

Monopoly is a great board game, fun for the whole family!  It was invented during the Great Depression, in the 1930's when the entire country ran out of money and no one had work. It might be time to go into the attic and dust it off and start playing the game again!  The game begins with each player having an equal amount of money and the bank has a lot.  You play until you run out of money or, in some cases, the bank runs out of money.  Then the game is over!  It is a game of skill and luck.
     This game can go on for hours, in fact I have played a single game over a three day period! It continues as long as money remains in circulation and each player has some property, some method of earning more money.  When one player has lost his property or when the property wealthy players lose their money then the game is over quickly.
     This is all related to art because I make my living as an artist, selling my wares to people who have money.  No, I don't sell to the "super-rich", I have never met them.  I sell mostly to the upper middle class, those with good jobs, good benefits and yes, even those with good pensions!  I admit it, I am worried about the economy because I need these people!  They are my customers!
    It is not "Boardwalk" and "Park Place" that is being removed from our economy.  I think you could probably still play "Monopoly" without these two positions.  It is the railroads and utilities that are being taken away.  For now, anyway, but they will be coming for the others!  We have changed the rules and it is now a bit more like "Domino's"!  or that children's song, what is it?  "Pansie, Pansie, all fall down"!
    Destroying the middle class, attempting some kind of equality by pulling down those just ahead of us in this rat race will not be good for me.  I doubt that it will be a good thing for anyone.  These are the people that continue the money in circulation, the people who buy new cars, keep the stores afloat, people that buy my art.
    Monopoly doesn't work when the Bank has all the money either.  When the player's have none the game is over.
This is what I do.

Monday, March 7, 2011

The World is bigger...

than whatever town or city that you might live in.  We live in Springfield, just under 50,000 people, next to and almost attached to Eugene, just over 125,000 but I wanted my daughters to see far beyond this view and to realize the world is a very big place, full of different people, full of different lifestyles, experiences, attitudes, cultures, different hopes and different dreams and different places called "home."
     Much of life is spent conquering a fear that is not even real, and success is more a measure of attitude than skill. I remember when my daughters were very young and doing their homework at the kitchen table. They were working on simple multiplication, like 25 X 12 = ?? and I had fun teaching them that 28523712 X
70938726615 = ?? was not a different problem, only more numbers.  Never be afraid of something that you have not seen before.  This concept extends beyond math.
   Reading is perhaps the easiest way to explore the world and from an early age both my daughters were voracious readers, devouring books, one upon the other, to reach I knew not where?  They both had friends
that failed, got involved with drugs, got pregnant or both.  Somehow fell off the edge.  They learned some art of observation without participation.  They learned the direction of a path and by skill and luck, avoided the unseemly dark side of life.  I don't discount "luck" at all.  Sometimes all the perfection in the world will for some unaccountable reason just turn dark.  My daughters did realize though that they could dig themselves out.  They had skills, abilities and attitudes to alter courses trod upon, to change paths, to go where they wanted to go.
     Some of life is clearly black and white.  There are consequences to bad behavior and all choices eventually boil down to two:  this or that?  With every decision you never know where the other road would have taken you.  I did not grow up in a household where our way was the only way and neither did my daughters.  There is something confining and limiting in the belief when we think that we have gotten life "right" and other people haven't.  When we are the "best" and others aren't.  When our religion or politics is the only way.  It is a bit frightening if we believe everyone should be like us.
     This gives you a reason and license to explore!  Both my daughters became World Travellers, teaching abroad and the Peace Corps, students studying in foreign countries, sometimes just for adventure and always to raise their horizons.
My other Blog is Here.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Making Bread

     The easiest way to get someone to do something to ask for their help.  Not to assign them with tasks and responsibilities that they may not be familiar with but to get them to help you.  In this process you can transfer a skill and an attitude:  the job needs doing, the mess needs cleaned up, let's do it together!
    I taught my daughters to do the dishes and clean up the kitchen by encouraging them to make a mess. They have helped me make bread since they were two years old, standing on chairs so they could reach the counter.  The big bread bowl was way too heavy for their little hands and we learned to make bread the old fashioned way, without any bowls at all.  You make a circle of flour on the counter and place the other ingredients into this circle, the liquids too and you hope the flour makes a damn!  It is actually a lot of fun, making bread this way and it is a good way to make bread but it will make a mess.
    Making bread is probably one of my fondest memories, doing things with my daughters.  It is time consuming in a wonderful way.  It is product development and magical, it makes good smells and offers hours of conversation.  We learned to sweep the flour off the floor, my daughters with their little hand brooms and me with a bigger kitchen broom.  We learned that no one appreciates good bread or a nice meal if the kitchen is left in a mess.  We learned patience, waiting for the bread to rise.  And we always experimented, adding raisins or cheese or chocolate to this mix!  Some was pretty good and other batches were failures.  We learned that too.
     Somebody could probably write a book about what can be learned while making bread.  We learned to like each other.  We learned success and failure, to read and follow a recipe and to ignore it.  We learned that "eggs have to be broken to make omelets", it is okay to make a mess and appreciated when it is cleaned up.
     Often we would have that conversation, "what will you do when you grow up"?  I would always joke and say I didn't know yet!  But from the very beginning it was just expected that they would go on to college, at least get that four year experience and degree, and then they could make up their minds.  I am not sure that it was even a matter of choice, it was more like, yes the sun will come up tomorrow and yes, you will go on to the University.
What I do is HERE

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Chickens in the Bedroom!

     I am going to Portland today, about 120 miles from where I live, to pick up "my baby daughter"!  She is coming from Washington D.C. where she has just finished the Bar Exams!  "Oh, what bar does she work at?" a friend joked to me.  She should be a real lawyer now, women have come a long way.
    I remember the day she was born, about 26 years ago, my second of two baby girls, the loves of my life.
"Wow, how do you get to be a lawyer?" I am asked. " "How lucky you are!"  And luck has a lot to do with it, I admit that, but I have philosophies of education and ideas on raising children and I like to think in some small way that I helped, if in nothing else, then at least in opening doors and stretching the horizon.
   I am six feet tall and weigh about 200 pounds.  I am a big man and being in construction all of my life, I am pretty strong.  My baby daughter was about 17 inches tall and weighed about nine pounds.  I knew from the beginning that I could beat her up, that I had the power of submission.  I could spank her and yell at her, fill her with disappointments and defeat.  I never did that.  My daughters have never been spanked. I knew from the start that that only proves that I am bigger than they are, that I have power and they don't.
   One of the first things you learn as a school teacher is that you are a lot bigger than the kids.  It is not comfortable being eleven years old sitting in a little tiny chair and having a huge teacher hovering over you where the student has to strain their neck and look way up to meet your eyes.  The teacher should kneel, get eye level with the student and then, this really helps: talk to the student as if they were real human beings!
    It is amazing how that works.  Eye level.  Honesty. Real Human Beings. And, unless danger is involved,
not from a position of power.  An equal trading of words.   I listened to my daughters.  And I am a touchy, feely kind of guy.  When I wasn't kneeling by their side I was picking them up, holding them close, and, yes, just squeezing them!  When they would have issues or problems or concerns I would help them understand and itemize alternatives, this road, that road and the pluses and minuses to both, and potential consequences.
Very seldom and maybe never did I make a decision for them.
     They grew up in a house of routines.  Dinner was pretty much always at the same time. After dinner, after their baths, Jane would always read to them, always.  I grew up in a house full of books and so have my children.  Hundreds of books, bookshelves everywhere.  There is not a room in the house without books.
Our house didn't even have a television until they were over tens years old!  They were limited to two hours a week!  Bedtime was always a ritual too and always the same.  Eight o'clock.  I think this was mostly so Jane and I could have some quiet time, but always the kids were in bed by eight o'clock.  They were allowed to read themselves to sleep, so there wasn't a curfew there.  They just had to be in their rooms and quiet, reading or sleeping.
    Their rooms were theirs.  Their kingdoms, their private places.  We never, ever, entered without knocking
and given permission to enter.
     There is a lot more to this story!  Tomorrow I will tell you about my daughters raising chickens in their bedrooms!
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Tuesday, March 1, 2011

My Daughters

     I was just 21 years old when I got married for the first time.  Jane, the English girl I met in Italy was just barely 21, in fact she came here on her birthday.  Those were crazy days, 1966, a long time ago.  We were married young but didn't "settle down" until much later.  There was a lot to do and we didn't even know each other.  There was a mystery there of some kind and certainly an attraction and she believed everything I said!
We travelled together after only a two hour conversation in a bar next to the train station in Genoa, Italy. We hitch-hiked through Spain and were together only three weeks. That summer we wrote, the old fashion letter writing with mail that took three weeks to get from one of us to the other.  Then, just like that she came over here on September the first (her 21st birthday) and we were married a week later!  Not much paper work in those days.
    We were kids still and being married didn't translate into a nice house with a picket fence and a dog.
We didn't even have a car, two bicycles, three speeders at that, and we lived near campus.  I was still a student at the University.  Being married did keep me in school, gave me a sense of responsibility and a direction in my life.  But while others bought cars, stereo systems, and this and that with their earnings, Jane and I saved to travel.
    Fifteen years went by before we decided to have a family, settle down and become parents.  That would make a change but we knew without much discussion that changes were coming.  I had what I thought was a good job as a school teacher and we had turned a 900 square foot house into a 2000 square foot house with bedrooms to fill.  We were ready and we even had a car!  A brand new car for $2,395.
   Jane (my first wife, my only wife) made an appointment with a doctor, just to see if there were anything we should be aware of, anything to know about all of this.  We were driving in our new Datsun "Honey Bee"
along a stretch of road between two towns, going the speed limit of 35 MPH, maybe the radio was on and maybe it wasn't.  We were talking when we were hit.
   Some idiot had robbed a store, stole $300. from the clerk and then stole a huge, heavy American car.  He was being chased by four police cars all going 80 MPH and he just smashed right into the back of my little Japanese car. 
That is quite an experience.  We went flying, literally, the car leaving the pavement and turning every which way, smashing us head on into a guard rail, the river forty feet below.  Jane got a concussion and a broken leg and I had three discs in my back crushed.  We spent a week in the hospital.
     Two months later she was pregnant!  We were going to have a family!  A daughter?  a son?  We didn't want to know.  We wanted a healthy, happy, normal baby!   More to this story if you are interested......
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