Tag Archives: Art

I failed.

22 Nov

I have failed quite a few things in my time on this planet.  Fine.  Whatever.  I took the driving portion of the DMV test 4 times before being awarded my license. In my defense, I passed the written part the on the first try and was a nervous 15-year-old.  I failed a couple of courses in high school and a couple more in undergrad.  That was my fault for not paying attention and/or not showing up.  I failed at my first marriage.  I was 23 and knew what I wanted, not what I needed.  I failed as a saxophone player in middle school.  It was heavy!  I failed at snowboarding.  I am just not that coordinated.  I have failed at doing my fair share, remaining composed, being sympathetic, picking right over wrong, meeting deadlines, following up, apologizing, saying what I mean, losing weight, quitting smoking, correct pronunciations, simple math problems, remember things, listening, and being on time.  I failed a pregnancy test twice…

In the end, very few of those things mattered and some of them even turned out for the best despite their poor initial showing.  I have had my fair share of successes.  I even have a document printed on the skin of a dead animal declaring me a master.  (I totally would have opted for the paper if I knew I had a choice!) Those are stories for a different day. It is my failure as a writer that continues to needle me.  I finished my undergraduate degree with a major in studio art and a minor in English (creative writing).  It could have gone either way for me.  It just so happens by the time I visited an adviser I had 1 art class left for the B.A. in studio art and 3 left for the B.A. in English.  I went for the art degree.  After 5.5 years it was the way to go.  For several years I wallowed happily in the mud of mediocrity.  I dabbled in both photography and creative writing.  I taught art to elementary school students and later English literature and creative writing to high school students.  I loved both jobs.  What I did not love was the idea that I was done growing and evolving as an image maker or writer.  A good number of my friends at the time had terminal degrees and spoke enthusiastically about what a gift it was to have had the time away from “real life” to hone their craft and refine their methods of expression.  Slowly my mud stopped being safe and pleasant and started to get sticky.  I found myself increasingly frustrated with my creative works.  They were stagnant and juvenile.  One subject in particular proved itself to be impossible to express through either photographic imagery or the written word.  I tried innumerable times to address the death of my father with seriously limited success in either media.  It was time for graduate school. I looked into programs that offered a MFA in photography and those that offered a MFA in creative writing.  I labored over statements and cover letters.  The more I wrote the more frustrated I became.  I found myself blaming language for my inability to communicate.  In one rash moment, I unceremoniously discarded all the creative writing applications and dedicated my life to the photographic image.

It was not a mistake.  I thrived in my MFA program.  My images grew technically, expressively, became more sophisticated, and I leaned who I was artistically.  I finished my degree, worked a year in a museum, and then landed the coveted college teaching position.  14 years after my father’s death I have finally made a series of images that address this ever elusive topic.  Granted, they don’t even begin to scratch the surface of my experiences or emotions in regards to losing my dad.  I have not resolved anything, nor do I think I ever will or even want to.  What I did succeed in doing I am very proud of.  I simultaneously communicated my grief and gratitude.

Bolstered by my pride in that series of images I thought, maybe now I can do my dad and his life some justice with the written word.  It turns out that I cannot.  I tried.  I failed.  I found myself reverting back to my old argument that words are weak and incapable of the depth I need.  While that may be MY truth, it is not THE truth.  I have read so many well crafted,  interesting, and entertaining blog entries since joining this crowd a couple of weeks ago.  Here are some recent examples that I enjoy and am admittedly a little envious of: The Laws of Nature « Becoming ClicheProcrastination and the Time Thief | Rant Rave Write.  Rebellious Phase (Or Why I Blame Boyfriend For Ruining My life) « purposefullyawkward.  Boxers & Blugs « Kana’s Notebook.  Panic and Maternity Pants « brokencondoms.  Driving in America « Miss Demure Restraint.  Weak words are definitely not their truth.

Right now I feel like Alastair.  He is 4 years old and in a manic struggle with the number 5.  He can count to and far beyond the number 5.  He can add and subtract to reach 5.  He can write the letters to spell five.  He can recognize a well crafted “5” when he sees one.  He can also recognize a poorly crafted “5” when he sees one.  What he cannot do is get his brain and hand to co-operate to consistently create his own beautifully handwritten number 5.  The frustration causes screaming, tears, and projections.  I know, buddy, I totally get it.

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Pregnancy, Death and Fear

5 Nov

Sheila Talbitzer – Fine Art Photography.

Photographic art about pregnancy, death, fear, and more.

A Brief History Thanks to Facebook.

1 Nov
Facebook has preserved a lot of what I would have forgotten.  Here are some highlights from the last couple of years. They go in order from newest to oldest and end when Alastair is around 2 I think…
-As if yesterday’s remark about a clean house when he gets home wasn’t ornery enough, this morning Alastair told me he isn’t going to be funny anymore because I laugh too much and it is annoying. Unfortunately for him, I found his declaration hysterical.
-This morning Alastair had the audacity to request that the house be clean by the time he gets home from school.
-I just dropped my kids off at school and then came home and watched videos of them for 20 minutes.
-Last night Alastair declared his love of the Sharpie marker. Today I will hunt down and hide every one of them in our possession. Alastair plus a densely pigmented marker is not a good combination. This is in my best interest considering the last time he “accidentally got marker on me” I looked down to find my entire forearm covered in little brown squiggles. (Yes, he did draw all over my arm while I was awake and I didn’t notice until he confessed.)
-One of my students works for a company that does school pictures. Today he was assigned Alastair’s school. Having to photograph your lighting professor’s kid while currently enrolled her class…no pressure there.
-I would like to know who told Ephraim that I startle easily. Yesterday I put him in our bed to nap. After 10 minutes of stillness I was sure he was asleep. He then yelled “hah” as loud as he could. Of course, I jumped and screamed. He laughed uncontrollably for 5 minutes saying “hah” every once and awhile and laughing harder. I feel like that maybe isn’t normal baby behavior. He is only 16 months. I should get busy worrying about this.
-Alastair says the other camera (the point and shoot) is for babies.
-I absolutely loathe it when people speak to my children like they are puppies with poor hearing.
-Are Rich and I such Game of Thrones geeks that we would convince our kids to dress up like a knight and a dragon for Halloween? Yes. Yes, we are.
-This morning I was showing the kids old Bruce Springsteen videos and talking about how much I like them. He reminds me of my dad so I got a little teary eyed. Alastair looked at me and said, “do you like them or no?” I said, “yes, I do. I am not sad.” He said, “oh, it is happy cry.” (he just came to terms with the fact that I cry when I am happy.) I said, “no, not happy cry.” and then tried to explain that sometimes I just get emotional and tried to keep explaining. He stopped me and said, “I don’t get it. You shouldn’t do that anymore. It is confusing.” Rich agreed with him.
-Rich took the boys to the pumpkin patch last night while I was at work and brought home the most obscene gourd I have ever seen.
-With all the work I have been doing lately with bones, skulls, and skeletons you would think I would be a little less freaked out to find a LARGE dead bird in my backyard. I think the disturbing part is that there are no visible signs of trauma and its eyes are open (they are blue which also seems weird).
-This morning while pumping gas I had that strange feeling somebody was watching. I looked around at the other patrons and they were all doing their own thing so I looked up to see if there was a video camera or something. No video camera, just a GIANT praying mantis with its creepy little alien head cocked to the side glaring at me with contempt.
-There is no question I need glasses. I have been taking the wrong prescription for over a week. In defense of my old lady eyes, the pills are the exact same size and shape and almost the same color.
-Who let this lunatic into my house?
-I touched a real live swimming around in water SHARK this weekend!
-When my children learn to cuss it will not be from Rich or me. Last night at a family dinner my loving mother asked me (quite loudly since I was in an adjacent room playing with my kids) to tell everybody what a bitch I was when I was I a teenager.
-About an hour ago Alastair was seriously frustrating me. Typical kids stuff like yelling, slamming the bathroom door, and being generally disagreeable (apparently Kleenex is NOT a reasonable substitute for toilet paper when you are out.) Anyway, I had to walk away to regain my composure. Rich must have told him to apologize because when I came back he walked right up to me, looked me in the eye and said, “sorry for making you mean.”
-I just moved the couch downstairs to access our storage crawl space. There was a large insect looking thing. In the poor light of the basement I couldn’t tell if it was real (alive or dead) or one of Alastair’s toys. I fled and vow not to return until Rich investigates.
-Because of how I ended up being dressed this morning I jokingly made the remark, “today I will playing the part of heavy metal mom”. Alastair looked at me and said, “more like motel mom”. A little shocked I asked him what that meant. He shrugged and walked away leaving me speechless and Rich laughing and making suggestive comments about motel mom.
-Apparently age 4 is when kids start getting presents that parents like playing with too. Magna-tiles, stomp rocket, marble race = crazy fun.
-Alastair is 4 years old today!
(It is 8 a.m. and he has already rolled his eyes at me twice. I said 4 not 14 right?)
-Feel good moment of the day: There was a woman who paints birdhouses on PBS this morning. Alastair said, “She is an artist. You are an artist too except you make photographs. Her art is boring. Your art is not boring.” I then went on the have an uncomfortable ratio of failure to successes in the studio, but that is beside the point.
-This morning I was making silly faces and sounds to Ephraim and he seemed to be enjoying it. He was giggling and smiling. Then he hit me in face with a remote control and really started laughing.
-5 years ago today at the Tropicana in Las Vegas in front of family and friends and while a heavy metal pool party was raging next to the chapel I married Rich Mansfield.
-Yesterday Ephraim took his first two unassisted steps while we were all at the library. For the sake of the other patrons who came there for quiet time I did my best to control my excitement.
-Alastair to Rich yesterday: “You just don’t know what you are doing, old man.”
-This morning with some impressive evasive driving techniques I successfully thwarted a wild turkey’s “suicide by mini-van” attempt.
-My dog just drank rain water collected in an unused planter and then immediately peed on that same planter. I will never understand boy dogs.
-I learned yesterday that the will my parents wrote when I was a teenager put everything left to me in a trust not to be touched until I was 35 years old! Apparently a trust is for those who can’t be trusted.
-Apparently I annoy Alastair to no end. Sometimes he is polite and says “please”, but most of the time he says, “Mommy, just stop talking.”
-“Maybe Batman is Catwoman’s owner.” -Alastair Mansfield
-I hung some laundry out to dry today and a bird pooped on it. Totally uncool. Unless, of course, they somehow found out I have been shopping for bird skulls on eBay. Then it is understandable…maybe even justifiable.
-Do the big black birds (crows?) just hate squirrels or are they trying to eat them? It is like a horror movie in my back yard right now. I would feel worse for the squirrels if they were not always antagonizing my dog.
-When the baby wakes up in the middle of the night I can usually cuddle him back to sleep. When he is laughing at 3:30 a.m. I know I am getting up.
-Last night Alastair invited me to play a game with him. It was called “smack the face”. I declined the invitation.
-While watching an episode of Community where they were playing Dungeons and Dragons I made a casual remark to Rich that the game looked fun if you were into that kind of thing. He told his brother I said that because Bill was into it as a kid. Yesterday I got a package in the mail from my brother-in-law. It was a D & D starter kit and a note welcoming me to nerd town.
-It was much easier to buy birthday presents for Rich when he was a drinker.
-The 7 am whole family impromptu pajama dance party in the kitchen was the best 15 minutes of my whole week.
-This morning Alastair sang to me what can only be described as the punk rock version of “you are my sunshine”. I was delighted.
-Sleeping like a baby is a misnomer. My baby doesn’t sleep like a baby. He sleeps more like a caffeine addict or a fugitive.
-The answer to final jeopardy today was “Satan”. When they showed the contestants answers on the screen Alastair said, “That is my name!”
-Ephraim’s method of understanding something new: 1) stare at it 2) taste it 3) hit it 4) scream at it…if that doesn’t work try again omitting number 1.
-Ephraim LOVES his Sophie the giraffe. A $22 teether/toy maybe excessive, but I am a sucker and it is French.
-Devilishly handsome is still devilish.
-Listen to The Ramones and eating Andes Mints are a few of my favorite things.
-I cried a little today when I traded in my pretty black jeep for a minivan.
-Mythbusters marathon on today. In the intro they say “don’t try this at home”. We asked Alastair if he knew what that meant. He said, “yes, it means do it outside”. Not really the answer I was looking for.
-This may be the greatest school picture I have ever seen.
-Ephraim thinks I am the funniest person and best singer he knows. Granted, he only knows about 5 people…not much competition but still good for my ego.
-Ephraim’s baby breath smells like powdered sugar and his chubby little body looks like he eats powdered sugar. (20 lbs. @ 4 months old.)
-Every morning Alastair pledges allegiance to the invisible nation under grog.
-I have a dog, 2 kids, and a fish. They are all thriving. Still, I can’t keep a houseplant alive over 4 months
-The repeat button on my Alastair seems to be stuck in the “on” position.
-The NPR story on Freddie Mercury this morning brought back sweet memories of dancing in the living room with my dad to his Queen records. I was 6 or 7 and thought it was embarrassing and fantastic. Now I just think it was fantastic.
-Baby fingernails are like adorable little razor blades.
-Alastair is 3 years old today! Time to teach this kid how to do some yard work. He has been free loading way too long now.
-I want to know who taught Alastair to hiss at me like an angry cat whenever I say something he disagrees with.
-40 weeks for human gestation is unreasonable and tantamount to torture in my opinion.
-Still geeking out on the finale of Lost I recommended that Larry watch the entire series on his way to Japan. Matel then reminded of the premise of the show. I had to rescind my recommendation. One probably doesn’t want to watch show that opens with a violent and deadly plane wreck while spending 14 hours over open ocean.
-Lately the only phrase I can get Alastair to repeat on command is, “I am not a trained monkey.”
-No matter what I am doing, if I am listening to Leonard Cohen I feel like I am in a movie and something bad might happen.
-I don’t think it is unreasonable to wear sweatpants and flip-flops to work if you are 7 months pregnant. If you disagree, I am not really interested in your opinion.
-Yesterday I vowed to be more vigilant about my dental health. Today I ate a cupcake for breakfast.
-Rich got a 100% on his “preventing sexual harassment” quiz for work. I got an 86%.
-Thanks everyone for the congrats on the news of another boy. You all are way more encouraging than Alastair. When I told him he gave me an annoyed look and said, “I am eating apples.”
-Alastair just informed me that he needs a helmet, a rocket, a table saw, a dirt bike, a turtle and a rainbow…and that he will be having sprinkled donuts and pink cake for lunch. please, thank you so much.
-Rich is of the opinion that I LOVE the Betta fish Alastair got for his birthday. All I did was a little research on what habitat would make him happiest and healthiest, buy him some stuff for his home, call him beautiful and give him a name…
-Is convinced after yesterday’s experience that Alastair would eat dirt, soap, or even boiled cabbage if it just had some pastry sprinkles on it.

That is enough for now.

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