Things are looking up a little

Aerial roots

It has been over a week now since I left for Jackson, and tomorrow, will be a week since I returned. It being the beginning of spring in Mississippi, yellow pine pollen is everywhere, covering everything. The wind has been blowing. Driving home from Jackson Friday morning, I was tired from not sleeping well the previous two nights and arising early each morning. I hit the road by 8ish and headed out intending to stop for coffee at the edge of town. Once out of the urban traffic, I opened the sunroof to permit some fresh air to help stave off my tiredness. Let’s just say that was a mistake…you know, yellow pine pollen.

By Sunday morning, I was coughing, and my head was stuffy and my ears hurt and my throat hurt. I managed to keep going, drinking a lot of water, orange juice, and ate soup. I did not have elevated temperature (my normal is less than 97) and I have had enough spring allergy attacks here to feel pretty confident it was just the impact of spring, driving home through pine forests with outdoor air exposure, and arriving home to a thick yellow layer on everything in the yard. It seemed to have ups and downs–I would feel better and think I had turned a corner and within an hour, feel certain I had not. Then Tuesday, R started coughing. Granted, his allergies are worse and he had already had a go-round requiring him to visit the doctor and be on the steroid treatment. Once again, this morning, I felt like I might have turned that corner. I have only coughed a few times, and it does not feel like it is coming from the bottoms of my feet–just my throat, which is vastly improved. I made beef vegetable soup last night with the few food items still present since no one has gone to the grocery store in said week. I put turmeric in my foods when possible as its anti-inflammatory properties are helpful, and I credit both my days of “recovery” to eating turmeric-laced soups. Besides that, it tastes good.

Metacognition: Thinking about thinking

R missed work yesterday, and from the sound of him today, he will miss tomorrow also. I am holding out hope that if I am cautious, I can resume the ability to put on some clothes and purchase needed food items and feed us. I have been wearing a mask to take the dog out and to get the mail, and that has at least helped screen out any additional pollen making its way into my breathing apparatus. Having lived here now for 20 years, my mantra is “it will pass.” It always does.

I have managed a few hours of working on some research for someone using the newspaper archives, which is always an interesting exercise due to the things I stumble across accidentally during the process. I remind myself that taking it easy and nurturing one’s body is important. I remind myself that cleaning house means stirring up dust and hair and cobwebs and sometimes, what you can’t see doesn’t hurt you. I will get back to the tasks at hand as soon as my lungs get back to their peak performance.

If I get in the shower now, I can still get to the grocery store before time to start dinner. I hope everyone is having a better week than the one on Taylor hill, and if not, that yours is finally turning around also.

Posted in Acts of Restorative Kindness, Country Philosophy, Ecosystem, Mississippi | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

The view from floor 7

Jackson from floor 7 looking east

I often take a photograph from the window of my hotel, and I have certainly over the years had some pretty great views. This was not one of them. It did look better at sunrise and at night when the lights created interesting patterns and detracted from the desolate look of often abandoned suburbia.

I spent Wednesday-Friday morning in Jackson, Mississippi, the capital city of the state. I was there for the National Association of Social Workers, Mississippi chapter, annual conference. My former colleague and I were presenting one of the workshops. I also took some items to support the silent auction that is held in conjunction with the conference. It was wonderful to see my colleague and our former student who is a practicing social worker at the Memphis VA facility doing clinical work that is essential for veterans and their mental health. I also talked with several former students who are now doing exemplary social work in areas of important need. Some are skilled practitioners, some are supervisors, and some are doing research and development in areas of concern, such as mental health of the formerly incarcerated. I was filled to the top with gratitude to talk with them and to share in their love for the work that I loved also.

I also left the conference with a heavy weight, and thoughts that persisted into my dreams for the past two nights. The interaction during the conversation in our workshop was at times painful to hear, and at times, joyful to hear. Many of those social workers in the room were deeply engaged with us and the topic. I say many, because there are always those who are there just for the continuing education credits, and they do not interact nor seem engaged. It could be they are tired, or not feeling well, or possibly dealing with their own internal trauma and struggling to manage their own emotions about the topic. It is also possible they disagree with the issues presented, or the responses of the participants, or are disappointed in the workshop as it was not what they had expected.

I was literally exhausted by Thursday afternoon when our workshop ended, and we spent another hour afterward engaged in conversation with those who remained after the conclusion but wanted to further converse. I finally went up to my room and changed into jeans and my tennis shoes and headed out. I had planned to do a little more shopping since I did not leave until Friday. I could see several stores in the view from the 7th floor and decided rather than going to my favorite shopping area where I had gone Wednesday that I would stay in the area close to the hotel. To put this in context, first consider the “views” from other hotels I have frequented in Mississippi. Even in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, I did not see the level of desolation.

The area surrounding the Jackson Hilton is in suburbia, the first part of Jackson you reach as you travel the Interstate from north Mississippi. It was of course where development grew as white flight exited the center of the city. Two of my colleagues who grew up in Jackson and are my age said, “Jackson now is not the Jackson we knew growing up.” I understand that. Texas now is not the Texas I knew my entire life until I left it 20 years ago. There is probably no place that is the same for many of us.

I drove across the street and into the large empty parking lot intending to go into Tuesday Morning. The store was open, but there were only one car parked near it, and a mother and child walking across the street into the store. I drove to the next block and spotted a TJMaxx, one of my favorite stores. The lot had a few more cars in it, and people walking to and from the store, but an expanse of emptiness continued in the pot holes and broken cement of the lot. I pulled out looking for a place to turn around and go a different direction. The turnaround was at the entrance to a mall–those rapidly disappearing locations. I noted a Belk, Dillards, and J. C. Penney on the sign. I have occasionally shopped at Belk since moving to Mississippi, and Dillards was a staple back in Texas. The parking lot was basically deserted, although in slightly better physical shape than the last one. I drove around to the Dillards thinking it would be nice to go inside and see what it is like now. I kept going, out of the parking lot and back to the Interstate and north. I was not really in the mood to shop, and instead went to the Fresh Market and picked up a salad and my favorite rosemary crackers and then headed back to the Hilton.

I ate, checked the news and the latest legislation the state has passed or tried to pass to further disenfranchise its citizens and residents, while doing nothing about the failing infrastructure in the capital city. It is a playbook that is getting really old: starve majority black cities and communities of needed resources and then blame them for the critical infrastructure failures and increasing crime while living safely outside the city in the majority white and white ruled suburbs. One of the young students who is about to graduate in May with his MSW said his work is centered around community and political change. He added it is so hard, almost impossible, to create a sense of hope any more. He followed that with another comment. “I talk to black men…and they say they are just worrying about driving across the city without getting shot.”

No one should have to live with that burden: the fear that you will get stopped by the police for some bogus reason and it escalate until you end up shot or beaten to death or die because you were denied medical care. And yet, those events continue to happen on a daily basis in cities all over the US. There is a thin blue line. And there is also another line next to it. It is the color line.

“I ain’t too worried about the Confederate flag; I’m not doing too good under this one.” (1993, conversation with African American community organizer in Abilene, Texas)

In the workshop conversation, I quoted a community organizer I had met in South Africa who said to me: “Apartheid was created intentionally and systematically. You have to dismantle it the same way: intentionally and systematically.”

Posted in Diversity Equity and Inclusion, Mississippi, Social and Economic Justice | Tagged , , , , | 14 Comments

Limiting your screen time?

Screen it out
Posted in Jewelry Art, Mixed Media Art, Reuse, Recycle, Repurpose | Tagged | 22 Comments

Monday Morning Musings: Marine Life on Clay

Mini canvas Marine Life impressions in clay

Let the sun shine in!

Posted in Bottle Art, Mixed Media Art, Monday Morning Musings, Reuse, Recycle, Repurpose | Tagged , | 10 Comments


Ever have one of those days when what you intended to do was not what you did? Me, too. I had an agenda all planned yesterday of things I wanted to accomplish. I have been dragging my heels on finishing a couple of things that need finishing, but I really just don’t care about the project any more. It was one of those “It looked really good from a long way off” ideas and then I start thinking what was I thinking? You know, when the relationship starts to feel lopsided…and then you start recalling every time this has happened.

Enter R: I need your help this afternoon.

S: Okay; I figured you would.

Let’s just say it involved putting a bed frame together, which also involved moving a bed frame, and mattress, and everything in the proximity of said bed…and then the bed frame was the wrong size. Meanwhile, I had seized the unexpected opportunity to delay my project even longer and start another one I have been dragging my feet about. While R was putting the incorrect size bed frame back in the box to return, I started yanking down curtains and pictures. I had read an item recently about using a microfiber mop to wash the walls and I was itching to try it out. It was just as easy as they said it would be. First, I dry mopped the wall to remove any dust or cobwebs, then rinsed it clean and did a wash with Mrs. Meyer’s lemon verbena. I followed that by a clean water rinse wash. The thing about a microfiber mop (which you know if you use one–yes, Betty, I am looking at you!) is they rinse clean easily and then slide back on the mop handle, unlike the traditional mop. Windows were washed. Floor was vacuumed twice. Then I started on the bookcase, which is filled with books neither of us has any desire to keep and will not read again. I got the first shelf done before R was ready to put the old bed back together and again needed my help.

Meanwhile, we talked. There is something about being alone in a room with no interruptions and discussing important things while doing mundane tasks that is helpful. Like the feelings I am having on the project I don’t really care about anymore but feel an obligation to finish as it impacts two people I do care about.

R: What are you going to do?

S: Go and call it a vacation. Shop, eat out, take photographs of New Deal sites…and maybe go join the protest at the Capitol. Sometimes, talking to strangers is far more productive as well as interesting.

Last night, I finished the piece that has been on hold while I waited for the perfect inspiration. It was sunny, and though cold, nice enough with a hoodie and the fire pit. Beyoncé was ecstatic to sit on my lap. I cleared a few more of the limbs that are lying all over the yard from the recent storms, made shredded pork tacos for dinner, watched The Equalizer with Queen Latifah, and said “Tomorrow is another day.” Many times the adventure I create from an unrealized vision is better than the vision, and there is no reason to think this one will not be just as awesome.

And now, R is off to work and I am off to start on shelf 2! Sometimes, it is good to tackle a project where you can at least see the outcome!

Posted in Acts of Restorative Kindness, Bottle Art, Country Philosophy, Reuse, Recycle, Repurpose | Tagged , , , | 9 Comments

Power to the Women

Power to the Women. No Delay.*

* The Bitter Southerner – Great Stories from the South. “The Bitter Southern exists to explore, from every possible angle, the duality of the Southern thing.”

Posted in Diversity Equity and Inclusion, Family, Mixed Media Art, Monday Morning Musings, Reuse, Recycle, Repurpose, Social and Economic Justice | Tagged , , | 5 Comments

Got any birds on a wire?

Measuring time by the music we sing

I am not a one-trick pony. I can do three of them now: Wine bottle vases, clay tiles, and now, creating a picture collage. Granted, R said, “What is it?” and I replied, “What do you see?” He is a little concrete when it comes to certain things.

A ruler. What’s the wire for? Where did you get that wood?

That led to an explanation of what I had done and why. It is not rocket science, nor rocket art for that matter. Although sometimes I just make stuff up in my head, generally, it is inspired by something I have seen, albeit I tend to adapt because I am just not that skilled to recreate the Masters. This process led to my showing him the piece I had seen on Pinterest, and the process of adapting. Let’s just say it included these two parts of the explanation:

“I like the colored birds better. Do you want some more of those plaques? I have a stack of them I brought home from my office.”

Sure…I will make one for you with the colored birds.

“But what’s the wire for?”

I see ya’ll every time I go out the door!

Anyone want to weigh in on the purpose of the wire? I’m sure R will want your take on it!

Posted in Mixed Media Art, Reuse, Recycle, Repurpose | Tagged | 18 Comments

Would you like some flowers or pencils with your vases?

Updated black and white vase and a new family member

I decided to add a collar to the black and white vase. There was a small hump on two sides of the bottle and though I could sand them smooth, I could not get them flat. On my first bottle cut vase, Ukraine Solidarity, I used coiled rounds of clay. This time, I used a slightly round piece, flatted in the center and folded over to cover the edges. Afterwards, I finished with a gloss coat to give it a sheen instead of the matte look. The red vase is my latest creation following the cut. Two layers of tissue on this one, and then three coats of an acrylic that is high gloss rather than matte. It saves having to do a gloss coat. I also did a heavier treatment of paint around the lip, in order that a small amount could drip and resemble a pour.

Lip detail

The heavier paint detail covers the cut lip (which is sanded smooth), but also provides a bit of additional texture.

I am putting the finishing touches on a third one, which I actually started before the red one. Depending on what I decide as far as texture, paint, and decoration, the time frame varies. I am really having so much fun with this, and because there is wait time between steps, I find I am getting a lot of other things done in the interim–it is a win/win!

Posted in Bottle Art, Reuse, Recycle, Repurpose | Tagged | 17 Comments

Focusing on the goal: Jackson!

The latest: black vase with white tiles

Nineteen days to go until the auction! I finished this one last night, have another ready for paint today. I have clay pieces in process, and today am going to cut my first square bottle.

Posted in Bottle Art, Reuse, Recycle, Repurpose | Tagged | 21 Comments

Wordless Wednesday…but not rainless

Posted in Ecosystem | Tagged | 19 Comments