Wednesday, February 21, 2018

My Old Stomping Grounds

Thirty years and six months ago, I embarked on a journey of a lifetime.  My parents dropped me off at Sixth Floor Rimrock Hall on the campus of Eastern Montana College in the biggest city in Montana, Billings.  For the next eleven years, Billings played a prominent role in my life.  I went to college, fell in love, married, worked, and played in the area.  I lived in four different places.  I worked seven different jobs.  One of those was for Dominos and learned the main section of the city by heart.  In the fall and winter, the smell of sugar beats fills the air.  I hated the smell at first, but now when I catch a whiff, my memories turn my lips up into a smile.  In the spring, the fresh clean air with a touch of lilac fills the air.  Nothing compares to this beautiful smell.

This past weekend, my little family drove to the city.  We went to see family.  I took time out of my schedule to goof around with my sister.  She has never wandered through the old "mansion" district of town.  Walking around in the snow, I snapped pictures and we ooed and awed over the gorgeous houses.  I showed her my favorite house. 

The first time I saw my house was probably when I first started delivering pizza.  The wraparound porch and Victorian style took my breath away.  In those days, I was extremely poor.  At times, I couldn't afford going to college or I worked four jobs to pay for college.  Many times, I drove by the house to remind myself why I worked so hard.  I daydreamed about it.  Even now, years and a degree later, I drive by the house when I am in town.  I take pictures from time to time.  I will always love this house.  And check out the door!

Did I ever buy such a house?  No.  My house is a modest one story cozy home.  I have no stairs to struggle up with my bad knees.  Nor do I have a bunch of extra rooms to clean.  Would I ever buy this house?  No.  However, I might be tempted to buy one in the town I live in if I ever wrote a blockbuster novel series like JK Rowlings.  Or I would travel the world.  Ya, I would travel instead.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Issues Beyond Guns

Yesterday I caught a glance of the headline coming out of Florida.  I didn't stop to think about the shooting at the time.  I met a friend for coffee who in the past has had trouble with one of her children being depressed and suicidal.  Then we had a family meeting about Madelle's semester of being homebound.  We went over her success of earning a half credit of algebra, participating in girl scouts socially, and coming off of her meds.  We discussed what she wanted to accomplish this next semester.  My husband and I went to Mass.  We ended the evening with a family prayer and family reading time. 

This morning, I read a bit about the the shooting.  A couple of people commented on gun control on Facebook.  One friend wants more control.  I believe two proclaimed guns aren't the problem.  A debate raged on one post.  I would say that in the friend zone I have a lot more people against gun control.  I am blessed to have a lot of hunters and military people in my life.  I am equally blessed with having a wide range of friends on the other side of the fence.  However, what hurts my heart is the lack of posts on all the other issues. 

I debated doing a blog post about Florida because no one needs to hear my opinions on guns.  Frankly, I am sick of the debate.  I have no desire to go down that proverbial rabbit hole.  We could all argue until we are purple and it isn't going to do an ounce of good.  My opinion is not going to be changed and neither will yours.

What are the real issues?  Really, there are so many issues that it is overwhelming.  I think that is why so many people grab onto the gun aspect of the situation.  If we get rid of them, we will have no more mass shootings.  Of course that is true for those law abiding folks that wouldn't have guns.  However, I think that we would then have bombings, knifings, and possibly serial killings.  Violence will not end.

The issues all stem from people hurting to the point of acting out in violence.  I haven't read up much about the shooter.  I only read one article.  I learned the student has been violent in the past.  For a year, the school had seen the behavior manifesting.  Many times, we find out a shooter's family life has been lacking.  They have been bullied at school.  Academically, they have struggled with the work.  He may have been bounced around in the mental health field if he even had the ability to get mental health. 

Those of you who have followed my blog know that we have mental health issues with our daughter.  We are blessed to be educated and have an amazing health care coverage.  Even with all the tools we have, many times my husband and I have felt like we are hitting our heads against a brick wall.  My heart breaks for these kids who don't have these advantages.  Of course they are exploding in violence.  Their parents can't or won't help them.  They can't find the right fit with a psychologist and/or therapist.  My daughter has had four therapists for goodness sakes!  It has at times been a fulltime job working with her illness.  Many teens and their families have these advantages.  Mental health is a nightmare!

Schools are flooded with kids struggling with mental illness.  In my daughter's school, they now have two therapists and a couple of helpers just for this just this issue.  The school didn't have this eight years ago when her brother went to school there.  And still the school can't help all the kids because there are so many.  That isn't even addressing whether the therapists are good at their job or the right personality to gain trust for the suffering student.  Plus, a lot of these kids have learning disabilities beyond the disability of mental illness.  Many of these kids don't fit into the regular education system, let alone in their peer group.  All of this creates a cesspool of volatile thinking and behavior.

Other issues arise in the area of family dysfunction, drugs, alcohol, lack of mentorship, and morality.  Please, don't even get me started on cell phones and the lack of socialization these kids are participating in everyday life.  One of the main reasons I finally bought my daughter a cell phone with internet was because then she would have something to do when everyone else was playing on theirs.  Hell, I feel the stress when I am with someone who won't talk to me because they are too consumed by their phone.

I seriously don't see the Florida shooting as a gun problem.  I see it as a societal problem.  Our kids are hurting from family dysfunction, drugs, no mentors, mental health, cell phones, bullying, education, and the list goes on and on.  We have a hurting teen due to bullying and social issues.  My husband helps with youth group and a number of these kids are struggling with social issues.  All of them come from good homes.  There is an epidemic that no one knows how to fix.  It has nothing to do with guns.  The gun is just a means to act out against the problems the person is having.  What is even the point of writing such a post?  I have no answers.  The point of writing is to think about and maybe discuss all the issues and to stop hiding behind the gun debate.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Helena Doors

My theme of doors for this year for my photography endeavor seems to be lacking at this point.  I have went out and looked at pictures of doors on the internet that are amazing.  They are antique or pop with brilliant colors.  The pictures I took last month seem ordinary. 

In all honesty, I felt the same exact way when doing the lanterns last year.  The only time I enjoyed capturing the subject was on my travels in Britain.  Everything there looked old and unique.  In my calendar those were the only lanterns I used.  I am sad that I am struggling in this way.  I really had intended to do better with the content closer to home.

I need to find a way to bring something new to my project.  Until then, here are some of the doors I have to this point.  If any of you have a suggestion, I would love to hear them.

Friday, February 9, 2018

Spring Fever

One bored Cat!!!

The other day, my cat and I were going a little stir-crazy.  We both want to be outside.  I keep daydreaming about plunging my hands into the dark moist soil of my gardens with the sun on my skin.  She wants to be out chasing mice.  The cold and ice are keeping us inside.  As with everything, I went out to research ways to help my condition.  I so love Google.

I found a ton of articles about how to keep studying when spring fever threatens to drop your grades.  Hum, I am not a student.  Please, don't tell me that I haven't grown up and the only people to get spring fever are kids.  Well, at the bottom of my search, I found an article to help artists combat spring fever.  Yay, I am not immature.  I am an artist.  Yes, I see the irony.

The writer gave a list of things to do.  Yay, I love lists.  As I got partway through, I realized this list is very much like my list of things to do when I am depressed.  I also realized that I have done most of them in my own way.  Some of the suggestions made me laugh, like the first one.

1.         Get out in the sun.  Really?  For the last week, we have had mainly gray skies.  What sun?  Then if we have sun, the world turns into ice.  Do I really want to go out and break my hip?  I don't think so.  The other day the dog and I went out.  Visibility was sketchy with snow flurries.  I was wearing my yaktraks and I was still slipping and sliding.

2.         Check your work habits.  I do this continuously.  I am always trying to see if I can get a little more time in with my art.  I especially go over my schedule at the beginning of the new year.  The article also talked about mixing it up.  I really should take my laptop to the coffee shop in the middle of the day.  Unfortunately, by that time, I have worked all morning and am done for the day.  But it is a good idea.

3.         Take a break.  To do what?  If I am taking a break, I will do this in the spring and summer where I can be outside.  The winter is the best time to get a good chunk of my writing done for my yearly goals.  Yes, I need to write more in the sunny months, but if I don't I want these months to be productive.  I will say that I am trying to get most of my words written during the week so I can take most of the weekend off.  That is enough of a break.

4.         Workshop to meet people.  Obviously, the writer of the article lives in a city or has a sugar daddy to finance her art.  If I went to a workshop where I met people, the class would be a good $600 or more.  I would have travel expenses to get to said workshop and have to pay for a hotel room, not to mention leaving my daughter for a week.  Now, I am planning an on-line workshop later this year, but I won't be meeting people!

5.         Sketchbook, notes, daydream.  Now, my artistic ability with a sketchbook is pretty much null and void.  However, I could start a pinterest board for the the next project I want to work on after I finish my current work in process.  I am cautious about this though because I don't want to be distracted from the current work.  I will see about applying this idea.

6.         Bring the Outside in.  I liked this one.  After reading the article, the next time I went to the store, I picked up some flowers.  I normally won't get the type I did.  My daughter didn't want to walk by my writing room and see pink.  She wanted blue.  I humored her.  When these wilt, I will get more.  Until I can see my flowers outside, I think I will keep my jar full of fresh flowers.  They really have helped and brought me joy.

7.         Take a trip.  Hey, I can get behind this suggestion.  Of course, the author posted a picture of a beach, palm tree, and the ocean.  Hum, that is a bit too far away for this year.  I did go to Alaska last month which was a ton of fun.  We also are going to Billings later this winter.  Again, no palm trees, but we will be seeing a bunch of family and getting out of town is always a great time.  It isn't that I don't love where I live.  I do.  I just like a change of scenery.  And yes, we do have a big vacation planned later this year.  I will write more about that later.  Another suggestion was to enjoy the last days of winter.  Ice, Ice, Ice.  I will be out when there is no chance of breaking a leg.

8.         Social Media.  I am definitely doing facebook.  I should be working more on twitter and instagram.  My problem is that when I am bored I am worried I will be boring on these sites.  And I can only upload so many gray winter photos!

9.         Spring clean!!!  I don't want to clean.  Yes, I do need to.  I will work on my writing room this weekend.  I should probably dust the entire house.  I would love to do a painting project in one of the rooms, but I want book 5 done.  This will have to wait for another day.

10.       Try something new.  A new medium.  About once a month, I work on the mediums of photography and painting pottery.  I should work some more on my rosemaling.  As for anything else, I have done crocheting, painting walls, scrapbooking, and crafts.  I really have no desire for any of that.  Really, I want to garden and hike. 

Going through the list, I have a few things I can tweak or add to my routine.  But, really, I am doing what I need to do this winter.  I just have to buck up and carry on with my work.  Life is good. 

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

The Women's Mural

A couple of times a month, I drive by the Women's Commemorative Mural of 1979 downtown.  When we first moved here, almost twenty years ago, I took a picture but have never really studied the piece.  As we walked across the street, section of the mural caught my eye that I had never noticed before.  I started shooting.


Why did this woman and her child catch my notice?  The mural was constructed in 1979.  I was eleven years old.  Now, I don't know if the mural has always been the same.  But I do remember that in 1977 my mother would never have breast fed my baby sister out in the open.  The times were very prudish.  Even in the years when my kids were babies, I wouldn't feel comfortable breast feeding in public.  In 2002, things were better, but old habits are hard to break.  I always went somewhere along to feed my little ones.  The piece surprised.  I kept taking pictures.

 Here are some of the other sections of the mural that I enjoy.


Women are a huge part of our history.  Of course, in the past many of the history books are written about the men.  I am proud when I drive by this mural to see the honor our town puts in the history of our women.  Keep up the good work, Ladies.

Friday, February 2, 2018

My Girl

I haven't written about my daughter since September.  I have thought of different angles I could take a post.  I write the thoughts in my head, but I haven't been able to put them on paper.  I have no idea what I am writing today.  Really, all of my words may be a jumbled mess or they may be bloody brilliant.  I will let the world decide.

Home Life:  On the home front, life is no longer a battleground.  Granted, Madelle drives me crazy with her teenager attitude.  There are days I would love to just run away and have a month all to myself.  She is with me 24/7.  I am not good with the weight of a person being so dependent on me.  I don't like being needed to this depth.  With that said, each morning I say my surrender prayer.  Also, when she turned fifteen, I made a decision.  She may want to stay home a lot, but I don't like feeling imprisoned.  Sure, I go for walks, attend a prayer group, and count money every other money for church.  The rest of my social life I stopped doing so I could be with her during this dark time.  Well, no longer.  She is stable, staying home is her choice.  I am now going on photo shoots and I even took a day trip to meet my sister in December.  I will continue to do this when the roads are dry and the weather warmer.  My life is opening up again.  Oh, and I almost forgot.  Jerry and I finally took a trip together.  We have needed this for quite sometime.  We hired a dear young lady to teen-sit for the long weekend.  Madelle was so nervous and scared.  They ended up having so much fun together.  I couldn't be more proud of both of them.

School Life:  Madelle is considered home bound.  Each morning I call the school to tell them she will not go to school due to her IEP.  The school has been so good to us and understanding.  My heart breaks because of school though.  She isn't getting the education she needs at this point.  At the moment, I take her to school Monday afternoon for English.  In the evenings, Jerry works with her on math.  They also try to do some minutes of PE.  She was attempting science, but it hasn't been working so we will re-strategize this area.  She has tried going on other days, but too many kids are at the school and she literally shrinks into herself.  I can feel and see it, and it is painful.  In the next two weeks, she will have earned half a credit of math.  By the end of the year, that may turn into a full credit and a half credit for English.  That is it.  I am still working at surrendering this to God.

Medical Life:  I am not sure when in the fall Madelle advocated for herself to go off all her meds.  She and the psychiatrist argued back and forth.  Finally, he smiled and agreed with her.  He also apologized for upsetting her, but he needed to see if she were truly ready.  He is so good with her.  First we went off the depression medicine.  That went really well.  Next was the meds to keep the voices away.  This has taken the longest because they are so strong and we have been concerned.  The first two months we had a week each of difficulties.  I had a hard time not saying enough.  Madelle learned from those two months and has been doing much better.  We have about two and a half more months to go and she will be off all meds.  She feels clearer.  We all agree she is happier.  As for therapy, she isn't doing any at the moment.  I am not sure how I feel about it, but I am surrendering it.  We have her therapist on speed dial. 

Social Life:  Most of her days are at home.  She doesn't go to school as I have said earlier except for an hour a week.  She doesn't go to church.  On most Tuesdays, we have friends over for game night which she participates in the fun.  We go to dinner once a week.  She will go to the store with me occasionally.  Her friend talked her into joining Girl Scouts again.  If her friend doesn't go, Madelle doesn't either.  I have to attend all the events as well.  She can't do it without me as her security blanket.  (Part of my going a little crazy.)  This past weekend, she attended a full day event.  She didn't participate in all of the activities.  But she stayed and only had one episode when a leader yelled at her and a couple of other girls.  We are very proud of her.

I have no idea what is in store for the future.  At this point, I don't know if she will graduate from high school.  We may have to work an on-line or GED program for her.  This we will decide after we have tried a couple more programs in town.  I have no idea if she will ever live on her own.  Our garage may turn into an apartment.  Her brother has offered for her to move in with him if he has his own place when she is eighteen.  There are options.  Of course, I haven't given up hope for my girl.  In a few years, she may go on to live a "normal" life.  If not, we will learn the definition of a new "normal."  God will help us find our way.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

The Miner

Last week I went on my third photo shoot with a friend in the downtown area.  This time the weather was warmer and we didn't take any kids.  Instead of ten photographs, I came home with a nice collection.  A few weeks back, I caught a glimpse of a mural on the side of a building on a road I never take in town, so I wanted to start with that.  I liked the end results.

Here is the artwork in its entirety. 


Now for the shots I took and really loved.

I have always been fascinated by the artwork on buildings.  Helena has quite a bit to enjoy.  The one thing that saddens me are the old advertisements painting on the side of building that are weathered to the point of almost being gone.  I would love for them to be repainted.  I realized the project would be expensive and impractical, just like restoring old derelict buildings.  My imagination takes off with all the things that could be done to fix them up.  Unfortunately, I don't have the money or skills.  I do dream though.