Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Rose-Colored Panels

 Yesterday, just when I was thinking about painting, Jessica asked if I wanted to paint with her that night.  I really needed to, so we did.  She suggested a small oil pastel, which I thought was a perfect suggestion.  And we both chose rose gray primer.  I love my rose gray primer.

After coming up with the title, I couldn't get this song out of my head.  So I guess I had theme song.

Anyway, here is my primed panel!  Actually, it's an 8x10 matboard.

I didn't know what I was going to paint, but Fluffely wanted to keep me company.

I looked through references and thought I'd do a color study of one that has been waiting for me for a long time...I want to do this one a lot larger.  I didn't know if it would come out as anything recognizable in such a small format, but oh well.  Not the point. 

I start my oil pastels with a line sketch, usually using a pink, flesh, or yellow ochre.

Then, I lightly lay down some local color.  (Key word, lightly, just to get pigment onto the surface.)

I don't use solvent, so using my color shaper, I scrub that pastel out to thinly cover my surface.  Sometimes I work the pastel in pretty thoroughly, and sometimes I leave bits of the primer showing through, as you can especially see in the water here.

Then I just continue on in the same pattern.  Below I have lightly layered a bit more on the water.

And here it is blended out.

Some of the upper rock I was working on.

In the middle of working on the girl.  This is, of course, from a reference of my daughter Scarlett, though when she saw my painting she was confused because in the reference she was definitely not wearing this nor was she by the water.

Ultimately, though, Scarlett thought it was pretty cool.  She said she was a good witch enchanting the water.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

She-e-ee wants to be-e fre-eee frooom me-e...

So this morning I woke up inexplicably early.  My kids recently watched the Lion King, and of course I love the Lion King.  But I don't want a singing warthog in my mind when I just wake up.  So I was trying to get my half-asleep mind to think of a way to get that out of my head.  I was coming up with blanks, so I just searched for "best song ever."

I should have known someone somewhere would have titled their song that.

Yeah, no, not so much.  Not impressed.

So then I had to search for the worst song ever.

What I found on youtube was, yeah, pretty bad.  I think I've heard bands (in actual concert) which were...really close to that in fact.  Thankfully not in the quality of singer, but definitely in the music and very close to the lyrics.

This song went on for seven minutes.

I'm almost convinced it was better than the "best song ever", though.

I definitely got the warthog out of my mind.....


Here's something from Oswald Chambers again.  :)

"The point of prayer is not to get answers from God, but to have perfect and complete oneness with Him."

"When you seem to have no answer, there is always a reason--God uses these times to give you deep personal instruction, and it is not for anyone else but you."

Wednesday, August 5, 2015


Part of two devotionals by Oswald Chambers:

"...we are not here for our own purpose at all--we are here for the purpose of God..." 


"The call of God can never be understood absolutely or explained externally; it is a call that can only be perceived and understood internally by our true inner-nature."

"...we begin to see that the compelling purpose of God lies behind everything in life, and that God is divinely shaping us into oneness with that purpose.  ...If we have a purpose of our own, it destroys the simplicity and the calm, relaxed pace which should be characteristic of the children of God."

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

I don't really blame the idea behind "common core".

...but man, are they ever dumb.

I get the idea behind so many of these "new methods" of teaching.  I do.  And in theory I could applaud it, if it wasn't for the fact that...this isn't about theory, it's about practical teaching.

I do a lot of research about teaching and so even without practical experience, I see a lot of what is going on in modern classrooms today.  And I don't blame the basic idea of what they are trying to do.

Take math, for instance.

The idea is, they want kids to internally understand what they are doing when they are doing math.  Makes sense.  Good idea!  ...Except, kids just aren't into abstract thinking.  You're going against their natures and the way their brains work.  It takes years of brain development to really completely internalize something as abstract as math.

Laudable goal that ought not to be ignored, but you gotta work on the level that works.

Children *are* pretty good at memorization, on the other hand.

As long as internal understanding *is not ignored at the proper time*, there is absolutely nothing wrong with memorization coming first.

Teachers are really just spinning their wheels and wasting valuable time with what they are doing now.

Scarlett is going on five and she is already learning math facts...and she loves it.

We have a wide variety of school material, and the other day she had a book that was teaching about number lines.  Number lines are supposed to give a visualization of what is happening when you are adding and subtracting.  First, I had to teach her what a number line was.  Check.  Then we had to go over how to use it.  Check.  Then she had to use it.  Check.  Right answer, check!

But...we came to problems which she had already knew...and instead of remembering that she knew the answer, she felt that she had to go through the process in the same way as the other problems.  Step backward.  No check.  Bad, fail, no good.  Naughty number line.  Number lines suck.

She wasn't internalizing anything or understanding how to add or the reality behind addition; she was merely going through rote steps, just the same as any other math process out there ever taught.

Oh, you say maybe she's too young still.  Yeah.  Explain to me why kids use their fingers to add for years and years, or their whole lives, even when they shouldn't need to anymore.  If they get the concept of it, it's because they already understood to begin with.  Visualizations or manipulatives become crutches.  Explain something visually and it is either understood or not.  If you need to spend months on learning the basic concepts, it's because the brain isn't ready to understand the basic concepts yet.  I read about teachers who "don't even touch" memorization before they have spent one half to three fourths of a year "establishing the basic concept".

Months of going through the idea that you can add up chocolate chips on top of cookies to show the idea of multiplication??  Seriously?  You need months for that?

Um.  No.

Teachers are proudly proclaiming that they are "teaching multiplication" from the first grade.  What progress in our schools!  Wait.  No.  No, they're not, they're just giving kids fun activities that are supposed to "establish the basic concept"...which is a fine thing to do, limitedly.  Kids like playing with manipulatives and things will eventually click...they do need the concrete understanding.  But what a waste of effort and time if you're really focused on this for months or years.  Not entirely wasted, no, but don't fool yourself that they are going to learn anything any faster or that it will be somehow cemented in their little minds any better when they do eventually get it.  Eventually they'll need to learn the rote methods and eventually they'll either need to know the facts or not and when they don't, they get to waste a lot of valuable time *later* when they have to figure out each problem the only way that they were taught to begin with.

Kids are sponges and establishing habits early is important and very vital.  I still use the methods that were first taught to me, and that actually annoys me because I picked up some bad habits from sitting next to a special needs girl who needed instruction in the way that kids are being taught today.  It's a disservice that affects kids for the rest of their lives.

Some random things that have made me smile today for various reasons. And a question that should not be answered.

I don't even know how or why I came across these, honestly, but I'm going to appreciate them anyway.

Random thought:
Why do people need to be told that a lion's brother is "also a lion"? 

No, I really don't want an answer to that.  Really.  Please, no answers.

Oh, I found another thing:


Monday, August 3, 2015

There are, in fact, wrong questions.

I read something this morning on Jessica's blog where she requested some thoughts concerning a question.  But as my answer would have been quite long, I decided to write my own post instead.

She linked to another blog, and if you really want to go there, you can find it from hers.  That other blog is the type that I do occasionally come across myself and really find no redeeming value, to be honest.  I'll even read some of the stuff on blogs like that to see where their thinking goes.  But, to risk offense, I find it to be a lot of feel-good patter which I'm sure many people find comforting but which I see very little truth in.  There are many counselors who cater to today's world and today's "modern thinking", getting their sources from various places without any solid grounding.

Anyway, that really has nothing to do with my topic because even feel-good patter can have truth in it somewhere.

But this question isn't it, at least not without some qualifiers.  The question is:

 Imagine everything in your life was fixed. You had all you needed. You were, brace yourself… actually happy. Content even. Then what? What would you do with your time here?

I submit this question, at least in most contexts, is at best not a question that makes sense, and at worse is not something we want to engage our brains upon.  (It's important to have that qualifier in there because by itself this question is pretty open-ended and could have various interpretations depending upon your pretext.  There are occasions which you might try useless or pointless thought experiments to discover something about yourself.  From my perspective, I don't agree that this is useful, however.)

The basic problem that I have with it is that it is ultimately hedonistic.

The question sounds right today to us because ours is a society that is bent upon the idea that happiness should be ours--it's even a right!--and that it is Good to avoid pain and suffering.

The question assumes that the very purpose of life is to be happy.  It further assumes that we cannot be "actually happy" (let's even substitute "completely at peace" or whatever other euphemism you choose there) if things are not "fixed" with our lives in some utopian perfection.  It assumes that all suffering is "bad" or unwelcome.  It assumes that if we are unhappy, we need to find a way to become happy.

I've got nothing wrong with being happy.  I like to be happy.  I don't like to be sad.  In fact, I'd agree that the purpose of life is to be happy--just not in the hedonistic way that people would assume.  We were created for bliss and happiness.  We were created for ultimate joy, not suffering.  I'll even agree that we choose suffering in a way.  But we don't get to un-choose it; it comes along with the territory of being human and being able to choose to begin with.  And suffering is not always what it appears to be.

My view doesn't make a lot of sense to many people, I suspect, but I find great value in suffering and trials.  Now, of course, to be honest I have it really good; I acknowledge the fact that I am very, very blessed and I have really not experienced true great tragedy in my life.  A fact for which I am *extremely* grateful.  But I have experienced many long, long spells in which I have faced real challenge and real depression and real reason to question life and purpose.

Each and every time I have come out concluding that I became a better person for it.  Every time I see that not only am I better and that there were hidden blessings, but that it in fact brought me such intense moments of joy that I never could have come otherwise.  I no longer question why, why me, or why this, because I know there is reason and purpose and I am almost always brought to some level of understanding (never complete...yet).  Even when I don't understand, that doesn't mean anything because there is a lot I don't understand.

I'm not such a fool that I will go out welcoming suffering, and certainly I'll avoid it when I can.  But when presented, I will accept it in my own way (though perhaps with accompanying rage).  We get much further in life with suffering than we do when we coast along in good times.

To address the actual question, it is actually nonsensical to me.  My purpose in life, my reason for being, my approach to life, my use of time really has nothing to do with whether or not I am happy.  I don't have to hinge any sense of worth or purpose on a feeling or situation.  I will keep on keeping on no matter what.  Situations change; the amount of money in my bank will determine at least some of my actions, certainly, and I am both enabled to do some things and limited in doing others.

I think it is, in fact, categorically wrong to focus so much on "happiness", both from a moral standpoint as well as a health one.  We start to think that our desires and our feelings are the be-all and end-all of life.  When bad things strike, we will put undue pressure on ourselves to fix them or to find some immediate purpose that relates to something specific.  We blame things on ourselves or on others instead of allowing suffering to lead us where it is meant to.  We start to believe that our feelings possess much more reality than they do.  We bow away from bad situations because they are "bad" instead of letting them have their way in teaching us.

I could go on and on.

I haven't even touched on the concept that happy=boring in many cases.  People languish when they have what they want or what they believe they need.  We need challenge, we need growth, we need to not be self-centered, we need to realize that our feelings and desires are fleeting things and that we don't actually own any *rights* to whatever we think might make us happy.  We even need the negative things in life sometimes.

Also, this isn't to say happiness and contentment aren't possible, because they most assuredly are.  Few people find it because few people know where it resides.