Hi. I'm a painter, a writer and a mother of three teenage sons, one with a severe disability. This is a journal: riotously disorganized, full of art, food, children and everyday domestic events. Unless you are a friend or family member you may not be interested, but you are welcome to look. Artists who are parents may find some common ground here, as well as parents of children with special needs. For art only, see my site: nancybeamiller.blogspot.com
Sunday, December 26
One of the interesting things about living with Henry is his compulsion for combining objects or materials that one would ordinarily not pair together. In this instance he decided to fill the sink with mixed salted nuts. He carefully pulled up the stopper too, so that not a one would escape. Sink nuts, now that is original!
Saturday, December 25
EINE KLEINE MERRY CHRISTMAS
Henry simply could not believe his ears when his Aunt Carol set up her new keyboard and started playing his favorite song of all time: Mozart's Eine Kleine Nachtmusik. A roaring fire, rocking chair and Paul chiming in with his flute and it was just Henry Heaven. Merry Christmas to All!
Sunday, December 19
When Henry is sad, we are all sad. Quite often we can't figure out why he is sad, since he can't speak very much. He uses PECS (picture exchange communication system), little picture cards velcroed into a book. But his PECS are mostly for concrete items like "Juicebox" "Granola Bar" and "Playground": no little picture cards for "General Angst" or "Existential Terror".
Today we are all a little sad because his TSS (therapeutic support staff i.e.home program helper) just quit, at least for the next few weeks. She has a lot of major stresses in her life, and had quit all her other cases, but wanted to keep on with Henry (they got along really well). But I guess finally, even just the one case was too much for her overloaded life.
Sigh. Back to square one.
Friday, December 17
Of course these little equines must come with bridles and tack, preferably in hot pink vinylized plastic. Let the Christmas shopping begin! (Actually, I guess it probably has begun for everyone else: I am slow!) This is for Photo Friday's theme: Tacky.
Thursday, December 16
Well, it is hard to believe, but Paul (my husband) is so sick that he has actually stayed home from work! He's been ill for over a week, but he simple didn't believe it for a few days and kept dragging himself into work saying, "I think I'm feeling better today..." Nuh-uh. Today he finally admitted defeat, stayed home to run his fever in comfort and even made a doctor's appointment. Terrible to see him like this, poor guy. Unlike many other a husband I have heard of, he dislikes a lot of sick bed tending, and my offers of tea, toast, juice, more meds, pillowcase freshening etc. are almost always declined.
And of course, Paul was supposed to be finishing up making the frames this week for my upcoming show. Since they all have to be delivered to the gallery (framed) by next week I can only hope for divine intervention, or a really powerful dose of anti-biotics?
Saturday, December 11
Henry was in a very nice mellow mood today. The rain cleared up for a few minutes just as the sun started to go down over the local Acme roof. Henry and I ran outside and had a little game of "chase-giggle-n-shove", and I managed to fire off a few shots when we were joined by the other boys.
Friday, December 10
The toys seem to be huddling together for solace, just waiting till Hugh comes home from school.
Thursday, December 9
HOUSE OF LIGHT
A large nursey is located next to our local pharmacy. I was there last night picking up various prescriptions and cold relief products, and as I pulled out of the parking lot I saw this beautifully lit greenouse, stuffed full of Poinsettias and other holiday items. 'Tis the season...achoo!
Monday, December 6
There is nothing like a fire in the fireplace to add a little festive cheer to a winter's evening. Instead of throwing these old art projects in the recycling bin Hugh elected to burn them. I was amazed at what an attractive sculpture he made of them before setting them alight!
Friday, December 3
on grocery shopping. Even if you wanted to forget that a major holiday is coming, the grocery store will not allow you to remain in a state of denial. I thought it was very appropriate that they had a long line of foil wrapped Poinsettias in the exit aisle. An army of plant world holiday warriors, silently standing to attention and reminding you of the coming onslaught!
Thursday, December 2
I met this happy dog when I was visiting Sebastian Riding Associates with my friend Emma Powell and family. He loved the horses and was exuberantly trying to join in the riding. I think he would have leaped atop a saddle if he could have and gone galloping around. He had to be barred from the indoor ring, but even a fence could not diminish his enthusiasm and contagious joy.
Tuesday, November 30
This time of year the apples start tasting especially delicious. Maybe because now they are from local orchards, instead of being imported from other parts of the country (or world). Or maybe this is the time of year when nature wants us to eat like mad and store fat for the upcoming winter, so EVERYTHING tastes delicious and tempting! I am pretty sure that the bag of Cheetos I ate yesterday was not from a local orchard, but boy did that taste good!
Monday, November 29
I visited my old college roomate Liz today and her new baby. I got to breathe in a bit of that New Baby atmosphere, as distinct and exciting as that of a new car. Of course a car is easier to maintain, and don't they sell spray cans of New Car aroma if you want to keep the romance going? I guess if you wanted to recreate New Baby aroma you could sprinkle baby powder around and open up some A & D ointment, leave out a glass of milk overnight. But it wouldn't be quite the same. You'd be missing that elusive aromatic combination of exhaustion and elation.
Saturday, November 27
is a fistful of marigolds planted by your youngest child. I also think it is appropriate for this weeks's PhotoFriday challenge (of "Prosperity") because the word marigold is said to be derived from "Saint Mary's Gold". At any rate, despite being considered the most plebian of flowers, I happen to adore them.
Wednesday, November 24
Paul's annual pie-making efforts. Two glistening pumpkins and a crumble-topped apple, all wafting sweet spicy aromas around our house as they cool. Too bad we don't have Thanksgiving but once a year! He has an especially good touch with the pie crust, a very delicate operation. Maybe from all those childhood years spent building ship models? Anyway, I think we should institute a new holiday similar to the reputed "Half-birthday" celebration: "Half-Thanksgiving". Not to celebrate the things we sort of half-heartedly feel thankful for, but just as an additional outlet for pie-making. Lets see, six months from November, will land us in late May. What's growing around then? Rhubarb? Can't remember. Oh well, just a fancy brought on by too much hot cinnamon in the air.
Tuesday, November 23
SOFT AND COZY
Big puffy Pikachu watches over Hugh.
Monday, November 22
Having a child with autism decidedly changes your understanding of many concepts, including that of friendship. For Henry, a child whom he is content to sit next to and occasionally glance at counts as his friend. Here he is with his friend Hazel. A relatively new definition of a friend for me is someone who will invite me and all my children to their house and graciously acommodate Henry's differences. I feel lucky to have a goodly number of such folks in my life.
I was on the phone to my friend Katie yesterday and mentioned that Henry's afternoon babysitter had canceled, Paul was playing soccer and it was a wet gray afternoon which precluded playground visits and we were all going a little stir crazy. She promptly invited us all over, even though she is in the middle of a major house renovation and a thousand other things as well. It was a huge relief to get out of the house and see some different faces for a few hours, have a cup of tea and some "grown-up" conversation, while keeping Henry amused at the same time. As for Katie, my grandmother would say "She'll get HER crown in heaven!"
Friday, November 19
I am enamored of the way doughuts look: the gloss, the glaze, the colors, the promise of indulgence. The way they are so uniform yet with endless variations, even amongst the same flavors. Fortunately, I do not have any corresponding passion for eating them. To me they are just little works of sculpture. So I am able to go out and buy boxes of doughnuts for painting (and photographing) without piling on the calories. Now, if these were shiny little bags of potato chips...!
Thursday, November 18
Henry's autism has him searching out sensory stimulation in every way possible. He particularly loves sharp tangy smells, like vinegars (balsamic is his favorite), mustards, soy sauces, bleach etc. I like pickles, and so does he, and whenever we have them in the house I must keep them under lock and key because he wants to play with them! This play mostly consists of shaking the jar and then holding it up to the light, and sniffing the leaking juices. But, pickle jars leak like mad, and also shatter easily. So vigilance is required. Who would ever have thought that you would have to give any thought at all to having a dill pickle once in a while? There are hundreds of little things like this about our life with Henry, little everyday things that most people can take for granted. Sometimes these hundreds of details you need to stay aware of can really wear you down. But, it certainly is interesting, and makes you look at (and smell) life differently.
Tuesday, November 16
A painter friend, Janice Wilke, asked me if I would take some pictures of her. She needs a photo of herself for a design project she is working on. I was happy to oblige. She brought along the first portrait she ever sat for, from years back, for her (now) husband, painter Scott Noel. (One look at the tender Degas/Vermeer way he painted her and one could have started planning the wedding before the varnish dried, sorry to embarrass you Jan). She wanted me to create a similar light/dark pattern thing in the photo, I think, and I am not sure I was able to deliver. But it was all very interesting. Shakespearean lines kept rolling through my head "When age hath made me what I am not now..", and I was very glad to know that I also have a portrait done years ago by Scott. Someday, perhaps, I will look at it and hardly be able to believe that that was me. (Jan's still looks like Jan of course!)
Sunday, November 14
Hydrangea and human. I was trying out Paul's work camera, a big Nikon. Lots of fun, but I had no time to study the instruction book (no book-let!) to really see what I could do with it. Just clicked the shutter a few times. Even the Ka-chunk of the shutter release was intensely satisfying!
Saturday, November 13
This is for the Photo Friday theme of family. I had to laugh when I saw that this was this week's theme. My entire blog is about 95% family stuff. I guess a lot of the photographers who enter PF are young and single and still undomesticated, so it must have seemed exotic to them.
When I was looking through the hundreds and hundreds of family shots in my archives, looking for one to post I saw that there was an interesting group, all of family, taken over this past spring and summer. Without exception, they were all taken while visiting my mother in the hospital this spring, and then on the several visits home over the summer to help out. There was a peculiar intensity to all these photos, as though I was in a state of heightened awareness due to my mother's health crisis and was looking at my family as if for the first, or the last, time.
Some of the very best ones were all taken in my mother's hospital room, but I won't show them without her permission. It made me think of that old saying, "Home is where, when you go there, they have to take you in." I would add, "Family are the people who visit you when you are in the Hospital."
Thursday, November 11
on another world. Hugh in the office of his elementary school. I guess the fish are there to soothe and relax the populace.
Tuesday, November 9
A lovely flower with a fun name. And still hanging on in my neighbor Fay's garden, despite the frost. Who'd have thought something so frilly and pink would be so tough?
Sunday, November 7
I went to the most unusual birthday party today. My friend Roz has just turned 50 (that is her up front in customary "dazzling urbanite" black), and to mark the big day her sister rented out an entire movie theatre for a private showing of Roz's favorite movie: "Blazing Saddles"! I had never actually seen this comic masterpiece before, and the whole event was great fun. Popcorn, sodas, paddleballs and cupcakes and we didn't need no stinkin' tickets. Happy Birthday Roz!
Friday, November 5
on Hawk Mountain. We went up there today and enjoyed the blasting gusts of wind and the quickly changing light patterns on the countryside all around. The air was clear and you could see for miles! Unfortunately, the high winds also literally blew most of the migratory hawks off course, so we saw only a handful. But the boys had a wonderful time being mountain goats and Paul and I enjoyed the refreshing views. (In case those who read my last post in which I broke my camera were wondering, I borrowed Paul's for the day!)
Tuesday, November 2
This may be one of my last posts for a while as I broke my camera a few days ago. I was holding it by its strap, uncharacteristically, and as I walked it swung gently and tapped into a dresser, just at the right point of contact to crack off several crucial components! The plastic looked almost rotted away, if that is possible. Time for a new one anyway, but who has the time for research and comparison shopping?
Friday, October 29
This is part of a still-life set up I am currently working on in my studio. I took the photo of the nasturtiums in case they fade before I can finish. The nice part of still-life painting though is that for the most part your "subjects" sit there patiently waiting for you whenever you are ready and never move even a fraction of an inch. It is like that song by the Talking Heads, "Heaven, heaven is a place, a place where nothing, nothing ever happens." That is, unless Henry has made a studio raid. He knows that many a tempting treat is in there and he is ever alert to the unlocked door and the unguarded moment. Nonetheless, I think of still life painting as the eye of the storm that is my life.
Thursday, October 28
These were advertising an after-school architecture club at the High School where I was taking an adult ed night school class in HTML for website design. I liked the inspirational exhortative quality of them. The orange sign was for a school election, not as interesting except for the color.
Wednesday, October 27
towards my least favorite holiday of the year: Halloween. I am revealing my true grinchiness here. I dislike almost everything about it: the hype, the gore, the enforced "almsgiving" of sugar products, kids running around in the street in the dark, and I don't care much about costumes either. I really hate that it becomes in effect a school holiday with parade and party and pressure on parents to help with these activities. Things I do enjoy are watching the boys create their own costumes (they have to with a Grinchy-Mom like me), and watching them do the traditional candy "gloat and trade" when they get home, rumpled and red-cheeked from excitement and cold . Oh, yes, and I like sneaking SweeTARTS out of their loot later.
Tuesday, October 26
WAITING FOR THE SCHOOLBUS
Peter logs on to his exciting new "Leaf Green" game. For some reason I keep thinking of Petit Ecolier cookies, and how they could update the image. Instead of a little boy wearing a voluminous cape and carrying a basket, the contemporary American version would show a little boy wearing an enormous back pack and carrying a gameboy.
Monday, October 25
Somebody once sent us a beautiful fruit basket, piled high with luscious tissue wrapped fruit interpersed with foil wrapped goodies. That gourmet largesse is long gone, but the basket lives on. We eat a lot of fruit in this house due to Paul's "Fruit First!" policy. Whenever one of the kids asks for some ice-cream or cookies Paul says they can have it if they first eat a piece of fruit. Due to this system most ice-cream turns into sticky hoarfrosted sludge waiting in our freezer, while the fruit basket needs replenishing two or three times a week. Handy for those sudden urges to do still-life painting too!
Sunday, October 24
PRINCESS COOL WHIP
My cousins the Wilburns came to the USArtists show yesterday. It was a real treat to see them. I'd last seen Opal about three years ago, and in the way of all children she was a different person back then. Now a sophisticated eight-year-old she improvised a performance piece in front of the Fifteen Exposures show using only an empty cool-whip tub which she had scavenged somewhere and a limited array of javanese dance hand positions. Her audience was dumbfounded.
Friday, October 22
of appreciation from the Tooth Fairy. She had come four times to Hugh's pillow in two weeks, and I guess she felt this level of tooth productivity deserved a letter of commendation.
Thursday, October 21
Paul got his new commuting jacket from a company called "Alert Shirt". Aptly named. And I am grateful that such products exist, especially when he rides his bike to work on a grey rainy day. He has refused to go for the little orange flag on the pole, so I guess this is the next best thing.
Sunday, October 17
A terrible bad cold has been working its way through the family. We all went down, like dominoes in slow motion, so were in different stages of coldiness at the same time. I thought Hugh had escaped with just a slight cough, somewhere in the middle of the plague's progress through the ranks, but it turns out that must have been something else. Now he is last man down (I hope). Nothing like a nap on the sofa, just inches away from Mom as she slaves over a hot keyboard (I've been working on my website all weekend).
Saturday, October 16
Not sure why, but I have been on a non-fiction jag lately. I really enjoyed all three of these books:
"Among the Bohemians" by Virginia Nicholson
"Fairfield Porter: A Catalogue Raisonne" by Joan Ludman (mostly pictures and blurbs and a great essay by Rackstraw Downes)
"Piano Lessons" by Noah Adams
"The Wisdom of Crowds" by James Surowiecki is something I'm currently reading (it is so good that I am taking notes as though there is going to be test at the end or something-duh!) and dipping into
"Salt: A World History" by Michael Kuriansky (The cover really intrigued me).
Friday, October 15
I went to see the Bo Bartlett show at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. I was surprised to see students copying the pieces for a class assignment. Somehow that seemed to my mind to be an honor accorded only to old, dead masters, and this artist is relatively young and definitely alive. But why not?
It was an odd day. I was actually at the Academy to be interviewed by a journalist about my own show at the Academy, a more modest affair of eight pieces and a pinned up statement, in the school library. We'd had a fun interview and she then invited me to join her in visiting the Bartlett show. So we went, and it certainly was impressive! I tried not to make the very obvious comparisons between my own little fledgling Academy show, and this major Blockbuster retrospective, but I did keep thinking "Oh, man." One of my painter friends had been talking about the show before I had seen it saying,"Bo is like the 800 pound Gorilla of contemporary realist painting. You see the work and say "I surrender"". Or else, "Please pass the bananas"!
Thursday, October 14
That is the first word out of everyone's mouth when I show them this photo. I took it yesterday at the Reading Terminal Market, where I met a couple of artist friends for breakfast. (Whenever I go into the Reading Terminal I feel like I am entering a game of Monopoly!) No, we did not actually eat candy apples first thing in the morning.
Tuesday, October 12
As beautiful as a dream, and yet they were, fleetingly, right here in front of my house.
Monday, October 11
I have to admit I felt a little lonely this day. And I think the picture looks lonely too. I'd walked Hen over to our local playground. Mostly younger Moms congregate there, with their toddlers and kindergartners. I'm sure to them, Henry must look like a Goliath; at ten years old he stands well over 60 inches high, and has a husky build to boot. I think they know something is "off" too, and this makes some of them suspicious and nervous. What they don't know of course is that Hen is the proverbial "gentle giant", and that their three year old could run mental rings around him and probably take away his candy too! This day when we went over to the swings I noticed a couple of the mothers shooing their kids away and making them play elsewhere. I tried to make eye contact and smile reassuringly but they just wouldn't comply, so by the unspoken rules of human social behavior I couldn't start talking to them and go into my "Henry is just autistic" spiel. Sigh. We had a little swing and then went home.
Saturday, October 9
A VERY OPEN STUDIO
A friend invited me to do the Philadelphia Open Studios Tour, using an empty space in her studio building. I agreed blithely, thinking mainly that it would be a good opportunity to spend some time with this friend. The reality is that I now have to haul all my paintings etc. and even tables and chairs and all paraphenalia (of which there is a surprising amount necessary) into this bare space, set it all up and then haul it all away again! For two days of showing. Argh! Never again.
On the other hand, maybe I will actually get to spend some time with this friend, and maybe I'll make some contacts. And it was very nice of the landlords to even lend the space! So I am being a bit of a surly dog to complain.
Here is the info if you wanted to come cheer me up in my "cell":
PHILADELPHIA OPEN STUDIOS TOUR (POST)
October 9th and 10th
The Mills at East Falls
3502 Scotts Lane
Philadelphia PA 19129
Friday, October 8
DAISY AND HER DOLL
Actually, it is Hughie's little toy kitten, bought on a trip to Chinatown. Daisy occasionally shows interest in it, but probably just because of the rabbit fur from which it is made. We sometimes like to pretend it is her kitten, but her tolerant glance says it all: "Sure, go ahead. Have your fun!"
Thursday, October 7
I was at the Wayne Art Center and saw that they have a magnificent example of what I know as a Citron Tree. However, I am not entirely sure that is what it is. An old neighbor of mine had one in his front yard, and he called it a citron. Who knows? Anyway, it is a beautiful thing, and the velvety textured fruits (citrons?) have an incredible fragrance. Once I needed some objects to balance a composition in a painting, and I ran across the street and picked up a handful of these little things off the sidewalk, and painted them. I wanted something bright and spherical, like a lemon, but not as large. These were perfect. And their refreshing odor was a nice addition to the sharp cacophony of smells in my studio.
Tuesday, October 5
but beautiful. I grew at least three different varieties of nasturtiums in my garden this summer. Kind of a Lazy gardener's trick: just push a seed into the ground and walk away, and a few months later you have mounds of elegant foliage and splashes of intense color. My friend Jan calls them "Lily pads for aphids", and she is right, but if you grow enough of them it doesn't much matter. Nasturtiums are also one of the only flowers I love that Henry will not eat. He has eaten or otherwise mangled my daisies, peonies, and rudbeckia. But, despite their being very edible, he does not seem to notice the nasturtiums. There is safety in being ordinary!
Sunday, October 3
I wonder if this is the only birthday cake ever decorated with a picture of the Titanic? Hugh was taken by a friend to the Franklin Institute last week where they did the whole Titanic exhibit/experience. It made a huge impression on him and along with requesting books on the subject and a model, he asked if I could put the Titanic on his birthday cake. I did my best, despite my personal feelings of horror. I feel so anguished by the whole story of the Titanic, that I was never able to even watch the movie. However, in our house,on your birthday, you get whatever you want on your cake! No iceberg though.
Friday, October 1
is everything when you are playing three-man baseball. This was taken just a few weeks ago: one of the last moments of summer. Today we woke up and it was suddenly Autumn: long pants and sweaters had to be rummaged for, and I suddenly was made aware of our dearth of cozy slippers. Just a few weeks previously bare feet and swim suits were the costume of choice! The season's continual whirl seems to me to be speeding up. But I think it is really just my perception that has changed.
Thursday, September 30
really show up on the carpet, thank goodness. This was at my friend Elisa's house whose children are younger than mine. You have to really watch out when your children get to the Lego stage. Little bits of Lego are cleverly camouflaged by any patterned carpet and: ouch! They are agonizingly sharp. Somehow I never expected "The Pain of Parenthood" to include laceration by small plastic building blocks.
Wednesday, September 29
One of my friends from college came into town last weekend, for a surprise baby shower for another college friend who lives nearby. She brought her seven year old daughter and we all had a great time visiting. It is always a treat for me to have a little girl in the house. I got to bring my box of Barbies up from the basement and had fun helping manouver Barbie into teeny little sweaters and impossibly high heels. One morning we walked into town to visit the famous French bakery, and I just had to take this shot.
Tuesday, September 28
I started the day with breakfast at Bob's Diner. I definitely feel shy about hauling out my big old Olympus D-620L in a public place. But I find eating places so appealing, visually and thematically, that I did it anyway. By chance I was re-reading bits of the book Ellen Foster as I waited for a friend to show up and join me, and I came upon this great passage. The little girl, Ellen, says:
"I know that ten years from now I will be a member of the food industry. Or I might read or do art. I have seen many pictures drawed or painted of food. They always appeal to me."
I'm with you Ellen.
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