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
Friday, December 30
In my studio. I have been painting a lot of candy, and I am not sure how this little gum machine troll came to be in the mix. I suspect there were some children poking around, leaving evidence!
Wednesday, December 28
Well, it was quite a Christmas this year. Both H and Daisy our cat started getting sick on Christmas Eve. Kind of sick, where you'd reasonably wait and see what develops, hoping it will just go away. But it didn't. Both H and Daisy were worse the next day, much worse. Halfway through Christmas dinner I found myself abandoning guests and family and driving off through the cold rainy night to the emergency room of the only animal hospital open on Christmas. I had gotten up from the main course, intending to start making coffee, but one look at Daisy convinced me that she was about to die if I didn't take care of it right away.
Which, it turns out, was a fairly accurate assessment of the situation. As the strangely perky ER vet put it "Well, she MIGHT have made it through the night. Possibly. But then she'd certainly have gone blind and probably had liver damage too! So, good thing you brought her in when you did!" Yep, good thing. I must say that the emergency room of a large city animal hospital on Christmas night is an interesting place to be. All types of people there, and all types of pets, most of which seemed to have ingested things they shouldn't have: from turkey bones to ribbon to rat poison. Quite a little cultural cross-section.
Got home pretty late Christmas night and then first thing the next morning saw me driving H off to his pediatrician, where he was diagnosed with strep throat. Poor little guy. Must say he was quite a trouper about it. And thrilled to get the sickness perks of extra screens (computer/dvd/gamecube etc) time and unlimited chocolate milkshakes!
I had to leave Daisy in the hospital for a few days, though, and just brought her home yesterday afternoon, all shaved and bandaged where the various i.v. lines had kept her alive. All in all, I feel pretty much in sympathy with the way my poor Daisy looks: glad to be here, but bloodied and a little bowed, too.
Wednesday, December 21
Just to show how lazy I am, here is our holiday "gingerbread house", made of snap-together plastic foam! Despite being an (occasionally) enthusiastic baker, I have never attempted to make a gingerbread house. It is just one project that lacks all appeal for me (sound the Grinch Alert), seeming both tedious in the process and precarious in the finished product. I don't at all feel negative about other people's gingerbread house projects. In fact, I applaud the creative energy and initiative of all gingerbread architects everywhere! Friends, please invite me over to ooh and aah in the presence of your culinary masterwork, which I will do with all sincerity, tinged with relief that it was you and not me who put the thing together.
Anyway, Henry just adores this little house, so much so that he recently adored it to death! I've been finding pieces of it around for days as it slowly came apart due to over-use, or misuse. He was entranced not by the house's holiday whimsy, I think, but by the corrugated texture of the faux gingersnap roofing and siding. That plus the springiness of the foam made it a big sensory hit. What was priceless about this cheap little trinket was the intense pleasure and interest Henry took in it. (While it lasted.)
Monday, December 19
Saw this tableaux in a chic area of New York recently. The image was loaded with so much obvious "message" that I almost didn't take the shot. But then I just couldn't help myself!
Sunday, December 18
A sharp knife on a cutting board. Went to my friend Nancy T's house today and she had been baking (and slicing) biscotti: a Christmas tradition in her house. (As Nancy said, "You do something twice and bingo, you've got a tradition on your hands!")
Friday, December 16
The most prized find of a recent excursion into the countryside. Found by H's friend C, a budding geologist perhaps. It is a funny thing, this thinking about "what I'm going to be when I grow up!" Oldest boy, P, at 11 nearly 12 years old, has already progressed past the "I wanna be a professional soccer player and an astronaut!" phase, and is considering software designer or medical researcher. But H, and his friend C, in the 8-9 year old area, are still hovering on the edges of the Fantasy Career arena, with Egyptologist and Children's Book Illustrator jockeying with Pirate and Ghost Hunter. Still, some people DO get those fantasy careers (well, maybe not pirate or ghost hunter...) so I don't want to be discouraging. It is very endearing really.
And having one non-verbal low-functioning autistic kid in the pack definitely puts these things in perspective. We actually WISH Henry was high-functioning enough to someday get a job bagging groceries at the supermarket! But, looks like that is as distant a dream as P someday being an astronaut/soccer star. It could happen, I suppose, but not very likely. Right now Henry's team is enthusiastically preparing him for a career in sorting plastic cutlery (something he is very good at). So maybe I'll just dream for him: that he'll be the first astronaut/cutlery sorter to explore the Rings of Saturn!
Thursday, December 15
This is from only an hour ago: this week's "big"shopping. This will later on be supplemented by several "small" shoppings and even a WaWa run or two (our local convenience store where we buy milk and newspapers mainly.) The "big" shopping takes about an hour, maybe a little more, then a good twenty minutes or more to carry it in from the car and put it all away. The modern equivalent of hunting/gathering I guess. I always feel exhausted afterwards, probably from the constant barrage of sensory input and decision-making, and only wish it burned as many calories as it feels like it does. But it doesn't. Sigh.
One good thing about this season of shopping frenzy is that more people carry shopping lists, and carelessly drop them around where I can find them. Here is a confession: I am a mole for GroceryLists.org. Don't leave your grocery list where I can find it (best place, right in the shopping cart!) if you don't want it to appear on-line someday.
Monday, December 12
finish on these violas in progress. My neighbor is an instrument maker and it is always a pleasure to be invited into his studio.
Saturday, December 10
This angel, or symbol of faith or something or other, lifts the heavy lid of mortality, maybe, allowing the soul, or something akin to that essence, to fly free. I think. It is all too deep for me. Pretty though! Taken at Laurel Hill Cemetery.
Friday, December 9
What a joy... for the boys. They actually arose before 6 am and went on the computer to find out if school was canceled or not: it was! Oh frabjous day! Meanwhile, Mom gets the double whammy of being woken up an hour and a half earlier than usual and finding out all her progeny will be home...all day long. Not quite so much frabjous day for me.
I decided (grumpily) to surrender to the inevitable, said yes to all requests and ended up serving lunch (prepared by Paul before he left for work) to six boys...lots of their friends came by. We do have an excellent yard for snow battles: lots of pine trees and good ambushing places. And as I once overheard P bragging to a friend "My Mom make hot cocoa from scratch, NOT from a mix!" Apparently quite a distinction. I am no Domestic Goddess but that is one thing I guess I do right.
Anyway, we all survived the snow day just fine, despite my having neglected to buy new boots for the boys (well, I did tell you about not being a domestic goddess, right?) Somehow, I had managed to keep up with new hats, coats, gloves and even neck-warmers while completely neglecting the all-important footwear issue. Details, details!
Thursday, December 8
This is a detail from a larger painting called "Green Jar" by artist Bettina Clowney. Today was the last day of her exhibit at the Villanova University art gallery. I had missed the opening reception and I find it is often very hard to get to an exhibit unless I make it to the opening. Anyway, this morning I happened to glance again at the invitation card hanging on my fridge and realized that today was the LAST DAY of the show! I pretty much dropped everything and went right away. The show was simply beautiful and amazing. I had seen this piece of art before, a few years ago. And when I saw this figure again it was like remembering a fragment of a dream.
Wednesday, December 7
I took this about a month and a half ago, on one of those golden days in late October, just before it all starts going brown. Henry has been very resistant to nature walks of late, but somehow this one was a success all around. We didn't run into any dogs or horses (which terrify him, and being autistic, it is a degree of terror way beyond your average child's nervousness or anxiety) and the worst thing to happen was a very distant aural encounter with a chain saw (noises like that seem to actually hurt him), but it was pretty far away and not prolonged. The other boys too, had begun the walk with somewhat bad attitudes (them:"Do we HAVE to?"us: "YES!") but ended up becoming totally engrossed and enthusiastic. Often the way it happens, once you get out into it. Nature, I mean.
Tuesday, December 6
No me, me, me, me...! I think this marketing ploy backfired because of sensory overload. At least it backfired with me. All I could do was stand transfixed and slack-jawed before the display, snap a surreptitious shot, and scurry away as fast as I could go. Taking consumerism to "Alice in Wonderland" heights (remember the "eat me" and "drink me" labels?)
Saturday, December 3
When I showed this shot to P, the oldest boy in our house, he said that it reminded him of a big brother (the L stone) protecting his little brother (the blank stone.) H, a little brother, didn't think much of this theory and asserted loudly "It's just two rocks!"
Friday, December 2
A TOY TRAIN
on its paper track
sun pours in.
This shot was an experiment on two counts. One, this was the first time I approached a complete stranger and said, "Can I take your picture?" Or, I guess, the question was really, "Can I take a picture of your shoes and stockings" ! But they were so fabulous, and it was at a gallery opening where the mood was festive, and the stranger seemed friendly and approachable. And she WAS very friendly and approachable, charming even, and she turned out to be the writer Michelle Herman. So, that was a lot of fun!
The second experiment was processing it in Photo-Shop where I used a few filters I had never tried before, the main one being "Brushstrokes: accented edges" I think. Oops, now I don't really remember! I had fun fooling around but unlike a good scientist I didn't keep very accurate data I am afraid. Anyway, I like how it turned out, and especially the contrast between the flamboyant feet in the foreground and the more conservatively shod feet in the backgrund.
Tuesday, November 29
season is here at last! Like many people I am partial to the cute little boxes they come in and always save them for months before (once again) coming to the conclusion that they are fairly useless for anything but firewood. Oh well! In the finest tradition I have already started my yearly stockpiling.
Sunday, November 27
It was a very happy holiday for me as my parents (pictured, freezing cold but being good sports) and brother James and his family trekked down from CT to be with us. I really enjoyed preparing the feast and being the hostess for the first time in donkey's years. I had the slightly odd feeling that I was channeling my talented mother-in-law as I whirled from stove to table in a more efficient manner than usual, and for once I even remembered to light the dinner table candles (my usual recurring hostess error)!
Saturday, November 26
DUCKS IN A ROW
on my studio windowsill. How many of something do you have to have before it is a Collection (with a capital C)? I seem to have a little rubber ducky collection (with a lower case c) at least.
Wednesday, November 23
leap behind H from the biggest bonfire I have ever seen. The farm we belong to (a community supported agriculture scheme) had a big thank you bonfire and potluck for its members. It was great. The bonfire itself seemed a small mountain of brush, but it was amazing how quickly it died down. Then the kids toasted marshmallows and ran around waving burning brands like a troop of savages. They were in heaven. By then it was night and as I looked around the flame and lantern-lit faces I got the sense of what it would have felt like aeons ago, if this was my whole tribe celebrating some ancient festival. Then I had the realization that in some way this WAS my tribe celebrating some contemporary festival. Hmmm. Now if only I knew everyone's names!
Monday, November 21
I happened to be standing in my friend Pat's house, camera in hand, when her cat decided he wanted to come in. This is how he lets them know. Maybe this is how the term "peeping Tom" came into being?
Sunday, November 20
TRANSITION TO WINTER
is visible in this shot I took yesterday morning of frosted leaves. We had a hard, killing frost, but then the sun came out in full glory and warmed everything up again. I took this photograph at about 8 in the morning in Laurel Hill Cemetery, where the Philadelphia Area PhotoBloggers met up for a communal shooting spree. It was the first such event I have managed to attend, and it was a little surreal. I pulled in to the frosted, dead quiet cemetery lit dramatically by the rising sun and found the group wandering in ones and twos among the graves. It was very very still and quiet except for the occasional click of a shutter.
Friday, November 18
It is the many small imperfections in the stone which which make this baby buddha all the more appealing.
Last night was the opening reception for my friend Alex Tyng's show at Fischbach Gallery in New York. Drove in with a bunch of other people to cheer her on. It was a great night, the reception was really fun and as we left the gallery on our way to dinner we passed this oddly compelling banner by artist Patrick Mimram. "Art For All, Dharma for One." Do I know what it means? Not really. But I made Alex pose in front of it. Oh, the incredible good-natured patience of my friends!
Thursday, November 17
of Lego pieces. Really very attractive in an abstract way. Then made into Super Death Blaster ships by the boys. Less appealing to me then, personally. I remember I loved to make Lego houses when I was a kid, complete with little Lego families (using simple rectangular pieces onto which I imagined faces and characters.) But my brothers would often demolish my little villages to make their Lego tanks and aircraft. There is nothing new under the sun!
Wednesday, November 16
in action. Sometimes you just need a starting point. We had relatives visiting, a family with both artists and engineers in it, and I was not really very surprised to see that little cousin R here took to our Tinker Toys like a pro. Instant tinkering. Instant deep absorption.
Tuesday, November 15
I had a great photo shoot in my friend Pat Fiorella's chicken coop a few weeks ago. The only thing is, I ended up with hundreds of dim and blurry photos of chicken-like shapes. Those guys are flighty and fast, and the lighting was so low. Pat and her daughter Sondra were a little easier to capture as they filled a box of eggs for me. This looks like a really fun chore, more of a treasure hunt!
Monday, November 14
Titanium oxide white, my new favorite color. Or non-color. I am suddenly so, so tired of color.
Sunday, November 13
I keep this little rubber Kewpie Doll, a relic of my childhood, hanging around in my studio. I guess she is a sort of talisman. Occasionally I hear her voice a little louder than the other things in the crowded studio, and I include her in whatever I happen to be painting. Looking at this macro shot I just took, I see that I need to dust her, the poor little thing. Maybe that's why I haven't heard her voice much lately.
Saturday, November 12
CURIOUS LITTLE OWL
in my neighbor's yard the other day. Hiroshi came over and told me to come quick and bring my camera, so I did. His eagle eye had somehow noticed this tiny, well-camouflaged owl sitting motionless in a dense tree next to his house. I am still not sure how he did it, but he is very aware of wild birds, has various feeders out and binoculars etc. Still, very impressive. We identified it from a Stokes Field Guide as being a Saw-Whet Owl, and according to those experts "Not easily discovered, because it is strictly nocturnal and roosts during the day in dense conifers." Not this one!
Friday, November 11
by years of sea and salt. Found by my nieces and treasured like a rare jewel.
Monday, November 7
and loving it. A dancer at the Renaissance Faire last month, where the crowd went wild for a band from Germany, Corvus Corax. Henry loved them too. I think a lot of people had come specifically to see this group but we, of course, stumbled across their path by accident. Hard to describe the music: medieval trance bagpipe? Anyway, it put everyone there into an extremely uplifted state. When the set finished Henry started crying. Must get him CDs for Christmas. But listening to it on our puny little CD player won't be able to recreate the wild, pulsing, almost euphoric atmosphere.
Saturday, November 5
thy name is Henry. Right at this moment anyway. Even as I post the air is filled with Henry's strange cries of despair (an odd cross between growling,whining and shouting, I don't know how he does it.) Fortunately, our neighbors are inured to it and I can hear my neighbor practicing her cello, an interesting accompaniment. He was always such a Buddha of placid contentment that now these periods of anguish are very hard to take. Is he sick? bored? frustrated? pondering a nihilist interpretation of man's place in the universe?
If only he could talk and tell us what the problem is! Hen had a nice day: lots of walks and visits to parks. We even stopped in at the French Bakery, where the sweet girl who works behind the counter recognized us and immediately served us ahead of everyone else waiting in line (to my discomfiture and Henry's delight: No-Wait French Delicacies!) Oh well. I suspect he is not feeling well, but despite enormous effort we have never progressed enough with his language to make this clear. It is very hard for me to read about parents of other autistic kids trying to fine tune their grammar, or complaining about echolalia. Instead, we have wails of blank despair. And, now, posts of verbose despair too!
Friday, November 4
Looking at this tree, lit up by the midday sun, was like watching a bonfire in extremely slow motion. I was so astonished when I saw it driving by that I actually pulled over to the side of the road, so I could gape in safety. Felt like there should have been a few traffic cones in the road with safety signs: AMAZING TREE AHEAD! Slow DOWN! Fines DOUBLED in Tree Watching Zone!"
Thursday, November 3
H and his favorite birthday present. He'd asked for canvas boards, and I also bought him a table easel and paints, which I guess was largesse beyond his wildest imaginings. He was thrilled, commandeered my studio floor and used up all the canvas boards within a couple of days. Need to find a source for buying them in bulk! He nearly missed the school bus this morning, he was so engrossed in a drawing. "Honey, you have two minutes to find your shoes and put on your jacket and catch the bus!" I shrieked, suddenly coming aware of the time and H's shoeless and unready state. Unhurried, he replied, "OK Mom, but first I need to just finish this bit here..." How well I understand and sympathize. The curse of creativity!
STAINED GLASS WINDOW
onto my life. I wish this particular "Jack Sprat" window was not right near the front door of H's school, so that I see it every time I go in. It is all too true! And unpleasant. Off to get a comforting cup of tea. With cream!
Tuesday, November 1
was Hallowe'en, and as many of you know, one of my least favorite holidays. Actually this year wasn't so bad. Maybe because I am distracted by a lot of pressing work deadlines I haven't been focusing on it, and so it came and went pretty painlessly. I did go to H's school costume parade. This little bride, striding along so resolute and anxious, the lone figure in white in a sea of black and gore, struck me as the personification of how I feel about this holiday. (Pure projection, and she was probably thrilled and anxious only to get back to the classroom for the big Halloween party.)
Friday, October 28
This morning I went on an errand to an unfamiliar part of town, and by chance I parked in front of a small row house whose entire (tiny) front garden was dominated by a large stand of these vines. They were definitely not weeds, being planted in orderly rows on tall supports obviously put there for that purpose. I have no idea what they are, but the curling tendrils remind me of the delicate tracery on rose windows in medieval cathedrals. But they can't be all that delicate really, despite their fragile appearance, as this area just got our first frost last night, and they looked fine and healthy.
Thursday, October 27
ice cream cone eating. I hesitated to post this shot because I didn't want anybody to get the wrong idea about how I feed my family. But as soon as I realized the PC train of my thoughts I decided to go ahead: let 'em think what they want!
This is for Theme Thursday's challenge "Food". It was difficult because almost everything in my life, blog and art centers around, or at least includes, food. Hence the blog's name, Genre COOKSHOP (in case you were wondering.)
Wednesday, October 26
END OF SUMMER BLUE
is what I would call the color of this glistening plastic tube, awaiting deflation. It was so chilly today that we all put on sweaters (children) and even jackets (adults) for the first time this autumn season.
Monday, October 24
AN EMBARRASSMENT OF RICHES
It was my turn to go out to the farm a few weeks ago, to pick up the farm shares. They weren't quite ready when I got there and somebody beckoned me, "Come with me. Lets kill a little time." We walked across a few fields and there was the flower garden. "Go ahead and pick a bouquet." I felt almost faint, overwhelmed with joyful possibility, especially when I saw the riot of Tithonia, a flower I love to paint but had not been able to grow this year. The smiling farm helper who'd led me to the flowers suddenly looked as though she had a faint but shimmering halo capping her head. I hesitated only a moment, to make sure I wasn't dreaming, and then plunged right in. My studio is now absolutely crowded with flower paintings.
Friday, October 21
Elizabethan re-enactor. Re-enactress? The little zip-loc baggies she was using were a charming anachronism. Anyway, this was the best I could do for PhotoFriday's challenge: Retro.
Thursday, October 20
In the window of my friend Carla's house.
Wednesday, October 19
We went to the Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire on Sunday. I had heard about it for years, with only mild interest, but one of H's friends is a fanatical devotee and had talked it up to him big time. Suddenly I kept hearing about it, morning noon and night. H is not a loud, in-your-face type of child but he is very quietly persistant when he really wants something. So when a Sunday was suddenly, unusually, freed of other committments (soccer games young and old called on account of soggy fields) I knew this was our chance. We went with dread in our hearts. Well, actually, P and H were full of pleasant anticipation and Henry had no idea what was happening but enjoys car rides. Just Paul and I felt the dread (this thing is both a long drive away and relatively expensive, so if Henry decided he couldn't stand the place we would feel pretty bad!) But, it turned out to be a gamble that paid off: we all had a fabulous time!
There were no dogs or loud mechanical noises at the Faire, Henry's big bugaboos, and there were continuous live concerts of all kinds. He loves music, so he did serial concert attending and eating, while Paul and I traded off taking the other boys to the Maze and the Archery Range and the Sideshow games etc etc. One of my favorite performances, which I got to see twice, was the Gypsy Dancing. And Henry loved it too. I don't think he cared much about the lovely girls, but he adored their very spirited accompaniment of percussionists, who were great in their own right. We also got to experience an amazing heavy metal medieval instrument playing band from Germany called Corvus Corax. Henry made a bee line down into the very heart of the "mosh pit" and stood there swaying blissfully to the reverberations. I guess we need to start dyeing his hair purple and taking him to clubs!
I realize I have gone on at length about this, but it is SO DIFFICULT to find family outings that we can all enjoy (Henry's autism and uncontrollable fears preclude many "normal" activities that other folks take for granted. ) So it feels wonderful each time we discover one more.
Saturday, October 15
We have a lot of Praying Mantises in our garden this year. They seem to have thrived on the unusually dry summer weather. Whenever I hear shrieks of delighted "terror" coming from outside I know that the boys have just spotted another one of the alien looking creatures. Then they come running in begging me to shoot their latest find: with the camera of course!
Wednesday, October 12
Here is a recent mixed media piece by my brother Bruce. He's been working in black & white miniatures lately.
and plenty of them. I am always dazzled and amazed at how glittering and beautiful "junk" is becoming. It seems like it just gets more and more spectacular. If you had never seen anything like one of these iridescent bouncy balls imbedded with strips of holographic glitter wouldn't you think it was a precious jewel beyond all imagining? And yet they are 2 for $1 at the local "dime" store.
Thursday, October 6
The bees were very busy the other day in my neighbor Fay's cosmos patch. Makes me wonder what cosmos honey tastes like?
Tuesday, October 4
Not as elaborately decorated as usual, it is amazing that this cake ever got baked. Yesterday was not only H's ninth birthday, but our friends from Scotland were ending their two week visit, trying to fit in a few more activities and then pack and catch their plane. So I had to wrap presents, bake a cake and supervise after-school kid stuff (arrivals, reports of the day, snacks, homework etc) while juggling a five month old baby! I thought longingly of Sara Lee as I measured and sifted while singing nursery rhymes and wiping up baby spit. The cake tasted especially good though. Baby drool, the magic ingredient!
Friday, September 30
PLAYGROUND IN DARKNESS
You can see the top of Henry's head as he looks back to the mother ship. That is what it feels like sometimes: that somehow all of Henry's inexplicable behaviors and so-called deficiencies would make perfect sense, be absolutely logical and right, in another environment. Like if we could only find the right planet!
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