Generations of Artists

The first *real* artist I met was my nana. She was a quilter. She was also a nurse, wife, mother, grandmother and great grandmother. But she earned a reputation for her quilting, one that I was aware of even as a child. I think I have a memory of visiting a fabric store with her as she gathered supplies for a quilting contest celebrating Grand Lake St. Mary’s, but it’s possible I’m remembering a different time. I’m pretty sure I can also picture us visiting where her winning quilt was on display, but again, I unfortunately can’t be sure if what I have is a true recollection.

What I do have are several of her quilts and wall hangings. We just returned from our first visit to Pittsburgh since we Moved Across The Country, and I brought back the very first quilt my nana made for me.

(Cat not included. Since we returned home, she is practically attached to my hip and wasn’t interested in my attempts to capture the quilt for posterity sans feline.)

This quilt was completed in 1981. I know that because my nana always signed her work. Avi would probably tell you that’s what made her an artist.

Two observations: this was clearly done before I was calling her “nana”, and I recognized her “handwriting” in the embroidery. Wow.

While we were in Pittsburgh, I also got to make some great art with my four year old niece. We did some simple printmaking together and I watched her draw. She is extraordinary. Her understanding of spatial relationships and composition and expression is years and years ahead of most children her age. I am consistently astounded by what she is capable of, and this is me as a parent and former art teacher saying that.

I know a lot of *real* artists now. Masters of media of all types. Sometimes I even play that role myself. It’s such a part of my life that I often take it for granted. It was nurtured in me by family and teachers…it is who I am, no matter what I do.

And I would be honored to be a link between the artist my nana was and the artist my niece may become.

Bee

I saw the School of Drama‘s production of “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” last night. It’s open through this weekend, so there is still time for you to get tickets. And you should.

It’s hilarious and sweet and very William Finn (which I believe is a great thing since “Falsettos” is probably my favorite musical ever).

It’s also at the New Hazlett Theater instead of the Chosky on campus. I just think that was an incredible opportunity for the students to have almost a mini-tour experience, moving from Purnell for rehearsal and build to the Hazlett for load-in and tech and the show… Last night they did a talk-back with the audience, and I asked them to speak a little bit about how the production process was affected because of the move. I was hoping they’d say what they did –  that it felt more “professional”, that it changed their perception greatly, that it presented new challenges and new rewards.

Next season, Drama is doing a number of shows that caught my interest – including “Sweeney Todd”, “Master Harold… and the Boys” and “Hair”. It’s taken ten years (since I was a student there myself), but it’s high time I actually subscribe, don’t you think? I’ll be doing the Tuesday-evening series (once it’s officially officially announced and available for purchase) since they benefit Showcase and (usually) include a talk-back.

Let me know if you want to come too.

Patron

In the next month, I’m seeing more live theater than when I worked full time for a theater company. And though I know a number of people who worked on the shows of course, I am also pleased (really?!) to say that I had no hand in any of them myself.

I’m totally stoked to see “Hair” at Heinz Hall, part of the PNC Broadway Across America series. I’m actually looking forward to “Camelot” of all things at Pittsburgh Public Theater. And I’m probably most excited to see “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee“, a Carnegie Mellon School of Drama production at the New Hazlett Theater. (We’re hosting an alumni event on February 22, so get your tickets for that evening! It’s also a Showcase benefit night!)

Anyway.

I got an email today from some folks producing Madagascar Live!, which is in Pittsburgh this weekend at the Benedum. I feel a little bad – Super Bowl weekend is a heckuva time to bring a children’s show to this town – and I’m sure it’s a cute production. Avi hasn’t seen the movie, and I’ve only seen bits and pieces, or we would have possibly had the show more on our radar to begin with. As it turns out, not only do I have a huge event Friday night, I have an even huger program on Saturday. Coupled with my trip to LA last weekend and our regular activities (soccer game and hockey practice) this weekend, and well…chances are slim we’d make the show even without football distractions.

But that doesn’t mean you should miss it. Perhaps you’re better at this work/life balance thing than I am recently, hmm?

I’m obviously a ridiculously passionate advocate for children being exposed to theater early and often. Sure, Avi had a magically awesome experience at “Mary Poppins” in January, but this has been my soap box for years. Growing Theater, anyone?

So while I can’t personally vouch for “Madagascar Live!”, if you’ve got kids in your house and time in your schedule, this is probably a great opportunity to introduce them to (or reinforce their burgeoning love for) live theater. I bet great seats are available, particularly on Sunday (there’s both a matinee and an evening performance). And you can’t really beat buy one, get one free, right?

Disclaimer: the “Madagascar Live!” folks offered me free tickets when they provided this information to share with all of you. As I said above, I’m totally overbooked so we won’t be using them, but I thought you all should know. Cheers.

Reasonable Expectations

Avi loves school. And I love that Avi loves school. But I do not always love Avi’s school. More specifically, I do not love the lack of communication from Avi’s school about things that I feel are pretty obviously important and worth sharing with, oh I don’t know, his parents.

So far this year, we weren’t told that he’d taken a bite of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich at lunch (he’s allergic), that his school pictures came back with someone else’s picture inside (so he still hasn’t gotten his), and then this past Saturday, that he’s apparently been leaving his regular classroom once a week with a couple other kids from kindergarten for gifted class. In all three instances, guess how we found out? Thank goodness he’s a chatterbox.

In the case of the gifted classes, don’t get me wrong – I am absolutely thrilled he is getting the extra enrichment. He is reading and writing and drawing all the time at home, and it’s super fun to watch. I am so proud of him. I think it’s great that he doesn’t seem bored to bring home yet another homework worksheet “introducing” a letter he already knows. I want to keep this love of learning going for as long as possible.

The way we found out? He was talking about his soccer game against the purple team, and the fact that another little girl from the purple team goes with him to the gifted class. Of course he didn’t say “gifted class”, he said the teacher’s name. I had to look her up in the directory, which prompted a whole line of other questions. He described the special class as “sort of like art and science together”, which is awesome.

So what do I do now? I don’t want to make waves, but I do want to get the full story as soon as possible after the holidays. A friend of mine reminded me that I shouldn’t view myself as a nuisance or a pain, and I don’t. But I don’t want to make this any more frustrating and annoying than it already is.

The ironic postscript to the whole story is that this morning there was a two hour delay, and we got a 5:40am automated phone call from the district letting us know. Thanks, guys. I got the text alert. I saw it on Twitter. It was in my email box. I could have looked it up on any number of web sites. I’m sure it was on tv. And if I wanted to, I could have listened to it on the radio just like old times.

My friend Danielle summed up this little scenario nicely:

Anarchy in the LR

My poor little MacBook has taken its share of physical and verbal abuses lately. The keyboard case is cracked again. The battery won’t hold a charge and needs to be replaced. This took me at least two weeks to figure out, since I thought at first it was just that I had tried to used the fancy MacBook Pro charger and my little MacBook was rebelling. Turns out 600+ cycles is more than reasonable for a single battery. Just need to suck it up and get a new one.

As you might expect, this has had a negative impact on my evening computer consumption. I’ve been lucky enough to leave my work laptop at work (novel concept) much of the time recently, since I’ve basically been on campus for a month. Total laziness gets in the way of me getting out the MacBook when I get home – you know, since I have to deal with CORDS and PLUGS and OMG THIS COMPUTER ISN’T PORTABLE ANYMORE. (My life, it is tough.)

The ultimate indignity came yesterday afternoon, when I was doing a little guest lecture spot for David‘s Studiocraft II class. I accidentally grabbed the MacBook Pro monitor connector (so I could connect to the projector) instead of the connector for my MacBook. When we called the CCon for assistance (and the correct connector), he told me my three and a half year old machine was too old. I was totally shamed. All you college seniors who bought your laptops in 2007, I hope you don’t ever need to do a presentation on campus.

When I came downstairs this morning, I found this:

Might not seem like much in the way of chaos, but look closer: toybox (read: computer storage box) left open, boxes removed, contents rifled, cords pulled out, lamp askew. Okay, maybe the lamp is an outlier. But clearly, I know what happened here.

Someone was looking for the MacBook Pro monitor connector.

Oops.

Angeles

I love this song. I love the whole album. And I’m listening to it right now as I become a grown up. Again.

No. Not like that.

Like this.

I already bought my first new car six years ago (holy cow!) and I already have a kid born five years ago (omg!!) but I have never purchased a brand new vacuum cleaner. Until now. I’m such an adult.

Living on the edge.

(Ugh, sorry. Terrible song. Back to Mr. Smith.)

Last Days

Today is my last day at my (old) job, and Avi’s last day as a preschooler.

In a week and a half, I start my new position as Assistant Director of On-Campus Programs and in two and a half months he starts his new school year as a kindergartner.

I hope that, given the unique circumstances, you’ll grant me the luxury of reminiscing for a bit.

***

Five years ago I was very pregnant, very sweaty and very tired. I was still teaching art full time and working on the visual and performing arts curriculum for the coming school year. Avi was born July 25, 2005. I left my position at the beginning of September, when it became clear to me that I wasn’t ready to be a mom and anything else, much less a teacher of other people’s children. Then we took Avi to the beach for the first time.

Four years ago I was settling in at my new job, after doing freelance illustration and design work for the first nine months of Avi’s life. He was walking hesitantly and we were no doubt still unpacking from our move to Forest Hills. He could sign about a hundred words – quite the precursor for what was to come verbally.

Three years ago I had just received approval from the State Board of Education for my first round of continuing education classes for teachers. I felt like Kind of a Big Deal. I wasn’t. I also started another degree program that summer – pretty sure at this point in 2007 I was a month into Economics, as well as a month into my new MacBook. We were getting ready to go to Albany to see my brother and sister-in-law. We drove through the night because we thought it would be better for Avi. We were wrong.  A month later he rode on an airplane for the first and only time when we visited D’s sister and brother-in-law in Austin, Texas.

Two years ago I was bittersweetly wrapping things up at the museum, still in denial that my grant was up at the end of summer. D got me that necklace for my birthday from the Three Rivers Arts Festival. Avi was heading to preschool in the fall, though in June we still thought he was going to a little place near our new house in Highland Park. He ended up at the JCC after the little place had low enrollment. We went to the beach in September, since I was out of work for a month.

Last year I was in this job that ends today. I was finishing up my MPM and planning to drive to Colorado for my best friend’s wedding on Avi’s 4th birthday. We successfully got him into the PPS magnet school near our house for his last year of preschool, and he went to his very first summer camps.

***

Today.

Today is my last day at my (old) job, and Avi’s last day as a preschooler. We’re going to the beach in August.

Some things change, some things stay the same.