Friday, June 16, 2017

Things not to put "right up in there"

I found this pretty yellow evening primrose growing on the Appalachian Trail and it reminded me of something I haven't really thought about in a couple of years:
People behave differently with pregnant women.
They say things they would NEVER say to non-pregnant women.
The more visibly pregnant a woman is, the weirder it gets, too.
Both my kids were two weeks late, and I looked like an exaggerated cartoon version of a pregnant woman, so every time I left the house I knew I was opening myself up to some "interesting encounters."
Let me preface this next part by saying: 
I know they meant well.
and also
I am not any kind of an authority on any subject.
I'm just a sciency flower nerd armed with a field guide and Google, 
so you go ahead and do what you want.
So, anyway, here is my advice to pregnant women:
Please ignore all the advice regarding stuff to put in your hoo-ha.
I don't know how many times I had this conversation
(sometimes with strangers and sometimes acquaintances)
When are you due?
-Sometime last week.
Have you tried x, y, z methods of inducing labor? Also, you should try evening primrose oil- just put it right up in there and you'll go into labor in hours!
(Also, I should note that I live in an are where selling essential oils is super popular, so this may not be an issue you don't live in an area where everyone and their sister is selling essential oils.)

This is what evening primrose looks like:
and you should definitely NOT put it in your va-jay-jay.
Despite mountains of purely anecdotal evidence, scientific studies have never been able to prove even marginal efficacy.

 However, there have been crap tons of side effects in participants of those unsuccessful studies:

"Evening primrose oil may also cause abdominal pain, acidity, acne, altered immune system function, anxiety, belching, bloating, cellulitis (skin infection), colic, constipation, cough, cramping, crying, decreased or increased duration of childbirth, depression, diarrhea, difficulty swallowing, dizziness, dryness of mucous membranes, eczema, fullness, gas, gastrointestinal adverse effects, headache, heartburn, increased bleeding time or decreased platelet aggregation, increased risk of inflammation, indigestion, irregular menstruation, irritability, itchy and fatty skin, loose stools, musculoskeletal adverse effects, nausea, nervous system adverse effects, pneumonia, reproductive system adverse effects, respiratory system adverse effects, seizures or lowered seizure threshold, skin lesions in newborns, skin rash, slower dilation during childbirth, stomachache, tension, vivid dreams, vomiting, weight gain, or worsening mania.

Pregnancy and Breastfeeding: There is a lack of sufficient data on the use of EPO during pregnancy or lactation. A study has reported women taking EPO by mouth to have a longer labor, slower dilation rate, prolonged rupture of membranes, use of oxytocin, and arrest of descent."

(emphasis mine)

I love traditional medicine as much as anyone, but it's dangerous to make the assumption that just because something is natural means it's safe.
I'm sure your cousin's sister's neighbor that sells essential oils will probably disagree with me about EPO and want to argue that her hairdresser's sister is a midwife and buys the stuff (from her) by the gallon and just goes around with a super-soaker full of it to help her patients go into labor naturally, but I'm just going to go ahead and say it:
Evening Primrose Oil (EPO) is great for attracting birds and bees to your garden, but it belongs soundly on the list of  
things NOT to put in your cupcake.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Slowly accomplishing a deferred dream

Aside from setting little goals to reach each week, I've also been setting big goals for my family this year. I've accomplished several of them, like getting LC into the #1 school in the state and having an art show, but there are several more I'm working on that will take years. One is to hike the entire Appalachian Trail. When I was younger I dreamed of doing the whole trail in one glorious year, but now that really isn't an option for me, so I bought a trail map and little by little, weekend by weekend, we've been working our way up. We highlight the trails that we've done and it is so exhilarating to watch the map light up with marker. 

In a way I'm kind of glad I never got to do it when I was younger because then I may not be interested in hiking the whole AT again now, and doing it now, while more difficult and arduous schedule-wise, means that my tiny explorers get to go too. There's a quote from Christopher McCandless that hit me hard:
"Happiness is only real when shared."
And the older I get the more I see the truth in that.
Alone, I find satisfaction, but not happiness.
There is no happiness in finding a perfect rock for sliding down if you're alone. Sure it might be interesting or fun, but the happiness comes from hearing the happy squeals of your kids as they tumble down onto each other laughing.

Working on my goal to hike the entire AT has also renewed my love for finding rare wildflowers, and thanks to social media I can share my finds, which is really fun because I never knew so many other people would also find them interesting. Take this rare beauty for example- a ghost plant (also known as corpse plant or indian pipe) from a rare family of plants that contain absolutely no chlorophyll and can only be found on a few hillsides in Appalachia.

 Finding it was fun, but sharing it with others who thought it was neat was like finding it again! 

Tuesday, June 06, 2017

Technical Difficulties

I've been trying for several weeks to build a website with a selling platform (that's not Etsy) to sell the rest of the paintings that didn't sell at the art show, but I've been having a really difficult time. I successfully made a wix site, but couldn't add a selling function without paying an arm and a leg. Then I made an old fashioned HTML site that worked flawlessly with my paypal links, but looked like absolute crap and kept degrading the quality of my photos for some reason. It seems like I have to decide between functionality, appearance, and cost. Till I can figure out how to have more than one of those I'm just going to post a few things here. 

Watercolor on paper 8 x 10 $75

Moonlight Through the Pines
Watercolor on paper $75
If you would like to buy either of these, please comment here, 
or for faster service email

Monday, June 05, 2017

Week 2 of Summer: Art Show!

Last week we got the house in order and this week we got ready for...
LC's first Art show!!!!!
Compared to last week, this week was HEAVEN!
LC was so excited when I told her about it that she immediately sat down and got to work finishing all the half finished paintings from her nature journal.
I bought a bunch of frames and did a little outlining for her and the collection came together really well!
(All the paintings in the front rows on the table are by Lillie. The big ones in the back are mine.)
On the night of the show roadwork had completely blocked the studio creating a really difficult parking situation and also it STORMED. I was getting worried that no one would come and Lillie would get her first taste of what being a professional artist is really like (see also: disappointing).
Thankfully I was wrong!
So many people love my little artist girl that the studio filled right up!
(LC with her best friend)
All the proceeds from any art sold went to her BES tuition.
Together we raised nearly half a year's tuition!  

Week of clean wrap up: This was a terrible idea.

The title of this post says it all. 
I tried so hard to get my house perfectly clean,
and keep it perfectly clean
for just one week
and I failed.
Not only did I fail, but I made everyone
(especially me).
Keeping a house clean with a two year old and a six year old just is not a worthwhile endeavor.
(Aside from being unworthy of my time, it's also really darn near impossible.)
So we're back to our normal messy selves.
Toys are on the floor.
Play dough is on the table.
A half finished painting is propped up in the hallway.
I still do the dishes daily,
vaccuum when/where possible
and keep everyone in clean clothes but other than that
messy mommy is BACK
and everyone is very glad
(especially me!)

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Day Four: Play, play, play, and play some more

Day four came and so did the little girl I babysit.
She is precious and sweet,
but she is two
and when she is put in a room with my two year old they can get into all kinds of messy mischief in the blink of an eye.
Seriously, I do not dare turn my backs on them.
Not for a second
and tasks that I could do in the same room as them,
like pick up toys,
straighten up the couch, etc,
are completely futile
because they will undo anything I do faster than I can redo it.
I did some dusting in the living room, 
but mostly I played 
I played dress up
I played legos
I played toddler "hide and seek"
(That's where you throw a blanket over them and pretend you can't find them).
I took turns flying them around the room
(A free workout!)
And when the day was over and her dad came to pick her up
I threw together a pasta dinner with whatever crap I could find in my cabinets and retreated into a good book, while Dr A took over watching the kids for the couple of hours before bed. (They were tired too, so that meant playing video games with them- a real hardship.
Honestly I was too tired to even care about all the cleaning I didn't do.

Got Grass

On day three I got no cleaning done.
I dropped LC off and changed into the grungiest clothes I own and headed over to cut grass for some relatives. It's about 10 acres of grass and I go around with a weedeater after cutting the bulk, so it's an all day affair.
It's hard work, but it's also pretty nice. 
Lucas gets to spend the day with his Grandpa 
and I get to soak up the sunshine belting out 90s pop songs 
safe in the knowledge that no one can hear me over the engine's rumble.
It was supper time by the time I finished,
so I shook off as much grass as I could and picked up some subs on my way home.
I hate the idea of paying for a gym,
because there is so much in the world that needs to be done,
that I refuse to waste my time and money to ride a bicycle in place.
I know it's not as efficient as working out at a gym, 
but my sore muscles are a testament to it's effectiveness.
Feeling chubby?
Go for a run.
Work on your yard.
Go hiking and clear sticks and weeds off the trail (seriously good exercise).
Dig a garden.
Chase your kids around
for a more extreme workout "fly" your kids around.
Visit an elderly relative and help out with whatever obviously needs to be done.

I did a load of laundry after supper, 
but my heart wasn't in it 
and bed time followed soon after. 

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Clean and Mean

I'm a terrible house keeper.
There is no denying it.
I bounce from art project to art project leaving a trail of craft supplies in my wake.
I do the dishes.
I wash the laundry.
I vaccuum the floor,
but not much else.
I'm only fairly sure that my sink is silver under the coat of paint residue from rinsed out paint brushes that's coated it since the first week we moved in.
It has certainly caused a few issues:
I'm not going to invite you in if you stop by unannounced.
I'm not surprised when we trip and fall over toys left in the hallway, 
because the kids aren't going to pick them up.
I'm not going to pick them up,
so they can stay in the hallway, until someone steps on them and breaks them and they get to go to that toy box in the sky aka the trash can.
I thought my family hated how messy I am.
Certainly they'd be happier if their toys weren't getting broken underfoot.
If they could sit down on the couch without shuffling almost the entire collection of Dr Seuss's books back toward the shelf from whence they came.
If we could sit down at the kitchen table for a meal without first rehoming a dozen pine cones and a glue gun.
So, I made 
Become a Better HouseKeeper
my first goal for my weeks of focus
and I made everyone miserable
but the most miserable of all was me.
I started with the laundry.
I can't remember the last time ALL the laundry was clean.
Probably sometime before our oldest was born.
It turns out that when all the laundry is clean we do not have enough space to put it.
A drawer in our dresser broke when Peter tried to fill it with the 99,000 pairs of socks that had at long last been reunited with their mates.
I put dresses on hangers and then was unable to put them in the closet because it was too full.
(Which is weird, because I literally never buy clothes. I'll pick a few things up at the thrift shop when I need something specific, like a red shirt for spirit day, or a blouse for a wedding, but aside from the ill fitting cardigans I'm routinely gifted at Christmas, it's really rare for me to buy clothes- so how did this happen?????)
So I stopped cleaning the house and filled three garbage bags full of things to drop at Goodwill.
All of that was on day one.
I had cleaned ALL DAY and hadn't even really finished the laundry, which really put me behind on my goal to have the entire house sparkling by the end of the week.
Day 2 came and I attacked.
I set aside the unfinished laundry and went after my kitchen
Which was hard,
not because cleaning is hard,
(which it kind of is)
but because it was a beeeeaaauuutiful day outside.
Every fiber of my being wanted to be outside in the sunshine,
but I was already so far behind.
By the time the sun set the floor sparkled
the table was bare
the fridge was emptied of everything past it's prime.
But the day was gone,
and any satisfaction I may have felt by completing the task was abated by the pile of dirty laundry that had grown by 6 outfits.
It loomed like a monument to my failure as a home maker.
Any satisfaction I may have felt at all was completely undone less than 24 hours later by an unknown person spilling an unknown substance all over the floor creating a dry ocean of stickiness.
I'm not cleaning it up.

Tuesday, May 09, 2017

Improvement through documentation

I can't remember where I first heard the idiom
"That which is measured is improved."
I think it must have either been in reference to either study habits or weight loss, but I'm not sure which.
Of course, that idiom plays hand in hand with the old researcher's concept of 
"That which is measured is often altered simply by the act of being measured." 
(This is the reason why weight watchers et al require frequent weigh ins- measuring is one method of improving something. In this example I come back to weight loss, so perhaps it was originally in reference to weight loss that I heard it.) 
Anyhow, I sat down and made a list of ways I'd like to improve my life (not going to share that here, at least not just yet. Simple things, mostly. 
But not easily measurable for the most part.
How do you measure "Being a better Mom"
So, of course I come back to my first love, writing.
By writing down my efforts and the results I can give myself a record, a measuring stick for which there is no unit of measure.
By making it public I create a sense of accountability for myself (even though I'm pretty sure no one reads this blog anymore).

For the first week I've been focusing on 
"Be a better housekeeper"
I'm already on day four.
It has not gone well.
I thought that by more fully dedicating myself to keeping a cleaner house I would improve not just my life, but my family's life as well.
I was wrong.
More on that next time.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017


I think the subject that causes the most contention between parents and educators is sex education. It first became an issue for educators in 1926, when the NEA decided to include it in the curriculum under character education, “as a means of combating the decline of the family, and regulating sexual impulses for the good of society.” (Spring p. 34) Over the years it has evolved to meet the concerns of modern culture which include HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention as well as contraceptive use. It’s a difficult subject to broach because it is as much a cultural/moral issue as it is of social control. Most schools employ a curriculum frequently referred to as “abstinence plus” which teaches that abstinence is best, but also provides instruction on “safe sex methods.” Though they may teach about contraceptives, schools may not use any government funding to supply or support students in the acquisition of contraceptives of any kind. Some parents feel that sex education shouldn’t be included in the curriculum because they feel their children shouldn’t be learning about sex in school at all.  Additionally, there is a great deal of debate over what the extent of the sex education provided in public schools should be. Some programs opt for abstinence-only education (which, as Spring notes, is supported by the No Child Left Behind Act), while others inform students of contraception uses. Interestingly, Mishan Araujo of Stanford University found that, “pregnancy rates were not impacted significantly by sex education curriculum” in her 2008 study of students in 29 different states.* The type of sex education (abstinence-only or other) is relatively  unimportant as long as some type of formal sex education is provided, as shown in the 2002 National Survey of Family Growth which found that, “Data from the 2002 NSFG do not support an association between type of formal sex education and contraceptive use at coitarche but do support an association between abstinence-only messaging and decreased reliable contraceptive method use at coitarche.”**

Spring, Joel H. American Education. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1996. Print

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Vincent van Gogh: A Man As A Mulberry Tree

A Man As A Mulberry Tree

La Sha Ackerman

Prof B. Williams

March 10, 2013

“The Mulberry Tree”

Vincent van Gogh

Norton Simon Museum

Pasadena, California


            In October of 1889, less than a year before he would take his own life, Vincent van Gogh completed a painting he would call “The Mulberry Tree.” In multiple letters to his siblings he referred to it as one of his favorite paintings he had ever made, and despite being housed in a mental asylum for his severe depression, it has been noted that each time he spoke of “The Mulberry Tree” he exuded happiness. It has been speculated that “The Mulberry Tree” is actually a self portrait, and after close examination, one may easily argue that perhaps it is more honest a self portrait than any of the representative paintings he created depicting his actual form.



            “The Mulberry Tree” was painted by Vincent van Gogh in late 1889. It was started in October, however the actual date of completion is unknown. The name “The Mulberry Tree” comes from the subject of the painting, which is simply a mulberry tree. It is a landscape oriented painting in oil on canvas. It shows a mulberry tree growing out of a rocky terrain outside of the asylum where he lived. Because it was autumn at the time it was created, the leaves are vivid orange and yellow. To the right of the tree there is also greenery in the distance and another small bush which has turned bright orange. The sky is brightest around the tree in the foreground, then becomes darker and dimmer near the edges. There is very little vegetation near the tree. The ground is comprised of light brown, white, and tan painted in small rapid brush strokes. The tree, which is centered on the canvas features a thick crooked trunk in dark brown. The branches and leaves run together as a mass of swirls, with thick outlining in dark brown.



            The foreground features the lightest hues since it depicts the sandy and rocky earth which the mulberry tree has grown out of. The mid-ground is somewhat darker, because while the leaves are very vivid and bright, they are still darker than the terrain. The background is the darkest of all because it depicts the sky during the time of day when the sun has either begun to set, or perhaps not fully risen. The painting has been arranged in such a way that the tree is centered, and the brightly colored branches take up most of the upper portion of the canvas. The colors which van Gogh chose vary widely from very pale, almost white, to a very dark shade of blue which is almost black. The darkness of the sky serves to highlight the contrasting brightness of the leaves. Because van Gogh worked in impressionistic style, there are very few concrete shapes. Instead, the objects in the scene are suggested through the small swirling strokes of color which are known to be the van Gogh's trademark style. The perspective used allows the viewer to see into the distance behind the mulberry tree.



            In interpreting this painting I can see many similarities between the subject and the man who created it. At the most obvious level, it has bright orange leaves, which are falling as seen to the left of the main subject, just as the artist had diminishing hair of similar color at the time of it's creation. The tree stands alone, which is parallel to the loneliness van Gogh felt at the time. Also, the tree has grown out of an inhospitable area of earth, comprised of rocks and sand, which may also metaphorically represent the struggles that he had grown through. The trunk is twisted and crooked, which may also be a metaphor for how he viewed himself. The sky which is darkening at the corners could be representative of how he saw the future. Considering the fact that he died so soon after painting this work, and the deep depression that he was typically in during the period, it is unlikely that he would paint anything representative of the future in anything but darkening colors. Additionally, the branches are disorderly and twisted yet boldly painted, perfectly depicting the painfully self aware chaos of his mental state. The painting “The Mulberry Tree” is much more than an image of a tree- it is a depiction of a bright, wild, and chaotic thing in a realm alone with ever darkening horizons.



            When attempting to determine “what I like about this work” I can only conclude that I like everything about it. Even if it were completely devoid of symbolism and I had no idea who painted it, I would still be drawn to it's bright and bold swirling branches, and it's starkly contrasting foreground and background. As a mere depiction of a mulberry tree in autumn it is successful because it is visually interesting and pleasing to look at. As a depiction of the artist who created the painting I would say it is even more successful because it portrays his emotional turmoil and mental state in a way that far surpasses any actual portraits of the artist. Beyond being just a lovely image of a lone softwood, this piece of art very successfully represents van Gogh, the man, as a mulberry tree.



Works Cited

Frank, P. (2011). Prebles' artforms: an introduction to the visual arts. (10th ed. ed.). Upper Saddle             River, NJ: Prentice Hall.


Van Gogh, Vincent. The Mulberry Tree. 1889. The Museum of Modern Art, New York. 
The Van Gogh Gallery. “The Mulberry Tree.” 10 March 2013