Gold Stars for Me?

Artists spend hours in a studio, closet, at a corner table, a space, creating art. Alone.

stars.jpg

I stare at a blank canvas. Quiet, entrancing music plays in the background. Thoughts of food, lunch, dinner, breakfast slip by without notice. Hubby comes in.

“Have you decided what we’ll have for:
A. breakfast
B. lunch
C. dinner
D. other”

A daily multiple choice for which I sometimes earn a gold star.

A gold star?

I remember those.

Sometimes pasted on our foreheads for doing excellent class work. Our papers sported their gold star. We were a matching set. That was really cool from Kindergarten to second grade.

stellamarisorphanage

Convent/orphanage/boarding school

For my sixth birthday, Grandmother sent a  birthday present to the orphanage where I lived with my sister. A nun delivered the package to me at play time. Students crowded to see what I had gotten. Some stared across the room from their play area.

Inside were four pieces each of Grandmother’s special fudge: peanut butter, and maple walnut fudge.

She usually made fudge for special occasions like Christmas. I had never gotten it for my birthday before. But then, I was not in an orphanage before. Another small box sat at the bottom of the package. It was filled with gold stars! Lots of them. Smiling wide, I showed my loot to my classmates.

Big mistake.

The nun highly recommended I share with my friends.

nun-ihm

Sister Saint Share

What friends?

She meant my Kindergarten classmates who happened to be in a similar predicament as I—enrolled in an orphanage. My sister and I were placed there after Mom unexpectedly died. Dad called it a convent. A place where nuns lived. We went to school, slept, ate and lived there without Dad for nine months. He complained about tuition for his two daughters. Why wouldn’t he just bring us home?

Staring at my cache of fudge, and feeling obliged—coerced—to share, I ate one piece. The remainder was devoured by my classmates like corn tossed to a murder of crows.

But, I had a little box of gold stars! More than anyone could ever earn in one hundred lifetimes in Kindergarten. The nun and my “friends” gawked, oohed and aahed.

The stars were mine. No need to share. I could have given each one a star, sticking it on their foreheads for their excellent job of speed-eating my birthday fudge within seconds of opening the gift.

NOT.

The stars were mine.

Off to lunch we went to our assigned seats at a long, well worn, wooden dining table. We each had a drawer in which were a plate, cup, and utensils. It was my drawer. No one ate there but me. So I thought. Scheduled eating for 100’s of girls didn’t occur to my little brain. Why would it? Didn’t the world revolve around me?

After the meal, a large basin of hot water and soap made its way down our long dining table. Each girl washed her dishes, and pushed the basin left to her neighbor. A dish towel followed. Once dried, every plate and utensil was returned to the drawer until the next meal.

Having completed my task, I slipped my stars in my drawer for safe keeping. I would retrieve them at dinner time and bring the box to bed with me. A plan whereby I could ponder how to make good use of my gold stars.

Dinner time arrived. Sitting at the table, I retrieved my dish, cup and utensils. The meal was the usual for Sunday evening. The cooks had Sunday’s off. No one worked on Sundays, except the nuns. Not trained to cook for large crowds of children, they turned to a simple solution of carbohydrates and calcium diet. That meant chips and milk. Desert–a popsicle.

butter pats

hard butter pats

One meal I can never forget included a pat of butter. We each had meat, potatoes, vegetable and a slice of bread. The butter arrived stacked in a plate. Obviously cut by the cook and stored in the fridge—or the freezer.

Taking one pat, I placed it on my bread. Spreading was impossible. No matter how hard I pressed, the pat stayed firm. I was determined to spread my pat of butter. The bread tore and twisted. No luck.

Frustrated, I reconstructed my bread, piece meal, placing the butter in the center. Folding the bread, I ate it. It was okay until I bit into the butter. Yuck!

Biting lard or butter is not a favorite of mine. Still isn’t.

I never forgot that pat of butter. I eat butter. I even keep it in the fridge. But I learned to slice it thin to spread as I please. But, I digress…

After dinner and dishes, I reached into the drawer for my gold stars.

They weren’t handy. Climbing off my chair, I peeked into the drawer’s inside. Nothing!

I was troubled. Sad. Angry. Hurt. Suspicious. Someone took my stars. It was my birthday and I had been robbed. Violated. It wasn’t fair. I went to bed, crying into my pillow. 

For a long time, I wondered who the thief was. I totally suspected the nuns. Whenever I got a gold star for my forehead, I thought, “Is this my gold star?” Had to be. The nun had lots of them to hand around…so it seemed.

Years later, I surmised a nun finding the box of stars in a student’s drawer, not knowing who’s it was, mine or the other assigned student’s, probably thought they were either stolen from a teacher’s desk or they were true contraband.

And then, I also think a haw-keyed classmate may have noticed my dumb plan, and stole them within seconds after I walked away.

Of all the colors, red, green, blue, silver or gold, I prefer the gold star.

As a teacher, awarding gold stars, I told my students, “This is a special star. Just for you. Cherish not the star but the super work you accomplished. If you never get a gold star again, remember this one. You don’t always have to get a gold star for work well done. Just always do the best you can. Be happy whether you get one gold star or a whole box full. But who needs a box full of stars? Look at the sky. Those are all the stars you need. And they are always there waiting for you to look up. No one can take that away.”

goldstar

The nuns helped me survive a terrible time in my life. The pain and unhappy feelings were from the separation of parent and child, and the silence of death.

I survived and dwell on the good things that came out of my stay at the convent/orphanage/boarding school.

The gold stars are still with me in memory and in my heart. A gift from Grandmother.

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The Promotion – part 1

Ashtray

Ashtray (Photo credit: @ARRGch)

Betty? Promoted? She never worked in an office. She doesn’t understand computers. Heck! She probably never saw one. This is 1979, the age of computers! Telecommunications and computing.

“The black phone is not for personal calls, it’s a modem.”

“Oh,” Betty hacked a smoker’s cough as she sat at her newly assigned desk—the former supervisor’s desk. “What’s a modem, Eve?”

Harry up and left for what? A better job? Left me here to manage. I managed for three weeks. I can do his job—Harry’s assurance as he balanced his heavy box of stuff out the door. He had a degree in business and experience in data analysis. Betty’s credentials? Production work in the plant for how many years? How old is she? Her generation never used computers. She’s looks 40-ish.

Eve inhaled, smiled and touched the black phone sitting on her desk. “Modem is an acronym for Modulator/Demodulator. It’s a phone line dedicated to communicate with another modem connected by a network.  We send digitized bits of data from a computer to the mainframe at head-quarters through this dedicated phone. The signal is modulated into electrical signals for transmission over phone lines and it is then demodulated by another modem at head-quarters to receive the digital data.” She sipped her coffee to hide a smirk.

Betty coughed “Oh—I see.  Headquarters. That’s New Jersey. All the way from Maine over to there? By phone? Without talking to anyone? Hmm. It can’t take too long for me to understand all of this computer stuff. I been working production for fifteen years here.  Done some quality control and shipping too for about six years. So I’ll be able to learn how that acronym equipment works. You agree?”

“Ever work with computers?”

“Never.”

“Are you from around here?”

“Yep.”

“So you graduated from a local high school?”

“Uh, not quite. Well—yeah.”

“What is it? Yes or no?”

“I quit when I was sixteen—going on seventeen!”

“So you quit in your junior year?”

“No—freshman,” she mumbled, pulled out a cigarette then reached for the ashtray. Betty bared her teeth as she grimaced. “You didn’t clean the ashtray.”

“I don’t smoke—I don’t do ashtrays.”

“Never smoked, Eve? Or quit?”

“Never. A waste of money. Bad for the lungs,” Eve paused as the plant manager rushed by the door heading for his office.

Betty stood up quickly, “So it is. So—it is. Uh, excuse me, will you? Gotta wash this out before I use it. I hate filth.” Betty pulled her shoulders back, lifting her chin high as she daintily held the offensive ashtray with forefinger and thumb and sashayed out of the office.

“Don’t you think we better get started first—Betty?”

Betty disappeared around the corner.

Eve’s smirk changed to a sneer.

So Harry had a falling out with the manager. Two strong-willed men and the subordinate makes a bad move. Never argue with the boss, Harry.

See what you’ve done to me, Harry? You got a new job, and I got… Betty.

Compose yourself!

Eve used the free time to re-arrange her desk and organize files for Betty. Twenty minutes later, she groaned as she began the day’s data entry due by 2:00 PM, transmitted by 3:00, received and verified by New Jersey by 4:30 then printed on the line printer before 5:00. She gritted her teeth, Where the hell is Betty?

As Eve focused on keying data Betty and the plant manager entered the room. The clock indicated fifty-eight minutes since she left.

“Hello George. Betty. You forget the ashtray?”

“Oh. Uh… I put it somewhere. Maybe I left it in your office, George. Did you notice it?” Betty coughed a chuckle as she placed her fingers over her lips and smiled with chin up and chest out—pointing to the plant manager.

“Oh, bother,” Eve mumbled and returned to the keyboard.

“What, dear?” Betty patted Eve’s shoulder.

2010-02-04 09-42-53 Office Wall Clock - IMG_1560

2010-02-04 09-42-53 Office Wall Clock – IMG_1560 (Photo credit: Degilbo on flickr)

George glanced at the clock and out the door, “I have to go. Eve, teach Betty everything she has to know. She’s got lots to learn. Make it quick. Let me know if you need anything to make it happen.” He dashed back to his office. Betty’s hand rose slightly as if to touch his arm, but she immediately retracted its movement and stuffed the errant hand in her silk, slacks’ pocket.

“I’ll be back. Got to find that ashtray so I can wash it.”

What on earth… ? She’s been here for two hours and hasn’t done a thing. “We got lots to do,” Eve shouted as Betty disappeared around the corner once more.

Hello world!

Current News 2011 –

So what is new with me?

February 28, 2011

I finally sat down and started my second novel. It was burning a hole in my right hemisphere. So far I have 4 chapters. I’m happy with the results so far. The characters are from my first novel, now 2 years older.

I belong to the Citrus County Regional Writers Group. We are critiquing each others work twice a week. It is great to do so with serious writers. Such a wonderful group of people. I also joined the FL Chapter of the Historical Novel Society, newly formed a month ago. I look forward to work with them as well. Now to get my first novel published!

February 17, 2011

I sold another original oil painting today! In Ossipee, NH. It was a beautiful scene titled: “Canoe at Sunrise”. I love sunsets and sunrises. The breathtaking, dramatic display of colors is difficult to capture. The mood is one of possibilities. What will happen? What did happen? One can become absorbed in the painting. That is what art is for, isn’t it?

February 2, 2011

Go to the Citrus County Art Center in Hernando, FL. to view two new paintings hanging until March 2nd.

One, in particular, is a portrait of a family member who died a week after we had the art opening. I painted his portrait as a tribute to an old, Vermont, dairy farmer who work his farm day and night for 50 years. Cousin George Dodge. (1925 – 2011).

I have another painting of George and his Farm on this site. A watercolor titled “Quiet Departure” painted in 2000. We visited George one day and he announced that he was not going to make any more maple syrup. He sugared since he was a child and at his age, it was too difficult. Therefore, the title seemed to fit the moment. You see him bent over with a walking stick. Even though he ‘broke’ his back from so much work, he walked without the use of a cane or a walking stick. I took the liberty to add the stick and a bucket to represent his involvement in sugaring. The fellow walking next to George is my husband, his cousin.

Old News –

October, 2010

Finally have some time to research the publishing industry. Interesting stuff. I’ve edited my manuscript once more and made a few changes here and there. I love the story… of course I am biased in that regard. Now to find an agent to read it. Wish me luck.

August, 2010

A group show, with the Governor Wentworth Art Council, at the Gafney Library, Sanbornville, New Hampshire for the month of August. 3 framed prints were hung for the show.

A one-man show for the months of July and August, at The Brown Bag Cafe, Maine Street, Rockland, Maine. I hung 19 framed artworks. A combination of prints and original. Watercolor, oils and acrylics.

July, 2010

A group show with the Kittery Art Association, 8 Coleman Avenue, Kittery Point, Maine for the month of July. 2 original acrylic paintings on canvas hung for the group show. 17 matted prints submitted for the KAA art bin, which is on display year round. If interested, visit the KAA gallery to purchase one of my pieces… or contact me.

A group show, with the Goose Rocks Beach Association, 6 Community House Way, Kennebunkport, Maine, July 31. 4 framed oil and acrylic original paintings on canvas hung for the show. Additional 34 matted prints displayed in the art bin. This is a one day showing occurring bi-annually. I am fortunate to have been part of the showing.

June, 2010

A one-man show. Ossipee Public Library, 74 Main Street, Center Ossipee, New Hampshire for the month of June. 10 framed oils and acrylics on canvas were hung. An additional 23 matted prints were displayed. Three oil pieces have never been on display before. They are older pieces that would be difficult from which to part company. Therefore, a high price would justify my letting go… maybe… One of them is not for sale… a large, acrylic on canvas, self-portrait done 33 years ago. I donate 10% of the sales to the libraries. It is for a good cause. Send me a note to let me know what you think of the idea and if you are local, let me know if you viewed my display. Don’t forget to sign my guest book at the show.

May 28, 2010

I submitted new work at two galleries in Wolfeboro, NH. I had a one-man show at the Ossipee Public Library. Yvonne, the head Librarian was gracious and very accommodating to my needs. I do hope you will visit my art showings.

May 20, 2010

I’ve just finished writing/re-writing my first novel. A family book geared to the younger audience dealing with loss.

It took 14 years to complete. I was busy working full-time (most of the time) as a high school teacher and in the meantime, built 3 houses and garages to go along with 2 of the houses. My husband keeps me pretty busy.

My experiences growing up were difficult at times. But I lived through them as was expected. In adulthood, as a teacher, I watched lots of kids go through stressful situations. They experienced loss as I did and they struggled with that. The wonderful part about today is that kids have counselors at schools available to help them with problems experienced at home and at school. I didn’t have that as a kid. It was a horrid time for me.

So now my book is complete (I believe) and I am looking for a publisher! Publishing is a difficult process. I’ve been told the writing part is the easy part, publishing is the hard part. Therefore, do I self-publish? Do I find an agent? I’ve heard and read that agents are hard to find or they may not even accept your manuscript… may not even look at it. They are that busy. A publishing house will not accept your manuscript unless you have an agent. Hmm. Something is wrong here…

Well, I’m going to give it a try and give it my best!

Wish me luck… or write to me and give me a few tips.

Winter – 2009

Gallery Showing

This year has been pretty nice from my point of view. Painting often and being part of a new art gallery, The Uptown Artist Gallery located at 14449 7th Street, Dade City, FL, has opened my world to the arts and other fellow artists.

The gallery members were invited to participate in an art show at the Carrollwood Cultural Center, 4537 Lowell Rd., Tampa, FL.

The opening reception was held March 12, 2010 and the 91 artworks representing members of the gallery will hang until March 30. I hope many of you will attend and look for my 4 pieces displayed at the show.

Currently, I am displaying paintings and reproduction prints at the Uptown Artist Gallery located at 14449 7th Street, Dade City. Phone: 352-523-2780. It is a gallery representing 56 local artists. It features a very wide range of subject matter. It is a small gallery that will eventually grow in size and recognition. By April, I will return to my home in NH, but will leave a few select pieces at the Uptown Artist Gallery in hopes of selling a few pieces.

Fleamarket Art & Hobby Show

Travelers Rest Resort offers the opportunity to show and sell your craft once a month from February to April. I’ve displayed my artwork and have sold several paintings and accepted commission work from residents who come to the show.

Here are a few of my pieces, oils, acrylics, watercolors, pencil, pen & ink and some of my woodcuts. In addition, I have been the cartoonist for Travelers Rest Resort’s TRTimes Newspaper for 2009 and 2010. You will soon see my cartoons on my website. One of my next projects.

What Else Is New?

The summer of 2008, was our first year as “retired together.” My husband, Tom, retired several years ago and found “else-work” to keep himself occupied. For over 30 years he owned different portable band-saw mills. So, in his retirement, he happily pulled his Wood-Mizer Sawmill to work sites and milled logs into lumber. Being a writer by nature, he found this an excellent opportunity to meet people with wide and varied talents and experiences. His excitement was more about the people than the sawing. He didn’t saw every day, on average, he would contract with 6 or more clients from spring to late fall. With great apprehension, Tom finally sold his last sawmill in the fall of 2009.

So what about me? My goal is to paint, create, write and be who I really am.