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Mature

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It’s interesting to grow older, and yet not feel older, to know more, and yet know there is so much more out there that I don’t know. Today I was getting ready to prepare my Seminary lesson and noticed a discrepancy in the pacing guide given to the teachers. This year we are studying the Old Testament. Of all the books we study, this is the only one with a Materials manual and a Teachers manual. They are both set up with almost identical lessons, but the lesson numbers don’t line up with each other. I had opted to teach out of the manual, my companion teacher had started off the year teaching out of the materials book not realizing it was not the manual, and then switched to the manual when we realized we were not in sync, both of us thinking the manual was the correct book. Today I realized that the pacing guide actually follows the materials book, not the manual.

As this all dawned on me this morning, I was embarrassed that I had not realized this sooner and I was frustrated that there were two different manuals and frustrated that this had not been clarified earlier on at one of our meetings with the head of the Seminary program in our area, at least not that I or my companion teacher could remember. But as I waited for a response to my text from the Seminary head I started to ponder about growth and maturity. While this is all frustrating, it’s not the end of the world. We don’t have to reteach any material, and we can continue on with an adjustment to the book we are using if that is what we are supposed to do. There is no reason to lay blame to other people, and while I am embarrassed, it was a great learning opportunity. I am learning to pay better attention to what I am doing, not just assume I am right each time I make a decision. To look at the whole picture before narrowing it down to the subject at hand.

It’s interesting how often we have the opportunity to learn lessons and grow though. If we choose to see, there are opportunities every day. As I pondered upon this, I was thinking about my son’s frustrations yesterday, and his opportunity to learn and grow, or become angry, frustrated, and give up. We went to Anchorage to the Alaska Rock Gym. My boys wanted to rock climb, but they were also preparing for a competition that will be held there the end of February. Before the competition they must become certified at that gym to belay for top roping and belay for lead climbing, two different techniques. They have been belaying for top rope climbing for over a year and completed that certification in just a few minutes. But they have just recently been learning how to lead climb and how to belay for lead climbers. My older son went first and clipped the belay device in upside down. He knew something was wrong and apparently was taking too long to figure it out, because the instructor didn’t give him a chance to fix it, ending the opportunity to certify less than two minutes after they had begun, also not allowing my younger son the opportunity to even try.

My older son was extremely frustrated with himself and felt even more frustrated and angry at the gym because they had not even allowed his brother to try. After this attempt he decided to go take his frustrations out on the bouldering walls upstairs, which I though was a great place to do so. They bouldered for about 30 more minutes until he had relaxed and could vocalize his frustrations without getting mad. Once he got it out, he felt a little bit better. As we talked, I asked him if he would ever make that mistake again. He said definitely not! I then told him that it had been a valuable lesson. He thought about that for a minute, and then commented that yes, it had been, because if he did it wrong out on a rock in the mountains by themselves, his brother could fall and die. Definitely a valuable lesson. That doesn’t mean he wasn’t still frustrated, but he was also grateful at the same time. It’s interesting as well, his brother wasn’t angry with him or the gym. He was willing to allow him to learn the lesson, grow, and become a better, more safety minded belayer, and come back another day to try again.

There are so many times in life that we have opportunities to grow and mature, or to blame and put off learning opportunities because of our attitudes. I believe we were put here on earth to do just that, make mistakes, learn from those mistakes, and then strive to improve because of the lessons we have learned. We are given this opportunity because of the grace of our Savior Jesus Christ. He gives us chance after chance to fall and get up, simply looking for our growth over time. But we as people often hold each other back. My companion teacher could have gotten angry at any one of my mistakes throughout our time teaching together (and there are a lot). She could double check and question everything I do. But she doesn’t. She allows me to grow, hopefully sees my growth, and helps me when I fall down. My younger son could have been angry that his older brother messed up and ruined his chances of getting certified himself. But he wasn’t. He saw the value of the experience and chose to be patient with the process. That patience in return could one day save his life, literally.

The whole point of our being here is to grow, to mature. But so often we hold each other back, not willing to let others change, not willing to see the improvements in their lives, consequently making it harder for them to change and maintain that change because we don’t ever adjust our own view of who they are, we don’t see their potential. But, on the flip side, our attitude toward those growing opportunities in our own lives affects whether or not they will change us. We need to be humble enough to see our mistakes and committed to making ourselves better rather than blaming others. It takes courage and strength of character, which only grow when they are challenged. But it is possible, not only to change ourselves, but to allow others to change along the way as well. Today I encourage you to see mistakes as growing opportunities, and to allow others the opportunity to grow and mature as well.

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Forget-Me-Nots

I love Forget-me-nots, and they are Alaska’s state flower. I have painted several paintings of forget-me-nots and have not liked any of them. That is until now. I finally found a couple of reference photos that I liked and was able to get this picture composition. Every time I am at a show, especially in the summer with visitors, people always ask if I have a painting of these beautiful flowers, because they are a reminder of their trip to Alaska. Finally, this year I can say, “Yes!”

I have also been learning a lot about paper types. When I started painting, I just used the paper that you buy at Wal-Mart or Michael’s. It is a wood pulp paper and doesn’t hold the water or the color very well. However, I have several paintings that I love that I painted on this type of paper, and I still love them. I do however have them digitized and saved so that if they do fade or something happens to them at least I have the digital file.

Cotton watercolor paper is made of cotton of course, and it stretches and holds water and color much better than pulp paper. It also “stains” better, so the finished painting will last much longer than one painted on wood pulp paper. It comes in 3 main types, Rough, Cold-pressed, and Hot-pressed. I have never tried the rough paper, mostly because I just have never bought any. One of these days I’ll try it out and see if I like it. If you have any recommendations of what kind of picture to paint on rough watercolor paper, let me know! When I started painting, I only used cold-press paper. It is still the main type of paper I use still, and the most readily available locally. Cold-press is not a smooth paper but has a slight texture. Paint will “pool” in the little recessed areas and create a textured appearance to the finished painting. It’s very similar to painting with acrylic on canvas as canvas also has the textured surface.

When I learned how to paint botanical paintings however, I was introduced to the hot-press paper. This is a very smooth surface, perfect for getting smooth petals on flowers and creating smooth skin on portraits. I have found that I love hot-press paper, and the above picture of the Forget-Me-Nots was done on an 8-inch x 8-inch Arches hot-press paper. So, if you are just starting out, I would highly recommend buying cotton paper, even though it is a little more expensive. I love Arches paper, but there are a lot of different manufacturers of cotton paper, most of them aren’t available at local art supply stores however, so you have to look online for the different options. I would also recommend getting a variety of types, the rough, cold-pressed and hot-pressed papers, just to experiment and see which one you like the most. If you’re like me, you’ll like different papers for different subjects.

If you have a bunch of the student grade, wood pulp papers, they work great for art projects that you don’t mind if they don’t last forever. I have uploaded an Easy Valentine Cards video to my YouTube channel that uses the wood pulp paper (see above pictures), simply because most valentines get thrown away anyway, so it’s not worth the money to buy the nicer paper for those kinds of projects. This project is really quick, well, depending on how long you take to decorate them, and they are super fun for kids to make because the painting doesn’t have to be specific or perfect. If you make some cards, I would love to see your finished product!

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Late

It is amazing what can be accomplished when you are extremely pressed for time. Take for instance this morning. I have my alarm clock set for 5:25am. I also have my cell phone set for 5:45. This one reminds me to say my prayers, but it’s also a backup in case my 5:25 one doesn’t go off, or I forget the night before to set it. I don’t really need the 5:45 one anymore to remember my prayers, and have thought several times about deleting it, but I decided I better keep it, just for the backup anyway.

When my alarm clock goes off at 5:25, I usually turn it off, ponder on what my day holds, check the weather, reset the alarm for the next morning and then get up and start my day, usually about 5:28 in the morning. I go down, make sure the boys are awake, go back upstairs and get dressed, teeth and hair brushed and then go back downstairs. We have time to warm up hot chocolate, say prayers, check out what’s going on in the world online, things like that. Then we start the car to let it warm up some, gather up backpacks and cold weather gear if it super cold and get out the door by 6:00.

This morning, the first time that I can ever remember it happening, my alarm clock didn’t wake me up, my prayer alarm on my cell phone did. I was slightly disoriented because it was the wrong alarm and I had to check two other clocks to see if I was actually reading my phone time correctly because my old phone used to mess up regularly. 5:45am and we needed to be out the door at 6:00! Had it not been my day to teach I could have fudged the leave time by 5 minutes or so, but not so today.

I raced downstairs and woke up the boys telling them what time it was. They immediately felt the alarm in my voice and realized what the implications of what was saying we’re. They are great young men and jumped out of bed and got busy rushing through their morning routines. I did the same. It’s amazing how much less time it takes to pick out clothes when you don’t have time, anything will work! No hot chocolate to slowly drink as we made our way through getting ready, just a glass of milk while making sure all the correct books were actually packed in the backpacks, grabbing keys, no time to start the car and let it warm up, and out the door only 2 minutes late.

What a crazy morning! Seminary went smoothly and everyone made it to school safely and I made it home after dropping kids off. I remember reading a quote one time, and I have searched for it and can’t find it, so I can’t give you the exact quote, just my interpretation of it. It said something like, “When you only have a short time left on this planet you only do those things that are the most important. Nothing else really matters.” That’s not exact, but you get the gist of it. This morning I was pondering on that as I was hurriedly getting done only those things most essential to me walking out the door. How much of my time do I spend doing things that have little or no consequence in life? Probably more than I would care to admit. That’s not to say that we don’t need down time, and sometimes that is the most essential part of my day. But I spend an awful lot of time doing things that don’t matter, like getting on social media when I should be cleaning my house or cleaning my house because that’s better than trying to fix my website, or whatever the case may be.

I have a list of priorities in my life, but a lot of those priorities don’t always take a lot of my time during the day, at least as far as the big priorities. I have found though, that when I start listing off some of the smaller priorities, I tend to not give my all or my best. I waste time on mundane tasks, or even just waste time on the internet when I should be painting, working on my business, or spending that little bit of extra time with my kids or my husband. This morning I realized that I need to focus better on what is really important and stop letting the unimportant, distracting parts of life distract me so much. So today, and the next several I will be focused on focus, on paying attention to where my time goes, and how much of it goes where. I am the only one that can change the course of my own ship, so if I don’t like the direction I am going, it is up to me to change course and do better. I am grateful that I have that opportunity and ability to do so. What did you spend your time on today? Was it wisely used?

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Injury

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Have you ever hurt yourself, severely enough that it hampered your ability to function to a small or large extent? Injuries are an interesting thing. At the very moment, you see all the things that you will not be able to do. While you are going through the process of discovering the extent of the injury, it can feel overwhelming the adjustments that you might have to make for a short, or extended period of time. Some people don’t ever totally heal from injuries, physically or mentally, not because they couldn’t regain ability, but because they choose not to proceed through the process required for healing.

I recently experienced an injury, well, I injured myself years ago, and didn’t realize the extent of the injury at the time. I didn’t go get it checked because I really didn’t have any more problems at the time. Have you ever noticed how when you are young, you can bounce back from injuries really quickly, but as you age, those same injuries sometimes come back to haunt you? That was the case here. I injured my rotator cuff 7 or 8 years ago, and unbeknownst to me, it didn’t heal correctly. Recently I had an inflammation problem and because of the calcium growth and the swelling, my rotator cuff started to get pinched, and as it was being pinched, it swelled more and more. My arm became almost unusable because of the pain when I would move it.

I hate going to the doctor but didn’t know what was wrong. When I lost almost all mobility in my arm because of pain I finally went to find out what was going on. That is when we discovered the old injury and the abnormal calcium growth where my body had “tried” to heal the tear in my rotator cuff. It’s interesting what my mind did ahead of that visit. I had thought it might be dislocated, maybe I had pinched nerves in my neck, maybe I had a bone spur, maybe I would need surgery, how would that affect my life? How would I adjust my schedule and responsibilities to accommodate? It is amazing what the mind will do when left without concrete answers and understanding. As soon as I found out what was going on and understood the process of healing, all those crazy ideas and thoughts were relieved, and I was able to make a plan.

It is always amazing to me what a difference it makes to have information. I have not had very many injuries or illnesses in my life, but I have learned how to take care of my body a little bit better each time. But the healing process doesn’t just occur, especially the older we get. Each injury that I have had has taken a concerted effort to regain full mobility back. Each time I have had days where I felt great, and days where I wondered whether or not I was going to ever get back to normal.

As I have had the opportunity to go to the doctor and physical therapist however, I have learned new things about joint, bones, and how my body works. Each injury makes me more aware of how to take care of my body. Each time I work to recover from and injury I actually recover to a better state than I was before I was injured. That is because I have been given and internalized new and better information. I have learned and applied what I was being told and taught about how to heal and become better. And because of that, the risk of injury that that same area is greatly reduced.

Physical injury is not the only place to apply this principle though. There are so many times in our lives that we make mistakes, hurting ourselves and others, not necessarily physically, but mentally and socially. When we realize that we have done so, we can take one of two steps. We can decide to heal properly and in turn help others to heal if necessary, or to disregard the pain caused and continue on as if nothing happened. Continuing on seems like the path of least resistance, but if we don’t figure out how to do better and become better, we will continue to make the same mistakes and, in some situations, hurt the same people, including ourselves, over and over again. And it usually becomes worse and worse until we lose “mobility” so to speak.

Just like going to the doctor for me was super scary, admitting when we need help in less obvious ways in our lives can be very scary. But the process of caring for, and healing will ultimately make us better people, teaching us how to heal and do better in the parts of our lives where we are weak. We can learn how to reduce the risk of injury to ourselves and others when we seek out help, listen to the professionals that are there to help us, and then apply the principles taught us that were put in place to heal and/or rehabilitate the broken or injured parts of us. There are no perfect people, but there are also no problems in our lives or injuries of any kind that can’t be healed, weaknesses that can’t be overcome. Seeking help is the scariest, most courageous thing anyone can do. I am grateful for the courage to get physical help, and for the courage I see in so many people around me getting physical, emotional or psychological help. I am also grateful for the ultimate healer, my Savior Jesus Christ, and for the knowledge that no matter what, I don’t have to face any of it alone.

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Aquaboard

Aquaboard is an interesting painting surface that I have seen in Blaine’s Art Supply in Anchorage and online catalogs and finally decided to try. Unlike paper it is a hard board similar to press board used in cabinets. It’s fairly thick, about 1/8 inch, and comes in a variety of sizes. It can also be purchased in a “canvas” type board, with 1-inch-wide sides so that it can be hung on the wall as a finished piece rather than having to frame it like paper. The surface is not paper, but clay and minerals that they say have a texture similar to cold pressed watercolor paper. The picture on the left is the back, and the one on the right kind-of shows the thickness of the board.

I found several things interesting about the product. I like the thickness of the board. I didn’t have to tape it down to anything obviously, so there was no prep involved in using it. It’s also not paper, so there was no warping which I dislike. It had an interesting texture to it, I didn’t think it was similar to cold press paper, I thought it was a bit rougher. I think I would almost compare it to sandpaper rather than watercolor paper. Not an aggressive sandpaper, but definitely not as smooth as even a cold press paper feels. Just different.

Those are the things I found interesting and liked. However, the most important part of painting on any surface, is whether you like the surface for painting, not how well it hangs on the wall or keeps from buckling. The clay surface absorbed water weirdly. Some areas seemed to dry quickly while others didn’t. It didn’t hold the watercolor color very well in my opinion. The sky on this painting (I’ll include that picture below) I had to paint several times to get it dark enough. At one point I tried to wipe the paint off and it wouldn’t, so I thought it was dry. It was in some spots but not in others and when I painted again it lifted paint in some spots but not in others making a very mottled looking sky. I also wanted a clean white edge all the way around, so I taped around the edges, as well as a straight line for the horizon and painted the sky. When I removed the tape from the horizon line the paint had bled down into my ocean area. I was able to scrub some of it out, but not all. I think it was because of the sandpaper feel of the board, so the tape just couldn’t get a good seal anywhere.

The finished product turned out ok, and if I were to digitize this one, I would simply remove the boarder that I tried to create. But overall, I would not use this product again, which is unfortunate, because they came in a three pack, so I have two more! If any of you have tried the Aquaboard and have any tips or tricks to using it more effectively, I would love to hear them.