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Woman

OK, I am going to get on my soapbox today, or at least express my opinion. It probably won’t be popular with about half of the people in America, but I have every right to my opinion as they do to theirs. So, I am going to express it.

I have been watching on the news, well, reading a lot of headlines, and then reading the articles associated, about the question of how to define a woman. This has become frustrating to me, as I didn’t realize we had slipped so far from reality as to not be able to define a simple term like woman. But I have also read a number of articles recently, that have laid out before audiences what a woman is, and so I thought I would throw out my thoughts as well.

First, there is the genetics of it all. We each were born with either male anatomy or female anatomy. Now, I realize that 0.05% of the population are born with both, or neither being dominant, and I know that can create confusion and frustration in their lives and the lives of their families. We need to give assistance, aide and compassion to those who fall into this 0.05% as well as their family members. But the other 95.95% of the population was born with distinct, physical attributes of either male or female, consequently, there isn’t any reason to be confused physically. Physically speaking, on the most basic of levels, women have the capacity to carry and bear children, men do not. Women’s bodies are physically different than men’s in that they perform differently in physical competitions as well, as we have seen recently on the news in the sports world. The dictionary, which is also not confused, defines a woman as an adult female being. Not confusing.

Now, on to my beliefs. I believe that God created us in our specific genders for a reason, in His image as human beings (eyes, ears, hands, legs, etc.), and that He loves each one of us individually, as all good parents do. We were created spiritually first, as we now physically appear. We weren’t created as either/or and became male or female during the conception process. As a woman, I am a daughter of God. I have a Heavenly Father who created me as female, who created my husband as a male, and who created each one of my children, His children as the genders that they are, before any one of us came to earth. As a woman, I have been given the opportunity to bear and rear children, my husband has been given the opportunity to provide for and rear children. We work hand in hand, as equal partners, in our efforts to raise our children to be good, productive, hardworking citizens in their families, their communities, and our country.

Families are an essential part of our growth and development and having a mother and a father both in the home is the most ideal circumstance for raising children. Women and Men have different attributes, different views, and different abilities and capabilities, and that combination is ideal for raising children. Having two parents also alleviates some of the burden so that not one person has to bear the whole load of providing, rearing, teaching, etc. This is the ideal. I have also noticed that the tradition family, which is the core of a good society has been under attack for the last several years, government officials in many countries claiming that they could do a better job raising children than parents could. This has been proven wrong by science on a number of different occasions. Children need parents who are wholly invested, which the government could never do. Obviously, not every family who has a father and mother are in ideal circumstances, and because of abuse, death, and other circumstances, sometimes the safest place to be is in a one parent family but having even one parent is better than none at all.

I believe that I was divinely created as a woman, and that all people on this earth were created by a loving Heavenly Father, as the gender they are, and that He is acutely aware of each one of us, our struggles, our desires, our hopes and dreams, and that He wants to be involved in our lives every day. I do not believe that you can alter your physical appearance here on earth enough to change it in eternity, and that someday we will stand before God, as His child, just as He created us.

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Dirt

I love dirt, well, I guess it depends on the time of year. Well, actually it depends on where I find it. All winter long we don’t really have dirt tracking into the house, just water, that’s kind of nice. But all through the spring, summer and fall, the entryway always has some dirt on the floor somewhere, no matter if I just swept the floor or not. This past week the temperatures have been above freezing, there is visible melting in the snowbanks. The state has been out plowing and snow blowing some of the bike paths, and finally this week, right out my front door there is dirt, in front of my house! Now, as you can see, there is snow just a couple feet out still, but this is a sure sign that spring is on its way.

If you remember from a post the other day, I had recently planted starts for my garden as well, and by today all the broccoli and cabbage have already sprouted! One of my daughters walked into the kitchen the other day and said it smelled like dirt. She then said, “I love the smell of dirt!” I do too! I guess for me, it is the smell of spring, of renewal, of new, great things to come. The other thing I have really noticed lately is how red the Birch trees have gotten this week. That is another sure sign of spring. It means the sap is starting to flow again in the trees, and it won’t be long before we can start to see the buds growing bigger.

My favorite part about all this dirt and fresh new plants is the reminder of freshness and beginnings. Spring is a time of beginnings and renewal. I love that God created spring, and I believe He did so with this in mind, a reminder to us that we can begin again, we can start over, and we can replant ourselves, gaining new insights, talents, understandings, fixing thing we did wrong and moving onward and upward with our lives. It also reminds me that others have the same opportunity. Not a single one of us is the same this spring as we were last spring, and with spring comes the reminder that we can become new again if we choose to do so. I also need to remember not to hold others back with my opinions about how they used to be, that is how we allow others room to grow.

So, while I am not always excited about the extra sweeping, I am so very grateful for the dirt and the reminder that it is warm outside. I am also grateful today to remember that it is a sign of renewal and an opportunity to begin today and each day fresh, working to do better, even if it is only one percent better, one step better, one thought better than I did yesterday.

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Reference photos

As an artist, I use a lot of reference photos. But this can be a bit of a sticky subject when it comes to what you can use and what you can’t use. I never really understood copyright laws until I became an artist. We always see the little copyright disclaimer thing before a movie or video, but do we really understand what it’s saying? For my website I had to research a lot about copyright laws, how to present them on my website, and how to respect the copyrights of others, because I have content that I want respected as well. It was a good education, and I am grateful that I know more about the laws and how they are infringed upon.

Almost everything on the internet is copyrighted by someone. You cannot just pull any random picture off the internet and use it however you want to. As an artist, I cannot pull any picture off the internet and paint it as even a close replica of the original unless I have permission from the person who took the picture. I can however use it as a reference photo as long as that is simply what it is, and I change the picture enough so that it does not resemble the original photo enough to be identified as that photo. For this reason, if the image is copyrighted or if I am unsure, I usually pick 2-3 images of similar fashion, draw my own sketch using a combination of all the images, as well as my own creativity, and then paint the picture I drew rather than using any one picture alone.

The best option is to either take your own photos, know a great photographer who’s willing to let you use their photos, ask permission, or go to a website where there are not copyrights attached to the photos. When taking your own photos there are a couple of things I’ve learned. Take a lot of photos! A lot! With the convenience of digital devices, it’s easy to delete pictures you don’t want. Load those photos on a computer to view and delete the ones you don’t want. Phones are great, but the clarity of a large screen along with the ability to mess with the size and make adjustments is great. If you work better on your phone, I guess this could be a personal preference, but I think it makes a difference. Take pictures from several different angles and distances. One perspective might look great in person, but really bad as a photo, so get a variety. Lastly, delete all the photos you don’t want. I used to save several extras just in case, but I have come to learn that my gut is pretty accurate about what I am going to actually use and what I’m not going to use. It just simply saves space and time later.

My daughter is a great photographer. She is super willing to let me use any pictures she takes that I find interesting. She has even been known to call me and say, “I’m sending you a picture I think you’ll love; you should paint it!” I am grateful for her willingness to let me use any of her photos. I have also had friends share photos on social media that I thought would make great paintings and have asked if they would allow me to use their photo. So far everyone has been willing to allow me to use it as a reference photo, and once in a while I have friends send them to me randomly because they thought it would make a great painting. I love when people get as excited about my work as I am! When I get permission from a friend, I always sent them a print of the finished piece as a thank you.

I take a lot of photos, but I will never travel the world. Maybe someday my daughter will, she would like to, and then hopefully she’ll let me use some of those photos as reference. But, in the meantime … I have painted a lot of pictures of animals and plants from different countries and continents, so I use a website that has photos that can be used for commercial and home use, and a lot of artists use the same website. It’s called Pixabay. The photos on this site are free to use, there is often a photographer’s name that you can credit the photo to, but it’s not required in order to use the pictures. Just be aware that not all the photographs are free. There’s always a band of photos across the top that are copyrighted pictures. Usually 4-5 pictures. Those require permission. However, there are pages and pages of free pictures, on just about any subject, so just scroll past those few and you’ll find inspiration. I find myself looking for a picture of a specific subject, seeing something different, getting sidetracked, and ending up with half a dozen different reference photos that I hadn’t been looking for or anticipated. This is where I go for inspiration as well, when I feel like I’m stuck in a rut and don’t know what to paint. There’s always something there that inspires me.

So, that is reference photo copyright for artists and creators in a nutshell. There is so much more to copyright laws than this, but this is the simplified version. To me, copyright is simply about respect. Respecting that someone else’s work has value, that your work has value, and that we can all create uniquely, without copying someone else’s work. There is so much beauty in this world, and so many unique ways to display it.

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Spring!

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Springtime in Alaska is one of my favorite times of the year. March is still considered winter in Alaska, and the amount of snow we still have on the ground would verify that this is still true. But it is a beautiful month. With more sun and more warmth, the snow really starts melting in March and it feels more like spring. April however is when spring really hits. But spring in Alaska is not the same as it is elsewhere.

Alaska’s spring consists of melting snow, more melting snow, a lot more water and melting snow, lots of water and mud, and then summer. Well, there is that one short week where the buds on the trees are huge and then open to reveal a beautiful spring green leaf, the mud has mostly dried up, and a lot of snow is gone, but that’s about as long as it lasts. This year, I am super excited for spring. This winter we have had a lot of snow. My husband, who has lived in Alaska his whole life, reminds me that this year wasn’t the most Willow could have gotten, and has gotten in years past, but he does agree that we have had more this year than we have had in the last several years anyway. For me it is probably one of the biggest snowfall years that I can remember. But I have only been here for about 25 years. The biggest difference this year was the moisture level in the snowfalls. Usually, it is very dry and fluffy. This year, especially during the month of February, the snow had a lot more moisture to it, and it was heavy. This means that it didn’t stack up as high as it could have, but it caused a lot more problems for buildings.

Daylight hours are increasing as well. I grew up in Southern Utah, and I never remember noticing the differences in daylight hours. I’m sure it is mostly because I was a kid, but the swings in daylight hours there aren’t huge either. In Alaska however, it’s impossible not to notice the shifting of daylight. Here in Willow, we have a little over 5 hours of daylight in the middle of winter, with somewhere around 19 hours of daylight in the summer. During the winter it can be difficult for some people to function on that little bit of daylight. I don’t seem to have a problem, but I have found that keeping busy regardless of the daylight hours can be helpful, at least for me. But I really start to notice the extra daylight in the spring. I have noticed that this gives me a boost of energy, especially in the morning, and I start to get excited about all sorts of things like hiking and my garden.

Because my mind shifts to summer things this time of year, I decided it was time to start a few plants that need a little bit of extra growth time before summer gets here. The extra daylight hours mean that I don’t absolutely need grow lights to get them going. So, my kids and I planted some seeds. We planted Broccoli, Cabbage, Onions, Tomatoes, and Peppers. I do not have a green thumb, and consequently, only about half the time does my own starts work for me. But I love having these plants growing in my windows until it’s warm enough to take them outside.

I might be a little bit late for some of these plants, like tomatoes. But in the fall, I end up bringing them inside to finish off the year. I am also getting excited for hiking, looking forward to getting out in nature and enjoying the beauty of the Alaskan summer. Hopefully this summer I will remember to share some of my favorite hikes with you, here on my blog as well as in video form! Today I hope you are enjoying your spring, if you live in the Northern Hemisphere anyway, and that you are looking forward to summer and the fun activities that summer brings!

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Sunday

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Sunday is my favorite day of the week. I love the feeling of rejuvenation I get on Sunday, and it’s not just about staying home and resting, although that is a larger part of it than any other day. Today I thought I would share with you what I do on Sunday and why I am so grateful for Sunday’s.

To begin with, yes, I get to sleep in. What’s really nice though is my husband gets to sleep in as well. Consequently, we have a rare opportunity to talk while the kids are asleep, and there are not pressures to get up and get going super early. We can plan out some of our week together, we also have the opportunity to talk about concerns about the kids, finances, upcoming jobs, or whatever might be going on at the time.

I enjoy making breakfast. I have time to make breakfast on Sunday mornings, and everyone is home to eat it! On any other day of the week, the boys and I get up with just enough time to get ready to walk out the door, drinking a cup of hot chocolate or grabbing a peanut butter and jelly sandwich as we hustle out the door. Later everyone else gets up and by the time I get home from Seminary everyone has already moved on to the tasks of the day. Saturday’s I always think we’ll have time, but it doesn’t ever seem to happen. Everyone is still going every which way. I like breakfast, and I like that on Sunday everyone is home to eat it.

Church is my favorite part of the day. I love going to Church and being spiritually fed. I love the strength that comes from attending, listening, praying together with others, learning and hearing the gospel of Jesus Christ with others. I love the discussions, and I love associating with friends while I’m there. I leave church armed with strength and a renewed determination to try a little harder and be a little better. Sometimes by Saturday that strength has long since diminished, but I know I can go to church Sunday and be rejuvenated. I also love the rejuvenation of partaking of the sacrament, remembering covenants, and having the promise of the Lord’s help, not only on Sunday, but all through the week.

After Church we go to my mother-in-law’s home for Sunday dinner. This is a great opportunity to be around family. My husband’s siblings all live close by, and while we don’t see them every Sunday, we see them more often than not. We also have friends over for Sunday dinner, many of whom feel an awful lot like family. We love visiting with them. Weekdays are so busy that we don’t associate with family as much as we might like, so Sunday makes up for that in a lot of ways. We also enjoy a wonderful meal provided by my mother-in-law. It’s always the same thing, always cooked to perfection, and always tastes so good. I have often asked her to let me do it once in a while, but she says it’s one of the things she still loves doing, so she will keep doing it. I am so grateful for her Sunday dinners.

I am grateful for the time in between all of these various activities as well. Time to write my blog, time to prepare my Seminary lesson, time to work out our schedule for the week. On rare occasion, time to take a nap. Although during the school year I try to avoid the nap as it makes it hard to sleep at night. I am grateful that I have Sunday as a day of rest, a time to breathe, to think, to plan. I am so grateful for Sunday’s. What do you do on Sunday?