Friday, February 5, 2021

who runs a marathon with the plague?

“Do you want to run a marathon?”

I never thought I’d ask anyone this question.  Certainly not with the intention of asking if that person would want to run a marathon while I also ran a marathon.

Last March, literally the weekend before everything shut down, I ran a half marathon with my running friend Katherine.  We trained for a few weeks and ran it just to see if we could do it.  It was difficult, though we did enjoy the eating part, and afterwards we didn’t want to talk about running anything again any time soon.  

I’m not sure if the global pandemic messed up our brains, but this summer I got an email from The Charleston Marathon offering some kind of discount and I messaged my friend.  “Do you want to run a marathon?”  The answer came back quickly and simply read, “Yes!”.

I am a runner in that I run.  I know almost nothing about running other than getting some good shoes and going outside to run.  When we ran the half marathon, we didn’t do a lot of research, we just got up and ran.  I knew enough this time to know we needed a training plan and those are easy to find on Google.  My main concern with running a full marathon was that I had no intention of taking days off from running.  All the training plans called for rest days, particularly the day after the marathon.  I’m stubborn, so I took a training plan that looked good and I edited it to fill in all the low mileage days or no mileage days with “5K”.  Maybe not smart, but now we had a plan.  

page 1 of the plan

This 18 week training schedule did its thing and started whipping us into long running shape.  After several longer distance runs, it started to be comical how we’d start craving certain foods while we were running and even get a little dizzy or light-headed when we stopped.  Lucky for us, one of G’s work friends is a real runner and they got to talking about my training one day at work.  When the work friend found out we were doing long runs without eating anything and clearly not hydrating enough, we were given a list of products to research and buy.  Oddly enough, once we were doing things correctly, the cravings and dizziness stopped.  It’s amazing what your body can do when it has fuel.

Soon I was a regular at the running store, buying up packs of food gels, protein packed brownies, and these weird little tablets to dissolve in water for extra hydration.  We both got new running shoes and started breaking them in.  Our feet were happy, our legs were tired, and our appetites were growing.  This was about the time we realized we were not going to be able to run this marathon in Charleston on a closed course and with cheering crowds.  The pandemic forced the race to transform to virtual and our dreams of high fives from strangers vaporized.  But we were committed to this training and we were starting to realize that we were probably capable of doing the distance.  We adjusted our race-day plans and kept running.

We did some long runs together at a few local running trails.  December gave us some cold runs and even a couple of rainy ones.  I never before had to navigate what to wear while running.  I sweat a lot and even on cold mornings, my 5K runs are always in shorts.  When you’re going to be running for several hours, you have to plan a little better.  I wore a rain jacket for the first time ever while running during this plan.  I also wore more layers than ever before.  On one particular run, we were soaked in cold rain the minute we stepped out to stretch and only got wetter and colder the rest of the day.  It was miserable but we managed to laugh our way through double digit miles.  Hot coffee helped.

Our runs started tapering down after we reached 20 miles.  We were confident.  So confident that we even started paying attention to our pace.  We got faster near the end of the plan and we started doing some math to figure out how long the marathon would take us and thinking about how much faster we could push to bring our time down.  We planned our start and finish line as best we could and informed our families of where they could see us.  We were ready. 

The week of a race is always a bit anxious for me.  I often find a way to snag my leg or hit my knee on something metal in the days before a big 5K race.  The week before the half marathon in March, my sick son coughed in my face and got me very sick for the morning of the race.  I remember standing in the kitchen filling up water bottles, downing bananas, and popping ibuprofen before being dropped off at the starting line.  The week before the marathon moved along fine until Thursday morning (the day before the marathon).  I woke up Thursday, ran my 5K and noticed that my legs seemed very tired.  As the day went on, the aching didn’t go away and I started to wonder if this was just tired legs or, heaven forbid, a symptom of something.  When I got back home after school I checked my temperature just to be sure.  No fever.  I breathed a huge sigh of relief.  

Friday morning we followed all the regular long run day traditions.  I got a good night’s sleep,  a good coffee, and a healthy breakfast.  All the running stuff was laid out and ready to go.  Our respective families had maps and estimates of when we’d be where.  We met at the starting point, hydrated, peed, and had a quick photo session.  Then we were ready to go.  I still felt a little sluggish but my legs seemed better.  

ready to run

There was no crowd and the few people around us had no idea what we were doing.  After a good stretch, we went over the countdown, pressed our buttons at the same time and we were off.  The first mile was great.  We were fast.  The next few miles were just as good and we were still fast.  It was mile five that sort of stood up and slapped me in the face.  My pace was dropping and my energy was fleeing.  I wanted to ask if we could slow down but I resisted.  

We ate on schedule and drank water on schedule.  It was nice to have an extra pair of hands to help hold gloves and water bottles during eating sessions.  The eating was a nice way of breaking up the time into smaller chunks.  The conversation was lively for the first 10 miles or so.  My energy kept draining and I was quietly having doubts about whether or not I could finish this thing.  The whisper in the back of my head kept getting louder and louder with every mile.  It said, “Dude, what if you have COVID?”. 

We kept running.  The way our route was planned along with the schedules of our families meant that we’d get an emotional lift at mile 20.  I was struggling and my running friend knew I was struggling.  I had asked to slow the pace a bit but we were still moving along pretty well.  As we approached mile 20 I saw Katherine’s grandmother and I immediately smiled.  She was so excited as she yelled for everyone else to get ready.  We ran past her and then past the rest of our families.  They shouted, held signs, took photos and videos and then we were on our own again with a little over 6 miles to go.  We sped up more than 30 seconds during that 20th mile.  The encouragement definitely helped.  

mile 20 with Grandma Kate running behind us

After we passed our families I decided I needed more energy and opted to eat my brownie early.  We were following our hydration plan but I couldn’t muster enough moisture in my mouth to chew the brownie.  I kept having to toss water in my mouth just to get the bites down.  This was also abnormal and I was more convinced than ever that something was wrong.  Of course it couldn’t be COVID for real.  There’s no way I could run a marathon with COVID.  And I knew I didn’t have a fever or any other real symptoms.  And we were a mere 6 miles away from finishing a freakin’ marathon.  I wasn’t sick.  I don’t even get sick.  I was tired and we would trudge on.

The last 6 miles were through scenic downtown Greenville.  We ran past people doing photo shoots and along a beautiful waterfall.  The math was also keeping our brains engaged.  We wanted to finish as close to a real finish line with our families as possible.  We were dividing by 2, moving decimals, and double checking our work.  Both of us remembered the training run where I missed the math by 2 miles and we ended up walking back to the cars in the frigid cold.  Both of us remembered but thankfully neither of us brought it up.  This time we agreed we were at the turn-around and we slowly made the turn with about 3 miles left to run.

We had not fully considered the amount of hills we had to run UP during those last 3 miles.  At this point we were on auto-pilot.  At a certain point in our long run training we learned that it hurts less to keep running than it does to stop.  We charged up the hills and watched the total miles tick away.  24 miles buzzed my arm.  Then 25.  My barely functioning brain was confused by where we were.  It didn’t look like the distance was matching what we had left.  If we screwed up, we’d finish the 26.22 miles (you have to get the .22 for it to be a real, official marathon) before we reached our excited families.  I think we may have discussed this briefly and Katherine suggested that we could just keep running.  That was nonsense.  At 26.22 I was stopping one way or another.  

Katherine’s running app stayed just ahead of mine in mileage the whole run.  This meant that hers would give us a warning saying we were finished about a quarter mile before my mileage clicked over.  She could have stopped, but when hers clicked over, she kept running to make sure I didn’t die.  She managed to get her phone out and call her mom to alert everyone that we were going to finish just shy of where we’d told them and for everyone to start walking towards us.  We rounded a curve and I could see her mom running towards us.  My running app rolled to 26.22 miles and I didn’t run another step.  I wanted to run to my family but I had nothing left.  I needed water and with no real finish line handing out medals, water, and bananas, we were going to have to limp to our cars to refill and refuel.

the closest photo of our finish

it took 1/100th of a mile for me to stop the app

G and the kids ran to us with their signs.  I’m sure they wondered why I couldn’t keep running a little further.  I didn’t have words.  My body was dry and I wanted water.  Within a couple of steps I was also very, very cold.  We had not thought to bring the shiny silver heat blankets that people throw over you at the end of a regular marathon.  It took me way too long to fish my car key out of the running pocket because my fingers were numb.  The key was so cold the remote wouldn’t work and I had to manually unlock the doors.  We drank water while leaning against the car.  We were functioning but not really thinking about what we had accomplished.  

both our families together

blue and violet's signs

We made a lot of family photos.  The sun was setting and our already cold bodies were getting colder by the second.  At some point I realized the smile I was giving the camera was just my mouth frozen in a certain position.  My lips were blue and my whole body was shaking.  Katherine was also shivering.

On a long run your body sweats a lot and the sweat evaporates leaving these white salt deposits on your skin.  Our clothes were wet with sweat and our skin looked like we had been properly salted as a main course.  I tried to stretch in the parking lot but I couldn’t get my legs high enough to grab them.  I couldn’t bend down and get back up.  Stretching would have to wait a while.  We had reservations to eat downtown so we slowly made our way over to the public bathrooms to change.  I took a sink bath and somehow managed not to fall inside the bathroom as I changed clothes.  

After a short car ride in clean clothes and explaining why I couldn’t do math and how sorry I was my family didn’t get to see me actually finish the marathon, I felt a little rejuvenated.  I was walking with a distinct limp and very slowly, but I was walking.  Violet was kind enough to take the elevator with me down the one flight of stairs.  The food was great and it actually felt a little like we were celebrating, though we didn’t talk much about the run.  I also couldn’t eat much.

I was now coughing.  Coughing is normal for me after a run so I didn’t think much about it, but when you’re wearing a mask in a public place these days, the thought of sickness does cross your mind when you cough.  I was more exhausted than I’d ever been but considering what we had just accomplished with our bodies, I figured what I was feeling was normal.  G drove me back to my car and I was able to drive home with minimal effort.  

sharpie arm messages

It crossed my mind to research how to recover from running a marathon about an hour after I got back from running the marathon.  I was in a hot bath and Google told me I should not be in a hot bath.  Bummer.  It seems I was supposed to take a cold bath and then a quick hot shower.  A couple of articles said I might get a cold as my body struggled to recover.  Some said I might have a weaker immune system immediately after the marathon.  G and the kids had planned a weekend trip to the coast and I was looking forward to reclining on the couch and watching the ocean from inside.  Whatever recovery I’d need could certainly be found in the salty air, or on the couch on the other side of the glass from the salty air.

The next day I could barely walk but I really didn’t need to walk as long as I could “run” my morning 5K.  I hesitated a little extra before opening the door and pressing the start button on my running app.  I’m not sure what I did would be considered running in many cultures, but I did loosen up after the first mile and I ran my 5K.  This felt almost as big as running a marathon and at least as crazy.  

the recovery trip

G drove us the 4 hours to the beach and I rested, feeling mostly fine.  We ate at our favorite restaurant when we arrived, walked on the cold, winter beach, and all was well.  There was even an elevator to mercifully keep me off the stairs at the condo.  I had the good sense to bring along this goofy, fuzzy blanket that Blue gave me for Christmas and I made my temporary home on the couch under that blanket as my body just couldn’t seem to get warm again after running.  We went out to a few places.  I walked around a couple of stores slowly.  I started to get a little better at going down the stairs.  We all came in Sunday afternoon from an outing and I jumped under my fuzzy blanket shivering.  G sort of gave me a sideways look.  A little while later she asked why I was so cold.  Then she broke out the digital thermometer.  I had a fever.  She made an appointment for a rapid COVID-19 test.  

The next day was a holiday and our travel-home day.  We left in time to stop for my test.  I was pretty sure I didn’t have COVID but understood that this was a necessary step in my returning to work on Tuesday.  I had been family-quarantined the night before and everyone decided to wear masks around me.  After my swab we all sat in the car wearing masks for about 10 minutes before I got a call from the nurse practitioner inside.  She asked a series of questions that made me drop my guard before informing me that I had just tested positive for COVID-19.

The kids were instantly miserable.  Not because of me being in any danger, but because they love school and they didn’t want to miss a day.  Now they were both “close-contacts” and they’d have to report.  I notified the people I was in contact with in the previous days, including Katherine who ran beside me for over 4 hours.  Everyone around me tested negative which made me feel better and the kids only had to miss two days of school as long as they didn’t develop symptoms.  

When we arrived home, I was ushered into the bedroom, the door was closed, and I’m pretty sure some bread and water was slid under the door for me.  Life apparently went on as usual on the other side of the door, and I tried my best to keep my germs inside the bedroom.  Each morning I sent a text telling people to hide while I put on an N-95 mask and made my way outside to run.  Once back inside I made my coffee and some breakfast before going back in the bedroom and closing the door.  I wiped everything down with a Clorox wipe as I retreated.  

As far as quarantines go, I had it pretty good.  Netflix and Disney Plus kept me entertained.  I didn’t feel like reading but I did stay busy with some school work each day.  I wanted students to keep moving forward in my absence from campus, so we kept in touch through text and email.  After a couple of days of just feeling like I had a cold or the flu, I came in from my morning run and felt absolutely drained.  My oxygen level was steadily dropping through the 90s and I actually started to worry.  As people found out I was sick, they felt the need to tell me about all the people they knew who were my age who were in the hospital or now dead from COVID.  They gave me every dire warning to monitor myself and go to the Emergency Room if anything got worse.  In the worst of it I actually Googled my age to see if I was really “old”.  Turns out I am.  Who knew? 

I’m not sure at this point but the days I felt the worst may have just been that I was bored to death.  I started getting more energy and started wanting more and more to break out of that bedroom.  I made the executive decision to cut my daily runs back to one mile streak savers until I felt I could run normally without dying.  The fever stayed for over a week but once it was gone, I started feeling much more like myself.  The lingering fever made me a day later than I had hoped in returning to school but I wanted to make sure I followed the guidelines so I didn’t get anyone else sick.  

I was able to return to campus a few hours before my closing reception in the art gallery and while I’ve been moving a little slower and “woooo”-ing a little quieter, I’ve been back in action since.  After 6 days of one mile streak saver runs, I felt good enough to run a full 5K.  My body wanted to run.  It felt so great!

the medal came in the mail before I recovered

Now that I’m well, I’m trying to remind myself that I ran a freakin’ marathon.  I ran it in a respectable time and I ran it with COVID-19!  And then I didn’t die from COVID-19!  Even on these cold, rainy, gray winter days, that’s a lot to celebrate.  I’m proud of our marathon time but now that little voice in my head keeps asking how much faster could I have done it if I had been healthy.  Let’s just not talk about that right now.  

But, I mean, it was kind of fun.

Thursday, December 31, 2020

how it went

Here’s my problem with resolutions:  When people make resolutions for the new year they tend to see them in an all or nothing sort of way.  If you decide to do whatever healthy or productive thing, you start off excited about it and you get up every day and make that thing happen.  Then, somewhere between January 2 and July, depending on your discipline level, you miss a day or otherwise stumble.  With a new year’s resolution the reaction is typically, “I failed.”  Most often, the resolver will ditch the whole thing and fall right back into the habits of the old year, just a little more despondent over their lack of dedication.  They seem to forget about the healthier lifestyle they created for a few days or months.  They forget to see the daily victories and instead focus on the one slip-up.  

With this in mind, in January of 2020, I listed several of my goals to improve my life.  You can find them lower on this blog but as a quick reminder they were:

-Exercise every day

-Practice gratitude

-Sketch/Write in my sketchbook every day

-Eat better

-Get in exhibits

-Read every day

-Choose positivity

We all had a perfect year to make excuses about why we ditched our personal goals, but I tried to stick with these goals all the way up until today, Thursday, December 31.  I wrote an entry on July 1 providing a 6 month update and today I give you the year end summary.  

-I exercised every single day.  Every single day.  This is my easiest victory for the year simply because it’s a habit I formed before the year began.  It may not have been all the exercise I planned for each day, it may not have been at the time I wanted to do it, and it may not have been the smartest thing for me to do, but I freakin’ did it.  I ran every day in 2020.  I did PiYo and other exercise some days.  I’ll admit that I did not do ALL the exercise I wanted to do on many days, but I did something.

-I kept a gratitude journal this year.  Actually it was just an excuse to buy a cool, small sketchbook, but I wrote down at least 11 things for which I was grateful each day.  I remember missing a few mornings and having to go back at night to write them down.  I also remember missing a few days and not realizing it until the next day when I wrote down the date.  But I went back and filled in each day with at least 11 things.  This was also not such a huge deal because I had started to make this a habit from last year.  It took maybe 60 seconds each morning.  But it set a tone for the entire day.

-I was supposed to sketch/write in my sketchbook every day.  Ok, I missed some days here.  Actually,  lot of days.  But remember that opening paragraph?  This is not a failure situation.  This is a situation where I set a goal and did a really good job of regularly entering information, both visual and written, in my sketchbook.  I did not cheat and call my little gratitude sketchbook my actual sketchbook.  My actual sketchbook is larger and I really only missed a couple of buckets full of days.  Strangely, as the year wound down and I had more time here at home to rest and relax, I found it harder to open my sketchbook.  At this moment my last entry was December 25, almost a week ago.  I want to keep at this goal for next year.

-Eating better was another goal.  Any goal writer can see that I left this one intentionally wriggly as a goal.  It’s very open ended, difficult to define objectively, and who knows how to judge it other than by my word.  While my eating habits were perhaps not as healthy as yours, they were improved this year.  I had more salads as meals than ever before in my lifetime.  I made the choice to only drink water (sometimes in the form of coffee and mimosas).  I chose to avoid fast food unless it was a dire situation and I chose to zig zag around fried foods when I had a choice.   I don’t normally weigh and I only go to the doctor if I’m forced, but I feel great and my body is healthy so I think this goal went very well.  (I looked for a photo of healthy food, but let's face it, broccoli isn't sexy so those pics get deleted quickly.  But that's a healthy waffle with coconut, whole grains, and a banana!)

-Getting in exhibits is difficult even in a regular year.  The pandemic forced many exhibits to cancel or postpone and sent many artists into a panic.  I was fortunate to have my most productive year ever in regard to creating new drawings and working from home allowed me the opportunity to seek out exhibits.  As a result, I was lucky enough to have 6 exhibits this year, which is good for any year.  I also have 2 solo exhibits coming up in early 2021 and I’m waiting on a few more rejections to come in.  

-This morning I read the final chapters of the New Testament, completing my sub-goal of reading the Bible all the way through chronologically in one year.  I read the Bible every morning and this year I read a couple of books about Mr. Rogers, a handful of books for school, and a couple more for fun.  Back in high school when I was writing essays and book reports about books I still haven’t read, I never thought I’d read for fun and yet, here we are.  By the way, that chronological Bible thing?  Regardless of your beliefs, I highly recommend reading that.  It was eye opening in so many ways. 

-What a year to choose positivity!  This one was perfect for 2020 and it’s one of the reasons I see this year differently than most of you.  My goal was to make a conscious effort to see the positive in every situation.  A dude eats a bat?  That’s easy enough to joke about.  A global pandemic?  Ah, it probably wont be so bad.  Don’t leave the house? I mean, I’m a hermit so…fine by me.  No seriously, stay home for months?  Ok, I’ll just draw a lot, remotely entertain my students, make music with my kid, start a new project of recreating famous art, and cook a lot of meals at home.  It’s easy to look at all the things this year brought and make memes, jokes, and excuses.  I’m glad I had this goal to keep me on a different path.

So that’s how I did.  I have nothing to brag about, but I also do not see any of my missteps as failures.  Goals are set in order to make us better and on December 31, I consider myself a bit better off than I was on January 1.  All of these goals helped me to encounter this challenging year in positive ways.  I can easily see that trying to be more positive and more grateful were immensely helpful to me this year.  These two goals kept my head in a place where I could have a proper perspective in tough times.  They also put me in a position to help others find the bright spots in dark times.  If you had goals, resolutions, or moments of joy this year, I’d love to hear about it.  You can always reach me by electronic mail at thedougmcabee at gmail dot com.

Monday, December 28, 2020

the best of 2020

So that 2020 huh?  

Yeah, but did you take time to remember the good things that happened?   Because I'm sure there were some.

On December 31, 2019 I wrote this in my sketchbook:  “I’m alive, I’m well, I’m loved…THAT is more than I deserve.  I am grateful!”  A year later, I’m still alive, well, and loved.  I am very grateful.

In early January I celebrated my birthday by virtually running with several friends.  I had this student, Nick, who always said he’d never run.  For some reason Nick decided to run for my birthday.  Then he decided to run again the next day and the next.  This year he ran every single day and on January 4, 2021 he will likely have his one year runniversary.  He’s getting fit and getting fast and I’m really proud of him.  Nick’s runstreak is one of the highlights of the year.

During the spring semester, a group of students gathered weekly on Thursday mornings to do “The Ninjas Of Kindness”.  The ninjas would do acts of kindness for the campus.  One day they all offered free hugs or high-fives.  Another day they gave away balloon animals.  They made so many people smile.  Highlight.

Speaking of running, I started running some extra miles last January and training for a half marathon.  It was sort of cool.  Very challenging, but cool.  I’ve always toyed with the idea of running a half marathon but I was afraid to do it because I didn’t want to endanger my 5K every day runstreak.  Fear is the enemy of fun so I signed up for a race.  On March 7 I ran the Myrtle Beach Half Marathon and enjoyed it.  Didn’t miss a day of my 5K streak either.  A very good thing.

Seven days after the half marathon we were working and schooling from home.  While this meant some not-so-great things in terms of emotions, it also came with some very cool family dinners and some very, very cool outside play-times after dinner.  On a toilet paper run (kidding) G found one of those foam airplanes and brought it home.  Somehow that became one of the joys of quarantine.  The kids and I threw that plane all over the yard throughout the spring.  We had contests, did tricks, and when a breeze took it into the high grass, we got to rescue it with the truck.  Eventually it was held together by duct tape and a couple of bamboo skewers but we still loved it.  Highlight.

The family time kept coming with Quarantunes With Violet and the Art remixes.  I know the family mostly tried to escape helping with the remixes and Blue got sick of hearing music in the house but we did have some very enjoyable bonding times with these activities.  Extra family time was fun.  Definitely highlight worthy.

Summer vacations were particularly nice this year.  The beach was a great place to relax our brains and sort of mentally check out for a bit.  The sunrises were spectacular, as were the beach walks.  And the food!  Coming out of quarantine take-out-only food, it was really nice to eat some of our favorite things in our favorite places.

Getting to go back to face-to-face instruction in August, for the kids and for me, was great.  I thrive on being in the studio and the exchange of energy with students.  I was so happy to be back.  I had to resist going back to my frequent high-fiving ways but the very first day of classes I walked past one of my people and I saw the high-five in her eyes.  ECoop threw up her hand and I gladly slapped it as I walked by.  It was so great.  I’m sure we both disinfected immediately afterward as any responsible person would in a pandemic, but that was a great high five.

There was also a cool moment near the end of the semester when I was forcibly hugged by Hannah.  I’m not a hugger and typically the only hug a student will ever get from me will be at their graduation.  Hannah is an Olympic class hugger and her hugs are coveted by her friends.  On Hannah’s birthday I was lucky enough to get a Hannah hug and it made my day.  Highlight.

All of my students were a highlight this year.  They were all so happy to be back in the studio and they really worked like they were valuing their studio time.  They all stayed ahead of schedule this semester, finishing projects early and doing their very best creative work.  My Sculpture 1 students impressed me, my intermediate students made some excellent work, and my advanced students made work that would make any professional sculptor sweat with envy.  I’m so very proud of them.  They are all highlights.

The musical situation of 2020 was weirdly awesome.  It’s now been well over a year since I last attended a real concert and that sucks.  But it turns out that musicians having some extra time at home is not a bad thing for us all.  Langhorne Slim, Jeff Tweedy, The Avett Brothers, and Taylor Swift all put out new music this year and they are some of my favorite musicians.  My ears have been happy. 

The holidays have also been pretty great.  Not in the normal, traditional ways, but still great.  We did not go back to campus after Thanksgiving break so there were some virtual things to deal with for a week, but the extra time at home was a nice treat for me.  I was able to get my gift-giving in order and there was a lot more extra family time with Christmas movies and some quick adventures.  We did not get to celebrate Christmas day with my extended family but the absence of that important tradition gave me an even greater appreciation for it and for the people who make it important.  

It's much funnier to joke about the year being a total dumpster fire, but I want to make sure I don't lose the lessons of a challenging year.  If you have a list of highlights in your head, maybe write them down or even share them with me.  And if you don't have a list of highlights but you are alive and well...I can assure you that you are also LOVED.  So maybe write that down.

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

My dad and Taylor Swift

My dad and Taylor Swift would have been fast friends.  

Sure, my dad was more fond of Johnny Cash, Marty Robbins, and Charlie Pride flowing from the dash of his old Ford pickup truck, but lately I’ve noticed something about Taylor Swift I think my dad would have liked.

Dad was a teacher at our district vocational school for most of my life at home.  This meant that when I got home from school every day, so did my dad.  When I had a school holiday or a snow/ice day, so did my dad.  When I was out for summer vacation, so was my dad.  My dad was also a work-a-holic.  This meant that when he wasn’t working at school, he was working in his metal fabrication business in our backyard.  This should be simple addition for you but let me go ahead and provide you the sum: this equaled no afternoons or days off for me.  When my school friends were sleeping until noon on a day off, my dad was opening my bedroom door and telling me to get my lazy butt up out of bed at 9:00 am.  When I dared to ask why, the response was always “We’ve got work to do!”.  Summer vacation?  More like my dad’s “Summer Work At Home” program.  

I, of course, felt some teenage angst about this.  I was jealous of my friends who sat at home all day playing video games.  I didn’t understand what a work ethic was at the time and how important it would be later on in my life.  

This year has been a different life experience for all of us.  In addition to not being allowed to go out and do most of the things we enjoy, we were also dealing with a pretty scary viral situation, some civil unrest, terrible politics, and many of us were asked to work from home.  So while we were scared and likely dismayed, we were also tempted to sleep too late, eat too much, stay in our pajamas too long, and watch way too much TV.  

I understand that there is no wrong way to deal with a year like this one.  I mean, as long as it’s legal and you’re not hurting anyone anyway.  If you slept, ate, pajama-ed all day, watched everything available on Netflix, and survived with your sanity and sobriety then good for you!  Be proud of that.  If you dealt with 2020 by throwing yourself into your work, then good for you too!  

Recently we’ve all discovered what our friend Taylor Swift was up to this year.  Even in quarantine, there’s little chance you missed that Swift managed to write, record, and release a whole new album back in July.  Her album Folklore was recorded in her home with some long-distance help from friends.  Far from a collection of songs about boredom or how cute her cats are, this album reached across musical genres and allowed Swift to stretch her talents into writing from outside of her own stories.  Her recent Grammy nominations seem to support my praise of her work.  She may have also just won Songwriter of the Year at the Apple Music Awards.

It may be difficult for most of us to sympathize with professional touring musicians during this year.  It’s important to realize that much of the income for professional musicians comes from touring, something that has not been allowed since early last spring.  Swift was never allowed to tour for her Lover album and there would definitely be no tour for Folklore.  I know we’re not worried about Swift financially, but what about professional performers who are not allowed to perform?  Performers live for an audience.  I can’t imagine not being allowed to do something that I love for an extended period of time.  For a performer like Swift, this year interrupted every normal thing about her life.  She was always busy doing the next thing, making an album, planning a tour, directing videos, learning choreography, planning the fashion for her next season.  We’re talking about early mornings and late nights.  Workouts, meetings, phone calls, and perhaps a very well planned out personal life.  Now imagine that same person being told they were not allowed to do any of those things and they needed to stay at home for an indefinite period of time.  

Talk about an excuse.  Now there’s a person who could wallow, eat ice cream out of the container, and keep Netflix in business.  But instead of doing the easy thing, it seems that Swift pretty quickly went about figuring out how she could work and be creative under the conditions she was given.  And figure it out she did, with the July album release of Folklore, a Disney Plus feature to follow in the fall, and then last week, an entirely new album release.  Her 9th studio album, Evermore, is still very new in my music rotation, but seems to be just as good if not better than Folklore.  

Was Taylor Swift living in the same year as the rest of us?  How does a person manage to be so productive?  Swift indicated in an interview this week that after about 3 days of quarantine she knew she needed to work.  I can almost see her opening the virtual bedroom doors of Jack Antonoff, Aaron Dessner, and Justin Vernon and saying “We’ve got work to do!”.

I was lucky to have the time and opportunity to make a lot of new work this year.  Certainly as a response to my conditions, the drawings have been flowing and I think I have somewhere over 20 new ones since January.  Thanks to my dad, now when I sit still for more than 5 minutes, I get the itch to go and do something.  Maybe this explains the Art-Remix every day, the Quarantunes With Violet every day, and staying up late each night drawing.  While this is super-annoying to the people who have to live with me, it has helped me to have a productive year instead of a lazy one.  That’s not to say I haven’t had my lazy moments.  I don’t mind telling you that I’ve gone into my sculpture studio on a cold rainy day, looked outside and proclaimed, “I can’t be expected to work in these conditions!” before walking out.  But because my dad instilled a strong work ethic in me, now when I need to rest and I take a couple of hours to watch an old Hitchcock movie (or a couple of episodes of Dawson’s Creek on Netflix) I get up afterwards and feel the need to go finish that drawing that’s been on my table for a month.  

If my dad had met Taylor Swift they would have laughed a lot together.  Maybe they would have written a song together or more likely, maybe my dad would have taught her how to weld.  What is certain is that they both would have told me to get my lazy butt up because we had work to do. 


Maybe you have some work to do too.  Maybe you can find a way to be productive today.  If so, my dad would be proud.  

Sunday, October 18, 2020

little did he know

I was recently having a book discussion with my MFA and BFA students and we started discussing the importance of making art.  Something in the book got us talking about how a viewer may see something you created and it could profoundly change them in some way that you may never even know.  These changes could be as small as a better mood or as large as a giant life decision.

Last week I received an email from one of our new art majors.  The email contained a photo of a student sculpture installed on campus and the emailer wanted to know if I could connect her with the student sculptor.  The emailer said that when she visited our campus on a tour last year she saw the sculpture and was impressed.  She said that when she saw the sculpture she knew this was the school she wanted to attend.  She was able to send a note of thanks to the student who made it and who unknowingly helped her make a pretty big decision.

This makes me wonder about the impacts of the things we do.  You know, the ones we never get a note about and the ones we never hear about.  And I’m not only talking about artwork.  What about the stranger you greeted with a smile, the dude you held the door open for, or the kid who received a Christmas gift that you randomly donated at a toy drive?  

Today would have been my dad’s birthday.  I thought about him a lot today.  He told me jokes like it was his job.  He made everyone smile.  He had the best stories.  He worked hard.  He laughed hard.  He had a sparkle in his eyes.  He had an expression for everything.  He made everyone feel welcome.  My dad was the coolest.  

He was also a great teacher.  He taught me how to weld with an old stick welder when I was seven.  He probably thought that was funny.  He spent years teaching me about steel, about tools, and about how to build just about anything.  He taught a lot of people how to weld during his years as a welding instructor.  Those students were all, no doubt, changed by having him as a teacher.  Many showed up at his funeral to share their gratitude and stories.  

If I’ve taught you how to weld or if I’ve taught you anything related to 3D art, you have my dad to thank for that.  If you won an award, got into a show, or got a job because of your portfolio, my dad had a part in that.  If I’ve made you laugh, made you feel welcome, or given you a nickname, my dad gets credit for that.  And if you went on to be a teacher or if you had any other impacts on the people in your life, there’s a piece of my dad in that too. 

It’s really amazing to think about how my dad could reverberate through the world in so many lives.  It makes me want to be a better person.

Thursday, October 8, 2020

the best things about quarantine

My son and I have frequent debates over this year.  His favorite starting point is “2020 is the worst year ever!”  I’ve devoted much effort to teaching my children to always choose to have a positive perspective, even when times seem rough.  He knows this and knows that he’s picking a fight with me each time he says it.  Of course I can’t let it go and I try to throw out the positive things about the last several months.  No one ever wins because yeah, I can see how many things have sucked about this year so far and he can’t deny the good things that we’ve experienced and that it could always be worse.  Eventually we get bored and go eat ice cream.

My classes began recently and we are back full time with face-to-face instruction.  His classes began two days later and he’s back to full time face-to-face instruction.  The “invisible Chinese virus” is still lurking around every corner but we are back to a mostly normal weekly routine.  Now that life is at least trying to return to normal, I’ve been thinking about the last few months and the whole “Quarantine” situation as I experienced it.  (You can read about those experiences by scrolling down) So now I give to you (and Blue)…


1. The Tweedy Show – One of the first casualties of COVID was live music.  This sent musicians into a spiral.  I suppose if you’re used to making music for a crowd every night it’s hard to sit at home and not play music.  While the death of concerts was not a good thing, many artists decided to use technology to share “live” music with fans online.  So many of these were great to watch but my favorite and perhaps the longest running one was/is The Tweedy Show.  Jeff Tweedy, the lead singer of the band Wilco, quarantined at home with his wife and sons and they discovered Instagram Live.  Jeff sits in his Costco pajama pants on his end of the couch and plays acoustic guitar and sings.  He’s joined by his drummer son Spencer on some songs and his other son Sammy either plays or sings on most nights.  The show lasts an hour and has been going live several nights each week for months now.  I highly recommend it.  You can find it on IG at @stuffinourhouse

2. Quarantunes With Violet – Early on in our time at home, my family looked for fun ways to pass the time.  We sort of stumbled onto making some music.  Violet loves to sing and I dabble with guitar and ukulele, though I’m dreadfully untalented.  One night we did a song and recorded it.  The next night we did it again.  This turned into a daily event that we called “Quarantunes”.  It lasted through quarantine and into summer when we changed the name to “Summertunes”.  Then school started back and our schedules finally forced us to stop doing it every day so we changed the name to “Whenever We Can Tunes”.  It’s still going strong on our YouTube channel.

3. Food – I love food.  I confess that I love sweets mostly, but any food I consider tasty will earn my love.  After those first couple of weeks in late March, I dug myself out of the hole of constantly trying to get caught up with reworking an entire semester’s worth of classes and projects and I realized something.  I was hungry.  I don’t mean in the literal sense, I was just hungry for foods.  I wanted to cook.  I wanted sweets.  I started making some desserts a few nights each week and that may have turned into making decadent desserts every night of the week.  I wanted to learn new recipes and I discovered it was fun to include the kids in the process.  Some nights I cooked alone, some nights Violet joined me, and most nights we were joined by Blue just in time to taste the result.  He had good timing.  The best thing about cooking the foods?  Definitely eating the foods!

4. Playing outside – During the spring and early summer months of quarantine, each night the kids would want to play outside.  We have a big yard and we’d find things to do in the front yard.  We bought a super-cheap foam airplane on a Walmart run and got way more than our $5 out of that.  Eventually the plane would catch a draft and soar way over into the tall grass and we’d have to go get the truck to drive out into the jungle to retrieve it.  This became the height of entertainment on some days and it seemed that soon the plane would spend a lot more time in the high grass just so we could "rescue" it.  I didn’t mind.  The kids would ride on top of the truck and we'd goof around in the yard.  We also played wiffleball, football, baseball, and one day we watched a dung beetle do his thing with some front yard dog poop.  The air was fresh, the evening sky was beautiful, and the temperatures were just right.  It was great to get out.

5. My students – I get the cool opportunity to know my students well during our 3 hour long studio classes.  (I also require them to be in the studio a minimum of 4 hours outside of class time each week.)  When we were sent into virtual learning in our homes, they not only missed the studios but they also missed interacting with their college friends.  It was tough but also very cool to observe as they dealt with the changes.  Sure there was a pandemic and the world was reacting in a way the students have never witnessed, but they also had their classes and lives turned upside down.  I got to watch as these tough humans adapted and learned how to do studio classes online.  I got to spend a little time with them each week by video classes and some of them would even email or message me in what seemed to just be an attempt to have some human connection.  In a time when they could easily have milked the situation and been lazy, I saw them rise to the occasion and do their best.  I love my students.

6. Drawing time – Dude, I’ve done so many drawings this year.  In terms of drawings, this is easily the most productive creative year I’ve ever had.  I’ve made a couple of new sculptures, I’ve completed new butt drawings every week, and I’ve made 19.5 new “real” drawings, and created a whole new body of work.  (The .5 is from drawing number 20 that now sits half-finished on my table.) I have a desire to stay busy, so instead of binge watching the tiger guy on Netflix like the rest of the country, I decided to draw as a way of maintaining my sanity.  There’s one other reason I’ve been so productive and it’s point number 7…

7. No bed time – During the academic year I get up really early to run and have coffee before my long commute.  Getting up at 5:30 am when you’re 48 means that you need an early bed time.  But in quarantine there was no reason to get up so early and that meant there was no reason to go to bed at a reasonable time.  Some nights I’d get distracted from drawing and go to bed early around midnight.  Other nights I’d draw until nearly 4 am.  My body adjusted quickly and I loved staying up late and sleeping in.  

8. No pants – It’s always hard to go back to wearing jeans when school starts back each August.  Shorts are so great.  During the summer I only put on pants when I go to church.  Getting up and “going to work” in shorts every day was great.  I know my legs would catch on fire, but getting to wear shorts in the studio would improve my mood by 200%.

9. We got to go back to school – I have some thoughts about the world’s reaction to COVID 19 and I wont add to the noise by sharing those here.  I will just say that I was thrilled to get to return to the school studios and be face-to-face with my students again.  My first day back I resisted hugs but did give a bare-handed high five.  It was exciting to see people again and to feel a little more normal.  The face masks I’m still getting used to, but all is well in the studios now.  Even Blue has to admit that face-to-face instruction is a huge gift in 2020.

10. Mental health – This is not funny and I’m not being silly with this one.  This year is hard, even for a goofball like me.  I’ve talked with friends dealing with big things.  I’ve talked with students dealing with giant things.  People who always seem happy and well-adjusted are having to readjust to “new normal” things.  Relationships are hard and even the daily routine is hard when you don’t feel like you’re in control of your own life.  People are nervous, people are being killed, people are protesting, and dude, it’s just hard for everyone.  I’m grateful that I have the things in my life that help me cope every day.  Things like running, yoga, drawing, laughing at myself, silly ideas, a great family, the best friends, funny students, wonderful dogs, spiritual beliefs, day dreaming, coffee, chocolate, and waffles just to name a few.  If you’re struggling, please find someone to talk to about whatever you’re thinking.  I suggest you find a real, licensed counselor or a trusted friend.  If you can’t do that or just don’t want to do that, heck, I’ll listen to you.  I know nothing, but I can listen.  Just make sure you take care of yourself because you know what?  Blue is right, this is a tough year.  2020 isn’t being easy on anyone and if you feel a little out of sorts, you are in good company.  

Thursday, July 16, 2020

It's time for the Summer Studio Sale!  The one day of the year you are actually invited to my house.

Saturday, July 18 you'll be able to tour my drawing and sculpture studios and purchase super cool artwork at super affordable prices.  This year I have four guest artists with work for sale:  Nick Spitzer, Jamea Bryson-Phillips, Leroy Perkins, and Sunny Perkins.  Here's everything you need to know:

The location.
Set your GPS to 6815 Hwy 49 Laurens, SC 29360.  

The date and time.
Saturday, July 18, 10am to 5pm

The goods.
Drawings, sculptures, and wearable art will be available from me.  The coolest paintings, prints, paint kits, and keychains by Jamea Bryson-Phillips.  The best photographic work from Nick Spitzer will be here.  Cool, new, folk art will be available from my friend Leroy Perkins.  Leroy's cousin Sunny Perkins is also back with some cool jewelry.  Blue and Violet have both been busy making new artwork for you.  You have to see it all.  I'll also have a limited number of "The Book Of Butts" and "The Book Of Skulls" paperback books.  Seriously, we'll have all the stuff you can't live without here!

The prices.
There will be art priced from $5 up to the hundreds.  There's no gallery commission here, so this is as cheap as you'll ever see it.  Something for every budget!

The payment.
We take debit and credit cards!  We take cash from everyone.  Checks from family and friends.  We can also accept Paypal through the "send money" option to

The food.
Georgie is setting us up with complementary snacks and drinks worthy of the drive.  Sweets, drinks, and all sorts of great goodies.  These will go fast!

The giveaway.
A butt drawing will be hidden somewhere in the studios/shopping environment.  If you find the butt drawing, it's yours for free!

The internet.
If you can't make the drive, you may make internet purchases beginning at 10am on July 18.  Shoppers who show up may have a head start on the good stuff, so please text , email, or call me to be sure the item you want is still available.  You must pay by Paypal at the time of the purchase.  Paypal payment can be made by using the "send money" option, not "goods and services" to or you can email me and we can send you an invoice by email with Paypal link for payment.  Please add the shipping cost to the price when you pay.  If you don't pay shipping, arrange to pick up your item.  (Shop online below as updated photos appear.  I'll update this post with photos and prices in the coming days.)

The truth.
If you've never made it to the sale in person, you need to come.  There will be tons more than just drawings and sculptures available.  We'll have steel mugs, vases, flowers, keychains, jewelry, garden art, and even art made by my kids!  There will be things that you never knew existed but you can't live another day without.  We are 45 mins from Columbia, 45 mins from Greenwood, 30 mins from Greenville and 30 mins from Spartanburg.

Come on, you know you've always wanted to come to Laurens.  Here's your chance.  Let me know if you have any questions.

*Shipping will vary based on size and weight.  If you need your purchases shipped, please contact me by text or email before purchasing.

Online shopping begins at 10am, Saturday, July 18.  Some of the items below may be sold on site by the time I receive your message.  It's best to shop in person but if you have questions, let me know.


 Rock cactus #1 by Blue (3.5" tall) $7

 Rock cactus #2 by Blue (3.5" tall) $7

 Hand decorated skull flower pot by McAbee (6" tall) $15  SOLD!

 Hand decorated narwhal flower pot McAbee (6" tall) $15 SOLD!

Hand decorated skull flower, flower pot by McAbee (6" tall) $15 SOLD!

  #1 Glitter earrings by Sunny Perkins $15

 Sphere earrings by Sunny Perkins $15

 #2 Glitter earrings by Sunny Perkins $15

 #3 Glitter earrings by Sunny Perkins $15

 #4 Glitter earrings by Sunny Perkins $15

 #5 Glitter earrings by Sunny Perkins $15

 Jar of hearts earrings by Sunny Perkins $15

#6 Glitter earrings by Sunny Perkins $15

 Avocado earrings by Sunny Perkins $20

 Fortune cookie earrings by Sunny Perkins $20

 Banana earrings by Sunny Perkins $20

 Ice cream earrings by Sunny Perkins $20

 Fortune cookie necklaces $20 each

 Scrabble frame art by Sunny Perkins (8"x10") $15

 Scrabble frame art by Sunny Perkins (7"x9") $15

 Scrabble frame art by Sunny Perkins (6"x8") $15
 Scrabble frame art by Sunny Perkins (8"x10") $15

 Scrabble frame art by Sunny Perkins (7"x8.5") $15

 Scrabble frame art by Sunny Perkins (8"x8") $15

 Scrabble frame art by Sunny Perkins (7"x9") $15

Scrabble frame art by Sunny Perkins (7"x9") $15

 Scrabble frame art by Sunny Perkins (10"x13") $15

Scrabble frame art by Sunny Perkins (8"x8") $15

 Monopoly car earrings by Sunny Perkins $15

 Monopoly cowboy earrings by Sunny Perkins $15

 Monopoly dog earrings by Sunny Perkins $15

 Monopoly iron earrings by Sunny Perkins $15

 Monopoly thimble earrings by Sunny Perkins $15

Monopoly shoe earrings by Sunny Perkins $15

McAbee's first run at wheel thrown ceramics in 20 years (sizes vary, some are wonky)...
 Thrown cup #1 by McAbee $15

 Thrown cup #2 by McAbee $15

 Thrown cup #3 by McAbee $15

 Thrown cup #4 by McAbee $15

 Thrown cup #8 by McAbee $15

 Thrown cup #9 by McAbee $15

 Thrown cup #10 by McAbee $15

 Thrown cup #11 by McAbee $15

 Thrown cup #12 by McAbee $15

 Thrown cup #13 by McAbee $15

 Thrown cup # 14 by McAbee $15

Thrown cup #15 by McAbee $15

 Carved mocha mug #1 by McAbee $20

Slipcast cappuchino mugs/soup bowls (around 28 ounces)...
 Carved mocha mug #2 by McAbee $20

 Carved mocha mug #4 by McAbee $20

 Carved mocha mug #5 by McAbee $20

 Carved mocha mug #6 by McAbee $20

 Carved mocha mug #7 by McAbee $20

 Carved mocha mug #9 by McAbee $20

 Carved mocha mug #10 by McAbee $20

 Carved mocha mug #12 by McAbee $20

 Carved mocha mug #13 by McAbee $20

 Carved mocha mug #15 by McAbee $20

 Carved mocha mug #16 by McAbee $20

Carved mocha mug #17 by McAbee $20

 Butt drawings from this year...
 6"x6" ink on wood $25, smaller ones $20

6"x6" ink on wood $25 each

Butt drawings from earlier...
 6"x6" ink on wood $25 each

 Assorted butts $20-$40

 Assorted butts $25-$40  PUG SOLD

Assorted butts $25-$40  bottom right sold

 Mirror wall art by Sunny Perkins...
 8.5"x4.5" $15

 9"x12.5" $15

 5" round $10

 3.75" round $10

 2.75" round $10

Canvas drawings by McAbee...
 8"x 10" $20 each

 8"x10" $20 each cow sold

 8"x10" $20

 8"x10" $20 each

 8"x10" diptych $40

 6"x6" $15 each

Resin keychains by Sunny Perkins...
glitter resin waffles $5 each

assorted resin keychains $5 each  large smilie face sold!

Pins (coated paper) by Sunny Perkins $5 each
large ice cream sold

Earrings by Sunny Perkins...
 Bananas (coated paper) $10

Worms (coated paper and plastic) $10

Earrings by Sunny Perkins...
 Paint drip earrings (plastic) $15

 Seashell ice cream cone earrings (blue/green) $15

 Waffles and bananas (coated paper) $10

 Sun earrings (coated paper) $10

 Amber resin earrings $15

 Pink circle earrings (steel) $15

 Long pink seashell ice cream cone earrings $15

 Short pink seashell ice cream cone earrings $15

 Crescent moon earrings (coated paper) $10

 Abstract sunset earrings (plastic) $10

 Wolf moon earrings (plastic and coated paper) $10

 Ace earrings (mixed media) $10

 Reverse 2020 earrings (paper and plastic) $10

Glow in the dark recycled plastic earrings $5

Reusable cloth masks by McAbee...

 Red lipstick kisses $10

 Skull #1 $10
These all sold out but I can make more!

Vinyl record paper holder (hangs on wall) $10 each

Steel mugs by McAbee (clear coated steel, decorative)...

 steel mug #2
2" tall $10

 steel mug #3
4" tall $20

 steel mug #4
4" tall $20

 steel mug #5
3" tall $10

 steel mug #6
2" tall $10

 steel mug #7
2" tall $10

 steel mug #8
4" tall $20

 steel mug #9
4" tall $20

 steel mug #10
4" tall $20

 steel mug #11
4" tall $20

 steel mug #12
4" tall $20

 steel mug #13
4" tall $20

 steel mug #14
4" tall $20

 steel mug #16
3" tall $10

steel mug #17
4" tall $20

Succulent butt planters by Leroy Perkins...

 Red 4" tall $20

 Blue 3" tall $20

Blue 3" tall $20

Wooden birdhouses by Blue...
(please arrange for pickup or delivery)
 Red, Blue $20 each

Purple, Green $15 each

8"x10" photo prints taken by Violet...
 Red flower $10

 Yellow flower $10

 Red and yellow flower $10

 Moth $10

 Succulent $10

 Evergreen $10

 Dew $10

 Succulent #2 $10

 Spotted flower $10

 Seeds $10

 Bird $10

 Jellyfish $10

 Sunrise $10

Whelk $10

Hand painted rocks by Blue $3 each