Sunday, March 28, 2021

plaster pouring day!

Spring semester is always so busy but it also provides some of the high points of the academic year.  One of those is, of course, plaster pouring day.  Plaster pouring day in 2020 was one of the last group things we were able to do before getting kicked off campus and into quarantine.  I honestly wasn't sure what it would look like this year with new considerations, but we were able to work things out just fine.  

There was one glitch, though.  I'm only teaching one of our three freshman design courses.  I had planned to ask if I could help out on plaster pouring day like I did last year.  Before I could ask, my colleague was forced into quarantine and unable to be on campus for the big event and asked me to fill in.  I was happy to do so.

Here's the summary in photos...

The "before" photo of the morning class featuring Asia, who just loves to come help out every year.  I love her.

Things got messy fast.

Sometimes you just have to jump in and hug a leaking mold.

The "after" photo.  Much better.

Asia deserved a pat on the back for her outstanding efforts.

The afternoon class 
"before" photo.

Immediate chaos.

Smiles amid the chaos.

The "after" photo.

Jocelyn was there to spectate and we were able to recreate her photo from 4 years ago.

The original photo.

Then it was time for my class.  The "before" photo.

The chaos.

The "after" photo.  

We were lucky to be able to work outside this year but the sculpture deck still hasn't fully recovered.  

Once again I was able to watch students come out of their shells and begin to work together as a team.  The sense of community was much stronger after this experience.  Long live plaster pouring day!

Saturday, March 13, 2021

you don't even know how to pronounce his name

I need to get this off my chest:  Theodor Seuss Geisel was not a racist.  

Additionally, his children’s books are not racist, morally corrupt, or downright evil.  

Let’s start with my biases.  I am a major fan of Theodor, the artist who took the pseudonym “Dr. Seuss” as both a joke and a marketing move.  I’m also a middle aged, white, male so admittedly, being sensitive to the most current racial and regional stereotypes is not a strength of mine.  Neither of these facts, however, prevent me from making a few objective observations.

A few weeks ago I noticed some internet outrage that literally stated “Dr. Seuss is racist”.  Most of these were connected to teachers of small children who were seeking to remove books from their school libraries that they deemed insulting to various cultural groups.  You know how the internet works.  If you saw it online it must be true.  No need to verify anything.  I noticed that the Dr. Seuss estate had issued a statement about the accusations and presented evidence that not only was Ted Geisel not a racist, but he intentionally created fun books for all children designed to help them with reading skills and to provide positive life lessons.  Another day of internet accusations went by and I saw more people on the cancel bandwagon, so eager to dismiss a man’s lifetime of work because of sensitivities that did not exist in 1937.  Next the estate removed 6 books deemed offensive from publication including “And To Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street”.

I realize that many people think that Dr. Seuss is only the books they had when they were kids.  Fewer realize he worked in advertising, served in the US Army, created fine art paintings and sculptures, and once penned a very “adult” book as a joke to his friends.  Fewer know that he was a liberal Democrat with very progressive ideas.  Or that his wife committed suicide, leaving him distraught in his 60s.  Or further, that people have been writing articles and dissertations about misinterpretations of his work for decades.  Maybe the most important thing for people to know about Dr. Seuss these days is that he was continually updating his classic books and their illustrations as he became more culturally aware.  He was evolving with the times and learning.  He was changing.

Do you remember that time you said or did that really bad thing?  I mean, you were young and you were with that group that made it feel like it was not so bad.  Maybe you said something really hurtful to someone.  Remember the look on their face and the pit that opened up inside your chest when you realized what you did was terrible?  Should that thing you did be held against you forever?  I mean, maybe if you kept on doing it, but what if you never wanted to feel like you intentionally hurt someone again?  What if you worked the rest of your life to not repeat that mistake?  Wouldn’t you want people to allow room for you to grow?  Don’t you deserve to be able to change?  

Those 6 Dr. Seuss books contain images that are culturally insensitive in 2021.  Some of those books had already been updated over the years.  I would imagine that if Ted were able to draw posthumously, he would have continued to edit and update his books because offending someone is the last thing he ever wanted to do.  Ted had a huge heart and the truth of the matter is that he cared more for children than some of their parents did.  For almost 100 years he’s been offering an entertaining and educational alternative to TV and screens.  

Maybe the thing I’m struggling with is not whether or not you think some Seuss drawings are offensive.  Maybe my struggle is the implication that we need everyone to agree on everything and to never offend anyone else.  I wholeheartedly reject this idea.  We are a society who claims to celebrate diversity.  You can’t celebrate diversity when you’re actively trying to stamp out our differences.  What you really value is homogeneity.  Sameness.  How boring is that?  

If you’re reading this, you probably don’t disagree.  I know I’m different from you and that’s one of the reasons I like you so much.  The people I’ve surrounded myself with in physical environment as well as in the digital realm are people who are different from me.  I find differences fascinating.  The last thing I want is for you to change to be like me.  Of course I love it when I find things between us that are similar.  I enjoy having things in common, just not everything.  I have friends in both worlds who are very different from me in religious, political, and social beliefs.  You know, the very things that break up families, friendships, and cause us to tap the “unfollow” button?  The way I see it, these differences make great friendships and discussions.  I’m not threatened by my vegetarian friends, my homosexual friends, nor my atheist friends.  I love them.  They’re so fun to talk with.  I learn from them.  I grow because of them.  Ted definitely drew some sketchy things.  I'm not asking you to like them, I'm asking you to see the whole person.  And maybe let your kids be exposed to some things that lets them know everyone in their life will not share their values or perspectives.  Maybe have a conversation about that.  

As I said, I’m a bit of a Dr. Seuss fan.  I don’t remember having his books when I was a kid, but I almost certainly had a few.  I discovered (or rediscovered) Dr. Seuss in college back in the early 1990s.  My roommates and I would make a late night run to the 24 hour Walmart out of boredom, and I would grab Dr. Seuss books and hold a mini concert/reading to see how fast I could read them aloud.  I guess when you’re 19 and not fond of partying that passes as entertainment.  In grad school I realized the art and creativity of Dr. Seuss was an influence on my artwork and I threw myself into a rabbit hole of research of this most interesting human.  If you want to be upset about some artwork by ignoring the culture and time period in which it was created, there’s a lot more than just a few books to be upset about.  And if you’re so short-sighted that you are unable to consider the historical socio-political setting in which an artist worked, I think maybe that’s actually “cultural insensitivity”.  

By the way, Seuss was Ted Geisel’s middle name.  It’s of German descent and it’s meant to be pronounced “Zoyce”.  Ted’s move to use this name for his children’s books was related to the idea that the Americanized pronunciation of “Seuss” rhymed with “Goose” as in “Mother Goose”.  He added the “Dr.” prefix because his father always said he wanted a doctor in the family.  

If you still want to get rid of your Dr. Seuss books, I’ll send you my address.  

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.