Thursday, December 31, 2015

because i can

When asked why he started running across the country, the fictional Forest Gump answered, "I just started running."  If you didn't use your Forest Gump voice when you read that, go back and try it again.

I enjoy running.  I could sprint fast as a kid and I liked outrunning other kids in races around the yard.  In organized football, running fast was pretty much my only talent.  I wasn't interested in running as a sport in school but in college I ran for fun and exercise sporadically.  Stan and I got a little more serious about it during our last two years of undergrad, running regularly on a 5 mile course trying to get 20 miles in each week. 

After college I would run every now and then when I'd decide I was eating too much bad stuff.  Running made me feel better.  I began to see it as a stress reliever as well as good exercise and I found a really nice course at our old house and started running more regularly there.  

Eventually I got the nerve up to register for a 5K.  This was my first encounter with "real runners".  These people had running clothes.  You know, clothes that were designed and sold for the purpose of running.  They had fancy shoes and matching outfits and because it was a very cold December morning, most of them had those tight running pants.  I was not one of those people.  I had on a pair of exercise shorts, a tshirt and some old shoes.  I liked running but I always maintained that I was not a "runner".  What that meant to me was I didn't have fancy running shoes or clothes.  I did not subscribe to any running magazines.  And I certainly did not eat or drink anything specifically designed to enhance my running.  Running was fun and when you run fairly regularly it's easy to explain why you run.  It's exercise.  It's fun.  I enjoy it.  

A few years ago we moved to the Middle of Nowhere with several acres of land.  Just after we moved in I realized that I could run around the perimeter of our property and have a pretty awesome running track.  3 1/2 years later, I'm still running that track on a daily basis.  Sort of accidentally, I started logging at least 3.1 miles every day.  When it's cold, I run.  When it's hot, I run.  When it's raining, snowing, sleeting, thundering, I run.  When life makes it difficult to make time for my miles, I still run.  When we travel, I run somewhere else but I still run.  I haven't skipped a day of running in 3 1/2 years.  And when you start doing something like that, something that seems odd to everyone else around you, you start having to answer the question of why.  The answers have more or less been the same.  I enjoy running.  It's great exercise.  But even I can admit that there must be more to it than that to run every single day.  

I've logged 5,239 miles on my Nike Plus app for however many years I've used that.  This year alone I ran 1,144.5 miles.   I got to run in St. Augustine, Highlands, the Grand Strand and of course, here at home.  I ran in total darkness, raging heat and 18 degrees with snow on the ground.  I saw sharks, dolphins, crabs, deer, rabbits, cats, dogs, hawks, crows and something that may have been a bear on these runs.  I saw shooting stars, amazing sunrises and unexplained flashes in the predawn sky.  When I run I pray and I think and I plan.  And while it's never easy, I really enjoy it all.  

Sometimes I forget why I run.  I mean the real reason.  Sometimes I open the door and the cold air hits me and takes my breath away.  Some days I can hear the rain on the roof before I even go outside.  Some days the humidity is so stifling I can barely breathe.  Some days my legs are sore or my knees hurt.  On days like these I confess to murmuring a little.  I may even complain.  And then I remember why I run and feel terrible for complaining.

I run because I can.  I run because I am physically able to run.  It is true joy to feel the wind against my face as I push forward.  I lift my feet off the ground to move forward and as I glide through the air I feel alive.  I run as a way of giving thanks for the ability to run and for the opportunity to run.  These are gifts and I am truly grateful.  

I have friends who are physically unable to run.  Their ankles, knees or bodies have failed them and they can not run.  I am certain they'd give anything to feel that wind on their face even in driving rain or boiling heat.  A couple of years ago I had the honor of pushing a wheelchair bound student in a race at school.  I saw the smile on her face when we passed people.  I'm a total idiot for complaining about running in a little rain.

Currently I have at least 6 pairs of running shoes.  (It can take a couple of days for a pair to dry out after a rainy day run.)  I still have some basic exercise shorts I wear but I also have a couple that were sold as "running shorts".  I even have some of those tight running pants and long sleeve running shirts just because exposed skin when the wind chill is in the teens is not such a good idea.  I'm still fighting it, but I'm closer to accepting that I'm a "runner" now.  At least now I know why.  

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Christmas highlight reel

Here's the scoop on Christmas things that have happened this year:

 Lander hosted a big Christmas shindig this year before the semester ended.  We had a big tree lighting ceremony, an ugly sweater contest, musical entertainment, and free hot chocolate and cookies.  There was a Christmas photo backdrop set up for everyone to use.  I think the bright light washed us out a bit.  

 One of the sweater finalists was Scarlet, an art major who featured the art faculty on the back of her sweater.  

 But it was Singletary and her matching chihuahua that won first place.  

 The art department ruled this university wide event.  We dominated the sweater contest and the gingerbread house making contest as well.  We also consumed a lot of cookies and hot chocolate.

 We normally make a point to take in our local small town Christmas parade.  We found out about it late this year but still tried to make it.  Our schedule that day was going to push us to make it to the square without exceeding the posted speed limits by double digits, so we stopped off in Greenville and ended up eating good food and still being early to their bigger parade.

 One of the singing show people was the grand marshal.  And Santa got his hat knocked off by a low hanging branch right in front of us.  Good times.

 Oddly enough, it was cold the night of the parade.  This winter has been very warm and we've spent most of our days in shorts.  Parade day was cooler so we were lucky enough to have on pants but not all of us had socks since we weren't planning to stand out in the cold all night.  On the way home, hot chocolate and coffee were necessary to raise the body temperatures.  Blue and Violet love to pretend they're drinking coffee.

 The art faculty party was a jon and Lori's house this year.  I was jon's secret Santa and I loaded him up with Miley Cyrus gear.  We have a running disagreement about Taylor Swift and Miley.  I hear he slept in his wrecking ball shirt that night.

 TeamArt is the best.  I love these people.

 Our elf came back with the tree this year.  He love to get into trouble and tease the kids.  He got a taste of his own medicine when Timber dog broke into his gift fortress and dragged him out for play time.

 Elfie discovered selfies this year.

 Some kind of weird light show thing came to Simpsonville this year and we drove up to see it.

 Blue and I got to ride the camel.  This was very cool.  I did not wake up that morning and think there was any chance I'd ride a camel that day.

 At the annual McAbee party poor LJ selected not one...

 but both of the gag gifts I brought for the Bingo/Dirty Santa game.  Sorry LJ!

 There are a lot of McAbees in that panoramic photo.  This was during the hot potato gift unwrap game.

 Christmas Eve was filled with presents and food.

 Christmas day was filled with presents and food.

 Santa was nice enough to bring me a Taylor Swift signature guitar.  It's very cool.

 And after a good  nap we trucked over to the Waffle House for more food.  They had a very merry bunch of employees and excellent waffles.

A couple of days after Christmas we got to meet up with Donovan, Megan, Ginger and Scott.  We laughed, drank coffee and ate giant chocolate chips that Megan apparently carries with her at all times.  You have to respect that.  

Monday, December 14, 2015

more art for the people

This semester has had us busy getting more public sculpture ready to install.  Corey Benjamin, now Mr. Benjamin, graduated from our MAT program and took over the art job at Brewer Middle School just a few minutes from campus.  He worked with his principal to arrange for a public sculpture project to help beautify their school.  Three of my students submitted proposals for work specifically designed for Brewer.

 Jarvis created a big dog bowl with raised bones and letters and a whole bunch of kibbles inside it.  Since his was an indoor piece all we had to do was roll it inside.

 Oscar wasn't so lucky.  His outdoor sculpture near the school library required some digging.

 Oscar's was a dog house with the school initials on the side and a giant book for a roof.

He and Rashaad are really good at posing for photos.

 Rashaad also had to do a little digging.  

 His was a typographic sculpture using the school initials.  It was installed right at the front entrance to the school.  Look how proud he is.

 Kristen (Dread) also got a little digging practice in.

 Her 13 foot tall steel lady was installed at Lander just outside the cafeteria.

Luke also made a cool one near the bridge.  His steel drawing is really difficult to photograph but it features a stump and axe, a sapling and a medium tree to show the cycle of life.  That's his proud face.

 Kayla installed her abstracted dirt dauber nest outside the Learning Center building.  I think that's her proud face too.

 Metal Megan was back again this semester making ambitious steel things.  

For her installation, we got to dig three holes in some very non-dig friendly ground.  She worked hard to get her puzzle piece idea to work with perspective on a large scale.  She did a great job....and that's her proud face too.

 Megan's installation is on the front campus lawn outside the science building.

 And Olivia was back again this semester too.  Well, kinda.  She was in my class but she also took on an ambitious project and wanted to do it in clay, which meant she spent most of the semester in the ceramics room instead of the sculpture room.  I'm not bitter.  

 Not only did she make life sized body parts out of clay, but she also decided to Raku fire them...which gave them an even higher chance of breaking.  And with the help of a little glue, she managed to keep most of her parts together for the installation.

 The body parts, two arms, two lower legs, two upper legs and a bust, are created out of clay and several of them act as planters for flowers and a tree.  This one deals with the impact humans have on nature and vice versa.  That's not Olivia's proud face.  She's almost as goofy as I am.

 Hers is also hard to photograph, but there's a wider shot of the arrangement.

 Daisha also took on an ambitious project.  Her one large origami crane made out of steel turned into two cranes.  And then three.  She did some very precise math and then some very precise work with the plasma torch.  Then she did a lot of grinding and welding.  Then more grinding.  A little more grinding.  Then a bit more grinding and some painting.  Then some digging.  Actually, Daisha did all the digging with her head.  She enlisted her boyfriend to do some digging for her and then poor Jarvis walked by at the wrong time and had to finish up.  

 These three show the stiff, steel crane resting, then loosening up and taking off and finally becoming more organic and flying.

This installation is in the main entrance to campus and will get all kinds of visual attention every single day.  And it was finished just in time for final grades to be turned in so Daisha could graduate last Saturday.   

Public sculpture is very important to me because of the huge impact it has on the general public.  Exposing people to beauty and critical thinking is such a great gift.  But I've also grown to love the impact these types of exhibits have on the artists involved.  There's a sense of duty that takes over when the students realize their work will be seen by everyone on a daily basis.  They work hard to refine their sculptures and then those proud faces come out when the installation is complete.  Even the students who try to be the most cynical and jaded can't help but let their genuine pride show when the work is done.  And on the other side of each of these photos is a teacher who cant hide his proud face either.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

a warm thanksgiving

Thanksgiving break was wonderful and filled with sand and food, but not at the same time.  Ok, some of it was at the same time, but there wasn't any sand in the food.  I'm saying we went to the beach and ate a lot.  

 It was a traditional Thanksgiving break for us, which means we started off with the Gobble Your Gibblets 5K Race at USC Upstate.  This is a tough course with lots of hills but I've gotten a little faster each year.  This year was my best time yet.  G had me at 20:45 but the official time was 20:48.  That was good enough for me to be 4th place overall and 1st in my age group.  

Violet held the turkey trophy while we posed in front of my sculpture on the Upstate campus.

 The tradition also takes us to my mom's for superb home cooked food.

 This was the aftermath.

 Later that afternoon we arrived at the edge of the country to see this perfect view.  Then we headed out to our annual Thanksgiving night meal out.

 The day after Thanksgiving was beautiful and unseasonably warm.  As the temperatures rose to the low 70s we hit the sand in our bathing suits.  We played for a bit before going for our next tradition, the McAbee Polar Plunge.

Beach Friday isn't complete without a stop by the Lazy Gator and dinner at Russell's.  We haven't seen the resident gator in a while so the kids got a little complacent.

 And that's how people get eaten.

 Violet was the appetizer and Blue was the main course.

 The inlet is stunning.  The broad horizon, the sky reflecting on the water, the salt hanging in the's a highlight of every trip to the beach.

 The enormous amount of food we consumed made each morning run a bit tough.  But running at the beach is so nice.  There's so much beauty that it's easy to forget that you're running.  And when you're out on the beach early, you get to find the cool treasures that wash up overnight.

 Just like Charlie Brown says each year, consumerism is doing it's best to destroy Christmas.  This year, the consumerist greed moved the official arrival of Santa at The Market Common a week before Thanksgiving weekend.  This meant Blue didn't get to tell Santa what he wanted in person.  It also meant Violet didn't have to be terrified of the nice bearded man in the red suit.  Still we enjoyed the decorations.

 And the weather on Saturday was just as nice.  We spent even more time on the beach and I think I got a little sun on my head.

In the absence of Santa, we hijacked his sleigh and ate more food before returning home to prepare for the last week of classes.