Thursday, April 17, 2014

Heaven + Painted Buntings: The Balance Between Hope and Loss

Mid-seventies. Carving pumpkins as an aged teen. Our family suburban kitchen. Laughter.

My light bulb observation. The startling realization that the young, near-man across the pumpkin guts from me had the longest eyelashes I'd ever noticed on the opposite sex. Ever. More laughter. Pumpkin slime uniting us. As children. Albeit children with hormones mid pumpkin seeds. Was I seventeen? Was he eighteen? It was a different century. At the height of disco.

That is the image that I woke to this morning. His eyelashes. PLUS. Orange shag carpet. {Seriously. For RealZ.}

The memory of that singular, specific moment has set my fingers typing as my heart considers. He was a gentle giant. I learned last night that he is no longer a fellow inhabitant here. On Planet Earth. When was the last time I pondered our teenage garage-band era? His guitar playing skills were something like honey drizzled over a flake-filled delicate morsel. I will admit. I was mesmerized in his presence. Whether it was the eyelashes, the honey or his incredible and unique blend of simplicity cut with a laugh that invited participation rather than observation -- I can think of no other word short of clicking to a thesaurus, but 'mesmerized' is hardly sufficiently strong for his magnetic charms. He wore a hat. A cowboy hat. In the middle of suburban Ohio. Because he had such long eyelashes. He needed protection. He blushed easily. Which only added to his fascinating magnetism. He is no longer here in our midst. His guitar is now quiet. Of that much I am certain.

To be honest, I don't know that I saw him after my departure for those stereo-typical ivy covered walls of my collegiate chapter. I have no further memories up there in my weary Swiss Cheese-for-Dendrites. Surely we must have had another nod or wave? There were no more pumpkin carving episodes. That was singular. Suspended in time. Perhaps in a photo? We were never friends on Facebook. Our friendship did not take the cyber-forward leap into the Jetson's time zone, here all these many decades later. Yet I awoke on this day to his eyelashes. Moments. Suspended in time. Somehow stored there in my memory bank. Unsuspecting I am back to that single blink of time. Suspended in time. I think I already mentioned time suspension. How does that work exactly? Memories reconnoitered out of thin air.

We were church going teen peers. There must have been some theology amid the pizza. Surely. We were the children of Lake Woebegon... "where all the children are above average." The Buckeye cousins of course. Garrison knows his Lutherans and potluck jello. Having just returned from the abject kindness of Minnesota last weekend, I am reflecting on jello and Lutherans and grace and heaven and eyelashes and pumpkins and cowboy hats and orange shag and twinkling disco balls and time marching ever onward while the Grand Canyon erodes one singular heartbeat deeper. That canyon. The depth. The absolute enormity that defies both description and my photographic capability. Grows deeper. Did you just feel it? He wore a plaid shirt. He will now, forever be in a plaid shirt in the reruns I loop continuously, attempting to scour up some more concrete memories. Legacy. Jello. Plaid. Honey. Eyelashes. Pumpkin guts. The Grand Canyon. Heaven. I have yet to mention our Painted Bunting.

It was my brother that called. To tell me. We are not phone friends. My brother and moi. Actually. I am not a phone person. Not at all. I don't have phone friends. Anymore. It's pretty ridiculous that I now have an iPhone. My first iAnything. I can barely answer it on my own. It holds super powers I know nothing of how to harness. Embarrassing. Hearing my brother's voice through my eye phone gave me a moment to catch my breath and restart my heart. Truth-be-told, it was my brother that was the glue between Mr. Honey-of-the-Guitar, Possessor-of-those-Eyelashes and me. My brother was the common denominator in our friendship. He was the vocalist. My younger, bigger than me brother. You know who played the guitar. That left the keyboard to me. Oh and there was a drummer. Which is a whole different ramble.

The vocalist and the guitarist were buds. Dudes. They swam together in the pool across the street from our driveway. I was an onlooker to all of that testosterone in motion. The ache in my brother's heart is undoubtedly different than my own. Kintsugi. No I did not sneeze. Kintsugi is nothing like gesundheit. Or maybe those two are eerily connected on a different plane? Kintsugi & gesundheit. Kintsugi was part of my morning Instagram feed. I was reminded that I once knew about Kintsugi while I was forced to restart my laptop. Such a member of this era. I juggle between screens as I reflect. As I continue my morning communion. I was thinking about eyelashes and heaven,  when there before me on my eye phone was an image of a broken clay pot restored to a newfound profound betterfound gold infused wholeness. Is that akin to heaven? Heaven on Earth? Broken shards repaired with gold. Made stronger and more beautiful. Grace.

Back to the concept of heaven. Jello. Grace and eyelashes..... and don't forget the shag carpet and disco. He was not a man of disco, but that rounds out the setting in my recall. The time frame. Those were disco years. Yet. They were John Denver tunes singing on his honey guitar. Aneurysm? Good thing there's spell check. Not a set of letters I want to remember how to arrange on my own. Instant heaven? Immediate transition from being here to not. Is that a good thing? Instantaneously leaving here for there? Shock. Poof. Game over. Who is ever ready for that when you're the one left here on the orb with gravity? Questions creep in when there is no opportunity to say goodbye. 

He is not the only male-man from my immediate orbit to depart Earth of late. It was my mommy that shared my first cousin's story. She didn't call. We were together. Across the salt and pepper. Recently. His story, my cousin's also had an extremely abrupt ending. Mom shared it while we had lunch. After church. In a restaurant. My cousin. Imagine the surprise of walking to work and ending up in Heaven. Let that sink in. Hit and run. Three words. Tragedy. Game over. Where's the closure for family? Hit and run. Immediacy. Hit and run. That's certainly something of a mystery. We were related. Directly. First cousins. Finality. We had no parallel pumpkin carving experience. I have no memory of the substance of his eye lashes. Which somehow adds to the enormity as I reflect and type. Type and reflect. Reflect and type. Heaven. Hit and run. Walking to work. Not an episodic TV show installment. Real life. Life ended in this case. First cousin. Life over. Heaven.

Are you a glass full type? Walking to work and ending up in heaven could be awesome I suppose. No more traffic or taxes. No more to-do list. No more cellulite or varicose veins that frighten your WonderBoy. WonderBoy who turns eight years old today!!! {{{Blowing you kisses across the country, boy of the big blue oceanic eyes.}}} How is it possible for you to be eight, when you arrived only yesterday? I stood there in AWE and witnessed your first breath. Your first wiggle. Your teeny tiny too-blue fingers waiting for your cry. Metaphysics. Time warp. Time travel. Back to the Future? How is it possible that I am both grandmother to a second grader and simultaneously able to experience the carving of pumpkins whilst a teenager all while wearing this same body today? Legacy. Heaven. Earth. Gravity. Umbilical chord. Eyelashes. Hit and run. Jello. Honey. Pumpkin seeds. Painted Bunting. Land of the Lakes.

I took this picture. I remember thinking at the time. This is Heaven. Heaven I tell you. Look at those eyes. I must somehow capture those eyes. I must blink and remember and hope and pray to capture a fraction of the depth and wisdom of those eyes. That light. That light is special. The light that is shining in those eyes..... I must savor it. I must hold this Heaven sent memory. And somehow, only because of Heaven, I captured that single image well beyond my photographic skill set. We must remind ourselves to look out at the world as though we are seeing through the eyes of a child. That's heaven. The light in the eyes of the people we love. Heaven. 

#Quote: "The light in the eyes of children is the reflection of Heaven peeking through."
I took this picture of our WonderBoy: Happy, happy Birthday BoyWonder.

Today the movie, "Heaven is for Real" opens. I believe the title. Four words. Don't have to convince me. And It's not because of my own 'out-of-body' experience as a tweenager. Long before the cowboy hat guitarist entered my realm or he mine. I nearly drowned. Well, sorta. Difficult to explain succinctly, that experience, my not-really-drowning story. I'll try. Church camp.  Lots of rain. Lots and lots and lots and lots of rain. Creek walk at week's end, when the sun came out. Jumping off a concrete bridge over that creek, to swim where the water was deep. Over the head deep. Sounds fun, oui? Non? What no one envisioned was what happened next. After jumping in I disappeared to all those still topside. I was indeed ultimately spewed out on the other side of the bridge, like the opening credits of "Twilight Zone." I got there by way of the culvert created water vortex whirlpool between the jumping in and the spewing out. In between my splash down and the spewed forth part, there was a lot of me thrashing against the interior of the cement culvert walls. There's not a lot of life to pass before your eyes when you're a tween, but I saw it parade in full technicolor clarity. I had the presence of mind to catch a deep breath as I was being pulled towed under. There was no resuscitating required. I sat there in a stupor with bloodied cuts as the water careened over the bridge's edge, washing over me with baptismal symbolism. I was stiff and sore and battered and bloodied, but I was quite fully alive. Heaven. Heaven-on-Earth. 

That risk taking, of jumping into the deep end, was a wake up call of sorts. Accidents happen. Beware. My innocence was altered. I believe that "Heaven is for Real." Not that I experienced angels. Didn't see the pearly gates from the camp song, "If you Get to Heaven, before I do." Instead, I believe in Heaven because I was returned to life. My belief in heaven has more to do with the evidence right here. Right now. Evidence to behold.

The urgency to rush toward life is enormous. It has been exactly a month since I witnessed our Little Red grand-daughter, with all thirty-six pounds of her formidable five years and eleven months of life experience, attempt to wrestle four full-sized adults as they cleaned her chemically burned skin. In her carrot topped mind, at that time, with her experience, her wrestling was 'toward' life, away from pain. We want to live. We kick and hollar and kick some more at the prospect of a threat. We want to live. Life. Sometimes the unexpected happens. Aneurysm. Hit and run. Didn't see it coming. Heaven now? Already?  

You probably need to know that I am the type of person who has theological conversations with total strangers. During the Final Four conclusion of this year's March Madness, just ten days back, I was right there in Gainesville amid the most glittering collection of gator paraphernalia ever gathered. We sat just outside the Hilton elevators,  a mere hop and skip from the screaming in the sports bar, having a three hour conversation about Heaven. Me with the purveyor of Gator gear. The Gators lost. That's part of the history books now. The conversation? Wish it had been cataloged as professionally. It covered the water front. Course in Miracles. Scripture. Life experience. What a stew pot of ingredients. I like to pretend/imagine that the characters that come into my life have something to teach me. What a joy to listen. Quantum leaps in understanding. Not that I can articulate my understanding. That would require mad skills. But "Heaven is for Real." 

Here's the thing. I have beheld the Grand Canyon. Personally. TWICE. Once from a helicopter(!!!). What more evidence for Heaven do you need? Proof positive. Pilgrims from around the globe. We gathered there together. Last month. Hearing dialects and languages beyond my experience. All gathered to behold. All so very human. Attempting to take photos of that which can not be photographed. It is TOO grand. Life. Heaven. A canyon. Grandiose. Cavernous. Enormous. Evidence. Proof.  

Our compelling need to live is not my proof. That's not why I believe in Heaven. Not exactly. The fact that there was an honest-to-goodness double rainbow immediately out the sliding glass door during the exact combination of the commotion of barking dogs coupled with neighborhood children and their home-made noise-makers, parading through the kitchen of Little Red's homecoming from Children's hospital... now that? Double rainbow? That's flat out Heaven evidence. Not just special effects from Hollywood.

A promise from our Creator. Heaven. Directly. Materialized right before my eyes. In perfect timing. As only Heaven can orchestrate. It is the quilted 'evidence' of these God glimmers, this hard evidence that is here to observe and connect, that makes me a believer. The Grand Canyon. 

The Painted Bunting. Note-to-self. How have I not known of the Painted Bunting until this past week? I have a college diploma. I don't recall one single conversation or reference to the Painted Bunting. Not in that class with readings by Camu and Neitzche. Not in art appreciation either.  I would be remiss if I didn't report our numerous backyard sightings in this epic ramble of mine. What is a Painted Bunting you ask? It is evidence of Heaven. Here among us. Right here in my Floridian zip code. Right here in my own back yard. Literally. Heaven in my back yard. You must be observant. You must be quiet and still. You can not squeal and flap about, jumping up and down in your incredulity. Honest. Not in the instance of the PB. You can squeal at the Grand Canyon. You can do cartwheels along the ledge. It is not moved by your amazement. You can shake your head as you marvel there at the Canyon. But this kindergarten-committee collaboration coloring project of a birdie? It needs your utmost solemnity for observation. I did NOT take this picture. I wanted you to see how one backyard bird can have every hue within tiny formatted feathers. Heaven. [Thank you Ralph Barrera for sharing your heaven sent skills in the form of this photograph.]

Can you see the brush strokes? They are heaven made. For real. 

This need of ours to quantify Heaven runs deep. Maybe not Canyon deep but VERY deep. 

I have become aware of a third man who is no longer here in our midst on Earth. He was the husband of one of my cyber friends. One of my cyber buddies that I have met in real life. For a real hug. I learned on Facebook, through a private message that he committed suicide. She spelled the word straight out: Suicide. She didn't use a fluffy version of the story. She didn't say, 'he took his own life.' She said, "My husband committed suicide." We have been having a continuing private message 'conversation.' About faith and suicide and making plans beyond tomorrow. The most recent update? She began with her despondency over their life long friend lamenting to her directly, the 'fact' that her husband is not in Heaven due to his committing suicide. My friend describes this individual as a devout Christian. 

People come to their theology through deeply unique and personal journeys. It is incredibly challenging for me to hear the word "devout" in the same paragraph that includes a person inciting and inflicting pain on a lifelong friend. In the name of religion. How does the sharing of that opinion help? How does it help the grieving widow to be told in no uncertain terms that her husband is not Heaven material. A situation that can not be undone. I am no theologian. I don't know who gets into Heaven. I didn't get that memo. I just know that Heaven is for Real. Suicide. What about forgiveness. What about grace. What I do know. What I told my cyber friend, in our cyber conversation, is that I believe in a Creator capable of figuring out the details of Heaven's membership. The Creator capable of the Grand Canyon enormity while conjuring the delicacy of the Painted Bunting's glorious feathers is able to sort it all out. Without my help. Without my judgement. Without my small meager human mind weighing in. Heaven on Earth means rising to support one another in the face of the unthinkable. 

I have attended the funeral of an eighth grader who committed suicide. The sanctuary was filled with eighth graders in untied tennis shoes. That's my memory is their tripping into the sanctuary on their untied shoe laces. My Creator can figure that out. We are each his children. We love our children. We are LOVED beyond our human understanding. Beyond limits. 

That's what Heaven is all about. Friends who wrestle with the tough questions. Aneurysm. Hit and Run. Suicide. Heaven. Friends. Humanity. Earth. 

Earth. That's where the question unfolds. Heaven? That's where all the answers reside. The ones that stand beside you. Through the tough stuff. The ones willing to welcome you into their fear and pain, taking you along to the hospital while you have your six hour blood transfusion.  Heaven on Earth. Painted Buntings and honey. Culverts and baptism. Songs and family. Canyon depths and Rocky mountain highs. Wrestling with the questions together is the point of faith. The point of life. It is our calling to hold one another up. 

It has been a day of typing and reflectioning. I took a break long enough to see how Greg Kinnear brought his capability to the lead role. I'm so glad that I went. There is depth and wrestling. Cinematic fields and pristine clouds. It is much deeper than the typical pablum served up for religious movies. Sufficient food for thought. The fact that the movie opened today? You do the math. That's the way that Heaven on Earth works. 

Happy Birthday Wonder Boy. 

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Earth Day Collaboration for Your ENTIRE ECE Classroom! FREEBIES, too!

Earth Day Preschool Collaboration with Debbie Clement


What better way can you celebrate Earth Day than to UBBER 'recycle' in honor of going green? Today's whole article is the ultimate 'recycle' as I am going to reshare one of my favorite Author-Illustrator ECE school visits!!! I'd LUV LUV LUV for this idea to get some additional viewership and some cloning and replication from this extra exposure. It is the ultimate of happy and inexpensive experiences for your Early Childhood classroom: truly OPEN-ENDED/PROCESS Art! 

It all started with my whole-school sing-a-long at a VPK (that's: Voluntary PreKindergarden) down here in Florida. {We are right now in real time, in the midst of preparing for our Snowbird departure to our northern haven along Green Bay, hence the 'other' motivation to recycle.} 

I launched our time together a couple of years ago by sharing our 'Earth' a.k.a. the pool noodle that was the basis for our singing on that special morning. 

Earth Day Art project, collaborative Art project, bulletin board, Preschool, Headstart, Spring art

After the whole group experience that included sharing my song, "Care of the Earth" I got to lead a genuine 'Artist in the Classroom' extravaganza. They supplied the scissors, glue sticks and a big slice of white 'table paper' for the base of our collaboration. I supplied the tissue paper and had the camera ready to document all of the fun! Let the artists begin! GO!!!

 young hands cutting with scissors, Fine Motor work with scissors, tissue paper Art, Earth Day

This was a classroom of mature four year old children with a couple of early fives at the fringe. You can see that I gave each child a mixture of both the blue and green tissue paper. They worked diligently to create the snippets for our 'map' that would become our collaborative globe sculpture, within the pool noodle. 

Preschool children cutting tissue paper for Earth Day collaboration, Head Start Art

As I wandered through the room, I noticed as always, that there was quite a continuum of capability for the skill at hand: SCISSORS manipulation. As you will see, there were children who were able to cut right through the tissue as though it were warm butter while others ended up with a combo of tearing/wrenching of the tissue with their scissors. Truly for this collaboration ALL manner of tissue paper bits were equally welcome in the final 'product' and gave everyone an opportunity to hone their cutting skills. 

Challenges of children using scissors, fine motor development

***Note-to-DIYers. I 'secured' the pool noodle into it's happy-permanent-circle shape with a discarded, UPcycled golf club grip from hubby and some super glue. I bet a dowel rod would work? Get creative.

After all of that hard work with the scissors, it was truly time for the *FUN* of the gluing. All hands on deck! Look at all of that fine motor control! Tripod, three finger scrunching and maneuvering. Such a natural way to prepare fingers for the future fine motor skill of writing. 

Earth Day collaborative project: pool noodle and tissue paper, kindergarten bulletin board for spring



Earth Day collaboration with Debbie Clement, song and art for preschool, Head Start, Kindergarten

Seeing all of those happy hands at work called for a 'posed' shot. 
Talk about giggles galore! 
That was some of the best fun of the whole morning: 
Me up on a chair for the bird's eye view, posing 'hands' and capturing our incredible sculpture in one snap! 

While you're out this spring, gather some earth 'goodies' and they can become an Earth Day shadow box. These boxes were on display during my field trip and presentations in Reggio Emilia, Italy. THE professional opportunity of a lifetime. YES! REGGIO! Dial back in time to see those articles. 

Reggio Emilia natural collage, Earth Day bulletin board, preschool Art

Another idea for your celebration would be to make a natural 'mandala' from gathered Earth bits. 

Here's an example of one I made following a fall walk.
Yes. The backdrop is my yoga mat. 

Mandala with Fall's Maple Leaves in Color (via RainbowsWithinReach)

Building rock cairns is another of my favorite outdoor activities. These are ones we built on the Mediterranean while on the Italian portion of my tour to four of our US Army bases. We built these right outside Camp Darby, very near Pisa Italy. Finding the right 'quote' is one of my happy past-times for my photos. I'm getting ready to debut a slideshare of some of my favorite quotes that have been here on the blog. I hope to have that ready for Easter morning! We shall see. 

Here's another earlier article I had here, focused on Art Projects from UPcycled pieces and parts. 

***If you're looking for the ULTIMATE of UPcycled projects to honor the Earth, you'll need to return to this INCREDIBLE professional mural of bits and pieces on display at an Ohio Elementary School. 

Upcycled Cooperative Mural from Bottle Lids and Tops

As with the majority of my pinboard collections, they are based on my original songs for children. 
Yes. I have a whole collection for "Care of the Earth." 
Click the pic to go to that specific collection. 

Click picture for my pinboard, "Care of the Earth" with 592 Resources already on file

Speaking of INCREDIBLE RESOURCES for Earth Day...... there have been a couple of recent articles at our collaborative blog, "PreK+K Sharing" that you really must go see. Terri has absolutely breath-taking photographs of the release of their kindergarten butterflies into the world. Her article is entitled, "Last Child in the Woods." 

Click the picture to go to Terri's article at the collaborative and see what these Kinders are up to! 

As fantastic as Terri's article is, let me give you a head's up that you'll want to allow sufficient time to see the collection of resources that Carolyn has gathered in her article. One of her amazing contributions is a 'PREZI" of resources to use at your fingertips. Talk about the perfect combination of technology and teacher expertise plus enthusiasm! Look no further! It's FREEEEEEE! She has gathered all kinds of FREEBIES for Earth Day! 

Click the pic to go to an AMAZING set of FREEBIE Resources for Earth Day gathered by Carolyn at "PreK+K Sharing" 

For one full year, I had an on-going series of articles here for Fine Motor Friday. 
Here is the golden anniversary article that walks you back through all 50 installations. 

50 Editions of Fine Motor Meets Fine Arts at RainbowsWithinReach

I know. I know. If you're new here, I'm a little hard to figure out. 
I LUV LUV LUV all things 'Children's Art' but I am a music lady first. 
I have an entire album of songs, commissioned by Zaner-Bloser on Fine Motor Motivation. 

It is available for purchase at my website or Teachers Pay Teachers!

Yes! I LUV LUV LUV to pin. 
I think it is probably one of my biggest contributions to ECE. 
I am nearing my 150,000th follower there

Would you be today's helper and pin from this article? 
It's how many find me in cyber-town! 
I am soooooooooooo grateful for every pin! 

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Hand Painted & Unique Chairs at School

Hand Painted & Unique Chairs: Classroom Seating via RainbowsWithinReach

Hand Painted & Unique Chairs for School and Beyond

I have a super fun RoundUP of pictures I've taken on my travels across the country making Author-Illustrator School Visits. Today I have a whole happy, bunch of images of fancy chairs. Hand painted chairs. Seating of all sorts, with all man of special embellishments. Chairs. Stools. Benches. And more!

Quite a few of these pictures are from my visit with Crystal of Kreative in Kinder. Seems their staff had a contest some while back. These first images are from her school in Texas.  

This next batch of images are from my recent school visit in Arizona to Jennifer of Simply Kinder fame. I was there right in the midst of "Read Across America" so there were a number of Seuss images, as well as quite a few hand painted chairs for their "CHAIR-I-TY" Auction! 

From this point I have images that have already appeared here on my blog earlier. They are from ALL across the country: WI, OH, FL, SC, CO.... you name it! 

photo of: Author's Chair in Kindergarten Classroom (Reading Center RoundUP via RainbowsWithinReach)

photo of: Author's Throne in Kindergarten Classroom (Reading Center RoundUP via RainbowsWithinReach)

photo of: Quilted Author's Chair in the Kindergarten Classroom via RainbowsWithinReach Reading Center RoundUP

photo of: Children's Author Chair with Elephant Ears via RainbowsWithinReach

Reading Center in Early Elementary (Classroom Decor RoundUP at RainbowsWithinReach)

Classroom Details (Classroom Decor RoundUP at RainbowsWithinReach)

Classroom with "WILD" Theme (Classroom Decor RoundUP at RainbowsWithinReach)

Classroom Details (Classroom Decor RoundUP at RainbowsWithinReach)

Classroom Decor Details (Decor RoundUP at RainbowsWithinReach)

Classroom Detail (Classroom Decor RoundUP at RainbowsWithinReach)

Classroom Decor Details (RoundUP of Class Decor at RainbowsWithinReach)

photo of: Public Library Reading Corner via Reading Center RoundUP at RainbowsWithinReach

photo of: Third Grade Small Group Reading Center via Reading RoundUP at RainbowsWIthinReach

Speaking of UNIQUE seating!!!!!!!!!!
Have you seen the Wobble Seats that we are now distributing?
Here's the link to my first article with some specifics. 

While I was searching for the images above, I also came across these photos that I took at NAEYC.

Yes! They ROCK! 
Here's the link to our Wobble site!

Have you had fun with these? 
I'd be so grateful if you'd share your favorites! 
Pinterest is my biggest source of traffic. 
By all means, please pin! 

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