A VISIT TO ILLINOIS – JUST DON’T PRONOUNCE THE “S”

 

My reading quest is to read a book by an author from each state and I have made it to Illinois! 

The book was Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury. I loved this book so much I read it twice!!!! I would give grudgingly give this book five stars! and that is because I’d give it 500 stars is I could!

It has been described as a nostalgic “autobiographical fantasy”.  Bradbury has recreated childhood memories of his hometown, Waukegan, Illinois, known in the book at Green Town.

Set during the summer of 1928, the main character is Douglas Stratton.  The title refers to a wine made with dandelion petals by Douglas’s grandfather, and refers to packing all the joys of summer into one bottle (or one book).A series of short stories, they are loosely connected with Douglas and his family as recurring characters. In fact, many of the chapters were published as individual short stories between 1946-1957.  While the plots are realistic, there is a touch of fantasy and magic  along the way!

Some of the wonderful things that appear in the book are:

  • When Douglas goes with his father and brother to pick fox grapes, he comes to the realization that he is alive and finds it “glorious”.

 “I’m ALIVE. Thinking about it, noticing it, is new. You do things and don’t watch. Then all of a sudden you look and see what you’re doing and it’s the first time, really”.

  • A neighbor attempts to make a “happiness machine” in his garage.
  • Douglas and his brother meet a living “Time Machine”, a 90+ Colonel who lived in the Old West, during the Civil War for starters.
  • A serial killer on the loose in the town is referred to as “The Lonely One.
  • While at an amusement park, the boys get fortunes from a mechanical Tarot Witch, believing they have been given special fortunes in invisible ink.

The book is full of magic!!!

Ray Bradbury said that Douglas is based on himself. In fact, “Douglas” was his middle name, and “Spaulding” was his father’s middle name. It is the first book of a trilogy continuing with SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES and FAREWELL SUMMER.

In 1972, the Apollo 15 astronauts named a moon crater “Dandelion Crater” after this novel!

Ray Bradbury (1920 – 2012) wrote in many genres, but his most famous books are probably Fahrenheit 451 and The Martian Chronicles.  

I love to include facts about each state too – so here are some facts about Illinois:

  • The first Aquarium opened in Chicago in 1893
  • Metropolis, the home of Superman, is located in Southern Illinois.
  • Illinois was the first state for ratify the 13th Amendment, which abolished slavery.
  • Des  Plaines is the home of the first McDonald’s.
  • President Ronald Reagan was born in Illinois.
  • The state dance is the square dance.
  • Illinois has more personalized license plates than any other state. 
  • The Chicago Public Library is the world’s largest public library with a collection of over 2 million books (I need to visit it!)

Here are some (what I consider magical) quotes from the book:

  • “Bees do have a smell, you know, and if they don’t they should, for their feet are dusted with spices from a million flowers.”
  • “The first thing you learn in life is you’re a fool. The last thing you learn in life is you’re the same fool.
  • “No person ever died that had a family.”
  • “Sunsets are always liked because they only happen once and go away……If the sunset stayed and we got bored, that would be real sadness.”
  • No matter how hard you try to be what you once were, you can only be what you are here and now.”

Now I will be reading books by authors from Indiana and Iowa. If you have any favorite authors from those states, let me know!

 

MY FAVORITE THINGS

I am leading a weekly art project with memory impaired women. Because each project  teaches me what works and doesn’t work, I decided to document these projects.

The first project was creating a “MY FAVORITE THINGS” board, which was based on the Vision Board concept. They had great fun going through magazines and pulling out images of their favorite things.

Miss Lilliette with her “Favorite Things” board. Notice the musical notes – she played the piano at church most of her life!

This was a great way to get to know them! I learned what their favorite colors were, I learned which ones played the piano and which ones sang.

Miss Dorothy (pictured above) couldn’t wait to get her board home to have it framed! I learned she had been a professional singer in Los Angeles and held singing and acting workshops for aspiring actors! (working with Bob Barker no less!)

Miss Willa with her favorite things.

Miss Willa great up on a farm in Alabama. She told the best day of her life was the day her father told her he was tired of farming and they were all moving to Atlanta!

What did I learn?

First of all, I teach vision board workshops – and as a result I have a HUGE stash of magazines. I learned that two to three magazines PER PERSON to choose from would have been worked. Too many choices makes it difficult for them to make any choices.

I purchased poster boards from The Dollar Store (2 for $1.00). Cutting these in half was enough room for them to work with.

Also, stick glue works better, especially the kind that goes on purple and dries clear. They can see they are using the glue. Liquid glue was just too messy for many of them.

I learned they want BLING! Sequins or anything shiny is a must.

When I told them we would do a collage the next week, I was met with blank stares – they didn’t know what a collage was! So – next week I will give them a lesson on collage, and show them the work of Romare Bearden! Giving them a weekly art lesson is going to be fun, I will learn more about African American artists and share it with them.

If you have any lessons you have learned, I’d love to hear about it!

LET ME CALL YOU SWEETHEART

“Alice” had been in totally non-verbal and in memory care for over a year. The only sounds she made was a strange clicking noise. But the clicks she made had a rhythm. A visiting music therapist began experimenting with this rhythm and after some hit and misses, he finally realized it was the rhythm to the song “Let Me Call You Sweetheart”. This is what she had been trying to communicate. When she heard the song, she began humming along, eventually singing the words. This was the song that was used in her wedding! 

I found a piece of music, did a little research on the history of the song, even played it on the piano a few times, and the above collage was born, complete with hearts. The words on the right “SILVER THREADS AMONG THE GOLD” is music from a player piano which is pre-programmed music recorded on perforated paper.

Music and memory has become such a popular topic there is a wikipedia page dedicated to Music-related Memory.  Music engages MORE parts of the brain that anything else we do. First of all, it connects the left and the right parts of the brain. But that isn’t all it does, tt engages movement, even it is just clapping or tapping your toe. Music engages the auditory cortex, and it engages the hippocampus – which is where memory is stored, And of course, there is an emotional response to music.

In dementia patients, familiar music has been proven to reduce agitation, improve social interaction and facilitate cognition. Music has also been proven to reduce depression, a common occurrence with dementia patients.  We know dementia destroys the areas of the brain responsible for episodic memory, but usually procedural memory is retained.  What is procedural memory?   lt is the long-term memory which aids the performance of particular types of tasks without conscious awareness of these previous experiences.

If you know a story about the effect of an individual piece of music on an individual, I’d love to hear about it. There have to be dozens of stories like this out there that seem to prove that music has the ability to “wake” people up.

In case, you don’t remember how this song goes, here is a quick video of Martha Levison (Shirley McClain) in an episode of Downton Abbey.

 

 

INTRODUCING MY NEW SERIES: MUSIC AND MEMORY

Music and memory go together like a horse and carriage,  love and marriage, or my mom and dad.

“Music is the art which is most nigh to tears and memory”.  Oscar Wilde

I’ve always been vaguely aware of the power of music and how it can bring back memories at a moment’s notice. But, until I became my mother’s caregiver as she struggled with dementia, I’d never really paid attention to it. I guess there are things that are so much a part of your life, you don’t see what is right in front of your eyes.

Probably my first piano at age two.

To say I came from a musical family is an understatement. My grandfather taught singing around North Georgia and tuned pianos at concert halls in Atlanta and also at various universities and colleges, eventually opening a music store. My father followed in his footsteps, preferring to rebuild pianos instead of tuning them. I started banging a piano as soon as I was able, pointing out to my grandfather that “Middle C” was NOT in the middle of the keyboard.

My father’s sisters appeared on a local radio station and recorded gospel music.

Alas, I began to ignore my calling to create music, it took too much time, too much practice, too much everything. That is until my mother slipped into dementia. I returned to the piano so I could communicate with my mother, as well as other dementia patients. I was amazed how alive and engaged they become when hearing songs that previously meant something to them. I saw catatonic patients “wake up” when hearing music. they remember who they are. Doctors have discovered music memory can survive after other memory has disappeared.

“Music can lift us out of depression or move us to tears – it is a remedy, a tonic, orange juice for the ear. But for many of my neurological patients, music is even more – it can provide access, even when no medication can, to movement, to speech, to life. For them, music is not a luxury, but a necessity.”  Oliver Sachs

SO, I am making a public statement that I am creating art that holds music and memory at it’s core  – beginning with music that has been known to trigger memories in dementia patients. Some of these songs include “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”, “Let Me Call You Sweetheart”, “You Are My Sunshine”. As I create I will share the stories that inspired me.

I don’t know where this will lead, but I’m excited about this journey, and I would love to  have you follow along with me. Simply, scroll up to the top of the post and enter your email in the block on the right hand side of the page. And, I welcome and WANT to hear YOUR stories about the power of music and memory.

To show you how music has influenced my art in the past, here a few older pieces.

One in eight people are diagnosed with early on-set Alzheimer’s (before age 65). Music is proving to be a powerful tool giving moments of clarity

If you are unsure about how powerful music is when it comes to memory, watch this six minute video of Henry reacting to music – get your tissues ready! 


LET’S CELEBRATE MOTHERS IN ART!

It is MOTHER’S DAY I in America. I decided to kick of a series of blogs about Women in Art – and here is a series of works i found.

Dorothea Lange “Migrant Work” 1936

Migrant Mother, 1936, Dorothea Lange

Alice Neal “Mother and Child (Nancy and Olivia) 1982\

Norah Neilson Gray “Mother and Child) 1920

Elisabeth Louise Vigee Le Brun, “Self-portrait with daughter Julie” 1786

Cindy Sherman “Mother and Child” silver print of a photo collage 1976

Mary Cassatt, “The Child’s Bath” 1893

Gertrude Kasebier “Blessed Art Thou Among Women” 1899

 

Elisabeth Louise Vigee Le Brun, “Mother and Daughter” 1789

 

Paula Mondersohn Becker “Reclining Mother and Child” 1906

Yoko Ono “My Mommy is Beautiful” 2017

Louis Bouegeous, “MAMAN” 1999

Do you have a favorite?  

Again, I am beginning a new and improved series of Women in Art.  Up next is Diane Arbus, Bourgeous and Ingrid Calame’. If you have suggestions I’d love to know!

 

MOM’S MOST REQUESTED DESSERT – ORANGE TAPIOCA SALAD


I am not really a dessert person, but I loved mom’s Orange Tapioca Salad, even though I would classify it as a pudding. Mom made this for every family event – what I considered a staple. But when I decided to use her recipe, I found the ingredients hard to find. In fact, I had to order the tapioca pudding on-line! I will continue the tradition and make it for special events. In fact, I have a solo art show coming up,  and because the show is inspired by and dedicated to my mom, I think I’ll whip up a batch and take it. The show was also inspired by dementia, you can read more about it here.

When I was looking around for the tapioca pudding mix, I realized I have always heard of tapioca, but what is it really? Tapioca is a starch that is extracted from the Cassava root.

 While similar to yucca, the cassava and the yucca are not the same plant.  It is a starchy tuberous root that is native to South America, and is now grown around the world. It is one of the most drought-tolerant in the world.

You can download the recipe here.

 

THE RHYTHMS OF MEMORY – A DAUGHTER’S JOURNEY

 

OPENING RECEPTION APRIL 21, 2018; 5-9p

Art-Haus

332 Ormond St. NE

Atlanta, Ga. 

Dementia and Alzheimers are probably the most feared incurable diseases there are. As the people are living longer and the population is aging, most of us will be affected by some form of dementia. This series is inspired by my mother’s journey into dementia.

I begin each painting with multiple layers achieving a tactile surface. The layers are symbolic of the abundance of plaques and tangles that are found in the brain of Alzheimers/Dementia patients.

Each piece represents a different aspect of what I observed during mom’s struggle.

The first is the isolation and the feeling of invisibility patients frequently experience. A figure is painted on a multi-layered textured background. The entire surface is painted out and with mark making the figures begin to emerge from the background, while still being faint and translucent.

Some paintings illustrate the confusion that comes with this disease.I make seemingly random marks creating chaos. Using pen and ink, the lines and dots are connected bringing order to the composition.

Connect the Dots – 18×24

Let Me Call you Sweetheart, 8×10 collage, framed 11×14

There are also a series of collages illustrating the power of music, which has been proven to be an effective treatment to help patients access their memory. As the grand-daughter of both a piano tuner and music teacher, this is close to my heart. Each collage included is based on a particular song that has been proven to be effective. 

The inspiration for the piece on the right is a powerful story.  A woman had been verbally unresponsive for a year. But, when we heard this song on the piano, she began humming along, ultimately singing the words. They found this was the song used in her wedding.

 

 

The work shows those with dementia can still be present and they still have stories to share.

For the opening on April 21, 2018, two pieces will be auctioned and 100% of the proceeds will be donated to the Georgia Alzheimers Association.

These pieces are valued at $600 apiece. 

 

If you have any stories to share, please put them in the comments. 

 

WHAT I LEARNED ABOUT READING IN 2017

I know setting your intentions is the big thing to do now, but I still made a New Year’s resolution for 2017 – TO READ LESS!!! I wasn’t specific enough – yes, I read 21 fewer books in 2017 than I did in 2016, but I read almost the same number of pages both years. What I need to do is spend LESS TIME reading! Bet you don’t hear that too often!

 Yes, I read EVERY DAY and that won’t change. I start every day the same way – EVERY SINGLE DAY!
I discovered a few things this year.

What was the oldest book I read? Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie, written in 1904.  Did you know that J.M. Barrie never physically described Peter, and in the early plays his outfit is made of autumn leaves and cobwebs – then Disney stepped in and created the Peter Pan we are familiar with today.

Which film adaptation differed the most from the book? Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote. I’m not going to give anything away, except the endings are totally different and not all the characters in the book are in the movie, and not all the characters in the movie are in the book. Being a novella of only 100 pages or so, take an afternoon to read it and see for yourself. Truman Capote was NOT happy with the movie, he didn’t agree with the casting of Audrey Hepburn – he wanted Marilyn Monroe – can you imagine?

What was the most surprising connection I found within a book?  After watching the superb documentary on PBS, H is for Hawk, The Next Chapter, I decided to read the prequel, H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald.  Helen had trouble adjusting after her father’s sudden death, so she trained a Goshawk (pronounced Gos-Hawk) named Mabel. As she embarks on this monumental task, she  constantly refers to book The Goshawk written by T.H. White.

This may not seem like a big deal, but T.H. White wrote one of my favorite books of all time, The Once and Future King, which is the story of King Arthur. It begins with the story of The Sword in the Stone, with Merlyn telling Arthur (or Wart as he is called) that he will turn him into “everything in the world” for his education. In the same conversation, Merlyn states that “the way to learn” is “by listening to the experts.” So, Merlyn turns him into a fish, a goose, an ant, a badger, and of course, a hawk. The hawks are compared to knights, standing “gravely in their plumed helmets, spurred and armed.”  T.H. White was a falconer himself.

The Once and the Future King is a book I have read at least three times,, and it is on my list reread in 2018!

WHAT AUTHORS DID I DISCOVER THIS YEAR?  I discovered many, but there are two that stand out: Bill Bryson and Melissa Fay Green.

My journey will Bill Bryson began with The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid, A Memoir, which was my pick for reading a book by an author from Iowa. (I’m on a quest to read a book by an author from each state). I also read A Walk in the Woods, Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail.  A humorous book, it is still packed full of information about the trail itself and the US Forestry Department. It also reminded me of another resolution I did not fulfill – and that was to walk the Appalachian Trail – well, to walk ON the trail as I live a little over an hour from the beginning of the trail. I also read the highly entertaining The Road to Little Dribbling,  Adventures of an American in Britain. which if I’d read the entire title, I would have known it wasn’t about basketball! It is highly entertaining and very well researched! I kept thinking about all those British mysteries I watch on TV!

The other writer is Mellisa Fay Greene, who happens to be a local writer here in Atlanta. I can’t believe it took me this long to pick up a book by her. Greene is the author of six books of nonfiction, a two-time National Book Award finalist, and a 2011 inductee into the Georgia Writers Hall of Fame. Her books have been translated into 15 languages, quite a resume! I read Praying for Sheetrock, her first book, which takes place a McIntosh County, a small coastal town in Southern Georgia in the 1970’s, that seemingly was bypassed by the Civil Rights Movement. I remembered part of this story, but the book brought these people to life.

The Underdogs, Children, Dogs and the Power of Unconditional Love.  This is the story of Karen Shirk,, diagnosed at 24 of a neuromuscular disease and being rejected by every service dog agency as being “too disabled.” Encouraged by her nurse, she raised and trained her own service dog. Founding the service training center, 4 Paws for Ability, she has trained over a thousand dogs that go primarily to children. These are “wonder” tales, interspersed with scientific research on dogs and also on the human/dog bond. It is insightful, at times humorous and joyful, and sometimes heart wrenching. I have to say, I am a true dog lover and usually steer away from dog books, but this one was worth it.

 

WHAT BOOK WAS THE FUNNIEST BOOK I READ (not counting Bill Bryson)? Marrying George Clooney by Amy Ferris.   Most women “of a certain age” may identify with these hilarious stories. Ferris begins chronicling her ramblings when she is awake in the middle of the night (think menopause). She googles old boyfriends, researches fatal diseases on the web, and imagines stories that are so absurd you will laugh out loud. At the same time she is trying to get care for her mom, who is suffering from dementia and has developed a crush on Jesus Christ.

WHAT BOOK DID I READ AGAIN, AND WILL PROBABLY READ AGAIN AND AGAIN? The Creative Habit, Learn It and Use it for Life by Twyla Tharp.  I love this book, and it is one of the best resources for artists out there.  There are 32 exercises based on lessons Twyla has learned throughout her amazing career. She shows you ways to observe the world around you – and then get it down on paper. If you think you should think outside the box, this book may not be for you – she says you need to understand what the box is in the first place and begins each new project with an actual box! She opens a new box and then fills it with anything that has a connection to the project or may be inspiration for the project.WHAT BOOK MADE ME PROUD OF THE TOWN NEXT TO MINE?  Outcasts United, An American Town, A Refugee Team and One Women’s Quest to Make a Difference by Warren St. John. This story takes place in Clarkston Georgia, which is a few miles from downtown Atlanta and one exit away from me on the interstate. It was designated a refugee settlement center in the 1990’s- bringing people in from Liberia to Sudan to Afghanistan. Enter Luma Mufleh, an American-educated Jordanian woman who founded a youth soccer team to help the refugee children and keep them off the streets. Thus the team THE FUGEES was born. The story is inspiring, as this is a small town that is becoming a global community – and it shows the challenges they all face. It is truly inspirational and when it is made into a movie (which rumor says it has been optioned), it will be the feel good movie of the year.

WHAT BOOK CAN I NOT BELIEVE IT TOOK ME TO LONG TO READ? The Handmaids Tale by Margaret Atwood.  I don’t know why it took me so long to read it, because it now seems oddly prophetic now, and scary.

BOOK WITH THE MOST SURPRISING ENDING? Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult. Have you ever gotten to the end of the book and thought – how did I miss that? So much so, you consider going back and reading it again to pick up the clues? This is one of those books. It is the story of 13-year old Genna, who while searching for her missing mother, enlists the aid of a formerly famous psychic and a down and out detective to help her. Her mother disappeared 10 years ago from an elephant sanctuary. The book is well researched on elephant behavior. Luckily, this is a book club pick, so I am rereading it to pick up the clues!

HONORABLE MENTIONS for 2017

There are more, but these stood out. I thought about putting together a list of forgettable books, but they truly were forgettable. If I hadn’t logged them in on Good Reads, I wouldn’t have remembered them. 

So, going forward into 2018, I hope to attempt another “resolution” from 2017 I didn’t get around to – I want to read The Iliad or The Odyssey (no – I’ve never read them). Maybe if I read a chapter a day, I’ll get through at least one of them!

What was your favorite book from 2017? What was the biggest surprise you found!

 

MOM’S RECIPES – BAKED FISH AND CHEESE

I honestly don’t remember my mother ever cooking fish – the only fish I remember eating was frozen fish sticks (no wonder I grew up not liking fish!). But, the recipe I found was hand-written and looks very used. My dad loved fish, so I believe she must have made it for him.

This is a very simple dish – but I didn’t take the time to photograph the finished food because  we were famished and I thought I’d photograph what was left of the fish.  I’m happy to say we ate every single bite! You can download a copy HERE

 

MOM’S SWEET POTATO DISH


This is my first Thanksgiving without my mother. I feel the quote below from Dr. Seuss says it all!

“Don’t cry because it is over. Smile because it happened.”

Since today is Thanksgiving, this seems to be a  good time to make a commitment to cooking her recipes and ultimately compiling them into a cookbook for her family.  

I have chosen a sweet potato dish, which we always referred to at Thanksgiving as a Sweet Potato Souffle’.  It was a staple of our Thanksgiving meal for as long as I can remember. However, I’m not sure why it was called a souffle’, because it doesn’t remotely resemble the definition of a souffle’ below.

“A soufflé is a baked egg-based dish which originated in early eighteenth century France. It is made with egg yolks and beaten egg whites combined with various other ingredients and served as a savory main dish or sweetened as a dessert.”

In fact, the recipe is so old, the word souffle’ has been scratched out and replaced with the word “dish”. This was a staple for many years during the holidays and it never failed to please! But, the recipe itself changed over the years – for instance, 1 1/2 cups of sugar has dwindled to 3/4 cup of sugar – I can’t imagine how sweet this would have been with that much sugar in it.

The dish itself is only 7 ingredients, It is a pretty simple recipe, but a very tasty dish. You can download the recipe HERE.