Cross Country Road Trip – 2014 – Day 1

Our Trusty Mode of Transportation

Yesterday we started the first leg of our road trip across the United States. My sister Kris and I are driving from the San Francisco Bay Area to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania over the next 10 days. That’s over 3300 miles. 

Friday we drove from my house in Benicia, California to a friend’s cabin in South Lake Tahoe. We’re staying here for two nights with six of our girlfriends. 

We drove up Highway 50, which was smoky because of all the fires in Northern California, but there was no traffic, which was great. As we passed by Placerville, we saw lots of signs along the road thanking the firefighters for being there. I think the rains over the past few days have helped to calm the fires. A lot of fire trucks were heading in the opposite direction back down towards Sacramento.

Along the way we passed a little town called Kyburz. There was a sign outside of a building that said at the top “Welcome to Kyburz” and at the bottom of the sign it said “Now leaving Kuipers.” Blink, and we would have missed it. 

South Lake Tahoe Cabin

When we arrived at the cabin, we got out of the car and were greeted with crisp, fresh mountain air. Some of the girls were already there, and it was great to see them.

That evening we went to Heavenly Village and ate dinner at a new restaurant called Azul Latin Kitchen that already has 4 1/2 stars on Yelp. The food was great (be sure to ask for the special) and margaritas were made with fresh squeezed lime juice and tasted fantastic. Our waiter was a cute young guy named Eric. By the end of the meal some of my friends were trying to hook up their daughters to this personable waiter/nurse’s assistant/paramedic-in-training. He was very good-natured about the whole thing.

After dinner we walked to Harrah’s to do a little gambling. The place was smoky, there were scantily clad women everywhere, and a lot of foul language. We saw two fights almost occur with more bad language being thrown around. I lost $20.25 playing The Wizard of Oz slot machine which mezmerized me with its amazing flying monkeys. But when the guy next to me lit up a cigar, I knew it was time to go. 

Looking Towards the Pioneer Trail



The Happiness Continues

The Art of Happiness – Page 45

My summer vacation is winding down. I’m trying to squeeze every last drop out of it. My to-do list has been fairly well completed, but my want-to-do list never ends– it just gets pushed around.

Yesterday I went to school to interview a woman who has applied to teach a history/English combo for 6th, 7th, and 8th grade. It’s a challenging schedule, but her enthusiasm, cheerfulness, and positive attitude about teaching were awe-inspiring. I’m hoping she gets the job and some of her exuberance rubs off on me. After twenty-five years of teaching, I am always looking for new ideas and renewed inspiration.

After the interview, I got my keys and went into my classroom. All the student desks are piled up on one side of the room. I think (hope) they’re getting ready to clean my carpet. I look around, just to get my bearings, and pick up my “First Weeks of School” folder. Time to update my parent/student letter.

The first weeks of school are always exciting. I never fail to get butterflies in my stomach as I begin the first day and see 150 new faces anxiously looking up at me, wondering if my class will be fun and if I will be nice to them. A few years ago I began starting the first day by waiting at the door, shaking hands, and introducing myself to each student. I want them to know that I do care about them and am going to try to make their 7th grade year in English a positive one. When they get into class, I start by reading them the picture book The Teacher from the Black Lagoon. It’s about a boy who dreams that his teacher is a horrible monster, but at the end he wakes up and finds a lovely young teacher there welcoming him. I read it very dramatically (I almost have it memorized!) and I move around the room. I watch to see who laughs and smiles, and who resolves to wear a stony grimace throughout the tale. I know that they are the ones who I will have to work especially hard to win over.

The Art of Happiness – Page 46

The students are on especially good behavior those first two weeks. They’re well-mannered, quiet, attentive. It’s because they don’t know each other yet and are shy about talking. I do everything I can to get them to feel comfortable with each other, and that often becomes my undoing. The more at-ease they feel in my class, the less disciplined they become. They start to talk to each other more, and I find myself having to compete for their focus and attention. I have to start repeating myself and raising my voice to get them to settle down and listen to instructions. The more fun things we do, the more they expect — but we have a lot of serious work to do and I can’t be entertaining all the time. Before I know it, they feel comfortable enough with me to make little comments when something is “boring” (is there anything worse??) I’ve learned that I can’t please 150 twelve year olds all the time, but I do try.

I didn’t plan on writing about school today, I guess I just have some of that start-of-the-year anxiety. What I really wanted to talk about was the fact that I finished eight more pages in my Art of Happiness book.

I’ve been working on this book in spurts for the last four summers. Usually when I start working on it again, I re-read everything I’ve already done. It’s interesting to me to see how my choice of words for the poetry has changed from when I started writing it. I don’t have dates for when I completed the pages, but I can remember events that were occurring at different times while I was working on it. I can get a good idea of when I was feeling blue or when I was feeling more positive. It all comes through in my color and word choices as they unfold on the page.

The Art of Happiness – Page 49

Once school starts, my art has to go on the back-burner again. That’s one of the things that makes returning to work so difficult. I always have to remind myself that I’m lucky that I got so much time to myself in the first place, it’s just that it goes by so fast. Like the last four years working in this book. Four years! Where did they go?

U.S. History Images

Native American Drawings
Facsimile of an Original Indian Drawing of a Ceremonial Dance
Drawn with colored crayons and pencils by Big Back, a Cheyenne.
Source: Humfreville

For those of you who are not subscribed to my Yahoo Newsletter, I wanted to be sure and let you know about my new web site U.S. History Images. I started creating it last April. I decided that since I had so many books that focused on United States history, that I would create another site for just those images. It’s a big, long term commitment; it took me almost three months to get the last set of images online. So far I’ve included drawings and photographs from the discovery and conquest of North America and the Native Americans who were there when the Europeans arrived. I’m still deciding whether it’s appropriate to include South American indians on this site or not. I’d love to hear your thoughts on that. I am using a ten volume set on United States history as my outline for time periods and events. I plan on adding images in chronological order as I find time, while still adding images to the Public Domain Images on my other site. I know, I know – I’ve bitten off more than I can chew. That’s what summer vacation does to me; it makes me feel invincible!

More Happiness

The Art of Happiness – Page 44

Having last week off gave me a chance to add some pages to my altered book The Art of Happiness and to put the pages on my web site. I really like the way this particular page turned out. The blue woman came about in a happy accident. I had applied blue acrylic paint with a sponge to a stencil to make the little squares in the background. Then I used a baby wipe to clean the plastic stencil. I noticed all the blue paint on the wipe and swiped some of across paint across a piece of scratch paper. I loved the way the paper was tinted with color, similar to when I use acrylic inks. The color is deep and intense but transparent at the same time. So I just proceeded to rub the wipe across the image of the woman. I didn’t think about it until afterwards, but the tinted woman reminds me of one of Joseph Cornell’s pieces — The Medici Princess. Cornell liked to use a lot of blue in his work — something about purity, ocean, sky. I guess he’s entering my subconscious and influencing my art work now.

The Medici Princess
from the University of Illinois

And now for some exciting news for all you S.F. Bay Area people. Daniel Merriam is going to be signing his new book The Art of Daniel Merriam: The Eye of the Dreamer at The Booksmith at 1644 Haight Street on December 6, at 7:00 p.m. He’ll be giving a talk too! His new book is listed on Amazon. (apparently it came out in September), but it’s currently unavailable. You can get more information on Daniel Merriam’s book signing by calling the bookstore at 415.863.8688. I’m going to see if my sister will go with me. I am a tad reluctant to go into the city on a work night, but I might have to make an exception for this. Maybe I’ll run into some of my blog readers there!

The Eye of the Dreamer
from Daniel Merriam’s Web Site

Good-Bye 2006! Parting Advice

As the new year quickly descends upon us, I am here to offer a tiny bit of advice to those of you who follow along in my artful journey of life. Are you listening? Here it is: BACK UP YOUR HARD DRIVE!!

Yes, mine is a tale of woe, a lesson hard-won through the grim reality of experience. You think it won’t happen to you, but it will. You will return to your computer after a day of joyful frolicking and will complacently sit down to send an email and discover that the friggin’ hard drive has disappeared. Disappeared without a trace! Why has this happened? It is a mystery beyond mysteries. And the why’s, should you discover them, will bring you little satisfaction because everything is gone. Gone, I say. The pictures, the music, the bookmarks, the email addresses, the logos, and letters, the web pages, the art work. All gone.

The irony is that you’ve been meaning to back-up the data. Oh yes you have. You say to yourself that this is something you MUST DO. You’ve read about it. You’ve heard about people losing everything, and you tell yourself you will back-up those important files. But then you don’t. You have considered getting an external hard drive, but $150 seems like just so much money to spend on yourself, especially during this holiday season, which is, afterall, all about giving. So you put it off. Or maybe you did back-up the data, once, a long time ago. Time has passed so quickly. Was it really two years ago that you burned all your important docs to those CD’s and DVD’s?

Take it from me– tomorrow, if not today, back-up your hard drive, or that $15o you were reluctant to spend could turn into $500 to $2500 that you have to shell-out to the mysterious data-recovery people who work in an unmarked building in an obscure part of town. They are kind and gentle souls who will sympathize with you as they kindly and gently hold your hard drive hostage and attempt to eek out remnants of sectors and partitions.

Now, you can’t say I didn’t warn you.

POSTSCRIPT: Go HERE to read what happened next.