They Both Laughed – The Mountains Rang with It: Is Laughter Best with Someone Else?

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About 45 years ago, I read Leaf by Niggle, which was written by J.R.R. Tolkien. In many ways, I identified with the story, and over the years, I have thought about it often. Many times, I have quoted the last line of the story, “They both laughed. Laughed–the Mountains Rang with It!”

Read the story Leaf by Niggle Here

It has been years since I have laughed so completely and so deeply that I have felt that nature itself was laughing with me. Perhaps I have never felt that kind of joy. That seems like Nirvana to me.

Today’s writing challenge is for me to write about the last time that something was so funny that it caused me to have a deep, loud, belly laugh, and I have to admit that I am drawing a blank. I began thinking about the times that I have laughed myself into tears and I believe that when that has happened before, I was always with someone else.  In short, my best laughs have been group laughs–rather like group hugs–they are something that requires someone else.

Laughter is contagious. I find many things to be humorous, and I chuckle and smile quite often. But chuckling is not a deep laugh. When I am with someone else and we both see something funny, we both may begin with a chuckle and then we begin responding to each other’s response. I laugh harder because the other person laughs harder, and the cycle begins. Ultimately, we are wiping the tears of laughter from the corners of our eyes.

I don’t know that I have ever experienced that kind of deep laughter when I am alone, and I am alone most of the time now. Even so, when I am by myself, I continue to chuckle and to smile. Sometimes my smiling is alive and tingly, and it circles through my body and it warms my very being. When that happens, I am very close to Niggle’s state, when he sat amidst the hills and he felt that the mountains laughed with him. I aspire toward that kind of happiness–a peaceful happiness when I know that I am laughing with my world.

©Jacki Kellum January 31, 2016

Roaring Laughter

Are There Really 7 Deadly Sins — Or Is There Just One – A Refusal to Feel?

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Pride, Greed, Lust, Envy, Gluttony, Wrath and Sloth Are the 7 Deadly Sins.

I read that the above seven sins are called the Capitol Sins or the Cardinal Sins and that all other sins merely evolve from those seven. If I were to add another sin to this list, it would be Abandonment–the act of an adult’s abandoning his responsibilities to his children or to another–but when I look at the list of the Cardinal sins and when I consider the nature of Abandonment, I must agree that Greed and Pride and Lust and Envy are probably behind Abandonment, too.

Consider a parent who abandons his or her children. Lust is probably the main reason that a parent walks away from his family. It might be the lust for another person. It might also be the lust for more money or for more power, and the one who abandons feels restricted by his current relationships. In that case, it would seem to me that Greed is also behind part of that person’s Lust. Therefore, as I begin to look at the 7 Basic Sins, I am beginning to wonder if there actually are 7. It would seem to me that several of the deadly sins are linked into single behaviors.

For instance, let’s return to the person who abandons his children because he believes that in staying, his potential for earning and increased power are sabotaged. That person has Lusted for more power and for more money. He has seen that someone else has more than he has, and he Envies that other person. He is Greedy for more, and because he can never get enough, he is also a Glutton. Gluttony is not always about food. There are money gluttons and power gluttons, too. A glutton is someone who simply cannot get enough.

When I look at human behavior and the 7 Cardinal Sins, I can see that  sinning does not fall into 7 neat compartments. I see that the categories of sin are melded together. In my opinion, there is only 1 Deadly Sin, and that is the inability to Feel or to Empathize. All of the other sins–the 7 Deadly Sins or any others that I might add–stem from a person’s inability to Feel.

The narcissist lacks empathy: is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others.

The American Psychiatric Association’s DSM-IV

“Lack of empathy is one of the most striking features of people with narcissistic personality disorder. It’s a hallmark of the disorder in the same way that fear of abandonment is in borderline personality disorder.

“Narcissists do not consider the pain they inflict on others; nor do they give any credence to others’ perceptions,” says Dr. Les Carter in the book Enough of You, Let’s Talk About Me (p. 9). “They simply do not care about thoughts and feelings that conflict with their own.” Do not expect them to listen, validate, understand, or support you.” Read the rest of this article Here 

Several years ago, I read Scott Peck’s book People of the Lie. I had suffered from a particularly painful experience that involved another person who absolutely seemed to have no empathy at all. Without empathy, there can be no conscience, and without conscience, evil can easily occur, because people who cannot feel for others, never see their own behaviors–in regard to those others. It has been 25 years since I read the book, but if I am not mistaken, excessive lack of empathy and the resultant narcissism is essentially the phenomenon that Peck addressed in People of the Lie. The book opened my eyes.

In this absorbing and equally inspiring companion volume to his classic trilogy—The Road Less Traveled, Further Along the Road Less Traveled, and The Road Less Traveled and Beyond—Dr. M. Scott Peck brilliantly probes into the essence of human evil. – Amazon

Since that time, I have had encounters with other similar people, and it would seem that the people of the lie are sociopaths and/or narcissists. I believe that all of us are a bit narcissistic. That is how we survive. Narcissism can occur at various levels, but at an extreme, the narcissist becomes a sociopath.

Being Successful Is Not the Same As Being Correct

Because many of the most successful and powerful people among us–the corporate demigods–are severe narcissists, the lines become fuzzy. Too often, we correlate being successful with being correct.

Narcissists Are Masters of Deception

Another confusing detail is that when it is to a narcissist’s advantage, he/she can be relentlessly charming. That is the narcissist’s most powerful weapon. Since other people seem to love the narcissist, we begin to doubt ourselves and not the narcissist. Keep in mind that the narcissist is alluring and that he often is deceptively so.

Narcissists Deceive Themselves

Perhaps the most frustrating thing about a narcissist is that he/she is absolutely unaware of any of his/her wrongdoing. Like an alcoholic, if a person cannot see a problem, the problem cannot be fixed. There simply is no reasoning with a narcissist about any way that you feel you have been wronged.

Narcissists React Violently to Criticism

In my experience, confronting a narcissist about how he/she has hurt you is an effort in futility. A narcissist, who cannot tolerate criticism at all, is only enraged.

Narcissists Are Vindictive

And then there’s hell to pay.

For more information about narcissism, the following article from Psychology Today is helpful:

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/evolution-the-self/201311/6-signs-narcissism-you-may-not-know-about

The following are some of the narcissists’ traits mentioned in Psychology Today:

1. Are highly reactive to criticism. Or anything they assume or interpret as negatively evaluating their personality or performance….

2. Has low  self-esteem [but seems to be overly self-assured] This facet of their psyche is complicated, because superficially their self-regard would appear to be higher and more assured than just about anyone else’s. Additionally, given their customary “drivenness,” it’s not uncommon for them to rise to positions of power and influence, as well as amass a fortune (and see here my post “Narcissism: Why It’s So Rampant in Politics”). But if we examine what’s beneath the surface of such elevated social, political, or economic stature—or their accomplishments generally—what typically can be inferred is a degree of insecurity vastly beyond anything they might be willing to avow. ..

3. Can be inordinately self-righteous and defensive. Needing so much to protect their overblown but fragile ego, their ever-vigilant defense system can be extraordinarily easy to set off. …

4. React to contrary viewpoints with anger or rage. [I am adding this: But because they are masters of deception and vindictive as well, that rage may not be obvious to others. Like a ticking time bomb, it may be hidden–out of sight, but still threatening]. …

5. Project onto others qualities, traits, and behaviors they can’t—or won’t—accept in themselves.

6. Unconsciously viewing others as “extensions” of themselves, they regard them as existing primarily to serve their own needs—just as they routinely put their needs before everyone else’s….

In closing, if I did not see myself in at least part of the above list, I would be the very worst person of the lie.  I absolutely do have some of the very unattractive qualities named above, and I continuously appraise myself and buffet myself–seeking to keep potential problems in check. Therein is the distinction, and I believe my own saving grace: I DO recognize some of my own negative behaviors.  A severe narcissist does not.  Have you met the Queen of Denial? She is probably a narcissist.

In conclusion, when I am asked what 8th sin that I would add to the list of 7, I would not add any. I would scratch the list entirely and I would name one basic sin. It would be the inability to Feel, which includes the inability to care about another’s situation and the inability to see things from another’s perspective.

If the person who wanted to abandon his family had taken the time to sufficiently Feel with his family, Greed, Gluttony, and Lust would not have controlled his behavior. I dare say that I could analyze almost any wrong behavior and I would see that a lack of feeling was part of the recipe. At first glance, however, we might look at sloth and think that sloth would not pertain. I argue that even sloth is a result of an inability to feel. The slothful have no feeling for themselves–or if there are children and a mate in their homes, they again have no feeling for them.

©Jacki Kellum January 30, 2016

The Eighth Sin

Wait for It! An Exciting Time for the Older Me

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In one of the episodes of Downton Abbey, something was said about a weekend, and Maggie Smith, as the old Dowager Duchess said, “Weekend, What’s That?”

Because the Abbey’s entitled did not work, they had no understanding of a work week, and without a work week, the concept of a weekend is lost. That is what life has been like for me since I have retired.

Even though I no longer work full-time,  I am the same person. Yet, because I have no children at home to transport here and there and because  I have no regular job, my days and my nights have melded together. I don’t go out and party on Saturday nights–or any other nights, and my nights and my days have come to be alike. Much like Salvador Dali’s Persistence of Memory, time has become a never-changing abyss for me.

All this having been said, however, allow me to add that I have not emotionally flat-lined. I still have fun, and I still find things exciting. I merely find joy at different times and in other places than I did when I was younger.

In fact, this past Friday night brought its own kind excitement to me. A snowstorm of historic proportions fell upon the East Coast, and after the snow had covered the ground and after the stores had closed for the night, I discovered that my refrigerator was broken. The roads were closed for the next two days, but on Monday, I was able to go spend all of my available cash on a new refrigerator, but it was not delivered until yesterday. Believe it or not, the whole refrigerator thing has been a bit of a lark for me.

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Jacki’s New GE Refrigerator

As the boys wheeled my shiny new fridge into my house, I thought to myself, “This is the first new refrigerator that I have ever owned, and it is my first stainless steel refrigerator, too. I have finally graduated from white.”

During my entire life, I have never lived in a newly built house; therefore, every time that I have moved into a house, a used refrigerator came with the used home. Although I have found it necessary to replace my fridge before, this is the first time that I have actually gone to the store and bought a new one. In six weeks, I’ll be 66-years-old, and I finally have a brand new refrigerator–a stainless steel refrigerator–and one that has no scratches or dents.

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Jacki’s Refrigerator Before She Has Filled It with New Food

After having chilled for 24 hours, my refrigerator is thoroughly cold inside, and in a few minutes, I’ll go buy some new groceries to place inside my new refrigerator. Agreed, this is not like painting the town red, but for me, this is party enough.

Throughout the week, I have thought about how differently that I might have viewed the buying of a new refrigerator. If I had been privy to tons of new appliances before now–and if during my lifetime, I had never actually wanted anything, buying a new refrigerator would not please me at all. In fact, I would probably be irritated by the minor hassle that the affair had cast upon my week, and I would take no pleasure in seeing my new fridge rolling through my door and taking its place within my home.

For what I have received may the Lord make me truly thankful. And more truly for what I have not received. – Storm Jameson

This will sound odd, but I am actually happy that during my lifetime, I have not had everything that I have wanted. I am glad that I have had to wait for some of life’s pleasures. Things could be quite different for me now that I am older and retired. I could have NOTHING left to want and there could be Nothing that would make my day. Thank goodness, that is not the case for me. It doesn’t take much at all to turn my life into a party.

©Jacki Kellum January 29, 2016

Saturday Night

Every Child Is An Artist – Picasso Quote about Childhood and Art

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Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up. – Picasso

[Top Painting – Orange Gerbera Daisy – Painted by 4-Year-Old]

During the era of Romanticism, people began to view the child as something different than his adult counterparts.  William Blake’s Songs of Innocence and Experience contrasted adults and children; and gradually, childhood was recognized by most as a special time of life.  Children were understood to have qualities—especially those of the imagination and of intuitiveness—that adults no longer had.  Nowhere is this more apparent than in art.  Picasso understood the phenomenon.

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Having taught art two-thirds of my life, I can say, with absolute confidence, that children are natural artists. In fact, I have said many, many times before that children are the only true artists: the rest of us just piggy-back and copy each other. Very young children do not reference anyone else when they paint. They just paint, and they do so brilliantly. A child’s colors land in the correct places, and their compositions are correct. A child’s paintings just happen, and they happen perfectly every time that a child is allowed to paint creatively. In my opinion, this happens because children have a clear path to their own intuitions.

“Intuition is a natural thing. We are all born with it. Young children are very intuitive, although in our culture they are often trained out of it very early.” Shakti Gawain – Developing Intuition: Practical Guidance for Daily Life – pgs. 21-22

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Very young children do not intellectualize their marks.  Instead, they play with their art materials; and they have fun.  The art product is totally unimportant to a child painter. Children paint because they love painting, but something happens to the child’s perfect art experience. The Romantic poets would probably have said that in growing older, the child lost the magic of childhood, his intuitiveness, and because of that loss, he lost the ability to paint.

In creating, when an artist enters “the zone,” the intuition is what takes over. After that,  artists often don’t know why they do what they do in making art.  In creating visual art, something that leads the eyes and urges the hand to move speaks to the artist–or more specifically, it speaks to the artist’s hand.  Each person has a unique voice coaching him, and as he listens to his own coach–his own set of directives–the artist begins a journey along a set of stepping stones that ultimately results in an artistic piece. [Allow me to add here, that when I am in a writing zone, the same things happes to me, with words].

Intuition is an inner prompting that urges the visual artist to add a dab of red here–an indigo blue line there–more yellow here, etc. When a painter is led by his intuition, he is almost on auto pilot. The following quote suggests that Michelangelo’s intuition prompted him, as he carved what he felt that the stone urged him to carve: “I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.” – Michelangelo

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When an artist allows intuition to guide him, the artist himself becomes a vessel and the art pours from within that vessel. Children are naturally inclined toward being the intuitive vessels through which their art flows. As a child begins to mature, however, he begins trying to control when he is painting, and the intuitive response is sabotaged.

“Intuition is a natural thing.” Shakti Gawain – Developing Intuition: Practical Guidance for Daily Life – pgs. 21-22.

“The only real valuable thing is intuition.” – Albert Einstein

“Intuition is seeing with the soul.” – Dean Koontz

“Intuition is the highest form of intelligence, transcending all individual abilities and skills” – Sylvia Clare – Trusting your Intuition

Another Definition of Intuition – 1. the power or faculty of attaining to direct knowledge or cognition without evident rational thought and inference. 2. quick and ready insight.

“Intuition means exactly what it sounds like, in-tuition! An inner tutor or teaching and learning mechanism that takes us forward daily. It is a resource that, where recognized, has infinite potential.” – Sylvia Clare

“Intuition is a sense of knowing how to act spontaneously, without needing to know why. The why question leads to indecision, anxiety, caution and self-limitation. These are all responses which originate in fear-based emotions.” – Sylvia Clare

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Lily painted by a 4-year-old

Perhaps an adult, someone whose judgment the child valued, said something like, “That doesn’t look like a lily.”

Or the adult’s attack may have been more subtle, saying something like, “That’s nice.  What is it?”

Very quickly, the child artist begins to doubt himself.  He may ask the seemingly competent adult how to draw a flower, and without realizing the damage, the adult complies with a stylized tulip, the flower that he himself memorized long ago; and the cycle begins.

The child who knew just exactly what to paint and how to paint it is replaced by another who, regardless of how hard he tries, can never seem to get it right.

The adult would-be artist studies drawing books.  He watches videos where others show him how to paint this or that.  He diligently tries to please himself with his art once more. But rarely does that happen again.

“It took me two years to learn to paint like Rembrandt and a life-time to learn to paint like a child.” – Pablo Picasso

©Jacki Kellum January 27, 2016

Naming Things Correctly Is the Most Important Thing in Blogging – Pick Your Titles Well

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“What’s in a name?  that which we call a rose 
By any other name would smell as sweet…” – Shakespeare

One thousand years ago, a rose that was called an onion may have smelled just as sweet, but in the digital age–in the age of online searching, you need to name things correctly. If you want a rose to be found, clear across the World Wide Web, you better call it a rose–and then, you need to add a few more cogent descriptors to your title. Then and only then, your rose MIGHT be found, and after that, someone might say, “That smells sweet.”

Of course, some people may not want their writing [and their art] to be found on the Internet. They may be creating for creation’s sake, and they may have no interest in whether anyone else ever sees their work. In that case, the following does not pertain, but if you are posting things that you want others to see, you need to help people find what you posted, and that is where a good title comes into play.

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Finding the book that you want to read is difficult enough in a library, where the holdings are confined in a room and are arranged according to the Dewey Decimal System. When you walk into the library’s book collection, you see rows and rows of potential texts. At one time, people had more free time, and thumbing through a tome maze may have been enjoyable. Today, people are busy, and they have little time for scouring through throngs of books.

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Imagine how much more pronounced the problem becomes when we no longer have a finite room of books to explore and when we have the infinite string of data that is available to us on the web. To make matters worse, the Internet’s 21st Century viewers are in a huge hurry, as they flit here and there, from post to post. By and large, today’s viewers will not spend much time looking for you on the Internet. They don’t need to do that. They can find something that will suffice with hardly any effort at all, and that is largely because of the way that the other something was named.

“The man gave names to all the cattle, and to the birds of the sky, and to every beast of the field.” – Genesis 2:20

Names have always been important. Even at the time of creation, when there were no crowded rooms of books and no Internet, Adam named the animals. Apparently, he knew, even then, that in order to better manage what was being created around himself, he needed to give things names–or identifiers. The case for identifying things is much more essential now.

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I have written several articles about how Google plays a part in determining whether or not a blogger will be discovered on the web.

1 Trillion Google Searches Each Year

Steven Levy says that on Google, there are 3 billion queries per day and 90 billion per month or 1.1 trillion searches per year.

Google has a Free Keyword Planner that will help you name things so that they will stand out in Google searches. In my article about using Google Keywords, I show you how to use Google Keyword Planner. Here 

Two and a half years ago, when I began blogging, I used Google’s Keyword Planner and named things accordingly. I don’t even do that anymore. Once Google finds you and realizes that you are posting reliable information, you are in reasonably good shape. Posting often also helps Google to begin trusting you.

Especially in the arts, names play other important roles, too. For a scientific or mathematic treatise, the title of a book might be more straightforward, but for more creative works, the title of a piece needs to suggest the tone of the work that it is naming. I have begun writing poetry. If I titled a book of poetry Poems or even Jacki Kellum Poetry, I doubt that I’d spark a great deal of response, and those words are totally unlike the tone of my poetry.

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a poem that I named On Silver Sheets, I Sail. The title of that piece is very much like the tone of the poem.

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On Silver Sheets, I Sail
by Jacki Kellum

Just before I open my eyes
I float along the misty skies.

I reach, I feel the soft, white hair
and fairy wings that flutter there.

I listen, I hear the slumber song,
The angel band that plays along

My dreams are in my pillow-pail.
On silver sheets, I sail.

©Jacki Kellum December 16, 2015

Last week, I wrote an article and shared several of my poems that stem from my being in the moment and writing from the present tense. As I read over the poems that I have written, I realized that all of my poetry has that dreamy, misty, sheet-sailing tone to it. I have been wrangling with what might be a good name for my own book of poetry, and there it was: On Silver Sheets, I Sail. Quite honestly, I could name my entire autobiography the same thing. In short, I DO Sail on Silver Sheets, and I always have done so.

Granted, a title should also have a more practical suffix–something that Google will recognize. When Google sees On Silver Sheets I Sail, it might deduce that I fly on aluminum foil. I don’t believe that Google sees things creatively; therefore, your creative titles need some more practical nomenclature, too. For instance, an effective title for my book of poetry might be: On Silver Sheets, I Sail: Jacki Kellum Poetry. The Silver Sheets part of the title is the part that has the potential for intriguing and tantalizing a passerby, but because I have worked two years at creating a brand from the name Jacki Kellum, Google would more likely jump on my name.

In summary, your title needs to have practical, searchable words in it. It needs to have words that Google can identify and can direct viewers accordingly. After the reader gets to your post, however, your title needs to be interesting enough–even arty enough–to draw the viewer completely inside. For that reason, there is value in infusing your title with as much lyricism as you do your work itself. Your title is like a red carpet that you roll out before your work–it is the way that you set a stage for your writing or your art.

Bottom line: A rose by any other name would NOT smell as sweet–at least not if it was sniffed from clear across the World Wide Web. In fact, unless you title your work correctly, using the Google Keyword Planner, your rose probably won’t be sniffed at all, from way across the web, and unless you have a creative hook in your title, you probably will not catch your reader anyway.

The magic formula for naming your blog posts is:

  1. Use some creative and arty words to set the tone
  2. Use some practical words so that Google will find you

Key Takeaway

Red Chalk Drawings Created with Ipad Pro & Apple Pencil – Jacki Kellum Drawing

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The Earring – Red Chalk Drawing Created in Ipad Pro by Jacki Kellum

I have had my Ipad Pro and Apple Pencil 1 week, and I did the above drawing and the following, using those tools and the app Paper by 53. From everything that I have read, the app market has barely scratched the surface in aligning itself with the entirely new world of options that will become more and more available for artists who take advantage of Ipad Pro’s new technology.

I love the sensitive marks that I can make by holding the Apple Pencil on the side. I have tried the same thing, using several different apps, but in my opinion, the app Paper by 53 is the most adept at creating the wispy, chalk-like look that I prefer.

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In the app Paper by 53, I used the Pencil Tool and the default orange color to create all of the drawings shown here. I also use the white for highlights.

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Boy with Curls – Red Chalk Drawing Created in Ipad Pro by Jacki Kellum

Most graphic artists will probably see ways that the Ipad Pro could be beneficial for their work. The Ipad Pro’s value for photographers is also fairly obvious.  However, fine artists might wonder why they would want to create digital drawings. After all, the results are digital–they are not real drawings. [Or are they? I actually believe that because of Ipad Pro and Apple Pencil, that line is finally being erased].

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The Flapper – Red Chalk Drawing Created in Ipad Pro by Jacki Kellum

I do view the Ipad Pro and the Apple Pencil as excellent tools for practicing. At least 90% of creating in art has to do with SEEING. It is especially important to see how and where light strikes an object’s or a person’s surface. I prefer art that is quick and intuitive. I am not crazy about art that is fussy, tight, and overworked. In order to create quick, almost impulsive work, an artist needs to SEE accurately and he needs to learn to dash his marks here and there, and the marks need to land in just the right places. Practice is the only way to become good at this kind of artistic bravura.

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African American Girl – Red Chalk Drawing Created in Ipad Pro by Jacki Kellum

Because of the Ipad Pro and the Apple Pencil, I am able to practice while sitting on my bed, while drinking coffee in Starbucks, and while sitting in the car, waiting to drive carpool. The Ipad Pro and the Apple Pencil have helped me turn down time into up time, and in my opinion, that is a wonderful reason to own these devices. But I believe that they serve an even greater purpose.

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Toddler Boy with Curls –  Red Chalk Drawing Created in Ipad Pro by Jacki Kellum

I have only had my Ipad Pro and Apple Pencil one week, and what I am showing you are my first drawings using these new tools. I am excited about the ways that these tools have facilitated my practicing and studies for creating with more traditional materials. But as I said before, I believe that these devices may offer more than that.

I am a dinosaur in the art world. I have been out of art school for almost half a century, but I can still admit that digital drawing may actually be a final art form. In other words, a digital drawing may be more than a study or a practice. We are reminded of the arguments about Process versus Product. Do we really need a tangible product for us to call Ipad Drawings art?

There are many Ipad apps that allow you to upload a photo and to create an arty looking picture by merely touching a button. When you use these types of apps, the Ipad makes all the marks. The user does not. That is not art. The drawings that I am showing you were not done in that way. I made every mark in each of the drawings done, and I did not upload a photograph to trace for doing so. While I would agree that a mere touch of a button is not art, I’d be willing to argue the case for what I am doing now with the Ipad Pro and the Apple Pencil. I do believe that with the Ipad Pro and the Apple Pencil, we are watching an entirely new generation of arts unfold.

©Jacki Kellum January 24, 2016

The Snows Came, But I Was Prepared, And Then My Refrigerator Broke!

Were you a Girl Scout?  I was, and I cannot tell you how many ways that having been a Girl Scout has enriched my life.

As a Girl Scout, I learned the proper way to fold an American flag, and I learned that it is totally unacceptable to allow a flag to touch the ground.

I also learned that a tattered flag should be given a Hero’s burial. Because I was a Girl Scout, I still cry when someone sings The Star Spangled Banner, and I cry at The Changing of the Guard.

This past weekend the East Coast dealt with a severe snow storm. On Facebook, there were several mentionings of the fact that yesterday, the snow shut down Washington DC, but the sentries continued to march at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. I commented that when I watch the sentry duty there, I always cry, and I have never been there when it snowed. I am sorry for the boys who stood in the snow yesterday, but I am thrilled that in doing so, many people were reminded that America is still a great country. We are more than the politicians who lie to its people. We are more than the crooks on Wall Street. We are more than the brats who desecrate our flag. We are America, the home of the free and the land of a few who are still brave.

It was in Girl Scouts that I learned to love America, but I learned much, much more from being a scout.

Every summer, I went to Girl Scout camp. When I was a young camper, I slept in a cabin whose sides were half-screened. When I was a young teenager, I moved to the units with tents that were erected on hard wooden floors. When I was an older teen, I moved to the other side of the camp–to the part that was heavily wooded–and I slept in a tent that was pitched on the ground. That was the Outpost part of the camp. Things were rugged there, and I spent my last camp summer as a Primitive Camper. That was the ultimate experience of frontier camping. We drank lake water that we treated with pills, and we created our own shower, by attaching a bucket to a tree. To make our tables and to hold our wash basins, we lashed limbs together. Of course, we cooked every meal on an open fire, but even as a young camper, I had learned to cook that way.

[Would anyone like to marry Grizzly Adams? I’m available!]

Because I was a Girl Scout, I learned how to survive when conditions are not ideal, and I am thankful for that. In many ways, I continue to survive, even as an adult. Yesterday, I wrote about the snow storm that was bearing down on the East Coast, where I live. The weather forecast told us to expect a large amount of snow, but it warned us that our worst problems would be caused by the heavy winds. I live a few houses away from the open Bay of the Atlantic Ocean, and I have suffered through several wind storms here before. We call them N’oreasters. Invariably, they blow our electricity out, and we are left to make do, and sometimes that lasts for a week to ten days.

Partially because I was a scout and also because I learned to do so from my parents, I have an entire walk-in closet that I have dedicated to emergency preparedness. I have TWO Coleman rechargeable lanterns. I always have one of them charged by my bed. Who knows? We could lose power at any minute. Be Prepared!

I also have a Coleman lantern that uses propane.

 In addition, have a Coleman stove that uses Propane.

Besides that, I have one of the little Coleman Catalytic Heaters, that is also fired by a can of propane fuel.

 

Last, I also have a My Buddy Portable Heater that uses two cans of propane fuel.

I hate being cold.

For the first several years after I moved to this area, we lost power several times. One year, we lost power in May, and I nearly froze to death. After that I went crazy, buying the portable heaters, and the interesting thing is that I have not lost power since then.

Friday, when I was lining my propane devices and the cans of propane on the table in my bedroom, I thought to myself that everyone in this area needs to pay me $5.00. Now that I am totally prepared, we won’t lose power. And that was the case again.

But did Life give ME a Get Out of Jail Card? NO! When the Powers-That-Be realized that I would not be losing power, they simply took my refrigerator instead. About the time that the snow had covered the ground and the stores had closed on Friday night, I noticed that my refrigerator was broken. All of my frozen food was melted, and my milk was lukewarm. Even if I could scrape enough money together to buy a new refrigerator, the stores had shut. On Saturday, the roads were paralyzed by snow, and the stores were still closed, too. We got several more inches of snow last night. I still cannot get to the store, and it is probably still closed anyway.

But remember! I am a Girl Scout! The Powers can’t get me down. When my refrigerator broke, I just threw all of the stuff that was in the freezer away. Some of it had been there since 2003. It was time for a good purging. I put the rest of the stuff in the garage, which is every bit as cold as a refrigerator. [Allow me to pause and ring my mother’s bell. I learned this trick from her. I never go there for Christmas and fail to find the best drinks and treats out in the garage].

I still have electricity. I never lost it. My propane arcade is wickedly and defiantly grinning at me, but I don’t care. I’ll get the last laugh. All of my gear will simply go back into my closet, and because I am prepared, I’ll dodge the next bullet, too.

©Jacki Kellum January 24, 2016

When Life Gives You Lemons, Make Lemonade!

Not Lemonade

I Can’t Afford A Bucket List – I’m Just Trying to Save My Bucket, In Spite of Snowmageddon

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Do you have a Bucket List? I Don’t. I’m Just Trying to Save My Bucket.

I am having a very weird week. Knowing that the winter storm Snowmageddon was on its way, I did not wait until the last minute to shop. On Thursday, I bought my groceries and filled my gas tank. I bought a battery jet pack to extend my cell phone usage, should we lose power and an Internet connection. I tested my propane lantern, heater, and cookstove and neatly arranged them beside their vats of fuel. I even made a pot of homemade chili.

About the time that the snow had covered the ground and the stores had closed last night, I noticed that my refrigerator was broken. All of my frozen food was melted, and my milk was lukewarm. Even if I could scrape enough money together to buy a new refrigerator, I couldn’t get to the store. The snow has stopped traffic. Things will be no better tomorrow either, and even after I get to the store and make my purchase, the delivery date will be days from that.

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In an effort to get my ducks in a row, I did everything that I knew to do, and things still went wrong.

It is brutally cold outside and the wind is nearing hurricane speed. I have 2 old, beautiful trees cracking and falling. Will that cost me a mere $1,000 or will I REALLY score and take out my neighbor’s house?

I am amazed at people who make bucket lists. I am even more stunned that people have the extra money to do the things that they have placed on their bucket lists.  As for me and my house, I am having difficulty just keeping the holes in my bucket plugged.

I see no bucket lists in my future. At the very best, I’ll continue living day to day and if things go very, very well, I’ll continue jumping from net to net.

©Jacki Kellum January 23, 2016 –
The Day of the Winter Blizzard That Hit My Mid-Atlantic Coast

Kick It

500 Free Writing Prompts for Personal & Memoir Writing from the New York Times

I just bumped into a great list of free writing prompts that was produced in relationship to the New York Times. Many of them are great for Memoir Writers, and all would be wonderful ways to launch a blog post. I believe that the prompts were intended for teenagers, but they are equally good for adults who are writing about they youth. I thought that you might like to check them out Here

Here are a few examples:

<a href="http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/03/11/a-firm-grasp-on-comfort/">Related Article</a><a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/10/opinion/sunday/living-with-less-a-lot-less.html"><br /></a>

What Was Your Most Favorite Childhood Possession?

What Were Your Favorite Shows & Characters?

What Were Your Favorite Picture Books?

What Things Did You Create As A Kid?

What Places Do You Remember Fondly As A Kid?

What Objects Tell the Story of Your Life?

Am I My Brother’s Keeper – Taking Responsibility for Who We Actually Are

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“…do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing….” Matthew 6:3

There is a scripture in the Bible that warns us against allowing the right hand of knowing what the left hand is doing. The scripture is actually advising us not to be obvious about our acts of charity. It is telling us to do good for good’s sake and not for public recognition. I am afraid that many have not read that passage, and I am even more concerned that if we have, we allowed the words to mean only what we wanted them to mean.

As individuals, we have a tendency to interpret things the way that we want. Let’s face it. Words are limited, and the shrewd among us are adept at highlighting what we like and avoiding what we don’t like among them. That is just another layer of denial–another way that we have mastered the art of deceiving ourselves, as well as others around ourselves.

This month, I have written several times about denial. It continues to fascinate me that intelligent, cognizant people are often totally unaware of what actually makes themselves tick. I am sure that I, too, am in denial, but at least, I am willing to consider that as a possibility. Many people are able to pull blinders across their own eyes and never even think about looking beyond.

I chuckle at the ways that people today have latched on the phrase that is often spurted, saying that they will not do this or that because they don’t need this or that negativity in their lives. The same people will dismiss best friends and family members with little more than a flip of the hand, saying that THE OTHERS are also negative. In my opinion, this activity has become a ruse. It has become a way that we excuse doing things that we know that we should not do–of accepting our own cruelties–and laying the blame somewhere else.

“We are not only our brother’s keeper, in countless large and small ways, we are our brother’s maker.” – Bonaro Overstreet.

I just read the above quote. It made me think about the ways that we love to pass the buck. We love to tell ourselves that things are NEVER our faults. The blame always lies somewhere else. Someone or something else has become a problem, and it simply is not our problem. Those other people are leeching negativity, and we simply need to wash our hands clean. After all, we are in no way responsible for them, and we cannot allow them to take us down with them. 

That thought process is an atrocious example of denial. In truth, NO one is always blameless. Responsibility is a long and convoluted affair. If we ever learn to see things as they truly are, I dare say that we all will discover that things that went wrong often did so because of a series of misdeeds–many of which were out of the hands of the wrong-doer and yes–we were partially the blame.

I dream of a world where people will simply open their eyes and see every side of every coin. I dream of a world where we will learn to be more responsible for things that we have done wrong. I dream of a world that is free of our denials.

©Jacki Kellum January 22, 2016