Let’s Begin Again

Last summer I pulled into a campsite along the Pecos River in New Mexico. Driving into the Santa Fe National Forest I was welcomed by green mountains and clouded blue skies, a site I hadn’t seen in some time. The air was cool that night, and the sound of the river gave me some peace. I sat at the picnic table, ate some dinner, and began to write. That night I wrote a letter to myself covering what I had learned so far and it included a few promises. I promised myself that this year I would find a new job in a new location, I would honor my own happiness, and I would move toward adventure. When I was done I did a little yoga on that picnic table. It’s always nice to stretch after a long car ride. Then I laid on my back and watched the stars appear one by one while feeling a little sad that my trip was ending but also a little hopeful for the future.

As the summer came to a close I started getting my portfolio in order and updated my resume. I started telling my bosses and requesting letters of recommendations. For those who do not hold positions in education, this choice can be baffling. In the education world, it helps to have your bosses on your side. If they don’t know you’re leaving then the people looking to hire you won’t give your application a second glance. Not to mention that blindsiding the people you work for can burn bridges. And truly the people you work for should want the best for you. They all understood my motivations and were supportive even if they didn’t want me to go.

Once the year rolled over I began looking into having my certifications recognized in different states. It turned out to be a costly process so I chose 2 states on which to focus my job search. After a couple months of putting in applications and hearing nothing in return, I ran across an application for an overseas recruiter. I filled it out thinking I wouldn’t hear from them either. It turned out that they were very interested in me. Who would have thought? In a short amount of time with multiple Skype interviews and lots of research, I found a job in Beijing teaching Art and I couldn’t be more excited.

I have spent the last twelve years teaching in Warren County. During 9 of those years, I had a principal who began each school year by providing us with inspiration to start with a fresh perspective. Her annual catchphrase, “Let’s begin again” has become an important one for me. Each year it reminded me that I can make changes to improve, and it gave me the little boost I needed to kick off the new year with enthusiasm. This summer she retired and will begin again in a whole new way. I know her new beginning will be wonderful. And, I can’t wait to see what this beginning holds in store for me. I’ve started a new blog to showcase all of the wonderful things Beijing and beyond will teach me. You can find it here at Feed Me, Beijing.

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While I get my visa in order, pack, and do all of the things that need to be done when moving to a new country I continue to hike. I’m embracing the clean air, wilderness, blue skies, and my dogs as much as possible. Oh, if you’re still keeping track so am I. As of July 14, 2017, I have hiked 668.93 miles for the year with 116713 ft of vertical gain. I hope to pass 700  miles before I board the plane. I know my mileage will taper while I’m away, but I will find my way to some trails as often as possible.

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I Break For Art

Bright and early this morning I took the dogs for a two mile walk in the neighborhood. I wanted to get them taken care of so I could run off for a day trip to Richmond, VA. As a former art teacher and still practicing artist, I have a strong passion for the arts, and when something good comes through I have to see it.

Several years ago I took a summer educators class through the National Portrait Gallery called Learning to Look. The class was excellent. It taught us different methods of getting our students to look at and understand works of art. It was one of the rare courses that can be useful for all subjects and grade levels. Each educator walked away with a stipend, and a behind the scenes experience you can’t get any other way. I fell in love with a Kehinde Wiley portrait of LL Cool J while I was their. I had never seen his art before, and I was blown away. Since then I have been looking for his pieces. A few months ago his work came to the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, and because I spent so much time touring the country, I hadn’t had an opportunity to see it. It leaves September 5th, so I had to get there soon or totally miss out. My art teacher friend and I made a day out of it, and even with traffic and 5.5 hours of driving, it was totally worth it. Check out my favorites.

Known for his larger than life portraits, ornately detailed wallpaper like backgrounds, and saturated color schemes, his works can capture your attention from across a busy street. Wiley began as a portrait artist, inviting african american men into his studio to strike a pose from famous classical paintings. He would photograph them, then turn the photos into large scale portraits. He continues to be the portrait painter, but now employs apprentices to create the ultra detailed backgrounds. The backgrounds add to the symbolic meaning of the composition. If you look closely you may find gold sperm, or notice that the tapestry shown is a specific cloth that is important to a certain culture, or a pattern often found in a country’s ceramics. Each piece has meaning in its posture, color, culture, gaze, etc. Each one could be explored for a lifetime.

And who knew he did sculpture too?

Shopping, Art, Juicy Eggs, and More

One of my favorite things to do in new places is visit the thrift stores. You’re always bound to find some local flavor. And in the case of Cupertino, you’re likely to find some amazing stuff for a great price. We hit up the Goodwill on day 3 of my visit, and I walked away with all kinds of goodies. If you’re ever in Cupertino, or Lani Kai, or Portland, or anywhere really, make sure to do a little second hand store shopping. You won’t regret it.

Later that evening the munchkin (aka, My-Perfect-God-Child) got to pick what he wanted for dinner. He chose juicy eggs. What in the world is that you might ask? Eggs fried with a runny yolk. Could that be the most adorable name ever? The display of dad giving a cooking lesson while son closely observed was one of the sweetest moments I’ve ever had the opportunity to witness. I mean, just look at this adorableness.

 

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Day 4 was jammed full of food and art. We took a drive to San Jose where we ventured into San Pedro Square for some delicious tacos. You can find all kinds of food here, and it’s all yummy. After lunch we walked over the the San Jose Art Museum (see feature photo above.) Taibamo had an exhibit up called “In Her Room.” It included a lot of animation and drawing. The upstairs held a compelling exhibit by Richard Misrach and Guillermo Galindo called “Border Cantos.” These two mixed music, photography, and found object assembly to demonstrate what life is like living along the boarder and the wall. Some of it is beautiful. Some of it is chilling. This exhibit will be one to stick with me for some time.

There were no tech stops today. Instead I got my oil changed. I have to make sure my car makes it the drive back. I love my car, now sweetly name Ethel after Ethel Mertz because I have an I Love Lucy obsession that started long ago. So I guess that makes me Lucy. After the oil change we had a great dinner and watched a couple Orange is the New Black episodes. It was the perfect visit to Cupertino, CA.