Archive for June, 2011

Oh dear. It is most definitely crunch time. I’ve been having regular mini freak-outs in my head, just thinking about everything I need to try to accomplish before Friday morning. I leave on Friday morning. Moving away. Goodbye, Schefferville, forever. I feel strangely sickly sad. I feel bad for leaving the students; so many of them need love. And I’ll miss how wild it can be here. I’ll miss the bits of forest and tundra still untouched. Though so much of it is getting scarred up lately from the mining going on. I’ll miss the odd colourful mining cookie-cutter houses and the hugely wide streets, built that way for the big mining trucks. And the bright bright blue lakes, light skies late at night, crisp shocking breaths of air, deep mists settling in this valley, and the thousands of birds singing and whistling at each other this time of year, flashing their brilliant sapphire blue backs as they dart at each other.

On the other hand, I’m thrilled to be leaving! I won’t miss the almost complete depressing darkness in December, or the bitter skin-freezing cold, the dry lips and cracking knuckles, the swarms and swarms of black flies and mosquitoes, the half-dozen or so drunks yelling at me whenever I leave my house to pick up the mail, the students who don’t listen or hurl insults at me and each other, the pettiness and gossip of a small town, having to cart all my art supplies from classroom to classroom.

And there’s the things I’m looking forward to about leaving as well! Things like a huge variety of fresh fruit and vegetables that won’t take up half my paycheck and that I won’t have to throw half of away because of rottenness and mold! (I am SO excited for grocery stores!) And seeing and being so close to so many good friends! And Eric has been telling me all about the amazing renovations that he, Nick, and his dad have been putting into our little Connecticut house. I really just can’t wait to see it all. Our new home. Even that thought is amazing.

But before all that can happen, I have so much to do here in these next 5 short days! Finishing up the final touches of so many art pieces, putting things together, packing up, cleaning up, making sure art gets delivered. I have lists of what I need to do on certain days, but am worrying about unforeseen setbacks.

At this very moment I am scanning the second-to-last page of the Bottle Bush book. I wanted to get as much scanned now as I can, since we have the wonderful 11″x17″ scanner here, and when I was trying to scan comic pages in Corning last year it cost me a couple bucks a page! And the Bottle Bush book is around 60 pages! That would’ve been a real expensive scan job… I wonder what I’ll be doing about that once I leave. Well anyways, here, for your viewing pleasure, is the teeniest sneak peak of this huge Bottle Bush project. I love drawings of hands, and how appropriate that this is a drawing of my dad’s hands, since Father’s Day is tomorrow. Happy Father’s Day to my dad, and also to my new “other dad”, who will become official on July 16th. I really appreciate you both, you’re good dads.

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How about some art, hm? I’ve been slacking a little on posting art bits, and an event of today helped boost me back into it, somewhat. This is off-topic from my painting commissions though. About a month back a student of mine asked if she could commission me me to do a portrait drawing from a photograph. I consider pieces like that “money-makers”. Drawing a realistic portrait directly from a photograph without any artistic license to steer one way or anything… I dunno. It’s great for learning to draw and getting comfortable, but it’s not exciting, you know? Not like painting monsters or comic pages or even ptarmigan.

But I agreed to do it anyway and we talked money first thing. I’ve discovered way more then once that if you do NOT talk money from  the start, things will get awkward for one side, the other, or both, at some point. So all the arrangements were made, she got me a photo, and I drew it up, which you can see here, part-way through:

I finished the thing in a day. It didn’t take me long at all. Then, to keep it clean and safe, I made a little plastic envelope with a cardboard backing:

I let her know the drawing was finished, and they she could come by any time to pick it up. Yeah, yeah, she would tomorrow. Tonight. Next week, I promise. At lunch. On Sunday.

I started carrying it in my bag with me just in case she happened to stop me on the street and I could hand it over. And no, I wasn’t going to give it to her on the honor system without cash. Sorry, I’ve been short-changed far too many times. Weeks went by and I started to get really frustrated. We’d talked a ridiculously good deal on her part, so I knew it wasn’t an issue with the price.

So actually today I was thinking, as I start packing and pitching stuff I won’t bring with me, if I was going to end up stuck with another useless (on my side) piece of art. I have a few things like that flowing around (or I actually have just tossed out); other people’s commissioned portraits or designs and such, with specific requirements in them. It’s not like I could sell a portrait of someone’s little brother to a person who doesn’t even know the kid. And I’m certainly not gonna hang the piece in my house. I feel as though I’ve been scammed when that kind of thing happens: I did the work, and now won’t get paid for it. My supplies, but most importantly my time, don’t get reimbursed. It’d be like refusing to pay the guy who plowed your driveway because 2 days later all the snow melted. Yeah, I get a little frustrated. I get a little angry. People can say “Well, now you have a portfolio piece”. But you know what? My portfolio’s doing fine. Just pay me what we agreed, ok?

Then, of course, as God seems to like to do with me, all my annoyances with today were for nothing. As I was walking home after work a heard my name shouted, and up ran the student who’d commissioned me. She gleefully handing over the money, I had the portrait in my bag, and she danced off to show some friends. Whew. Done. Monies! I need to learn to stop being so cynical.

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I’ll bet you wish you could be one of my soon-to-be ex-students. Whether that’s because of this post, or because they soon won’t have to be in my class ever again we might never know, haha.

This coming week is my last time with the Secondary (high school) students of Jimmy Sandy Memorial School, since their exams start full-time on Friday (and I’m not giving an art exam). And then the week after that is my last week with the elementary students. Since I’m leaving for good on the train the Friday after next (ohmygoodnessonlyelevenmoredays!!!!) and I won’t be coming back to teach here next year (I know they were interviewing possible replacements for my position last week) I’ve decided that the last time I meet with each class will be a bit of a small “party class”. I’ll give them their folders of all their work from the whole year, a little good-bye-it-was-great-having-you-in-class note (though not quite so generic. I started writing those about an hour ago and I’m actually getting a little emotional about saying goodbye!), maybe I’ll show them our Pocket Vinyl music videos, and of course, give them some treats! What’s an end-of-the-year party without cookies and cupcakes?

Like I’ve said with my other recent recipes, these are made using whatever I could find around the house. I don’t want to do lots of grocery shopping since it’s just me and I’m only here for such a short time now. These are a basic chocolate chip cookie recipe, using whole wheat (yep!) and I’ve discovered that 2 tablespoons of water and 2 teaspoons of baking powder are a substitute for a single egg in baking. (It works great in cookie dough, not so awesome to add to cake mixes. I had a few cupcakes fall to pieces on me, but baking them longer and letting them sit in the pan to cool longer and freezing them immediately afterwards helps! haha.)

I wanted to make a wide variety, so the kids can choose their preference. I was impressed that with such few ingredients I could still come up with a fair amount of different (ish) cookies.

These, I have never made before, but they are amazing. They’re peanut butter-less no-bakes! Sugar, more sugar, oats, chocolate, and butter> Super simple, super delicious, super bad for you! Here’s the recipe (though I doubled it):

3/4 c. soft butter – start whipping it and add other ingredients as it goes

3/4 c. sugar

3 T. cocoa powder

1/2 t. vanilla

1 T. water

2 c. rolled oats

Once everything is mixed into a stick mess, roll little globs of the dough in powdered sugar, place them on a cookie tray, and put them in the fridge (or freezer. I’m freezing everything anyways so it’ll stay fresh for this next week and a half, so putting them right in the freezer works fine).

Oh, and the cupcakes. Not as impressive as the last cupcakes I made, but I’d rather eat these!And sprinkles are my favorite ever!!! I love them so much!

I like to imagine that after looking at all these photos, you’re eating frosting directly from the jar now (I know I would be).



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A while ago a friend of a friend mentioned this bean burger recipe to me, and I’ve tried making it numerous times to somehow create a perfect bean burger. What I’ve discovered is that the “perfect” bean burger actually consists of no recipe at all, but really just adding a little of this, and a little of that.  The first ones I’ve made were pretty tasteless, but these ones I made just last week turned out as awesome as can be, if I be so bold as to gloat a little.

It’s pretty much just grate, chop, and throw in whatever you might have. I had a left-over handful of baby carrots so I decided to grate and toss those into the mix.

I’d only ever used black beans in the past, but this time I found this can of random mixed beans in the back of the cupboard. Put them in a bowl and mash them up. I find using a fork is pretty much the best way to mash, even better then a potato masher.

This is also the first time I decided to trying adding a raw egg. It really helps keep the mixture together and less fall-apart-y. 

Spices!! Lots and lots and lots of spices!! Pretty much just add in whatever kinds of spices you like best. I put in garlic, salt, onion, parsley, and chili powder. Oh, and some Parmesan, just for kicks. 

Because the mixture was just a little too sticky, I added in a handful of cracker crumbs, which made it a lot easier to handle. Look how colourful these are!! That can of beans made 6 generous-sized patties. I’d love to try throwing in other chopped veggies too, like broccoli, spinach, chives, and whatever else.

I don’t have a grill here, so I just cooked these up in the frying pan with some sauteed mushrooms and cheese.

A friend brought me some Montreal bagels from a recent trip (so delicious!) that I toasted as a bun, added lots of ketchup and Dijon mustered (I think you could add Dijon mustered to anything and make it completely delicious), and some greenery. Tada! The perfect veggie-bean deliciousness. Yes, I made two and ate them both. Don’t judge me!








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I had a crappy day today. What an awesome way to start a blog post. Actually that’s not true at all. I had an awesome day today. In every class my students were mellow, there was no fighting, yelling, hitting. They listened, followed instructions, seemed to enjoy themselves, and even some of my most obnoxious students expressed sadness when they discovered that I won’t be back next year, and told me I was their “nicest” teacher. The crappy part of the day is just that it’s not my turn to run through this awful energy-sucking flu that everyone at work seems to be getting. Yay. I felt totally fine and healthy when I got to work; just a little scratchy in the back of my throat. But as classes went by I got weaker and weaker, tireder and tireder, headacheier and headacheier, colder and colder. Even now I’m sitting here bundled in my winter coat that I never took off from walking in the door, with a hot drink and a fire going. (Oh, did you hear? It snowed here this morning. Stop complaining about the heat and humidity where you are!)

A real obnoxious side-effect of this flu is a cancellation of plans: A good-sized group of us were planning this 12k race tomorrow after school, along the dirt road between Kawawachikamach (where the school is) and Schefferville (where a lot of us live), with a bbq at the finish line. I was really looking forward to this, and even helped plan some of it, as it’s something I’ve been wanting to do since the start of this school year. We’ll see, maybe I’ll be up for it after a good night’s sleep.

An even worse side-effect is that I have no energy to paint tonight. And as of tomorrow I only have exactly 2 weeks until I’m out of here. Which is exciting but is also making me start to panic as I think about all the painting I still need to get done before I go! I can’t be sick. I really hope I’m better by the weekend.

Now trust me, this all relates to the title of this post, and I was just getting there. The other day I had a 10 year old girl named Kelly spend the night. When I had her in class I looked at how she was hiding her face and the slump of her shoulders and something in my head said

“Invite her to sleep over.”

“Noooooooo!!!!!” I yelled back. “I want to paint! And I want to waste time on Facebook! And I want to have my own time and do my own things and be selfish!!”

Of course once a voice like that happens, you can’t ignore it. I tried arguing it away:

“Maybe she doesn’t want to come sleep over.”

“You idiot, of course she does.”

“Well, I’ll only invite her over if, uh… she brings it up!”

“Stop being a douche.”

“Maybe she’ll run out when the bell rings and I’ll miss my chance! Yeah! Hopefully!”

Of course she stuck around after everyone else had left. So I walked over and asked her, like ripping off a band-aide real quick-like before chickening out.

She’s Jaiden’s older sister, and lives in another very full foster-family. As we made dinner and read books and played games and whatever else, I started to see that it’s fairly obvious she almost never gets loving one-on-one attention. She’s 10. What were you like at 10? Who loved you?

Hanging out was awkward and first, but eventually we both got more comfortable. And I’ve got to be honest, I have never heard a happier and more genuine belly-laugh in my whole life! I wanted to laugh just hearing how happy she sounded.

So anyways, a couple days go by, and we get to how totally drained and crappy I was feeling today. At the end of classes I was pushing my cart back to the staff room, about to clean even more paint trays and brushes and wanting everyone to just leave me alone so I could make it through until I could just go home. Out of the corner of my eye I saw Kelly coming down the hall. I was so close to the staff room door! I could just push my cart a little faster, keep my eyes averted, and I’d be safe! I could feel her hopefulness watching me. Finally I looked up and smiled at her. That was all she wanted. She gave me back the biggest, happiest, most genuine grin I’ve ever seen. And right then I thought of myself as a little scared depressed 10 year old, and wishing for a little acknowledgement from a teacher I admired; something as insignificant as a smile. Two seconds and it was over.

I dunno. I feel like this whole thing has been repeated over and over again, people put things like this into e-mail forwards and send them with sparkly angel gifs. It takes the actual experience to understand it for real though.

I’ve been battling with myself a lot lately, as I get ready top leave in just two weeks, wondering what more I could’ve done to help and reach out to some of these kids. Wondering where I’ve failed them. I guess I really helped one girl for one night. But what about every other night? What about every other kid? How many times has my selfishness actually won?


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I haven’t gone more then 12km from the exact spot I am sitting right now in close to 6 months. In 2 weeks and 1 day that will change. I’ve compiled a list of just a few of the things I am ridiculously excited to do once I leave. I’m sure I could easily think of tons and tons more, but here are a few I hope can happen this summer:

Go on long car rides sitting next to Eric

Have sushi from Wegmans

Lay around in green grass in summer clothes

Go into record shops

Have a Jesus feast, enjoying some Bully Hill, early into the morning, with good friends

Enjoying some Yuengling, with good friends

Smoking a pipe with a few good friend outside

Sitting around a fire, with good friends

Drinking a coffee I didn’t make myself, maybe even at a coffee shop

Standing outside a bar during a show for some fresh air with a friend or two


Giggling with friends

Making smoothies without recipes, with friends

Inspect everything for sale in the produce, health food, and international section of Wegmans

Get an ice cream cone

Stroll around a cemetery. with friends

Give and get hugs

Sit in a book shop and read a graphic novel

Watch a Red Box movie, with friends

Sleep on a friend’s couch

Go to a pub, with friends

Walk down a street where no one recognizes me

Take communion

Listen to insects chirping at night

Go swimming at night

Get more freckles

Get breakfast at a greasy diner at 2 in the morning, with friends

Sleep outside

Dance in the rain and get completely soaked to the bone, with friends

Go to thrift shops and try on ridiculous clothing with friends. And buy some of it

Stop in Corning even though Journey won’t be living there anymore and see people. And go to Peaches & Cream

Smoke fresh tobacco

Take hipster photos with friends

Open windows at night

Fresh fruit!

Fresh vegetables!

Homemade guacamole!

Those, of course, were in no particular order at all. And you could probably tack on “with good friends” to every one of these. Also, here is a photo that makes me super nostalgic and wish for all these things that I just listed, taken over a year ago in WNY:

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I have a lot of things to blog about this evening: the Caribou Painting Commission update, the 16 Painting Commission update, a righteously angry rant that has been stewing in my mind all day, learning to knit socks, three new different kinds of cheeses I made yesterday, my veggie-bean burgers I made today…

Instead I’m going to post a song. I hate posting song lyrics because no one ever reads them, and I feel like I’m back in high school putting up snippets of Five Iron Frenzy (yes) as my aim away message.

This song though, especially that first verse, has been nagging at my mind since it was very first released and Eric had me sit down and listen to it in our library. It just makes me really evaluate the appearance of “uniqueness”. Since my growing up situation is so unrelateable (apparently that’s not a word…? Maybe it should be), instead of being depressed about it all the time I strove towards being unique and different. That worked great for high school, ok for college. Now it’s post-college and I don’t feel so unique anymore. Hipster quirkiness is actually a trend now. So is thrift-store shopping, sewing your own clothes, being an artist…

This has been glaring at me more and more as I’ve been planning and getting ready for our wedding, and seeing cutesy-hipster engagement shots, DIY artsy receptions, and… whatever else.

Seeing something once unique and interesting become not only the norm but actually “fashionable” in a way makes me want to back away from it all. Maybe I’m being selfish. Actually, I’m pretty certain I am. I don’t know. I guess I don’t really have much else to say about this. I have no solution… Heck, I’m not even sure I know what the problem is!

I guess I at least know I’m certainly not fashionable enough to pull off this hipster-unique phase well, so at least in that way I won’t look like I’m following a trend.

Anyways, here’s the song, Helplessness Blues by Fleet Foxes. It’s a really beautiful song.

I was raised up believing I was somehow unique
Like a snowflake distinct among snowflakes, unique in each way you can see
And now after some thinking, I’d say I’d rather be
A functioning cog in some great machinery serving something beyond me

But I don’t, I don’t know what that will be
I’ll get back to you someday soon you will see

What’s my name, what’s my station, oh, just tell me what I should do
I don’t need to be kind to the armies of night that would do such injustice to you
Or bow down and be grateful and say “sure, take all that you see”
To the men who move only in dimly-lit halls and determine my future for me

And I don’t, I don’t know who to believe
I’ll get back to you someday soon you will see

If I know only one thing, it’s that everything that I see
Of the world outside is so inconceivable often I barely can speak
Yeah I’m tongue-tied and dizzy and I can’t keep it to myself
What good is it to sing helplessness blues, why should I wait for anyone else?

And I know, I know you will keep me on the shelf
I’ll come back to you someday soon myself

If I had an orchard, I’d work till I’m raw
If I had an orchard, I’d work till I’m sore
And you would wait tables and soon run the store

Gold hair in the sunlight, my light in the dawn
If I had an orchard, I’d work till I’m sore
If I had an orchard, I’d work till I’m sore
Someday I’ll be like the man on the screen

And I have no idea how this relates, but I somehow feel like it does. Here are two of my third-grade students, as we worked on making masks the other day:

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