Friday, October 30, 2009

I won, I won!!!!

There are so many great give a ways in blogland right now. I recently entered one at my good buddy Lynette's blog. She was giving away a gorgeous "bird" cloche from Wisteria. I've been coveting, oh I mean wanting, a cloche for quite some time, but they seemed a bit pricey. And unlike all the thrift shopping queens out there, I've never seen one that I really liked at my local goodwill. So when I saw that Lynette was giving one away for her pay it forward giveaway, my mouse couldn't move fast enough! And miracle of miracles, I WON!!!!

I had to retape the box for the first picture. I was getting my camera and came back into the living room and DH had opened the box for me. Silly man, didn't realize that I had to take a picture of the box BEFORE it was opened lol.

Sweet message from Lynette. We first met on the RMS sight, I fell in love with one of her bedroom postings. And she was one of my first followers and made me feel SO welcome here.

Isn't this the most gorgeous cloche you've ever seen?

Temporary home. I plan on using this beautiful cloche in our guest room when it's done. Right now there is too much moving and painting going on to risk keeping it there. So I've placed it in my living room bookcase so I can admire it. And think about how I'm going to decorate it! Suggestions are more than welcome, I tend to be impaired in the crafty/creative area! I think I may use it in a Thanksgiving centerpiece until the guest room is done. It's too pretty to just sit there "naked"!
Thank you again Lynette for hosting this wonderful giveaway! If you haven't visited Lynette, make sure you do. Her blog is wonderful and she has recently opened an Etsey shop full of the most beautiful things! And stay tuned. This is my 100th post! I can't believe it. So I will be having a "pay it forward" and 100th post giveaway soon. We are leaving for the coast on Thursday and I plan on finding some goodies there to celebrate!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Outdoor Wednesday - Rain at last!

It's Wednesday once again, one of my favorite days of the week. Not only are we half way through the workweek, it's also time for Outdoor Wednesday so graciously hosted every week by Susan at Be sure to stop by and see everyone's beautiful pictures of the great outdoors!

Remember my post awhile back on the effects of our horrible drought? This is what the San Gabriel River looked like in Mid August of this year, just 2 short months ago...

Our weather pattern has finally changed, and we've received substantial rainfall over the past month. We are still well below normal, but things are starting to look up.

It's amazing to me how fast the grass greened up, and the trees look so grateful! I swear they are standing taller again!

Now hop on over to Susan's and see what everyone else is sharing.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Weekend Reflections - Stevie Ray on Town Lake

Stevie Ray Vaughan, shores of Lady Bird Lake, Austin Texas

This was taken while night shooting in Austin a month or so back. The City of Austin erected this statue in 1994 to memorialize one of our favorite sons. We were experimenting with light painting and I really like the way the statue turned out.

Many thanks to James at Newtown Area Photo for hosting Weekend Reflections. Click to visit his fantastic gallery of photographs and check out some amazing "reflection" photos.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Outdoor Wednesday - Ruins in Central Texas?

If it's Wednesday, that means it's time to head outdoors! We have been having beautiful weather here in Central Texas and hubby and I wanted to spend the weekend taking some shots with his new camera. I ended up coming down with the flu, so I sent him out anyway with my brother in law. I needed pictures for Outdoor Wednesday! Little did he know that when he took up this new hobby that he was going to become my official blog photographer. He did say that I agreed to the new camera purchase a little too quickly lol. Susan from A Southern Daydreamer graciously hosts this event every week. It's so much fun to see what everyone has to show of their own great outdoors, especially at this time of year. There is so much gorgeous fall color to be seen in so many parts of the country. Make sure to stop by to see what everyone is sharing this week.

These shots were taken in Salado, Texas, a small town just north of us. It it well known for it's many quaint shops and galleries. We have lived here since 1982 and just discovered that at one time there was a small college located in Salado. The buildings have now fallen to ruin, but they made for some spectacular shots at sunset.

Hope you enjoyed these photos of a beautiful Central Texas sunset. I just wish that you could feel the warm breeze and smell the grass. Since the rains have returned, everything is alive and lush once again. But there is just a touch of autumn in the air, letting us know that soon we'll be bringing a thermos of hot chocolate on these outdoor shoots!

Monday, October 12, 2009

The nicest thing

Lori at Family Trees May Contain Nuts is hosting a writing challenge. She asked us to write about the nicest thing anyone has ever done for us. Please make sure and stop by and read all the beautiful and touching stories. And admit it folks, Lori has got to have the best blog title, period and amen!

I am blessed with family, friends and co workers who are always there for me when I need them, so I had a hard time choosing the nicest thing. I decided to write about the first thing that popped into my head when I read about this challenge. It was not only one of the nicest things, it was the most unexpected sweet surprise I could ever receive.

We all know how special some of our blog friendships become. If someone had told me a year ago that I would feel so attached to a group of people that I've never met, I would have thought they were nuts. But truly, you are all some of the kindest, most supportive people I've ever had the pleasure of knowing. This was really brought home to me last June. We have made an annual pilgrimage to St. George Island Florida for a family get together for 11 years. I was feeling very down because too many things conspired to prevent our making the trip this year.
I had recently started following a new (to me) blog - Shellbelle's Tiki Hut. It really struck a chord with me, and Rhonda is just a doll. Imagine my surprise when I woke one morning and saw this blog post from Rhonda.

"On my first OW I posted a photo of my Blue Heron buddy at the beach by my house and received wonderful responses. One in particular came from Kathy over at Emptynester, in which she stated that this would be the first year (in 11) that she would not be vacationing on St. George Island, Florida.

Well, in a follow-up post, I wrote that I would write her name in the sand at low tide as her promise that she would be back next year. Kathy responded with "We WILL be there next year as God is my witness." AND, she said this in her best Miss Scarlett voice, so I know it is true.

With that said, and as one not to go back on my word, I grabbed my camera a few days ago and headed to the beach. So this Outdoor Wednesday post is dedicated to Kathy, my new blogging friend, but it is also for everyone who has gently stepped into the lives of others through blogging.

Okay, Kathy the Gulf has claimed your name and is waiting for you to fulfill your promise to come back next year!"

Honestly, isn't that the sweetest thing you've ever seen? I admit, I sat at my computer and bawled like a baby when I saw this. Such a sweet, caring thing to do for someone she had never met. But I think "beach souls" know each other even across the miles!

Thank you again Rhonda for being such a dear. And thank you Lori for hosting this wonderful event.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Somewhere Over the Rainbow

It's Wednesday, which means it's time once again for Outdoor Wednesday, so graciously hosted every week by Susan at A Southern Daydreamer. This is one of my favorite blogland events. It's so much fun to see the outdoors through other eyes, especially at this time of year when the weather is so varied from region to region. Make sure to stop by to see some beautiful outdoor photographs!

As you may know, we have been suffering from a drought for the past 3 years, and it has become quite critical. Most of the state is in an "exceptional" or "extreme" drought condition. Lately, the weather pattern has started to change and we've been receiving some blessed rain on a somewhat regular basis. As I was leaving my monthly hospital manager's meeting last week, this is the sight that caught my eye....

Not just a rainbow, but a double rainbow! The picture quality is not that great, given that I was shooting in the pouring rain in the middle of Luby's parking lot. As I was leaving I noticed all of the diners staring out of the large plate glass window at me - they must have thought I was nuts, because the rainbow would not have been visible from their angle! The best view of this gorgeous sky was in the middle of the highway, but I thought better of stopping in the middle of I-35 in a rainstorm to shoot a photo lol. I'm a dedicated blogger, but not quite THAT dedicated. Now don't forget to visit Susan and see what everyone else is sharing today.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Music for all - NOW

Fair warning - this is a LONG post. If you've read my blog for long, you know that one of the issues nearest to my heart is music education in our schools. I've been threatening to do this post for a long time, and after a recent discussion with my husband's niece, I felt I couldn't wait any longer.

We recently had the pleasure of having my husband's niece and her two children from Philadelphia for a lovely 5 day visit. Julian is 3 and Jessica is 8, and they are great kids. We had so much fun showing them "life in Texas" and life in a small town. I'm not sure who had more fun! As we were sitting around the dinner table discussing back to school things, my great niece Jessica turned to her mother and said "well Mom, you know that this year you won't have to buy a music book". Silly me, I assumed that she was borrowing one from an older friend. No, my niece explained, they are cutting music at Jessica's school, unless they sign up to play an instrument. Now mind you, Jessica is going into the third grade. I was stunned, not to mention heartbroken. We hear all the time about music programs being cut, but I think I had gotten somewhat complacent. We are incredibly blessed to live in a school district that places a great deal of emphasis on Fine Arts education. In fact, Georgetown has been named one of the "Best 100 Communities for Music Education" twice. Our state mandates that music be part of the required curriculum in grade K-5. And legislation was recently passed that mandates a fine arts credit in both middle school as well as the existing fine arts credit requirement for graduation from high school. My niece told me that Jessica would have to take music again once she began high school, meaning she will have a 7 year gap between music instruction. I'm sure the only reason they require fine arts education in high school is because it is mandated by No Child Left Behind. And that, my friends, is such a huge disservice to those students!

There is substantial research that supports the link between music education and higher general educational comprehension.

Fact: Students taking courses in music performance and music appreciation scored higher in the SAT than students with no arts participation. Music performance students scored 53 points higher on the verbal and 39 points higher on the math. Music appreciation students scored 61 points higher on the verbal and 42 points higher on the math. (Source: 1999 College-Bound Seniors National Report: Profile of SAT Program Test Takers, The College Entrance Examination Board, Princeton, New Jersey)

Fact: According to the National Education Longitudinal Study of 1988, music students received more academic honors and awards than non-music students. A higher percentage of music participants received As, As/Bs, and Bs than non-music participants. (Source: NELS:88 First Follow-up, 1990, National Center for Education Statistics, Washington D.C.)

Fact: Lewis Thomas, physician and biologist, found that music majors comprise the highest percentage of accepted medical students at 66%. (Source: As reported in “The Case for Music in the Schools,” Phi Delta Kappan, February 1994.)

Fact: Research made between music and intelligence concluded that music training is far greater than computer instruction in improving children’s abstract reasoning skills.(Source: Shaw, Rauscher, Levine, Wright, Dennis and Newcomb, “Music training causes long-term enhancement of preschool children’s spatial-temporal reasoning,” Neurological Research, vol. 19, February 1997 )

A background in the arts is one of the qualities that major corporations and universities look for in applicants.

“The arts enrich communities and employees, and also stimulate the kind of intellectual curiosity our company needs to stay competitive.” (Source: Norma R. Augustine, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Martin Marietta Corporation.)

“A grounding in the arts will help our children to see; to bring a uniquely human perspective to science and technology. In short, it will help them as they grow smarter to also grow wiser. (Source: Robert E. Allen, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, AT&T Corporation, in “America’s Culture Begins with Education”)

"Arts Education aids students in skills needed in the workplace: flexibility, the ability to solve problems and communicate; the ability to learn new skills, to be creative and innovative, and to strive for excellence. (Source: Joseph M. Calahan, Director of Corporate Communications, Xerox. Corporation)

Still not convinced? There is much evidence that involvement in the arts and extra-curricular activities can keep students from becoming involved in substance abuse.

Student involvement in extracurricular or cocurricular activities makes students resilient to current substance use among their peers, according to a recent statewide survey of Texas Schools. Secondary students who participated in band, orchestra or choir reported the lowest lifetime use of all substances. (Source: 1994 Texas School Survey of Substance Abuse Among Students: Grades 7-12)

If that doesn't convince you, read the comments made by former students of Washington Preparatory High School in Los Angeles, where the overall graduation rate is 30 percent, but the graduation rate for band students is 90 percent. According to Fernando Pullum, music director at Washington Preparatory High School, " Music saves lives by raising kids' self-esteem and providing an alternative to the negative activities that are all too prevalent throughout the community that surrounds my school."

One of Pullum's former students, Lorenzo Johnson, has added his voice as well. Before attending Washington Prep, Johnson lived amid drugs and violence, struggled to stay out of gangs, and got poor grades, he recounts.

When I started high school, I decided to take a marching band class, he says. I started getting more involved in school, and my grades improved to As and Bs. I started composing music, and I received a commendation from the City Council for my musical activity. For those of us fortunate enough to have gone through Washington Prep's music magnet, we feel so blessed to have found a way out. I am now in college, but along with so many of my peers, I will continue to give back to my former school and to my community.

Sticking with the choir and band was an escape from hanging out with gang members and smoking marijuana, says another Washington Prep graduate, Nichol Luebrun. But the band and choir gave me more than just something to do. They changed my life. They instilled in me a love of music. They taught me discipline, perseverance, leadership, and boldness. I am proud to say that this past year I became the first person in my family to graduate from high school and attend college.

I would call the above examples "analytical" reasons for arts education. Now I'll share the "emotional" reasons for involving your child in the arts. They say a picture is worth a thousand words.

Already on the path to teaching....
If you'd like to read the article, simply click to enlarge

Marching in the Main Street Parade, Disneyworld
UIL Marching competition
Program from first college recital
DWR Quartet with the head of the Saxophone Department at UNT College of Music

If you live in a school district that has or is considering cuts to arts education, I urge you to become an advocate for arts education. Speak to your school administration, the school board, local politicians and most importantly, other parents. Get involved. Below are some links that can help you frame your arguments most effectively.

If you'd like to read a fascinating book about the effects of music, I highly recommend "This is Your Brain on Music" The Science of a Human Obsession by Daniel J. Levitin (Dutton, Penguin Group, 2006)

And finally, if you are still with me, bless your hearts! I'm sorry this post ran so long, but this is an issue I feel very passionately about. If your child comes home from school one day and says that they want to join band, RUN, don't walk to your nearest music store and get them set up. The lessons they learn and the joy they will feel will last them for their entire lives, whether they pursue music as a profession or not.