Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Not All Artists Are Starving...

Since the Impertinent Daughter started her first semester at Texas State, something has been coming up almost every time someone spots her doodling in the margins of her notebooks, or sketching in her sketchbook.

People tend to gather around her when she sketches or doodles.  It's a phenomenon I've encountered time and time again.  Sit down quietly in an out of the way spot, open your sketchbook, pull out a pencil or pen and start drawing, then look up and there's always someone standing there, staring intently at your work.

My daughter is used to this.  What's new is, because she's on a college campus, the inevitable question comes up: "What's your major?"

At first, she said, "I'm an art major."  And she encountered yet another phenomenon that virtually every artist/art student will identify with.

The Interrogation.

"You're an art major?  Really?  But... that's not really practical, is it?  You should be majoring in something that will ensure you can get a job, something that will pay well so you can survive on your own.  Art major?  Really?  I mean, if you have to do it, at least major in art education, then you could become a teacher."

Even some fellow art students will pop out with the, "Are you at least taking commercial art?"

*insert eye roll here*

"Why do they do that, Mom?" she asked as we walked through the aisles of the hated Hobby Lobby (I really, really hate giving my money to Hobby Lobby), looking for the Copic markers she needed.

"Because they don't understand that art is everywhere," I replied.

And it is.  Those commercials you see on TV?  An artist came up with the logos for that business, and most likely did story-boarding for the commercial.  An artist did the lighting and set design for them.

The ads you see in magazines or on billboards?  An artist did the layout for those, the design and the lettering.

Like that pattern on your duvet?  A designer made that?  Yes, they did, but you know what?  They had to take art to get there.

Oh, you know that movie you liked last week?  Yeah, artists did concept art, story boards, lighting and set design, costume design, makeup...

Like the comics in the paper?  Done by artists.  That editorial cartoon that made you so mad or made you go, "Yeah, I know exactly how that feels!"


How about those cool characters in the latest XBox game you just can't stop playing?  Yeah, an artist had a lot to do with how they look.

I could go on and on, but I won't.

And yes, I know the argument of, "Not every artist makes it," or, "not everyone has the talent or the conviction to go the distance..."

Imagine if Bill Watterson had listened to that sort of nonsense?  We'd never have the awesomeness that is "Calvin and Hobbes."  Or Walt Disney?

Anyway, I asked the Impertinent One what she did when people said things like that to her.  She shrugged and said, "Meh, I just nod and say something like thanks, I'll take that under advisement, or thanks for shattering my hopes and dreams, or whatever."

Yeah, that made me laugh out loud.

"Sometimes," she said as she peered at the markers in their case, "people come up to me while I'm drawing and say, that's so amazing, are you an art major?  or what's your major, that is so cool! and I'll say oh, I'm going into game design, or computer science, and they'll be all horrified and say, No, you have to major in art, you're so talented and creative, that's so awesome, look at how cool it is, you HAVE to major in art!  And I'm like, make up your mind!!"

"Well," I said, after I stopped laughing, "the thing is, when you tell people you're going to major in art,  you know what they're seeing in their heads, right?"

"No," she said, turning to frown at me.  "What?"

"Most people, when they hear you're majoring in art, immediately think, Vincent Van Gogh!  Or Picasso,  or any other artist who started out poor and starving."  When she blinked, I nodded.  "No, seriously, they think, starving artist, living in a freezing attic in Paris, living on the generosity of friends and family, practically homeless.  They think you're either a painter or a sculptor, or something that to them is completely impractical, never mind that there are some very successful painters, sculptors, etc, out there."  I shook my head.  "It's ridiculous and has no basis in reality, but that's what's going on."

"That's... disturbing," Miss Impertinent said, slightly horrified.

"I know, but there it is.  That's why you keep hearing you should major in something practical, that can help you get a good job and set you for the future." I hugged her.  "Don't take it personally.  They don't know you, or what you can do.  And you're already learning so much, I can't wait to see what you do next!"

She blushed, but you know, I think the Impertinent Daughter is going to be awesome.  I know she will.

It's a Southern Thing, Yo...

There are times when I am confronted by the differences between my husband's family and mine.

Most of the time, we tick along quite nicely.  After all, we'll have been married for 25 years this month, so obviously, things are working and we get along.  The Husbandly One and I are really good friends and most excellent partners in crime, and there are times when I'm honestly surprised to realize we haven't known each other all our lives.

What a horror for our parents if we had!!  No, seriously, we would have made the Weasley twins in the Harry Potter books look like rank amateurs!!  I am fairly certain that between the two of us, we would have figured out how to legitimately order a flame-thrower  and have it delivered to one of our homes by the time we were ten.  I'm just not sure which of us would have been the instigator and which would have been the gleeful follower, because I'm pretty sure it would have been an even draw.

Still, there are times when something happens and the huge differences in our families and the way we were brought up are unavoidable and stun us both.

Like the time lightning struck our house when we were living out in the boonies and knocked our phone out.  This was back in the mid-nineties, before cellphones were ubiquitous.  We were living way out in the country in Central Texas and my family was back in Houston, and his in Texarkana.  I kept asking THO to call my family from work to let them know we were okay and what had happened, and he would reply that he wasn't allowed to make long distance calls from work not related to his job, and that my folks would be fine and not worry. In retrospect, I should have written a letter, but it would have taken at least four days to get to my folks, and remember, back at that time, if you didn't have a phone, you didn't have internet because DIAL-UP.

I worried, because at that time, I spoke to my mother on the phone at least every other day.  I was a young mother with no close neighbors, alone in a house with a toddler, a large dog, and three cats.  The phone was my lifeline to sanity and grownups.

We also didn't expect for it to take almost two fucking weeks for Southwestern Bell, our telephone company at the time, to come out and take a look at our phone.  And that is another story for another time.  So, what was the huge difference between our families?

I am the youngest of three daughters in a Southern family.  In a Southern family, you may grow up, you may move away, but you always call your mom or your dad, and you will always be their kid.  They will let you go, but they will never stop worrying about you.  And if you don't check in with them on a regular basis, whether it's once a day, once a week, or once a month, they will come check on you.

So, one week after the phone went out, at 1 o'clock in the morning, we were awakened by someone banging on the front door of our house while someone shouted my and my husband's name, demanding we answer.

Our dog went nuts, and later, we realized he was barking with joy, not aggression, and our daughter was terrified.  The Husbandly One went to the door and opened it to find my dad and my nephew-in-law standing outside, my dad staring at us with a half-terrified expression, half fury.  One tearful phone call (with my nephew-in-law's dying cell phone, no less) with my mom later, we got the story from my dad.  After two days of not hearing from me, Mom started getting nervous and tried calling me.  Of course, our phone being dead, she couldn't get through, and an automated message gave them an error message.  Mom waited for us to call, and waited, and waited, and soon, she became convinced that something terrible had happened to us.  Unable to bear it any longer, she finally got Dad agitated enough to decide to drive all the way out where we lived to check on us, and take along NIL for support.

They were afraid they were either going to find us dead, or gone.

Dramatic, but not unexpected, considering my mom's vivid imagination, and I couldn't blame her one bit.

THO explained about lightning having struck our house and showed them the blown up tree next to the house, and our dead phone (we ended up having to replace both the phone and the answering machine), and my dad frowned at him and said, "Why didn't you call us from work?"

THO said, "We're not allowed to make non-work related long distance phone calls."

My dad frowned and said, "You could have explained that your phone was out, and you have family who would be worried about your well-being that you needed to contact.  Or you could have gone to any payphone and made a collect call to us, we would have accepted it.  Or you could have made that collect call from work."

As my dad explained all the ways my husband could have made an effort to contact my family and let them know we were okay, up to and including calling my nephew who was going to UT at the time and having him pass on the message, I was trying not to smirk because my dad was confirming all the arguments I had been making over the previous week about contacting my parents ASAP.

"What was that all about?" THO asked after my dad and nephew had gone.

"I'm a daughter," I said, and nodded at our toddler.  "One day, when she's grown up and off doing her own thing, you will completely understand why my dad had that panicked tone in his voice when he was banging on the door."

And yeah, he gets it now.

This past week, though, the difference has reared its head in a completely different way, though it is again, family related.

Last Monday, THO got a call that his mother was in the ICU of a San Antonio hospital, sent there for a blood pressure reading that was through the roof and blood oxygen levels that were almost impossibly low.  We drove out to check on her right after THO got home, and she was in terrible shape.

It's been a rough week for all of us, but most especially Ma, as the doctors struggled to get her blood pressure down to more acceptable levels, to get her sodium levels up, and to get her lungs clear enough to breathe so her blood oxygen levels would rise from the forties up to a more acceptable 98%.  It's still not quite there, but I'm thinking 90% is pretty damn good.

What has blown my mind in all of this is... there has been no diagnosis.  Nobody knows any details, (and this includes Mike's brother who has the medical power of attorney) of what the doctors think is going on, or what could possibly be wrong, or even of what tests they are doing.  Nothing beyond the medications to bring her blood pressure down, something to calm her down, something to help her sleep, and breathing treatments twice a day to open her lungs up so she can breathe.

This absolutely floors me.

I am tempted to sic my sisters on this, because seriously, if this had been my mother?  All three of us would know every single detail, from who exactly the doctors were, to what they were thinking and the results of every single test they had run, and what tests they were thinking of doing in the future.  We would have gone through Ma's apartment to find out every detail of what she'd been eating, how much she'd been eating if at all, what medications and supplements she'd been taking, and how much candy or sweet things she'd been eating, just in case.  We'd be taking shifts staying with her at the hospital so we could be on hand when a doctor showed up to check on her, to ask questions, and find out what was on the agenda for the day.  We'd know her nurses, what they had planned, what she was allowed to eat outside what was being served in her meals so we could tempt her with something that might encourage her to eat.  We'd have a notebook where we'd be keeping track of her blood pressure readings to coincide with what the nurses were getting, and we'd also put our heads together to remember what meds she could take, which ones she'd had reactions to, and which ones we knew she could tolerate and what she couldn't.  Because we're Southern and that's what we do.

How do I know this?  Because that's what we're doing with our own mother, who broke her hip a few weeks ago, spent time in a rehab hospital, and is now in a nursing home, because she has Alzheimer's and my eldest sister was killing herself trying to be her live in caretaker.

I simply cannot comprehend not wanting to find out this information.  I can't understand having my mother in the hospital and not wanting to know what is going on, where are the doctor's going with this, what... it's driving my husband crazy that his siblings are just being so... complacent  about this, because apparently, my Southernness has infected him.  It's stressing him considerably, because he wants to know and they can tell him nothing.  I've held my peace about this all damn week, because I didn't want to make it worse, but last night, I think he was kind of relieved when I finally blew up about it.  At least he knew he wasn't alone in feeling that way any more.

For all that my husband was raised in Texas, his parents (and his older siblings) are from Connecticut and New York, and they still have that mentality, I guess. It's just... one of those differences that makes me throw up my hands and want to rip off their arms and beat them over the heads with it.  I just... don't get it.  I really, really don't.