Tag Archives: family

On Tour in My Own Back Yard


by Lillian Csernica on October 18, 2015

This weekend Santa Cruz County held its Open Studio Art tour.  The city of Santa Cruz is known as a haven for artists of all kinds.  What people often don’t realize is that up here in the mountains we’ve got a lot of artists as well.

John’s ceramics class had a serious project to complete.  Each student had to go to at least three of the studios on the tour and do what amounted to an interview.  The project worksheets included questions about what mood the artist was trying to create, comparing two different pieces by the same artist, and how the artists the student chose to visit could inspire that student’s own artwork.

John comes from a long line of artists on my mother’s side:

His great- great-grandmother ran a modeling agency back in the 1930s.

His great-grandmother wrote a society column for the newspaper, raised some amazing roses, and created artwork using textiles and ceramics and other media.

His great-grandfather was a professional photographer and filmmaker.

His grandmother sketches and paints, as well as creating multimedia artwork.

His mother (that’s me!) has worked as a professional bellydancer, and actor, and currently as a professional writer.

John is primarily a graphic artist, but he’s learning how to use computer graphics, clay, and other media.

I steered John toward three artists who live here in the San Lorenzo Valley.  John and Michael have lived their whole lives in this area.  It’s good for John to know he doesn’t have to go to a museum to see art.  What’s more, on the tour you’re allowed to see the artists’ studios where they create the pieces on display.

First Studio: Janet Silverglate.  Ms. Silverglate creates art by using found objects, many of which are what most of us would consider scrap materials or just plain junk.  Her style of art is called assemblage.  Each work of art is one of a kind.  John and I were both drawn to a circular artwork that included pieces from several different games such as Scrabble tiles, chess pieces, old Bingo cards, and even some Pick-Up Stix.  The overall look and feel put me in mind of the Kachina dolls I’ve seen in the southwest.

Second Studio: Larry and Pat Worley

Larry Worley takes basket weaving to a whole new level.  My favorite piece was a woven seashell the size of a small suitcase wound around a piece of redwood driftwood.  Simply stunning.

Pat Worley is a textile artist.  One side of her display featured long, rectangular silk scarves dyed in rich, vibrant colors such as fuschia and aquamarine.  The scarves all had leaf patterns running the length of the silk in either silver or gold.  The other side of the display showcased what I thought of as small quilts because of the many pieces of fabric arranged to form patterns or scenes.  The dominant color scheme was black, brown, and rust, with maple leaves as a frequent motif.  Ms. Worley explained the method she used to make the fabric for these as “reverse tie-dye.”  Starting with black cloth and using bleach, she would coax a variety of shades out of the material.  Impressive!

Third studio: Bob Hughes.  To say that Mr. Hughes makes wooden boxes is to say Monet liked to paint flowers.  My favorite box was shaped like the diacritical mark called a tilde, used to denote the palatal nasal sound of the “eñe” in words such as mañana. Mr. Hughes makes more than just boxes.  His vases and candle holders combine varieties of woods, or woods and metals.  Mr. Hughes was kind enough to explain to John, using a guide with step by step images, how he made a particular vase.  John is a visual learner, so this really helped him understand Mr. Hughes’ artistic process.

The artists were all happy to know I wanted John to get a wider understanding of how many ways people create art, and what’s inside them that wants to be expressed.  Getting a good grade on the project is important, but more than that, John has so much potential just waiting to come out through his drawing skills.

Take a look at your local community arts news items.  You’d be amazed what’s waiting for you in your own back yard!

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Filed under art show, artists, autism, creativity, Family, family tradition, home town, homework, Writing

Sometimes Things Go Right


by Lillian Csernica on March 28, 2014

John is now a much happier boy.

On Monday he came home from school all happy about his new math work, which is a computer game called “Manga High” that teaches math skills.  He’d earned a reward ticket which entitled him to “a preferred activity” here at home.

 

On Tuesday he came home proud to tell me he had “been respectful and followed directions.”  That means he listened and learned his new schedule without getting upset about it, winning him another reward ticket.

On Wednesday he came home all happy about being able to spin a basketball on his fingertip  AND being able to make a basket by throwing the ball backward over his head.  We got out his basketball and he gave us all a demonstration of the spinning.

Today he came home with a reward ticket that had a note from his teacher.  “John raised his hand and answered questions.”  That means he participated in class discussions!  This is HUGE!  I was so proud of him, so happy, that I sent him out with his aide to go buy himself a treat.  He chose a Tollhouse Cookie ice cream sandwich, which goes to show John has good taste.

My poor, frustrated, angry boy is happy again.  He likes school.  He comes home all excited over his latest accomplishment.  He’s going in the direction we wanted him to go.  He’s already picking up the skills he’s been having such trouble learning.

Thank you, God.  Thank you to all of John’s teachers, his caseworker, his school staff and his aide.  Thanks to my husband and my sister who were there alongside me for John when he needed us.

Thank you, John.  Thank you for being a strong, brave, marvelous boy, willing to keep trying no matter how hard some tasks can be.

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Filed under autism, Awards, Family, Goals, love, Self-image, Special needs, Writing

Reinventing my personal space


by Lillian Csernica on March 12, 2013

Three months ago my husband and I bought a house and moved in.  What did I unpack first?  The manuscript, notes, notebooks, and other miscellanea involved in my current novel.  Then I went into the garage and began the excavation required to locate the boxes that contained my Japanese reference library (the novel is set in Satsuma, Japan, 1867).  Next came my favorite fiction, one whole shelf devoted to Terry Pratchett‘s Discworld books and another to Janet Evanovich‘s Stephanie Plum series and another to Jim Butcher‘s Dresden Files.  I find these series to be inspirational.  Not only is the quality of the writing great for recharging my word batteries, seeing the commitment those authors have made to producing novel after novel after novel gives me concrete motivation to do the same.  I’m still looking for the boxes that hold my collection of ghost story anthologies.  I love a good ghost story, especially from turn of the century authors such as A.M. Burrage and Marjorie Bowen.  I’ll find them.

The point here is simple.  Underwear and a toothbrush and caffeine and those other daily necessities can be acquired easily enough.  The exterior space you live in affects your interior life.  I now own the space I live in, both outside and in.  I must take care to avoid unnecessary clutter.  I must surround myself with all that is positive, nourishing, and uplifting, sights and sounds and smells and textures that will support me as I labor through each day, writing the fireworks and sword fights and love scenes as well as helping John with his homework and listening to Michael struggle to tell me about his day.

Beware unwanted clutter.  Beware even more so unloved clutter that stirs up bad memories.  Feng shui says such clutter gets between you and what you really want, slowing you down and sucking away your energy and sabotaging your dreams.  I still have boxes to unpack and tchotchkes to deal with, but I shall be ruthless in the defense of the spaces where I dream, both in my office and in my heart.

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Filed under Family, fantasy, Fiction, Uncategorized, Writing

The Mother of Invention


by Lillian Csernica on March 12. 2013

It’s high time I dragged myself into the 21st Century by joining the blogosphere.  I’m a writer.  Fantasy, dark fantasy, historical romance, horror, nonfiction.  I have one novel out, SHIP OF DREAMS, under my romance pen name of Elaine LeClaire.  You can find my short fiction at Tales of Old, Tales to Terrify, and soon in Midnight Movie Creature Feature Vol. 2.  I’m very fortunate to have a career that lets me work at home because my two sons are both what’s now referred to as “special needs” children.

They’re not so much children anymore.  Michael is sixteen.  He had to be delivered at only twenty-three weeks, making him a micro-preemie.  A pulmonary hemorrhage and a grade four plus brain bleed left him with cerebral palsy and later seizure disorder.  He is medically fragile, an invalid who is either in his wheelchair or his hospital bed.  He doesn’t let any of that stop him.  He’s an award-winning artist, a great bowler, and he loves classic rock.  Michael has a great smile and a wicked sense of humor.

John is fourteen.  He went full term, but he did refuse to breathe.  His brief bout of hypoxia is what we believe caused his speech delay.  Speech therapy led to an evaluation by a neurologist which resulted in a diagnosis of autism.  John is low on the spectrum, with a talent for drawing that began when he started watching “Blue’s Clues” at age two.  He has taught “Drawing with John” classes at his elementary school both in the classroom and over the school’s closed-circuit television broadcasts.  John loves digital animation and studies the Special Features options on DVDs which give him a behind-the-scenes view of how the artists and programmers work their magic.

It’s not easy finding time to write when each day I have phone calls to make, medical supplies to order, school projects to supervise, doctor appointments, prescription refills to keep track of, and the other random demands that crop up all the time.  I tend to stay close to home for the boys’ sakes, so writing lets me run away from home inside my own head.  I look forward to sharing the ups and downs of this life with you.

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Filed under fantasy, Fiction, Special needs, Writing