Tag Archives: Texas

Hello. It’s Been Awhile.

Hello.

It’s Me.

I was wondering if after all these years you’d like to meet,
To go over everything.
They say that time’s supposed to heal ya
But I ain’t done much healing . . .
(Song lyrics by Adele)

This month is my two year anniversary of being back in Dallas, my home. I’ve spent these last two years in deep reflection, trying to mend my broken, homesick-for-Istanbul, repatriating heart. Some days have been full of love and laughter, but many others were filled with deep sadness and longing. I’ve turned over every rock hoping to re-discover my identity and to make peace with who I became in Turkey.

Looking back at photos over the last two years, I made a list of all the good things that I’ve experienced. I don’t want to forget my time here because 2018 will be a year of extraordinary change for me.

  • Just after moving back, I participated in a 4-hour long historic tour of Dallas. It started at Lee Harvey’s and ended at Clyde Barrow’s grave.
  • I’ve wandered through historic Fair Park and marveled at the beautiful Art Deco monuments and architecture. I’ve also explored the Butterfly Gardens.
  • I’ve had two different apartment leases in two very different historic neighborhoods of Dallas: Oak Cliff, near the Bishop Arts District and Uptown, near Downtown’s Arts District.
  • I’ve been able to visit my daughter and her husband in San Diego, CA numerous times and they’ve visited me in Dallas. I’ve enjoyed spending the weekend with friends in Austin, Texas, and was able to see young friends tie the knot in Palm Springs, CA. I’ve travelled internationally to London, Switzerland and Mexico.
  • I’ve been able to spend holidays and birthdays with family and I’ve enjoyed watching my niece and nephew grow up. I’ve been able to care for my elderly mom and help her with many things.
  • I’ve experienced rapid population growth and expansion of Dallas in the last two years. I’ve personally observed skyscrapers, apartments and corporate offices being built all over the metroplex as more and more companies move to Texas.
  • I’ve been proud to help my brother and my sis-in-law expand their family business and learn new skills. I’ve been able to learn about an entire new industry.
  • Out of personal loneliness I created two new communities in Dallas. I started a Mah Jong group in Oak Cliff and I started a Global Education Group within InterNations Dallas. Both groups provided me much needed friendships and both groups continue to thrive.
  • As a member of InterNations Dallas, I’ve been able to participate in international experiences through a variety of cultural activities. Highlights include a traditional Japanese tea ceremony, a Thailand and an Armenian festival, a Middle Eastern Iftar dinner during Ramadan, a Polish book club meeting and a group trip to San Miguel Allende for Dia de las Muertas.
  • I’ve been able to help others through HRI (Human Rights Initiative of North Texas), deliver food on Thanksgiving with Operation Turkey Dallas and help with the Hurricane Harvey relief effort.
  • After a terror attack on my city, I experienced shock and mourning when five police officers were shot and killed in 2016 less than 3 miles from my home. In 2017 I participated in a prayer vigil at Dallas’ Thanksgiving Square for the Las Vegas victims following another domestic terror attack and I’ve just marched with thousands of my neighbors in the 2018 Dallas Women’s March.
  • I’ve played tennis regularly and have explored my city on foot in my Uptown neighborhood. I have loved having access to Klyde Warren Park, Griggs Park and the Katy Trail.
  • I’ve been fortunate to see many wonderful art exhibitions at my favorite place, The Nasher Sculpture Center, where I still participate as a member on the Nasher Teacher Advisory Board.

Most of all, I’ve made so many new friends, many from other nations. Dallas has indeed become an international city seemingly overnight. I frequently pass people speaking other languages on my daily walks. After two years, I’m beginning to feel at home again.

And yet, my heart continues to be unsettled; yearning.

I want to go.

So I looked to see what else there might be and there it was. Again I have been given a great opportunity to live inside a new culture and teach children from many nations.

And so, I go. I am so grateful. Thank you everyone. Thank you, Dallas.

Will 2018 be a year of change for you too?

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Texas Big, Big Tex

The fairest of days.

The State Fair of Texas  opened this past Friday in Dallas’ historic Fair Park . This annual fair premiered in 1936 as Texas celebrated the 100th anniversary of the Texas Republic. Many of the original Art Deco buildings and artwork are still intact and comprise the largest historical complex of this kind in the United States. Seventy-six years ago, world’s fairs were a popular way to introduce new products, agricultural advancements and far-away, “exotic” places to the general public as most people were not able to travel across continents as we are now.

Attending the annual State Fair in Dallas continues to be a big deal. For many school districts, free tickets magically appear in teacher’s mailboxes and kids have a legit “Fair Day”, allowing schools to release early, or close completely, so kids and their families can attend on opening day. Administrators may spend hours of anxiety and suspense trying to determine if school should be cancelled for a freak snow or ice storm, but keeping school open on Fair Day? Not a chance.

Personally, I never liked the fair for a variety of reasons that aren’t worth going into. I’ve only been one time and it was a major disappointment. Of course, admitting this might be grounds for people in the Dallas area to picket my house and if they also knew I wasn’t planning on voting Republican in this upcoming election, they might just tie me up and dangle me off of Big Tex’s Stetson Hat.

In my post last week, I wrote that my 6th grade art students had accepted the Global Cardboard Challenge. I announced to my class that their creations should be based on “carnival rides” as it related to the State Fair of Texas. Our school is an exceptionally fortunate private school and we have access to a glorious array of professional quality art materials. However, I limited their supplies to cardboard, packing tape, rubber bands, pom-poms, pipe cleaners and toilet paper tubes and I have never seen so much excitement contained within four walls! Their ideas are fantastic and I’m not sure if I’ve ever seen such enthusiasm! They are engaged, sitting on the floor, working at tables and standing on chairs to make towers and zip lines. They are having so much fun that I’ve had to raise my voice and practically kick them out of my room to go home at the end of the day. Actually, this is a good problem to have.

Looking for images to give them further ideas, I came across some interesting facts about Big Tex, the State Fair of Texas’ mascot. Did you know that Big Tex started out as Santa Claus? Accounts vary of Santa’s original height to be somewhere between 49 and 59 feet. Mr. Claus was made from iron-pipe drill casing and paper mache. His beard was made from unraveled, seven-foot lengths of rope. He was built to bolster the 1949 holiday shopping season in the town of Kerens, Texas, but by 1951, the novelty had worn off and Santa was sold to the State Fair of Texas for $750.00. Dallas artist, Jack Bridges, was hired to transform Santa into Tex.

In her book, The Great State Fair of Texas, author, Nancy Wiley notes some interesting facts. Rising high above the crowds, Big Tex, weighs in at 6,000 pounds. He debuted in 1952, donning new jeans, a 50-pound belt and buckle, plaid shirt, 75-gallon hat and size 70 cowboy boots. Forging ahead in subsequent years, and setting the bar for Dallas reconstructive surgeries, Tex underwent cosmetic surgery to straighten his nose, hinge the jaw of his mouth so he could talk, and correct a lascivious wink. I’m not sure the surgery was entirely successful because he still looks dysmorphic and creepy and likely is the culprit of many a child’s haunting nightmares. In 2000, Tex was made to wave his hand to the crowds as they passed by on their way to dump millions of dollars on food and amusement rides down the, appropriately named, “Million Dollar Midway”. The estimated annual economic impact of the Dallas-Fort Worth economy is $350 million.

Without a doubt, Big Tex is the symbol of the State Fair of Texas. Although his looks are deceiving, his famous words, “H-O-W-D-Y, folks! Welcome to the State Fair of Texas!” welcome all to come spend money, eat fried bubble gum and be entertained by gazing at large sculptures of butter. And in case you are curious, you are welcome to bring in your concealed weapon as long as you don’t take it into the Cotton Bowl. This is Texas after all.

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Memories as catalyst

Movie Theater © Edward Hopper

Let’s go to the movies.

My earliest memory of going to the movies is of a drive-in theater in Shawnee, Kansas, near Kansas City, Missouri where I was born. My mom would thoughtfully pack a red and black plaid picnic bag full of snacks, although once there, my brother and I would beg our dad to walk us down, over the humps of concrete and gravel to the drive-in cafe to buy burgers and fries. My dad skillfully built a custom platform that would sit in the floorboard, behind the front seats, and in front of the back seats, of their green, 1964 Pontiac. This well-crafted innovation was a “make-shift” playground for my brother and I to play in or to use when we got tired of the movies and wanted to lay quietly, looking out the windows at the stars and eventually fall asleep.

I still laugh at a story my former husband always told of going to a rural drive-in theater, on a double date, with his high school sweetheart in Monroeville, Ohio. That drive-in backed up to a sheep farm and, during the film, a mischievous teenager cut the fence wire that separated the farm from the drive-in. Within minutes, while everyone was engrossed in the movie, or in romantic escapades, hundreds of sheep came up beside the cars bleeting “baaa….baaa” and carloads of movie goers were startled and laughing as the herd quickly spread through the rows of cars! Some people were so shocked they started their cars and drove off without first taking the speaker off the car window!

My memories of old cinemas go back to my junior high school days. On weekends, one of my favorite things to do was meet up with friends at the old Ozark Theater in Ozark, Missouri.  It was a run-down old place on the south side of the square that we all called the Rat-Trap. I remember buying big bags of popcorn for fifteen cents and being thrilled to sit next to the boy I had a crush on. Not only was I recently reminded that I received my first kiss there on the worn out velvet seats, but afterward I went home and threw up out of nervousness. My sweet friend, Debby, remembers worrying that she might get pregnant after kissing her first sweetheart there.

School Arts magazine coverSince then, I’ve always noticed old cinema buildings and drive-in theaters as I’ve driven throughout Texas, my home for the last twenty-seven years. The unique charm of their facades and the beautifully shaped marquees always capture my attention. These memories sat in the back of my brain’s file cabinet for years before I was able to apply them to a successful high school project that was recently featured in the April 2012 issue of School Arts, a professional art education magazine.

As the article explains, I was visiting a new friend’s home and quickly realized they were art collectors. One of my favorite sculptural relief pieces was by Dallas artist, Jon Flaming.  Flaming’s love of Texas is evident in his landscapes and rural settings, and it was precisely when I saw his piece, “Nehi Bottling, Deep Ellum” that, in a moment’s flashing, I knew I’d found the project to apply my collected memories of “vintage cinemas” to. I invite you to read the article, which explains the project in detail, and see if you can apply it to a project of your own. For my readers who are interested in old Texas theaters, I used the fabulous website called Texas Escapes. Be careful, though; you can get lost in it for hours!

Maybe you, too, have an interest in old cinemas, but perhaps you have a fond memory of old gas stations, old courthouses, old bridges or water towers. Stand in the quiet, perhaps after a yoga practice and think back to fond memories that you can build a project around. Make a list. What are you interested in? Pack a picnic, go to a park and lay down in the fresh, green spring grass. Look up towards the heavens and let your mind drift. Think back to childhood things. Remember what you loved. Is there a way to bring it to life through your teaching? I think the reason my students get so excited about their projects is because I’m excited about them, as so many of them have to do with me! As my colleagues always say, “As artist-teachers, we give our best ideas away to our students.” Through these projects I tell stories about me; things I experienced when I was their age, and they listen and laugh at how times have certainly changed.

What are your favorite memories from childhood? Let’s create a project around them!

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