Sunday, May 20, 2012

An Artist in my Own Right

At times I can be an egomaniac with an inferiority complex.  I grew up with a previously mentioned sense of not being good enough, and yet, I KNEW I could be good at certain skills.  I always had the sense that if I could not be in the top-ten percent of something, I needed to quit.  Because... you know, I wouldn't be able to do anything with the skill anyway if so many people were better than me.

Unfortunately for me, I went to high school in a liberal-arts town.  I loved to draw.  I took all the Art classes I could.  Oftentimes I was in the Art room when I wasn't allowed to be.  However, it was quite clear that I was never going to be a good artist compared to the people around me.

So I quit.

Over a decade later I am finally pursuing art again, but this time, with a clear knowledge that I don't have to be the best... I don't even have to be great.  I am "kinda" good, and I hope to get better.  Mostly, I enjoy creating, and I enjoy seeing something wonderful to me on what was once a blank sheet of paper.  And I love how dirty my hands and clothes get during the process.

As a Christmas present to me, I bought myself a half-priced easel and some pastel chalks.  I've never really worked with color before, though I always wished I could make art that had color.  The chalks were fairly cheap, so I grabbed them, fought the voice asking me what the point was, and treated myself to some creative tools.

About once a month I play some Radiohead, Beck, Weezer, or whatever is on shuffle, and go for it.

This was my first drawing in December of 2011.

January of 2012


February 2012

My Art teacher in high school often lectured us that drawings of photographs were not art.  Now that I am drawing for me, I am allowing myself to use photographs.  The next one is from a photo.  I was told she looks like she is having a stroke, but what can you do? 

April 2012

May 2012 (also from a photo)

Sorry if I just Pwned your upload time. 

Finding My Own Missing Piece: Lessons Learned by Being Single Part I

I was a late bloomer. 

I spent most of my childhood ugly and fat, and I spent the rest of my childhood believing I was ugly and fat.  Along with these beliefs, Catholic upbringing, and being reminded repeatedly as a child that I was annoying and “weird”, I grew up believing I was unworthy, annoying, and not good enough for any boy to like me. 

I got my first boyfriend when I was 17 and never looked back.  Each relationship lasted about a year, and each time (except one, who, at the time, broke my heart) I was the one who ended the relationship.  I was certain I had a one-year dooms-day timer.  A final factor in my doomed relationship makeup was that I often selected guys I felt were somehow below me, whether in status, looks, or social skills. 

More than love, I needed to be loved, and if guys had to live in fear of losing me, I wouldn’t have to live in fear of losing them.  I would finally be loved above all else, and I would be complete. 

I am aware this behavior is a bit sick, and it took me finally being single and willing to honestly look at myself to realize I was doing this.  We all have reasons of why we do what we do, and we will find those reasons if we are willing to see the ugly truth.  While I will not excuse my behavior, I will share that my choice in boyfriends may have stemmed in part from the first crush I had who actually seemed to like me back.  He was a good looking hippy who already had facial hair!  He seemed to like me, we kissed a few times, and then he set me up with his nerdy friend while he then hooked up with my hot friend. 

His nerdy friend was a great guy, and we spend a year together, with no real spark, but I didn’t really know what a spark was or that I should be feeling it in the first place.  Either way, that situation helped burn my perceived social ranking into my brain.  Hot guys?  They don’t want me.  

For better or worse, that is a bit of my history. 

Since those early relationship discoveries, I have spent almost my entire life in one relationship or another.  My single life consisted of a couple weeks or months at a time.  Being single was uncomfortable.  The usual questions crept up: Will I ever find love again? What if no one wants me?  What if I am too ugly? What if this was the best I was ever going to have?

This last relationship lasted seven years, a feat I didn’t think I was capable of.  He was a good man, and I regret many of my actions to this day.  I also know that the relationship needed to end and spent a great deal of time in the obligatory maybe-he-or-I-will-change-and-everything-will-be-good phase.  After this relationship of still not feeling complete, or healthy, or altogether happy, I finally made a change.

I decided to be single...
Photo/painting by me.  All rights reserved.

Finding My Own Missing Piece: Lessons Learned by Being Single Part II

I decided to be single.

Not just temporarily single, not a rest or a breather while secretly waiting for the next guy.  I decided to be with me, just me, and work on being complete and happy unto myself. 

I decided to have my home, my art, my music, my space, my reading… my life.  I was finally willing to accept the idea that if I can’t be happy with myself, I am not going to be happy with anyone else.  This concept was just one of many ideas I was certain only applied to other people. 
So here I am, a year and a half later, single.  I have not dated or sought a man.  And here are a few of the lessons I have learned:

1. I am a very selfish person. 
I always viewed love in terms of what I could get out of it, and was never willing to give more than I took.

2. There is nothing wrong with romance novels.
Hey, I needed something to pass the time.

3.  It is not “his fault” that I am not out traveling, making great art, finding new bands, playing the piano, writing, hiking, and taking risks.

How I Imagined Single Life

 I don’t do these things because I am poor, have high-anxiety, and well, I can be a bit lazy.  I have finally started working on these things.  I create art about once a month, I am taking piano lessons once or twice a month, I occasionally find a new band, and I work to step out of my comfort zone.  However, all the hurdles keeping me from these things stem within me.  It is my journey, and my trials. 

I will not be playing a piano concert soon, nor will I have a showing at an art gallery any time soon.  I also will not be driving across the country any time soon.  Maybe I’ll get to do these things eventually, but I have only acquired a small portion of what I was certain would instantaneously happen if some guy wasn’t standing in my way. 

Actual Single Life
During this time I developed an unnatural love for Richard Blaiz,
Agent Booth, Gary from Alphas, and Dr. Brian Cox.

4.  Copy and paste above text, but insert “hanging out with my friends”. 
Sorry guys. 

5.  I fall for people who fall for me. 
Yup, I am attracted to attraction, in love with love. I’ve actually had very few instances in the last year and a half when I thought, “Man!  That guy is cute.  How can I get him to notice me?”  (Ok, at least I haven't felt this about real people.  I still think I am gong to marry Dr. Brian Cox from the Discovery Channel or Agent Booth from Bones. )  

Physics is Sexy
After seeing this amazing drawing, Dr. Cox is totally going to want to talk all sciencey
to me and marry me. I think he will like his Abe-Lincoln beard that was supposed to be
shading because I made his face too fat and didn't want to start over.   Emo hair, yum.

 So, without getting into relationship-seeking mode, my next goal is to look around and see who and what I am attracted to without them showing an obvious attraction to me. If the world was my smorgasbord, what would I want to put on my plate?

6. I am not different from other women.  
I have the same fears that I used to belittle.  I am 32.  Is it too late to get married?  Is it too late to have a kid?  Will a guy want me with my wrinkles and stretch marks?  How do I fit in?  How do I make friends?  How do I get rid of the unwanted aspects of my personality and fill those holes with the things I wanted to be?

One thing single life has given me is the ability to look at myself and work on changing myself… mostly because I no longer have the option of looking at and wanting to change the flaws in someone else.  It has been a very good year for me, and I hope to continue shedding my fears until I can walk, smile, live, laugh, and love, unafraid. I know it is my journey now, and not some natural-born right that is being taken from me.  There are certain truths we can only experience because we’ll never believe it if someone tells us. 

Drawings by me.  If you share them, please share where you got them.

Candy-Burger Buffet!

Moved here from my other blog, originally posted 6/12/2010
One day my students and I were in Art class. Their assignment was to make a burger out of construction paper. One student asked if she could make her construction-paper burger to look like it was made out of candy. Ms. Carlie, being the creative art teacher she is said, "Of course!"

Thus it began.

The students spent the rest of Art class imagining and discussing how cool it would be if such a thing existed.

Later that evening, I realized that I had to come up with a big reward for them for the end of NWEA testing. It only took me seconds to realize that I wanted to give them the candy burger of their dreams, to show that that they could turn their imagination into reality. I brainstormed all day, asked other teachers for advice on ingredients and scoured the isles of Giant Eagle. I also received the help of the other Language Arts teacher who went home that night to make "cheese" out of orange melting chocolates.

The candy-burger buffet ended up being one of the most fun rewards of the year, and it all started with one student's imagination. So let that be a lesson: While it is a lot of fun to sit around dreaming about what could be, the fun in much greater, and the rewards are much bigger when you decide to stand up and make it happen.

All photos by me.  If you share them, share where you got them.

We Hate Ms. Brant

Taken from my first blog, originally posted 6/11/2010
Yesterday I was trying to see how searchable my new webpages were, so I typed MsBrant into the search engine. The first page I saw was a "We Hate Ms. Brant" page on Facebook.

Especially with my kids, you prepare yourself and prepare yourself to take anything they throw at you... you constantly reinforce to yourself to not take things personally. I have had many wonderful moments in teaching, and yet, I have also been called names, been told I look fat, had a desk thrown at me, and been told by students that I am a terrible teacher. Still, at that moment,

my heart sank.

I was able to muster my courage and click on the link. I mean, why should I take a Facebook club seriously? Like ripping off a Band-aid, I entered the page and I studied the small, blurry, phone picture of... another Ms. Brant. I felt relieved, but not happy.

I wondered about this woman's story, how hard she tried, whether she loved her class as much as I grew to love mine, or if she drove to work each day, apathetic and counting the days to retirement. I wondered if she knew, if she saw the same ominous link I saw, and if she clicked on it.

I have to believe that no one gets in this career planning on being a bad teacher or a hated teacher (and yes, I am very aware that the level of one category is not necessarily proportional to the level of the other category).  Of course, I also believe that about the human condition; no one starts out planning on being bad or hated.  

 I am also known to be very naive, which I am ok with that because I would rather think the best of others and be proven wrong than to live my life thinking the worst of others.

Somewhere, written on notebooks long since thrown in the garbage, is a scribbled "I hate Ms. Brant" that is written about me... some long past Facebook statuses, I am sure, say the same, and the memories exist of the first half of my first year when my students would say all these things to my face. Luckily, we were strong and we worked past all the arguing and formed bonds. So, this website, today, was not for me.

I hope the other Ms. Brants out there are keeping their heads up, working through the bad days, seeing their students for all they can be, and working every day to be the teacher they started out hoping to be when teaching was just a dream.