Bikers and Sticks

This post is mostly an excuse to share this drawing of bikers and sticks. Here is the story:

There is this thing in cycling culture, where we point out road hazards to the riders behind us. Image you are riding along and the biker in front of you points at the ground on his right. You would cautiously move a little in the opposite direction and watch as a huge pot hole, or a sharp piece of metal or a dead skunk comes into view on the right side of the road. If you were in a big group of cyclists, you might also point out the hazard to the riders behind you.

Too Many Pointing Fingers

This morning as we headed across the marsh on the bike trail, the riders in front of me began pointing to their left… then their right… and their left again. There was a storm last night, and the trail was littered with broom-handle-sized sticks. Soon, my friends, suffering from finger fatigue, stopped pointing and left us to our own defenses. We were all craning our necks to look ahead and swerving back and forth as we went down the trail. People were bunny hopping. Sticks were snapping. It was mayhem.

As I rode through the carnage, the accompanying illustration and hand lettering, jumped into my head. I follow lots of talented hand-letterers on Instagram, and they often transcribe Bible verses or inspirational quotes. So, I feel slightly less than amazing for sharing a string of words that are nothing more than a quote from my stream of consciousness. But it was fun to draw, so now you have to look at it.

Thanks.

…And another thing

My daughter, Claire, who is a talented illustrator and letterer, told me my illustration is very nice and should be shared. I relish this rare and unsolicited endorsement, and I thought I better obey.

Feeling conflicted

I went to a graduation ceremony for my beautiful daughter, Helen. The first speaker told me how life is fleeting and I should not waste any time. I thought about how little I have accomplished. I should have a bigger house. I should have more in savings. I should have books in libraries. I should have paintings in museums. I am a total failure.

The next speaker channeled Dr. Suess and told us to try new things. I thought about the golden chain around my neck — the one that binds me to a really good job with excellent benefits and pay. Though I would like to travel the country exchanging doodled portraits and hand-lettered coffee shop signs for food and drink, I think remaining in the employ of the technical college might be a more prudent choice.

Then the last valedictorian spoke and told me to do what I like and not consider money. She told me I should do what makes me happy. But I just want to sit in my garden and draw irises all day. That would make me happy.

sketchbook with a drawing of irises and real irises in the background.

During one magical hour on the weekend of my daughter’s graduation, I sneaked away to draw in our garden. I look forward to next summer when I can steal another hour to sketch flowers. (Feel bad for me. I have a really hard life — sarcasm.)

I will not be attending the graduation ceremonies of my other five children. My delicate emotions cannot handle the conflicting messages. My wayfairing spirit cannot handle the tease.

I would go to the garden now to draw some lady slippers, but I have to prepare a lesson for class. Please, you go draw for me.

Ode to a key lanyard

The long lanyard at home

Ed walks the halls with his classroom key always at the ready.

I carry a biggish ball of keys with me wherever I go. Finding the right key can be difficult, so I have them grouped onto color coded lanyards. The ugly, teal lanyard is for car keys, because cars are evil smog producers, and deserve an ugly lanyard. The prettier black lanyard is for house keys, because home is a sanctuary (teaming with loud, screaming children). My work key has a special, long, black and yellow lanyard, because when I am rushing to class, I want to be able to find it quickly.

When I get to school, I unhook my work key and leave the huge key planet in my office. I walk the halls with one, light key in my pocket. The long yellow lanyard enjoys hanging from my pocket, and catching on door knobs and hooks.

Here is where the drama starts

On Thursdays, I have to get to work early to open all the computer labs. I always arrive with just enough time to lock my bike and rush into the building, where I find the five really serious students waiting by their classroom doors. Last Thursday, as usual, I rushed to string my cable through my bike wheels and hook the cable on my big u-lock. I fumbled with the massive key ball to find the tiny tubular u-lock key (which lives on the pretty black lanyard with house keys, because home and bikes are both beautiful things.) I locked the big u-lock and turned to rush to the door. But the rushing stopped when the long, yellow and black lanyard, having secretly looped itself around my bike cable, yanked me to a stop.

Ed being yanked to a stop by a hooked lanyard

Oh, the hardships I must endure, as I try to eek out a living

This is where the excitement stops

So I was an extra 40 seconds late, after I went back to the bike rack, fumbled some more with my wad of keys, and released my work key from the bike lock. I thought the experience was just funny enough to illustrate in my journal, and because I took the time to draw it, I am forcing you to hear about it here.

I hope all your lanyards stay where they should be.

Helen’s High School Acting Debut

Drawing of Helen in a maid's outfit

The beautiful Helen Hale before she was famous

Last week, Helen’s High School put on their spring play — The Miracle Worker, the Story of Helen Keller. It was excellent. I cried through several Kleenexes.

Helen, my eldest daughter, was a wordless servant and manager of stage and props. The play would have been a total flop without her work. The part where my Helen swept up the food after the breakfast fight scene was very touching. She took the audience through the range of emotions. We laughed when she flinched at the mess. We cried when she missed a big piece of fake scrambled eggs.

Claire, my second daughter, was in charge of Helen Keller’s hair. It was a mystery how Claire could rebuild the actress’s hair after every episode of great struggle. Every time Helen Keller came back on stage, the audience would gasp and whisper, “Oh, look at those braids. How many hair dressers are behind that curtain?”

If you are on facebook, you can see a photo of Helen subtly controlling the play from behind the action here:

https://www.facebook.com/something-something

I Forgive You

Portrait of Jack the Dog
A post by guest author, Jacko Nagurski

Reflections of a beautiful dog

Drawing of an angry dog

I know you don’t hate me because you are evil. You hate me because you have no other way of coping with my great beauty. You look at your reflection in the water dish and see a dogface. Then you look out the front window and see me walking by, and you feel rage. You see a dog whose lips hang down and cover his teeth, as is the fashion these days. You see hair that has the decency to grow around, rather than over, my eyes. Every morning, I climb out of bed ready for the cover of Field and Stream Magazine. While you… even after hours of expensive grooming, you could elude the dogcatcher indefinitely by laying next to a mop bucket. But your scrub brush appearance is not your fault any more than my super model body is my own doing. So, I will not judge you. I will not return your scorn, for I know it comes from a broken heart. But take heart, my friend. Someday in Dog Heaven, you will live for eternity with a perfect body — one like mine.

A Saturday With Wet Feet

The YMCA Frostbite Swim Meet

Drawing of ed on the edge of the pool with a stopwatch

Drawing of a nervous man. Is he holding a bucket and a piece of cake? Or a stopwatch and a clipboard? It depends on which of my kids you ask.

I volunteered to do timing at my kids’ swim meet this weekend. It was -2° outside. But after entering the Y in my Inuit costume, I changed into shorts and a t-shirt to brave the tropical pool room. I wish the kids could learn to swim without splashing. I’m like, “Hey kid. I’m giving up my Saturday to help out at your race and you thank me by launching eight ounces of pool water onto my foot? You’re lucky I brought a change of socks.”

Timing for the prestigious Frostbite Swim Meet is tense. I kept saying in my head things like, “Okay, this is a 200 meter race. That’s eight lengths. Okay, he’s on his sixth length, I think. Oh crud, my lane is in the lead! I can’t look at the other timers to see if they are getting ready to hit the stop button. Okay, okay, I will try to discern if he is setting up for a flip turn or a reach for the wall. I HOPE THIS TWERP DOES FLIP TURNS!” I needed muscle relaxants by the time my morning shift was over.

Villain Illustration

A drawing of 5-year-old Lydia looking cute and happy, but with tiny fangs

My rendition of “Villain” for IllustrationFriday.com

I swore I would never interact with illustrationFriday.com again. Last week I made an illustration for the theme “Work.” It was late Thursday evening, and just as I was uploading the drawing to my blog, some jerk at IF changed the word to “Villain!” It was way before midnight!

Tonight I was working on my drawing when my 16-year-old, Helen, said, “It’s 10:15, Dad. You have to upload that thing in the next few minutes.” She was cheering me on as I rushed to scan it, upload it to my blog, and submit it to IF.

I made it! We cheered. Now I am so worked up, I cannot sleep.

You were good to me this week, IF. I might hang out with you again sometime.

People Illustration

Many kids hugging a dog and each other with a bike in the background

My rushed, unaltered sketch of “people”

It was Thursday night at 11:58pm and I was about to scan and upload my “People” themed illustration to the illustrationfriday.com web site, when my daughter came to me and said, “I have to do these math problems before tomorrow.” I turned away from my goals and my dreams and helped my daughter with her geometry. Someone was asleep at illustrationfriday.com, because the word of the week was still “people” after mid-night, and I was able to rush my drawing into the ether.

Today, I did some of the shading I didn’t have time to do before uploading yesterday. Which do you think is better, the one above, or the one below?

Little kids with a dog. The figures are shaded with cross hatching

My people illustration with a little shading.