Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Saturday, January 03, 2015


2015 looks to be a significant year in my life. I turn 50 in February. I complete my M.Ed. in May. I will hopefully find a job at a community college and begin work on a Ph.D. I will continue to sing with the Georgia Symphony Choir, will craft and create as time allows, and improve my skills as a photographer. I will continue to run and lift weights to keep me healthy and strong. Daughter #2 will graduate and be on her own. Daughter #3 will continue her studies on the KSU campus. Daughter #1 and her husband will celebrate their third anniversary, and who knows whether they will decide to begin having children of their own?

I intend, as last year's word stated, to be a better friend, a better wife, and a better human being.

All that said, this year really does represent a new identity for myself, and I'm not yet sure what that looks like.

As a student and researcher, I thrive on discovery and innovation. As a parent, I release my children to their own lives, hoping they will find their way home again. As an employee? I don't know, since that teaching position still eludes me. Grandparent? I can't even imagine, especially since Daughter #1 lives five hours away. Friend? I hope to find that balance of companionship and support without falling into my usual habit of pushing away out of fear of rejection. Seems silly to fear rejection at 50, but I do.  I'll keep working on it.

So, in this new season of my life, who am I? What do I want to be when I grow up? This year, 2015, I hope to figure that out. It is a time of change in every possible way. Who will I be a year from now?

We shall see.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Grandma's Pattern

For years this pattern has evoked childhood memories of visiting my Grandpa and Grandma Cook. It wasn't a pattern I would choose for my own everyday dishware, but Grandma loved it and Grandpa made sure she always had a full set.

When Grandma died just before Thanksgiving, I knew the only memento I would ever need was one piece of Franciscan Desert Rose. I learned about back-stamping and the history of the pattern before looking for a piece. Grandma started her collection in the 1950s, and probably hadn't gotten replacements since the 1990s, so I knew I wanted to find something within that time frame. It turns out the company started it in the 1940s in California, going through a couple of company changes before being sold to Wedgwood in the mid 1980s. Manufacturing moved to England until 2003, when Wedgwood sold and manufacturing relocated to China.

As with most vintage items, the older pieces are the most valuable. I was able to collect cups and saucers dating from the 1950s to 1980s. Each daughter received a cup and saucer. I kept eight so I could have a full set. I found serving bowls from the 1960s from my brother who had a special relationship with Grandma. I received the 1958-1965 range sugar bowl and creamer for Christmas. The teapot was a fabulous find. It is in great condition, but is obviously well-loved by a previous owner. It is dated March, 1947.

Now on my counter top, the tea set always reminds me of my Grandma whose love language was acts of service, whose refrigerator was always stocked with Pepsi, and whose pantry always had a few of my favorite cookies tucked away.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Christmas Cactus

My Christmas Cactus is glorious this year, but I wanted to get a shot that was a little different. I took this picture near the Christmas tree (okay, one of the 27 trees) and used a slow shutter speed with a wide open aperture to get the back-lit bokeh effect. I then used a Kim Klassen overlay to create texture and a vignette action from Greater than Gatsby.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Honored and Humbled

Tonight was truly inspirational. And humbling. I knew back in August that I had received a scholarship from the Leitalift Foundation, but I had no idea until tonight just how significant it was. I have joined the ranks of a very few educators in Georgia to be recognized for passion and determination in spite of obstacles. In my case, the obstacles came in the form of age and financial need. The passion, however, was what the scholarship committee saw. I had no way of knowing, but my desire to make education about the students again caught their attention.

But it's true. I am so fed up with a system that makes test scores the sole measure of a child's worth. We have ceased as a society to value creativity and independent thinking and problem solving in favor of some "objective" measure of knowledge. The problem is, teenagers are too smart for that measurement. They know how to game the system. They become expert test-takers, but retain little actual knowledge because it isn't relevant to their lives. Their learning happens outside the classroom where they are sometimes subject to ideas and processes they may not be cognitively ready for. But as a society, we have forced them there. School is boring. The tools of business are largely ignored in the public schools; worse yet, they are often blocked. We live in a digital world, but the education system is locked into a formula devised in the 1950s and last updated in the 1980s. We may have standardized tests, but we are not standardized individuals. To reduce anyone's value to a test score is wrong on every level. 

I was expected (unknowingly) to say a few words about my passion and inspiration. Because so much of my feelings on education were articulated by Madeleine L'Engle, I quickly pulled up a quote that became the centerpiece of my moment on stage:

"The creative impulse can be killed, but it cannot be taught...What a teacher can working with children, is to give the flame enough oxygen so that it can burn. As far as I'm concerned, this providing of oxygen is one of the noblest of all vocations." (A Circle of Quiet, 1972)

My passion as an educator is to fan the flame of creative passion, of excellence, and of delight in learning. This passion is not at home in the current public school space. My goal, then, is to offer a point of view that is student centered, practical minded, and relevant in the long term. My hope is the my work going forward inspires those who follow to rebel against a culture of standardization in pursuit of something greater: beautiful individuality that leads to innovation, excellence, and independence.

Me and Denise, 2014 recipients
Denise and I both received this scholarship. She is a single mom who already has an MBA but felt compelled to get her Master of Arts in Teaching with an ESOL (non-native English speaking students) specialty. We are both driven and determined women who are motivated even more now to give back by pursuing excellence.

I received a certificate saying, 
" The Directors of the Leitalift Foundation unanimously selected Stephanie Loomis to receive a 2014 scholarship. Leitalift scholarships are granted to women who have exhibited an extraordinary desire and commitment to enriching their lived through furthering their education.

Leita Thompson founded the Leitalift foundation is 1956 with her own earned funds as a working woman to assist working women find a fuller life. Clarice Bagwell was Leitalift Foundation President until her death in 2001. The spirit and tenacity of these two women are behind this scholarship grant.

The scholarship recipient by accepting this grant commits to do her best to accomplish her education goals in this coming year."

Challenge accepted, with gratitude and humility.

Thank you Clarice Bagwell/ Leitalift Foundation. With the Lord's help and blessing, I will prove myself worthy.

Sunday, November 02, 2014

Makers of Culture

To bring back truth, on a practical level, the church must encourage Christians to be not merely consumers of culture but makers of culture. The church needs to cultivate Christian artists, musicians, novelists, filmmakers, journalists, attorneys, teachers, scientists, business executives, and the like, teaching its laypeople the sense in which every secular vocation-including, above all, the callings of husband, wife, and parent--is a sphere of Christian ministry, a way of serving God and neighbor that is grounded in God's truth. Christian laypeople must be encouraged to be leaders in their fields, rather than eager-to-please followers, working from the assumptions of their biblical worldview, not the vapid clich├ęs of pop culture.” 
― J. Gresham Machen

There was a time when the Church, and the laypeople who made up the Church, proclaimed the glory of God by producing great art. There is no shortage of images, sculptures, cathedrals, musical scores, and literature to illustrate what man can do in his desire to bring glory to the Father. Bach proclaimed, "The aim and final reason of all music should be none else but the glory of God and refreshing the soul." Michelangelo prayed, "Lord, grant that I may always desire more than I accomplish." Art, both the ability to enjoy it and the ability to create it, is a gift from God, who created all things.  So why is it that Christians today seem hell-bent on mediocrity?

In today's culture, Christians seem to think that everything they produce must include some great evangelical altar call, so that art and music and dance turns vapid in the chasing after a message. But God never called artists to be evangelists. He calls people to pursue excellence in WHATEVER they are gifted to do. It is increasingly frustrating to be an artist and a believer these days. The art world is increasingly antagonistic to faith, and the Church sees no value in art. Francis Schaeffer recognized this years ago, and wrote an entire book about the role of art in the Church. He wrote, "Christian art is the expression of the whole life of the whole person as a Christian. What a Christian portrays in his art is the totality of life. Art is not to be solely a vehicle for some sort of self-conscious evangelism."  Yet, what has happened in the Church has so devalued the excellence of technical skill that artists either leave the church in order to have freedom to pursue their calling or they bastardize their work so that it meets some standard of "ministry."

I rebel against that idea. God created some to be evangelists and teachers and healers (1 Corinthians 12). Others He created to be artists and musicians and dancers and journalists and businessmen. One set is not more elevated than the other, and neither set has the sole responsibility to glorify God. Instead, the Church needs to support the businessman and the artist as much as it does the missionary, for all believers have a role in the Great Commission. The pastor must not tell the artist what or how to create any more than the businessman must tell the pastor what to preach. Similarly, artists must not try to conform to some expectation, be it commercial or spiritual, but rather lead in excellence of technique and skill and beauty. The businessman should innovate and create, not for self-gratification, but because God has given him the skills to do so. Christians need to not fear excellence in their fields just because their skills are not necessarily church related. God has gifted everyone differently. What He most desires is that those who follow Him seek excellence and wholehearted commitment to whatever He has called them to do (Colossians 3:23).

“The Christian shoemaker does his duty not by putting little crosses on the shoes, but by making good shoes, because God is interested in good craftsmanship.” 
― Martin Luther