20 Mar

The Army Wife at Support and Defend

I’ve had a lot of rejections lately, and when compared to the job satisfaction I have working at the quilt shop, I’ve lately been pretty un-motivated to create any art or to look for places to show what I have. But then I get an opportunity, and I realize I can’t throw in the towel.

Homefiresweb

 

The Army Wife: Home Fires (my very favorite of my apron series) has been chosen to be part of Support and Defend at The Art League of Rhode Island.

The exhibit is all about providing a way for U.S. Armed Forces veteran artists, currently serving or separated, and their immediate families, to share their military or veteran experiences through their own art, and to express its meaning to them in their own words. Every member of the U.S. Armed Forces takes an oath that includes the phrase “support and defend.”  For veterans and their family members, the experiences that follow that oath are specific to each individual and may be hard to grasp for those outside the Armed Forces community. Many of those experiences are complex and enduring–perhaps lifelong. This exhibition of 2D and 3D artworks, accompanied by the artists’ written words, will reflect the military experiences of veterans or their family members and create an opportunity and forum for artists to share a personal expression of that experience. Many veterans and their families want to tell their stories, but those conversations can be difficult to start. Often, art can be the starting place.

I submitted three aprons and Home Fires was chosen. If you are in Rhode Island in April or May, please take the time to see this important exhibit.

Support and Defend: Art Relevant to the Veteran Experience

The VETS Gallery, One Avenue of the Arts, Providence, RI 02906
Sponsored by Art League of Rhode Island
April 1 – May 29, 2016 Open Thursday and Friday afternoons
Opening reception April 14, 5:30 – 8:00 pm

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18 May

Goals

Never satisfied with where I’m at artistically, I like to set some goals every now and then to keep me accountable in one way or another. I usually do this at the beginning of the year when the mood is in the air, but we’re moving from Virginia to Oregon in the next few months and that seems like a good time to make a plan so I don’t lose my way.

When we moved to Virginia, I decided that was the time to find a life drawing group and refresh some art school basic skills. I also made the decision to connect to a general art community rather than a quilt guild community. It worked out wonderfully, and now I’m looking forward to continuing that lesson in our move to Oregon.

I will definitely seek to continue with regular life drawing sessions. I am also going to try to find a community like the one I found in McGuffey Art Center in Charlottesville. I’m not sure if that will be a co-op gallery, or an extension of the drawing sessions, or an informal gather of like-minded people, but I will look for something. And I want to up the ante as well. One of the ways many artists support their work is via grants for projects and education. Now is the time for me to put on my big girl panties and do the planning and the writing to seek these opportunities. I don’t foresee ever being the kind of artist that can break even with sales alone, nor am I one for much schtick or marketing, so I think grants are a good pursuit. I also need to stop waiting for invitations to exhibit, and again, make those kind of opportunities myself by writing proposals and searching out venues. It’s not half as fun as just going in the studio and making art, but it’s what I’m going to need to do if I want to move beyond this as a hobby. And, I think I spend far too much time and effort on my work to get away with categorizing it as a hobby.

So, here’s to our first house, what should be our last move for a good long time, a new beginning in Portland, and a solid set of goals for when I get there!

16 May

Some Things To Do

I was thinking about writing this on Military Spouse’s Day (the friday before Mother’s Day), and again on Mother’s Day after watching Mrs. Obama and Dr. Biden on the Martha Stewart special highlighting military moms, and finally after listening to an NPR piece on military families. I guess being a military mom with a deployed husband and all it’s attendant business got in the way of timely blogging (smile).

One of the things that kept coming up, that I don’t think was answered well, was how can civilians help military families — especially when they are not near a base, or don’t know any specific family or service member. I thought I’d share a few ideas.

• FRGs (Family Readiness Groups) were mentioned as a source of support. Most every unit has one in some capacity or another. If you know a family, ask how you can support their FRG. The first time TS&WGH (that’s my Tech Support & World’s Greatest Husband) was in Kuwait/Iraq, one of the moms of a single soldier was thousands of miles away, but supported the FRG by sending goodies for care packages and things like 100 plastic eggs for the family Easter party. We loved her.

• ACS is a great on-post resource that you can reach from off-post. The acronym stands for Army Community Service (and I have to believe that the Air Force, Navy, Marines and Coast Guard have similar entities). ACS provides military-life skills classes for families such as how to read the pay statements, help applying for on-post jobs, parenting tips, money management, courses on volunteering and running FRGs, etc. ACS also has loaner kitchen basics for when you first arrive and haven’t gotten your household goods yet. As “den mother” for TS&WGH’s company in 2003, I learned that I didn’t have to have the answers to the families’ problems, I just needed to know where to look for them — and that was most often ACS. Long story short, I’d call ACS at any post and ask how I could help or donate.

• Similarly, the USO provides support to the military. They are not only entertainment for the troops. They operate respite areas in airports (we used the Frankfurt Airport USO as a meeting spot if we ever missed visiting family at the arrival gate) often with snacks and phones for troops to call home. They give phone cards to soldiers to call home (Operation Phone Home in partnership with AT&T). They organize travel outings at overseas posts. Donate to, or volunteer for, the USO and you’ll support both troops and their families.

Army Emergency Relief provides interest free loans to soldiers and their families in need.

• Volunteer at a VA hospital or clinic.

• Make hero quilts through organizations like Quilts of Valor, or Operation Kid Comfort via the Armed Services YMCA.

• Donate to the Wounded Warrior program at your closest military facility, or Fisher House so families can be near their wounded service member while he or she is treated.

• Scout groups and similar can “adopt” a soldier and write letters. Or, make cards to be sent to troops so that THEY can write home. My kids LOVE getting monthly handmade cards from TS&WGH care of Operation Write Home.

• If you are an educator, counsellor, or school administrator, find out if there’s any military kids in your school and talk to them. During TS&WGH’s first deployment here in Hawaii our kids’ school (off post and with low military enrollment as opposed to other area schools that are predominantly military) the school VP had a lunch club for kids with deployed parents where the kids could talk to each other and/or to the school counsellor about how they felt and how they were coping. My son said he appreciated the opportunity and that there was a girl who cried daily in school, but after meeting a few other kids who also had deployed parents she calmed down a lot.

• Buy a service member and his or her family a drink or a meal. Just say thanks if that’s how you feel.

• Ask at church if there’s any military families in the congregation. Ask them how you can help — babysitting, making a meal, mowing the lawn…

• My son says that staying busy helps him miss his dad less. I also try very hard to keep the kids’ routines as much the same after daddy leaves as when he’s here. So, keeping those kid oriented activities going is a great help. Is your local sports coach or scout leader deploying? Fill in for him or her so the kids have continuity.

I’ve been thinking about what I would want in terms of support from the greater community. Essentially, it came down to thinking about how you’d feel if (or when) you are alone without your usual support system. I get tired of doing everything all the time. I doubt I’d hand over balancing my checkbook to someone else, but I’d happily hand over the vacuum, the kids, or the oven every now and then. So, offering to babysit, or make a meal, or to support an organization that supports military families are all small, but wonderful ways to lend a hand. I know there are many more ways to help. Leave your favorite(s) in the comments if you’d like.

13 Apr

Medallion for an Army Family

Medallion for an Army Family

I may have mentioned that I have a long-term vision for the Army Wife apron series. Maybe I didn’t. Eventually, I think they need to go in a gallery. With big, bed sized, quilts on the walls. One would be “War Sucks” from whence the aprons sprang.

Medallion for an Army Family

Another would be this one I’ve been excitedly working on in the background. I wasn’t sure if I should share it with the general public, but the show I plan on entering it in doesn’t seem to mind, and I just can’t contain myself. It seems like Medallion quilts are everywhere. Maybe I’ve just been in tune with them because their traditional roots work so well with my military life theme. Anyway, I got caught up in medallion frenzy and this one just flowed from my hands (in my typically slow and wonky way).

Medallion for an Army Family
“Medallion for an Army Family” Kristin La Flamme, 2011, 75″ x 80″

23 Jul

Shout Out

I got a card in the mail from my hubby today. He emails pretty regularly, but occasionally he sends a card just for fun. I had to stop everything and blog this one though.

Hero Card

 

Obviously the person who made it spent a lot of time, energy and love on it. It shows. Even if it’s not necessarily my style, I know that it was made with care. My man got it from Cards For Heroes. It was a quick “I love you” from him, but it also said so much more to me about support on the home front. It said that someone was thinking about him and all the other deployed service members too. Thank you Cards for Heroes! My soldier appreciates your work and so do I.

20 May

…But R&R is Pretty Great!

When I tell people my husband is deployed, one of the first questions is if he will be able to come home for a visit. On previos six month deployments to Bosnia and Kosovo, and the many four month TDYs (temporary duty assignments) the answer was always no. But for his current 12 month deployment to Iraq, he can come home. Soldiers deployed for 12 or more months get two weeks of R&R (rest and recuperation). We were planning on Art’s being in August.

He’s into surprises though. Many may remember how I was the last to know that we were moving to Hawai’i last year. With several our friends’ husbands coming home for R&R in the past few weeks, I actually had a dream that Art came striding unannounced across our back yard and into the house. Funny because to stride across our yard takes about two steps depth-wise, and with walls on three sides there’s no place to stride from.

He rang the front doorbell at 10:00pm Friday night though. Scared the you-know-what out of me, but in the end, should have been expected. It was a good surprise. The kids were incredulous the next morning.

In case anyone is wondering what it takes to get a soldier from Iraq  or Afghanistan to the US for R&R, Mr. Incredible has a few blog posts on the adventure. With a two day delay on the front end, it took 65 hours and 13 time zones. I think he’s posted a cool map on his Facebook account  (I don’t know since I don’t Facebook, which is part of how he surprised me). He took planes, buses and automobiles, both military and commercial and stopped in several countries along the way. It’s quite the dance they choreograph adding and dropping off soldiers as they criss cross their way over the globe. Along the way, my soldier and his fellow travelers met generous people who made their way a little easier, not because anyone said they had to, but because they were happy to.

If you meet, in your travels, a service member returning from deployment, or for R&R, consider the many hours and myriad modes of transportation they’ve been navigating, and the beacon of home at the other end, and maybe buy them a drink or a sandwich, let them cut in line, scootch over so they can lay down on the chairs, give them a smile and wish them pleasant travels.

Meanwhile, we’ll be making the most of our two weeks together, being, as my daughter pointed out this morning, four people again.