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(c) 2015 Sherman Lambert

(c) 2015 Sherman Lambert

This May has seemed too busy to be thinking much about the future. Not only was our daughter graduating from college, but she was also putting together a solo art show. My husband spending time with her setting up the exhibit. Check. Our going up for the opening. Check. Getting the house ready (enough) for our graduation visitors and picking them up and spending the day before graduation away from the festivities. Check. Meeting up with our daughter and then watching her graduate before going out for a celebration dinner. Check. Spending the night at a motel and then celebrating some more with her before coming back to our home with our guests. Check. Day of local sight-seeing with guests before taking them to airport. Check. Getting a cold. Check?

Busy times for sure, all in the midst of Mother Nature’s deciding we need a cool, rainy (and snowy if you count Mother’s Day) May as we haven’t seen for a few years. In fact, the road trips to and from the art show opening were so ridiculous that I was starting to expect encounters with the Cyclops, Sirens, and a few other Odyssean-type characters. Luckily graduation weekend weather was less dramatic, although we were told we had just missed the biggest hailstorm of the past 30 years in Estes Park, the location where we spent the night before graduation. Nonetheless, all this “weather” does mean I don’t have to rush to get my plants in the ground—which is good because I haven’t had time to do so anyway.

So many people have asked us, “She’s graduating already?” Sort of funny since she has been in college for five years—and since she had 122 credits last May, but still had 11 remaining required credits that would take her two consecutive semesters and without having a summer option available. Sigh—but this isn’t the post about the systemic problems that led to an extra year of college. This, however, is the post about what’s next.

Not sure in the long term, but in the short term she’s taking two “practical” courses at the local community college this summer to shore up her graphic design skills and to add website design to what she can do. She’s applying for jobs in the usual ways, plus through connections of mine, she has some future visits at a nearby large logo-based sportswear company and a local art gallery. She’s selling embellished baby shoes and getting contracts for custom designs on adult shoes. Also—and this is a really big deal—the quality and quantity of the work at her solo show recently brought her toughest college professor to tears. Her arts entrepreneurship professor critiqued her website and stated that, of all the visual artists the woman has taught, so far she is the one most poised for commercial success, thanks to her versatility. While the “world” is telling our daughter a BFA in studio art is crazy, she’s receiving very positive feedback that shows she does have the ability to at least supplement her income, and possibly create her income herself, by making art.

For now this likely means she’ll be back home with us for awhile while she figures out just how she is going to support herself—which is not so different from other recent college graduates, especially in the metro-Denver area where the most recently reported rent rates are averaging around $1200 monthly.

We haven’t even helped her move home yet but she’s here now. After a couple nights of decent sleep, she goes back to her college home to begin packing up her goods that somehow we are going to have to squeeze back into this house. Of course, we will all have to deal with more than “stuff” when she returns—as we learn how to be a four-person household again and as she learns how to live under our roof again after being on her own—and we all learn what it means to live together when everyone here is an adult.

As a family, we’ve reached a crossroads. The road signs don’t really provide a clear direction for which way she should turn in order to discover the best way to be able to leave for good. But no doubt about it, she is finally on her own way—even if she doesn’t know—yet—where she’s going.

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(c) 2013

(c) 2013

Despite all the frustrations over scheduling and advising, our daughter is getting ready to graduate this semester. Yahoo! She is busy making certain all the i’s are dotted and the t’s are crossed so that she can leave with that degree—for which she will have an extra 14 credit hours. No, I told her not to accept the department adviser’s minor error on her graduation contract—it could matter. (My niece is marrying a man whose academic department started quibbling with him regarding his degree completion over two months after they said he had graduated.)

Besides completing her capstone art semester, which will culminate with a solo art show, she is also taking a professional practices course. She’s been working on tasks such as creating business cards and setting up her professional Facebook page. Somehow it’s hard to believe—despite the extra two semesters—that she is finally graduating.

Yes, we are those “crazy” parents who “let” our daughter declare a major in art—with a concentration in drawing in a small and highly competitive program. Will she be able to support herself solely with her art? That remains to be seen, but the desire to support herself is one of the reasons she is getting her art education within a four-year (make that five-year!) university program.

In these times so many people believe studying the humanities at all, let alone art, is a license to starve. And I have to thank everyone (sarcasm intended) who has pointed that out over the years, including some of her professors who think it is some sign of poor artistry to do anything with her art that doesn’t involve selling in a studio. Also, I would like to thank the many lackluster students in more practical majors who are shocked—just shocked—that she not only has a lot of work to do for her classes but also that she gets graded. How many of them could survive having all their highly unique work critiqued not only by the professor but also by their peers, every single time?

I happen to believe that being a passionate student in any subject teaches students more than they will learn if they only do the bare minimum in some subject they take because it is supposed to earn them money. Hey, I have an MBA (to go with that lowly humanities degree) but I’ve met a lot of former and current business majors who cared more about partying than balance sheets or P/E ratios.

When my daughter tells many students what she is studying, they say, “Oh, wow, I can’t draw.” As if somehow this has anything to do with them in the first place but I think they’re trying to point out how irrelevant her knowledge is. I’ll get to what’s relevant about her studies in a moment, but let’s just say that it’s too bad they can’t draw, because she can draw by hand and computer (plus edit by computer) as well as create spreadsheets, perform accounting, write, do research, and excel in math and science classes.

You see, she’s graduating with a bachelor’s degree just like all the other people at her university—they don’t give those degrees away no matter your major. Like everyone else there, she’s taken a variety of other courses besides those in her major and area of concentration.

Plus—and here’s where my liberal arts rant begins again—each discipline teaches valuable skills that apply to many situations.

In order to obtain a degree in art, for each project she does she has to follow a prompt—in other words, she has to design her finished product to some specifications. She must sketch possibilities from her ideas, research artists and works similar to her idea, investigate materials and see how well she can apply those materials to her specific project plan, and change the plan as needed. She has to manage her time in order to finish a long project by the deadline. When she is finished she must go through a group critique where the professor and her peers get to weigh in on how they perceive her finished project achieved its intent. At times she must create art in partnership or as part of a team. Keep in mind that few of her courses involve taking multiple choice tests by Scantron—most of the work she does is distinct and individualized.

So to summarize: For any given project she must work from directions, use creativity, perform research, practice good time management, remain flexible as her project develops, meet established deadlines, communicate ideas in writing and orally to individuals and groups, and receive criticism and feedback from multiple individuals.

Don’t discount her education—it’s been rigorous and has helped her develop the tools she needs to meet the demands of a variety of professions. Hey, I’d be happy if you’d buy her art and she could live as an artist. But just so you know, her discipline has taught her many skills and developed others that are valuable to many kinds of jobs and careers.

Just because she can draw a box doesn’t mean she isn’t able to draw outside the box.

(c) 2012 "Peep-i Hedren and Alfred Hitchcock's Peeps"

Spring Break for Christiana has come and gone—she’s already had to take a test. Nothing like jumping right back into school, right? Glad I never experienced that in undergraduate school—breaks were breaks because we were on the quarter system and had finished our classes.

So she spent some time away with friends and her brother Jackson before we picked them up at a Starbucks in the mountains—late, but can’t say they didn’t have that one coming over the years—to go skiing for a couple days. Skiing’s a lot of fun, but it’s also exhausting, especially if you’re trying to ski around injuries in the first place, which three out of four Lamberts (Sherman, Christiana, and I) were doing.

That’s why Christiana’s last ditch effort at home-based family relaxation on Saturday night was a good idea. Of course, it would have been a better idea if we hadn’t waited to do it until last minute on the same night Jackson really wanted us to watch a movie, but, hey, don’t expect us to change too much, right?

(c) 2012 Peep Harmony (Trina)

What did we do? We had our own Peeps diorama contest with the Peeps we had bought for the Denver Post’s Peeps contest. Sherman only, with Christiana’s help, had managed to meet that deadline on Friday night, but what were we going to do with the leftovers? Eat them? Right . . .

Now me, I was casual. I figured just go with a simple idea that could be done quickly. I got this idea of Peeps bunnies holding hands (well, if they had hands!) like paper doll chains. Then all I had to do was trace blue paper and draw some really rough versions of a couple continents and choose which obnoxious song I wanted to use to promote unity and world peace. (Yes, I’m just that way!) Although I tormented my family, both by singing and pulling up “It’s a Small World” on YouTube, I just didn’t want to deal with making all those hats and costumes! But hey, “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing” was also stuck in my brain. That song could also qualify for a family torture exercise. (You’re probably thinking, “You torture and torment your family for a bonding exercise?” So it seems . . .)

(c) 2012 Last Peep Standing (Jackson)

Jackson has the most elaborate ideas ever and he hates to settle for anything less than epic—which means he often does nothing. Sherman refused to allow that—yeah, nothing like a little dictatorship to help with a family bonding exercise to go along with that tormenting thing, right? Jackson got out the aluminum foil and red decorative sugar and toothpicks and soon there were knights lying in vivid pools of red with a lone Peep standing over them.

(c) 2012 We're the Lumber-Peeps and We're Okay (Christiana)

OK, so Jackson doesn’t have the lock on elaborate ideas. Christiana, his twin—the art major in case you have forgotten—has been imagining and completing elaborate dioramas since second grade (don’t think anyone assigned her one before that, but you have to know she had elaborate play scenes set up all over the house beginning in her preschool years!) Her finished lumberjack scene included a log cabin, twigs for a fire, real branches from the Blue Spruce, plaid-wearing Peeps wielding axes, mountains for a backdrop, and a powder sugar dusting of snow. Presentation, presentation, presentation has always been her mantra. And, yes, she continues to exceed the assigned required details for all her college projects. No, she doesn’t sleep much when finishing her assignments.

(c) 2012 Iditarod Peep Race (Sherman)

And, Sherman? Well, if he had Christiana’s youthful endurance, he would have gone as elaborately as she did. Instead he decided he didn’t really need to have to sew any more harnesses for the Peep-dogs (birds) pulling his Peep-bunnies’ sleds. I mean, how much can a marshmallow bunny weigh anyway?

By the time everyone finished, we really needed to relax with a movie. However, some might debate whether or not starting a movie at 11:30 at night is relaxing, especially for Jackson who had to be at work at 6:30 the next morning, but also for me, who had to sing in church choir, even if I didn’t have to be there for another three hours!

Like I said, Christiana is back in school where her projects need to be a little more elaborate than those made from Peeps. But I hope her work driving our little Peep Show was just the kind of Artist’s Date an artist needs to help her remember why art is fun—especially if that artist has to be tested on art first thing Monday morning after break.

(c) 2010 Christiana Lambert

Nope, I don’t want to return to finals week insanity ever again. Got my fill during my secondary school, college, and graduate school years. Lived through my husband’s graduate school and my kids’ high school ends-of-semesters and didn’t really enjoy them that much more even when someone else got to do the work.

Which is why it’s a blessing to have our kids away at college right now during this high-pressure week. Except . . . our daughter had to come home smack dab in the middle of (well, really at the beginning of) finals week to have a medical exam, too. Yes, timing is everything, but nothing we could say could convince the doctors’ practice that their scheduling was about as bad as it could get for a college student.

So instead of waiting another month to get on the road to healing, Christiana agreed to ramp up her stress during finals week. The university worked to coordinate a new exam schedule for her—not like the original plan for finals at 11:00 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. the first day followed by exams the next day at 7:30 a.m., 9:40 a.m., and 2:00 p.m. made any sense in the first place. Yikes.

On the last day of the semester she put to bed one final and has already received the good news that all went well—no given considering how badly the professor’s teaching and testing styles mismatched with Christiana’s learning and testing styles. This afternoon she takes one test and tomorrow morning she finishes with two others.

But first she had to turn in and be critiqued on her final art project today. Yes, she’s an incredibly talented artist, but not only does she set very high standards for herself, but also she has a teensy bit of a problem with jumping into a project before she’s absorbed all of the instructions.

Combine those approaches with her having a cold while coming home for 42 hours for a very ill-timed trip to do an uncomfortable test and you have a very stressed-out cranky art student—who is likely not going to find my observations very funny right now, but maybe she will change her mind after she recovers from this week. Maybe . . .

To complete studies in any areas of academic concentration often requires most of us to take a few courses that do not reflect our passions. Christiana can draw realistically, but she prefers a freer rein for her imagination. Usually, you can’t ride that particular horse in figure drawing class. She was just excited that this final project, for once, allowed a little fantasy: drawing an animal’s head on top of a human’s body.

The problem? The human body needed to be unclothed, just as in all the other assignments. She had a couple choices: she could either go to an optional class session where a model would be provided or she could find her own model. Snicker, right? But would our artist take the easy out? No, because then her work would be too similar to the other classmates’ work. Yes, sometimes her pursuit for artistic uniqueness puts her in challenging situations.

Let’s just say she got a certain nameless person to pose partially clad—and figured she’d just imagine the rest since she’d been drawing nudes all semester—except a lot depends on the angle you’re observing.

After staring at her reference textbook and only coming up with one realistic-looking side for the animal/woman, she was about to give up. No, she wasn’t ready to allow any more real-life models to help out, especially a certain (cringe-worthy) close relative. So I ran back and forth to the mirror several times, observed what I could, and then came back to describe and/or critique her version. Good thing I am a wordsmith!

Yes, I think she may have pulled it off, or at least as well as she could at that point. Oh, this kind of stress did not add to her pre-procedure mood, but thank goodness the procedure meds improved her attitude considerably, at least for an hour or so post-op.

Several hours after her medical procedure, she finished the other details for the project, applied the fixative, and put away the animal/woman.

That’s all the finals-related stress I needed. Thank goodness the doctors got the medical pictures they needed and she finished her drawing in time to rest overnight—before heading back to the insanity that is finals week.

When it comes down to semester’s end preparations, sometimes you just have to throw out a few educated guesses and hope that the details you fill in yourself are close enough to picture-perfect.

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(c) 2009, Christiana Lambert