Artuality–Month 2


Heather Goodman has started a monthly festival: Artuality. This is month 2.

Artuality is a festival for artists and art lovers to share the place of art in their lives. Every month we’ll focus on a different art form.

This month we’re talking about movies.

When I first read Heather’s prompt question for this month, “How have movies or a movie inspired you artistically or spiritually? ” The first movie that came to my mind was Carrie.

Yes. Carrie. The movie adaptation of Stephen King’s first published novel.


Here’s what I remember:

I was young. The novel was released in 1974 (I was 2) and the film adaptation in 1976. I stayed the night with my grandma, as I often did because she lived behind the alley from us and spoiled me rotten with Cocoa Puffs, Chicken patties and Colby cheese.

We watched TV together a lot. The Barbara Mandrell Show, The Lawrence Welk Show. The Bob Ross painting show (and part of last month’s Artuality story.) But my favorite? Hands down–was Quincy M.E.

So one night, I have no clue how old I was. Carrie came on television so that means it must have been a few years after the film release. This was not the made-for-TV movie that appeared in 2002. This was the Sissy Spacek movie, the real deal. I was probably somewhere around 8 or 9 if I had to guess. Not old enough to know what a period or tampons were, but old enough to be smitten with the thought of telekinetic powers. I honestly don’t remember the tampon scene in the locker room. I remember an abused girl, a girl who was asked to the prom by a boy who seemed nice. They go to the dance, kiss and are crowned prom King and Queen and oh what a happy ending to Carrie’s unhappy life.

But even then, I understood something bad would happen. Poor Carrie–humiliated by pig’s blood dumped on her during the best moment of her life, after finally feeling like she was accepted.

And there…that moment…

That’s where I remember the most. I was emotionally vested in Carrie. I felt sorry for her, I understood what she was going through. I wanted her to be alright. Joy lept out of my chest for her and her prom King. And then the blood. The viciousness of those girls and the fact that her mother wanted her to be humiliated like that and it was all coming true…that was too much, they’d gone too far. And it seemed Carrie was justified in her rage against them.

Then I remember her going home to wash all the blood off. The shame and embarrassment, the sadness. And her mother holding her, comforting her, then stabbing her in the back. And again, Carrie’s power and rage were justified. The crucifixion of her mother seemed right.

Carrie’s guilt overtook her and her powers were out of control. Again, the emotional effects of this scene on a small child were so powerful they shaped my life from that moment forward.

I’ve often talked of how Stephen King has been my mentor from afar. He’s garnered so many followers that it seems cliche to say his work is what led me to where I am today. And maybe it’s more a culmination of things including buying penny candy and art lessons at the funeral home and watching Carrie and Quincy with my grandma, but as worn as it seems, Stephen King was one of the biggest influences of my life.

So there you have it. The one movie I know for sure inspired me artistically.

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Special Darling

I didn’t know Grandma Schalk wrote poetry.

Poetry isn’t usually my cup of tea, but the poem I want to share today (and I’ll be sharing one tomorrow about Phil) have nearly done me in. I’ve cried more tears over these two poems than I care to admit.

Grandma Schalk would have celebrated her 93rd year on this earth December 13th. God called her home on Phil’s birthday.

There were seven Schalk children. Betty, Martin, Frank, Glinda, Lloyd, Denny, and Marilyn (Phil’s mom.)

Today I want to talk about Denny. (excerpt from Meet the Family)

Born with Down’s Syndrome and expected to die around age eleven, he’s now in his sixties and ornery as ever.

Denny loves people and loves visitors. He’s also a collector. Of everything. Pens especially but other things aren’t out of consideration…McDonald’s Happy Meal boxes, fries still at the bottom, Hotwheels cars, my hair clips, checkbooks, handkerchiefs, combs, and whatever else strikes his fancy. Coming to visit means Denny’ll be bringing out the best of the best to show off. You can’t look for too long, he thinks you’re stealing back what rightfully belongs to you. He doesn’t talk, just grunts, but believe you me, it is clear what Denny is saying.

Typically, Denny’ll bring out something, show it to me and Grandma, who is blind mind you, will say, “What’s that there. My check register? Denny! Give that back.” She’ll walk over and try to get it back, but Denny’s adamant, it is his. After awhile, Grandma tires of trying to pry the check register out of Denny’s hands and calls to Lloyd, who hops up and yanks it out of Denny’s hand. Denny then pouts and sulks until he gets pie.

He makes faces at us all the time, probably because we play along and make them back. He loves hugs from everyone who visits and steals your cool stuff, takes it to his room, puts it on top of a piece of paper and sits to look at it. We usually bring Denny a stuffed animal or other kid’s toy to avoid being robbed blind.

Denny couldn’t come to the funeral home, he wouldn’t have understood. As the pastor delivered the eulogy, it was mostly okay. Grandma lived a long, happy life. There’s nothing wrong with dying in your sleep when you’re almost 93. But then this poem was read and I can’t shake the emotion.

Grandma wrote this for Denny when he was a baby. He’s 62 now.

Special Darling by Lillian Schalk

They say I must let you go little darling,
You can only bring heartache to me.
You’re not like the rest of the children,
For you are retarded you see.

You don’t speak or play like the others.
And I know you will never be free
To grow up and be someone special.
My sweetheart, you’re special to me.

Friends don’t know how much they hurt me,
When they say I must let you go.
Send you to a home and forget you,
And start living my life over anew.

This world is a cruel place, darling,
When parents won’t look after their own.
You have a mother who loves you,
And will always keep you at home.

I will always take care of you sweetheart,
And do the very best I can.
Our Father in Heaven is helping
To care for my little man.

There was a luncheon at the house after Grandma’s funeral. I took Denny a Daisy from the arrangement on Grandma’s casket. He put it on the floor between the Pokemon cards Zane gave him and the picture I helped him draw the day before.

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Painting Lessons at the Funeral Home

I wasn’t brought up sophisticated. Yet, somehow art found its way into my heart. Or maybe it was always there and I had to let it out?

I was fascinated by a print of tree roots my mom had hung by our front door. It was a rather popular print back in the 70’s and I was told it was something about upside down roots, but for the life of me, I can’t find an image online. Out the window with that idea.

(UPDATE!! Found and purchased from Goodwill for $2.50!!!!)

The next thought that came to mind was Bob Ross.

I watched him every weekend on PBS with my grandma. Him and his happy little leaf or happy little flower. The man was amazing! I learned so much watching and wanted NEEDED to paint.

My medium? Paint-by-numbers.


For hours and hours I’d paint. I wanted to be Bob Ross.

This was also during my Black Beauty phase. (That’s one book in my history that was read til the cover fell off.) I’d save up the money my grandma paid me to clean her house on Saturdays and then ride my bike to Harvey’s (The Dime Store) to buy the newest Paint-by-Numbers. I wish I had some of those in a box for nostalgia’s sake.

That was about the time that I found out Frum’s Funeral Home, at the end of my block–the place where we’d ride our bikes to get candy–was a happening art hub. Yes. We bought candy from a funeral home.

Mrs. Frum gave oil painting lessons in the garage, next to the hearse. (Oh believe me, that’s a story! And you wonder why I’m warped?) So I’d save up change, get some candy and watch Mrs. Frum teach the lucky (read: rich) kid who got to take lessons. I never got to take lessons.

That didn’t stop me. I might not be Van Gogh or Picasso–but I’ve got a bit of a Dali mind. I’ve just got to let it out one color at a time.

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Jill

Jill and I met in 1998 in Aurora, Missouri at Union Planters Bank where we were both hired. It was an instant bond since we both “weren’t from around there”. She was from Illinois, around Peoria and I was from Northwest Indiana. We both talked fast and wore weird shoes, far as those Missouri folks were concerned.

Phil was gone a lot. We’d just purchased our very own semi and he was driving it alone. I’d come off the road so we could start trying to have a baby. I conceived Zane January 24, 1999. Jill was my labor coach and only friend. Many days, she’s what kept me from going batshit crazy.

She even painted my toenails.

She was the only one physically with me at Zane’s birth. She fed me ice chips and comforted me.

I’ll tell you more about our adventures when I can get through them. Right now, I’m typing through my tears and I just don’t think I can go there.


Jill had emailed me on my son’s birthday in October 2005 to tell me that she’d had breast cancer for a year, had a mastectomy, chemo and was “allll better”. I believed her.

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In November, the following month, I had the chance to go down to South Carolina to visit her, I hadn’t seen her in 5 years. So I went and we had such a good visit.

Then in September of 2006, she called me to tell me her lung had collapsed. She was scared and alone. Zane and I rushed down to take care of her.

A year later, October of 2007, she called telling me she was low on blood and had to get some on Halloween. Just like her. I did some research and found out this meant the cancer was no longer in remission.

I got another call last week, Jill’s neighbor, saying that Jill was not doing well and might not have much longer. So I packed up and headed down there.

I spent a week there, thank God I got to see her when she was still coherent. I got her ice chips and I even rubbed her feet. We used our Lamaze signals for her pain this time.

We spent New Year’s Eve 1999 together, my son’s first and New Year’s Eve 2007 together, her last.

I want to say more, but I can’t right now.

LoveYouMissYouBye.

Rest in Jesus’ arms sweety.

June 1, 1968 – January 8, 2008

Meet the Family

Jeanne posted her cat story on The Master’s Artist and reminded me of the cats at Grandma Schalk’s house. Sit right on down, want some coffee?

Lloyd (standing), Denny, Phil, Zane, Grandma Schalk,
Phil’s step-dad (standing), Phil’s mom

Meet the family. First there’s Lloyd. He was, at birth, chosen to be the son to stay. Is there a technical term for this? Lloyd was never allowed to date let alone think of moving out or getting married. He needed to remain at home to take care of things. He worked at Brown’s Shoe factory for years, til they shut down then he took a job over at the school as janitor and did that until he retired a few years back. He can’t cook a decent dinner to save his life, but the man can bake the hell out of a lemon meringue pie and makes the best canned vegetables I’ve ever had.

Next there’s Denny. Born with Down’s Syndrome and expected to die around age eleven, he’s now in his sixties and ornery as ever.

Denny loves people and loves visitors. He’s also a collector. Of everything. McDonald’s Happy Meal boxes, fries still at the bottom, Hotwheels cars, my hair clips, checkbooks, pens, handkerchiefs, combs, and whatever else strikes his fancy. Coming to visit means Denny’ll be bringing out the best of the best to show off. You can’t look for too long, he thinks your stealing back what rightfully belongs to you. He doesn’t talk, just grunts, but believe you me, it is clear what Denny is saying.

Typically, Denny’ll bring out something, show it to me and Grandma, who is blind mind you, will say, “What’s that there. My check register? Denny! Give that back.” She’ll walk over and try to get it back, but Denny’s adamant, it is his. After awhile, Grandma tires of trying to pry the check register out of Denny’s hands and calls to Lloyd, who hops up and yanks it out of Denny’s hand. Denny then pouts and sulks until he gets pie.

He makes faces at us all the time, probably because we play along and make them back. He loves hugs from everyone who visits and steals your cool stuff, takes it to his room, puts it on top of a piece of paper and sits to look at it. We usually bring Denny a stuffed animal or other kid’s toy to avoid being robbed blind.

Speaking of blind, Grandma Schalk is next. You recognize Phil and Zane, right? They’re right there between Denny and Grandma. I have two stories that will tell you all you need to know about Grandma Schalk. First, she’s pretty well blind. When she wants to see you, she calls you over, puts her hands on your face and yanks you to her nose–that’s when she can see you. Nose to nose. “Oh. Phillip! It’s you. Well, I didn’t knowed you were coming to visit. Lloyd, why didn’t you tell me Phillip was a’comin’?”

Lloyd, who talks louder than anyone I’ve ever met: “Well Mooooom. I did tell you. He called and I told you, ‘Mom, Phillip’s a’comin’ and I went and got extry salad for Michelle.”

Grandma gets Books on Tape from the state and send back the pornographic ones and calls and yells at them for sending such nasty books to her. You know, the ones where there’s a kiss. Lloyd got in trouble years ago for have pornography in his room.

Yessiree-bob. He was a’readin that smut.

True Romance Magazine.

I first met Grandma Schalk fourteen years ago, Phil took me to meet the family. Except he was divorced.

And I was the new one.

For five years Grandma Schalk wouldn’t call me by my name nor talk directly to me. I’d always end up next to her at the dinner table and she’d look around me and say to Phil, “Phillip, tell that girl they’s some different salad dressing in the icebox if she don’t like what we got out.”

Me: Thank you, Poppyseed dressing is great.
Grandma: Phillip, tell that girl she’s welcome.
Phil: Grandma, she’s right next to you, why are you telling me?
Silence.

Five years this went on. Now, she wasn’t spiteful, she was sweet as pie and genuine. She liked me fine, just wouldn’t talk to me. She told Phil in front of me what a wonderful girl I was. I never could be angry.

Remember I said Lloyd didn’t cook well? Dinner was spaghetti one night. A pot of spaghetti pasta, swollen, overcooked and starchy. A pan of browned hamburger. A jar of canned tomatoes. Spaghetti.

Stir fry. Vegetables cooked in the brand new Wok from Piggy Wiggly for three hours.

Baked Chicken. A whole fryer cut up, placed in a roasting pan and baked. In four inches of vegetable oil.

I ate a lot of salad. Poppyseed dressing is just fine, thank you. Oh and please, more pie.

I couldn’t take it. I went down to the Piggly Wiggly and bought stuff for real spaghetti. And garlic bread, the kind with the mozzarella cheese on top. Mmmm. I cooked the simple meal, sat next to Grandma, passed the bread.

Midway through the meal, she turns to me and says–turns to me, “This is the best derned spaghetti I believe I’ve ever had, Michelle.”

She goes on. “This bread, why, it’s delicious. Lloyd, give me that grape jelly over there, I reckon it’ll taste even better with some of that on it.”

Yes. Grape jelly on garlic cheese bread. Scrumptious.

But, hey, she addressed me and said my name! And since then, she’s talked to me non-stop.

I promise I’ll get to the cats. You just gotta meet these folks before I can go on.