August 2007

I’ve been in a writer’s funk for over two weeks now, which is causing great headaches since I’m responsible for rewriting the Achievement Gap discussion guide here in Central Texas. I’m basing the framework on the National Issues Forums guide, but incorporating Texas data from E3 Alliance. I’m using Study Circles Resource Center guides as the stylistic model. Nance Bell did the hard work of wading through the data and put language around it for me and Rick Olmos helped outline the big chunks so it should be easy to do, right?

I’m stumped. Up to my eyeballs in data. I feel like I’ve got three square pegs, four round holes and nothing is fitting.

But I think I’m rounding a corner and here’s why. I’ve written issue books before, but I started with people’s experiences and framed the guide around the stories. In this case,  I’m working within a framework and don’t have the stories in my head. My writing feels dull and academic, but today I started interviewing people. DY was passionate and her energy carried me long enough to hammer out five pages that aren’t half bad. Tomorrow, I’ve got a list of people to call and on Thursday, I’ll get ten hours of videotaped stories for inspiration.

This is starting to get fun!

The next time I do this, I’m starting with the stories. Forget the data. It just gummed up the works for me. You can always add it later. (Maybe this is a sign that I’m right to not pursue a Ph.D. If I’m struggling with these 24 pages, think what a dissertation would do to me!)


On Saturday evening, I went to an art opening in Lampasas with my dear friend Vickie Kelley. Vickie is a talented fabric artist married to noted sculptor Troy Kelley whose bronze works include Robert Gray the namesake of the Killeen airport, and Ted Connell also on display at the airport. (I’m extremely disappointed that you can’t find photos of these two major works at a public building on google. I’m heartbroken that not only is his statue of Jesus at the Salado Methodist church unavailable online, but the church has no notable presence online and their feeble website is years out of date.)

But I digress!

Here’s what stuck with me from Saturday.

tim's descriptionTim. or Timmy or Timothy. I’ll call him “Tim” because that’s his preference.

Tim is a self-appointed art interpreter for the town of Lampasas.

He learned “art” just as thousands of children have learned through the ages – at the knee of a master. Tim’s “master” was T.J. Mabrey a sculptor who spent hours at the Hanna Sculpture Garden in the heat of Central Texas carving four pillars – IV Florae – depicting the emergence of native flora from seed to fruit. We may never meet again, but Tim was an instant buddy plenty happy to show us around the gallery and offer his commentary, and to clown around with us.


After an hour or so at The Boat Show, Tim and his mother, Lorrie took us to the Hanna Sculpture Garden where Tim first met T.J. and brought her the acorn that would serve as the model for one of her pillars.

tim and acorn


looking at the weather vane

Tim’s intimate knowledge of T.J.’s art borne out of lazy afternoons watching her craft the four pillars of stone representing native plants in Texas made him an expert guide for our tour of the Boat Exhibit, but was particularly useful when he and his mother, Lorrie took us to the sculpture gardens.

That’s where this ADHD child really shone.


I’m sure that T.J. had Tim in mind when her remarks focused on the importance of art in our schools. When did we decide that education is about “getting a job” and when did we decide that the best route to a “job-focused” education means that we sacrifice art education? Try to sculpt a “larger than life” presence of Robert Gray who has to stand over 7′ tall even though he never reached that stretch, like my friend Troy did. You have to understand physiology, science, and math to do that and keep everything in proportion. Think about the research skills and knowledge of Texas history that Troy has accumulated while working on the 12′ column depicting the Chisolm Trail that he is creating for the Bell County Museum. Just working in bronze requires knowledge of science, chemistry, engineering, physics and geology.

Tim on benchKids like Tim who may not do well in traditional classes could really shine working with their hands and learning through creating. I hope he gets that chance, but I worry that our cookie cutter approach to education and our emphasis on education as a means to getting a job doesn’t accommodate special kids like Tim. Fortunately, he’s got an attentive, involved mom and is surrounded by creative outlets.

I had a ball taking pictures of him with my iPhone and am glad that his mother agreed to let me snap away. Tim is one remarkable kid!

There may be an emerging theme for this blog. I have set up categories for postings on Art, Commentary, Travel and What were they thinking? The last category is where I’ll pose the obvious question that apparently wasn’t so obvious to others. (For example, watch for postings about poorly – ok, STUPIDLY – designed products or hair-brained ideas!)

holding handsBut already, there DOES seem to be an emerging theme in my life that I can explore on this blog. “Friends: finding and reconnecting with your past and building a new future of friendship.” In just the past few weeks, I’ve reconnected with high school chums from 32 years ago and have plans for face-to-face visits. I found a talented photographer / documentarian / author friend from the 80’s. (I’ll scan the fabulous photos he took of me when I looked good enough to – well, to photograph!) I’ve deepened a precious relationship here in Salado and I’ve had fun spontaneous encounters with people like Lorrie and Tim in Lampasas. (I definitely have MORE to say about that, but check out my Flickr link in the meantime!)

So what does it mean to have a friend? to find an old friend? to find a new friend? What makes old friendships remain relevant? I’ve reconnected with old friends I couldn’t wait to get off the phone with and erase from my database. I’ve reconnected with old friends I can’t wait to see. What makes the difference? Is it determined by the quality of our prior relationship? How closely we track in our personal and professional growth? Our expectations of each other? Why did we lose track in the first place? How is our relationship different now? Would it be the same if we hadn’t had time apart?

I have no clues about where my pursuit of these questions will lead me, but they seem appropriate for someone who just crawled over the 50 year hump. A retrospective of the last 50 years placed in the context of the next phase of my life could be a useful exercise. We shall see!

me thinkingI decided to start posting here because my Texas Forums blog needs to stay neutral, non-partisan, informative, and professional. I am after all representing the LBJ Presidential Library on that site! My Austin-Pacific blog is my personal/professional face. I also write for other blogs – League of Technical Voters, Extreme Democracy and the deliberative democracy blog. But I don’t have any place to just ramble about random thought or to have an online conversation with friends. So that’s what this space will be about. There won’t be much traffic on it and probably not that much content, but it will be MINE.

There’s no reason for the name “Scattered Leaves” except that I liked the picture that I’m using as the banner and the topics here are likely to be scattered. The only consistency is that they will be scattered ideas and thoughts from the world of Taylor Willingham.

Now that’s a scary thought!

If you’re adventurous hold on and ride these swells together!