Thursday, June 7, 2007
Drawing comes naturally for Cook
By SUE WATSON
Since Rhonda Cook was 3 she’s been drawing, but she took it up another notch when she started painting themes around her door and window frames.
The pictures she draws first in free hand, then paints the fruit, leaves and vines with acrylics.
An identical twin, Cook’s natural talent was uncovered by her mother who gave the two pencil and paper and told them to do something.
“We cried a lot and Mother told us to scribble,” said Cook. “Robin, my sister, scribbled but I drew the backyard fence and birds sitting on the fence. Then I colored the drawing. Mother was shocked. That’s how it started.”
Although she prefers to draw fruits like grapes, leaves and vines, Cook has drawn boats and other things.
“As I get older, I love colored pencil, but you can’t do colored pencil on a wall,” she said. “I got the idea to do walls, but my husband didn’t believe I could do it.”
Now he does. Cook has painted around the door and window facings, the dining room and hall doors and the kitchen phone. She adds a theme word or verse in cursive, sometimes.
“I try to bring something in about God,” she said.
On one Cook wrote “I am the vine (John 15:5).”
She draws once she has an image in hand.
“If I can look at it, I can draw it,” she said. “I have no art schooling. Why should I when I already have it?”
Potts Camp art teacher Sue Rowland did help her get started by painting a grape on a piece of paper.
“She told me to use acrylics,” Cook said. “She said I wouldn’t have to cover up pencil marks.”
One of the paintings has vines, leaves and what Cook calls curly-cues. There is a bird added with a grape in the beak.
From DeKalb, Cook arrived in Potts Camp by marrying husband Terry, who is employed in Olive Branch as an account executive.
They are parents to four, Bruce, 19, a biological son, and three adopted children.
“My husband wanted more children and I am a juvenile diabetic, so we became foster parents, getting John T. at birth.
Two biological sisters, Jade, 4, and London, 2, were adopted later. All three are from the same county.
Cook said they had not intended to adopt so many in the beginning.
“It just fell into our hands,” she said. “We are old enough to be grandparents. Now I’m a stay-at-home mom.”
She gets help with the children from her mother, Linda Gipson, who lives in Potts Camp and her mother-in-law Peggy Cook.
The idea to paint the house, so to speak, came to Cook after having a strong desire to get some art on display.
“I was just itching to get my art alive,” she said. “Most artists don’t become famous until they die. I think that’s bad. We can know God is alive when we look around at the beauty of everything.”
Cook is drawn to the fine detail.
“If you focus on it, you will be amazed at what you can do,” she said. “I did it because I enjoyed it.”
Cook added that more foster parents are needed in Marshall County, that parents do not have to look overseas for children to adopt.
“If you love children, you should,” she said. “It’s been a blessing for us. It gives me a chance to focus on something good.”
Husband Terry finishes the story.
“Rhonda has always expressed her interest in drawing,” he said. “Then one day I came home and she had free-handed the whole kitchen in pencil.”
He was in shock.
“What in the world have you done, I asked? She told me she had this vision, drew it on the wall and was going to paint it.”
The Cooks had just gotten their first little baby, so he figured Rhonda would never finish the project.
“As the days passed I could come in and she had painted all day. I tried to help but couldn’t quite paint to her demand, so I stepped aside. After a few months the job was done.”
John T., the first foster child, was just eleven months old when the Cooks got a call from the social worker that she had a newborn baby girl that needed placing.
The Cooks, who had prayed 10 years for a baby, had 48 hours to get ready for the second foster baby.
“Now daddy had a baby girl,” he said.
Proud grandmothers pitched in to help with the babies. The church family did, too.
“They knew we were a bit overwhelmed with us being a little older than most parents with infants, especially two.
“Life was good as we realized how blessed we were with our oldest, Bruce, having John T. and eleven months later getting our baby girl.”
The Cooks got their third call from the social worker 17 months later. Would they consider taking the two-day old sister of their youngest daughter?
The state wanted to keep the sisters together.
“We made our minds up in about two minutes,” Terry Cook said. “And we picked her up two hours later.”
With three children under the age of three, the Cooks say they would do it all over again, even though it has not been easy.
“To pray for just one for so long, then God gave us three, how can we have any regrets?” he said. “Nightly feedings, diapers, car seats, have been an adjustment for a family of three to become a family of six in such a short period of time.”
The Cooks also were foster parents to another daughter for about a year during that time. That foster daughter was reunited with her family.
“All I can say to people who have an empty room with a bed, is there is a child who would love to be there to feel love and to be safe,” he said. “Foster care brought us both joy and some sadness when we had to let them go. But when you let go, they take something with them and most of the time they will tell you it was the love and security that meant the most.”
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