Letting Go...Embracing Change...

Living the Life I Dream

We Are All In This Together

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We Are All In This Together

I wonder how it would feel if I had to sit my children down and explain to them that even though we live in the United States of America, a country founded on freedoms, that they are not afforded these freedoms.

That because their skin was not the same color as our founding fathers, because of the horrendous blot on our history that is slavery, and because of the deeply seated racism that to this day floats just below the surface (if we are lucky) they are not truly free citizens.

I wonder how it would feel to have to look into their sweet faces and explain the double standard that exists in this country today…in what will soon be 2015.

How do you tell your child that they are not safe to be free in their homeland and that they do not possess the same rights of their lighter skinned friends?

I wonder how it would feel to watch them leave to school, to practice, to church, to scouts, to work, or just outside to play and have no other choice other than to worry about what would be said to them: what insults would they have to endure, what slurs they have to pretend not to hear, what slights would they bear.

Or worse…to worry every single second they weren’t in my sight that they weren’t going to make it home because a neighbor mistook them for a “thug” or an officer “felt threatened” and shot my child.

I don’t have to have this conversation with my children. For no other reason than the color of their skin, I will never be subjected to this scenario.

But there are millions of my fellow citizens in these United States who have no other choice, who for the protection of the very lives of their children, must look into those sweet faces that they love with all their hearts and souls and explain that in a free country they are not really free.

I’m not fast on my feet and confrontation is not my strong suit, so I tend to keep my opinions mostly to myself. However, this situation has reached a point where I’m no longer afforded the luxury of standing in my white privilege hoping and praying that people will pull their heads out of the sand and realize that we are all in this together.

Really, we are all in this together.

So, as a person who believes in these United States and in the freedoms on which this country was founded, I will, in the most loving way I can, say something to you if I believe you are in any way violating the rights of a fellow human because of the color of their skin.

I am choosing to be okay if you are offended or angered by my questions or comments. I will no longer hide or bite my tongue.

We either stand together as one nation or we will fall apart. It’s that simple.

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“I would rather die of passion than of boredom.” – Vincent Van Gogh

I have friends, many friends to be precise, who annually choose a word to use as a touchstone or a reminder of how they want to live for the year. Over the years, I’ve marveled at the wonderful words they’ve chosen to guide their lives. I love the simplicity and beauty of having just one word to keep in check and stay on track.

For the past several years, as the year’s end approaches,  I’ve watched as one friend and then another announces their annual word. I too have searched for the perfect word to guide my year. Instead, I struggle and in the end am unable to come up with single word for myself.

So while my friends sashayed into each new years with words like “curiosity” and “freedom” and “purpose” and “wonder” and “fierce” attached to them, I trudged along behind them wordless.

It was disheartening to say the least.

A couple of months ago, I was docenting a group of high school students through the art at the High Museum. They were researching a writing project for school and the information I provided would figure into the final assignment. Concerned that I had covered the topic adaquately, I checked with one of the teachers to make sure I had hit all the required points. She reassured me that I had and then added, “I really enjoyed your tour today. You’re so passionate about art.”

I appreciated the compliment, and I really loved that she recognized how much I love sharing art with people. It’s true. I am passionate about art.

Over the next several weeks this word “passion” kept coming up. A friend comment on my “passion” regarding a topic we were discussing. An acquaintance noted my “passion” on a particular subject. People began to say things to me like, “wow, you’re really passionate about that” or “I love your passion.” I found the frequency the word was being attached to me…curious.

I ruminated on the word “passion” for a bit. I turned it over in my mind many times. Finally, I came to this conclusion.

I like feeling excited about the people and things which I surround myself. I want to have an “intense desire and enthusiasm” for my life. When I love open heartedly, when I live my life with intensity, when I throw myself body, mind, and soul into what I’m doing, I find it exhilarating even though this level of intensity can be more than a little intimidating.

I placed the “word” on the back burner because “passion” is kind of a big “word” and I’m not one of those people who has a “word,” and I began making plans for 2015. Without giving it any thought, as I contemplated the projects I would take on this upcoming year, I found myself asking the following questions:

  • Does the idea of doing this really excite me?
  • Will this challenge me?
  • Is it something I care about?
  • Am I truly, deeply passionate about this?

Am I truly, deeply passionate about this?

I had to consider that in spite of my resistance (or because of it) that maybe, just maybe “passion” is a good word for me to use as a touchstone or a reminder of how I want to live in 2015. Throwing caution to the wind, I decided “passion” it is and I immediately felt apprehensive and excited and nervous and more than a little scared.

Then I realized that this is just as it should be. If your touchstone, if your reminder for how you live is with “passion” then being apprehensive and excited and nervous and more than a little scared is probably about right. In any event, it defintly beats bored.

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Artists and Assholes

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Artists and Assholes

I recently had the pleasure of being in Miami for nine days to experience for the second time what is known as Art Basel Week. Galleries from all over the world descend on this tropical paradise bringing with them the best works of art they have to offer. Between the weather and the art, it’s what I imagine heaven to be.

Last year, my son, Mac, who is an artist, and I visited as many fairs as we could in the three days we were in town. This year we decided to spend more time in Miami so we could attend more fairs, spend added time at the ones we liked, swing through galleries (Mac had friends having shows), and also visit several private collections opened to the public.

I invested a lot of time and had a calendar laid out before we left to guarantee we could see it all (my husband says I can turn anything into a military campaign). The first three days went as planned then, by perchance, Mac met an artist friend. He invited Mac to assist him and his collaborator on a mural they were doing the next day.

As Mac went happily off to paint, I went happily off to the art fairs. It was a long day of painting as they had to finish, and I ended up wandering through the streets of Wynwood, a warehouse area in Miami that has been transformed into a community art gallery by artists from around the world who’ve graced it’s walls with murals.

There were a lot of artists out painting and it was fun to watch their visions take shape. Most of the time, when I passed, they were “in their zone,” and I was able to admire their work unobserved. Occasionally, if they needed a break; they’d pop out earbuds and engage me in a lovely conversation about their work.

During this time, I happened to chat with a gentleman who owned a building in Wynwood. Half joking and half serious, I told him that he should let my son paint on his building. He said no. I told him I was going to show him my son’s paintings (sue me, I’m a mom) and then he could tell me no again.

I showed him one photo that was a detail of a painting Mac had done. The owner glanced at the photo and without a second of hesitation said yes, Mac could paint a wall on his building. Still in shock, I was escorted by the owner to a wall that was, approximately sixty feet long and eighteen feet high. That’s a big wall.

After Mac wrapped work on his friends’ mural, he went by the wall. Other than a couple of markers, he had no supplies with him, we still had a lot of art to see, he really didn’t want to paint over the mural that was already there, and, like I said, the wall was big. The owner said that the mural on the wall had been up long enough. He said that either Mac could take the wall or he’d eventually give it to another artist. Mac contemplated the task ahead and finally decided to do it.

As Mac began to paint the next day, area artists began to stop by. One, needing a break from the tedium of his own project, helped paint for a bit. Another, discovering Mac had no ladders, offered up the ones he had used as he had finished his mural and no longer needed them. They chased off taggers after we left for the night and even buffed over tags. An artist from Atlanta who was in town for the fairs, spent half a day painting with Mac. They shared their work, admired his, shook hands, gave hugs and encouragement, and made sure Mac knew they had his back.

Each artist was as different and unique as their artwork. Some were quiet and reserved while others were boisterous and fun loving. Some wore clothes splattered with paint while others were crisp and paint free. While they came in all shapes and all sizes, I started to notice they had a few things in common.

They all had an intense love and respect not only for art, but also for the artist that created the work even if that work was unlike their own. They believed deeply in their artistic vision, in the work they were doing, and were proud of what they’d accomplished. In spite of this, they were incredibly and amazingly humble. Most importantly they were all about the work. They were in Miami to make art and before the fairs, the shows, the galleries, or the parties and fun happened they made sure they got the work done. They left no doubt that the work was their priority.

Others stopped by as well. There was the little French girl who theatrically threw up her arms loudly complaining for half a day that that she should have been the one painting the wall instead. There was the guy who periodically walked by and glared at Mac before returning to his mural. There were the people who roved the neighborhood with spray cans painting on and over any and everything they saw with no regard for property or the art that was already there. There were those that stopped by, telling Mac about all the parties they had attended, who they had met, and how hungover they were.

And as I watched all of this unfold, I realized there are artists and then there are assholes and it became crystal clear to me which camp I prefer.

Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against putting on a cute dress, eating nice food, and hanging out with interesting people. I’ve done it before and will do it again. When it’s all said and done, I hope that I’m remembered for more than just that.

I’m not an artist. But like the artists I met, I hope that I’m remembered for the love and passion I share, for the work I do, and for being the type of person who supports others on my path.

We planned that our time in Miami would be steeped in art work. Instead we spent our time steeped in artists. Steeped in the love and beauty and joy and support and respect that true artists have for themselves, their work, and others. For those of you who were part of our Miami experience, thank for reminding me what art and life are really all about. You remain in my heart.

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Lately my life has been full.

My oldest is home with all his worldly possessions after serving five years in the Marines. My middle has taken over the entire basement with his art studio. My youngest, who is wrapping up her last year of high school, is barely contained in her girly suite.

We have four cars with a fifth one in the plans and a two car garage. Getting in and out requires a game of musical cars from time to time. My and my husband’s home offices are buzzing with activity. Then there’s the holidays with extra food, decorations, and gifts being tucked away in every available crevice and corner.

I find myself holding onto things I normally don’t hold onto. Larger boxes to wrap Christmas presents, the set of dishes I haven’t used in several years, towels, pots and pans, and random glasses and bowls. I keep the two benches that don’t have a purpose, chairs that don’t match, a side table I no longer need, and picture frames, lots of picture frames. There’s a tangle of Christmas lights in a box and cache of gift wrap in the upstairs closet.

And I feel full, almost stuffed to uncomfortable. I itch to load it up and haul it away. To clear the rooms. To make space.

Then I remember.

The holidays will come and go and the larger boxes and extra food and gift wrap and tangle of lights will be put to good use. They will induce smiles and laughter. They will bring us together in ways we can’t yet imagine and in their wake create memories we will hold onto forever.

The oldest is making plans to go to college and get a house. He’ll leave taking all his worldly possessions plus one of the cars plus some of the towels and pots and pans and random chairs and picture frames. I hope he finds a need for a bench or two and will be grateful to see things I no longer need put to good use as he starts his new life in his new home.

The middle will move and the art studio that hums along with his creativity will once again become any empty labyrinth of rooms that I won’t traverse. He’ll take a car and a bed and a couch and a television. He’ll take the shelves that hold his cans of paint and the paint covered tables on which he works. The hum in the basement, the artistic energy, will dissipate leaving a void in it’s wake.

The youngest has college in her sites and will be moving into a dorm next fall. She’ll take a car, her clothes, and the futon from the basement. I anticipate that she’ll keep her room here, at least for another year or two, but the stuff she uses everyday will go with her and the room will be a place she visits on occasion and no longer a place that she lives.

And the rest? The things they don’t take? All that remains?

I will load it up and haul it away. I will clear the rooms. I will make space.

It will feel good and a little lonely and somewhat sad.

Full will not last forever.

So, I decide that today I going to overlook the clutter, I won’t worry over items crammed into crevices and corners, and I’m choosing to ignore the things that have not yet been put to good use. Today I’m playing musical cars with a smile as I walk past the shelves that are over flowing. Today I’m enjoying full.

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