Wednesday, May 30, 2012

This Americana Life


Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Hopewell


Thursday, May 24, 2012

The Difference Between Honesty & Honesty With Integrity

A couple of weeks ago, I interviewed my friend, Harry,  who had this hanging outside of his art studio. A few months earlier he had a different reminder. He had The Four Agreements which he wasn't sure he totally subscribed to anymore. But this newest one was so basic and clear it had replaced the four secrets to a happy life. This message has no room for anything else. It is just the basic truth of life. The only thing that I can change is myself. Everything outside of  myself, is in God's hands. For me, God's hands translates into the Universe.

Six months ago, I would say say things like this, but I didn't really believe it in my core. Most of my actions were still in one way or another trying to get someone else to change or someone else to feel a certain way. I read something today that said if you repeatedly air your feelings four times to different people (or even the same person), this is not expressing yourself but trying to manipulate people into feeling the same way you do about a particular person or grievance. I had never thought about my intentions when I was just "expressing myself." The idea of being honest had been warped so much that I valued "honesty" over people's feelings. I might even justify my honesty by saying, "If you ask for my opinion, I'm going to give it" which is another way of saying, "If you ask me if I have a gun, I'm going to fire it." But I am learning there is a way to communicate that is both honest but also has integrity. Being honest doesn't give me permission to gut someone. But on the flip side, saying nothing can often be even more vicious. I spent a lot of time trying to combat some of my sharp tongue by just zipping my lip, by not communicating at all. But that has it's own form of manipulation. Sometimes silence is more cruel than words.

The further I look inside, the more I can see how so many of my days, so much of my life, has been a struggle between accepting what I have actual power over and trying to assert power over something that I can't. (And here I just thought I was bossy!) If I wasn't trying to fix someone or change someone's actions, I was trying to get someone else to change their sentiment. My "venting sessions" were not actually venting but a way of controlling. And the last month I have had to really look at my part in some of the unhappiness I have created in my environment. I had to admit that my venting was really a form of gossip which at it's core is a grasp at finding some kind of power in a situation where I have none. Gossip carries judgment. While it can bring a few laughs and make me feel particularly witty or funny, dare I say clever, in the end it is an action led by my ego that removes me one step more from the person I would like to be in this world. I am in a place right now where I am looking carefully at how I behave. What am I saying? Am I saying what I mean? And how am I saying it?  While also being easy on myself when I don't know the answer. When is my ego running my day and when is my heart? What kind of validation am I looking for and why am I looking for it? Sometimes I don't know. I have even had to question this blog. Am I writing to express myself or am I trying to send a message? Am I trying to communicate in a way that lacks integrity? Am I writing to feel validated or am I writing because I want to feel? And for today, I can say, I want to feel.

This blog has become a sort of truth meter for me. And I love how it continues to evolve as I continue to explore and try to make a change in myself. The other night I saw the documentary Marley about Bob Marley. It was an incredibly inspiring documentary but it left me so sad and I realized it was a disappointment with myself. There was something in his fearlessness, his ability to seek love and peace in an environment that fostered violence and poverty that really shook me. He came from Trenchtown and would have had every right to turn towards the dark, but instead he sought beauty and spirituality and elevated himself out of a very hard life in Jamaica to become one of the most influential, groundbreaking, and inspiring artists in history. His faith in God and humanity, his love of music and people, made for an extraordinary life and although his time on Earth here was brief, the legacy he left behind continues to foster love, unity, and faith. It makes me think back on this question I asked over a hundred kids in my documentary a couple years ago. How do I want to be remembered?

In the words of Gandhi:

Be the change you want to see in the world. 

A coward is incapable of exhibiting love; it is the prerogative of the brave.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Life...It Happens


I wish I could say that I haven't been blogging because I won a trip to Portugal and have been hopping around Spain for the last couple of weeks. But the truth is, there has been a lot of life happening in the last couple weeks and not that kind of life. It's been the kind of life that includes death and grief and shifting work environments and failing at dieting and heavy self-realizations. It's been a constant push and pull between staying in the present moment and needing so badly to escape it. It has never been the busy moments in life that drive me nuts, but the moments in life where I am forced to sit still. And this month there have been a healthy dose of both. I am both connected and not, grounded and yet floating. I am walking on this earth while some days looking around and wondering just where the hell I am. And then there is the whole other element of being on this earth in New York City. The other day while coming out of an aggressive subway car, Mike said, "I need a break." It takes energy to live in this city and when life happens, this city can be very unforgiving. But it makes the moments when strangers are kind for no reason just that much more magical. It can make the offering of a subway seat a grand gesture. It can make the wave of a hand forgiving the five cents you can't find for that cup of coffee a great morning. It can make an open bench in a secret garden an invitation from the universe to rest yourself, a reminder that there are other powers at work.

In the spirit of those other powers at work, I have not wanted to be online these past couple weeks. I have wanted to be here, floating around, waiting for the rain to stop.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Tabula Rasa


Have you read about my brilliant friend, Harry? Today his show, Tabula Rasa, is opening at the Clic Gallery in Soho (255 Centre Street) at 6:00 p.m. Check out this Tuesday Treat post for a preview of the oil paintings on paper of unsettled North America or this one here, for a taste of what he showed at Art Basel this year and a little more in depth interview exploring the surreal and bizarre mind of Harry Hancock.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

A Story About Gluttony (Writing Challenge)

If you read this blog, you know that I love me some writing challenges. I just signed up for a new one based on the seven deadly sins - a seven part contest. The first part was the subject of Gluttony and my short story (under 600 words rule) is a finalist! Please vote for me by clicking HERE and scrolling down. You can read the story there, too or check it out pasted below, but please still vote! Thank you, that is all!
***************
It had been three months since Allison had left rehab. She had just earned her 90 day sobriety chip, which had become a comforting worry stone as of late. As she sat in the reception area of her husband’s office, she flipped the coin between her thumb and forefinger all the while eyeing the handsome young man her husband has chosen as his assistant.

“I have Mrs. Taylor here,” he emphasized over the phone.

Why had he not called her Allison? The young man cleared his throat. “No, she’s here.”
Allison continued to flip, flip, flip.

“He’s just wrapping something up…a meeting. He’s wrapping up a meeting,” he clarified.
How long had this been happening, Allison wondered? How long had it been happening right in front of her eyes but she was too stoned to see it? Their sex life never had the kinds of stories she wanted to boast to her friends about. At first he blamed it on stress. He blamed it on the office.  Then there was the baby. Then there was her and the vodka. How long had it even been since they had…been?

The longer Allison waited, the more her stomach sank. She could feel the urge coming. The sound of a train rumbled in the distance and once again she was reminded how much she hated this place. The 90 day chip was no longer soothing, but heavy, hot.  She looked at the clock…tick. She looked at the water cooler…drip. She looked at the young assistant’s coffee…and there she spotted them. A crystal bowl full of champagne and rum truffles.  The assistant caught her gaze and began wildly shuffling papers to distract her. He had not cleared the bowl in time for Allison’s visit. Was that what was making him nervous? She had showed up unannounced, but surely the wrath from her husband for not hiding the bowl of liquor truffles was not the complete source of the young man’s anxiety. No, this was the kind of nail biting, knee-bouncing, pen-tapping anxiety that comes with knowing a secret, one that is about to explode.

From behind the office door, a man’s voice, yelled, “I don’t care, anymore!”

Allison raised an eyebrow at the assistant and he squeaked out a high-pitched laugh.

“Excuse me,” he said, as he quickly got up and let himself inside the office door. Before he quickly closed the door behind him, she could see the back of a man’s head, jet black, his shirt wrinkled from where it had been tucked in, untucked, and tucked again. He was adjusting his carefully rolled sleeves…and then the door slammed with the assistant inside…but not before the waft of that familiar cologne had escaped. That cologne she had smelled on her husband after business meetings and golf tournaments and galas. That cologne had almost replaced her husband’s scent. Only when he visited her in rehab, when she did not smell the cologne, did she realize it was a cologne that did not belong to him.

It was just Allison and the bowl now, Allison and the velvet truffles calling for her, Allison with the 90 day chip and the train rumbling and the cologne wafting. She no longer needed to see her husband. The assistant had told her everything she needed to know. Allison lunged for the crystal bowl, ripped off wrappers with her acrylic nails, and two by two popped glorious bursts of rum and chocolate into her mouth.

When Jim finally emerged reeking of that other man’s cologne, all he found was the 90 day chip in an empty crystal bowl. 

**** Please Vote HERE! Special thanks to k8edid for hosting such an awesome competition!

Monday, May 14, 2012

Mothers Day Means Thank Yous

 Every year on Mother's Day, I am reminded of the many women in my life that helped mother me along the way. My mom was a part of my early childhood and a part of my early adulthood but in between those years were my Dad's five sisters, a cousin and a cousin-in-law and a theatre teacher in high school that changed the direction of my life. There were long car rides through downtown Los Angeles post-riots with my Aunt Gail as we talked about home life, soccer, and school, listening to Whitney Houston or Mariah Carey in the background. There was the shopping trip to buy me my first journal with Aunt Mary Kay. There was the lesson in feminine hygiene from Aunt Tricia. There was the dog training lessons from Aunt Jennifer and the smell of eucalyptus whenever you entered her home, a smell that reminded me of Christmas and happier times. Then there was the introduction to the hair salon, yoga, and chai tea with Aunt Rose. There was gossip and lunch at CPK with my cousin's girlfriend, Brandie, who later became his wife. There was horseback riding with sorority sisters with my cousin, Breanne. And there was an oasis of calm and meditation in Ms. Welden's little black box theatre in high school. The women in my life stepped up when my mother had to step out and every year I think of how lucky I am to have had such a unique experience. But no one stepped up more than my Aunt Gail who for many years was the recipient of my Mothers Day affections. During my parents' divorce, Gail scooped up me and my brother and adopted us into her already busy and crowded family (four athletic boys) and made sure we had homemade meals for dinner, clean and pressed uniforms for school, and a sense of responsibility when sharing someone's space. She made sure we had fun again, determined not to let our childhood become a swath of painful memories and most importantly, she treated us like normal kids, not kids that had been abandoned by their mother. She took no pause in scolding us when we were out of line, leaving no room for excuses if we acted out. My father used to joke about her house, calling it boot camp, and at times there was a healthy amount of fear when at Gail's house. While there was no crap allowed, there was discipline and structure, two things we desperately needed at that time. There was also a pool and a basketball hoop and cousins to play with, fight with, and laugh with. After two years, my dad got his life back, but just when he was ready to create that structure for us, he suffered a life-threatening illness that took two years to fully recover from. And just when he had regained his strength from that, he lost his business which Gail was a part of.

When I look back at all my family went through, I can't imagine having survived it all without Gail and "boot camp."  And although I may not always call her on Mother's Day, to me she will forever be the Mom that I called when I "became a woman" before my 8th grade Volleyball game.

This Mothers Day, I spent it with Mike's mother, again, another amazing woman I have been lucky to have become a part of my life. I never thought much about what kind of mother-in-law I might have one day. All I knew about them was that you weren't supposed to get along with them, or so the movies painted it that way. But for me, part of what makes this whole wedding thing so exciting is that I'm going to inherit a mother-in-law I could have never dreamed up!

I like Mother's Day. For me, it is a holiday that is always evolving and no matter where I am in my life, a day for me to reflect, appreciate and celebrate the many women in my life that have helped redefine the mother-daughter relationship in a way that is very special to me. It's a day for me to say Thank You.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Keep Swimming


There are people that come into our lives and leave tiny footprints when we are not looking. They leave them on our hearts and in our laughs and in the way we move our hands when we tell a story. They leave these little footprints like maps so that whenever we feel lost without them, we can retrace their steps and remember the memories they gave us, the laughs we cried over, the tears we healed from, the manners we learned from. Sometimes they leave so many, it's hard to see which ones came from them and which ones are our own. Sometimes the tide comes in and we get worried some of them will wash away. Sometimes the wind blows fast, the rain falls hard and we think, how will those little footprints ever remain? Sometimes we discover new beach, and we look out on the smooth sand and wonder how the hell we're going to get where we're going without the trail of another. Kind of like trying to learn how to breathe underwater. But a wise man once told me that the trick is to keep swimming and when you find your way back to the shore you might just see that someone was helping you swim all along. Maybe the way to move forward is to remember what a privilege it's been to have shared the same beach in the first place.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Motherhood: A Blur of Babies (Guest Post by Daleboca)

For the month of May, I'd like to profile or feature guest posts from some of the many inspiring and beautiful mothers in my life. This one here is from my partner in crime at skipriporplay.com, Daleboca. Daleboca is the proud mama of four children: a seven year old girl, five year old boy, and twins (boy and girl) at 14 months.  She is one of the busiest people I know but also has the amazing ability to balance friendship, pursue her passions (film, volunteer work),  keep up with a career as a teacher and tutor, and still go on dates with her husband. Daleboca refuses to lose her identity to motherhood, recognizing both herself and her children as individuals first. You may remember her from an earlier post I did about how she walked the NYC marathon last year with her own mother which I found to be a beautiful accomplishment. Without further ado, I give you Daleboca...

"A Blur Of Babies"
The head of my twin 15-month-old babies’ day care just called me that recently. She meant that I rush in and out of the center and that she never sees me.  I think that for some, however, who do not follow me too closely, I am just that, a blur. I like to think this refers to my rapid moving and not to my deformed silhouette. Sure, I have gained and lost 35 lbs and then 45 lbs and then 40lbs and delivered a baby girl, a boy, and then one of each in the last seven years, but believe it or not, I have done many more things. I refuse to allow motherhood to be the only term that defines me. This overarching and heavy term surely evokes different joys and sacrifices for each individual woman who considers it. I will not condescend nor claim to be any sort of expert just because I am a mother of four.  Everyone has a mother, many become mothers; it does not take any special qualification or prerequisite as we know. The real issue for me is how do you balance being a mother and just a regular person, one who can interact with adults who do not care about your toddler’s potty training, your first grader’s spelling tests, or your son’s karate. I ADORE my children but I also think it best to not be with them all of the time, micromanaging their after school activities, their social lives, and their clothing. I was an individual before I became a mother and I work hard to still be one now. I do not think that motherhood is quantifiable, but I do believe that I may spend more real time with my children than some mothers who do not work do. Let me clarify, when I am not with my children I am teaching other people’s children. I try to be busy when they are but they do plenty without me.

Seven and a half years into this lifelong project I feel like I am on an upswing of the learning curve. It has not always been this way however. Currently my partner in crime (aka their father) and I have the morning down to a science. Unless he is away, we each take two children to school/day care. Our kids eat home cooked meals every night and get read to before bed. Weekends and vacations are 100% family time. When I first became a mother I could not fathom where the hours of the day went. Yes, there is awe and amazement at the miracle of life, of the incredible power of the human body and then there is the fact that caring for a newborn is thankless and exhausting. My first-born, M, arrived on a Thursday. By Saturday we were home, elated, surrounded by family and visitors. Monday came and I was, like Macaulay Culkin, home alone. Four days into the adventure, all of my family members and friends had work, and I had M. The thought of having to keep this baby alive all by myself was daunting. I fretted when she cried, nursed her until we fell asleep, and focused 110% on being her mother. A few weeks and months into this sleep deprived and repetitive life, I realized that I had to go back to work. Not that I felt like I had to, I really had to, so that we could pay our rent. Consumed with guilt at first, my spouse helped me realize that I had to keep my sanity and continue to function in society in order to better perform my duties as a mother. Oh yes, there is that detail as well. Not only do you become obsessed and consumed by your newborn, but you also have to squeeze in your significant other, in this case M’s father, as well as carving out some time for yourself and then of course for your job, maybe some exercise. I digress.

There are women who begin Act II, the Mother Movement  of the piece known as Life, when they enter this phase. Their entire lives stay in the above-mentioned newborn mode, with the child at the center of all endeavors. I do not know how they do it. I tip my hat (to some of them) and it bores me just to think about it. I do not remember ever being idle, or lazy or free, but the more I have to do, the better I function. Pressure, time constraints, many responsibilities and interests, things I need to do, these elements help me feel fulfilled and satisfied while allowing me to better enjoy my time with my children. Sure, there are instances when I fantasize about nobody needing me for 48 hours but the reality is that when I get “away” for a night I miss them and I realize that the psychotic puzzle-like life that we have is exactly what I need. I may run around like a maniac, seem like a blur, but I am grateful to have somewhere to run to that makes me happy, allows me to earn money, feel satisfied. I am privileged enough to have help so that I can pursue most of the activities that I want to pursue and still put all four children to sleep and feed them dinner 95% of the time.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Tuesday Treats: Harry Hancock: Tabula Rasa

Two weekends ago I had the pleasure of spending the afternoon with the always intriguing, Harry Hancock. Last summer, Harry took a road trip around the USA in search of unsettled places. He came back with an entire show's worth of oil paintings on paper, which he graciously spoke to me about (as you will see from the video above.) The show is titled Tabula Rasa and will be at one of the best galleries in New York City, the Clic Gallery, opening May 17th at 6:00p.m.
Death Valley
 
It has been such a treat to see Harry's work progress over the few years I have known him. If you remember the post I did on him back in November right before Art Basel in Miami,  Harry had just completed an amazing painting based on the Biblical character, Samson. He also had let me post a few of the paintings from the summer of 2011, but this visit was a more comprehensive preview of his newest works!
Mt. Rushmore

As a kid growing up in the San Fernando Valley, every summer, my father packed my brother and I into a car and forced us to go on long camping trips and road trips through the Western United States. Sometimes we would bring our cousins, but mainly I remember the three of us hiking some crazy waterfall in Yosemite or taking pictures of Mount Rushmore from the side of the road while also learning about the Crazy Horse monument that seems it will never be completed. I have fond memories of getting car sick along a red road in Utah and the fear I felt the first time I saw a buffalo in the middle of the road at Yellowstone.  I remember the excitement of sleeping under the same skies as bears in Mammoth and I remember contemplating the idea of "God" when seeing the Grand Canyon.
Grand Canyon
These new works of Harry are not only inspired and breath-taking, not only nostalgic and romantic, but also unsettling in the same way the raw United States is. There is something haunting and alluring about his Death Valley painting, majestic yet vulnerable about his Mount Rushmore, or my favorite which was the very zen Grand Canyon.

These paintings bring the kind of solitude and quiet that comes from places "unsettled," a quiet so many of us could use in our noise and technologically saturated lives. But rather than read about these paintings, just go see them. My iPhone pictures and videos do not do them justice. I promise this show will be good for you.

Check out Harry's website here and follow him on twitter
@harryhancock

Harry, thank you for this very special treat! Can't wait to see the show!



Friday, May 4, 2012

How To Be A Kite


This week has been an exercise in understanding a little bit more what I have power over and what I do not. And the truth is there is very little I have power over. I have power over what I put in my body and this week it's been homemade banana-chocolate-chip bread, lots of kale, french fries and a homemade soup. But even that feels like sometimes I am powerless over. I have power over whether I wake up at 5:45 or 6:45 and this week I have chosen to let my body sleep more and wake up an hour later. I have power over how warmly I dress but I don't have power over a change in weather. I am powerless over my gut reactions and powerless over unexpected heartaches. I am powerless over a cold, over allergies, over acne. The best I can hope for is taking extra care of myself and a good, albeit temporary, decongestant. I am powerless over other people's feelings and sometimes my own. I am powerless over other people. Period. I have the power to clip my fingernails or bite them, but the truth is I prefer to have something to bite on. I have the power to spend $2.25 on a cookie or not, and thankfully, I decided on not. I'm powerless over knowing when I need help but have the power to ask for it when it does occur to me. I am powerless over taking away someone's pain, but I can offer love, always. I am powerless over what life has in store for me, but I have the power to be open and welcome it and all of its uncertainty. I have the power to put one foot in front of the other, but I am powerless over anything that falls before me along the road. I have the power to stand on two feet, but I am powerless over how big the sun decides my shadow will be. I am powerless over my compulsion to want to feel powerful and control and pre-determine and manage outcomes and worry over the unknown and protect my heart from things that may hurt, but I'm learning how to accept things, accept life. I'm learning how to sit still and be a part of the world instead of trying to run it. It looks like a lot more fun to be a kite in the sky than an oil tanker in the sea.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

No Mud, No Lotus

No tramps, no tramp stamps! Until we meet again, my tattooed comrades! For now, check out some of my tramp stamp faves, Melissa in Indianapolis and Julie in Oregon