Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Day America Changed Forever

I cannot go through my life and skip past this date without some recognition: September 11, 2001. Need I say more? It was the day that America, and, life as we knew it, changed forever:
Everyone has dates that stand out in their minds for one reason or another, but, this date is a day we all share. It connects every single one of us together. We all wear it on our faces and our thoughts or words cannot escape it every year. September 11, 2001 marks the day that an evil force slipped through our security and unleashed the most hateful and largest massacre from a foreign enemy on our sacred soil.
I was not born yet when Kennedy was shot, I barely remember Elvis dying, and, up until this point, the only national event that really impacted me was the Challenger Space Shuttle exploding. So, I will have to say that this event is the "Where were you when...?" question of my existence.

So, where was I when I first heard about the first plane crashing? I was at work at the corporate office for the home builder I told you about in my last entry. It was a typical day and I was in my "hurry up and get it done" mode that I used to slay my stacks upon stacks of purchase orders that I had to issue. The hallway outside my office was busy and I could see a steady blur of coworkers and trade partners whizzing by out of the corner of my eye. Then, it got quiet.....really really quiet... UNUSUALLY quiet. My office was in the rear of the building and I soon noticed that I was the only one around in my section. It was too early to be lunch, but, no people. ANYWHERE. There was one hallway that I did not frequent often, "management row," where the big wigs were. It was a long corridor where the executive assistants, Vice President, Sales Manager, and the President and Owner of our company occupied. My entry level position did not call for me to brush elbows with this crowd much, but, neither did a lot of others that were piling up as far as I could see down that hallway. So, I curiously joined the steady flow of people gravitating towards the biggest office at the end of the hall, although I did not immediately know why.
The only television in our office building was in that big office and the news of the first plane crashing was blaring out into all of our surprised ears. Most were listening and some were talking quietly among themselves, then, we were nicely nudged to get back to work after we shared some initial reactions. It seemed like a tragic accident, nothing more and nothing less.
So, I returned to my desk, and, by this time, my radio station had discontinued the music and a steady flow of news was streaming through my speakers, for the rest of the morning, as I tried to return to my workload. When the news of the other crashes started flooding the airways, it quickly became evident that this was not an accident. Our beloved nation was under attack. It became impossible to concentrate on anything else as each report elevated more emotions in all of us, and, that was the only day I can remember when the phone calls, faxes, and loads of paperwork piled up and it didn't matter.
Every September 11th since then, I usually spend all day avoiding the television. This year, I spent the majority of my day doing my impression of Edward Scissor hands in the yard with my clippers. The thought of staying inside and catching a glimpse of any of the original news footage of 9/11, especially the clip of the plane flying into the tower, is always too much for me to bear every year. So, this year, I chose to head outside and I feverishly clipped and chopped at the bushes for hours and caught up on much needed yard work as a productive distraction. Even though, my eyes were spared of those images, my mind raced through most of them all over again anyway. I am going to finish this entry with the same reoccurring thoughts I always have every year:

President Bush was in my town that day! He was sitting in a chair reading to local school children when a man from his team whispered about the first plane crashing into the World Trade Center in his ear. Regardless of how you feel about President Bush, imagine being him at that moment! He was being video taped and having to stay composed in front of all of those little eyes looking up at him while being informed of such news.
Those innocent passengers and flight crew members and what a shitty twist of fate they were all forced to be a part of. They were trapped on those doomed planes carrying out suicide attacks against their will. What were their initial reactions when the hijackers went into action? I think about how horrific their last images and emotions were.
The people inside those towers and at the Pentagon. So many people started their days in ordinary ways, hitting snooze on the alarm clock, grabbing one last cup of coffee before running out the door, kissing their honey goodbye, dropping the kiddies off at school, then, off to work like any other day. They never knew that typical morning they would be killed instantly or end up trapped inside crowded, dark and smoky corridors fighting for their lives in a couple of hours.
How about the heroic battle in mid air between the terrorists and passengers who fought back on Flight 93? What a triumphant moment that could have been, but, it ended in tragedy, like the rest of the planes, except it was maneuvered into a field in Pennsylvania. Where would that plane have ended up and how many more would have perished if those passengers did not get out of their seats and fight back?
My final comment is where did all the loyalty and patriotism go? Every house around town had an American flag raised. We stood together as a nation, bruised, but, not defeated and we mourned our losses and showed a united support for our government and our military as they fought back. Then, slowly, the flags disappeared, Bush's approval ratings tanked, the war is still going on, and, the only time I hear about any of the emotion is on its anniversary. I realize we can't talk about it everyday, but, despite our political views, we must support our military as long as they are still out there and I miss seeing those flags up reflecting our faith and pride.

Last month on 9/11/09, I put up our American flag outside our front entry as a symbol of remembrance and respect for that day 8 years ago. My five year old son asked me, "why I put the flag up?" and I told him, in the most simplest terms so he could understand, that "our flag represents our country" and I put it up that morning "to show others that we were remembering and respecting a day our country and our people were hurt really bad." He asked me "why we couldn't keep it up every day if it was a nice thing to do?" Pretty profound for a five year old! I had no good answer as to why we should take it down , and, I have kept our flag up ever since, which I used as the image.

One final fact to absorb: (as found on Answers.com - http://wiki.answers.com/Q/How_many_people_died_in_the_September_11_2001_attacks)


"In total 3,497 people died in the attacks on 11 September 2001:
2,735 civilians in the World Trade Center died
87 passengers and crew members aboard American Airlines Flight 11 that hit the North Tower
60 passengers and crew aboard United Flight 175 that hit the South Tower
343 New York City firefighters and rescue workers and 23 New York City law enforcement officers, 47 Port Authority workers and 37 Port Authority Police Officers, lost their lives when they rushed in to save the victims in the World Trade Center
36 passengers and crew aboard United Flight 93, who gave their lives stopping four hijackers over Pennsylvania
64 passengers and crew aboard American Airlines Flight 77 that crashed into the Pentagon, killing them and 125 people in the building.
In addition -
19 cowards - the terrorists who hijacked four airliners and murdered 3,497 people - also died."

Monday, October 26, 2009

The Land of Sunshine

Ah, Florida....the land of sunshine!
....where bathing beauties frolic on the sandy beaches.

While everyone else is catching colds and shoveling snow, we are down here in sunny Florida playing golf, fishing, or lounging around on the beach swigging that famously sweet and delicious orange juice without a care in the world!

These vintage postcards depicting the tropical paradise Florida has to offer makes me want to crank up Jimmy Buffet and drink a fruity cocktail in my beach chair while I listen to the soothing sounds of the waves rolling in and watch the amazing sun set over the palm trees. Isn't life just grand in Florida!?!

To be honest, living in Florida is more like watching a revolving door spin around all day long than feeling like I am sitting right smack dab in the middle of a tropical paradise! Florida has become a gathering place full of tourists, snowbirds, retirees and transplants migrating here every day to find their American dream. When the economy is good and the hurricane season is quiet, apparently, Florida is the place to be! You can always tell when the perfect balance is happening by watching our real estate market, and, the sound of sales and construction can be heard in every direction.
In the year 2000, after supporting myself with retail and trying to clear my head with art classes, I accepted a job offer with a custom home builder. It was not a national chain but a local company that had a certain prestige and reputation for building extraordinary homes. It was an exciting place to work and it was in the midst of tripling its building expectations when I jumped aboard.
Florida real estate was booming then and I jumped in and caught the right wave just in time! Over the next couple of years, I worked at a feverish pace to keep up with the demand of new homes we were constructing for everyone trying to capture a piece of Florida and the profitable boom going on. I was not happy to see our quaint little circus town turning into a busy city with new construction as far as the eyes could see but it was happening regardless if I was a part of it or not. Our company, like many others, grew from 85 homes to over 400 homes a year. My salary steadily grew and I hungered for every bonus check I earned. It meant I was funding my foundation for my own American dream even more.
With my earnings, I was able to transform my cute little fixer upper into a comfortable space and my boyfriend and I decided it was time to spread our wings and see some more of the world beyond our backyard. Travel became our favorite past time, and, the busier we got, the more I wanted to be anywhere else than in Florida. The whirlwind of paperwork and long days at the office started taking its toll on me and my attitude towards my home town. So, every couple of months, we hopped on a plane and went to so many wonderful places that I couldn't quite understand why everybody was flocking our way, but, I thanked God that they were because, most importantly, they were giving me plenty of job security.
I guess that goes back to the old saying that "you don't know what you got until it's gone" and I am sure my attitude about Florida for the past several years has been spoiled by, what I see, as a crowded place with too many mosquitoes, unbearable humidity and no change of seasons. I do appreciate the beaches and sunshine but would gladly welcome a cool breeze and view of the mountains sometimes. However, in the year 2000 in Florida, I could see beyond my developing dislikes and really appreciate where I was in this place. That year brought me love, financial security, home owner ship, and a renewed confidence in myself. Not a bad way to start a new millennium!

Do you like where you live or where is your ideal place to escape to?

Image Credit: Reproduction of a vintage postcards found on http://www.bing.com/


Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The "American Dream"

I love this picture! The quaint and well kept home, the manicured lawn, a crisp blue sky with no dark clouds, Mom in her freshly ironed dress picking flowers while little Johnny helps. You can tell it is almost time for her to place them in a crystal vase, throw on her favorite apron and whip up a nutritious, yet, satisfying dinner for her beloved husband after his hard day at work...Do those days still exist or were they just unattainable figments of our imagination from watching too many "Leave it to Beaver" episodes? I didn't know the answer after Art school, but, I loved this idea and I was ready to find, or even attempt, my own version of it.
So, let me introduce you to the "American Dream!" Humor me and try saying it at least once out loud with some level of enthusiasm, "The American Dream!" Doesn't that just sound....lovely? This dream we share as Americans may have started with our founding fathers who might have referenced it in the Declaration of Independence when they stated that it is our right to have "Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness." Our country and its passionate history has inspired many to believe that there is a certain spirit present within our land.
However, the term was first used in 1931 by James Truslow Adams in his book, The Epic of America. He stated: "The American Dream is that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement." So, there you have it! The true definition of the "American Dream" by the inventor of the term! Okay, so, now what? How do you exactly get it? Nope, not one single or exact answer that I have been able to find. Well, I was definitely looking for happier first. Then, maybe better and richer would follow?
After graduating from Art school and realizing that the term "starving artist" exists for a reason, I was forced to start soul searching again. I didn't figure out a direction right away, but, I kept thinking it was time for me to find my version of the "American Dream!" Then, I got lazy and uninspired! I wasted a good couple years accomplishing nothing before I started kicking myself again.... really hard!
I finally decided I was sick of daydreaming! It was time to accomplish this goal of home ownership and fulfilling the rest of my dreams of prosperity, marriage and parenting. I had to give my life, at that time, a complete overhaul! No more dead end job, no more relationship that was going nowhere, no more excuses! I was the ripe old age of 27, for god's sake, and I was supposed to be the hell raiser that wasn't afraid to shake the boat, right?
So, I tackled one issue at a time: I started saving money for a down payment and got pre-approved for a loan, broke off an unhealthy relationship so I would be completely available for Mr. Right, quit a nowhere fast job that I had only taken to pay the bills and landed something entry level, but, it was full of potential for further growth. It took me about a year but I did it! So, when I started dating a potential Mr. Right, enjoyed my new job and the potential opportunities attached to it, and grabbed the keys to my first home I purchased all by myself, life was good! I had found the beginning to my version of the "American Dream!"
Of course, it didn't hurt that I had picked a good time to adjust my attitude! The world around me was booming! The economy was thriving, jobs were available, real estate was affordable, and, for the most part, people were happy and doing well. There was a lot of evidence of the "American Dream" and I was over the moon with this life I had finally created for myself! I prospered, like everyone else, not knowing what was slowly growing and lurking around the corner.....

There are many interpretations of the "American Dream" and I would love to hear you describe your version!

1st image credit: found on http://www.retrorenovation.com/ - Original Illustration from the National Plan Service courtesy Indiana Coal & Lumber company
2nd image credit: http://www.sewterific.com/images/PatrioticBaskets/American_Dream.JPG

Sunday, October 18, 2009

The Wild Thing In All of Us


I have been talking a lot about Art and I believe imagination is one of the essential ingredients for any artist. As a viewer, it is a mixture of imagery and interpretation that makes really good art for me: A photograph with a dreamlike quality, a painting that stirs thoughts, or a wonderful story that convinces its audience to believe beyond reason -all things that encourage me to get lost in the moment.
So, today's entry is about the imagination and a beloved story that is being recognized on the big screen that captivated me as a child, and, hopefully, will unleash more chronic daydreamers.



I am the second and youngest daughter in my family. My mother has often said, "If I had you first, I don't think I would have had anymore!" I would love to interpret this as a sweet remark that meant I was a such a gift of pure perfection that there was no need for anymore. However, I know this is NOT what she is trying to say! Then, she will not hesitate to further explain that, as a young child, I was loud, difficult, and mischievous.
Despite her efforts, you could usually find me with a filthy face and long tangled hair sitting high up in a tree plotting my next great adventure. Being girly wasn't always fun but dreaming up stories to act out and getting dirty was! So, when I was around 8 or 9 and read Where The Wild Things Are for the first time, I had found a book that spoke my language!
The whole story is only ten sentences, but, what a story! Finally, no more sugar coated fairy tales with princesses in frilly ball gowns dancing around while birds chirped! I had found a book about a child who thrived on making mischief, despite the harsh consequences, and, distracted himself away from punishments with his runaway imagination! He sailed away in his mind to a land with a mysterious and wild forest and created a world without boundaries where huge monsters gave him free reign and crowned him king! (Oh, yes, then back to reality to eat his still hot supper later!) Perfect! So, it was a little far fetched, but, so was my imagination at that time!
Today, I had the incredible opportunity to share this story in the form of a movie with my two young boys. I honestly didn't know how such an imaginative adventure would translate onto the big screen and I was a little afraid the main character would look like a little brat running around wild with a bunch of goofy looking muppets. My 3 year old would not complain regardless of the outcome, but, my 5 year old would not let me away with it as easily. So, I was praying for theatrical magic to occur and it did. The movie captured the many emotions of childhood just like the book, and, how much easier it is to escape conflict while you still can.
I glanced often at my sons' faces and reveled in watching their expressions. They grinned, laughed, and believed in the story the way I did when I was that girl with the filthy face and tangled hair. It's amazing how something like that can stir up such fond memories and it gave me the chance to create new ones with my own children. It was good to be reminded about my days of chronic daydreaming and the wild things I created in my own mind and I was thrilled to see this movie encourage a new generation to unleash the wild thing in all of us once again.


Image Credit: Cover of Where the Wild Things Are, a 1963 children's book by American writer & illustrator Maurice Sendak

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Rescue Boat

So, the winds of change are blowing me in a new direction today and I am ready to spend some time looking back at my art student years...........
Mark Twain once said, "Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover."

Ah, what nice advice! Thank you for such an inspiring quote, Mr. Twain!
I don't know about you, but, I have never liked that unresolved feeling from a missed opportunity. In this case, it was in the form of my ship sailing away without me. So, when my second chance drifted up, it may have been smaller and not as grand as the luxury liner I first missed, but, it was just what I had been waiting for! A sturdy and well equipped rescue boat. It did not guarantee that there would be no more rough seas ahead, but, it kindly offered me everything I needed to weather any storms and all I had to do was willingly climb aboard. "Okay, that sounds fair enough to me," I thought. So, I had made a deal with the rescue boat, pushed it off the beach, and hopped right on with a gust of determination in my sails. I was ready this time, and, for quite awhile, it was nothing but smooth sailing.
However, I was eventually reminded of a very well known fact about all boats, no matter their shape or size. They all rock and rocking the boat is not always a bad thing! I have actually found it to be completely necessary sometimes. I am, most of the time, fearless, and, to be honest, safe harbors, are...well...safe! You can't always learn in life if you merely stick to your comfort zone. So, I had to rock it!!!! I threw on my life vest and held on hard as I fell back on my strengths to guide me through the rougher waters.
Up until that point, my style was strictly Fine Arts and I did well in courses like Figure Drawing and Art Appreciation. The rest was completely new to me. So, when I advanced into Graphic Design, Desktop Publishing, and Photography, I had to learn how to infuse my style into these unfamiliar forms, not just well enough to pass the classes, but, to satisfy the high expectations that I had set for myself. So, did I pull through the waves and catch the wind back in my sails?
To answer this question, I actually dug deep under my bed this morning, past the dust bunnies and mismatched shoes, and pulled out my portfolio case. I sat there quietly on the floor and flipped through my artwork with a proud grin on my face. I realized that rescue boat gave me purpose, adventure, confidence, comfort, and, that wind blew a renewed sense of energy right back into me. I did have high expectations and I did live up to them! There was some really good stuff in there and I MADE IT! What a nice feeling it is to glance threw those pages even to this day!
It has not been quite twenty years yet since I boarded that rescue boat and let the warm wind carry me from the safe harbor into the place where I made that artwork, but, a couple of more years are not going to change my mind. I know I explored, dreamed, and discovered life as Mark Twain strongly recommended! The proof is in that portfolio case!

Image Credit: Photographic Print - Rescue Boat, Atlantic City, NJ

Sunday, October 11, 2009

My "Happy Place"

The forecast for today's entry is warm and sunny with low humidity and plenty of happy thoughts (Okay, the warm and sunny part is no surprise and happy thoughts sounds great, but, the low humidity part? You don't have to tell me! I already know! It's a pile of hopeful yet unrealistic wishful thinking from this Floridian girl!)


Anyways.......



What do you think about to lift your spirits when you are having a tough times/cloudy skies kind of day? Here is a list of things that literally stop me dead in my tracks and instantly transport me to my "happy place":

Light houses - They are recognized for steering mariners away from potentially hazardous areas. Hmmm? A light house is something that is known for helping you maneuver your way around possibly dangerous or hurtful situations...maybe there is a hidden meaning in this one?? I don't know. I just really like them and have always been drawn to them.
On a recent vacation, I spotted a light house from the mainland and convinced my not as enthusiastic husband to ride to it with me. We were on ancient bicycles the Bed & Breakfast provided, it was extremely hot and muggy and we couldn't really tell how far away it actually was BUT my husband knows there is no way of steering me in another direction when we are dealing with something from my "happy place" list. So, off we went...sweating and peddling....peddling and sweating...then....click clack...SNAP! The chain on my bicycle broke! We were half way there, covered in sweat, stuck on the side of the road, and my husband was declaring, "You have got to be F***ing kidding me!," over and over again. Okay, "minor setback," I thought as I tried to play it off as no big deal. Then, when I realized he wasn't calming down, I went into the "don't even mess with me! I am a fearless warrior who cannot be stopped" mode! "We are almost there! Just be quiet, slip the chain back on, or, we will just push it to the light house!," I commanded. His expression told me without anymore expletives needed that we were not on the same page!
So, if all else fails, my last resort with him is always to flash the puppy dog eyes and the cheesy and toothy grin. "Ridiculous!," he muttered, but, he gave in and tried to fix the chain. It slipped off two more times, his hands were covered in oil and our clothes were drenched with sweat, but, I made it to that light house and I loved him for not depriving me of that moment!




Train whistles - I love hearing the sound of a train whistle. We have no tracks near our house but I have occasionally heard them far off in the distance and I always stop, listen, and smile. My dad loved trains and there is probably a certain sentiment there for that reason but its sound also has some kind of nostalgic spirit to it. At one time, it is was the premier form of travel. There was a certain hustle and bustle kind of excitement about boarding a train back in the day that still remains. "May I have your ticket, please." "Watch your step," and, the final big remark, "Last call! All aboard!".... A slow "chuga chuga" until a comfortable and steady speed is reached....Then, the true beauty of riding in a train begins! From that moment on, it is a sweet invitation to just sit back, get cozy, and gaze out a glorious window that is constantly capturing the landscape passing by.
We took our children on the "Polar Express" ride last year when we were on vacation in North Carolina. They both received their special boarding ticket, their cup of hot cocoa, and plenty of songs and good cheer before we reached the train company's version of the "North Pole." Truly magical, and, yes, I listened and smiled plenty of times to that train whistle!





Gardenias - Their fragrance is simply intoxicating to me. I can't walk by them without pausing and take a big SNIFF. We had a gardenia bush at my house when I was a child. So, there might be a connection there.
There was also a Gardenia Bush outside my old office building at my last job. When that bush bloomed, you could walk through the hallways and smell them everywhere. A bunch of us would pull the flowers off and stick them into those Styrofoam coffee cups full of water and sit them at our desks. If the phone was ringing too much, SNIFF the gardenia. If I had to walk past the stinky Men's Bathroom one more time to get to the fax machine, SNIFF SNIFF the gardenia. I have added three more responsibilities to your job description, but, the economy is so bad and you are not going to get a raise this year for any of them, SNIFF SNIFF SNIFF the gardenia! Okay, so, maybe it didn't totally take away all of my frustrations, but, it smelled AWESOME!





Dogs - I have no problem telling you why they are considered man's best friend (or woman's best friend, in my case) They are completely loyal, fiercely protective, unconditionally loving, and an endless source of companionship and laughs.They wag their tail, lick you clean, and playfully dodge at you to let you know that they are ALWAYS happy to see you. What a good feeling to come home to after a crappy day!
If you are even going to tell me that they shed, have fleas, and lick their groin and try to kiss you after!! Well, I've had boyfriends worse than that! So, bring on that adorable pooch anytime and I will not walk past that wonderful creature without a fuss.







My Wedding Song - "With a smile, you pull the deepest secrets from my heart. In all honesty, I'm speechless and I don't know where to start..." Oh, come on, you knew there had to be one mushy feel good place! I will literally stop everything, find my husband, if he is home, and make him dance with me if it comes on the radio. Okay, so, obvious question, what do I do if I am by myself when I hear my happy tune? I still swoon and sway..by myself! Oh, yes, I do.








Irish Music - Ireland will always hold a special place in my heart. My mother is from there and always made sure that her half American children knew their heritage.
She sang Irish ballads, decorated our hair with green, white and orange ribbons on St. Patrick's Day, and tried to teach us how to dance a jig. I never mastered the steps but I learned how to really enjoy the music, especially when I got older.
She took us there several times and it was always an absolute treat to be in such a beautiful country full of people with a passion for life. Their music oozes that same passion. It is fun, uplifting, and full of energy. Instant "happy place." I have no rhythm what so ever, but, I will awkwardly jump around and attempt the Irish jig any time, anywhere, and, celebrate my great heritage.




Ford Mustang - Everyone remembers their first car! You may have loved it or hated it, but, you definitely have memories of it. Now, I am no expert on cars but I LOVED mine! It was a 1975 Ford Mustang and that year represented a new era for the Mustang. It was smaller and considered much more upscale. I had the Silver Luxury upgrade model and that would have set me back a whopping $151 more in '75! Oh yeah! The cranberry colored crushed velour upholstery, sleek silver paint, matching half-vinyl top, and stand up hood ornament, I had it! Okay, it was 1987 when I got it, the eight track player was a major let down, the A/C didn't work, and that sleek paint was a little rusty, but, it had a V-8 engine. It was fast, it was cool, and, it was mine! I don't see too many on the road anymore, but, oh, how it brings me back every time I do!





Art - Paintings, photos, sculptures, architecture...It doesn't matter...any shape or form of it.....It is certainly going to get a look from me!
If there is a statue; I will gaze upon it. If there is a photo laying out; I will pick it up. Sand castle, street chalk, yep, can't walk past them either. You cannot rush me through museums or bore me with photo albums. Walk me through a historical building and I will study every inch of it. When I realized I was pretty good at drawing and I had an eye for art, it was my ultimate and never ending happy place!




I was lucky enough to go back to Art School when I left nursing. It was at a community college, not the prestigious and nationally recognized Art Institute I once got accepted to; I received a grant, not the scholarship I missed out on; I was 24, not 18 and just starting out. Did any of that matter to me? ABSOLUTELY NOT! I was finally back on track and that moment was like "seeing a helpful lighthouse, listening to a nostalgic train whistle, smelling the fragrant gardenias, being licked by an adorable pooch, swaying with my husband to our wedding song, dancing an energetic Irish jig, and driving that extremely cool and fast car once again" all rolled up into one kind of "happy place" moment!


What sights, sounds, or smells transport you to your "happy place?"


All images were found through http://www.bing.com/



















Thursday, October 8, 2009

Person at the Window

Salvador Dali is a prime example of pushing thoughts to the extreme. He was highly imaginative, and, when he combined his mind bending imagery with his brilliant artistic skills, he left behind a multitude of bizarre yet striking works of art. So, it might seem a little unusual that I have chosen to focus on one of his more simpler and not as well known paintings.
However, this image of a person gazing out the window has always captivated me. It has an incredible dreamlike quality and invites you to use your own imagination instead of Dali lending you his. It truly reflects the emotions that I was riddled with after losing my father to cancer and deciding to get off my path in nursing.
So, let's look more closely at this image (even though seeing it on such a small scale does not do it justice) and listen to my interpretation of it: Notice how your eyes are first met with a bare and dreary room. It seems as if he is trying to blend the girl right into this room by draping her body and demeanor with the same isolated and drab feeling. Then, you are immediately drawn into the serene landscape she is gazing upon. The clear blue and gentle water is an enticing mode of transportation to a more colorful and civilized land not far away. She is trapped and her only view point to that brighter and more inviting world is that window, but, her foot is arched indicating that she may be pushing herself towards it. We purposely cannot see her face and its emotion. So, we do not know if she is ready to entirely take that leap of faith.
Salvador Dali captured a moment we can all relate to....a moment of complete despair mixed with a glimpse of hope that things can only get better.
So, there I was. I was trapped, so to say, in a room just like that, but, I knew that my life had to go on somehow. I was just so unsure of what I was going to see, though, when I found my window in my gloomy room, that I almost didn't even want to look. However, it was too hard not to notice and it was too tempting to ignore any longer.
So, I slowly crept up to my window, and, took a little peek. To my surprise, I saw an old friend, still familiar and comforting, reassuringly looking back at me. I was completely over joyed that it was still there, right where I had left it, and, wanting to embrace me again. That's the thing, though, with old friends. There is an unspoken loyalty that you have with them, and, an unbiased love that never dies. So, I trusted it, without any hesitation, and, eagerly leaped out of my window and swore to never let go of it again!

Image Credit: Salvador Dali - "Person at the Window" also referred to as the "Figure at the Window" - 1925

There is an excellent website dedicated to Salvador Dali and I encourage you to visit it and take a break from reality for a little while: http://www.virtualdali.com/

Monday, October 5, 2009

The Man from Habersham

"Who is that man?," you ask. Well, let me tell you all about him:
His long journey began in a beautiful two story white house that sat up high on a hill in Habersham, Georgia. He was the oldest of three boys and he liked to play baseball. His favorite ice cream flavor was chocolate. He was smart and did well at school. He was inquisitive and always trying to figure things out. When his path took him away from that hill in Habersham, it led him to all kinds of extraordinary places. One path took him straight into World War II when our country called on him to be a soldier. Another path took him to the hustle and bustle of New York City where he worked hard in the textile industry. Then, another path led him all the way over the ocean to Ireland where he met his future wife.
The path I remember well was the one that led him to that sleepy circus town I told you about. Do you remember that bike I loved so much with the sparkly blue seat and handle bar streamers? Well, that man you see before you taught me how to ride that bike! He ran behind it, on that uneven sidewalk, holding on firmly so I wouldn't fall while I learned to balance. Yes, I have a lot of endearing memories of that man....How he gently held my hand and never let go first; How he could always read my mind without asking any questions; I can even still hear his catch phrase, "go get 'em tiger," all of those times I needed a little reassurance. He showed me how to drive a car, he taught me about the world and he encouraged me to dream. He was my dad.
On August 25, 1995, he lost his life after a courageous battle with cancer. I was one month shy of my 24th birthday and a lifetime away from handling this kind of grief. However, for him, there was finally no more suffering, no more rounds of radiation, no more intolerable pain, no more debilitating cancer....just peace.
His death was my first real lesson in heartache and the beginning of many missed opportunities. (also known as regrets) Those gentle hands that never let go first, well, they weren't there to reach out and walk me down the aisle on my wedding day. They weren't there to proudly hold his grandsons for the first time. It just didn't seem fair to lose him when there were still so many wonderful events ahead of us.
However, I have learned a couple of meaningful things from this. In a world full of dead beat dads and struggling single moms, I had an incredible father for 23 years! Unfortunately, not everyone can say that! So, that man from Habersham served me well and I am able to always keep him alive in my thoughts and through the many tales I tell his grand children about their papa.
Secondly, I realized that everything happens for a reason. I have talked about roads and where they lead us to. Well, my path in nursing led me straight to the one my dad was on when he had cancer. My training prepared me to help him down that path all the way to the end when he became too weak to travel it on his own. I chose to leave nursing after he died, but, I am forever grateful that I took that path when I did. It just took me five years to realize why!

Note: This photo of my dad is nestled in a frame on my bedside table. I chose it because I love the hat and the old Hollywood charm about it. Also, he was at the age when he left Habersham and began his many adventures. Love you and miss you dad.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Richard Simmons Anyone???

Okay, so, I will admit it! I am still mentally worn out from Monday's entry! This blogging (oops! sorry...online journal) is not easy!!! I have been continuously reaching so deep into my soul for this workout that I forgot how old and out of shape I am! So, today, I am literally dragging myself to the computer and warming up SLOWLY so I don't sprain something, and, (sob!) never write again!!
However, I must warn you now before you go any further!! If you are expecting a Jane Fonda workout from me today, stop reading now! I am literally looking and feeling more like a SPUNKY yet EMOTIONAL Richard Simmons (thanks to three cups of espresso and a good cry!) So, now that I have let it all out and have ingested enough caffeine for ten humans, it's time to cue Richard and warm up into the next phase of my life....my roaring twenties!
Let me, first of all, just throw it out there that I have always been ridiculously mature and determined at any age! So, it was no surprise to me that by the ripe old age of 19, I had graduated from nursing school, passed my state board and earned my license and landed my first nursing job (a challenge is still a challenge even if my heart wasn't really in it!) Wonderful, you say!?! Well, yes, but, it all kind of left me feeling like, "why am I in such a big rush to grow up and be so responsible?" Most of my friends were slowly transitioning into adulthood. Why couldn't I be like them and go to community college and work in the mall? Nope, not me! I was full speed ahead (Come on, Richard! Work it!! Work it!!) and I kept that feverish pace going for the next couple of years. The paychecks justified all of the hard work I had to do, but, don't forget, I was still an artist underneath.
So, when I spent three years of my career in a nursing home, I decided to inject passion and humor into everything I did just like.....Richard Simmons! I always had a soft spot for the elderly and I went above and beyond to give them quality (not just quantity) of life. I could be a nurse and a spiritual cheerleader, right!?! So, that's what I did. I went out of my way to get a smile, or even better, a laugh out of my patients. I took them outside to enjoy the sunshine and held their hands as they emotionally recalled their youth. I celebrated their birthdays and was truly saddened when they passed away. If I had to do this, I was going to do it my way and with the same flair I applied to my own life! I will "sweat to the oldies" and do the Richard Simmons! That is the attitude I put on every time I slipped into those uncomfortable uniforms!
I firmly believe that everything happens for a reason and this nursing experience of mine was, unknowingly, at that time, preparing me for the next monumental event in my life. So, are you still here and dancing around with me and Richard? What's that? You are asking, "What happened? What event?" Well, you will have to wait and see! The next entry will be one of my hardest to re-live and the coffee is wearing off.
So, it is time for me to turn off the workout video, get out of these ridiculously tiny candy striped shorts before my unsightly ass cheeks pop out, and, aaaagggghhh, rest for now......(But I can't leave without saying thank you to that zany and inspiring fitness guru, Mr. Simmons, for another wonderfully wacky workout)

What do you do to help you get through your tough days?

Image Credit: http://www.freewebs.com/swiv/simmons.jpg