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New works

New works, small paintings done in Caran d’Ache (wax crayons)
with gloss finish, images © 2010 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.




I love ‘em and hate ‘em. If it weren’t for art shows, I don’t think I’d ever make art. In fact, making art in the midst of living the rest of my life is the pits. There’s got to be a better way to be consistent.

But the good news is, I love making art again. How did I last however many months I did without it? My friend Laurence turned me on to these wonderful waxy crayons, and I happened to have a bunch of small (3″x 3″ — that small!) wooden canvasses, so I played around with collage and color.  And I did my usual pendants and bracelets.


hand-with-eye-(new)My dilemma: How to make art every day? Or every week, or even every other week?

I love the tedium of it. It’s technical and minute, and even when I’m coloring outside the lines I’m still focused on one canvas. I love how my mind goes from being a net to being a funnel whenever I make art.

There’s a sound associated with that feeling. It goes something like Ffvooom.

That’s my lesson for today. Shows are hard, but shows are good. They make me show up for my art. And if I limit myself to two a year, then I can’t complain. I just got to stop procrastinating.


 

♥ ♣ ♥


Tomorrow I’ll be the featured artist at a wonderful little bakehouse called Cravin’ Cookies. It’s one of those best-kept-secret type places, inside an old house. Barb, the owner, makes the tastiest baked goods. I love her flour-less chocolate torte. And her Key Lime pie. And peanut butter cookies. Yum!

Hope to see my Albuquerque friends tomorrow!



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The first weekend of May is a special time in the sleepy village where I live.

(A side note on villages: Aren’t they always sleepy? That’s what makes them villages. Not cities; not even towns. Ours truly is a village, incorporated as such in 1971. Hence, it is known as The Village of Corrales, and there has been since I can recall a sign that says something to the effect of “Drive slow and see our animals, drive fast and see our judge.” I know, it’s not the most grammatically correct sign. But what do you expect from a village?)

May 1 and 2 are the days when many of the artists and craftspeople who call Corrales “home” open up their studios and galleries and invite the public to visit.


Corrales Art Studio Tour, poster © 2010 by Krysteen Wazask. All rights reserved.




I am participating in the Corrales Art Studio Tour with two other artists, in a centuries-old former dance hall — now a creative space called Movement Studios — that sits in the center of Corrales.

(A side note on the center of Corrales: You know you’re there when you see a road sign warning Congested Area. Whenever Jim and I approach the sign he coughs and sniffles, at which point I, having forgotten that he does this every time we drive through the village, ask, “Something wrong?” He points to the sign, clears his throat, and says, “Congested Area.”)

Although I am quietly panicking over the fact that I’m behind on making art, I am deeply grateful to be spending the weekend with two talented artists who are also kind and lovely individuals. I’ve known them for only a short while yet I am honored to share this experience with them both.

(A side note on artists: I stand in awe of most simply because I’m blown away by their talent. But not all artists are likable, and there are some I probably wouldn’t choose to get to know. Well, these two artists are people I want to know better. Seeing their art and learning what moves them makes me want to know more about their lives, past and present. They are creative and authentic. Buena gente, as we say in Spanish.)

Here is a bit about them, starting with the one I met first.



_________________________________________________________________________________________________

john toomey





Working Memory-Resurrection-Fern and Working Memory-Hymn-Recording, 30″ x 24″ mixed media paintings, images © 2010 by John Toomey. All rights reserved.



My art is communion with natural form. My imagery, which stems from both observation and improvisation, is born from dreaming upon the horizon, both drifting towards sky and descending into soil. My work is a contemplation of forces that shape, veil, reveal, and reshape forms of nature. It is a dialogue between abstraction and representation, cause and effect, growth and decay.


WORKING MEMORY


I am an artist, arts educator, and twenty-year resident of New Mexico. I teach art to pre-school and elementary aged children at Cottonwood School in Corrales. I make landscape-based abstractions, mostly mixed media paintings on paper. And although I have a profound love for my New Mexico home, it is the landscape of rural west Tennessee that set me on a path towards becoming an artist.

I spent most of my childhood outdoors, roaming and exploring the fields and woods that surrounded my home. As a teen I began to realize an interest for drawing and painting, finding my primary source of inspiration and imagery out in those familiar places. In those fields I dug a well that continues to provide, regardless of where I put down roots.

This is especially true with respect to my current body of work entitled “Working Memory,” a series of paintings in progress that return me to home and deal with the loss of that home. These are mixed-media works on paper, made with acrylic, pastel, watercolor, and bits of organic debris, pressed flowers, leaves, and soil. Most importantly though, this series deals with the ever so gradual loss of my mother as a result of Alzheimer’s disease.

My mom’s greatest love was taking care of our home, gardening and tending to the flowers, trees, and birds. I know her greatest desire was to live out her days in that beautiful place, but sadly she no longer recognizes her family or remembers her flowers.

“Working Memory” is about a boy paying homage to his mother, remembering the gifts that she instilled within him — a deep love of nature and a purposeful connection to place.

I dedicate this work to my mom but also to all who have experienced loss as a result of Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.



_________________________________________________________________________________________________

mary hobbs




Bahamas, photo © 2010 by Mary Hobbs. All rights reserved.





I carry my camera with me all the time, photographing my young children and their friends at the grocery store, dentist’s office, just before bed. Watching them at play or in repose, I am compelled to take pictures. This practice is a way for me to discover something profound in everyday mundaneness, to recall events from my own past and explore a child’s emotional landscapes.

I am especially intrigued by how our psychological world can be so different from the physical space we inhabit, how different each child’s experience can be in the same moment — one joyful, the other stressed, another bored.

In a poolside snapshot of a little girl, the traditional touchstones of a carefree childhood — a Popsicle on a sunny day, being wrapped in a warm towel after exiting the pool — are missing. Instead she is surrounded by oversized sneakers, a barrel trash can and rough blades of brass. This image is not so much a photograph of a happy child at the pool, but something more complicated. It is this complication, this juxtaposition of objects in a child’s physical space and the child’s response to this juxtaposition that fascinates me.



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I hope you will come and visit with us on May 1 and 2, in the center of the sleepy village of Corrales. Our address is 4605 Corrales Road (#25, #26, and #27 on the studio tour map). You can see more of John’s and Mary’s art, and my own. You can learn about Movement Studios and the classes that happen there when we’re not inhabiting the space.

We’d love to see friends and strangers, talk about coyotes and snakes and the trials and tribulations of making art and making a living. And just hang. And, well, maybe sell a piece or two.

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A story is a way to say something that can’t be said any other way, and it takes every word in the story to say what the meaning is. You tell a story because a statement would be inadequate. When anybody asks what a story is about, the only proper thing is to tell him to read the story. The meaning of fiction is not abstract meaning but experience meaning, the purpose of making statements about the meaning of a story is only to help you to experience that meaning more fully.

~Flannery O’Connor, from “Writing Short Stories”


I’ve always been a fan of short stories. I subscribe to The New Yorker just to get a new one each week to read.

Short stories are magical. So compact and full of emotion. The good ones draw you in immediately without you realizing it. They’re a mystery, really. I’ve wondered what it takes to make a good short story work ever since the first time I tried writing one, over 20 years ago.

I can still remember the ancient-seeming Sabine Ulíbarri, one of my favorite Literature professors in college, raising a crooked forefinger into the air and saying that the short story began when something extraordinary happened in an otherwise ordinary life. Professor Ulíbarri’s seminar was held in a dim room—he didn’t like florescent lights—where a dozen or so students sat around a conference table and were so rapt by this physically small yet intellectually giant man’s charms that we endured his chain smoking.

He took his shaky hand and drew on the chalkboard an X in the straight-line trajectory of the life of a typical protagonist. Then he drew a bolt of lightening coming from the heavens above and hitting the X. “This,” he said in his booming voice, “is where the story begins.”


∞ ∞




Loving to read short stories and figuring out how to write them are two different things. The short story is a masterful art form, one that Alice Sebold in her stint as editor of The Best American Short Stories 2009 said provides

…endless access into another world, brought forth by an infinite number of gifted minds. A story about grief can comfort; a story about arrogance can shock and yet confirm; a story populated largely by landscape, whether lush or industrial, can expand the realm that we as individuals inhabit.

The dilemma for someone like me, who would love to comfort, shock, confirm, or expand a reader’s realm, is how to make my stories do exactly that. I don’t have an answer. I haven’t succeeded yet, although, if the truth be known I haven’t tried to hard enough either. However, all that is about to change.



If at First You Don’t Succeed…


I just refused to die as a person who had 30 pages of a novel in her drawer.

~Elizabeth Gilbert, answering a question during an Albuquerque appearance



The rest of this post is targeted to people like me who write and write and write yet rarely venture to send our works out into the world where those who’ve succeeded in the literary arena might judge them. I can understand the resistance. Writing is hard enough. Getting our work published is a whole ‘nother matter. But if like me you want to accept yourself as a writer, you may want to consider seriously pursuing getting your writing published in literary magazines.

Right now I’m focused on the short story, but editors of literary magazines care about all kinds of writing. Literary magazines contain fiction, creative non-fiction, and poetry, and some even publish haiku, photography, the graphic narrative, and other art.

Why should we try to get our writing published in literary magazines? According to Poets & Writers, “most writers get the attention of editors, agents, and other writers by publishing first in literary magazines.” Not to mention, many of these venues offer great motivation in the form of cash awards. In fact, this is one of the best times of year to compete in writing contests—the stakes can be anywhere from a couple of hundred dollars to one or two or four thousand.

I just spent a large chunk of this past three-day weekend submitting a short story to several contests. I wrote the story a few years ago and even though I wasn’t happy with it then, I sent it out back then to a half dozen literary magazines for consideration. Not surprisingly, it didn’t get picked up, so I stuck it into a drawer where it sat for a few years.

Well, as often happens when you step back and stop thinking about a piece for a while (be it art or writing), I could see the weaknesses in the story when I looked at it anew. I spent several hours rewriting and editing until finally I had a piece I could be proud of. The next step was to send it out in to the world.



…Try, Try Again


I take writing and competition very seriously. I believe that all writers should compete—even if I now know this to be a quixotic quests—on a level playing field.

~Alice Sebold, Introduction to The Best American Short Stories 2009


The Poets & Writers website is an amazing place, well laid out and chock full of excellent information for figuring out where to send your work. The site has a “Tools for Writers” tab that shows deadlines for Writing Contests, Grants & Awards in both a Submission Calendar format and in a searchable database where you can filter by genre, entry fee, and timing. There’s also the Contest Blog, with frequently posted gems, including interviews with authors who have won contests in the past.

NewPages.com—a website that touts the goodness of independent bookstores—also carries a list of Writing Contests categorized by monthly deadline. It has a list of hundreds of literary magazines—aptly named “Big List of Literary Magazines”—so that you can get a feel for those that fit your writing style and vice versa.

A source I didn’t find in either Poets & Writers nor NewPages.com is A Room of Her Own (AROHO) Foundation, a non-profit organization that helps women achieve their artistic goals by providing prize and grants, including a $50,000 biennial grant “to an American woman writer of merit working under financial hardship.”

It should be said, contests are not the be-all end-all of writing. Most important is getting your work published, which these sources provide just as much information about as they do contests and awards. But in the event you need that extra boost, now is an excellent time to vie for prizes.



Your Countrymen (and Women) Need You


It’s tough for writers to write (and editors to edit) when faced with a shrinking audience. Once, in the days of the old Saturday Evening Post, short fiction was a stadium act; now it can barely fill a coffeehouse and often performs in the company of nothing more than an acoustic guitar and a mouth organ.

~Stephen King, “What Ails the Short Story,” in The New York Times, 9/30/2007



When he was editor of The Best American Short Stories 2007, Stephen King declared that short stories were alive but not well. Literary magazines have over time been relegated to the bottom shelves of magazine sections in most big bookstores, and even there only a few titles can be found.

So do your part. Read, write, edit, and submit. Then do it again and again.



Hints & Tips



Poets & Writers offers these common sense tips for submitting to literary journals and/or vying for writing contests:

  • Do research to determine which publications are right for you. In other words, know your market.
  • Each literary magazine has “a unique editorial voice, tone, viewpoint, mission.” Make sure that you read any literary magazine before you submit your work to it. (Many literary magazines have websites with archives where you can read past winning stories or other published pieces.)
  • Read about the contributors to compare their backgrounds and interests to yours.
  • Make sure to read the Submission Guidelines for each magazine. They differ. Some will accept only online; others only accept hard copies sent by mail. Some want 12pt. font with one-inch margins. One might have a word count, another a page count.
  • Specifically look for guidance on simultaneous submissions, meaning submissions of a single work to more than one journal or contest at a time. Most of the literary journals that I submitted to allowed for simultaneous submissions but asked to be informed immediately if the submission gets picked up by or wins somewhere else.
  • Some literary journals request cover letters and others do not. Some contests are done as a “blind review,” meaning that any identifying information about the author is stripped off during the actual reading/review. Poets & Writers suggested that where a cover letter is requested, try not to “discuss the merits or themes of the work you are submitting” but use the cover letter instead to provide a short bio and any past publication accomplishments.

Finally, beware of Writing Contest scams. My advice, and mind you this is only my advice, is to use a source that you trust (the way I trust, for example, Poets & Writers) to identify true literary journals and the contests they run. Others may be designed to simply get your dollars for a submission or reading fee.



Special Bonus: Sabine Ulíbarri


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These are my intentions for 2010. They seem both like a lot and not enough. Some of it’s plain common sense. Some is just living better. At any rate, I’m saying it here. This is what I have.

Let the fun begin!



first doodle of 2010 first doodle of 2010 first doodle of 2010 first doodle of 2010 first doodle of 2010
first doodle of 2010 first doodle of 2010 first doodle of 2010 first doodle of 2010 first doodle of 2010


body~mind

  • Heal my body. I’m still plagued by bouts of lower back pain, am starting to feel stiff in the knees. Want to be limber and energetic. Water, exercise, stretching. Would love to take yoga. More walks.
  • Slow down. Be present to what I do. Don’t hurry. Take at least one retreat. Maybe two if Jim wants to do one. But one alone for sure.
  • Early rise. Get my sunrise on.








family

  • Take care of them. It’s OK to be a wife and mom. Love them to pieces.
  • Take my girls abroad. Stop saying it, do it.
  • Be present for their development. These are heavy times. Make them light.
  • Get up and go. Movies, hikes, day trips. Be active together.




first doodle of 2010 first doodle of 2010 first doodle of 2010 first doodle of 2010 first doodle of 2010
first doodle of 2010 first doodle of 2010 first doodle of 2010 first doodle of 2010 first doodle of 2010


art~writing

  • Get serious about Angels & Demons. Finish Axis of Evil. Plan other works. It’s a long-term series. Go as far as I can.
  • Have fun with the other stuff. Pendants, bracelets, what else? Experiment.
  • Doodle a day. Easy stuff. Keep doing complex doodles but let doodle-a-day be a scribble, if that’s all I can get to.
  • Writing Group. Keep it up. Three times a week. Other writing? Nurture the books percolating. Leap on opportunities that come.








business

  • I have a number in my head. It’s not huge. It’s a start. (Or, rather, last fall was the start. This is the first lap.)
  • Figure out what I want to do and where I want to be. New shows? Get into a gallery? New websites? Don’t rush it. Slow and steady wins the race. And just the right amount of pressure keeps it doable.
  • Stay organized. Get taxes done early. Keep my space to where I can work every day. Lists. I loves them!




first doodle of 2010 first doodle of 2010 first doodle of 2010 first doodle of 2010 first doodle of 2010
first doodle of 2010 first doodle of 2010 first doodle of 2010 first doodle of 2010 first doodle of 2010


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This post is the Intention portion of the exercise laid out in WRITING TOPIC — REFLECTION & INTENTION. Unlike resolutions, intentions are put out to the universe. (At least for me they are.) I log ‘em in my noggin’. They have a way of coming to fruition. I can’t say exactly why it is that they work for me while resolutions don’t, but they do. I trust the process.

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get your resin on (three)

get your resin on (three), new resin bracelets by Roma Arellano (aka ybonesy), all photos © 2009 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.

 
 
 
I heard a news report yesterday that said something to the effect of, The average shopper has only finished about half of his or her Christmas gift-buying thus far. Wow. That’s a lot of shopping to get in before Christmas. And only five days left to do it.
 
But guess what? We’re doing our part to help procrastinators in the Albuquerque area. Our resin group decided that this month, instead of holding our standard resin meeting, we’d throw ourselves a holiday art house party. We’re getting together tomorrow at the home of one of our members (thank you, Cecilia!) and inviting everyone we know to come and buy art at great prices. And visit, eat, and have fun!

So, in the spirit of getting the word out…
 

out with the old


I’d been fretting about not having enough time to build up inventory of late, but then it dawned on me that I have a lot of “seconds” I could sell at the art party. Resin is a persnickety material; it often leaves waves or bubbles. I had set aside all the pendants that I didn’t think were up to snuff for selling, intent on fixing them some day (since resin is also a forgiving substance; items can be re-resin’d). Yet the mistakes are the kinds that I notice more than the average bear. So instead of keeping all these seconds on my work table for eventual perfecting, I’ll be selling them at half off. Woo hoo!

I’m also going to sell off a few images that I have since decided to close out. In my first round of building inventory, I threw in everything but the kitchen sink; the truth is, I have more designs than I can keep up with. All those close-out pendants will also go for half off, which means you can buy items for as low as $6. Now, that’s what I call good and cheap.



tower of resin   get your resin on (one)

get your resin on (two)   tower of resin (two)





in with the new


Pictured throughout this post are new bracelets I’ve been making, many to give away as gifts for the women in my family (sorry to ruin the surprise if you’re one of those women). And speaking of women, the highly creative mujeres from the monthly resin group taught us all how to make these stretchy bracelets using small tiles in multiples.

Aren’t they cool? The bracelets are reminiscent of jewelry my sisters used to wear in the 60s and 70s. I love how you can mix and mingle found images with your own doodles to make new and wondrous designs.

Now that I know how to make them, I will continue to use more my own images and less found ones. I’ll have some bracelets for sale, mostly to see how people respond to them.

I also found a source for small wood mounts for making mini-wall hangings. I hope to have at least a few of those at the party.




          get your resin on (four)
                                                       get your resin on (five)





come on down



We’ll be putting up signs and balloons to lead folks to the art party, which is tomorrow, Sunday, the 21st of December, 10 am to 4 pm. I’ve invited Facebook friends in the area and will pester them and others with another email reminder.

I hope to see you there. You won’t be disappointed by the selection. (I mean it—these women are such great artists!)

By the way, QM, this flyer contains some of the fun public domain fonts I’ve downloaded of late. Reminds me of your post on Runes.









Oh, and next year, I know. We’re all going to try to have our shopping done at least two weeks before Christmas. Right? Right.



resin arm






-Related to posts Hey, You Got Your Doodles On My Scrabble Tiles!, When You Get Tired Of Scrabble, Take Up Dominoes, and Pendants And Charms And Milagros, Oh My!

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Ms. Kiev: She Who Rules The Roost, BlackBerry Shots, Minneapolis, Minnesota, December 2009, photo © 2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


It’s been a long week. Except for the house noises, it’s quiet as the wind. Liz went to the hardware store to buy a new shower head. For the first time this week, I’m alone. It was a hard week. I felt sick on Tuesday but went to work anyway. After becoming a national statistic earlier this year, for the last few months I’ve been driving a truck, delivering parts to machinists to be electropolished, drilled, deburred, picking them up again. It’s Saturday morning, a sacred time when I can actually catch up on reading my own blog.

Weekend hours are sweet. I promised Kiev during her morning ritual with Liz that I’d post a photo of her. She’s the only cat in our family who hasn’t made it to the cover of red Ravine. (Mr. Stripeypants was published for his support of Obama; we lost sweet boy Chaco this year.) I was sitting on the couch, writing. Liz called me on the BlackBerry from the bedroom; I picked up to hear her whispering that I should come and see the cats. I tiptoed in and took these camera shots. Family time.

The first photograph is alpha cat Kiev in her favorite position. Liz places her arm just so; Kiev curls up in the crook, same position every time. I have discovered that Kiev is difficult to photograph. She is jet black and her catty panther features all blend into night. I guess I need one of those umbrella reflectors. I do the best I can.

How do you spend your days and nights? What are your weekends like? Do you take any downtime, time to do things you can’t get to during the week? Or are you retired, off of work, and every day is the weekend for you. It seems like when I have time, I have less money. More money, less time. Where’s the balance?

In catching up on red Ravine, I see that Bob was moved by Anna Deavere Smith in our Writing Topic — 3 Questions. Our guest Buzz explained some of the nuances of basketball banter in his poetry post Hoops. ybonesy wrote about art as play, community art, something dear to our hearts on red Ravine. The renga has heated up in the Daily Haiku. And we made April plans to go to Lake Pepin in the Midwest writing group I am a part of.

I’m relieved to know that even though I feel dead beat at the end of my truck driving day, the creative world goes on around me. And sweeps me along with it. I’m grateful for that.

For Christmas, I may ask Liz for a pocket protector and a few cotton work shirts with my first name stitched above the pocket, but I’m still a writer, a photographer, an artist. Still full of wonder at the animal track flannel sheets in the photo behind Kiev. Making a living as writers and artists isn’t easy. All of you make it easier. Thank you for that.


Morning Rituals, Mr. Stripeypants: Paw Over Hand, BlackBerry Shots, Minneapolis, Minnesota, December 2009, photo © 2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


-posted on red Ravine, Saturday, December 5th, 2009 with gratitude to Liz who holds up the other half of the sky, my family and friends who check up on me, and Roma, the best blog partner a woman could ever have

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Me, By Pham Luc, portrait of Roma, 26×36 inches, August 2009, image
© 2009 by Pham Luc, photo © 2009 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.

 
 
 
 
In a small travel agency that sits just around the corner from the Hanoi Cathedral, I wait as the owner, Tony Pham, fills out paperwork for my weekend tour. It is hot, unbearably hot in August in Hanoi, and in spite of the fan, I mop sweat from my neck.
 
On the wall behind Tony I see a painting of a red horse against a black background. It’s a small painting but it stands out. The horse wears a cinch around its barrel chest and sloping neck. It is regal, a dancing, prancing stallion.
 
“Who painted the horse,” I want to know.

Tony looks up from his papers. “Ah, he is a famous painter, mentor to my painting teacher.”

“You paint?” I interrupt.

“No, not really.”
 
He brushes off my question and points to the artist’s several other paintings hanging in the office. They are bold. Thick black lines contrast with deep, sometimes bright colors. Each piece moves with energy.

Tony tells me he has many more paintings in his home, that he’ll take me to meet the artist.

“Tomorrow afternoon,” he says.

“Tomorrow afternoon,” I repeat, and as I walk through the crowded streets back to my hotel, it dawns on me that Tony is an artist living as a businessman. No wonder his tours are so beautiful and magical.
 
 
 
 

* * *

 
 
 
Pham Luc’s home is built in the typical Vietnamese style. Narrow and tall, like a shoebox turned on its end. The bottom floor is a one-car garage, then three floors of living space above. It is the first Vietnamese home I’ve been in that hasn’t been converted to a restaurant or shop. I have a feeling it’s a lot nicer than most Vietnamese homes, yet it’s also simple. Some furniture and a lot of art. Besides the bed and sitting area, plus a kitchen and bathroom, the rest of the house, it seems, is dedicated to Pham Luc’s paintings. Making them and storing them.
 
Pham Luc is having tea when we arrive. He is a compact man, not so much small as solid, as if he is accustomed to physical labor. His hair is black-black, just a hint of gray at the temples, and he has thick eyebrows and a thick mustache that seem to go together. I have no idea how old he is. Later, when asked to guess, I put him at about 55. I am way off.

A Vietnamese collector of his works is also there, drinking tea with Pham Luc. After introductions, Tony and I walk up the two flights of stairs to rooms filled with paintings. One small room holds nothing but works on framed canvas. Tony flips through them, occasionally pulling out ones he especially admires. A young Vietnamese woman who speaks no English appears at the door. She helps Tony move the paintings around so we can get a better look.

Another room is filled with even bigger pieces, some almost as tall and wide as the walls themselves. These are painted with lacquer on black board. They seem massive and wet, as if dripping still with layers of gold and red and black.

We spend a good amount of time upstairs, looking at the paintings, talking about themes. Pham Luc paints rural scenes, festivals, women and babies, old women, nudes reclining. There is no air-conditioning and by now I am sweating so much that I have used up the tissues I brought with me. Pham Luc’s assistant notices that my face and neck are wet; she leaves and returns with a napkin. Her skin is dry. The Vietnamese, I have concluded, do not sweat.
 
 
 
 

* * *

 
 
 
I could have spent a century in those rooms, looking from one painting to the next, trying to see how they change. If not for the heat, I could have spent forever trying to guess what his emotional state was when he went from yellows, pinks, and lime greens (elated) to browns and grays and navy blue (depressed).

I gather that he paints his moods, that, yes, he has a fundamental style (in fact, the book he gave me of pieces spanning three decades of his work shows as much) but that nothing about him is static.
 
We drink green tea, strong and bitter, and I try to keep up with the men, as if the tea were bourbon. Pham Luc mentions that he does not drink beer, and I get the feeling that it was a decision he was forced to make—beer or art?, art or beer?—at some point in his career.

But hot tea comes in pot-fulls, brought out by the assistant who doesn’t sweat, always in the same small teapot that looks like it’s made of jade.
 
Somewhere along the line, Pham Luc tells me he would like to paint me. Tony translates: “He wants to paint you and give you the painting to take home.” A small photo album is produced, and in it I see images of beaming Westerners standing next to their Pham Luc portraits. It is something he sometimes does, I later learn from watching a CD he sends home with me, in order to delight his visitors.

I’m game. (Isn’t it game, after all, that got me here?) I stay where I’m sitting, still dressed in the black blouse and white linen slacks that I wore to my day’s appointments. I look away from Tony and the collector, towards a flat screen TV and more paintings leaning against walls. The assistant comes in with paints and a large canvas stapled to a wooden easel, which Pham Luc props against a chair. He squats in front of the canvas, paints by his side, and he works quietly and quickly.

I don’t look at what he’s doing, partly for the same reason I hate looking at photos of myself and partly to not break the pose. Every now and then I turn to Tony and the collector so that I can ask them questions. They speak in Vietnamese, but Tony translates.

I learn that there is a Pham Luc Collectors Club, that some collectors have thousands of Pham Luc paintings, that his works are owned by ambassadors and dignitaries and people all over the world, and that he has had exhibitions in France, Italy, The Netherlands, Canada. They tell me he will come to Boston in 2010 and, maybe could I go?

If I stay facing Tony and the collector too long, Pham Luc asks me to turn my head back the other way.
 
 
 
 

 
 
 
My lips are fuller, cheekbones higher. I look French. I look beautiful, and it makes me feel beautiful to know he saw that in me. And for that I immediately love this compact man with the black mustache, and I love Vietnam even more than before, the North especially—erudite, intellectual, lovers of art.

He completed the painting in maybe 30 minutes, although now I can’t be sure. Looking back, time passed and I lost track of time. For example, I have no recollection of him smoking, although I have a photo of his pack of Camel cigarettes, the words SMOKING KILLS in block letters on the front. He must have lit up while I was there, I am sure of it, but I don’t recall being bothered by the smoke.

I do remember that after he finished the portrait and turned the canvas for us to see, we let out a collective gasp. Then Pham Luc walked to us, pointing to his arms and gesturing excitedly. The hair on his forearms stood on end; confused, I looked to Tony for translation.

“It’s good, it’s good,” Tony assured me, “it means the painting is great.”

For the moment, Pham Luc is pure energy.
 
Later, when I ask Tony in the taxi why Pham Luc would give me a painting, even after I pleaded to purchase it instead, he says it is because of the gift that I gave to Pham Luc. “He knows that now, after his visitors are gone, he will be able to paint.”
 
 
 

Pham Luc paints at night, during daytime, when awake at night, or even if he has just recovered between sicknesses and can sit up. The motivation behind his creation is like a karma, a curse of fate. If he can’t paint he will get sick and will be like a flu-infested chicken. Many times I saw him grubby in a mess of colors and lacquer as if haunted.
 
                    ~Dr. Nguyen Si Dung, from Painter Fạm Lực

 
 
 

* * *

 
 
 
It takes an hour, maybe two, for the painting to dry. We continue to sit and talk. At one point I look across to Pham Luc; he is holding a large white envelope close to his face, sketching a doodle of me. When he is done, he shows it to me. Another gift to take home. 

Later still, he walks over to a dresser and picks up a small piece of art done in lacquer on wood. I admire it, hand it back, and then Tony translates. “No, it’s for you.”

Then Pham Luc goes and gets two more and asks me to choose from among the three. They are nudes done in simple black lines on gold leaf. I like them all, but Tony and the collector have a strong opinion that I take one in particular, so I choose it.
 
We talk, drink more tea. Pham Luc gets up and again rummages around the room, notices behind one of the larger paintings a small, colorful portrait of himself on canvas. In the painting, he wears no shirt and holds a cigarette between his fingers. Again, he hands me the painting. A gift.

“Please,” I tell him, “please, it’s too much.”

He says something in Vietnamese, which Tony translates. “You are my friend, and I am his friend, so now you are his friend.”
 
I glance at the beautiful Roma on the large canvas that is still drying, and I marvel at my luck. Yes, luck! Karma, good fortune, call it whatever you want, but here I am sitting, talking, laughing, drinking tea, being painted, being feted with generosity and brilliance. I am a small thing basking in the light of a huge thing. Someone ordinary touched by someone extraordinary.
 
 
 

I am disabled but crazy about Pham Luc’s paintings. Many Vietnamese and foreign friends coming to my home to see my collection were amazed at the creations of Pham Luc. Many asked me why I collected so many paintings. I replied, “Each painting is a support for me to overcome handicap and integrate into life. His paintings give me confidence in life and aspiration to rise up. In my difficult times and in pain, I come to his paintings to seek consolation, sympathy and often find in them peace amidst the storms of life.”
 
                    ~Ngo Quang Tuan, from Painter Fạm Lực

 
 
 

* * *

 
 
 
Pham Luc was born in 1943 in the village of Hue. He was a soldier and painter in Vietnam’s People’s Army, documenting the scenes he saw. From the books and brochures I have about him, I understand he became a major in the army, but always he was a painter. He told me that the reason he is not married—he’s been divorced twice—is that his wives did not understand his need to constantly paint.
 
There is a painting upstairs in one of the rooms, of a woman with a rifle, behind her a water buffalo. The colors are muted but the overall effect is of activism. Pham Luc painted the piece in 1986, and Tony and I found it behind other, more recent works. Before I leave Pham Luc’s home, I ask the assistant to bring it down so that I might look at it again. There are many beautiful paintings here, but always my eyes go back to the woman with the rifle.

I buy the painting from Pham Luc. For a song.
 
 
 

He doesn’t need money. He spends all his money on charities, his children, and buying gold, silver, lacquer and colors. So what does he need? To build his fame? May be, but may be not. In fact, he is already very famous. Many people know him and admire him. Ambassadors in Hanoi buy his paintings and make friends with him. So the answer to his efforts lies in his passion. Because he can’t do otherwise.
 
                     ~Dr. Nguyen Si Dung, from Painter Fạm Lực

 
 
 

* * *

 
 
 

Sòn d âù, (I hope that spelling is correct), 32×24 inches, 1986, image © 1986-2009
by Pham Luc, photo © 2009 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.

 
 
 
 
I am deeply grateful to Tony Pham and to Pham Luc. The three hours I spent with the two of them that day in early August are among the best memories I have of Vietnam, of travel abroad, and of life experiences, period. In Tony, I found a kindred spirit, an artist inside his heart, and someone whose love of art infuses his daily work. In Pham Luc, I found kindness, happiness, and what it means to give of oneself.
 
 
 

He was born in a poor countryside in a deprived village in the Central region of Vietnam and used to be a soldier fighting in the wars. He lives and paints with qualities of a farmer and Uncle Ho soldier. These qualities have become his humane belongings. No wonder many people sympathize with, love, and are crazy for his art. He is so happy!
 
                    ~An Chuong, from Painter Fạm Lực

 
 
 
 

* * *

 
 
 
 

GALLERY 

 
These are works that I photographed during my visit. They are my favorites among the many that I saw that day. I do not have names, dates, nor sizes for any of the paintings. They all appear to be oil on canvas, and almost all of them are fairly large. They are reprinted here with the artist’s permission.

 
 
 
 
     
 
 
                                     
 
 
   
 
 
                                                           


                    


                            
 
 
 

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pendants, pendants, pendants, images of ybonesy's pendants in progress, photo and images © 2009 by ybonesy, all rights reserved
Pendants, pendants, pendants, ybonesy’s pendants in progress, photo and images © 2009 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.

 
 
 

Remember that television commercial from the 1970s where one boy’s walking along eating peanut butter out of a jar, and another boy walks around the corner eating a chocolate bar? They both spy a pretty girl and–BOOM!–run into each other. The boy with the jar says, “Hey, you got your chocolate in my peanut butter!” and the other boy says, “You got your peanut butter in my chocolate!”

Wa-la, the birth of Reece’s Peanut Butter Cups.
 
Somehow that feels like my artwork right now. I’m walking along carrying a tray of all my little doodles, and another version of me comes along carrying a tray of assorted game pieces. BOOM! We run into each other and explode all over the kitchen counters.

 
 
 

pendants, pendants, pendants, images of ybonesy's pendants in progress, photo and images © 2009 by ybonesy, all rights reserved    pendants, pendants, pendants, images of ybonesy's pendants in progress, photo and images © 2009 by ybonesy, all rights reserved

 
 
 

I wanted to take photos of the entire process of creating my version of Reece’s Peanut Butter Cups, but I found that I’m not together enough to document my work and do it at the same time. I can, however, share tidbits of what’s been going on in my mind of late.
 


Why make Peanut Butter Cups to begin with?

I’m going to be in a show on Sunday, September 13, called We Art the People Folk Art Festival. No screening by jury. It’s for regular folk who happen to be artists.

I picked this one because a) a friend told me it was a great event with loads of people coming through it, and b) it sounded like something I’d want to attend on a Sunday in the beautiful Albuquerque fall. It’s downtown in a narrow strip of a park, walking distance to Java Joe’s and the old Fedways where Mom used to shop when I was a kid, the old Paris Shoes, and a dress shop that made what we called Fiesta dresses. (I have two vintage dresses, one from my grandmother.)

It’s old Albuquerque. Gente. I’m thrilled to be a part of it and wonder what took me so long.

The main reason, though, is that making the commitment to something outside of myself is the best way I’ve found to keep moving forward with my art.



What to make?


Ah, what to make? This can be a mind-boggling question for the budding artist and it can become the downfall of any person who dreams of turning their ideas into reality. At some point, you just have to commit to doing something.

Here are two bullet points from my answer to the question “What is my vision for my business?”

  • Own a vibrant and vital online retail business, catering to young and old, activists and quirky individuals of all stripes, people not afraid to wear their hearts on their sleeves and speak their minds to the world
  • Have a diverse range of products, from affordable to high-end. Products will include paintings, three-dimensional pieces of art, tile pendant jewelry, note cards, paper products, t-shirts, and other print-on-demand and/or handmade items (all made with my doodles, paintings, images, photographs, and designs)

 

Quite the mouthful, eh? That’s not even the whole vision. Given the current venue and deadline, I narrowed my current focus to two items: t-shirts and jewelry.

And notice I’m not even to the part about the “vibrant and vital online retail business”? Before I attempt online, I want to talk to the people who will buy my products. I want to hear what they think, find out which sizes, shapes, and designs they respond to. This show, and probably a few others that I’ll do as I continue to learn, is about understanding what it is I’m doing. Right now it’s all grasping at straws.



How to do it?

Before I bought any raw materials (not including all the raw materials I’ve purchased on and off most of my adult life but never used) I set up a legal business and got a tax certificate. Again, this is about more than the show on September 13; it’s about actualizing a vision.

The t-shirts I got from a place called Alternative Apparel. Not your typical Hanes shop. Alternative carries styles I like to wear: scoop- and v-necks, fitted, sheer, and for the traditional t-shirt types, a great-looking slouchy style. I ordered about a hundred shirts and had them shipped to the printer who is transforming my designs into silk screen. Him I found by asking folks at Guerrilla Graphix, a local store whose shirts I admired, Who does your work?

Tomorrow, the silk screener will have a prototype of one of my images ready for me to view. I’ll take him two or three other designs and get his feedback on which ones lend themselves to silk screening. He’s been doing this work for many years, and he has no qualms about telling me if an image isn’t going to transfer well.

The jewelry is made using something called “doming resin.” Doming resin is a type of epoxy that dries into a clear glass-like plastic. The epoxy has a hardener in it to keep the substance, which when wet has a consistency like honey, from running. Doming resin can turn a two-dimensional surface into a three-dimensional one, and it has the effect of slightly magnifying the image it covers.

To make a doming resin pendant, I first need to produce an image that fits on whatever surface I’m going to use. Since I’m working with small surfaces, I need to modify my scanned doodles on the computer to crop and/or resize them to fit the surface. Next, I’ve found a local company that will print an 8×10 sheet of multiples (about 25 doodles to a sheet) for less than a dollar each. I glue my image on to the blank side of a game piece–I’m using Scrabble, dominoes, Mah Jongg, and Tile Rummy–seal it with a clear-drying glue, then cover it with doming resin, which dries hard and wonderfully clear.

There are many How-Tos on making Doming Resin Pendants. Just Google those words (or Scrabble Tile Pendants) and you’ll find them. My favorite is this video made by Rio Grande, the Albuquerque-based jewelry wholesaler where I bought the epoxy resin, doming hardener, and chains and clasps needed to turn my pendants into finished necklaces.



pendants, pendants, pendants, images of ybonesy's pendants in progress, photo and images © 2009 by ybonesy, all rights reserved
                           pendants 8



What’s next?

There are many steps in the process yet, both for getting ready for We Art the People and for realizing my vision. A friend who I knew since 4th grade but only recently reconnected with via Facebook has done many shows. We’ve met twice, once last Sunday to make pendants, and on Wednesday night to talk pricing and display. I want to keep my jewelry under $20 per item, and in some cases, in the range of $8-12. This is a “people’s show,” and so I’ve purposely selected jewelry that is low-cost to make.

I’ve enlisted Jim’s help on the display. This weekend we’ll spray paint old Mah Jongg trays and a peg board for displaying the pendants, plus I’ll scour a few salvage shops to see if I can’t find a mannequin torso to model my t-shirts. I’ll also start working on a flier to send to my contacts (the organizers of We Art the People have a template for vendors to use), so if you’re a friend and/or Facebook contact who lives in the city, expect to experience multiple forms of harrassment as I insist that you come see my Reece’s Peanut Butter Cups. (OK, enough with the analogy.)

Also to consider are:

  • Receipt books
  • Packaging
  • Shipping (when I get to that point)
  • Taxes and accounting
  • Online stores
  • …and a whole host of other things to worry about.

 

I’ve hired a graphic designer to create a logo, and I’m hankering to take another Photoshop class (and really learn it this time!). So much to do yet so little spare time. That’s the thing with goals. You’ve got to be in them for the long haul, especially if the rest of life requires your full attention. That’s also why you’ve got to be willing to ask others for help.

Speaking of which, I have my sister Patty to thank for introducing me to doming resin. She is a polymer clay artist who is game for trying out any craft. She and fellow artist friends meet once a month to do doming resin. They make potluck Nachos or Frito Pie for dinner, then work in an area of the host’s home (always the same host) set up to accommodate over a dozen people at well-lighted tables. They share resources, materials, and most importantly, their creativity.

It is a brilliant idea and one that I am thinking about offering to my friends who’ve expressed interest in learning how to make resin jewelry. Communal art-making. What a concept!

I will check in occasionally on red Ravine–to let you know how the show went and to report on my progress toward this new direction. It will be slow going, but it will happen. ‘Cause I really like peanut butter and chocolate.



pendants, pendants, pendants, images of ybonesy's pendants in progress, photo and images © 2009 by ybonesy, all rights reserved




-Related to How I Plan To Spend My Oodles Of Spare Time and The Making Of A Painting Painter.

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Tools Of The Trade (On Sale), Minneapolis, Minnesota, August 2009, all photos © 2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

 
 

Back-to-school sales are a bonus for writers. Liz came home last night with presents in tow: three full-sized college ruled notebooks for Writing Practice and five colorful 4 1/2 by 3 1/4 Composition notebooks with marble covers (my favorite for carrying around in my pocket). The large notebooks were a penny less than 4 bits; the small ones only 19 cents. (Hint: a bit is 12.5 cents; 2 bits is a quarter.)

Last night I put the small red Composition notebook by my bed. It came in handy when I woke up at 3 a.m. with insomnia. I grabbed it and wrote down these haiku (senryu) floating around in my head. I had hoped the rhythmic counting would help me get back to sleep:

 
 

Insomnia haiku (II)
_____________

crumpled white paper
word remembrances of love
regurgitation
 
10 sleepless monsters
rambling around in my head
flat Insomnia

beyond Milky Way
a random act of kindness
what it takes to love

 
 
 

 
 

I hope everyone is taking advantage of the back-to-school sales to stock up on writing supplies. Paper products are our Tools of the Trade. What kind of notebooks and pens do you love? Where can we get the best deals?

 

-posted on red Ravine, Thursday, August 13th, 2009

-related to posts: WRITING TOPIC – TOOLS OF THE TRADE, haiku 2 (one-a-day)

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Photo by: Justine Ungaro

Lisa Loeb, Photo by: Justine Ungaro

 

On Wednesday, February 11, QuoinMonkey and ybonesy interviewed singer-songwriter Lisa Loeb. It was shortly after the end of her whirlwind tour of the U.S. and Japan following the June 2008 release of her second CD of Children’s Music, Camp Lisa

The CD follows Loeb’s early 2008 reissue of The Purple Tape, an acoustic, ten-song demo she self-released as a cassette in 1992. Proceeds from “Camp Lisa” benefit a foundation Lisa created to send underprivileged children to summer camp.

The New York Times had recently announced Lisa’s January 2009 wedding at Brasserie 8 ½, a restaurant in New York, when QM and ybonesy spoke with her from her New York City home. They talked about marriage and culinary loves, Loeb’s life as a singer-songwriter, practices that sustain her, the work of writing, and tips for those who dream of making it big.

 

                                             *     *     *     *

 

Interview with Lisa Loeb, February 11, 2009, red Ravine

 

red Ravine: In our research to prepare for this interview, we couldn’t help but notice that you seem to love food. Some of your children’s songs are about food, like the “Peanut Butter & Jelly” song from Camp Lisa (which is one of our faves) plus you’ve done the Food Network. Also in the New York Times article about your marriage, we were struck by how acute your senses are when you describe food. Is food a passion of yours?

 

Lisa Loeb: Yes, it’s a thing that I love. Growing up, like a lot of other girls, I was concerned about my weight. I was a dancer, and I loved food. We had to eat in the cafeteria every day at school, and it was sort of a game to find out what they were serving for lunch. But by the time I was a teenager, I went to an all-girls school, and since we wore uniforms, we were especially aware of our bodies and the differences between our bodies. Uniforms are meant to make us seem more uniform, but when everyone’s wearing the same thing, you pay more attention to other bodies. You would notice that you were eating the delicious cornbread muffins or the huge pieces of pie or the doughnuts in between classes in the morning, and it was a struggle between enjoying all this food versus getting larger and larger.

Between my sophomore and junior years, I went to Spain to live there with a family. Every day a younger brother in the Spanish family would run and get me a huge pastry because he realized that I liked it. And at night, we’d eat hotdogs and go out drinking all the time and eat potato chips and all these great Spanish tapas before they were fashionable in the United States. I came home a lot heavier. And it was scary.

It was fun to eat all that stuff but it was not that fun to come home heavier. So then I tried all the different diets that everybody tries. By the time I got to college, I started getting interested in nutrition to figure out how to enjoy food but eat in a balanced way. My best nutritionists were the people who said, “Eat whatever you want when you are hungry, but stop when you’re full. And pay attention to nutrition when you can.”

 

red Ravine: I (QuoinMonkey) met you a few years ago in a writing workshop with author Natalie Goldberg. It was one of Natalie’s weeklong silent retreats where we sat and meditated and slow walked and did Writing Practice. What prompted you, a successful singer and songwriter, to take a writing workshop and what did you learn from the silent writing retreat?

 

Lisa: I’ve always been a fan of Natalie Goldberg. Her writing exercises and general attitude about writing have helped me in my process of writing. At my all-girls school, although they taught me a lot about writing — how to write correctly and how to communicate, read, and pick apart text in English and Spanish — they didn’t always emphasize our own thoughts and having our own opinions. Especially as we got older, they didn’t put as much value on personal opinion as they did on structure, format, and grammar.

With Natalie, she emphasizes just writing. You know, just writing for yourself. That’s something that I think is important as an artist because as humans, all we have different from each other is our point of view, and so it’s important as an artist to bring that out. That’s what she does.

I thought if I could take a workshop with her, that would be amazing. Also, in my life often there’s more time spent on the business side of things than on the writing side of things, and for me structure is very helpful. So to be in a place where the goal was to write for a week was something that I looked forward to.

I’d done something like that for music, where I went to music summer school a long time ago, before I was a professional musician, at Berkeley Music School. And I got to practice. Even when I was a kid, I was pretty distracted; I practiced some but I did a lot of other things in my life. And for once, I wanted to be that person who just got in the practice room and practiced, practiced, practiced.

This was like that for writing, in a silent retreat especially, because I’m around a lot of people all the time, touring in every state, always communicating with people. It was a great opportunity to simplify and be silent. I do spend time alone, not talking to people, when I’m not working. But that was an opportunity to focus, of course, with the great guidance of Natalie and also in the company of people — people at all different levels of writing. I learn a lot from just starting from the beginning. Natalie calls it “Beginner’s Mind.” And sometimes when you are writing with people who are beginners, you remember to take the pressure off of writing, which adds more freedom for better writing and more writing.

 

red Ravine: Most of us who aspire to integrate Writing Practice into our lives struggle at different times to make it a day-to-day practice. How about you? Do you write or play music every day?

 

Lisa: I don’t. Not at all. I’ve gone through phases where I do write — I use things like a month-long tour or a trip to the beach for a week-and-a-half, or there’s a thing in the Jewish tradition called Counting the Omer. When structures like that come up, I’ll take advantage of them and say, “Okay, now I’m going to write every day for this period of time.” Or there’s a Toni Morrison book where it’s day-by-day, a short-chaptered book where she talks about different things in each chapter (maybe it’s called Love). So I decided I was going to do a page-long chapter each day and write something based on a word that she mentioned in her book.

Sometimes I have to create a little game to create structure for myself. Other times, when I know I need to finish, I start. It’s almost like an athlete warming up and getting ready to do a marathon. I just realize I can’t do it overnight, it’s a process.

But yeah, it’s hard. I don’t always write every day. Sometimes when I write every day it gets too easy in a way. Like I am not saying anything and I’m not focusing well. So sometimes I need to take a break from it, too.

 

red Ravine: Do you have other practices that ground you and sustain you?

 

Lisa: I do. I work out five days a week at least, walking whether it’s on a treadmill or outside, doing strength training. Some people do yoga; I do strength training. And then also when I’m in Los Angeles, I go to synagogue on Saturday ’cause I have a cool rabbi that I like.

 

red Ravine: And any other things you do to keep going when you’re feeling down or insecure?

 

Lisa: I have my friends. That’s important to me, spending time with friends. And going outside and taking a walk. Or writing. You know, writing is something I definitely rely on for that. It’s a little weird, too, because I associate writing with my professional life so sometimes I have to remember to step back and write to write, even if it means being like Jack Nicholson in the movie The Shining and writing the same thing over and over.

I do use writing as a tool. It helps that little switch in my brain which I try to avoid or at least let it pass, which is like, Oooh, I wonder if I could do a different song. Or, I wonder if I could do something else where I write. It’s the equivalent of when you’re working out or taking a walk because you want to and it feels good, then getting that little thought in the back of your head, saying, Oooh, I wonder if I’m going to lose any weight by doing this or walk off that piece of pie from last night.

I don’t like associating working out and losing weight. I like associating working out with breathing. It’s the same thing I have with writing – in order for it to actually work properly and be integrated into my life in a balanced way, it has to be what it is.

 

red Ravine: You came into success very early in your career as a musical artist. How did that affect your life and your creative work?

 

Lisa: It gave me a lot of freedom to have success early on. The financial freedom — in my family growing up, having a job was something that we valued, being able to support yourself. So that took a load off my mind. And it gave me freedom to have less worry. I worry a lot in my life. You know, the Jewish worry and guilt, a certain amount of being neurotic.

It gave me freedom, although in the end, I think other people can’t make you feel like you are successful. It comes with a certain amount of self-confidence and self-esteem. But I think that having other people acknowledge what I’m doing gave me more confidence and made me feel like I was more free to continue to make music. Which is very powerful. Because not knowing if what you’re doing is worth anything can be very frustrating.

And I know that even after being a professional musician, that feeling never goes away. That feeling’s always there. Like, Oh gosh, I wonder if this is worth anything, why am I doing this, it’s a selfish thing, I should do something where I help other people… All these things. I love hearing from somebody saying, “That thing that you wrote helped me through this period of my life.” It’s a weird balance of feeling secure within myself, but also as a performer and a writer having that respect from an audience.

 

Also, I want to go back to one other question you asked me [regarding] when you’re in a state of depression or insecurity. I got a lot of great tools from my rabbi in Los Angeles. He’s of a Hasidic philosophy similar to cognitive therapy, where you’re able to look at your actions and thoughts in a different light and turn things around.

He mentioned a time where he was giving a lecture in front of people — he gives a lot of lectures and teaches classes — and he thought, Everyone is so bored, they don’t want to listen to me, I’m doing a terrible job. I think someone might have yawned in the front row. And then he thought through it again using the cognitive therapy and Hasidic philosophy and said, Well, people like coming to my classes so I must be doing something right. The classes I give, even when they’re bad are usually pretty good, and so I guess I’m doing a pretty good job. That’s a simplification, but he’s saying that [we all have access to] those kind of tools.

I want to feel good with when I just sit at the subway station for two minutes waiting for the train and write something there. It doesn’t have to be a magical place, but I have to sit down and write. It can be anywhere. It can be on a napkin in a restaurant. It doesn’t have to lead to a great song. That’s not the best example, but thinking through things in a realistic way helps ground me as well.

 

red Ravine: It sounds like a practical tool for dealing with Monkey Mind.

 

Lisa: Oh, it is. It really is. It’s that Natalie Goldberg thing I learned, we all learned, that you just sit down and write. Things don’t happen overnight. Sometimes they do, but you can’t rely on that. You can rely on just sitting and writing as part of a bunch of small steps that take you some place — maybe, maybe not.

 

red Ravine: We were talking about your success that came early on and we’re curious, too, how your goals have changed. Have your goals as an artist changed as you’ve gotten older?

 

Lisa: I think my goals continue to be pretty much the same since I was younger – which is to continue to try to write better. And also to try to enjoy the process more.

I’ve written songs since I was a kid but especially when I started writing lyrics when I was 13, 14, it’s become more complicated. And it’s always been a hard process. I continue to become more forgiving of myself and more accepting of the process. What it is for me doesn’t have to be what it is for other people.

I want to be a better songwriter. I guess I might have had more business-oriented goals when I was starting out, to get a record contract, to get paid to do things, and I guess I still have those goals. It’s great if you can get paid for your work, which is rarer these days, especially with people trading music.

Also there are meta-goals. One of them is to continue to keep my eyes open for other things I want to do that aren’t writing, that aren’t making songs. And that’s okay to do other things well.

But as a writer, you need to be comfortable with the process. And just keep doing it. It’s hard. I told Natalie…I ate lunch with her one day on the way through New Mexico and I was telling her, “There are these projects I want to develop, and maybe I want to be a psychologist or a nutritionist, and maybe I should teach, but I have these songs I’m supposed to write but I don’t want to, so I think I’m just going to hang out.” 

And she said, “You just need to sit that…I don’t know how better to say it…you just need to sit that motherfucker down and write.” (laughter from all). She’s like, “People say that all the time, ‘I never want to write, I don’t want to do it…’.” And I was like, Ahhhh…go do your homework! I hate doing my homework, I don’t want to do it. And the thing is, if you do it little by little, it’ll get done.

 

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Lisa Loeb 2008 Release, "Camp Lisa", Illustration by: Esme Shapiro, 15, a student at LA County High School for the Arts and summer camp fan.    Lisa Loeb 2008 2-CD Reissue "The Purple Tape"   Lisa Loeb 2008 Release, "Camp Lisa", Illustration by: Esme Shapiro, 15, a student at LA County High School for the Arts and summer camp fan.

 

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red Ravine: You were in Albuquerque last year and my (ybonesy’s) date to your concert was my nine-year-old daughter, which turned out to be great. Afterwards we bought the CD Catch the Moon and my daughter listens to it all the time; in fact, it’s sitting on the kitchen table for her to load on to her iPod along with your hits. You’ve gotten into children’s music and you found a generous way to pay it forward with the proceeds from Camp Lisa and sending kids to camp through your Camp Lisa Foundation. What inspired you to write and sing music for children?

 

Lisa: It was something I wanted to do ever since I was a kid. I listened to music for children. In my day it was Free To Be You and Me; it was Really Rosy, which was a Carole King record. A lot of music they had on Sesame Street and The Electric Company, created by real musicians of the time — the early 70’s — sounded like real music.

I had an opportunity to do a record that was different from my regular grown-up records and I chose to do a kids’ record. My friend Liz Mitchell produced it. Since she’d made a lot of kids’ records, it sounded in the vein I wanted. Actually, she was the one who gave me my first Natalie Goldberg book. She was my singing partner in my band for years and years.

When it came time for me to do another kids’ record, I was going through a moment where I was like, What am I doing? I was trying to write a regular grown-up album and I was writing dark things and spending a lot of time by myself writing. It wasn’t fun. And I remembered that it had been really fun writing songs with friends of mine in Los Angeles, and I thought, Why does it have to be a treacherous horrible experience? I should take a break and do something that reminds me that it’s fun and easy to write songs and express ourselves.

So I got back together with my friends Dan [Petty] and Michelle Lewis, who lived down the street basically, and we started making a summer camp record and it was really fun! And it felt like, wow, I’m a working songwriter, I go to work with them each day and we write songs. And we make up melodies and it’s very exciting and fun; it doesn’t have to be a painful experience to be artistic.

Through that process, I was questioning, Why am I doing music at all? I want to try to do something else to help other people. Then I realized, Oh, wait a minute, maybe I can use what we’re doing to help other people. And I realized that summer camp, of course, [we] could actually send kids to summer camp and also to be able to meet the kids. It all came together — a goal for having a kids’ record; a goal to be more responsible in the community; and a songwriter wanting to engage in a more fun way that would inform my regular, grown-up songwriting.

Also, writing kids’ songs, you have more of a story where you’re trying to say something that people can understand easily, and I think that’s a good tool for me to bring to my grown-up writing. Also when I play kids’ concerts, I realize that some of the more simple songs where I’m writing a tra-la-la-la-la or a chant or repetitive part is a fun thing to play in front of people. Grown ups and kids enjoy it and it makes me realize that sometimes in songwriting it’s not how many words can you put in there, how clever you can be, it’s really just going from your heart, the melodies and the words that just come out. Which is hard to trust. You feel you need to write the most complicated music, but that’s not what songwriting is about.

 

red Ravine: Who are your favorite songwriters today? What songs do you like to hear?

 

Lisa: I have a lot of songs I love; they don’t even focus on the lyrics that much, just the feelings of the songs. I love Led Zeppelin, especially Led Zeppelin IV and the Over the Hills and Far Away album. I love David Bowie music and often I don’t know what he’s talking about but (laughter) there’s just a certain attitude and coolness in his songs. Songwriters? More recently I’ve enjoyed Death Cab for Cutie. Oh gosh there’s so much music that I love. Lyle Lovett is great. Prince. 

A lot of things are abstract and it’s just the way it feels, the music and the lyrics and the feeling of it altogether hits me. It’s funny because it’s not how I feel when I’m writing music. It reminds me that it’s okay to play around with words and feelings and if it means something to me that’s fine; it doesn’t have to be so direct. It’s a constant balance, like I said with the kids’ music, where you’re trying to say something more directly, and the kind of music which I enjoy listening to, which often is more abstract and about the feeling and the production of the songs.

 

red Ravine: When you were in Albuquerque you mentioned that you were attending a Goldberg writing retreat with your mother. What was it like to do Writing Practice with your mom?

 

Lisa: We didn’t actually do a lot of practice together. It was a little frustrating.

What I loved was that my mother hasn’t done a lot of things where she goes away and meets other people. She loves people and talking to people and meeting people, and I thought that social aspect would be interesting for her. Because on my first writing weekend with Natalie, it was a speaking retreat where you got to actually sit at breakfast and talk to people.

And I thought secretly she would get to do some writing. She also went to the same high school I went to and grew up in a time when grammar was much more important than the fact that maybe saying something that’s not grammatically correct might allow you to express yourself better. So I wanted her to experience it for herself. I think that was the first time she was encouraged in that way. It was cool to see her go through that and go home and tell her friends about it.

But we actually didn’t do as much Writing Practice together as I expected. And that was actually a lesson to me, too. If I’m not working, if I’m not writing, I always feel like I’m never writing enough. No matter what it is, it’s just not enough. And I sort of beat myself up over it. I was trying to let myself not have to be a person who has to be writing all the time. And let that be okay. And that was really hard, but that was an interesting turn the other direction.

 

red Ravine: We noticed you studied comparative literature at Brown and we’re curious, how did (does) that play into your songwriting?

 

Lisa: It doesn’t very much at all. When I went to Brown, I picked something that was close to what I thought I liked when I was in high school. One of my favorite classes was Spanish because not only did we get to learn a whole different language and communicate with a whole new group of people, but in Spanish class, we also got to study visual art, film, poetry, geography, food, social customs. You name it, we studied it, but in Spanish.

We learned to take apart poems, and there was great Spanish-language literature, which is some of the best literature in the world. High school, middle, and elementary school education actually played more into my writing than my college experience.

Really college was just what I studied on paper, and in retrospect, I would go back and do something else. But it gave me the freedom to spend most of my time in the recording studio, in the music department and the theater department doing plays, writing music, playing shows. It gave me this kind of thing I could tell my parents I was doing that sounded reasonable while I was actually spending most of my time doing these other things.

It was also like a long lesson in learning that I really need to go with my heart and not do what I’m supposed to be doing. In retrospect, I should have been studying theater or art or music or psychology or just something else. I mean, I don’t think reading Ulysses three times really did anything (which was a painful experience). Experimental things can be boring or they can be interesting. It didn’t take me any further into literature; it was more about theory, but it didn’t inform my writing.

 

red Ravine: What are some of your favorite authors and books?

 

Lisa: I love Isabel Allende, pretty much all her books. I love magical realism. You know where she tells a story that feels like it’s actually happening but within it, just like Gabriel García Márquez, they use these great images and things happening that are magical and you get the feeling that those things could actually be someone’s real experience, even though it might include flying or crazy dreams or people floating through rooms or water pouring out of walls, or whatever it is.

I love the short stories of Roald Dahl. The collection I love the most is Kiss Kiss. And that’s kind of Twilight Zoney using tales that are very bizarre but you can imagine them actually happening. I love J. D. Salinger all the way around. Again, I love his short stories. He takes things that are very mundane and very deep and there’s this beauty and melancholy in the books that I love. Those are some of my favorite authors.

 

red Ravine: What projects are you working on now?

 

Lisa: None writing wise. I’m working on developing an eyewear line that will be out later this year. I’m very involved in the design, involved in the marketing, that side of the company, so that will be out later in the year. I’m also working on a collection of more kids songs for a couple of kids books that should be out in 2010, which will be more like lyrics for singalong songs, some crafts and some recipes. It will be fun for kids.

And I’m trying to finish up some songs for a grown-up record. After my wedding, I returned to listening to some of the songs I was in the process of finishing and I’m actually realizing that I’m closer to finishing an album than I thought I was. Little by little, you know.

 

red Ravine: Wow, eyewear? Because every time we see a photo of you we always just think your glasses are fabulous. How did that come about?

 

Lisa: Thank you. Well, I’ve always worn glasses and ever since I was in high school people would recognize me for my glasses. And I love glasses, especially ones that have a little bit of a lift on the corners — some people say cat-eyes, but they’re not quite cat-eye glasses. Anyway, I love them and I was looking for a perfect pair and people have always asked where they could get my glasses. Finally, we were able to connect with a company that wants to manufacture them and work with us to put them out. Selfishly, I’ll pick up a couple of pair of glasses that I really like!

No matter where I am, I always look for glasses, and it’s hard to find them. You know when you wear them on your face every day? So I wanted selfishly to have my own but I also wanted to share my glasses with other people who are always asking about them.

 

red Ravine: I (ybonesy) will look for them because I always want a lift at the corner, too. Some faces just need that. Do you have any plans to take any other kinds of workshops or attend another Natalie Goldberg retreat?

 

Lisa: I would love to do that. I meant to do it for my 40th birthday but we couldn’t quite get it together and Natalie’s mother passed away kind of close to it. I was thinking, in lieu of a bachelorette party for my wedding, it would be great to put together a workshop of my friends, a writing workshop with people I get together and write with anyway.

Right now my schedule’s a little tight because I’m moving back to Los Angeles and there are non-business priorities that [make it] hard to take even three or four days and go write. For me, and I know for a lot of other people, that structure makes all the difference in the world. And sometimes it takes going away to a seminar to remember that. Even though you can just sit and put your timer on for 10 minutes on your cell phone and write, sometimes it takes a weekend trip to remember that.

Also, something I forget –you’re supposed to read this stuff to other people. You don’t have to write all day for this to work. Natalie always says you need to write less. You need to sit down and write, but you don’t need to write five hours a day, that’s too much, you can’t do it. So I think it’s a great environment for me and I know it impacts a lot of other people as well.

 

red Ravine: You just got married a few weeks ago, so we wanted to know how is married life treating you, and what is a fluffernutter? (laughs)

 

Lisa: (laughs) A fluffernutter is marshmallow crème and I think we got it on white bread. Often we all go back to wheat bread, but for purposes of the fluffernutter sandwich, it was this homemade white bread with peanut butter and with marshmallow fluff. I can’t believe how good it is; it’s a crazy thing. And the texture when you bite into the sandwich, you know it creates that seam when you bite into that white bread sandwich. And it’s just like a pillow of joy (all laugh). It’s sweet and salty and fluffy packed in between these two cottony sheets. It’s delicious! 

And married life is good, it’s really great. We’re at the beginning of this adventure. I love my husband and I look forward to continuing to get to know him and we just have a really good time together, no matter what. We’re a good support system for each other. We both have the same values. He’s not a musician professionally, but he likes to play music in the house, and again that reminds me that creatively, it doesn’t have to be for work.

Sometimes when you just do things for fun, it might lead to something you can use for work. For me, that’s an important reminder not to always be geared toward work. We have a good time and music is part of his work so we both have a lot of opportunities to do music and talk about it and do fun things and meet interesting people. And it’s good to have a team; though you were a team before, it’s a different team when you’re married. So yeah, it’s all good.

 

red Ravine: I’m going to try to get both these questions in, one has to do with the fact that you were recently on stage with Sarah Silverman who strikes us as someone who takes so many risks with her art. And you’ve ventured into many different creative areas with songwriting, TV, and voiceover work. What was it like to work with Sarah and how important is risk-taking in creative work?

 

Lisa: It was great to work with her. I think she’s clever and fun and she’s really nice. And I feel like risk-taking is important but again, that’s relative. For some people it might mean writing a song from the first person instead of third person. Or it might mean setting a guitar on fire on stage. Or not writing might be risk-taking. Like I said, it was scary for me to be in a writing seminar and not be writing a whole lot. But to not be following the rules is a huge risk for me; I always follow the rules.

 

red Ravine: Our last question: What advice do you have for our readers who dream of making it big with their writing and becoming well-known?

 

Lisa: Two things. One is continue to write and to do your own thing. Don’t try to copy other people; the main thing you have to offer that is different from other people is yourself and your own point of view. But, at the same time, to make it you need to be a business person or find a person who can help you with the business side of things. That might mean doing it yourself, getting copies of your book out there, reading it live, being a musician live, or doing something on YouTube. Because part of it is doing the work, and then part of it is getting it out there with an audience.

But first, decide what your goals are. If it’s to be famous, hire a publicist and do some whacky things and get famous. If it’s to be read by a lot of people, start somewhere. Do it yourself. But don’t wait around for someone to do it for you. It’s not going to happen miraculously.

 

red Ravine: Thank you Lisa, really wonderful interview. We appreciate your time, and we’ll be watching for those eyeglasses!

 

Lisa: Thank you. I appreciate the questions.

 

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Lisa Loeb, Photo by: Andrew Eccles

Lisa Loeb, Photo by: Andrew Eccles

About Lisa Loeb:  Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter Lisa Loeb started her career with the platinum selling No. 1 hit song “Stay (I Missed You)” from the film Reality Bites. To this day, she is still the only artist to have a No. 1 single while not signed to a recording contract. Loeb parlayed that early success into a multi-dimensional career encompassing music, film, television, voice-over work, and children’s recordings.

Her six acclaimed studio CDs include the Gold-selling Tails and its follow-up, the Grammy-nominated, Gold-selling Firecracker. Her complete catalogue includes The Very Best of Lisa Loeb (2006), and two children’s CDs, the award-winning Catch the Moon (2006) and Camp Lisa (2008) with guests Jill Sobule, Lee Sklar, Maia Sharp and funnyman/banjo player Steve Martin. In conjunction with the release of the Camp Lisa CD, Loeb launched the Camp Lisa Foundation, a non-profit organization that raises funds to help send underprivileged kids to summer camp through its partnership with S.C.O.P.E. (Summer Camp Opportunities Provide an Edge, Inc.).

In addition to her music, Lisa has also starred in two television series, Dweezil and Lisa, a weekly culinary adventure for the Food Network, and #1 Single, a dating show on E! Network. Look for the Lisa Loeb eyewear line to hit the stores in 2009.

 

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Close Gates, outside Diamonds Coffee Shoppe, Minneapolis, Minnesota, June 2008, photo © 2008-2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Close Gates, elevator shaft outside Diamonds Coffee Shoppe, Minneapolis, Minnesota, June 2008, photo © 2008-2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.



On Friday, February 27th, 2009, I became a national statistic — I lost my job. Like most writers, I write for a living. I also have a part-time bread and butter job that helps pay the bills. In January, when all of the temporary employees at the corporation where I worked were laid off (except me), I saw the writing on the wall. A month later, after a 5-year stint at a company that paid well, offered independence, flexibility, and respected my work, poof! I was gone. Monday of the same week, 45 permanent employees got the ax; some had been there 25 or 30 years.

In Minnesota alone, 55,000 people lost their jobs over the last year, a staggering number that, according to one news station, could fill two Metrodomes. The second week of March, when I put in my claim for unemployment, the Minnesota Unemployment website crashed from the volume of new claims. It’s predicted that 72,000 more Minnesotans will lose their jobs through 2010, including 15,000 in construction, 42,000 in manufacturing, and 15,000 in professional and business services.

Of course, Minnesota is not alone. The national unemployment rate was 8.1 percent in February 2009, seasonally adjusted, up from 7.6 percent the prior month and from 4.8 percent a year earlier. In February, total nonfarm payroll employment decreased by 651,000 over the month and by 4,168,000 from a year earlier. According to a CBS article at the WCCO website (a local news channel that has also experienced layoffs) the February job loss numbers look something like this:



February 2009 U. S. Job Loss Numbers


Temporary help services ……………………………78,000
Factories ………………………………………………168,000
Construction ……………………………………………104,000
Retailers …………………………………………………40,000
Professional and business services  ……………180,000
Financial companies ……………………………………44,000
Leisure and hospitality firms …………………………33,000



At times, I’m scared. Some nights I can’t sleep. And the reality of not having steady income slips into my thoughts on a daily basis. It puts added strain on my relationship, even though I have an understanding partner who is loving and supportive. Responsibilities shift, and any part of my identity that is wrapped up in what I do for a living takes a beating. The structure of my life has completely changed.

I had to create new daily rituals to keep myself from spinning. I spent the first week unemployed scrambling to make changes to money-related items I used to take for granted: research guidelines around continued health insurance, apply for unemployment, reduce payments on my car insurance by checking with my agent about a different policy. I updated old copies of chronological, functional, and artistic resumes. I’m still working with the temporary agency that on the very day I was laid-off, closed their nearby office and consolidated to downtown Minneapolis.

Yet I remain optimistic. The flip side of the coin is that I’m a writer, an artist and photographer, with all the usual complaints about not having enough time for my creative pursuits. Now I do. I have been given the gift of time. What will I do with it? Will I be tossed away, fret and fume, worry that I don’t have a job? Or see it as an opportunity, a gateway to reinvent myself, to focus on my writing.



   Freight Only, elevator shaft outside Diamonds Coffee Shoppe, Minneapolis, Minnesota, June 2007, photo © 2007-2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Freight Only, elevator shaft outside Diamonds Coffee Shoppe, Minneapolis, Minnesota, June 2007, photo © 2007-2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Freight Only, elevator shaft outside Diamonds Coffee Shoppe, Minneapolis, Minnesota, June 2007, photo © 2007-2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Freight Only, elevator shaft outside Diamonds Coffee Shoppe, Minneapolis, Minnesota, June 2007, photo © 2007-2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.



It depends on which day you ask me. I realize there are probably many other red Ravine readers who are going through layoffs, are stressed-out or down about money. Not knowing how they will pay their mortgage or put food on the table. What about people who have been out of work for many, many months. Or have taken jobs they would not ordinarily take, just to have money coming in.

How do you deal with the pressures of not working (or working but not making enough money to make ends meet). Is there anyone who has been laid off, lost their savings, posted their resume 1000 places and gotten no bites. If you are a writer or an artist, how are you coping with extra time and no money. Is it easier to work on creative projects? Or harder because of the stress. How is it affecting your children. What about health insurance?

When I start to feel crazy, my practices help sustain me: red Ravine, Writing Practice, mandalas, haiku. It’s helpful to get up at the same time, shower, get dressed, and eat lunch at noon. I do business related items, then have time to write, refill the well, revisit creative projects. But that nagging Monkey Mind. What if I’m in the same place months later?


      Gateway, Summer Solstice, Minneapolis, Minnesota, June 2007, photo © 2007-2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.  Gateway, Summer Solstice, Minneapolis, Minnesota, June 2007, photo © 2007-2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.  Gateway, Summer Solstice, Minneapolis, Minnesota, June 2007, photo © 2007-2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Open Gateway, in the flow, Summer Solstice, Minneapolis, Minnesota, June 2007, all photos © 2007-2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.



The unemployment rate is predicted to peak out around 9.5 percent next Spring. Yet the state of Colorado shows a decline in layoffs for the first time in 6 months. It’s true that 91.9% of the population still have their jobs. And a few areas such as education, health services, and government, which boosted employment last month, have been spared. F. Scott Fitzgerald might say that a “vast carelessness” has caused this money mess. But maybe there is a silver lining. Is the glass half empty or half full? What do you say?



Resources:


NPR Announces Cuts To Staff, Programs
MPR Midmorning: February Layoffs Take a Toll
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Mass Layoffs in February 2009
WCCO U.S. & World: Unemployment Hits 8.1 Percent, Highest Since ’83
Denver Business Journal: Mass Layoffs Decline in Colorado for 1st Time in 6 Months


-posted on red Ravine, Tuesday, March 24th, 2008

-related to posts: WRITING TOPIC – JOB! WHAT JOB?, Make Positive Effort For The Good

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Sage & John Cowles Convervatory, Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, Minneapolis, Minnesota, May 2008, photo © 2008-2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Sage & John Cowles Convervatory, Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, Minneapolis, Minnesota, May 2008, all photos © 2008-2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.



In keeping with last week’s Writing Topic, hundreds of windows turn Winter inside out at the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden adjacent to the Walker Art Center. Established in 1927, the Walker began as the Upper Midwest’s first public art gallery. The Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, which opened in 1988, is one of the nation’s largest urban sculpture parks and visitors to the Twin Cities don’t often leave without walking the 11-acre home to more than 40 works of art.

The Sage & John Cowles Conservatory on the western edge of the Sculpture Garden is a community contribution from philanthropists John Cowles, Jr. and his wife Jane Sage Fuller (who also had key roles in bringing the Guthrie Theater and Metrodome to Minneapolis). John Cowles Jr. was named president and CEO of Cowles Media in 1968, after beginning as a police reporter in 1953.

His father, John Cowles Sr., made the cover of TIME in 1935 when he and his brother, Gardner (Mike) Cowles Jr., bought the Minneapolis Star, then the 3rd weakest newspaper in the community. The brothers are descendants of a small-town banker, son of a Methodist elder in Iowa, who started out with little money until turning the Des Moines Register & Tribune and the Minneapolis Star Tribune into well-respected national newspapers.


According to a 1997 article in the Star Tribune:

John Sr. was president of the Minneapolis Star and Tribune Co. from 1935 to 1968, and chairman from 1968 to 1973. Through the influence of his newspaper and his own activities, he is credited with turning Minnesota from an isolationist state to an internationally engaged one, and leading the fight against the anti-Semitism that was openly practiced in the state when he arrived.


    RainGrate, Cowles Conservatory, January, 2008, all photos © 2008-2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.      Standing Pink, Cowles Conservatory, January, 2008, all photos © 2008-2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

RainGrate, Standing Pink, Cowles Conservatory, January, 2008, all photos © 2008-2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.



Sage Fuller Cowles is a dancer from Bedford Village, New York, and the stepdaughter of Cass Canfield, Sr., one-time chairman of Harper & Row. In the 1950s, she danced on Broadway and television and served as president of Planned Parenthood of Minneapolis from 1957-59. Her approach to philanthropy leans to the holistic, and our community receives the benefit:

I needed to have a new definition of philanthropy. The Greeks came to my rescue. “Love of mankind” was in the dictionary and that suited me fine. Philanthropy is not just about dollars and cents. It’s about giving time, energy, commitment to some idea or cause that we care about. We can all be philanthropists fueled by our individual passions, and we can do a better job of identifying our passions if our early experiences give us confidence to pursue them.

If we focus on educating the whole being would it make a difference to the quality of our communal life? Would we grow a different kind of citizen?

     -Sage Fuller Cowles from Getting Ahead of the Curve: Engaging Our Youngest Citizens, April 2006


We take a leisurely stroll through the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden every time we head to the Walker for a show. The main section of the three-part Cowles Conservatory houses Frank Gehry’s 22-foot Standing Glass Fish that you can just make out in the photograph. It also houses palm trees, pass-throughs covered in creeping fig, and striking seasonal displays in the Regis Gardens designed by landscape architects Barbara Stauffacher Solomon and Michael Van Valkenburgh.

When we walk by Deborah Butterfield’s horse, Woodrow, we are walking on the same ground where a 1913 convention of the Society of American Florists and Ornamental Horticulture was held in Minneapolis’ old armory. It was there that Theodore Wirth designed temporary display gardens to show what could be grown in Minnesota’s wintry climate. They were such a success that they were kept in place for decades as demonstration gardens until finally becoming casualties to freeway construction.


     String Theory, Cowles Conservatory, January, 2008, all photos © 2008-2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Ghostwalker, Cowles Conservatory, January, 2008, all photos © 2008-2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Palm Red, Cowles Conservatory, January, 2008, all photos © 2008-2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


But the seed had been planted. Architect of the museum, Edward Larrabee Barnes, picked up the torch and designed the original 7.5 acre Sculpture Garden. In winter months (which in Minnesota can run from October to April), the cave-like city dwellers of Minneapolis and Saint Paul bask in places like Cowles Conservatory where walls of glass allow warmth and light to penetrate the Vitamin D deprived, sun-kissed face of a long dark Winter.



Resources:


-posted on red Ravine, Saturday, March 14th, 2009

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 Let Sleeping Towels Lie! aka Brant's Terrible Towel!, somewhere near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, January 2009, photo © 2009 by J. All rights reserved.

Let Sleeping Towels Lie! aka Brant’s Terrible Towel!, somewhere near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, January 2009, photo © 2009 by Brant’s Grandfather J. All rights reserved.



In a few hours, Super Bowl XLIII begins at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida where an estimated 72,500 people will attend the 6:30 EST kickoff of the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Arizona Cardinals. The National Football League champions of the American Football Conference (AFC) and the National Football Conference (NFC) will battle it out for the coveted Vince Lombardi Trophy. Can you guess who my family in Pennsylvania will be cheering for?

Liz saw an NFL poll yesterday that showed 55% voting for the Cardinals to win. But I don’t know. I lived my teenage years in Pennsylvania and I know what a powerhouse the Steelers can be! Steelers fans are hardcore.

The Terrible Towel in the photographs is vintage 1976. That cute little guy is my grand nephew, Brant (or is it great nephew?), taking a little rest after one of the play-off games. He’s covered by the Terrible Towel belonging to his Grandmother D. (known to us on red Ravine as alittlediddy).



Abbey Wearing The Terrible Towel, near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, January 2009, photo © 2009 by Brant with his Fisher-Price camera. All rights reserved.

Abbey Wearing The "Terrible Towel", near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, January 2009, photo © 2009 by Brant with his Fisher-Price camera. All rights reserved.



D.’s Terrible Towel is a never-been-washed original. It was a Super Bowl gift from her brother in 1976 when she went home to watch Super Bowl X with her family. The game was between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Dallas Cowboys — Steelers won 21 to 17. Her dress attire consisted of black jeans, yellow turtleneck with black sweater, and, of course, yellow earmuffs and black gloves, all the while, waving her Terrible Towel.

We went back and forth about the Towel on a New Year’s Day post on Sunshine Shrimp (which, by the way, would make a great Super Bowl appetizer!). I’m a fair-weather play-off fan; she’s die-hard Steelers. The story of the creation of Myron Cope’s Terrible Towel jumped out at me. When Liz saw a piece about it in The New York Times this week, that was all it took — the Tales Of The Terrible Towel post was born!



Ivory & The Terrible Towel, near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, January 2009, photo © 2009 by Brant with his Fisher-Price camera. All rights reserved.

Ivory & The "Terrible Towel", near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, January 2009, photo © 2009 by Brant with his Fisher-Price camera. All rights reserved.



Myron Cope, the Pittsburgh broadcaster credited with creating the Terrible Towel in 1975, (and inducted into the Radio Hall of Fame in 2005), died last February at age 79. His daughter Elizabeth Cope watched last year’s Super Bowl with him in his hospital room; she draped his coffin with a quilt that a fan had made out of Terrible Towels.

But what’s remarkable about Myron Cope’s story, is the way he has left a legacy of paying it forward. Most of the proceeds from the sale of the Terrible Towel go to Allegheny Valley School (AVS) where his 41-year-old son, Danny Cope, diagnosed with severe mental retardation when he was 2, and later with autism, has been a resident since 1982.

Danny Cope now lives in a supervised group home with four others in a Pittsburgh suburb, shops and goes to sports events, and has a paying job packaging pretzels and snacks on an assembly line. About 80 employees with severe disabilities help fold, tag, and box shipments of Terrible Towels at a workshop in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin, similar to the one where Danny Cope works.



Brants Photo Of His Grandmother D.s Original Terrible Towel, near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, January 2009, photo © 2009 by Brant with his Fisher-Price camera. All rights reserved.

Brant's Photo Of His Grandmother D.'s Original "Terrible Towel", near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, January 2009, photo © 2009 by Brant with his Fisher-Price camera. All rights reserved.



You have to applaud the generosity of spirit of Elizabeth Cope, Danny’s sister, who receives none of the proceeds from the Terrible Towel. Her father transferred the trademark in 1996 out of gratitude to AVS, a network of campuses and group homes across Pennsylvania for people with severe developmental disablities. According to the Allegheny Valley School website and the recent NY Times article, President and Chief Executive Officer Regis Champ tells it this way:


Myron Cope was a true friend to Allegheny Valley School and his gift of The Terrible Towel® trademark has created a living legacy to his incredible life. He came into my office, and he had a pile of papers. He threw them down on my desk and said, ‘Regis, I’m giving you the Terrible Towel.’ I said, ‘Myron, I have about 10 of them. I’ll take another one, but …He said, ‘No, I’m giving you the rights, and you’ll be able to get all the proceeds from the Terrible Towels.’ I was speechless.

Before this season, Allegheny Valley School had received more than $2.5 million from the towels since 1996. With the final tab for last year’s Super Bowl at $2.5 billion, isn’t it comforting to know that the proceeds from this year’s Terrible Towel will go to a worthy cause?



The Terrible Towel, near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, January 2009, photo © 2009 by my brother, J. All rights reserved.The Terrible Towel, near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, January 2009, photo © 2009 by my brother, J. All rights reserved.The Terrible Towel, near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, January 2009, photo © 2009 by my brother, J. All rights reserved.



My grand-nephew Brant is 7 years old. Born at the end of June, he’s a Gemini just like his Grandmother D. Brant will inherit his grandmother’s Terrible Towel as part of the family legacy. Along with that inheritance, comes the vision of Myron Cope, the notion that anyone can take a simple idea like a terrycloth towel, and do something good for the world.

If you buy a towel for the Super Bowl, make sure it’s authentic. McArthur Towel & Sports of Baraboo, Wisconsin produced 450,000 Terrible Towels last week, after the Steelers won the A.F.C. championship. And a Steelers Super Bowl victory may lead to orders of at least 500,000 more (one set with the score against the Cardinals, another declaring the Steelers six-time Super Bowl champs). I admit, I usually go for the underdog. But with the stakes so high for Allegheny Valley School, I’m waving for the Steelers.




RESOURCES & READINGS


To read more about the Super Bowl, the history of the Terrible Towel, and Myron Cope, below are links to the resources used in this essay:



The Terrible Towel, near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, January 2009, photo © 2009 by my brother, J. All rights reserved.  — all photographs used with permisson of the family, parents and grandparents of my grand nephew, Brant. Brant’s camera equipment is Fisher-Price. No animals were harmed in the making of these photographs!    
            



-posted on red Ravine, the 43rd Super Bowl Sunday, February 1st, 2009

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Wired, The Fitzgerald Theater, St. Paul, Minnesota, October 2007, photo © 2007-2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Wired, The Fitzgerald Theater, St. Paul, Minnesota, October 2007, photo © 2007-2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.




F. Scott Fitzgerald was born September 24th, 1896 on Cathedral Hill in St. Paul, Minnesota. I wrote a post last year celebrating his birthday. When I reread it last week, I made a note to drop a comment there, a Happy Birthday wish. Then I watched Bill Moyers Journal last weekend, and the short comment took a longer turn.


Moyers began the Journal by quoting a few lines from F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, about his protagonists, the Buchanans:

They were careless people, Tom and Daisy — they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made.


The characters were fresh for me. I saw The Great Gatsby at the Guthrie Theater a few summers ago. Moyers continued:


It’s happening all over again, except this time Tom and Daisy are the titans and speculators on Wall Street who took the money and ran. Their bubble burst, as it did in the roaring twenties, leaving the mess for you and me, our children and our grandchildren, to clean up. The big bad government — so despised in Wall Street boardrooms and beltway think tanks — has stepped in, hoping to save capitalism from the capitalists…



Here we are — cleaning up the mess. I was reminded of our recent Writing Topic, Where Do You Go In Times Of Crisis?. We are a two-tiered culture, steeped in debt: a wealthy culture that privatizes gains and socializes losses; a poorer culture of working class, middle, and lower income people, forced to take more and more personal financial risks to stay afloat.

Bill Moyers Journal digs into some of the deeper social issues behind the current financial crisis. And how everyday people — people like us — are going to pay a heavy price. I’m not good with numbers. I don’t understand the details of financial wizardry. But his words made sense to me, and inspired critical thinking about the future of finance in this country.


Fitzgerald, The Fitzgerald Theater, St. Paul, Minnesota, October 2007, photo © 2007-2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Fitzgerald, The Fitzgerald Theater, St. Paul, Minnesota, October 2007, photo © 2007-2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Fitzgerald, The Fitzgerald Theater, St. Paul, Minnesota, October 2007, photo © 2007-2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


Who wins and who loses? New York Times financial columnists, Gretchen Morgenson and Floyd Norris shed some light on that question. And Moyers interviewed former Nixon White House strategist, and political and economic critic, Kevin Phillips on the “7 sharks in the tank with the economy.” Phillips, author of Bad Money: Reckless Finance, Failed Politics, and the Global Crisis of American Capitalism, said financialization has made us dependant on an industry that’s lost half its marbles, and strapped us with debt unprecedented anywhere else in the world.

The experts also talked about how the state of our money union does not play politics. Reaganomics may have started the economic downslide. But Democratic and Republican administrations have both contributed to the problem. According to Phillips, “the flush of the Democrats (the labor movement) carries a lunchbox; the new soul of the Democratic Party wears a pinstripe suit.” And neither of the current candidates is addressing the reality of the situation. Campaign promises are not going to bail us out this time.


Face To A Name, The Fitzgerald Theater, St. Paul, Minnesota, October 2007, photo © 2007-2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Face To A Name, The Fitzgerald Theater, St. Paul, Minnesota, October 2007, photo © 2007-2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Face To A Name, The Fitzgerald Theater, St. Paul, Minnesota, October 2007, photo © 2007-2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


The show has the perfect climax — a personal essay on the decision to tear down Yankee Stadium. How the new stadium will be subsidized by the public with tax-free bonds. How the greed and disregard for local community trickles down to neighborhoods, cities, and towns across this country:

And so this Sunday evening we will bid farewell to dear old Yankee Stadium, and await the new colossus to rise from its ruins. It will cast its majestic shadow across one of the country’s poorest neighborhoods, whose residents will watch from the outside as suburban drivers avail themselves of 9,000 new or refurbished parking spaces. Never mind all the exhaust, even though in this part of town respiratory disease is already so high they call it “asthma alley.”


I thought of the new Twins stadium in Minnesota, the same stadium that we the people voted over and over again not to build. Its skeleton now rises like a Phoenix from a giant parking lot behind the Target Center, and towers over a small downtown shelter that feeds and houses the homeless.

I can’t help but wonder — is anyone going to step up and take responsibility for all this debt? How have American lifestyles and personal debt contributed to the problem? Where are our priorities? When will we get back to supporting what is important and vital to a culture – community centers, education for children, the Arts, having enough food on the table, and enough money to live through old age.

Have you been able to save for the future? How is your retirement growing? It might not surprise you to know — not all of us are struggling. (Are we really entertaining a bailout?) I was stunned by this list from Moyers:


  • Lehman Brothers – in the last 5 years of his tenure, CEO of Lehman Brothers, Richard S. Fuld, Jr. earned $354 million
  • Merrill Lynch – the current chair who has been on job for 9 months, John A. Thain, pocketed a $15 million dollar signing bonus. His predecessor, the retired E. Stanley O’Neal, pocketed $161 million after the company reported an 8 billion loss in single quarter.
  • Bear Stearns – former CEO James Cayne sold his stake for more than $60 million after the Bear Stearns stock collapse
  • Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac – former heads, Daniel H. Mudd & Richard F. Syron, received 24 million combined in severance packages on top of their salaries


Retreating back into their money. I think there are more than 7 sharks in the tank with the economy, and someone has surely lost their marbles. The question is — who’s counting?




           Face, The Fitzgerald Theater, St. Paul, Minnesota, October 2007, photo © 2007-2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.    West, The Fitzgerald Theater, St. Paul, Minnesota, October 2007, photo © 2007-2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

               Face, West,  The Fitzgerald Theater, St. Paul, Minnesota,
               October 2007, all photos © 2007-2008 by QuoinMonkey.
               All rights reserved.



So we beat on boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.

-last sentence of The Great Gatsby, inscribed on the tombstone of F. Scott Fitzgerald and Zelda Sayre at their grave in Rockville, Maryland


VIDEO LINKS:

BILL MOYERS JOURNAL - Headlines of Gloom or Doom? Wall Street Woes Around the Globe – September 19th 2008

KEVIN PHILLIPS - discussion with author of Bad Money: Reckless Finance, Failed Politics, and the Global Crisis of American Capitalism, and former Nixon White House strategist and political and economic critic (great sense of humor)

WINNERS AND LOSERS – segment with New York Times business and financial columnists Gretchen Morgenson and Floyd Norris as they discuss who wins and who loses in the financial turmoil

YANKEE STADIUM: A BILL MOYERS ESSAY - great essay on the demise of Yankee Stadium and how it relates to the current economic situation



-posted on red Ravine, Thursday, September 25th, 2008

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In personal crisis, my first response is to go inside. That’s when a turtle shell really comes in handy. I’ve had several knee-bending crises in my lifetime. They come about once or twice a decade. The earliest I remember as an adult was after I had moved to Montana in my early twenties. I had a few friends but no job; I was plum out of money. I was scared. I cried myself to sleep every night.

I didn’t own a car. I biked through Missoula, Montana on an old $20 Schwinn 10-speed I had picked up at a garage sale. It was blood red and welded at the crossbars. I bought a used red carcoat at Good Will. I wore black corduroys and a sturdy pair of Vasque hiking boots. I kept going.

I was taught by my parents that if you take the next right step, have faith, eventually things will turn. I took a big risk moving to Montana by myself. It was a dream. I couldn’t turn my back on it. In talking to friends, I found places to go to get help. But I waited way too long to ask. This is another family trait — waiting until we are absolutely devastated to reach out for help. Is it shame? Is it fear? In my case, a little of both.

I did finally call my parents and told them I was in dire straits. They sent me lots of love and $200; that was all it took. I used the money wisely – food and shelter. I finally landed a job as a gas station cashier making $2.50 an hour. I worked until midnight where I closed up by myself and rode my bike home across wintry black city streets.

Jobs were scarce in small-town Missoula. I wanted to better myself. I went to an employment agency and took the necessary skills test to land a job as a dental tool sharpener on Reserve Street. It paid well and wasn’t as physically demanding as some of the U.S. Forest Service jobs that many Montanans had at the time. I worked there for quite a few years before I moved to Minnesota.

My instinct is to go inside. To weather the storm alone. To keep secrets. Relationship crises are harder to me than economical. Busting out of personal relationships is painful and haunting. The endings of relationships have given me bleeding ulcers, the body’s version of a broken heart. I like to think I am wiser now. But it is best to maintain humility. We are all the same distance from the ditch.

In global crises, I am saddened. I send prayers to those in need, but I try to act locally. There is so much suffering in the world. Why does it take a catastrophe for us to notice? In personal crisis, I turn to family, to prayer, to therapy, to recovery. I have bottomed out and been willing to do the work to keep going. I have also holed up, frozen and scared, afraid to do the work. I’ve gotten stuck.

That’s where some kind of practice comes in. Something that takes me back to center. Writing every day. Going to a meeting. Calling and talking to someone I trust. I’m not good at emergencies. If someone is bleeding or needs immediate medical attention, I can be squeamish and fearful. But over the long haul, I will stick with you. I’m a sticker.

Last night we watched In The Land Of Women. It’s about a 20-something erotica writer, Carter, who after breaking up with his famous model girlfriend, moves from Los Angeles to Michigan to live with his aging grandmother for a while in hopes of writing a novel. He lives across the street from Sarah Hardwicke (Meg Ryan), her husband (who is having an affair), and their two daughters; at that exact moment in time, Sarah discovers she has breast cancer.

I turned to Liz just yesterday, “If something happened to me, if I got sick, would you stick it out with me?” She looked at me with her kind blue eyes, “Absolutely,” she said. “I’m not going anywhere.”

“I’d stick, too,” I said. Then I smiled, blinking back tears, and turned to watch the end of the movie. The truth is you never know what you will do in a situation until it happens to you. But faith, and the face of that smiling Buddha, teach me that things will turn. Sit like the mountain. Prayer, practice, community, can help navigate treacherous and rocky terrain. But I have to do my part.

Show up. Continue. Give back. Reach out. I still battle with waiting too long to ask for help. But I am getting better. And to anyone who has stood by me along the way — thank you.


-posted on red Ravine, Thursday, September 18th, 2008

-related to Topic post:  WRITING TOPIC – WHERE DO YOU GO IN TIMES OF CRISIS?

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I have to say, I’m not terribly saavy when it comes to finances. One of my first bosses once told me that you should hold on to stock as long as you can. Boy was that bad advice.

I’m thinking now about the crash of 2001. I remember D., how she’d accumulated thousands of shares of company stock. She was going to sell them off when she retired and go to her hometown in Georgia, create a foundation, build a school, give back. Then the stock went from $140-something a share to $17 a share. When it hit $13, she thought of selling. Then it hit $10 and her stockbroker called, panicked. He said it was going to drop to zero. She sold it every last bit of it, thousands and thousands of shares. The point at which she sold happened to be the lowest it reached before slowly climbing back up.

Sell high, buy low. That’s what they say. Some people, people like me, aren’t built for stock markets. We don’t have a good sense of where the high point is. Some people are built for other markets, slapping the skin of a melon to tell if its ripe, or knowing how to contrast colors, or being able to predict whether the baby in your belly is a boy or a girl. Odd that I should be the one in our family to be the money person. It’s not a role I relish.

I wonder what Dad thinks about the financial crisis. I wonder if it’s going to affect him much. I think we all lost money, although one could argue the money never really was ours to lose, just money on paper, back in 2001. That’s the thing about stocks and equity. It’s all paper money. Like those dollars you get in Monopoly, orange-yellow for the $20 bill, baby blue for $5, yellow for $1.

Honestly, I can still see and smell all of that game, remember which properties cost the most and which were good buys. Park Avenue and Broadway were on the side of the board you never wanted to land on. I always went for infrastructure—Reading Railroad and Water Works. Those seemed solid and cheap, I think it only cost $75 to buy most of them.

I’m trying to remember now, what little doodad did I pick for my Monopoly self? Was it the Scottish terrier? Or was there a big high heel shoe, a woman’s shoe? For some reason that rings a bell. I liked things that had denseness to them, none of those hollow ones. I would never had gone for the thimble or the top hat. I liked weight, something I could feel in my hand.

Where I go in times of financial crisis? Certainly not to my stockbroker. I won’t call him for a while, assuming he still has his job. I don’t want to know the damage, and I’m certainly not going to sell low like D. I’ll wait for the value to grow again, if it grows again. It did after 2001. Call me in ten years and once it grows, I’ll probably take it all out. Never do stocks again. They’re too light-weight, like the thimble in Monopoly, not enough meat on their bones. If I could invest in dirt, I would, and I suppose that’s what land and buildings are all about, although those don’t seem like a good risk at this point either.

When I’m in personal crisis, I go inward. I’m thinking now of each night when I go to bed, how I tuck my hands into the waistband of my pajama bottoms. I go to warmth, pull my arms in tight so they touch the rest of my body. Some day when I’m old I will be folded in and tiny, all of me caving in towards my heart. That’s the place I go to. To my heart, to where I can protect it.

If it’s a family crisis, I go to my parents. I go to my siblings, the place where I feel the most comfortable. The place I grew up. But if the crisis is my very own, I deal with it on my own. It’s just how I am.



-related to post WRITING TOPIC – WHERE DO YOU GO IN TIMES OF CRISIS?

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Smiling Buddha, statue in a Buddhist temple in Cai Be, Vietnam,
August 31, photo © 2008 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.




Today chatting with a friend, talk turns to the financial crisis. The stock market dropped over 500 points in a single day earlier this week, and major financial institutions are on the brink of collapse. Am I worried? Yes. Is it going to get worse? Probably. Have I looked at the value of my 401(k) to see what the damage is? Hell no!

Nor do I have plans to. Where I go in times of financial crisis is to the future. One foot after the other, I keep moving forward. If it’s totally out of my control and the damage is done, I try not to worry (although, how can I not?). The truth is, I do my best not to think about it.

Call it optimism, faith, or naiveté—I admit to possessing all three. You could say my theme song is Bobby McFerrin’s Don’t worry, be happy.

I don’t mean to make light of any of this. I know people are financially devastated. Old people living off retirement accounts, people on fixed incomes, and all those folks who not only don’t have the luxury of a 401(k) but who will also feel the pain in other ways—rising prices, home foreclosures, job loss. Often, denial just doesn’t work as a coping mechanism.

How do you respond to crisis? And do you respond differently if the crisis is personal versus when it’s happening outside of you?

Each person handles crisis in his or her own way. If the crisis is dangerous in nature—living through violence or trauma—professional intervention may be necessary. Do you seek help as soon as you know you need it, or do you wait until you’ve reached a point of total despair? And when crisis is manageable through your own devices—prayer, meditation, action, avoidance—what measures do you take?







John F. Kennedy once said, When written in Chinese, the word crisis is composed of two characters—one represents danger, and the other represents opportunity.








I’ve been lucky or blessed. Maybe both. I’ve only had to deal with personal crisis (as opposed to this current financial crisis) one time in my adult life. Oddly, I found that I acted rather than avoided in that instance.

I did everything I could to take the bull by the horns and steer it in a different direction. I also sought solace in family, and when the going got really rough and I got really scared, I prayed.

Think of the different crises you’ve experienced in your life. Did you deny? Sink into despair? Act? Did you turn to God?

Do you see crisis as a moment of torment or a moment of opportunity? Or both?

Where do you go in times of crisis? Write, for 15 minutes, no stopping.



Crises refine life. In them you discover what you are.
                                                                      ~Allan K. Chalmers




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