Saturday, September 13, 2014

Life Didn't End There!



It's bothered me that I let that picture of destruction (my last post) hang at the top of my blog for so long. My story didn't end there! To be frank, though (who is Frank?), the challenges of the past four years, including that crash and the long road of healing that followed, have left me with several home and personal projects undone. I have just a couple of them finished now and have many more to go! I've been busy.

The photo above is a nice counterbalance to the last post, don't you think? It is from my vacation with my daughter Sophia this past summer. This is a view we enjoyed as we headed home on West 30 through Pennsylvania. I wanted to take some scenic byways instead of the highways -- more adventurous that way. We were able to see and do a lot of things that we would have missed on the main roads. For one, we stopped at several thrift stores on the way home and found a few nifty things. (Thanks to the tip, Christine!)

And little did I know that the Flight 91 Memorial was on this route; we stopped there. We only had about 20 minutes until closing time. Among other images, I was able to capture (with permission) this, at left: a state park ranger teaching a young visitor proper flag protocol at dusk.

Earlier on Route 30, we had a very large truck following right behind us us for at least an hour. You know how trucks tend to speed up when they go downhill? Well, I didn't want to speed up. You know, 'cause of the ups, the downs, and twisty-turny-all-around stuff. Vehicles able to come at me at any which way, at any moment. And that situation was a little unnerving. So Sophia and I started to concoct some "phantom truck" scenarios, a la Stephen King. And she captured the image of it, here:
The Phantom Truck
This trip was a good one, in many ways. There's the obvious -- visiting family in Virginia. But also, this was the first trip I've taken with just my daughter. And this was the first time I've driven more than an hour's time from home since the crash last year. For several months after that crash, driving on two lane country roads -- the kind on which the crash happened -- made me nervous, sick to my stomach even. I avoided them when I could. On this trip, though, we sought them out. Can't let fear get in the way of living. I had healed as much as I was going to heal; it was time. As U2's song Kite goes, "I'm not afraid to die. I'm not afraid to live. And when I'm flat on my back, I hope to think that I did."

On Route 30, we didn't know what was around the next corner. But we knew we'd eventually get home. So we had fun.









Sunday, June 8, 2014

I Took a Trip

Photo: Kathy Koch.
I just took one long and painful trip around the sun. Glad I was able to make it. Last year on June 23rd, I was T-boned at an intersection on a country road by someone going fast. I never saw him coming.

I had to be cut out of my car.
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It went like this:

sunday drive
 
metal hits metal and flesh is thrown about
instantly, impersonally.
bones break, but instincts take over
and attempts are made to flee this sudden hell.

fleeing proves futile, but a rescue is made
as pain grows and envelopes like
an invisible casket,
a malevolent encasement,
heavier each hour.

i look up from the gurney, at
three or four men looking down.
"do you pray? pray for me?" i ask them.
"no, sorry, i don't," "yes... yes, i will" and
"you're lucky to be here," i hear back.

i struggle to breathe
the oxygen mask smothers me.
i want it off. they keep it on,
and won't let me move.


I had broken bones and other internal injuries. I spent two weeks in the hospital, and the balance of the year at home, recovering, going to physical therapy, and then trying to get back to some sort of productive daily routine.

So, I wasn't able to go to my first gallery reception for my photography show at Waterloo Studios, which was what my last post was about,  a year ago. The reception was five days after the crash. That was a huge disappointment. But...I'm alive.

During my months of healing, I had some interesting talks with God. I thanked him, especially for the pain meds, because without them, I surely would have wanted to die. And sometimes I cursed -- especially when I felt alone, fed up, and tired of the stupid pain, pain, pain....

About seven weeks after my accident, I had to rent a car, in order to shop for another car to buy. It was then that I realized how much my brain had a mind of its own, so to speak.  My brain...along with all of my insides...were hollering "You do not want to get behind the wheel of that car. What are you trying to do, kill me? Remember the last time you were driving?"

So there was this kind of hollering going on inside of me, along with the busy-ness of repairing all my broken stuff. My insides were loud. Scary, anxious thoughts and images of what happened, and what could happen again, rambled through my head. And those thoughts rolled out as anxiety and nausea throughout the rest of me.

So I decided to tell myself "it'll be okay," even though I had no idea if it would be. It seemed that the odds should be with me now, after three years of difficult stuff happening. But, really, who was to say? The first time I drove to the grocery store post-crash, my son came with me. He coached me all the way there (five minutes), and all the way back (another five minutes).  That was the only thing I did that day, and I came back in the house shaking and sweating, with back spasms, to boot.

A couple weeks into this thing, I had asked God for redemption -- to work this experience for good.  Do something with this. I told Him I was fed up with waiting for heaven to get answers.

Now, you may think I'm playing mind trips on myself, and that's okay. I won't blame you. I'm naturally suspicious when people say "God did this," and "God said that." Frankly, we just don't get a lot of important things answered in this life. But.. He showed me, at least in part, his redemption of my pain. It was a huge moment near the end of last summer, an epiphany that cut right to my heart in an instant. I am not at liberty to give details, unfortunately, but this...terrible adventure...that God allowed in my life -- the helplessness I felt in my days and days of trauma, and the wild ride of frustration that comes with slow, uneven healing and setbacks -- has allowed me to understand and better help a loved one who has been experiencing some heavy struggles recently. I understood, just in arguing with my insides about why I should drive a car again, how anxiety can have a life of its own. Anxiety is a slow killer. But compassion is a healing balm.

A year later, I'm much better. My goal now is to get physically stronger. All that time of barely being able to move has taken its toll -- I've become soft and blobby!

Deep thanks to my family and friends, including all my Facebook friends, who helped me with meals, cleaning, and keeping me company. Just "being there" and chatting meant a lot and buoyed my spirit.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

The Show Is Taking Shape

Well, last night I went to Waterloo Studios to sign my prints. The show is coming together, and gallery owner Lou Ross has been working hard to make the presentation just so.  Below is a photo of my three canvas wrapped archival prints (giclĂ©es) ready to be hung. Any image in my show can be ordered as such.

It's going to be fun. You should come! The reception is 6-9pm Friday, June 28th. On Saturday, June 29th, the show will be part of the Waterloo Arts Fest from noon to 7pm, During the Fest I'll host an interactive poetry activity at the gallery.  Waterloo Studios is located at 15316 Waterloo Road in Cleveland. The phone number is 216.383.8002. My art will be up and available for purchase through July 20th.

Drop by and say hello!



Monday, June 17, 2013

I'm Having an Art Show


Waterloo Studios is featuring my photography and poetry, starting with a reception the night of Friday, June 28th, and running through Saturday, July 20th. (See complete details on the postcard, above.)  Selected pieces of my photography will be for sale.  And, as part of the Waterloo Arts Fest on Saturday, June 29th, I will be facilitating a community poetry event featuring erasure poetry. I'm using this type of poetry prompt to give festival go-ers the chance to see and create poems the way Michelangelo saw his sculptures -- I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.

The poems that I like the best will be featured on my blog.

Prepping for my first gallery show has been a lot of work, but I'm nearly finished, and it's almost time for the let go and see what happens part. 

Consider this blog post your invitation to please come, introduce yourself, enjoy the festival, and see all that the Waterloo Arts District has to offer. The District is undergoing a transformation this year and, really, who can beat the location -- right along our beautiful lake, less than a ten minute drive from downtown, with easy Route 90 access, to boot!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Measuring Spoons

A spoonful of memories, in my kitchen.
I rooted around in the kitchen drawers, not knowing what I was looking for. It was a hot, humid Saturday last summer, and my siblings and I were in the midst of an estate sale at our family home, a home that had accumulated stuff for more than 60 years. In the sweaty, hard work, it was easy to let our memories go for pennies on the dollar.  "It's just stuff. It's all gonna burn in the end," I reminded myself.  And I certainly didn't need more "stuff" in my own home. 

And yet, still...as housewares passed from family to strangers, memories flickered in my head like movie trailers. 

Not everything was put out for sale. Remnants of our life could be found at every turn. Little things...my dad's knife sharpener, old Christmas wrapping paper, an ancient, heavy stapler, and even things you can't sell
nor would anyone buy –  like the particular smell of the basement, triggered vague, familiar feelings and images. In one drawer, a set of cheap aluminum measuring spoons, still held together by a little chain at the top of their handles, lay among the flotsam. I grabbed them to take home with me. These measuring spoons helped make chocolate chip cookies, homemade breads, and Sunday morning coffee cake. They helped make birthday cakes and the frosting to top them.  These spoons were gold to me, certainly worth more than the quarter someone might toss at us for it today. They helped make life taste good. 

Now they hang on a hook in my kitchen where I can use them again and be reminded that treasured memories are often made up of the seemingly mundane things we do in our lives every day. It's in doing "small things with great love," as Mother Teresa said, that let's you look back and smile. Little things matter.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Monday's Meet the Artist: Lou Ross

The Waterloo helix wind banner sculpture:
Lou's collaboration with Jerry Schmidt.
Cleveland's Waterloo Art District, located along Waterloo Road in the North Shores Collinwood neighborhood has been undergoing a revitalization recently with an infusion of small businesses, artists, art galleries and cultural events, and much is planned for the district in 2013. Lou Ross, an artist born and raised in Cleveland, is one who has invested in this community by opening his art gallery and studio, called Waterloo Studios, encouraging local artists, and taking part in local cultural projects.

Lou and his wife Susan both have master's degrees in art education (Susan also has a master's in art therapy and is a licensed social worker. She works for the Positive Education Program teaching children with special needs.) They have two grown children. 

A Little Q & A with Lou 
Tell us about Waterloo Studios.  How does it fit into the neighborhood’s renewal?
I opened Waterloo Studios 1-1/2 years ago. I spent the first year renovating the neglected building on a shoestring budget. The Waterloo District holds much promise there is grant money and lots of support for artists, musicians and other creative individuals. This summer looks promising with First Friday Openings, Waterloo Fest, new galleries, restaurants ,bars and a pending streetscape renovation project.
"We have large studio spaces for rent [at Waterloo Studios] on a monthly basis at a reasonable fee. Artists working in the Waterloo district are eligible for grant money through several programs. Our goal is to attract three to four working artists and crafts people to make the studio financially viable."
Lou in the classroom of Waterloo Studios. 
You are involved in a collaborative work with sculptor Jerry Schmidt called Wheels on Waterloo. What is that about?
Wheels On Waterloo is a public sculpture project funded by the CPAC Artist In Residence Program. [For this collaboration] we have two to three students learning metalworking techniques and design [at Jerry Schmidt's studio across the street]. The sculpture depicts the energy and history of Waterloo through icons of wheels. When completed, it will be installed somewhere on the new streetscape on Waterloo. The project has been a starting point for several other public arts projects for us. Look it up on Facebook for progress photos.  

What is your own art history?
Susan and I met in 12th grade Art Class at Cleveland Heights High. Actually we knew each other since 7th grade through our older brother’s friendship. I have been making art since I was 3 and my Mom gave me crayolas and coloring books. From there, I stepped it up to Venus Paradise Paint By Number sets. John Nagy's Learn To Paint was next. (He was before Bob Ross.) I also discovered the Cleveland Heights library where I took out all the little 7” canvas bound Skira Artists books. In seventh grade, my Mom petitioned the principal to let me take 2 periods of art a day, thereby getting out of other unnecessary classes like math and science. There were some really great art teachers in those days. Art class was my only salvation where I found encouragement and acceptance. High school art classes were life altering. Our teacher, Vincent Ferrara, must have channeled Raphael or El Greco. It was like apprenticing in the master’s studio. A moody, passionate Italian, he demonstrated lost renaissance painting techniques and we all copied his style.
My art background consists of several influences and events.

I attended Saturday morning art classes at the old Cooper Art School where I had many great Cleveland teachers...Henry Fusco, Bill Whitsett, Shirley Campbell, Anthony Shepis, Larry Krause and others. Field trips to the Art Museum, Historical Society, Natural History Museum, Cleveland Playhouse and Cleveland Orchestra (a children's concert with George Szell!) all soaked into my growing awareness. I attended the University of Cincinnati School of Design , Architecture, Art and Planning (DAA in those days) where I skated on thin ice through a Bauhaus orientated degree in Graphic Design. It was a five-year co-op program and I went off to work on Madison Avenue in NYC for Doubleday Publishers and later Lippincott & Margulies, a corporate design firm. During my senior year I took a job in Chicago working for a design co-operative.
One of Lou's assemblage art pieces
displayed at Waterloo Studios.

You have some carefully created boxes full of intriguing items displayed in your gallery. “Assemblage art,” you call it. What is that?
My assemblage pieces started as a series about 4 years ago. As a kid, I was intrigued by the dioramas at the Historical and Natural History museums. The work of Joseph Cornell and Marcel Duchamp strongly influenced my boxes. I want to transform found objects through associations with other images -- the process is a little like poetry or jazz. The themes range from philosophy, Kabbalah, Buddhism, politics, terrorism and art history. I have completed about 18 assemblages so far, but now I’m taking a break and getting back to graphics, drawing and painting.


Who has influenced your art?

My influences are Max Beckmann, RB Kitaj (from Cleveland!), Larry Rivers, and Andy Warhol. Once art enters your bloodstream it’s there forever. It can provide moments of tremendous joy as well as periods of creative anxiety. Art can heal, disturb, provoke, and enlighten people. Our dream is to share some of these experiences at Waterloo Studios.

Anything else you’d like to share
with us about art?
My mission is to promote and show emerging artists that have not had the opportunity or courage to share their work with the public. There are many exciting visual artists holding down other jobs, raising families and still finding the time and energy to make art. My only qualification is that they are committed and serious to their craft. 


**If you are interested in renting studio space at Waterloo Studios or simply want to learn more about this art space, you may call Lou at 216.383.8002, or click here to connect on Facebook.  Waterloo Studios is located at 15316 Waterloo Road, Cleveland.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

In the Middle of Winter

My daughter Sophia drew this tree last year in the middle of summer, at the office while waiting for me to finish my work. I instantly fell in love with it and wrote a poem for it soon after. Now, the middle of winter, seems the appropriate time to share it on my blog.  My sister said, "That's an Ohio winter tree, for sure!"



Solitary tree, stripped bare of adornment,
Winds revealed your bare bones, bent
Yet strong. In your stark elegance
You bow and sway in the elements --
a dancer in her crowning performance.
Do you hear the applause of the angels...
Or of anyone walking by?


Monday, December 3, 2012

Meet the Artist: Jerry Schmidt

Jerry Schmidt sits on a bench he made of discarded
wine rack & bedframes, accompanied by his nephew
& dog at his studio in Cleveland's Waterloo Art District.

No rustbelt here! Cleveland artist Jerry Schmidt has a habit of of creating beauty and whimsy from discarded steel. He's the son of local legend, the late Fred Schmidt, who learned to weld while working for the New York Central Railroad and then used that skill to express his own ideas in sculpture. Jerry learned alongside his father and has since taught his son Tyler the same welding skills and love of this artistic expression. Soon he hopes to guide his four-year-old grandson in the same.

Steel has a reputation of being merely heavy and utilitarian. But Jerry, his father, and his son each have created steel expressions that defy the medium's practicality and instead seem to float about, their raison d'etre: to make you smile. Jerry said that he usually doesn't name his pieces because he doesn't want to influence the viewer's interpretation of them.

An iron worker most of his life, Jerry stepped away from the trade about four years ago to concentrate on creating and teaching the art of metal sculpting in his studio in Cleveland's Waterloo art district. Recently, he was the recipient of two grants from Cleveland Public Art. The first will be used to upgrade his studio and to teach local young people metal sculpting. Students will employ basic math skills and gain a better understanding of abstract art as they learn metalworking techniques such as torching and grinding. The second grant, actually awarded to fellow artist Lou Ross, will fund a public sculpture designed by the two called Wheels on Waterloo. (Click here for info on Wheels. Scroll down a touch.) This sculpture will be fabricated by the same young people Jerry will be teaching.

Jerry holds the sketch for Wheels on Waterloo.

Jerry's work has been shown throughout Ohio galleries and is included in several corporate collections, including those of Penn Central in Cincinnati, the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Saks Fifth Avenue at Beachwood Place, and the Cleveland Clinic.

To see more of Jerry's art, click here.
To watch Jerry and his father in an interview about their metal sculpting with news anchor Leon Bibb, click here.


Steel sculpture of saxophone player
by Jerry Schmidt.





A Little Q and A with Jerry:
What some of your favorite qualities that 
your father had as an artist or person? 
As an artist my father was a brilliant man, with his creativity and his beautiful mind. As a person, he was my best friend!

Why do you like abstract art?
With abstract, I'm never wrong. I create with no rules! That makes the person viewing my creations always right as well.

Do you accept commissions from individuals?
Yes I do. Contact me at 239.293.9548.

Jerry 
Schmidt's art studio is located at 15315 Waterloo Road, Cleveland.

Steel Mask by
Jerry Schmidt.
:-0

Monday, November 19, 2012

Meet the Artist: Elisa Vietri

Elisa Vietri is a Cleveland photographer whom I met a couple of years ago at a local networking event. She specializes in architectural landscapes and environmental portraiture. She captures beauty and mood in moments and places that most people seem to walk right by, unaware. Her photos of Cleveland are featured every week in Cool Cleveland.

When did you realize that you had a talent for creating visual art
in general...and for photography in particular?

Starting as a very young child, I've been a visual communicator. I distinctly remember cutting pictures out of the Sears catalog to make collages and create "families" with wardrobe changes at a very young age. I can still feel the deep joy of creation that was evoked in me by working on those projects. I was quite shy as a child so I never shared those things with anyone. Rather, I would hoard them. They meant that much to me. They were precious.
        As the years passed I became more and more enamored of photos and my obsession grew from tearing pages out of magazines to collecting black and white snap shots at flea markets and garage sales. Eventually I began purchasing work by other photographers. I always took my own photographs, too, and even had a short stint in a dark room developing my images but I never truly believed what I did was of interest to anyone else. Nor was I good at the technology. Then about five years ago, I purchased my first digital SLR camera and started slowly learning its ins and outs, trying to make peace with the technology. (I still wrestle with those bits and bytes.) The way people reacted to my pictures drove me to try harder, do better. But ultimately that same feeling of joy I had as a child is what propelled me, and still does. It was a wonder to realize that that thing, that joy, still lived in me. I wanted to give it space in my life and an opportunity to grow. So, I take pictures for me, and sometimes other people get to enjoy them too.
"Perhaps it's a feeling of making beauty from ashes
that I love."

Here's Elisa's capture of  is the "Elegant Behemoth," as she called
it on her blog -- Lincoln Electric's giant wind turbine in Euclid.
(This is also a favorite subject of mine to shoot.)
Tell us a little about your art.
What inspires you?

I'm easily inspired and intrigued by the world around me. I guess you could say I'm a "cheap date" when it comes to inspiration. I enjoy ruin and oddity. I can be stopped in my tracks by bold color in unusual settings or repeating patterns. I gravitate to serious, somewhat hidden faces. I tend to distrust smiles as they are often created with ulterior motives, especially when a camera is pointed in their direction. I'm also inspired by architecture, men's fashion, high contrast, crusty details and vintage anything. I get most excited when I photograph something that others have not seen or maybe they don't see it the way I do. I truly love the moment when someone furrows their brow, cocks their head and says, "But I was there too. I didn't see that." Or, "I never thought of taking that picture." Perhaps it's a feeling of making beauty from ashes that I love. Maybe I just like thinking I have a unique perspective. Here's hoping I do. Oh, last, but certainly not least, I tend to chase the light. Pretty light. Harsh light. Minuscule light.

What are some of your favorite subjects to shoot, and why?
I most like to shoot two extremely different subjects, barren landscapes and still life or portraits. When I shoot one I exclude the other. I strive for that because it brings a simplicity to the image that allows you to focus on the intended subject. That being said, I find great beauty in busy and complex images, too.
Simplicity is the destination, not my current location. I really like shooting portraits where emotion is relayed subtly through an offset smirk or intense eyes. Give me great eyes, and I am yours. I never tire of shooting Cleveland either. She's a beauty in her awkward way.

Are there any other photographers you admire?
There are many, many, many. My current favorites are Rodney Smith, Francesca Woodman, Irving Penn, Vivian Meier and Lee Friedlander. I recently saw Annie Leibovitz's Master Collection in Columbus and have great respect and admiration for her. She is an incredible story teller and a master with light.

Why do you do what you do with your art?
Mostly I do what I do because it makes me happy. And a little because I like documenting a tiny piece of the world around me. It makes me feel like I'm more in the moment and paying closer attention to the now.

Elisa also works in the information technology field doing quality assurance testing, training and business analysis. To learn more about her and her photography, visit her website at www.elisavietri.com and her blog at www.elisainreallife.com.

* All photos on this post are by Elisa Vietri.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Meet the Artist: Connie Adams

A snowy scene in watercolor by Connie Adams.
"I was a doodler in school. My eighth grade teacher gave me a book on drawing, and so it began...."says Connie Adams of South Perry, Ohio.  Connie has been painting in watercolor for about 30 years. She has won numerous awards locally, including Best in Show at the Lake MetroParks Farmpark art show and at Clifton Artfest,.  She teaches art classes at the Madison, Chardon, and Kirtland senior centers. 

"I really love sharing my talent.... [And] it's the greatest high when I paint," Connie said.  Her subjects are  usually landscapes, florals, still lifes, pets, and houses -- she creates portraits of homes on commission.  When not immersed in her art, she might be found waiting tables at the Purple Bull Tavern, where she also displays and sells her art.

Connie Adams
What inspires her? "I love the big old barns. I can be driving along and see a barn, or a flower, or the sky so perfect, I know I have to paint it. But best of all the snow and all its magic. It makes me want to run out the back door and make snow angels.... "

Selected pieces of Connie’s art will be included in the
33rd Annual Fine Art Show and Sale
from 10am to 5pm Saturday, November 10th, and from
1pm to 5pm Sunday, November 11th at East Shore Unitarian Universalist Church in Kirtland.

You can reach Connie Adams at 440.220.0123 or by email
at cadams AT ethicalemailservices DOT com.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Stop, Drop, and Roll with Your Glimmer

Fellow blogger and accomplished artist Dreama Tolle Perry  of Paris (Kentucky!) published a piece today about creative glimmers and how the more we practice catching them, the more we will see.

She says, "Rarely it seems does a plan, a painting, a song, a dance, plunk itself before us fully completed -- -- dressed for the party. It first comes as a shadow, a glimmer, a thought so tiny that if we are too busy, to caught up in the rush, to noisy in our thoughts, we will only catch it on our peripheral radar--and too late, when we are ready to turn our head and focus--the blip on the radar will have disappeared." (Read more on her blogpost, here.)

I know what she means. Wonderful ideas often flash through my head like crazy movie trailers, and I lose them if I don't scratch them down somewhere. Well, sometimes I even lose what I scratch down, but I'm trying.  A while back, a good chunk of a poem came to me while I was in the shower. Now that's not so amazing, as my poems are on the short side. (I share some of them when I'm brave enough.)  But I rushed through rinsing off, grabbed my bathrobe and wrote it down while still wet. Those particular words had come to me so perfectly, I knew I'd never remember them exactly that way if I waited.

Ya gotta stop, drop, and roll with your glimmer! You can't be too busy if you want to be creative. Pablo Picasso said,  "Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up."  What is it that young ones have that we adults lose?  Time to play, time to think, and a certain lack of fear over what others might think. I think these elements create a perfect storm for artistic expression. And innovation.

I would love to post here my daughter's first self-portrait, created when she was somewhere in that magical time of four or five-years-old. The lines are loose and effortless, the curls she made bounce happily, and the smile she drew reflected the laughter in her own eyes. But she has grown out of that little bit of heaven; she seems to think it looks baby-ish, and doesn't want me to show it.  Yet this is one of my favorite pieces of art.

We are all artists of some sort -- we all can learn to catch those creative glimmers that spark on the edge of our consciousness, mix them with the peculiarities of our own soul, and then create something that only each of us, as an individual, can create.

“Creativity is...seeing something that doesn’t exist already. You need to find out how you can bring it into being, and that way be a playmate with God.” – Michele Shea.

How, and how often, do you capture your glimmers? Share in the comments, below!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Organic Writing: Just Dive Into That Blank Page (Says This Neglectful Blogger)

My goodness, I lost October!  Happy November, everyone.  This is the first day of NaNoWriMo and, crazily, earlier I had thought about participating in it this year.  However, I don't believe that the story I was working on a while ago would be anywhere near novel length.  Furthermore, my psyche is tired. I'm uninspired. And mired...in some other things this season.  But the following is something I posted on Facebook, where it received a lot of positive responses.  So here it is, in case anyone is still reading my little blog. Comments are encouraged!

My daughter's been all stressed out about a 500-700 word essay that's due tomorrow. Since she had been really sick today, I told her to lie down and dictate the essay to me -- to just spit it out, and we'd clean it up later. (This method seemed particularly apropos, considering her physical state.) She had been thinking about what she wanted to write for several days, so this was easy for her.

She began to talk, and I typed down what she said. After some starts and stops and my reminding her of the subject and point of the essay, we got into it. Quite often, her thoughts would start to wander and I'd stop and say, What's your point? (I'm so mean.) Then I'd read her the how and why of the directions again. We'd continue. I stopped her again with Ugh! when she got hokey or sticky sweet -- in other words, inauthentic.

Then, *boom*, we were at 564 words. I asked her about why she chose this particular topic and how she felt about it, and her answer provided an tidy ending to her essay. Sure, it needs a little editing, but that's the easy part.

The sense of dread over starting a writing assignment and the "blank page" is so much worse than the actual writing. Here's some things we discussed tonight:

1. Understand the assignment.
2. Write like you talk. Edit later.
3. Don't get lost in minutiae.
4. When stuck or wandering down rabbit holes, continue to ask, "what's the point?"
5. Do not ever write just to fill space.
6. Always write authentically. You can fudge details to move the story along, sure (unless you're billing the story as 100% factual), but don't fake thoughts, feelings, emotions, motives. Don't play "nice." Be real.
7. Answering the "why" question (why I wrote about this... how and why this story affected me) is a nice way to wrap up an essay.
8. It's often easier to write (or rewrite) the introduction to your piece last. Just jump in anywhere to begin.

This is organic writing. It's different than the way writing usually has been taught, which is: "you must write an introductory paragraph, three body paragraphs, and a summary paragraph in which you restate the introductory paragraph 'using different words.' [Gah! Why should one use different words if the first ones communicated exactly what you wanted?] Each paragraph must have five sentences, including a topic sentence. Do not start a sentence with 'and' or 'but.' Do not end a sentence with a preposition. OKAY, GO! Write about anything you want." No wonder people freak out. Form (sentences, paragraphs) should follow function (communicating ideas), not the other way around.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Yes, the Banner Still Waves...


...does that star-spangled banner yet wave
o're the land of the free and the home of the brave?

This beautiful flag flies at a car dealership on E. 200th Street.  I drive by it all the time, and I've always said, I gotta take some pictures of that.  The flag is huge and it takes a lot of wind to make it furl.  This past weekend, I had the wind (not that kind), and I had my camera in my car.  So I stopped, and this is one of several shots that I took.

Eleven years ago today, I was at home with my baby girl, folding laundry while watching the morning news.  Then, a small bit of breaking news interrupted the chatter on the Today show -- a plane had just struck one of the World Trade Center towers.  No one knew what to make of it for quite a while. At first, it was thought to be a small plane. Was the pilot suicidal?  Was he a disgruntled employee?  Was this merely a mechanical malfunction?  Who would do this on purpose?  Just as the media began to get a hold of a few details another plane struck the second tower. I wrestled with a sick feeling -- we're under attack. Details started to come in about other planes. Rumors flew.  Another plane hit at the Pentagon.  Sometime in the midst of this unraveling horror, I called my son's school.  Nathan was in kindergarten; I had to have him home with me. As it turned out, the schools were to let all the kids out early.  I just had to wait a bit.

I waited. And I watched the Twin Towers collapse in real time -- just my baby and I, alone. I picked her up, held her close, all the while staring at the TV screen. I think I talked to my neighbor Jackie.  This can't be happening, I thought. My former husband and I had separated just two months earlier, and I was still in the throes of that painful transition. So my family was just my son, my baby daughter, and me.  I don't know what I told my son when I picked him up...something about us going home and staying there where it was safe. I felt numb.

Flight 93 had flown right over Cleveland; a neighbor had watched the plane change course.  All day I alternately stared at the TV, hugged my kids, paced, and went outside to look at the sky.  I felt that I had no one to protect me, and that I did not know how to protect my children.  I was alone in my thoughts. Ideas sprang to mind about making sure we had enough food and water stocked up, and gas in my car.  In order to be prepared for...whatever.

Today, as I dwell on those memories during this writing, my stomach twinges when I hear the not-so-distant roar of jet engines. One never knows when terror will strike.  But if or when it does, I trust that this beautiful banner will yet wave over the land of the free, and the home of the brave. I trust, I hope, that our American freedom will prevail.  Today my eyes well up at at the evil that caused such immense pain that day.  And today my heart fills again with gratitude to all the American troops who answered the call to defend our nation.  To defend...me, and my children. 

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Rumble Through Whenever You Wish

New York Central train along the Hudson, scanned from
an old postcard I found in my family archives.
New York Central
Conductor of My Heart

As I listen tonight, all alone,
to some new music
streaming from the internet,
a train whistle interrupts,
strong and robust --
a melody from an iron belly.
And now as I write, I hear another train answering the first,
and I am back to the front bedroom in my grandfather's house
lying in bed watching the breeze move the luminous curtains,
listening to the tick tick tick of the Big Ben alarm clock,
and then the heavy engine of the locomotive as it begins to rumble
into the quiet, just at the end of Summer Avenue.
I hear the heavy whooo whooo of its welcome --
I am here...I am here....whoo whooo....
Listen as I thunder by.
I listen, and my heart smiles its reply.

Dedicated to the memory of J.O. McGoey,
my grandpa, and a New York Central train conductor.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

More Fun with Poetry

In the past few weeks I've written several poems, but I have not posted them here yet because I want to take some photos to go with them.  Alas, the days and weeks continue to float by, filled with other commitments. But today I felt like doing an easy, fill-in-the-blank poem, and it was so much fun that I want to share it with you and invite you add your own fill-in-the-blank poem in the comments!   This poem generator is called All I Want, and here's my version:

All I want is someone to give me chocolate.
Someone to provide an endless supply.
All I want is someone to give me chocolate.
Someone to give it to me at a moment's notice, and
Someone to hide the wrapper evidence.
All I want is someone to give me chocolate.
Someone to wrap it pretty when I am sad,
Someone to eat it with, and
Someone to buy me some more.
All I want is someone to give me chocolate
Someone to make its calories disappear
Someone to tell me that there's still some on my lips.
Someone to laugh when I say I'm saving that for later. ;-)
Someone to kiss it off of them anyway.
All I want...is a chocolate enabler.


Okay, you're turn!  Go here, fill in your words, create the poem, and then paste it in the comments! (If you don't like that one, there are other ideas to choose from on the left of the page.)

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Maybe I Was Born Middle-Aged


My Son, My Mother. 2006.
I don’t like completely blue skies,
with searing sun and stark shadows
nor perfectly manicured lawns.
Too bright, too beautiful, too much.
Too contrary to my insides.
Give me the shadow of clouds,
an approaching storm,
flowers bent low in their bloom.
Give me a bed just slightly unmade…
loose and inviting.
Give me anything that speaks
to my traveling soul,
Something, anything,
that is warm, worn, and strong.

Monday, February 13, 2012

While Waiting for the Grocery Store to Open....

Morning. January 23, 2012. Euclid, Ohio.
the dawn bleeds forth from Lake Erie
and I stop to hear the invitation
to walk into my dreams
to walk into the possibilities of the day
and to keep walking, walking…
walking on the waters of faith
above the dark and cold

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Love From Dreamland

The other night I was writing,
Wrestling with pain and frustration,
Pulling up fearsome images that had settled
    in my soul like a hacking cold
Until I could find no more.
And then, emptied at 2am,
I found myself finally ready for sleep.
I turned off the light and felt my way up the stairs
and found that my daughter had fallen asleep in my bed.
A couple of books lay where I wanted to be.
I'm sorry, I whispered, as I turned on the light to moved things.
I love you too, she said from her faraway dreamworld.
What? What did you say? I asked.
I wanted to hear it again, now that I was really listening.
But it had gone, as easily as it had come.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

I Followed My Daughter On This One

Oh my goodness. I haven't written here in over a month. I've been busy healing my leg and getting back into my work responsibilities and mom privileges (e.g. slave labor...). I also started taking a photo a day (it lasted two weeks, but I'm picking it up again tomorrow), and the forced creativity actually birthed some great photos. Maybe I'll add a slideshow to this blog soon.

Anyway, tonight's blog entry is thanks to my daughter. She wrote a quirky poem using the prompts found here. She won't let me share her poem here, but below is my own poem, based on those same prompts. Quite an enjoyable little piece of creativity for the night. Go ahead and follow the prompts yourself, and post your own poem in the comments!

The Mom
I am fierce (I think)
I wonder about teenage brains
I hear backtalk
I see your messy room
I want some chocolate
I am The Mom

I pretend that the cat advises me and
I feel vaguely amused
I touch your hair when you're sleeping
I worry sometimes that you'd be
  satisfied with living in my basement
I cry when no one's looking
I am The Mom 
I understand that you try hard in school...sometimes
I say things out of frustration...sometimes
I dream about redecorating my life
I try to love you the way you need it
I hope that your mistakes are always redeemed
I am The Mom

...
P.S. In fairness to my kids:
1, My room is also messy.
2. I'm really not concerned about the basement thing.

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Be Still, and Know

These last two Christmas seasons found me recovering from a couple of major surgeries.  This last one was an ACL reconstruction in my knee on December 1st.  So usual festivities had been scaled way back.  How far back?  Well, for a woman who likes to have a clean house and the Christmas tree just so, this year I didn't even put up the tree up. Couldn't do it.  Further, the house was rather messy and, to boot, the vacuum was sort of broken (it stunk like mad, even with a new bag).  Gifts were minimal.  I did a little online shopping, but that was it. Secretly, I gave way to a little self-pity and wished I could just keep popping my post-surgery percocets, pull the covers over my head, and make the whole thing go away. Didn't even listen to Christmas carols.   (Sorry kids, if you're reading this, but it's not as if I could fool you, anyway.) This post-surgical stuff was rough!

But Christmas happened anyhow. It happened simply and sweetly.  When I went to the grocery store on the 22nd -- a major feat for me at the time -- unbeknownst to me, my two kids moved the heavy furniture, dragged the tree up from the basement and assembled it, put the lights on it, put the wreath on the front door, and even vacuumed with the stinky vacuum.  (They had to open the windows!)  I was beginning to think that maybe they might have just wanted to go to their father's and enjoy a ready-made Christmas, one with no prepping or cleaning required.  But no, they rallied!  They didn't have time to put the ornaments on the tree before I got home (and they're still not on) but the twinkly lights were on, and they plopped a Santa hat on top. It was kind of cute. The next day, my daughter set up the nativity scene.  Here's a picture of our Hallelujah Cow, an integral part of our Bethlehem Zoo. (The cow only assumes this position on December 25th, when the Babe is actually put in the hay.  Because that's when Christmas begins.)

On the 24th, we took part in one of the most beautiful candlelight Christmas services that I have been to in many years.  The music was gorgeous, the message illuminating, and the prayers just what I needed to hear...and pray.  The next day, we mostly did a bunch of nothin'.

It's not the way I would have planned it.  I had to let go of most of the stuff I wanted to do. Then again, the first Christmas was probably not what Joseph and Mary had in mind, either.  Sometimes I suppose it's just good to be still and know that He is God. And I was made to be still a lot this past month. I could have been writing more, but the pain meds kept me in a comfortable state of...something or other.  But I did have a lot of time to think -- to think about how precious my little family is, about how fragile we are in these earthly bodies of ours...and about how, as Pastor John quoted the Rolling Stones at church on Christmas Eve, "You can't always get what you wa-annt.... But if you try sometimes you might find... you get what you need."

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

November Sky

Taken tonight in Euclid from my car, since my knee has not been cooperating lately....

Monday, October 31, 2011

All Hallows' Eve


Here's a poem of William Blake, entitled Hear the Voice of the Bard, which is also the lyrics to U2's Beautiful Ghost.  [I also wait for "the break of day."]

Hear the voice of the Bard!
Who present, past, and future sees;
Whose ears have heard
The Holy Word,
That walked among the ancient trees,

Calling the lapsed soul,
And weeping in the evening dew;
That might control
The starry pole,
And fallen, fallen, light renew!

"O Earth, O Earth, return!
Arise from out the dewy grass;
Night is worn,
And the morn
Rises from the slumberous mass.

"Turn away no more;
Why wilt thou turn away?
The starry floor,
The watery shore,
Is given thee till the break of day."

Monday, October 10, 2011

How to Feel Really Alive on a Sunday Morning

Heard of the burning bush?  Here's a glowing tree.  Lake View Cemetery.

This past weekend, I went to Lake View Cemetery here in Cleveland for the first time. What took me so long? I don't know. I've signed a few permission slips for my kids to take field trips there, but I had never been.

I decided to take the time to indulge this past weekend.  The weather was picture perfect. The atmosphere, peaceful and abundant in beauty.  I went first on Saturday in the late afternoon - but the closing time was wrong on the website and I only had a half hour to visit. So Sunday morning I went back and spent another 2-1/2 hours wandering about - just me and my camera. And I still didn't see everything I wanted to. I hope to make a third trip sometime soon.

Lake View Cemetery was founded in 1869 and is known as Cleveland's outdoor museum and arboretum.  Consisting of 285 rolling acres, its borders touch the cities of Cleveland, Cleveland Heights, and East Cleveland.  It includes the gravesites of President James A. Garfield, John D. Rockefeller, Jeptha Wade, and Elliot Ness, those with well-known Cleveland names such as Blossom, Severance, Hanna, and Mather, and those of common working folk, too. You can see Lake Erie from some higher level areas, hence the name Lake View.  But this place is much, much more than famous names on headstones.  Art permeates the place in the statues, masonry, architecture, and horticulture.  Go soak it in.

To learn more about Lake View Cemetery, click here to go to its website. 

(You can click on the photos on this post for a bigger view.  To see more from my excursion, click here.) 




Monday, October 3, 2011

Nathan's Art


You may have read in my sidebar to the right that I am the mother to two young artists.  I have all sorts of art floating about the house.  I just wish I had enough money in my budget to get all that beauty framed!

The piece you see to the left is a somewhat poorly scanned replica of the sketch of the singer Adele that my son Nathan created about a month ago.  He's 15 years old, and he has honed his gift by teaching himself art techniques via books and YouTube videos.  He does some great work.  (He also has a great eye for photography, and he has assisted me with three of the four weddings I have photographed.  I wouldn't do a wedding without him.)

I waited patiently for him to scan it and post it on Facebook, as he does with most of his art.  I waited...and waited...but the poor guy was just so busy with school and band activities that I just decided to put it up myself.

It was sold to a woman in Oregon within a few days of posting.  (Hi, Marie!  We hope you enjoy it.)

Again, this scanned image is really not a good representation of the original portrait, which has beautiful, subtle shading.  Perhaps I should have taken a photo of it instead.  Alas, the original is on the other side of the country now, but I did keep a copy of it for myself.

Monday, September 26, 2011

August Wedding

    Here are a few shots from a wedding that my son and I photographed in Ashtabula, Ohio, in late August. We were blessed to be part of this couple's big day.






Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Find Me on National Public Radio

Wow...what a day I had yesterday!  After spending just a bit too much time on Facebook and puttering about the house, I dove right into my pet writing project (a story about the secret life of pets, in fact).  Wrote for a good 45 minutes, and then...I bebopped over to NPR's State of the Re:Union website to see if the episode with my interview and Dear Cleveland letter had been posted.  And it was!  Groovy writing momentum officially over!

Want to feel good about Cleveland?   Go to http://stateofthereunion.com/home/season-2-2/cleveland-oh and listen.  My part can be found in Segment B -- it starts around the 15:00 mark.  If you're in a hurry, you could go right there, but it is best enjoyed in the context of the entire segment.  And do listen to the whole show when you can.  It is full of Cleveland's beauty, grit, and entrepreneurial spirit.  For you locals, it will make you proud to live in Northeast Ohio.

Oh, and I must thank my good friend Diane Hoeptner again for my 15 minutes (okay, three minutes) of fame.   Diane, whom I have interviewed (here), and who created a beautiful portrait of my children (here) was the one who emailed me this NPR program's request for Dear Cleveland letters.  You're the best, Di!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

So what?

Into the Mystic.  Willoughby Hills, OH.
When I put a camera up to my eye, my question is So what?  I try to answer that question both as I compose a photograph and as I edit it later.  Often, I've already composed the picture I want to take in my mind before I pick up the camera, but playing with cropping, colors, and shadows after the fact can bring about different images and evoke different emotions than what was first experienced at the scene.  It's a lot of fun.  I was about to throw away the image that became  Sophia Calls the Cats (found here) - until I looked more closely, cropped about half the photo, and began to see something interesting emerge.  

I see photo editing like I see make-up.  You may know it's there, but it works best when it merely enhances beauty, not compete with it.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Thursday's Storm on the Lake


I stopped on my way to the grocery store a couple of nights ago to watch the storm and snap a few shots.  Lightning is hard to catch!

I want to practice more with low-light photography, whenever I can find the time....

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Look What Euclid Has

This is Lincoln Electric's new windmill, in Euclid (just east of Cleveland proper).  I can't decide whether I like it or not. It can be pretty, if you look at it the right way - like God's pinwheel. But it's huge and stark, too.
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Monday, August 8, 2011

U2 and Pittsburgh!


On July 26th, my kids and I went to the U2360 concert in Pittsburgh, PA.  We had looked forward to this concert for 1-1/2 years.  We were not disappointed!  We had tickets to go last year, but 2010 was the year for emergency back surgeries. (Bono's, and mine.... Pitiful how I try to find that common ground with a rock star, eh?)  

The last time I went to a U2 concert was on an autumn night in 1987 at the old Cleveland Stadium. Four Irish lads creating rock as only they can, including everything from Party Girl to Gloria, with Bono's soaring, soulful praise:
Gloria
In te domine
Gloria
Exultate
Gloria
Gloria
Oh, Lord, loosen my lips.
Yep, I was hooked, big time, and long before most of America knew who they were. I've been a fan since 1985 when a college boyfriend gave me some of their early music on cassette. The band has often made me dream of going back to Ireland to maybe dance along its southern coast again (like in 1986), or meet with some friends for a Guinness, endless talk, and a few songs.  Maybe wander about the countryside taking photos, capturing stories.  Ireland is soulful, misty and mystical.   It has a rich history as a nation of scholars, and is one of the first (some say the first) to produce literature in the vernacular.  (See www.irishlanguage.net/irish/literature.asp.)   Some good-looking Irishmen, great beer, good music, and great reads?  I'm there already....at least in my mind.

Anyway, while healing from my own back surgery and looking forward to the show, I started reading more about the band, paying particular attention to the interplay between band members and their creative process.  It seems they are successful because they have faith in themselves, each other and their art; they check their individuals egos at the door; and they are committed to each other and to the process.  A process that includes, as Andrew Robinson relates, "spend[ing] days in the studio slogging through various soundscapes. Most days are long, tiring, and frustrating. It is common for the four band members to end the day with absolutely nothing to show for it. But if they remain committed to this arduous, mundane process long enough something brilliant begins to emerge." (Quote in larger context, here.  Robinson's quote is part of his larger discussion of the documentary film It Might Get Loud and the creative process in general. )  In other words, they're just like most of us - they have to work hard to get somewhere.  Still.  Writer's block?  Write through it. (I'm talking to myself, here.) 

I find the description above awfully close to one of my favorite quotes, Commit to the process; detach from the outcome.  In music, writing, painting, whatever it is you like to do, just do it, and tell your internal critic to shut up. It's not all going to be good.  But do it because you must.  Do it because it's in your DNA. Do it for the joy that comes from using and sharing God-given gifts. U2's art is often based on conversations with God.  And joy seems to ooze from their pores when they play.
The view of Pittsburgh from our Heinz Stadium seats.

Spaceship has landed!  Gorgeous.