Tuesday, June 26, 2012


“Take out a piece of paper, girls and boys. Today I want you to write a paragraph about what you would love to do with your life. What is your dream?” said Mrs. C to her fourth grade students.
Browse any book or movie rental store and you’ll undoubtedly see various titles such as, Find your Dream, and Follow your Dream, Unleash your Dream, and Stay True to your Dream. Shelves are overfilled with inspirational books and movies about Gathering Resources for your Dream.
So what ever happened to our fourth grade paragraphs we wrote to Mrs. C?  Did any of those girls and boys fulfill their dreams?
We graduated high school and started college. But what happens if we realized after a couple of years that college wasn’t for us? If we realized we wanted to pursue our dream from fourth grade.
Do we quit college? Do we quit our current job? Most people don’t. It is socially unacceptable to do either. But I knew a brave twenty-four year old young man who didn’t listen to society.  He was courageous and decided to change his lifestyle to live his dream.
Quitting college was easy for Bob because he always hated school. Working as a server at a casual fine dining restaurant for five years, he made 70K a year. The money was good, but not the job. He wanted so badly to quit and pursue his dream. He tried to do both, but found it impossible. Never enough time to  devote to his music, he devised a plan to work until he saved enough money to be unemployed for a year or so to pursue being a songwriter, play guitar, and perform in different cities.

Bob owned a townhome which provided a monthly income. He had already saved money to buy a self-contained van to live in while he traveled. He and his friends drove to San Diego from Las Vegas to check out a van advertised on Craig’s List. A little too eager, with a lesson learned later, he bought the van and drove it home. He lived in it for six months, parked it at different venues around the city and at friends’ homes. Obviously he didn’t hook up water during this time, so he showered at friends, his mothers, and the local Athletic Club.
Being thrilled with the van at first, Bob later realized it was too expensive to maintain. He put money into it and lost money when it sold. A hard lesson learned, but through life experience vs. a textbook.
Feeling prepared on the day he quit his job, Bob felt anxious, but very, very excited. Coincidently, shortly after he quit his job, his tenant asked if he would mind if he got a roommate. Bob figured it made perfect sense if he moved in. He saved money from renting a studio room where he practiced and kept his instruments.
From day one, Bob worked on fulfilling his dream. He played guitar and wrote songs to sing. He had friends in the music business that helped him record and create artwork for his album and merchandise. He titled his album, “We Are the Blues We Write,” apropos describing Bob’s new lifestyle.
None of this was easy, but Bob had the time of his life. He loved the music world. Recording his album was a learning experience that took him months to perfect.  Failing numerous times before he succeeded, he remixed and remastered, until he completed the album goal before his first Living Room Show.
Spending countless hours until he learned how to create a website to promote him and his show was well rewarded. The site was well done and The Living Room Show was a huge success. He and three other musicians played for a local crowd of fifty. He sold some merchandise and was thrilled. Selling items on the road for an income in unfamiliar venues will be the challenge.
Bob networked and followed musicians who traveled and performed on the road.  He learned a great deal from them. Many musicians couch surfed to save money.  He worked on a list of people and cities and mapped out a route to have a plan. He already participated by having musicians couch surf at his home.
With upfront expenses for the album, maintaining a car and townhome, and life’s necessities, he is close to flat broke. He thought his savings would last a bit longer. He admitted to being scared.
Did he give up? No. He wanted to follow his dream regardless of how poor he’ll be, how hard it is, or how many times he’ll fail.
He’ll be ready to travel the country when he sets up his venues. My son fulfilled his dream he wrote about in Mrs. C’s fourth grade class.


Saturday, June 16, 2012

The Art of Interpretation

I couldn’t explain what caught my eye in that painting.

Hanging out with a group of women, dressing up, and making a fuss over flowers, are all my least favorite things to do. So what was it that made me sit down on the observer’s bench in front of that painting and gaze at it for so long? What was it that drew me back to the Phoenix Art Museum several times to view it for hours on end?
On my first visit to the museum, I felt drawn toward the painting, Spring Flowers, by Julius Stewart. It was enormous taking up a large area of the wall.  The painting was magnificent, an oil on canvas painted in 1890. The painting’s size was enough to mesmerize any art lover touring the museum. It’s not a painting you can easily dismiss. Located on the second floor, I had to walk past it in order to view other artists’ work being displayed.
Strategically placed was a bench right in front of the painting. This was ideal. It’s pretty annoying when you find art work you admire and have to move along for others to view. The bench was perfect - I took full advantage.

I grew up with three brothers, and later on had three sons. I never got used to being with a group of women. I preferred the company of men, and had a couple of girlfriends which described my comfort zone.
Growing up in a male dominated life, I never dressed up. I wouldn’t say I was a tom boy, but hats, heels, and dresses seemed unnecessary.
Flowers were a whole different story. Memories of arguments between my parents, slight as they may have been, always ended with a bouquet of flowers being laid on the counter for my mother. This apparently symbolized an apology. What I learned as I grew up was it also meant the argument was over and would be forgotten. Even as a kid, I didn’t buy it.
Both husbands that came and went knew better not to present me with a bouquet of flowers if we had an argument.

So what made me fall in love with a painting of four women hanging out together, in their Sunday best, fussing over flowers?
I sat and stared at Spring Flowers for hours. Trying hard to solve the puzzle, I politely asked the museum docent for her thoughts. She explained art interpretation. How we internalize art differently is extremely personal. She continued telling me how researchers in the field of neuroesthetics actually study people’s brains to unlock this mystery.  She suggested books to study the subject further.
A group of women hanging out all dressed up, with fancy hairdos, fashionable hats for the era, fussing with flowers in a garden were all my least favorite things, always have been and I would guess, always will be.  A mystery indeed.

The minutes ticked by until they turned into hours and I knew I had to go home. The real world awaited me. It was time to cook dinner; check my kid’s homework, do laundry, etc.
While completing my motherly duties the beautiful painting was ingrained in my mind. I was perplexed, no doubt about it. When I told my family about the museum and the painting, they all laughed thinking it was a joke. They knew all the things I didn’t like - so why would mom like a painting like this? I had to agree, but it was what happened, and I felt what I felt, whether or not there was an explanation.
Needless to say I didn’t sleep well. The next day I anxiously returned to the museum and meticulously gazed at Spring Flowers for hours. Even though I was still confused why I enjoyed this painting so much, I felt peaceful and carefree. I couldn’t explain these feelings.
The following week I returned to once again sit on the bench and gaze at Spring Flowers. As I turned the corner and took my first step up the staircase I was shocked, like being sucker punched.
The museum moved Spring Flowers to the top of the staircase! It looked absolutely beautiful there as it most likely would anywhere. But I could no longer sit down on the observer’s bench to enjoy it. A feeling of sadness washed over me.
Wondering why, I inquired at the front desk. I was told the Chief Curator periodically moved artwork - no particular reason.
The empathetic receptionist acknowledged my disappointment and handed me a poster size replica of the painting. Expressing my pleasure, I left and had it framed immediately.

I’ve moved several times since, but Spring Flowers is always displayed on my living room wall. Every time I admire it all I can do is shake my head.


Thursday, June 7, 2012


On such a beautiful day I thought I would take a simple walk in the park. Anticipating clearing my mind I briskly laced up my sneakers.
Coming up to the children’s swings after having walked halfway around, there was a pretty young woman pushing her baby on a swing. My first thought was, what is wrong with this picture? My kids are grown and I have a grandson I would love to be pushing in that swing. What is wrong with that woman?
Continuing my walk I suddenly stopped. Feeling disgusted for judging this woman I turned around and looked at her again.
On second thought, maybe she isn’t even the baby’s mother. If she is, maybe this is the only place she gets any free time. Maybe she’s trying to study to get a better job for her and her baby. Maybe she’s a single mom. There were lots of maybes, lots of possibilities.
Learning my lesson not to judge people was being put to the test today. Immediately failing but ultimately passing.
Being at the park, pushing her baby in a swing, while reading her Kindle, was not for me to judge.
A simple walk in the park.